|Posted on May 8, 2015 at 4:00 AM||comments (0)|
As the first results of the 2015 General Election filtered through in the early hours of the 8th May, the electorate were still reeling from another political earthquake which occurred just a few weeks before: the Berkhamsted school mock election. Following an intense campaign, packed with hustings and debates, the students of Berkhamsted School were able to anticipate what no pollster, political analyst or party leader could - a Conservative majority. However, a cursory examination of the results below show a striking deviation from the national election.
Berkhamsted School was clearly kinder to the Liberal Democrats than the general public, receiving 17% of the vote across Castle, Kings and the Sixth Form. This average hides an interesting result. Castle, it seems, cared little for the Lib Dems, who could only sway 5.3% of the boys. Yet it would have been of immense consolation to Nick Clegg if he were able to see the the somewhat surprising liberal swing at Kings and the Sixth Form, where they received an impressive 21.4% and 26.6% of the vote respectively, clearly benefitting from Ben Shelley’s good looks. In fact, the political persuasions of the girls are all the more striking when they are visualised liked this:
Although the Conservatives retained a clear majority across all year groups, one cannot help but notice the sharp spike in Lib Dem support among the Year 11’s. It is a sociological observation that people become steadily more liberal until their mid-twenties, when they begin to develop a more conservative disposition. Despite a resounding Conservative victory, this seems to be borne out, at least partially, by the results at Kings and the Sixth Form.
Confusingly, the results at Castle were more erratic. Labour experienced a bizarre surge in Year 9 (especially in Swifts) whilst UKIP were successful in siphoning votes from the Conservatives in Year 10.
Nonetheless, one cannot understate the scale of the Conservatives’ victory. If the school were operating under the First-Past-The-Post voting system, and we assume each house is a constituency, then the Conservatives would hold 91% of the seats - all except for Fry’s, which UKIP won, and Churchill, which sensationally produced a draw, presumably triggering a constitutional crisis.
The charts above show a sharp gender divide. 61.9% of the girls voted Tory, compared to 49.1% of the boys. The Liberal Democrats were also much more successful at Kings. However, UKIP barely registered among the girls but came in second place at Castle. The Greens also garnered an astonishing 11.4% of the boys’ votes. Overall, the girls appear to lean more to the right, although the boys are more likely to vote for far-left or far-right parties like the Greens or UKIP.
In addition to the votes cast for the parties specified on the ballot paper, a total of 17 students took advantage of the ‘other’ option available. These included one communist, one Cornish nationalist, two Plaid Cymru supporters, three Monster Raving Loony Party voters (a surprisingly low turnout) and one for my personal favourite, the Mongolian Barbecue Great Place to Party Party. An interesting side note, all of these votes came from boys. Make of that what you will.
The enterprise of organising the election has floated upon a sea of volunteers. There would have been little substance to the election without the brave Sixth Formers who tirelessly campaigned on behalf of their political party. Of course, none of it would have happened without the cooperation of numerous staff members, particularly Mr Moseley. Equally, there would have been no ballot papers with which to vote, or boxes in which to cast the ballots, without the reprographics team. And thanks finally to all those whom I coerced into counting votes, your help was much appreciated.
In the news today, there is much talk of political apathy and disaffection, especially amongst the younger demographic. I hope this mock election has succeeded in equipping some with an interest in politics that will follow through to the next election, when the majority of those to whom we presented at the hustings will be able to vote themselves. Good luck to the fortunate Year 8 who gets to do my job in five years time.
|Posted on May 1, 2015 at 5:00 AM||comments (0)|
Over 200 schools nationally entered the Shine Awards this year. 30 schools were invited to attend their annual awards' ceremony. Christina Storey, Sarah Witty, Luke O'Sullivan and Miss Ireland attended this year as representatives of the INK 2014-2015 editorial team.
The hard work of this year's editorial team was rewarded and celebrated with a whole host of accolades awarded to INK this year. Three 'Highly Commended' scrolls were awarded to INK for 'Best Print Magazine', 'Best Design and Layout' and 'Most Outstanding Pupil [Luke O'Sullivan]'.
Not only was Luke O'Sullivan - technical and design chief - 'Highly Commended' for his outstanding commitment, foresight and ingenuity, he was also awarded with a very special accolade of 'Young Production Editor with exceptional promise' - richly deserved after his three dedicated years of service to INK.
However, the stand out award of the day was winning the highly coveted 'Best Online Magazine'. The team was awarded a trophy and a £1,000 cheque to help further develop the magazine next year.
The ceremony was a perfect way to end a very successful year for INK; it was fantastic for the team's efforts to be recognised and celebrated on a national level.
Miss Ireland would like to extend her warmest thanks, not only to all the editorial team, but to every one of the 50 contributors in 2014-2015 who helped to make INK the award-winning success it is.
With thanks to Sofia Panteli for the photography.
|Posted on April 21, 2015 at 3:20 AM||comments (0)|
"This print edition is a collection of the best articles from the three online editions we have produced over the last year," Editor In Chief Christina Storey wrote in her Editors Note, an exclusive addition to the Print Edition.
"We’ve had 43 writers contributing over 100 articles which reflects the amount of hard work and dedication my brilliant team have put into the magazine this year."
The Print Edition, constructed and designed by Luke O'Sullivan, is professionally printed and distributed throughout Berkhamsted School, with copies going in libraries, houserooms and various other locations.
This year 160 copies of INK will be distributed to these locations, to contributors to the magazine, and sold at school events.
"Our readers clearly enjoy reading INK, as the magazine has had over 50,000 website views since the very first edition of INK", continued Storey.
The 2014-15 academic year saw INK introduce a new Economic section, headed by Ben Shelley, alongside a brand new website design and multimedia content, including 'The Inkerview', a short dramatised film recreating INK's encounter with UKIP's Nigel Farage.
The team will be fronted by Sally Nolan as Editor In Chief, with Chloe Vialou-Clark as Deputy.
It was also announced that the Features section will be retired, giving way to a new Global section fronted by Harriet Fisk.
Freddie Sallis will assume the position of Head of Media following the departure of Luke O'Sullivan, who's been in the media team since 2012, and created the original INK website.
"Luke has been invaluable to the success of our school magazine", said Ms Ireland, the magazines' manager.
"From its conception – 3 years ago – he has worked tirelessly developing the magazine to ensure it looks the most professional it can be."
"I wish the best of luck to the new Editorial Team, and strongly believe Freddie will be outstanding as Head of Media", said Luke.
Since its launch three and a half years ago, INK has become one of the most sought after clubs to be a part of at Berkhamsted School, with 26 letters of application to beome an Editor in the 2015-16 academic year.
Students looking for a career in journalism and other media fields receive invaluable experience participating in the writing of, editing, organising, designing and publishing a professional publication.
INK has so far won 3 Shine Awards, and been highly commended for numerous others, with Luke being "Highly Commended" for Outstanding Pupil in 2014.
The 2015 Print Edition of INK will be entered into the 2015 Shine School Media Awards, the finale of which will be held on Monday 22nd June 2015.
Read the Print Edition online here, or find it in school. Details on where to purchase INK will be unveiled shortly. Contributors to INK 2014-15 will receive a complementary copy.
|Posted on April 1, 2015 at 5:00 AM||comments (0)|
Following the completion of an outstanding year at INK, we're pleased to announce the new INK Editorial Team who will run and edit the magazine in the 2015-16 academic year.
In addition to this, we're replacing the Features section (all Features content will be moved to relevant other categories) with a brand new Global section, headed by Harriet Fisk, and appointing a Photography Editor in the form of Elizaveta Timoshchenko. Chanté Bohitige will be the first student to take on the position of a section editor outside of Year 13.
The full list of editors appears below.
Sally Nolan - Editor in Chief
Chloe Vialou-Clark - Deputy Editor
Freddie Sallis - Head of Media
Joe Davern - Politics editor
Ben van Vlymen - Economics editor
Chanté Bohitige - Culture editor
Patrick Kennedy-Hunt - Science editor
Harriet Fisk - Global editor
Robert Barrow - Sports editor
Lizzie Wood - Creative editor
Elizaveta Timoshchenko - Photography editor
Congratulations to all the new editors!
|Posted on March 1, 2015 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on February 28, 2015 at 8:45 PM||comments (0)|
My life began on the day I died…
New York, New York. The city of hope, the city of dreams, the city of new beginnings. At least, that is what I had thought when my sister and I had moved there so many years ago, a time when we were both young and jejune, when our lives had not yet begun. Now she thinks that my life is over. It’s funny how wrong you can be…
BEEP BEEP. BEEP BEEP. The deafening drone of the alarm clock woke me suddenly, smashing through the wall of dreams that I had been carefully building in my head throughout the night. The light streamed through my windows like the water of the Hudson River; it devoured the room, consuming everything in sight. Gradually, my eyes fluttered open like the wings of a struggling butterfly, clinging onto life with all the energy left in its tiny body. I turned my attention to the numbers on the luminous screen of the clock, still blurry to my tired eyes. Eventually, after what seemed like a millennium, the world began to come into focus around me. The numbers gradually became legible and it took me quite some time to process what I was reading. My heart plummeted as I read the time: 10:43am. I was late.
I leapt from the bed, ripped off my pyjamas and went on a desperate search for my work clothes. Why were they always so difficult to find? I threw my hair into a ponytail, attempted a smile in the murky mirror that lay in the corner of my bedroom, and hurriedly made my way into the kitchen to seize some breakfast. The out-of-date milk tasted sour and unwelcome in my groggy throat. I switched on the television to form a distraction from the repugnant taste that was slowly devouring my mouth. The sickening smell soon made its way to my stomach as my mind began to digest what I was witnessing on the small screen in front of me.
The Twin Towers were gone.
I was just out grabbing a coffee when I heard the news. The bustling cafe soon turned silent as the news descended upon us like a cloud of dust and ash, leaving everyone coughing and spluttering, gasping for air as if all the oxygen in the world had been removed in that one moment.
My thoughts immediately turned to my sister. What was the time? Would she be in work by now? Was she okay? A plethora of questions began to formulate in my mind; they took over every inch of my body until there was nothing left but the bitter tears that had begun to blur my vision, my life…my soul. My sister.
I soon found myself out on the sidewalk, staring out into the swarms of obstreperous people that filled the streets. I began to search for my sister like a deranged puppet free of its strings: I had no control. The tears that were now streaming down my face turned into words of despair, and I began to cry out: “Maxine? Maxine? Where are you?”
Some passers-by turned their eagle-like heads to look at me; they shot disapproving glares into me that branded like bullets as they journeyed to their various destinations; they were blatantly incognizant of the news that was to hit them within the next few minutes, the next few hours, the next few days.
I had to talk to her. Just to know that she was alright, that she was safe. I removed my phone from my jacket pocket, jabbed at the buttons and scrolled through my contacts list until I came to her name. As soon as I saw the word Maxine illuminated on the little screen in my hand, I stabbed the green call button, held the phone close to my ear, and waited.
The news had only just began to sink in as my phone suddenly flashed, Ally’s name filling the screen, along with a photo of us from our first day in New York. A fervent fire burned within our very souls; we were exuberant, our minds open to the endless possibilities on offer in the city that never sleeps, the city that never weeps. We were salubrious in the sweet summer sun, staring out over the buildings that scraped the sky with their pointed claws, tearing through the airy clouds into space and beyond, perilously searching for that little bit of freedom that we all surreptitiously dream about. My mind began to wander off down its own path, a path which pointed to Rome, to Paris - anywhere other than here, this little hellhole I had created for myself, here in the city of dreams. And that was when I realised that I had to get away.
There was nothing left for me here; my job meant nothing to me, my belongings meant even less. This was my chance to escape, the perfect opportunity to run away and start a new life, a place where my dreams might actually come true.
With nothing but that thought in my mind, I ignored the furious flashing of my mobile and began to pack my suitcase; just the essentials were needed - nothing more, nothing less. I started to plan my escape route: I’d begin at Grand Central Station, then catch the next train out of the city. The sweet aroma of freedom was filling the air around me and I inhaled quickly as I felt my pulse quicken; the excitation was building inside me like the bricks of a new tower, a new beginning.
“We’re sorry, the number you have dialled is not available at this time. Please try again later.”
I did try again. And again and again and again. Still there was no answer. I felt my pulse increase, the blood rushing around my lifeless body, my head thumping like the footsteps of an angered dragon whose febrile flames scorched my soul till I was nothing but a mass of cinders, similar to that of the towers which had once stood so tall, so majestic and magnificent in the harsh morning light. With every missed call, I felt another part of me die inside; my sanguineness was slowly deteriorating, falling to pieces like the petals of a dying flower which had been deprived of all sunlight, growing ill and losing its beauteous colour. Similar to the flower, I had begun to lose my colour also: my face was ghost-white, my skin cold and clammy. Strangers surrounded me, asking if I was alright, asking if I wanted to sit down. The thousands of questions simply sank into the background; I was in another world, a world without light, a world without love. A world without my sister. With nothing but that thought in my mind, I collapsed onto the callous concrete below.
A few sleepless nights and lifeless days later, I found myself roaming the streets of New York, gripping onto a photo of my sister, asking each and every person I passed if they had seen her. “Do you recognise this girl? She’s my sister, she’s been missing since Tuesday, please help me find her…”
The replies were the same every time: “No sorry”, accompanied with a pained look or sometimes a weak pat on the shoulder, just a little something to try and comfort me.
“Good luck kiddo… I’m sure she’ll turn up eventually… Just keep your faith and she’ll come back, trust me, she will… Just don’t give up.” These responses became quotidian, and although I was forced to become accustomed to it, I still felt my hope burst inside me like a balloon at a child’s birthday party, sending yet another waterfall of bitter tears cascading down my feeble face. “Thanks, I hope so.” The phrase always got stuck in my throat like an accidentally swallowed chunk of chewing gum. I was left feeling anxious and alone.
The sweltering September sun shone down onto the sand which was scattered along the seashore. The salty sweet air filled my lungs and I inhaled slowly; the movement of my torso was similar to that of the waves which were lapping languidly against the rocks. I felt my rib cage expand and then deflate, but it no longer felt like a cage; my heart was finally free.
I escaped from the suffocating bubble of New York only a few weeks ago, when I’d booked myself a ticket on the next plane to Tenerife, a place where I could start over, start fresh. Already I’ve found myself a job - nothing special - just a waitressing job in a rural restaurant that overlooks the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean, where the only customers are the retired regulars that are merely inevitable on an island such as this; but hey, it’s a start.
Of course I miss her. Ally meant everything to me; we’d been inseparable since birth, and I know that life isn’t going to be plain sailing without her by my side, but I had no choice. Happiness is my one and only aspiration in life; I knew I was never going to achieve that in New York, despite its title as the city of dreams. I had to follow my own path, make my own way in this complicated mess that we call the world, and I hope she understands. She’s got to understand.
It’s September again; that arduous time of year when the colours turn from green to brown and the light begins to melt away each night into a blood red sunset, just as my hopes did on that fateful day ten years ago: the day when New York lost two towers, the day when I lost my sister forever.
I just had to get out of the city. I couldn’t stand the thought of being there, in that place where my sister was no more, replaced instead by the millions of memories which are dispersed upon every street. I booked myself a room in a quaint seaside hotel on the coast of Tenerife; it had always been my sister’s favourite holiday destination, ever since we were little. I wanted to revisit an island which held so many childhood memories for the both of us; I felt it might bring us closer somehow, perhaps give me the chance to say one last goodbye.
I was just unpacking my suitcase when I saw her. My eyes were drawn to the seaside view from my window; I was close enough to the beach to distinguish the various people who were strolling along its sandy surface. In amongst the cheerful children who splashed and screamed in the scorching sun, between the couples cruising on the sabulous shore, she stood with her bare feet dipped into the brilliant blue water, her bright eyes sparkling and whimsical; she was so full of life. I dashed outside to meet her, running into the raw autumn air, but as soon as my feet touched the searing sand, she seemed to disappear before my very eyes. She was gone, never to be seen again; almost as quickly as those towers had fallen so many years ago.
|Posted on February 28, 2015 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
Levine is a UK-based artist who focuses on contemporary, innovative photography. As well as being a photographer, Levine is also involved in a variety of other industries, including fashion, performance, and music. Levine’s work is often overlooked in the world of modern photography, which is increasingly becoming more and more socially adaptable. By this I mean many people have gone the step further from ‘instagramming’ to discovering the domain of photography.
A key focus for Levine is lenticular photography, where multiple photos are taken and combined using a lenticular lens. The combined lenticular print creates an illusion of depth, displaying a 3-D image. I particularly like lenticular photography, as it is up to the viewer to decide what they think the best image is. As you move the image changes into one of the merged photos, allowing the viewer the freedom to decide which they like best, and what they think it represents.
Levine’s most famous lenticular photograph was for the Queen’s diamond jubilee: he created two portraits ('Lightness of Being' and 'Equanimity’;). He went against the traditional portraits that are normally expected and created a vibrant image that still captures the calm, conserved nature of the monarch. I admire Levine for his ability to have created a bold image of a strong monarch that still has subtle marks of tranquility. Levine creates a similar effect in his portrait of Baroness Helena Kennedy. Kennedy is a renowned figure of authority, a distinguished female lawyer who actively voiced and promoted civil rights and their importance. In Levine’s portrait of her, he merges three photos, which all display her as a potent, strong character by her body shape and angle. However, Levine colours the photography using a pink/ light purple shades. This creates a soft feminine touch, which contrasts with her strong persona as a leading barrister.
Levine’s portrait of Baroness Helena Kennedy is currently displayed at ‘The National Portrait Gallery.’ Levine has also photographed celebrities such as Grace Jones, and Kate Moss – focusing on modern, novel designs and particularly lenticular photography.
|Posted on February 28, 2015 at 11:35 AM||comments (0)|
It is clear that the UK has a breadth of talent, crossing over multiple sports and disciplines, all requiring a variety of different attributes. The UK has produced champions and consistently shows its success in worldwide events such as the Tour de France, the Olympics, Wimbledon, the Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games. Success is evident in cycling, shooting and rowing, but also cannot be ignored in tennis and Golf. Further, there are also signs of significant improvement of the level that athletes from the UK are competing at.
In 2012 Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first ever English Champion at the Tour de France, and was shortly followed by Sir Chris Froome. For decades, this level of success was unforeseeable, whereas now this level of accomplishment are more of a regularity. No British man had won the Wimbledon tennis championship since 1936, until Andy Murray was finally successful on home turf in 2013. Out of a European team of twelve in the 2014 Ryder Cup match, seven of these were from the UK and proved during the event that each and every one of them had earned their place. However, from twelve talented golfers, one factors binds the majority of them together: travelling to the US in order to pursue their golfing careers. Seven of them live in the US, with six of them in Florida and five of these from the UK.
Rory McIlroy (1), Justin Rose (5), Graeme McDowell (19), Ian Poulter (28) and Lee Westwood (29) have moved their lives to the other side of the pond to aid their development. Rory holds four major championships titles to his name, with Rose also one, the US Open Championship. As can be seen from the figures, all of these players are highly ranked in the PGA World Rankings and it is undisputed that the move to the US has only helped their games. Florida has a mini weather front, having all hurricanes either drop beneath or hit land before hitting the state for the past 200 years. Facilities available are brilliant, with championship courses no more than an hour away, no matter where in the state they live. Being professional, they have free access to all of these courses; including the greats such as TPC Sawgrass, Reunion and Champions Gate. At each of these courses, the professionals use separate facilities to the general public and so will always be surrounded by elite competitive players. That is, as long as they are not using their own private facilities in their back yard like Rory, of course.
In the UK, the professionals would again have access to all of the clubs, but the standard of the courses are so much less. Further to this, the ‘big bucks’ are on the American Tour rather than the European, and this is especially evident on the women’s tour. The weather is poor for most of the year with three hundred and sixty four out of three hundred and sixty five days of the year being rainy. In the winter the courses are frozen solid and so become unplayable as green keepers don’t want to kill the grass by walking on it. All in all, the professionals can work on their game more productively, using better facilities, in better weather, and surrounded by higher standard players.
Even if you look at the more developing golfers, the optimum pathway is to go to the US on a scholarship and play competitive golf for four years whilst gaining a high standard degree simultaneously. Matthew Fitzpatrick, once one of the leading England golfers, attended Northwestern University, Illinois. Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur, earning himself invitations to the 2014 Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, and Open Championship if he remains an amateur. The win took him to the top of the World Amateur Golf Rankings, a feat that con only be achieved through consistency and high level events. Once looked into his counting events, excluding national team representation, nearly all of his events were during his time on the college circuit. Being world number one earned him the Mark H. McCormack Medal.
In the US, nearly every University that has a competitive American Football team have a stadium at least the size of Wembley, along with indoor pitches and an exclusive training gym. Golf teams each have courses on campus, or nearby with free access. Competing swimming teams have personal 50m pools on campus. On the other hand, in the UK, a golf team will be lucky to have any facilities near, let alone on campus, football teams may have a pitch with small seating areas on campus, but have to share the gym with other teams. Only the very top swimming universities will have 50m pools, compared with it being standard in order to compete.
It is understandable that University is not for everyone, and not every sports person wants to leave home, but the opportunity that the American system gives student athletes is second to none. It is undeniable that what the US has to offer is far beyond that that the UK can offer its high level athletes. Remove golf from the situation and look at both countries’ most popular sports and support that they receive at University. In the UK, it can be debated that football is the most popular sport, and in America it is undoubtedly American football. In the US, squads exceeding eighty are on partial or full scholarships, covering their sporting commitments, gym sessions, unlimited individual tutoring, first choice in lessons and professors, as well as all food and living costs. All of these benefits are given to all of the sports programmes, giving all athletes the best opportunity possible to succeed. This, compared with a scholarship offered in the UK is crazy. A footballer in the UK may receive funding for classes to help them get to the school, however, even on a full scholarship there would be no way that they would receive all of their costs of living, eating and any additional academic help they may need. By supplying all of this to the athletes, they then run academics and their supporting commitments in parallel, rather than having to sacrifice one for the other.
Overall, exceptional sports people have no choice but to move to where they will have better facilities and funding. Sports that are played outside may choose to go where the weather is good, and so move away from the UK. Other sports that require large stadiums, grounds, facilities and technology, will move away from the UK. Those that need snow, again, will move away from the UK. Whilst the UK is not short of talent, experience or desire, there is simply not enough being put into the sports to encourage elite athletes to stay!
|Posted on February 21, 2015 at 5:55 PM||comments (0)|
Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, global audiences have watched the so-called ‘Big Four’ dominate for the majority of its lifetime - Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Abu Dhabi owned Manchester City have most recently joined the frame under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group. Excluding the early lifetime, when the likes of Ipswich and Norwich City were making the grade, there have been few new faces in the top four of the Premier League. There have been some close run-ins and some late drop-outs, although where is that fresh injection to the competition?
Newcastle United, for instance, were a team flying high for the majority of the 2011/2012 season only to slip away at the last minute. Southampton, another example, a team promoted not three seasons ago after successive promotions from League One to the Premier League, look a team likely to break that spell - only if Arsenal don’t again work their mid-season wonders. But who can finally break that spell in the modern era? At this moment in time, with heavyweights Liverpool and Arsenal resurgent, it looks unlikely that Southampton will hold their edging grip on a third or fourth spot for a whole season. In the modern footballing world, it appears only a fresh Russian or Middle Eastern bankrolling would lever a mediocre club up to the top four heights. A famous example to question the possibility was two-time Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan in 2008, in an angry rant about the dominance of Manchester United and Chelsea, who had together won the last five Premier League titles, also attacked the unbreakable top four barrier.
Following on from this fact of Premier League dominance, the modern Premier League has only seen five different winners - Manchester United with 13 titles, Arsenal with three, Chelsea with the same number, Manchester City with two and Blackburn with their 1995 triumph. For example, Manchester United won the big prize during four of the first six Premier League seasons, and triumphed again eight times in twelve seasons from 1999 to 2011, having been top of the pile for thirteen of the twenty-two Premier League seasons to date. Has this become a modern problem? Simply no side other than Manchester City and their neighbours, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal could foresee themselves winning the Premier League title in at least the next six or seven seasons. On the bright side, however, the Great British competition has four sides in contempt for the title compared to Spain’s two (or perhaps three) competitors and Italy and France’s two.
From this evidence, the Premier League, in reality has a declining level of competition with the only realistic modern contenders being Manchester City and Chelsea, and having that seemingly untouchable fourth spot adding to that fact. If Southampton can hold on and finish the season in third or fourth spot it could mark a whole new era for the Premier League. The likes of Everton and Newcastle United themselves have come close but failed thus far. Can the Saints do it? In truth, a top four finish for the south-coast club would not come of any surprise to myself or many others with the current form on display, although only time will tell.
|Posted on February 21, 2015 at 5:40 PM||comments (0)|
Over, the last two centuries, recessions have seen to be extremely frequent. Within the UK, a recession has occurred once every decade for 40 years and in the US every decade for the past 60 years. Some economists believe that financial collapses and recessions are an integral part of modern capitalism and a frequent cyclical feature of our economic structure. Although in 2001, the U.S economy experienced a mild and short-lived recession, the economy then strongly withstood the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the bust of the dot com bubble and accounting scandals. This is highly unusual in the economy. As Andy Haldane explains, throughout the last century specifically, “we have seen a mini revolution, how the banks have gone about their liquidity provision and how they have upgraded through the 21st century”. This mini revolution has been a part natural occurrence and part caused by the financial sectors.
The most recent recession timings varied from country to country. However, within the US and Europe, what is known as the “Great Recession” occurred within 2007/08. It was the immediate consequence of the failure of many major financial institutions globally. During my article this will be widely referred to, most commonly as it is a great example of a recession which was fuelled by the banks.
Low interest rates in the U.S and Europe at the beginning of the decade and easy lending on the U.S housing market helped stimulate the largest financial collapse for 80 years. With 30 million people unemployed and people as young as 17 qualifying for a mortgage in the US, there was clearly a lot going wrong within the international economy. Housing giants such as Angelina Mozillo adapted his ‘rags to riches’ story to make out that he was a friend of the poor, allowing his company to manipulate people into sub-prime mortgages in order to attempt to afford their dream home. A large problem with the banking sector was that the private view of the market was very different to the public view of the market. Loans did not stay on the mortgage lenders books, they were packaged into financial products (really just stacks of IOU’s), then these products were bought and sold as securities. Even mortgage lenders such as Mozillo admitted that in “all his years of business” he had “never seen a more toxic product”. Many people in the city started to admit that sub-prime mortgages which were packaged and sold on “were a good piece of fruit that had turned bad”, however during the financial collapse 2007/08 everyone started to register that these packages “were rotten from the start”.
At the beginning of the decade, the city became a place were “you go to make as much money as possible”. Within the US, experts estimate that the total mortgage market grew from 10% to 32% between 2003 and 2005, many of these were indeed sub-prime mortgages. In order to understand why sub-prime mortgages were being allowed, especially to a level where it was a danger to the economy we need to dig deeper into who was allowing it and why. Sub-prime mortgages are loans given to people with bad credit ratings, as a result would not normally be able to qualify for conventional mortgages. Prior to the financial collapse banks were very keen to hand out sub-prime mortgages, this was due to housing prices increasing at a rate that the banks would be happy for the consumer to decline on their payments, in the long run the bank would profit from this. Therefore, bank executives put pressure on due-diligence underwriters who accept or decline mortgages, to accept more for larger bonus’ by the end of the year, this is an example of the banks within the US committing fraud however as yet no Chief Executives on Wall Street have been charged with any type of related fraudulent activity. This meant that the protection for customers was now failing them and accepting mortgages which should not have been allowed, meaning more and more people defaulted on their mortgages. This was at the same time that housing prices were falling as there was large speculation in the market due the sensitivity and changes in interest rates. This made the cause of subprime mortgages more complicated as due-diligence underwriters would blame bank executives and vice versa.
This is what led financial services firm Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy in 2008, creating a domino effect to the rest of Wall Street and the rest of the world with the largest bankruptcy in history. The prospect for Lehman’s $4.3 billion in mortgage securities getting liquidated caused a major selloff in the market. When going bankrupt, Lehman brothers held 40 billion dollars’ worth of assets for its customers, by the end of the recession it had only given back under 22 billion. Instead of holding the original mortgages, Lehman Brothers would package them into securities and trade them off, much like the Icelandic model I will describe later on in my article. By collecting the original fees, this freed up the market for more capital which was re-invested and increased liquidity even more. This created the snowball effect which built momentum and led to the financial crash.
It was just before the crash that then Northern Rock CEO Adam Applegarth was expressing his desire for the sub-prime mortgage packages. Applegarth thought that he had made a model which was a world leader, instead he had just made a model which everyone was using but whilst doing it he had made his bank the most vulnerable. Ever since the queues formed outside Northern Rock, it has been slowly dawning on people that the banks are inherently unstable. Bank regulation has been heavily criticised during the crash, but the rules regulating commercial banks were much more stringent compared to the so-called “shadow banking system”.
An example of a booming financial industry previous to the collapse and suffered after is Iceland. Iceland, before 2000 had a very small financial institution, however, it was transformed by the free market principles of David Odsland. Banks were privatised during 1997-2003 to large Russian investors who lowered interest rates and flooded the market with easy credit. Once free from government control, the banks went on a ground breaking borrowing and lending spree that increased the assets of the banks by 100%. By mid-2008, Iceland’s GDP sat on par with Switzerland and one of the top rankings in the world. However, the business model used by Iceland was ‘brought in from abroad’, most commonly known was the ‘subprime’ behaviour. This triggered a real estate boom in Iceland which was clearly unsustainable. It was no surprise that Iceland became one of the first countries to freeze after the financial crash, 85% of Iceland’s commercial bank assets crashed only a week into October 2008.
A major player of the financial crash in the UK was innovation and deregulation which was persevered by Gordon Brown, in the last speech before becoming primes minister, just as the crash was about to occur praised the bankers for their ‘remarkable achievements’ and predicted that the following years and decades would be a ‘golden age for the City of London’. Clearly, in all that he said prior to the financial crash, he was wrong. Regulatory arbitrage, which gave British banks access to larger funds than their competitors abroad was used by Gordon Brown in order to make London the financial capital of the world. However, instead Brown relaxed what were already diminished regulations in the ‘shadow-banking’ firms such as Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs who instead used this to act however they wished. Banks had grown too quickly and started to believe that they were too large to fail, therefore concluding that the ‘light touch’ regulation which had been put in place had not prevented any type of mismanagement within the financial services district.
What is significant about this recession and the period of time around it is that events moved at such a dramatic pace. After the collapse of the Lehman Brothers on 15th September, and before anyone had an idea of how to adequately respond to the crisis, the US House of Representatives rejected a $700bn rescue plan for the US financial system, sending a huge shockwave into the international market. The shock from the financial collapse was recorded in London no longer than three weeks later. The Business Confidence Monitor index for London fell from -32.2 to -61.4. This showed that in London there had been a complete collapse in confidence during the month of September. On 29th September 2008, stock market volatility had reached its highest level since records began in 1990, even surpassing peaks reached in the previous recession and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In total, this lead investment in the service sector to fall by almost 23% between the third quarter of 2008 and the second quarter of 2009. With all of its different factors, the most recent recession has shown us that banks can have a serious role in the diminishing the growth of our global economy.
If it is true that recessions have a natural cyclical occurrence, then there must be positives for our economic structure for them to happen naturally. A natural recession is good as it gets rid of excess within the economy. This allows inventories to drop to a more sustainable level and allowing natural demand and supply for products to pick back up, this is much like the Keynesian theory. Recessions and some depressions help keep economic growth along a sustainable trend. This stops the economy growing at an unsustainable rate and stopping the economy experiencing uncontrolled inflation. This means during a recession consumers cut back in response to falling wages, letting the economy grow at a normal level without prices rising unsustainably. A recession also allows an opportunity for people to buy assets such as housing and land, possibly for future investment and development. Recessions can also change the mind-set of some consumers, it forces many people cut back from unaffordable lifestyles. Allowing for children to understand the value of goods and services, possibly making future generations wiser. However, recessions can also have some unprecedented and unusual circumstances. They can rise unemployment by record amounts and demand falls for goods and services, and therefore rising unemployment is a sign of a recession, as consumers cut their spending, businesses have a loss in profits and therefore cannot keep on staff and cut payrolls. Although recessions cut out the excess in the economy, as the demand drops shops for example order less and the supply becomes more sustainable, the economic downturn can be very painful and harmful for businesses. During a time of recession, confidence becomes hugely diminished, people become fearful that the economy will never return to its original state and a cut in spending hurts the economy even more.
In order to understand the mentality of why the banks can so often lead our economy into despair, we should recognise their motivations. Throughout the 2000’s the city was thriving with ‘light touch regulation’ and was developing as a purely ‘bonus system’. This created a generation of city personnel who only cared about the end of year figure rather than thoroughness of their jobs. CEO’s knew that they needed to reach goals, making as much profit as possible. If using sub-prime mortgages benefited the amount of money the firm was making then this would be the strategy used. CEO’s knew that even if they did get fired, they would still not lose out. Such as ex AIG CEO Joseph Casseno, who was fired from AIG for his main contribution to the failing of AIG’s large CDO’s (collateralised debt obligations). Regulatory arbitrage in the ‘shadow’ banking system allowed for many bankers to lower their expectations of the system and started to become ‘greedy’ from the words of congress during the investigation of the 2007/08 banking collapse. This greed was shown by ex-stock broker Bernard Madoff, who is a prime example of how untrustworthy characters in the city can be. Madoff who is also the former Chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange operated the largest fraudulent scheme in US history. Madoff’s asset management scheme was fuelled through greed and the need to be the biggest and best on Wall Street. This is an example of how Wall Street bankers are motivated and driven through the need to make the most money.
Recessions have become a cycle of our natural world, we have ‘boom and busts’, this is now a cyclical occurrence. However, we must understand that it can be healthy for our economy to refresh and start from the basics every now and again. Like the Wall Street Crash used in my example. I feel this is a natural recession/ depression which could not have been stopped. However, like 1857 and our most recent recession, I feel that these were indeed fuelled by the financial system and that desire and passion made people ignore the signals which has affected many people in the process. In this article, I have reviewed people such as Angelina Mozillo and Joseph Casseno who both took the risk of the people in order to push their own professional boundaries. It is therefore to conclude that within the last two centuries, where recessions have been born and have grown on a cyclical scale, that banks are heavily responsible by fuelling what could have been avoided. However, we have also learnt that banks should not be blamed for all economic turmoil. Natural recessions do occur and therefore it is when both a natural recession and banks ego come together than we result in a heavy recession that could have been avoided if treated in the right way.
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|Posted on February 21, 2015 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
With an incomprehensible amount of money spent on the combined cost of both the right to perform and film such a prestigious musical, the authentic costumes and props of the actual cinematic production, as well as the elements of the West End set itself, the modest price of £5 per ticket doesn’t seem like much to spend on ‘Les Mis’. In all honesty, I feel as if I have robbed the school; £5 for a performance worthy of the West End? An absolute steal.
I was lucky enough to attend the sold-out final night, forfeiting the prospect of a Friday evening after a week whose atmosphere can only be described as the dreg-ends of a long term, and I would do it again, without a second thought. Coming out of the theatre, the general consensus was absolute awe over the overall quality of every single performer, there was not one flat note, not one forgotten line, and not one mistake- or noticeable one at least. This widespread quality however only makes those who stood out more impressive, with the obvious names being Rob Heffer, the painfully misunderstood lead role Jean Valjean with a projection that just won’t quit (I’m not ashamed to say he stole my heart, and you’d be lying if you said you didn’t develop even a tiny crush on him); Oli Francis, whose overwhelming stage-presence as Javert demanded the attention of every eye in the room; and of course, the down-right stunning voice of Chloe Champkin as the tragic Fantine- let’s just say the fact that a year 11, a member of the youngest age group in the production, was able to bring a tear to even the most macho of men with ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is a testament, and the epitome, of the top-class quality brought to Berkhamsted through this musical. As the name suggests, the tears just kept flowing as Jessica Little, a petite Year 12 with a disproportionately powerful voice, performed a death that could have put Mufasa’s in The Lion King’s to shame…not an easy feat. And of course, we can’t forget the endearing coupling of our Head Boy and Girl, Xavier Owen and Ophelia Jeffery, as the love-struck Marius and Cosette, both delivering the vocals and acting of pure professionalism. Last of the lead roles, but by absolutely no means the least, were the hilarious and utterly unique efforts of Francesca Gurdon and Oliver Carr, as Madame and Monsieur Thenardier, their slapstick humour and extreme use of facial expressions bringing the house down, particularly with their hysterically choreographed dancing. From the final bows alone, you can see the effect these characters had on the audience as they were met with waves upon waves of applause and yelps of affections; the reaction itself is proof that Berkhamsted has never before seen a performance worthy of such an energetic response.
Now these were the primary roles, but that is not to say the show was their’s alone. The likes of Jonathon Peniket as the Bishop of Digne and Alex Heath as Enjolras particularly stand out through the charisma and sincerity they brought to their role. Heath’s death in particular, a long, drawn-out death that bordered on the comical, adding that extra dimension to an already playful, rebellious and lovable character, whose downfall functioned as the climax of the battle scene. Additionally, those without solos should not be left unacknowledged either; the scene with the prostitutes, the scene with the prisoners and the scene of the wedding are prime examples of the cohesive and united chemistry between every single actor. Without the seamlessness of the rest of the cast, both those on stage and those back-stage; without the utter expertise in improvisation of background acting, and without the clear enjoyment of what these performers were doing, the musical would not have been the jaw-dropping success it was.
It begs the questions; how did they change so quickly off-stage? How did the lights and set flow so cohesively? How was it that a group of 16 to 18 year olds pull off such a high-quality show?
The answers to these ponderings are probably simpler that you would think: it was the hard labour, devotion and complete commitment of Mr Curtis (a fantastic debut) and Ms Wylie that made this musical the sensation it was. From the artistic interpretations of the hauntingly beautiful ghostly soldiers in Marius’s rendition of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, to the clear, bold suicide of Javert, with a slow-motion fall giving the character the dramatic send-off he deserves, the creativity of the two directors could not have been more unique, and therefore effective. The fact that they were able to lay their hands on the right to perform, the costumes and the set- a rotating, multi-level barricade? Breath-taking- and it shows just how much faith they put into not only this production, but their students too, and the general consensus would conclude that they were not let down.
I cannot emphasise enough the professionalism of this musical; it has the quality of the West End, the cinematic class of the film, and the clear pleasure in every performer required to bring it to life. If I watched it again, would I change anything? Not a single thing.
Lastly, a massive congratulations to all involved; the process has been underway since before summer, and in weeks leading up to the show it took up the valuable time of every single member involved. Clearly, it was not a waste of such, and it truly will go down in Berkhamsted history, both inside the Drama department and out.
Original Student Image Used - Ellie Downs
|Posted on February 21, 2015 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
In order to become a professional athlete that competes at the elite level athletes have to have incredible work ethic, sheer determination and be willing to sacrifice and push themselves to the limits in order to achieve excellence. High intensity training and a restrict diet plan twenty four hours a day seven days a week is how the athletes improve and strive to succeed. It is effectively their job to be the best they will allow themselves to be in order to be titled number one at the Olympics as they have sacrificed a traditional upbringing and in some cases have been bred into the sport from a young age.
How far are athletes willing to push and abuse their physical and mental state in order to taste victory and stand on the top podium with a gold medal around their neck? Because that’s what they strive towards right? In actual fact this would only be the beginning they dream of the huge endorsements and media coverage that comes with being number one. Some can handle it and others have show to crumble due to the added position to defend their title.
The requirements that need to be met in order to succeed and compete with other athletes all over the world need to be accomplished. It is what will put athletes above the rest. In the sport of gymnastics women need to be small in order to fit between the bars easily, light so they can carry themselves in the air when performing on floor yet powerful in order to explode off the vault. Therefore little body fat is needed. They find it hard to compete with gymnasts from China for example as they are naturally small and will be pushed to the edge by their coaches in order to perform moves with the highest tariff rate.
Athletes become so obsessed with winning they push themselves to the extreme. However, trying to keep your title is harder than trying to steal one as you have already achieved it and you watch others train that much harder to take it off you…they need to ask themselves, is it worth it?
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|Posted on February 20, 2015 at 4:00 AM||comments (0)|
I’ve always thought that one can infer a great deal about a man from the condition and state of his cuffs. My father’s shirt never looked pristine white – ivory and starched – from the moment he put it on. It was always coated in an impermeable layer of grime, a kind of earthy grey – smuts and soot. His cuffs were the dirtiest. He worked in a factory all day, and it showed on his sleeves. They always bore the metallic filth and grease of the workplace of the lower class man. Sometimes, he dispensed with what little formality he retained, shed his tatty, brown waistcoat and rolled his sleeves to the elbow.
One can tell a lot about a man from his cuffs. Arthur MacInton, the butler of the house I find my employment in, has clean cuffs, but they have softened in the rain, their previous starched shape collapsing due to the water. His character is so very similar to his cuffs. He has a stiff, assertive exterior when one first encounters him, but over time, he softens towards you, like the cuffs in the rain. I like Arthur. One might say I even love him, but I wouldn’t dream of it being a romantic attachment. Arthur is like a friendly uncle; a father figure, but without the strictness and façade of authority.
One can tell a lot about a man from his cuffs. Mr. Aisbury, my employer, has cuffs as white as the spray on the sea, and as stiff as bark. It is astonishing how they are always clean, but then again, it is my job, as well as that of Arthur and the other staff in the Aisbury house, to ensure that the master of the house’s cuffs never lose their cleanliness and flawless appearance. His shoes are polished to the pinnacle of perfection, and he has diamond cufflinks. One does not require a particularly high intelligence to observe that he is wealthy. It is all inherited. Mr. Aisbury comes from a line of rich fathers, who died and passed their wealth to their rich sons, who grew to become rich fathers, to then die and pass their gradually increasing wealth to their rich sons, and so the chain has many more links added.
The only reason why his cuffs remain in their original, bone-dry condition is the umbrella which Arthur is using to shelter him and his dancing partner. Arthur is singing, a lilting swing piece, as music for the couple to dance to. That woman is acting quite the whore around Mr. Aisbury. I was always brought up to act a lady around men, or around anyone, for that matter. This woman’s behaviour disgusts me. The invention of jazz must have affected her morality.
I can see that maid staring at me quite distastefully from under her hat. I almost enjoy it, despite the sour expression on her visage. She is the least superficial element of this whole charade. Everything about this is a veneer – the servants provide an illusion of good weather with their ebony umbrellas, threatening to become concave in the wind, and I know that my shying away from my partner’s closeness must be obvious. I can barely recall his name… Frederick? He was always introduced to me as simply ‘F’, a ridiculous nickname if ever I heard one. I am perfectly aware of his surname, however. Aisbury. The one. Cut off the head and the body will die. Cut off the last male heir in the Aisbury family and the family will be no more. There was a time when I wondered whether or not I loved him, the suave gentleman with a charming attitude and a pleasant face. It was not long before I realised I felt no love for him. Of course, a girl from flapper roots like me has engaged in numerous romantic understandings over the past few years of life. I fell for a musician, a saxophonist in the band at the jazz club where I was dancing, who always called me ‘Viola’, like the musical instrument, rather than pronouncing it correctly, and told me my American accent was beautiful.
My surroundings are so wonderfully bizarre. The butler is holding my shoes in his right hand, discarded when their sharp heels quickly sunk into the sand. The sky is smothering, like it is closing in on us, a heavy background of smoky lilac. My dancing partner has a relaxed hand at the bridge between my silk dress, a flirtatious plum colour, and the bare skin of my back. I do not appreciate his attitude. So far this evening, I have moved his hand upwards from the small of my back three times. His hand is clammy and uncomfortable against my skin. The butler is singing; a deep and glorious bass with a distinct Scottish accent. The maid has my handbag at her feet, a damp patch developing on its underside from the sand, left moist by the receding tide. They have no idea of the secret it contains.
The skies are darkening ominously overhead, and despite the umbrella, inclined towards Mr. Aisbury and his woman, I can feel spots of rain falling and tickling my cheeks as I lift my hat from my head. The wind is picking up too, and I exchange a glance with Arthur. He sings the final notes of his tune, and in his voice like a clap of thunder, suggests to Mr. Aisbury that we return to the house, as the weather is gradually worsening. Mr. Aisbury’s hands drop from his partner’s waist and left hand, and he stands with military straightness, before agreeing with Arthur’s suggestion. The woman, who has a nasal American accent, reaches for her bag, and I return it to her, grateful for the responsibility to be removed from me. Arthur and I take down the umbrellas, shaking the raindrops from them. They fall in a flurry, catching the light and refracting rainbows at all angles, providing a captivating show. We turn, and with almost tentative strides, trouser-clad legs moving in step with my own bare limbs, modesty preserved by my apron and dress, Arthur and I lead the way from the beach.
A crack fills the air.
I spin round. Mr. Aisbury crumples to the ground, his pristine cuffs reddened with blood as he clutches the bullet wound at his chest.
She is standing over him, pistol in hand, chest rising and falling rapidly with every wild breath she takes.
The maid and the butler turn, shaking water from their umbrellas like a dog drying itself after a swim, and with my bag comfortably back in my hand, I take a deep breath. They turn to leave the beach, the maid taking choppy little steps to keep up with the butler.
Now is my moment. I cautiously undo the clasp of the bag, and reach inside for it; for my revolver, with its mother of pearl handle and single bullet. One bullet is all I will require.
I withdraw it from the bag, its leather body still damp from the beach and the rain, and raise it to F’s chest. Our eyes meet momentarily, and I mouth, “I’m sorry,” as I pull the trigger.
There is a crack, and that is that. The maid and butler turn to face me. I take ragged breaths, almost unable to believe what I have just done.
I am guilty.
My only witnesses are the distasteful maid and the singing butler.
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|Posted on February 20, 2015 at 3:55 AM||comments (0)|
To define abstraction: the process by which no recognisable elements of the world in which we live exist, and thus contradiction occurs; it is surely incoherent for abstraction to be the cause of something that is not, abstract? Like causes have like effects from which artists must ask themselves… to what extent are we confined within the realms of visual importance that we are now unable to detach ourselves from what we can see? Has abstraction, and the nature of abstract art, become merely a spiritual objective that cannot be actualised by bodily creativity? Can modern day artists reach abstraction?
Wassily Kandinsky, considered the originator of ‘purely’ abstract art, allowed his processes to develop from that of realistic landscape paintings to a focus on line, shape and colour. ‘Squares with Concentric Circles’, 1913, arguably remains Kandinsky’s most famous work and he often used music, in the later stages of his career, as his inspiration and guide when painting, inflicting emotion into his work; the use of yellow, and its importance to Kandinsky, is seen in ‘Squares with Concentric Circles’; a bright dominance create vivacious tones that enhance the “celestial sound” of the blue and enrich the blushing reds. Kandinsky referred to the “celestial sound” in his experimentations regarding the ‘Language of Colour’ from which he argued every colour displayed a particular emotion to him as an artist. By using sound as a stimulus Kandinsky succeeds in not allowing the restrictions of the physical world to dominate his work; instead the subjective nature of music licenses him to become looser and, in doing so, gives his work the suggestion of abstraction.
This route to abstraction is easily understood and interestingly when one studies Kandinsky’s later work, the theme of musical sounds is somewhat obvious in the compositions; extended lines for extended notes, bright blocks of colour presenting perhaps loud noises… although his work steers away from what he can see, it still revolves around the source of its creation. If one is to make the distinction between abstraction and abstract art then it can be concluded that Kandinsky succeeded in his creation of the latter but not to the same extent in the former. However, if no discrepancy is made then, although Kandinsky did indeed steer away from visible incentives, he relied on the feelings established through music to drive his paintings, to which such works like ‘Squares with Concentric Circles’ were derived from. It seems to me that the abstraction which exists within music cannot be translated onto canvas as it inevitably possesses a certain spirituality that, I feel, can only be felt, as opposed to seen.
Piet Mondrian is important to mention in regards to abstract art; his iconic use of primary colours and limited tonal palette make his paintings exquisitely simple. Instead of a rainbow spectrum of colour being a key visual point like Kandinsky, he refrains, instead emphasising the structure and lines of each composition, using only blue, red and yellow to harness such forms. Arguably Mondrian reached new levels in pushing towards ‘pure’ abstraction and to some he indeed surpassed this point.
His paintings endeavoured to represent the two essential opposing forces: the positive and the negative. A dynamic balance, which can be seen in his compositions, reflect what he saw as the universal balance of forces and thus link with his choice of using only the rudimentary three colours. However, his paintings still consist of identifiable shapes, and, in an attempt to reveal the basic forces of the universe, he created a collection of basic forms which display no hint of such mystical resistances.
Certainly, Mondrian’s spiritual journey remains evident throughout his work, which should be seen as search of knowledge.
"I don't want pictures, I want to find things out”
Through this quote one can establish that, for Mondrian, the importance lay, not in each finish composition, but in the means by which such artworks were reached. This belief suggests a different perspective; perhaps any aims to exceed abstraction through art will only blind an artist from finding knowledge and truth. It is ironic that Mondrian, who was not so bothered about abstraction, that he perhaps came closest to reaching it.
The third artist to mention is Mark Rothko, who sought to explore subjects other than rural and urban scenes; instead he, like his predecessors, balanced his growing concern with form, space and colour, with mythology. Rothko’s principle philosophical influence, along with Freud and Jung, was Friedrich Nietzsche, who facilitated belief that his art could free unconscious energies previously liberated by mythological images, symbols, and ritual; in short, Rothko’s abstract oil paintings served as a way of escaping reality and coming to exist in a spiritual realm for the viewer. Rothko also stopped donating names to his work as he felt it led to the imaginings of the observer being limited to the confines of such a title, in the same way that I believe artists have become too reliant on physical forms, from which to create art.
The extent of philosophical thought behind art in general can never be known exactly, as the majority of it exists subconsciously. It is no doubt that spirituality is the key to creating abstraction, as well as the ability to look beyond ‘looking’ which could very well be impossible. I feel abstraction is ultimately a sense that cannot be harnessed with any sort of natural medium. However, in saying this, I would make a distinction, like Mondrian does, between the process of creating art and art itself; one is neither more or less important that the other, but, if one refers to abstraction as a means of expression and inspired communication, eventually, without the initial pursuit of expression, there would be no expression at all.
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|Posted on February 20, 2015 at 3:50 AM||comments (0)|
The end of the world
Visions of the Earth’s inevitable demise
Whispers, echoes, a fadeout Some believe we will go out fighting
But I believe in the silence
No funeral, no memories
Consuming all, like a plague
This is what we are
This is what we’ll become
And, in the end, that’s all we will deserve
Like a candle, snuffed out
Alone and silent.
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|Posted on February 20, 2015 at 3:40 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on February 19, 2015 at 3:25 PM||comments (0)|
The world is warming. Fact.
97% of top scientists think that humans are the main cause of global warming. In 2008, many of these scientists joined forces to start writing the latest IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report.
Here’s what they found: the world is warming, we are causing it, and we must pull our weight to prevent further excessive warming. Failing to do this could mean ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems’. Sea levels will rise, surface temperature will increase and extreme weather patterns will become more and more frequent. Although we will all feel this change, people near the equator and by the coast will suffer the most.
Also in 2008, the then Labour government set a simple target – decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Then in 2011, the coalition government set out its ‘Carbon Plan’ to further advance the mitigation cause. In 2014 I conducted a survey of 52 people in Berkhamsted, and I found that 85% agreed with the statement: ‘Human activity causes global warming’.
It’s 2015. What will the next government look like? Well, with some parties we’ll have to wait for their manifestos; however, you’ll be relieved to hear that Ukip already has a carbon plan! I quote the party’s energy spokesman: ‘I’m no scientist, but... if Ukip is elected in May, one of the first things we’d do is repeal the Climate Change Act.’
You might be thinking that this was a throwaway comment – he might not mean it. Sadly, that’s not the case. Although local candidate Howard Koch boasts of Ukip’s plan to ‘stop green belt developments’, it is clear that this isn’t to sway ecologically minded people. Ukip is openly opposed to trains (such as the controversial yet carbon-neutral HS2), green subsidies (which encourage the development of renewables) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (which they want to scrap altogether) - all in the name of ‘sustainable development’.
So if you’re old enough to go to the polls on the 7 May, you have a choice. You can either take on the challenge of climate change yourself, or let my generation suffer the consequences.
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|Posted on February 19, 2015 at 3:25 PM||comments (0)|
If we associate the eighteenth century with the Enlightenment, the nineteenth century with the expansion of imperialism, the twentieth century with the growth of communism and fascism then what, if any, ideological movement will we come to associate with our own century? Back in November 2014, the Economist published an article declaring that ‘nationalism is back’ - an analysis with which I find hard to disagree. Since 1946 the number of sovereign states has skyrocketed from 76 to 197. Scotland’s rejection of independence last September was an anomalous result in an otherwise conclusive trend. Nationalism is indeed back. Over the past few decades, political units have drastically shrunk and the prevailing winds of change indicate that they will continue to shrink over the coming years. The Catalans’ groans for independence grow louder each day; recent flashes of separatist violence in Eastern Ukraine (or should I say Novorossiya?) have left world leaders impotent for fear of sparking war; even the exponential rise in support for Scottish independence is symptomatic of a new wave of nationalism. This is not just a European phenomenon either. Nationalism has recently entrenched itself in the hearts and minds of the Chinese, Indians, Japanese and many more.
But what exactly is nationalism? Put simply, it is the desire to achieve self-determination for a particular cultural group. It should be noted that nationalism is not necessarily bad. George Orwell said on the subject, clearly with the fascist movements of the 1930’s in mind, that nationalism is ‘inseparable from the desire for power’ - a comment which is true, but should be sanitised of negative implications. The Scottish independence campaign was clearly about power, but I don’t think that anyone would argue- regardless of their personal position on the referendum- that the ‘Yes’ campaign was inherently sinister in any way. The racism and xenophobia which we often associate with nationalism is an unfortunate product of nationalist extremism - rather than simply to promote the self-determination of a cultural group, ultranationalists attempt to preserve a preconceived ‘national identity’, which is often based on ethnicity. It is this sort of nationalism that has been fermenting underneath the surface of European politics for some time and has only just come to international attention.
In April 2014, Jobbik - a ‘radically patriotic’, neo-fascist political party in Hungary - secured 20.54% of the vote, making it the third largest party in the Hungarian National Assembly. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, has seen her party’s share of the vote soar to 24.86% of the vote in the 2014 European Elections. Even in the UK, the ultranationalist party -Britain First- has filled the vacuum which the BNP and EDL had left behind. Their Facebook page boasts over 620,000 likes, exceeding the Conservative and Labour party put together. Recent months have seen the birth of a new force in German politics, PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), a Dresden based organisation which coordinates anti-immigrant rallies. Since its foundation in October 2014, the number of participants at these demonstrations has swelled from just 350 to over 25,000.
The explanation for the rise of the far-right is not clear cut. Many see it as a response to globalisation. The erosion of local cultures, languages and, ultranationalists would argue, civic values has created the conditions in which insular bigotry can thrive. This detestation of globalisation is reflected in the policies of these new far-right political movements; all of them seem to reject free market economics and, of course, multiculturalism. Undoubtedly the recession of 2008 has also fed the growth of political extremism. It is an almost natural reaction to look to radical alternatives when the system has failed you; fascism, after all, rose to power on the back of the tumult of the Great Depression. As more and more across Europe become disillusioned with conventional politics and globalisation becomes more and more pervasive, the far-right will only continue to grow.
Not all nationalisms, however, can be explained in the same way. The secessionist movements in Catalonia and Xinjiang, for example, have little to do with the electoral successes of Eastern European extremists, although it is no coincidence that independence has suddenly become more attractive since the economic downturn. While the Scottish ‘Yes’ campaign and the Greek neo-nazi Golden Dawn party have few shared values, nationalism, in whatever context, has everything to do with culture.
It is important to understand that nations are a function of social identity, so to understand the growth of secessionism, be it in Britain or China, one must ask why it is that nationalists no longer wish to identify with the larger cultural and political polity of which they are technically citizens. Britain’s rapid deindustrialisation over the past few decades might explain the rise of Scottish nationalism - we all simply have less in common. I am sure many of those who voted ‘yes’ in the referendum in September were asking themselves why they should recognise a political authority which is located in a city hundreds of miles away in a country with which they no longer identify. I have no doubt that there are those in Catalonia right now asking the same question. Separatism in China largely stems from opposition to the authoritarianism of the Chinese government in Beijing. The Uighurs in Xinjiang, where the the majority of China’s Muslim population is located, are essentially under military occupation. Han Chinese displace jobs in local government and peaceful protests are dispersed with often lethal force. Ultimately nationalism comes down to drawing a distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’.
What then of the sort of nationalism that is frequently used as a blunt instrument by states to achieve political goals? Again, China is perhaps the most topical example. Lacking the democratic mandate accorded to conventionally elected governments, the Chinese Communist Party has increasingly used nationalism to assert its right to rule. For the Chinese government, anti-Japanese rhetoric has proved to be the most adhesive of legitimating glues. Recent disputes over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands has provoked volleys of nationalist rhetoric from both sides of the East China Sea - China claims that the islands constitute a part of their ‘inherent territory in all historical, geographical and legal terms’, whilst the Japanese government state that ‘there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved’ regarding their own claims to the islands. Such rhetoric again comes down to drawing a distinction between ‘them’ and ‘us’. By positioning themselves in opposition to Japan, the Chinese politburo galvanises the support of the entire country, helped, of course, by the state-controlled broadcasting agencies. Nationalism is one of the most useful tools available to politicians. It is free, non-partisan and can turn electoral fortunes in an instant. It is how the Chinese Communist Party has sustained itself so far, it is how General Galtieri justified the invasion of the Falkland Islands and, equally, how Margaret Thatcher won the 1983 General Election. In a world in which the media carries unprecedented influence over political discourse, nationalism will only become more prevalent in global politics.
The ultimate goal of any nationalist, whether they are neo-Nazis in Hungary, separatists in Eastern Ukraine or bureaucrats in Beijing, is to defend their cultural group from what they perceive to be threatening or corrupting influences. The rise of nationalism in the 21st century can be attributed to several factors. For the far right, the cultural impact of globalisation, particularly in terms of immigration, has elicited an often violent reaction. For secessionists, their cries for independence can be seen as a protest against a central government which no longer appears to work for them; in Scotland, support for independence shot up as the Tory-led government was elected in 2010, while the Uighurs’ plight for self-determination can be seen as an expression of discontent directed towards the authoritarian Communist Party. On the other hand, the sort of nationalism which is invoked by central governments can usually be interpreted as an attempt to cement political power. Exploiting the populist sentiments of the electorate will become increasingly necessary for politicians as the media becomes more and more pervasive. It is impossible to speculate what the world will look like in fifty years time, but inevitably it will be shaped by the forces of nationalism.
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|Posted on February 19, 2015 at 3:20 PM||comments (0)|
The morning of the 7th January 2015 witnessed a terrorist attack on the satirical French magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’. Twelve people died and eleven more were injured by the Islamic extremist brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi. The magazine itself is considered to be extremely controversial, publishing anti-religious and left wing articles mocking Catholicism, Islam, Israel as well as world news. The Charlie Hebdo shootings does not represent the only attack on the magazine, as in 2011 (after the magazine published a particularly controversial issue featuring an offensive cartoon of Mohammed) the office was firebombed. However, unlike the 2011 attack, this was the first to leave anyone dead or injured.
However, it is what became of the shootings that made the attack a global issue and to be now considered an attack on ‘free speech’. According to CNN, at least 3.7 million people, including an array of world leaders, marched in Paris - the largest gathering in French history. A duo that attended the rally were the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Many within the march carried signs to display forms of both discontent and pride. Some carried the phrase ‘Je Suis Charlie’, which rose to fame after the shootings as a means of honouring the journalists who were killed. Muslims in France (who make up 7% of the French population) held up signs with the words ‘We Are All Muslims’. There were also signs reading ‘We Are All Cops’, to honour the police officers and guards who had lost their lives in the week’s events. However, there were also signs stating that ‘We Are All French’ being held up within the march with pride.
The responses to ‘Je Suis Charlie’ have been varied. One Muslim man within the march is quoted saying: “Our religion is the religion of love. ... Our religion loves Jews ... loves Christians. We are not terrorists”. America has chosen to stand by France in the wake of these attacks. President Obama has reportedly vowed to stand united with France, stating: ‘We go forward together knowing that terror is no match for the freedom and ideals we stand for -- ideals that light the world. Vive la France.’ However, his non-attendance in the Paris march has proved controversial. On the other hand, Pope Francis is reported to have defended free expression up to a point, but his opinion stood with one of his main statements: ‘You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. There is a limit’.
On the 9th January, Cherif and Said Kouachi were killed after a violent standoff. However, the attack has made many feel very vulnerable and has made many realize that the threat of terrorist attack is at its highest point for many years. Is there a point where freedom of speech becomes morally wrong?
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Amnesty International: Does the US believe that children don't have rights? - Written by Sally Nolan
|Posted on February 19, 2015 at 3:20 PM||comments (0)|
The Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the world’s most universally accepted human rights treaty – nearly every United Nations member has ratified it, and last November marked its 25th anniversary. The countries left to ratify the treaty are: South Sudan; Somalia and the USA. Amnesty’s current campaign is to help convince the US to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child so that all children’s rights are protected in all countries.
So what actually is the Convention of the Rights of the Child?
The CRC was introduced to give all children the protection of rights they deserve. It was created specifically for children, as those under the age of eighteen need additional care and protection as opposed to an adult. It consists of 54 articles including: the right to be alive (article 6), the right to be protected from kidnapping (article 11) and the right to be free from sexual abuse (article 34). The CRC is based on four key principles: non-discrimination; the best interest of the child; survival, development and protection; and participation.
Firstly, the CRC believes that children should not be discriminated against as a result of their ethnicity, language, race, gender etc. Children should be treated equally, and not suffer or benefit as a result of discrimination. Moreover, the CRC believes the best interest of the child should be put first. In any situation where the child would be affected – wherever it may be – the child’s best interest should be a priority, and they should benefit in the best way possible. Additionally, the Convention states that children should be protected in the best way possible to ensure their development. Whether their development may be physical or social, they should be protected. Furthermore, CRC believes strongly in participation. Children’s opinions should be welcomed and recognized; they have the right to be involved in decisions that affects them, and should not be ignored.
Amnesty’s aim is to get this Convention ratified by the US. Ratification is the official process of adding a treaty to their country’s laws. This process indicates that the country is committing itself to enforcing the various aspects of the treaty. For example, the UK has ratified the CRC and so has made all 54 articles part of the country’s laws.
Although the US played a major role in the drafting of the CRC in 1995 and has ratified two of the optional protocols (including the ban of children working in the military and child pornography) they are yet to ratify the whole Convention.
To illustrate what it means for the US to not authorize this law, the other countries who have also failed to ratify the CRC include Somalia – a country which is renowned for its questionable treatment of children: for example their prevention of female education. While it is recognizable that the state does not have the same openly objectionable disregard for the well-being of children, by refusing to take this set of laws the US accidentally creates a comparison between their actions and the clear disregard human rights that occurs in countries such as South Sudan and Somalia. By not legalising this treaty, the US are falling behind the rest of the world in regard to the protection of the most vulnerable members of society.
The US is viewed as a democratic state that gives ‘power to the people’. Also, as a democracy, the US holds a foundation of ‘liberal’ features that focus on protecting the individual. The CRC is widely viewed as an influential, important and life changing treaty that is in the best interest of the children. Amnesty is concerned as to why the US has not endorsed something that seems so obvious and so fundamental. This leads me, personally, to question their entire attitude towards children. For example, in some states children can still be put on death row at the age of sixteen. Does the US not believe in protecting the rights of all children? Do they not believe that kidnapping, drug trading and the sexual abuse of children should be prevented?
Amnesty is currently issuing petitions, handing out copies of the Convention, writing letters to the US ambassador and creating visual posters to illustrate the articles. Through this, Amnesty hopes to get the attention of US authorities in order for them to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
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