Thursday, 30 September 2010

None Whatsoever

A writing exercise based on the above title, due to none of us being able to think of anything else...

Hmm. How ironic. This writing exercise title was devised after the four of us had no plans for new writing exercises.

Fifteen minutes. Tick tock. Tick tock.

In fact, while I'm pen-in-hand, I might as well advertise the group. If you live near enough to Manchester Centre and you do creative writing, why not get down here and join us. We're at Costa Coffee in the Arndale Waterstones, fortnightly on Sundays from 1pm. Here's the link to the site:

We'll start the session with a free-writing exercise like this one, and then we'll read them out to see how we each interpreted the exercise.

If you want your work critiquing, bring in 6 copies to dish out to us. Read your work aloud and we'll help you tighten it up and get it ready for publication. If that's what you want. I like to think we're all fair but constructive critics. If you feel you could be too, by all means come and meet us.

Okay. Another six minutes.

Here we go. As we couldn't get a grant from the arts council, we've made a table sign saying “Writers Connect” made out of very elegant torn-off cardboard. So, if it's your first time, you'll know which ones we are.

Remind me that- on the issue of merchandise- I have a few blog cards to dish out. Some of you will recognise some of the entries from previous exercises, that I've typed up.

Is any of this relevant to the title of the exercise, though? You know how much idea I have.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Case Against Syndication

Manchester's Social Media Café meets monthly in The Northern, a bar on Tib St in the Northern Quarter.

I went a few months ago to see if there were any other writers there, who might be doing a similar thing to me, and to do some shameless self-promotion whether there was or not.

The topic of the night was syndication. The idea: The more places your blog is held, the more people will see your work. But why upload your entries to each blog one after the other, the SMC organisers suggested, when you can “syndicate” your blog sites?

You upload to your primary site, and your secondary sites are automatically updated with the same information. Sounds like a good idea. I don't do it, though, and my blog content appears on five separate web pages simultaneously. I copy and paste for two reasons. The first: I can't figure out how to do it. Second: I wouldn't want to do it f I could.

Let's say there's a problem with one of your sites. You've written something, and someone takes offence to it. They contact the site administrators. They could get you shut down. It's extreme, but it happens. It's happened to me. If the complainant spots the work on one of your secondary sites, it will still appear on the rest of your web pages. But if they get your work taken down from your primary site... you lose it everywhere.

Another advantage to non-syndication: you can modify content for each blog. What you do in everyday life might be fine for anyone to read. But if you're a professional cage fighter who relaxes by flower-pressing after training, and you're keen to extol the virtues of both, you might feel that they don't sit together. Not syndicating allows (and requires) you to use your own judgement.

Some websites like are a pain in the arse to format. When I paste a blog into Webs' blog uploader, the site throws out all of my paragraphs and a lot of the spaces between words. Out of all the blog sites I've tried, Webs takes the longest to tweak text. Some other blog-hosting sites aren't much better.

The point is that, as a blogger, you are the king of your blog kingdom. You are in control of your output. The Copy and Paste functions are your weapons. Use them to protect and tweak your work, and your reign shall be long and prosperous.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Lovebird

Terence the peach-faced lovebird sits on his perch in the birdhouse, alone. The human punters stroll through the building, admiring the radiance of the rainbow lorikeets, the bright plumes of the macaws, the macabre, large stillness of the black vultures.

The punters stop at Terence's enclosure and fall silent. The sign says,

“Lillian's Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae)” .

His beauty impresses people, sure. His green plume, ebbing into orange around his tiny face, is always perfectly groomed. He stares back at the people as they pass, his chin high. He's waiting for their expressions to slip into mild confusion, and for the mumbling conversations to start.

A human couple approach the glass, hand-in-hand. They look into his cage, into his eyes, into his heart.

She turns her head towards her boyfriend's, never breaking eye-contact with Terence. “Aren't lovebirds supposed to come in pairs?” she asks, quietly.

“That's what I thought,” he says.


Terence watches as he releases of her hand and holds her by the far hip. She looks down, leaning into her boyfriend, her head resting on his shoulder.

Like they know what to do to hurt him the most.

For the hundredth time today, his tiny parrot heart breaks.

The couple stroll on to the next window, leaving Terence alone, again.

He knows he has to address this. Who puts a lovebird into a zoo... on its own? Do they not research their subjects, he thinks, before they organise accommodation?

Terence knows that there is only one way forward for him. He needs to speak to his mentor, Fluffy Oakes. Fluffy is the only human who even slightly understands him. In fact, he's the only creature on Earth that does- maybe ever. But Terence knows that he's not the only animal in the zoo with challenges. There are others that need Fluffy's help. Lots of others.

Terence and Fluffy haven't met for three weeks now. The lovebird's minor problems are all mounting up- his diet, his accommodation, his general health- plus the pressure of being a spectacle in the zoo...

But most of all, his longing for another lovebird is crushing him.

Can Fluffy sort this for him? Will Terence even get around to talking about this, or will he shy away from the issue?

His meeting with Fluffy is in two more days. In the meantime, Terence is just going to stay on that perch, his head high, pruning his feathers, accepting the punters' compliments and trying to ignore the pain... and how wrong all this is.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Meeting Peter F Hamilton

“Al Capone actually had Syphilis,” says Peter F Hamilton, Britain's leading Science Fiction writer. “That's why he had such an outrageous temper.”

It's Thursday 16th September. We're upstairs in Waterstones Deansgate, and SF fans fill the room. I guess I'm one of them, although I've never yet read a Hamilton book. Mr. Hamilton is here to promote and sign copies of his new novel, The Evolutionary Void. It's the third in his Void trilogy, after The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void.

From the passage that he reads out, Hamilton's work seems strongly science-based: realistic but yet surprisingly contemporary, with colloquial, realistic dialogue. There's a good bit of humour in it too, which SF has always lacked.

In the Q&A after the reading, Mr. Hamilton reveals that a character called Capone, featuring in his novels, was in fact based on the legendary Chicago mobster. In The Evolutionary Void, every character believes Capone can run things. Hence the name. And hence the research into the mobster... and his STIs.

Mr. Hamilton reveals he may start writing contemporary, non-SF stories in the future. Whether he'll drop the middle initial, Iain M. Banks style, remains to be seen. He's also planning shorter novels for kids.

After starting an immense debate online about the necessity of realistic science in SF, ( I wanted to ask about how he found the balance between getting the believable, hard science facts into the story, but at the same time not allowing the science to get in the way of the reader's enjoyment.

“Balance is critical,” Mr. Hamilton says. “I usually use instinct, or my editor, to keep the physics sound. I do research at pop science level, but I mostly use judgement.”

He mentions that two scientists from the same facility separately wrote to him, over a dispute about how much science Mr. Hamilton knew. One claimed he knew everything. The other reckoned he knew only the buzzwords. He wrote back to both- a letter each- saying “I only know the buzzwords.” What a guy!

If you've ever read a Hamilton novel or seen one on the shelf, you'll know they are big books. Well, Evolutionary is the biggest yet. When he rang his editor, the conversation allegedly went a little like this:

Hamilton: I've finished!

Editor: At last!

Hamilton: Yeah, it's a little longer than the others.

Editor: Okay, how long is it?

Hamilton: Two hundred and forty thousand words.

Editor: Oh fuck.

On that issue, Mr. Hamilton says he does self-edit but nobody believes him.

He also mentions that he sticks with describing dystopian, world-has-gone-to-pot futures, because the opposite image of a peaceful future world would be dull. “If we were dumped in Utopia,” he proposes, “what would we do?”

The sound of a police car siren, screaming down Deansgate below us, punctuates this point perfectly.

Scribble scribble. Book signed and dedicated. Snap. The (rather fit) events manager lady takes our picture.

More on the man:

Sunday, 19 September 2010

August Missions

“A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.”
-Bruce Lee

You may remember that, in July Moments, I mentioned I received a job offer.

The assistant manager of Rififi nightclub wanted me to work as a podium dancer- or at least, that's what she told me after watching me in the club. I never heard back from her, though. Boo. Someone I spoke to mentioned she has a tendency to make things up and lead people on. Weird. Well, at least my weekends are still free.

On Friday 13th August I saw two of my friends batter their way to glory. Warriors 6 was a boxing event put on by KO Promotions in Manchester's Ritz nightclub.

My MMA instructor Dave Butlin- boxing on this event- took his opponent apart fairly swiftly in an explosive bout. Team-mate Jordan McClusky- boxing on the night too- also won his bout after a tough, long fight. Team Quannum all the way!

Once the fights were over, we hit the after party at Silks Gentlemen's Lounge.

Silks sponsored the night at the Ritz and also provided the stunning ring girls. I spoke to Bob, from Irlam, who'd just whacked out £40 on a 2-girl dance. “Well, it is a nice club,” he said, admiring the opulent décor. “And the girls are beautiful. I enjoyed the dance, but it was too dark. They plonk you on this leather couch in a little room- it's private and comfortable, like, but the lights are so dim you can't see what's going on. It didn't exactly last very long, either. The dance, I mean.”

I have to say it was unusual going to a bar full of beautiful women and turning them all down. You find yourself avoiding eye-contact with them, because you know they're going to come over and try to take your money, for want of a better expression. I guess that's what a night out is like for a lot of women. Sort of.

Moving on. In a failed attempt to save money, I have spent most of August with my head in books. First up: the 1970 SF classic, Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Louis Wu is a successful but bored 200-year-old, celebrating his birthday by teleporting himself around the world to extend his birthday in the year 2855. When a member of an alien species offers him an opportunity to join an expedition to a planet that encircles its own sun, it offers the excitement he's been looking for. But the Ringworld itself has some strange surprises for Louis.

I think this book has stood the test of time because of its relentless creativity and scientific realism. From the first page, Niven shows us a world- Earth- that has developed to the extent that science has altered everything we touch or encounter- the moving footpaths, the high-powered sun cream that protects characters from the UV rays that pour in past the diminished ozone layer, the alien species that have (somewhat) integrated with human society- Niven packs every page with vivid details.

Literary types say that SF will always have a date stamp on it- the technology we have now dictates how writers envisage the world(s) of the future. But forty years on, Ringworld is still standing the test of time. The science still works and the story is engaging. If you're thinking of dabbling in SF, this is a good place to start.

Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies for the Future. A handy book to have around, wouldn't you think? Mario Reading's book takes a look at some of the quatrains (sort of free-verse poems depicting future scenarios) written by the 16th century diviner. Nostradamus was an apothecary- like a pharmacist- but became famous as a prophet. Reading interprets the quatrains with a lot of assertion. He explains in the introduction that Nostradamus used wordplay a lot, and that nobody would have interpreted his texts literally in his time- hence we shouldn't do now.

Scholars believe that Nostradamus has already predicted the great plague, the great fire of London, The rise of Hitler and the attacks at 9/11- and the resulting war on terror. A note- at some point this year, we are due an advance warning of the third Antichrist. He won't drop into the maternity ward until 2032, however, so you've got time to batten down the hatches. (The first two, if you were wondering, were either Napoleon and Hitler or Stalin and Hitler. Reading and other academics haven't concluded on that one.)

As a book it's interesting, although Reading's thought processes seem a little presumptive. I'd have liked more info on past predictions first- I think a lot of readers would be more receptive to the predictions that way. It would have been more fulfilling if there was info on how researchers have come to interpret the work the way they did. More to the point- how did Nostradamus have these visions? This is a key question that isn't even touched on in the book. I also thought the book, as it stands, could have been smaller- publishers Watkins have formatted the text so wide that there's hardly anything on the page.

A good book, but a bit thin on the ground leaving a lot of questions unanswered. No wonder it was on offer in a bargain book store.

No Country For Old Men swaggers in next. This 1970s-set western novel moves at breakneck speeds, has authentic slang and grips from the offset. If you've seen the film, you'll know how original it is- even though the premise is not. Hunter Llewellyn Moss finds $1.2 million at the scene of a botched heroin deal, a spot in the desert surrounded by bodies and bullet-riddled trucks. He cuts and runs with the loot and, with an ageing sheriff and the entire Mexican cartel on his tail, starts to throw away his life a piece at a time.

The book is even more sparse than the film- details of the plot are left for the reader to figure out themselves, and McCarthy manages to say a lot in just a few words. He describes events clinically, leaving you to feel the appropriate emotion rather than read about it. A short, sharp shock of a book, and a worthy read even to those who know the film.

Oh, God. I plunged in at the deep end after this. William Burroughs' Naked Lunch bit my head off, chewed it up, shat it out and served it back up to me. This once-banned 1959 novel still stands as being possibly the most twisted, depraved book in existence. It's written as a series of loosely connected vignettes, starting with a heroin addict roaming the streets trying to score drugs. It then descends into a drug-fuelled, homicidal sex orgy for 200 pages. Imagine American Psycho without the yuppie lifestyle info. Or the complete works of Hunter S Thompson with no journalistic intentions- just drug accounts. Then multiply by a thousand. The descriptions are fantastically vivid, if you can stomach them- giving hilarious, poignant and sometimes quite sad insights into the world of 1950's addicts. Read it if you dare.

I needed to lighten the mood after the carnage of the violent books I'd read over the last few weeks- so I ended the month with Hank Zipzer: Day of the Iguana. Penning the Zipzer children's novels is none other than Henry Winkler, AKA “The Fonz” from Happy Days. He also, more recently, played Coach Klein in The Waterboy. Did I mention that I met him and my got a signed copy?! Yes, I did. It was the first kid's book I've read in about 15 years, but it was still pretty good. Hats off to Mr. Winkler for creating a character with dyslexia and bringing learning difficulties into the limelight. Not only that, but he's dyslexic himself, and has a series of books out. Well done indeed.

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

Who here has been to Newcastle? I went earlier in August for Gaz's stag do. I'd never been to Geordieland before. I'd never been on a stag do either- nor dressed up as a pensioner with a flat cap, a pipe and a cardigan. But that was the theme. So we set off at 7am in full old-person attire and hammered it 98 miles north.

Or at least, that was the plan. We may have looked elderly, but we made a major schoolboy error. Whoever rode shotgun programmed the satnav for Newcastle-under-Lyme, in the south of England, as opposed to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, just below Scotland. We'd covered about 50 miles of southbound motorway before we realised our mistake. Next time, I'm in charge of the satnav. Even without the detour, it was the furthest I've ever driven. So I was a bit frayed by the time we passed the Angel of the North and cruised into the B'n'B.

We then went out and visited some piss-stinking old-men's pubs, which were hilarious, as most of the customers had dressed exactly like us. (That's us except for the stag, who looked like a cross between a bride and a fairy, in some kind of pink ballerina outfit with a matching handbag.) Drinking games and vast quantities of booze followed, as did a yuppie bar, a strip club (where I was certifiably ripped off- I won't go into detail, but Diamonds Bar would have got the big thumbs up otherwise as most of the night there was hilarious) ( and a seventies bar (where I wasted a guy in a dance-off). We also found a Boris Yeltsin lookalike who was, ironically, drunk and falling asleep in his chair. It was a photo opportunity we couldn't resist.

The city was cold, as expected, but the locals were surprisingly friendly and the women were mostly hot. I haemorrhaged my account that weekend, but I have no regrets.

“You got a way of talking about one thing, then, ZAP- you start talking about something else.”
-The Wolf (Harvey Keitel), Pulp Fiction

Indeed I do, Mr. Wolf. And on that note, here are my two pennies on Manchester's recent Gay Pride parade. I was in Newcastle when this happened, but I read about the “Christian” picketers shouting “sinful” and “wicked” at the gay people as they walked past. I'm a straight man, and a Christian. In case, y'know, you didn't know. I don't really bang on about either of those aspects of myself. But I still thought the protester's behaviour was appalling. I hope Manchester City Council ban them next year, as they apparently plan to. Do the protesters not realise that there are already gay chickens, emus, penguins, salmon, lizards, tortoises, turtles, rattlesnakes, frogs, toads, salamanders, worms, beetles, dragonfly, crickets, moths, fleas, flies, wasps, bears, bats, elephants and domestic cats? Genesis says God made all of those, right? Get with the program, guys.

I suppose I should write a conclusion to this. Going back to the subject of endurance, I've got tons more to do including stories I want publishing, ideally. So I should stop rabbiting on about gay animals (pun intended) and get on with it. Laterzzzz.....

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Should Gyms be Unisex?

“The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is... The Pump. Let's say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles and that's what we call The Pump. You muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute, and it's really tight - it's like somebody blowing air into it, into your muscle. It just blows up, and it feels really different. It feels fantastic. It's as satisfying to me as, uh, coming is, you know? As, ah, having sex with a woman and coming. And so can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like, uh, getting the feeling of coming in a gym, I'm getting the feeling of coming at home, I'm getting the feeling of coming backstage when I pump up, when I pose in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling, so I am coming day and night. I mean, it's terrific. Right? So you know, I am in heaven.”
-Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pumping Iron (1977)

2006. I'm working out in Holmes Place, a city-centre gym. I got a week's free membership from a marketer after I filled in a questionnaire, and I'm making the most of the privilege. I'm feeling the burn on the chest press, but I can't quite focus on putting my all into the exercise. Something doesn't feel right.

I look up at the other people. There's a woman on the cross-trainer eyeing me with disdain. Another woman is power-walking on the treadmill- she's not keen on me either.

Do I really look that dodgy? I think.

I carry on working out until, a few minutes later, a gym instructor approaches me.

“You can't work out in here, mate,” he says, voice lowered. “This is the ladies' gym.”

I had no idea. I walk out of the area for women. It doesn't have a door, more like half a wall separating the “ladies' gym” from the “unisex” area. There's a discreet sign on the far side, that I missed.

What a jip, I think. It's the Naughties, and gender inequality is still rife in Britain. Only now it feels like it's going the other way.

Hence, I ask: Why allow women to work out in a “man-free” environment? And if you're going to give them that privilege, why let them choose whether they work out in their own area or the rest of the gym?

Despite this, I'm actually in favour of segregated gyms. When I work out, it's the one time and place that I'd prefer there be no women around. I don't want the distraction.

I'm not a big guy, so the heaviest weight I can lift really isn't ever that far up the range of weights available. I put everything into a 45-minute session, and by the end of it I look like shit.

It's not a massive deal when I work out. I shut everyone out mentally at these times, whether there are women there or not- even if she's fit. Okay, it can be difficult if she's fit. But on the heavy weights I grunt, sweat, sometimes scream in order to beat a personal best. In short, I look and sound like a total psycho. But hey, Arnie was doing the same thing when he was my age.

I don't have the porn music playing in the background, though. Normally just VH-1, or whatever.

Having said that, weren't gyms developed for men to build muscle tissue? That's what I use them for. I don't quite look like the guy in the video, but, y'know... a day at a time. I always thought the cardio machines were there just to warm up. If all I wanted to do was lose weight, I'd go for a run or use a skipping rope. Running is free. Ropes are around £10. If a woman wants to tone a certain part of her body, I know a load of weight-free exercises that she can do. It would save her a fortune.

So, yeah, if gyms still prove popular with women in future, we should segregate them for our own good- and certainly mine. And if Arnie can't discourage women from working out in men's gyms, I don't think anyone can.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Extremely Late Half-Arsed World Cup Analysis

“I wasn't as fit as I would have liked to have been, going to the World Cup, but I'm not sure what difference that made.”
-David Beckham, presumably after the 2006 tournament.

I agree, Dave. Because you are crap. Like every other British footballer.

I realise it's September, and the World Cup came to a close in July, but I still would like to analyse the predictions I posted on May 25th. Check out the entry here:

So. My first prediction: We won't win the tournament. Outcome: Correct. Second prediction: The team that will beat us will have a culture where the men are frequently skilled dancers. Outcome: Incorrect. Germany beat England 4-1. The Germans have folk dance, but it isn't very prevalent. Much like Morris dancing in England. Given their unflamboyant culture, I can't explain how Germany have always been such football heavyweights. Others- who actually follow the sport- perhaps can. Third prediction: We'd get to the quarter-finals. Outcome: Incorrect. Germany beat us in the last sixteen, the stage before the quarters.

Having said that, look who won the tournament. Good ol' Spain. I'm assuming you've heard of the Flamenco and Fandango? They are very popular styles in southern Europe. There are a few other dance styles you might come across in the Mediterranean nation. See here:

I mentioned that cultural influences like dance would positively affect players on the football pitch. Spain certainly are “a country more graceful than our own”, as I then put it. That makes me one hellufa prophet. Shame I don't actually like the sport.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

It's 2010, Libraries. Time to Wake Up.

“Shh. M'kay?”
-Mr Mackey, South Park

Recently I added Oldham Library to my list of places that I've been booted out of. I'd found a secluded area- a separate room- in which to make a phone call, but soon enough a librarian hunted me down and ejected me. I asked her if there was anywhere I could make a phone call. She said, “outside”.

So Oldham Library now joins a growing list of places that have turfed me out. And I thought I was a nice guy.

Let's have a look at these places.

2) Baa Bar, Deansgate Locks.

I used to work there. All I did was resign, with notice. They barred me for three months. Company rules. I rolled back in the night I quit. The boss rolled me back out again.

3) Circle Club, Barton Arcade

It wasn't actually me being turfed out of this media professionals members club. A friend of mine got so drunk that he fell asleep in his chair. The doormen made me drag him out. He threw up over the flowers in St. Anne’s Square.

4) Zumebar, Oxford Road

Again, not me out of line. And again, same mate is the catalyst! Some pisshead student, standing next to him, kept swaying his way and bumping into him. Zumebar was pretty crowded, so my mate couldn't just move away. Eventually my mate turned, grabbed the gimp by the throat and slammed him against a wall. The music was way too loud for me to hear anything said, but my mate was screaming in this guy's face, neck veins bulging. I grabbed my mate by the waist from behind and dragged him back on my heels. It was at this moment that a big black shape cleaned us both out and dragged us down a fire exit corridor, leaving said gimp inside. The doorman shoved us both out onto the street and slammed the door shut.

“I've got a photographic image of that guy in my mind,” my mate ranted. “Next time I see him I'm going to smash his face into a wall!”

Moments later we're sat at a nearby bus stop, cooling down.

“Pretty funny, wasn't it?” he chuckled.

5) Stretford Mall

A few years ago I was working as a promoter for local radio station Key 103. One assignment involved the mobile phone brand O2, who had opened a new store. We were offering mystery prizes outside their Stretford branch near Trafford. I'd like to give a big heads-up to the Stretford Mall security staff who frogmarched me out of the building and forced me to promote in the rain. You made me the man I am today.

6/7) Selfridges / Harvey Nicholls

Later that year, and still with Key 103, I worked with Armand Beasley from How to Look Good Naked. Specsavers were looking for The Spectacle Wearer of the Year, and had hired Mr Beasley to represent the campaign. He was also offing makeover advice to the public. My task- woe betide me- was to approach good-looking women in glasses to get them involved in the competition. The things I do for money...

Mr. Beadsley advised us that make-up counters could be the best places to chase up, so I dived straight into department store Harvey Nicholls and fired into the counter girls. It wasn't long before a guy in a suit came over to ask what I was doing. (I stood out in a branded Key 103 t-shirt, cap and bag.) He was a decent looking guy, I supposed, and he was wearing glasses, so I pitched him too. He cut me off with “not in here” and frogmarched me out of the front door.

I then went around the corner to Selfridges (similar establishment, similar beautiful women), where pretty much the same thing happened.

More info on Mr. Beadsley:

Now. Back to the issue of libraries. Once a venue purely for books, the modern library now has a bank of computers with high-speed broadband. Whether you use them for research or just to hammer Limewire is, to some degree, up to you. The point is that technology is changing us. People research using a variety of mediums- books, the internet, group meetings- and libraries accommodate for all of these. But we also research by contacting specific people with the knowledge and answers we require.

I was trying to contact some social work lecturers at a local university for research on a short story. Why is there no specific room cordoned off for making phone calls?

8) Adelphi Library

Oh yeah- I was also booted out of Salford University's Adelphi campus library when trying to research for a student film shoot. I phoned outside the doors to the library so I could jump back in to talk to team members. The doors hadn't been oiled, and every time someone walked through, they sounded like a family of gerbils being tortured- through a megaphone. Inside the library was perfectly quiet. Outside was the noisiest place in the building.

9) Wave Bar, Portland Street

I'm pretty proud of this one. Week one: I pulled the DJ's girlfriend. Week 2: I rolled back in and gave her my number. In front of said DJ. On my way out, he gets on the mic: “Yeah, nice try, Matt.” Nice try indeed. Week 3: I wonder in again (to meet a different girl altogether) and walk straight past the DJ booth and into the gents' room. When I come out, there's a doorman waiting for me. “You're gonna have to leave, mate,” he says. “You've done something to offend the DJ.” He has no idea, I think.

Jerry Springer-style Afterthought

Maybe designers should give libraries two conjoined sections- a traditional book-reading area, with computer banks at the side of this, and a separate call-centre-style room for phone calls- possibly also with computers. Just pick your room as you go in, based on what you want to do.

We can find most of the information we would normally need online, and so much fiction is available through electronic kindles and the like. Considering this, it's time libraries had an overhaul. In a few years, they will probably be fashioned as a hybrid of an internet coffee-shop and a community centre- a place where people can go to find answers to questions. Some answers will be in books, some online and some will come from talking to other people. But why set the rules of the library in stone? The world moves too quickly for that.

Oh, and stop reading aloud. The person on the computer next to you is giving you evils... You don't want him to get security.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Meeting Dom Joly

“Funny. Frank. Fearless. In fact, if he weren't already called Dom Joly, that would be a much better name for him.”
-Danny Wallace, TV/ Radio comedian

The star of Trigger Happy TV and the author of new travelogue The Dark Tourist was in Manchester on Thursday 9th, to sign copies of the book.

Dom Joly tried to visit the worst places in the world as research for the book's subject matter. At Deansgate Waterstones, he read a section about his attempt to break into the Texas Book Depository and to stand exactly where Lee Harvey Oswald did when lining up the most infamous of shots. The chapter describes a Texan security guard busting him, confiscating his camera and booting out of the building. Joly also recounted tales of segregated skiing in Iran, where- due to strict laws, he learned to asked shady types for “pizza” whenever he wanted booze.

He described visiting Chernobyl and getting dangerously close, the risk punctuated by the Geiger counter beeping so frequently it hummed. He called Kiev the “mullet capital of the world”. He also mentioned, which doesn't seem to be an active domain at the moment, but featured photographs of the crap haircuts from all over the world. Elsewhere in Russia he passed out after drinking Samagon, a home-made vodka, which he described as “the weirdest part of the tour”.

He saw the dictatorship lifestyle of North Korea (mentioning that “Bean” was the first movie to be played there that didn't require a man translating everything through a loudspeaker).

Joly's most fascinating fact- he grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, where he attended the same school as Osama Bin Laden. At different times, he assures us.

Keep your eyes peeled for information on a Trigger Happy movie. Joly says it's just an idea at the moment, but this time the public won't be subjected to hidden camera pranks featuring men dressed as giant rabbits. He will be looking for members of the public to get purposefully involved in this project- although in what capacity is still under wraps.

Speaking of keeping things under wraps: Joly mentioned he was staying at the Lowry Hotel, which he was amused to find was the same place that Manchester United player Wayne Rooney recently had an affair with a prostitute.

I got a signed book and a photo with Joly. Hurrah!

Here's his Twitter account- it's unverified, but I can confirm it is authentic- it includes a picture of the book store we were in.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

September Poetry Pillow!

The monthly open mic poetry night took place on Friday, 10th of September at An Outlet, a bar on Manchester's Dale St. Compare Dominic O'Berry kicked the night off with “This Room Has Lips”, his nightclub-set poem. Following this featured more modern, sparky pieces from the participants, including “Shoe Goblin”, “Noose” and “Stone Man”.

A young man called Indigo read out a brave poem about getting your stuff back from your ex after a breakup. A lady then read out a poem designed in a numbered list form, about how to improve your life. I thought it was a pretty relevant piece- not just because of the advice, but because many of today's magazine articles are written in short list forms. Lots of modern literature- short novels, E-magazines etc.- is broken down into bitesize chunks like this funny poem was.

This month's winner received a bottle of blowing bubbles, a Coronation Street pint glass, some chess magnets and a novel based on a nintendo game. Woop woop!

A poet called Josh let us know that he's running an open mic night at Nexus Art Gallery. There will also be a question and answer session, which he assures us “usually ends in chaos.” Be there on Sunday 19th. More info:

Monday, 13 September 2010

Hostel / Hostel II: What a waste of a premise

It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror.
-Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), Apocalypse Now

What is wrong with horror in American Cinema? In a nutshell, Hollywood has forgotton what “horror” means.

If I was a Hollywood exec, and somebody pitched “Hostel” to me, I'd jump at it. Think of the premise- American Travellers stop off at an Eastern European hotel only to find they are killed for fun by rich businessmen. This kind of thing has happened in reality, in Thailand, according to the DVD's extras. That should make the film quite scary- but it doesn't.

The slow build-up of events- in which backpackers are gradually coerced into the hostel- lacks any suspense. You'll find your fingers tapping, rather than gripping, the chair as they wonder around clubs and brothels, and occasionally argue with each other. It starts out like a road movie. Just a bunch of kids travelling around.

Eventually, blood is spilled. Backpackers are tortured. Woo. Protagonist Paxton (Jay Hernandez) manages to kill his captor and escape. As his friends have all been murdered in a range of deplorable ways, he goes about plotting his vengeance and his escape.

And, hence, the film descends into a typical revenge story. Paxton rescues a a Chinese torture victim who has only one eye left. Minutes later, she commits suicide by jumping under a train. What was the point of her presence in this film? To show the heroism of the protagonist who rescues her? So we think of him as the good guy? An hour ago, we saw him ogling prostitutes in a brothel window. Why should we believe he's so heroic?

In the commentary track, the director gives more information on those opening scenes. The backpackers eventually end up being the whores themselves, in a fashion. That idea should have been played up more, discussed by the characters and made more of a solid theme. I hardly noticed when I first watched the film.

Paxton then hunts down the man who tricked him into going to the hostel. He follows “The Dutch Businessman” into a toilet and stabs him numerous times. Revenge is sweet, and he clearly gets some pleasure from killing. The the fact it's for revenge makes it slightly more justified, but his desire to kill shows that Paxton's character has crucially changed, and he has become like the people he hates. Of course, the film makes no mention of this. It would have been fascinating for the film to have delved into this subject- alas, it ends on this unsatisfactory note.

I watched Hostel II straight after the first one, not expecting anything much different. Again, a long build-up, an unsuccessful attempt at suspense and an eventual downpour of gore. There is even less tension as the protagonists this time are the murderous businessmen, although we also follow the new batch of travellers tortured for their (our?) entertainment.

The set piece of Hostel II involves the dorky, naïve traveller, Lorna (Heather Matarazzo). She is abducted, stripped naked and suspended upside-down from the ceiling. Below her, there's a concave area in the tiled floor. Another woman enters the room, which is designed as some kind of medieval dungeon, and strips naked. She lies in the hollowing and uses a scythe to lacerate Lorna's body, bathing in her blood. Eventually she cuts Lorna's throat open.

Are you familiar with Countess Dracula? This 1971 Hammer Horror starred Ingrid Pitt as the aging countess, who realises she can regain- and retain- her youth, if she bathes in the blood of virgins.

Lorna, being Hostel II's guide-book-weilding nerd, did come across as somewhat virginal- but whether she was a virgin or not is not confirmed in the film. Neither is the question of whether the woman had any connection to vampirism. However, on the DVD's commentary track, director Roth admits that countess Dracula was, indeed, an influence.

The film puts the last nail in the blood-soaked coffin at the end, when almost-victim Beth (Lauren German) claims she can “buy her way out”. At this point, she is holding a pair of scissors above the company manager's penis. She has vast quantities of inheritance money, or something, in certain bank accounts that would satisfy even the sadistic bosses. She'd give this to escape with her life. “Trust me,” she says.

Sorry love, but in a situation like that- when you're holding someone's dick hostage- trust is out the goddamn window. Force is the only element that will free you. Not trust.

To finish, she pointlessly cuts his knob off anyway, and feeds it to a dog. Yum. There's a fair bit of blood in this scene, but there would be a fair bit more in reality. So I've heard.

I wouldn't have classed Hostel or Hostel II as horrors, basically because they aren't scary. Http:dictionarycom, however, describes horror as “an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying or revolting” and “a strong aversion, abhorrence.” It also lists an informal description- “Something that is considered bad or tasteless.” It looks like the Hostel movies are horrors after all.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

I Thought of This One!

Here's a group writing exercise I fashioned from an exercise in a creative writing book and administered at a recent meeting.

Everyone at the table has two small pieces of paper. On one, write an object. A thing. On the other, write a place. A location. Pass your thing to the person on the left. Pass your place to the person on the right. You should now have a new place and a new object.

Here's the task: Imagine that object has a voice of it's own. It has found itself in the place written on the other slip of paper. Write a short first-person vignette- a scene- from the perspective of that object in that place. How it got there, and what it is doing, is completely up to you.

I received “bicycle wheel” and “York”. I produced this bizarre piece:

Some people are plain clumsy. If you're going to spend money on something, you make sure you know how to use it. I'm in a pretty useless situation here- I'm tied to a lamppost. Not only that- I've been dismembered and abandoned in a strange city- York, to be exact. It's not too bad, though. I'm used to being tied up like this: I am a bicycle wheel. Just a few moments ago, I was part of a full mountain bike. I was rotating at high speeds, my owner cruising me through the modernised Viking streets and back-alleys, dodging ignorant car drivers and death-wish pedestrians. He wheeled me right up to a giant building, a public place full of schoolkids and teachers, a structure with the word “Yorvick” sprawled elegantly across the length of the facade.

My owner took out a thick, heavy padlock from his rucksack and keyed it open. He leaned to the front of me.

No, I thought. I wish I had a voice to stop him.

He slipped the padlock through the front wheel's spokes and onto the nearby lampost.

Big mistake, Sunny Jim.

I was there about two and a half minutes before a very inconspicuous guy came along- just an average-looking lad- and undid the fastenings on the front wheel. He took the rest of me away; wheeled it off. I feel like a dethroned king.

My owner's gonna be pretty pissed off when he gets back- but mostly with himself.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Is Your Google Alert Set Up?

“Awareness is Empowering.”
-Rita Wilson, American Actress.

A quick flip through the back entries of this blog will show some bizarre information about- among other things- bars, restaurants, clubs, shops and other establishments. Most entries are diary-style blogs about what I do there. Some are constructive, glowing reviews. Others are damning criticisms. Well guess what? There's more of this to come.

If you own a business like the above examples, and if you're smart, you will know I've reviewed your establishment the moment I upload the writing to the Net. This is because you've already set up your Google Alert.

Google offer you the option of entering a search term into their engine and to be notified whenever this word or phrase is used, anywhere on the web. That way, you can keep a tab on what people are saying about you. In the social media spheres- like this one- you can quickly enter a dialogue, if you so desire, through comment systems. You can defend yourself against criticisms and offer thanks for praise. I'm not a businessman, but I'd imagine that level of communication and awareness would be a massive benefit to your business.

Alerts can also be filtered by type of content. Want comprehensive results from the whole web? Choose “everything”. Want to know what only the journalists are saying? Select “news”. You can also specify “updates”, “blogs”, “videos” or “discussions”.

If you've not done this yet, set it up quick, my friend. It could be your place I drop into next, pen-in-hand.

Friday, 10 September 2010

How Do You Make a Rolex Scary?

C c c count with me
1 glass of champagne for me
2 glass of champagne for you
3 now do the Rolex sweep
-Wiley, “Rolex Sweep”

Hmm. Yes.

At a writer's group meeting some months ago, we were asked to think of an object and write it down. I thought of a Rolex. We then looked at the horror genre, and how it is defined. Using what we had discussed, we were given 15 minutes to write the opening scene of a horror story, using the item we'd described. Here's what eventually came to me:

I didn't even stop as I walked past it. Just dropped to one knee at the right moment and scooped it up, sliding it straight onto my wrist. If anyone had looked at both my arms, they'd have seen I had two watches on. I'm either a nutter or a thief. I hope I'm a thief.

Something wasn't right, though- the watch felt wet, even though it hadn't been raining and nothing had been spilled on the pavement. I looked at my right wrist, as if genuinely checking the time, and it was only then that I realised the watch- and my hand- were soaked in blood.

I looked straight ahead as I walked on, not daring to look over my shoulder. After all, I'd just picked up an expensive watch. Had I stolen it? And whose blood was this? Had somebody had an accident? Or been attacked? Why did I get the feeling that, by some bizarre logic, my blood might be spilled next?

As this is a piece of automatic writing- straight of the cuff- I haven't done another draft. If I believed more in the story I might have done. As it stands, it's too sudden- there's no build-up of suspense. Also, I'm not happy with the phrasings.

I think the reason this isn't so nail-biting is that the object- the watch that I planned to describe as a Rolex- is a symbol of success, of money. It connotes power, or control. Not lack of control, which is what makes horror scary. Suspense could be built from this- he now has a blood-drenched hand- what if he meets a colleague and is invited to shake? What if he goes to a bar and is challenged to an arm-wrestle? What if he's asked the time? What if somebody tried to rob it off him? Would the perpetrator think twice on closer inspection of his wrist? What if this whole thing takes place in sub-Saharan Africa where AIDS is rife? I'd be pretty scared then.

The story could be classed as a thriller, but it doesn't tick the horror genre boxes, I don't think. Also, a watch provides the theme of time, something that always runs out and frequently builds suspense. Unfortunately, seeing as I'm juggling more than enough ideas- projects better than this one- this is all the time I have for this idea. It could be good for writing group exercises, though. Perhaps picking an object, writing it on a piece of paper then passing it to the next person could help. They then have to create a horror scenario using that object. Give it a shot. Comment and let me know how it goes.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Would You Like to Write for Power is a State of Mind?

“There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.”
-George Shinn, owner of basketball team the Charlotte Hornets.

Are you a writer from Greater Manchester? Or do you write about events happening in and around the area? Would you like your work seen here?

I'm looking for writing featuring entertaining, informative pieces about the city. Maybe you've got an unusual story to tell. Maybe you know about an event that has happened, or will happen within 28 days. Maybe it's something you're putting on that you'd like to publicise. Maybe it's a festival or a demonstration, or you've raised money for charity by bunjee-jumping off a city-centre skyscraper. Maybe you've visited a new bar in town. Or maybe you don't go out because you drive a street-cleaning machine at 5am on a Sunday morning, and your perspective on the city is a little different. Have you found something in the city that's unusual, outrageous, fun or even dangerous? Why not tell us about it.

This isn't a call for fiction or poetry, although a modern, quirky, city-set poem would look good here.

“Why would you ask other people to write your blog for you, Matt?” I hear you ask. Well- I've been doing a little research. I've been following social media guru Denise Wakeman on Twitter ( as well as a few other blog advisors, and I've been reading their own blogs. They suggest that having guest writers is beneficial because it will widen the blog's reach and it will put a new spin on the voice of the blog. Also, it helps me because I can produce content- put stuff up here, in other words, without having to sit and hammer all the words out myself. I can be working on posts while putting up great material that you've sent me. On the flipside, there are benefits for you. It is proven that the more places your work appears, the more it will be seen. I'm prepared to include a link to your blog after your submission, so we both win. How does that sound?

Before you submit, read through the blog entries to get a feel of them. They are all pretty eclectic, in terms of content and style, but there's a certain twisted vein to them all. Can you see your work appearing here? If you think so, send it to me. That's right. To me. I'm a one-man-band. I'm not going to pretend I have a team of editors all bull-sessioning over your writing. This is a blog, not a magazine. It isn't listed in duotrope, isn't registered with the National Readership Survey or the Audit Bureau of Circulations, or any other searchable list. But I still reserve the right to edit your work if I accept, or to say no thanks. Just keep it well-written, relevant, quirky and under 1000 words. Get scribbling!

Send your piece to with the subject line “Power is a State of Mind Submission”. Give me a little bio as well, less than 100 words. I'd also need your name, or at least a nom de plume. I'm looking forward to reading your work.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rupert Brooke-Based Vignette... Type-Thing.

At a recent writers group meeting, a member read out this opening line from “The Hill”, a poem by Rupert Brooke.

“Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill.”

We were then given fifteen minutes to free-write with this as our opening line. Here's my piece:

Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill. Each step felt weighted, like I was being forced back by a thousand tiny hands. I leaned into the incline, climbing on. On a still day, I would have landed nose-first into the grass; my heels didn't touch the ground as I trudged on. The horizon was getting closer, and the wind continued to prop me upright.

The plastic map case around my neck flapped crazily, like a panicked animal. Every ten seconds it would flip upwards and slap me on the nose. My temper was flaring. I wanted to throw it into the wind and watch it fly like debris into the valley, but I couldn't- I wouldn't know where I was if I lost the map.

Every time I thought I'd reached the summit, another clump of land appeared, higher, further, behind it.

My walking partner was largely silent. He kept close to me, saying nothing. I could hear his breathing, heavy and constant.

And then the land dropped away infront of us, presenting a sprawling vista of hills , and a distant town in the haze.

“We made it,” I panted.

He looked at me, tired, saying nothing. He sat in the grass, breathing heavily.

I put one hand on his shoulder. “Here. Got something for you.”

I opened my bag and found the bottle of water. I took a huge gulp. He didn't complain that I served myself first. Then I pulled out his dog bowl and filled it up. He lapped eagerly, tail wagging.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Rustica Manchester

“I'm too serious to be a dilettante and too much a dabbler to be a professional.”
-Steiner (Alan Cuny), La Dolce Vita

On the corner of Market Street, next to the glassy and iconic apartment block No1 Deansgate, lies Rustica, an authentic Italian restaurant. I dropped in for lunch with the family recently on a Friday afternoon, when the small-but-cosy venue was reasonably quiet. The music and the staff fit the theme, as you'd expect, the service quick and the food was was great. Mum liked her chicken Caesar salad and Dad assured us his pasta dish was good too. My pizza- Chicken pollo I think- also got the thumbs up.

What made Rustica stand out was the décor: aside from the traditional bare-brick walls and Italian music, the venue was adourned with posters of classic Italian movies like Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita. I ate next to a giant image of the film's pinup, Anita Ekberg.

If you're into European cinema, you'll appreciate the talking points while waiting for your meal. And if you're into Italian food, I doubt you'll have any complaints.

Have you visited Rustica? What did you think?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

July Moments

“I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.”
Narrator (Edward Norton), Fight Club

Holiday aside, here's what went down this month.

As my old New Balance trainers were falling apart and were being described, quite accurately, as “dogshit” by my friends, I figured it was time to get some new ones. When I was about 14 I was using Saucony running shoes for running and for PE in school. Nobody had heard of this brand, despite the fact that they are the best running shoes in any shoe shop in Britain. I got ripped for wearing them, suffice to say.

Today, still nobody has heard of them as Saucony advertises discreetly. You'll probably only see poster ads in running magazines, and TV ads in America or on Youtube. I found a pair of Saucony Grid Ignition in TK Maxx at a bargain price. (It's a store always worth a look in for discount brand names.) And yes, I'm STILL getting ripped for wearing Saucony. I've decided only to wear sportswear for sports from now on. I ran back from a party in them a few weeks ago at about 3am. My Saucony gave me exceptional comfort and cushioning. I was steaming, having drank the majority of a bottle of Jack Daniels (which was still in my hand as I ran) but my trainers didn't let me down. My shocking cardio did, though. It was a very stop-start run. The party was on the other side of a giant hill, and the road had no streetlights. So I ran under the starlight and past barren fields, the odd cow, sheep and horse watching me suspiciously in the dark.

Moving on. I went to Stalybridge with a load of mates last night for my birthday. We got there too late to see Angie Brown's live PA, which I was certifiably gutted about. Here's one of her most-known songs:

Rififi plays R'n'B on the ground floor and House upstairs. I took over a podium in the House room and, well, started busting moves. After a few hours, half cut from loads of Southern Comfort and champagne, I was still breaking it down. A fire exit door opened next to me. A young woman in a suit waved me over to her. She took me into the office. She told me she was the assistant manager and asked me if I was a trained dancer (nope) and would I consider dancing, as a job, in the club?!

Well, yeah, I said. I'd give it a shot.

So she's got my details...

Went to a mate's flat in Uppermill afterwards, didn't have a clue where the taxi rank was, so after a few hours I ran home (3.7 miles) in the pissing rain as the sun came up. Well. It's all character-building, yes? I didn't have my Saucony on this time, though.

One last highlight: my blog is now listed in The Manchizzle, a Manchester-based, blog-based blog. The site includes info for bloggers, and a list of said blogs. Check it out here:

Well, I gotta run. Speak later.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

A Letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

Dear Mark Zuckerberg and co,

I admit- I have a problem with Facebook. As a regular amateur writer I spend a lot of time on the computer, tapping out wordage and researching. While using the net to find info, and with the speed of broadband, Facebook is only ever a click away. The draw of seeing what my friends are doing is still strong, even though I know everyone's doing pretty much the same thing (“My Friday's are gettin so”; “the bodyguard and ben & jerrys...”; “Lookin forward to havin a night out tomoz for abbies birthday!! best dig out my dancin shoes! haha x”; “i am now watching the game beer in hand bosh”; “Session Weekend with the Irish boys”... ad infinitum.

Facebook still needs tweaking, however, just so that it's a) easier to use and b) even more addictive and takes up even more of my precious time.

Facebook Chat has been making communication easier since its introduction about a year ago. It's a shame it rarely works, and people seem to disappear offline when they are apparently still tapping away (according to the little three-dot typing icon at the bottom of the screen). Also, I'm sure I'm not the only person to say that, when someone sends you a chat message, the little “pop” noise you hear isn't loud enough. Lets have a nice big “BING” noise, ala MSN Messenger.

Your rival social network site MySpace (remember this site? No?) has a series of chatrooms available 24/7, based on location and hobbies. Facebook had one room for a short while, but it was removed. Why?

Another of your competitors, Twitter, allows users to “retweet”- to repost updates from other users so that it can be shared between more people. Facebook only seems to allow us to do this with links like Youtube videos, as far as I can see. The function of reposting status updates could be handy for people and for businesses, who may want to share info- “Betty's Bakery is opening an hour earlier next Monday!”- a mundane but fitting example.

I suppose the next step would be to incorporate webcams, taking the name “Facebook” to a more literal level and taking on webcam-based sites like Why not let us sit and watch each other, not just read about our e-friends?

Chew it over, Mr. Zuckerberg. I'm quite sure you'll take over the world soon, and not just the html world either. Please give me credit for these ideas when your dictatorship is complete.

Matt Tuckey
Social Media Pimp Extrodinaire

Blog readers- is there anything else you'd like me to add to this letter? Any other changes you'd like to make to Facebook?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Fight Ikon 2

“Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value!”
-Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), Clueless

14th March 2010.

Old Skool hip-hop blasts out of the speakers as I walk into Ikon, Bolton's biggest club. It's sparsely populated at the moment, but that's because it's 3pm and today's event, Fight Ikon 2, has only just opened to the public. This afternoon I'll be watching 15 Mixed Martial Arts fights, and despite training for two years, it is the first time I've been to see this sport.

The bouts will take place in the octagonal cage that has been assembled in the middle of the dancefloor. A film crew from P4TV Sports Network is setting up their equipment around the cage. They are feeding footage to the overhead projector, which plays to two large screens on one wall of the club. There's a rumour in the growing crowd that Sky TV are broadcasting the event nationwide. A cameraman is stood on a small platform secured to a cage corner post, the belt around his waist latching him to the padded beam. He reaches down to take the camera from his colleague; the camera is already rolling and the projected images on the walls shake erratically before we see a high-angle shot of the cage's padded vinyl floor.

All thirty fighters line up, wearing board shorts and 8oz fingerless padded gloves, and enter through the cage door. Like in boxing, fighters are paired by weight category, and the men bring a range of weights to the fight card. They stand in rows, like a school photograph- only the subjects are older, and a lot meaner. The photographers are in the cage with them, snapping away.

A dance troupe of ring girls pose with the fighters, all bleach blonde and silicone but damned good-looking. The girls' fishnet tights match the pattern of the wire mesh making up the cage walls. The event organiser, suited and booted and mic in hand, welcomes us to Fight Ikon 2 and promises some spectacular fights. The show, he tells us, will be broadcast soon on LA Muscle TV - Channel 281 on SKY TV. Before the fights begin, though, he has entertainment of a different kind. After the fighters leave the cage, the troupe dance to Missy Elliot's Get Your Freak On. I'm not exactly sure what this has to do with MMA, but I'm not complaining.

It's my first attempt at “sports reporting”. As the event begins, the first thing I notice is that I shouldn't have brought a gummed notebook. I'm scribbling stuff down and tearing it off, stuffing A7 sheets into pockets in no discernable order. I note down to buy spiral-bound from now on. The second thing I notice- once the fights start- is that there's two areas I don't have enough experience of. I have a pretty good knowledge of the sport after 2 +1/2 years of training, but that isn't enough to produce an accurate write-up on an MMA bout. The second thing is this- I'm a blogger. I'm not a sports journalist. I'm not trained extensively to jot down facts quickly; I can't write in shorthand. Writers for publications like MMA Unlimited and Fighters Only probably have a journalism degree under their belt. It's probably a colored belt of some kind, as well- one that goes around a martial arts gi- knowledge of writing AND knowledge of a specialist subject would pretty much guarantee you work in niche journalism.

By the end of the first fight, I've given up trying to record fight details. (Searching online later, I find the info. The opening match was between featherweights Shay Walsh and Eamonn McNabb, Walsh winning the fight by TKO from Punches in 0:55 of Round 1. TKO is a Technical Knockout. If a fighter is TKO'd, he might still be pretty much conscious. Someone- a judge or referee- has stepped in and decided it isn't safe for the fighter to continue.)

As with some boxing events, the fights are broken into 5 rounds of five minutes each. The fighters start standing, they touch (8oz fingerless) gloves, then trade blows. For those who don't know, MMA is a blend of boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, Jujitsu, Brazilian Jujitsu and a range of wrestling styles- Greco-Roman, Pro, Submission and more. It isn't long before the fighters are on the ground, locking each other up in a variety of holds and occasionally breaking out to strike to the head or body. Where the opponents are allowed to land strikes depends on the rules, and the type of match they are fighting in. describes the rules thus:

“Professional MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is permitted both whilst standing and on the floor.

Japanese Hybrid MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is permitted but only with an open palm rather than with a closed fist. This term most commonly relates to fights from established Japanese promotions such as Pancrase™ and Rings™ in their early fights.

Semi-Professional MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is permitted whilst standing, but strikes to the head are not permitted whilst on the floor.

Amateur MMA
This term is used to described a Mixed Martial Arts fight where striking to the head is not permitted, neither whilst standing nor on the floor (i.e. only body shots are permitted).”

My instructor is coaching Marcus Grosse, a heavyweight from Germany who has flown over for the event. After an impressive opening, his fight takes a turn for the worse when he's on the floor. He's caught with some heavy shots to the head and body, and the fight is stopped 4 minutes into the first round. His opponent, Bernat Pados from Denmark, wins by TKO (Ground n Pound).

Sam Hodgin, from Salford MMA, beats Nathan Dunne by unanimous decision. Hodgin is part of a team of fighters from Salford who came to my gym, Quannum Fitness, to spar with our team a week or so before the fight. Bravo, Sam.

Around half way through the night, my instructor's brother's fiance spots me from the other side of the club- she's in VIP as Ian (said brother) is commentating for P4TV. Simone (said fiance) gets me a wristband and I get to see the remainder of the show from some of the best seats in the house. Winner!

The event's official details page, featuring results of the fight, is here:

And the venue's page:

P4TV's page:

When I leave the club, I've got to sift through my pockets- I wrote down where I parked somewhere... So yeah, spiral-bound notebooks are the way forward. And so, obviously, is MMA.