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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's gonna be slow round here

for the next four weeks, pretty much, as I undertake the 30/30 Poetry Challenge for November. You can follow my progress over on tumblr.

And there should be a lot more traffic at the homework site for my Faber course, From the fourth floor, as the other, wildly talented poets in my group, should be posting some of their works in progress there too. It'll deffo be worth a look.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Commercial: CoppaFeel!

Bangbabes Boob Hijack from Coppafeel on Vimeo.

So today is CoppaFeel! Day. For those of you who've not heard of this excellent charity, it was set up by Kris Hallenga, who as well as fighting breast cancer at the tender age of 23, decided to make sure that young women become aware that it's not just an older woman's disease. As she says:

Young women can and do get breast cancer. Why wait to cop a feel? The sooner you do it, the sooner you will get to know your boobies and be certain that something feels right or wrong.

We've been helping her and CoppaFeel get the word out over the last month, and specifically trying to get as many people as possible to hijack boobs. There've been some famous boobs hijacked. And not just real ones, as some of you who were up in Newcastle would have seen last Friday.

If you're in London today, there'll be some mass hijacking going on at Trafalgar Square this morning; and in the mean time, marvel at the way in which even boobs on a phone sex line can be hijacked...

(Video's only slightly NSFW, btw.)


Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is it about November

that compels the undertaking of challenges, ludicrous and even more so?

I mean NaNoWriMo kicks off on Monday. As does Movember. I'm also contemplating doing another National Poetry Challenge, which would mean 30 poems in 30 days.

Why? What it is about these 30 days? Is it some sort of crazy attempt to pack more into shorter days? Some sort of throw down to a pagan god, to say, 'Ha! Your darkness cannot stop my writing and / or tache!'? An attempt to forget about Christmas?

I am genuinely intrigued by this. Any ideas?


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The angel of the north - hijacked

If you were in and around the Newcastle area last night, you might have seen the Angel of the North being boob hijacked. All in a good cause, of course, supporting the magnificent efforts of CoppaFeel. Find out more on their website, and see how and where you can get involved.


Friday, October 22, 2010

On writing, and the Bunny Booker

So, the 26 Annual Speech last night, with the Booker-winning Howard Jacobson. As you might expect, he was in ebullient form. Highlights included:

"You are not a writer if you are not thin-skinned... You wish to remake the world a little with your words."

"The publishing world has got very scared of comedy in literature."

"Being given the idea that you have a gift can actually give you the gift."

"I cannot side with [Richard] Dawkins; the current language of atheism is pathetic."

"Without the 'thou shalt not', adultery is not worth committing."

"If you are involved in language, the Judeo-Christian God is important - he had some very good words."

"The point of a novel is that it questions everything."

"Your touch must be light; if you know where you want to go, things will be forced... The act of writing goes beyond the mere you."

"The importance of art is that it doesn't have opinions."

"We're being clumsy and gross when we tell people what we think."

"You mustn't use a novel as a vehicle of vengence. You need a smattering of hate, but it can't be your engine, because your characters are dead before they've lived."

We also got introduced to the Bunny Booker. Howard the winner there too:


Review: From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor

My review of Jerry Della Femina's book has been published in this week's Times Literary Supplement. It's not online, so I've posted a JPG over at Flickr.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Love bites

The Literature Bitch has done me the honour of selecting one of my short short stories about unrequited love.

You can all head over there and read it, along with the brilliant others. Won't take long.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Reportage: Saturday night, on the 159

It was probably about two, maybe three, days worth of stubble. Underneath it was an impish expression. He was wearing a brown leather jacket that was just about the right side of dissolute.

The seat was empty, and so he hopped up on to it. Under her hat, the girl lifted her right eyelid open slightly, flicked the eyeball across, thought better of it, and wriggled to get a bit closer to the window.

But not that much closer.

Which appeared to be all the invitation he needed.

His left hand went on to her right thigh, well below the seam of her skirt, marking ownership of that expanse of her tights.

Her other eye opened, but before she could say anything came another voice:

“Where the fuck are you?”

And at the bottom of the stairs was another girl who was, let’s be blunt, blonder, slimmer, longer-legged, better-looking. And angrier.

As he got out of the seat, and headed up the stairs behind this second girl, he looked round, as if expecting a round of applause.

The first girl, along with the rest of us, looked like she was tempted to give it to him.


Poetry: Gulper Eel

Just a quick note to say that a poem of mine has been published by the fine fellows of Gulper Eel. You can find 'Punchdrunk Bromides' over yonder.


Poetry: From the fourth floor

As some of you know, I've recently started on the Faber Academy's Becoming a poet course, being taught by Jo Shapcott and Daljit Nagra, in the company of some fantastic other poets.

Naturally, there's a fair amount of homework, so I thought it'd be a worthwhile exercise to get some of the resulting exercises out there. So I've set up a tumblr for that: From the fourth floor. Feedback most welcome; and enjoy.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Poetry: In translation

You know how Google will soon do *everything* for us? Well, that day is going to arrive even quicker than you might think.

Not least if it can start to translate poetry, keeping metre and form intact.

This research paper from some of the chaps behind Google Translate suggest it is possible.


You might also want to read one of the responses, also delivered in verse.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Commercial: The 26 Annual Speech

I know I've told you this already, but twice is a charm right? Quoting myself:

It's that time again. And this year, we have an absolute treat in store. Booker-shortlisted author Howard Jacobson will be talking about 'the writer's art'. That's gotta be worth a punt, right?

Thursday, October 21, 2010 from 6:00 PM, at the British Library. Hurry hurry etc etc, tickets going fast.

Oh, and if you missed it, here he is on the comic novel from the Guardian this Saturday gone.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Poetry: The evening after the morning after

Never let it be said that we poets aren't out there, living lives off emotional reckless and danger for you. As reminder of that, Don Paterson offered up this gem, amongst his pleasingly disputatious reading of Shakespeare's Sonnets, at Foyles' Faber Poetry Day yesterday:

"You don't write poems the morning after. You write them the evening after the morning after. The morning after is for coffee and fry-ups and black tabs."

And if you are a muse, I'd seriously suggest upgrading your life insurance. Or at least, your emotional life insurance.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Poetry: National Poetry Day

So, it's a bit of a big poetic week. I started at the Faber Academy on Tuesday, and no doubt will regale you with tales of how I am becoming a poet over the next six months.

But even *more* important that, it's National Poetry Day today. As you can imagine, there is an array of stuff happening. No doubt you'll be buttonholed by poets at every hour, declaiming at you and generally trying to flog their wares. Take pity on them, for they do not often see the sunlight of attention. I particularly liked this from the Thought Fox, if you feel moved to pick up pen.

The theme of this year's day is 'Home', so here are two offerings that riff in a slightly off-kilter way on the idea. First one is true, btw, as in the chimes can be heard from the bedroom window:

Alarm clock

My alarm clock is better than yours.
Because it’s Big Ben that wakes me anew.
The nation’s timepiece simply underscores
That my alarm clock is better than yours.
Why clutter up your chest of drawers
When our favourite bell tolls only for you?
My alarm clock is better than yours.
Because it’s Big Ben that wakes me anew.

The Nobel prize in bedroom studies

If duvets are universes –
and if you are contented
enough they are – then
lift up your reflective gold
visor, take off your lingerie
spacesuit, and you won’t
need my telescope – or
any other astronomical
device – to see that we’ve
crossed the event horizon and
you’ve become the singularity.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Commercial: The BlackBerry pen

I imagine the conversation in the marketing or sales promo team went something like this:

- Bob? I've got an idea about how we can really embed the BlackBerry into the consciousness of consumers.

- Really Bob? Sounds good. What were you thinking?

- Well Bob, howsabout a promotional item that positions our BlackBerry as being on the bleeding edge of communicative devices, the thing that is pushing new boundaries when it comes to humans staying in touch with other humans? Oh, and subliminally says that we are visionaries when it comes to providing these new tools of communications.

- Bob, I love it! What sort of brain-meltingly objet d'art from the future of humanity could you have possibly produced that can capture our beloved device in this way?

- Behold, Bob, behold. (He reveals the above pen.)


- Bob, uh, I think you might not quite have understood what we do here at RIM...


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Commercial: The Geek Calendar

You support reforming Britain's antiquated libel laws, right?

You know, love, and possibly even are, a geek?

And you have been known to groove to the sounds of Spirit of Play?

Then you have no reason whatsoever not to purchase The Geek Calendar. All proceeds go to Libel Reform,


Two constraints

If, like me, you are disciple of what I think we can unblushingly call the Simmons School of Constraint Writing, then I think you might be interested in these two relatively new tools, that could just tie you up in liberation.

1) 750 words

Which allows you the chance to do exactly that. Write 750 words every day. The impulse is rather like that of writing your dream diary or sleep download the moment you wake up.

What makes the site tremendously effective and addictive are the gaming elements that are baked into it. You get badges for the more days that you tot up without a break, stars if you manage to complete your entry without distractions, and crude analysis engine give you a measure of what your subconscious is saying and how fast you're writing compared to other people. I broke my streak the other day, by dint of getting my timing wrong, and the empty space is so disheartening that I haven't written there since.

Yes, it can have that sort of impact.

And why the number? Because apparently it equals about three pages. And we can all manage that every day, can't we?

2) 6 minute stories

Slightly easier on the fingers and the soul; log in, you get a prompt, and away you go. Beware the timing issue again, as you need to give your story titles and tags within the six minutes too. As a flash fiction generator, it's great.


Friday, October 01, 2010

Commercial: Story of London

Just a quick note that the Story of London festival begins today. This year's theme is 'London, Innovation and the Future', and Nico Macdonald of Spy has been involved in programming a number of events, including the core debates at the British Library next week, on topics as diverse as:

Bankers and Bonuses: What has the City ever done for London? [4 October]
Is London growing too big too fast?  [5 October]
London and the Olympics: Predicting the legacy of the twenty-first century [6 October]
Is London missing out on the potential of new technologies? [7 October]
Will London still be a major player in the world in 2050? [8 October]

Good range of conversationalists and contrarians lined up to speak too, including:

Billy Bragg ; Luke Johnson, FT columnist and chairman of Risk Capital Partners; Economist editor-in-chief John Micklethwait ; BBC Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason; Sir Terry Farrell ; Chris Luebkeman, head of Foresight, Incubation and Innovation at Arup; James Heartfield ; The Times design and architecture writer Stephen Bayley ; Ricky Burdett, head of the LSE Cities Programme; Tony Hall , director of the Cultural Olympiad; Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board; Adam Hart-Davis ; Dr Hermann Hauser; Oliver Morton Energy and Environment Editor at The Economist; Wired UK editor David Rowan; Professor Lisa Jardine ; Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly; Julie Meyer of Ariadne Capital; James Woudhuysen; and Peter York.

Do hope you can make some of them.