Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hidden Published Pieces

Pic coutesy Dragaroo, Flickr

Jacob the mountain lion lies comatose in his cell, thinking. He wants to do something drastic. He can't move, though, and stays slumped in the corner, watching. Waiting. His computer, which he has been using since becoming literate some months ago, hasn't been switched on for days. The zoo keeper has worked very closely with the zoological consultant, Fluffy Oakes, but neither can diagnose him. Jacob, sprawled on the floor of his enclosure, lies still, breathing slowly. His heartbeat is regular; he's eating steadily in small measures. The two employees suspect diabetes, although it is unusual for his species.

When he was in Newcastle, Jacob says, he bought an instant cold pack, a flu remedy. It set his head straight. He tried an energy drink that gave him the strength to stay alert the whole trip. It was incredible. Without that strength, the trip could have descended into anarchy.

It did, Fluffy reminds him. But regardless, says the consultant. I'll give it a go. Let's get you some meds.

Days later, the order arrives. The zoo receives a delivery of a large quantity of instant cold packs and energy drinks. The staff move a kettle into Jacob's lair. He's taught to use it safely- part of his freedom training, even though the release scheme is still on hold.

A zoo porter, a young, enthusiastic lad, tentatively enters Jacob's enclosure and begins emptying a bottle into a steel trough.

Young fella,” Jacob mumbles.

The porter looks into Jacob's sad eyes. The cat still has all his muscle. His groomed coat shows no sign of wear or infection. The lad pours the last of the bottle into the trough. His shaking hands let every drop fall out.

You've got to help me,” says Jacob pitifully, his pride stinging him. “I'm gonna need more than that. This calls... for some serious... sugar.”

I can only give you one bottle,” says the boy.

Have you ever had a cat die on you?”

The boy slouches slightly. His eyes narrow, like he's concentrating.

Happened to me once,” says Jacob. “Before you joined us. Horrible feeling. They just didn't listen to her. She needed sugar for type 2 diabetes, but they didn't believe the cat family were prone to it. She was a wonderful woman.”

The boy has backed to the door, facing the sprawling, giant feline.

Jacob moves his head for eye-contact. “You wouldn't want that kind of guilt on your shoulders, boy. Not at your age. I can administer it myself. Just haul it all in here. I'll take full responsibility.”

The boy looks over his shoulder through the enclosure's window. The pallet of drinks is on a pump-truck. It's narrow enough for him to wheel it straight in through the enclosure's entrance. He does so nervously, banging the pallet's edges on the corners of the door.

God bless you,” whimpers Jacob.

The boy, damp with sweat, leaves and locks the door with a sigh.

Jacob lies listening to the boy's footsteps echoing down the corridor, followed by the cold, metal slam of the enclosure's door.

That's when he leaps to his feet. He blows the dust off his computer and fires it up. Behind the rocks and branches in his cell, he pulls out a makeshift laboratory of sorts- tubes, beakers, a Bunsen burner and gas supply- all mail-ordered black-market packages the zoo never thought to check on. He assembles the work station. He sparks the Bunsen. He mixes solutions and breaks down compounds. He develops formulas and reforms elements to new compounds. He evaporates, distils, and purifies until- from the litres of energy drinks and flu remedies- only a dribble remains. It looks like a shot of vodka. This liquid has a much bigger kick, however, than any other spirit you'd find in a bar- even a Russian one.

If his science is right, Jacob has made enough ammonium nitrate to blast through his enclosure wall.

He picks a brick near the bottom of the wall and, where the top ledge of the stone meets the mortar, he takes the pipette and adds droplets in a row. He works quickly to avoid evaporation. He picks up the kettle. He turns it upside down, still holding it by the handle, and closes his eyes. Jacob slams the appliance into the cold, concrete floor. He rips off the remaining plastic and extracts the heating element. He paws at the component and watches it spark. The solution is evaporating, so he works quickly. If this doesn't work, his entire plan will fall through. He pulls the work station noisily to the rock and stands behind it for shelter. He mimes a couple of throws, then crouches behind the rock, the table a makeshift roof.

The gate CLANGS again at the end of the enclosure. The staff are onto him. He takes a deep breath, and launches the element at the wall.

The blast is deafening. The alarms trip, shrieking into every area of the zoo. Brick fragments and mortar fly past him, slamming into the opposite wall. A cloud of dust fills the room. Animals in neighbouring cells screech and hoot and roar. Jacob bounds over the table, through the smoke and ashes, into the new cavern formed by the explosion. The lights are on inside the zoo but the daylight, breaking through from the other side, still dazzles him. The outside Manchester air is colder now, much colder than Newcastle was a few months previously. He enters the tunnel, loosening bricks with his shoulders, widening the cavern and broadening the beam of light. He prowls forward. Freedom is a lunge away-

It's gold, or looks like it. It's some kind of plaque, buried deep into the wall.

Jacob has stopped. His bladder swells. Why was it built over? He thinks. And when? This zoo was a mill before it closed. Even if this was an extension, it would have been built before the Internet was available in Britain. When these bricks were set, the Web was handled only by a group of tech geeks in the States. This is too weird, thinks Jacob.

A shadow passes over him. He looks back to the cell. A man in a gas mask fires a tranquilliser gun. There's a thump as the dart lands in Jacob's thigh.

He pauses, looks at the dart, then looks at his exit. He makes a lunge for the opening, but slumps in sudden exhaustion, his nose a whisker away from the outside world, his tail just touching the plaque, which reads:

Additional published work by Matt Tuckey:

Stakeout in Thrillers, Chillers and Killers

Winter Canons- a short fiction anthology to which Matt has no recollection of submitting

An advert for The Knife Job, a script Matt wrote, on the website for the now-disbanded Northern Film Network

Friday, 25 November 2011

Conversation with Insane European Woman on Facebook

Pic courtesy dmix06, Flickr

The following is too funny for me not to share with you. A woman from Europe asked me for some blogging advice a few days ago. I gave her what pointers I could, and gave her a link to my blog- largely just to get another page view. A few days later, she sent me an add request. I added her because, at that point, I recognised her. A week or so later, I had typically forgotten why I'd added her. Her updates were appearing in my news feed, in Greek typeface. I was confused, and took the risk of expressing this bemusement in a status update. She read this update and, understandably, threw in her own two pennies. Here's a transcript of my Facebook status and comments. Surnames have been removed. It's raw and only a little edited so please excuse the Facebook grammar.
Inbox msg from Greek lady: "fucking son of bitch, it's you who sent me a friend request. Just for this reason i hate all English - all of u consider urselves a big piece of shit!" Okaaaaay.
Like · Share · 20 November at 21:04 near Oldham
  • Sara, Roland, Francine and 7 others like this.
      Sal: Hahaa! Do you know her??
      20 November at 21:07

      Matt: nope! I did put a status about her that you commented on a few days ago tho :)
      20 November at 21:08

      Sal: What was that then? And why are you randomly sending friend requests out? Don't you know that us women despise that? :-/ x
      20 November at 21:11

      Matt: She sent it the request to me! She claims its the other way around though. Why would I send an add to a woman from Azerbijan who had the poster or Amilie as a profile pic? x
      20 November at 21:12

      Matt: I put the status up on the 16th, scroll down x
      20 November at 21:14

      Sal: Hahahaha you're hilarious..only you tuckey! X
      20 November at 21:15 · Unlike · 1

      Sal: I've just looked and there isn't any comments x
      20 November at 21:18

      Matt: Errrrr... if women hate random adds, how come so many have accepted mine? :p only kidding. Actually, no I'm not.
      20 November at 21:18

      Sal: Coz they must be just as random ha! X
      20 November at 21:19

      Matt: There is! Rob liked it. 16th Nov.
      20 November at 21:24

      Sal: Yeah i know but there's no comment from me! X
      20 November at 21:28

      Matt: Oh you commented on an older post when some albanian woman added me a few months ago. And yes, SHE sent the req to ME. x
      20 November at 21:31

      Sal: Hahaha x
      20 November at 21:35

      Becks: what the crocodile HAT is THAT all about some people are lunatics lol xx
      20 November at 21:37

      Kirstie: Haha, Tuckey you clearly have a magnet that attracts strange mental individuals - look at me sal n Becks haaa x
      20 November at 22:03 · Like · 1

      Matt: On the subject of which, here's something I wrote a couple of years ago. Beware the dating website!
      20 November at 22:10

      Becks: Ha ha, I like to call myself special, we are lunatics but good ones lol xx
      20 November at 22:12

      Kirstie: The best lunatics there is! Bueno estente! Xx
      20 November at 22:13 · Like · 1

      Sal: Haha :-) x
      20 November at 22:43 · Like · 1

      Becks: ha ha for defo bueno es es es estente :-) xx
      20 November at 22:49 · Like · 1

      Insane European Woman: haha :D that was me - and as u can see i'm not greek but a jew ;) stupid matt :D
      Monday at 00:23

      Insane European Woman: u promised to help me with my blog, but didn't keep ur word - so u deserved those words
      As for the hometown or current city/country- oh, plr never pay special attention to that- yerterday i was from korea, today i'm from azirbijan, tomorrow i'll be from ireland :p
      Cheerios :D
      Monday at 00:29

      Matt: Well, this is very strange. First off, Greek is a nationality. Judaism is a religion. The two are not comparable. Second, I remember offering to help you, but a simple inbox message reminding me would have set the ball rolling. I'd have been very willing to help out. I may actually have responded to that message, but I can't remember. Like most "Big English pieces of shit" we live very busy lives. Not to mention- I have a memory disability, which doesn't make thing easier. Going ballistic at someone over a misunderstanding aint gonna help. Also, changing your profile every day on Facebook doesn't make you very trustworthy. Hackers and fraudsters tend to do that kind of thing. I wish you all the best with your blog. (Oh, and keep your eye on - you might recognise one of the stories I'm about to put up.)
      Monday at 06:50 · Like · 2

      Sal: Block her matt! Complete utter weirdo!
      Monday at 07:53 · Like · 1

      Insane European Woman: thank u :)
      Monday at 10:43

      Insane European Woman: i'm a jew who wrote her name in greek alphabet. But what made me angry is that people like u determine ur relation to tthe persons around after seeing a person's hometown or country. If i'm from azirbijan, korea, indonesia, then i'm a low-grade. But if i'm from USA, ur attitude at once changes
      I'll also write about such people in my blog
      Monday at 11:05

      Matt: Insane European Woman- in England we have a phrase "the kettle calling the pot black". This means that someone is accusing someone else of doing something that they themselves are already doing. I mentioned your nationality on my status because you live thousands of miles away. THAT's why I said I wish my luck changed. I have nothing against the country you're from, yet you have already called me an "English piece of shit" and a "son of a bitch". Do you see what I'm getting at?
      Monday at 12:47 · Like · 2

      Sal: She's a t**t! She should be taken off x
      Monday at 12:49 · Like · 1

      Gin: Ahahaha this is hilarious! x
      Monday at 12:56 · Unlike · 2

      Becks: This is funny, don't know why people bothering arguing, our group of friends are people who originate from all over the world, Matt isn't racist, so you need to get on Ebay get a life love and stop talking rubbish on people's profiles xx
      Monday at 13:04 · Unlike · 2

      Insane European Woman: Ok let it be so.but you ARE STUPID ENOUGH to laugh at my Amelie prof pic. My advice - never again boast with your fucking blog & bullshit blog posts.u'd better work on ur mind&attitude towards others.
      Tuesday at 02:50

      Matt: Insane European Woman- I can't tell whether you're trying to make a serious point or whether you're just spamming the shit out of my Facebook. Oh, I am a moron, without a doubt. But I'm not arguing with someone on their Facebook page, where they have the support of all their friends ready to add comments. You are. Oh, and my "bullshit blog" has 38,000 hits and has been read and shared by some fairly recognisable names in Hollywood. You know where this is going.
      Tuesday at 07:08 · Like · 2
So yeah, quite a day. She blocked me eventually. Why people come to me with this shit I have no idea, but one thing is for certain- there is truly no point starting an argument over Facebook- especially if you can't physically lay a hand on them later on, due to distance. But I'm not going to get all preachy on you. If you want to read an article on social media etiquette, there's plenty of blogs out there for that. This is just another example of how stupid, weird and crazy situations tend to find me without me even looking. But having said that, if you go mental at someone over the internet- someone you know to be a blogger- what do you think is going to happen?

PS While we're on the subject, ladies, I have a Facebook-related question to ask you. Men sending random friend requests to women: good move or bad move? I accepted a random add and got a relationship out of it, so I know where I stand.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Tale of Jimbob, the Thirty-Year-Old Jelly Baby

Pic Courtesy Dannymx, Flickr

The following is a short audio play I wrote and produced for my GNVQ Media course circa 1999. This week I dug out the script and polished it up. I've made only minor grammar adjustments. It's just for fun. What do you think?

JIMBOB (Narration)
What's your earliest memory? Is it from when you were a baby? Mine is. Come to think of it, so's my second. And third. In fact, my memory of yesterday's breakfast is from this time. It's not like I haven't aged, I just haven't ever put on weight in any shape or form from birth. Until recently, I had only a few wispy ideas as to why.


JIMBOB (Narration)
Stepping off my tailor-made Harley Davidson, dressed in my protective leather pants and jacket, I looked up at the old converted Victorian warehouse known locally as Affleck's Temple. The name “Temple” arose partly because of the stone columns in front of the building and also because of the high regard locals held for this shop in its former days of glory. I was hoping that my curiosity of this shop would be satisfied, as I had heard many odd rumours about this place.

I checked my 30 centimetre appearance in the mirrored door. Tucking my t-shirt in tight, I stepped inside.


JIMBOB (Narration)
I was expecting the usual gob-smacked look of disbelief which I have tolerated for thirty years, but the only other person in the building, a thin pale man with long dark hair seemed about as shocked as a sleeping gorilla.


JIMBOB (Taken aback)

JIMBOB (Narration)
Immediately, I sensed something was amiss. I'd never seen this bloke in my life, but there wasn't a hint of surprised in his presumably drug-induced expression.


Whoa. Never seen these before.

That's a plug socket, mate.

Oh! Oh.

JIMBOB (Narration)
Since when, I thought, had plug sockets been five centimetres thick, in three uneven sections and emitted a thin blue light every three seconds? I stepped back cautiously and looked around, squinting in the dim light. The main source of light seemed to be coming from another room, around a few corners. I followed this light into a small offset area...


JIMBOB (Narration)
...Completely empty, except for one backlit shelf, holding a large egg. I was enthralled. Moving a nearby stepladder and climbing up it, I went to pick it up. But as I did-


JIMBOB (Narration)
The light went out. I was in darkness. I did the only thing I could think of, and put it back on the shelf.


JIMBOB (Narration)
Via the light of the egg, I managed to see the way out of the room and plan my escape. I took my chances.



JIMBOB (Narration)
I checked my wallet, and realised I had no money and no credit cards. As shelves covered most of the walls, right to the ground, I could see no place to bang my head. But I wasn't going to let this stop me from obtaining this mystical item. It became clear to me that I was going to have to shoplift. I put the egg discreetly under my coat and headed for the exit. As I approached the door,


JIMBOB (Narration)
I felt a burning sensation in the area of the egg. A dazzling light, coming from under my coat, blinded me. Holding the now-shining egg in front of me, I heard a voice.

Jimbob. Look at what your race has done.

JIMBOB (Narration)
A montage of images flashed before me: a sewage pipe opening into the sea, car exhausts billowing smoke, large trees being cut to the ground and, most shockingly, reels of films being cut and spliced.

Why? Why have we done this?

My apprentice will explain.

Don't you see mate? Human beings have evolved to the stage of self-destruction. God is using Man to destroy the Earth. He never intended for life to exist eternally on Earth and now he is sending the Earth back into the Sun.

JIMBOB (sarcastically)
So why are you telling me? Am I the only person to have come into this forgotten temple?

There's something else you wanted to know isn't there?


MR. STONED (singing)
#The shin bone's connected to the- knee bone, the- knee bone's connected to the-

Oh yeah. What about me? Why have I never grown?

Thirty years ago, Jimbob, you were conceived in the disabled toilet of a McDonald's restaurant.

No! It can't be true!

I'm afraid it is. Just deal with it. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. The vile fumes and piles of waste damaged your cells and you were never to grow again. Your bones formed as lumps of gelatine, therefore making you a literal human jelly baby. As for the egg you have in your hand- that is the egg.

What egg?

You know the phrase- which came first, the chicken or the egg?

THIS is the actual proverbial egg?


So it was the egg? That came first?

No mortal will ever know. You tried to steal the egg. You wanted to keep the meaning of life to yourself, but only I, the Sovereign Lord, will know. Oh, and my apprentice, Mr Stoned.


You are an individual, Jimbob. No-one on Earth is as original as you.


JIMBOB (Narration)
The light receded and only the outside daylight remained. Shaking, I handed the egg back to Mr. Stoned.

I think I'll leave this with you.

Yeah, see you mate.

JIMBOB (Narration)
I stepped outside into the cool daylight. My Harley was there, just as I'd left it. Stepping on, shaking slightly, I switched on the ignition and rode off, my mind a race of thoughts. The man in the temple was right. We're evolving to destroy ourselves. I suppose I'd better make the most of this world while I've got the time.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Cheese Soufflé Calamity

Matilda- Is life always this hard, or just when you're a kid?
Leon- Always this hard.

-An exchange from Luc Besson's awesome 1994 thriller, Leon.

Whoever said “Hard work pays off” has clearly never attempted to make a cheese soufflé. Yesterday, my hard work did not pay off. I've finally made a start on the recipes in my Classics cookbook. And guess what? I fucked it up. I followed the instructions word for word, but I still encountered a problem. Nobody- author Keda Black included- told me that “separate the eggs” meant “take the yolks out”. I didn't acknowlede this until I realised I had to whisk the whites- which I'd already stirred into the just-cooled bechamel sauce.


But anyway, I continued and cooked it for the required time. The dish contents didn't raise like I thought it would- this due to the flour being three months out of date, unbeknown to me. But it still looked about right, and tasted pretty good.

The main drawback to this dish- and any other dish more complex than a stir fry- is that the effort put in always far outweighs the pay-off. It wasn't an amazing meal, and I felt pretty robbed afterwards. Having spent about an hour preparing and cooking it, I wolfed it down in about ten minutes. Such is life.

The question is now- do I attempt this meal again, and get it right, or move on to another dish?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

How Long is Your Blogroll?

Below and to the right, you'll find around 50 links to superb blogs listed in two columns- one for Manchester-based blogs and one for blogs being pushed out of any other corner of the world. If you're a blogger and you want your site on the list, get in touch on the comments and I'll have a butcher's at your blog. If it's my kinda thing, on you go.

If you have a blog, get yourself one or more blogrolls like the ones I have. Show you contribute to the blogosphere as a networker, not just a writer hammering out his own work into the vortex. Get involved.

I update Power is a State of Mind as regularly as possible- a couple of times a week usually. Through a lot of hard graft, frequent uploading, self-promotion and commenting, I've managed to amass a decent amount of hits recently. (My page views were on four figures at the start of this year.) Due to the traffic I'm getting, you'll be getting some too if you're linked here. Aren't you lucky?! Well, stay lucky. Keep uploading. Even if it's just a short update or round-up of events in your sector. Regular uploads = stats. I'm not the first to say this, but the reason I am saying this: PIASOM moves quick. Every link on the blogroll is under a month old. When it goes over a month, I knock it off. If that link is your blog, that's one less inroad for page views to your site. Not to be a cock, but I'd amassed 10,000 page views in March. I've now got 37,000. I've done this by commenting, Facebooking and tweeting like a mo-fo every day in order to publicise my posts. I've also done a little reading into Search Engine Optimisation and I try to tailor my writing to benefit from Google. This has also brought in a lot of stats.

The point I'm trying to make, in a sort-of 'round-the-houses kinda way, is that I want my blog to be “happening” and “relevant” and other cool words such as these. If I have month-old links to neglected blogs next to my writing, “Happening” might not be considered relevant to that section of the screen. Now, your blog is your blog. Do what you like with it and update it when YOU want. But if you don't upload within the month, goodbye my friend. You're off the Power blogroll. But blog little and often, and promote your posts, and you will get traffic. Possibly, in part, from me.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Art of Blogging

Kate Feld, Manchester-based writer and curator of The Manchizzle, gave a great seminar on Thursday 10th at the Cornerhouse Theatre

The Art of Blogging taught us how to start a blog and what we needed to do to gather our all-important first readers.

Kate started by explaining the purpose of The Manchizzle, a site rounding up all of the Manchester-based blogs (Find Power is a State of Mind under Lit and Writing Blogs) with occasional posts about Manchester's blogging community. If you're a Manchester blogger, she says, get in touch through the blog and she'll add you on.

  • Blog about your passion, Kate advised. If you're not interested in what you're talking about, your readers will notice. And they will not come back to your site.

  • Use social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to promote your posts. If you don't use these, as a blogger you're missing out.

  • Add a Twitter widget to your blog. This will allow readers to communicate more easily, and will show people how you're communicating with others. At the moment this is broken for Blogger. Boo.

  • Add an image to each post to break up the text. Like me, she tends to put the image at the top of the blog post. Use Flickr for copyright-free images. Flickr has a range of pictures with creative commons licenses, meaning you can use them for free provided you credit the owner. If you use a copyrighted image, the owner can make you pay for each day you've had the picture up.


    Using the Advanced Search function, You can tick a box for creative commons-only pictures, meaning you won't get sued if you use them. Hmm. As Hunter S Thompson once said, many a fine book has been written in prison.

    Taking your own pictures is a quick and easy way of getting around this problem.

  • Kate gave a quick overview of the different blogging platforms available online. Blogger is the simplest, she says (I agree that it's simple). It works well with most kinds of multimedia. Wordpress is more customisable but hence more complicated. Posterous is good for mixing and linking with other social media platforms. Tumblr blogs are pretty but have no comment function.

  • Once you've started your blog, you want people to read it. The next step: read other blogs. Comment on their posts. This makes a link back to your own blog, and page views follow. Include a blogroll on your blog, a list of links to other blogs that you like. (Side note- as PIASOM is partly about Manchester, I separated my blogroll into two lists- Manchester and worldwide.) 

  • Kate points out that allowing comments on your blog provides the opportunity for discussion regarding your writings, but as a blogger you need to check these comments thoroughly. If your blog becomes popular, it's possible that people with conflicting views could go head-to-head right underneath your latest post. Be ready to wade in / moderate comments if needs be. Kate cites her Blog Awards post as an example of when she stepped in on an increasingly heated debate about the blogging event.

  • On the flipside, Kate says, NOT allowing comments on your blog raises a red flag. People wonder WHY you won't let people comment. People might assume you have something to hide.

  • Add tags to each post- words that people may be searching for that relate to your work. Use a tag cloud on your site. This is a collection of links represented by key words, directing people to particular posts that may interest them.

  • Links to other sites may break if said linked site shuts down. Using an online tool like Broken Link Check you can wean out any URLs that no longer link to the required site.

Kate used a few Manchester blogs as an example of the fine blogging happening in the city:

Fat Roland on Electronica, a music-based blog. Roland uses Soundcloud, a music site, to embed playable music files on his site. He also embeds Youtube music videos. Kate cites the importance of multimedia in blogging. After all, what's a music blog without music? And even if your blog isn't music-orientated, multimedia makes your blog a blog, not a collection of essays.

Who the Fudge is Benjamin Judge, the personal blog of a Rochdale-based writer.

Food Legend, written by David Bailey.

Skyliner, by Hayley Flynn, Investigating Manchester's top-level architecture.

Onward Manchester, by Kristian Jackson and Samantha Bradey, about the city's events.

Didsbury Life, a South Manchester-based hyper-local blog.

Ciara Leeming, a photography blog

Here are some shout-outs to some of the people who attended:

David Clough, of Autus Web Design & Marketing, providing websites for businesses. 

Diana Kakkar, fashion designer and trend reporter writing at Londel Hi Fashion

Jacky Hall, writing about personal style, art, music and Manchester at Northwest is Best

Great meeting. Happy Blogging!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

TOIL and Trouble

I took some Time Off In Lieu last week after doing a few extra days in work, dressed as a large piece of toast. Check me out.

It had something to do with a home insulation scheme. I can say no more for legal reasons.

I made the most of my time off, mindlessly trawling through videos like this: 

I also cleared out one last box of belongings from my mum's house, and threw out about 9/10ths of my GNVQ college portfolio. I might regret doing so, one day. However, the better written work is among the assortment I saved and it may appear on here in the near future. One audio play that I scripted and produced was pretty darn entertaining. But then, I would say that, wouldn't I?

I've had quite a few blog hits recently through the help of a few blog-linked retweets. Hence I'd like to say thanks to:

Adam Roberts, blogger / podcaster 
Adam's Podcast Twitter page, Skeletor's Mouthpiece 
Miss Manchester 2009, Sara Beverly 
Kenan Bailey, writer 
Darren Sproat, Social Media Aficionado
Priya Young, Babestation model
McKenzie Lee, porn star

These people allowed for thousands more readers to see my work. For that, they are awesome.

Also, Playboy model Briana Frost randomly tweeted me to tell me she likes the blog! I hope she doesn't mind me saying, but I'd never heard of her before the tweet! She wouldn't tell me where she found out about it, but it's one more enthusiastic reader. And a hot one.

ALSO also, if anyone knows anything about the dickheads that walked through Littlemoor at 3am kicking car wing mirrors off, please let me know so I can find them and re-enact the scene substituting said mirrors with their jaws. Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Learning to Cook Before the Big Three Oh

Oh, crap. I'm nearly 30, and I'm the same shit cook that I was at 20, slamming whatever into a frying pan and seeing what “meal” emerges from the smoke. I'm still cooking the components of the meal in the wrong order and reheating everything, resulting in the occasional stomach bug. I'm still going to Tesco with no idea what meals I'm going to make with the food I'm buying, and no idea what I've still got in stock at home. Having short-term memory difficulties, like I have, means a simple multi-step task like buying food or cooking a meal becomes a wholly monstrous affair, with the potential to morph from a simple kitchen exercise to a domestic disaster.

When I was 20 I nearly burned down my student digs. I left something on an electric hob that really shouldn't have been there. (okay, I was technically cooking it, but not for consumption.) Cue a small, toxic-fume-filled kitchen and an angry security guard. I was eating chip naans three times a week, but I still lost 3kg through under-eating, and was the lightest I'd been as an adult.

When I was 28 and I'd only moved into my own flat a few months previously, I undercooked some lamb's liver. Let's just say I over-familiarised myself with the toilet. During this time, I possibly forgot to eat some meals. I worked out LOADS. Yet I put 2kg on due to eating cheap, salt-laiden food.

When I look at my life right now, two of my biggest problems are 1) women, or lack of, and 2) cooking skills, or lack of. (Connection? Perhaps. You tell me, girls: If a man can cook, is that a turn-on? I suspect so.) I can't afford cookery classes, and even if I could, my memory difficulties would cause me to drop behind, and I wouldn't get the chance I'd need to practice what had gone wrong. (Oh yeah. Third problem: money.) The Psychology department that helps me with memory says they can't help me with cookery. So I have to do this myself. I can't expect a leg up from anyone else. The only knowledge I have will come from a cookbook I got for my birthday in July, that- typically- got shoved into a kitchen cupboard a few days later, and hasn't been read... until now. So from here on, it's just me and Classics One Step at a Time by Keda Black.

Looking back through my blog you'll notice that I'm fond of my one-month challenges- little exercises I do to improve a particular area of my life in some way. I've been keen to focus on something for a new challenge recently, but couldn't decide what. I miss people too much to do the book-reading challenge again. I couldn't find the resources to binge on scriptwriting. I also have many other challenges and tasks in my life. This week, in fact, I finished clearing out my college portfolios, the last two items that I'd left in my bedroom at my mum's. They've been there since 2001. I kept the best parts- they filled just a couple of Tesco bags. They're now on a shelf in my flat. I am officially totally moved out.

Scary shit.

This cookbook is going to take longer than a month to get to grips with, though, especially as I've only just ordered some scales off the internet. Hopefully each meal won't take more than half an hour to put together. So here's my challenge for the next few months- work my way through this cookbook, one meal at a time. I'll try to find links to the same recipes online, so you can see what I'm doing. I'll buy the ingredients, cook it, eat it, and review it here. If I fuck it up, I'll learn from my mistakes. If I don't, then it must be simple enough for this moron to do. So why not do it with me?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Give your mind power and your body strength.

Fluffy Oakes is a trained killer. An expert in MMA, he is at the peak of his physical fitness and assures me he is “a fearless bastard.” Who better to ask for training advice than this Manchester martial arts legend? Today, Power is a State of Mind hands over to Fluffy. We're giving him a month to whip us into shape.


There is physical strength, and there is mental strength. Mental strength is required if you work in a difficult job, like social work or nursing. Jobs such as these require emotional stability- working with people who have injuries, whether physical or mental, will test you. But it will also build you. To get through a day without letting sympathy distract you from the task at hand is something that only a few are suited to, but people can become mentally and emotionally tough through these testing experiences.

Physical strength is much easier to develop, achieved usually through the repetitive action of lifting weights. The more times you lift, the more weight you can lift. But there will be times when you will get stuck. No matter how many times you do a certain movement, it seems, you just can't get over it. You'll reach a plateau, and it will feel like trying to climb over a wall that's just a tad too high for your fingers to reach.

So what do you do if you're stuck on a particular movement? My advice will buck the trend- leave it.

If you hit a plateau, don't try the weight again for a few weeks. Bear with me here. It helps if you bring a pocket notebook to the gym, along with a pen. Put the name of each movement on its own sheet, at the top. Put the weight you've lifted on the left, and the date you lifted it on the right. Each time you make a new personal best, mark it on underneath in a column. This is your achievement. No matter how small you think the weight is- no matter how many meathead units are in the gym alongside you, lifting three times as much- feel good about it. This is your personal best. If you work out properly and regularly, and you eat and sleep well, it can only go up from here.

Do this with as many movements as you like. Watch your records break and your body improve. If you're reaching plateaus already, it's fair to say you're a regular gym goer and you know what you can and can't do. Make a note of the date of the attempt and skip that movement. Here's why.

Each time you attempt to beat a personal best and you fail, you start a mental conversation with your “inner critic.” 

Everybody has their own inner critic. It's a part of your psyche that tells you- No. You can't do that.

On that weight movement at that time, your inner parent speaks to you. “Stop trying to lift that weight,” the parent says. “You are a scrawny, stupid weakling and the whole gym is watching you struggle. Give up.”

Your inner parent is an arse, but you must still listen. If you return to that weight movement for the next five days, you could fail to improve every time. Meanwhile, you could have been improving on other exercises you perform in your gym routine. In a 45-minute gym session, you aren't going to stick to one machine, unless you want a bizarrely disproportioned body, or you want to injure yourself. So skip it, and move on to a machine you feel you can improve on. A new personal best on one machine could well allow for an improvement on a machine that uses some of the same muscle set. Or, throughout training, your cardio may improve through the "shock" your body gets from the break of routine- not just from the cardio machines.

Here's what's important- whenever you exercise, you release endorphins into your bloodstream. This makes you feel good. Couple this with the feeling you get when you know you've improved yourself, and you'll feel extra good.

I recently ran through around half of the exercises I practice, one after the other, in a series of 45 minute sessions. It took a full month. So I'm in no danger of running out of exercises even if I hit loads of plateaus.

The only machine you should be going back to, regardless of how many times you fail to improve on it, is the cross trainer. This machine is perfect for warming up all the muscles in your body and great for improving cardio. Do a ten minute blast of this right at the start of your session. To improve on it, you might find doing it twice per session for a week or so will yield sudden improvements.

Matt Tuckey claims he's going to do this for a month. He'd better do, otherwise I'll beat his bitch ass. And he knows it. I will be more lenient on you, but you can do just as well as him. Now switch off your computer... and go to the gym.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Wrestling with Fluffy Oakes

I haven't grappled in ages due to moving out and not having the money, but right now I'm on the mats in Fluffy Oakes' apartment- and he's kicking my arse while Rob Dougan's “One and the Same” provides some acoustic contrast. 

Fluffy shoots in on me, taking my legs and body-slamming me to the floor.

You could have defended that,” he says. “You know how to sprawl. I've seen you do it.”

Yep,” I wheeze, but I manage to lock my legs around his back.

The reason you don't do well in MMA is because you don't think you'll do well. You expect to get beat.” He pins my biceps to the mat.

Isn't it the other way around? I think. It keeps happening, so I expect it to. Like a lot of things.

I try to swim my arms inside to break his grip, but I can't reach in enough. I try to grip on to his upper arms and work my legs up his back.

And here's the funny thing,” he says. “You run a blog called 'Power is a State of Mind.'”

As my ankles climb up his back he responds by posturing up, sticking his chest right out. My legs won't cling on.

People are gonna be searching for that kind of strong-mentality, backbone-building shit” he says. “When they reach your site, is that what they're going to find?”

There are a couple of speculative pieces on it.” I reach up to try to pull his head down. A simple shove puts my back on the mat again.

But it's mostly Tesco Value goods, Mark Kermode and stuff you can do with Twitter,” he says.

I climb my ankles a second time. There's a space between my thighs, though, and he swims his arms in and throws my legs to one side. He drops his chest on my stomach, side on, pinning my far arm with a hand.

I'll tell you what I think,” he says, fishing around at my arms, looking for an opportunity to beat me up some more. “I think you chose the name because you saw how you wanted to see yourself, and how you wanted others to see you. You want a powerful state of mind, but you haven't got one.”

I really want to start throwing shots into his ribs at this point, as he's leaving them open. But then, I'm leaving my head open. He'd throw back harder. This is only grappling. Pride stings when you know you're not going to win.

You need to stop beating yourself up over things, for a start,” Fluffy says.

There's something really ironic about that, but I can't put my finger on it.

I can help you sort that out,” he says. “You'll never doubt yourself again. Every problem you've had with work, with women, with your memory, I can sweep it away.”

Sounds great,” I say, bored, “but I've heard it a million times from a load of different people.” I pull an elbow forward and try to hook onto one of his legs with my ankle.

Have any of them read your blog?”

Some of them,” I say. He knows what I'm trying to do with my body. He's letting me turn into him. I know he's pre-empted my actions, but I can't think what I'm doing wrong. I can't think what his counter is, and hence what my counter is.

I've noticed you've put up some guest posts. Why don't you let me do something? I'll teach you about a powerful mentality, but I'll teach it to the world as well. It'll go well on the blog. You're a good writer but I don't think you're the guy to advise people on their state of mind.”

This hurts more than any move he could pull on me. But he's right.

Your content will match people's search results. People will type in, like, 'state of mind', and 'strong mind' or whatever, they'll find your blog and they'll actually find what they're looking for. I'm not saying what you've done isn't good; it is, but it largely doesn't relate to what people are searching for. 'Til I get on it, that is. Whaddaya say?”

I thread an arm under his armpit and follow through with my torso. I manage to flip out from under him- I'm an annoyingly thin and wriggly grappler. I get caught in holds a lot, but I'm difficult to keep still. He loses his grip and I stand up. He stands level to me, quickly.

Yeah, surprise me,” I say, and I shoot for his legs. I lunge out with my arms too much, though, like I always fucking do, and lean my body forward. He catches hold of my neck with one arm and chokes me out.