Saturday, 30 November 2013

Photography Club: Surfaces

by Adam Boxall


Review: 'Mack and Mabel'

by Hattie Gould and Annie Materna


Mack and Mabel

The must-not-miss event for all PGS pupils, parents and staff, this week, was 'Mack and Mabel': the musical of silent movies, heartbreak, romance and a sandwich girl's rise to fame.

This particular musical was largely unknown to the current generation of PGS pupils, leaving us entering the theatre a little apprehensive, not knowing much about the characters or their fate. However, not long after the play began, all was revealed: with  Mack, played by Ben Schofield, a selfish film director purely focused on making movies and Mabel, played by Molly Cranston, an enchanting (and clumsy) natural star.

Fatty Arbuckle and Bathing Beauties
The opening scene started with a bang as the cast exorcised their dressing room nerves as they were introduced to the stage, with Mack counting their directions for his latest movie. For Mack, all was running smoothly, with the Keystone cops falling over themselves and his leading lady tied to a rail track waiting to be rescued by her hero. However, all changed during one lunch break, when a young sandwich girl sparked chaos in the Mack Sennett studios: it was Mabel, whose innocent and girlish charm filled the stage with her beaming smile and passion for life, knowing little that her life was about to explode as Mack Sennett set out to make her a star.

Molly Cranston and Ben Schofield's singing and acting performances were both exciting and electric on stage. Molly was the perfect fit for Mabel,  portraying her character wonderfully with her voice full of energy and emotion. Ben Schofield has a natural presence on stage and narrated the story with seeming effortlessness but considerable professionalism.
Ben and Molly creatined a perfect match as they brought out the best in each other throughout their performance and kept the audience intrigued by their intertwining love affair. All participants in the performance were vibrant and brought a great atmosphere to the theatre especially the Keystone cops, the bathing beauties and the tap dancers Not only was Pippa Harris' tap dancing excellent but she gave a wonderful performance as Lottie. There were great performances from Rory Greenwood as comedian Fatty Arbuckle, Peter Rapp as the idealistic screenwriter Frank, Cameron Roberts and Lewis Mackenzie as the harrassed producers Kessel and Bauman, Harry Norton as smooth director William Desmond Taylor, Sam Betteridge as Andy, Phoebe Carter as Ella and Graihagh Guille as Freddi.

Keystone cops

Personally, our favourite part of the show was the 'Look What Happened to Mabel' scene - the first whole-cast number of the musical. As the song began, the audience could hear and feel the tension mounting on the stage; however, within a matter of minutes, after the introduction of the horse (showing Mabel starring in comedy Westerns), you could see the transformation of pupil to actor and the cast were in full swing, relaxing the audience and setting an outstanding level of performance that was met by the cast throughout the rest of the show. Additionally, the throwing of cream pies must have been thoroughly enjoyed by all staff who taught the pupils involved.

Friday, 29 November 2013

What History Teachers Think About History: Part 2

by Kelvin Shiu and Henry Ling


History is an amazing subject which looks into what we have left behind, the struggles and gains of our lives from the dawn of time. We asked Ms Bush a few questions on history and historical events, and she answered them as follows:

1) Who is your favourite American president? Why? Lincoln - his Civil Rights views/ Franklin D Roosevelt - he was an international statesman who realized that America had to look outwards and he stirred America through some of their greatest hardships.

 2) Which war of all time has been the most significant? All wars are significant and we continue not to learn from them!!! 

3) Which prime minister of Britain was most interesting? Gladstone - he was in power four times: an inspirational speaker and moral politician, not easy given the nature of politics. He was PM at an age we consider too old today to hold public office. He managed the economy successfully given the fact Palmerston wanted to modernize the armed services and defence of Britain. His family were plantation owners and encouraged him into politics to protect their enterprises and prevent emancipation of slaves when he would rather have been a vicar.
 
4) Who would you call the best Briton? Winston Churchill

5) Who would you say to be the best non-Briton? Gandhi

6) Which historical event do you believe people can learn the most from? The Holocaust - it has rather defined the 20th century and is our moral compass today.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Photography Club: Edited Flower

by Monideep Ghosh



The Wonderful World of Subcultures

by Sophie Parekh


There are so many subcultures in today’s society that I definitely need a guide, and this article is basically a rough guide to help you understand what people are talking about when they start going on about ‘Scene Kids’, for example.

It’s funny because most of these revolve around music, which is quite interesting really. I’m not trying to ‘label’ or ‘prejudge’ people, as the easily offended among you might think. This is my opinion. Also, I don’t know too much about this, but I’ve done my research and I’ll do my best.
 
Hipsters

Probably the most despised of all the subcultures because of the maddening Instagram feeds and constant remarks of ‘Urgh, that’s so mainstream!’

According to Urban Dictionary: Definitions are too mainstream. Hipsters can't be defined because then they'd fit in a category, and thus be too mainstream.”

Music
Anything except the Top 40.

Clothes
Again, pretty much anything with mismatched patterns except Hollister and Abercrombie, but for some reason Jack Wills seems to make the cut. Charity shops are quite popular as well.

Culture
Hipsters have always existed (you know, those people who dress ever so slightly differently and like to rub it in your face) ever since the dawn of time. Like I said, no one else really likes the idea of being a ‘hipster’, so they tend to stay in packs.

 
Scene Kids

These are basically wannabe hipsters. Why you’d want to be a hipster, I don’t know. Also, they are more ‘scene’. Whatever that means…

Music
See: Hipster.

Clothes
Same as hipster although nerd glasses and ridiculous beanies seem to prove very popular. Also, weird hair and ‘vintage’ t-shirts are often worn.

Culture
Since there were hipsters, there have been scene kids. Again, they stay in packs, usually of about four.


Skater Girlz

Basically, they’re scene kids who own a skateboard, only less scene…

Music
Anything from pop-punk to rap metal.

Clothes
Those people you see down at the skatepark, in black hoodies sporting green hair.

Culture
Think Avril Lavigne


Metalheads

Ah, the humble metalhead. Likely to be seen head banging to meaningful random noises.

Music
All things metal,ie. death, black thrash, heavy, glam (which is apparently not for true metal heads) and progressive. Just to name a few of the 35ish genres. Also a wee bit of hardcore punk.

Clothes
Band t-shirts, ripped jeans and ski jackets.

Cultures
They’re pretty much normal people, except they appreciate metal (which not many people can do).


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

BBC Sports Personality of the Year: who could win?

by Zoe Rundle


Andy Murray wins Wimbledon 2013

With less than a month to go until the BBC Sports Personality of the Year is broadcast across the country for the sixtieth time, the competition for that illustrious trophy is fiercer than ever. With the Lions tour of Australia, the Ashes, the World Athletics Championships and the Tour De France all having produced successful results for Team GB, it's impossible to predict who will even be nominated, let alone win. All this is, of course, on top of Andy Murray's historic Wimbledon triumph, becoming the first Brit to have his name to a Grand Slam for seventy-seven years. A shortlist of ten is to be revealed on Tuesday and only the best will make the cut, so who is it that's in with a real chance of claiming the title that's considered the one of the ultimate sporting privileges in the country?

Leigh Halfpenny
After the British and Irish Lions returned from Australia with a 2-1 victory over the Wallabies, it seems only fair that their star player, Leigh Halfpenny, gains recognition, especially after scoring 49 of the Lions' 79 points against Australia. Halfpenny played in all three tests, winning player of the series, and breaking the Lions points record held by Neil Jenkins. The twenty-four-year-old also broke the record for the most points in one test, scoring 21 in the decider at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Previously in 2013, Halfpenny was also instrumental in guiding Wales to their second successive Six Nations title, later being awarded with the Player of the Tournament trophy, securing 40% of the overall vote. This month, the Welshman has been nominated as one of five players for the IRB Player of the Year and looks to be the front runner to collect the award. Halfpenny's achievements include some of the highest there are in rugby and he shouldn't be overlooked for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in December.

British cycling has been as prominent as ever this year and, once again, we have produced another Tour De France winner. Chris Froome took home the title after winning the general classification on 21st July with a final time of 83 hours, 56 minutes and 40 seconds, four minutes and 20 seconds ahead of second-placed Quintana. The former was King of the Mountains six times on the tour despite getting off to a nervy start as he crashed in the neutralised section of the first stage on the isle of Corsica. This year, Froome's other achievements include winning the Tour of Oman and the Criterium International, as well as gaining a bronze medal in the team time trial at the Road World Championships. He was later named winner of the prestigious Vélo d'Or award for the best rider of the year and his achievements in cycling don't go unnoticed since his name has already been linked with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy next month.

The 25th August was a day which topped off an excellent summer for British sport as The Ashes came to a close. A 3-0 victory for England was more than enough to send the Australians home unhappy and Ian Bell produced a display to be remembered for the hosts. He scored the most runs of anyone, a figure which exceeded 550, and bagged the most centuries, along with the highest batting average. Bell was named Player of the Series and picked up the Compton-Miller medal, invented especially for the Ashes. After building up game-changing partnerships with both Bairstow and Root, Bell demonstrated his ability to hit balls left, right and centre. His performance down under, in the current Ashes Series, may determine whether he picks up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award since he may need more than one strong performance if he's to beat the strong competition that there is.

Mo Farah
Just when you think that it can't get any better for British sport, our golden boy Mo Farah steps up at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow to take both the 5k and 10k in dramatic style. The high expectations of Farah, following his two gold medals at the 2012 Olympics, meant that the pressure was really on (particularly after he narrowly finished 2nd in the 10k at the Championships 2 years ago). This was the race which came around first and hopes were high. As expected, he was victorious, seeing off a late challenge by Ibrahim Jelian to gain his fourth global title. Virtually a week later, Farah's success was repeated as he crossed the line first to gain the 5k title. He therefore became the current double world and Olympic champion and subsequent to this 5k victory, commentator Foster labelled Farah as "Britain's greatest ever athlete". He was also shortlisted for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year award topping off an excellent 12 months. However, it remains to be seen whether this gifted individual can round off a special period in his career with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Photography Club: Language Corridor

by Mia Austin




Obamacare – Great Idea, Poorly Executed

by Sam Collings-Wells



(source: CNN)

I just don’t agree with anything that has to be forced.’  This was one Californian’s logic when they were asked by Jimmy Kimmel to justify why they preferred ‘The Affordable Care Act’ over ‘Obamacare’. Obamacare is, of course, exactly the same policy as the Affordable Care Act. Another interviewee asserted confidently that the Affordable Care Act would provide cheaper healthcare than Obamacare simply on the basis that its name contained the word ‘affordable’. Aside from the hilarity created by unearthing some of the uninformed citizenry of America, the various interviews shared a further common theme: a preference for rhetoric over fact.
Rhetoric has overwhelmingly dominated the debate over Obamacare, which forces Americans to purchase health insurance or face a fine. On the right, Republicans have smeared the policy with connotations of socialism and excessive government. Meanwhile, on the left, Democrats have asserted that this expansion in government is necessary for a healthier America by providing cheaper healthcare to those who need it most. But this is not the classic case of big government versus limited government that so often dominates squabbles between the right and left. As opposed to simple hand-outs such as Medicaid, where the federal government subsidises those who immediately need healthcare, Obamacare compels healthy citizens to enrol in healthcare plans. Some see this as healthcare socialism. Others just are annoyed by the extra cost.
Many Americans point to how America was founded on ideas of liberty and freedom. As a result of the imperial rule of the British, the American people have always had an aversion to big central government. Obamacare is clearly a huge extension of central government power, and infringes the rights of individual states, not to mention the individuals living within them. Forcing citizens to spend money on healthcare is seen by many as fundamentally un-American. Being a 21st century Brit, I’m inclined to believe that universal healthcare is second nature to developed countries. The benefits of the wider provision of healthcare are enormous: a more productive workforce, a better standard of living and, in the long run, lower healthcare costs. Yet it is important to comprehend how often principles may, for better or worse, take precedence over logical pragmatism, in order to preserve the ethos and values that a country such as American was built on.
Supporters of Obamacare will undoubtedly, at this point in the article, be rolling their eyes. Those on the left often like to see themselves as somehow intellectually superior by callously discarding ideas of tradition and the principles upon which lasting institutions were founded in order to make way for their own brilliant theories. So, in anticipation that the argument that Obamacare extends the power of the central government which their political system attempts to limit falls on deaf ears, I will now explain why Obamacare won’t actually work.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Scarfs, Fezzes and Sink Plungers

A short paper by Benjamin Brooks



 
Now, nearly all of us have seen an episode of Doctor Who and wondered: can we really travel in time? I have come from Gallifrey to give you the answer!

To answer the ultimate question (to which the answer does not include 42) we must first look at different ways that people of Earth have tried to travel in time, as well as the purely fictitious ways we all know and love from various 60s Sci-Fi.

The first way that we have thought to allow us to travel in time is the one and only time vortex. An infinite entity in time and space, this vortex can be manipulated by the TARDIS, as well as vortex manipulators, as per River Song and Captain Jack, and deposits the person in a specified place in time and space. However, this technology has been proven to damage the structure of space-time, so that is probably unwise.

In another much loved sci-fi series, Star Trek, Captain Kirk and Spock decide to travel to the 1950s, so jump into the past by traveling at light speed, specifically Warp 5, around the sun, and slingshot into the past. This method is theoretically possible, if you had a ship that could survive the heat, and protect you from the intense solar radiation, but the problem here is that the calculations would take a very, very long time. At the moment, one of the most advanced computers in the world, IBM Magellan, would take 36,000 years. So we have a long wait ahead of us…

Also, we must consider the direction of travel in time, and the effects it might have. For example, if you were travelling backwards in time, if you still occupy the same universe, you will theoretically decrease in age the further back in time you get, until you will cease to exist, because you won’t have been born. The same goes for travelling forward in time, as you will age, and eventually die. So getting out of the Tardis in the 3000s with the same face as you had getting into it in 2013 is theoretically impossible. 
So, to get to the question we all want the answer to: is time travel possible?

Great Britten

by Julia Alsop




Happy 100th birthday, Benjamin Britten.
Photograph (and cake) by Julia Alsop


Friday 22nd November, 2013, marked the centenary of the birth of Edward Benjamin Britten, one of the best composers ever produced by Britain, writing touching and profound music, often making philosophical or political statements; thus, his incredible legacy must be honoured and upheld.

He was born in a small town called Lowestoft, by the North Sea coast. He had three siblings and was very close to Edith, his mother, who helped to nurture her son’s musical talent; as a music-lover herself, she fancied him to be the fourth “B” of great composers, after Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Britten was intelligent and gifted in sports and mathematics at school, considered as being a “golden boy” by both enemies and friends.
 
Britten was later a strong pacifist, and at school he had already started to express distress at the use of corporal punishment and anger at bullying by older boys of younger boys: Atrocious bullying on all sides, vulgarity and swearing… Boys, small and rather weak are turned into sour and bitter boys and ruined for life. These comments are not dissimilar to what he later said about war. Benjamin Britten attended Gresham’s School where, in the sick bay at the age of 15, he famously wrote his Hymn to the Virgin. He began to be mentored by the composer Frank Bridge who was very impressed by the young composer’s skill. Britten went on to study at the Royal College of Music, where he was successful, winning a number of prestigious composition prizes in his years there.

Benjamin Britten
After finishing at the Royal College of Music, Britten wrote the score for a documentary film and there met W. H Auden, a poet with whom he worked with for much of his life.

Britten’s mother died in 1937, which he found deeply upsetting. In the same year, he also became acquainted with Peter Pears, a great tenor, and later Britten’s partner, for whom he wrote much music. The couple moved to USA in 1939 at the beginning of World War II, with Europe not being the easiest place for pacifists to reside, and his music not being received so well in the UK. However, his music was not widely accepted by the audiences of New York either and the pair returned to the UK in 1942, joining the Peace Pledge Union, and being granted exemption from military service after applying as conscientious objectors.

In 1948 he founded the Aldeburgh Festival, creating his own orchestra there and premiering numerous works of his own. In 1957, Britten and Pears visited Europe and the Far East where Britten was exposed to Balinese gamelan music, inspiring further compositions. In recognition of his lifetime of achievement as a composer and of the success of the  Aldeburgh Festival, he was awarded a life peerage.
 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Brave Old World?

Katherine Lemieux asks whether, fifty years after his death on November 22nd 1963, Aldous Huxley's vision of the future in his dystopian novel, 'Brave New World', has become a reality. This article was originally published in the 'Great Expectations' issue of Portsmouth Point magazine in June, 2012.
 
 
Aldous Huxley

 
Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley, is a novel that gives an insight into what Huxley thought the future could hold for civilisation. He explores ideas considered miraculous and new at the time of writing, 1931, and develops them, creating a world full of amazement for the reader; a world like no other. Comparing this world to today’s world is interesting because there are many contrasts and similarities. There are signs that our world has developed along the lines that Huxley suggested and there are also many signs that suggest it has not.

One of the biggest differences between the two worlds is that the citizens of Brave New World are absolutely disgusted at the thought of giving birth. Instead, they have hatchery centres where babies are born in test-tubes. This allows control over population. In today’s world there is no control over population. There is one similarity however.  In Brave New World the egg is fertilised outside of the body. This does happen in today’s world and is known as IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment. Although the egg is fertilised outside the body, it is then returned to the body. On the other hand, the eggs in Brave New World are left in the test-tubes until they are ready to be decanted. Nevertheless, it is possible that in future years we will be able to produce test-tube babies, following the lines that Huxley suggests. In Huxley’s world they do not have families and the word “mother” is thought of as an expletive. This is completely different from life today, in which families are at the heart of most people’s lives and the word mother is used freely. A mother, in Brave New World, would be extremely ashamed of having given birth in a natural way, completely opposite to how a mother of today's world would react.

In Brave New World there is a clear separation between the different classes of society. There are the Alphas at the top, down to the Epsilons at the bottom. It can be said that this is the same in today’s world. There is a definite division between classes. However, in Brave New World there is control over the social classes, their caste chosen by a “pre-destinator”, and people are conditioned to be happy in their caste and have no desire to belong to another caste. For example, Epsilons are conditioned to enjoy menial jobs, whereas Alphas would never dream of performing such a job. In today’s world no such conditioning takes place and many people are unhappy with their class and wish to belong to another one. Despite this, there are some people who are happy and accepting of their class just as in Brave New World.

Conditioning plays a very big part in the running of society in Brave New World. People are conditioned just after decanting, and are conditioned through hypnosis sleep teaching. The sleep teaching teaches them how to live and what rules to live by and ensures that the whole world will run smoothly. In today’s society we are not conditioned in the same way but we are still conditioned through education and upbringing and this can affect the way we live our lives. For example, if you are taught that lying is bad and you are punished every time you lie, eventually you will (hopefully) learn that lying is wrong; you’ve been conditioned. We are not conditioned as strongly as the citizens of Brave New World are and are able to retaliate, but nonetheless it is a similar kind of idea and in the future it could play a key role in how people behave.

Sixth Form Centre: Foundations

by Tony Hicks


As of this weekend, footings are almost complete and the roof of the old Biology building has almost been removed while five courses of bricks have been removed from the top of the building to make way for steel supports to take the extra storey. The cladding has been removed from the BCSC and it has been boarded up and covered in plastic ready to open up once the next floor and roof have been built. I would expect to see steel work going up really soon.






The ‘Returning Sun’: an Atheist’s Response to The Chronicles of Narnia

by Laura Burden


C.S. Lewis
Last Friday, 22nd November, was a day for celebrating what J.K. Rowling’s ghosts call “death-days”: on this date, exactly fifty years ago, President John F Kennedy was shot on the streets of Dallas; the Surrey-born agnostic author Aldous Huxley, best known today for his dystopian novel Brave New World, died (no longer able to speak or see) in Los Angeles; the Christian apologist, academic and author Clive Staples Lewis died peacefully of kidney failure at his home in Oxford. The assassination of the leader of the free world overshadowed the passing of two literary greats, although in 1982 the novelist Peter Kreeft published a book that imagined a religious conversation between the three men after death. As the columnist Oliver Moody quipped in The Times this week in his appraisal of Huxley: “An Englishman, and Irishman and an American walk into the afterlife on the same day. Fifty years later the American has two airports and a space centre to his name. The Irishman, who once tried to rhyme ‘dunces’ with ‘responses’, has a new slab in Poets’ Corner. The Englishman has a quiet corner of a Surrey graveyard.”

Moody’s allusion to Lewis here is slightly unfair. He was, indeed, an Irishman who loved the culture he was born into, but a Protestant who, after risking his life for Britain’s cause on the Western Front, had no desire for involvement in Irish Independence and lived and died in England. He was no poet, but Poets’ Corner is mostly populated by the remains of those who wrote in prose. He was an essayist, a literary critic, a teacher, a writer of science fiction, a re-interpreter of myth and a Christian polemicist. His enduring legacy, however, is his children’s fiction. The seven books that comprise The Chronicles of Narnia have been translated into forty-seven languages and, even today, three million copies are sold annually.
 
I’m not sure if there is a child in the world who has not read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and tried to part their clothes aside and touch the back of the wardrobe in their bedroom in the hope that it will open into the snowy world of a story where Christmas finally comes and evil is vanquished. After years of  the White Witch’s tyranny, where it is, “always winter but it never gets to Christmas,” Aslan the Lion, returning like the sun, allows Father Christmas to dispense gifts before melting the snow and bringing about the return of spring. What is on the surface a fantasy tale written for Christmas is, of course, really the Easter story. Aslan sacrifices himself for Man’s sin, personified by the child Edmund. He faces humiliation and pain before sacrifice at the hand of the White Witch on the pagan stone table. However, owing to his knowledge of magic written when “Time dawned” – in The Magician’s Nephew it is Aslan who first brings light into the new world of Narnia as he creates it through song – death is not the end. As, “very slowly up came the edge of the sun,” the stone table cracks and Aslan is able to rise again to breathe his spirit on the animals turned to stone and to defeat evil.

Aslan is the only character who appears in person in all seven Narnia books and he is the guiding moral presence for the characters. In The Horse and His Boy he appears in the guise of several different lions to aid Shasta; in Prince Caspian he guides the children along the correct path to find the prince; in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader he appears several times but ultimately as a Lamb, who then transforms to explain to the children that, in their world, he always tells them “the way” and that they know him but by “another name”. Finally, on their death and on the death of Narnia in The Last Battle, it is Aslan that leads them to a heaven that is a new Narnia and a new Earth, and in imagery reminiscent of the Book of Revelation, implies that their eternal future will be a book of life “which no one on earth has read” and that, “this is the morning”.

It is in The Silver Chair (incidentally, the next book to be filmed by Walden Media) that Lewis wrote most explicitly about the evils of atheism. When The Lady of the Green Kirtle (those studying Keats at AS should recognise the allusion) realises that, on invoking “the name of Aslan” Prince Rilian has persuaded Jill, Eustace and Puddleglum to cut his bonds, she initially uses stratagem rather than violence to persuade them to stay in the Underworld. Enchanting them with music and a magical fire, she hypnotises the children and the Marsh-wiggle into repeating, “There is no sun. There is no sun.” She uses logic and probability to define their descriptions of the overworld as a dream and their analogies between Aslan and a cat, and the sun and a lamp, as a fallacy. It is only when Puddleglum, after stamping out the magical fire, declares:

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s the funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

It is upon this declaration of faith that the Witch now takes on her true form as a serpent and, in the familiar style of good triumphing over evil, is slain by the knightly Prince Rilian. His shield shortly takes on the blazon of “the Lion, redder than blood or cherries”, taken as a sign that “Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die.” The Narnians and the children are rewarded by a return to “the sunlit lands.”
One does not have to be Richard Dawkins to argue alongside one of the (convert) Evelyn Waugh’s most famous fictional characters that, simply because something is beautiful, it does not mean that it is true.

Review: Gravity

by Alex Todd




 
Recently, I went to see the film Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.  Clooney plays Matt Kowalski, an experienced astronaut and mission leader on a space shuttle flight to the Hubble space telescope.  Bullock plays Dr Ryan Stone, a doctor for whom this is the first venture into space.  The film opens with the two astronauts working on the Hubble, which is connected to the shuttle.  They are conversing with mission control, and we are given a sense of doom when Clooney says he has a ‘bad feeling’ about the mission.  Sure enough, within minutes Houston has announced that a giant cloud of space debris is heading their way as the result of the Russians destroying a defunct satellite.  Within minutes, Clooney and Bullock are the only survivors of the former crew of five, and communication with mission control has been lost, due to the debris cloud taking out communications satellites.  To make matters worse, the shuttle is catastrophically damaged by the impacts, meaning that the duo are forced to space-walk all the way to the ISS (International Space Station) to borrow a damaged escape pod, to then fly on to the Tiangong-1 Chinese space station.
The main feature of this film is the special effects.  Nearly everything in the film is computer generated, including an incredibly detailed rendering of the Earth and of space.  The film is only screened in 3-D, and it is easy to see why- whilst the effects are incredible, the plot and cast of the film leave a lot to be desired.  Whilst the actors are excellent- especially George Clooney- they are distinctly lacking in number, and the plot is thin and full of inaccuracies.
Throughout the entire film, the total cast of the film consists of just seven people, five of whom are only heard over the radio, and never appear on screen.  Whilst this contributes to the feeling of isolation that pervades the film, it also means that the dialogue is rather limited, and this means that the film can get dull at times- several times there are periods of several minutes filled with nothing but heavy breathing (something that Bullock seems to do a lot).
Whilst these issues are just a matter of taste- some people would say that they are overall a beneficial component to the atmosphere of the film- anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of how space works will quickly notice a few flaws in the film:
1)    In the film, Clooney and Bullock walk from the Hubble to the ISS in under 90 minutes, and they are in sight of each other.  In reality, these satellites are in vastly different orbits to each other, and it would be almost impossible to walk between them

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Second Doctor: Patrick Troughton

by James Burkinshaw


Patrick Troughton (the Second Doctor, 1966-69)


The first Doctor Who episode I remember watching was "The Green Death" in 1973, featuring the third Doctor, played by Jon Pertwee. Despite (or perhaps because of) his background in radio and TV comedy, Pertwee played the role straight, a charismatic man of action, often resorting to the lethal art of Venusian Aikido to defeat particularly threatening enemies. He was followed by Tom Baker (to whom Dr Richmond pays tribute), who brought a manic energy and sense of wide-eyed wonder to the role; in fact, it seems clear, from Baker's extraordinarily enjoyable autobiography, Who on Earth is Tom Baker? (which chronicles his unlikely incarnations as a failed monk and failed bricklayer before landing the life-changing part of the Doctor) that the fourth doctor's eccentric persona was pretty much a reflection of Baker's own.

I stopped watching after the Baker era, but began again when the series was relaunched with Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor. I agree with Tim Bustin's article that Eccleston's Doctor is underrated; he introduced a new gravitas to the role itself and the show as a whole that then allowed David Tennant and Matt Smith (celebrated by Louisa Dassow and Melissa Smith respectively) the freedom to reintroduce a sense of comedy, played off against the seriousness. However, when asked which of the previous Doctors had most influenced him, Matt Smith replied "I love Patrick Troughton. What I think is wonderful about (him) is he's weird and peculiar but he never asks you to find him weird and peculiar."

That same sense of the weirdness of Troughton's Second Doctor, the genuinely alien and unsettling quality of his character, appealed to me back in the 70s. I was too young to see the original series and his Doctor suffered more than any other from the BBC's habit, during that era, of "wiping" (destroying) copies of episodes following broadcast, so repeats were few and far between. However, nearly all of the series were novelised (by Target Books) and the ones involving the Second Doctor absorbed me most of all. Whereas the First Doctor (William Hartnell) had been a wise, avuncular, elegant figure, Troughton's Doctor often masked his cleverness, presenting himself as an absurd little man, shabbily dressed with a pudding-bowl haircut, not to be taken seriously. Rather like the TV detective Columbo, this pose of being an imbecile was central to the way in which the character manipulated his enemies, until they realised, too late, that he was several steps ahead of them.

This manipulative quality could be directed at his own companions. Unlike the First Doctor, who treated his companions as beloved grandchildren (in fact, one, Susan, was his actual granddaughter --- implying the existence somewhere of a wife and child, never referred to until the episode, over 40 years later, when a solution to the conundrum was found by "cloning" David Tennant's Tenth Doctor in order to create a daughter), the Second Doctor could be cruel and waspish, sometimes seeming to view the entire human race with a not-so-benign contempt, wondering why he was bothering to save such a ridiculous species and quite prepared to put his own companions in harm's way with little of the heart-searching and agonising that characterises the Tennant/Smith era. Although, Troughton was also the first actor to bring a sense of anarchic comedy to the role (the publicity material of the time referred to his Doctor as a "cosmic hobo"), what made his interpretation so compelling was that, at the same time, he found a darkness in the character not explored to the same extent since (except, perhaps, by Eccleston). Blessed with beetling eyebrows and piercing eyes, Troughton often played villains ---something he had in common with Tom Baker, which is perhaps why they were both so good at capturing the Doctor's alien, non-human quality. I remember finding Troughton's performance as the pirate Israel Hands, in a tea-time TV production of Treasure Island so terrifying that it gave me nightmares. In the Doctor Who episode The Enemy of the World, he played not only the Doctor but also the villain, Salamander (see video below).

The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith

On the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who, Melissa Smith argues that Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor is the greatest.


 
Coming from someone who has had a cardboard cut-out of the eleventh Doctor residing peacefully in their room for some years now, it is perhaps unsurprising that I have chosen Matt Smith as my Doctor of choice.

Upon his arrival on our screens in 2009, differences could immediately be noticed between him and any other actor to play the part beforehand. Aside from the obvious difference in physical appearance, Matt was also the youngest actor ever to have his hands on the prized role. At a mere 26 years of age, this relatively inexperienced young man was soon to be handed the keys to the little blue box that would change his life, and indeed others’, forever.

The waiting audience were understandably apprehensive about his performance after the excellent (if I may say so myself) portrayal of the role by David Tennant, his predecessor. I have to admit that even I, an open-minded sort, felt that little could live up to the long, converse-yielding reign of the last few series. However, it didn’t take long for him to prove me wrong.

From the start, the energy with which he performed the role was contagious. It soon became obvious why Moffat and his team had chosen him for the part; Matt was bringing a side to the Doctor that we hadn’t seen before, or at least a side that had never before been explicitly embraced. His youth allowed him to explore all of the Doctor’s childish eccentricities with ease, from the famous experiment with fish fingers and custard, to his genuine and ever-present fascination and enthusiasm for the human world.

Matt, like David before him, became a canvas for a variety of companions to paint on. I have yet to make up my mind on Jenna-Louise Coleman, but the chemistry between the Doctor, Amy and Rory was undeniable. The introduction of a second companion (as opposed to just Amy alone) allowed the development of several storylines that would otherwise not have been possible with a solo companion. Whilst many of us may have secretly wished that Rory had been truly deleted from time when it was thought that he had, his character did provide a welcome stability for the other two nearer the end of their time together. Besides, this is Doctor Who and a plot line wouldn’t be a plot line without some sort of whopping-great hole.

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant

On the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who, Louisa Dassow argues that David Tennant's Tenth Doctor is the greatest.




I am a Whovian. Having tuned in regularly to Doctor Who since his re-incarnation in 2005 through to the present day and stumbled across many "older doctor" episodes I would like to think I have sufficient knowledge to make a valid decision.

David Tennant was my favourite doctor. Recently he was also voted the nation's favourite Doctor by the Radio Times readership alongside his best companion, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) and in 2007 his Doctor was named "the coolest character on UK television" . He brought his own twist to the role of the Doctor, after the slightly more serious spin that Christopher Eccleston put on the role; Tennant's Doctor was refreshingly light-hearted but he also had a darker side which was less apparent in other Doctors.

David Tennant had been primed for the role since he was a young boy, a self-proclaimed Doctor Who fanboy. Tennant first put his name to the Doctor Who franchise in 2003 when he took part in a Doctor Who animated webcast entitled the "Scream of Shalka". Tennant was not originally cast for the role, rather he was involved in a production that was taking place in a studio next door but when he discovered what the BBC were up to he sweet-talked his way into the director's heart and landed himself a role as a caretaker. Tennant, still keen to be associated with Doctor Who, took part in a series of small plays which were based on the idea of Doctor Who, although Tennant still hadn't clinched the role of the Doctor in these early days. There were many other Doctor Who-related audio appearances for Tennant before the tenth Doctor came into his own, having been overlooked to play the ninth doctor (although he was definitely considered for it by the BBC). For the Scot, being the Doctor was a childhood dream and he is still as enthusiastic about the series now as he was back then.

If the fact that he has abundant enthusiasm for the show was not enough, then one could point to his wonderful acting skills which meant that he could have  played the Doctor with ease without having any previous knowledge of the role. Frequently nominated for "Best Actor" awards (and not just for Doctor Who) no-one can argue that Tennant's acting is anything but exemplary and this is shown in his ability to sustain the same character so well throughout every episode that he was involved in. The speed of his babbles were quite amazing and he was able to represent the Doctor's brain speed consistently because he was so fluent with his lines. For me, the babbles are possibly the most memorable aspect of Tennant's Doctor; he would seem to lose himself in his thoughts as he solved the problems that were presented to him and the odd words that the viewer would hear made for an interesting string of words which (for our ordinary human brains) were hard to link together.

Friday, 22 November 2013

PGS at Sunset

by School Photographer, Jason Baker










A Light Is Extinguished: Remembering JFK

by Will Wallace


Had he lived, Kennedy would have guided the world down a more united, peaceful path
 
 
The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was the most disastrous event of the latter half of the 20th century. A pretty bold statement, you might say, yet the legacy of this man’s short time in the White House is often overshadowed by fascination surrounding the way in which his life was cut short, as Gregory Walton-Green explores. People forget the fact that Kennedy was from a new generation, unlike his predecessors, and was elected on a promise to move the country into a new decade, the 1960s. Does that sound at all familiar? President Obama was elected on a similar platform in 2008 and most Americans have deemed his presidency to be a disappointment, propelled by false hope. Within two years of being president, Kennedy had already seriously damaged his and his government’s reputation, following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. A few weeks after the fiasco, he told NBC correspondent Elie Abel that no one would want to “write a book about an administration that has nothing to show for itself but a string of disasters”. He frequently reminded those in his inner circle that he would never think of running for re-election; he expressed his frustration to close friend Lem Billings, describing the presidency as “the most unpleasant job in existence”. Yet something happened in the October of 1962, something that would alter the direction of Kennedy’s administration and have a resounding effect on the man’s perspective.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is often cited as bringing the world excruciatingly close to a Third World War. As GCSE historians will be able to tell you, Kennedy averted nuclear fallout with the Soviet Union and arguably prevented the destruction of civilisation. However from then on, President Kennedy reassessed himself and spent the last year of his life dedicated to two causes: one of these causes was peace abroad. He persisted with a new policy which sought to heal the relationship with the Soviets; this was an immense change in course from that set by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before him. He repeated his calls for joint space and lunar exploration between the two nations, an idea that would have ended the petty space race. His commencement address at American University in June 1963 perhaps best indicates his personal evolution as a president: he appealed to the American people to “reexamine [their] own attitude...as a Nation” and said of the Soviet people that “no government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue” and he reminded listeners that Americans and Soviets “both inhabit this Earth...both breathe the same air...both cherish [their] children’s future...are all mortal”. Most importantly, he proposed that the United States unilaterally suspend its atmospheric nuclear tests and instigate negotiations in Moscow aimed at drafting a treaty banning nuclear testing in the atmosphere, underground, underneath the oceans and in outer space. This would be the first step towards nuclear disarmament and is unambiguously a display of Kennedy’s desire to ensure a more peaceful world for future generations. Kennedy’s colleague David Ormsby-Gore observed that after the Cuban Missile Crisis, “he saw [his actions] in terms of children - his children and everybody else’s children”.

The second of the two causes that Kennedy died fighting for was peace at home. Civil rights had been an explosive issue for many Americans, dividing the country and stirring up a great deal of hatred between African Americans and segregationists. The day after his American University speech, he gave a televised address to the nation on this matter. His civil rights speech declared that “race has no place in American life or law”, announced that the government would send a comprehensive bill guaranteeing all citizens the right to be served in public facilities, and was praised by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. as being “eloquent, passionate and unequivocal...a hallmark in the annals of American history”. What was most striking about Kennedy’s quest for racial equality was his statesman outlook: he told civil rights leaders that, “I may lose the next election because of this. I don’t care”. By the time of his assassination, this legislation had stalled on Capitol Hill, with Southern Democrats enabling the Republicans to prevent its passage. It might be unreasonable to suggest that it was only due to the sympathy that resulted from his death that the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964. Certainly, success may not have been achieved as early as it was, but a convincing re-election (due in part to the Republican’s nominee, Barry Goldwater, being a nutter) would have enabled the bill to pass during his second term. Kennedy was the first president to indentify civil rights as a moral issue, condemning discrimination as wrong and seeking empathy among whites by asking “who among us would be content to have the colour of his skin changed and stand in his place?”

When Kennedy addressed peace abroad and peace at home, he sought to bridge the divide, stressing the common humanity of Americans and Russians, and whites and blacks. The possibility of five more years of Kennedy in the White House could have seen a continuation of the policies that he began to introduce in the summer of 1963. I have no doubt that the United States would not have escalated the War in Vietnam, and not have committed ground troops to a predetermined disaster. Nixon may never have been elected in 1972, meaning there wouldn’t have been a Watergate scandal resulting in the alienation of millions of young Americans. Above all, the world would have been guided down a more united, peaceful path with a new optimistic generation at the helm.

November 1963

by Mark Richardson
 
November 1963

John and Jackie Kennedy
It was fifty years ago, and one saviour of the world was dying and another was ‘busy being born’, as Bob Dylan wrote less than a year later. It's a quirk of time that the two should be so close together, but as one is a lord of time, perhaps it is fitting.

 The first episode of the Time Lord Dr Who was aired on Saturday, November 23rd 1963, while just a day earlier the President of the United States was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Fifty years later, programmes and articles about each of those events have been aired and printed, marking the passing of fifty years. The link seems just a casual one, but the resemblances are anything but, and given the fertility of the ground of the assassination for conspiracy theorists, who knows what we might be witnessing?

The first Doctor (William Hartnell)
We are in the era of the ninth different President and the eleventh (perhaps) Doctor. Each one regenerates, bringing fresh impetus and change to the series. The scope of the United States, its impact upon the world, its central role, seemingly, in the affairs of the world might be mirrored by the scope and range of the Doctor as far as the universe is concerned, witnessing its birth and death, fighting hordes of evil-doers and celebrating humanity, showing us that love can break your (two) heart(s).

It's scarcely surprising that the President and the Doctor have met each other. How could two such important people not meet over the centuries? Indeed, they do more than just meet once: in the Whovian universe they have meet over twenty times, twenty-five to be precise. Some familiar names, such as Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Nixon, Reagan and Obama, are in the list, but being able to transcend time there are also less familiar ones such as Norris, Winters, Bruce Springsteen and the Master himself, the Doctor's nemesis. It is also hardly surprising, therefore, that Kennedy would be missed from the list, and it turns out that at least four TV shows include him, with the Doctor ultimately powerless to prevent the assassination itself.