netherhallfebruary news 2013
young and underemployed also: right on! the radicalisation of american politics
contents Cover page: in this special edition, two writers give perspectives on the challenges facing britain’s young people. turn to p.12 for simon jared’s piece, and p.14 for luke wilkinson’s
CONTENT EDITOR Jonathan Parreño MANAGING EDITOR, DESIGN & SETTING Luke Wilkinson CONTRIBUTIONS AND ADVICE Peter Brown, Douglas Tatz, Sam Sotelo, Luke Wilkinson, Simon Jared, Alex Osborn, Philipp Wirtz, Jonathan Parreño. PHOTOGRAPHY Various CIRCULATION Netherhall News is sent by e-mail to current and past residents of Netherhall House. It is also available at http://www. nh.netherhall.org.uk/netherhall-magazine/
regular features editorial
Jonny parreño on the masked marauders
CONTACT US Would you like to be included in our mailing list, contribute to or express your opinion in Netherhall News? Write to: LUKE WILKINSON C/O NETHERHALL NEWS, NETHERHALL HOUSE, NUTLEY TERRACE, LONDON, NW3 5SA, U.K. or E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org DISCLAIMER All opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the authors concerned and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors of Netherhall News, Netherhall House, Netherhall Educational Association, or of Opus Dei.
peter brown is relieved to find that the new year hasn’t turned everything upside down
14 voice for the voiceless? a different perspective of britain’s young people
young and underemployed: getting a foot on the ladder
the number the most surprisgames: the story ing genius in english of the enigma literature
hamlet in the lounge: an american actor takes on shakespeare’s hero
22 right on! - america’s political right 24 flavours of east and west - byzantium 28 passing through
editorial a for anonymous, b for /b/ tard, v for vigilante... Jonny parreño on the masked marauders
hen I was asked by a friend back in November to write an article on the topic of vigilantism (and in particular the growing world of cyber vigilantism), I immediately thought of the character V from the film V for Vendetta (2005, dir. James McTeigue). V is consumed with an unquenchable thirst for revenge. One moment to me explains the self-perceived role of the extra-judiciary punisher. It comes from his bombastic introduction, a wonderfully worked piece of alliterative language delivered perfectly by Hugo Weaving to Evie, played by Natalie Portman: ‘The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive...’ (watch the rest of the speech, it’s quite amazing!). There are no more explanations to be made. ‘Justice’ must be carried out to scream a message. Another reason that V came to mind is because of his iconic mask. It has been adopted by the self-proclaimed cyber vigilantes, Anonymous, granting the group a more physically visible presence in protests such as the Occupy movement, and in some ways giving them the sense of being spiritual successors to V. Anonymous has successfully attacked large and impressive targets. To name only a few of the more noticeable organisations: Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Interpol, the Metropolitan Police and the FBI, the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and its Stock Exchange, the governments of Australia, Zimbabwe, district and federal governments of the USA, the Pentagon, Sony, Nintendo. A very sketchy description of the so-called hacker collective/hive mind/political hacktivists might be a loosely associated bunch of individuals who meet on imageboards, forums where a single original post of an image or text can spiral into a thread with hundreds of responses. Because there is no requirement to register, the default ‘handle’, another word for ‘username’, would be ‘Anonymous’; a name that would be latched onto. An image board is divided into subsections; for example, the section /b/ is a topic-free board, often designated as ‘random’, where anything can be discussed. No amount of Googling will give a satisfactory explanation as to why the letter ‘b’ is used. The closest I got was that /b/ follows /a/ (some say this stands for animated images). This frustrating inability to understand the significance of the letter /b/ is related strongly to the existence of Anonymous – it is pure internet slang; if you don’t know the community well enough, you will find it difficult to understand. This is where we might find the beginnings of the cyber vigilantes, the affectionately named ‘/b/tards’ immersed in the culture of internet lingo, internet memes, and internet attitudes, but where we also see the
interesting contrast to the Anonymous of today and the Anonymous of several years ago. What counts more than anything in this milieu is your ability to make others laugh with shocking – and I mean shocking – posts. Invariably this involves all manner of sexual, violent and abusive jokes, sometimes rolled into one and driven to extreme levels. In order to distinguish yourself, you need to have produced results, preferably the sort that reduces targets to frothing lumps of rage due to the stinging humiliation you deliver, which is made even worse (or from the other point of the view better) by the fact that the target can’t hit you back. In other words, you need to be a troll. And a troll always does things ‘for the lulz’, i.e. just for fun, no other reason.
“Anonymous has successfully attacked large targets such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Interpol, the London Metropolitn Police, the FBI, the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and its Stock Exchange, the governments of Australia, Zimbabwe, district and federal governments of the USA, the Pentagon, Sony, Nintendo”
This is the juvenile streak that can be found throughout their ‘Operations’. Some claim that the first real raid was carried out in 2006 by a large number of users in the online social game Habbo Hotel which is aimed at children and young teens, where various hotel rooms serve as visual chatrooms. At one point over the course of several days multiple accounts were created purely for the purpose of ‘closing’ the pool ‘due to Aids’. Every one of these users used an avatar (a visual figure to represent the user) of a black man with a large afro, wearing a suit. For whatever reason they would periodically take on formations such as swastikas. There are constant calls for the repeat of this raid even today. Another example of childishness is the reported attack on an IT company – one Anon felt insulted by customer service. But the motives of Anonymous are not unfathomably pointless. The media grabbed on to an event in 2008. In response to the Church of Scientology’s attempt to remove a leaked promotional video featuring Tom Cruise from Youtube, Anonymous released a ‘declaration of war’ in the form of another Youtube video. The theatricality of the whole affair was heightened by featuring a suited man with a question mark in place of his head and the UN logo behind him. Added to this were threats using a voice modulator to hide any possible association with gender or age: ‘We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.’ They proceeded to carry out a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack on the Church’s website. A DDoS in its most basic form is the bombardment of a webpage with requests to access it, leading to crashes. A crude but efficient disruption tactic and it remains a staple of the numerous offensive actions taken by the group. In the following days and weeks, small protests popped up in over 90 cities around the world, with all participants wearing V’s mask. There was also an incident involving a half-naked man who smeared himself with
Vaseline (amongst other things) and barged into a Scientologist branch. The success of Anonymous’s epic trolling lit up the entire online scene, particularly because it fed the vicious sense of humour of the affectionately called /b/tards. The actual impact upon the Church of Scientology is debatable but the symbolism of the protest cannot be doubted, and the mask was at the forefront of it all. Anonymous is also very destructive when it wants to be. According to an article by ArsTechnica.com, Aaron Barr, CEO of IT security firm HBGary boasted to one member of Anonymous in 2011 that he had infiltrated their chat rooms and successfully identified the real identities of Anonymous and it’s ‘leader’. The result? He was treated to a rapid deliverance of internet justice, Anonymous style. His company’s website was defaced, its servers DDoSsed, hacked into and plundered, emails grabbed and revealed for all to see, data destroyed, and an offshoot company run by Greg Holund (himself involved with IT security, particular the detection of rootkits) was taken down, its userbase similarly published. Considering the expertise and reputation of the companies (HBGary has worked with McAfee and had close correspondence with the NSA and Interpol among others), this was a crushing and humiliating blow. Perhaps its most technically ambitious and profitable raid was against the US-based intelligence and military strategy thinktank Stratfor. On the 24th December 2011, Anonymous repeated the achievements of the HBGary raid with additional trophies. Hundreds of credit card details (which were left unencrypted by Stratfor) were grabbed and a reported estimate of $700,000 was charged from the cards and donated to charities. Over five million emails implicating ethically question-
able relationships with the US Department of Defense (Stratfor’s website declares them to be ‘Independent - no ideology, bias or agenda’). Many other details were ‘dumped’ in various places online or handed over to Wikileaks. This was a milestone event, a concerted attempt covering several weeks of concentrated hacking. It showed the changing nature of Anonymous from a loose bunch of hackers looking for a cruel laugh into a focussed and politically charged body This isn’t to say that the entire population of Anonymous changed, nor that they had developed an established hierarchy. For the most part it remains a chaotic mix of individuals and small groups who at any time might jump on or off the current bandwagon. Anonymous can have very meaningful and positive impacts too. They were involved in the Arab Spring, helping to bypass communications blackouts and internet censorship. In Tunisia they attacked websites, smuggled in news reports and helped citizens avoid the censorship. One member of Anonymous who went by the handle of slim404 on the OpTunisia’s IRC (internet relay chat – a basic and much used chat service better known amongst technophiles) was a blogger named Slim Amamou. He was jailed in early 2011 then released to subsequently become Secretary of State for Sport and Youth. Later on he would resign in protest over continued censorship. In August 2011 when the San
“Anonymous can have very meaningful and positive impacts too. They were involved in the Arab Spring, helping bypass government censhorship. They lent their strength to the BARTS protests in San Fransisco. They try to hunt down websites or even investigate suspects linked to child abuse”
Francisco Bay Area Transport System (BARTS) was shutdown and mobile phone service was cut off, OpBARTS was launched online and in the streets; the cutting of service reminded the enraged Anons of Hosni Mubarak’s tactics and a hashtag #muBARTak was set up. Anonymous also works extremely hard to challenge what they see as inadequacies in local law enforcement, especially in cases involving child sexual abuse. They helped procure evidence against suspected Canadian paedophile Chris Forcand in 2007. In July 2012 they set up OpPedoChat, aiming to take down any child pornography sites that could be found by search engines. Last December they amassed a body of evidence to accuse (although the police statements claim wrongly) the purported abuser of Amanda Todd (see Puneet Talwar’s article for more info). Last month they began to concentrate efforts on the rape of a 16 year old teenager in Steubenville, Ohio. These are the only topics other than censorship that remain universally sacrosanct to the otherwise irreverent and fractious collective. Theatricality and disguise are the calling cards of Anonymous and there is an obvious connection to be made with the dramatic Guy Fawkes mask used by V. He sends enough crates of them to equip the entire population of London when they collectively march upon the totalitarian seat of power, the Houses of Parliament. When V detonates his disused tube train at West-
minster he finishes off what the 17th century Guy Fawkes had begun, and the sea of anonymous faces ripples in admiration; the implication is that the spirit of his rebellion will live on. But this is perhaps where our comparison ends. After admiring the fireworks the masked masses begin to show their faces and it is hard to see Anonymous taking this stance. Maybe this is for the best at this moment in time. The adopted mask is symbolic of the adoption of the umbrella term Anonymous, but at the same time it makes it difficult to separate the more passive protester and the active hacker, the white hats, the black hats and the grey hats (terms used to describe hackers and their respective philosophies). Anonymous brings up interesting questions for a society increasingly connected: our social postures both physical and virtual; the often unknown or ignored flaws in security. Above all I think they reveal the tendency for extreme cynicism often underlying a modern day world of financial crises and mass unemployment. These are important issues that need to be addressed. At the same time, Anonymous’s hits make one thing very clear. The internet is still very much a playground – and the teachers can’t control the kids.
director’ s notes peter brown is relieved to find that the new year hasn’t turned everything upside down
am delighted to be able to start this piece without having to write about the departure of yet another member of the Magazine team. Luke and Jonny are still in place! I couldn’t have faced leading off a third successive magazine article recounting the story of further departures. It would have started to resemble the monthly departure of players from Leeds United at the end of Peter Ridsdale’s disastrous spell as chairman of the great club in 2003-04. Instead, I can start with the wonderful news of the Oscar nomination for Head over Heels, the short animated film directed by Tim Reckart. Tim studied at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield between 2010 and 2012 and in that time spent most Saturday afternoons in Netherhall. We regard any success of his as a Netherhall success. We’ll be glued to the news when the winner is announced at the end of February but whether or not he gets the Oscar, Tim has done a fantastic job getting so far so early in his career. Congratulations Tim.
On the subject of Oscars, Oscar Alabau (2009-11), Ricard Rovirosa (2007-present) and Pablo Hernan (the Trio Satz) have sent a wonderful link to a recital they gave earlier this year in Madrid. This magazine frequently carries stories about the musical accomplishments of the residents. For those who don’t get a chance to attend recitals this is a great opportunity to see and hear how wonderful they are. The Trio Satz appear about 85 minutes into the video. www.classicalplanet.com/live/recientemente/grupos-piano/93
right: Lord nicholas windsor speaks at the christmas dinner in december far right, from top: lord nicholas addresses the residents, current resident dhrupad karwa, and former resident martin mathus also gave speeches, lord nicholas joins in with the house photo below: a still from timothy reckart’s film ‘head over heels’. visit facebook.com/headoverheelsfilm for more info
We don’t often have members of the Royal Family at Netherhall so it was a significant moment and a great honour to have Lord Nicholas Windsor as Guest of Honour at the 60th anniversary year Christmas Dinner in December. In his speech Lord Nicholas was able to talk about the other Diamond Jubilee celebrations of 2012 and how impressed he was with HM the Queen’s involvement in those celebrations. Lord Nicholas’s presence was a fitting way to end Netherhall’s anniversary year as it was his mother the Duchess of Kent who opened the New Wing in 1994.
“We’ll be glued to the news when the winner is announced at the end of February but whether or not he gets the Oscar, Tim has done a fantastic job getting so far so early in his career” netherhall news
â€œBack in about 2001 serious thought was given to discontinuing Carols and Punch as an activity of the House. Although copious amounts of mulled wine were being consumed by a small number of residents, only a handful of visitors attended. Thankfully we persevered with the event and now Carols and Punch is fast becoming the single most important social event in the Netherhall calendarâ€? 10
above: miguel anton and juan pablo luna lend voice to the choir left: netherhall’s own frank sinatra, charles piggott opposite top: reisdents and guests line up under the watchful eye of choirmaster ricard rovirosa. opposite bottom: carols and punch is now one of the best attended events in the netherhall year Back in about 2001 serious thought was given to discontinuing Carols and Punch as an activity of the House. Although copious amounts of mulled wine were being consumed by a small number of residents, only a handful of visitors attended. Thankfully we persevered with the event and now Carols and Punch is fast becoming the single most important social event in the Netherhall calendar. The 2012 version was another wonderful evening, attended by a so many people that we just about managed to squeeze into the multi -purpose room even with the doors opened into the central area. The success of Carols and Punch in recent years is in no small part due to Ricard Rovirosa gradually raising the musical level from the ‘sing along’ version of yesteryear to this year’s choral masterpiece with all the choristers having to attend intensive classes with the conductor, commencing 48 hours before the event! The leaked news that Charles Piggott (2011-12) would be on hand to sing ‘White Christmas’ and that Miguel Anton (2006-08, 2009-11)would be at the forefront of the choir guaranteed a large turnout.
special: lost generation? part 1
young and underemployed simon jared gives a personal account of the difficult work situation facing many young people in britain today
ust this month new figures have been released showing record youth unemployment across Europe. According to a report by the International Labour Organization, unemployment in the . UK for those 15-25 actively seeking work is still above 20%. In Spain it is now 56.5%, in France it is 24.9%, the lowest is Germany at 8.1%, but the average in the Eurozone is 24.4% and predicted to rise this year. Some media outlets already call those of us recently graduated or graduating soon the ‘lost generation’. More recent graduates still live with their parents than have done in previous years because they cannot afford rent. This generation is more educated, (and more in debt from that education), and less employed than our parents. It was after about two and a half months of sending off one application a day and getting not a single ‘yes’ that I decided to write this article. However it somehow did not seem right to write an article about unemployment when I had just returned from a skiing holiday with four other ‘young people’. Yet as I started thinking more about it, whilst these are all very shocking unemployment statistics, there is another problem which is very difficult to find frightening statistics for, but which blights my group of friends and many other young people: underemployment. By this I mean people who are hugely overqualified for the work they are doing and/or cannot get enough working hours. Allow me to give you some background for the five of us. Only one has what I would call a ‘proper’ job, by this I mean a job
which is full time, in the field he wants to work in and pays him enough to live independently from parental or benefits support (if you were wondering he is an engineering PhD candidate and researcher at Cambridge University). The rest of us are not so lucky as to have that sort of employment stability. One friend has a Master of Engineering degree from Oxford, two have Master of Arts degrees from the University of Kent, and I have a Master of Arts degree from King’s College London. We have, then, been in education more than the average person, and all of us are underemployed. A report done at the end of last year in Canada by the Certified General Association of Canada (CGA) showed that among young people ‘the consequences of underemployment for an individual may appear through the erosion or loss of skills, knowledge and abilities, diminished current and life-long income, job dissatisfaction and emotional distress which, in turn, may lead to deteriorating health’. Most underemployed people I know are bored, they hate their jobs, they feel unmotivated when it comes to searching for better and more relevant jobs, they are still living at home, in some cases well into their late twenties, they feel overwhelmingly under-challenged, and they are negative about their future chances because of all the statistics telling them they are part of a large number of people, and all the media companies labelling them the ‘lost generation’ or ‘generation rent’.
left: ‘lost generation’ has become a phrase used to describe the current generation of graduates who are leaving the pinnacle of the uk’s education system to find themselves at the bottom of the job pile.
“You do not need to be up to date with your theatre history and your Hamlet to paint exhibition stands but that is exactly the position I am in”
Hopefully my friends and I will not fall victim to the consequences of underemployment described by the CGA, although we do unfortunately fit the description of ‘underemployed youths’. One of the Kent graduates is trying to get a job in events management. She was unemployed and living off a wealthy father until she recently got a job as a receptionist working unfortunately early and unsociable hours: she is also not content with her lot. The other Kent graduate is just finishing an internship for a theatre company that was earning him minimum wage, which is actually superb for an internship in the arts because they usually do not pay anything and expect students and graduates to work for free. He cannot, however, stay an intern forever and so in two weeks he will start a new job with the same company working part time for nine months to cover somebody’s maternity leave; although the company wanted to keep him, they did not actually have any jobs available. As you may expect my MA in Shakespeare Studies is useful for not much more than academia, lucky then that I have been applying to PhDs for the last few months. I recently managed to get a job and I now build exhibition stands for a company owned and run by my theatre intern friend’s dad because he got a few bookings for January and I was idle. You do not need to be up to date with your theatre history and your Hamlet to paint exhibition stands but that is exactly the position I am in. The Oxford graduate has a temporary contract for a small company testing road cars’ CO2 emissions... a job he finds boring, non-challenging and which he dislikes but sticks with because it is vaguely related to petroleum engineering – the industry he is trying to get a job in – and it is the only job he could get. It does not take a Masters in engineering (with a first at both undergraduate and graduate level, by the way) to drive cars around all day and write down how many miles per gallon of petrol the car did, yet that is exactly the position my friend is in. Unlike my Oxford friend, however, I quite like my temporary job. It’s not academia, it is mostly just painting with a bit of heavy lifting and woodwork thrown in, basic but enjoyable. But like my Oxford graduate friend I am nevertheless hoping that this job is only temporary and that I can start a ‘proper’ job by next September. Despite all the negative press, I for one remain optimistic. I can see my friends looking for jobs in ever more creative ways (including a rather hilarious story about my intern friend organising Christmas drinks at work just to chat to one of the most successful theatre producers in the country). We are more motivated to find better jobs than people like my older sister, who has been in employment for 6 years already, precisely because we have had terrible jobs that we hate. Underemployment may be potentially hugely problematic but as long as I can paint enough exhibition stands to scrape together enough money for a skiing holiday I cannot complain too much... unless of course I do not get onto a PhD course in September, in which case expect a seething article ranting on about how terrible youth unemployment is in eight or so months’ time... Simon Jared (2009-11) has recently finished a Master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London, and is now working as a professional exhibition-stand painter.
special: lost generation? part 2
voice for the voiceless? luke wilkinson advocates for a different perspective on britain’s young people
ecently, Tony Blair, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, spoke in my church on ‘Christian leadership’. Up to this point, my faith and my politics had been engaged in healthy dialogue, but suddenly they confronted each other in church. Just sitting in my seat became politicised. If I stayed, was I condoning his politics or agreeing with his view of how Christians should lead? On the other hand, if I got up and left, would I be undermining the leaders of my church who had invited him? I left rattled, thinking about my own comfortable place in the systems of societal power – particularly in relationship to the young people I work with as part of my job as a church-based youth worker in southwest London. Considering the position of relative power I enjoy as a result of my background – my class, my good education, my skin colour – I do very little to advocate for these young people. My background offers me unfair access to others like me, all of whom are higher up the ladder of power in our society than the young people I’m getting to know. I believe firmly in advocating on their behalf to the Source of all power, through prayer. Yet I have done very little to speak on their behalf to the powers of this world about the problems that face young people in this historical moment. Into my dilemma about power and how to use it comes a gospel story: Jairus coming to find Jesus on behalf of his sick daughter (Luke 8:40-56). Jairus encourages and shapes me into an advocate. Here I thought, is a man using his position of power as a religious leader to confidently approach Jesus, whom he knew could heal his daughter. Should I not likewise approach those who hold power on earth to change the social conditions which negatively affect young people? Keep reading the story, and another ‘powerless’ character is introduced – the sick woman whom no one has been able to heal. She doesn’t seem to need a knight in shining advocacy armour to come and be her ‘voice for the voiceless’. She manages to jostle through the crowd around Jesus and simply touch his cloak. She
“If young people have to live in a society where some have much and many have so little, won’t they grab any opportunity to access the symbols of a lifestyle which they are denied? The uprisings indicate that ‘acceptable’ ways of accessing power and making changes - education, hard work, engaging in political dialogue - are not working for those at the bottom of the pile” doesn’t need fancy words, a petition, or an introduction from a member of high society. She just reaches out and grabs what she needs from the source of power that she knows will heal her. Jesus feels that energy move from him into her body. A year ago in London, and across many other cities in the UK, there were huge uprisings of young people rioting and looting high-street shops for brand-name athletic shoes, designer clothes, TVs and computers. The behaviour was criminal and unacceptable, but the same could be said for the drive-for-profit behind
the consumer industries these items represent. If young people have to live in a society where some have much and many have so little, won’t they grab any opportunity to access the symbols of a lifestyle which they are denied? The uprisings indicate that ‘acceptable’ ways of accessing power and making changes – education, hard work, engaging in political dialogue – are not working for those at the bottom of the pile. The other day I was speaking with a young man who has been promised work on several occasions by a few different people, all of whom have let him down. He’s justifiably angry. As he described to me his treatment, I was struck by the power in his voice. My voice could never have the authority of speaking from an experience which is his alone. It is not my story. If I were to try and be a voice for him, I would actually be making him powerless. I listened and offered a few suggestions, but basically felt powerless to help. My reaction was entirely related to my own lack of power, not his. I’m ashamed of what this reveals in my heart – a deep-rooted desire to have power, to be in control.
and Jesus’ power to heal her, causes Jairus a period of unaccustomed disempowerment. Am I willing for this to happen to me? What would it mean if the systems that benefit me began to be dismantled: the employment value of the grades that look so shiny on my CV; the social value in the names of the school and university that I attended; the property systems that allow people like me to rent and buy in nice areas while many people struggle to pay rent in undesirable neighbourhoods, with no prospect of home ownership; the subtle unspoken systems that continue to place white people ahead of people of colour, men ahead of women? As long as I continue to benefit from these systems, I am complicit with them. But I can also use my position of power in this unjust system to try and make changes. I believe there is a biblical imperative to advocate for the powerless, but those of us who are privileged need not confuse ‘powerless’ with ‘voiceless’. To do so is to actively disempower people. People need the dignity of telling their own stories in their own voices.
Perhaps Jairus feels something similar as he witnesses the encounter between Jesus and the sick woman. He has done that which is within his power – he has come and found Jesus. That should have worked. He is a powerful and religious man. But this woman is holding them up.
Jairus comes to Jesus on behalf of his daughter because she is sick and cannot come herself. I am surrounded by powerful voices who are able to tell their own stories. I pray that I will have the wisdom to know when to speak, and the courage to stand aside and allow those from the margins to take their turn, even if, like Jairus, this means my own disempowerment and lack of control.
I imagine him beginning to rage inside, realising as time ticks on that his daughter could be dying, and there is nothing more he can do. The empowerment of the woman as she touches Jesus,
This article, by former resident Luke Wilkinson (2007-09), was originally published in 2012 in Conspire! Magazine under the title ‘In The Shadow Of Jairus’. http://conspiremag.com/
hamlet in the lounge Jonny parreño awakes from an enchanting evening at elsinore...or was it netherhall?
o be, or not to be: that is the question’. This iconic quote from a tortured young Hamlet has been, and will continue to be, expressed in infinite shades of pain, and it is one which actor Michael Benz has delivered over one hundred times to packed out theatres in the UK and the US within the last two months. Having just returned from a highly successful tour of the US, the star of the Globe Touring Company’s Hamlet came to Netherhall on the 9th of January to share his experiences and reflections on how he came to a job that fulfilled his dreams. Michael was born in the Royal Free Hospital, just around the corner from Netherhall House to American parents. As a child he already had the strong desire to act, perhaps being inspired, he said, by watching Home Alone. Unlike many young actors, his parents did not encourage his choice, and he said that as a nine or ten-year old he would be sit by himself searching the Yellow Pages telephone directory for any sort of casting advertisements. When he was around ten or eleven, his parish church, St Mary’s RC Church in Hampstead, launched a fundraising campaign to repair the roof. One of the events was a poetry-reading
night with the renowned Judie Dench and her husband, the actor Michael Williams (who died in 2001 from lung cancer), who were parishioners there. This was a life-changing moment for Michael Benz as he approached the famous couple, even though he had no idea who they were, with flowers from the parish. For the first time he came into contact with the beauties of poetry, particularly with the spoken word, and he never forgot it. Eventually he landed himself a role through an audition at school, as the protagonist Mike in Mike and Angelo, a family sitcom based around an American child living in the UK. Quite appropriate for Michael! The sitcom ran for six years after which Michael was involved in many other productions until he turned sixteen. By that age, however, he said that he had become disillusioned with the world of television. Waking up at 5am, he would be met by his driver who would take him to the studio at 6. Here he would stay all day, treated like royalty until 6pm where he would go home exhausted, preparing himself for the next day and the next. It was unfulfilling for him and he decided to give up acting for a while, studying his GCSEs and A Levels here in the UK and moving to
“The reception of an audience is always different. Some have little to no experience of a Shakespeare play. Some have a lot more. Often there is a difficult language barrier, particularly concerning some of the more ribald jokes” Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. to get a degree in Psychology. However, he hadn’t forgotten the experience he had when he was a young child listening to the melody of two actors’ voices reading beautiful verse, nor had he completely discarded his love of acting. He took part in acting groups at university, starring in many plays. When he returned to England after his studies he decided to pursue his decision of dedicating himself to the vocation of the theatre actor. Attending intense Shakespeare courses in stage performance at RADA prepared him well, and within a year he got the opportunity to be a part of the Globe Touring Company. They played indoors and outdoors, in relatively unknown halls and world famous ones. They never stopped, not even for wind and rain. In fact when they were playing at St. Ives on an outdoor stage, the weather was so bad that the rain was ‘almost horizontal’, and it was lashing at his eyes to the point that he almost couldn’t see. The number of people in the audience could be counted on the fingers of both hands. There were more magical atmospheres where they played, such as the Bodleian garden in Oxford. It was at Oxford that another interesting factor came up. The reception of an audience is always different. Some have little to no experience of a Shakespeare play. Some have a lot more. Often there is a difficult language barrier, particularly concerning some of the more ribald jokes. In particular, in Act 5, Scene 2, ll. 135-136 Horatio and Hamlet have the following repartee: Horatio: This lawping runs away with the shell on his head. Hamlet: He did comply, sir with his dug before he sucked it. This amusing 16th century joke is often lost upon the audience (and I shall leave it to you to find a more up to date translation!) except, Michael said, for the occasional guffaw of a few people here and there – undoubtedly belonging to an academic when
they were playing at Oxford. There are also differences between an American and a British audience. On our part, we are generally used to the mention of Shakespeare even if we aren’t really familiar with his works. In a way it tints our view; we’re always conscious of Shakespeare’s presence and many of us educated here will have taken Shakespeare as a compulsory part of GCSE level English. On the other side of the pond it’s less apparent. The audiences go to the theatre with a greater sense of reverence, Michael said; it would be more of a special occasion because Shakespeare productions are less common. Of course the archaic jokes are mostly lost on American audiences too, so that is something we share in common. In the US the audience is much more likely to want to meet the actors after the show and to ask for autographs. Mondays, according to Michael, also tend to be the more engaged audience. He suggested that it was due to the fact that season ticket holders would probably have booked the tickets months in advance, thus they would be more prepared, perhaps less spontaneous than the theatre goer who decides on the day that they simply want to see a good play. Each theatre critic or theatre goer will have certain expectations of the tragedy they are to witness, but for me the spellbinding moments created by our guest speaker so effortlessly when he would launch into one of Hamlet’s speeches without warning, delivered in the intimacy afforded by Netherhall’s lounge, were moments to be drawn in to the world of make-believe with an innocence that made the experience that much more indescribable. Even if that’s just the bias of an English student, I can only wish that everyone else’s silence in the room signalled a similar reaction. Jonathan Parreño is a second year English Literature student at King’s College London. He is in his second year at Netherhall.
jane austen alex osborn on the most surprising genius in english literature
ho here’, he asked, ‘does not know who Jane Austen is?’ Thankfully, almost everyone had heard of her at least. But what of her significance, her extraordinary talent, and her unique status in the English literary canon? A more muted reaction naturally. The man who later described himself on his departure as Jane Austen’s ‘representative on earth’ was here to convince us of just that. Professor John Mullan last visited in 2010 when he gave a highly engaging talk on Shakespeare, and he returned to Netherhall House on 19th of November, 2012, to talk about Jane Austen. Shakespeare is a topic of some considerable significance to many visitors to this country. Austen, however, might prove a slightly more distant cultural figure. She was a Hampshire rector’s daughter, largely brought up in a world on the lower fringes of the landed gentry. As Professor Mullan emphasised, she lived in an age dominated and distinguished by its literary ‘sets’ and exchanges, yet she did not mix or correspond with any of her glamorous Romantic contemporaries such as Wordsworth, Shelley or Coleridge in the literary salons of London. She is particularly unusual in the sense that she personally knew not a single notable author, nor did she engage with any kind of literary ‘network’. Hence, she has been described by many as the most ‘surprising genius’ in English literature. She only produced six full novels, yet her popularity is enormous; her fans’ devotion and commitment to her work and legacy is unparalleled. The fact that even our foreign friends had heard her name was testament to one of Professor Mullan’s opening points, that Jane Austen is one of the very few authors with whom you can go completely around the world and trust that people have heard of who she is. The only other two authors with which this is possible are two similarly great pillars of English literary tradition – Shakespeare, as already mentioned above, and Dickens. No other enjoys the same kind of universal literary appeal as she does. Lovers of Austen’s fiction are often those kinds of people who relish waiting to catch out and trap the less knowledgeable in debates about seemingly insignificant, unimportant things. This is because the appeal of Jane Austen’s fiction often lies in the importance of subtlety and little details in her work. Professor Mullan is one of the most prolific academic authorities on Austen at present, yet even he has been caught out by a group has regularly consulted for research purposes over the years. The Jane Austen Society is mostly made up of middle aged ladies display the kind of singular obsession and voracious appetite for minutiae that is common amongst Austen’s most loyal readers: they know almost every single detail of each of the six novels inside out. Professor Mullan has compiled the results of almost ten years of
research into a single book, What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved, published in June 2012, in which he dissects such unresolved ‘puzzles’ in Austen’s fiction such as: ‘Why is it risky to go to the seaside?’ (Emma, the eponymous protagonist, seemingly has the answer: ‘The sea is rarely of any use to any body. I am sure it almost killed me once’. Emma, I. xii) and ‘Do we ever see the lower classes?’ The book is a marvellous example of quasi-detective investigation into how one of our great author’s mind worked, both when she structured her fiction in the planning stages and when she eventually put pen to paper. The interconnectedness of detail in her novels, in Professor Mullan’s own words in the Introduction to his book, ‘is the reason why, when you re-read her novels, you have the experience of suddenly noticing some crucial detail that you have never noticed before, and realising how demanding she is of your attention... one of the special delights of reading Jane Austen is in becoming as clever and discerning as the author herself ’. The crux of Professor Mullan’s talk was his exposition of the unique subtlety of Austen’s narrative technique, on which the greatest part of her reputation stands. He quoted Virginia Woolf, the high modernist writer and essayist, in saying that ‘of all great writers, she (Jane Austen) is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness’. This is because there is no single scene or dramatic episode in Austen’s fiction that epitomises that sense of greatness. Rather it is found in the way that Austen relays the information to the reader. She was the first ever exponent of what is known in literary study as the ‘free indirect discourse’ mode of narration.
opposite left: a portrait of jane austen left: frontispiece of an 1833 edition of emma right and below: jane austen’s characters have been brought to life on screen in several different adaptations. Here are pictured mr collin, elizabeth and charlotte from an iconic 1995 tv series of pride & prejudice
“the appeal of Jane Austen’s fiction often lies in the importance of subtlety and little details in her work” This is where the narrator adopts a viewpoint that is suffused by the character’s own consciousness. Austen was a pioneer of a kind of orchestrated ‘slippage’ in the omniscient narrator’s manner of articulation about characters and the events in which they engage. One example in Pride and Prejudice is when the narrator details the Bennet family’s desire to ‘tax Mr Bingley with having promised on his first coming into the country to give a ball at Netherfield’. We naturally believe that this is the detached, nonindividualised voice of the narrator who is not directly involved in the action; however, the narrator’s words have temporarily adopted the style and intonation of Lydia Bennet, the youngest Bennet daughter, with her endless desire for balls and entertainment at which she can potentially meet an array of eligible,
rich bachelors. The narratorial stance then switches out of Lydia’s natural consciousness almost seamlessly to give a concentrated, concise character description of the excitable young woman, ‘full of high animal spirits and a natural self-consequence’, creating a deliberately circumspect but comic impression of her. As well as this, Austen also began a narrative trend by which the narrator may not directly imitate a character’s voice and mannerisms, and hence ‘adopt’ their consciousness, but where the narrator’s description is delivered through the perspective of the character they are describing. It is an ingenious technique of which Austen was a master, and no one subsequently has been able to imitate it to quite an equal extent, or at just the correct pitch. Another example is when the overbearing Mrs Bennet profusely apologises to Mr Bingley: ‘Mrs Bennet began repeating her thanks to Mr Bingley’. On the surface, a very simple factual description of a character’s actions. But, as Professor Mullan instructed us to do whenever we read Austen, look closer. Direct narration might simply be: ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr Bingley!’ said Mrs Bennet. Austen doesn’t provide us with this satisfaction. Instead, we are told merely that she offers her thanks, but remain unenlightened as to what the woman actually says, or what her motivations are for doing so. We witness a very obvious demonstration of what Mrs Bennet is like as a character, but we are stopped from pigeon-holing her by being able to claim evidence for this based on
above: romola garai as emma in a 2009 bbc adaptation her words, because we are given none to work with. For new readers to Austen, this might seem a deliberately complex and distracting way of narrating a story. Why not just tell us things and describe individuals ‘as they are’? However, Professor Mullan’s examples are trying to tell us that great stories, and great depictions of recognisable human characters, with all their sillinesses, prejudices, false impressions and indirectness laid before us, gain their strength by withholding the definitive conclusions we can make about people and the things that happen to them. The ‘point’ of Pride and Prejudice is arguably to demonstrate the futility and vagaries attached to forming definite impressions or conclusions about people, because they are, simply, often wrong - either inaccurate, distorted by what we want to see rather than what is there, or misinformed as a result of other people’s desire to get what they want – not a very distant world from our own. As Professor Mullan was eager to point out, Austen has enjoyed a huge cultural and critical revival in recent years. In the mid-nineteenth century, her works had a reasonable degree of popularity, but were not bestsellers – primarily because in a world experiencing a cataclysmic level of social change and disruption the expanding Victorian reading public preferred to see confident and didactic moral strictures being provided for us like in the works of Charles Dickens or George Eliot. In terms of critical standing, the renowned Cambridge literary critic F.R. Leavis catapulted Jane Austen back to the top echelons after naming her in his 1948 work The Great Tradition as one of the four greatest English authors of all time, alongside Joseph Conrad, Henry James and George Eliot. Very recently, Austen has somewhat become another cultural phenomenon. Television and film adaptations of her novels, most famously the 1995 BBC serial adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are some of the most popular programmes, in terms of
pure viewing figures, watched in history. Jane Austen paraphernalia can be found all around us, and flocks of visitors embark on pilgrimages to both her cottage in Chawton in Hampshire, where she lived for the latter part of her life and which now houses the Jane Austen’s House Museum, and Winchester Cathedral, where she is buried, every year. Her famous portable writing desk, in which is she alleged to have blotted and hid her manuscripts every time her father walked into the room, is the stuff of literary legend, and is currently housed in the British Library as a staple feature of their ‘Treasures of the British Library’ exhibition. Her works sometimes painfully remind us of a time when women clearly did not have a sufficient level of emancipation required for them to write – the original frontispiece (an illustration facing the title page) of Sense and Sensibility labels the female author as an almost shocking oddity by naming the novel pointedly as ‘Sense and Sensibility: A Novel by a Lady’. Despite this, her renewing popularity in both popular culture and the academic world of the schoolroom and lecture theatre connects her profoundly in many ways with a distinctly ‘modern’ age. Professor Mullan’s central point was that even though she had what many would condemn as a highly limited novelistic outlook, her six main works arguably being about the same theme and located in exactly the same social niche, her pioneering literary technique and her ability to depict human beings so accurately yet in so subtle and ironic a way, and with such an exquisite touch, makes her one of the greatest commentators on human nature ever. As Professor Mullan says simply in his book: ‘Accuracy is her genius’ – remarkably, considering that she never felt the need to look five miles beyond her father’s rectory for inspiration. Alexander Osborn is in his second year studying English Literature at University College London, and in his second year at Netherhall.
TIMOTHy RECKART - Writer,
Timo moti his p Univ eratu Scho our congratulations go to tim reckhart on the nomination of his short film ‘head over heels’ for an oscar (short film - animated). The film was created by tim and his peers on Timo a a master’s course in ‘Directing Animation’ at the national film and television school, and mati portrays the emotional distance between a long-married husband and wife which has resulted in an unusual living arrangement. Tim was a regular visitor to netherhall while actio studying and making the film. gart and St. Louis Film Festival, among Artist Development Fellowship, an and children’s television to feature a TV series while continuing work
head over heels oscar nomination for student film
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right on! making sense of the political right’s emergence in contemporary america. sam sotelo reports.
eing American has proven to be a problematic identity for me. On many levels America still proves to be the most influential and powerful country in the world with the highest GDP but also seemingly the most imperialistic with the highest military budget in the world. The economy has tanked and I as well as my friends feel there are little to no prospects for us now in our country. As a minority I bear witness to the constant changes of a country that is polarized not only by demographics but extremely so with politics. Thus the coming of Professor Anatol Lieven to Netherhall on 14th of January was an interesting opportunity for me to engage with this problem. Professor Lieven is the Chair of International Relations in the War Studies Department of King’s College, London. He studied at Cambridge where he received a BA in history and a PhD in political science. Despite having known most of what was in the talk, I nonetheless found Professor Lieven’s talk as a well done account which helped me reinforce my understandings of the current American socio-economic and political landscape. He began by explaining the two-party system and how it functioned. He explained that the Democratic Party represented a more left-wing leaning disposition with progressive politics, while the Republican Party is characterized by right-wing, conservative beliefs. Historically, however, the parties have shifted tremendously in ideology. Before the American Civil War, the parties actually held opposing ideologies to their contemporary versions, with the Republicans being more liberal and the Democrats more conservative. It was not until after the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency (Democrat) that the contemporary ideologies began to appear within the parties and the growing dominance of the two-party system appeared in the US. Historically, the largest and to a degree the most politically ubiquitous class in the US has been middle class whites. The Republican Party politicians have represented the political ideologies of many of these whites, even if less so socio-economically. The party has sold itself as respecting what is considered the ‘ethos’ of America and its values. This includes hard work, modesty, nuclear family structure, land, home, stability, consumption, low taxes, laissez-faire policies and economics as well as national defence, and an ethnocentric culture and education. This, he suggested, is why the elderly and working class whites choose to explicitly vote for politicians who seem to not be interested in
Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers recently declared ‘I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious.’ helping them socio-economically – religion and tradition serve as greater priorities to these demographics. Due to the economic crisis in 2008 and outsourced labour, the middle class (which has been historically and currently been mostly reserved for nonethnic and/or assimilated whites) has begun to decline. These circumstances and scenarios are some of the reasons for the growing popularity of right-wing ideologies and politics. Due to these events and the general disposition of a US in decline, many of these people who have enjoyed middle-class positions have looked towards conservative principles to put the country ‘back on track,’ maintain their sense of historical comfort and impede their declining standard of living. They have led to the phenom-
enon of the Tea Party, a radical right-wing party that has recently been dividing the Republican Party from moderate conservatives to far right-wing purists. This faction has proven to be problematic, especially in a context in where the US’ demographics are changing rapidly. Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers recently declared ‘I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious.’ Professor Lieven then explained that due to the culture of immigration, the country has now found itself with a growing number of minorities, which is changing the political landscape. In many ways this is what led to the re-election of Obama. The Democrats have for sometime represented liberal and left-wing tendencies. However, this has been arguable due to the fact that both major parties have had rather moderate beliefs for the last half of the twentieth century (it is clear however that the Democrats are not as split as the Republicans and it has been speculated by some that the Republicans may not be able to recover from the last presidential loss). Due to the size and numbers of Hispanic immigrants, Hispanics have been able to retain their largest cultural attribute: the Spanish language. The fact is that this demographic has been for the most part able to undermine the historically dominant ethnocentric culture of WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) America. Professor Leiven pointed this out and that in states such as California and Texas there are now more minorities, with these minorities generally being Hispanic.
This rapid change in demographics has led to xenophobia within the country, especially in the southwest region of the country. I found Professor Lieven’s comments on race and the changing demographics of the US hit the nail on the head and as something very familiar, being a Hispanic person myself. Towards the end he began to critique the US government. He said that the US model was ill adapted for the twenty-first century. I was surprised, having been schooled at an early age that the US government was ideal. He also made a comment on how it was radical, even unthinkable for the constitution to be changed: ‘The constitution cannot be changed. Because of this sentiment as well as the structure of the government, it has become very ineffective.’ Once again I was confronted with my own indoctrination. I held these sentiments strongly as a US citizen. In many ways I agree with him. I am frustrated with the government for not completing its ‘duty’ and for Republicans frankly threatening to shutdown the government in order to make a point. The four-year terms are proving to be ever too short and the systems of checks and balances are becoming a method for one branch of government to block another and prevent action from occurring. It is interesting to witness and now better understand this call to neo-conservatism by a diminishing historical elite. I wonder if the Right can remain supreme, with the Tea Party gaining more momentum and the country in ever more entropy. Sam Sotelo is studying Fine Art at UCL Slade School of Fine Art.
flavours of east and west Netherhall navigates the history of the Byzantine Empire in a decidedly non-Byzantine manner. Philipp Wirtz reports.
veryone has heard the name. Occasionally, we hear the term ‘Byzantine’ used as a negative adjective meaning ‘convoluted’, or ‘incomprehensibly elaborate’, particularly pertaining to bureaucracy, particularly the kind nowadays found in Brussels. The term ‘Byzantine’ also conjures images of monasteries and icons shrouded in clouds of incense; otherwise it is largely a terra incognita in the Western European consciousness. Some enthusiasts with a slightly wider scope of reading might have heard about intrigue – spinning empresses and scheming eunuchs, about tales of extreme violence and sexual deviancy related by the Byzantine writer Procopius of Caesarea and repeated with gusto by the great English historian Edward Gibbon, whose point of view on Byzantium was less than complimentary. But generally, the word ‘Byzantium’ elicits blank stares from the average Netherhall student beavering away in the house library. The residents of Netherhall had an opportunity to have the record set straight on the 28th of January thanks to Dr. Aphrodite Papayianni, lecturer at Birkbeck College and Oxford University, where she teaches Ancient Greek and Byzantine history. One of the most surprising facts Dr. Papayianni told her audience was that the Byzantine Empire was not a ‘new’ creation arising out of a political or cultural void. Rather, it was a continuation of the Roman Empire, created when the emperor Constantine the Great moved the main capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium in 330 AD. This city, strategically placed between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, close to the rich, populous provinces of Egypt and Anatolia was henceforth known as Constantinople. The name remained in common use, for example (as Qustantiniye) on Ottoman coins, until 1930 when the Turkish Republic officially renamed it ‘Istanbul.’ A name which itself may be derived from the Greek expression eis tin polin, which means ‘to the city.’ Talk about lasting heritages… The state Constantine was head of was thus a variation and continuation of Rome, and the Byzantines saw themselves as such. In religion, Byzantium became Orthodox Christian (I beg to be allowed to leave out here details of schisms, councils and bishops coming to fisticuffs over three letters of the Creed), in culture and language Greek. But the political theory of the state, its administration and legislation remained firmly Roman. In this way, the empire of the Caesars lived on until 1453 AD, making Byzantium the longest lasting political entity of the Middle Ages. At the height of its power under the emperor Justinian I (ruled 527-565 AD), Byzantium ruled the Mediterranean from Syria to the south of Spain. In the centuries that followed, the realm of the Byzantine emperors may have gradually ‘melted’, but the empire displayed a remarkable resilience in the face of internal
unrest, plagues and – a theme recurring with the frequency of the human heartbeat – war to ward off invasions from every direction. Dr. Papyianni told her listeners that the Byzantine army went to war once every ten months on average! The wealth of the Byzantine lands and the prestige of its crown attracted a variety of attackers, first a succession of Germanic, Turkic and Slavic tribes attacking the border areas along the river Danube, then the Arabs moving into Syria and Egypt in the 7th century AD. The Byzantines managed to overcome their many difficulties partly by military power, partly by diplomacy so proverbially shrewd that it is still taught as exemplary in the politics courses of leading universities. Several groups of invaders laid siege to the capital itself, but were discouraged by the enormous fortifications of Constantinople, the awe-inspiring remains of which can still be seen today. The first to breach the capital’s defences were the knights of the fourth Crusade, who sacked Constantinople brutally in 1204, in a spirit which was far from what we now would call ecumenical…but the Byzantine state recovered even from this dire calamity and continued for another two hundred years, albeit reduced to the lands around the Aegean Sea, a shadow of its former glory. Around this time, numerous petty Turkish principalities arose in Anatolia, which would have remained footnotes in the history books had not one of them found itself caught between Byzantium and its more powerful Anatolian neighbours. The ‘sons of Osman’ (Osmanoğuları) decided to tackle the problem head on, crossed the Dardanelles and expanded into the southern Balkans. The Turks were used by the emperors as mercenaries, but eventually they became Byzantium’s nemesis. The domains of Byzantium melted away until the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 was almost an afterthought, politically speaking. The event did cause a stir in the Christian world, but practical reactions were few. Military help promised to the Byzantines did not materialise, plans for a Crusade against
opposite, from l-r: philipp wirtz, dr aphrodite papayianni, her colleague lee ross, peter brown.
the Ottoman Turks ended in half-hearted attempts. Byzantium had outlived its time as a force in world history. The survival of Byzantium as an idea, however, is one of the most remarkable phenomena in European history. There remained a strong Greek, Christian presence in the city itself as well as in the former Byzantine lands. Greece and the Balkans continued to be Christian under Ottoman rule, Church institutions established in the Byzantine empire survived, sometimes under attack, but generally unmolested. A patriarch has continued to hold office in the Fener (from Greek phanar, meaning ‘lighthouse’) neighbourhood of Istanbul from 1453 to the present day, even though his flock was sadly diminished by the population exchanges of the 1920s and 50s. But the empire’s heritage has lived on in many other, often surprising ways, as Dr. Papyianni told her audience. So strong was the prestige of the ‘second Rome’ that Sultan Mehmet II himself reportedly added the Caesar to his heretofore unremarkable list of titles. The Romanov tsars of Russia saw themselves as the heirs of Byzantium and so did the Austrian Habsburg emperors. Both dynasties adopted the Byzantine double-headed eagle, with its two heads looking east and west, as their symbol. Byzantine art was another main topic of Dr. Papyianni’s talk, and art – mainly but not exclusively mosaics, icons
above: the hagia sophia in istanbul
and architecture – is one of the main legacies Byzantium has left the world as a lasting heritage. The grandeur of Byzantium has inspired many western writers to imagine its splendours, perhaps most famously W. B. Yeats in his poem ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ (1928). Another British author who comes to mind in this context is the great traveller, writer and soldier Patrick Leigh Fermor. In Mani (1958), his famous travelogue about southern Greece, Fermor indulges in an episode of historical fantasy and imagines an heir to the throne of the Byzantine emperors being found and returned to Constantinople in all his former glory. This will most likely never happen, but many thousands of Christians in Southern and Eastern Europe continue to worship in Byzantine or Byzantine-style churches, according to rites established while the emperor still ruled on the Bosporus. Even in today’s Russia, President Putin maintains a close, but not always harmonious, relationship with the Orthodox clergy. A situation surprisingly similar to the one played out in the corridors of power in imperial Constantinople. The continuing vitality of Orthodox Christianity is another way in which Byzantium lives on in the present. Philipp Wirtz teaches history of the Middle East at SOAS, where he recently finished his PhD.
the number games dougie tatz decrypts the history behind the cracking of the enigma code
fter almost six long and bloody years, the Second World War finally came to a desperately desired close. While the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still spark heated debates about their impact upon the length of the war even to this day, a lesser known factor did have a definite reduction in the length of the war: code breaking. On Monday, January 21st, Netherhall House had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Nicolas Courtois, a Senior Lecturer in Cryptology at University College of London, who presented the background of code encryption and breaking, its background, and its role in World War II. Code encryption, as the term may imply, is the process through which information is made secret by a code known only to the members involved in the communication. Dr. Courtois explained that code encryption, and as an inevitable result, code breaking, have a long history. The process dates back to the 18th
century, when all the great powers of the time both encrypted their own written documents and attempted to break the codes of others. By the end of the century, Russia was successfully breaking the codes of all the great powers, the only exception being the Austro-Hungarian Empire. These two powers are attributed with being the leaders of modern â€˜military intelligence.â€™ The greatest disruption to the norms of code encryption came with the arrival of radio. Too useful to dismiss, the major powers quickly implemented radio into their regular communication practices. The widespread use of radio in turn necessitated routine encryption of the communications, giving birth to a new type of officer: the cipher officer. In addition to the regular radio operators, the cipher officers were responsible for encrypting the information sent from government offices and on the field during times of war.
Despite the new challenges of radio encryption, Russia maintained its code breaking superiority until a sudden decline due to the 1917 revolution. The newly created Polish state filled the void and quickly took the global lead after the revolutionary idea of employing mathematicians in the code-breaking teams. These mathematicians played a crucial role in the breaking of Enigma, the special encryption machine developed by the Germans for use during World War II. The first Enigma developed was simple in design and theory. The operator would press a letter on a keyboard, which lit up a corresponding cipher letter on the lampboard. However, a series of rotors would turn based upon a mathematical formula to ensure that the corresponding cipher letter was never the same, resulting in a complex pattern. One major weakness of the machine was that not every letter could be encrypted to match another, so that one letter always yielded itself. This weakness, in addition to operator mistakes, was vital to the cracking of the machine. Although the Germans developed methods to further complicate the machine, the Polish and British were still able to crack the machine after several attempts. Using previous knowledge from the cracking of the first Enigma, Alan Turning, a British cryptologist, developed a machine that mimicked the rotor turning of the Enigma. Turning’s machine, later improved by Gordon Welchman, proved invaluable to the successful cracking of the more complex Enigma machines, and inspired several other important projects in the cryptology field.
“The newly created Polish state filled the void and quickly took the global lead after the revolutionary idea of employing mathematicians in the code-breaking teams”
Despite their limited reputations, the code breakers of World War II played an important role in its conclusion. According to Dr. Courtois, a common complaint to the cryptologists was why, if they had broken the codes, they hadn’t ended the war earlier. ‘But we have!’ they responded. ‘The war would have continued for at least another year otherwise!’ Douglas Tatz studies Economics at International Relations in the States at Seton Hall University, New Jersey. He is here on exchange for one term, studying at the University of Westminster. It is his first year at Netherhall.
world youth day 2013 calling all young people!
razil has been in the spotlight of global media in recent years. The good news is that, unlike in the past, current news highlights its political and socio-economic achievements. Perhaps as a result of this, Brazil was awarded with hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. We can only expect Brazil to get more and more media coverage and world attention. The world will be looking west towards Brazil and so will Catholics. Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world. It is not a surprise then that the Holy Father has invited all young people to meet him in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013 for World Youth Day (WYD). ‘Before all else, I invite you once more to take part in this important event. The celebrated statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooking that beautiful Brazilian city will be an eloquent symbol for us. Christ’s open arms are a sign of his willingness to embrace all those who come to him, and his heart represents his immense love for everyone and for each of you. Let yourselves be drawn to Christ! Experience this encounter along with all the other young people who will converge on Rio for the next World Youth Day! Accept Christ’s love and you will be the witnesses so needed by our world.’ (Message of his Holiness Benedict XVI to young Catholics) Netherhall House will be echoing the Pope’s call and we will be taking a group to join him and thousands of other young Catholics from all over the world. But before doing that, we will be doing our bit to help and improve the quality of life of some of the host nation’s less fortunate people. Madrid was able to share with the young Catholics of the world some of its historical traditions such as the different ‘pasos’ (Christian imagery used during the Holy Easter processions), old churches including ‘La Almudena’, newer ones like Madrid’s Cathedral, and a 15th century gold monstrance that was displayed during the prayer of vigil. Brazil may not have the centuries of Catholic traditions that Spain has accumulated, but it still has something equally Christian to share, the desire to care for the poor and deprived. Volunteering project in Campo Alegre As Professor Pereira mentioned in his talk at Netherhall last December (see the Netherhall News December 2012 issue, pages 10-12), Brazil has made encouraging progress in tackling poverty, where emphasis has been placed on improving social inequality. However, as Professor Pereira stressed, there is still a very long way to go, as Brazil is still quite high on the international index for income inequality.
The organisers of WYD are coordinating volunteering projects all over Brazil and inviting some groups to join them in helping those more in need. Students from Netherhall House will be joining others from Brazil, Mexico and Spain in helping people in Campo Alegre, located nearly 600 km from Brasilia, Brazil’s capital. Campo Alegre’s population of 700 people needs support in areas such as health, nutrition, education, hygiene and other basic conditions. We are looking especially for medicine and dentistry students who can help in providing health treatment for the local population as well as healthcare orientation for families. We also want any other students to help refurbish the local day care centre, teach English to children and to deliver essential goods for families. If you would like to take part in the project or to sponsor one of our students going to the WYD and the social project please contact Alvaro Tintore, email@example.com
music recital series on saturday 19th of january, netherhall hosted a recital by sebastian millett and tony ingham left: peter brown with tony ingham and sebastian millett after their performance in netherhall below left: tony ingham studied at both the Royal Academy of Music (with Alexander Kelly) and the Royal College of Music (with Niel Immelman) as a pianist and joint first study cellist. Tony enjoys a varied musical career of accompanying and coaching strings, woodwind and voice. below right: Sebastian Millett enjoys his life as a concert cellist. His talent was recognized at the Royal College of Music where he won one of the most prestigious competitions, the Anthony Saltmarsh Prize. His busy schedule includes solo broadcasts, recitals and concertos across the UK and Europe.
news from former netherhall residents left: pietro roasario sent in this recent picture of him with his wife annalisa and daughters michela and caterina, as well a photo (below) of his netherhall days. the ‘mafia of netherhall’ are shown visiting buckingham palace (on shady business) in october 1998. from left to right: olivier coste, pedro guevara, paulo montuschi, roberto billi, pietro rosario, john langley.
top right: a surprise visit from alvaro camacho (summer boy 2010-12). from left to right: ricard rovirosa, pablo hinojo, alvaro camacho, peter brown, alvaro tintore. bottom right: a gathering of directors. peter brown met up peter herbert at london heathrow on new year’s eve at the end of the former director’s flying visit to the uk. Peter herbert was director of netherhall from 1988-96.
above: former resident (and netherhall newsâ€™s biggest fan) sergio maresca (1968-73) visited for approximately 10 minutes in december with his wife jan. right: a visit from maximilian majewski (2004-07) with his girlfriend angelica was a pleasant surprise for pablo hinojo in january this year. Max is now living in sweden below: russell wilcox (2004-07) spent 5 days at netherhall in december putting the world to rights. peter brown was most grateful for his input