Mainstream Modern

Here’s a website that’s worth checking out if you’re in to modernist architecture and design. The research and detail that has gone into this project is, frankly, phenomenal.

It is mostly based around Manchester and the North West, which is a welcome change considering so many architecture blogs, or, should I say, British architecture blogs, focus on “that” London. I have done some work with Manchester Modernist Society and, for their money, Richard Brook, creator of Mainstream Modern, is the guy for information about Modernism, Brutalism and 20th century architecture in the North West. He is the Principal Lecturer for Architecture at the Manchester School of Art, so you can rest assured that he has worthy credentials.

In addition to the thoroughly researched materials, Brook has accompanied each entry with a mixture of archival and personally-taken pictures. You can find out more about the project here, but, in short, he has used archives from RIBA, Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester, among others and with contributions from societies including the 20th Century Society, and the associated academic institutions.

Pictures were shot using the Samsung 35mm compact camera, Nikon F60 35mm SLR, Sony F707 digital compact, Canon 5D, Ricog G200, Panasonic GH2, Minolta SR1 35mm, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5S – I like knowing what cameras people use, and you may too.

The website is split into building categories (commercial, educational, residential, religious, etc), decade built, location, and architect. This makes it far easier to use than the English Heritage website. And useful. There is even geotagging on each building. For those who like looking at maps, here is an interactive map that the Manchester Modernist Society are developing (and which I have helped do some research for).

So far there are 108 collected archives on the website, and its content is being ever-populated. The website also has a life in manuscript form which will hopefully one day make its way to a coffee table near you. In the meantime, the website it quite sufficient, and I am in favour of the more dynamic capabilities that websites offer.

Whether you are a fan of Modernist architecture or not – and it seems that on the whole people tend towards the ‘not’, although those who are very much are – it is worth checking out the project due to its scale. Plus, learning is fun.

All images © Richard Brook | Mainstream Modern Go on the website to find out the details (and for the craic).


‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ Tim Ferriss

How the new rich live, or so we are to believe.

I gave a presentation on Friday and quoted The 4-Hour Work Week, so clearly it had an impact on me. Like all self-help style books, you kind of hope that it will give you a fit of inspiration and your life will change forever. Unfortunately, I’m still the ever-procrastinating person that I always was although, to be fair, in my day job I have used principals from within to make us all more productive. This is what you should regard the book as more than anything: a productivity book. Combined with The 4-Hour Body, which is also worth a read, you can cut all of the fat out of your life if you follow everything down to a tee.

Tim Ferriss made his millions and got a better body and life and all the accouterments that come along with it with this strategy. He started up BrainQuicken which he was then able to largely automise and then go off travelling the world and living life to the max.

I enjoy reading self-help books largely because I like reading how people live their lives. This probably explains why I went on to do History to a postgraduate level. Reading about how Ferriss freed up his time and some of his round-the-world adventures was quite interesting. Less interesting to me was the nitty gritty of how to keep the wheels turning in your absence. This book is largely aimed at entrepreneurs, and there is some very practical advice here about how to keep the business ticking on the cheap, for example by best utilising apps such as Evernote – which I do use but clearly haven’t managed to get the best out of it yet – and by hiring an assistant from Pakistan or elsewhere on the cheap. Saying this, there are also tips for employees, and if you do take his advice you’ll see that your productivity does increase. Once I’ve got over my procrastination, this definitely is the case for me.

The main takeaways are as follows:

  • Make a note of every task that you do. This will make you aware of what takes up a lot of time but isn’t worth doing, and what you do that results in the highest profit.
  • Work out how much you need to earn per month to live the lifestyle that you would like to have. Do this by experiences rather than material goods. How much would it cost for you to travel and take lessons, for instance. If you’re purely searching for material goods, the struggle will never end. However, do also out aside money for material goods and, you know, the general cost of living in your budget.
  • From these two steps, work out your hourly wage. Any spare cash earned after your “ideal money/life” equation, reinvest back into the business. This can be in terms of expansion or just hiring an assistant to help out with tasks below your station.
  • Cut out bad clients. The time that you spend with them will outweigh the profits that you will receive in the end. Stick to the hourly equation.

Solid advice, and advice that I have given to my bosses who own their own business which has, combined with one of them also reading a business book, resulted in their highest monthly turnover ever last month. No easy feat.

Similarly, The 4-Hour Body looks at how to improve your physical and psychological life as efficiently as possible. Efficiency is so important that in the introduction, Ferriss outlines that you only really need to read 200 or so pages of the 700 page book at a time in order to achieve the areas of improvement that you are after.

I think Ferriss really is onto something. Moving forward, people are more interested in being time rich than cash rich, as long as they are cash comfortable at least. This is why it isn’t overly applicable to me: I’m still searching for a job that means I don’t have to worry about covering rent. The perils of living in your early 20s, I guess. Nonetheless, the principals within the book are definitely there to live by and I have seen that if they are stuck to, you will definitely reap the rewards.

I’d like to read a version aimed specifically at creative people, as it seems here that it’s mostly aimed at business-types who then may want to pursue their creative dreams on the side. Writing this out, maybe this is the way that I should approach my life actually. Hm.

Of course, as with every self-help style book, you need to take it with a pinch of salt and adapt it to your own situations. But self-improvement is always worthwhile.



n.b. the first draft of this (read: the title) was saved on 22nd May and it is now 13th July. Procrastination abound! It’s only taken me 15 minutes to write. Awful. 

Worth a read. 


Another Paul Feig and Melissa McCartney film. That sounds mildly derogatory. It’s not. I immensely enjoyed both Bridesmaids and The Heat. First rom-com then buddy comedy and now action/spy film, Feig and McCartney continue with their genre hopping to continued success.

The poster makes it look awful. I wouldn’t watch that film.

Like in Bridesmaids, Melissa McCarthy plays a desk CIA operative. Here she is Susan Cooper, the eyes and ears of Jude Law’s James Bond-esque spy, who is killed early in the film by Rose Byrne’s Rayna Boyanov. Rayna, it transpires, knows all of the CIA agents. As such, Susan is sent into the field. Hilarity ensues.

This is a genuine action film, and the cross appeal must have helped it immensely in achieving its $203.5million box office to date. Each of the scenes could have been lifted from a ‘real’ action movie, but comedy is added to each of the situations without ever feeling shoved in or even a spoof. You want Susan to win. There are real plot twists. The action sequences are visually very stunning.

Good for Paul Feig who clearly is a very versatile Director who can cross genre with ease and without ever losing the jokes. As a testament to how good an action film it was, I can say that I was on the edge of my seat on several different occasions.

In addition to the solid plot – which I won’t bore you with. If you like action films, you’ll like this. Unless you hate women, then maybe not – the strength comes from the characters. Rose Byrne has gained a lot of praise for her portrayal of Rayna, and she does undeniably kill it in this role (pun not intended). She is the terrifying femme fatale who is also utterly ridiculous and she manages to add textures to a character that could otherwise have just become another one dimensional villain, without the wink (and the ridiculous accent and hair).

The film also made me, for the first time ever!, like Jude Law, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart. Jason Statham was the particular highlight for me, playing a moronic pseudo-parody of the types of character that he usually plays in action films that I never watch (Crank, The Transporter, The Bank Job, etc). Plus Peter Serfinowicz comes in as a randy Italian agent. I’ve just been to Italy and it was quite a genuine portrayal of many of the Italian men that I came across. I did wonder why they cast Serafinowicz, but the end reveal made it worth it. Also, and how could I nearly forget, Allison Janney was perfect as the head of the CIA. Cast Rose Byrne and Allison Janney in everything.

The star really is McCarthy though. I haven’t watched Tammy or Mike and Molly, so maybe I haven’t quite gone through McCarthy overload yet, but I feel that she is never given enough credit. She is consistently funny and there are certainly several different shades to Susan’s character here, all of which are presented deftly by McCarthy. Plus she looked bloody great in ALL of her outfits and convincingly showed off her action chops – although in the kitchen scene seemed to be body double work (Hollywood!).

As with many action films, the ending was just okay. Unlike other action films, it hasn’t been left as sequel bait, which is much appreciated.

7/10 – Feig brings the funny yet again. Worth a watch.