Trouble in Venice: can this trendy LA enclave reconcile a deep divide?

4 days ago

As the neighborhood inundations with tech workers and new wealth, its homeless population holds rising and a political battle is raging over what to do

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It is less than a hundred yards from the hipster restaurants, cafe, and giant street art installations of Main Street in Venice, California, to a straggly line of industrial warehouses and storage facilities where a homeless encampment has sprawled over an entire city block.

Tents and shopping carts filled with garb and possessions obstruct sidewalks and parking spaces along 3rd Street and Rose Avenue and prompt unceasing complaints from nearby residents as well as stares of astonishment from tourists. The encampment, home to people with nowhere else to go, is a constant reminder that all is not well in one of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in North America.

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Venice is the quintessential southern Calfornia beach community, an edgy, artsy pocket of the city of Los Angeles where industry, poverty and creativity have always procured a style to coexist. But it is also ground zero in a battle in which an unprecedented official effort to fight homelessness across Los Angeles is being met with growing skepticism, impatience, and, from time to time, outright hostility.

At public sessions, people are openly calling homeless residents lepers and likening Venice to Baghdad. Local elections being held tomorrow pit a popular incumbent city councilman, Mike Bonin, who has championed efforts to build new low-income housing and provide services to homeless person including showers, bathroom and storage space, against an energetic underdog, Mark Ryavec, who thinks the situation is spiraling out of control.

We see snowbirds in their RVs and young people from all over treat Venice as the campsite of America, Ryavec charged. I want to provide a bus fare to send them home, because theres no future for these people here.

The future certainly seems to belong to a new wave of highly paid tech employees, many of them working for Google or Snap, who have inundated into Venice now often nicknamed Silicon Beach and pushed rents and house prices through the roof.

Industrial warehouses have been transformed into luxury condos and shabby-chic restaurants. Abbot Kinney Boulevard, once a relative backwater where local restaurants struggled to obtain liquor licenses, has become one of the trendiest streets in the country, where coffee shop offer$ 6 lattes and tables at the hottest dinner places are booked out weeks in advance. Meanwhile, the homeless population maintains rising its closely connected to 1,000 people, by some estimates, and nearly 30,000 across the city of LA as a whole.

It is this stark contrast of extreme wealth and growing poverty that has pushed city and district leaders to take unprecedented action. After decades of doing little more than moving homeless people around and offering services so they dont starve or freeze to death, the political class is inducing the instance that aiming homelessness is both a moral and an economic imperative.

Michael Michael Munsterman from Oklahoma has been homeless in Venice, California, for six years. Photo: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

Up to now, the electorate has been fully on board. An impressive 76 % of Los Angeles voters approved a bond measure last November to constructed 10,000 affordable housing divisions on 12 parcels of public land around the city, including one in Venice. The signs seem promising, too, for a countywide measure on tomorrows vote that would increase the sales tax by half a percentage point and raise more than $3.5 bn for homeless programs over the next decade.

In Venice, homeless residents surely feel the difference. Reynaldo, a 59 -year-old man who sleeps in a tent on 3rd Street, said he had friends who were being moved into housing and offered help by squads of social workers, mental health consultants and addiction specialists. He appreciated the free showers and noticed a far more conciliatory stance from police, who ride down 3rd Street every couple of hours during the day to make sure tents are packed away and not being used for drug-dealing or prostitution, but no longer conduct large-scale sweeps as they used to.

If youre polite and respectful to them, theyll be the same way to you, Reynaldo said.

Still, the political leadership is under pressure. On one side are residents who say they find homeless people urinating on their front lawn and allege, like Mark Ryavec, that the new city services are only depicting more homeless people in local communities. As Ryavec set it: I do not want to see the city of LA became the trailer park of last resort for everyone who has chosen either involuntarily or voluntarily to live in their vehicles.

And on the other side are advocates who have spent decades railing against what they see as an unnecessarily belligerent police presence and worry that the climate has not changed as much as the city asserts. Becky Dennison, director of the nonprofit Venice Community Housing, said the city was not doing nearly enough to slow gentrification. At the same time, she noted that the police continue to enforce a nighttime beach curfew, close the boardwalk to pedestrians at twilight and, under an regulation that came into impact last month, send people sleeping in their automobiles to one of just a handful of streets zoned exclusively for industrial use.

The idea that we are going to be able move people around and criminalize them doesnt cut it, Dennison said. We need to build and preserve affordable housing to protect the racial and economic diversity of Venice.

Josh Josh Corr from Las Vegas( left) and Laz from Miami( right) on Venice Beach, where they have been living for a year. Photo: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

Such strong opinions have made for a vigorous and, at times, nasty political season. In the city council race, Ryavec has been accused, unfairly, of an association with Donald Trump because he briefly represented Trumps hotel interests as a lobbyist 26 years ago. He, in turn, has accused his challenger, sitting councilmember Mike Bonin, of working to cover up an MRSA infection outbreak at the 3rd Street encampment, an accusation that city and county health officials say has no basis in fact.

Much of the citys plan for Venice hinges on a new low-income housing facility now being developed on the site of a parking lot on Venice Boulevard.( It was one of the sites approved by voters in November .) But those schemes are under threat from yet another item on tomorrows election agenda a slow-growth vote initiative, championed by adversaries of mega-developments budding in Hollywood and elsewhere in Los Angeles.

If it passes, the initiative would freeze parts of the city planning process for two years and proscribe almost all the low-income housing developments, including the one in Venice. Its future prospects that both alarms and infuriates advocates of the homeless.

You cant complain for years and years that the city isnt doing something substantive about homelessness and then, when they do start acting, say youre against it, Becky Dennison said.

On the streets, people like Reynaldo are watching the battle unfold without too many expectations one route or the other. I merely live day to day, he said, and stay out of trouble.

This narrative was updated on 6 March to correct the location of Venices new low-income housing facility

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘ 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

Brooklyn
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
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
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
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
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

Buddhism Fast Facts

24 days ago

( CNN) Here’s a look at Buddhism, the major religion of many countries in Asia.

Beliefs/ Practices:
Siddhartha Gautama( Buddha) grew up in a wealthy family. He decided to follow a route of self-denial, but did not find truth until he sat down under a tree , now known as the Bo tree. There he was “enlightened” and obtained the knowledge he had been looking for.

According to legend, Buddha sat under the Bo tree for 49 days and was seduced by demons. He discovered four noble truths and the Eightfold Path to Nirvana, or ultimate bliss.

Other Facts: Timeline:

‘ 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
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
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.

Ryan
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
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.

Claire
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.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Russell Brand: ‘I was a needy person. I’m less mad now’

1 month, 6 days ago

Hes moved to the country, had a baby and stayed away from politics but is the comedian ready for a quiet life?

The last time I interviewed Russell Brand was in 2008, around the time of Sachsgate, and he was a handful. When I asked him, as a joke, if he was going for world domination, he replied, “Yes, that is what I will do. What am I going to stop for? I’ll just carry on until there’s nothing left.” Nine years on, he has changed in some ways, and in others, not at all.

He still looks amazing: tall, long-haired, Gypsy-George-Best handsome; a dandy highwayman in black leather trousers and goth jewellery. His mind still fires faster than a machine gun, and his speech is just as packed with flowery words and detailed explanations, peppered with references to what he’s read (Jung, Harari, life coach Tony Robbins). And he’s still funny. But Brand is different. His ego is less all-consuming. In 2008, he was difficult with the photographer (not today, he’s fine) and, during our chat, he kept moving his head so that, even when I tried to glance away, he was constantly in my sight-line. It was as if my eyes were the spotlight and his face had to be in it. No more.

“Yes, I’m less mad now,” he says, when I mention this. “I was a needy person. I mean, that condition abides, but I manage it better now, I think.”

Back then, he was also very much a girl-hound – “I love fucking,” he told me. “My house has a hot tub for damned good reasons, and none of them spiritual.” But these days he’s settled, living in the countryside with his new wife Laura Gallacher (sister of Sky Sports presenter Kirsty), baby Mabel, two cats, a brace of chickens and a “maniac” dog. Having burned through his marriage to Katy Perry in two years, and dated Jemima Khan, his relationship with Gallacher, on and off for years, is now settled and domestic. Career-wise, he’s still a standup – he’s on a 71-date tour that will take him into 2018 – but seems to have stopped acting, and has shifted a lot of his public work to activism. In 2014, he began posting The Trews, his political YouTube show, garnering more than 1m subscribers. He’s now studying for an MA in religion in global politics at SOAS University of London. He hosts a wordy, thought-provoking podcast, Under The Skin, where he talks to academics, politicians and writers about contemporary ideas. Is this all less mad? It’s an effort to be more serious, certainly, though his daft performer’s instinct can send him off course in search of the joke, so that he gets ridiculed on political TV shows.

Russell
Brand with his wife, Laura Gallacher. Photograph: Alamy

Anyhow, all of this newfound stability and seriousness, according to Brand, is due to his 12-step recovery programme. Though he’s been off drugs since 2002, Brand’s addictive nature meant that his attitude towards sex, porn, money, relationships, food, fame – everything, really – was abnormally compulsive and got him into trouble. So, for the past four and a half years, he has been applying the steps across the whole of his life. He has found this transformative, and thinks many others would, too. In fact, he wants us all to be 12-steppers. “I think that this ideology needs to be proliferated,” he says, “and I think that the more access people have to it, the more people could use it. I’m fascinated by its potential.”

We are chatting in a beautiful hotel in the countryside west of London, not far from where he lives. On a side table, several necklaces have been laid out for Brand to choose from for his photo shoot. A hotel worker delivers avocado on toast while we talk before a vista of perfectly appointed gardens. It’s a setting unlike most representations of an AA meeting that I’ve seen, but let’s talk the 12 steps. The 12 steps form the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous and of all other associated groups (Narcotics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous). The first step is an admission of powerlessness over the thing to which you’re addicted. The steps aren’t hard to find, but there is a lot of related literature, too, and though this isn’t a secret, it tends to be passed only between those who attend AA meetings. This isn’t enough for Brand. He is so evangelical about the steps that he has rewritten them, in Brand-speak, for his new book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions.

Aside from the foreword and conclusion, Recovery has 12 chapters, one for each step, and with each Brand takes the step’s essence, rejigs it, and uses his own life to explain what he means. So the AA step one, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable”, becomes, in Brand’s reworking, “Are you a bit fucked?” AA’s step six, “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”, becomes: “Do you want to stop it? Seriously?” You get the gist.

The book is entertaining and easy to read. There’s a chapter about Brand’s daughter’s birth that is graphically real and very moving: “As if touched by the finger of creation, her eyes flash open and life possesses her and exudes from her. Like seeing behind the curtain as she moves from life’s shadow to life.” Still, I’m not sure how necessary the book is – surely, the existing steps literature works fine – so who is it for?

“For people who have drug and alcohol or sex or food issues, but find some of the literature too clinical, or Christian,” Brand says. “But also, I think it could be applied as a sort of model, because now my lens for living is this. I think it’s universal.”

He tells me about a professional, non-AA meeting he recently attended. He asked if anyone felt they were out of control over anything, and one person mentioned their phone use, another how possessive they were about their friends, another how they behaved when dating. These are the people he wants to read his book, he says; addiction is on a sliding scale, and we all, to a greater or lesser degree, display signs of addictive behaviour. “Addiction is just an extreme behavioural pattern, and we all have patterns.”

Russell
‘People need to be able to connect with something that is essential and beautiful and valuable and true.’ Photograph: Harry Borden for the Guardian

He may well be right: I just question whether Brand is the person to take us all through the steps. Also, there’s a point, surely, to the anonymous bit of AA? If the support groups aren’t anonymous, then people don’t feel free enough to talk honestly.

He disagrees. “That anonymity was necessary at the inception, I think, precisely because it was 100 years ago [AA started in 1935; the steps were written in 1939], and there were different social attitudes about chemical misuse and alcoholism. The fellowships themselves had a fragility, and needed to be protected from the idea that anyone could claim to be a spokesperson for them. But I think such anonymity now is preventing a technology that people would benefit from being proliferated.”

He points out how easy it is to order drugs, or indeed anything else, from the internet; how consumer culture is designed to make us think that if you don’t feel good, “there is something you can get to make you feel better and you can probably buy it”. Whether it’s the bump of serotonin you get from a heart on an Instagram post, or the one you get from winning an eBay auction, today’s culture is designed to make you temporarily euphoric through consumption, rather than fully happy because you have changed your habits.

“We’re reaching saturation of consumerism, and the antidote to all this needs to be accessible as well,” he says. “In a way, this book is a progression of the last book I wrote.” Revolution, Brand’s last book, was his call for a political revolution, based on destroying capitalism and getting transcendent instead. (Spoiler: it didn’t work.) John Lydon called it idiotic, and even his friend Noel Gallagher, on hearing that Brand was writing another book, said, “What’s it going to be called this time? The Revolution That Never Took Place?” Still, Brand is persistent. “There’s an ongoing sense that this isn’t working. Really, I’d like to address the emotional and spiritual causes of dissatisfaction on a personal level.”

Ah, the Big Idea. It’s easy to forget, when presented with a comedian who threw away several careers, not just his own, by leaving off-colour messages on the answerphone of a Fawlty Towers star, that Brand has always been interested in the Big Idea. In 2008, he said this to me: “The material world is a transitory illusion, and if it is, why organise your life around the systems that it imposes? Particularly if those systems have negative consequences for huge numbers of people, and the planet itself. I wonder if there are ways that that can change… and I don’t mean normal things like, let’s wear a ribbon – I mean the entire economic structure of the planet or the way we look at religion.”

He’s still thinking along those lines. His Under The Skin podcast is an attempt to get clever people such as Naomi Klein, Al Gore, Adam Curtis and assorted professors to explain their own Big Idea and unpick the systems we take as set in stone, whether those systems are economic or social. He’s searching for the meaning underneath. Brand used to be a Buddhist; now, he believes in a higher power, and the steps are his new faith.

“There was an important job that religion was doing,” he says, “but because of the bigotry, the outdated acculturation of the time of its construction, the casual and unaware attitude towards gender and race, we have, possibly quite rightly, rejected it. But the secularisation, the materialisation, the individualisation of the way we see the world now excludes us from a life that has meaning. And I don’t think pop culture can fill that gap any more. I don’t think art can do it any more. I think things are getting too serious. People need to be able to connect with something that is essential and beautiful and valuable and true.”

Brand
Brand speaking at the End Austerity Now rally in London in June 2015. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

This is pretty much what he was saying 10 years ago, I feel. It’s just that, this time around, Brand’s solution is different. For him, the 12-step programme “has the seeds in it, it has the code”. The meaning of life, the Big Idea. It may well do – the 12 steps have saved a lot more lives than me – but I have another issue with Brand’s book. AA and its associated groups are all free. Though there are those who pay to go into rehab, there are many more who just turn up to meetings and pay nothing at all. Brand will be charging money for his book. How much of his profits will go to AA?

“Some I’ll give to abstinence-based recovery,” he says, “but I’ve not made a devout vow to be a mendicant, you know? My hope is that I’ll become a person that lives entirely charitably and entirely philanthropically and entirely spiritually. And a significant percentage of what I earn – 10, 20% – goes into that kind of thing already; it has done for a little while. Aside from that, there is a 12-step message in this book, but it’s coming through me, it’s using me. It’s still me.”

Exactly, I say. The book is about you. It has a picture of you on the front.

“I know that. I know I’m narcissistic. I know I’m no different from anyone with ego problems, showing off, going, ‘Love me, love me, adore me, give me attention’, but it ain’t just that. It’s something else. And that thing, I’ve got to do something with it.”

I believe he believes this. But I still think it’s his ego. Brand is working hard on his narcissism, but not enough to stop him thinking he can save us all. And not enough to stop him making money by rewriting the programme that saved his life for free. Still, here we are. Before he decided to work the 12 steps throughout his daily existence, Brand spent a lot of time searching for how he should live. He read innumerable self-help books, hoovered up philosophy, puzzled away. He has the phone number of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power Of Now, and for a while would phone him up – “This living saint!” – with his love-life problems. One time, Brand was banging on about the troubles he was having with his then girlfriend, and at the end of his love tirade, Tolle said, deadpan, “Well, perhaps the relationship will work out. And then both of you will die.” This made Brand laugh, and makes me laugh when he says it.

His personal quest means he’s gone through umpteen therapists, regaling each with his admittedly eye-popping life story. It got to the point where it would almost be a performance. He would rattle through being an only child, his mum getting cancer three times, being sexually abused by a tutor, his relationship with his macho stepdad, his sexually profligate dad who took him to Thailand and ordered three prostitutes (two for him, one for 16-year-old Russell), his problems with crack, heroin, with cutting himself, with sex, with food. The therapist he liked most listened to it all and said, “Yes, but Russell, what is it? What. Is. It?”

What is it? In his book, Brand recalls a day he went to London to meet a theatre director. His tale is a litany of minor discomforts, the worst of which is that his phone runs out of juice and he can’t get a cab. For Brand, though, this series of very small annoyances is almost catastrophic. He cannot cope. His mind fires all over the place, taking him back to when he had nothing, flicking over his junkie past, speculating about strangers’ jobs, then painfully picking through small talk to a moment of joy with, of all people, the actor Zoë Wanamaker. As I read it, I was reminded that, in addition to his addiction problems, Brand has ADHD. It must be exhausting being him.

Russell
Performing his Messiah Complex standup show in Berlin in 2014. Photograph: Adam Berry/Getty Images

In that chapter, what he’s trying to demonstrate is how emotional we can be when life bashes us about, but also how the steps can provide a form of mindfulness, a technique to deal with the mania and loneliness and resentment that can easily sweep through our system and knock us off course. Or, at least, knock him off course. What his story makes me feel is that I’m not like that; we all have days when everyone and everything is a wind-up, but usually I manage to shrug off the externals and get on with my life. “Yes, I think addicts are outliers, we’re so jittery about the external world that we’re like, ‘Fuck this, I’m going to find something to medicate and alleviate this.’ I know I’m a nutter.”

No wonder he lives more quietly now, though quiet is a relative term. He’s still making the odd Trews show – he’s just put one up about Sinéad O’Connor, sympathising with her mental illness – plus there’s the podcast, his MA, the book, and he’s doing three standup gigs a week. Performing comedy means his adrenaline is all over the shop; up late and wired, he has to sleep more during the day to keep himself steady. He’s trying hard to be reasonable, because “the more I hear myself being reasonable, the more difficult it becomes to transgress those rules and my own behaviour”.

And he likes living quietly. “I’ve never had domesticity before. Most of my life has been an extension of the grandiose idea of what glamour would look like if it had to have a kitchen. And I feel sometimes like a refugee in my house with this woman, this calm, beautiful woman, who in the most beautiful way possible doesn’t care about what I do. She’s not interested, in the most delightful way. ‘Oh, that sounds nice.’”

He’s enjoying having a daughter, too, though the lack of control takes some getting used to. He might have joked about raising her gender-neutral on Jonathan Ross’s TV show, but he’s pretty militant about Mabel’s privacy. He copes better when his little family are indoors; outside the house, things can get tricky, because he has trouble moving from a safe place out into a random world where he is not in command, but also because “I struggle with people touching the kid.” Plus, his celebrity can skew ordinary moments. He writes about being on a boat on a canal with Laura and getting papped and then getting into a row with the photographer – “My unstated plan is to get his camera… I settle for snatching his spectacles to barter for the film”; it doesn’t go well – and tells me of a time when he fell off his bike in Shoreditch and was lying sprawled on the ground, injured, as a selection of hipsters took photographs of him. “The fact that I was a famous person usurped the fact that I was lying on the floor, clearly in pain.” Only a group of older ladies bothered to ask if he was OK.

Sometimes I think Russell Brand is a cautionary tale, almost a mythological figure; a combination of Narcissus, Big Brother, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger – actually, all rock stars at once. But then I remember that, really, he is not like many other people. He’s not ordinary by any stretch: he’s a person for whom fame is like sunlight, who couldn’t have stayed in the shadows without dying. He is built to show off, and that has consequences.

“Yes, but like a lot of people that have access to extrovert behaviour and can seem quite loud and vivid, there’s a fragility also in me. I’ve learned to manage that differently, and I don’t feel so self-damning and self-condemning as I once did, because I’m more aware.” He knows, for instance, that The Trews began promisingly, but descended into political point-scoring, culminating with Ed Miliband visiting his house to be interviewed and Brand deciding that, actually, we should all vote after all, as long as we voted Labour. He admits that the attention the shows generated fed his always-ravenous ego, and he began to use The Trews to feel powerful and get approval. So he stopped. “I still have this tremendous ambitious drive, but now I know, if I give that drive to my ego to contend with, it wreaks havoc.”

Russell
Interviewing Ed Miliband for his YouTube show The Trews in 2015. Photograph: The Trews/YouTube

He should stay out of conventional politics, I think. “Yes. I’m on the edge of the community – a trickster, a joker, a playful person – I don’t need to be working out how the Metropolitan police force should be run.”

When I remind him how, pre-Miliband chat, he told his many young fans that there was no point in voting in the 2015 election, he is unrepentant, because he felt, back then, that there was no real difference between the main parties. In the 2017 election, however, he endorsed Jeremy Corbyn, because he feels Corbyn is genuinely different from the Tories. But on the whole he doesn’t have much time for politics, because it gets in the way of individual spiritual awakening. He thinks Trump is an idiot, but questions how much he will actually get done during his term in office; he also remembers Obama’s failings in Syria. On his podcast, Brand interviewed Yanis Varoufakis and what he liked most was Varoufakis saying that when people are in powerful roles, their roles form the extent of their power – so that, in the end, they have no true power at all.

Time is up. Shame. I am enjoying our conversation. “So am I,” Brand says. “I’m happy in this conversation. I’m not threatened.” He has to do big talk, he can’t do small: it makes him nervous, and then he might act inappropriately. I say, “Well, you could talk about football, that’s Esperanto for most men.” But he can’t talk casually about football, either, or comedy, because he’s a nerd about both things. He can’t be casual about much, any more, not even sex.

“No. I want to know what is the mystery, what is driving us, where is this all going. The only line you can draw between any of us is between those that think it’s possible for the world to change and those that don’t. Those who think it’s possible for an individual to change and those who don’t. I can’t think, ‘Well, I’ll just wait out my days, I’ll do my cluck, I’ll do my rattle, I’ll do my bird, I’ll wait it out and then put me in the fucking turf.’ I feel it’s possible to change the world.”

Recovery is published on 21 September by Macmillan at £20. To pre-order a copy for £17, go to guardianbookshop.com, or call 0330 333 6846.

Commenting on this piece? If you would like your comment to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s letters page in print, please email weekend@theguardian.com, including your name and address (not for publication).

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘Shrouded in shame’: the young women on either side of Ireland’s abortion debate

1 month, 19 days ago

Anti-abortion and pro-choice activists are gearing up for a hard-fought referendum in which the youth vote could prove key

Hawking won the world’s respect- and gave disabled people like me hope | Frances Ryan

1 month, 24 days ago

Growing up disabled, I had few role models. But this brilliant, witty scientist helped change negative stereotypes, tells Guardian columnist Frances Ryan

As with most of the famous figures whose passing now makes us via a news alert on our phones, I never satisfied Stephen Hawking. In the vastness of the entire world, you could say I was one speck and he was another. And yet I thought of him as a continual presence in my life, who- perhaps paradoxically, in the light of his illness , not to mention of his work on time- would always be there, somehow.

Growing up incapacitated in Britain, I didn’t have many role models. There are hardly any statues of disabled leaders , no great lives with chronic disability documented in the history books. As a child, it’s easy to believe that disabled people have never genuinely existed, and that when they did, it was as cripples to be pitied or onus on society. In Hawking, we had a figure- brilliant, witty, kind- who confounded the negative stereotypes and the low expectations so often forced on those of us with a disability.

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Cosmology’s brightest star Stephen Hawking dies aged 76- video

He wasn’t without faults( accusations of sexism were notable ). He was also afforded possibilities- from wealth to healthcare to being non-disabled throughout school- that clearly enabled his success, opportunities too few young disabled people, facing cuts to multiple strands of support, enjoy today. But his groundbreaking research, as well as tireless commitment to the NHS and concern over Brexit, established him as someone who, though physically stripped of his voice, should be listened to.

In the hurry to eulogise a figure such as Hawking the risk is that the media coverage either fails to acknowledge his disability- and to dismiss him being a disabled person is as regressive as a white person saying they” don’t see colour”- or falls into condescending cliches and objectification. Within hours of the news of his death transgres, I considered headlines that reflected the( often well-intentioned) negative attitudes that so often plague discussions of disabled people: ones of “inspiration”, ” overcoming disability” and references to “tragedy”. BBC Radio 5 Live asked listeners if Hawking had “inspired” them- a question unlikely to be posed about non-disabled academics. The Daily Mail referred to his” total disability” while at the other aim of the spectrum, John Humphrys use Radio 4′ s tribute segment to ask:” Did the science community cut him a lot of slack because he was so desperately disabled ?”

Even the Guardian’s obituary mentioned how” despite his terrible physical circumstance, he almost always remained positive about life “, as if it was a surprise that a world-renowned scientist with a loving family could ever find happiness. Cartoonists illustrated him in heaven- a place Hawking did not believe existed- standing up, as if ultimately free from his wheelchair( an invention, much like his voice synthesiser, that actually empowered him to engage with society ). Even sentiments such as” He didn’t let his disability define him”- as Marsha de Cordova, darknes disabilities minister( and herself disabled) tweeted– verge on repeating the ingrained notion that disability is an inherently negative thing: a part of identity that, unlike race or sexuality, should be played down.

This is not to say that Hawking’s disability didn’t help shape him. The thought that he had a sharply limited life expectancy- it was originally believed he would die within two years of his motor neurone cancer diagnosis- by all accounts inspired Hawking to enjoy the present, and spurred on his hunger for scientific discovery. But to reduce a world-famous academic’s existence to one of misfortune and pluck respects neither the reality of a disabled life nor the love, success, witticism and fulfilment that clearly marked Hawking’s. It remind you of the countless “inspirational” memes and posters that throughout their own lives featured Hawking’s image- often using his body as inspiration for non-disabled people (” If he can succeed, so are you able !”) or criticising “lesser” disabled people (” The only disability is a bad attitude “). Hawking, like all of us, deserves more than lazy, ableist tropes.

Amid all the tributes to Hawking’s contribution to scientific discovery, I would like to remember what he contributed- perhaps unknowingly- to many disabled people: a sense of pride, encouragement and hope. This was a genius who gained the world’s respect from his wheelchair. Hawking’s achievements alone will not have begun to overrule deep-seated prejudice, but he has played a significant part in changing the misconceptions that still routinely mark too many disabled people’s lives. Hawking’s lesser-known lesson is one I hope others growing up disabled will be left with: we can all reach for the stars.

* Frances Ryan is a Guardian columnist

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Look at me: why attention-seeking is the defining need of our times

2 months, 18 days ago

The urge to belong is universal. So would a better understanding of it help tackle loneliness and explain why stalkers, spree killers and jihadists turn their pain on others?

Look at me: why attention-seeking is the defining need of our times

My night out in Cleveland with the worst men on the internet

3 months, 24 days ago

At the Republican convention, Laurie Penny was invited to a rally led by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous and an unholy cast of characters united behind Donald Trump for whom turning raw rage into political currency is merely a game

This is a story about how trolls took the wheel of the clown auto of modern politics. Its a narrative about the insider traders of the attention economy. Its a tale about dread and disgust and Donald Trump and you and me. Its not a tale about Milo Yiannopoulos, the professional alt-right provocateur who was last week banned from Twitter for directing racist abuse towards the actor Leslie Jones.

But it does start with Milo. So I should probably explain how we know each other and how, on a hot, weird night in Cleveland, Ohio, I came to be riding in the backseat of his swank black trollmobile to the gayest neo-fascist rally at the Republican national convention.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a charming devil and one of the most serious people I know. I have assured the death of political discourse reflected in his designer sunglasses. It chills me. We satisfied four years ago when he was just another floppy-haired rightwing pundit and we were guests on a panel show. Afterwards, we got hammered and ran around the BBC talking about boys.

Since that day, there is absolutely nothing I have been able to say to Milo to persuaded him that we are not friends. The more famous he gets off the back of extravagantly abusing women and minorities, the more I tell him I dislike him and everything he stands for, the more he chuckles and asks when were drinking.

Feminism is cancer is one of Milos slogans, and yet it took him only seconds after learning we would both be at the RNC to offer me a lift to his Wake Up! rally. This time God help me I said yes.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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