Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess

In his dreams, a flood of snakes and horse shit would cascade into the bedroom from behind the picture. He would wake up screaming, but his aunt would not take the picture away.”
-Andrew Biswell on Anthony Burgess

A couple of years ago I bought The Real Life of Anthony Burgess, a biography on the Manchunian novelist, at Manchester Reads the Sixties, an event at 2010's Manchester Literature Festival

I got around to reading it recently. It's a fine book. Everything you could want to know about the author of A Clockwork Orange- the man raised in Harpurhey, Manchester and went on to become one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century- it's in here, right down to his masturbatory habits. Serious. The parts I found most interesting were the details of his apparently random decision to take his wife on a sightseeing trip to Russia. This developed his knowledge of the Russian language, which- along with a knack for other tongues- set him in good stead for his travels.

His Russian was a main influence in his creation of the NadSat language. This was a speculative dialect he developed for use by the teenage tearaways in his most famous work, A Clockwork Orange- a book he grew to hate once he was thrust into the limelight after Stanley Kubrick's 1973 screen adaptation.

Dr Biswell's book is a comprehensive insight to the man's life, and the research that has gone into it is incredibly deep. A must-read for linguiphiles or Burgess fans.

Footnote: I got the book signed by the author a few weeks ago. Check it out.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hot Creations Lawsuit on the Horizon?

Here's Hot Creations' new floor-filler- Hot Natured & Ali Love's Benediction.

Four years prior to this song's release, however, Ultra Records released Funkerman's instant classic Speed Up.

Is that a copyright infringement case I smell?

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Fluffy's Way

Terence the Lovebird lies in Fluffy Oakes’s lap, nuzzling into his thigh. The tiny but vibrant bird is overwhelmed with life in general.

I’m a little more optimistic. “I’ve asked you a lot about yourself over the last few years,” I tell Fluffy. “I’d like to ask you about me, if I may. I think you could point me in the right direction.”

We’re nothing but animals,” Fluffy points out, “as The Bloodhound Gang once divulged.”


Terence rolls his eyes.

I moved out two years ago now,” I say, “and I’ve had to battle like a motherfucker to get the kind of direction and help that I needed- but you’ve given me most of that help along the way. There’s just a few minor things I’d still like to ask you about.”

Anything, man.” His head tilts. An eyebrow raises. “Anything.”

I shift. “Okaaay…” I flip my notebook. “I’ve been using this Keda Black cookbook and-“

Oh, yeah, yeah,” he interrupts. “Too complicated. I admire your bravery for ploughing into it, but I can sense you’re losing your enthusiasm for cooking. I would, if I’d been ploughing through Keda.” He glances to Terence, who’s oblivious. “So to speak.”

What then?”

Do Delia Smith first.” He pulls out How To Cook Volume 1, flipping it over in his hands so the cover faces me. “Much simpler. It’s for everyone. Keda generally didn’t go into enough detail at each step, I gather from your posts. And the meals were a little unusual. I mean, why put the mind-bending Bechmel sauce as the first recipe? Weird. And why leave the simplicity of scrambled eggs until page 14, in comparison? Lets see a few blog posts based on Delia. It’ll be good because- as I’m sure you’ve noticed- there isn’t much info on the net about people with memory difficulties learning to cook. You’re carving that niche. But I would say, make it obvious in each post that the memory issue is something that is a factor when YOU cook, and how it makes your cooking and learning experience different to everyone else.”

Can do. You know, I kind of slacked off with cooking as so many of the meals were so complicated, and I felt robbed of time by performing the recipes. It took me maybe an hour or two to cook a meal that I’d devour in ten minutes flat. I’m hoping Delia won’t rape me in that way, you know?”

Fluffy bites a sunflower seed, shelling it, and feeds the rest to Terence, who continues to stare into space.

You’re a competent enough chef,” says Fluffy. “There’s little chance of Delia raping you in the near future.” He wipes Terence’s beak. “Sorry if that disappoints you, though.” He winks.

Yes. Well.” I shuffle notes. “Oh. I wanted to ask about phones. My contract’s coming to an end, and I wanted to ask someone who knows about memory as to which phone or contract would be best. My current phone crashes all of the time, which is why I’m not going to GiffGaff- I need an actual handset with more memory and a better camera.”

Well, I don’t have, y’know, more knowledge about phones in particular, but I know that newer phones don’t crash as much. Now- when do you use your phone mostly?”

All times. Internet during the day, an occasional call in the evening, texts at all times, although not as much now I’ve got Facebook Mobile.”

No landline at home?”


Do you Skype?”

No, but I probably should.”

You should. Skype to Skype calls are free.”

Facebook Webcams do a similar thing too.”

Facebook cams are ran with Skype software anyway. So, if you used those two instead of your phone, whenever possible, you’d hardly need any call time at all, which will reduce your bill exponentially. But here’s what I’d do- Three are going to phone you to get you to renew your contract, so take the hard approach with them. Tell them you’re thinking of going to GiffGaff and they’ll start throwing deals at you. Keep it at £20 a month. Tell them you want unlimited internet. There are places doing that now, so Three should if they want to keep your custom. List out what you want. Tell them if you don’t get that, you’re going to GiffGaff. They’ll come up with something. They’ll have to.”

Terence airs his wings and delicately starts to climb the arm of Fluffy’s tweed jacket.

Erm… The only other thing… I wanna mention…” I scratch the side of my head with a pen. Something twists in my stomach.

Terence is now standing on fluffy's shoulder- not muzzling his ear or curling into himself- he's standing tall, chest out and chin high, like a parrot should. He's waiting for me to continue.

They both are.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hot Creations at The Warehouse Project

Manchester super-club The Warehouse Project is incomprehensibly large.

Having moved from the disused Boddingtons Brewery building in the centre of the city, the new club dwarfs the original location considerably. The club, now based in Victoria Warehouse in Trafford Park, has a capacity of 5000 and a line-up including Bassment Jaxx, Laidback Luke, Ms Dynamite, Yousef, Radio 1's Zane Lowe and Chase & Status.

Last night I went with friends to sample Hot Creations Presents Paradise, a one-off event headed up by the producers that brought us this House anthem:

As fans of the song, we had to check out the night. The site's calendar indicated that the event had sold out, but we found a tout near the venue willing to give us a bulk discount on tickets. These people are worth looking around for.

The music was a lot heavier than the House that I'd normally go for, but WHP is a SERIOUS clubber's venue- dirty beats, heavy basslines and just as many technicolour laser beams as there are dance-mad clubbers. The sounds and the atmosphere become addictive, and you NEVER stop dancing.

Amidst the clubbers, an army of huge doormen strolled through the club in hi-vis jackets and latex gloves. The beams of the MagLites they carry are masked by the club's lasers and lights, so it's easy for them to inspect the patrons as they're dancing. I spot one doorman snatch a tiny bag out of the hand of a wasted clubber. Keeping eye contact on the lad, who was miniscule in comparison, the doorman emptied the bag onto the floor and crushed the pills under his boot. Then he walked off leaving the clubber with only his drink in his hand and whatever was left in his bloodstream.

One downside is that the end-of-night queue for the cloakroom is horrendous. A friend of mine left the venue with his jacket still stored in there as it would have meant at least another hour before we got out. My advice is, try not to wait 'til the end of the night before joining that swarm.

The 7 hours we spent in The Warehouse Project flew by. But the atmosphere, the music, the sights and most importantly the pleasure of good company will stay in my head.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Three Strikes and You're Out

A confession: I can’t just “go to the gym”. I don’t exactly have a set routine and I jump between different machines a lot. I’m always trying to beat personal bests or work to a deadline to improve my body in some way.

Since I finished the abs project earlier this month and then followed this with Reading on a Step Machine, I’ve been in need of something I can work on- or work through- whilst at the gym. That’s why I came up with the Three Strikes project.

I’ve recorded my personal bests on around 50 movements at the gym. I’ve been keeping these records for years. Some I’ve beaten recently, some have been standing for a long time.

What I’ve found with gym work is that my progress when working out reflects the progress in the rest of my life, whether it be in my career, home life, social circles or in my writing. When I hit a stumbling block in life- a family problem, or an occasional dispute with friends- my fitness hits a plateau.

Things right now are pretty good- I’m in touch with old friends, I’m doing better with women and my outlook is pretty bright. But I'm stuck in a rut at the gym. So now is the time to smash a few records, and along side this, get some writing published, possibly get a woman on the scene and- deep breath- go back into education.

So- each time I can't lift a certain weight or beat a certain length inside ten minutes, I'll mark it as a strike. I'll try it again in my next session. If I get three strikes in a row, I'll drop that movement and focus on others.

This blog will now have weekly gym-based updates (which I'm sure will make fucking GREAT reading) alongside every other noteable personal achievement.

Friday, 23 November 2012


Outside, the slate sky
Contrasts the lush greenery
Potted, by my desk

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Reading on a step machine

Continuing the zany marrying of two of my favourite pastimes, I decided to again try to read a novel whilst working out. This week I tried the step machine for some endurance and fat-burning.

And for the literature? Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis, a tale of a young billionaire whose night-time limo ride through Manhattan exposes him to a world of terrible dangers. This very short novel contrasts the lives of two men- one ultra-rich, the other ultra-poor, and the disastrous way in which they are connected. The book is a short, sharp shock to the senses, and DeLillo's use of language- as always- is beautiful.

Legendary weirdo director David Cronenberg has recently adapted it for the screen.

Something tells me it's one of those films that just doesn't work, because the content of the book is largely thoughts and opinions, with little action. This works in a novel. It doesn't always on the screen. Cormac McCarthy's The Road, for instance, is an incredible book. But as nothing physically happens throughout most of it, the film edges on tiresome.

I managed nearly two hours of straight stepping. You've got to break eventually, though, and I did for five minutes or so before ploughing on again. After a further 40 minutes I found that my legs were seizing up and I could no longer focus on the meaning of the words. I was about three quarters of the way through the book. As you might expect, I read the rest at home, lying in bed.

If you're going to give this a shot, here's my advice:

Hold the book out in front of you as to not drip sweat on it.
Keep a bottle of water on hand and keep swigging it.
Keep the pace of stepping at a steady level. Don't go all out: This is about endrance. You'll feel the burn eventually.

I performed a total of 160 mins workout time. Fat burning occurs after 90 minutes, on average, meaning the project gave me 70 minutes of fat-burning time. I'll have this six-pack back in no time.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Overcomplicating Beef

I figured it was about time I knuckled down with the issue of learning to cook. I've done roast beef a couple of times now, with varying success.

Keda Black once again doesn't think outside the box with her instructions- I'm not just going to eat a lump of beef on it's own, am I? Yes, I'd think for myself and cook veg and potatoes, but at what point do I put these in the oven? And how and when do I baste them? And which oven shelf is best? None of these issues are touched on.

So, for my fist attempt, I just bunged the beef in the oven for 45 mins and it came out medium rare. Fine. I took it to my mums, we had a family gathering and we served it up with a pile of other food.

I made a second attempt some weeks (yes, weeks) later.

The instructions were for a Kilo of beef. As mine was 1.2kg I increased the cooking time to accommodate. I looked closer at the instructions: Keda was suggesting I quarter an onion and she gave instructions for making gravy, so I followed those to a tee. That STILL isn't a meal, though. You put veg and potatoes in a roast dinner. Where was the inclusion of this in the recipe? Void.

Also omitted was the suggestion to purchase sirloin beef for this meal, not slow roast as I did. I had no idea there were different types of beef joint. Again, Keda assumed I knew this.

I tried to make gravy as instructed. This evolved as a lumpy mixture of flour and stock, as Keda did not suggest putting the mixture in a beaker and shaking it vigourously. Mum always does this and it comes out fine. Mine did not. Strangely, it tasted like the curry from the local chinese chippy.

The meat was more medium than medium rare, so the increased cooking time was unnecessary.

Serving the meat was tricky both times as I don't have a carving knife with a serrated edge. I may make a purchase as I'm likely to be trying a few meat dishes again at some point.

But fuck me, this was hard. And it's hard because the book that I've been plodding through- for over a year- isn't clear enough. It's not a book for beginners. So, if you're learning to cook and you have a memory difficulty like I do, a book like Keda's Classics may not be approprate. The penny has dropped. Time to pick a different book.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Mitt Romney's Circle of Deceit

Patrick Geary presents BBC Sport (only pic I could find is this off his Twitter),

which is on after the news, which was covering the US Election, where Mitt Romney was a candidate, 

who looks like the US actor JD Spradlin, who was in Godfather Part II playing... Senator Patrick Geary. 


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

What I can remember of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation

It has now been 50 years since the release of Antony Burgess' seminal Speculative Fiction novel, A Clockwork Orange. To celebrate this, The International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Manchester's Cambridge Street held a fascinating talk about the book on Thursday 18th October. The event was held as part of the annual Manchester Literature Festival. If you're into writing, you should check it out next year. I made copious notes throughout the talk, then lost my fucking notebook some days later. Bog blast it!

So instead of me ranting about what little I can remember, check out L.J. Spillane's superb account over on the Lit Festival's official blog. 

It's real horrorshow, oh my brothers!

Having said that, I do remember that one of the contributors- Dr. Andrew Biswell, director of the Foundation- recognised me from his Facebook friends when he was signing his book for me. I was reading The Real Life of Anthony Burgess at the time and had the book in my bag.

I really enjoyed the talk, which focussed largely on Burgess' most-known work, A Clockwork Orange. It's still fascinating to hear how prescient the novel is, and how much of an influence it has had on the world of literature. If you haven't read it, you should.

Whilst there, I bought a copy of Burgess' spy thriller Tremor of Intent and also “acquired” a beer mat advertising Clockwork Orange-inspired beer, “Chocwork Orange”.

I really enjoyed the night, and so did my mum who came along with me. It's not often we find a similar interest, but she said she found it engaging too. An all-round win of an evening.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Abs Month

A month ago, I decided I was going to focus on getting back this six pack I had in my younger days.

I've had a very busy month (with a TV appearance in the pipeline! More info after the airing) so I've not had the time to get to the gym 6 times a week as I'd planned to. But when I did, I cut out working on limbs to focus on core exercises, working the abdominals. The only other workouts I performed were cross training for ten minutes at a time, pedalling clockwise for one workout and counterclockwise (reverse) for another.

The project was a bit of a disappointment, to be fair. Since 1/10/2012 I have:

Improved my 10-minute cross trainer record by 0.01

Improved my 10-minute reverse cross trainer record by 0.07- this is substantially more of an improvement than the above movement because cross training in reverse is awkward to get used to. It feels like a strange movement. It's not physically difficult in the way training hard is, say with clockwise motion on the cross trainer. But reversing the motion slows your progress considerably the first few times you try it. After a few sessions, I smashed my personal best and put it up to 0.48.

The two abs movements I was focussing on were what would eventually give me the definition I was hoping for. This, however, was a total failure. Despite smashing these machines for the full month, I made zero improvement on them. I matched my records a few times, but just couldn't break them.

Abs machine- stuck on plate 19, performing 40 reps.

Pulley pray / cable crunch- stuck on plate 12, performing 30 reps.

Given that I spent so much time working the core muscles and didn't see any improvement all month, this is a real disappointment. I'm no more defined, either- no closer to how I used to look. There's a number of factors at play here.

  1. I put the effort and time in to these exercises, so there's no way my stomach isn't ready to improve. I can beat these records because I've worked the muscle loads over the last month.
  2. If the effort is there in the gym, the problem may be with diet. Maybe I should make a point of eating more tuna and meat. I certainly used to before I moved out.
  3. The six pack I had I formed at 18 through Muay Thai. I had an instructor yelling at me to do better, I was doing 3 hours of padwork a week, the instructor was slamming a kick pad into my stomach twice a week and I sparred with people 10-20kg heavier than me at every session. It was a HARD class, and left me much more exhausted than I can make myself feel at the gym. Classes of some kind- where I'm being encouraged by others- may be the way forward.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Whole Porn Star Tweet Thing

Two months ago, I started a slightly ridiculous blogging project with the intention of rejuvinating my diminishing blog stats. A month later, and nine thousand hits later, I uploaded a post describing how I'd garnered these page views. I'd been using a site that amalgamates the tweets of hundreds of adult actresses and actors as they are uploaded. This site is called Porn Star Tweet, and it was a massive benefit to me.

After uploading this post, I showed the post to all contributors and many of the 251 people mentioned in the post- 39, to be exact- retweeted it out of kindness. They are truly awesome for that. Partly due to this, the Porn Star Tweet post quickly became my second top-hit post, behind only a short piece also about Twitter publicity (Manchester is GREAT only received a splurge of hits because of a picture I used). Within a month of uploading the Porn Star Tweet post, my overall page stats were into six figures.

Take a look at the comments under the post. Some people are impressed. Some are angry or disappointed. Others just think I'm a nutter. Tomleecee is right that not everyone wants to know about Manchester night life or creative writing, or has an interest in Japanese-style short-form poetry. People who follow porn stars live all over the English-speaking world, mostly, so my Manchester-based posts won't be massively relevant to everyone. Regardless of this, though, I've had more comments on the Porn Star Tweet post- by far- than I've had on any other post I've written, so I must have had some kind of effect on people. It wasn't just a case of people jumping on, taking a look and jumping off again.

Away from my blog, at least one person unfollowed me on Twitter, so strong were their feelings towards the project. This wasn't a massive problem, seeing as I gained over 200 in the course of the month.

Lots of people who have been reading my blog for some time are bloggers themselves, and bloggers usually DO have an interest in finding ways of garnering page views to their site. The Porn Star Tweet post was just one of a number of posts that I've written that showed how to draw people in to your blog. Still today- when I'm no longer marketing that post specifically- it's still being hit on more than any other post I've written.

People have recently asked me- why do this project? What's the end result for all this? Why do you want these page views?

The answer: I always wanted to write for lots of people. I never wanted to write for just a few people here and there- I wanted to write something that was accessible, helpful or interesting to millions of readers across the English speaking world. Recently, I've tried all sorts of Twitter-related activities to boost my blog's profile, and they seem to have worked, to their own degrees. The Porn Star Tweet post is just another, but it's by far the most successful- no matter how crazy an idea it is.

Friday, 2 November 2012

And That... the end of the Science Fiction haikus. I hope you found them vaguely interesting at best. I split them up between the other posts as not to alienate my audience (basically people I had coerced into reading my blog through bizarre Twitter tactics). (Twactics?)

I had tried to get the haikus published in Science Fiction magazines but I hadn't made it clear to people (editors and feedback group participants) what I was trying to do with them. 2247-2263 was an anthology of unrelated haikus, set in the future, with each verse titled by the year in which the haiku's story takes place. It was not a sessional haiku poem, and each three-line verse was not to relate particularly to the others.

The main two principles of haiku poetry:

  1. The poem is three lines long. The first line has 5 syllables, the second 7, the third 5.
  2. The poem captures a brief moment, shows us a time in a place and leaves us with a 'feeling' of that moment.

Whether I achieved the latter with the range I've uploaded over the last couple of months is open to opinion, but I hope you at least found it a curious trend. And now back to banal celebrity gossip and weird social media tactics. Hurrah!

Pic courtesy Frank Kehren, Flickr

Thursday, 1 November 2012


They keep the last pair,
praying the beauties will breed
Lillian's lovebirds