Wednesday 16 September 2015

Episode 35: YouTube

You know me. You followed me around the country. You loved me on the TV when I had you in stitches with jokes about my penis. You followed me in the tabloids, you supported my charitable works. Then you didn't. I don't know why, you made me a pariah. Now, I have people who love me again. So much that they made me their mayor. This is my new story, From Under Dark Clouds.

Two cuts of my campaign video had been made, one in Greek, for the electorate, one in English, to leverage foreign public opinion with my considerable celebrity. Both had been put up on YouTube. It began with a montage of stills of me working with the young start-ups at the incubator, talking to the businessmen and women about the new business park and at the Town Hall Towers giving the displaced and dispossessed of the community a new start with a roof over their heads.

The voice over was warmly fluent with the merest hint of a Greek accent, probably similar to how I sound in Greek.

His tireless work as mayor has proved to our community that while he is new to our country, he is a New Greek, a man of conviction and dedication to the home he has adopted as the people of our town have adopted him. He has given hope to young Greek talent, helping them to build a future from their entrepreneurial dreams.

Pictures of me huddled with the kids at the Start-up Shed sessions. I love working with those kids, they truly are the hope of this country’s tomorrow. I did look nurturing.

His support of those who need the helping hand of the community. Greek family and community is the envy of the world and this is something that he fully understands.

I do.

He believes in second chances and so he has begun a programme of commandeering vacant and unused public buildings for the homeless, who have lost their jobs and homes. Where the crippling austerity has forced proud people to their knees. He has given hope.

Some fantastic shots of me with the priest at the opening of the Town hall Towers, helping the residents in with their furniture. My back still reminds me of that day. And a wonderful picture of Despina with her son holding the hugest bread-stick you ever saw.

And the new business park that aims to strengthen the backbone of this country, it’s entrepreneurial community. He aims to reduce bureaucracy so companies can prosper and provide work to the people giving them back their dignity.

The stills became animated with the film of workers arriving at thriving businesses, me mingling with them as they worked merrily at doing whatever they were supposed to be doing. They could have been making dildoes for all I knew, the point was that they were happy and employed. The climax was the scene of me with the old guy at the sandwich shop and him delivering his line, dubbed in English, “This is a town where businesses can do business”.

The voice-over pondering, ”This is a New Greek who dares to dream big, big enough for a nation. We trust him, and so can you!”

I slumped back into my chair with a tear in my eye, I don’t mind telling you. I really had done some good shit. They need me.

I wanted to see what the world was making of it so I began to check the British news sites. First I found a piece in The Cerberus by Jude. He had been away for a while but he was checking in from time to time, first journo I really felt I could trust.

The headline said that I was running for the helm of a failed state. Then he referred to me as ‘disgraced ex-comedian’ cheeky fucker! And I would have stopped there but he did go on to mention my good work and argue the point for celebrities taking public office in this world of media savvy politics. He even asked if this was possibly a very natural development. He noted that politicians rise from all walks of life and why would show business be any less relevant than a builder. He left that question hanging at the end of the piece. Quite pertinent.

I scrolled down to the comments, 134! One said that I had been the victim of the fickle British tabloids and the Greek people, who were more humane, had understood my honest potential. Another questioned my qualification for public office in a foreign country but one of the replies pointed out that my wife was from here, the astute Cerberus readers obviously got me. Then a username OwnGoal74 wrote “CIRCUS CLOWN VIES FOR RINGMASTER’S JOB!”

The Daily Mail had pictures of the wife on the beach in her bikini and asked, “Does this qualify (me) for Greece’s top job?”. I browsed the shots, fuck she looked hot! Right click, save image as…, Desktop > Family photos. I didn’t bother reading, it’s the Daily Mail, the words don’t really count.

CNN had reposted the YouTube video and were pretty supportive of my candidacy. That’s what I love about the Americans, they really admire success.

Bloomberg had blanked me all together but the Twitter-sphere was all over it. Some good, some simply disrespectful. “Funiest thing he ever done!” How can he expect to be taken seriously with grammar like that? OwnGoal74 must have been behind “Can a clown run the circus? #Greece” and some wag who asked if my state limo would have a funny hooter and doors that fall off. I refused to rise to the insults. I replied in thanks to the supportive comments. There are still people back home who believe in me, although they could have been Americans. I typed “Maybe I’ll do the same back home;)” then deleted it, shouldn’t get ahead of myself, yet. I did, however post some pictures of the young entrepreneurs at the incubator and the homeless at the Town Hall Towers project with the caption “#Greece: everyone deserves a second chance”. I liked that and started to add #secondchance to all my tweets. You should do too.

Back on YouTube the comments were gathering but after the first few opinions, which were quite balanced, it all devolved into LOLs and trolling about what each other’s mother would do in Greece. I may have met some of them.

All in all, I think it’s going well. You can’t please everyone but who knows, this politics gig could take me back home by public demand, #secondchance. The video had been viewed nearly a hundred thousand times and I got thousands of little thumbs-ups.

I nipped back into the family photos folder just to check that the pictures of the missus had saved in high enough quality. Nice. Then, I found the campaign video in Greek.

The edit was the same, the same narrator, speaking in his native tongue, the still photos segued into the video but now there were the voices of the workers in the dildo factory. I could be heard saying good-mornings and asking them how they were and what they wanted me to do, carefully dubbed in when my back was to the camera. They’d also dubbed my question to the sandwich guy. Oh well, that’s showbiz. I’d spent all day getting that line nailed. NO, I’m going to make an issue of that! The people need to hear ME! I made a note to contact the production company that day and get my voice reinstated.

What I noticed then fumbled my mental pencil. The comments loading spiral stopped, ALL COMMENTS (0) VIEWS 27.


If you enjoyed this episode, you should SUBSCRIBE and get the whole of book 1 for your iPad, Kindle or Android device.

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Friday 4 September 2015

Episode 34: It's a Wrap!

You know me. You followed me around the country. You loved me on the TV when I had you in stitches with jokes about my penis. You followed me in the tabloids, you supported my charitable works. Then you didn't. I don't know why, you made me a pariah. Now, I have people who love me again. So much that they made me their mayor. This is my new story, From Under Dark Clouds.

Director's chair
The wife had picked up and left the island so quick she had forgotten the kids. She insisted that she hadn't but she definitely had the look of someone who had been patting themselves down to find their wallet. She wouldn't have taken it so seriously but I did have a proven track record of maniacal hubris and the last time she laughed it off, I became mayor. There was no warning, she just stormed into the town hall while I was going through the academics of how, should I agree, I would run for government office.

Now, I really feel that in the spirit of full disclosure, dear Blogees, I should share the profanities that erupted from my fair lady’s mouth as she entered the office but I don’t think It would be fair. You see, I had always thought that her guttural use of our beautiful language is down to the fact that it is not her mother tongue and as such, the words do not have the same resonance that they have with us. However, this theory does not bear scrutiny as she was born and raised in north London. And she curses like Clarkson in Greek. Suffice to say that her volley included three generations and the full extent of both Socrates and my extended families, and my penis.

The well-assembled secretary made no excuses and left quietly.

Once she had calmed to a state of lividity, Socrates tried to engage her in conversation. I, on the other hand, knew better. He went through the arguments that he had used on me, explaining that there are numerous politicians who began in entertainment, especially in America. I will not describe the next part of the conversation as I have a number of American friends and would very much like to keep them. He then pointed out the good work that I have done in the town since I became mayor. The storm began to quell.

I thought at some point I should jump in but they were doing fine on their own. I was tempted to join the secretary.

“He’s a comic, a comedian, he makes—” she looked at me for the first time since arriving, then turned back to Socrates. “Made people laugh!”

“Did he?” Socrates replied.

She went to challenge Socrates memory then paused. “Oh! Yeah, good one!” She chuckled.

Their emphatic use of the past tense was not wasted on me and I was very close to taking offence.

“He speaks Greek like a kindergartner!” she reposted.

I reminded them both that I was still in the room. They ignored me.

“I've arranged private tuition,” Socrates pointed out.

She was calming but her pace had not slowed. She must have spent the whole flight thinking about this and she would have her say, all of it.

“Just tell me one thing,” Socrates managed. “Is he any more stupid than the others who’ll be running?”

So, there I was standing in amongst the collection of abandoned warehouses and sheds that we dare to call a business park with a camera crew and an ironed shirt. The crew were filming everything that moved and if it didn't they kicked it until it did. Workmen hammering and screwing, attaching signs to the bare wall of the empty buildings, even drinking their morning coffee.

A bus arrived and spewed its ramshackle load on the pavement in front of one of the units. One of the crew, who judged by his shouting, must have been quite important went over and arranged them into a line. He shook his head as he assessed them.

“Fuck! Is this the best you could do?” he yelled at anyone who would listen. He singled one out and stood scanning the middle-aged man up and down. “Who the fuck is going to believe he has a job?” A woman sniggered. “You’re laughing?” he spat, she stopped. “Did they find you in a caravan accident?”

Some of the crew were brought in to make up the numbers after the extras were ordered with the most presentable at the front and the most threadbare put back on the bus. Then he paced for a few minutes, giving them some kind of pep-talk. When he finished they all seemed to agree to something in haphazard unison.

The director nudged me in the direction of the crowd. “Go speak to your people. They wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your good work.” He waved his hand around the vacant units and loafing workers. I bowled over and offered a warm good-morning mustn't have heard me so I tried again.

“People, say good-morning to the mayor!” a boom operator called out, jerking his furry stick in my direction. The renta-crowd turned, surrounded me and all pulled out smart phones. After a dozen selfies, individual and groups, one of the crew pulled at my arm and the herd got back on the bus. The director followed them on, waved his arms around a bit then got off. The passengers dipped their attention to their laps and like teenagers in a coffee shop, tapped away at their phones. The bus pulled away. It proceeded fifty metres farther, stopped and everyone got off again, some were still twitching their phones. I wondered if I should go greet them again but one of the crew yanked my arm and my body followed. They positioned me in front of signs and filmed me walking through doors into the empty warehouses. My directions were that I was visiting the successful companies in my new business park to offer support and guidance. I watched as some of the extras were loaded into shiny cars and filmed arriving for work. It felt good to be in the saddle again. You know, the great responsibility that public office demands can suck on your emotional energy. It is refreshing to concentrate on convincingly doing as you’re told.

After getting the exterior shots they bundled me into a car and took me off. After twenty minutes through traffic we had left the town and were on the open road.

“I Should go through my lines,” I told the director who was sitting in the front with his laptop.

“Lines? Yeah sure. Go through your lines.”

I waited a few moments. “Could I have them, then?”

He gave me some stapled sheets of paper full of notes and it took me a while to find my part. By the time we arrived I had it down pat. We pulled into an industrial zone in another part of town where we found some businesses that were actually doing business. They pushed me through a door into one of the factories and the assistant director gave me the thumbs-up.

“You’re on, Mr. Mayor.”

I walked amongst the workers asking what people wanted and agreeing with them, smiling and shaking hands. Then telling them who I am.

“My lines?” I asked the director.

“Soon, Mr. Mayor.” As he bundled me back into the car.

Back in my town we parked in the high street and I recognised the shop I had visited and shared a drink with the proprietor. Of course! He was the businessman in the script. I had memorised my lines but I was sure the dialogue had no need to be scripted, we had drank together after all.

“So why did you chose our town to open your shop?” I asked the man whose smile was as genuine as mine.

He spoke as he had last time about his grandfather and father and the director began making circular motions in front of his mouth. Eventually he delivered his line. “This is a town where businesses can do business.”

The director huffed a huge sigh. “That’s a Wrap!”


If you enjoyed this episode, you should SUBSCRIBE and get the whole of book 1 for your iPad, Kindle or Android device.

Also, we are working on a Podcast which you will get before anyone else.

Go on! You know you deserve it!

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Thursday 3 September 2015

My Name is David and I am an Addict

My name is David and I'm an addict, it’s been almost no time at all since my last fix.

fugitiveMy habit began in the 90s when I first tried ‘Greece’ (check out the story of my arrival here). I had planned to stay for two weeks as many of you have but I was maybe more vulnerable than most. I stayed for seven months. The pressure at work was getting to me and Greece had all the answers, ‘life’s a beach’. I quickly met a commune of other addicts and we laughed at you. You work like ants all year, eating bake beans on toast in order to enjoy what we had for free. NO, we were getting paid for it. We all had jobs in the tourist industry, serving your souvlaki, thrilling you with jet-ski rides, taking you on tours of culture and ancient history, from the country that gave you civilisation. I was not a user, I had discovered the wisdom that eluded you all.

On my thankfully infrequent trips to sobriety, I was envied. I had taken the life less ordinary, I was mainlining sun and Britons crave sun. I wore shorts out of necessity and had a collection of sunglasses that I needed, daily. My mode of transport was a Vespa and if I owned a helmet, I couldn't tell you where it was. My diet was the fresh aromatic fare that Jamie Oliver thought was ‘pukka!’.

I later met the woman who became my wife and we decided that we should grow up and shoulder the life of reality. We decamped and moved to England to resume careers and begin a family business that would give us access to the comforts of modern life while still being able to afford an annual ticket to Europe’s theme park of hedonism. This lasted four years. A few short weeks in the summer were not enough and I, not my Greek wife decided to return to a life less pragmatic.

I now ‘own’ a house that is worth a half of what I borrowed to buy it and my euros are worth a fraction of the pounds I brought here. I fear that even this will be a small fortune compared to the Drachmas that may soon line my pockets.

I have taken a number of initiatives to maintain my habit but my Greek, while respectable for a foreigner is still only elementary school level and my children cringe when I use it with them. My options have shrunk but like boiling a frog I resist the discomfort preferring instead to cling to my life in the pages of national geographic on my mountain top home. And every day I hear of another Greek friend or friend’s friend who has gone. Most of my wedding guests are now in Sweden, Germany, the US or London to take my place.

This summer I took my family ‘cold-turkey’ in the UK for a month. We were greeted by rain and a wind that threatened to peel our tans. Cameras hung over every road and there were few to speak to after 10pm. The airfare was cheaper than a bus ride but our funds didn’t go far. The shops were throwing things out the door but after exchanging our diminished Euros we had enough to see a castle or two and restock our wardrobes from a charity shop and boot sales.

With my sun-tinted glasses off, I saw how far we had fallen.

Back home, back in the crack-house, we went to stay a few days at a friend’s summerhouse. We were once more in sympathetic company. After the midday heat we headed to the beach. From the balmy, crystalline sea we watched the sun set over a jagged horizon and I pondered...

sunset on Greek beach
Is this life?
Have I discovered true wisdom or am I just another crack head?

UPDATE 2016: Just got back from a Grand Tour of Europe to find that Greece is now facing a Malaria epidemic, one of the hospitals now refusing to take blood donations is just down the road from us in the area where my kids go to school. Christ! it don't get any easier, does it? 

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Tuesday 1 September 2015

Why You Shouldn't Use Scrivener to Compile your eBook

Scrivener is a powerful writing tool. It feels like pro equipment, it helps organise, save and protect my writing in a way that MS Word never did. But when I compiled my first ebook and I discovered that it is a tool that can fool you into believing it will take up more of your slack than it can.

I have read extensively on compiling eBooks and despite what I read I was convinced that scrivener could do the job well enough.

I read David Gaughran’s Let’s get digital, which is a fantastic book for anyone wanting to get their work out there. In one chapter he goes into compiling and formatting for e-publishing. He looks to Guido Henkel as the definitive master of formatting and I read his guide with starry eyes. Basically, eBooks are HTML and I've done quite a bit of that with my sites and blogs but still did’t feel fluent enough, so I got seduced by the plethora of articles on compiling the easy way with scrivener.

Once I’d got around the settings in the program I compiled and marvelled at the result. Maybe David and Guido were being a little too fastidious? Then I noticed some ticks in the indents and fonts. I went back to scrivener and rectified them, super! Then, I tried to tidy up the contents page, which I was less than happy with. As the day progressed, I compiled, recompiled and again. Because my chapters are blog posts, I wanted them to have the date at the top before the title. Eventually I managed to enter these manually. Great! By the end of the day I had an epub and mobi file and began testing.

The epub went quite well on my andoid phone playbooks (my favourite eBook reader), iPad iBooks and the kindle app. Then I put it into the kindle previewer on my laptop… a whole day down the drain! The contents were still wrong, the spacing was inconsistent and then the final blow. I put it on 'night mode' on my android playbooks, something that I use quite a lot, and entire paragraphs disappeared.

I went back to Guido and read again. I downloaded Calibre and jEdit (they are both free and highly recommended). First, I opened the epub file in jEdit and then I had a drink, it was very intimidating. Not just because it simply shows the code but as I later discovered, Scrivener had put so much extraneous code that I could not see my words for the code. Then I opened it in calibre which was a little more intuitive, it puts the code and text side by side so you can see what each change does. What I discovered is what scrivener does with the file. It has style sheets named ‘scrivener 1,2,3’ and so on and you cannot see what each of them does. I managed to make enough sense of them to rectify the problems that but all the while my deadlines were passing.

I slowly realised to my consternation that I should have listened to David and Guido and not followed every link to ‘easy’ ebook formatting with Scrivener or MS Word. The point that Guido makes is that unlike a web site or blog where you want as much control over your formatting as you possible, in order to render you pages and articles exactly as you want them, with ebooks you need to relinquish that control. Ebook readers and apps have a plethora of different screen sizes and resolutions. They have different default fonts and line spacings, different modes and colour settings and when you try to impose your will on them through HTML code there is no telling how a device will interpret that code. You only need a handful of readers to have a difficult experience with your book and you’ve lost them and everyone they may have spoken to.

I’m not going to add a howto here, it would simply add to the noise. I will, however link to people who you really should listen to. I’m not saying that there aren’t some very good tutorials out there giving reliable advice on how to get the job done well, what I will say is that they are all very reliant on the fact that your copy is consistently formatted and that you haven’t used a different method to indent your paragraphs or space your lines or that the program you are using is using code that all ebook readers will interpret in the same way.

When you SUBSCRIBE I will send you a copy of my book and you can look for yourself. Does it render well? Is it easy on the eye? I guarantee that someone will find some glitch somewhere and if you do I will send you the whole series as it goes up on Amazon, coded the ‘GUIDO’ way, of course!

This is a short list and I strongly recommend reading it in this order.

The Creative Penn: This will get you in the right frame of mind to think ahead and save so much work in the future.

David Gaughran: David doesn't mince his words and for good reason.

Guido Henkel: Formatting guru. He obviously has passion for his art but the word Laconic is not in his lexicon, so persevere, you won't regret it!

I hope my mistakes will benefit you and save you the time I wasted. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch, today, you dine on me!

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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY