Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

This is an article I wrote a few weeks ago for an application to be a columnist. I did not get the job, and it is no longer especially topical. But nevermind.

Like God remembering the night when He created Bono, or Kanye’s fat kid when he ran out of cake, the internet is angry. Angry at THE MAN for taking a middle-of-the-road rock song and letting a middle-of-the-road singer release it in the name of money and fame.

What are you talking about, some of you might say in tones of barely concealed boredom. It could only be Matt Cardle’s Biffy Clyro cover song. He is this year’s X Factor winner, they are a band from Kilmarnock who used to be very good about eight years ago, then evolved into an averagely good rock band.

According to the NME, front man Simon Neil said at the start of the year the X Factor is “for the kind of people who buy fucking Robbie Williams calendars.” I didn’t know there were such calendars. Clearly nobody was thinking of the children when they came up with that one. He then said the show was not “a threat to 'real' music at all. It's just entertainment. Simon Cowell isn't the devil. He just wants to make shitloads of money."

Now, perhaps as recompense for the unexpected good press, Cowell is using a song written by Neil to make them both, in the latter’s own words, “shitloads of money.”

Biffy fans are apoplectic with misspelt rage, and have started a facebook page to propel the original version to Christmas number 1. Unfortunately numbers are so low that they all have to buy it 10 times to achieve their goal, spending £8.90 to obtain one track which they presumably already have. The two Simons must be killing themselves laughing as they go to sleep in their gold houses with furniture made of money.

“how dare they change the name of the song just to appeal to the f*ckwits that will buy his music, they should have used a different song if that wasnt paletable for the ‘fans’,” argued one musical misanthrope.

“I would not expect X factor fans to understand the carefully crafted genius of this song,” waffled another. “Biffy wrote this in “drop C#”, the matt guy mimes a strum in basic C scale tuning, pretty lame stuff. But what do you expect, X factor fans would cheer any shiney tuneless gimp Cowell puts up.”

Of all the bands you could choose to be pretentious about, Biffy Clyro? Really? They’re named after a spoonerism involving a Cliff Richard pen! They’ve had some good musical moments in their time, but over the last couple of years they’ve also had some yawningly tedious ones. And the difference between writing a song in drop C# and C is negligible at best.

I can’t think of a good reason to begrudge them making enough money out of the X Factor to support their families, drug habits, next album, or whatever. And all poor tonsillitis-ridden Matt Cardle is guilty of is liking a boring song. Internet, you should take a step back and have a long hard look at yourself.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

No Use Crying Over Split Infinitives

New Year's Resolutions are rubbish, aren't they.

Mostly everyone has a vague notion that they'll eat less crap and exercise more. Maybe they'll also be a bit tidier. This falls apart either:
a) instantly, when you awake at 1pm on New Year's Day and realise it is the time for a Doctor Who marathon and piles of crisps, or:
b) more gradually over the first few weeks of the year as you remember that January is horrible and exercise makes you feel sad.

But we do it anyway, because it's nice to aspire to something less obese and poor-skinned than we are currently.

My New Year's Resolution, aside from the whole writing 12 books thing, is to get paid for my words.

I write a lot, about a variety of things, and some of it's not half bad. I do local news, fiction, humour, film and music reviews, comics, comment pieces and of course I blog. I've had stuff published in lots of places this year, working full time in unrelated jobs as I went. I've written for Outlook (City of Edinburgh Council newspaper), The Link (South Edinburgh newsletter), Tales of One City (the library services blog), The Edinburgh Reporter (hyperlocal news), The Broughton Spurtle (hyper-hyperlocal news), The Chutney Exhibition (comedy), Brikolage (arts), Hecklerspray (gossip), Billygean (blog) and have secured a blogging job with The Skinny's new website - although nobody knows when that's actually going to go live. That's not bad going.

There again it occurred to me this year that I've been working away on a generic concept of 'getting as much experience as possible' for ten years now. This isn't as bad as it sounds; I started writing for the local paper at the age of 15. Over that period I have made an eye-watering forty-five of your Scottish pounds.

I don't do this because I have some kind of martyr complex. Offering my services for free is the only way I know of gaining that all important yet ill defined 'experience' craved by prospective employers. It's also the only way I know I'm going to see my name in print, which is narcissism, if anything.

There is an argument that citizen journalism and young folk like me trying to get an 'in' are destroying the profession, as if the advent of the internet hadn't already given print media in its entirety a severe bollocking. The argument goes along the lines that seasoned professionals are being made redundant all the time in favour of younger, cheaper hacks who will do the same job for half the price, and the quality of the output suffers as a result.

Frankly - naively, perhaps? - I think good writing shines through. I am more likely to read - and pay for - an article on something that doesn't interest me if it's well written. Given the choice, an editor is surely going to use something that has been properly researched and written to industry standard? Isn't it in their best interest to print readable content?

Yes, being made redundant is beyond crap, but in a profession like journalism it's hardly the end. There's a living to be made in freelancing, and you've already got the contacts, years of experience and knowledge. Do you know what young freelancers like me have? Enthusiasm, and Twitter. I can't pitch an article to an editor who I know likes me, or an old mate I used to work with on such and such a paper, because I only just finished university, and I didn't do a journalism course when I was there. Instead, I have to try and second guess total strangers who universally ignore me. (Being ignored is far more irritating than being rejected and for all you know it might be your own fault - you could be writing to the wrong person because people change jobs and email addresses all the time.)

But so what. That's how things go. And for every older hack made redundant, and every bright young thing who did the MA at Napier and is now on the Evening News for a starting salary of 16k, there are hundreds of people who never make it at all. Some of them are undoubtedly very good writers. Better than the ones who make it, probably. I can only surmise that they aren't tenacious enough, however tenacious that may be.

Perhaps 2011 is the year I will find out.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Iiiin West Philadelphia Born And Raised

You know Will Smith? The Fresh Prince? The only black lead in any of the fifty highest grossing films ever (unless you count Eddie Murphy in Shrek, which I wouldn’t – Donkey is a sidekick)? His career trajectory has been pretty astounding, hasn’t it? And now his kids are following suit, which is nice, but dear god his daughter’s debut single is annoying.

The song begins with the line “I whip my hair back and forth,” which is repeated 8 times or until young Willow gets distracted by something shiny. The verse goes:

“Hop up out the bed turn my swag on” -

I had to conduct not one, but two internet searches to find out what that meant. She’s not referring to ‘swag’ as in a sackful of loot stolen by a burglar in a book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, or SWAG as in the elite unit of the Philippine Navy. She’s only ten, which lead me to surmise she didn’t mean the valance, either. No, according to urban dictionary, ‘swag’ refers to the way one carries oneself, eg “he got a killa swag.” I am going to be using that, sounding whiter than anyone ever thought possible of a white girl from Scotland.

“Pay no attention to them haters,” she continues, encouragingly.

What haters are these, one wonders. You’re ten years old, what have you been doing to accumulate haters? She explains:

“Because we whip em off.”

Get your mind out of the gutter, people, that can’t possibly mean what it sounds like. Maybe she literally has been whipping them with like a riding crop or something. Ouch. But then she elaborates,

“and we ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong,” which puts paid to the whip attack idea. She must know that assault is bad, hater or no hater. Or does she?

“So don’t tell me nothin’ / I’m just trying to have fun,” she says defensively.

Although that’s pretty standard kid chat, isn’t it.

Adult: Hello, small child! What are you up to?

Child: Nothin. Just trying to have fun, jeez, leave me alone already. You’re so embarrassing.

“So keep the party jumping,” Willow continues vaguely, perhaps referring to the time mom and dad got her a totally sweet bouncy castle for her birthday.

“So whats up? Yeah. / You know they don't know what to do / we turn our back and whip our hair…”

Sage advice for you there. If you got some haters all up in your grill, whip your hair back and forth. They won’t know what to do. To prove the point, Willow proceeds to whip her hair back and forth for about eight years, occasionally exhorting haters not to get her off her grind, until Jay-Z caves and gives her a record contract. Hopefully she will annoy him into writing her a proper song.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


Well, internet, the waiting is almost at a close, for I have decided that today is the day I shall reveal unto you my HARE BRAINED SCHEME™ for 2011.

You may remember that in November I joined in with National Novel Writing Month and wrote a book - or 52,000 words of a first draft of one, if you wish to be pedantic - in 30 days.

You may also have heard it said that everyone has at least one novel in them - although most people claim they would never have the time to sit down and write it.

I have decided to combine these two thoughts by writing other people's novels for them. One a month, every month in 2011. You may extract more information on the project here.

Meanwhile for those who are concerned that this here site and Confessions of A Jobless Graduate will suffer at the hands of 12 books 12 months, fear not! I am unemployed again, which puts me in the enviable position of being able to build up a bank of auto posts. Not only will this mean more posts than usual, it will distract me when I run out of money to buy food. Hooray!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Tis The Season

Merry Christmas Eve!

I celebrated the season by writing a guest post on somebody else's blog. HA.

It can be read here, and you should read the rest of the site too because it's interesting and well written and frankly, there isn't enough of that on the internet.

In other news, innocently turning around to see this lurking under a pile of clothes is one of the perils of living with a Doctor Who fan:

Shat me right up.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Missive Of The Brief Kind

It being Christmas, I have lots on, as I'm sure you do too. As a result this site may experience a lack of blogging for a few days. However, you can read a guest post by me on gossip site Hecklerspray HERE to while away the time instead. Or perhaps you'd prefer to read an interview I did with a local writer for The Edinburgh Reporter? That's here. Knock yourselves out. But in a festive way.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Twelve More Big Pyjama Sleeps

Today, myself and my learned sister did some Christmas shopping at Fort Kinnaird. It is a wonderous place, containing all the shops you might go to in town, but larger and closer together. Plus there's a Thornton's Cafe, where the seats are made from chocolate and the coffee is made from stardust.

As if that wasn't fictional enough, I am happy to announce that thanks to the ugly but brilliant piece of architectural planning that is the Fort, I have finally acquired a halogen heater for to set myself and Captain Tact on fire when we least expect it. Or alternatively to warm up our room. Ha. This happenstance fills me with the lukewarm glow of mild optimism that I can spend some time in there without wrapping up like Captain Oates. I'll let you know how that pans out. Unless I forget.

This gem of Korean workmanship (sadly the box doesn't specify which one) was not the only treasure in the big Poundstretcher though, oh dear me no. There was also this little fella.

See how his eyes flash with a desperation for your love that is borderline psychotic? This is going to be presented to some poor child in less than a fortnight, and they're going to have to pretend like it doesn't make them want to cry. If that's not a case for calling in the NSPCC I don't know what is.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Student Protests

Captain Tact was texting me at my temp job earlier today to register his disgust at the way the press have covered the London student protests. Prior to hearing from him, all I’d read was part of a statement from the head of the MET describing the trouble makers as “a small but significant” minority, although the attack on the royals had filtered through my caffeine deprived senses to a certain extent.

“What are they saying,” I texted back, looking through old biology papers to see if the diagram I needed to do had been drawn before. It had not.

“Mainly banging on about the desecration of war memorials and attacks on the royal family. Nothing about the people stuck on the bridge.”

It transpired that one of the captain's friends, currently studying in London, had gone along to the protest at 3pm but on seeing the violence he decided to leave. He was prevented from doing so, detained on Westminster Bridge for over four hours without access to food, water, or the other accoutrements to which he has become accustomed.

“That’s what they always focus on,” I responded, adverbally. “Good news isn’t news, hence no mention of the protests in Scotland [which have all been pretty peaceful]… This is where social media helps because we can hear the other side to it almost as it happens. Sod the press. We know the truth and can pass it on.”

Having said that, not everyone in the world is using social media to follow the likes of Laurie Penny and Shiv Malik as they take to the streets of London. Especially not when they’re supposed to be working. And even fewer are aware of intrepid Edinburgh journos tirelessly following the boringly peaceful events up here. In which case, I suppose the captain has a point – the vast majority of people are presumably only getting the headlines given them by the national papers.

I thought I’d use my lunch break to find out what those were. Everyone said the same thing.

The Guardian had - “live coverage of all the latest news and reaction to the protests, in which the Prince of Wales’s car was attacked.”

The Daily Telegraph – “Prince Charles and Camilla attack: someone could have been shot”

The Mail – “Rioting mob who attacked Charles and Camilla were lucky not to be shot.”

The Sun – “Royal Car Attacked – Charles and Camilla stunned as demo yobs wreck limo.”

The Daily Mirror, meanwhile, came up with the restrained, “CAMILLA ATTACK TERROR”, but sadly I can’t actually get on to the News of the World website at work to see their thoughts because it is blocked for being ‘tasteless and offensive’.

Scottish papers joined in too. The Press and Journal went with the boring but accurate “Charles and Camilla caught up in riot over tuition fees”; The Herald opted for the musical sounding “The Fire of London”; whilst the Scotsman website posted “Royal Car attacked as student rioters run riot in London.” Darn those riot-running rioters.

This one headline – PAINT THROWN AT CAR, NOBODY HURT – is arguably not the most interesting part of what went on in Parliament Square yesterday. What about INNOCENT BYSTANDERS TRAPPED ON BRIDGE or Laurie Penny’s afore-linked eyewitness account which can be partially summarised by, POLICE BATTER CHILDREN.

Presumably those headlines aren’t dramatic enough? They mainly involve good for nothing students who want the government they voted for to honour their pre-election promises, which is boring. And nobody can empathise with students, they’ve all got ideas above their station and smell of toast. Meanwhile the story everyone went for in the end (that was Charles and Camilla getting a horrible fright, lest we forget) had violence worthy of caps lock. And celebrities to boot! Kind of…

Coincidentally, right after having this conversation, filmmaker Chris Salt aka @oblongpictures reiterated my initial point by tweeting:

Why protests turn bad: 5live yesterday “All very calm at the moment so no real story yet. We’ll cross live if there are any developments.”

‘Developments’ meaning bad behaviour from protesters, or the involvement of famous people.

I am curious to know why people in a creative industry like the media can’t find an attention grabbing headline in the fact that 30, 000 odd people turned up to protest in the first place. Surely that’s interesting? Isn’t it indicative of something? Nobody thinks they all turned up to chuck flares at police horses – but why were they there? Have any of them examined the new policy in detail? Is it really as bad as all that?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


I've never watched The Apprentice before this year and I only came into this series half way through. However, I've seen it a few times in a row now and I can see why people get hooked.

Tonight the two teams each had to run an open top bus tour around London. Here are some facts I learned from Jamie, one of the smuggest men in the land:

- To our left is the Thames, the second biggest river in London

- Up ahead Big Ben. The face of the clock is twenty diameters in width.

- See the building up ahead that looks like a gherkin? That’s called the gherkin…

Meanwhile Stuart Baggs, the guy you've probably heard people talking incredulously about in your place of work, stayed in tonight on the basis of a plea to Alan Sugar that included the line "I'm not just a one trick pony! I've got a whole field of ponies!"

Naturally Twitter was in spasms, not least because as @profanityswan pointed out, the man "has all the business acumen of a combine harvester." I guess that's the way to impress the aristocracy these days.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

My Actual Day

Earlier on I was reading about the bravery of my fellow countrypersons who have been forced into action by snowmageddon, and it has compelled me to break my 8 day not-quite-silence on the subject.

Reports indicate that Scots have been handing out crisps, pushing cars about, and even complaining about the authorities as the M8, M80 and M74 were blocked with snow and drivers trapped in their cars yesterday and today. Such behaviour would never be countenanced in warmer times.

STV have been collecting people’s stories for their website, and it occurred to me that my own tale of an ordinary joe's snow misery was yet to be told. By me, anyway.


The only bus currently serving my road flies by me this morning because it’s already full of commuters. I am comparatively unphased on account of already being hideously late but the reaction of the very young children who have always been on time for school is quite funny. In other news, I don't think dad gave them a once over before leaving the house this morning. The little girl has bare legs and according to my Met Office App it's -8°. Maybe she's in training to be some sort of decathlon competitor and it was an endurance exercise. Do they run decathlons for seven year olds? Probably.


I am concerned that one of the office managers might be missing part of her brain, as she spent the morning organizing people to go through to Glasgow for a meeting tomorrow. Someone doesn’t use Twitter. Or read the news. I don’t know whether I should tell her to stop being so stupid, because I’m not really meant to be reading Twitter or the news myself. What a conundrum.


On my way back home I nearly die; first in Dalkeith where I have to navigate my way along the top of a two-foot wall of snow that towers above the pavement like something out of The Snow Queen; then coming down Leith and Broughton Streets where the gritting efforts have resulted in loose, slushy snow lying over the top of sheet ice.


Shuffle decides to play ‘Let It Snow’. Never let it be said in my presence that an inanimate object can’t have a sense of humour, because I will tell you this story again and again until you admit that you are wrong.

OK, none of this is very impressive. I haven’t dug any small children out of drifts with my bare hands, or tramped up and down the motorway handing out tea and biscuits. I haven’t even gone out to watch other people doing that stuff so I can report it. All I’ve done is slide about, get wet, and swear a bit.

Snow makes me boring.

Although, I did cling film the windows in the bedroom in an effort to keep some heat in.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Multimeeja Mad Skillz

Nevermind snowpocalypse, here's a piece of multimedia journalism about NaNoWriMo which I did for The Edinburgh Reporter.

However, I must apologise profusely to one of the contributors because I originally credited her as Kath when her name is in fact Cathy! Very sorry for that journofail, which has now been rectified.

If you're interested, you can download the tracks featured in this video for free, here. I recommend getting Mid Life Crisis Man too.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


I am meant to be at the NaNoWriMo TGIO party.

‘What does TGIO stand for,’ I hear the less acronym-savvy readers cry. ‘Thank God It’s Over’ would be my response; where ‘it’ refers to the mad dash to write fifty thousand words in one month, ‘god’ is the child-friendly substitute for a sweary word, and ‘over’ means that I will eventually back-date the last chapter but I haven’t actually finished it yet.

Unfortunately I am not at said party, due to a close encounter with a snowdrift in Dalkeith that rendered my only dry jeans unusable. The others have just been washed and are thusly out of service, and there is nary a tumble drier to be had in this building. I am not braving snowpocalypse in a skirt – that would be a fool’s errand.

Instead I will sit in the flat in my pyjamas, eating my weight in cheese and mayonnaise sandwiches and knitting quietly to myself. This, my friends, is the lot of one of life’s winners. Mark it well.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Smooth Epilator

Female hair removal. Who cares about that crap? Well, market research suggests that it’s probably women. Of which I am one.

Perhaps boringly, these so-called women are divided on the best way to go about it. And being a comparatively tedious person, I was wondering about the case for epilation.

Friend 1: What do you mean, you don’t epilate? I’d be like a bear if I didn’t. LITERALLY.

Friend 2: Don’t go there. I have never known pain like it.

Mixed reviews, there.

For those who don’t know, an epilator is an electrical device that mechanically grasps multiple hairs simultaneously and pulls them out at the root. Or, a plastic doohickey with a load of tweezers in.

In my opinion it hurts a bit, but not particularly more than pouring hot wax on yourself and ripping it off, which is another thing women (and some men) swear by. And it lasts longer than shaving.

But what do you do when it’s winter and you live in the coldest flat known to man? We had ice on the inside of the windows the other day. Epilating involves getting the bits of your body out that want tweezered for a prolonged period of time. What if you get frostbite before you’re done?! No beauty routine ought to result in amputation, however effective the outcome may be.

This weekend, therefore, shall be dubbed 'operation insulate the flat a bit more than NONE'.

Suggestions for catchier titles will be considered.