Saturday, December 31, 2005

Two more ...

Here are two more Manchester blogs for you, and then I'm taking a break until next week.

Mantex is blogger Roy Johnson's writings on design, typography, reference books, music, literary studies and language. Recent posts include a thoughtful rant on the idea of "genius" prompted by Radio 3's recent broadcast of the complete Bach, and a rundown of Oxford's revamped writer's style guides.

There's also Skipper, Bill Jones' blog about UK politics, the parliament and the press, coming to you from Stockport. Yesterday's post considers Bob Geldof's new role as poverty advisor to David Cameron.

Friday, December 30, 2005

More Manchester blogs

There's been a nice response to my earlier post, and I've already received some new additions to the Manchester blogroll, which are listed briefly below. Just so you know, I'm not being too strict about it -- blogs from anywhere in Greater Manchester count, and I'll even take blogs from the surrounding areas of Lancs. and Cheshire.

So, on to the blogs. Phil Edwards writes Actually Existing, another Manchester blog with the enviable tagline “ruthless criticism of all that exists, except for the good bits.”

Blood and Treasure’s recent posts have covered subjects ranging from Iraqi politics and the torture memos to psychogeography – interesting stuff.

Norman Geras, who writes the excellent Normblog, has been a big help to this nascent project, posting about it on his blog and sending me links to the above blogs as well as Topsyturvydom , Rob Spence’s writings on literature, academia and life.

The group blog Counago & Spaves has two members in Timperley, and others with previous Salford and Altrincham connections.

Whew. That's it for now. Thanks for all your emails.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Manchester Blogroll






So you (yes, I mean you, the one person who is reading this blog) may have noticed that the list of Manchester blogs down the side of the screen has quadrupled in the last week or so. This is part of my new effort to provide a really complete Manchester blogroll on the site. I've been pretty amazed and impressed at the variety of Mancunian blogs out there, but in order to find some of them I had to do some very annoying and time-consuming searchin' on the web. So here it is. If you've arrived here because you're curious about who could possibly be linking to your blog, welcome. If you know of any Manchester blogs I've missed (and I'm sure there are many), email them to me at themanchizzle at gmail.com and I'll be happy to add them to the blogroll.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Great Outdoors


The Live Journal community Manchester's Journal has long proven to be an excellent - and very entertaining - source of information about life in Manc. People write in looking for recommendations on where to go for a night out (somehow, the answer is invariably Jilly's Rockworld), help getting a job/place to live, and suggestions about where to buy certain hard-to-find items (bonsai trees, magic mushrooms, swtichblades, etc.) Now someone has written in soliciting reccs on the best locations for an al fresco shag in the city centre. Marvelous.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Refill


It was a sad day a couple of months ago when the two Manchester locations of Love Saves the Day closed seemingly overnight, in a cappuccino-scented cloud of mystery. Surely everyone must know the real story by now – and we understand that greedy git of a business manager is safely in the hands of justice.

That’s why we were so surprised when the LSTD logo was spotted on a stall in Piccadilly’s food market the other day (yes, we’re nowhere near Manc but our informants are everywhere.) A little research on t’internet reveals that the Deansgate location is going to reopen sometime in early 2006. Good news for all those Castlefield coffee hounds, but not so great for those of us up on the Northern end of town. Guess there’s always Oklahoma?

In a funny little twist of circumstance, Newyorkology reports that the Manchester caf├ęs’ namesake, a funky NYC vintage shop that was featured in Desperately Seeking Susan, is set to close in January after 20 years on the spot.



The landlord has apparently jacked up the rent, and they can’t afford to stay. Leslie Herson, the store’s owner and founder, told local rag The Villager, "New York is losing its individuality because little stores like mine can’t compete.”

Hmmm. That’s something to ponder over your morning lattes, Northern Quarterites.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dec. 7 issue City Life's last

From the NUJ...

Guardian Media have announced that City Life - Manchester’s entertainment and listing magazine - will publish for the last time on December 7. Thirteen journalists’ and designers’ jobs will go.

The magazine started as a workers’ co-operative in 1983 and was bought by Guardian Media in 1989. The company says that over the last four years it has lost around £1,000 per week. Last year Guardian Media regional made more than £30 million.

"We have to face up to the fact that we are in the advertising business, not the newspaper publishing business, and we have been for the past 20 year."
- Mark Dodson, new chief executive of Guardian Media Regional, at the meeting where he announced 48 job cuts and the closure of City Life.

Wow. One minute you have a magazine, the next you don't. Life's a bitch, eh?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It’s Manchester. Read it. Live it .... Sod it.


I was first tipped off to City Life’s troubles with this email from the NUJ about a week ago (see below post.) I asked around and got the full story. Apparently the suits down at GMG HQ in London had been labouring away, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they owned a magazine in Manchester. But some astute employee finally followed the trail of haemorrhaging cash north to Deansgate. They acted fast – we hear that this next week’s issue may be the last.

Now, The Manchizzle knows some perfectly lovely people who work at Shitty Life, and the thought that these dear folks may soon be out of work is sad indeed. But one has to marvel at the kind of incompetence that could cause a relatively healthy listings magazine to lose readers, advertisers and money, dwindling to a shallow shadow of it’s former self, in a town where it had no competition. That’s right, a virtual monopoly on the listings mag game. Mancunians want a listings magazine. For fuck’s sake, we need to know what’s going on. But most of us had stopped buying City Life, confused or infuriated by the twice-monthly design changes, the schizophrenic editorial direction, the flabby, disengaged writing and rampant advertorials.

The only people left reading city life these days are a flock of 40-something women in Cheshire, the sort who talk too loud and drink too much, buy their pointy stilettos at the Trafford Centre and think true happiness is being on the list at Panacea. A few sad older blokes who think that Manchester’s music scene has been pure rubbish since the heyday of ________( insert choice here, e.g. The Hacienda, Simply Red, The Manic Street Preachers….) And the self-styled “cultural insiders” of Manc, those ego ridden men-in-the-arts, who will now no longer have a willing shill for all of their pet projects.

The magazine is going down because it fell out of touch with the people who made it possible in the first place – Mancs young and old who are creative, funny, self-deprecating, honest, independent, skint, innovative and up for it. Who are hungry for real life, and aren’t interested in reading thinly disguised ad-copy about facial treatments at luxury spas, or the life story of some idiotic quasi-celeb.

It’s sad every time a magazine dies in this day of media conglomeration. But we can console ourselves with the happy realization that we will never have to read another column by Tony Wilson.

*

From: NUJManchester Mailed-By: nuj.org.uk

Date: Nov 22, 2005 8:26 AM
Subject: Please save Manchester magazine from closure

City Life - a Manchester entertainment magazine that started life as a workers' co-operative - is in danger of being closed by Guardian Media.

A two-week review of the title's future is underway and the newspaper's staff - many of whom are members of the Nationaul Union of Journalists - are under threat of redundancy.

Please email protests to the chief executive of Guardian Media Regional on mark.dodson@men-news.co.uk - ask this apparantly liberal company to make every effort to save the magazine and the jobs of its workers.

Point out that as much of Manchester's economy is based on the leisure industry it takes particularly bad management to ruin the city's premier listings and entertainment magazine. It is unfair if the journalists - who only earn around £16,000pa - take the blame for this failure.

City Life is such a part of Manchester culture that it was mentioned on last night's Coronation Street!
If you read the Guardian or any of GMG's other products please point out that you expect this company, in particular, to treat its staff and readers with respect.

Please act quickly.
Please copy any protests and send messages of support to to nujmanchester@nuj.org.uk
Please pass this message on to anyone else who will be interested.
Many thanks
Miles Barter
NUJ regional organiser

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Manchester: It's not as bad as you think

I was reading the New York Times travel magazine this week, and was happy to see Manchester listed in a little featurette about great gay destinations. But it turned out to be something of a backhanded compliment. The sentence began: "England's northern metropolis isn't as ugly as some may think ..." Good lord.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Moving out

In light of my changed address I've decided to move blogs for a while too.

So while I'm in Vermont, I'm going to be posting to a new sister blog, The Vermizzle

(Yeah, I'm going to work this Snoop Dogg thing way, way past the point where it stops being au courant and just starts to sound lame and dated. But maybe he'll sue me anyway!)

Bye for now.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Vermizzle?


Due to a completely unforseen chain of events, I find myself here in the land of my birth. It's going to be an extended stay. Seeing as this relocation will definitely limit my ability to provide witty commentary on life in Manchester, my focus will probably shift to providing witty commentary on life in the Green Mountain State. Okay. They're not that different. One's the second city of Britain with a population of two and a half million ... and growing rapidly. It's known for bands, football and textile mills. The other is a mountainous northeastern state with a population of little more than half a million people. It's known for trees, cows and shouty liberals. What could be easier?

It's also home to some fine bloggers and fascinating folks, I discovered today at an event at Johnson State College Vermont's blogosphere is just picking up momentum. The talk focused on bloggers as citizen journalists, but some of the most interesting discussions were about the potential for blogs to provide coverage of local issues and encourage public involvement and debate. This is an angle that generally gets lost in all of the media hype about blogs but it's not lost on the community-minded souls of Vermont, where everyone still votes on school and town budgets once a year at Town Meeting Day.

For a sampling of some of these experiments in community-led blogging, check out the excellent VT blogroll up on Cathy Resmer's 802 blog (affiliated with the Burlington Alt-weekly Seven Days, where she's a staff writer.) Links at the bottom to iPutney,iBurlington and a few others.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Northernquarterland



The Northern Quarter: formerly a down-and-dirty few blocks of Manc blight studded with sex shops, rough pubs and good curries. Now an acceptably edgy playground for creative types with silly haircuts.

About six months ago, the Northern Quarter's growth seemed unstoppable. In the last year or so, new bars have sprung up like psychedelic toadstools after rain ... first the big fat boring lounge Bluu, followed in short order by the more interesting Common, Bay Horse, Rodeo and Odd. On the food front, we got the Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar, Dr. Livvy's and Soup Kitchen. Plus an anarchist bookstore/cafe, a health food store, not one but two annoyingly expensive fetish trainer shops, a florist, a roots record shop, a trendy hairdresser's and two new vintage clothing stores. I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but, um, sheesh, that's a lot.

But all is not well in Manchester's Greenwich Village. Two of the three-in-a-row clothes stores favoured by trust-fund hipsters on Oldham Street, Arc and Boxfresh, have shut down. However, they're both located in the Smithfield buildings, where Urban Splash's rent hikes have prompted quite a few departures over the last year or two. Perhaps they're only interested in supporting small businesses nearer their massive new chips development in "New Islington" (formerly known to us as Ancoats. Didn't have that aspirational ring to it, so they had to change the name of the neighbourhood. A small detail.)

It'll be interesting to see whether these empty storefronts fill up, and if they do, what kinds of businesses come in. Gentrification anyone?

In the meantime, I'd like to go on record saying that anyone who refers to the Northern Quarter as "The NQ", "The N/4", "The Quarter" or any variation thereof should be taken out behind Afflecks' and pelted with Arcade Fire and Goldfrapp CDs until they whimper.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The honeymoon's over


Have just returned from a week here, where I managed to get far, far away from computer screens and seriousness. Ravello is a heart-stoppingly beautiful place, slightly less touristed out than the rest of the Amalfi coast, which is made up of tiny colorful towns clinging limpet-like to rocky cliffs along the Bay of Naples. I spent a large portion of the trip clinging limpet-like to the Oh Jesus handles on the passenger side of our tiny rented smart car as completely insane Italian drivers bore down on us, refusing to give way, slow down or drive in anything approaching a reasonable manner. And all this on a single-lane cliffside road that was essentially one 30-mile-long hairpin turn. Oy vey.

Before leaving, I consulted the international message boards at Chowhound to ensure that we’d eat well in Italia, and the hounds did not disappoint. We had amazing meals at Lido Azurro on the docks in Amalfi and Acqua Pazza in the appealingly chilled out fishing town of Cetara. We also embarked on a hair-raising drive over the Lattari mountains in search of extra virgin olive oil. We found someone who spoke english in Agarola and followed his directions to the outskirts of Pimonte, where we managed to identify an olive oil producer and blundered our way through a charades-like transaction. And now a massive five liter unlabelled plastic jug of musty green oil squats on our kitchen counter, tasting dark and spicy and about as far from our tesco’s extra virgin as it could be. I see many great salad dressings ahead. For, like, the next three years.

I have been following the news from New Orleans with much sadness and anger. Two of my favorite American columnists, Molly Ivins and Maureen Dowd, have risen to the occasion, writing op-eds infused with righteous wrath and packed with frightening information. Michael Moore has also nailed it with his letter to Bush. There are encouraging signs that the American public is waking up at last. But it’s horribly sad that this had to happen to bring that about.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Big evil corporate bookstores: bring it on

We're getting a Borders. At least, that's what I heard on the radio yesterday as I making my way somewhat blearily home from one of the best parties of the year, here (complete with Wickerman-style burning effigies, riotous dancing and the now-ubiquitous graffiti art.) But a quick check on the web reveals that, yes, Manchester and even Preston are about to welcome an outpost of the whacking great American bookstore.

I'd like to pretend that I'm disgusted, and urge people to boycott the evil chain that's taking over the world in support of our struggling local independent bookstores. And I would, if there were any independent bookstores in town. Damn, this has to be the worst place for bookstores in the world, new or used. But since we have no choice but to shop at a chain bookstore, I'm glad we're finally getting a decent chain in Manchester - one that sells the New York Times (about friggin' time) and has an in-store cafe with passable coffee where you can take a stack of obscure magazines you don't plan on buying and read happily away for hours. Just try not to spill any coffee on them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Girlfight at Piccadilly Pound World



I can understand why other people might find them seedy, depressing or even downright scary. They're filled with tatty junk you don't really need. And they're shady. But dammit, I love pound stores.

I can't walk by one without wanting to go in. I rarely buy anything, but I've spent far too much time meandering along the aisles lined with new-but-already-forlorn plastic toys and overstock toothbrush holders in a blissful stupor. I don't buy the Kylie stationery set (proudly labelled "unofficial"), two-for-a-pound tissue boxes or novelty knickers bearing the mysterious legend Sundays are Dull. But I like to know that I can.

And shopping in Pound World can be exciting, and it's not just the thrill of finding passably decent batik cushion covers I'm talking about. Today I was taking a quick, illicit lunchtime run through PW. I was in the second aisle fingering a gift pack of three mini bottles of metallic nail varnish. The aisles are narrow at Piccadilly Pound World, and the shop was crowded. I brushed lightly against a woman in the cosmetics section as I passed her, murmuring an apology. I looked up from the nail varnish to find everyone in the aisle staring at me. The woman had whipped around and was loudly berating me. I put the varnish down, somewhat embarassed.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I did apologise, but you mustn't have heard me. "

"Well maybe next time you speak up so people can hear" she shouted. "Hmmmh. I don't think you even apologized at all. "She fixed me with a beady look that told me that not only was this woman not taking any shit, but she actually wanted to fight with me and I'd better fuck off. But I didn't. I stepped toward her.

"Okay. I'M SORRY" I bellowed at her. "Did you hear that?"

She shot an incredulous look at her friend, a slightly shorter and squatter version of herself. And then her chin retreated six inches backwards and her eyebrows shot to the ceiling. Her words emerged in a low hiss of malice: Don't you start with me or you might get messed UP today.

"Oh great. That's all I need," I said, turning on my heel and exiting the pound store, seemingly propelled by the force of my own sarcasm.

But my heart was pounding all the way to Oxford Street. I didn't want to get messed UP today.

In honor of my angry friend, I've decided to share my three favourite pound stores in the Manchester city centre:

  • Naturally, Piccadilly Pound World is my favourite. I like to live dangerously.

  • Second place goes to the Pound £mpire on the corner of Piccadilly and Lever Street. It's got narrow aisles and is always unbelievably crowded, but with good reason - there are some decent pickings here, including the sort of could-be-expensive candles which make great housewarming/babyshower gifts for people you don't like very much.

  • And the third is not really a pound store, but it might as well be: Primark. Right now they've got those excellent vests for £2 that you will insist on buying in eight shades, and by next summer all of them will have either shrunk, stretched in anatomically odd places, or acquired a colourful network of stains across le balcon. But who cares? They're practically disposable. Don't forget about upstairs, where there are perfectly good knickers and jimjams for less than a kebab.