Wednesday, 18 January 2017

This week at Bongo's Bingo you missed...

...Manchester's most mental game of bingo, Bongo's Bingo in Albert Hall. Prizes included a space hopper, a cardboard cutout of Will Smith, a double ended dildo (the young Indian girl next to me- obviously one of a group of freshers- was openly eager to win this), a plastic Totall-Recall-style baby head, a bottle of apple Sourz, a giant fluffy unicorn and cash, with a top prize of £500.

If you've ever wanted to be knighted with a double ended dildo in front of a church full of people, here's your chance.

In the intermission: a UV rave, of course.

If two girls call out bingo... this happens. A dance-off for the prize.

This is normally a sellout event and last night was no different as Johnny Bongo and his crew return for 2017. They play at numerous venues in the north of England, so if Gala and Mecca are starting to bore you, we guarantee this won't.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Balls to Dry January

Gah, you've made it past the halfway mark. It's the 16th. That'll do. Let's get doing something this week.

Wednesday: Cool Bars are going to Tape Wednesdays at Ark, a student night that's open to anyone over 18. Nice venue and good RnB music. This week: The Prop Box Special. Get wacky! We're starting in the newly-extended Sugar Buddha next door.

Clashing with this is a trip to the refined and elegant Artisan, for their January 50% off deal. Socialising in the City are running this trip, and it's a fantastic offer to take advantage of. I've been and loved the food, so half price is well worth a look. I might run a similar event on Cool Bars.

I should have put more meetups up really as I'm on leave all week, but I've plenty to be getting on with. The only other actual event I've got in my calendar is idiot man-child President-elect Trump's inauguration on Friday at 4pm UK time, which I'll be watching purely because I suspect there may be at least one assassination attempt.

I've spotted more midweek events over the next month so get ready to book leave!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

I Wish I'd Gone To Sankeys More

Manchester house music club Sankeys is to go the way of The Hacienda: It's to close and be turned into flats. It was loved and hated in about equal measures by most people I knew. The revamp a few years ago didn't sit right with a lot of people, and the change in crowd from serious clubber to wannabes and dolly birds put off a lot of traditional house music aficionados.

Plus, living in Oldham, it's hard to get any of the locals to venture out of their own town with it's shamefully and unshakeably terrible nightlife. Over the decades I've really wanted to visit Sankeys to see particular DJs in action. The club's lineups always had an array of cool groups spinning records, usually people who'd just released an absolute banger. But I've only managed to visit the club, in total, six times. Occasions when people could make it to Manchester were usually times when we had another club lined up, like Ampersand or Ohm, or when people just weren't that into house music and wanted a regular bar night.

Still today a few mates say that, when they've been to Sankeys, they've had more bad nights than good recently, or that they preferred other house music places, but I really enjoyed the times I'd spent there. I first went in 2002 with some uni mates, although I have no idea who was playing. A year or so later I went back and saw Armand Van Helden, and some of the tunes he played stuck in my head so clearly I had to Youtube them when I eventually got the chance in 2007.

After that night in '02 I didn't go back for over a decade. On a couple of occasions I strayed in on a last-minute decision, and then for whatever reason had to go pretty much the moment I got there. But in the last year I've been twice and stayed all night- to this Martinez Brothers night, and to see Secondcity. Both were packed-out, down-and-dirty, sweat-drenched superb house music events. The latter of these I ran a meetup to coincide with, so people could meet new people and attend the night at the same time. I just wished I'd been more organised and prepared more of these meetup events, particularly to Sankeys.

But nothing lasts forever, and house music- once the staple genre of high-end clubbing in Manchester- is now on its way out, replaced evermore by repetitive generic RnB in the newer popular clubs. Seasons of events like The Warehouse Project and festivals like Parklife will spring up here and there, but house music is getting harder and harder to come by. We'll have to keep our eyes peeled from now on, but Sankeys- as the narrator from Mad Max 2 says- lives now only in my memories...

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Olympic Blogging?

Remember when Tom Daley and Dan Goodfellow got bronze in the Olympic Synchro Diving in Rio 2016? If memory (and the internet) serves me correctly, GB's diving duo were in line to get Silver, behind USA's David Boudia and Steele Johnson. This was, of course, until China made their final dive.

Chen Aisen and Lin Yue (Twitter is largely blocked in China, so no links I'm afraid) took to the boards and immediately blew everyone out of the water (somewhat literally), scoring a good 39.87 points higher than the next best. There are certain sports in which you simply cannot come close to the Chinese.

Much has been reported on and speculated about the Chinese Olympic training regimes. Athletes are cherry picked for their outstanding abilities, and are put under a training regimen that takes over their whole lives. Each athlete is carved, from around 6 years old, to be a champion. The Daily Mail's article Torture or training? Inside the brutal Chinese gymnasium where the country's future Olympic stars are beaten into shape” paints an ugly, cruel picture of China's sports training systems. And this is not what I'm going to advocate.

Compare this to the UK's efforts. Our athletes are funded with lottery money. They're again selected at an early age, but the training far from swallows their entire lives. They still, however, get top notch facilities to train in and arguably the best instruction. And they still get enough medals to keep Team GB right behind China in the medals board. And that's with a population of 63 million, as opposed to China's 1.2 billion. Any promising athlete will get structure and tuition to hone their talents for four years in order to medal at an Olympic tournament- without any accusations of torture tainting their team.

I am never going to be an Olympic athlete, nor have I ever wanted to be. I am a blogger, and I have been writing unguided with only myself and a few critique groups as instructors for 10 years now. I'm not as good as I want to be, nor have I had the exposure I'd like to get. Online writing may be quite different to competitive sport, but imagine, if you will, a blogging Olympics. 2 weeks of high level bloggers from all over the the English-speaking world sat at home producing the best blog posts on the internet. Over the course of the fortnight, the blog posts would be uploaded and entered to the competition by category. They would then be graded by a committee under the watchful eyes of the internet-using, blog-reading world. Points would be awarded for research, writing ability, networking, blog design and the inclusion of multimedia. All of these points would come together from a panel of judges who had knowledge of journalism, photography, website design and social media use. As blogging is frequently a reflexive form of writing, extra points would be given for actually influencing the subject of writing as opposed to writers who are strictly observational. If, during the course of researching a conservation project, for instance, the writer encourages the local authority to put measures in place to further protect wildlife, they garner additional credit.

As the tournament continues, competitors are plucked out until only the best remain, until someone, somewhere, writes something that is chosen as the best blog post of the challenge and is crowned the winner.

Well, that sounds great and all, if you're mad keen on blogging like I am. The reason I'm writing this is that, in this fantasy world of high-level blogging that I'm imagining, there would need to be training. The 2-week period of the Blogging Olympics would be a culmination of the efforts of the competing writers, the final chapter in a story that took 4 years to complete. 4 years of steady training, preparing the blogger to be the best they possibly could be, during which time the blog they ran would be updated with their chosen topic, plus details of their training regimen. You could read along to support your blogger as they not only wrote about their passions, but detailed their training, as they learned how to take professional-looking pictures, shoot quality video, practice interview techniques and generally write with journalistic professionalism tinted with their own unique voice.

Would the collective page views be anything like the viewing figures the world saw at the Olympics in Rio? Obviously not. But, what a Blogging Olympics would do that a sports tournament cannot necessarily, is educate people and provide information, and influence some corner of the world. It could, if done properly, provide solutions to problems (cooking blogs provide solutions to hunger, don't they? Sometimes?) perhaps by telling people what's happening in the blogger's location, and could do it with individuality, free from the restraints of a publication's style guide. Blogging of any kind can already achieve this. That's why I think it'd be fascinating to hone bloggers' talents to make them the best that they could be. Whether we could talk the National Lottery into funding this is another issue...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Surrealist micro-fiction / poetry from a 5-year-old

My second-cousin Reuben: obviously the next William S Burroughs. Taken straight from a recording.

There's a little rabbit called Matthew, and he has
two balloons called Matthew and Blatthew.
And his mum says, “You can't go to work
until your dad's turned into a bush.
Your dad's turned into a bush because
he doesn't want to go to work.
So you can't play today. WHACK!”
She whacks him, and it ends in a bad baby. It does.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Learning Shorthand

September 1997: I'm 15 and on work experience at the Oldham Evening Chronicle. My aunt, who was deputy news editor at the time, managed to organise my placement and I'm now following the journalists around town and shadowing their work, making what notes I can. They take me to meet a Golden Jubilee couple, we visit the police station, the fire station and the courts.

In the latter of these, we watched as a number of people come face-to-face with a judge. The first was a young girl, maybe 20 or so with dark hair. She was terrified. The guard, a stocky-looking woman, held her hand and walked her to the dock. She'd been busted shoplifting in Boots, and timidly mumbled “guilty,” behind shaking fingers. She was given community service I think, and the guard took her hand again and led her away.

Next up, the judge called up a lad in his twenties. He'd been done for indecent exposure to a female on a country path somewhere. The judge asked him if he had anything to say.

Yeah,” he said. “I just wish I hadn't done it.”

I bet, I thought. I wrote down “I just wish I hadn't done it.”

I looked to the left of me and my aunt and the other journalists were writing in shorthand, something that looked like a foreign language. But in the middle of the hieroglyphic squiggles, the quote from the defendant was in clear English.

It dawned on me at this moment that shorthand would be great for me. Even as a teenager I needed to make notes due to memory difficulties and, both then and now, I can't always get the notes I want due to conversations moving too fast. It would also mean I could make private notes- it's only journalists who can read shorthand, so anything I might write would be fairly secure. Even today I kick myself for not learning this skill. Meetings in work, book signings, meetings with the NHS relating to memory or confidence- these encounters would be much more streamlined if I could get the info down quicker. There's normally silent pauses, particularly in one-to-one meetings, to account for me taking down notes. Occasionally I arbitrarily write the word SHORTHAND in block caps next to the notes to remind me to learn this one day.

Nearly 20 years after I visited the courts with the journalists, I've decided it's time to make time for this. I've found a series of videos on Youtube that act as a guide for learning shorthand, although there's some debate over which version is better to learn. Shorthand has 3 popular forms- Greggs, Pitmans and Teeline. Greggs and Pitmans, I understand, are more for secretarial work. It appears Teeline shorthand is better for journalism, which is what I'm hoping to get into. And hence I'll be looking into Liverpool John Moores University's videos, fronted by Shorthand Sue.

Her videos appear to have more hits than her competitors, so she's my best bet. That said, there are only 6 videos in the playlist, so I may need to do more looking around. Let's see how far I get in a month.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Tom Daley vs Ruby Wax

Nope, not an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, although that would be a strange pairup. Olympic diver Tom Daley and Comedienne Ruby Wax both have new books out, and are signing them in Manchester this week. Silver and bronze medallist Daley will be in the Trafford Centre Selfridges from 5:30pm tomorrow, signing his cookbook Tom's Daily Plan and Ms Wax will be in Manchester Central Library on Wednesday from 7pm, signing her book on mindfulness and how it helped her, titled Frazzled. The latter is sold out, though, so... yeah. I don't believe book signings should sell out- if people want to buy a book at the signing, let them buy. Do the authors want to make the money or not?

So. Yeah. A quiet month, really.