Friday, 20 May 2011 launch

MalaPopulisms may have resembled a sleeping volcano, but I have not been dormant. The fruits of my labour have now been launched: CopyGhosting, a copywriting and ghostwriting service for projects of all sizes -- from CVs and slogans, to articles and manuscripts ... and everything in between.

I'm already busy with commissions, but please check out the site if you have a job you would like me to consider. Send me an email or call me to discuss your project and your budget.

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 (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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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 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.)

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