Monday, 29 August 2011

The Anti- Tesco Value Challenge

I got a bad bad habit baby
Baby it’s you
Baby it’s you

-Bad Habit, Jenny Burton. House track from 1985, originally.

My bad habit- Tesco Value goods, or more namely, being a tight bastard. I moved out in November, and since I’ve been buying my own food- on a serious budget- I’ve been cutting corners. I’ve been eating cheap and, as a result, taking in a shitload of sugar, salt and refined carbs. This is the real reason I’ve put on 3 kilos. It’s not gym muscle. It’s fat from cheap food.

My budget’s still modest, albeit a little easier to handle after sorting out Inland Revenue affairs. So here’s the next plan: A full shop at Tesco, with hardly any Value products. No cans and no packaged food, unless it’s not part of the Tesco Value range.

Pick up a can of beans next time you’re in Tesco. Look at the salt levels of any can and compare it to the Value equivalent. The cheaper product will always have more salt. So- no Value microwave meals and no Value canned food. Here’s some Value food have allowed myself:

Chicken portions. I thought these thinking they are cheap because of the conditions the chickens live in. It’s snide, but I’m poor. I blame the government. The product itself I assumed to be the same, til I read this

Shit. Next time I may have to splash out on the Healthy Living version.

Eggs. Surely you can’t add water to an egg, right? Value all the way, until the government makes me stop. They're from caged hens and not free range, but I don't have the luxury of a big income. Neither do millions of others.

Fruit. Value bananas will go soft quicker than other bananas. But that’s just another reason to eat more of them. They’re also good for combating insomnia, which seems to have died off since I’ve been regularly munching them. Value Kiwis will allow you to smash in a load of  dietary fibre, potassium and vitamin C

So. It’s mainstream, mid-priced products all the way for me, with the odd exception. If you’re doing this challenge too, don’t forget the meat counter. Here you can get a full meal’s worth of liver for 50p. For low-cost healthy eating, liver and kidney are well worth a look.  High protein, low salt. I have the advantage of living around the corner from Tesco, so I can dive in and get liver most nights. If quick, regular trips aren't practical, you may need to freeze in portions if you’re going to eat a lot.

I’ll carry on buying and eating this way for the foreseeable future. I’ll see how I fare at the gym over the next month, and report back.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Power is a State of Mind Needs Your Support

Hmm. Listen to me, giving my blog a persona of its own. Pretentious much? Absolutely. The truth is: I need your help. I need it a lot. In the spirit of high aspirations (the blog title, the relentless pestering of celebrity types) and some achievements (including doubling my hits inside six months) I have just nominated this site for consideration of Best Personal Blog at the Manchester Blog Awards.

I will be up against some truly talented writers, whose blogs have been well-formed and have stuck to a niche from the get-go. In contrast, this blog has changed from running commentary of bizarre journeys, failed job interviews, drunken nights out and traumatic encounters with women- basically a personal diary online- to a place for people to find new ways to build blog stats, info on literature and other events in the city, ways of tweaking your life for the better and methods for developing creativity in writing. Less me, more you. As a result, more people have read it.

I have nothing to lose from this submission. I might even gain something. If nothing else, throwing a bid in for an award is a mere excuse to seek more publicity. The choice to vote- or not- is yours. Those of you following me on Twitter or friends with me on Facebook- I’ll try not to be too much of a ballache with the whole self-promotion thing for the next month.

The deadline for voting: Monday, 18th September. Please vote by clicking here!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Grafitti Art: An Opportunity in a Problem

After a gathering of morons plagued Manchester recently, smashing windows and raiding shops for trainers, Manchester City Council has helped to board up the broken windows, each board emblazoned with this minimalist logo:

Some bloggers have suggested that the council’s attempts to raise spirits have failed, and that the logos don’t really mask how beaten down this fantastic city actually looks at the moment. I say it’s a start.

However, if you wonder around the city centre, you will find murals like this: 

These dull chip-wood boards placed across the city could serve as blank canvasses right now. Surely these spaces could double as opportunities for the best artists to provide a bit of sprucing-up with some non-offensive, colourful displays. After all, they will only be boarded up for a few more weeks. Are there any graffiti artists in the city, looking at these empty boards with hungry eyes, ready to shake their canisters? I expect so.

Let’s make the most out of a bad situation and put a bit of colour back into the city. I’ll show the council my ideas, and will keep you updated.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Looking Ahead: The Manchester Literature Festival 2011

The Manchester Literature Festival returns in October for its fifth year. Check out the events listed in the new brochure here. To get a feel of the festival you can also check out previous years brochures below it.

Last year’s festival was a real treat, with a celebration of Penguin’s 75th anniversary with Editorial Director Tony Lacey in attendance, novelist Martin Amis dropping into town, to chat with screenwriter Andrew Davies, a book launch of work based on the recordings of eves-droppers, a talk by a Spanish comic book artist, trips through the world of Anthony Burgess, short anthology launches, a comedy poetry slam… Well. Check last October in this blog for a list of what I attended. Not one event missed the mark.

I’m looking through this year’s brochure. I’d like to do the Anthony Burgess tour, but I’m not so much a wannabe droog that I’d pay £15 to attend. I’ll make an appearance at the Manchester Blog Awards again. Some of the people shortlisted at this event will undoubtedly be listed in my “Powerful Manchester Writers” field on the right, so I’ll definitely show some support to other bloggers I know- and those I don’t yet. And, of course, I've thrown a bid in for this blog. Why not.

Other than that, the events aren’t really my kind of thing this year. The festival organisers are talented people and the events last year were entertaining and managed with skill, so I’m sure this year will be great for those who recognise the names of guests.

I have, however, offered to volunteer at the festival. The volunteers meeting at Deansgate Library was a chance to put our details forward for positions of Event Organiser and Event Blogger. MLF organiser Jon advised us, however, that any event we really want to attend, we should go as a punter / blogger as opposed to an organiser. As organisers, we’ll be heavily involved in the orchestration of the event- setting up the rooms, finding guests and escorting them to and from venues, ordering taxis, carting books around. With these responsibilities, Jon mentioned, we might not get to see the actual event take place.

So I’d be happy to chip in for a couple of events. Network a little. But I won’t be spending quite as much time- or money- at the festival as I did last time. If you're reading this blog, though, there's a good chance the events could be right up your street. So by all means have a rummage and see what's going on. You might even see me there.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Extracting data, making conclusions, writing fiction

This is a guest post by Caleb J Ross as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin and novella, As a Machine and Parts, in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: Friend him on Facebook:

Matt Tuckey, curator of this here blog, posted earlier this month about an experiment he conducted to measure the impact of linking existing blog content via twitter by way of trending topics (or “trend tailing” as I will so cleverly call it from now on). This type of testing for the sake of data collection is right up my alley. And to merge the world of words with the world of data…consider me more interested than a person should be.

Matt’s chart speaks for itself, really. The results seem quite impressive on the surface. So I’ve decided to mine my own content for some interesting data, both in terms of my website traffic as well as general writing data that, honestly, serves my own curiosity more than the possible efforts of others.

First, tag clouds. Tag clouds are a simple visual representation of word density for a specific selection of text. I was first truly turned on to tag clouds when developing my The StoryVault project (best viewable on a mobile phone or tablet). After categorizing my stories with descriptive tags, I created a quick tag cloud out of curiosity. Little did I know that a visual representation of my work would help me to truly see the overarching thematic content of my fiction. Here’s the cloud:

Where before I would stress over describing my own work, I now had a concrete string of words. Grotesque fiction dealing with children, domestic issues, and obsession. That pretty much says it all.

But I went a step further and created a tag cloud using actual words from my novel Stranger Will. This one is different in that I did not first describe the work manually by creating tags, but instead used existing words. The result:

Most satisfying here is the prominence of the words eyes, room, enough, and waits. Each of those words implies an isolation that definitely permeates the novel, but to see my intentions distilled and verified is a rush.

Second, I want to look at the most popular pages on my site. Keep in mind that because my site is a blog, with constantly updated content, new content obviously doesn’t have the same historical reach as existing content. However, looking only at traffic since January 2011, the pages below are my top ten. Notice that three of these pages are part of my Unexpected Literary References series:


This isn’t surprising, as I have long known that this series is popular. What it tells me is that if I want to leverage some of my traffic in hopes of converting visitors to book buyers, I should find a way to work my own fiction into the series posts.

Lastly, I want to look at outlying peaks to judge any correlation between a specific piece of content or traffic source and site activity. Notice the traffic peak on April 3rd. What went on here?

The culprit: A post about how authors should choose between self-publishing and legacy publishing. The takeaway here (without scrubbing too deep into contextual traffic patterns) is that people like information about publication choices. The rising popularity of eBooks and POD printing is likely the reason for this interest.

I love data. I will continue to love data.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Bizarre Behaviour at Brighton Pride Festival

"Brighton is still very gay and full of balls."
Samuel Rogers, English poet, 1763 – 1855

Last weekend I visited some friends in Brighton. Got a coach down with some friends. Stopped off in London. Saw the guards marching outside Buckingham Palace. Big crowds.

An hour's train journey got us to Brighton, where I had a slice of this INCREDIBLE cake made by Gin Stephens. 
I'm not normally a cake person, but goddamn. It was good. But then, she is a pro. Check out her business, Ginny's Delights

The weekend we went down fell on the Brighton and Hove Pride festival, a celebration of diversity and general gayness. We went for a butchers.

I strolled through the rammed streets with the gang. It's vastly different to Manchester- even when the Rainy City has an event on. People drink on Brighton's streets everywhere- something you won't get away with for five minutes in Manchester. I mooched around sipping from a bottle of Singleton malt whisky for a large part of the day. I also drank something turquoise that tasted like Refreshers sweets, straight off a seafront stall ran by a random woman. Incredible. We hid drinks in pockets and bags. Bottles- some whole, some smashed- were left all over the pavements- day and night. Despite the mess, though, there was no trouble whatsoever. The only violence I encountered was when a cheeky redhead girl did this to me: 

Okay, I let her.

Also, I took this girl up on her offer:

I got a mouthful of this woman's juicy cherry pie:

I got molested by a fat woman in a portable toilet (okay, I let her too), and found what could be the only bar in Brighton playing house music. Check out the terrace party!

Atmos in this particular beer garden: Excellent.

When I strayed back inside the bar I found none other than Dead or Alive front-man Pete Burns eating a burger and salad, sat with someone who looked like a member of The Legion of Doom. I told him I was a writer from Manchester. I showed him my card. He tapped on the table without looking at me. “Yeah, just put it there,” he said, still scooping in lettuce. A girl in our group gave him an earful.

Seriously, Pete. I said I was a WRITER. What did you think I was going to do? If you don't want to be bothered by the public, don't go to a (presumably gay) bar in the middle of Brighton Pride with your hair done in bright gold dreadlocks. YOU'RE A GRADE-A BELLEND. But thanks for reading.

We spilled back onto the street, where the music was blasting out of another bar. Ironically, there was no escaping Pete Burns.

We were only searched in the last bar of the night, where I managed to hide the Singleton around the side of the building. I was NOT losing half a bottle of quality single malt!

Fell asleep on the coach on the way back. This is what happened.

Brightonians are the friendliest, most-chilled-out crowd in the UK. I made some brilliant friends, had a fun time and I have no complaints about the weather either. I'll be making a return journey to the East Sussex party town soon. Samuel Rogers' epitomization was never more accurate than of the weekend of 13th August.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Getting Ripped for MMA: Results

For the last month I’ve been smashing the weights gym to prepare myself for a return to Mixed Martial Arts. I set out this plan to get in shape throughout July.

Through June, I’d stopped doing weights in favour of purely gym classes. Some classes were hard graft- others were not. I fell out of shape a little. Then in July, I returned to hard weights- focussing on the movements that would help me the most in MMA. Shock- I’d lost strength. With almost every machine I used, I couldn’t match my record.

Lat pulldown (wide grip)- down two notches.

Same with close grip- down two notches.

Situp Machine- down one notch.

Cross trainer- 100 metres down from my 10-minute record.

Rowing machine (cardio)- over 100m down.

Seated row (weights)- down three notches.

I could continue. Generally, I was doing poor. There were exceptions…

Ten minutes on the hand bikes- my record was 2.81km. I went up to 3.12km. A good improvement, although the last time I tried this movement was in April.

I notched up the hip adductor one plate. This is the inside thigh machine, and a perfect exercise for MMA as it improves the fighter’s ability to hold someone in “guard”. Lying on his back, the fighter will trap his opponent’s body between his thighs with his ankles crossed at the small of his opponent’s back.

I cracked on with the challenge for the whole of July.

My cross trainer record- 0.49Km in ten minutes- went down to 0.48Km and up to 0.50 by the end of the month. I do this as a warm-up for every session.

Reviewing the exercises is a little complex- I was training in a series of 45-minute sessions, six days a week. I used each cardio machine for ten minutes each, and each weight machine for about the same length of time. I chose that many exercises to work on that it took a few weeks to run through them all in a series of gym sessions. So by the time I’d finished testing all of the movements, I was stronger and fitter than I was when I started. In theory. Not only that, but throughout the month I only had the chance to work some of these movements just once. So time will tell if the exercises work in the long run.

Regardless of all this, I don’t look much fitter. That’s because there’s a factor that I hadn’t considered throughout all of this until I'd finished the challenge- my diet.

I’ve been cutting corners, buying more and more Tesco Value products. It doesn’t take a dietician to tell you that these foods are full of salt. Salt makes you fat. Fat slows you at the gym. If I’d have been eating better, I’d have performed better. So- the next task- cut out cheap food. Keep working on weights. Attend the best classes. THEN, get back into MMA.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

R.I.P Phil Child

Phild Child, former manager of Brannigans bar in Manchester, passed away on Friday, 29th July.

I worked for Phil in the Peter St venue in 2003. I had a great time working there and he was a brilliant manager. An absolutely fearless man, he was known for making the doormen's jobs easier by throwing out troublemakers himself. He was also known for having incredible gift of the gab. I ended up working a lot more shifts per week than I’d told him I had time for- but he always looked after me. People on the Facebook group -myself included- have left their memories of this larger-than-life character. Some call him the king of Peter Street. Others say he was the life and soul of the party. I say his presence wasn’t just felt on Peter Street- the whole of Manchester seemed to know him.

It was an honour knowing Phil. In his early thirties he was taken way too soon. RIP.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

What a Ridiculous Week.

For the Sooty-versus-Paul Daniels post-match analysis, click here.
For the BBC’s coverage of the “stoned wallabies”, click here.
To hear a hilarious podcast about bum-breathing maggots and the like, click here.
To see proof that Rebekah Brooks is now enjoying her new role terrorising patrons on a futuristic spacecraft, click here.
For advice on what not to do when you visit your friend’s house, click here. Okay, that’s from a while back. Still damn funny. 

To read a haiku about a hippo, don’t click anywhere. I got my facts wrong. I could have sworn they were omnivores! As the article above states, they are (normally) herbivores.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Using Twitter Trending Topics to Build Stats

A month ago I set out to use Twitter's trending topics, or #hashtags, to see if I could use them to build blog stats. See here.

Of course, being a numpty, I didn't record what my stats were for that week or how many overall page views I had at the time. So I don't have a great deal to compare to. But...

Over the last few weeks I've tweeted a few links to posts of mine that vaguely relate to the subject matter. 
I linked up This Article is Doomed a failed attempt to offer dating advice to women- alongside trends such as #undateable and #youcantdateme. It was also a good match for #Ihavenopatience , a trend that one of my followers also included in a tweet. This was a bit of an eye-opener for me as his tweet read “#ihavenopatience for people who constantly RT their own blog. You know who you are.” Yes, I do. Well. Violins to you, follower. You can always unfollow, I thought. A few days later I checked my followers. He had.

Twitter is a place to share information. It's the perfect platform for this experiment, but perhaps I took it too far. Perhaps continuously supplying links to work that you've created is off-putting to followers... BUT, looking at my stats page tells a different story. 
Traffic Sources- All time (measuring from when I opened the blog in 2008)
Referring URLs (places featuring a link to my blog. List is in size order.)
Quiddity of Delusion (friend's writing blog) 60

Twitter is the site giving me more referrals than any other, by a LONG way.

Adding a trend to your tweet puts your tweet into the trend's timeline. This timeline- a separate page on Twitter's site- will show you the real-time results of the tweets by anyone across the world using the same #hashtag. It's a page full of tweets all about the same thing- which could include something from your blog. It's a statistics magnet.

Speaking of “around the world”, don't forget that the trending topics differ dependant on the area searched. You'll be able to find a number of major US cities, and a few main cities in the UK. There is also a broader trend function relating to country.

In June I had 15000 hits. Now I have 22000. The trending project must have worked. The trending topics were beneficial to me because I have years of posts behind me, covering a range of subjects. New bloggers might not find the content to match up. Niche bloggers might not either, even if they've been writing for a while. But if you've covered a good range, which some might say I have, you might have something relevant. It's as good an excuse as any to throw up a link to an extra post- inviting the world to check it out.

Give it a shot yourself and let me know how it goes for you.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Oldhamers- You Need The Metrolink

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
-Richard P. Feynman , US Physicist

Every time I log on to Facebook I see people in Oldham complaining about the roadworks that are necessary for the preparation of the Metrolink, due to roll into town in 2014. Facebookers are claiming that their journeys are taking twice as long. The roads around the Mumps roundabout in the centre of the town are permanently jammed and everyone is, predictably, very angry about it. Whether there was a better way of implementing the development of the Metrolink scheme is outside my area of knowledge, I’m afraid, but I know this much: there was never a time when we weren’t going to get trams in Oldham. It was always going to happen.

A couple of years ago, greater Manchester residents were asked to vote yes or no for the introduction of a congestion charge. The revenue created from this was supposed to fund the extension of the Metrolink system. The charge was voted against by all ten boroughs of Greater Manchester. Then, in May 09, the Metrolink got the go-ahead anyway.

I voted ‘against’ because the Metrolink is the next step in the natural advancement of transport technology. Engineers and scientists redeveloped the old tram system- popular forty years ago or so- because technology now allows us to travel faster and cleaner than previously- it’s a more environmentally-friendly method of transport than buses, the old diesel trains or cars. The government should be providing this anyway, without us paying extra. Hence, I knew the whole congestion charge policy was a lie, and another attempt to squeeze more money out of the already over-taxed motorist.

The problem we have, now that the Metrolink is under construction- sans congestion charge- is that the roadworks haven’t been properly thought through- there was already a number of diversions for road improvements before Metrolink work began. But there has always been road improvements in operation in Oldham, for as long as I can remember at least. And I’m 29. Whether there was a better way of organising the development, I don’t know. It’s not my area of expertise, I’m afraid, but consider these points:

1)    There are no jobs in Oldham.
2)    The jobs are all in Manchester.
3)    The Metrolink will officially take 2 years to get here- probably longer if we’re being realistic.
4)    In 2 years time or more, there will still be no jobs in Oldham. The work will still be in the city.
5)    The Metrolink implementation has provided and will continue to provide some jobs.

The point that I’m trying to make is that to shun the Metrolink would have reinforced the world’s perception that Oldhamers are nothing more than a bunch of reactionary luddites- an image that many residents are all too happy to conform to. My message to them is this: Grasp what decade we are in and accept it. The Metrolink is coming. You need it. Yes, it is a ballache at the moment. But it must happen. It is unavoidable.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Things to Do Before I'm 30

"Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it, French hoard it, Italians squander it, Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Know what I say? I say time is a crook."
-Truman Capote US Author

Well. I’m now 29. This is it. The last year of my twenties. And what have I achieved in my short life? Not a great deal, I fear. Another birthday has passed, and another reminder pings telling me I’m running out of time.

I now have just under a year until I’m 30. I want to celebrate that birthday feeling fulfilled, like I’ve done something with my young life once it’s ended and I’m officially a thirty-something older person. So. It was time to make the proverbial list. I threw it out there on Facebook. What did people who know me suggest I scribble down?

Among the sensible responses:
Reach Everest Base Camp
Help three strangers

Well. I say “sensible”. One of those costs a lot more money than I have.

Among the less-sensible:

Beat a tramp to death with your bare hands
Participate in a bukkake
Receive colonic irrigation

Well. Who knows. Maybe... Here’s the remainder of the list. Some of these were my ideas, others were from friends. Some I think I might. Others I probably won't, but they are down here anyway. You have no way of knowing which is which!

Get into copywriting
Get into “double figures”
Have a threesome (paid)
Have a threesome (through sheer pulling power)
Perform a parachute jump
Perform a bunjee jump
Visit Loch Ness
Visit a distillery
Climb Ben Nevis
Get famous through the blog
Eliminate my fear of women
Get to grips with my memory disability. I still don’t know how best to present it to people, how best to work with it and how to stop it from preventing me from being the man I want to be. But I’m learning all the time.
Meet more people who like house music
See the northern lights from Norway
Stand atop the tallest skyscraper. At the time of writing it’s the Burj in Dubai. By the time I have the money, the tallest will be India Tower in Mumbai- but I’ll be over 30 then. Boo.

Another suggestion: Have a Mixed Martial Arts fight. I spent a few years doing MMA, and I’ll be getting back into it soon after a near-year-long break. A team-mate suggested this one. However, as a man with memory difficulties who’s trying to validate his condition and see how best to handle it, it’s probably not the best of ideas to dive into getting punched in the head. On the flip side, MMA without the striking is called grappling. This involves mostly wrestling, judo and jujitsu. Grappling competitions like Ground Control are held locally on a regular basis, so I’ll definitely give this a shot once I’ve got back into the swing of it.

So. That’s as far as I’ve got. Some of you know me well. Some of you don’t. That’s actually quite a lot as it is… but is there anything else that should go on?

Thursday, 4 August 2011


I feel more comfortable with gorillas than people. I can anticipate what a gorilla's going to do, and they're purely motivated.
Dian Fossey, US zoologist (yes, the one Sigourney Weaver portrayed.)

Edgar the Silverback Gorilla looks at the padded floor of his cell. He twiddles his thumbs. The door to the enclosure opens with a clang, like he’s in a prison movie. He hears it distant, from the outside of the cell. The cushioning covering his walls muffles the sound.

Here comes the proverbial bumming.

Fluffy Oakes steps in front of the glass in a white boiler suit, carrying a satchel over his shoulder. He opens a flat-pack chair, propped up against the wall. He sits down. He pinches the bridge of his nose, eyes closed.

Edgar,” Fluffy says. “We’ve got a serious problem. The girl’s in a coma.”

She’s a con-artist,” says the gorilla. “And I’m 180 kilos. She took a risk.”

She did, and so did you when you left the zoo.”

Edgar nods, browbeaten.

We’re in consultation about what’s going to happen. The bar won’t talk to the press. I won’t either. I won’t even tell my biographer.”

That Tuckey guy? You won’t tell him this?”

He won’t know.” Fluffy takes the satchel off and takes out a laptop. He loads it up and opens a website.

Look,” says Fluffy. “Point 5.20 on page 8. They’re not even supposed to touch each other. It happens at strip clubs nationwide, but it’s not legal. It’s lewd conduct.”

So we’re basically, er, sorta holding each other hostage. That’s not the phrase, but…”

I know what you mean,” says Fluffy. “Yes. If word gets out either way, we'll just throw this back at them. They cast the first stone. I'll take on this club, I'm not afraid. But if it goes public then the zoo and the club are both up shit creek.”

What about when the stripper wakes up?”

If the stripper wakes up. I don’t know.”

I won’t stand for people ripping me off, Fluffy,” Edgar says.

Lower your voice.”

The ape enclosure is closed to the public today, but the walkway isn’t far away.

I will never tolerate it,” barks Edgar. “Fuck them. Terence might, but he’s a mug.”

Fluffy looks up from the laptop. “They did it to Terence too?”

Edgar closes his eyes. When am I going to stop running my mouth?

He doesn’t have to nod.

I take it he paid up?”

Edgar thinks of the town, the breeze, the expanse of water, the cold metal railings in his hands. “You could say that, yeah.”

Why a strip club, Edgar? Of all the places. Newcastle is incredible. It’s a beautiful city. There’s so much you could have done. That’s where you go?"

Blame Jacob. His idea.”

You could have learned so much more if you’d done the standard sightseeing things…”

I thought the trip was pretty educational, to be honest, Fluffy. Architecture doesn’t talk back to you. It doesn’t test your, like, integrity and shit. What would I have learned from a giant rusting angel model?”

It's Fluffy's turn to examine the floor.

What now?” asks Edgar.

The day release scheme is on hold. English Language lessons will continue.” Fluffy closes the laptop. “I want to ask you a question, Edgar.”


Do you like humans?”

A pause.

Edgar sighs. He rests his hand on a lump of dismembered wood. “Some of them are okay, I suppose.” He flicks a piece of straw off his arm. “Some just want to push their weight around. Even right here,” he says, prodding the floor with a thick stubby finger, “at visiting times, the kids shove in front of each other. You see the short ones get pushed to the back so the taller kids get a better view. That’s not fair. Nobody intervenes. I’d rather, y’know, go too far than not go there at all.”

He necks a paracetamol.

The dancers up there…” Edgar continues, “they try to trick people out of their money. Because they do a job that’s sorta controversial or whatever, they think people won’t say shit. Like guys don’t want people to know they’ve been to a strip club.”

Fluffy sighs. “Not my area of expertise, Edgar. I’m going to put the day release scheme on hold. I want you all to be ready. Clearly, you in particular, you’re not. We could do some exercises to improve your behaviour. You could increase your vocabulary as well.”

Edgar knuckles his way forward to the glass. “You’ve taught me enough talking.” His nostrils steam up the window. “Think of the girl, Fluffy. Don’t you think you’d better teach me when not to talk?”

Believe me, Edgar. “That’s a much harder lesson to learn.”

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Choosing Colours

God, mixing paint cans,
Bazookas the bird vibrant:
Rainbow lorikeet

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mammal College

Female whale exhales
Dismayed she failed reading braille
Male trails her pale tail

Monday, 1 August 2011

Ten Great Quotes on Celebrity

More TV channels. Quicker rotation of films in multiplexes. More magazines. “More” magazine. Facebook. Youtube. Popbitch. Book-signings. Store openings. Twitter accounts. Big cities. Posh bars. Celebrities are EVERYWHERE. No longer the distant, all-known entities that stay solely on the other side of a cathode ray tube or cinema screen, celebrities are now visible in a range of ways every day. They are inescapable. They are also frequently just around the corner from you. Living in Greater Manchester, I occasionally stray into the big city and- once in a while- I stumble across someone who is / was on TV. I've written about occasional celebrity encounters on this blog, and I'm not someone who can get special access anywhere, except the building I work in. And that's FAR from glamorous. Because of the explosion of available media, people are being thrust into the limelight at a faster rate than ever before, and are sometimes available to meet, greet or maybe just tweet. That's certainly what I've found. But what does it mean to be a celebrity? Let’s see what those who know have to say:

A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.
-Fred Allen, US comedian

A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.
-H. L. Mencken, US Author

You have to remember that when you are a performer you become a celebrity, but you are not saving lives. It's not that important.
-Victoria Beckham, UK pop star

If you say a modern celebrity is an adulterer, a pervert and a drug addict, all it means is that you've read his autobiography.
-P. J. O'Rourke, US comedian

Any actor will tell you, anybody in the public eye, that the tabloids are the worst kind of ramification of being a celebrity.
- Tracey Gold, US Actress

Celebrity - I don't even know what that means. Obviously it's the same basic word as celebration, but I don't know what's being celebrated. -James Woods, US actor

Celebrity and secrets don't go together. The bastards will get you in the end. -George Michael, UK singer

Ninety-five percent of celebrity is good. -Kevin Bacon, US actor

Somebody can become a celebrity for being stupid. That is what it's turned into. -Kate Hudson, US actress
You don't know when you're being watched. That's one of the weird things about celebrity. It's my least favourite part of acting, celebrity. -Denzel Washington, US actor

To round off, let’s go outside the box and hear a bonus quote from someone who knows the water well but doesn’t swim in it:

Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.
-Daniel J. Boorstin, US Historian