Tuesday, 16 August 2011

And then I busted out a new music video, because I'm like that

I could explain first, but that would spoil the fun. Just watch:

This is "Boy With X-Ray Eyes", the b-side from Lighthouses (free download here). A week after the Lighthouses single launch at Bar Medusa back launch in March, I thought it'd be fun to do a photoshoot with my red hair (awesome pics here and here). Then I thought, hey, why not get some video footage of mucking around on the waterfront, make a video and chuck it up on the internet? And then LO! We had a great day out in the sun along the Wellington waterfront. Then it just took 5 months for me to get my arse in gear and make the video.

Huge thanks to everyone involved, including Tobi (@owner) for the footage on the day, Fran (@franfilmmaker) and Veli (@hoccusfoccus) for the live footage from the Lighthouses launch, and Chiara (@allchiara) and Daryn for taking pictures and helping out. Also Chiara lent me her wonderful scoop-neck octopus Tshirt, which combined with my grungey skirt (made from a pair of jeans in 2004), and my red hair and red guitar (still not technically mine), I think it all looks awesome. You and the rest of the internet may disagree. But don't worry, I'm ready for hatemail on Youtube :)

Finally big-ups to the wonderful chaps Danny Gareth and Tod from Throw It To The Fire who are in those live shots, and have been recording their new EP!

Some of my favourite moments:
  • The kid spinning round after I spin round
  • Singing with the kayak in the background
  • Sunglasses falling off my face from rocking out
  • Every last drop of sunshine. It is hailing HARD right now. Summer seems so far away!
Hope you like it!


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Reading Festival & #ukriots - Underclass? The middle class riots too

If you think these are riots of the underclass, go to Reading/Leeds Festival in 2 weeks and watch middle class kids do the same thing - if you can afford it.

August 2007, Reading rock festival. It's 1:30am on Sunday night and I am crying my eyes out like a baby.

Reading and Leeds festivals are a big 3-day festival on the August bank holiday weekend featuring an immense line-up of rock music. They are also well-known for their regular riots which kick off about the time the last act finishes on the Sunday night.

I wasn't crying because the Smashing Pumpkins' comeback was distinctly mediocre, or because the Red Hot Chili Peppers played the worst headline performance I have ever seen at a festival. It was because I'd seen people nearly get killed for no more reason than kids wanting to cause havoc and destruction, for fun.

After the last band on Sunday I still wanted to go out and party, drink, meet people etc. - the whole festival site was still very busy. I found a wide area with some food vans and a small rave happening somewhere near the silent disco (which had closed). I remember not having much luck or fun. Some kids tried supergluing a pen to my Tshirt without me noticing. So far so harmless.


The mayhem on the last night of every Reading festival - this link gives a very good description - is a mixture of fun, chaos, idiocy and vandalism. These ingredients are all as important as each other, and are very hard to separate. So, it includes people running and sliding along 50m of tarpaulin soaked in beer and urine, often half naked. It includes "barrel jousting", where 2 people stand on barrels and try to push each other off. It includes a LOT of fires - some big bonfires, some smaller bonfires, some people setting fire to their own tents or other people's. Lots of people blowing up used gas canisters too.

It also included a group of around 30 people ramming a 12+ foot fence (4 metres), trying to make it go over. The fences marked out a campsite from the open public area and were made of flat panel steel. The campsites were packed; I counted about 12 tents directly next to the fence.

I joined a few randoms behind the fence trying to push against each time the group rammed it, before realising that was even more stupid than the people ramming it in the first place. I checked a few tents, and found a some feet sticking out of one. A couple with ear plugs in gave me hassle for waking them up. I told them to get the fuck out.

In the end, the fence inevitably went over, and there was nothing anyone could do. You can't reason with those people at that time and there were no police and minimal security around. When it went down, a great cheer went up from the rammers, like they'd achieved something. The 12 or so tents under the fence were completely flattened. I just stood there on the other side with my middle finger up, screaming something like "What's the fucking point?". I was a bit emotional by this stage. What distressed me most about it was the absolute pointlessness.

This is pretty mild compared to the heavier violence at Reading and Leeds, including mobs pulling over toilet blocks, setting fire to vehicles, clashing with riot police, and so on.


My point telling this story is that Reading Festival 2007 camping tickets cost about £150 ($240 USD, $300 NZD). Tickets for 2011 were approximately £200. These people involved in mayhem/chaos/riots are ordinary happy young people, from across all social classes - well, those who can afford £150+ for a weekend. They are not disaffected youth and they are not poor.

They are not even angry. The thing that really set me off crying was, as I wandered despondently back towards our tent, I passed a group of young people cheerily chanting "Angry mob! Angry mob! Angry mob!" I stood there and raged at them, quite pathetically through tears and barely able to say words properly, about people nearly getting killed because of "angry mobs". They immediately began cheerily chanting "Angry man! Angry man! Angry man!" and walked off.

These kids were not angry or upset - they were having a great time. And that's how many people see the riots and destruction at Reading and Leeds festivals, and occasionally other festivals including Download. You have fun at a festival for 3 days, then you watch it all burn like a mini end-of-the-world. It's exciting. Same again next year?


Yes, the London riots spreading to towns and cities around England over the last week were a new phenomenon, but only in size and location, not in actions. People are talking about the "underclass" and the underprivileged as if they are automatically connected to the riots, even though we are now finding out that many are not from such an underclass - a 31-year-old primary school teacher, a 2nd year law student, people with jobs, children with decent parents.

What happened to all the other impoverished people in England who spectacularly failed to rise up and join the riots? Hell, what about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who had no riots yet have more poverty than England does?

These were not desperate people with nothing to lose. They were not even angry, with the exception of the Tottenham riot that followed the protest over Mark Duggan's shooting. From everything we've seen so far, the young people who joined in were - like the rioters at Reading and Leeds - actually having a great time, right down to "talented sportswoman" and Olympic ambassador Chelsea Ives who had the "best day ever" trashing shops and throwing bricks through a police car windshield. Like the rioters at Reading and Leeds, these people also cheered when a shop window shattered or a building went up in flames as though something had been achieved.


To say these riots were young people just "having fun" is far too simplistic. But anyone who's camped at Reading/Leeds festival to the Monday morning will know the obvious parallels between the behaviour at those riots and the ones we've seen the last week, which contradict many things were are being told right now:
  • this not is an entirely new kind of behaviour
  • these people are not all poor and marginalised
  • these people are not rioting and looting because they are poor or marginalised
  • these people who rioted and looted are not all angry about the same thing, or even angry at all
  • these people have nothing to say about why they are rioting or looting
We should absolutely look at the long-term factors and short-term causes behind these riots. With any luck, we might see more funding for social sciences, and we might get a wider debate about criminology and our prison system that fails to prevent re-offending. We're already hearing people talk about white collar crime, and how the global financial crash caused far more damage to British people than these 4 days of physical destruction, looting and rioting. We might, just maybe, even get some more funding for facilities in impoverished neighbourhoods who really need it.

But the causes behind these riots are far more psychological and behavioural than simply a "backlash of the underclass". It's far more about human copycat / herd behaviour and opportunism than broken homes or police shootings or "not seeing enough positive stories about teenagers in the news". It may well be about lack of youth jobs, but more in the sense of young people being unoccupied than "in poverty".

I've been talking about this on Facebook and Twitter a lot already and this is the last I want to say for now.

It'll be interesting to watch the extra news coverage of Reading and Leeds festivals at the end of this month, 26th August 2011.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Flashes: Throne Room

Another petrol bomb crashed through the high windows of the throne room, spewing flames up the wall and over another mighty tapestry. A couple of half-bricks quickly followed. The mob outside howled and raged.

‘Well, looks like Virnio really messed things up,’ said Elizaveta, looking down at the sprawled body in magisterial robes. They were surrounded by naked concubines, also dead. A ridiculous, unhealthy grin was fixed on the dead man’s face; he’d at least had the foresight to lace his poison with some enjoyable drugs.

‘How do you screw up your own world?’ Baxter shook his head. ‘It was his world. He could have just made things go away.’

Elizaveta shrugged. ‘We’ve seen it before. People don’t take precautions, lose their Lodestone, then realise they can’t control things.’ A slingshot whipped straight past her ear, flicking up her blue hair. The fire was spreading to the thick red carpet. ‘We should probably go.’

‘Sure. Who’s next on the list? Got the co-ordinates?’

She narrowed her eyes, and smiled. ‘I have a friend.’ She raised her hand, and drew an oval of light in the air. With a snap of her fingers, water began gushing into the room with great force.

Baxter rolled his eyes. ‘An ocean world? You’re kidding, right?’

Elizaveta just laughed. ‘Hope you brought your scuba gear!’

When the mob crashed through the mighty throne room doors, they just found a room full of bodies, floating in water already a foot deep.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I wish #londonriots were political, but they're not

Several things piss me off about the riots in London and other UK cities.
  • People being destructive, violent and stealing
  • That anyone should feel the need to be destructive and steal
  • People in my own quarter of the political spectrum seeing politics in this where there is none.

Predictably over the last few days there's been calls for watercannon on the streets, and rioters to be hanged, or the army to come in and shoot them to save the time of a trial. That's fine, that's Daily Mail Britain, I wouldn't expect anything less.

More surprising, and I guess more frustrating, is hearing people I know, both here in NZ and back in the UK, from the liberal-left - the quarter of the political spectrum I live in - bleating about it being a "howl of rage from the underprivileged" or a protest against "globalisation and mass consumerism", or some other romantic nonsense.

I wish it was, I really do.

I too have been waiting for Something Big to happen. I too have been hanging out for The Revolution(tm), the one which we were told would be televised. I too have railed against mass consumerism and rising inequality, and waited anxiously for when The People(tm) would Take Notice(tm) and Rise Up(tm). Then we could all fight for equality! And justice! And freedom! Things the British poor really want, even if they don't actually know it!

Seeing what I've seen, and knowing what I know of British youth, it's nothing of the sort. It's not even close.

I'm not going to condone some sort of fascist fantasy where police patrol the streets every day, or better yet the aliens from Independence Day watch over every High Street with massive lasers in case a Yoof in a Hoodie picks his nose.

Yes, we need to ask ourselves what our society is, how it works, what its problems are. We need to question and criticise the causes of rising inequality and tackle them inside and outside of government. We need to question a prison system where 7 out of 10 prisoners go on to re-offend. We to ask all these questions.

But academics and lefties and liberals and - you know, decent people - have been asking these questions for a long time, and we've had violent dickheads here for a long time during the good times as well as the bad times. So I don't think we need to suddenly ask them any harder now. Hopefully politicians will listen a bit harder to the people who are already asking, although it's a Conservative government, so I doubt it.

This isn't the 70s with an openly institutionally-racist police force. This isn't the 80s with Thatcher's war on the miners and the working. (Incidentally, I think she won, because the British Working Class - with principles and ideals who organise to fight for the working poor - seem to have become extinct in my lifetime.)

Equating these riots with poverty is just as mindless as the vandalism and arson itself. "Poverty made me do it" is not an excuse that stands up in court and doesn't excuse individual actions. You're not a robot and your environment doesn't make you one.

"Fine," you say, "no-one's claiming that. But these are just the predictable consequences of a sick society!"

Bullcrap. British society IS sick and inequality IS a massive problem. But the people in the communities complaining about cuts in funding, poor facilities and poverty are not the same people as the teenagers smashing up independent shops and stealing branded sports wear from chain stores and setting fire to warehouses.

Yes, they may be affected by the same issues, but interview 100 rioters/looters/arsonists and you'll get 100 different answers. A few might have delusions about being Che Guevara. Some of them might talk about poverty in their local area. But I bet that most of them are male, between 15 and 25, and are there because they want to be part of Something Exciting, and because they like breaking stuff.

Off the top of my head, that's my explanation. It's not very detailed, but our young generation is the most pampered it's ever been in history, and the most wrapped up in cotton wool it's ever been too. Young people find excitement in breaking the rules through drugs or sex or staying out late or other conventional ways of breaking the rules. But some enjoy breaking things, or casual violence, or stealing, or all of them.

It would be a very strange human society where no young males at all wanted to break things and fight. And with the sneering, tribal mentality of a large part of British youth, maybe these riots aren't as surprising as people think.

NZ readers, yes, take this as proof that your young people have way more manners and respect than British young people. It may seem hard to believe that entire gangs of young people will see throwing petrol bombs at the police as a combination of some kind of game and a battle, but that's exactly what a lot of them will be thinking.

The Tottenham riot may have started from the wrong people taking over a peaceful protest over a man's killing by police. But all the rest are from young people seeing a moment, an atmosphere, an opportunity to break stuff and steal stuff and be part of Something Big.

[I wanted to keep this short and snappy and have failed spectacularly, mostly because I'm genuinely frustrated by the riots and the misguided emotional opinions coming from both left and right. I might write more later in the week if I have time.]

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

When Robots Cure Cancer video LIVE at Lighthouses launch

Live video of all-out rock song When Robots Cure Cancer, We'll Talk from the Lighthouses launch night. It was the opening song and clearly I wasn't quite in the zone, although I think that kick-ass jump at the start makes up for a lot. Huge thanks to @HoccusFoccus for filming and Tod, Gareth and Danny from Throw It To The Fire playing too. Cheers guys!


Free downloads of the Lighthouses single and Dinosaurs single (including When Robots Cure Cancer, We'll Talk):