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By The Numbers: Ageism In Hip-Hop Doesn't Exist

The argument that rappers must lose relevance after a certain age is as old as hip-hop itself, and artists like Rakim, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, M...

The Devolution will be Centralised: Why these cuts show a new level of social disregard

Since being elected last year, old Tone has made more than the occasional blunder. His policies and various mutterings have led to widespread condemnation from the Twitterati, with the old classic 'Don't blame me, I didn't vote for him' being rolled out with jolting regularity. Now we are hearing Joe Hockey booming 'The age of entitlement is over' and that 'Nothing is free'. Well, anyone who spent 5 minutes listening in their Year 8 Economics class knows this. What is scary is the manner in which Hockey and co plan to return our economy to surplus.

We endured the archaic treatment of human life in the morally catastrophic (and possibly illegal) 'turn back the boats' pillar. We laughed openly at the folly of re-introducing Dames and Dukes to Australian political figures. We sat in disbelief as Tony and co dismantled governmental integrity on scientific pursuits, as they cut funding to the CSIRO and joined the cave-dwellers who seem to think climate change is a left-wing construct designed to divert funding away from upper class tax cuts (mining tax, anyone?). We watched with horror as Tony bumbled his way around various foreign incidents, openly offending Indonesian politicians and reducing one of our generations worst human rights crises in Syria to a case of 'Goodies and Baddies'. We suffered ALL of this, but it was bearable, because, cruelly and harshly, it didn't directly impact upon us. We were morally outraged, suitably embarrassed and downright confused a lot of the time, but my backyard was as green as it ever has been.

So when Joe stands in front of a carefully selected group of Pinot Noir aficionado's and, with a red wine in hand, announces that the age of entitlement is over, alarm bells started ringing in my head. The UN can deal with Tony's human rights abuses. Other countries can shoulder the brunt of our climate-denying damage. This is the final nail in the coffin of a Government who has become little more than a parrot, chirping tried and tested party lines and introducing weak, vote-winning policies that sound more impressive than they ever will be in action.

The nut's and bolts. There is no budget crisis. Do not be afraid of deficit, as it is merely a term that is used to describe the current standing of budget balance. It is not a major economic performance indicator (like growth, inflation and unemployment). Most economists agree that in a recession, the way to stimulate stagnant economic growth is by spending more, thus sending a budget in to further deficit. Australia is a triple A credit rated country. Our public debt as a proportion of GDP is one of the lowest in the developed world. Without debt, economic growth, and therefore jobs growth and investment in essential infrastructure (think second Sydney airport, the widening of the M5, hospital upgrades, investment in better roads etc etc) would falter, and once that happens there IS a budget crisis. Surplus is a word used by Government's to sound impressive and appear effective, when in actual fact slipping in to deficit can be the essential part of economic policy. Australia so expertly navigated the GFC partly due to amassing debt through Rudd's stimulus packages. We became the envy of economies worldwide because of it. Being in deficit is NOT bad. That is key in moving forward.

Now, Hockey makes some valid points. In his key note speech, he identifies that Australian's are now burdened with an ageing population and a bloated welfare and health care bill that will be difficult to service. This much is extremely true. Difficult to service, however, only if he continues down the warpath to surplus, which we now know is a purely political move that has little, if any, economic bearing on our future. Unfortunately, whilst it still may be admirable for him to tread this path, he has decided that in order to achieve this goal, it is the those of us who are most disadvantaged that will have to fork up the money. The elderly, the sick, and the middle income earners are going to be slugged the hardest, with the pension age rising to 70, $6 GP visits (proposed), possible slashing of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme privileges, a reduction in the amount of people who currently receive health care concession cards (which also incorporate public transport), and a reduction in the length of the Gonski reforms from 6 to 4 years. That's a lot to take in, so let's go through it one by one.

Increasing the pension age to 70. Depending on when you were born, currently the age is between 65 and 67. Why does this affect only the low to middle income earners? Well, superannuation can be relied upon by those who have enough of it from the age of 60, which means that they can retire 7 years earlier than those who haven't earned as much in their lifetime. There are multiple problems with this increase to 70, and it shows the inexplicable short-sightedness of our Government. Firstly, this will only affect those who are most needy. Joe Bloggs who has spent the last 20 years sitting in an air conditioned office barking orders at subordinates before taking long lunches and business flights will be comfortably retired at age 60, flying the world. Meanwhile, Joe Toggs, who has spent his life labouring as a roofer in 40 degree days, with fingers the size of sausages and a raft of health issues related to his profession, will have to soldier on TILL HE IS 70!! Can you imagine hiring a roofer, and some 69 year old grandfather rocks up at your place to re-tile it? Not only is this cruel and unfair, it is dangerous. In increasing the pension age, Tone may save a quick buck, but the economic impact could be far reaching. A 69 year old is going to be significantly less productive than a 29 year old. By forcing them to work for an extra 3 years, you are greatly endangering their health. Skin cancer, falls, serious injury like back problems and arthritis, the mental burden of physically putting their body through such pain every day. This results in more GP visits, more hospital visits, and ultimately a GREATER cost to the taxpayer than if he/she were receiving the pension. And I don't know if you worked this one out, but how many employers are keen to keep workers who are past 65 employed? If they fire them, or make them redundant, where does this person then go for work? Who is going to hire a 65 year old who has laboured his or her entire life? Is Tony going to provide incentives for businesses to employ older workers? Is he going to provide re-training facilities so these people can learn new skills and enter a different area of the work force? Or is the older worker going to be forced on to NewStart because they are now unemployable?

$6 GP visits. I don't know about you, but my dad hates the doctor. He will only go if he is dying, I kid you not. $6 may not seem like a lot of money, but for someone who is already hard up paying rent and food, or who has kids, and they have serious medical problems or are constantly bugged by medical niggles, this will add up. All of a sudden, that slight pain in your chest, or that dull ache in your leg takes a backseat because you need to pay rent, or electricity, or buy dinner. Fast forward 2 weeks and you're in emergency because your leg has turned a deep shade of purple and you can't walk on it. All of a sudden, a simple GP visit which would've cost the Government $50 now costs them thousands as you're stuck in hospital undergoing a raft of expensive tests and procedures. All this tax will do is raise $750 million over four years. That is nothing. Abbott spent $16 million on a Cadbury factory revamp.. This is just blatantly bad economic policy.

There's a reason why the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is costing the Government so much. Medications are stupidly expensive. I have first hand knowledge in this. With my health care concession card, I actually can afford to eat. Without it, I cannot. The three medications I take, if I were to pay full price for them, would run me around $120 a month, which is a whopping $1440 a year, which is the same amount a pack a week smoker would spend. For patients who require a large amount of medications to ensure their quality of life and their health, it isn't feasible for them to pay full price for medications. A box of sleeping tablets can run well over $60. A month's supply of anti-depressants is similar. Cutting funding to the PBS is cruel and unfair. We should be nourishing and helping the sick, not sticking our hands in their pockets.

Hockey and Abbott have finally sunk to the lowest rung on the ladder. Instead of dipping in to their ludicrous Paid Parental Scheme, which has no means test whatsoever and is a stark beacon of female-minded policy amongst a sea of misogynistic rhetoric, they've decided to take benefits away from the poor. Australia is a beautiful country that is blessed with a huge abundance of natural resources and a robust and diverse economy. A country must be judged upon how it treats its most needy. North Korea stomp them in to the dust. China exploit them to achieve their stratospheric levels of growth. Spain abandoned them. Meanwhile, countries with the most admirable and enviable living conditions also spend the most on welfare. Australia spends the 5th most in the world per capita on welfare, coming 2 places behind America. However, as a percentage of GDP, we drop to a staggering 22nd. There is a lot of money being generated by our economy, and comparatively, not a lot of it is going to welfare, to the neediest of our citizens. John Howard was crucified by his introduction of a GST, but it was effective. Rudd and Swann were criticised for their stimulus package, yet it steered us through a dangerous period. Hockey and Abbott have given a leg up to their business associates, for some reason the parroted line of everyone now needs to pull their weight only refers to those least able to. This budget will be the final nail in a coffin that has already begun it's descent, with Australia's moral integrity weighing it down. It's deplorable.

Game of Thrones Season 3 Review

Fellow addict, most of the civilised world has felt your pain. You are now entering the third season of this wonderful series, and I'd bet you're pretty much salivating at the prospect. The season 2 finale left us with the prospect of an un-humane wait before we find some answers to the questions that the finale brought up. We could either first learn to read, then buy a wheelbarrow in order to cart home the giant tome that is the written story on which the TV show is based, or re-integrate back in to society until season 3 was released, in which case we could resume our place on the couch, re-learn the number for Pizza Hut off by heart and switch off all mobile devices. Right now I am in the period of re-integration, which is both scary and painful as my pure white skin hasn't known the touch of sun for many months. It is the wait between season 3 and 4, and this is probably where I find you too. In fact with all the re-kindled friendships, new jobs and awkward family events you've encountered since The Red Wedding, you've probably forgotten much of what happened in Season 3. Fear not! My review and recap will now follow.

So you may remember we left Westeros just after the Battle of Blackwater, in which Stannis attempts to storm Kings Landing with a far superior force, only to be stopped by the smallest member of the frankly staggering cast, Tyrion. Tyrion is, for all intents and purposes, still alive, despite a clear cut attempt on his life. He is no longer the hand of the King, yet remains stubbornly in Kings Landing despite the protestations of his love Shae.

Sansa, in all sorts of trouble since Margaery Tyrell blew on to the scene, refuses offers to flee the area, instead being 'freed' by Joffrey but only with a warning from Lord Baelish that Joffrey may still have use for her yet. Robb Stark has become somewhat annoying by this stage. He promised his hand to a women in order for his army to gain passage to continue their march on Kings Landing, but he becomes so taken with Talisa, his new beauty, that he cannot deny his love, despite his mothers protestations. In fact Catelyn is marginalised quite dramatically since her decision to hand custody of Jaime over to Brienne. Robb's love, whilst quite enjoyable for the sappier of the women in the audience, could be misconstrued as weakness, and in such a harsh and unforgiving environment, weakness is not tolerated. Daenerys you may remember escaped the House of the Undying using her dragons, and is now poised to become a force to be reckoned with in the game of thrones. Jon Snow also gains significance, as the White Walkers take centre stage at the end of the final episode, begging the question just how in gods name are the Nights Watch going to stop them?

Season 3 is an interesting prospect, but it will shatter any preconcieved ideas you had about the show. i will leave The Red Wedding and the Starks for the moment. Firstly, lets examine what is happening with Jon Snow, and his yummy new girlfriend. This is a clear indication that we are not watching any old TV series here. The funny thing about Game of Thrones is that in the first 2 seasons, you're sitting there taking notes, because the storylines are so complex and the characters so varied that you're either completely lost, or being yelled at by your friends and family by repeatedly asking 'who is that again? What did he do? Why did she say that?!'. So for the storyline of Jon Snow and the Night's Watch to break off in to two separate entities feels like a clusterfuck. It's not, and the inner strength of Samwell (who reminds me SO MUCH of Samwise Gamgee I'm considering bringing it up with the body that governs intellectual property rights in the US) easily holds this strain together. Again we are treated to such a foreign, dislocating situation with Sam and his new found friend that it is impossible to turn away. The sheer desparation of his circumstance, that he is trying to take care of a woman and her new born child, whilst in the middle of a Siberian winter, whilst being chased by insane ice zombies, whilst trying to cast off the image as the fat, weak soft one of the entire show, is a triumph. When he does come to the party and slay one of these white walkers I stood on my couch and cheered. It's an old method of characterisation. Paint someone as the weak helpless one, then watch them evolve through their experiences and harsh surroundings in to a strong, dominant player. Yet it doesn't feel played out or dolled up. Samwell is so likeable, he becomes one of the only people in the entire show you find yourself rooting for. And with the craziness that is to come, it is nice to have a grounding in traditional values. Sam provides this.

Jon Snow is a as smouldering as a day old forrest fire. He is as hot as a freshly microwaved burrito. He has the sex appeal of Brad Pitt having tender sex with Channing Tatum. The fact that he had never had sex before had me having to change the pillows on my couch, as all the women I was watching the show with orgasmed simultaneously at his inhuman cuteness. It is with relish that we watch his journey that is fraught with danger, trying to convince the Wildings he is one of them. In fact he is so damn convincing (and so ridiculously attractive with those puppy dog eyes) that we all believe him. He has fallen in love, and this will be a beautiful marriage. How we so quickly forget matters of honour and loyalty when a cute little romance blossoms. Yet Jon has a trick up his sleeve for us, and his heart splits in two as he is forced to choose between the women he loves and the oath that he has come to believe in. Despite having few truly show stopping lines, Jon is a fertile story, and there's a nice little twist in store for you.

Well Stannis then. What of Stannis, who was so thoroughly outfoxed by Tyrion at Kings Landing? One of our favourite characters, the blacksmith Gendry, is locked up with Davos, the onion bloke, at the request of Stannis. As if we needed one, Davos serves as the rational voice in this increasingly infuriating story of a man being seduced by the not so seductive dark arts. She may be attractive, but the Red Lady (Melisandre, for extreme historians) is annoying. She manipulates Stannis, who rather than coming across as the strong and powerful man he believes himself to be proves that he is quite weak and suggestable. He is quite ready to do away with his most loyal adviser, Davos, until Melisandre spares his life, spewing something about reading it in the fire. Fire is a constant theme for these two, and if there's something burning you can guarantee one of them will rush over and use it as a basis for murder and mayhem. Davos is spared, and Gendry is set free by him.

You have to love a naked chick who controls the actions of dragons. You just have to. Yet Daenerys was getting annoying. Her catch phrases were beginning to grate, her promise of power and strength rarely shone through, and the way she treated a man clearly enamoured with her, Rhakharo, left the women in the audience clenching, unhappy with the lack of cuteness. This was all until her dragons were captured by that freak in the House of the Undying, who she subsequently burnt to death, freeing herself and making off with a shit ton of gold. Now, we see the Daenerys we were promised. She sets off seeking an army, which might not be such a noble pursuit, but her acquisition gives us the first real 'fuck yeah' momnent. Treated like an idiot by leaders and goons alike, she wins the loyalty of a man who knows very well how to kill, and is significantly more attractive than her bodyguard, and then turns the tables on the Wise Masters (the rulers of Yunkai) by turning their army against them. More than 'freeing' the slaves, she gives them a choice, and a promise of a better future. In hindsight, it's not a difficult decision for them. They could either disperse in to the arid surrounding lands, continue to run a city that relies heavily on slavery to survive, or follow the woman with the dragons, the gold and the ships. Daenerys has her army, and overtakes Stannis and Robb as the most likely to have their bottom on the Iron Throne.

Jaime and Brienne. Brienne and Jaime. The most attractive incest-fancier since Princess Leia, pared with a woman who makes Will Ferrell look like an attractive female. And I know what all you purists out there bleat. Blah Blah Blah George R. R. Martin doesn't let the pursuit of romance get in the way of a damn good story. Well thats bollocks. This is formulaic, even by Hollywood standards. Odd couple thrown together, dislike each other, save each other a few times, grow to care for and respect each other. I saw that once, every single time I turn on my TV. But these two work together. Maybe it is because Jaime is the typical anti-hero. He does bad stuff, yet we root for him.. When he loses his hand, you almost want to cut your own off and give it to him. It's another sensible grounding to the entire season though. Whilst all else goes ballistic, preconcieved notions are demolished and entire storylines abolished, it's nice to know there is a tale of redemption slowly unfolding. He may lose his hand, but the way he grows to respect and protect Brienne is endearing, and you catch yourself going 'aww' when he and Cersei first see each other. Then you remember they are brother and sister. But then you remember they are just actors, and once he has had a bath or two you probably wouldn't mind another sex scene or two.

I've written about the constant, epic, see-sawing battle of this series, the one true conflict that we all are put through as viewers. Who do we hate more, Theon Greyjoy or Joffrey? Joffrey is bad, but he was always bad. From the very first time we saw him, we knew he was a little rodent. Theon, however, won the trust of people we know and respect, and then not only did he completely obliterate that, he went around killing children. So it is with great joy we watch his torture, although this joy turns to slight horrow and disgust, which is a testament to the writers and actors. You do want him to suffer for his sacking of Winterfell, and his fathers almost total uncaring reaction to the death threats are satisfying enough, but it begins to become quite morbid. Ramsey, his torturer, performs some crude, unecessary surgery that reduces Theon to the status of unic. Yet it's the disturbing nature of his torture that concerns us. Maybe it is the post-Guantanamo Bay era, where we've seen movies like The Road to Guantanmo Bay and witnessed people voluntarily going through actual torture procedures that has built up this fear and internal disgust for the practise. Either way, you will be shaken by these scenes.

I will devote the least amount of space to the most boring of story lines. Bran, Meera, Jojen and Hodor are heading North, and intent on venturing out past the wall. Why? Because Bran has weird dreams with crows in them. Look, that might be a crude analysis, but this storyline can't even be saved with the introduction of Sam and Gilly. Hopefully in season 4, if they do actually get beyond the wall, things heat up a little.

Joffrey is more repellant than ever. In season 3 he unfortunately discovers he has a penis, and that that penis becomes rigid when he performs brutish acts upon women, so we are treated to him living out his disturbing fantasies with no fear of reprisal. Thankfully, those around him are intensely aware of his danger to their kingdom, especially after his farcical beheading of Eddard, and both Tyrion and Tywin spend great deals of energy and personal power trying to bring him in to line. Tyrion stands right up to Joffrey during one epic drinking session. In fact the only thing I love more than Tyrion is home made, toasted banana bread with peanut butter and melted chocolate on top. And I am legally married to that combination of foods, so you can see I love Tyrion quite a lot. The little man, despite being ostracised by his family, remains a huge personality and a huge influence on matters. His relationship with Shae is complicated when he is betroved to Sansa and told to create an heir. We know Tyrion though. He stands up to both Joffrey and Tywin, so he damn well won't have sex with a girl who doesn't desire it. Good on you mate.

Now that you're up to date with just about everything else (except that the absolutely stunningly beautiful Margaery Tyrell pursues Joffrey like a hungry tiger pursues a Zebra), we can tackle The Red Wedding. Yep, this one blows 'Twister' out of the water in terms of twists. You kind of knew something was going to go down. Robb Stark was dumb. He married a girl when he promised to marry another. And he was beginning to lose the will of his followers, especially when he began killing them off for the slightest mention of treason. Catelyn was seen in an even worse light. By letting the King Slayer leave her treason was deemed of the highest order, and towards the middle of the season it became clear that sentiment was turning. Yet the way in which the murder unfolded was so unlike the dynamic we have come to expect within the show. Most of what has happened has been barbaric, crude and crass. The Red Wedding was calculated, shrewd and effective. It was also mind boggling. Robb, Talisa and Catelyn are all slain, throwing the entire story and cornerstone of the show in to disarray. The force with which it happens, and the manner in which we are lead along a trail of the marriage is just pure brilliance. This is the first true indication that we are not watching your average TV show. George RR Martin is one sick man, who refuses to place stock in any kind of traditional, romantic version of life, preferring instead to place faith in a dysmorphic kind of justice that picks and chooses who it bestows its riches upon. That a character like Jaime can go some way to experiencing redemption, yet someone like Catelyn, who always acted selflessly and for her family could experience not only death, but the heartbreak before that death of seeing her son and his wife and baby murdered first, is nothing short of sick. But it's brilliant. It's what makes you love Game of Thrones.

Martin, you could argue, has shot himself thoroughly in the foot. But he hasn't. There are thousands of pages of storyline to come that we haven't seen adapted on to screen yet, that haven't even been plucked from the big beautiful brain of his. Season 4. Where do you go when you've seemingly gone everywhere?

Anorexia and Obesity: Strange Bedfellows

Bear with me, because I like to start an opinion piece with an epiphany, or a moment of clarity, and this one was flooring.

At the height of my exercise addiction, I was well in to my second hour of a morning run, about 8am, and I was done. Everything hurt. My brain was screeching at me but my body was fighting back equally as hard. It was full blown civil war. I kept pushing, safe in the knowledge that my mental strength would win out. It always won out, and my body, the weakest part of me, would be brought in to line and punished with further pain.

As I rounded the corner, I saw an extremely overweight girl waddling to her P-Plated Ford Laser. She must've been between 17 and 21, no older, and in her right hand she had two McDonalds muffins, one of them being demolished with haste, and in her left hand she had a giant iced chocolate from Gloria Jeans, piled like the leaning tower of Pisa with whipped cream. I was disgusted. How could someone abuse their body like that? It was 8 in the morning and she was probably consuming her entirely daily intake in about 10 minutes. Yuck, what a fat, weak willed, disgusting individual.

This wasn't the first time that internal monologue played out in my head, in fact it was one I experienced daily. However, I turned the next corner and stopped dead. I NEVER stop running, not until the end, and even then I try for an extra couple of kms. But I stopped and almost threw up. Me and this anonymous girl are at completely different ends of the same spectrum. We are fighting the exact same battle. She is no weaker than I, and I am no stronger than her. Since that moment, I have not once judged an obese person, and I'm here to tell you right now why you shouldn't.

You wouldn't walk up to an admitted anorexic and tell them to eat more food. Even the most dimwitted of individuals recognises that, if it were that easy, the person wouldn't be anorexic in the first place. Similarly, people are beginning to realise that you don't tell someone with clinical depression to snap out of it, or something with panic disorder to chill out and relax, and you especially don't tell someone with schizophrenia to get over themselves and just not listen to the other voices and personalities in their head. So why is there still such a blatant stigma against overweight people? Binge Eating Disorder is now recognised amongst the eating disorder spectrum, and eating disorders are recognised as mental health problems, not behavioural ones. Yet the mainstream media pursues this ideal that fat people are a burden on society and that their life would be infinitely better if they made some simple, easy changes.

There are a number of reasons why people are overweight or obese. Wilding (2001) says that whilst genetics can be partly to blame, environmental factors are far more important in determining whether an individual is obese or not. I find this difficult to swallow, and Wilding published in 2001, which is a world away from 2014. We live in a society of Michelle Bridges, of Biggest Loser, of articles every Tuesday about how obesity is costing billions of dollars worldwide in healthcare and is an entirely reversible yet extremely prevalent cause of death. Never in human history has it been clearer that obesity is bad, exercise is good, and never has there been such an abundance of information and help for people who are overweight to change their lives around. In 2007, a staggering 64% of Australian's were overweight. That figure is mind boggling. In the US, figures have barely moved in the past decade. It seems you can lead a horse to water, but it's a whole different kettle of fish teaching them how to drink.

So why? Well, to identify that I have dipped in to my vast knowledge of a previously maligned condition, anorexia. There are direct parallels between the two afflictions. An emotional aspect, dense psychological ties and a cheap and relatively easy form of escapism. Binge eating is a simple response to an external or internal stressor. Emotional eating is a body's natural response when the environment it is being forced to endure isn't providing it with the pleasurable activities it craves. Eating becomes a source of pleasure, and for someone who has little other pleasure in their lives, is it any wonder they gravitate towards food to comfort them? The same is true of anorexia. Being hungry and losing weight provide this pleasure, and so we seek it out. The problem, like any addiction, is the way in which the brain's chemistry works. For an anorexic, Dopamine is activated when we believe we have done something good, like skip a meal or lose a kilo. Unfortunately, Dopamine only provides us with pleasure for a limited period of time, before it is re-absorbed. We need to skip another meal, run another mile, lose another kilo. The cycle repeats, and so it does with food. That spinach and fetta roll you had for a snack was great, but by the time lunch comes around, you feel like crap again. So it's KFC for a ridiculously tasty 3 piece feed. But, again, the Dopamine is re-absorbed, and by afternoon tea you're craving again. Rather than having to deal with hunger pains and cravings on top of all the other crap you're dealing with, it is much easier to give in to this particular 'need', satisfy it, and feel good for a while. It beats feeling like shit all the time.

You may find it perplexing that in this ultra health conscious world, where things like Lite N Easy and Jenny Craig and 24 hour gyms exist that people can still be overweight, can still be putting their health at risk. I don't, not one bit, and I despise it when people comment on the obese man ordering a cheeseburger, or the overweight woman choosing regular coke over diet. I didn't always think this way. I used to tut, as I tucked in to my carrot and my anemic salad, watching fat people eating kebabs and deep fried prawns and giant cookies at 10am in the morning. I thought myself well above them, much stronger, more in control, with will power they could only dream of. Now I don't bat an eyelid, and I genuinely feel for them. Sometimes, food is the only pleasurable thing in someones life. When they eat, they escape all the shit that is swirling around them, all the deadlines and annoying bosses and sick relatives and debt problems. For those few minutes, it is blissful, and food provides them with something they haven't been able to get anywhere else.

Addiction and eating disorders are so misunderstood by the general public, and it's not hard to see why. If you've never had those voices in your head, screaming at you to do something, even when you know it's the wrong thing to do, that your health will be worse off and you may even be heading for an early grave because of it, you'll never know the true power they have. You may have the motivation to go to the gym every day, to eat a green salad for lunch and to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Congratulations. But you derive pleasure from those things. It gives you a sense of achievement that you are lacking elsewhere in your world, it gives you something to be proud of (and you should be!). Some people just do not have that motivation, at all. For them, a diet is torture, because it's denying them happiness, it's causing them discomfort. One of the first thing I learned in CBT and Behavioural sciences relating to anxiety and depression was to schedule pleasurable activities at least 4 times a day. They could be as simple as going for a walk, taking a long bath, having a massage, listening to your favourite song or watching a movie. But what if those things don't give you pleasure? What if your pleasurable activity is to eat? You can resist it for a while, but eventually the temptation is too great.

Do not judge those who are overweight. We all exist on this planet together, and we all have vastly different lives and mental states. The person you laugh at because they can't fit through the turnstile at the station may be suffering more pain than you could even imagine, and just by enduring it and continuing with their lives they are showing more strength than you'll ever need to muster. A bit of empathy goes a long way.

Katy B - Little Red

Review: Katy B - Little Red

I guess Katy B isn't all that old. She is 24, which in the scheme of things is still a baby. But in another way, she's at least 5 years removed from those tumultous teenage times that seem to litter her music. When On A Mission was released in 2011, it was seen as a wonderful fusion of London club culture. It blended R&B, EDM, pop, rave and house music in a concise package that presented beautifully. Something like Katy On A Mission was Lily Allen on ecstasy, and Lights On was the embodiment of a night out for a newly minted 20 year old just desperate to find the nearest good time.

Pop music hasn't moved thematically in a long time. There's a very good reason for this. Going out on a Friday and Saturday night is the same song and dance as it was a decade ago, and hasn't diversified much since the turn of the millenium. The names may have changed, but the boozy haze is the same. The floors are still sticky, the clubs still smell like stale alcohol and the lights still come on at the end of the night. So the fact that we've waited 3 years for a new Katy B record isn't devastating. In her down time she's observed fellow Brits scoring goals everywhere, whether it be to the detriment of her cultivated lushness of sound or to its benefit. Dizzee Rascal released a record so far removed from his roots it felt cheap. Disclosure introduced a more muted version of the EDM high of the late oos, and AlunaGeorge have found success with cutesy vocals mixed with electro-nous. Katy B may not have had too many local contemporaries when she left the scene, but her return sees her amongst company.
There's no out and out club thrasher on Little Red. That's always the first thing to search for. The first single, 5AM, appeals directly to her key demographic. A considered throb of bassline meets her vocals head on as she uses words like 'sick' and 'ill' to endear herself as more than the cool aunt. The chorus of "Ooh, I need somebody to calm me down / A little loving like Valium / I need somebody to knock me out" is straight out of the play book, all glitched electro haze and complete with resplendent early morning grogginess. Like the aftermath of Glastonbury, this is well trod ground.

Opener Next Thing is the most straight-laced club bait, produced by British up and comers The Invisible Men, with The Arcade, it presents as a clear and precise attack on the listener's current physical disposition. If you're in your seat, you're soon to be out of it. There's no real question of what Katy has been doing for the past 3 years. It appears splattered all over the record, a tale of late night trysts, forlorn loneliness, teenage lust and under-developed notions of love, and boozy encounters. On I Like You she delivers her sermon, "You think I learned from all those times my heart was crushed / Paid a victim of that appetite, that lust / Cause I want that feeling loving is that rush / Now I know why I really shouldn't play with fire" and you can't help but feel a little undernourished. The chorus is dangerously melodic, but there's not much more in it. On the very next song, she sings "I'll give you all my lovin'". On Emotions, 'There’s no stopping this / I’m craving what you give / Your love that takes me to the sky". You're never going to be overwhelmed more by a record as a 13 year old girl than you are with Little Red.
If this seems a tad harsh, we must denote what it is Katy is trying to do, the market she has tapped in to. British pop music is undergoing something of a period of flux. Whilst the true partygoers, the ones alluded to earlier, ask no more of their music than a strong beat and a repetitive chorus, a new2 market is emerging that consumes their music outside of the club setting. This now appears to be the key to hitting it big in the US. An act like Lorde, nowhere near as talented a singer as say Birdy, creates that perfect blend of down trodden R&B and bass heavy thump to be played at 9pm to get the party started, and again at 6am when the first of the Valium kicks in. On Little Red, it feels like Katy B is stuck between these two timeslots. The forgettable ballad Crying For No Reason aside, there just isn't enough music falling either side of this middle ground to endear her. The brilliant Aaliyah, with Jessie Ware, in which she explores that much displayed yet often ommitted emotion of jealousy, pounds with sticky foot promise, and houses her most mature work. Then there is the hidden beauty Play, with Sampha. Complex trickery on the production flips a childish fairground sound in to a workable beat, as Katy launches in to a metaphorical wonderland of instrumental terms to describe a burgeoning relationship, "Play me, pull my strings / Bring out a melody in me / Hear my heart it sings
All these words I need to say to you". There's such promise in these two songs, and her ability to create a catchy melody is rare and enviable, that we're left feeling a little hollow when the rest of the record treads down such a well worn path.

The Deluxe Edition, if you are lucky enough to be able to afford it, is wildly bloated. The extra 5 tracks add very little, except for the disappointing Stay Down, and all that adds is a reminder that she can't sing. Sky's The Limit is the pick, as she applies her tried and tested method of repetition to create a mildly catchy song. Save your extra $3 and buy Britney Spears' latest record from the discount bin.

Whilst Little Red is slightly more autobiographical than On A Mission, slightly more mature, slightly deeper in sound and slightly more intelligent in execution, it's slightly boring. I have a mate who says nothing good ever happens on a night out after 1am. Katy's music sits ever so close to this timeslot, and I tend to agree with him.

Rating: 6/10

Drive By Truckers - English Oceans

Review: Drive-By Truckers - English Oceans
The Drive-By Truckers have crafted this weird dynamic, mainly due to their enigmatic man on the ground Patterson Hood. They're thoroughbred country hard men, complete with tall tale and yarn spinning prowess, who feel. I'm not saying they engage in letter writing, relationship counselling, rom-com marathons or star gazing, but there is a depth of emotion that bleeds through that you rarely find on modern country records. You could call them a loose collective, with the core duo Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley the focal point. Cooley is the more straight-laced of the two. His Southern roots dive deeply, and you'd be more likely to find him at your local brandishing a weapon at 4am than his band mates. Patterson Hood is the true gem. His brand of Cash storytelling mixed with Bon Iver longing and the brash honesty that Eminem has championed renders him a personality to be reckoned with.

The Truckers have employed a revolving door policy to band members. The openess and more country-focused Jason Isbell brought a distinct twang to their earlier records, and his wife (at the time) Shonna Tucker added a deeper root of old school bass, reminiscient of the work Larry Paxton is doing. By 2011, with the release of the staggering Go-Go Boots, the Truckers had hit on the winning formula. A triumph of country storytelling fused with an innate sense of melody, it defined the genre in a way that many have attempted but few have replicated since Johnny Cash.

In an interview with Nashville Scene in early 2013, the dynamic of English Oceans became abundantly clear. Cooley, speaking on the differing styles employed by himself and Hood, wrote that whilst Hood's stories had a distinct beginning, middle and end, his own were more vague, less re-tellings of events and more deconstructions of them. There's a tendency in country music now to split the difference. One half chases the most lucrative of markets, guys like Jake Owen and Brad Paisley. Then there are the purists, like Isbell, who favour the old school tradition of tawng and heavy lifting. Hood and Cooley delve deeply in to the broth of what makes something inherently country, yet their talent is such that each track lingers long after that first listen, immediately recognisable months after the event.

English Oceans isn't their best record. It isn't even in their top three. The first sign of a disconnect from their usual dynamic is Cooley's brutal opening track, Shit Shots Count. Right at the end, he spits "Pride is what you charge a proud man for having. / Shame is what you sell to a whore", enunciating the word whore with uncontrolled malice. On the very next track, over a similarly aggressive guitar based piece, Patterson Hood sings "She paints a smile on her lips, and looks at herself in the mirror / as her day begins". This is the trademark view of women on a Truckers record, which is why it throws you at first when Cooley almost attacks a profession that they've been quite lenient on in the past. On Go-Go Boots, Hood describes with glee the dealings of an adulterous relationship, and on Everybody Needs Love the masses are preached for.

Whilst you'd never say that this is a concept record, or that they've previously walked this path, the Truckers have always stuck to a loose narrative that's permeated the push and pull of individual songs. On English Oceans, it feels as though Cooley and Hood are pulling in, if not opposite directions, then ones that are going to see them slowly drift apart. On the mournful Pauline Hawkins, Hood tries his hand at an anger and dismissiveness that doesn't suit his voice at all. In fact surprisingly, it is Hood who appears most lacklustre. As he sings "He was indifferent to honesty" on The Part Of Him, there's a real fizzle of the fire and pent up emotion that has so coloured his previous work with the Truckers, and his brilliant 2012 solo record, Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance. He redeems himself on the biographical When Walter Went Crazy, an almost spoken word tale reminiscient of the frank nature employed on Ray's Automatic Weapon (Go-Go Boots). The albums hidden beauty is the final track, Grand Canyon, in which Hood presents a tale of loss inspired by the death of a crew member Craig Lieske over the top of an initially melancholic backing that gradually becomes more anthemic, rising to meet his voice, "My dreams I can still see, falling through a western sky". It's his best contribution.

Cooley is the key. His traditional role hasn't been songwriting, and that shows in the immediate change of pace from previous Truckers work. It feels less sprawling, more focused and tight. He brings a real knowledge and love of heavier guitar work, mixed in with an inner energy that drags songs along. On Made Up English Oceans there is constant forward motion, and on Primer Coat he throws an old school saloon vibe in to the mix, yet delivers his most reflective story, "It comes to women and they survive, but when the same comes to men / someone comes for their babies, something dies there and then", as he celebrates the strength of the southern woman in the face of adversity. A long cry from his initial sentiments. Ultimately it is Cooley who drives this record, with Patterson Hood more than content to take a backseat. The gravel soaked blues of Til He's Dead or Rises again name checks the fairer sex, yet he blurs the lines between empowerment and weakness to compulsion as he explores the sexual prowess of the central figure and her desire to get what she wants from her man whether he is a willing participant or not. It all feels a tad discordant.

Overall, this is an immediate let down on the previous work of DBT. Too often the sound is thrown around in different spaces, and a heavier attitude to contrast with the almost soulful Go-Go Boots is not in keeping with their contemporary sound. Cooley was excited that with the reduction of members, DBT could channel more of their original country roots and really hone a singular sound. Unfortunately, whilst it doest at times sound more consistent than their previous work, the roots in that soulful experiment still remain, and Hood hasn't quite snapped out of that phase yet.

Rating: 6/10

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