Big brands beer-sonified

Well, this is awkward… Almost an entire year since my last post. Ah well, no better time to slip back into the habit, and with something a little bit fun. This maybe appealed to my “Ooo fun and frivolous” Marketing Person mentality, but I thought I’d pass it along.

The team at Printsome (a UK T-shirt printing company), have come up with this amusing post pontificating what familiar brands would be like if they were in the beer market, including Nike (Just Drink It), Facebook and Apple (iBeer: Drink Differently) and a couple of others. I love these kinds of random, “we came up with it at Friday night drinks” projects. Enjoy.

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The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Fault in Our StarsI’ve been holding off writing about The Fault in Our Stars, partly because I hadn’t really been interested in reading it in the first place, so wasn’t sure I would give it a fair judgement. But I saw it come up on Amazon for less than £2 (my “hoarder on a budget” limit at the moment) so figured I’d give it nudge.

For all those living under rocks, it’s a predictable, catch all teenage heart bleed, about a girl (who has cancer) who is basically invisible in the world (so sick that she’s pulled out of school and is basically a hermit) and by some miracle a dashingly handsome young man finds her (hurray!) and falls in love with her (colour me suprised…).

But that’s just it, I actually was suprised – not by how heart wrenchingly, sob worthy a story it is (which, cold hearted wench that I am, I did not find it to be) and not because of it’s thinly veiled reinforcement that girls’ lives are meaningless without finding a man. No, I was suprised because I just couldn’t fathom why there’s been such a huge fuss about what I found to be a bland and pretty pedestrian book. How did it manage to warrant a movie, a product placement in the second season of Orange is the New Black, and many, many sparkling reviews upon the internets.

Then today I read this article by Ruth Graham on Slate and it suddenly became clear. It never occured to me to wonder if it was a Young Adult book and even if it had, in the past whether a book is aimed at the Young Adult or Adult Adult market has never really fazed me – if it’s excellent, what does it matter? But it needs to be trully excellent and to me, this one was an easy to read fizzer. It does have some very poetic moments, but overall I wouldn’t recommend it – even to a teenager.

Perhaps it’s time I put away my childish things and embraced my grown up reading needs… Nah. Somebody pass me a Zombie book.

One Day – David Nicholls

I signed up to a website that’s going to drive me to bankruptcy in £1 increments. It’s called BookBub.com, a website that seeks out cheap or FREE books on Amazon, Kindle, Apple etc. I’m going straight to slow readers book hell.

One Day, David Nicholls

Many years ago, a very close friend whose opinion I hold in very high regard, once told me that she didn’t waste her time with “faffy romance novels”, wrinkling her nose up just enough to (unintentionally) make me feel ashamed of my youthful reading habits – Not that I ever got quite as far as the Mills and Boon brigade, mind you, but I had, up until this point eagerly consumed enough Sushi for Beginners to be suffering rice bloat.

Ever since then, I have always felt a little bit ashamed of reading love stories. So it was, with full knowledge that this was a love story, that I parted with my £1 because stuff it, I wanted to.

What a perfectly named book, hinting at the promise and the disappointment of a sighed “One day…” but also the format of the story telling – each chapter covering the story of Dexter and Emma for just one day, 15th July, each year for 20 years.

The book perfectly captures the hope and overestimated potential of a new grad, and the sustained small crompromises, disappointments and often unnoticed tragedies that happen over the course of a lifetime.

Elements of Emma’s character hit so close to home I found myself cringing in shame at past experiences, remembering grandiose statements and gross generalisations I’ve made about politics and the state of the world, reliving arguements or conversations I’ve had with my own friends, past boyfriends or the Pet Expert.

In parts I unfairly judged it too predictable, thinking that relying on obvious stereotypes to colour Dexter’s life was laziness on the author’s behalf. But on reflection, these behaviours can be related to by anyone who’s had a few too many drinks and survived, hungover and ashamed to tell (or maybe be told) the tale.

I became so ensconsed in the lives of the main characters, so filled with hope for them, that I didn’t see the crescendo coming, and it was so abrupt and disconcerting that I spent the last chapters in tears.

Having wept so ridiculously, I felt depressed for much of the rest of the afternoon, realising waaaay too late that it’s the kind of book you should finish when your flatmates are home, so you’ve someone to cheer you up after. The book should come with a mental health warning, something along the lines of “Do not read this text whilst driving or listening to early Radiohead albums”.

Luckily I was saved from wallowing for too long by a late afternoon invite to dinner at a friend’s place… Thank frock for that!

Bethnal Pale Ale – Redchurch Brewery

20140626_153244It’s the first review I’ve done since leaving New Zealand, so today I am indulging in an Honest Burger in the covered market in South London called Brixton Village. Overwhelmed by the stalls of vegetables, cakes and fish, I decided to opt for the least controversial food store there.

The chips are rediculously good – so good, after just five of them I can already feel the addiction kicking in, already looking up where else this burger joint exists in London’s bustle.

The burger was pretty good (though not a blush on The Pet Expert’s delicious, home-made offerings), complete with the standard brioche bun Londoners seem to prefer (any opportunity to sneak a few extra caleries into an already substantial meal). The calerie count only increased by the Pale Ale I’m trying with it. I’m rather stupidly only trying this after having wolfed down my burger, fries and a ginger beer. Whoops.

There’s no give away notes on this one’s bottle, which I’m kinda pleased about. Instead, they’ve let the beer speak for itself. And yyeeeeowww has it got a lot to say. Barely even out of the bottle the hop flavour leading the charge. There’s not even a percentage on the bottle, so I’ve no idea what the alcohol content is, but it tastes strong. It could convincingly sit amongst the mid-range IPAs in NZ – a really good option for anyone wanting to start the IPA addic- “journey”.

Given the name and the craft hopped message, I can imagine moustachioed hipsters enjoying it – swigging it back nonchalantly while extolling  high-browed observations of its quality.

There’s a slight coffee taste and it’s so familiar (like the James Cooke maybe??). I’m skeptical about it being a pale ale, but overall I’m really rather impressed with the first English offering so far. This faux hipster will definitely be drinking this again in the not too distant future (though maybe next time sans the faint smell of market fish to complement it).

On the topic of craft beer prices

Occasionally you’ll meet a person who doesn’t quite understand what the fuss is about craft beer – and generally I don’t like to judge them. Some people just can’t help that the flavour of beer does little for them (my equivalent is coffee without sugar… why would anyone voluntarily put themselves through that??), that they’re allergic to alcohol (yes, this is a thing) or that they’re prone to beer bloat. But something that really irks me, is when a person complains about the price of a craft beer.

Let’s get this straight: craft beer, like fine wine, is a luxury item.

Typically it’ll be made with ingredients sourced from all over the world, carefully tested and researched, batch brewed from secret and technical recipes, tinkered with over many attempts, in boutique and often far-flung breweries, presided over by some obsessive  beer nut who may or may not have spent the last few months crooning over the delicious drop you’re about to consume.

Complaining about the price of a craft beer compared to a standard mainstream brewery beer, is as stupid as comparing your McDonald’s to a Michelin Star restaurant. Don’t do it, it speaks louder about you than about the beer.

The Dominion Post (Wellington) ran a really good article late last year, written by a guest contributor, Stu McKinlay from Yeastie Boys. He explained the cost ratios of a craft beer in a very clear, succinct way. Check out his article here.

Room – Emma Donoghue

Cover of Room by Emma DonoghueI’ve been looking forward to reading Room for a while. I’d picked it up last year on the way home from a romantic stroll with The Pet Expert, and had been staring at it, feeling guitly that I’d splurged and bought it – at full price even! – ever since. So, after many months of not really reading much (life got a bit stressful and messy, so thought I’d give myself some extended leave) – I thought I’d finally pay it some attention.

Room follows the story of Jack, a five year old boy who lives with his Ma in a small, locked room. The concept really peaked my interest, it seemed pretty timely given the rescue of Amanda Berry and her daughter last year, but mostly because I wasn’t sure how anyone would be able to write an entire novel about a boy and his mother being trapped in a room – let alone one that was short and longlisted for so many awards (including the 2011 Orange Prize and the 2010 Man Booker Prize). With that in mind, I wagered it’d be well worth a read.

I’m usually dubious about books recommended as Reading and Book Club material – I figure that the kind of books that end up on those lists is designed to be read quickly and either appeal to the mass market or divide people for the sake of Book Club debate.

I should have trusted my gut as, in the end, Room didn’t really go anywhere for me. I found the character of Jack to be believable and endearing, but the story felt predictable to me.

There was one scenario about half way through, that was certainly setting off my instinct to pace, and the treatment and detail of the actual room itself I can’t fault, but the rest of the book kind of just drifted aimlessly to an end. Maybe it’s because I was jetlagged, and so my empathy bucket is lower than usual, but I think it probably could have ended about 50 pages earlier. Even the dramatic twist in the last few chapters felt paint by numbers, and there’s the crux. When written from the perspective of a five year old, I guess you’re limited in the amount of depth you can really reach on what are seriously adult topics – depression, kidnapping, rape, hope. I wonder if it would have been stronger if the mother’s perspective had been explored. I’m sure others would argue that being able to maintain an entire narrative from Jack’s perspective was a real accomplishment, but for me, Room just didn’t reach the lofty heights the hype gave it.

Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap… and others don’t – Jim Collins

Image of Good to Great book and bottle of pump in the park

Three, maybe four years ago, the company I worked for at the time handed out this book to all those in middle management or leadership roles, and everyone on the much whispered about “Talent List”. It was recommended, not only by the MD of the NZ company, but also the CEO of the wider group, over in Aussie.

I, a lowly team administrator at the time, wasn’t exactly leadership or Talent List material – but I’d heard some of the hype about it around the office and made a mental note that it might be worth a look.

Fast forward to the present when I finally got around to reading it, and I’m glad I did. It’s an interesting look at a handful of companies that have (according the the research team that worked on it) broken through from mediocre (read: good) to outstanding (you got it: great).

Don’t be mislead – it isn’t really a how to guide. It is a carefully considered list of insights that the group of companies share/d that when combined, resulted in them climbing out of mediocrity (or much worse) into excellence.

Good to Great was first published in 2001, so in business terms it’s a bit outdated, but I’d argue that the key points are just as relevant today. I don’t really want to go into what the characteristics were (I don’t think I’m disciplined enough to not end out writing out the whole book and I figure if you want to know you should check it out – it is one of those ones that sums up the key points at the end of each chapter, so can be pretty efficient if you want it to be) but to put it succinctly: good next level leader -> surround themselves with the right people (and ejecting those who are not) -> discipline in pretty much everything -> build hedgehog concept -> take over the world.

Something that really resonated with me is the idea of inequality within a company and how, when hierarchy is carefully avoided, budget doesn’t need to be wasted on throw away motivational schemes:

Inequality still runs rampant in most business corporations. I’m referring now to hierarchical inequality which legitimizes and institutionalizes the principle of “We” vs. “They”… The people at the top of the corporate hierarchy grant themselves privilege after privilege, flaunt those privileges before the men and women who do the real work, then wonder why employees are unmoved by management’s invocations to cut costs and boost profitability… When I think of the millions of dollars spent by the people at the top of the management hierarchy on efforts to motivate people who are continually put down by that hierarchy, I can only shake my head in wonder.

I know I’m jaded but that kind of organisation, a large scale company that avoids too much hierarchy, where everyone is working hard but satisfyingly towards the same clear cut goal of excellence… seems to good to be true. I certainly hope they exist though. I have no doubt that it can and does work on a smaller scale (I’m specifically imagining early entrepreneurial scale here).

I think the reason that I found reading this helpful is that it’s reminded me of the kind of leader I’d like to be and the kinds of organisations I’d like to work for for the rest of my career. The only problem is whether I remember the information when I’m making those decisions and taking on those kinds of roles.