Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Music to blog by

Music bloggers do us all a great service - they go to all the gigs we can't and listen to all the new bands, helping us pre-sort out the wheat from the chaff with a minimum of music journalist badditude. And in most cases, they're not getting anything out of it - no money, no "reputation", just the knowledge that they are harnessing their obsessive enthusiasm about music for the power of good.

As you'd expect, the Manchester area's home to several excellent music bloggers. Phil Thompson created Bloodshot Dawn out of a desire to spread the word about good music overlooked by most DJs. Artists featured lately in BD's album reviews, gig reviews and concert news include Sufjan Stevens, Belle and Sebastian and the Arctic Monkeys.

Formerly known as the Ledge on the Edge, The Indie Crediential is written by Rick (The Ledge) and Mindy (justHipper), a Salford couple who go to 40-50 gigs a year, plus the odd festival. That's a lot of live music. The most recent is a review of the Secret Machines gig last week. Rick writes: The site is due a redesign as soon as I've finished reading my Eric Meyer books, and the content will be beefed up with extra cd reviews and commentary as well as regular mp3s. Cool.

Others don't blog exclusively about music, but feature it prominently in their blog posts. Girl on a Train posts lists of songs she listened to that day. Crinklybee is doing a series of posts about his old 45s, and 3 degrees of noise often posts about bands. Check them out.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Blogs: Dangerous Man, Gooseania, Crinklybee

Today's crop of new-to-you blogs have been lurking around on the blogroll for a while, but I haven't formally introduced them yet. First off is The Dangerous Man, aka Jay, who writes of himself and his blog:
I am a 20 year old gay guy. I live in Manchester, UK ... In August of 2004 I moved into an apartment in the city centre (on Deansgate) with my partner Paul who is originally from Liverpool. My blog is a daily snapshot of my life. With honest accounts of sex, drugs (or lack of), music, work and play. Warning, this blog contains thoughts of an open mind and is not suitable for right wingers, religious people, and the 'sexless' You have been duly warned!

Maths graduate student Craig Laughton writes Gooseania, which he describes thusly: My blog is about what it's like to do a PhD, I thought it would be useful to document the three years because when I started, I didn't have much idea what I was in for! I tend to write a lot about my subject (maths) and general PhD stuff and unfortunately not too much about Manchester per se, but I guess I'm forever talking about the university so that must count for something. Craig just had his first article published, and it was about blogging - congratulations, Craig.

Another is Crinklybee, a blog I've long been a fan of for its quirky tone. Check out this post title: A short post about Twiglets which suddenly turns alarmingy into a long one about the Dogme film 'Italian For Beginners', before getting a grip of itself and ending up back with the Twiglets again. Brilliant.

The man behind Crinklybee is Johnathan, a 30-something Geordie living in Levenshulme, who writes: I suppose like most bloggers I just write about the stuff Iget up to- I try to make it engaging and humorous and build up a picture of my world ...

Nine Black Alps dis Manc, define "scally"

I was delighted to see that Manc's own Nine Black Alps made the "A Night Out With..." column in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times yesterday. In the past this has featured now-huge-in-the-states bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, so this must mean NBA are on their way to getting that elusive American acclaim.

It's maybe not so cool that they use this press space to slag off their hometown clubs. Guess we won't be seeing them at Fifth Avenue next Friday, then. Note, also, the clarification of "scally" for American readers.

The four members were working odd jobs before they hooked up through Manchester's underground music scene, "at one of the few clubs where they don't play Stone Roses and Oasis for a bunch of scallies," the band's guitarist and bassist, David Jones, noted.

Scallies? "English rednecks," he explained.

(Image from the NYT)

Manchester Blog Meet: : The Details

Clare, the intrepid organiser of our first ever (I believe?) Manchester Blog Meet has passed on the relevant times and locations for the multi-part event on Saturday, Feb. 11. You can find the post on her blog here.

Folks are free to come to just one part, or the whole shebang. Here's the schedule for Saturday:

3pm: tea/coffee and cakes at the new Kro in Piccadilly Gardens
7:30 pm: dinner at Efes Turkish restaurant (let Clare know if you're coming to this)
9:30 pm: libations at Mother Mac's Pub, back Piccadilly

Our hostess has also offered to put folks up at her place if they're coming in from far afield. Many thanks, Clare, for putting so much time and thought into this. I'll see you all at Kro, but won't be able to come to the later bits.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Blogs: Free Man, Feeling Listless and Keris

Okay, so I’ve stretched the boundaries of the Manchester area all the way up to Preston, but I think A Free Man in Preston is well worth the long commute. As featured on Radio Five Live (and, apparently, recommended by the Guardian), it’s written by a disorientated Lancashire man, who says: “What do I write about? The office where I work, mainly, and stuff about outside work sometimes too. I think that about sums it up really.” Check out the geekariffic soundtrack feature, powered by Castpost. Is it legal? Who knows. But it sure is cool.

Another new addition, Feeling Listless is penned by Stuart Ian Burns, a student at Man U who splits his time between here and Liverpool. His blog is the place to go for cultural review from the clueless (Stu’s description, not mine. I’m sure he’s just being modest.)

And finally, Keris Stainton is a writer and dedicated reader who maintains a blog here. She says it’s generally “a combination of popular culture/celebs, my own journey to becoming a professional writer and some personal stuff too.” You can access her novels in progress there, too.

Manchester media gossip

With the demise of City Life last year, lots of us have been forced to resort to the quaint practice of scanning posters and flyers to find out what's going on in the way of gigs and events -- or actually buying the MEN on a Friday for the GO! section. At 10p, it's quite a bargain. But fear not; If the rumors are to be believed, there's already more than one group waiting in the wings to pick up where CL left off.

The former editor of City Life, along with a couple of the mag's erstwhile columnists, is said to be drawing up plans for a regional mag. What's more, The Leeds Guide, an established player in the listings mag game, is said to be looking at moving into our tantalizingly untapped market, and has already enlisted some local talent - namely, a few City Life writers - to help set things up. Should be interesting to see what happens.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Gregorian Rants

Greagoir Ó Dálaigh writes the cleverly named, wide-ranging blog Gregorian Rants. I asked him to describe what he wrote about. He replied: “a better question might be 'what don't I write about?'

On any given day I'm likely to be talking about adventures on location with the BBC in Italy, being Irish in England, serving beer to Dublin crimelords, meeting Mikhail Gorbachev, excavating a human skeleton in Greece, how badly Everton football club is performing, how G.K. Chesterton is the most magnificently underrated English writer of the twentieth century, or any of a host of topics to do with travel, politics, history, sport, religion, art, cinema or music. Sorry. I talk a lot.

And he very kindly put me onto a number of studenty Manchester blogs which will be added to the blogroll shortly:

There's nmr boy, who lives in my hall, for starters. Steph at kaleidoscope eyes used to live here and probably will again; in any case she studies Egyptology here. Maria at gingerbeast is a trainee teacher, and Eleanor at Ramble On studies something to do with French. Stuart's Kitchen Table is a venerable Mancunian blogging institution, but it looks as though Stu's just gone on hiatus, which is a huge shame.

In closing, I want to direct everyone’s attention to a hilarious, though sadly defunct blog posted about recently on Gregorian Rants: Ash-Burned Foods, which detailed the culinary delights on offer at a Manchester university dining hall (source of above photo.) I quote: "'Burger In A Bin' reads the menu for this Friday's meal. A self fulfilling prophesy i fear." Come back Ash-Burned!

Planning a Manc blogs website

Oy vey! In the last week I’ve been contacted by so many people wanting to be added to the blogroll that things have gotten more than a little backed up. If you’re one of those people waiting patiently for your blog to be introduced to its Manchester brethren, my apologies. I don’t have much on for the next couple of days, so I should be able to catch up in a mad fit of posting.

So by this point, you’re probably saying something like: sheesh, who knew there were so many great blogs in Manchester? Someone should probably collect them all together on a proper site with bells and whistles, rather than just being lumped unceremoniously on some poor girl’s blogroll? Island Monkey posted about this recently, and I've been thinking along these lines for some time now. So I’ve started getting the ball rolling on a new Manc bloggers website. This would serve as a portal to the city's blogs, a way to organise bloggers and get more Mancunians blogging, with occasional get-togethers. The lovely new Manchester Literature Festival (rising from the ashes of the poetry fest this autumn) are keen to provide support to this fledgling project.

I think it’s important that this be a blogger-driven endeavour that serves everyone, so please let me know if you’re interested in being involved, or even if you just want to offer your two cents’ (two pence?) worth about what it should and shouldn’t be like. You can email me at themanchizzle at gmail.com, or leave a comment.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wireless in Manchester?

Due to technical difficulties in the home office, I just spent the day schlepping my laptop all over the city centre looking for a place where I could plug in, power up and log on for the price of a coffee. But no dice. I remember doing this in New York, before, once or twice. I cherish fond memories of the NYC cafe society, teeming with coffee shops that offer free wireless to customers, and power outlets too. That's why New Yorkers have the thriving mobile office culture that enables self-employed folks like me to get out of the house and work/meet/procrastinate in public, right?

Wrong. My friend Marisa, a freelance writer who lives on the disgustingly leafy West Village block used for exterior shots of Carrie's apartment on Sex and The City (in a hatbox-sized apartment)is here to set me straight:

Ok. Pause the America-is-better rant, b/c it ain't as cute as it looks. While, yes, there are cafes on every corner, it's really tough to find one that has access to free-flowing electricity and free wireless. There are two by my apt, but one blocked off all of the outlets so you can only have juicy internet and long-term electric flow if you get there at like 7 am. The other has 4 tables and is unbearably hot. It's not a win win.

Okay, rant paused. But surely there must be some sweet underpublicised wireless hotspots in Manchester that don't cost an arm and a leg? I've just enabled comments, and am asking readers to comment/email with any wireless spots that they know of around Greater Manchester. I'll sum them all up in a post later.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bookish blogs

Here I am, jetlagged and happy, back in the UK with a big red suitcase stuffed full of blogs to add to the Manchester blogroll. I'll begin with a few blogs of the literary persuasion. First up is the excellent literary blog the Art of Fiction. The man behind the blog is Adrian Slatcher, who also edits the Manchester-based literary review Lamport Court. It offers "comments on the literary scene, and thoughts on the creative process."

While not outwardly identified as a Mancunian blog, Ready Steady Book, a big, beautifully produced group blog concerned with all things literary, makes the blogroll because both blog founder Mark Thwaite and blog designer Kelle Link (nice job, Kelle) live in Manchester.

I also class as literary those blogs which exist mainly as an outlet for creative writing. People have just begun to explore the possiblities of using blogs as a vehicle for a narrative or as a way to experiment with characters or voices. In the sprit of ambiguity I direct you to Community Fair, which landed in my inbox a couple of weeks ago. It's a narrative that appears to emanate from within a government programme in Manchester. Read it from the bottom up, and decide for yourself whether it's real or not.

Correction (26/1):

Mark from Ready Steady Book has set me straight: RSB is not a group blog, and, in fact, it's a whole lot more than just a blog ... it's a literary website. Whoops. Mark writes:

"Not a group blog - only I blog here on RSB - but we do have many contributors adding reviews to the site. On the local front, watch out for some minisites dedicated to local writers and poets coming soon ... "

Cheers Mark, we'll be looking forward to that.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Additions from feedmap

Thanks to alert reader Roy of Mantex... I have discovered feedmap, "where blogs meet maps"... and found a cache of Manchester blogs I didn't know about. So, welcome to the blogroll
Ramage, James' Blog, Port 7, Kookosity, vanillasky, and Towards a Free World. I'm not going to attempt to summarize each of them today, but I urge you to go by and check them all out. Some thoughtful writing and beautiful pictures in this lot.

Will be heading back to Manchester Saturday after a few days in my old town, New York, and I can't wait to get back to the UK. I'm in a sad state after three months without a decent curry or pint of bitter, the morning papers, the carefully modulated tones of Radio 4, and, of course, the daily proximity of my nearest and dearest. Plus the whole snow thing is getting kind of old.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Manchester Blogger Meetup

Doing her part to prove that bloggers are not all malajusted misanthropes who shun social interaction, blogger/novelist Clare Sudbery, of Boob Pencil , is organising a multi-part Manchester blogger meet-up on Saturday, Feb 11. Locations have not yet been determined but the meet will probably kick off at a coffee shop in the city centre somewhere. I'll post the details here as they become available, or check Clare's blog as the date approaches.

I'll be there (at least definitely for the afternoon bit), and look forward to meeting a few of the folks I've been trading emails with in the past couple of weeks. And picking the brains of the tech-savvy about new ways I can pimp up my blog. You have been warned!

Clare also passed on a new addition to the blogroll, Mad Dan's Blog, which lately has been extolling the restorative powers of Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood.

Had also forgotten to add this Manchester blog that I came upon a month or so ago when I caught a post about the demise of City Life: Island Monkey, who writes about popular culture, politics, moustaches and, of course, Manchester.