Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Commercial: Music for silent movies

Via It's Nice That, Maxence Cyrin takes indie pop anthems, and plays them over silent movies. It's as brilliant as that sounds. Things like Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind' over 1928's 'The Mysterious Lady' with Garbo.

More on YouTube.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Adam Curtis on Madison Avenue

You probably should read it.

In fact, you definitely should.



Friday, August 20, 2010

Little Big Berlin

Love, love, love this. Beautiful and brilliant. Hat tip: elika

Little Big Berlin from pilpop on Vimeo.


The Abolition of Work

Via Mandatory Thinking, and also to be found in The Idler (issue 42, I think), Bob Black's essay is well worth a read; not least because of the (to me, at least) brilliant revelation that most socialist schemes about re-distributing power have all assumed that work would still be in place - that is to say, they didn't challenge the fundamental tenets of industrialisation.

Now, of course, this is, at one level, crazy utopian talk. But when there should be a debate about how to re-invigorate the left and social democracy, we should at least be able to challenge one of the baseline assumptions; that only work - work controlled by the workers yes, but still work - makes us free.

Oh, and by the way, this would be a very sexy world too:

Life will become a game, or rather many games, but not — as it is now—a zero/sum game. An optimal sexual encounter is the paradigm of productive play. The participants potentiate each other’s pleasures, nobody keeps score, and everybody wins. The more you give, the more you get. In the ludic life, the best of sex will diffuse into the better part of daily life. Generalized play leads to the libidinization of life. Sex, in turn, can become less urgent and desperate, more playful. If we play our cards right, we can all get more out of life than we put into it; but only if we play for keeps.


Commercial: Dollar ReDe$ign Project

I've been slow to draw your attention to this, but this really is some of the best design - and design thinking - that I've seen this year. Would that the Bank of England would go this radical; and one way to achieve some of Monocle's aims for the UK, as adumbrated in the new edition.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Commercial: Some more Liverpool brand stories

Last year, a quick trip up to Liverpool furnished me with six parables about brand behaviours, examined from unexpected angles.

This year's trip has furnished some more, a bit more random than the previous six:

1) Cath Kidston's book club

Did you know that the purveyor of all things 50s and floral has one of these? I didn't, until Ms Beta dragged me into the one in Liverpool One. Of course, it makes sense that they do, what with the brand being aimed at roughly the same people who took a lot of their reading cues from Richard and Judy's club - and the titles on the web page fit squarely into this category.

But one thing threw me; on the table where they were advertising this, were a number of copies of Lucky Jim. Really? I can only assume someone's gone 'It's set in the 50s...' without necessarily realising that, at one level, Amis was having a fairly howitzer-like go at the very stifling conformity Kidston appears to be hellbent on bringing back elements of.

2) Lewis's Fifth Floor

A celebration of something that has passed rather than is currently extant, the department store was open as late as three months ago, but has now bitten the dust, and from the outside at least, appears to be falling into decay bloody quickly.

But it was always more than a department store, its fifth floor in particular providing a place to see and be seen in the city. This heritage is currently being celebrated in an exhibition at the Conservation Centre, and is well wort a visit for the reminder of the role that even mere, 'umble shops can play in the fabric of a city, and the idea of itself.

3) Philosophy in Pubs

Not commercial I know, but a jolly good idea nevertheless. If I was Routledge, I'd be seeing how I could bung them a bit of cash, and give them special editions of the Modern Classics.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Commercial: Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury

Not really SFW, but it does get you wondering, has Issac Asmiov had this treatment?


Ur Guardian & Observer sentences 1 & 2

First in what will no doubt be a predictably regular series. By the way, for those who think I offer these in spite, not so. I am part of the tribe; but even I can cringe sometimes at the, ahem, North London-ness of it all...

Exhibit 1:

Sure, it's better than dried, or none at all, but good basil has to be home-grown.

Fuck, I'd better throw out that pomodoro I spent minutes opening, Alys Brown.

Exhibit 2:

A trip to Tuscany proved to me that Italian food is getting better and better. But now I have to face facts: I just can't make pasta

Good job I did throw out that pomodoro, eh Rachel, seeing as it was going to be on top of wheat I hadn't kneaded myself.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A new candidate for any dictionary of quotations

From Michael Hofmann's excellent piece on Sunday, on why we should all learn and know another language (other highlight: 'If you don't have another language, you are condemned to occupy the same positions, the same phrases, all your life. It's harder to outwit yourself, harder to doubt yourself, in just one language. It's harder to play.') this doozy about the US-UK axis:

On the global political level, think of the blundering, insular, peremptory and oddly irrelevant posture of the Anglo-American powers, how spooked and baffled and disliked they are over so much of the world. Think of the harping on about the "special relationship" – not so much special, as the only one possible for two such done-up wallflowers.

If that's not in a dictionary soon, I'll nibble on titfers etc etc.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Reportage: Outside 26 Berners Street

Around the doorway; around 4.40pm or so.

She has a chestnut bob, that's starting to look a bit ragged at the ends. She's wearing a short black dress, with a thin purple belt to draw attention to all the right bits. Her straps are thin enough to flaunt the mountain range that are her shoulders. She is resolute in dark tights and black covered-toe flats, despite the heat.

He is cooler than this. Lavender suede winkle pickers, or whatever the modern pointed toe equivalent is. Distressed grey drainpipe jeans that he appears to have been stitched into; a thin jumper that's only slightly more blue. He is carrying a man bag; but it is a man bag that has been cunningly disguised as a bowling ball bag - a shrunken one. Over his right shoulder is draped a white towel.

He has positioned himself by the railing on the right side of the door. She is at right angles to him, attempting to nestle, attempting to nuzzle. The sun is giving them just enough shadow - just enough cover - to play in.

Like clockwork, her hands flute out and over some part of his body: an arm, a shoulder, a wrist. The hands take it turns, and they don't appear to tire. Again, a touch. Again, a touch. He appears impassive, an impressive achievement considering the persistence and the lightness of the pressure.

He then squares up, facing the building. She does likewise, facing him. She then starts bouncing, from her knees. Towards him, away from him. Towards him, away from him. Is she getting closer? She must be. But then she goes further away. And on it goes. Bounce bounce bounce.

Tease tease tease.

His head turns rapidly - whipcrack snaps - every and any time someone emerges from the doorway. His head follows their path away from them, even after they've passed them. The same is true for anybody walking in either direction on the pavement, towards Goodge Street or Eastcastle Street. I can't see his eyes, but I imagine them to be displaying a watchfulness, a wariness, a hint that all of this could be plausibly denied with the merest hint of an expression which she can't detect.

None of these people give him or her a first look.

She now decides that she has to make the move. She lifts her arms over his head, so her hands land around his neck, and she holds her interlaced fingers there. It means her lips are an inch away from his for a minute. And then another minute. And then another.

And then the briefest, merest of kisses, a gentle pass of lip over lip; and then she leans forward, losing her head into his neck. This is how and where she stays for the next five minutes.

He doesn't seem to want to move from this stasis, this equality. So she decides to tempt him some more. She breaks away from him, then so in front of him that he can't look anywhere else, up her arms go, high above her hair, her hands grasping each other and stopping to support the back of the head.

And you can see in his eyes he's thought about her doing that for him, in another place, another time.

Her arms come down again, only to come up again. And he seizes a moment. He runs his finger under one of her armpits, then the other, feeling to see if there's any stubble there. She laughs, and her eyes are bright enough to dazzle me over the road, five floors up.

What's left of his roll-up, half an inch or so, is thrown down on to the steps that lead to the building's basement. He then tugs her towards him, pulling on her belt. This time, he's in charge. More plausible kisses; plentiful, and paused kisses.

They both seem happy with this, ecstatic even. More of his hair is played with. Her security pass slaps on her thigh.

They move into the doorway, and for a moment I think that he's going to walk in without looking back, without even giving a pretence of looking back, without her. Their fingers flutter together for a few more moments before finally, reluctantly, they break their gentle loose bond apart. He leads the way, up and over the step. She is half a pace behind, with her right hand out as if to lightly clasp some part of him, so he can lead the way back.



Shouldn't every Monday start with something this noisy?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Poetry: Two wheels mad

cycle superhighway

(image credit: Small Ritual)

Directly outside the door of Beta Towers is Cycle Superhighway number 7, on its long run up from Merton into the City.

I consider it amazing that, so far, I've not had a prang with a cyclist while trying to cross the road.

In honour of that small achievement, a small poem about said highways, and those noble fellows who use them:

Two wheels mad
(half an ode to London’s cycle superhighways)

The freewheeling hardcore, the wobbling windcore,
the ‘what bad weather?’ let-the-rain-flow core;
it’ll take more than a mere late summer downpour
to prevent them all from rolling out of their doors.

Railing on the blue ribbon above London’s clay,
they’re all driven to fight for their rights in the traffic’s fray.
And now armed with an actual as well as moral highway,
God’s own mode of transport is clearly here to stay.

Let them stretch their lycra, their fluorescent skins glow,
let their gears whirr into dust until they have to slow.
I choose to dodge derailleurs, saddles and dynamos,
and instead will always go with the pedestrian flow.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Ducks in a circle

Duckfighting clubs spotted this afternoon in South London...

Ducks in a circle
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The new Flickr panda

The new Flickr panda
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
Worryingly, the panda shares a lot of his instincts with our esteemed creative leader...


Commercial: The Fiction Shelf

Word reaches me of a new website launching later this month. Says the measured prose of their publicity, The Fiction Shelf:

aims to showcase the best material by the nation's undiscovered writers.

There are already plenty of websites out there where writers can publish their work and critique each other but there are few web sites aimed specifically at readers...we aim to be that web site.

We intend to break the highest quality new work to those that really matter - not fellow writers, but the interested reader. We aim to attract a community of readers by focussing on quality, so much so that any work featured on our site wouldn’t look out of place in the printed press.

Sounds like a fine and noble aim to me. Naturally, they tweet too.

Submit early, submit often, etc etc.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Coalition sushi

Andrew Rawnsley's point on Sunday, that Cameron leads:

a sushi government. His cabinet is a spread of politicians who come in a wide variety of ideological fillings, personality toppings, and stylistic flavourings.
was something that, alas, he didn't actually flesh out in the column.

Ms Beta and me immediately suggested Ken Clarke as some sort of flounder-based dish, but what - a nigiri, a california roll?

Mind, boggle etc.

Alas, I too lack the time to flesh this out, but suggestions as to what cabinet member would make what piece of sushi most welcome. Please do so before Peter Brookes does this in Nature Notes. (Who knows, he might have done, but I haven't been behind the paywall to find out. Have you?)


Monday, August 02, 2010

26 Treasures

You'll be hearing a lot more about this in weeks to come, but for now can I direct your attention to the website, where you'll find some examples of what you can expect written by John Simmons, Rob Self-Pierson and moi, who's done a wee little playlet about some beasties.


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Unexpected thank you notes 1

Stag night people
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
So I survived airsoft and chap night on Oscar's stag with just one livid bruise on my arm and a sweaty neckerchief.

The absolute highlight, however, were the four local randoms who came back with us once we'd exhausted our hospitality at, um, The Stag pub.

Now, when that has happened to you, ask yourself this: has one of those randoms then proceeded to leave you a thank you note?

No, me neither.

So, no, thank you Steph, for such unexpected charm.