Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Sixth Form Centre: Demolition Day

by Tony Hicks


The last views from inside the Sixth Form Centre. At 11 am yesterday, a DX225LC DOOSAN Crawler Excavator, weighing about 21 metric tons, arrived on a low loader and began demolition work (see below). More photographs here.







Battle of the Sciences: Chemistry

First in a series of articles in which writers debate which scientific discipline was responsible for the most important scientific discovery. Daniel Rollins argues for Chemistry

Antoine Lavoisier (1743 –1794) was a French aristocrat who has been called the “father of modern chemistry”. As well as helping develop the metric system naming both hydrogen and oxygen and first identifying sulphur as an element, he is responsible for many of Chemistry’s basic theories. He proved, for example, that oxygen combined with other elements upon combustion disproving earlier theories about burning. His most significant contribution, however, was his careful quantitative method of experimentation, the weighing out and measuring of chemicals with accurate balances using sealed glass containers to prevent gases escaping. It was through this method that he discovered one of chemistry’s most fundamental laws: the Law of Conservation of Mass.

In his book, Elements of Chemistry (1785), Lavoisier wrote:
"Nothing is created, either in the operations of art or in those of nature, and it may be considered as a general principle that in every operation there exists an equal quantity of matter before and after the operation; that the quality and quantity of the constituents is the same, and that what happens is only changes, modifications. It is on this principle that is founded all the art of performing chemical experiments; in all such must be assumed a true equality or equation between constituents of the substances examined, and those resulting from their analysis."

He proved this by burning several compounds and elements in sealed containers and discovering that the total weight of the container did not change from before the substance was burned to after it had been burnt. In one of his experiments, he burnt sulphur in a sealed container and found that, while the total content of the container kept the same mass, the piece of sulphur he had burnt had increased in mass, showing that that sulphur was reacting with a gas in the air later identified as oxygen. He repeated this experiment with phosphorous and other elements such as tin and lead and found the same result. He also decomposed lead calx (lead oxide) and mercury clax (mercury oxide) and, while the compounds seemed to lose mass as they were burnt, the total mass of the container still remained constant, suggesting that the compounds decomposed and gave off a gas: oxygen.

In yet another experiment Lavoisier proved this was not only true in inorganic reactions but in natural biological processes as well. He placed fruit into one of his sealed glass containers and left it in a warm place for several days to decompose into a putrid pile of rotten matter. After this, he observed that, while the colour, shape and texture of the fruit had changed and water had condensed onto the sides of the glass, the total mass of the container remained unchanged, yet again proving that in any chemical reaction, while the state and combination of elements change, the mass of the matter does not.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Farewell, Sixth Form Centre

by Tony Hicks

A few last pictures of the old Sixth Form Centre, demolition of which starts next week. The temporary Sixth Form Centre block was delivered on July 23rd (pictured below).








Favourite Films: Star Wars

by Charlie Albuery
Wow, what a list we’ve got here, we’ve spanned brain-bending Inception through to bar-battling Bond, and covered two polar opposites of the begrudging boyfriend genre, but we’ve stayed decidedly earthbound. I’m about to launch this list interstellar. There’s only one film I could pick: STAR WARS!
This has been my favourite film for as long as I can remember, and it’s unique in that it has unparalleled universality; children love the Ewoks and the Jawas, adults can be hugely nostalgic and, of course, it’s simply a brilliant film for those in-between. For those of you who claim to not know Star Wars, you’re just wrong, you cannot possibly go through life without picking up a basic working knowledge of the entire Star Wars universe. Seriously, familiar with Yoda you are, I’m willing to bet.
Now for all those of you who’ve just gone ‘Sci-Fi, ick, that sounds lame’, I get that reaction, honestly I do, but Star Wars, bizarrely, plays more like a fantasy film set in space. There are no dystopian futures and all powerful hive-minds, it’s all awesome laser-swords and magic energy crossbows (that nobody really understands), and that is why I love Star Wars; it keeps what most Science Fiction lacks, a sense of adventure, a sense of childish wonderment, a sense of FUN.
Just to clarify, I’m talking about the first film in the original Star Wars trilogy: A New Hope. The short plot summary is incredibly formulaic; good and bad are in a constant battle where neither side can gain the upper hand. Then ‘A New Hope’ is born (‘he’s Luke Skywalker, and he is here to rescue you’), along with a small group of rag-tag rebels made up of Han Solo (‘he’s a scruffy looking nerf-herder, but he’s cute’), his loyal co-pilot Chewbacca (who is basically a bear) and Luke’s sister (though he doesn’t know it yet), Princess Leia, who take down the Empire and save the Universe.
What makes Star Wars special is that it isn’t the first telling of the story, but the best, which is why so much modern entertainment draws from it to this day, a prime example being JJ Abram’s new series Revolution, which is literally Star Wars with regular swords (it’s even referenced by the inclusion of a vintage The Empire Strikes Back lunchbox in the pilot. Even beyond Sci-Fi, the two leads in the ABC series Suits draw heavily from Han Solo and Luke Skywalker if, y’know, the Force was being a lawyer.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Favourite Films: 500 Days of Summer

by Katherine Tobin

This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront… This is not a love story’
500 Days of Summer is an untraditional romantic comedy which follows a young greeting-card writer, Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and the semi-titular Summer Finn (Zooey Deschannel) through the course of their relationship. Despite immediately sounding like your classic rom-com, this is a film which sets out to completely reinvent the audience’s perceptions of love and the generalised beliefs associated with it; it has become one of my all-time favourite films, one of very few which effectively balance comedy and drama and I enjoy watching it today as much as I did the first time.
It is important to note that that this film takes some adjusting to; there is no traditional chronological sequence to be seen here, rather we see scenes from earlier and later in their relationship side by side. Creating an air of mystery, this fresh directorial choice is one that really defines a style for the film and often juxtaposes hugely positive and negative moments against each other seamlessly.
I also enjoy the casting of this film, how well the actors fit into their roles. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Tom with apparent ease, particularly aiding the humorous aspect of the film. Zooey Deschannel as Summer was also perfectly cast, as only she could bring the streak of childishness that so defines her character, which is essential as we see her mature throughout the film. As these actors were relatively unknown at the time, the casting also added to the ‘kookiness’ of the film, making it truly a piece of indie cinema.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Favourite Films: Inception

by Alex Quarrie-Jones
There are movies that make you laugh, there are movies that make you cry, there are movies that make you jump and movies that just plain confuse you; Inception does all of this. Admittedly it may not be humour that you belt out laughter to, like Dodgeball, or the heart-wrenching moments in Up, but the combination of cinematic aspects added to an intriguing and original premise along with fantastic, compelling and stellar acting from a world cast and currently the best producer and director around ( in my opinion), Christopher Nolan, makes Inception my favourite movie of all time.
The basic premise, if you can call it ‘basic’, follows Dom Cobb (played superbly by Leonardo DiCaprio) who is a master at “extraction”, a form of corporate espionage which requires everyone involved to be in a state of dreaming, or “under” as it’s referred to in the movie. Once the mark is under, Cobb can then extract the necessary information from his or her subconscious and use it in whichever way. However Cobb is plagued by a projection, a subconscious figment of a person, of his ex-wife, Mal (Marion Cotillard). He is assisted by Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who functions primarily as a sidekick and the voice of reason for the majority of the movie. Cobb attempts to go in to hiding but is found by the mark of the failed extraction, Saito (Ken Watanabe), who offers Cobb an opportunity to go home if he performs “inception”, which is effectively the opposite of extraction; instead of taking ideas away, you plant them in the subconscious, via dreams. To undertake inception, Cobb recruits a team composed of Ariadne (Ellen Page), who serves as an architect for the dreams, Eames (Tom Hardy), who can metamorphose within the dreams and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), who creates sedatives and compounds to stabilise the subconscious states. Added this is Saito, who Eames refers to as “a tourist”, and the actual mark Fischer (Cillian Murphy), who is Saito’s main corporate competitor.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Ashes – 2nd Test

by Sampad Sengupta
Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann contemplate defeat
After losing to England in a close encounter at Trent Bridge, one would have expected the Aussies to bounce back strongly in the second Test at Lord’s, but it was not to be.  The visitors were humbled by England who won by 347 runs to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the 5-match Test series.  The home side were well in control of the game barring a few hiccups, and have now left the Australian think-tank with a lot to ponder.

There was no surprise as England fielded an unchanged side from the first Test.  Australia on the other hand made a couple of changes, bringing in Usman Khawaja in place of Ed Cowan and quick bowler Ryan Harris to replace Mitchell Stark, and the burly fast bowler ended up picking 5 wickets in England’s first innings. England were first to bat and had a shaky start losing early wickets.  It was then down to the Warwickshire duo of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell to consolidate and build a partnership, the latter went on to score his second century in consecutive Tests.  The innings ended with a flurry of runs as Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann put together a handy 10th wicket partnership (last wicket partnerships being the trend in this series so far) to take the score to 361. Australia then came out to bat and failed miserably as a Swann inspired England side bundled out their opponents for a meagre 128 runs. England captain Alastair Cook decided against imposing the follow-on and chose to bat again, looking to build on an already healthy lead.  Once again, England got off to a poor start losing three early wickets and ended the day with Joe Root and Tim Bresnan at the crease.  The match was being played at a brisk pace, the first innings was over and we were three wickets into the second, and it was only the end of Day 2.


Man of the Match: Joe Root
The third day however, belonged entirely to England.  The Australian pacers failed to make any inroads and their spinners proved ineffective on a pitch where Swann had been so lethal the previous day.  England piled on the runs and batted the entire day and continued to do so even on Day 4 before eventually declaring, setting Australia an improbable target of 583 runs to win.  Joe Root top-scored with 180 runs off 338 balls, before getting out trying to play a scoop shot off Harris.  This was Root’s first century at the top of the order for England, showing the talent that he possesses and what exactly he is capable of. His innings took the game away from Australia and virtually sealed the fate of the match. The second innings was no different, as Australia failed to bat out the entire day and were bowled out for a score of 235.  The last wicket to fall was that of James Pattinson, who fell victim to Swann late in the day in an extended session of play.  Joe Root was later named Man of the Match thanks to his heroic efforts with the bat in the second innings.

Favourite Films: An American In Paris

by Alice MacBain
Well I have to say it wasn’t easy to choose. But then I was listening to Gershwin, and heard something which left me in no doubt.
Jerry Mulligan is a struggling painter who spends a lot of his time in Montmartre, trying to sell his paintings. His "very good friends in Paris", Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), is a concert pianist and used to work for successful music-hall star entertainer Henri Baurel (Georges Guétary). Henri shows him the photograph of his 19 year old girlfriend/fiancée Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). One day, Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), a wealthy, attractive, American patroness, buys two of Jerry’s paintings. She wants to help him make his way, but he believes that she is only interested in him, not his paintings and tries to leave. She, however, manages to convince him that this is not the case.
At a nightclub later that night, he catches sight of Lise and is instantly captivated by her. He then spends the night and the next day attempting to get her to accept a date with him. Finally she accepts, and they walk along the bank of the Seine and dance until she finally confesses her feelings, as they sing ‘Our Love is Here to Stay’.
What Jerry does not know is that Lise is engaged to Henri, and, in one of the most wonderful songs in the film, the two men sing of their love for someone in ‘S’Wonderful’, unaware of the connection. Only Adam is aware when Jerry tells him of Lise.
At a ball one night, with a black and white theme to contrast with the final scene, Jerry, Milo, Henri and Lise are all together. Lise and Jerry manage to take a moment to say goodbye, as she is leaving to get married to Henri. As he stands on the balcony and has watched her leave, the scene develops into the most beautiful dream sequence that has ever been made. To the music ‘An American in Paris’ by George Gershwin, the ballet is in 6 sections, with the famous fountain featuring at the beginning and the end. The single connection in each section is a red rose that symbolises Lise. At the end of the 17 minute dream sequence, Jerry is left standing, again, on the balcony, with only the rose left.
Of course, there must be a happy ending, and so Jerry looks down to the street where he sees Lise giving Henri a grateful farewell kiss. Henri, who had discovered that Lise loves Jerry, releases Lise from her engagement to him and steps aside. Lise returns to Jerry, running up a long flight of stairs into his arms, blissfully reunited in a loving embrace.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Favourite Films: Skyfall

by Tom Harper

Upon my recent exploration of the latest movie archives I was stopped dead in my tracks by Disney and Pixar’s recent announcement of the production of Finding Dory: the sequel to Finding Nemo that no-one asked for nor wanted, and this led me to reflect on how truly sublime all-time classics such as Shrek, Predator and however many Police Academy movies there are out there have been spoiled by the ticking time bomb that is the sequel. Granted, many series such as that of Harry Potter have thrived from their franchises but once in a while the film industry needs to know when it’s beaten, and this seemed to be the case upon the disastrous release of Quantum of Solace in 2008. Not only did the 22nd instalment to the Bond series face drastic budgetary difficulties but also received huge criticism from a variety of sources, including ex-Bond Roger Moore who stated that “There didn't seem to be any geography and you were wondering what the hell was going on!”. Hence one of the greatest film franchises of all time was seen to be heading for disaster, and I must admit that when I first heard of the production of its sequel my hopes weren’t high........

......... but then Sam Mendes came along, the movie was released across the globe to the rapturous applause of previously anti-Bond critics and Skyfall is now not only my favourite Bond film, but in my opinion is one of the best films of all time. This has to be the main reason for why I believe Skyfall deserves the credit it has received: unlike so many other movies it has not only become a sequel that matches if not betters its predecessors, but it has also been able to pull a supposedly doomed franchise out of the gutter on its merits alone (an action which I firmly believe Stephanie Meyer will be unable to repeat with the upcoming release of The Host).

The means by which Skyfall was met with such open arms by critics is the second reason that I adore it: the exceptional acting. Ever since Casino Royale Daniel Craig has sparked the intrigue of film buffs like myself with his darker and more serious adaptation of Bond, and Skyfall was no exception. Throughout the film Craig is able to keep the momentum going as the agent starting to question his authority, with some light-hearted moments and typical Bond one-liners thrown in to keep things interesting. We also see Bond’s character being beautifully complimented by Judi Dench’s M, who at long last rises up to meet the prominent role we have all been waiting for. However, it is clear that the greatest credit must be given to Javier Bardem’s unforgettable portrayal of villain Raoul Silva, whose perversely eccentric personality constantly keeps the audience on its toes from start to finish. The witty banter (whereas really I should say flirtations) that passed between good and evil spelt for some real highlights, and when combined with the mind-blowing soundtrack from Adele as well as the breath-taking locations and stunts this film deserves its reputation as the epitome of what 007 should be.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Chris Froome's Tour de France Victory

Britain's Chris Froome won the Tour de France today, only the second British cyclist to do so. From the Portmouth Point archives: Fergus Houghton-Connell and Callum Strong discuss the prospects for Froome, Mark Cavendish, Team Sky and British cycling in 2013 and beyond.


Fergus Houghton Connell on Chris Froome:

"La Vuelta is a very different race to Le Tour de France. In the latter, the mountains are, on average, longer than those of the former, so they have a shallower gradient, normally 18% at the most, to compensate for these long distances . . . (Froome) prefers the long climb of the Alps to the conditions in Spain. Overall, the British cyclist will have to wait a while longer for his first grand tour win, but, although he has suffered a minor glitch, his career as a cyclist is far from over. Whether he stays with Team Sky or not, he will most certainly be leading a team in next year's Tour de France. Many people believe that there is still much to come from Chris Froome." Read the rest of the article here.

Callum Cross on Team Sky:

"This term, "the Sky is the limit", in cycling has now been coined in reference to anything that Team Sky want they get. They “want” the Tour de France, so they go out and get the best riders and give them lots of money to ride very hard on the front." Read the rest of the article here.

Callum Cross on British cycling in 2013:

"With a total of 17 British road wins from January to the end of February (5 more than last year), it is shaping up to be a great season. But with this in mind how far can we go this year? Well there should be a Giro d’Italia win for Sir Bradley Wiggins, and a few classics wins shared amongst the rest. With Cav on a new team designed to deliver him to stage wins there should be plenty for him this year as he rapidly approaches his hundredth professional win. Chris Froome is shaping up to potentially win the Tour and with 3 more top tier pro teams this year I think things can only get better."" Read the rest of the article here.
 





Poem for Sunday: Deep Depths

Katie Green's poem, 'Deep Depths', won the Year 8 Leonardo 2013 prize.


Dark waves crashed mercilessly
Against the jagged rocks below.
The almost inky black colour the only
Clue as to the fathomless depth below.
I had to jump.

I had to jump.
I would jump.
I WAS going to jump.
I had to jump.

She asked me if I could hear the music.
I could hear it,
Slow like a lullaby
Over and over in my head.
I should jump?

I shook my head,
Snapping myself out of the trance.
They mustn’t have it.
They would never have it.
I had to jump.

The woman held out her hands to me,
Inviting me.
But I could see the cruelty,
The evil in her eyes.
I had to jump.

I looked down at the precious little bundle in my arms.
So small, so unsuspecting,
Giving no clue as to the power it held as it
Snuggled closer into my arms against the biting wind.
I had to jump.

My babe.
My poor, poor babe.
Unashamed, tears streaked down my cheeks,
For the life it would never know.
I had to jump.

Drawing all my courage around me like a cloak,
I glared at the woman, who had haunted my dreams for years,
And knew that here, it would all end.
And then I was gone, flying through the air down to the freezing depths below.
I had jumped.

Flying,
Falling,
Tumbling.
Down, down until I broke the surface of the water,
And it drew me into a loving embrace as my vision blacked out.
I had jumped, and that set me free.

My eyes snapped open, alert.
I was on my feet in an instant,
Ready to defend the fragile life in my arms.
Around me was grey sky and black beach,
But I just saw hope.
I had jumped to set myself and my child free,
And now the nightmare was over,
And a new dawn arrived.
I had now jumped and now, at last, I was released.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Why Abortion Should Remain Legal

Yesterday (July 18th), Texas became the twelfth US state to pass newly restrictive abortion laws; Grace Gawn makes the case for abortion rights.

Abortion, the termination of a pregnancy, is an issue that continues to spark emotive debate as to its morality, even 46 years after it was made legal in England following the Abortion Act of 1967. Unless the mother’s life is at risk or there is danger of permanent injury to the mother or child, an abortion can only be carried out up to 24 weeks of pregnancy under current UK law. There are a number of reasons why people decide they are against abortions, for example religious belief, and those who advocate full legal protection of embryos and foetuses describe themselves as ‘pro-life’. However, despite the many arguments against it, I strongly believe that women should have the right to decide for themselves whether an abortion is right for them. There are many reasons that a woman could decide to have an abortion; alongside their physical and mental wellbeing there are many other social, economic and emotional factors to take in to account.

It is an unfortunate truth that not every woman who falls pregnant feels as though they are in the right circumstances to raise a child, be it on an emotional or financial level. The reality is that having a child will affect every aspect of a parent’s life; the dedication and time required from a parent is essential to raising a happy and healthy baby, and, if they do not have that dedication to give at a certain time in their life, then it would be unfair on both the child and the parents to disallow the option of abortion. According to a 2013 study, it costs, on average, £222,458 to raise a child, not taking in to account the commitment and sacrifices that also need to be made by any thoughtful parent. In light of these responsibilities, a mother should not be made to feel guilty about wanting to wait until she can provide a good quality of life for her child, and she should certainly not have the choice to wait taken away from her by legislation against abortion. In the words of Sister Joan Chittister, Benedictine nun and co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women: “I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born, but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth.

Aside from social factors, there are many health issues that could cause a woman to seek an abortion in the best interests of all concerned. For example, the physical and mental burden of raising a child could cause a relapse in a woman with a mental disorder. Also, cancer therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy may adversely affect the growing foetus. Alcoholism can cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, potentially leading to deafness, speech defects (including being mute), and vision impairment. Another circumstantial case in which many women feel the option of abortion should remain available to them is after rape; if a woman falls pregnant after sexual assault it is extremely likely that she will want to terminate the pregnancy. Aside from not knowing the father’s history, mental or otherwise, the psychological damage that comes with being raped can often leave victims in a state where they would feel unable to care for a child. 

History has shown that, if abortions are made illegal, then this would not necessarily stop them from being carried out. Those that truly believe it is in their best interests to terminate a pregnancy might resort to ‘backstreet’ clinics, forcing them to break the law and in some cases undergo a potentially unsafe abortion. Legalised abortions eliminate the risk this poses and ensures that all pregnancies are terminated in a safe and clinical environment.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Gay Marriage: A Victory for Progress

Yesterday (Wednesday, 17th July), gay marriage was legalised in England and Wales after receiving Royal Assent. Here, Jo Kirby makes the case for gay marriage.  

Wednesday, 17th July was a landmark victory for progress and equality. Despite fierce opposition from many and claims that allowing equal marriage equates to supporting incest, bestiality, paedophilia and polygamy, MPs and peers voted by convincing margins to legalise same-sex marriage. 

So what had all the fuss been about? Responses from those who opposed the bill varied from outright disgust to claiming that such unions are ‘unnatural’ or ‘sinful’. As Britain's former most senior Catholic Cardinal Keith O’Brien* put it, equal marriage is “A grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. However, the very nature of a human right is that it is available to all humans. Marriage is a right which should be available to everyone regardless of their gender or sexuality. The bigotry of those who oppose same-sex marriage must be challenged and exposed as hypocritical and unjust. Equal marriage is already available in 8 out of the 10 European countries surrounding Britain. This bill should not be seen as controversial but as a rational next step in implementing legislation which protects the human rights and equality of every member of our society.

Many Tory MPs and religious opponents of the bill base their case on the claim that marriage is a sacred institution. As David Simpson MP so eloquently put it “This is an ordained constitution of God. In the Garden of Eden it was… Adam and Eve. It wasn’t Adam and Steve”. Regardless of the fact that Simpson seems unaware that science has superseded mythological narratives, especially in the 150 years since Darwin, the argument that marriage is sacred seems somewhat outdated. Marriage is not owned by religion. Over 60% of marriages in the UK today are conducted in secular ceremonies. It seems that for the majority of British people the religious aspect of marriage is losing its significance. Sir Roger Gale MP opposed equal marriage for failing to protect the sanctity of marriage. He’s on his third wife.

Other MPs object to equal marriage on the grounds that it breaks tradition. However, the nature of marriage has always adapted to the times. If this was not the case, interracial marriages would be prohibited, wedlock of children would be permissible and parents could arrange the marriages of their children from birth to suit their financial needs. The exclusively heterosexual nature of marriage has not always been the tradition. More than one Roman Emperor married a man until same-sex marriages were outlawed in 342CE. Marriage has changed in the past. It is time for it to change again.

Many MPs raised particular concern over the potential for adultery in same-sex marriages. Nadine Dorries MP for example, refused to support the bill because, according to her, same-sex marriage does not require faithfulness. Mrs Dorries makes this claim despite having conducted an affair with a married man herself. Some straight people are unfaithful but we don't respond to this by banning them all from marrying. Why are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) people any different?

One of the most incoherent arguments against same-sex marriage is that it is immoral because it does not allow for the possibility of children. Should we, therefore, ban heterosexual couples from marrying because they don't want children? Or, perhaps we should conduct fertility tests on couples after their engagement, banning anyone infertile from the opportunity to marry. Clearly this would be ridiculous. It also fails to recognise the many LGBT couples who do have children and who provide them with loving and safe homes. Same sex couples are biologically incapable of procreating with each other but so are many straight couples - this is not a good enough reason to exclude them from the right to marry.

Coming Out Against Gay Marriage

Yesterday (Wednesday, 17th July), gay marriage was legalised in England and Wales after receiving Royal Assent. Here, Simon Lemieux makes the case against gay marriage. 

If you are anticipating (or dreading) a piece full of vitriol and quotes from various sacred texts condemning homosexuality, then you will be disappointed with what follows. The case I want to make against gay marriage here is not based upon any particular faith perspective nor, I hope, on unfounded prejudice. A strong and I believe persuasive argument can, I think, be made on the basis of reason, equity and democratic principles alone.

At first glance, the argument in favour of gay marriage looks persuasive and engaging. Roughly put, the case runs along the lines of the traditional argument over anti-discrimination and injustice. Like the rights of women, racial minorities and the disabled before, gay marriage is about promoting equality and opposing discrimination. But here we hit the first flaw in the argument. There is a fundamental difference between the rights of the groups just listed and the gay community. For all those in the first group, their status is imposed not chosen; the situation with sexuality is altogether more complex. There is not space here to go into a proper discussion of gay genes, and whether or not someone is ‘born gay’.  Suffice to say, there are no finite conclusions and the accepted position is to view sexuality as a sliding scale rather than a black or white distinction, and that there are a number of factors that determine one’s position on that scale. A significant proportion of it is down to environment and even choice, rather than purely accident of birth. In short, people are born male, mixed race or with disabilities in a way that they are not born straight or gay. Why does this matter? Simply because it means the debate from the start is slightly different to the ones about full equality for other groups who have been discriminated against so wrongly.

Yet by itself that is hardly a clinching argument against gay marriage. Surely discrimination even against a lifestyle choice is to be opposed? Here we enter interesting territory, and the ‘separate but equal ‘argument. The key point is that we already have ample laws that protect the rights and interests of homosexuals. There is legislative equality in areas of employment, property rights, inheritance law and, more controversially, child adoption.  A civil partnership, for example, confers equal legal rights to both partners, as marriage does to a husband and wife. Will homosexual couples be better protected legally by gay marriage? Equally, since heterosexual couples cannot enter civil partnerships, arguably it is discrimination against them to allow homosexuals alone a choice between marriage or civil partnership. In a modern liberal democracy, why not maintain different but equal categories for partnerships of intimacy? And, unlike the pre-civil rights USA, separate but equal in this case would actually be truth rather than fiction.

Yet what is it about the ancient institution of marriage that makes it so special, and best reserved for the two genders? After all, surely it has evolved and altered its nature radically over time. No longer can husbands beat their wives with impunity or even vice versa. Women no longer have to hand over all their financial resources to their husband upon marriage. Yet, crucially, although marriage, even its permanence, has evolved considerably in the last hundred years, gay marriage will do something crucial: it will fundamentally re-define it.  For centuries, civilisations have recognised the importance and value to society of having an enduring and exclusive union between one man and one woman. Its uniqueness is that it embodies and reflects the distinctiveness of men and women; therefore, removing that complementarity from the definition of marriage is to remove any widely recognised social institution where gender difference is acknowledged. The distinctiveness of marriage will be lost forever. If gay, and thus ungendered, marriage becomes legal, make no mistake, we cannot treat it as a social experiment to ’see how it works out’. The change will be permanent, the consequences everlasting. We need to be absolutely certain that this is a move for the benefit of society as a whole, and the clear will of a significant majority of the population. This leads on neatly to another point: the absence of a democratic mandate.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Great Escape

by Tony Hicks


A young fox is found hiding in the Bristow-Clavell Science Centre around dawn on Tuesday morning, before making his escape.*

 




Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The First Test: Analysis

by Tim MacBain

What a Test. It really did have it all, wickets tumbling, runs scored, a great deal of controversy, stunning play, questionable decisions, and a ridiculously tight finish. So, what have we learnt, and where can both teams go from here?

James Anderson, Man of the Match
Well, first things first, the Australians are not to be underestimated. Frankly, if you had thought that they were down and out before the series began, you either have been living with your head in the sand for the past few years or are a complete idiot. They can score runs, not heavily yet, but glimpses, especially in the middle order of Clarke, Smith, Hughes and Haddin, of great things to come have come through. The bowling attack, although a smidgeon unreliable (as England’s first innings showed), can be rather potent, and has depth – my man to watch for is James Faulkner. If he breaks into the side, he may well be rather effective; having seen the damage his left arm pace can do in the IPL this year, he could be a real find for the Aussies. The top order, however, is fragile. Cowan failed in this Test, and Rogers is inexperienced at this level, despite a well-executed 50 in the second innings. Watson, however, showed just how important he could be for Australia’s Ashes. He may not have scored particularly freely (13 & 46 can attest to that), but his economy rates of 1.75 in the first innings and 0.73 in the second are mind-blowing. If his batting starts firing again he could swing the momentum right back in Australia’s favour.

England, although pleased to have won the Test, should be disappointed. Yet again, the top order has failed to score highly, with just one fifty and a 48 in 6 innings between Cook, Root and Trott. Our bowling was very good, as we have come to expect, but we kept putting ourselves into fantastic positions and then failing to consolidate them, the Australian first innings a perfect example of this. We could have had a first innings lead of 80 or 90 odd. We ended up 65 runs behind. It was in this position, however, that the real Man of the Match stepped up. Ian Bell’s innings was exemplary, everything you could want from a number five. Ably supported by Stuart Broad (yes, I’ll get there), he put England in the driving seat; I don’t think I heard one pundit not utter the words ‘Anything over 200 is going to be tough to reach.’ And then out steps another Aussie hero, Brad Haddin. He may have got out, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do exceptionally well. We won by the skin of our teeth when, at 117-9 in Australia’s first innings, we should have wrapped the game up there and then.

Now we come to the others factors in the match. Yes, those ones. Chronological order places the Trott decision first. Now, I like umpires, and believe that they do a sterling job. However, Erasmus’ decision was astonishing. To give Trott out when there was still reasonable doubt and not all of the technology was available? Unthinkable. Don’t agree with his point of view at all. Maybe the fact that I’m English might have something to do with it. But still, it could easily have swung the match entirely in Australia’s favour, somewhat unfairly. Therefore, the Broad decision, as horrifically inaccurate as it was, put England on a little more of a level pegging; if you had asked the Aussie’s which, out of Broad or Trott, they would have preferred to have been given out, Trott would have been the answer every time. And, to add my opinion to the massive debate raging about whether Broad should have walked, I go with everybody aside from Jonathan Agnew in saying that he was right not to have walked. Agnew’s claim that it became ‘an issue for the spirit of the game’ (BBC) is unfathomable; cricket is firstly a competitive game in which both sides want to win, but without cheating or breaking any rules; Broad did neither  of those things, and thus kept within the spirit of the game. This isn’t the 1890s anymore. What the Broad Incident showed us is that Australia don’t use their reviews very well. They use them up on key batsmen, not key moments in the game, which is something that they will want to address quickly.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Ashes: First Test

by Sampad Sengupta

Victorious England celebrate
Wickets tumbling, runs scored, records broken and to add to all that, some controversy, that’s all you can ask for in a game of cricket and the first Ashes test of 2013 didn’t disappoint.  It was a fight to the finish in the first test match at Trent Bridge as England came out on top beating arch rivals Australia by 14 runs on the final day.  The match was a brilliant advert for the longer format of the game which many consider to have lost its charm.

The headlines in the build-up to the series were dominated by the return of England’s star batsman Kevin Pietersen and also by the appointment of Darren Lehmann as Australia’s head coach.  The Australian team, very much a team in transition and struggling to find stability, had plenty of changes in the dressing room with the arrival of new players and personnel.  This was highlighted in their team selection for the first test where they dropped established players like David Warner and Nathan Lyon and brought in 19-year old debutant Ashton Agar.  The England side was much more predictable with the only notable change being that of Joe Root opening the batting alongside captain Alastair Cook.  England won the toss and chose to bat and soon found themselves in trouble as they got bowled out for a meagre 215, Peter Siddle being the pick of the Australian fast bowlers, picking up 5 wickets.  Australia too did not find it easy to score runs after a shaky start and thanks to some good knocks in the middle order and a record breaking innings of 98 (off 101 balls) from No. 11 Ashton Agar, they reached a total of 280. Agar’s score was the highest by any No.11 batsman in Tests.  His innings was that of class and he played a brand of fearless cricket showing no signs of being nervous playing his first Ashes test.

Ashton Agar



England then came out for their second innings and the controversy began as Jonathan Trott was given out LBW despite suggestions that he might have nicked the ball.  The innings was then given some stability by Cook and Pietersen, both of whom fell after reaching their fifties.  It was then down to Ian Bell (109 runs off 267 balls) and Stuart Broad (65 runs off 148 balls) to put together a solid partnership and take the score to 375.  It was during this innings of Broad’s that the main talking point of the game took place.  Agar, a left-arm spinner, bowled a delivery which bounced ever so slightly on Broad and caught the outside edge of the bat. The ball then deflected off the keeper’s gloves and was caught at slip by Australian captain Michael Clarke.  For a moment, it was celebrations all around for Australia only for them to realise that Broad was still there and the umpire had not given him out.  Having used up all their reviews, a shocked Australian side had no choice but to carry on and allow England set them a target of 311 runs to win.  Australia got off to a good start with Rogers and Watson only for the latter to be given out LBW under controversial circumstances once again.  Australia were left needing just over 130 runs on the final day with 4 wickets to go. The final day showed us what Test cricket is all about as the two teams played their hearts out in front of a full house at Trent Bridge.  After a nail biting few hours of cricket which saw a fantastic spell of bowling by James Anderson and some brave batting by Brad Haddin and also another Australian No. 11 James Pattinson, the fate of the match had to be decided by the third umpire as England asked for a review and Haddin was given out.  England won the game by 14 runs and Anderson was named Man of the Match, picking up 10 wickets in the game and once again showing how valuable he is to this England team.  

Friday, 12 July 2013

Here Comes The Summer . . .





Wishing all of our editors, contributors and readers a wonderful summer break. Portsmouth Point will continue blogging (albeit on a lighter, more summery basis) during late July and August, so do continue to visit us.

Thanks to Oliver Stone for this lovely holiday image of beach huts at West Wittering.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

History of the “Rock Opera”

Part 3 of 3 rock opera-related articles by Tim Bustin

The term itself sounds like an oxymoron, implying both a combination of “cool” and pretension (whilst also not clarifying what on earth it is). David Bowie’s (The Rise and Fall of)  Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia, Green Day’s American Idiot, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pink Floyd’s The Wall – indisputable classics all of them, and each structured around some epic tale – music, exploited in its induction of emotions, used in connection with the lyrics to tell a story.


The term opera brings to mind vast theatres, over-singing and several large dollops of pure boredom, but really it’s a term used to describe where a (usually long) piece, or collection of musical pieces, are used as a way of storytelling. Way back in 1966, the story goes something like this: The Who’s lead guitarist and primary songwriter, rock legend Pete Townshend, was joking around one evening with one of the band’s managers, Kit Lambert (son of Constant Lambert, the composer) and some friends, listening to all sorts of different rubbish music, when, fairly drunk, a comedy song made someone shout out “It’s rock opera!”


Quite surprisingly, one bout of hysterics later, Kit remarked “That’s not a bad idea” So, in order to fill a missing nine minutes at the end of their 1966 A Quick One album, the world’s first rock opera emerged – A Quick One While He’s Away, the mini rock opera. It’s a rather strange story, about infidelity between a forlorn girl guide and an engine driver named Ivor. Yeah, I know. And of course, being at that difficult second album stage, they just said “cello” over and over again to save money on hiring a strings section. It’s a pretty good song actually, despite certain, unimportant, details. Split into six sections, it’s a fast moving tale of love, emotion, youth, sex, and ultimately forgiveness. Not necessarily a noble start for this well-used song/album format, but, trust me, it gets better.


The Who tested the mini-rock opera idea again on their third album, The Who Sell Out. At this time, finance was an issue, and apparently the band’s rhythm section (if it can be called that), drumming icon Keith Moon and hugely influential bassist John Entwistle, were flirting with the idea of going off and joining this new band called (christened by Moon) "Led  Zeppelin". Townshend meanwhile was becoming obsessed with the idea of a rock opera album. Tommy is a complex and compelling story dealing with murder, trauma, bullying, child abuse, sex, drugs, illusion, delusion, altered consciousness, spiritual awakening, religion, charlatanism, success, superstardom, faith, betrayal, rejection and pinball.


A young boy, born as WW1 concludes with his father missing in action, becomes deaf, dumb and blind when he witnesses his returning father murdering his wife’s new lover. The boy’s parents attempt to cure his psychological issues, as Tommy lives in a vibration world, reaching a sort of enlightenment. Finally cured, after abuse which he never knew occurred, he tries to teach others of his ways, though is ultimately rejected, due to human propensity for greed and their inability to sacrifice desires. Now, granted, it sounds more pretentious than forty years of Yoko Ono, but the brilliance of Tommy is that the lyrics never detract from the power of the music: Roger Daltrey’s singing verges between beauty and ferocity, Moon’s drumming is as hell-bent as ever, whilst Townshend’s sublime guitar with matching Entwistle bass produces an album of supreme quality, which turned The Who’s fortunes around overnight, established Townshend as a composer, not a mere songwriter, and paved the way for others to create classic albums. (Tommy is 96th on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list).

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Review: 'Quadrophenia' by the Who, Live at O2

Part 2 of 3 rock-opera-related articles by Tim Bustin

Released in 1973, 'Quadrophenia' has become one of The Who’s greatest albums. A “rock opera”, the music tells the story of mod culture in early 1960s Britain, focused around a young mod named Jimmy, with a “Quadrophenic” personality – like schizophrenia, but with four personalities rather than two. The album spawned a cult film and is now being toured in its entirety by the two surviving Who members, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, and their support band.


Being just one soul in a room of about 20,000 Who fans seemed to be the ultimate testament to Quadrophenia’s legacy in time. Despite the average age being in the fifties, the atmosphere inside the O2 arena was electric even hours before the show started. Looking around, all that could be seen wherever you glanced was that same iconic logo: the blue, white and red circles, representing both the Mods and The Who. Even with half the seats still to be filled, there were chants of “We are the Mods, we are the Mods, we are the Mods!” and whispers of stories being passed around; “When did you last see The Who play?”, “What hits do you think they’ll play?”, murmurs that filled the great space of the arena and seemingly echoed forever.
'Quadrophenia' hasn’t been played in its entirety since 1997, discounting a one-off 2010 performance for the Teenage Cancer Trust, but its fans haven’t lost any of its spirit; Pete Townshend (Who lead guitarist and songwriter) himself confessed it to be his finest work, surpassing (in his mind) even such classics as Tommy and Who’s Next?And with fans eager to hear this epic composition, whether because of the sheer brilliance of the music or because of the story of the “rock opera” of Jimmy, the Mods and “a way of life”, or because they’re new fans (like myself) who want to hear the remains of this amazing band before Townshend goes deaf and Roger Daltrey’s voice crackles and fades away, or simply because they’re die-hard Who fans, it was only a matter of time before a 'Quadrophenia' tour had to be done.
Blues-pelting warm-up band Vintage Trouble did a superb job of getting the already-excited crowd into a wild frenzy, with an impossibly good James Brown sound-alike fronting cool rifts and action-packed drums and bass. It took the first faint sounds of “I Am the Sea” to calm everyone into their seats. Traces of crashing waves and a rainy street in background to the four "themes” of 'Quadrophenia' held us in anticipation, until finally on Daltrey’s cry of “Can you see the real me?” the music exploded into our ears; the melody created by the heavy bass of Pino Paladino took lead, supported by the crazed drumming of Scott Devours (filling for regular drummer Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr’s son), a blaze of horns and subtle piano, all essentially backing to Townshend’s power guitar and Daltrey’s scream, showing they really have still got it. The energy emanating from the stage seemed for all to almost equal the power The Who possessed as a live band in the 70s.

Photography: More Summer Flowers

by Elizabeth Sherwood







Review: Much Ado About Nothing, at Southsea Castle

by Sampad Sengupta

On a beautiful summer evening at Southsea Castle, on Wednesday, 3rd July, PGS Sixth Formers gave their audience something to remember with a brilliant rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Superbly directed by Alex Quarrie-Jones and Josh Rampton, and cleverly edited, the play featured an ensemble cast who all played their part in a wonderful performance.

The directors created a contemporary setting, with mobile phones, designer suits and an eclectic soundtrack (co-ordinated by Ali Gray) . Instead of princes and aristocrats, we had corporate executives. Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon was now CEO of Globe Ltd, played by Rob Bendell as wisely benign while suggesting a steeliness that marked him in interesting contrast to his brother Don John who seemed touchingly vulnerable in this version (see below). Leonato, Governor of Messina, was now CEO of The Messina Group, played by Gregory Walton-Green, who conveyed a fussy fatherliness and anxious pride very affectingly. 

This production managed to combine Shakespeare's language and a modern setting seamlessly, making sixteenth century English sound extraordinarily timely and natural. The production made very good use of the exotic location of Southsea Castle; the battlements and stairs offered opportunities for plotting, spying and a range of nefarious and underhanded activities that help make the play so enjoyably complex. The toilet was used very effectively for the assignation scene between Margaret (Mirabel Mwizerwa) and Borachio (Josh Rampton), which seemed to be a homage to TitanicThere were some great special effects, too: rockets at the beginning signalling the war offstage that precedes the main action of the play, suggesting the darker tone underpinning the comic action. Fireworks also helped create a festive atmosphere during the party-scene, although they went slightly haywire, adding an extra level of edginess to this part of the performance that was perhaps not entirely intentional. 

Daisy Mellar and Aladdin Benali were both brilliant in their roles as the star-crossed lovers, Hero and Claudio, each particularly expressive in the dramatic Wedding Scene in which Claudio refuses to marry Hero, convinced she has been unfaithful, Aladdin convincing in his portrayal of a man switching swiftly from elation to despair to fury. There were outstanding performances from Tash Iliffe as Beatrice and Rishi Soneji as Benedick, whose witty exchanges are at the heart of the play, as they attempt to outwit and undermine one another until realising that they are actually in love. Tash was wonderfully sharp as Beatrice, delivering her most insulting lines with a waspish sting; meanwhile, Rishi elicited some of the best reactions from the audience, with splendidly elastic facial expressions and wonderfully comic use of body language, particularly in one scene on the battlements while he overhears other characters talking about Beatrice's love for him. Becky Turner as Don John, the “Bastard brother” of Don Pedro, conveyed a brooding, sometimes menacing quality, while showing a fragility and sense of hurt very movingly, suggesting someone affected by living in the shadow of a domineering brother (Rob Bendell's smooth but dictatorial Don Pedro); Becky made a villainous role complex and affecting, which speaks volumes for her acting.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Interview: Working with The Who

Part 1 of 3 rock opera-related articles by Tim Bustin

Forty-four years ago, rock giants The Who released the first-ever rock opera (an album in which the music tells a story). This was 'Tommy', a story about a deaf, dumb and blind child who lives through vibrations and music, channelling his sensations through the medium of pinball (hence the classic “Pinball Wizard”), eventually overcoming his conditions and creating his own religion to attempt to teach others how to live his ways, before he is finally rejected by his followers (drawing parallels with other religious leaders). 

This complex, sometimes pretentious, yet undeniably addictive composition was adapted into a movie, filmed in Portsmouth and starring acting greats such as Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, Jack Nicholson and Robert Powell, as well as musicians Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Elton John, with Who singer and rock god Roger Daltrey as Tommy and the rest of the band making cameo appearances. Directed by Ken Russell, it’s a combination of eccentric, artsy suffering and brilliance, which won Ann-Margret a Golden Globe, an Academy Award nomination and Pete Townshend, Who guitarist and the creator and composer of Tommy, an Oscar nomination for his work in scoring and adapting the music.

PGS Nursery teacher Mrs. Sandy was fortunate enough to take part as an extra, during the filming in Portsmouth, and I was able to interview her about her experience on-set.

How did you get involved in it, back in 1974/75, do you remember?

I was at school with friends and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time when they were looking for young extras to be in Tommy.

Do you mind if I ask how young?

I was fourteen at the time (laughs). All very old memories. Fourteen at the time. And we then had to sign up and fill out some forms, get our parents to consent to because we were under age then. But, of course I said yes; we took two weeks off school and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and we did some locations: we did South Parade Pier and it burned down, and we went up to the top of the hill, Fort Widley; they use that at the end of the scene for the big holiday camp.

Yes, with all the pinballs which are buoys coloured silver?

Yes. We went to Rowland’s Castle, and Roger Daltrey had a double for the flying scene because he was flying on a kite, so he had a double for that, who was a spitting image of him and he was really nice as well, met him too; Oliver Reed I met, spent ages talking to him - I’d just got into fencing and his next film was going to be The Three Musketeers, so it was a good linking up point.

Yes, well I was going to ask you which famous people you met on the set, because I know a lot of people were involved in Tommy - so have you got any good stories about it?

I was chaperone to Vicky Russell, director Ken Russell’s daughter, who was in the film; I think she was a couple of years younger than me and because we were young as well we just got all put together and in the end we travelled with her in the limo, went down to town, had lunch, so that she wasn’t by herself. Her mum was really nice as well, so, yes, had a really good time. And we met Keith Moon.

Oh yes, I’m a very big fan.

Yes, the best one!

He must’ve had a lot of stories

Well, I was only very young at the time… no, he was really nice.

So, moving away from celebrities to you, is there a scene in Tommy where we actually see you - do you ever look back and say oh look there’s me, right there?

Right at the end, yes. I have the whole screen to myself, for just a couple of seconds. It’s right near the end, where Keith Moon’s on his big organ up at Fort Widley
                                                                                                                                                   
Oh, when he’s driving the mini car with the organ attached to it?

Yes, just down there and I’m pushing someone in a wheelchair. That’s me, but I was in lots of other scenes, with lots of other people. You can’t always see yourself, but when we went to see it was like “Oh my god there’s me”.And then we went to a Who concert, and it was amazing.