St. Patrick’s Day Chocolate Guinness Cake

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Ingredients

Makes: about 12 slices

For the cake

  • 250 millilitres guinness
  • 250 grams unsalted butter
  • 75 grams cocoa powder
  • 400 grams caster sugar
  • 142 millilitres sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 275 grams plain flour
  • 2½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

For the topping

  • 300 grams cream cheese
  • 150 grams icing sugar
  • 125 millilitres double cream (or whipping cream)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF, and butter and line a 23cm / 9 inch springform tin.

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    Image thanks to A Sweet Muddle

  2. Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter – in spoons or slices – and heat until the butter’s melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and bicarb.
  3. Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
  4. When the cake’s cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the icing. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsieved icing sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.
  5. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Thank you Nigella for this fantastic recipe!

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Affirmations from Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life

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Recently I read Louise Hay’s famous book ”You Can Heal Your Life”. Self-help books have never been something I’ve been particularly interested in, but when a good friend recommended it, I thought, why not? When I started reading the book it all seemed a little too much for me. I was cringing to myself as I read the cheesy words within it. But the more I read, the more it began to make sense. What I love about Louise Hay is how self-aware she is – she knows she’s a bit cheesy and that is what makes all the difference.

In relation to the affirmations, I’m not 100% sold on them curing illnesses like cancer. However, when I started reading the book, I had been suffering from severe knee pain. I wasn’t sure where this pain was coming from but the more I read the book and began practicing my affirmations, the more the pain ceased. Whether you think it’s a load of crap or not, you owe it yourself to try – what have you go to lose?

Louise Hay’s Affirmations 

Have a look at some of Hay’s affirmations below – the ailment (or thought), probable cause and the new way of thought (affirmation).

ABDOMINAL CRAMPS:  Fear. Stopping the process.
Affirmation: I trust the process of life. I am safe.

ACHES: Longing for love. Longing to be held.
Affirmation: I love and approve of myself. I am loving and lovable.

ACNE: Not Accepting or disliking self
Affirmation: The love and acceptance I have for myself is reflected in my outer appearance.

ADDICTIONS: Running away from self, Not facing the fear. Not knowing how to love the self.
Affirmation: It is safe to look within for the answers I seek.

ADDISON’S DISEASE: Severe emotional malnutrition. Anger at the self.
Affirmation: I lovingly take care of my body, my mind, and my emotions.

ADENOIDS: Family friction, arguments. Child feeling unwelcome, in a way.
Affirmation: This child is wanted and welcomed and deeply loved.

AGING PROBLEMS: Social beliefs. Old thinking. Fear of being one’s self.
Rejection of the now.
Affirmation: I love and accept myself at every age. Each moment in life is perfect.

AIDS: Feeling defenseless and hopeless. A strong belief in not
being good enough. Denial of the true inner being, or sexual guilt
Affirmation: I love and appreciate all of myself for the unique, powerful and capable person I am.

ALCOHOLISM / ABUSE : Futility, guilt, inadequacy, self-rejection.
Affirmation: I live in the now. Each moment is new. I choose to see my self-worth.I love and approve of myself.

ALLERGY & HAYFEVER: You are allergic to someone who or yourself denies your power.
Affirmation:The world is safe and friendly. I am safe. I am at peace with life.

ALZHEIMER’S: Refusal to deal with the world as it is.
Affirmation: There is always a new and better way for me to experience life. I forgive and release the past. I move into joy.

ANKLE PROBLEMS: Inflexibility and guilt Inability to receive pleasure.
Affirmation: I deserve to rejoice in life. I accept all the pleasure life has to offer.

ANOREXIA: Denying the self and life. Extreme fear of rejection.
Affirmation: It is safe for me. I am wonderful just as I am. I choose joy and self-acceptance.

ANXIETY / NERVOUSNESS: Distrust the natural flow of life.
Affirmation: I love and approve of myself and I trust in the process of life. I am safe.

ARTERIOSCLEROSIS: Hardened narrow-mindedness.
Affirmation: I am completely open to life and to joy. I choose to see with love.

ARM PROBLEMS: Can’t hold on to life’s experiences.
Affirmation: I lovingly hold and embrace my experiences with love and joy.

ARTHRITIS: Feeling unloved, criticism, resentment.
Affirmation: I am love. I now choose to love and approve of myself. I see others with love.

BACK (upper): Lack of emotional support, or feeling unloved.
Affirmation: I love and approve of myself. Life supports and loves me.

BACK (middle): Guilt. Stuck in all that stuff back there or Get off my back.
Affirmation: I release the past. I am free to move forward with love in my heart.

BACK (lower): Financial woes and concerns.
Affirmation: I trust the process of life. All I need is taken care of. I am safe.

BALDNESS: Fear, tension. Trying to control everything and not trusting in the process of life.
Affirmation: I am safe. I love and approve of myself. I trust life.

BLACKHEADS (pimples): Small outbursts of anger.
Affirmation: I calm my thoughts and I am serene.

BLOOD PRESSURE: HIGH (hypertension): Longstanding emotional problems not solved. LOW: Lack of love as a child. Defeatism. “Whats the use? It won’t work anyway.”
Affirmation: HIGH: I joyously release the past. I am at peace. LOW: I now choose to live in the ever-joyous NOW. My life is a joy.

BONE BREAKS: Rebelling against authority.
Affirmation: I am the only authority in my world for I am the only one who thinks in my mind.

BOWEL PROBLEMS: Fear of letting go.
Affirmation: I freely and easily release the old and joyously welcome the new.

BREAST (left):Feeling unloved, refusal to nourish oneself. Putting everyone else first.
Affirmation: I am loved and nourished by all around me.

BREAST (right): Over protection, over bearing, difficulty in giving love.
Affirmation: I embrace and trust life knowing that I am safe and loved. I choose to love and be loved.

BREATHING PROBLEMS: Fear or the refusal to take in life. Not feeling worthy to take up space.
Affirmation:It is my birthright to live fully and freely. I am worth loving. I now choose to live life fully.

BRONCHITIS: Inflamed family environment.
Affirmation: I experience peace and harmony within myself and all around me. All is well.

BRUISES: Self-punishment.
Affirmation: I love and cherish myself. I am kind and gentle with myself. All is well.

BULIMIA: Hopeless terror. Purging self hatred.
Affirmation: I am loved, nourished and supported by life. It is safe for me to be alive.

BURNS: Anger, burning up inside.
Affirmation: I create only peace and harmony within myself and in my environment. I deserve to feel good.

CANCER: What’s eating at you? Deep hurt, secret or grief.
Affirmation: I lovingly forgive and release all of the past. I choose to fill my life with joy. I love and approve of myself.

CARPAL TUNNEL: Anger and frustrations at life’s seeming injustices.
Affirmation: I now choose to create a life that is abundant. I am at ease.

CHOLESTEROL (high): Clogging the channels of joy.
Affirmation: I choose to love life. My channels of joy are wide open. It is safe to receive. 

CIRCULATION: Lack of joy or the lack of circulation of ideas.
Affirmation: Joyous new ideas are circulating freely within me.

COLDS: Too much going on at once. Mental confusion and disorder.
Affirmation: I allow my mind to relax and be at peace. Clarity and harmony are within me and all around me.

COLD SORES: Festering angry words and fear of expressing them.
Affirmation: I only create peaceful experiences because I love myself. All is well.

COLIC: Mental irritation. Annoyance with surroundings.
Affirmation: This child only responds to love and loving thoughts. All is peaceful.

COMA: Fear. Trying to escape from something or someone.
Affirmation: We surround you with safety and love. We create a space for you to heal. You are loved.

CONSTIPATION: Refusing to release old ideas.
Affirmation: As I release the past, the new and fresh and vital enter. I allow life to flow through me.

COUGHS: A desire to bark at the world. “Listen to me!”
Affirmation: I am noticed and appreciated in the most positive ways. I am loved.

DEPRESSION: Anger, hopelessness.
Affirmation: I now go beyond other peoples fears and limitations. I create my own life.

DIABETES: Longing for what might have been. No sweetness left in life.
Affirmation: This moment is filled with joy. I now choose to experience the sweetness of today.

DIARRHEA: Fear and rejecting. Running off or away from something/someone.
Affirmation: My intake, assimilation and elimination are in perfect order. I am at peace with life.

DIZZINESS: Flighty, scattered thinking.
Affirmation: I am deeply centered and at peace with life. It is safe for me to be alive and joyous.

EAR PROBLEMS: Not wanting to hear. Anger or too much turmoil.
Affirmation: I hear with Love.

ELBOW PROBLEMS: Not being flexible, not able to change directions or accept new experiences.
Affirmation: I easily flow with with new experiences, new directions and new changes.

EPSTEIN-BARR VIRUS:Pushing Beyond one’s limits. Fear of not being good enough.Draining all inner support. Stress Virus.
Affirmation:I relax and recognize my self-worth. I am good enough. LIfe is easy and joyful.

EYE (astigmatism): Fear of “seeing” the self.
Affirmation: I am now willing to see my own beauty and magnificence.

EYES (cataracts): Inability to see ahead with joy.
Affirmation: Life is eternal and filled with joy.

EYE PROBLEMS: (children) Not wanting to see what’s going on in the family.
Affirmation: Harmony and joy and beauty and safety now surround the child.

EYE (farsighted): Fear of the present.
Affirmation: I am safe in the hear and now. I see that clearly.

EYE (nearsighted): Fear of the future.
Affirmation: I accept life and am always safe.

EYE STY: Looking at life through angry eyes. Angry at someone.
Affirmation: I choose to see everyone and everything with joy and love.

FAINTING: Fear, can’t cope, blacking out what’s really going on.
Affirmation: I am strong and powerful and I have the knowledge and ability to handle everything in my life.

FEET PROBLEMS: Fear of the future or not wanting to move forward.
Affirmation: I understand clearly and I am willing to change with the times. I am safe.

FEMALE PROBLEMS: Denial of the self and rejecting the feminine aspects within.
Affirmation: I rejoice in the feminine. I love being a women and I love my body.

FEVERS & INFECTIONS: Anger, burning up.
Affirmation: I am the cool, calm expression of peace and love.

FIBROIDS: Nursing a hurt from a partner, a blow to the feminine ego.
Affirmation: I release the pattern in me that attracted this experience. I create only good in my life.

FINGER (thumb): Worry, always thinking. Being ‘under someone’s thumb’.
Affirmation: My mind is at peace.

FINGER (index): Fear of authority, or egotistical; abusing your authority.
Affirmation: I am secure.

FLU: Responding to mass negativity. Putting too much faith in statistics.
Affirmation: I am beyond group beliefs or the calendar. I am free from all congestion and influence.

GAS PAIN (flatulence):Undigested ideas or concerns.
Affirmation: I relax and let life flow through me with ease.

GRAY HAIR: Stress, feeling under pressure and strain.
Affirmation: I am strong and capable. I am at peace and comfortable in every area of my life.

GUM PROBLEMS: Inability to back up decisions. Being wishy-washy about life.
Affirmation: I am a decisive person. I follow through and support myself with love.

HAND PROBLEMS: Grasping on to tight, not wanting to let go. Not ‘handling’ things well.
Affirmation: I choose to handle all my experiences with love and with joy and with ease.

HEADACHES: Self-criticism. Not wanting to accept what is going on.
Affirmation: I love and approve of myself. I see myself and what I do with eyes of love. I am safe.

HEART ATTACK: Squeezing all the joy out of life, in favor of money or position.
Affirmation: I bring joy back to the center of my heart. I express love to all.

HEARTBURN (reflux): Clutching onto fear. Not trusting in the process of life.
Affirmation: I breathe freely and fully. I am safe. I trust the process of life.

HEART PROBLEMS: Lack of joy, dealing with issues from anger, not love.
Affirmation: My heart beats to the rhythm of love.

HEMORRHOIDS: Fear of deadlines. Afraid to let go and move on.
Affirmation: I release all that is unlike love. There is time and space for everything I want to do.

HERNIA: Ruptured relationships, feeling the burdens.
Affirmation: My mind is cleansed and free. I leave the past and move into the new. All is well.

HIP PROBLEMS: Fear of going forward in major decisions.
Affirmation: I am in perfect balance. I move forward in life with ease and with joy at every age.

HIVES (rash or Urticaria): Small, hidden fears. Mountains out of molehills.
Affirmation: I bring peace to every corner of my life.

HYPERACTIVITY: Feeling pressured and frantic.
Affirmation: I am safe. All pressure dissolves. I AM good enough.

HYPERVENTILATION: Resisting change. Not being able to take it all in.
Affirmation: I am safe everywhere in the Universe. I love myself and trust the process of life.

IMPOTENCE: Sexual guilt or pressure, feeling spite against a previous mate.
Affirmation: I now allow the full power of my sexuality to flow with ease and with joy.

INDIGESTION: Dread or anxiety about a recent or upcoming event.
Affirmation: I digest and assimilate all new experiences peacefully and joyously.

INFECTION(See “Itis”): Irritation, anger or annoyance about a recent situation.
Affirmation: I choose to be peaceful and harmonious.

INFLAMMATION: Fear. Seeing Red. Inflamed Thinking.
Affirmation: My thinking is peaceful, calm & centred.

“ITIS”: Anger and frustration about situations you are looking at in your life.
Affirmation: I am willing to change all patterns of criticism. I love and approve of myself.

KIDNEY PROBLEMS: Criticism, disappointment, failure. Shame. Reacting like a little kid.
Affirmation: [Divine] Right is always taking place in my life. Only good comes from each experience. It is safe to grow up.

KIDNEY STONES: Lumps of undissolved anger.
Affirmation: I dissolve all past problems with ease.

KNEE PROBLEMS: Stubborn ego and pride. Inability to bend. Inflexibility. Won’t give in.
Affirmation: Forgiveness. Understanding. Compassion. I bend, flow with ease & all is well.

LARYNGITIS: Fear of speaking up.
Affirmation: I am flexible and flowing.

LEFT SIDE OF BODY: The feminine side. Represents receptivity, taking in, women, mother, love.
Affirmation: My feminine energy is beautifully balanced.

LEG PROBLEMS: Fear of the future, not being able to carry things forward.
Affirmation: I move forward with confidence and joy, knowing that all is well in my future.

LIVER PROBLEMS: (hepatitis) Resistance to change. Fear, anger, hatred. Liver is the seat of anger and rage.
Affirmation: My mind is cleansed & free. I leave the past & move into the new. All is well.

LUNG PROBLEMS: Depression, grief or fear of life. Not feeling worthy.
Affirmation: I have the capacity to take in the fullness of life. I lovingly live life to the full.

LUPUS:  A giving up. Better to die than stand up for one’s self. Anger and punishment.
Affirmation: I speak up for myself freely and easily. I claim my own power. I love and approve of myself. I am free and safe.

MENOPAUSE: Fear of no longer being wanted.
Affirmation: I am balanced and peaceful in all changes of cycles and know that I am loved.

MENTAL ALERTNESS & SENILITY: Returning to the “safety” of childhood. Demanding care and attention.
Affirmation: I am safe and life is peaceful. The intelligence of the Universe operates at every level of life.

MIGRAINE HEADACHE: Sexual fears, or fear of being close, letting someone in too close. Feeling driven or pressured.
Affirmation: I will relax into the flow of life and let life provide all that I need easily and comfortably. I love Life!

MENSTRUAL IMBALANCE/PMS: Rejection of one’s femininity. Guilt or feeling “dirty”.
Affirmation: My bodily processes are a natural part of life. I love and approve of myself.

NAUSEA: Fear, rejecting an idea or experience.
Affirmation: I am safe. I trust the process of life to bring only good to me.

NECK PROBLEMS: Refusing to see another’s side or position. Stubbornness. Who/what is being a pain in the neck?
Affirmation: I am peaceful with life

OSTEOPOROSIS: Feeling there is no support left in life.
Affirmation:I stand up for myself and Life supports me in unexpected, loving ways.

OVERWEIGHT PROBLEMS: Fear, feeling a deep need for emotional protection. Running away from feelings, insecurity.
Affirmation: I am at peace with my own feelings. I am safe where I am. I create my own security. I love and approve of myself.

PAIN: Self punishment, feeling emotional guilt.
Affirmation: I lovingly release the past. They are free and I am free. All is well in my heart now.

PROSTATE ENLARGEMENT: Mental fears weakening the masculinity. Sexual pressure and feelings of guilt or inadequacy.
Affirmation: I accept my own power. I embrace life and feel young in spirit. I love and approve of myself.

SEIZURES: Running away from the self, family or from life.
Affirmation: I am at home in the Universe. I am safe and secure and understood.

SHOULDER PROBLEMS: Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Feeling like life is a burden.
Affirmation: I choose to allow all of my experiences to be joyous and loving.

SINUS PROBLEMS: Irritation to someone, usually someone close to you.
Affirmation: I choose to declare peace and harmony with all the individuals around me. I surround myself with love and goodwill.

SKIN CONDITIONS: Anxiety, fear, feeling threatened.
Affirmation: I lovingly protect myself with thoughts of joy and peace.

SLIPPED DISK: Feeling unsupported in life.
Affirmation: Life supports all of my thoughts; therefore, I love and approve of myself and all is well.

SORE THROAT: Holding in angry words. Feeling unable to express the self.
Affirmation: I release all restrictions, and I am free to be me.

SNORING: Stubborn refusal to let go of old patterns.
Affirmation: I release all that is unlike love and joy in my mind. I move from the past into the new and fresh and vital.

SPASMS: I release all restrictions, and I am free to be me.
Affirmation: I release, I relax and let go. I am safe in life.

STOMACH & INTESTINAL PROBLEMS: Dread, fear of the new, or not feeling nourished.
Affirmation: I digest life with ease.

STROKE: Insecurity, lack of self-expression. Not being allowed to cry.
Affirmation: Life is change, and I adapt easily to the new. I accept life – past, present and future.

TEETH PROBLEMS: Being indecisive, not being able to break down ideas for analysis and decisions.
Affirmation: I make my decisions based on the principles of truth, and I rest securely knowing that only right action is taking place in my life.

TESTICULAR PROBLEMS: Not accepting masculine principles, or the masculinity within.
Affirmation: Not accepting masculine principles, or the masculinity within.

THYROID PROBLEMS: Humiliation. Feeling repressed or put down. Feeling as if you never get to do what you want.
Affirmation: I move beyond old limitations and allow myself to express freely and creatively.

TUMORS: Nursing old hurts and shocks. Building on remorse.
Affirmation: I lovingly release the past and turn my attention to this new day.

ULCERS: Fear, a strong belief that you are not good enough. “What is eating away at you?”
Affirmation: I love and approve of myself. I am at peace. I am calm.

URINARY PROBLEMS: Feeling pissed off! Usually at the opposite sex or lover.
Affirmation: I release the pattern in my consciousness that created this condition. I am willing to change. I love and approve of myself.

VARICOSE VEINS: Standing in a situation you hate. Feeling over worked and over burdened.
Affirmation: I stand in truth and live and move in joy. I love life, and circulate freely.

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Recipe: Chocolate & Pear Tart

Merry Christmas everyone!

Just wanted to share with you the most delicious tart recipe that I tested out Christmas eve. I got this gorgeous Chocolate and Pear Tart recipe from Rachel Allen’s TV show Coastal Cooking. 

I’ve always been a huge chocolate fan but this tart made my chocolate addiction accessible to my entire family this festive season. As half of my family are celiac, I substituted plain flour with rice flour which worked really well. Am I the only one that finds rice flour difficult to work with? Mine was so crumbly! Anyway, hope you try this, it’s so rich and tasty. I recommend serving the tart with a big dollop of cream on the side. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the pastry

  • 250g (9oz) plain flour (or rice flour), plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 125g (4½oz) unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • For the pears
  • 3 medium pears, not too soft, peeled, quartered and cored
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • For the chocolate
  • 200g (7oz) dark chocolate
  • 150g (5oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 whole eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
  • 40g (1½oz) caster sugar

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add enough of the beaten egg to bring it together to form a dough, reserving any leftover egg for later.  Lightly flour the worktop. Turn out the dough and pat into a round, about 1cm (½in) thick, then cover with cling film and place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes (or it could be refrigerated overnight, or frozen, too).
  2. You will need a 25.5cm (10in) tart tin with a removable base, with sides 3cm (1¼in) high. When you are ready to roll out the pastry. Remove it from the fridge and place between two sheets of cling film (each larger in size than your tart tin). Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry out to no thicker than 5mm (¼in). Make sure to keep it in a round shape as well as large enough to line both the base and the sides of the tin.
  3. Remove the top layer of cling film, slide your hand, palm upwards, under the bottom layer of cling film, then flip the pastry over (so that the cling film is now on top) and carefully lower it into the tart tin. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin (with the cling film still attached) and, using your thumb, “cut” the pastry along the edge of the tin for a neat finish. Remove the cling film and chill the pastry in the fridge for a further 30 minutes, or in the freezer for 10 minutes (it can keep for weeks like this, covered, in the freezer and can be cooked from frozen, but will take an extra couple of minutes to cook).
  4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF), Gas mark 4.
  5. Remove the pastry from the fridge and line with greaseproof paper or baking parchment, leaving plenty to come just above the sides of the tin. Fill with baking beans or dried pulses (all of which can be reused repeatedly), then place in the oven and bake “blind” for 20 – 25 minutes until the pastry feels almost dry on the bottom. Take out of the oven and remove the baking beans and aper. Brush the bottom of the pastry with the leftover beaten egg, if there is any, then bake for a further 3 minutes without the paper and beans, until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.
  6. Meanwhile, put the pears in a saucepan with the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Cover with a disc of baking parchment and a lid and cook gently on a medium–low heat for 20 – 30 minutes until tender. Slice the pears thinly and arrange in a single layer over the baked pastry case when ready – arrange these nicely as they may be visible once the tart is cooked.
  7. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Don’t allow the water to get too hot or the chocolate may burn. Take the saucepan off the heat once the water comes to the boil and leave the chocolate and butter to slowly melt. While the chocolate is melting, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar for 5 minutes until fluffy. Then fold in the melted chocolate and butter mixture.
  8. Cover the pears with the chocolate mix and bake in the oven for 7 minutes exactly. It will look slightly unset when it comes out, but will set as it cools, over the next hour.

 

Thanks Rachel for another tasty recipe!

My Girl Boss Girl Crush

I’m currently obsessing over Sophia Amoruso. Not only this woman a remarkable business woman, she also has a killer look. I’ve always been a huge fan of fitted black clothes but this woman takes it to a whole other level. Having watched several interviews of her on Youtube, Amoruso’s book #GirlBoss is most definitely my next read.

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Risen from the ashes? Runaway Kanye!

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Runaway is the debut short film by rapper Kanye West which aired on MTV last week with mixed reviews from the critics. With all the controversy over it, I had to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. This forty minute “noir” short film depicts Mr. West and a fallen phoenix in the shape of a scantily-clad bird lady. Or in his own words, ‘’It’s the story of a phoenix fallen to Earth, and I make her my girlfriend, and people discriminate against her and eventually she has to burn herself alive and go back to her world’’.
The fact that Kanye doesn’t even need to woo this phoenix girl to make her his girlfriend is typical of the pompous Mr. West. It’s safe to say his ego is stamped all over this film. In saying that, the film is shot beautifully in the woods of Prague and the fashion, inspired by Karl Lagerfeld is really striking. Dedications can also be seen throughout, from the papier-mâché bust of Michael Jackson to the sampling of a Bon Iver song at the end of the film.
The soundtrack to the film is first-class, with the majority of the songs from his upcoming album Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, one of my favourites being ‘All of the Lights’, however there are some exceptions. The British rap at the beginning by American diva rapper Nicki Minaj is just plain crap. Why the British accent Kanye? She clearly can’t pull it off! In fact, some of the highest rated comments on YouTube below the film are about how terrible the accent is.

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It’s a strange film, but according to model Selita Ebanks, who co-stars in the film, it has a strong moral message about how ‘’the world doesn’t accept, or they try to change, what is different, instead of trying to understand it.’’
In archetypal Kanye form, there are subtle digs throughout. The first spoken line in the film ‘’Don’t believe what you hear on the news’’, relates to the ridiculously blown-up Taylor Swift incident at the 2009 VMA’s where he stormed the stage during Taylor’s speech.
Although he has since apologised for the incident, I really got the feeling he only did so in order to keep the country-music rednecks happy. At times Runaway feels like a drawn out music video because of the lack of dialogue. The songs seem to take centre stage rather than the plot. It feels like listening to his album while watching random events on the screen.
If you’ve got half an hour to kill, it’s worth Youtube-ing just to say that you’ve watched it. But be warned, it is really odd. In the realm of directing and music, Kanye is hot stuff right now. As an actor and scriptwriter, not so much.

2½ stars out of 5.

 Watch it here:
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Originally published in the UCC College Express. 

Freaks and Geeks

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For most of us, secondary school was a drag. And somehow teen sitcoms trying to hone the material of terrible teenage years inevitably end up sappy, flat and boring. All in one. But Freaks and Geeks was different, Freaks and Geeks nailed it. From the super-hottie Daniel Desario, played by James Franco, to the awfully awkward Bill Haverchuck, played by Martin Starr, it was easy to understand them, feel their pain and laugh at their inside jokes.

It centres around the adventures in adolescence of freshman Sam Weir and his older sister, Lindsey, and their two circles of friends…the “Freaks” (Lindsey’s group featuring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segal and Busy Philipps) and the “Geeks” (featuring Sam played by John Francis Daly, Martin Starr and Sam Levine).

The “Freaks” are the folk normally seen smoking in the courtyard of the high school, rocking out to loud music, and generally disregarding the rules. In contrast, the “Geeks” are the peeps in the Dungeons & Dragons sessions, battling elves while getting stuffed in their lockers five hours later by the football players.

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It’s the typical high school dynamic, albeit it set in suburban Michigan, circa 1980, displayed to an exorbitantly truthful extent in one of the most personal shows to ever grace TV. One perfect moment has to be in the Halloween episode when Lindsay (ER’s Linda Cardellini pre-ER) ditches her mom to egg houses with her new freak friends and ends up egging Sam, her brother, by accident, who only moments before was beaten up by the school bully. Quite simply, Freaks and Geeks is a high school show made for adults.

Unlike other “high school” shows in the past, Freaks and Geeks attempted to showcase the painful evolution that teens undergo in the often turbulent environment of secondary education. Story ideas were culled directly from the writing staff’s own experiences, whether it be wearing an outdated disco jumpsuit to school, or finding a garage door opener in your father’s car that didn’t belong to your house.

As poignant as it was funny, the show was neither truly a comedy nor a drama, but rested somewhere in between, mirroring real life to such an extent that it was truly indefinable as anything other than awesome television.

Freaks and Geeks co-creator Judd Apatow is no doubt the main contributor of the deadpan humour. One ofFreaks and Geeks finest attributes is its refusal to resort to the easy laugh or the life shattering moment, which makes it different from the generic shows of late. At first, Freaks and Geeks seems to be uncommonly ordinary, entirely devoid of sarcastic zingers or deadpan jokes, but don’t stop watching. Repeated exposure to the show breeds a deep appreciation for its low-key charm and, I suspect, for all who survived school, a shudder of recognition when they see a bit of themselves reflected on screen.

So what killed the show? Lack of love. Like so many shows, Freaks and Geeks was mercilessly yanked from American TV after a mere 12 episodes in 1999. Needless to say, it has a huge cult following, and was one of the most purchased DVD’s of the noughties. Perhaps it’s for the best, after all, that Freaks & Geeks didn’t last; like John Bonham, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison, Freaks and Geeks died young and never got a chance to overstay its welcome. RIP F+G.

“I had a friend in high school who smoked. You know where he is now? HE’S DEAD!” Mr Weir.

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This article was originally published for the UCC College Express.

Sexism in Gaming

A lifelong gamer, documentary filmmaker Anita Sarkeesian became increasingly interested in discussing the way women are represented in gaming. Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter in 2012 to fund her planned documentary, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. The video project will explore, analyze and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games. Sarkeesian hopes to highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders.

Now, whether you think it’s good or bad, it is simply impossible to deny that women are almost exclusively portrayed in video games as bustily and as scantily clad as possible, except when they’re portrayed as pretty princesses in need of a rescue. It’s such a common trope that it’s only notable when a game deliberately evades it (like the Mass Effect series). Exploring that seems like an excellent way of helping the gaming community come to grips with the way nearly 50% of us have to accept there will be few, if any, playable avatars that aren’t reduced to their sex appeal.

Naturally, Sarkeesian’s pitch attracted an incredible outpouring of hostility, ranging from insults, to outright threats of rape. Her wikipedia page was defaced. A DDOS attack brought down her site. One enterprising group of sexist pricks even created a game in which you could beat Sarkeesian up. A multitude of angry male gamers screamed their outrage at the very notion that sexism might be real, by proceeding to demonstrate just how sexist the community can be. (Some of them even insistedmisandry is a far worse problem.) And all because she had the gall to ask people to fund a (GASP) documentary exploring the way game developers treat women in their games.

Emily Matthew’s report on sexism in gaming was extremely interesting and highlights just how prevalent sexism is in the gaming world.

It’s frustrating that with women constituting 47% of gamers, theres still an outrageous number of ‘oops-sexism’ outbursts from people who surely must know better, and worse, that the rush to defend these outbursts is as full of bile as ever.

The Web Changes News – and PR – Forever

Since the development and growth of the Internet, the way in which news is reported and distributed has changed dramatically. Taking this into consideration, there are ever increasing changes PR practitioners must deal with. When looking at how the web changes news and PR, there are a number of factors to consider. It is important to look at how ‘new’ media differs from ‘old’ media. The distinction between “old”, or “traditional” media and the “new” forms such as blogs, podcasts, Internet radio, and video sharing with YouTube being the most popular hosting site. With the Internet now being the primary source for news and entertainment for most people, traditional media is on the back burner, with Print, Television and Radio becoming, some would argue, obsolete.

One of the main differences between old and new media is geography. Television, print and radio are all geographically limited in their audience reach. New media, on the other hand, can tap into any publics that have internet access. The production of old media is closely edited, so that the content (what the consumer reads/sees/hears) is controlled. On the internet, there is no control. To quote Eric Schmidt, “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.” New media is boundless. Though there is debate whether this ‘free speech’ is for the best, the freedom of uncensored news is a positive for society.

This goes hand in hand with distribution. The distribution of newspapers is a resource intensive process. Similarly, with radio, transmission towers send out content at one particular time with the potential that many people or perhaps no-one listening at any given time. New media has an altered distribution process. With all forms of new media being digital,communication is broken up into digital bits and bytes and distributed through the internet, mobile phones, etc. This has dramatically lowered costs for communication as well as the potential for personalization and the time frame for receiving the communication. Indeed, this has created significant problems for old media in terms of its audience and revenue. All of these traditional forms are often desperately trying to catch up with and make use of new media. 

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Perhaps the most important difference between old and new forms of media is communication. In traditional media, communications are strictly one way. The content provider sends information to the consumer and the consumer sends money to the provider. There is no mechanism for a flow of either information or money in the opposite direction. The consumer is strictly passive. In new media practices, there is a dialogue between the provider and the audience.

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Many, including Andrew Rashbash, chief executive of The Economist Group, have found this development in consumer engagement has made consumers “lean back” from the traditional media forms, mainly television. This highlights a change in how we consume news. Though news cycles are much quicker than they were in the past, the quantity of news consumption has risen dramatically as a result of the web. Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates Ltd  prepared a report for Google in 2013 which outlined how the change in media and roles within the media are creating new expectations with regards to digital consumption.  Although the web has been blamed for many of the travails of traditional news media – and contributing to a reduction in choice in the event of closures or coverage reduction – the choice both offered and used by consumers has increased hugely.

PR practitioners now need to adapt their skill sets in order to grow with the newer digital trends. In 2005, Rupert Murdoch gave a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington DC regarding digital trends and the shift old media needs to take in order to stay relevant.

“We need to realize that the next generation of people accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different set of expectations about the kind of news they will get, including when and how they will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will get it from. Anyone who doubts this should read a recent report by the Carnegie Corporation about young people’s changing habits of news consumption and what they mean for the future of the news industry.” – Rupert Murdoch 

Murdoch spoke of how digital natives didn’t want to rely on a “God-like” figure to give them their news. He realized that digital natives wanted a multitude of information from a multitude of different sources. Ten years on from Murdoch’s speech, the internet has indeed overcome the traditional forms of media. It is therefore vital that PR Practitioners learn and adapt to the changing media climate. This change has resulted in a shift in revenue, with newspaper sales down 7% in the second half of 2014 in Ireland.

Education and The Internet

After my last cybercultures class, I began to wonder, should knowledge should be open to all to both use and contribute to? Yes, and it’s this intuitive philosophy that forms the base of The Open Education Movement, which has been gaining momentum since 2006, the same year Dr. Dan Colman, launched Open Culture, the greatest free cultural and educational media website I have ever seen. Open Culture is the largest database of free cultural and educational media in existence.

“I’m trying to bring the best good ideas to the rest of the world. There currently exists too much of a gap between the university world and the general public.” -Dr. Dan Colman, editor of Open Culture.

There are two dimensions to Open Culture: Firstly, it acts as a portal, collecting external links so users are able to access materials directly from the distributor, whether the media be on a site, YouTube or iTunes. Secondly, it includes blog-style content with 2-3 posts a day of handpicked media bites. Open Culture features over 350 courses in its collection: links to ever popular TED Talks, over 400 high quality streams of classic movies and tens of thousands of hours of audio book material. In fact, 50% of Open Culture’s collection is audio content.

In the future, Colman would like to implement a social feature so that users can rate certain classes and share those ratings. Most importantly, he wants to add what he calls “the critical element” to Open Culture and the Open Education Movement. How can users get feedback as if they were in a classroom? How can they receive due credit? And perhaps, how can we measure learning in this new way?

Research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that teens use the Internet as an essential study aid outside the classroom and that the Internet increasingly has a place inside the classroom.

Here are some of the significant findings from a survey of 754 youths ages 12-17 conducted last November and December:

  • 94% of youth ages 12-17 who have Internet access say they use the Internet for school research and 78% say they believe the Internet helps them with schoolwork.
  • 71% of online teens say that they used the Internet as the major source for their most recent major school project or report.
  • 41% of online teens say they use email and instant messaging to contact teachers or classmates about schoolwork.
  • 34% of online teens have downloaded an online study aid.
  • 18% of online teens say they know of someone who has used the Internet to cheat on a paper or test.
  • 58% of online teens report using Web sites that had been set up specifically for their school or for a particular class.
  • 17% of online teens have created a Web page for a school project.

This research highlights just how important the internet is in education.

Virtual Community – Hacktivists & Hacktivism

Research and critically analyse an extant, and ideally vibrant, virtual community in terms of one key “cyberculture theme” of your choice.

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Hacktivists, it has been argued, are individuals who redeploy and repurpose technology for social causes. In this sense they are different from “garden-variety hackers” out to enrich only themselves. People like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates began their careers as hackers — they repurposed technology, but without any particular political agenda. In the case of Jobs and Wozniak, they built and sold “blue boxes,” devices that allowed users to defraud the phone company. Though these people today are establishment heroes, and the contrast between their almost exalted state and the scorn being laid upon hacktivists is instructive. The term hacktivism has been defined as the nonviolent use for political ends of “illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools”. These include website defacements, information theft, website parodies, DoS attacks, virtual sit-ins, and virtual sabotage. (Mitchell, 2004.) Capitalizing on the power and pervasive-ness of the Internet, hacktivists attempt to exploit its manifold access points to gain publicity and also to spread information about their views. (Denning, 2001)

                                                                      Hacktivists as a virtual online community have changed the way the internet works for years and years. Although it has not always carried this name, people have turned to hacktivism since the Internet’s early days. (Arquilla, 2001) An example of which was the protesting of the passage of the Communications Decency Act in the United States in 1996 when a hacker defaced the website of the Department of Justice with images and commentary: “Free speech in the land of the free? Arms in the home of the brave? Privacy in a state of wiretaps and government intrusion? Unreasonable searches? We are a little behind our 1984 deadline, but working slowly one amendment at a time. It is hard to trick hundreds of millions of people out of their freedoms, but we should be complete within a decade.” As the Internet has advanced, so too have the tools used by hacktivists to pursue their ideological aims; additionally, an individual’s objective and point of view will likely determine his form of hacktivism. (Taylor, 2005)

It would appear that governments, in particular the US government, consider hackers or “black-hat hackers” less of a threat than those who are trying to make a political or social point (white-hat hackers) (Hurley, 2015). An example of such is the case of Andrew Auernheimer aka “Weev.” In 2010, Weev discovered that AT&T had left private information about its customers vulnerable on the Internet, he and a colleague wrote a simple script to access it. Theoretically, he did not “hack” anything he merely executed a simple version of what Google Web crawlers do every second of every day — chronologically walk through public URLs and extract the content. When Weev got the information (the e-mail addresses of 114,000 iPad users, (including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the White House chief of staff), he did not try to profit from it; he notified the blog Gawker of the security hole.

After WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents in 2010, the ensuing cyber-attacks waged by all sides in the controversy brought the phenomenon of hacktivism into popular focus. Applicable law in most developed countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, generally prohibits hacktivism. However, these countries also protect the right to protest as an essential element of free speech. One could argue that there are many forms of hacktivism that are primarily expressive, that do not cause serious damage, and that do not exploit illegal access to networks or computers. Scholars have outlined that hacktivism sufficiently resembles traditional forms of protest and therefore this warrants protection from the application of anti-hacking laws under widely accepted principles of free speech. (Denning, 2001)

The controversy surrounding WikiLeaks, however, was only beginning. Soon, major companies that provided services to WikiLeaks and its users began withdrawing support. Citing violations of its “Acceptable Use Policy”, PayPal cancelled WikiLeaks’ account, preventing WikiLeaks from accepted donations through the popular online payment service. Subsequently, MasterCard and Visa suspended cardholder payments to WikiLeaks. Swiss bank PostFinance closed the account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, claiming that Assange provided false information concerning his place of residence. (Ragan, 2010) Bank of America, citing concerns that WikiLeaks “may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies,” similarly pulled the plug, refusing to process payments to WikiLeaks. (Satter, 2010) In turn there was huge online backlash as a result of these corporate announcements. An equivocal, international group of individuals, known as Anonymousbegan to bombard the websites of bodies it deemed opposed to WikiLeaks with distributed DDoS attacks. Many of the sites crashed, and others were rendered inoperable for some time. (Bar-Yosef, 2010) Paypal, one of the community’s victims, lost £3.5 million as a result of their attacks. The group’s declared mission, calledOperation Payback, was to raise awareness of the actions of WikiLeaks’ opponents, to fight what it perceived to be censorship by identifying and attacking those responsible for the attacks on WikiLeaks and to support “those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy.” (Correll, 2010)

The conflict surrounding the WikiLeaks controversy to many people was the first real example of a war over digital information. (Satter, 2010) John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, announced on Twitter that “the first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.” (Satter, 2010) To others, including members of Anonymous, Operation Payback is the most prominent recent example of a trend that has been developing since the invention of the Internet. One sees an increase in computer savvy people deploying their skills online to protest for or against a cause—or, more simply, hacktivism. The community of hacktivists is one that is constantly growing and innovating itself. Like many aspects of Internet activity, hacktivism is transnational in scope due to the fact that any effective legal response should include international coordination that draws on widely accepted democratic principles of free speech. (Rubenkind, 2010)

Like many aspects of Internet activity, hacktivism is transnational in scope; as a result, any effective legal response should include international coordination that draws on widely accepted democratic principles of free speech. (Jordan, 2004) As a community, Anonymous has been the most prolific targeting not only corporations but in recent times they have begun targeting public figures an example of which is in early 2015 they created a video aimed at hip hop artist Kanye West. (Williams, 2015) Personally I find hacktivism excellent as it allows the public to be fully informed on various political and social matters. In the case of Anonymous’ DDoS attacks, the British government were quick to react, arresting at least five members of Anonymous. (Halliday, 2011) One must ask, is hacktivism expressive? And if so should hacktivists be eligible for protection as a form of legitimate protest? Certain forms of hacktivism (specifically, virtual sit-ins and voluntary DDoS attacks) narrowly resemble traditionally accepted forms of protest such as physical sit-ins and picket lines. Though this is not justification for hacktivism’s expressive nature and should not be sufficient to guarantee immunity. However, like certain forms of peaceful demonstration that have, in the past, received reasonable protection, so too should acts of hacktivism that are principally expressive. In short, perhaps they should receive protection.

As demonstrated by Anonymous in the context of the WikiLeaks controversy, hacktivism is increasingly becoming a popular form of protest against perceived injustice. The community of hacktivists online are increasing in strength. (Leyden, 2010) I believe that hacktivism is extremely important as a legitimate form of protest. (Jordan, 2004) Furthermore, the potential for hacktivism as a multinational tool of protest justifies the peripheral burden it imposes in its permitted forms. Although most current systems of hacktivism are rightly regulated or prohibited outright, a narrow subset of hacktivism should be protected on the grounds that it is primarily expressive and causes no significant damage.

 

Bibliography

Arquilla, J. a. (2001). Emergence and Influence of the Zapatista Social Netwar – Networks and Netwars. Washington: Rand Corporation.

Bar-Yosef, N. (2010). How Operation Payback and Hacktivism Are Rocking the ’Net.Security Week, 9.

Correll, S.-P. (2010, December). Operation: Payback Broadens to “Operation Avenge Assange”. Retrieved May 21, 2015, from Panda Security :http://pandalabs.pandasecurity.com/operationpayback-broadens-to-operation-avenge-assange/

Denning, D. E. (2001). Activism, Hacktivism, and Cyberterrorism: The Internet as a Tool for Influencing Foreign Policy. Washington: Rand Corporation.

Halliday, J. (2011, January 27). Police arrest five over Anonymous WikiLeaks attacks.Retrieved May 26, 2015, from The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/jan/27/anonymous-hacking

Hurley, O. (2015, March 08). Hackers – friends or foes? . Retrieved May 25, 2015, from Cybercultures – Blog:https://orlaithhurleycybercultures.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/hackers-friends-or-foes/

Jordan, T. a. (2004). Hacktivism and Cyberwars: Rebels with a Cause? . New York: Routledge Publishing.

Leyden, J. (2010, December 10). Anonymous Hacktivists Fire Ion Cannons at Zimbabwe.Retrieved May 28, 2015, from Register:http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/31/anon_hits_zimbabwe_sites/

Mitchell, W. (2004.). Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Ragan, S. (2010). Recap: WikiLeaks Faces More Heat in the Wake of Cablegate. TECH Herald, 20.

Rubenkind, N. J. (2010, December). WikiLeaks Attack: Not the First by th3j35t3r.Retrieved May 21, 2015, from PCMAG:http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2373559,00.asp.

Satter, R. G. (2010, December 03). WikiLeaks Fights to Stay Online amid Attacks.Retrieved May 23, 2015, from Business Week:http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9JSHKUG0.htm.

Taylor, P. A. (2005). From Hackers to Hacktivists: Speed Bumps on the Global Superhighway? New Media & Society , 625-646.

Williams, W. (2015, March). Anonymous hackers issue ominous warning to Kanye West.Retrieved May 23, 2015, from IT Proportal :http://www.itproportal.com/2015/03/13/anonymous-hackers-issue-ominous-warning-kanye-west/