Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Wolf of Wall Street

I've just finished reading the book. I have not seen the film. The tale of Jordan Belfort, an entry-level employee at a Wall Street brokerage who went on to make millions and run his own firm, has had a fair bit of publicity since the film was released. But how is the book?

It's okay. It's problematic: Belfort's rise from the bottom (“lower than pond life”, his employer first describes him) to managing director level is strangely skipped over. The story involves maths, stock, business management and money-laundering- all things that aren't particularly tangible unless you have that kind of brain. I found it difficult to follow for that reason, although others may not have that problem. Belfort plunders his way through more and more money, spending it at an absurd rate.

Throughout all of this, though, Belfort himself isn't a likable character. He's too self-aware, too self-obsessed, too proud of his own downfall. We do not need him to explain in detail how absurd it is for his employees to be discussing health and safety policies for in-office dwarf-tossing competitions. Belfort never lets us assume things for ourselves. He's come from the Steven King school of writing: if you can explain it perfectly in 10 words, say it again in another different 10 words just to mindlessly hammer the message home. Hence, the 500-page book would have been perfect at 250.

I think the main problem is that Belfort has a maths brain- and a particularly good one, given his career. No matter how good that makes you at handling money, it doesn't necessarily mean you have the right type of brain to write creatively. Most people who are good at one might not be particularly good at the other.

Tedious, over-written and self absorbed but the story would have been superb as a biography.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Is Anthea Turner Actually The Stig?

Whilst watching Celebrity Big Brother earlier this month (I was curious as to how far Jenna Jameson was going to get- which about as far as I expected) I was subjected to repeated Health Lottery adverts starring former Blue Peter presenter Anthea Turner.

It took me until pretty much the final show before it dawned on me: Anthea Turner may actually be BBC Top Gear's resident mystery test driver, The Stig.

I asked the blonde 90's TV icon of my youth over Twitter if she could confirm or deny.

You heard it here first.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Prospective Mondays

Now. What was I doing with my life before Celebrity Big Brother? Oh yes, trying to be a writer. And trying to get people out of their houses and into new social circles, doing fun things. Specifically, I was avoiding the TV. And that's what I'll recommence doing.

If you're a budding novel writer, you may or may not have been using Authonomy for feedback. The fiction review website closes down on Wednesday. Due to changes in the writing community the site has become smaller and is now closing for good. If you've been using it and are still looking for feedback, I suggest you check out Scribophile. I used this for some months, getting some valuable feedback that led to some of my work being published.

Working or looking to work in the creative industries? Free on Tuesday afternoons? Find a mentor who can help to guide you with the somewhat confusingly-titled Northern SoHo.

If you're looking for a writing workshop, but one that's “not as you know” writing workshops to be (whatever that means), why not just Shut Up and Write? If you're free Wednesday afternoon head down to Manchester Central Library. I'm in work, so let me know how it goes.

Writer Jonathan Franzen will also be in Manchester Central Library on Saturday night, promoting his new book Purity. If you want to go with a group, check out Young Professionals in Manchester

Saturday night- I'll be in Suburbia. It's a great new bar on Deansgate, in 111A- formerly Avici White (or Club V if you're old enough to remember it). The organiser hasn't set a limit for attendees, so come and find her, and me, and everyone else on the night.

I start my Annual Leave on Friday. I cannot WAIT. A week and a half off. Expect a few posts re parties, exhibitions and possibly even the rapper Xzibit.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Grinch and the International Model Search

Oh, you missed a corker this week. I arranged a night out to Marquee, the Thursday night event at The Milton Club.

On the night of the 24th the Club also played host to Swimsuit USA International Model Search (Twitter here), in association with Yumyum Models. Outfits were provided by Pretty Pink Princess.

I actually set up an event through Manchester Social Group before this particular night was promoted. All I knew was that it was a Marquee event, so I had no idea I'd be ogling scantily-clad women. Well, I had no complaints.

Presenting the event was Laura Alicia of Ex On The Beach fame (MTV). On the judging panel: Love Island winner Jessica Hayes, model and daughter of late comedian Les Dawson, Charlotte Dawson, and Ex on the Beach presenter Ali Drew. The competitors were largely stunning (I'd expect nothing less from the Milton Club) and winner Kate Gulliver was a worthy champion.

It was a much busier night than most Thursdays- a higher attendance coupled with a huge catwalk taking over the dance floor helped to pack out the small and elegant building. A slight technical issue with the mic didn't hinder the fine presentation too much.

Marquee may host other events during their Thursday nights, and I might put more events up on Manchester Social Group. If you fancy joining us, keep your eye on the page.
Check out the pictures from the night here.

The following night saw the return of After Work Drinks, a meetup group this time in Grinch bar off Manchester's Cross St. Attendees packed out the lower floor of the unique, stoney, forged-metal bar to meet new people. It's a great group although it's very broad so you may meet countless people but not necessarily chat to them for long. I've found, though, that on a second or third meetup you start to find familiar faces and similar nightlife tastes. Hence when the bar closed at 11pm, a few of us went to Revolucion de Cuba (I ducked) and a few others packed out the otherwise quiet Revolution at Parsonage Gardens. It's had a makeover since I was last there, looking brighter and more continental with a good portion of the dance floor now covered in tables. Their WiFi wouldn't connect to my phone for some reason. A handful of us then strayed over to the Northern Quarter for more drinks. I've made a few contacts through this group, both new friends and possible blog readers too. After Work Drinks is well-worth getting involved with.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Prospective Mondays

It's Fresher's Week! What do you mean I graduated a decade ago? I'm still mentally 19, thank you very much and Manchester will actually be busy for once. And as no-one has their NUS cards yet, you won't need student ID to get into Tiger Tiger. It's big. It's busy. Its old-skool music choices aren't too overplayed. It's full of good-looking people. Anyone fancy a look tonight? Tweet me. The club's site says it's a fiver in, but I'm sure I got in for free a couple of years ago by turning up before the queues. Other Freshers week events can be found on the MEN website and on Skiddle.

On Thursday I'm taking Manchester Social Group to The Milton Club for a night of extravagance and class. And swimwear models.

Marquee always has good talent on display (and I don't hear any complaints from the women about the men) so it's likely to be a winner of an evening. My event is full, but contact the club for guestlist etc. Free in before 12.

Friday: A meetup with After Work Drinks at Grinch. Meet new people, drink, be merry.

Saturday: If you fancy watching England Vs Wales in the Rugby World Cup and you don't want to do it on your own, check out Manchester Social Scene who are watching it in a bar in Chorlton.

You could then burn off the weekend's excesses with a walk through Plumley, Cheshire, with Manchester iVC. (If you're over 40.)

Further suggestions? Again, tweet me.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

What has happened to Fridays in Manchester?

The recession has happened, and none of us can quite crawl out of it, it seems. The City Centre was once a bustling, thriving medley of bars, clubs and people getting pissed in them from Thursday through to Sunday. Now, you're lucky if you find a busy place between 12 midnight and 3am on a Sunday morning. We're all saving what little we have for the big (cough) Saturday night.

Saturdays start steadily, filling slowly on Deansgate Locks, Deansgate, The Northern Quarter, Spinningfields and Shambles Square. These areas still include the odd bar and club that reaches capacity- normally the smarter places like Oast House and Alchemist.

Over the last few Fridays, I've tried a few venues in the city: Sakana, LIV, Dukes 92, Botanist, Suburbia, The Old Grapes, The Milton Club: every one of them has been dead. The streets are empty. The taxis are queuing up but there's no-one to ride in them. These are places that should be busy, should be bustling both nights of the weekend.

Where is busy on a Friday? The only populated hotspots I've found in recent months are already on the Blacklist, places like Revolucion de Cuba and Liars. There are a handful of clubs that seem popular- Panacea hosts Playhouse on a Friday, which- from the pictures- looks well-attended (and totally mental.) Keep your eye on Manchester Social Group, as there could be a trip there soon. Milton Club's monthly Soul Purpose nights are excellent and well attended. (Manchester Social Group has already held an event at one of these nights, and may do again.) But on the whole, Manchester's Friday Night cuts a ghostly figure.

Demographics don't seem to come into it- the smarter, dearer bars are quiet Fridays, just like the less-expensive, more-relaxed-door-policy bars are too. The few places that appear busy might be “casual” venues (dumps, if you're a self-confessed snob like me) or they might be upmarket.

As I'm free to go out Friday and Saturday, why do I try so hard to find a good Friday hotspot? Simple really- not many people are free to go out Friday OR Saturday on most weekends, so I'm using the Meetup website to stay social. If people say they can do Fridays, that's an opportunity to get out. But it needs to be worth it, to be a nice place and to be busy, most importantly. The atmosphere should be right.

As customers we can go out and look for good places on a Friday, but we're only half the equation. The bars and the clubs need to swallow their pride and realise it's money, and lack of it, that is keeping people at home. Charging £12 for a single shot of whiskey that no-one has heard of (cough cough, Sakana) when there's virtually no-one in your bar to buy it should tell you what you're doing wrong. It's alright trying to be expensively elite, but if nobody goes to your establishment as a result, what alternative do you have? There are already more than enough celebrity hangouts. It might be time to stop pretending that's what you are, and drop your prices on Fridays.

Some might say that the dearer places keep the riff-raff out. Au contraire- the people kicking off are normally drinking Stella, wherever you go out, whether it's a smart bar or a regular one. Stella is advertised as being “reassuringly expensive”, so the “cheap drink fuelling violence” theory is out the window. And in some of the places mentioned I've seen it kick off. Prices don't come into it.

So will we see Fridays come back with drinks deals and offers? Or with one-off events like singers and DJs, or celebrity appearances? Or will Saturday continue to reign as the only night worth going out on?

Saturday, 19 September 2015

No More Chocolate... Take 2

A while back I tried to quit eating chocolate. It's safe to say it didn't work out.

Now, let's try again with my birthday out of the way. Again, the only chocolate I'll have is drinking chocolate. Everything else is out. I'll hammer the gym and see what PBs I can pull in, and with pumping less sugar into myself hopefully I'll sleep a little better too. I'm hoping to tone up, not just lift more, so let's also see how I do there.

I've hardly eaten any chocolate for ages and my cravings are almost nonexistent, so hopefully it should be an attainable target. It looks like the original project has had a good effect on me.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Prospective Tuesdays

If any of you are Wordpress users (you poor, frustrated souls) you'll probably need all the support you can get. So you'd better check out The Manchester Wordpress User Group. Their monthly meetup is this Wednesday. There's a good handful of techsperts who'll be happy to answer questions, including Mike Little, one of the co-founders of the Wordpress blogging platform.

Even if your office has banned dress-down Fridays, like mine did long ago, your employer should let you bend the rules a little this Friday. Jeans for Genes Day raises money for genetic disorders. Get involved, help out and show off your best denim.

If you're a creative type in Manchester, try out this group on Saturday. Meet others for networking and drinks at Dukes 92 in Castlefield, or join them at The Milton Club later on.

For all you petrolheads, the Classic Car Show takes over Eventcity Saturday and Sunday. Vintage sports cars, racing cars and more. Tickets £12.50, kids go free!

Any more for any more? Have your event here by tweeting me.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Blackpool Comic Con

Blackpool's first ever Comic Con took place on Saturday 12th. I bought a ticket some time ago. I also THOUGHT I bought tickets to meet Hollywood actor Michael Madsen and Actress Nancy Allen. It seems I did not. Ms Allen cancelled due to a bad back, so I THOUGHT I had credit for another signing. So. I drove down early to beat the queue. I was not early enough.

I reckon I was in that queue for about an hour. Maybe 2. I got through the door of Winter Gardens at 12:25. Honestly I thought that the organisers weren't ready for the numbers that were coming, even though a pre-purchased ticket was required to get through the door so they must have had an idea from their sales. The building itself was large enough, being 12 interconnected venues.

The first person I stumbled across was Dickie Beer, a stuntman from Return of the Jedi et al. A tenner for a picture with him, on my own camera. Okay then.

I realised after this that I should have drawn out more cash before getting in. I asked a security guard at a fire exit and he gave me a wristband. I then forgot which door I'd gone out through. When I came back with a loaded wallet, I came back to the front door and security told me to queue up again. No. I kept wandering the perimeter until I found the same door and guard and got back in, much to my relief.

Once I was back in though, it wasn't long before I was hunted down by a giant intergalactic Rastafarian.

To the rescue: Marvel's Miss America, portrayed by Kristen Huey.

I then nearly got stomped by Titan the Robot 

Here he is kicking off with Thor.

Found a few Terminator busts

and then waited for HOURS for the Michael Madsen signing. To my dismay EVERYONE had tickets except me. I searched my phone for confirmation and couldn't find a thing.

I looked for any confirmation of payment I could find, but there was nothing. So I took this sly shot (zoom in, it's the guy in the camo jacket)...

...and drove back.

I checked my bank on return and it seems I just totally forgot to actually make the payment for the signings. Fuck's sake. I could have used the credit from the cancelled Nancy Allen shoot to meet Verne Troyer instead. Had I actually made the payment in the first place. Oh well.

A full list of the guests on the day (including actors and actresses from Game of Thrones and Dr Who) is here.

Anyway. It was a great event, and I believe the first time the event has been ran in Blackpool. I think things would have been more streamlined if all signings and photoshoots could have been paid for on the day with either cash or chip and pin. A few organisational issues aside (queue in was biblical, going out required a wristband that security seemed to disagree about, and I couldn't even find the movie cars- KITT from Knight Rider, Batmobile, Delorean- ), it was a good first go for the Comic Con team.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Prospective Mondays

I realise you've probably only just dumped all those Carling cans in the recycling bin and are sat at your desk still nursing your spirit-crushing hangover, but I have worse news for your liver: Manchester's Food and Drink Festival starts on Thursday.  Starring: copious volumes of ale and hot dinners

Ever been to Manchester's Police Museum? The Northern Quarter venue features cars, warning clackers from WWII air raids and vintage diving helmets and much more. Join Manchester Social Group this Saturday to take a look back over the ages.

Tickets for Saturday's Blackpool Comic Con have all but sold out. I've got mine! Can't wait to meet a few celebs and possibly pick up some movie merchandise. If you fancy it, there's one solitary ticket on Ebay. I did put an event on Meetup for this but not ONE person RSVP'd. Well.

After the convention I'm hammering it back to Manchester for the UK Podcasters Awards. My mate Tomleecee has been nominated for his show, The Dreamcast Junkyard Dreampod. I don't think I've been to an awards ceremony since leaving 5th form. This one should be actually enjoyable. Tickets for the event at Manchester's Midland Hotel are here.

Get your event listed here!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

#tbt My Name in Print

July 2005. Just before the London bombings, before the recession and when I was fresh out of university (if you overlook the 6 months of fruitless jobseeking) I was trying my hand at media sales at The World's Fair, a publishing house in Oldham. It was an ill-suited job, and not one I particularly enjoyed at all. Being told no from hundreds of wholesalers who aren't interested in your ad space because of the credit crunch, or whatever other excuse they could muster, was awful. Some people can handle that kinda thing. Not me.

It was interesting, though, being around people who thrived off that environment. When you've just spent nearly 7 years studying media, you generally don't meet that many sales-type people. It's a completely different character- vain, competitive, thick-skinned, a little arrogant, but overall incredibly confident- not the type of person who'd be happy nonchalantly sitting behind a camera all day, or hidden away in solitude on an Avid edit suite. (Most of the people I was at uni with were that type.) I was neither of those types of person, admittedly, but I didn't have a clue what kind of person I was at all back then- hence finding myself in a sales job.

The manager would have frequent meetings with me because, despite phoning and phoning all day, I just couldn't sell. My concern, she'd say, is that this job just isn't for you.

At the time, I couldn't get my head around it. Previously I'd been sacked from a few jobs due to my memory- not being able to work a till, or memorise restaurant table layouts. But this time, it was purely character. I just wasn't the selling, persuasive type.

This is what the manager made clear to me. Then, I asked, what was? What should I be doing if not sales?

You tell me, she asked. What is it you've always wanted to be?

Screenwriter, I replied without a second's hesitation.

Is this job getting you any closer to that?

Not really.

I wouldn't have a clue how to do that, she said. I wouldn't know how to write a screenplay. But what I do know how to do is to sell, and I consider myself to be able to do it very well.

So I left. Or, I was being pushed, so I jumped. Sales wasn't going to happen. She was a good manager, but, in retrospect, that was the warning that I failed to heed. Stick to your strengths.

Anyway. Long story short. July '05 was the first time I got my name in print, for what it was worth.