Q MU NIC ATE Issue 136
From the Ed i to r - i n - C h ief Hello, and welcome to issue 136 of qmunicate, the QMU’s award winning magazine! We hope you’ve enjoyed the surprise snow over the past couple of weeks and have had the chance to sledge in Kelvingrove Park in your time off from lectures. If you’re still snowed in and waiting for spring to finally arrive, or if you’re developing cabin fever sat in the same spot in the library every day, qmunicate are always here to melt away your study session blues. Louise Wylie covers the ongoing UCU strike over proposed pension changes, and makes the case for supporting your lecturers on the picket line, while Kirsty Campbell looks at Oxford University’s controversial suggestion of giving women longer to complete exams in the hopes of narrowing the gender gap in mathematics. Elsewhere in this issue, Aike Jansen advises us on how to be eco-friendly on a student budget; Christina Schroeck tackles the eternal struggle of shopping for jeans; and Amy Irvine investigates the controversial ‘natural cycles’ app, selling itself as an ‘all natural’ alternative to contraception via Instagram ads. Jo Reid discusses the ever-growing running times in modern cinema; Paul Inglis takes a look at the role of placards at protests; Annina Claesson examines the dangers of biography in the wake of Fire and Fury’s sensationalised look inside the Trump White House, and our resident columnist Sarinah O’Donoghue shares advice on taking a year out from uni for your own mental health. We’ll be joining the pickets to support the UCU strike in the coming weeks, and we’d
Editor in Chief Clare Patterson Editors Amy Shimmin Anni Payne Chloë Tobin-Kemmer Imogen Whiteley Jeehan Ashercook Katie Athwal Katie Fannin
NEWS 4 4 5
Strike for your Rights Under Pressure War in Yemen
LIFESTYLE 6 Going Green 7 Denim Shop of Horrors 7 Natural Cycles
PHOTO: AIKE JANSEN
FILM 8 8 9
Review: Three Billboards Review: Loveless Marathon Runtimes
FEATURES 10 This Placard Supports Protests 12 Down the Rabbit Hole 13 A Step on the Ladder MUSIC 14 Releases: The Spook School 15 Live: Pitou urge you to do the same; show up at the main gate from 8-11am and join your fellow students and lecturers to let staff know you stand in solidarity. The marketization of education affects us all, and it’s important we all fight it together. If you like what you see in this issue and want to get involved, come along to our weekly contributors’ meetings, 5.30pm every Wednesday in the QMU Boardroom – we’d love to see you there!
ARTS & CULTURE 16 Review: Bold Girls 16 Review: Achilles 17 Fire and Fury QMUNICREATE 18
COLUMNS 19 Neurodiversity at University
All opinions expressed in this magazine are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent those of the Queen Margaret Union
Kirsty Campbell Liam Caldwell Nikola Anić Ronan Duff Stacey Anderson Žad Novak Images Aike Jansen Tasha Baldassarre Imogen Whiteley
Alex Pirinoli Thanks To The Snow UCU Fart Poopums March of the Penguins Hot Cross Buns All our Mums Learning how to bleed a radiator
In Spite Of Being the most biased organ on campus Victorian Fontf A big bag of snakes with the lads UUK Tesco being out of bread Buzzfeed Unsolved Glasgow Uni Election Watch Wish.com
Copy Editor Emma Heywood Cover by Imogen Whiteley @imogen.lucy Printing by ESP Ltd
STRIKE FOR YOUR RIGHTS
IMAGE: AIKE JANSEN
14 days of strike action by senior university staff are set to take place over a four week period starting from 22nd February, following disputes between academics and schools over proposed changes to their pensions. Members of the University and College Union will walk out of 61 institutions around the UK, after the employers’ union forced through reforms to the pension scheme that could leave staff around £10,000 a year worse off in retirement. One quarter of the senior academic and support staff at UoG are UCU members, and they voted overwhelmingly for strike action 89% yes, with a 57% turnout. It is hoped that a resolution can still be reached to halt the strikes, but the deadline is fast approaching. Principal and Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Vito Anton Muscatelli, first of his name and claimer of expenses for bottled water, has asked staff to reconsider the strike. Almost half of the lecturers at this university are employed on part-time, precarious contracts. They have also experienced real terms pay cuts in recent years. The changes to pensions are yet another blow to staff struggling with conditions and pay. The UCU have asked students to support the strike by emailing their vice chancellors and joining student demonstrations on strike days. If that isn’t possible, don’t cross the picket lines. Strikes have to be disruptive to have any effect, and boycotting the university on those days makes a statement. It’s understandable that this industrial action is inconvenient, especially for students with imminent deadlines, but staff need our support. Lecturers and support staff want to teach, but they can’t be expected to work for pennies, or to sacrifice a decent retirement. People working at this university, and in further and higher education around the country, deserve a decent pension once they retire from what can be a long and challenging career. And they need our backing now, so they can continue to teach and support generations of future students. [Louise Wylie @womanpendulum]
UNDER PRESSURE In an attempt to improve the performance gap in math pupils sitting exams, Oxford University once again hits the news accused of sexism. The mathematics department at Oxford said they have found a solution to only 7 women managing a first in their final math exam, as opposed to 45 male students achieving the equivalent: to give female students 15 minutes more time to complete the exam. Unsurprisingly, this was met with negative feedback as it blatantly demonstrates the belief that women are the ‘weaker sex’ and cannot cope successfully under pressure. To begin with, it is undoubtedly laudable that the department of mathematics acknowledged that it had a problem concerning gender differences in exam performance. However, this seems to place the blame on the women themselves, suggesting that they are simply not as competent as men under time pressure. Whilst positive discrimination may be useful in certain situations, this seems to be taking it too far. The solution to a difference in results is definitely not to give women easier exam situations. This would, if anything, denigrate the achievements that women do make. Oxford University’s method of addressing the gender dichotomy seems to indicate just how
ingrained sexism truly is. If the most logical solution to poorer grades amongst women seems to be the one implying that women innately do not have the same capabilities as men, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are issues around gender in the mathematics department. Labelling theory tends to suggest that there is often a sense of ‘selffulfilling prophecy’ in which people only do as well as they are told they are expected to. In this case women under exam conditions are likely to perform worse if they are informed women generally do poorly in exams. Thus, if anything, giving women more time than men to complete the exam, and in that way inferring that they are inevitably going to do worse than their male counterparts, could result in many more negative consequences than positive ones. Rather than supporting women in preparing for exams and dealing with time pressure, the mathematics department at Oxford has exhibited the need to treat women differently. Oxford’s measures seem to indicate a deeply rooted sexist belief of women’s inherent inferiority attempting to deal with the pressure and high expectations of sitting a mathematics exam. [Kirsty Campbell]
Y E M E N : C I V I L I A N S PAY T H E P R I C E I N A G L O B A L P R O X Y WA R
The complexities of recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria and throughout the Middle East have been well documented by global media for the past 5 years. However, the area’s—and the world’s—largest humanitarian crisis in the last 50 years is unfolding in Yemen in the shadows of the headline grabbing actions of Islamic State.
The conflict began during the Arab Spring of 2011 when the fighting broke out between the dictatorial government of President Ali Abed Allah Saleh and the protestors and dissidents who wished to overthrow him. After several months of violence, Saleh was replaced by Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, but very soon, Hadi’s attempts to reform Yemen were met with anger by the northern Houthis, who began an insurgency against the new government. The Houthi rebels, backed by Saleh, control much of northern Yemen and have occupied the capital city of Sana’a since 2014, pushing Hadi and his forces back to the port city of Aden on the south coast of the country. The two sides have been at war for the last three years, but the more recent involvement of foreign powers has escalated the situation and turned it into a microcosm for the various political, religious and military conflicts that exist in the region, with a Saudi-led coalition supporting the Sunni government of Hadi and Iran supporting the Shiite Houthis.
“Millions of people have had their lives destroyed by the conflict” The situation is made more problematic by the presence of a number of smaller factions operating in the region, including Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and AQAP (AlQaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), as well as the STC (Southern Transitional Council), a group which demands the secession of southern Yemen. Until recently, STC was in support of Hadi’s government. However, they have grown impatient with regards to their ultimate objective of secession, resulting in a fight breaking out in Aden between the two. The STC are themselves backed by the
United Arab Emirates, despite the fact that the UAE is part of the coalition supporting Hadi’s government.
Most concerning, however, is that it is not only Middle Eastern governments and states that have a dog in the fight when it comes to the conflict in Yemen. The most egregious element of the war is the military support that Western governments, notably the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada, have supplied to Saudi Arabia in the form of arms. In the first two years of Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen, £4.6 billion worth of British-made arms were sold to the gulf state. There was a 457% increase in the value of licenses covering bombs, missiles and countermeasures from the two years before the bombing began to the two years since. Given the evidence provided that shows how these arms have been used indiscriminately on both combatants and civilians alike, the UK’s continued profiteering from the conflict is a damning indictment of the morals of our politicians who, while hundreds of Yemenis die each day, accept generous donations, gifts and invitations from the Saudi Royal family. Furthermore, while the UK as a signatory to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions has agreed ‘to never use, produce, stockpile or transfer cluster munitions’ because of their imprecise targeting and the likelihood of civilian casualties, British-made cluster bombs are still in use in Yemen. With the UK insisting that the Saudi-led coalition is using cluster munitions that were imported in 1989 - decades before the convention was signed - the legal position on the UK continuing to support a military mission using such weapons is quite unclear. The moral position, on the other hand, is not. Cluster sub-munitions often remain unexploded, creating deadly minefields that are a threat to civilians for a long time even after the fighting in the area ceases. Cluster munitions are far from being the only concern. The latest horrifying development in the war has been Saudi forces’ blockade on all supplies coming to the Houthicontrolled north, which began in October of last year and, despite promises from the Saudi government, has still not been fully lifted. Last year’s outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria have ravaged the population.
Without medicine and clean water, which cannot pass through the blockade, such diseases are nearly impossible to treat and control. Due largely to disease and starvation, it is estimated that 50,000 children may have died last year in Yemen. As a result of the fighting, the bombing and the blockade on humanitarian supplies, millions of people have had their lives destroyed by the conflict. The death toll, which rises daily and is impossible to calculate precisely, stands in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. At least 20 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.
“It is not only Middle Eastern governments and states that have a dog in the fight” There are a number of groups on campus worth supporting, which are concerned with the situation in Yemen. The Glasgow University Arms Trade Initiative, ‘a campuswide campaign on Glasgow University’s involvement in the international Arms Trade’, held a talk by Kate Nevens from Campaign Against Arms Trade on the conflict in Yemen and the involvement of the United Kingdom in supplying munitions to Saudi Arabia. They are also planning to hold a demonstration in February to highlight these issues. In March, Glasgow Uni Unicef on Campus will be organising a concert intended to raise awareness of the harm being done to children in the Yemen conflict, and to raise funds which will go towards helping children who have been affected or are still at risk. [Tim Abrams @timabrams123]
IMAGE: AIKE JANSEN
Aike Jansen’s guide to eco-friendly living on a student budget There are tons of articles out there that aim to help you to do or be X on a student budget. Think being vegan, having good skin care or travelling. Whatever it is, it usually involves a lot of money, with the article aiming to suggest good ways to save. ‘How to be eco-friendly on a student budget?’ seems to fit into this list. Yet in fact, it doesn’t. Because being eco-friendly saves money, already, whether you are on student budget or not. How? Read on to find out all you need: 1. A tiny fold-up reusable bag This will save you at least 5p every time you do your shopping, but, more importantly, it ensures that another plastic bag is not added to the millions of tonnes of plastic waste ending up in our oceans each year. I used to take big bags if I went shopping for the week, but never had enough space in my everyday backpack to buy those few extra ingredients I needed for dinner or a library study session. Then, I did the simplest thing and put a reusable bag in the pocket of my jacket and I never have to get a plastic one anymore - or walk home with too many things in my arms because I refuse to buy one. 2. A reusable coffee cup and water bottle I know that getting a reusable coffee cup and water bottle does require an investment at first, but I bet you’ll have saved that money in less than a month. Buying a water bottle every day is, well, stupid, as water comes out of the tap for free and there are already an estimated 13 billion plastic bottles disposed of each year. Plastic can take up to 500 years to fully decompose and is killing one million sea creatures a year when it ends up in the ocean (which it will), and there are so many different beautiful water bottles out there. Get yourself one. Similarly, most single-use coffee cups are non-recyclable, and you literally save money when you buy a coffee (12p at the library, 25p at Costa and Starbucks, 50p at Pret). So, what are you waiting for? 3. An interrail card (instead of a plane ticket) If you have the money and a wish to do so, travelling in the summer is a great experience. A chance to get away from the stress of the library or work, exploring new countries and cultures. Yet getting to that exciting
destination often involves flying by plane, a way of travel that produces an enormous amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as water vapour which forms thin clouds at high level (the trails you can see in the sky behind planes) that have a warming effect. Not travelling at all is obviously the most eco-friendly option, but also the most boring, therefore travelling by train is a great alternative. If you compare a one-way journey from London to Manchester, a plane emits 63.9kg of CO2 per passenger (if the plane is 70% full), a train only 5.2 kg per passenger (if 70% full). Getting an interrail card in the summer to see ten different countries in Europe instead of flying to New York is thus highly recommended if you want to be eco-friendly, as well as adventurous. If travelling by plane is unavoidable, there are ways to compensate for the CO2-emissions your flight has produced. Companies will develop projects for local windmills in India, biogas installations in Cambodia or eco-friendly agriculture in Bolivia, resulting in a reduction of CO2 globally. You can buy this ‘compensation’ by adding it to your plane ticket or getting it from a separate company after your trip. While this will take some time to research, it ensures you can fly with a good conscience. Buying compensation for your flights easily falls within a student budget for a return flight Glasgow - Barcelona it is only £2.90. You will have easily saved this by using your reusable coffee cup! 4. Locally sourced veggies that are in season There are pros and cons to different diets, with eating a lot of meat being harmful to animals as well as the climate (meat production has a greater effect on producing greenhouses gasses than all emission from transport). On the other hand, following a vegan diet with many meat replacements leads to deforestation (forests get cut down to make way for soy-plantations) while being vegetarian leads to CO2 emissions for transportation of food (if you are eating veggies and fruit that are shipped from the other side of the world). Whatever you eat, ensure that you are conscious of the influence it has on the climate. Being eco-friendly definitely includes buying local produce, for example from a farmer’s market, and buying in season, to ensure the food is not grown in greenhouses that eat energy or are shipped across the globe to end up on your plate. And cut down on the meat, obviously. [Aike Jansen]
DENIM SHOP OF HORRORS Shopping can be wonderful – strolling through the city with your best friend – or your worst nightmare – getting your last Christmas presents on the 24th of December. But there is one shopping trip of doom that beats them all: buying a new pair of jeans. The main reason is that sizes don’t seem to mean anything. You could try on several pairs in the same size, one gives you room for a triplet pregnancy while another completely shuts down the blood flow in your thighs. There don’t seem to be any rules. To find the right size you might want to consult a tailor for general measurements, an astrology expert to see whether the moon is in the right position and then flip a coin, because why not? There are several different size systems like arbitrary numbers, inches or letters and they seem to vary from store to store. Also, there are many different body types that can hardly be expressed in a few numbers. To make things more complicated, you aren’t just looking for a certain size. There are also several styles, like skinny, carrot, straight leg, long leg, short leg and whatever crazy shape designers can think of. Sometimes this can help, because you might find a shape that fits your body type (lucky you!). But this also means more room for failure and more time in the changing rooms. And of course, there is the horror of pockets: they are either fake or extremely tiny. Whilst men are able to fit a wallet, three calculators and the entire Czech Republic into their pockets, I struggle with a packet of gum. How is that fair? Still looking for the perfect pair? You can try the men’s section. At least they’ve got pockets and I hear boyfriend jeans are very fashionable. But this might not fit every body type or style. If you want to stick to the woman’s section, you can try different stores. Since sizes are a scam, you might get lucky somewhere else. Alternatively, you can try ordering online. This gives you more privacy when crying over horrible fits. And if all else fails, skirts are nice as well! If you do manage to find the Holy Grail that is a perfectly fitting pair of jeans, remember the brand, the model and the size and re-buy them whenever you need them. You never know when you might experience this rare joy again. [Christina Schroeck] IMAGE: TASHA BALDASSARRE
N AT U R A L C Y C L E S Pitfalls, Unreliability and Responsibility in Marketing
Natural Cycles is the first app to be certified for contraception in Europe. It uses an algorithm to analyse your body temperature in order to tell you where you are in your menstrual cycle. From this, it tells you when you need to use a condom. A single study showed it to be more effective than contraceptive pills with perfect use. However, evidence has emerged that this particular method of fertility awareness may be less fool proof than previously thought. Recently, the app has been reported to the Swedish authorities, after a hospital found 37 unwanted pregnancies from people using the app as contraception within a period of 3 months. Furthermore, using basal body temperature has proven to be an inaccurate measure of fertility, according to many studies by research professionals. The human body works in ways which are not necessarily linear. This includes how basal body temperature may not always rise the same amount each time someone is fertile. Menstrual cycles can also have a large amount of variation, particularly amongst younger women. Planned parenthood recommends hormonal methods, and non-hormonal IUDs, for this reason. Coincidentally, younger women are precisely the people to whom Natural Cycles is advertised. Marketing of the app often uses sponsored product placement by vloggers or influencers through the medium of YouTube videos or Instagram posts. These people often have fairly young audiences. Many may also assume that people using the app will be in a monogamous relationship, and suggest they a condom on days where the app indicates fertility. The fact that no method other than condoms protects against sexually transmitted infections is left to the small print. Although this may seem obvious to some, this is important to reiterate. The method of paid sponsorship for the app, rather than direct health service referrals, should also attract a certain amount of scepticism. Sponsored content is the main way in which influencers can make a large sum of money in one go. Viewers may trust the views and opinions of certain online personalities, particularly those who are candid about issues relating to gender and sexuality. However, these people ultimately undermine the fine print. Overall, using an app as a replacement for contraception, such as Natural Cycles, may be a lot less reliable than those involved in its marketing make out. They underplay the fine print; for example, the importance of using condoms outside of monogamous relationships. However, it could be better than using nothing for those who cannot use hormonal contraception for medical, or religious reasons. There needs to be transparency regarding fertility awareness, rather than a reaction from the company that ended up being ultimately defensive. [Amy Irvine @atnerls]
FILM REVIEW: LOVELESS
In association with the GFT qqqqq
Our introduction to the main characters of Loveless involves Boris (Aleksey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) fighting over who gets to avoid having custody of their twelve-year old son Alexey who, after constantly hearing his parents fight, decides to run away. Loveless, by the Russian film-maker Andrey Zvyagintsev, is a two-hour long run of one heart-breaking moment after another, without ever letting. That said, I would definitely recommend it.
FILM REVIEW: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
In association with the GFT
The packed matinee screening, the rapturous applause that greeted the end credits and the plethora of awards the film has already picked up in the build-up to this year’s Oscars tells us two things about Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Firstly, McDonagh is back to his best. Following the lukewarm critical and public reception of Seven Psychopaths, the director has returned to the themes and ideas that were at the forefront of his acclaimed feature debut In Bruges: guilt, anger, pain and sadness. However, just as with his previous two features McDonagh injects Three Billboards with bucket-loads of his characteristic sardonic humour. Given the truly unique and subversive nature of his writing and directing, it speaks to the quality of his latest film that he has successfully broken into the mainstream, while refusing to water down the intelligence and nastiness of his art. Three Billboards tells the story of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a middle aged woman living in the titular small town of Ebbing in Missouri. Seven months after her daughter was the victim of a horrible crime on a small road just outside of town the local police, headed up by Woody Harrelson’s Chief Willoughby, Sam Rockwell’s Dixon and Zeljko Ivanek’s desk sergeant, have still failed to make any headway on the case. Mildred suspects that they are too busy ‘torturing black folk’ and drinking, and decides that in order to ‘focus their attention’ she should hire out three billboards on the same road on which her daughter was attacked. On these huge signs she writes messages directed at the police and specifically at Willoughby. This act sets in motion a chain of events which turn neighbour to foe and friend to enemy. At one stage the 18-year-old new girlfriend of Mildred’s ex-husband tells Mildred that ‘anger begets anger.’ While she is mercilessly mocked by Mildred and the audience alike for attempting to sound intelligent and insightful at her age, she has in fact stumbled upon the kernel of truth that lies at the heart not only of Three Billboards, but of McDonagh’s art as a whole, both on screen and on stage. [Tim Abrams]
Zvyagintsev is best known for 2014’s Leviathan, but to wider audiences his name may not yet ring a bell. I personally hope that it soon will, as while his movies undeniably deal with Russian society in particular, the topics explored in his work are closer to all of us than those dealt with in more prominent blockbuster cinema. His latest film manages to engage the audience with complex characters that viewers may hate, love and pity all at the same time. This mixture gives the film’s characters a greater believability and relatability, allowing for a mixture of emotions, including both sympathy and empathy, to awake nin the viewer as we follow Boris and Zhenya in their search. Personally, my favourite aspect of Loveless is that the film isn’t focused on solving the mystery of Alexey’s disappearance. Zvyagintsev uses frequent images of the trees covered in snow to build up a chilling atmosphere which remains with the viewer much longer than any questions about the boy’s whereabouts. Moreover, Zvyagintsev includes many small episodes, which ultimately have no role in the story of actually finding Alexey, in order to describe the society in which his characters live. He puts emphasis on social media, where everything is alluring yet impersonal, and on the presentation of the ‘perfect family’ at business events, in which no one notices that characters have brought hired actors to play their wives and children, expertly showing the impersonality hidden behind ‘picture perfect’. Loveless is a topical film for all audiences, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. Although definitely a difficult watch that will leave you feeling grim for hours, it is one that should not be avoided. [Žad Novak]
IMAGE: IMOGEN WHITELEY
M A R AT H O N R U N T I M E S
Jo Reid examines the growing length of blockbuster films Is it just me or are films really long nowadays? Of course, the fact that I’m writing this and that you’re reading this means that this is a trick question. Yes, films are much longer now. Out of the ten highest grossing films of 2017, nine were over two hours in length. With the longest, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, also the highest grossing film at two hours and fifty-three minutes. What family is going to drag their kids to the cinema and force them to sit in a dark room for almost three hours with no breaks? For comparison, the first Star Wars film only just broke the 2-hour runtime. Clearly, films have been bloating their runtime for the past few decades to squeeze as much content into them as possible. Even remakes aren’t exempt. The new Beauty and the Beast is 45 minutes longer than the 1991 original. Why did anyone think this was necessary? Luckily, I have a few ideas. With the rise of home viewing, cinemas have to do more to get people to watch a film. Making a film into an event is therefore beneficial. It has to be worth setting the time aside. This comes in conjunction with the current run of blockbuster, CGIheavy films that dominate the box-office. Films must be long, they must be engaging, and they must be a spectacle. There is also a clear demand for longer films from audiences, especially in franchises packed with details and backstory. The Lord of the Rings extended editions are a testament to that – people are willing to sit through four hours of film. Of course, there is an obvious downside to this: The Hobbit Trilogy, while long, is generally regarded as overly padded and a slog to get through. I know I felt like I was watching the extended edition in cinemas, and yet it turns out there is an extended edition of The Hobbit Trilogy which is eight and a half hours long. No one needs that many dwarves. Similarly, there has been a notable increase in the price of cinema tickets in the past 15 years. In 2001 the average ticket price was £4.14, whereas in 2016 that number had jumped up to £7.41. Making films longer in order to get more bang for your buck seems like a business
decision to justify the rise in price. With cinemas becoming less of a casual activity and leaning more into ‘event’ viewing, longer films justify higher ticket prices. Another aspect is that longer films tend to be seen as more important. Children’s films are generally required to stick to a tight 90 minutes runtime, but prestigious adult films are able to be whatever length they like. Out of ten best picture nominees for the 2017 Oscars, eight were over 2 hours long. There is a perception that serious grown-up drama equals long, which in turn equals good. This is starting to change, however. Only four out of the nine best picture nominees for 2018 are over the 2 hour mark, due to the inclusion of more genre films that have traditionally been snubbed by the academy, like horror film Get Out and coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird. This could be a temporary blip in the wider trend leaning towards the usual long films filled with character-based drama which dominate awards season, or it could be a shift away from what we deem as important film-making. Only time will tell. I, however, welcome any change that means I don’t have to watch an actor act really, visibly hard for their Oscar for two and a half hours. What we could also be seeing here is, strangely enough, a trend where prestigious films get pared down and brisk while blockbuster films become bloated. Neither is inherently bad, of course. Long films can be really good, with a lot of well-paced content, while short films can be hellish, filled with attempts by the film-makers to add in unnecessary scenes to reach that 90 minute run-time. What matters is how these films reflect how production companies respond to audience and business trends. If we keep on going to and talking about really long films, they’re going to keep making them. And if that happens we’ll all probably still be sitting through Star Wars XXI at the inevitable heatdeath of the universe - because that’s how long it’s going to be. [Jo Reid @_jomreid]
THIS PLACARD SUPPORTS PROTESTING Paul Inglis critiques the use of placards and protest in light of this and last year’s Women’s Marches.
One of the simplest political actions a person can take is attending a demonstration with a placard. Not that this devalues the act, of course: rather, protest signs are a simple, cheap and accessible way to come along and fight for a cause. It is this ease of access that has allowed thousands of people, freshly politicised by the near-constant outrages of our time, to intervene in the struggle to change the world. So many people are going to demonstrations now, they’ve almost become a fashionable place to be seen at. This is certainly the idea you might have gotten trawling through Twitter and Instagram during last year and this year’s Women’s March. (That, and a minor obsession with biologically essentialist definitions of womanhood, but I digress.)
“All protest is performative to some degree” Looking through the Women’s March hashtag, you might believe that it was some sort of witty-slogan contest. So many pictures were uploaded with so many attempts at pithy rebukes to Trump and friends that you can find numerous Buzzfeed listicles of placards that are “Clever”, “Badass”, or even signs “That Will Make You Laugh Harder Than You Should”. So many, in fact, that it seems the main thing people know or remember about these marches are the funny signs rather than the demands or the anger of the people. Naturally, this has dredged up predictable debates on the left about performative activism. Has the protest placard lost its original purpose as a serious mode of protest? I myself feel
that these discussions may be glossing over an important point, which is that even “serious” placards are performative to a certain degree. Nothing about a placard has the direct and immediate economic effect of sabotage or a strike, nor do they build long-term community power in the way that serve-the-people programs and squats do. Placards do not really bring about a concrete result as such, rather they communicate a fleeting political message to onlookers, and what seems to be more important - help protesters articulate a shared identity through artistic expression. Performative protest isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, all protest is performative to some degree. Black blocs, for example, have a valid purpose - when employed effectively they can protect marginalised people at marches and wipe fascists off the street before they get a chance to spread their vile ideas. It just so happens, however, that they are also extremely performative. One need only look at the way in which both anarchists and news outlets fetishise the imagery of the masked street fighter to see what an important and radical symbolic power the black bloc has. To take part in one is to perform an empowering and seductive identity, if only briefly - one of the dashing youth combatant waging a desperate struggle against the entire death machine. It is this performing of identity, albeit in much gentler terms, that placards and protest signs achieve. When you are on a march, there in the crowd with your condemnation of Trump or transphobia or UKIP or imperialism, you feel yourself to be part of a social movement; of the tidal wave of history perhaps, but not in the sense that you are consumed and effaced by it. No, your placard is your
own independent voice in this grand, angry cacophony, and while it moves in concert with others, your words can still be heard clearly among all the rest. This is a totally valid feeling, and what’s more it is a vital and necessary one. When you are fighting for a cause in this troubled world, it is crucial that you feel a healthy confidence in your own voice and capacity to make change, otherwise apathy sinks in.
“ Yo u r p l a c a r d is your own independent voice in this grand, angry cacophony” So we shouldn’t necessarily get worried about performative activism as such when we criticise the “funny signs” of the Women’s March. It is simply that the performance they represent ends up being put on more for an individual’s social media cred rather than for a desperately fought cause. It is easy to compare images of Vietnam War or Suffragette demonstrations with those of the Women’s March and claim that some substantial change in the use of protest signs has taken place. Yet to do so would also ignore the fact that protest signs - with messages exactly as grave and urgent as those held by the students of ‘68 - can be found right now on Black Lives Matter marches. Placards are still serving the same purposes today as they did yesterday. [Paul Inglis]
IMAGE: AIKE JANSEN
IMAGE: KATI BRUNK
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
Jo Reid on conspiracy theories: the Fun, the Weird, and the Dangerous Did you know that Avril Lavigne died in 2005 and has been replaced by a clone? And that Morrissey predicted Princess Diana’s death? Or that the Earth is both hollow and flat? No? Probably because it’s not true. They’re conspiracy theories, made to explain the strange and unknown of our world. Why do people resort to such fanciful imaginings in order to explain the unbelievable? Why is the belief that the moon landing was faked or that Bush did 9/11 preferable to the truth? Gaelic folklorist Ronald Black once said that conspiracy theories had supplanted the role of superstition and folklore as the way society coped with the unknown. Sudden tragedy or events beyond our control used to be explained away as the work of fairies and monsters. Cows stop producing milk? You must have angered a fairy. A family member vanishes? Must have been kidnapped by the fae. Now, conspiracy theories explain these strange happenstances. Cows stop producing milk? Chemicals in the water put there by the government. Family member goes missing? Abducted by aliens. This shift is even visible in how theories about Stonehenge have changed. A 12th century illustration shows a giant helping Merlin build Stonehenge. Now, a dominant theory believes that aliens helped construct the mysterious monolith. Both theories demonstrate a seemingly impossible, inhuman entity responsible for Stonehenge, but one is based on ideas of magic and the other on ideas of science. As our understanding of the universe expands, so do our attempts to explain the gaps in our knowledge.
We try to rationalize what we cannot control and cannot know, and a way to do that is through superstition. Superstition used to be the supernatural, but now with science and technology able to prove that fairies and elves don’t exist, we turn to the new unknowns in society. Aliens, chemicals, and the scariest unknown of all: the government. Many conspiracy theories surround politics and people in power. Most significantly, the theory that the Queen, and many other famous, wealthy and powerful people are lizards in disguise. While this seems like quite a harmless, almost fun piece of nonsense, a lot of political conspiracy theories have some dark implications. For example, while the lizard conspiracy theory is bizarre but benign, prominent conspiracy theories in the alt-right suggest that while there isn’t a group of evil lizards secretly running everything, instead there is a group of evil Jewish people who run the banks. The conspiracy states that this ‘international jewry’ is really in power, tricking and manipulating us behind the scenes, and must be removed. Of course, this is absolutely bigoted, anti-Semitic nonsense, but suddenly conspiracy theories aren’t so funny anymore. This is the flip side of conspiracy theories. While they are a way to cope with the unknowable, like folklore of the past, they are also a way to spread dangerous falsehoods as a tool of alt-right and fascist recruitment. Infowars’ Alex Jones has practically made a career out of peddling racist and homophobic conspiracy theories. Its funny to laugh at his idea that the Government created
homosexuality and the water is ‘turning the freaking frogs gay’ but these ideas, while over-the-top ridiculous, are harmful as people are listening to him. Conspiracy theories are a tool, a way to spread ideas and cope with the scary world out there. But what is defined as scary? Generally, threats to the status quo. Conspiracy theories that vaccines cause autism have lead to real world consequences, with diseases thought to be wiped out returning, all because of a fear of an autistic child. In the past it was believed that a neuro-divergent child was really a changeling, or wicked fairy child that had replaced the ‘real’ one. Both theories act as ways to explain difference within society, but both explain difference as something horrible, damaging and unwanted. I’m not going to say you can never enjoy conspiracy theories ever again. I love conspiracy theories! They can be wacky, bonkers and yet strangely persuasive. I often find myself agreeing with a totally ridiculous theory just because the argument is so detailed and wild. But that is the power of conspiracy theories; they are very easy to believe. They are a tool to explain the world around us, but like any tool, can be used for good or bad. While they may promote fun theories about Paul McCartney being dead, they can also promote bigoted or even fascist world-views, and it is up to us to be aware of the difference. The world is dense, chaotic and confusing, and we can use conspiracy theories and folklore to make sense of that world. Just remember who and what we’re conspiring against. [Jo Reid @_jomreid]
A STEP ON THE LADDER
Louise Wylie on the demise of the ‘job for life’ and the benefits of moving on According to a recent study conducted by government agencies in the USA, on average people change careers a massive 12 times throughout their lifetime. That’s twice the number of suspects in Cluedo. The picture is likely similar on this side of the Atlantic, as people struggle to find a job that won’t dump them faster than a “nice guy” after sex. The old model of having one career for life is no longer a reality for a lot of young people. That’s partly because the job market is more insecure than ever, and jobs that you can depend on indefinitely just don’t exist anymore. Making ends meet in a full-time job is no longer a certainty and the stress of this insecurity can be overwhelming. Yet there are some definite upsides to this societal shift, if you’re one of those who can always scrape by. In a way, knowing that you will probably stumble about for a while before something hopefully sticks somehow makes the graduate fear a little better. The expectation to get it all sorted pronto poststudent life is unreal. When you reach final year, suddenly everyone and their gran wants to know your five year plan. The aim of the game is to get a good grad job ASAP – one that will further your career and set you up on a path towards the dream position. No pressure. Understanding that that grad job might not actually be the first step on your unbroken career path makes finding the right one less of an existential worry. Plus, what if that dream job turns out to be more of a nightmare, or even just one of those nondescript dreams that you only remember very vaguely? The last thing I
want to do is continue on in a career even though I’m not happy in it, just because I’ve got a degree/experience/skill. I’m a jobcommitment-phobe – there needs to be another option. And realising that there will be other options, that I’ll be able to change my mind and muddle about until I find something better, has lessened the panic that the choices I make now will determine/ ruin the rest of my life.
“I’m sceptical that I’ll one day find a job that fits like a glove” Because the truth is I don’t have a dream job. The whole “working to earn a living” thing is more hassle than it’s worth. Unfortunately it seems like full luxury automated communism is still a few years away however, so I guess I’ll have to keep selling my wage labour. Yet I’m sceptical that I’ll one day find a job that fits like a glove and will never wear me down. All I really want, when it comes down to it, is a life where I’m not constantly counting down to Friday afternoon. I want a job without a daily struggle to get out of bed. I don’t know what that job is yet, and that’s okay. The thing is, all happiness is temporary anyway, so if a job comes along that ticks those boxes, it might not always do so. If I’m unsatisfied, I need the possibility of
changing things. People want different things at different points in their lives. When young and adventurous, the thought of sitting behind a desk Monday through Friday can seem like the seventh level of hell. Personally, I’d rather pack it all in and move to a shack on some remote mountain to tend goats than listen to Brenda gossip about office politics. Perhaps, though, when I’m past my goat rearing days, I might find the stability of office life to be exactly what I want. I don’t see that happening, but I also didn’t see Brexit coming, so I’ve been wrong before. Who knows what I’ll want when I’m even older than that, if climate change hasn’t killed us all by that point. Most people just don’t have one singular focus in life. If you do, that’s weird, and I’m jealous of your conviction. The majority of us have interests dotted around here and there, and might want to work towards one or another of those interests at different stages. Maybe I’ll eventually be able to build a career around watching generic and derivative Hallmark rom-coms and crying, probably at Buzzfeed. The sooner we stop seeing jobs as some idealised end point that will merit all the hard slog before it, and finally deliver happiness, the better. Look for the good stuff where you are, not where you’ll be in ten years. That contentment isn’t guaranteed anyway. When it comes down to it, wouldn’t you rather try for happiness than success? [Louise Wylie @womanpendulum]
IMAGE: IMOGEN WHITELEY
The Spook School
Could It Be Different?
Artists that amplify the voices of queer and trans people are still greatly needed in the music industry. The inclusive and powerful lyricism of The Spook School - a self-proclaimed ‘queer’ band led by transgender singer/guitarist Nye Todd - remains immensely important. One of the best things about this album is that there is something for everyone. In eleven tracks, the band manages to encompass the tumultuous fusion of joy, hope and despondence that is often part and parcel of being a young adult. From upbeat pop songs about body confidence, “teenage hopes” and fancying someone at a party, to melancholic tunes about high school memories and losing touch with loved ones, and feistier, angrier tracks about saying “Fuck you, I’m still alive” to the haters, it is impossible to not find something you can relate to. At the end of the day, although the album admits that times are tough, it also encourages us to be true to ourselves. If you are in need of a generous injection of empowering, hopeful optimism in your life, this is the album for you. [Katie Fannin @katfnan]
qqqqq Soho Rezanejad
I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life Founder and front-woman Merrill Garbus once again tackles the current socio-political climate, reflecting on topics from race to cultural appropriation and the patriarchy. In comparison to the visceral, unsubtle critique of Whokill, Garbus’ latest output is more abstruse and perhaps more meaningful, but where Whokill’s message was accompanied by a fierce energy and infectious melodies which carried the listener through the album, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life is lacking in the dynamism and engaging quality that has been a staple of Tune-Yards’ previous work. The album opens promisingly—the first verse and chorus of ‘Heart Attack’ has some of the energetic rhythm that made ‘Bizness’ such a breakout hit—and there are bright sparks, notably ‘ABC 123’ and ‘Look at Your Hands’, but overall the record lacks the ear-worming hooks and choruses of the group’s high-water-mark; as a result Garbus’ message is let down by the music.
Six Archetypes is a collection of dreary soundscapes with industrial and synthpop inflections. The music has none of the microtonality, polyrhythmic hypnosis or beautiful tension building and resolving melodies that make good ambient music able to be focused on without sleeping. On top of these bland soundscape interludes ones which don’t fit each other at all - the album’s best tracks employ the cardinal sin of 80s revivalism: grossly sweet synth textures. These tracks do shine compositionally, however. ‘Reptile’ is a good industrial-krautysynthpop track with ambient influences; ‘Greed Wears a Disarming Face’ is probably the best track, with a more thought-out melodic progression whilst retaining the ambiance. ‘December Song’ draws inspiration from the ambient soundscapes of late 90s Nine Inch Nails, without being as good. this LP wishes it were made by someone as masterful as Trent Reznor or the Cocteau Twins, but in spite of reality it has some promise.
Dream Wife Dream Wife
British/Icelandic pop punk band Dream Wife’s self-titled debut album is a bouncy, cheerfully angry release. The feminist trio choose their name as a wry reference to 1950s style opinions on the place of women, and have marketed their brand as one of female empowerment. Socalled “punk-rock rage-filled rallying cry” ‘Let’s Make Out’ is the highlight, with an infectious beat and Avril Lavigne-esque Grrl Rage. ‘Love Without Reason’ is a bit more sentimental, while ‘Taste’ leans towards old school indie tunes. There’s unfortunately little Nordic sounding about the album except the distinctive vocals of lead singer Rakel Mjöll, and a verse in Icelandic in ‘F.U.U.’, which bangs. Dream Wife aren’t about to win any awards for songwriting – the tracks are all a bit samey and the lyrics basic. What they do well, however, is to make catchy beats for when you want a dance and to be angry without actually having anything to rage against.
It was hard to make an assumption based on what I was about to listen to – an Egyptian/ American-born teen with a mixtape bearing the name of a Russian ruler. As soon as the mixtape starts we get a dose of French, and I’m conscious of the fact that this eagerness to touch upon multiple cultures could be its success or downfall; I seldom received anything of the sort after that initial piece, though. The lyrics typically examine archetypal hip-hop topics: fast cars, women, getting drunk, but there are few moments where his inspiration is far more intriguing. Consider the single, ‘Penelope’, an ode to the Ithacan queen, or, more wittily, ‘Mario Cart’, which contains the same base standard of hip-hop in terms of lyrics, only from the perspective of Mario to Princess Peach. The few faults that I could see – the omnipresent tinlike drum-beats, for example – can be explained from a lack of resources from a teenager just starting out in the business. As Col3trane makes his way towards the UK for his first tour, I expect he’ll gain the attention he deserves to be involved in bigger and better collaborations.
[Louise Wylie @womanpendulum]
MUSIC: LIVE Flying Penguins Tchai Ovna, 02/02
The atmosphere of Tchai Ovna was delightful as always and the perfect match for the Flying Penguins casual, friendly presence. The tiny tea room was jam-packed with barely room for the band let alone the audience, but this only increased the cosy atmosphere - and not just literally! It took a little bit of manoeuvring to get them all on the stage, but once that was sorted the magic began. The combination of instruments on the night were flawless, with the ever-evolving group comprising this evening of a flautist, a guitarist/ lead vocalist, a bass player and two violinists. Tchai Ovna was perhaps too small however for the large following this group has as it was a struggle for seats, although this definitely speaks for their popularity. Their brand of folk music is delicate and soothing, with well-crafted melodies and gentle vocals. Their transition between original music and cover music was seamless, with each song having echoes of their own sound. Honestly, I’m a regular attendee at Flying Penguins gigs and I’ll always jump at the chance to hear them in a new setting; I’ll never tire of their music and their sound is constantly fresh and interesting, and not just because of their ever-changing line up.
Broadcast, 01/02 It seems a normal night in Broadcast’s downstairs performance space as I am listening to the two support acts that kick off the evening. Yet as soon as Amsterdam-born musician Pitou takes to the stage, the ceiling that almost touches the top of her head lifts, revealing a marvellous night sky dotted with shooting stars. She knows how to put a spell on the audience, and they are silent all the way through her songs, bursting out in applause and shouts of enthusiasm as the last lingering note disappears. Pitou makes magically wonderful folk-pop songs in which she weaves her love for classical choir music together with melancholic melodies, likening her to Laura Marling or The Staves. Her songs are very stripped-back - a few notes on an acoustic guitar here, delightful harmonies between her and her two backing singers there, and a unique voice that is delicate and stunning throughout. The music that flutters from the stage is not missing anything, though; it is as powerful as it is emotional. Pitou hits each note seemingly without any effort, equally executing challenging three-part songs with a nonchalance that is inspiring.
It’s so refreshing to see a group of young musicians playing so beautifully and with such experience. They work perfectly as either a headline act on a big stage or as a relaxing backdrop to a lovely evening in a tea room, and you don’t have to know all the words to have them seem safe and familiar. I always enjoy their gigs and this was no exception.
In between songs, the Dutch artist is a joy to behold too - she is chatty, laughs, forgets English words, thanks the audience over and over. Later, I find out that this appreciation is very genuine. While her gig is part of Celtic Connections, it has not had much promotion because of a miscommunication between the festival and the artist, and I feel sorry for everyone who has missed this set. Fortunately, Pitou will probably be back in Glasgow in May as she is planning to release a second EP at that time, so keep on the look-out because damn, her music is beautiful.
The Vignettes King Tuts, 19/01
The Vignettes - comprised of Strathclyde (oooh) students Hamish Swanson, Innes Mackintosh, Sean Mason and Matthew Bird surged onto Glasgow’s vibrant music scene back in 2015. Since then they’ve been making impressive strides, with a string of riotous sets at Stereo and Broadcast as well as a previous gig at the infamous King Tuts. Tonight they return for King Tuts’ New Year’s Revolution, supporting Glasgow based quartet Fauves. It’s baltic outside, but The Vignettes soon get the crowd going with their quirky blend of disco and indie rock. It’s feel good music, designed to make your shake your hips and get down. The band lead by example and Swanson and Mackintosh dance on stage as they play, clearly having a great time. Swanson, resplendent in the most shimmery of golden shirts and leather trousers, is a charismatic frontman. “This next song involves a maraca and I remembered to bring one this time”, he croons, as the distinctive guitar riff of anthemic track ‘Young Bohemians’ envelopes the crowd. It’s a personal favourite, and the packed audience groove along to the infectious rhythm. Swanson’s vocals are showcased nicely in track ‘We Can Get Together’, and it’s another highlight of a well-executed set. The performance is tight and smoothly assured, and The Vignettes make for a refreshing change from an indie scene dominated by Arctic Monkeys-esque reinventions. Armed with an arsenal of original, undeniably catchy songs and an irresistible love of the flamboyant, The Vignettes’ well-deserved ascendency is sure to continue. IMAGE: JAKE GORDON
ARTS REVIEW: BOLD GIRLS
Dir. Richard Baron, Citizens Theatre, 24th January – 10th February Bold Girls begins with a dark stage and absolute silence, followed by the loud sound of a helicopter and a sharp spotlight that searches the audience, illuminating the dark corners of the crowd. This introduction effectively communicates straight away what this play is: a warzone. Set in Belfast at the height of the troubles, Bold Girls follows four women over the course of one night, as their everyday world is set against a backdrop of gunfire and police raids. The production at the Citizen’s Theatre captured both the mundanity of life, with a humble front room as the predominant set, and the oppressive warzone that existed just outside the safety of the home. The sound-design and lighting articulated this tension, managing to make the world of Bold Girls exist beyond the two main sets. As the play turned from external conflict to interpersonal conflict, the tension remained, but shifted into something more private and immediate. The entire second half of the play is intense and dramatic, but despite this it was the quiet moments of friendship and normalcy that I enjoyed the most. The four actors played very well off each other, exhibiting a great chemistry that enriched the play. That said, one actor did stand out: Lucianne McEvoy as Marie, who managed to maintain a sense of kindness and care, in spite of her character’s pain. The characters in general were well defined and characterized. However, the first act was dominated by awkwardly placed monologues, which seemed to stop the action entirely to shove in some extra characterization. While this was more an issue with the script, it was a shame that there was no way to make these moments feel more natural and flow with the rest of the play. Bold Girls is a tense drama of life surrounded by brutal conflict that coexists with the everyday: friendships and mundane routines are contrasted with police blockades and murdered husbands. Both sides of this play are effectively merged together in the Citizen’s production to create a heart-felt and energetic performance driven by four actresses who bring joy and wit to the stage. [Jo Reid @_jomreid]
ARTS REVIEW: ACHILLES
Dir. Ewan Downie and Ian Spink, Citizens Theatre, 22 – 27 January A slit of golden light cuts the bare stage diagonally, and Achilles begins. Ewan Downie is a mesmerizing storyteller, whose voice takes me to the battlefield outside Troy, just as Achilles refuses to leave his tent to fight. He wears neutral kaki clothes which, combined with the stage’s emptiness, reinforce the vividness of the images he conjures in my mind. The concise, evocative prose flows easily, blending beautifully with well-timed spotlights and warm washes of light. The potential of the bare stage is endless, and I am disappointed that in spite of their compelling text and emotional lighting, Company of Wolves falls short in all other respects. The piece was meant as a great warrior’s gradual surrender to anger and grief, but the elements of dance used to express this degrading state of mind felt sloppy. Most of the movement can be summed up as a prolonged spasm rather than an emotionally charged routine. To name one example: a sequence devoted to the different ways in which a rage-filled Achilles brutally kills Trojan soldiers on the battlefield is spent watching Downie running around the stage making gestures aimed at demonstrating the causes of death. Sadly, however, these lack definition and I was unable to differentiate a beheading from a gutting. Had movements been more carefully choreographed, and more precisely executed, the chaos ensuing from Achilles’ violent trauma would have looked far less like an ineffective mess. The three songs in Greek which punctuate the piece also feel quite forced. They are charged with anguish, but once again are delivered in a general manner which strips emotional nuance away. This creates quite a jarring contrast to the poetic subtleties of the prose, with which I would have gladly replaced the songs. As a whole the piece has a discernible rhythm, but it quickly becomes repetitive. After twenty minutes of alternating between periods of intensity bordering on madness and periods of calm, I could anticipate what intonation and movement would come next. For a 45-minute piece, this is quite a serious issue. Repetition is used in very effective ways in order to create poignant parallels between the deaths of Patroclus and Hector; but the inevitability of the cycle of gesticulating on the floor followed by contemplative standing onstage makes the piece predictable. Overall, Company of Wolves have a beautifully written show, riddled with subtle ideas and emotional depth, but their execution needs a great deal more polish and definition. [Isabelle Ribe]
F I R E A N D F U RY T h e D a n g e r s o f B i o g ra p h y
“I hear a lot of people want to write books,” was Donald Trump’s alleged response to journalist Michael Wolff’s initial request to produce what would become one of the most explosive written works on Trump’s presidency. Since its release in January 2018, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House has renewed doubts about Trump’s mental stability, prompted his excommunication of former chief strategist Steven Bannon, and provoked a cease-and-desist letter as well as many a defensive tweet on the POTUS account.
A lot of people do want to write books about Donald Trump. This orange car crash of a president has always provoked a sort of guilty fascination in the general public with which publishers have lined their pockets: people simply cannot look away. 57 books are included in the official ‘bibliography’ of Trump, written either in his name or about him. Each new account hopes to be the one to finally either immortalize or damn him. Michael D’Antonio tried in 2015 with The Truth About Trump. Inversely, the ghostwriter of Trump’s first memoir The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, has often expressed his guilt about the role he played in creating the myth of Donald Trump as the world’s most successful businessman. Books about Trump provoke consequences like few other political biographies. With Fire and Fury, Wolff hoped to do this better than his predecessors. His portrayal of Trump’s White House as an organization running on fumes, cowering in the shadows of
a deeply insecure, volatile and barely literate demagogue has been described as a final nail in the coffin for any illusions about Trump’s fitness for office. Though it remains doubtful how much access to the White House’s inner circles Wolff really secured (many of the quotes in his book remain unsourced) this is perhaps to be expected in a depiction of one of our best personifications of the post-truth era. A more pressing question may be: does it really tell us anything we did not already know?
It appears that sensationalist exposés of Trump’s character can be sold in an infinite number of volumes with barely even a new coat of paint to differentiate each edition. This is not the case for books that offer more detailed accounts of the complex sociopolitical forces that finally brought him to the Oval Office. We live in an age where the personalization of politics is an increasingly dominant aspect of political life, where it is becoming harder and harder for the discussion to stay centred around policy or ideology rather than individual actors (often turned into caricatures). We become bewildered at the strange new figures who emerge into elected office through lies and bigotry because we are growing unaccustomed to looking at the parties, movements and systems that produce them. In the case of Trump, it is almost forgivable. Most of us desperately want to believe that this outlandish clown displaying such unambiguous ignorance and hatred must be an anomaly, something explained away by
individual mental health issues and flaws of character. Surely such a man can only rise to power through a fluke of history! We think these thoughts and buy the books that paint him as an exception to the rule, despite the fact that we do not have to browse very far through history to remember that Trump has never been an anomaly. We buy the books, crack jokes about tiny hands, and make fun of Trump’s Twitter tantrums, hoping that one of them will be the final straw. It is unlikely. Trump was elected by people and is supported by a party that at best tolerates and at worst openly celebrates his ignorance and hatred. He is the logical end product of several decades of right-wing revanchism, as well as centuries of institutionalized racism, misogyny, and classbased oppression. We have seen many times that these forces are strong enough to ensure that the rules and norms of ‘decency’ no longer apply to Trump, no matter how many Fire and Furies are published. While the discussion about Trump’s individual suitability for his office are far from irrelevant, it is not by overindulging in our morbid fascination with Trump’s character that we are going to find the means to prevent someone like him from gaining so much power again. We need to stop regurgitating the narrative of Trumpian exceptionalism and focus on the bigger picture in order to one day have something better to write books about. [Annina Claesson @AnninaClaesson]
IMAGE: ALEX PIRINOLI
Who made you? At thirteen I fell between the pages of Wuthering Heights, learned that I was made of moor and stone, my mother’s penny catechism was wrong. Why did God make you? To walk where crooked trees stand lonely, in his own country, ‘And that heaven did not seem to be my home’. To whose image and likeness did God make you? Shaped and fashioned by slate grey rain; stones speak to me in dry stack voices, asking me where the heath ends and I begin.
Q M U N I C R E AT E
qmunicreate, our creative writing section, is currently taking submissions under the theme of ‘Places’. Please send submissions with the subject FAO: Creative Writing to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 20th . Submissions of poetry should be under 60 lines, and prose should be under 2000 words. Kathryn Metcalfe’s Yorkshire, as well as other poems from our previous ‘Identity’ theme, is available at our website, qmunicatemagazine.com
18 IMAGE: AIKE JANSEN
column Sarinah O'Donoghue
neurodiversity at university Last year, I decided to take a considerable amount of time off from uni, after being committed to a psychiatric unit for emotional burnout and stress, caused by my toxic living situation. I was told I could return to university immediately after leaving hospital, or that I could repeat modules during the summer break. I was even informed that I could do my work via online communication, which I would be doing from my hospital bed. But doing coursework in hospital seemed like a paradox. How could I manage English Literature at honours level, while being told by doctors, nurses, friends, family, and university staff, to forget about university, and to get all the rest I needed? How could I do it alone, away from all my classmates? After pondering the severity of my situation, I enquired about going a step further and leaving university for a year. Suspending isn’t an option presented to you as quickly as the above suggestions are, and whether that’s due to mental health stigma and the notion that mental illness is seldom serious enough to warrant a year out, or whether it reflects the university’s anxiety regarding dropout rates, I’m not sure. But what I am sure of is that my year out was the most positive thing to happen to me in my educational career. My year out encouraged me to remember what’s important to me, and all the simple moments I disregarded when I was constantly engulfed in deadlines, or when I put maximum effort into an essay just to get a mark back telling me I was average. My year out allowed me to spend time with my family again, to wake up and listen to the birds, while lying in bed, feeling the weight of my duvet on me, and thinking about nothing except the present moment. But it wasn’t all bird symphonies and duvet days. When I was released from hospital, I was left to work out how to proceed with my underlying issues. My second discharge in three years, I spent a huge amount of time thinking about why I was back in the predicament I hoped I would never find myself in again. This was when I knew a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome might facilitate my recovery, and a ‘might’ was enough for me in my desperate state. I knew I had Asperger’s syndrome since the first time I was in hospital. When I was assessed upon admission, I was told that there was a strong likelihood that I had it. I was
encouraged to get an assessment, which the NHS would provide for me. For personal reasons, I didn’t pursue it, but my mind had changed after three years. I was desperate for any information that might shed light on why my mental health just wouldn’t improve, and if getting a private diagnosis would help, I was all for it. The diagnosis came six months before I was due to start back, meaning that I had that crucial time I needed to prepare for it. I registered my condition with the university’s disability service, meaning that I could receive provisions that would assist with my learning, including a recording device, access to a quiet space in the library for those with ASD, and a study skills advisor (who is now my rock). Every support mechanism I have exists because I decided to take some breathing space to explore my needs – in short, to put my mental wellbeing before achieving a degree in a prescribed amount of time, under the relentless pressures of modern life. So, I would encourage anyone who feels like they need time out from uni to take it. Not everybody needs a year: just do what feels right for you. Nothing had changed when I returned: I still see the same friends who welcomed me back so warmly, and I have also made many new ones. Be conscious that when you inform your tutor you’re not well, one of the last things they’ll suggest is time off (they’ll want to help you to not get to that point), but often our exteriors don’t reflect how awful things are inside. The process of university suspension isn’t difficult if you consistently keep staff informed of your situation (e.g., don’t wait until after a deadline to tell them you’ve not submitted something because you were unwell). For some, suspending uni doesn’t seem like an option – if you’re too ill for uni, you might also be unable to work, and going back to live with your parents might not be feasible. Life is impractical, the government is ruthless. However, even when it doesn’t seem like it, there is often a way around things. I was concerned about how I’d manage financially until I discovered that I could still get my loan because I was taking a medical leave of absence. Don’t give up before you’ve tried, and most crucially, don’t let anyone tell you what’s right for you. Nothing is lost when you take time off. Everything will be waiting for you when you make your grand return, and this time, you’ll be good and ready.
Published on Mar 13, 2018