Thursday, 30 October 2014

Doing the Splits with Arnold Schwarzenegger: Results


At the end of August I decided to test my flexibility by reading the largest book in my “to-read” pile whilst attempting the splits. This book was Total Recall: My Amazingly True Life Story, the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

It took exactly 2 months to read. 158cm was my stretch record at the start of the book. I varied in ability, depending on the time off I'd had from practice and the length of time I'd sat in the position. I managed to push the record up to 163cm- I work that out as being 3cm off the widest possible distance I could attain.

The hardest part of the project was a condition I refer to as “numb-bum”: getting a numb arse from being sat on the carpet too long. A condition I've not had since assembly in school, numb-bum in splits can send pins and needles down the legs, making it hard to walk when you get up after reading for long periods of time. I made a point of standing up at every page break / chapter and walking it off, but it sure slowed down the reading.

The book itself was fantastic. Highlights include Arnie leaving the handbrake off a tank and almost running over his whole platoon in training, finding out American women shave their legs, almost killing himself on a horse shooting True Lies and wrapping up Batman and Robin by having vital open-heart surgery days later. Arnie has overcome so much adversity- he dominated the bodybuilding championships throughout the 70s, he had a Hollywood career despite having a “ridiculous Austrian accent” (his words) and became a US governor despite not being born in the country.

He had absolute rock-solid belief in his abilities as a bodybuilder, as an actor and as a businessman, and later as a politician. Anyone looking to build confidence- don't bother with Dale Carnegie. Read this book instead. Anyone who believes he's just this 'roided-up actor who got lucky- think again. His last chapter, “Arnold's Rules”, can help anyone wanting to build confidence or gain direction.

It's possibly the best autobiography I've ever read.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Today is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

In 2005, the United Nations declared 27th October as the annual World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. What does this mean for you and I?

That depends on how much you care about preserving recorded material, which admittedly is a nerdy passion. But whatever. I'm interested. You'll possibly be familiar with Throwback Thursday, or #tbt on social media- the trend of uploading old pictures once a week. These are normally developed photographs which were scanned in and saved as JPEG, then uploaded to the internet. Audiovisual content, though, is more than pictures- it's video and sound recordings too. Where might these be found? Cupboards at home. Picture albums. Boxes of VHS tapes in the loft. Many possible places.

Video is a format that people are particularly keen to protect- we've been using VHS for decades, and still do. They can last up to 10-25 years in proper storage. But once they're digitised, the quality never drops- so get transferring! Either wire up your DVD recorder, VHS player and TV together... or take it to Max Spielmann.

Next step: upload. Facebook is a difficult platform to properly share on, as most people choose the “friends only” level of security. And even then, there's no way to search for videos on Facebook. Youtube is a better bet as you can add the relevant tags to the video, making it more searchable. Pictures can be uploaded to the likes of Twitter, personal blogs, Flickr and Instagram, but remember to properly tag them so that people searching for that content can find it. Otherwise the only the people who will stumble across it are those scrolling in their Thursday timeline.

Upload it to the site that you'd like the most traffic on. For me, that's this blog.

Then: share via social media. Let people know that the content is there and preserved online. Think about who would be particularly interested. Who's in the picture? If it's a local celebrity, would the local papers be curious? They will more than likely have a Twitter account, which is a good platform for sharing links, so show them from that site.

In essence- use today as an excuse to rummage through your old tapes, and get preserving those memories!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Manchester Posh Bars


Went out with Manchester Posh Bars last night for a second time. A good crowd. I can see this group getting ridiculously popular over the next year as the venues we're checking out are among the best in the city.

We started in the ridiculously busy but warm and friendly Oast House in Spinningfields. Alchemist was full by the time we got there. I'm surprised they haven't upped their drinks prices if they've got queues like the ones they have. I remember friends not being able to get in due to a one-out-one-in policy last year. Around the corner we found the scenic Lawn Club, designed like a summer country club or an upmarket conservatory- wicker furniture, potted plants, floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Probably more scenic in the daytime when they roll out the deck chairs, the club is again popular and crowded with a bit of a wait for drinks, but it's a pleasant wait with a respectful clientele. From there we took the short walk to Suede, one of Manchester's hidden gems. Formerly Ampersand, and in around the turn of the century a new members-only club, Suede is a small but luxurious venue with elegant design. I used to go there in 2006, so it was interesting to see how little had changed: only the music and the people. It was still a good crowd without any problems. I was a little miffed, though, that we still had to pay entry when we were already on the guest list.

We got our picture taken on entry, a first for me, in front of the club's logo a'la Ibizan clubs and a growing number of more domestic venues. The d├ęcor was untouched as far as I could tell, and the movable central podium had also been left in place. The old-school dance and R'n'B had me thinking I was 18 again (minus the check shirt and gelled spiky hair). Incredible. I would have been happy to stay there, but the group was feeling a move.

A taxi ride got us to the Northern Quarter, and to the cripplingly busy Walrus, which had good music- as is always the case in this bar. It is also the only bar I can think of that conjoins with another. Tusk can be entered from their main door or through a literal hole in the wall between the two. Probably confusing after a few skinfuls. Alas, I was driving again so it wasn't a problem for me.

I can see the posh bars group getting obscenely popular over the course of the next 12 months. The places on the events will fill fast, so there could be nights out occurring more regularly very soon...

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Pea, Ham and Mint Soup


Try not to get too excited by that title. I used my soup maker again, using another recipe from the device's recipe leaflet. My measuring jug wasn't big enough. Ironically, my kitchen isn't big enough for MORE cooking utensils. I ended up pouring the mixed liquid into a giant cooking pot I've had for 2 years and not used.

I forgot that I'd already got a pot of mint, so I've got 2 of those in the drawer now. The recipe actually asked for fresh mint leaves, but I knew better than to buy a packet of fresh. I'd only end up using about a quarter of it and forgetting of its existence, eventually binning the rest when I find it months later rotting at the back of my fridge.

I should also have bought chunkier ham, rather than the wafer-thin sandwich variety. It came out very watery, bitty, pungent and not very filling. And I still have another bowlful to drink / eat for lunch tomorrow. Oh well.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Hollywood Movie “Genius” Filming in Manchester


Popular parts of Manchester were transported back to the early 1900s this week for the shooting of Genius, the story of literary editor Max Perkins. As the MEN describe, the lead role is played by Pride and Prejudice star Colin Firth, and is supported by Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Guy Pierce.

I found out yesterday and- having missed a few days of filming- I darted out there early this morning to catch the last day of the Manchester set. The first location was Princess / Harter St, and was wrapping up by 10am with the production moving over to King St. Hollywood has, over the last decade, realised that Manchester have some brilliant pre-war buildings. Production crews have used our city in recent years for parts of Sherlock Holmes, Captain America, 24 Hour Party People and The Iron Lady.

I managed to get a few visuals of this week's set by climbing onto window ledges etc. Can't say I recognised anyone, but rumour had it Mr. Law is one of these suited types...