4, 000 pictures

My Woolamaloo Flickr stream has just reached the 4, 000 images mark after uploading a few pics taken while out playing in the snow today, including these ones (below) as I enjoyed yomping across deep, almost unbroken snow on the rugby pitch at Meggetland sports centre – it was so nice and deep I could take big ‘Moonwalk’ steps (as in actual Apollo mission ‘kangaroo’ leaps, not Jacko style gyrations) as it cushioned each landing, it was great fun. Still wondering exactly how I managed to hit 4000 photographs and video clips and not sure if its something to be proud of or worried about. Although I am pleased that some have appeared on the BBC website and others have been shared to use on communal news sites by citizen bloggers, online galleries, various other sites and a handful even got borrowed, printed and framed for display at a community art project in Edinburgh. Which I have to say I really like – I’m old school internet, been online since 1991 and like many who started then still cling to at least a remnant of the ideals we had in the early days that it was a medium to empower ordinary folks to give them voice and share work and art online.

Meggetland sports ground, winter sunset 02


a pic from today, the sun settting behind the modern Meggetland sports centre as I was playing in deep snow on the rugger field.
The 4000 photos range from pictures of family and friends…
mum and aunt chrissy
Malcolm and Rhona's wedding 31
… to hundreds of photos and short video clips of Paris…
Rue Saint Andre des Arts by night
Louvre looking out of upper floor
Eiffel Tower looking down to Pilier Nord

…black and white work…
cycling piano man 2
she's been framed 1
Scottish Parliament from Arthur's Seat 2
skating 2
…images of Scotland, city and country and wildlife…
sea horses 8
Waverley at sunset 3
Merlin the owl 3
Iron road to the Highlands 20
Inchcolm Abbey with Saltire
…cute kitty cat pics…
Dizzy in the tulips 2
Cassie by fireside 1
…even the occasional celebrity…
ukulele lady 2
…and naturally lots and lots of pics of my beloved Edinburgh. In fact over 1500 of the city and over 600 of the Festival. Hmmm, guess it all does mount up!
summer sunset from Arthur's Seat 1
Edinburgh Tattoo cavalry horses 6
changing the signs 2
Tornado steams into Edinburgh 4
Edinburgh Castle, November night 2
Royal Scottish Academy Gerhard Richter exhibit
Alley piper and Saltire
Edinburgh Castle Fireworks night 2007 4
I make no pretense to be a proper photographer (sometimes I get very lucky with the odd shot though), I’m really more of a gonzo photographer – I just shoot anything that catches my eye from historic buildings to jugglers to everyday life to famous writers at the Book Festival; I don’t rework them in PhotoShop so what you see is pretty much what I saw, not re-touched, shot purely for enjoyment from the compact camera I almsot always carry with me.

You swine!

Doctor Monastashus van der Koala, head of medical studies & sneezing at the University of Woolamaloo has been updating the Gazette to recent international epidemic news. He points out that while the mainstream media has been covering (or stoking public panic about, depending how you view it) the Mexican Swine Flu outbreak across the world (he advises worried readers that if going to a Mexican restaurant do not dance a salsa with any pigs who are present, no matter how friendly they are or how big and jolly their sombrero), he alerts us to a similarly name disease which has so far been ignored by the meedja: You Utter Swine Flu. This is a contagious condition which manifests itself in sufferers growing pencil moustaches and enduring uncontrollable urges to perform Terry Thomas impressions and generally act like utter cads. You have been warned.

You know I just realised when I got the WG back on the air tonight that I had forgotten my own sixth anniversary – the blog version (it previously existed as spoof newspaper articles done one emails from ’91 onwards) of the WG started on April 7th, 2003. I notice that by coincidence back then I was writing a satirical piss take about the media’s ridiculous bird flu coverage (or panic inducing nonsense) which had everyone convinced the world was about to end any moment and lead me to a new hobby which involved standing close to visiting Asian tourists in Edinburgh and doing an elaborate sneeze and dropping feathers to scare the hell out of them. Now today its Swine Flu. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose. I do wonder if both stories could dovetail – if some flu ridden birds and pigs, high on Lemsip, got down together and bred could they produce a hybrid strain of bird-pig flu and thus the world ends in a cloud of sneezes, feathers and the smell of bacon. Well, maybe when pigs fly. Which if the birds and pigs get it on could happen.

off the air

Apologies to anyone who swung by over the last week and found some odd ‘parking’ site instead of the Woolamaloo Gazette – my domain registration had expired but the company had my old email and so I never got their reminder (they used to send snail mail too just in case but obviously not any longer). At first I thought I had a hijacker at first, but it had just been parked as a now not owned domain, but I got it sorted out (after a lot of long waiting on hold) and with some help from my mate Darren (who set up the original cogs and wheels once I bought a domain back at the start). Anyway, finally notice as of this evening its back up (and with it my regular email which comes through the same domain), which feels good – hated not having the Woolamaloo on the air, even if I don’t write quite as much on it as I used to.

Happy fourth birthday, Woolamaloo!

Yes, friends, today marks the fourth anniversary of the Woolamaloo Gazette, the blog they couldn’t hang, a blog with a mouth too big to shut (a mouth so big it still spews out words even when having its own foot in said mouth, which happens on occassion). Well, the fourth anniversary of this incarnation, for although the 7th of April 2003 saw the commencement of the Woolamaloo blog, the Gazette goes back to the early 90s, the name a homage to the University of Woolamaloo from Monty Python (also a track by Jean Michel Jarre and a real place in Australia). I’ve always been outspoken and an opinionated bugger (commenting on my firing a couple of years back Neil Gaiman commented he thought I was opinionated, but in the good way, which I took as a huge compliment and a real morale boost when I really needed it), right back to school where I spent years on the Academy’s debating team (nope, didn’t win them all, but I won a lot more than I lost) and when I was introduced to email in the 90s at college the opinionated bugger met Communications Technology and saw that It Was Good.

In ’91 only a few faculties had email and the web didn’t exist – it was the internet, mostly text, lots of discussion forums which I signed up for, mostly chatting to folks in other universities round the globe, debating, discussing, chatting, swapping jokes. Very soon I was sending out emails of spoof newspaper articles to friends, lampooning public figures, trends and satirising the hell out of stories in the news that were bugging me. To my surprise people liked them; in fact some folks who weren’t receiving them asked to be added to the list, others already on the list were forwarding it to their friends – my first taste of the interconnected nature of the net came when a friend told me she had forwarded it to her friend, who forwarded it to her husband in the US Air Force (there is nowhere the subversive Woolamaloo cannot go!) who forwarded it to a bunch of friends on more bases round the world.

By the 2000s I was still doing the Woolamaloo emails, but my good mate Ariel, then a fellow bookseller (I think we first got in touch when he was editing the Guide to SF for a certain book supermarket who we don’t mention here these days, but this was back when it was still a real bookstore and professional booksellers like us were encouraged to work on literature guides like this). Ariel kept saying I should do them in blog form, especially since the blog would allow me to do other things too as the fancy struck me. Some other friends were blogging by then, so with Ariel’s help (thanks, mate) we set up the new blog and a new era in cheeky and opinionated nonsense began in April 2003 with me having a go at the war in Iraq and pastiching the SARs outbreak that was the End Of The World plague in vogue at that time (later I would post that for a laugh I would stand next to Asian tourists in the shop and pretend to sneeze while SARs was going about, just to watch their startled reaction. At my firing they even brought that up and asked, do you think that is funny, what would a customer reading that think? Yes, I did think it was mildly amusing, it was what we advanced beings with A Sense Of Humour call A Joke. They didn’t, but since they ended up being publically humiliated for what they did I’d say I came out on top there).

I found I loved the blog form – I did indeed still post pastiches of news stories (or sometimes just a rant I needed to get out), but other things leaked in – unsurprisingly discussing books and authors and movies (at this point I was submitting a ton of reviews to the Alien Online, edited by Ariel), but I was adding in poetry, photographs, life in Edinburgh and, well, just everything really – life, love, cats, chocolate and whisky; the fun stuff and the stuff that hurt like hell. And work. Work got mentioned a few times (relatively few compared to the amount of other stuff and far outweighed by the amount pushing books and authors and reading events) and the worse the job became as the company turned into a Professional Retailer rather than a Bookseller (and struggled with sales and profits and higher staff turnover at the same time – connected?) and they seemed unwilling to listen to the opinions of experienced staff the blog became a place to let off a little steam. Several years later they suddenly pretended to be grossly offended at this and fired me (it would later turn out that senior management had known about it long before this and weren’t bothered – in fact they asked me to help set up a brand new branch from scratch. Later they would suddenly ‘discover’ it – well, I suspect a certain vindictive person did – and it was used against me.)

Of course, by firing me they removed any obligation I had to be relatively quiet on the subject; Cory Doctorow and the Boing Boing guys picked up on it and splattered it all over the web, as did the online journals while Ariel and my fellow reviewers on the Alien Online organised support – the mainstream media picked it up from there and within a couple of days the Guardian and Scotsman had me posing for photographs for an article (right outside the old bookstore, much to the amusement of some of the staff who hadn’t been told much of what had happened) and a rapid snowball effect took place that utterly surprised me – four radio spots in one day at one point, asked to do interviews for radio shows in Ireland and New York, enquiries from journalists in France, Norway, Italy, Germany, clippings of the story being sent by folks from as far afield as Chile and Australia, it was simply amazing. I think the fact that a bookstore, which has always professed to stand for freedom of speech (without which there is no booktrade) would try to gag a staff member this way really infuriated a lot of folks. I still get approached by media types from time to time even now.

The amount of emails I had from people all over was a huge morale boost when I was seriously down and a reminder, again, of how connected web users are on a global scale (and again, thanks to everyone who took time to write to me offering support and also emailing their disgust to the Bookstore Which Shall Not Be Named, I really can’t tell you just how much the support of so many folks, mostly total stranger, meant to me when I really needed it). That was something my former employers didn’t realise, they thought they were the Big Company and they could do what they wanted to One Little Guy; boy did that blow up in their faces (and deservedly so). Amazingly some companies continue to repeat this mistake, still not cottoned on to the interconnected nature of the web.

Another front was opened up when some of the many writers I had worked with over the years also came to my defence, publically damning the former employers for their actions and pointing out just how much work I had done to promote books over the years. Highly embarrassing to be the biggest bookstore in the nation and find some of the bestselling authors in the country decrying you in public (Richard Morgan’s incredibly eloquent open letter, Ken MacLeod and Iain Banks and others writing letters to the press, Charlie Stross standing up for me on his blog and more). I’ve spent years promoting good writers and books and I can’t tell you how good it felt to realise that a lot of those authors remembered that support and were willing to step forward to help me when I needed it; so much support from friends and strangers had the oddest effect, it made you feel ten feet tall and at the same time so damned humble that people would do this for you.

It had a happy ending though – the appeal hearing, ironically held in the new branch I had helped to create (as I gleefully pointed out), turned out in my favour. They still didn’t like me mentioning work on the blog but agreed they had rather over-reacted. By this time FPI had read about all of this and I’d been approached by them because they wanted someone to work on their online business who would also be into the books and graphic novels they were selling, rather than just treating it as a job. And in the supreme irony I pitched the idea of a blog for the company to compliment the major webstore and they liked it; now the FPI blog has grown far bigger, gets hits from round the world and I still get to promote good books, graphic novels and authors (thanks, Kenny!) from interviewing big names to helping push the new small press guys (who in turn mention us and so that interconnected thing all still goes round and we all win from it). And I’m still blogging on the Woolamaloo as well; blogging for personal reasons and blogging at work too (god, but that still makes me giggle after all that happened, that part of my job is running a blog) and no intention of stopping (I should probably say thanks to Former Employers because their short-sighted attack turned a little-heard of site into one read by far, far more folks, so well done! I award you the Shot Yourself In The Foot Award!). Another nice spin off is my union, the RBA, a smaller union, got some good publicity (well deserved) from this and picked up a raft of new members on the back of it (actually they told me they go someone in touch the very night I posted links to them on the blog).

I intend to go on being a cheeky and irreverent bugger and the Woolamaloo is an intrinsic part of that; a friend who is heavily into Second Life was asking why I didn’t join him there. I pointed out that the blog (and Flog and Flickr) were already a second life for me and I can’t imagine not doing it. So yes, I fully intend to go on lampooning hypocritical public figures, pastiching events, talking about good books, quoting poetry when I feel like it and, well, basically talking about whatever the hell I want to, when I want to, because it is my (and every other person’s) right to damned well do just that and winning that case makes me feel like doing it all the more. So happy anniversary to my sometimes troubled child, the Woolamaloo Gazette, the blog they couldn’t hang.

Welcome to Woolamaloo!

Welcome to the all-new Blog-edition of the Woolamaloo Gazette (established 1992). Begun as an email version of a newspaper the Woolamaloo Gazette allowed me to take sideswipes at stories from the media, to lampoon those who deserve it and to satirise current events, all while also hopefully making people think at the same time. For this new Blog style Gazette I will probably create a mixture of the traditional Gazette-style ‘news’ feature – which will be obvious by the bold banner headline for the piece – and the normal Blog-type meanderings, ramblings, rumblings, fumblings and occassional alcoholic rants.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION CALLED IN TO INVESTIGATE MYSTERY ASIAN PLAGUE

The WHO – not affiliated with Doctor Who – have been called in to track and monitor the spread of a mysterious new plague which is believed to have begun in the ground zero of the Far East. This new virus, which produces pneumonia like symptoms in victims, has been dubbed SATS, or Stressed and Tested Sickness. Constant stress brought on by rigorous academic exams systems is blamed for the creation of SATS. The extreme stress placed on a person by examinations which may determine their whole future causes the body’s white blood count to drop, leaving the body open to infections of all sort. Young people are especially at risk but with the widespread introduction of standardised interviews and psychometric testing, employers are now fuelling outbreaks of SATS amongst adults.

So far doctors have been powerless to halt the spread of SATS. Indeed, with so many doctors having to sit so many exams the medical profession is thought to be one of most at-risk professions, after civil servants. Your ever-thoughtful Gazette reporter decided to see if he could find some relief for his readers through holistic medicine. We approached Marjory Greenbum of the Happy Herbal Hospital. She told us that the disease was merely a symptom of the way modern society runs and as such could not be cured without major societal change. In the meantime she suggested some ways to use natural remedies to alleviate the suffering cause by SATS. These include yoga, massage, long holidays and recreational sex and/or drugs.