Friday, 27 May 2011


No spoof news today, for I have important information to impart, alliteratively. It is particularly important if you are a budding film maker who wants your work to be seen by lots of lovely people at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival in June, but you will need to get your skates on.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Scienticians Create New Shoe, Women Rejoice

Scientists based in Leith have invented a new type of shoe which they believe may be able to cure back pain, headaches and mild nausea through frequent wearing.

Nicknamed the 'schlub', the shoes are shaped like ballet pumps with a low platform sole made out of memory foam, of the type you get in more expensive mattresses. The pump part of the footwear comes in a variety of this season's colours and is made from a special mixture of deep heat, silicone, and moonbeams.

"Shoes are crap, aren't they?" said Professor Felicity Findlemong, who is running the operation from a small office on Constitution Street. "They always hide under the sofa so you can't find them, or rub your tootsies to create unsightly blisters, or cause terrible arguments with your sister over whether you were allowed to borrow them or not, often resulting in long, bitter family feuds spanning decades."

When prompted, she continued, "this is why we created the 'schlub.' The memory foam sole means that each shoe will be unique to the owner - it will keep a memory of the person's foot and anybody else wearing the thing will say 'oh, good gracious me, that is not my shoe!' And also the shoes will be so relaxing to wear, because of the medicinal effects, that people will not be feeling angry or stressed as long as they are wearing them."

The shoes are tipped to be on sale to the general public as early as 2014, but Professor Findlemong says there are a few teething problems to sort out first.

"Sometimes the shoes will rise up against us in mutiny and we have to shoot them all," she admitted, "that has happened a couple of times. But we will wear them down. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well."

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Lothian Superinjunction Shock

The latest development in the wave of superinjunction revelations was accidentally exposed by an elderly lady who volunteers in Barnardo’s on Tuesdays and Fridays, we can exclusively reveal.

Maggie McCochrane was overheard telling a friend that her nephew, left back for the Porty U-21s team, had taken out a superinjunction to stop anyone finding out about his affair with that Lauren who works in Gregg’s.

The player, known affectionately by friends and passers-by as Scabby Knees Leslie, has been engaged to school sweetheart and onetime Britain’s Got Talent auditioner Morna McLaughlin for two years, and the couple have recently welcomed a small kitten, Precious Angel Leslie-McLaughlin to the family.

However, it has emerged that Leslie (19 and 3/4) was carrying on with this lassie fae Gregg’s for almost 8 months between 2009-2010 whilst Morna was queuing for her BGT audition. Even though that isn’t her real hair.

“While poor Morna was practicing her ‘Heart Will Go On’, there he was with another woman all amongst the sausage rolls,” Ms McCochrane told our reporter over the phone when she was asleep. “That’s ma nephew and I love him, but what he done wasnae right.”

When asked why he felt the need to take out a superinjunction over this, Mr Leslie indicated it was to save the feelings of the cat.

“It was a different time then,” he said, “a dark time in my life. I had a bit of a sair knee, Morna was busy and sometimes she didnae text me back right away... I was lonely, and I did a stupid thing. I took out the injunction cause I didn’t want Precious Angel to suffer. Me and Morna have worked through it all, and Lauren’s away to a Gregg’s in Scarborough to start a new life. It’s all in the past now.”

Unfortunately for Scabby Knees Leslie, the front page of tomorrow’s tabloid newspapers may tell a different story.

Probably not, though.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Apocalypse Now

Apocalyptic weather conditions left many people stranded at random destinations across the country last night, prompting many to ask the question:

Why does nature hate public transport?

Snowmageddon may seem like a distant memory for some, but only because they’ve put in the concerted effort to remove the months of pain, frustration and mild frostbite from their minds. And now that summer ought to be upon us, it is the turn of the wind to behave like some sort of chilly weather bastard.

Reports appeared yesterday that cars were crushed beneath trees, beloved family pets decapitated by falling roof tiles, and little old ladies whisked off into the air, never to be seen again. All this, with the promise of Icelandic ash to follow. And it makes you wonder, does it not, what the blithering chutney is going on.

The ironically named Reverend Iain Scientist (BSc) suggested these words by way of explanation:

“The gods are angry. You must all repent now for your materialistic ways; for your illegally downloaded music, and pizza for breakfast on the weekends, and comparatively well run public transportation network. If you don’t return to a simpler way of life, the Western Isles will be blown so far out to see that even satellites won’t be able to find them again.”

Reverend Scientist went on to say that thereafter would follow “a plague of owls as big as a man’s torso,” and reports have been filtering through on Twitter that a group of these have been sighted in Inverness today.

“At the moment they appear to be feeding predominantly on foxes and large dogs,” said ornithologist and TV personality Bill Oddie, who phoned us just now for a chat, “but should they start to crave human flesh we’re done for. Could you fight off a carnivorous owl the size of a man? Of course not.”

If you’ll excuse us, we’re off to repent by cutting up our Ridacards.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Bold Move From EIFF 2011

Questions are being asked this week about the decision of the Edinburgh International Film Festival not to screen any films this year.

According to recent press releases, this year’s event will steer clear of glitzy premiers and star studded parties in favour of a more organic approach.

The opening gala is to consist of gathering film enthusiasts at random around a laptop in Starbucks to watch the top YouTube videos of the week. They will then get to express their feelings by hitting the ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ buttons provided, neatly dispensing with any need for long winded, fatuous dissections of what has just been witnessed.

And instead of getting special deals for buying multiple tickets for film screenings, this year punters will get to be part of the film making process as extras in EIFF: The Movie.

“Films are ultimately pretty dull, aren’t they?” new festival director A.N. Orstralian told the media at EIFF’s launch.

“What’s really interesting for the public is the immediacy of the film making process. So rather than getting bogged down by the end product, this year we thought, ‘why not get people involved in the excitement of filming themselves?’”

“Ordinarily you have to wait for the DVD to come out with that disc of special extras before you can witness the magic of the crew marking up a set in different colours of leccy tape, or to find out that a particular sound effect was made using just a cheese grater and a baby rabbit. But with this year’s festival you get to live through the entire process, as an extra in the film of the film festival.”

If the director is to be believed, there are up to three other positives to this radical approach. One by-product is that in removing the need for the involvement of cinemas, the festival can branch out to countless other venues across the city – including Edinburgh University’s Teviot Building which, prior to this, was famous only for its disconcertingly sticky floor.

Teviot will host several art installations as part of the festival, including one entitled ‘a shelf of DVDs under a spotlight in an otherwise white and empty room.’

“It symbolizes the fact that in order to enjoy a film, yeah? You don’t actually have to watch a film?” artist Jason De Grunier has stated on his blog.

Sage words indeed.

But what of the public reaction to the changes?

“I think it’s a great idea,” gushed PR guru Crinoline McKendry, who cites her favourite film as Pokemon 5: Latios and Latias. “So innovative and now, y’know? I heard that on one of the days they’re going to use a twitter hashtag to write the script for a crime thriller which they’ll actually film as and when the lines come up on the feed. And they’re not using professional actors, because that wouldn’t feel authentic – they’re bussing in an amateur dramatics group from Auchtermuchty. Brilliant.”

Other film fans were less convinced.

“It’s going to be awful,” said Jimothy Ombudsman-Smythe, who uses the money he earns as a labourer on a building site to pay for his Cineworld movie card. “Nae films in a film festival? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Your FACE doesn’t make any sense,” the festival director replied, when we put this complaint to him.

Then he ran away, giggling like a schoolchild.

It seems that the jury is out, and at the end of the day when all is said and done, only time will tell whether the gamble will pay off at the end of the road when the chickens come home to roost.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

CEC Crackdown on Cars

In a move experts have branded ‘unusually dystopian’, The City of Edinburgh Council announced this week that they would be banning the use of Vauxhall Astras in the city.

“For too long these cars have plagued our streets with intrusively loud sound systems and obnoxious hubcaps,” said a representative from the Transport Department, Anonymous Phelps.

“90% of the complaints we receive aren’t to do with the state of the roads, misspelt signage, or even the dreaded T-word as you might expect. In actual fact, the main concern for the people of Edinburgh is the sudden and dramatic onslaught of these horrible cars.”

New legislation will mean that people driving astras within the postcode area EH1 through to EH32 will be have their cars imprisoned in transparent cells not unlike those used in X-Men 2: The Last Stand. The bulletproof casing is unbreakable, and is thought to be based on a design by NASA.

The council is urging astra drivers to trade in their cars for a more suitable vehicle, such as an Aston Martin or S-Type Jaguar.

“It’ll make us look more classy,” explained the Council Leader at a press conference in Dalry. “The international view of Edinburgh is very much that we’re a working class type of city, which just isn’t the impression we want to promote any longer.”

“The thought of people knowing about our homeless population, or the fact that one or two of our residents live in poverty… well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. The astra is a symbol of everything we want to distance ourselves from.”

Professor Memory Callaghan of QMU’s Car Driving and Parallel Parking Institute offered a very different explanation for the decision.

“The real reason the council have taken against these cars is because a senior official was caught in a compromising position with one back in November last year,” Callaghan opined, drunkenly.

“Vauxhall threatened to tell everyone and the result was the classic messy break up, with one party leaving and the other threatening to imprison anyone who reminded it of the relationship in bulletproof boxes on North Castle Street.”

Vauxhall declined to comment other than to say merely that this was,

“A silly story, with no basis in fact.”

Well, quite.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Apprentice

You've probably heard it said in books and magazines that pigs want to be businessmen and women too.

And why shouldn't they? After all, they can download a CV template off the internet and fill it with buzz words as easily as the next mammal.

But there are barriers.

It's not their lack of opposable thumbs that lets them down.
Nor even their outfit choices - pigs are really rather stylish. I mean, look at this one's top hat.

No, the trouble with pigs is...

... they simply have no sense of propriety.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Eurovision 2011 Liveblog

Do you like glitter? Pyrotechnics? Lyrics that sound as though someone wrote them using the babelfish translator? Well, this post is for you.

Tonight myself and my glamorous assistant Captain Tact will be covering Eurovision in an exciting liveblog stylee. Be back here at 8pm to witness the real time glory of our caustic wit in the box below. We have also selected some of the great and good of the twitter to feature in the timeline.

It'll be a bit like attending a Eurovision party, but a text-based one in the comfort of your own home where nobody will try and force you to have snacks created around various preconceptions of the Baltic States. Enjoy.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Glad Game - Conflicting Advice

Regular readers may be aware of the fact that I've been interested in journalism since the age of fifteen. Occasionally I branch off in other directions, drawing pictures and writing fiction and whatnot, but I always come back to journalism as a core career aspiration.

I didn't study journalism at university because I thought it would make more sense to go and learn about a whole host of stuff and things, and write for the student press at the same time. I could learn technical or administrative things like writing /ENDS at the end of a submission later on.

I did however get into the habit of writing for whatever I could whenever I could to build up a portfolio of work. A couple of things paid (arts reviews in Perthshire local press), and a lot of things were done for love (The Vine, The Chihuahua, Odd Socks, and various society newsletters).

In my first job after graduating, I volunteered to write copy for in-house publications, the website, and community newsletters published in our area. This was done in addition to my normal duties and didn't involve so much as a byline, but it was experience nonetheless.

Currently I write for a number of hyperlocal sites and a couple of comical ones, all for free because nobody has worked out how to make money from them yet. I figure this is a good way of building up contacts and experience, but having been volunteering for over a year now on top of working in unrelated jobs to pay my rent, I have started to think that I ought to cut back on unpaid work a little.

There is an ongoing Q&A on The Guardian website with a chap called Chris Wheal which aims at helping answer the questions of unpaid journalists, and I thought it might be a good place to ask how to make the transition from often unpaid volunteer to paid journalist. I perhaps assumed a level of hyperlocal knowledge that Chris didn't have, because here is what went down.


I am starting out as a freelance journo, and I have a pretty good portfolio of work online - I write for a lot of hyperlocal sites in Edinburgh including The Guardian, STV and other independent news sites, and I think I'm gradually getting my name known. I do not have an official journalism qualification and I have mostly been volunteering my services for free to gain experience, but I am slightly concerned that I do this indefinitely I will remain a citizen journalist / blogger forever, and never make the transition to making a living from my writing.

Do you have any thoughts about the point at which you should stop volunteering and start charging? I would also appreciate any advice you have on working out the best people to pitch to, and ensuring you have the correct contact details - sometimes it's hard to tell whether you're being ignored, or you've contacted the wrong person.


Sounds like asking directions from south-east London to south-west London. The only real answers is "I wouldn't start from here".

Oh. Well. I have, so…

How, having worked for free, do you start charging? You have already set the value of your work at zero. How can you justify charging for something you have not value before?

I know that is not helpful but that is the potential barrier you need to overcome.

Under what agreement did you write for these organisations for free? How much editing did they do on your work?

It was always voluntary, as they have no money to give me. I wrote for these sites to gain experience and build a portfolio because I don’t have the official qualification almost every journo job vacancy wants, so I felt I would need a very strong CV to overcome that. In terms of editing my work – not that much, by and large.

Have you tried approaching the people you worked for?

No, I haven’t, because they’d look at me like I’d gone wrong. “Oh hai Edinburgh Reporter / Broughton Spurtle / STV Local, you look nice today… Anyway, I know you don’t make any money and that you rely on voluntary contributions to keep your sites going, but I need to become your only paid contributor now yeah? Cause volunteering is like, exploitation? Kthxbai.”

I'd probably start by making contact and seeing if you can meet for a coffee/drink. Find out what they liked about your work and what they might like you to do in the future and then bring up the issue of being paid. You may need to accept a lower payment to start with but make clear that if they like your work they should be paying you full rates, so only agree to a small number of pieces at a lower rate or a rising scale over the next few pieces.

Well, I could ask my assorted editors what they like about my work, yes. But that still wouldn’t give them the resources to pay me for it. What I need is advice on working out the best people to pitch to, and how to ensure I have up to date contact details – you know, like I asked?

At the end of the day you may have to refuse to supply any more unless they agree to pay you.

At which point they will presumably say OK, bye, best of luck.

Each commissioning editor will be different. They will have different drivers. What motivates them will be different and you need to stress the skill you have or the way you will work that will help. So one may be impressed by a cracking intro, another by a high profile subject, another by perfect English and few corrections. Whatever it is that motivates the buyer is what you, the seller, needs to provide.

Yeah alright, I’ve got The Freelance Writer’s Handbook as well. I get that different editors go for different pitches on different days. But that doesn't help with the fact that I don't know any of them personally, so I don't know who specifically to pitch to or on which day. And it doesn’t get me past the fact that because I'm a total stranger and they presumably get pitches all the time from people they already know and trust, that by and large they ignore my emails.

Understand what will make them buy and offer that. And remember, charge them for your work. They are publishing it. You're worth it.

‘Understand what will make them buy'? HOW? I am going in completely blind, pitching to total strangers, half the time not being 100% sure that I'm even targeting the correct person. I know what I am trying to sell and the audience I'm trying to sell it to, of course I've researched that - but which editor am I meant to speak to about it? Switchboard don't bloody know. Systematically emailing all the editors whose names you can find generally meets with no response. Other journos tend to go ‘sorry, not a scooby, that's not my area.’ I know I'm worth it, but no other sod does…

So, what have I learned from this?

Well, it seems I need to be a damn sight more specific when asking for career help. And apparently I need to cut back on volunteering significantly to avoid de-valuing my work any further in the eyes of editors, who hate it when people try to build up their experience by any means necessary. So much for that to-do list I had put together to try and maintain a high profile.

In fairness, I have been spreading myself too thin, and I probably would benefit from concentrating more attention on fewer things rather than trying to be everywhere at once. But I find that the more I have to multi-task, the more productive and creative I am. It's a difficult balance to strike.

And what is there to be glad about here? Well, it annoyed me enough to buy a new book. Maybe this one will actually answer my questions.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Sorry for the silence, I've been doing an awful lot of things. See Confessions of a Jobless Graduate and 12 Books in 12 Months for more specific information.

I do have a couple of posts in the pipeline, and tomorrow I might even have time to type them up and schedule them! But now I've said that, I almost certainly won't do it.

Just to whet your appetite, one is a final 'glad game' about the joys of conflicting advice. A journo recently informed me that by volunteering for so many hyperlocal websites (which I've done partly to build up my portfolio and partly because I think Edinburgh is a bit good and people ought to be told) I have devalued my work. If I don't charge for it then why would anyone ever pay me?

I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding of hyperlocal there, frankly.

The other thing I have to write about because it is pissing me off royally, but not right now because I'll get all worked up and won't be able to sleep, is the fact that Guardian Edinburgh is going to be closed down at the end of May, along with the other hyperlocal sites. I think it's a ridiculous thing to do, and will tell you for why - whether you like it or not.

In the meantime, though, click this cute dragon to 'like' 12 Books in 12 Months on Facebook. I want to get to 200 by the end of May. If you help, I'll reward you with a mystery prize...