Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Just a little postlet to say that I'm going back to the motherland for the month of June, to attend not one but two weddings in New York and spend some time with my family in glorious Vermont. I won't be writing as much here but will be blogging over at The Vermizzle, my long-neglected stateside blog. Come visit if you get bored.

(gorgeous VT pic courtesy Dusty Davis)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Arthouse in Preston

Today is apparently my day to blog about the movies. I've just found out that there's a new arthouse cinema coming to Preston (aka "England's Newest City") and this is wildly exciting news for me and those of us who live, erm, on this side of Manchester (those of you who live within walking distance of the Cornerhouse can go and be smug somewhere else.) It's going to be based at the University of Central Lancashire, it's opening June 9, and will have 4-5 screenings a week, plus talks/events/readings etc. Tsotsi and L'Enfant will be the first screenings. You can read about it here. Now, if I can just find a decent bar or restaurant in Preston, I'll be all set.

Movies: A beauty and a beast.

Somehow, I've managed to get away without either reading or watching the Da Vinci Code (shhh!) but I have seen a horrible dud that I feel it is my duty to warn you about. Namely, Match Point, which was just released on DVD. Yeah, it is a Woody Allen movie, but it's become increasingly clear that this doesn't mean it's good. I'll usually cut him a lot of slack. I even liked Melinda and Melinda, which everyone else seemed to hate. This one, however, is a real dog.

The dialogue is so stilted that it could have been translated into English from Albanian by a Japanese graduate student. It doesn't help that the two chemistryless leads, Scarlett Johanssen and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, couldn't act their way out of a paper bag (though they both have nice, pillowy lips.) The storyline is a tale of forbidden love between two outsiders among the (yawn) English upper classes, with a feeble connection to tennis. It's one of those movies that starts out lighthearted and easygoing and then makes a completely unwelcome 90 degree turn into bleak drama-thriller territory, kind of like Something Wild. It's a complete unmitigated disaster, and I have to wonder why the reviews were so positive.

Go see Brick instead. It's a noirish murder mystery set in the echoing corridors of a California high school, featuring a nerdy antihero, some menacing teenage drug dealers and hypnotically alluring young females in berets. The weird hepcat lingo grates after a while, but it has a kind of dreamlike appeal. It was shot on a shoestring by young filmmaker Rian Johnston, who got all his friends and family to put up the money, and you really get the feeling of one person's fully-imagined vision coming to life... in that it reminds me a lot of Donnie Darko, which it is certainly every bit as weird as.

And speaking of which, Richard Kelly's second film, Southland Tales, has been roundly slated at Cannes. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw - who I defintely don't always agree with - described it as "the festival's real clunker." Awwww. Now I really want to see it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

100 blogs... plus two

Cough. Sniff. Sneeze. This is me limping into bank holiday weekend with a terrible cold, missing work and surviving on a diet of tea and toast. At least the weather is crappy so I don't feel as though I'm missing out on anything special, like our camping plans. But, because I'm always thinking of others, I have pulled myself out of my feverish lethargy to add a few new blogs to the blogroll ... nudging us past our 100-blog benchmark.

The first is McBlog, written by I.Mc, who has put down Aberdeen/Manchester as hometown. Quite a combination. What will you find there? Bad chimp jokes, musings about the proliferation of St. George's Cross flags, and a mini-review of the Da Vinci Code.

Then we have Mark is Taking the Plunge, a writing blog by an aspiring novelist. Recent topics include short stories, and a sneaky peak behind closed doors at the Carcanet offices. Apparently they give tours to the public.... who knew?

Finally we have The World of Mistrust, the blog of Mistrust, a downtempo chillout musician, who writes about the music he makes at home. That's all for now, I'm running out of strepcils.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Night Museum

Going to look at some art or artifacts often seems a lot more enticing when there's a social element to things. I imagine this is part of the reason why private views are so popular (though the free booze undoubtedly helps too) - you can catch up with your friends and meet people while checking out an exhibition.

In the past couple of years after-hours gallery events have become a bigger thing. Art galleries in the world's urbs have started periodically opening their doors for late-night perusing, often accompanied by a musical performance, live art gig or other entertainment. This seems like a win-win to me... the museums get a much-needed injection of hipness and a way to attract more customers; we get more opportunities to see those exhibitions we'd end up missing otherwise. Museums and galleries are mostly open during the work day, and our weekends are already packed with other culturally-edifying activities (lolling around outside the pub drinking beer, lolling around on the couch watching T4, etc.) And looking at art or other exhibitions in these settings just seems more relaxed, less intimidating and, somehow, not such a big deal.

Over in NYC, the Brooklyn Museum's First Saturdays have been an enormous hit, and down south they've got Late at Tate and The V&A's much-heralded Friday Late programme. I haven't heard about anything like this in Manc, except for a few one-offs like the birthday Live Art events in the Cornerhouse galleries last October. The Manchester Art Gallery did have one late night event like this a year or two ago. It was some cocktail and looking at art thingy put on by an outside events company, I think - but it was invite only (like most of the private views in town ... which i think is really too bad. Why should these things be closed to all but the self-appointed cultural elite? If opening them up to the public means they have to charge for drinks, so be it.)

So I was delighted to hear about The Social at Urbis, a series of different music nights, live lit readings and performances. Unfortunately, the galleries close at 8pm Th-S so you can't look at art while the events are going on (they're held in that long, thin cafe down the side) but they have a new menu so at least you can get some dinner and enjoy a drink.

And, right on cue, it's Nuit des Musees across Europe this Saturday, May 20. In Paris this is a big deal, with practically every museum staying open til the wee hours. Here in Manchester, we get the Manchester Museum staying open til...gasp! 9 o'clock. Oh, and the Hat Works in Stockport is also open later than usual. Yup, it's all going on in the 24-hour city.

(purple urbis shot from pictures of england)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Manchester Media cat fight: MEN v. MCR Confidential

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned catfight to liven up a party, as long as you're not one of the cats. Advertorial site Manchester Confidential's Mark Garner (aka Gordo) pissed off the MEN, and promptly got disinvited to their annual diary booze-fest. You can read Gordo's account of the spat, the snippy letter from MEN Editor Paul Horrocks un-inviting him, and the reader responses to all of this (which seem about split between rubbishing the MEN and rubbishing Gordo)here:

But Gordo didn't provide links to the copy that annoyed the MEN so much. I've dug it out. The main culprit, I suspect, was some text accompanying a contest sponsored by the Enquirer:

"We believe there must have been some divine intervention for the arrival of The North West Enquirer to save us from the drudgery of the MEN and bottom-burping Metro....with the explosion of urbanites and professionals in Manchester, it was about time there was a newspaper to match the North West’s IQ...Editorially led, you can actually flick through without Shane Ward or equally tiresome C-list celebrities' mugshots dominating 90 percent of the pages. Radical, we know....Where newspapers like the MEN, or the ‘evil empire’ as Gordo affectionately refers to it, dumb down their copy and insult the intelligence of their readers, The North West Enquirer injects the brain cells with rocket fuel and reassures the reader that journalism covers more then cats up trees and pie eating competitions. We may be northerners but we’re not stupid....Will you stand firm with us and join the North West’s finest in support of the biggest thing to hit Manchester since the IRA bombing, or sink into early retirement, play puzzles and nod off in front of the MEN." Meow!

Here, in an earlier piece, MC called the MEN "shit-scared of any competition that can actually commission interesting stories," and said they didn't want to be "The Guardian's catamite." (Excellent word that.)

This interesting tale came via Manchester_Clubbing, a new blog apparently run by those silly boys over at What Happened Last Night. Yes, that's another new blog. We're getting very close to our Manchester blogroll century.

(Cat-tastic picture courtesy of Want to see more pictures of cats? You know you do. Go here. Or here. Or here)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Open Guide to Manchester

It can be difficult trying to find new places to go in the city; we all get stuck in our own little grooves. In the past, the livejournal community Manchester's Journal has been good for the odd restaurant, pub or night out tip, and I've just learned about another place to look: The Open Guide to Manchester. This is in the wiki format, so the idea is that it gets better the more people contribute. I found the way it was set up not so user-friendly, but if you noodle around with it for a while you can find some interesting things. Let the wiki-ing begin. They especially need help with city centre restaurant reccs - one of the few listed now is the Wetherspoons in Piccadilly.

I found out about the Open Guide on Criminally Vulgar, the newest addition (number 98, in fact) to our Manchester area blogroll. CV is written by an expat yank who works in IT and lives in Wigan. Scroll down for a fascinating tale of gypsies in Leigh, a handy guide to charity shops in the Wigan area, and The Da Vinci Code translated into livejournalese.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

97 and counting...

Just noticed that all these new additions means we're up to 97 blogs on the manchester blogroll. Pretty cool. Maybe we should have a door prize for the hundredth blog.

More new blogs

Here's the rest of the new Manchester-area blogs I didn't get a chance to add yesterday:

Great Blue World is Peter's blog about arts, culture and politics from a gay perspective. Recent posts cover the perplexing appointment of Ruth Kelly as equality minister, Paris Hilton's desire for a gay boyfriend, and the "new abs" of the Tories.

The Life of Baz
offers "a study of girls, god, geekdom and life in general," written by Baza, "a 19 year old stuck in a dead-end job with no prospects for the future, struggling to write a book in my spare time." There's a post - with picture - of the city's new outdoor urinals, which don't sound very private at all. Eeek, how bizarre.

I am Banno is the personal blog of, erm, Paul Banno, a maths student who works in a cinema, writes about movies and telly and other stuff, and is a budding fiction blogger. He lives in "what sounds like the geekiest house in Manchester" - and I suspect some of his roomies may already be on the blogroll. You guys definitely win in the blogs-per-house stakes.

I love this one. Martial Arts! A journal by Kit Lok features weekly reports and lesssons from the world of Martial Arts (yes, it goes into a bit more detail than 'wax on, wax off...') With bone-crunching action pics and, somewhat randomly, a picture of the guy who played Cat on Red Dwarf, whom Kit recently spotted at a martial arts event. Dude looks exactly the same.

Louisa is a Canadian woman who moved to Manchester. Her blog is called Canadian in Manchester - and she's certainly not the only one, eh C? It appears to be mainly a personal blog.

A Cool Noise is another music blog, linked to the author's indie music website by the same name. He writes this week about Last.Fm (which I am a big fan of - my user name is Yankunian; if anyone else is on there give me a shout.) A little further down there's a useful guide to going to gigs, clearly gleaned from longtime personal experience.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Now with more blog goodness than before

Holy shniekies, I just checked out Britblogs and there are an unbelievable number of new-to-me Manchester blogs on there. All those statistics you read in the newspapers about someone starting a blog every 1.7 nanoseconds must be true. I'm going to be adding these new finds to the Manchester blogroll in bite-sized chunks over the next few weeks. By the way, I do try to contact everyone to make sure it's cool to add their blog, but sometimes (in cases of no email/enabled comments/undeveloped psychic abilities/general Yankunian ineptness) it's just not possible. So, if you're here because you're wondering who linked to your blog and you don't want to be on the blogroll, email me at themanchizzle at gmail dot com and I'll return you to the mists of obscurity.

With no further ado, here they are:

Comprehension Dawns is written by Rebecca, a Manchester student and musician with a commendably candid writing style. She is also disabled, and has written an enlightening post about her experiences with inclusion, which I have excerpted a bit of here. This was in response to Blogging Against Disablism Day which was on May 3:

"Feeling safe and wanted and welcomed is something truly universal, and all too often people seem to forget it, in their rush to assess (at a glance, in the queue in Withington post office) someone's quality of life. Those poor fools pity me. I pity them - they are so narrow and shallow and ignorant that they're missing out on all sorts of life's wonders and should they through chance or misadventure join the varied, bickering ranks of disabled people, they will be so busy thinking their lives over that they'll miss out on even more."

First there was New Labour, now there's Newer Labour, written by Tom, a law student from the Whitworth Park environs. Looking at all of the links to political activism groups he's involved in both fills me with respect and makes me tired. Tom, what do you run on? The blog is mostly about politics, though you probably would have figured that out.

Malcom is the man behind Everything's Eventual, which is the personal blog of a twentysomething Geordie living in Manchester.

The intriguingly-monikered Cakesniffers Beware! is the personal/humor blog of Tina, who lives in Manchester but whose toothbrushes live all over the UK (she travels a lot.)

More later....

Monday, May 08, 2006

Out for a drink

The summer is nearly upon us, and the hour of outdoor drinking is nigh. Nearly every village, no matter how remote, has thoughtfully been equipped with a pub, and warm afternoons now find people installed in benches out front, enjoying a leisurely pint or seventeen while frying their fishbelly white hides.

Topping the list in Manchester are usually Dukes 92, The Ox and the other perenially popular bars along the canal in Castlefield, as well as those with outdoor tables in the village. But I'm also partial to The Moon in Piccadilly Basin, which is maybe the most hidden bar in the city (I love that strange reflecting pool.) And doesn't the brilliant Fringe Bar have a beer garden overlooking scenic Ancoats? You've gotta love that.

To assist your planning, some of our bloggers have put a lot of thought into the best places for an al fresco cocktail. Flew From the Fylde Coast (yup, this is a new blogger, to be added to the blogroll shortly) has a top 5 summary of quality outdoor joints in the city. But Salford is not to be overlooked. Mike of Where cranes connect the sky has been on a quest to find Salford's most idyllically located boozer. Contenders so far are The Old Pint Pot by the university and The Mark Addy, on the banks of the mighty Irwell. Anyone else got outdoor drinking reccomendations?

(Photo by Aidan O'Rourke, from Manchester Online)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Spring comes to The Manchizzle (UPDATED)

It's a glorious day at the end of a glorious week of real warm spring sunshine - and of course, I'm stuck inside glued to a computer. But if I get tired of gazing out the window at the pastoral beauty that is the Fulwood Industrial Estate in spring (unlikely as that sounds), I can take heart by admiring the work of some of our own photobloggers. Island Monkey and slow|afternoon, and Roy at Mantex have posted the most gorgeous pictures of blossoming trees, fresh trembling leaves and springing turf. This photo above is one from Island Monkey. Anyone else got good spring snaps?

Enjoy it now, because the weekend is going to be crappy. Sigh. Of course it is.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Manchester Media Gossip: Time Out....Liverpool?

In today's NWE - way back in the business section - there's a story about Time Out considering a new edition up north. But it's not a Manchester edition that's mentioned, or even a Northwest one (thank god) - It's all about Liverpool. You can read it here:

Apparently they're looking to make the most of the capital of culture "synergy" - though Time Out Liverpool could be launching as early as this autumn. What isn't clear is whether there's the advertising market needed to make a publication like this sustainable.

Don't forget to vote!

And whilst you do, think of me, who can't - at least not in the country where I live. What was that? Taxation without representation? Ring a bell?

Just kidding. I don't understand the parliamentary system, so I'd make a lousy British voter anyway...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Moues Colbert

For his jaw-dropping performance at the typically cosy, self-congratulatory White House correspondents dinner, comedian Stephen Colbert is being called "the Edward R. Murrow of his day." I think that's a tad overblown, but there's no denying he made a big impression. In fact, he "left the clueless DC press corps gaping," according to Michael Scherer in online mag Salon:

“….It’s not just that Colbert’s jokes were hitting their mark. We already know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that the generals hate Rumsfeld, or that Fox News lists to the right. Those cracks are old and boring. What Colbert did was expose the whole official, patriotic, right-wing, press-bashing discourse as a sham, as more ‘truthiness’ than truth.”

You can watch the video of his speech at Crooks and Liars. And then, if you're so inclined, you can say thank you...