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M O S A I C

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O sages standing in God’s holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall W. B. Yeats


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Chief Editor Stanisław Bramiński Co-editor Jay-Jay Saint Cover Art Alistair Blake Publisher Formatting Tony Ho Lun Cheung

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Editorial Isn’t Democracy just Dandy? IF A Night in Marrakech nuclear disarmament is an impossibility Cornelia Parker’s Dark Matter Angels in America Purified by Fire The Don’ts and Don’ts of Theatre The Reprehensibility of Journalists Hastings The Legacy of Lance The Butcher Boy Things of the Past Mozaiquiz nature’s death

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we often learn the most from characters we struggle to like

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an exploration into allen ginsberg’s use of ambiguty and allusion in howl

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we often learn the most from characters we find hard to like


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Editorial This year the Mosaic Magazine entered its 82nd year of existence; unfortunately not its 80th, which would have allowed us to make a nice anniversary issue, possibly even complete with a Mosaic foldout collectible. (No one took this absolutely golden marketing opportunity in 2012.) As chance would have it we have been landed with the untidy number 82. It’s not a number that bodes well: the lone significance of 82 is that it’s the atomic number of lead. Irrespective, however, of the faces the die showed, onwards our team strode; after all, Mosaic shouldn’t be valued by its sheaves that make it into pockets! Only by the ones that make it into heads. Yet, your writers wondered about another value, that is, the full meaning of Mosaic. The concept itself that defines the magazine is seemingly sound and heard: a magazine the sum of its parts; and the greater whole, the final mosaic picture, dictated scrupulously by every piece. But the title evoked history, a lot of history: history to be had, and history which we would be adding to, and so we resolved to get it; to find the full meaning of Mosaic, and regain the “step missing from a stair”. The step was an acid-free pale-green box from Bedford School archives with the entire remaining legacy of Mosaic heaped within. Although it’s not only the Mosaic we found, which began Christmas 1932; printed black and white. Before that there was The Ousel Literary Supplement, which began in 1930, and also others during Mosaic’s own timeline, such as Mosaic Again, and Perspective. The problem with discovering the meaning of Mosaic was that for every five or so years of its existence new editors changed what the Magazine itself was. Throughout its 82 years Mosaic’s writers have all had radically different visions of Mosaic, which would be impossible to confine to a single principle. The phrase “not Mosaic” doesn’t work in the same way as “not art”. And so, the magazine has been many things, but we recognise Christmas 1932 as its official beginning because of its intellectual bravado – the editorial makes a mission for Mosaic: “we hope that Mosaic may signify a breaking-away from all that is hard to appreciate and difficult to read, and in this hope 1


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we mean to hand on these changes as a heritage to our successors in the editorship.” In the issue, tension between modern and new is recognised by a bold complete restructuring of the magazine’s format: the issue is a splash, an affirmation of the Bedford School boys’ very own outlet, as opposed to a few slotted-in sheets of poetry and prose in The Ousel. (As seen in the cartoon on the preceding page – 1933 – tension between Mosaic and the Ousel has been present since day one.) This purpose cannot be excised from the meaning of any issue of the magazine regardless of its name, and it began in 1932. This decade of Mosaic’s genesis is its golden age, every issue glowing with exuberance, wit, and bright ideas. The decade’s crowning gem is a ’33 article on Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, complete with a potato shaped toothbrush-moustached caricature. Debate about Adolf is very balanced (one article committedly pro-Hitler) and points brought up, interestingly, not dissimilar to a School history course. The existence of a 1940s Mosaic is staggering given paper rationing in World War Two in Britain, let alone an issue from 1945! But the issues very much are and a bold blue eagle bursts from the ‘45 cover like a regenerated phoenix. This uplifting colour scheme continues until ‘48. We see also the much too short lived ‘Mosaiquiz’ ’45 to ‘49; a very witty mock school quiz. (See one we’ve inset, as well as our own effort: Mosaiquiz VI.) The 1950s is where Mosaic’s design becomes adventurous. The 1954 issue looks like a brochure for a 1990s holiday brochure while ’56 could very well be an alternate cover design for Orwell’s 1984 (not reflected in content). The craftsmanship of these covers is diligent; from the days when Mosaic editors could delegate the duty to the now non-existent Bedford School printing society; and in fact, when Mosaic editors could delegate anything at all. Notable is the 1956’s editorial which uses The Picture of Dorian Grey to nice effect when refuting criticism of the Mosaic: “Caliban raged at seeing his face in the glass. And if and when you are about to burst into the usual fit of anger at our issue, think first what it is that angers you. Is it not, with you too, your own face?”

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Beyond the 1960s Mosaic becomes increasingly fragmented, and where the magazine becomes undated until 2001, and then again until our predecessor in 2010. (We’ve place 60s magazines from the dates mentioned in written content. This isn’t something that occurs beyond 1968.) The 60s are, well, really the 60s. The anti-establishment element present from Mosaic’s very beginnings explodes. The editorial for the 1962 issue reads like an editorial from Pravda Magazine. He outright denounces the previous apologetic tone of Mosaic editors (probably, as always, out of deference to The Ousel’s insistence upon formality) and reaffirms the magazine as a loud and independent forum. We are sure the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s are all somewhere in that green box, it’s only we can’t speak of any in their proper decade. A job for posterity. (Although we shall note the diligence and care taken over Mosaics’ covers increases steadily right up until the magnificent light blue edition, shown above.) We’ve resolved to try to convey the richness and diversity of Mosaic’s history in a brief journalistic overview: this was our “best-of” of the Mosaic Magazine. But what of the meaning of Mosaic? The brave and new. We ourselves shan’t ostensibly claim to be as such. Our innovations of the magazine are merely harkenings back to how Mosaic used to be (at its best): art featured on full pages; Mosaiquiz; creative and informative pieces carefully balanced, rather than arranged in categories (as lamentably done in Perspective 2011). The only true innovation we have performed is writing an editorial more than a page long, which reminds us: “nuff said”, although we hope this shall not be the case in regards to the Mosaic for the coming years of our permanent sabbatical from editorship; especially come the opportunity for a 100 year anniversary issue...

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Isn’t Democracy just Dandy? I was most excited (though quite why I am admitting this I don’t know) to see earlier this year the coming together of two of my passing interests: Russell Brand and the New Statesman. I bought the edition in the arrivals hall of Luton Airport - why it was there escapes me. I began by reading an interview of Noel Gallagher. I was first struck by our shared admiration for the “no-nonsense” nature of Denis Skinner (those were not quite his words) but I was somewhat more struck when I read “Do you ever vote?” “Not if I can help it.” Sorry - what? This was a man discussing his thoughts on the politics of the day; a man who has previously hijacked a GQ award acceptance speech to criticise politicians moving into popular culture, and one occasion even endorsed a future government. Yet there he was, saying that he wanted to take no part in choosing who ran the country. At the time, a proactive stance against the establishment, and a refusal to engage with the political system, leaving it to others to initiate change, seemed irreconcilable. Any ten year old interested in politics will soon realise - perhaps during a speech to his English class - that few others are. Rather worryingly, this remains the same; one begins to wonder if people are going to ever engage at all. People don’t really care. And I’m starting to think that we can’t blame them. On overhearing a discussion on political philosophy between two of my far more intelligent friends, I have come to the opinion that it is all pointless! We have the system we have and there is nothing substantial saying that it is better or worse than any other. Yet to me it still seems important: there is something about choice being given to you that makes it important that you choose. I would go as far as to say that voting should be compulsory – with the option to spoil you ballot if you choose – in the hope that it would force people to find out what is out there. On a recent trip to Vietnam I asked a lady in her mid-twenties what she thought of the dictatorship. She said, “People in Vietnam don’t care who is in the government, the only thing we care about is how much a bag of rice is.” I suppose that the same is true here. People care about their jobs, the cost of living and their health care, with little regard for who is in charge as long as they can keep what matters to them. Perhaps people become apathetic because too much stress is placed on the colour of the politicians we elect; I for one, am likely to vote for one party, even if I do not agree with the entirety of their manifesto, just because of a longstanding ideological allegiance. To someone without any ideological affinities, choosing must be a wholly tiresome exercise. Though this may be a weakness of political system made up of only a few major parties, I struggle to believe that this approaches the whole truth behind our poor voter turnout. Our political parties have, over time, all migrated so much to the centre, so it follows, that it has become harder to distinguish between them. The distinction seems harder yet given that most politicians appear all too happy to just follow the mood of the day in an attempt to increase their popularity. The problem with this lack of distinction is that it leads to little change from government to government.

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With a lack of change comes a feeling that your vote doesn’t really carry much power. Ironically, apathy is often seen a product of powerlessness; yet, the reality is the reverse: it causes withdrawal from a position to influence government. Even political careers have, somewhat depressingly, developed a common trend: PPE at a leading university, a position as a special adviser to a politician with a possible term as a local government councillor, and then – perhaps after a few attempts – securing a candidacy in a safe seat. Politics seems to attract people interested in it as a career path, rather than as a tool for change. In my opinion the last person you want to have in government is somebody who is interested in politics, by which I mean, an interest in the practice of politics: the way support is gained, the acquisition of power and the philosophy which underpins it all. Politicians should be people who want to make a difference and shape society; not those who get excited by the possible implications of the rise of UKIP. Of course people interested in these are needed in politics, but they shouldn’t be standing for elections; they should be hauled up in some strategy office of a Party HQ advising our new generation of impassioned politicians on the best way to see their ideas come to fruition. In short, apathy for the practice of politics is fine to a degree; what must under no circumstance become okay is an indifference to change. We risk blurring the distinction between these two ideas and letting it undermine our democratic system. I, for one, very much look forward to the premiership of Russell Brand and Noel Gallagher leading us with complete disregard for how it is done and who does it! Hang on... Edward Arbe-Barnes

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William Govoni

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IF If you can keep your copy of ‘A View from the Bridge’ when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on Saturday morning Timetable If you can trust yourself when all doubt you actually read ‘The English Teacher’ But completely understand their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting When you wait for the teacher to hand back the test If you can ignore the feedback and not give way to criticism And just look at your mark and compare it with friends. If you can quote – and not make quotes your master; If you can actually make the Lesson objective your aim; If you can meet with Miller and Narayan And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to see the papers you’ve stuffed Into the back of your anthology fall to the floor And watch the sheets you gave your life to, crumpled, And stoop and pick them up, and never breathe a word. If your able to forse you’re hart and nurv and sinuw to corect your SPAG *If you’re able to force your heart and nerve and sinew to correct your SPAG Long after the coursework is sent off If you can analyse the subtext, even when the writer intended no subtext Apart from the subtext that says: “Please stop!” If you can fill the unforgiving hour With 60 minutes work of literature fun, Yours is the IGCSE and everything that’s in it, Well actually only 40%, so if you do well you probably will get at least a C... Son! James Smith

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William Govoni

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A Night in Marrakech A kaleidoscope of colour A carnival of culture A channel of diversity It’s a night in Marrakech. The refreshing mint; the vibrant green The persuasive silk; the milky white Join together in harmony All for a night in Marrakech. The syncopated rhythms of an African tribe The sweet smelling incense of a wood-burnt fire A party’s brewing in the midst Of a night in Marrakech. The candle lit streets of flaky elegance The aroma of cuisines spreading their presence The sights, the sounds, the smells, the scene! Converge on this night, in Marrakech. Jason George

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Nuclear Disarmament is an Impossibility Since the world’s first nuclear weapon was detonated in the United States, on the 16th of July 1945, there have been hundreds more nuclear explosions on Earth, reaching over 2,000. There are roughly 17,000 nuclear weapons in total in the world – 4,300 of which are operational – all ready to go at any time. Over the 68 years since the Manhattan project bore mushroom clouds there have been theories of nuclear defences, deep space tests, and fusion weapons. Thermonuclear devices, with yields thousands of times stronger than early atomic weapons, are now standard issue. There are 9 countries in the world that have nuclear weapons and are open about them; another country, Israel, most likely has an arsenal as well, but prefers to stay ambiguous about them. The development of nuclear weapons in currently non-nuclear nations is a sore spot for many people involved in dealing with the middle-east. Nuclear deterrence is a part of modern politics Nuclear Weapons permeate our time, and the concept of nuclear war remains as terrifying as it was in the cold war. As such, lobbying for the disarmament of the world’s nuclear weapons continues to this day. But so far, despite many deals to cut back on the stockpiles, there is still a dizzying number of them still in existence, and it looks to be set that way for the foreseeable future of human civilisation. There are risks that come with having nuclear weapons, yes, but there are also benefits to having a stockpile of them in your closet. If two great powers are hostile towards each other then the presence of nuclear weapons on both sides actually serves to reduce the likelihood of a war between them, especially if they’re superpowers. As easy as it is to forget that politicians are real human beings: they very much are – and that they want to avoid a nuclear war just as much as everyone else. A nuclear war would bring not only complete devastation to both peoples, but the rest of the world would not react kindly to any nation launching nuclear warheads at another state, with embargoes and sanctions from across the world crippling its economy, and stunting its growth. No nation would ever recover from both nuclear fallout and UN sanctions. Nuclear weapons are deterrents. Additionally, nuclear weapons are a symbol of progress, power, and wealth for those who hold them. They are difficult to construct and require expensive, advanced and specialised equipment, such as nuclear centrifuges. Just having them makes you clearly a cut above the rest. Developing nuclear weapons also gives you access to nuclear power plants, which are looking to be an important part of the future of power generation, if you can afford them. Nuclear weapons are a status symbol. There is also the threat of rogue nations getting their hands on the devices. Most people’s first thought when it comes to rogue states is North Korea, but there are plenty of countries, such as Iraq, that may pose a real threat if they ever developed nuclear warheads of any kind. In these cases, where even the threat of nuclear war isn’t enough to deter a government from launching a warhead, it is imperative to have a response in the case of an attack, and the perfect means of destroying nuclear missiles while docked in silos is hitting the silos with nukes of your own. Nuclear weapons are a response. Of course, many threats come with nuclear technology – nuclear terrorism, reactors melting down, and radiation-related diseases – but these risks can be minimised with effective prevention and responses in place. The benefits outweigh the costs, and as long as this remains true, there will never be complete nuclear disarmament. Daniel Hickey 10


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Cold Dark Matter: an Exploded View by Cornelia Parker, 1991.

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Cornelia Parker’s Dark Matter When Cornelia parker was invited to make an installation for the Chisenhale Gallery in London 1991, she was given a huge warehouse space with no natural light to fill it. Parker decided to create a work with its own light source, and, she came up with the idea of creating an explosion. I first saw this work in 2000 when I was 4 or 5, and it is one of my earliest memories. I vaguely remember a wobbly bridge, and maybe a giant spider; but this sculpture stands out most clearly in my mind. It was the first time an artwork had blown me away, and also the first time my mum wanted to leave before me. The piece is suspended in the air; shards of jagged splintered wood form a loosely composed shell in the shape of a cube, and within this outer layer are barely recognisable mangled objects of every type imaginable. I remember walking around the piece, looking through it, and catching glimpses of other people through all the squashed stretched and tormented items; all creating images of their own. Although it looked fragile, the splintered wooden shell had an incredibly powerful effect. Parker had previously tried to make artificial explosions on her MFA course, but to create her Cold Dark Matter she needed a real one. She filled a shed full of junk and then photographed it in its exhibition space in the Chisenhale Gallery, London. The shed itself was no random or ordinary shed. It was constructed specially for Parker from bits of old broken sheds, all second hand, and assembled for her by shed builders in Suffolk. Also, the contents of the shed were authentic shed waste. Like useless junk in an attic everything useless goes into a shed; old bikes to dry paint tins. Parker asked friends and family to donate anything from their own garden sheds. Parker almost always uses second hand items from friends and family and many car boot sales. This filled most of the shed and anything extra was bought from car boot sales to plug any gaps and fill any remaining physical space. After the shed was full, Parker then set about soliciting the British army to blow it up. They did. She then gathered the pieces and hung them in the gallery. Although there is no fire or dust it feels like an explosion; the fractured shed, the mangled objects, the chaotic shapes and light. The light is what I remember most clearly; it is difficult to catch a glimpse of the light’s source as you walk around it, but the light reflects off the items inside creating a powerful glow. It is cast through all the items, creating vast shadows on the surrounding walls which are interesting to look at and add to the impact. The shadows draw you to the light’s source, creating a focus on the core of the explosion. The light also makes some objects recognisable again. I remember tracing back the shadow of a bike wheel to an incomprehensible mass of tangled metal, and also seeing a whisk’s shadow, and that of a book. There is an overwhelming sense of chaos and destruction, yet it is also ordered; the outline of a cube is clearly visible, but looking straight into the light you can’t see its edges, only a vague outline. The piece as a whole has its own shape, but preserves the unique nature of each component. Unlike most other large works which are just enlarged unremarkable objects, Cold Dark Matter has immeasurable complexity. Alistair Blake

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Angels in America

A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Part One: Millennium Approaches Given that several of the Sixth Form will be studying Angels in America in English next year, I thought it appropriate to tell them just how vile, repugnant, black-hearted and deeply unpleasant it is. Written by Tony Kushner - whose most recent work was his Oscar-nominated screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln - it tells the interconnected stories of Louis Ironson, a homosexual Jew, and his lover, Prior Walter, who is dying of AIDS; Harper Pitt, a “mentally-deranged sex-starved housewife” and her husband Joe, a closeted homosexual Mormon; and lawyer Roy Cohn, also a closeted homosexual and based on the real-life American attorney, who discovers that the HIV he contracted has progressed to AIDS. To me, Angels in America is much like a poorly made scone; it crumbles in my hand and any crumbs I wipe up leave a bitter taste. While reading the play, I was reminded of the works of Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, specifically their art-house fare, Barton Fink and A Serious Man. Kushner’s play is not even remotely similar to either of these films in terms of plot, but they all feature huge amounts of symbolism and seemingly random plots arcs. This was often the case with Angels in America; imaginary friends, ghosts, holy visions and cross-gender multi-rolling all feature at some point. I believe that everything you see in a Coen brothers’ film has been put there for good reason, which makes me somewhat frustrated when I watch them. But whereas those films make me frustrated with myself for not being clever enough to interpret the Coen brothers’ symbolism, when I read Angels in America, I got more frustrated with Kushner. The simple reason for this is it feels like he’s trying far too hard to raise far too many issues. Homosexuality obviously plays a huge part, but all the other themes he includes (race, religion, insanity etc.) are either not given enough emphasis to make us believe it is necessary that they have been included or given too much emphasis, making the play messy and overlong (the theme of AIDS even appears twice). In one scene, Louis distracts himself from worrying about his severely ill lover, to have an inexplicable rant at a black, “ex-ex” drag queen, during which he says several things that said drag queen finds offensive. What ensues is an argument in which they accuse each other of being racist, anti-Semitic and sexist. This “race rant” feels uncomfortably out of place for both the character and play. It occurs so late in the text – the theme of race does not appear anywhere else in the text – that it feels almost as if during the writing process Kushner remembered that the issue of racism existed, and desperately tried to find a way to include it without really thinking about how to do so effectively. I was also reminded of Philadelphia, a film starring Tom Hanks as a gay lawyer dying of AIDS (much like Roy Cohn), released the year after Angels premiered – this being around the time that the themes of homosexuality and AIDS were being tackled by the entertainment industry. I was blown away by the film, and it is one of only three films to have ever made me cry. It left me blubbing. Angels in America, on the other hand, left me cold.

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The reason I read it in the first place was because my personal highlight of the National Theatre 50 Years anniversary show was a scene from this play, and therefore whilst I didn’t like it – even though I really wanted to – I assumed that I would prefer it if I saw it come alive on stage. While I still maintain that point of view, letting my opinion sink in over time has made me realise just how much I hate it. To conclude, I will quote a revered American film critic, the late Roger Ebert, whose opening sentence of his fairly negative review of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, more or less sums up how I feel about Angels in America: “when I reach for it, my hand closes on air.” Logan Jones

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Ilyas Orazalin

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Purified By Fire The young women shuffles across the cobbled stone, Herded by giants of men, their merciless eyes gleaming with hatred, The women is shoved towards the pyre To the last moments she will spend on God’s black Earth. The crowds laugh and jeer at her, “Witch!” they cry “Witch! Now you meet your end.” She stumbles, they throw sticks and stones, and her face is cut and bruised Even the younglings join in, revelling in this cruelty. She stands upon the wood, and the men bind her hands and feet, A holy man comes forward, head bowed, afraid of what he has sentenced her to, She spits at him, returning all of the hatred she has been given, He simply crosses her, and then is gone. The torch is lit and placed onto the twisted mass of wood below her, A stab of panic races up her whole body, Why her, why her? The eagerly lick at her feet. It only takes a few minutes until she is consumed, Her screams echoing through the now silent streets. A charcoal black mass falls through the remains of the pyre, Unrecognisable as the body of a young woman, The holy man steps forward, crossing the twisted mess of flame and ash, As if somehow, that condones the terrible, terrible act.

Connor Hilliard

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Lester Cheung

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The Don’ts and Don’ts of Theatre The theatre: something I am sure most people are familiar with. These buildings are places for people to watch drama performed live, right in front of them. This is more than viewing something on a screen; it is a piece of art being sculpted directly in front of you, providing the audience with total immersion, and the ability to truly empathise with the characters and events developing before them. The beauty and majesty of the show can be truly breath taking; however, certain individuals insist on breaking the immersion. They single handily are able to destroy the atmosphere or tension actors have struggled to create. This is a list of the most annoying, distracting occurrences for both actors, and audience members alike. The Rustle – So, you have bought some sweets and a drink at the interval. Fair enough, I hope they enhance your viewing experience. Oh, what’s this…? You seem to be making obnoxious rustling, continuously. Are you trying to punctuate the play with your noises? Are you not content with the show’s sounds? The rustle is something that is simply uncalled for. Please empty your food into a plastic cup or container before watching the show. That way, you don’t distract everyone, including the actors while you indulge in your unhealthy treats. The Pre-Clap – Look, I know there is always an awkward wait for whoever the responsibility will fall upon to initiate the applause. Usually everyone sits patiently until some brave soul decides to show his or her approval. However, occasionally there is one person who gallantly leads the charge, bursting into a round of applause as soon as they deem the show has ended. I can speak from experience when I say, nothing kills the ending for an actor like a pre-applause. We have to awkwardly carry on, and all the tension and atmosphere has been killed. Please wait some moments before starting your applause to make sure the play is, in fact, over. The Get-Upper – Unless each half is ridiculously long, or the director has opted to have no interval, there is plenty time to do whatever you want before or during the interval. I understand sometimes people simply need to leave, but for the vast majority of the time they do not. That familiar black silhouette will appear, obscuring your vision and breaking your concentration and return moments later, to do the exact same thing, but now with a large bottle of drink. If you are thirsty, buy a drink at the interval! You distract everybody possible to distract when leaving during a show, especially when it is for something as mundane as a drink. If you need to leave for whatever reason, at least make sure it’s not during a complex monologue, because this is bound to distract the actor. The Baby – So it’s Hamlet, the actor is delivering a key soliloquy, powerfully, and the audience are like butter in his hand, and everything is still. Then: the baby. A baby or loud child is one of the most difficult things for an actor to deal with. The noise is distracting and can really kill an atmosphere. I understand if it is a pantomime or a show aimed at children, but not if it’s something like Shakespeare! Not only will the child be bored senseless, but they will distract everyone. As you can see, these are completely unnecessary and ruin an immersive, engaging atmosphere for everyone. Enjoy the theatre as it is meant to be enjoyed: in silence, with minimal interruptions. Happy viewing. Jacob King

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James Skirrow 19


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The Reprehensibility of Journalists I am writing to you to give my complaint on the article posted on last Wednesday regarding the journalist’s “right to offend” and the effects of journalism on a “thriving society of inquisitive minds”. Not only do I totally disagree with the point you raised claiming that offending people is a primary obligation of a journalist, I also think it is completely wrong for one such man to tell his readers that they are the ones at fault for being “too sensitive”. This demeaning statement seems to suggest that all of the readers of your paper take every word you publish to heart, and that we as readers are incapable of understanding jests and of appreciating the possibilities of right and wrong within a society. But, it must be said, there is a line to be drawn. At what point does informing the public of wrongdoings within society become unnecessary quibbling? So, how can I answer this? I shall use an example: if you were to print an article concerning the invasion of an unsuspecting nation by a large empirical dictator then you would be entitled to offend said dictator – undermining his rule or subjecting him to ridicule through satire– but if you were to openly offend the family and friends of a political figure simply because your paper disagrees fundamentally with the party’s political views, then you would be in the wrong. This betrayal of the public was demonstrated by another paper not long ago: the Daily Mail published an article entitled, “The man who hated Britain” about Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph. Although Mr. Miliband Senior was in his lifetime a noted Marxist, there was almost no evidence indicating any distaste towards Britain or its culture: indeed, he fought for his king and country in World War Two. Therefore it was entirely unnecessary for the article to be published; and I believe it was printed merely to distract blinded readers from the successes of the Labour Party Conference that week. The same goes for your aforementioned article, sir; I found it an exploitation of the political disquiet at the present time and believe it to be a profound and quite deliberate attack on all the best elements of Western Culture and our unadulterated political freedom in a society of bias and propaganda. Granted – the way things are run in the West is not necessarily perfect, but it appears better than the way in which your writer described America’s predicament with the government’s shutdown: “an absolute shambles, in which Obama has clearly not acted correctly; all fault may lie with him and with the American Dream”. Perhaps I may draw your attention for one moment towards the end of that quotation and inform you that what you claim to be Obama’s fault is utterly false: it was in fact the Republican Party’s inability to cooperate with Obama and his government that caused the shutdown, and was not in fact the President’s fault; all he did was agree on the terms of Obamacare, something which implemented itself regardless of the shutdown.

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Furthermore, let us discuss for a moment the American Dream – which a journalist under your employ blamed for the current crisis. The source of the Dream – the declaration of independence – describes it as a set of rights, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” How on earth, therefore I ask, can that pursuit be blamed for the shutdown of a dysfunctional government? It cannot. It was not to blame. The idea that all men are created equal is central to the dream, and that was why it was so important in the first half of the twentieth century in the US, especially in the Civil Rights movement, but again, it has no significance in these governmental issues nowadays, so why – may I ask – was it put to blame? Of course, we could start the debate on the legalisation of same-sex marriage, but that is an entirely unrelated story, and perhaps one best left un-opinionated by the bias of your journalists, although I’m sure it’s a story you’re dying to ruin for the population of Britain with your venomous comparisons and crude metaphors. Some things are best left up to the interpretation of the reader; let them put their own spin on the story; simply provide them with the facts, for that is your only moral obligation. Alexander Horn

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Hastings One footed, drunk with rage, I made my way up the mountain I looked back down at the sea of bodies, metallic men winking at me It was high noon and the wall waiting at the summit stood obediently Staring at us in the eye Then through the slits of my helmet, I witnessed the deal The devil had bought the land, and dragging columns Of grey could be seen in the distance I took one look down And took one look up, as I surveyed the wall for any deformities; I found an opening The light peeking through, it was a beacon of hope Soon we all saw the light and with a loud cry we gathered together We had created a sanctuary for lost souls and once we organised ourselves I saw him Yes, it was him. The brand on his chest was identical to mine. He removed his mask And I saw his soul. His face was a shaking frenzy and as he raised his arm above his head: it glimmered, A sense of tranquillity swept through us Then as the arm came down we went. As we made up the mountain the wall was hit with a wave of nausea causing it to wobble And as we collided with the wall a metallic clap rang through the land We’d created Mother Nature’s own very child: A thunder storm “Nous sommes allés et nous sommes rentrés” And after wave and wave the white feathers Began to show amidst the wall; fear in those Damned Saxons began to grow; those scattered souls chased us But this time, we slayed them And as the sun set the wall’s opening was a gateway to heaven and whatever lie beyond that point was The promised land. Soon we had demolished the foundations of the wall Stripped them back to their bones Our hooves beating Our swords singing in unison and as the moon rose all that was left was Scattered Saxons staggering into the distance. I stood where he stood, at the peak Of the mountain; I looked back down at the day and realised it was true what he said: Battles are bloody affairs, what was shining armour is now blood stained pages. T’was a shame old Harry got shot in the eye: he’s blind to the devastation we’d done to his offspring. It’s amazing what a crown can do to us, but never the less we had won the land Reclaimed it from the devil And now we had what we came for; our nation. Jaynil Patel 22


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Tom Marlowe-Gilks

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The Legacy of Lance Lance Edward Armstrong, on the 18th January 2013, confessed to Oprah Winfrey and the international stage about his decades-long doping. By pure coincidence, the next morning I was on my way to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge to receive the first part of my second course of chemotherapy for testicular cancer, the same disease Lance had. Rather surreally, the ever-jovial Chris Evans was the bringer of bad news on that cold morning, as me and mum had made listening to Evan’s show on every journey morning. Before the 18th, even though the allegations had already been made and credited, I had refused to listen to the heresy. As director of The Armstrong Lie Alex Gibney put it: “We wanted to believe the beautiful lie, rather than accept the ugly truth”. I respected Lance for what he had done, not just for the Olympic medal and the seven Tour de France wins, but mostly for the cancer he had gotten through, which had (arguably) been more dangerous than my own. Lance was a shred of security for me in a very perilous and unstable period. He had reached a mythological status; which is perhaps why, like Icarus, he fell to mortal status so destructively. We have discredited Lance for his doping, but what do we really know about it? Firstly, he took regular blood transfusions, both homologous and autologous. This means that he took blood transfusions from donors or from his own blood so that, when he came to race, he would have more erythrocytes, or red blood cells, in his body. So his blood could transport more oxygen to his muscles, and less lactic acid would be produced. He also took testosterone (the male sex hormone) repeatedly, as it helped him to build muscle and become more aggressive during races. The steroids he took also had a similar effect as the testosterone. Finally, most infamously, Lance took EPO. Erythropoietin is a glycoprotein hormone which is produced in specialized peritubular cells in the kidney, and is then used by the bone marrow in the production of erythrocytes. So, basically, EPO increases red blood cell production. And an added bonus, for Lance at least, is that it has a half life of about five hours, so if he took it on a Tuesday, the drug test could not pick it up on a Wednesday. Interestingly, in his autobiography, Lance mentions taking EPO for his chemotherapy: “Ironically, I was given a red blood cell booster called Epogen (EPO). In any other situation, taking EPO would get me into trouble with the International Cycling Union and the International Olympic Committee, because it was considered performance-enhancing. But in my case, the EPO was hardly that. It was the only thing keeping me alive”. Audacious, to say the least. One year on, and the Armstrong debate still remains. It brought to light one of the most controversial questions in sport: what exactly is cheating? For example, many elite athletes like Great Britain’s road cycling team train at high altitudes whenever they can, as it increases the body’s capacity to produce erythrocytes over time. High altitude training has exactly the same effect as blood transfusions or indeed EPO. So, why is high altitude work not treated with the same illegality as these performance enhancers? Or, perhaps more fittingly, why are these performance-enhancers not treated with the same legality as high altitude training?

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To me, the answer is that the same result can either be worked for by, or added to the athlete. High altitude training is really tough because it requires the athlete to work at the same rate, and so produce the same power, at decreased oxygen levels. It’s like doing a jog or a bike ride whilst also breathing through a drinking straw. That same pain that the athlete has formed in their muscles will eventually lead to more erythrocytes, and therefore less pain and a faster time, when he/she does the same exercise the next day. What pain does the doper feel? A sharp sting as the blood transfusion needle enters their arm? There is a recurring counter-argument to my point of view in this debate, which is best put forward by the philosophers Peter Singer and Julian Savulescu. They argue that if all athletes where to take performance-enhancing drugs, the athlete’s genome, and therefore his/her natural aptitude at their sport, would no longer be a variable, as everyone would have the same amount of red blood cells etc. as their competitors. Natural talent, then, would become completely non-existent, and the person who worked the hardest would be the one who would win. I couldn’t disagree more with this view: although hard work is very important to me, any natural talent provides the most crucial variable in sport or any competition. Without natural talent, we wouldn’t have one or two “greats”; we’d have hundreds of “goods”. Through his incredibly complex use of performance-enhancing drugs, Lance’s legacy will be far less focussed on his seven Tour de France wins and his philanthropy, and much more on his doping. While some may not have a problem with his doping, to me at least, Lance Armstrong is “cheaters never prosper” manifested. When the USADA told the inquiry into Lance that he was involved in “The most sophisticated professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen” I was crushed. This announcement shook not only the world of cycling irrevocably, but also the whole concept of sport. Because of Lance’s lies and deceit, it is now almost impossible to look at any sports man or woman, from Sir Bradley Wiggins to Usain Bolt, without a twitch of suspicion. His actions have left a wound in sport which will take years to heal, and will undoubtedly leave a permanent scar. Max Williamson

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The Butcher Boy

by Patrick McCabe

When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs Nugent. I was hiding out by the river in a hole under a tangle of briars. It was a hide me and Joe made. Death to all dogs who enter here, we said. Except us of course.

McCabe tackles the entertaining and the disturbing, introducing us to rural 1960s Ireland in the process, in his insidiously funny book, “The Butcher Boy”. The devastating story of Francie Brady is one of loss and loneliness; his colloquial narrative and persona belies a character far darker in mentality. In addition, this probing novel will make you question what is right and wrong as you witness the degradation of a character you feel you’ve known all your life. This is the true conquest of McCabe’s book; his ability to make you connect with this boy that you have no likeness to, he is McCabe’s anti-hero. McCabe’s traditional black humour runs throughout, as his breathless pace whips you through a shockingly intimate account of a confused mind, yet lets you miss nothing. We are introduced to our narrator, Francie, in the extract above, as he hides from the police after “what he done on Mrs. Nugent”. Precisely what he did is revealed later. We witness first-hand the strain of his parents’ marriage; there is one particularly harrowing scene where Francie walks in on his mother about to hang herself. The true sadness of this is that Francie doesn’t realise the extent of the situation and merely asks for some sweets. It is this childlike innocence and naivety which is the true horror of Francie’s character. His father and uncle grew up in a Belfast orphanage waiting disconsolately for the father that never came, and now “Da” immerses himself in drink to forget that pain. Francie’s uncle, Alo, the family success story, got away to England and built a living for himself as a factory security man. This is a stark contrast to the Bradys’ next door neighbours, the Nugents. They are the perfect family in Francie’s eyes, which for him, is all the more reason to hate them. However, at the same time, Francie envies them: he wants to be a part of that loving and caring environment. The Nugents’ son, Philip, is in Francie’s class at school and is the snobbish, blazerwearing, stereotypical posh English boy that is designed to be disliked. His innumerable collection of comics sparks the interest of Francie and Joe, and they end up stealing them – a petty crime that is simply punished by a ticking off from Mrs Nugent. When Alo comes calling, the whole town visits the Brady household for a welcome party, only for it to be broken up by Benny’s (Francie’s father) outburst. This results in Francie running away from home and committing small robberies across Dublin in numerous shops, only to return to find his mother has committed suicide. Benny never lets Francie forget this, and blames him without reprieve. After Francie defecates in the Nugents’ house, fulfilling the label “pig” that Mrs Nugent placed on him, he follows in the footsteps of his father and is sent to a church-run home for wayward boys. And wayward priests...

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Francie is fortunate enough to be handed a job by the local butcher as he proves his worth by unflinchingly slaughtering a piglet. It is during this time that Francie takes up drinking and he specifically heads out at night with the local drunk looking for fights. Once again, Francie follows the same path that his father has; alcohol ultimately being the cause of his father’s death. One of the most sorrowful extracts of the book occurs when Francie comes back to find his father’s dead body, yet Francie doesn’t realise his father is dead and continues to talk to him and act as if everything is normal for weeks on end. It is through the slaughterhouse where he works that he’s provided with the bolt gun that ultimately decides Mrs Nugent’s fate. His progression from stealing comic books from a classmate to murder is complete – seemingly inevitable yet tragic for the reader as we realise the extent of Francie’s degradation. Dark and devastating, this is one of the most startling and original, and strongest, novels to come out of Ireland in the last 25 years. McCabe has created a classic. Cian Brittle

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Things of the Past Westminster Abbey, if you’ll ever visit, behind its high windows reveals itself be as much a revered vessel of England’s history as it is a crowded allotment space. (This I became acutely aware of when I realised my plastic chair was on the grave of William Ewart Gladstone.) Hoards of patrons have heavily decked the passageways; memorials and graven images abound like bric-a-brac. Wilberforce musing on an oval pedestal; past him, discoloured plaques ubiquitously studded; farther on, turn into an enclave and be jabbed by a tomb; and at the end, near Henry IV’s chapel, sarcophagi lumber the higher places: I thought I had walked into England’s attic. It was a temple devoted to once significant people’s schemes to remain significant after their deaths; what odd visions, thought I, do these remnants offer of the past. The Westminster Abbey is an establishment older than the semi-colon; thus so, I had not expected to find something tantamount to the hundreds of Latin phrases scrawled across medieval churches. But that is my conceit, and an idealistic criticism which masks the true nature of making your mark. While it is frowned upon in the context of school desks and the London Underground, it constitutes Britain’s, as indeed humanity’s, most prominent material legacy: the Anglo-Saxons’ sepulchral mossy swells and the pallid marble effigies down every broad road in Westminster. Humanity’s desire to be revered is a strong one, as so is to revere: people flock in their thousands to the great. What one should expect of a historical landmark is fickle thing, but why is it society expects something in the first place? Stuff, it would seem, is a good substitute for actually coming into contact with history; the nodular grain of a castle wall or the glass encased luminosity of a Georgian curiosity – something one can use to skim the scope of bygone visions and days. Historical places seem to promise a glitter about the past embedded into society’s imaginations – glitter which is certainly sprinkled by any respectable tourist destination. The lure of the glittery, perhaps some shining embroidery framing a fine view of 18th century landscaping, accompanies the lure of the great; as also does the notorious: droves are tugged across the channel by invisible barbed wire, to Flanders, Picardy, and Lorraine. Another powerful lure is that of the mundane: many face the daunting odds of a 105 minute train ride, two stopovers, and a short walk to inspect a 115 year old table spoon, “Because it’s there”; verily, a testament to our indelible drive to understand and experience the past; to an ongoing desire to trace the gestures of history and keep digging up more of it; swamping the gone world with today. Aside from feeding idealisms, the material legacy has a very concrete part to play in society; a part to play in the complex construct that is history. History is often perceived as a list of facts extending backwards. But, to begin with, what is a historical fact? George Orwell considered the nature of the past and present as pertaining to the physical in his novel 1984 (1949), highlighting facts’ intricacy: Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’

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‘In records. It is written down.’ ‘In records. And- ?’ ‘In the mind. In human memories. ‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’ “Whoever controls the present controls the past” is this philosophy’s blunt epithet. Indeed, were the UK government capable of removing all traces of Mickey Mouse: every gaudy ink cartoon, centimetre of film, and memory cell among the population, where in the scientifically observable vicinity of England would Mickey Mouse exist? Like a Celt’s snapped collar bone, he’d wait beneath the dust and soil to be unearthed; or maybe never, isolated from the pool of knowledge. Having history in one’s hands entails more weight than the average owner of a 1955 half-penny may realise. Or perhaps less, what would be the significance of such a penny compared to the information a 1955 census could provide? The freedom to know, as we know it, is granted by paper and electronic records: a plethora of time invested into form-filling, filing and archiving. Cromwell’s and Churchill’s words weren’t engraved into stone, save the odd plinth. etc. However, it is a lot of faith to place into flimsy mediums; time and time again events have been reconstructed solely through marbles that have rolled into dark places: In 1984 the protagonist Winston Smith ponders over the origins of a piece of coral encased in clear glass. The relativism of reconstruction beggars as to what underwrites historical fact. In our contemporary society virtual data delineates virtually everyone’s perceptions in the Western sphere and physical evidence seems less and less vital to recorded history; digitalising of world heritage is something in progress and very widespread. DEAM in Greece, for example, is an agent of the Ministry of Culture, while work 3D digitalising heritage sites with laser technology is practised by amateurs and professionals all over the globe. Could the material ever be replaced as literal cornerstones of fact? Objects to feel, lift and examine; every joint and touch of light. It doesn’t seem possible. Inane idiosyncratic fragments, like the afore mentioned coral, are absolutely bound to go ignored by schemes such as this; perhaps they shall one day help lift the marring shroud that inevitably must descend upon time’s wake, one which has the potential to turn opaque in an instant: a shortage of silver renders the current mode of wireless communication unfeasible, or when an overdue solar storm blasts away every circuit on the light side of planet earth. The Coliseum in Rome, if you’ll ever visit, is a giant crumbling dust bowl. The Roman monument for me only iterates in great force the absence of Romans; there haven’t been any 5 foot spectators to leap up and down its once maroon and canary yellow steps for over 2,000 years. An Edwardian style grey bricked house, however, with a dirty sheen of moss gives me warmth: it’s both closer to home, and to me in time, and I get the idea the past is not yet gone. Many things of the past we approach and rub against; rubbing with them is almost like rubbing shoulders for all those who care to. It is true that the modern trundles over the old on a daily basis; but for those that do it is this writer’s belief getting it out of one’s living room, out of one’s town, or out of one’s head will never become a completed exercise. Stanisław Bramiński

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From ‘Mosaic, Summer 1949’

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Mosaiquiz VI (And, we hope, of many more to come)

1. What happens if you press the crest on a monitor’s badge? (a) A light starts flashing on the Headmaster’s desk. (b) The Velcro comes undone. (c) The monitors’ room coffee machine makes a double espresso. 2. If a tree falls on the R.S department: (a) You don’t hear it. (b) You do hear it. (c) You didn’t do it. 3. Why do teachers wear gowns at events? (a) To artificially swell their numbers. (b) To conceal their ceremonial canes. (c) A lost bet from 1911. 4. With what are day houses marked on School plans? (a) “Here be monsters”. (b) Crossed sabres. (c) Abundant black marker. 5. What is the reward for 1000 merits? (a) A merit. (b) Three cups of coffee and a Twix from the staff room. (c) Dinner for two with the Head-Master.

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Alistair Blake

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Nature’s DeatH First, there was creation. The soft swaying of the Evergreen trees, the majestic surges of the clear blue seas. Nothing bad, One has only to smell the air to feel the scent of balance in the quiet world, Apes eat nuts like whales eat krill but they wait, they wait. Next, there comes development.... The smoky sparking of a small fire, the soft, low chanting from the tribal choirs. Nothing bad, nothing good, One will help them, because one does not fear them and so they remain innocent, Homo Habilis devour buffalo they caught but still they wait, they wait. Then, there is culture. The silent sailing of new books pages the sound of knowledge running through the ages. Nothing bad, nothing good, One stops helping them, but cannot stop them helping themselves to one, Homo Sapiens shape metal, harvest crops so they prepare, they prepare. Now, there is industry. The sharp swinging of saws on trees, the spilling of oil over the thick green seas Nothing good, One is fleeing, but will inevitably trip over the newly set traps of them. Humans kill whales, animals they whip and so they start, they start.

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Soon, there will be silence. Not the slightest sound will be explored, Nothing heard under the loud roar of man Nothing good, Nothing good, One has fallen and is surrounded by them. Will they strike and reduce one down to nothing larger than the small, insignificant being that they started as. Will they betray one? Will they grind one down until one’s so insignificant that it cannot help them and cannot stop them and after this, will they grind one down, to specks of dust? and so they conclude, they conclude. Ben Whitelaw

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We often learn the most from characters we struggle to like The title statement – ‘We often learn the most from characters we struggle to like’ – seems to challenge our very idea of the moral obligation of literature: from early childhood we have been told that Good wins over Evil and the heroes live Happily Ever After , but this is not – as we see in society today, and in the more challenging pieces of literature – always the case. Shakespeare’s Iago, a character rooted in his own hatred and desire, is someone from which we can, as readers, learn much: the importance of knowledge and trust in mankind, and how men and women influence one another, for better and for worse. Iago represents the darker side to the brain; that manipulative half that struggles to be set free on the world to make its mark , but is held back by the force of Good: the Good that Othello strives for. Othello, the man of honour, becomes distracted as the play goes on by the constant nagging of Iago, much like the constant nagging in the back of our brains when such neurotic thoughts of jealousy arise as they do in Othello’s mind. Thus, the dichotomy in the two principle characters in Shakespeare’s play represent the dichotomy of Good and Evil seen – as aforementioned – from the very early days of our reading history right through to the end. One of the better things a reader may take away from a good book is a further, deeper understanding of themselves: a sense of self-discovery is something avid readers strive for; so Iago illustrates to us, the readers, how we are deep down; he highlights our internal struggle, and therefore we learn from him – regardless of whether we like him as a character or not, he is fundamental to our understanding of Good and Evil. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the character of Iago is his motive for the revenge he enacts – why does he do them, despite ruining the lives of many; including his wife, Emilia, and his friends Rodorigo and Cassio – the most interesting thing being his seeming lack of motive. Some critics believe that from the quotation “I hate the Moor: / And it is thought abroad that ‘twixt my sheets / He has done my office” one can infer that Iago believes rumours are abound that Othello has been laying with Emilia. Thus Iago goes on, “I know not if’t be true, / But I, for mere suspicion in that kind, / Will do as if for surety,” and so begins the play’s most intricate rivalry of Othello versus Iago. William Hazlitt put Iago’s procedure best: “He is an amateur of tragedy in real life; and instead of employing his invention on imaginary characters, or long-forgotten incidents, he takes the bolder and more desperate course of getting up his plot at home, casts the principle parts among his nearest friends and connections, and rehearses it in downright earnest, with steady nerves and unabated resolution.” With this analogy we can learn not only about Iago’s desperate clawing for attention and power in the play, but can follow Shakespeare’s train of thought and make comparisons with other, non-fictional, members of our lives – and of society as a whole. Thus learning of motives, and perhaps pre-empting another creature of that most vile nature from rising: a very Brechtian idea indeed . Is this, therefore, Shakespeare’s motive for writing this play; specifically for writing in the villain Iago? Is it such that Shakespeare was warning his Jacobean audience of power-hungry men rising from the depths of Imperial Britain? Or was he merely being cruel only to be kind ; providing entertainment at the cost of most people’s moral dignity; showing that such an evil character up on the stage is somehow cathartic for the audience of the play: that we may relish in every twist and turn of Iago’s wicked mind. Othello was, indeed, based upon Un Capitano Moro by Cinthio , so it was not – like many other plays by Shakespeare – an original idea. But this reinvention does not, however, mean that there is no room for the Bard’s trademark creativity. A theme running throughout the play, that 35


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of duplicity, is worked and reworked by Shakespeare; such as the critical conversation in which Iago plants a seed of doubt in his general’s mind, “Men should be what they seem, / Or those that be not, would they might seem none.” In this, Othello pleads that all men be honest and just, or else be dead; and yet, he calls his ensign “Honest Iago,” a great many times, never seeing through his cunning ruse. Does, therefore, Shakespeare teach us something through Iago and the play more than about the blackness of his heart? Perhaps he teaches us about originality of ideas, and how we can mould something already in circulation to better reflect a point we want to make: as a politician might quote another in debate. Shakespeare remoulds Iago’s character to show that perhaps all is not as it seems. ‘Surely,’ one may ask, ‘there are positive aspects to Iago’s character and therefore things we may take away that make us better people?’ Perhaps so: undoubtedly Iago is a good soldier, throughout the play displaying his talents as a leader. The most important aspect of his greatness is his cunning, his wit and his ability to play the part of confidant and counsellor; himself remarking “And what’s he then that says I play the villain? / When this advice is free I give, and honest,” seemingly self-demeaning but yet bragging all along. This subtlety of character is something we see in leaders – politicians and royals – and even office workers and bosses today (often saying things such as ‘it was nothing’); are they influenced by Iago, then, and the message he left behind? Shakespeare’s influence on society is undoubted , and therefore maybe it is true that Iago somehow ‘rubbed off’ on society today, and our modesty and wit is as a result of his. How then, all being said, are we to receive this heartless creation of Shakespeare’s? It is clear that we are meant to take something away from the play: a moral message is under all the drama somewhere, but what is it? Is it that we should not judge great men by the colour of their skin? Of course, race is a huge factor in Othello, but let us not delve into that great pit; only to produce further issues and complications for ourselves. So no then, that is not what Iago represents to a modern (or in fact Jacobean) audience. Is it that, as stated earlier, Iago represents something of the human condition? Perhaps it is; he is the darkness within us, we strive to avoid our inner Iagos. So, with this knowledge, how do you solve a problem like Iago? We know that we must “overcome evil with good” so we must – in this example – find the way to conquer Iago. This is where Shakespeare’s ‘hero’ character fails: Othello never wins; he – although the hero ought to triumph over the villain – kills his own wife and then himself. And here is the crucial point: Shakespeare leaves us hanging; forcing the reader to beat down their inner Iagos all alone. And this is a way we learn, without the help of the playwright, more from a character we struggle to like – Iago – than we do from Othello, who leaves us with an empty feeling inside; a longing for some conclusion. Overall, therefore, we as an audience of Othello, or as readers of the play in print, learn much from Iago as a character and as a fragment of ourselves. In giving Iago form on the stage, Shakespeare takes away our need to try and explain our darkest thoughts and feelings to each other, and allows us as one to unite against this (surprisingly) common foe. Considering this, we see that we learn more from Iago than we would from the typical hero who goes on a journey and conquers over a great evil , and thus we must agree with the title statement. We do, indeed, ‘often learn the most from characters we struggle to like.’ Alex Horn 36


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An Exploration into Allen Ginsberg’s Use of Ambiguity and Allusion in Howl ‘Ambiguities within a text should be embraced rather than avoided.’ Howl is considered to be one of the defining literary works of the Beat Generation. Ginsberg’s very strong use of language and his stark and explicit depictions of illicit drug use and hetero- and homosexuality are factors in condemning capitalism and conformity in the United States. Ambiguous biographical references are used as a way of expressing complex themes and emotions, and of “denouncing the bourgeois idols of marketplace and decorum with the apocalyptic zest of a minor prophet” . Insanity is one of the many themes explored within the poem, and is probably the most prominent. At one point, Ginsberg writes that “with mother finally ******…a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet…” Ginsberg had a difficult relationship with his mother, who was not only mentally ill, but also tried to raise her children as Communists. This turbulence is evident in the very first line of the stanza, where Ginsberg deletes a word he would later admit was an expletive. This passage describes how his mother left their home and was confined to a mental institution, and there is a strong sense of hopelessness throughout. The use of the expletive suggests that it was at this point that Ginsberg had entirely given up hope for his mother; the “furnished room” being a metaphor for his mother’s mind – the last bit of sanity is gone. A “yellow paper rose” that he admits is “nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination” represents the hope he wishes he possessed. His repetition of “and the last” gives a sense of despair and an ‘end of days’ atmosphere to the stanza, but there is also a sense of panic and anguish present in emotive words such as “slammed” and “twisted”. Insanity runs throughout the entire poem in several ways. Firstly, Ginsberg uses it in a literal sense – in terms of a person’s mental state – as it was a matter that surrounded him for much of his life. The ambiguity of the stanza makes the event being described very unclear, leaving us with small, seemingly unconnected details, perhaps to place the reader in the fractured mind of Ginsberg’s mother as she views these events. Or, alternatively, to show the reader Ginsberg’s perspective; his young mind – he was not yet 17 when his mother was admitted to the mental hospital – incapable of fully comprehending the irrevocable change that was occurring in his life, but nevertheless psychologically scarred. It is because of his mother’s condition that Ginsberg felt sympathy for Solomon, “with whom he shared among the teeth and excrement of this life something that cannot be described but in the words he has used to describe it” , and it is also why the themes of insanity and mental illness are featured so heavily throughout this piece. In Part II of Howl, Ginsberg explores the state of industrial civilisation, represented in the poem by “Moloch”, the god featured in Leviticus to whom the Canaanites sacrificed their children. Anaphora is used in each part of the poem; Part II features as its fixed base the word “Moloch”, and is an allegory to the characters featured in Part I being sacrificed to this god. Moloch is also synonymous for the society Ginsberg found himself living in and wishing he could escape from. For example, “Moloch whose name is the mind!” connotes the idea of conditioning; America has been taken over by ‘Moloch’ and everyone has learnt to accept him. Furthermore, Ginsberg suggests that he is the only one who sees ‘Moloch’ for what he really is – damaging and evil. 37


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He “sits lonely” because no one can see America as he does. Ginsberg talks of how he is “a consciousness without a body”, suggesting that while he is the only one who sees things for the way they really are, he is powerless to make a difference. His body is his power; either that, or his support from others. Ginsberg also hints towards the recurrent theme of insanity in this passage; he states that he “dreams Angels”, because he is lonely and the angels are his hope and spiritual support. This exclamation is followed by a more obvious allusion, which suggests that his insanity stems from his loneliness. Alternatively, Ginsberg could be “crazy” as a result of his powerlessness, and frustration with the state of his society; an opinion no one seems to share. The theme of homosexuality is also presented alongside those of insanity and ‘Moloch’; Ginsberg uses a harsh, derogatory term as a way of describing homosexuals, but does so in order to explain that in his society, homosexuality was still regarded with contempt, and perhaps to suggest that those who were homosexual were considered ‘insane’. The line “Moloch the heavy judger of men!” further reflects the prejudice of the period. Ginsberg also tells us that the dependence on industry was destroying society; “breaking their backs” as they supported and fuelled it. Throughout this part, Ginsberg continues to reference and allude to the Bible and pop culture, in order to give his hellish, surreal vision some sort of place in reality. To Ginsberg, Moloch transcends legend and fiction. He chastises himself for being a homosexual because of the hate he faces, but he also accepts it because to him it symbolises rebellion in a uniformed society. Part III explores the themes of desperation and freedom, and directly addresses Carl Solomon. This part contains the fixed base of “I’m with you in Rockland”, before Ginsberg tells Solomon that “fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void…” If Part II presents Moloch as the enemy of America, Part III presents Solomon as the saviour – albeit a tragic saviour. Ginsberg returns to Biblical metaphors and spiritualism by comparing Solomon to Jesus, in that he sacrifices himself within his insane mind to free humanity from the evil of Moloch. This sacrifice allows their “own souls’ airplanes” to free them from the insane asylum – or alternatively, the metaphorical prison of Moloch in which they lie in a metaphorical coma of conformity. Ginsberg describes the airplanes’ bombs as being angelic, suggesting that for him it was a spiritual release from the “imaginary walls” that confined him; the suggestion there being that these walls were just in his head – linking back to the theme of mental states. Part III then crescendos at this point. The “skinny legions” are made up of all those who have been affected by the influence of Moloch, including mental patients. They have been physically, psychologically and metaphorically emaciated by the society in which they live. It is in this stanza that Ginsberg also satirically attacks America. The “starry-spangled shock of mercy” is an ironic description of the way Ginsberg believes the American authorities have treated their own people, particularly those suffering from mental illness.

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Ginsberg follows this up with a warning of “eternal war”; he depicts a world wherein the insane can break free from their confinement and oppose the society that condemned them and locked them away; “O victory forget your underwear” emphasises their rejection of conformity and their discovery of freedom, culminating in the exclamation of “we’re free”. This intense surge of passion is then followed by a quieter declaration of feeling, as Ginsberg tells Solomon that “in my dreams you walk dripping from a seajourney…in tears to the door of my cottage”. After this incredible peak of emotion, Solomon returns to Ginsberg, clearly exhausted by his journey and role of saviour, reflecting the way the reader feels after finishing the poem. Indeed, there is a scene in the 2010 film Howl, in which a character speaking at the 1957 obscenity trial claims “you feel like you’re going through the gutter when you read that stuff”. Juxtaposed against the events that precede it, this final stanza is made all the more tender, although Ginsberg admits that it was just in his dreams, representing his ethereal but nightmarish vision of society, his hope devoid of any reality. Ginsberg subtly implies his contempt for the society in which he is living – making comparisons between his life and the Bible, and satirising the extreme patriotism of Americans as a means of exploring and depicting his desperate longing for freedom. This is more obvious in his suggestion that Carl Solomon is the saviour of the American people, but less so in his condemnation of his own country. Ambiguity is represented by the emptiness of the “void” that is Carl Solomon’s head; Ginsberg is so desperate for change that he finds a saviour in a mental patient, and dreams a revolution. It also allows Ginsberg to eloquently denounce the authorities and industrial civilisation, without blatantly attacking them. Ginsberg uses ambiguity in an almost oxymoronic way. Howl is littered with explicit language, unreserved descriptions of addiction and sex, and savage depictions of traumatic experiences. Yet there is a certain subtlety to the poem, and Ginsberg hides his pain beneath numerous layers of filth, degradation and inhumanity. Initially, this ambiguity makes it difficult to detect these nuances and deeper meanings, but when analysed closer, the passion starts to come through, and Ginsberg bombards us with references and allusions that all present myriad different interpretations. This then presents some difficulty when writing about the ambiguity in Howl, but it does demonstrate why ambiguity within a text should be embraced rather than avoided, because it offers the reader so many different ways of understanding the piece and its writer. Logan Jones

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We often learn the most from the characters we find hard to like? In the play “Death of a Salesman” Arthur Miller deliberately creates a problem for the audience through the incorporation of the character Biff Loman. Biff is a character with many obvious flaws, such as his inability to hold down a job, or his nature of stealing. These flaws mean that the audience are not inclined to take a liking to him. However, it is actually through this character that Miller’s fundamental ideas and lessons are implied to the audience. This creates a conflict in the minds of the audience and encourages them to see beyond the initial judgements of a character that they may struggle to like, and instead consider the values they embody and represent beneath this initial appearance. Miler’s portrayal of the interaction between Biff and Willy Loman helps to both portray Biff in a negative light but also allows the education of the audience on key themes. On the one hand, the shattering realisation that Biff brings upon Willy through his statement that he is merely “a dime a dozen” has a significant impact upon the precipitation of Willy’s suicide at the conclusion of the play. This ruthless criticism of Willy is furthered through the quotation “you blew me so full of hot air… whose fault is it!” which helps to bring about the tragic demise of Willy Loman. As a result, the clear link between this confrontation of Willy’s “phoney dream” by Biff and Willy’s suicide helps to suggest the driving force that Biff plays in the tragic demise of our protagonist. Consequently, it means that the aggression of the syntax of Biff and its outcome means that as an audience we are unlikely to view him in a positive light. Arthur Miller’s inclusion of Biff’s confrontation of Willy’s own desires and illusions illustrates the notion that the “American Dream” and our own desires can cloud our sense of reality. Although on the surface this confrontation of the harsh reality may appear a brutal onslaught upon a “vulnerable” Willy, it acts as a reminder of Biff’s ability to speak the truth about life and to be able to break from the façade of the “American Dream”. As a result, it helps to highlight to the audience the importance of speaking your mind and not being swayed by the influences of society; in this case the “rat race of society”. Therefore, although the final confrontation between Willy and Biff initially casts him in an unappealing light, it nevertheless helps to imply the issue of the clouding of our own sense of reality by our emotions and desires; and the absence of such clouding is undeniably a positive attribute in Biff. Through Biff Loman we are also able to learn the importance of acknowledging our true desires and characteristics as opposed to being deterred by the influences around us. This is demonstrated to the audience through Biff’s acknowledgement that he is a “dime a dozen” as opposed to the “great leader of men” that Willy so desires him to be. The interaction between Biff and Willy “I am Willy Loman and you are Biff Loman!” highlights the desperation of Willy to pursue and achieve the “American Dream” and the desperation to persuade Biff to do so. However, Biff acknowledges these illusions of Willy, maintaining his desires and eventually fulfilling these. Overall this teaches us the importance of seeing through the illusions and pressures of those around us and pursuing what we feel is important to us.

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This is additionally highlighted to the audience by Miller’s juxtaposition of the desires of Happy and Biff. Whilst Happy dreams of wealth and material gains, these are not desire by Biff. As a result Miller uses Biff to express the opinion to the audience that you must acknowledge your own dreams, ambitions and place in society. But once again linking back to Biff’s interaction with Willy we can learn the vulnerability we have of becoming enveloped in these “phoney dreams”. We learn from Biff’s desire to break away from the “rat race” of the “American dream” that this desire for money is not for everybody, which links back to the initial point of not being influenced by the environment around us. Biff’s character allows us to learn that it is more important to be accepted and appreciated for who we truly are as opposed to the façade we put on to fit in with the “rat race” of social convention. In some ways Miller uses Biff as a medium to portray his own social critique of America. Willy appears to represent America whilst Biff those citizens that value the simple things in life over the “American dream”. The inability of Willy to accept Biff for who he truly desires to be, demonstrated by his blunt statement of “he’s lazy”, is used by Miller to suggest that American Society personified by Willy cannot understand and accept those that do not pursue the “American Dream” and instead a much simpler way of life. This creates the idea of the victimisation of those individuals such as Biff in the “rat race of American society”. Through this Miller educates the audience on the values of American society but also of the existence of this prejudice like opinion in civilization. I believe that Miller uses our own judgements on the surface of Biff and the dislike we take to him as a warning of the ease at which we can prejudge individuals much like the American society. As a result this suggests that it is actually through our disliking of Biff that we learn important notions about society and additionally about our own opinions and prejudgements. Finally throughout the play Biff has a constant focus upon the past and previous events be it Willy’s affair or his own sense of failure. This is shown in Act 1 where Biff states “ I’ve always made a point of not wasting my life…all I’ve done is waste my life”. Through this Miller highlights Biff’s recollection over a history of failure and additionally it is by means of these recollections from Biff that we learn about the importance of both acknowledging the past but additionally making a fluid transition into the future. This is an overarching theme throughout the book and Biff’s contribution to this is also aided by the layout of the stage itself as the stage directions from Miller state that “ we are aware of towering angular shapes behind it”, which allows us to see the modern city over the representation of an older 19th century. Additionally this is visually demonstrated as well by the description of the walls not being solid for scenes in the past as it allows characters such as Biff to move back and forth. As a result this movement of Biff between past and present highlights the importance of acknowledging the past but through his rejection of this label of a failure it educates the audience on the importance of progressing from this. However additionally the lack of solid walls especially for the transition of Biff from past to present helps to link back to my point upon the clouding of the mind by the “American Dream”. Miller may use these walls and Biff’s fluid transition between them as to remind us of the “mind forged manacles” that shackle those such as Willy that are possessed by these desires for material wealth. On the

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contrary the freedom of Biff allows us to learn the importance of breaking from the “rat race” of social expectation as to allow us to rid ourselves of these social constraints, which appear to be visually demonstrated to the audience through the set-up of the stage. In conclusion, by engaging with the character Biff and experiencing changing opinions of him the audience is actually able to learn the most, even though they may find difficult to warm to as a result of the stealing and driving force in precipitating the death of Willy. It is through Biff that Miller’s key themes are conveyed to the audience, especially with regards to the distinction between the realists and idealists within a society. Finally we are able to learn most about Miller’s own opinions and views of society in terms of the “American Dream” through Biff, who he uses to demonstrate to the audience his social critique of American culture. Robert Salvesen

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2014 Is Bedford School ready for revolution? The monitors solemnly swear they hear cannon balls rolling past the common room each time the chicken salad is served; every break, the school bell is a less regular echo than low mutterings of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” in the halls of C floor; and only last week young Eric Davison threw himself under the feet of the house relay runners for the sake of a better internet connection. (Alas: noble Davison was thwarted by a few good leaps.) Now while you didn’t get it from us – it’s a dead cert – when the staff room shall be stormed by comrades in their hundreds there shall be clenched in every hand and thrust triumphant to the ceilings: MOSAIC.



Mosaic