Ask Polly’s Heather Havrilesky: ‘I feel connected to the people who write to me’


The advice columnist brings her wisdom off the web and into the bind pages of a collect of almost entirely new letters, How To Be A Person In the World

Heather Havrilesky is the advice columnist for people encountering doubt about the sorcery dwelling inside them. If this sounds corny and sentimental at first, that is because it is. While much of the modern advice material dispensing wisdom to readers takes the form of small and practical steps toward self-improvement, Havrilesky is an unapologetic evangelist for sentimentality and believing in our own enormous potential. She speaks in the language of the epic, the supernatural, and the celestial.

Since 2012, her weekly advice column, New York magazines Ask Polly, has broadcast these notions in human potential through letters tackling modernity most pressing existential crisis for a growing and devoted following. The column has provided reassurance to readers, but also instilled in them a sense of being responsible, to themselves and others, to use their potential wisely.

This week, Havrilesky brings Pollys wisdom off the web and into the bind pages of a collection of almost entirely new letters, How To Be A Person In the World: Ask Pollys Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life.

Havrilesky is not the most likely advice columnist, by her own admission. She is hardly a stoic observer, she does not consider herself to be much of an expert on how to feel. I find my own feelings very bewildering. I always have. I am a very moody person and have a very uneven experience of the world, she tells me over the phone from her home in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and daughters.( As we talk, our conversation is occasionally punctuated by interruptions of her dispatching her husband to a parenting task and making sure that her puppy had not gotten into something poison .) I will never become a person who is not floored by her emotional experience.

But for the millennial women who make up the bulk of her audience, it is precisely those emotional experiences that have built her into something of a wise and occasionally profane aunt, in whom we find wisdom and hope for our own futures. Havrilesky, 46, regularly discloses her own encounters with her readers issues. Sometimes it comes as heart-wrenching recollections of events like the loss of her own parent to a grieving letter-writer( I wanted him to be alive, to eat a great snack, to read something funny for HIS sake) and sometimes light-hearted admissions that she too has struggled with obsessing over sons, a habit she compares to weaving a rich tapestry and then using it as a puppy bed.( I was a mind weaver of rich fucking tapestries, too, back in the working day, with some demure yet straight-talkin, slightly slimmer, slightly more hygienic version of my actual ego ). Regardless of the issue, Havrilesky makes clear that she too, has scalped in the game.

Empathizing so deeply with the impressions of others, somewhat miraculously, does not lessen the exhilaration that Havrilesky gets from engaging the despair and complexity of her readers problems. Its very easy to pick good letters because there are so many good ones. It really is an embarrassment of riches, she says a somewhat mystifying declaration that being bombarded with messy, often heartbreaking tales is an enviable position.

My nature is to be fascinated and curious and engaged and to feel connected to the people who write to me. I like hearing people problems. I love complicated problems. I love long-winded, difficult letters. I dont think everyone alive is like that, she says.

While most of the letters are new, the terrain covered in How To Be A Person In The World will be familiar to much of her readership and she repeats similar topics throughout the book: your impressions are valid but misguided in a very special style, your lack of romantic fulfillment is not a result of some inherent flaw of yours, all of your hurt is real, and all of your hurt is to be able to healed. These are affirmations worth recurring and so they are, but the prose in which Havrilesky plants them is plainspoken while still appealing to the grandness of the celestial and the gravity of the scriptural.

In the book, Havrilesky speaks frankly of evil and malice when responding to a woman grappling with her friends welcoming of the social return of a man whose sexual advances profoundly violated her borders , noting lines from a song called Devil Town by Daniel Johnston that reads: Oh lord, it truly brings me down about the devil township.

But the proverbial profane aunt has some fun, too. To a woman who is convinced she has a fundamental flaw she cant pinpoint that is driving romantic prospects away, Havrilesky points out in earnest, Every night you pray to the gods of rejection. Your prayer ritual involves replaying the past, loading one reel after another, footage of men who broke your heart, only to become comically exasperated when she afterward declares, YOU ARE CURRENTLY PRAYING AT THE ALTAR OF THE MOST TEDIOUS RELIGION IN THE UNIVERSE.

To a woman who confuses herself with fantasies about men rather than focusing on her own challenges, Havrilesky tells her what she plans to tell her own daughters when they start to place all of the magic outside of themselves and become similarly preoccupied: The world has told you lies about how small you are. You will look back on this time and say, I had it all, but I didnt even know it. I was at the centre for human rights, I could breathe in happiness, I could swim to the moon. I had everything I required.

I read this section aloud to Havrilesky in our call but make it merely to the end of the first sentence before bursting into tears. It was a mixture of sudden relief that my nagging suspicions that I am more than the world has allowed me to be were true after all combined with the sorrow over time lost living in the smallness of the lie. Havrilesky then began to cry herself, a few moments that might have been awkward for someone less tolerant of a fate that floors them with their emotions. Most people alive are not like that.

This sentiment more than any other is what echoes throughout the book, the untelling of the lies about our smallness. She proclaims life is full of twinkles and twinges, even amid poverty and ageing and death late in the book, sincere and corny as when she began. This mean, mean planet still rewards those who can see the depth and beauty of what they carry around inside themselves, she reassures a letter-writer who hankers for a big, arousing love amid lukewarm interest from humen in an appeal for more brazen self-love modeled on Kanye Wests. It is these small reflections that Havrilesky watches us for what we are: not tiny corpuscles of illuminate in a dark sky but enormous sources of illuminate and energy in a brilliant cosmo. We have each other. We have worlds within us, me and you, she continues, unflinching as she delivers the message that every person carries their own peculiar magic whether they can see the enormousness of it or not.

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‘It’s our way of life’: Inuit designers are reclaiming the tarnished sealskin trade

2 days ago

Seal hunting is widely misunderstand, says a new wave of fashion designers, who are currently challenging perceptions with a combination of modern and traditional work

First, she seemed to tradition, immersing herself in the Inuit customs of mitten and parka-making. Next, Victoria Kakuktinniq sought out the contemporary, heading south to train in fashion design before were returned to Nunavut, Canadas northernmost territory.

The result is a style line that marries modern design with tradition captured in a first collection that includes four sealskin wintertime coats and which has established Kakuktinniqs place among the cadre of decorators and seamstresses in Canadas north working to reclaim sealskins place in haute couture.

Its part of my culture, said Kakuktinniq, 27, who launched Victorias Arctic Fashion in 2013. The Inuit are actually trying our very best to promote our culture and indicate our way of life and how our ancestors lived.

It a way of life that has increasingly come under attack in recent decades. Opposition to seal hunting gathered force in the 1960 s and 70 s, with graphic campaigns that featured fluffy seal puppies being bludgeoned by hunters. It soon snowballed into a global, celebrity-studded motion that saw the US and European Union ban the import of virtually all seal products.

But little thought was given to the impact these anti-sealing campaigns would have on Inuit, said the film-maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. When you totally erase Inuit from the picture, it can appear as a black and white issue, she said. But were the people of the seal, were hunters.

Starting in the 1950 s, the massacre of hundreds, if not thousands, of sled dogs by the Royal Canadian mounted police left many Inuit with few alternatives but to abandon the semi-nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors and settle into permanent communities.

Other Inuit were forcibly relocated north by a Canadian government keen to claim sovereignty over the high reaches of the Arctic. Some Inuit were also sent away to residential schools, described by a truth commission as a church-run tool of cultural genocide and rife with abuse.

Rannva Simonsen, a luxury fur outerwear designer in Iqaluit, models one of her seems. Photo: Ashifa Kassam for the Guardian

Throughout these turbulent years, the seal hunting acted as an anchor, a stable source of food and a reliable income as Inuit struggled to transition from the ways of their ancestors and into sedentary lives in one of the harshest environments on the planet.

Then came the prohibition. The prices of sealskin just crashed, said Arnaquq-Baril, whose film Angry Inuk delves into the devastatingeffects anti-sealing activism has had on the Inuit.

Iniut communities were exempted from the prohibition, but much of the market for sealskin evaporated, making the exemptions meaningless. Community lost 90% of their income, in some cases, said Arnaquq-Baril.

Poverty became the new normal in Nunavut, sending the already high suicide rates soaring and leaving about seven out of 10 Inuit children going hungry to school.

The campaigns demonstrated lucrative for animal rights activists, often raising tremendous amounts of fund for the organisations. But many Inuit felt vilified by the movement, which at times implied that the seal populations hunted by Inuit were threatened.

Its not just an attack on our ability to survive, its an attack on who we are and our worth as people, said Arnaquq-Baril. Its very frustrating when the organisations that are putting us in this position live in some of the richest regions of the world, with the richest farmland in the world, and the easiest temperatures to live in those are the people running the campaigns that affect us.

In 1985, Greenpeace Canada issued an apology to Inuit over its 1976 anti-sealing campaign, which ran global. By some standards, it was a successful campaign, Joanna Kerr, the executive director of Greenpeace Canada, noted in a 2014 blog post . But in one major route, it failed very, very badly.

The campaign, she noted, hurt many, both economically and culturally. The organisation has since made efforts to mend its relationship with indigenous peoples, Kerr added.

Footwear by the designer Nicole Camphaug, who adds sealskin to high heels and dress shoes. Photo: Ashifa Kassam for the Guardian

Some who point to the persisting cultural and economic impacts of the campaigns have called for more than an apology. After all the money that was generated by Greenpeace over the years, they[ should] compensate each Inuit$ 1m, Aaju Peter, a sealskin seamstress in Iqaluit, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last year .

Others are doing all they can to revive the slumping marketplace. The decorator Nicole Camphaug began experimenting with layering sealskin on high heels and dress shoes several years ago, envisioning the combining as another way of showcasing Inuit culture. I always think its so important to get sealskin out there, she said.

Soon afterwards, she launched a small side business out of her Iqaluit home , capitalising on social media to reaching customers across Canada and as far away as Greenland.

So far, the grassroots move by designers does seem to be inducing some change, said Rannva Simonsen, a luxury fur outerwear decorator in Iqaluit , the capital of Nunavut. The posture has changed, she said, pointing to a growing number of orders she had received in recent years from Toronto. Sealskin is actually being more and more accepted by Canadians.

Originally from the Faroe Islands, Simonsen moved to Nunavut in 1997, launching her company shortly afterward. She was quick to embrace sealskin which she calls the local cow describing him as a humane source of food and income in a region with few other options.

Since then, she has watched as Inuit wage a David and Goliath battle against animal rights campaigners in a bid to keep the slumping industry alive a battle whose roots overlook the Inuits deep reverence for the land that surrounds them. I find its cultural bully when people from the bigger society crush the small little culture, she said. Instead they should learn from the Inuits connectedness and respect for nature.

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Spooky! Messages from the beyond or merely coincidence? | Oliver Burkeman

9 days ago

Weve all heard eyebrow-raising narratives so whats really going on?

In 1944, a British soldier battle in Italy was knocked unconscious by shell fragments. That same day in Monmouthshire, he later recollected, my wife was washing up after lunch. My daughter, aged two and a half, to whom I was only a name, was playing with some bricks on the kitchen floor. She suddenly got to her feet, gone over to my wife, said Daddys been hurt, and went back to her bricks.

This eyebrow-raising tale appears in Connecting With Coincidence, a new book by the psychiatrist Bernard Beitman along with so many others it becomes easier to keep ones eyebrows permanently raised. Beitman has one of his own: in 1973, he found himself inexplicably choking at his kitchen sink merely to learn, the next day, that his father had choked on his own blood and died at the same moment .~ ATAGEND

The rationalist in me knows this all comes down to the law of truly large numbers, which states that, given a large enough sample, many seemingly unlikely things become downright probable. Even presuming the soldiers memories were accurate, so many fought in the second world war that its virtually inevitable a few would have odd tales. Beitman tells of one therapist who dreamed of an ex-patient lying immobile in a beach shack; subsequently, he learned that one week after that dream, that patient had taken an overdose in a seaside hotel and nearly died. Spooky! But less so when you factor in the patients the therapist didnt dream about not to mention all the other therapists with no such anecdotes to relate.

Still, Beitman makes an intriguing lawsuit for approaching coincidences as if they werent simply random, whatever your notion. Connecting With Coincidence is full of people taking such happenings as signs, telling them who to marry, whether to have kids or get divorced and it serves them rather well. One widow injures her finger while gardening, forcing hospital staff to cut away her wedding ring, which she takes as a sign from her “husbands ” that its OK to date again. A message from beyond the grave? Presumably not. Did she subconsciously arrange the trauma herself? Perhaps. But Im not sure it matters: either way, the incident smoothed a transition shed been struggling to make.

All very unscientific, I know. But the truth is that the biggest personal decisions in life cant be made in scientific way anyway; there are too many variables involved. Yet we often do seem to know, just below the surface of awareness, whats best for us and noticing how we respond to bizarre coincidences can provide clues to that subconscious knowledge.

One of Beitmans patients, his marriage on the rocks, has a thrilling encounter with an old girlfriend in a bar, which he seems to take as a sign he should recommit to his marriage. Why not as a sign that he should leave his wife? Both interpretations work, but only one had meaning for him. Its odd to ask whether such coincidental encounters genuinely entail anything, as if theyd need to be choreographed by some cosmic force-out. Who says thats what meaning entails?

oliver.burkeman @theguardian. com

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How to actually talk to a woman wearing headphones | Martha Mills

10 days ago

Martha Mills: How to talk to a woman wearing headphones, without seeming like a terrifying harasser

An article has surfaced from the quagmire of bilge the hell is The Internet and it has caused , not without reason, a small tornado of outrage. Written as dating advice for The Modern Man( a misnomer if ever there were one ), it promises a solution to the hot n horny down-on-their-luck young bucks of the world who face the tedious obstacle of a woman wearing headphones, because how dare she. And no, it isnt a parody.

You can read it in its full entitled glory, or stick with me as I dissect each grubby, jaw-dropping hallucination of psychopathic awfulness. Its going to be quite a ride.

How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones

These days, many females walk around playing with a smartphone or tablet device and are often wearing headphones and listening to music at the same time.

Yet, that doesnt mean you cant talk to them.

Of course , not all women are open to being approached because not all women are single and looking.

However, if a woman wearing headphones is single and hoping to meet a boyfriend( or even a new devotee ), she will almost always be happy to take off her headphones to give you an opportunity to create a spark with her.

The author, one Dan Bacon, could have saved us all a lot of bother here by answering his How to with Dont. Sadly he seems to have missed some basic behavioural science here; you assure, the very reason I and many other women wear headphones isnt as a trivial obstacle to some throbbing hormone mountain , nor as a challenge for those blessed with an abundance of ego. Its a defense. A defence against the aural onslaught of modern lifeand especially the leering advances of said pulsating hormone mountains. In short, we wear them because we dont want to be talked to. Its basic physics actually – we fill our ear pits to stop you from get in.

But back to Dan 😛 TAGEND

What to Do to Get Her Attention

1. Stand in front of her( with 1 to 1.5 meters between you ).

2. Have a relaxed, easy-going smile.

3. Is she hasnt already looked up at you, simply get her attention with a wave of your hand. Wave your hand in her direct line of vision so she cant ignore it.

4. When she looks at you, smile and point to her headphones and say, Take off your headphones for a minute and pretend to be taking headphones off your head, so she fully understands.

If she doesnt understand( most women will ), simply gesture that you want to talk to her by briefly pointing backward and forward from you to her and say, I want to talk to you for a minute.

In most cases, you wont have to go to that extreme, but some daughters are shy and will be hesitant to take the headphones off right away because they are feeling a lot of nervousness and exhilaration about what is happening.

5. Then, do what we call Acknowledging the Awkwardness by rapidly mentioning something about the awkwardness of the moment( insure the conversation example below ), to demonstrate you understand that approaching a woman in this way isnt the most common of experiences for either party.

This helps set her at ease and know that you are a cool guy who she can relax and open up to.

I dont know if these five steps are a common thing, but I have personally experienced this several times. At step 1 I know what you are doing and Im dismissing you, hoping the ground will open up and take one of us to the depths of somewhere Hellish, which would be more pleasant than such a situation is developing to be. By step 3 Im not feeling aroused and Im not feeling flattered as Dan later tells his readers I will be – Im feeling harassed. Straight up, dictionary definition harassed.

By step 4 Ive learnt that you cant understand a basic body language brush-off and are therefore a direct threat to my personal safety. My brain is in oppose or flight, checking for escape roads, its trying to figure out just how aggressively youre going to react to any further action I take to extract myself from a situation altogether not of my own making and it is praying they use a flattering photo of me on the news , not that one when my front-facing camera went off accidentally that time.

According to step 5, the fact you have bullied me into one of the most awkward and scary moments of my life builds you a cool guy. Mr Bacon clearly has difficulty spelling. It begins with a t, Dan.

Heres Dans interpretation of how the conversation goes once a human has use his infallible five-point Jedi mind trick to bludgeon a woman from her blissful state of aural security:

You :[ Smile in a friendly, confident manner] Hey I know its not normal for people to talk to someone with headphones in, but I was strolling along and saw you and thought wow, shes a cutie, I have to say hi. Im Dan, whats your name? Woman :[ Usually flattered by the compliment and impressed by your confidence to approach her like that] Jessica. You :[ Add in some humor] Coolnice to meet you Jessica. I dont normally talk to daughters with headphones, but your big green headphones were just calling out to me. Woman :[ Most likely laughing, smiling and enjoying the interaction ]. You :[ Let her know that you have something to do/ somewhere to go, so she understands that youre not going to stand there talking to her for 30 minutes] Anyway, so Im just out doing a bit of shopping at the moment. Im on my route to a store up the street. Hows your day going so far?

In his scenario, Jessica has just been waiting her whole life to be blessed with the attention of a complete stranger who misstep hunched shoulders, darting eyes and rictus for giggling and smiling.

Heres how it plays out in real life. Trust me, Ive been it, insured it and spoken to the survivors:

Him : I see you dont want to be talked to but I find you physically attractive and Im constructing that your problem.

Her : Please leave me alone.


With advice like this out there, its hardly any surprise, is it? These lonely men so desperately in search of conquests have been given permission, blessed with the entitlement to go forth and pluck their bounty employing but five humble steps. So imagine their horror and indignation when that which has been promised doesnt want to be plucked and tells them to sling their greasy hook.

Next Dan listings the five mistakes men attain when approaching a woman who is wearing headphones. Sadly not one of them is to sod right off.

Points 1, 4 and 5 are fairly inoffensive, generic dating guff( be confident, be engaging, be flirty ), but oh boy, just try and get your noggin round points 2 and 3.

2. Allowing her to dismis him

Headphones are a great barrier between a person and the rest of the world.

That being said, if a guy wants to get a womans attention he needs to show confidence by being determined to get her to stop listening to the music and chat to him to him.

If a guy has a weak vibe or presence about him, a woman usually wont give in to his request for her to remove the headphones.

Women love to test guys to see how confident they truly are and a favorite test of women is to ignore a guys attempts to converse with her and find what he will do next. Will he walk away in shame, or will he remain calm and continue talking to her in a confident, easy-going manner?

This is her style of gauging his interest in her and also a way of determining whether he is mentally and emotionally strong enough for a girl like her.

If a guy devotes up at the first sign of resistance, most women will be to turn by his mental and emotional weakness as a man.

3. Allowing her to take control of the interaction

No matter how confident or challenging a woman might behave, she still dreams of fulfilling a guy who is more confident than her. A woman doesnt want to be forced to control an interaction with a guy( i.e. call the shots, boss him around ), but she will if she has to.

Controlling an interaction with a woman is not about bossing her around, being arrogant or being too assertive. Instead, you simply need to assume the role of the man and let her be the woman. In other terms, build her feel girly around you because you think, behave and feel( your vibe) so masculine.

The advice here is basically No doesnt mean no, it entails keep going until you get what you want – the screaming will stop eventually. Because apparently thats what women want – and forms the basis for a million rape defence lawsuits. Trust me, when we tell you to go away we arent testing your measure as a human, were testing how quickly your legs can carry you in an offward direction.

Put Dans advice into any other scenario for the true jaw-drop factor: Shopkeepers may lock their doors at night, but if you want a pint of milk, only hammer on the door until they open up. Theyll be flattered.

I appreciate the world of mating is hard but please, for the love of humanity, learn this: because we are want, doesnt mean you can have. Women are not commodities to be hunted and won, and if you have no luck find someone to bump pink bits with, thats your problem , not our flaw for not adhering to the playbook regulations. Its a playbook we never signed up for and its only a game if both teams actually know theyre playing.

Nowhere in his advice does Dan tell his disappointed man-babies how to handle rejection with grace, because the advice is simply not to accept it. This attitude is why I and countless other women have been been chased down the street, followed home, physically constrained, spat at, verbally abused and generally made to feel like garbage, merely for trying to exist.

So when, I hear the whiny pissbabies ask, when am I allowed to approach hot single women? Simple.

If a woman has her headphones in, the answer is never – and before you bleat on about ooh, what if theres a fire ?, shell reek it, even through all your bulls ** t. If youre in a bar or party, her flirtatious smile may be the come-on youre go looking for, but be prepared to accept that you read it wrong, politely wish her a good evening and toddle back up out of her life without 20 minutes of awkward pawing, insisting she let you buy her a rohypnoltini. But how about this; take up a hobby, ask your friends if they know of someone looking to date or( brace yourself for a whopper of a revelation) if youre looking for a horde of single, eligible girls all looking for friendship-maybe-more in one convenient place, try a dating site.

Anyway, coming soon from Dan Bacon, How To Talk To A Woman Through A Fog Of Pepper Spray. Probably.

Martha Mills is on Twitter as @mittendamour

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‘ It’s not about your age, it’s about your notions ‘: the teen power listing

15 days ago

Meet 25 young activists, scientists, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs and big thinkers shaping your future

Harley Bird, 14, Tring, UK

An actors life is hard: its just one audition after another, and you have to grow a wall-thick skin to deal with all the rejection. For Bird, however, things went a little differently: she was signed to the Alphabet Kidz agency just before her sixth birthday and two weeks later beat hundreds of other young actors to land the lead role in a 1.4bn show.

She is the voice of Peppa Pig, the eponymous piglet who enjoys dressing up and jumping in muddy puddles. Bird, who in real life has two pet pigs (called, of course, Peppa and George), has now voiced Peppa Pig for eight years. Early on, she was too young to read the scripts, but that didnt stop her winning a Bafta at nine.

The show, while simple in its format of five-minute episodes, has taken the world by storm and is now shown in 180 territories and broadcast in 40 different languages. Not bad for a first role. Were there any clues that this one audition would lead to a starring role in a global franchise? Bird has said she doesnt understand it herself. I just auditioned and they said my voice matched. because it is quite husky.

Mihir Garimella, 16, Pennsylvania

Mihir Garimella won the 2014 Google Computer Science award. Photograph: Courtesy of Mihir Garimella

Some teens might be grossed out by a bowl of bananas starting to rot and attract flies; high school student Garimella came up with a potentially life-saving idea. The flybot a tiny, flying robot that avoids obstacles by mimicking the way a fruit fly avoids threats and moving obstacles could be used in search-and-rescue missions in dangerous environments, and went on to win the Google Computer Science award in 2014. Garimella has since turned his hand to everything from robotic violin tuners to algorithms that could help doctors diagnose brain tumours.

Shubham Banerjee, 15, California

Shubhan Banerjee, founder of Braigo Labs. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

When Banerjee turned his Lego bricks into a braille printer for the blind for a school science project, it wasnt just the famous toy company that was singing the then 12-year-olds praises. The product, which made computing more affordable for millions of visually impaired people, also caught the attention of Intel, and the award-winning Braigo Labs (an amalgamation of Lego and braille) was born. Hes solving a real problem, and he wants to go off and disrupt an existing industry, Edward Ross, director of inventor platforms at Intel, has said. Thats really what its all about.

Benjamin Kickz Kapelushnik, 16, Florida

Benjamin Kapelushnik: sneaker broker to the stars. Photograph: Complex

What started as a hobby, buying rare trainers and selling them on to classmates, is now a lucrative enterprise. A sneaker broker to the stars (Chris Brown and Drake are fans), Kapelushnik has accumulated 5,000 pairs and is well on his way to making his first million.

Rayouf Alhumedhi, 15, Germany

Rayouf Alhumedhi. emoji designer. Photograph: Courtesy of Rayouf Alhumedhi

While chatting with her friends on social media, this Saudi teen living in Germany realised there was no emoji to represent her, so she designed one. Now shes campaigning to get it added to phones (its currently being considered by the Unicode Consortium). In this day and age, representation is extremely important, Alhumedhi said. People want to be acknowledged. There are so many Muslim women in this world who wear the headscarf. It might seem trivial, but its different when you see yourself on the keyboard around the world.

Willow Smith, 16, California

Willow Smith: youngest artist signed to Jay Zs record label. Photograph: Broadimage/REX Shutterstock

After making her acting debut at the age of seven alongside her father in I Am Legend, the daughter of Hollywood golden couple Will and Jada Pinkett Smith has forged her own way, becoming the youngest artist signed to Jay Zs record label, Roc Nation, at 10 remember Whip My Hair? Since then, shes swapped the smiley, happy, preteen style for a cooler, pared-back, Instagram-friendly aesthetic. She has starred in a Marc Jacobs ad, and this year Karl Lagerfeld made her his muse, photographing her for Chanel AW16. She and her older brother, Jaden (star of Netflixs The Get Down, directed by Baz Luhrmann), have been dubbed the coolest teens on the planet.

Sasha Obama, 15, Washington DC

Sasha Obama has had a unique global education. Photograph: Getty Images

Barack and Michelle Obamas youngest has lived her teen years in the White House (she was seven at her fathers inauguration), but stays down to earth: she spent the summer working on the till in a seafood shack (even if secret service agents sat at the tables outside). Her awkward moments have been captured the world over (most recently when Malia, 18, was snapped giving Sasha a sarcastic thumbs up as her little sister spoke to actor Ryan Reynolds at a Canadian state dinner).

More importantly, Sasha has had a unique global education, meeting Malala Yousafzai at the White House, and helping her mother promote womens education in Liberia and Morocco. In this years Thanksgiving message, the outgoing president described his daughters as funny, smart, humble and extraordinary young women. All eyes on the next-gen Obamas.

Maddie Ziegler, 14, Pennsylvania

Maddie Ziegler: thrust into the limelight aged eight. Photograph: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

The pint-sized dancer was thrust into the limelight aged just eight, when she starred on US reality show Dance Moms. But she reached a global audience thanks to Australian singer Sia, who cast her in the video for Elastic Heart. Four videos, several world tours and stage appearances later, Ziegler has become more recognisable wearing her cropped blond Sia wig than sporting her natural hair. She has modelled for Ralph Lauren and become a judge on the junior version of So You Think You Can Dance.

Brooklyn Beckham, 17, London and Los Angeles

Next year Brooklyn Beckham will be bringing out a photography book. Photograph: Richard Isaac/Rex/Shutterstock

Photographing the Burberry campaign, skateboarding through his mother Victorias Dover Street store and hooking up with Hollywood ingenue Chlo Grace Moretz; the eldest Beckham kid couldnt attract more attention if he had followed his father, David, on to the football pitch. Last week, Beckham announced to his 8.8m Instagram followers that next year he will be bringing out What I See, a photography book published by Penguin Random House. If even a small proportion of his social media followers buys the book, he has a bestseller on his hands.

Kiara Nirghin, 16, Johannesburg

This year, as South Africa suffered its worst drought since 1982, a Johannesburg schoolgirl came up with a potential solution. Nirghin found an orange peel mixture had better water-retaining properties than existing super-absorbent polymers, which are usually expensive and non-biodegradable. Her invention, which aims to help farmers save both money and crops, is made up of waste products from the juice manufacturing process, including discarded orange and avocado peel; it won Nirghin a $50,000 scholarship at the annual Google Science Fair.

Yara Shahidi, 16, Minnesota

Yara Shahidi: star of acclaimed comedy Black-ish. Photograph: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

The half-Iranian star of acclaimed comedy Black-ish (a sitcom about an upper-middle-class African American family) is passionate about media diversity: We are in the middle of a representation renaissance, she has said. She is constantly in conversation about keeping roles for women and people of colour multifaceted and representative of our true nature.

Flynn McGarry, 17, New York

Flynn McGarry: has taken up residency in New Yorks Kava espresso bar. Photograph: Courtesy of Eureka

Sick of being cooked kid food by his parents, McGarry took matters into his own hands with a little bit of help from The French Laundry Cookbook. By 11, he was hosting a supper club in his mums kitchen, cooking progressive American cuisine; at 15, he was charging $160 a head for his eight-course tasting menu. He has now taken up residency in New York espresso bar Kava, under the name Eureka, where his 16-course feasts are becoming the stuff of legend.

Gavin Grimm, 17, Virginia

Grimm didnt plan to become the poster boy for a national fight for equal rights for transgender students, but when his school wouldnt allow him to use the boys toilets, a long legal battle ensued. The result, now in the hands of the supreme court, could have implications for young trans people all over the US. That I have the opportunity to ensure that, hopefully, fewer kids or anybody will have to go through this in the future makes me feel good, Grimm said.

Katie Griffiths, Josie Baldwin, Emily Bowes and Alex Hill, all 16, Stratford-upon-Avon

These Stratford Girls grammar school pupils were shocked to discover that young LGBT people are at much higher risk of depression and suicide; two years ago they teamed up to create the Im Okay app, giving support and information to young people exploring their sexuality and gender. Thousands of people have since downloaded the app from the Google Play store; it won a national Apps for Good award in 2014.

Jeffery Xiong, 16, Texas

The USs second youngest player to become a chess grandmaster, Xiong stormed on to the scene aged 14 and snatched first place at the 24th Chicago Open. He played his first game at five, when he decided to join a friend who was playing by himself. Xiong carried on until he was the worlds under-20 champion, at just 15.

Krtin Nithiyanandam, 16, Surrey

Krtin Nithiyanandam won the Google Science Fair prize. Photograph: Newsquest

In 2015, Nithiyanandam won the Google Science Fair prize for developing a test to diagnose Alzheimers 10 years before any symptoms appear. An antibody is injected that then attaches to proteins present in the earliest stages of the disease; the injection contains fluorescent particles that can be picked up on a brain scan.

This early diagnosis could help families prepare for the future and ensure that existing drugs are used to better effect, Nithiyanandam explained. The Surrey schoolboy is now tackling the treatment of triple negative breast cancer, a rare form found in 15-20% of women with breast cancer. It doesnt respond to drugs, and must be treated with a risky combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Most cancers have receptors on their surface that bind to drugs like tamoxifen, but triple negative doesnt, Nithiyanandam explained. Working at home and in his school lab, he has found a way to block a protein that prevents those receptors from forming, thus turning this type of breast cancer into one that responds to drugs. Science isnt about your age, its about ideas, he told Wired magazine.

Mone Davis, 15, Philadelphia

Mone Davis: the first African American girl to play in the Little League World Series. Photograph: AP

Formerly a Little League baseball pitcher, Davis was the first African American girl to play in the Little League World Series, and the first female to pitch a winning game. The baseball (and basketball) prodigy was spotted at the age of seven while playing with her older brothers. Since releasing her memoir last year, Mone Davis: Remember My Name, she has designed trainers to raise money for Plan Internationals Because I Am A Girl campaign, aimed at helping lift girls in the developing world out of poverty.

Ben Pasternak, 17, Australia

Dubbed the next Mark Zuckerberg, Pasternak created the chart-topping app Impossible Rush (a colour-matching game) that was downloaded more than 1.3m times and made him a tech star at just 15. That success allowed him to secure just under $2m in funding from major Silicon Valley investors, move to Manhattan and launch his own startup, Flogg. He had noticed that friends were increasingly selling unwanted items to people they knew through Facebook, rather than to strangers on Gumtree or eBay. Yet Facebook wasnt really doing anything to look after their user experience. So he created an app that allows users to buy and sell items through their Facebook connections with a swipe left or right; the Sydney Morning Herald described Flogg as the love child of Tinder and eBay.

Lewys Ball, 17, London

Blind date:’ I thought he was joking when he said he’s a Cliff Richard fan’

15 days ago

Did energy consultant Martin, 36, and copywriter Almaz, 28, hit it off?

Martin on Almaz

What were you hoping for?
Sparkling company, laughter and a relaxed evening.

First impressions?
Elegant, with a natural brightness and upbeat aura.

What did you talk about?
Music, dinner parties and cooking (Almaz likes to host big parties, while I prefer little gatherings), the role of the royal family, the cut-throat London dating scene.

Any awkward moments?
Not for me. Hopefully Almaz felt comfortable, too.

Good table manners?
Top notch.

Best thing about Almaz?
A lovely voice.

Would you introduce her to your friends?
Certainly. She is articulate, bright and funny.

Describe her in three words
Bright, elegant, engaging.

What do you think she made of you?
Id like to think she found me likable, talkative and entertaining. Im sure she noticed Im not so on trend.

Did you go on somewhere?
Part of our journey home.

And did you kiss?
Friendly continental kisses of greeting and parting only.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Nothing: I had a very nice evening, though I dont think either of us felt a chemistry.

Marks out of 10?

Would you meet again?
I dont think wed plan anything, but if I saw Almaz out and about, Id definitely go over and say hello.

Almaz on Martin

What were you hoping for?
Butterflies and sexual tension.

First impressions?
Not my usual type.

What did you talk about?
Crossrail and salsa dancing (him), geopolitics and music festivals (me).

Any awkward moments?
I thought he was joking when he said hes a Cliff Richard fan.

Good table manners?
He let me eat more than my fair share, which was delightful.

Best thing about Martin?
No questionable views.

Would you introduce him to your friends?
I think theyd eat him alive.

Describe him in three words
Mild-mannered, good-natured, conventional.

What do you think he made of you?
Not what he was expecting.

Did you go on somewhere?
It was a Sunday night, so no.

And did you kiss?
A goodbye peck on the cheek.

If you could change one thing about the evening, what would it be?
Id have discreetly given the waiter my number, because we shared some intense looks.

Marks out of 10?

Would you meet again?
Not intentionally.

Martin and Almaz ate at Goode & Wright, London W11.

Fancy a blind date? Email

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Atheists who bring logic to the Easter story are missing the point | Julian Baggini

15 days ago

Having faith is a complex business. To assume that religious people are either crazy or stupid is lazy, says philosopher Julian Baggini

Many years ago, I had to recount the life of Jesus to a young Taiwanese student who knew nothing about Christianity. As I told him about the virgin birth, the miracles, crucifixion and resurrection, he responded with incredulous laughter.

Most nonbelievers in traditionally Christian cultures would prove a bit more respect. But inside, our reaction is often pretty much the same: how can people actually believe this stuff? Rising from the grave isn’t even the most preposterous part of the Easter tale. Far more bizarre is the claim that God had to send his son to die for our sins. And if God genuinely wanted the whole of humanity to heed his message, why did the resurrected Christ merely reveals himself to a few select people before ascending to heaven?

Vociferous atheists don’t shy away from revealing their mock bemusement at all this. Those of us who induce decided efforts to understand and debate with religious believers might be too polite to acknowledge it, but we often feel just as baffled.

The laziest route to try to cross this credulity gap is to shrug our shoulders and accept that people are often crazy, stupid or both. Yes, there are plenty of people celebrating the resurrection who are sane, intelligent and well-educated, but the objective is statistical anomalies in a world where higher levels of education are strongly correlated with a lack of religious belief.

Smart people can have blind spots, but this quick and easy justification does not do justice to the complexities of religious belief. If we genuinely accept that a disciple in the resurrection can be intelligent, but also think that any intelligent person would find the idea of the resurrection preposterous, the most charitable explain is that intelligent believers are as well informed the implausibility of their beliefs as anyone else. This is indeed what you tend to find if you bother to talk to a Christian. They don’t use the word “miracle” for nothing- they know their religion eludes laws of logic and nature.

Some believe the unbelievable because they have had religious experiences so strong that they are literally unable to doubt their veracity of. It’s hard for those of us who haven’t had such an experience to appreciate how powerful it is feasible to. But once you accept the existence of a divine inventor who has a personal relationship with you, almost anything else is possible. It is not crazy but logical to conclude that what such a God says or does will sometimes be beyond our comprehension. It follows that there is nothing irrational in accepting a narrative that we are unable to make sense of rationally.

What atheists often forget is that many- perhaps most- religion believers are less than completely convinced anyway. Many of them are fully aware of the dissonance between what their faith and their rational intellect tell them. Religion offers many tools to help manage this. It tells people that faith is superior to belief based on evidence.” Because thou hast find me, thou hast believed ,” Jesus told” doubting Thomas”, adding:” Blessed are they that have not insured, and yet have believed .” Religion also tells believers that doubt is to be expected, even welcomed, as part of the journey of faith, all the time reassuring them that God is beyond our understanding. The Easter story thus aims up instead like quantum theory: if you find it easy to believe, you haven’t is understandable. Illogicality is a design feature , not a design flaw.

Anyone astonished that people manage to sustain this dissonance all their lives hasn’t been paying enough attention to what psychology has taught us about our capacities to assert contradictions. What we call our “selves” are far less unified and coherent than common sense suggests. When we say ” a part of me” believes one thing and another part something else, we are being more literal than we suppose. Rejecting disciples as simply deluded could therefore itself has become a way for us atheists to deal with our own dissonance between the belief that Easter is palpable nonsense, and the awareness that apparently intelligent people believe in it. If we really do find implausible beliefs offensive, we ought at the least to have more plausible explanations for why others have them.

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‘ We didn’t recognise that he was dangerous ‘: our parent killed our mother and sister

28 days ago

Last summer, Lance Hart shot dead his wife, daughter and himself, four days after the family had left him. His sons talk candidly about life before and after

On a warm summer day last July, Claire Hart and her 19 -year-old daughter Charlotte went for an early morning swim at their local leisure centre in Spalding, Lincolnshire. It was a trip-up they made often, just a short drive from their home in the village of Moulton. Claires son Ryan had recently bought his mother a swimming pass as a present.

At 9am on 19 July, mom and daughter left the pond and built their route back across the car park to their blue Toyota Aygo. As they approached the car, a human crawled out from underneath it: Claires husband and Charlottes father, Lance Hart, whom the pair had left five days earlier. Now he held up a single-barrel shotgun and shooting Claire three times. He then reloaded the gun and shot his daughter, before turning the gun on himself.

Alex Marchant, a administrator at the sports centre, ran outside where reference is heard the first bang, guessing it was a vehicle backfiring. In the distance, he saw Lance with the gun in his hand. When he got to the car, he recognised Charlotte lying on the ground. In her final moments, as Merchant cradled her, she told him, It was my father who shot me.

Armed policemen arrived at the scene, where paramedics attempted to resurrect them, but it was too late: Lance was dead, and Claire and Charlotte had fatal injuries; neither could be saved.

In the confusion that followed, police set local schools on lockdown. Residents were advised to stay inside and lock their doorways. Spalding began to trend on Twitter, and people theorized whether there had been a terrorist attack.

Claire and Charlotte Hart at home in June 2015. Photograph: courtesy of Ryan Hart

Ryan and Luke Hart Claire and Lances sons, Charlottes older brothers were both working outside the country at the time, Ryan in Holland and Luke in Aberdeen. But the same BBC breaking news alert popped up on both their telephones: Shooting in Spalding, the notification read. They both tried to call Claire and Charlotte, but neither answered their telephones. The two brothers started to worry: only days before, they had both helped their mom and sister move out, after a lifetime of emotional abuse and psychological control. But surely Lance wouldnt do anything that would make the international news?


Ryan and Luke Hart sit cross-legged on the carpet in their living room in Spalding. Bella, their fluffy white labradoodle, is stretched across the sofa, while Indi, a black jack russell, sits by Ryans feet. The small, two-storey house sits on a quiet country road, with the brothers car parked outside.

This is the home they rented last summertime, a few weeks before Claire and Charlotte left the larger household home in Moulton. Their moms cutlery sits in a glass cabinet in the corner of the room next door, beside a bed the brothers couldnt fit up the stairs and have instead placed in what should be the dining room. Luke, 27, has been living here since last July. Ryan, 26, bides whenever hes home from his chore as an engineer in Qatar. But the house was never meant to be their home. The brethren belongings are stacked high against the walls in the living room, as if they have only just moved in and not had time to unpack.

Luke and Ryan have always been close. Both are engineers, vegans and Labour advocates, in a staunchly Conservative part of the country. Since last summer, the brothers say they have grown much closer. For years, they were protective of Charlotte and their mom; now, their lives depend on each other.

They recall the shock of the initial news. I looked at the BBC alert and guessed, What the hell is Spalding in the news for? Luke tells. Component of me knew, and at the same day part of me didnt believe anything. I ensure it, but then I felt like my life was a video game, like I had changed planets in that moment and abruptly nothing was real.

The police told the brothers not to read press coverage of the attack. Luke read nothing for months, but Ryan was able to avoid it for only a few days. He was shocked to find reports that were sympathetic towards his father. The Sun and Daily Telegraph quoted locals who described Lance as a nice guy, while the Daily Express reported that he was a DIY nut. The Daily Mail spoke to others who described Hart as always caring. In every report, there was speculation that the prospect of divorce drove Lance to murder, and little mention or description of Claire or Charlotte.

I was shocked at the ease with which others, sitting behind their desks, could explain our tragedy away within an afternoon, Ryan tells now. It was very difficult to read that they were sympathising with a human who caused Mum and Charlotte misery their entire lives. One novelist even dared use the word understandable to justify why they were murdered. This second Daily Mail article, a column by psychiatrist Max Pemberton, argued that a man killing his children is often a distorted act of love. The article was later removed from the site.

Youre reading it and thinking, This is bollocks, Ryan says. But you know people around the country are also reading it, and those notions are being driven into their minds. It strengthens in the abusers mind that what theyre doing is OK.

They kept saying this was a fund issue, Luke adds of the news narratives. It wasnt about fund. Thats what attained me really angry. Sometimes news is just entertainment. They couldnt have known its own history, but it was weird: in the absence of information, they chose the side of a terrorist who committed murder.


The Harts grew up in a big farmhouse in rural Cambridgeshire. When they first bought the house, it was so rundown that it needed knocking down and rebuilding, and the family lived for a year in a caravan on the driveway. The three children spend much of their time outside, climbing trees and wading through the waist-high grass. They played with the family animals: dogs, pigs, chickens, sheep, geese. Claire grew the familys food on a vegetable plot. We basically lived outside and off the land, Luke says.

The family moved to the village of Moulton in 2001, when Luke was offered a place at a nearby grammar school. Lance struggled to keep a job for longer than a few months there, before eventually finding work at a local builders merchant. Claire got a job behind the meat counter at the local Morrisons supermarket, a task she held until the attack. The household earned very little. We were one of those families where youd have to turn the sunlights off, or wear more clothes because you cant put the heating on, Ryan says.

The brethren describe Claire and Charlotte as selfless, caring people. They both loved animals and were obsessed with dogs. Charlotte also loved pony ride and volunteered with the elderly. She was sporty and adventurous, but also loved to sprawl out on the floor and play Call Of Duty. Claire had survived ovarian cancer when her children were in their early teens, and had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003. But she found happiness in the family dogs, growing her own veggies, and mainly in her children: she would beam with pride when talking about them. Claire and Charlotte were almost like sisters: they would escape to Charlottes room together to do each others makeup and watch movies.

Like her brothers, Charlotte did well at school, and had been studying midwifery at Northampton University, where she played for the students union lacrosse team. She was a bright young lady with a keen sense of humour, though she had recently experienced severe depression and fell out of her course; she was due to start teacher training at Northampton in September.

Ryan( on left ), Luke and Charlotte on holiday in Tenerife, in 2006. Photo: politenes of Ryan Hart

Their father took little interest in his children. He didnt attend school events or sports matches if they were honest, the rest of the family preferred it that way. Instead, Lance spent the majority of members of his time sitting in the corner of the living room, on his laptop. He gambled and made friends on messageboards and in chatrooms. He became obsessed with conspiracy theories, and would try to force-out his political opinions on the rest of the family.

He seemed to like his friends online a lot more than us, Luke tells. He didnt have a real world his whole world, 12 hours a day, was on his laptop. We were slowly becoming the enemy to his strange world. His hallucination became his addiction.

Around the time the family moved to Moulton, the brothers started becoming more aware of their parents controlling nature. They tell Lance became obsessed with the familys money, taking Claires wages and rationing them back to her. Nobody else was allowed access to the family bank account. There was little fund coming in, but even so Lance would treat himself to holidays, including a trip-up with a friend to Niagara Falls. He deemed the family puppies obedience developing 10, once a week too expensive and cancelled it. He spent 300 on an exercise bike he never used. At first, I believed the way he was with fund was his way of looking after the family, Luke tells. Soon, he realised it was being gambled with, and that it would always be off limits. Before we knew it, it was his fund and we werent allowed to touch it.

As Luke and Ryan grew up, Lances repressive nature became more obvious. Luke describes him as like a bored prison guard. He curtailed Claires access to a mobile phone and social media. Once the two brothers had gone to university( Ryan to Durham and Luke to Warwick ), they had to call their father and ask to be put through to their mother. When they were home, they recollect nights when Lance would drink a bottle of whisky and yell at Claire all night, preventing her from sleeping. Her multiple sclerosis was regularly triggered by his erratic behaviour, they believe; she would suffer serious attacks that lasted up to half an hour, the pain throbbing in her face. If she tried to meet friends from work, Lance would accuse her of being lesbian, or having an affair. He would guilt-trip her for weeks for expending 3 on a cup of coffee. She wanted to travel around Europe, but Lance concealed her passport. He refused to let her visit Ryan when he did a triathlon in Turkey, even though the only reason Ryan entered and trained for it was so his mother could come and watch him, and have a holiday.

While the children grew closer to Claire, Lance withdrew. He became angry and paranoid that his children werent like him, believing they were conspiring against him. It took very little to trigger an irrational reaction. Charlotte once forgot to fill up the kettle, Luke tells, and for three hours he was marching around the house, yelling at us about it. Even when we filled it, hed keep going, slamming the doors, calling at us.

Luke recalls that, when Claire told the children she had ovarian cancer, Lance huffed and puffed at the dinner table. He complained that such children didnt know what it was like for him to have a wife who had cancer.

He was always jealous if you were happy, Luke says, and if you were upset, he was jealous of your suffering. It was about inflicting his own emotional state upon us say, hed come back from work and he was happy, he would angrily force us to giggle and join in. He wouldnt even let us live an emotional life free from him.

Lance was not physically abusive largely, the brothers believe, because they all worked hard to orchestrate a calm atmosphere at home, and since they are gave in to his emotional demands. They didnt think of his behaviour as domestic violence cases, because they had only ever considered domestic violence to be a man making a woman. Lance didnt consider his actions to be abusive, either. Yes, we bickered, but it wasnt serious, he wrote in his suicide note. It was normal matrimony stuff. No violence. For some months, Claire had been maintaining a diary of everything Lance said and did, but didnt feeling she could take it to the police because there had been no physical harm.

We thought, Well, hes not drunk and beating us every weekend, were not failing at school, we dont have behavioural problems. Those were the signs I was looking for, Luke says. And because it hadnt happened, we didnt recognise our agony, or that he was dangerous. From the outside, we were three healthy, intelligent children. No one seemed concerned that much was incorrect, because we were doing so well.

The brothers and their mother “was talkin about a” leaving the family home, but hadnt the money to do it. So they decided to play the long game instead: to adapt to their parents irrational behaviour, keep their heads down and save money. We knew from a very young age we would leave, Luke tells. And I think he always knew that one day we would leave. We had to plan for 15 years in the future. Mum was ill and Charlotte was young. Half the reason I worked so hard at school and work was because I wasnt doing it just for me.

Charlotte visiting Ryan when he was working in Australia. Photo: politenes of Ryan Hart

After Ryan graduated from university, their escape plan started to take shape. Last June, Claire told her husband she was going to leave him, but Lance attempted a reconciliation. Home from Holland for a week-long visit, Ryan remembers find his father change. It was creepy, watching him smile and act like he was nice. You could tell it was acting. But Ryan says it lasted only a day or two. Once she didnt fall for it, he turned evil. He threatened to burn down the house. He told Claire he would fabricate lies about their sons student loans to get them thrown into jail.

On Wednesday 13 July, Luke and Ryan travelled home to Spalding to help move their mother out, staying in a hotel for the night. At 8am the next morning, they picked up a removals van and drove it to the family home in Moulton. They knew Lance would be at work by the time they got there and texted Claire to say they had arrived. There was no answer. Lance had driven her to work against her wants, so they went to pick her up. Claire told them his behaviour had been especially bad that morning. They hurried to load the van, sweating in the heat: Lance was unpredictable, and they knew he could return at any moment. The dogs jumped in the van, and once they were all crammed inside, they drove to the rented house.

Everything felt uncomfortably different, Luke tells, but I afterwards recognised that the feeling was simply liberty. It was something Id never known or felt before. We felt reborn.


On 18 July, four days after Claire Hart moved out, Lance returned a rental vehicle he had been borrowing, on time, to avoid the late fee. He cooked himself a meal he described as his last supper. After he carried out his attack the following day, Lincolnshire police discovered a 12 -page suicide note he had saved on a USB stick left inside his auto, labelled To whom it may fear: I have just had my favourite meal, paella, and Im sitting in the sun with a glass of red wine, He attempted to justify himself, addressing Claire: You have created a screwed up mind Right or incorrect, I had to do this. You destroyed my life without giving me a chance, so I will destroy yours. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Karma is a bitch.

When Luke and Ryan returned to the family home after the attack, they found their parents to-do listing on the kitchen counter. It was so coldly ordinary, Luke tells. It included things like Buy a secondhand fridge, even though he only planned to use it for a few days.

Luke( on left) and Ryan now want to raise awareness of the intricacies of domestic violence. Photograph: Andrew Jackson for the Guardian

On Lance computer, they found evidence that he had begun to scheme the murders three weeks earlier, and not only over the four days since Claire had moved out, as the media had reported. He had recently searched for articles about all those people who murder their wives. One Google search read: how many men kill their wives. I think he wanted to feel he wasnt being different, and that other humen were like him, Ryan says.

What the brothers see as the normalisation of their fathers actions in the press concerns them. They have asked themselves: what if other humen search for articles about men who murder their wives? And what if they come across the sympathetic articles about Lance?

On the day of the two attacks, the police told the public that incidences such as these are incredibly rare. But just six weeks later, in County Caven, Ireland, a woman called Clodagh Hawe and her three children, Liam, 13, Niall, 11, and six-year-old Ryan, were killed by Alan, her husband and the boys parent. And who knows, Luke says, that human in Ireland may have read one of the articles that described our papa as a nice guy.

It is merely in the past year that other pieces of their childhood have fallen into place, the brothers tell. When we moved from our first home, we were told it was because of my school, Luke tells. But family members subsequently told us it wasnt that they said he[ Lance] fell out with everyone, hid, and that he ran away from our old home. He couldnt maintain a chore in Cambridgeshire, socialise or fit in. A plenty of people we knew growing up there didnt even know wed left. At the funeral, some of them said, Where have you been for 15 years?

One family friend asked if Claire had been having an affair that might have triggered the attack, a topic that echoed some media reports. Others asked if it was because of fund, because Lance resented his children, or why Claire had bided for so long. After the initial shock, the brothers say they have grown weary of the victim-blaming that came from both the press and people they knew. The reality is, you cant stay and you cant leave, Luke tells. You have no alternatives. And it shouldnt be that the burden is on the main victims run for your lives to survive.

Celebrating Claires 50 th birthday in 2015. Photo: courtesy of Ryan Hart

What their father did was not unpredictable, random or unstoppable, Luke insists. It was part of a familiar pattern of male violence, carried out by a man with what Luke describes as traditional masculine opinions. Lance Hart was an ordinary man, who had no mental illness; he was like many other ordinary all those people who kill their families.

He didnt lose it, Luke tells. When we got to the house, there was a to-do listing, so he was functioning fine. And thats the problem there are many ordinary humen just like him. People feign it was random, because then they dont have to confront the difficult issues causing it: the route humen can behave and what they believe. He was willing to destroy the world before he changed his beliefs.

In April this year, on Ryans 26 th birthday, Luke posted on Facebook an emotional tribute to his strong little brother, mother and sister. Ryan had more often been on the receiving aim of his fathers anger, he wrote; he was also exactly the kind of man the world requires more of. The post has been shared more than 3,000 times and the brothers now want to raise awareness of the intricacies of domestic violence, an issue they say the British overlook as an awkward situation.

It seems like no one wants to do anything, Luke says. No one wants to say, This is going to happen again next week. If we dont[ talk about it ], other people in our situation wont assure the seriousness of it. He believes they would all have been better off without a parent. The central male figure in their lives was useless, controlling and arrogant, and the brothers say they now watch overtly masculine figures as pathetic. Our father had violated beliefs about fatherhood and being a man. Sometimes, girls worry, Oh, if most children doesnt have a father figure, who knows what will happen to him? Well, hell probably just turn out to be really nice, actually, he laughs.

For the last five to 10 years, I was trying to learn from him what not to do, Ryan adds. I based my decisions on watching what hed do, then Id do the opposite. But I hadnt realised he was any worse than other parents. I believed all men were like him.

They now want to live life the route Claire and Charlotte would have wanted them to. Their favourite thing is to walk Indi and Bella, because their fondest memories are of their mother and sister played with the dogs. They refuse to see Claire and Charlotte as victims. Vulnerable women and children are not treated as heroes, for standing up to their oppressors even when they are murdered, or given a national day of mourning, Luke says. But they should be.

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‘Ugly girls don’t sell burgers’- the trickle-down effect of Team Trump

1 month, 6 days ago

Fast food boss Andrew Puzder is the new administrations labor secretary nominee despite his endorsement of adverts that objectify women

New research has suggested that female employees at fast food restaurants operated by Andrew Puzder, Donald Trumps nomination for labor secretary, face far higher levels of workplace sexual harassment than the industry average. According to the research conducted by Restaurant Opportunities Center( ROC) United, around 66% of female workers reported sexual harassment at brands owned by CKE restaurants, run by Puzder, compared with the average of 40% across the fast food industry.

The man at the top of this particular food chain has repeatedly attained sexist statements and expressed his backing for the infamous adverts that have objectified and sexualised womens bodies to sell hamburgers for CKE restaurants chains including Carls Jr. We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones dont sell burgers, Puzder told, in a 2009 press release. Last year he proudly endorsed the adverts, and stated: I like beautiful women feeing burgers in bikinis I used to hear that brands take on the personality of the CEO. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take over my personality.

Fifty six per cent of the 564 female CKE restaurant employees surveyed reported sexual harassment from clients, including sexual statements, being asked to have intercourse, being asked to uncover their breasts and being followed outside the store. Significantly, some reported that perpetrators immediately referenced the adverts. Client have asked why I dont dress like the women in the commercials, one Tennessee-based Hardees employee told researchers.( Elizabeth Johnson, a spokesperson for Trumps transition team, called the report fake news that was paid for by unions and special interests opposed to Andy Puzders nomination .)

When the person at the top of a company normalises objectification, it builds it much more socially acceptable for others to treat women in a similar way. This is one of the clearest illustrations yet of the trickle-down effect we see when people who themselves exhibit prejudiced views are put in positions of great power. It is a phenomenon we must prepare ourselves to find a great deal more of after Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45 th President of the United States.

The electoral campaign clearly emboldened prejudice. By December last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center had catalogued more than 1,000 bias-related incidents that had resulted since the election, including anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT abuse. A local Republican politician in Connecticut was arrested for allegedly pinching a female employees genitals, after saying: I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct. A Georgia high-school teacher observed a note on her desk telling her that her Muslim headscarf isnt let any more. The note continued: Why dont you tie it around your neck& hang yourself with it? It was signed: America.

Trump and Puzder are not the only members of the incoming administration to have been associated with prejudiced opinions. They join a proposed draft cabinet of largely white humen including figures such as Stephen Bannon, formerly executive chair of a far-right website that has been described as an online haven for white nationalists, and which hosted articles with titles such as: Birth control constructs women unattractive and crazy and Heres why there ought to be a cap on women analyse science.

When powerful role model condone bigotry and discrimination, they make it much easier for hate-fuelled incidents, already so often dismissed or ignored, to be brushed under the carpet in wider society. And when men in power seem to be able to speak and act with impunity, it is much easier for others to excuse similar behaviour.

The lawyer of the Connecticut politician arrested for allegedly grabbing a womans genitals denied any sexual assault and said there had only been a a playful gesture. When a group of male diners at a New York steak house shouted grab them by the pussies at a group of women, restaurant staff reportedly told the women to calm down because these were good guys.

Such leadership also emboldens those who would like to walk back the civil rights and equality gains of the past few decades. Self-styled pickup artist Daryush Roosh V Valizadeh( who has called to make rape legal on private property) wrote on his website, in the consequences of the Trumps victory:

Im in a state of exuberance that we now have a President who rates women on a 1-10 scale in the same route that we do and evaluates girls by their appearance and feminine attitude

This is our moment, he claimed.[ Trumps] presence automatically legitimises masculine behaviours that were previously labelled sexist and misogynist.

The only way to combat this legitimacy and normalisation is for everyday citizens to redouble their efforts to oppose such bigotry. Each one of us has the opportunity, in our actions and reactions, our choices as bystanders and our daily conversations, to speak out against prejudice. When hate-fuelled abuse is gushed on a public bus; when a biased remark is stimulated in the workplace; when bigoted bullying happens on colleges and universities campus; the most important behaviour isnt that of perpetrator or victim, but of the bystanders who have a vital choice to make. Would you put your head down, walk on by and say nothing? Would you mutely send the message that this is the new normal? Or could you be members of the public who dares to stand up and make it clear that this is neither accepted nor acceptable, regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.

Thousands of people around the world will start by taking a stand this week, joining the Womens March on Washington( and others around the world) on 21 st January, to send the message that rhetoric and division like that espoused by Donald Trump wont be quietly accepted or ignored.

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Eddie Izzard:’ Everything I do in life is trying to get my mother back’

1 month, 8 days ago

Transgender hero Eddie Izzard has done standup in French and German, operate dozens of marathons, and is now in a period drama with Judi Dench. But, he uncovers, his can-do attitude has a melancholy source

There was a literal turning point in Eddie Izzard’s lifelong pursuit of personal freedom. It went one afternoon in 1985 when he had gone out for the first time in a dress and heels and full makeup down Islington high street. He was 23 and he had been planning- and avoiding- that moment for just about as long as he could remember. The turning point came after he was chased down the road by some teenage girls who had caught him changing back into his jeans in the public toilets and wanted to let him know he was weird. That pursuit objective when eventually, faced with the screamed question” Hey, why were you dressed as a woman ?”, he decided simply to stop running and turn and explain himself.

He spun around to give an answer, but before he got many terms out the girls had run in the opposite direction. The experience taught him some things: that there was power in tackling dread rather than avoiding it; and that from then on he would never let other people define him. After that afternoon, he says, he not only felt he could face down the things that scared him, he went chasing after them: street performing, standup slapstick, marathon running, political activism, improvising his stage show in different languages- all these things felt relatively easy after that original coming out as what he calls” transvestite or transgender “.” You think, if I can do something that hard, but positive- perhaps I can do anything .”

The ” anything” he has been doing most recently is to take on the challenge of acting opposite Judi Dench and Michael Gambon. In Stephen Frears’s interpretation of the true narrative of Queen Victoria’s late-life relationship with an Indian maid, Victoria& Abdul , Izzard plays a full-bearded, tweed-suited Bertie( afterward Edward VII ), reining in his comic instincts to occupy the outrage and scheming of a son considering his mother apparently making a fool of herself. Izzard has done plenty of movies before- he was in Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt and the rest- but nothing that has required quite this level of costume drama restraint. He loved it.

Watch a trailer for Victoria& Abdul .

He and Dench are old friends. She has been a regular at his stage shows and has been in the habit, for reasons forgotten, of sending a banana to his dressing room each opening night, with” Good luck !” written on it. Assuring her channel Victoria at close quarters was a daily masterclass. The movie was shot partly at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight( the first time any film crew had been allowed inside by English Heritage) and the cast would let their hair down in the evenings. One time, Izzard remembers:” I was dancing with Judi to Ray Charles’s’ What’d I Say ‘. She felt like a young lady, a young teenage girl virtually. Judi has this amazing triggered of vitality that traces all the way back to her youth .”

Watching the cinema, you’re so ready to see Izzard slip into one of his wayward meanders of consciousness that for a while it seems odd that he stays on script. Does it feel that style to him too?

” Not now ,” he tells.” My early run as an actor wasn’t very good because I only switched all my comedy muscles off, and I didn’t know what to replace them with. I believe I have learned more how to just’ be’ on cinema now. It is just like knowing how to both ride a bicycle and drive a car. If you are in a automobile you don’t want to lean sideways to turn a corner. You know the difference .”

Ever since he bunked off school and conned his route into Pinewood Studios as a 15 -year-old and strayed the film sets for a day, he has imagined himself an actor. The first thing he did when his comedy finally took off after years of trying and often failing to stimulate people laugh was to get himself a drama agent and see if he could pursue a twin career. He has never been satisfied with just doing one thing, and it appears that determination to diversify has only grown. He’s 55, and because of his running- which peaked at 43 marathons in 57 daysin the UK and 27 in 27 days in South Africa for Sport Relief– he looks lean and almost alarmingly bright-eyed. We are talking in a hotel room in London, and he is garmented sharply in” boy with eyeliner” mode. He works on the faith, he tells, that human beings were never made to sit still or settle, but to place themselves in challenging situations, and then work up how to cope.

” World war two is a good example ,” he indicates.” People get fallen behind enemy lines with no idea of what they were going into. They had to learn to do a great deal under extreme pressure and on the move. And they proved they could. In a very different style, I believe coming out as transgender allowed me to set myself in other terrifying situations and work them out once I was in them. I knew I would get through the bad, scaring bit- and there was a lot of that when I was a street performer- and eventually get to a more interesting place .”

Operating one of many marathons for Sport Relief in July 2009. Photograph: Alfie Hitchcock/ Rex
He has, of late, paused to reflect on the motivations behind that impulse, first in a documentary film,
Believe: the Eddie Izzard Story , made by his ex-lover and long-term collaborator Sarah Townsend, and then in an autobiography, Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens . The first two elements of that latter subtitle largely resulted Izzard back to his mother, who died of cancer when he was six years old. Building the cinema, Townsend came to suggest that all Izzard’s inspired digressive habits circled around this truth, and in his volume, in opening chapters too poignant to read easily, he expands on that thought.

” Toward the end of the movie, I started talking about my mother …” he recollects.” And I said something revelatory:’ I know why I’m doing all this ,’ I said.’ Everything I do in life is trying to get her back. I think if I do enough things … that maybe she’ll come back .'” When he said those terms, he tells, it felt like his unconscious speaking. The thought remained with him that” I do believe I started performing and doing all sorts of big, crazy, ambitious things because on some level, on some childlike magical-thinking level, I thought doing those things might bring her back .”

I wonder, having got those things out into the public, nearly half a century on, if it has changed how he thinks about himself?

” I surely feel I am in a better place ,” he says- but also it has given him a sense of his own strangeness.” There is that thing where people say wow about the marathons or whatever. And I kind of tell wow too, because there are some things I did that, looking back, I don’t know how I did them. Running a doubled marathon on the last day in South Africa. It was 11 hours of not fun. And about five minutes of euphoria. I’m not sure how I did that .”

One of the things about marathons- even if you are running, as he was some of the time in the UK, followed by an ice-cream van blaring the Chariots of Fire topic- is that there is an nasty lot of period for supposing. Does his intellect ever pause for breath?

” I have a luck thing ,” he says,” which is that I am interested in any question- how did we get here? all the religions. I can think about anything. For example when I did the 43[ marathons] I ran past a sign telling’ the Battle of Naseby: 1 mile’ and I’m immediately off thinking about Cromwell and Fairfax, Prince Rupert maybe, and how this road I was operating on would have been a way back then and perhaps the cavalry came down it, how did they get cannon round that bend, all that, at every moment …”

Campaigning for Labour during the general election in 2015. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/ PA

Talking to Izzard, and watching him perform, you sense he has a kind of need of not ever wanting to miss any scrap of experience. It’s partly, he suggests, why he has widened his repertoire of doing standup in different languages in recent years.

” German has been the hardest in so far ,” he tells. He is doing Arabic next, scheming a show in the Yemen( he was born in Aden, where his father worked for a time for BP) to draw attention to the brutal civil war there, and after that, Mandarin Chinese. As he explains this, blithely, I’m reminded both of the passages in his volume where he writes about the strategies he developed to overcome severe dyslexia as small children, and his uneasy relationship with his late stepmother, Kate. The antithesis of performing as a younger human for the memory of his mother was a refusal to be limited by Kate’s efforts to control him. She wanted him to be an accountant because he was good with numbers, if not with read. He remembers her once telling him:” You’ve got to understand that you are a cog in the machine. As soon as you understand that, you can fit in and get on with life .” You can only imagine how that was downed. Does he ever think he will become more accepting of restrictions?

” I have a very strong sense that we are only on this planet for a short duration of hour ,” he tells.” And that is only growing. Religious people might think it goes on after demise. My impression is that if that is the case it would be nice if just one person is coming and let us know it was all fine, all confirmed. Of all the billions of people who have died, if just one of them could come through the clouds and say, you know,’ It’s me Jeanine, it’s brilliant, there’s a really good spa ‘, that would be great .” He pauses.” Although what if heaven was merely like three-star, OK-ish. You know,’ Some of the taps don’t work …'”

He sets his success down not to any particular talent, but to his being” brilliantly boring. Some people are maybe brilliantly interesting. But I have the opposite gift .” That, and stamina, and that unlimited curiosity about the world.

For a BBC series about genealogy he went to Africa to trace percentages per of his genetic make-up that was Neanderthal. It reinforced his sense that there was nothing new for the purposes of the sun, that people had always been the same.” We never think of cavemen being envious of the neighbours with the very best cave, but without doubt they were ,” he says.

In villages in Namibia, females were fascinated by his nail varnish; some of the men, too.” You know if you have a football and some nail burnish and a smile you can walk into any village in the world and find friends ,” he tells.” There are 7 billion of us on the planet now and we should be connecting up more. Ninety-nine per cent of us would be live-and-let-live and’ Hi and how are you ?’. But the 1% aren’t happy with that, they want to actively stir it up and tell us that is not the way to go on .”

Meeting the Bakola Pygmies in Cameroon for a BBC series to trace his genetic make-up. Photograph: BBC

Talk of politics is a reminder of Izzard’s interventions in last year’s referendum campaign, in which he tried to use his experiences of doing slapstick in French and German and Spanish as an example of how Europe might be a place where you could share culture, rather than be defensive about it. In those fevered weeks, his arguments were sometimes made to look naive; the Mail and the rest roasted him after an awkward encounter with Nigel Farage on Question Time .

He admits that he is sometimes still learning in politics, but is unrepentant about his efforts to try to advance a cause that he has been engaged in as a performer for a long while.

” Running and hiding from Europe cannot be the way forward for us ,” he tells.” The notion that Britain can go back to 1970 and it will still be all the same simply can’t be an option .”

Does he think there is still hope for Remainers?

” It seems to me people are always capable of being either brave and curious or fearful and suspicious. If you track humanity all the way through, the periods of success for civilisation are those periods where we have been brave and curious .”

There is plenty of anxiety and mistrust in the world though. How does he think it will go?

” I don’t know. If you look at the 1930 s there are obviously clear examples of how individuals can spin these kinds of dreads and twist them, and then you get what historians usually call mass-murdering fuckheads in power .”

He have all along talked of looking to run as a Labour MP in the elections. Is that still the lawsuit?

” Yes, the scheme was always to run in 2020, though Theresa May has changed that with her failed power grab. So now it’s the first general election after 2020.”

He will also put himself forward for Labour’s national executive committee at the party meeting this year. He didn’t make it last hour, though he got 70,000 votes. And if and when he has become a MP, he will give up acting and performing?

” I would. It’s like Glenda Jackson; she gave up acting for 25 years to concentrate on it, then she turns up back as King Lear .”

With Ali Fazal, Judi Dench and director Stephen Frears for a screening of Victoria& Abdul at the Venice film festival. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/ Getty Images

I wonder if another ambition, to eventually have infants, still applies?

” I always said children in my 50 s. But I also always felt that I had to do things first. Get this stuff done. But yes, I haven’t given up on that .”

For someone who was dealt an early lesson about the fragility of life, his long-term planning audios odd. Does he feel that contradiction?

” I think we should all choose a year we would like to live to, and do everything we can to construct that the project works. I mean it could all go wrong at any point, plainly. But we also know that if we don’t get ailment or get hit by a bus we can help ourselves by drinking enough water and maintaining as fit as you were when you were a kid. As we get older and we get a bit creaky we take that as a sign to stop doing stuff. My sense is we should push through creaky. I was feeling a bit sluggish lately, about a month ago, I believed right, I’ll do seven marathons in seven days. And off I run. The first four were a bit rubbish, but you push on through that .”

He must have good joints?

” I mangled my knee up a while ago, trying to leap over a fence ,” he says.” But it healed up, and now it complains only when I don’t use it enough .”

Is there some genetic explanation for his energy?

” Dad loved football, played until his late 30 s. I don’t know about Mum. She liked singing and slapstick and Flanders and Swann but I’m not sure about athletic .”

I hear his voice breaking just slightly. Izzard still can’t really talk about his mother easily, at the least not in an interview. In his volume he describes how in the immediate aftermath of her demise he and his father and his brother wept together for half an hour and then stopped in case they went on for ever. In place of therapy papa bought his sons a model railway set and they construct it in the spare room and immersed themselves in it. The situated lately resurfaced when Izzard had it restored and donated it to a museum in their home town of Bexhill-on-Sea, another part of his excavation of that time.

” Dad encouraged us with it after Mum succumbed ,” he tells, by way of rationale.” He made a table for us and we spent hours and hours constructing it. Then in 1975 my stepmother, Kate, came along and it was put away into boxes and never “re coming out” again. It ran from Dad’s attic to my brother’s attic, and he didn’t know what to do with it. I thought, why not give it to the museum in Bexhill? I guessed there might be plenty of model railway enthusiasts in Bexhill, and they rebuilt this thing, it’s kind of a collector’s item. They are now going to build another one, a Christmas version. We had a grand opening and Dad came down to see it .”

He likes the fact that he is in a position to make these kinds of things happen. Is he happier now than ever?

” I always wanted the kind of profile that you can leverage to do the things you want ,” he says.” There is no path into it. You have to work out how you get there- over the wall, or tunnel your route in. I always supposed doing the same thing was actually going backwards. And if “youre starting” saying’ Hi, I like chicken’ on some advert, you know you have probably reached that phase .”

You hesitate a little to ask him what he is working on next, but I do anyway.

” I’ve written my first film ,” he tells.” It is called Six Minutes to Midnight , set in the summer of 1939. I’m developing a show in French in Paris. This December I am going to be on a boat, only below Notre Dame, doing two presents nightly. What else? I’m not a good reader but I always wanted to read all of Dickens, so I have found someone who will let me read them as audiobooks- I have done a third of Great Expectations and it took four days. So: 12 days. And then there is the premiere of Victoria& Abdul for which Dad is coming up from Bexhill to expend his 89 th birthday with Judi Dench …”

Out of all the things he has done, I ask, of what is he proudest?

” Mostly I hope I have done things that help other people to do them ,” he tells.” That was the thing with coming out as transgender, and it was the same thing doing the marathons, or learning the languages. I hope people might guess, well if that imbecile can do it, why can’t I? I entail, I’m just some guy, right. Nothing special ?”

I’m not quite convinced.

Victoria& Abdul is released on Friday 15 September. Believe Me is published by Michael Joseph( PS20 ). To order a transcript for PS17 go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online orders only. Phone orders min p& p of PS1. 99

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