The Rise of the Cyber Narcissists

It’s 1968, Andy Warhol, skin taut and stretched like plastic wrap over his emaciated mannequin like face, is exhibiting his retrospective exhibition at the Moderna Museet gallery in Stockholm. The accompanying exhibition program contained the now famous phrase “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” This led to the concept of ’15 minutes of fame’ – the idea that celebrity culture, reality TV stardom, media hype, scandal and so forth would be ephemeral – a drop in the pond until the next sucker came along.

Naturally, then, Warhol’s ’15 minute’ morsel, his twitterish adage is seen as quite prophetic. It seems though, in retrospect, that Warhol was totally wrong – a more apt rendering would be: in the future everybody will be world famous but only in his or her own mind

We are living through the age of cyber-narcissism, the ’15 minute rule’ no longer applies as the Internet and its affiliated cohorts such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, continually expand the reach of narcissist traits to an almost unimaginable, limitless capacity.

The Internet has become a mass self-aggrandising public relations tool, which we employ to bolster our self-image, look important and special, very unique, while we strive to recruit new admirers and sycophants – via likes, comments, thumbs up and followers – as a source of narcissistic supply to sate our distorted virtual self.

Narcissus, then, in Greek Mythology, was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was a conceited arrogant arsehole who spurned all who loved him. And so in order to punish him for his haughty contempt the gods led him to a pool, where he saw his reflection and fell in love with it, not realising it was merely an image (an avatar in the modern sense). Unable to leave the beauty of his own reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his own reflection until he died – the flower Narcissus grows where he once loitered.

It’s a salient point that Narcissus fell in love with his reflection, not himself.  These various virtual platforms – or digital reflections – are reinforcing people’s sense of their own importance to a pathological extent.

Consider the ‘grandiose exhibitionism’ and downright nuttiness that pustulates on social media – the ludicrous fairy tale weddings; those flattering close up selfies betraying a gut that’d make a bull dog blush; the deliberation that goes into selecting what photo to show to a world that doesn’t really care; the constant personal updates and carefully calibrated public profiles; the bizarre political rants, personal attacks and other myriad pretensions and delusions.

It is in the virtual realm that all forms of normal social interaction vanish and out crawls a subterranean beast writhing with delusions of grandeur, narcissism and impulsivity. It’s a fantasy amusement park where the rules of conduct no longer apply and the tyranny of the ego reigns supreme. The Twitter lynch mob – which claimed its latest victim Toby Young last week, in a relentless cyber campaign leading him to resign from some obscure educational quango – is essentially a cabal of virtual reflections, who will be heard, seen and listened to – whether you like it or not.

Indeed, nothing has done more to shape our culture and politics as social media – future elections may be won or lost; pointless online petitions that count for nothing (how is 200,000 people clicking on a button supposed to gave an accurate indication of public mood?); draping your Facebook picture profile in some country’s flag after a terrorist attack – I like your hollow display of empathy, thumbs up – and I in turn feel better and validated.

We could blame all this on Mark Zuckerberg when he invented Facebook – studies show that the more Facebook friends, the more you post and tag yourself in photos, the more likely you are to be a self-obsessed maniac: think of your Facebook friend count as your narcissistic personality score – the higher the count the bigger the ego.

Even on a more general, voyeuristic level, engaging with Facebook makes you more miserable. When users compare their average and, actually, quite normal lives, to the unrealistic fairy tale presented by friends, they are more likely to feel worthless and negative about themselves, their life and achievements.  It’s all a case of ‘show rather than tell’ and Facebook is a platform where we project only the most idealised versions of ourselves.

It’s an addiction, and not particularly pleasant one, like, say, dunking your hand in a bowl of lentils or squirting squirty cream into your cakehole – it’s re-wiring our brains. Getting a like on Twitter is akin to drug-addict getting their hit or an alcoholic their drink. Every time we get a like, share or comment, we get a rush of blood to the head, a dopamine hit, which in turn makes us want more shares and likes, triggering an addiction like response in the brain.

The Internet was supposed to make us all more global and interconnected – but, in fact, the exact opposite has happened, it has us made more individualistic and self-obsessed.

The social aspect of social media doesn’t really stand as no meaningful connection is made.  We are more interested in self-promotion (much less in listening to anyone else, unless, of course, they gratify our ego in some way), than having any sort of meaningful interaction or conversation – with terrible implications for our general mental well being.

Published here at Country Squire Magazine

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Brexit & The Very English Countryside

As I write, the view from the window is simply stunning. Garden gives on to meadow then woodland upon which perch a loose nest of cottages sprawled up the saddleback of Holcombe hill, which then finally succumb to the wild moorlands of the West Pennines. Sadly, all this will eventually disappear.

Since everyone lost the ‘Brexit election’ – Brexit is now at risk, the anti-democrats are back pushing for a ‘soft Brexit’ which really means no Brexit which means our countryside is in danger – one naturally follows the other, you’ll have to trust me on this.  While I don’t claim to be an expert on matters of the country, like some of our more informed writers on CSM or indeed housing planning, I do know this: the more people you let in, the more houses you need to build, the more green space you’ll eventually have to bulldoze. Sometimes this can feel like banging your head against a brick wall. Yet to merely suggest this, for example at one of my increasingly diminishing dinner parties, is a step too far – I might as well have placed a Papiermâché of Adolf Hitler on my mantelpiece and lit candles around it.

Yet, having lived in the countryside around Bury, Greater Manchester, now for over four months – I can tell you the people aren’t happy. Coincidentally just today, I learned from a fellow dog walker that the privately owned park (which fronts that amazing view I just described) could possibly be sold off for housing development – that’s why they haven’t been cutting the grass, she told me. Yep, now it all makes sense. Not only that but possibly the green areas around the golf course too, it’ll be horrible, she said; horrible doesn’t cover it, profane is more suited.

All across this ‘green and pleasant land’ residents like my fellow dog walker are furious at the planned developments on their precious greenbelt (the most dramatic threat is around Manchester which must take 50,000 new homes); various Facebook groups, blogs, organisations, protests movements have sprung up as people vent their indignation.

For instance, without boring you with endless stats, according to the House of Commons library the number of homes granted planning permission annually in greenbelt rose five fold from 2,258 in 2009-10 to 11,977 in 2014-15 and the net loss of green belt between 2004 and 2014-15 amounts to 103,000 acres. And so the natural party of the countryside made a pledge in their 2015 Manifesto not to play Lego on the green bits, further reinforced by a recent White Paper; but they do, it must be said, have a habit of volte-face that’d make a wind-up toy appear consistent.

‘We desperately need to build around between 250,000 – 300,000 homes a year, one every tenth of a millisecond otherwise we’re all screwed’ they yell, yet make no mention of the fact that current net immigration levels have been running at roughly that figure for years. It’s not rocket science is it? Or maybe it is, again, everybody repeat: the more people you let in, the more houses, the more green space you’ll bulldoze (and if we’re honest Brexit was mainly a cry to reduce immigration – whether from inside or outside the EU).

Besides, it doesn’t take much of a push to see all this in the current political climate, this struggle of us vs. them – this war of plurality: the young vs. the old; ‘the tolerant vs. the bigoted’; soft vs. hard; Lily Allen vs. sanity, from which countryside vs. urban is but one skirmish.

I’m often quizzed by urbanites about why exactly I live where I do (value for money and lack of housing plays a part) and I suspect that certain urban elites resent the country and view it with suspicion. A narrative of England that’s lost familiarity: quaint English pubs – dogs allowed for necessity rather than trendy posturing; ringing church bells; homogeneous communities; real markets rather than those silly over-priced multicultural fares; social conservatism and a good slap of common sense.

And so common sense dictates that the beauty of the English countryside remains one of England’s greatest assets and so probably worth saving. This idea of organised lanes and hedgerows centred around a church and village pub – the nostalgic vision depicted by Constable.

But that’s not to say that a ‘hard Brexit’ and, presumably, a reduction in net immigration will totally save the countryside. There are of course other factors at play, not least house prices, occupancy rates and this insatiable national greed of wanting more, this need for a just a bigger better house – more room to stuff more crap in. But if the countryside must take its fair share of massive population growth, which comes solely from immigration, then surely Brexit will go a long way in addressing this.

This article was first posted here at Country Squire Magazine 

Anger Management

It all started twenty years ago. I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday. Usually that meant a lie-in. Yet on the morning of the 31st August 1997 it was different, on that date Sunday mornings changed forever. The usual sequence of events was violated.  On that day my mother abruptly roused me from my slumber, earlier than usual, something bad had happened. I registered anguish, pain and sorrow. Someone I knew had obviously died.

It was the day Princess Diana died. I didn’t know Diana personally and, looking back, I recall not caring that much – I was only thirteen after all. Will cricket on the park be cancelled, I wondered? Then the memories fade. I only mention this, because in my mind, that’s the definite date that these mass orchestrated displays of public empathy started. Of course it’s now a common breakfast routine – an English tradition along with bacon butties, beans on toast and suicide bombing.

That was August 1997, but this is 2017. Empathy is one thing, but now increasingly public reaction, opinion and indeed anger to serious society-changing events is being managed. We’ve moved on from empathy management – it’s now the era of anger management.

Take the horrific events of the past three months. In every case public reaction has been closely monitored and managed. We are told to hope not hate, to carry on, to sing ‘don’t look back in anger’, to be passive spectators, a hash tag on twitter, a face in a crowd of mourners. Then the game changed, the Grenfell tower burnt to the ground – and everything was exposed in the ugly charred mess. Islamic terror has a predictable routine and that’s fine, get used to it – but not this time. A poorly maintained matchstick masquerading as a block of flats was not part and parcel of living in a modern global city, and surely not one which imports cheap labour and masquerades it all in the name of diversity, no matter how horrendous the living conditions.

Read the rest here at Country Squire Magazine

The Manchester attack aftermath: 7 things we’ve learnt

Since we’ve finally hopped, skipped and jumped through the five acts of post Islamic terror – namely, the horrific event; the nothing to do with Islam phase; the bromide hash tags, vigils and meaningless platitudes; the real concern: racism and Islamophobia; and finally the brain fade until the next and so on and on like some particularly prescient episode of the Twilight Zone. We should now turn our attention to what if anything we’ve learnt from last week’s events.

Western foreign policy is no big deal – Remember, pretty much everything pisses these guys off in the same hate filled, blood curdling way – so whether you’re busy invading a Muslim country; drawing a cartoon; writing a novel (Salman Rushdie); wagging your butt in a mini skirt; adopting a kitten, you name it, they hate it. Far from being ‘incomprehensible’ and mind boggling, the enemy is very clear in their stated aims of what they don’t like: our entire civilisation and everything it represents. They go for the Jews (Brussels, Toulouse and Copenhagen); the gays (Orlando); the infidel religion or Christianity as we prefer to call it (decapitating a French priest at mass, the Berlin Christmas market); symbols of national identity (Bastille day and Westminster in London); consumerism (Stockholm) and now young girls at a pop concert in Manchester. So Jeremy, I think it’s fair to say that foreign policy is quite far down the list (check out the official ISIS hate list here).

Media narrative – In the immediate aftermath, the rolling news curiously imprints the same effect on your mind as binge watching the Real Housewives of Cheshire – first there’s spittle, then resentment, and finally a numbed passivity. Following the BBC coverage you’d be forgiven for thinking an accident had happened – perhaps a crash on the M60 or a collapsed concert hall brought on by shoddy workmanship – certainly not a politically inspired suicide attack brought on by a medieval religious text. Cue the desperation to portray Muslims in a good light even if it’s a woman in a Burhka with the words love spelled out in various forms of ammunition (link here) – in retrospect, quite funny.

Andy Burnham – Our new Major of Manchester and Koranic expert Andy Burnham said ‘this man was a terrorist, not a Muslim’. Essentially, Burnham had ex-communicated Salman Abedi – a practice known as takfiri and widely practiced by ISIS and other Islamic extremists (In a bizarre twist, Burham has put his own personal fatwa on Abedi!).  Furthermore, Andy has been cosying up to Manchester’s Muslim communities in order to get himself elected. One of the ways he did this was to call for the government’s one and only counter extremism ‘Prevent’ strategy to be scrapped. He’s also appeared at a mayoral hustings organised by the ‘anti-Islamophobia’ pressure group Muslim Engagement and development (MEND). The group is led by Azadi Ali who previously lost a libel battle with newspapers who said he was a “hardline Islamic extremist who supports the killing of British and American soldiers in Iraq by fellow Muslims as justified”. (You can read more about this here)

Twitter hates Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson more than Abedi – Rather than direct all their hate and anger to the real problem – the twitterati, the liberal left and the rest of the lynch mob decided to unleash it on Katie Hopkins or whoever else. Simply nothing more than an exercise in virtue signalling and an indication of how political correctness has taken over every facet of life in this country. It seems they’d rather let us all die than be politically incorrect.

‘Don’t look back in anger’ is an incredibly stupid choice of song – The 90’s Oasis song was the message of ‘defiance and unity’ the crowd of mourners sent to the dead victims and presumably to ISIS and other forms of Islamic extremism (though I have no evidence of this at present) here’s a snapshot of some of the lyrics:

 Slip inside the eye of your mindDon’t you know you might find, A better place to play?    

 So I’ll start a revolution from my bed, Cause you said the brains I had went to my head

Please don’t put your life in the hands, Of a Rock ‘n’ Roll band, Who’ll throw it all away          

(That part is, I believe, directed at those who flee to Syria to join the renegade rock band ISIS)

Why are we united and what are we united against? – Mass murder and terrorism unites us. We’re encouraged to feel love, empathy, hope not hate and to ‘carry on’. Our reaction to these events are strange. The politicians clearly feel that if we the public release our inner anger and start asking questions then we’d surely become a mob of torch wielding angry villagers – set on a path of rampant destruction.

Weeping for our fellow citizens is, I suppose to a certain degree, a natural reaction but we need to move past that and start getting angry and asking questions – many of them uncomfortable. Let’s start with the official state sanctioned response of ‘carry on’ and ‘unity’ – unity about what? Around what? A pop song? What values should we be united around? Diversity? Carry on until what? The next time? Carry on camping? In other words, ‘carry on’ and ‘unity’ are the new buzz words for shut up and don’t ask questions.

Getting a Manchester bee tattoo makes total sense – The bee emblem represents Manchester. Manchester got a terrorist attack. Therefore I’ll emblazon a bee on my skin. Ludicrous, of course, but this wasn’t primarily an attack on Manchester in the sense of the city itself – rather, as the attacker saw it, on whole on western civilization – and in this case young girls enjoying themselves at a pop concert. Yet for a country that doesn’t know what its values are and what we should rally behind – apart from some vague musings about diversity, tolerance, multiculture and the like. Getting a bee tattoo makes total sense.

It’s time to forget Manchester’s ‘culinary revolution’ – and head to Wetherspoons

Big butch gay Oscar said there are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it – he probably forgot to mention missing kids, yachting tragedies, nasty hangovers and WH smiths; but to be fair he has a point. So, I can’t decide which was the better morning of – Brexit or Trump’s victory. Now the initial excitement is waning a little – I’d have to go with Brexit. Brexit was a plus-plus-plus, whereas Trump’s victory was a plus to Brexit – sort of like stumbling on a suitcase full of cash and then a few months later a long lost relative leaving you their entire heritance – including an abandoned castle in the outer Hebrides.

I mention all this not because Wetherspoons was pro-Brexit (I’d never eat anywhere for political reasons that would be hugely idiotic), but only because a certain tribe of snobs roundly despise the discount chain pub – preferring to flitter away their cash on overpriced pompous morsels of floating excrescence shat out of the backsides of giant gastronomic monsters and massaged into conceptual poo shapes by Manchester’s so-called food and culture scene. I dare you. Dance with the devil. Read any ‘review’ on the plethora of online food and drink magazines – (on the one hand, on the other, overall it was) go and you’ll be baffled as to how stupid you and apparently everyone else is.

These tiresome mouth trumpets of top ten lists, launching parades and ultimate countdowns are in essence just favours for favours and cock-sucking advertorials, but even the once mighty Manchester Evening News seems to have given up on journalism all together and is now content with blowing the city’s mediocre food and drink scene. So, it’s time to set the record straight – you heard it here first – the only place worth eating in Manchester is Wetherspoons (second to home, naturally) – and no, I’m not kidding or taking a back hander.

The reason why Spoons evades your culinary kaffeeklatsch is nothing other than good old-fashioned metropolitan snobbery. Curry Thursday, how ghastly, the snobs shriek, I bet the place is full of bloody bricklayers as well, best spend £50 at Vernacular across the street with the civilised educated people who voted remain.

But wait! Is that £6.65 for an 8oz Aberdeen Angus steak with chips and a glass of quaffable plonk? £1.99 for extras? Yes, and a perfectly acceptable steak it is too. You could double and probably triple that everywhere else, add another three quid for chips and £6.50 for a glass of red – if you’re lucky. Is it the best steak ever? No, but neither are those fancy places. Are the walls graced with local dulux encrusted art? No, but a lot of them are in grade-II listed buildings. Will anyone be voting Labour? Probably not, but you can always keep your comments down to a dull whisper – to avoid getting a good beating.

Food, sadly, has become political – and now denotes nothing more than the sad segregated society we now live in. The hotpot and all those other congregations of beautiful stodge are dead and buried, now head to a gourmet burger joint in the Northern Quarter, shout you voted leave and watch the blood sap from their insipid humourless faces. What you stuff in your mouth has always denoted social status, but when once the clients ate gruel and the patrons prime beef, now we’re all eating the same – just some are desperate, nay demanding to pay more for it – oh and make it gluten free, my stomach is pouting in a serene grimace of self-importance. They’re basically saying: I pay more, so I’m better than you.

The liberal worldview is well and truly kaput, now – the cherry on the cake – these ghastly eateries must vanish into the ether and begone – but then again, what on earth would I whine about. Let’s make 2017 even more rebellious and head to Wetherspoons.

Booze is fantastic; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

It has now been roughly 23 days since I last had a drink or, more precisely, 552 hours or 33120 minutes or 1987200 seconds and counting; I said roughly remember, I can’t recall the exact moment when I quit, I’m not an addict for gods sake – just dedicated, to booze that is – I’m a dedicated drinker. Like most of the population (I suspect, if we’re honest) I’ve dedicated more of my life to the heady elixir of fermented yeast than perhaps anything else – admit it, you probably have to0. Of course there’s nicotine, caffeine, uppers, downers, inners and outers – but they don’t have a scratch on booze: the pièce de résistance.

Is there anything good about being pissed? Or is its sole purpose to make our lives a misery? The scraps and confrontations, the pregnancies and STDs, the weight gain, the cold blue dawn light of clarity followed by regret and apprehension concluding in anxiety and paranoia, the vomit, the divorces, the heartbreak and fallings out, the indigestion and acidity, bloated tummies and empty wallets; a Mephistopheles of the soul: a scatterer, a disperser, a plasterer of lies, seeking to corrupt men, a foot soldier of Lucifer.

Or does it come as a saviour? A diligent and efficient waiter – French perhaps – to serve and ultimately collect the half bitten empty morsels of those already damned. Not a temptress or siren but a masseuse of the soul for those in danger of being damned – a vanguard to the portal of our ever present private hell.

God knows. And who cares? All I know is that everyone, everywhere, loves booze, all the time, throughout the ages – without exception. The Chinese, Babylonians, Sumerians, all of them loved a tipple – the religious and spiritual especially, they even had gods devoted to wine – imagine such a thing. Then there are the Romans who believed wine a democratic necessity – available to all, whether slave, peasant, patron or squire and what else can you say that about? The Greeks loved their symposiums and the Macedonians, devoted followers of Dionysius (God of wine), gained a reputation for loutish behaviour and believed the stuff made you more masculine – no arguing with that.

Even the bible loves booze: Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more (proverbs 31: 6-7). And so immediately after the flood Noah had his own private vineyard installed and Jesus (that’s Jesus Christ) was so desperate to revive a flagging party that he used special powers to turn water into wine – I think that’s what you call the miracle of miracles.

It turns out that inebriation is the one thing – perhaps the only thing – that has united the sorry pit of humanity throughout the ages. That and porn; and like smut it seems to be everywhere. Whether you’re sacrificing to the gods, celebrating a victory, getting married, attending a funeral, going into battle, pledging allegiance, departing and returning, or evening abstaining; booze will turn up, always, waving its hands, dolled up like a tart to bow to its legion of followers cheering as they beckon him in. (Ok, maybe porn wasn’t a good example, but you get the idea.)

The late great legendary boozer Christopher Hitchens was right: “It has been said that alcohol is a good servant and a bad master. Nice try. The plain fact is that it makes other people, and indeed life itself, a good deal less boring.” Indeed can you imagine life without it? – The agreeable nods, the smug self satisfied grimaces of the perpetually healthy as they torture you with their latest body mass index, the health food restaurants and the gluten free freaks (naturally), taut skin and shiny cheek bones, grimaces masquerading as content, the tee-total dating sites (Margery, 27, enjoys horse-riding, the Green Party, quinoa, herbal tea and being tied up and have someone wee wee on her – strictly no DSS or Tories, thanks).

Apparently the old are drinking more and the young a lot less – and by less I mean total abstinence. The number of under-25s opting for a booze free existence has increased by 40 per in the last 9 years, with more than quarter not drinking at all. This probably has something to do with the current Mohammed name fad and the rising Muslim demographic (in ‘ultra diverse’ London 1 in 3 people are now teetotal) but also to do with the fact that generation safe-space are the most censorious, whining, narcissistic and irksome generation ever. And who wants to end up like that? So good riddance, let them wallow in their boredom.

As I said I’ve have been a loyal and faithful follower for over 17 years and never missed a weekend – until now, that is. Time to reassess, take stock, sort ones life out, as they love to say. I’ve done a month and that’s long enough. Just another 68 hours and 32 minutes left to the end of my temperance. I can’t wait. I’ve a bone to pick. So here’s to alcohol the greatest and most unifying contrivance or connivance mankind has ever discovered or invented. Cheers.

Bored of Islamic terror? – You’re not the only one

Ah, remember when Islamic terror used to have a sort of long drawn out tiresome spunky excitement to it – the bromide hash tags and slogans; the pathetic shows of unity; the facebooks and the tricolor; the self flagellation; the candle lit vigils; the celebrities; the Beatles songs and the pianos; the Katie Hopkins rants; we’re all in it together, this is a difficult time and so on.

Remember the predictable sequence of events and denials of reality in the aftermath:

First, you see bodies littered over some street or other, usually in France – no mention of the I word or the M word just yet: after all it could’ve been a pissed off Anglican priest or a crazy Buddhist off his meds. Then everyone takes to Facebook and social media to promote whatever silly slogan or avatar the moronic inferno has decided to adopt as its sentimental rallying cry. By now the politicians are out of bed and condemning the attack as ‘shocking and appalling’.

Then, no longer able to conceal the truth from the public despite their best efforts, the BBC et al. confirm the perpetrator was indeed a bloke called Mohammed. No use of the I word or M word yet. Next, more gory details start to filter through. Eyewitness accounts. Then ISIS claims the attack as a victory – good for Hollande so he now can say: “We’re going to hit ISIS where it hurts” – anything to sell the atrocity as a foreign rather than a domestic issue. Other world leaders condemn the attack.

Then we move to Act 2. Yes the psycho was indeed a Mohammed, as usual, but this doesn’t mean a jot. Because the BBC have found someone – possibly a cousin or some other acquaintance who tells them that he ate pork pies and never even went to church, sorry the Mosque. His family know fuck all as do the local community who say he was a quiet loner addicted to sex with himself. No mention of the I or M word yet. Breaking News: Mohammed had accomplices – probably also called Mohammed but possibly even Ahmed or Iqual (in any case immigrant names). No mention of the I or M word yet.

Next, the really boring bit Act 3 – the nothing to do with Islam phase. By now it is no longer possible to conceal the words Islam and Muslim from the public (at least when debating it – C4 News and the BBC will try to avoid it at all costs in headlines). Everyone will debate radicalisation as though you just somehow catch it like gonorrhoea – and will offer no clear answers. Vacuous news presenters ask ‘experts’ why it keeps happening in France – no clear answers, but foreign policy will raise its head and possibly Israel and Palestine. No one remembers the dead victims anymore. Politicians inform us that this has nothing to do with you know what and they don’t represent you know what. Mass marches through the streets about peace, love, unity, open borders and all the rest of it. A massive prick sings a song.

Finally, act 4 – Islamophobia. Having now established that none of this has anything to do with you know what – focus will now be turned on the real problem facing us all: racism. Politicians may even apologise on behalf of the Muslim community for how they must feel; news footage shows an angry mob of EDL supporters; the rise of the far right is discussed; concern about Islamophobic attacks: a women in a headscarf was called a bimbo or whatever; ‘you ain’t no Muslim bruv’ or ‘Islam is peace’ or something similar trending on twitter.

Well, those were the good old days (a few months ago) when we at least made an effort, there used to be a formula, a method to the madness. After the Nice attack we hopped, skipped and jumped through each act in a matter of hours rather than days. As Douglas Murray writes, ‘everything barely worth saying will be said endlessly. And the only things worth saying won’t be said.’ Let’s hope the Islamists take our lead and succumb to ennui – I doubt it though.

Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool review

Rating: 5/5

If I recall correctly critics hated Radiohead for a good few years after the sparse – and if we’re honest – a bit naff Kid A. The problem as they saw it, myself included, was the band had decided they no longer could be bothered playing their guitars – a problem for sure because there’s three of them and The bends and OK Computer are two of the best rock albums ever produced.

It’s as though Led Zeppelin decided to jack it all in and move to a annoying hippy complex in the outlying foothills of California to play the bongos and shake the maracas or – developing the theme – Pink Floyd shouted fuck you somewhere in Cambridge and produced a follow up to Dark Side of the Moon based on nothing but kitchen utensils (which I believe they contemplated). The other problem is that OK Computer is just too good. It really is. Received too much critical acclaim – with the inevitable backlash. Nothing is as good as OK Computer, we get that now, finally, and so we can all move on.

A Moon Shaped Pool it turns out is perhaps Radiohead’s best album in the last 19 years – and yes, you really are that old.

I’d even go as far to call it a collection of love songs or more apt is a collection of the end of love songs. The melodies swoon and crash in an ethereal nightmare leaving the listener with that bizarre sense of falling and then waking before you plunge to your death.

It’s relaxing but only ever in the most sinister sense. A bit like chilling out in a rackety cabin in the woods knowing full well, yet ignoring, the baying lunatic stalking you outside. Satisfied with a mere peep behind the torn curtains now and again – you’re safe, but only just. Like Tom Wait’s Alice, this is 3 a.m. music at its very best.

Consider the threatening ambience of the brilliant choir thumping Decks Dark a nod to Subterranean Homesick Alien sure, but stuttered in the smudge of a half remembered dream – And in your life, there comes a darkness/There’s a spacecraft blocking out the sky/And there’s nowhere to hide/You run to the back and you cover your ears/But it’s the loudest sound you’ve ever heard/Are we trapped?  And then to finish: Have you had enough of me?/Sweet darling/Have you had enough of me? – Now, the band having matured, older and wiser, we humans are ‘alien’.

I suppose the point should be made of Thom Yorke’s split from his wife of 23 years. It’s none of our business but not entirely irrelevant. On the wonderful mood setting Daydreaming in which we’re tantalised by ever so subtle hints of Johnny Greenwood’s guitar: a wave here and there but always restrained forever shackled – Prometheus bound – while his orchestral abilities are put to use; Thom sings ‘Half my life’ in reverse vocals which sound like some grunt from hell – angry, muffled and distant.

There’s hope, but not for long on Desert Island Disk – a sort of folksy rendition that would sit comfortably on any Nick Drake album – Now as I go upon my way/So let me go upon my way/Born of a light – again the track title gives you a clue as to the outcome.

The songs are to be listened to patiently, the rich textures, haunting lyrics and orchestral arrangements reveal themselves to the listener with confidence and ease, oozing new hidden depths on every listen. In many ways it’s the older wiser brother of In Rainbows.

One of my personal favourites is the samba and bossanova inspired Present Tense a sort of dance track for the perpetually exhausted or the groovy beat laden Identikit which reconstructs the faces of past loves for us only to be left feeling resentful and heart broken, Sweet faced ones with nothing left inside and Broken hearts make it rain.

In the normal course of events Radiohead ballads such as Fake Plastic Trees, How to Disappear Completely and Exit Music offer respite, but in this case they guide, bloom and flourish to the album’s ultimate conclusion the 20-year-old True Love Waits, a spine tingling masterpiece that’s been waiting patiently for the right moment, it’s resurrection in a sense. The album outros with: And true love waits/In haunted attics/And true love lives/On lollipops and crisps/Just don’t leave/Don’t leave. How fitting.

Everything I’ve written could and probably is bollocks. But it’s good; it’s very good, and seems to get better on every listen – I’d say about as close to perfect as you can get.

Restaurant Review: Solita, Manchester

Food 2/5  Atmosphere 3/5

Nobody will like it, but it has to be said. I’d have said this earlier, but I hoped, nay feared, that I might be wrong. I’m not. I’m right. In fact, there are two things that must be said – because most of us have reached the point of no return and so it’s absolutely necessary to say it. No, wait, three things that must be said – I’ve just remembered. There’s probably more things that could be said, but don’t necessarily have to be said, I might mention them later depending on certain conditions and word count.

Needs must, so first things first. Firstly, ‘the restaurant scene’ or whatever you call it in Manchester is, with a few exceptions, universally ghastly. You’ve heard it here first. It truly is. On the scale of ghastliness, we’re fluctuating somewhere between pompous rubbish and over priced mediocrity with not a few diversions into bland, bewildering and raw. Nobody seems to realise it and that’s because, as I’ve said before, no matter how many trendy places they frequent and flutter with peacock like intent and determination Mancunians, almost without exception, no nothing about food.

So, unless you absolutely know for certain (and this does not include the opinions of your palate numb work colleagues, hipster friends, trip advisor, online sites etc.) – by which I mean you’ve physically gone and stuffed food in your mouth and swallowed it, don’t take the risk – just stay in; you’ll save yourself an awful amount of embarrassment, money and maybe even your soul.

Secondly, contrary to popular belief, Manchester is not the ‘best city in the UK’ or the ‘coolest place ever’ as those ubiquitous advertorial Manchester based ‘culture’ websites are continually informing us. And here’s why: the entire city has been raped and pillaged by humourless faux-liberals and hipsters, who, I’m guessing, spend their free time rimming empty hummus cartons, nodding in agreement over daft art installations, and calling each other white supremacists on the Façadebook.

If these idiots left, well that would be another matter – but we’re stuck with them for now. And so, over the past 10 years Manchester has exclusively been designed and billeted to cater for the whims of this tiresome sub section of society – who seem intent on dragging the rest of us down to hell with them. If, for example, the Northern Quarter were in South Park, it’d probably be called NoMoreNorth or Thereunto or something along those lines. The third point, I’ve concluded, word count and all, is a could be said rather than a must be said; but, being just too crude and nasty – although undoubtedly true – to put down in print, I’ll give it a miss. So, we’ll move on.

Moving on, as you can imagine, when the gourmet burger restaurant Solita opened up a third branch in one of the least trendy areas of Manchester: Prestwich – where I live – I was a little apprehensive that north Manchester would soon be over-run with iron clad morons and my rent would sky rocket and that’ll I’ll have to move to Oldham or possibly even Bolton – thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet; but we’ll see. It turns out that Solita make decent, if a little expensive, burgers. I’ve been three times to the joint in Prestwich, which has this odd exclusivity feel – a sort of, are you one of us moment hits you as soon as you enter the place, exemplified by the blacked out windows which has the effect of a memory wipe, making you forget that you’re in the north of Manchester.

The first two times were deja vu: initial confusion over whether I wanted a starter or not – I didn’t bother; followed by delight and stupefaction when they placed the thing in front of me; then the daunting realisation that I’ll never be able to eat it without a knife and fork; then the nauseating gasp for breath two thirds in – that second long-island tea, a terrible idea; and finally the emotional shameful walk home as you conclude that it’s just way too expensive for a burger; no matter what you slap on it to add ‘value’, a burger is a burger is a burger. A burger is mincemeat, squashed, patted, fried and stuck between two slices of bread – a sandwich.

Blondie came the third time, this time – and possibly the final time.  Blondie and myself have been on a quest to find a decent eatery in Manchester that doesn’t make us angry or regret we were ever born. I should also note that Blondie hates everything other than: pies, fish and chips, fresh southern Italian antipasti, gravy, rare-bit, and cheese. So when her burger came with only a shaving of cheese he wasn’t too pleased.

Blondie ordered the Jack Daddy (£10.90) it was dry, a few mouthfuls short of satisfaction and covered, I mean totally coated, it this awful, sickly reduced sauce, which gave the impression post-eating that she had just quaffed a huge sticky toffee pudding and then smudged her hand over the plate to make some sort of pretty pattern to amuse the other customers. It came topped with two cold and congealed onion rings. I, in no mood for unnecessary condiments, went for the bacon double cheese (£10.90) which also had barely any cheese, was a little on the small side, but not as dry as the Jack Daddy. The whole experience lasted about 40 minutes. On the plus side, the cocktails were superb – even though we only had one each. The place was heaving, noisy, covered in local art and undoubtedly the place to be on a Saturday night. The service was occasional, casual and unfussy – at one point I was almost expected the waiter to interrupt and apologise for not asking if I had any allergies. She didn’t, which was a relief.

I really wanted to enjoy my third time at Solita; I didn’t, which is a shame – because it was a decent way to flitter money and time on a good burger. Those days are over; it’s time to move on. What exactly happened, I’m not sure; maybe it was a Saturday? Is that even an excuse? Probably it’s just become too popular with all the inevitable consequences that follow. And so, the quest continues; I haven’t given up yet.

Solita (Prestwich), 401 Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester, M25 1AA (0161 710 2884)

You can’t laugh at that! How the middle class liberals have hijacked British comedy

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but at some point during the last decade I stopped watching British stand-up comedy. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather a dawn get-a-way, tiptoeing with stealth and acuity out of a dodgy hotel room you might leave a whore in (I’ve been told) or a heap of hung-over drunken sailors after a night of debauchery. It just stopped-being-funny and became more of an angry pedantic lesson on how to think and what political beliefs were and were not acceptable in polite society.

Take, for example, ‘alternative’ comedian Stewart Lee in last night’s episode of Comedy Vehicle entitled ‘Migrants’ – go on, I bet you can guess what Mr Lee’s views are on migrants? Go on try it. You’re going to be right. You are right. He has exactly the same views on migrants as every other dinner party liberal; same as he does with UKIP, Islam, the Tories and a whole host of other stuff that preoccupy this narrow minded sub-strata of society. You know what they’re going to say before they utter a syllable and it’s boring.

In fact, Stewart is such a stereotype that he even has a regular column in the Guardian – the bible of the faux left chattering classes. It’s a shame, because he was, once, actually very funny and genuinely alternative (watch his stuff from the 90’s). Now, he seems to have fallen in line with every other comedian: stand-up saturated with rigid political orthodoxies, right-on, faux left and generally mocking of anyone who doesn’t share his twisted liberal view of the world – particularly the common muck.

Stewart, bizarrely, spent 20 minutes of his stand-up routine mocking Spectator and Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle (who is side-splittingly funny, by the way); which is fine, only, it wasn’t funny at all – which is a bummer if you’re a comedian. What is revealing is that he chose to mock not only Rod’s political beliefs per se but also his working class roots and ‘plebeian’ background (as he sees it); which, I assume, he believes is responsible for all of his awful uncivilised views.

Embarrassingly, the pompous wanker could barely conceal his utter contempt for the working class, as he rounded off his tiresome pageant of Rod being covered in gravy, angel delight, suet, jelly from a pork pie (not anything as middle-class and foreign as pate, he insinuated) and Tunnocks teacakes. The last ten minutes was particularly cringing as he mimicked Rod eating a poppadum in an Indian Restaurant – it went on and on, until I actually started to feel sorry for the guy. But hang on Stewart, isn’t that racist? You could’ve at least chosen an English chippy – you’re supposed to resent the culture you come from, right?

Anyway, Stewart Lee has spent his career being the anti-hero of comedy, but now, unbeknownst to him and his legion of smug Guardianista fans, he is no longer alternative but rather the choirmaster of a seemingly endless chorus of ‘comedians’ who advertise for the liberal establishment – there’s nothing alternative about him. He’s totally mainstream. And the same goes with practically all of them – except maybe Ricky Gervais – at least not yet.

Whether it’s the cross-dressing Euro-nut Eddie Izzard who used make brilliant surrealist observational comedy, but is now content with moronic jokes comparing Nigel Farage to Hitler. Or star of the brilliant Peep Show, David Mitchell, who now presents ‘soap box’ videos for the Guardian Website – guess what gets on his nerves the most? Go on guess. Even his co-star Robert Webb, again used to be funny, but now writes a weary column for the Guardian’s big brother – the endlessly tedious and humourless New Statesman.

Then, there’s Marcus Brigstock, who loathes working class culture and mocks ‘overweight women who tuck a copy of a women’s magazine under the pizza in their shopping trolleys’ and lazy builders who ‘need eight gallons of tea every five minutes’. (Maybe some of those builders are Polish – the coward wouldn’t dare mock them). Even risqué standup Frankie Boyle has a Guardian column in which he slags off the Tories and hurls insults at Americans – the only nationality you can mock without being called a racist – again, another coward.

So, you see there’s something a lil’ bit fishy going on; but don’t be fooled – this isn’t just a troupe of annoying elites spitting bile at anyone who has the audacity share an opinion other than what they deem acceptable; no, this is much darker and has more wider cultural significance.

A few years back I attended a Christmas party and as is the norm on these occasions I, along with my co-workers, got pebble-dashingly pissed faced. The conversation turned to British Comedy and why it isn’t funny anymore – because you can’t laugh or joke about anything – a wry and fellow piss head observed; someone even suggested that Thatcher put an end to jokes about the Irish – this, though, has yet to be proven.

Anyway, I can’t entirely recollect what happened next, but I recall putting a serviette on my head and performed my embarrassing gay Jesus routine – this went down well (everyone was hammered); then I pretended to be Mohammed and the scene turned nasty – that’s offensive, that’s racist, stop it, they all cried – even though nobody was Muslim and everybody was, supposedly, a Christian.

Make of that what you will – but when society at large, and increasingly the state, starts to police jokes, we’re in very dangerous territory indeed. Old working class pub stand up, Bernard Manning, was probably a bigot, but I’ll take him any day over this new breed humourless, PC, patronising bien pensants.

RIP, Ronnie Corbett