Thursday, 31 May 2012

Homeopathy Healed My Hay Fever Horror

by Charlie Albuery
image source:
I am (well, was) one of the worst hay-fever sufferers I have ever known. Then, one day, my mother booked me in to see a homoeopathist.
For those of you who don’t know, homeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine whereby (and this is where it gets weird) any imbalances in your body chemistry can be corrected by the consumption of a specific element. Personally, I’m a sulphur type (apparently).
Now, I know what you’re thinking --- something along the lines of ‘Pffft, alternative medicine is ridiculous. I’ll go back to popping my painkillers and using my steroid allergy relief spray' (which doesn’t work, by the way). Admittedly, that was completely my viewpoint on the subject up until a year and a half ago.
That was when I had my first appointment, I was handed some pills and told that they were sulphur and my sulphur levels were dangerously low; for two days they would aggravate my symptoms (not sounding good) and then my pain would slowly begin to fade. I took another course each three months, when the symptoms returned, and, until about a month ago, I assumed I was completely cured.
Then the sneezing returned. For those of you who’ve never heard me sneeze (i.e. have never been within a half-mile radius of me during July or August), it’s highly unpleasant and draws stares and laughter.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Photography Club: Light

by Saskia Goacher

"I took this thinking about how much prettier things look in the sun and how the middle bits look shiny in the sunlight."

Photography Club is run by Mr. Stone and meets every Friday lunchtime

Why I Hate 3D

by Max Jewell

image source:
'You’re a Luddite’ is the response I most often receive when I expound my vitriolic disdain for all things three dimensional. ‘No doubt people thought colour was destroying traditional black and white cinema. You need to move with the times’ is another example of the litany I am subjected to courtesy of exponents of 3D cinema.

This argument is stupid for two reasons.

Firstly, unlike 3D, colour genuinely improves the cinematic experience. It makes the film genuinely immersive, it allows for some genuinely beautiful cinemagraphic moments. I defy anyone to say the concluding moments of Fight Club, with the juxtaposition of the blackness and the explosion, would have been better in black and white. With 30% colour loss and the inevitable headache, caused by the unbecoming glasses 3D requires, the only people who would attest to the virtue of 3D are masochists.

The second flaw in the aforementioned argument is that it assumes, somewhat arrogantly, that 3D is a modern innovation. The first 3D film screened to a paying audience was the 1922 film The Power of Love. Even the pioneering 1895 film L’Arrivee D'un Train (see below) was retrofitted into 3D in 1934 --- and thus totally bastardised. In fact, a largely unknown ‘stat’ is that the most profitable 3D film ever made is not, in fact, Avatar (which, incidentally, is trite) but instead, the 1964 R-rated, misogynist drivel The Stewardess’ (tagline: ‘These lovely ladies leap into your lap’). What fine pedigree for 3D.

The third problem is the incredibly irritating decision by various Hollywood moguls to retrofit everything into 3D. Take Titanic 3D for instance. For me, watching the film, again, in 3D wasn’t quite the enveloping experience exponents of 3D claim it is. In fact, I was praying the film become truly 'immersive', eviscerating the ‘fourth wall’, thus allowing me to drown alongside the passengers, to stop myself having to endure anymore of this wearisome nonsense.

What is the point of Titanic 3D?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Valtari by Sigur Rós

Reviewed by Ben Wallis

Following a hiatus of four years, Iceland’s biggest export since Nordic-patterned jumpers, post-rock giants Sigur Rós return with their sixth studio album, Valtari, meaning ‘Steamroller’. With singer Jónsi Birgisson dismissing their previous work as “Too joyous, too festive!” and saying, “It's time for us to take a left turn and do something more experimental, it feels like a new beginning." While Valtari does not mark a fully new direction for the band, it is certainly a departure from the more radio-friendly songs of Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust and Takk and the upbeat piano riffs that made Hoppípolla the soundtrack to so many TV montages and BBC’s Planet Earth. Instead we have a more introverted affair that is closer to the band’s earlier more post-rock oriented albums of ( ) and Ágætis Byrjun.

The album opens with the tense sound of 'Ég Anda', a track that is familiar territory for Sigur Rós, who enjoy taking their time, often with spectacular results; it is a good three minutes before the elegant falsetto of Jónsi Birgisson emerges, accompanied by a warm bass line. The album’s highlight is the third track,

'Varúð', with its triumphant crescendo in the chorus driven by choral vocals and strings; it is perhaps the best example to date of Sigur Rós’ ethereal beauty. The album is sung in a combination of Icelandic and the made-up gibberish noises, mimicking the sounds of Icelandic, that often feature in the band’s music, despite this being unintelligible to 99% of the world’s population; this is what gives the music its unique, emotive charm. The album drifts away into the realms of ambience, with the last three tracks being entirely instrumental, which leaves a little to be desired and feels somewhat underwhelming if you aren’t willing to sit back and listen.

With this effort, Sigur Rós will please their fans, but will win few new ones. It polarizes opinion; those who enjoy the ambient minimalism of the band will be delighted with this effort, but some listeners may find it lacking in substance. Valtari is a challenging piece of music, but a rewarding one; give it an hour, some patience, and a peaceful view--- preferably, an Icelandic one.

Star Rating: * * * *

Download the Album here: (Amazon MP3)

Monday, 28 May 2012

Hackers: XII


Your garden is lost and it’s autumn,
you’d feel guilty if you knew
The green gates are rusting like iron,
the rain filling your anaemic shoes.

I’m losing you, I’ve lost you,
forgotten your shape
 and the colour of your eyes.
You’re beyond the meadow
and the tree and the skylarks,
You’re only carbon but you’re
better than the skies.

                                                                                            Emily Ingram
Inspired by ‘Young Lions’ by The Maccabees

Photography Club: 'Fennel'

by Saskia Goacher

"I took this photograph of a fennel bush, thinking about being Green and how it is nice to take photos of things you have grown yourself --- and then eat them!"

Feeling Blue?

by Kiara Clement

image source:
It should not be a surprise that, after a weekend, Monday is what follows and the so-called normal reality of life continues; yet each week thousands of people can’t seem to help but have some sort of loathing towards this one day. For most people, the dreaded first day of the working week brings with it a bagful of mundane emotions and low-spirited moods, with the average person moaning about Monday for a whole 12 minutes on the day itself.

Perhaps it’s the freedom and relaxation of a weekend that is the primary cause of this contagious sentiment and thus the reason for so many people experiencing Monday blues. After all, if it did not follow immediately on from the high of the weekend, the mundanity of Monday would not be as obvious and the negative effect not as great. Hence, it is not actually Monday that is the problem but, in fact, the weekend. But this logic can’t possibly be the case. Right?

Due to this almost iconic (see video below) blue Monday feeling, Monday is notorious for being a fairly unproductive day, with the average employee only managing 3.5 hours of productive work. And, while all ages are able to experience the emotion, it is known that people aged 45 – 54 suffer the most from Monday blues. According to a study carried out by Marmite, most of us don’t even smile until after 11:00 on a Monday!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Revision Diaries: BROWNIES

Portsmouth Point Poetry: Expostulation and Reply

Commentary by George Laver   

For anyone studying, or simply interested in, the Romantic era of English poetry and its associated major works and poets, I believe that William Wordsworth’s Expostulation and Reply provides a tuneful yet comprehensive insight into the minds of writers participating in this most momentous of literary movements.

Romanticism arose in Europe during the late 18th century as a reaction against the prevalent Enlightenment ideals of tolerance, rationality and scientific understanding over superstition and radical emotion as well as being in part a response to the drudgery of the Industrial Revolution. It saw the rise of some of the most significant figures in the history of English poetry, including Percy Shelley, William Blake, Lord Byron and the widely-quoted John Keats. We owe its poetic inception in England almost entirely to William Wordsworth, who, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, wrote the seminal Romantic publication Lyrical Ballads, containing such works as The Rime of the Ancyent Mariner and Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.

Born on April 7th, 1770, Wordsworth spent his early years in an ideal atmosphere for the growth of a poetic imagination. Surrounded from an early age by the impressive, mountainous scenery of the Lake District, taught to read by his mother Ann Cookson and educated by his father John Wordsworth in the works of Spenser, Milton and Shakespeare, he developed a strong reverence for nature, further exercised by his 1791 journey to the Alps, which would come to influence the majority of his most highly-regarded pieces.

In 1791, he travelled to France and there met his first major love interest, Annette Vallon, with whom he had his first child, Caroline, in the following year. The unrest between Britain and France forced him to move back to England and it was not until ten years later, after what was likely a period of emotional instability, that he was able to return. During this separation, he travelled to Germany with his close friend Coleridge and his sister Dorothy, experiencing emotions of both artistic inspiration and homesickness. By the time of his return to France, Wordsworth had resolved to marry his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson and did so on October 4th, 1802, living with her and Dorothy, with whom Mary became good friends, in England.

Although he was known throughout the majority of his career for the Lyrical Ballads, he wrote and published many more famous poems including I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud, The World is Too Much With Us and the long poem The Excursion, becoming Poet Laureate after fellow Lake Poet Robert Southey in 1843. This title remained with him until his death from pleurisy in 1850, whereupon Mary Hutchinson published his grand autobiographical work, originally entitled Poem to Coleridge, under the name The Prelude. Wordsworth remains recognized to this day as the forefather of English Romanticism and one of the finest lyric poets of our literature. 

 Expostulation and Reply exemplifies Wordsworth’s intentions upon creating the Lyrical Ballads, putting forward the writer’s argument for education through nature in elegant yet simple and convincing terms.

Who do the Falkland Islands belong to?

by Ross Watkins

British soldiers in the Falklands, 1982
(image source: Daily Mail)
Recently, tensions between the UK and Argentina have risen over the small islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean off Argentina’s East coast called the Falklands Islands. 30 years ago, in 1982, Argentina decided to invade them because its military government (or "junta") desperately needed public support and they thought that restaking their claim to the islands would be a means to achieve this. They optimistically thought that Britain would let the islands go. With the British Empire gone, defence cuts on the horizon and the islands being 7,877 miles away, there was seemingly nothing to gain by Britain keeping them. What Argentina didn’t foresee was the strong will of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who sent a task force of ships and troops to retake the Falklands. In the ensuing conflict, Britain won control of the islands with a loss of 258 men and a number of vessels, while Argentina lost 649 men and was forced to sue for peace.

Cristina Kirchner
(image source:
The dispute over control of the islands has continued since the Falklands War; Argentina is no longer a military dictatorship but a democratic state. Argentina has added its claim to the islands to the Argentine constitution and successive Argentine governments have stated their intention to pursue their claim by peaceful means. When President Cristina Kirchner was campaigning for president of Argentina, she regarded the islands as a top priority, taking actions such as banning flights to the Falklands through Argentine airspace. Confrontation seemed inevitable.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Hackers: Return

The dream of the future
A distant bird
Wings of smoke
Its cries memories
A blackbird dying.

Hope in a piercing cry
Peace emerging
Shakily, slowly
The world begins to change.
A new born child.

The child born to a world
The world killed by man
The bird cries again
The child squints         
Covers his ears.

Fight or flight
Planets abandoned
Choosing to run
Running is easy.
The world we left behind.

But this child never knows
The green of earth
He will never know.
He will fight for what?
To make home clean.

The man still fights
Still hoping
Starting to try
To build what we once had
What we destroyed.

Zachary Choppen

Image of bird caught in the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (source:

Fighting for Equality

by Zoe Dukoff-Gordon

A suffragette being arrested
(image source:
A radio talk show recently claimed that women were thought of as not as funny as men. This sexist viewpoint made me wonder: what was the world like before women’s rights? You may have heard of the Suffragettes and Suffragists in the early 1900s, but has our own society forgotten who they really were and what they really achieved? Are we a feminist or post-feminist society?

Fem-i-nism: The advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.
Fem-i-nist: a person (female or male) who supports feminism.

A group of women in the early 1900s decided to stand up for women’s rights and to start a non-violent campaign; they were called the Suffragists ("suffrage" means vote). They made posters, banners and started protests in order to win women the right to vote, to get the same jobs men could and to divorce a husband if need be. The Suffragists made some progress, got people’s attention but did not achieve their ultimate goal of women's right to vote. 

Therefore, women decided to create a more direct way of getting the British government's attention; this more radical group was known as the Suffragettes led by Emmeline Pankhurst. They would set fire to buildings, start fights and chain themselves to lamp posts; they achieved their aim, which was get arrested (see above left), thus calling into question the legitimacy of the laws that kept women as second class citizens.

The campaign of civil disobedience did not end once these women entered prison. Many of them went on a hunger strike which led the Home Secretary of the time to order the women to be force fed, using a particularly brutal method (see the film clip below) to prevent middle class women starving themselves to death which might have caused outrage among the wider public.  

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Death of Carlos Fuentes

by Liliana Nogueira-Pache

Carlos Fuentes (right) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Because of his father’s diplomatic career, Carlos Fuentes grew up in many parts of the world.  Panamanian by birth, of Mexican parents, he was brought up in Rio de Janeiro, Washington DC and Buenos Aires --- cities that he made his own.  But he was Mexican by choice, because his language and his imagination were Mexican, and because he wanted to use them to make a better Mexico.

Bilingual from a young age, Fuentes had written essays and short stories by the age of 11; he was 18 when he won the first, second and third prize in a literary competition at his school in Mexico. It is not surprising that Carlos Fuentes was to become not only a successful career diplomat but also one of the great pillars of Latin-American literature of the twentieth century, alongside Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez (see image above) and Mario Vargas Llosa.

His first novel, La Region Más Transparente (1958) was extraordinarily well received, a success that has not diminished in nearly fifty years.  It is an urban novel, an analysis of a reality that is no longer transparent --- exploring a capital consisting  not just of a ferocious reality but also memory. But Fuentes does not only regret.  The dust of his beloved city doesn’t blind him or choke him, and, although it is no longer transparent, his words will find a way to fight against injustice and corruption, just as his Gringo Viejo (1985) did.  His language, passionate and beautiful, would be his weapon.

Always the past.  Spain in Mexico. Los Años de Laura Díaz (1999) is an interweaving of the life of the protagonist and the history of the country, created from the cauldron of conversations he had with his grandmothers.  And this is how he sees us:

 Spain for the Spanish is like Mexico for the Mexicans, a painful obsession.  Not a hymn to optimism as their country is to North Americans, nor a phlegmatic joke as it is for the English, nor a sentimental madness – the Russians – nor a reasonable irony – the French – nor an aggressive mandate as it is for the Germans, but a conflict of halves, of opposites, a tugging of souls, Spain and Mexico, countries of sunshine and shadow.”

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Hackers: My Room

Dear Bethany,

I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you in so long: I know we said that we’d write every week to make sure I was still coping outside the centre, but my former emotions overwhelmed me as soon as I returned home.

Four months. Four months in that bleak and dismal prison, trapped by boredom and nurses and schedule, hurled between private counselling and group therapy, and I never told you. I never told you what had led me to fritter away my existence in that abominable, stagnant, festering sore of a clinic, filled with ‘emotionally distressed young adults’. I never told you about my room.

Loss. Total and unbearable loss – that’s what I feel – all I can feel – whenever I approach it, thinking of her. Matilda. Those beautiful three syllables, like intoxicated fairies dancing on your tongue…

When we first found it, that ramshackle old air-raid shelter, built into the gentle slope of the river bank, wrapped up in a blanket of turf, it seemed as if we had stumbled upon Narnia! Our very own magical kingdom, a secret room where imaginings could crash into reality. That room, embellished by our adventures, exists nearly more in my mind than in real life now, even as I sit here at this very moment, writing to you in this dark and musty child-trap, I barely recognise its existence.

Do you remember if I told you there was a river at the bottom of my garden? Anyway, there is: more of a stream in all honesty, probably about as wide as the corridor leading from your room at the centre to Janice’s office- the lair of the ‘chief juvenile psychoanalyst’. A sluggish, wretchedly slow river, constantly viewed in sepia tones of muddy grey, reminding one of the Styx if ever such a river existed. Now, if you managed to squelch through  it for a few minutes, clamber up the bank till you reached a thin ridge, then kept trudging along for roughly half a mile, you got to the shelter.

Hero or Villain? The Inventor of the Remote Control

by Joanna Godfree

(image source:
Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote control
(image source:

It’s twilight. Come for a walk with me. As we pass the houses in this street where dusk is falling, many curtains are not yet closed. In this front room we can glimpse a capacious and inviting sofa. Across the room, a large TV screen holds the image of a large smiling face, then cuts to a long shot of somebody singing. As we pass the next house, the same picture flickers in the corner … more people are sitting watching on the sofa. The next house – the same scene. As we walk along, we can follow the progress of the programme – and in each house the viewers are cosily ensconced on the sofa, remote control in hand.

This is progress! When I was young, sometime halfway through the last century,  I would have to get up and walk to the set to change the channel -- seriously. Admittedly there were only two channels, and I wasn’t really allowed to watch ITV because of the advertisements, so it didn’t happen very often; but if the volume needed to be turned up, or the vertical hold adjusted (look it up), I would have to creep sideways to the set so as not to obscure the sightline of fellow viewers. Inevitably, I would get in the way of the deciding final ball of the innings, Sooty’s cheeky sign-off line or the crucial HIT or MISS vote for the best pop song of the week.

Vision of the future (or the present)?
From Pixar's Wall-E (image source:
Enter Mr. Eugene Polley, who died on May 20, 2012, aged 96. He worked as an engineer in the USA for 47 years, achieving 18 US patents along the way; foremost among these, arguably, was the invention of the TV remote control. Maybe Mr Polley (known to his friends as Zapper) and his family had the same problem as mine, but, whatever prompted him, in 1955 his invention of the Flash-Matic bestowed on the user the power of turning the television on and off and changing channels. Fantastic! But wait a minute … could it be that this handy gadget is also partially responsible for the current epidemic of obesity?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Donna's Summer: A Personal Response

by Julian Elphick-Smith

image source:
The sad news of Donna Summer Sudano's death from cancer greeted me last week on 17th May. 

Donna Summer's death is a turning point for many in my generation. My mother always found the most daunting part of ageing the demise of her friends. Now that Sylvester, Robin Gibb and Donna have departed, we start to feel our age and mortality. Surely it was only yesterday that the disco ball spun, roller skates ...rolled, and Studio 54 rejected all reasonable claims for entry! Donna broke new ground and, like Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin and the Sex Pistols, received the BBC's characteristic endorsement in the shape of a ban. 'Love to Love You, Baby' was considered too risque for broadcast after its release in 1975, yet it appeared in Mike Leigh's excellent Abigail's Party, perhaps a suitable anthem for the newly liberated material world and material girls of the 70's. Donna's lyrics and performance were a symptom of the validation of female sexuality which the progressive 60s had made possible.

The music certainly has raw power. I am astounded at how primitive the early use of electronic beats and synthesisers now sounds. It has become part of its attraction. Resist the electronic pulse of 'I Feel Love' (see below) and Giorgio Moroder's production if you can: the rhythm, suitably echoed in Donna's robotic movements in the live version, cuts and chops like a primaeval chainsaw! Donna was assertive and sassy, but always feminine. She could look for 'Hot Stuff' yet find fulfilment and romance in 'Dim all the Lights'. She understood a woman's point of view, 'Enough is Enough', acknowledged the complexity of feeling ('Walk away'), recognised women who were less than glamorous - and I'm not being naive - 'She Works hard for the Money' - and celebrated passion 'With Your Love'. She sang of her times, 'On the Radio'.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Theatre Review: Brimstone and Treacle

by Mary Mitchell

image source:
Three cheers for the Arcola Theatre/SEArED revival of the controversial 1976 Dennis Potter television play Brimstone and Treacle.  Out of fashion and favour for so long, Potter deserves to be resurrected from the hellish archives of the BBC and to assume his rightful place as the master of the deliciously insightful.

Written as part of an informal trilogy, Brimstone and Treacle challenges aspects of spirituality, belief, duality, morality, deceit, suburban paranoia, xenophobia, innocence and symbolic representation. Alasdair Milne, then Director of TV Programmes at the BBC, ‘pulled’ the play on the grounds that he found it ‘nauseating’.  It was finally aired on TV in 1987, by which time Thatcherism was firmly entrenched, Michael Grade had replaced Alasdair Milne, Dennis Potter had become a writer of ‘complex intelligence and vivacious imagination’, and, as Ludovic Kennedy stated in ‘Did You See’, ‘time has moved the goal posts’.  The political landscape and social structure of Britain has changed immensely in the years since Potter created his masterpiece, and thus it was with great anticipation and glee I found myself wending my way, via train, boat and plane, to this out-of the-way eco-theatre in the wilds of Hackney.

Potter’s visitation drama is set in North London, Summer 1977:

As a nation prepares to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, a middle-class, middle-aged and small-minded couple struggle to come to terms with the incapacitation of their beloved daughter Pattie, following a hit-and-run car accident. Out of nowhere, an apparently respectable young man arrives on their doorstep to change their lives forever.

Robin Gibb: A Tribute

by Emma Bell

The Bee Gees have long since been unfashionable, with their brand of closely harmonised falsetto pop falling out of favour in recent years, but the death of Robin Gibb is a chance to remind ourselves of their once formidable presence in the charts. Second only to Lennon and McCartney in terms of the most successful songwriting unit in pop history, the Bee Gees sold over 200 million records and were responsible for some of the most phenomenal successes the charts have ever seen.

Born in the Isle of Man, but with his family emigrating to Australia, Robin, his twin Maurice and elder brother Barry grew up in Brisbane. A younger brother Andy, was born and the family soon immersed themselves in music and formed fledgling bands. Despite a number one hit in Australia, they realised that they needed to move back to the UK to ensure international success, which they did in 1966. They developed their style of soulful pop ballads and scored major success with New York Mining Disaster 1941, Massachusetts, Words, Message to You and To Love Somebody, which was written by Robin and became a standard, covered by hundreds of artists since. Nina Simone's version:

However, the Bee Gees saw this brand of balladeering falling out of favour and the band briefly broke up. They were persuaded to reform and wrote the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, which still remains the top selling movie soundtrack of all time and which changed the face of disco music. The hits were exceptional: Jive Talkin, How Deep is your Love (see below), Stayin Alive, Night Fever – it was simply the soundtrack to 1977, and I wore my flares with pride as I danced along to my prized copy in my mum’s front room. Pop culture is a vicious beast however, and with punk snapping at disco’s heels, the Bee Gees were pilloried for the rise of disco and there were scenes of records being brought to US football stadiums and burned on ‘We hate the Bee Gees’ Days.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Obama's Support For Gay Marriage: Politics or Principle?

by Stephen Dunne

Controversial Newsweek cover
Image source: Chicago Tribune
When Obama announced, during an ABC interview earlier this month, that he supported gay marriage and would attempt to see legislation passed allowing this should he win re-election later this year, political analysts rushed to examine the politics behind the policy. Although Obama had indicated since 2010 that he was in favour of such a policy, the timing for such an announcement must be considered crucial, and more than just an ideological stance taken by the Democrat President. Instead, one might be cynical enough to suggest that Obama’s revelation was nothing more than an attempt to grab the attention of the voters and gain cheap popular support as opposed to a moral and ethical judgement on his part.
Cynical it might be, but it is a view held by the American voters. 67% of voters polled by CBS and The New York Times believe the move to be political, with less than 25% believing that Obama acted primarily because he thought gay marriage was right. However, the gamble does appear to be paying off for the 44th President as recent figures do suggest that America has finally started to accept gay marriage as not only morally justifiable but a right.This is especially true among Democratic Party supporters – this I will come back to later as it is most important - but also among Republican voters. The perhaps outdated views of some conservatives regarding homosexuality (for example, Senator Jim DeMint still regards such acts as pure sodomy which will cause hellfire to rain down upon humanity) are beginning to liberalise.
In a recent memo circulated by Jan van Lohuizen, a prominent Republican pollster and adviser to the Bush re-election campaign in 2004, Lohuizen states that, among the public as a whole, 49% support same-sex marriage, with only 40% opposed; furthermore, the divide is growing at a couple of percentage points per annum. Furthermore, only 29% of Republicans oppose all legal recognition of gay couples. This certainly explains why Republican presidential nominee-to-be, Mitt Romney, recently came out as opposed to gay marriage as a whole, but states he is open to the right to adopt children for same-sex couples and other expansions of rights. Clearly Mr Romney is attempting to appease both his liberal supporters and demonstrate more conservative credentials at the same time, and if the Republican primaries have shown us anything it is that one cannot flaunt both at the same time without losing significant credibility among the American voters.
Nonetheless, Obama should be praised for taking such a courageous stand so close to an election…or is it a courageous stand at all?  

Hackers: Let The Music Back In

Let the music back in, let it be loud;
Let it dissolve the thoughts that swim unrelenting,
Thoughts of trails freshly climbed, loose soil knocked by boots of the wandering sage;
Thoughts of barren scree, bearded with ice;
Thoughts of faithless gentlemen ruined by a world of devotees, each livid, maddened by his cause, unthinking in their pursuit;
Of two fatal white holes, dotted with red, two thin fingers apart;
Of the long roaming Bodhisattvas, without titles, without exploitation, without descriptions forced upon them;
Of a silence that scratches
Like the woollen underwear of the monk's habit;
Devotion proved by suffering.
No silk graces my two sore cheeks,
But my ears shall never be empty.
                                                                           Ben Schofield

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Revolutionary Power of Eurovision

by Anna Bazley
image source:
Millions of people worldwide will be tuning in to the Olympics when they are held in London in 2012; millions of tears will be shed, hearts broken and column inches written on how the Olympics is a ‘great spectacle’ and ‘brings people together’. However, there’s only one international event that’s worth watching this year. It’s not the Olympics.

Though frequently characterized in the United Kingdom as either a mindless, tacky exercise in camp or yet another exclusive European club, dogged by political voting, from which the UK remains alienated, Eurovision (the final of which takes place on Saturday, 26th May) has the power to revolutionize attitudes and heal political rifts. Though not without its fair share of controversy, the contest, at its best, represents everything that is best about Europe. It was certainly conceived as a grand idea; the contest has been broadcast to members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) since 1956, when a war-torn Europe was still intent on rebuilding itself. In 1955 the EBU set up a committee to conceive of a ‘light entertainment program’ that could bring the disparate countries of the EBU together. The brainchild of the Swiss Director General, Eurovision represented a great diplomatic and technological experiment, the idea of broadcasting a single programme live to so many countries being virtually unheard of. Such a great and visionary project could never be expected to come off without a hitch.
Lys Assia of Switzerland wins first Eurovision, 1956
image source:
The first edition of the contest consisted of seven participating countries, with each entry submitting two songs. Appropriately enough for a contest meant to embody the new peace and harmony of a re-born Europe, it was won by Switzerland. 1992 marks a watershed moment in the history of Eurovision and Europe as a whole. It is the last year before the admittance of the former Soviet satellite states and Socialist Republics, as well as the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, previously the only Communist country permitted to enter. During the Cold War, Eurovision had played an important role as Western propaganda, with millions of homes in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary within the range of transmission. Despite the best efforts of the Communist Parties of the region, Eurovision gained a cult underground following.
Azerbaijan's Ell and Nikki win 2011 Eurovision
image source:

The Contest became so popular that the Soviets created their own version in 1960, the Sopot International Song Festival (later known as the Intervision Song Contest). This contest differed from Eurovision in a number of ways; firstly the content of songs was heavily censored to reflect Soviet values and ideology and, secondly, due to the limited number of households with telephones, in order to vote viewers were instructed to turn on their lights if they liked the song. The load on the electrical network would then decide the number of points awarded to each country. Unsurprisingly, Intervision failed to capture the public’s imagination in quite the same way.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Hackers: Nigella's Poetry Book

Nigella's Poetry Book

Is poetry a recipe book from which I must make,
A dish of exact spices?
Am I only allowed a pinch of salt or thyme?
And why must I then make it rhyme?

So vulgar a food when it slips off the tongue,
Like a snake. Or snakes.
I want you to taste my food:
Chew. On. It.

And for dessert I have made a sweet haiku.
'But it is easy' you say,
'Some are more complex than some' I reply,
                                                           Tim Buckman

Image source:

Donald 'Duck' Dunn: A Tribute

by Emma Bell

Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, renowned Stax bassist, has died in Japan aged 70.

Born in Memphis in 1941, Donald was nicknamed Duck by his dad when they were watching cartoons together. He found early work as a session musician at the famous Stax studios. In the 1960s, Dunn became a member of legendary soul band Booker T and the MGs (see video above), which was revolutionary in that it was one of the first interracial soul groups to be created.

Donald played on some of the influential and downright brilliant records ever committed to vinyl. He was a session musician for Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, the Staples Singers, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Eddie Floyd and Wilson Pickett, contributing churning bass lines to such classics as "In the Midnight Hour," "Hold On, I’m Coming" and "(Sitting on the) Dock of the Bay." Dunn also played for Elvis when Elvis recorded his only album at Stax.

Image source:
Dunn, instantly recognisable by his ginger Afro and pipe permanently in his mouth,  found fame in the 1980s when he played himself in the movie The Blues Brothers (see video below), an affectionate pastiche which reinvigorated interest in classic R and B Soul.  

Friday, 18 May 2012

Kierkegaard: Faith versus Logic

by Robert Bendell

Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and theologian, often considered the first existentialist. His views are largely founded on what he views as being the natural contradiction between logic and God.
Personal Views
He felt that people should not be told how to worship or act-indeed, he rejected the churches of his time for this reason-and therefore wrote his books not from his own perspective, but from a variety of viewpoints. For this reason some readers have deeply misunderstood his views.
The Logical Paradox
Kierkegaard argued that the idea of a human being fully God, and yet fully man (as Christ is said to be) is logically impossible. From this, he states, there can be only one of two conclusions:
1.       Christ is disproved through logic.
2.       Faith in Christ supersedes logic.
 Due to this, his theological writings did not seek to use logic to prove God or Christ; they merely explored the repercussions of this paradox.
Abraham, Isaac and the Angel
Kierkegaard argued for a concept that is now referred to as the ‘Leap of Faith’. Since God is outside logic, he argued, trusting in God is automatically a dangerous undertaking-a literal leap of faith. One is forced to trust in something that cannot be proven; he takes as his example the story of Abraham and Isaac. One aspect of this story he focuses on is this: Abraham had been promised many descendants through Isaac. When he was ordered to kill him, Abraham must have seen the contradiction. He continued regardless; his faith overcame his logic.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys: A Tribute

by Oli Price

Tribute to Adam Yauch at Washington Airport
Image source:
Adam Yauch (MCA)
Image source: Hollywood Reporter
The Beastie Boys were an American hip-hop band that formed in 1979. They initially set out to be a hardcore punk band, however made the switch to rap and achieved huge commercial success with the album Licensed to Ill in 1985. This album went on to sell more than 40 million albums worldwide, making them according to Billboard: “the biggest-selling rap group" since 1991. The album also featured arguably their most famous song Fight for Your Right. The band built on this success by releasing the 1988 album Pauls’ Boutique which was met with critical acclaim and was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as 156 on the list of the top 500 albums of all time. The band's popularity and success continued with the releases of Ill Communication and Hello Nasty which won them many awards including a Grammy in 1999. In 2009, the bassist Adam Yauch (also known as MCA) announced a new album was to be released and a new tour would commence; however, later that year Yauch told fans that the album had been postponed and several tour dates had been cancelled due to the discovery of a tumour in one of his salivary glands. Yauch did not see the album finished, as he died on the 4th of May 2012; he was 47.

Review: Matilda The Musical

by Bea Wilkinson
Image source: Daily Telegraph

In October, I went to see the then newly opened ‘‘Matilda: The Musical’’ at the Cambridge Theatre, in London. Since it was one of my favourite books as a child, I was unsure of the idea of ‘‘Matilda’’ being turned into a piece of musical theatre. It was hard to imagine a show capturing the spirit of Roald Dahl’s writing. However, as soon as I sat down in my seat and took in the set, colourful and dynamic, all doubts dissolved.
The classic story of Matilda’ – the child genius unwanted by her hateful, TV obsessed parents - is portrayed on stage with an added vibrancy which made the whole experience well worth it and highly recommendable.

The cast includes Lauren Ward and Josie Walke, as well as Marc Antolin, Melanie La Barrie, Verity Bentham, Michael Kent and Emily Shaw. Comedian Paul Kaye played Matilda's father, Mr Wormwood. I was amazed at the development of this character, a real-life depiction of the Quentin Blake illustrations I was so familiar with.

Bertie Carvel as the infamous Agatha Trunchbull was excellent. One of the most grotesque characters in the Roald Dahl world, Miss Trunchbull dominated the stage and epitomised the dominating, terrifying woman from the original book.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Photography Club: "I Love You"

The new Photography Club releases its first photograph, "I Love You" by Hope Hopkinson

(Click to enlarge)

"I wanted to express thought and feeling in one simple shot. I wanted it to feel meaningful to people, but I didn't want to make it too complicated."

Photography Club is run by Mr Stone and meets every Friday lunchtime

A look at the Meme

by Tom Harper

Forever Alone: The miserable figure that has made a name for itself over the past few years due its repeated melancholy in different situations. Should we feel sorry for his never-ending depression.........No! Of course not! For Forever Alone is merely another meme for the sole purpose of enjoyment. But just what exactly is a ‘meme’?

The technical definition of a meme is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture". From the Greek mimeisthai meaning “to imitate”, a meme is a repeated image, phrase or trait used in different contexts, normally to invoke a positive reaction from the viewer. Aside from the hilarity of these various spectacles, what some people fail to appreciate is that perhaps there is a deeper meaning to some of these memes that initially meets the eye.
For example, is Forever Alone meant only to create various hilarious situations to further extend this character’s suffering, or could it represent the hidden solitude of the soul within every human being? Could it imply the loneliness that swells up inside all of us every now and again? Do we laugh at this unfortunate figure as it helps us to shift our perspective away from our own desolate lives? To find out, I’ve looked at the potentially deeper meanings of some of the world’s most popular memes:

1.     Planking

Planking: the activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. Both hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the Internet is an integral part of the game. At some point in our lives, I’m sure we have all been subject to planking in one way or another, whether we have laughed at it online or dared to participate in it ourselves. The main rule for this meme is the more abstract the location, the better the plank. You may be interested to know that a 20-year-old man in Australia even died after trying to plank on a seventh-floor balcony in Brisbane, Australia! So what on earth encourages someone to plank?

The key is in the origin. Planking’s beginnings may lie in an infamous movie scene from the 1993 movie The Program, in which a quarterback lies down on the yellow line in the middle of a highway as cars fly past. Teenagers who saw this scene in the trailer tried it themselves to prove their bravery, and several were run over by cars (The scene was later cut from the movie). Planking then expanded into several countries as the “Lying Down Game”, but with the same trait as being almost a rite of passage: an approval of one’s courage combined with their ingenuity and sense of fun. If a person can plank, then they have the ability to be creative, amusing and brave, and so planking is more than just lying face down in a field. It is a statement: a statement of your personality, as well as perhaps your physical strength in particular situations. So as long as you don’t risk your life for the perfect plank, I believe this to be an excellent way to show off the kind of person you are through a trait that is now becoming almost universally recognizable!