Tuesday, 30 June 2015

RIP James Horner.

Composer of the music to the film Titanic and many other films, James Horner, died in a plane crash last week. He was 61.

I was a big-time fan of James Cameron's movies in my teen days, and I was more than aware that Horner's scores added emotional impact. So much so, in fact, that I went out and bought The Aliens soundtrack (at a whopping £13.99, which is horrific when you're 16 and you're not working, and it's 1998).

I was on an intermediate level Media course at the time, and we were working on a radio project that was to be transmitted live to the college canteen. I wrote and produced a show about James Cameron, Director of Titanic and Aliens. I thought it was fascinating material, but it bored the shit out of my coursemates. My voice was a little dull too, and the presentation skills I developed later in life weren't showing at all.

Along with the docu on Cameron's movies and directorial style, I threw in some music to break it up: this track, Ripley's Rescue.

I introduced it by explaining that the the track was named so as it's from a scene in which heroine Ripley rescues the marines from the aliens. I couldn't see from the canteen store room that we were using as a makeshift studio, but apparently it bored the students so much it cleared out the seating area.

Technically, my show wasn't too bad and I got a decent grade for it if I remember rightly. But it was admittedly nerdy and dull, banging on about Cameron's “directorial style” and some blue light that I'd read he used a lot in his films (can't say I've noticed it to this day though).

For a further 2 and a half years, my coursemates would rip me for playing Ripley's Rescue, banging on about how I'd apparently said it was named so “because Ripley gets rescued”.

Sigh. I still stand by it being a BADASS track though. The whole album is incredibly freaky to listen to and will make you jump if you're just playing the CD. It goes from silent to shrieking, high-pitch string chords in a flash.

Horner has an impressive filmography on IMDb, including a much broader range of films and shows than I'd realised. 


Monday, 29 June 2015

Prospective Mondays

I thought a weekly post detailing upcoming events might be helpful for readers, particularly in Greater Manchester. So what's going on this week?

As always, The Milton Club's Marquee night will land on Thursday. A classy-but-fun cinema-themed night of RnB music, King Kong, The Pink Panther and the odd celebrity. Pics here.

Reasonably new group Young Professionals in Manchester has meetups planned, including one to new Spinningfields restaurant The Kitchens tomorrow.

My Saturday will be busy with 3 meetups in 1 day. I'm starting at 13:45 in The Alchemist in Spinningfields with Manchester High Life for some cocktails. My final meetup with the 20s and 30s group starts at 7pm (I'll be too old next time) over in Portland St's Missoula (a good event last time I was there) which I can dive into for an hour or so. Then I'm hosting a trip to the reopening of swanky celeb haunt Bijou, starting in Sinclairs Oyster Bar. There's one space at the time of writing. Take it!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Winner, Winner, Steak Dinner

Of course, it'd only be in the heat of summer when you lose your hay fever eye-drops and your eyes go red and raw and itch like you're a crack addict. God knows what I've done with them. But that's the worst of my week. The rest: I retweeted a tweet from Manchester Cars, a taxi company, to see if I could win a free meal for two at swanky restaurant 47 King Street West. I totally forgot about it, but a few days later...

Manchester Cars came to get me on Thursday night, and they chauffeured me to the restaurant's door in a Toyota Avensis. Nice.

I started with the chicken parfait, and moved on to the T-bone steak (huge). The chips were so big that they'd basically made the biggest possible cuboid out of a whole potato, four times, and roasted them. All of it was delicious. Peppercorn sauce: spot on. The apple crumble dessert rounded it off brilliantly, and I washed it all down with Amaretto sours, a first for me. Not normally a cocktail person but I liked it.

I'd like to thank 47 King St West, Manchester Cars (who also dropped me off at home again) and VG for coming with me. A superb evening.

Friday: a Meetup with Social Creatives, for filmmakers and other artistic types. A good opportunity to meet people, chat, get drunk and plan collaborations. We started in The Bridge on Bridge St off Deansgate, then moved on to Atlas Bar at the Castlefield end of Deansgate. It has a perfect terrace for summer drinks, which we utilised. We finished at Sakura on Deansgate Locks, where I managed to get my hip flask past the metal detectors. (A hip flask of the strongest possible alcohol- in my case 70% West-Indian white rum- is a great way of reducing costs on a night out.) Quiet (as was the whole recession-battered city), but with great house music and a well-maintained gents' room. The girl selling Jagerbombs needed to go to management to get change for a the £20 not I paid with, but that's a minor issue.

In essence, there are two parts to a night with Social Creatives: the discussing of creative media in The Bridge, and the getting pissed and developing further ideas in other bars. In the latter half, we certainly got pissed. If you're a creative type, you should join us.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

I Gave Up Takeaway Food for a Month

Not appealing

I mentioned a month ago that I was cutting out takeaway food- particularly Chinese food, but everything else fast with it- for a month. Well, I managed, just about. This morning at about 1am, after a Social Creatives meetup, I strayed into Burger King and had a solitary bacon double cheeseburger. I regretted it immediately after finishing it.

It didn't taste as good as I remember them doing. I felt guilty, like as soon as I'd given myself an opportunity to eat fast food, I took it. But this is good- I don't feel the urge to eat Burger King again, and the pull of Man Ho Chinese chippy just isn't there for me- I'm happy to not eat it. The recipes I've cooked- few and far between though they were- have helped me to appreciate good food more, and disregard lazy options.

How did I do at the gym, considering the improvement to what I was eating? Here are some records (27/5 - 27/6)

Cable crunch with metal handle: 20 more reps
Cable crunch with rope handle: 20 more reps
Leg press: up 1 notch

Along with these gym sessions, I've also done lots of classes at the gym and boxed regularly. I've felt much sharper in all of these. I may not have got much stronger but my stamina has improved considerably.
I've done some research into dietary habits. My old pal and adviser Fluffy Oakes mentioned a year or so ago that there are ways of breaking habits.

When you get into a habit of doing something, you're doing it because you actually get pleasure from it,” he described. “When you feel pleasure, your bloodstream is flooded with endorphins, pleasure chemicals. These make the brain feel good. Healthy people get a certain amount of endorphins on a daily basis and it helps them to feel positive. However, if someone has depression, which I am suggesting you have, Matt, their level of endorphins are lower. As a result, the individual searches out pleasure from the world and may find it in a whole host of things, which may or may not result in bad habits.

Frequently, when an individual finds something that they like, the brain latches on to that particular endorphin and requires more of it. Hence, to break that habit, you need to distract your brain by offering it pleasure from a multitude of sources. That way you don't latch on to any one thing.”

He's right- I've done a lot to enjoy myself in the last year, with boxing, nights out with Meetup groups to places that I like, (rather than places that people were going to that I felt obliged to tag along to) lots of reading and writing, watching a few films, cooking a few recipes, developing typing skills... the list goes on. I didn't latch on to any one thing, I kept busy, and because of that when I cut out fast food it wasn't too hard to give it up. The first few days were tough, but I moved on well. Last night's Burger King confirmed that particular obsession is done with. I can enjoy eating healthier now for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Reading and Planking: The Long Haul Take 2

After trying planking whilst reading the sprawling American novel The Corrections, or failing to, more accurately, I figured that using another large book might be easier to read this way. Something that's a little more “my thing”. So I've picked out Irvine Welsh's weighty Skagboys, the prequel to the iconic Scottish novel, Trainspotting.

I read the original book in 2001 when I started uni, and I'd never read anything quite like it. The film's great, but there's no way they could have made a movie that's loyal to the entire plot. In '08 I met Welsh when he released Crime, and I read it not long after. In about '09 I read Trainspotting's sequel, Porno, a good follow-up. Then in '12 I met the author again. He was signing Skag Boys, which he'd just released. At 450 pages it dwarfs Trainspotting and Porno, so should be a serious endurance challenge. I'm quite curious to see what Renton was like in his university days, and how he slipped into addiction.

More to the point, I want to get my abs back. My planking record stands at 4:02. Let's see if I can beat that- and finish the book- in 2 months.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Elixir and Lola Lo

Saturday: stopped by the fragrant and atmospheric Elixir on Deansgate for a night out with Manchester Social Group. An intimate starting bar with fantastic house music. Although there are 800+ members in the group, you'll still recognise familiar faces from other meetups even when there's only 8 spaces per event. A great crowd.

We then moved on to Lola Lo on Deansgate Locks, where the organiser had got us all on the guestlist. We were served cocktails by Sean Penn and David Arquette lookalikes. Lola's, the largest and nicest of Manchester's tikki bars, is split between 2 floors- one for dance and one for R'n'B. Showing my age here, but it used to be Loaf. I thought it was better back in the day, but hey. I'm old. It's still full of good looking people.

It's the third time Manchester Social Group has ran that night, and it's still popular. So by all means keep your eye on the group- it may reappear.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Manchester Day Parade 2015

Sunday 14th: I joined people from Manchester Social Group for a look around the sixth annual Manchester Day Parade, a celebration of all things Mancunian. There's a little about the tradition here.

For the last 2 years I've dropped by on my own to see what's happening and take a few pictures and shoot some video. This time I was with others, thanks again to the Meetup site.

I contributed my pictures to a group album on Meetup. The event is here. The pictures are here.

The Manchester Evening News has a few more pictures here.

A very eclectic and original parade. Around the city centre there were a number of events taking place. We ventured to Albert Square outside the Town Hall and saw an impressive display from a troupe of youth aerial silk acrobats.

We rounded the day off with a burger in Byron on Deansgate (my suggestion), which allowed a chance to get to know the group a little more and swap events ideas. (Oh, and they loved the food.)

Good to be doing it with some people for once. They were a good crowd too.