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, April 29, 2009

New favourite things

1. The Horrors: I know, I know; thin hipsters with devilish cheekbones and a thinner talent. But then blow me if second album Primary Colours isn't blooming brilliant. Dave Gedge meets Krautrock meets My Bloody Valentine. With some extra rinky dink piano straight outta the Wigan Casino thrown in on top. Sod melody, let's art rock! And you can download 'Sea Within A Sea' from their site too. (Thanks to Thunk for the tip.)

2. Garfunkel & Oates: So Copybot yesterday sent this round:

Which made me laugh no end. Turns out that these two are comedy actresses and what have you, and this isn't their day job. I think they need to turn that round. They're funny in the way that most musicians doing comedy are, but crucially their charm doesn't outlast their stay. You can hear more here.


Monday, April 27, 2009

26 recommendations

for April can be found here.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Commercial: The Louis Vuitton cake

The Louis Vuitton cake
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
If I was feeling deeper/more analytic/verbose, I would expand on one of:

- the decline and death of luxury brands
- imaginative ways that people co-opt brands into their lives, and express their love for them
- the re-rise of cakes as a status symbol.

But I'm not. So I won't.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Linkorama for 23.04.09

And no, nothing Shakespeare or St George related:

1. Popshot, a new magazine for poetry and illustration. Got my copy of issue 1 this week. It's stunning to look at. Poetry's pretty good too. Go get.

2. More new math, or equations to live by. Such as the one above. A new one every Monday.

3. Data porn. I could live in a gallery with these lighting up the walls.

4. Not that I'm too obsessed or anything with the frankly ridiculous Budget numbers or anything, but.... jeez. I did spend a good few seconds on twitter last night talking about 'mirage money' and the 'Enron Economy' and how it appears that public spending and investment was predicated on unsustainable gains from a sector that couldn't manage its risk and was always likely to explode. But the real shocker was Robert Choate from the IFS suggesting that £140 billion of the £175 billion in borrowing is effectively structural - ie we can't just put it down to banks exploding. That means whatever hue the next government isn't isn't just going to have to cut fat, they're going to have to cut into the bone frankly, saw a couple of limbs off.

Anyway, you might want to make yourself more depressed by looking at the numbers in the Red Book, reading Martin Wolf's magisterial denunciation, or catching up with the Institute for Fiscal Studies' briefing at lunchtime. Or you can try and follow Alastair Darling's circumlocutions with Evan Davis this morning.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Commercial: Your card is crap

Now, some of you know my deep love for Moo, who print things that can make you happy. Like business cards and mini cards, for example.

Now while I don't shill for them, can you please please please go and buy lots of cards from them, just so this guy can be shut up for ever in cold dark place, where he pitch to himself, until his sales words feedback into his ears, and hence into his brain, where they can cause a sub-atomic explosion, the residue of which we can clean up with his die cut, foil embossed card that cost $4 and took 25 years to design.

Irony, thy name is 250 gsm.

(Hat tip: Copybot)


Why we are where we are

US focused, but nevertheless a succinct analysis from Michael Mandel of Business Week. Download the PowerPoint.


Commercial: Email resurrection

After last week's email rant, some happier and odder news to report.

Oddity first. Above is what was waiting for me in the inbox this morning. The subject line said:

Elvis Presley 'live' at The O2

Which is both funny, and a little creepy. I think the TCB's also needed to be explained. 'Taking Care of Business' has such a wonderful ring to it.

And happier. Here's an extract from an email Ms Beta got last week from the Royal Court Theatre:

I write to inform you that our production of Grasses of a Thousand Colours by Wallace Shawn will have an unusually long duration. Rehearsals are currently running at 2 hours 50mins with two 15 minute intervals, giving a total running time of 3 hrs 20mins. This means the show will finish at approximately 11.20pm each evening, or at 6.20pm for 3pm matinees.

Although London Transport will still be running the majority of their services (including all tube lines and bus routes) at this time, we would advise you to check your journey home carefully in advance, to make sure that you can make it home safely after the performance. It would also be advisable to check your route again on the day of the show, and to be alert to any scheduled maintenance work or station closures that may affect journeys late at night.

Isn't that lovely? Thoughtful, considerate and useful information. Gawd bless 'em. And don't forget, it's only a tenner on Mondays there too.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Free The Blog: The Insulting Cabaret - the live blog


And for those of you who didn't make it to the Southwark Playhouse or online last night, here's what I was up to:


Friday, April 17, 2009

Free The Blog: The Insulting Cabaret - live blog

So, over at my other (temporary) gaff:

A heads up: later on this evening, I'll be taking life and various communicative devices into a state of discomfort, as I try and live blog from The Insulting Cabaret at the Southwark Playhouse.

In case you haven't memorized all your Free The World festival guide, the Cabaret
is "a secret world where the strangest things are banned and preconceptions are blurred. Expect fast paced laughter, wise words and music from around the world as writers and performers share their most intimate thoughts, challenge your thinking and make you smile."

Not quite sure how they'll take to a blogger scribing everything down in their midst.

If you're coming down, swing by and say hello (not sure where I'll be; look for someone hunched over a laptop or iPod touch). And for those of you elsewhere in the world, check back here (that's to say, over there)from about 9.45pm, to join the show.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Last night, in frustration at trying to write a fair few words on the iPod Touch, I tweeted the following:

Writing on the iPod Touch is like trying to demolish a wall with a cocktail stick.

Is it self-aggrandising and wrong to be proud of this?


Free The Word!

Starts tonight! Brave the rain! Get to the Globe! And go Beyond Faith and Reason! (It's OK, I'll go and have a lie down now.)

And don't forget, there's a lot going on over at Free The Blog too.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Commercial: Email fail

Now, I hold my hands up and admit that, over the course of my career, I've written some emails that I'm not proud of. Emails for offers that weren't worth the bytes they were transported on; emails for tariff re-jigs that left customers worse off; emails full of such impenetrable legalese jargon that jurisprudential scholars are still looking at them, scratching their heads and then putting black caps on their future attempts at scholarship.

But, thankfully (and as of yet, as who knows what I might be briefed on before the week is out), I've yet to write an email like the one that's above, that begins with this priceless line:

Apologies for the intrusion. According to our records we don't have permission to contact you by email.

So, then, Mr Hoity Toity Wine Merchant, why the fuck are you emailing me? I'm thinking you've really become addled after one too many cases of your precious, precious wine. And I'll be sticking to my local, corner-based emporium of liquid depravity, ta.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

52 Poems

(This is lovely, for those of you with a poetic bent. Get yours here.)


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Taleb manifesto

For those of you who've not seen it already. I suspect this will become - with luck - one of the more defining texts of our time. To prepare us to cope better with the Black Swans to come, Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggests:

1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small.

2. No socialisation of losses and privatisation of gains.

3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus.

4. Do not let someone making an “incentive” bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks.

5. Counter-balance complexity with simplicity.

6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite, even if they come with a warning .

7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence.

8. Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains.

9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible “expert” advice for their retirement.

10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Commercial: Identity guidelines

Brand guidelines. Read a lot. Written a few. Generally fine. Not always inspiring. But then often they're not meant to be.

These three are refreshing variations on a theme:

1. Skype - split their guidelines in two. First bit about how they look:

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Second bit about how they think.

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(Hat tip: PSFK) (and thanks to Peter at Hidden Chemistry for pointing out that more Skype brand stuff resides here. For those of you don't know, Peter's one of Skype's bloggers, as well as being a social media genius.)

2. Christopher Doyle - shows you how you can apply identity principles to your good self:

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(Hat tip: Ordinary People)

3. Pepsi - brand bollocks? A spoof? Either way, it's fine, fine writing.

Pepsi Gravitational Field Pepsi Gravitational Field The Crazed Geek [NB: the following claims it might even be true] "Haha. Ive created a new account just to post this: I have a funny story, which I probably should not share at all with Reddit, or really anyone. I work freelance 'in the industry', and one of my clients did some of the Pepsi spots which are on air. During the initial treatment, the advertising agency which won the Pepsi contract for the re-design sent over the design guidelines and a presentation on the design process of the new logo. I happened to be able to overhear a conversation regarding the new logo, and actually had to interrupt because ive never heard a discussion over anything so ludicrous in my life. I happened to nab a copy of the PDF, and have to share it. It really hammers in the stereotype of Advertising in general, and the complete idiocy that goes in to marketing. I really suggest reading till the end. It just gets better and better. Thus I present to Reddit: THE PEPSI GRAVITATIONAL FIELD:"


Commercial: Digital history

There is a perennial lament, especially loud amongst those who have to reconstruct the past from paper documents, that the shift to digital culture is and will render their task almost nigh on impossible, from two broad perspectives:

1) The things that might have once been printed on paper won't be any more.
2) The volume of digital data is simply so huge that no sense can be made of it. Oh, and it's too ephemeral to be captured anyway.

To try and answer that last point, meet Twistory. Basically it plots your Twitter updates on a calendar, as so above.

It's not working properly for me, as far as I can see - it's not exported updates I was expecting it to, for starters. It's still enlightening, however, to see days in which I was more twitter active, and those I wasn't.

But still, it shows that, far from things being lost, more and more things are being locked into some sort of semi-permanent record. The trick is to move it into some other format before it disappears. Or it's forgotten about.

The wider stories? 1) Data, the collation, analysis, presentation and understanding of, is going to be more important in our lives; 2) Print's not dead, and is evolving.

But you knew all that already.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Linkorama for 06.04.09

1. Rory Sutherland on why more leisure isn't necessarily a bad thing in adland.

2. Campfire, on the danger that instant communications can lead a form of echo chamber, thereby debunking any hope you might have had in the wisdom of crowds. To be fair, James Surowiecki did respond to this t'other day.

Lesson: you really have to think/act/do/say differently, zag whenever you can, be a contrarian. Will you get heard? Maybe, maybe not. But it'll help.


Commercial: Free The Blog

Just to remind you, there's plenty going on over at my other, temporary gaff, Free The Blog, from shop window snooping through to hunting writers high and low. Come and have a looksie.


Friday, April 03, 2009

Commercial: Auctioning accounts

eBay need a new European DM agency. So why haven't they organised an auction to find one, rather than a pitch? 'Current climate' and all that aside, presumably most agencies would only bid what they thought realistic for the work. And it'd be quicker.

Talk about not trusting the product...


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Commercial: Argies to the rescue

Gaucho beats the riots! Great email from said Argentinian restaurant today, promising that they'll fight their way through the rioting hordes to you, if you can't do without your fix of cow and Malbec.

Bit harsh on the waitresses they've promised will come along too, though. Gentlemen, have you no sense of honour?


Commercial: Sweet thing

John Simmons. Scholar. Gentleman. One the founders of 26. Author of acclaimed books such as Dark Angels and The Invisible Grail. All round good egg.

When John asks you to do something, it's generally brilliant fun, so you say yes.

That said, I did expect to be asked to be a fruit.

You see, John's new book is called: 26 ways of looking at a blackberry: how to let writing release the creativity of your brand.

And he thought it'd be a jolly wheeze to get 26 writers to write in the style of a fruit.

I managed to grab cherries from the bowl. First task: develop a tone of voice for it:

I bring summer to the tip of your tongue. I’m damn fine at making you feel good, what with me being a little risqué, and a lot playful. Be warned, though: I can be sour too. But when I’m in the mood, I’m sweet, smooth and sensuous.

Yes, underwriting is not one of my problems. Next task: apply said tone of voice to a letter from a financial institution, reassuring hapless customer that all will be fine in the teeth of the downturn.

Agent Dale Cooper
#33, Twin Peaks Apartments
Sugar Bakers’ Court
City of London

Hey you

A cherry on top

Things are looking a little bit sour out there, aren’t they? Like you’ve bitten into a fruit, and all you’ve got is the stone. I guess some of your investments might have gone a bit off.

So I just wanted to remind you that you don’t have to worry about your Cherry Credit Card. Not one bit.

I know you’ve been very good to us over the years, and you really are very special to me. And I know you’re unlikely to be using your card much in 2009. So if and when you do, make sure you’re getting something special for someone special. They deserve it.

You deserve something too. That’s why I’m waiving all your repayments for the year. No ifs, no buts. Just the sweetness of knowing you can spend this year, and not worry about it.

Thanks for being so sweet. And enjoy that extra little goody from me too.

Much love

Ms Suzy Black xxx
The Cherry Credit Card Company

You will, I hope, forgive the Twin Peaks references. I love my cherry pie.

You want more? Of course. Have a look at the bigger bowl, over at 26 Fruits. Nick of Asbury & Asbury fame, has dissected his elegant raspberry treatise here.

And don't forget to get the book. It'll be the envy of your office's kitchen.