Friday, 15 December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to Our Readers

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

We hope that, over the holidays, you enjoy reading not only this blog but also our new edition of Portsmouth Point magazine. The theme of this issue is 'Truth', with 30 articles ranging from algorithms to censorship, God to Joe Root, Herodotus to Ian Dury & the Blockheads. 

See Naeve Molho's stunning cover image for the 'Truth' issue below:

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Christmas Festivities Around the World

by Katie Sharp

As the festive season approaches, we fall into our regular holiday traditions, such as eating mince pies and reading “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve, and opening presents on Christmas Day. However, while we are aware of our own traditions, it’s often interesting to see the range of diverse and unique festive traditions from around the world.

Night of the Radishes

Every 23rd December, the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, holds an event dedicated to the carving of oversized radishes. The competition, formally created in 1897, mainly consists of intricate festive sceneries created with radishes.

Tió de Nadal

Tió de Nadal, or “Christmas Log”, is a Catalonian Christmas tradition where, on 8th December, a hollow log (typically decorated to have a face) is bundled in a blanket and “fed” until Christmas Day. Children are required to care for the Tió de Nadal until Christmas Day, when children hit the log with a stick until the log “defecates” presents to children that have successfully cared for the log.

KFC in Japan

After a very successful marketing campaign, KFC has become a staple Christmas tradition in Japan, with an estimated 3.6 million families enjoying the fried chicken on Christmas Eve. The tradition is so ingrained that KFC’s Special Christmas Dinner often requires ordering it weeks in advance, or otherwise queuing for hours.

Maximising Yuletide Happiness: The Economist's Christmas

by Miranda Worley

Inefficient gift-giving
Purple stripy toe socks – WHSmith vouchers – flowerpot-people ornaments – what do all these things have in common?  They all represent inefficient gift-giving.

As I am always telling my pupils, Economics is the study of efficiency. Efficiency means getting the most happiness (utility) from the scarce resources that we have.  So here is the dilemma: how do we maximise happiness at Christmas?  More specifically, how do I give gifts that generate the most happiness?  It has been estimated that each year Americans spend $100 billion on giving gifts which are perceived as having only $80 billion value by the recipients. A waste of $20 billion a year of utility.

Now the general rule about utility (happiness) is that it is maximised when the (opportunity) cost of the action is much less than the benefit gained.  So the ideal (Economist’s) gift would be (almost) free of cost to give, but generate much joy in the recipient.  As an example: I visited my sister; on the way, I stopped at a Starbucks and noticed that they were giving away, for free, old coffee grounds neatly packaged up, which reduces the firm’s waste and represents good corporate social responsibility.  It allowed me to give a gift to my sister that shows I know her and her current passion of composting; not only was she happy with her gift, which could go straight in the (compost) bin, but it also filled her house with happy coffee smells all that day and prompted a good shared experience in her garden examining her plants-manship too. Now, I’m not suggesting we should all give each other old coffee grounds all the time – that would be boring - but the idea is that we should know our recipient and give them a gift that yields them more utility than the lost utility to us of acquiring the gift in the first place. 

And so we come up against the main problem of gift-giving: knowledge (information) of what will give joy ... how do we really know what the recipient desires?  I have tried to overcome the information problem in various ways: from intercepting letters to Santa to recalling what the recipient gave me last year (surely a good indication of what they really wanted themselves?).  But none of these tactics is perfect.  Faced with demands for “a real unicorn” (?) or the biannual arms-race of mutual scarf exchange with sisters-in-law, perhaps we should stop and contemplate the joy that we are trying to give, not the stuff.

Photography: Light

by Ben Davis

 'Light' by Ben Davis

Inspector Javert: A Villainous Victim

by Isabella Ingram

We anticipate the presence of antagonist Inspector Javert long before he is first alluded to, over a hundred and fifty pages into the novel. Initially, he is an observer, watching the protagonist Jean Valjean “until he was out of sight.” He appears to possess the conventional attributes of a villain, with a “rare and terrible” laugh, “a dark gaze” and “an intensity about him that was almost a threat.” However, despite his villainous aura, Javert is a man with “no vices”, pursuing a life of “chastity” and “rigorous authority.” Hugo explains this apparent juxtaposition by describing the inspector’s most fundamental nature – he is a man of severe extremes. Whilst his principles of “respect for authority and hatred of revolt against it” are “admirable in themselves”, Javert obeys them to a degree that is “almost evil.” As the extremity of his principles is further emphasised, we become aware that such a violent moral rigidity is not a natural – nor convincing – quality of a human being. Instead, therefore, Javert is established as a metaphor for the law itself, rather than a mere agent enacting its doctrines. He “possessed the conscience appropriate to his function”, punishing all his criminals, just as the law decreed, with an equal and unforgiving cruelty.

Once this is recognised, Javert’s apparent omnipresence (“His whole life was contained in two words, wakefulness and watchfulness”) seems all the more appropriate. To truly represent the nineteenth century French Justice system, Javert has to be a perpetual oppression on the lives of the working classes. Hugo does not specify the “distasteful but necessary duties” that Javert has performed as the police inspector of Montreuil-sur-Mur, but we are informed that “his judgements were absolute, admitting no exceptions.” Just as the law allowed for minimal consideration of the nature and degree of crimes committed, Javert’s perception of morality is inflexible and ruthless.

Imagery is central to the portrayal of Javert’s outlook on humanity and ethics. Hugo’s statue motif, for example, accentuates the immovability of the inspector’s moral perception. This persists from Javert’s entrance into the plot, “the spy carved in marble”, to moments before his inevitable suicide, as he sits with Valjean and the wounded Marius in a fiacre: “the three tragic figures were thrown into relief – the seeming corpse, the spectre, and the statue.” Whilst the statue motif demonstrates Javert’s rigid ethical outlook, meanwhile, animalistic imagery is often ascribed to him to emphasise the primitive nature of his moral absolutism. Javert is likened to a range of creatures, from a “bulldog” to “a beast of prey”, but perhaps most powerful of all is Hugo’s allusion to “the Asturian peasants”, who believed “that in every wolf-litter there is a dog-whelp which the mother kills, because otherwise when it grows larger it will devour the rest of her young. Endow this dog with a human face, and you have Javert.”

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Ordeal of the Unfinished Adventures: A Percy F. Westerman and Angela Brazil Caption Contest

by Russell Olson

 The Caption Contest has drawn to a close, with winners being awarded prizes and congratulations by the Headmaster on Tuesday the 12th  of December. The competition entries breathed new life into yesteryear’s illustrations, delivering action, adventure, comedy and lashings of creativity. 

Students Sam Byron and Daniel Shillaker won in the student categories with Debbi King winning the Staff/Parent prize. 

The Top 5 Things About Christmas: Part III

We asked Ray Leach, Julian Davis and Olivia Watkins to list their favourite Christmas books, films, music and food, as well as telling us the best and worst presents they ever received. 

Ray Leach

Fairytale of New York
(Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan)
1) Favourite Christmas book: A fond memory I have from early childhood is being thrilled by 'The Jolly Christmas Postman'with varying stories and perspectives as well as three dimensional interaction, it certainly ignited my love for story telling. 

2) Favourite Christmas film: A film that can be quoted by myself and my family all year long without growing old, is one to remember: 'Elf' will be a family favourite until I have children. 

3) Favourite Christmas song: The Pogues blessed us with the 'Fairytale of New York' that I discovered seemed to be the only exception allowed for profanities in our household; it brings a smile to our faces each year. 

4) Favourite Christmas food/drink: A personal, and admittedly common favourite food at Christmas would be mince pies - no chance of having spares left over in our household. 

5) Best/worst Christmas gifts: I won't forget the year I received a pink doll's house that was seemingly twice my size. I will accept this as making up for the Christmas when I was gifted a whisk at the age of 10, I don't know whether it is fair or not to say I was clueless as to what to do with it... 

Julian Davis

1) Favourite Christmas book: a tough choice, but my favourite Christmas book is the The Grinch Who Stole Christmas - you can't go wrong with Doctor Seuss.

2) Favourite Christmas film: Love, Actually hands down. A wonderful, hilarious film filled with a myriad of quirky characters and just lovely to watch at Christmas time - plus with an incredible cast. One of the greats - easily.

3) Favourite Christmas song: 'Fairytale of New York' by The Pogues - great song. After that, the usual classics: Slade, Wizzard, maybe a bit of Buble.

4) Favourite Christmas food/drink: What to choose?  There is so much choice! Torn between mince pies, devils on horseback and pigs in blankets; they're all amazing.

5) Best/worst Christmas gifts: Probably something amazing when I was younger - if not a phone. The worst, shampoo.

Magical Realism: The Power of Symbolism

by Gabriella Watson

Defined as “a literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy,”[1] magical realism manifests itself throughout the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Crόnica de una muerte anunciada and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. Written in the same epoch – with Carter’s novel published in 1979 and Marquez’s in 1981 -  each novelist portrays the surreal using similar approaches while, at the same time, nuancing it in significantly different ways. Predominantly, both writers use symbolism in the presentation of magical realism but for patently different purposes. While Carter employs symbolism to communicate a message in that temptation is a detrimental flaw to humanity, Marquez, by contrast uses symbols to foreshadow the pinnacle of the novel; the death of the protagonist. However, although the intentions are evidently converse, both Carter and Marquez use symbolism to allude to biblical references, focusing on the influence of scripture and religion on their novels; another typical trait of magical realism. Superstition is also employed by each novelist as Carter and Marquez emphasise the role of the mother by way of telepathic abilities. Yet, while Carter uses superstition to protect the life of the protagonist, Marquez implements irony with telepathy; presenting a notable difference. Finally, both authors use magical realism to shape the mundane and ordinary nature of death into an extraordinary and fantastical manifestation. Notably, however, although Carter’s novel was published prior to the release of Marquez’s, narrative critic, Veronika Šimunková, has suggested that her inspiration stemmed from “the highly appraised Latino writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez”[2], revealing the foundations of magical realism over her own work.

Symbolism is arguably one of the most fundamental characteristics of magical realism which features heavily throughout both novels. Unlike Carter, who employs inanimate imagery, Marquez makes extensive use of animalistic symbolism. The cockerel becomes a prophetic omen in Crónica de una muerte anunciada to predict not only the death of Santiago Nasar but also the barbaric destruction to his body following the autopsy.[3] The bishop’s aberrant tradition of using the cockerel’s crests and destroying the rest of the animal’s body in order to make soup is expressed through the description of the “los huacales de gallos bien cebados”[4] (well-fattened roosters) who await their impending destiny of being sent to the slaughter. By contrast, whereby Carter uses symbolism to communicate the message that curiosity is a fatal flaw in human nature, Marquez uses this to foreshadow the fate of the protagonist. Here, his use of symbolism enshrines the Christian faith, substantiating the observations of critic Matt Mikalatos who noted that, “traditional magical realism will bring in Christian symbology.”[5] By using an application of animalistic symbolism, the author is perhaps making a biblical allusion to the death of Jesus Christ and the subsequent betrayal from one of his best loved disciple. Christ’s prediction that Peter would deny knowing him as a subsequent consequence to the crow of the cockerel reflects the betrayal of the local townspeople to Santiago who neglected the multiple opportunities to warn him about the plot to take his life.[6]

Short Story: Village Tales: The Christmas Nativity Crisis

by Nina Watson

It was Christmas Eve and Jane Appleby was leaning parched and harrowed, against the door of the village hall. Pint sized Shepards were trying to beat the living daylights out of each other with their crooks, Wise Men were shoving ‘frankincense’ up their noses in a bid to burn them off and the baby Jesus was currently missing a limb.Every year Jane got lumped with organising the nativity for the Christmas church service, perhaps because they thought she could deal with the tykes, seeing as she was the headmistress of the local primary school. She’d had nightmares of kings with no gifts and Joseph deciding to divorce Mary in the wake of her surprise pregnancy for months, and a permanent headache due to the extreme decibel at which the children shouted their lines. They hadn’t even rehearsed in the real performance space yet and Jane just wasn’t sure if the gold bejewelled manger was going to fit at the altar of the church. Wirey arms attached to a screaming pair of lungs wrapped around Jane’s legs, and she looked down to see the Virgin Mary (otherwise known as Ella Jenkins) wailing with her tea towel slipping off of her little head. “What’s wrong sweetheart?,” Jane asked wearily. “It’s Mickey! He hit my baby with his stick and now his arm has come off! HE’S KILLED MY LITTLE JESUS!” The little girl continued to cry as Jane looked over to see her lead Shepherd  proudly swinging Jesus’ detached body part from the end of his crook, the little savage. She untangled Ella from herself and handed her over to her Mother, snatched the arm and the rest of Jesus from the very disturbed Shepherd and started to walk home, thinking of where her old glue gun might have got to.

Roger and Rafa: Continue to Serve

by Sudeep Ghosh

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have officially ended the year as World Number 1 and 2 respectively. The pair have been subject to one of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time. In their last 10 meetings, Nadal won 5 times consecutively, which was instantly matched by Federer.

Although they are unquestionably two of the greatest tennis players of all time, the question of “who is better?” still remains unanswered.  Nadal currently leads the 13-year-old rivalry with 23 wins, against Federer’s 15. Roger Federer holds the record for most Grand Slam wins with 19. Nadal follows Federer closely with 16, but is also 5 years his junior. They have both won all four major Grand Slams, as well as an Olympic Gold Medal

One of the most striking aspects of the rivalry is the level of respect between the two players. In fact, they do not even acknowledge any animosity whatsoever. When questioned about the rivalry, Rafael Nadal stated, "If anyone says I am better than Roger, they don’t know anything about tennis". Roger Federer felt a similar admiration for the Spanish great. When asked about his relationship with Nadal, the Swiss replied, “I’m his No. 1 fan. I think his game is simply tremendous. He’s an incredible competitor and I’m happy we’ve had some epic battles in the past”.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Photography: Winter Afternoon

by Tony Hicks

Photography: Bauble

by Lily Gibbs

The Top 5 Things About Christmas: Part II

by Joe Brennan

1. Favourite Christmas Book: My favourite Christmas book is an unusual one. A festive sequel to Roddy Doyle's hit children’s book The Giggler Treatment: Rover Saves Christmas. Following the Mack family again in their hilariously witty now Christmas themed shenanigans, Roddy Doyle’s second children’s novel sees Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer fall sick on his one day of work and Rover the dog being the only one who can guide and pull Santy’s sleigh. I will admit it’s been a while since I’ve read it but I’d definitely recommend Rover Saves Christmas (and the entire trilogy) to anyone who enjoys an easy read or a laugh. Or if anyone is looking for presents to give their young family members, this book will likely go down a storm.

2. Favourite Christmas Film: My favourite Christmas film (and objectively the best...) is The Muppets Christmas Carol- recently celebrating its 25 year anniversary. Dedicated to Jim Henson (the genius behind the Muppet phenomenon) and Richard Hunt (the puppeteer behind Muppets like Scooter, Janice and Sweetums), this was the first Muppet outing since the loss of these two major players. And what an outstanding outing it was! This film took the classic Charles Dickens novel, added The Muppets, sprinkled on some Michael Caine and somehow managed make the best film adaptation of A Christmas Carol the world has ever seen while also the best Muppets film, and possibly the best Christmas film of all time. One would quite justifiably assume that a film starring a long nosed alien claiming to be Charles Dickens telling a story featuring a talking frog and an angry pig would shy away from the darker sides of the story. You would, however, be wrong. These characters were Jim Henson's Muppets and seeing Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy (Mr and Mrs Cratchit) trying to stay strong for their daughters after the death of Tiny Tim but Piggy breaking down is honestly gut-wrenchingly upsetting. This lack of fear when dealing with the serious themes is all the more important when the contrasting feel good scenes hit: I'm not sure there's a Christmas film out there with a more uplifting ending, if you still haven't watched this film, it's a must-see this Christmas season. If you have seen this film, watch it again!

3. Favourite Christmas Song: As for favourite Christmas song, I’m not entirely sure I can pick one. I can, however, present an entire album that I consider a Christmas essential: Barenaked for the Holidays. The seventh album by The Barenaked Ladies and their first themed one features new takes on classic songs and fantastic original songs based on Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years. With guest vocals from Michael Bublé and Sarah McLachan, the Canadian alt rock band present a selection of catchy, comedic and often beautifully sombre songs that all have the potential to be classics in their own right. Any fans of The Barenaked Ladies (or fans of music in general) should definitely give this a listen for a greatly improved Christmas.

Without Hope, Without Witness, Without Reward: A Retrospect of the Twelfth Doctor’s Tenure Part 3

by Nicholas Lemieux

Mummy on the Orient Express
Straight after the bleak ending to Series 9, we get The Husbands of River Song, a goofy light-hearted romantic comedy Christmas Special in which the Doctor reunites with his wife River Song, who doesn’t recognize him due to his new appearance, and becomes tangled up in her heist to steal the head of a galactic conqueror.  This special is easily one of the most comedic episodes in Capaldi’s tenure, including a particularly hilarious scene in which 12 pretends to enter the TARDIS for the first time and is “blown away” by its interior (“My entire understanding of physical space has been transformed!”) And yet surprisingly, the ending still ends on a bittersweet denouement, as the Doctor and River spend their final night together on Darrilium, tying into River’s first appearance in the series in the Tenth Doctor Forest of the Dead two-parter,  in which she is killed. With that said though, the ending proves to be more sweet than bitter, as the Doctor reveals to River that a night on Darrilium lasts 24 years, giving 12 and River a well-earned happy ending, at least for now...

Then, after a year with no new episodes other than the similarly goofy superhero Christmas Special The Return of Doctor Mysterio, Series 10, the Twelfth Doctor’s final season, started in spring of this year. The start of Series 10 shows the Doctor in a new position, working at a university as a lecturer. As it turns out, the Doctor has apparently sworn an oath of some kind to guard a mysterious vault deep within the university’s basement, the contents of which forms a major part of this year’s story arc. This series, the Doctor is joined by new companion Bill Potts, a quirky cafeteria worker who becomes intrigued by the Doctor’s lectures about time and space. The Doctor in turn becomes fascinated by her curiosity and, following an incident involving Bill’s potential girlfriend Heather turning into a liquid entity and chasing them, offers to become her tutor, showing her the wonders of the universe. Unlike the complexities involved with Clara, Bill is a more normal and down-to-earth companion,  quickly striking a bond with the Doctor through her love of sci-fi, as well as asking some actually relevant questions about the TARDIS (at one point, she asks the Doctor "If you are an alien, why did you name your box in English?"). There’s also a nice little moment in the premiere episode The Pilot, in which after giving the Doctor a rug for a Christmas present in their last lesson before the Holidays, Bill mentions her deceased mother to the Doctor and laments how she has no idea what she looked like, since there aren’t any photos of her left. When Bill later returns home, she discovers some photos of her mother at the back of a closet. Bill starts tearing up as he finally gets to see what she looks like when she suddenly notices the Doctor in a mirror in the background of one of the images, the implication here being that the Doctor travelled back in time just to get those pictures for Bill as a Christmas present. How far 12 has come indeed. Also along for the ride is wise-cracking human android Nardole, introduced in the prior two Christmas Specials, working as the Doctor’s snarky assistant at the university, who continually advises the Doctor to not neglect his oath with the vault, without much avail sadly (I also found out that Matt Lucas is actually a pretty good actor).

As mentioned before, this season’s story arc features the Doctor guarding a mysterious vault deep within the university, having apparently made an unbreakable oath to guard whatever is in there. Halfway through the season, it is revealed that the being the Doctor is guarding is none other than his oldest foe Missy. As it turns out, some time ago, the Doctor was summoned to a planet of executioners, where Missy was set to be killed for her many crimes. However, under the urgings of a final message from River urging him to stick to who he is, the Doctor decides to have Missy spared from death and, using a loophole in his oath, promises to keep guard of her within the vault, under the condition that Missy will attempt to change her ways. Although I haven’t gone into much detail before, Michelle Gomez definitely does a fantastic job as Missy, maker her simultaneously hilarious and terrifying at the same time. As this season goes on however, we start to see a more vulnerable side to Missy’s character. As revealed in prior episode, the Doctor and the Master used to be childhood friends until the Master started into the time vortex and was driven into madness and villainy as a result. Throughout Series 10, Missy starts to show signs of possible redemption, assisting the Doctor with advice on the villainous Monks invading Earth and at one point shedding tears when she recalls all the millions of lives she has killed and how she can still remember each and every one of their names. The Doctor himself notes this and starts to see these acts as a possible sign of hope that the two enemies will one day become friends again.

Photography: Decoration

by Daisy Sissons

Monday, 11 December 2017

Why Jesus Was Not Actually Born on 25th December

by Emily Stone

Adoration of the Shepherds by El Greco, 1614
Whilst some may find this news shocking, it has been acknowledged that Jesus was not actually born on the 25th December. But why do experts believe that he was not born then, and when was he actually born? Furthermore, why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in mid-December if this date is entirely inaccurate?

Well the first two pieces of evidence as to why Jesus was not born on December 25th comes straight from the Christmas story itself. Within traditional story (Luke 2:7-8) we are told of shepherds tending their flocks by night. This would hardly be feasible in the freezing December evenings. Instead Luke’s account points more towards a Summer, or early Autumn birthday.

The second piece of evidence from the Bible that contradicts what we might previously have thought to have been true, is how Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem in order to be registered in a Roman Census. Similarly, these events would not have occurred in the middle of winter, when temperatures were often freezing and roads were in poor conditions for any form of travelling.

And so, evidence from the bible seems to point away from December as a birth date for Jesus. Why then do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th?

There are many theories that explain this phenomena. One of these theories is that, in the 3rd century, when it was decided that we should start celebrating Christ’s birthday. It was believed that Christ was the second Adam (as in Adam and Eve), born to cleanse us of the original sin. And so, it was suggested that we should celebrate March the 25th as his birthday, as this is the beginning of Spring and is associated with new birth and fresh starts (all the commodities we now associate with Easter). However one African scholar, Sextus Africanus, decided that this was actually the date of Christ’s conception. Fast forward nine months, and thus we celebrate Christmas on the 25th December.

Photography: Reflection

by Maddy Ross

The Top 5 Things About Christmas

We asked Oliver Wright, Lily Godkin and Jake Austin to list their favourite Christmas books, films, music and food, as well as telling us the best and worst presents they ever received. 

Oliver Wright

1) Book: How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. Dr Seuss is fun to read as it's written in rhyme for children so I understand it. Plus the film with Jim Carrey is great to watch at Christmas.

2) Film: Love Actually or Die Hard. Love Actually is one of the best films of all-time and has an amazing cast, and Die Hard is not a traditional Christmas film so makes it a bit more interesting to watch at Christmas. Also Bruce Willis is a cool guy. 

3) Music: Anything by Michael Buble or Christmas Lights by Coldplay. Can't have Christmas without a lot of Michael Buble, and Christmas Lights is a great Coldplay song. 

4) Food: Pigs in Blankets; they're incredible.

5) Best Gift: Any Lego I received before the age of about thirteen. Worst Gift: Shower stuff.

Lily Godkin

1) Book: Polar Express because it is open to interpretation regarding fantasy vs. reality

2) Film: The Grinch: it's so sweet and brings back childhood memories.

3) Song: Fairytale in New York by The Pogues because it always makes me feel really festive.

4) Food: Cranberry sauce. 

5) Best gift: A ticket to Reading Festival. Worst gift: nail varnish remover from my Grandma.

There Xi Goes Again

by Philippa Noble

In February 2016, I wrote an article on Mr Jinping’s alarming links to Mao over the course of his first term as Chinese president. Since then, the world has seen continued purges, the 19th Party Congress, and the introduction of Xi Thought – strengthening these links evermore. In the last year, Xi has been described as a “king” and the Washington Post has quoted Trump calling him “probably the most powerful” president China has had in a century. Although this may just be blundering flattery on Trump’s behalf, it is not too far from the truth (give or take 50 years). I want to re-evaluate Xi Jinping’s standing within the Communist Party and in China to discern the changes that have occurred over the end of his first term as president.

One of the most notable events in the past year and a half was the 19th Communist Party Congress in October. Here, we saw no sign of a successor. This heralded the first murmurings of Xi potentially aiming to hold onto power after his second term. All of his new central committee members were over the age of 60, making them too old to take over after Mr Jinping. Not to mention that with this reshuffle of the central committee, he has moved more allies into positions of power making it even easier for Xi Jinping to rule completely over the Chinese Communist Party. China Daily, in their Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Report, claimed that “to uphold and strengthen overall party leadership” was being put first and foremost. The party congress also saw the introduction of Xi Jinping Thought, making Mr Jinping the first Chinese leader since Mao to have a named ideology written into the Communist Party charter. This puts Xi at the same level as Mao and Deng Xiaoping in regards to power within the party. From the Party Congress alone we can see Xi - having moved away from the post-Mao style of hidden, collective leadership - centralising power and accumulating more influence within the party.

Since I last wrote about Xi, his “Cult of Personality” campaign has steadily gained momentum within China. Evolving from calling the president “Xi Dada”, Mr Jinping has been formally recognised as the Chinese Communist Party’s “lingxiu” (an extravagant term for leader only previously used for Mao and Hua Guofeng – Mao’s successor). Continuing the theme, Xi is the first “party helmsman”, alluding to Mao’s “Great Helmsman”. The New York Times showed Xi’s aggregation of importance through the front pages of communist newspapers for each reshuffle of leadership since Mao’s death. Each layout is “carefully designed to signal the relative power of top officials”. We can clearly see here the stark difference between preceding years and 2017 with Xi Jinping standing out much more than the other six figures. Mr Jinping’s face is plastered across every city, the constant presence of him consuming normal citizens. Even in the lead up to the 19th Party Congress, there was a Five Years On exhibition showing all of Xi’s military, social, and political triumphs over his first term. With each new step it seems the people’s adoration of Xi increases. Having avoided much media attention until the Party Congress, Mr Jinping has been quietly cultivating a Cult of Personality (gradually becoming as strong as Mao’s or Stalin’s).

Why Saviour Siblings are Unethical

by Alex Lemieux

I first met the concept of saviour siblings a few years ago when I watched the film ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ and I immediately began a debate with myself as to whether or not they could be justified. At first I thought of course they were just due to the fact they saved children’s lives, at little expense to their sibling, but on deeper consolidation I began to think about the effect it would have on the saviour sibling. The cons outweighed the pros and therefore I began to see how unethical the idea really is.

To begin, the saviour sibling will feel as if the only reason they were brought into the world was to act as a spare body for their sibling rather than because their parents wanted another child. This feeling of being used will taunt them for their whole life as they were born into the world as ‘purpose-only’ and won’t be valued for who they are but more for what they can give.  There’s a possibility that as they grow older they may feel unloved or unwanted, especially if their sibling passes away as they will then have no use. If they can no longer fulfil their purpose then what’s the point of them staying alive? Throughout their whole life they have been donating to their sibling and doing what they were made to do so when this is no longer possible it would seem like there is no means to their life.

It must also be taken into account the fact that they have been helping their sibling for the whole duration of their life which would mean that they were a donor from an age when they were unable to give consent and were likely to be oblivious to what was happening. Surely this is wrong as it is their body and only they should decide what happens to it, not their parents. Despite it being for a good cause, as it is saving their siblings life, a child should not have to have their own life risked in order to save another when they are unaware of the risks involved. For instance, if their sibling needs to have a kidney donated to them, this will impair their body as the loss of a kidney can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis which would affect them in the long-term. This would be an unfair procedure to put a child through when they’re unable to voice their opinion due to how largely it could affect them in the future. When they understand their role in their sibling’s life, they may not want to donate their body anymore due to the effect its having on them physically which would lead to tension in the parent-child relationship as their parents would be trying to force them to change their mind but it would be against their child’s human rights to do so.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Portrait of the Artist as a Political Activist

by Fenella Johnson

Student protester, soldier, leader of an assassination squad, one of the artistic masters of the twentieth century: it almost seems like something out of a novella or a spin-off from the Netflix show Narcos, but the Mexican painter, David Alfaro Siqueiros, was all of those things. The environment of the Mexican Revolution, a multi-sided civil war in which power shifted frequently and brutally to different revolutionary forces, seemed to breed political activism and radicalism. 

As the country violently changed socially and politically, a cultural response was demanded and it was in this environment that one of the most interesting and yet culturally least known (at least in the West) artists of the twentieth century combined art with modern political activism. Siqueiros was a painter who fought in the constitutionalist revolutionary army, founded a mineworkers’ union in the 1920s, joined republicans to fight against fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War and (as an ardent Stalinist) helped orchestrate the unsuccessful assassination of Leon Trotsky in 1940. 

He also happened to be the youngest and -it goes without saying, really- the most radical of the  "los tres grandes" (three greats) of Mexican muralism. His career was dedicated to fostering change through public art, an attitude that was informed by revolutionary Marxist ideology and furthered by his firm belief that technology was a means to a better world. Siqueiros was the most innovative of the three. Although he started working in traditional fresco technique (watercolour washed onto damp plaster), he soon abandoned it to experiment with pyroxene, a commercial enamel, and Duco, a transparent automobile paint. His ability to integrate traditional Mexican art with innovative techniques was masterful and the result is original, powerful, and dramatic.

Siqueros’s  'Collective Suicide', my favourite of his works, depicts the vast army of invading seventeenth-century Spanish conquistadors on horseback (lower right) and Chichimec Indians leaping to their deaths to avoid defeat (left).

City of the Future

by Isabelle Sambles

solar panels in Masdar, UAE
For this article, I decided to look at development projects which were currently going on that had links to environmental sustainability and demonstrated interesting ways that structures can be used to harness renewable energy. The city that really caught my eye was Masdar, located south-east of Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is considered a developing country by the United Nations, which means that, although it doesn’t classify as having a developed economy, the country is growing and going through industrialization.

The city was initiated in 2006 with construction starting in 2010. The project was predominantly paid for by the Abu Dhabi government and is predicted to cost around US$19bn. It is set to cover 640 hectares and it is set to become the world’s most sustainable city with the city plans including a low carbon footprint during and after construction. The city planners hope that it will become a centre for innovation in new energy production and with its proximity to the international airport and neighboring communities the city aims to attract experts in renewable energy fields.

One of the key plans within Masdar City is the concept that there will be no fossil-fueled vehicles at street level. Therefore, above the ground, the city is designed to be fully pedestrianized and so the planners can design narrower streets which will generate cooler breezes through trapping the wind, and so there will be less need for air-conditioning in the heat, resulting in less energy being needed. This ground-up approach puts the majority of the transport network below the ground.

However, the developers have placed a personal rapid transit system above ground which has two stations and can carry passengers back and forth. The personal rapid transport system will be operational 18 hours a day with the vehicles operating on-demand. This not only means that all transport energy consumption can be monitored above the city but is also an opportunity for engineers to develop an above-ground transport system which has almost zero emissions and is unlike anything else found in the world.

Another purpose of the city is that it will only use renewable energy. Being located near the Equator the city gets a lot of sun, and so the city planners have implemented solar technology on top of all rooftops. The city also has one of the largest photovoltaic installations in the Middle East that can generate 10-megawatts of solar power.

Why the Education System is Fatally Flawed

by Cordelia Hobbs

In my humble opinion, our British education system is slowly but surely destroying what it means to be human and we are losing sight of the power and beauty of learning. My argument primarily comes from a lack of art within the syllabus which leads to an unrepresentative system which has an extremely negative impact on our mental well being.

"the loss of these tastes [appreciation of the arts] is a loss of happiness,
and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character,
by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”  Charles Darwin

It was Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin who first inspired these thoughts about education for me. One of my favourite quotations is by Charles Darwin: "the loss of these tastes [appreciation of the arts] is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” I would go one step further and say that our ability to create art is what makes us human. To me, art and creativity is this human and individual response to the world around you whether that be through the medium of music or painting or soap carving or poetry or literature - the list is endless. In an evolutionary sense, very few (if any) animals have the cognitive function to appreciate beauty as we do. As a result of this response to our surroundings being so unique and subjective from person to person it cannot be replicated by machines.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

My other favourite quotation is from Albert Einstein: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” It is believed to have inspired the cartoon analogy of a tree to show the education and exam system. It depicts an illusion of fairness with a test of climbing the tree when in fact only one of the animals would pass whilst any of the animals would excel at another test but evidently fail miserably in this one due to their different skill sets. If we test everyone with GCSEs, A levels and those debilitating, awful things that we call exams, of course some will thrive and others will not, but that does not mean a pupil with a different skill set couldn't have blossomed. That pupil will then be represented as weaker than they are, meaning they have been unrepresented and failed by the education system.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Poem: Passing Particles

For the past few weeks as the weather has become colder, I’ve seen a person living rough in our neighbourhood. I have tried to help him by giving him food, although I know his circumstances are desperate. I hope I am helping him and providing comfort in some way.  I felt compelled to write the following poem to try and explain how badly the homeless are affected at this time of year.

Gusts of wind passed through the air,
Brushing gently across the top of his hair,
As passers by began to stare,
Walking by without a care,
He sat in his thin blanket lair,
In utter despair,
As winter set upon him there.

Piles of shoppers were gleefully around,
As clouds appeared,
And without a doubt,
Pain began to benumb him,
 Rubbing his pale hands together,
The man hoped for better weather,
But all he got was cold persistent rain.

Soon came the thunder,
And the lightning,
Bitter breezes passed,
Dark figures hurried in the distance,
Desperate to get back home,
To see families,
To celebrate,
On this cold winter evening.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Storm Caroline Sunset

by Tony Hicks

Why The Dark Side of the Moon is the Greatest Rock Album of All Time

by Henry Percival

In late September, early October, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon was voted the greatest rock album of all time. And personally I can’t help but agree. This vote was conducted by readers of the magazine Classic Rock and the final results saw the Floyd finish above incredible bands such as Led Zeppelin and Guns n Roses.

First released in March 1973, The Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd most well known album. But what makes this album so incredible? It arguably has (one of) the most recognizable album covers. The cover, designed by Storm Thorgerson, depicts white light passing through a prism to form the bright colors of the spectrum against a stunning black field, invited listeners to explore the music inside — and still does today. The mystery began after you heard the mind-blowing music on the album coupled with bassist Roger Waters deeply personal lyrics exploring themes of alienation, loss, and materialism. In context of intense songs like “Time” and “Us and Them,” what did the album cover mean, exactly? The mystery deepened when you studied the poster and stickers of pyramid shapes found inside the album sleeve. None of the band members offered an explanation, leaving it up to fans to add their own meanings, a process that required repeated album listens and discussion with other fans. It’s no wonder that the album turned Pink Floyd into major stars, sold 50 million copies and remained on the Billboard charts 741 weeks.

Then there is the music on the album itself. The whole album is a continuation, with one song leading into the next. For this reason, you can’t really listen to it on shuffle mode on whatever device you listen to (you can but it wouldn’t make as much sense or sound half as good). The single Money has one of the most recognizable and best bass lines of all time. It is up there with bass lines from The Chain by Fleetwood Mac or even Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. The 7/4 time frame of Money is peculiar as well, and it may be the only single with this timeframe to have graced the top 20. On top of this, the instrumental throughout the whole album is just amazing. Songs like Great Gig in the Sky may have no proper lyrics to them (you hear Clare Torry just singing notes) but that doesn’t take away from the instrumentals you hear.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Why 'The Student Room' is a Blessing and a Curse.

by Katie O'Flaherty

So around the end of the last school year I started using this website I had heard of my sister using a lot over her A Levels, which is rather aptly called 'The Student Room'; an online 'room' (aka website) where students of all ages can congregate to discuss politics, subject questions, social issues, and much more. Originally, I only went on to see what other students had thought of our GCSE exams, how they had answered, what their bugbears had been etc., but a few months on, I found myself delving into the other sections of the Student Room, reading and replying to threads on debate and current affairs, and other people's relationship and friendship issues, among many other things. Finding people who empathised with me, wanted to debate with me, or who seemed genuinely grateful for my (a complete stranger's) advice felt rather good.

Not only this, but I realise that I have spent copious amounts of time looking at the university applications threads, seeing what grades people who are applying to my goal-universities gained at GCSE and AS Level, and how they were advertising themselves to the outside world. Very quickly, I could find myself burrowing deeper and deeper into threads full of straight A* students, who played 16 instruments, had already been president of every association known to man, and whose sporting prowess could only be matched by an Olympian. Much as that may be a fractional exaggeration, that's how it began to feel, making me feel ever more out of my depth in a sea of perfect pupils, against whom I would be competing for a place to achieve my goals.

I later encountered a thread on 'Why does everyone on TSR [The Student Room] seem to be a perfect pupil', with someone asking the very same questions I had been asking. The overwhelming answer appeared to be one which is so logical it had slipped right past me; you are not going to post and advertise your grades and achievements unless you're proud of them; thus, in a funny sort of way, a lot of threads had become a peacock festival, of students attempting to have their voice be heard, and be considered 'equal to' or 'better than' that 'average' perfect student; it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Monday, 4 December 2017

‘So Bad, It’s Good?’

by Georgia McKirgan

I am coming towards the end of the application process for US Colleges. A bit like the UCAS system, there is one central essay that goes to all the colleges to which you are applying but each college requires you to submit up to three additional essays. One of my colleges, University of Chicago, is famous for its quirky, off-the-wall essay prompts. In previous years they have asked for 750 words on topics like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ And ‘Find X’. True to form, this year I had to write on the following topic:

Fans of the movie Sharknado say that they enjoy it because “it’s so bad, it’s good.” Discuss something that you love not in spite of but rather due to its quirks or imperfections.

It only took me a couple of minutes to work out how to address the question. I love a lot of really complex and dense music but I have no time for the musical snobs who look down on a lot of popular music. While there is plenty of dross, some of the best popular music works unbelievably well by using a number of techniques to really affect the listener. I decided to focus on that dynamic.

I love music. I listen to it and play it every is an important part of my life. My musical tastes are eclectic and I like music from a wide range of genres. I grew up listening to pop, indie rock and dance music but as I got a bit older, I started to listen to hip-hop, classic rock and blues. I appreciate the complexity and musicality of jazz and classical music but with exception of Miles Davis - Kind of Blue, they wouldn’t be on my daily playlist. As people become more musically experienced, it is normal for them to listen to more and more complex music as they can use this as a badge to display their sophistication. When someone says that like the music from a particular band, the sophisticate will reply “Yes, but I only like their earlier work before they became commercial”. In this instance, “commercial” becomes a pejorative word. The band Radiohead show this phenomenon in reverse. In the mid-90s, they issued a fantastic rock album called “The Bends”. The writing and musicianship were off the scale and the band became really popular. Subsequent albums became more and more esoteric and complex but they maintained their popularity. Saying you like Radiohead has become code for saying “I’m sophisticated” and I’m convinced that many fans didn’t particularly like the newer music. This process reached its peak last summer when during a festival appearance, fans apparently started tweeting rave reviews about a new track that ended up being the band tuning their guitars for three minutes, “minimalist, but also complex, emotionally raw, but still able to push the boundaries of what music can be”. Now, there is some doubt about the veracity of these reports but the fact that this is exactly what most new Radiohead tracks sound like shows how the band have developed.

Without Hope, Without Witness, Without Reward: A Retrospect of the Twelfth Doctor’s Tenure Part 2

by Nicholas Lemieux

Following the bleak ending to Series 8, the following Christmas special that year, Last Christmas, reunited the Doctor and Clara with another adventure. Surrounded with a lowly crew in a North Pole research base by ravenous alien Dream Crabs who trap their victims within dreams whilst feasting on their brains, their only hope of survival is down to Santa Claus himself. Basically Alien and The Thing meets Miracle on 34th Street. The special itself features the Doctor and Clara each discovering their lies with one another and, by the end of the episode, deciding to get back together and go on more adventures in the TARDIS.

Series 8, whilst received generally positively, also had some criticisms involving the unbalanced bleaker tone, not to mention for having some extremely poor episodes, such as Kill the Moon (the one where the Moon turns out to be an egg) and In the Forest of the Night (the one with trees and poor child actors, one whom does the voice for Peppa Pig). For Series 9, the show adopted a one-off unique storytelling process, with nearly every story this year being a two-parter. With more time to flesh the story out, this seasons received great critical acclaim and has since been regarded as being one of Doctor Who’s strongest seasons to date.

As for the Twelfth Doctor himself, since his character development last season, he has definitely mellowed out as a character. His first scene this season is him arriving at a medieval duel on a tank whilst playing the show’s theme tune on an electric guitar for God’s sake, and he also seems more sympathetic to the plights of the people he encounters, particularly with Clara as his moral compass. A notable theme this season is the growing dynamic between the Doctor and Clara. Flatline, an episode from last season, showed Clara taking on the role of the Doctor for the day after he is incapacitated in a shrunken TARDIS, investigating 2D monsters in a London underground railway system, a role Clara is disconcertingly able to take on quite well, down to his mannerisms and non-existent fear in the face of danger. As the Doctor himself puts it at the end of the episode “You were a good Doctor, Clara. Goodness had nothing to do with it”. Series 9 plays with this theme further by showing just how comfortable and confident Clara has become with her lifestyle going on madcap adventures with the Doctor to the point that she almost a gender bent version of the Doctor himself (Hmm) and the Doctor is starting to grow concerned about this...

Right off the bat, Series 9 kicks off with an epic two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice/ The Witch’s Familiar, featuring the return of Davros, Missy and the Daleks followed by Under the Lake/ Before the Flood, a time travel complex base-under-siege throwback to the old Doctor Who stories of the 60’s. This season’s story arc starts to be  fleshed out by the episode The Girl Who Died. It starts off as a simple episode; the Doctor is in a Viking village and has 24 hours to train the non-fighting villagers to prepare for battle against warrior aliens known as the Mire. However, towards the end of the episode after the Doctor has seemingly saved the village, heartbreak ensues after he discovers that a young Viking girl called Ashildr was killed in the process. The Doctor is frustrated, grief-stricken by how no matter how hard he tries, he can’t save everyone in these conflicts, when suddenly he finally realises why he chose the face of Lucius Caecillius. During the climax of The Fires of Pompeii, the Tenth Doctor is tearfully convinced by his companion Donna to save Caecillius and his family during Mount Vesuvius’ eruption. For once, the Doctor decides to break the rules of life and death and brings Ashildr back to life via some micro chips. However, the episode still ends on a sombre  note, as the Doctor discovers that the micro chip he used to resurrect Ashildr may have also granted her immortality. Sure enough, the ensuing episode The Woman Who Lived shows the Doctor encountering Ashildr again 800 years later as a highwayman in the 1600’s, who over the years has become increasingly aloof and indifferent to human life after suffering through countless losses and is now going by the simple name of Me, having her forgotten her original name years ago. Although the Doctor is eventually able to make Ashildr realise that she still cares about the lives of others, Ashildr still never forgets the curse the Doctor had inadvertently placed on her...