Thursday, 30 December 2010

Getting a High Profile Twitter Follower

“I fackin laff salabrities!”
-Avid Merrion, Bo Selecta

A month ago I set myself a social media challenge: Get a famous person to follow me on Twitter.

Why? I don't know. I've blogged about meeting celebs a lot recently, so I figured it was fitting. Maybe I'm just a consumerist sheep who is so detached from reality that I feel the need to hound anyone whose name I recognise. Or maybe I just find it funny to do this.

I pestered many household names, including...

Jodie Connor (the remarkably stunning singer from Roll Deep's “Good Times” single)
Pritchard from Dirty Sanchez (Who I've already met- I sent him a link to the blog covering this)
Steve Martin
Brook Magenti AKA Belle DeJour
P Diddy
Seth MacFarlane
Kelly Rowland
Nicki Manaj
Floyd Mayweather
LL Cool J
Nelly Furtado
Weird Al Yancovic
Snoop Dog
Paris Hilton
Ben Stiller
Serena Williams (asking what her favourite zoo animal was did not garner a response.)

I also sent a shit joke to Gordon Burns from local news show North West Tonight. (He was requesting this; it wasn't a random idea.)

I'm, er, still waiting on a response from all of the above.

However, I did tweet broadcaster/comedian/writer Dom Joly to show him my writeup of previously meeting him at a book signing.

He tweeted back “thanks, appreciate it”. Blessed art thou, Dom.

I figured that employees of the, um, other Hollywood might yield more results, so I dished out a few tweets to:

Tommy Gunn
Phoenix Marie
Nikki Benz
Rachel Starr
Jayden James

If you don't recognise the names, you might not want to ask. If you know what I mean.

They didn't respond, but I did get a response from Angel Long:

“Hi ya, Thanks for following me, Hope you enjoy all my tweets & I look forward to chatting to u. x

I also asked Kelly Divine why no adult entertainment stars had verified accounts. She replied!

“I dont think twitter will verify porn stars ;( I tried and got rejected”.

It's possible that there's some fraudsters pretending to be people they're not, but given that many of the adult actors / actresses mention each other in tweets, it's safe to say that they're kosher.

UK porn star Kerry Louise sent me a bemused response after I replied to her tweet “Go Hard or Go Home”- I explained the phrase was usually on a sign inside the bars of the Walkabout chain. It apparently wasn't a Walkabout reference. She said, “lol I seee”. She wouldn't tell me whether or not she had aimed it at a male colleague instead.

Just when I was about to give up and stop being a Goddamn geek- just as I was about to leave Twitter alone and get back on with getting my own multinational celebrity status rolling (cough), a young lady called Vicky Vette follows me outta the blue! She's also an entertainer of adults.

Vicky, you are a star.!/vickyvette

I'm pretty sure she's the real deal. Whether she upstages Social Media guru Denise Wakeman is arguable. It's all subjective, of course. These two are the biggest names in my followers.

I think to get a celebrity follower you need to give people a reason to follow back. Christ knows what Vicky's reason was. She must just think I'm awesome. It can be hard to convince someone who doesn't know you when you have a mere 140 characters in which to do so. I also don't think December was the best month to do this Twitter task- we're all pretty busy whether we're famous or not. But if you fancy following me, whoever you are...!/matthewtuckey

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Published: Plastic Glasses?

If you're in the Tameside area of Greater Manchester, keep your eyes peeled for a new night-life magazine hitting bars, clubs, shops and taxi ranks., formerly, has now gone into print. Describing itself as “your guide to what's happening in and around Tameside”, the new magazine features night-life-related articles, photos from your night out, jokes, DJ interviews and money-off vouchers for local outlets.

My article “Plastic Glasses?” has made it into the new edition. Find it out there, or, if you can't wait, check out the online version here:

You'll find two editions of the magazine. Both are great, but to see my article you'll need to check out the left-hand magazine and turn to page eight.

Editor / photographer Richard has done a cracking job of putting it together. Here's to continued future editions!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Speaking Up For Students

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Recently some students attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla. Further protests against tuition fees. Protesters threw paint over the Rolls-Royce, chanting “off with their heads”, and rumours suggest one of the crowd “poked Camilla with a stick.”
The press photograph shows the couple open-mouthed, aghast and terrified. When the news broke, Facebook news feeds became inundated with angered opinions- mostly pro-royalists venting their disgust. Royalty they may be, people said. But they are still pensioners. And grandparents. Attacking an ageing couple’s car? Disgraceful, people said.
And so, sympathy for students drastically ebbed. The majority of people- certainly in my Facebook friends- typecast students in general, describing them as “scum”.
Let’s put this into perspective. Millions of students voted Liberal Democrats- 45% of them- based on the fair deal that the party promised to give them on tuition fees.

A few thousand turned out in London on 9th November. Out of those, only a handful damaged the Prince’s Rolls Royce.
Please don’t typecast all students based on the actions of these few individuals.
The flip side is this: The coalition went ahead and raised tuition fees, thereby breaking the Lib-Dems’ promise to give students a fair deal. The decision wasn’t made by royalty, but it also wasn’t opposed, as far as I can find. Prince Charles doesn’t appear to have done anything to prevent the increase of fees. He may be a pensioner, but he is a pensioner with power. A power he didn’t use.
If Prince Charles had voiced himself as a champion of higher education, things may have been different. People may have left him alone. If possible, he might have disallowed top-up fees from being pushed through parliament.
However, NOBODY- Not even Prince Charles himself- has pointed out how the original problem caused the fees row in the first place. University is supposed to be for the BEST people in the United Kingdom- a system to tailor the most capable individuals into the top jobs in the country. This isn’t happening now, and hasn't happened for a long time, hence the 500,000 people starting a university course in September 2010.
Shit, I’VE got a degree. I only got 1 grade C in my GCSEs. I am NOT the cream of Britain’s academia. Yet I’ve got a legitimate 2:1 after my name. Should UCAS have allowed me to go to university? Maybe not at the time that I did, especially considering how little work experience I had.
If the government set a system whereby only the best people in the land were given university places- either through exceptional qualifications or, more importantly, prior work experience, they wouldn’t have to charge students through the nose. They could probably reinstate grants, as there would be so few people going on to HE.
If you are in a position of power, yet you DON’T wade in on this debate, you can expect that the thousands of students will tar you with the same brush. As Neimoller suggests, if you don’t stand up for others, you can expect that they won’t respect you either. Whether you’re a pensioner or not.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Er... Well, Let's Just Try That One Again.

I really need to research creative writing exercises. Nobody at a recent writer's meeting had any new ones, so we tried this classic gem:

Everyone at the table has two slips of paper. On one, they write the opening line of a story. On the other, they write the closing line.

We pass the opening line to the left, and the closing line to the right.

We now have new opening and closing lines. Weave a story starting with one and ending with another. WARNING: This is HARD.

The opening line I received:
“He looked at the jar on the top shelf, hidden slightly by the jam.”

The closing line:
“Well fuck you, and fuck him too, I thought.”

I find you never know what you're writing until it's scrawled out in front of you. Here's what had appeared on my page when the timer beeped.

He looked at the jar on the top shelf, slightly hidden by the jam.

“Go on,” I said. “Pick it up.”

He reached up and nudged the jar aside.

“Bet you wished you'd eaten your greens,” I said, trying to be funny.

“Actually, it's protein that makes you grow. Dairy and meat. Greens have nothing to do with it.”

I looked at the floor for a second. “Okay...”

Bob said he'd find it funny. I hoped he was right.

His fingers reached the rim of the giant jar. It made a noise as it moved slightly, pushing the jam aside. It was blue and opaque, with no lid.


The jam jar slipped off, shattering on the cans on the shelf below, firing red goo in all directions. The blue tub followed, scattering peanuts over the shelf and over him. He made a spitting noise, like he was choking.

“I'm allergic to peanuts, you dick!”

“I didn't know! It was Bob's idea!”

Well fuck you, and fuck him too, I thought.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


“You can have my answer now if you'd like. My offer is this. Nothing.”
-Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), Godfather Part II

Bit of a non-blog this month. Still decorating. Taking forever. Help needed. People in the Oldham area- get in touch with me. Part time employers should also give me a heads-up as I need a second job. Outgoings are more than incomings, and I'm hardly going out at all. Ridiculous. Agencies I’ve been to can’t help me because I already work at the start of the week. Looking for stuff at the end of the week is impossible.
“Well... We shot a lot of people together. It's been great. But today I retire, so if I do any shooting now, it'll have to be within the confines of my own home. Hopefully, an intruder and not an in-law, like at my bachelor party.”
-Frank Drebin (Leslie Neilson), Naked Gun 33+ 1/3

RIP Leslie Neilson. Total Film magazine may have described you as “The King of Crap”, and your final few films may have been horrendous, but in the eighties and nineties you proved that you were a comedy legend. You will be greatly missed.
I’m also still looking for guest bloggers. If you fancy getting involved and joining Caleb J Ross and Lynn Myint-Maung, follow this link.

It never hurts to spread your work around. After all, as Vito would say...

“Do me this favour. I won't forget it. Ask your friends in the neighbourhood about me. They'll tell you I know how to return a favour.”
          -Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro), Godfather Part II

Saturday, 11 December 2010

How to Drink Whisky Like a Man

Fri 12th November

“I'm a simple man. All I want is enough sleep for two normal men, enough whisky for three, and enough women for four.”
-Joel Rosenberg, Author

We're around the back of the Natwest in Lees, where there’s a row of nondescript terraced houses. Ollie knocks on a door. The five of us, we wait.

A stern-looking guy in his forties answers. We tell him we're here for the whisky night.

The guy takes our tickets and leads us up a staircase to what appears to be the landing in his house. When he opens the door, however, the room we're taken into must take up half the terrace. Lees Labour Club is a small venue, compares to most clubs, with a tiny bar in the corner and a pool table and school tables pushed against each other in blocks. The wood décor hasn't been updated in a long time. Neither have the fashion tastes of the patrons, who are all male and mostly in their forties.

An ageing man in a kilt welcomes us and begins to tell us the origins of whisky production.

I was trying to jot down opinions on each whisky when it occurred to me that successful whisky–tasting is an impossible feat. Many tasters will suggest this technique for good tasting:

1)    Take the whisky in the glass with no ice.
2)    Take three deep sniffs. On the first sniff, you’ll take in the alcohol. Kilt Man says that many people don’t get past that first sniff. At 40% alcohol, it’s understandable. On the second sniff, you’re likely to notice the cask- the oak or sherry that the whisky was left to age in. On the third, you’ll notice the elements fused into it’s distillation. You might pick out the charcoal used to ferment the husks of grain, before being cooked up to liquid. You might note the smoke from the burning peat, placed under the grain in the distillery.
3)   Sip the whisky. Chew it over. Let it mellow on your tongue. Again, the alcohol hits you first. Then the brand’s distinct taste becomes evident.
4)    Swallow. Different whiskies will give differing types of after burn. This glow is all part of the whisky-tasting experience.

Here’s why you can never accomplish successful whisky tasting. To compare whisky, you must take into account all of the above- smell, taste, after taste. To get all three of those, you must swallow.

For want of a better expression.

As each shot is at least 40%, it won’t be long before the whisky impairs your judgement and you don’t know what you’re tasting. Brighty exacerbated this problem when he hid the water jug under the table and wouldn’t bring it back out. We were on-track for steamingness.

Many whisky enthusiasts recommend spitting out the whisky after tasting, so you’re sober enough to appreciate other samples. But by doing this you miss out on the afterglow- and what fun would a whisky night be if you didn’t get hammered and dish out the banter?

During the drinking, Kilt Man tells of the history behind whisky production, describing how the Irish first learned how to cultivate grain using acidic soil. This type of earth, he says, is best for growing oats and barley. He describes the mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation needed for a good single malt and how the techniques of the late 1400s started to develop towards today's whisky-making systems. The Irish then gave the idea to the Scots, who began to mass-market whisky as their own.

Whisky is one of the “spirits”- an alcohol type that got its name centuries ago when drunk people believed a “spirit” had taken over their mind. The name stuck.

Whisky ages in barrels. When it’s taken out and bottled, that’s when it stops ageing.

A Christies auction once saw the selling of one bottle of whisky for a record-breaking £2000.

Some whisky brands use one individual batch of grain from which to distil their liquor. We refer to this as “single malt”, and all the whiskies we tried fell into this category. They were:

Glen Parker
From the Tommy Tool distillery. Pretty good, of what I remember. GP is one of the lowland malts, which are always good to start a session with.

A smooth, before-dinner whisky.

An eighteen-year-old malt, also a “session whisky”. The most “middle of the road” whisky and the most popular of the night.

From Dufftown. I already have a bottle at home. A fine malt.

“With this one,” says Kilt Man, “You might get a hint of TCP. This is from Isla, and it’s the most expensive of tonight’s whiskies. It’s one for the road. You’d basically give this to someone to get rid of them.”

I take a sip. It’s dark, and somewhat pungent. It ain’t the best of tonight’s samples.

“It’s also good,” Kilt Man says, “for removing sheep ticks.”

Throughout the talk he’s getting the punters involved by asking questions about Scotland’s history.

“What happened in 1745?”

“Fez bought his shirt,” mumbles Brighty, glancing at Fez's militia-style black button-up.

“The Jackobyte revolution,” answers someone on the adjacent table.

“Correct.” Kilt man dishes out an extra shot for the man with the right answer.

We all agree we should have paid more attention in History.

Dun Liere
For a bit of variety, Kilt Man throws in an Irish whisky. It’s pretty good, considering that it’s a supermarket’s own brand. I might pick up some Dun Liere next time I’m in Sainsbury’s.

An any-time whisky. This eighteen-year-old is particularly good for drinking outdoors. Kilt Man tells us that whisky was, for many years, an outdoor drink. It was what you took with you in a flask, when you went shooting stags or fishing trout and salmon. Today, whiskies are all generally marketed as indoor drinks. Mostly…

Like you'd get any signal there anyway...

I can’t resist cracking an old Bobby Davro classic.

“Personally I like my whisky like I like my women: a good sixteen-year-old mixed up with coke…”

Brighty takes my notebook off me. A few minutes later, he hands it back and there’s a biro image of a bald head with it’s mouth open. There’s a phallus pointing at the head, with tiny dots coming out of it. The picture’s title suggests it represents one of our team. There’s also a speech bubble implying that the man loves “schlong.”

Kilt Man mentions that, in certain parts of Scotland, you can buy personalised kilts like the one he’s wearing. “They’ll print any name,” he says, “especially British names like Patel.”

The night is sponsored by Stanley Ogden Butchers of Grotton, who have provided a giant portion of cow. One of tonight’s organisers is cutting steak slices off the cooked platter and slipping them into buttered muffins. They are the best steak sandwiches I have tasted to date. I hammer three of them. The record is seven, apparently.

I'd like to say Glentauchers was my favourite of the night, as it was the best of the scotches... But the Irish Dun Liere had a strange appeal. Looks like my personal whisky collection is going to have a bit of variety... after payday.

Whisky night runs again next May. I got a ticket through word-of-mouth. This kind of joint don't do no internet marketing.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Cold Whisky Nights

I'd like to welcome Mark Ferris back to the fold, with his answer-back piece.
FYI- my nickname in certain circles in “Lord of War”.

Don't ask.

With a bite in the air, and a chill in the bones
These fine young connoisseurs have broken the mould.
November's cold air cracks the wind like a whip
The boys hold fast as they take their last sip.
Now they head to the venue like a rolling storm
An old single malt to keep the boys warm.
One turns to six, and six turns to twelve
Young boys are broken at only 10 bells.
They old boys, they laugh: ''They've much to learn''
''not just a drink, but a way of the world!''
Now they wait for the night when they're all back together do as Lord says, and simply get leathered

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Whisky Night

My answer-back poem to Mark Ferris…

Drink it slow, not very fast
This liquor’s kept in a sherry cask
Sniff it, sip it, chew it over,
Make it last, take it slower
The guy in the kilt gives us Scotland’s hist’ry
Tonight we’ll all be drinking lots of whisky
So let’s not think of the morning after.
Try another sample, LET’S ALL GET PLASTERED!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Whisky Poems

In preparation for an evening of fine single malts at a local boozer, some friends and I developed a few poems on the theme of “Whisky Night”. Here's the first. The second guest writer to grace this 'ere blog is Mark “Fez” Ferris!

Whisky whisky, too pure to diss' me
Golden bodied.... a man's best friend.
Whisky whisky, its like you kiss me
Icey, spicey... the perfect blend.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Published: Plumber Night

There are certain words and definitions that you won't find in the Oxford English, or on . Words and phrases that only a few people know in tiny pockets of contemporary society...

The few that do, however, probably use the Urban Dictionary.

Your first port of call for definitions of slang. If I said I was going to murk your man, be afraid. You might have to look up “murk” on the Urban Dictionary first, though, to realise why. If you want to know why your “junk” is the same as your “crown jewels”, use this site to get it clear.

I recently submitted the phrase “Plumber Night”, which I'm sure I saw used in a lads' mag like Loaded or something. It was a few years back.

The site admins accepted it! Hurrah! Check it out on the site. Before you follow the link, can you guess what it means? It's a bit rude! **Sniggers childishly**

Monday, 6 December 2010

Mark Kermode's Right Arm: Meeting the Film Critic

On the projector screen in Manchester’s Dancehouse Theatre, I’m looking at some toy Smurfs being suspended from puppet string. Someone is giving a high-pitched voice to these characters, describing how peaceful their world is. Cue a strung-up naked action man doll, who’s come to wreak havoc and steal some kind of valuable liquid, or something.

The voice belongs to Mark Kermode, and this is his no-budget 2-minute spoof of Avatar, James Cameron’s most recent film. Mr. Kermode isn’t keen on it, and he’s not afraid to let you know.

47-year old Mr. Kermode- film critic from Newsnight review and long-time crusader against film censorship- is here tonight to promote his new book, It’s Only A Movie: Tales From a Film Obsessive.

Instead of reading from the book, he regales the stories from memory- including blagging a job on BBC radio. (Bosses loved his impromptu rambling- he’d told them he’d had “lots of experience”, and then found himself in a studio for the first time ever. His only radio knowledge was from a film called Death at Broadcasting House, set inside the BBC building.) They threw him back out onto the street after the broadcast, and was sure his career was in tatters. Then the BBC called him back. This time he prepared a script, timed it, and read it in a controlled, “professional” fashion. The bosses hauled him in: they preferred it the previous week. “It was like you hadn’t planned it at all!” they had joked.

He also quotes Woody Allen’s Love and Death as the world’s funniest film, denies rumours he’s taking over the role of presenter at Film 2010, retells being thumped outside the Cornerhouse cinema for giving a bad review of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, and being repeatedly mistaken for TV actor Jesse Birdsall.

Here's Jesse:

And here's Mark:

Mr. Kermode also claims he had to drag unconscious people out of screenings of both The Exorcist and Irreversible, and tells of annoying numerous people in the industry.

“At some point, I’m going to meet Danny Dyer,” Mr Kermode muses nervously. He’d slagged off Dyer and his movies some months ago. Dyer had uploaded a Youtube video:

“At some point,” Mr. Kermode says, “Danny Dyer is going to hit Jesse Birdsall, and it’s going to my fault!”

Dyer isn’t the only celebrity to come looking for him. Mr. Kermode has also been critical of Dame Helen Mirren and her movies, and he tells of how she found him on the red carpet at a movie première and bullied him into an explanation. “What did you mean?” she asked. His impression of Dame Helen sounds a lot like Bob Hoskins. Cue Mark babbling an explanation- something about “differing interpretations”- and collapsing at her feet, only for his wife to come to his rescue.

Aside from countless fascinating stories, Mr Kermode’s love of impressions also makes great entertainment. Every character he describes has it’s own voice, including Werner Herzog, director of movie Fitzcarraldo and documentary Grizzly Man. The Herzog / Kermode interview took a turn for the worse in Herzog’s garden. “I heard a pop noise,” says Kermode. “A tiny plume of smoke rose up from his jacket.” Mr. Kermode gives a heavy sigh. Then, with a good German accent, he says, “‘We had better go. They are shooting at us again.’”

He describes- re-enacts, even- running into the director’s house, screaming like a lunatic, with Herzog trudging behind him. (Even Mr. Kermode's impressions of himself are good.) Inside the house, Herzog refused to go to the hospital and insisted that the interview continued.

Years later, Mr Kermode met Herzog again, and asked him about the shooting incident. Herzog admitted that he only occasionally gets a pain in his abdomen, but only when he finds something funny. “Every time Herzog laughs,” says Mr. Kermode, “he’ll think of me.”

In the subsequent Q+A session, Mr. Kermode is asked of his favourite comic adaptation.

Howard the Duck,” he responds. No hesitation. “I just find it funny that people made it.” Apparently, HtD features Tim Robbins in a cameo- who also cameos in Top Gun.

Mr. Kermode also proudly features on , listing “one thousand people more annoying than Mick Hucknell.”

He says he wishes Brits were more open to reading subtitled foreign-language films (I couldn’t agree more) in the way that Asian countries are. Their U.S. imports sometimes have seven languages' subtitles plastered in numerous directions across the screen.

He was starstruck by Angelina Jolie, (who told him “I like your hair. I must get Brad to do it like that”) and Linda Blair.

“I’ve got a big thing for Liza Minelli,” says Mr. Kermode. “Not like that.” He once met the Cabaret star and, in a starstruck trance, poked her with his finger. She didn’t react.

The last question is from a kid of maybe twelve years old. He asks, “Do you think there’ll ever be a better film than The Exorcist?”

“Oh, God bless you for asking that,” Mr. Kermode replies. The UK poster for The Exorcist features his quote from Radio 1 where he claimed the 1973 cult horror is “the greatest movie ever made.”

“Linda Blair was once asked, what’s it like living with the legacy of The Exorcist? She told the reporter, 'it’s like my right arm. It’s just there.' The Exorcist- it is for me too. I wake up in the morning,” he says, thinking through his daily routine, “There’s my wife,” he says like he’s ticking off a daily check list, “and there’s The Exorcist… I think about it every day.”

Mr. Kermode asks the kid’s name, and relays to us, “John, everybody. The next presenter of Film 2010!”

Mr. Kermode signs my book, agrees to a picture and takes my blog card.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Meeting the Dirty Sanchez Boyos!


10/10/10. Tokyo Project, Oldham's smartest club. The two rooms of the club, plus the terrace, give a capacity of 1000. Tonight, however, only one room is busy- and it's very busy. Channel 4's Dirty Sanchez has come to Oldham.

Tonight's event, “Dainton Vs Pritchard”, welcomes two Welsh lads from the post-watershed TV show Dirty Sanchez. In theme with the show, they will soon be inflicting pain on each other for our amusement. Think Jackass on crack. The moment they appear on stage, to heavy rock music, they smash bottles over each other's heads. Pritchard's body is covered in tattoos- we know this as he's wearing what appears to be a pair of Speedos and a bandanna. Dainton is carrying the event's sponsorship on his t-shirt- Dirty Sanchez are proud users of Etnies skateboarding footwear. The boyos find a fluorescent light bulb, appropriately placed in the corner of the stage. Dainton thrusts it between Pritchard's thighs in a masturbatory fashion. Eventually, he smashes it over his partner's back.

Between random bouts of karaoke, the boyos from the valleys physically abuse each other in an array of manners.

“Bungee thong” sees Pritchard wearing highly elasticated underpants. He grips onto a podium rail at the far side of the stage, as Dainton stretches the underwear right to the far door. When he releases, you can hear Pritchard scream for a second before the rock music kicks in again.

“Mousetrap cock” presumably requires no definition. The definition of Pritchard's member, however, may now be altered.

Unless you're abnormally tall, you won't see much happening on stage. Behind the clustered fans, you'll only see the performers from the torso up, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your interest as a lot of the action happens below that area. People are balancing on the steps at the edge of the dance floor, crowding into raised areas. The room falls silent before the stunt, so after a prolonged wait, the snap of the device going off is clearly audible before the crowd's reaction booms off the walls.

A Mallett's Mallet-style word association game follows this. Prior to the show, we are told, Dainton and Pritchard both ejaculated into the same condom. Said condom is presented on stage- it could be anything in there- diluted toothpaste, milk, liqueurs. But yeah, it could be come. When Pritchard's silent pause marks him as the sore loser, the look of disappointment on his face is convincing. He really doesn't want to do this. He looks at the condom in disgust. Then he necks it like it's a Frube.

The stage show climaxes with Dainton jamming a wooden stick into Pritchard's anus, snapping it off, removing the obstructing piece with his fingers and wiping it under Pritchard's nose.

What do you mean, you didn't know that giving someone a poo-'tache was the definition of “Dirty Sanchez?” You do now!

After the show there's a giant queue to meet the boyos. When I get to the front I refrain from dishing out my blog card to the showmen, as the club manager is standing right next to me. A few weeks ago I got a phone call from someone who sounded like a bar manager (I've worked with enough to know their distinct tone.) He'd found my card, so he must work at a club somewhere. I've been discreetly dropping them around town, including at Tokyo Project. The caller wanted to know “what I was about”- presumably to check I wasn't a businessman advertising on his turf. It could very easily be this man standing next to me. I should take the risk, but I don't. Instead I pick up a free signed Dirty Sanchez / Etnies poster. As the club photographer takes our picture, Dainton and Pritchard sign my torso with a permanent marker.

Dirty Sanchez

Tokyo Project

Event Photographs!/album.php?aid=86566&id=1450150583

Saturday, 4 December 2010 Get Your Writing Published Here. List Your Fiction / Poetry Magazine Here.

Publishing your work is important. Even if you are giving a piece to some smaller publication for free, you will learn something about your writing. The editor will say something, friends will mention it. You will learn.
-Tim Cahill

A surprisingly accurate quote, considering he's not a writer but an Australian footballer.

For the last year I've been hammering as many writing groups, poetry nights, book launches, signings and social media events as I can. There are a lot of determined and talented people in Manchester who could go far with their grasp of the written word. Yet I've been amazed by how few of these people have heard of this vital writing resource...

Duotrope could be described as the Yellow Pages of fiction and poetry magazines. The site itself says it's a “free writers' resource listing over 3150 current Fiction and Poetry publications.”

Using this site is possibly the easiest way of getting your work into print.

Two types of people are going to benefit from this.

1) The Writer.
You've got a piece of writing. You love it. It's been workshopped, tweaked, formatted, slept on and polished. It's ready for print. Now you need Duotrope.

2) The Editor.
You're starting your own publication with the intention of getting as many fantastic stories as possible headed straight into your inbox. All you require, to get your mag known, is publicity. Now you need Duotrope.

The site is fairly straightforward and easy-to-use- or will be after a rummage. Among the three thousand-plus magazines you'll find nearly every genre of writing from Action Adventure to Zombie Horror. Listed are online publications, printed magazines, poetry anthologies, markets that pay, markets that don't, and a range- nay, a smorgasbord of styles and tastes. Like Gothic Fantasy of the absurdist style? There's a market for that. Got a Literary Historical Mystery piece? There are magazines looking for exactly what you have.

You can also choose how you submit your work. Email is quicker for all of us, but if you prefer to print and post your work, you can specify that in your search terms.

Duotrope is more than a search engine- it's almost a form of social media. The site offers a chance for writers to publicise their accepted work. Creating a profile will allow you to report acceptances to the site, which will in turn tell users how often the magazines accept submissions.

Along with that, Duotrope deliver a weekly email featuring changes in the marketplace- new magazines opening or ageing magazines closing to submissions, changes in pay scale or format, magazines looking for specifically-themed stories. This email also gives shout-outs to those who reported acceptances on the site. The more acceptances you get, the more you can report and the more the English-speaking lit-crowd see your name.

If you're a good writer, you'll find a home for your work here. If you're a good editor, contributors will be beating your door down.

Friday, 3 December 2010


You’re shopping in Manchester’s Arndale Centre. You’re starving. The array of eateries at the Food Court is around the other side of the building. Most of them aren’t that healthy anyway… your head is pounding and the people are all in your way… and then you see the glowing, orange circular sign.


A new restaurant. A takeaway. A pizzeria. You approach. It’s like an Italian buffet, a circular-based version of Subway. Behind the counter: plain pizza bases and an array of toppings. Choose your own! I went for pineapple and meatballs. As one character says in Goodnight Mr Tom, it was “delumpcoius”.

At £5.95 for a large pizza deal, it’s a little more than Subway and some other outlets, but there are a lot of places in the city asking this much for lunch. They don’t all taste as good as this though. Everything at Go! looks pretty healthy, too. Shame about the screaming infants. That comes with the location, though.

I liked the monochrome-photograph-design walls. The staff are also easy on the eye. Couldn’t help but notice.

You can also Go! At Liverpool John Lennon Airport, with other outlets opening across the UK soon.

Keep your eyes peeled for a pizza box design competition. Your image could be right in front of every customer as they chow down. Here’s a website to chew over:

Thursday, 2 December 2010

October's Letter to a Lyrical Legend

“I dunno how else to puddit- this is the only thing that I’m good’at.”
-Marshall Mathers, AKA Eminem, in his song Rain Man.

Ah, Mr. Mathers. Let me tell you a story.

A few years ago- 2005 in fact- a friend of mine and I were trudging through Manchester after a heavy night out. I think I’d pulled Tom out of a bush in nearby Fallowfield after he’d just puked on the pavement outside Revolution.

“I’ve just spent all that money,” he had slurred, “and… y’know, what benefit has it given me?”

Then, the next afternoon, at Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre, we were talking about how we both worked shit-paid jobs- admin for agencies- and we weren’t getting anywhere in life. Tom then referenced one of your lyrics. I’ve no idea what it was, but the likelihood is that the line was “I’m tired of faking noughts with a stack of ones”, or something else from your first album. After all, when you wrote The Slim Shady LP, you were- as you put it- “broke as fuck.” Just like us.

It was then we realised that, no matter the situation we were in, there was always an Eminem lyric to sum up a situation. Since then you’ve done another two albums and a number of collaborations- so with more to choose from it’s even truer today.

The quote I’ve used relates to this blog. All I know how to do is to write, and I’ve no real qualifications in that area. That’s why- five years after that drunken day- I’m still broke. There’s another reason why: my own short-term memory disability. Try holding down an admin job- or learning how to use a new computer system- when you can’t remember what you’ve seen. But people are helping me with that, to a certain degree. And I’m not going to bitch.
Anyway. The monstrous task of moving into my new flat has swallowed up the majority of October. It's been mind-bendingly difficult, Marshall. Decorating will take MONTHS. I’ve been working on it for nearly 6 weeks now, and I’ve sorted the bedroom. The rest looks like the set of the movie Trainspotting (minus the heroin needles and dead baby). Again, I’m getting help with this to a certain degree, but many people fail to grasp how little one is capable of in my situation, when you’ve never decorated before.

I’ve been juggling decorating with a few other activities. Seriously, Marshall, my schedule has been fuller than a 1980’s Manhattan yuppie’s Filofax. The Manchester Literature Festival was fantastic. Highlights included meeting Martin Amis and Iain M Banks, and covering Saci Lloyd’s Carbon Diaries event. Here are the Lit Festival events that I wrote up for my own blog:

Manchester Reads the Sixties

A discussion of 1960s literature, featuring some writer guests who were well-known at the time:

Poetry Drop-in With John Siddique

A seminar on how to develop a poem from idea to the finished product- something you'd probably excel in:

In Conversation: Jonathan Franzen and Dave Haslam

Author of The Corrections discusses his new novel, Freedom, with Manchester writer and author of Not ABBA: The Real Story of the 1970s, Dave Haslam.

New Jersey Poet CK Williams

The man reads his work, and a signs book copies.

In Conversation: Martin Amis and Andrew Davies

The two novelist / screen adapters divulge movie secrets.


The launch of an anthology of stories and poems, inspired by eavesdropping.

Miguelanxo Prado

A Spanish Comic book artist whose work ain't for kids.

The Manchester Blog Awards

Bringing together amateur writers from across the city. The public vote, and organisers crown a select few as winners- find links to their blogs here.

Women and Crime Fiction

A discussion into how women succeed in a predominantly male-driven sector of the literature market.

And here’s The Future: Carbon Diaries, which I covered for the official MLF blog. One link leads to another.

I think you’d have gone down a treat at The Comedy Poetry Slam, personally. A cross between stand-up comedy and a poetry reading. Funny stuff.

Coincidentally, Tom and I now just use the net to keep in touch as he’s in the Royal Navy and I’m doing marketing back home. He told me that the RN Information Technology team have banned my blog on their internet system. By all means, have a rummage to see why. It’s not particularly surprising that they’d filter me out. But having said that, what would you say my blog is about?

I’ve recently read loads of social media info advising people how to tailor their blogs to meet an audience. Most of them say you should focus your writing to one or two subjects, and become a master in that field. I, on the other hand, am getting more eclectic. It started off being solely about the dumb situations I’d get myself into with women and employers and at strange parties and- as one reader described them- “chav bars”. Now, I’m leaning toward political commentary, literature events and writing exercises. Some say it’s good that I’m broadening out, but I feel like it’s getting too everyday and “bloggish”. I might need to go on an adventure. A very weird, hard-core adventure that makes biting, shocking blogging. Can you think of a shoestring-budget idea that fits this bill? Comment below. Go on. I’d be honoured.

Moving on. The Shining. The novel. Stephen King. Oh. My. God. This has to go down as the dullest, slowest novel I have ever subjected myself to. I was actually forewarned about King’s overratedness over at Mark Nicholl’s blog:

But I thought I’d still give it a shot. The task of finishing it was actually excruciating. You’ve probably seen Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 screen adaptation- it was this film that made me choose The Shining out of all of King’s work, and the film is a horror masterpiece. Now I’ve read the original I can assure you of this: it’s a testament to Kubrick’s ability as a director that he could take such an un-scary, boring book and turn it into a memorable, effective horror film.

A reminder of the plot: Danny Torrance is a young boy who has dangerous premonitions, and can see ghosts- more so when he and his mum and dad move to an abandoned hotel on a mountain.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever tried writing non-rhyming stories, Em. But if you research what is the best way to write fiction, you’ll find the same advice offered by many people in many different books and websites. They will warn you not to do certain things. One thing is not to include scenes that don’t move the story forward. King is guilty of this. Before the family move to the hotel, his parents take Danny to a psychologist to test his “scarily” predictive abilities. This scene rationalises the situation and explains it away, meaning that what once may have been mildly frightening now isn’t at all. This is one of many scenes that drag the story to a halt. The psychologist was an unnecessary character, much like the black chef, Halloran. As much of a nice character he is, he’s still a plot block, although his presence does explain the book’s title. (Halloran isn't in the movie, and the title isn't mentioned after the opening credits.) King is also guilty of jamming in as much description as possible, in a desperate- and failed- attempt to induce fear in the reader. Oh, and the moving hedge sculptures were laughable.

A painful read. How is King such a big name in horror?!

After finishing this, I dived into Bugged, an anthology by a team of amateur Manchester-based writers. Their task was to venture out on one summer's day and eavesdrop on the public. They would then take snippets of real dialogue they hear, and turn those lines into short fiction and poetry. A great idea for a project. Good, strong writing but lacked that one story that stood out from the rest, if you know what I mean.

I expect that, with phones now being mobile web browsers, short story anthologies like Bugged won’t be published in print for much longer. Who would buy these books when we can read shorts for free online? And why distribute locally when you can make an online magazine and accept submissions from all over the world? Your work, also, would be seen that far and wide. (Rhetorically. Literally, your work already is. 12.5 million records? Good work, sunshine. Can't fault you.) Printed short story anthologies have a very short, erm… shelf life. Fair enough, they were charging for the book. But which would they prefer? Recognition, or a bit of cash? Once they’ve covered the cost of publishing…

That was books. This is films.

The Hangover.

My mates have been banging on about this film for months, so I figured it was time I checked it out. After a heavy stag party, a group of mates wake up with no memory of the night before, a destroyed hotel room and a tiger in the bathroom. And no groom. Mildly amusing. Tries too hard to be cool. It’s also similar in theme to a film from about ten years ago, called Dude Where’s My Car, which was awful. Hangover director Todd Phillips clearly has no concept of the dimensions of the average tiger, and seems to think you’d be able to jam one into a hotel luggage trolley. Sorry, but it wouldn’t even fit in the boot of your estate car (a scenario that is also exhibited).


Did not disappoint. As with Borat, Sascha Baren Cohen once again weaves his own hilarious story around a series of pranks. This time, gay fashion guru Bruno (Cohen) wants fame, and hits the U.S. in search of it. Cue the duping of an array of very uncomfortable Americans- including talk show participants disgusted that someone would “actually” adopt a black baby as a fashion accessory. When Cohen gives a lap dance to former presidential candidate Ron Paul, you’ll shit your lips. The film did have a very familiar Borat-style story structure, though.

Family Guy: Something, Something Dark Side

Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane follows up Blue Harvest with another hilarious space-saga parody. This time The Empire Strikes Back gets the Family Guy treatment. I loved the original. I loved the remake. I’m looking forward to seeing how McFarlane handles Return of the Jedi.

Finally, Marshall, I'm in need of a second job. Outgoings are more than incomings at the moment- a scenario I'm sure you'll remember from before your first record deal. However, it remains to be seen whether I'll “burst this tec at somebody to reverse this debt”.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Stranger Will Can Blog For You. Well. Caleb J Ross Can.

After advertising for guest writers on my blog, and doing my own asking around, I found a very talented man named Caleb J Ross. His novels Stranger Will and I Didn’t Mean To Be Kevin will be hitting book store shelves soon.
Caleb has had a novel idea (pun intended) to promote his books- a virtual world blog tour. For “Stranger Will Tour for Strange”, the Kansas-based writer will be guest-posting on a series of blogs all over the globe, right from his living room. His writing will appear on my blog on 22nd August 2011.
Check out his own blog here:
He still has a few spaces in his schedule… Do you have a blog? Why not let him write for you? Not only will you be helpin’ a brother out, you’ll be branching out and showing that bloggers don’t just sit in darkened rooms and think only of themselves. We’re a whole community. Having a guest blogger posting on your blog is practically a merit badge.

Get involved in Caleb’s project! Contact him at caleb {at} calebjross {dot} com.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Is There a Novelist in the House? Yes… and There Is Also Injustice.

The Manchester Literature Festival and Commonword Cultureword joined forces on 23rd October for the event Is There a Novelist in the House? Seven budding Manchester novelists competed in this novel-pitching competition in Manchester’s Waterstones, which the judges described as “The Literary X-Factor.” (This is the second night in a row that an MLF presenter has used an X-Factor analogy. It’s a shit TV programme. Please stop using this show as a pitch for your event, people. And stop watching the programme as well. Moving on.) The prize: £250 in cash plus the chance to work with an editor to get the book into print.
The judges received completed manuscripts. The panel:
Author Jane Rogers
Cannongate editor Dan Franklin
Associate Agent at the Darley Anderson Agency Zoe King.
They received full texts but without author names. The judges had read all seven novels in full before the event.
Judges picked names out of a hat, on the night, to decide the order of running:
Benjamin Judge
Nicola Turres
Andre Wzoijf
Gary Parkinson
Deborah Mann
Suzie Stubbs
Katie Massey.
Benjamin took centre stage to read a section of All Creatures Great and Chips, his funny and absurd speculative fiction story. His tale featured a depressed flamingo and a sadistic mansion owner, and he wrote the darkly humorous piece to challenge “what is acceptable as normal”. Who can resist talking animals and macabre violence? As Benjamin put it, “It’s not for thirteen-year-old boys.” I like.
Nicola Turres followed this with a pre-scripted intro and a passage from her work, This City of Steel We Live. The city- Sheffield- she describes as “a weird part of the world”, and the passage she read featured a care home, where a crazy woman in an underskirt is covering herself in baked beans. “Sheffield gets more and more beautiful in real life,” said Nicola. “I’ve tried to show that in the novel, and it reflects that world of steel in Sheffield.” After a mechanical start, her reading went down a treat. Slightly reminiscent of the film Tommy, though.
Andre Wzowski’s Three Days in September featured the German invasion of Poland in 1939. “War is still a living, breathing thing,” says Andre, who has previously written fantasy and has now entered the realm of historical fiction. Although it’s set in the past, he says the genre is not historical but more “literary”. (Somebody used this phrase the previous night at Women and Crime Fiction; it's the polite way of describing something as “genre-less”, it seems.)
When Andre described the plot it started to sound a lot like the movie Uprising, about the resistance displayed in the Warsaw ghettos. Sorry folks, but I thought the segment of Three Days was crap. How did he get a previous book deal?
Gary Parkinson darkened the mood with Scarecrow, a macabre story about a woman impregnated by her father (like in the film Chinatown…) Former advertising man / magazine editor Gary, who due to self promotion said he has “no shame left”, read out a section. The girl narrates the book in first person. The judges admitted that they assumed a woman had written the work, which pleased Gary. Fair enough, but I wasn’t so bowled over. The question I found myself asking was: how young is the narrator character? I thought under eighteen, hence vulnerable to her father’s advances. Here’s a line from the reading: “I slip out like a candle blown out.” Very descriptive. But an image like that, I’d imagine, would be used by an intelligent, creative-minded adult. Not a young girl. “I actually did some plotting in this one,” said Gary. Why would you admit this? I thought. Why tell your audience that you don’t normally plot your work? What kind of novelist do you want to come across as? He then rounded off with a writer’s cardinal sin and told us the end of the story. No. No. No.
Deborah Mann, who has a masters degree from Edge Hill University, read from her work “Circles of Eve.” Her auto-erotic piece was about finding sexuality. After a good start she also gave away part of the ending! A character in the book is a neighbour called Mary Shelley. Why give a character this name? Anyone clued up will be looking for a Frankenstein-related significance. But Deborah didn’t elaborate on this. Distracting!
Suzie Stubbs’ set Mother’s Beloved in Laos. The young protagonist, a native girl of maybe six years old, has visions of death. The visions become premonitions when people die in the circumstances she imagined, terrifying the people in this communist country.
Have you ever seen The Eye, the Japanese film that Tom Cruise has remade? Same story. Suzie has apparently had work published in Time out and The Guardian, and has won at the Manchester Blog Awards in previous years. Again, I wasn’t that impressed.
Suzie said that she’s never been to Laos. Judge Dan said that lack of first-hand geographical knowledge isn’t necessarily a problem, and thought the phrase “write what you know” is a cliché. I’d agree with that.
Then Suzie became the second author to make a really dumb mistake- the same one- she told us the end to her story! “She’s telling a pack of lies,” she said. Not only did you just spoil it for the remainder of people who might have given up the time for reading it, you’ve used a crap end twist! Ever seen Lucky Number Slevin? Narrator has been lying to viewer throughout the film. That was a crap end as well, and you’ve just nicked it, Suzie.
Two hours into the event, my arse began to hurt… perhaps softer seats next time, organisers…?!
Katie Massey read from her novel The Book of Ghosts, about Sophie, a girl with a difficult family life who imagines that distant family relatives are talking to her. (A lot of these stories are very similar to each other. Overcrowded market much?) The segment she read is pretty decent, although her intro was also pre-scripted.
Jane Rogers liked the language in this novel, and said it shows the differences in the characters and how they change. I concur with that.
There’s a break while the judges made their decision. A quick glance around the audience proved that Dave Hartley is here...

And some guy wearing the same Nazi militia jacket that he had on at the Comedy Poetry Slam.

The event concluded with a feedback session. Dan and Jane praise the participants but also offer specific criticisms to the writers.
I’d have picked Benjamin Judge, but the judges go for Suzie Stubbs. Well. They did describe it as “the literary X-Factor”, so you can only expect recycled ideas and devastating injustice to prevail. Not like I watch the TV show or anything. But each to their own…

The official Manchester Literature Festival Blog coverage:

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Novel Idea for a Writing Exercise

Sunday’s writing exercise was to choose a book from the pile of novels brought in by the group coordinator. Open it on a random page, pick a random intriguing sentence and write for fifteen minutes. I chose Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amada, and landed on the line “Dona Norma tried to calm her.”

Dona Norma tried to calm her. The woman was breathing heavily, staring hard into her wind shield.

“They are all locked in,” said Dona. “They aren’t going to fall.” She was shouting- the woman hadn’t wound her window down yet. She wasn’t likely to either. She was gripping the steering wheel, hard, her knuckles white like she was on a roller-coaster ride. Maybe she was.

Dona took the decision to open the door of the 4X4 from the roadside. She’d stepped closer to the smashed-in bonnet carefully, hoping she was right about the vehicle the car was jammed into.

The interior was warm, the woman’s breathing loud and high-pitched: repeated gasps of fright.

The heater must have cut off when the engine died.

How can you not see a lorry of that size, she thought, with a pile of cars on the back of it?

“Come on,” said Dona, unbuckling the woman’s seatbelt. “You’re totally sa-“

A metal groan came from beyond the wind shield, a little higher than the 4X4’s roof.

Both women, frozen like ice sculptures, lifted their eyes to the top of the screen.

Then, with a crunch, the black bonnet of a car dropped and stopped centimetres from the wind shield. They both screamed, like movie patrons at a horror show.

Dona exhaled. The BMW badge looked larger than she could ever have imagined. The seatbelt disconnected, causing Dona’s heart to smash against her ribcage once again.

“Take your right hand,” Dona instructed, “and open your door.”

On the way into Manchester to meet the group, I saw a crash on Oldham Road. And yes, it was a woman in a 4X4 who hadn’t seen the giant car transporter.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Future: Carbon Diaries

For this Manchester Literature Festival event I was the proud official event blogger. Check out my coverage over on their blog.

It was also the last MLF event that I attended. A great round-off to the festival and a fascinating event. Thanks go to the event organisers and Carbon Diaries author Saci Lloyd.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Who is your most famous Twitter follower?

The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it's their fault.
-Henry Kissinger

In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.
-Andy Worhol

I realise this is insanely, stupidly geeky, but I've been following Verified Twitter accounts for a few b-list actors- just out of morbid fascination, more than anything. It's like the live html equivalent of MTV's Cribs, the show where a camera crew follows around a celebrity as they give a guided tour of their house. Cribs is a ridiculously boring programme, detailing how celebs live their lives when they're not working their arses off (or snorting coke off hookers' cleavages, etc. We are sometimes told. Strangely, this isn't mentioned in the show. Or on Twitter.)

Looking into a celebrity's life must still interest a lot of people, though- if Britney Spears' 6.3 million followers are anything to go by- and seeing big names update Twitter live also has a strange appeal.

Verified Twitter accounts display a little blue emblem with a tick inside. This means the bosses at Twitter have confirmed that the account is, indeed, being used by the celebrity it represents. Anyone can follow any account, unless you block them or they block you. Have a look at “Who to follow” and click “Entertainment” from the range of links on the Twitter homepage. I'm sure you'll recognise a few names. MC Hammer and Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane are among the offerings.

The hard part: getting them to follow back. Apparently, a nice message can sometimes work. I haven't tried this yet.

Have a look at my Twitter. Follow if you like:!/matthewtuckey

I think the closest I've got to a celebrity follower is social media guru Denise Wakeman, who herself has 18,000 followers and advises businesses and bloggers on making the most out of the internet. She's not exactly a household name.!/DeniseWakeman

Interestingly, though, Denise following me might be more beneficial than the likes of rapper Ludacris or actress / cradle snatcher Demi Moore returning the favour. It seems that followers of internet experts have followers themselves with “more influence” than followers of celebrities.

Online web and tech mag Mashable says “Celebrities are bound to attract mainstream followers less interested in their own Twitter follower counts and more consumed with their celebrity obsessions.”


If you're in a similar situation to me- writing and trying to get a bit of exposure- it might be better to follow the social media heavyweights, those who advise people how to use social media to their advantage. But then, on the flip side, P Diddy wants to know whether I think being a dog would be preferable to being a cat.!/iamdiddy

And how would I know to ponder this vital rhetorical scenario without following him on Twitter? Hold on, Diddy. I'll tweet you back when I've uploaded this...

I'm going to send a few messages out and see who responds- I'll post again in a month to see what's happened. Have a go yourself. Comment if you have any success!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Women and Crime Fiction

“People are weird,” says Sophie Hannah, UK crime novelist. “Myself included.”

It’s Friday 22nd October- Day 9 of the Manchester Literature Festival. I’m at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery for the event, Women and Crime Fiction. Tonight Sophie is in conversation with Val McDermid, also a crime writer, in the gallery’s main hall. Keeping the discussion fair and square is June Davis from Manchester Waterstones.

I’m the only “young” man in the 100-strong audience- unsurprising, given the event title- in fact 90% of us are women in their forties. The topic- the immense, morbid fascination people have with crime fiction. Why do we enjoy reading about murder? Particularly, why do women love this subject?

Val mentions that the violence in her novels often takes people by surprise. “People say, ‘Your novels are very dark.’ Yes,” she explains, her eyebrows raised for emphasis, “They’re crime novels!” She explains that this is particularly the case with Scottish crime novels. Irvine Welsh is the only Scottish writer that I’m familiar with, and his books Crime and Trainspotting are very dark. So I concur there.

Val doesn’t let morbidity get in the way of humour, however. She knows that, no matter how disturbing a story could be, it must have a few chuckles along the way. In fact she claims that, in real life, some of her best laughs have been at funerals. She also discusses researching the emergency services, saying that ambulance drivers have a habit of making “sick jokes” about their work. I’d cite the film Bringing Out the Dead, by Martin Scorsese, if you wanted to know a little more about that.

Sophie explains she recently went to “a room full of people paid to pretend to be people I made up.” I’ll give you a moment to decipher that…

Yes, a production company is filming one of her novels! First of the Last Chances, her fifth novel, is in the movie pipeline. Or so she says. Google ain’t saying much though.

Val has also had her work committed to celluloid. She mentions that she visited a read-through, where actors sit together at a table and act out the script. It’s normally the first time the actors will collaborate on a day’s work. She tells us that, at these times, actors will read their lines totally flat with no emotion. Thespians love to save their performances for the cameras.

Sophie proved herself not quite the bastion of gender equality when she claimed that “men can be relied upon to find something that they think is really interesting, but isn’t.” Her husband was apparently enthralled by a documentary on rare lizards, which confused her. From a man’s perspective… it depends on the lizard, doesn’t it?

After the discussion the panel answered audience questions.

Sophie has written some graphic details in her career as an author, but tells us the issues that she “couldn’t write about” were terminal illness and state executions. Everyone has their own taboo, I suppose.

Sophie describes a particularly helpful interview with a police officer, which she conducted for research some time ago. She found out that he was a psycho as well! Bonus! He was arrested for a violent crime some time later.

She also tells us of a reading group in an unlikely place- a prison. The violent inmates LOVE her work! She claims she turned down an offer to perform a reading. I would have done a meet and greet if I was I her situation. But that’s just me.

The talk ends with a discussion about the freedom that crime writing brings. In the real world, the panel agree, women get tougher sentences for murder because society expects women to be nicer than men. A woman killing someone is, supposedly, more shocking than a man doing so. To physically kill someone is, clearly, not the nicest of things to do and this will probably land you in prison (perhaps being interviewed by a crime writer, if you’re lucky.) However, writing about such things is largely harmless. In particular, society tells women to be the nice ones- anthropology does too. Men use violence to hunt, gather and protect. Women don’t. Today, though, women can be as violent as they like- and get paid for it. If they happen to be a novelist.

Recommended reading:
Sophie Hannah

Val McDermid

Waterstones Deansgate

The Whitworth Art Gallery

The official Manchester Literature Festival event blog

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Published: Afterwards

For the purpose of promotion I will show you who
Is causing a commotion up at Oldham Zoo
You won’t find a creature who’s a massiver colossus
Thank my old friend Peter, who’s a rapping hippopotamus
He’s dozing in his quarters, mostly underwater
With the novel The Informers open in the corner
Halfway down the corridor, walking in approach:
Peter’s only confidant, the awesome Fluffy Oakes.
Fluffy’s made a promise to the big aquatic mammal
To bring fantastic literature, flash fiction or a drabble
He walks into the room and says, “Check out what I’ve got for ya,
An E-magazine called Every Night Erotica
The magazine is free, there’s no need to start a hedge fund,
This story’s by Matt Tuckey, and he's a fucking legend!
It’s a decent publication and I know that you’ll be hot for this,
But in case of provocation I must tell you that it’s not for kids."

Friday, 19 November 2010

Comedy Poetry Slam!

The Manchester Literature Festival event took place at the Northern pub in- unsurprisingly to Mancs- the Northern Quarter. On the evening of 21st October, Julian Daniel hosted the sell-out event, which he described as “like the X-Factor without the threat of deportation.” The slam offered a cash prize to the winning poet. Other participants won a recession-busting stint in a Chilean mine.

Julian got us to practice clapping and laughing- literally- before the poets took to the mic.

Mark Edmondson’s poem “Denise” featured a fat, depressed, female double amputee.
Dave Till’s “Take a bath” ended with a scene of suicide. Ho ho!

Julian read a poem- also hygiene-related- in which he advised us not to “dump someone in a bath with a huge erection.” Noted.

Poets reeled off their work in quick fire- Alex Helan gave us “Call Centre” and “Last Chance Saloon.” Machak Prenchet read out an unnamed piece about bowel movements and CO2 emissions. Jack Regan’s poem “I Like Girls” was funny but not PC. He raised a few disgruntled eyebrows and I thought the black woman next to me was going to kill him.

Marvin Cheeseman took the mic after this, who- if I remember rightly- was not part of the slammers. In his intro, he describes Wayne Rooney as “a piece of shit.” He was promoting his book Full Metal Jacket Potato, a comedy poetry anthology. He read out a series of shorts, including “Primark- the Rumble in the Jumble”, “Love Poem to Sophie Ellis Bextor” and “If”. Impressive stuff.

Among other slammers was Tony Walsh, who I marked as the best of the night. His poem “No Room at the Burnie Inn” described the worst Christmas party ever. His performance melded smutty words with wolf-whistles, yawns and some skillful rhyming couplets.

Ed Kanghi followed Tony. “What I do when I’m not writing poetry,” said Ed, “Erm, I went to an orgy.” He then reads “Parlour Across the Road” and a series of other twisted, graphic shorts. Good work, Ed.

After a second-place tie and a one-on-one slam-off between two poets, Ben took silver with “Poetry’s Worst Enemy”, about alcohol. He won a Manchester Literature Festival T-shirt. My prediction was accurate- Tony Walsh took the metaphorical comedy golden medal: a bottle of bubbly, an MLF T-Shirt and a wad of cash.

So don’t overlook poetry- it is not all Seamus Heaney and painful GCSE English Lit flashbacks. Keep your eyes peeled for more events.

Here’s Rowena Forbes’ official MLF write-up.

Here’s the venue- a very modern pub:

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Manchester Blog Awards!

Wednesday, 20th October.

I’m in the ironically-titled Manchester Deaf Institute, a bar on Oxford Road, where trip-hop music pulses from the speakers. An array of fine whiskeys and bourbons lines the back bar. I’m sipping Chairman’s Rum as bodies fill up the room, the two factors telling me it’s time to take off the Patrick-Bateman-style long woollen coat. Tonight it’s the Manchester Blog Awards, a Manchester Literature Festival event.

The bar, which before being so, was the actual institute for deaf people, was probably originally built as a church. The pew seating stretches up, row by row, into a moodily-lit alcove with flowery flock wallpaper where amateur writers are choosing padded seats.

Awards representative John Atkin takes the stage/alter. This year, he says, there have been 298 online nominations for the awards. That’s a 50% increase on 2009. 2010 was the first year that the public could vote, as opposed to a panel of judges. As a result 2000 votes were cast in the 2-week voting period, which I think illuminates extent of the burgeoning blogging scene in Manchester. It also shows that bloggers have got friends and readers, and that they aren’t all sat alone in darkened rooms, writing solely for themselves: there’s a defined writing community out there.

Before the announcement of awards, we’re treated to a few readings. First, official event blogger David Hartley reads out “Unknown Sensor Mast”, his bizarre but captivating story on 330 Words.

Chris Killen performs a reading of his choose-your-own route story.

Think Ian Livingstone-style, but set in the dating world. Nominee blogger Fat Roland volunteers to take the journey, and strangely picks the opposite decisions to what I’d have chosen at every turning point. On the journey, Roland begrudgingly goes to a restaurant, ditches his date and tries to climb out of the toilet window. The tale ends with dating disaster!

“No matter what you did,” Chris explains, “you go on the date. But there’s only one ending.”

Chris, who originally designed the story as an iPhone app, had tested it on a few people. It’s designed to work for either gender, but he explains it didn’t work on a recent practice-read when a twelve-year-old girl volunteered to be the protagonist.

The climax of the night is the award ceremony itself. Award highlights include Love Levenshulme winning Best City and Neighbourhood blog. One contributor says she’s “written largely about kebabs.”

Fat Roland picks up the award for best writing on a blog, and in his acceptance speech he apologised to James Blunt- rhetorically telling him “You don’t look like a vagina.”

Here's his electronica-based journal:

Personally I’d like to congratulate all the winners. It was a successful night, a great atmosphere and a superb venue. I’m looking forward to next year’s event.
Here's the bar- good for live music, and decorated with a range of polished skulls, including bison and antelope:

And here’s the official MLF blog:

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

You Should Have Seen It Coming, Cameron...

Urbis, the modern Manchester museum, recently tweeted this:

“So, with all these media studies students about, why has the 'let's pay no fees' movement got no decent media spokespeople?”!/urbsmanchester

Interesting. This tweet was undoubtedly relating to today's London “march”.

There always was, and always will be, opposition to fees. And rightly so. There will probably be protests in Manchester and other cities in the near future.

Urbis have asked a good question- one I can answer. The media industry is broader than any other industry you can find. An employee could work in Marketing in media. They could be a technician. They might be a runner in TV or radio, a presenter or a programmer. They could work at an advertising agency or make corporate videos that only bank employees get to see. The point is, “Media” is a broad subject. It’s too broad a topic, in fact, for a Higher Education course to properly prepare a student for the world of work. I have a 2:1 in Professional Broadcast Techniques, a course in which I learned next to nothing about the techniques of broadcasting professionally. It was a very general course, and with little focus on a particular area of media. We definitely weren’t trained to act as a spokesperson for anyone. And I suppose PR should have been part of the syllabus.

Media courses do not prepare people for the world of work. There’s the proof. A plan for the future of Media courses: HE institutions should scrap Media as a general subject and replace it with intensive specialist subjects- like radio programming, marketing, journalism, TV production and advertising. Most of these will cross over, but these subjects will train an individual and channel them into a specific sector of the media industry. “Media”, as a subject, will not. Getting a job in the media, with a media qualification, will rely on many factors- but mostly luck.

Working in many of these industries takes a bit of guts. On my uni course, tutors warned us that we would have to fight our corner in the industry and that media bosses are sometimes short-tempered and tough. They tried to make us outspoken and resilient, but the course itself didn’t bring that out of us. Nobody developed that mentality that a lot of the staff had.

I nearly developed the ability to verbally fight my corner without sounding arrogant. I remember pitching to a tutor an idea for a short surreal film about choking. I wanted to make the audience feel like a lump of food in somebody’s throat as they choke, and I wanted the camera to “fly” out of the actor’s mouth when another character gives the Heimlich manoeuvre. “That sounds disgusting,” my tutor said. “Well,” I replied, “I’ve got the response that I wanted from my audience already. I’ve only pitched you the idea.”

I knew that I’d retorted the way she wanted: I defended my original vision in the face of criticism. She was a good tutor, I suppose. She challenged everyone’s ideas to see how they handled it. This didn’t happen often enough, though.

And that’s why there’s no God-damn student spokespeople out there- uni students aren’t required to “toughen up” and fight with their brains, like they would be in the industry.

Prove me wrong, media students. You deserve a better deal- not just with reducing the price of fees, like every other student, but in being provided with courses that give you tailored tuition AND what you might call “life coaching”- both of which would get you the job you want. The only problem with that is that future students are going to have to compete for the places. But isn’t that what used to happen... only with a grant?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Miguelanxo Prado's Adult Spanish Comic Première

I throw myself into the Instituto Cervantes, the institute for all things Spanish, on Deansgate. I’m a few minutes late, due to the shite-ness of First Buses- they left me stranded at Oldham Mumps bus depot where the drivers change over, and I sat on the bus for 15 fucking minutes just waiting for the second driver to turn up.


When I get in, a woman gives me a set of headphones attached to a CB radio, and I can already hear a Spanish-tinted voice, in English, translating the man speaking. I presume- correctly- that the bearded man in the mismatched suit is Miguelanxo Prado, the Spanish comic book artist who is here to discuss his work for the Manchester Literature Festival. Behind me, in a small room, is a man translating Mr. Prado over the airwaves.

“I consider myself to be a creator of the twenty-first century,” Prado says. “It’s very difficult to justify the figure of ‘the artist’.”

The translation is interesting- it isn’t always clear, as you can tell from the above statement, what he's saying or implying. Prado’s messages come through most powerfully, however, through his visuals. On his whiteboard, he draws a simple line image of a horse. He describes how the first creatures to draw on walls- our ape ancestors- recognised each other’s images. Still today, no other animals will recognise, he explains, the image of a creature as representing the creature itself.

Prado, who learned to draw in his twenties by “reading like mad”, released his first book in 1982. George Orwell’s work, he says, inspired the SF comic. Through the projector, he shows us a scene of a man being attacked by a dog… interesting. A Clockwork Orange inspired the story, the visuals- featuring dark, strange buildings- nodding to Cubism.

He shows us a plethora of images on the screen behind him- large, vibrant scenes, void of text captions. (There are “American English” translations for a small amount of his work, Prado says, but not these pieces.) There’s a comic version of Peter and the Wolf. Here’s a story about a giant squid. Following this is a scene of Hitler using hypnotism to turn people Nazi. For some reason… this makes me think of sausages.

The images he shows us are caption-less- the Spanish text removed, presumably to avoid distraction. Prado has, however, created comics with no words, allowing purely the visuals to tell the story.

We are the first people, Prado says, to see his new images. His work-in-progress is a story set in a mountain village, in which no-one has any memory of anything. “Without memory,” says the artist, “our characters would change. We couldn’t look back to compare, or evaluate. We’d be stuck in a vicious circle.”

It’s then that I realise I can smell sausages cooking somewhere in a nearby room of the building. God-damn, I’m hungry.

Prado says he likes to “test the limits of what can and can’t be done” in the field of comics. This testing has landed him with a few lawsuits over some of his satirical strips, which has only helped to further his career. “Chroniques Absurdes”, his subsequent comic, could be described as the only available courtroom-based comic book. Describing it as “psychotherapy” and “a chance to get rid of all the ghosts”, the book featured doctors, lawyers and “perverse happenings and the absurd” to allow us to laugh at ourselves.

Prado goes on to tell us that in Spain, girls “have a name for not being very good drivers”, getting disapproving murmurs from the female members of the audience, and that he flattened all four tyres of a woman’s car after she took his parking space. He also admits to coercing a shop attendant into selling him some reserved vegetables out of spite, after seeing a pretentious-looking woman order the “grillos” moments before.

“In Manchester, you won’t know this type of woman,” he says. “Fairly elegant, overdoing… giving too much importance to one’s appearance.”

They do exist here, mate, I write in my notebook.

Prado sketches a rich-looking woman who resembles Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatians.

Over the microphone there’s a rustling sound as Prado doodles, as if the translator has a pencil and is having a go himself.

“As you can see, she has hair like Margaret Thatcher,” Prado says. “Effectively elegant, perhaps.” Hmm. Never thought of Thatcher as “elegant”, personally, but he makes sense when he's drawing. Coupled with his images, the narration is surprisingly descriptive.

In the closing Q+A session, when the Cervantes employee jogs between audience members with a microphone, Prado answers agrees that even though we are more likely to imagine that kids are the consumer group reading comics, they are actually the ones missing out. The best artwork, he says, is in the comics for adults.

I suspect that UK adults will take a long time to come around to the medium of comics. There’s a bit of a stigma around the medium- Particularly in Britain- people generally assume that comics are for kids or geeks. But you never know. If people realise the breadth of graphic novels, and start to take a shine to them, the name Miguelanxo Prado might start to ring a few bells.

The official website is in Spanish, so I’ve had to resort to the Wikipedia page for reference:

Here’s blogger Alex Herod’s enthusiastic write-up for the Manchester Literature Festival official blog: