Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Success and Failure

If you find yourself in a newsagents this week, have a flick through this weeks copy of Look or the May issue of Company Magazine.  In Look you'll find an interview that I did with the Salad Club ladies Rosie & Ellie, who run a pop-up restaurant.  It was the second time I'd interviewed them, the first being for the blog initially, but then the South London Press liked it and subsequently ran it and then NFT picked it up for online.  I did pitch it to Look at the time and they passed...but then they thought of me later when they had an appropriate umbrella to put it under: pop-ups.  You know; restaurants, shops, bars.  Wish I'd thought of that as a group.  What I did think of was how crowdfunding is gaining pace.  It's a way of financing your project, whatever it is, by asking the online community to pay for it.  In return they might get shares in your company or a share of the profits but often they get nothing at all: they just want to see the project completed.  One of my case-studies, Kate Madison, tantalised Lord of the Rings junkies so much with the prospect of another film, they chipped in £17,000 so they could have another hit of the orcs and elves saga.

So I'm writing for a living (a small one).  How did I do this?  Jenny Wood, the Features Editor at Look let me work with them unpaid for a week.  It was easily worth it for what I learnt.  From the outside Look is all clothes and celebs but have a look at the real life stories and think about the research and persistence it takes to get them; that's what they taught me.   Crowdfunding came up the week I was there.  I got to know my subject and secured half a dozen case-studies.  As they were all women, I pitched it to women's mags after Look's Editor had passed on it.  Three more turned it down before Company picked it up. It's a good feeling when someone says yes to a pitch.

One little bit of me has failed though, a bit of my body to be exact.  I'd be pretty happy this week if I hadn't got myself a suspected torn anterior cruciate ligament whilst snowboarding in Chamonix last week. If my Doctor ever calls me back with an appointment for an MRI scan, tune in in next time to see if 'suspected' has become 'confirmed'.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

How Gaga's diction can help you win at Scrabble

One can learn any number of things when ennui leads to search engines. Claiming he discovered it in a bored moment at work searching results for diminutive words, a friend recently told me of his discovery of the continued online speculation about Lady Gaga’s gender.  I tried it and it works; if you type the word ‘if’ followed by a space, Google’s predictive guesswork throws up the top search as ‘Is Lady Gaga a Man?’ with over 41 million results.  The rumour started at last year’s Glastonbury, where a short red dress revealed something pink flapping about between Gaga’s thighs, although the Youtube footage displayed by and numerous others is too grainy to be conclusive.  With so many people apparently wondering, the question has been put to her on a couple of occasions.  Initially deadpanning that, ‘It's just a little bit of a penis and really doesn't interfere much with my life.’ she went onto say ‘I’m sexy, I’m hot. I have both a poon and a peener. Big f*cking deal.’  It’s at times like these that proves its worth. ‘Poon’ is the shortened version of poontang; ‘peener’ is the hybrid of penis and wiener. 

Urban dictionary can bring a whole new dimension to your Facebook Scrabble playing and there’s one word I’m hoping to get in the next time my boss’s back is turned. Big time US interviewer Barbara Walters asked Gaga if she was ‘part man, part woman’, a question that was interpreted by many online speculators as asking her if she was ‘intersexual’ (104 points on a triple word score if you’re wondering). The dictionary defines this as ‘being intermediate between male and female’. For the record, Gaga gave a definitive answer about her gender, a very definite ‘No’. Surprisingly for such an astute self-publicist, Gaga missed that opportunity to label herself as alien in the same sense as Ziggy Stardust, the alter-ego of her idol David Bowie. If people are speculating about you, why put a stop to the continuing free publicity by issuing a confirmation or a denial? Realising this, she backtracked a little by saying 'That's really quite a story! But in a sense, I portray myself in a very androgynous way, and I love androgyny.’ Despite having killed one rumour, the sheer number of the search results suggests ongoing interest, perhaps because one question remains unanswered.  What was that thing flapping around between her legs at Glasters?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Haircut 100

Do most men resent having to get their hair cut?  It's a knife edge experience for me.  On exiting the hairdressers I'm either elated and surprised that its gone so well, trying not to check my reflection in shop windows as I go, or angry and frustrated that I wasn't able to articulate myself sufficiently so that the guy with the scissors could understand me.  On those days I don't much care to see my barnet in a window as it's either going to be too short and I'm looking like I have some sort of wasting disease or I've got some crazy new 'do' that's too young for me which has left me looking like something out of Nathan Barley.

My first problem is describing what I want - embarrassing for someone who wants to write for a living you might think and you'd be right.  'Shorter at the back and the sides, a bit choppy on top, you know?' used to be my usual hopeful refrain before I noticed that every man around me at the time had more or less the same thing, with amounts and type of 'product' being the only real difference.  My other tactic was to find a picture of someone I thought had a cool haircut and take it with me.  This never works.  Brad Pitt, along with his other aesthetic qualities, has good hair and good hairdressers.  Brad's hair is like Brad himself - tough and thick.  It can be coerced into just about any shape and it WILL ALWAYS LOOK GOOD.  Usually because, on a handsome man, any old chop will.

Most of my mates have got to a haircut that suits them and stuck with it.  The classic is of course the skinhead or crew cut.  But what is a crew cut?  We have here a problem of definition.  The dictionary describes it as 'a very short haircut for men and boys'.  With this sort of vagueness its no wonder that its hard getting your hair cut the way you want.  Anyway, you know the cut I mean if you're a bloke.  Your hair might grow out curly or you've given up trying styles that don't work so you just get the barber to do a grade 4 clipper cut.  Or you bypass the whole barber bit, you've got clippers and you do it yourself.  If you're balding, this is definitely the haircut you should have.  Other blokes I know do the choppy thing that I described above even though it feels about 10 years old now.    Away from these two styles you're into fashion territory and that is a step too far for me.

I got to the hairdressers 15 minutes early thinking I would look through a few mags and find something that suited me.  You're right, we're back in 'show the man a picture' territory.  GQ was nearest to hand and I trawled through endless adverts feeling more and more desperate, only distracted briefly from my quest by Anne Hathaway looking like a sexy Morticia Adams in boudoir attire.  In the ads there are a lot of geeky looking slicked parting type things and worse still, there's a lot of 80's styles that are apparently beloved by Ralph Lauren, D&G and all that crowd.  I looked like a geek when I was 17 (some would say I still do), I don't live in Hoxton and I'm not gay so they were all out.  Giving up, I told Giovanni my dilemma.  'I never know what I want', I said 'Can't you just cut something that suits me?'  I was his first client of the day and he looked like it was a bit early to be creative.  'Let me have a look...' he said, initially buying time before getting to work.  He did his best.  My hair looks a bit like it did when my Mum used to take me, asking the barber for 'just a trim'.  No 'product', natural, not too daft but in truth a bit boring.  Not exactly cool but something I can live with.  And yes I did do the shop window thing on the way home.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Save BBC6Music


Dear Sir or Madam

While the recession means times are tight for all of us and I understand that the BBC is answerable to the licence fee payers, please don't axe 6 music.  I'm 37 years old - too old for most of Radio 1 except for the stuff that's on in the small hours (thank you iPlayer) and too young for Radio 2, which is too middle of the road for me and most of my peers.

6Music is good because it's a place where I can listen to new music when I want to (Marc Riley, Tom Robinson), can occasionally be assured of a classic from the days when I was mad about music (morning Shaun Keaveny) and be entertained by fantastically daft stuff in between (hello Adam & Joe).

You only need to surf Facebook or Twitter for a while to realise how much the station is loved and revered.  At it's best, its truly a station in the mould of the BBC's greatest ever DJ - John Peel.  It supports new bands, lets you hear them live and raw and is discerning in broadcasting older, mostly pretty cool music that you might have missed first time around, thus opening it up to a new audience.

The BBC is something I'm proud of as a Brit.  I love watching David Attenborough as much as I do Dot Cotton.  Similarly Mary Anne Hobbs does it for me as much as Desert Island Discs.  But without 6Music, there will be a big empty musical hole in my life.  Don't force us to listen to all the other rubbish commercial MOR stations like Absolute.  Keep us stimulated.

Please keep 6Music on air.


Lee Mannion

PS If you need to make cuts, get rid of George Lamb.  He's not bad on the telly, but just because a bunch of mates have a laugh when they get together, it doesn't mean everyone listening will if you broadcast it.