Friday, March 24, 2006

Condi Nasty

Roll out the red carpet! Condi's comin'. I was delighted to hear that my secretary of state will be visting Liverpool and Blackburn this week. When she's in Blackburn, I hope Jack Straw takes her to see the carpark on top of the council building, which has got to be one of the most inexplicably surreal places in Britain. But I imagine they'll tread the well-worn gladhanding trail from school to mosque to successful small business, in between dodging protesters. Yep, seems some people aren't as delighted as I am with Condi's visit. It's not every day we get one of the key players in the Bush administration up here and Northwest protesters are busy dreaming up witty Condi-specific placard slogans.

The highlight of Condi's trip will almost certainly be a Liverpool Philharmonic concert in her honour hosted by Scouser celebs Roger McGough and Cathy Tyson. Except that - oops - McGough, Tyson and some of the musicians have decided to boycott the gig for political reasons. This was a marvelous piece of planning, because considering how well the capital of culture preparations are going, Liverpool could really use some more scandal and bad press. If the musicians won't behave, maybe they could get Condi to play - she is a concert pianist, though I imagine she doesn't get much time for tickling the ivories anymore.

One blog has really gone above and beyond in keeping us up to date on all things Condi. Hats off to our own A Logical Voice, which remains the best place to go for updates about the story as they occur - here is their latest. You can also visit Condiwatch for details of protests Friday and Saturday. Anyone going?

Off the wall

This article in G2 yesterday by UK graffiti art's elder statesman, Banksy, issued a warning to the stencil hounds and spray can wizards of London: The Olympic Games are coming, and a massive rub-out is in your future. This got me thinking about the illicit art decorating Manchester's streets and doorways.

The first time I remember noticing graffiti here was when a walk to my friend's house in Hulme brought me unexpectedly under the Mancunian Way (back in the rookie days before I knew the shortcut to the Redbricks.) The tunnels sport a colourful profusion of stencils and tags, probably because the authorities don't often go there. In fact, no one seems to go there much, except graffiti artists. I snapped a few mobile phone pics before I got too sketched out by the isolation and general dodginess of the place and scurried away. If I was more technologically gifted, I'd post them here. But why bother, when you can see all the local graffiti pics you could ever possibly hope for over at Manchester Marks. The pic above is from this blog, and was taken at Hotspur House off Oxford Road. Manchester is Shit has also been known to post graffiti photgraphs, and is a good place to go for details of upcoming exhibitions, underground parties, and the like. Also the messageboard United Art City is a great way to keep up with street art in Manc and beyond.

Graffiti art gets a bad rap these days - we're right in the middle of the hipster backlash. Self-appointed trendspotters may sneer, "Oh, that's so, like, three years ago." But the medium's higher profile means that, in addition to being co-opted by companies flogging anything from trainers to insurance, it's also a lot easier to actually look at, and galleries are suddenly falling all over themselves to show it.

Grafficionados might want to check out a couple of exhibitions in town now: The C.A.L.M.A. Show over at Contact Theatre until early May features installations from the Brazilian graffiti artist whose work combines allusions to paganism, alchemy, folklore and corporate culture.

Also, the Richard Goodall gallery is busting out of it's rock n'roll pigeonhole for a show by NY street artist and illustrator Dalek, to April 29. And you know Magma practically always has some graffiti art going on at the storefront, which often seems to feature giraffes.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

And one more

One new blog got left off the last post. It's Urban Trawling, written by Si. He says: I didn't invent urban trawling, I am just a victim of the trend. Exiled from the "real world" of trendy city-centre bars and coffee shops, we have nowhere to go but the streets.

So what is urban trawling, exactly? Don't know, but I will certainly keep reading to find out more. The most recent post is a passionate rant at the soulessness of the glass n' chrome buildings that seem to be replicating themselves across Manchester at an alarming rate. Si is no fan of Urbis. Si also has the mumps - sheesh, do people actually still get that? Get well soon, Si.

Blog bonanza

Hey, look at that. I moan about having no new blogs to add and you all deliver. As a result we have a bumper crop of fresh, locally grown blogs to enjoy... mmmmm.

Why did I go wrong? is written by Wodge, who says it's "mostly about living in Manchester." There are so many pictures on it, it kinda looks like a photo blog, but maybe not. And one of the pictures is of a bus. What's with the sudden bus fixation, you guys?

Miss Fluff is the author of Trolley Park. She likes roast dinners and cosy nights in and she's quite a talented artist, judging by the sketches. I like this influx of arty bloggers. You can see one of the pictures from her blog above.

Lingua Franca
is a brilliant, now-defunct magazine about ideas, and it's also the name of a language-oriented blog written by Heather Pollitt (cheers to Roy at Mantex for the tip - I see Heather's also guest blogger there this week)

She writes: My blog's about anything to do with language use, seen from an analytical, iconoclastic, historical angle. I'll be commenting on idiosyncracies, shooting down blind prejudice and celebrating the recent developments in technology that have resulted in the democratising of communication. Everyone's passionate about language and that's because it's part of us. Let's explore it's workings and stop being so precious about it. Amen, sister. Recent posts explore road signs and the language of politics.

Lastly, we have The Misapplied Criminal Mind, a personal blog about, among other things, the evilness of cats and how custard is the most disappointing dessert choice ever (isn't it?)

Thanks to Lord Rich, one of the web wizards behind the Manchester Bloggers aggregator, for keeping me up to date on new additions. Sign up, folks. The aggregator is your friend, even though it has a scary name. Really.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blogger picture problems

Has anyone else been having problems posting pictures on blogger over the last couple of days? I can't do it, and the lack of colourful illustration on here is really starting to pinch my aesthetic sensibilities. Anyone have a clue????

UPDATE: of course, now it's working. Isn't that always the way?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More bus blogging

You wait and wait for one and then two come at the same time. Groaningly trite yet highly appropriate seeing as not one but two bus blogs have arrived in our city within a couple of weeks. Hot on the heels of I Wanna Ride The Bus! comes 43, a record of travels on the 43 bus (goes between Piccadilly and the Airport), which is the means of blogger Geoff's commute. He writes:

I suppose it would be fantastic to travel around the world to amazing places and write about it, like a travel writer, but I can’t do that. What I can do is get the 43 bus to town (and back again), and, you know, waste not want not and all that. Moreover, I think getting the 43 bus can be pretty good.

Geoff has some pretty cool drawings on the blog (one of a folding bike is above)and some of them even move. And the soundtrack has got to be a recording of the background sound on board the 43. In his latest post he waxes lyrical about bus graffiti.

XFM cometh

XFManchester finally started broadcasting last week at 97.7 fm, and already it's hard to imagine how we got along for so long without it. The first thing I noticed was all the Mancunian - or at least Northern - accents on there, which is quite refreshing. I heard a tiny bit of Tony Wilson's first broadcast (I undertand there was some publicity stunt involving Bez and a bunch of folks breaking the world record for largest ensemble shaking maracas ...) and a bit of Clint Boon's "Music Response" last night. He played some good local bands who have probably never been on the radio before but seemed to be plugging his night at South with dismaying frequency. I like the music they're playing so far - a decent mix of new and old, though some of the new veers a little toward the more anodyne side of indie. Ah well, it is commercial radio.

But old Tony must be a busy man these days. Saw this post reporting that the BBC are revamping GMR now that XFM is in town and have secured the services of one Anthony H. Wilson (Dude, have you ever noticed that he has the same middle initial as Jesus Christ? Do you think that's a coincidence?) Rockontop actually says:

Predictably, the BBC are bringing in Tony Wilson and Terry Christian as new presenters. Because there are no other broadcasters in Manchester. Indeed.

No new bloggers?

You know you haven't been blogging frequently enough when people call you and say "I noticed you haven't blogged for a long time, and I just want to make sure everything's okay." A well-deserved kick in the behind. And no, I haven't gotten lost in the mists on the West Pennine Moors or fallen down an old mine shaft, I've just been (sigh ...) kinda busy.

That being said, I would have done my traditional Friday welcome new Manc bloggers post, but there weren't any. Can it be that the flood of new Manchester-area blogs is slowing to a trickle? Surely not. So I'm putting out the call for fresh blood: send 'em in. Those urls. To me at themanchizzle at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Mancunian Agreement

The Manchester Council is working on a plan to have all city residents sign a citizenship contract. This reminds me of something a hardboiled old newspaperman I know would say when the local government did anything especially stupid: "You just can't make this shit up." He would love this. I read about it in the MEN on Friday:

The agreements would start as voluntary but over time would become part of formal contracts, covering things like tenancies and truancy - with penalties for those who break the terms. ... The draft version refers to the contracts as "The Mancunian Agreement", claiming the idea is to "support individual and collective self-esteem and mutual respect." ... People could be asked to pledge everything from being a good parent to avoiding dropping litter in the street to trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

Apparently the whole thing originated with a dubious sounding "consultation project". No word yet as to how much this pettifogging malarkey is going to cost us.

Spinneyhead has taken note. And Blood and Treasure definitely isn't having any part of it. Even Shuggy weighed in from up North. Stay tuned.


A couple of things have happened lately that have gotten me thinking about the murky relationship between our online personas and our real-life ones.

When I started out writing my blog, I went to great lengths to keep my blog anonymous, picking a codename and setting up a separate email address. I thought that writing under a nom de plume would free me to be completely honest without fear of personal or professional consequences. It'd protect me from internet nutters. And as a journalist, at least in the states, I could potentially find myself assigned to "objectively" write about a politician, controversial issue or organization. Having an online paper trail of my personal opinions could potentially make things difficult for myself and my paper if someone wanted to be a jerk.

But as time went on and I started meeting some of the people who read my blog, I gradually started using my real name. Introducing myself as Yankunian at a blog meet seemed, I don't know, kind of retarded and precious. Especially when I already knew some of the people there from other things. When I got professionally involved with a blogging project at the MLF, it was essential that my real name be linked to my blog - it was, effectively, my credential. And of course by linking to Norm's profile of me last week I kinda put the final nail in the anonymity coffin.

Some people really don't want to be unmasked. Even more than that, they don't want their anonymous blog pointed out to people even though it doesn't have their real name on it because they think people might be able to figure out it's them from what they're writing about. (whew!) Of course I respect a blogger's personal preferences, but a tiny part of me wonders why they don't get one of those old-fashioned diaries with a lock on it, hide it under their mattress and wear the key around their neck? Why write a blog on the internets, where it's out there for all to see, if you don't want people you know reading your stuff? Because if you're putting it out there, you should assume that someone you know is reading it.

I went by Southern Bird's anonymous blog today and I see that she stopped writing late last month. This is sad, because I liked her blog - it was engaging and she genuinely seemed to enjoy writing it. She explained in her last post that she was giving it up because an ex-boyfriend was, from what I gather, stalking her through her blog. SB alluded to problems she's had in the past with other ex-boyfriends and her blog, and in her comments several others write in with similar tales of woe. Her name isn't on her blog anywhere, but she presumably told her ex about it in happier days. Having an anonymous blog didn't protect her from this situation, because she made it non-anonymous herself, just by telling someone she completely trusted at the time.

What do people think about this? I'd be interested to hear how some of you came up with your own approach - full separation of online/offline identities, some overlap or completely straight-up, firstname lastname blogging? I suspect the Manchester blogroll includes all of the above.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Get on the bus

This week's lone addition to the Manchester blogroll is I Wanna Ride The Bus! by GM Traveller, a shadowy figure who started the blog that(s)he describes as "dedicated to my goings to and from work in Manchester, and maybe the usual something else in between."

As you'd expect, there's lots about particular bus journeys, and discussion of routes, including a lengthy exploration of why the new Shudehill bus station is so woefully underused. But there's also a nice post about the comparative merits of the different markets in the towns around Manchester. GM Traveller's inspirations include The Station Log Book, the musings of a stationmaster on the London Underground.

(Lovely bus image courtesy of the Manc Lomo godlings at Just Shoot)

Hey, I'm famous

I feel sort of embarassed tooting my own horn like this (blushing, looking uncomfortably at feet) but the Friday profile on Normblog this week is me. If you want to read it, go to The Normblog Profile 129: Kate Feld

Thursday, March 09, 2006


We all know Manchester is a magical place in the springtime. Dan Flynn has had a fascinating encounter with a foul-mouthed genie in a pop bottle.

You can read all about it here

And Crinklybee has embarked on an exhaustive survey of our city's public telephone boxes to bring you The Crinklybee Award for Manchester's Most Splendid Public Telephone Box. It's a sort of swan song for him, as he just got his first mobile phone a couple of weeks ago. Jonathan, welcome to the wonderful world of being always - irritatingly - reachable. You'll never be on time again.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blook who's talking

When is a book not a book? When it's a blook, apparently - to the uninitiated (which is, like, everyone, since someone just made this up), that's a blog that started life as a book, like Belle de Jour or Julie and Julia. Okay, I get the concept, but the cutesy name is kind of annoying. But apparently it's there because announcing "The Blooker Prize" was just too tempting a proposition for Lulu founder Bob Young.

Alert reader Conscious & Verbal pointed out this article in the Telegraph (via Bookseller):
The founders of the Booker Prize maintained a cautious silence yesterday after a rival organisation unveiled plans for an award with a startlingly similar name, the Blooker Prize, to reward books born on the world wide web...

Interesting stuff.... but I have to wonder whether the Booker's silence was actually a "cautious" one. It might have been a "completely disinterested" one or even, an "I'm sorry, were you saying something just then?" kind of silence.

51 with a bullet ...

Congratulations to our very own Mark Thwaite of the excellent Ready Steady Book. According to the Observer, he's the 51st most important person in British publishing. It's nice to see a literary blogger get some recognition in the mainstream lit media, even if he didn't make the top 50. Mark's name is first among "the ones who nearly made the list:"

Mark Thwaite, founder and editor of, the UK's largest independent literary website. A librarian by trade, Thwaite writes a regular blog attracting up to 3,000 visitors per day.

Now if we can just take out Mary-Kay Wilmers and David Godwin, he'll have it all wrapped up next time.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Open Music Archive

On Friday I met Eileen Simpson and Ben White, who are running the Open Music Archive project at one of my favourite vintage shops, My Goodniss on Thomas Street, run by the lovely Leyla Nazim. (It was a good day - I also got a delightful dress for a mere £14). Eileen just sent me some more info about their upcoming event at the shop:

On Saturday March 18 at My Goodniss there's going to be an evening of free music and films from the Open Music Archive, which collects and distributes content that has fallen out of copyright, and are thus free for anyone to use. From 6-8pm Eileen and Ben will perform a live DJ & laptop set and digitally project re-mixed 16mm film footage. You can expect to hear long-forgotten blues, folk and jazz tracks transferred from scratchy 78 shellac records - but the OMA folks also strip samples, beats, words and melodies from these tracks to produce brand new music that they license with Creative Commons ShareAlike licences. If you're coming, bring a memory stick or other device to take away the music or download after the event from

Blue period

Just want to point out the pioneering work being done by Mr. Pretzels and friends - since I last checked in they've pushed blue-tack art to even greater heights of innovation. Go here and watch their animated short films.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Last orders

When 24-hour licensing passed, I envisioned happy nights drinking leisurely cocktails, exiting bars and clubs at an hour more compatible with the cosmopolitan vibe one might expect from "the original modern city." I imagined, oh, I don't know, setting off home after a night out without having to fight my way through a drunken herd of yawping, half-naked souls all simultaneously trying to snag a taxi, eat a kebab, be sick, pick a fight and get off with some luckless stranger. Not that there's anything wrong with any of the above - it'd just be nice if everyone didn't get let out at the same (unreasonably early) time.

But official-type people fear change, and my 24-7 dreams have come to diddly-squat. So it was with great interest that I read in Manchester Online this morning that the first 24-hour drinking license has been granted to ... Cornerhouse. Apparently, the police have been opposing every application, no matter where, on the grounds that late opening will disturb residents, increase crime and generally bring about the eve of destruction. But the council approved Cornerhouse, of all places. Why?

A council spokesman said: "The Cornerhouse is one of Manchester's key cultural hubs and its 24-hour license is clearly linked to its function as a cinema and the many other events that are held there.
It is a well-run establishment which recognises that public safety is essential and is very clear about how crime and disorder and public nuisance will be

Hmmm.... want me to translate that for ya?: "The Cornerhouse is frequented by a well-educated, affluent older clientele who like to watch movies with subtitles. These people know when to stop drinking and who are unlikely to do anything untoward in the wee hours that might make us regret this decision."

I like the Cornerhouse and go there lots, but something about this seems kind of classist and unfair to me. I can think of many other bars and clubs who would actually benefit a lot more from a 24-hour license. And what's the point of having 24-hour licensing if you're not going to use it? It'll be kinda funny though if word gets around about the late license and the C-house starts getting invaded by likkered-up riot boys looking for a late-night snootful.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bebo? ...wasn't that a new wave band?

Since I know many of you here at The Manchizzle are big fans of MySpace and other social networking sites, you might want to read this story in The Guardian technology section today. I'm so un-cool I'd never even heard of the SN site they've focused on, Bebo, which is apparently all the rage with those young people. Sheesh, who can keep up?

Show and Tell Online

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

New blog fiesta. Ole!

We have a few additions to the jelly roll this week -- and two of them are American. I know, but really, it's not that we're secretly taking over, it's just that the few yanks who are here all seem to be blogging. Given the fact that blogging is much more widely established in the states, this makes perfect sense. (Or that's what we want you to think....)

The first is Plain Simple English, written by Buffy Holt, a resident of Cheshire, I believe, who is writing a novel. She's from West Virginia but doesn't intend to move back to the states anytime soon since she loves it here. You can read more about her and the book she's working on at her blog but be warned - absolutely no Buffy The Vampire Slayer jokes will be tolerated.

Dave Maass came over here from hot and dusty Phoenix to study visual anthropology, and is also a writer who's involved in Verberate (nice new site by the way) and other literary/film events around Manc. He also has the best surname-linked blog I've heard in a long time: His blog is called Maassive. Sweet, huh?

But if you don't have a name that can be cleverly worked into the title of your blog, you can always take a different tack and opt for a bold statement like the folks behind the group blog Manchester is Shit. While this blog won't be getting linkage from the Northwest Development Agency anytime soon, it does have some top pictures of and posts about graffiti and sundry other things.

Dave Maass also told me about another couple of Manchester blogs I'd missed:

The first, BrandosHat, is written by Steven Waling, a poet who teaches creative writing. The blog is a place for for discussion of all things related to poetry, religion, and life in general. His latest post considers the different influences that determine how a poet evolves -- interesting stuff.

And Changing Cycles is the work of Salfordian (?) Ben Mellor, a cyclist and performer who recently returned from a three-month bicycle trip around the country, an experience he will be turning into a live act on environmental themes during his current residency at Contact. Three months on a bike around Britain in the winter - damn! Bet there are some stories there ...