Thursday, 26 May 2016

Is Technology Making Us Lose Touch With Reality?

by Jo Morgan

Are we heading down the wrong path?

Philosophers like to question everything and many of them love a bit of a moan. Much writing about contemporary culture reads as a lamenting of the youth of today; a claim that things were better before, that we've lost our way.

What has changed?

In premodern times things were clear: authority came from God. In modern times things changed but reason took over as the ultimate source of authority. Now, in postmodern times, anything goes. Any or no source of authority can now be accepted. Absolute truth has been abandoned and we can be what we want to be. We are no longer defined by our birth status or biological makeup and this has created progress in many ways. One is no longer limited by being a peasant, a woman or gay for example, we have been liberated from the confines of the past and we can be more authentic than ever before.  

But are our lives actually more real, more authentic or have we lost touch with reality? Have social and technological changes alienated us from reality and in turn ourselves and each other?

The controversial philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard claimed that postmodern society is characterised by Hyperreality, an age of simulation in which the real no longer exists. Celebrity culture, pornography, computer games, news reports and all media contribute to a manufactured world which has now become our world. The media is an orchestrated spectacle, manipulated by power-players with a set agenda. Wars are staged, politicians are lying to us and the smoke screens are pulled by diverting our attention from this atrocity to the war on terrorism / drugs / immigration.

Is Baudrillard right?

If he is, things are only going to get worse as technology advances. The psychologist Sherry Turkle argues that we have become isolated from ourselves and each other as our reliance on technology has increased. We are increasingly incapable of solitude, turning to our mobile devices the second we are alone. Our online lives and identity can be edited, perfected and controlled. Since we cannot exert the same level of control over our real lives, we prefer to be online. It is easier and safer and machines are always there for us. Turkle’s view is pessimistic but most of us can relate to at least some of what she says. Perhaps we are losing a grip on reality as our real lives take up less and less of our day.

Second Life: “Finally, love your friends, love your body and love your life.”

Should we allow science and technology a totally free reign in its advances?

It may be time to stop and ask some serious questions about the impact which technology is having on humanity. Increasingly, humans are losing their jobs as they are being replaced by machines. Are we willing to favour profit and efficiency over human flourishing?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Winners of the 2016 Wildlife Photography Competition

by Jackie Tyldesley

Earlier this year a number of our pupils entered the 2016 PGS Wildlife Photography competition. The theme was “Natural Beauty” as suggested by our judge, BBC cameraman and former Wildlife Club member John Aitchison. We recently received this reply from the Aitchison family:

Rowan and I have now both viewed the photo competition entrants and have decided to award:

7-8 Scarlett Sprague with the photo 20160215_110932. We particularly liked the bold composition of this photo, it is very striking.

9-11 Imogen Ashby with Photo 1. We liked this because she has used the light well. She has managed to shoot into the light without the lens flaring, This backlight has given the plant some lovely texture. Well done.

Photography: Movement of Light

by Sophie Lesley

Is Andy Burnham the Labour Boris Johnson?

by James Stuart-James

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary for the Labour Party since 2015, has recently declared his desire to run for the mayoral candidacy of Greater Manchester and of course we wish the best candidate plenty of luck in the mayoral run. However, given his position as a potential future Home Secretary, has Mr Burnham purposefully demoted his role on the national scale?

If this were to be the case, it might remind of us of a certain former mayor, the now Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip Boris Johnson. Before taking the role of Mayor of London, Mr Johnson had already been elected as MP for Henley in 2001, served as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and then as Minister for Higher Education under Michael Howard and David Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet. However, rather than maintaining his post in the Shadow Cabinet , Johnson instead decided to run for Mayor in 2008 where he beat the Incumbent Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone who himself has resurfaced in the news lately after controversially promoting anti-Semitism.

Boris Johnson
Despite the seeming demotion in stature, Mr Johnson has certainly done well in terms of name recognition from his role as mayor. Though not the most politically earth shattering mayor ever, Boris has become infamous after getting stuck on a zip wire while promoting the 2012 London Olympics, his bid to cover the roof of an Olympic stadium in rhubarb so as to create more jobs for rhubarb farmers, his encouragement to entice Londoners to take up cycling in the streets of the city and his outlandish sense of hair maintenance (a trait which Mr Burnham thankfully does not share).

The Labour Mayoral candidate does share an interest in people cycling though: 

During Boris’ tenure as mayor it was often suggested by pundits that he may well turn his sights to the PM spot at some point, although more out of jest than sincerity. Despite this suggestion and his apparent name recognition, he seems not to have this aim at the moment given his decision to throw himself in with the ‘Brexit’ campaign in the EU referendum, a choice which no doubt has distanced himself from the Prime Minister’s good books. Still, it cannot be argued that Mr Johnson’s time as mayor has greatly increased his fame both nationally and internationally due to hosting the Olympics.
Mr Burnham seems to now be in a similar position as Boris was back in 2008, leaving what would seem to be a superior position in favour of something which will grant influence in the short term and may produce name value over time. However, there may be a more substantial interpretation of his decision when expanded on to a wider context.

Photography: Camera Chain

by Ella Simmonds

Why I Fear For My Generation

by Alex Gibson

Bland leading the bland?
In a time where politics is constantly changing there is still, in my opinion, a group of people who are still all too often alienated by the subject. This is, of course, the younger generation.

The fact is that young people have a lack of knowledge, which is not through ignorance but a level of fear of and intimidation by politics. In topical programmes such as Question Time, newspapers and radio programmes, statistics and information appear to be thrown around like insults on the Jeremy Kyle Show. How are we expected to take an interest when the subject is, quite frankly, scary? As politics is a complex topic, when someone, especially from my generation, does not understand a certain topic, they turn off the television and move straight back into their comfort zone.

I also believe that part of the problem is, as you would expect, with the parties and the politicians themselves. If you ask the average teenager who Theresa May, Philip Hammond or even their local MP is, the likelihood is that they will not have a clue. This is because it is extremely hard to distinguish one politician from the other. This shouldn’t be the case as it is vital young people take an interest as it will affect them in years in come. Unfortunately, we are in a time where completely un-relatable political leaders, especially in a time where we will soon be voting on the EU, don’t tell us why we should vote for their side, but why we shouldn’t vote for the other; they resort to trying to scare us into making a decision. Political parties say they focus on the next generation, but is this really the case when they’re shouting down a microphone telling us that we’re all doomed if we vote for the other side?

What I do find interesting is the fact that there is still an interest in the subject, but it is conveyed in different ways. Frequently, I hear jokes relating to Farage, Cameron and, of course, our friend Mr Trump. This clearly shows that there is an interest, despite people’s opinions. However, as we are younger, our thoughts are not respected or treated in the same way as the opinions of elders. Perhaps there is a degree of ageism and we are not taken seriously. This angers me as I strongly believe that our opinions should be valued the same if not more as it will be my generation who clears up the mess that is currently being made. Another factor that leads to interest in politics is through comedians and entertainers constantly raising the issues, putting a ‘comedic twist’ on the subjects. This can be positive in the way that it encourages young people to show an interest and think for themselves. However, it can be negative as these people may just ‘jump on the bandwagon’ and not do any research for themselves, so they can just stick to what they find amusing and repeat the information.

It is all well and good me stating this, but is there a solution? 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Woolf Essay Prize (Highly Commended): Unreliable Narrators

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Series Six, Episodes Four and Five (SPOILER ALERT)

PGS pupils discuss episodes  'Game of Thrones' Series Six, episodes four and five, including last night's shock ending (SPOILER ALERT):

Why Flying Remains One of the Safest Modes of Travel

by Will Hall

How irrational is the fear of being killed in a plane crash?

Very. This question can be answered with no doubt and in one word. The aviation industry is one of the safest in the world, and it is a well known fact that air travel is the safest form of transport, and the competition isn’t even close.

In 2013, just 224 people were killed in aviation related incidents, far fewer than the average 1.3 million people who are killed by car crashes each year. In fact, twice as many people were killed by hippos in 2013 than were by plane crashes. In the USA, 450 children are killed each year by their parents, 

The odds of dying in a plane crash are just so slim that there’s just no point worrying about it at all. You don’t wake up in the morning and pray you aren’t killed by a hippo or your parents do you? Plane crashes are given an extreme amount of coverage in the media, as the recent Egypt Air crash has been the BBC headline all week, which creates paranoia among the 6.5% of our population who say they have a fear of flying.

Photography Club: Perspective

by Bhooshitha Balaji

How to Succeed at Chess - the Latter Way

In 2010, Latter's chess team achieved an upset victory in the PGS Chess Championship, winning the much-coveted Chess Trophy. 

This video, lost in the archives for over half a decade, has recently been re-discovered by Mr Doyle. The participants tell their inspiring story and offer wise advice for aspiring chess champions.   

Photography Club: Life in a Fishbowl

by Tess Edwards

Why More Young People Are Turning to Vegetarianism

by Ellie Williams-Brown

With National Vegetarian Week just drawing to a close, the attention on young vegetarians is rising, as is the number of young vegetarians. According to data from the International Vegetarian Society, the number of young vegetarians on the planet has grown appreciably over the past few years. It is believed there are more than 600 million vegetarian teenagers across the globe,  eight times more than 10 years before.

As a person who has never eaten meat, I feel oddly proud seeing Quorn Food sales increase by 20% yearly, and, occasionally, by 30% as the number of vegetarians rapidly increases year by year. The recent trend in being vegan and ‘clean-eating’ has encouraged more people to ask: “Why eat meat?” and consider the environmental impacts of eating so much. Back in 2012, the average American consumed 71.2 pounds of red meat and 54.1 pounds of poultry a year, but those figures are now decreasing. So, what is causing this huge increase in vegetarians, especially younger ones?

One of the main reasons younger people might be turning vegetarian is their ethical consciousness. The meat industry would argue animals are killed ‘humanely’; but, is there ever a humane way to kill anything? More than 25 billion animals are killed by the meat industry each year, in ways that should horrify any compassionate person. One average American meat-eater is responsible for the abuse and death of around 90 animals per year. Around 33 million square kilometres of land, an area about the size of Africa, is used solely for pasture, not including land that is used to grow crops for animal feed. So, to lessen this space - and to increase productivity - some farmers turn to factory farming. Factory farming is horrific. A factory farm is a large-scale industrial operation that houses thousands of animals raised only for food and treats them with hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease and maximise their growth and food output. Two in three farm animals in the world are now factory farmed; the beaks of chickens, turkeys, and ducks are often removed in these farms to reduce the excessive feather pecking and cannibalism seen among these stressed, overcrowded birds. To demonstrate how horrific it was, in Year 7 geography we were shown a video of the abused animals in factory farms. Many people violently sobbed all the way through. But when I asked: ‘If you care so much about the animals, why do you eat meat?’ it turns out I was the bad person; not them, the people contributing to the abuse. One girl cried throughout the whole section of the confined, overcrowded egg-laying hens who were sometimes starved for up to 14 days, exposed to changing light patterns and given no water in order to shock their bodies into moulting; where it’s common for 5% to 10% of hens to die during this forced moulting process. But once it was over, she went outside and ate her chicken sandwich, with no sign of the tears seen only a half-hour ago. So why are the ethical reasons sticking now? 

People are trying to cut back on their carbon footprint, and create a cleaner, better world. You can take shorter showers, walk to the shops, and not leave the lights on as well as turning off the tap. However, these little contributions - whilst helpful - are nothing compared to what could be done. An average car produces 3 kg of CO2 a day, whilst the effort to clear rainforests to produce beef for one hamburger produces 75 kg of CO2. Eating one pound of hamburger does the same damage as driving your car for three weeks non-stop. So, you can drive your car for 21 days, with no breaks, or you can eat the McDonalds one pound hamburger; it will do the same environmental damage. Every second, one football field of rainforest is destroyed in order to produce 257 hamburgers, which many would argue cannot be justified. Why stop the tap running as you brush your teeth, when you then go down to the butchers and buy a pound of beef; as up to 5000 gallons of water is required to raise that one pound of beef and 15,000 litres for 1 kg. Not eating meat reduces the depletion of our oceans' marine lives and the destruction of corals and reefs, as well as reducing the water supply. With livestock production creating more greenhouse gases than the whole world’s planes, trains and cars put together, the environmental issues alone are more than enough reason to turn vegetarian.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Photography: Sunset Over Old Portsmouth

by Tony Hicks

Images of clouds taken this evening from Old Portsmouth as the sun was setting 

To Walk Without Thought

This essay by Floss Willcocks was commended by the judges of the renowned Newnham College, Cambridge, Engineering Prize essay competition.

Question: Select some interesting industry (in decline, or thriving) or engineering construction (historical or contemporary), either local or that you have come to know about, and outline and discuss the physical phenomena and scientific and/or engineering principles it is based upon or applies.

I was inspired by a new milestone in biomedical engineering that was reached this Summer involving the development of bionic limbs - an industry which thrives today in a society with an ever-increasing demand for its development and production.

The first-ever bionic prosthetic leg controlled purely by subconscious thought was announced in May by the Icelandic biomedical company Ă–ssur, a feat never successfully achieved before now. People who suffer horrific accidents, permanent birth deformities or incurable diseases often believe that they will never walk normally again when their only option is amputation. However, it might soon be possible for many amputees to access new technology so advanced that they will be able to live a normal life again; to work in everyday jobs, to support families and to achieve physically what was previously thought unobtainable in their condition.

So why did engineering play such a key part in this breakthrough? The answer is because engineering plays a key part in every aspect of life, often without us even realising. Any industry that thrives does so because it is improving. It improves because it evolves, and just like Charles Darwin proposed, it evolves because something is developed which does a job better, and therefore outdoes the competition. It's just like natural selection, except instead of better qualities stemming from the random mutation of DNA, the beneficial characteristic is designed by the engineers in order to solve a problem, which leads me onto what engineers really are...

Engineers are problem solvers. They are given a problem by the contractors, doctors, and politicians, and then given the theoretical equipment for solving the problem by the physicists, chemists and mathematicians, but it is their role which is the vital one. They have the metaphorical toolkit of scientific creativity and experience which they use like hammers and spanners to build the solution, and it is these engineers who link together all other areas of research by giving them a mutual applied practical purpose. Problem solving benefits us all, especially when it comes to personal medical assistance and, in turn, as long as there are engineers to support its branches; this industry will always thrive.

If you need further convincing that this scientific breakthrough is one of the most impressive and exciting developments in biomedical engineering of this decade, you only needs to picture yourself in the role of one of these top-level engineers. You have the equipment; it consists of a degree in problem-solving, years of applied experience in biomedicine, the latest design software and all the biological details of the human leg - a system so old and basic, it has been I used without fault since six million years ago when men first stood on two feet. Your task - to build a replacement. Surely it can't be that difficult in our modern world of technology - even if we are not talking about the antiquated wooden leg, which might have served its duty in the earlier days but is now truly discredited thanks to the pirate stereotype. You think of Asimo, the most advanced humanoid built by Honda. This robot’s legs were designed to replicate as realistically as possible the movements of a human’s. The way we shift our weight using our bodies was vital to ensuring the balance mechanism of Asimo was successful. His hip, knee and ankle joints allow what Honda refer to as “degrees of freedom” within the body of Asimo. A single “degree” allows a movement either left, right, up or down, and out of the 32 separate “degrees” throughout his body (excluding the hands), seven are found within each leg. This was calculated as an approximate range of the human legs after detailed research into human joint movement, and as a result, this robot is able to run upstairs, play football and even dance to disco music.

So surely your problem is already solved, you say. If we already know how to replicate each action that the legs need to perform, can't we all have Asimo’s legs? What is the difference between the robotic and the prosthetic?
Essentially, there is a huge difference. In order for the legs to function just like any human’s would, they need to control themselves by means of reflexes triggered by the spinal cord rather than direct commands from the brain. Asimo has a “brain” (inner computing system) which tells his legs exactly what to do; every circuit and every connection is a thought-through process. As humans, we can put on a pair of socks without being aware of what a complex series of movements we execute with the foot and ankle. If we had to think through every minute movement the process would be a lengthy and tiring one, and we don't appreciate how the leg and foot just somehow do what they’re supposed to do. Without this consistent automatic adjustment by our neuromuscular system, clearing a doorstep without stumbling becomes a major accomplishment.

The Art of Simplicity

by Michaela Clancy

We live in a world where every aspect of our lives has be filled with either work or a form of activity, such as social lives or endless trawling of social media sites or apps.Our world is an active one, not one second of our lives is allowed to be passive or just non-existent, it is intertwined in our culture to have our minds constantly occupied.

I am one of the guilty members of this group who is constantly doing work or partaking in a co-curricular activity, which although thoroughly enjoyable,  at times I just wish that I could discover a pause button, so that I could stop and consider and I think that would go for many.

A few weekends ago I was part of a team who completed the 45 mile ten tors challenge which took 2 days of intense trekking in one of the most desolate areas in England. The land really is bleak, with nothing but rolling hills and seemingly endless valleys of grass and bogs. I realise that I’m not presenting Dartmoor in the most desirable light but Im not trying to. I could write endless paragraphs about its hidden beauty but that is not what the article is about. I realised something that I don’t believe I would have found out if I hadn’t been on that event, and that is, the art of simplicity.

That weekend 2400 teenagers walked copious amounts of miles with no phones to contact the outside world, not a car in sight or any other people other than the ten tors participants and the military. Anything could have happened when we were out there and we would have been non the wiser. I can remember thinking that we could return from the moor and realise that the world had ended without us even suspecting something had changed.

I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to take a trip to Dartmoor and wander aimlessly for numerous days but I am saying that we need to strip our lives back to simple existence. For two days I was a person who’s concentration was only focused on walking, eating and sleeping (I realise how odd that sounds). School, exams, world news, Facebook: none of that mattered, I was in a landscape that could have been on another planet. It was an odd feeling, been divided from a word that relies so heavily upon technology and communications but it was a wake up call that I needed. I discovered that I need to take some time out of my routines to just sit and do nothing, to lose myself in aimless thought.

The art of simplicity is an overlooked area in our lives that is easily shrouded by the complications of interesting and fascinating objects and activities. Become one of those rare people who accomplish this rare and rather enjoyable numbness to the technological world. Not only will it help you appreciate simplicity but it will also help you relax.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Gender Equality: How Much Progress Has There Really Been?

This essay by Charlotte Phillips was commended by the judges of the prestigious Woolf  Essay Prize. 

“In a hundred years, I thought…women will have ceased to be the protected sex. Logically they will take part in all the activities and exertions that were once denied them.”                                                                                                                                                     
Do you believe that modern European society lives up to Woolf’s expectations, ninety-three years on?

If we are to look at the world through the eyes of legislature and law, acts and resolutions passed, then women are indeed free and at liberty to pursue any of the “activities and exertions” that Woolf so equivocally mentions, and many more besides. However, the world which women experience is not simply made up of what they are allowed to do on paper: as Woolf so clearly demonstrates through much of her wider literature, the world is a storm of perceptions, feelings, judgements, thoughts, effects, memories and attitudes. And as soon as we take these social factors into consideration, it is clear to see that women are in many ways no less constrained than ninety three years ago.
There is a significant ambiguity to the lexical choice of “protected”- taken literally, it could be assumed that Woolf means simply that women are ‘defended from attack’1. This suggests an innate physical weakness, a need to be rescued or saved- but isn’t this, some would argue, justified? 

Biologically, women are on average shorter and weaker than men2. This is a difference that cannot be disputed. Indeed, today when a family walks onto any medium of public transport, they will be told women and children should be rescued first in the case of an emergency. However, in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf considers that “knowledge, adventure, art…she reaches out for it”. If we take “she” to be the entirety of the female population, we see a whole people reaching out for the intellectual stimulation they are being denied, who have been “protected” from a whole way of life. This leads us to our second interpretation of protection- that of prevention, denial, restriction.
 In Woolf’s time, women were still explicitly banned from any area which required cognitive function beyond cooking, cleaning and childcare. Women of literary and scientific significance were hard to come by and hard done by: “Jane Austen hid her manuscripts or covered them with a piece of blotting-paper…there was something discreditable in writing Pride and Prejudice”. Jane Austen, a much discussed author in A Room of One’s Own, seemed to protect herself from the social judgement she knew would ensue if she was caught carrying out the distinctly male activity of writing a novel, or indeed writing at all. In 1929 when A Room of One’s Own was published, women over 21 had just been given the vote3, but that was about as much influence as they could exert over an area so dominated by men as politics. Of course in modern European society, new laws regarding women are generally made to encourage them to enter those professions and areas that they were protected from for so long. The explicit rules have changed; they do live up to Woolf’s (entirely reasonable) requests for an equal society. But implicitly, those underlying social attitudes towards women sticking to their roles as daughter, wife and mother still cause significant barriers. The psychological impacts that result in these barriers will be discussed shortly.

Yet another reading of “protected” is that women are confined to certain “activities and exertions” by the social structure they live in, essentially their marriage. Especially in higher classes, women had a distinct role as socialite and charming wife- a cultural norm that Woolf openly criticises in her literature, most notably in Mrs Dalloway4. Today, gender roles and stereotypes are still very much in existence: father as the breadwinner, mother as the carer of children, cooker of food, cleaner of clothes, and hostess of social gatherings. Even women who earn more than their husbands and work more hours still, on average, perform vastly more housework and childcare than their husbands. IN fact, beyond the point at which income is equal between the two partners, the more women earn the more housework and childcare they do. This demonstrates that even when the traditional role of main breadwinner is subverted, the traditional role of ‘domestic goddess’ remains static. Additionally, there is a reinforcement of the ‘separate spheres’ of the two genders6.

By restricting a woman’s movements to activities that are carried out in the domestic arena- the home- she is automatically a more private figure than the husband, who’s role is significantly more public-at work, socialising. This could certainly be considered a protection of sorts: protection from maintaining a reasonable public sphere, and a protection from situations occurring beyond the home environment. The exhaustion and demoralisation of performing both traditional gender roles must limit a women’s creative and mental output, and her ability to carry out aforementioned activities and exertions. Logically, Woolf would assume that a swap, or share, of gender norms in the home would be normal practise by the 21st century.  Unfortunately, this is not yet the case, and is even worse in many countries outside of Europe where gender equality movements are yet to make an impact on social policy.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Review: 'The Comedy About a Bank Robbery'

by Oliver Clark

The Mischief Theatre Company are the most talented group of actors and actress on the West End. The Play that Goes Wrong was met with national acclaim, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2014, a show that had me in stitches on two separate occasions (the first time, on a birthday where my hotel room in London was robbed!). Peter Pan goes Wrong, their festive take on the classic pantomime, was also nominated for Best New Comedy in 2016, and after viewing it in Christmas of last year, I will never be able to look at the big green crocodile in the same way again.

Going into their new show, The Comedy about a Bank Robbery, I did not know what to expect. As I soon found out, whereas their 'Goes Wrong' plays relied on frantic chaos and beautifully played 'characters behind the characters', this went in a fresh new direction, with an impeccably written script, a hilarious story and a set that had me at times quite literally, up the wall. Although I felt that this lacked in the audience interaction and strong personalities of the Cornley Polytechnic Dramatic Society, it was made up for by the sheer performance that was put on offer by the full cast.

The writers of these shows never fail to amaze me. Henry Shields, Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer, not only star as three very unique and charismatic actors, each with their own personal traits (Shields' dry and Bond-esque humour, Lewis' pained cries of frustration which bring audience members to tears, and Sayer's ever present optimism that almost always ends calamitously (although this time, thanks to a pair of seagulls, has a slightly happier end)), but also have the brains along with fellow writers and stage creatives to put on a show that brings pure joy to its audiences.

Sir Vince Cable: The Portsmouth Point Interview

Caleb Barron, Oliver Clark, Will Dry and Charlotte Phillips interview former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable.

Vince Cable, speaking to PGS pupils
A fire on the tracks of Vauxhall Station could not stop the Right Honourable Sir Vince Cable making his way down to PGS to deliver a talk on his life in politics and the coalition. The capacity of the Willis Room was pushed to breaking point, with pupils and teachers alike filing into the lunch hall to grab more and more chairs, which, in the event of a fire such as in London, would have been a health and safety catastrophe. Luckily for us, the talk given by Cable did not lead to any spontaneous combustions, but simply enjoyment and intrigue for all who attended.

The thing that I took most from this 45 minute + talk, was that I knew the opinions and thoughts of Cable were most definitely coming to the forefront. Too often do we see in the media, politicians who are so constricted by their party manifesto that they become almost puppets for the party that they represent. Here we saw someone giving a genuine insight into his life, starting with the conflict with his father's far right views, something that would eventually get him into politics, the school rendition of Hamlet that gave him the confidence of public speaking, his life in politics up until the disastrous results of last year's General Election, with a little bit of ballroom dancing along the way. He was very transparent in terms of his relationships with colleagues in Government, especially in reference to working closely with George Osborne.

A number of current issues were raised by the audience in a Q and A following his talk, with the EU Referendum, anti-semitism in the Labour Party, as well as the current state of the Liberal Democrats. Myself, Caleb Barron, Charlotte Phillips and Will Dry, as editors as Portsmouth Point, had the opportunity to ask our own personal questions to Cable, concluding an excellent afternoon. Unfortunately, he was unable to accept Mr Priory's request to be a guest star judge for the evenings PGS Come Dancing competition, but I am certain that after Mr Lemiuex's series of dancing puns, he will not be able to resist an invitation in the future!

interviewed by Portsmouth Point editors
Are there any compromises that you made within your position in the coalition government that you regret? (Caleb Barron)

Well I think I probably should have fought a bit harder against the first round of cuts in 2010. I mean the budget was such that we had to do difficult things but I think if I had fought off the treasury at that stage it would have made life a lot easier later on.

As you alluded to in your talk, both Labour and the Conservatives are in turmoil at the moment, do you think this is potentially winning back Lib Dem voters? (Oliver Clark)

Well it isn't so far; this is what's depressing. We're still stuck under 10% of the vote. I mean in theory we should be going up, there's a lot of disillusion among Labour and Tory voters but it isn't happening yet. That's the potential, that's the reason for our party continuing to fight because that space is there to occupy. UKIP of course can't do that because they're on the extremes, the Greens are very disorganised so if we don't do it nobody does it. People will just drop out and become apathetic.

Within the coalition cabinet, who would you say was the easiest to work with and who did you clash with the most? (Charlotte Phillips)

You clash with people, not necessarily their personalities, I get on well with people. My deputy and the person I worked with most was David Willetts who represented Havant, he was a great guy and very, very bright and very good colleague and we worked together on higher education reform and that was a big success. The person I had the most trouble with was Theresa May, who was in immigration. I mean I had a lot of respect for her, it wasn't that I disliked her, but she was very stubborn and uncompromising and I felt we were making some very bad decisions. I clashed with Michael Gove once or twice and he was always charming with me.

What do you think the Vince Cable legacy will be? (Caleb Barron)

I don't know really. I'm increasingly being approached by manufacturers who are in despair because this government isn't interested in industry. They've identified me as someone who pushed for that focus. I think the one thing that is maybe more Nick [Clegg]’s legacy is the reform of higher education. It's put universities on a very strong base although it was very unpopular.

interviewed by Portsmouth Point editors
Who do you think will take over from David Cameron if we vote Brexit? (Oliver Clark)

Well I think Boris is the obvious candidate although I'm not sure how much confidence there is in him. I think as he's been at the forefront of the Brexit campaign he has placed himself well. However if we do choose to leave the EU there will probably be another referendum if there isn't a large enough majority and so Theresa May is maybe another choice.

How did you handle the media and the press whilst you were in the coalition? (Will Dry)

Well we tended to divide the journalists up into different categories: there were the political commentators like Patrick Winter from the Guardian; the lobby correspondents who do the day to day reports; then there were the economic correspondents; and there was the editorial journalists. I had a brilliant adviser called Emily Walsh who guided me through all this and helped me handle the press. Everyday we would be thinking about how to convey our policies in the press and on television. That was one of the biggest aspects of the job.

Do you think the recent accusations of anti-semitism can prevent people from criticising Israel and its current policies? (Caleb Barron)

Oh I do, I'll try not to say anything too provocative. I mean anti-semitism is a loathsome thing that has been an issue throughout history but there are some people on the Israeli side that do exploit it and stop people from criticising them. It's become a way of trying to silence people who are asking the difficult questions and that's worrying, actually.

What are your thoughts on the current Presidential race in America? (Caleb Barron)

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Why I Cosplay

by Tasmin Nandu-Swatton

You may or may not be familiar with the term ‘cosplay’, Google defines it as “the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.” 

As a cosplayer myself I would describe it, although in a somewhat comedic way, as essentially dressing up in a bizarre costume (complete with a wig and coloured contact lenses, go hard or go home), getting on a train to get to a convention in the faraway land of...London, and creeping out other passengers whilst you are too busy praying you don't get a serious case of ‘con-flu’ to notice the bewildered stares. Although on a more serious note, there is more to cosplay than just dressing up as a fictional character.

Having attended 6 conventions over the last three years I describe myself as somewhat of a ‘con veteran’. Conventions are effectively mass gatherings of nerds and geeks (a large proportion of them cosplaying) where everyone comes together to spend money at stalls selling a variety of pop culture related goods, meet like-minded people and generally have a jolly good time. ‘Comic-Con’ is the largest in the country, occurring bi-annually in multiple locations around the country. It's October event in London last year saw a whopping 130,000 attending over the 3-day period it takes place! Although originally comprised of comic obsessed attendees, as the name would suggest, it has become overrun with anime, manga and video game fans. The cosplays I have debuted at these events have ranged in price from £60 up to a rather large total of £150, though it's important to note that you don't need to spend a large sum of money to be a successful cosplayer as at the end of the day we are all nerds running around in costumes.

Cosplayers have a number of reasons as to why they do what they do, but ultimately it's for the fun they have doing it and I'm no exception. I will admit that people asking for photos with you is an added bonus in the form of an ego booster, a friend and myself once had a small queue of people lining up to have a picture with us which was both surprising and exciting given our doubts about our costumes. However the fun we have cosplaying beats this by a mile. Our self-confidence leaps up, we get to be our favourite character for the day, we can meet new people who are in the same fandom as us, in fact, I met my best friend through cosplay. I could go on all day.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Ten Years of Dancing

by David Doyle

The beauty of dance
It is notable how an event with relatively small beginnings has blossomed into the wonderful two-night extravaganza which we have again enjoyed last week. In his foreword to the programme of the second event, Dr Hands wrote of the first event in 2006: “I think many will agree with me in saying that the evening was a terrific spectacle! From the dazzling performance of gifted pupils that left the audience in awe, to the equally amazing and entertaining performances of staff, the evening was superb – one of the best presentations I have seen in my time as Headmaster in this school. It brought us closer as a school”. Some things, therefore, do not change!

Performers in the first event
In the ten years since the first Come Dancing was held, 160 pupils and 60 members of staff have taken to the floor and some £25,000 + has been raised for the good causes. Latterly, of course, this has been for our partner school in Chai Thom, Cambodia and the work of United World Schools and for the Kikaaya School, Uganda. However, originally, the scheme was begun by a group of Year 9 boys: Matthew Gray; Matthew Sharkey; Alex Bennett; Chris Smithers and Matt Husselby, under the guise of the Barnardo’s Business Incentive Scheme which pupils followed with Miss Daisy Tabtab in Business Studies, and springing from a Dragons’ Den type presentation made to a panel of judges.
The format has changed only slightly since then, and has certainly brought us ‘closer together’: 2012 saw the first time that the whole area of the Bawtree Building was opened up and used, enabling dancers to really exploit the whole floor and for the audience to feel far more part of the evening (see video below). Voting has also evolved, with the audience now being invited to simply “empty your wallet” in to buckets which have the faces of the dancers smiling back at you, a simplification of the time-consuming “buying a vote” which caused queues and was less lucrative.

Jepson and DTD
Strictly School Dancing as it began, PGS Come Dancing as it now is, has always had a dual purpose: to raise money for some fantastic causes whilst teaching pupils and staff a new skill. I was involved in the first one as a background supporter and then in 2007 – when staff had to dance 2 dances! – Mrs Claire Jepson and I put on two fab-u-lous Shirley Bassey numbers: Diamonds are Forever and S’Wonderful and Rumba’ed and Quick Stepped our way respectively to victory. Then in 2010, Ms Jenny Dunne and I – mercifully only having to dance once – again topped the leader board with an exhausting Quick Step to It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) and, boy, did it swing! We won four 10s from the judges who were, I can say this now, incredibly generous and, possibly, simply relieved I had just made it through! 

In 2012, I realised that not only had two more years passed but that Jon Cooper had left us - he had been in charge of the 2010 event and had masterminded the name change and shifted the focus to raising money for the work of UWS in Chai Thom. It was clear that this was an event that needed to be maintained and celebrated.

Clearly, there have been unforeseen developments; I cannot get away now with promising “never again” as I conclude the last payment into the Bursary; too many pupils inform me that they are going to be part of the next event (indeed this year’s winner, Laura Verrecchia, told me in Year 8 she was going to perform). Nor, in truth, can I turn down such a fantastic opportunity to watch so many pupils and staff as they get to know others they have never met or spoken to before: it is an amazing privilege to be the custodian of this truly spectacular part of PGS life, as it now most certainly  has become ! One had only to see the response that the tenth anniversary reunion received on social media to know that many still see this as one of the highlights of their time at PGS.

2016 winners
As for the future ? We were so proud to have the Headmaster join us for this year’s anniversary dancing the salsa, and being forever enshrined on YouTube in doing so (see below), and we have always had members of the senior management take part (Mr Goad, you are forewarned!). Also, we had the very special reunion of former dancers and champions. And, of course, the terrific live band for the final; they just blew us away with their enthusiasm and the way in which they lifted up the audience even further – thanks to Sam Gladstone and to Emma Bell for this!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

How to Survive Exams

by Layla Link

Just fitting in time to write this before getting some shut-eye for a long day of revision tomorrow. I would like to take this opportunity to give you some exam tips and specifically stress how extremely important sleep is. Do not stay up all night studying because it will not help you. 

Trust me. I have first-hand experience of the pain. 

No matter how little you think you know, if you stay up past midnight cramming furiously you will know even less in the morning than you did when you started. Without sleep your body cannot function properly and in the exam you will struggle to remember key dates and will mix up fact and fantasy. Your eyes will swirl all over the pages and the clock will start to move slower and slower. This is not how you want your exam to go. 

However, if you do end up oversleeping on a study day, don't see things in black and white and say "Well, that's it. The day is wasted. Start again tomorrow." This attitude doesn't work. Sometimes, life gets in the way of your plans; just be flexible and adjust. 

Secondly, before you manage your exam content, make sure you manage yourself. Check that you're eating reasonably healthily (cookies at break won't kill you; don't worry) and getting enough exercise. Make sure your mental health is a priority, too; just sitting on your bed and not doing anything at all (yes, that's right - nothing) for two minutes a day can really make a difference to your focus. 

Now it's time to get yourself organised. Make sure you know every point in your specification and then apply this knowledge to past papers. The more you do, the better. However, try to do them online so as not to kill 800 trees like the Maths department. Even if you're leaving your revision until the last minute, there's still time to organise. 

Monday, 16 May 2016

Formula 1: Determination Won This Weekend

by Holly Lawrence

“I don't care what other people think, as long as I am happy.” - Sebastian Vettel 

Max Verstappen, last year
Max Verstappen is the eighteen-year-old son of Jos Verstappen: retired formula one driver. Last season, Max raced in the junior Red Bull team, Toro Rosso, and made his debut in the Australian Grand Prix back in 2015. He had entered the Red Bull junior team after considering an offer from Mercedes, however he took his place once Daniil Kvyat was promoted to join Red Bull from the Toro Rosso team. In 2015, he broke the record of ‘youngest driver to score World Championship points’ after the Malaysian race.

There was a large amount of controversy within the world of Formula 1 following the recent transfer of Verstappen from Toro Rosso to Red Bull; a lot of this stemming from the demotion of Daniil Kvyat after an unimpressive race in the Russian Grand Prix which featured two crashes into Sebastian Vettel. This of course was not the only reason, since Kvyat had finished on the podium at the Chinese Grand Prix only two weeks before, landing Red Bull their first podium finish of the season. Anyhow, the change was made and put a lot of pressure upon the team as they approached the Barcelona Grand Prix which would be Verstappen’s first race in his new car on his new team.

Verstappen said that he was approaching the race with ‘no expectations’, whilst Kvyat planned on giving an ‘as loud a response as possible’, refraining from any signs of bitterness. The qualifying landed Verstappen in fourth behind Hamilton and Rosberg, both Mercedes, and his Red Bull team mate Ricciardo in third, followed by the two ferrari's in fifth and sixth; Raikkonen and Vettel. Kvyat was down in thirteenth, providing a seemingly quiet response so far. It may have been predicted that the race would be handed to the more experienced drivers- most likely the Mercedes- however the first lap brought about a game changer. As could've been suspected, Mercedes sped out in front with Rosberg overtaking Hamilton, however turn three brought about the largest game changer of the whole race. As Rosberg took on the third corner, he left a gap which Hamilton tried to pass through into the lead, however Rosberg was travelling at a slower pace and began to close the space, causing Hamilton to have to swerve onto the grass to avoid a collision. Nonetheless, the two cars still collided and resulted in both Mercedes skidding over to the other side of the track in a crash of disappointment for both them and the team. Despite the fact that the team have not pointed the blame towards either driver, Hamilton later claimed that his teammate had ‘made a mistake’, whilst Rosberg simply said he was ‘very surprised’. No one expected them to hug it out, especially after Lewis had already admitted that they couldn't be friends earlier on in the year.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Photography: Spring Flowers

by Sally Filho

William McGonagall: The Worst Poet in History?

by Helen Jackson

William McGonagall:
laughing stock or comedy genius?
Recently, we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of one of the most critically acclaimed playwrights and poets in history, William Shakespeare. In this article, however, I am going to address the works of another William. Beginning in 1877 and dragging out for a further 25 years, the career of William Topaz McGonagall never really took off.

A self taught hand loom weaver, McGonagall was not a man many would have set aside for poetic greatness. Even after he began writing his poetry, it is unlikely that this opinion would have changed. Gripped by the Victorian obsession with death, McGonagall wrote over two hundred poems. Now, I understand that this may seem like an impressive feat, but I assure you that most people with a concept of rhyming could bash out two hundred poems in a quarter of a century. Self publishing his own collections of poems and handing them to people on the street, it is hard for one to knock the determination of the man. However, when performing to large audiences, it was not uncommon for him to be pelted by the occasional rotten fish, showing that even the somewhat morbid Scottish Victorians found his work emotive in ways he had never intended.

Often focusing on news stories and topical issues of the time, the “poems” themselves have sometimes unapologetic, sometimes just  plain peculiar, titles, ranging from “The Sorrows of the Blind” to “A New Temperance Poem, in Memory of my Departed Parents, who were Sober Living & God Fearing People”. Of course, there is one event that McGonagall immortalised forever: the Tay Bridge Disaster. If you have not yet come across the epic retelling of this tragic event, you can be forgiven for thinking that the... poem... is nothing more than a newspaper report with a little anecdotal piece of advice at the end. “The Tay Bridge Disaster” is, quite possibly, one of the funniest things I have ever read, which should not be the case when the poem addresses such delicate subject matter. It seems to have no coherent structure, every line has a rhyme, and I honestly found myself asking whether William had given up in the middle and just tweaked the original report in order to fit the stanza length. There are some truly priceless lines in it, and I thoroughly recommend reading it at some point, but I must confess that it is not my favourite work of William Topaz McGonagall. The top prize must go to the retelling of another horrific event, a fire in London that killed an entire family. Again, I laughed. I should be ashamed to admit it, but... well... I'm sure many others would too.

Calamity in London
Family of Ten Burned to Death

’Twas in the year of 1897, and on the night of Christmas day,
That ten persons’ lives were taken away,
By a destructive fire in London, at No. 9 Dixie Street,
Alas! so great was the fire, the victims couldn’t retreat.
In Dixie Street, No. 9, it was occupied by two families,
Who were all quite happy, and sitting at their ease;
One of these was a labourer, David Barber and his wife,
And a dear little child, he loved as his life.

Barber’s mother and three sisters were living on the ground floor,
And in the upper two rooms lived a family who were very poor,
And all had retired to rest, on the night of Christmas day,
Never dreaming that by fire their lives would be taken away.

Barber got up on Sunday morning to prepare breakfast for his family,
And a most appalling sight he then did see;
For he found the room was full of smoke,
So dense, indeed, that it nearly did him choke
Then fearlessly to the room door he did creep,
And tried to arouse the inmates, who were asleep;
And succeeded in getting his own family out into the street,
And to him the thought thereof was surely very sweet.

And by this time the heroic Barber’s strength was failing,
And his efforts to warn the family upstairs were unavailing;
And, before the alarm was given, the house was in flames,
Which prevented anything being done, after all his pains.

Oh! it was a horrible and heart-rending sight
To see the house in a blaze of lurid light,
And the roof fallen in, and the windows burnt out,
Alas! ’tis pitiful to relate, without any doubt.

Oh, Heaven! ’tis a dreadful calamity to narrate,
Because the victims have met with a cruel fate;
Little did they think they were going to lose their lives by fire,
On that night when to their beds they did retire.

It was sometime before the gutted house could be entered in,
Then to search for the bodies the officers in charge did begin;
And a horrifying spectacle met their gaze,
Which made them stand aghast in a fit of amaze.

Sometime before the firemen arrived,
Ten persons of their lives had been deprived,
By the choking smoke, and merciless flame,
Which will long in the memory of their relatives remain.

Oh, Heaven! if was a frightful and pitiful sight to see
Seven bodies charred of the Jarvis’ family;
And Mrs Jarvis was found with her child, and both carbonised,
And as the searchers gazed thereon they were surprised.

And these were lying beside the fragments of the bed,
And in a chair the tenth victim was sitting dead;
Oh, Horrible! Oh, Horrible! what a sight to behold,
The charred and burnt bodies of young and old.

Good people of high and low degree,
Oh! think of this sad catastrophe,
And pray to God to protect ye from fire,
Every night before to your beds ye retire.”

I find it more authentic to read it in a Scottish accent.

As I reach the end of this article, I have to wonder whether McGonagall really deserves the title of “the worst poet in history”. For one, can we even stretch to calling him a poet? On the other hand, I am tempted to come to the conclusion that the man was, in fact, a genius. A comedy genius. 

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Sunrise at PGS

by Tony Hicks

Lovely sunrise at work on Friday morning - I have tried to capture the sun rays coming through the clouds. These anti-crepuscular rays (columns of sunlight, often with dark shadowed areas in between the columns) are most frequently visible near sunrise; if you want to see them, look carefully opposite the direction of the sun.

Friday, 13 May 2016