Friday, 16 December 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - from Portsmouth Point



Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our readers from the editors of Portsmouth Point




'White Branches: Winter in South Parks, Oxford' by Oliver Stone





Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas Poem: Grandma's Christmas Cottage

by Lucy Albuery


The world was white, engulfed by snow,
And in a cosy cottage a fire was a-glow.
It spat and it roared in its fiery rage,
As Grandma, in armchair looked down at her page:
A page full of stories new and old,
That she read to the children, shivering cold.
The room it was silent as she told her tales,
Of very evil fairies in make-believe jails.
The words came alive in the crisp winter air
And the children they loved it: they sat, they stare.
As their hearts began to grow with giddy glee
Then grandma said “Come here look with me!”
They looked out the window and up at the sky
And saw the festive light of Santa fly by.
The room came a-buzz with childhood joy,
The small house came alive with excitement from girl and boy
“I hope you’ve been good,” Grandma then said,
But the faces of the children drooped then instead.
They thought they should go and do a good deed
For they weren’t sure if they’d been good, indeed.
“Oh no!” said Grandma, “There’s no need to fear!”
“For there’s room on the nice list for everyone here!”
So when the world is white, engulfed by snow,
And Santa has his toys row upon row,
Be sure you're nice and have a good soul,

For these room on the nice list - and you won’t get any coal. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Photography: Winter Sunset

by Tony Hicks





Christmas Poem: Rudolph’s Plot to take over The World

by Oliver Durrant



There once was a reindeer called Rudolph.
He was what everybody talked of.
But one day at the front of the sleigh,
He said his ambitions during the fray…
HE WANTED TO TAKE OVER THE WAORLD!!

He said:
“I will squish you all into the Earth,
With my nose as it has gained such girth.”
All the reindeer looked at him in shock.
They knew he could squish them “Pow!” and “Pok!”

Donner and Blitzen froze in horror.
Prancer and Dancer looked quite sombre.
They looked at Rudolph as he were a child,
Young, foolish, ignorant and wild.

Suddenly, his nose increased in size,
Then went “Pop!” and lit up the skies.
When they could see his nose was gone,
Rudolph realised there was nowhere to run.

The reindeer went and pinned him down,
And said “Where is your shining nose now?”.
They made him their slave for ever more,
And Rudolph thought “This is such a bore.”





Photography: December Full Cold Moon

by Tony Hicks

The December Full Cold Moon marks the third and final supermoon to grace the sky in 2016. 
A supermoon occurs when the moon is full and at its closest point to Earth in its 27-day orbit.

The full moon won't come that close again until Nov 25, 2034, 221,524 miles from Earth.




Star Wars- The Films Ranked

by Joe Brennan



I know I'm not the only one who is struggling to hide the excitement for December 15th. (ITS THIS FLIPPING THURSDAY) Most regular humans will see it only as the end of term and the start of the Christmas holidays.
But the more geeky of us will also know that it's the release date of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The first of the upcoming standalone spinoff films. I truly look forward to being able to splurge all of my views onto the Portsmouth Point but before then, I want to rank the films that have come so far.


So I will now put into order of quality while also giving my personal opinion on them.

Me: So here they are...all four-

Dark me: you really should mention the prequels

Me: Leave me alone


 Dark Me: Dewit

 Fiiiiine

So here they are...all seven of them.


#7. The Phantom Menace

There'll be no surprise that this is at the bottom of my list. The one that traded galactic civil war for political trouble and Pod Racing. The prequel that disappointed a generation. A film where even Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Samuel L Jackson gave extremely poor performances.

 A film so dull that I can't even hate-watch it (the only enjoyment I can get from Ep III and II is laughing at them)
In The Phantom Menace, there's not really anything incompetent enough to laugh at like the other two prequels. Obviously JarJar is there but he's too annoying to make fun of. The plot manages to spend two hours doing absolutely nothing. Boring nothing. 

They ruined Yoda (either an awful new puppet or cartoon CG) and revealed the mystery behind the legendary, only referenced "Jedi council" - they're a bunch of boring people who sit around in chairs doing nothing but tell people they're doing their job wrong!

Thanks for the revelation, George.

Don't even get me started on Boss Nass...

I will give credit where it's due, the score is remarkable and the fight scene at the end is definitely the best of the prequel trilogy (I'll come on to why later)

An offensively bland and boring film that I recently re-watched and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to bring myself to do it again. 

#6. Revenge of the Sith

Okay this will either surprise or offend a lot of people because it is loved by many. Widely regarded as the best prequel film due to reasons I partially understand- it's the one where you get to see the turn to the dark side and Darth Vader and "epic" fight scenes - but it's written so poorly and shot so inconsistently, I can't believe people put it higher than The Force Awakens or at times, Return of the Jedi!

Revenge of the Sith is laughably appalling. I enjoy watching it purely because I hate every moment. People love it because it's "dark" but I think a better word is "edgy". 

With the whiniest portrayal of any character I've ever seen, Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skystalker is a creepy waste of space that makes me wish Obi Wan had finished him off. With cartoony CGI and a fight between "friends" that is supposed to be tragic but the bickering between the two of them through the entire prequel trilogy means there was no weight to the collapse of their relationship. Again, good score- that's a given when it comes to John Williams.

Side note- so many people feel as though lightsaber fights got better in the prequels, but when the characters are so cartoonish we don't care about flip and jump and focus more on hitting the opponent's lightsaber and looking cool while doing it. In the original trilogy, the lightsaber battle told a story and we cared about characters. There was weight and emotion. When Luke Skywalker knocks Vader to the floor and hacks at him ferociously at the thought of him hurting his sister, the passion and weight to that scene makes it immensely more powerful than Christopher Lee's CG stunt double doing a backflip. 
So something that many people consider a positive aspect of "Sith" (possibly an anagram), I would consider it another flaw.  I will say the performances from Ian McDiarmid and Ewan McGregor are the stand out parts of this film (and the whole trilogy). McGregor manages to turn clunky unrealistic dialogue and give it a charming and emotional delivery. The Emperor is a strong villain and seeing how he manipulated his way into power is one positive to this otherwise awful movie.


#5. (Seems too high up on this list) Attack of The Clones

It took me a long time to decide what I should put for 5th because I kind of hate both Sith and Clones equally. All the flaws I just listed about Revenge of the Sith are present in this one. Awful CG, poor use of the Jedi including Yoda. 
But the redeeming factors of this ones make it stand above Episode III for me- with better use of Obi Wan and some of the best world building and alien design, the film is shot a lot better than both of its prequel counterparts. I also think the score is enough to make the film watchable. The Jango Fett/ Obi Wan stand-off is satisfying and Anakin's slaughter of The Sand People is pretty well done as the start of his downfall. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Is Altruism An Illusion?

by Isabelle Sambles



Altruism is a selfless concern for the wellbeing of others. Immediately you might think of characters who perform apparent altruistic acts like Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela; both individually infamous for their acts of love and peace worldwide. But could you go as far as to say they did these acts because they were selfish? For one, Mother Teresa was a nun and thus by performing these kind acts it would guarantee her into heaven so what were the motive behinds her actions? Equally Nelson Mandela’s actions lead him to become the South African president. In this article I aim to figure out if we can ever call an act altruistic or are we all egoists?

There is an ethical theory called ethical egoism, which deals with this exact concept. An ethical egoist would look at how consequences of ones actions would benefit them. For instance, if a child disobeyed his parents, he would make a decision on whether to tell them or not based on the best interest for him.

Moreover, an egoist would define a good action as being the action that benefits the moral agent. Thus, an Ethical egoist would argue that we all have an obligation to do good in this world which is why we act selfishly. Even the actions that appear altruistic are in fact egotistical. For instance, if a firefighter were to save a family from the burning house, on the surface this would seem like a very selfless action as he is putting his own life at risk to save others. However, as being a firefighter is his job, he would have trained to access the risks and so he would be aware that it would be safe to go and save them, as well as, by saving the family, he would be regarded as a hero and gain respect of people as well as a possible promotion at work for his actions which would improve his standard of living. Therefore, this shows his actions were based on his self-interest rather than altruism.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Christmas Bauble

by April Ironside


The Christmas Bauble is one of the most popular festive decorations that many families use to help embellish their homes with at this time of year.  Everyone seems so familiar with them, but do they actually know where they originate from or why we have them?

The first decade of the 1800s introduced the Christmas tree decorations which included eatables as fruit – specifically apples and nuts. The reason that these were used for decoration was simply because that is what grew on trees.  Also, the fruits symbolised the regeneration of life which would happen when leading into spring.  After this, other fruits began to be suspended from the branches of trees, along with paper streamers.

As the tradition of Christmas trees and ornaments became more widespread, each country added their own contributions to the decorations.  In the UK, ornaments of paper and small gifts began to appear in small hollows of branches in trees or became suspended by a piece of thread.  Some countries got so into embellishing their trees, it was sometimes hard to see the tree underneath.

Photography: Clarence Pier

by Gabriella Watson






Why Using a Phone While Driving Is As Bad As Drink Driving

by Rebecca Pascoe

In an age in which mobile phones are constantly in use, it is becoming harder to separate technology from our day to day lives. The majority of people have a smartphone and when this is constantly buzzing it can be distracting and hard to ignore. Perhaps this is why the number of road accidents, including mobile phones, is on the rise.

Since 2005, more than 200 people have been killed in England and Wales in accidents involving mobile phones. Yet people still decide to use their phones while driving, despite being aware of the possible consequences. When travelling at 50 mph, your car travels 45 metres in 2 seconds. Any hazard could happen in front of you in this time, meaning by the time you look up it could be too late to stop. Therefore, we need to think to ourselves: is replying to that text worth a life?

Although the penalties for this offence are increasing, with the punishment now being six points on your licence and a fine, is this enough for an activity that can cost multiple lives within seconds? You only need to read the news to see the devastation that mobiles can cause on the road, yet it still seems as if the message is not being received by thousands of drivers. 6 points in the first 2 years is enough to cost a new driver their licence and still a Brake survey found that 19% of young drivers admit to texting at the wheel at least once a month, compared with 11% of older drivers taking the risk. American research has revealed that 80% of young drivers make or receive phone calls while driving and that 72% text.

"My Perfect Christmas": Ms Hart, Dr Purves and Mr Hamlet





Ms Hart


What is your favourite Christmas Song
We're Walking in the Air - reminds me of being a small child watching the film on TV with my brother and sisters. We had an old gas fire and I remember being huddled around it, melting bars of chocolate in the flames then licking the molten remains!  

What is your favourite Christmas film?
The Snowman!  The end scene is so tragic, a reminder that life is short and fragile so hold on to precious moments whenever and wherever you can.  

What is your favourite Christmas book?
A Christmas Carol.  This is a piece of genius and I re-read it every year.  The opening chapter is clever and highly amusing.  If you haven't read it, make it your top priority this holiday!  Adding to this, The Muppets Christmas Carol is the best adaptation you'll watch, so add this to the list of things to do this holiday. 

What is your favourite Christmas food and drink?
Mince pies because they are yummy.  Served with cream, of course. A cup of hot chocolate with nutmeg and cinnamon is a very close second.  

What was the worst Christmas gift you have received?
I don't think it is possible to receive a terrible gift.  If someone has gone to the effort of thinking of you, buying or making a gift, wrapping it and giving it you, that is the most wonderful in itself.  

What are the best and/or worst things about Christmas and/or the New Year?
Best thing is time with my family. I hate New Year.  What an arbitrary load of nonsense. I love Christmas.  I'm not at all religious but I love the story of Mary and Joseph, their hardship and epic journey, and the amazing birth of Jesus.  






Dr Purves

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why?
Band Aid (the original), I think it is really poignant at a time of merriment and excess especially with the news real images from Michael Buerk’s first reports on the plains of Ethiopia. In terms of carols, I really love O Holy Night, the more traditional versions, I think there are a couple of really beautiful, evocative moments in it.
What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
Does The Great Escape count?
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why?
Roast goose, because it is just really delicious.

"My Perfect Christmas": Ellen Latham, Helen Jackson, Will Hall and Hermione Barrick



Ellen Latham


What is your favourite Christmas song and why?
Newsong - Back Where You Belong. It's not really a Christmas song or have anything to do with Christmas except it being a Christian song. Although we aren't religious, it's always been a family favourite, reminding us of the white Christmases we spent in Ohio when I was younger. We would all spend the day decorating the house and the tree to the backing track of the Newsong album.
What is your favourite Christmas movie and why?
I feel like the correct answer is Love, Actually, but I kind of hate that movie (I know, a controversial opinion.) My favourite movie that is always on the TV at Christmas (although again not actually a Christmas movie) is Chicken Run. I will always love it, no matter how old I am.
What is your favourite Christmas book and why?
I tend to re-read my favourite books over the holiday, even if it's for the fifth or sixth time. My favourites include: Catch 22 -  Joseph Heller, Stardust - Neil Gaiman (the movie also makes for a good watch over the holidays) and The Inheritance Cycle - Christopher Paolini.
What is your favourite Christmas food?
My favourite meal on Christmas day is breakfast/brunch. We have always had the tradition of having kedgeree, and nothing says Christmas more than the smell of smoked haddock in the morning... 
What is the worst present you ever received?
I honestly don't remember ever getting a terrible present. I'm sure when I was younger I was less than elated to receive a pair of socks, but nothing I can remember stands out as a bad present.
What are you hoping for this Christmas?
Honestly, it might sound cheesy, but just some time to relax and have fun with the family, even if it does mean getting overly-competitive playing board games. My older sister is back from university, and it's only next year that I'll be at university too, so family time for us is really special.
What do you like best/worst about Christmas and/or New Year?
The best part: I love the Christmas spirit and the anticipation building up to the day. It's not like a birthday where you're the only person in a good mood; everyone is just as excited and happy as you are.The worst part: Having to go to work and do revision for mocks in January...





Helen Jackson

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why?
WHAM! Last Christmas, because the music video raises so many questions, not least “how did no one realise George Michael was gay?”.
What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
Elf, because do I need a reason?
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why?
The Box of Delights, because not only does it bring back nostalgic memories of children returning home from boarding school on the train to meet their governess (maybe this still happens today, I don't know), it also reminds me of the days when my parents used to read me a bedtime story.
The BBC also did a TV series in the 1980s, but I think I prefer the book a little bit more.
What is your favourite Christmas food item and why?
I'd have to go with a (properly cooked) Brussels sprout, or a nice parsnip I think.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

"My Perfect Christmas": Dr Richmond and Mrs Morgan



Dr Richmond:

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why?
My favourite Christian carol has to be ‘It Came upon a Midnight Clear’. It’s lovely to sing the words: “That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold”. It’s even better to sing these words at Midnight Mass with the frost outside. My non-Christian choice would be George Michael’s ‘Last Christmas’. Once I hear that on the radio, I know the Christmas season has begun!
What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
It’s really not about Christmas, but I still associate ‘The Wizard of Oz’, starring Judy Garland, as a film I love to watch over Christmas. And the Wicked Witch of the West still makes me feel very scared! 
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why?
The best story ever told is that of a Jewish boy born in a stable that was sent by God with the message of peace and hope. The world really needs to hear this message at the moment.
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why?
Christmas pudding, of course. And I love it with lashings of custard, not brandy butter/cream.
What was the worst present you ever received? 
Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’. I have no problem with atheists who put forward cogent arguments against the existence of God. But Dawkins needs to learn the basics of theology and philosophy before he takes on the intellectual minds of Augustine and Aquinas. His arguments against the design and cosmological arguments for the existence of God are laughable and embarrassing. Someone ought to teach Dawkins what ‘fides quaerens intellectum’ actually means.
What present are you hoping for this Christmas?
My mum smiling whilst walking around Riga Christmas market with me and my brother (it will be her 80th birthday) whilst feeling healthy and ready to face 2017! 
What do you like best and/or least about Christmas and/or New Year?
I don’t like Boxing Day: you feel so deflated after the run-up to Christmas day with nothing much to look forward to for months.





Mrs Morgan:


What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why? 
'All I Want for Christmas is You' by Mariah Carey. It is, very aptly, as camp as Christmas. 
What is your favourite Christmas film and why? 
To watch with my kids it's got to be 'Elf' which we watch every year. When they go to bed I watch 'Love Actually'. Cheesy but a classic. 
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why? 
That would have to be the nativity. Timeless fiction! 
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why? 

Poem: The Walk

by James Johnson



Darkness,
What is it?
Am I to know?
The tragedies, the sorrow.
My crumpled soul, your withering heart.
They weren’t to know,
They weren’t to feel,
They weren’t to think, of, the bewilderment.
I see all these stones,
Crumbling under their own weight,
Like the people underneath them.
Every step amongst the souls,
The stale, coughing souls.
As I walk, I hear them.
Their pitiful screams, their sighs of relief,
Their cries of sorrow, their wails of disappointment.
I see it!
I see you!
You rise, like the light amongst the grey.
The others are a blur,
Your wings spread, as you soar into the heavens.
I too, take flight,
Witnessing my dull, earthly flesh fall upon the frozen ground.
I see: everything.
I see the two of them, their eyes darting, breathing, slowly.
Do not worry my love, they shall seal their own fate.                                                                                                                                       
Yes!
Let the graveyard be no more.

For all life deserves this.

"My Perfect Christmas": Mr Doyle, Mrs Kirby and Mr Rees


Mr Doyle:

What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why?
Either 'O Holy Night', because the music takes me on a journey (it really soars as it moves through) or Dame Shirley singing 'Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire' (for obvious reasons)!
What is your favourite Christmas film and why?
Alastair Sim's 'Scrooge - just a perfect film for Xmas. 
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why?
It has to be Beatrix Potter's 'The Tailor of Gloucester' - although this Christmas I will be reading 'Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed' by Nicola Morgan.
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why?
Fillet of beef in pastry - it is a real pleaser and you have to go to some trouble to make it properly, so showing someone has made the effort. Also: champagne, malt - anything with a %!
What was the worst present you ever received?
A plastic cowboy figure - about three inches tall - from my godmother!
What present are you hoping for this Christmas?
I bought myself the one I wanted - so, any cook book for a cuisine I have yet to try to cook.
What do you like best and/or least about Christmas and/or New Years?
Xmas Eve and the anticipation of the lovely day to come. Worst – sprouts! I have never enjoyed the New Year celebrations, so do not partake!




Mrs Kirby:


What is your favourite Christmas song/piece of music and why? 
'White Christmas', Bing Crosby. Classic. I also adore Judy Garland's version of 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'. Vintage Americana.
What is your favourite Christmas film and why? 
'White Christmas' closely followed by 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'. The latter is the best version of Dickens' story by a mile.
What is your favourite Christmas book/story and why? 
'The Night before Christmas'. I always used to read this with my dad on Christmas Eve.
What is your favourite Christmas food/drink and why? 
Mince pies, obviously, and red wine (does this count?).
What was the worst present you ever received? Christmas paper napkins - three of them.
What present are you hoping for this Christmas? 
A fire stick.
What do you like best and/or least about Christmas and/or New Year?
I've always loved all things Christmas, but now - with children - the sheer magic of it is suddenly doubled. I find the sentimentality of New Year tedious, but it is a good excuse for a party. 

Poem: Twenty Years

Ananthi Parekh wrote this poem for her parents on their 20th wedding anniversary (December 7, 2016).  




Twenty Years

She waited on one end of the phone. Listening intently for the 
Break in the highly pitched purrs
And there it came, a soft 
click before the 
groggy voice of her husband 
echoing from thousands of miles 
to the gentle curve of her ear
His happily grated voice bringing an upward curve to her chewed lips. 
And similarly her newly 
awakened tone 
making him happy his sleep was disrupted, pleased 
he'll wake slightly later 
knowing he spoke to 
her. 
And they don't speak of 
anything out of ordinary, they 
talk only of daily life, as if 
these miles were nothing 
and as if the kettle was boiling for the both of their waiting mugs, because 
soon there will be 
his mug next to hers, 
because it's only a few sleeps 
until he's 
home. 

They would read me the story 
of Cinderella 
and her searching prince, 
or that of the Beast 
and his patient Belle
But as time passes 
in my own story, I realise 
the happily ever after 
I thought only existed in 
those fairy tales 
was truly found by 
them. 


Because a million miles mean nothing when a crush lasts 20 years.


Friday, 9 December 2016

Happy 100th Birthday, Kirk Douglas

by James Burkinshaw


In a year that has taken away so many loved and admired figures (from Prince and David Bowie to Victoria Wood and Alan Rickman) long before their time, it is a positive pleasure to celebrate the longevity of perhaps the last star from Hollywood's 'Golden Era' - Kirk Douglas - who turned 100 today.

In many ways it seems appropriate that Douglas is the last survivor: with his distinctive square jaw, he always looked as if he had been carved out of granite, most iconically in the epic Spartacus. His role as the heroic leader of a (historically factual) slave revolt remains the one for which he is most famous.

However, he was more than just an action hero. Some of his finest performances were in film noir classics such as Out of the Past and Ace in the Hole, playing morally ambiguous characters or even outright villains. He was also an accomplished stage actor, starring as McMurphy in the first Broadway production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Even Spartacus was more than just a typical action movie. The script was written by Dalton Trumbo, a screenwriter 'blacklisted' by Hollywood's film studios throughout the 1950s after being identified as a communist by Senator McCarthy's 'Un-American Activities' Committee. It was Douglas who insisted that Trumbo received a screen credit, a courageous move at the time - and one that helped break the power of the blacklist as it became the most successful movie in Universal Studios' history. Spartacus retains its visual power over half a century later (worth viewing on the big-screen, if you ever get the opportunity), with its vivid technicolour and epic battle scenes. However, unlike so many other action movies, it is underpinned by an intelligent script and some powerful and subtle acting, not least by Douglas himself as Spartacus. Its portrayal of noble slaves rising up against corrupt and arrogant Romans was seen as a critique of America's own history of slavery and continuing racial oppression (the film was released in 1960, before the Civil Rights Act or Voting Rights Act). In fact the film was picketed by right-wing protesters such as the so-called League of Human Decency. Furthermore, it included a particularly subversive section (known as the "oysters and snails" scene) between Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis suggesting that sexuality was a matter of choice rather than a moral issue; it was considered so shocking at the time that the studio insisted it was cut from the original (it was only restored when the film was re-mastered and re-released in the 1990s).

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Former UKIP Leader Diane James Visits PGS

by Charlotte Phillips


After a tumultuous few months for Diane James, the ex-UKIP leader spoke with vigour and passion in a Politics Society talk entitled “2016 and the 3D Effect”. Despite being a  self-proclaimed hard Brexiteer, she spoke of some of the positives of the European Union set-up - the mix of party demographics in terms of the MEPs (most of the MEPs are from UKIP, the Green Party or ar independent, along with a few Labour and Conservative members) rejects the two-party stranglehold. She began her talk by explaining that she is someone who lives life in three places – Britain, Brussels and Strasbourg. She had been in Brussels the previous night, voting on various issues, including a significant increase in 2017 EU budget contributions. As a member of the 'Constitution Committee', she spends much of her time in tri-partite meetings with the Lords, MPs and MEPs from across the political spectrum, focused on the impact of Brexit on the current EU constitution. She claimed that many EU politicians seem "oblivious" as to why the UK voted to leave. 

James lamented her lack of power within the EU, noting that “no matter what I do  . . . my influence is almost non-existent”. She pointed out that, even if all UK MEPs voted the same way, it doesn’t make up even 10% of the parliamentary chamber in the EU, and that the opportunity to reject council decisions in the EU parliament is tiny. Voting is undertaken by hand signals and occasionally electronically – James noted that she thought all voting should be electronic to achieve greater accountability; and explained that all UKIP MEPs give explanations of their votes online. She recalled 650 subjects being voted on in just 2 ½ hours in Strasbourg, highlighting how stressful it can be to be an MEP - and that the workload has only increased since Brexit. 

James felt that 2016 would go down in history, largely due to Brexit and Trump. She thinks significant votes will also be cast in Italy and Austria, either catalysing or halting the political shocks of 2016 -  certainly the “anti-populists” hope they can be halted. However, she felt there was a strong chance of a far-right victory in Austria on Sunday. 

What has created the disruption of 2016? In her view, it was neither populism nor anti-globalisation; she thinks that people appreciate the benefits of globalisation and are happy to see new markets and development. However, there is a trade-off between these benefits and their own sovereignty, identity and culture. James believes a passion for the latter is what has driven a higher voter turnout for these contentious political events - people  felt it was worth going out and voting. She claimed that no government had ever lost a referendum until the EU vote in June. She believes the so-called “Remainiacs” are unable to accept the unexpected.

James covered the topic of the US election in some depth, pointing out that in the US everyone expected Clinton to win – the polls were completely wrong. However, she believes the shock is not in the outcome itself, but in the "architects" of the outcome - the factors that led to these unpredicted events. However, James didn't expand on this in any depth, instead moving on to suggest that in both the UK and US pollsters need to rethink and reorganise and analyse new methodological possibilities or they will lose business. Most important, parties need to understand the dynamics driving voter behaviour. She said “I want to see the demise of Project Fear and Project Blame” in the UK. She felt that Trump campaigned on “back me” because he is offering a positive, new vision for drastic change in America. In James' view, Clinton campaigned on not offering much change, which is not good enough for what James called “astute” voters. She also suggested that the position that the media is taking in politics needs severe attention. James claimed that Trump's economic management, particularly his proposal for investment in infrastructure, might deliver what he has set out to deliver. Her support for Trump, although she claimed it as picking "the best of bad options", was highly contested in the question-and-answer session which rounded off the evening. 

HMS Illustrious Leaves Portsmouth for the Last Time

by Tony Hicks and Nicola Watson



HMS Illustrious left Portsmouth this morning for the last time.

Photo by Tony Hicks
Years in service 32
Miles sailed 900,000
22,000 Tones
685 Crew
210 Metres long

£2m Sold for scrap to Turkey

Photo by Tony Hicks

Photo by Tony Hicks

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Are The Second Amendment’s Chances Shot?

by Philippa Noble


With the US election passing just a month ago, it seems fitting to once again evaluate the Second Amendment, and its apparent necessity to a lot of American citizens.

The Second Amendment, reading:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.“
can be interpreted in two ways. One, arguably the most well-known and heavily supported, says that every US citizen has the legal right to bear arms without links to any military force. The second, however, details that individual State militias may be allowed weaponry but not individuals separate to that.

The second meaning of this amendment immediately appealed to me as an almost unheard of compromise between the (stereotypical) views of Republicans and Democrats. Despite Hillary Clinton’s attempts at compromising with gun laws during her electoral campaign (and the numerous attempts Obama has made), I can’t believe reducing access to guns is comparable to how simply this argument reduces the hold many have on the Second Amendment. Nevertheless, some could argue that there is more than just the meaning of the Second Amendment that would swing both supporters and votes. A resounding number of American citizens use their guns for hobbies (such as hunting) or as a means of protection. Some could even call them vital in country life where some animals are hostile and potentially lethal. Even in cities, some would argue that guns are necessary to protect people against intruders or attackers. They could also say that even attempting to restrict guns would spawn a black market without any government control (a well voiced argument for legalising drugs as well). This, I believe, is all well and good until guns used for security turn into a wall of guns that aren’t properly locked away.

It seems odd, despite the cities being feared for their gang violence, dark alleyways, and the lack of a tightknit community, that many shootings originate from children and teenagers getting into locked cupboards full of guns – typically in the country. Another oddity is the rising frequency of mass shootings in the US since 2000 – with five occurring in 2015. You would think, by now, that America would unanimously agree that guns need restrictions for the safety of the entire population. We can certainly see Democrats pushing for change, as they have for years, yet there are still many who disagree. “If only they had a gun” they cry after every mass shooting, but they did have a gun, only the person who did was the shooter. Then they quickly descend the slippery slope of “guns in cities”, “guns in the streets”, “guns in the car”, “guns in school” and it delves into ridicule. Perhaps the stance of a British citizen, who has never really been involved with guns at any level, isn’t the most sympathetic of routes, yet it baffles me that Americans have such a lack of understanding that hobbies and addled theories of safety can’t be placed above the lives of others and clearly proven drops in gun violence.

Monday, 5 December 2016

John Donne: Poet of Love and Death

by Lizzie  Howe 

John Donne’s poetry proves that attitudes to love and death remain unchanged even after 400 years.


The poet was born on the 22nd of January, 1572, into a wealthy Catholic family who were the direct descendants of Thomas More. He grew up in and was shaped by the tumultuous period of the time in which Catholics were heavily persecuted simply for practising their religion openly. Donne’s own brother died in prison in 1593 after being convicted of Catholic sympathies. This often dangerous life that he led was inconceivably different to the life of many readers of his poems today. He was a complex character who even at some points appeared to recognise that in himself there was an aspect of a split personality: the infamous ‘Jack Donne’ of his youth (a passionate lover of women, wine and decadence) and ‘Dr Donne’ (the older and morally sound Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral). The experiences of his life, and the society in which he lived, could not be further removed from our lives today. Excluding the persecution and possible death that he risked every day that he continued to live his life as a Catholic, the England that Donne lived in was a chaotic one. Western medicine was not yet even in its earliest infancy, public executions were practiced daily and were attended by those wishing to be entertained by the torture and gruesome death of criminals, and England was constantly at war with the majority of Europe.

In the midst of this turmoil and bloodshed, John Donne was writing poetry that still resonates today with the modern reader.

John Donne was a remarkably progressive character in the 17th century. He felt that torture was a hindrance to the legal process and his poetry shows a greater respect for women than many of his contemporaries. However, he was still writing to reflect the attitudes of the day towards many important subjects. Two themes that he addressed regularly throughout his career were love and death; often intermingling the two in one complex poem.

Jack Donne, the earlier character that he felt he had assumed in his youth, was a poet who’s work was bawdy, irreverent and often bordering on blasphemy. The character of Donne at this time was no different from the young and wealthy playboys of the 21st century. He was described by one contemporary as “A great visitor of Ladies, a great frequenter of Plays, a great writer of conceited Verses.”. It is easy to find a kindred spirit in this young and light-hearted man who used poetry often as an attempt to gain access to the bed-chamber of a young woman. Although the medium and style of message used today by young men around the world is different, at its core the same principle still applies. His verses are often tongue-in-cheek and hyperbolic in an attempt to woo a lady into forgoing her chastity. In “The Flea”, Donne used the ridiculous argument of a flea sucking on the blood of both him and the object of his affections as a way to convince the lady to sacrifice her “honour” for him. These complex arguments are humorous but the basis of the poem (longing and lust) are easily read in this and other early poems by Donne. “The Good-Morrow” (often considered thematically to be one of Donne’s earliest works), explores love in a way that is realistic and moving. The wish for the lovers to remain together, isolated from the world and all of the responsibilities that it entails is something that has not changed for the last four hundred years and Donne effectively conveyed the yearning for this in a way that is still easily interpreted by someone reading it in this day and age.

Poem: The Beach

by Fenella Johnson


 
The sharks killed them,
those blood faced boys,
whose bodies were strung in triads like Orion's Belts by the shore,
like crabs on rocks
or coins on dead men's eyes,
the gaping mouths of their wounds
like avalanches of roses on nylon swimming costumes-
the others bowed penitential,gutter-mouthed,skin choked,
legless on the stones:
playing at men's sport beneath the abstract lustre of the sky,
we watched them for a long time,pretending to be alone.

Remember when you and I were
seaweed children,
hearts eager and floppy,
prune thumbed,
preoccupied with the shrug of salt
not yet tilting adulthood into loose limbed being:
and the ritual-
we would scatter with our speckled feet,
the mottled pebbles,
that scuttling dance of scavengers
to pick the perfect prize to place in our pockets,
to skim at the ocean in pithy fits of foaming rage.

Our dives never split the seams of the ocean
but we too would go shark hunting on the beach,
delivering our coarse curses and our war cries in all our glorious savagery
when we wheeled our arms vicious eyed as we threw-
and watched our makeshift weapons spin across the water
our hands above our careful wounded faces in poses of glamour.
One day you hit a woman bathing,
the glossy star of her mouth bled from the stone that punctured it:
I thought of tyres being let out when I heard her curious awful exhale,
it was the same noise the boys by the beach made
like cymbals clapping in throats.