+ Addicted to Facebook... Or Yourself?

Facebook is so much more than a tool for communicating with friends. It's inevitably also used to project an image of ourselves to best friends, childhood acquaintances, exes and of course the people we're so want to impress. Online personalities are one-sided, highly edited and, for me, they can be symptomatic of a worrying trend where people get so lost in themselves and their own image that Facebook is merely a tool to create a self-concept they wish to be true.

The same goes for personal blogs where selective photos, galleries of sun-drenched days and the power of Photoshop rule. Take a look at the most visited blogs on Bloglovin and you can see that they're invariably the ones with endless soft-focus pictures of themselves and a round-up of only the most glamorous places they've recently visited. It goes hand in hand with how people choose to maintain their Facebook profiles - I have even seen one person who uploads photos from a fashion blog and then pretends that it's her...

Facebook should be about interaction and keeping friends and family up to date with your life, not just about posting vacuous facts about yourself and photos of yourself alone in your room!

For most people, social media is a forum to advertise a specific construct of yourself, one that, for the most part, you can control. I'd love to see more people being just as comfortable outlining their fears and (possibly) controversial opinions as they are uploading photos of themselves in a new outfit. I'd love to see more people use Facebook as a tool to share information rather than just as a tool to appease your self-absorbed tendencies.

Self-expression and the power to construct an online personality for ourselves is just one of the many perks of the internet. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be fun, light-hearted and make us feel good! It's just worrying that people are starting to forget that the sum of who you are is so much more than the photos you upload and what you decide to 'like' on Facebook.

I know people who have felt the need to upload intimate photos of their child's birth, and these days it's almost odd if someone doesn't update their status at their own wedding. We get so bogged down with recording our lives that the danger is we forget to properly live them. Travellers search just as avidly for wi-fi as they do adventures and a cold beer! People spend more time uploading photos from their phone than using them to actually phone their friends.

The danger is that Facebook acts like a security blanket, as it's a scarily easy way of assessing how your life is faring compared to your peers, or at least measuring up to their perceived lifestyle. It looks like more and more people are all set to spend their whole lives frantically refreshing their Facebook news feed, completely missing the real events are going on in the real world!

+ My Recent London Discoveries

One of the best (and worst) things about London is that there's so much out there just waiting to be discovered. However many places you visit in the evenings and at the weekends, it just isn't possible to fit in everything I would into a week's 168 hours! I'm trying to visit new places every week, so here's a round-up of what I've found recently:

Open Air Shakespeare at Victoria Embankment Gardens <-- The acoustics are pretty poor here so make sure you sit near the front to keep up with all the action, but it's a breath of fresh air hidden away in Central London • The Troudadour, Earl's Court <-- This is where Bob Dylan played in the 1960s, but is now worth a visit for its timeless interior, beautiful garden and their gorgeous potato wedges (picture below) • Le Tea Cosy, Primrose Hill <-- This place does the best lemon chiffon cake I've ever tasted! My friend Mandy has a two-month free trial with Taste Card, and it's given us the chance to try out some places around London we wouldn't normally have known about. The other week we tried out Tod's Grill in Islington, where to start I had calamari followed by a delicious lamb shank. At first we were a bit sceptical because we were the only customers in there, but then pockets of people started to enter the restaurant (eclectically decorated with posters for local events from over the years), thankfully displacing our fears that we had been lured in to an unpopular price just because of a half-price offer!

Calamari at Todd's Grill, Islington Lamb shank at Tod's Grill,Upper Street, London
Potato wedges at the Trouabdour, Earl's Court The garden at The Troubadour, Earl's Court

Things I Still Need to Do in London

• Ronnie Scott's, Soho.
• Watch some live music at The Slaghtered Lamb.
• Have a night out at Lost Society, Clapham.
• Watch a play, any play.
Spark London - Britain's first true-storytelling club night.
• Visit the British Library
• Visit the Nightjar bar in Shoreditch
• Watch a free lecture at Gresham College


+ The Fabulous Stains

Diane Lane - Fabulous Stains

I wish I'd discovered The Fabulous Stains as a teenager. The film itself is pretty entertaining considering the fact that it's low-budget, features inexperienced actors and took over a year to edit with the ending changed several times! It's 90% angsty, passionate girl power, 5% cringe and 5% "WTF?" in equal measure.

Diane Lane's portrayal of scornful teenager Corinne "Third Degree" Burns searching for fame to fill the void in her soul is just breathtaking. The haircut, the sullenness, the unabashed stage presence despite wearing a see-through top and skunk hairdo all combine to make memorable cinematic gold. The storyline itself is completely forgettable, but what I love about the film are the visuals and the cutting moments of dialogue that almost seem profound despite their place in a fim that barely anyone has heard of. I love the way her name almost suggests she's burnt out or is driven by a heated fury, as if all that's left in the ashes is her pursuit of fame and music (although granted, her band isn't exactly musical genius). Some of my favourite quotes include:

Corinne Burns: He was an old man in a young girl's world.

Lawnboy: Everybody wanna to go to Heaven, but nobody wanna die."

Corinne Burns: "Every girl should be given an electric guitar on her 16th birthday."

Lawnboy: "There's no difference between me and the next man. I is he and he is I, like I is you and you is me."

And my favourite...
Corinne Burns: "You don't fool me for a minute I know all about you. You came here tonight thinking you'd see some cute and wonderful rockstar. And you hoped he'd take one look at you from up on that stage and he'd fall in love with you just like that. Then your saviour could take you out of this dump of a town you live in - you could be different from all the other girls ... Suckers! Suckers! Suckers! Suckers! Be yourselves. These guys laugh at you. They got such big plans for the world but they don't include us. So what does that make you? Just another girl lining up to die. [...] I'm perfect! But nobody in this shithole gets me, because I don't put out!"


+ The London Riots

Croydon ablaze during London riots

Since when has been trashing your own community and throwing missiles at your community's police force been an acceptable expression of dissatisfication with the lack of opportunities in society? It has not and will not be an effective impetus for social change.

Anyone who thinks looting, burning cars and setting fire to wheelie bins is going to improve their lot in life then they are sorely mistaken. Let's be frank - if you're in need of a job and resentful for your inability to afford flatscreen TVs and a new pair of Nikes, the worst thing you can do is contribute to the degeneration of your community by causing thousands of pounds of damage and wrecking the livelihoods of local business owners.

I know that times are bleak for young people today, (even with qualifications you're not guaranteed a job at all, let alone a poorly paid one), but surely there are more effective ways to improve your lot? I'm hearing so many people blaming the riots on a lack of optimism for young peoples' futures, but surely adding to the bleakness is the worst thing you can do?

I don't dispute that the riots have pushed the challenges of deprived areas in London to the top of the news agenda, but, when the smoke evaporates and the windows get replaced, it won't have succeeded in bringing more investment into these areas.

In times of crisis and stagnancy, innovation is what's needed to create new jobs and opportunities. This isn't exactly helped along by the cuts made to local councils and charities best placed to help improve the lot of young people, but that is still not reason enough for trashing your own community.

Residential areas, double decker buses are up in flames while I'm writing this, and it disgusts me to think that these are the images being sent around the world with 'London' as the tagline. Wouldn't it be so inspiring if these youths (as the media love to label them!) vented their anger through creativity, through pioneering their own community schemes or burying their head into a book to enable them to put words to their fury? With rationality and the patience to foresee the long-term consequences of your impulsive actions, these disenchanted members of society might have realised that setting your community ablaze is the most nonsensical cry of help for a better world imaginable!

The Notting Hill Carnival is now in jeopardy, my friends are now updating their Twitter/Facebook feeds about riots happening in their area, and flames are still blazing in areas around the city.

Perhaps the last word should go to this woman who was filmed angrily trying to appeal to the senses of the looters:

+ A Tribute to Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse on stage in Cardiff
Amy Winehouse singing live at Cardiff Student Union

I clearly remember the first time I listened to Amy Winehouse's album Frank. More than any other album in my life, the songs and the clarity of her lyrics had a massive impact on me. That's what her legacy should be - the ability to move millions with clever wordplay, biting lyricism and, of course, the way her expressive vocals make themselves home in your head and are almost impossible to shake away.

My friend text me about her death, which I received as I was making my way up the escalator of the tube, and I just wanted to break down and cry. Not just for the desperately awful waste of young life and talent, but for the world generally. I sincerely believe the world is worse off without her music and its effect on so many people. I know so many people who have found solace in her music during shit times, who felt her pain as if it was her own, and knowing that no more music of this calibre will ever get made again upset me hugely.

I even remember playing the music to my grandad, a life-long fan of jazz in all its forms, hoping to convince him that not ALL modern music is a waste of time. Thankfully, he agreed! What has really angered me about the reaction to her death is the sense that people cannot publicly comment on their grief without various people seeing fit to dictate that she does not deserve our sorrow because a terrorist attack happened on the same day, or because she was a "low-life drug addict", as one person on my Facebook feed commented.

How can we as people place deaths on a scale of what's more deserving of grief? It's completely nonsensical to me. Yes, she was a drug addict, and yes, her hedonistic behaviour was almost certainly the cause of her untimely death, but funnily enough I doubt she deliberately experimented with drugs with a view to becoming dependent on them... no-one does, isn't that the whole point of addiction, that it's an illness?!

Music is such a powerful form of expression, and Amy gave the world a gift with her beautiful music, as trite as it may sound. I for one will always be grateful that I got a chance to see raw talent in the flesh twice, and I pity those who cannot look beyond the headlines to appreciate it too.

Here are some of my favourite live performances of Amy: