Friday, 23 March 2018

Happy Easter - from Portsmouth Point

The editors of Portsmouth Point wish all of our readers and contributors a very happy Easter.

Photographs by Jason Baker.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Review: 'Summer and Smoke'

by Daniel Hill

Summer and Smoke is a rarely seen play written by Tennessee Williams. This production by the Almeida was fairly simple with nine pianos set in a semi circle around the back of the stage and the iconic Almeida wall creating a boundary around the stage. Rebecca Frecknall returns to this piece as Director for the second time as she makes her debut at the Almeida. Patsy Ferran’s subtle performance of Alma alongside Matthew Needham as John is supported by an ensemble cast. I felt that the production team failed to create a brilliant piece of theatre and leaves the Almeida is this momentary sink of standard after a superb run of west end transfers.

The direction is overly powerful or effective, but some moments are conveyed well by the cast. The multi-rolling can often come across as quite lacking of definition between characters which often made it slightly confusing for the audience to grasp who was who. Although a subtle change of costume or prop was often used, I believe that it would have been more successful with slight voice or movement differentiation. The use of arc of pianos which provided a backdrop to the stage were used very effectively and the variation in which these were played often added necessary tension to the piece which was always particularly effective.

Ferran’s performance of the main role was both subtle and effective; it stole the show by far. I felt that she was able to create the character in a very emotional way and is one of the best young actresses I have seen on the stage recently. Needham seems to act in a very relaxed way which often seems to tone down his character. Although this worked in some moments, it sometimes felt like he was holding back from his full character which sometimes led to a lowered atmosphere. I believe he can be a very effective actor, yet there was something missing to do with variety within the character.

Vegan Pride

by Jo Morgan

Weird Vegans

In December I had two vegan cousins come to stay. I was appalled. What the hell was wrong with them? What the hell was I going to feed them? Who the hell had brainwashed them?

Whilst providing them with weird looking fake cheese and strange, pretend milk I feasted on foie gras and camembert. I was half expecting to argue with my cousins about this. Somehow I felt that they might be judging my own food choices or that they would exert a sense of superiority about their own.

Somewhat disappointingly the weird vegans didn’t make any judgements. They didn’t preach the virtues of veganism, they didn’t cause a fuss.  

As my initial horror softened I began to ask questions about the reasons behind veganism. For my cousins, these were threefold: health, animal welfare and the environment. As my interest deepened I began a thorough engagement with each of these issues. At the same time I decided to try out ‘Veganuary’; a month of plant-based eating during January.


We are all taught that meat and dairy are essential parts of a healthy diet. I had believed these myths my entire life until, on my cousins’ recommendation I read the book How Not To Die by Dr Michael Greger.

What I read blew my mind. Greger uses journals, medical trails and studies to prove the catastrophic impact that meat and dairy have on our health. He demonstrates that cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other illnesses are caused by the consumption of animal products. I also watched What the Health on Netflix which, whilst less academically rigorous confirmed the fact the veganism really is a no-brainer.

Animal welfare

This summer I got a puppy who I absolutely adore. As I started to question my dietary choices I began to realise that funding the meat and dairy industries was completely inconsistent with my love of animals. I had already seen Dairy is Scary on YouTube and knew the reality of animal suffering but it was something I had previously chosen to ignore or even laugh about. Suddenly I felt like my eyes had opened. The rare steaks I’d been eating lost their appeal and as I engaged in further research I couldn’t believe that I had funded something so unethical for so long. Watching Earthlings online sealed the deal.


Prior to my vegan journey I had never considered the impact that my food consumption was having on the planet. The truth is shocking:

This infographic has been produced by the creators of the Netflix film Cowspiracy. Again, watching this documentary was a key turning point for me. Becoming vegan is the single greatest impact I can have in protecting our planet.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Wheelchair Basketball at PGS

by Rachel Fry

The usual brightly coloured chairs and tables of the Middle School Common Room had been put to the side. In the centre of the common room were 14 wheelchairs, ready to be used by Year 7 Barton tutor group to play the first ever game of wheelchair basketball to take place on PGS ground.
The tutor group had decided to use the money they received for earning the most recognitions in the Autumn term, to play wheelchair basketball. In the tutor group, we are lucky enough to have Hannah Watts who has been playing wheelchair basketball for one and a half years. She plays with the Hampshire Hornets, who came sixth in the UK in the regional finals 2017. They very kindly allowed us to borrow their chairs for this event.

The tutor group arrived excitedly into the Middle School Common Room, and everyone was eager to get into a chair and start playing. However, we needed some instruction before getting into the fun; thankfully Mr Watts was on hand to tell the group how the chairs worked and what the rules of the game were. Once the explanations were over, they were ready to go out to the Quad and play. They all knew it would be a new way of playing sport, but it was surprising as to how difficult it was to switch your hands between driving the wheelchair, and being ready to catch the ball. The pupils quickly managed to adapt to this change (it took the teachers a bit longer). It quickly became apparent that this was a game of tactics rather than speed.

Mr Priory came out to have a look at the event and was quickly persuaded to have a go. He received some quick instructions by the tutor group as to what to do and joined in. He got to grips with the wheelchair fairly quickly, and soon became a valuable member of the team - even assisting with a goal. Hannah Watts reports that he has some potential as a player. Mr Hawkswell quickly picked up what to do when it was his turn to play; he showed no fear in the chair. He thinks he may have found a new sport to get involved in when he decides to stop running. As for Ms Fry, she eventually learnt to go in a straight line, but sadly not in the same direction as the ball.

Wheelchair basketball was an amazing experience for the whole tutor group as it was fun and challenging (like school should be!) The pupil’s comments on the experience included:

Robin Enjoying Today's Spring Sunshine

by Tony Hicks

Time’s Up for Time’s Up

by Lizzie Howe

It’s time for a change in conversation about feminism in the twenty-first century. Many prophesied 2018 as a ‘post-Weinstein’ era, in which rampant sexism and sexual assault would be a thing of the past, and abusive men consigned to the annals of history. Unfortunately, this movement has proved that although there needs to be a reevaluation of feminism in the 21st century, the current reevaluation has utterly missed the mark.

After several accusations against Harvey Weinstein, who allegedly had attacked and assaulted multiple young women seeking a career in the film industry, the floodgates opened in the American media. One such example of this was a list published by Buzzfeed, listing every woman who had allegedly been attacked by Weinstein, of which some were credible and others were less so. Due to relatively relaxed defamation laws, which place the burden of proof on the accused rather than the accuser, it became easy for woman after woman to point fingers at men for outrageous and unchecked behaviour - some of which was entirely justified, and yet some of which managed to hijack the movement into a direction that led it far from the realms of credibility.

The pinnacle of female empowerment apparently came during the Golden Globes, when the red carpet was festooned with women in black. Although this was in theory to be a defiant stand against the tyrannical men in the industry who had been in power for too long; in reality, it became an exercise in vanity. Many of the dresses were more glamorous and expensive than had been seen in many years. Bianca Blanco, who turned up in a red dress, was reportedly snubbed by the other women at the event, proving that female solidarity was clearly a central theme to the evening.

Although the Time’s Up Movement did attempt to address issues affecting women universally, one being the potential establishment of a legal fund consisting of $13 million for lower-income women seeking justice for workplace assault, this has been ignored in the loud conversations over injustice in Hollywood. Although sexism and abuse should be vilified in every industry, when the conversation becomes solely about a very small number of women in a very small and specific industry, it is frustrating to read as what seems to be a genuine vehicle for change becomes bogged down in the issues which, to be frank, do not demand the greatest attention.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Photography: Silhouettes

by Naeve Molho

Saving the Planet is Not Impossible

by Georgia McKirgan

In an earlier Portsmouth Point article I talked about the importance of investing in cheaper and more efficient renewable energy sources rather than subsidising the current expensive and inefficient technologies. At the end of the article, I said:

“If  you are concerned about the future of the planet there are two simple policies you could adopt in your life that would make a huge difference. Stop eating beef and stop buying single-use plastic drink bottles. You won’t get the same psychic Income that you get when you drive past a wind turbine but you will actually be doing something that will make a difference.”

Recognising the environmental challenges posed by meat production, I decided to look into taking this approach of investing in cheaper technology rather than relying on taxes, subsidies and education to the environmental challenges posed by meat production in food supply. Currently, about 24% of the world’s landmass is used for either raising animals for food or growing crops that are used to feed animals that are used for food and that doesn’t include the water these animals and crops require or the gases that the animals produce. The Impossible Food Company was set up in 2011 by Patrick O. Brown, a biology professor at Stanford University with the aim of taking animals out of food production by 2035. Professor Brown had conducted research into a molecule called heme and he believes that heme is a key factor in understanding how meat behaves when it is being cooked and eaten. Heme is abundant in animal muscle but is found naturally in all living organisms and the heme molecule in plant-based heme is identical to the heme molecule found in meat.

To produce heme protein from non-animal sources, Impossible Foods selected the Leghemoglobin found naturally in the roots of soy plants.To make plant-based heme in large quantities, Impossible Foods' scientists then genetically engineered a yeast and used a fermentation process very similar to the brewing process used to make some types of beer. In 2016, Impossible Foods launched its first meat-like product, The Impossible Burger. Rather than trying to recreate the texture of steak, the company focused on a ground beef-type product that cooks and tastes exactly like meat. To replicate the fat in burgers, The Impossible Burger uses coconut fat mixed with ground wheat and potato protein.

The finished product is stunning. It looks and tastes just like a regular burger but there are other advantages. The plant-based burger has more protein, less fat, no cholesterol and fewer calories than a regular burger. The company says producing meat in this way uses 95% less land, 74% less water and produces 87% less greenhouse gases than regular meat production. The Impossible Burger was originally only available in a number of Californian burger chains but the company is now gearing up to sell the product in supermarkets and other retail outlets. Apart from the environmental benefits described above, there is one other big is cheaper than regular ground beef.

The Great Man’s Role In History

by Philippa Noble

The theory surrounding the "Great Men" of history suggests one sole person can be culpable for historic events and societal turning points - a common example of this being Adolf Hitler. Nevertheless, references can be made to key figures on both sides, attempting to show full culpability or partial. This, of course, has become the subject of heated debate within the study of Historiography with arguments both for and against.

The argument for is often linked with the “masterminds” of terrible events in the 20th century. Hitler and Stalin are the most commonly referenced examples, potentially pushing us away from grappling with how an entire society could potentially be responsible for the Holocaust or any number of Stalin’s brutal regimes. These examples often look to pass blame onto the seemingly “most responsible person”, and still in the public’s view it seems reasonable that Hitler was fully culpable for the Holocaust. After all, it’s what we’ve always been taught: from a young age history has been simplified to key figures. Even in later life, biographies one of the most common ways of communicating historical knowledge to the masses, reinforcing in our minds once again that history revolves around “Great” individuals.

There are two main reasons why this belief is furthered into academic circles. First, the existence of conscious agency, proposed in Ron Rosenbaum’s “Explaining Hitler”, proves that these great leaders knew what they were doing. Of course, this cannot be denied: we all have choices to make and, with "Great Men" often being concentrated in positions of great power (for instance established monarchy or dictatorships), it becomes evermore unrealistic to avoid the role of the figurehead. In the specific example of Hitler, to disagree to such an extent that he becomes nothing more than a function of others’ aims is to attempt to excuse his part in the Holocaust and the millions of murders that took place within it.

Second, a less extreme belief in "Great Men" would reason that they are in fact “harnessers” of society. There may be public belief or societal values behind a cause, but it can be argued that it takes a certain personality to hold enough power to command change. Here, charisma that is apparent in the powerful leaders of the 20th century is explained as the reigns with which the “Great Man” controls the nation. This belief is easier to agree with: charisma is a known characteristic of the typical "Great Men" (if they do in fact exist), and this fits again with the running example of Hitler. During his rise to power, change and action was brought about by his persuasiveness, personality, and charisma. He was the enthusiasm the German population believed they needed.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Return of the Beast: March Madness at PGS

by Tony Hicks

Images of the snow that hit PGS earlier today - hopefully, the last we will see of the Beast from the East.

Are the Paywalls the Answer to Journalism?

by Ellie Williams-Brown

The internet appeared to be a gift to journalism - offering a place where readership could expand, new ways to interact with the audience,  a range of views would be read,  and help the industry to thrive. However, while some of this has happened, there has also been a downside. The internet has created echo-chambers and has led to a reduction in print media, with many publications closing and some legacy media moving online, such as The Independent. Opinions on this shift away from print vary, but one tactic by media magnates and companies to falling sales has been the introduction of paywalls. When the average person spends more than 5.5 hours a day on digital media, it makes sense to try and capitalise on the digital consumption instead of pushing failing print media.

There are two different types of paywall - hard and soft. A hard paywall allows either no or minimal free content before readers have to pay, while the latter provides significant access to free content if users subscribe. Whilst this extra step in accessing content may be frustrating for some readers, it reminds us that journalism is worth paying for. Funding local and national newspapers is important for both educating the public and ensuring they are not turning to overly biased online news sources who have no incentive to publish factual information, unlike many newspapers who have signed the IPSO Editor’s Code of Practice. Whilst there are many major newspapers with undeniable bias - the Sun and the Mail rely on provocative statements and outlandish claims - this is still a way to at least hold them to the account of truth. With online news sources, there cannot be a claim that there is any real mechanism to hold them to the same level, spare in the court of public opinion.

The main argument against paywalls is that it will push readers away to different publications - why would anyone pay to read an article that they can get for free from a reasonably similar news outlet? The competition with free media means paid news needs to have something inherently better that defends its right to charge readers. There are numerous sites offering news of a similar quality, and people can usually turn on a TV for news anyway. The New York Times lost 10% of its online readership with two years of a paywall and The Times and the Sunday Times had their pageviews plummet by 90%. If paywalls are to be introduced and readership continue, papers should be able to justify why their newspaper is of a better quality, or a nuanced view which ensures people will be paying, and consistently.

A major counter-argument to paywalls is whether they can work in conjunction with journalism’s main aims to educate and inform. The oppression of the press is one of the most grievous things a country can do as the media has a key role as the Fourth Estate to hold government and authority to account, as well as  can educating readers on national and global issues. Arguably, paywalls could be seen as a new form of  censorship, restricting information from the poor and allowing it for those who are better-off. Making people pay for online news can be seen as the withholding of information, especially for those who cannot afford it. But, people have always had to pay for the news, this only presents a problem now as it can turn some to less credible news sources that remain free. However, if there are no paywalls to provide a revenue stream for those “credible news sources” how much longer will they be here?,  Media companies have all suffered from falling advertising revenue, as well as a loss in sales. The Guardian offers an example of a legacy media company who has yet to introduce a paywall, instead relying on a membership model that allows more content and special events for members. This suggests to survive without a paywall a loyal base will be necessary, but it does work. In the 2016-17 financial year, the Guardian increased its digital revenue by 15% - to £94.1m - which includes the membership income, whereas ad revenue grew by less than 10%.

Urban foxes

by Alex Porter

Foxes which lived in dense forests and woodland areas in the past have moved and made their way into our towns and cities. They are scavengers,finding whatever food is available, either given by humans or hunted by themselves and have become known as Urban Foxes.

 These foxes continually colonise and therefore spread through urban areas fairly rapidly. In fact, in Britain, foxes were first established in cities such as Bristol and London during the 1940’s and these areas are now some of the most colonised areas in the country. With 1 fox per 100 cats in Bristol, it is evident how they have grown in a relatively short period of time. Normally, a pair of foxes produces 4 or 5 cubs a year and there are around 150,000 Urban Foxes living in Britain and numbers continue to expand.

Foxes are mostly nocturnal, however you can see urban foxes out during the day. Most foxes are very allusive and are usually only seen at a glimpse. For  most of the day they hide away in their dens. Foxes either dig these out themselves or take over rabbit burrows by enlarging their openings, or they also live alongside badgers’ setts.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Is It Ethical To Keep Animals in Zoos?

by Alex Lemieux

As an aspiring vet, a strong interest of mine is the health and wellbeing of animals, no matter how big or small. Currently I am particularly interested in wild animals and during my research into zoo veterinary the question as to whether zoos are ethical pondered in my mind. If I want to go into the field, surely I should agree with the idea of a zoo, right? But unfortunately I found rather large elements of zoos, such as keeping the wild animals in a confined space, hard to justify. Counteracting this were many reasons as to why zoos are ethical such as how they increase the population of many endangered species through internal breeding so my internal debate carried on.

One obvious reason against zoos would be the cages most animals are forced to live in. From the animal’s point of view, removing them from their habitat and locking them up in a cage is against their rights and completely unjust and we, as humans, would never want that for ourselves; so why do we do it to animals? Animals have rights too, and we shouldn’t violate them by using them for our own entertainment. Domestic animals such as dogs are a common household pet and no dog owner would condone keeping a dog in a cage 24/7 so therefore we shouldn’t do it to any other animal, especially animals that belong in the wild. These animals are meant for the wild not cages and so we should let them live where they are most comfortable rather than force them to live where it is most convenient for us as there is no rule saying we are superior to all animals and have control over them.
However we should be caring for animals and if they are severely injured, it would make sense to give them the help they need that wouldn’t be available to them in the wild. There are many vets that specialise in zoo animals and it would be right to use their knowledge to aid the animals but this would need to be done in a place like a zoo where the animal is away from any further harm. If the animal was given the help in their natural habitat it would be harder for the animal to recover due to factors such as being preyed on or disease affecting them more due to their now weak immune system. Zoos are very good at rehabilitating unwell or injured animals that would otherwise not have made it in the wild and therefore keeping a species from becoming extinct. This demonstrates a positive aspect of the zoo and shows how ethical they can be in particular cases.

In cages many animals will become stressed as they are born to live in the wild and therefore in open spaces so the enclosed space will negatively impact them. In the case of humans, help is provided by the NHS to overcome anxiety in the form of mental health workers but there is little done to provide any such service in animals. Of course zoo keepers will attempt to help an animal that is clearly very distressed but any help is limited since they can’t let the animal out of their cage due to the risk it poses to the public and themselves. This means that there is no feasible way to minimize the stress to an acceptable level. If we believe so strongly in the importance of mental health zoos should not be allowed as I’d like to think animals are included as they have the right to being mentally healthy. I understand that at some zoos certain animals such as giraffes and zebras are in an open area where visitors go on a safari tour to see them, so anxiety would be reduced, but this certainly not the case for all animals or all zoos.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Join the Portsmouth Point editorial team

Portsmouth Point editors explain why you, too, should join the Portsmouth Point editorial team (video directed by Douglas James):

Photographs of the current Portsmouth Point editorial team (images by Jason Baker):

Year 13 editors (Leavers' photograph):

Photograph: Happiness

Today's Senior School Assembly was based on the theme of Success and Happiness. With this in mind, the senior prefect team requested photographs of what makes our teachers happy. The winning entry was this photograph of Mrs Riches and her family.

Stephen Hawking: A Tribute

by Katie O'Flaherty

Aged 22, he was given just a few years to live by doctors after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease. 54 years later he is one of the most renowned scientists of this century, who has loved and married twice, and is a father to three children. The knowledge and discoveries he has passed on to the rest of the world is second to none, with his discoveries in the fields of general relativity and quantum mechanics, alongside his infamous theoretical prediction of Hawking Radiation: that black holes emit radiation, thus leading to potential black hole evaporation, yet this prediction from the 1970s was so advanced for its time that it is yet to be conclusively proven. All this from a wheelchair, Stephen Hawking was a man not defined by his disability, but rather by his exceptional intellect and forward-thinking.

Many of his discoveries have been groundbreaking in their fields, with his first major breakthrough being in 1970, when he and Roger Penrose showed that a singularity (a location in spacetime in which the gravitational field of a celestial body (e.g. a planet) becomes infinite) lay in the universe’s distant past, using black holes. This heavily implies, if not arguably proves, the Big Bang Theory, a major contender in the theories of the beginning of the universe. His work has triggered many passionate debates in the science world, with his proposal that black holes radiate heat stirring up one of the most heated debates in modern cosmology, for the fact that is contradicted one of the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics, him arguing the information stored in a black hole will be lost upon its evaporation. Later, Hawking came to support a more commonly accepted view on information being stored in a black hole’s event horizon (the boundary around a black hole beyond which no light or other radiation can escape), and is encoded back into the radiation that the black hole radiates. Yet this serves to further prove his ability to listen, and see from the perspective of others, as well as his unique way of seeing and understanding the world which led to so many of his extraordinary predictions and discoveries. It also is an example of many times he proved his humanity, in his lifetime frequently courting controversy, with a seeming lack of fear to speak his mind, and question anything he didn't agree with.

He has written several exceptionally popular science books, most notably ‘A Brief History of a Time’, in which he writes in non-technical terms about everything from the origin and development of the universe as we know it, to predictions of the eventual fate of the universe, which became a bestseller, selling more than 10 million copies in 20 years, and is often regarded as the book that ‘rocketed Hawking to stardom’. His immense knowledge of cosmology, general relativity, and quantum mechanics led to an ability that many can only dream of to link and explain ideas, leading to him paving a new path in explaining cosmology using a combination of the general theory of relativity, first proposed by Einstein, and quantum mechanics, both exceptionally nuanced and complex fields in their own rights.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Poem: Our Colour

by Holly White

Is you skin darker than midnight or is it
Kissed with yellow and cream?
Do your freckles of brown
Make shapes and pathways up those arms
To shoulders where your auburn hair skims;
And blonde locks curl;
Chocolate sways or liquorice hangs
And sweet honey shines.
Are your eyes the coldest shade of blue or
The warmest gold to the trees?
Can I see green leaves floating on that cinnamon lake?
And trace the hazel streaks of hope singing in the breeze.
Scars of childhood memories lay bare chested in innocence,
White lines of bravery,
Purple pain of hurt
Your memories are painted differently in notes of sweet dessert.
I wonder what shade you turn in these falling beams,
Do you become richer in delight or red in its hold?
Does pearl become amber
And treacle turn deeper?
Yet are you blind to these words for sight does not grace you with difference
Never to know man made crimes against nature and its offence.
But one song can bind us in this oil slick of beauty:
A sky of rainbow weeping for this cruelty.
A sunset in its simplest form dancing in front of
each and the other.
Because when it sets, when it falls,
Together we stand as one beautiful colour.

Mock NFL Draft 2018

by Jake Austin

The NFL Draft happens every year in April, and it is where the teams pick in order of worst to best for the best college players in America. This event is crucial in building a championship roster and so every year analysts give their views of how the draft will go. With this, I tried to give my own prediction of how the draft will go.

  1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The browns FINALLY solve their Quarterback problem and made the smartest pick by getting Darnold who will make an immediate impact for a team who couldn’t win a game last year and can s develop if he needs to behind Tyrod Taylor.

2.            NY Giants
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Even though the giants have needs on the O-line, they need to utilise their unusually high draft position by getting their eventual successor for Eli Manning in Josh Rosen, who can backup and develop his game before taking over the team.

3.            Indianapolis Colts
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC state
The Colts choose a player to give them much needed pass rush to help their struggling defense who finished second to last in the league last year in sacks.

4.            Cleveland Browns
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn state
The Browns pick the best player available whose talent and ability is exceptionally rare to give them a three down back who, with Sam Darnold and free agency acquisition Jarvis Landry, will transform the browns on offense.

5.            Denver Broncos
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
John Elway picks a younger version of himself who can develop with a still stout defense and reliable running game (if they fail to pick up Kirk cousins in free agency).

6.            NY Jets
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Jets get a QB who fits the NY market with his unapologetic attitude and solve their QB problem (if they fail to pick up Kirk Cousins in free agency).

7.            Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Buccaneers pick the best player available and help the worst component of their team to help an offense that significantly underperformed last year.

8.            Chicago Bears
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Bears pick a young star to help 2nd year Quarterback Mitch Trubisky by giving him a true number one receiver to throw to.

9.            San Francisco 49ers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
San Fran pick up the best player available in order to help a weak defense with this tenacious leader and versatile playmaker to pair with Richard Sherman.

10.          Oakland Raiders
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
The Raiders pick up Alexander to pair with former first rounder Gareon Conley to help a poor pass defense and help take pressure off of Khalil Mack as the one man show for their defense.

A Eulogy of Sorts

by Lottie Allen

We have been friends longer than I can remember.

When we were little, we would sit in her room playing with Harry Potter figurines - I always used to have a ridiculous American accent that no one could quite work out and she would always laugh at me. Or we would pretend to be spies in the cul de sac… Was the lady going into the flats down the road really carrying shopping? And what if the train behind the hedge was carrying a stowaway? We even had a logbook with everyone’s suspicious movements. In the case that it was raining and we had become bored of the figurines, we would act out our own scenarios: the stairs led to a bubbling volcano, her room was the darkest forest, the landing was the porch of a house we were sneaking into… You name it, we had done it. We went to the city to hide from villains, we had fought pirates on the east coast and solved the most incredible mysteries - all from her room, in our vivid imaginations.

As we got a little older, she stopped wanting to be a spy and wanted to be a writer or an artist. This was around the time I wanted to be a vet, I think. She loved to paint and drew little sketches of animals or characters she had created. She wrote stories about the characters she drew and made them solve the darkest of mysteries - like we had, all those years ago. We started making these goofy sketches that we would film - we even had a YouTube channel at one point.  We planned to move to London: buy an apartment, a cat, a dog and thrive in the busy life of the city! We had bizarre nicknames: hers was Jenny, mine was Boris and our friend was Safari. We were the three musketeers. We would stay up until the early hours of the morning chatting and doing all sorts: truth or dare, the photo booth challenge, would you rather or doing each other’s make up blindfolded!

Sometime after this, I wanted to become a writer and she wanted to be an actress - her favourite film was Jurassic World and she used to tell me all about the sequel - complaining about the fact that every article seemed to be about high heels no longer being a feature! I had not seen any of the films and was desperately in need of being brought up to speed.

We started seeing each other less as we grew up but we still used to text one another often. When we next saw each other I was worried it would be awkward as we had not seen each other for a while but the minute we got together it felt as though we hadn’t been apart.  We laughed so much - I don’t remember ever having laughed that much with anyone else as we did goofy Disney reenactments and caught up on the last few months. I remember her messaging me excitedly about the school play she was auditioning for - Oliver - and telling me she was worried because she couldn’t sing but had a solo. I told her it didn’t matter, that she would be fantastic anyway, and wished her luck. She was there when I was being bullied in school and I was there when she acquired this complete oddball stalker.

Months went by and we both moved to different schools. Suddenly, it had been over a year since we had actually seen each other. I heard she was struggling and messaged her; we arranged to meet up. It was Sunday when I saw her. We went to a sweet coffee shop, sat in the far corner and talked for an hour or so about everything and nothing. It had been a tough few months for her; we didn’t really broach the subject, but we had a sort of mutual understanding. We made grand plans for the summer - she had six months until she went back to school and we decided to do something productive in that time: we would redecorate her room, we were going to write a script that she would act in and make a bucket list of all the things we wanted to do in that time. We made resolutions: hers were to talk to more people and procrastinate less, mine were to eat healthier and sleep more. I had three months until exams after which I was entirely free and we had the whole of summer. I didn’t think it mattered that I only went to see her for an hour because we had planned to meet up the next weekend. But it wasn’t to be.

'Jesus’ Son' and the Short Story Revival

by Fenella Johnson

Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, a collection of short stories centring around an addict (or several, the stories never stretch to anything as mundane as a name for their narrators) but truly about what happens when a man retreats from the ceremonies of public life to live in a fictional,disjointed  America of their own making, is personal and wise and generous. Any form of cohesive connection between the collection’s stories festers in the corners ; an indication of Johnson’s surreal approach is the collection taking its name from a Lou Reed song.In short - it veers a bit surreal, and a bit druggy. But the insular scavenging nature of the addict is treated with kindness as Johnson never condemns his characters, but presents them fully formed, with their weaknesses and flaws visible and uncommented on. The first story (‘Car Crash while Hitch Hiking’) for example, begins with the ‘midwestern clouds like great gray brains’ and ends with the narrator giving a statement that occurred during the car crash that is interrupted by an officer telling him to ‘ put your cigarette out’. Few writers can flip from the scope of the Midwestern sky to the utter mundane and yet utterly telling with Johnson’s grace or style. Later, he describes ships ‘like paper silhouettes being sucked up by the sun’ ; his gift is centering the minute telling details within these larger surreal images , which leads to a prose perfect for the short story. Because you have to have that specific visual detail, and be able to choose what you want to hint at, and you have to do it in about 3000 words.

Johnson died in 2017, a year where almost 50% more short stories were sold than the previous year,which led naturally to claims that there is a revival in the buying (and writing, I suppose) of the short story collection. Case in point : Cat Person, the New Yorker published short story that went viral for it’s description of modern dating, and also because it was very well written.I thought then, as I read it and used up the last of my six free New Yorker articles for the month, that short stories are actually perfect for the modern age. It has often been remarked that we are busier than ever, more connected than ever - short stories are fiction for the modern age, a tiny fully formed nugget of a literary work, a condensed quick bedtime read. A recent piece by the Guardian entitled ‘ Complete fiction ; why the short story renaissance is a myth’ disregarded the discussion of a revival of short stories, nothing as it did so that the same discussion had occurred in the pages of the New York Times in 2013, and the Telegraph in 2015 and 2016. ( Perhaps the paper neglected to mention they too had run a similar story in 2016?)It made a relevant point that we are always experiencing the rise of some kind of ‘moment… that short stories are prevented from being short stories in the way novels are, generally speaking, allowed to be simply novels’. It is true that there is something almost performative about the short story, a noticeable awkwardness to the writing and reading of them in modern literary discussions. There is a sense that they are often perceived as a stepping stone to the novel - as a form, like poetry collections, they cannot rival the popularity of their bigger sibling. Johnson’s most famous work is probably Train Dreams, a 111 page novella initially published in the Paris Review - what is that, if simply not a elongated short story ?

Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Aeneid: Political Propaganda or Subversive Criticism?

by Isabella Ingram

It is difficult to read The Aeneid without suspicion. A Latin poem intended to emulate the Homeric epics of the Greeks, Virgil’s work describes the foundation of Rome by Aeneas, son of a goddess, and (supposed) ancestor of Augustus – the emperor of Rome at the time when Virgil was writing. As if this were not propagandistic enough, the narrative of The Aeneid is frequently interspersed with prophecies which predict and praise the future rule of Augustus. Notably, one of these visions of the future is given by the king of the gods himself, Jupiter, in which Augustus is prophesied to “bound his empire…at the limits of the world, and his fame by the stars”, establishing “an empire without end”. Evidently Jupiter’s vision did not extend beyond 476 CE, when the Roman Empire finally fell apart.

It is easy, therefore, to dismiss Virgil’s work as political propaganda, intended to gain favour with the emperor. Among those who have done so is W. H. Auden, who, in his poem “Secondary Epic”, suggested that Virgil had prostituted his muse by using his artistic talent to serve a political purpose:

Behind your verse so masterfully made
We hear the weeping of a muse betrayed.

There is an alternative argument, however. It is possible to suggest, as Emma Lezberg does in her article, “Politics and the Pen: A Subversive Reading of The Aeneid”, that Virgil’s poem is actually secretly critical of the regime it pretends to praise. For criticism to masquerade as propaganda is certainly, in Lezberg’s words, “a masterpiece”, but for many the theory is a suspect attempt to wash The Aeneid clean of its political sycophancy.

Nevertheless, there is interesting evidence. In book six, for example, Aeneas descends into the underworld to meet his deceased father, Anchises. Whilst there, Anchises identifies the future Romans – spirits waiting to be born – among whom are Romulus, twin brother of Remus, and Julius Caesar. Eventually, of course, Anchises comes to Augustus: “the man who will bring back the golden years…and extend Rome’s empire…beyond the stars”. On the surface, therefore, this appears to be yet another of Virgil’s propagandistic prophesies. Interestingly, however, when Aeneas prepares to leave the underworld and return to the land of the living, Virgil writes that he exits “through the Gate of Ivory”. As Virgil himself points out, the Gate of Horn – which Aeneas does not take – is for “true shades”, whilst the Gate of Ivory is the gate of “false dreams”: “…through it the powers of the underworld send false dreams up towards the heavens”.

It is a strange part of the story – unnecessary to the narrative – which Virgil does not elaborate on any further. The conclusion that some have come to is that the Gate of Ivory serves, effectively, to undo all the praise that Virgil has just lavished on the ‘unborn’ Roman heroes. It suggests that their successes, and those of the Roman Empire, are illusionary, or “false dreams”.

John Donne's Conflicting Voice in his Holy Sonnets

by PoppyGoad

In Donne’s Holy Sonnets he covers multiple conceits, exploring both his relationship with God and his eventual journey to the afterlife. However, as in many of Donne’s poems, in the Holy Sonnets a conflicted voice appears. Either of confident assertion of his journey to heaven, as in ‘Death be not proud’ Sonnet 10, or a voice of torment and desperation, as in ‘Batter my heart’ Sonnet 14. In which Donne seeks punishment from God for his past sins, by pleading God to physically assault him, in order to form a spiritual connection that will redeem him of his wrongdoings.This conflicted voice, correlates with the emotional torment that is speculated to have been going on whilst he wrote the sonnets. As the death of his beloved wife Ann More in 1617 and his conversion to the Anglican Church from Catholicism could have thrown him into a frenzied seeking of redemption, following the blatant confidence that an afterlife exists where all live on in heaven through God’s love.

Holy Sonnet 10

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be.
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die.

In 'Holy Sonnet 10' Donne addresses Death in a tone of superiority, thus, from the start of the sonnet, through the imperative ‘be’ used as a command, Death is established as inferior to the speaker. This is further emphasised through the dental alliteration of ‘Die not, poor Death’, which reinforces the aggressive and superior tone of the speaker. This assertive tone draws upon the metaphor that Death is as much a ‘slave’ to life as life is a slave to Death, as ‘thou art slave to, fate, chance, kings and desperate men’. This asyndetic list of earthly things reinforces the conceit of Death’s inferiority and strips Death of its omnipotent facade through metonyms that infer the unglamorous slavery of Death. The speaker goes on to argue how ‘dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell’, belittling Death through this triadic structure of disease. This metaphor establishes the idea that Death is a squatter in illness, implying that his power that all mankind fear, is non-existent.

To emphasise Death’s lack of power, Donne concludes by drawing reference to the Christian belief of resurrection, arguing how ‘we wake eternally and death shall be no more’. This suggests that humans can not die as the very nature of heaven precludes this idea. The use of the harsh dental and dissonant alliteration in the final line creates a finality in the argument of the speaker. Thus, through the paradoxical and metaphysical image of death’s own death, as ‘Death, thou shalt die’, a final triumph over Death is concluded.

Holy Sonnet 14

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to’another due,
Labour to’admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly’ I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Donne uses the form of a Petrarchan sonnet in Holy Sonnet 14, which further reflects his fervent desire; a desire for God to ‘break, blow, and make me new’. This lexical field of onomatopoeic metalwork, creates the metaphor of God as a blacksmith. The repetition of the monosyllabic verbs to reflect the bashing of metal through the harsh plosive alliteration, is used to further inflate the speaker’s desire to be cleansed by God through brutality. As a blacksmith is used as an analogy for God, so is a woman used as an analogy for Donne’s soul, who, ‘like an usurp’d town, to’another due, Labour to’admit you’. This creates the image of his soul as a helpless victim. The word ‘Labour’ conflates the idea of childbirth and strenuous physical work, to imply the heightened desire of the speaker ‘to admit you’, and also to suggest that the subject of the conceit is feminine.

Paris Saint-Germain Prove That Money Cannot Buy Glory

by Sudeep Ghosh

Unai Emery
Although Paris Saint-Germain have been playing fantastic football domestically in the last few years, their success in European football has not correlated positively. One way that they planned to venture better in Champions League football, was by spending millions and millions to create the perfect squad. They began their spending spree in early August 2017, by smashing the world record for highest transfer. Brazilian international, Neymar was signed from Barcelona FC for €222,000,000 thus making the previous world record of £89,000,000 seem microscopic in comparison. However, PSG were not finished with their extravagant spending. By the end of the month, they had also signed French teenager, Kylian Mbappe for a rumoured €148,000,000. This meant that PSG had signed the two most expensive players in the world, within the same month.

Luckily for PSG manager Unai Emery, PSG started strongly in the French League. They reached 1st place during the third week, and remain first to this day, with their sixth league trophy well in their sights. There were some initial personality clashes between Neymar and star striker Edinson Cavani, who was the most expensive signing in French football history, at the time of his signing in 2013.  These differences were soon resolved, and the trio of Neymar, Cavani and Mbappe quickly became one of the most feared trios in the world.

Despite the domestic success enjoyed by PSG, many critics were still doubtful about whether PSG were, in fact, one of the best teams in the world. They argued that the French league was perhaps less competitive compared to other leagues, and the reason that PSG were looking so dangerous recently, was due to the fact they were competing against weaker oppositions.

It was clear that PSG would have to play exceptionally well at the Champions League to prove the doubters wrong, where they would engage with the best teams in world football.
PSG started their Champions League campaign in the best way possible. They scored the most group stage goals in Champions League history with a blistering 25 goals in just 6 matches. During this incredible run, they were able to beat 2013 Champions, Bayern Munich, in convincing fashion (3-0), before finishing top of their group.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Representation of Women in Film

by Sienna Bentley

Veronica Lake
The portrayal of women in film until recent years has epitomised Laura Mulvey’s idea that most, if not all media is viewed through the eyes of men and thus, women are objectified by the male directors’ gaze. Women are consistently sexualised and arguably have been since the beginning of time, potentially to meet this expectation of the male audience. It has been argued that “men do the looking, and the women are to be looked at”, seen through the age-old portrayal of the ‘damsel in distress’ in film, primarily a sex symbol or “prize” to be won by the male hero. This theory was first introduced by Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp who stated that every narrative follows a simple structure, also concluding that all the characters could be resolved into 7 broad archetypes. With this in mind, it is then apparent that there is a certain way in which women are portrayed in film. According to Propp, two of these characters include the aforementioned victim, the “prize” to be won by the male protagonist, or the villain: the femme fatale, a stereotype exploited extensively in film noir in the 1940s. These characters both share a common denominator in the way that they are both overtly sexualised, desired characters.

The term femme fatale is directly translated from French to mean “fatal woman,” which is embedded in classic film noirs such as Double Indemnity (1944) with Barbara Stanwyck, enhancing the notion of women as ‘criminals’ who prey on their male counterparts. Femme fatale characters are typically beautiful and sexy, while being simultaneously dark and seductive and using their sexual prowess to further their personal agenda. This could arguably be implicit of how many women are viewed through the male perspective. The femme fatale is defined by “her dangerous, yet desirable sexual presence,” rather than the typically weak female characters evident in Hollywood, suggesting these femme fatale characters are strong, empowered women, yet the staggeringly male-dominated directorship in film noir films implies that these characters are simply a figment of the male imagination, becoming an object of spectacle for enjoyment and sexual gratification. Actresses such as Veronica Lake or Lizabeth Scott were viewed as sex symbols both within and outside the film industry in the 1940s, sexualised by their role in film noir productions. Lake even referred to herself not as a sex symbol but a “sex zombie”; she was desperate to leave this image behind in the late 1940s, despite being so widely admired with other women nationally trying to emulate her during the war period.