Politics, Uncategorized

General Election 2017. I Still Believe In This Country, But Not Under This Current Government.

Let me begin with a disclaimer, politics is not really my thing. Yes, I take an interest in how this country is run and how, in general, the world is becoming increasingly ridiculous. I also know people who are a lot more articulate when it comes to understanding and explaining affairs of state. Most of us get our facts from the media but my patience for impartial news is wearing thin to the extent that I do not believe it exists anymore. Since a young age I have have maintained this heavy scepticism, especially when newspapers and television become our primary sources of information when election coverage ramps up.

My main concern lies in an estimated ¾ of the current mainstream media in the UK being privately owned, ergo I don’t believe most of what is being printed being anything close to objective. The Government had an opportunity to investigate the media but dropped the Leveson II Inquiry. I do not believe the media were let off the hook without a compromise, a government able to ignore unwanted facts is a prerogative of unchallenged power. Avoid headlines. Read the manifestos and make up your own mind.

Even then it can be difficult to try to find the common good amongst all the promises. I find it easier to present politics as a fairytale; good v evil, The Force v The Dark Side, government for the few v government for the many. Thomas Jefferson saw it as a battle between aristocrats and democrats. The aristocrats are ‘those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.’ The democrats ‘identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe.’ Once you realise how nepotistic the media is and concentrate on policies the picture becomes a little clearer. Judging by the recently published manifestos, it is not difficult to work out which party fits which description in this general elections and why I still believe in this country, but only if the current government was removed.

I believe in a £9 p/h minimum wage and a tax freeze promise on wages for those earning less than £80,000.

I do not believe in zero hour contracts.

I believe in eradicating rough sleeping and raising corporation tax to £26bn. I also believe in Excessive Pay Leverage, in taxing the top 5% and those earning over £80,000. I also believe in giving HMRC more teeth to go after UK companies who plough their profits into tax havens. The rich must pay their dues before a social crisis.

I believe in renationalising the trains and bringing them back under Government control. I also believe in free wifi on trains and freezing rail fare prices before reducing them gradually while investing in infrastructure. Over £100 to visit London before 9am is for the few, not the many.

I believe in renationalising Royal Mail and the National Grid.

I believe in scrapping university tuition fees, a higher education should be a right and not a privilege. However, the Tories have announced plans to fund new free schools (academies and grammar schools) by raising tuition fees. The Conservative manifesto states; “We will make it a condition for universities hoping to charge maximum tuition fees to become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools”. Universities themselves are concerned, Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, said “Universities need higher tuition fees simply because the government has cut their funding by over 80 per cent. If the fees of students are used to get more academies and free schools off the ground, this would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul but it would also side-line local parents and governors who might prefer to work with other sponsors.”

Meanwhile, free school meals for children from lower income families would be scrapped despite thousands spent on kitchens. In effect, our education system is becoming a system of entitlement.  To put figures into perspective, Tories gave a £100k tax cut p/a to 13,000 millionaires while they are removing school meals from the mouths of 900,000 kids. Dickensian.

I do not believe in a new Dementia tax for the elderly. This would mean elderly people who are receiving social care to fund the entire cost until they reached the last £100,000 of assets which the state would allow them to keep. Of course, the Tories have now made a u-turn but their intention was clear; taxing the vulnerable. The u-turn itself is also telling, going back on a repugnant proposal only because going through with it would cost them votes. The Tories even bought up Google advertisements to try and hide the ‘dementia tax’ as if the blunder was all but a figment of our imagination.

I also believe in maintaining the triple lock state pension guarantee and means-testing of winter fuel payments up to £300. I believe in caring for the elderly, not stripping them.

I believe in a properly funded NHS with free car parking, not one involving private consultancies. I also believe in restoring nurses’ training bursaries. I do not believe in dismantling the NHS piece by piece. I do not believe Jeremy Hunt has a conscience.

I do not believe in the loss of Disability Living Allowance. I do not believe in the rise of food banks. I do not believe in starving the poor and the needy.

I believe in a new Minister for Mental Health.

I do not believe in Boris Johnson as a functioning adult, can you imagine him negotiating with the EU as Foreign Secretary? The alternative is Keir Starmer LLB, QC and Barrister who is Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. A man with actual experience of persuasion in a court of law. No-brainer.

I believe in interest-free loans for homeowners to improve property.

I do not believe in unethical arms exports to the likes of Saudi Arabia, not with their human rights record.

I believe in banning the UK ivory trade, the Tories removed that pledge from their manifesto. Horrifying.

I do not believe in borrowing over £700bn over seven years with zero investment.

I do not believe in taking the internet under government control but a toughening up of punishments for online abuse.

I do not believe in fox hunting, Theresa May does.

I believe in renewable energy and clean air, not fracking. Germany has it right, not wholesale nationalisation but letting councils decide how to supply their energy and not relying on a few providers.

Strong and stable? What about the weak and vulnerable? I believe in fairness, I shall be voting Labour.

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Health, Lifestyle, Mens Health, Opinion

Movember. The Importance of asking ‘how are you’?

This will be the fifth occasion I have participated in Movember and it gets more important every year. Some might say the growing of a moustache is some gimmicky, hipster tradition to show the world ‘Hey, I’ll grow some ridiculous facial hair and get away with it for charity’. If you do think that, you are grossly missing the point.

I truly grasped the importance of Movember in the country where the movement originates, Australia. Over there hipsters seemingly lurk on every corner and moustaches are far more readily spotted. There does not seem to be a taboo over comical upper facial hair, but there does seem to be a taboo over men’s health.

Whenever I think of an Australian, I think of the men I met while doing my farmwork. Tough men who would work in the field all day and come in to a steak dinner. One of the phrases I often heard (though barely aimed at me) was ‘Take a spoonful of concrete and harden the fuck up’. Down under, readily talking about men’s health was frowned upon. Men would not discuss how they were feeling, they’d get their head down and carry on. This is largely the case in the UK where suffering alone is a tangible concern.

Few people ask that simple question, ‘how are you?’ My boss asks me that every so often as she knows there are times when I am struggling, whether that be with my workload or battling Seasonal Affective Disorder. She will take me a quiet area and we will have a ten minute chat where I can offload. It makes a huge difference to know that there is someone checking in on you. When was the last time you asked someone ‘how are you?’ and got a truthful response? ‘I’m alright ta’, when really you have just seen them walk in looking as if they have the world on their shoulders.

Getting men to talk emotionally is a huge challenge and admittedly there are few men I speak to whom I know I can truly offload to. Ask yourself, if you were having a hard time mentally, who would you admit that to? The statistics make for distressing reading –

. One in eight men have experienced a mental health problem

. The biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK is suicide

Men cannot afford to keep it all in and to borrow one of the foundations slogans, ‘Suicide notes talk too late’. Aside from mental health, there are two physical illnesses which Stand Up To Cancer thankfully highlighted last week; prostate and testicular cancer.

. One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point

. Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men aged 25-49

And yet, do men talk about this? Not really, which is why the Movember Foundation is so vital. Simply talking about men’s health is one huge step and if that means me growing a moustache to raise awareness then great. Happy to.

 

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Fitness, Food, Health, Opinion

“You really should watch your weight”

“You should really watch your weight”. Six words that really should not be uttered in any social setting.

That statement is such a malicious thing to say. Directed at someone who has suffered from weight issues it is a heavy statement to endure. 48 hours later and it is still weighing heavy on my conscience.

I have always been conscious of my weight, likely over-conscious. Back in school I was a fat child and was teased largely until sixth form. It was tough and the emotional trauma stuck for a good few years after. Gradually I would learn not to give the taunts much shrift though occasionally I would bite and get involved in a slanging match. Once you get through that you develop a thick skin and learn not to get emotionally attached. Kids say things without thinking then they grow up and grow out of it, they learn that to get through life you need to show respect.

When I arrived at university I decided to do something, went on a diet and lost a considerable amount of weight. The feeling I got was one of accomplishment, that I had finally joined some sort of an exclusive health club. My weight has fluctuated since then, I have always carried some bulk but have built up a core fitness over time and watch what I eat. Right now I feel comfortable with my weight, well, I did until someone told me I really should watch my weight.

You do not expect to hear any grown adult come out with those six words. People past the age of 16 should know better than to mention someone’s weight. It is such a heartless, brainless, malignant, venomous statement that the words hit me like a sucker punch to the stomach. Did the person who dealt such a blow know the damage they could cause? Did they care?

I knew I should have put down the cake and walked away. I knew I should have walked outside in silence, partly out of shame that someone could say such a thing. I returned fire, insinuated that the commenter was all mouth and really did not handle it well. I simmered when I should have let it blow over me. I reacted when I should have shamed him. I should have made sure everyone knew what the troll had just said and see how it went down. Let the audience decide how odious a statement it is.

Bullies and trolls need to be ignored, starved of the oxygen and hate that fuels them. I have options. I can ignore the troll or I can make the statement come back to bite. Better still, I can use the statement whenever I grab some food in their vicinity. If the troll really meant what they said they won’t mind when I utter it amongst others, because you cannot take those words back. You should really watch what you say.

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Film, Uncategorized

The Oscars 2016: Predictions

Granted, this isn’t exactly an original post as I did the exact same thing for 2014’s ceremony. Looking back I was miles out from the results too; I predicted Wolf of Wall Street to clean up and that Leonardo di Caprio would finally get his Best Actor nod, it seemed overdue then too.

This year’s awards are a bit more predictable, or at least it seems there are more obvious winners with a few standout performances. One element that is sadly predictable is the lack of black nominations. However, I cannot seem to recall an outstanding performance that SHOULD have garnered a nomination so it does not seem so glaring an omission. Not like David Oyelowo for Selma, now THAT was an injustice.

Anyway, onto the categories…

BEST PICTURE

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

  • I’d love to see Mad Max: Fury Road claim this simply for how wondrously high-octane and bonkers crazy that film is but they don’t give out Best Picture Oscars for that. No, they hand them out to ‘difficult watches’ like Schindler’s List hence it seems just that The Revenant should get this, if not Room.

 

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ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

  • It just has to be, doesn’t it? He fought with a bear, he endured -25c conditions and slept in a horse. What does he have to do to win one!? Anyway, Eddie Redmayne won LAST year.

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ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

  • I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the other nominations but Larson brings such depth to her performance, such gravitas that once you see it you cannot imagine it being beaten.

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ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

  • Again, it’d be warming to see Tom Hardy get this as he arguably outshone Di Caprio. Rylance was sublime in Bridge of Spies but Stallone might edge this.

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

  • Fair to say I had a giddy smile every time Leigh popped up on screen during The Hateful Eight, she was such a spiteful bitch. So she won’t win and as I haven’t seen the other nominations I’d take a stab at Vikander.

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Anomalisa

Boy and the World

Inside Out

Shaun the Sheep Movie

When Marnie Was There

  • Again, I’ve only seen the one film I’m going for but Inside Out is a heartwarming, hilarious classic. Plus it got me and Mum out of the house with smiles on our face for a bit during the worst week in July.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Sicario

  • While I yearned for my days back in the huge expanse of Australian desert during Mad Max there was something beautiful captured in nearly every scene during The Revenant.Yes, the conditions were perilous but when you see the glistening landscapes of Alberta in all their snow-dipped magnificence it certainly appeared worth it.

COSTUME DESIGN

Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

  • The battered leather, the face mask and those elegant yet daring white sarongs. They’ll probably give it to The Danish Girl though.

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DIRECTING

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Room

Spotlight

  • I know he won last year but Iñárritu’s immersive direction throws you into the midst of the film. Arrows go whizzing past and you can almost feel the -25 chill, that’s the sign of a master director at work

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DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Amy

Cartel Land

The Look of Silence

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

  • Yes, I didn’t see the other nominations but having endured her death as played out in the public eye at the time, Amy broke my heart.

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FILM EDITING

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant

Spotlight

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • If there was an award for editing so a film that ran over 2 hours fails to feel even half that long, oh wait, there is. Done.

 

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MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Mad Max: Fury Road

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out

the Window and Disappeared

The Revenant

  • You try keeping up your appearance in the Australian desert when you’re NOT driving around. There’s red dust EVERYWHERE.

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MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Bridge of Spies

Carol

The Hateful Eight

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • An original score from Ennio Morricone simply has to win, doesn’t it?

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MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey

“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction

“Simple Song #3,” Youth

“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground

“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre

  • Geeze, there must have been some slim pickings if Sam Smith’s ‘effort’ was nominated.

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PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies

The Danish Girl

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

  • I’m aware I’m overlooking Mars but Bridge of Spies looked and felt like you would imagine Germany during the Cold War. The brooding wall, the palpably murky edginess lying around every street corner, it all looked organically authentic.

 

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SOUND EDITING

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Sicario

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • Y’know, when I’m watching a film I never, ever think ‘Oh my, they really edited that swoosh well’. But then Star Wars had lightsaber swooshes and The Millenium Falcon so…

SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • See above.

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VISUAL EFFECTS

Ex Machina

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • The Martian recreated Mars but Star Wars recreated GALAXIES.

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WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The Big Short

Brooklyn

Carol

The Martian

Room

  • Basing this one on my wise auntie and her excellent opinion after reading the book.

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WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

  • Oh look, a black nomination. Even then I’d like to see Ex Machina nab this as it seemed so outlandish yet such a disturbingly real idea. What if you could create AI? Then to explore the idea so vividly was very impressive.

 

Feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section.

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Polling Station
Lifestyle

Vote. Choose your party. Just please don’t announce it

“Opinions are like arseholes. Everyone’s got one”.

As with the right to vote, everybody has a right to an opinion though at times it is best not to air it in public. Especially not an allegiance, especially not on social media.

Before I was even allowed to vote I knew what a responsible duty it is. That I should do my best to ignore smear campaigns and never waver in my choice. I still base my decision on issues that matter to me making my vote so intimate I become passionately secretive over it, like many others. It says a lot about my own personal preferences and as such I want to keep it to myself. Everyone has the right to vote for the party that they believe best represents them yet please do not try to persuade others to follow suit.

Do not get me wrong, there is a distinct difference in persuading people to go out and vote (OK) than persuading people to vote a certain way (NOT OK). There is also a difference in sparking political debate (OK) and sparking arguments against people who are not voting the same way (NOT OK).

After convincing myself for weeks of how I would vote I still found myself staring at the voting slip. For each of us it is one of the most important decisions you can make yet we still make a compromise. No party’s policies will ever perfectly align with what we, as individuals, want to see set in place. So voting for a specific party does not mean you should be guilt tripped because someone else disagrees with a certain policy. “Oh, you’re voting FGDFSDFS. Have you seen their stance on RGSDFSDFSDF!?” STOP IT.

In an ‘Age of Disclosure’ I already know what you had for dinner and which Instagram filter you used to make it look magnificent. I already know if you’re engaged/expecting as I’ve seen the ring/ultrasound on Facebook. I already know where you’ve been on holiday, I’ve seen your Foursquare check-ins. Knowing which party you have voted for is just another detail I’d prefer you kept to yourself.

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TV

‘Knowledge is Power’. Cursing the Game of Thrones leak

“Knowledge is Power”. When he published the maxim in his book, ‘Meditationes Sacrae and Human Philosophy’ in 1597 I doubt Sir Francis Bacon had considered plot lines to be of such vaunted importance. The world was a simpler place back then with the only form of hacking coming from a blade on flesh.

At the weekend, the first four episodes of season 5 of the phenomenally successful HBO TV series leaked online. For a show that revels in scandal this seems slightly poignant. If only punishments were as severe as they are depicted on the show as there is a special place in Hell reserved for anyone who decides to ruin the surprise. Anyone with an internet connection, and even the most basic knowledge of torrent files, could quickly get their fix. They also had a choice not to.

For those who could not wait long enough they could unwrap their torrent files then have to wait a month sitting on plot lines and twists until the rest of us catch up. Or they could be an utter bastard and slyly, smugly inform their mates that they knew what was coming, then tell them. Call me old school but some things are worth the wait and a week between episodes keeps the tension building. The scheduling also means that fans of the show have something to get them through Monday. Cheers, Sky Atlantic.

Anyone that can keep a secret is to be venerated as even the slightest hint of a spoiler can now be dissected instantly. We have all been teased by trailers yet each of those is carefully constructed to get you into position for the main course. Dropping a spoiler onto a Facebook status leaves that appetiser of a show or a film cold and desecrated yet we all know an utter bastard only too keen to ruin it for everyone else. “LOLZ. Just you wait til halfway through episode 3 🙂 🙂 :)”. Piss off.

Curse you Twitter. That episode of The Likely Lads seems from a different age altogether where they only had to avoid a newspaper headline. Match of the Day can now be ruined by a cursory glance on the BBC Sport handle while waiting for the bus. What has been seen cannot be unseen and what is glanced upon cannot be forgotten.

Everyone wants to be the first to know then the first to come up with the viral meme. Some events are just too big to avoid, no matter how hard you try. Christ, I knew about the Red Wedding before I had sat down to watch a single episode. Then again, those who have binged on the leaked episodes are still behind the real knowledge keepers, those who have taken the time to read the books. Sir Francis Bacon might even approve of that.

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Uncategorized

REVIEW: Courtney Barnett at the Sheffield Leadmill

You could forgive Courtney Barnett if you found her taking sanctuary in her dressing room as the clock ticked down to show-time. A lot has been written about this beguiling 25 year-old since the release of her two debut EPs, paired together in ‘The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas’. Last week her debut album ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit’ piqued interest and gained rave reviews, no pressure then.

Yet instead of cowering under the weight of new-found expectancy she could be found just two deep from the front excitedly snapping away at opening support act and fellow endearing Aussie, Fraser A Gorman. This being Sheffield she was left unattended, probably best for someone who will later breezily describe how an afternoon’s gardening led to a panic attack.

The Leadmill was close to sold out, barely a surprise when you consider how much Sheffield has sound-tracked the banality of life with dry, witty, quick-fire lyrics. Consider Jarvis and Turner then you can easily slot in Barnett for deadpan delivery complete with her ever-so-cool-but-don’t-call-it-cool Melbournian drawl.

The current face and sound of slackerdom opened her set with ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party’. An unassuming, millennial anthem of meh which centres around the line ‘I wanna go out but I wanna stay home’. Thankfully, most in the room were glad they ventured out despite weather that daylight savings won’t fix.

Courtney Barnett (Photo courtesy of the ever helpful Jon Downing)

Courtney Barnett (Photo courtesy of the ever helpful Jon Downing)

There is an endearing charm to Courtney Barnett that is hard to pin down. Her patterned t-shirt, exuberant guitar licks and the way she gently disarms any loose heckling. Maybe it is the fact she quietly started her own record label, Milk Records, to take care of her and her musical chums. Maybe it is the playful sketches and homemade aesthetic that adorn her album artwork and merchandise. Maybe it is just her carefully selected points of view. Like many Australians I have met she shares her suburban status with a more far-reaching outlook. From my time in Melbourne I could picture the Swanston Street commuter captured so eloquently in ‘Elevator Operator’ catching the 96 tram. Mainly as this was my favourite route, taking in hipster Brunswick and ending at St Kilda Beach. I knew the troubles of house hunting away from all the coffee shops, even if I failed to venture as far as deceased estates in (De)Preston.

That she could then solemnly expand on the perils of big business, complete with knackered truckers and ‘taxidermied kangeroos’ on the Hume Highway was impressive enough during ‘Dead Fox’. However, in an age of distraction it was ‘Kim’s Caravan’ that showed Barnett’s real precocity and left the room floored. A tale of a dying seal and the Great Barrier Reef being dredged beyond belief set to an agonisingly heart-breaking delivery and a resounding finale. Not many slackers can show so much soul-baring concern for the environment.

That’s not to say she does not know how to have fun. While her debut album showcases a labour of love, song craftsmanship and anxiety, tonight she looked to let loose. You sense that the spotlight still offers a glimpse into her inner awkward and being Australian means she can brazenly dismiss it, jokingly renaming ‘Debbie Downer’ to ‘Debbie’s Fucking AWESOME’. At other times she seemed far more comfortable tapping a guitar pedal, turning her six-string into a weapon of mass distortion and shaking her mass of thick, brown hair, as during ‘History Eraser’. Close your eyes during ‘Pedestrian At Best’ and you could imagine the screeching guitar and snarling delivery as a female fronted Nirvana circa In Utero.

For the encore she delved into the silly love song set in a swimming pool that is ‘Aqua Profunda!’ and a whimsical cover of The Easybeats’ ‘I’ll Make You Happy’. For someone who can belt out the line, ‘put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you’, she may have found an audience happy to disagree.

As this blog post is all about my opinion, and partly about my time in Australia, I am submitting it in the All About You Party. Get involved!

Mama and More

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