Sunday, 30 June 2013

PGS in Bloom: Latter

by Will Hall

Creative Writing: Prologue

by Katie Green

She ran. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her. The wind, gusting erratically, whipped her hair into her face, momentarily blinding her. She flung it out of her eyes without pausing and rushed onwards. She heard shouts and feet pounding rapidly on the ground. It was a cold September morning and the earth was just frozen enough for the boots of her pursuers to drum loudly upon it. Risking a quick glance behind her, she saw that they had drawn closer to her. She was tiring and couldn’t go on much longer.

Suddenly, like a ray of liquid gold shining from the sun through the cloud cover, she saw her destination. Her final destination. Tears both happy and sad mingled on her cheeks as they streaked down her ashen face. She increased her pace, putting her last drop of energy into her dash to the edge. The edge of the cliff. At last, she stopped. She had been running for the last year of her life and now here, finally, she ceased. She looked around her, savouring the view while she could. It wasn’t anything special, just a flat grassy field that dropped abruptly into the dark waters below. Water like ink, in the darkest shade of blue, battered the jagged rocks beneath her mercilessly. Its colour was the only clue as to the fathomless depth below. The dense clouds above blocked all but the tiniest drop of sunlight that leaked through the cracks. What little light there was was grey and bleak, offering no warmth. It was positively miserable, but to her it was beautiful. It was what freedom looked like.

She heard soft footfalls behind her and whipped round to face the woman who had been haunting her dreams for the last year. No, not dreams. Nightmares. Her face was pale and looked like it had been chiselled from marble. Her auburn hair was in stark contrast with her skin.  She knew she had to jump and edged slowly away from the woman.

“Can you hear the music?” the woman asked gently, but a steely undertone hinted at her malice. That and the evil, the cruelty in her eyes. “Sarah, can you hear the music?” the woman repeated.

Still she didn’t reply.

The woman thought she could hear the music and she was right. It lurked at the back of her mind, as always, slow like a lullaby. It grew louder and more dominant in her head. She could hear the music. The music the woman, that woman had put there. It was always there, like her own constant, not so quiet companion. But she had never heard it this loud, this crisply as she could now. She - she had come here for some reason. Why would she be here?

She shook her head violently, as if to shake of the thoughts out, and snapped herself out of her reverie. She knew why she was here. She was here to jump.

She looked down at the precious little bundle in her arms as it nestled more snugly into her embrace against the biting wind. It was so small, so unsuspecting as to the great power it held or the great destruction it could bring in the wrong hands. The hands of the woman. Despite all this time, she still didn’t know her name.
Her babe. Her poor, poor babe. As she thought about the life it would never know, the experiences that it would never know, the years they would never share, unashamed tears poured silently down her face. She wiped them away along with the tracks they left. She would not cry. She would not show weakness. She would not be sad that she was saving it from a life of misery and misplaced trust.

The woman continued to advance with her arms out, inviting her. She knew it was now or never. And then she was gone, flying through the air, down into the freezing murky waters of the sea. She had jumped.
She was soaring, falling, tumbling, down, down until she broke the surface of the water. It drew her into a loving embrace as her vision blacked out. She had jumped, and that set her free at last.

PGS In Bloom: Eastwood

by Will Hall

'The Exonerated': Opening Night

by Benjamin J Schofield

There’s a special atmosphere when you begin to rehearse a play as a full cast; the read-throughs done, the lines committed to memory (or so you’d think), apprehension is everywhere. Rehearsals for The Exonerated were much like any other in that sense, but set out far from the mainland of regular school drama. As an ensemble, we first delved into the play four fleeting days before opening night, embarking upon an intensive rehearsal process at the loss of our normal timetable.

For those four days we separated ourselves from the rest of the school almost entirely, going so far as to banish ourselves from the regular stomping ground of the Gatehouse. We entered the Round Tower for the first time on Thursday; pushing open the doors was a struggle, the two padlocks guarding it seemed as old as the tower. Once inside we found no comfort from the surroundings, dank walls dripping with white mineral deposits, fearsome stalactites hung from the ceiling.

We soon discovered that if you stood in the wrong space a drop from one of these spikes would fall on you every thirty seconds (just one of the terrible occupational hazards of being an actor, I suppose). However every aspect of the space resonated with the play as we began to hone it. Lines took on new significance in the realness of that dungeon-like space- congratulations indeed must go to Mrs Filho and Mr McCrohon for their foresight in booking it as a venue. As all who came to see the play there on Saturday 22nd can attest, no other place would suit the play as it did.

The Exonerated is itself different from many plays; as a piece of theatre it is unique for its weaving of stories and reduction of what can be a broad issue to a very human scale. The play is verbatim, meaning every word delivered came from the mouths of those we stand to represent, the accused, the bystanders, and the persecutors. As actors this simplified our task immensely; it is theatre in its purest sense: the telling of stories. We were there not to invent characters, but to relay, to reach out to a fresh audience as best we could.

Before we travel to Avignon to perform in the Off Festival, we are staging the play one more time on Thursday 11th July at 7:30 pm, again at the Round Tower.The capacity of the venue is limited to 50 people. We sold out on the previous performance, so be sure to book soon to avoid disappointment. Tickets are available at £5 from the Senior School reception.

See Alex Quarrie-Jones' review of 'The Exonerated' here.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

PGS In Bloom: Barton

by Will Hall

Sabbatical Blog 3: Female Writers: Fighting Against Religious Ideology

by Bryony Hart

I have become entrenched in some fascinating books about female rights (or the lack of), written either at the end of the seventeenth century or the beginning of the eighteenth century.  I already knew that women were writing prolifically about and publishing their experiences, mostly about courtship and marriage, in fictional form, but I had no idea that entire non-fiction books were being published, as early as 1673, about the inequalities between men and women.  In fact, men were also writing about it, which shows that it was certainly a topic that was being publically debated  It is amazing how this seems to have been written-out/forgotten through the years.  And my most recent reading has shed light on the fact that by 1700 this challenging and threatening female voice starts a gradual decline into obscurity. 

One of the books that I have been examining is The Female Advocate: or; an Satyr Against the Pride, Lust and Inconstancy, & C. of Woman by ‘A Lady in Vindication of her Sex’ (1), Sarah Fyge, all written rhyming couplets.  It was written in reaction to a satire written by a man (which I am still searching for) about the poor virtues of women, which are inherent in every female as soon as she is born. Obviously, one can not completely trust that it was written by a woman; men were regularly writing under the disguise of women because women’s works were selling so well (another fact that perhaps is not common knowledge to all) and it was often an easier method of instilling patriarchal morality into the female readership.  However, if one trusts that this is a ‘Lady’, and in fact Sarah Fyge, it is impressive and rather dangerous reading. If it is a male writer, even more interesting that he should be conveying such potentially risky ideas about the power imbalance between the genders.

As I have mentioned before, the basis for male superiority was founded on religion, namely Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.  It was part of the gender discourse of the time and is referred to as the main argument in countless texts that I have read thus far from this period.  In The Female Advocate, the writer bravely questions this foundation) and she is not alone in her questioning of the basis of male superiority).  In her Preface, she writes ‘According to my Antagonist’s Preface Fancy […] all Men are good, and fitting for Heaven because they are Men; and Women irreversibly damn’d because they are Women.  But what that Heaven should make a Male and Female, both of the same Species, and both induced with the like Rational Souls, for two such differing Ends, is the most notorious Principle, and the most unlikely of any that even was maintained by any Rational Man.’ This is a daring move to question Religion in this way but Fyge cleverly buffers her response using the Bible as her source to support her argument.  This is a technique that I have noticed being used by a number of writers; using the text that is constraining to actually start the process of liberation and equality. 

The writer’s main thrust of argument challenges the way in which the Bible has been interpreted as a way of repressing women and empowering man.  She turns the conventional reading of Eve being created from a ‘spare part’ to keep Adam company on its head; being made after him Eve has always been perceived as inherently inferior and therefore the ultimate after-thought. However, rather amusingly, and a little bit perilously, the writer states that:

Portsmouth Festivities 2013: Ahoy!

by Tilly Bell

On Monday 24th June, in a spectacular concert at the Portsmouth Guildhall, many different choirs from the Portsmouth sang music composed by Alexander L'Estrange, commissioned to write a piece celebrating the Mary Rose and the City of Portsmouth: Ahoy!

As well as lots of children's choirs from schools across the city, there were various adult choirs such as the PGS Community Choir and the Festival Choir (Mr Gladstone had a job of keeping everyone together!) Practising was difficult, as we had to perform without librettos, but in the end it led up to a marvellous evening, hosted by Hugh Dennis.

It was the most exhilarating thing I have ever done, performing live at the Guildhall with 10,000 people watching 450 people perform Ahoy! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I would love to do something like that again.

Friday, 28 June 2013

PGS In Bloom: PE Department

by Will Hall

The Transfer Market --- Greatest Show on Earth

by Thomas Penlington

When the Premier League season ends, many football fans are unwillingly forced to discover another pasttime or to immerse themselves in hobbies, with the intention of occupying themselves during the weekends between the end and the start of the new season. Granted, there’s the prospect of pre-season friendlies and international football, but the excitement and often the standard is never quite on par with a Premier League season. However, there is one way a football fan can satisfy their desire for the game.
The transfer market is never without excitement or controversy and can either be a fulfilling period of time or a frustrating one, depending on your team’s involvement. However, I think you can safely say it is never disappointing as a spectacle: whether we have the dazzling highs of staggering prices paid for players like the Cristiano Ronaldo who moved to Real Madrid from Manchester United for £80million, or the questionable lows of Fernando Torres moving to Chelsea from Liverpool for £50million. For fans, objectively the transfer market is unexpected and is watched in wonder and amazement as we all realise the sheer wealth involved in football clubs.
Each transfer market there seems to be a selected group of clubs that have been injected with wealth by an owner and so venture into the market to satisfy their cravings for international talent. At the end of the 2008-2009 season, Manchester City took up the role of the recently financed club by spending a total of £127million and they then surpassed even that total during the 2010-2011 season by spending a total of £154million on players. This provided much hope for the fans and much optimistic excitement for the new season. During the 2012-2013 season Chelsea once again proved that with Roman Abramovich their appears to be no limits to their wealth by spending a total of £92million on players; however, this wasn’t even close to the 2005-2006 season, in which they spent £111million on players.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Pongwiffy: A Social and Political Study

by Nathaniel Charles

Published in 1988, Pongwiffy: A Witch of Dirty Habits details a witch (Pongwiffy) and her familiar, Hugo the hamster (hailing from Amsterdam), and her misadventures with a variety of creatures. Although a children’s book, when looked into it is a relevant and cutting social narrative, dealing with ‘youths’, friendships and workplace scenarios.

Surprisingly for a children’s book Pongwiffy deals with adult themes such as promotion and trying to understand teenagers while Pongwiffy’s search for Hugo the hamster is reminiscent of American law firms and their associate system.

In the book, the goblins represent teenagers in the most stereotypical (and unfortunately accurate) way possible; they listen to loud music, rebel against authority and their penchant for impractical clothing is taken to the extreme. When Pongwiffy first meets them, both are unwilling to back down and a loud argument quickly ensues over their slovenly housekeeping and appalling noise, ending with Pongwiffy threatening to banish the goblins to another cave. This is strongly similar to my own experiences, at times, with my parents; unfortunately, Kaye Umansky can’t seem to find a peaceful or reasonable solution either….

It is Umansky’s portrayal of people in workplace scenarios that gives the most entertaining passages in the book; in the bid for the title of Grandwitch, friendships are tested and there are despicable displays of sycophancy. During the incumbent Grandwitch Sourmuddle’s party, everybody throws down the gauntlet (and their friendships) in attempts to be named Sourmuddle’s successor. Although the antics of the witches are exaggerated to make a more entertaining story, the search for the perfect cake is spot on and the time honoured ‘laugh at the boss’ jokes’ are taken to the extreme during the party.

57 Million Euros for Neymar: Bargain of the Century

by Henry Cunnison

(Wiki Commons)
The recently confirmed transfer of Neymar Da Silva Santos Junior, popularly known just as Neymar, the 21 year old Brazilian sensation, from hometown club Santos to Barcelona, was not unexpected. Neymar had been linked with every major club in Europe and the Catalan giants had been suggested as the most likely destination for almost a year. It was, however, controversial. Many still argue that Neymar is overvalued and overrated; they say 57 Million euros is too much for any player that is still, some say, unproven. But they are mistaken. Neymar has not only the ability, but also the commercial value that ensures his transfer will be a success.
The fact is that, even discarding Neymar’s footballing talent, he will boost Barcelona. He is the most marketable athlete, across all sports, in the world, according to Sports Pro magazine. This will be very important for Barcelona, because, despite their great success in previous years, their fan base is still not as international as other big clubs like Manchester United or Real Madrid.

Neymar also has appeal to markets that Barcelona needs to increase its support in- the emerging footballing countries. He is not only a national hero and talisman of his home country, but he also appeals to the whole South American continent. He is also famous in the United States, which Barcelona no doubt recognises as a potential market for expansion. Nor will Neymar’s appeal be weak in Europe. For years he has been hyped as the next big thing, the next best player in the world. This will surely mean that football fans will watch with interest his career in Barcelona. So, in terms of the sheer increase in fans that Barcelona will receive, this transfer makes sense. Probably more importantly, it is likely that Barcelona will make the 57 Million euros back on shirt sales within a year.  This was the case for Real Madrid when they paid £80 million pounds for Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar has a larger fan base than Ronaldo. Half of Brazil will probably buy a Neymar Barcelona shirt.
Neymar’s transfer also makes sense simply from a footballing perspective. He has been called overrated, but the truth is he is probably underrated. Legend Pele (although he is probably biased towards his countryman) has said Neymar is already better than Leo Messi, his new teammate and the man hailed as the best of his generation, perhaps of all time. I would agree with this assertion. At this point, most readers will probably be screaming the common criticism of Neymar: he has so far only played against average-at-best teams in Brazil with Santos. Neymar has scored 54 goals in 103 games for Santos. This, although obviously impressive, may at first not sound world-beating. But Neymar achieved this while he was still developing as a player, was not playing as a straight striker, rather as an advanced midfielder, and was playing at a team that other than him was average. Contrary to popular belief there are good teams in Brazil: Corinthians, Sao Paulo and Fluminense, to name just a few. Neymar often destroyed these teams more or less on his own.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

PGS In Bloom: Music Department

by Will Hall

Sh, Exams!

 by Annie Materna

Exams are very nearly over for everyone, including GCSE, AS, A level and most university students, relieving the stress, the nerves and the endless revision. But are exams really as important as we think?

From year 10 up until the last years of university, most teenagers are daunted by the thought of exams and revision. We put everything we can into months of preparation for our exams, learning and memorising a syllabus... But does this convey our true intelligence?

So what, we can regurgitate information from our syllabus into note form and then into our exam papers; this does not mean that this is information that will be useful later in life or actually makes us any more intelligent. For most people we will only remember some information by revising it constantly, yet after our exams we no longer need the information and so it is almost immediately forgotten, making it seem pointless. Therefore we do not gain intelligence through exams, we gain the ability to learn information and regurgitate it onto a page.

Exams are essentially a game that our generation must play if we want to be successful later in life; or at least that's how it seems. In Years 10 and 11, we are told GCSEs are the most important thing for us if we want to get to Sixth Form or college; in Years 12 and 13, we are told exams are the most important thing for us if we want to go to university; and at university, exams are the most important thing in order to get a job.

However there are many more important factors for most careers that do not involve exam results, such as being able to be social, patient and adaptive to the job. We are taught through education to learn information and later regurgitate this information, although the work place is much different, for example we may be given individual tasks to complete, without the information to help us. However we are not prepared by education for this working environment and we are no more intelligent because of it.

However, we must ask ourselves what we think intelligence is. It is said, specifically in Buddhist and Muslim cultures, that the older we are the wiser we are; this suggests that our intelligence and how wise we are comes from experience of life. This makes sense as our brains are only fully developed by the age of 20, which means during GCSE's, AS and A levels our brains are not actually fully developed.

PGS in Bloom: "Where the bee sucks . . ."

by Emma Bell

From the English department's PGS in Bloom entry:

"Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.   
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough."

                                                                                           William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Nice Cup Of Tea- George Orwell's 110th Birthday

by Daniel Rollins

Today, 25th June 2013, is the 110th birthday of Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name, George Orwell. Unfortunately he is unable to celebrate this great occasion with us since he died of Tuberculosis in 1950.
Well known as a novelist George Orwell wrote some of the 20th century’s most thought provoking books. From his great dystopian novel Nineteen Eight-Four and his sharp political allegory Animal Farm to his gritty non-fiction works such as Down and Out in Paris and London (documenting his experience of poverty in those two cities) and Homage to Catalonia (recording his experience as a mercenary in the Spanish civil war).
Although he is among my favourite authors I believe his greatest gift to the world is not his literary work but an article he wrote for the Evening Standard, published on 12th January 1946. This article titled “A Nice Cup of Tea” set forth his 11 “golden” rules of tea making (see it reproduced below). In it he makes many of his most controversial statements such as, “one should pour tea into the cup first” and “tea… should be drunk without sugar.”

PGS in Bloom: Science Department

by Will Hall

Monday, 24 June 2013

Portsmouth Festivities 2013: 'The Exonerated'

by Alex Quarrie-Jones

No better atmosphere could have been selected than that of a bitterly cold and windy evening inside the Round Tower, where stalactites of frozen salt hung over the audience, eerily similar to the “sword of Damocles” scenarios that the protagonists of The Exonerated faced while they waited on death row. The performance was absolutely excellent, with the execution of every movement, line and expression flawless (particularly considering the fact that actual rehearsals didn’t begin until three days before the performance). Every member of the cast gave brilliant portrayals of those who recounted the harrowing events which eventually allowed them to become "the Exonerated”.

The stories of "The Exonerated” are told retrospectively, with each individual recounting his or her arrest (which generally happens in the 1970s), imprisonment on death row and eventual exoneration (which generally occurs in the 1990s). For the majority of the performance, the various stories stay separate from each other, with brief mentions of the other events if they are significant enough, but this isolation proves key as it allows each story to highlight the subtle coercion and corruption within the legal system at that time, one that was still heavily biased towards the white American population, leaving the black population (most of the characters are black) to suffer within an unjust system.
However their stories are double edged because we only ever hear it retrospectively and from their own perspective, so some of the scenarios of exoneration are ambiguous, allowing another level of questioning to be developed, ultimately drawing the already-captivated audience in further.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance but just took one issue away: I didn’t particularly like he use of sound effects because I felt it detracted from the gravity of the stories being told, as it slightly reminded the audience that they were watching a play rather than an actual account by "the Exonerated”. Apart from that, I thought the piece was absolutely perfect and, even though every cast member performed to an equally high standard, I feel special commendation should go to James Gulliford and Ollie Velasco as they have technically come back from the start of their holidays to perform amongst the cream of the acting crop that PGS can call upon.

Full Cast: Aggie Newton, Emma Read, Charlie Albuery, Melissa Smith, Natasha Morgan, Ben Schofield, Tom Harper, Ollie Velasco, James Gulliford and Mr McCrohon.      

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Department Winner of 2013 PGS in Bloom: English

Will Hall introduces the first of a series of photographs of this year's PGS in Bloom contestants. Judgement Day is July 1st.

Friday, 21 June 2013

"A Man Made of Solid Air": Nick Drake

by Emma Bell

The singer songwriter Nick Drake would have been 65 this week and it seems more than appropriate to remember him today. Nick was a truly magical and unique musician and his reputation has grown in the years since his death on June 19th, 1974.

Born in Rangoon, the son of a diplomat, he grew up in Warwickshire after his family returned to England. There is something magical about the centre of a space (as the Midlands is, where Shakespeare, Elgar and Housman were born), something that feels special, something that you feel when you move about the county, under the sprawling oaks and soft rain, a sense of the pastoral which seeps through Drake’s music. The moon, stars, sea, rain, trees, sky, mist and seasons are all commonly used, influenced in part by his rural upbringing. Images related to summer figure centrally in his early work; from Bryter Layter on, his language is more autumnal, evoking a season commonly used to convey senses of loss and sorrow.


Drake went to Marlborough and then Cambridge to study English Literature and was very drawn to the works of William Blake, William Butler Yeats and Henry Vaughan, his lyrics reflecting such influences. Whilst he was there he found a music student, Robert Kirby, who became a long-term collaborator. What is interesting about that is that it determined a sound of orchestral arrangements that owes more than a nod to Mozart and Handel. The ongoing folk scene in Cambridge and London added to the mix and created a wholly new and rich style of singer-songwriter music.

He left Cambridge before completing his degree and moved to London in 1969 where he strolled into a record deal with Island Records and recorded his first album, Five Leaves Left. Such was his talent that musicians such as John Cale, who later formed The Velvet Underground, were clamouring to record with him. Even now, guitarists are utterly perplexed at the complexities of his playing and its intricacies.

But with record deals came obligations to perform live; and these songs, with intricate tunings and orchestral arrangements were difficult to replicate on stage; the delicacy of the lyrics and melodies were drowned by the chatter of working men’s clubs and lost in the echoes of half-empty town halls. He often stopped to retune his guitar for five minutes at a time, and changed his guitars over so he could use different strings and achieve different sounds. He often walked off stage before finishing a set, despondent that his music was not being listened to.

Isle Of Wight Festival 2013: Final Day

by Paul Nials

After the debacle caused by the weather in 2012, it was with some trepidation that I ordered the tickets for the Festival in 2013.  However, the line-up on the main stage on Sunday 16th June, made the gamble worthwhile.  Bon Jovi, the headline act on the final day had been on my list of “must-see” bands for several years, and the knowledge that the Island was to feature amongst the dates in their latest world tour clinched the deal. When the other acts appearing on the main stage were confirmed at a later date, my decision was vindicated.

The glorious weather in the weeks prior to the Festival seemed like a good omen. Perhaps it would be dry this year after all?  Then came the forecast for the weekend itself: lots of wind and, yes, rain.  However, my feelings of impending doom lifted as the date approached and the severity of the forecast lessened.  Nevertheless, we left Ventnor on the Sunday morning in pouring rain, the rucksack full of waterproof of clothing in order to cope with anything that a typical British summer could throw at us. After gaining sustenance at a hostelry close to the Festival site, I was pleased to note that the showers had abated. The ground at Seaclose Park was surprisingly firm and unyielding underfoot as we tramped, with hundreds of others, from the entrance towards the main stage.

We arrived in the middle of the Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel set, in time to catch their best known song from 1975, “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me Sometime)”.  They were followed by Newton Faulkner, who had appeared at the Festival some five years earlier and stated that he still found it scary appearing on stage, on his own, in front of so many people!  The Boomtown Rats were next up, the band fronted once again by Sir Bob Geldorf (of Band Aid fame). They had reformed especially for their Festival gig and it was the first time that they had played together live since 1986! Geldorf showed that he has lost none of his “edge” in the intervening years and his language, which was the bane of many a live chat show host during his Band Aid years, was as colourful as ever! They bashed out their two best-known hits, “Rat Trap” and “I Don’t Like Mondays” from 1979, the lyrics of which are still pertinent today. They were so well received by the crowd, now bathed in warm afternoon sunshine (!), that they even came back on stage to play an unscheduled “encore”!

Paloma Faith had the hard job of following on from the “The Rats” but did an admirable job of promoting her latest and second album, “Fall to Grace”.  She sang most of the playlist on the album, including “Picking Up the Pieces”, “30 Minute Love Affair”, “Black and Blue”, my personal favourite “Just Be”, as well as a selection of hits from her first album such as “Stone Cold Sober” and the rousing “New York”. The rising star, who hails from Hackney, East London, where I was born, contrasted her early career singing in some of the less salubrious drinking establishments in Soho to performing in front of such a large crowd at the Festival.  Her repertoire and voice have both developed greatly since I first saw her at the IoW Festival in 2010.

Charlie Albuery's Top Ten Films: Numbers 5 to 1

by Charlie Albuery

Firstly, just so everyone is aware, I have written this article in hope that you guys would read it, purely because a great man once told me, ‘If you write it, they will come’ (or something like that).
Now, for those of you who haven’t read the first half of this article I strongly recommend you head over here and read that first, because I want to be able to wormhole them over into this article to show you, but, firstly (and primarily): more page views for me (hehehe) and secondly, DAMMIT JIM I’M A BLOGGER NOT A PHYSICIST.

Now, before I begin in earnest, we should take a moment to remember the many excellent films that sadly could not make this list. I genuinely wish that I could have talked about many more wonderful films, but, for my (and more importantly your) sanity, I had to draw the line here, NO FARTHER, so here’s my honourable mentions list which, bizarrely, despite my extremely convoluted references above, does not contain any Star Trek Films.
Honourable mentionsThe Social Network (required viewing), The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble, or whatever they decided to call it in the end), Aliens (not Alien, Aliens), Predator (not sure putting this one next to the aliens was sensible), Literally everything featuring Hugh Jackman, Logan’s Run, The Butterfly Effect, The Descent, Drag Me To Hell, all of Cristopher Nolan’s work, Despicable Me, Fight Club.

A special mention must also go to who I genuinely believe to be the best actor of all time: NICOLAS CAGE. I had to discount Nicolas Cage films in my ranking because allowing them would have left me with virtually nothing else gracing my top 20. Actually, you know what, light bulb: I am going to do a whole separate article about the wonder that is Nicolas Cage, so tune back into this blog soon to see a full report on the best actor, no, the best MAN, ever to walk the earth, and, while you may think my ego’s writing cheques my body can’t cash, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I will do this. This will happen.
So you want to know the list now? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE LIST!

Just kidding, here’s the list.
5Die Hard

Die Hard is the quintessential 80’s action film in which Bruce Willis must take down an elite team of thieves, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman).
Real talk, Die Hard is the best action film of all time, seriously, it actually incorporates elements of real films; it even has set-up and pay-off, and subplots, and Bruce Willis has hair! What this film does so well is it gives you an excellent sense of geography. I am aware that sounds really lame, but this is a fast-paced action film that takes place in an enclosed space, the Nakatomi Plaza, and in any moment of the film you know exactly where Bruce Willis is in relation to his enemies, the hostages, any available weapons etcetera. In this way, excellent action is delivered without ever making the viewer feel out of their depth (like Tom Cruise in a foot spa), a constant tension is kept as there is never a moment where Willis can feel safe, and, above all, there is a real sense of accomplishment each time Willis takes out one of the baddies.
As if to prove the excellence of this film, virtually all successful action films over the next decade and a half can be described as Die Hard on/in/with/near a …..

You don’t believe me? Ok.

CliffhangerDie Hard on a mountain

Toy SoldiersDie Hard in a school

No ContestDie Hard near a beauty pageant

SpeedDie Hard with a bus

Passenger 57Die Hard on a plane

Oh, and also, Alan Rickman is absolutely brilliant in it.
SO, until I get to talk about Die Hard again, that thing… y’know that thing that Bruce Willis says at the end, that I absolutely cannot say on a school website under any circumstances. Yeah, that.

 4 – Back to the Future
Back to the Future is the classic story of boy meets creepy old man, saves his life from Libyans, discovers creepy old man knows how to time travel, travels back in time, makes his mother fall in love with him, thus rendering him non-existent in the first place, gives a random waiter political aspirations, throws a bully into poo, makes his dad punch out the bully, thus making his mother again fall in love with his father, invents rock music (I’m serious, Google it), manages to travel ‘Back, to the FUTURE!’ (I love it when they say the name of the film in the film).

3 – Kick Ass
Ok, I know I said no Nick Cage films but I don’t really view this as a Nicolas Cage film; in fact, it speaks to the tremendous quality of this film that Nicolas Cage doesn’t stand out particularly. Anyway, this film is the classic superhero origin story, set against the backdrop of our real world, and I don’t mean the Nolan-verse’s pseudo reality, I mean actual reality, the first time the ‘hero’ attempts to fight crime he ends up hospitalized, following which he meets two established costumed vigilantes, Big Daddy played by Nicolas Cage and Hit-Girl (excellently) played by Chloe-Grace Moretz.

The true stand out of this film is Chloe Moretz; her character is excellently written, excellently choreographed and excellently scored throughout the entire film, I’ll give you an example. In a scene nearing the film’s climax, Hit Girl must infiltrate the villain’s headquarters. The scene opens with her dressed as a regular schoolgirl; we see Moretz change in an instant from innocent, lost little girl to gun-toting crusader for justice. She then proceeds to battle her way down a corridor in full superhero outfit, her beautiful and entrancing yet brutal somersaulting and kicking is brilliantly contrasted by the poppy froth played over it, the Bannana Splits tunefully yet seemingly mindlessly repeating LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA.
AS well as being the best possible love letter to comic-book cinema (homaging everything from Spider-Man to The Punisher) this is one of the rare superhero films that actually has something to say. That is, if we can really call it a superhero film at all…

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Genius of James Gandolfini: 1961-2013

James Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano helped revolutionise American television, died yesterday, aged 51.

New Yorker: There was a time, just a few years ago, when a movie actor could not take a TV job without it seeming like an admission of failure. Doing so was embarrassing, a sign of desperation—not merely because TV fame was chintzier, and the Hollywood status lower, but also because no one thought that TV acting itself could be much good. There were beloved TV stars, of course, but they were performers, not actors, lacking gravitas. It was a littler screen and a littler art. James Gandolfini changed all that . . . It's rare for one performance to change the world, but once Gandolfini cleared the way, nobody could be under any illusion about what a television actor was capable of. Read rest of article here.

New York Times: Part of what pulls you into the performance is the play between that great beautiful slab of a face and the micro and macro movements that continuously ripple across it, creating changing, sometimes clashing emotional textures. One minute, the face opens out to the world like a child’s, the next it’s closing like a man’s fist. His face remained a succession of rounded forms – the high forehead, the nose with the slightly bulbous tip – that when at rest could appear deceptively friendly, receptive. The divide between that face and what the character was thinking behind it was part of what made him such a great villain and, time and again, his characters led with a smile, an invitation that often became a trap for his victims. Read rest of article here.

New Republic: Compare David Chase's dialogue to Aaron Sorkin's dialogue. In Sorkin's shiny nonsense, people speak in repartee and always find the words they need, and nothing insignificant, nothing tedious is ever uttered. Sorkin's phony people go from portentousness to hipness and back. They are figments of a disastrously glamorous imagination, the polished puppets of a shallow man's idea of profundity. In The Sopranos, by contrast, there is no eloquence, even when there is beauty. Silences abound. These people speak the way people actually speak; they lie, and lie again; they hide; they repair gladly to banalities and to borrowed words; they struggle for adequacy in communication; they say nothing at all. They cannot say what they mean or they do not know what they mean. Their obscenities are their tribute to the power of their feelings, the diction of desperation. Yet all this inarticulateness is peculiarly lyrical, and deeply moving. It is also a relief from the talkativeness that passes for thought in fancier places. Words should be fought for. Read rest of article here.

Tapas Day 2013

by Laura Verrecchia and Alfie Perry-Ward

Laura: The highlight of the year in Spanish for me has definitely been our Tapas-making afternoon. Three pupils were selected from each Spanish class to take part in the event. We cooked a variety of different traditional Spanish foods such as polvornes (shortbread like biscuits), mini tomato and cheese pastries and a pear and prosciutto salad. They were all delicious and were thoroughly enjoyed by the senior management team who came to try them, and also by the teachers and pupils involved. It was such a great experience, talking to the Headmaster in Spanish was certainly a challenge but great fun. The afternoon also really helped my Spanish skills and I learned lots of new vocabulary which I hope to put into practise when I visit Spain! Thankyou to Mrs Whitaker, Mrs Langtry and Mr Stone for organising such a fun event! 

Alfie:  Tuesday, 12th March was an incredibly exciting day for a handful of Year 9 students. Spanish teachers had the difficult task of selecting a few privileged young linguists, myself included, to experience a truly wonderful day of quality Spanish food. Well, we had to make it first.
We entered the food and nutrition workplace greeted by the un-mistakable voice of Mrs Whitaker; beside her lay a table of enticing ingredients, a collage of colour and beauty. Ingredients such as chorizo, sundried tomatoes, salad and olives caught the eye of all of us. But our firm desire was tamed by Mrs Whitaker’s insistence of the proper precautions necessary when it comes to health and safety, and rightly so!
We set to work following instructions of typical Spanish Tapas. Joe and I were doing the classic Polenta Gratinada, as others tackled dishes like Empanada and Ensalada con aceitunas. We had an hour or so of preparation before the Senior Management Team and The Spanish Department showed up like wardens to a prison, ready to inspect us like the mean critics they were. We were faced with questions like: ¿Es muy típica en España? and ¿Cómo se llama este plato?
As the satisfied customers left pocketing an extra polenta or two, the Headmaster arrived with a delighted smile ready to dig in himself. As he did, so did we (after much convincing from Señora Langtry). It was the perfect end to a great day of Spanish food and culture.

Following the Boston Marathon Bombings, Are New Internet Laws Required?

by Charlie Henderson

Innocent: Sunil Tripathi
(source: Huffington Post)
As many of you probably know, on April 15th two bombs were set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in the city’s centre, killing 3 people, including an eight year old boy and injuring 264 more. What followed was one of the largest man-hunts in US history, which culminated in a shoot-out between the two suspects (Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev) and law enforcement, in which Tamerlan was killed and Dzhokhar was injured, along with 16 police officers.
During the man-hunt, users of social media websites such as Twitter and Reddit were encouraged to trawl through the publically available CCTV images of the marathon to try to identify the perpetrators of the bombings. This ‘crowd sourcing’ made apparent the huge power social media holds. When a thread on Reddit made a comparison between a photo of a suspect (who was later identified as Dzhokhar) and the missing 22 year old student Sunil Tripathi, an online witch hunt was started which led to Tripathi's family home being surrounded by news vans and the Facebook page set up to help find him being bombarded by hate messages. During an interview with BBC World Service, Sunni’s sister, Sangeeta Tripathi, said "Our entire neighbourhood and our house were surrounded by media trucks. On my personal cell phone I got 72 phone calls between 3am and 4.30 in the morning.” The only evidence that the online sleuths had that Tripathi was the bomber was that he looked similar to one of the suspects and that he had been missing since mid-March. Sunil Tripathi’s body was found on the 23rd April, 2013; it is thought that he died before the bombings took place.
In the past, man-hunts were the domain of the police and the public’s only sources of information were tightly controlled newspapers and official wanted posters. Now so called ‘internet sleuths’ can become pseudo-policemen from thousands of miles away, which, in the case of Sunil Tripathi, had disastrous consequences.

What Do You Even Do In That Game?

by Callum Cross

That is the most asked question when you explain to someone that you play Pro Cycling Manager 2012. As you may or may not know, I like cycling. Unlike football, there is not a plethora of computer games to choose from, so, when I find a cycling game that has been released, I tend to look around for a good price (they are often dirt cheap) and buy it.
Cycling Manger 4 was where my somewhat worrying obsession with the Pro Cycling Manager series began, and that was only four years ago. I found it, or it found me, at a giant store in a small town somewhere in Dorset that smelt of cats. It was on sale for £12 and was the only one left; I’m guessing they ordered just one by mistake. I snapped at the opportunity and have never looked back buying the new one every year;  for the first time last year, I actually pre-ordered it off Amazon. So it seems fitting, with the new release of 2013 today (June 20th) that I write my Portsmouth Point article on the wonders of my favourite computer game.
So, answering the title question, it is what it says on box. You can pick, or make, a trade cycling team and you manage them. However the fun doesn’t end there, oh no. Much like the Fifa of cycling, you control your cyclist in races on the road telling them when to work together on the front to pull in a breakaway or when to attack. This game encompasses the best of two worlds: the fun 3D simulation game and the in-depth managerial game. Obviously the next question I get asked is: how do you manage a cycling team? Well, in the game, you have to balance the needs and desires of the sponsor of the team, which, after a few seasons, you can change, with the running costs of the team. It is important to hire the right staff to help develop young riders and increase the fitness of the key riders for the big races, but you must always work within your limits. It’s no use signing Sir Bradley Wiggins if you can afford any team mates to go with him; without a well oil machine to help him, he won’t win anything.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Oceans Alive

by Sampad Sengupta

On Thursday, 13th June, PGS Year 2 pupils got the chance to work in senior laboratories and carry out various experiments under the watchful eyes of Mr Goad and with the help of the Year 12 Science Ambassadors. As the name suggests, the activities were based on oceans and primarily the properties and uses of water. The students came to the Science Centre and were greeted by Mr Goad, whom they followed into a lab where most of the activities took place.

The experiments were set up mainly to show the various uses of water. The Year 2s were asked to try to make objects float on water and guess how deep pieces of fruit would go if they were submerged in a tube which was filled with liquids of different densities (alcohol, oil, water and glycerol). The brightly coloured liquids and sight of objects stopping midway through the tube and floating on the different liquids excited the students, who all came up with very intelligent answers and ideas as to why the floating objects behaved the way they did. They also saw how water was used to rotate turbines, which in turn were to generate electricity. Each one of them even had their own views on the use of hydroelectricity and how it could be implemented further. They got a chance to drop tiny divers into bottles of water and see how these divers floated in the water in the bottle, and how they could sink down when the air bubble in the divers is reduced simply by squeezing hard on the bottle.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Portsmouth Festivities 2013: "The Hidden Connections of the English Language": Etymologicon

by Joanna Godfree

Mark Forsyth
I am extremely gruntled to announce that Mark Forsyth, author of The Etymologicon and The Horologicon, will be our guest in the Memorial Library at 6 pm next Wednesday (26th June), as part of the Portsmouth Festivities 2013. This man is a walking lexicon, a self-confessed pedant, with a sharp sense of humour.

He can be seen taking "an unruly look at the English language" here and on his blog The Inky Fool. In addition, he can be seen giving TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks, fascinating, bite-sized lectures from experts in every conceivable field, presented in an engagingly passionate and stimulating way. I would totally recommend getting the (free) app --- ideal for a train journey or a tedious wait at the dentist's. Armed with this and with the signed copy of his book The Etymologicon that comes free with every ticket for next Wednesday's event, you will be able to experience his sideways, erudite and always-amusing reflections on words and language whenever you choose.

The Etymologicon takes "a circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English language", exploring one word or phrase with each chapter: such as antanaclassis, gorm, umbles and spam. The book is a "papery child of the Inky Fool blog, which was started in 2009". In the preface, Mr Forsyth relates the cerebral inauguration of The Etymologicon, a long (too long, some would say) moment when he pinned down a friend who had innocently asked about the origins of the word "biscuit" and belaboured him with a verbal train of thought which threatened never to end. There was always something more to say. "There always is, you know."

If, like me, you agree that there is always more to say, and you long to hear Mark Forsyth saying it, please join us in the Memorial Library on Wednesday, 26th at 6 pm. Tea --- and biscuits --- from 5.30 pm onwards.

P.S. I have barely mentioned The Horologicon, about which . ..  but more of that another time.

See George Hope's review of The Etymologicon here.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Can Mourinho Achieve Immediate Success in his Chelsea Return?

by Zoe Rundle

"The Happy One"
(Wiki Commons)
After a six year absence, which has seen eight different managers take on the role of Chelsea boss, "The Special One" is back once and for all. The question is can he emulate the success he initially had back when he took the job in June 2004? Mourinho now claims to be "The Happy One" and there doesn't appear to be any real doubts about him. It is clear that he has the ability after proving himself in almost every top league in the world and some would argue that this current opportunity is as bright as ever for the Portuguese character.

It can often take quite some time for managers to get used to a new job. For example, Sir Alex Ferguson didn't win a trophy in his first three years at Manchester United and Liverpool were only triumphant in two of their opening eleven games under Brendan Rogers last season. It's easy to think that Mourinho is heading in the same direction, however the crucial factor to remember is that this is a man who doesn't know how to fail and someone who simply won't give until success is achieved. Furthermore, Mourinho is someone who was said to be instrumental in the building of Chelsea's prestigious Cobham training facility, a place which he'll be on a day-to-day basis next season. He is familiar with these surroundings and after spending the best part of two years at this elite location, it can only work in his favour. Not only this, Mourinho obviously knows the Chelsea area well from his previous stint as manager and while it can be said that this isn't a crucial factor, any small advantage he has could be vital in kickstarting the season. It's not just the surroundings which Mourinho is familiar with; legends such as John Terry and Frank Lampard have worked with the Portuguese icon previously meaning they know his style and already have an established relationship with him. With several managerial changes across the country, Mourinho looks to have the upper hand on them all. He is familiar with so many aspects associated with Chelsea Football Club and on top of this, he's also aware of several of the twenty stadiums which he'll visit, unlike some of the new managers coming in. More importantly, he last visited Old Trafford (the home ground of rivals Manchester United) in early March meaning that his knowledge of the ground and the size of the pitch is rather fresh in his mind. Small details like this could be turn out to be particularly vital should the two teams find themselves battling for the title next season, making the importance of these clashes even higher.

Next season, Chelsea will compete for the FA Cup, the League Cup the Champions League and of course the Premier League. Many would argue that the latter is the one they have their eyes on most after not having won it since 2010. The mood will certainly be high around Stamford Bridge with the fans offering nothing but praise to Mourinho since his arrival was officially announced last week and one may say that Chelsea have a real chance of glory in the league next season. With four of last year's top six finishers changing their manager, it could open up an opportunity for Mourinho's Chelsea. While he too is new to his job, he has experience at Chelsea and in the Premier League meaning that the familiarity may give The Blues an advantage. Manuel Pellegrini, for example, has never managed in the Premier League before and has spent the last three years at the same club so therefore might find it hard to adapt. Not only this, Sir Alex Ferguson has been in charge of Manchester United for the past twenty-six and a half years so a new manager will definitely be hard to get used to. Therefore, Chelsea do stand in a relatively strong position as we approach the new season and look as if they could certainly challenge for the title. To further this point, there is no reason why they can't have a decent cup run and seek one of these trophies. They have one of the strongest squads in the country accompanied by one of the strongest managers in the world so, really, there isn't too much to fault.

You could argue that Arsenal also look to be in a prominent position at this stage. Arsene Wenger has been in charge since 1996 and the current squad looks strong. Players such as Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have certainly proven to be a real force for both club and country in the recent months and their devastating pace down the wings can easily cause trouble for defenders. However, if Arsenal are going to stand a chance at the title, they need to spend money. Another centre forward looks to be required so that chances can be turned into goals on every occasion. Arsenal currently lie in a very similar situation to Chelsea apart from the fact that they've stuck with their manager. The squad they have is now developed and have learned how to play with one another comfortably. With signings such as Podolski and Giroud last season, it took some time to adapt and by the end of the season The Gunners couldn't stop winning. As well as this, Arsenal are long over-due a title and they can't maintain this form much longer without bagging a trophy. It's about time they were rewarded and, like Chelsea, the opportunity they have now is as good as ever. It could well be Arsenal who put a spanner in the works of Mourinho's season next year.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Slice of Enlightenment II – Common Misconceptions

by Tom Harper

Following on from my previous venture into the unknown, quirky facts concerning the world in which we live, I have recently come to realise that not only are there still many interesting pieces of knowledge of which most are still ignorant, but also that most of the things mankind claim to proudly know as ‘truth’ are in fact poorly-placed misconceptions. Hence, being a strong aficionado of QI, it dawned upon me to put to rest a few of the more shocking factual blunders that continue to pollute our minds with inaccuracy today.

·  In ancient Rome, the architectural feature known as the vomitorium was the entranceway through which crowds entered and exited a stadium, not a special room used for purging food during meals. Vomiting was not a regular part of Roman dining customs.
·  Napoleon Bonaparte was not short; rather he was slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time. After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet, which is 5 feet 7 inches (1.69 m). Some believe that he was nicknamed le Petit Caporal (The Little Corporal) as a term of affection.
·  Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics in school, as is commonly believed. Upon being shown a column claiming this fact, Einstein said "I never failed in mathematics... Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus." Einstein did however fail his first entrance exam into Federal Polytechnic School in 1895, although at the time he was two years younger than his fellow students and did exceedingly well in mathematics and science on the exam.

Law and Crime
· It is rarely necessary to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person's report, in instances where there is evidence of violence or of an unusual absence. The UK government Web site says explicitly in large type "You don’t have to wait 24 hours before contacting the police".
·  Entrapment law in the United States does not require police officers to identify themselves as police in the case of a sting or other undercover work. The law is specifically concerned with enticing people to commit crimes they would not have considered in the normal course of events.

Food and Cooking

· Sushi does not "raw fish", and not all sushi includes raw fish. The name sushi means "sour rice", and refers to vinegared rice.
· The Twinkie does not have an infinite shelf life; its listed shelf life is approximately 25 days and generally remains on a store shelf for only 7 to 10 days.

· Bulls are not enraged by the color red, used in capes by professional matadors. Cattle are dichromats, so red does not stand out as a bright color. It is not the color of the cape, but the perceived threat by the matador that incites it to charge.
·  Bats are not blind. While many (most) bat species use echolocation as a primary sense, all bat species have eyes and are capable of sight. Furthermore, not all bats can echolocate and these bats have excellent night vision.
· A common misconception about chameleons and anoles is that the advantage of changing colour is camouflage. In reality, changing color helps to regulate temperature and is used as a form of communication.