can anything be beautiful? part 3

for my final trick i’m going to unleash the hounds and have a good ol’ rant.. and try not to rack up a defamation case in the process.

when beautiful things are complete shit.
sorry artswipe, it’s not nearly as faececious as you’d like, i’m sure.

i like beautiful things, as you may know. right across the board too – i’m not too elitist about my beauty – beautiful houses, beautiful objects, beautiful artworks, beautiful landscapes, beautiful people, beautiful clothes (although you may not know it from my rockin’ wardrobe of Got Any Blacker?), beautiful shoes, beautiful food, beautiful books/magazines. but one of the things that i really see red about is when some of those beautiful things are actually full of shit.

my victim today is actually a ‘beautiful’ magazine. it purports to contain beautiful people, good design, interesting articles about interesting things, a possibly inspiring and worthwhile read. but when i picked a back-issue, the communications issue no less, of cream magazine, i almost vomited with frustration at the utter stupidity and ridiculousness of what lay beneath the ‘gorgeous’ exterior. my suggestion is that they actually save on printing and become a rag mag like ralph or FHM, ‘cos they’re not that far off being that kind of mag.

i should have realised with the lame cover. the two boys (almost famous NRL players) are wearing ridiculous fucking t-shirts that say ‘don’t believe the bull’ (oh the irony!!) and ‘text me i’m famous’ (which they are, but it still makes them a couple of jerks) and the girl posing all over them is wearing big colourful moon boots that only Rainbow Brite can get away with – and she’s a fucking cartoon character!!

but i kept an open mind, interested in what may be discussed about communication in this issue: ‘real’ fashion statements, Clever Body Language, The Telco Backlash, Smart Identity Cards and Transglobal Music. i figured that there would be at least some indepth discussion on a few of those topics.

you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake!

Alas. It was all lost on some really bad articles and tied together with some facile fashion shoots: the discussion about communication through fashion bitched about t-shirt splashed with “obscure words and numbers” (which i can understand), to be replaced by “clearer messages” like “My Girlfriend’s Out of Town” which, and i quote “after a little social lubrication they really do say something”….

…are you fucking kidding me? what do they really say?

the people wearing those shirts have no interest in communicating anything but “i’m a jerk off tart” or “actually, i don’t have a girlfriend, but i’m hoping that this shirt will help me look like some promiscous rebel instead of the complete tosser that i really am”.

the writers could have discussed the use of fashion in communicating ideas of identity, or the messages in social co-ordination, but no, they went for catchphrases and illogical references to Zoolander.

i’m a fair person and try to give things a second, or in this case, third chance. and seeing as it was the communications feature, there seemed a good opportunity to discuss telecommunications. maybe the increase in new technologies, the effects of them on modern interaction, all kinds of juicy, interesting stuff that their intelligent, stylish readers could engage with. instead, we get a bitch about Telstra. a lot like my bitch about Vodafone, but a lot less oomf (a bit like the service it was bitching about perhaps?). the difference is that my whinge was on a free blog about my random ramblings, but even then delved into ideas of modern brand communication and customer service. this article was actually just really embarassing.

those are just 2 examples, and i could go on about the design being quite empty and the choice of advertisers not reflecting the kind of magazine you would expect, etc, etc, etc.

the thing is, this is just one illustration of when beautiful things completely undermine their external glamour, freshness, excitement, style.. beauty, by being completely devoid of substance. just like bad sponge cake… or paris hilton.

as strong and inspiring as beauty is, it can be a tenuous connection to something that will always, always be overidden by something as simple as disappointment. and my disappointment was not necessarily that the articles aren’t great, or that the fashion shoots are bloody ridiculous (with text bubbles from beautifully lit models). that’s fine if it’s vice mag. i know what to expect from that kind of mag and they don’t sell themselves as anything more than that. but cream, and others like it, put themselves out there, dress themselves in haute couture and pitch themselves as a fine ‘lifestlye’ magazine, but treat me like an idiot who doesn’t know the difference. it’s insulting.

if, in a weeks’ time, i have posted a retraction, it’s only for legal reasons. but seriously, i really hope that if someone from cream does read this, that they may think about what i’ve said. in the whole scheme of things, i’m a nobody – hell, i didn’t even pay for the privilege of my rant, but i do know about presenting honest beauty to an audience (whatever form that may take) and i do have some understanding of communicating with people. and you are doing both of those things badly. really badly.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

can anything be beautiful? part 2

it’s been a funny old week this week and i’ve had a few really important things put into perspective.
so this week’s less on beauty has a subtitle:

judging a book by its cover. if it looks beautiful it must be beautiful

last week i went shopping at woolworths and right at the end, remembered that i needed some chewy [chewing gum for the rest of the world that doesn’t abbreviate everything and then add a ‘y’ or ‘o’ to the end].
so i headed for my usual brand of cheap, but reliable gum, only to find it in a 2-pack with some spiffy new packaging. i don’t usually get quite so excited about packaging with brands, but lately, i’m really into the importance of presentation.

this new packaging has a few things going in its favour as one of this week’s beautiful things:
1. the stuff inside is good. it’s not fancy, it’s not mind blowing. it’s goddamn chewing gum, but it’s reliable and it does what it’s supposed to. it doesn’t let me down and therefore doesn’t undermine it’s beauty by being incredibly frustrating, stupid or wanky.

2. it’s personal. in several ways. the actual sticks of gum are individually wrapped and have been for a while. like wrigleys back in the 70s (prior to the instant me me me generation of the 80s and their PK), not only has this sense of being kept a bit clean, it’s also about revealling the product inside. unwrapping presents isn’t just about the present, you know.
the sense of the personal, clean and unfolding is also carried through to this outside packaging. the two ‘rows’ of gum are protected by a silver paper, so you feel like it could sit in your manky car for at least a week and survive. and the wallet type shape of the package says ‘it’s mine’. and it felt like mine.

3. it’s simple. the design keeps true to the main look of the usual wrapper, but it’s also simplified it. the words are clean. there’s no fluffy bollocks, shiny squares, stupid star bursts of FLAVOUR! or kooky fonts. it’s blue, it’s got a logo, it’s been endorsed by the dental association. it’s got the ingredients on the bottom, it’s has the warning about excessive use and laxative effect and it leaves it at that.

the great taste that really larsh

now, maybe i got a bit carried away with the whole thing since giving up smoking (and strangely, the packaging has taken a bit of a leaf out of cigarrette packaging) or maybe it’s ‘cos i’m thinking about beautiful presentation, but it got me. and it got me thinking.

april flowers, circa 1985

and while i was thinking about the nature of packaging and how it can be incredibly seductive if it’s done right, provided that it’s not about bullshit, i was drinking my cup of tea and i realised how much love my cup of tea and my tea set.

my cuppa is a ritual. lately it’s been with a toasted hot cross bun and from a wedgewood cup WITH saucer, that i was given as a gift when i was 8 (for my first holy commmunion for you recovering catholics out there).

I don’t own reams of nice crockery, so don’t go thinking i’m all lahdy-dah. but i make a point of using this beautiful “packaging”, because it gives my simple ritual a sense of decorum and for some reason, it makes the tea taste better.

and as another one of this week’s beautiful things it subscribes to the same checklist as the chewing gum:

it’s personal. aside from the nostalgia of it being a gift, the cup is personal because it’s delicate and vulnerable (so vulnerable in fact, it’s currently missing the handle ‘cos its previous adhesive has decided to retire). you have to hold it carefully, you can’t just chuck it down and you have to sip. you can’t skull from a tea cup: there’s no room for Wham, Bam Thankyou Ma’am.

it’s simple. it’s just a tea cup (and saucer). it doesn’t profess to be anything else. while the saucer will hold a couple of scotch finger biscuits, its main purpose is to hold liquid and nothing more. no multi-tasking, no trying to be all things to all people, no blowing smoke up my ass. it has a very clear statement of purpose. it’s a fucking tea cup (and saucer).

and the stuff inside is good.tea is tea. it pretty much tastes good, whatever brand you use and however you have it. i’m sure if i had to use it to slurp a cup of dirty coca cola, or cough medicine or cheap cask wine, it wouldn’t be quite so endearing.

now these two things may seem completely random examples of beauty, of all the amazingly beautiful things, but that’s the point isn’t it? anything can be beautiful. and when it’s honest and simple, has a sense of consideration and makes a difference to your day it’s a beautiful thing. even if it’s just on the outside.

next lesson: when beautiful things are full of shit.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

can anything be beautiful? part 1

well of course anything can be beautiful – it’s just a choice to elevate something to a particular level of perception.
that’s the easy bit.

but where’s the fun in that argument?

which leads us onto section 2.

can anything be beautiful? part 1.2

all arse. model: sweetheart, my cat

no. this is not beautiful. in fact, it’s downright ugly. and anyone else that wakes up to that each morning would have to agree with me.

yet ‘things’ are not always about beauty, but also about function, fun, power, peace – the range and diversity of reasons for existing. and if anything, and therefore everything was beautiful, nothing would get done and we’d all be a bunch of boring hedonists, living in a blissful paradise with dante and yoda.

and as cool as those guys would be, i imagine it would boring as batshit because it’s the occasion of beauty that makes it so inspiring. the surprise, the treat, the glimpse of it gives us such a wonderful thing to aspire to (but never quite obtain as an absolute). in fact living in absolute anything would be an entirely depressing existence.

so while my cat’s bum is damned ugly and will never be beautiful, it fulfills a function that my cat always appreciates, even if i don’t.

and luckily, the rest of her is gorgeous, so it all works out in the end.

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx

can anything be beautiful? preface

sometimes there are crazy opportunities you just want to take up. if you ride the life-train like i do, sometimes they come out of left field and all anyone else can do is shrug in amazement. i got my first real job that way. i was a temp at an ad agency, filling in while someone else got the job and i ran after the sales rep from our pre-press bureau, calling him a ‘duffer’ after he’d left something behind. 2 weeks’ later he gave me a job as the receptionist there, 9 months later i was an apprentice and finally after 4 years i finished my trade in Graphic Pre-Press. File under Opportunity Knocks.

then i packed it all in and went to art school! ha!

W+K london are currently calling for ‘talent’ for their WK Side project, encouraging those ‘outside adland’ to create online content for the chance to work with them for 3 months in London, being trained by some of the best planners and writers in the world (the others being here and here). File under Opportunity of a Lifetime.

unfortunately for me, I have to file it under ‘Opportunity of a Lifetime (If Luck Still Loves Me)’. W+K need their new kids to be on the block by the 10th April. i arrive on the 6th May. bugger.

but seeing as it’s such a gorgeous question, a fun task and a great chance to muse on some more philosophical ideas (as opposed to the sausages and council clean-ups governing my current focus), i thought i’d step up to the plate anyway. And if W+K read it and like it, well, fantastic!

Stay tuned for the next 3 installments of Can Anything Be Beautiful?

thanks for subscribing to she sees red by lauren brown. xx