Friday, 31 May 2013

The Mary Rose Sails Again


A new museum housing Henry VIII's flagship, The Mary Rose, was officially opened to the public today at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard. Built in 1510, the ship sank in the Solent during a battle against a French invasion fleet in 1545, as Henry VIII watched from Southsea Castle; of the 500 crew members only 35 survived. 

The Mary Rose was raised from the seabed in 1982, along with thousands of artefacts many of which (from cannon to surgical equipment to the ship's bell) are on display at the museum. Faces of many of the crew members have been reconstructed using skulls found with the wreck. Interactive features include video games recreating the Battle of the Solent and a simulator that enables you to try out your archery skills.








Photography: Gold

by William Hall




Photograph taken by William Hall in The Vault, at the Natural History Museum, London

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Festivals- Frightful or Delightful?

Hattie Gould and Annie Materna



delightful . . .
(source: phestival)

We all know that as summer is (slowly) coming back; so is the festival season. The panic of which festival to go to sets in and soon enough almost everyone has bought a ticket. Whether it be Reading, Bestival, Isle of White or V, people are beginning to experience that exciting festival 'buzz'. However, is the idea of a festival better than the reality?

Festivals are the ultimate way to fill your summer; what is better than seeing your favourite bands with your friends away from the imprisonment of your parents? Nothing. Meeting new friends, whacking out the wellies, getting a face paint, maybe even a suntan (hopefully no face paint sun tan lines) and going on rides, sounds great. You can not only do this for just one day but you can do it for three days what an adventure! The adventure continues with festivals bringing unexpected joy, and never quite knowing what is coming round the corner, literally and metaphorically. It may be someone in fancy dress or it could even be you stumbling across a new up and coming band.

 . . . frightful
(source: Guardian)
Also if youre lucky and the sun is shining you may even be able to spot the odd celebrity trekking around the fields in some rather skimpy clothing. To better this, if you get to the front of the crowd you may even be able to touch your favourite artist whilst they perform! What must not be forgotten is how delicious the food is: full English breakfast every day, an unlimited choice of lunch and dinner may it be a burger, Chinese or Indian. Although these foods are great, they hold nothing on the desserts: freshly cooked donuts, melted chocolate and strawberrys or pancakes and waffles perfect! It can be said that going to festival is like going to a three-day party, what a weekend that will be!

However, this view may not be held by every ex-festival goer.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

"The Twentieth Century Incarnate": Rite of Spring

On May 29, 1913, the premiere of 'Le Sacre du Printemps' (The Rite of Spring), by a young Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, caused a riot in Paris among many audience members who saw this revolutionary new work as "a blasphemous attempt to destroy music". 

However, 'Le Sacre du Printemps' became extraordinarily influential almost from the beginning and, one hundred years after its first controversial performance, remains one of the most frequently recorded and performed musical works in the world (see video below). Today, American radio station WQXR presents Rite of Spring Fever, a 24-hour marathon of different interpretations of Stravinsky's masterpiece.

"Its theme was elemental, the rejuvenation of earth in spring. The form was a celebration of pagan rites in which a sacrificial maiden dances herself to death to renew the life of the soil.

He opened not with a bang, as Richard Strauss had advised, but with a slow trembling of woodwinds as if to suggest the physical mystery of budding. As the curtain rose on tribal games and dances, the music became vibrant and frenetic, with primeval rhythms, the chant of trumpets, the driving beat of machinery, jazz metres and pitiless drums never before used with such power and abandon. It rose in intensity and excitement to a blazing climaz and all the promise of a new age. It was the Twentieth Century incarnate. It reached at one stride a peak of modern music that was to dominate later generations. It was to the Twentieth Century what Beethoven's Eroica was to the Nineteenth, and, like it, never surpassed.

The premiere, conducted by Monteux on May 29, 1913, created a riot in the theatre. The abandonment of understood harmony, melody and structure seemed musical anarchy. People felt they were hearing a blasphemous attempt to destroy music as an art and responded with howls and catcalls and derisive laughter. Counter-demonstrators bellowed defiance. One young man became so excited he began to beat rhythmically with his fists on the head of an American in the audience whose own emotion was so great that "I did not feel the blows for some time." A beautifully gowned lady in a box stood up and slapped the face of a man hissing in an adjoining box. The composer Saint-Saens indignantly rose and left the hall; another composer, Ravel, shouted, "Genius!"

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review: The Great Gatsby

Maddy Shand and Fay Davies review Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’

 


Leonardo diCaprio as Gatsby
(source: New York Times)

I was both within and without”. These are the words that define Nick Carraway as narrator of Fitzgerald’s classic American novel – and they apply perfectly to our critique. We watched the film together: one of us intimately familiar with the novel having studied it for AS English Literature, and the other having never touched it – yet holding Baz Luhrmann in the highest regard in terms of directing and producing Hollywood films.
There were a few things we agreed on: the excellent casting, the outrageously extravagant settings and the beautiful costumes being some of them. The sound track, produced by Jay Z, features the likes of Beyonce, Lana Del Rey and Nero – completely incongruous but the perfect way to marry the partying culture of today’s youth with the vintage decadence of the 20s. Stylistically and aesthetically wonderful. Maddy, who didn’t know the storyline or characters in detail, was like blank slate on which Luhrmann could paint a picture with all these fantastic ingredients. But, in her opinion, he failed to deliver on some crucial aspects. It was as if he had thought that, as The Great Gatsby is such an iconic novel, there was no need to put much effort into unravelling the story. Unlike Fay, she could not bring her knowledge of the characters to the film, and as a result they were not sufficiently developed for her. It was difficult to actually care about them.
 
We both ultimately felt sympathy for Gatsby himself, but this is extremely likely to be down to the clever casting of Leonardo DiCaprio - the Dreamboat in a dinner jacket. Carey Mulligan is, unfortunately, just a pretty face. She is entirely superficial – but, as Fay would add, such is her presentation in the book. She is the ‘golden girl’ with no real substance. Nonetheless, she is overshadowed by the ethereal, yet dominating, presence of Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki), who should arguably play a lesser role.
Fay had some other issues with Luhrmann’s style – but this is personal and there are many (Maddy) that adore it. She thought that Luhrmann’s excessive cuts during the early parts of the film fractured the dialogue, and made for rather tense viewing. Yet the ‘Red Curtain’ style of film is Luhrmann’s trademark, and was hugely successful in his initial ‘Red Curtain Trilogy’. He transformed Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and he delighted us with Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge. It also works for The Great Gatsby, to an extent. The form is self-consciously art, not at all naturalistic, and it befits the portrayal of the excess and carelessness of the time. Yet, in being self-consciously art, it is rather too conscious of being based on one of the most famous novels of all time.


Monday, 27 May 2013

Recipe: Sweet Potato Breakfast

by Melissa Smith


Recently I have been a little obsessed with breakfast. Combined with my next best thing, sweet potato, this recipe is all I want on a Sunday morning. After a fair amount of trial and error, I have come up with a recipe that never fails to please (well me, at least). Hopefully it will have the same effect on others! It’s a great one to try out on a leisurely half term morning.

Recipe:

(Serves 1 person)

Ingredients:


1 medium sweet potato, chopped into cubes
2 handfuls of spinach
1/2 a red onion, diced
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp oil (any kind)
Pinch of sea salt

Steps:

1) Preheat the grill to a medium temperature.

2) Bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the sweet potato and simmer for 4 minutes (until not quite tender). When finished, drain.

3) In a small frying pan, heat the oil then add the red onion and drained sweet potato. Heat for around 4 minutes over a medium heat, until the onions have begun to slightly caramelise and the potato is tender. 

4) Add the thyme, oregano, cinnamon and maple syrup. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

5) Add the garlic and spinach, heating until the spinach wilts. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

PGS Leavers' Day, Friday, 24 May










Poem: El Grito de la Noche

by Liliana Nogueira-Pache




Si tienes que decir algo

No lo hagas en la oscuridad.

Sal a la luz,

que el sol ilumine tus palabras.

Grítalas al rojo resplandor,

rasga el azul con tu lengua,

que el relámpago de tu grito

no muera solo en la noche.
English translation below:

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Portmuthian/Portsmouth Point Garden Party, Thursday, 23rd May

Earlier today, editors and contributors enjoyed the Portmuthian/Portsmouth Point Garden Party (which took place in Ms Hart's classroom, due to the rather inclement weather), held to celebrate their outstanding work for both magazines and blog over the past twelve months. We wish our Year 13 editors, who will be leaving school tomorrow, every success in the future: George Chapman, Lucy Cole, Fay Davies, Billie Downer, Andrew Jones, George Kimber-Sweatman, George Laver, Tim MacBain, George Neame, Oli Price, Louisa Stark, Ollie Velasco, Bea Wilkinson and Ben Willcocks.








Adventure Training: Easter Holidays

by Zach Choppen


This year's adventure training was incredible. Getting up early on the Saturday morning create a few tired faces that slowly wore off during the day. After an exhausting journey (and a Maccy D’s,) we arrived at our destination. After unpacking and settling in to our rooms, we had a brief talk and went of to our first meal at RAF St Mawgans (which was very good,) after the meal we start to plan our route cards for the next day walk this took sometime as most of us were trying to learn the basics.

The next day was day of lovely weather, and on my part brought a very enjoyable walk, that evening was incredibly to the night before where after one hour of relaxation, in other words a shower rush, we headed off to dinner where we were treated to another really good meal. The evening brought another route card, this time without help from the senior’s and was a session of complete trouble and frustration where the cards always seemed to have mistakes in. After the help of Mr Harris and the senior’s we manage to complete them in time for a quick game of cards before bed.

The third day of the trip was another amazing day with sun and a light sea breeze and another incredible walk with countless numbers of stunning cliffs and coves, however it was this day where we had to say goodbye to Mr Smith as he was going to meet the Queen! We all thanked him and complete the last stage of the walk with weary legs. That evening we did something different (not route cards!) Mr Harris spoke to us about the rest of the week, but surprise surprise we weren’t to our own devices that night, Mr Harris and Mrs Carter produced a fun game that we all enjoyed greatly. We were given a list of historical events that we then had to act out for the other teams to guess.

It was climbing day and all of us got up early thanks to Seb’s habit of hoovering the hall at 6:30, forcing us awake. Breakfast was amazing as usual and we all got into the minibus to get driven to this weird rock with a chapel on top, the climbing was incredible and it required a lot of skill and determination. The was a mixture of difficulties setting out from moderately hard to ‘that is not possible’ hard, but the whole thing was really fun and exciting even though the rain and snow gave us brief visits. After dinner Mr Harris and Mrs Carter provided the entertainment again, it was call my bluff this time this resulted in Team 2 winning with Team 1 coming second and Team 3 falling at last. :(

Hackers: Rhyme

by Nicholas Graham


Does a poem have to rhyme?
To make it worth the reading time?
A rhyme is just a pattern of sound
To which a poem is often bound.
Why should it matter if it is used,
When often it is just abused?

Metre I can understand,
A poem without it is often bland.
But rhyming is just a test of skill,
Of finding words that fit the bill.
If it matters, then I'll give up now,
Because to rhyme I'm not sure how.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

What Do English Teachers Read? Part 3

Henry Ling and Kelvin Shiu


Continuing our series "What Do English Teachers Read?", Ms Hart and Mrs Bell discuss their favourite books and writers.


Here is Ms Hart's response:

1. What book are you currently reading? This is Where I am by Karen Campbell. It is chilling. It is all about refugees from Somali living in Glasgow. I have to admit having to put it down at times because it is so terrifying.

2. Who is your favourite author? Why? Tough question. Can I answer this by period?! Shakespeare has to be up there, with King Lear. Such a tragic tale that really does wrench at my heart each time I read it. The best line is, ‘As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods;/They kill us for their sport.’ (4.1.36) Genius! I am on a mad Hardy spree at the moment and am trying to read all of his works by the end of the year. I have to confess that Tess of the D’Urbervilles is my favourite but Far from the Madding Crowd has to be there too. Jane Austen. Say no more. A bit of Beckett: Waiting for Godot. This is a play that I walk away from each time none the wiser – surely this is a sign of brilliance on Beckett’s part. I’ll stop here – too many to think of!

 3. What is the least interesting novel that you have read? Why? Another tough question because I don’t think that I have read a book that I have not find interesting. I normally know within the first few pages and then stop reading. I don’t have time to waste. I usually go on recommendations and read a lot of classics; they are classic for a reason.

4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what novel would you take (supposing you got a choice)? Why? OK – who set these questions? These are really hard! Erm, probably The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. It is an example of the early novel form and is really long, gothic and full of mystery (hence the title!).

 5. What features do you expect to see in a good book? An unexpected ending, characters that I will empathise with, believable plot twists. It needs to be well-written … I know this sounds obvious but I cannot cope with rubbish. Poorly constructed sentences, be off with you!

6. What do you believe makes a book so special? A book is special because it often reminds you of a time in your life. So, when you re-read it it takes you back to a time past. A book transports you but you are not passive. The book only exists because the reader exists, and I think that this relationship between reader and writer is a very special one.
 
7. As a teenager, what kind of books did you like? Why did you find them appealing? To be honest, I wasn’t a big reader as a teenager. I was more of an artist, painting on massive canvases and creating unusual works of art. English came to me relatively late, about 17. I loved the texts that we studied at A Level and this is probably because I had a really inspirational teacher, Mr Pike. He taught me King Lear and this text remains at the top of my favourite list. I think I loved the angst of Lear. The disagreements in the family and the wicked sisters who were obsessed and overwhelmed by the power of greed. It was dark stuff that probably relates to most teenage/parent relationship (without the bloody ending).

8. What is your favourite genre of novel? I love anything pastoral … or anti. Reading Hardy this year has renewed this love and appreciation of this very interesting and complex genre.

9. What is your favourite non-fiction book? Why French Children Don’t Throw Food. All parents should read it. It explains so much about Anglophone children.

10. Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so, what style of book would you write? Yes. It is called Up The Garden Path: A Year in the Life of an Allotment Holder. It is an observational novel that tells the tales of the complex web of relationships on an allotment. Lots of mystery, twists and turns.

Mrs Bell answered as follows:

Why Are We Still So Fascinated by the Samurai?

by Ross Watkins





Scene from Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai
(on which The Magnificent Seven
and (strangely) Bug's Life were based).
Plunging his sword into his abdomen he makes cuts from right to left tearing his inner intestines, all this done while in extreme pain. Then once he has endured enough, the second will behead the man leaving a small stand of skin so the head does not hit the ground and cause dishonour. All this done to uphold the honour of one so that their family does not fall out of favour with their lord. This was the ancient ritual of sacrifice called Seppuku (or stomach cutting).
To you and me, this may seem barbaric, but to those involved it was a process which was extremely sacred and was done willingly when they had been captured by the opposition or had been ordered to do so by the Emperor.
The Samurai were the warrior elite of Japan from 660 BC 1876 AD (when the Emperor made the wearing of swords illegal). They were seen as a superior class of people to the peasant farmers and the merchants and they had the authority to end a person's life if they suspected that they were dishonouring them.
So how did these warriors gain such power? Japan had a feudal system just like that of Europe. The whole country was ruled by two people: the Emperor, who was the head of state and spiritual leader, the symbol of Japanese power. There also was the  Shogun who was the warrior leader of Japan who was in charge of running the country. But this position of Shogun was hotly contested, with many people trying to overthrow the current Shogun at any one point of time.
This led to eras like the time of the warring states in which Japan was engulfed in civil war for nearly two hundred years. Japan had many different kingdoms which were each ruled by a dynamo, who were the lords of each area- like a lord of the manor in the Middle Ages. The dynamo then employed an army made up of skilled warriors: the samurai.
The samurai are often famed in popular culture for their weapons and fighting style. The sword of the samurai or katana is seen by many as the ultimate weapon available to a warrior in the middle ages. This is due to the myths which have been created around it. One myth which I must rule out now is that most of the katanas could slice through a human body in one, which I believe creates the vision of a super-soldier in a blood-lust craze decapitating a person with once strike. The truth was much more morbid; the sword was sharper than needed to easily pierce flesh and therefore could easily slice through flesh but it would normally be stopped when meeting bone, which would leave a half severed body with entrails spewing out, which was presumably not a pleasant sight.

Growing Up With Wagner

Nicolas Robertson, singer, music writer (and Ms Godfree's brother) marks the bicentennial of the birth of the great German composer Richard Wagner.


My grandfather took me to the opera in London twice in the same season, in about 1968 (when I was fourteen) - perhaps around the time he took me and my sister to see 'The Sound of Music' on stage (with Millicent Martin), and immediately demanded, as we came out, "Right - verdict?"

The operas were Wagner's 'The Mastersingers of Nuremberg' and Puccini's 'Bohème'. Probably he expected, as I did myself, that I'd be over-stretched by the sheer length of the Wagner, and carried away by Puccini's melodic verve. But that's not how I remember it: I responded in a sort of pictorial way to 'La Bohème', thus recall more or less what it looked like, but the music didn't (at that time) make a lasting impression; however I don't remember any feeling of tiredness in 'Mastersingers', just happiness at hearing the big tune come to fruition right at the end after such long gestation (it's true I may have been nodding off in the interim). I was, effectively, already a Wagnerite - if not yet a perfect one.
I didn't listen to Wagner much, as opera, for 3 or 4 years after that; one didn't, apart from overtures on vinyl (I loved 'Tannhäuser' and 'Rienzi' - aerobic music both), and then the 'Siegfried Idyll', which occupied a similar sort of space as 'Verklärte Nacht' of Schoenberg, and Strauss' 'Metamorphosen': concentrated heady, polyphonic harmony which pulled one about.  So I became aware that Wagner was a phenomenon, one day to come to grips with.
During these Wagner-less years, so to speak, I stayed nevertheless at least once a year with my grandparents in London, and in the room where I slept I found 'Das Buch der Motive', a small Schott pamphlet which listed, in score, all the 'signature tunes' Wagner used in 'The Ring'; and a book called 'The Truth about Wagner', which told (most controversially, as I subsequently found out) how much the composer took, really, from his first marriage to Minna, and his revolutionary times in Dresden in 1849, a pile of evidence which goes against his later avatar, controlled by his second wife Cosima von Bülow and 'the Wahnfried strong-box' - a phrase which has stayed with me ever since those Knightsbridge readings - enshrined as mega-artist, national treasure (and anti-semite). And at the same time, we discovered Anna Russell, on a record of our grandparents, who gives the most lucid run through of the whole Ring cycle in 21 minutes (as you can hear in the following 1953 audio recording) - I haven't ever been able to fault any of its detail -




Tuesday, 21 May 2013

What Do Librarians Read?

by Henry Ling and Kelvin Shiu

Our school librarian, Ms Godfree, and School Archivist, Mr Sadden, are both tireless advocates for books and reading. Here, they share their own favourite reading, past and present.

This is Ms Godfree's response:

1. What books are you currently reading? An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts (a reflection on e-books and printed books and why/how we read) and The Red House by Mark Haddon (who wrote Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time).

2. Who is your favourite author? Why? I don't have a favourite author -- the cliched reply is: whoever I read last . . . Often that is the case. There are writers I go back to with great pleasure: T.S. Eliot, T.H. White's The Once and Future King (the full-blooded, full-volume set, not the Disneyfied and emasculated Sword in the Stone!), George Eliot's Middlemarch --- these (all stuff I read when young) and many more continue to surprise me.

3. What is the least interesting novel that you have read? Why? I couldn't get beyond the opening pages of Captain Corelli's Mandolin --- but, on the whole, I will not press on with a novel that doesn't engage me in the first fifty pages. Life is too short now . . .

4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what novel would you take? Poetry or short stories, rather than a novel --- brief, intense bursts of thought and feeling that will continue to resonate. Norman MacCaig or Andrew Young (poets) or Raymond Carver (short story writer) maybe . . .

5. What features do you expect to see in a good book? Fantastic mastery of language --- I sort of hear words in my head as I read and I don't want to trip over a clunky phrase, that's like someone's phone going off during a concert. An emotional journey.

6. What do you believe makes a book so special? Books show you other ways of being. They show you that your world, your experience, is not all there is. That is a heady, thrilling feeling for a young person and a consoling one when you're a bit older!

7. As a teenager, what kind of books did you like? Two teen favourites: T.H. White (as above) --- fantastical, hilarious, profound, passionate, desolate. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, a fictionalised biography of Michelangelo --- vivid, revelatory, with some swoony, rude bits. The first two paperbacks I bought for myself and invested myself in heart and soul. Later in my teens: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Almost Human by Theodore Sturgeon. Stunning science fiction/fantasy, earthed in a recognisable world. All of these were books that I discovered for myself, which I think was an important part of their appeal. I can't remember getting any fiction out of my (boarding) school library, but I do recall the excitement of combing the shelves of the public library on the rare occasions we were let out and coming back with armfuls of headily grown-up books.

8. What is your favourite genre of novel? I am partial to a bit of Stephen King (psychological horror), though, having read one, I go right off him for a while --- but I don't have a favourite genre really. I hate Jilly Cooper-type books.

9. What is your favourite non-fiction book? Essays --- of any century. A currently rather neglected art form, but a wonderful one, the distillation of deep thought and often biting wit. Multum in parvo!

10. Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so, what style of book would you write? Often thought, never tried. If I were to, it would have to be essays (as above). The more I read, the more I am in awe of those who do write.

Mr Sadden responded in this way:

Open Source Murder

by Daniel Rollins

America is a bizarre and scary place from this side of the Atlantic. Although claiming to be the “land of the free” the country seems to be enslaved to a 222 year old law which has created a culture where many people in America worship guns before God. After the tragic shooting in Newton I was quite shocked to hear the American gun lobby advocating armed guards in every school rather than gun controls but more shocked at the widespread approval this policy was met with in the American media. Although I have never visited the country and in no way claim to be an expert on their culture, it seems that guns have become synonymous with freedom (tell that to someone cowering from a mad man, in a cupboard). The individualistic values of the “wild west” still seem to have a strong influence on the politics of this supposedly civilized country.

Cody Wilson
It is this barbaric culture that has apparently inspired 25 year old Texan law student, Cody Wilson, to design and publish a blueprint for a printable hand gun. Wilson has been listed by Wired as one of the 15 most dangerous people in the world and described by others as a “terrifying lunatic”. His gun, ironically called the “Liberator”, is made of plastic, has been tested and is able to fire a single .380 pistol cartridge. Most terrifyingly, guns made using his method are undetectable, untraceable and can be printed by anyone who has a few hundred pounds for a 3D-printer and an internet connection.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Farewell, Mighty Ark

Alongside hundreds of other Portmuthians this afternoon, Tony Hicks bade farewell to aircraft carrier and former flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Ark Royal (known as "The Mighty Ark"), as she departed Portsmouth on her final voyage.  

All photographs taken by Tony Hicks





Sunday, 19 May 2013

New EP 'The Truth It Hurts' by Heronshaw


5-piece folk-blues-indie ensemble Heronshaw, featuring Old Portmuthians James Gibson, Conor Guille and Tom Seebold, are beginning the summer of 2013 with a bang, performing at a range of London gigs, including Camden's popular Dublin Castle; back in Hampshire, they are appearing at The National Watersports Festival on Hayling Island, and the Victorious Festival in Portsmouth.   

Their influences include Mumford & Sons and Radiohead. Heronshaw's new EP, 'The Truth, It Hurts', is availble on iTunes and Spotify; you can also listen to their 'London Demos 2012' on their website here.

'Open Sea' by Heronshaw (video produced by George Graham, OP)




Also, see and hear the new video 'Pictures' by George Chapman's band This Way Up.

5 Reasons Why Dogs Are The Best House Pets

by Alex Quarrie-Jones

As I currently write my cat is slumped at the end of my bed, like a furry black ball, looking rather content and calm as he snoozes. Most people would then stroke the cat or comment on his adorableness but I look at him with contempt and irritancy; for at 4am this morning he decided to engage in one of his favourite pastimes of bringing live mice into my room and then proceeding to play what can only really be described as ‘SAW’ for mice. Once he was finished he leapt up onto my bed and has been there right up until now. This has put me in a very anti-cat mood (and since chickens don’t really bring anything pet-wise to the table) therefore I am going to explain why dogs are best.
1.    Before you’ve even got a dog there is so much choice to make; with a cat it’s pretty much gender (to be honest that becomes irrelevant later) and colour, but with dogs there are over 100 different ‘pure’ breeds’ and even more cross breeds (my dog is a ‘Sprollie’, which is a cross breed between a Springer Spaniel and a Collie). Also different breeds come with different traits and qualities, e.g. Springer Spaniels love to jump while Golden Retrievers are excellent at finding and bringing. From these your dog can develop a personality to a much greater extent than any other household pet.

2.    Dogs are more versatile pets; most household pets (hamsters, snakes, fish, etc) don’t care where they are because they already have their own miniature home, once a cat is in one place, it stays, it may travel really far but it will return to exactly the same place (case hand point with my cat currently on my bed where I will always find him). Dogs do well with change; they adapt quickly and learn their surroundings even quicker. They also make ‘friends’ much better then cats (unless the cats are possibly siblings) but on the whole, the introduction of any new animal to the house will inevitably irritate the cat.

3.    You can do more things with a dog; dogs are the optimum household pets as they provide the motivation to do stuff whether it just be throwing a ball or a 10k walk, a dog will always be interested. Dogs also act as a tool for social interaction; you can relate to other dog owners and understand their dog-related problems, and yes, you can do that with other household pets but it’s very rare that two cat owners will meet outside their homes, with their cats (and not at the vets either, that’s just cheating cat-lovers). 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Redemption of Fernando Torres

by Neil Chhabda

Fernando Torres
(Wiki Commons)
Late last year, I wrote an article on Fernando Torres. At that time he had lost his speed, his confidence and his predatory instinct, and indeed Chelsea FC had agreed to sign another striker. I wrote about how he needed to mature as a player, and work on his movement and finishing, adapting to the loss of his greatest asset: his lightning acceleration. Six months on, Torres is Chelsea’s top scorer for the season, with 22 goals in all competitions, and on Wednesday night, he scored the first goal in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Benefica in the final of the UEFA Europa League. Torres indeed no longer looks like a broken man with no hope, he looks reinvigorated and hungry, displaying incredible determination, drive and passion.
The entire credit for Torres’ return must go to one man, and one man alone: Rafa Benitez. The interim Chelsea manager is the man who made Torres the best striker in the World. Despite achieving little success in his second spell with Torres, Benitez has managed to completely transform a player who looked like less than even an empty shell of his former self.  Benitez seems to have instilled an insatiable desire for winning matches and scoring goals into the Spaniard. For the last two years, Torres has played like a man with no motivation, with no aspirations. In fact last year he claimed that he got to a point where he didn’t care whether the team won or lost. However, Benitez has once again inspired Torres to play with a winning mentality and strive to return to his previous glory.
Rafa Benitez
(Wiki Commons)
Secondly, a lot of the credit must go down to Torres himself. He has worked incredibly hard. Before Benitez arrived, he had gone from being as fast as Cristiano Ronaldo (one of the fastest footballers in the world) to being outpaced by Sylvain Distin (one of the slower players on an already very slow team). Since then he seems to have regained around 90% of his lost pace and appears to have gotten around three of four times stronger than he used to be. The goal he scored on Wednesday night was absolutely vintage Torres. He made an intelligent run, ghosting past his marker, Ezequiel Garay, an accomplished defender. He then proceeded to outpace and outmuscle the next defender, leaving him on the floor. He then rounded the keeper and coolly slotted the ball into the back of the net. The credit for this almost miraculous improvement must go down to Torres’ hard work and willpower. Benitez often praises Torres’ work rate, saying that he stays behind after regular training hours to do sprint training and gym work to improve his strength and speed.  For this, Torres must be commended. Instead of giving up after falling time and time again, he continues to get back up and push his limits. This resolve and mental strength are key in his return to form.

Friday, 17 May 2013

What Do English Teachers Read? Part 2


by Henry Ling and Kelvin Shiu

In our first survey of PGS English teachers' reading habits and views of literature, Ms Burden, Mrs Kirby and Mr Burkinshaw discussed what they were currently reading, their favourite authors, least favourite books, what they read as teenagers and many other questions. Now we hear from Mrs Mitchell and Mr Richardson

This is how Mrs Mitchell answered the questions:

1. What book are you currently reading? Untold Stories by Alan Bennett.

2. Who is your favourite author?  Why? This is a difficult question to answer for obvious reasons. May I have more than one? …….. Vampire novels: Anne Rice, because she gives vampires a history, philosophies, fears, hopes and dreams (sophisticated, not Twilight!). Murder-mystery novels: PD James because she is the mistress of plot complexity whilst her language is beautifully economical.  Thomas Hardy because his characters and plots make me weep! Agatha Christie because she was the first author I was addicted to, at the tender age of 10!

3. What is the least interesting novel that you have read? Why?     The Shack by WM Paul Young. That was a few days of my life I will never get back! I only finished it because I couldn’t believe it was so consistently awful and was hopeful that it would improve. It is a sad, miserable character who meets God in a shack and they have deep and meaningful experiences and . . . guess what…it has a happy ending! If you want to read absolute tosh, then this is one for you. It has sold millions of copies and you will find most of them in junk shops; don’t buy a copy.

4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what novel would you take (supposing you got a choice)? Why?    I am in danger of being repetitive here because most of you know this one… it would have to be Dracula by Bram Stoker or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley because both novels are full of intriguing questions about morals, life, philosophy, what it is to be human, God, and the list is endless. I am not saying they are perfect or even brilliantly written but they have moments of pure genius.

5. What features do you expect to see in a good book? Fiction: gripping plot, understated language usage and surprise endings. Non-fiction: must be about the human experience and observations of relationships (you can see I don’t read science books!).

6. What do you believe makes a book so special? When it totally engages your attention, you cannot put it down and it gives you something you have never experienced before.

7. As a teenager, what kind of books did you like? Why did you find them appealing? I was, and still am, absolutely addicted to murder mysteries. The better murder mystery writers can create the most cunning of plots and I love to see whether I can work out ‘whodunnit’ before the end of the book.

8. What is your favourite genre of novel? I am tempted to say murder mystery again, but actually recently I have been reading a lot of apocalyptic/futuristic novels such as The Road by Cormac McCarthy and I am hooked (probably still murder mystery, though).
  
9. What is your favourite non-fiction book? I am not a huge fan of non-fiction, thus I don’t really have a favourite, but I do enjoy a well-written autobiography like that of Dennis Potter or observational writing such as that of Alan Bennett and even Spike Milligan (he always makes me laugh).

10. Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so, what style of book would you write?  I always think about writing a book. It would definitely be for teenagers and would not be serious. I would probably try and emulate (without imitation!) the style of writing in the Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend or Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.

Happy reading!

Mr Richardson answered as follows:

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The PGS Swifts Are Back

by Simon Lockyer


(photograph by Tony Hicks)

 They’re back.
 Half way through the senior management meeting on Tuesday, I heard them for the first time this year - the excited screeching that will grace the school’s quad for the next three months. Interestingly, their arrival is nearly a month later than the average date for their first appearance.

(photograph by Tony Hicks)
The observant amongst the school population will have noticed the scythe-shaped birds that race feverishly around the quad, occasionally diving between the cherry trees and into the eves of A and B block. I am not sure why their arrival is so significant and exciting, but perhaps it is that their call is so deeply associated with summer mornings and evenings that their apparent excitement of being back is infectious; or perhaps it just my admiration of a bird that travels  across the Sahara at speeds of over 70mph.

Up close, swifts are pretty ordinary, brown birds with under-developed legs that enable them to hold on only briefly to walls and landing places. But in flight they are supreme, capable of feats of aerobatics, deadly at intercepting insects, even sleeping on the wing (which it achieves by sleeping with half of its brain at a time). It is estimated that swifts fly an average daily total of 800 km --- nearly 500 miles. That's about 2 million km in a lifetime.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Spoiler Alert

by Tom Harper

source: BBC
Upon the announcement of the upcoming Doctor Who episode this Saturday being ‘The Name of the Doctor’, Steven Moffat has assured Whovians everywhere that the Doctor’s greatest secret will finally be revealed, leaving millions on the edge of their seats in anticipation (except for a select few in America who, through a freak accident in distribution, received the DVD last week).

Now I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have my own theories (particularly concerning the resurrecting nature of the series’ current companion Clara), however it is fair to say that some twists you simply do not see coming, whether it be the fact that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s illegitimate dad or indeed that ‘the Butler did it’. Hence this has left me to reflect on some of my own personal favourite cinematic spoilers that have left me reeling in my seat (Beware: Spoilers)...

1.      ‘Wrath’ and ‘Envy’ from Se7en:

Aside from the simply breathtaking cast, it is the plot to this particular film that has earned it its place in my rankings as one of the greatest films ever made, with its twist being no exception.

The Plot: There's a new serial killer out on the loose, but he's unlike any other out there. John Doe kills his victims based on the specific seven deadly sins they have committed. For gluttony, an obese man is forced to eat and eat until his stomach swells up. For sloth, a lazy man is tied to a bed for a year being slowly fed nothing but chemicals to keep him alive as he withers away. For lust...... I don’t want to go into lust. For detectives Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman this madman seems too crafty to be caught, however fortune smiles upon them when he is taken into custody before carrying out the murders for envy and wrath. However, despite his incarceration, Doe assures that his masterpiece will soon be complete...

The Twist: As highlighted in the picture (above) it is Doe who dies on behalf of his envious outlook towards Brad Pitt’s lifestyle. By murdering Pitt’s wife, Doe is able to convince the detective to kill him and ‘become wrath’, hence leaving him to go to prison and have his fantasy fulfilled. Despite the sadistic nature of this movie’s villain, you cannot help but admire his genius...

2. The Futuristic Sacrifice from The Cabin In The Woods:

The caption to this film being ‘You think you know the story, think again...’ is worthy of such a reputation. Although the plot of zombies and low-grade teenage altruism is shoddy at the very least, the sheer magnitude of the plot twist (albeit more terrible than the actual plot) is what grants this movie a place on this list. It is quite literally unforeseeable.

The Plot: Five friends who travel to a remote cabin for a holiday get more than they bargained for upon summoning a family from the grave, and, as they are quickly picked off one by one, their chances of survival become increasingly slim. But what role do the hidden cameras positioned everywhere have to play in this, and do they really have any hope of escape?

The Twist: The simple answer: no. The more complicated explanation: they aren’t really in a cabin in the woods. Or teenagers going on a wild and free holiday together. Or running from the tortured souls of the undead. They are, in fact, sacrifices meant for a group of dormant deities that reside over the earth threatening to annihilate it if they are not satisfied, and the environment in which they interact has been specifically designed by technicians so that they will die in a preordained order so as to fully appease such gods. Didn’t see that coming, did you? Not only that, but their eventual refusal does indeed lead to the apparent end of the world, making such a drastic twist truly unmatched.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Review: Modern Vampires of the City

by Henry Cunnison

Vampire Weekend have often won praise for the enormous range of influences on their work: guitars inspired by Africa to whole songs heavily drawing on Simon and Garfunkel. They are a reminder that, even in today’s commercialised society, not all music has to sound the same. However, they have also been attacked for their excessively academic lyrics, reflecting their Ivy League education, demonstrated in their single “Oxford Comma.” Modern Vampires of the City, released today (13th May), is probably their best offering yet, by maintaining their wide influences while featuring songs that have a focus on real issues, such as love, mortality and religion.
The songs maintain a staggering depth and often reference a bewildering range of works, including those of Samuel Butler. "Step" manages to turn an initially simplistic and almost cringe-worthy premise of “stepping to my girl” into a song that confronts aging and death, while mentioning Angkor Wat and hip hop group Souls of Mischief. There are so many levels of meaning and different interpretations that the song forces re-listening, in an attempt to gain a great understanding of it.
The lyrics often reflect the growing up of Ezra Koenig, the lead singer. A common theme is mortality, perhaps a consequence of the 29-year-old realising that life is not infinite and that “there’s a headstone right in front of you” as he sings in "Don’t Lie". Even the title of "Diane Young" hints at this theme. The use of heavy vocal adjustment, normally something to be approached with caution, creates throughout the album different voices and themes, from the high-pitched voice of the baby and old man in "Diane Young" to the underwater feel of "Step", which reflect those found in the lyrics.
Musically, the album, although on a few occasions sounding dangerous generic, offers creativity and boldness for the most part. "Step", which could have become a classic indie depressing-lyrics-sad-acoustic guitar combo, instead becomes an innovative upbeat song through the use of a harpsichord. Both "Hudson" and "Diane Young" offer eclectic combinations of the electronic and the acoustic.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

What Do English Teachers Read?

by Henry Ling and Kelvin Shiu

A book is a whole number of different things. Everyone sees different things in books, some see a golden treasure lost in a sea of words, were as others only see bleak pages, riddled with black squiggles. Everyone has a favourite author, a favourite genre. So we decided to take a look into what some of the English teachers' views of literature are, as, of course, they are the ones who are educating us and teaching us the secret techniques and literary devices used to lure a reader into enjoying a book. Therefore they are the ones likely to have the most intriguing tastes in books. We asked Ms Burden, Mrs Kirby and Mr Burkinshaw the same questions and these were the answers that we received.  

Miss Burden answered the questions as follows:

1.     What book are you currently reading? - I’m reading a graphic novel – Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. It is a memoir about her childhood growing up in Iran and was originally written in French.

2.     Who is your favourite author? Why? -That is a very tough question. I’m going to select George Eliot. As you may know, George Eliot was a “she” – Mary Ann Evans, writing in Victorian times. She was a land agent’s daughter who lived an unconventional life. She lost her religious faith and her father threatened to throw her out of the family home. She compromised by continuing to attend church until her father died when she was thirty. Later in life she lived for years with a man she was not married to and so was disowned by her own brother as this was so controversial. I love her books because they are full of small images that strike me as being perfectly true.

3.  What is the least interesting novel that you have read? Why? -The least interesting novel that comes to mind is Fifty Shades of Grey and the other two books in the trilogy. I read them because I believe one should never criticise a book without actually reading it and it was a marathon of boredom. The trilogy is repetitive, clichéd and dull. The novel’s fame rests on its sex scenes but you have to read an awful lot of tedious rubbish before the main characters are anywhere near a bed. I also find the novel’s presentation of male and female roles quite irritating.

4.     If you were stranded on a desert island, what novel would you take (supposing you got a choice)? Why? - I’m assuming that, Desert Island Discs style, I’m allowed The Complete Works of Shakespeare and the Bible. The novel I would take in addition to that is George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Its descriptions of England would console me whilst sitting on an alien shore. Middlemarch is a moral novel: its assertive narrator and the behaviour of its characters provide lessons on  how to treat others.

5.     What features do you expect to see in a good book? - Can there be set features in a good book? Sometimes what makes a novel interesting is that it defies convention. One good example of this is Patrick Ness’s trilogy for teenagers,Chaos Walking (the first book is The Knife of Never Letting Go) which is the most zany, idiosyncratic, imaginative and fast-paced fiction I’ve ever read. It is set in a world where the thoughts of all male characters are as audible as their words. Essentially, a good book should be absorbing and able to convince you to accept the world it describes.

6.   What do you believe makes a book special? - Following on from that, books can be special in many different ways. The two books for adults that have made me cry are Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. Any book that can move one as deeply as real life can must be special in some way. The three children’s books that made me cry when I was younger are Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian,The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Bridge to Terebithia, by Katherine Patterson.

7.   As a teenager, what kind of books did you like? Why did you find them appealing? -I pushed "book boundaries" as a child and teenager. When I was in Year 5 my teacher sent home a novel I’d brought in called The Thorn Birds and telephoned my parents because she didn’t think it suitable for primary school (the heroine has a love affair with a Catholic priest). I devoured Jane Eyre and Tess of the D’Urbervilles before I’d finished Year 7. My teenaged reading was very mixed – on one hand I read most of Dickens and on the other hand I happily read plenty of trash, including a novel called Flowers in the Attic that was passed around every girl in the year group. At one point I was obsessed with Daphne du Maurier’s books and at other point George Orwell’s. Teenagers should read anything that interests them – reading can be a lovely, private way of finding out about the adult world as well as a shared experience through reading books that have interested friends or family. Teenagers today are very lucky – there is a definite market for you now and authors such as Robert Muchamore, Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness and Darren Shan have produced some gripping novels over the past few years.The Hunger Games is a defining trilogy for the first decade of this century – the novels are in so many ways a product of reality TV being embedded in our lives.

8.   What is your favourite genre of novel? - I don’t have a favourite genre as such as I enjoy most literary fiction. When I want an easier read I turn to crime fiction – Scandinavian/Scottish noir or PD James. I think it is very hard to write a good, original crime novel.

9.    What is your favourite non-fiction book? - That is a difficult question. It depends how you define non-fiction novel. Travel writing wise, I enjoy Colin Thubron’s works such as In Siberia. That has the most wonderful opening sentence. I find Joe Simpson’s books, such asTouching the Void and The Beckoning Silence, compelling but I have the feeling that if I met the author we wouldn’t get on as he is utterly single-minded. A wonderful book that is part travelogue and part memoir is The Snow Tourist by Charlie English. The author is fascinated by snow and travels the world looking for "the purest, deepest snowfall". The most raw and honest memoir I've ever read is William Leith's The Hungry Years.

10.  Have you ever thought about/written a book? What sort of style book would it be? -Yes. I’ve written most of a children’s novel (with a piracy theme) that I’ve set aside to return to with a critical eye at a later point. I’ve started writing an adult one but, as I’m in my first year at PGS, it’s been pretty slow going. I’ve written some short stories this year – they’re easier when life is busy – and one was shortlisted for a ghost story competition. The summer holiday should be a good time to write.

    Mrs Kirby answered the questions like this: