Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Chilli Con Carnage

I decided to reopen the cookbook and keep learning last week, so I had a good go at Chilli. A few weeks ago I'd been to visit my sister in London and we'd made chilli for around 50-or-so people, so it had been in my mind to see what the Hairy Dieters Cookbook suggested for this.

On that occasion we'd cooked chilli using peppers, and I'd assumed that was a staple ingredient. The Hairy Dieters recipe doesn't even mention it. So I've got a few peppers left over that need demolishing somehow... this was, however, only the first of the setbacks.

I didn't buy garlic as I knew I already had some. When it came to cooking, I noticed the garlic was so old that the bulb had dried and was almost hollow inside. I also left minced beef off my shopping list for the same reason- then realised my mince had been in the freezer since around last November. I don't own any wine as I don't drink it, and for that reason buying a whole bottle seemed pretty pointless. I did, however, have plenty of vermouth from a previous recipe so I bunged some of that in instead.

With 15 minutes of cooking time left, I also realised I hadn't made the stock yet so I had to put everything on hold in order to make that up.

Added to this, the brown rice wasn't absorbing the water like I expected it to. I'd given it the required time, but it was still wet and hard at the time I'd planned it on being ready. The recipe suggested leaving the meat mixture to simmer for 45 MINUTES AFTER the initial cooking! I really need to read the recipe through before starting, but still.

I invited the parents around for tea. Mum and I agreed that 20 minutes simmering time was more than enough.

My mum reminded me that, in London, we'd only used peppers in the chilli because on the second day down there we merged a vegetarian chilli with a standard one. To memory, it had tasted fine.

But what about mine?

I think the meal would have benefited from fresher mince. It tasted okay, and the cooking of it was a little rushed and clumsy, but it went down well enough. It lasted me a few days as well.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Prospective Mondays

It's a star-studded affair this week. But before I go all glitz-and-glam, lets stay grounded.

If you're free tonight and you're into your literature, try the Town Hall Tavern for the monthly Book Club meeting.

Who remembers Xzibit?!

If anyone fancies seeing hardcore gangsta rapper “X to the Z” this week, he's at Gorilla on Witworth St TOMORROW. I'm there with one mate so far. Tweet me to get involved. Tickets are still available, including a VIP meet-and-greet package, on Facebook.

Radio 1's most ridiculous hip hop DJ Tim Westwood is in the house! Or, more accurately, will be in Suede nightclub this Friday. If the last few Fridays are anything to go by, it'll be the ONLY busy place in the city. So get your tickets quickly. See the Facebook event for this. If you fancy coming with me and perhaps a few others, check out the Meetup group here.

Videogamers: on Saturday/Sunday morning you should tear your ass out of bed early (ish) for Play Expo, a hugely popular gaming exhibition ran by Replay Events. Gaming blogger and podcaster Tomleecee, Founder of prolific gaming blog The Dreamcast Junkyard (and also my mate) will be in town for this. Tickets vary from £16 to £64. They can be bought here.

Saturday night: Eivissa takes place at The Oxford Club, formerly One Central Street. If you fancy an upbeat smart night out, this is for you. Join Manchester Social Group who are venturing in.

Last Saturday The Oxford Club hosted George Lineker's (Gary's son's) birthday party.

A few pics from the club are here. Tempting, no?

If you want your event listing, get in touch.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Why Meetup is getting like Fight Club (which isn't a bad thing)

In David Fincher's nihilistic '98 classic Fight Club, The Narrator begins as a nameless insomniac who finds respite in the therapeutic environments of support groups which he finds through his doctor and listed in his local newspaper. When The Narrator finds these groups, he's instantly hooked, and no longer has to spend his evenings viewing shopping channels and placing orders on unnecessary household gadgets. He soon ditches all of these and moves on to Fight Club, which he sets up with the charismatic Tyler Durden, who he meets on a plane. They go on to have a series of strange adventures involving soap, bombs, culinary guerrilla terrorism and literal self-assault.

I've blogged a lot about social networking site Meetup over the last year. I've been keen for you to get involved. For the record, none of the events I've seen advertised involve any of the above perils. Certainly not in Manchester. However, Fight Club is a story about people finding people. The characters in the film all want to belong, to be together with others. Humans are, suffice to say, social animals. We always have been.

Whereas in the 90s older generations- like The Narrator- may have circled adverts in the local paper to check out groups and meetings, now we use the internet to filter the exact group we're looking for. This is getting easier as sites like Meetup get bigger and bigger every month, with more people signing up (Meetup has 23 million members across 179 countries), more groups being set up and more events being ran. Meetup is doing the same thing as the support groups in Fight Club (including the club of the film's title). It's bringing people together and allowing them to connect with their community. It's empowering people who may not have had the ability, or perhaps confidence, to make friends in the environments that they want prior to them joining the site. Not everybody wants to spend their evenings in the local pub. I've spoken to many people who've joined Meetup: some of them have moved to Manchester recently, others have lived here forever and are just bored of the same thing. Some are finding their mates are all settling down; others have had fall-outs here and there.

But whatever the reason, Manchester's Meetup groups are getting increasingly popular. Posh Bars: 443 Hipsters. After Work Drinks: 1718 Diamond Quayzers. 20s and 30s: 2322 people. 2967 Manchester International Party People. A scan down the What's New section on the right of each Meetup page shows a steady flow of new members joining up.

In Fight Club, the titular club moves on to Project Mayhem, where the members are given homework assignments and start to destroy their own city. Meetup thankfully lacks that nihilistic tendency. Over the last year, I've been one of a few people who have joined the meetup sites and met friends through this. I've then organised nights out away from the site with these new friends, or joined friends on their nights out, and created my own social life rather than relying on Meetup solely, or on what others may or may not be doing in my immediate locale, whether what they're doing is my kind of thing or not. If you want to go to posh bars, and you join a group titled so, you'll probably meet people who are happy to come with you to that kind of establishment when there are no events coming up in the group. You can have your own project, and create your own (legal) mayhem.

And if you happen to meet me on one of these meetups...

Friday, 2 October 2015

Annual Leave

I am now off work until the 14th! Plans...

Friday: get shower fixed. Stay in all day waiting for workmen.

Saturday: Suburbia with the Posh Bars group.

Tuesday: Gorilla club, seeing the rapper Xzibit.

Friday: Radio 1's Tim Westwood is playing at Suede.

Saturday: Gaming convention PlayExpo takes place at Manchester Central with Tomleecee. Then possibly hitting Manchester afterwards.

Around all this, I'll finish this ridiculous planking project and read Skagboys. So far I'm enjoying it. It's a brilliant novel but the project is taking that long that I don't know that it's having the desired effect on my abs. I'm also not sure if there's an actual plot as such. Entertaining and stunningly-written, as expected from an Irvine Welsh novel.

Also throughout all this, I'll still successfully avoid chocolate and hit the gym plenty. (It won't stop my downward-spiral into morbid obesity, though. Nothing can.)

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.