“HAPPY HEAD, HAPPY LEGS” – AN INTERVIEW WITH GB TRACK CYCLIST, JACK CARLIN
British Cycling’s Jack Carlin talks on his time training in lockdown, his mindset, and Tokyo Olympic ambitions.
BY HENRY PARNELL
April 30, 2021
Currently living in Manchester with his girlfriend, and an old friend Gus – a fellow Scot and British Cycling mechanic – GB Track Sprinter Jack Carlin has been competition-less since the Track World Championships March 2020, where he gained a silver medal in the team sprint and a 4th in the Kierin.
The year out of competition, and many months out of the training structure he has become accustomed to, has resulted in the formidable, and rather unique challenge for the 23 year old Paisley native - preparing for a debut Olympic games from his back garden.
A ten day break after the World Championships allowed enough time for a quick trip to Spain for some golf before beginning the final Tokyo Olympic prep. However, rather than waiting on selection for any of the three events he specialises in - Team Sprint, Individual Sprint, and the Kierin - Jack returned home and went almost immediately into the first UK Lockdown. Far from making final adjustments for the Games, mid-March’s activities took the form of loading a squat rack into the back of a van and setting up a patio-gym for the for-seeable future.
Over the ensuing months, ‘working from home’ for an elite athlete, took the form of squatting under a tarp and sprinting a track bike down the A6 during his permitted 1-hour exercise. The lack of structure, physios, team-mates, and even social-life that Jack had become accustomed to in the 5 years he has been with Team GB, has – understandably – taken its toll.
“To be honest I’d have really struggled with A; motivation, and B; just getting through day-to-day training sessions. Without Gus, I’d have really struggled through the first lockdown… I went through about a month of just ticking a box”
“Mentally, I think I declined quite quickly” Jack tells me, candidly opening up on the obvious disappointment of the postponed games. “British cycling is so heavily Games focused… we never bring the absolute best we can until the Olympics.”
An enormous focus on The Games is part-and-parcel of being a member of Team GB - the Olympics are valued above all other competitions. To come within months of becoming an Olympian and racing in Tokyo, to then face what was initially an indefinite period of home-training, is a blow to even the admirably resilient Carlin.
Other events, as prestigious even as the World Championships, simply aren’t top priority, training is tapered precisely over the famous ‘4-year-cycle’ in order to allow the athletes to peak for The Games. “Sacrificing those - for a games that didn’t happen - was hard.”
Jack’s own personal frustration at being unable to compete is balanced with a healthy view of the bigger picture:
“In my bubble it’s all ‘Olympics, Olympics, Olympics’, but if you step outside the velodrome, people are dying…. Another year is not going to hamper me, I’m only getting better and better at the moment… if it’s another year on, that’s not the end of the world.”
Despite the challenges presented by his year of lockdown-training, some highlights have un-expectedly arisen as a result of having the time to solely focus on training.
“Training-wise I’ve actually been going well, gym’s going really well, I’ve put on a fair bit of muscle… I managed to work up to 220kg back squat, the only reason I got that up was the fear of dropping it and it going through my patio. I’ve got stronger than I’ve ever been…
…when do we ever get the opportunity to just train for a year? There is only so much you can do in those little blocks between racing to become better. I can honestly see the Olympics next year having phenomenal times and achievements through every sport because everyone’s just been literally head down and training as hard as they can… there’s nothing else to do.”
Keeping things balanced and in perspective is characteristic of Jack’s approach to training, and to life in general, with happiness top of the agenda. “I can only give 100% when I’m mentally happy” he tells me, before citing one of his favourite stories to back up his own philosophy; a rumour about Usain Bolt eating chicken nuggets before his 100m final – which he subsequently won - at the 2012 London Olympics.
“The hard part is done at that point, it doesn’t matter what you do on that days in terms of the build-up, if you have one bad sleep before it, it’s not gonna ruin your chances… that (Usain Bolt story) might well be true, it’s about keeping your head happy - you’re the best you can be, physically, nothing is going to stop that, what is going to stop you is not being mentally your best.”
“Don’t pass off every opportunity, find the balance. I know when I can go and have a pint, I know when I can go away with my pals on holiday and say ‘I’m not an athlete for a day’…”
Jack’s laid back and humble demeanour plays an essential role in his success, after all, this is a man stepping into the shoes of cycling gods, and he hasn’t got there by accident. His calm and collected philosophy is balanced finely with the rugged, competitive fire that you would only expect from a man racing on a team with the likes of 6-time Olympic Champion, Jason Kenny, and following the footsteps of GB’s most successful Olympian – not just cyclist – ever, Sir Chris Hoy.
Final selection for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is in May, and Jack is confident that he will be be selected for all 3 of his events. Before mentioning his ambitions for the coming Olympics, and the rest of his very promising career, Jack’s under-stated attitude breaks through once more - despite the immense pressure of Team GB’s relentless pursuit of gold, getting to the Olympics is the first step:
“First of all, we’ve got to get there, and I want to be there in the best form I can be, with all my health, and COVID-free, and be at the Olympics and be an Olympian…
…But I do want to walk away with at least a medal or two… preferably gold….
… I think within the squad, we might lose sight of the fact that any medal is a phenomenal achievement. But it’s good pressure, if you’re not here to win then why are you here?”
I’m Daisy Newton, aka 'danewty'. I’m 20 years old, based in Manchester, U.K. I originally started to draw ‘handsy hand people’ to escape from reality due to a major loss within my family. Now it’s my pride and joy! My drawings are inspired by everyday life such as conversations, my moods, my feelings and emotions, both good, bad and silly; this is all alongside my witty sense of humour.
Can you introduce us to ‘Cacti’ and tell us a little bit about your inspirations behind starting your business?
"It all started as an idea when I was working at a natural health shop in London during my time at university, there were so many new vegan products, but most were still packaged in plastic. That’s when I started doing my research and discovered the amazing biodegradable tubes that I use today. As well as products that are made with high quality, vegan ingredients the ethos of CACTI is also to contribute to a more sustainable beauty industry. We currently have a popular lip care range and we’ll be expanding our products in the coming months to include a facial oil & a selection of face masks."
What made you choose the name ‘Cacti’ for your skincare brand?
"The name of CACTI Skin came from my love of tropical plants and the benefits of using nature in skincare. It made sense because a cactus retains moisture in the driest of climates and that’s what the aim of our products is to provide moisturise and keep skin healthy!"
Out of your lip balms and lip exfoliators which is your favourite? Or is it impossible to choose?
"It is difficult to choose a favourite. They all have such amazing ingredients and benefits in each product, and I use them all depending on which one I fancy that day. My current favourite is the cocoa orange. I love the sweetness and the delicious smell of the cocoa butter!"
On your site your ethos includes ‘vegan’, ‘cruelty free’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘kindness’, can you expand on a few of these?
"I wanted the ethos of CACTI to be completely transparent and to the point and I believe these words represent the brand and our aims perfectly. Before I make any decision or take any opportunity, I ask myself if it aligns with all 4 of these values and I find that it keeps everything aligned because after all, being vegan & sustainable is at the heart of the business."
How has the pandemic affected you as a small business owner?
"I actually launched my business in January of this year, so quite far into the pandemic. Originally, I started selling my lip balms in 2018 but I ended up putting it on the back burner for a while as life took over. The pandemic actually gave me time to think about what I want to achieve and what I want to offer so it was a big inspiration for me to take the leap and pursue my passion again. I think the uncertainty of the past year gave everyone a new sense of gratitude for the small things in life and that was certainly the case with me so I’m grateful that it made me recognise my dreams again."
Finally, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
"If I was to give advice to my younger self it would definitely be to believe in yourself and your vision. Everyone has something completely unique to offer the world and I think it’s important to spend time developing your confidence so that you have no doubts going after your dreams. Everyone has fears, the key is to do it anyway."
My name is Mikaela RIvero. I live in Uruguay which is a small country famous for its mate and barbecue. I am a graphic designer, I worked in advertising for a couple of years and I currently work as an illustrator and designer in a studio called @vexels. I really like geometric and simple shapes.
i called him up and asked about you
we talked for hours, like old friends do
so in i walked, to your house of love,
like a demonic cupid, damned from above
satan made these lips so red
veil of the shadows
hide this love from the reaper
let us clutch
to our straws of affection
and with our tender talk
we’ll lie to each other;
for there never were
than those of
he’ll come for us and we will run
I am Burcu Köleli. I am from Turkey and I currently live in Tacoma Washington.
I am working as a multidisciplinary designer and artist. I work with both traditional and digital mediums.
I am a passionate intersectional environmentalist and feminist. I care deeply about our planet, our society, and mental health. I aspire to use my work to communicate social and environmental issues whilst spreading joy.
My art aims to be as inclusive as possible. By using bold, vibrant, and empowering body-positive woman figures; I defy and challenge what society expects of women’s bodies and sexuality. I include elements from nature in my compositions to underline the connection we have with nature.
ENTERTAINMENT SNIPPET: 5 FILMS & SHOWS TO WATCH IN MAY
BY HARRY MEMBREY
Awards season 2020-2021 is now officially over. What has undoubtedly been the weirdest, often most deflated year for the entertainment sector in our lifetime is now behind us. April’s Oscars ceremony saw records broken, copious awards handed out, and elaborate speeches made.
But as it ushered out a turbulent year it also ushers in a new one, a year that could see normality find its footing once more. Aside from most of the Oscar-nominated films being made available now via streaming like Prime Video’s Judas and the Black Messiah and Sky’s Promising Young Woman, there’s plenty more stuff to see that doesn’t feel like it’s been part of the entertainment zeitgeist for a bit too long.
So with that in mind we can start looking towards the best of Spring, a rejuvenated bloom of movies and shows to get properly stuck into. So here are the 5 biggest and best movies and series being released in May that you definitely need to see.
NOMADLAND, 30TH APRIL: DISNEY +
It might not actually be released in May, but Nomadland has been on the radar for a long long time, officially taking home Best Picture at the Oscars and appearing on one of these lists before. It was the bookies’ Oscar favourite all year round, my prediction for the best movie releasing in 2021 and the bookies were dead on. Perhaps I could be too?
Nomadland stars Frances McDormand in a role that provided her with a whopping third Best Actress Academy Award. She plays a woman who loses everything in the Great Recession and so embarks on a vast journey across the American West to live as a nomad. It’s a film that won three Oscars and, therefore, is certainly worth seeing.
Apparently watching it is like receiving the perfect hug. That sounds like a movie worth seeing to me.
MONSTER, 7TH MAY: NETFLIX
As well as starring Westworld and James Bond’s Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson and BlackKklansman’s John David Washington, Monster tells the story of a seventeen-year-old film student whose world topples upside down when he’s charged with felony murder. This Sundance Film Festival selection follows his dramatic journey through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison.
At only 98 minutes long, Monster could well be a short and sweet exploration into the damaged morality within America’s judicial system. It’s certainly a prevalent subject right now and with such a talented and dignified cast behind a particularly luring premise it’s hard to ignore Monster as a serious post-Oscars stand-out.
LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS 24TH MAY: NETFLIX
It’s safe to say that the first series of Netflix’s Love, Death + Robots was easily one of the most unique and distinctive original shows it has ever offered. It’s an animated anthology series of 18 short, sharp animated episodes ranging from 6 to 17 minutes in a Black Mirror-esque vein.
Each episode offers a completely different visual style that always adds richness to the story being told. Often, they’re horrifying. They’re always something you’ve never seen before. Volume two promises another mix of episodes dealing with at least one of the titular themes. It’s officially been renewed for an 8-episode season 3, so it’s here to stay and definitely worth getting in on the weird, wonderful fun.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, 14TH MAY: NETFLIX
It’s another Netflix offering and I’m sorry to say that if you don’t have Netflix, the rest of this list will be a bit of a let down. But let’s face it, Netflix is a must-have right now.
The Woman in the Window is a psychological thriller adapted from the novel of the same name. It’s about Anna Fox (played by Arrival’s Amy Adams), a woman with agoraphobia, a fear of being in situations where escape or help wouldn't be available if things go wrong. Well, guess what. Things are gonna go wrong for Anna.
As she sits at her window comfortably watching the world go by she witnesses the neighbours do something unimaginable. The question slowly becomes; “what did she really see?”
ARMY OF THE DEAD, 21ST MAY: NETFLIX
No, Army of the Dead sadly isn’t a movie about The White Walkers. We’re finishing May off with a bit of fun. Zack Snyder, director of 300, 2021’s ‘The Snyder Cut’ and a few zombie movies like Dawn of the Dead is back making a genre mashup that looks like a pretty good laugh. It’s a heist movie, but it’s also a zombie movie.
The main character is played by Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista, a former zombie war hero approached by an ex-Vegas casino boss with the ultimate proposition: break into a zombie-infested Las Vegas to retrieve $200 million sitting in a vault before the city is nuked in 32 hours. What does he do? Like the ‘Oceans’ movies before it, he gets together a team of expert zombie hunters-cum-robbers to take the challenge head-on.
Sure this probably won’t be up for any Oscars in 2022, but it’ll be a dead-good time. There’s a zombie-tiger there too.
BY LYNDA COATZEE FROM @MISSLULUSKITCHENUK
After a busy day, the last thing you want is to stand and cook for ages - try my easy to make Noodle bowl, great for the whole family or those late study nights when you just want to fill up with a quick and easy, healthy meal in around 15 minutes!
Ingredients (feeds 4)
400g medium rice noodles
400g ready cooked chicken
250g cooked king prawns
light Soy Sauce
Teriyaki / BBQ sauce
1 large carrot
bunch of spring onions
1 bag of baby corn
handful of spinach
2 chicken stock cubes
3 Tbsp. oil
Salt & pepper
Let's get cooking
In a large bowl, place the dry rice noodles and cover with boiling water.
Crumble over the 2 stock cubes and allow to dissolve by stirring gently.
Cover and let stand till soft - about 10 minutes.
While waiting for the noodles to soften, add oil to a pan and on a medium heat, heat up your chicken (this may take a little longer if frozen).
Chop your baby corn into smaller pieces and add to the pan with the chicken, don't cook this too long as you want this to be crunchy. Sweetcorn can be used as a substitute here.
Season to taste with Teriyaki or BBQ sauce of your choice, salt, and pepper.
Dish noodles up into your bowl and spoon in some of the stock to keep it moist.
Top with the chicken and corn, king prawns and carrot shavings (just done with a peeler down the length of the carrot)
Sprinkle over some chopped coriander, spinach, and spring onion.
Drizzle over some light soy sauce and more teriyaki / BBQ sauce to taste.
Georgia Ezell (@geeezie) is an artist and illustrator, and full-time college student based in Massachusetts. Her work tends to fluctuate between print and digital media; psychedelic art and still-life scenes. She also works as the creative assistant at House of Roses N The Dark, a Brooklyn-based non-profit that promotes art as a healing treatment for mental illness. Georgia is entirely self-taught, and does freelance design work upon request.
39 FREMONT ST. 32226
BY SARAH LORRAINE
I still remember the heat of that day I stood outside Ronny’s house. No one had heard of him back then. 1970 and no one had heard of The Broken Logos either. Sure, they’d played in local bars and old school auditorium’s, but nothing compared to what the world saw of them by ‘72.
I pulled out the crumpled napkin with the address on. 39 Fremont St., 32226. Rows of white houses with the typically suburban, tan rooves were lined up in front of me.
The small rectangle of grass in front of No. 39 was a patchwork of brown, crunchy blades. Some areas of the lawn were longer than others and it was clear the guy who lived there didn’t care to ever mow it. The garbage can had been knocked over, balls of screwed up sheet music laid lamely in front of it. Brown beer bottles had rolled out into the grass, their labels were faded, and I couldn’t tell whether he’d been drinking Dixie or Jax. From the appearance of the house there should have been no doubt in my head that this home belonged to an emerging rock band and yet I found myself squinting at the napkin over and over again trying to decipher whether it was 39 or 89. The ink had leaked into the thin paper and I couldn’t be certain if any of it were accurate. A mosquito buzzed around my ear and the sun bore down on me like a great, harsh spotlight
Sweat bled from the back of my neck and my hair stuck to it in slick, brown curls. I shifted awkwardly, my moist feet squeaked and I almost let a squeak out myself.
I started to panic about the growing patch of sweat spreading under my arms, staining my white cotton tee. Why did I wear white? After tucking the napkin in my pocket, I rubbed my clammy hands down the front of my grey slacks. I spent more time fiddling with my appearance, setting my glasses straight, arranging my drum sticks in my back pocket in a way I hoped made me look nonchalant, before crossing the lawn and knocking on the tinny garage door.
It was no longer the audition that was making me nervous, but instead being surrounded in a garage by three strange men. At least the door was left open. The inside of the garage was stacked high with towers of cardboard boxes, dominating the edges of the room. Standing in the centre was a rusty looking drum set. One of the guys was sat leaning against the boxes, guitar in his lap, circling the rim of his beer bottle. He looked at me with a prickly glare that made me force my gaze down to my feet, which shifted awkwardly in my clumpy Buster Brown’s. There was another one sat on the stool of the drums, elbows on the knees of his widespread legs. He stared straight at me, although I couldn’t see his eyes behind his thick black sunglasses. I stepped into the garage.
The guy sat with the beer bottle looked up at me and said “Mike Stance. Ronny’s back there sat at the drums. Kirk’s that one.” Mike’s head jerked towards Kirk and I as he spoke, a storm of dandruff scattered down his back.
“So where’s Pat?” Kirk sneered, “You’re not telling us you’re Pat are you?”
“Look lady, we didn’t realise you were gonna be, you know, a woman.” Mike said.
“Sorry kid, I just don’t think you’d be the right fit.” Kirk said.
Their big-shot attitude irritated me, it wasn’t misplaced exactly, just premature. The Broken Logos weren’t big then, the locals knew of them, thought them strange and listened to bigger, mainstream sounds. Out of town, no one had heard of them. My glasses started to slide down my nose from the oil building up on my face. I pushed them back up and ran my hands through my hair, slicking it back off my forehead.
“Damn boys, it’s the 70s, now are you gonna let me play or not?” I surprised myself with my confidence. Although that didn’t stop a trickle of sweat wiggling down my forehead and resting in my brow, a burning reminder of my usual shyness. I pursed my lips and blew up hot air in an attempt to cool down my reddening face. Heck, they didn’t want me in this band but that didn’t stop me. These were just bums in a garage what did I care what they thought of me.
Ronny shrugged, beckoned me over and stepped off the stool.
I perched on the edge of the stool, nervous that my sweat would leak straight through my trousers and leave a mark on the torn brown leather. Nonchalant, huh? I pulled out my drum sticks and waited for Ronny’s ‘go ahead’ nod.
My sweaty hands fumbled with my drumsticks, before steadying themselves. I raised my arms, no longer caring about the patches under my shirt, and threw myself into a thick, propulsive rhythm. I kept my beat punchy, garnishing it with crashes of the symbals and hi-hat. My music burst through the smoke and the heat and bounced down the street. The snare drum shook as my wooden sticks danced upon the head. My tongue fell out the side of my mouth as my wrists flicked quicker and quicker until I lifted them up and smashed down on the symbal with mighty attack. Stretching out my neck, I raised my head until I was staring at the ceiling. I felt like a bald eagle stretching out my wings in front of the sun and casting a grand shadow below. My wrists were beginning to ache and my ears were pounding but I carried on drumming, hitting the snare once again, building excitement in a grand crescendo. I drummed so hard, I thought my drumstick would burst straight through synthetic calfskin and steam would pour out of my ears and nostrils. But I kept control right until the moment I finished that solo, panting and sweating like I’d been on a ten-mile run in the Florida heat. I looked up at the three band members of The Broken Logos, every single one of them was looking at me, in horror or awe I couldn’t tell.
Ronny’s gravelly voice spoke first, “You got an amp?”
“Sure, I’ve got an amp.” I replied, still panting.
Ronny smiled then tossed me a garage key.
We spent hours in that garage and boy, do I miss it. The old excitement, the feeling of rebellious crusading with Ronny’s down-tuned doom and gloom. None of the old hippy dippy shit my Mom made me listen to as a kid.
Every day after work I’d head to 39 Fremont St. The same routine until we made it big. I got off work at six, so I’d strap on my helmet and be out the door by six o’ three. The rubber tyres of my old, orange stingray spun along the sidewalk, through town, past the mailroom and up the hill. I rode through Madison Park just as the sun was beginning to retire. The sky was a glorious watercolour of ambers and pinks. I’d ride around the fountain twice, letting spits of water kick and cool my ankles. Just one of those things you do for luck, you know?
After rehearsals the boys all went to a bar. It was a while before they invited me. I remember the day they did, about six months after that audition. I remember first walking in with them and not being self-conscious of my face or frame. I think I glowed a little then, instead of blushed.
I never thought it strange to hang with the guys. Ronny and I had a friendship like no other I’d experienced before. We loved each other like siblings but goddamn the amount of times I could’ve clawed him. Always saying something to rile someone up, I said to him one day “Ronny, you’re not God. Let people be.”
“Look at the world, Pat, God does let people be.”
As the world discovered us, the boys discovered all kinds of things. I never blamed Ronny for what he pumped into his body. It’s not like drugs got him high, they just got him normal. He used smack to attain equilibrium and I knew that. I let the boys do what they did while I sat around drinking beer.
Sure, we got big, but I never let it get to my head; I never changed my look. I was the drummer, my job was to keep everything and everyone together, even when it got tough. We moved from low-scale gigs to crowds of hundreds. I moved from a garage to a stage. Back in that garage, they didn’t want me in this band. But that didn’t stop me.
LETTER ON AMERICA NO.4
BY EMMETT SULLIVAN
‘A Heartbeat Away’: Kamala Harris, Identity and the Role of the Vice-President
ETHNO-NATIONALISM AND THE UNITED STATES
Kamala Devi Harris achieved on 20 January 2021 something which Sarah Palin and Geraldine Ferraro were unable to. Although President Joe Biden seems to be rethinking his ‘one-term’ comment, Vice-President Harris may have a better chance to win the highest American political office during the 2020s than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. However, The Atlantic ran an article a month before the 2016 Presidential election under the title ‘Fear of a Female President,’ and the role of misogyny in Hillary Clinton’s defeat rumbles on. The fact that the gender and ethnicity of American politicians is still an issue in the twenty-first century should not surprise us. David Motadel commented that ‘[t]he United States was never immune to fascism’, given the essentially conservative nature of American society, linked to a greater propensity to criticise women in the media eye, both publicly and privately
There was very little comment on the fact that Kamala Harris completed a Juris Doctorate at UC Hastings, nor her time as the District Attorney of first San Francisco and then California, 2004-17, before becoming a Senator for California. There was even less reporting that both her parents, Shymala Gopalan and Donald Harris, completed their PhDs at UC Berkeley; with Shymala holding academic positions in Illinois, Wisconsin and Montreal; and Donald at Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and eventually Stanford. Kamala Harris’ professional ability and the exceptional academic standing she shared with her parents was less important than the fact that Donald came from Jamaica, Shymala from Madras, and Kamala … wasn’t male.
It is a quirk of history that in their eleventh year, both Shymala and Donald became ‘British’ as a consequence of the Labour Government’s 1948 British Nationality Act, as British Nationality was extended to 800 million people, including the recently independent India. If that seems merely a footnote to Kamala Harris’ journey, you do not have to go too far back to find claims that another high American official was ‘too British’ to hold high office: it was early in December 2008, a month after the General Election, that the U.S Supreme Court ruled that Barack Obama was not disqualified from becoming the forty-fourth President of the United States because of the British citizenship of his Kenyan-born father.
This is only marginally less ridiculous than the “Obama ‘birther’ Conspiracy,” which was pursued from 2011 by the man who ultimately replaced him in the White House. It was not just Barack Obama who was challenged as to whether he was ‘American enough’ to be U.S. President: Donald Trump raised the same question against his Republican presidential rival Ted Cruz – a man born in Calgary, a city in Alberta, Canada. This is a recuring theme in recent national popularism. Rhetoric from the right of the Republican party, and those further to the right, generating fear of ‘the other’, to gain support is a recuring tactic, reminiscent of Bismarck’s anti-Catholic Kultrukampf in Germany in the 1870s, with parallels to the questioning of John F Kennedy’s candidacy by Billy Graham and others in the 1960 Presidential Election because of his catholic faith.
This brings us to the ‘hyphenated American’ issue, and former President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1915 dictat that ‘[t]here is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.’ The objections by South Americans about the ubiquity of United States Citizens calling themselves ‘Americans’ aside, the ‘melting pot’ concept ended with immigration restrictions from World War I, and is now a hackneyed term.] President Biden has spoken of his Irish ancestry repeatedly: when asked for a ‘quick word’ while campaigning for the Presidency by the BBC’s Nick Bryant, their New York correspondent, Biden responded ‘The BBC? I’m Irish.”
Not for five generations however, and both of his Great-Great-Grandfathers. This makes him ‘Irish’ in American terms, and ‘Irish-American’ as a hyphenated American. It was the Reverend Jessie Jackson, as much as anyone, who encouraged the use of ‘African-American’ to replace ‘Black American’. However, there has been a retreat from this position, partly practically, as Caribbean immigration from the mid-1960s added further diversity to the United States population; and partly ideologically. No one ever describes the ‘WASP’ population of the United States as ‘European American’, so why is an entire continent used with ‘African American’? Tiger Woods wanted to be known as ‘Cablinasian’ reflecting his heritage from the African American, Indigenous American, Asian and Caucasian communities – with the last term being almost an anachronism. Many in the United States want to remove the hyphenation, and simply be known as ‘American’.
Which leaves us with how the media want to refer to Kamala Harris. This is where the real problem lies – the need to categorize in a United States setting, to set people apart, often with a patronising and tokenistic commentary implicit. With Kamala Harris, the answer may be simple: ‘Vice-President’ – Vice-President Kamala Harris - reversing the unhealthy trend of sub-division which some use to divide. As Robert Braid argues in ‘The Invention of Whiteness’, the concept of ‘white’ – and its corollary, ‘black’ – did not exist until the second half of the seventeenth century, when a questionable rationale had to be created to justify the enslavement of Africans. African American may take the implied racial slur out of ‘black’, but it still effectively references a benchmark of ‘white’, the most negative term still with us from the early modern period. No one has suggested a viable alternative to ‘American’, so we are stuck with that. Without taking any of the importance away from her appointment to the post, ‘American Vice-President Kamala Harris’ has a nice ring to it. Let’s hope the United States can find a way to stick to that.
It is not difficult to satirise the office of Vice-President, even without the efforts of Amando Iannucci’s VEEP(2012-19) and Adam McKay’s Vice (2018). Joshua Holzer largely dismisses the role to:
waiting around for the president to need a replacement, vice presidents are really obligated only to occasionally cast a tie-breaking vote [in the Senate]. This means that the great majority of the time, vice presidents have no real job to do.
Until at least 2023, Vice-President Harris does have an important role to play as a ‘tie-breaker’. With a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives, and a 50:50 balance between the Republicans on one side, and Democrats and Independents on the other, Harris’ casting vote frees up Biden’s legislative agenda from a Senate block.
However, the Vice-Presidency has been forever tainted by John Adams’ 1793 comment that it was ‘the most insignificant Office’ in a letter to his wife, while he was the holder of that post. Lyndon B Johnson also hated the role. Kennedy respected him, asking him to chair committees on equal opportunities and the Space Council, and Kennedy’s Secretary of State, Dear Rusk, said that Kennedy spoke of Lyndon Johnson with understanding and respect, although ‘some of his staff people used to throw barbs at the Vice President’. This animosity might be the origin of the folk law that Johnson drove up to the front of the White House every day, only to walk through the building to be collected at the rear.
There have been a number of candidates for America’s most embarrassing politicians amongst the ranks of Vice-Presidents. Dan Quayle (1989-1993) probably tops the list amongst the modern Vice-Presidents – Chris Lamb attributes this quip to Senator John Kerry, subsequently Obama’s second term Secretary of State: “The Secret Service is under orders that if President Bush is shot, they are to shoot Dan Quayle, too”. This was current at the time: British satire Spitting Image ran a skit along these lines when President George H W Bush was in Office. Of those who also distinguished themselves in the wrong way, Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice-President in 1973 – before Watergate – with allegations of corruption in office during his time in office in Baltimore and Maryland. This opened the door for Gerald Ford, who holds the distinction of being the only President of the United States not elected as President or Vice President.
Ford might be best described in office as ‘hapless,’ with Chevy Chase’s portrayal of Ford on Saturday Night Live in the mid-1970s effectively making Chase’s name, much as Tina Fey’s ‘Sarah Palin’ propelled a talented SNL alumnus into a national star. Neither Palin or Ford were Vice-President at the time they were skewered by SNL, but Biden’s fate that the hands of The Onion and its satirical writers also followed him through office, and out of it. Vice-President Joe Biden (2001-2009) became ‘Uncle Joe’ and ‘Diamond Joe’ Biden via Onion memes, a man who cleans his Trans Am ‘muscle car’ half-naked on his driveway, likes a beer, and gets into brawls. People magazine in the U.S. unintentionally portrayed Biden as almost a Ronald Reagan character from his Warner Bros. days: Obama as ‘President’; Biden as ‘Best Friend’. Although The Washington Post described Biden as a ‘most unusual – and effective’ Vice-President, the public ridicule did have an impact, but clearly not terminally so. Biden has survived the accusation of plagiarising a Neil Kinnock speech, which resulted in him dropping out of the 1988 Presidential race, two terms as Vice-President, and an election campaign against Donald Trump: there may be something to him after all.
Not everyone had a bad experience as Vice-President: Calvin Coolidge and Walter Mondale (who passed away, aged 93, while this Letter was being written) both had an active political role in the White House. The title of Shirley Anne Warshaw’s book largely sums up the arrangements in the White House 2001-2009: ‘The Co-Presidency of Bush and Cheney’, with the Vice-President having unprecedented authority in office, as effectively the Chief Operating Officer of the Bush43 Presidency. Joe Biden’s ‘one-term’ comment prompted some to conclude that the Biden-Harris term in office might be a ‘co-presidency’, with Reutersdescribing it as a ‘White House partnership’, with both sharing centre stage.
Further, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S Truman and Lindon B Johnson were all elevated to the Presidency at the death of the incumbent. Of these, Truman shows the potential of a Vice-President to become a great President. He was a compromise running mate for Roosevelt in 1944, as many are: selected to ‘balance the ticket’, and spread the appeal of the main candidate across the party. Truman was Vice-President for less than three months when Roosevelt died, and was then was presented with the single most difficult decision any American President has had to face in August 1945. As a Senator from 1934, Truman headed the Senate committee dealing with corruption and waste of Government funds in World War II; and did enquire about the extent of expenditure on a project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on a number of occasions, to be told that that expenditure was beyond his remit. It is possible that Truman learned of the Manhattan Project on ascending to the Presidency: he almost certainly was not briefed on the matter as Vice-President. His handling of the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War was rewarded by a landslide victory in 1948: if anyone grew into the role of President when in office, then it was Truman.
Therefore, on one hand, it is a post with very little direct power; and on the other hand, the Vice-President constitutionally is the next in line to the Presidency, and that helped Richard Nixon, George H W Bush and Joe Biden win elections in their own right. The key issue will be whether Vice-President Harris can establish her credentials as Biden’s ‘heir apparent’ during his presidency. Barack Obama was 51 when he won his second term; Hillary Clinton was 69 in 2016; and Joe Biden turned 78 in the month of his victorious Presidential election, making him the oldest U.S. President at the time of his first election. In 2024 Kamala Harris will be 60, and was named as a potential candidate for that election by The National Interest before her selection as Biden’s running mate in 2020. While America switches between an adoration for younger candidates and respect for older ones, the Democrats have not seen a next generation candidate breakthrough since Obama. That might be the current Vice-President in 2024; however, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be 39 in 2028. If Biden stays for two terms, it may be that the Democrats will have two credible candidates thereafter – Vice-President Kamala, and AOC.
Just let me lay my head on your chest and rest.
Let me hear your heart keep time
as we play that age old song of contented breath.
Let the violin strings of my hair quiver
as you draw the bow of your fingers through them.
And let my body shiver
as you play me pizzicato,
plucking every discordant feeling away.
Let me stay, let me stay, let me stay…
And let the bass notes of my perfume
chord with your subtle scent.
Let your hushed tone reverberate
in our concert hall and compliment
the clamour of my staccato sighs.
Let me rest
and let the rest
BY MARK MUNRO
April 30, 2021
I’m sure everyone feels it. Whether you’re doing a panic masters to stay in education and keep the blues at bay, starting out your journey as an adult, or struggling to come to terms with adult life, I feel you.
I’m not going to lie, I have been struggling. Seeing other people pop up on my feed with graduate jobs on LinkedIn or succeeding in life on Instagram, whilst mine is stagnating doesn't fill me with the most confidence. I am happy for everyone that is getting on with their lives, but in a way, I wish I didn't know it, as I wouldn't be comparing myself to other people's progression. So, this is for the people that haven't found that amazing graduate job, haven't moved to a new house and is still living with their parents, and are feeling low and a bit worthless. Because there isn't a time frame for growth. You don't have to become a millionaire by the age of 24. My personal experience during the most recent lockdowns have been exhausting and mentally draining. Constantly feeling guilty for not capitalising every minute of every day, doing something that I feel is productive and 'worth' something. You know what, I'll get there, in my own time. I will accomplish these great things but you got to focus on the little steps before the big picture. Yes, having that initial plan is great in order to work out what steps you can take to get to that dream job, but employers expect young people to have it all worked out, with step-by-step examples of how you’re achieving goals, being productive and ‘something to show for your time’, especially in the pandemic. Well, I’m here to tell you that announcement culture has been grinding down young people’s mental health, consistently having to showcase what they’ve been doing. This can apply for Instagram but this toxicity has spread to the professional network too.
I know that I haven’t truly started my career yet, but I’m a firm believer in do what you want to do, not because it looks good, or because employers want to see it, but because you enjoy it. Who cares whether you try something new, or you’ve never done before? You don’t have to specialise in one aspect of life, just because people tell you it’s the right thing to do!
I am so tired of being told what I should be doing in order to make a start on my career, and how I should plan and strategically work out steps to get to where I want to be. It all physically feels like you’re holding your breath. It’s okay to take a breather. Because we aren’t machines or robots, we naturally have curiosity and it is in our nature to follow it. During this pandemic I have been so hard on myself to keep on top of things and feel like I have to produce something to show for when the pandemic ends. It has become overwhelming and has stressed me out to the extent I can’t even begin to start on the things I need to get done.
All I’m saying is take it easy on yourself. You don’t have to run a marathon straight away; you can start with a walk. If it wasn’t a pandemic, you’d probably be on the right track and okay with where your progression is. The pandemic has just allowed a lot of spare time for a lot of overthinking. I know I would be absolutely fine with working and then saving up to travel, whereas now, I’m second guessing all my decisions, whether it’s enough, should I be doing more for my CV? How can I better plan my life? The list goes on. Truth is, you can’t sometimes. Even the most prepared and astute individuals could have a curveball thrown at them at any time.
So, that being said, for the recent graduates out there that haven’t gotten their life together just yet, you’re not alone. And you don’t need to stress, just take it one day as it comes. Make mini tasks to tick off your list, and they do not need to be things others would view as ‘productive’. It could be giving that mate you haven’t spoken to in a while a call, or going outside to get some fresh air, or even a going on a run (you don’t need to post this on Strava though). It’s a pandemic, people stress out in normal times after they graduate uni. We’ve got it double as bad. Just because you see other people showcasing their achievements doesn’t mean they’re not struggling too.
It’s spring, things are reopening, enjoy the little things and create mini goals to get you feeling better about yourself. And remember, there’s a lot of social pressure around in the world, you don’t need to give yourself more. Those little things you’re doing now may even become something bigger in the future. Keep your head up.
LAVENDER LINES DESIGN
My name is Julia and I run LavenderLines! I started painting again in the first lockdown here in the UK as me and my close friends challenged ourselves to do a painting a day. This kick started me back into being creative and I loved it. Getting my iPad was the start of LavenderLines and being able to create art without having to tidy up after yourself is the best! I have been on and off furlough this whole year which admittedly has been difficult however I have found my design an escape and something to keep me productive. I like to keep my art light and cheery during this time we are all going through and hopefully they put a smile on some people’s faces. I get my inspiration from literally everywhere and anything, however disco music is a big influence. I love the community here on Instagram, everyone is so supportive and I love surrounding myself with empowering art/ artists. My Etsy shop is still in its infancy however this is something I’m looking to expand in the next few months!
INTERVIEW WITH NETT
BY DEVON HARVEY
April 30, 2021
What were your inspirations behind creating your product the NETT exfoliator?
"The NETT is a product that has existed in Ghana for generations, my mother and grandmother both used it as children. My mum introduced it to my sisters and I when we were kids. I only introduced it to the UK & Australia, haha, I wish I could take credit for creating it, but unfortunately not!"
On your website, you talk about how each NETT is sourced directly from market stall holders in Ghana, and therefore when supporting NETT, we support the local Ghanaian economy. Could you please elaborate on this a bit more?
"Absolutely, so the NETT can be purchased direct from the wholesalers in Ghana, which would be a cheaper option, however, we purchase it from the market stall-holders to support them. We also do not negotiate any bulk order discounts, we simply pay market price to ensure that they are being paid fairly."
We also saw on your website that the NETT is a great sustainable option. Do you think it’s important for the future of the skincare and beauty industries, that products are made sustainable?
"Absolutely, there is nothing wrong with us looking after ourselves, but we must look after our planet in the process. The NETT is not a biodegradable product, however the fact of the matter is that, like our pursuit to find ways to minimise clothes in landfill, ie. buying better and therefore buying less or purchasing second-hand or clothes swapping with friends etc. the NETT is a new way to exfoliate, a way of ensuring that we are using less bathroom/beauty products for longer periods of time.
"The NETT lasts 2+ years whereas its counterparts (exfoliating gloves and mitts, body brushes, shower poufs all last about 3-6 months if you are lucky!), not only do they have a minimum lifespan, they are also generally unhygienic, you can wash your NETT with your towels every month to keep it FRESH as a daisy – which is good considering you are using it on your skin!"
The range of colours of your NETT’s are amazing, do you have a favourite colour?
"I only wear black clothes, so for me black is the favourite, followed very closely by the red wine colour (because of my love for wine, haha), however the blue is the classic colour, so that is a close favourite as well. I JUST LOVE THEM ALL!"
Have the various lockdowns and the pandemic overall affected your business in any way?
"Absolutely, on the 7th of June we got an article in the Sunday Times Style Magazine by the brilliant India Knight and it launched us super fast (a PR dream), I have never kept large amounts of NETT because it hasn’t been necessary and as a small business, I couldn’t really afford to spend such a huge amount on stock, however once this article went out, people went crazy for the NETT and I had to do a huge order from Ghana, what was meant to take 5 days to arrive took almost 6 weeks! OMG – I have never slept so little in my life (the stress levels where HIGH) haha!"
Finally, for anyone looking to start their own business, do you have any words of wisdom for them?
"I always give the same advice; there is no such thing as perfection, nothing is perfect or ever will be perfect, so if you are waiting for that “perfect time” to start, then you will never start, so just take the plunge.
"Secondly, don’t think that everything has to be, again, “perfect” to begin. You can update your website, logo, images, packaging, everything as you make more money.
"Start with what you have (scarcity is an excellent breeding ground for creativity – you wouldn’t believe what you are capable of doing on a budget) and work towards excellence always. Instead of asking yourself if it is perfect and therefore ready to present to the world, ask yourself if it is excellent (your best, for this time – you will get better and better, so for now, is this your best?) present that to the world."
NORTHERN RAINBOW ART
I’m Anna, a 19 year old LGBTQ+ artist from Manchester (hence the name!) I love creating art that makes people happy and spreads a little bit of joy, especially in these times! I’ve just opened my etsy and I can’t wait to start getting my art to more lovely people!
NATIONAL PET MONTH
BY KIM JOHNSON
April 30, 2021
April is recognised as being National Pet Month. It should come as no surprise that the UK - a nation of animal lovers – has such a month. In fact, 59% of UK households have at least one pet, with dogs coming out on top as the most popular pet to own.
Why own a pet?
While our furry, scaly and feathered friends undoubtedly bring comfort and companionship, there are many more benefits to owning a pet.
1. Physical health
There has been a huge amount of research which shows that pet ownership is good for both our physical and mental health. Scientists have discovered that owning a pet can reduce our cholesterol and blood pressure. A pet such as a dog which requires exercise, will also help to increase overall fitness levels.
2. Mental health
For those who struggle with their mental health or feelings of loneliness, a pet can drastically improve their outlook on life. Studies have shown that animals can reduce the symptoms of depression and that the companionship provided by pets will help to improve feelings of loneliness and isolation.
When a family gets a pet, it is often because the children have been asking for one. Parents may think that they are just doing it to make their children happy, but having pets within the home can be incredibly beneficial for the emotional development of a child. Skills such as empathy, compassion and understanding body language can be improved through the bond of a child and their pet.
Recent research has shown that exposure to allergens from a young age can actually reduce the chance of an individual developing an allergy. However, if you are already allergic to dogs or cats, owning one won’t suddenly cure you.
My work is a mish-mash of cute and sarcastic creatures, people and plants. I use colours inspired by fashion, or the mood of myself and the little characters I create. I like to think that the subjects of my illustrations are part of much bigger worlds, full of oddities. It’s really just about having fun, making people smile and not taking myself too seriously.
THREE’S A CROWD AFTER ALL: WHAT WILL BECOME OF MIGOS?
BY ELIOT K. RAMAN JONES
April 30, 2021
If you’ve listened to a rap song in the last ten years, you will have heard of Migos. Founded in 2008, the rappers Quavo, Offset and Takeoff have had a profound influence on hip-hop music and culture, from their popularisation of the so-called “triplet flow” style of rapping, their use of ad-libs, and their stated invention of the “dab” dance move. They’ve had four songs break into the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 between 2016 and 2018, three albums including two that hit number one, and they’ve all produced solo albums that have varied in quality from the genuinely excellent, (Offset and Metro Boomin’s Without Warning) to the bloated and lacklustre, (Quavo’s QUAVO HUNCHO). It’s not an overstatement to say that In the late 2010’s Migos reigned supreme in the world of rap groups. Their huge mainstream success, bolstered by frequent appearances either individually or as a group on other artists’ material made them ubiquitous, and their fame and digital presence compensated for their tough come-up and increasingly vacuous and low-effort materialistic songs, which allowed them into the homes of suburban America, guesting on talk shows with James Corden and being parodied on Saturday Night Live. In just under a decade, Migos had gone from a small Atlanta family rap group (Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle and Offset’s cousin) to the glitz and glamour of global fame.
What makes this more impressive is their continued longevity as a trio. There are countless solo artists in pop and hip-hop at the moment, and as I’ve covered previously for Snippets, hip-hop duos are numerous too, but a trio represents a unique dynamic from the outset that is hard to square with traditional hip-hop culture. A trio is one person short from a traditional “rock band”, wherein each member has a specific role, for example, vocalist, lead guitar, bass guitar, drums. For an all-vocalist group such as Migos, while everyone is rapping, there needs to be a similar distribution of skills, as everyone can’t do the hook, or the lead verse, or the ad-lib at the same time. Migos aren’t a close-harmony choir either, so the distribution needs to be verse-by-verse or trading individual bars. Migos, and manager Coach K, have managed to carefully walk this tightrope by making Quavo the frontman and proceeding down the group in terms of seniority, therein giving the least responsibility to Takeoff, the youngest. For fans of Migos, as well as casual listeners, the distribution of labour when all is perhaps unfairly described as “Quavo does the hook, Offset does the verses, and Takeoff does the ad-libs”, and each member does their verses in that order. Aside from actual dynamics, another difficulty in a trio, especially in a genre that values individual success as much as hip-hop, is how to attempt to give each member of the group equal amounts of exposure and fame. Quavo’s prolific guest appearances on other artists’ hit songs, such as Pop Smoke’s Shake the Room, as well as DJ Khaled’s summer anthems (and very similar ones at that) I’m the One and No Brainer have afforded the Migos frontman a level of fame a class apart from the other members of his group. In a similar vein, Offset’s Without Warning collaboration with 21 Savage and Metro Boomin was critically acclaimed, and his highly publicised personal life and tempestuous relationship with rap megastar Cardi B has also made him the second Migos member to become particularly well-known in the hip-hop community. So, lacking both the influential friends of his uncle and the fiery personal life of his first cousin, Takeoff became the most unappreciated and least famous member of Migos, in the first instance of a misstep in the otherwise airtight power dynamic of the group.
As you can imagine, this reputation has been hard for Takeoff to deal with, and while he has tried to break out of the mold of being “the least popular Migo who just does the ad-libs” with an album of his own and several inspired verses (I particularly think he outshines the whole group on Culture’s T-Shirt), the generalisation has seeped into music’s collective consciousness, both in hip-hop and wider pop culture. Takeoff, as well as the rest of the Migos, was parodied in the Saturday Night Live sketch “Friendos”. In the sketch, the Friendos rap about traditional Migos-esque materialism, interspersed with scenes of the trio attending group therapy to resolve their skewed power dynamic. Kenan Thompson’s version of Takeoff, who contributes to the prior discussion by echoing certain words the other characters say in the style of a Migos ad-lib, says when asked to speak “Nobody cares what I think. I just do the ad-libs.” Although it’s played for laughs, the skit does a good job at hinting at the alleged murmurings of internal conflict that have come out of the Migos camp over their 13-year-career. The most famous Migos song, and their biggest hit, Bad and Boujee, does not feature a verse from Takeoff, who claimed he was busy at the time, though he can be seen in the background in the music video. Takeoff’s obvious annoyance that the song he did not appear on, despite it being credited to Migos as a whole, became the group’s biggest hit is understandable, and he showed just how much he disliked the topic when interviewed on Joe Budden’s Everyday Struggle show with the rest of his group on June 24th 2017. After being asked how he felt being “left off” of Bad and Boujee, Takeoff and Budden almost came to blows and the show was cut early. In any case, Takeoff looks to be the odd Migo out for a while longer. Quavo’s breakup with rapper Saweetie and foray into acting, as well as his continued guest appearances on big songs have maintained his frontman fame, and Offset has become a mainstay on tabloid headlines as his complicated relationship drama with Cardi B continues into a new decade. With no solo or Migos album since 2018, Takeoff has so far failed to move the needle on his status within the group, and whether or not he can outgrow that position will be dependent on the success of Migos’ upcoming project Culture III.
To move back to the wider group, Migos are undoubtedly going through a dry patch at the moment. Their seemingly eternally-delayed follow up to Culture II, has been delayed once more because of the coronavirus pandemic. As Quavo put it elegantly in an interview with Complex, “Dropping music and all that, it’s at a standstill right now with us because we need to go out there and touch the people to push our albums to make our music work,” but it could be argued they had been unable to touch the people with their music even before the pandemic. Listening to Culture II in its entirety is the same length as watching Disney’s Ratatouille, and if you were looking for almost two hours of non-stop, all-killer-no-filler entertainment, you’d pick the movie about the chef and the rat, every time. Culture III, or whatever name it will go by when it does eventually come out, will need to be tightly curated, and not just to avoid unfavourable comparisons with children’s movies. In a genre so fixated with getting regular projects from artists, and using those projects to determine their relevancy, if Migos’ next project shares the failings of its predecessor, Quavo, Offset and Takeoff risk having their legacy tarnished for the final time.