Saturday, 30 June 2012

Rock-Paper-Scissors-Robot

Scientists at the Ishikawa Lab at Tokyo University have developed a robot that will always win at rock-paper-scissors.

"Unlike a human player, this robot comes equipped a high-speed camera that allows it recognize the shape of your hand a millisecond before it plays its winning hand. That single millisecond is imperceptible to a human, but to the robot, it’s all the time it needs to win 100 percent of the time."
Read more about the "human-machine co-operation system"



Photography Club: Faces in the Crowd

by Saskia Goacher


In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Ezra Pound

The Chimes: Review

Charlie Albuery reviews The Chimes at the Portsmouth Festivities

On Thursday, 29th June, PGS put on its latest production, a heavily adapted retelling of The Chimes by Charles Dickens.
It is an interesting trend kicked off by Find Me that no-one can seem to keep the DRT in its traditional theatre setup; the chairs were retracted and a walkway divided the audience in two, with a stage at each end. One of the high points of the show was the rather convincing transformation from a regular school theatre to a ‘place of worship’; there was a hugely atmospheric ambience throughout the entire piece.
The director’s notes explain that the play is about Trotty Veck (Harry Norton) ‘a porter who waits for jobs at the door of a church’ after meeting a strange man called Will (Fergus Kaye) and entrusting Will’s baby’s care to his sister Meg (Jessamie Waldon-Day), who is to marry Richard (Rory Bishop). I should say that all these actors played their roles believably and with a sense of dry humour that kept the play just a little lighter than continually dark and depressing.
After seeing the play, that is still about as much as I understand about the plotline of the play, but, in a way, that doesn’t matter. There are some deeply moving ‘physical theatre’ scenes, particularly the dance/prostitution scene set to music, involving Will's grown-up daughter (Emily Tandy).
If you looked at that last sentence and just said ‘What?’, then we’re in the same boat; in general, it alarms me when over half the notes I take while watching a play end in a question mark. The main bulk of the play involves Trotty at the top of a church tower, being shown a possible future by ‘The Chimes’ (see what they did there?). This is where I begin to have problems; the future shown to Trotty is fragmented, generations jump and people grow up, sometimes making it difficult to keep track of which character is which and characters age decades without any visible change, leading to more confusion.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Voces8: Review

Tim MacBain reviews Voces8 at the Portsmouth Festivities

Voces8 are an a capella vocal group, consisting – ironically -- of eight singers. On Sunday 24th June, The Portsmouth Festivities was lucky enough to have them sing a concert in St Thomas’ Cathedral. Having an internationally acclaimed ensemble performing so close to PGS was exhilarating; the fact that the venue was so intimate (despite being a cathedral) lent the event a real buzz of anticipation as we took our seats.

source: voces8.com


 The range of music was gloriously eclectic, from the Brahms and Bizet to James Bond and George Gershwin. The first half passed like a dream, effortless waves of sound washing over the audience. As any member of any music ensemble who has played in the cathedral knows, that building eats sound. It defies belief that Voces8 could have filled such an acoustic with such an array of dynamics: each pianissimo drew us in; each forte sent us reeling. We were still reeling when the interval started. The precision, quality, control, musicality of each member of the group was astounding (see video below). We were all eager to begin the second half. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Isle of Wight Festival 2012

by Anne Stephenson

I have never been to a ‘proper’ music festival before and have often toyed with the idea. I decided if I didn’t go to the Isle Of Wight Festival this year I never would, since Bruce Springsteen was playing and he is my all-time rock hero.

Bruce Springsteen at the IOW Festival
(photo: A Stephenson)

There were also other bands on the bill that I wanted to see: Biffy Clyro, Elbow, Tom Petty, Joan Armatrading, Suzanne Vega, Noel Gallagher.... a friend said I should see Pearl Jam who were their favourite band. My daughter (18) highlighted other bands on the set list that she thought I would like: Boyce Avenue,  The Vaccines, Example, Band of Skulls. So I bought a ticket from my daughter’s friend who decided they would rather go to ‘Bestival’ and I was all set. I was going to camp …then there was the mud bath of Thursday so I decided to stay with a friend who lives on the Isle of Wight instead, and go back and forth each day. So I didn’t really have the ‘full festival experience’. However, those I met that did camp all had a great time.

In the end I saw most of the bands I wanted to see. Some were better than expected: Tom Petty was awesome, I didn’t realise I knew so many Tom Petty songs! Some bands came up to expectations; Noel Gallagher had a great rapport with the crowd, played through a flare attack and ended on my favourite Oasis song. Some were, somehow, a little disappointing; Elbow only grabbed me on their final song, Biffy Clyro were good but somehow I couldn’t get completely carried away.

I loved the atmosphere, which was very relaxed and easy going. It was great to see old and young all dancing together to the same bands. The highlights of Friday were Noah and the Whale and Tom Petty. I spent Saturday having a ‘proper’ festival day with a friend; trying different bands, dancing with what seemed like the whole festival to Madness, chilling out with a cocktail on ‘The Beach’ whilst bopping to a local band that did Beach Boy covers, mooching around the stalls, having free tea and cakes in a yurt run by local churches which was a haven from the hurly burly outside, and getting drenched as Pearl Jam finished. On Sunday I meant to have another proper festival experience but found myself standing at the front by the barrier listening to the amazing voice of Joan Armatrading at 2:15pm.

I was next to a small stage that had been constructed the night before, this would be where Bruce Springsteen would stand to sing ‘close up and personal’ rather than staying on the lofty heights of the main stage as the other performers did.

1956: A Year In Three Seconds



by Zoe Dukoff-Gordon

‘Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev, Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez
                                                                                                                                    Billy Joel



Usually, we just listen to songs we like, as they are ‘catchy’ or ‘have a good beat’, but do we ever know what we are listening about? Is there a meaning to our i-Tunes playlists?

For Year Nine History, we did a project on Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’, and each class member was asked to research a specific year: mine was 1956 (which included the lyrics quoted above).

Brigitte Bardot
(clfmag.com)
Brigitte Bardot was one of the the first internationally famous non-American/non-British actress/models. A French actress, who starred in ‘Le M├ępris’, she went on to star in films in different languages in countries such as Spain and Australia. She opened doors for other non-Anglo-American actresses.

In 1956, in Budapest, Hungary, the people demanded that the Soviet Russian troops occupying their country leave. The Russian occupiers had suppressed Hungarian freedom of speech and action. The protests were mainly led by students, who were among the many Hungarians arrested by the Russian soldiers following demonstrations and riots.

President Obama, in 2012, sits in the seat Rosa Parks
refused to give up in 1956.
(msnbcmedia.msn.com)
Meanwhile, in the USA, in Alabama, an African-American woman, Rosa Parks sat on a bus seat reserved for white people under the laws of segregation. When she was asked to move by a white male, she refused to move and was arrested and sent to prison for thirteen months. The discrimination against Parks and the realisation of the fact that a white male male had a greater right to a bus seat than an African-American woman in certain parts of the South shocked many Americans and is often seen as a starting point in the Civil Rights movement and the challenging of racism in America.  

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Royal Ascot: A Den of Vice and Debauchery

by Ben Schofield

Last Friday I awoke, as I normally do, and then did something I usually don’t. Rather than adhere to my usual study-leave schedule of staying prostrate in bed until half past three (before revising really hard), I rose early, slipped into a limp Marks and Spencer lounge suit and headed off to Royal Ascot. Thanks to the lax rules surrounding under-17 year olds with regards to dress and ticket cost when accompanied by a generous adult patron I slipped into the Royal Enclosure for a day at the races like no other.
Horses have always been a favourite pastime of the rich and powerful, gambling and drinking likewise. It was only sensible, therefore, that in 1711 all three of these powerful and enticing activities were combined into a short period of time at a location convenient for the richest and most powerful in all of England, i.e. six miles from the Royal Family’s figurehead abode of Windsor Castle. Three hundred and one years from its establishment, very little has changed. Lords, Ladies and the unnamed numerous upper class parade around, secure in the knowledge that they are in their element, that these are their people. There I was, a phantom from the middle classes, passing through like smoke, studying their habits.
It was a grey windy morning when I first arrived at the green fields and modernist architecture of Royal Ascot 2012. The car park was already clogged with mud and rear wheel sports cars unsuited to the terrain. A light aperitif of entertainment was dealt to those arriving as unhappy men in brightly coloured waistcoats struggled to push cars out of trouble, while the drivers apologetically lashed them with a spattering of mud. The wind started to pick up early on and wouldn’t die down for most of the day; in fact, I had more fun guessing which hat would fly off next than deliberating on the merits of each horse. The women’s hats were by far the most interesting thing about visiting Ascot. Each vied for attention in the crowd in as stupid and vitriolic a way as possible. Some had feathers dangling off them on long flexible stalks, which made them look like a flock of carrion birds waiting to plunge and peck the eyes out of various race-goers. My favourite had to be one worn by a horse owner's wife; it was comprised of what looked like a flying saucer as big as a frying pan balanced at a precarious angle on one side of her head, and, on the other side, sprouting from the rim of the saucer in a tumorous fashion was a fabric rose the size of a large ham.
Another thing that surprised me was the amount those people could drink. By the end of the day empty champagne bottles were strewn everywhere, like a thousand empty cases in the trenches of the war against Daddy’s pile of cash. For those arriving early there was very little to do to fill up the hours until the races actually began but drink, which is probably why scenes like this occurred:

(source: The Guardian)


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Review: Believe by Justin Bieber

by George Neame

New haircut
(source: celebrity-mania.com)
Justin Bieber is a name likely to cause a scene wherever you are, whoever you are. The subsequent reaction when such a name is uttered is either one of swooning delight or gagging sickness. It’s a classic case of ‘you either love him or you hate him’. I doubt I need to highlight the background of pop’s baby-faced prince, his fame since he signed with Island Records after a YouTube discovery by Scooter Braun and Usher led to his becoming globally recognised. Because of this, I will save you the very brief history of his rise to fame and cut straight to the chase. The only thing I should point out is that, for those of you who don’t know, Bieber has finally cut that infuriating mop of hair.

The fact of it is, when I first heard this album, despite the shivers that rattled down my spine beforehand, I realised one simple thing: it is actually not bad. Please, do not start Googling ‘assassins-for-hire’. Allow me to explain.

Whilst recording Believe in late 2011, Bieber commented that he aimed to produce a more mature, grown-up album. Gone, he claimed, were the repetitious lyrics of ‘Baby’. No longer would his songs be just a sordid collection of irritatingly high-pitched hooks and limp backing beats. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was just a lie to drag in a couple more fans over the age of ten years old. Much to my shock, though, he seems to have actually kept to his word.

Review: Ballgowns at the V & A

by Kiara Clement


During half term, two friends and I ventured up to London to attend a ball gown exhibition (Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950) at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Expecting a good day out, we discovered that the V and A did not disappoint.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the world’s largest design and decorative arts museums and has decades of experience in putting together spectacular exhibitions all through the year. Therefore, it was no surprise that Ballgowns: British Glamour Since 1950 was no exception. 

The exhibit had a display of stunning dresses from multiple designers, all showing their unique styles. From Catherine Walker, who designed Princess Diana’s Elvis Dress, to amazing designs by the late Alexander McQueen, the show was studded with designers notorious for evening and day glamour. The gowns, set below white chandeliers and among large glistening pearl spheres, truly looked their best.

Monday, 25 June 2012

England Suffer Shootout Heartbreak Yet Again

by George Kimber-Sweatman

Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo
(source:1.bp.blogspot.com)

Once again, England’s footballers were knocked out in the quarter-finals of a major tournament by a penalty shootout defeat. This time, it came after a valiant effort against a far more technically-gifted and experienced Italy side and after a tournament campaign that exceeded the expectations of most - so it was not all doom and gloom.
The closing quarter-final of this summer’s European Championships began with most expecting a closely-fought encounter, with at most only the single goal separating the sides – and so it turned out. The match certainly started with a bang as Italy hit the post through a thunderous Daniele de Rossi volley which just curled too far from an Italian point of view. Only a matter of minutes later, England had a golden chance to take the lead themselves as they broke down the right and right-back Glen Johnson almost finished off the move that he had started, but just failed to get enough power on his shot as the ball became stuck underneath his feet and Gianluigi Buffon made a reaction save.
The match then started to take the shape expected at the outset, as the two cautious teams reverted to type and it became more of a midfield battle. There were, however, more chances for both sides before the half came to an end: Scott Parker fired wide from an errant Buffon punch on 12 minutes, before Wayne Rooney headed over the bar and enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli broke the offside trap worryingly often but was thwarted eventually in each instance by the solid-looking English defence. Despite Italy’s domination of possession – helped in no small part by Andrea Pirlo’s craft and flair – it had been a fairly even half, with England creating plenty of chances to go with Italy’s inevitable attempts on goal.
In the second half, however, Italy’s superior quality began to show and England looked increasingly likely to concede the vital first goal of the match. Wave after wave of Italian attacks flowed towards the English goal, as the Three Lions gave the ball away far too often on the rare occasions that they were afforded possession. Indeed, just 3 minutes after the restart, de Rossi inexplicably fired wide from just 6 yards out when unchallenged following a Joe Hart punch – perhaps snatching at the golden opportunity. On 52 minutes, England were given another let-off as first de Rossi had an effort saved by Hart, before Balotelli suffered the same fate and Riccardo Montolivo fired over from 3 yards under vital pressure from Johnson. England were certainly hanging on. They did, though, have chances of their own as Danny Welbeck fired just over the bar with England’s best chance, before Ashley Young’s effort from substitute Andy Carroll’s knockdown was well blocked by Ignazio Abate. Following some heroic blocks to prevent Joe Hart from being made to work in the English goal, Rooney was inches away from connecting with another dangerous Steven Gerrard set-piece delivery.
Then there was more drama to come as both sides came close to stealing the victory in the dying minutes. Firstly, only a valiant Johnson block prevented Antonio Nocerino from providing the sucker punch after a perfect first touch, then England broke away in the final minute of stoppage time, with Ashley Cole’s tireless run ending with a cross that was just too high for Carroll, who still managed to provide a header for Rooney to acrobatically fire just over the bar with an overhead kick attempt. It would have been harsh on Italy to have scored then, but the 8,000 England fans in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium and the tens of millions watching at home would certainly have been screaming and dancing around in delight at what would have been one of the most euphoric and dramatic sporting moments in recent memory.

Could Bird Flu Turn Deadly?

by Ross Watkins

(source: latimes.com)
I remember a few years ago there was a lot of fuss about bird flu and how the world was at risk from a serious epidemic. As a few years passed, the world forgot about bird flu as it seemed not to cause much of a problem. In fact there have only been aound 330 estimated deaths since 2003.
However, recently a very worrying thought has worried scientists. Up until now the virus could only be exchanged by close contact but they are concerned that the H5N1 virus could one day mutate into a form that could be spread between humans, transmitted through the air via coughs and sneezes. This, they fear, could cause an epidemic which could kill tens of millions around the world.
A group of scientists wanted to know what would be required to enable the H5N1 virus to mutate into a form that could be transmitted from person to person through the air. The team of scientists have recently compared the genetic structure of the bird flu virus with those responsible for earlier human flu pandemics. The researchers found five key differences, which they reasoned could be the mutations required for airborne transmission of the virus.
The possibility of the virus to become airborne has raised another concern: namely, that terrorists could use the results and information in the journals to create bio weapons.  

Hackers: Mrs Hitler

by Tim Buckman, inspired by the poems in Carol Ann Duffy's collection "The World's Wife", written from the perspective of the wives of some of the most famous and infamous men in history:
Mrs Hitler
I'm sure they'll grieve. I might even shed tears
myself. The red band ripped, from my life
like a splinter, gnawing, biting at my heart
'till it comes free from flesh. And I call his name
over again. Dear Wolfy.
Life. Bereft of his soul, it cowers in place,
stuck in the mud and sinking to obscurity.
He was an unknown till he became Adolf Hitler,
A man travelling in time, now traversing him.
They drew him like poison from a wound,
An isolating wave of red, on red. We are
the same after all?
I feel a hate in my mind where he has left me,
A contamination on my life.
At Nuremburg he stole my heart,
And gave it to his Panzerkrieg,
they raised their hands to worship him,
But instead became a slave to him
like me. Stuck in the Fatherland.
As we fall from grace I notice
His rotten eyes fill up my world, as if they're all to see,
But closer yet he comes, maybe to comfort me.
my world is gone for me, he lingers.
Lonely in history, both I, and he
Alone.
                                              
                                                            Tim Buckman

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Short Story: Miss Havisham

by Emily Duff

Miss Havisham by Christine Derry

Every single morning I wake up and feel the same. Every single morning I open my eyes and -- whether there is sun streaming through the crack in the blind or rain pounding outside or thunder or howling wind -- I still feel it. Joy. That pure, untarnished excitement. Love, unrequited and all consuming. An overwhelming desire to leap out of bed and embrace the day. My day. Our day. That day.

Then, every day, just as my fingers twitch to throw away the covers, I feel the same. But 'feel' doesn't even begin to encompass the horror: the torrents of sorrow, the walls of blackness that slam into me. They launch me backwards and leave me trembling, crying, and old beneath the covers, cowering with the pain.

Every day he begins again. Strides up the steps - I saw him - with a grin lighting up his face. I laughed out loud when I saw that smile. I know it so well. Even now I can recall it: starting slowly, with a twitch of the nose, then the corner of the mouth is gently coaxed towards his eyes and finally the perfect teeth are revealed as his lips slide back in a rush of delight. I laughed because the smile was for me. It wasn’t, though. It wasn’t for me and I hate it. I hate it and I cry.

He smiled all morning, they said. He even smiled as he left, they said, not caring that behind him there is still a crumpled wreck; distant now, and faded, but there – still there, always there.

Every day I get up. I take my place and I always feel sure that if I wait long enough, if I keep it the same – if I keep it all just the same – and don’t let anything change, he might come back. He hurried out to pick a rose for his button hole. He needed to escape his mother. He was looking out for a late guest. He’ll be back in time for the start at quarter to nine. That grin will still be there as I stand, ready to walk down the aisle.  

PGS Artists Inspired by Dickens


From Tuesday, 26th June to Sunday, 1st July, there will be an exhibition of ceramics and other artworks at Portsmouth Cathedral by PGS Artist in Residence, Christine Derry, and Year 9 PGS pupils, responding to the work of Charles Dickens. The exhibition ("Dickens' Museum of Curiosities") will be launched at 7.30 pm on Tuesday, 26th June. Entry is free. Some exhibits are available for purchase.

Film-maker Paul Bunker has been documenting the progress of Christine Derry and the PGS pupils (see video below) and will also be filming the exhibition on Tuesday evening.

Sculpture of Miss Havisham
by Christine Derry

 Here, Christine Derry explains how she developed the centre-piece of the exhibition, a sculpture of Miss Havisham, from Dickens' Great Expectations:
I had been appointed for three months as “Artist in Residence”, working with the pupils towards the Festivities on the theme of Dickens; that was the easy part!  What should I choose to work on? That was the biggest question for me.  A chance remark from a friend regarding Miss Havisham and her gothic appearance caught my imagination and set me on my way.
The first step was to reread the book, “Great Expectations”, and, wow, I had forgotten the power of his description and the insights into human nature, particularly his understanding of  a child’s perceptions of the world.  It was not difficult to choose as a theme Pip and his first encounter with the spectre that was Miss Havisham.
From the finding of the wedding dress in a charity shop (another story in itself-- see below) to setting up that memorable first encounter in the corner of my space, I tried to follow Dickens’ description to the letter. This included a mirror, candles, gloves, cobwebs and the Art Department skeleton dressed in the bridal gown with the skull reconstructed by me in white clay. I have tried to put myself in Pip’s newly-polished shoes, walking those dark hallways, opening that grand door to find the ghastly, ghostly figure looming out of the dust and shadowy yellow candle light. I hope that my work captures something of that memorable moment in literature.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

How to inflict pain on Spain

by Ben Willcocks

Spain, which has won the last two major tournaments that it has entered, is recognised by many to be comfortably the best national football team in the world. I, however, would completely disagree, especially after their performance in the group stage.
I have put together a team below, including European players, which I believe could beat the Spanish. My ultimate game-plan would be to put many crosses into the box and stretch the Spaniards by using offensive full-backs.
For my goalkeeper, I would select Joe Hart, because of Spain’s playing style. After watching Joe Hart at Manchester City this season, I have noticed that he is more comfortable at saving shots or headers from short distances rather than from range. He would be facing the attacking midfielders of Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Silva, who enjoy breaking apart the defence with short passes. Therefore, the majority of the shots on goal would call upon Hart’s close reflexes and instincts, as 93% of all Spanish shots are inside the penalty area. Additionally, Hart explained at the press conference on Wednesday that he researched all the penalty traits of the Spaniards, as he was certain we would play them in the quarter-finals.
Italy
’s right back Ignazio Abate should really be a winger, with his pace, stamina and consistent crossing. I chose Abate because I believe that he would attack down the right hand side, supporting the winger with overlapping runs. In my opinion, Spain’s weakest player is their left-back Jordi Alba, so this is an area I want to exploit, especially as Iniesta doesn’t offer Alba a lot of defensive support. With Abate bursting onto the scene with pace and desire to get forward, he would add a lot of width to my team.
Personally, I dislike John Terry, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an outstanding player. I was inspired after his performance against Ukraine, due to his relentless blocking and sliding tackles. He even had the desire to sprint back and (just about) keep the ball out of the goal. In my opinion every team needs a centre back like John Terry: he is strong, powerful and can open the opponents’ defence with cutting, diagonal passes. He would also suit defending against Spain, because their players would be completely out-muscled by Terry, which is bound to be an advantage, unless he knees one of them in the calf and receives a red card!

Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

by Louisa Stark
(source: collider.com)
With each generation comes the reinvention of our most beloved stories; from the gothic illustrations of Arthur Rackham to the iconic animations of Walt Disney, each era has had its own distinctive version of the fairy-tale.
Following the trend started by the shadowy reworking of Little Red Riding Hood in the winter, Snow White and the Huntsman proved to be a far cry from the sweet Disney cartoon.
Having escaped from the tower she has been imprisoned in for most of her life, Snow White (Kirsten Stewart) is fleeing from the axe wielding huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) charged with her recapture.  Trapped in a dark forest of danger and decay, the plans of the evil queen Ravenna to seek immortality by consuming her heart appear to be the least of her worries.  The violent action scenes and powerful imagery of ravens signal that this is no longer the realm of ‘happily ever after’, but the more disturbing world intended by the Brothers Grimm.
Through the stunning use of visual effects and dazzling depiction of the vain villainess by Charlize Theron, this film was rescued from its long and, at times, boring script.  Undoubtedly a fairy-tale for our times, the desperate quest for eternal youth makes this story even more relevant to audiences today than when it was first conceived; the antique tale of Snow White has kept pace with this generation and been brought to our screens with flair and imagination.

Friday, 22 June 2012

A Guide To Lomography

by Micha Oates

In August, a parcel arrived on my doorstep. It was addressed to me. This in itself was a bizarre turn of events – the only form of post that I receive is my annual medley of birthday cards – but it was nothing in comparison to the oddity encased within that cardboard box: a tiny, plastic camera.
Recognising my elder brother’s handwriting on the attached card, I assumed that my brother had mistakenly addressed the parcel to the wrong sibling, intending to deliver this toy camera to my younger sister.

However, on closer inspection, I quickly realised that this seemingly juvenile contraption was in fact a Lomography analogue camera – the curiously named Diana-F Mini.

Diana-F Mini
(source:cldfx.com)
Reading the introductory booklet, I learnt that Lomography began in the 1990s when two students stumbled upon the Lomo Kompakt Automa, a 1960s plastic Russian camera. Since then, Lomo photography, or “Lomography”, has grown to become a “globally active organisation dedicated to experimental and creative visual expression” with a commitment to “the unique imagery and style of analogue photography”. Indeed, everything about a Lomography camera is designed to be “cool”. From the bright blue detachable flash, its retro design and the wide range of wacky accessories available to the crazy, self-assured examples of lomographic work pasted all over the camera’s packaging. 
Although Lomography’s mantra struck me as being unashamedly “hipster” and pretentious, I was keen to try my hand at analogue photography. So, holding this brazenly trendy camera in my hands, I set about trying to work out how to use it. However, as a “child of the digital age”, this posed a greater challenge to me than originally expected...

Challenge No.1: Turning the camera on.
“Simple”, you might say. But, after searching endlessly for the on/off button, it took a frustrated phone call with my brother for me to discover that an analogue camera does need to be “turned on” in the same way that a modern digital camera does; that is, an analogue camera is mechanical, and does not require a power source to work. I found this news hard to grasp, but once I had got past the distinct lack of batteries, I began to appreciate the simplicity of the design.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Second Sexism: Does Discrimination Against Males Exist?

by Lottie Kent

(source: static.guim.co.uk)
Sexism:
Noun

1. Attitudes or behaviour based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
2. Discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.

Say the word ‘sexism’ to anyone and the first image to manifest itself in their mind will probably be that of a woman who is unhappy for being denied some kind of right. Perhaps it’ll be riotous feminists shrieking protests and boasting their unshaven armpits. Maybe it’ll even be a (so-called) tongue-in-cheek joke about the female sandwich-making role or other domestic donkeywork. The point here is that most of us, if not all of us, instantly assume the concept of sexism to be misogyny.

This is why philosopher and writer Professor David Benatar’s new book, ‘The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys’ has been the subject of recent controversy: it argues that, in modern society, males are being discriminated against just as much females and that, furthermore, this discrimination is being ignored by most of us. Benatar feels the blame falls particularly on those whom he identifies as ‘partisan feminists:’ feminists who only care about women’s rights, not equality.

Many fiery-tongued females were quick to counter such a notion, expressing a view that was perfectly put into words by Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore, and that many of us hold in regard to sexism against males: ‘the Second Sexism is just victim-envy.’ Such discrimination is almost laughable, yet Benatar’s polemic is that this is the crucial problem – we’ve watched women struggling so hard and for so long to achieve seemingly impossible victories, we’ve forgotten prejudice can happen against men too.

Some of the evidence Benatar gives for this argument includes the issue of military conscription – it is virtually unheard of for women to be conscripted into national armed forces, whilst for men this is very common. Benatar also states “men are… more often the target of aggression and violence of a non-sexual kind… In experimental studies, they’ve found that both males and females are more likely to inflict violence on males than on females. There are less inhibitions about inflicting violence on males.” I wondered, when I read this, whether I would be alone in thinking either I was missing something or this was evidently because men commit the majority of crimes.

Benatar goes further.He says there were other spheres in which men got sacrificed and women got protected – such as in the old adage of ‘Women and children first’, when it comes to shipwreck etiquette, which he says is “inappropriate”. Yes, ‘inappropriate’ is probably the right word here. In the world we live in today, to claim shipwreck etiquette to be evidence for sexism against males is to clutch at frail straws. To claim this is to attempt to disparage the fact that, right now, in terribly poor countries, girls are left to die in starve and die in famines whilst the last food is given to baby boys, and in terribly rich ones, political battles rage over whether exploiting women's bodies should be allowed in the media. I would not call these issues ‘inappropriate,’ I would call them outrageous.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Euro 2012: Officials in Spotlight as England Progress

by George Kimber-Sweatman

Rooney scores
(NY Times)
On a night which most supporters began worried that the team would not progress from the group stages of the competition at all, England’s players ensured that not only did they qualify, but progressed as Group D winners with a little help from Sweden, who unexpectedly defeated France to hand England top spot – meaning that reigning World- and European-champions Spain were avoided in the quarter-finals. However, unfortunately, the team of Hungarian match officials lead by Viktor Kassai were in the spotlight come the final whistle, as a goal line controversy brought the issue of goal line technology back to the fore.
Ukraine started well, dominating the first half without really creating any clear-cut chances as England’s well-organised defence restricted them to long-range efforts which either flew off target, or were comfortably saved by Joe Hart. Despite the Ukrainian dominance, it was England who created the best chance of the opening period, as the returning Wayne Rooney just failed to time his jump well enough to nod home Ashley Young’s dangerously inswinging left-wing cross. England were no doubt happy to hear the half time whistle whilst still on level terms after a half which offered little to get the pulse racing for the watching millions.
The second half was bound to be a bit more exciting, though, as the group stages of the competition came to a climax with England, France and Ukraine all still in with a chance of grabbing the two remaining quarter-final berths. It certainly started well enough, especially from an English point of view, as the Three Lions took the lead within 5 minutes of the restart. Steven Gerrard sent in another fantastic right wing cross (as he has done to assist a goal in every England game so far at the tournament), doing well to work the space for himself, and, after three deflections off Ukrainian players, Wayne Rooney was on hand at the back post to head home the opening goal from just a couple of yards out and, in the process, notch his first goal at a major tournament since 2004.

Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

by Steve Harris


Three Mountains, 25 miles, 5,200 feet of ascent, mist, wind, rain (lots of rain), slippery rock, deep bogs and plenty of determination. That was the Three Peaks Challenge for fifteen Year 10 pupils during a summer weekend in Yorkshire.

To complete the classic round, visiting the three highest peaks in Yorkshire (Pen - Y - Ghent (691m), Whernside (728m) and Ingleborough (723m)), inside twelve hours is a tough challenge even in good weather, and it was particularly impressive that all pupils completed the event in such atrocious conditions.

The twin hazards of sunburn and dehydration during training on the South Downs were not repeated up north, and, for many pupils, this was a big step-up in their experience, and a tremendous achievement. 

Congratulations to all.



More photographs from the Three Peaks Challenge, below:








Republican Presidential Primaries 2012: A Personal Reflection

by Simon Lemieux
Presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney
(politicalruck.us)
For the uninitiated in US politics, every four years there is the national Presidential election which is preceded by another set of elections by which the political parties select their candidate. The majority of states use direct elections called primaries, while a few mainly smaller states, use a more informal series of meetings called caucuses, As President Obama did not face any rivals for the post of Democrat candidate, all political eyes and wagers were on the Republicans and who their choice would be.
Therefore as the old Sinatra song goes, ‘The end is near’, and the Republican (Grand Old Party or GOP for short) contest to select their candidate has come to an end. On 29th May 2012 it was confirmed: following his emphatic win in the Texas Republican primary, Mitt Romney will go on to be ‘crowned’ the official GOP candidate at the party’s convention in Tampa, Florida at the end of August. Securing 1480 delegates, he easily broke through the threshold of 1144 needed to secure the nomination. So much for the raw results, the rest of this blogpiece will deal with some of the reasons why Romney was able to win, plus a few general comments about the nature and some novelties of this primary campaign.
Firstly it might be helpful to point out a few reasons why at first glance, Romney ought not to have won the 2012 Republican nomination. Firstly in a party where the religious right holds considerable sway and influence, Romney is a Mormon. Again for the religiously uninitiated, the Mormons are generally regarded as sect rather than as fellow believers by most mainstream Christians, perhaps particularly so by those on the evangelical ‘born again’ spectrum of Christianity who comprise the ‘religious right’ in the USA. Secondly, in a party whose base is increasingly focused on the South, Romney hails from the north east having served as Governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007. Finally, the Republican Party has become increasingly ‘pure’ ideologically in recent years, a trend enhanced by the arrival of the Tea Party movement. Yet Romney has consistently been accused of being a ‘flip-flopper’ – someone who frequently changes his beliefs and policies. Hardly easy therefore to see him as a ‘true believer’ in both senses of the word. So where did it all go right for Romney in 2012?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Re-Kindling the Love of Literature?

by Bryony Hart

(blogcdn.com)
Nothing beats picking up a book that is over 300 hundred years old and feeling its age radiate from its cover and pages. Sixth Form pupils will know by now that I get very excited about the prospect of holding an aged book, glancing at the small annotations made by some distant reader many years ago and getting an insight into the thoughts of a reader (and writer) who died long before I was even born. 
 
During our numerous visits to Chawton House Women’s Library this year, we have had the rare opportunity to look at a first edition of Aphra Behn’s The Rover (published 1677).  It managed to gain the attention of the entire group as we leaned over the fragile pages - pages that had lived through vast political and social upheaval, horrific world wars, and the modern day preoccupation with all things technical. This book was certainly the result of the printing press at its best.  Equalling this discovery was a 19th century cookery book, full of delightful old recipes that reflected the eating habits of the time (I won’t mention what they used to do with pigs’ trotters) and pictures that would delight any budding chef.  However, far more precious were the little notes, adjustments to recipes, new recipes written on the blank pages at the rear of the book, and the marks of grease and cake mixture that stained the pages.  This, I reflected, is what is so joyous about books. They are interactive, meant for annotating, sharing, spoiling and keeping.
 
Therefore, when the Kindle was launched in November 2007, I was incredibly scathing towards a technology that would obliterate all that I love about books. Real books. Ones that you have to break the spine of to read comfortably in bed.  Ones where you can’t help underlining phrases and inspirational words of wisdom so that borrowers can also take joy in what another reader found interesting.  As a result, I have resisted a technology that would potentially undermine two of the most revolutionary inventions in human history – the printing press and the precious book. 

Why the Death Penalty is Immoral

by Melissa Smith

The death penalty. It’s a subject relatively untouched in this country, occasionally thrown around in heated classroom debates or examined by an article not dissimilar from this one. Of course there is a good reason for this, being that capital punishment has been fully abolished in the United Kingdom for over a decade, with the last execution for murder taking place in 1965. However, it is still very much in place in other countries and continues to occur every year, to the injustice of many a convicted criminal.

China alone executed 1000s of people in 2011, more than the total number of the rest of the world for that year. Iran executed at least 360, Saudi Arabia 82 and Iraq 68. 16 other countries carried out executions, including USA, and there are reported death sentences from 63 countries in total.

Processes of execution include lethal injections, electric chairs, cyanide gas, hanging and firing squad. Although some methods are regarded as humane by governments, they are easily mishandled, causing slow deaths in unnecessary agony. For example, doctors and medical professionals cannot administer lethal injections (due to the Hippocratic Oath they must take) so it is down to unqualified personnel to insert needles into the prisoners’ veins. This, as you can imagine, is not the easiest thing to do and there have been several reported cases of incidents where it hasn’t gone to plan, resulting in the torturous death of the prisoner at hand. This is not the only example of where a promised ‘painless’ death has not quite lived up to its name. Every method has the capacity for careless administration.

Anyone for the Euro?

by Peter Jordan

Protesters in Athens
(ibtimes.com)
Over the last few months there have been many discussions in class about the financial misfortune of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) and how clever the UK was to have avoided the Euro. Conversations often end by concluding that joining the Euro will never be a sensible idea for the UK. This is much the way the issue has been covered in the media.

The main reason we were fortunate not to join the Euro is that, although we have encountered similar problems to PIGS, we have been able to resolve them ourselves. This is because a main purpose of the Bank of England is to ensure that the Government always has enough money to pay off its debts. It achieves this by simply creating more money and lending it to the Government. That is why the Bank of England is referred to as the “lender of last resort”. It will lend money to the Government even if nobody else will.  This is why the financial markets are always prepared to lend money to the UK at low rates of interest.

Contrast this to the position of countries that joined the Euro and do not enjoy the benefit of a domestically controlled lender of last resort. Instead they now rely on the European Central Bank (ECB) to perform this role.  As the ECB is autonomous and answerable to all Euro members it does not provide the same level of unconditional support provided by a domestic central bank such as the Bank of England. Under the ECB, the provision of finance is neither guaranteed nor automatic, has to be approved by the other Euro members and is often subject to tough conditions.

(source: gamutnews.com)
This means that, as countries enter into financial difficulties, the markets start to sense a real risk of default (i.e. not getting back the money they have lent to governments) and so the cost of borrowing new money increases as higher interest rates have to be paid to encourage the financial markets to lend more money. At some point, the rate of interest gets so high that it makes no sense to borrow the money. This is when a bailout is needed, which is basically a loan at a lower rate of interest than you could obtain from the markets.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Who?

by George Chapman

(source: chartstats.com)
A quick Google search will unanimously suggest The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to be two upstanding pillars in the so-called pantheon of Rock history. The third member of the Holy Trinity of British Rock is somewhat less clear, and open to much more subjectivity. Pink Floyd? Led Zeppelin? No- I’d argue that The Who have contributed much more to the development of Rock n’ Roll than any of the above, and have continued to influence today’s generation of pop stars immensely.
To eliminate any confusion from the outset, I should limit my definition of pop stars to the select few in today’s music industry who are not managed by Simon Cowell or Louis Walsh. Indeed, the remaining are those with the ability to play their own instruments and who are not reliant upon Auto- Tune (other vocal-tuning technologies are available).
However, I fear that I digress slightly. This is an article expressing my intense dissatisfaction at how under-rated The Who are, not one designed to take cheap shots at certain artists in the charts today. Though there is some relevance in the above paragraph with respect to the following- many of The Who’s contributions to the music industry were in fact technological.
Pete Townshend
(rocksbackpages.com)
The universally iconic Marshall Stack amplifiers used by guitarists worldwide today were first created by Pete Townshend and John Entwistle- Who guitarist and bassist, respectively. At gigs, John ran a Marshall JTM45 head through two 4x12” cabinets, where Pete ran a Fender Bassman head (with a schematic modelled on the JTM45) through one of these cabinets. In September 1965 when The Who’s van was stolen, and all live gear (including these amplifiers) was lost, they personally approached Jim Marshall of Marshall Amplification who agreed to manufacture a new prototype ‘stack’ with more electrical power than the JTM45. The result was a Marshall Super Lead Model 1959- an exceedingly powerful 100w head paired with a massive 8x12” cabinet, which was necessary to lay down the demands for live power from the band. Unsurprisingly, Entwistle and Townshend complained that the refrigerator-sized 8x12” was too bulky, after having understandable trouble transporting the amps between gigs. Marshall listened, and subsequently created the accompanying 4x12” cabinet for the same 100w head- a set-up briefly used by the band, still modified by Marshall and extensively used by artists today, making it one of the most popular amplifiers in history. It was such powerful gear that enabled The Who to become the loudest rock band ever.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Watergate: Forty Years On


Forty years ago today, on June 17, 1972, five men were arrested during a burglary at The Democratic Party HQ, in the Watergate building, in Washington DC, four and a half months before the U.S. Presidential Election that led to the re-election of President Richard Nixon for a second term.

The burglary was scarcely noticed by the media, amidst the drama and excitement of the campaign between Nixon and Democratic candidate George McGovern. However, two young local Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, doggedly pursued the story, despite the many obstacles placed in their path. The trail eventually led to President Nixon himself, as it became increasingly clear that, whether or not the burglary had been ordered at his behest, he had driven the attempt to cover up the crime. Nixon was forced to resign the presidency (the only time in US history that this has happened) on August 9, 1974, just over two years after the arrest of the Watergate burglars.

In Esquire magazine, Charles P. Pierce suggests how little we have learnt from the Watergate scandal:

Looking back now, how very little we came to learn from it. The purported "lessons" of Watergate lasted only a little longer than the cover-up did. The theories of exalted executive power with which Nixon justified his crimes to the nation and in his own tortured mind, and which he ably described later to David Frost as "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal," have become firmly entrenched in our government in the decades since the Watergate pageant closed and, as a self-governing citizenry, we seem to be generally fine with that. If the "lessons" of Watergate really were that "the system worked," and that "the people" triumphed, then Ronald Reagan wouldn't have survived Iran-Contra, George W. Bush wouldn't have gotten away with what his campaign did in Florida, let alone what he and Dick Cheney did once they got into office, and Barack Obama would be under more heat than he's under right now for continuing so many of the Bush-Cheney policies in the area of civil liberties, and might think more than twice about letting the drones fly under some fanciful interpretation of Article I that should have instantly melted away, if the "lessons" of Watergate had been as thoroughgoing as they were alleged to be at the time.

In The Independent, Rupert Cornwell argues that, if the Watergate break in had happened in 2012, the President would have got away with it.
In The Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, sharing a by-line together for the first time in 36 years, argue that Nixon was even worse than we previously thought