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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Poetry: More on Verbatim Poetry

Bit late to tell you about this, but I've had a small wee something posted over on Verbatim. Doff your hats to Frank...


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Commercial: Brand racism

As spotted in Jeremy Mercer's Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs, his account of his sojourn at Shakespeare & Co in Paris:

With rent payments looming, I, too needed money and fell into the luxury-goods business. The job involved Louis Vuitton handbags... [it] seemed reluctant to sell its bags to Asian people in Paris. My theory was that the company didn't want to dilute their image as a European luxury brand, so they made it difficult for certain customers to acquire their products. On any given afternoon, at any given Louis Vuitton boutique, there was an enormous lineup of people waiting to be allowed into the store, and the vast majority of these people were of Japanese or Chinese origin... Meanwhile, the richest Europeans were given private appointments to buy their apparel, and if you were white and chic enough in dress, you could bypass the line and purchase whatever you wanted.

The book was published in 2005, and I am making an assumption he is describing events that happened about five years earlier. Clearly no major global luxury brand behaves like this now, considering the importance of the East Asian market now. But still, I had not realised that the attempts to create exclusivity inherent within some brands could shade into something more sinister.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Ur Guardian and Observer sentences 3

Back after a somewhat unexpected break. As spotted in The Observer on Sunday:

Does cocaine abuse have an ethical impact?

God bless the Observer reader eh? Even in the midst of their spiral of addictive despair, they can be counted on to look at the bigger picture. As Lucy adds at the end of her chiding:

Your drugs counselling is not just about cleaning up your own act but also preventing ecocide.

Well, whatever helps you get off the rocks, I suppose.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Commercial: Support your local indie label

One of the more overlooked victims of the riots last week was the Sony warehouse storing the stock of, amongst others, CDs and LPs of loads of indie labels, those distributed by PIAS.

Sure, it's not a big thing in the scheme of all the other, intractable issues that need to be addressed over the next few months. But you wouldn't want your favourite band or label to suffer more due to the mindlessness that was on display. And, hearteningly, there is some support for the affected labels being organised.

So look for the logo, as displayed on the Rough Trade shop, and do your duty &c.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Commercial: Paying for creativity

Food for thought for agency and creative types in Oliver Burkeman's column in the Guardian last weekend.

It's a familiar dilemma: how do you charge for something that doesn't actually appear to take that long, or *that much* skill (I'm not proposing to open the 'how difficult is advertising / writing / whatever' debate, just pointing out that, for many people, it doesn't appear to be that difficult to do, so they don't see the point in paying more (or indeed paying) for it.

No answer offered here, but arguments for not just demonstrating the applied value but the *intrinsic* value of what we do, do need to be found.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Commercial: The contender takes a tumble

Spotted in Liverpool on the weekend. While applauding the ambition and approach... um, a contender for what? A heart attack, from sitting on your couch for longer, watching telly?


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Poetry: Martin Jackson

Can I send you over to Days of Roses, where you can discover the poetry of Martin Jackson? If you're in advertising, methinks you'll raise a wee bit of a smile at some of them.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Commercial: Probably the best book cover in the world

Whaddyamean you don't have it?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Riot Lucida

In 1957 French philosopher Roland Barthes published a book called Mythologies. A collection of essays taken from Les Lettres nouvelles, it examined, quoting Wikipedia, the 'tendency of contemporary social value systems to create modern myths.'

The most famous essay in it was his analysis of the cover of Paris Match, of a young black French soldier saluting which, he argued, through a combination of signs and ideas being signified, helped to perpetuate a myth of France and her imperial power.

I am rather hoping that in the next few weeks, one of Barthes' intellectual descendants will do something similar for the picture above, taken on Sunday night, during the disturbances in Brixton.

It's a slight understatement to say I've been haunted by it since first seeing it. But I would like someone to explain to me why I find it so emblematic of what has happened over the last few days.

It was one of the more tweeted images of the riots, generally sent on with a tweet saying (I paraphrase): 'how stupid, she got caught looting THE SHOP SHE WORKS FOR'.

It was that formulation that first got me thinking.

So I'd hope that a someone could explain why someone might do that; might actively, definitely, jepoardise her employment by doing that, and whether there is anything in the theory that working cheek by jowl day after day selling things you can never afford yourself on the wages you earn might corrupt or warp your sense of right and wrong, so when the opportunity came you wouldn't stop to hesitate and instead, in an utterly misguided way, believe that 'you'd earned it'?

Then I'd hope the gaze would start to zoom out, and look at the rest of the scene. How power and force is still, mostly being wielded by, and forgive me for being blunt, a mostly white police force. You never see a black or Asian riot officer do you? And I'm not trying to be glib here, but surely part of reclaiming the community, or re-imposing the force of law, is getting the message across that it's not an Us vs Them situation, but instead Us vs Us: we look like you, are like you, but are choosing not to do what you are doing. And not only should that choice be respected, but more than that it is the right choice. To choose to make the institutions that we interact with better, by participating.

Then there are the consumerist messages that are inherent here. The consensus that the last few days has been no more than hyper-consumption gone wild seems valid enough. I'd hope our semotician could see evidence for that here. The shopping hours that mean that it's a rare day when you can't have your consumerist impulse satisfied, lustily and un-grammatically signified by the cheery 'We're Open' at the top of the picture. The most important thing for the store is to be Open, always Open, lest any chance to shop be missed. And what if you cannot shop, cannot participate in our main recreation, leisure sport? What happens to you, citizen, when you cannot be a consumer?

And of course our analyst would point to the anomie inherent here, in this situation. Five individuals, caught forever, together in a tableaux that sharply and simply, moralises one camp, de-moralises the other, and drains context out. And where there is no context, there's no understanding. All in uniform. Yet all told that they are unique. Bridging that psychic gap on a daily basis can be, is tough - whose sense of self is strong enough that they are never swayed by another's opinion? Mutliply that uncertainty by the force of a mob's baying, then wonder why the definition of a riot says 12 people need to be present. Only 12?

Lastly, I'd like our analyst to imagine there are no people there, and tell us how different this looks from any similar image you could find from a similar street in a similar town on a Friday or Saturday night. We believe - I certainly believe - that place and time make this picture special. But I am also willing to believe that, sans people, it would not be, and that we can see the emptiness and broken glass and the disorder on a much more frequent basis than we do, and we choose not to. Because it is easier not to.

And it is easier to make a myth out of the extraordinary, like this image, rather than the mundane, which I can also see here, despite (in spite of?) its extraordinariness.

(Image credit: Getty images)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Commercial: SJ Perelman on advertising

Following the Candyman's recommendation on Desert Island Discs, I've been going through some SJ Perelman, specifically Crazy Like A Fox, which I found in an orange Penguin years ago. And looky what my eye chanced upon this morning:

...the desperation is that of the whole advertising confraternity. So all the old tactics have finally broken down - wheedling, abuse, snobbery and terror. I look forward to the last great era in advertising, a period packed with glooom, defeatism and frustration...



Friday, August 05, 2011

Poetry: More Days of Roses

Once again Declan over at Days of Roses has done me the signal honour of publishing a few more of my poems. I doff my titfer to him again.