Thursday, 28 February 2013

To Meow or To Woof?

by Louisa Dassow

Cats or Dogs? Dogs or cats? One of the most dividing questions of our time. I believe I am well qualified to answer this question, having had in total four cats and four dogs. Currently I have three dogs and one cat (and a rabbit), each with their own individual personality and each completely different from the other. I've never been able to decide which animal was my favourite. When I was younger it was definitely cats but then I got dogs and now with both I can fully appreciate the advantages of each animal.

“Dog's are a man's best friend” - They're more loyal. A dog will stay by your side til the very end, they are easily distracted by other dogs and food but they will always come home. If somebody is walking with a nice-smelling dog and treats in their hand your dog is going to find it very difficult not to leave your side or if your dogs are as friendly as mine even the cleanest stranger will cause them to run off. On the other hand there are cats. Cats will freely wander through the neighbours' gardens and eat their food, occasionally i've heard stories of cats who have become more attached to the neighbour's house and disappear. But in my experience cats always come home, I may not see my cat for a couple of days but eventually she'll stroll in through the cat flap and crawl up on my lap. nevertheless in terms of loyalty dogs usually win.

Cats are much easier to look after. If they have biscuits and water then they'll fine roaming outdoors (although they'll need a litter box if indoors). Cats are quite happy to wait until you're settled before crawling all over you and demanding attention but dogs are quite insistent; barking, howling, jumping up. They need regular walking, constant watching (you'll be amazed at what becomes edible when you have a dog), they need washing and they need to be cleaned up after everywhere you go. They're definitely not just for Christmas – if you have a dog they're with you the whole time, no rest, you can't leave them on their own for long periods of time and when you go on holiday they need to be properly looked after. Cats aren't as high maintenance and therefore better if you don't have vast quantities of time and energy to put into looking after your dog.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Visit to Ypres: February 14 and 15, 2013

by Ben Charles

Many people associate a visit to Belgium with trips to chocolate shops, eating mussels with frites and drinking beer brewed for generations by Trappist monks. Yr 9’s visit over the February half term holiday accommodated some (but not all) of these activities as their attention was focused mainly on gaining a greater understanding of the conditions facing soldiers on both sides of the Great War (1914-18) in and around the town of Ypres in Flanders.
 
This was a hugely enjoyable yet moving trip to the scene of one of the world’s most devastating conflicts. Pupils were given a fascinating insight into how battles were won and lost, how troops tried to survive the day-to-day atrocities of the trenches and what they might have done in their spare time in order to recuperate from the horrors of war. Visits to Talbot House and the Execution Post in Poperinge showed acutely the polarising aspects of the First World War – one, a place for R&R for all ranks as troops took a break from the front line, the other a place of stark contrast illustrating the sometimes brutal behaviour demonstrated in executing soldiers from your own side.
 
The Allied cemeteries at Lijissenhoek (which accommodates the graves of three Old Portmuthians) and Tyne Cot also contrasted hugely with the rather grim setting of the German cemetery at Langemarck, however, the sheer scale of loss became apparent when we learned that some 45,000 German troops were buried beneath our feet in what was a relatively small space. The visit to the site of the Essex Farm Advanced Dressing Station which inspired Canadian doctor and poet, John McCrae, to write ‘In Flanders Fields’ provided all of us with a poignant reminder as to the fragility of human life and to the futility of human sacrifice on such an epic scale.
 
Perhaps the most emotional aspect of all, however, was taking part in the evening ceremony at the Menin Gate. Here, the whole of Ypres stops for 2 minutes silence underneath one of the town’s ancient gates that has now been recreated as a memorial to those 55,000 who fell during the Great War but who have no grave, no headstone. Traffic is stopped, buglers are summoned, the Last Post is played, wreaths are laid and exhortations are read in a ceremony that has been taking place every day since 1928. This was no showy act of Remembrance, full of pomp and circumstance, but rather a simple and sombre occasion made more relevant on this occasion by the relentless and pouring rain.

It’s a Team Game!

by Charlie Albuery

For those of you who don’t know me I’ve never been good at team games. Due to a mixture of poor co-ordination and general loneliness as a child I never played football; attempting it later in life I discovered it was just as well I never tried – I played like a dyspraxic yeti on a hotplate with a tremor, in both hands, wearing a mask and moon boots…. I think you get the point.
Anyway I digress.
I was never good at team games, but I consider myself the expert at THE team game, so, in an attempt to make something I’m actually good at popular (competitive falling over never really caught on) I am publicising ‘The Team Game’ along with a few, hopefully, entertaining examples for your enjoyment and contemplation.
I think we’re on to the next football….
 The Team Game’ – The Rules
You will need three people (2 players and a judge)…… and a large amount of tedium
1 – The judge picks a scenario and a pool of characters from which to choose
2 – Each player chooses their ‘team’ based upon the criteria and has 2 minutes to justify their choice
3 – The judge decides the winner (although it is nearly always painfully obvious who has won)
So, for example, as the judge, I could say ‘Choose three Disney characters you would choose to help you survive the zombie apocalypse’. Given that topic, my team would be:
-          Hercules (that’s how they spell it in the film!)
-          Baloo (haha I have a bear)
-          Jessica Rabbit (requires no explanation)
Or I could say ‘You open a petting zoo with three creatures from film’:
-          Gizmo from ‘Gremlins’
-          A wookiee
-          Falcor the luck dragon
Or ‘Create a family from film: Parents and child siblings’
-          Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’
-          Sarah Connor from ‘Terminator’
-          Dash from ‘The Incredibles’
-          And of course, Scarlett Johanssen, in anything…
How about a personal favourite? ‘You killed a man. Choose your legal team of TV characters’
-          Sherlock (Cumberbatch, not Tommy Lee Cooper… Obviously)
-          Harvey Spectre
-          Jeff Winger
Now, if you disagree with me, (a) You’re wrong and (b) please leave a comment on your better choices or (c) even come up with a great topic that needs sharing (What? Pushing for comments? Me? Never…)
So, blogistas (sounds a bit girly), blogites (a little cult-y?), bloginators (got it!), I implore you, if only for the reasons stated above; spread this game, it’s great fun, and inspires some great debate. My 20-minute argument with my father over who is more likely to bite off a man’s arm in a petting zoo out of Chewbacca and Sully is to this day the most open and communicative we have ever been.

So, my friends, I leave you with perhaps my favourite topic of all:

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Should We Stick to Fruit and Veg?

by Lucy Cole

(source: Daily Telegraph)
For the majority of those out there, the idea of swapping a lump of steak for some carrots is not one that strikes as particularly appealing. As one who has been vegetarian since the tender age of four, I am unable to comprehend the almost infatuation- like relationship that my family and friends have with a piece of cooked dead animal. I have been questioned many times by awe-filled friends as to how I have managed to resist the smell of bacon, or the look of a juicy steak, and listened to their angry protestations when I suggest that they themselves should try giving up meat for a week or two.
However, with the recent horsemeat scandal causing us to wonder ‘what really is in that burger..?’, the faith of meat eaters across Europe has been greatly shaken (although perhaps less so for the French) with sales of frozen burgers dropping almost 50%.  For most we are not affected by the idea of eating horse, but rather by the concept of not knowing what is being put in our food; our trust in package labelling has been destroyed. If manufacturers are putting horsemeat in our burgers, who’s to say the variety of unknown additions isn’t even more colourful…
(source: Wikicommons)
But, in reality, how bothered should we be? Many of us willingly eat Frankfurters knowing that they contain the ‘meat’ left over when every scrap of the pig that can be passed off as quality meat has been removed. Not only that, but they often contain bits of mashed up bone, grizzle, and occasionally even sawdust. Eating meat sounding less appealing yet? Let’s take a look at chicken nuggets, a children’s favourite at MacDonald’s; as demonstrated by Jamie Oliver, a whole chicken (yes that includes bones, eyes, brain etc.) is put through a machine, pulverised into a paste, combined with water, chemicals and preservatives and then covered in bread crumbs. I may be crazy, but I certainly would not choose to be eating those anytime soon.

Monday, 25 February 2013

CDs and DVDs: An Obituary

by Katherine Tobin

(source: designstudies2010.wordpress.com)
In the recent weeks, the HMV story has been a hot topic in our news. If you are not aware of the story, in the past years, HMV’s sales have been steadily decreasing, and earlier this month, led to their temporary shutdown whilst they attempted to find money to continue to fund the stores.  The stores are now back open and in action, but it begs the question – what has led to such a dramatic downfall for HMV?
Around ten to twenty years ago CDs and DVDs were the latest technology, with the new albums flying off the shelves into the hands of eager children, teens and adults who had been waiting in line for around four-ish hours to get hold of Britney Spears’ new track (or whatever you were into at that time). Now as the new CDs come out, these people saunter into the half-empty store, grab the CD and go, taking at most twenty minutes. It is sad but true that in this generation, the majority of CDs are bought online, off places such as iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. It’s quick and easy, and I am one to say that almost all of my purchased music comes from online sellers. In addition, this generation, as one of the most technologically learned, have used technology to their advantage, illegally downloading much of their music to avoid paying any cost at all. It’s no wonder then that stores like HMV are on a downwards, slippery slope.
Although I would agree with buying online, I do find it depressing to watch shops like these close. Having spent most of my life putting on a CD in the car, or eagerly waiting for my favourite band’s  new album to grace the shop floor, it somewhat disappoints me to realise that the next generation, or the one after that will not get this thrill.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Trompe L’œil- The Foundation of 3D Street Art?

by Zoe Dukoff-Gordon


Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell del Caso, 1874
(source: Wikicommons)
The ‘Trompe l’œil’ ('trick of the eye') is made to look three dimensional to ‘fool’ the eye into thinking the piece is coming out of the page. It first began in the Ancient world, for example in Pompeii; the Greeks or Romans would use the style as a window or door way with intent to suggest a larger room. Then the style became popular in Italy where they would paint illusionistic ceilings to give the impression of a greater space to the person below.
Well-known examples are the 'Camera degli Sposi' in Mantua and Antonio da Coreggio'sAssumption of the Virgin’ in the Duomo of Parma. The style carried on to the seventeenth century, when a new architectural illusion was used by painters to "open up" the space of a wall or ceiling is known as 'quadratura'. This is where the ‘trompe l’œil’ got its name and appeared in many places of worship and great halls.
It can also be found on painted tables of other pieces of furniture so, for example, it may look like a game of cards is being played. A particularly impressive example can be seen at Chatsworth in Derbyshire, where one of the internal doors appears to have a violin and bow suspended from it.
Now in the present day, American street artists have taken the idea of ‘fool the eye’ and turned it into a 3D street painting, particularly Joe Hill (see below) who has painted in big cities such as London, New York and Hong Kong.
(source: www.joehill-art.com)


Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Internet: A Language of its Own?

by Melissa Smith

Ever since the early nineties, when instant messaging was all the rage and Facebook wasn’t even a twinkle in Zuckerberg’s eye, a new language has been developing: Internet speak. What started as timesaving, acronym-heavy chatroom talk has rapidly expanded into a world of its own, connecting Internet users across the globe with its somewhat mind-numbing, occasionally incomprehensible misuse of the English language. A thought perhaps even more terrifying is that as keyboard slang continues to grow, the line between the online world and our own is beginning to blur. With terms such as LOL, or ‘laughing out loud’ (not lots of love, Mum), and OMG being added to the Oxford English Dictionary in recent years, it’s easy to see how our language is becoming more and more influenced by laptop-wielding teenagers.

In light of this, here are a few of the most recent words and phrases to baffle Internet users and others alike:

1)   Troll

The ‘troll’ or ‘internet troll’ refers to the keyboard warriors who seem to spend the majority of their time trying to annoy as many people on the Internet as possible. Examples of troll-like behaviour may include leaving hurtful and/or nonsensical comments on Youtube videos, such as ‘u suk’ or ‘herp derp’, spamming online forums with links to Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, or just generally using anonymity to their antagonistic delight.

2)   ‘I ship it’

‘Ship’, short for relationship, is used as a verb or noun when pairing together two fictional characters or real people in a romantic situation. When shipping, the names of the two characters are usually forged together into one collective word. For example, ‘I ship Dramione’. Common derivatives of this include: ‘I will go down with this ship’, or ‘I ship it like FedEx’.

 On a similar note, the couple that you ship may well be your OTP, or ‘one true pairing’.  This refers to the two people, whether in a tv show or real life, that you think are perfect for each other, regardless of gender/sexuality. To combine the two concepts: ‘OMG I totally ship Klaine, but Britanna is my OTP’

3)   Feels/’I can’t even’

 Feels, meaning the overwhelming emotion felt at a certain situation or event (e.g. a tv episode or a book), is short for feelings, and can be used in a myriad of approaches, such as ‘Oh man, this episode is giving me all the feels!’, ‘Ooft, right in the feels…’ or ‘I know that feel bro.’ It can be used in moments of great sadness, or great happiness. If one is completely overwhelmed by the emotion felt, this could even be described as a ‘feelsplosion’.

‘I can’t even’, is used similarly to feels, in situations of overpowering emotion or hilarity. Being used mostly on Tumblr (a blog and social networking platform), it is unknown even to many regular Internet users.

4)   WHAT IS AIR?!
  
 This is another Tumblr term, used as a sort of mating call on other sites to find fellow Tumblr-ites, primarily on the video chatroom Omegle. A conversation may go like this:

Stranger: Hey
You: Hi
You: What is air?!
Stranger: Omg!!! (gives link to their Tumblr page)

The original use of the term stems from the inability to breathe after hearing or seeing something devastatingly hilarious, such as a video of a pug climbing up stairs.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Driving Disasters

by Hattie Gould and Annie Materna


(source: abldriving.co.uk)
In the UK, from a young age, it is an ambition of every child to reach the age of 17 and finally be able to learn to drive. The sense of being independent and transporting ourselves wherever we like looks like a dream: meeting your friends whenever you want, MacDonalds drive through and controlling a vehicle. Driving looks effortless, we see our parents do it every day, but is it really that easy?

As you grow older and approach the menacing age of 17, as friends you naturally start to talk about passing your driving test, debating who will be the worst and the best drivers and the humiliation of being the one to fail multiple times. If this is a worry, worry no longer, you cannot possibly be a worse driver than Cha.


ChaSa-soon: 771 failed driving tests
(source: Daily Telegraph)
In 2009, The Daily Mail discovered that a South Korean woman named Cha (age 68) had failed her driving test 771 times and, at the time of writing, had still not passed. If Cha was to have taken her driving test in the UK 771 times, it would have cost her approximately £47,800; however in South Korea to take your driving test it is a lot cheaper and would have cost her 4 million won which is the equivalent to £1,600. To spend over a thousand pounds on driving tests alone is a ridiculous amount and that is not taking into account any driving lessons she might have taken (although, in order to fail 771 times, it looks doubtful Cha took any driving lessons).

I believe that it can be safely said that Cha is not going to be the next Sebastian Vettel or Jenson Button but should she continue on giving driving her all or should she take that failing 771 times as a sign that she should not pass her driving test? To some this may seem like a sign and that Cha should just not attempt to pass any longer and instead accept the fact that she should not drive.

However, whatever happened to the saying 'never give up'? Clearly Cha is not giving up as driving is becoming an increasingly important part of many peoples lives and it is a necessity to so many people, especially Cha at the age of 68. At the age of 16 or 17, teenagers begin to realize the advantages of driving, such as being able to be in control of where you go, who comes with you and when you want to go, as opposed to having to confer with your parents or get a train, or even walk, yet maybe we do not quite realize the hard work that needs to go into driving before taking our test, especially if we want to pass early on... not 771 tests later.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Why You Should Avoid Penguin Poo and Country Music

by George Chapman

As a budding medic, one of my greatest career aspirations (apart from getting through the next few months of the International Baccalaureate) is to contribute ground-breaking and useful research to the scientific community.
As we all know, the ultimate recognition for such research is the Nobel Prize, awarded annually for the publication of greatest consequence in each subject area during the preceding twelve months. However, I hasten to argue that the true value of research lies not in its deep humanitarian benefit (to alleviate global hunger, suffering and whatever else), but in the amusement/bemusement it provides.
So, right on cue, let me introduce you to the Ig Nobel Prizes – prizes awarded for the least conventionally useful papers published in each area of research. Here are some of the funnier examples I stumbled across this evening:

1.   “Effects of Backward Speech and Speaker Variability in Language Discrimination by Rats” was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in January 2005 and was subsequently named as winner of the Ig Nobel Prize for Linguistics in 2007. This paper was one of several in a session of research investigating similarities between human and other mammalian infants in order to determine the evolutionary origins of speech. Somewhat less impressively, this particular study concluded that the rats were unable to differentiate between Dutch and Japanese when each language was spoken backwards. A particularly useful nugget of information, don’t you think?

2.   The winner of the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine was entitled the self explanatory “Effect of Country Music on Suicide”. If you, like me, always suspected that there was something profoundly dodgy about Billy Ray Cyrus (although you could never quite put your finger on it) – now you know…

3.   Finally (and most absurd), “Pressures Produced When Penguins Poo – Calculations on Avian Defaecation” is the 2005 winner in the distinguished field of Fluid Dynamics. As the diagram below demonstrates, one critical outcome of the researchers’ trip to Antarctica is the calculation that penguins’ ‘faecal material’ may be expelled over distance of up to 40cm.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Wavelengths

For JH



Soothsaying, watery whispers wash upon the beach,
Secreting our past in undulating waves.
Hushed they tug over pebbles, hovering up tiny memories,
Then retreating hastily to depths unknown.

Reticent memories fight with truths, replaying them in our minds,
Clinging to roots, built in sand.

Our expectations, hopes and fears washed by petulant prevailing tides,
That buffet the rough to smooth.

Lifelong spirits, whirlpool down, dragged to mysterious abysses,
Stirring unknown patterns and designs.

Then recalled in salty utterances, when we least expect,
It’s nature’s natural prophesising with sibyl.

Illuminating our minds, with the resurgence of the waves;
To resolve fluidity of reason, and doubtless, to calm again.      

                                                                    Angela Carter
                                                     

Photograph source: redbubble.net        
                                                        

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine Poems

Poems by pupils in 9V, inspired by Carol Ann Duffy's poem, 'Valentine'


Not a teddy bear nor a golden ring.

I give you a flame.
It is a warm breath of life.
It promises passion,
Like the rutting deer in Spring.

Here,
It will melt your iron heart
Like a blast furnace.
It will brand our hearts
With the promise of devotion.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a chocolate or a trip for two.

I give you a fire!
It will protect you from darkness,
Loving and possessive.
As we are,
For as long as we are.

Take it.
Its embers will glow in your presence,
Flickering.
Let the flames burn --- but be warned:
If neglected, it will die into ash.

                                           Douglas Mileham


Not a rose or a diamond ring.

I give you a ticket.
It is a treasure printed onto a strip of paper
It promises adventure
Like in the rich, thick stories you've always loved.

Here.
It could take you anywhere
Take you into a dream or nightmare,
It will give you a choice you will never forget
To remind us of the sacrifices made by each of us.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cheesy heart or a pink cuddly toy.

I give you a ticket.
So small, so insignificant,
So crucial.
As we are,
For as long as we are.

Take it.
Hold it and keep it forever as a memory
If you want.

Take it.
Let it take you away
Into a fanciful world far away from here,
Far from me
If you like.

                                         Harriet Hammans


Not a box of chocolates or a heart-shaped balloon.

I give you a key.
It is an entry to happiness.
It promises a puzzle,
Like the mystery of my heart.

Portsmouth Point Poetry – Canzoniere I, 3

Italian text

Era il giorno ch’al sol si scoloraro
per la pietà del suo fattore I rai,
quando i’ fui preso, e non me ne guardai,
ché i be’ vostr’occhi, mi legaro.

Tempo non mi parea da far riparo
contra’ colpi d’Amor; però m’andai
secur, senza sospetto; onde i miei guai
nel comune dolor s’incominciaro.

Trovommi Amor del tutto disarmato
et aperta la via per gli occhi al core
che di lagrime son fatti uscio et varco:

però, al mio parer, non li fu onore
ferir me di saetta in quello stato,
a voi armata non mostrar pur l’arco.

English Translation by George Laver

It was the very day on which the sun dimmed,
For the pity of its Maker, the rays;
When I was taken, my guard sent astray
By your fine eyes, woman, transfixed.

With neither time nor reason to make me safe
Against Love’s blows, I went
Sure and heedless; and my troubles thence
Were born in all-encompassing strife.

By Love was I found hopelessly exposed, my weakness all displayed,
A path wide open between eyes and heart,
Which now, by constant weeping, as the gates of tears are made.

And yet I feel wronged by great injustice on his part
To have wounded me by arrow, and while in such state;
While to you, woman, you who were armed, loath even his bow to raise.


Apologies again for the delay in entries. Unfortunately, since final exams are looming ever closer, this will be my final scheduled contribution to the Portsmouth Point Poetry section of the blog before it is inherited by a new contributor. As this final entry falls on Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to finish with a poem relating to the broad and multi-faceted theme of love. Nowadays, what we refer to as “love poetry” is perhaps too often dismissed or denied recognition for its seeming fondness and lack of real depth or complexity. It is in the hope of challenging such assumptions that I have chosen the third poem from the Canzoniere of Francesco Petrarca , or Petrarch.
In the Canzoniere, a 366-poem collection variously referred to as Rime, Rime Sparse and, in more scholarly contexts, Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta (roughly translating to Fragments of Vernacular Matters), Petrarch reflects on his love affair of more than 20 years with the enigmatic Laura (tentatively proposed to be Laura de Noves, the wife of Count Hugues de Sade) through several different poetic forms, the most frequent of which being the famous Petrarchan sonnet, in which form some 317 of the rime are written.

The third poem in the collection, itself taking this form, describes the moment on Good Friday, April 6th 1327, when Petrarch allegedly first encountered Laura. It is clear that this meeting, for all the woman’s enchanting presence, is far from a simple or a happy one, and a sense of foreboding on the part of the speaker is evident throughout. For Petrarch, it is on this day that all his “troubles” begin, the first day of the three or so decades during which he is forced to fight great battles of willpower between pious reverence for his God and earthly desire for his lover.

Why Valentine’s Day is like Richard Dawkins

by Nathaniel Charles


(source: fotopedia.com)


I’m aware the title is a little, um, odd and random, but the argument boils down to this:

I have great respect for the ideals of Valentine and the (controversial) view of atheism put forward by Richard Dawkins. What I don’t appreciate, however, is being slapped in the face with them.

Due to the massive commercialisation of Valentine’s Day many have forgotten what it actually stands for (and, no, it isn’t ‘special MandS meals for two). St Valentine was born into the Roman Empire circa 270 AD and helped soldiers to marry Christians, a forbidden act. What gained him his reputation as a saint of love was his miraculous healing of a jailer’s daughter; just before his violent and messy death at the hands of the Romans he wrote a letter to the girl, signing it “Your Valentine”.  

When, in the fifteenth century, Chaucer wrote ‘Love Birds’, St. Valentine’s Day became the epitome of courtly love and romantic tenderness, a noble ideal and quite sweet actually.

Atheism is the choice not to believe in any god and I have a great deal of respect for the fact that it highlights the sheer curiosity of humanity and its striving for scientific, empirical truth. David Hume was an atheist and his inconsistent triangle proved a genuine challenge to Christianity, Richard Dawkins, with his peerless work into evolution, has expanded humanity’s knowledge.

Now this is where I have a problem with both Valentine’s Day and Richard Dawkins; they both step far too close into my personal space and scream into my face.

Review: Opposites by Biffy Clyro

A year ago today, George Neame wrote the first music review (and second article) published on Portsmouth Point blog. Here, he reviews Biffy Clyro's new double album, 'Opposites'.

(source: themidlandsrocks.com)
A double album. One of modern music’s greatest risks. Of Course, Biffy Clyro’s 20-song (22 if you play your cards right and download from iTunes), double-disc sixth studio album is not quite so unusual following Green Day’s Uno!Dos!Tres! triple album, but it is still a rarity. There is more often than not only one possible outcome; there are the same number of great standard songs as you would get on a normal album, but they are diluted by weaker tracks that would usually be reserved for B-sides or EPs, giving the album an overall ‘average’ rating.

Biffy Clyro have certainly pulled out all the stops on Opposites, with a wide range of tracks, genres and instruments. They are expanding boldly into new territory as well as safeguarding their old style, perhaps even backtracking at times to the pre-Puzzle era, a promising sign for hardcore ‘old’ fans. Split into two discs entitled The Sand at the Core of Our Bones and The Land at the End of Our Toes, there is a significant change in style between the two, and I was pleased that the song order has clearly been meticulously planned, rather than simply packing the standout tracks into the first quarter of the album. The Sand at the Core of Our Bones is much more sombre and the lyrics are, put plainly, more depressing. It focuses on themes of unrequited love, suffering and broken hearts, some with the expected piano thuds and violins, some disguised underneath echoing guitar riffs and epic sing-along choruses. Title-track Opposite is exactly what you’d anticipate from a melancholy Biffy Clyro song, with a swaying rhythm and minimalist instruments, whilst frontman Simon Neil croons ‘You are the loneliest person that I’ve ever known’.  The gloomy side of recent single Black Chandelier, however, is only noticeable when you really take heed of the lyrics, ending with the suicidal ‘When it’s just the two of us and a cute little cup of cyanide’.  I cannot claim I was not disappointed that opener Different People did not feature the overly-long stabbing intro that has come to characterise other Biffy Clyro albums, but it is nevertheless a stadium-sized song of epic proportions that begins slowly and transcends into a stomping rock anthem. The Joke’s On Us and Biblical are both potential singles, the former featuring the most energetic guitar-led introduction to a song I have heard in a long time and the latter ending with a swaying vocal chorus bound to have live audiences joining in.

The Land at the End of Our Toes is much more uplifting, beginning with a blast of bagpipes in Stingin’ Belle, a nod to the band’s Scottish roots and a surprisingly appropriate addition to a rock song. Spanish Radio has an original and unique tune, though the lyrics are a little juvenile and unsophisticated (‘I’ve got a heart, I’ve got a reason to love you all, every single person’) and the verses of Trumpet or Tap sounds so dissimilar to anything I have ever heard on a modern rock album I have struggled to put it into words. You’ll just have to listen to it. Although Skylight seems out of place on disc two, starting with a solemn piano plod and heartbeat thud in the background, it is a nice break from the relentless guitars and strained vocals. Undoubtedly the highlight of the second half of the album is Victory Over the Sun, a 4-minute song that, by the time you reach the end, you will feel like you’ve been listening to for the last half an hour. The changes in tempo and style are unremitting and the crashing drums, resonant guitars and imposing violin sections all intertwine to create a grand, elaborate rock chant that should really have been left as the last song on the album.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Falling Apple

by Neil Chhabda

(source: easyquestion.net)
Between 2010 and 2011 Apple was a perfect, unstoppable juggernaut that dazzled everyone with its mastery of design. Stock prices soared past $700, and everyone perceived that Apple was the only company capable of this kind of total mastery. The iPhone 4 was an absolutely stunning piece of technology, the thinnest and fastest consumer smartphone at its time of release, and the first with a high-definition “retina” display. The first iPad revolutionized internet browsing, and I still maintain to this day that it is the best device for surfing the internet.
Fast forward to 2013 and Apple cuts the screen orders for its flagship iPhone 5 by almost 50% due to weak demand. Their share price has fallen to $457 and a company which once seemed invincible is looking weak and vulnerable. Personally, I feel this is down to two things; innovation and greed.
The reason Apple were so sucessful was because they were the company that all the other companies had to catch up to. The timeless iPhone 4 was the first of its kind, the hugely sucessful and revolutionary App Store was the first of its kind. Since then, Apple really hasn’t done much in terms of innovation. The iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 are the same phone as the iPhone 4 but with some hardware upgrades. Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator” is hugely dissapointing, very limited and easily confused. If you don’t belive me, search “siri fail” in YouTube, and you’ll be presented with thousands of videos. The iPad 1 and iPad 2 were, again, almost exactly the same. The only difference: two mid-range cameras and a standard harware upgrade. Therefore there has been a total lack of the incredible innovation that we’ve come to expect, and this is one of the key reasons why I believe Apple is declining.
Furthermore when Apple does attempt to innovate, they don’t quite come up with the finished product. Apple Maps is a prime example. Apple released an app with 3D maps, claiming it had revolutionised maps forever. When released, the app was universally panned. There were clouds over several locations, the 3D effect worked less than half the time, and the maps themselves had nowhere near the detail of Google Maps. Moreover, the app was just completely wrong at times. In my experience it claimed Luton was just outside Exeter. For me and millions out there, this was shocking. How could Apple put out such a flawed app?

Football Chants of the Decade

by Ben Willcocks

"We lose every week! We lose every week! You're nothing special! We lose every week!"
(image source: bbtandt2.blogspot.com)

As a spectator, I would argue that the greatness of football as a sport lies not in the sublime skill of Messi, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic or the excellent technique of Van Persie, Bale and Neymar; instead, it is the opportunity to stand up from your seat, scream at an unnatural pitch and volume, and undoubtedly hug a stranger sitting next to you – provided you score a goal or win a penalty.

Being a keen Portsmouth supporter, it’s hard to expect much when I go to the games, so I spend the majority of the time admiring our still ever-strong Pompey faithfuls, who remain good-humoured despite the fact that it is possible we may not even have a club come the end of the year:
"We lose every week! We lose every week! You’re nothing special! We lose every week!"

However, it evidently isn’t just Pompey fans who chant about their team. Many players get chants sung about them either due to their ability, or even their facial features:

"When the ball hits your head and you’re sitting in Row Z, It’s Zamora!"

"He looks like an ape, He looks like an ape, Gareth Bale, He looks like an ape!"

Although many have argued that these chants are slightly malicious, footballers earn far too much money to care what fans have to say and everyone knows it’s in good humour; however, Manchester United fans were complained at for taking it slightly beyond the line with their Korean midfielder Ji-Sung Park:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Natural Born Winner

by Oli Price

Michael Winner (left) and Death Wish star Charles Bronson
(source: cinemamuseum.org.uk)

Last month, the world lost Michael Winner to liver disease, and, although in recent years, he has become synonymous with his catch-phrase “Calm down, dear!” I have decided to take a look at his incredible life.

Robert Michael Winner was born an only child on the 30th October 1935 to George and Helen Winner; throughout his childhood he felt neglected by his parents, who wheeled him out to say hello to dinner guests. However, from this unhappiness Michael developed an infatuation with the famous and glamorous Hollywood A-listers and from age 14 was approaching them for his newspaper column “Michael Winner's Showbiz Gossip”.

In the 1950s, Winner began work at the BBC as an assistant director and soon began writing his own films. His early works were usually satirical comedies, one of which (Hannibal Brooks) gained Winner interest from America and also spawned his 25 year partnership with actor Oliver Reed. Another fruitful partnership of Winner’s was his work with the American actor Charles Bronson, whom he directed in early films such as Chato’s Land and The Mechanic.

Winner’s most notorious pieces of work came from his collaboration with Bronson, namely the Death Wish film series, with all five films together making $62,808,612 at the box office, which at the time was a much more impressive figure than it seems. The Death Wish series was based on the novel by Brian Garfield, a crime thriller centred around a man who becomes a vigilante after the death of his family. The first film in the series generated much controversy among film-goers, however it was commercially successful: one of 1974's highest-grossing movies. Following the success of the first Death Wish movie, Winner attempted to branch out into other genres, however he found that this very success had pigeon-holed him as an action director and his other efforts did not meet with such box-office acclaim. However, perhaps he should have been more selective with the films he helmed as Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood was arguably never going to be a smash hit.

In the early 1980s, following his run of flops, Winner needed a commercially successful film and so teamed up with Bronson again to produce Death Wish II, which, despite receiving criticism for being just a more violent version of the first film, still made $16,100,000 at the box office. Following this release, Winner repeated himself again and started producing flops; with his popularity and credibility on the slide, he decided to go out with a bang and released Death Wish III. Following this, Winner decided to focus on directing smaller British films including Bullseye with Michael Caine and Roger Moore and Parting Shots.

Following his retirement from the film industry, Winner put his outspoken mind toward critiquing food and started a newspaper column called “Winner’s Dinners”; he was very enthusiastic in his food, once quoted as saying “success has gone to my stomach”. However perhaps he was too enthusiastic as, on 1st January 2007, Winner acquired bacterial infection from eating an oyster in Barbados. He almost had a leg amputated and verged on the brink of death several times; in retrospect, Winner regarded his decision to eat it as "stupid".

Y.O.L.O. – A Social Death Sentence

by Tom Harper




"You Only Live Once" - A phrase drunken teenagers and morally-warped thrill seekers use to signal that they're about to make a bad decision. Ever since the hip-hop artist Drake astutely observed that "You only live once, that's the motto n***a Y.O.L.O." this particular abbreviation has become popular due to numerous adolescents seeing it as an excuse to perform daring or otherwise reckless acts purely for the sake of their own mortality. Whilst this phrase is currently the M.F.T.M.A.T. (Most Frequently Trending Meaningless Acronym on Twitter), there are many faults to this abbreviation that have been painfully overlooked. Thus far it is my firm belief that if we had any sense at all we would outlaw this detrimental acronym for a few simple reasons:

1.      It encourages a social regression in intelligence.

The first and foremost reason for my vendetta against such a phrase is its instigation of a mass reduction in linguistic flexibility, as frankly if society needed a lobotomy this would be the slow but effective way of doing it. My primary hatred of Y.O.L.O. stems not necessarily from what it entails in the short term but in the long term, as its abbreviation denotes a vocal laziness that could accentuate in the future due to its current popularity.

Picture it: a society that uses letters to represent their feelings or actions rather than expressing them through the beauty of language. Instead of asking “Is the Bus Running Late Today?” one would say “I.B.R.L.T.?”. Rather than study the poetry of geniuses such as Frost and Browning, schools would forcefully deteriorate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s finest piece into “T.G.G.”. In place of more traditional methods of courting, asking someone out would simply require the phrase “W.2.G.O.A.D8?” (Want to Go On A Date?). It may just be me, but a future that is so reduced in its ability to speak is a primitive future not worth “Only Living Once” for.

2.      The phrase is untrue when considered in alternate contexts.

As well as the grammatical inferiority of this phrase annoying me, it should be taken into account that this acronym is also wrong in terms of some situations bringing with them exceptions. Thus not only does this abbreviation reveal a lack of competence but also of general knowledge.

For example:

·   Buddhists believe in the act of reincarnation, and so this phrase could be seen to go against their religion in terms of its implications of mortality.
·   The hit Bond Film You Only Live Twice proves that in a more cultured atmosphere the singularity of life can be defied, especially when the person is someone as Godly a Sean Connery.
·   If we are to accept the power of phrases, then surely cats having ‘nine lives’ gives such sayings a paradoxical quality.
·   Doctor Who is set to have 13 incarnations of himself. Granted, this may only be a television programme but the acronym would nonetheless render itself useless within one of the only abbreviations I deem acceptable: The TARDIS.


3.      It is practically guaranteed to decrease life expectancy.

By using the phrase Y.O.L.O. in any situation, a person is almost automatically agreeing to risk their health and/or very life for the sake of perhaps never having the opportunity to do it again. However, what the majority of youths seem to misunderstand is that by performing such acts they are ensuring whatever single life they are living is drastically shortened if not terminated altogether.

Surely the purpose of exclaiming “Y.O.L.O.” and then drinking yourself under the table is to make a proclamation to your fellow binge-drinkers that life is short, and so must be pushed to its limit in every situation. Yet by doing so you are ensuring the validity of such an abbreviation by risking the very life you wish to enjoy. Hence Y.O.L.O. in such situations is the verbal acceptance of a mortal contract, denoting that you agree to potentially end your life through trying to renew it!