Full picture.

When we read a headline, it’s very easy to have a gut response to it. One which is excitable. This is because this is how headlines are designed, to grab your attention, to draw you into the story.

The media many times plays the outrage card, and how many of us have been outraged for some years at immigrants, unelected bureaucrats and the way Ed Miliband consumes a bacon sandwich.

Headlines and the way the narrative is designed can easily sway our views, and more often than not, it points us to a direction of confirmation bias, reaffirming what we believe and what our values are.

This is not the way to progress collectively. We need some impartiality blended with differing opinions, we need balanced debate where balance is appropriate. We need all of our viewpoints to be challenged and we need to normalise the notion that we can be wrong and we are entitled to change our mind on something.

In short, we need a full picture, the reasons as to why something is the way it is or what motivates a person of power to decide the actions the way they do. Without such analysis and scrutiny, we fall into the trap of letting people getting away with scapegoating and using their leverage to benefit their own interests whilst gaslighting everyone else.

Journalism of the highest calibre is of utmost important, one which fights against anti-intellectualism and negative partisanship. Lots of work to be done.

Knowing more than you think you know

Music notation is a very good example of this.

I’ve had students who are quite frightened by the notion of attempting to read a score or perform music that’s put in front of them.

I understand the hesitation, transferring the semiotic information from your eyes to your hands is a complex process that takes years to master.

But the process of reading itself is something any musician is capable of doing.

They trick is to find the pulse, then spot patterns, spot rhythms or high and low notes, and all of a sudden you are able to pinpoint particular features.

As musicians learn theory and about the elements they are then eventually able to put all those different jigsaw pieces of information and place it together into a music score.

Start with the details, and work from there. You know more than you think you know.

Using leverage for good

Footballers tend to get scapegoated a fair bit.

Upon initial glance, it’s obvious as to why. They are paid a lot of money for what is essentially a wonderful irrelevance. They are involved in a global business where a lot of sketchy economics and corruption occurs.

Yet, more than most other forms of celebrity, I point to footballers who are doing good.

Marcus Rashford pretty much single handedly forced the Tories to U turn on their cruel stance on free school meals.

Jordan Henderson is campaigning fiercely to stop anti racism.

Trent Alexander Arnold has launched a campaign to tackle child poverty.

Andy Robertson is working to make healthcare and football more accessible.

Mohamed Salah’s presence in Liverpool has decreased Islamophobia and he launched an anti drug campaign in Egypt.

Juan Mata, Mesut Ozil, the list goes on.

So to tar all footballers with the same brush is a bit assumptions and unfair. It’s a lot more grey than that.

And for those listed and the ones I’ve omitted who are using their privilege and leverage to do good have my upmost respect.

I would call on anyone in that position to explore their values and get behind a cause.

And you don’t need to be a footballer or celebrity to do that as well. There’s a lot of work everywhere that needs to be done, to make things better.

Social media steers us towards the self, and whilst that is a normal and to be expected, using it for good certainly has it’s virtue.

And credit where due to all of those who use their power to do some good.

Longer days

When I lived in the Middle East, the daylight hours were pretty much set in stone.

5:30-6:30am was usually when sunrise happened and 6pm – 7pm was when sunset happened. The sunset could be absolutely gorgeous and during the winter months, the weather was gorgeous.

Now I’m back in the U.K., I’m cherishing the longer days. I finished my show at 9:45pm and cycled home and could still see the sunlight.

The mountains and city of Cardiff became a silhouette in the darkness. Lights glistened across the river, and after a pretty horrendous month of persistent rain, we finally had a clear sunny day that had a hint of freshness about it.

I look forward to a summer with long days, hotter weather and long days of daylight.

Today’s Music Business vs. Artistic Vision

I just read the Bob Lefsetz article on Today’s Music Business.

The short of it is that data on social media dictates the business above any of the music. Record labels capitalise on that which already gains traction.

And usually what gains traction needs that viral train wreck, shock value so it’s instantly shareable and can catch fire.

That’s not music anywhere near in it’s full art form.

But labels, don’t care about that, they care about money.

So, if you are keen on garnering as much attention as possible, getting mindshare and being talked about so much it leads to a major deal and beaucoup bucks, get cracking on with your short hooks on Tik Tok.

Otherwise, the better approach is to accept the reality of the situation, then ignore the business trends of today and steer your own path with your own vision.

You might not make any money at all, but you’ll be fulfilled knowing that you’ve made that which you want to make without pandering to any of the lower common denominator nonsense.

You might build an audience, a small viable audience that appreciates you for who you are and respect your integrity and willingness to dance on the edge. And if Kevin Kelly is right, 1000 true fans is all you need to get somewhere.

Artistic vision vs The Committee

Bat for Lashes is going it alone.

I’ve always admired her work. She’s done 5 albums and all over those records are songs that are brave, experimental and uncompromising.

Yet she has seemed to have had a bit of a rough ride as far as labels are concerned and the reason is clear.

Labels want financial success above anything else, so much so that they would rather thrust mediocrity that’s guaranteed to appeal to some superficial degree than anything that takes a risk and dances on the edge.

This was not the case before the 2000s, labels sought out talent and gave them time to nurture their sound and craft and have a few misfires along the way. Now if you want to do this kind of thing, it’s most likely that you are on your own.

Labels follow the data, then they have a committee of multiple producers and songwriters to manufacture the hits.

Popular does not mean better.

And when an artist follows integrity and gets things right, it hits on a level deeper and more resonant than anything a team of writers seeking out the average marketplace.

The good news is you don’t need permission any more to make your art, in the way you want to make it. If you are inspired to follow your own tuning fork, do it and don’t let any groupthink convince you to do otherwise.

Overcoming Hurdles.

Liverpool got into the Champions league.

They also got third place and after the season they’ve had, as a supporter I’m tremendously happy.

Injuries ran amok, most devastatingly at centre back, and the system of the team was completely disrupted and during March, it seemed to completely nullify out attack.

There were moments when I thought that European football wasn’t going to happen at all. The last five games saw Liverpool more like themselves, more stability, more creativity going forward and more last minute heroics (Allison’s extraordinary header).

Kudos to Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, a young centre back pair that have earned a wealth of experience and have established themselves as premier league players.

At times, luck has run dry, one obstacle has come after another and things did not look good, but with resilience and the right attitude, the team fought back and it’s a job well done.

It’s good to have obstacles come in your way, they provide, new challenges, new experiences and lessons and I look forward to seeing how the team do next season.

Roll on the Euros.

Part of a whole.

Are you cog or are you a linchpin?

Are you compliant or a creator, a contributor, a spark?

Everywhere, humans create a web of systems that operate to achieve something, a coffee shop, a railway network or a film.

Each of these systems have personnel involved. There are the big names, the CEO, the director, the captain but then there is everyone else. Varied levels of skill sets, roles and responsibilities and without any of these people, the systems run the risk of a flaw, or a lesser quality of experience.

When systems run, things are as expected, it’s all okay but is potential wasted? How many people hate their job for example? How many do the bare minimum? How many of us watch the clock tick by? How many of us are weighed down by bureaucracy?

As we move from industrial to digital, there are opportunities for us to re-evaluate our relation with work to which passion can blossom, creative potential can be met and no matter how small a role someone plays in the way in which something operates, they can do work they are proud of.

Taking a stance for humanity

The conflict that we are currently witnessing in Israel and Palestine is heartbreaking and tragic.

This is deeply complex, rooted in history and religious identity and I’ve done my level best to get my head around it.

One of the most informative things I listened to about the recent violence was Sarah Kendzior’s and Andrea Chalupa’s Gaslit Nation podcast. The main thing I learnt is that the US has a lot to answer for.

It’s rather astonishing to see leaders pander to war criminals just to save face with political allegiances, all in spite of moral principles.

You can’t seriously call for deescalation to the government you sold weapons to.

You can’t deflect and both sides the story when clearly one side is committing more atrocities than the other.

Netanyahu can claim he is avoiding civilian targets all he likes but why is it the case that such a large proportion of casualties involved children?

Human nature can stoop to horridly cruel and dark levels.

There are grey area to this I know, and the domino affect of this is worrying and this is the point that has to be stressed. Is it an impossible situation? Certainly feels like it.

I believe that many Israeli civilians want to co-exist with Palestinians where everyone can live their lives in peace and dignity.

And the atrocities of a few is no excuse for antisemitism.

So to take a stance is out yourself on the line, but ultimately, as divided as the media and internet wants us to be, we are all after the same thing and that’s for some peace.

My Octopus Teacher

Some people do lead extraordinary lives. I’m fascinated by some documentaries and the subject matter to which drives a person to make them.

Netflix have certainly pushed a fair few documentaries out, many of which have induced outrage at the shortcomings of the modern world but My Octopus Teacher is different insofar as it is heartwarming, humble and curious.

So Craig Foster is burnt out from filming and editing, so goes back to his childhood home in South Africa and starts to go diving, and from there he starts to create a bond with an Octopus, one to which he earns the trust of a creature initially weary and from there, the story of her life carries us through the documentary.

And it’s well worth the watch, I became as engaged in it as a well put together thriller, you begin to not help but care for the creature.

And the overall story is personal as opposed to objective science, but in it is a profound message about our need to connect with the natural world, how it heals us, makes us more empathetic and enjoy the precious gift that being alive in this beautiful world is.