Friday, April 28, 2006

North West Enquirer arrives

Yesterday saw the launch of the North West Enquirer, the new regional weekly paper. Though its server seems to be having problems at this particular moment, I'm delighted to see that they've put some content online (though not, sadly, the piece I wrote about the Derek Williams exhibition in Preston, which is in the arts section.) Stu at Feeling Listless has a very in-depth post about his thoughts on the new issue, and raises some good points, I think, especially about its lack of listings. What does anyone else think of it? I'm curious.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fresh blogs

First we had The Art of Fiction, now there's The Tart of Fiction. I wondered at first if this was Bournemouth Runner showing us a saucy new feminine side, but I think after some consideration that it must in fact be another person. "Fiction Bitch" looks to be writing about literature and the writerly life in Manchester and beyond.

Weeelll, this one isn't actually a new blog. It's new to the blogroll, but I was alerted to its existence awhile back, and then just completely forgot to add it to the blogroll. Shame on me. It's called Where cranes connect the sky, and it's written by Mike, who blogs about life in Manchester and takes quite nice pictures, many of which you can see here.

Rich, Lord of the Aggregator, was kind enough to let me know I'd missed out Just Words a personal blog by one SL. He also maintains an interesting blog called First Drafts, which is "a collaborative blog aimed at providing writers with a place to share their work on any subject they like.(Near-)daily writing prompts are emailed to you to provide guidance or inspiration." Pretty cool, no?

Sabrina's Book of Hours is a personal blog by - who else? - Sabrina, who lives in Manchester, but may or may not be accepting a very special invitation to go to Taiwan. You'll have to read her blog to find out... (Thanks Stuart for the tip)

And last but certainly not least, we have Fee-Fy-Fo-Fum, a Welsh girl in Manchester (and other places). FFFF's most recent post is about an upcoming street theatre perfomance in London that looks marvelous. Croeso!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

new blog roundup

I'm fixing to do another roundup of new blogs this week, so if anyone knows of a new Manc-area blog that needs to be added to the blogroll, let me know.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Salford vs. Manchester

Last night on television I happened to catch a programme called Dispatches: Yobs Are Scaring the Crap Out of us Posh Middle Aged Folk, or something like that. Of course where did it open but Salford, amid a hail of bone-chilling crime statistics and several minutes of grainy footage in which hoodie-clad scallies (and their wee brothers and sisters, aka the scallions) ran riot. Actually, they were mostly just standing around looking bored, drinking cans of Carling and occasionally lobbing a rock at a storefront. Every now and then the Dispatches reporter would approach them, shove a big camera in their faces without so much as a by-your-leave, and ask them inane questions like "Do you know why people are scared of you?" and "Does your mother know where you are right now?" I would have told her to fuck off as well.

I amused myself by imagining the poor BBC employees in London who were also watching Dispatches, colour draining from their carefully buffed faces as they realised that Salford is where their jobs might be heading! The BBC has narrowed it down to two sites for its massive expansion up norf, one at Salford Quays and the other in Manchester's "Central Spine" off Whitworth Street (I've never heard of that part of the city, but it sounds painful, doesn't it?) The winner will be announced in June. A poll of BBC employees back in January came out in favour of Manchester. Ya think? And calling the Salford site "Media City" hardly makes it any less hyperventilatingly scary for the northbound Beebers.

But they really shouldn't be that worried. Salford is nothing to be afraid of. Sure, there are bits of it you will basically want to avoid, like, forever. But other bits are quite nice. And there are quite a few excellent pubs there. A good excuse to see all of them in one day is coming up this Sunday, when Sounds From The Other City brings its swirly multi-location local music shindig to town. Book now, it sold out last year.

Monday, April 24, 2006

XFM Cometh.... and disappointeth

The indie credential, who were really cheerleadering XFM's move to Manchester on their blog, have become sorely disenchanted with the new XFM Manchester on account of their playlist. And they're not the only ones. I've read more than a few bloggers grumbling about it, and take a gander at the XFM messageboard - the criticisms are all the same: too much dad rock, MOR, old baggy anthems and mid-table indie rock from the 90s, not enough of the new, edgy indie bands and quirkily selected mix of old tunes we all heard from London on DAB or the internet. And what's up with the repetitive bangin' techno on a Saturday night? - you might as well be listening to Key 103.

I'm listening right now, and as I've been writing this we've had Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus, which they seem to play a lot( if they want to play DM, there are much better, less-mainstream choices...) That muzak-like Groove Armada song about sand dunes and salty air. A Muse song. Some crappy late REM (see DM comment). Some Madchester band so boring I've forgotten their name. Radiohead. Nirvana. Joss Stone. I think that's a fairly representative sampling.

So in response, Indie Credential have created a my space site where people can register their displeasure with the new station. It's called XFM Manchester Sucks. Manchester will not sit back and listen to David Gray. Manchester deserves better. Thems fightin' words.

Manc media stories

A nice big feature in today's Media Guardian about how Manchester's media landscape is undergoing a revolution, what with the BBC coming, Google opening their first regional offices here (wha? first I've heard of that. What do they want with offices here?) Etc. etc. etc. Having been here a few years I only have to see the words Manchester and Revival in the same headline and my eyes start glazing over with boredom, but I guess it's nice that they're bothering to write anything at all.

Also got the news this weekend that the MEN is going to be distributed free in the city centre. Here's a thought - how about actually improving the dismal product instead of trying to give it away for nothing? Maybe?

Friday, April 21, 2006

World Gone Mad

Forgot to say I went to a really wonderful exhibition last night - World Gone Mad: Surrealist Returns in British Modern Art at the Castlefield Gallery. It's on until June 4, so you've got loads of time if you want to go check it out.
(Image courtesy Castlefield Gallery)

media/art/film next week

Holy cow, check out Cornerhouse's glorious new website! What an improvement. I may return frequently just to hear those cool sound effects ... no wait, I just got sick of them. Oh well, that's what the mute button is for. I happened by because Bournemouth Runner tipped me off about an event that's happening over there in conjunction with the Tijuana Organic exhibition that opened last night.

and is going down Thursday 27 April at 6. "An informal discussion on collaborative and alternative media projects. The event will feature participants in person and online, from multimedia projects, artist's groups and communities in Tijuana, Manchester and the North West. This one-off multi-channel broadcast will also be streamed live by Trafford based Let's Go Global as part of their regular Thursday show. Drop by in person, or join in online via iChat."

Next week promises to be a busy one for arty folk as the Commonwealth Film Festival opens Friday night. (I never understand what they're talking about when people call it ComFest, which sounds to me like it might be a computer programmer's conference circa 1983). Haven't had a chance to look at the programme yet, but there's always some winners in there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The blues

The unhappy lot of the City supporter right now is covered thoroughly in this heartfelt letter posted on Bitter and Blue. It's sincere, detailed and to the point, and I hope someone up there takes notice.
(yeah, my links aren't working again.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

ipod of death

After a year and a half, my ipod has kicked the bucket. Yup, my green, first generation ipod mini has died, leaving me with a hollow ache inside. Yeah, I do think it's dumb how people have fetishized this piece of electronic hardware, and I'm sure it sounds ridiculously overwrought, but it's hard for me not to be upset at losing a very expensive piece of equipment that added so much enjoyment to my everyday life - I used it every day while excercising, commuting and racing around Manchester.

Although, lately, things had been less fun. I had to replace the battery ($$) after playing time dwindled to an hour. The clickwheel started acting up, and then it became harder to upload songs. But the end came when I simply updated my itunes, as Apple repeatedly encouraged me to do. You wouldn't think a company's own firmware could actually kill their device, but that's exactly what happened to me and, I found after searching around the internet, a whole bunch of other ipod suckas. The crazy thing is that Apple has shrugged off any responsibility. It discontinued the mini several months ago, even though they were selling like hotcakes. Now I think we know why.

You might expect a piece of equipment that you paid that kind of money for to last longer than a year and a half, and to at least, I don't know, be repairable when it does break. I won't bother to detail my fruitless efforts to get some kind of satisfaction from Apple (15 minutes on the phone with the clueless Hassan at call centre tech support and 30 headbangingly infuriating minutes chatting with Stuart at customer relations in Ireland. The upshot is that it's a few months out of warranty, so it would cost more to fix than it would to buy a new ipod, and there are no guarantees the repaired device would last anyway. There's a good New York Times article here that details exactly how insane this is.

So, at some point I'm going to need to buy another mp3 player, and given Apple's poor design, bad value and appallingly arrogant approach to customer service, I'm not really jazzed about shelling out for another ipod. The only problem is that itunes really is the best music-managing program I've ever used (I had a Samsung yepp a couple years ago, and the software sucked.) So, if any ur-geek has read this far and knows of an mp3 player with ipod-comparable specs and good software, please speak up.

There is a burgeoning anti-ipod movement online, though it isn't, as I'd hoped, an expression of outrage at Apple's rapacious business tactics but a tirade against the ipod as an instrument of social isolation. Truthfully, I'm kind of okay with the social isolation. But I'm waiting for the day that people wake up and realize that we've all been duped by clever marketing, and that the ipod isn't all that. Bring on the insurrection.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Yankunian wants to be your friend

Okay, so I set up a myspace account. I did this mainly because we don't have a listings magazine anymore (though apparently Time Out were up here "prospecting" last week), and I was having a hard time with the old forward planning. I mean, Roy Ayers played at the Mint Lounge, for chrissakes, and I didn't know until it was too late. And there are also some artist collectives/events organizers/interesting folks who don't send out press releases, but do all of their promotion and dissemination through myspace. Plus, I was curious.

Anyway, it doesn't matter how good my reasons for setting up an account are. My friend Chris still snickered at me and called me a "cool chaser." And, it also doesn't matter how lame myspace actually is (which, um, it is by the way. For one accustomed to the clean Habitatesque Minima-lism of blogger, a visit to myspace is like a trolley dash round Walmart on a muggy Saturday afternoon,) I am now inextricably bound up in the life cycle of a trend, rather than standing on the sidelines rolling my eyes and making wisecracks. It feels cold, and a little scary.

Which reminds me of an excellent story I'd like to bring your attention to - the tale of the rise and fall of the Flash Mob, once catnip to hipsters, by Bill Wasik, the man who created them in order to study the life cycle of a trend. Read it and eat your pseudo-ironic trucker hat.

UPDATE: Forgot to say that I did not take this picture. I wish I had, but I pulled it off a news story that has since disappeared.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Looking for creative writing/fiction bloggers

A general appeal:

For a project I am working on, I'm looking for people who are using blogs as an outlet for creative writing. This could be a group of writers who use a blog to house a collectively-written story, a lone fiction blogger or generally anyone doing cool stuff with creative writing through the blog format. If any of you know of someone who's doing this type of thing - either locally or elsewhere on the web - please leave a comment or email me at themanchizzle at gmail dot com. Anonymity assured.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Manchester Media gossip: The Mix RIP

The magazine business is notoriously nut-like, so it may not come as an enormous shock that The Mix Manchester, the fledgling listings mag, has folded like an umbrella after only two issues. The publisher had "financial difficulties." This means the Bloggerel column is homeless, so you Manchester bloggers will just have to find another way of achieving fame/notoriety/mild embarassment with a single post. Special apologies to Dan Flynn of Mad Dan's Blog, whose bit about the genie in the pop bottle was to be featured in the doomed third issue.

It's not all doom and gloom on the media front: We're getting a new newspaper. The North West Enquirer will launch on April 28. It is to be a weekly paper covering the whole ginormous region from North Wales and Cheshire up through the Lakes, with a focus on the cosmopoliitan urbs of Liverpool and Manchester (where it is based.) It'll be interesting to see if this can help fill some of the arts and entertainment coverage gap left by City Life's closure. The website is at but there's nothing up yet.

What's more, I've heard another magazine, the Leicester-based 69-247, is launching a Northwest edition in September (yes, that's really what it's called ... The name just says class, doesn't it?) My links are not working now, but if you want to see the kind of thing you can expect from them, paste this into your browser:

Monday, April 03, 2006

musical monkey

Island Monkey got creative in honour of Condi's visit. I'm sure John would approve.

Monday curiosities

Bench, our friend on t'other side of the pennines, has provided us with a link to a fascinating online exhibition titled "The Unbearable Sadness of Vegetables" which is just one offering from a great kitsch archive run by an American newspaper columnist called James Lileks. It's called the Insititute of Official Cheer, "where old pop-culture is subjected to our patented re-ironization process." Neat-o.

Dave Maass of Maassive has posted to Manchester is Shit about a local comic artist, Robin Scott, whose mini-comic Every Life I've Ever Lived follows his day-to-day life. I hadn't heard of this guy before.

If you're into art of the digital flavor, hustle your bustle down to the eerily splendid Victoria Baths for Meme Pool, the first show from new Manchester artist collective Interval - it's worth checking out and it's only up this week.