Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From the sublime to the completely ridiculous...

In my last post I remembered fondly the impact of people like Joy Division, Tony Wilson and Factory Records on modern Manchester. So from the sublime melodies of Love Will Tear Us Apart we approach the ridiculous as reported in today's Manchester Evening News.

It would appear that Big Brother contestants and identically annoying Manchester twins Sam & Amanda Marchant are releasing a pop single. That in itself is not a surprise, many pathetically short and usually crap pop careers have been spawned by the inexplicable phenomenon that is Big Brother. No, the truly hideous element of this story is that some moron at Sony actively sought out this monumentally irriating duo to cover...... Barbie Girl by Aqua* (give me strength....).

One or other of them was quoted as saying (in a no doubt giggly high-pitched way)
"There were all these agents there, saying Sony want you to release Barbie Girl, and we were like 'wow' cos it's our favourite song, it's dead girlie."

Okaaaaayyyy. Although, before I move on, here is another quote from the dynamic duo on their 'brand' Samanda.

"We don't want to be individuals, we want to be one"

Okaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy. Read the full story here.

Also in today's MEN. an interesting little article tucked away on the inner pages. According to a poll by ettiquette experts Debrett's, 63% of British women voted manners the most important factor in their choice of a partner. Meanwhile, 29% were swayed by intelligence with a mere 5% saying good looks were the deciding factor. Right, so we infer from this that most women prefer intelligent, well mannered men rather than rude, handsome ones.....

Now, I am both exceedingly well-mannered and reasonably intelligent. But ask me how many dates I have been on in the last year. Go on - ask me.

The answer is none.

This of course, may have something to do with:
A) my beer belly,
B) the fact I have a face like a bearded egg
C) a combination of A & B

I'm not saying this to elicit sympathy in any way, just to point out the futility of this type of poll. I put it to you that what we can learn from this poll is that 5% of women are brave enough to tell the truth to a complete stranger in the street brandishing a clipboard at them.

A polite intelligent man yesterday

*Anyway, as any connoisseur of comedy covers knows, the best Barbie Girl cover is by classic neo-punkers (I'm so sorry for using that phrase) MXPX. Listen to it here.

While we're talking about bands, check out this oh-so-indie video by Starflyer 59. Its for a track called I Win off their My Island album. Marvellously, the band featured in the video are not Starflyer 59 and their legendary frontman Jason Martin doesn't appear in it at all. Watch it here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

From darkness to light in a madchester stylee

On BBC 4 just t'other day there was a fascinating programme charting the rise and fall of Factory Records. Factory was the now legendary label started by the late Anthony Wilson among others. Click here to read about it and watch some clips.

I always found Anthony Wilson rather annoying, but during this programme I started warming to him. The concept behind Factory was not just to sell records and make money. It was also a kind of social experiment to see if music and the Hacienda could help effect citywide change. The thing that started my Wilson thaw was his obvious love for Manchester. It came through in everything he was saying, both in the recent interviews and the archive footage. I've been living in Manchester for over 6 years now and I love it, there is something about the place that gets under your skin. Watching this programme made me realise that the atmosphere and energy of Manchester that so many love is in no small part down to people like Wilson and Factory Records. I salute them now....

Plus this gives me an excuse to post footage of Manchester legends Joy Division, which is always worthwhile

Mrs Brown ****
Kind Hearts & Coronets *****
Black Gold *****
An amazing and terrifying documentary about the coffee industry. Watch it. I will NEVER drink non-fairtrade coffee ever again. What the big coffee companies do is little short of evil...
Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back *****

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spitting Feathers.....

There some things in this world that can leave me speechless with rage or helplessly drowning in my own annoyance. These include reality TV shows, Catherine Tate, fashion nazis and people being unnecessarily rude.

However in this post, I want to vent my spleen at the truly hideous publication that is Didsbury Magazine. It is the free glossy magazine that is shoved through our doors once a month. I am aware that Didsbury is a fairly affluent area (although, I myself am far from affluent), but Didsbury Magazine is the most offensively capitalist, middle class toilet rag I have ever had the misfortune to set my eyes upon.

Here's how it describes itself on its website:
"Didsbury Magazine is the glossy lifestyle magazine for the style concious (sic) citizens of Didsbury and South Manchester"

Arrrrgh, I'm already furious, just reading that description (let alone the bloody spelling mistake). It is full of toothily perfect rich people talking about how marvellous their lives are. It tells you the best places for 'ladies who lunch' (there is genuinely an article using that term in the latest edition. I'm not joking - 'Ladies who Lunch'! for f*@k's sake...). It completely ignores the fact that its coverage area includes some estates like Merseybank & Nell Lane where the daily problem of which £50 moisturiser to use or what to do with your seed heads is not really an issue.

Now we get to the point that had me speechless with rage. In July, Didsbury Magazine had a fund-raising ball. It was 007 themed and was attended by lots of people and lots of local companies donated prizes. Now, I am the first to applaud the wealthy putting their hands in their pockets to help those less well off. If you follow this link you can see photos from the big night. How much money do you think all those exceedingly well dressed, well troughed people raised on the night?


Lets just think about that shall we? At first glance, that sounds like a lot of money. Until you think how many people were there, how much the whole thing will have cost to put together. Then suddenly £1000 seems like an insultingly small amount. I remember a youth group I was involved with that only had about 10 members who managed to raise over £500 pounds for charity.

How dare this vile publication brag about raising what is, frankly, pocket change? If they'd got their guests to put in £20 a piece and saved the money from the event, they'd probably have raised double the money. It seems to me that the evening was a chance for wannabe WAGs and Sloane Rangers to get pissed out their tree and show off their impressive wealth while feeling they were "making a difference."

Or maybe I'm completely wrong about the whole thing. But hey, that's what blogs are for, venting spleen. I feel much better now....

By the way, you may be asking yourself: "If he hates the magazine so much, why does he read it?" That is an excellent question, well done for asking it. I read it because I like to get cross about things from time to time....

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blog Envy

I have been thinking about blogging this evening.
Tim at Cultural Snow encouraged his ample readership (I am, of course, speaking numerically - I'm not suggesting that loads of fat people read his blog) to pick a blog from his blogroll, read it and then leave a post. Read the post here.

I looked at a few and left posts on a couple. As I did so I reflected on how many quality blogs are out there. So, in order to help you sort the quality wheat from the new-meeja chaff, I've decided to present to you the .....

Nine Tenths Full of Penguins

Five. Greatest. Blogs. Ever *

(Keep a weather eye for the TV programme of the same name appearing on Living TV soon. Paul Tonkinson, Keavy Lynch from B*witched & her who plays Louise in Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps have already been signed up)

1) Fat Roland
The random and highly amusing ramblings of my radio partner-in-crime Eyan. Expect the surreal and a passion for Electronica.

2) Quinquireme
A blog that has been in existence for 6 years. Which means in blogosphere terms that it is practically on a par with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

3) Post Secret
PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. It can be funny, disturbing, uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking.

4) The Manchizzle
Essential Manchester blogging hub....

5) Never Knowingly Underwhelmed
The blog of Andrew Collins, who I have had a great deal of respect for since his Radio 1 show with Stuart Maconie back in the day. He is also the author of the only biography I have ever read and enjoyed - Still Suitable for Miners, which is about Billy Bragg.

* Well, I say ever.....

Star Wars: A New Hope *****
The Truman Show ****
Run Fatboy Run ***
Stargate ****
Hot Fuzz ****

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Greenbelt Phlegm Vol 2: Greenbelt Day the Second

Welcome to the second of my post-Greenbelt/Greenbelt FM related musings. Read the first one here. In the last post I talked about Billy Bragg's Friday night performance, here's a video of him doing a random Carpenter's cover at the request of a possibly ironic Greenbelt crowd.

Saturday dawned sunny, bright and (because I was getting up at an ungodly hour) bloody freezing. I was terribly excited as at 9am I slunk in behind the microphone for the first of my Greenbelt Today shows. These shows were a bit of a departure for me in terms of radio. If you've ever heard any of mine and Eyan's podcasts (if not, click here), you'll have discovered that our radio style is a bit ramshackle, with lots of banter and generally very silly. Greenbelt Today is more like a Radio 2 thing with live guests talking about serious things.

In my first show I interviewed various people, most notably a gentleman with the superb moniker of Greg Valerio. Greg is the founder and CEO of a company called Cred Jewellery who make ethically sourced and produced jewellery. He was our favourite guest because he was interesting to interview and he actually brought real gold with him to show us. Sadly, he took it with him at the end of the interview. We also met two randomly selected lovely people who were to become our Greenbelt Today Guinea Pigs. Mark and Katie kindly agreed to go to something at the festival every day that was selected by us and then come on the show the following day, tell us about it and receive their next assignment.

My show passed without a crisis but then, due to a mix up, I found myself staying on the air afterwards to present a music show for which I was completely unprepared! It was great fun as I got to meet Kit Ashton and the Greenbelt Minstrels who came on and chatted for a bit and played a couple of marvellous live tunes. Later in the day, I randomly ran into my old vicar and boss from my youthworkerin' days, bought an exceptional hat (brown fedora!! Just like Indiana Jones - yay!), edited stuff for other shows and generally worked till about 9pm.

Despite being shattered, in the late late evening I visited the beer tent and met up with various Manchester bods. It felt strange, as I was sitting with them I felt out of place. Just a couple of years ago, these were people that I felt very comfortable around. But it really hit home to me how much I have changed (for the better I think) since I separated from my wife in January 06. With a few notable exceptions (including the legendary Fil the Destroyer and his long-suffering better half Di), I felt I just didn't fit in. I didn't feel bad about that, just thoughtful.

Anyhoo, I took myself off to my tent and was asleep shortly after midnight as I had to be up at 6:45am the next morning.....

In the next installment of Greenbelt Phlegm:
Something or other happens.....

Back in the real world however, I have started my new job. This is exciting and extremely tiring. I also had a rather silly flat-warming party roughly themed on the Big Lebowski (which was mainly an excuse for guests to wear dressing gowns and drink alarming numbers of White Russians.

The Bourne Ultimatum *****
Next *
Back to the Future Pt 2 ****
Back to the Future Pt 3 ***
Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom ****