In the strange hinterland betwixt (yes, its a word) Christmas and New Year – I’m vaguely aware it might be Saturday because it was all the football coverage smattering the TV schedule like monkey flung shit that drove me out of the house.

Christmas is weird for me, it draws me together with my family, which I am grateful for, but in doing so it highlights how little I have in common with them. Even now in the pub I’m aware that the same football coverage that gave me the push to get moving would have only entrenched them further.

So I’m thinking about Christmas a lot and something I read caught my brains eye and has been harder to shift than a wet hair on a mirror. Is Die Hard a Christmas film? Various people on Twitter have been making arguments one way or the other, mostly I think out of bloody minded iconoclasm. Which I can respect. But I can’t leave it alone.

And I think I’ve come up with the definitive answer…

It depends.

See? Glad I could help.

Allow me to show my workings. ‘Is DH a Christmas film, appears, on the surface to be a genre argument. Which is tricky because genre lines are blurry, but not unsolvable.

Genre means ‘type’ or ‘kind’ and is recognised by its conventions (a sentence my A-level Media Studies teacher made us all memorise by the way, to ensure we all got at least two marks in the exams).

Conventions are things that normally occur, they can be stylistic in nature, hats and horse appearing in Westerns for example, or thematic and related to the plot. The entire film Scream was Wes Craven masterful de-constructing of these plot conventions and effectively killed the Slasher sub-genre of Horror for five or so years resulting in a vacuum filled by the gratuitous torture porn of Saw and Hostel etc.

So what are the conventions of a Christmas film? Stylisticly we expect snow, Christmas decorations, red and white suits, music with carols or at least sleigh bells. And thematically again its pretty easy to recognise (especially seeing as I’ve been put through hours of agonising Hallmark straight-to-television cable movies for the past three months.) The narrative is normally about the coming together of family (whatever iteration that takes in these future times) and redemption through this connection. The most popular Christmas story, retold in every permutation possible, is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Which is this them in a nutshell, and one of my favourites because it isn’t religion or high ideals that redeem Scrooge, its his connection to those around him. A uniquely humanist and secular message wrapped in the template for Christmas we still follow in western world.

DH is set at Christmas but contains very little stylisticly of what we would expect from the Christmas genre. It’s set in LA so no snow, although the fluttering debris at the end is a nice substantive touch. The film takes place in an office building with only some scenes at a Christmas party which isn’t overly decorated. The Christmas touches seem to counterpoint the very serious action, used as relief, much in the same way the protagonist’s witty and human dialogue underlines the violence. For example the note ‘Now I have a machine gun too Ho Ho Ho’ or the holly packing tape that the protagonist uses to tape a gun to his back with.

So despite these lyrical Christmas touches and it actually being set around Christmas time it contains very little stylisticly that we recognise as seasonal visually.

I’ve seen it argued that DH is just the story of a man that wants to be with his family at Christmas, which is cute, and certainly fits thematically with the genre of Christmas film but has the disadvantage of conveniently IGNORING THE ENTIRE PLOT.

And, when you drill down, wrong. The only two relationships through the film that are given any real room to develop are between the ‘hero’ John McClain and the ‘villain’ Hans Gruber, and the one that actually carries the real emotional weight of the film is between JMcC and the black(the use of race in DH is another blog post entirely) police officer that first responds to the police call, Sgt. Al Powell (yep, I googled it). The relationship with his wife does give him the motivation to stay and fight the villains but isn’t really the emotional core of the film, I would argue its thematic equivalent of the stylistic Christmas touches.

Now don’t get me wrong, Die Hard is a brilliant action film. Brilliant because it changed the action genre for good, it was one of the first where the male protagonist showed how fallible he was. Throughout the film he is hurt, scared, unsure and most importantly, vulnerable. Which really hadn’t been done before. This is partly down to the script, but you have to credit Bruce Willis with the performance that managed to make the character likeable throughout.

So if this IS a genre argument the answer has to be ‘NO’ Die Hard is in no way a Christmas film.

So why doesn’t that feel like a satisfying answer?

I suppose there is a third way of recognising a Christmas film, and that is context. We recognise a Christmas film because its a film we watch around Christmas time.

Before culture was atomised into bit size nuggets flying around us in a cloud and available at the swipe of a finger there was a limited palette of films that got pulled into our Christmas habits. These were repeated every year and became part of our routine. The Great Escape is undoubtedly a film people associate with Christmas but couldn’t be read as part of the Christmas film genre by any stretch of the mind. Recently in a podcast (Marc Maron’s WTF) the director Jon Favou said he was most proud of Elf because it become part of the rotation of films that played around Christmas. Showing an understanding that its the repeated rituals that makes these cultural items special.

This explains why there is such a unchristmassy (yep, definitely a word, don’t check) film can be labelled as part of that genre, and why there is an argument about it.

Ultimately a Christmas film is a film that makes you feel Christmassy (again, don’t bother checking, defiantly a word). Its just now we are no longer bound by the five channels to dictate which bells will make us drool. We get to choose what’s important to us, what we share, and repeat sharing until it becomes entwined into our own seasonal traditions.

Unless it’s football, because that just shit.


The original cover – that I fucked up

(nb I don’t know if this is my browser adding them or what but this post contains things that look like links but are in fact spam. My links are single underlined only, the rest? fuck knows what)

Hey I did a book, a whole book right into the world out of my brain. I know I keep banging on about it but as a tentative step into the wild west frontier of self publishing I’m pretty proud of it.

Does the internet really need another step by step guide on how to self publish? No, no it does not – there are far more informed blog post’s out there. This is more an answer to the incredulous question ‘How did YOU publish a book?’ Rather than a comprehensive answer to the question ‘How do you publish a book?’

Step One – Find The Material

I decided to do a ‘best of’ a collection of the best things I had written so far. The book version of a sitcoms clip show. I thought it would be a nice way of clearing the decks before Pier Review and I stole the idea of Jon Bounds.

Luckily and to my pleasant surprise I don’t throw anything away so a large portion of this step was spent Indiana Jones style digging through my hard drive. Even then I was missing a few, but I found that if I checked my ‘sent’ folder of a couple of my email accounts I could sort out the ones with attachments so all the stuff I had sent to various editors and websites could be salvaged. Of course they would be my shoddily proofed and pre-edited versions so quite a lot of them were quite raw.

I also dug into this blog for the nuggets of corn amidst the piles of shite. Other websites I had written for handily tagged my posts with my name so that wasn’t to difficult.

Step Two – Polish

the temptation to go through the old work with a wrecking ball and completely rebuild some of the articles was massive, but not practical seeing the amount of material I had, and also, somehow, dishonest.

I know I sometimes come off as arrogant but its because I’ve worked harder to become a writer than anything I’ve ever done. So if that means four or five really good ideas get lost in a blizzard of poorly framed arguments and dodgy syntax, its worth it to show the progress I’ve made.

Of course it has to make sense though, so I did have to go back and move a whole bunch of commas around. But it was a process of filling the cracks rather than completely re-plastering.

All of which took place in a programme (when did the word ‘app’ finally kill off the word ‘programme’ it just seems so antiquated now) called Scrivener, simply the best, and densely feature packed, programme on the market for large writing projects. Although its not perfect, the way it builds the Table Of Contents for your project is related to the nesting and order of your folders which isn’t the most instinctive way of doing things and the internal spell check isn’t the easiest to use as it doesn’t allow you to see the context of the word its correcting. But on the whole there is no way a few things I have written would have been finished without it.

Also the aforementioned Jon Bounds uses it, so he was able to proof it without the hassle of importing and exporting the text into different formats. We even share a Dropbox where we back up most of our projects so I didn’t even have to send it to him.

Step Three – Format

It was proofed (twice). Scrivener allows you to export straight into ebook format – and while this is all right, tweaking it involves opening the project again, re-exporting it and checking the changes. So I used Sigil with its very simple WYSIWYG interface to go in and nail the formatting.

It needed a cover. I designed one myself but the size was wrong and the title shoddily placed. In a fit of stupid I saved the whole thing instead of ‘save-as’ing it and lost the original photograph, yes it was my only digital copy, no, I don’t know how that can even happen. I had to paint my face and re-shoot it in the early hours one beer frazzled school night. Again Jon saved the day when I sent him the whole mess and he knocked up a much better version in less than an hour.

Step Four – Publish

At the moment the book is only available on Amazon through the KDP thing I signed up for. To be honest I’ve yet to see the advantages – I think its something to do with getting more royalties in India or something. The scheme does ask for the book to be exclusive to the Kindle for ninety days though so I do not investigating more to see if I could have opted out of that.

The whole process is relatively painless, finding your international banking numbers is a hassle (they’re on your bank statement normally but don’t ask at your branch – they know less than nothing). As someone who hates and dreads forms it didn’t bend my head too badly at all.

I set the price at $4.99 which works out at about the price of a pint in sterling which seemed apt and pretty good value for nearly 50,000 words.

And that was that, all there was left was to bother as many people I could about it.

I happened to get into a twitter conversation with Sci-Fi author Jeff Noon about e-readers. My first instinct about them was a negative one – not entirely surprising to anyone who’s seen my book collection, I clearly fetishise the objects as well as value the contents. His point was that e-readers are not just for replacing books but are a new way of consuming information, one of the advantages being that they are for all the things that fall between the cracks of internet and print – Essays, story fragments, extended blog posts now have a home, a place in our information diet. And more importantly the beginnings of a way to distribute and monetise the creation of these things.

The way we consume words is changing, personally I’m still not entirely convinced that e-readers are not the mini-disks of information distribution. The next step is probably inhaling articles through smoke generated by a new wave of electronic cigarettes or straight into our skulls with gelatinous book bullets.

Or maybe I’m missing the point entirely. With our species progression we’re realising that what we perceive as neuro-typical is a very slim middle slice of the population and as our awareness grows of ourselves and others we will be much better at managing our data flow in a way that suits us personally. They’ll be no dominant format because hopefully) there will be no dominant brain type.

What is important is that we continue to have platforms to share our thoughts, dreams, and stories. And if I manage to earn enough to get around in, all the better.

The amazon link is here if you want to buy or even just look at it in its natural setting, Or if you want to know more about it this very website has a landing page for it here.

I missed The great British Bake off as a thing, Had no idea that it was so important to everyone and would never have guessed that the population of England would be so obsessed with what is, essentially, a cake competition. So when the final was on the other day, my parents, and it seemed the rest of the country, were glued.

I felt genuine alienation. It just seemed a bit silly. It was a cake competition, like what you have at a jumble sale, yet people were taking it with the gravitas as the choosing of the next pope. The judges were basically cake experts but because I wasn’t invested in the whole situation a cake expert has no more significance than a pigeon doctor or chief cloud namer. I swear at one point in the final ‘cake-off’ or whatever the judge took a bite out of a cake and declared it ‘too cakey’. My mind exploded, I looked around, my parents were nodding sagely at this wise Solomon like judgement.

‘ITS A CAKE COMPETITION’ I screamed ‘HOW THE FUCK CAN SOME THING BE TOO CAKEY?! WHAT DOES SHE WANT IT TO BE LIKE? ENGINE PARTS? FISH?’. My parents looked at me like it was my fault, like I’d missed some essential part of the cake making process where you dial back on the quintessential essence of the object you’re baking.

I hate missing the point, not being part of the joke, not knowing. Which explains why I have a feed reader that regularly tops out at 1000+ unread items, and more specifically why I’m in Subside but can’t take my eyes off the large girl from some soap or other on a dancing reality show like it was the fucking moon landings or something. I force my eyes off the TV and start people watching.

When people watching the first and normally easiest thing to identify are the power relationships – Who is the Alpha male, who is everybody looking for approval from. Its the easiest to spot because people will be turned to face them, or at least their feet will be pointing towards them, or even, more basically they will be standing in the middle, or be the tallest person in the group. But in a Alt pub its different. Looking around NO ONE is the Alpha.

Its a whole scene of Omega males, people not losing the race, just not participating in it in the first place. All signs of dominance and aggression are focused on the music or so campy and exaggerated its almost a parody. Fights in Alt clubs are rare, its seems aggressive but we’re all in on the gag.

Trouble is, so is everyone else. While at the bar some kids come in, no older than ten, wearing masks asking people for trick or treat. (its the 20th). They’re not nervous or afraid. The rules are breaking down, back at that age to me all pubs were sacred adult spaces which I could no more enter than I could pilot a hovercraft or grow a beard.

Plus ‘Rock’ is losing its mystique, the more established and mainstream we become the closer we are to the cold light of day truth. We’re just the unpopular kids in fancy dress. We need a good serial murderer or a decent Satan worshipping scare – fake shock controversy like Marilyn Manson and exploded myths like back masking have pierced the veil.

The problem is money, the more a subculture is sold back to itself, the more capitalism will knock the edges off, the extremes smoothed over and the legends Disneyfied. The teeth grinding vandals in sharp suits become scooter fanatics that love the seaside. Spit covered heroin anarchists become leather clad peacocks that pose for tourists. And outlaw nihilists become bikers with a heart of gold. Don’t believe the hype – anyone driven to the fringes soon develops a pathological disregard to ‘Normal’ conventions and towards the far ends – delight in the wrongness.

Yes the Alt scene is full of nice guys opting out of the usual football and snidey grope culture of broad street. But not all are, the rabbit hole is deep and status starts to be defined by the extreme. Some people pushed to the fringes have access to the status they’re denied in the mainstream by gambling their sanity, life and at very least the greasy marks on the soul from where the dark things stain.

if you like this sort of pointless musings or are just a me fan – you can get a collection of all my best writings so far. Go HERE to buy Guttermouth: Novelty Trinkets from the Edge and Beyond.

Summer ends quickly in Brighton like someone turning off the lights. And for bar staff like myself the days go from harsh spotlight too a forgotten back room gloom and the sea turns the colour of mud. The skies will blow you away though – Being a big city boy having a big sky like you find at the coast will always be a luxury. And in the instant the summer dies the sky, as if to distract you from the grief, produce drama that you’d have to be all but dead inside not to be moved by. Skies the colour of paint water moments after pure black ink is dripped in.

Autumn is a good time to move, float away like the leaves dropping around you. Brighton has been good for me, the city and attitude seems to be free of the pressure that Birmingham and other cities have. Free of the machinery of industry that needs heaps of raw souls to be funnelled into their waiting furnaces. this machinery oiled by the myth of job security and the vast spirit chambers relived from the building pressure by a complicated valves system of Bank Holidays, flexitime and the occasional two weeks in the Costa Del Cheap.

But the sea air has blown the dust out of my brain and I’m ready to explore the dirty alleys and forgotten car parks again.

(pic my own)

I live by the seaside now. And I work at in a club on the beach, the work is hard and dirty but when I walk home at five in the morning I get to watch the day creep up on the world when only the dammed, seagulls and bartenders are paying attention.

Brighton can be quite surreal. In my first week here I saw the full moon on a sunny day, bright and defiant as if to say ‘yep, you live by the seaside now kid, a fringe place, a place that exists in reality and as daydream to thousands of the office middle’. And its true, speaking to people living here they will tell you about the rain and shitty weather that always disappears whenever you have someone visit. Reality is nothing more than consensus opinion, and here it feels thin enough that a loud cough could split the veil and let through a faerie parade.

Walking home last week the sea was a vivid blue, that seamlessly flashed white and on the backs of the waves where the gentle rolled and swelled they caught the reflection of the pink red sky. A perfect hologram sea made up from the silver nostalgia memories of a country dreaming of escape.

hey because I’m moving I decided I need to cut down on the masses of books I have – I cut down my books by about a third, which wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it would be. but what to do with them? well I tried to shift them at car boot sales but it seems my tastes don’t overlap much with the car boot buying public.

so do any of youz guys want them? If you shout up in the comments or email artiseasy(at)hotmail.co.uk we’ll figure out a way of getting them to you, that will probably involve you turning up to my ‘Goodbye Birmingham’ do in the Flapper on friday (27th).

Read the rest of this entry »

Drinking scotch straight out of the bottle can’t be a good sign, its been the same bottle now for a couple of weeks which means at least I’m not guzzling it down. But forgoing the glass and drinking straight from the bottle itself I suppose is not a milestone on a very dark path, but its a laminated notice put on one of the lampposts.

But actually maybe it is good for me I’ve been depressed now for roughly about six months, its not gone to the doctor depression, but I have that dangerous amount of little enough knowledge to put a few things together. Okay – I didn’t put it together THAT took losing someone. But I can see it now. The interesting thing about it is the signs that I missed, sleeping all the time, catching every tiny bug and cold like my immune system were doing nothing more than staying in its room listening to Smiths songs, and my utter lack of motivation to do anything. It sneaks up on you depression. Everything has another explanation, I sleep weird because I always have, I figured sleeping more was just me catching up on the sleep I lost in my twenties, the illnesses I put down to working with kids that are just as likely as to be exploring their nappies as scratching you with their fingernails, and the lack of motivation I put down to contentment.

I’m not seeing a Doctor yet, I’m exercising more, trying to eat right and swapping my life around so I have no time to sleep and watch stolen television. That is not to say anyone that suffers with depression should just ‘snap out of it’ or any other such bollocks. I’m just merely doing the simple things most good doctors would recommend before prescribing any medication. And frankly I would try being a bastard vegan before I give up the drinks.

The thing about my bad spell is that I wasn’t really drinking, I count that as part of the symptoms.

And so far it seems to be working. Blogging more is one of those things. So expect words. Unpolished, angry, and sometimes nonsense words, but words none the less.

What follows are a couple of competition entries that didn’t get anywhere. Although now I can only see their flaws, its nice to have them on record somewhere and while I’m still writing the book its the most you’re going to get on here.

The first one is a bit old, so reference’s Cheryl Cole.

Sticks and Mud

The eternal contradiction of pop culture is that no-one defends it but it sells, and sells big. Millions of people fall over to denounce Eastenders as depressing grey brain porridge with the wit and sophistication of a Punch and Judy show, but it’s run for 26 years and still keeps spinning its tawdry web of misery like an immortal cockney spider nihilist. He-man ran for a magnificent 130 episodes and shifted countless lunch boxes and action figures but if you try and engage someone in conversation about him they’ll look at you like you just rode in naked on a rainbow surfboard.

X-factor is an interesting case, although being the very epitome of pop culture and drawing the sneers of everyone who would rather watch an opera, in the delightfully orchestrated move to, and sacking from, the American version of the show Cheryl Cole has all the elements of a tragic hero the subject of countless operas and classical plays; her own hubris sown in the first act being her downfall in the third.

It’s not just the accent, I mean of course the accent was always going to be the problem. it’s a cartoon Geordie parody that bears as much relation to the real thing as Pirates of the Caribbean is a historical document about the shipping lanes of the 18th century. American TV has subtitles for accents of other Americans. How can you be expected to be respected on a panel of judges in a country where the highest chart position was as a guest vocalist on a will.I.am record?

But now they know her name so and she can take another run at the American charts. She can return here the fallen angel, a figure we crave in our headlines. And Simon can add another wing to his house.

And we loved every second of it, some of us actually invested in ‘Our Cheryl’, some whooping at the success of the pin slid into red headed gris gris dolls, and some loving feeling of superiority sneering at the whole affair. But all of us bound by the common story.

Pop culture is the shared experiences of the global village, in cave men days we would be able to sit round the same camp fire and tell stories about the time that guy fell in the mud, or the time Gurp found a particularly interesting stick that was larger than the other stick he found yesterday and we would bond over that.

Now we sit around different camp fires in massively different villages.

Our pop-cultural fragments are the fragile handholds we grab as we hurtle down the gravity well towards the future. They are the flags we use to signal to each other. They are the short-cuts we take to other people.

They are as important.
They are our sticks and mud.

The second is the most recent and looking back owes quite a lot to  Kurt Vonnegut.

IV Blue

Welcome to the Earth Ivy Blue, it’s cramped, wonderful, dirty, quick, and, if Mayans are to be believed, irretrievably doomed. but if we are all sucked into an eagle headed gods nostril in December then don’t feel too hard done by – your first year on the planet is generally spent sleeping, sucking on boobs, and shitting yourself indiscriminately; I only get to do that on the weekends.

First of all, sorry about the name. To be fair to your parents neither of them have a surname so they had to come up with something from scratch. Yes, it does sound like a second string Batman villain but you see, mommy and daddy are something we call “famous”. Which means they don’t really have to follow the same rules as most of the other people they share this planet with (also see: “rich” in the handbook). Just be happy that they didn’t go for the alliterative option, like poor Zowie Bowie or Rolan Bolan, the twee like Apple Paltrow or Fifi Trixabelle Geldof, or even the plain old bugshit mental route like poor Moon-Unit Zappa.

It’s a very special year to arrive, 2012 is the year of the London Olympics, which is kind of a very expensive sports day that the entire world is invited to. There’s going to be all sorts of running and jumping about and in the end everyone will go home with some nice medals and London can use the big buildings it built specially for the Olympics to let people without houses to sleep in, or turn them into giant Job Centres or something.

You will have to excuse us at the moment Ivy, we got a bit confused about our sums so a very small amount of people ended up with lots of money and the rest of them didn’t really get any. Now the people that got the money are keeping it and not playing with us anymore, which has got lots of people cross.

Not that you are ever going to have to worry about this though, because your Daddy helped develop one of the most progressive forms of music that came out of the twentieth century, and your mommy wiggles about and peddles a water thin version of something called ‘feminism’ which is the brilliant idea that people shouldn’t be made to feel bad because they don’t have a certain set of private bits. Anyway they have enough money to make sure you never have to meet any of the cross people and your private bits will be nobody’s business, unless you put them somewhere you shouldn’t, then for some reason it’s everybody’s business.

Please don’t worry too much about the Mayan thing. the Mayans never stuck around in any major way because they were too dumb to realise that over-farming the surrounding natural resources would have major ecological ramifications, luckily were smarter than that now. I think.

Just remember, being scared is normally worse than the thing you’re scared of, you should only stroke most animals one way, and people are, generally, nice. The rest you’ll have a lot of fun figuring it out for yourself.

Coming out as a RHCP fan isn’t going to win me any favours with the bleedin’ edge crowd, saying you like a stadium rock band pegs you as out of touch, or the worst crime of all; being old.

When I was a teenager I fell in with a bad crowd, that’s not to say I was particularly good to begin with or they were particularly bad, we were the cliché misfits you find everywhere but still manage to isolate themselves. They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, but I really don’t think you get that much say in your friends – the whole school process is a giant filter shifting out the different grains of dysfunction, the others caught in your trap are ipso facto your friends, like it or not. We burnt a few bibles, shoplifted whenever we could, had the odd joint, and sold home-made wine to the first years, you know, normal kid stuff.

I Don’t remember how but I found Blood Sugar Sex Magic, and loved it. All my friends were listening to the theatrical anger of Metallica and rehearsed pain of Guns & Roses, RHCP offered something different, a model of masculinity that could be sexy without being overwrought and silly without the sneer. My friends didn’t like it and it took a small leap of confidence, a dwindling resource during my teenage years, to say they were wrong and carry on listening to them anyway. It wasn’t a big split but it was enough.

In the space of five years the odd joint turned into speed, the hubris of youth and being part of that tight circle carried me along with it. Looking back we threw ourselves down that path not unaware of the danger but hard for it, smart enough to know that drugs we’re not an instant death sentence like we’d been told, but dumb enough not to know there’s a grain of truth in even the most restrictive lies. When that speed stopped working like it used to, this was back in the mid nineties when you could find decent speed too, the next step was to inject it. I remember dirty mattresses in council flats and defiant punk slogans written on the walls. it was only that candle flame of difference that allowed me to step back. When the speed turned into heroin, I was watching from afar. And when all my friends were gone, mad, in prison, left the city, and, sadly in the case of one, dead, I was alive but alone.

Now I hate to agree with the hipsters and music snobs, but its true that RHCP hasn’t made a decent album since 2002 and, nostalgia aside, I wasn’t looking forward to their recent gig at the MEN which my girlfriend had scored free tickets too. It was only to stop the fourteen year old that lives in my brain from throwing a migraine and the promise of box seats (which never happened) that made the journey to Manchester at all inviting. But it was everything I could have wanted.

After a career of struggling with his voice Kedis finally seems comfortable with being a singer and his frenetic showmanship even made the Emo Hitler haircut work. Chad beat the drums so hard he broke at least three sticks per song and smiled his big American shit eating grin between songs. The new guy, Josh Klinghoffer, showed real chops making the solos his own with a laid back fuzz style somewhere between Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix. And Flea just being Flea, bouncing around the stage like the herald of the Weird Funk Love Army as it Marches triumphant home from the Vibe Wars of 2079.

What I also didn’t expect is to hear songs from ALL their albums, even the early ones. Their policy was described by Flea as ‘one fish, two fish, old song, new song’ but it was more like two or three earlier songs too one off the new album. Not that that was a bad thing, the songs off the new album, I’m With You, sounded much better live, they made sense and worked, unlike the album itself which even now, after the gig, sounds a little flat.

Despite myself, when the simple clear notes of the introduction from Under The Bridge rang out into the crowd, it all came back, the loss, the bad decisions, the sheer waste of essentially kids too smart to be lullabied by a system who’s end game was factory jobs and pregnancy. But too dumb to reach beyond petty rebellion and self destruction. The jumbled second hand hippie philosophies offered by RHCP had give me the chaos theories butterfly wing flap which in my case had diverted the typhoon.

I don’t know if this tour is the final muster, like the last hard-on of a dying man, or the start of a new phase of the RHCP’s career, maybe one where they start not to take themselves so seriously again and produce an album that doesn’t contain mostly filler. But I’m glad I went, not only did I get to see a seminal band perform the songs that mean so much to me. But I finally got proved right, that small difference that saved my life didn’t seem that small, and the life it saved seemed worth saving.

There’s going to be lots of blog posts, editorials and god knows there’s been enough Twitter activity about the recent riots. And god also knows, because he knows everything*, you won’t agree with most of it.

Twitter is the strongest example of this, mostly because its 140 character limit makes everything sound like a clumsy aphorisms or rallying calls from Dickhead Island.

I don’t think that this glut of words come from anyone claiming to have any answers, or even any real strong arguments either way. The reason why there will be a lot of people writing is that is how most people think. Writing forces you to reach into the brain soup and pull out the mixture of vague ideas, feelings and images things that will make sense to others, and often as a result, yourself.

What I’m saying is: I don’t have the answers. Its gone three in the morning, and I’m sitting out of my window watching the lights of the city in the distance, trying to make out the sound of sirens. If you don’t agree with the things I write here I’m not interested in an argument. Partly because I’ve lost a lot of respect for some people over the last few days and gain a lot more for others, and partly because these are notes, a man trying to find himself a way out of a maze of smoke using words as his bread crumbs back to normality.

First of all I want to make it very clear that I condemn the riots in the strongest possible terms. I’m looking to find the cause rather than excuse the behaviour. And if you can’t see a difference then I probably wouldn’t carry on reading.

One criticism of the rioters is there lack of agenda, or the agenda being shallow. That theft and malice are enough to get people into the streets. This bothers me, does there have to be a coherent agenda and organised thought for there to be a message?

We’ve scoffed at anyone interviewed because of the inarticulate way they’ve expressed themselves rather than ask why they can’t. Marshall McLuhan pointed out ‘the medium is the message’ Rioting is a primal scream, guttural and clumsy but undeniably loud. So what are we being told?

Riots are about anger, fire being man’s most natural extension of his rage, violence following anger like smoke follows the flames. We must ask ourselves ‘why are people angry?’

Riots are about control, normal rules suspended and briefly in some patches, mob rule and empowerment over the very people who’s status over you is something you’re aware of everyday. We have to ask ‘why do people feel powerless?’

And yes riots are about looting, a easy answer leapt upon like the lame gazelle by most commentators to explain it all in one dismissive pounce. Instantly demonising everyone involved as ‘greedy’ thus providing the an answer which leaves no one complicit, especially not them. But why are our generation rioters looting so much? Why is greed higher on this generations agenda than any other?

Could it be that given no prospects to advance the only way perceived way to improve your status is through material goods? It’s a generation raised fluent in the idea of themselves as a perceived brand than supported to grow spiritually or emotionally. I’ve seen this idea of brand of self override self-preservation, common decency and in a few case’s basic human empathy – the idea that you can’t be seen to weaken, concede to save face.

Nike tells them to ‘just do it’ but none tells them how or even what ‘it’ is.

In a society where people can only articulate themselves with violence, education has failed. In a system where the police use fear and ignorance instead of respect and communication then our state has failed. And anywhere where we only start having these sorts of conversations is after violent protest then democracy itself has failed.

Of course spending two years at the sharp end of our educational system in the most deprived and violent catchment areas in Birmingham will colour my thinking somewhat. So if you must dismiss me on the grounds of my hand wringing leftism please don’t think its because I don’t know what I’m talking about.

*except how to stop his representatives from diddling kids.

Old Shit