Monday, July 31, 2006

News with a guest list

Flavorpill, the slickly-designed weekly email that keeps young urbanites up to speed on essential info such as where to catch the latest punk-funk band or 23-year-old memoirist sensation, has launched a new subscription email service. Following recent expansions into literature, music, fashion and art-specific e-newsletters, the powers that be have decided that news is next. Strange.

I took a look at this first issue today. "Activate" has an interesting layout, featuring a rundown of the week's top stories, the best in pictures, business and technology sections, a few local news nuggets, and "nearly news" - a selection of weird news bits from around the world. It's pretty much all links, and devoid of much analysis or context, so it reads fairly thin to me.

There are lots of news aggregators out there, this one just seems to be trying to brand itself as the stylish alternative. It's sort of like a brisk little news cocktail for folks who are too busy being painfully hip to do anything so quaintly laborious as actually read a newspaper. The header text on the site asks: "are you on the list for Activate?" a phrase that can't help but pique the interest of its target audience of liggers, blaggers, bloggers and braggers. But, hey, anything that keeps folks informed about the world beyond Hoxton and Williamsburg is a good thing.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

To do: Nell, Little Fish, Grilled Prawns, Rock Lobster

It's almost the weekend, and if you're casting about for something to do, keep in mind that the lovely and talented Nell Bryden will be doing her bluesy singer-songwriter thing at the Night and Day Saturday night, having come all the way from New York City. I've seen her live stateside and highly reccommend it. If you can't make that one she's playing at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge on August 12.

Little Fish is on at the Cornerhouse. It's grim. It's about Australian drug addicts, dealers and petty scum. It's got Cate Blanchett leading a stellar Antipodean cast. I liked it a lot. Plus it's one of those movies that makes you feel great about your life because there's no way it could be that fucked up, ever.

The weather's supposed to be good, so we'll be barbecuing at my house. If you're doing the same, you might want to try this lip-smacking marinade, suitable for meat, fish, veggies, and fake-meat-soy products, but it's especially good on tiger prawn kebabs: Combine a bit of light soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar and a dash of fish sauce. Chop a couple of cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of ginger and mix them with a whole lime's worth of juice and a small teaspoon of sugar. should be a nice caramel brown colour. If you have fresh cilantro or lemongrass hanging around, chop it and throw some in, but it's not essential. Brush on liberally throughout and after grilling.

Or you could sit inside and sulk in front of the computer like the miserable misanthropic blogger that you are. If you're planning to do that, you can kill a whole bunch of time rocking out to old videos by the B-52s, Tom Tom Club, The Damned (goth + cowboys = strange) and oodles of other rad 80s bands, here at the confusingly named Best Legal Advice. Yes, they even have the theme song from St. Elmo's Fire. But what's the deal with the domain name... is this some kind of scam that loads your computer up with spyware while you're staring dumbfoundedly at Living on Video by Trans-X? I kind of almost don't even care if it is.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Manchester Blog Awards

This Autumn will bring a big opportunity to spread the Manchester bloggers gospel. Here's the deal: the brand-new Manchester Literature Festival has a strand of programming called Freeplay celebrating the intersection of writing and technology. As part of that, I'm going to be organising the first Manchester Blog Awards. This will be a few awards in different categories, open to all bloggers in the Manchester area (except me and other to-be-determined judges). The winners will be announced during the festival, at Urbis on October 16, which is to be a joint event with the Verberate live lit night.... and might even include some blog "readings."

So I'd like to hear any ideas folks have about the awards - what you would and wouldn't like to see for categories, who'd be a great judge, etc. Whatever random, half-formed thoughts you have, send 'em my way. I'll be on hand to answer questions about this and will be actively soliciting more input at the Manchester blog meet, Saturday Aug 12 at Urbis. And if anyone has design talents they'd be willing to devote to whipping up a little Manchester Blog Awards logo for the cause, get in touch at themanchizzle at gmail dot com.

Friday, July 21, 2006

More new blogs, plus Flickr meetup

Okay, here's four more new blogs. I'd like to say I'm sorry this is the last day of our new blog invasion week, but I'm getting a little bit sick of writing about blogs, and there are so many other things I want to blather on about, like how bad Superman Returns was, how jaw-droppingly cool Toshio Iwai's talk was at Futuresonic last night, and all of the various exciting things happening around the city over the next few weeks. But first...

Jonathan's Blog on Teaching, Learning and Research in the Arts is a great example of the right way to use blogging as a professional resource. Johnathan Savage is a Senior Lecturer in Music Education at Man Met, and from September 2006 will be a Visiting Research Fellow at the Royal Northern College of Music. His blog does what it says on the tin.

The blog of a N. irish computing student at UMIST,
ajdunlop's rants
include bits about Flickr, double decker buses, and great quotations.

Cognitive Dissonance
is written by PJ, a Manchester software engineer who writes a lot about music, and life in general. He's also active in Flickr. I'm seeing a lot of overlap between bloggers and Flickrheads in Manchester. So some of you might want to head over to the Manchester Flickr meet-up this Sunday, July 23 at 1:30pm at Sinclair's Oyster Bar in Exchange Square.

I'm not going to be able to make it seeing as I'll be out of town, but it should be fun, and could be the most photographed event in Manchester since the bomb. (Sinclair's photo courtesy of Spiderpops, from the Manchester Flickr group.)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blog invasion week: Day 4

Yep, there's still more. Here's today's batch of freshy minted (or new-to-us) Manchester blogs:

Susan Tranter is writing a blog, from Manchester, for the British Council's international reading website, enCompass Culture where she is online writer in residence. You can read it here, and you might learn a bit about Georges Perec, too. You know Georges Perec, right? Aw, just go read it.

Ben Edson blogs at benedson, writing primarily about spirituality and worship in Manchester, or that's how it looks from recent posts.

And finally, Paul Smith is "a friendly frontend designer and programmer" who blogs at paulmichaelsmith His blog mostly deals with matters technological and design-y.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New blog invasion week, Day 3

It's another scorcher today, but it's nice and cool in my house. And, as promised, here's a new batch of Manchester-area blogs for the ever-lengthening blogroll. I'm seeing a lot of very sophisticated, designed-up sites out there, which is making me look at the old Manchizzle and think it's time for a facelift of sorts. Sigh...

Richard, who's getting a MSc in History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester, is the man behind
One Born Every Minute
, a repository of funny and quirky thoughts on religion, ethics, psychology and modern society. If you're concerned about the afterlife, you might want to read his latest post: Are You Going to Hell? Take This Fun Test. And yes, trips to Ikea on the Sabbath do count.

Northern Comfort
is the online home of Northern, who writes hiphop, electronic and dance, which you can hear on his site. You can also see Yoda bust a move while throwing down some mad rhymes. This week he writes about a San Francisco anti-graffiti campaign that seems to be appropriating the techniques of street artists like the brilliantly inventive Wooster Collective - the very folks they are trying to shut down. Another musician's blog is Testrack, which is specifically about "dubstep tunes and other shizz" and you can hear some of his tunes on the site.

Jonathan Fox is an interactive media specialist, photograper and author who lives in Cheshire and writes WordCast, a widely-ranging blog that recently covers the problem of Britishness, the erosion of civil liberties, and our blogmeet... thanks! He also thinks whistling is just wrong.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blog invasion week: Day 2

Oy vey! I can't take the heat. Lever Street is shimmering in a dusty desert haze, and Piccadilly Gardens is crawling with people who are about fifteen minutes away from realising they have heatstroke and should get out of the sun, pronto. I've promised to bring you new blogs every day this week, however, and my duties cannot be shirked. But it's too hot for thinking much, so I'm going to keep the introductions blessedly brief.

First up is MREnders blog about FC United and whatever else takes the writers' fancy, which this week includes Tiswas.

Blogrot has an excellent strapline: MySpace my arse. It's a multimedia smorgasboard of a blog that started life many generations ago as a biscuit factory in the Ancoats district of Manchester. Stop by, introduce yourself to the aural delights of the Wah Zoo and check out bitrot's first foray into film, courtesy of YouTube.

Can't take any more... must go stand in front of the freezer. Keep drinking water.

Monday, July 17, 2006


One of Manchester's finest folks left us today, taking off for a better job in a flatter place. We know him as the modestly brilliant Conscious & Verbal. Go and read his lyrical farewell to the city here. Frankly, I just don't know how we'll all get along without him.

Ambition and distraction

By the way, while I'm getting my hands dirty in the bowels of The Manchizzle's template, I'll be removing some old, inactive blogs from the blogroll. It's needed tidying up for a while, so I'm going to eighty-six blogs that haven't been updated in the last three months. If your blog gets de-linked and you want back in, just email me at themanchizzle at gmail dot com and I'll return it to the blogroll.

Blog invasion part deux

It's the second chapter in our week of crazy new blog action. Here we go...

Rantspace is the digital home of Sticker, who is in the process of moving to Manchester from Aberdeenshire, where he's been involved in organising meetups for bloggers and flickrheads - he promises to come to our meet Aug. 12 at Urbis, too. Sticker rants about pop culture, society, security, gadgets, the technology sector, football and other stuff.

Sol Flamberg writes SollyBear, a personal blog about his adventures in life. He recently got married. Congrats.

A line at the top of Tomog asks: 'Do you think it's dangerous to have Busby Berkeley dreams?' I know that phrase from somewhere, but where? Tom Ogden, the writer of the blog (who recently moved to Manchester,) also says "some other things I find pretty or interesting include indie-pop, books, space, films, the web, maps, design, cities — all sorts of stuff really, but mostly it’s love and science."

Another couple of photoblogs for the list. A fairly straightforward collection of Manchester snaps is at Zamyatin. And intellectual-idiot has some great nature snaps up at the moment, including a robin vs. flying ant series that's pretty incredible... see one above.

Martyn Redstone, a computing student at Salford U, writes Schmultz and The City, a spiffy-looking personal blog. If anyone's wondering what Schmultz is, he offers a definition:
Schmultz: Yiddish for “Chicken fat” but has been appropriated by Hollywood types to refer to emotional mushiness. Not to be confused with “Schmutz” (dirt).
In my experience, it's often spelled Schmaltz, as in, "I thought Superman Returns was waay too schmaltzy." I did, too, but more on that later.

Invasion of the new blogs

I've been meaning to add a bunch of new blogs to the Manc blog roll for ages. So long, in fact, that the number of blogs waiting in the tiki lounge, sipping a cocktail and tapping their toes impatiently has grown to an unruly crowd. So brace yourselves for a ginormous influx of new blogs this week. Be nice to them.

First, welcome to jonthebeef, a Manchester DJ who operates a sweet music blog at Black Country Grammar, which is also hooked up to the musicblogaggregator extravaganza that is - go check it out if you haven't already. BCG is featuring a multi-part T in the Park roundup that is guaranteed to make you wish you were there.

Next up is Drongomala, "who says he is heralding the second Renaissance. Drongo means idiot and mala means 'evocation of'. He runs a recording label in Manchester. This blog weaves in and out of focus between music, politics, art and personal experiences. Snapshots take place in the same manner as a knee hit on the unfunny bone. This is the chicken the hammer and the egg." Cool.

is a personal blog from Stef from Chorlton, who likes windsurfing, sunshine and wobbly dogs. She splits her posts between English and Italian - our first bilingual blog, I think? There's a long post in Italiano titled "On Ikla Moor baht'hat" that I wish I could read - wonder how that translates?

Dented Nerd is written by Joey. "Joey is a British female Libra who likes to rock, write and drink obscene amounts of alcohol. She studies popular music and recording at Salford University, sings lead vocals in a band, plays a bit of guitar, watches too much anime for her own good, and designs websites every now and then."

There are a few photo blogs to add as well. Photodude is snapped by John Marquess, who lives outside Manchester and has a nice photoblogroll of sites well worth a visit. Fontilan is an a stripped-down, anonymous photo blog. Unpopped is Ade Rixon's photography. Thanks to Mancubist for tipping me off to these last three. Also, Matt Cox runs a sleek Opera-based blog, Sketchy Stuff, that features great photos (one of which I've posted above) and writings about online stuff, music, film and the like.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Blogmeet plans: Aug 12

Jonathan reminded me that I'd mooted the idea of a Manchester blogmeet in late July, and was wondering what was going on. Well, here's the deal. I've found us a city centre space with free wireless, a dedicated private room, and drinks/snacks to buy: Urbis. The kind folks there are willing to let us use their conference room. The hitch is it was booked through late July, so the next available date would be Saturday August 12. I was thinking 3-5, with folks going on to a pub afterwards if they were so inclined. How does this sound?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Attack of the Robot Blogs!

What happens to a blog after it dies? The answer appears to be reincarnation, as many decommissioned blogs find themselves hosting a splog (or spam blog), cyberman style, in short order. For examples here on our own blogroll, I call your attention to the gone-but-not-forgotten Trolley Park, which now redirects you to a splog (I'll take the link off the blogroll soon.) And I've noticed some weird posts coming up on Manchester Bloggers aggregator as well, bizarre streams of half-sensical content vaguely related to Bob Dylan or Barbra Streisand that could only be the work of a splog. No, really.

The explanation seems to be that someone is doing a brisk trade in freshly de-activated Blogspot urls to spammers and nefarious Search Engine Optimisers(SEOS). Check out this thread on the user forums. Way more on the phenomenon here at Greynet's Blog. So, if anyone is contemplating a platform shift, don't de-register your blogger account or you may be enabling spammage. And suspect splogs should be flagged as objectionable in the Blogger navbar, after which someone will presumably do something about them.

Sometimes, though, defunct urls are taken by someone who is genuinely setting up a blog, which can make for some amusing mixups. Our own Southern Bird, who flew the coop several months ago, might be suprised to find that her old url hosts a blog that is actually about southern birds. It's now the home of the Southern Wings Bird Club. Happy twitching!

(Wicked cyberman drawing coutesy of Paul Rance's Doctor Who Facts & Figures Page)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Love returns to the Northern Quarter

You heard it here first: Love Saves The Day is coming back to the Northern Quarter. In a few weeks, they'll be serving up tasty treats every day at Vox Pop records on Thomas Street.

As my friend said yesterday, before they set up shop on Tib Street you only ventured North of Piccadilly "to buy drugs or get twatted." Chris and Beckie Joyce brought baristas and bagels into the 'hood, and the ensuing gentrification helped transform it into the playland for young professionals with silly hair that we know and love today.

Some financial difficulties led to them shuttering the Oldham Street and Deansgate delis several months ago. Deansgate has since reopened, but Oldham Street is now occupied by a vintage clothing shop. Now, they're going to be operating a concession inside the funky record shop that's backed by that tea-loving Manc DJ. It's just going to be coffee and sarnies, but at least that's one more place in Manchester to buy good coffee and sarnies.

(Isn't this a cool picture? It's from anti-limited, who have a pretty impressive collection of 360 degree panoramic photos/quicktime movies of your favourite Manchester landmarks on their site.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

To do: Funkateers, Buccaneers, and football

The Mothership will be touching down at Manchester Academy next weekend, so now's the time to bag some tickets for the mind-snapping spectacle that is a Parliament Funkadelic show featuring George Clinton (aka Starchild, Dr. Funkenstein) who may actually be an alien, the man who posed the eternal question: Do fries go with that shake? No drugs necessary.

Go see the Enron movie. Or if documentaries about crooked bidnessmen are too depressing, go see a movie about pirates of the non-corporate variety. Apparently Keith Richards is going to be in the next one, playing Jack Sparrow's Dad. Must have recovered from, erm, falling out of a coconut tree or whatever (what the hell was he doing up there?)

Yeah, it's the World Cup final on Sunday. But did you know that you could watch it in the air conditioned comfort of the filmworks? Weird.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Robyn Archer, the Liverpool Capital of Culture chief, is out amid a storm of controversy (which, as we've noted before, the CoC needs more of like Dolly Parton needs a Wonderbra.) Full story here from the Indy.

Lots of speculation about why she's out. Personality clash? Maybe she missed Australia too much. Several months into getting the post, she was still living in Oz.

ooh, more blogs

Hey, look what I found on Oldham Street... it's a very interesting crop of new additions to the blogroll.

First up we have Thousands and Millions, Gavin White's faith-centred blog. Recent posts cover the spiritual restoration of the city of Manchester, Jesus' words on fruit, and this interesting take on England's recent sporting slump:

Well the summer of sporting misery continues for the Great British Public! England are out of the world cup, Andy Murray is out of Wimbledon and England have been highly ineffective in the cricket. Sport is such a fickle beast, great one minute and terrible the next - If it's where your passion lies then you're in for a roller-coaster ride!!

However, if you put your passion and energy into worshipping God then you will know a peace, joy and fulfilment that even England winning a penalty shoot out (will it ever happen?) couldn't provide.

Hmmm. not sure that sort of consolation would be such an easy sell to the likes of David Beckham. But he'd love the jewelry...

Moving on, I realise somewhat belatedly that I've neglected to add a great photo blog to the blogroll. I've written before praising Mr. Pretzels' blu-tack animation, but the guy also has a Manchester photo blog that is updated way more frequently, so I'm adding it to the roll instead. That's where the groovy orange picture of Oldham Street, late night, came from.

Next up we have Img is Everything, written by Phil Thompson, who previously blogged at He's a web developer who lives in Manchester, and it mostly deals with web developer stuff that I can't really understand, but I know some of you geeks will benefit from it's tips n' tricks. In fact, the img part of the blog's title is written in html, so that if you try to include it in a post it actually creates a little text box... clever, but it kind of makes it hard to blog about the site without changing the name.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4

Happy Independence Day.

If you want to see what a Fourth of July parade is like in my native Vermont, my flatlander blog buddy False 45th has put together an excellent photo essay, with very funny captions.

Good news, bad news

So we hear from Mancubist that d.percussion has been granted a reprieve. You can read the details here. Apparently a last-minute sponsorship deal with Bench clothing saved the free Castlefield festival that had threatened to close because some sponsors pulled out at the last minute.

Hmmm... maybe I'm being overly cynical here, but Ear to the Ground sure have gotten a whole heap of publicity out of this last-minute funding crisis, and now they've also made sure that it's bad form to gripe about having to pay £2 to get into what was always a free festival.... but maybe I'm just being too cynical. Of course, we all love D.Percussion. You'd be a fool to miss it.

But it's not all sunshine and roses this morning. Our West Yorkshire correspondent Tony reports that Hebden Bridge has been hit by severe flooding. Joss sticks, copies of The Prophet and £9 pots of gourmet Hummus have washed up as far away as Cornholme.

And I'm sorry to report that Stephen Newton's cat has ascended to feline Valhalla. RIP Critter.

(Amazing d.percussion photo by Lomo goddess Lori Smith. Go look at her pix, they're gorgeous.)

Movies: A mighty "Wind"

Just saw Ken Loach's film The Wind That Shakes the Barley at C-house last night. What a great movie; beautifully shot, beautifully acted and nicely understated in its general tone, which allows the gut-wrenching conflict to take center stage. It makes Michael Collins look like Forrest Gump.

Wind starts off looking like it's going to be a simplistic story of Good (Irish freedom fighters) vs. Evil (Black and Tans). But these boundaries dissolve into chaos, as Loach shows how fiercely the conflict over partition raged between diehard Republicans and compromise-minded Free Staters, with flaws and injustices on all sides.

This film does a particularly good job of putting the Irish struggle in the context of wider European events. The aftereffects of the Great War in Britain (a large number of war-brutalised mercenaries to hand, a hardheaded approach to foreign policy) and the socialist movements sweeping Europe in the teens and Twenties both played significant roles in the way events played out in Ireland, and it's nice to see a movie that doesn't shrink away from showing a bigger, more complex picture of history.