Thursday, 31 January 2013

Amazing Technology You Never Thought Could Exist, But Now Does…

by Hugh Summers

 360º 3-D Holographic Displays: We may have seen these in Star Wars, yet did George Lucas or we, the viewers, ever believe this to be achievable? In fact, it has been achieved, yet perhaps not in the form which we quite imagined.
“The ZCamTM is a video camera that can capture depth information (which is used to build the 3D model) along with video and is produced by 3DV Systems. The technology is based on the Time of Flight principle. In this technique, 3D depth data is generated by sending pulses of infra-red light into the scene and detecting the light reflected from the surfaces of objects in the scene. Using the time taken for a light pulse to travel to the target and back, the distance can be calculated and used to build up 3D depth information for all objects in the scene”. This, in theory, means they fire infa-red rays at an object which return to the computer and allows it to judge different distances, causing it to build up a 3D image. This image is then sent to a projector which projects the image onto many panels of glass or Perspex (or something of a similar optical density) which builds up the 3D image:


Of course, that’s quite a lot to take in, so here’s an arguably slightly simpler version of 3D holograms. The other option is being developed mainly in Japan. In 2011, the Japanese produced what we all know a true hologram to be. They can produce 3-D (albeit simple) images in mid-air. They do it by focusing lasers on certain points in the air which causes the ionisation of the gases in the air. Although I won’t labour you with the facts of ionisation I will simply say that the ionisation causes a spark in the air which acts as a pixel. Although the pixels are large and the refresh rate of the pixels (how many flashes per second) is quite low, this is an amazing, if not very dangerous advance in technology: Robotic technology:


As you may well know, robotics covers a wide spectrum from artificial intelligence to actual moving humanoid robots. In the past decade we have produced robots worth millions of pounds. Please don’t misinterpret that as me suggesting that these robots are insignificant, it is in fact quite the opposite, and these robots can recognise objects, climb over objects and even make mistakes and learn from them. Although this prospect is mildly daunting from a Terminator-esque perspective, it is simply astounding and probably one of the most prominent beacons in the advance of human technology.

How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolution

As January ends, Jack Rockett explores way to keep your New Year's Resolution beyond the the first month of the year. 

At the beginning of the year, it’s always the same. Everyone talks about their New Year’s resolution and how they broke it on the 2nd of January and that is because we want to change suddenly. If you want to succeed, make your resolution easy. Just because it is January 1st you suddenly want to do all these things. Some of our most impossible favourites are:
 
·         Be nicer

·         See more family

·         Study more

·         Be better behaved

·         Quit smoking

·         Cut down on chocolate

·         Stop drinking

          (And the far too clichéd) GO ON A DIET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Most of the time, these are things that are very hard to crack. Either you can’t be bothered, love food too much, love wine too much or just love yourself too much, but there is an easy way out. Change your resolution to ‘Love myself more’.
 
It’s mine and so far I’ve kept to it very well. When there is a big decision, just instantly think of factors that affect you. With free opportunity, do what you want to do. After completing a task, spend a few minutes or even half an hour savouring it and feeling proud about what you have achieved. It makes you feel so good.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

'Every time an elder dies, a library burns with him.'

by Joanna Godfree



A legal opinion on the rules for buying and selling goods
(source: ismailimail.com via nytimes.com)

 
 
'Every time an elder dies, a library burns with him.' (West African saying)

Of course to a librarian the burning of a library is the extreme opposite of all that we stand for, that is, the preservation and free dissemination of information and ideas of every sort. So it is with horror that we hear that, as well as the bloodshed, two libraries of world importance were burned on Saturday 26th January by Al Qaeda allied fighters in Timbuktu, Mali, as the insurgents fled from the city before the arrival of French troops and the Malian army. Thus the detailed and fascinating records of thousands of lives and of a rich and ancient culture may well have been destroyed, an inheritance which was recognised formally in 2009 by the building of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research Institute - named after a Timbuktu scholar of the 18th century - to conserve and study these ancient and fragile scrolls.

According to Luke Harding in The Guardian, Monday 28th January:

'The manuscripts had survived for centuries in Timbuktu, on the remote south-west fringe of the Sahara desert. They were hidden in wooden trunks, buried in boxes under the sand and in caves. When French colonial rule ended in 1960, Timbuktu residents held preserved manuscripts in 60-80 private libraries. The vast majority of the texts were written in Arabic. A few were in African languages, such as Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara. There was even one in Hebrew. They covered a diverse range of topics including astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women's rights….

Some of the most fascinating scrolls included an ancient history of west Africa, the Tarikh al-Soudan, letters of recommendation for the intrepid 19th-century German explorer Heinrich Barth, and a text dealing with erectile dysfunction. A large number dated from Timbuktu's intellectual heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries … By the late 1500s the town, north of the Niger river, was a wealthy and successful trading centre, attracting scholars and curious travellers from across the Middle East. Some brought books to sell.
 
 

The burning of books (biblioclasm) has always been a powerfully symbolic act, a physical and spectacular expression of rejection by one group of the strongly-held beliefs of another.  Ray Bradbury enshrined a prophetic vision of a state-run system of official book-burning in his 1953 fable 'Fahrenheit 451' (as Bradbury understood it, the burning point of paper). This is how the book opens:

Review: Django Unchained

by Will Hine


Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx
(source: The Guardian)

As Quentin Tarantino burst into the box office in the early 1990s he redefined cinema for the next decade. Using a non-linear storyline with heavy dialogue, Tarantino has created a host of satirical and iconic stories and characters in film history. Over time, Tarantino's reputation has grown; this has allowed him to develop edgier and more adventurous films and Django Unchained is no exception.

German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) frees a slave called Django (Jamie Foxx) and offers to make him a free man if he helps identify three brothers so that he can collect the price on their head. After completing this mission and upon Dr. Schultz's discovery of Django's 'talent' for the line of work, they agree to work together over the winter, and in exchange the doctor will help Django reunite with his enslaved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), rescuing her from cotton field owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

As in Tarantino's Inglorious Barsterds, the opening scene is utter brilliance. With a score created by 'the' western maestro Ennio Morricone, Tarantino's usual traits begin to take light. A group of slaves are being led through the desert by men on horseback; by night they reach a wood and from the darkness arrives a horse and carriage with a large tooth on the roof. The mix between hardship and the bizarre drives the narrative throughout the film.

Leonardo DiCaprio
(source: toutelecine.com)
Waltz is every bit as captivating as he was in Inglorious Basterds, but this time he conveys a strong moral fibre that one wouldn't usually associate with his line of work. Foxx is also in fine form, clearly having a blast playing the trigger-happy Django, while Leonardo DiCaprio  lives up to expectations as the eccentric, nefarious Francophile Calvin Candie. In one scene, DiCaprio cuts his hand accidentally but manages to stay in character and finish his scene. Though not scripted by Tarantino, the action works to great effect to accentuate Candie's instability and manic traits.

CSI PGS!

by Sampad Sengupta


This week, PGS unveiled a new club to add to its splendid range of co-curricular activities: the Experimental Biology Club. In a rare and privileged move, The Portsmouth Grammar School has formed collaboration with The University of Portsmouth to perform novel research, which will contribute towards worldwide biological understanding; in particular, the club will investigate the developing field of ‘Forensic Entomology’. 

‘Forensic Entomology’ translates as the use of insects to help in solving crimes, particularly in murder investigations. In the first session, Dr Katherine Brown visited from the University of Portsmouth to discuss the scientific basis behind ‘Forensic Entomology’ and introduce exactly how this ”biological clock” can be used to solve crimes. In the words of Dr Brown, forensic entomology is “really applicable… it’s current, it’s now”. It is something which gained importance in the late 90s and is now used widely across the world to help in investigations.

Samples of insects
The types of insects used in these cases are mostly flies and beetles. Insects usually colonise the crime scene in minutes and stay there, which is one of the primary advantages of using these techniques. Different types of insects would remain at the scene for different lengths of time and pupal casings can remain at a crime scene for millennia; such ‘puparia’ are now subjects of research at the university. These insects can be used to determine the manner of death, whether it be stabbing, gunshots or poisoning, following analysis in the laboratory. It also informs scientists of the post-mortem interval (PMI), which is used to estimate the time of death of the victim, by studying the lifecycle stages of the insects. The knowledge of ‘Insect Succession’ i.e. the estimated time of appearance of the different insects at the scene is applied in this case; the lifecycle and relative growth timings of insects is also taken into account.

Dr Brown went on to say what experiments and activities were going to be performed at the school. The club will begin by honing students’ molecular biology techniques, such as DNA extraction and analysis, and then move on to attempt to extract DNA from insect artefacts (vomit and faeces residue left by insects at the crime scene). In a world first, the club will then aim to use this technique to identify the victim the insects had been feeding on through DNA fingerprinting techniques.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Having a Parent in the Armed Forces

by Will Sparkes

Given that there are so many military families in and around Portsmouth, and the number of children who go to the school with connections to the military, I’ll bet that everyone reading this will have a relation or friend with a link to the Armed Forces. However I don’t reckon a majority will know perhaps what one of us goes through in order to have the label of military child. I’ll give you the rough guide to what it entails, good and bad, to be associated with the organisation that employs over 400,000 people both in full-time and reserve employment.

1) The Pride
When you pull out your Armed Forces railcard at the station or your Dad comes to Parents' Evening or just to pick you up from school in his uniform, you just feel cool. You can feel the people looking at him and you know they admire him. Sure there are the people who say the wrong things (“Nice hat, mate!” to which my ever-witty father replied “At least it doesn’t say Umbro on it”), but the majority offer complete respect. The elderly stop him in the street and congratulate or thank him for what he does, while I beam at him stupidly like a 6 year old at Christmas.

2) The Posh ‘Do’s' 
I’m not going to pretend I don’t --- seriously, we get to do some amazing stuff. During the summer of 2012, I watched the Royal Military Muster from the Royal enclosure at Windsor, I got VIP seats on London Bridge for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee river pageant. And it’s not just posh stuff either. It’s a great tradition that Naval and Army families make the voyage to Twickenham each year to watch the Army-Navy rugby game (not RAF because they are hilariously awful at the game). It’s, quite frankly, utter carnage, especially when the Squaddies discover the kegs and the Marines remember that it’s hilarious to not have any clothes on, especially between the posts of the pitch… mid-game.


3) The Other Benefits 
As mentioned before, I get money off my train tickets but that’s negligible. My Mum currently sings as part of the hugely successful Military Wives’ Choir, which I know for a fact is hugely beneficial to her, and it’s also a cracking conversation-starter. I’m in the process of setting up a Military Children’s Choir, in accordance with the Armed Forces covenant that I signed last summer, which promised to form a greater allegiance between the families and the council, but I won’t say much about that.

4) Dad’s Job – The Good Bits 
What can I say? He’s the captain of the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol ship, HMS Protector, which is pretty flippin’ cool. It means that if you Google the ship’s name, hundreds of heroic news stories pop up, mainly about ship rescues, and also that I get e-mails entitled ‘Just another day at the office’, with the picture below attached.  Now you probably look at the picture and think ‘That’s amazing’ whereas, because I’m so conditioned to it (and also because it’s raining outside) I think, ‘You jammy sod’. I mean, he calls us up some days and, after 5 minutes, goes, “Sorry, must dash, we’ve got a pod of humpback whales off the starboard bow” or “Oops! There’s a 4km ice sheet in front of us, got to go!” Which is mean. Also, his jobs seem to match up perfectly with my Geography lessons. For instance, in Year 11, for my GCSE coursework, I had to write about piracy just after Dad had returned from Somalia, and, this year, I’m studying cold environments. Very. Very. Handy.

Why Blogging (Successfully) Is Harder Than It Looks

by Dodo Charles

So, I recently started a blog with my friends on fashion design, which I thought would be easy, but is in fact as difficult as trying to thread a minute needle. Setting up the blog alone was difficult enough. There was a whole array of decisions to be made, and for a not particularly decisive person, it was a challenge that I did not readily accept.

First problem- deciding what our main aims of the blog were. We knew that we wanted to specialise in vintage and indie clothing, but beyond that we were quite unsure. We also wanted to alter old clothes rather than start from scratch, so we needed to make this clear. In the end we decided that we would specialise in designing and altering clothes so that they had an indie or vintage twist.

The next problem encountered was: the blog’s name- it seems simple enough, but deciding on a name when there are three of you, each with different ideas, is not a fun task. We of course ended up using our great friend- the thesaurus, to attempt to find a unique word for clothes. Let me tell you now, there are not many enticing words out there… Eventually we decided to go French and our blog was named, La Grande Allure.

Right, the second hurdle had been jumped over, but there were still many to come, the first in the form of a layout design. Whoever decided that giving a person so much choice was a good idea, I do not salute you. We spent far too much time staring at a laptop trying to find the right format, but to not much avail until I wandered over from where I had been stitching a top and with the help of Sophie chose the one that best suited our vintage design.

Finally we actually had to write an entry. This was by far the hardest thing to do. I mean, how do you write something that would appeal to a bunch of people you have never met? Do you go for the formal approach or the slightly slapdash approach of pretending that they are your friends (if anyone actually reads it, that is)? In the end we went for a mixture, and actually recommended another fashion blogger’s blog; probably not our best move, but it boosts the other person’s views.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Original 'Les Misérables'

by Laura Burden



“Red – the blood of angry men! Black – the dark of ages past! Red – a world about to dawn!”…since seeing the film of the musical of Les Misérables, reviewed in dazzling terms on this site by Ollie Velasco, who described it as “incroyable”, I am quietly confident that I am not the only denizen of PGS who has carried the songs in her head whilst navigating the school site.
At first touch, the novel seems impossibly chunky and those who have seen and loved the film or the musical will be astonished that such a weighty tome could be compressed into 158 minutes of cinema, however shameless its tugs on our heart-strings are. And yes, it’s a long novel – depending on the translation, it boasts of approximately 530,982 words (although this puts it a mere sixteenth in the Guinness list of the world’s longest novels). So how, amidst the frenetic daily life of a sixth former, is such a book attempted?
As with all things in life that seem enormous at first sight, such as a rich slice of chocolate cake, revising for a Physics exam or eating the apocryphal elephant, the answer is to tackle it little by little. Snatch the odd ten minutes here and there to progress through the work chapter by chapter. Speaking of the chapters, they are remarkably short and mean that the novel really can be consumed in minuscule doses.
The second factor that makes the novel less daunting than its size would suggest is that the cast of principle characters is not that large. Les Misérables is a multi-plot narrative but the focus remains persistently upon Jean Valjean and hence also on Cosette, Marius and Javert. Ultimately, it is a story of Valjean’s redemption: his fear of further incarceration and his moral and physical strength are what dominate the plot.
An essential qualification for the prospective reader of Les Misérables is a love of digression. Hugo’s novel does relate the story of Jean Valjean and those he loves and encounters, but there is so much more to the book than a simple story. Whole chapters are dedicated to ephemera, from the differences between various Catholic religious orders, to the characteristics of Parisian street slang. At times, particularly in the more lengthy chapters dedicated to attitudes towards the Battle of Waterloo, it is not clear if what we are reading makes any contribution to the plot whatsoever…but the trick is to regard yourself as a reader along for the ride as well as the destination, and enjoy.
The title Les Misérables is hardly subtle and yet Hugo’s approach to social and sexual injustice is remarkably understated. After Fantine, the grisette (working class girl) has been materially spoiled and impregnated by the wealthy student, Tholomyès, we are told proleptically, “We shall have no further occasion to mention Monsieur Félix Tholomyès. It is enough to say that, twenty years later…he has become an influential, rich and portly provincial attorney, a prudent voter and stern magistrate; but always a man of pleasure.” As we then proceed to witness Fantine’s poverty and degradation, from a factory worker dismissed for her “sin” to a prostitute who has sold her hair and her two front teeth to support her illegitimate daughter, finally dying without being reunited with Cosette, Hugo keeps his word and does not remind us of Tholomyès’ comfortable life but we are mindful of the contrast.

What is the Enduring Appeal of 'Pride and Prejudice'?

by Katie Husselby

Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy (BBC version, 1995)
(source: The Guardian)
Today is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, which has led me to question how this novel has managed to maintain such a lasting popularity, where so many other romantic tales have failed to stand the test of time. If one were to look at the plot alone, it would seem to reveal nothing unique or previously unimagined in its formation. So what in particular about Austen’s writing continuously captivates such a varied audience two hundred years on from its publication?

From the first sentence, Austen establishes a new depth to the novel, by taking a “universally acknowledged” societal expectation and examining its effect on a single family. Thus, the story is immediately broadened from an individual and private experience to an application and example of the perils and restraints of our civilisation. The experiences, loves and marriages of the daughters of a clergyman, which the reader may at first see as trivial and ridiculous through Austen’s ironic portrayal of Mrs Bennet, are in fact revealed as the hinge on which early 19th century society turns. Our first impression of the book as a predictable love story have been suitably adapted by the recognition that it contains a daring critique of wider social issues that still affect us even today.

In addition, Austen displays a surprising humour throughout the story, which increases its allure to different readers. The intelligent wit serves to undermine and satirize the experiences of the lovers (for example To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love” and “A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment”), showing how the reader is kept in reality, increasing the authenticity of the story, rather than depicting it as a fairytale, unattainable romance. Austen’s forceful honesty and humour also brings the reader closer to the author’s consciousness, showing us the strength of Austen’s writing in a time when the position of the novel was disputed, and writing that included the thoughts and feelings of the characters not respected.

Bollywood version, 2004
(source: onlinehindimovie.net)
But if there is one aspect of Pride and Prejudice that strikes the reader the most, I believe it must be Austen’s strength of characterization in the story. From the vivacious and opinionated protagonist, to her small-minded and ridiculous mother, and from the pompous Mr Collins to the charming, sly Mr Wickham, all of the characters in the novel are given differentiated and detailed descriptions of their characteristics and personal development as the story progresses. Austen indeed shows her “belief of the inconsistency of all human characters”, providing the story with a liveliness and amusement that has been scarcely matched in any other narrative. This is reflected in the numerous film, television and theatre adaptations of the book over the years, which have even included Bollywood and Japenese versions, displaying the breadth of interpretation that it has received.

Blue Monday


by Bea Wilkinson

Blue Nude by Pablo Picasso
(source: overarts.com)

Last Monday, 21st January was apparently the most depressing day of the year. In 2005, Dr.Cliff Arnall calculated that the Monday after the first full week of January is the most depressing day of the year. Dr. Arnall figured out that late January is extremely depressing for a number of reasons, including cold, unpredictable and gloomy weather conditions, post-Christmas debts and stress, abandoned New Year’s resolutions and lack of motivation or anything to really look forward to. Dr. Arnall even created an equation to justify his idea. It seems difficult to ignore such a comprehensive list of depressing items, but it appears there are just as many reasons to believe that Dr. Arnall’s ‘Blue Monday’ theory is simply pseudoscience and should be overlooked and ignored. 

Several years ago, now defunct television channel Sky Travel ran a PR campaign to try to boost sales and encourage people to take a holiday. Sky asked various academics, including Dr Arnall, asking them to put their name to a press release, suggesting that the third January of each year is just gloomy. Despite an elaborate mathematical equation, it seems as though the calculations are incorrect.

Ben Goldacre (The Guardian) who first pointed out the flaws of ‘Blue Monday’ in 2006, said that the equations "fail even to make mathematical sense on their own terms" and believes that the idea of ‘Blue Monday’ is purely harmful: "I am of the opinion that these equation stories – which appear with phenomenal frequency, and make up a significant proportion of the total science coverage in the UK – are corrosive, meaningless, empty, bogus nonsense that serve only to caricature and undermine science."

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Holocaust Memorial Day: 'The Banality of Evil'


Adolf Eichmann on trial
(source: holocaustresearchproject.org)
 Fifty years ago, in 1963, Hannah Arendt published 'Eichmann in Jerusalem'*, her landmark account of the trial and execution of the man responsible for organising the mass transportation of millions of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps. 

Arendt, herself a Jewish refugee from Germany before the War, subtitled her book 'A Report on the Banality of Evil', focusing on the fact that Adolf Eichmann seemed to have committed his crimes not because he was a psychopath or anti-semitic, but because he was an unimaginative, ambitious careerist who justified his acts as "legal" under the laws of Nazi Germany and refused (or was perhaps unable) to confront the appalling moral consequences of his own actions. For Arendt, it is his very "averageness" that makes Eichmann so terrifying and so emblematic, "the uncomfortable but hardly deniable possibility that similar crimes may be committed in the future" by similarly "normal" men and women: 

"Half a dozen psychiatrists had certified (Eichmann) as "normal" --- "More normal, at any rate, than I am having examined him," one of them was said to have exclaimed, while another had found that his whole psychological outlook, his attitude towards his wife and children, mother and father, brothers, sisters and friends, was "not only normal but most desirable." . . . He himself said that "Officialese is my only language", but the point here is that officialese became his language because he was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliche (was it these cliches that the psychiatrists thought so "normal" and "desirable"?).

 . . . Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all . . . He was not stupid. It was sheer thoughtlessness --- something by no means identical with stupidity --- that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period . . . If, with the best will in the world, one cannot extract any diabolical or demonic profundity from Eichmann, that is still far from calling it commonplace . . . That such remoteness from reality and such thoughtlessness can wreak more havoc than all the evil instincts taken together which, perhaps, are inherent in man --- that was, in fact, the lesson one could learn in Jerusalem.

 . . . The essence of totalitarian government and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of men and thus to dehumanize them . . this new type of criminal commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.

'Diary of a Madman': Year 12 Art Installation

by Alison Dyer




Every year the Year 12 A Level group undertake a site specific installation project as part of their coursework. This year their work has been inspired by Nikolai Gogol's farcical short story 'Diary of a Madman', which records the gradual descent of the protagonist, Poprishchin, into insanity.

The exhibition will be on display in the Art department during the Year 11 Sixth Form Subject Forum on Monday, 28th January, 6.30 - 8.00pm. All are welcome.




See a video of the artists at work preparing the installation:

Saturday, 26 January 2013

A Storm in a Teacup

by Patrick McGuiggan


Sugar lumps – they drive the Irish crazy.

My recent move to England, after living in Northern Ireland for so long, has been a reasonably smooth transition.  However, there is one cultural difference that doesn’t sit well with me – sugar lumps. I can’t remember ever sitting in a cafe in Belfast and being presented with lumps of sugar.
I apologise if you are a fan, but a lump is simply not a quantifiable amount of sugar. When faced with these lumps, I often end up scanning the sugar bowl, frantically trying to assess which lump is equivalent to my usual one teaspoon of sugar – a skill set I have seemingly yet to develop.
Perhaps this is where the sugar cube comes in. At least that way the decision is made for you, but is there some sort of independent governing body which standardises the dimensions of these cubes? Are they all equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar? I would guess not. It all seems like a one big game of sugary Russian roulette and the odds are not in my beverage’s favour.

Short Story: Place

by Charlotte Knighton

Place

They walk down the road, young and yet completely sure of themselves; this, after all, is a route they have walked for the best part of they’re lives. Yet today there is an air of excitement, tinged with just a little sadness, about them. They both know that this will be the last time they walk together down this road. One of them is leaving.

She wants to be sad and she knows that will come later and it will be worse than it has been before, in those brief times she has allowed her self to think about her new school, but she is too excited, anticipating the day ahead.

They cross the road and head down their favourite part of the daily walk. The road before they catch a glimpse of the school. It turns in only one place so is perfect for when they want to cycle fast and race each other. They slow past a broken down, rickety fence. It didn’t used to be broken down but having races has its hazards and the fence isn’t the only casualty of their manic races. They bend down and inspect the scratch of purple paint that still adorns the rotting wood of the fence. Like a smear of blood, the wire cutting into to the wounds of the fence, many of the wounds inflicted by us. They exchange jokes about the other's clumsy cycling and move on down the alley of houses and trees.


They run down the pavement. To some this may seem an odd thing to do, but the girls love the undulating feel as they fly along it. They seem as weightless as ghosts, gliding along sure footed, until one of them trips and nearly falls over, but is caught just in time by the other. They stop running as the pavement ends.

This is where they meet their friends to complete the walk together. Normally both are impatient for the others to arrive, they are always first, but today they seem to enjoy the few minutes of quiet and solitude. One seems to be looking around her more as if trying to fix everything to memory.


The ditch. She mustn't forget the ditch they spent many a morning trying to cycle down with varying degrees of failure. That ditch holds several blood stains, long soaked into the earth, but still, a part of her is in that ditch and she can feel it. Around it are rocks stood like sentinels, their uniforms once white but now a greying brown colour, trying in vain to keep the flood of children out.


The blossom tree. She mustn't forget the blossom tree they would pick flowers from in the spring, its beautiful blooms spreading out over the path like a fan of fallen soldiers, felled by a breath of wind. Rich pickings for adorning your bag or uniform, as we so frequently did while waiting, although today, we just sit and look.

Frédéric Chopin: A Short Guide

by Aladdin Benali


In this article I will attempt to explain why Chopin was such an influential composer and pianist, guide you through my Top Ten of his works, their influences and, despite this article being on classical music, do this all without any hint of pretentiousness.


Autograph partiture by Chopin of his Polonaise Op. 53 in A flat major for piano, 1842
(image source: Wikipedia).


Frédéric Françios Chopin (for the purposes of removing pretentiousness we will call him Fred) was born in Zelazowa Wola (Poland) in 1810, but emigrated at the age of 20 from his home country shortly before the 1830 uprising against Russian occupation. Fred would never return home, becoming one of many expatriates of the Polish Great Emigration. Fred is most famous for his various piano solo compositions, which are separated into many forms but, in a shameless parody of the charts, here are the Top 10:


(1)       Fantasie Impromptu in C-sharp minor (Opus 66)

With the insane combination of triplets in the left hand and semi-quavers in the right, much of this piece is chaotic and edgy, which contrasts with the slow and sweet middle section.



 
(2)       Nocturne in C-sharp minor (Posthumous)
No falling autumn leaves could complete with Fred’s legendary and unique ability to produce such strong feelings of melancholy, the wonderful kind of depressiveness which you just can’t get nowadays. This is most epitomised in one of his 21 Nocturnes where the style remains both subtle and mature. Not only this, but this nocturne displays melodic distinction and charm.
 
 





(3)       “Raindrop” Prelude in D-flat Major (Opus 28, No,15)

The preludes are definitely some of the strangest compositions; published in chromatic order of key signature, many were written in Fred’s winter in Majorca, while he was dying of tuberculosis. For me, the best part of this prelude comes when emerging from the loud and suffocating middle section with the suspended chords.



 
(4)       “Revolutionary” Étude in C-minor

Many of these pieces are painfully difficult and instil fear into most mortals who are learning the piano; despite this, they are still beautifully epic. In the "Revolutionary” Étude in C Minor the left hand is required to perform heroic feats.



 
(5)       “Suffocation” Prelude in E-minor (Opus 28, No.4)

This is one of the most melodramatic pieces and was played at his funeral along with his Prelude in B-minor.




 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Farewell, Spider-Man

by Charlie Albuery

(source: gkworld.com)
On Boxing Day, 2012, the world forever lost a great man, and, no, I’m not mourning the loss of a great sportsman or musician, I am speaking of the man who has changed millions of children’s (and adults') lives forever, a figure who taught the underdog that they could change the world, that they could be everything they ever wanted to be. I am, of course, talking about Spider-Man.
In the culmination of the world’s longest running comic book ever, Spider-Man was killed off from mainstream Marvel continuity in Amazing Spider-Man Number 700.
For those of you who don’t know/have been living under a rock or particularly oppressive regime since the 60s, Spider-Man is a Marvel superhero created by Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, who first appeared in Amazing Fantasy Number 15 with this iconic cover.
The protagonist was a lonely nerd named Peter Parker who, when bitten by a radioactive spider, gained the ability to climb walls, shoot webs and the proportionate strength of a spider (pretty darned strong) as well as an innate ‘spider-sense’ that warned him when danger was imminent.
To those of you still confused as to why I’m discussing Spider-Man in the past tense, I’ll fill you in. On the 26th of December 2012, Amazing Spider-Man Number 700 was released in comic book stores around the world; this issue featured the events leading up to and the actual moment of Spider-Man’s death at the hands of Doctor Octopus, who then proceeded to swap bodies with Spider-Man, becoming essentially a super villain's mind inside of Spider-Man’s body.
So, yes, there is still a Spider-Man, but he no longer stands for anything Spider-Man previously did in mainstream continuity; we have a new comic line about what is essentially an evil twin of the Spider-Man we all know and love: The Superior Spider-Man.
The reason this article is a few weeks late to the party, or the funeral, is because before passing judgement I felt I should read the first issue of The Superior Spider-Man and see how I felt.
I hated it.
I wanted it to go and die.
I very nearly shredded it.
Reading this as a Spider-Man fan is a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies’ pets.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Interview: Ricky Martin – ‘Apprentice' Winner 2012

by Fergus Houghton- Connell

Ricky Martin, 27, first earned his fame through wining the BBC game show "Total Wipeout" and then with his successful run on the Apprentice in which he won £250,000 towards starting a new business. Now, Ricky is still running his recruitment firm, with the help of Lord Sugar, and has even relocated to Lord Sugar’s Headquarters in Essex. After an interesting talk to the PGS pupils, Danny Rollins, Jonathan Blackwell and I caught up with Ricky to see if we too could ‘witness the fitness of Ricky Martin’.



Ricky infamously stated in his application that he ‘could be liked to Thor’ and that he was able ‘to teach an old dog new tricks’.

Q: “With your application, do you think the BBC chose you because you would be funny on TV or because you actually had business potential?”
A: “It’s probably an element of both really. Lord Sugar was on the panel selecting (the candidates) so he wouldn’t have just selected someone who was good for TV and had no credibility to back it up. If they just thought I was a joke and there for TV value, I don’t think I would have got on the program.”


Q: “You've won both Total Wipeout and The Apprentice, do you fancy going on any more BBC TV programs?”
A: “Absolutely not! No, definitely not! I’m all TV’d out. That’s me done. The only thing I’ve got left to do is the National TV Awards on Wednesday, but apart from that, that’s me done for TV. If I had the time to go on loads of TV programs, I shouldn’t be starting a business. I’d be a fool.”

Q: “You say Science is what gets you up in the morning, but what exactly do you like about Science?”
A: “It’s the end application of Science that really interests me. With a Drugs company, even if it takes 30 years to complete the drug, it’s the fact that it saves lives is what interests me. Also, Science can manipulate different molecules in a compound, for example a detergent can be used to make teeth whiteners. It may take 30 years to complete, but if you remember how important the product will be at the end of it, then it’ll all be worth it.”

PGS Chemistry teacher, Dr O’Neill taught Ricky Chemistry as a child at Crofton School.
Q: “Did Dr O’Neill inspire you?”
A: “He did actually! I didn’t know he worked here until today. What I liked about Dr O’Neill was that he is a very charismatic science teacher. He was different to my other science teachers. He made what I’d like to do, he made science fun! He made it interesting and engaging. It was great to see him today, because he’s exactly the same as he was, and he looks the same too!”


Q: “What would you say is the most important tool for a business, other than money?
A: “Passion. To be passionate and interested in what you’re doing makes a difference. I could’ve taken the money and put it into something that would have made money faster, but that’s not what I’m passionate about. Also, a business plan is needed, you need to figure out how your business is going to work around life.”

Q: “You’re from the area, so have you every thought about relocating to the Portsmouth area.”
A: “Right now, probably no. It depends where the company goes really. When I think about science, I think about key locations in the country. There’s Cambridge and Oxford and where I’m located now (in Essex) is within an hour’s drive of each of those, so at the moment no, I won’t be moving.

Q: “ When can we be expecting the book, ‘Ricky Martin – The Life Story’, to be coming out?
A: “Forty odd years probably. No, unlikely that there’ll probably be a book. I’d be flattered if someone wanted to write a book about me, but nothing soon, no.”

Q: “Are you still the reflection of perfection?”
A: “No, I’m now a much more toned down person.”

So, if there was anything we could take from Ricky Martin is that you should ‘follow your passion’, you should ‘think positive, be positive’ and whatever you do, don’t call a prospective business partner an ‘old dog’.

Fashion Error: The Low Slung Trouser

by Katherine Tobin


(source: taka-accessories.com)

I would first like to point out that generally I have no problem with the way people dress - it being their choice of style, a way to show individuality etc etc. But in the more recent years, one trend has come to my attention that I simply cannot pass by, it being frankly, idiotic looking. Running the risk of sounding like my mother, I would simply like to draw your attention to the latest trend (which appears to be somewhat diminishing now a days, thank goodness) that of the low slung trouser.

Now I’m no fashion expert but it seems to me, that this trend really is the epitome of impracticality. Trousers that don’t cover your behind? Why is anyone paying good money for this? Is that not the entire point of trousers – to cover your lower body from the often bitingly cold and wet climate that we so often experience in the British Isles? Is it now too much to ask that our clothes are functional AND stylish?
 Now of course the fashion industry is not really to blame - instead it is this generation (embarrassingly mine) who have mutually agreed that low trousers are high fashion. If you go out onto the streets of any town or city, big or small, it would be a small miracle not to see a teen walking with a slight swagger (or more of a waddle) in order to try and keep their trousers from falling down.

This is, in itself, quite an impressive feat. It still astounds me how so many of these people are in fact able to keep their garments in place. I wonder, what is the secret behind this art form – do you buy your trousers in a smaller size so that they do not fit over your hips, or perhaps too big, so they gradually drop throughout the day? Whatever the reason, I must say, it is a form of entertainment to watch a boy realise he has revealed a little too much of his ‘comedy underwear’ and attempt to subtly hitch his trousers up from his knees.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

How Many New Year's Resolutions Have You Broken Already?

by Isabelle Byrne

(source: freelancefolder.com)
On the 31st December, at midnight, people all over the country vow to change and yet, by the end of January, many of these vows have been broken. Why every year do we all do the same?

I can honestly say that, since I was 7, my New Year's resolution has been to stop biting my nails and yet, within 30 minutes, it's almost guaranteed that I will have broken this resolution. Its worrying to think about the little willpower I have to stop doing something as simple as biting my nails. So when we look at the ‘Top Ten’ New Year's Resolutions we can see how some of these may not be the easiest to keep:
1.      Spend more time with family and friends
2.      Fit in fitness
3.      Tame the bulge
4.      Quit smoking
5.      Enjoy life more
6.      Quit drinking
7.      Get out of debt
8.      Learn something new
9.      Help others
10.  Get organised
I know family or friends that have tried and failed at all of these objectives. I’ve always had the same view – if you want to do something and achieve, then you have to be SELF-motivated. For example, if I have motivation to revise for exams (for example being offered a place at university) then I will revise – having my Mum and Dad moan at me will not help, as I don’t have the drive to achieve myself.

So on that fateful day, every year, we set ourselves up for failure by setting such unrealistic goals – not that they cannot be achieved but deciding to reach them because of the day of the year seems ludicrous. It’s as silly as turning around and saying that on the 3rd of August I shall simply stop talking. (.. a bit too far?). Either way I do find the whole event rather bizarre, and yet every year I find myself doing the same thing – creating a New Year's resolution that I surely could never fail.

I may be sceptical of New Year's resolutions, but that is based on 16 (not a wealth of experience I grant you) New Years come and gone in which I have seen myself, family and friends fail to reach their New Year goal. If you are one of the many who has managed to survive until the next New Year, feel very proud and please tell me how you did it! Statistically, 46% of New Year's resolution makers last longer than 6 months.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A-Z of Football

by Ben Willcocks

The year 2012 has certainly been one of the most entertaining years of football, so I thought it’d be unjust not to reflect one it. Here is a systematic list of why 2012 was such an inspirational year for football, and why there is so much pressure for 2013 to follow suit:

M is for  . . .
(source: Wikimedia.org)

A is for Alterations: Because of new ideas from new owners, Cardiff City fans became outraged this summer because their predominant blue colour was changed to red for advertising purposes. Furthermore, the most previously used formation of 4-4-2 is becoming far less used nowadays, with 17 of the 20 Premier League teams using other formations more often in 2012. For example, Wigan regularly use pressing full-backs with a 5-3-2 formation, and many teams such as Liverpool, Tottenham and Swansea used attacking wingers as the main focus of the team in a 4-3-3 formation.
B is for Mario Balotelli: For me, certainly he has been the most memorable player in 2012. He brought such character and entertainment into the football year, from scoring goals with his shoulder on the pitch, to handing £20 notes to random people in the streets of Manchester. What a man.
C is for Champions League: Despite my dislike for clichés, Chelsea’s Champions League journey was truly a roller-coaster ride. After only scraping first place in an easy group, they were hardly given a chance to win, but they overcame Benfica and Barcelona (in quite possibly one of the most entertaining games of the seasons) before facing Bayern Munich in the final. Even though they were losing in the 83rd minute, powerhouse Didier Drogba equalised and then slid the winning penalty past Neuer in the shootout. In my opinion that certainly equals the Champions League final back in 2005, when Liverpool won.
D is for Di Matteo: This man has quite possibly done everything as a manager in just a year. After taking over from Villas-Boas in March, he took Chelsea to their first ever Champions League trophy, as well as winning another FA Cup for the club. Then, after a Premier League record of 12 wins, 6 draws and 5 losses, intolerant Roman Abramovic gave him the boot. He became the seventh manager to be fired since just 2003!
E is for Euro 2012: This international competition certainly spoilt us after the madness that was the Premier League, despite another disappointing display from the Three Lions. After Spain’s impressive passing football and introduction of a new formation without a striker, using Fabregas as their most attacking player, they dominated Italy in the final after they themselves made fools out of the newly formed England team under Roy Hodgeson. In my eyes, the most memorable part of the competition was when Italy’s Andrea Pirlo had the audacity to chip his penalty part Joe Hart – sublime talent!
F is for FIFA Club World Cup: This often disregarded competition supposedly determines who the best club team in the world is. This year, Chelsea failed to make their talent truly known world-wide by failing to beat South-American giants Corinthians, who kept the game to a 1-0 score –line in their favour. Despite being neglected in certain people’s views, it still remains a memorable aspect of the year.
G is for Goalkeepers: There have been many criticisms that the goalkeepers are becoming increasingly worse, after all-time greats such as Oliver Kahn and Fabien Barthez retiring. Even Gianluigi Buffon, who is arguably one of the best keepers the world has ever seen, is into his final years before retirement. However, I would completely disagree. Joe Hart had a splendid 2012, helping Manchester City win the title, and Manuel Neuer is looking world class for Bayern Munich currently – and surely Iker Casillas has earned his place in the hall of fame, captaining Spain to a third successive international title at Euro 2012.
H is for Roy Hodgeson: Now the manager of his country, Hodgeson began the year by keeping West Bromwich Albion in the Premiership, before being appointed to England on 1st May. He was arguably thrown in at the deep-end with the usual expectations of England fans who believe that, despite the inexperience of our team, we could be crowned champions of Europe. Although he failed to turn our dreams into reality, he looked at the Euros, in my opinion, far more competent than Capello ever did.