How To Become King Of The Universe

I watched an excellent documentary about Robert Capa last night. I’ll write more about Capa when I do tonight’s Scream photos but there’s one point that stuck out from the story, recapped here:

In Paris he participated in the beginnings of the agency Alliance Photo and met the journalist and photographer, Gerda Taro. Together they invented the “famous” American photographer Robert Capa and sold his prints under that name. He met many artists, among them Picasso and Hemingway, and began friendships with colleagues that would be essential in the creation of Magnum, such as David “Chim” Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
(Source: Magnum)

So, Capa was an invention, that the real man adopted eventually. He became a fictional character and became as successful as that invented character.

Bear with me…

The reason you’re reading this now is manifold. There are many pioneers of computing, maths, and electronics that lead to the development of TCP/IP and the internet. But the man who invented the web, the protocol which is now sending you these words over TCP/IP, is Tim Berners-Lee. His book about it all, Weaving The Web is funny, moving and an essential read. But the point is – why did he call it ‘world wide web?’ Yeah, he wanted to create a protocol whereby researchers could access information across different computing platforms and national boundaries. But what a grand title for it! It could just have been ‘page’ and then at the top of your browser it would now be saying ‘’ instead of www.

And yet… it became the thing he called it. It’s now a world wide web of information and it’s changed and is changing history. I’d say it’s now the central hub to which people turn for information. From pub arguments about football to the truth behind the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US and UK, the web has become our modern oracle.


When me and Ele were sending off copies of my ‘Abort, Retry, Fail?’ EP to Radio One and a few labels, we felt in a silly mood. So I printed up little stickers to put on the Jiffy bag seal. On those stickers was printed: ‘Features the No.1 Hit Song, ‘Your Woman!’

Of course, it was no such thing. It hadn’t been on the radio then, I’d never troubled any chart anywhere with any of my songs. I think it’s fair to say that my recorded output then was as obscure as it is again now. I also never expected any label to like any of my songs as I’d been sending off stuff since 1982 with nothing to show for it but a growing pile of ‘Sorry, but…’ letters.

But one of those EPs ended up being picked up and played by Mark Radcliffe who championed the song until… it became an international hit song. My song had become what I’d pretended it was.

Spooky, eh?

This is basic positive thinking stuff, of course. I’m not really saying there’s anything supernatural going on. But I do believe there’s a psychological aspect to these unlinked successes. Firstly, humans are hypersocial creatures. Just look at how contagious yawning is. Yawn. Yawn. Yawning. Does merely reading the word make you feel like yawning? Y – a – a – w – n. It’s not stretching things to believe that if you cue a human by saying ‘this is a famous American photographer / a world wide web / a hit song’ they might believe it, just a little bit. Surely, that’s behind all advertising?

Maybe we also cue ourselves. Maybe if we invent a successful person who we pretend to be, we become that person in an existential explosion of good faith?

If you agree the above may be true, I’d ask you this? What prophecies are you making about yourself and your life? Are you choosing to get cancer because you feel awkward without a fag in your hand? Are you choosing to die of a heart attack because you can’t manage one night out without getting wasted? Who will you blame for the consequences of your bad faith choices? Your parents? Your lover? Your government?

I know where I’m going wrong: my weight. If I don’t continue to lose weight, I’ll be shortening my life, killing myself slowly. If that happens, the only person to blame will be me. Not my genes, not my family, not Coca Cola or Burger King. Me.

So… the next time you find yourself uttering something like ‘oooh, I’m crap at that’ or ‘no-one ever fancies me’ or similar bullshit, remember Andre Friedman.

Me? I’m the King of the Universe, baby!