Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Spotify: Death of Music?

I was in HMV at the weekend, and got chatting to a friend of mine who works there; I think they're going to make it, which is great news. The fact still remains that the music distribution industry have changed drastically in an impossibly small moment, and HMV is going to have to change with it.

At first, I couldn't quite get my head around Spotify. How would I know what to listen to? Where would my musical identity be suspended if I listened to music that I couldn't wear, like a badge, in my CD collection? What a 90s view of the music world that has turned out to be.

Paying for a premium account on Spotify has been a thoroughly liberating experience; a fresh waft of sea-air through my musical nostrils. Bracing.

Every day I am discovering new musicians and fresh melodies to rekindle my love of music and inspire me to create more of it myself. The connections between albums and E.Ps, guitars, synths and bass have never been so real, or so easy to follow; one album leads to another and, like a single square of delicious Bourneville chocolate, one tune is never enough.

My current squeeze are a folksy little outfit called "The Milk Carton Kids" and if you listen to only one of their tracks, make it 'Michigan'.

Does Spotify mean the death of Music?

The answer if definitively "No".

Moral Misadventures in Facebook

So, 2013 feels like the right time to return to this particular collection of thoughts and ideas. My adventuring in other forms of blogging (Facebook and Twitter) are through but my search for a place to share my more creative musings continues.

Facebook is, ironically, a faceless forum for people to form strange little circles of sycophants. I have been shocked by how cold and aggressive people can be when they are able to type whatever they want from the comfort of their soapbox-settees. How quickly they can turn on you. How little courtesy gets extended to their supposed 'friends' or even family.

My final adventure in Facebook saw me express my shock towards a “shameful witch-hunt” that shuddered across MY news feed. The people within these pages had taken it upon themselves to expose the identity of a pair of criminals whom the court had judged it 'just' to garb in the disguise of forgiveness and rehabilitation – the ‘boys’ who murder James Bulger in 1993. As I looked at the photographs that had been thrust upon me, I was struck by how dangerous this post was, and how immoral – even criminal. What if this 'out-ing' led to these people being beaten, or murdered? What if it caused their delicate world to come crashing down (again) and drove them down a criminal path, again? What if it isn’t even them at all and some innocent person is hurt because they were wrongly identified?

I was appalled by the post - it seemed illegal to me - and I expressed that I thought it was shameful and asked "what happened to forgiveness?" I was met with an attack that I did not expect. It left me feeling deeply sad.

I don't think I can be misunderstood here: I do NOT condone the actions of these murderers. Like everyone else, I am appalled by them, but I am also aware that these men were only children of ten themselves when they made this terrible choice. I believe they deserve to be extended, at least, a little compassion.

We live in a society that deems it just to spare criminals from the death penalty, and I believe in that choice. Our society judges that justice is best served through reformation and rehabilitation - a decision that is, obviously, open to discussion by legal and moral scholars. I choose to live in this society and abide its laws. If I disagreed with the choices made on my behalf, I have the right to object, or even leave the society, but I do not have the right to act upon my beliefs or perform any 'justice' of my own.

Socrates believed something very similar. He believed that by choosing to live within a society, a person agrees to a social contract that binds you to its values. By acting in an unprincipled way towards that society (breaking its rules) you do damage to it. Socrates accepted that he had left himself open to being accused by the people of the city by virtue of living in it; and even when presented with opportunities to escape from 'death row', he chose to face his punishment, and to continue to live – and die – according to the judgments of the society in which he lived. In short, he accepted the judgment of the courts even though he might not have agreed with them as he believed that was his duty. And so, he was executed (he actually administered the poison himself!)

When I challenged the people of Facebook to consider forgiveness, I was accused of being 'sanctimonious' and perhaps I was, but how can that be a bad thing in a world that is so full of moral-grey? Isn't it right that we should step forward and challenge the view that "them that shouts the loudest is the right-est"? I wasn't suggesting that I was superior to anybody else, I was asking others to think about what they thought 'forgiveness' meant.

More interesting that a few days ago, the BBC published an article suggesting that the Attorney general is taking legal action against ‘several people who published photographs’ of the two criminals (

The attorney general was keen to publicly remind media producers that there is a ‘worldwide injunction in place which prevents the publication of any images or information’ about the two. While it might be impossible to prevent such images finding a way on to the internet, the injunction certainly makes publishing them a criminal action itself.

If we are going to arm ourselves with the powerful weapons that the internet provides us – a power which can be far-reaching and deeply damaging – then we need to take moral responsibility for our actions.

The internet cannot be regulated or repressed like other, slower modes of communication, so we must be the ones who ensure that it is used for good. If I am sanctimonious for being aware of the moral obligation I have as a ‘digital media producer’, then I am sanctimonious. I hope you will join me upon my moral high-ground, because, in this case, I am sure I hold it.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

TT3D: Closer to the Edge - Review

Directed by: Richard De Aragues
Narrated by: Jared Leto
Runtime: 103 minutesUK Release: 22 April 2011

TT3D: Closer to the Edge documents the world’s greatest motorcycle road-race: the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. As the story about Freedom, Courage and the will to win unfolds, it becomes an exploration of the drive and passion of TT racers on a quest to defeat the grueling 37 ¾ mile course. We follow the challengers at the 2010 competition; Guy Martin; John McGuiness; Ian Hutchinson and Paul “Dobsy” Dobbs, to name a few, as they risk everything for the prestige of becoming a TT winner. They will push both body and machine beyond their limits, fully aware that this documentary might become and obituary. Welcome to the world of the TT. 

The rest of the review is now available here:

Monday, 4 April 2011

Prowl - DVD Review

Release Date (UK DVD) – 4th April 2011
Certificate (UK) – 18
Director – Patrik Syversen
Country – USA
Runtime – 81 minutes
Starring – Ruta GedmintasBruce PayneCourtney Hope, Oliver Hawes
Prowl is a vampire movie from Norwegian director Patrik Syversen that bites, sucks and blows…err…wait, that sounds wrong. Will vampires live forever? Or has this genre been bled dry?
Amber (Hope) desperately needs to escape the small town existence that is suffocating her and has dreams of moving to Chicago. After arranging to view an apartment there, she persuades her friends to join her on a road trip to the big city. Just outside the borders of their sleep hometown, Eric’s (Hawes) car breaks down. After accepting help from a passing trucker and climbing into the back of his trailer, it soon becomes clear that their driver, Bernard (Payne), wasn’t being entirely honest about his cargo; a cargo he intended to deliver to a dark place, where vicious creatures prowl.

You can read the rest of the review here:

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Apocalypse Now - Restoration

I was recently lucky enough to go to a press-screening for the new release of Apocalypse Now. Unfortunately, I am not able to publish my review until nearer the release (27th May), but you will be able to read it at

I will keep you posted.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Game culture; Does it express a need for Escapism or the search for Community?


We had finally managed to persuade a local fisherman that there was a school of magic fish just off the coast of the small island on the horizon and he agreed to ferry us across. It had been a very successful bluff-check and we weren’t sure if he would still be waiting for us when we returned, but it was a risk that we had to take. We had business on that island; we were looking for the final dismembered body-part of a demigod. The safety of the world depended on it.

Once across, we discovered that a local tribe of lizard-folk had discovered the leg that we were looking for and that they worshipped it as a relic; a piece of their God. It was not going to be easy to get it back. But Morris had an idea. He had recently emasculated a rather troublesome bear and carried said trophy in his pocket. If we could persuade this group of idolaters that this was a more valuable body-part from their God, we might be able to trade it for the leg that we needed. True, Morris did place great value on the bear-penis himself, but this was a trade worth making.

Somewhere, in a fantasy world of our creation, there is a tribe of lizard people worshipping a bear-cock. Only in the world of role-play could such a wonderful thing happen.

I have been adventuring and dungeoneering with a party of misfits for around 3 years now, and I am hooked. But let’s get something straight. I don’t dress up in strange clothes, or ride around on an imaginary horse clip-clopping with two halves of a coconut. That would be LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) and I am not quite ready for that.

I came to realize that Dungeons & Dragons (4th Ed) might be the best game I have ever played, but began to wonder what it is about games that keep people playing.

I spoke with Editor-in-chief Dave “The Game” Chalker and  regular contributor Phil “Chatty DM” Menard about their gaming habits. 

© All rights. Richard Watts 2011