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For the very geekilicious of you, this is M+ Version 1.1after going live with Pilot (or issue 1.0) last year to 7,000 readers. And counting! So here’s *actual* ISSUE 1. Yessum, we’re soft launching all over again with new articles from the best in new media talent. This time, we’ve got beautiful mp3 haiku in our New Literati section crafted by James Clayton, a Guide to Webcomics by Tim Grundy, a free tune from a right proper band called Little Volcanoes and, la piece de résistance, an exclusive interview with illustrator extraordinaire Ben Tallon. We’d love a response to our mini-series too: it’s called This is Facebook Love. It’s about that all- important status which defines the social networking etiquette with which people treat us – and the way they talk about us behind our backs, Indeed, the word ‘us’ has never, seemingly, been so important. M+ Promotions Assistant James Stevens along with producer and journalist Mike Tighe investigate the power behind the ‘Bio’ info box.

Plus, we’re publishing the Anti-Thesis to GaGa and the Death of Sex (even better, you don’t need to crack through a paywall to read our pop essay.) This is also the debut of our new columnist, Mercer Finn. He’s a great writer: we’re very excited about him. And we’re completely made up with his cool name. With the end of winter making us reach for the last of the decongestant by the truckload, soup by the bucketload and Spike Jonze’s work by an equally giant measure, we’re still rocking up the online publishing joint with our brazen, broke-as-achurch-mouse attitude...even if the joint is currently full of confused editors and Mashable addicts. But it’s cool. The world will figure us out soon enough. And when they do we’ll still invite them to write, film and record for us, the same way you’ve been - and been wanting to. For those that missed the pilot, the catch up is HERE and we’ll await those lovely new- reader eyes while you get on and eat up this sparkly issue. Nom nom. Here’s to M+ 2011!

Jane E. !Connell editor

mediacitymcr [at] gmail [dot] com

cover photography: Thor M+ is an initiative of Future Artists Ltd., and is a collaboration of their network. If you’re interested in joining the mix and contributing as a writer, photographer, stylist, feature columnist or any fabulous other talent you would like to share please get in touch: email JEM at and introduce yourself.


CONTENTS “It’s time to just get on and get it f*****g dealt with. These opportunities don’t come to you if you’re too pre-occupied soaking up the Eastenders omnibus.” Ben Tallon, page 10

04 An Introduction to Webcomics Tim Grundy even tells you how to sort one out 08 Ben, Paper, Pencils, Ink Interview with illustrator extraordinaire Ben Tallon 12-20 The Facebook Love Series: (i)The Social Network Mercer Finn’s critical debut on Fincher’s film (ii) It’s Not Official Until... James Stevens ponders that type of status (iii)The Social Media Break-Up Mike Tighe waxes personal on the big goodbye 22-24 Music: Komputarbeiter Downtempo electro from the unknown Spoken Poetry James Clayton on Haiku Little Volcanoes Upbeat indie, from Manchester & beyond 27 Gaga Theory We’ve got the Lady’s back

PICS 1st Right: Ben Tallon/Facebook Addiction 2nd Right: Bill Ward/for ‘This is Facebook Love’

THANKS TO ALL CONTRIBUTORS. COVER PHOTGRAPHY: Thor. WRITERS: Tim Grundy, James Stevens, Mike Tighe, James Clayton COLUMN: Mercer Finn PHOTOGRAPHY: Kate Green, Thor, Bill Ward, Cia de Foto, Curtis Palmer, Phil Cruise, Mark Ramsay, Danni Skerritt, Peter Cruise. ART: Ben Tallon, Jeff Carter, ten_bandits, Don Hankins. STRATEGY & DEVELOPMENT: Jenny Inchbald CREATIVE & COMMUNICATIONS Mark Ashmore ORIGINAL LOGO & ART DIRECTION: Claire O’Connell EDITOR: Jane McConnell

AN INTRODUCTION TO: WEBCOMICS Physics genius and modest The Wire expert Tim Grundy navigates the wonderland of webcomics for the rest of us WEBCOMICS ARE surely among the most maligned of New Media art platforms. While everyone has a blog or a Twitter account with which to inform the world at large of their opinions and experiences, sharing through pictures is largely ignored by Traditional Media. (The most notable exception being a short run in The Guardian's G2 supplement of the brilliant Perry Bible Fellowship.) Alongside the recent reclamation of graphic novels and classic superhero comics to the canon of cool, not to mention the relatively recent adoption of anime and manga by young people worldwide, this wilful ignorance becomes even more baffling. So what's stopping one of the most inventive facet of this popular culture from achieving widespread recognition? First impressions don't help.

The very word 'webcomic' is littered with connotations of geekery and nerdishness, and these stereotypes are not entirely without basis. One of the biggest webcomics in the world, Penny Arcade, is based entirely around videogames. The makers famously entered a long-running battle with noted anti-gaming campaigner Jack Thompson. Another, xkcd, describes itself as 'a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language,' and carries a health warning for liberal-arts majors due to the high-maths content. However, sitting alongside these are webcomics such as Anders Loves Maria, which concerns itself with nothing more than telling a touching and lovingly crafted story. This contrast in subject matter is mirrored in the range of styles, with simplistic monochrome shorts from pictures for sad children contrasting the epic futurescapes of Dresden Codak.

words: Tim Grundy M+ FEATURE image: ten_bandits alienated a large portion of his core readership by writing a miscarriage storyline into what is ostensibly a gaming-based webcomic. Furthermore, webcomics remain a labour of love for most writers, rather than a cash cow to exploit with repetitive jokes and clichéd, filler material. Take this model vis-a-vis the traditional comic: usually, books containing important backstory and genesis tales are prohibitively expensive. Those who have missed the vital issues have to placate themselves with synopses from Wikipedia or elsewhere.

Basically, if you want it, a webcomic will have it. This range of style can be partly put down to simple economic fact: most webcomic writers will never be able to sustain themselves on income from their endeavours – and will have to keep their day job. However, without significant commercial gain from these webcomics, their writers can at least focus on writing exactly what they want. A measure of such freedom from commercial interest: Tim Buckley, writer of Ctrl+Alt+Del, k n o w i n g l y

The low cost of hosting websites must also be viewed as a factor for the variety present in webcomics. All a budding webcomicwriter needs is a basic proficiency in a drawing package and around £20 a month to get a website. It also allows for free archiving, allowing new readers to start from the beginning and returning readers to quickly catch up on all that they've missed. Archiving also means that writers are confident when referring to earlier issues, creating more cohesive storylines than those found in casually-read, syndicated strips. And in the mass of styles and content, and the ever-growing population of amateurish scribbles and professional designs, there is true art to be found. >>




TIM’S CASE STUDY 1. Dresden Codak ( What's it about? The plotlines centre around Kimiko Ross, a young scientist and sometime cyborg, with writer Aaron Diaz's interests in transhumanism and time travel providing the narrative. A tiny version of the psychologist Carl Jung also makes occasional appearances. As well as several independent shorts, DC is currently on its second major storyline, with the first, Hob, concerning the discovery of a robot from a possible future where technological improvements have overtaken biological evolution as the main form of humanalteration. How does it look? DC is well known for its exceptional artwork, and won awards for 'Outstanding Use of Color' and 'Outstanding Use of The Medium' at the 2008 Web Cartoonist's choice awards. Aaron Diaz studied art and also writes an art blog, so expect bold landscapes and intricate visual motifs. 2. pictures for sad children (http:// What's it about? More of a collection of shorts than a cohesive whole, pfsc has told stories about Paul, a clinically bored ghost, and Gary, a naïve temp who is gradually being crushed under the weight of real life. The tale of the actually ugly duckling (broken up into two comics called 'the lesson for ugly children is that maybe you are a different species?' and 'pictures for reasonable children') is probably the best example of what you can expect to find in terms of tone. How does it look? The simple drawings and monochrome colouring are never going to knock your socks off visually, but combined with the offbeat nature of the subject matter, it finds itself well-suited to the

job in hand, adding a well-measured amount of innocence to the characters. 3. Wigu Adventures (http:// What's it about? An overexcitable young boy ( t h e eponymous Wigu) and his dysfunctional family (consisting of a father who writes the music for porn and is permanently seminaked, an alcoholic workaholic mother and a typical teenage sister) find themselves in ridiculous situations, such as going to Atlantis, or dealing with a missile crisis. Wigu is accompanied by two toys-from-TV come to life; a space pony which has ice cream for excrement and a flying potato that is paradoxically made entirely of poison. Yeah. You just read that. How does it look? One of the pleasures of long-running webcomics is the visible development of the writer as an artist. Jeffrey Rowland has certainly developed; his bold character design works well alongside the characters' largerthan-life personae. 4. The Perry Bible Fellowship


What's it about? PBF comics share a devilish sense of humour with hints of innocence and fun, although Nicholas Gurewitch also knows how to stop the jokes from becoming a mere exercise in dark humour. Unfortunately discontinued, they can still be found online. How does it look? Gurewitch uses different styles depending on the context of the comic. Rest assured it will suit the joke precisely. So. What are you waiting for? //M+


photo by Danni Skerritt

BEN, PAPER, PENCILS, INK Ben Tallon is the award winning, internationally acclaimed illustrator who has swept his quills and spray paints all over e4’s Skins campaign, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Design Week and various indie and design publications. M+ meets the man behind the spilt ink & sketches.

For someone so patient, he talks as fast as lightning. He lights up the room as much as you reckon Kate Hudson would, like, if she was a bloke. Anyway. He’s got all the buzz and acceptable weirdness you always hoped you’d find in an artist. So when we start talking about art, he talks about junk from the floor: “spray paint, fine-liners, pencils and a lot of found materials.” “When I was first out with my girlfriend she was horrified when I started stooping down and picking up bus tickets! Like, I’ll just be picking up receipts and labels...” That’s not the only odd thing – it seems Mr. Tallon’s been drawing some peculiar plans of banks. “Bank heist illustrations... I did a feature where it had to look like the illustrator wanted to rob the Bank of England!” Of course it’s conceptual, and ridiculously hip, but Ben still looks a bit wary when he says it. “And they wanted the style as if the robbers had

done the sketches themselves. I mentioned it on my Twitter page and spent the next twenty minutes hoping nobody read too much into this. Jason Bourne meets Tony Hart – it could’ve all gone off! “That was great, I really push the loose style of illustration. I spent the biggest part of that job in the park with my sketchbook, I needed to focus and just to get lost in that mindset. I love the quirky projects like that – you get more creative freedom with those.” As any decent northern lad, his first heroes were on the pitch and it was actually these fellas who inspired him to illustrate. “If I wasn’t outside playing football, I was inside drawing footballers. I was always drawing as a kid, my mum was into art and it’s always been a bit of a hobby. It was always a case of sport, or art.” He’s quick to point out: “I’m under no delusions about my skills in football!”

words: Jane McConnell M+ FEATURE image: Ben Tallon; campaign for Skins, and Nate Connelly Apart from that, what else rouses Ben? Firstly: “Professional wrestling,” he says. “I’m a big professional wrestling fan – the passion and dedication you need to succeed in that industry blows my mind. “Three hundred-plus days a year on the road taking a beating 6 nights a week. That’s dedication for you. Not quite illustration but I’m a huge believer in drawing inspiration from outside of design. I found myself in a proper meat-head gym with my mate Danny Allison [co-creator of Quenched Unsigned, keep reading!] and we both just burst out laughing and I almost tore a stomach muscle. “Just the weird hybrid existence of spending all day agonizing over colour palettes to evenings with bouncers In Ultraflex Gym discussing cage fighting hit home and we couldn’t work out our place in society.” ** Save for the existential crisis that can only happen when you mix weights with acrylic paint, he also loves those most blithe of muses: “idiots on buses! This guy just came landed himself next to me the other day. He

was firing these racy jokes at me in front of the whole bus. Now don’t get me wrong I love racy jokes, but there’s a time and a place! I was the only clown laughing but I couldn’t help it, I was in hysterics...he had me laughing all day! ” Ben is also passionate about music. And like any self-respecting cool dude, Damon Albarn is a big inspiration for him. “He’s more than a musician,” Ben says. “I’ve idolized the guy since I was 11, the people he’s worked with and way he’s always pushing new boundaries.” In similar fashion then, Ben happens to be the creative director of Quenched Unsigned – a magazine supporting the best unsigned acts in the UK and international music industry. “Myself and writer Dan Skerritt [from Quenched] literally walked into town one day and switched from a conversation about why he had just been addressed as ‘Raymond’ by the passing tramp –that’s for another time – to deciding that we were going to lock horns and get ourselves known in the music industry and just got it done, combined our skills.”



“THERE IS A LOT OF PRESSURE AND INSTABILITY BEING FREELANCE BUT I LOVE THE CHALLENGE. I’M BASED EVERYWHERE. I DON’T KNOW WHERE I’M GOING TO NEXT, WHICH RIGHT NOW IS A FANTASTIC PERK!" The age-old myth that being a start-up publisher (even if you are creating a professional zine) that a world of NME will swipe you down, appears to hold no sway. “It’s time to just get on and get it f*****g dealt with.” “These opportunities don’t come to you if you’re too pre-occupied soaking up the Eastenders omnibus.” Take heed. I ask if it’s essential to move to London as a creative. “It’s really healthy to see your clients face-to-face particularly when starting out. You can be clear, and they get to see that you’re passionate about your business but these days you can do it all online with Skype. My clients are now dotted around the globe and I can easily work remotely with the crazy pace of advancing technology. It allows you to see the world and feed it back into your game.” “You can be holed up in a grotty hostel but if you have the net, there’s nothing to stop you producing knockout jobs from where you like. In fact I am about to move to New Zealand and I’m currently working on a big job for Next stores throughout the UK. “I can work while they sleep – a 12 hour turnaround can only be a good thing! A

close friend of mine recently turned around a record sleeve for EMI from a tin shed on a farm in Australia, accompanied by scorpions and wolf spiders; Steve Irwin with spray paint.” During the interview Ben has been accompanied by a red hiking rucksack, a courier bag and a smart black jacket. Herein lies the freedom of being self-employed and the ability to travel and work from anywhere. “Sometimes I can be free during the week, other times I’ll get a call on the Friday and I’ll be working all weekend. No matter how good you get, you’re only as good as your last job. “There is a lot of pressure and instability being freelance but I love the challenge. I’m based everywhere. I don’t know where I’m going to next, which right now is a fantastic perk!" He’s been speaking to graduates recently about building their portfolios and getting started in the industry. It’s his unabashed attitude that shines through when he gives M + a tip for footstep followers: “If you’ve got a set of balls and bit of cheek, you can go a long way!” //M+



words: Jane McConnell M+ NEW MEDIA image: Bill Ward

This is _ __ _ FACEBOOK LOVE Facebook is central to the lives of a continent’s worth of people. It is the ever-changing medium which transmits all details of our personal lives to and from, and back to each other - and then sells to advertisers for quite a coughworthy amount. Of course, living life by the book will always have its drawbacks. In the Pilot issue of M+, Helen Stuart had investigated Facebook’s effect on each aspect of life for young women. In this special feature, three young men from the i-generation take a look at Zuckerburg’s new world. First up is new columnist Mercer Finn, who tips the feature on its head and looks at David Fincher’s looking-glass in his piece, The Social Network. Next, it’s James Stevens who vents about that crucial, life-defining Facebook Relationship Status in It’s Not Official Until It’s On Facebook! And why we may need to get back to sorting out our own private life PR. Finally, radio producer Mike Tighe bares all in The Social Breakup: how the virtual newsflash of Facebook only intensifies the calm as well as the storm after reality’s heart ‘n’ heart failure. So welcome. Indeed, This is Facebook Love - just not as you would expect. //M+

photo by Curtis Palmer

BITCHING ABOUT FACEBOOK Our brand new columnist Mercer Finn reviews The Social Network, whilst taking on film, the art of critique *and* Aaron Sorkin himself – and why what we may think about Zuckerburg is wrong

The Social Network manages to achieve something quite rare in the film business: universal critical acclaim and controversy. Its numbers on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are eyebrow-raising (95% and 9 7 % respectively), but it has come under fire from various quarters for its less-than-judicious treatment of its subject: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. To me, the mismatch represents two different ways of evaluating film, and art in general, which I shall herewith pompously entitle ‘technical’ and ‘moral’.... Bear with me. In technical terms – as a film, as fiction -- The Social Network is brilliant. David Fincher keeps the talky-talky action... ACTIVE. Which is impressive, as having people talking in rooms for two hours (as Aaron Sorkin describes his screenplay) is rarely conducive to entertaining cinema. The pace of Sorkin's dialogue is critical in

giving the film propulsive power, but Fincher's montage sequences do just as much to keep things moving. I didn't know internet start-ups could be so exciting! Sorkin (who earns my never-ending admiration for creating The West Wing) is at his usual erudite blabber-mouth best. His comedic touches in particular deserve to be singled. Look out for hilarious scenes with chickens and Harvard principles. And Jesse Eisenberg's shift from robotic nervousness to even more robotic confidence was captivating. He’ll sweep up awards this year, I’m sure of it. All good stuff, but let’s move to that grey area between the ‘technical’ and ‘moral’ analysis of art: themes. Here, the film’s achievements are more shaky. Built around the irony of a creator of a networking site who cannot maintain friends of his own, The Social Network does a fine job of showing the full range of arseholery Zuckerberg is apparently capable of. The desc-

words: Mercer Finn


image: Col Pics/Everett/Rex Features riptor 'asshole' bookends the film, delivered by two different ladies, and Zuckerberg goes from 'is' to 'trying to be'. Personally, I don’t really understand what Fincher and Sorkin are trying to say here. The next step, I guess, would be 'trying not to be', and the final image is both cruel and hopeful on that score. The slightly fumbled ending leads me to suspect that the film might not be as clever as it appears to be. But even if I found it lacking, it remains impressive enough, from a technical viewpoint, to make the rave reviews understandable. But there is a bigger failure here, what I think can be described as a moral failure. The film is NOT fiction, or at least does not pretend to be. Before seeing it, I was aware of Sorkin’s insistence that his research was thorough, and that although he added drama, the story he was telling was factual. And I believed him! Only when I returned from the cinema to read around the subject did I find that the film’s ‘facts’ are, actually, seriously contested. Irin Carmon over at Jezebel (who was in the year above Zuckerberg at Harvard) notes that the decisions made by the filmmakers about their story are peculiar. Zuckerberg’s Facemash site compared men as well as women. He has had a serious girlfriend since 2003. The Social Network obscures and ignores these bits of biography. Carmon concludes that Fincher and Sorkin are “doing Zuckerberg himself a disservice to reduce his creativity and

problem-solving to a sort of digital hate fuck”. The film is morally culpable. Nathan Heller over at Slate, who was also at Harvard and knew Zuckerberg, points out that the film represented him in an extremely misleading way. Harvard was not a ‘citadel of old money’ with a ‘Jewish underclass’. The real Zuckerberg was “outwardly friendly, often smiling, confident”. Heller allows for the fact that the pressures of narrative can distort reality, but maintains that if the film’s ambition was to make sense of Facebook’s origin and success, The Social Network fails miserably. Facebook was not about getting dumped or getting into a fraternity, but grew out of a particular feeling of community that existed at Harvard. Zuckerberg was never “the best programmer around”, but he was a ‘canny and receptive cultural reader” who put those social bonds and that culture on the web. Heller reveals that there is a more interesting story here, and The Social Network did not tell it. So we are left with a brilliant film that commits two serious ‘moral’ errors: against Zuckerberg specifically, and against the audience generally. Zuckerberg has been lied about and we have been deceived about him. Moreover, if we were to expect a considered explication of >>


M+: MERCER FINN video: Sony Pictures

Facebook’s origin and success, we have been rumbled. My question here is how to balance these ‘moral’ considerations with the +95% reviews the film received. I doubt whether review aggregator sites would include the articles by the two objectors mentioned above, because Carmon and Heller were writing commentaries, not reviews. They did not talk about cinematography or editing. However, they did talk about character and themes. From there they went on to critique the ideas the film was presenting as inadequate. My suspicion is that the +95% reviews have cut this last element out, and have left the audience to judge for themselves. The Social Network is particularly good at demonstrating the distortions this approach can create. I think that criticism should cover all these areas. A critic should understand what a work of art is attempting to achieve (and how well it does

so), but then should also evaluate that aim. Critics should be allowed to say that a film is bad because they do not agree with it. Such presumption might appear difficult to take at first. The irresistibly likable Mark Kermode, being a devotee of horror, has expressed wariness about making moral judgments on films. Nevertheless, his favourable appraisals of the Twilight movies, and his unfavourable appraisals of Judd Apatow’s comedies, seem to me to be based on something other than their technical achievements. Try as we might, we cannot divorce ourselves from our beliefs when we react to the beliefs of others, whether friends or filmmakers. Acknowledging this when producing reviews is not only more honest, but encourages a more rounded evaluation of works of art. //M+


photo by Cia de Foto

“IT’S NOT OFFICIAL UNTIL IT’S ON FACEBOOK!” Calling time on public displays of status – James Stevens asks: just how much of our dating lives are now governed by the social network? “So, I’ve been seeing this lad for a month nearly now, and he still won’t put his status as ‘in a relationship with me. Is that bad?” We already freely post our drunken escapades, fondlings, failings and all-important (but few and far between) successes. Now, dating has it seems, finally become an integral part of the Facebook saga. And I don’t just mean a casual seeing each other. Fully-fledged, monogamous relationships it seems are now reliant, if not solely dependent on Facebook to make them work. As if dating wasn’t hard enough, juggling socialising, pleasing the friends, the all important parent introductions and getting it all to be just so, NOW the dating generation have the whole new, (and may I add, infuriating) online aspect of being in a successful relationship to contend with. It is now seen to be a big, but sadly routine thing to put your partner down as ‘your Facebook partner’, and an even bigger, relationship ender if they don’t.

My biggest concern however, is the stage that comes before that: The all important ‘prospective partner photo test’. The process by which a man (or woman) is judged solely upon their facebook photos: where they are, who they’re with and most important of all: What they are doing with that person: “Are they kissing them?” “We’re they dating?” “Was it a bad break up?” “What’s their situation now?” “OH. MY. GOD! She’s still his friend!” BOOM. Just like that, trust, respect and a potentially fantastic relationship are all on the rocks. The random slut that is tonguing your guy on a night out (no thought as to it being taken years ago, the comments underneath reading “OMG! U WOZ LIK SOOOOO PISSED!”) BIG NO. It’s just the image. But from then on, it’s just a downward spiral. And so you start to stalk them, you add their friends (you don’t know >>

words: James Stevens M+: THIS IS FACEBOOK LOVE

video: Reuters them!) just to read what goes on between them, what they post to each other’s walls, the way they interact, looking for signs of flirting. Sadly, this is just a repeat of the mobile craze the previous new technophile generation went through – or the same one did, only now they’ve moved away from the whole dirty texting or ‘sexting’ saga that caused so many break ups, most of which, were largely unfounded. Y’know, unless you’re Jason Manford or Vernon Kay. Ooops. *** It blew over; people grew to understand that texts between friends can be flirtatious but jokingly so. I mean, Christ, if my best friend and I got up to HALF the things we texted each other. Well, that’s another story. But the point is valid, we are now allowed to send joking ‘sexts’ between friends and partners happily accept them, even read them and suggest replies if they know them well enough... However, just when one bridge gets built up, knocked down and a new age of understanding allowed a new bridge to be built, Facebook comes along and batters it down with cries of: “You’re seeing HER again tonight?!” ...

“You didn’t tell me? How do I know?! Your FACEBOOK wall!!” It was once enough to simply tell people, maybe send a cosy Christmas card of you both together under a fireplace if you REALLY wanted to ram your relationship down the world’s throat so far it would be sick. Why isn’t that the case anymore? Have our lives become SO virtual reality based that we really feel the need to let 500 million people know we’re single or not? And that’s actually my point: our relationships are hitting rocky ground for totally invalid reasons, totally stupid reasons, reasons that only exist because society has created them. Who gives a fuck if he hasn’t added you as his girlfriend? Who gives a shit she’s spent the night out getting pissed with friends? TRUST. It’s what relationships were once unquestionably based on. The Big Brother nation, with Facebook as its king, has made it easier to see what people get up to. But instead of making dating and the aspect of trust easier to come by, it’s now harder than ever. You know you’re dating, and his friends do. Your parents and both your friends do, and that was once enough. Why isn’t it anymore? //M+


image by Don Hankins

THE SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK-UP The internet. The iPhone. The idontwanttobewithyouanymore. Three ‘I’s that are incongruous with severing ties in a healthy way in the modern world. Mike Tighe vents his virtual spleen. Yes, this article really is going to be as selfindulgent as it sounds. No, I’m not going to apologize for it. Why? Because I’ve spent the past three weeks surfing the web, using my phone and facing technological reminders of a particularly difficult break-up - and this article is my way of wreaking vengeance on the omnipresence of the social network, of the constant reminder that it’s impossible to stay ‘jacked in’ to modern life without drinking from the poison chalice of instant and infinite connectivity. There’s three trends about the modern world that have lead to my current state of astringency. The first is the adolescentbillionaire-spawning facebook, the digital top trumps of the modern world. The second is constant connectivity to social media through mobile devices. And the third is the factoryfarming psychological approach to positive thinking, particularly in a commercial way, that seems to be affecting people’s understanding of themselves in our newly austere economy. Those of you who saw The Social Network will be disappointed to learn that Mark Zuckerberg

wasn’t quite the Emperor Palpatine of Social Media that he was portrayed as. The film’s writer, Aaron Sorkin, openly admitted to writing the best story he could find as opposed to the most accurate. But a quote from the film reminds one of the fundamental allure and self- propagating nature of facebook: “Can I get laid? It really is that simple. Oh sure, I know you’ll insist it’s about the photos, about staying in touch with friends in other parts of the country, a useful distraction from work or even some sort of insurgent check on political power, ala Wikileaks. But anyone who says they don’t immediately rush to check the relationship status of a potential love interest as soon as the words ’facebook me’ are uttered is, frankly, lying. Similarly, anyone who has ever ‘poked’ anyone without realising the semi-erotic nature of such an act needs some serious sexual education. You can be a saint, you can be a sinner, but the motivating factor of social media is always the same: sex. >

words: Mike Tighe M+: THIS IS FACEBOOK LOVE

Which is why you very much do not want to be on the flip side of that equation. When you’re trying to avoid reminders of a broken romance, the last thing you want is to log onto a website which is essentially 500 million people flirting with each other. From the irritating ‘look at me’ overt displays of long-term couples (oooh! I got engaged! That means I can post about wedding plans four hundred times in two days, just so everyone gets the picture!) to the networking posts that you just know are the early indications of dating, the social network is not as conducive to ending relationships in the same way as it is to starting them. From announcement to inception, breaking up on Facebook is a protracted trauma. First of all, you have the nauseating moment when you first log on following said personal tragedy. You either face the systematic pain of deleting all reminders to your former lover, or realise - like I did - that within two hours, your ex has managed not just to block you, but also every ‘mutual’ friend that, it would appear, are no longer mutual. All of which initially feels healthy - you want the person out of your life, and now you no longer have to look at their wall when they are adorned with a new partner. Great. Problem solved. If only it were that simple - curiosity is a beast that it is hard to tame. Then comes the second wave. Condolence messages pouring in from every conceivable angle, not because people are actually aware, but because it’s a headline in a Facebook feed. There is the argument that you can block your relationship status, but by doing so you remove the most valuable commodity of your profile -


“WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE SECOND PART OF THE DILEMMA - YOU SIMPLY CANNOT ESCAPE FROM SOCIAL NETWORKING, AT ALL. UNLESS YOU’RE EXTREMELY SENSIBLE OR A NEANDERTHAL, YOU, LIKE ME, WILL HAVE A PHONE THAT CAN ACCESS THE INTERNET.” and the beating heart of Facebook’s curiosity factor - sexual availability. And whilst not wishing to seem cynical - I’m sure most friends genuinely care whilst sending condolence messages - they wouldn’t have known about it if it wasn’t in a news feed. And the pattern of such condolence seems to be an initial tsunami of moral support, before a wilderness of non-contact, as newer, more exciting stories begin to hit the headlines of our respective feeds. None of which is to say that people don’t care - but the manner in which personal information is delivered online, similar to the way stories are aligned on a news page, means their online presence becomes much more of a commentator than the confidant they would be in real life. After the wilderness period, and when one’s beginning to feel a little better about themselves, there’s another trial to overcome in the virtual labyrinth of Facebook: a) restraining oneself from becoming the last scene of The Social Network, constantly refreshing in an information-age-inspired curiosity about your former steady, and b) not committing a chat/message/post/poke faux pas based on online etiquette that is still developing, as you attempt to work through a social rule book that seems to dramatically change every few months. Which brings me to the second part of the dilemma - you simply cannot escape from social networking, at all. Unless you’re extremely sensible or a Neanderthal, you, like me, will have a phone that can access the internet. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have apps for Facebook, Twitter, and, if >


words: Mike Tighe M+: THIS IS FACEBOOK LOVE video: Throw’d TV

you’re especially predisposed to GPS-based stalking, foursquare. How can you not become completely neurotic when access to hitting refresh Zuckerberg-style, or facebook chat (which seems to have different rules again from the soooo early 2000s MSN) is literally at the touch of your fingertips? At the risk of sounding like Morpheus, staying ‘jacked in’ has its consequences. Sure, you can leave facebook, but its prevalence and social capital make that a serious disadvantage in the modern world. If someone you like asks if you’re on facebook, and you say no, they can’t find out all the things about you that we’ve become accustomed to being able to just know - in the same way you look at a car’s specs before buying it. They want to know your relationship status, job, and interests and facebook is an exceptionally welldesigned shop window. So deserting isn’t an option. Instead, you navigate the online social world with selfrestraint, and hope your Ghost-in-the-Shell doesn’t come across as insane. It’s a ‘fingers crossed’ approach to a relatively new form of communicating that lends itself to anxiety. At least in the days when there were no mobiles, it was impossible to spend days crippled by selfdoubt because someone hadn’t contacted you either online or by text - and the paranoid mentality that comes with it was relegated in importance to actually having a

life, because you couldn’t physically check a screen every twenty seconds. If you all read this and think this is a bizarre interpretation of online behaviour and more indicative of psychological problems than anything else, you’re probably right. Which leads me to my final point. Sometimes, life’s shit. Break-ups happen, people we love die, random accidents and injuries occur, and that’s just in the countries where there’s such things as healthcare, education and an (albeit weak) economy. So why do we insist as humans in pretending there’s nothing wrong and cling to some homeopathic idea that positive thinking can cure everything? The phenomenon of thinking positively as a means to changing your life is something which has increased more and more over recent years - with an industry worth millions generating more and more profit by churning out the latest ‘how to change your life’ book. But this path is fraught with dangers, as Barbara Ehrenreich, militantly opposed to the cult of positive thinking, wrote in her book ‘Smile or Die.’ Ehrenreich writes of when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the support networks she was referred to spoke of cancer as a “gift”, or a “rite of passage.” Of course, cancer is a horrendous affliction, though one “survivor” found by Ehrenreich claims “it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”


Such evidence demonstrates illogical thinking at best, delusion at worst. It’s not that positive thinking doesn’t work, it’s that there’s a limit to what it can do. Before I’m labelled as a depressed cynic, let me make one thing clear. I am, despite the tone of this article, an optimist. Feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t really achieve much, and those people who can think positively are happier, more attractive and more active than those who are depressed. Of course. But you cannot be genuine, human and positive all the time. Unless your positivity is going to be a sort of salesmanship of the soul - whereby you try and convince yourself you’re happy when you’re actually not - then in order to truly appreciate being positive, you’re going to have to be sodding miserable sometimes. You can’t appreciate the joy of finding someone special without having the heartbreak of losing someone as well.

However, today’s world is packed full of selfhelp courses, homeopathy and Wikianswers all urging you to stop being self-indulgent and to man up, move on, and crack on with life. But it isn’t that simple. Stopping feeling emotion for someone can’t be switched off anywhere near as quickly or easily as a relationship status can be changed. You can be as active as you like, you can follow the advice as obediently as a Dalek, but that is no substitute for doing what you need to do crying like a baby, getting unreasonably angry at the world, feeling thoroughly miserable and lamenting the loss of something special. It’s unfortunately a fundamental part of being human, and one which can’t be ameliorated out of you. //M+



image by Thor

KOMPUTARBEITER Last issue’s favourite contributor is back, under the pseudonym ‘Komputarbeiter’. He produces downtempo, minimalist tracks. K is a bit of a mystery, and this track is all we know of him...

GREATER MANCHESTER HAS long had a scene unlike any other in the world. Namely, a meshwork of many scenes from which innovative bands, stadium bands and simply cool-as-fuck bands along with new genres spring from. Although often accused of banking on its heritage, it is exactly this heritage which inspires most of the new musicians to emerge and ‘ave it like no other. And most of this Heritage, really, comes form Salford... but we’ll explore that next time, you hella gudduns. Manchester itself is a compact city makes for a uniquely tight-knitted music scene which some see as quite impenetrable. However, the revolution has been online for a while – and it’s been in the clubnight scene, which seems to expand monthly. There is nothing you can’t find in Salford and Manchester. From this issue onwards we will be bringing you a new music act to keep your beady M+ lovin’ eye on. //M+


LITTLE VOLCANOES Well, it’s a better name than Miniscule Earth Eruptions, isn’t it? M+ meets Phil Quinn from the band that’s been a Manchester live favourite for a while

Phil is fashionably late, running into Odd Bar, (Northern Quarter, Manchester) with a bearish vigour and a giant grin. There’s only a hint of breathlessness, and then a cosy scratch and ruffle of his equally giant coat as he sits down, just missing the city’s drizzle.

see how the band have translated from having a great MySpace following, to a Facebook one. “Yeah, but no-one uses MySpace anymore.”

“We’ve been playing old punk venues,” he says after getting a drink in. “It’s been great. It’s money we’re sticking away for studio costs. That’s why we’re on tour.”

“A friend from France, she called it ‘mad indie hip hop’. I don’t see the hip hop, but it’s quite nice,” he says with a proper hearty chuckle.

Phil is upfront and honest about the band’s studio work and the need to get more in. “Just because you’re a good live band it doesn’t mean you can just plug in and get ready. Time and knowledge, more experience.”

“So we’ve been going for two years,” he says. “Well, two years since we started getting good anyway. There was a different line-up: which we see as a different band. Completely different- apart from me, completely different songs apart from one, called ‘I’m Ashamed.’ It always goes down really well live. We play it much better now, better than we ever did.”

Little Volcanoes have been going for a few years at pubs, clubs and underground venues across the UK, gathering a hefty fanbase. Even Phil alone has over 3,000 friends on Facebook. Besides the point, it is interesting to

The first single that prompted attention for the band at the beginning was ‘Scars’.

Phil’s favourite venue in the UK so far was in fact, a festival. “The Willowman Festival.”

music: courtesy of Little Volcanoes M+ MUSIC


Willowman festival takes place in the summer, near Northallerton in North Yorkshire. “We got a middle of the day slot, so that was ace. We played in front of 2,500 thousand people. Ace.” “And Dublin Castle: we always have an amazing time. It’s the whole thing: you’re in Camden. I always go for my noodles before - my lucky noodles. And in Manchester, probably...all of them! Oh ok, I’ll stick with Moho. I like that place. It’s better to play to 100 people in the little room, than in the prestigious venue that only a quarter full. I’m dying to do Sound Control, Ben Taylor gave me grand tour of that when it opened.” [Sound Control is a venue next to Font Bar and opposite the Thirsty Scholar pub, a very popular are just off Oxford Road in Manchester, underneath the railway bridge.]

appreciated it. We’re not shocked - it’s a great song! But really happy. It sort of punches above its weight. I don’t know what that means, entirely... but it does.” Little Volcanoes have a new song out that will be released shortly We’re the kind of band that gets lots of things shouted at us. We have a kind of glam, foppiness to it, and you’ll find the ones in kagools and buttoned up checked shirts. You’ll always find a section of that group who will take issue with us.” Generally speaking, the Manchester scene is not so obviously split down the middle, as most gig goers will try out venues and bands they’re not used to but there’s always the hecklers. But surely heckling boils down to the songs themselves... “With your songs, you’ve got to make it interesting. It’s got to have hooks. If you’ve got the ego to pick up an instrument, or sing...they are things you forget. Pick up your ego later...” Little Volcanoes are: “chaotic, intelligent, stupid camp, violent.” We reckon they’re more ready than they think they are.

We’ve done Aftershow, and Ruby Lounge for the BBC Introducing show; we’ve played a bill with The Slits headlining - they’re pretty cool.”


“I’d like to think I’ve done more than 450-500 shows. Like to think.” In an attempt to label this achievement, he says: “Nah, think of a better word than veteran! Haha! Oh okay...Pioneer? Yeah! Doesn’t make any sense but I love that word!”

Our extended interview piece will appear on at the end of the month. Keep ‘em peeled! //M+

Little Volcanoes have been championed by local venues, blogs and Sam Walker from BBC Radio Manchester. “They were playing Scars every week. We’re totally, totally indebted to them and really



image by Mark Ramsay

SPOKEN POEM: DREAM BEINGS M+ likes a bit of literature. Writer and poet James Clayton donates his Haiku, and explains his love of the form.

“I started writing haiku verse a year ago when I participated in the One Hundred Days to Make Me a Better Person project and produced a daily sketch and poem based on a mythical creature. It was something new to try and seemed to fit with my interest in Japanese culture and the fact that many of the characters came from Far Eastern folklore. I soon realised that I loved the haiku poetry form. As a writer I fear that I can ramble too much and I’m aware of the perils of being too verbose and elaborate. The power and pleasure of haiku poetry is that it’s sharp and to the point. I like the way that immense ideas, emotions, thoughts, feelings and themes can be encapsulated within three successive lines of five, seven and five syllable length. The style’s fleeting, transient nature also evokes a sense of Far Eastern philosophy which I personally find appealing. I’m now gripped by the rhythm and flow of haiku verse and can’t stop producing it, hence the blog. I’m also currently collaborating with Leeds-based artist Jenna Whyte on a collection of illustrated tales of supernatural Japan, all told in haiku verse.”



image by Peter Cruise

ANTI-THESIS: GAGA THEORY M+ Editor Jane McConnell takes on Professor Camille Paglia’s ‘Gaga and the Death Of Sex’ and insists that the Lavender Blonde may be the icon of our age

“POP. MUSIC. WILL. NEVER. BE. LOWBROW,” growls the voice, bellowing through the concert hall. The wraparound Terminatoresque goggles flash up these same words in LED lights. This piece is a response. A stick-em-up. In September 2010, The Sunday Times Magazine published an essay by Professor Camille Paglia entitled: ‘Gaga and the Death of Sex.’ Highly critical of the late noughties cultural icon, her article challenged the primary readings many tend to make of Lady Gaga as a modern, mainstream and truly globalised star: pop, female, sexy, creative, controversial, iconic. For example: “…with her spindly physique and wobbly moves, Gaga seems overwhelmed by her frenetic production…”

Lady Gaga is set to release her third album – perhaps her most difficult to date. The Haus of Gaga promises further controversy. However, it must impress the current fanbase and somehow garner even more fans without watering down the bullish, artiste-but-popular sensibilities. Given the server crashingly huge response to the Born This Way video release on VEVO, opening wider arms to a new Gaga crowd should not be taxing. Perhaps now is the time to figure out how right was, and is, Paglia: is Gaga really the Death of Sex? In a word: No. In two: No, Camille. To suggest Gaga is blameworthy for ‘The Death Of Sex’ is bold and unjustified. “But for Gaga, sex is mainly décor and surface,” states Paglia. >>

words: Jane McConnell THE M+ ESSAY image: Kate Green Maybe so. Yet more so, Paglia has handily described how Gaga is the embodiment of a highly sexualised, Western advertising tradition – one that the generation of Gaga’s followers have been forced to consume from childhood. Clever, much, that she is now a highly critiqued, self-conscious bastion of it? It would be better argued that Gaga follows in a tradition of neo-burlesque. Instead of using costume purely for the aesthetic, it is often loaded with cultural reference and connotations. For Gaga and her Haus, as with her muse Andy Warhol, these can be obsessive. A twenty-first century Dadaist, she uses neo-burlesque’s ethic of subverting the acceptable in order to ridicule the modern, plasticized, biased-heterosexual notions of sex and more crucially, the sexual. It is this notion which we frequently see for sale. (Food, sofas, glasses, cars, cigarettes: enter sexy woman, billboard right.) No logo: just

sex. That was its ‘death’, and it happened long ago. Gaga, in her own lyrics: “When you give me k-kisses/That’s money, honey.” Sex definably ‘died’, or rather, lost its repressed, religious inscrutability in the latter half of the twentieth century when Christian ideology was questioned more. In the 1970s and 80s, pornographic publications were no longer surreptitious glossies kept under the counter. The burlesque shows of the age were displaced with strip joints. To even suggest that sex can ‘die’ is to term it as a limited concept capable of being destroyed rather than transformed or renegotiated in both its denotations and connotations. Gaga/Germanotta herself allegedly worked as a stripper in her native New York city – and so is a most experienced subject of the openness of sex in the late 20th century. Yet, it is Generation X and the Boomers that are responsible for objectifying sex and pushing the advent of easy porn. It’s Generation X and the Booomers who continue to make money from it all. Gaga is single-handedly taking on the scarcity of sacredness in sex, using iconoclasm, gore and her own flesh to reveal and empower – or expose and ridicule – common perceptions of fetishes to the mainstream. Indeed, only art and philosophy can be an examples of how an audience member is allowed to subjectively form their own opinion of a universal idea: everyone can comprehend, or project what they wish, onto her work. No“A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY DADAIST, SHE USES NEO-BURLESQUE’S ETHIC OF SUBVERTING THE ACCEPTABLE IN ORDER TO RIDICULE THE MODERN, PLASTICIZED, BIASED-HETEROSEXUAL NOTIONS OF SEX AND MORE CRUCIALLY, THE SEXUAL.”


words: Jane McConnell THE M+ ESSAY video Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’

-one is forced to listen or take her music, videos, shows or bootlegs to heart. And yet millions do. “Drag queens, whom Gaga professes to admire, are usually far sexier in many of her over-the-top outfits than she is,” Paglia says, after successfully listing the pop icons of the past who caused similar disdain in the ordinate circles of highbrow aficionados, back in the day (Bowie, Madonna.) Surely, none of them would want to now be seen as the opposing elite to Gaga. Gaga clearly – and this is key – nods to this pantheon, and yet never claims to being the originator of their ideas. Rather, Gaga has successfully created a cult, reflecting the techniques many global brands adopt when establishing a core demographic. Even by following her Twitter page for just a few days, it is clear that the definitions are part of a language used by a community which finds comfort within itself; the outsiders are the ‘They’ versus Gaga’s ‘We’. Gaga is ‘Mother Monster’, and the fans are ‘Little Monsters’. What Paglia fails to understand is that the Little Monsters are Generation Y and the iGeneration; crucially: monsters of their parents’ creation. The collective forefathers and foremothers are programmers who formed a world where it is possible to hide behind a screen, behind closed doors, away from the threat of the external world. These screenagers then gather instead around a representative figure of perceived alienation – Gaga – who collects all of these outsiders, and keeps them inside her community.

In this year’s ‘Born This Way’ video, the fantastic, the camp and the literal meet the grotesque as a sketchy parable about good and evil is the voiceover for a sequence filled with yonic imagery and birthing images. It is here that Gaga readily defines herself as ‘Mother Monster.’ By utilising everything that is widely available to her, she is the most postmodern and prolific member of Generation Y. She inspires a young audience which is cynically fed dollar signs (illogical, lazy Ke$ha comparisons, anyone?) and artists who ‘definitely’ write all their own songs. For the older audience, Gaga is a smart stage manager and PR powerhouse, effortlessly, even anxiously, mixing up laughably easy conspiratorial mystique (there are many, many Illuminati accusations,) with the obvious (headline-grabbing clothing) and finally, the piss-take (see the ‘Sandwich’ scenes, Telephone, Jonas Akerlund, 2010). All the while, fairly moving social statements within her songs are made by the pop singer who essentially understands that which Paglia can only describe: “They communicate via a constant stream of atomised, telegraphic text messages…Gaga’s fans are marooned in a global technocracy of fancy gadgets but emotional poverty. Everything is refracted for them through the media.” But this is entirely the point. For Gaga’s fans, this may be completely new to them, but they know:

words: Jane McConnell THE M+ ESSAY image: Kate Green Turner or Janis Joplin, with their huge personalities and deep wells of passion.” Whilst not detracting from this statement as both of these women are powerful women, Paglia is flawed in assuming that Gaga’s fanbase is confined to one generational group born in the 1980s and 1990s anyway, and that “most” will have not read up on comparably strong female role models.

“SHAMEFUL, THEN, THAT PAGLIA’S ESSAY SOMETIMES COMES ACROSS AS ENVIOUS AND CONTEMPTUOUS OF AN EMPOWERED GENERATION THAT CAN ACCESS THE BIOGRAPHIES OF POPULAR AND EVEN HIGHBROW ARTISTIC CULTURE – WITHIN SECONDS.” in a hyperreality and hypermediated world, information and imagery are ephemeral, throwaway – and Google cached. Magazines make up stories. People live through others. The camera always lies. Fiction births fanfiction, and both are readily consumed without prejudice. In similar vein, given the ubiquitous ways Gaga’s fans, and the rest of the internet-accessible world consume culture, Stefani Germanotta and Lady Gaga are as real as each other. Every piece of biographical information about her and her are equivocally within reach. “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me”; and Generation Y cannot just accept one person, one symbol, one idea. It is boring. It is religious. And it does not accept the fluidity of the deconstructed (and selfconstructed) 21st century personality which can cut and paste itself on social networks in various guises.

It is also a naïve statement: the beauty of the internet generation is the sheer easiness which it finds when catching up on what was missed from not being born yet. [Insert winking emoticon here.] Shameful, then, that Paglia’s essay sometimes comes across as envious and contemptuous of an empowered generation that can access the biographies of popular and even highbrow artistic culture – within seconds. And unfortunately for Paglia, her words speak true. The “worshippers” have been brought up in a world where art, music, video, books and film constantly borrow from each other and are used to sell each other in what could be termed as collage culture. Gaga collages too, in almost every music video produced. Points of reference are everintegrated and proudly ignore generic boundaries. If anything, she takes from the great men of the age, appropriates their symbols and signs within a female narrative, and assigns new meaning to the traditionally canonical pop pieces. From Tarantino (Telephone video: 2010) to Bowie (thunderbolt iconography: 2007-present); Salvador Dali (Born This Way, 2011) to Marilyn Manson (Bad Romance, 2010); Saul Bass (Paparazzi, 2009) to Rilke (inner arm tattoo, 2010)… …Lady. GaGa. Will. Never. Be. Lowbrow. For as long as the academic elite, its students and its rebels continue to talk about her… //M+

Jane McConnell is not a Professor of Humanities or Media Studies.

“Most of her worshippers seem to have little or no contact with such powerful performers as Tina


M+ ISSUE 1  

Following on form the pilot, this is Issue 1.