Hardcover Book

2020’s Booker Prize Recipient Announced

Douglas Stuart’s debut novel Shuggie Bain has recently been announced as this year’s Booker prize recipient. Scottish-American Stuart has been awarded £50,000 for his personal tale that paints a portrait of working-class Scotland in the 1980s.

Shuggie Bain tells the story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain struggling to help his mother Agnes, who is battling with addiction. Shuggie spends his childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland, during the turbulent 80s. A story of addiction, sexuality, and unconditional love, Shuggie Bain portrays a working-class family, rarely written in fiction.

The novel was partly inspired by the author’s own upbringing and the loss of his mother to alcoholism when he was 16. Stuart himself describes the novel as “a love story… looking at that unconditional, often tested love, that children can have for flawed parents. The Glasgow that I grew up in, I’d always known it to be run by women. I am the queer son of a single mother, who lost her own battle with addiction when I was a child.”

Upon learning he had been awarded this year’s Booker prize, Stuart appeared shocked and tearful, saying he was “absolutely stunned.” He went on to thank his mother, who is “on every page of this book. I’ve been clear without her I wouldn’t be here, my work wouldn’t be here”. He continued to thank “the people of Scotland, especially Glaswegians, whose empathy and humour and love and struggle are in every word of this book”.

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The author spent 10 years penning Shuggie Bain, which was rejected by 30 editors before it was picked up by publishers Grove Atlantic in the United States and Picador in the UK. Though it’s content may sound somewhat bleak, reviewers have remarked on how the novel simultaneously navigates humor. It is both funny and harrowing, intimate and tender. Stuart says these dualities mirror the Glaswegian spirit.

Margaret Busby, the chair of this year’s Booker judges, said Shuggie Bain was “destined to be a classic”, describing the work as “a moving, immersive and nuanced portrait of a tight-knit social world, its people and its values”.

“It is such an amazingly emotive, nuanced book that is hard to forget. It’s intimate, it’s challenging, it’s compassionate,” Busby said, describing young Shuggie as “an unforgettable character”.

It’s been more than a decade since a debut won the prize, though Stuart was one of four debuts among the six novelists on the shortlist. He was also the only British writer to be shortlisted for this year’s literary prize – the six nominees comprised a diverse shortlist, with Stuart beating Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ethiopian-American Maaza Mengiste and American writers Diane Cook, Avni Doshi and Brandon Taylor.

44-year-old Stuart was born and raised in Glasgow, before moving to New York in his mid-20s, after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London. He has said writing about Glasgow from the United States “brought clarity, but it also allowed me to fall in love with the city again”, describing it as “a city of reluctant optimists by default”.

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He has become only the second Scottish author to win the coveted prize, preceded by novelist James Kelman, who won in 1994 with How Late It Was, How Late. Stuart says this book changed his life and was “one of the first times I saw my people, my dialect, on the page.”

The Booker Prize, previously the Man Booker, is a literary prize awarded annually to the best original novel of the year, written in the English language and published in the UK or Ireland. Established in 1969, the literary award has brought recognition to outstanding fiction for over fifty years.

2019’s Booker prize proved controversial when the judges seemingly flouted rules to choose two winners, Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other and Margaret Atwood for The Testaments. After deliberating for five hours, last year’s judges found it impossible to single out one winner. The rules were changed almost 30 years ago so that only one author could win the coveted prize. This year, judges were under stricter instructions to select only one winner.

Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic journey told through the lives of 12 black women, spanning more than a century. Evaristo drew on aspects of the African diaspora to inform this, her eighth work of fiction. Atwood’s The Testaments drags us back to Gilead in her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which was also shortlisted for the prize in 1986.

Evaristo’s win made her the first black woman and black British author to win the Booker. 79-year-old Atwood became the prize’s oldest winner, as well as becoming the fourth author to have won the prize twice. When awarded the prize in 2019, by coincidence, Evaristo was the same age that Atwood was in 2000 when she first won the prize with The Blind Assassin.

Climate Change Concept

Jeff Bezos Donates To Climate Change Organizations

Jeff Bezos, the Amazon mogul has recently been under viral public scrutiny for the sheer amount of wealth he has accumulated over the course of his career. He is currently the richest man in the world, estimated to be worth $183 billion. In February 2020, Bezos announced his new Bezos Earth Fund, an initiative that would support scientists, activists, non-profits and those who had a good idea to fight climate change. He committed $10 billion dollars to the effort, issuing grants to various organizations in the summer. Prior to this, Bezos’s company, Amazon, announced its Climate Pledge to be carbon zero by 2040.

Accompanied with a picture of the Earth from space, in the initial announcement, he stated on Instagram, ‘Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet. I want to work alongside others to amplify known wats and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share. This global initiative will fund scientists, activists, NGOs – any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world. We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals. I’m committing $10 billion to start and will begin issuing grants this summer. Earth is the one thing we all have in common. Let’s protect it, together.’

On Monday 16th of November 2020, Bezos announced the 16 organisations fighting against climate change, that he has given a total of $791 million too. These are the first donations in his overall $10 billion-dollar pledge within the Bezos Earth Fund and thus far represent 7% of the overall commitment.

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In his social media announcement, he stated: “I’ve spent the past several months learning from a group of incredibly smart people who’ve made it their life’s work to fight climate change and its impact on communities around the world,” Bezos wrote in his Instagram post. “Today, I’m pleased to announce the first Bezos Earth Fund recipients—16 organizations working on innovative, ambitious and needle-moving solutions…’

The recipients include: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, ClimateWorks Foundation, Dream Corps Green for All, Eden Reforestation Projects, Energy Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, The Hive Find for Climate and Gender Justice, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, NDN Collective, Rocky Mountain Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Solutions Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund.

Forbes reported that the biggest donations include the World Wildlife Fund, whose $100 million will focus on three nature-based solutions: ‘protecting and restoring mangroves in Colombia, Fiji, Madagascar and Mexico; scaling sustainable seaweed farming in the North Atlantic; and restoring and protecting forests and other ecosystems in the Amazon, Africa and Central America.’ The Environmental Defense Fund will use its $100 million to complete and launch the MethaneSAT satellite, which monitors and locates sources of methane pollution. The data will be accessible to the public to both instigate accountability and drive large reductions in pollution. The ClimateWorks Foundation’s $50 million will go towards addressing greenhouse-gas emissions in the transportation and industrial sectors, which combined, generate approximately half of global-greenhouse gas emissions.

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The rest of the list includes: $100 million was donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council, $100 million to The Nature Conservancy and $100 million to the World Resources Institute. $43 each million to The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund and The Solutions Project. The Energy Foundation and Salk Institute for Biological Studies both received $30 million. $15 million to the Union of Concerned Scientists, $10 million to Dream Corps Green For All, The NDN Collective received $12 million, the Rocky Mountain Institute, $10 million and the Eden Reforestation Projects: $5 million.

A spokesperson for Bezos’s Earth Fund told The Atlantic “this list does not reflect the complete range of organizations that the Earth Fund has been speaking with and that will be receiving grants from the fund in this initial round—stay tuned” The Atlantic also noted how some of Bezos’ choice of organizations could be seen as representing an older generation of, and perhaps outdated approach to, climate change – the organizations mostly provide pollution-centric solutions. Journalist Robinson Meyer suggests that climate change needs to be viewed more diversely, opening up to new ideas an approaches and seen as an economic problem rather than just environmental.

Bezos is not the first billionaire to donate to climate change initiatives as more and more companies are looking to invest in climate-friendly industries. Renewable energy is looking to be a worthwhile investment as CNBC reported: ‘This year will post the highest-ever share of newly built generation capacity for renewables, according to the IEA’s annual outlook released earlier this month. As oil, gas and coal all decline, 200 gigawatts of renewable power will be added in 2020, led by China and the U.S., and the IEA estimates that renewables will represent close to 90% of all new power capacity.’

Open Book

Manchester United Footballer Marcus Rashford MBE Announces New Children’s Book Club

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic both children and adults have turned to books to provide them with escapism from the social distancing and lockdowns that have characterized this year. Whilst Amazon and specific book retailers may be on hand to supply the latest releases at the touch of a button, many children and adults across the world still do not have access to books, be that due to illiteracy, financial issues or other reasons.

23-year-old Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford MBE has been hitting headlines across the world for his campaigns to support poor children and their families, by campaigning to the UK government, personally volunteering with charities and inspiring individuals across the UK to set up their own initiatives. Rashford recently made the news again when he announced a further initiative, this time in partnership with Macmillan Children’s Books which will include a book club and the release of new books under the imprint.

The goal of the partnership is to improve literacy and expand knowledge, with the statement released on Twitter saying the project “aims to equip all children with the resources to develop life skills and overcome challenges by increasing access to books.” Alongside The Marcus Rashford Book Club, which will be a program that gives away books from already published by Macmillan that will launch in 2021, the partnership will be launching a number of diverse books that are aimed at 5-18 year olds.

The first book to published will be an illustrated non-fiction title called “YOU ARE A CHAMPION: Unlock Your Potential, Find Your Voice And Be The BEST You Can Be”. The book will be released in May 2021 and is aimed at 11-16 year olds. The BBC reported that within the book “each chapter will start with a story from Rashford’s own life and will cover such topics as the value of education, positive mentality, understanding culture, and female role models.” Two high profile figures will be involved in the writing of the book; Carl Anka, journalist for The Athletic, and sport psychologist Katie Warriner. Rashford will then be publishing two further titles in 2021 and 2022.

In the Twitter statement Rashford said: “Let our children read that they are not alone and enable them to dream. Equip them for obstacles and adversities they might face. Allow them to relate to the characters by making sure that people of all race, religion and sex are depicted correctly and representative of modern society. The team at Pan Macmillan very much share my vision and ambition, and I am really excited to be on this journey with them.”

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Rashford also expressed his reasons for setting up this initiative and reflected upon his own childhood. Rashford said: “I only started reading at 17, and it completely changed my outlook and mentality. I just wish I was offered the opportunity to really engage in reading more as a child, but books were never a thing we could budget for as a family when we needed to put food on the table”. He added that it is believed there are around 400,000 children in the UK that have never owned.

It was reported by The Guardian that “research by the National Literacy Trust found that last year only 26% of under-18s spent time reading each day – the lowest daily level recorded since the charity first surveyed children’s reading habits in 2005.”

Rashford reiterated his dedication to providing opportunities for all children by saying “I want this escapism for all children. Not just those who can afford it.” and “My books are, and will be, for every child, even if I have to deliver them myself. We will reach them.” He also reflected upon the positive and supporting partnership he has created with Macmillian. He said: “There is a real family feel to this partnership and I’m really looking forward to seeing the difference we can make together.”

Rashford has received extensive praise across society for his actions to support children and families, particularly this year in the face of the pandemic which has plunged many more families into hardship. He first campaigned and won additional support for meals for Children over the summer holidays. Later in the year the UK Government initially voted against extending the free school meal provision, but after another dedicated campaign led by Rashford, the government changed its position with £400 million being used for support with food and bills and for holiday food and activities programs. Rashford was also awarded an MBE in October. Alongside this, he has scored two goals for Manchester United so far this season, at the time of writing, out of seven appearances. He has also unfortunately been out of action with a shoulder injury.

It is clear that the partnership between Marcus Rashford and Macmillan Children’s Books will make a difference to the lives of many children across the UK and beyond.


Managing Perfectionism

Often we regard the idea of perfectionism as a positive attribute to a person’s character. Phrases such as ‘I’m such a perfectionist’ are thrown about as a marker of a person’s tenacity, diligence and quality of work. It can be healthy, motivating and helping one to achieve great things. However, many of us do not realize that perfectionism can quickly become quite problematic and unhealthy for a person. It causes anxiety, blocks achievement and impacts upon mental wellbeing. If you believe you are struggling with an severe and unhealthy form of perfectionism, it may be worth consulting a psychologist.

Perfectionism manifests in many forms, and ironically not always in the most obvious of places. For example, procrastination is a big part of perfectionism, which seems counter-productive but is often indicative of that person’s mindset that is focused on success or failure. Psychology Today summarises: ‘Perfectionists set unrealistically high expectations for themselves and others. They are quick to find fault and overly critical of mistakes. They tend to procrastinate a project out of their fear of failure. They shrug off compliments and forget to celebrate their success. Instead, they look to specific people in their life for approval and validation, ‘ and in Harvard Business review, Matt Plummer, founder of online coaching service Zarvana says: “A lot of perfectionistic tendencies are rooted in fear and insecurity.”

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Perfectionism can mean that a person sets unrealistic expectations to be perfect in oneself, which can lead to an obsession with fitness, or greatness among other traits. It can also mean that they set unrealistic standards for others too. Further, perfectionists can derive their standards from others. There are many different traits associated with perfectionism, and different people may have different traits. Perfectionistic behaviors can include, striving for success, hypersensitivity to failure or rejection, reassurance seeking, excessive list making, an inability to let go of arguments and a difficulty in making decisions. It can cause unnecessary anxiety, causing a person to become paralyzed with the idea of failure that they give up on a task or failure because perfectionism is often striving for high and impossible standards, or ‘to be perfect’ and anything less than that is a failure.

If you believe that you do often fall onto the unhealthy side of perfectionism. Try challenge your perfectionistic beliefs. Begin by considering what thoughts go through your head when you are being a perfectionist. What beliefs to you hold? For example, you may not want to delegate tasks to somebody else because you fear they will not be done properly. Is this belief true? Have you tested it? Perhaps you feel like if you undertake that new task you will fail. Is this belief realistic? Can you recount similar tasks you have done where you haven’t failed? You may even want to show a trusted friend or colleague a draft of a project you are working on, if you find you are spending an unhealthy amount of time stressing over it. You may be surprised to find that they think that it is already good enough.

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By challenging and testing your perfectionistic behaviours to see if they hold true will not only give you an indicator as to whether they are rational or not (someone else may not be able to do the job to a good enough standard), if they prove incorrect, it may help you to let go of these standards. Also try to listen when other people compliment you, challenge yourself judgement and try to engage in practices such as positive self-talk, regularly reminding yourself of the times you have succeeded or mindfulness exercises. When you do succeed, set aside time to congratulate yourself and celebrate those successes rather than overlooking that success or even setting yourself even higher standards.

Try to consider and reframe your understanding of your particular branch of perfectionism, is it actually helping you, or does It often hinder you? Desiree Dickerson wrote in Nature:

‘Perfectionism slows us down. It makes tasks feel too hard. It drives ‘just one more’ literature search and the need to rewrite the same sentence over and over, despite diminishing returns. When the expectation is perfection, then procrastination is commonplace. You feel that you don’t have the time to immerse yourself fully, so you don’t start.

Perfectionism also makes us miss out on critical learning opportunities. Failing fast allows for useful iterations of an idea to happen early in the picture, and lets us learn from what works and what doesn’t. Perfectionism inhibits that iterative process. The black-and-white lens of ‘perfect or fail’ means that even the most constructive feedback is seen as implying failure.

Perfectionism raises the bar, and our anxiety levels along with it. That tension in the back of your neck, that headache, that upset stomach is impacting on your clarity of thought, not underpinning your success.’

Female Singer

Sia Drops First Song, ‘Hey Boy,’ From Her Directorial Debut Film ‘Music’ 

Sia has been a pioneer in the music industry for years now. Even if you don’t listen to her own personal music, you’ve definitely heard a song or two in your lifetime that was written by the artist. In fact, one of her most recent projects, ‘This Is Acting’ was a compilation of songs she wrote for other artists that had been rejected throughout her career that she thought deserved to see the light of day. 

Now, Sia has announced her eighth studio album titled “Music – Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture,” she also released the first song and video from the project titled “Hey Boy.” The film marks the first time Sia has held a full on directorial position for a feature length film beyond just her own music videos. 

The film, according to Sia, is about a young girl named Music who looks at the world in a very unique way. Music is played by Sia’s biggest muse Maddie Ziegler, who has been featured in most of Sia’s music videos throughout the past 5+ years. Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr. also star in the film. 

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The video and trailer for the film have already been released along with the announcement that the movie will have a special limited theatrical release by IMAX in February 2021 pending the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The album in its entirety will be released in February 2021 through Sia’s label Atlantic. The song “Hey Boy,” which has already dropped, was written by Sia herself and Jesse Shatkin and Kamille; Shatkin also produced the track. 

Sia’s team described the film as a “wholly original exploration of the healing power of love and the importance of community. Sia’s music is integral to the story of the film as the characters examine the fragile bonds that hold us together and, through fantastical musical sequences, imagine a world where those bonds can be strengthened in times of great challenge.” 

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The album is 14-tracks long and was written both specifically for the film itself, but was also inspired by the film as they made it. The singles “Together” and “Courage To Change” were both released by Sia earlier this year as a means of bringing awareness to climate change and the power the human race has to make a change, however, they were also released while Sia and her team were working on this film, and therefore will also be included within it. 

An accompanying original cast soundtrack album is scheduled to be released this winter as well so that all the individual voices that made the project possible have a moment to shine. Sia has been largely off the radar within the past few years as a solo artist at least. Her most recent solo album was the 2017 holiday collaboration album she created with Greg Kurstin “Everyday Is Christmas,” and most recently released musical project was a collaborative album with Labrinth and Diplo appropriately titled “L.S.D.” 

Now, fans are excited to see what the creative genius has in store for her next project and directorial debut. According to Sia it’s one of her favorite projects yet that she’s worked extremely hard on, so she’s excited for the world to finally see it.


“Lockdown” Named Word of The Year in The UK By Collins Dictionary

2020 has certainly been an eventful year. These effects of which will surely be felt for years to come. As we begin to reflect upon the year that is coming to a close, the Collins Dictionary recently announced its annual word of the year. This year the word chosen was “lockdown”. According to Collins, “Lockdown” can be defined as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces”. The decision to declare this world of the year is a reflection upon how this word has now become a common part of our discourse across the world.

On their website Collins wrote on their why the word “lockdown” was chosen as the word of the year for 2020; “Our lexicographers chose ‘lockdown’ as Word of the Year because it is a unifying experience for billions of people across the world, who have had, collectively, to play their part in combating the spread of COVID-19. Collins registered over a quarter of a million usages of ‘lockdown’ during 2020, against only 4,000 the previous year.” This stark increase in uses of the word lockdown demonstrates how rapidly this became a defining feature in both our lives and language in 2020.

When looking at how the meaning of the word “lockdown” has shifted, in a blog for the Collins Dictionary site, author David Shariatmadari wrote: “It’s not a shock to remember, then, that lockdown was originally a piece of prison vocabulary: it’s when inmates are confined to their cells because of some disturbance on the wing. 2020 is the year that the meaning of the word shifted irrevocably: in most people’s minds, lockdown is now a public health measure – its use having increased exponentially since 2019.”

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It is clear that the word “lockdown” has become instantly recognizable across the world. At the time of writing, England is currently part way through its second national lockdown that is due to end at the beginning of December and Wales has just exited its ‘firebreak’ lockdown, but many restrictions remain in place. Also at the time of writing, France entered its own national lockdown on the 30th October and Germany is also under a form of lockdown measures, although these are lighter than what they were in March/April. Similarly, Italy has issued a tightening of measures and a tiered framework and Spain declared a new “state of emergency” on the 25th October.

In addition to the word “lockdown”, which was the official word of the year, a further nine words featured on the shortlist. Six of the words in the full list relate to the global pandemic, which many would call the defining feature of the year. These were: Coronavirus, Key Worker, Furlough, Self Isolate and Social Distancing.

The final four words relate to other important events from the course of 2020. “Megxit” is defined by Collins as “the withdrawal of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from royal duties” and refers to the decision taken by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced in January 2020. Another pivotal event of 2020 was the worldwide protests that followed the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. These renewed important and essential discussions around racism across the world. Thus, Collins included “BLM” (an abbreviation of Black Lives Matter) to mark these significant events.

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The two final words on the 2020 word of the year shortlist were “tiktoker” and “mukbang”, both of which reference online and social media culture. Tiktok is a platform where users record and post short videos that can quickly go viral if included on the platforms “For You” page. Throughout lockdown we saw celebrities and “tiktokers” alike recording viral dances, songs and challenges and it has recently been predicted that TikTok will surpass one billion users next year. Similarly, Collins defines a “Mukbang” as “a video or webcast in which the host eats a large quantity of food for the entertainment of viewers” and this has become popular on platforms such as YouTube.

The Collins English Dictionary Word of the Year has been an annual feature since 2013. Other similar contents include the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year, Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year and Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Year. Some of these have different shortlisting processes than others, however for Collins Word of the Year a selection of notable words from throughout the year is put together by the Collins team, including lexicographers and other staff members. Other words previously named Collins Word of the Year include “Climate Strike” in 2019, after it was used on average 100 times more than the previous year, and “single use” in 2018.

From the Collins choice of “Lockdown” as Word of the Year for 2020 it is clear that the global pandemic is not only transforming our day to day lives, but it is also having a profound effect on our words and language.

Music Recording

Taylor Swift Calls Out Scooter Braun For Selling Her Masters In $300 Million Deal 

Taylor Swift has called out Scooter Braun for selling her master recording to a US private equity firm without her knowledge. She also claimed that he attempted to use a non-disclosure agreement as a means to “silence [her] forever” regarding the potential sale of her masters and the past conflict the two major music industry heads have had regarding Braun’s ownership of Swift’s past music.

This battle dates back to when Swift was a 15-year-old new artist entering into the music industry. Swift initially signed a six-album deal with Big Machine when she first began her career, this deal entailed that Big Machine would hold and own the rights to her master recordings of these six albums. 

After the six albums, Swift left Big Machine and signed a new deal with Republic that gave her more creative control and ownership over her music. Regardless of this new deal, Big Machine still owned the masters from the first six albums, so when Scooter Braun bought Big Machine in June of 2019, he thus had total control over Taylor Swift’s discography from the beginning of her career. Braun’s purchasing of the label is what brought this battle to the public eye, after Swift called Braun out last year for his purchasing of her music. 

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“My musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it through incessant, manipulative bullying over the years.”

Braun and his team initially responded to these claims in November 2019 by stating that “Scooter was never anything but positive about Taylor,” and that he was open to all possibilities in regard to selling Swift’s masters. Now, one year later, Braun has sold the master recordings to Shamrock Capital in a deal that’s reportedly worth $300 million. The announcement of this deal prompted Swift to take to social media to explain to her fans what this actually meant. 

“This was the second time my music had been sold without my knowledge.” 

If Taylor Swift actually owned the masters to her first six albums, as an artist, she would not only be able to have the satisfaction of owning the work she created from a young age, but also she would be earning a greater royalty and sales revenue over the music and have more control over  how it’s used (in commercials, movies, TV). 

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This is unfortunately an issue that happens to so many young artists entering into the industry; they sign contracts when they’re young that trap them in multiple album deals where they aren’t actually able to own or profit from their own work. Similar situations have happened to artists like Jojo, Tinashe, Kesha, even Prince and The Beatles. 

Within the statement posted to her twitter, Swift also claimed that Scooter’s team wanted her to sign a non-disclosure agreement that would bar Swift from ever talking about Braun again unless in a positive manner.  “I would have to sign a document that would silence me forever before I could even have a chance to bid on my own work … He would never even quote my team a price. These master recordings were not for sale to me,” the artist stated. She also shared the letter sent to Shamrock Capital back in October when the private firm contacted Swift themselves to inform her that the sale of her masters was occurring. 

Shamrock Capital have also released a statement regarding the sale: “Taylor Swift is a transcendent artist with a timeless catalogue. We made this investment because we believe in the immense value and opportunity that comes with her work. We fully respect and support her decision and, while we hoped to formally partner, we also knew this was a possible outcome that we considered.”

Taylor has claimed in the past when this battle with Braun first began that she was in the midst of re-recording all the master recordings of her first six albums so that she would be able to have ownership over those new and fresh recordings that she created as a fully independent artist.

UK Coronavirus Warning Sign

UK Enters into a Second Nationwide Lockdown

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced a second national lockdown for England. This comes after months of substantially growing numbers coronavirus cases across the country and the UK’s scientific advisors apparently urging the government to impose a short lockdown for some time. The UK joins other European countries such as Germany and France in a second lockdown, as cases of COVID-19 have risen across Europe. In the UK, restrictions came into effect on Thursday the 5th of November and have been scheduled to last four weeks, ending on the 2nd of December. The announcement came as the UK reached a total number of million confirmed coronavirus cases across the UK. The BBC paraphrased Mr Johnson’s speech as he stated: ‘”No responsible prime minister” could ignore figures which suggested deaths would reach “several thousand a day”, with a “peak of mortality” worse than the country saw in April…’

In his announcement the Prime Minster said: “Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different, but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.” At the time of the lockdown announcement in late October, Sky News reported: ‘Modelling suggests there is an average of 43,000 to 74,000 new infections per day in England, significantly above the reasonable worst-case scenario of between 12,000 to 13,000 throughout October.’

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Prior to these new lockdown rules, the UK government had put into a place a series of restrictions to attempt to slow the virus spread. This included a ‘rule of six’ whereby people were not allowed to meet more than six people at any time in any place. Following this a tiered system was put into place, placing different areas of the UK under differing restrictions in accordance with how severe the COVID-19 outbreak was in that area. According to several reports, the governments scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) had put forward the notion of a ‘circuit breaker’ in early October. A circuit breaker would impose a short lockdown to essentially ‘short circuit’ the growing number of COVID-19 cases before the situation was out of control. It seems however, that the Governments tiered approach has not proved effective enough, as they announced a lockdown in order to

The second national lockdown has slightly different rules in comparison to the first lockdown that was imposed in March. In particular schools and workplaces will remain open, although workers have been asked to work from home where possible. Further, the national shielding program which asked those who were more vulnerable to stay inside completely, will not be reinstated. When restrictions are eased in December, the UK will apparently return to its tiered system.

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According to the BBC restrictions include:

  • People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education
  • People are also allowed to leave home for exercise medical reasons, food and other essential shopping and providing care for vulnerable people or for volunteering
  • Meeting indoors or in private gardens will not be allowed
  • Individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place
  • Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the nation will close but takeaways and click-and-collect shopping can remain open
  • Leisure and entertainment venues, including gyms, will also close
  • Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces can remain open
  • People are still allowed to form support bubbles
  • Children can move between homes if their parents are separated
  • Clinically vulnerable people are asked to be “especially careful” but people are not being asked to resume shielding

People are allowed to leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, to work, for education or childcare, to exercise outdoors, medical issues, to escape injury or harm, to shop for food and essentials, to provide care for vulnerable people or visit people in a support bubble, to move house and visit waste disposal centers. Some support groups will remain open and available and those workplaces that cannot work remotely will be allowed to remain open. In the first lockdown, only key workplaces (outside of those that could work remotely) were allowed to open. Outdoor exercise was limited to one session or outdoor activity per day in the first lockdown but remains unlimited in this second lockdown. The government has asked that people avoid all non-essential travel and has banned international travel and overnight stays unless for work.

Game Show

Remembering The Life And Legacy Of Alex Trebek 

For most of us, Alex Trebek has been a vision of pure comfort throughout our entire lives. Every night one could turn on the TV and watch their favorite game show host do what he does best; deliver some hard-hitting trivia while personally impacting everyone around him.

This past Sunday, the world mourned a great loss as it was announced that Alex Trebek had died at age 80 after battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer for over a year. Trebek was very public about his health struggles and battle with cancer as he continued to host “Jeopardy” throughout it all. When he made it to the one year mark he delivered a heartfelt and empowering message about how he was aware the odds of him surviving two years were only 7%, but that didn’t mean he would stop fighting. 

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Trebek first began hosting America’s favorite trivia show back in 1984, and has hosted every single episode since; except for that one iconic time on April Fool’s Day in 1997 when he and “Wheel Of Fortune” host Pat Sajak swapped places, amusing audiences everywhere. Trebek filmed over 8,000 episodes throughout his career, and for many at home, turning on their TV to him every night became a sort of tradition. 

Growing up, I always cherished the moments when my entire family would come together at the end of the day, eat dinner, and turn on ABC to watch “Jeopardy” and “Wheel Of Fortune” back-to-back, and I wasn’t alone in this experience, in fact, it’s quite a common ritual for many Americans. Trebek and “Jeopardy” soon became everyone’s favorite TV couple, as the two seemed synonymous with one another. James Holzhauer, who set a series of records on “Jeopardy!” last spring, recently tweeted in memoriam of Trebek, along with a multitude of other past contestants who took to social media to remember the TV legend. 

“Alex was so much more than a host, he was an impartial arbiter of truth and facts in a world that needs exactly that.”

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Trebek delivered over 400,000 clues throughout his time on “Jeopardy” and created what is truly thought of as the standard for all trivia games. The cultural impact Trebek and the show has had on America is unfathomable. Think about all the times in school when your teacher would create a Jeopardy game to review information before a big test, or the amount of times you start humming the Final Jeopardy theme song when waiting in line for something, even if you weren’t someone who kept up with the show consistently, you knew about Trebek and all that his show entailed. 

In March 2019, Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. In his statement, he told his fans that he “wanted to prevent [them] from reading or hearing some overblown or inaccurate reports regarding [his] health. Truth be told, I have to keep fighting, cause under the terms of my contract, I have to host ‘Jeopardy!’ for three more years.”

It was that sort of light-hearted and wholesome attitude that made America fall in love with Alex Trebek. However, the show must go on as they say, and in a statement from his family one of Trebek’s last wishes were that the Jeopardy audiences welcome whoever hosts the show next with open-arms, and offer them as much gratitude and appreciation as they did for him, that way the show, just like his legacy, will always live on.


Remembering Sir Sean Connery and His Legacy

On the 31st October 2020 it was announced that the well-respected actor Sir Sean Connery had passed away at the age of 90. Sir Sean featured in many film and TV shows throughout his career, but it is his role as James Bond that he is most remembered for. It was reported that he passed away in his sleep peacefully in The Bahamas, and his son said that he had been “unwell for quite some time”. With a career spanning more than 50 years, Sir Sean Connery has certainly had a profound impact upon the film industry.

Thomas Sean Connery was born in the area of Fountainbridge, Scotland, on 25th August 1930. Before becoming an actor, Sir Sean had a variety of different jobs including a stint in the Royal Navy, enlisting age 16 but having to leave three years later due to a stomach ulcer, and time as a bricklayer, lifeguard and model for Edinburgh College of Art. Prior to starring in Bond, Sir Sean’s first acting credit came in gangster film “No Road Back” in 1957.

Sir Sean was the first ever actor to play James Bond and prior to his casting, it is reported that initially Ian Fleming, writer of the James Bond books, was not convinced he was the right actor for the part, however he changed his mind after seeing him on screen. Sir Sean’s first appearance was in Dr No (1962). Despite criticism from the critics, it was popular with the public and did well at the box office. Sir Sean starred in a further four Bond films; From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger, (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1966) before stepping down from the role. However, the producers managed to get him back to play Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), with a then huge fee of $1.25m, which Sir Sean used to set up the Scottish International Education Trust. His final outing as the character was in Never Say Never Again (1983). A Radio Times poll is testament to his popularity; he came out on top of the poll which asked more than 14,000 fans for their favourite portrayal of the character.

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Following his appearances as the infamous British spy, Sir Sean Connery appeared in other popular films including Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, The Untouchables and The Rock. It was for his performance in The Untouchables that he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1988 for his role as Jim Malone.

When reflecting upon his characterisation of Bond, criticism has been made about his portrayal of sex and how he interacts with the female characters in the franchise. A BBC article writes: “In truth, his Bond is now a museum piece; the portrayal of women impossibly dated. The action scenes are still thrilling, but the sex too often bordered on the non-consensual. Thankfully, it’s been a while since 007 slapped a woman on the backside and forced a kiss. But Connery’s performance was of its time, enjoyed by millions of both sexes and gave the silver screen a 20th Century icon.”

Many popular stars have come out in tribute to Sir Sean and his work. Current James Bond actor Daniel Craig called Sir Sean “one of the true greats of cinema”. He added in his statement on the official James Bond twitter account “He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts; he helped create the modern blockbuster” and “He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.” Fellow James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan called Sir Sean his “greatest James Bond as a boy” on his Instagram page.

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The producers of James Bond Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, daughter of one of the original James Bond producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, also shared their tributes to Sir Sean. They said: “He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words – ‘the name’s Bond… James Bond’ – he revolutionized the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him.”

Fellow actor Hugh Jackman tweeted “I grew up idolizing #SeanConnery. A legend on screen, and off. Rest In Peace” and Arnold Schwarzenegger tweeted “Sean Connery was a legend, one of the greatest actors of all time”; a further testament to Sir Sean’s legacy.

The James Bond franchise remains incredibly popular across the world. 5 other actors have played the British spy; George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. To date there have been 26 James Bond films produced, delighting audiences for more than 50 years. The latest installment of the franchise was originally due for release in April 2020, however due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, the launch has now been delayed again until April 2021. The film is called No Time To Die and it will be Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond amidst mounting speculation for who will be his replacement.

It is clear that Sir Sean Connery had a considerable impact upon both the success of the James Bond franchise and upon the film industry as a whole throughout his stellar career and will be sorely missed.