Friday, February 24, 2006

The Manolo he love the shoes

Normblog's Friday profiles are consistently interesting reads, but this week's choice is especially super fantastic. The Normblog Profile: Manolo the Shoeblogger

New blogs: Mr. Pretzels, Yer Mam

Blue-tack: It languishes in obscurity, balled into a sad lump collecting dust and odd bits of fluff in the desk drawer among stubby pencils and paperclips. But who knew that inside the heart of the blue-tack lurked the potential for a second life, a more artistic one? Mr. Pretzels, that's who. Please follow the link to see blue-tack -- and timewasting on the job -- elevated to heights of magnificence never before achieved. I think the works completed during the Victorian Easter Island period show special promise. And to think it all happened somewhere in South Manchester ...

James, author of Yer Mam, kindly wrote in to let me know that I had failed to list him on the roll. And, damn, but haven't we all been missing out on a whole heap of tasty music blogging, complete with mp3s, cover art and humorous pirate references. Anyone who's working their way through a personal top 300 singles 2000-2005 has my deepest respect. Please note that he blogs on MSN Spaces, not to be confused with the much-maligned myspace. (Not that anyone would be daft enough to mix them up just because they sounded similar, ho ho ho.)

UPDATED New Manchester blog column

I’ve mentioned the possibility that we might get a new Manchester listings magazine in this blog before, and, lo and behold, it has actually come to pass. I had inside knowledge, though: I’m now the literature editor of The Mix, a fortnightly mag that’s available from today in newsagents around the city centre for a mere £1.50.

The literature section in every issue will feature a column called Bloggerel, which will shine a spotlight on the sadly-overlooked work of Manchester bloggers. Each Bloggerel will feature an excerpt from a recent blog post, drawn from the sites on the Manc blogroll at right. This isn’t an original idea: I stole it from The Vermont alt-weekly Seven Days and The Guardian does it as well, though their column features blog posts related to big news stories. My hope is that it will make more people want to read blogs.

The inaugural bloggerel is Bar Fiction from Bournemouth Runner’s blog The Art of Fiction.

I was also taken with this funny post from Kitchentable, about a serendipitous experience at Fopp.

If you think you’ve written something that could be in the column, or want to point out a great post on someone else’s blog, feel free to email your bloggerel nominations to themanchizzle at gmail dot com. I’m looking for excerpts or whole posts that are 500 words or less (SEE UPDATE BELOW), are well written, can stand alone in the magazine and will be of interest to pretty much any reader. Because it’s the literature section there may be a slight bias towards literary or “writerly” posts, but it’s open to any topic.

I’ll get in touch with people if I’m putting their post forward (though, unless you have creative commons or explicit copyright protection on your blog, I don’t think I’m required to.) If you want to remain an anonymous blogger, that’s fine – I’m really just going to use blog names/urls, not author names. And please note that there’s no pay involved, except the glow of pleasure that comes with a surge of extra traffic.

UPDATED: Because of space limitations the Bloggerel column will now be limited to excerpts of 200 words. Eeek. Keep 'em short n' sweet, then.

Result: myspace CAN be a blog... but isn't always

Wow, look at all those comments ... while there was a fair amount of humorous slagging off in there, I think the result of the collective musings is this: If you're genuinely blogging, then who cares what platform you're using? You should be on the blogroll.

So that will be The Manchizzle's totally democratic policy henceforth. If you know of anyone in the general vicinity of Manc who's blogging on MSN Spaces, livejournal etc. or social networking thingies like myspace, or Friendster (can you blog on Friendster? Does anyone still use that?) send 'em my way.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

myspace: a blog or not a blog? discuss

Most of my "creative" friends are scared of blogs. That might seem weird, but I think it's because they wrongly assume that they're too technologically challenging to run. But somehow, like, in the last five minutes, they've all acquired myspace sites.

Last week I was accosted by a woman I know in the hallway of my Nathan Barley-esque sometime offices on Lever Street. She said breezily, "Hey, what's your myspace, I'll send you an invite to the club night next month." My face fell. "I, um, I don't have one," I told her. She looked so disappointed. I felt, oddly, embarassed. Hoping to recover some sort of cred, I wrote the url for my blog on a scrap of paper. She looked at it as if it were a dirty word in a foreign language.

Then I went and looked at my friends' myspace sites. The template is terrible. It's ugly and it doesn't work right, but there they all were, getting hourly updates on their favourite bands' bowel movements and frantically messaging each other to say nothing much in particular. I don't feel so bad about not being on myspace, because I like blogger a whole lot better, but I think it's cool that the music industry seems to have adopted myspace as THE way to set up a band website on the cheap. And while a lot of the blogs on these sites are feeble, vestigial things, some of them are actually really cool.

So I ask you, Manchester bloggers: should myspace sites be considered blogs and listed in the Manc blogroll? What do you think? My comments box awaits your collective widsom.

Click here to download a video clip of Demetri Martin's very funny piss-take of the whole myspace thing on The Daily Show (courtesy EdTechUk. (The totally appropriate illustration comes from The Chalkboard Manifesto.)

The turn and glare

When did going to the movies stop being a hushed, magical experience where everyone gathered around the miracle of flickering images and become a free-for-all? In the last couple of years, I've noticed a staggering decline in decorum at the cinema. Perhaps I'm just noticing this now because I'm getting older and more curmudgeonly. So curmudgeonly, in fact, that I use phrases like 'a staggering decline of decorum', which makes me sound like my dentures are pinching. But I digress. The last few times I've gone to see a movie (on both sides of the Atlantic) I've encountered some appalling behavior.

There were the two pre-teen girls at 'The Producers' who shared a large tub of popcorn and whispered and giggled so loudly that we had to ask them to be quiet three times. There were the people behind us in '13' at Cornerhouse last night who talked at normal conversation pitch through the ads, trailers, credits and the first bit of the film. I like to watch the trailers, dammit. And don't get me started on the mobile-phone related disturbances. At some movie recently a phone rang loudly, and instead of shutting it off, the person answered it. I almost had a heart attack. Then there was the whole family texting happily away during 'King Kong.' Father and two are-they-really-old-enough-for-mobiles sons, faces bathed in the blue glow of their handsets, seemingly oblivious to the big ape. Why do these people go to movies?

Here's my strategy for dealing with bad behavior at movies:

1. The turn and glare

2. A second turn and a longer, more malevolent glare, perhaps with a raised eyebrow

3. Turn, glare and 'shhhh' meaningfully

4. The same again, but this time with hands raised in the international sign of "what gives?"

5. Getting verbal. This may actually require getting up and walking to another section of seats. "Excuse me, would you mind being more quiet/turning that off/doing that outside? We're trying to watch the film." This makes you feel like a prim librarian from central casting, but it usually works.

6. Another verbal entreaty, with the addition of either a. sarcastic comment or b. threats to fetch management and have them bodily removed. In cases of extreme annoyance, both.

7. Go to manager and demand free tickets (it's never actually come to this, but I would.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many pageloads

Just wanted to pass on the link to this enormously interesting piece about bloggers in New York magazine (It's not from "New York Metro," that's just the way part of their online operation is branded - sorry, I know that's really pedantic, but it's confusing when NY Metro is cited as a news source by clueless bloggers. Who's a journalism geek?) Anyway, people who are interested in the social dynamics of blogging will want to read this. Blogs to Riches: The Haves and Have-Nots of the Blogging Boom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hey, look ... new blogs!

You may notice that I've sneakily added some new blogs to the Manchester blogroll:

Kate works in the arts and blogs a lot about film and such on If You're Sad and Like Beer... I believe the title is a reference to that whacked-out, perplexing and gorgeous Guy Maddin movie The Saddest Music in the World, pictured above. Kate hasn't been blogging very much lately but maybe if we all pester her, she will. Pester. Pester pester.

The Airport Diaries is a workblog apparently written by someone who works at Manchester International Airport. The author is listed only as "the airport exile." Interesting stuff.

Half Lived by Truman is a personal sort of blog written by a man who is living between the USA and the UK - A man I can definitely relate to. In his case, he divides his time between Texas and Manchester, which is an interesting combination of places (and one hell of a trip). Haven't I heard of a band around here with some members who lived in Manc and others based in Texas? Was it the Earlies? And then there was another musician from Texas who now lives in Manchester - I forget who. So what's the big Manchester-Texas connection?

The latter two blogs came courtesy of the links on Easy Update, the photoblog of Ms_Understud. Formerly of Manchester, now of Newcastle. Our loss.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What's on extra: Gig-a-licious

Truly the gig gods are smiling on Manchester this week. Isobel Campbell(photo above), the sweet-voiced singer late of Belle and Sebastian, has been getting a lot of press recently, mostly for Ballad of the Broken Seas, her unlikely collab with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Mark Lanegan. But she's going to be performing solo Tuesday at Night and Day, with Jenniferever and Superkings warming up. Her album, according to the Guardian, is chock full of “...warm, atmospheric songs... honey-coated whispers...lost in the slow-motion melodies...windswept lullabies....” (That's lot of ellipses, no? I just pulled that blurb off the N+D website, but it makes you wonder why they had to chop the quote up so much.) Anyway, it's gotta be better than sitting through a mediocre, overpriced meal in some joint that's decked out with pink doilies.

On Wednesday, Gothenburg, Sweden's homegrown hero, Jens Lekman plays the King's Arms in Salford, a beautiful old pub with good beer and a smallish performance space upstairs. Jens doesn't seem to have much of a profile around here, but he's getting a lot of rave reviews over in the states; here's the one that turned me onto him. I really dig his music - it's quirky, heartfelt pop - and you've got to respect a man who plays the ukelele. Bill Wells and Vinny Peculiar open. Details here.

If Lekman doesn't appeal, Brad Meldhau is playing the same night over at the Royal Northern College of Music (details here). He's an insanely gifted jazz pianist who delights in obliterating genre boundaries - his versions of some Radiohead songs will make your brain melt. And acoustics-wise, the RNCM is my favourite venue in town - the Magnetic Fields concert I saw here last year had perfect sound.

Friday brings the African Soul Rebels concert to Bridgewater Hall, with Amadou et Mariam, Souad Massi and Emmanuel Jal. I don't know much about the latter two acts - Jal is a rapper, and Massi is an Algerian singer - but Amadou et Mariam should be worth the price of admission alone. They're a blind Malian singing couple who make music that's haunting and funky at the same time. Their album Dimanche a Bamako was produced by the loopy musical genius Manu Chao, and was a massive hit in France.

Am I going to all these gigs? Hell no. But someone should.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Blog meet

The Manchester blog meet was a big hit - about 30 people were there, and everyone seemed to enjoy meeting the faces behind the blogs they read. Chern Jie, a very friendly Engineering student from Malaysia who I met there (and whose eponymous blog I have just added to the manc blogroll) has put up some pictures and a nice long description of the multi-stage event here. That's where the above pic comes from. Chris, Tom, Norm, Spinneyhead and Clare have posted about it as well. Hopefully this will be the first of a series of once-in-a-while blogger social outings. Kro was so busy and, often, loud - maybe next time we can do it in the quiet side room of some old fashioned pub. But I suppose that wouldn't have the wireless.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Weekend: green, zines

There is some pretty cool stuff going on this weekend, and seeing as I got such a positive response to my "what's on" post of last week, I thought I'd make it a regular weekly feature.

If you're coming to the blog meet and have an interest in homemade magazines, while you're in the 'hood you may also want to check out the Manchester Zine Fest, which is going on from high noon into the evening at The Basement, a collectively-run cafe/art/event space at 24 Lever Street. They're going to have workshops, speakers, a zine gallery and all sorts of treats for zine-lovers. (The picture above comes courtesy of Barnard College, home to many fine zines.)

I've been curious about Green Bohemia for a long time. It's a live music night at Greenroom with an appealingly eclectic list of performers. I see that tomorrow night is their second birthday party - the ideal time to check it out; Isobel Heyworth, Gideon Conn and The Shmatte Kid will be playing, with a whole bunch of other folks. Plus, it's free.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The bluest blog in town

Ladies and gentlemen, may I direct your attention to Bitter and Blue? If you're a Man City supporter you'll want to bookmark this blog, because it's all about the boys in baby blue. It's the work of Danny Pugsley, who says: while I do include a bit of news and match reports, I try to keep it more of an opinion based blog as there are many forum and fan sites for news stories etc.

This strategy seems to be paying off, since we see that an excerpt from Bitter and Blue was featured in Sunday's Observer. Well done!

I've actually had Bn'B on the blogroll for a long time, but have been holding off on introducing it until I could also find a Man United blog that was written by a fan based in Manchester. Curiously enough, I couldn't find one ...

Love rides again

Just noticed in Metro today that the Deansgate branch of Love Saves The Day, which has been shuttered since late 2005 due to financial problems, is to reopen on February 14. Yep ... Valentine's Day. The Oldham Street branch has been permanently closed, from what I've heard. Rats.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Flick: King Kong

I may be the last person in the country to have seen King Kong, but it was on its last week in the cinema and the consensus seemed to be that this was one you really had to see on the big screen. I was in the mood for a blockbuster that didn't require strenuous use of the brain, and that's just what we got. KK is perfectly good entertainment - light on character and plot, heavy on gobsmacking special effects.

My favourite parts of the movie were the beginning and the end, which were set in a gorgeous Depression-era New York. As soon as the boat approached Skull Island, the movie basically turned into a Jurassic Park/Indiana Jones style adventure with a triple helping of scary beasties and violent dismemberings: Dinosaurs, check. Big evil fanged bats, check. Tentacles-with-teeth, check. The one creature missing from this movie was the most important (and potentially fearsome) of all - the editor. Just because you can construct seventy-nine distinct species of disgusting overgrown insect-thing doesn't mean you should. I kept imagining Peter Jackson saying, "aww mate, let's just throw this one in, too. Go on."

blogs, meetings, blog meetings

The plotting continues ... Friday I met with Chris Gribble from the Manchester Literature Festival, Lord Rich (who kindly came all the way from Bradford) and Duncan of Stripy T-Shirt to talk about the Manchester bloggers project (Rich and Duncan set up Manchester blogbound - sign up if you haven't already) and we had a good chinwag about what the site might be like.

So far everyone seems to agree that a group Manchester blog linked to an aggregator is a good idea, as well as hooking up blogger posts about the same topic (i.e. linking up blogger reviews of the same movie or gig.) And, of course, a directory of Manchester bloggers grouped by category and locality. We'll be at the blog meet this Saturday, and will be interested to hear about what features/functionalities people would like to see on the site.

On Friday I also met up with Norman Geras of Normblog for tea and a nice chat about blogging, movies, New York and all sorts of things. Mancophiles will want to read the list of great quotations about our city that Norm recently posted about. It's oddly comforting to see that Manchester has been the butt of jokes for at least a couple of centuries.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Updated weekend: art galore, smithsco

What to do this weekend? For starters, the British Art Show 6 is in town, so seize the opportunity to gorge on contemporary art, it only comes around every five years. In particular, I thought the Whitworth Gallery and the Chinese Arts Centre both had a pretty impressive selection of works. Above image courtesy of The Telegraph, where you can see a gallery of images from the exhibition before it arrived in Manc.

And Friday is the monthly Smiths Disco at the Star and Garter, if howling lyrics to little-known Moz tunes in the company of sweaty former teenage misfits is your thing. Get there early...

In totally unrelated other news, it appears that XFM has finally announced a launch date for the Manchester station: March 15. Indie-heads rejoice.

Update: have removed refs to blog meet and zine fest because, erm, that's next weekend. Talk about getting ahead of oneself.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Manchester media gossip, part two

News comes of another contestant in the rush to fill the yawning cultural void left by City Life. We hear that The Mix, a fortnightly culture and listings magazine, is being planned for Manchester. The editor comes from Wideshut Magazine, which has been running some interesting collaborations with local arts organizations, most recently Castlefield Gallery. The publication is to be based in that cultural hub of Salford, Islington Mill. And see what I did there? ... I mentioned a mill without referencing trouble at t'mill, rubble at t'mill or even stubble at t'mill (though admittedly there is a lot of stubble at that particular mill - not exactly a clean-shaven bunch, those creative types.) Oversubscribed puns are the bane of a writer's existence.