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Happy Birthday, Patrick!

Birthday-cake Today is the twenty third birthday of the enfant terrible of game design, that wacky transhumanist Patrick Dugan. Since 23 is a momentous number in Discordian numerology, I thought I would wish him a felicitous day, and plug his own accretion of craziness, King Lud IC. Why not drop by and spam his blog with platitudes?

More nonsense from me next week!

A Secular Age (1): Charles Taylor

Charles_taylor0314 The Canadian scholar, Charles Taylor, has been described as the greatest philosopher working in the English language today, and although he has yet to definitively claim the title of Canada’s greatest philosopher, it is perhaps only a matter of time before he earns this recognition. His work demonstrates an absurd degree of erudition, effortlessly moving between French, English and German philosophical schools, and draws together themes and ideas from disparate sources, often putting a fresh spin on the works of philosophers that are otherwise ignored (such as Hegel) or subject to suspicion (such as Heidegger).

Born in 1931, Taylor pursued a brilliant academic career in the 1950s and 1960s, which culminated in his doctorate at Oxford University, under the supervision of Isaiah Berlin and Elizabeth Anscombe (a student of Wittgenstein), both of whom are key figures in twentieth century philosophy. He has since held numerous professorships at major universities. Politically active, he has four times run for office in his home state of Quebec, most famously against future prime minister Pierre Trudeau in 1965.

Despite the brilliance of his work, Taylor suffers from a lack of recognition – both among the academy, and in wider circles. There are probably two key factors behind his relative obscurity, the first of which is the rambling quality of his prose. While all Taylor’s work is expertly studious, brevity has never been his strong suit (the book we will look at in this serial is veritable tome, weighing in at 850 pages and 3 lbs). Taylor’s other problem is that the recurrent theme behind his philosophy is a critique of naturalism – that is, the idea that all human and social phenomena can be understood reductively on the model of natural behaviour, using canonical scientific explanations. Since naturalistic beliefs are endemic in the academic world and enjoy something of an “intellectual hegemony”, this somewhat marginalises Taylor's work. However, this does not make Taylor an enemy of the scientific endeavour, but rather a staunch critic of what might be considered the substitution of scientific assumptions for philosophy.

Taylor grew up in a family that represented a collision of cultures and beliefs. His mother’s family were Catholic, he father was an Anglican and his grandfather a “Voltarian anti-clerical” atheist with a passionate love of Paris, all of which pulled him in disparate directions. Although as an adult he was to become a practicing Catholic, he says that he “didn’t have a faith that came from the Bible”, and in fact only came to the Church as a result of his fascination with French-language theology in the early 1950s that was eventually to inspire Vatican II. As a theist, Taylor is practically a lone voice in modern philosophy, yet his politics are vastly outside of conventional Catholic rhetoric, marking him out as a genuinely unique thinker.

His mentor, the late Isaiah Berlin, said of Taylor: “Whatever one may think of his central beliefs, [they] cannot fail to broaden the outlook of anyone who reads his works or listens to his lectures or, indeed, talks to him”. Indeed, while I enjoyed reading Taylor’s short work The Ethics of Authenticity, reading A Secular Age has had a profoundly transformative effect on me, not least of which has been a vast reduction in my hostility towards militant atheism, in part because I have become accustomed to being a lone voice on this subject (neither embracing materialist polemic nor retreating into dogmatic certitude) and reading someone else whose concerns accord with my own has brought me to a thoroughly new and invigorated space.

The focus of A Secular Age is summarised in the opening paragraph of the first chapter:

One way to put the question that I want to answer here is this: why was it virtually impossible not to believe in God in, say, 1500 in our Western society, while in 2000 many of us find this not only easy, but even inescapable?

It is this phenomena which Taylor considers the central issue of secularity, and he identifies three distinct readings of the term. Firstly, the pragmatic shift in the cultural centrality of religion, manifested in the emptying of public spaces of reference to God or ultimate reality, which Taylor denotes as secularity 1. Secondly, the way the term is sometimes used by materialist intellectuals, namely the falling off of religious belief and practice, which Taylor denotes as secularity 2. Finally, the change expressed by the question above, namely the change in the conditions of belief, for instance, the move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and unproblematic to one in which it is understood to be one option among others, and frequently not the easiest to embrace. This is what Taylor terms secularity 3, and it is in this sense that he refers to our time as “a secular age”, as this quote attests:

So what I want to do is examine our society as secular in this third sense, which I could perhaps encapsulate in this way: the change I want to define and trace is one which takes us from a society in which it was virtually impossible not to believe in God, to one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is one human possibility among others. I may find it inconceivable that I would abandon my faith, but there are others, including possibly some very close to me, whose way of living I cannot in all honesty just dismiss as depraved, or blind, or unworthy, who have no faith (at least not in God, or the transcendent). Belief in God is no longer axiomatic. There are alternatives. And this will also likely mean that at least in certain milieux, it may be hard to sustain one’s faith.

Over the next two months we will take a journey through the last five hundred years of the history of Europe and North America (“the West”, which Taylor also terms “the North Atlantic World”, and includes Australia within its remit), and the philosophical currents that have given birth to modernity. Against this background, we will be exploring Taylor’s carefully constructed argument against the conventional narrative of secularization – namely that the age of religion is ending. As Taylor writes at the end of his introduction:

I will be making a continuing polemic against what I call “subtraction stories”. Concisely put, I mean by this stories of modernity in general, and secularity in particular, which explain them by human beings having lost, or sloughed off, or liberated themselves from certain earlier, confining horizon, or illusion, or limitations of knowledge… Against this kind of story, I will steadily be arguing that Western modernity, including its secularity, is the fruit of new inventions, newly constructed self-understandings and related practices, and can’t be explained in terms of perennial features of human life.

The very essence of this exploration is the idea that “our past is sedimented in our present, and we are doomed to misidentify ourselves as long as we can’t do justice to where we come from.”

Next week: Social Imaginaries

Beyond Puzzles

Question_mark_1There's no doubt that the gamer hobbyists fell in love with both Portal and Braid, two games which focus largely on puzzles as the centrepiece of their gameplay. This isn't surprising,
since the hobbyists tend to be strong on strategic skills, and puzzle solving by any means but trial-and-error falls into this general area.

My question: to what extent can either of these games be enjoyed outside of the dedicated gamer niche?

My immediate feeling is "not even remotely". After all, isn't this precisely the reason that the adventure game niche collapsed? Because the players in the mass market didn't enjoy (or couldn't solve - it amounts to the same thing) the difficult puzzles. Corvus' thoughts on Braid's narrative elements are also apposite in this regard.

If these games can't be enjoyed by more than a small proportion of people, we probably shouldn't hold them out as exemplar cases of "games as art" unless we have no interest in games being taken seriously as an art form by the populace at large. Are there any games yet which might work in this wider context? (I know my friends over at Tale of Tales are trying!)

What do you think?

Update: There was some misconstrual of my position here. To clarify: I am not claiming that it is necessary to art that it attracts a large audience - this is clearly not the case. What I am claiming is that something which can only be enjoyed by a minority of people has a problem with its claim to artistic status. See the comments for further discussion of this point.

You Have 61 New Messages

Back from Cornwall and Leipzig, and I have been inundated with comments! Sitemeter tells me it all kicked off on Friday 16th, when more than a thousand people breezed through, probably for the Round Table. I will work my way through the comments in just a moment - I'll answer any questions, but may have to skip over some of the discussions for brevity!

A few brief snippets...

  • Thoughts from Leipzig 1:  Wow, it's like E3 but in Germany. The old E3, that is, not the low budget version.
  • Thoughts from Leipzig 2: Wow, Sony are banking rather heavily on a 2D Platformer (Little Big Planet) to save them, albeit one with some very funky technology and cute avatars.
  • Thoughts from Leipzig 3: Wow, Bethesda are really counting on players to have fond nostalgia for Fallout to sell the third game, yet the number who have done so can't be more than a few tens of thousands. I found the ultra-violence rather distasteful: hope they weren't planning to sell to women.
  • Thoughts from Leipzig 4: Wow, Blizzard have got a Lord of the Rings license, have they? Oh no, it's just a trailer for Diablo 3 that looks like Tolkienian fluff.
  • And I'm delighted to announce that I have finished reading Charles Taylor's A Secular Age, and will start this serial shortly. Really looking forward to this one!

More soon!

What I Learned From Not Playing Civ

This post is part of the August Round Table.

Connecting-sid-meiers-civilizations-board-game-to-a-keyboard I’ve learned many things from playing games in my life, especially from tabletop role-playing games, but this isn’t a story about what I learned from playing a game, but what I learned by not playing a game – and the game in question is the strategic fanboy’s grail, Civilisation.

I’ve never actually played a game by Sid Meier, alas, but I played and enjoyed a game that was apparently a mechanic-for-mechanic rip of one of his (Tortuga of Pirates!), and so I certainly appreciate the quality of his work in an indirect fashion if nothing else. My main experience of Sid’s work, however, was during my time in London.

Matt, who I lived with for several years (and who blogs now at Curiouser and Curiouser), was an avid player of strategy games, and Civilisation in particular. I forget which iteration (perhaps Matt will enlighten me in the comments!) What I remember about this experience, other than the myriad hours it kept Matt occupied, was the wall chart displaying the technology tree for the game that was tacked up on the wall of our lounge.

How can I put this politely… the chart annoyed me. It annoyed me, because it encoded a master narrative of history in game mechanical form, and thus represented a game in which you could recapitulate European history, and perhaps vary it slightly, but what you couldn’t do was anything outside that master narrative. For instance, you could not realistically have a nuclear powered polytheistic nation, or at least, you could not do so and remain competitive within the game space. 

The technology tree encoded a materialist master narrative. At the time, this didn’t bother me from the perspective of the ideology (although it rankles a little now) but rather from the sense of constraint this seemed to put into the game. What interests me about this kind of nation-building game are the unusual situations I might create within them – and what particularly engages me is creating wild, bizarre situations that excite my imagination. The Civ technology tree didn’t allow for this, it wasn’t that kind of mechanic nor that kind of game, and as such it annoyed me. (It may also have annoyed me, given that I was young and arrogant, that I didn’t think of it first).

It was some time before I learned the lesson from this, however. Many years later, I was thinking about what my perfect strategy game would be, and realising that what it would entail would be a focus on strategy and not logistics or tactics: the kind of game whereby understanding the personality of the General leading the opposing force was more important than knowing which unit to build, the kind of game in which the considerations discussed by Sun Tzu for diplomacy and spies would be more relevant than the “tank rush” blitzkrieg tactic. This lead to my concept design for Art of War.

I never made this game, and probably never will, because working on it made one thing abundantly clear to me: the kind of strategy games I really want to play – those that utilise strategic thinking but not tactical and logistical thinking, and those that allow me to be creative in the kind of world I build – are precisely the kind of games that would do poorly in the current marketplace. Why? Because I, as a game designer, do not represent the market as a whole. Strategic skills are highly developed in perhaps just 10% of the population. Logistical or tactical skills are highly developed in around three quarters of the population.

I’m not saying Art of War wouldn’t have been a great game – for people similar in temperament to me, it might well have been. But I was shooting for a tiny fragment of the gaming audience, and as a professional game designer that is simply bad practice. Homebrew projects exist to meet these kind of needs, but my clients employ me to help them make money by making a game that many people want to play. Those games are not often the kind of games I would prefer to make myself. I have to compromise my needs in order to meet the needs of the audience, because they are vastly more important than me to the success of this kind of endeavour.

(Fortunately, I hope to have found a compromise in the domain of the computer role-playing game, where I may have an opportunity to make a game that I myself could thoroughly enjoy that will also meet the play needs of a wide enough audience for the title to be profitable. I hope to be able to say more about this soon.) 

Not playing Civ taught me some important lessons about the audience for games. Yes, I may want to screw around with history and make bizarre alternate timelines but most players want to be authentic to their perception of history, not to their boundless imaginations, at least in the context of nation-building games. I may feel constrained by a tech tree which encodes certain preconceptions about history, but most players of Civ find in the technology tree a vibrant advancement mechanic that they enjoy exploring and min-maxing to their benefit.

Not playing Civ taught me that I am not the audience for games, even though I have spent my life playing them. And that, I suppose, helped push me into further exploring just who the audience for games really were…

The opening cartoon (click on it to get a big version) is shamelessly ripped from Luis Escobar's blog.


Raindrop in pool How do you know if you are significant? This question lures us the wrong way, it invites us to judge ourselves on some criteria of importance - do we escape the ignominy of insignificance, it seems to ask. But no-one is truly insignificant. The worst that can happen is that you are unaware how important you are to the people in your life, and this is a far greater tragedy than not achieving notoriety, especially since fame (as any celebrity will attest) is a double-edged sword.

We strive sometimes, quite vainly, to prove to people how significant we are. To validate our intellect, our skills, our looks, whatever narcissism we have foolishly allowed to matter to our happiness. And when we are seduced by such vainglorious pursuits, we will certainly become unhappy since despite the unwavering message of the advertising industry, happiness is something that can be found only within, and all that the world of things can provide are temporary rewards and distractions.

The Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello, whose spiritual thoughts drew upon many different traditions, said in his final meditations:

Contemplate the crowds of people who are striving might and main to become, not what Nature intended them to be - musicians, cooks, mechanics, carpenters, gardeners, inventors - but somebody, to become successful, famous, powerful; to become something that will bring, not quiet self-fulfillment, but self-glorification, self-expansion. You are looking at people who have lost their innocence because they have chosen not to be themselves but to promote themselves, to show off, even if it be only in their own eyes.

Nothing could be more irrelevant than to contemplate your significance. Let future historians argue over what was significant, it means nothing in the here and now. What makes you important is that you are you, and to your friends, to your family, to everyone who loves and values you, nothing could be more significant.

That's all for now. I've queued up a Round Table post for this Wednesday coming, but I'm on holiday in Cornwall next week, and in Leipzig for Game Convention the week after, so I'll be back in a fortnight. Have fun!

Serial Numbers

Please excuse this back-of-envelope calculation. Twenty weeks remaining in the year... the next fortnight I'm away, I will lose two blogging weeks to the Wheel of Fortune, and another one for the Winter Festival. That leaves about fifteen weeks remaining. That's more than enough time for the two serials that are waiting in the wings, but I've still not absorbed the material I need to proceed (I've still not watched Firefly, which I need for the "Religion in Science Fiction" serial, and I'm still working through Charles Taylor's tome, A Secular Age, which is the focus for the other). I think I might have to consider bumping one of these serials to next year and bringing in something else, but I'm not sure what it would be...

Console Saves Versus Game Saves

Question_mark_1 A common theme in the videogame commentary from hobbyists is a demand to be given absolute control over saving. One thing that occurs to me in this regard is the possibility than the console manufacturer could build into the architecture of their devices a system-accessed "console save" which simply produces a "bookmark save"/core dump of the console's internal state (and whatever additional handles are needed to restore the state) allowing the player to restore the game to an exact instant of play. Of course, the console would have to be designed with this in mind, and the games might need to expressly support such a scheme, but this offers an alternative idea to forcing the obligation for save anywhere functionality onto the developer, whose margins are already very tight.

What do people think? Would a console save be an asset or a liability? Should adequate save game support remain the domain of the developer, or should Sony and Microsoft inherit an obligation to provide high level save game support for the dedicated hobbyists they are both trying to court?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Holding Pattern

It's a tad frustrating right now, as I have some great game research articles to write and share, but expecting that some of them will get picked up by the aggregators I don't want to run them until I get the permission of the publisher of a-certain-game-I'm-working-on to publicise said game somewhere nearby... (Part of the role of this blog is to promote my company's work so I don't starve to death while squandering my spare time writing philosophical nonsense). While I wait for the chance to proceed on this, I am stuck in something of a holding pattern, so I apologise in advance for this Tuesday's Focus piece being not a million miles away from the one I ran a fortnight ago. Hopefully, it will still prove interesting.

The Chemical Brothers versus Ian Brown

May contain religion.

I am a long-time fan of both The Chemical Brothers and Ian Brown (former front man to The Stone Roses, the band that provided the soundtrack to my high school years) but the albums these two artists released last year provide such a striking contrast to issues concerning the interface between religion and nonreligion that I believe it will be interesting to make a comparison.

We Are The Night  

We are the night The Chemical Brothers 2007 album, We Are The Night, is a glorious celebration of the club and drug culture that lies behind the music of these exceptionally talented “superstar DJs”, perhaps the finest artists working on “big beat” electronic dance music anywhere in the world today. There is a metaphysical agenda behind the album which is expressed in the theme that plays at the beginning and near the end: “There’s no path to follow.” I don’t personally agree with this – I would say there are many paths to follow – but I understand and appreciate the nonreligious belief that is being expressed here. 

In fact, this album follows in the cultural footsteps of some of the great nonreligious philosophers. The central message of Nietzsche’s writing really is the same as the one expressed here – “There’s no path to follow” – which is a common view expressed by atheist existentialism. Furthermore, there is more than a little here of Hume’s sentiment that any sensible person should enjoy “a good debauch” more than the virtues of abstinence associated with religious forbearance. 

There is a small amount of atheist thought buried in the album, but nothing that rises to the level of bigotry. In the track “Battle Scars” (which begins by reiterating the thematic point “there’s no path to follow”) the following conceptual image is painted:

There's a line in the sand
Put there by a man
By a man whose children
Will build castles made of stone
There's a man in the sky
Giving reasons why
That line grows deeper
Like these shackles round our bones

There is clearly a dig at God here, but it is in the specific context of the role theistic ideas have had in deepening the national territorial divisions that lead to war, and even the most devout theist must acknowledge that religious authority claims have contributed to international tensions over the centuries. That “a man in the sky giving reasons why” is an extremely childish God-concept is rather tangential in this instance.

What I find particularly interesting about this album is that in the title track, the lyrics express the following sentiment: 

We are the night skies
We are the bright highs
We are the night

When they say “the Bright Highs”, are they staking a claim as being a subculture within the wider “Bright” umbrella? I find this very idea fascinating, especially since nonbelievers have been generally quite slow to stand behind the Bright name. If they are making this move – and I find myself almost hoping this is the case – it represents a fascinating challenge to the community of unbelief. Russell T. Davies, for instance, who recently endorsed Dawkins (and thus by extension the Brights movement) takes a staunch anti-drug stance in his Doctor Who episode “Gridlock”, making me suspect he would not be so keen to support an attempt by the club and drug scene to establish itself as a defensible niche in the nonreligious community. 

Yet this is precisely what the “drug culture” exemplified by The Chemical Brothers can be seen to represent: they are a recognisable subculture, with their own beliefs and practices, and their own ethics (a little light in this regard, but personal autonomy, as with most atheist ethical systems, is cherished). They are, in point of fact, an oppressed culture – something the Brights at large can’t really claim – since the substances that fuel their major social festivities, in particular Ecstasy/MDMA, are illegal in almost all nations (I would not argue for uncontrolled access, but like alcohol it is possible to use Ecstasy responsibly). I would love to know how the Brights movement would respond if indeed the “Bright Highs” are trying to stake a claim to their own self-made path. Would they embrace this subculture? Or condemn it?

Neither should it be assumed that The Chemical Brothers don’t recognise the limits and dangers of the path they, and other members of the drug-fueled nightclub culture, take aboard. The final track, “The Pills Won’t Help You Now” (although some territories have bonus tracks afterwards), is a plaintive cry against losing friends who disappear off the social planet because a combination of depression, and excessive use of drugs to combat this despair, leave people unable to face the world outside the house: 

Thought we were going
To go up the field away
And join all the other living souls
But you never came
Robbed of your fortune
You get disappointments in life
You're probably poisoning your body
I hope you're alright
In a moment of fear
You dig in your heels
The pills won't help you now

This track goes beyond the glorious celebration of drug culture in ebullient and unforgettable tracks such as “Do It Again” (“Oh my God what have I done?/All I wanted was a little fun/Got a brain like bubblegum/Blowing up my cranium”) and offers a poignant, melancholy glimpse of the flipside of this unique subculture, simultaneously elevating this album to emotionally heights that arguably go beyond even the heady vertigo of their exquisite earlier albums.


The World Is Yours 

The world is yours Ian Brown’s 2007 album, The World Is Yours, is a bold attempt at a sweeping “state of the world” address – apparently, Brown laid off marijuana to write the album in order to improve its quality. However, the messages this album puts forward fall considerably short of the cultural celebration embedded in The Chemical Brothers album from the same year.

It starts reasonably well. The lyrics of the second track, “On Track”, include the following thought: 

Life's no simple situation
There's the added complication
That the reason that we're here nobody knows
In all creation

This seems to neatly endorse the idea, which I myself am keen to promote, that the big sweeping questions about existence are not easily answered, that metaphysics is never explored by anything other than intuitions and leaps of faith, and thus that we should all have the freedom of belief to decide such matters for ourselves.

However, this tone is gradually lost. Five tracks later, Brown is talking about the plight of street children  in Rio de Janeiro and comparing their situation to that of the Churches there in an attempt to expose Christian hypocrisy. The lyrics state:

Barefoot and homeless in Rio De Janiero
Sleepin' on the step of a church
Whose doors are locked
Livin' in a cardboard box

Where his next meal will come from
Nobody knows
But everyone can see the church is covered in gold

I daresay there is some hypocrisy to be exposed here, but Brown’s presentation of this issue leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t have any personal experience of South America, but I’m prepared to believe that this sort of contrast does occur, and furthermore I would tend to agree that Christians should feel an obligation to help these homeless children if they are to be true to Jesus’ message of love. 

What gives me pause in Brown’s account, however, is that this single situation is left to stand for a global statement on the relationship between Christianity and homelessness, and this is a vastly incomplete account. In the US, for instance, much of the support for homeless people comes from Christian churches (Knoxville, where I lived last year, has dozens of shelters funded entirely by the local Christian community). Implying, if this is indeed the intent, that Christianity doesn’t tackle poverty, homelessness and other social issues misrepresents the religion badly. There is also the wider issue as to whether the fact that Christian (and other) charities are being left to tackle homelessness isn’t a sign of a massive failure by our Governments to tackle social problems that really should be their concern.

If this track makes me suspect some anti-Christian sentiment, the track that follows removes all doubt. “Some Folks are Hollow” is an outright attack on the Christian church – it is not clear if it is intended to solely express anti-Catholic hatred, or general anti-Christian prejudice, but I suspect the latter. The lyrics include the following: 

I heard it from on high
Heard it was a lie
Jesus died at crucifixion
Lies from Emperor Constantine
To control your mind

In just six tracks we have come away from Brown’s earlier claim that “the reason that we're here nobody knows/In all creation”, and instead have reached metaphysical certainty: Christianity is wrong, it’s a lie, Emperor Constantine shouldn’t be applauded for ending religious persecution in the Roman Empire, but instead pilloried for spreading “lies to control your mind”. I may have my issues with Constantine, but I suspect most historians would balk at Brown's assumption that Constantine's adoption of Christianity was motivated by a desire to employ mind control. 

The rest of the track is similar filled with rather shallow anti-Christian criticism, which manages to ignore many situations which deserve condemnation – the abominable use of “Hell Houses” to scare children into believing in the US, for instance – and instead picks up little pieces of historical trivia to attempt to put down Christianity. For instance, Brown says:

The church had to apologise
For crimes in times
For all the profits
Overseeing slave plantations
So it comes as no surprise
The church has brutalised
After all the first slave ship they named
It Jesus 

Here, he seems to be complaining about the Church apologising for past behaviour (should we ever criticise people for sincerely apologising?) and tries to reopen this wound by observing that the first slave ship was named “Jesus”. Yet European society at this time was almost entirely Christian, so the naming of a ship with a religious theme is scarcely much of a criticism, and besides, this account chooses to utterly ignore the vital role Christians such as William Wilberforce had in bringing slavery to an end.

This descent into metaphysical certainty (in the context of Christianity, at least) and expression of anti-Christian bigotry drags down what is an otherwise entertaining album although, honestly, a long way short of the musical tour-de-force delivered by his exceptional 2001 album, Music of the Spheres. (Perhaps Brown does better when he's on pot?) That no music review I have read for this album comments on the bigotry being expressed underlines the extent to which prejudice against Christians (not to mention Muslims) is a socially acceptable intolerance for many people in Britain – so engrained is this perspective, few even think to question it.



It’s clear from listening to either of these albums that neither artist is that interested in exploring or practicing religion of any recognisable kind, but the difference between We Are The Night’s vibrant celebration of a nonreligious subculture and The World Is Yours’ blatant anti-Christian bigotry is astounding. Both artists hail from Manchester, where I once again live, and there is little doubt both represent snapshots of attitudes that can be found in Mancunian opinion to varying extents. I personally would rather support The Chemical Brothers celebration of a subculture that, while not being quite my own (although in my younger years I certainly sampled it), warrants more recognition and support than Ian Brown’s disappointing anti-religious prejudice.