Thursday, 27 January 2011
I mentioned the idea for this exercise at a writers’ group about a month ago, and anticipations were high. I’d kept everything under wraps, so nobody knew what they were in for. Here’s what to do…
Everybody at the table has four slips of paper each. We are going to write some words. Try to make them multisyllabic. Write them BIG! On the first slip, write a noun. A thing. On the second, write a verb. A doing word. On the third, write an adjective. A describing word. On the fourth, write an adverb. A word that describes how a verb is done. Adverbs usually end in –ly.
Now put all of the slips of paper into the middle of the table for everyone to see.
I’d like you to pick a word that you like the look of and use that as a title of a poem. We’re going to do a quick rhyming exercise. Pick words from the table and find words that rhyme with these words to make up couplets. Try to rhyme more than one syllable if possible.
On our table we have:
HELICOPTER CREOSOTE (VERB) ARGUING SURPRISINGLY SHUFFLED CRAWLING PRECARIOUSLY MELIFLUOUS (SWEET SOUNDING) ECLECTIC APPROACHING BESTIAL MOUNTAIN PROCRASTINATING TABLE BIZARRELY ELEPHANT MUSCULAR CUDDLING COCKROACH CARAVAN EFFERVESCENT GENTLY MOROSELY CORRUGATED SPLENDIFEROUS TENTATIVELY FORTUNATELY PENTAGON
Feel free to turn the slips around so you can see them.
We now have fifteen minutes to develop a poem, rhyming as many of these words to any other words you can think of.
Apparently, this was one of the hardest exercises we’ve done, which is possibly why everyone insisted that I read my poem out first!
Here’s my effort. I’m sure you can do better.
The doors to the zoo open surprisingly
Drawing the animals towards it, enticingly
The cage doors open, the animals are hoping
A life of freedom and peace is approaching
A different lifestyle and acceptance is imminent
For the skunks, the cockatoos and the elephants
The colobus monkey is planning a party
When the front door of the zoo opens bizarrely.
“I can’t explain how important this is for us,”
Says the rainbow lorikeet, with his feathers so splendiferous.
The zoo has provided the best transport they could offer
And the animals ride off in the giant helicopter.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Who is Fluffy Oakes?
On Fluffy Oakes’s widescreen TV, mounted on his large apartment wall, an orang-utan sits surrounded by multicoloured objects.
“This is how it started,” he says, quietly.
I sit with him on the couch and watch.
The orang is looking up at something, paying attention. An American woman speaks, off camera.
“The. Red. Ball,” she says, clearly and slowly.
The orang looks down. Like a human, you can see him thinking, hesitating. Then with a long hairy arm, he slaps the appropriate object.
“Good!” The woman encourages the orang like a pet dog. “The. Blue. Cube.”
The orang scratches his head. Purses his lips.
I wonder, is he doing this because he’s thinking?
Then he slaps the cube and looks up- presumably to the person speaking, to see whether he has pleased them.
“Good!” the woman gushes. She throws the orang a chocolate bar. He devours it messily.
Fluffy pauses the screen, the orang’s blurred face turned to the camera, chocolate-smeared and overtly enthusiastic.
“A few years ago the Americans started to test the abilities of Orang-Utans just to see how similar they are to us,” says Fluffy. “Then the experiment developed into an attempt to teach apes parts of the English language. It worked. This stuff has been on TV, documented, etcetera. At Oldham Zoo we wanted to take it a little further. We broadened the training programme out to the whole residency. To varying degrees, all the animals understand parts of human language now. The wolves adapted to language the quickest, for obvious reasons. Parrots followed. But other animals… well, they took a lot of work.”
Fluffy takes a sip of his Monkey Shoulder blended malt.
“Each species of animal,” he explains, “develops its own neural pathways- basically a way of remembering something. What they would need to know in the wild- some of it, at least- will always be preprogrammed. Their pathways are set up to learn these things, regardless of whether or not they were born in captivity. At the zoo, some were, some weren’t. My job has been to help each creature to develop new neural pathways- to read a map, to recognise new surroundings… to speak English. We’ve also taught them not to eat each other- and more importantly, not to eat or even harm humans."
“They are ready for release, is what you’re saying.”
“I think so. I’ve developed a day-release programme that allows each creature twenty-four hours away from the zoo. We encourage them to go out, do something productive, experience something new. Then the next day, we’ll gather and discuss what they experienced.”
“Even if the conditioning you gave them means they definitely won't harm people- aren’t they going to deal with a lot of prejudice from the public?”
“Yep. Absolutely. The world is a harsh place,” says Fluffy. I’ve dealt with a lot of shit myself, hence the Martial Arts.
“I know you have, hence the, er, graphic blogs.
“They don’t have to leave the zoo if they don’t want. But, fucking hell. Some of them need it. We’ve got one lovebird in a unit on his own. If you know anything about lovebirds…”
He raises his eyebrows, waiting for me to complete his thought.
“They come in pairs?”
“Exactly. He needs to get out. Meet new people. See what he can get himself into, so to speak.”
For a situation as unusual as this one, the zoo needs to plan the programme’s beginnings carefully. Handled wrong, it could be a PR disaster. Handled rightly, it could be a historical worldwide cause for celebration- on par with the abolition of slavery in terms of the advancement of human respect.
“I have absolute belief in this programme,” says Fluffy, and he necks his drink and grins at me. The Orang, on the screen behind him, is sitting with a posture not unlike Fluffy’s, with a similar cheesy grin. They’re like distant relatives.
Maybe they are.
Friday, 21 January 2011
Douglas Quaid: Where am I?
Johnnycab: You're in a Johnnycab.
Douglas Quaid: I mean, what am I doing here?
Johnnycab: I'm sorry. Would you please rephrase the question?
Douglas Quaid: How did I get in this taxi?
Johnnycab: The door opened. You got in. Hell of a day, isn't it?
[Johnnycab rolls his eyes]
-Doug Quaid (Arnold Schwarzeneggar) tries to back-track- with the aid of a robotic taxi driver- in Paul Verhoven's Sci-Fi gem, Total Recall.
You may not have found this blog via a robot-driven taxi straight from the ghettos of Mars, but it seems Arnie has. Sorta. Other people have still found themselves on these pages- albeit in the reading sense- by very more normal ways.
I've manually syndicated this blog's content to a variety of blogging websites, and I'm aware that my Blogger site (http://powerisastateofmind.blogspot.com/) receives only a fraction of my exposure. However, Blogger has a fascinating “Stats” page (Well, it's fascinating to me. Jesus Christ) that tells me how many readers I have- and more.
On my stats page I can now see where people are finding this blog. Recently I've been slamming comments on loads of other sites, and doing this on big blog names like http://Failblog.org has provided a chunk of traffic all of a sudden. I'm also listed on http://alphainventions.com , sort of a scrolling slideshow of blogs from around the world. Where the hell they found mine, I've no idea.
At the bottom of the page, blogger tells me the key search terms that people have used, and hence stumbled across my insane scribblings. Three people wanted to read some “whisky poetry.” I expect I did not disappoint. One person, bizzarely, googled “poem I am a lighthouse”. I Am A Lighthouse is a poem written by guest writer Lynn Myint-Maung, and appears on this blog. It couldn't have been her searching, because I gave the poem the title after she'd given me the text.
The strangest search term was “better business bureau complaints against p&e construction”, something I have never written about. What's p&e?
Aw, shit, I have now. Here comes more of the same.
I have also never written about the need to “think like a mushroom”, although that phrase did bring someone to my site. Perhaps they were looking for this story over at Mel Bosworth's Lit magazine Flash Fire 500, and home to my first publishing acceptance...
Moral of the story? Comment, comment, comment. If you want traffic to your blog, comment loads on really popular blogs and provide a URL for them to follow. And say something funny or unusual. Not that I'm a social media guru or anything, but I've read from those that ARE, like Denise Wakeman, that commenting is how readers find you. I'd agree.
Moving on. Last week saw the demise of a legendary Manchester haunt. Brannigans, on Peter Street, has closed its doors forever after parent company Cougar Leisure Ltd went into administration. I have fond memories of working there in 2003, when 50 Cent's In Da Club had just dropped and Brannigans' DJ helped mainstream radio to overplay the song until no-one could stand it any longer. I also remember cleaning out the supposedly-haunted church- the club itself was set up in the basement of the building at street level. There was a rumour that, a few decades ago, a minister had gone insane and raped a child on the altar, and his ghost still resides in the dilapidated room. Before I worked there, people had told me about glasses flying off the shelves while the staff were cleaning up. (I never saw anything like that happen. One or two might have been thrown by customers, but only rarely.)
I cleaned out the church only once. It was a proud moment, being an iconic part of Manchester. Only a few weeks previous to this, TV ghost-hunter Derek Acorah had presented his show from Brannigans and had become possessed by “Godfrey Parks.”
As you can tell, it was laughable shit (as these ghost shows always are) but Brannigans has always had a connection with the paranormal. I heard the odd clunking noise during my cleaning task, but I put it down to central heating. In a church. That hasn't been used for, what, thirty years...
In other Manchester-related news, you may have heard that the beautiful Jennifer Grace Cook has arrived in town with a mission: to find a husband in twelve months.
Ms Cook, 44, whose script “Joy” was made into a 2009 rom-com movie, has jumped the pond from LA to visit the coolest city on Earth and is now checking out Manchester in search of a “noble man.” I tweeted her to ask if 28 was too young. “Very funny,” she replied. “It's all relative, my dear.”
As Jim Carrey says in Dumb and Dumber, “So you're tellin' me there's a chance!?”
Jennifer, I'd like to welcome you to this fantastic city. If you don't find a man out here, well, then there really is no hope. But I'm sure you will.
If you' like to see how Jennifer is getting on with her quest, check out her blog here:
Or see her Twitter:
Celebrity update- I got a reply on Twitter from none other than the lovely Natasha Nice. Y'know. From “the industry.” She's awesome.
I've finished reading Don DeLillo's Libra. It's one of the best novels I've ever read. A semi-fictional biography of Lee Harvey Oswald, the book follows three CIA agents as they devise and execute what was intended to be a failed assassination attempt on John F Kennedy, with the intention of scaring him into attacking Cuba. As we know, it didn't go to plan. The fall guy they set up- a downtrodden ex-army guy who happens to be Oswald, they coerce and utterly betray. Very convincing, with a surprising plot and beautiful descriptions throughout. Without DeLillo, there is no James Ellroy and no Bret Easton Ellis.
Finally, I'd like to inform you that none of this officially matters. No, nothing I say has any relevance. Do you know why? Because I didn't vote in the bi-election. I got there too late on the day. So my opinions on everything are null and void for the next two bastard years. I was going to vote Lib Dem, even though they've been pretty much forced into breaking all their promises by the archaically-minded Tory party. I was massively conflicted. I should have taken the advice of deceased Northern Ireland politician Brian Faulkner.
“You can do three things in Irish politics,” Faulkner once said. “The right thing, the wrong thing or nothing at all. I've always thought it's best to do the wrong thing than nothing at all.”
I can't even comment on this.
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.
~Vilfredo Pareto, Italian Engineer / philosopher
Do not show weaknesses. Particularly around women.
Be careful what you put on the internet, and where. Some things- for the sake of one’s career- do not want to be seen in the same place as your work info. The internet may be a big place, but the world is a small one.
I might have been better off on the dole. Currently, I’m working too many hours for housing benefit and not enough to gain working tax credits. Last year my wage was slashed from a grade three admin post to a grade one. I’m still on the same part-time contract. I fall perfectly into the “getting screwed by the government” bracket. I always have worked, though, on-and-off. Permanently, in fact, since 2007.
You might be the greatest dancer in the club, but if the club isn’t playing decent dance music, nobody will care about your skills. They’ll just think you’re a tool.
Similarly, if you’re doing something right, keep doing it. If something doesn’t work, don’t keep doing it. Hence, you can expect to see me in Stalyvegas and Manchester at the weekends, and not Oldham. See previous point. Giggity giggity.
Nobody wants to read your negative, bitchy, attention-seeking status updates. Keep everything you put on Facebook POSITIVE- no matter how utterly shit life can be…
To the credit of those around me, I’ve learned a lot of marketing knowledge and how to use social media to my advantage.
Again, thanks to other people I’ve learned how to throw a good punch, stop people throwing them at me, how to pop people’s arms out of their sockets and how to split people’s knee-caps open. I must get back into MMA soon. Gonna be getting rusty!
Also due partly to the efforts of others, I've sharpened up my writing and had a few acceptances here and there.
There are many other things I’ve learned- lots of it involving women- but, as the first point explains, I can’t tell you on here. It involves telling you what I didn’t know. Which is what I’ve just spent this entire blog doing.
Shit. I never learn.
Monday, 17 January 2011
In 1996, Baz Luhrmann made William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, an updated movie version of the tragic play set in contemporary LA but retaining all the original text. It won an Academy Award for Art Direction, and another 11 other filmmaking awards worldwide. An astounding movie, it firmly defined Luhrmann as a creative heavyweight in Hollywood. The original Shakespeare dialogue was almost totally unchanged, with the plot fully intact. The setting was updated to the gang-ran streets of Venice Beach L.A., which perfectly allowed Luhrmann to present the doomed romance and scenes of devastating violence with spectacular effect.
Let's see Luhrmann bring Shakespeare's darkest play into the twenty-first century. Macbeth, with its power-hungry protagonist, its folklore and its macabre themes of murder, sleep, double-crossings and evil ambition, is ripe for a modern-day update. Keeping the story set in Scotland would be a start, not least to bring some film industry attention to the UK. It would also ensure that, visually, it would not mirror R&J. There is no way that, with a British setting, Luhrmann would be going through the directorial motions to make this film. Macbeth would be original, modern and distinctly Scottish- as Shakespeare’s play was, no doubt, on its original release.
Similarly to Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet- the violence would have to be presented under the guise of gang warfare for believability reasons (the play pretty much opens on the battlefield and many of the characters die in violent ways) and the prophesying witches may have to become astrology-obsessed eastern-European gypsies (fairly believable by today’s standards, yes?)
Just writing this is making me enthusiastic. Hell, I might go and read the Letts notes tonight. If you’re equally fired, join me on this venture. If you’re not familiar, you’ll be in for a treat when this all works out.
I’ve set up a Facebook group here:
If the people of Facebook can get Rage Against the Machine to beat X-Factor’s morbid output to a Christmas number one chart position, then there’s no reason that we can’t shape this future movie classic- starting right here on this website.
Join today- and pass this message on until it reaches Mr. Luhrmann himself!
Saturday, 15 January 2011
Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see that it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,
'Cause I don't think that I can take anymore
-Stuck in the Middle With You, Stealer's Wheel
A blurry and hungover start to 2011 has already seen the passing of two entertainment legends.
RIP Pete Postlethwaite. Loved him as Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects. It was great to see a northern fella take on Hollywood. And if Speilberg can call him “The best actor in the world,” then I think it's safe to say Mr. Postlethwaite won that battle.
Gerry Rafferty, one half of 70's duo Stealer's Wheel, also left us. Being 28, I didn't exactly grow up with his music. But for me, his name will forever be synonymous with torturing L.A Policemen. Quentin Tarantino first introduced me to Rafferty's music, when he used his “Dylan-esque pop bubblegum favourite from April of 1970” in a brutal- and now iconic- scene in Reservoir Dogs. I could never understand why the radio presenter in that scene had such a monumentally dull voice. A Seventies thing, maybe? He sounds more boring than I was on student radio when I was sixteen. Back then on a “broadcast” to the college canteen, my radio show about film director James Cameron was so gratingly mundane- as was my presenting voice- that I cleared out the canteen area and no-one was sitting there to listen to the next person's show. Ce la vie.
But what about me? What have I achieved? Due to wintery illness, not a great deal. But at least I'm still alive. *Inhales through teeth...*
Oh, adult entertainer Jelena Jensen replied to me on Twitter with a nice message. She even retweeted mine! What a legend.
And so is she.
Friday, 14 January 2011
For this week’s writing exercise we were all given three slips of paper. We wrote a word on each piece, then placed them all in the middle of the table. We then picked out the words we liked the look of, and weaved a story using these words with fifteen-minutes on the clock.
I pulled out…
Try this at your group- let us know how it goes! Here's my little vignette- I hope you like...
Roger tied his scarf tight and turned up his collar, stepping from the pub into the dimly lit cobbled street. He wished he’d brought his hat. His scalp started to tingle in the frosty air. He stroked his hair- a subconscious gesture- only realising he was doing so when he felt the lump.
He gasped and threw his hand out. Something was still clinging to his fingers. The bug- large, with two antenna big enough to pick up FM signals- hissed like a snake.
“Jesus Christ!” he said, flicking his arm like it was on fire. The bug landed on the arched cobbles on the road, belly up.
“Hey,” said the bug.
“Hey. Come on. I didn’t ask for that.”
“What. The. Fuck.”
“Yes, yes, I’m a talking cockroach. Get over it. Look,” said the bug, who was facing away from Roger. “My legs reached the ground before. Turn me the right side up.”
“Okay,” said Roger. “Who are you, like?”
“I am Frederick, your saviour cockroach. I’m here to give you an extra life.”
“No thanks,” said Roger. “I don’t believe that shit.”
“Seriously. Turn me over and I’ll explain.”
Roger stepped out into the road. Grimacing, he turned the roach over. At first he thought it was screaming. Then he realised that the sound was car tyres grinding over the road’s slick cobbles. The car slammed into the shop, bursting into flames, right where Roger had been stood seconds before.
Thursday, 13 January 2011
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
-Henry David Thoreau, U.S. philosopher
Those of you with Android phones can now buy a product at the lowest legal first-hand price, every time.
On the Android Market, you can now find the Barcode Scanner- an app that allows you to check out a product for pricing details. The app is free.
I’ve tested it in a few shops recently, which has been interesting. It’s the kind of thing you don’t want shop assistants to notice, seeing as you’re definitely not going to buy anything there. There’s always a cheaper option online, no matter what you’re buying.
The app uses your camera to see the barcode. Your viewfinder will show a flashing red line which you can place over the item's barcode. Press the shutter. Within a second, you'll have a thumbnail photograph of the barcode, along with a description of the item.
My scanning tests have had varying results.
Nothing in clothing shop Allsaints would scan. I think this is because Allsaints stock their own products, and the only other place you’re going to find their gear is second-hand distributors, mostly on E-bay.
Manchester’s T K Maxx was a similar disappointment- I put this down to having no reception. The whole store is underground. Trendy entertainment / coffee shop Fopp is similarly subterranean and didn't yield results.
However, I tried a few DVDs in HMV. Success! The app recognised the item with a loud BEEP (so in smaller shops I could expect a few dodgy looks. The phone's silent mode cancels that out). I clicked the option to search Google for the product, and the app showed me a list of places offering the item- from cheapest upwards. So, HMV. You want £20 for the Cleveland Show? ‘Fraid not. Amazon has it at £15.47.
I scanned a bottle of Glenkinichie in Selfridges. It’s cheapest at Loch Fyne Whiskies (lfw.co.uk). Chivas Regal in Tesco? Masterofmalt.co.uk has the best price.
Provided you trust the mail companies to deliver these things to you, you can get most items first-hand at the best price, every time using this app. This will inevitably lead to an army of “shoppers” walking into stores, scanning what they want and walking straight back out without buying it- at least, not in that shop.
We can make a few more predictions about shopping habits. Internet shopping will continue to grow in the UK, with consumer’s trust in this type of commerce steadily solidifying.
E-shopping, once something done only at home, is now something you can do anywhere- including in the actual high-street stores. Shop security will be stepped up because of this. Will they like you scanning their products? Not likely. Fairly soon, first-hand prices for products will be unified. To avoid a price war that would drive companies under, outlets will agree on a set price that they will all charge for each product- thus rendering the scanner pretty pointless. Unless…
Outlets start to confuse the issue with multi-buy offers- three for two on DVDs, for instance, which many places like HMV already do. To tempt us away from buying alcohol online, offering deals like this on wines, beers and spirits could keep us coming back to the high street. Some whisky experts say a dram is best served with a drop of mineral water from the Scottish highlands. Expect to see the two of these sold together, on the high street, at “discounted” prices soon. Want a bottle of wine? How about some heavily-discounted-but-finely manufactured cheese to go with it?
For the moment, however, the app is working and is effective. Download the Barcode Scanner from the Android Market today. Check it out, and let me know what you find- and if it changes the way you shop. Which I think it will.
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Ray Tango: I've got good news and bad news.
Gabriel Cash: What's the bad news?
Ray Tango: We're almost out of gas.
Gabriel Cash: What's the good news?
Ray Tango: We're ALMOST out of gas.
Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) discuss optimism while using a monster truck to smash their way into a drug baron's high-security crib in the 1989 cheese-fest, Tango & Cash.
Other than writing review site Urbis.com biting the dust- other than me losing a shitload of writing when this happened…
Other than Facebook’s Live Blog application disappearing, making it difficult to show people the writing I’m doing…
Other than checking out review site greatwriting.co.uk and finding out that the writing advice provided there is far from great…
Other than thousands of films that I’d transferred to DVD not wanting to play for me, meaning I might have lost 90% of a film collection that I’ve been amassing since 1997…
Other than decorating grinding to a halt over the Christmas period (I TOLD you it would take ages…)
Other than the fact that there are no jobs…
December has been pretty good. I found a twenty note on the floor in the snow. I got a “token payment” for my erotic story “Afterwards”, the first time I’ve been paid for a piece of writing.
I visited the Manchester Evening News offices with work. I added the word “braggadocios” to my vocabulary. (You could describe me this way on the basis of this blog.) The first publication to accept a story from me, Flash Fire 500, has reopened to submissions and already has some fine new content.
I went to free cookery class in Oldham, ran by Granada Tonight’s resident chef, Dave Mooney. He’s got my blog card. Hi Dave! The vegetarian stir-fry he taught us to make was delicious. The event was part of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. You might have seen the ads featuring the people who bear a strange resemblance to the food they are promoting.
The site says “The campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste. The campaign shows that by doing some easy practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too.”
There may be more classes soon. Get involved. You even get a free meal!
This year, my work’s Christmas party was held at the beautiful Vermilion bar and restaurant in Manchester.
The great Thai food- small samples of a range of bizarre sauces and fine cuts of meat add to a flurry of tastes and smells, making Vermilion a fine choice. To get to the restaurant, you need to be escorted to the first floor in a lift. On emerging into the table area, note the stunning carved woodwork décor and tower of florescent multicoloured Buddha heads (stretching through a gap from the floor below).
After the feast, make your way downstairs to the dance floor where the spherical lighting and lack of hard lines in the décor are very reminiscent of the Korova Milk Bar in Kubrick’s Clockwork orange. Instead of synthesised Beethoven, Vermilion’s DJ pumps out quality house music. You can even reserve a pod- a semi-cocooned sofa with a seat the length of a double bed. Very suggestive.
It was quiet when I went on a Thursday. I may check the place out on a Saturday to get the full feel of the place. As you’d expect in a bar this fine, you get what you pay for. So I’m going to have to go wadded.
I continued living the socialite existence- something I can’t really afford to do- through Christmas. Manchester was dead on Christmas Eve. Christmas day was a great time, even though I was almost blinded by a remote-controlled helicopter. On boxing day I toured the pubs and bars of Saddleworth and Oldham, along with thirty mates, all of us dressed in Christmas jumpers. I got so drunk that I started demonstrating MMA moves to people, and put one of my friends (who happens to be a police officer) into an arm triangle, momentarily cutting the blood off to his head.
Okay, okay. He was asking me about it, and wanted a demonstration. I’m not THAT type of guy! Jesus!
It looked a bit like this, only we were standing up. And the pubs of Oldham don't have padded floors.
Just to cancel out the joy of finding that £20, I go and park in Manchester and forget to pay and display. £35 fine. I amaze myself sometimes. On the way home, the radio tells me that Boney M’s Bobby Farrell has died. Fuck me. What a bad day. I didn’t even buy anything!
New years eve… was awesome. Saw it in at Rififi Stalybridge. Great music, great company, great women, great midnight balloon drop. I also got a hard copy of Bar and Clubbing magazine, featuring my article, from the magazine editor, Richard.
Here’s the E-version…
A spectacular round-off to a pretty good year, all in all. More of these moments to come, hopefully. Much love to all my friends and family. You made it the month- and the year- it was.
Monday, 10 January 2011
“This Year, Give Up Giving Up.”
-Very old Benson and Hedges advert.
I realise I should have been telling you this in December, but better late than never. You’ve probably already made- and broken- your resolutions by now. I haven’t, and I never will. Here’s why.
I am a man with a lot of problems, and I make a lot of mistakes. I forget things. I don’t make enough money. I fuck up with women on a monumental, devastating scale. I’m not as ripped as I’d like to be. I’m not as confident either. I’ve got my own flat, but I’m still decorating it, and have been doing for MONTHS. I have no power of persuasion, hence a) nobody helping me decorate and b) I’m single. I’m not a great chef. I’m trying to get a reputation through blogging, short stories and poems. Not many people have heard of me. Yet. I struggle to sleep (possibly due to all of the above.)
Any or all of these things I could use as inspiration for my new-years resolutions. But I won’t, for the simple reason that I’m already working on it- and always have been.
I haven’t made new years resolutions for years, because there hasn’t been a time when I’ve not been looking at myself and thinking of ways to improve. It’s a bit late now, with it being January and all, but try NOT making resolutions this year, and instead, every day, look at your life and think- is there a better way of doing this? What am I putting off? Should I start rearranging my time to fit more exercise in? Do I need to ditch my other half? Do I need to learn a new skill?
Maybe you’ve found this blog the day after I’ve uploaded it. Maybe an obscure Google search has brought you to this page years later. (After checking my blogger stats, I can tell you these things happen.) However long it’s taken you to find this, why not start making these little changes right now? Why not keep that mentality of, how can I sharpen myself today?
What are you working on that there’s actually no point making a resolution about? Comment below!
Sunday, 9 January 2011
After the unexplained demise of Urbis.com, I needed a new place online to get feedback on creative writing. I wanted a site like Urbis- free, and with good constructive criticism to help me fine-tune the lit I'm sending out to places. A Google search took me to Allpoetry.com.
The design of the site is great. The user uploads a profile, uploads writing and decides how their page should look using a range of backgrounds. Each poem they upload can also be altered to suit, with interchangeable background and text colours.
To gain reviews, as is the norm on these sites, first you've got to give them. I got cracking and fired a load of reviews out. As one of my pieces is an erotic poem, I hammered the Erotica category to see what others were doing. I wasn't bowled over. The poems themselves were okay, but not of the calibre I'd expect in any lit magazines. I gave most poets the “compliment sandwich”- open with praise, constructively criticise, close with praise. Yes, I have lifted the phrase from Family Guy. More details on this here:
However, I don't really know what I'm doing with poetry. I joined the site to learn. The way to learn how to write is to accept criticism. That way, you know what to improve. It might sound like I'm stating the obvious, but I was the only reviewer on Allpoetry offering criticism. Every review I saw was nothing but shallow ego-stroking.
“Wow! That wz realli nice! :)”
I asked a question in the site's forum- why is nobody criticising each other?
A member replied that there's a Poetry for Revision section for those hoping to improve their work.
What's the point in there only being a section? What do you stand to gain from NOT being criticised?
Regardless, I had a browse around the revision section- the reviews offered are visible to all under the uploaded poems. They still weren't that explicit. So no, I'm afraid I won't be using allpoetry.com again. If anyone knows of any effective writing sites that are free- and that will push writers into being better poets- by all means, comment below.
Saturday, 8 January 2011
“How many of you have ever started dating because you were too lazy to commit suicide?”
-Judy Tenuta, U.S. Comedienne
Apparently, I'm an arrogant, conceited jerk. Supposedly, nobody would ever want to take advice from me. I'm generally offensive to anyone who has a daughter or sister, or anyone who is one.
This is according to feedback that I received on an article I wrote about women and dating. I put this piece of writing on the review site urbis.com (back when the site actually worked. Now it's fucked, and no-one knows why). Take a look.
The Ten Biggest Mistakes Girls Make When Dating
Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of good men out there. Granted, we males slip up from time to time and lose the girl. I myself had to read a lot of advice after repeatedly screwing up dates and finding myself at square one. Half the time I didn't even realise that my lack of assertion had ended the process, and that the excuses- "My ex got back in touch… I'm too busy with my kid… My phone's, erm, broke. The fact that I can talk to you on it is a miracle…" were just that. Excuses. I found a lot of advice that helped me to bypass those problems, but now I'm finding that it's not just me- or other men- facing a tough challenge. Now, I'm not a psychologist. I'm not even that experienced with women now, (cue the violins… no really) but I've been on enough dates to pinpoint ten classic dating errors that I'd rather not deal with again. And I'm sure, ladies, you'd rather not either.
No man wants to see you act all tough and resilient. That is our job. Act like a lady if you want a gentleman. And I'm sorry, but traditionally beer is a man's drink. A pretty girl with a pint of special brew is similar to a pair of elegant ladies' shoes after stepping in excrement. Just remember we've got to kiss that later. The beer-lips I mean. Not… well, you get it.
Similar to the above, only worse… Civilised society now doesn't really allow a man to crack the skull of a challenging aggressor in order to protect his spouse. But that doesn't mean we've palmed the job off to the women. Learn this, ladies: Lose your temper: lose the man. We don't want to see you go off at the hinges at someone (especially not for them spilling your pint while rocking out to "Soldier Boy"). Hide behind us (even if we are cowering behind the nearest doorman ourselves…)
3) TRYING TO IMPRESS
When men do this it's a particular pet hate for women. It goes the other way too- a man either thinks you're sexy or he doesn't. So if he's agreed to a date, you've won half the battle. The things that impress women don't necessarily impress men. We're not too bothered by how much money you make (although if you've got your own place, there are benefits). A quick anecdote of your claim to fame is always entertaining for the first date. But after this- unless you genuinely are a hairdresser to the stars- please keep these tales to a minimum. They tell us little about the real "you", and make us feel like paupers.
This is different to flirting. Flirting is suggestive and leaves a lot to the imagination. But bending over on nightclub podium in a size 16 macro skirt or rolling around on a beer-drenched dance floor trying to be "X-Tina" will only give us the impression that you're a slag.
5) SELF DOUBT
Another that men are frequently guilty of- the feeling that "Someone could have whoever they want. So why go for me?" American dating guru David DeAngelo coined the mantra "attraction is not a choice". Amen, David. Sometimes we can't explain why we like someone. It's just a feeling we get. By asking us what we see in you or why we asked you for your number, you're making us think- "Why? Am I out of your league? Should I look out for someone better?" Before you know it we won't be around, and you'll be single again. The man will be too, thinking: "Damn it. I should have stuck it out."
6) ANSWERING THE PHONE MID-DATE
We all lead busy lives these days and mobiles have become an integral part of day-to-day tasks. Even men feel naked without them. If it goes off while you are on a date, answer it. Leaving it ringing will just distract us, and besides- what if it is something drastic? We don't want to be held responsible for a household tragedy if the plumber/ babysitter/ parent couldn't get through to you. However, if you do answer it, remember that we primitive men can only hold our chain of thought for a few minutes. So break a tradition and keep the phone call short. And while we're on the subject, why not stroke our egos by telling said caller that you have a handsome man to attend to and you've got to go? Details, you tell the caller, follow later.
7) CRYING TOO MUCH
Aww. There, there. We kind of like providing the shoulder to weep on- being the rock to cling to at times of distress... the protective, supportive type like men used to be in the olden days. But come on, woman. It's only a nail. There are plenty of places you can get it done. It's not even like you grew it yourself!
8) DRINKING TOO MUCH
There are three major problems with this- two if we're not necessarily nice guys. One- we nice guys don't want to think of you on a life support machine through years of liver abuse. Honestly, sometimes we hate to see you do it to yourselves! Two- if you flirt with us, we assume you are only doing it because you are drunk. You'll find our number on your phone a few days later (if you managed to see the screen while you typed it in) but you'll have no idea who we are, and we'll realise that momentary lust only happened through blinding alcohol. Three- and here's what bothers us men the most- If we like you but you're wasted, we probably won't chat you up because we look like we are either taking the easy option- the drunk girl who doesn't realise she's being cracked on to- or we look like a date rapist coercing his latest victim. No man wants to give off that impression.
9) JUMPING THE GUN
Contrary to popular belief, not every man wants sex the first night he meets a woman. Unless it's obviously going that quickly and you both feel like the bedroom is the next ideal date setting, slow… down. If you invite him back too soon he will probably appreciate the opportunity and think himself lucky. But if it was me, I'd be thinking- this was too easy. How many other guys has she gone through?
10) BYPASSING PROTECTION
Last but by no means least, play it safe. No man wants to think that you've got something, but the sorry fact is that one in eight girls in Britain have a sexually transmitted infection, according to Britain's Health Protection Agency. This is the one part of sex where really- it's nothing personal.
There you go. Hate me enough now?
Suffice to say, I ended up not sending this to any magazines. There's a number of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is that I sound like a total bastard. I don't sound like someone that women would come to for advice. Surprise surprise- I'm not.
The second reason this article does not work: I have written advice for women, but in the voice of a magazine for men. I was going for an Esquire feel to the article, even though the target audience was actually women. I perhaps should have tailored it to the likes of Cosmopolitan, Elle or Allure- the journalistic styles of which I know nothing about. Reviewers even said that Esquire was a bit upmarket for an article like this- it was really so dumbed down that it might scrape into the taste fields of FHM or Loaded.
There was something slightly more important than the fact that I'd mixed up my intended audience.
One female reviewer told me that she was disappointed in the article, as she didn't gain anything from reading it. She didn't know what kind of woman would make those mistakes. I replied, telling her, I know a few.
This was, like most of my work, written from an autobiographical perspective. All of the above mistakes are traits that I've been on the receiving end of while I've played the dating game. It's now been a couple of years since I wrote this article, and I was hoping that a bit of breathing time might help me to realise that I'd just been weirdly unfortunate- that the romantic horrors I'd endured were nothing more than a spell of bad luck. After all, the article theme isn't original. Google “mistakes women make when dating.” Giving someone the silent treatment, Trying to “coax” him into a relationship against his will, not putting the effort in yourself- the advice is all out there. My own additions- being a psycho, flaunting, acting like a butch man, etc- these aren't particularly helpful to most presentable women. It's only in my home town of Oldham that this shit goes down. It's only here that people have to deal with it. Prove me wrong. There may be other towns where these dating problems recur, but when I go to Manchester or Stalybridge- areas just outside of Oldham- I never see this kind of thing. Okay, in Manchester on occasion, women do drink too much- but I never see women drag each other across the dance floor by their hair out there, nor in Staly. Only in Oldham. I have yet to see a morbidly obese woman dirty dancing on a nightclub podium, outside of Oldham.
I didn't go out in Oldham until I was maybe 22- I'd been living in Manchester for a few years at university, and before that I wasn't even dating at all... Uni dates may have been dull, but at least the girls knew how to hold themselves. It wasn't until I hit the Oldham scene that these problems emerged- and re-emerged. Meeting girls was easy- meeting girls that weren't nihilistic, butch sociopaths was an altogether different struggle. That struggle continues. I still meet girls like this: I haven’t moved out of the town, and the town hasn't changed on this respect. But I have found a few decent local girls over the years. I don't want to discredit them. They were diamonds in the rough, and the above advice will probably be of no use to them. So I tip my metaphorical hat to those girls. I just hope they enjoy reading this, regardless.