Friday, 30 November 2012

England In India – 2nd Test

by Sampad Sengupta

Monty Panesar
After a disappointing outing in the first Test, England bounced back in fine style to register a convincing win over rivals India which now leaves the series wide open.  The Mumbai Test ended with England beating India by 10 wickets after the Indian batting line-up faltered against the English spin twins in both innings of the match.

Both teams made changes to their sides from the first Test, deciding to boost their bowling attack by including more spinners. England dropped Tim Bresnan for Monty Panesar, which proved to be a wise move, something they should have done first time round. He ended up playing a vital role in India’s demise. India too added another spinner, Harbhajan Singh, to their line-up at the expense of a fast bowler. This left them with three specialist spinners and Zaheer Khan as the sole pacer.

Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook
India won the toss and decided to bat first but then fell short of answers as soon as the spinners came on. Panesar proved to be the destroyer as he took 5 wickets including the ones of Sehwag and Tendulkar (both of which were brilliant deliveries). Pujara was the only Indian batsmen who stood tall amongst the ashes and scored a century, his second in 2 tests. England’s innings however, panned out far differently. After a couple of early hiccups, captain Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen settled in to post a mammoth first innings score. The Indian spin trio were trying their best but had no answer to some fine batting displayed by Pietersen and Cook. The two toyed with the bowlers, both reaching their centuries with boundaries. The flamboyant stroke play of Pietersen helped him get to 186, later earning him Man of the match. The Indian second innings then proved to be worse than the first with them being bundled out for 142, only  Gambhir and Ashwin reaching double figures. It was once again Panesar and Swann who shared the 10 wickets between them. With only 57 runs to win, England breezed to the finish-line with all wickets intact.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Charlotte Knighton
If you haven’t read the book or seen the film here’s a bit of background. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was first published in the USA in 1999, but only reached the UK in 2009. It tells the story of a teenage boy (Charlie) who never feels like he fits in and is trying to figure out what exactly is wrong with him. Unusually, the novel is written purely in the form of Charlie writing letters to a person he has never met. The book starts by describing the death of his friend, Michael. This would appear to be where his troubles start as it is clear to see how the death affects him; however as the novel progresses it is hinted that his problems started before then and there is something deeply wrong that has happened to him as a child.   

Now I admit one of the main reasons for me wanting to watch the Perks of Being a Wallflower was the fact that Sam (the main female character), was played by Emma Watson and, being a fan of the Harry Potter series, I felt I needed to see what she had moved on to. I hadn’t realised until a short while before I went to see the film that it was an adaptation of a book, so a rush to buy and read the book before I saw the film ensued. It’s a small book, only 231 pages in my edition, and it didn’t look like it would be a particularly difficult read, and indeed it didn’t take too long. However, in those 231 pages, are so many small references to future happenings and so many hints about Charlie's past that it is a book that you have to read carefully, not one you can skim read (as I found out). The plot twists and turns in many places weaving an intricate, and slightly confusing, pattern of people and implied experiences. You are left wondering about the significance of the mysterious Aunt Helen until the very last letter that Charlie sends, although she was mentioned continually throughout the book from the very beginning. In some of Charlie’s very first correspondences he mentions his advanced English teacher, Bill, who will later become key in Charlie's struggle against his past.

Near the start of the novel we are introduced to one of the main characters. He is initially introduced as “Nothing” but we find out his real name is Patrick. Later in the novel Patrick will become Charlie’s link to Sam and his only real friends. Sam, the person to whom Charlie feels closest, is the one who brings him out of his shell and teaches him what most people find out on their own about life. Despite this it is Patrick who first sees Charlie for who he really is. "You see things and you understand. You're a wallflower." This quote is so significant because it is the first time that Charlie feels noticed, the irony is that it is the first time he has not been a wallflower.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Heroes or Zeroes?

by Charlie Albuery

Queen Gorgo – Near the end of 300, we take a break from all the slow-motion homoeroticism (slomoeroticism?) to show the Council deciding whether or not to send Leonidas the reinforcements that he desperately needs. Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo, is explaining to the council the painfully simple logic of "If we don’t send the reinforcements or we are all going to die," and then some doofus in a toga accuses her of trying to seduce him. The council are horrified, judging by the series of gasps and face-palms that follows. However, Queen Gorgo defuses the situation by stabbing Theron in the crotch, causing a bundle of Persian coins to spill onto the floor. The council recognizes that he was a traitor, and Leonidas has his reinforcements sent(and then he dies anyway, but that's beside the point). Her response to an accusation of treachery was to literally stab him with a sword, right in front of everyone else?
Um, OK.
There's no way the queen could have known that he had chosen to bring his bribe to the meeting, and she sure as hell didn't know that he was carrying the coins in that particular vicinity, otherwise she could have just said, "Hey, check out this guy's loincloth, it's full of coins with the Persian King’s face on them!"It was only the queen's astonishing luck -- and the fact that Theron was an idiot with a belt purse -- that saved the situation. Why would Theron carry the evidence of his treason into the meeting in which he was planning to accuse someone else of being the traitor? Because he’s a baddy and baddies have no pattern recognition; that’s why they never think they’ll be defeated.

The Watchmen – Toward the end of Watchmen, we learn that the recent string of superhero murders is part of a vast conspiracy headed by one of the heroes, Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, to destroy the entire planet. The only two remaining heroes who aren't either the bad guy or on Mars decide to check out Veidt's office for clues about what the hell is going on. After logging in to his computer, Nite Owl and Rorschach find evidence that Veidt is behind everything and travel to his Antarctic hideout to confront him -- leaving New York just in time to avoid an attack that kills half the city's population.
You guys see what’s wrong with that, right? They got into his computer with little-to-no effort. Did he leave it unlocked? Was he downloading the new iTunes? Did he just not have a password? No, Veidt wasn't stupid. The password turned out to be "Rameses II," the Egyptian pharaoh also known as Ozymandias.Hold on. Veidt used his own superhero name as his password? The smartest man on the planet? That’s seriously like the level of stupidity of those people that use ‘password’ as their password.The luckiest part here is that Nite Owl even bothered trying to guess the password, when there was absolutely no reason for him to believe that it would be anything less than 8,000 random characters mixed into some sort of complex sequence. I would’ve just given up and focused on trying to force his top desk drawer open. With my superpowers, which I have in this scenario, God I want to be a Watchman…

Tuesday, 27 November 2012


by Louisa Dassow

#8reasonswhyimontwitter was a trend on November 7th 2012 and the majority of my Twitter timeline consisted of “Because Twitter is better than Facebook”. I disagree. It's not better, it's different. So I thought I would compile my own reasons :

#1 Hashtags and Trends

Who actually used hash tags before Twitter? I've always liked the thought of a hash tag; its place on the keyboard intrigued me, but I had never used it before Twitter. Now I can use it in my tweets and press the button on my keyboard as often as I want. Hash tags weren't originally part of twitter and were incorporated in later after users started using them of their own accord, introducing trends to Twitter.

#2 Trends

Trends show what people in a certain place are talking about. There are some interesting trends; I could give examples, but the funniest ones appear when you're least expecting them. The beauty of the trends is that they accurately cover the world, and you can see exactly what is being discussed in Bogotá, Columbia whenever you want. I find it entertaining to investigate the trending topics of small foreign countries and see how many of their trends are in English.

#3 The Fandoms

This is a good and bad point. Twitter seems to be the home of Beliebers and Directioners; they're nightmares and it is unfortunate how their (“MARRYME!!”) rubbish seeps into the trends (No I do not want to #PartyHardwithDirectioners). On the other hand there are Potterheads, Whovians and Sherlockians. There are rugby and cricket fans who you can chat with and when the Olympics were on it was lovely to see how everyone on Twitter got behind their country. You can discuss issues with the team or the show, or gossip about the actors in your favourite film with people who love them just as much as you do.

#4 The People in general

I find that most tweeters are nice people, it's probably because I choose to follow the people who have similar interests to me. I've found people who share exactly the same views as me and it means that I can have an interesting conversation with a person who ordinarily would never be part of my life. And it's nice to be able to talk to them and read snippets of their lives or to hear their opinions, whilst knowing it's unlikely that I'll remember their username in a couple of months.

#5 It's completely safe if you're not stupid.

Everyone is anonymous, including yourself. You can say what you want and no-one will find you hidden away in your house and this unfortunately leads to the abusive tweeters. I think of them as the darkest side of Twitter, even worse than Beliebers. But they're avoidable, blockable, and, if their petty comments offend you, then you can report them (or give them 140 characters of your mind). I personally think that if Twitter wasn't anonymous then it would really be dangerous – the people you interact with are strangers and, whilst there are some wonderful strangers, there are also really weird ones. So if you tweet keep your anonymity; as a rule, I don't post any personal details that I wouldn't reveal to a person I met on the street and I won't post anything I wouldn't show my family.

The Legendary Paddy Leigh Fermor

by Josh Brown

Patrick Leigh Fermor
(source: Daily Telegraph)
In the late 1930’s a young Anglo-Irishman set out to walk to Constantinople. His account would lead him to become a world-renowned travel writer. Patrick Leigh Fermor (Paddy) was the kind of tall, handsome, mild-mannered hero that now seems, sadly, part of the past.

Despite an unimpressive school record, his fluent Greek led him to be parachuted into Crete to coordinate opposition to the Nazi occupation. This role was crudely parodied by Louise De Berniere in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin but Fermor had the grace not to respond. Famously, a drunken night in a taverna led to Paddy and a compatriot William Moss devising and executing a plan to kidnap the German in charge of the occupation, General Kriepe. Despite vicious reprisals, the full might of the Luftwaffe and an almost impossible journey over the mountains, the scheme was successful. Moss’s account, “Ill Met By Moonlight”, was made into a film by Powell and Pressburger with Dirk Bogarde cast as Fermor.

Settled in the Marni on the Greek mainland with his wife, Fermor emulated that other British champion of Greek freedom, Byron, and swam the Hellespont. Byron was thirty-two, Paddy Fermor was sixty-nine!

An acclaimed new biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor by Artemis Cooper was published last month. From Robert Macfarlane's review:

"Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Patrick Leigh Fermor's legendary life is that it lasted as long as it did. He died in 2011 at the age of 96, having survived enough assaults on his existence to make Rasputin seem like a quitter. He was car-bombed by communists in Greece, knifed in Bulgaria, and pursued by thousands of Wehrmacht troops across Crete after kidnapping the commander of German forces on the island. Malaria, cancer and traffic accidents failed to claim him. He was the target of a long-standing Cretan blood vendetta, which did not deter him from returning to the island, though assassins waited with rifles and binoculars outside the villages he visited.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Mao Zedong: Re-evaluating His Legacy

by Billie Downer

Mao Tse Tung, 1930s
China is in the global spotlight at the moment as Xi Jinping becomes leader, supposedly through election by over 2,000 party delegates but more likely by the choice of a few Communist Party elders. China is now one of the most powerful countries in the world economically; we probably all remember growing up as a child the phrase ‘Made in China’ stamped on many toys, games and everyday items.
But, as a history student, what I believe is more interesting is how our understanding of China today has been influenced by the Communist Revolution and subsequently the reign of Mao. I’m going to evaluate the legacy that Mao Zedong has had on modern day China and argue (probably controversially) for his achievements.
Before Mao came to power in China in1949, the Chinese economy was near the bottom of the world development scale. It had little industry and agriculture was backward and inefficient. China's industrial economy under Mao grew impressively through his 5-year plans, averaging a growth rate of 10 percent per year, even during the Cultural Revolution, and agriculture grew by 3 per cent per year. China, the former "sick man of Asia," was transformed into a major industrial power in the years of Mao’s rule between 1949 and 1976, one of the greatest leaps forward in history. 
Mao’s social policy, it could be argued, decreased the standard of living greatly of the ordinary Chinese people. It is believed that the Great Leap Forward caused the deaths of between 30 and 45 million people and the Cultural Revolution caused havoc throughout China, resulting in many people being tortured and killed. However, between 1949 and 1975, life expectancy within socialist China more than doubled, from about 32 to 65 years of age. By the early 1970s, infant mortality rates in Shanghai were lower than in New York City. The extent of literacy swelled - from about 15 percent in 1949 to between 80 and 90 percent in the mid-1970s.

Equal rights for women
(image source:
Equal rights for women were addressed under Mao; previously, foot binding, arranged marriages, and child brides were widespread social practices. These practices were forbidden and women were given the same rights to work and learn as men. The 1950 Marriage Law of revolutionary China established marriage by mutual consent, right to divorce, and outlawed the sale of children and infanticide.  A new women's movement, larger and more sweeping in vision than any in history, set out to break down the subordinating division of labour between men and women and to break down the walls of domestic life.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Larry Hagman: A Tribute

by Emma Bell

"You're a loser, Barnes. Always have been, always will be."
(source: Daily Mail) 
Larry Hagman has died aged 81. It seems scarcely possible that this larger than life actor is no longer striding across the terrace at Southfork, glowering and sneering in equally majestic proportions. 

Hagman was the son of Broadway legend Mary Martin and joined her in the business as a young man, striking early success with the hugely popular TV series, I Dream of Jeannie. It was a peculiar, and now very dated, show (particularly in terms of its casual sexism), written in response to the huge success of Bewitched on a rival network. Hagman was drafted in to play an astronaut (neatly tapping into the increased public interest in the Space Race). It was broad comedy, and Hagman relished the comedic possibilities of the role.

Hagman worked steadily through the Seventies, although he suffered from being involved with cancelled TV shows, films being of poor quality, and his own ambivalence towards the profession. This all changed with the huge and largely unexpected success of Dallas.

America was used to the soap opera; after all, the genre began on their commercial radio stations in the 1940s and transferred easily to the burgeoning television industry of the 1950s and 60s. America’s soaps were glossy and alluring; doctors in pristine whites arranging tete-a-tetes with glamorous nurses, also pristine (and lipsticked). It was a million miles away from Minnie Caldwell ordering a milk stout in the snug at the Rovers Return, but it was in that hyper-glamourised world that Dallas was conceived. The hair! The shoulder pads! The huge whiskeys poured as JR plotted and schemed! The tears and the dresses and the show downs at the Oil Barons’ Ball! 
JR and Sue Ellen
(source: Daily Mail)
Larry Hagman appeared in every episode of the show’s history and he relished every second on screen. Bright enough to know that he was playing a villain of pantomimic proportions, he nonetheless imbued the role with a believability that was genuinely engaging and at times hysterically funny. Who can ever forget poor Sue Ellen (of the tremblin’ lips) driven to drink, only to be dismissed with the words: "Go to bed Sue Ellen, there's nothing uglier than a woman who can't handle her liquor!"
His long term antagonism with Cliff Barnes ("You're a loser, Barnes. Always have been, always will be!”) provided one of the spines of the labyrinthine plot twists that characterised the show: long lost siblings, takeovers, lovers gained and lost, revenges organised, wives humiliated ( "Sue Ellen, you're a drunk, a tramp, and an unfit mother!") breakfasts taken on the windiest terrace in all of America, back biting and conniving on a Grand Guignol scale.
He played to every preconception of what a duplicitous oil man would be like and then added layer upon layer of bad behaviour, all topped with a wicked glint in his eye and cackling chuckle (see video below). 

Portsmouth Point Poetry: 'Strange Meeting'

Following George Laver's commentary on Book 24 of 'The Iliad'George Neame explores Wilfred Owen's haunting poem, 'Strange Meeting'.

It seemed that out of the battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped   
Through granites which Titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall;
By his dead smile, I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand fears that vision's face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
"Strange, friend," I said, "Here is no cause to mourn."
"None," said the other, "Save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something has been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . ."
                                                Wilfred Owen (1918)

 World War One marked the beginning of the end of hand-to-hand combat. Although individual skirmishes were made, the majority of fighting took place either side of ‘No Man’s Land’, with each army occupying their own trench facing the enemy. In some places, the distance between them was only a few hundred yards, in others miles, but, as those of you who have seen or read War Horse will know, the use of swords and horses was limited and, in many cases, useless, the soldiers being killed by machine gun fire before even reaching the enemy.

As detailed in this image, the killing was not completely impersonal. The soldiers could still see the men whose lives they took, could still fire a shot and watch them fall to the ground. But no longer would you stand toe-to-toe with the enemy and look into their eyes as you fought them to the death.

Wilfred Owen’s poem begins with the narrator escaping from the battlefield down a tunnel, where he encounters injured or wounded soldiers, waiting to die. ‘Then,’ he says, ‘as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared with piteous recognition in fixed eyes’. One soldier stands up and recognises him. He tells the narrator how they share the same hopes, the same dreams and lived similar lives; how they both share the same hatred for war and the spilt blood and ruined lives.

Do You Hear What I Hear?: An Alternative Christmas Selection

by Dave Allen

I’ve written this, in part, in response to the interesting Point piece about Christmas music, 'Top 5 Christmas Covers'. I might have called it 'The Least Likely (to be) Christmas Covers….'.
Around 40 years ago, ‘Prog Rock’ bass guitarist Greg Lake enjoyed a solo seasonal Top Ten hit which reminded us that, “the Christmas we get we deserve”. At a personal level, whether you choose secular or spiritual, family or ‘freedom’, is your business but, if Greg was right, then the collective Christmas we “deserve” in this country appears to one of economic alternatives – giving to charities or, more probably, paying for expensive presents and feasts.
The latter ‘option’ is supported with an unprecedented array of lavish and imaginative television advertisements, the majority of which include soundtracks, which are more or less seasonal. So, for example, while M&S open with a snatch of Rod Stewart urging “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, they conclude with a “Celebration” from Kool & the Gang.
The soundtrack to our collective Christmas seems to me always the strongest affirmation of Greg Lake’s theory. For years, the most common complaints around Christmas have been that it starts too early and is too commercialised (see here). But right behind those come the annual complaints about the music, as we are bombarded again by the obvious songs on the radio, in the stores and on the CDs that come free with newspapers or present themselves in the shrinking music stores.
There seems little variety – but there is. Every Christmas, I take great pleasure in assembling playlists of seasonal music to entertain friends and family and I’ve done so for many years. If some of it is pretty unremarkable, well, that’s the case too with most styles and genres of music – especially the ‘popular’ stuff. But there is an enormous amount of intriguing Christmas music out there and among the variety that I enjoy are recordings by Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Low, the McGarrigle/Wainwright family, Chuck Berry, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller and BB King.

I’ve tried in that list to mention familiar names but in truth there are many recordings by less well-known artists and if you’re willing to search, then try the traditional British sound of John Kirkpatrick, the quirky Surfjan Stevens, old-timey American Leon Redbone, soulful Aaron Neville or the exquisite instrumental guitar of John Fahey. There’s also some fabulous Christmas Doo Wop from the late 1950s, including a special favourite, the Marcels’ “Merry Twist-mas”.


What Are The True Origins of Christmas?

by Katherine Tobin

Early image of the Nativity
Belonging to a family with no particular religious views, the topic of Christmas for me simply implies the roast dinner, the Christmas songs hitting the radio a month in advance, the presents and, of course, the snow (fingers crossed, but still doubtful). But, obviously, to many Christians around the world, Christmas is a bit more meaningful than that - a time to celebrate the birth of their saviour, Jesus Christ. Or is it? In the run up to the momentous occasion itself (now only one month away), the topic once again arises round the kitchen table – what is the actual origin of Christmas? Was it indeed the Christians who founded this tradition? Was it the Pagans who laid out the Christmas laws? Or was it simply an excuse created in the 1800s to bring out the bottle of ageing whiskey and pull a few crackers?

Of course, there are no completely reliable facts about the origins of Christmas, given the early nature of its arrival, and the past population’s apparent inability to record accurate dates, but here are the most popular theories about where this joyous holiday came from:
1. Christian Claim
“The earliest records mention a feast held in the Church at Alexandria, Egypt, around AD 200, to honour the Nativity. The celebration of Christmas did not become a church-wide celebration until the late third and early fourth centuries. By the end of the fourth century, almost all Christian churches had accepted the December date. Though the Church at Rome maintained that December 25th was the actual birth date of Jesus, the most likely date (according to civil and historical records) was sometime around the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, which was celebrated in autumn. The unanimous adoption of the December date came about as an attempt by the Church to integrate Christian ideals into the Winter Solstice festivals celebrated during that season. “ Read more here.
 All in all, this belief seems to be credible, if not a little unlikely. Given that the birth of Christ is still not accurately known, why place a festival celebrating his birth right at the time of the Pagan festival? Seems more than a little suspicious to me… But of course the Church has a right to celebrate the birth of its saviour, and when better to do it than at the closing of the year? Makes sense really.

2. The Pagan Point of View
“Nearly all aspects of Christmas observance have their roots in Roman custom and religion. Consider the following admission from a large American newspaper (The Buffalo News, Nov. 22, 1984): “The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on Dec. 25 comes from the second century after Jesus' birth. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun—and honoured Saturn, the god of sowing. By 529 A.D., after Christianity had become the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civic holiday.” Read more here.
This also seems plausible - we are aware of the Pagans as a religious movement, and it seems likely that they would honour their god. The pagans were also the creators of our Christmas tree tradition, which is familiar in many a household across the country and the world today. Of course, this view is still not widely known by people, perhaps showing not only the large number of Christians to which the Christian belief is obviously more popular, but also the incredible hold and influence the church has on the population.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ten Love Stories Which Are Better Than 'Twilight'

by Hugh Summers

There are at least 10 love stories better than this one

When I was trying to come up with an idea for the article, I searched in the deepest darkest parts of the internet for inspiration. I turned to the blog itself and remembered Tom Harper's article on meme theory. I thought of perhaps mimicking the idea behind it, until I was reminded of the recently released Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2. I am not sure whether many of you reading this are familiar with the “Still a better love story than Twilight” meme, and, if not, I will explain. The idea behind it is to simply take an unsatisfactory or awkward love affair or relationship and simply add the words “Still a better love story than Twilight”. Generally I have found these profoundly amusing and have therefore decided to come up with my very own “Ten love stories better than Twilight”.
10. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Being only one at the time, I had a limited amount of self-awareness, let alone knowing about a scandal which caused such a blow to Bill Clinton’s reputation (although, bizarrely, his popularity with the American people actually increased after the affair was revealed). Yet, if we compare such a frivolous love affair to that of Edward and Bella’s, we can certainly say that we may be more tolerant of the President of the United States having a scandalous relationship with Ms Lewinsky than of watching a guy who has cold skin compete with a guy who has hot skin over a girl who appears to have only one facial expression.
9. Donkey and Dragon.
It appears to come as a match made from heaven: a Donkey and a Dragon; who would have thought it? Now, I’m not sure what the creators of Shrek were thinking when matching a donkey with a dragon, especially when they later claimed that the tentatively-named “dronkeys” were created. Yet, it must be said, dronkeys are remarkably cute, far cuter than the baby Edward and Bella produce.
8. Luke and Leia.
Yes, even incest is a better love story than Twilight. So they shared a kiss, so what? I still find it less creepy than a one-sided crush between a werewolf and a baby. Plus, their brief encounter is definitely overshadowed by the fact that Star Wars in general is just awesome.

7. Scat and His Acorn
I’m sure many of you reading this have watched Ice Age, and, if so, waited at the end of the film, sat through the credits, just to see the short Scat sketch at the end. Whether he’s dragging the acorn from an ice shelf hundreds of feet high, causing it to collapse, or frozen in a block of ice and trying to reach for it, he and his nut make quite the comedy duo. I, for one, had no idea that something could love an acorn so much.

6. Marty Mcfly and his Mother.
Some of you might find it strange that there is a recurring theme of incest; I assure you it is simply coincidence, allthough it does bring up a somewhat worrying topic in that I’m only on my fourth point and have already come across two cases of (almost) incest in film.
5.  Gollum and the one ring.
Of course, I couldn’t make it through this article without mentioning The Lord of the Rings; it’s filled with passionate tales of love and beauty. Yes, I have decided to choose the love between a mutated Hobbit and an inanimate object, yet I am still more compelled to feel emotion for the couple as they tumble to their imminent deaths towards lava over two pasty Americans whose idea of a dramatic and life-threatening situation is being smelt by another pasty American who decides they want to drink the others' blood.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Portsmouth Point Interview: Mike Hancock MP

by Will Wallace

(L to R) Will Wallace, Josh Rampton, Daniel Rollins, Mike Hancock MP
(Photo: Chris Reed)

For those studying F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, it’s far too easy to feel that the plot is rather warped by the extensive use of imagery and symbolism. It is however my favourite book, and I often try to remind myself of one of the most important messages that the narrator, Nick Carraway, conveys on page one: reserve initial judgments of others – as the moral is often coined, “don’t judge a book by its cover” Perhaps due to my sheer arrogance and narcissism, I regularly fall victim to this habitual mistake. After meeting and speaking with the local MP for Portsmouth South, I once again found myself reassessing my preconceptions.

If you are unfortunate enough to know me at all, you’ll be aware that I’m one of those things that nobody particularly likes: a member of the Conservative Party. Naturally, this means that I determine anyone who doesn’t support my party to be in desperate need of a lobotomy. When I interviewed Portsmouth South MP, Mike Hancock, for Portsmouth Point, he immediately came across as genuine, frank and sincerely caring about the people of Portsmouth. Bearing in mind that I went into the interview with the opinion that Hancock’s rebellious voting record against the Coalition made him one of the ‘loony left’ in the Liberal Democrats, it came to seem more the case that he has real mettle, voting on the basis of principle and not one who gives in easily to the support that his party demands from him. In fact, if I lived in Portsmouth South, I’d even be tempted to vote for him.

We discussed issues ranging from the recent Police & Crime Commissioner elections to the situation developing in Gaza. Mike confirmed that he would be willing to support and work with the newly elected Commissioner for Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, Simon Hayes, but that he felt the election had been “a fiasco” with major failings by the government and that the concept itself might not prove to be cost effective. With his experience as a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he has been to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on a number of occasions, and, during our interview, affirmed that the UK government should not be so easily wooed by the pro-Israel lobby – entire cities have been devastated and lives ruined by the indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks by Israel on Palestine, a nation that should, in both my opinion and Mike’s, be able to defend itself from regular incursions by Israel.

His views on the future of the Liberal Democrats, young people’s role in politics, his past membership of other parties, George Osborne’s economic policy, his work on Portsmouth City Council and the morphing together of the three major parties were also discussed, with me asking questions for Portsmouth Point and Danny Rollins posing questions for The Portmuthian. Below is a full transcript of the interview.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Jar'Kai or not Jar'Kai? That is the question...

by Tim MacBain

Before I begin, I would like to state that any names, concepts, ideas, themes, motifs, and references strictly belong to Lucasfilm and, by extension, Disney. I do not claim any ownership of them.

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker
(source: New York Times)
I like to present myself as an academic character. However, there is one question – and consequent theory – that has been bothering me for quite some time. And I’m afraid to say that it isn’t really very academic. It is, inevitably (with me) about Star Wars. Don’t worry, it’s not a lamentation about Disney’s takeover – that said, there is a small part of me that can’t wait for the Force-sensitive lobster with a Jamaican accent in Episode VII. This is about my area of ‘expertise’, my chosen subject on Mastermind if you will: lightsaber combat.

As a little bit of background to those of you still reading, lightsaber combat is not as simple as hitting someone with a sword made of pure energy. There are different WAYS of hitting them, and differing philosophies attached to those different ways. They are the Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat (note the all-important capitalisation), and they exist as follows:

Count Dooku (Makashi)
Form I: Shii-Cho. This form, taught to all Jedi Younglings, is based around the basic zones of the body and is very good when fighting many opponents. Think: medieval swordsman at the Battle of Crecy, that sort of thing. Master Kit Fisto (the green tentacle-y bloke) was the master of this form (incidentally, it was the cause of his death at the hands of Darth Sidious).

Form II: Makashi. This form was developed from the weaknesses Form I has when dealing with single opponents. It is often termed the Duelling Form – and that is, really, all there is to it. Emphasis is placed on absolute precision and economy of movement. Think: fencing. Prime practitioner is Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus; he developed his lightsaber hilt with a bend at the end to aid his mastery of this form.

Form III: Soresu. This form is all about defence. A master of Soresu can stay alive in a fight for a long time due to the fact that his opponent cannot get past his defences. The only problem is, you’re always on the defensive; you can’t beat your opponent until he tires, and that might be after you do. Obi-Wan Kenobi was renowned for his style of Soresu – although that’s a complicated matter, as I shall mention later.

Yoda (Ataru)
Form IV: Ataru. This form is the dichotomy of Soresu: all-out attack. The more acrobatic you are, the more you somersault and dive and twirl, the more accomplished you are. As long as your opponent is not attacking, you’re all right. And that’s the problem with Ataru; it has absolutely no defensive capabilities whatsoever. Admittedly, the master of this form is very long-lived, thus disproving the previous statement; Yoda was aged 902 (ish) when he died of natural causes.

Review: Red by Taylor Swift

by Jack Rockett

People say Taylor Swift isn’t doing country music anymore, but that is definitely not true. She has every right to venture out and try new music styles and she still puts a bit of country in there, in every song. Red really shows how you can mix genres of music together. I can’t get any of the songs out of my head; they are all really catchy.

Personally, I’m not really a fan of country music but Taylor makes it so much better than other country artists who write about the stupidest of things. She is finally putting her 3 million past boyfriends behind her and writing about stuff much less repetitive and, believe me, ‘We are never ever getting back together’ didn’t represent the album very well and I now don’t want to listen to that song anymore. If you just bought that single, get the "Complete your album" offer because the album is much better without that song in the middle.

The only song that I would say has no real country in it is ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and still that song is awesome and really catchy. Everyone who has been saying that "country has gone clubbing" in the comments box on iTunes is absolutely correct. It may have more of a techno-pop style to it but it still fits Taylor’s style perfectly. My favourite song is very hard to decide, as they are all too good. It is a tie between 'State Of Grace', 'Red', 'I Knew You Were Trouble', '22', 'Holy Ground', 'The Lucky One' and 'Starlight'. I know that is almost half the album, but it just proves that all of these songs are just too good. I generally like the more pop-mainstream-sounding songs, but anyone who has a brain would love this album.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

England in India – 1st Test

by Sampad Sengupta

Despite captain Alastair Cook’s best efforts, England slumped to defeat at the hands of India in the first of four Test matches to be played over the next month in the subcontinent. The first Test played at Ahmedabad ended with India winning by 9 wickets in a match which somewhat failed to live up to expectations.

It all started with Cook and the England team management making a blunder in team selections when they decided to field three quick bowlers and only one specialist spinner in Graeme Swann. Some may call it a brave decision; most would however say it was quite unwise. The subcontinent pitches generally offer a spinners’ paradise. This particular one was no different. As we saw, the pitch turned sharply as the match progressed with the Indian spin duo of Ashwin and Ojha making full use of the conditions.

England, however, only had Swann to turn to, who ended up being their best bowler in the match. Part-time spinner Samit Patel tried his luck and got a wicket. Even Kevin Pietersen rolled his arm over and was awarded with a wicket. England were clearly missing the services of specialist left-arm spinner Monty Panesar (the only other specialist spinner in the squad), who was made to sit and watch from the side-lines. No credit can be taken away from the Indian batsmen, though. A blistering hundred from opener Virender Sehwag and a gritty 206 from Cheteshwar Pujara allowed India to mount on the runs and notch up a huge score in the first innings which set the tone for the game.

All the blame, however, cannot be put on the England bowlers, as their batsmen failed to make much of an impact as well. Apart from skipper Alastair Cook and wicket-keeper Matt Prior, no one showed any resistance and they ended up having to follow-on. All eyes were on middle-order batsman Kevin Pietersen, making his comeback after being axed from the team. Even he failed to make an impact and got out cheaply.

Les Arbitres de Foot: Un Travail Ingrat

(source: BBC)
by George Kimber-Sweatman

Read the first part of this article (in English), Football Refereeing: A Thankless Task?

En France, la situation est très similaire en ce qui concerne les attitudes à l’égard les arbitres de foot, mais c’est un peu différent quant aux salaires parce qu’ils ne sont pas professionnels.

Les arbitres français qui officient dans le meilleur championnat (la Ligue 1) reçoivent environ 2,750€ par match selon un site non officiel anglais, dédié au football. Il est possible que les figures soient complètement fausses et exagérés pour critiquer les arbitres en disant qu’ils ne feraient jamais d’erreurs à cause des salaires assez grands qu’ils reçoivent. Cependant, nous devons les accepter comme vrai parce que les organisations qui emploient les arbitres dans chaque pays ne partagent jamais de détails sur les frais. Aussi, la source de cette information et l’article dont il est tiré semble être favorable aux arbitres et souligne le fait que les joueurs (que les arbitres contrôlent) gagnent normalement 50 fois plus que les arbitres ! L’auteur tente de convaincre les lecteurs que les salaires des arbitres sont acceptables (même pour les hommes détestés qui portent le noir!), surtout quand comparé avec leurs joueur homologues. Pour ces raisons, les salaires détaillés dans cet article doivent être approuvé pour cette comparaison.

Pour que nous puissions comparer la situation globale en France et en Angleterre, nous avons besoin d’information sur les frais de déplacement, les régimes complémentaires de retraite, les emplois à temps partiel et les attentes placées sur les arbitres au sujet de transport et du nombre de matches qu’ils doivent arbitrer par semaine. Cependant, sans être vraiment impliqué dans la communauté d’arbitres français (comme je le suis en Angleterre), il est franchement presque impossible de trouver cette information car elle n’est jamais publiée sur internet (pour des raisons évidentes) et donc, nous pouvons seulement comparer les salaires de base. Ils gagnent plus que les anglais parce qu’ils reçoivent seulement la somme d’argent pour l’arbitrage du match - au lieu de la somme plus petit en Angleterre, car les anglais ont un contrat qui paie plus de 50 000 livres et donc ils n’ont pas besoin des sommes plus grandes.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Why Xi Jinping's Election is More Important Than Obama’s

by Henry Cunnison

Xi Jinping and Barack Obama
In the last fortnight, the world has seen the appointment of two men who are likely to shape the economic and political climate across the globe for the next half decade.
First, the sixth of November saw the comfortable re-election of Barack Obama, who is tasked with leading the western world out of the Great Recession and is viewed by many as the most influential man in the world.  The following week saw the formation of China’s fifth generation of leadership, and, as expected, 59-year-old Xi Jinping is set to become the new paramount leader of the second largest economy in the world. 
I’m sure most of you will assume it is Obama who will play a greater part our collective futures; some might not even have heard of Xi Jinping, but it is he, I would suggest, who will have a greater impact on people’s lives.
Xi Jinping was born in Beijing, a so-called princeling, son of Xi Zhongxun one of China’s former leaders. Xi has been Vice-President since 2008, and it has been clear that he would succeed Hu Jintao for some time now. By the time Xi stands down (which is expected to take place in around 10 years' time), China will most likely be the largest economy in the world. Xi will face numerous problems during his tenure and how he deals with them may have long-term and far-reaching effects.
Xi and the new Politburo promise a distinctly different attitude to the previous administration. He is believed to support moderate reform, has even been compared to Nelson Mandela and has been described as a tough, hardworking man who has overcome many trials, including living in a cave during a period when his father was exiled by Mao. He asserts that he will end the corruption within the Communist Party, and intends to introduce significant economic changes to move China closer to a market economy.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Football Refereeing: A Thankless Task?

by George Kimber-Sweatman

“I can see you, my son, in front of the television engrossed in the cartoons and in the football matches. We sit on the sofa together and you immediately ask me about the referee. You like watching the man who has to decide, instantly, on a penalty, an offside, a foul. And it’s on him – the man who couldn’t make it as a footballer – that the people on the terraces unload all the week’s resentment, all their anger in defeat.
 I’ve known several referees over the course of my career, and I’ve found a sadness in all of them, a sadness that’s never been revealed before: it comes from those difficult first years, for example, refereeing on pitches where there’s no protection, no security. Many of these referees bear scars on their faces from punches, bottles and stones thrown. It all makes you want to say enough is enough. Is it worth risking one’s life for a derisory sum of money, for no fame and for an often misspelled mention in the results in the local papers?
I’ll always feel for those youngsters – and they still exist today – who go off to referee in the trenches, their only protection their own courage. Without the referee, football wouldn’t have any sense – you can play without a goalkeeper or a centre-forward, but not without the man who runs and runs and runs without ever touching the ball. He never scores. He never ever receives heartfelt applause. A long round of applause. An applause to bring you out in goosebumps.” – Darwin Pastorin


All over the world, the sentiments expressed by Darwin Pastorin here are proven to be undeniably true every weekend. Without changing the strongly entrenched, engrained, pre-conceived ideas about referees held by the majority of the population, though, sadly it is extremely difficult to predict with any sense of optimism a happier, safer life for referees at the lower levels of football in the near future, nor a change in the aggressive, derogatory attitudes towards them. Although exceptionally frustrating and unjust, this is something that it seems we will have to accept for the foreseeable future.
But what of those who have risen above those who have tried to deter them, those who have climbed the ladder and reached their dream of officiating at the top level of football? Do they enjoy better treatment? Are they suitably protected and rewarded for the high levels of stress that they put themselves through in order to allow millions to indulge themselves in watching football matches brought to a successful conclusion?
In England, it depends on just how senior you are. Currently, there are 16 referees who are part of the Select Group, run by the company Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), and who will be focused on during this comparison. These sixteen men are the only ones who have a contract including an annual salary of between £50,000 and £100,000, which goes alongside their match fees of around £750-£1,000 and ample travel expenses. (Having contacted the PGMOL for exact figures, and been informed that they could not be released for political reasons, all monetary values included in this document are educated estimates of the real figures.)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

"Is It OK To Listen To Christmas Music in November?": Top 5 Christmas Covers

by Patrick McGuiggan

See also Dave Allen's alternative Christmas song list.

"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Nothing divides the nation more than the age old debate, “Is it OK to listen to Christmas music in November?” There are, of course, a few other similarly contentious issues: Is wearing a Christmas sweater in November acceptable? When can you safely put up your Christmas tree without leaving yourself open to ridicule? For now, I shall focus on the music. Though I will admit, I have already sported the Xmas sweater on numerous occasions, with friends making me well aware that I was committing a heinous crime.
I was walking through Gunwharf Quays this weekend and, upon entering a shop (which, for legal reasons, shall remain nameless) I heard a Christmas song. Most of my fellow customers groaned; I could only smile. Speaking from experience, working in a shop during the lead-up to Christmas can be nothing short of horrendous. That is – if you aren’t prepared. So, rather than be subjected to the same 30 tracks over and over again each day, I came up with my own alternative Christmas playlist. This was hard to narrow down but, as a toast to of one of my favourite books/films, High Fidelity, here are my Top Five Christmas Covers:
1. 'Last Christmas' (Jimmy Eat World)

2. 'Sleigh Ride' (Relient K)

Portsmouth Point Poetry – War and Humanity in 'The Iliad'

by George Laver

Priam (left) pleads with Achilles (centre) for the return of
the body of his son, Hector (below). (source:
"Now Priam spoke to him: “Achilles, remember your father; one who
Is of years like mine, and at the doorway of sorrowful old age.
Surely he, when he hears of you and that you are still living
Is gladdened within his heart and all his days he is hopeful
That he will see his beloved son come home.
. . . I have gone through what no other mortal on earth has gone through,
I have put my lips to the hand of the man who has killed my children.”
. . . Priam sat huddled at the feet of Achilles and wept for Hector,
And Achilles wept now for his own father and now again for Patroclus,
And took the old man by the hand and set him
On his feet again, in pity for the grey head and grey beard.
. . . And called his serving maids to wash the body and anoint it.
“Come then sir, you may take your beloved son back
To Troy and mourn for him; and he will be much lamented.”

(from Book 24 of The Iliad by Homer, c. 750 BC --- translation by Richmond Lattimore)

Since Remembrance Sunday will still undoubtedly be fresh in all of our memories, it seems fitting that this week’s entry should deal in some way with the theme of war.

Homer is widely regarded as the greatest of the ancient Greek poets. The exact time period in which he lived and wrote is still the subject of debate, but it is believed that he was active some time during the seventh or eighth century BC. The Iliad, set during the last of the ten years of the Greeks’ mythical siege of Troy, is recognized as one of the earliest works of Western literature. It recounts the battles and events occurring over the course of the weeks in which the action takes place, while simultaneously portraying the quarrel between Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek army, and the heroic warrior Achilles.

Nowadays, it seems normal to talk about the tragedy of war in terms of statistics and figures; who, for instance, is not reminded of the figure of six million victims by a mention of the Holocaust? The Iliad is set at a time when such technologies of mass-slaughter as those used during the Second World War were still thousands of years from being developed. Rather than being able to wipe out distant swathes of people from inside a building or an armoured vehicle, or from an aeroplane, the soldiers of the Trojan War had to engage individual foes no further away from them than the ends of their spears.