Sunday, 14 November 2010

High Fiverr: my recent absence explained

Although I've been offline at MalaPopulisms, it has not really been a sabbatical. I've been in huge demand in the last few months completing well-received 'gigs' at Fiverr.com (see also For five dollars more ...).

My offer to write sample slogans has been in play since April 2010, but the reality has been that I've written marketing copy, given SEO advice, edited web copy, composed voiceover scripts for videos and animations and suggested business strategy ideas for over thirty projects so far, the majority being commissioned since September this year. This explains the hiatus.

I've had 100 per cent positive feedback and plenty of enthusiastic reviews for my completed work.

The next step is to find client work at a commercial market rate. I am about to book my first project: a mixture of SEO advice, web copy writing and business mentoring.

I shall continue to post at MalaPopulisms, but my copywriting jobs will take precedence. If anyone reading this post is interested in hiring me for such work please don't hesitate to contact me by leaving your details in a Comment note. I'd be delighted to get back to you to discuss potential projects.


Search Amazon.com for Fiverr.com

Sunday, 19 September 2010

50 ways to improve your website

I've just finished reading 50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website, a recently published primer on how to organise your website so that Googlebots spot it more easily and that other websites realise they want to link to it, all in the name of getting fabulous page-ranking recognition when your killer keywords get typed into Google's search engine. If you run a website, market stuff over the web or engage in e-commerce, buy this book: it will change your understanding of what it takes to build a successful online presence.

I should declare a tangential interest. I am largely aware of the book as one of its authors, Steve Johnston, is a friend of mine; and I edited an early eBook version of the project hosted on Steve's company website. Many months down the line, the published edition has evolved out of all recognition from the early PDF format to the absolute benefit of the book.


50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website lets digital media professionals and enthusiastic in on SEO secrets in seamless everyday language; the book must have been through several drafts and has profited from careful editing from Random House and various peer review critiques. It's an impressive achievement and deserves to clean up the competition within its niche.


Search Amazon.com for Google

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Separated at birth, stars with reasonably long haircuts

Incidentally, have you ever noticed how Stephen Fry and James May are never in the same studio. Stephen even drove the 'reasonably priced car' on Top Gear, while James outed himself (ironically) as The Stig.


Search Amazon.com for Top Gear

Ask Stephen: the virtual booktour

Only Stephen Fry could get away with this, yet he may be starting a trend: launching a book via Twitter, cinema, webcasts and, later, YouTube, no doubt. And The Fry Chronicles is available in five formats simultaneously: book, eBook, iBook, audiobook and iPhone app.

Mr Fry is launching the tome by appearing at the various UK theatres to do augmented book readings on successive evenings: the add-on part comes from interaction with audiences in the venue and at 60 cinemas with some of his 1.8 million Twitter followers.

Real-time Q and A, and the Twittersphere will send #recommendation tags to their exponential readers. Already the Chronicles has toppled Tony Blair's Journey from the top of Amazon's UK book chart. Very smart.

All this commercial success without stepping into a television or radio studio, chatting to features journalists (although Mr Fry is doing his bit the old-fashioned way, too), going 'on the road' past the Oxford-Cambridge-London triangle, or getting your hair wet.

Where Stephen leads, other writers will follow, especially if they have a Twitter fan base.


Search Amazon.com for Stephen Fry

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Florida: Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 derived its title from the temperature at which paper burns. Florida is feeling the heat from around the world about the pastor Terry Jones on/off campaign to incinerate copies of the Koran at the Dove World Outreach.

This is the stuff of fatwa. You don't hear stories of people burning Bibles, Torahs or, to the frank, any kind of book (apart from the Nazis), so this proposed action is incendiary to the Muslim world.

The proposed compromise, to move the location of an Islamic Centre in Manhattan, is probably a non-starter in that the site is two blocks away from Ground Zero.

This row is dangerous and, whatever happens, Mr Jones has succeeded in strengthening the common stereotype of the United States as an arrogant, intolerant state. Although this is a simplistic and wrong-headed view, there are extremists in the country who play to the gallery.

Terrorism may increase in the short term, Osama bin Laden will probably release a video, and Mr Jones may need to employ enhanced security measures for himself and his church.


Search Amazon.com for holy books

Monday, 6 September 2010

A room of one's own: an unattainable dream?

Where there's an online product, you'll soon find a hacker or a pirate.

The latest examples that confirm the human urge to scream 'Mine' very loudly are Andy Coulson's tenure as editor of the News of the World (phone hacking has been alleged by, most recently, the New York Times) and hacker success in distributing popular ebooks for free.

Even the unveiling of the Stig's identity on Top Gear smacks of the school playground bully, tearing off the wings of a butterfly.

At stake, personal and professional privacy, and the right to make money from electronic products.

This is a gold rush in reverse where, in a landscape where information wants to be free, no one is allowed to make money. This spells disaster to conventional business models for creative companies. The globalisation effects of YouTube, home recording and back-bedroom piracy will propel the media into a dangerous Wild West outlaw world where copyright is seen as red tape and creatives won't be able to earn a crust. The new billionaires will be the sharp-elbowed owners of the speakeasies at the edge of the law and beyond.

The likes of Mick Jagger, J K Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Dan Brown represent the last of a dying breed: stars who get rich through their imaginations.


Search Amazon.com for piracy

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Pulling a rabbit out of the hat: The Illusionist review

Fabulous movies don't have to be plot-filled. And great scripts can be stuck in development hell for fifty years.

Jacques Tati wrote the screenplay for The Illusionist back in 1956 as a way of trying to re-establish a relationship with his estranged late daughter, Sophie (see also Edinbourg rendez-vous? Yes, please)
The Tati Estate has been very cautious about anyone producing the story, so Sylvain Chomet (the maker of the classic Belleville Rendez-Vous) needed the tact of a fox to convince the family to let him loose on the crown jewels as a feature-length animation.

And to persuade them to let him reset the movie largely in Edinburgh and the Highlands of Scotland.

Big on atmosphere, father-daughter relationships and the disappointment of fading dreams, The Illusionist is a period costume piece without nostalgia. It's a rites of passage story about growing up and growing old, sad without being tragic and with a strange nobility invested in the central character: Tati himself as the illusionist.

Almost a silent film, the movie has a great chance of an Oscar next year as Best Foreign Picture. Go see it for yourselves.


Search Amazon.com for Jacques Tati

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Went down the Comedy Club the other day ...

What is it about stand-up comedians' material? I reckon 90 per cent of the success of an act is the performer's guts and personality of getting up on stage in the first place. It's really hard to come up with original stuff, so the trick is to get audiences to like you by the force of your own personality.

Thursday's session at the Soho Comedy Club was an initiation into this world. The compere's warm-up established where people are from, so as not to offend the punters and trigger specific jokes about Australians, Belgians, Norwegians and city planners (examples of whom were all in the audience). The evening split into three parts: two comedians then a drink's refuelling break, two comedians then another watering break, then the headline act: one Stuart Black.

The best joke came from Nathaniel Metcalfe, a formerly unemployed couch potato (now a comedic couch potato) involving audience participation from the Norwegian guy: apparently certain English phrases in Norwegian make native speakers sound like Geordies (I won't spoil the gag by saying which phrases).

One big no-no. However badly things are going, don't lambast the audience for not laughing, however sweetly you smile. I wonder whether the comedian who tried this tactic on Thursday, Nick Sun, will be invited back again. He was lucky to get away in one piece, and wouldn't have done in a Glaswegian working men's club.

Also, where were the female performers? It was weird watching a procession of men without anyone thinking this was unusual.

Regarding the material itself, one liners seem to me like compiling crosswords. Decide the punchline, the answer, and then construct the joke backwards. So, here goes:

  • Sherlock Holmes solved the famous Christmas dinner poisoning case. He deduced that the proof of the pudding was in the eating.
  • Christ was a school caretaker before becoming a carpenter. Jesus swept.
  • David Cameron is struggling to get agreement for tackling the budget deficit with his Cabinet, as the first cut is the deepest.
  • It goes without saying, so I won't bother.
  • In the kingdom of the seeing, the one-eyed man is a museum specimen.
  • It's no use crying over spilt milk, you'll only dilute it.
  • Jack of all trades, no work-life balance.
  • Laughter is the best medicine, only if it's at someone else's expense.
  • Hypochondria is not for the faint-hearted, although digitalis helps.
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth, you don't know where it's been.
  • Love thy neighbour as thyself, within personal space limits.
  • Never speak ill of the dead. There's no point, they've already gone.
  • Once bitten, twice shy, takes no account of mambas, vampires and black widows.
  • Procrastination is the thief of ,,,, er, what was I saying?
  • Put your best foot forward. Not the best advice for an amputee.
  • Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Unless I'm crushed by a falling bookcase.
I have probably invertently stolen from Jimmy Carr, Tim Vine, or even Bob Monkhouse, but the technique seems clear.

Perhaps observational comedians like Eddie Izzard and Dara O'Briain are therefore the most inventive?
(YouTube video contains swearing and sexual references: be warned.)

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The people's pin-up

The limits of trademarking are sometimes all too obvious. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a firm of Chinese lingerie retailers has chosen to run a campaign using a Di lookalike to flog its merchandise. (Their Diana website has gone missing as I write.)

Taking the company to court would be counterproductive. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund spent a fortune combating Franklin Mint in the States where copyright is respected; fighting dodgy traders in China would empty the coffers into a black hole.

Other than tasteless publicity on a sad anniversary, the Fund should use unofficial channels to explore ways of shutting down the trade. A trademark infringement case, should it go wrong, would simply open the floodgates to products seeking their main chance.


Search Amazon.com for Diana, Princess of Wales

Monday, 30 August 2010

Notting Hill: the people's carnival

Fans of Notting Hill the movie would be forgiven in thinking the avoid was devoid of black culture. The film, however, was an airbrushed version of the vibrant reality. Not so much Hugh Grant as Eddy Grant; not Julia Roberts, more Robert Nesta Marley, universally known as Bob.

At Notting Hill Carnival time, the ethnic diversity of the area is celebrated with music, costume, Caribbean food and joie de vivre (not to mention truckloads of Red Stripe lager). The floats started their parade at around noon, and the crowds promised had not reached bone-crushing, pickpocket-cruising levels at the time. The volume of the music was less ear-splitting than feared (maybe Kensington and Chelsea borough council whispered in the organisers' shell-like ear, after last year's sound systems would have given a Jumbo jet a run for its money). The food was reasonably priced (jerk chicken and a beef pattie for £6.50). And there were surprising pockets of calm, with jewellery stalls, face-painting opportunities, and vuvuzela sellers dotted around.

The police were everywhere without being obtrusive. I only saw one cannabis dealer and one guy offering laughing gas to an unsuspecting public, both plying their wares at a mobile disco where nubile young things were writhing to the ragga on the back of a specially customised lorry.

All in all, a joyous day, wrapped up with a warming-down walk through Kensington Gardens and a read  of the paper next to the Serpentine.


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Friday, 27 August 2010

Live from Easter Road: Thompson 1 Murdoch 1

At the Edinburgh television festival's MacTaggart lecture, the BBC director general, Mark Thompson ordered a dish of hot revenge from the media menu. His target was James Murdoch, Sky's chairman, who roasted the BBC during the event's speech last year.

What would be more impressive than the knockabout jousting would be a smidgen of mea culpa. But media moguls are politicians these days and have to be seen to avoid Gerald Ratner-style 'crap' gaffes. You can't admit to naffness without adversely affecting the next BBC licence-fee settlement or the next morning's Sky share price.


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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sean Connery at 80

Shaken, not stirred, perhaps to have reached such a milestone, the Scottish icon is still semi-active as an actor. A voiceover for the animation, Sir Billi, is in post-production.

It's amazing that Sir Sean was still playing action heroes in 2003. Given audience expections, you can't imagine Angelina Jolie playing Lara Croft at 73, unless the franchise spins out to the Tomb Raider's granddaughter.

Movies are strange beasts that don't reflect society. Perhaps we are more reluctant to let go of action heroes? Maybe things won't change until women get action franchises as the lead protagonists ... and this has not happened often in a century of commercial film-making.


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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Who do you think you are? Royalty?

Actually, in the cases of Matthew Pinsent and Alexander Armstrong the answer is 'Yes'.

Alexander Armstrong traced his ancestry back to William the Conqueror and Matthew Pinsent was related to God, via Edward the Confessor.

There seems to be one episode every series that deals with a celebrity's distant relationship to the English aristocracy and, in Boris Johnson's case, the European monarchies.

The other staple is the Holocaust story: such as Stephen Fry, Jerry Springer, and Esther Rantzen (the family that got away)

The producers must approach about twenty celebrities per series to work out which stories are the most interesting.

Perhaps the groundwork is done before filming starts. Rumour has it that an episode featuring Michael Parkinson was canned on account of Mr Parkinson being the most interesting person in his own family.


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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The art of East London: beyond Banksy

'How can you tell me you're lonely
And say, for you, that the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind'

Ralph McTell might have been singing about isolation in the big city, but Hookedblog.co.uk's blogger and street sherpa, Mark, took a group of individuals at a loose end last Sunday on a tour around the ever-changing surfaces of parts of Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.


This urban jungle safari brought out an abundance of sightings of work by the likes of Roa, Invader, Eine, D*face and the Toasters: many of which would be missed by the untrained eye. Mark's tracker skills in the wilder streets proved invaluable. Everyone caught the moments with their cameras, while trophy hunters were discouraged.


And were the walk to be repeated in a few weeks time, the images captured would be different; shifted by the passage of time, the councils' clean-up teams, gallery commissions, opportunistic collectors and street-art politics.



Search Amazon.com for street art

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Overnet stardom

The mechanisms of making a name for oneself are changing. Wither music went, comedy follows. Bo Burnham has gone from gigging in his bedroom to the Edinburgh Fringe, with a stratospheric fan base shift from 1 (his Mum) to 59 million.

What's next? Playwrights: front room to Royal Court? Actors showreels: no need for auditions? Television presenters/hosts: cut out the expensive Stage School fees?

But in this wired world of celebrity meteors, will fame burn brightly but fade quickly? It would be interesting to learn current hit stats for Susan Boyle YouTube videos and websites.


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Sunday, 1 August 2010

A Chelsea morning

Chelsea Clinton got her wish to have a high-profile, low-profile wedding to her investment banker, Marc Mezvinsky. Commentators were saying that the nuptials were an American equivalent of a royal wedding, although the highest profile celebrity to attend was Ted Danson.

So, who's next in line? Of the Bush twins, Jenna is already married and rumours of a Barbara wedding proved false. And it'll be a long wait for the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, who are at least a decade away from naming the day.

The US media will have to hope they get a bit closer to the action next time ...


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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Wikileaks: the new Amnesty

The USA hierarchy is steaming about the Afghan papers put up on the web by Wikileaks. Where Amnesty International trod by raising publicity about whistleblowers and democrats held in prison and/or being tortured, Wikileaks has posted classified information from the aggressor's mouth.

This is The Bourne Identity for real. What price for the US secret services persuing the Wikileaks board and information moles with every thing they have got. Welcome to spying in the 21st century.


Search Amazon.com for Wikileaks

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Dogs' dinners

A dog-friendly pub chain is trying out a new idea: providing meals for dogs while owners scoff their own food. A doggy menu will be provided.

The Brakspear pubs in the trial are the Five Alls near Lechlade, Gloucestershire and the Catherine Wheel in Goring-on-Thames, Berkshire.

What next? Bringing a horse to a watering-hole? Taking an old bull to the Bush? Inviting a cat to the Rat and Parrot? We'll see. It'll depend if the dogs woof the dinners down.


Search Amazon.com for pubs

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Don't believe the type

Primary Care Trusts are due to be abolished, according to a White Paper publishing by the Government and the fall-out commentary in the media.

Not so fast. At a barbecue last night I met a senior LibDem policy wonk who said there were communications issues to be ironed out with the Conservatives, included the supposed demise of the PCTs. Apparently White Papers are little more than a first draft.

Hmm. Either this means there'll be a big fight on this or that the PCT proposal will be kicked into the long grass, beyond the timeframe of the coalition.

In the meanwhile, here's an idea for recycling the White Paper ...


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Sunday, 18 July 2010

Variations on a midlife theme

You can tell you're getting older when ...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Prints of Darkness

Peter Mandelson's political memoirs, The Third Man, are shining a torch on to the divisions between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair when in government as New Labour, especially over the inference that Blair promised to hand over prime-ministerial power to Brown in 2003.

But whatever happened to Chatham House Rules? When is it a good time to publish political autobiographies? The best option is immediately after a general election loss, despite the risk of short-term damage. In this case, any furore will have died down by the September party conference, when a new leader will be chosen.

Presumably Lord Mandelson must feel his front-bench career is over to be quite so candid. Whether this is a wise decision or not will become clear in the next few years as the coalition will live or die by the outcomes of their draconian policies.


Search Amazon.com for political memoirs

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Illnesses of convenience

Hmm. It seems that far from being on death's door, the man jailed for the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, has now been told he has made than ten years to live. What a surprise.

Almost as much a coincidence as jailed Guinness fraudster Ernest Saunders miraculous recovery from Alzheimer's disease and Great-train-robber Ronnie Biggs continued respite in a Barnet old people's home.

And we're not talking about untold trips to Lourdes.

The common denominators? Money, infleunce, and politics.


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Monday, 12 July 2010

Separated at birth, go forth and multiply

Hey, what about Batman and Michael Vaughan, former England cricket captain. Never seen in the same room together.


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Sunday, 11 July 2010

The coalition sofa

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, is about to have a difficult evening. Half-Dutch, his wife Miriam is Spanish, so the World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain will split the family allegiances.

On the other hand, at least the family will be partially happy whoever wins.

And at least the vuvuzelas can be put in the loft ... until they get banned from Premier League grounds.


Search Amazon.com for soccer fans

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Another con bites the dust

So, another stakeout ends in a blaze of gunfire: Raoul Moat, the Northumbrian killer on the run, has shot himself when cornered.

The sad truth is that this was a predictable outcome. Think of Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, and Adolf Hitler, and a pattern forms. I can only think of Saddam Hussein and Radovan Karadzic as examples of people who came quietly when surrounded.

Perhaps in times of economic uncertainty we are more aware of heinous crimes, as a backdrop to financial hardship. Whether symptom or cause, these cases spring from despair but are magnified by the media. Once such a crime spree starts cascading, the media supplies the oxygen to keep the fire raging: taking the criminal alive would almost seem like an anti-climax.

And how come the most infamous of these episodes always seems to happen in rural idylls? Hungerford, Dunblane, Cumbria and now Rothbury? Why not, say, Birmingam, Cardiff, Edinburgh, or London? After the fuss has subsided, there may be an eerie fascination for a certain type of tourist in visiting the scenes of the crimes.


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Thursday, 8 July 2010

In an octopus's Berchtesgaden

Tea leaves, I Ching, fortune cookies and spurious past history can all lay claim to predicting World Cup football results.

Paul the octopus can now be added to the list. The newly discovered global star at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany has been predicting results at the World Cup, with startling accuracy. Given the choice between mussels in transparent boxes adorned with the flags of countries the playing a match, Paul's predictions are taken as the first box he opens to reach his snack.

Oblivious to all the attention, Paul's success in predicting Germany's results (including losses to Serbia and Spain) has had two outcomes: death threats (from Argentines and, latterly, Germans); and increased soothsaying influence. Punters are placing bets with bookmakers based on Paul's preferences to such a degree that it's skewing the market.

For Paul's own safety, there is a news blackout on his predictions for the final between the Netherlands and Spain: one country or the another is going to blame the octopus, however irrational the thought. CCTV cameras may have to be installed.

Actually, though, with 50:50 odds, Paul's guess is as good as anyone's


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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Life's a drag race

Drug research needs success stories. The recovery of Kaz Aston from the symptoms of multiple sclerosis is a case in point.

Diagnosed in 1995, she was given the drug Tysabri and, recovery in hand, has taken up drag racing to publicise the cause. And to take on new risks to her health.

Biogen Idec Inc., Elan and the MS Trust will be glad of the good publicity and the likely increase in prescription rate of the life-restoring drug.


Search Amazon.com for multiple sclerosis

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Must the show go on?

Pop stars are finding new misfortunes with which to grace the tabloids.

There have been crashes (e.g. Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochrane, Marc Bolan, Sonny Bono), drug meltdowns (e.g. Syd Barrett, Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson), alcoholic binges (e.g. Jim Morrison, Hank Williams Jr, Amy Winehouse), physical injury (e.g. Bono, Keith Richards) and even murders (e.g. John Lennon, Sid Vicious) but Western icons have managed to avoid exotic diseases (except perhaps cancer, e,g, Kylie Minogue, Bob Marley, George Harrison).

Until now. Cheryl Cole has malaria and may be starting a trend. Amir Khan, the boxer, has collapsed with the same mystery disease.

No one famous has recently croaked from tuberculosis, syphilis. polio, cholera or a flu epidemic but with global travel increasing and the losing battle against bug evolution means it may just be a matter of time.


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Thursday, 1 July 2010

Let the plane take the strain

Ryanair takes the biscuit for no frills and paid added extras in the low-cost airline business. The latest additions to the rosta of pain are coin-operated loos and 'vertical seats' (i.e. standing room only). What would health and safety make of that?

Where will Michael O'Leary's money-making schemes go next?
If not these, suggestions, there will be others along soon.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Katy Perry Brand

Is she or is she not married? Slips of the tongue on The Graham Norton Show suggests Katy Perry may well have already tied the knot with Russell Brand. No matter, they'll be hitched soon in any case.

But how do married pop stars fare? Will she be a Louise Redknapp, formerly of Eternal, who retired gracefully from the scene when she married Jamie? Or will she be a Madonna, carrying on regardless of who she's seeing?

The brand may have to change, though, as reality will change adolescent fantasy. Perhaps she'll corner the Easy Listening market or release albums direct to a supermarket or elevator near you? Or follow Tiffany and tour the malls.


Search Amazon.com for Katy Perry

Stepford spies

What could be more American than motherhood and Pavlova cake?

Richard and Cynthia Murphy, Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley (and six others) seemed to be regular citizens until busted by their incompetence days after an official visit to the US by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

It appears that the ten Russian spies were unmasked by the FBI finding a 27-letter password next to a computer disk belonging to one of the group during a secret raid. The FBI then sat back for years listening in to threads of emails and mountains of documents, detailing expense claims that would have given British MPs a run for their money.

And then the American authorities reeled them in, way before any damage was done. The SVR is no KGB.


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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Hard Graff

Is there any scheme that can be said to be a perfect crime? The Graff Diamonds heist might have seemed perfect to the perpetrators, but it ended up being close without the proverbial cigar for the sharp end of the operation.

The criminals forgot that using theatrical make-up needed professional application. The expert who changed the robbers appearance simply went to the police, given the unusual nature of the crime.

The robbers did, however, nab £40 million in jewellery that may never be recovered. The twisted moral of the story is that if you are going to rob a jewellers' store, make sure you get other people to carry out the raid. If they get nicked, you can be out of the country with the booty.

Auf Weidersehen, England

The Germans won again at the World Cup footie, but this time England weren't even good enough to merit going out on penalties. Where do they go from here? Here are some suggestions:
  • Renegotiate the number of English-qualified players turning out for Premier League sides;
  • Invite Stuart Pearce to be the England manager as he got the Under-21 side to the final of the European Championships;
  • Thank 'thank very much' to a bunch of aging England football players (Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Matthew Upson, John Terry, David James, Emile Heskey)
  • Select the nucleus of the new England team from the Under-21 side;
  • Build a team around Wayne Rooney, but allow everyone in the team to play in their best positions.
Will this happen? Probably not. But if Fabio Capello continues, he will have to adapt and learn from his mistakes. Perhaps Stuart Pearce will get more of a say within the current regime.

Now for the European qualifiers.

Frank Sidebottom: he did it his way

Chris Sievey had an unusual life. Quirkily successful, he died a pauper. He is the only performer I can think of who was much less well-known than his papier-mâché puppet alter ego: Frank Sidebottom.

Frank was way ahead of his time, celebrating the naffness and desperation of celebrity and over-promoting the banal: he, like me, was born and bred in Timperley, Cheshire, and name-dropped the place at every opportunity.

Mr Sievey's originality spawned the careers of Caroline Aherne (Mrs Merton made her debut on Radio Timperley and Frank's Fantastic Shed Show), Chris Evans (erstwhile Sidebottom roadie) and Jon Ronson, and influenced the likes of Graham Fellows and Mark Radcliffe.

News of his death kicked off a viral campaign to pay for the funeral. The tsunami of affection has created a campaign for a posthumous single release (perhaps the mock football anthem 'Three Shirts on my Line') and a possible movie.

If the film ever got made it would have the potential to be a quintessentially mad English indie sensation: 'Born in Timperley', indeed. Fantastic.


Search Amazon.com for Frank Sidebottom

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

England expected

For those of us working this afternoon, the experience was like operating in a ghost town. No phone calls, no faxes, no emails, and the occasional afternoon roar, specifically when Jermaine Defoe scored for England against Slovenia after twenty minutes.

The pubs were jammed packed with people spilling out on to the pavements. The shops were tuned to the television. The offices were empty.

Several people at my office took the day off, including staff with no interest in football. It will be interesting to see the cost to the British economy of this national, collective skive.

Perhaps the only people not to know the score in real time were the combatants John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in a record-breaking men's singles tie at Wimbledon: five sets, ten hours long and counting with the fifth set lasting around seven hours standing at 59 games all overnight ...


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