Good Clothing Company

A new initiative by Kathryn Hilderbrand aims to shake up the fashion industry by altering supply chains. Currently, it can be very difficult for new entrants into the industry to get a small run of designs done, and even more so to find a supplier who they can trust and has decent ethical credentials.

Good Clothing Company aims to provide independent designers with a one-stop shop in Massachusetts where they can get small runs of their products made by Kathryn and her team.

Behind this objective is a strong set of principles. These include supporting and bolstering the Made in the USA movement, and therefore avoiding shady ethical and labour practices which are commonplace in many factories in developing countries. Additionally, Good Clothing Company will be operating using sustainable and green production methods. Finally, a key driver is the desire to support independent designers and combat the corporations that have cornered much of the fashion market.

 Kathryn Hilderbrand in the Good Clothing Company HQ

Kathryn Hilderbrand in the Good Clothing Company HQ

An initiative such as this one would truly help free the fashion market up, offering opportunities to entrepreneurs and small companies to get their products made efficiently and to a high standard, and thus consumers will see a wider range of clothing that is made in an ethical and sustainable way. When it comes to fashion, both mainstream consumer attitudes and supplier practices need to change, but it may be easier in many ways to alter supplier practices and hope that consumer attitudes follow.

Good Clothing Company is almost ready to get going. They are currently working with three industrial machines, a large work/cutting table, racks and shelves, tailoring tools, and have their office furniture, but still need to raise additional funds for six more industrial sewing machines and so that they can hire four more stitchers. They're also looking to purchase an industrial cutter to speed up the production process, which will therefore bring the cost down for clients and new designers.

If you'd like to support this ethical supply initiative, they're running a campaign over the next month on Indiegogo.

You can also find out more from this Vimeo clip.


Serial Podcast Review

How does one even begin to explain Serial? You know that feeling you get when you’re trying to explain a magnificent sprawling epic of a book to a friend? Or perhaps a film riddled with plot twists and double-sided characters? So that when you start attempting to explain the concept it all just sounds like a jumbled mess, but you cannot stress enough that it just has to be experienced? That’s kind of like Serial, the latest podcast phenomenon from the creators of This American Life.

 The alleged perpetrator, Adnan Syed (Credit: Serial Podcast)

The alleged perpetrator, Adnan Syed (Credit: Serial Podcast)

I’ll have a bash at explaining it anyway. Serial follows host Sarah Koenig’s excavation of a 15 year old cold case in Baltimore County. The case is that of a murder of a 17 year old student, Hae Min Lee, and the convicted Adnan Syed. Adnan has been in prison since the early 2000s. A large part of the reasoning for this was a witness account provided by Adnan’s supposed accessory to the crime, Jay. Adnan himself, and many many people who knew him continue to this day to proclaim his innocence.

The 12 episode series follows the developments of the story as Sarah Koenig works through it, piece-by-piece. No stone is left unturned, as the case shifts between objective and empirical evidence about the plausibility of the murder itself, to the subjective and opinion-led scrutiny of the key constituents in the story. All of this comes with the overwhelming caveat that the case is being re-examined 15 years later, and many of the witnesses and people who lived within the community have gone from being young high school students to adults in that time.

That’s all I’ll say about the narrative of this case, as the more depth I go into, the more twists will be spoiled. There are a few things that make Serial an outstanding achievement though; a few running themes which elevate it from a real life ‘who-dunnit’ to a masterful dissection of American living.

Firstly, in terms of personalities, there are few absolutes. Nearly every witness comes across as somewhat confused about the crime. Everyone has done good and bad things. It is difficult to trust anyone. People who you feel you can put full faith in commonly do a 180 just minutes later. This is most apparent with Adnan, the supposed perpetrator, and his chief prosecuting witness, Jay. Throughout Serial’s journey you will find yourself consistently questioning both of them. We know that one of them is lying right from the get go, but Serial will sway your conviction on who is doing so multiple times throughout.

In part, this comes down to its second profound theme: memory. As mentioned, 15 years have passed since the murder. For every character, certain events stick in their mind, others have vanished. And for those that have stuck, how have they altered? How has context swayed and affected their judgement? Serial demonstrates the fragility of memory, even among events that one would think they’d never forget.

Finally, the legal system of the United States. Serial is a damning portrayal of this system, and its role in general society. This isn’t a conspiracy theory-esque exposé of corruption, but an examination of how the legal system actually works (or at times, doesn’t); it’s a flawed behemoth that can target and destroy people because... well, because. This is not a spoiler, and it is not claiming that the legal system failed as such, just that there are proceedings in this case and any case that, once understood, should shock and outrage most people. Serial brings these to light in the context of this narrative, and makes you question exactly what we mean by the term ‘justice’.

Besides these themes, Serial has achieved greatness in another sense. Rarely have I seen any series, much less a podcast series, lead to the development of such a massive, intelligent and enthused community. Google Trends shows an explosion of interest in the topic since its inception a little over 12 weeks ago. News articles are rife, and full of examination and analysis of the story. The subreddit for Serial has grown rapidly in a matter of weeks, and is home to perhaps the most interesting speculation and uncovering of the case outside of the show itself. This has reinvigorated podcasts as a medium, and indeed has inspired entire legions of people who don’t even touch podcasts to begin listening to them more frequently. For that alone, it deserves some applause.

 Hae Min Lee, the victim (Credit: abc2 News)

Hae Min Lee, the victim (Credit: abc2 News)

Before closing, it’s important to reiterate that this is a real case. Hae Min Lee really died back in 1999. Sometimes it’s easy to forget this, and treat it as though it is merely a story. Indeed, by reviewing the podcast you could say that I’m doing exactly that. But I’d like to pay my respects to Hae Min Lee here. I mentioned the series' lack of absolutes – one person who is absolute is Hae herself, the innocent victim of this crime, and in these community discussions she is often sidelined for discussions on who did it and the plausibility of witness narratives. Currently, people are trying to raise money for a scholarship fund in Hae Min Lee’s name. It's a worthy cause and deserves our support.

In essence, Serial is a groundbreaking achievement. It’s with no hyperbole that I say that it’s one of the finest podcasts to have ever been made, from its structure, to the analysis of the case itself, to the community of would-be detectives it has inspired. Quite simply, you must listen to it, and form your own judgements on topics ranging from the case itself to the macrocosmic issue of America’s legal system - perhaps the real criminal at the heart of this crime.

Score: 4.8/5

iconic
 
 

You can listen to Serial at http://serialpodcast.org/

Homeless bodybuilder Jacques Sayagh

jacques sayagh.jpg

"Bodybuilders are futurists. They dare everything. It's a world that I like." - Jacques Sayagh

Jacques is 50 years old. He's homeless on the streets of Paris. And he competes in bodybuilding competitions.

The amazing video that surfaced a few days ago shows Jacques' day to day life on the streets of Paris. With his pet dog and pan full of loose change, he initially looks just like any other homeless person on the streets of any capital city in the world. It's only when you look closely that you see things are different.

Alongside what few items Jacques owns are a handful of calisthenics apparatus. Resistance bands for arm workouts, push up handles to work on his chest, and belts suspended from a nearby lamppost allowing him to do pull ups and leg raises.

Next to his pan and his dog's kibble are a handful of supplements, including some protein powder and some creatine, along with a protein shaker.

Jacques reveals his physique, which is not dissimilar from many of the pros you'd see on stage at a bodybuilding competition. He packs a lot of muscle and is absolutely shredded. He can barely pinch the stomach fat from his abs.

Onlookers walk by, amazed by Jacques effort and physique. Children run up to squeeze his biceps, and adults stop by to congratulate him. After all, it isn't common to see a homeless person training, let alone reaching the levels of physical prowess that Jacques has.

He speaks of his past. A history riddled with drug abuse, drink, prostitutes, run ins with knife-wielding thieves. The kind of seedy underbelly of Paris visible in films such as La Haine or French crime series Spiral. Yet Jacques speaks of his spirit, and how it's stronger than that.

Yet it's neither himself, nor the streets that drive him to do what he does. 

"I have grandchildren. I don't want them to think that their grandfather is an asshole. I want them to be proud of me. That's all that I want." And to that end, we think Jacques succeeds.

Jacques Sayagh - SDF Bodybuilder à Paris (Homeless Bodybuilder in Paris)

David Haye's vegan protein review

David Haye and Love Health Supplements kindly set us a batch of his new vegan protein to trial, so here's the True Icon take on it. 

 Choices, choices

Choices, choices

As we've already covered previously, David recently made the shift to a vegan diet on an ethical basis. In his transition he began marketing some vegan, plant-based protein powders. These are available from his Hayemaker Store.

The details

The shakes come in two different flavours - mint chocolate chip and rich chocolate. They are a blend of yellow pea protein, brown rice protein, and quinoa protein. In addition, the blend includes BCAAs, green tea extract, digestive enzymes, and Himalayan rock salt (which helps to combat muscular cramp). The sweetness comes from stevia too, as opposed to the ubiquitous unnatural sweeteners I've seen included in other powders.

From this alone, I think you can see the level of effort that has gone into preparing this product. This is a far cry from the vegan standard of murky, unmixable, and unsavoury pea protein powders which are available elsewhere. Everything that has gone into the Hayemaker's protein powder is designed to maximise your athletic performance.

Perhaps most interesting is the protein blend itself though. Pea and rice? Yep, had it before. But the quinoa protein is a very welcome addition. Quinoa is a complete protein source, but is shamefully underused in plant-based powders. Also, you won't find any soy here either. Whilst the jury's out on soy (and I for one eat a lot of the stuff), this blend avoids it and thus avoids any controversy.

The taste

 I call this one the 'serious and sweaty' pose

I call this one the 'serious and sweaty' pose

We got the opportunity to try both the mint choc chip and rich chocolate flavours of the shakes, and rest assured they're both awesome.

I tried mint choc chip first. For this, I mixed it straight with almond milk. Mint choc chip is always a less versatile flavour in my opinion, and I tend to prefer it without anything else mixed into the shake. The mint flavour can sometimes clash a bit with any fruit I throw in, but in hindsight a few fruits such as apples may have worked well.

Nevertheless, the mint choc chip flavour was great on its own. It was very rich and relatively creamy for a non-dairy shake. It had some earthy undertones, which were most likely a result of the quinoa. The Himalayan rock salt gave it a slightly salty taste which added to the overall flavour. It was a great shake though, and whilst I don't tend to go in for mint choc chip flavours myself I could see myself making a protein hot chocolate with this powder.

With the rich chocolate flavour I tasted a little on its own and mixed the rest with a few bananas and quinoa flakes in a smoothie. On its own the rich chocolate was very palatable, and I could have been convinced it wasn't even a protein powder but a dessert drink. It was even better in the smoothie though. The sweetness of the bananas and the touch of saltiness from the Himalayan rock salt were an incredible combo. The result was a thick, smooth, caramel-like taste.

Effectiveness

Honestly, from just two shakes, it's impossible to tell really. What I can say is that neither shake left me feeling bloated, and both actually felt energising which is a quality that's quite rare in a shake. As such, these would make great pre-workout supplements as well as post-workout. Based on the ingredients I'd trust that this would be a very effective shake to use in the long run in conjunction with a solid workout routine though.

Verdict

All in all, this is a fantastic product. At £39.99 for an 800g tub it's on the pricey side. But you are paying a premium price for a premium protein powder. This product isn't about fancy flavours (although it is delicious), nor is it about just a protein supplement. It's been formulated from the ground-up by David Haye and the team at Love Health to be the gold standard in plant-based nutritional supplements for vegan athletes, and to this end it succeeds.

You can buy David Haye's vegan protein from the Hayemaker online store.

  Tasty tasty brotein

Tasty tasty brotein

 

What is butt wink and how to stop it

Butt wink

What is butt wink then? I imagine the images it conjures up in your mind aren't particularly pleasant. Before I learnt about what butt wink actually is, if someone had come up to me in a gym saying I had a 'butt wink' problem I would have assumed they were politely trying to tell me I'd soiled myself.

Luckily, butt wink ain't that. Instead, butt wink is a flaw in your squat movement. It's the point where you squat low enough that your butt then proceeds to roll under your hips. If I was being picky then I'd describe it as more of a butt nod, or perhaps a butt tip-of-the-hat, as there's not really a wink to be seen. But hey, butt wink is what it's been termed so butt wink is what we shall stick with.

This all comes down to flexibility. Yeah, that thing that you never want to do at the gym because, well, weights. Sadly, flexibility and injury prevention exercises go very overlooked, and the result can be quite detrimental. Speak to anyone who's ever torn a rotator cuff from total neglect of strengthening it up for injury prevention purposes, and they will beg you to do some work to correct imbalances and issues in your body.

What causes butt wink?

The chief cause of butt wink is nice and simple to understand, thankfully. It all comes down to hamstrings. Yep, hamstrings again. They crop up time and time again when it comes to flexibility, and can affect any lower body exercise going, from deadlifts and squats, to running and cycling. There's no reason not to be giving your hamstrings some love here and there, as it will benefit you in so many ways.

Most hamstring issues are caused by sitting for prolonged periods of time. We tend to sit back into a chair, with our knees bent, meaning our hamstrings can happily relax and, over time, get shorter.

Should I really worry about butt wink?

Yes and no. It's a minor issue initially, and won't cause you a lot of grief, until you start getting serious about your squats. As you work up and up the weights, there's going to come a point when your back is going to suffer if you don't remedy your winky butt. It's better to start now, and avoid getting into trouble at a later point.

How to prevent butt wink

This is nice and simple, thankfully. It's good ol' stretches. As mentioned, sitting all day causes our hamstrings to shorten, and that in turn causes butt wink. Everyone's done that simple stretch where you stand up, and bend down to touch your toes, right? Well, that's the trick, except make sure you're doing it right.

 The left shot is a typically static hamstring stretch done wrong. I'm folding forward, with little effort to keep the top of the hamstring (the butt) in a stable position. On the right, the butt goes out first to ensure tension at the top of the hamstring is maximised.

The left shot is a typically static hamstring stretch done wrong. I'm folding forward, with little effort to keep the top of the hamstring (the butt) in a stable position. On the right, the butt goes out first to ensure tension at the top of the hamstring is maximised.

To do it correctly you need to ensure you're starting by standing up tall. Instead of folding forward and touching your toes, focus on pushing your butt out. As you do so, allow your upper body to shift forward, maintaining a straight back. This ensures you're in an anterior pelvic tilt position. I can almost guarantee that you won't get nearly as far down into the stretch as you normally do before your hamstrings give in. This goes to demonstrate just how short they are. Holding this static stretch for approximately 30 seconds at a time will see you going gradually lower over several weeks into the position. Resist any temptation to cheat, and keep your back straight, but most importantly, keep your butt out - this is what will lengthen the hamstring. Keep practicing, and soon you can say goodbye to the butt wink.

Hamstring stretch video

Up-shirt by Upmade

Up-shirt is an ethical tshirt initiative by Upmade. The shirts are made with textile waste from the large-scale company Beximco, who produce over 15 million garments per year. 

By taking those waste products, the team at Upmade, headed by Reet Aus, are able to create a shirt at a minimal cost to the environment.

The project is an interesting one, as it actually relies on fast-fashion to exist - it just recognises that there is an issue with the inordinate amounts of waste created by fast-fashion factories and suppliers. By taking the waste into their own hands, they are creating brand new shirts by simply altering stitching patterns of the typical tshirt.

Instead of growing and creating new cotton, by relying on waste products from garment factories the water usage of the shirts is kept to a minimum. In addition, energy used in creating the shirts and the CO2 produced is minimal too. In fact, some of the Up-Shirt designs use up to 93% less energy, and produce 89% less carbon than that of your typical tshirt.

 Men's design m103, highlighting some of the Up-shirt's environmental benefits

Men's design m103, highlighting some of the Up-shirt's environmental benefits

 And women's design w104

And women's design w104

Reet Aus has plenty of experience in sustainable and ethical fashion, as she has been producing upcycled collections for years. She has also completed a PhD in sustainable fashion design, which first linked her to Beximco and the idea for the Up-Shirt started to gain shape.

Whilst the Up-Shirt seems like a simple and novel way of using mass-produced waste, what I also see is a team that's wanting to change the practices of the fast-fashion industry. A much bigger goal, but with the mountains of waste products created during garment creation, it is certainly a noble one.


David Haye is vegan

UK boxing heavyweight legend, David Haye, has announced that he went vegan at the start of 2014. 

 David Haye claims he will 'never go back' to eating animal products for ethical reasons.

David Haye claims he will 'never go back' to eating animal products for ethical reasons.

In an interview with The Independent, The Hayemaker mentioned that he 'watched a TV documentary about how animals are farmed, killed and prepared for us to eat'. 

It's great to see him coming to veganism from an ethical approach, but he is also ensuring he maintains a diet that allows him to continue to fight. He states 'I saw all those cows and pigs and realised I couldn't be a part of it any more. It was horrible. I did some research to make sure I could still obtain enough protein to fight and, once satisfied that I could, I stopped. I'll never go back.'

Having been vegan for 6 months now, David has also released a range of vegan proteins - an industry that needs all the support it can get. It's great to see a big player enter the market, and the products look fantastic. Mint Chocolate Chip and Rich Chocolate are the two products available. The nutritional profile is unique and consists of a blend of yellow pea protein, raw brown rice protein, and quinoa protein. This provides a large amino acid profile, and beneficial micronutrients. It has numerous other benefits, including BCAAs, green tea extract, and digestive enzymes to ensure your body gets the most out of the product. Whilst £34.99 is a little on the pricey side for a 800g tub, it is a very high quality product. We'll be trying it out soon.

 For those that are as geeky as us about nutritional profiles, this is probably pretty exciting.

For those that are as geeky as us about nutritional profiles, this is probably pretty exciting.

With an impressive professional boxing career spanning over 10 years, with only 2 losses, David Haye is one of the most successful boxers to ever live. Packing one of the world's strongest punches earned him the nickname 'The Hayemaker', David collected title after title during his career including the WBA heavyweight title.

To add to his already impressive career, David was one of 2010's Sports Personalities of the Year alongside the likes of Jessica Ennis and Mark Cavendish. He also has a Doctor of Science degree from Anglia Ruskin University.

It's great to hear that another big sporting name has gone vegan. What's most exciting though is that David Haye is back in training with one main goal - 'I want to become world heavyweight champion again'. Could we see the first vegan WBA heavyweight champion in the coming years? Only David Haye can give us the answer to that question.

UPDATE: we now have a review for David Haye's vegan protein.

 

Catechisms of Capitalism

If you ask yourself which religion is the most subscribed to in Western society, answers will vary. Christianity is still at the top, with its various sects and divisions. However, other Abrahamic religions stand strong and are even growing - Islam primarily. Eastern religions are making their dent too. And you may even believe that perhaps atheism and agnosticism are the dominant beliefs.

However, religion can be defined as the following -

The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. A particular system of faith and worship. A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.

mammon

Under that definition, Capitalism stands tall as our Western religion, flawed or not is our devotion to it. Certainly, the latter part, 'a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion', seems more aptly applied to our economic system than any modern day religion.

Will Self makes this point brilliantly in a piece he did for A Point of View. He discusses the grooming of our political and financial elite through the Oxford University PPE course, and how that elite has become the 'priesthood' of our 'religion'. It's a great listen, as Will builds a synonymity between religion and economics, the somewhat dark overall point of which is lightened by his wit. Oh, and it's all wrapped up in 10 minutes.

Will's summary is concise and explicit, and does not need making again here. Nevertheless, I wanted to add something to this, so I thought it'd be fun to write some of the catechisms of this new religion.

Catechisms, for those that don't know, are a doctrinal Q&A, commonplace in Christianity and particularly Catholicism. Essentially, a question is posed by the clergy to which a scripted reply is given by the laity. It's an interesting institution, and perhaps the epitome of dogmatic behaviour in the Church. People should respond to the question without hesitation or thought. This is mirrored in our economic system by our blind following of it - something Karl Marx referred to as the 'dominant ideology'.

So, the Catechisms of Capitalism. Let the sermon begin...

What is Capitalism?

Capitalism is the perfection of economic systems. It hath stood the true test of time, and it hath emerged glorious. All people are subject to the will of capitalism. It rewards he who cares for himself above all others, and punishes those who choose not to tread its path.

What should be thy hope in life and death?

The accumulation of wealth to prove thyself to Capitalism. We can hope only to glorify the system and to be glorified within the system. Our duty is to be motivated by profit, and to feel not empathy for humanity.

What is profit?

Profit is the goal of Capitalism, and is our guiding force. All must strive for profit, for none matters as much as thy bottom line.

Praise be to Mammon.

Praise be to Him.

 Praise be to Mammon

Praise be to Mammon

What is the law of Capitalism?

I shall sacrifice myself entirely to Capitalism, before my loves and happiness. I shall not doubt the system, and if ever I do I shall satisfy myself by further material accumulation. All other systems have failed, no others can succeed. My hours are thine from nine to five, Monday to Friday. I exist to serve you and to strive for profit.

How shall our actions be decided under Capitalism?

Capitalism shall guide and shape our actions through two guiding hands: supply and demand. As loyal followers our demand shall be insatiable, and through that demand we show our devotion. Business shall supply, and consumers shall demand. Business giveth, and consumers taketh away.

Who has followed the law of Capitalism?

He who understands that life is about money and nothing more. Money must be gathered, no matter the cost. As the daughter, Thatcher, once said, “there is no such thing as community, only the individual.”

Thus, what is sin?

The sinner desires not material pleasures and investments, but derives pleasures from fulfilment of the mind. The sinner ignores the law of wealth creation, and desires learning. The sinner rejects individual success, and desires the growth of community. The sinner is guided by love for fellow beings, and not by love for money. They have failed at Capitalism's central tenet.

And what of idolatry?

He who believes in a system other than Capitalism and neo-liberal thought systems. From one who believes in the independent co-operative to provide instead of the financial corporation, to those who believe in a different way entirely such as the Socialist. Idolatry is not always sin, but the idoliser may also sin in their beliefs in anything but money and Capitalism.

How shall the sinner and idoliser be punished?

Capitalism will punish by not providing. He who does not question the system shall not be punished under it – create wealth for yourself and you shall never be poor. The misguided will not focus on material wealth, and thus will grow old in poverty.

When was the Second Coming of Capitalism?

The neo-liberal revolution in the West, beginning in the late 1970s.

Who led the Second Coming of Capitalism?

The son and daughter of Capitalism, Reagan and Thatcher.

Praise be to the son, Reagan, and the daughter, Thatcher.

Praise be to them.

Were Reagan and Thatcher gods?

They were mortals; prophets of Capitalism's word. They have birthed us into a new era where Capitalism is strong again, and Capitalism's greatest followers show their dedication. They are the 1%, and all should aim to prosper as they have.

And where are they now?

They lived and died for us; to show us the one true path.

And what happens in death?

mammon 3

The wise man will pass their wealth on to their sons and daughters, through the use of offshore bank accounts, but also spend much on a funeral to demonstrate, even in death, the power of one's wealth. The foolish man will allow their wealth to be taxed or even pass it on to charities and social causes.

Let us pray...

Our Money, which art in Natwest
Hallowed by thy savings
My kingdom come,
My will be done
Through supply and in demand
Give me today my daily bread,
And anything else I desire
Provided I have the means to pay
And keep me forever tempted,
But deliver me from evil
Unless it saves me money
And I will take out a third mortgage
Whilst still not caring for my neighbour
For mine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
Amen

Veleco Ethical Cycle Clothing Company

veleco

Cycling if often seen as an inherently ecological activity. As a method of transport, it is almost carbon-neutral with next-to-zero impact on the environment. Why is it not completely impact free, as is often touted by cycling enthusiasts and environmentalists alike? Primarily because impact from production methods still exist, which goes hand-in-hand with a negative human cost from the use of sweatshop labour.

Enter Veleco, a company looking to begin bridging the gap between minimal environmental harm to impact-free. Veleco are a cyclewear and clothing company based in Brighton, UK, and founded by cycling enthusiasts Jamie Lloyd and John Lewis. The pair had previously worked together on ethical sports venture, Fair Corp, and Veleco is the next logical step.

Jamie and John started the company on the grounds that they “couldn't find cyclewear anywhere in the world that [they] thought was truly eco and ethical.” Veleco now stocks a large range of t-shirts and hoodies, as well as more specialised cycling attire such as caps, cycling shorts, musette bags, and a cycling jacket. All of these items are made using Fairtrade-certified materials, or, where possible, recycled materials, and are carbon-neutral in their production. Workers are fairly paid, and premiums are paid on specific items which fund health, welfare, and education projects for workers and their families. All products are currently vegan-friendly as well.

Take the example of the Re:Cycle Softshell Cycling Jacket, a product that has all the high-quality design and features of large-scale competitive companies' jackets, yet is produced fairly, positively impacts the environment (it's made from twelve recycled plastic bottles), and looks stylish to boot. At £75, the product is competitively priced too.

The company also offers a range of accessories and extra products besides cyclewear, such as wallets created with recycled materials, and Nikwax, a waterproofer that's eco-friendly and animal-testing free.

With a new collection being developed shortly, the future is looking strong for Veleco. This could mean cycling could finally achieve its status as a truly zero-impact activity. Unless of course your name is Ed Orcutt, in which case I'm sorry for breathing whilst riding my bike...

Vegan bodybuilding team take on Naturally Fit Supershow

Plant Built are a team of vegan bodybuilding athletes based across the US who are aiming to take vegan bodybuilding into the mainstream.

The team started about a year ago, and is comprised of many big names in the vegan bodybuilding world, such as Ed Bauer, Torre Washington, and Derek Tresize to name but a few. The team recently got together for their first show of strength (har-har) by taking on the competitors at the Naturally Fit Super Show (as the name suggests, a steroid and drug-free competition) based in Austin, Texas.

This was their first 'Plant Built, assemble' moment as a group – the first time they had all got together to take on a joint challenge. What would have been cool is if they showed up at the event and gave vegan bodybuilding a presence. Instead, they did far better than this, with many of the team dominating their entry classes. In fact, of the seven divisions they entered, they came out on top in five of them. Ed Bauer and Chad Byers also placed 2nd and 3rd out of 24 competitors in the men's fitness model competition. Out of hundreds of competitors, 10 overall winners were chosen for the event – 4 of these were vegans.

This achievement is early days for the Plant Built team, but is definitely an exciting taster of what's to come, and is proof that vegan bodybuilding isn't an oxymoron. Keep an eye out on http://www.plantbuilt.com/ to see what the team's plan is for the future.

Tofu Satay

  Vegan Satay pieces

Vegan Satay pieces

 

 

Vegan but missing your peanut satay Chinese takeaway? Look no further. Tasty, easy and full of protein.

Preparation time: 5 minutes.

 

Ingredients:

Seitan Pieces

One Tablespoon of Peanut Butter

One teaspoon of your favourite chili sauce

Garlic powder to taste

Two tablespoons of soy sauce

 

Recipe:

Microwave the seitan pieces until they're warmed through in a bowl.

Add the peanut butter, chili sauce, garlic powder and soy sauce to the bowl and stir.

Microwave for a further 30 seconds/minute.

Put on kebab sticks and grill until brown.

Vegan breaks Pacific Crest Trail World Record

  The 2,650 mile trail takes on average 5 months to cross

The 2,650 mile trail takes on average 5 months to cross

 

Josh Garnett hiked 45 miles a day to break the Pacific Crest Trail record on an entirely vegan diet.

Three days into the trek Garnett collapsed of heatstroke in the Southern California San Felipe Hills. With over 2,500 miles left on his trail he began to have doubts that he could make the trip from Mexico to Canada in less than 60 days.

"I started shivering in the 100 degree heat. I took 24 hours off and really didn't think I could continue. Needless to say, I'm glad that I didn't stop."

Garnett completed the trail after 59 days, 8 hours and 59 minutes - the fastest time in the tail's history.

 

Modern Life Is War - Fever Hunting

Modern Life Is War
Fever Hunting
Deathwish Inc.

Modern Life Is War were one of the defining bands of my youth. My Love. My Way. still sends me back to the summers my friends and I spent going to every show we could, listening to every band we could. We didn’t know it then, but we were looking for answers, we were defining who we were and who we were to become. Dead Ramones was the soundtrack to more than one of my summers and each MLIW album became a part of my life as much as my friends and family. If I were to listen to their back catalogue with fresh ears, I’d just hear an above average hardcore band. But I listen with nostalgia and affection. I lived in those albums, I found positivity and I found cathartic solace and I still do.

For those like me who were of the right age and mind-set to be so affected by MLIW, the release of Fever Hunting 6 years on is a trip. I reflect on how far we’ve come; how we moved on or moved away, we stopped hanging out, we stopped just listening to punk and hardcore. And yet still MLIW has the power to stir something in us.

So I won’t try to objectively review Fever Hunting. Musically, it’s probably their best album. Lyrically it’s up there. It doesn’t touch me quite how their past releases did but I think that’s to be expected; the albums of your youth have a glow you rarely feel in your 20’s.

Like Have Heart, Converge, Give Up The Ghost and Black Flag, love them or hate them, every fan of hardcore has an opinion of MLIW. Fever Hunting won’t to win over those who didn’t get the band the first time around. It probably won’t even make it onto my albums of the year list. All I know is I’m glad it’s here and I’m glad music has the power to effect people as profoundly as MLIW has me.

Bill Gates and Patent Trolls

The ongoing toxicity of the patent system is continuing, and Bill Gates, a man who actively campaigned against tech patenting in the early 90s, is one of the many who is building a repertoire of unused patents. The folks at Ars Technica have uncovered much of Gates' work with prolific patent trolls, Intellectual Ventures. This report highlights Gates' ongoing work with Intellectual Ventures to continue to secure patents, particularly with the company's co-founder, Nathan Myhrvold.

Whilst it cannot be ascertained at this point whether or not Gates is getting involved in the patent trolling game, what is certain is that so far he has 93 patents with IV, a company which has traditionally used patents to file lawsuits and earn vast sums of money purely from suing others. Generally, working with IV to invent new products is a pretty bad idea. However, Gates' reasoning quite probably lies in the fact that Myrhvold is an ex-business associate at Microsoft.


  Nathan Myrhvold, co-founder of IV

Nathan Myrhvold, co-founder of IV

Many Silicon Valley based companies, blogs and news sources have referred to IV as the single biggest patent troll in existence. IV consistently defends itself against these claims, describing itself as a hub for invention. However, as with the recent Xbox One debacle, there comes a point where no PR team, no matter the quality of personnel or quantity of budget available, can hide the true intentions of a company. IV has so far not brought a single patent into commercial use. Similarly, IV has been known to use shell companies to further their standing and build their patent portfolio. To learn more about IV's practices, TechDirt's feed on the company is filled with instances of their history and behaviours. This American Life's damning indictment on Intellectual Ventures reveals the story of Chris Crawford's patent for essentially the concept of backing up data online. The patent was used in attempts to sue numerous companies, causing many to pay off IV to leave them alone. Whilst patent trolls are becoming ubiquitous, with the industry being huge, Intellectual Ventures has proved itself to be at the peak of it all.

In a nutshell, IV is a company that not only exists because of litigation and lawsuits – it thrives on them, and has effectively built a business that promotes its ability to capitalise on them.

For those unclear on the concept of patent trolling and the ongoing debate, let me attempt to shed some light on this complex and controversial topic. The patent system crumbles and is effectively broken when transferred to digital media and software. Much of the law is based on archaic systems, and was only effective when it was first written into the US constitution. This was a time before digital, when inventors could be protected by law, and thus feel safe to display their inventions and blueprints.

When it comes to software, we've entered a world which thrives off of rapid innovation. The latest digital tool today is outdated rapidly and replaced, sometimes in a matter of weeks. At this point, rather than continue to innovate, the easy option is to rely on those out-dated patent laws and sue the guys who've overtaken you.

What's more disturbing though is the requirements for a patent. Unlike in those traditional days of Edison, Tesla, et al when invention was a process of building, blueprinting, redesigning and rebuilding until something worked and the patent could be filed, these days with digital inventions one only needs to essentially prove that an idea is buildable, file a patent, and then (under current laws) they can enjoy 20 years of attempting to shakedown anyone who breaches that patent in any single way. It's like if I decided I could find the means to build a robotic cat which could then be controlled with an iPhone. I could then go ahead and patent said idea for a robotic cat, along with the ability to remote control it using an iPhone. I could then sit on that for 20 years, attempting to sue anyone who actually bothered to try and make a robotic cat, probably anyone who made a robotic entity of any description, and while I'm at it have a bash at threatening any company working around remote access via iPhone. I don't need to develop a single product to fit that patent, and the more vague and ambiguous the language of the patent, the more people and companies that I can threaten.


 Robot cat finds your iPhone - nightmare scenario

Robot cat finds your iPhone - nightmare scenario

Of course, this will never happen because a) I don't have anywhere near the size or clout of IV b) I'm not a **** (insert your favourite expletive referencing IV here) and c) someone's probably patented these exact ideas already... in fact, hundreds, maybe thousands already have. Remote access via mobile devices? Without checking, it's almost guaranteed to have been patented several thousand times over. But this brings me to another problem with patenting in tech products: tech is complicated, the law doesn't always know what it's talking about. As mentioned, vague wording can fool anyone into misunderstanding subtle differences between inventions. Ideas remain the same, but the way they're done does not. Unfortunately, this is often difficult for those outside of Silicon Valley to grasp. The aforementioned Chris Crawford example, about online back-ups, was still being used to threaten companies up to just a few years ago, despite originally being filed in the early 1990s. A 20 year patent term represents 3-5 paradigm shifts in the technology industry, as well as many other major developments between those. Think about the difference between technology now, and only five years ago. Chris Crawford's online back up system is leagues behind modern cloud systems.

And a final point before we return to Bill Gates – technology start ups thrive on previous inventions. In this industry, revolution generates evolution. The latest and greatest tech start ups are often amalgamations of previously executed ideas, polished up and given a slight twist on the trusted formula. Imagine a world where every online community had been threatened into non-existence by Geocities back in 1995. Or perhaps a world in which an alternative version of Bill Gates had aggressively patented aspects of the Windows operating system GUI which are now common to all systems. Or maybe a world in which the likes of Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee would set their lawyers on you the second you decided to host a website or share a file from your home computer. All of this is merely conjecture, but it illustrates how far technology can develop with companies being allowed to work with a rival's idea and evolve, develop and innovate on it. The US constitution claims that patents exist to “promote the progress of science and useful arts” - this reasoning is in direct conflict with their use in the tech industry now, and the rampant patent trolling.


 How True Icon would look if we'd made it in Geocities. I don't miss the 1990s.

How True Icon would look if we'd made it in Geocities. I don't miss the 1990s.

So, where does this leave us? Patent laws are a constant topic of debate, yet at this stage there is little sign of reform occurring, despite a clearly broken system and a smothered business arena. Many are attempting to change the system, but so far with little success. Minor political parties and pressure groups seem to be the primary agents pushing for change. Australia's Pirate Party provides one such possible fix to the problem (regardless of whether you agree with their wider views):

  • They aim to reduce the overall patent period to 5 years
  • Increase the cost of obtaining a patent (reasoning that inventors will only then patent an idea that will be worthwhile)
  • But the idea with the most validity is that litigation can only be carried out if the patent is leading to a developed product. If a company or individual is not using their patent to develop a product, then they have no rights to undertake legal action.

Gates' current project is called “Global Good” - he regularly brainstorms ideas such as malaria and the energy crisis with Myrhvold, develops ideas, and patents them. IV will not build any of these, claiming that building commercially viable products is not their business objective (although it's questionable as to whether they avoid this aspect of business for fear of being hounded by patent lawsuits themselves).

At this point it's important not to point the finger at Gates and cast blame. Firstly, he's not actively attempted to sue or threaten any others based on the patents he's developed with Myrhvold. Secondly, Bill Gates, despite his history of being a ruthless businessman in the early 90s, has proven to be dedicated in supporting positive causes, and it's likely that anyone willing to undertake the development of the products and tech would receive a wealth of knowledge and support from Gates, rather than be crushed under the patent licensing fees. If one man has enough money to build a startup for every single one of the 93 patents he holds with IV, it's Bill Gates.

Nevertheless, the situation certainly warrants further examination. Just because we shouldn't blame, doesn't mean we shouldn't monitor Gates' activities with IV and question his motives. It'll be interesting to see how Gates and IV act upon being approached by a delivery company for any of these patents. Until this happens, it's pretty tough to tell whether Gates' intentions are noble or not. IV, however, certainly has a lot to answer for already. Could this be a divisive factor between Gates and Myrhvold, or has Gates truly been dragged down to IV's levels as many speculators suggest?

The Guantanamo Problem

We are not so innocent

On Wednesday 1 August 1945 British soldiers marched into the small spa town of Bad Nenndorf in Lower Saxony. They knocked on doors and informed the residents that they had 90 minutes to pack their belongings and leave. Overnight more than 1,000 citizens were displaced as British Soldiers claimed a third of the town.

The townspeople hoped this would be a temporary arrangement but when barbed wire fences were installed all hopes were dashed.

Bad Nenndorf was to become one of the most notorious interrogation camps of the Second World War – it’s story remains as testament to a hidden history of Britain’s involvement in WWII.

Bad Nenndorf was chosen because it’s spa houses, previously the main attraction for tourists from across Germany, could quickly and easily be made into cells with the simple addition of steel doors. The new interrogation centre was designated No. 74 and managed by the Combined Services Interrogation Centre (CSDIC).

No. 74 would go on to detain former SS members, civilian Nazi Party officials, diplomats, scientists, journalists, industrialists, ‘communists’, eastern Europeans and any other persons deemed of questionable loyalty by the British forces.

The regime at Bad Nenndorf was intended to physically and mentally weaken prisoners with an array of intimidation and humiliation techniques. Frostbite, starvation, isolation, brutal beatings and hours of forced standing and other stress positions were all common practice.

Bad Nenndorf Detainees

After a few weeks, No. 74's management ran into a problem. What was to be done with prisoners no they no longer needed?

Detainees knew too much. They had seen a side of the British army that would shatter the British publics good will towards the war should they catch wind of it. To say nothing of the damage it would cause to Britain’s international image.

Colonel Stephens, who oversaw operations at No. 74 knew this well. He was sure that releasing the prisoners would quickly lead to the closure of Bad Nenndorf.

And so a work around was devised. Unwanted prisoners were to be dropped at internment camps with the hope that they would be held indefinitely. The plan had the backing of senior British officials who agreed that those who had survived No.74 were ‘in possession of knowledge which is harmful to the Allies and constitute a dangerous security threat to the Occupying Forces’.

But by the end of 1946 the Control Commission’s lawyers had decreed the practice of indefinite detainment was unlawful. Another workaround would need to be formulated. Instead of indefinite detainment, a series of military courts were instated behind closed doors. These courts frequently recommended that ‘a severe sentence should be imposed’ on ex-inmates – essentially equating to indefinite detainment.

Unfortunately for CSDIC, this solution shot down too. This time by the Commission’s Political Branch who complained that the system would conflict with British systems of Justice given that these sentences would be imposed on people ‘whose only crime is that they have had the misfortune to acquire a too detailed knowledge of our methods of interrogation’.

Finally it was decided that inmates that were no longer required would have their silence guaranteed in one of the most simplistic and effective methods possible. There was no need for a secret court system or expensive detainment. The British Government would simply threaten that should ex-detainees utter a word of what went on behind the barbed walls of No. 74 they would be rearrested, along with their wife or husband and children. And that next time would be far worse.

History repeats itself

The events at Bad Nenndorf may sound familiar. Illegally held detainees, appalling conditions, large-scale illegal activity by a leading world power. Is that not what we are seeing in Guantanamo today? It’s a well-worn cliché but it seems that history repeats itself.

Perhaps the main difference between Guantanamo and Bad Nenndorf is that unlike the events at No.74 which took years to become public knowledge, we already know how US prisoners are being treated and we know exactly how many are being falsely detained.  Yet for the most part the international community it turning a blind eye.

I think there are several reasons for this. Modern news moves at an alarmingly fast pace. What was headline news today is likely to be pushed back several pages tomorrow and pushed straight out of the back page the next. In such a climate major world events go unreported.

Yes it’s appalling that many at Guantanamo are being illegally detained. Yes it’s horrific that over 50% of inmates are on hunger strike and are brutally force fed with painful nasal tubes. Yes, it’s likely that these detainees are being routinely humiliated and dehumanised. Yes we wish that it were different. But the US is a big, powerful country, and there are things going on in Egypt and Syria and we’re all being spied on by our governments so where, in this litany of woe, can we find time and column-space to discuss Guantanamo?

Unlike the Bad Nenndorf, this issue is able to hide in plain site.  But while the history of Guantanamo is still being written, we know the content of much of the early pages.

We’ll leave them with fly’s walking on their eyeballs

“Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States… there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition, full stop.” 

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary 13 Dec 2005

It’s no secret that Guantanamo is the direct result of the attacks of 9/11. Understandably the American people wanted justice and they would stop at nothing to get it. It very quickly became clear to the rest of the world what this would mean.

Two days after the 9/11 attacks, during a meeting with Bush’s advisors, Head of Counter Terrorism, Cofer Black, who was to become one of the masterminds of the American response to 9/11, declared that the country’s enemies must be left with ‘flies walking across their eyeballs’.

The CIA swiftly instigated their rendition program. This involved detaining terrorists and ‘rendering’ them in secret US bases throughout the world. In some cases detainees were taken to countries with known records of torture, in these instances the process was known as extraordinary rendition.

The US had been exercising extraordinary rendition since Clinton’s administration but post 9/11, extraordinary rendition was t ratcheted up to previously unheard levels. Hundreds of al-Qaida suspects would be hunted down and abducted from their homes in over 80 countries across the world. They would be kept in hidden prisons for as long as it took to extract every piece of information possible by any means necessary. The US was to play in the shadows of international law, it would adopt loop-holes in the humane treatment of detainees as statute and it would expect the full support of it’s UN allies in doing so.

At the end of September 2001 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1373. Under this agreement all member states were required to assist the US and each other in eliminating terrorism. Resolution 1373 calls for restrained and following due processes of law but Dick Cheney had already declared that the US would be working through the “dark side” and that “it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”

In further meetings with members of NATO Article Five was instigated, under which, an attack on one member-state is an attack on all member-states. The US now had all the backing and support that it needed to find and torture anyone they suspected to be involved in the attack on 9/11.

The extraordinary Rendition program began in earnest and what follows reads more like an extract of a John Le Carre novel than true events. On the 18th of December 2001 two men were abducted from Stockholm by 8 men dressed in black wearing black masks with small eyeholes. The detainees were stripped and searched, administered sedatives in the form of anal suppositories and put in nappies, overalls, leg irons and handcuffs. Finally hoods were put over their heads, they were loaded onto a US Gulfstream V jet and taken to the Middle East for interrogation. Similar events would occur in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan, Indonesia, Gambia, Thailand, Bosnia, Albania, Croatia and wherever else the US suspected there were al-Qaida bases of operations.

Initially suspects interrogated by local authorities in hidden locations across Europe, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East but Washington was keen to carry out interrogations themselves. They decided that Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be the ideal location for a US interrogation camp. The bay had been under US control since 1903, it was close to US soil, but crucially in a country where the US legal system held no sway.

While the UK and other US allies were aware of the methods being used by US interrogators it was the position of allied governments to turn a blind eye. When UK soldiers reported that a British citizen involved in the rendition program was coming under undue physical abuse and showed signs of internal bleeding, a memo was swiftly issued by the British government to explain their position:

“You have commented on their treatment. It appears from your description that they may not be being treated in accordance with the appropriate standards. Given that they are not within our custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this. That said, HMG;s stated commitment to human rights makes it important that the Americans understand that we cannot be party to such ill treatment nor can we be seen to condone it. In no case should they be coerced during or in conjunction with an Secret Intelligence Service interview of them. If circumstances allow, you should consider drawing this to the attention of a suitably senior US official locally. It is important that you do not engage in any activity yourself that involved inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners.”

This was to be the UK’s stance throughout the rendition program.  The announcement could be summed up much more succinctly as “We are complicit, but we are not to get involved in torture, nor are we technically required to intervene.”

Despite this stance, British interrogators were trained in the use of stress positions, sleep depravation and the hooding of detainees – all of which are considered tortuous methods of information extraction in international law.

 Rapper Mos Def undergoing to force-feeding process undertaken at Guantanamo Bay.

Rapper Mos Def undergoing to force-feeding process undertaken at Guantanamo Bay.

The first prisoners to be flown into Guantanamo landed wearing the now infamous orange jumpsuits, handcuffs and shackles as well as blacked-out goggles, earmuffs and gloves to maintain sensory depravation during transport.

Guantanamo now acts as a leading US interrogation Centre. Detainee’s range from suspected al-Qaida members to people who simply hold information of interest to the US government. Leaked US Department of Defence documents have told of people such as Said Abassi Rochan, a twenty-nine-year-old Afghan taxi driver who was taken to Guantanamo because of his knowledge of his local area. His tale would go on to become the focus for the fantastic documentary Taxi to the Dark Side. Similar stories include an Al-Jazeera cameraman who was detained because of his understanding of Al-Jazeera’s training programme for journalists and even a British citizen who was held because had had the misfortune to be held by Taliban forces and was considered to have useful information about their treatment of prisoners and their interrogation tactics.

Each individual’s case follows a pattern of at best mistreatment and at worst humiliation, torture and even death at the hands of US interrogators and their allies. Methods of torture include the infamous waterboarding technique seen in the recent film Zero Dark Thirty and in the shocking footage of the late Christopher Hitchens subjecting himself to the method. When George Bush was asked years later whether he had authorised waterboarding at Guantanamo, George Bush responded with ‘Damn right!’ – it’s no secret that support for such strategies went right to the top of the US government.

Desperate times, desperate measures

classified memo released in 2011 suggests that military officials were aware two years ago that two thirds of inmates were, at best, “low level” threats and that nearly 20% were believed to be completely innocent. And yet these prisoners continue to be held. The US military says 37 prisoners are currently on hunger strike – 33 of which are being routinely force-fed.

Yasiin Bey, actor and rapper formerly known as Mos Def, volunteered himself to be subjected to the process to drum up awareness of the practice. It makes for difficult viewing.

Detainees entered their hunger strike as a way to express their legitimate grievances with their treatment and conditions at Guantanamo. Including indefinite detention, solitary confinement and torture. Human Rights Lawyer, Carlos Warner, says that the hunger-strike is yet to result in the improvement of conditions in the bay or the complete closure of the compound promised by Obama in 2008.

“Even looking at the military’s numbers, to think that even 37 or 40 men haven’t eaten for 200 days it’s just pretty incredible to think about it,” the public defender, who works with several Guantanamo inmates, added.

Force feeding violates longstanding medical ethics. Not only is it humiliating but it dehumanises the individuals involved, taking a toll on the psychological wellbeing of both victim and practitioner.

Being a doctor should be an honour and a privilege. Doctors should save lives for a living, their function is to ease pain and suffering. It is a gross violation of their purpose to put such authorities in the position of force-feeding detainees. It would do the medical profession a great service if these doctors were to put down their nasogastric tubes.

The World Medical Association states that force-feeding is “never medically acceptable” and the American Medical Association argues it “violates core ethical values of the medical profession”. Even a federal judge has called the procedure “painful, humiliating, and degrading”.

I suspect the doctors of Guantanamo believe they are doing what is right for their country but doctors should be concerned first and foremost with individual comfort and wellbeing and not international affairs.

It hardly needs saying that treating detainees in the manner they are in Guantanamo violates the values and principles of justice and fairness that the UK and US claim to hold dear. Neither country can claim to be the voice of reason in Egypt or Syria when they are illegally detaining prisoners (or spying on their own people for that matter).

 

A Voice for Change

It is an unfortunate truth that hypocrisy is part of the human condition. People are able to hold contradictory beliefs side-by-side – there are creationist Darwinian scientists, there are people who are pro-fracking with a ‘not in my backyard’ attitude. However, a political State should have enough checks and balances to iron out such obvious hypocrisies as torture and illegal detainment. States are the result of collaboration. It would be hoped that together we could make a fair and just society.

If every American citizen wrote to their senate telling them their vote depends on the closure of Guantanamo, things would change. If countries such as the UK put their foot down and held the US accountable for their atrocities (and their own), we could make a difference. It is fear of rocking the boat, of upsetting our relative comfort in the world that stops us.  And perhaps it is a refusal to believe that sometimes, we are the bad guys too.

I would like to think that people learn from their past, that errors like the treatment of detainees at No.74 would not be repeated. And yet it has been. And it is being.

If we can’t trust our governments to act with fairness and candour – we can do it ourselves. I believe that global civil society and solidarity is the answer to our problems.

I know my views expose me to claims of idealism but I am happy to stand under that banner. Idealism means hope. And if we don’t have hope, if we don’t try to make a change, we are left with despair. Despair at our place in the world, despair at our powerlessness, our helplessness and our hopelessness.

 

This article could not have been written without the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side directed by Alex Gibney and the fantastic book Cruel Britannia by  Ian Cobain.

 

Orange and ginger edamame with baked tofu

tofu

 

 

Orange and Ginger Edamame with Baked Tofu

 

Prep time: 35 minutes

Cooking time: 40-60 minutes

Calories: 535 (without oil)

Ingredients:

350g Tofu
100g Edamame
One Courgette
One Small Red Onion
100g Chestnut Mushrooms
25g of Miso Paste
One or Two cloves of garlic
Ginger to taste
One teaspoon of orange essence
Salt and pepper
A Tofu Press or some kitchen roll and heavy books
Oil Optional

Instructions:

1: Press the tofu for 20 minutes

2: Add salt and pepper to the tofu and bake on a high heat until brown and slightly crispy or to your preferred texture. (Alternatively you can fry the tofu in coconut in oil and cut down on cooking time but up the calories.)

3: Finely chop or grate the ginger, onion, garlic and orange essence. Simmer in a pan along with the miso paste and a dash of water until the onion and ginger softens. Then set aside.

4: Meanwhile coursely chop the courgette and mushrooms.

5: Once the orange and ginger mix is cooked and the veg is ready you can about your day while the tofu bakes in the oven, sae in the knowledge that the flavours are blending nicely in the orange and ginger mix.

6: When the tofu is ready, fry the courgette and mushrooms. Either dry fry or use water or oil.

7: Add the Edamame and tofu to the ginger and orange mix and simmer until cooked through. Deglaze the pan with water as needed. I find this helps the orange and ginger flavours be absorbed into the tofu.

8: Once the courgette and mushrooms are browned off, add these to the ginger mixture and serve.

Support vegan proteins

The vegan fitness community is ever-growing, and everyday I am surprised by some of the amazing athletes and their achievements in the global growing lifestyle and fitness trend that is veganism. However, I'm also consistently astounded with the level of rubbish that many vegans expound and recommend when it comes to developing physical fitness, whether that's endurance athletes, bodybuilders, strength athletes, MMA fighters etc.

The key root of this misinformation is quite easy to analyse. The omnivorous fitness discussion centres around one macronutrient primarily: protein. From high-protein, low-carb diets, to discussions about the best sources of protein which are almost invariably focused on animal products. Milk, meat, chicken breast, egg whites, steak, chicken breast, salmon, cheese, chicken breast, chicken breast, more chicken breast.

Thus, the vegan fitness community can feel a little excluded from these discussions, as we come in feebly suggesting 'tofu' only to be, at best subtly ignored, at worst receive a barrage of misinformation about soy and bitch-tits in men, followed up by a swift 'vegans can't build muscle!!1'.

The truth is vegans can build muscle. We have plenty of proof of this. Just take a look at Robert Cheeke's Vegan Bodybuilding site, or PlantBuilt. But the rules don't change. Building muscle requires heaps of protein, no matter who you are.

Vegans have access to so many protein sources, really they should be offering their chicken breast obsessed friends advice and ideas for alternative meals. We've got soy in all its forms (tempeh, tofu, soy milk, edamame etc), nuts & seeds, quinoa, seitan, hemp, lentils, beans of so many varieties, faux meats and many more. And some delicious vegan protein shakes on the market too. You know the old adage 'for every animal you don't eat, I'll eat three'? Vegans should be telling omnis that for every chicken breast eaten, they'll eat three. Made of seitan. And lovingly accompanied by quinoa. And a portion of broccoli, of course.

But the vegan fitness community has become its own worst enemy. Recommendations often seem to point to everything but protein. Raw diets, juicing, 80/10/10, frugivore: these diets have their place, sure, but they seem to have become the ubiquitous answer given to any vegan fitness related question. Whenever questioned, fall-back responses are always in place. I have nothing against raw diets – indeed, I follow a raw vegan diet on an occasional basis, usually for a week or two at a time. That said, there's an unfortunate tendency to rely on vague unfounded arguments whenever someone questions raw. I'm sorry but if your response to a fallacy in your nutritional reasoning is along the lines of 'those 50 studies that directly prove what you just said are all incorrect because they were funded by corporations' or perhaps some barrel-scraping notion of micro-micronutrients such as antioxidants or enzymes being the be all and end all of health and fitness then I am going to ignore you.

There's enough information out there already (much of it funded by very legitimate sources) as to what pertains to a healthy diet. Protein is part of that equation, and depending on your fitness goals it can be quite a big part of it.

I understand the fears around this. I understand the desire to reinvent the wheel and hope for the best. As mentioned, protein has become almost synonymous with meat. To further this, there are numerous diets out there that rely on high-protein utilising a high-meat intake. Paleo, Atkins, and at the furthest extreme, Keto.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Veganism needs to prove itself and all the tools to do it are there. We have more and more fantastic vegan protein sources and products hitting the market all the time. This isn't an article to recommend what you should be eating – there's whole hosts of info out there about that. Just check out Kai's article on weightloss on a vegan diet as the tip of the iceberg. However, I'll say this much – protein is a necessity. We should take conscious steps to include it in our diets, at higher than average quantities if you're following a fitness regime. Taking conscious steps to avoid protein and  healthy fats is a bizarre concept in my eyes.

But there's more to it than simply being healthy. Veganism is, for most, an ethical choice beyond all else. And that's where you can do some good too. Let's support the companies out there selling vegan supplements and products – some of which are exclusively vegan. Ignoring these companies in favour of dubious dietary patterns is only going to damage veganism's reputation and its reach into the fitness community.

Just some of the companies out there creating, marketing and selling vegan products:

Clif (US and UK) – makes vegan energy and protein bars

Nature's Whey (UK) – range of vegan supplements and protein

Vega (US) – Great range of vegan supplements

Sunwarrior (US but launching in UK) – raw vegan protein powders

Good Hemp Nutrition (UK) – a range of hemp products, including protein powder

Reflex Nutrition (UK) – non-vegan company, but creates a delicious vegan protein powder at a very reasonable price

MyProtein (UK) – non-vegan company, but labels vegan-friendly products and produces a 'vegan blend' protein.

True Nutrition (US) – non-vegan company with a large range of vegan proteins including potato protein powder!

 

And there's loads more. But these companies need support and money to make vegan proteins a financially viable market.

I think sadly, the synonymity between protein and meat in the fitness world has put vegans off consuming healthy, well evidenced diets which will help them achieve their fitness goals. It's time we looked at this issue realistically, and gave our support to all the vegan protein products and companies that are out there. Veganism is doing no one any favours by trying to reinvent good nutrition, least of all its stand in the fitness community.

Radical Face - The Family Tree: The Branches review

radical-face.jpg

 

Radical Face

The Family Tree: The Branches

Self-released

The Branches is the second album in Ben Cooper's (aka Radical Face) trilogy - The Family Tree. A set of concept albums tracking a family tree (not dissimilar to hardcore band, Defeater's, first couple of LPs), this is as ambitious a project as any, not least because every Radical Face release so far has been close to impeccable. Can Ben Cooper keep up the quality? In short, yes.

The Branches is the kind of album you'll know whether you'll love or not within the first 3 minutes of listening. The intro track transitions into Holy Branches, the first full track, with a simple piano and guitar chord combo and Cooper's voice gently breaks into the album with the opening verse before wrapping up a more energetic chorus. At this point it's safe to say you can decide whether or not to ride out the next 40 minutes. This is not to say that the album is boring, monotonous, or never shifts pace, but rather that it's consistent. There's a certain feel and style that Cooper manages to never lose throughout the entirety of the album's playtime. Not a single song feels out of place, not a single chorus feels unusual. This is an accolade that I've seen even some of the most talented musicians struggle to achieve. The album knows where it stands and it stands there firmly.

I think, fortunately, that most people will choose to keep listening over that 3 minute mark too. The Branches is one of those albums which is easy to consume but takes a little work to truly digest. On it's surface, it's a pleasant ensemble of catchy indie-folk singalongs. The instrumentals wouldn't sound out of place in the stereotype of a Kickstarter product video, whilst Cooper's voice is gentle and unobtrusive and rarely demands your attention. But it's in your best interest to give it to him.

Under those easy-to-peel layers lies a real gem of an album, smarter and more beautifully composed than anything indie-folk has offered this year.

Every song has a powerful story behind it, whether it's the struggle to belong in Holy Branches, the inner monologue of an autistic boy in The Mute, or victims of 1900s child labour in the stunning The Gilded Hand. On occasion the narrative is given that extra push by added effects, such as the story of a chain-gang prisoner in Chains - a song which opens to the hum and clanking chains of prisoners. Give this album your attention and it will reward you.

For those who've already heard The Roots, the previous entry into The Family Tree trilogy, The Branches is ready for you to dive right in and enjoy. It will be familiar territory, but as mentioned, that's no bad thing when the territory is so divine. For those who are new to the trilogy, or indeed, new to Radical Face, then that's no problem either. This makes a great place to start listening. I have little doubt that the music and stories will sweep you up, and you'll be waiting in anticipation for The Family Tree's final offering as much as the rest of us. Let's hope Ben can keep it up.

Score: 4.3 / 5

 

Talant Trade Co interview


 

 

The first time I came across Talant Trade Co. was on a fashion blog doing ‘research’ for True Icon (shopping). I saw the bag pictured above and although I didn’t know who had made it, I was determined to get myself one. After a quick backwards image search I found Talant Trade Co.

3 weeks later my bag arrived here in the UK – thoughtfully packaged and with a hand written note of thanks from Johnson Benjamin, Talant Trade Co’s creator. These little touches make a big difference.

I was so impressed with the build of the bag and the service I’d received that I decided to in touch with Johnson to say thank you and perhaps, while I was at it, find out a little more about the company. Not only did he write back quickly, he remembered wrapping my order and was kind enough to answer a few questions.

I can’t recommend Talant Trade Co. enough - great bags and a great service from an independent business worthy of your attention.

 

 The Interview:

Could you introduce yourself and tell us the story of how Talant Trade Co. came about?

My name is Johnson Benjamin, a 2011 graduate of Mississippi State University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and a passion for urban design and renewal. This program opened my eyes to the dying industrial infrastructure all around me.  After graduation, I spent several months trying to figure out what I could do to have a positive affect the community around me. Talant was my solution.

What are the ethics and motivations behind your company? How important are they to you?

I began Talant because I saw the great need for a stronger industrial base in my rural Mississippi area. The area  in which I live was formerly home to many garment factories and hundreds of garment workers. With empty factories, rejected equipment, skilled labor, and a rich history at my fingertips it was easy to plot Talant out.  I wanted Talant to stand for ideals and be part of the change in this country- that change being a push for high quality, domestically produced durable goods over imported replaceable goods.

Did you have any prior experience in fashion or textiles? 

My grandfather owned and/or operated garment factories for a large portion of his life all over the southeastern United States.  My father, for a portion of his life, worked with my grandfather and also worked with a very large sewing machine distributor.  Also, many other men and women in my extended family were garment workers. Firsthand though, I have had no experience or training.

Your bags have a fantastic sense of American heritage and are extremely hard wearing. What gave you the idea of designing bags and why do you use duck-canvas in particular?

Thank you for the compliment! Once I established that I wanted to sew, I had to figure out what to actually make. I have always had a passion for military surplus and cool bags (owning a few bags too many). I asked myself, “If I were to design my own bag, what would it be like?”   The material choice was easy, canvas just seemed obvious because of its rich military history and its cotton fibers.  I am surround in the south by a heritage of cotton growing and the slogan “Cotton is king.”  It was important to me to use cotton duck-canvas for my bags over other materials.

How long did it take from having the idea for Talant Trade Co to selling your first product? How did that first sale feel?

The initial idea of Talant popped into my head in Sept of 2011, and by April 2012,  I was selling my first bags. That first sale was relieving. I  spent so  many months developing this crazy idea and that  first sale legitimized what I was trying to do.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to start their own business?

I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, research as much as you are capable of about every aspect of what you're about to do. Second, be honest with yourself, about your passion, and if you are truly willing to make the sacrifices associated with starting a small business.

If you had the opportunity to start the business over again, would you do anything differently?

No, I would not. Every decision I made was the best I could make at the time. Even in bad decisions, if you look, you can find positives.

What can we look forward to seeing from Talant Trade Co in the future? Are there any new products being released soon?

We are always working on new designs and improving our process.  We have right now, a new bag that will debut online in the coming weeks.  My long-term goal for 2014 is for Talant to debut a few interesting garment pieces.

Where can we find out more about you and your products?

Our online store

Talant is on facebook, this is where you will find the bulk of our news updates.

I keep an active personal and business instagram. This is my personal favorite form of social media. You can find me at johnson_benj

 

Best albums of 2013

Ahh, the intro to a best albums of the year article. This is the part typically chock full of statements like 'what a year for music'... let's face it, when was the last year in living memory that wasn't overflowing with fantastic music? This year is, of course, no exception. Whittling down my favourites to ten has been incredibly tough. This is entirely subjective, and may explain why this is perhaps the only year end list you'll read without Yeezus in it, along with a few other typical contenders for places. I've also avoided adding albums from a previous post I did on my favourite hardcore albums of the first half of 2013, otherwise Nails and Coliseum may well have popped up. Well, anyway, without further ado let's take a look at some of 2013's best offerings.

Best albums of 2013

10. Gnarwolves – Funemployed (EP)

gnarwolves funemployed
gnarwolves funemployed

Being the only EP on my list, and coming in at under 10 minutes long it wouldn't have been fair to put Gnarwolves any higher than number 10, but based on the quality of their music and their monumental rise in popularity this year it wouldn't have been fair to leave them off either. Gnarwolves are the epitome of a band who've put their middle finger up at the music business, and have gone from a bottom of the rung support act in January to a band that's just finished their own stage-dive packed, singalong filled UK headline tour through means of working hard and making addictive, intricate emo-punk. 2014 will be the year of the Gnarwolves LP; for now, Funemployed is hands down the best EP of this year.

9. Barrow – Though I'm Alone

barrow though i'm alone
barrow though i'm alone

Barrow's LP slipped by in early 2013, somewhat under the radar, which is a shame as it's a beautiful and heart-wrenching sophomore effort. Whilst it does little to change the face of the hardcore scene generated and perpetuated by so-called 'Wave' bands such as La Dispute and Touché Amoré and the rest of the No Sleep Records roster, it does it all fantastically well. The music is a seamless blend of screamo, post-rock, and emo, and at times even ventures into hardcore territory (such as in the penultimate track You Can Probably Find It In Norfolk). This approach keeps it consistently fresh, and it's a rollercoaster ride. The beautiful depressive vocals morph into crescendos of screaming noise-filled climaxes. By the end of the album you'll likely feel emotionally deflated, but it's rare for any album to create such an effect and that is Barrow's merit.

8. Isaiah Rashad – Mixtapes

Isaiah_Rashad_Welcome_To_The_Game_Hosted_By_mosth-front-large
Isaiah_Rashad_Welcome_To_The_Game_Hosted_By_mosth-front-large

Strictly speaking, there's no official mixtape from Isaiah Rashad yet, so I'm kind of cheating here. We've got a few mixtapes out there, mostly collections of his music put together unofficially – check out Welcome To The Game, or Don't Call Me a Rookie for some good introductions. Or just head over to his Soundcloud. Whatever you pick up though, you'll dig it. Isaiah Rashad is Top Dog Entertainment's latest addition. TDE at the moment are a label that can do no wrong, and arguably has the strongest roster in hip-hop. Rashad is no exception. Stand out tracks on (most) mixtapes are Shot U Down (particularly the remix), and 2x Pills, produced by FlyLo. I don't want to speak too soon, but with TDE behind him and clear inspiration from Kendrick Lamar, Rashad could very well release 2014's Good Kid m.A.A.d City. For now, sit tight and enjoy what he's got out already.

7. Lorde – Pure Heroine

Lorde pure heroine
Lorde pure heroine

Probably my favourite pop-album of the year. Whilst nearly every review I've read of this can't help but jump on the 'SHE'S ONLY 16!' bandwagon, I'm going to try to avoid that for the sake of this short write-up... Ok I can't resist – HOW IS SHE ONLY 16? Phenomenally talented.

But seriously, that has no bearing on the music itself, and this album so warrants its hype. Lorde has sprung out of pretty much nowhere, with an album that has captivated the anti-pop crowd – those who would happily touch One Direction with a bargepole if only to beat their pretty-boy faces in (whilst enjoying a cheeky listen of Up All Night). As Lana Del Ray did last year, Lorde has created a pop-album that has encapsulated everyone and made damn sure that there's been more to pop this year than Miley Cyrus' ass.

6. Captain, We're Sinking – The Future Is Cancelled

captain we're sinking future is cancelled
captain we're sinking future is cancelled

You know those weird moments where you feel like you're living in a dream? That perhaps you've just imagined an entire album exists? This is how I've felt with The Future Is Cancelled by Captain, We're Sinking. A band that does The Menzingers better than... well, The Menzingers, and every time I mention them I'm greeted with blank expressions. I don't even consider my music taste that diverse, and therefore my only conclusion is that this album is horrendously underrated. Let's just put it this way: if you're sitting reading this post whilst still half drunk from your New Year's night, and any of the following bands mean anything to you: The Menzingers, Spraynard, The Lawrence Arms, Iron Chic, Latterman, The Flatliners etc. etc. then please go and listen to this album so that when I excitedly mention it again in the future you can smile and nod... unless of course The Future is Cancelled, hahahahahaha. Ok I'll see myself out.

5. Laura Stevenson – Wheel

laura stevenson wheel
laura stevenson wheel

Laura Stevenson of Bomb The Music Industry! fame has been solidly building a repertoire of albums over the last few years in a sort of solo career (really she's got a full band behind her but I guess coming from BTMI! makes a standard five-piece band seem relatively plain). Wheel, her latest, is a real gem in this though. Each song retains its own feeling despite being interconnected by the central themes. It is this quality that sets it apart from many other folk albums of the year. It's no secret that I loved Radical Face's latest addition to The Family Tree this year, but Laura's music can be listened to via one or two tracks on a playlist, whilst truly shining when it's packaged together in Wheel.

4. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap (mixtape)

chance-the-rapper-acid-rap
chance-the-rapper-acid-rap

Acid Rap is a lesson in how to go from a rising star to the year's biggest hip-hop artist in a matter of months. It's that mixtape that no one expects. It comes out of nowhere, and BOOM – Chance is now an unavoidable force in modern hip-hop. As he rounds off his year with a huge tour and featuring on a Justin Bieber single, we round it off with a quick recap of one of the most important albums to drop this year. Chance has nailed a real middle ground between fantastic hip-hop flows and catchy addictive pop-hooks. Good Ass Intro, the self-explanatory intro track, will have you hooked within a minute as it builds steadily but rapidly on the opening backing vocal 'Even better than I was the last time, baby'. As you move through the album, it never lets up. Cocoa Butter Kisses and Juice are the kind of tunes running through your brain when you wake up in the middle of the night. Once you're addicted, Chance is damn hard to stop listening to. Acid Rap? More like crack-cocaine rap.

3. The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

the wonder years greatest generation
the wonder years greatest generation

So far, The Wonder Years have proved themselves to be an infallible band. Let's forget about the debut record (sorry guys, it wasn't all that great) and the EPs. The Upsides, 2010's album, created a new breed of pop-punk. Meaningful, full of realism but tinged with an overall positive message. Suburbia, I've Given You All, and Now I'm Nothing was a perfection of that. From the mind of Soupy to the breadth of America, it did everything bigger and better. The Greatest Generation is this band's magnum opus. A sprawling and beautiful epic – where can a band go after dealing with the themes in their previous album? Into history of course. This album has redefined pop-punk for me. In fact, it has killed it. There is literally nothing even close to this good in the genre right now. This is a perfect album from start to finish, and pop-punk is a genre that has grown up with this band. The Greatest Generation, indeed.

2. Deafheaven – Sunbather

deafheaven sunbather
deafheaven sunbather

Sunbather is perhaps the most divisive album of this year. This isn't because of its quality – its presence on nearly every year-end list going is testament to that. It's because at worst it is genre-defying, at best it is genre-defining. Pigeon-holing Sunbather into any pre-existing genre description is close to impossible. Black metal? Sure, that's what initially comes to mind. But the post-rock, shoegaze dream-like ambience says this is far beyond that. Vocalist, George Clarke's stage-presence has more in common with Ian Curtis than Immortal. Lyrically, Sunbather has more in common with the rap-genre, dealing with themes of poverty and wealth.

I'd love to say that 2013 was the end of genre discussions, but alas Sunbather has sparked more than any other before. Really though it shouldn't. It's a stunning accomplishment and its worth should be measured on that alone.

1. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels

run the jewels
run the jewels

I admit, my choice for number 1 is a little unorthodox. My 2012 AOTY was Good Kid m.A.A.d City, and RTJ doesn't reach the dizzying heights that Kendrick's maze-like tale did. What we do have though is a near-perfect 90s-esque hip-hop album. It does little new but everything is does do is so polished that it's impossible not to fall in love. Killer Mike tears through the album's short playtime (at just over half an hour) with snarling viciousness, whilst El-P is on-hand to provide all the wit and humour you need to complete a duo which will have you smirking with even the 100th listen. El-P's production is second-to-none, providing beats that will haunt your mind. A cameo from Big Boi is all that's needed to send you spiralling back in time to an era of rap that's long since passed. This is nostalgia but it's without the rose-tinted glasses, as it's better than almost everything that era threw at you.