26 January 2010

Now we are one

Put up the bunting! Stick on your party hats! Get out your hooters! Today we're celebrating Words & Fixtures' first anniversary.

What a year it's been in our newly expanded world. Thanks to this new-fangled social media thingy, we've met loads of fab new people both in the blogosphere and in the real world, reconnected with old friends and colleagues, got involved in some really interesting online and offline projects, been paid hard cash and even won an award! None of it would have been possible without your support (well, it would, but I might have been less enthusiastic if it weren't for your involvement through inspiring emails and conspiring comments), and I hope you stick with my random ramblings based (albeit loosely) on language, literature, arts and culture. We will shortly be undergoing a modernisation project to mark this momentous occasion, so keep checking back, not only for more posts but also (eventually) for a new look. Thank you for reading - please continue - and don't forget to grab a delicious piece of imaginary birthday cake on your way out!

25 January 2010

A good Scotch egg

This evening we'll be celebrating Burns Night round ours, complete with a genuine Scottish haggis bought at the butcher's in Juniper Green near Edinburgh by a friend from Ayr. We'll be having it traditional style with tatties and neeps, although we may pass on all the speeches and singing, and bagpipe-swinging.

I admit I know very little about the Bard of Ayrshire Rabbie Burns, whose birthday we'll be celebrating, so I have been checking him out online. He wrote Auld Lang Syne, among other things, and is known as "Scotland's favourite son" and the "Ploughman Poet" (presumably because he couldn't get enough of Branston Pickle).

It turns out Steinbeck's title Of Mice And Men came from the Burns poem To A Mouse, as did the phrase "tim'rous beastie". So that's where the name of Timorous Beasties, the trendy Glasgow-based wallpaper company, whose designs were once described as “William Morris on acid”, came from. Some of their patterns remind me of last year's Turner Prize winner Richard Wright's fleeting, almost diaphanous gold-leaf mural. This one's called Bird Branch:

20 January 2010

Dem's da rules

I am idea-rich but time-poor right now, but please don't think I am neglecting you, dear reader - normal service will soon be resumed... In the meantime, hum a little light music to yourself and hit this link for a funny little cartoon about mis-spelling by Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal, who we like. In a totally platonic way.

19 January 2010

It's all geek to me

The Guardian today reports (via The New York Times's Media Decoder blog) how one Hearst magazine over the pond is looking to make a bit on the side in these credit-crunching times.
Popular Mechanics (that's quite a name to live up to) has apparently teamed up with Gap to flog T-shirts bearing pictures from past issues. This one's just perfect for all you speed demons out there.

15 January 2010

Hope you like jammin' too

I've been busy this week copywriting for the soon-to-be-launched new and improved Big Green Festival website, along with various other extra-curricular tasks. Maybe it's because I love pies that I have my fingers in so many, but Chorlton's Big Green Festival was my first so it occupies a special place in my gravy-laced calendar.

This year, CBGF celebrates its second birthday (on Saturday 27 March) and, like any festival worth its road salt, it's now got its own fringe! Here are posters for the first two fringe events, one of which is tomorrow at the fabulously named Jam Street Cafe. Someone once told me that it's so named because the road on which it sits, Upper Chorlton Road, takes you up to the jam factory. I don't know if that's true or not; it would be something of a circuitous route to the soon-to-be former 113-year-old Duerr's HQ on Prestage Street in Old Traffo. Whatever, we jammin'...

14 January 2010

I'm the one and only aggregator

Last night, we had the second meeting of minds in the great Manchester Aggregator project. There were some of the original gang missing (they gave their apologies), and a few new faces instead. Well, perhaps not necessarily "new" on the social meeja scene, but new to the #managg round-table discussion. The table, it has to be said, wasn't so stable. If anyone has any furniture they'd like to donate to Mad Lab, BTW, speak to the Edge Street boys ('n' gal).

So the meeting, fuelled by a jolly nice banana-stroke-rum cake, kind of went one step back - but it also went two steps forward, and anyone in their right mind would say that's progress. We decided on a name, for starters, and it's cute and snappy and nothing at all to do with Christian Scientists, we promise. I mean, don't get me wrong, we're as diverse as hell, plus we love a good bit of science, but... One day we might even tell you what it is, the name, but in the meantime, let it be noted, for the record, that I said the word "lizard" first, but I'm too quiet and meek (he-he), and the one who shouts loudest shall the glory take.

We have lots of ideas. LOTS. There's a bunch of us get together, on average once a month, and some know pretty much all there is to know about platforms and coding and other bundles of joy. That's not me. I just nod sometimes. Me, I know about printing and blogging and writing and editing, but even then I'm not claiming to be some kind of expert, because things are changing all the time and it's dangerous, y'know?

Anyway, the basic concept is to have some kind of place where we bring together the best of the blogs in the rainy city - perhaps online, perhaps print, perhaps online and print. But definitely online. We're toying with the whys and the wherefores, but the whatnots are getting there. We have some homework to do (there's talk of a URL and a logo, and we're going to be doing some testing out of theories on Google Groups), then a third meeting to arrange, and then perhaps we'll be somewhere nearer to know what the hell it is we're trying to achieve. Then, and only then, we might be able to share...

(In the meantime, don't forget that furniture need. Oh, and if you fancy giving us some funding, we'd obviously be very grateful. Failing that, I suppose cake will do.)

*UPDATE* You can also check out my report (hah!) on last night's Manchester Aggregator meeting on the Social Media Manchester Ning: http://ning.it/77U16g
Please use the hashtag #managg in any Twitter correspondence.

12 January 2010

The naked truth

My friends at Manchester Lit List have written an interesting article on their blog about William Seward Burroughs. NYC-based photographer Peter Ross (owner of perhaps the most minimalist website to have ever prowled the ether) has documented the Beat writer's belongings, which have remained in his windowless Bowery home (a former YMCA locker room, known as The Bunker) since his death in 1997. The photographs give an awesome glimpse into the rather, er, unconventional existence of The Naked Lunch's creator, and remind me of peeking into the recreation of Francis Bacon's studio at Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin.

There's an interview with Ross here, providing some insight into how the now inanimate objects inspired him and gave rise to this project. I hope he doesn't mind me taking the liberty of featuring one of his lovely images to illustrate this post, but it would be pretty bloody pointless without. I've picked a pair of walking sticks (apparently Bill had quite a collection), and have discovered, from a piece on accessories in GQ magazine no less, that "William Burroughs ... carried a cane. He was skilled in the art of cane fighting, and his particular cane may well have had a blade tucked inside". Hm. Made a change from his usual gun fandom, I suppose.

© 2009 Peter Ross

11 January 2010

Television, the drug of the nation

So it's 11.01.10, a pleasant Binary wannabe of a date, and I've made it this far into the year without getting all grumpy and gripey about grammar, at least here on the interweb. Still, it had to happen at some point...
The Stretford branch of PC World has a sign up informing me, you and the angry man in the 4x4 as we drive past that they currently have stacks of TV's in stock. And a few superfluous apostrophes, too, if you want them. I think they're going cheap.

10 January 2010

Show jumpers

Not sure if anyone's noticed, but it's a tad on the chilly side at the mo. Which gives me the perfect excuse to dig out my fantastic range of jumpers and perhaps even invest in some new ones. I'm especially keen on bright-coloured stripy numbers, and I'm also quite partial to Scottish and Scandinavian patterns, especially Fair Isle and Icelandic.

Back in the 80s, meanwhile, when knitting machines were the must-have accessory of mums of a certain age the length and breadth of the country, but particularly, seemingly, on the Wirral, I was presented one birthday with a red polo neck adorned with white snowflakes and reindeer. Went lovely with my scarlet legwarmers. I wonder what happened to it.

Anyway, I was just this morning flicking through some magazines that have been hanging about on the kitchen table, perusing possible purchases, and noticed that both the Guardian and Stylist had put pretty much the same rigout together using a variety of Gap knitwear (not this outfit, although this is Gap). That nice Jess Cartner-Morley lady looked happy in her layers and, in the accompanying copy, was pondering the word "jumper" being superceded by the label "knitwear": "Jumpers! Remember them? Even the word sounds old-fashioned ... Fashion doesn't do jumpers any more. It does knitwear ... "

We didn't do jumpers at ELLE, either: house style dictated the use of "sweater" instead, which is odd because sweater doesn't sound the least bit chic or glamorous. And it's a shame, this jumper-bashing: I quite like the word myself.

05 January 2010

Science is golden

You know I like to be honest with you guys, so here it is: my name is Words & Fixtures and I'm a secret geek. There, it's been said. It may have been said before, I'm not sure, but now it's definitely out there. It's out there, it's out of my hands. It's in the big wide world and the vastness of the ether.

I admit it: I'm a bit of a geek and I like sci-fi; mainly films, but also TV, and sometimes even books.

Anyway, it seems I'm not alone in the universe. And to prove it, a melange of Manchester social media luvvies have only gone and set up a Sci-Fi Book Club, founding members of which courageously battled their way through snowstorms to inaugurate yesterday evening. I have to admit I didn't actually put in an appearance myself, but I did send a representative to report back on proceedings. Seems proceedings went well. A bunch of "15 or so" likely candidates met at Madlab (aka Manchester Digital Laboratory), discussed a possible reading list, worked out a date for the next get-together, then decamped over the road to Common, which it strikes me is not uncommon if you are a Madlabber.

Anyway, hop on board, join the ride, get on over to the Oxfam bookshop and let the crazy reading party being! The initial book list is below and the next fixture (when first tome The Forever War will be under discussion) is Tuesday 16 February (more here):
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard
Neuromancer by William Gibson
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
...plus, in case discussion dries up, or Common runs out of Star (whichever comes first), it has been decided everyone should also have a wee shufty at A Science Fiction Omnibus, a collection of short stories edited by Brian Aldiss and including Isaac Asimov's 1941 classic Nightfall. Maybe I'll see you some time in the future...