Friday, 28 September 2018

Gun Control: What America Can Learn from Japan

by Holly Drummond



Over the past few years, America has come across its largest spike in gun related violence, caused by the self inflicted wound that is the right to bear arms. Countless Americans strongly defend their right to have their precious firearms, ignoring the many facts and figures giving clear signs that their guns are one of their biggest issues. In 2012 the gun related homicide rate in America was almost four times higher than the rate of Switzerland, the country with the second highest rate. America not only has one of the highest numbers of mass shootings, gun related deaths and injuries, but also the easiest access to guns with the least amount of rules.


Firstly, It's easy to see that America needs to change how easy it is for anyone to get access to guns. Anyone off the streets can walk into a gun store and leave with all the supplies they want with the most minimal requirements for a background check. Anyone off the streets regardless of criminal history or mental stability can gain access to a scary number of firearms. Anyone off the streets can gain what they need to kill another human, or themselves with no questions asked. Does that sound like a place that is safe to live? 17 of 50 states in America is unrestricted to carry a concealed weapon, 31 states allow the open carry of a handgun without a license or permit, and only 8 states have rules against openly carrying handguns and long guns. It is obvious that these lenient and unrestricted gun rules are the prime causes of America's current crisis on gun violence. People who aren't mentally stable or are known criminals who get hold of guns can cause a lot of damage, and we can see that the gun laws and gun violence are not just correlated.

Photography: Sea Kings and Squirrels

by Tony Hicks


Wednesday: the last fly-past of the Sea King Mark 7, which has been in service since 2002:





  . . . . and a female squirrel, at PGS:

Review: Me and My Girl

by Daniel Hill

Chichester Festival Theatre have had many-a-success with their Summer Musical and this year Me and My Girl with music by Noel Gay and original book and lyrics by L Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber; this production used the revised book by Stephen Fry. Daniel Evans directs his fourth production as Artistic Director after Fiddler on The Roof and the recent West End transfer, QUIZ. This summer Me and My Girl is a feel good musical which leaves everyone beaming as they leave at both the interval and the end. Matt Lucas had to sit out for a few performances at the beginning of the run due to health problems in relation to his throat, although I was lucky enough to see him in the role of Bill Snubs.

The script itself is full of laughs and by having Matt Lucas in the leading role these tend to appear almost every minute. The power of having  a comedian at the centre of a show is made clear once again by the creative team at Chichcester after Omid Djalli’s brilliant performance of Tevye last summer which is met, if not exceeded, by Lucas. The show is also full of  a number of feel good songs which include ‘Me and My Girl’, ‘Lambeth Walk’, ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ and ‘Leaning of a Lampost.’ Although these may be the most well-known songs in this musical, the show is full of other brilliant music, most notably I think is ‘Once You Lose Your Heart’ which is performed phenomenally by  Alex Young. She brings a lot of emotion to the stage at this point and is able to complete fill the grand theatre.

The Choreography from Alistair David is mesmerising and brings a further sense of energy if the songs don’t provide it themselves. Particularly at the beginning and during The Lambeth Walk, we see the whole cast suddenly fill the stage with sensational dance. The other choreography that is amazing is the tap dancing, however this maybe more down to the execution due to the range of footwear worn while tapping. This goes right from high heels to wellington boots which I would have never expected to have witnessed tap performed in them.

BBC Young Critics' Challenge: Reviewing 'The Minutes' and 'The Sweet Sop'

by James Burkinshaw

This week, a group of PGS pupils have been taking part in the BBC Young Critics' Challenge, reading and discussing the shortlisted stories for the BBC's National Short Story Award.

Here, our panel of critics discuss The Minutes by Nell Stevens and The Sweet Sop by Ingrid Persaud.



Global Warming: The Pandora's Box

by Chelsea Liu




Deaths spiked during UK heatwave, typhoon lashes the Philippines, flood waters rise after hurricane in Florence. Sound familiar? Global warming, also known as climate change, is a factor of where all these severe weather originate from. It is a worrying natural crisis disturbing the earth every second.

The definition of global warming is basically due to the greenhouse effect. By which is the absorption of outgoing heat from earth by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, thus providing warmth. This blanket of greenhouse gases includes carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide as well as water vapour.

This problem mainly arises from humans. A stable amount of these greenhouse gases contributes to a humid environment just right for life, just right for us. However, as our population  grows and we become more industrialised, larger amounts of resources are acquired to meet our needs. We need food to eat, so we grow more crops and cultivate more animals; we need places to live, so we cut down forests and construct more buildings; we need to get rid of our waste, so we dump them in landfills, we need transportation, so we manufacture more cars; we need warmth, so we burn more fossil fuels… Have a guess, how many of those activities above require greenhouse gases to be made? When we grow rice, we are producing methane, when we farm animals, we are producing methane, when we accumulate landfill sites, we are producing methane. We burn fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we engage in deforestation chopping down trees that used to absorb the carbon dioxide. So overall, there is a net increase of carbon dioxide. All this methane, all this carbon dioxide is thickening that greenhouse layer in the atmosphere. If we don’t act now, we will be smothered in a gigantic oven . If we don’t act now, we will be living on a Mercury or on a Venus. Do we realise that every action we take may lead to another species becoming extinct, or another natural hazard, causing more casualties?

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Photography: The Man in the Moon

by Tony Hicks


Lunar pareidolia (like the famous "Man in the Moon") are the result of the human mind attempting to piece together a coherent and familiar pattern when no such pattern exists. Here is one possible outline of the Man in the Moon as seen from the Northern Hemisphere (the last picture is from Astronomy magazine).




Sunday, 23 September 2018

Is this the End of the Open Internet?

by Jacob Barca



Do the EU's new articles spell the end for popular memes?
The open internet is over: from net neutrality in America all the way to the new copyright directive laws in the EU.


Recently the EU passed articles 11,12 and 13, within which are the new copyright directive laws. Firstly, article 11 states that press publications “may obtain fair and proportionate remuneration for the digital use of their press publications by information society service providers”. In everyday language article 11 intends to get news aggregator websites, like Google News and Apple News, to pay the publisher even if it is just a snippet of their article that they are using.


The problem with this article is that it does not specify how big the shared article would have to be before the publisher is paid. However, the directive goes on to say that if there is a hyperlink that is accompanied by just a few words the website will not have to pay. but yet again this is very vague and it is very rare that there would be only a few words to accompany the hyperlink, meaning companies would regularly be falling foul of this rule.


Secondly, article 12a is a rather small article but contains obscene rules, focusing on the posting of sports videos and ensuring that anyone who is not the official organiser of that match will not be able to post videos or photos of that match. It is possible that it could even stop the people who went to the matches from posting anything. This would stop several sports videos going viral. However, like the other two articles it all depends on the way the directive is interpreted by member states when they make it law.


Finally, we arrive at the worst of the three: article 13. This could potentially result in the banning of everyone's favourite memes. Of course, one advantage of this is that Universal would rain hell down on your Mum's favourite Minion memes on Facebook. This is because Article 13 would force all online platforms like Facebook and Instagram to filter or remove copyrighted material from their websites. If they do not do so they will be liable to copyright infringements. One penalty of copyright infringement is a fine from around £200 to £150,000. For companies like Facebook and Instagram, it could be slightly more but still it would not damage them at all, although, if there was a second offence, it would be a lot more severe. One worry is that it could significantly damage smaller sites that are trying to develop, putting the owners of these sites in a very poor financial position. To avoid these penalties, large sites would create algorithms programmed to remove copyrighted material. This would create several problems as it would not be able to differentiate between parodies and copyrighted material (under article 13, parodies would still be allowed).

Review: Brief Encounter

by Daniel Hill

Emma Rice has a new company of her own so perhaps her final appearance for Kneehigh could be this revival of her adaptation of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter. Kneehigh and Emma Rice are two of the biggest names within British theatre and this production has been to every corner of the world over the last ten years as we follow two people through their Brief Encounter. Full of Rice’s identifiable techniques, the audience is once again wowed by this dramaturge whose most recent post was as The Globe Theatre’s artistic director.

Based on the film of the same name, Rice’s adaptation fits beautifully in The Empire Cinema in Haymarket in which the ensemble become the ushers at the beginning of the play. Rice transports us to a cinema during the early 20th Century and we are given a real treat as the wonderful cast perform a set of songs from yesteryear. During the play itself we follow the two lovers who meet one Thursday afternoon and begin a romance during their ‘Brief Encounter.’ Their relationship begins to bloom during the play as we see them each Thursday afternoon at the train station. This involves a boat trip which includes splashes on stage, secret encounters and the subplot of two younger lovers from the train station. It is a performance full of laughter, sentiment and celebration.

Emma Rice allows the audience to set their worries free as we follow the young couple and it is her direction that has lasted all this time that makes the piece as wonderful as it is. With her direction that is often full of sutblety, we are invited into this magical world within which the play takes place. Emma Rice makes it clear that everyone should be excited for her next venture as this is some of the best direction in world theatre at the moment. When we see the two lovers suddenly lift off of the ground in flight there was an audible gasp of wonder that is so rarely heard in the theatre; moments like this are what makes theatre memorable and exciting. The interaction between the screen and stage was something I hadn’t seen before and was executed perfectly. Another unforgettable moment is at the end when the cast emerge dressed once again as the ushers, reminding us that this was just a fictional tale and not real life. This being the third show I have seen directed by Emma Rice, I personally can’t wait to see more of this brilliant direction in action!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Case for a Second Brexit Referendum.

by Dominic Ager




Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson 
On the 21st June, 2016, Britain voted to  leave the European Union, resulting in one of the most catastrophic decisions in the history of our nation. The British electorate was misinformed by the Leave campaign, led by populists like the brash Boris Johnson, and the bigoted Nigel Farage. These “men of the people” who spearheaded the campaign appealed to those living in the poorest areas of our country, through anti-immigration rhetoric and spewing hate speech. They deceived those living in these relatively deprived regions by making them vote for something which would hit them harder than the wealthiest and most prosperous areas of the UK. Can we allow our nation to make a huge mistake based on the deception and lies of leave? I believe we should have a second referendum based on the final deal, to truly represent the people, and ensure that the populace believes we really should leave the EU.

Many members of the Leave campaign, and now the European Research Group, vehemently oppose a second referendum. They believe it is going against the will of the people and undemocratic to have a final say on the Brexit process. The two options the Eurosceptic wing of the Tories are offering us are the negotiated deal, or no deal. The first, at the rate things are going, could continue a lack of confidence in Britain, and continue the poor economic performance of our country that has occurred since the referendum. The latter could lead to a stalling of trade with the EU, our largest trading partner, and have dire economic consequences for our country, including reduced investment, and potentially businesses leaving the UK, particularly London, and worst of all a potential recession. Yet they refuse us the option to rejoin and remain one of the richest countries in the world. Is that something that we can accept? The most astonishing fact is that Jacob Rees Mogg, one of the most prominent Brexiteers, suggested 2 referendums in Parliament when he was advocating Brexit back in 2011.

Recently, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal (uncovered by Channel 4 News), and it being discovered that Vote Leave broke electoral law by overspending, the case for a second referendum has increased massively. Some have even claimed the result should be declared null and void due to this breach of electoral law, and the breach of people’s privacy by Cambridge Analytica. These weren’t the only problems with the Leave campaign. They blatantly lied to the electorate, like the battle bus touring the country, with “we send the EU £350 million a week; let’s fund our NHS instead”. This myth of the Brexit dividend was preached over and over and over again to the electorate, misinforming them, and effectively meaning the British public didn’t vote for the Brexit we will get, one creating dramatic economic consequences. We should not go ahead with a potentially disastrous process that was voted on be a misinformed electorate. That is not democratic. The kind of demagoguery used by the populists running the Leave campaign, is what led to the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany during the 20s and 30s respectively. The vague promises and false truths used by the Leave campaign are techniques reminiscent of Hitler during his election campaign, promising to end unemployment and sort out the Depression without giving a single how. It’s how we end up with Big Brother and Room 101.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

What is Tragedy?


by Poppy Goad

Macbeth 

A modern day interpretation of a Tragedy follows the protagonists through an event of suffering or disaster. It was through Western art that such a definition arose; finding its origins first in the workings of Aristotle. Aristotle argued that a tragedy ‘is an imitation of a action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude’. Thus, Aristotle founded his definition upon the necessity of a calamitous outcome, centred upon the protagonist/s. However, Aristotle also asserted that the scope of the play’s action is limited in terms of the plot, time and action. Therefore, limiting the portrayal of a ‘tragedy’ so that its ‘artistic ornament’ can only be found ‘in the form of action, not of narrative’.

Although a tragedy was argued to centre around the protagonist it was later observed that the virtuous nature of the ‘tragic hero’ was not central to the tragedy. Therefore, the definition of a protagonist still holds its origins in its Greek interpretation to mean the first of three professional actors who play all the speaking roles in the drama. Aristotle also observed that ‘there remains an error between the two extremes’ of protagonists. For either they are presented wholly virtuous and thus provoke disgust at the injustice against them, or are wholly wicked and therefore enthrall no sympathy or empathy from the audience. Therefore, Aristotle established a protagonist with megalopsychia; a greatness of soul. Thus using this to write his protagonist in the Poetics; drawing on the idea of a central character from the plays of Sophocles.

A tragedy initially consisted of a hamartia, caused by a hubris. Thus, the excessive pride which brings down divine punishment causes the protagonist’s error in judgement. Whether the decision stemmed from moral of immoral intentions becomes an irrelevant factor. Furthermore, after this ill judgement a state of anagnorisis is reached, where a recognition of the protagonist’s hubris is acknowledged. This sequence can be clearly observed in Sophocles, Antigone, whereupon Creon is made to understand his mistake in defying the gods of the underworld. Senecan tragedies also developed, which consisted of a group of nine closet dramas, that had a predominate supernatural element. The senecan tragedy became the model for revival in the Renaissance era. Thus creating two new branches of tragedy: Neoclassical and Elizabethan. They presented a more tame interpretation of a ‘tragedy’ that reflected more of the English moralism at the time. The question of God’s role became heightened throughout the middle ages. Therefore, if it is the belief that God’s providence will ensure the wicked are punished and the good rewarded, then there is no need for art to make sense of human suffering. Thus, a Renaissance theistic interpretation would negate the significance of ‘tragedy’ plays. However, in a non-theistic interpretation, tragedy’s can be observed to possibly question whether the universe is ruled by a divine justice. Therefore, it can be asserted that God can hold no place in the tragic genre. This was contradicted by Sir Philip Sidney who claimed that tragedy’s ‘teacheth the uncertainty of the world, and upon how weak foundations guilden roofs are builded’. Therefore, arguing that in a tragedy the crimes and hamartia of tyrants will be revealed in a state of anagnorisis and thus punished by god.

"Rugged Individualism" and the American Self-Image

by Lottie Allen




It is just as important that business keep out of government as that government keep out of business.  - Herbert Hoover

I pledge you - I pledge myself to a New Deal for the American people.- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Herbert Hoover
The concept of rugged individualism was a cultural belief in the USA; that all individuals should succeed on their own without state or government interference. This idea was closely associated with the Republican party - particularly, the president Herbert Hoover (presidential term: 4th March 1929 - 4th March 1933) because of his policies and actions heavily influenced by this belief. I will be assessing the significance of rugged individualism with regards to the political, economic, social and cultural impacts. I will be discussing these in terms of: the president and party in power, the health of the economy, the divide between rich and poor, and American culture during the interwar years. These impacts demonstrate that the influence of rugged individualism was more significant during the 1920s when the Republicans dominated, and was less significant during the 1930s when the Democrats dominated.

Based on the party and president in power, rugged individualism was hugely significant in terms of elections during the interwar period and was relevant to the 1920s in terms of policies. In the 1920s when the Republicans were in power, rugged individualism was incredibly significant because it was one of their main beliefs. This meant that policies closely associated to rugged individualism, such as their laissez faire policy (which pledged to minimise government or state interference in economic affairs within the society for all individuals) were implemented. As a result, America was prosperous during this time. Productivity and businesses grew due to laissez faire capitalism and the Republicans popularity grew simultaneously because these policies benefitted many Americans and brought prosperity to America. Consequently, the Republicans won the elections and the 1920s was an era of Republican leadership with three resolute, conservative Republicans occupying the White House, including: Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. Therefore, rugged individualism was significant in the 1920s because its popularity won the Republicans every election. Rugged individualism was also significant in the 1920s because the Republicans were in power so it meant that their policies and beliefs relating to rugged individualism were implemented and relevant.

FDR
On the contrary, rugged individualism was insignificant in terms of the party and president in power during the 1930s, because the Democrats were in power. However, it was significant with regards to the 1932 election, as it was responsible for the outcome. During Hoovers presidency, the Republicans lost a lot of support because of the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. This was because Hoover was unwilling to interfere with business and economic affairs due to his belief in rugged individualism which generated resentment amongst Americans who had become accustomed to wealth in the 1920s and now found themselves living in poverty. Hoover was blamed for this and therefore, FDR won the election. Moreover, rugged individualism was mostly insignificant during the 1930s because the Democrats were in power and it was not one of their beliefs. The Democratic nominee, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) won the presidential election in 1932 (electoral vote of 472 to 59). Although Hoovers unpopularity caused by rugged individualism contributed to this, it was also because Hoover was hated for the crushing of the Bonus March in July, 1932 - specifically because troops attacked the camp on his orders and a baby died, allegedly from the tear-gas. Also, FDR had a closeness to Americans that Hoover never had, he toured the nation to meet and listen to ordinary people prior to the election, so rugged individualism was not the only reason for the Republicans losing the 1932 election. Additionally, during the 1930s the New Deal was implemented by FDR - which mainly focused on relief, recovery and reform - rendering rugged individualism insignificant because the government had a huge involvement within the society. Hence, during the 1930s rugged individualism was significant because it caused the Democrats to win the 1932 election but was mostly insignificant because FDR was now in power and his New Deal rejected rugged individualism and this was popular. This was demonstrated when the Democratic party again won the 1936 and 1940 elections.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Photograph: Western conifer seed bug

by Tony Hicks

This bug was with about 60 others on the side of the Sixth Form Centre yesterday morning, when I was unlocking.



The Comedy/ Horror of 'Who Is America?'


by Nicholas Lemieux

Roy Moore "interviewed" by Sacha Baron Cohen
disguised as Colonel Erran Morrad
A case could be made that the career of infamous British comedian character artist Sacha Baron Cohen has been going through a steady decline throughout the 2010’s. A powerhouse in the 2000’s, his trademark really (emphasis on that) dark black comedy built him a steady following whilst his bizarre fictional commonly quoted personalities, such as Ali G, Borat and BrĂ¼no, became one of the biggest trends in popular culture. Nowadays Cohen has seemingly taken a backseat from his offensive characters, most of whom he has now retired, and has since gone on to become a straightforward actor in films such as Madagascar, Les Miserables and Alice Through the Looking Glass. His few personal film projects, such as The Dictator and Grimsby, have nowhere near recaptured the charm and acclaim of his original work. However, on July 8th 2018, just out of the blue, American premium channel Showtime announced a new programme filmed completely under wraps Guerilla style, set to premier within just the next following week, created by and starring Baron Cohen in his first television project since Channel 4’s Da Ali G Show.

The official press release for Who Is America? described it as exploring “the diverse individuals, from the infamous to the unknown across the political and cultural spectrum, who populate our [America’s] unique nation”. In a way, the basic premise for Who Is America? is not dissimilar to Da Ali G Show. Both shows involve Baron Cohen dressing up as quirky, over-the-top characters and interacting with unsuspecting people in a documentary style, who are not aware of the fictional aspect, provoking reactions from them with some insane troll logic and setting them up for self-revealing ridicule.

Who Is America? primarily focused upon the politics on the country, and indeed it is often the politicians who are the butt of the jokes. Due to the show’s secretive nature, a whole new roster of characters was introduced by Baron Cohen with the intention of pranking the interviewees. These absurd personalities included Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., PHD, a Deep South Trump supporter and paranoid conspiracy theorist (his thoughts on the chemicals in the water turning the freakin’ frogs gay remains unclear); Dr. Nira Cain-N'Degeocello, an extremely liberal gender studies lecturer, who seeks to heal the divide between the right and left following the divisive presidential result of 2016; and my personal favourite character, Sergeant/ Brigadeer/ Colonel Erran Morrad, an Israeli counter-terrorism expert, formerly of the Mossad, who now seeks to provide the US with rather unorthodox tactics against terrorists, immigrants and paedophiles.

Airing over the course of last summer, straight from the beginning it was clear this show was pulling no punches: One of the more shocking scenes including Cohen, in character, convincing several politicians into endorsing a programme to arm children as young as four years old with guns to protect them from school shooters, under the idea that since toddlers are “pure, uncorrupted by fake news or homosexuality”, they would easily be trained in the course of action, turning a first grader into a “first grenader”. He even got one of them to engage in a nursery singalong called “head, shoulders, not the toes, not the toes”. And that was just episode 1!

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Impact of Leonardo da Vinci on Renaissance Medicine


by Emily Stone




Leonardo da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519. In an era in which human dissection was forbidden, he drew over 750 drawings depicting the human body. These were extensive and covered practically all aspects of the body, ranging from the cardiovascular system to the musculoskeletal system.

The accuracy of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical knowledge impacted upon the precision of the understanding of the body and bodily functions in the Renaissance. His drawings are largely accurate and portray many features and workings of the human body that had been represented in different ways previously. Da Vinci dissected many times, often illegally and used these dissections to look for improvements in his own knowledge. This development of knowledge made a large impact on the study of medicine. Previously, incorrect knowledge of the anatomy lead to Doctors making mistakes in diagnosis and treatment, however the anatomical drawings of da Vinci enabled medical students in the 1500s to draw upon accurate knowledge to treat patients correctly.

Most importantly, Da Vinci’s work often contradicted or advanced upon theories of that time. From the fall of the Roman Empire until that time, the Church controlled the study of medicine, and the accepted works was that of Galen, a Ancient Roman Doctor who lived c. 130- 210AD. The Church’s power over medicine restricted the discovery of new knowledge. However Leonardo da Vinci was an independent artist, disconnected from a medical school and as such he was not limited by these boundaries. This enabled him to ignore predetermined knowledge and allow him to discover concepts of his own. He recognised the importance of dissection and investigating concepts for oneself. He is known to have said that dissection is as important to the artist as conjugations are to the grammarian. This view of da Vinci’s is important when considering da Vinci’s impact, as not only was he developing the knowledge gained in the study of medicine, he demonstrated new ways in which to study medicine and the anatomy.

However, when da Vinci started his anatomical exploration, he made the same mistakes as Galen. Da Vinci dissected animals and attributed his findings in animals to humans erroneously, as did Galen before him. The typical example of this is the jaw bone. Dogs have two bones in their jaws as opposed to the one bone in the human jaw. Galen, when he dissected dogs, concluded from this that the human jaw likewise consists of two bones. Before he dissected humans, da Vinci assumed the same principles.  This would have had a negative impact on the study of medicine, however he was quick to discover flaws in Galen's anatomical knowledge, once he started human dissections. For example he described the flow of urine into the bladder as being governed by hydrodynamic principles. This went against Galen’s ideas of valvular action of channels in the bladder wall. This was fundamentally important to the study of medicine. Expelling the influence of the Church, and renouncing old, incorrect ideas was a common theme of Renaissance medicine and da Vinci started this with his own anatomical drawings.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Are School Shootings a Consequence of Ignorance?

by Laura Mayes


More people have died and been injured in mass school shootings in the past 18 years then the collective total for the whole of the 20th century, but why the sudden increase? In Lionel Shriver’s award winning novel We Need to Talk About Kevin her antagonist, Kevin, exclaims that "to be really famous in this country, you've got to kill somebody." It’s hard to believe that this cold and, controversially, truthful statement is uttered from the mouth of a teenager. His honesty paints him as a sadistic character and when he murders over ten people it’s hard to see him as anything but a demon. But monsters have been used throughout the ages in literature to signal a threat to the established order and Kevin, similar in his tendencies to any other despicable fiend from fiction, offers a glimpse into the problems of today’s society and, perhaps, the probable causes of school shootings.


We live in a world where there are more conduits for communication than ever before. In fact, 71% of the world’s population has a social media account but in spite of this a survey conducted by the Harris Poll, on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association, revealed that nearly ¾ of the participants claim to experience loneliness. Also, worryingly, in most cases these feelings of isolation are experienced predominantly by young adults and teenagers; as a recent report by London’s King’s College has revealed, generation Z (the demographic cohort after the Millennials) is the loneliest yet. There are numerous reasons why this may be the case: an increase in pressure to conform, an increase in the usage of social media sites (where children are confronted by unrealistic body goals) but, also, a decrease in quality time spent with friends, families and colleagues’. The rise in the tragic number of school shootings has led to the stereotype of what a mass shooter is becoming socially acceptable: a loner with a rubbish homelife, dressed all in black, finally snaps one day and brings a gun to school. Yet it is paramount that we stress that this is hardly ever the case. Although, yes, in most cases it is white males who are the perpetrators of the crime it is also important that we acknowledge that there are no clear patterns between the socio-economic or cultural background of mass shooters.

Photography: Sunny Evening and Paddle Steamer 'Waverley'

by Tony Hicks







Elon Musk - The Ugly Truth

by Thomas Beattie



Elon Musk, business owner, investor, and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, hasn’t failed to top our most recent news headlines. A place he seems alarmingly comfortable at as I’m sure Tesla's shareholders will agree. But is he really the great inventor and entrepreneur that his powerful personal fortune of $20.2 billion USD, according to Forbes real time billionaires ranking’ lists, suggests he is? Are Tesla really the future of cars and is Musk really carving his way into the space age history books?  

There’s no doubt that Musk is a clever and talented entrepreneur. The 47 year old South-African definitely didn’t stumble across $20.2 billion and he certainly wasn’t born into it.



Musk spent his early days, with his
brother and sister, growing up in South Africa. At age 10, when his parents divorced, a diffident Musk developed an interest in computers and taught himself how to code. But is it his intelligence and innovation that gain him features in prominent news headlines? Or is it simply his brash and insubordinate behaviour? Many people hear about his early and successful business ventures and presume that Musk is a faultless money maker, and that’s the end of it. However, the same group of people are often surprised to hear that some of his business ventures are actually losing money quickly. In 1999 Musk co-founded ‘Paypal’, formerly named ‘X.com’, and then sold it to Ebay in 2002 for a sweeping $1.5 Billion in stock; Musk owned 11%. In spite of this success it was ‘Zip2’ that earned Musk his first fortune. The much acclaimed online city guide was sold for $307 million in cash and $34 million in stock options.

This is where it gets interesting. Tesla. With almost $2 billion lost in 2017, and a reported record $710 million net loss, according to the Guardian, as of August 1st 2018, the company is in the red. Slowly the company say they are pushing through “production hell’ and battling against a very competitive market. So how are they surviving? Musk is well known for his clever personal branding and brash stunts. He certainly knows how to get our attention and regularly features in our news headlines. Some of these stunts are often poorly judged and do little favours for Musk's investability. Resultantly they lose him significant amounts of money. Conversely some of his more eye-opening stunts are pure genius. In February 2018, SpaceX enjoyed a successful launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, designed to carry heavy loads.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Review: Little Shop of Horrors


by Daniel Hill







When I found out that Little Shop Of Horrors was returning to the London Stage I made it a priority to see this musical. Having played the role of Seymour as part of the Middle School’s production in 2014 this musical has a special place in my heart being the first lead role I had played in a play and therefore I was extremely excited to return to it. I was particularly intrigued to see the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre as well due to recommendation from Emily Smith. The venue is brilliant and this is not just down to the fact it was a good summer’s evening, however that did help. Luckily the show managed to reach and exceed every expectation. This production was better than Hamilton.

Starring Marc Antolin as Seymour, Jemima Rooper as Audrey, former Busted member Matt Willis as Orin, Forbes Masson as Mushnik and American Drag Queen Vicky Vox as Audrey II the cast is very strong on paper. The creative are also very strong and this is seen on stage as Maria Aberg directs, Tom Scutt designs the vibrant set and costumes and Lizzi Gee choreographs some of the strongest choreography I have seen on stage. Written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken the show tells the story of a young man who works in a florist's and has a particular interest in ‘strange and exotic’ plants which leads him into nurturing a plant which turns out to be a man-eating alien. This far-fetched sci-fi kind of plot sounds ridiculous but it is executed fantastically by the cast and crew at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

The set replicates a dull, grey Skid Row on which we see the musical take place. The set allows the vibrant costumes, often green, to really stand out for the audience. This vibrancy mirrors the musical itself and the energy provided by the cast and ensemble particularly. This is often done through the choreography which is simply awe-inspiring at moments and there was not a weak link in the cast who struggled with the high standard of dance displayed. The dance was often in unison and performed fairly quickly which made it flawless throughout. It was worked into the  brilliant music and seemed almost effortless from the performers on stage.

Poem: If the White Were Dark


Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)


White is dark.
Bang! Sorry!
A fear of being killed is your defence
As they lie
                  dead
                          with nothing but a pair of keys in their hands


White is dark.
Get out! You don't belong here!
Publicly humiliated - and for what?
A willing, paying customer,
                                            shamed,
                                                            singled out for looking different


What if white were dark?
Bang! Sorry!
Arrested and punished
On trial
             for murder
                              in the second degree                                                           


What if white were dark?
Get Out! You don't belong here!
Imagine the uproar
The viral videos,
                          dominating social media,
                                                                   crowd jumping to their defence


If the white were dark,
Gun laws would be there,
racism at a minimum,
no wall, no discrimination, no
                                                 separation
                                                                    of families.


Mother and child at the US-Mexico border, 2018
     
The writer of this poem is a pupil at PGS who has requested to remain anonymous.                                                         

Fraud or "Creative Accounting"?

by Will Donworth



Making false and misleading statements; overstating profits to the Markets regarding a company’s status at key financial reporting periods to encourage investment and please shareholders. Is this the new fraud in the accounting world or has it actually been going on for many years. Researching this topic I have been required to use secondary source information such as contemporary newspaper articles which can lead to bias as the writer tends to have either their own view point or newspaper sales and public bias in the back of their mind. However, when utilising those sources I have deliberately stuck with direct statements of fact as reported on such occasion as court cases or parliamentary statements.

Giant companies past and present appear to have done just this to push up share prices, encourage investment, show false profits and gain Government contracts. Essentially “cooking the books”[1] to lead a market in its field. It isn’t a new practise, as I found whilst researching the TESCO scandal of 2013-2015[2].

TESCO reported its first possible decline in profits around October 2012. This was the first fall of profits by the company for more than 20 years. The chief executive at the time, Philip Clarke tried to allay fears as the company had been going through a complete face lift with a cash injection of £1bn to win back shoppers from competitors and modernise. The performance of the UK domestic market was crucial to the company’s success as it accounted for two thirds of the TESCO group total profits.
The second biggest TESCO market was in South Korea and TESCOs US Chain Fresh & Easy. Neither was performing particularly well. As well as this profits were beginning to slump in the Eurozone area. The central European division was dropping off by a fifth. Therefore the UK domestic market was vital. Overall the TESCO Groups trading profit had dropped by 10.5%. Philip Clarke maintained that the UK side of the business was at a crossroads between actual physical shopping and the online shopping market.

To try and initially combat the down turn action was taken to cut the number of new stores being opened. These giant hypermarket like stores were filled with goods that were not being purchased. Consumers were browsing online but not making purchases. This all seemed very worrying for the TESCO group and shareholders needed to be convinced that this was just a temporary glitch, nothing to get overly worried about as plans were in place to improve the situation.

Philip Clarke[3] removed most of his senior team and replaced them with a close knit team described as his “inner caucus”. Sources have suggested that he put pressure on his team to “deliver the numbers”[4].

Chris Bush[5] (UK Managing Director TESCO Jan 2013-Sept 2014) who had been CEO of TESCO Malaysia was brought back in house and took up the position of Chief Operating Officer UK in March 2012. By January 2013 he had been appointed UK Managing Director. Carl Rogberg (UK Finance Director Feb 2013-Sept 2014) joined the team from Thailand. Completing that inner caucus was John Scouler (Tesco Food Commercial Director) who had worked with Bush overseeing TESCOs deals with food suppliers.

TESCO over stated its profits for the second half of that year. It boosted its profits by £263m artificially inflating its bottom line. By August 2014 it had allowed a false market in its shares and bonds to state profits would be £1.1bn. This was all misleading and in reality not the case. When it was exposed in September 2014, just a few weeks after Dave Lewis had taken over from Philip Clarke as chief executive, the shares took a nose dive to 12pc.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Review: Fun Home

by Daniel Hill



Fun Home is an American musical based on the tragicomedy of the same name which tells the true story of Alison Bechdel’s early life and her relationship with her father. Told through the eyes of the older Alison, she discovers that perhaps she had more similarities with her father than she knew at the time as she explores two periods of her early life. The production is directed by Sam Gold who directed the original Broadway production which won 5 Tony Awards including Best New Musical. This production at the Young Vic stars Kaisa Hammarlund as Alison, Jenna Russell as Helen (Alison’s Mother) and Zubin Varla as her father, Bruce. The Young Vic was set up in a proscenium stage for this production.

Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron wrote Music and Book & Lyrics respectively. The music is very good and really allows the show to flow between the three generations that we see on stage together. This seamless connection between the three ages could have easily been very complicated but the combination of script, music and direction is done really well. As it is adapted from the graphic novel, this remains a focus throughout with the musical almost forming the journey Alison went through when trying to discover how to begin her comic. This makes it quite a gripping, moving and comical show on the Young Vic stage. Although the music is written very well, it is taken to new heights due to the powerful delivery from the cast.

As the tragicomic remains a focus it is also used by the technical team. The set itself includes a replica of the writing desk of Alison Bechdel and this allows the comic to remain a physical presence on stage throughout in combination with mentally. The set is used by the cast as they are often used to move the set around the stage in order to set up the living room of Alison’s childhood home. The reveal towards the end of the second act in which we are suddenly shown how Bruce has become so obsessed with this space and developing it he has almost forgotten his family, is overwhelming however doesn’t quite seem necessary and is somewhat used as a distraction from the play which is in places effective due to the simplicity. The projection used towards the end is also very effective in portraying this understanding that has been found during this journey we have followed.

Carbon Fibre - The Material of the Future?

by Katie O'Flaherty






With technology advancing at an almost unimaginable rate, and globalisation causing industry to expand exponentially, the materials of yesterday are already becoming old and obsolete, their properties not up to scratch for the new tasks of today. And yet, could the materials of the past be re-thought and re-imagined for the future? Aerogel was first synthesised as a fun project in 1929, and spent the first fifty years of its life unused and unable to be commercialised. Then, in the 1980s, suddenly it was found to be the perfect material for capturing ‘stardust’ in space to analyse the composition of comets. This re-emergence of a previously disregarded substance is becoming a reoccuring theme in modern day materials science, and carbon fibre is no exception.

The first carbon fibres were in fact created in 1879 by Thomas Edison, to be used as a filament in his lightbulbs, however tungsten filaments quickly replaced them, and carbon fibers slipped into the dark. The modern era of carbon fibre began nearly 80 years later, when in 1958 a scientist called Roger Bacon stumbled upon the first high performance carbon fibers by accident when trying to find the triple point (point where the solid, liquid, and gas phase all exist simultaneously) of graphite. After testing these fibres, Bacon found them to have a tensile strength (resistance to elastic deformation) of 20 Gigapascals (GPa), and a Young Modulus (measure of stiffness) of 700 GPa. For comparison, steel usually has a tensile strength of 1-2 GPa, and Young Modulus of 200 GPa. These amazing results started to gain carbon fibre the grand reputation it has today.

Carbon fibre is a type of reinforced polymer (commonly regarded as a plastic), and can be seen as a polymer of graphite, which is a form of carbon in which each carbon atom is bonded to three other carbon atoms to form giant sheets of hexagons, the sheets held together by relatively weak intermolecular forces, thus are able to slide over each other. In more modern times, ultrahigh modulus carbon fibres have been synthesised, with a tensile modulus of up to 500-1000 GPa, unlocking the material for plethora of uses.

The production of carbon fibre is, at heart, a four step process,
with 90% of carbon fibres made from PAN (polyacrylonitrile) (C3H3N)n, which is itself a polymer, of which the monomer unit consists of 3 carbon atoms, one of which is a branch chain, triple bonded to a nitrogen atom. The production process begins with stabilisation, where the precursor is heated in air, causing the fibres to ‘pick up’ oxygen atoms, rearranging the molecules from linear bonding to a more thermally stable ladder bonding. These molecules then undergo carbonisation, where they are heated to very high temperatures without contact to oxygen, thus are not able to burn. Instead, this causes the molecules to vibrate until nearly all of the non-carbon atoms are expelled. After this, the surface of the carbon fibre is then treated so that it can bond well with the epoxies (adhesives or plastics), and other materials used in the composite. Finally, the fibres are coated to protect them from damage during winding or weaving, in a process called sizing.

Photography: Sunny Southsea Sunday

by Tony Hicks





Ayahuasca: Shamanic Connection to the Spirit World

by Jack Breen


Ayahuasca is an entheogenic brew popular in shaman traditions throughout the Amazon, like the Urarina people in Peru. It features the potent psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), found in leaves of trees from the Psychotria genus, and MAO-inhibiting harmola alkaloids, to make the DMT orally active. 

People within the society would drink this brew in the presence of an experienced shaman to connect with spiritual beings or to seek their purpose in the world. Common effects are noted as visual and auditory stimulation, the mixing of sensory modalities, and psychological self-analysis that can cause elation, fear, or illumination

A purging process occurs during the ceremony which is essential to rid the body of tropical parasites but is seen by the shamans as the negative energy and demons exiting the body so that it can pure again. DMT is naturally-occurring in humans in minute amounts in the pineal gland and the hypothesis has been raised that it is responsible for dreams and flashbacks formed during near-death experiences. 

Non-indigenous people have taken this in non-traditional methods as ayahuasca retreats have been opened in various countries globally and a 2018 study found that the brew could significantly reduce treatment-resistant depression. However, ingesting the brew with caffeine, antidepressants or recreational drugs can be fatal.  

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Top Picks from the Edinburgh Fringe

by Daniel Hill



The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is arguably the biggest and greatest arts festival in the world. Seven pupils were joined by two members of the drama department were lucky enough to be putting on the play An Algorithm Named Kevin written by James Robinson. Although this was a brilliant experience, a second important part of the experience was watching as many shows as possible. During the week we were there, I managed to see 17 shows in total. Below is a quick review for each production, put into groups of similar standard in terms of my opinions.

Top Picks

The few performances that I thought were crucial in the mix of theatre that I saw at the Fringe. 

Ovid’s Metamorphoses *****

A brilliant reimagining of a series of Greek myths in mid 19th century Britain during WW2. Somewhat similar to a Kneehigh production, the piece included many musical interjections throughout, showing the versitality of cast. The set was worked into the piece really well and the projections used created another layer to this joyful piece. It was a joy to behold the cast creating this exciting piece of theatre

Six *****

Taking an unsung history hero seems to be the current biggest thing in theatre, but what happens when you combine Hamilton with a powerful girl band. Six tells the story of Henry VIII’s six wives as they battle to provide the audience with the best sob story. Many of the songs could be released and succeed as stand alone pop songs and the band playing this music were outstanding. It could definitely be seen by many as ‘trashy’, however I thought the enjoyment and energy created dismissed this interpretation.

Number Please *****

I was lucky enough to catch two shows starring Old Portmuthians at the Fringe, with this one just popping into my top picks. Rob Merriam starred in this new writing piece which was out on by a cast from Edinburgh University. The comedy seemed like a play written by a comedy great such as Noel Coward and created this joyful sense of period comedy within the venue. Strong acting and good direction helped this strong script become as hilarious as it was on stage. 

Highlights

Some of the other strong pieces we saw during our time in Edinburgh 

Circolombia *****

Out of the two circus performances we saw I thought this was better. It did exactly what was expected, and it was done very well. The mixture of music, acrobatics, dance and aeralists worked really well making this a brilliant opening night to our trip to Edinburugh. I thought that all performers seemed comfortable on stage and every trick was polished very well. The best circus show I have seen and it will be a hard one to beat. 


Flight *****
More of an experience than a production this was the only piece that I saw twice during my stay in Edinburugh. Using Shroedinger’s Cat at the centre of the piece, the experience took place inside a shipping container set out like a plane. As it begins the lights are out and you are left in pitch black (literally.) Very clever created through the use of heightening our hearing sense. Exploring Shroedinger’s Cat put the audience within the shoes of the Cat begging the question can you ever be equally alive and dead; the question  is never really answered in this piece. 

The First Love Project *****

A physical theatre, verbatim piece inspired by the work of both Kneehigh and Frantic Assembly explored the first loves of people born during the mid to late 19th Century. The cast was made up of university students and this allowed the old tales to be given a fresh retelling by a younger generation, keeping these stories alive. The direction was brilliant for this piece as was the script that was created from the interviews. A great piece performed beautifully. 

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee ****

The second show I saw starring an OP was this musical. Laura Verrechia was part of the Bristol Uni’s interpretation of the show. This was the first show I had seen which was not a new writing as it has had success proffesionally. It contains greats music and is written really well with a mainly brilliant cast to complement this. The live band also provided an edge to this production over some of the others that I saw. Definetley worth a watch. 

Good Stuff

The shows that I enjoyed and would go back and see a few times. 

Photography: The Start of a New Term at PGS

by Tony Hicks


New term, early morning at PGS . . .