Sunday, 29 March 2015

Bret Easton Ellis' Work Needs a Good Screen Adaptation

Watched The Canyons, scripted by Bret Easton Ellis, of who's work I'm generally a fan.

It's directed by Paul Schrader (screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), so you would expect a certain level of quality. Unfortunately, it was terrible. Tara (Lindsay Lohan) doesn't realise that her agent or whoever (porn star James Deen) is a psycho, despite him being generally weird and vacant from the outset. Low point- no discernible plot. High point- Lohan's tits. (NSFW, obviously.) Her performance was actually better than I expected, (although she was playing a bit of a fuck-up- i.e. herself) but the rest of the cast were playing characters that were fa├žades to begin with, and bringing that kind of vacancy to life requires a level of subtlety that none of the actors possessed. Watchable, but forgettable.

I later redressed the balance by re-watching The Rules of Attraction, a film based on Ellis' novel of the same name.

An arts college in New England, some time in the 90s (shifted on a decade from the book): an unrequited love triangle emerges to the backdrop of parties, drugs, sex, and dissociation. It received a fair wad of criticism on its release in 2003, and it must have been about a decade since I last watched this film. But it still holds strong as a rollercoaster of a movie and is still by far the best adaptation of Ellis' work, as he himself agrees

The screen adaptations of American Psycho and Less Than Zero were let-downs, and The Informers got bad press (I'll check for myself soon). Will somebody in Hollywood now please adapt Glamorama? And please don't fuck it up!

BTW, did I ever mention I met the guy?

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Reading and Planking Month: Review

I've just spent the last month lying in forearm plank position, reading as often as possible in an attempt to a) strengthen abdominals and b) get some books read.

I'd already tried reading and planking with the shortest book in my to-read pile, as discussed here. I mentioned here that a month-long project should allow me to beat my planking record of 3:05.

So I got to it. First, I hammered through an advance copy of The Vagenda, sent to me by publishers Vintage. See here

Next, I worked through Dorling Kindersley's The Psychology Book, a historical analysis of the ground-breaking discoveries made in the field of psychology.

The book begins with psychology's Greek philosophical roots- Hippocrates, Galen, Aristotle et al- before leaping into the 1600s and 1700s, where practitioners in the emerging field of psychology quickly tread new ground. Each psychological idea is given a double-page spread, with a plain-English description of the psychologist's life, their key theory and experiments, their main findings and what influence they had on the future of the field they worked in.

I'm reading into psychology at the moment as it's a field I'd like a little more knowledge of. I've been a patient in child psychology, neuropsychology, social services, counselling and psychotherapy. I've always found it interesting to consider not just how this time in treatment can help me- with issues like short term memory difficulties- but what else I or others could also do with that knowledge. What stops people from learning to do things, what hinders them? What effects do childhood traumas have on adults? How can this field help individuals to overcome these issues? There are some answers in this book.

The Second World War spurred many psychologists to discover some of their most important findings. Boris Cyrulnik, born 1937, lost both his parents to Auschwitz. They had handed him to neighbours for his safety, but in turn they handed him over to the Nazis. He managed to escape whilst waiting for a transfer to a concentration camp, and went on to study medicine at the University of Paris. His key works about childhood resilience and not allowing our history to determine our future has benefited many children who have suffered trauma.

Many psychology experts emerged in Europe during the two World Wars. This left me with mixed perspectives. On the one hand, the experience of war meant people needed to develop their theories to help people to survive, but on the other many people may have gone on to make beneficial findings had they not been part of the millions killed during this period in Europe. The book left me wondering how much further ahead- or behind- the field of psychology would be had the Second World War been averted.

As well as informing me, this book confirmed something that I already knew: If you go to through your GP to the psychology department for advice with a problem, it's hit-and-miss as to whether you'll get the support you need. The NHS is a mixed bag. You can go to one person performing one job one week and they will give you no help at all. Then the next week you can get an appointment with another practitioner doing the same job and they can help you greatly. The psychology field is still developing, still consolidating its knowledge. There isn't always a right or wrong answer for certain situations in life but I found a few answers reading The Psychology Book. And if they're listed in a book for an armchair enthusiast- a book such as this- then surely professionals should at least be aware of some of these ideas. Through my experience, I've found they aren't always aware.

But, of course, to back up what I'm saying I'd need to give you a solid example from the book. And I can't find that example, because I can't remember anything about it.

Anyway. It's a fascinating book putting complex theories into straightforward English, with simple flow charts, diagrams, timelines and explanations. It's a great introduction into the field. I found it in The Works for a fiver. Boom!

As mentioned, I read this book as part of a month-long reading-and-planking project. My personal best was 3:05. I started testing my time, getting 2:09 on the first attempt within the month. By the deadline, my record was 4:02. I could read through 2 double page spreads in one plank. I had maybe another 10 or 20 pages to get through. So close!

I'll be attempting more reading and planking over the next few weeks.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Can You Read Brain Scans?

I sustained a head injury due to a complication at birth in 1982 at the Royal Oldham Hospital. I have dealt with short term memory difficulties my whole life. In 2009, aged 26, and after meeting with many psychologists, I finally got a proper, accurate and full assessment. In it, the report states:

Mr Tuckey has a visible scar on his right temporal area (the lower back of the head) resulting from the birth.

These difficulties are set against a backdrop of very strong crystallised verbal, perceptual, organisational and executive skills of inhibition, flexibility and abstract reasoning.

This indicates that that there may be more than a specific visual memory impairment which would be consistent with the potential damage sustained from the described peri-natal experience. This perhaps suggests some asymmetrical bilateral temporal damage, as well as disruption to the right frontal lobes or associated pathways.”

-Dr Gemma Wall, Specialist Clinical Psychologist, Neuropsychology. Oldham NHS.

I went back to the Royal Oldham Hospital on 27th September 2010, aged 28, for a brain scan. After this, I received a letter informing me that no abnormality was found. I accepted this for many years.

In more recent years, I've become incredibly suspicious about this. I eventually put in a request to my hospital to retrieve my medical records. It took some time to get these records back, but they were sent to me by post. They include details of my birth and my first few weeks in the hospital (during which time I suffered numerous seizures). It must have been obvious to the doctors at that point that I was going to need some support in life, but no referral to social services or the like was made.

These medical records also included a CR-ROM with JPEGs of the scans from 2010. These are the scans.

I'm cautious about asking anyone in Oldham NHS about these scans as this would require them to criticise people who may be their past or present colleagues. Hence, I'm taking a risk and displaying them on my own website.

A question for scan-trained professionals: can you see anything unusual in these pictures?

Let me know at

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Couple of Social Media Points...

Twitter now shows you your tweet activity. Visible only to you, your tweets now contain a graph symbol next to the Reply, Retweet and Favourite icons. This symbol displays how many times your tweet has been read, and- if appropriate- how many link clicks have been made. I'll find it handy for Twitter blogging experiments. Most people, suffice to say, will not be as arsed.

Moving swiftly on...

In an attempt to expand social circles and to not stay in, I've been hammering social media site It's a place to find groups local to you by inputting your postcode. Results will appear in proximity order, offering meetups themed around anything from mainstream ideas like dating, restaurants, art, music and walking, through to the more niche interests such as gothic, coding, gay men's cinema and post-apocalyptic books.

Myself, I've joined the groups for bars and clubs: Manchester Posh Bars and Cool Clubs20s and Early 30s in Manchester, and a few others I've not attended yet. I've met loads of people and had some decent nights out over the last 6 months due to this site.

It's a good site that has expanded massively over the last year. Similar to Facebook, Meetup allows you to set up a profile and join groups for free, and to leave comments on events and send messages to other users, but charges £10 a month once you've set up a group. The only problem I've had with it is that your notifications frequently appear as unread even when you've read them. Weird.

Find your people on Meetup.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Easy Crispy Chicken for Mother's Day

I thought Mothering Sunday would be as good a reason as any to open the cookbook, get something made and invite the people who themselves made me. Hence, I found this recipe in The Hairy Dieters and gave it a shot.

Once again, I should remind myself to read the instructions before diving in and slamming the bread in the food processor before toasting, it as was advised. Duh. So I did that again. My blender had to double as a food processor- I had to physically pick up the device and shake it so that the chunks of bread hit the blades. It worked out in the end.

I need to buy a tablespoon.

I set up a processing-line-style system in the kitchen where I could dip the breast portions into the flour, then the yoghurt, then the cheese-and-crumb mix. I put the portions in to roast, boiled a few potatoes and laid out some salad.

The parents came around just in time and it went down a treat!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Where you should have been this weekend in Manchester

Thursday: Milton Club. Crazy night with policewoman fire breathers, stilt walkers, poncho-wearing Mexicans and a bloke dressed as the Pink Panther. Presumably these were all part of the performance that is Marquee, the new Thursday-night event. As opposed to, say, a load of outrageously-attired party-goers who all thought they'd try out the club on a week-night.

Either way, it was great entertainment and certainly a break from the norm of Manchester clubbing, which has needed a spruce-up. You can rely on Milton Club for this.

In attendance, but not part of the act, was former middleweight and super-middleweight boxing champion Chris Eubank, dressed as eccentric as ever in a mandarin collar suit. I managed to get a handshake.

For those unfamiliar with Eubank's knockout power, check out this. In the 80s and 90s, he was one of the hardest punchers on the sport.

The Marquee Thursdays Facebook album is updated weekly here

Friday: New monthly event Belleza Clasica at The Milton Club. Saxophonist Siara Sax and violinist Lauren Charlotte accompanied house music DJ Eibhlin. A great team who seamlessly wove classical and contemporary house music, all under the guidance of events coordinators Six15events.

The next event is probably 10th April.

Saturday: Meet New People night at Missoula Piccadilly. A chance to meet other Manchester-based folk, to form friendships, to network, but most evidently to get pissed. The night, arranged by Social Group 20s and Early 30s in Manchester, was tellingly popular. Manchester attracts people from far and wide, most of whom will want to find their type of people. This group seems to a be a good start whether you're new to the city or Manchester veterans who just want to meet more people. We had the upstairs bar to ourselves, where people from all over the world congregated- Aussies, Irish, Americans and more. Keep your eye on their Meetup page for the next event.

Today: Mothering Sunday. I busted out the cookbook, whipped something up and invited the parents for tea. Blog post to follow. It's safe to say I need an early night tonight.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Chinese-style Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

My kitchen is steadily filling up with random implements that I'd never thought of buying when I first moved in. I've recently bought a ladle for soup dishes such as this one, and I'll also need to buy a tablespoon. It's not a large kitchen.

Anyway. I made this soup with my soup maker yesterday, from the manufacturer's cookbook.

Other problems: Tesco were out of stock of water chestnuts, whatever the hell they are, and my jug was too small for 750ml of stock. The recipe required the creation of a paste which jumped from too thick to too thin with a tiny drop of water. Micing this turned it too thick again, which made it hard to “evenly distribute” over the other ingredients. Also, I didn't read the instructions through before starting. Don't assume the author has completely forgotten the spring onions and just dump them in the soup maker. They're for adding after cooking. Oops.

It was a good substantial soup though.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


Friday: Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh favourited my tweet about Mohammed Emwazi, the man the the media dubbed “Jihadi John”. Pun alert.

Later that night: saw Key 103's Darren Proctor DJ in The Milton Club. The Old Skool Anthems night was busier than most Fridays, with a mostly female clientele. I thought the music would be a 90s cheese-feast, but it was much housier than expected- which I like- with the DJ pulling some real rabbits out of his musical hat.

Milton Club's Friday night events seem to be drawing in the crowds. More of this please!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Anti-Tesco Reduced Isle Challenge

I basically need to stop being a tight bastard. If I walk into a shop and I see something cut from £1 to 20p, I want it, regardless of how much salt is in it. It's value, and saves me money. As long as it doesn't have mushrooms or broccoli in, I'll probably eat it.

Hence, the reduced-to-clear aisle in Tesco is somewhat of a minefield. A “Big Night In” rogan josh microwave meal would normally never interest me, but if it's down from £3 to £1.15, I wouldn't turn my nose up. (Well, not until I'd eaten two thirds of it, then literally I might with watering eyes.)

But at what cost? At the cost of seeing my body weight escalate above 77kg, that's what. And considering I was 60kg when I was 18, and about 66kg when I moved out at 28, that's quite a setback. If I fell out of shape in my younger day, I'd lose weight and look malnourished. Now, I'm starting to look like a 33-year-old lump.

I've got a holiday coming up in May. I'm planning to tone up for this, and to do so I need to stop eating reduced products- even the compulsively-tasty yoghurts. Instead: fresh meat and veg, home-made pizzas, meals from recipes. This starts today. In a month's time I'll see if my weight has come down. I'll also see if I've beaten any PBs at the gym.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

#tbt Arena Magazine

Arena magazine was one of the best men's lifestyle magazines in publication in the naughties. Articles were aimed at a mature, intelligent audience with insight and wit. There were no exposed breasts, no immature smutty stories and their jokes were actually funny. The clothes they reviewed looked good and the features original and refreshing.

One such article involved an actor giving up his glam lifestyle to travel on horseback through Patagonia, and witnessed his team member catch an armadillo by jamming a finger up its back passage. Okay. Another feature asks “Is your girlfriend doing too much coke?” whilst another interviews the female cast members from US TV show My Name is Earl.

This article portrays said actresses as glamorous professionals, unlike their humorously-trashy fictional counterparts. And yes, they're pictured in underwear, but the women are eloquent and the journalist is actually interested in their background. Jaime Pressly (Earl's “fidelity-challenged” wife Joy) describes learning joke-telling skills from her dad, While Nadine Velazquez- sidekick and Hispanic maid Catalina- discusses her boxing training. It's made clear that both women are in relationships, and the questions never get too personal, but it's an interesting insight into what the actresses' lives are like on a successful comedy series.

The final issue was released April 2009. I spoke to someone in publishing who claimed that the publishers had sacked the editor and the advertisers lost faith. No money, no magazine. Can publishing people confirm / deny?

And which out-of-print publications do you miss?

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Vagenda

Of all the stupid portmanteau terms we had come across while reading magazines- manthropology, shoemaggedon, hiberdating- 'vagenda' was the most ridiculous. And we found not only that the amalgamation of 'vagina' and 'agenda' was pleasing to the ear, but that the word perfectly encapsulated the aims of the blog: to expose the silly, manipulative and sometimes damaging ulterior motives of women's magazines.”

-The Vagenda

As mentioned recently, an advance copy of The Vagenda, a book described by writer / broadcaster Jeanette Winterson as “A brilliant expose of women's mags and marketing- laugh-out-loud” landed in my corridor . I have quite omnivorous tastes when it comes to literature, but I've never read any women's lifestyle magazines so the book was an insightful introduction to this world of advice, tips and “true” stories.

From a male perspective, the book reassured me that women were being fed as much crap in lifestyle magazines as men are- I'd always felt that mags like FHM and Loaded were childish affairs for people too scared to reach for the top shelf, and that the more upmarket publications like GQ and Esquire were for people with waaaay more money than me. I felt that a lot of the information from both ends of the men's lifestyle spectrum wasn't that interesting, or the “advice” wasn't particularly helpful.

That said, the chapter on lads' mags I found to be a little patronising. Yes, some of their humour borders on outright misogyny, but the writers forget that humour has and always will push the boundaries of what is acceptable, and humour- including sexual jokes- will always be one of those boundaries. The onus, the writers seem to forget, is on the individuals not to be a misogynist themselves. 

The revelation that The Vagenda delivers is one that relates to men's and women's magazines, and having read many Esquires and the occasional Loaded in my time, I'm embarrassed not to have realised this myself. If these magazines could actually help you, if their advice was sound and beneficial, you wouldn't need to buy their magazines any more. So they feed you rubbish and keep you in the dark to keep you spending.

Written by journalists Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in a funny but professional tone, The Vagenda brings insight and laughs, but also sheds light on the way the media portrays women as an entire gender, or as they put it “being labelled frigid, princesses or tramps”. The style is a little familiar, similar to a lot of other successful blogs written by women with journalism backgrounds- Arsenic and Old Lace and Bookcunt for example, both fine feminist blogs with I suspect some professional training behind them- but The Vagenda's material is consistently engaging, and stretches its investigations further than just reprinting sections of the blog as a book (Not that we're criticising, Belle De Jour.)

Editors and advertisers- people who create the magazines of today- are clearly under increasing scrutiny to respect their audiences, and to market towards them with understanding and dignity (not least by The Vagenda writers themselves). This book will hopefully push things forward in that regard. It'll also make you laugh in the process.

The Vagenda is released 5th March. Advanced copies available online.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Manchester Spankathon

Today, not long after I'd got out of bed, I got my arse spanked by a dominatrix in Manchester's Sackville Gardens in the heart of the Gay Village.

As The Manchester Evening News discusses, The Spankathon events- led by campaigner and sex worker Charlotte Rose- aim to raise awareness of a change in the law.

The event began with Charlotte addressing the crowd outside gay bar / hotel The Rembrant, making it clear that we don't want the government to tell us- adults- which videos we can and can't watch when they feature other consenting adults.

As Charlotte's leaflet describes, “On December 1st, in secret, without debate, and without wider consultation, parliament pushed through new laws via amendments to “protect” women and children from the so called 'evils' of porn. Far from protecting anyone, these laws are confined by the conventions of a very narrow, straight male view of the world as they see it. They are wholly skewed in their selection of what is deemed acceptable clamping down far harder on expressions of women's sexuality than on men's.”

The laws would, weirdly, restrict British producers from depicting consensual spanking in their videos. This is happening in an era when, Charlotte reminds us, large online organisations like Facebook can't manage to take down videos of beheadings and people being burned alive.

Jane Fae, from the Consenting Adults Action Network (CAAN), took the mic next. “The problem of Government policy on censorship,” she described, “is that it is irrational and hurts the very people it supposedly protects.” She goes on to discuss that they have been contacted by students struggling with their sexuality- and the internet. “If someone at a college or university thinks that they may be gay and they type 'lesbian' into the search engine, the results are frequently blocked by the campus' filters.”

Before we began the main event, Charlotte reminded us all that we must ask permission before we spanked anyone and that the spanking mustn't be on bare skin, in case children were around.

At 12:30, to the sound of Madonna's Hanky Panky, the spanking began on a park bench. Charlotte set the ball rolling by taking a lady with pink hair over her lap and spanking her bottom. Hurrah!

Then, using the appropriately large seating area, the attendees gathered to lie over each other's laps whilst getting spanked. The next to feel campaigner-and-dominatrix Charlotte's firm hand was a reporter from national pervy red-top The Daily Sport, whilst his and other photographers snapped away. I got in on the action too, lying over Charlotte's lap and taking six of the best. Well, hey, if it's free...

Also in attendance was the Manchester Evening News, so I could end up on their site in the next 24 hours. Or even the paper. Who knows.

For more info see Charlotte's website.

And if the Government could please just let adults watch other adults doing what adults want to do, that'd be great.