Sunday, 28 February 2016

Why Racial Diversity in Hollywood is Important

by Kelvin Shiu

Why not nominated?
Racial diversity in Hollywood has been a popular topic this year. Because for the second year in a row all 20 actor/actress nominations were given to Caucasians. With Will Smith's performance in the film Concussion being notably absent. There have been improvements in diversity in Hollywood especially in TV and streaming services in recent years, such as the Netflix show Masters of None created by Aziz Ansari. In fact this show tackles the issues of diversity head on in the episode titled 'Indians on TV' as Aziz's character complains about how hard it is for indian actors to get cast and how often the characters available for them are stereotypical and borderline racist. Does an indian character have to have an indian accent? Why are so many indian characters local shop owners or janitors? The world is an incredibly diverse place so why is Hollywood not?

Michael Caine responded to the Oscar fiasco by saying that these awards should be purely a measure of talent and not skewed such as to accommodate for more racial diversity. Which is a fair comment, at the end of the day you don't want an oscar going to Kevin Hart just because he's black. It could just be that these last two years the best actors have all been white. Which suggests to me that the problem is not about who's being awarded awards. It's more to do with opportunity being given to minority actors and creative content which consists of complex characters for racial minorities being created. In 2012-2013 minority actors claimed 6.5% of the lead roles in broadcast scripted programming, the 93.5% being white. Which is a shocking statistic.

Jet Li
Minority actors are struggling a lot more than they should be. The most prominent Asian (Chinese) actors which spring to my mind in movies are Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. All of which are (or were) martial artists. So in the world of film, the most interesting Asian people are the ones who can do Kung-Fu. At the end of the day, the ability to be able to perform martial arts is not what defines a race. Writers and studios in particular seem to feel more confident in their projects when they rely upon leading white actors. Many seem to not dare to skew away from this trend. Which just doesn't seem right an a world which should be inclusive and have equal opportunities for everyone no matter the skin colour, gender or sexuality. The diversity issue needs to be tackled such as to allow for significant progression of our world to evolve towards being the inclusive, embracing and open world that it should be. Progress has been made. Already massive progressions have been made for diversity such as in the film The Danish Girl and the TV series Transparent both featuring transgender characters. But there's a lot more that we can do to fully embrace diversity in all demographics.

The R-rated comedy Deadpool was a risk by Twentieth Century Fox. As it's the first R- rated comic book film of its kind, using the intellectual property of marvel comics. It was a massive success in the box office and now many studios are considering following in the footsteps of Deadpool. My point being that risks can pay off and the world of film and TV is one which should not to conform to trends and uniformity. More stories need to be created to accommodate for diversity, more studios need to take a leap of faith, and as a result more amazing cinema and TV will be produced. There are many more stories to be told and much more diversity to be embraced in our world. The sooner it is embraced the sooner audiences can enjoy it and the sooner the 'Caucasian Awards' can become the Oscars which is a true depiction of rewarding all the talent which actors of all different kinds have to offer. 

If You Are a Free Market Economist, Are You a Feminist?

by Alex Sligo-Young

Efficiency is a big subject of modern political rhetoric. When a politician mentions this term they are typically referencing the idea of economic efficiency, that they believe to be derived from the operation of the free market. Essentially they are advocating an agenda that includes the privatisation of nationalised markets, the removal of trade restrictions and the deregulation of industry. In short, this is believed to allow profit incentives to work effectively resulting in a satisfactory allocation of resources and ultimately the production of more GDP with the same amount of resources. Although there are several large assumptions that this kind of theory rests on I will not be addressing them in the following article. Instead I will consider how a shift in societal values and norms would allow a far more dramatic increase in productivity for the UK. In particular I will be addressing the issue of gender roles in the modern society and how they restrict the economy.

The graph above demonstrates how girls have consistently out performed boys in their GCSEs since 1989, with the gap showing no signs of closing. In the GCSE results from 2014 girls were 8.8 percentage points ahead of boys in terms of their results. This discrepancy also continues to university where 55% of full time undergraduates are female. So why is there a gender pay gap if this is true? Of course it would be easy for me to simplify an incredibly complex social issue in order to write a good article but I will try to avoid that. Notable reasons that the government’s national archive has noted include the difference in subjects studied at A-level and at University. The most popular subject for boys at A-level is Maths while English is most popular with girls. Perhaps this is a possible explanation as maths related subjects are associated with higher economic rewards in the work place.

However, I believe that it is far more than just the selection of subjects at school that stops women from actualising their full potential. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie postulates that in times of old when strength was valued as the most important attribute it was reasonable for men to be the leaders, but no more. In the modern economy creativity and original thought are economically rewarded qualities that are not confined to a single gender. Hence, it seems ridiculous for women to be confined to a more maternal role while men are still considered to be the ‘hunter-gatherers’, providing for their family because of an archaic tradition. One poignant depiction of the clash between gender based expectation and economic logic is presented in the series Cuckoo that is currently on BBC3. In this series Lorna the archetypal mother figure subverts the expectation of her character by demanding that her aptly named husband ‘Chief Ken’ (as he is called by their intellectually stunted lodger Dale) takes paternity leave as she has the possibility of a new job promotion. In the rest of this episode the writers explore Ken’s reaction to this demand and how he has trouble accepting it, as he fears it may emasculate him. Ngozi Adichie describes this kind of expectation as the ‘small, hard cage’ of masculinity that boys are put in. 

Grant House Photography Competition

by Laura Burden

This article is slightly late in coming as the competition took place in the Autumn Term – but hopefully you’ll enjoy seeing the results anyway! In the spirit of jazzing up the décor at the top of A block, we decided to invite keen photographers in Grant to submit up to three images.

Rory Gilles’ photograph of a sunset (Year 9 joint winner)

 Jason Baker, our school photographer, judged the pictures. Jason said: “I was looking for good use of camera controls like focus, exposure, depth of field, followed by a good solid composition.  Then, finally, if the picture had all these things done well, it needed to have produced something a bit different in order to win.  The standard across the whole competition is very high you have all done really well.  This has not been easy to decide on!”

Rory Gillies and Alice Taylor-Smith were the joint winners for Year 9. Jason said: “Both have used the camera controls very well, the exposure and composition is very good.  I liked the observation in The Andes to produce something different but visually interesting.”

Alice Taylor-Smith’s picture of the Andes (Year 9 joint winner)

 In year 10, there were many possible winners. Highly commended went to: Alex Gibson, Cordelia Hobbs, Ellie Williams-Brown, Thea Morgan, Milly Henderson and Pippa Noble.

“Bolognan Sunset with Dragonfly” by Dorothy Whyte-Venables (Year 10 winner)

First prize for Year 10 went to Dorothy Whyte Venables. Jason said: “Excellent use of the camera controls, the exposure is perfect and focus is spot on. Both are not easy to achieve in this situation and I guess that you didn’t have long to take the picture.  If either was off just a little then you wouldn’t be able to see the detail in the dragonfly’s wings.”

Sienna Bentley’s picture of an escalator (Year 11 winner)

 The Year 11 winner was Sienna Bentley for her use of perspective in her picture of an escalator.
Year 12 was another year group with a large number of entries and a particularly high standard. Highly commended pupils were: Jack Ford and Joe Stirrup.

Jack Ford (Year 12 highly commended). Jason praised the use of colour in this shot.

'The Autism Spectrum: Interests

by Jack Rockett

The first railway built in the world was between Stockton and Darlington that opened in 1825. After this, railways were rapidly constructed across the whole country until there were over 100 railway companies and 29000km of railway. In 1921, the railways were merged into four companies and then in 1948, they were nationalised and British Rail was founded. However, during the 1950s Beeching ripped apart the railway network and so now less that two thirds remains. The next big change to the railways was in the late 1990s when the whole system was privatised into over 20 companies as it stands today. Today there is still over 15000km of railway in the United Kingdom of which about 5000 is electrified but this is set to increase massively over the next 20 years. Although you are probably thinking that this has nothing to do with the Autism Spectrum, it is one of the reasons why I know so much about trains and why I am so fascinated by them. Everyone on the autism spectrum has an interest that quite quickly sucks them in and they have to find out everything about it. For me, it is clearly trains and as a result, I can map out all of the railways in Great Britain and I know all of the changes that are going to happen to our railway network in the next 25 years.

Along the autism spectrum, people at different levels of functioning usually develop different interests. Many nonverbal people on the autism spectrum have far more particular interests and usually develop a certain activity that they find very fascinating and calming that they will do all the time. These usually involve things that neurotypical people find very odd like spinning a wheel or stacking cans which may seem very boring at the surface but for these people, doing these activities is highly important for keeping them calm. For people who are higher functioning like me, it is common to have a very deep interest with a certain subject which may change over time but could equally become a lifelong interest. I first got interested in trains when I started getting the train to school back in 2009 when I was in year 7 and the way in which all of the railway and train companies were organised across the country fascinated me immensely. I like how the railways on maps were neatly laid out and how all the different companies blended together and got obsessed with learning where all of the railways in the country are.

Of course neurotypical people can develop very deep interests but they are usually broader and lead onto other things and they can easily leave an activity related to the interest without feeling uncomfortable unless they are trying to meet a deadline etc. Interests for people on the Autism Spectrum are usually seen more as a way to enter their own world and a way of getting rid of stress. When I have what feels like 500billion things that I need to do, I will very quickly find myself laying on the sofa or my bed researching what changes are being made to railways around the world or reading something about a subject that interests me at the time. Even though I won’t get any of the things done, after I do feel far less stressed because I have been able to do something I enjoy and it helps me to be more relaxed which makes it easier to do what I need to do.

This is the main trait from which people on the Autism Spectrum achieve the most out of their life. Their special interest is usually a massive help for getting into university or getting a job in a specific area of work and it is the main reason why some people on the Autism Spectrum become very skilled and successful in their chosen field. Because of the high quantity of information that I know about trains, and the fact that they interest me so much, it was very easy to write about why I wanted to study civil engineering at University on my personal statement. Writing it became very easy as for half of it I could just talk about something that I love. Also my tutor said that it was one of the best personal statements that he had ever seen and I got offers from all 5 of my university choices. 

Friday, 26 February 2016

Cecil Rhodes: Hero or Villain?

by Gemma Webb

Cecil Rhodes was born and raised in England during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837 - 1901) when the British Empire was at its height. He was a product of this imperial environment and it coloured most of what he achieved, both good and bad. Beginning his career in the Kimberley diamond mine in 1871, Rhodes became one of the forefathers of the South African mining industry before casting his gaze further afield to agriculture. Rhodes entered politics in 1880, and was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony within a decade. He died in 1902 having irrevocably changed both South Africa’s political and industrial landscapes.

The historiography of Cecil Rhodes can be evenly divided into two camps: chauvinistic approval or utter vilification. His story is living proof that history is written by the victors: these two camps almost exclusively represent pre- and post-1993 literature. As the apartheid regime in South Africa collapsed, the image of Rhodes as the founding father of South African society went with it. History began to focus on the questionable means with which he brought about this society, branding him a ‘racist mass murderer’ who connived his way to wealth and influence in a lawless frontier culture.

For many, Rhodes became a symbol of the institutional racism of South Africa. 2015’s #RhodesMustFall campaign brought this sentiment to the global stage. Students at the University of Cape Town demanded the removal of Rhodes’ statue, believing that this would initiate the fall of ‘white supremacy and privilege’ in both their university and their nation. The statue was removed a month after protests began, and the media coverage of the event encouraged students around the world to demand the removal of Rhodes’ statue from their own universities. In May 2015, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, approved plans to begin the process of changing its name so as to shed its affiliation with the colonial behemoth.

Whilst I don't object to the removal of these symbols of black oppression, I would argue that Cecil Rhodes was unfairly scapegoated as such a symbol. A distinction must be made between racism and extreme ethnocentrism, i.e. the belief in the superiority of one’s ethnic group. I would argue that Rhodes falls into the latter category: it wasn’t that he believed blacks were inferior, rather that he believed that anyone who wasn't British was inferior. Or, to quote Rhodes himself, if you are an ‘Englishman, [you] have subsequently won first prize in the lottery of life’. Many historians analyse Rhodes’ actions out of context to give the illusion of racism. For example, the Glen Grey Act, which radically reduced the voting franchise of black Africans and pushed native tribes from their land to make way for industrial development, is infamous whereas the Jameson raid, Rhodes’ catastrophic failure to overthrow the white Afrikaner government of the Transvaal, is often glossed over.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


by Tasmin Nandu-Swatton

“I came here because nothing good ever happened in my life” reads part of a note left nailed to a tree in this infamous forest, site of the most suicides in Japan, Aokigahara, known to the locals as 'Jukai' (Sea of trees), is a vast and dense forest located at the base of Mt. Fuji. It is unknown as to just how many people end their own lives per year among the trees and shrubbery, however around 70 to 100 bodies were uncovered each year in the early 2000s. There is much speculation as to why so many choose Aokigahara as their final resting place however no one really knows the true answer. Yet many feel that the novel Kuroi Junkai published in 1960 by author Seicho Matsumoto, in which the heartbroken main character retreats to Aokigahara to end her life, acted as a trigger as it inspired a wave of copycat suicides. However, the macabre history of the forest spans back much further than that.

Aokigahara is rumoured to have once played host to a series of 'ubasate' (abandoning an old woman) victims. Ubusate was an alleged form of brutal euthanasia that took place in the feudal era of Japan during times of famine. Supposedly, an elderly relative would be carried by a younger member of the family into the mountains, the woods etc. and left to die. As a result of this, many believe that this forest is haunted by the victims of both Ubusate and suicide. The name of the forest alone is notorious enough in Japan to unsettle people when brought into conversation, as I myself learned when asking a few of my Japanese friends about it. I was met with questions such as “Is everything okay?!” “If you come here, you're not planning on going there to...are you?”. In no way had I implied going to the forest, I was simply asking about it out of curiosity. At the same time however, it is unsurprising that they assumed the worst given the reputation of such a place. They went on to talk about suicide in such a casual manner, that it would have shocked most Westerners. This is more than likely due to the fact that it is not particularly considered taboo in their culture due to a number of reasons. For example, the ancient tradition of 'seppeku' (a form of ritual suicide) performed by the Samurai and given the fact that Christianity hardly exists there, it would not be considered a sin.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Learning to Walk

by Holly Lawrence

If you plant an apple pip, the new tree will bear apples that are completely different to the one the pip came from.

The time in which we gain independence is one of the scariest for parents. When we start to respond to an opinion with a contradictory one, when we begin to cross the road without a hand to hold and show characteristics picked up from external causes; causes aside from our parents. Of course, it’s a time which is always looming upon us, but when it actually arrives it takes many people by surprise. To the child, it’s difficult to understand why parents don’t see things the way you do, however parents have to try and get their heads around raising a child in a certain way, only for them to act completely differently.

At first, we’re taught essentials such as walking and speaking. Dialect is picked up from parents, accents and certain vocabulary, however a school environment can quickly increase something stupid like the frequency of the word ‘like’ appearing in a sentence; this is something neither child nor parent truly understand, but it happens, like, a lot. Music tastes develop, talents appear and we all discover what we’re bad at; we change. Teenage rebellion is a whole target market for many bands, television shows and books because it unites the young and separates them from the older.

From the perspective of a parent, what must that be like? Losing control, watching the person you raised begin to raise themselves. They begin to make some mistakes you made and some you avoided, they act like you at times but they’re completely different because this is a different time and a different person. It seems a little bit hard to believe. It might scare you, make you stricter, confuse you, is that why we argue? Being responsible for a life you’re losing control over must bring about a lot of pressure, but is it handled in the best way?

Adults were once young. It may sound stupid to reiterate that but it’s easy to forget. However, the word young doesn’t sum up the attitudes, the environment nor the upbringing. They were young but they were brought up in a completely different world. It could have been in the same house you live in now, but even the lack of a mobile phone or the same typical places for teenagers can change an outlook. It could be one event, it could be many small events, but they’re not going to have the same view on everything as you. It’s not just between parents and teenagers, the fact that no two people can ever share the exact same experience leads to the butterfly effect and then onto a completely different mindset and outlook.

Gravitational Waves: Revealing the Secrets of the Universe

by Elliot Ebert

The science world rejoiced earlier this month with news of a groundbreaking discovery - The existence of gravitational waves. These waves should allow scientists to further explore the secrets of the Universe and hopefully answer questions that were previously unanswerable.

But what are gravitational waves?

Gravitational waves are essentially ripples in spacetime caused by a supermassive collision, predicted in Albert Einsteins Theory of General Relativity which he published in 1915. This followed his Special Theory of Relativity. Einsteins Theory of General Relativity, in short, dictates that we exist in a four dimensional spacetime, (three dimensions of space, one of time) and that the concentration of energy and mass can bend this spacetime.According to his theory, this is the origin of the force of gravity. It can be pictured in a three dimensional sense by a rubber sheet, on which a bowling ball is placed, deforming the sheet. If a marble is then rolled into the deformed area, it will spiral towards the bowling ball. The idea is the same in four dimensions rather than three and, of course, on a much larger scale. Einsteins Theory also predicts that masses moving through spacetime produce gravitational waves which are contortions of spacetime that propagate outwards, much like the wake from a moving boat. These ripples in spacetime can also be produced (more noticeably so) by violent events which occur in the cosmos. And this is precisely what happened in this latest discovery.

The spike in gravitational waves was in fact recorded on the 14th of September 2015 by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) detectors in the US. However, it was not clear what had caused the spike. So began the process of simulating events which would result in the waves which were detected. Only recently, on the 11th of February, was it confirmed that these waves were caused by a black hole merger, 1.3 billion light years away. This would have been an incredibly violent event, with each of the black holes having a mass about 30 times greater than our sun. Just before the black holes merged, they were orbiting one another at a rate of 250 times per second and the energy released during the collision was equal to 1.4 times the mass of our sun (Energy being equivalent to mass through the equation E=mc2, another one of Einsteins equations, where E is energy, m is mass and c is the speed of light). This was what was picked up by LIGO - the ripples in space time as a result of this monumental release of energy, many light years away.

So what use is the discovery?

The Spanish Inquisition: Investigating the Myths

by Jack Ross

Since its founding in 1478 the Spanish Inquisition has been depicted as one of the most controversial topics in European religious history, and until recently it was widely believed that the Spanish Inquisition employed spies at every level in society, and acted barbarically towards ordinary Spaniards, with comparisons being made by historians to Stalin’s NKVD, or Hitler’s SS. The Spanish Inquisition has also been parodied in modern media in television programmes such as Monty Python’s ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition’ which despite adding a comic value to the Inquisition, continued to cement the idea of torture, brutality, and the sinister unexpectedness of the Spanish Inquisition, further reinforcing the horror surrounding the ‘Black Legend’.  

The atrocities that occurred in the Spanish Inquisition were also exploited in the propaganda utilised by the allies to discredit fascist Spain, and this is illustrated by the exaggerated reports of Franco’s oppression of his civilian population.  Franco was considered dangerous to European harmony, as Fascists were believed to be expansionist by nature, so the Inquisition was used as a means of alienating them from international politics, thus weakening their standing in the post-World War Two World. The Inquisition’s policies, such as censorship, were also used by the Spanish people as a convenient excuse for explaining why the Spanish Empire declined, again adding to the infamy surrounding the event. However, the historical viewpoint has recently changed in 1998 when the Vatican made all records regarding the Spanish Inquisition accessible to the public (post Franco), and as a result the revisionist view on the Spanish Inquisition is very different to the traditional historian view of the Black Legend, as the Inquisition is now seen as either an insignificance, or an amplification of the conservative views held by the majority of Spanish people.
One common myth surrounding the Spanish Inquisition is that it utilised familiars or spies from every level of society, who worked tirelessly in the largest of cities to the smallest hamlets, to rid Spain of heresy.  There is some truth in this belief, as the Inquisition did have twenty thousand familiars in its employ, however these familiars were all part time, and were often not a reliable source of information as they could only report on rumour, unless someone actually confessed to them which was rare.  The Inquisition was also not active in some areas of Spain, such as the Fuero Realms, where villagers would on average see an Inquisitor once every ten years, if ever.  This was primarily due to the small number of full-time of Inquisitors, who numbered approximately fifty, and there were never more than three inquisitors in an area at the same time.  The small number of Inquisitors also meant that in some more rural areas of Spain the Inquisition was seen as more of an irrelevance than a ruthless government body.  

Monday, 22 February 2016

Why I'd Vote for Hillary Clinton

Former PGS pupil Sophie Rose is currently in the USA working as part of Hillary Clinton's election campaign. Here, she explains why she supports Clinton for President. 

As the nominations get into full swing, it is safe to say that the pollsters have been a little upturned. Round one: the Iowa caucus. A plausible victory for Trump, until he threw in the towel at the Republican debate, relinquishing the spotlight for Cruz. On the other side, the fighting battle between Hillary and Bernie began to hot up. The two Democrats were only separated by a mere 0.2%. Conversely, New Hampshire was to shake up the political pot even further when Bernie achieved (with credit to his campaign team) a triumphant 60% victory. Nevertheless, Donald Trump shows a defeat only makes you stronger when he obtained a worrying 35% followed by the more moderate Kaisich with 16%.

So, despite the less than ideal start from Hillary, I am far from concerned about her bid to become America’s next President. Whilst Iowa and New Hampshire shape the race for the nomination, they by no means determine the outcome. They represent a highly homogenous electorate where the populist candidate tends to dominate. The Bernie light can only shine so bright. After all, there are over 2,000 delegates up for grabs by the Republican Party and a stupendous 4,764 for the Democrats. The race has only just begun.

Taking a look at both the Republican and Democrat candidates, there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton has the foreign policy experience to make America great and respected again. As Secretary of State she was solely responsible for bringing Iran to the table. Furthermore, nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it - from repairing relations with Cuba, to the neutralisation of Osama Bin Laden.

The threat of ISIS is an ever-present worry that is shared by six in ten Americans. Secretary Clinton has shown that she has the strategy to destroy the threat of ISIS from day one. As Hillary has emphasized, this must be approached on a multifaceted level - not just with ground troops but also by dismantling online propaganda. To reference the “political revolutionary” that is Bernie Sanders, his foreign policy is far from revolutionary even at the surface. Of all times to have a tenuous chief diplomat and commander in chief, it is certainly not during a time of political tumult and Middle Eastern threats. To effectively combat such a regime, coordination must take place on an international platform.

Hillary Clinton is more than a politician; she is a woman who can change the world. I believe in her. She has constantly fought for the rights of minorities; this in itself is such a laudable attribute. She began her career changing the lives of many working for the Child’s Defense Fund. She has made it her priority to create a world where all children reach their potential. The New Hampshire Governor, Maggie Hassen, told of the support Hillary Clinton provided for her son who hugely benefited from the organisation. Despite being wheel chair bound due to cystic fibrosis, her son successfully graduated from University of Exeter. Governor Hassen told a very poignant story that captured the very essence of Hilary Clinton’s character. Something Hillary has to offer that Bernie lacks is a lifelong and distinguished service in Politics. Bernie stands asking the American public for “political revolution” but he forgets he’s not the only one. Senator Clinton has a history of taking a stand and making hugely beneficial decisions: the Global Health Initiative perhaps just one example. Bernie has done little to impact the world of politics in the same way Hilary has.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

#FeelTheBern - Why I’d Vote for Bernie Sanders

by Lauren Robson-Skeete

In the midst of the continual media hysteria surrounding Donald Trump's presidential campaign and his outlandish ‘policies’, the beginning of the caucuses have signified that ostensibly the fight for the next US presidency will be focused around Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump. The results of the republican Iowa caucus with Ted Cruz winning momentarily brought some comfort (if you can call it that due to Cruz’s policies being suitably radical enough for Trump) as the favourite, Trump, failed to win the vote (although only marginally - Cruz 28%, Trump 24%). Optimistically suggesting that the voters saw past the facade of Trump and had turned to a slightly more ‘moderate’ candidate. Worryingly, however, the New Hampshire caucus portrayed a different picture with Trump revelling in the republican win with 35% and thus the hope that Trump losing would become a regularity was wishful thinking, particularly as Jeb Bush has already conceded his campaign opening up even more scope for Trump in the process.

Interestingly, when analysing recent 2016 Gallup polls it is unsurprising to note the correlation between the results of the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses. The poll asked “what do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” and 70% of Americans felt the biggest concerns were non-economic problems. This encompassed a realm of topical issues including dissatisfaction with the government, immigration, national security, terrorism, healthcare, racism, education, crime, poverty, and ISIS all featuring in the top ten. Moreover, when questioned “who would best handle these problems, the democrats or republicans?”, the republicans came out on top with 42% compared to 37% to the democrats. Thus, the increasing enormity of these issues offers some explanation to the rise of Trump as typically throughout history those feeling discontent towards the government often turn to the most radical candidate promising to eradicate the qualms of the current flawed system with a new approach. Indeed, what seems apparent amongst all of the front runners, both republicans and democrats, is that they attract voters who desire profound change with the dominating theme of social issues becoming increasingly important. But crucially, this is also where the tangible difference lies. Despite Trump’s current support, I envisage this to dwindle when people become more aware and informed of the other candidates policies, or lack of in the case of Donald Trump.  Thus, it will be implausible for Trump to achieve victory as he may talk a persuasive, albeit strange game that appeals to the ever-shrinking group left unoffended by his distinctly controversial speeches, but even so, when it comes to his actual policies on how he will tackle issues such as immigration and ISIS he has no firm credibility as they bear no credentials and his supporters will be left disappointed. Therefore, it is the likes of Bernie Sanders who emerges as the strongest contender to become the next US president as his progressive approach targets the fundamental issues facing America today which is quickly leaving Hillary Clinton behind.

Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton I predict it will be another repeat of her failed 2008 presidential campaign as it bears a striking resemblance. Back then, she was the frontrunner and Obama was the new face with less political experience and it appears that Bernie is set to replace Obama in her 2016 campaign, nonetheless it will still be fiercely contested. Critically, it is important to examine why Hillary did not win in 2008, and why she will fail to win again in 2016. Most notably, her 2008 campaign was overshadowed by the rise of Obama and her decision to vote in support of military action in Iraq in 2002 proved costly. Similarly, her 2016 campaign has recently been clouded by negative association with Wall Street adding to the lack of trust felt by voters whom 53% have an ‘unfavourable’ view of Hillary (as conducted by a pollster poll). Therefore, for the democrats Hillary poses herself as a liability and it is because of this that it highly likely that Bernie Sanders will become the next president.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

A Treasure Hiding in Plain Sight

by Lucy Smith

In the car park by the Cascades shopping centre lies a treasure hiding in plain sight. Just away from the roar of the A3 you will find the church of St Agatha's, Landport- a unique basilica in the Northern Italianate style. The church was conceived by Victorian social reformer and Anglo-Catholic Priest Fr. Dolling, who made great improvements to the Landport slum, and wanted to give something back spiritually to the city of Portsmouth. Whilst the church has faced uncertain times over the years- an explosion in 1940, use as a naval store, the destruction of the Lady Chapel, and threats from the council to flatten it for a nine lane highway- this Grade 2 listed building has undergone significant restoration by Fr. Maunder and St Agatha's Trust, and enjoys life under the Anglican Ordinariate. Year 13 visited the church on a PRS trip earlier this academic year, and spent an afternoon hearing about the history of this amazing building, with its breathtaking interior.

As I have done in recent years, I attended Procession and High Mass at St Agatha's on Saturday in celebration of the feast day of the church's patron, St Agatha of Sicily. If you have never been to a Mass of this nature before, I urge you to go: Fr. Maunder opened proceedings by inviting us to enjoy "our simple display of Anglican Patrimony", before a dramatic ritual that could only be described as anything but. Plenty of incense, fresh flowers, bells, hymns, and Mozart's Little Credo Mass played by a chamber group accompanied the Mass, as well as a homily by Theologian Fr. Lucie-Smith. Fr. Lucie-Smith spoke about St Agatha and her life: an early Christian martyr during the time of Roman persecution, St Agatha had refused a Roman governor marriage, remaining steadfast in her commitment to Christ. She was imprisoned, tortured by having her breasts removed by shears, and, ultimately, died aged only 20. Fr. Lucie-Smith remarked on her status as a lowly young girl, persecuted by those stronger than her, but, despite her apparent weaknesses, it is her name that is now remembered, whereas her torturers have all been forgotten.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Poem for Friday: Wandering the City

by Sian Latham

Walking down streets,
Black and gold,
Lights reflect in windows, closed,
Watching eyes of buildings old.

Upon the glass,
Lace of metal grows.
Twisted shapes formed.
Fixed to brick, row upon row.

Within the patterns,
Stories of forgotten past.
Symbols and creatures.
Into illustrators patterns cast.

On the streets at night,
I walk alone,
Amid the myths of long ago.
Wandering beneath the ageless lights.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Perdu (Et Trouve)

by Anonymous

-       paris
you happened to me. you were as deep down as i’ve ever been.
They meet accidentally, strings entangling together beneath the ink of Paris’ night. In the lamplight she is a ghost, hair on fire. He goes to her and the stars turn his backpack into dusty wings.
“Excuse moi,” he starts, enraptured in the pool of yellow light, “je suis- un peu perdu. Pourrais-tu m’aider s’il tu plait?” His accent is broken, the lessons his governess gave him as a child almost forgotten.
She replies, words slipping off her tongue like liquid, speaking as a native does. He’s lost. For a moment he stares blankly at her. Then, the ghost laughs and she is alive. “I’m English too, don’t worry.”
The man (a boy really, eyes too fresh to be mature yet) smiles in relief. This girl is beautiful. Her accent, her English one, bears the soot of coal and the chaotic organisation of terraced houses crammed together.
“I’m lost. I’m meant to be staying at a hostel,” her eyes flick to his backpack,” but I’m sure I took a wrong turning.” His accent is stark against hers, stained with silver spoons and the glimmer of chandeliers.
“It’ll be closed now.” She says simply and it’s the delicate watch on her wrist that tells him it’s midnight. He groans. His phone had died around nine and Paris’ winding streets whisked time away. The girl (a woman really, but only when she stands on the streets of Paris with the stars turning her into Athena) studies him.
Beneath the yellow light her hair is red, orange, hues of the sunset fallen from the sky. Shadows beneath her eyes serve as frames for the green green irises that hold him and her skin is pale, burnt gold in the light.
“Do you think-”
“If you like, you can stay with me.” The soot softens her words, “I’ve got a small flat. Free. Cleaner than a youth hostel - trust me, I’d know.” And he does trust her. Her lips are hesitant, teeth chewing.
He grins. “Really?” It seems impossible that his luck - so shitty up until now, a missing wallet, a delayed train, an outdated map - could turn around.
But she nods and shrugs. “No trouble. It’s you who’ll have to sleep on the sofa.”
“I’ve slept on worse.” He follows as she steps out of the lamplight, hoisting his bag higher on his shoulders.
They walk in silence down alleyways and past small shops that the boy has only seen in paintings from centuries ago. The moon washes everything in white and he knows that coming here was the right choice, even if it did mean leaving everything behind.
He blurts his name once they’ve been too long in silence, only interrupted by a stray cats’ meow or the hum of an engine in the distance. She looks up at him, a question. He repeats it, slower, softer. A nod in understanding.
She tells him her name and it’s a gift.
“Nice to meet you.” They don’t shake hands. Their shoulders brush, barely a glance, and that suits the way the stars blink above them.
The flat is above a bakery, through a cracked black door, up a worn set of stairs, and another door, this one blue like the morning sky, and there it is.
“Emphasis on small.” He stands in the doorway as she steps forwards, flicking a switch and casting the room in light. There’s a kitchen of sorts, an oven, a fridge and a work surface. A mattress pushed up against another wall, white sheets tangled. Books stand in a haphazard pile next to it. The girl moves around easily and he wonders how long she’s been here. To have picked up the accent, decorated the walls of her flat with a collage of memories.
“It’s lovely.” He shuts the door behind him as she quirks her eyebrow in what he guesses is disbelief. She points at a bright fuchsia sofa, heavy with embroidered cushions. Most of the embroidery contains expletives.
“Your bed.” Opening a wardrobe too big to have fitted up the staircase, she pulls out a pillow, a sheet and a duvet.
“Oh, cheers.” He takes them from her and places them on the arm of the sofa.
“The bathroom is in there,” a door the same colour as the second one, “help yourself to food and drink. Whatever you need really.” She checks her watch. “Do you think you’ll be staying long?”
He falters. “I’ll be out of your hair in the morning -”
“Oh.” She plays with the catch on the watch. “You don’t have to. Stay as long as you want.”
“Are you sure? It’s more than enough letting me stay one night.”
“Stay.” Through the wide windows he sees Paris stretched out, twinkling lights and silhouettes. Her voice is a plea.
His voice is a saving grace. “Okay.”
After that she’s is more subtle. Helps him clear the cushions from the sofa, (he counts thirteen) tucks the sheet in, straightens the duvet. Smiles softly before disappearing into the bathroom.
He runs a hand through his hair. Wipes his hands over his face, rubs his eyes. Sighs. Yawns. Strips to his boxers and climbs beneath the duvet, melts into the sofa.
By the time she steps out of the bathroom, he is asleep, facing the wall, hair messier than it had been before. She is silent as she crosses to her bed, changes into a simple white nightgown, slips between her sheets and closes her eyes.
Stay. Okay.
                                                 *  *  *
The stranger (so close to being a friend) wakes to the sound of a shower running. He blinks, finds himself staring at a yellow wash wall, the paint old yet clean. For a second he doesn’t know where he is. Then - the woman stood beneath a street light, a ghost, a friendly face. He smiles.
Rolling over and stretching, he doesn’t wince as his shoulders click, he takes in the flat properly. There are no curtains on the windows and the morning light floods in, bright and soft.
Last night he’d glanced at the layout, not bothered to take in the details. Now he sees the newspapers stacked on the work surface, salt and pepper shakers in the shape of Laurel and Hardy, a small table beside the window, two stools tucked beneath it, books and papers on top, the wardrobe, carved with flowers, her bed still unmade, a book propped open on the pillow, the embroidered cushions in a mountain by the bathroom door, too many fucking idiots, the memories stuck on the wall, pinpoints of her life. He can see ticket stubs, photographs, leaflets, stickers, postcards, badges, lists, polaroids, wrappers, drawings. The collage almost stretches floor to ceiling, the lowest memories just brushing her bed.
The shower stops. The door knob twists.
The ghost (so close to being a friend) steps out, a viciously pink towel wrapped around her, secured beneath her armpits. She freezes when she notices that he’s awake and his cheeks heat. Refusing to let himself look at the expanse of her skin on show, he smiles apologetically.
“Mornin’,” She says, snapping the awkwardness. “Bathroom’s empty. Don’t know how much hot water will be left, that’s my fault, sorry.”
“It’s fine.” He pushes the duvet off of him and is reminded of just how sweaty and grubby he feels. Glad of the diversion to take his eyes away from the woman, who’s moved to her wardrobe, he crouches down in front of his backpack and rifles through it. If he had packed properly he’s sure he would’ve found clothes in a few seconds. As it is it’s a few minutes before he unsurfaces a clean pair of boxers and some clothes.
She’s managed to change into a sundress by the time he turns around, hidden by the wardrobe doors. “Towels are on the shelf.” She says and he pushes the bolt across.
The bathroom is tiny, barely room for a shower, sink and toilet. Like the rest of the flat though, it works. The whole room is steamy and he can see her handprints where she’s opened the glass shower door. A square has been wiped on the mirror and he takes in his reflection. Aside from the dusk beneath his eyes and the shadow on his jaw, he doesn’t look like he’s spent the better part of two days either cramped on a train or wandering lost around Paris.
Yawning, he drops his boxers and steps into the shower. The system is old, antique, but he’s used to antiques.
He stays in the water until it runs cold, which he guesses is about ten minutes, then finds the shelf of towels. All of them are different colours, none of them a shade duller than at least neon. He chooses the least offensive, a bright green, and dries himself quickly. Once he’s dressed he rubs his jaw, tells himself he’s an idiot for not even remembering razors.
“Do you like pancakes?” He opens the door and is greeted by the sight of the ghost (who seems to contain more life than most people he’s met in his life so far), pan held out in front of her, pancake spinning through the air. She catches it with expertise.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

'Macbeth': The Lego Version

by George Downing and Rory Gillies

Thoughts of a Young Playwright

by Isabelle Welch

This weekend I went to see a friend, Will Perkins', play, ‘Development Hell’. The wonderfully witty, play on words in the title very much captures the nature of the play. It is dominated by the emotional battle of Will’s protagonists, Michelle and Tim, unearthing their scandalous, sketchy and sinful pasts in a quest to acquire a play script that could propel both their careers forward exponentially. Tim wrote it. Michelle wants it. But will their friendship- or should I possibly ask, will they- survive? 

Will, who is currently in Upper Sixth, kindly answered a few of my questions about his work and sources of inspiration. 

Firstly, sorry to be so cliched, but what first got you into writing?
When when I was younger, my school did an annual winter show. For the remainder of the year, there wasn't anything else on, so I decided to write my own work with friends from my own Year.

Your work was very much in within the realms of black humour. For me, the witty and ironic tone of the play was reminiscent of James Franco’s short story collection and its conformity to the Aristotelian unity of time and its focus on ‘relationship dynamics’ held strong parallels to the greats such as Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neil. Are there any particular plays/playwrights/literary figures or forms etc that you aspire to/inspired you?
It’s a mixture. The trilogy that I'm writing at the moment is heavily influenced by Yazmina Reza (look her up: excellent), but I am interested in pretty much everything: Beckett, Berkoff, Albee, Stoppard… etc, to name just a few playwrights. If you're looking, you can find inspiration in pretty much anything, be it a Kate Bush song or what your mum said over dinner. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Charlie Hebdo: Freedom of Speech Gone Too Far?

by Tanya Thekkekkara

Freedom Of Speech (Noun): The right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel,incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.

I, like many other people, enjoy satire. The slight element of dark humour, mixed with the portrayal of moral realities in today's society, all emulated in one witty political cartoon does, I have to say, make me tick. The mere fact that satire exists is one of the telling indicators that we live in a free society - which I greatly applaud. However, the line between freedom of speech and just pure racism is often blurred.

This can be illustrated in the notorious French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. With its recent controversial stance on the refugee and migration crisis, it has published a series of cartoons on this issue - one of which is a cartoon depicting  the drowned Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, as a potential sexual harasser. Many believe the magazine has gone “too far” with humour this time and that the cartoon is racist. It shows Kurdi – the child whose picture showing him lying face down on a beach highlighted the extent of the refugee crisis – with a message: “What would have happened to little Aylan if he grew up?” The answer, “A groper of women in Germany.”

The cartoon is referencing the New Year's Eve Cologne attacks this year (see Ellie Williams-Brown's article on the attacks here) in which 838 people have filed criminal complaints, including 497 women alleging sexual assault, with 3 rape cases, against a male group of asylum seekers. Bearing in mind Germany’s liberal intake of 1 million refugees, this cartoon seems to be taking one step back, reinforcing the old notion that people of colour are simply rapists and sexual harassers. 

Furthermore, what caused the pinnacle of outrage was the magazine’s usage of the dead 3 year old Aylan, whose tragic death not only caught the attention of the whole world but also made the government respond to deal  with the refugee crisis. The danger of this cartoon is that it will further stimulate people to use this threat as an excuse to not take in refugees due to the overhanging fear of the refugees being “potential rapists”. 

Firstly, may I state that all humans have the potential to become evil, not just refugees, and thus the argument is already flawed. Secondly, though this may sound idealistic, in times of a crisis the striving attitude should be of generosity and hope towards the human race not anger and hatred. I can understand the traumatic experience the Charlie Hebdo  magazine staff went through last year as a result of the attack following the publication of the controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed. However, cartoons such as these can have a detrimental effect towards society’s treatment of refugees and what happened in Paris early last year shouldn’t be used as an excuse. As mentioned earlier, I appreciate satire when it is smart and witty. But the commodification of the tragic death of a child? Poor and tasteless. Surely, this is where the line should be drawn?

Poem for Tuesday: Fear of Truth

by Sian Latham

When the tears drip from my cheeks
My eyes orbs of red sorrow,
Woe of weeks,
Finally to show.

As my fingers shake in their sockets,
Spasms of nerves - repeating -
Fear free of my pocket;
Heart beating.

Then, as my legs loose strength,
A flow of excitement,
Growing in length.
The torment.

Would you hear my cry?
Pull me closer,
My spirit to fly?
Mind clearer.

Hold me as you whisper,
My heart only -to answer-  
Once my tormentor,
Now my lover.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Power of Xi: For Better Or For Worse?

by Philippa Noble

Xi Jinping is slowly becoming the most powerful Chinese President since Mao, as well as the most popular, allowing him to make dramatic changes. This certainly has been the cause of many great things for China, but can it last or will we see a dictatorship return to the republic?

Xi Jinping has used his personal power to change things faster than his direct predecessors ever could. His policy of ridding corruption has been indiscriminate, as he vowed to crack down on both “the tigers and the flies”. Mr Xi has also relaxed the one-child policy (implemented to control overpopulation, which has resulted in a distortion of gender balance and lack of people at working age to support the elderly dependants). However, it isn’t all good news; with the dramatic tightening of media and Internet censoring, as well as continuing to curb human rights, Mr Xi has tainted his record somewhat. Also, although out of his control, Chinese economic growth is slowing, potentially causing social unrest and in turn some problems for the Communist Party.

Looking into the history, however, Xi’s actions could appear ill intended. Since Mao, China has been ruled through collective presidency – removing the power from one person and placing it in the hands of a team of men. This policy was successful in preventing another dictator like Mao Zedong emerging, yet Xi Jinping is slowly tearing it apart. The bureaucracy in collective presidency meant that any significant changes took a long time to come to fruition. However, that is what made it so effective; with no immediate changes being made, China could avoid any sudden rise to power from a potential dictator in a single party state. Xi has gained popularity with the people, enabling him to continue without any threat from the other Chinese factions. So for all the frustration caused by slow changes in collective presidency, there could be far greater risks from Xi Jinping removing all the safeguards for Chinese politics.

David Cameron hosting Xi Jinping
on a recent visit to the UK
 Xi Jinping’s aggregation of power is worrying. So far he has been seen to be changing China for the better. Nevertheless, if his actions are scrutinised, numerous parallels can be drawn to the rule of Mao and previous Chinese emperors. His revolution against corruption could be construed as just a thinly veiled purge of his detractors. His high profile opponents (Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang) have speedily been removed with convictions for corruption – since 2013, the number of anti-corruption prosecutions has increased to over 200,000 with 99% being convicted. Mr Xi has also reinstated practices common in Mao’s era such as self-criticism sessions for officials played out on television. Whilst he is trying to portray has himself as the next Deng Xiaoping, leading China through a second economic revolution, he is developing a cult of personality that is common in most modern dictators (Hitler, Mao, Stalin). Whether his intentions are good or not, Xi is reflecting old procedure in his new policies.