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Friday 21.01.11 Volume 56

Issue

Academics honoured in New Year list Vicky Wong

The University of Reading received recognition from the Queen in the New Year’s Honours List announced at the end of 2010.

University’s Professor of Archaeology recognised for services to scholarship Professor of Archaeology Michael Fulford, was awarded a CBE (Command of the British Empire) in recognition of his services to scholarship. British Ambassador to Iran and alumnus Sir Simon Lawrance Gass was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St. George (KCMG). Professor Fulford was appointed Lecturer, and later Reader, at the University’s Archaeology Department before being promoted to Professor of Archaeology in 1988. He has served as Dean of the former Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning. He was also elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1994, and currently serves as Treasurer and Vice President. Professor Fulford’s commitments includes chairing the University’s

Committee for the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL); the Forum for Rural Research; and the Committee for Museums, Archives and Collections. Former Law student, Sir Simon Gass, graduated from the University of Reading in 1977. Sir Gass took up the post of British Ambassador to Iran in 2009, having been previously posted in Greece. Sir Gass is known to be a regular user of the social networking site, Twitter, and used his ‘tweets’ to share his thoughts on the protests over the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Many of the followers on Sir Gass’ Twitter account, @sgassIran, include Human Rights activists and students from all over the world.

Above: Professor Michael Fulford CBE from the University of Reading’s department of Archaeology. Photograph from the University of Reading Below: Alumnus of the University of Reading Law and British ambassador to Iran, Sir Simon Gass with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photograph from islamidavet.com

Reading law alumni awarded knighthood In response to the New Year’s Honours List, Sir Gass posted on Twitter: “Thanks for all the congrats on my honour. I owe it to all those I learned from along the way.” The Honours lists are published twice a year, the next one will be due on the date of the Queen’s official birthday. Anyone can be nominated for an award, and can receive one based on the required standard of merit or service.

Several University of Reading students visited a local primary school to encourage children to think about higher education. RUSU President Jess Lazarczyk was joined by students Rose Harvey and Sian Watkins to talk to 100 pupils aged 7-11 years old from Katesgrove Primary School. The meeting was arranged by the Deputy Head of the school as part of a series of talks from different members of the Reading community to encourage the children to think about their futures and expand their horizons.

Miss Lazarczyk said: “They were very keen to learn more about University and seemed to be aware of how much it would cost them to go to university with the fees hike that was voted through last term.”

“It allowed them to think about the future” She continued: “This is the main reason that I was thrilled to go to Katesgrove - I don’t want the next generation of students to be put off taking part in higher education and getting the experiences and opportunities we all enjoy.”

Interview with NUS President Aaron Porter

Film Review of 127 Days

Music

RUSU visits Katesgrove Primary School Lucy Chamley

What’s inside?

Rose Harvey agreed, saying: “Despite the children still being very young, I don’t think you’re ever too small to be excited about learning. I hope my visit promoted this as I was enthusiastic about my own life choices and further education - not just in academic terms, but as a chance to broaden your life experience, be independent, and meet new people.” As well as being asked about the university experience, the visiting Reading students were also asked what their plans were for later life. Sian Watkins said: “I was asked whether or not I wanted to get married, and what my dress

What’s new for 2011?

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was going to be like, which I think just shows their age.”

“I don’t think you’re ever too small to be excited about learning” Sian Watkins works as part of Aimhigher, an organisation aimed at secondary school pupils, and said: “I think the event as a whole allowed the young pupils to think about their future and I think that seeing students - who they saw as ‘proper grown-ups’ - helped explain why despite us being older, we are not yet in full time jobs.”

Health Post-Xmas Gut-busters

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2 News

Friday 21 January 2011  Spark*

news.spark@reading.ac.uk

Women “losing faith in university”

UCAS hit by record number of applications Kate Delaney

Vinjeru Mkandawire

According to a recent survey, the costs of a university education matched by soaring levels of graduate unemployment mean that more women in the UK think that university is “a waste of time” as they becoming increasingly disillusioned over higher education and its supposed merits. These findings come from a study conducted by Cosmopolitan Magazine’s ‘The Angry Generation’ survey which explored women’s professional and financial prospects in the coming year. These revelations coincide with the government’s recent decision to increase university tuition fees to over £6,000 by 2012. 1,353 women that took part, and nearly half of those with a degree felt burdened by their student debt and claimed that they would not go to university, if they had the chance again. Only 14% of women surveyed feel “very secure” in their current employment and a nearly a third had experienced unemployment or redundancy in the past year. Approximately 25% said that they could not break into their desired career path, most of them confessing to have little interest in the jobs that they currently hold. At some point in the last year, half of the women questioned had worked without an income to gain experience and 10% admitted that they were working two jobs just to make ends meet. Another 16% are “doing anything for money”. The study also revealed that 60% are

Photograph from the Guardian unable to save any money at all. Cosmopolitan Editor Louise Court acknowledged, “It’s never been harder to be a young woman with ambition”. She added, “Understandably, women are angry and frustrated about their future and this is having a damaging effect on their self-esteem.” Mrs Court stressed the importance of perseverance, saying, “We’re urging women across the country to never give up, recognise that now can be a time for real opportunity and to always follow their dreams.” The combined impact of the economic downturn and higher costs of a university degree has understandably forced men and women alike into worse financial predicaments than their parents’ generation faced. Rose Harvey, President of the University of Reading’s Women’s Campaign, put forth her com-

ments: “It appears that the coalition government has failed to consider the impact these cuts could have on widening inequality between men and women, and as these surveys show, discouraging women from the university path. “The budgets of caring and education degrees will be slashed, as will the childcare budget, both of which will disproportionately affect women. Combining these factors with the fact that the pay gap means women’s tuition fees will take longer to be paid back, it’s little wonder many women are becoming disillusioned by university.” “All this can seem depressing, and it would be easy for women to give up,” Miss Harvey admitted, “but now, more than ever, we need to stand up for our rights, fight back together and make our voices heard in solidarity.”

By 20 December last year, over 344,000 candidates had completed UCAS applications, a 2.5% increase from the same point the previous year. The increase is highest among English students at 3.3%. There was also a significant rise in candidates from the European Union who are helped by government funding. The rush for places is likely a reaction to the coalition’s decision to allow universities to charge up to £9,000 from 2012. Many students have decided to scrap their intended gap year and go straight into higher education to avoid paying triple the following year. Pressure is added by many candidates reapplying after being rejected last year. So far there has been a 12% increase in 20-yearolds applying. Last year 209,000 candidates did not gain a place. If the surge in candidates continues it is expected that numbers will reach around 705,000, compared to the previous year’s record of 688,310. These candidates will be competing for just 479,000 places. If this happens, around a third of applicants will not get a place in September. Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University College Union (UCU), is concerned that the freeze on places added to the record number of applicants will lead to “a rationing of higher education.” She adds: “our government seems intent on ignoring the global trend of increasing access to university”. Last year the coalition funded an extra 10,000 student places, these

places will still be available this year but there will be no further rise to deal with the rise in candidates. Pam Tatlow from Million Plus, the university think tank, explains that the coalition “will cut numbers by 10,000 in 2012”. She is concerned for “students who will face huge competition to get university places in 2011 and who will then be faced with reapplying in 2012 when fees will increase”. The National Union of Students (NUS) are apprehensive that many talented candidates will not gain a place at all. NUS president, Aaron Porter, stated that the limitation on the number of students “will halt the aspiration of well-qualified students of all ages and restrict access to high-level skills at a time of growing unemployment when it is essential to invest in economic recovery,” he worries that this will be “counter-productive for social mobility”. The NUS are urging Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes to reconsider the scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). Mr Hughes will have considerable input on whether to establish a replacement for EMA, a means-tested subsidy that will help students stay in education after the age of 16. Mr Porter states that university access should be based on A level achievement. He criticised Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, claiming that for him “to axe [EMA] is astonishing, and will do more to harm university access than your role could ever fix”.

City of Reading bid needs you Sarah Parsons

A bid to make the town of Reading a city in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 is underway. The launch of the website www. cityofreading.com has given an opportunity for students from the University of Reading to offer their own positive experiences and stories about the town. City status is a ceremonial honour awarded every few years to mark prestigious events such as Royal Jubilees and the Millennium. The process requires a proposal forwarded by any number of competing towns to their local council and eventually the Queen herself, who ultimately decides the fate of a town’s status. The towns that Reading will be competing against in 2012 are Milton Keynes, Medway in Kent, Solway and Perth. Reading had previously bid for city status in 2000 and 2002, but was beaten

by bids made by Inverness and Wolverhampton. The website, which has been set up by a special committee of Reading townspeople, aims to collate the stories of residents to publicise and share the heritage, distinct identity and traditions which are vital in order to create a successful bid.

Students encouraged to send in stories of positive experiences of Reading This website has already caught on amongst a number of residents as an effective way of sharing articles and photographs concerning Reading. This is reaching a much wider audience than they would usually expect.

It is unique in the way that it is not being run by the council as a by-product of the bid, but is instead being run, as told to Spark* “by the people, for the people” in an attempt to make this bid the “people’s bid” and get as many residents and students as involved and enthusiastic as possible. The creators of website are reaching out to the students of The University of Reading to write and submit articles not only spanning personal and team successes in areas such as sports, academia and the arts, but also interesting and positive stories about the area of Reading in general. There are no strict guidelines concerning the content of stories to potentially be submitted. Those with an interest in photography are also encouraged to submit their own work alongside a story or even just as it is, depicting any aspects of Reading life or architecture which are particularly

Reading Town Hall. Photograph from Reading Arts pleasing to that individual. The students of the University are particularly well-placed to do this, and any submission made not only can be seen publicly by a great number of people, but also has the opportunity to be included in the final bid submission to the council, the deadline of which is 27 May 2011.

Any submission for this cause will not only benefit Reading’s bid for city status, but is a fantastic opportunity to get involved in the local community and greater appreciate the rich history of the Reading area. Story submissions are to be sent to contactus@cityofreading.co.uk by May 27.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011 

news.spark@reading.ac.uk

News 3

ELSA make debut trip to EU NUS President Artyr Olszewski

The European Law Students’ Association in Reading (ELSA) in its debut year as a RUSU society took 23 ambitious law students on an organised a trip to the EU institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg. The participants, accompanied by joining lecturer Dr Ronan McCrea, headed for Brussels via the Eurostar on 1 December 2010, and returned four days later. The following day, the students were given the chance to experience scenic Luxembourg whilst making their way to the European Court of Justice. After a comprehensive security check, and briefing on institution protocol, the ELSA team was ready to attend a case hearing. Immersing themselves in complex EU legal issues the participants observed a dispute between the European Commission and the Italian government concerning direct effect of directives. After bravely withstanding a barrage of both substantive and legal arguments translated into the EU’s 23 official languages we were all ready to call it a day. ELSA Reading’s subsequent endeavors took place in the Belgian capital, Brussels, home of the European Parliament. Before

engaging in formal activities, participants were encouraged to sample some alternate attractions dotted around Brussels. After enjoying their share of sightseeing, the team was ready for the pressing academic matters awaiting in the European Parliament. The students were greeted by Polish MEP Piotr Borys’s entourage, and proceeded on a tour of the grand complex. The final engagement was with Robert Bray (Principal Advisor of the Committee on Legal Affairs)

who gave a captivating talk about his role within the organisation’s structure. ELSA returned to Reading on 5 December, everyone wealthier in experience as an organisation consolidated as a team, and more well-versed in EU Law. ELSA would like to thank everyone who made the trip possible, including generous sponsor, Mr Mark Brealey, lecturers Dr Ronan McCrea and Dr Alison Bisset, and the University of Reading’s School of Law.

Recruitment entrepreneur James Caan has said students should gain extra marks towards their degrees from workplace experience. The the former Dragon from the BBC’s Dragon’s Den said: “I have found over the years that graduates can fill three pages with details of their dissertations yet tell prospective employers nothing about their practical experience.

Dragon emphasizes importance of skills to enhance employability “How does the employer know whether they have the discipline to turn up for work every day? Whether they can take on responsibility? Or whether they are prepared to knuckle down to a task?” Caan himself originally dropped out of school at the age of 16 to start his first company in 1985. However, he later went on to graduate from Harvard Business School in 2003. Caan made his fortune founding and selling recruitment company Alexander Mann and headhunting firm Humana International. More recently, he set up private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw, which now turns over more than £400m a year.

Vicky Wong

President of the National Union of Students (NUS), Aaron Porter has praised Reading University Student’s Union (RUSU) as one of the best student unions in the country, and has commended the sabbatical officers for their campaigning work last year.

NUS President praises RUSU as “one of the best student unions in the country”

Students from the University of Reading in the European Parliament in Brussels. Photograph by Nicholas Villalta

Dragon: work experience should be accredited on degrees Laurence Green

praises RUSU

“The job market has never been tougher,” continued Caan. “It is imperative that students are able to utilise and demonstrate all their skills as soon as possible to make them employable. Universities should do more to help students make the connection with businesses. Some universities do more than others to help this process which inevitably means that there are students who miss out on opportunities like work placements because they don’t know how to find them.” Caan also stressed the importance of confidence and initiative when looking to make your mark on the job market. His new book Get The Job You Really Want focuses on areas such as this as well as mentoring jobseekers on how to search for the best employers and how to succeed in interviews. Some universities are already considering ways of incorporating work and business skills into their degrees with Durham University and University College London in particular believed to be looking at ways of awarding additional marks for work experience and job skills. Eve Nicol, VP of Student Activities at the Reading University Student’s Union (RUSU) shared her thoughts with Spark* on the matter; “If corporate skills becomes part of everyone’s degree

programme, it will remain just as important that individuals find their own opportunities to stand out from the crowd.

“It is imperative that students are able to utilise and demonstrate all their skills” “The best work experience placements are the ones that allow you to demonstrate your creative thinking and ambition, not just where you are another cog in a machine. Work experience that you find or create for yourself shows intuition and passion, and will be more enjoyable for you and better received by future employers.” She also stressed the importance of signing up for schemes like RED; “If you are already undertaking work experience or volunteer positions, including a position on a sports or society committee, you could be missing out on having your efforts accredited by the RED Award. “Having your activities verified by your institution can only strengthen the good efforts you’ve put in. The Award also provides sessions on how to translate your activities into job-winning CV language.”

In an interview with Spark*, Mr Porter said that he had been incredibly impressed with RUSU over the years. He further acknowledged that RUSU brought one of the largest number of students to the national demonstration on 10 November last year, and further commended the student officers, staff, and volunteers for helping to make RUSU one of the best student unions in the country. In response to the interview, RUSU President Jess Lazarczyk said to Spark*; “I’m speechless to be honest, and once again very proud and feel very lucky to be involved with such a fantastic organisation. “It’s fantastic that we’ve been recognised in this way, but we wouldn’t be half as successful without the support and hard work of Reading students.” VP for Student Activities, Eve Nicol added: “This kind of praise is something that everyone who contributes to union activities, the volunteers, sports and societies all should be really proud of.” However, Eve was quick to add that that there is always more to be done to improve RUSU. Nes Cazimoglu, VP for Democracy and Campaigns further added: “I’m personally very grateful for the support at the NUS over the past couple of months. “The campaigning activity that

Photograph from Varsity online the students’ movement has seen over the last couple of months has reinforced how important it is that RUSU continues to be affiliated to the NUS, enabling us to be at the heart of debate and policy, setting the direction for the students’ movement.” RUSU VP for Academic Affairs, Tommy Gilchrist said: “Visits from the President of the National Union of Students to Reading University Students’ Union are always welcome; they strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two organizations and enable us to work more closely together to better represent our students’ views on a national stage. “However, weeks of indecisive dithering by NUS, coupled with the initial condemnation and rejection of students taking direct action, has left many across campus feeling disillusioned with the direction their national union is taking. “RUSU has a referendum to hold in the next year on whether we choose to re-affiliate with NUS; Mr Porter has a lot of work to do to convince students here at Reading, and across the country, that NUS is truly still a national union and speaks on behalf of students everywhere.” Read the full interview with Aaron Porter in Spark* Interview section on page eight.

Are you a bright Spark*?

Write for Spark* News Visit the Spark* office in the RUSU hub or e-mail us at news.spark@reading.ac.uk


4 NEWS

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

news.spark@reading.ac.uk

Reading raises profile Sibly development of science and maths plans cause uproar Lucy Chamley

Libby Holderness

It has been a tremendous month of achievement for the Department of Mathematics and Faculty of Science at the University of Reading. With their well-attended push for encouraging youngsters to consider the wider implications and essential use of mathematics in many real world situations, sharp minds engaged with a variety of tools, challenges and modes of creative thinking to solve a murder, predict an epidemic, drill for oil and model new polymers – all through the simple use and application of mathematics.

Hopes to reverse the trend of diminishing applications This recent drive was particularly well-placed to help combat the falling interest in mathematics on a national scale as highlighted by the plummet in applications for places on mathematics courses across the country in both sixth forms and universities, including Reading. It received favourable responses, and will hopefully help to reverse the trend of diminishing numbers. At least, for this group

of students, it was a real eye-opener in the value of mathematics. The University also hosted Europe’s largest annual science gatherings, organised by the Association for Scientific Education, which featured some of the biggest names in current popular science. This included Sir David Attenborough, Lord Robert Winston (Professor of Fertility Studies at the Imperial College School of Medicine in London), Steve Jones (professor of genetics and former Head of the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College, London) and the university’s own Dr. Averil Macdonald (one of UKRC’s Women of Achievement for her progress made on science communication and outreach). One of the conferences secondary functions was the official launch of Dr. Macdonald’s new website, Fantastic Plastic, with demonstrations particularly targeting young people - the result of years of collaboration between the universities of Reading, Southampton and Surrey. Catering for a wide audience of teachers, lecturers, science researchers, technicians and any interested member of the public, the turn-out was substantial with over 3,000 delegates from all over Eu-

rope. Subjects covered were farranging, including climate change, archaeology, visual intelligence, different aspects of food science, chemistry and early parent-child relationships. The breadth and depth of seminars and presentations showcased some of the finest research for which Reading is famous, and helped the conference to be an all-round resounding success. Together with the maths workshop, the finesse of Reading has been well broadcast, and has interested many, of all ages, in the merits of our university.

Nearby residents fear loss of green space and traffic chaos

Dr. Averil Macdonald, one of UKRC’s Women of Achievement. Photograph from soton.ac.uk

Reading students and staff call for action against cuts of Students (NUS), and will aim to highlight issues such as youth unemployment the recent scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and AimHigher. Referring the vote on the trebling of tuition fees last year, NUS President Aaron Porter emphasized the importance of moving the narrative on from tuition fees and loans, and spoke of the need to focus on a broader range of youth issues.

Photograph from SOS Reading Vicky Wong

Students from the University of Reading have been called to take part in another national day of action. Protest marches will take place in Manchester and London on Saturday 29 January, and a second march will also take place on Saturday 26 March in Hyde Park in London. The marches which will involve the Trade Union Congress (TUC), University and Colleges Union (UCU) and the National Union

Reading based group, RUFF-Cuts rally students and staff to protest in London Whilst the Manchester march will involve the TUC, UCU and the NUS, students from the University of Reading spent the first week of term canvassing for the London march on 29 January, which is seperate from the NUS. The Reading based group, named Reading University Fights Fees and Cuts (RUFF-Cuts), was formed in November 2010 by school and

The proposed redevelopment of the Sibly Hall site has caused controversy with local residents. The plans are to demolish the halls of residence to build 100 new homes. It has been proposed that the mobile communications equipment currently on the roof of Sibly will be relocated to ensure coverage. However, local residents have expressed concern over the plans, submitted on 20 December 2010, fearing that developing the 11-acre site would result in loss of green space and traffic chaos. Sibly Park Road resident Penny Smillie told the Reading Post: “I think it’s very sneaky with the timing [just before Christmas] and it does not surprise us. For us it’s now about making people aware the application has been submitted and acting as quickly as possible.”

university students and staff in the Reading area. The group have expressed intentions of establishing themselves as a student society based in RUSU, as (according to the group), it will enable them greater access to RUSU resources. However, it has not been confirmed by RUSU whether official society status has been conferred. A draft of their constitution can be found on their facebook page. Although the group state that they are not associated with any political parties, they are affiliated with Reading’s “Save Our Services” Organisation, a network of trade unionists, community groups and local residents fighting against the government cuts, and its effects on local services in Reading. Those attending are required to meet at Reading train station at 10am. For more information, email ReadingFights@yahoo.co.uk or phone them at 07582051029. Alternatively, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ groups/ReadingFightsFeesandCuts.

The plan to relocate the phone mast on the roof of Sibly Hall to nearby woodland has also met fierce opposition from local residents. Sibly Action Group (SAG) chairwoman Rita Steele said: “This proposal, if approved, will have a serious impact on the visual amenity of residents in the vicinity of the proposed mast and will affect those who have enjoyed access to the copse for many years.” There are also concerns that the density and design of the planned housing development would not be in keeping with the local residential area. The University said in its Sibly Hall Newsletter: “We are confident the new scheme will fit well

with the density of the areas surrounding it currently.” Furthermore, the University said: “We recognise that there will be a small net increase in traffic as a result of this development. However, the site is well located for walking and cycling.” The University continued: “We are keen to respond to concerns about parking, and therefore the proposed level of parking provision exceeds the currently adopted parking standards.” The University also said that it had taken residents’ views into account and where possible had incorporated them into the design. The proposed development will consist of a mix of two- to fivebedroom houses and one- or twobedroom apartments.

“It is a time of economic challenges for higher education” It also includes a tree-planting scheme, open leisure spaces and proposals to safeguard and enhance wood-land. University of Reading deputy vice-chancellor Professor Tony Downes said: “As we are concentrating our student accommodation on the Whiteknights campus, Sibly Hall will not be required after the end of the 2012 academic year. “At a time of economic challenges for higher education, the University needs to ensure we make best use of our assets in order to provide for our core purpose of conducting excellent teaching and world-renowned research. “However, in so doing, we are confident that we have devised a scheme for Sibly that will provide excellent quality homes in keeping with the area, a secure future for the woodland and continuity of the mobile signal for the community.”

Photograph from Commons Wikimedia


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

Visa issues cause concern for University

Libby Holderness

British law pertaining to international visas and regulations are in the process of being tightened up. The new regulations are intended to acknowledge schools and universities around UK, and can have an effect on the number of international students from outside Europe applying to study as the effort to do so is dramatically increasing. This could affect the numbers of students entering foundation programmes both at the University of Reading and elsewhere, as many of the core numbers have previously included large groups of Saudis and Chinese – two national groups who have been given more political prerequisites to their acceptance into the UK.

In the past, students typically have applied for a particular type of visa to enable them to enter the UK for study purposes, which have historically been relatively easy to acquire and use. The essential element before was to obtain a letter from the university or school stating that the student has been accepted onto a programme with an estimated duration of the total study time. The candidate would then submit this to the UK visa agency either in London or in their home country, and if successful, would be permitted leave to remain in the UK until the proposed end date of the course. There would also be an option to extend their visa for post-study work in the UK. Since the UK border agency has become more concerned regarding

the record number of immigrants already present in, and applying to enter the UK, they have changed their visa application process. Students are now required to submit the same offer letter, and in addition, schools and universities are obligated to have regular checks carried out to ensure that non-EU students attend the classes in the institution where they stated that they would study. Thus, if a student fails to attend a certain number of classes, or wishes to change institution, their visa is terminated, and it is necessary for them to exit the UK immediately, and re-apply for a new visa under their updated circumstances from their home country. It has also been made necessary for graduates to apply for a new work visa if they wish to remain

news.spark@reading.ac.uk

in the country for employment purposes after their course has finished, rather than merely applying for an extension. The UK government has also imposed more restrictions on the conditions for entering the UK for university study, including suggesting a minimum English language level. This means that more students must reach a higher level of English knowledge before being allowed to start English language programmes around the country. The effect this can have on the University of Reading could lead to fewer non-EU students studying on its foundation and precessional language programmes than previously.

RUSU wants you to serve your union Vicky Wong

Sabbatical officers from the Reading University Student’s Union (RUSU) held a workshop before the end of term on the upcoming RUSU elections. The meeting, which took place in the Lounge on 14 December 2010, involved an informal presentation and question and answer session on the roles and responsibilities involved in becoming a RUSU student officer and student trustees. The sabbatical officers spoke of their roles in the studen’s union, which involves promoting the democraticness of RUSU, fostering relations with the local community in Reading, developing societies, raising awareness of welfare related issues and ensuring academic representation of students. With a salary of £17,000 per annum and free Union entry, positions for student officers are open to all students.

It was stressed that candidates hoping to apply for a position within RUSU needed to promote and believe in the values of RUSU. The current sabbatical officers spoke positively of the opportunities involved in becoming a student officer for RUSU, which currently holds the SUEI Silver Award (Student’s Union Value Initiative) for best student union in the country.

Officers earn £17,000 The meeting also stressed the importance of RUSU’s affiliation with the National Union of Students (NUS), which provides incoming sabbatical officers with the necessary training and a variety of networking opportunities to help them with the work. Although RUSU have the option of disaffiliating with the NUS, the officers were quick to stress the valuable training provided by the

NUS has been in helping them carry out their work within RUSU. It was noted that during the meeting, being a student officer provides one of the best forums of networking for officers and former officers (alongside Sandhurst and the Civil Service). Following the presentation was a question and answer session from attendees. RUSU sabbs were questioned about the flexibility of working hours, how much contact time they have with students, the voting system, working with the full-time RUSU staff and the handover process. Whilst each officer has been

assigned a specific role, VP for Democracy and Campaigns, Nes Cazimoglu, stressed that every officer has their chance to make the role what they want it to be for the year. Plans for campaigning or public speaking workshops may be planned depending on what potential candidates want to do. Another student election support workshop will be held in the RUSU Boardroom on Friday 21 January at 5pm. Prospective candidates hoping to run for sabbatical positions are encouraged to contact the student officers for more information.

So what are you waiting for, put down the paper and follow these quick and easy steps!

News In Brief

Henley Business School receives accredition

Henley Business School

and the University of Reading have been awarded the

prestigious AACSB International (The Association to

Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) business ac-

creditation. Less than 5% of

business schools or universities worldwide have earned the AACSB hallmark of ex-

cellence in management education. Professor Gordon

Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading,

said: “We are delighted that

AACSB accreditation recog-

nizes the quality of business education throughout the University.”

Need help choosing your student house?

RUSU will be holding a se-

ries of housing talks to help students find their perfect place to rent for the next academic year.

There will be housing talks at all of the halls of residence.

Photograph from RUSU

Get ready and register to vote! We are now in the Elections Term so get ready for campaigning coming your way. Get ready to cast your vote by making sure you are registered on our brand new website! It’s easy to register. Do it now and you will be entered to win prizes each week!

News 5

4. Fill in your University Number, Date of Birth, email address and create a password.

1. Visit www.rusu.co.uk 5. Click “Submit”. 2. Click “Register” in the top right hand cor6. You’ll then receive ner. one email to validate 3. Select “Register a your email address and RUSU website account”. a second to validate

your account and once both of these are validated your account is live. Voting begins Friday 25th February, 10 am. Check out all the elections information at www.rusu.co.uk/elections

Lasting for about half an

hour, the talks will give tips on everything from looking

for houses to viewing properties, paying deposits, signing contracts and dealing with

landlords and letting agents. In the next issue of Spark*,

we will also be featuring tips

and hints on how to find your perfect house and deal with your landlord, as well as

troublesome housemates.

For more information, visit

www.rusu.co.uk/housing and check out the next issue of Spark*.


6 ADVERTISEMENT

marketing@rusu.co.uk

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

politics.spark@reading.ac.uk

POLITICAL COMMENT 7

POLITICAL COMMENT A career in politics? You must be mad Jessica Hosmer-Wright

A Conservative Campaign HQ worker almost cried with exhaustion as he explained to me and another intern last April, “This party will take over your life!” Little pay in return for long hours, unswerving devotion and not a thank you in sight. For a career which is seemingly so wretched, it is fiercely competitive. Vacancies, even for unpaid internships, in MP’s offices are few and far between, many receiving over a hundred applicants.

“This party will take over your life!” To get one of these golden tickettype internships you must be up to speed on current affairs, the inner workings of Westminster etc. Dedication to the party is vital (demonstrated by number of blisters achieved in one canvassing session; my record is five), you need “excellent communications skills” so you can answer the phone and draft a letter to that particularly angry constituent, but above all you need to remember that there will always be a protégée who was brokering peace agreements at the UN during their gap year, has a double first in Economics and Daddy knows the Goldsmiths, this is the person you’re up against at the interview.

Interviews can be good, bad and even ugly. When they’re ugly, find somewhere secluded before you cry, if you can’t stare at a tube map, no one will notice. Internships are valuable as you will learn why that bell is ringing and what the devil an adjournment debate is anyway. So, you’ve been living off thin air for three to six months and doing everything from making coffee to writing press releases. Once you have a paid job, make the most of what benefits there are, because you and your MP will be up for the sack come the next election. One benefit is that they have the best doughnuts ever in Portcullis House, but of course your new pencil skirt means you can’t eat them. Talking of pencil skirts MPs tend to be men of a certain age away from their wives held up in the constituency. Just realise that if one flings themselves at you it won’t be a compliment. One researcher was explaining to me last summer that to become an MP or even an adviser you need to have a whiter than white private lif. He suggested deleting any risqué photos on Facebook. I smiled, I didn’t have any photos like that on Facebook. It wasn’t until I was walking away from Westminster, still smug at having a skeleton-free cupboard, that I remembered something I had done a few years back and that the person in possession of the photographic evidence

was too a budding politician who’s moral compass would make Machiavelli pale into insignificance. Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel! After three internships and a Masters, a friend of mine recently landed his first job in politics and as he said, it’s all so that we can be working on policy in No. 10 one day. Though I have my heart set on the Press Office.

Sophie Blackman

Many western women - and men - view the Muslim veil (in its many forms, including the burka and hijab) as a marker of female oppression, and this mind-set has lead to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial ban of the burka in France last year. In June 2009 he said: “We cannot accept, in our country, women imprisoned behind a mesh, cut off from society, depraved of all identity.” The concept behind the ban was to protect women who are forced to wear the burka against their will; totally reasonable, as nobody

Behind the veil

should be forced to do anything against their will. But how many Muslim women living in western countries actually have their dress dictated by the men in their lives? Are women forced to wear the traditional clothing of their religion, or is it their choice to demonstrate their beliefs through dress? Amy Jackson, a PhD Law student, recently held a focus group with Muslim students here at the University of Reading to explore the motivations and beliefs behind the wearing of veils. Those interviewed agreed that what they wear is a conscious choice for them and many Muslim women in Britain today. In fact, several of the students have been advised by parents not to wear a veil in Britain. One interviewee’s parents advised her not to wear the hijab to a job interview. She reluctantly complied, took the job, and then asked her supervisor if she could wear her hijab. The management had no problem with this and the student was annoyed that her family had previously made her remove it. After the bombings of 9/11 and 7/7, those interviewed researched their religion and pinpointed their beliefs, knowing they would need to defend themselves against ignorant individuals. Instead of being forced, many choose to wear a form of the veil not only to demonstrate modesty, but to be identified as Muslim women. This is a far cry from

Sarkozy’s concern that veil-wearers are stripped of “all identity” – in Britain today the veil represents the modern Muslim’s right to choose.

Many choose to wear a form of the veil to demonstrate modesty In 2005 Imperial College London banned veils and hoodies which obstruct the face, including the hijab, for reasons of security. Miss Jackson asked her interviewees; what if a similar ban was imposed here? The students expressed shock at the possibility of being forced to choose between their education and beliefs; surely that would not be a sign of modern female liberty? It should be possible to follow the rules of both the university and your religion without compromising identity. Forcing Muslim women not to wear a veil is not dissimilar to forcing them to wear one. The basic right to freedom of expression is infringed in both situations.

The future is bright, but is the future orange for the EU? Liz Holderness

At the start of a new decade we see political change and reform across the world; there is a certain necessity to look back over the major events from the 2000s and consider what lessons may be gleaned from an analysis of their so-called failures and successes. The most dramatic developments in Europe pertains to the dealings between Eastern European states and Russia, including the crisis over the attempted invasion of Georgia by Russia in 2008, the ongoing attack on Chechnya, and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in 2004. Of these, the most significant appears to be that of the demonstration on Independence Square, Kyiv in November 2004. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, following more than 400 years of captivity, it had been seeking to establish itself as a blend between one of the ‘three sister states’ (Ukraine, Belarus

and Russia) and a strong, independent territory of its own. At this point, it was controlled by a series of older, male Communiststyle leaders who handed onto an appointed successor until Kuchma attempted to establish Yanukovich as Ukraine’s next president in 2004.

Yushchenko was the only one without criminal links After a brief spell of poisoning, violence and rigging of elections, it became clear that the results were not as the public had chosen. Within hours, a makeshift camp had been established on the capital city’s central square, with thousands of protestors. Following this, the pro-European leader, Yushchenko, was elected president of Ukraine. Of three contesters who were vying for

the position, many thought that Yushchenko was the obvious choice as he was the only one without substantial criminal links. Tymoshenko and Yushchenko were both pro-European, with strong Polish sympathies closely tied into popular Western Ukrainian opinion, whilst Yanakovich was more amenable towards Eastern Ukraine and thus rather more supportive of Russia. The inauguration of Yushchenko as the new president in 2005 heralded great promise for the future; many believed that there would no longer be any fighting between the East and West, and that a strong affiliation with Europe would introduce greater stability, more favourable global relations and an affluent lifestyle for Ukraine and its people. As such, Ukraine started to strive for NATO membership and the cost of living soared. There was a huge onus on Yushchenko to quickly pull Ukraine out of its

communist setup and completely transform its political and financial arena to be akin to new EU states at the time, such as Poland and Latvia. Yushchenko, however, lacked the boldness required to bring Ukraine into the twenty first century, focussing instead on local culture and language rather than implementing many noticeable political changes, including those which were needed to adhere Ukraine to the EU and prompt the win of Tymoshenko in the next election.

It contributed to the economic crash in Europe Tymoshenko continued to develop the plans that Yushchenko had demonstrated. However, she maintained the same amount of corruption as when Kuchma was in control, with wealthy business

tycoons buying prestigious positions in the country and criminals evading punishment. Simultaneously, Ukrainians believed they had more money, and started spending almost recklessly, causing costs to spiral out of control, which in turn contributed to the economic crash in Europe. Kuchma was replaced by Yanakovich in the most recent elections, continuing a trend of rapid presidential successions, constant parliamentary in-fighting and a ‘failure’ by Ukrainian leaders to bring stability and progress. The latest events in Ukraine – the parliamentary fist-fight in December 2010 - the introduction of absolute power for the president to decide who will be in government circles, and the submission of over 100kg of enriched uranium to Moscow in the last six months, indicates a return to Russian pre-eminence and the rise of Communist tendencies; a position similar to the era before the Orange Revolution.


8 INTERVIEW

interview.spark@reading.ac.uk

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

interview

NUS President: Aaron Porter talk about the bigger issues that younger people are facing, and so we think it would be wrong to just keep banging on about tuition fees and loans.

Vicky Wong

The National Union of Students (NUS) President Aaron Porter has been in the news quite a lot recently. You could say he’s become the face of the student protests, for better or worse. A graduate from the University of Leicester with a BA in English from the class of 2005, Aaron has been involved with student politics for quite a few years. He was a sabbatical officer for two years at Leicester University’s student union, is a former NUS VP for Higher Education and current NUS President. In his current role he represents all members of the respective student unions on the national level. I asked him how his work has been going and about the challenges the NUS currently faces on our behalf. Needless to say 2010 must have been an extremely challenging year for you and NUS. How do you feel it went? Well, certainly it was an incredibly intense year. When I stood for NUS president, I stood because I knew it was a hugely important year with regards to tuition fees and cuts, and I have to say I think we ran an incredibly impressive

campaign. We won some concessions, like loans for part time students, and not having to repay until you earn £21,000, and whilst it wasn’t everything we wanted, we still managed to get some significant victories. I think crucially the NUS has been transformed from an organisation which many students didn’t know about to having a much better idea about some of the things we stand for. That’s a huge step forward and something I’m personally very pleased about.

I reject the false choice between places and price What do you hope to achieve from the Right to Recall campaign and are you not concerned that it could damage the government’s stability?

We are continuing to focus on recalling MPs we think have broken a promise and I think many students are angry about that, so we want to channel that through legitimate democratic means. We have to wait for the legislation to pass because it is still going through the House of Commons.

If it passes, we will consider going into a particular constituency. Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg’s seat, looks like a good choice, and we will see if we can force him into a by-election. We’re not doing this because we want to bring down the government, we want to hold politicians who made a promise to account, because I think it is unacceptable that they break a promise and nothing is done. If there’s a by-election, people of Sheffield Hallam may choose to re-elect Nick Clegg, that is fine, if they don’t then I think that’s his just desserts. What do you hope to achieve with the joint TUC/NUS march on 29 January?

Whilst 10 November was more focused on tuition fees and cuts, this is about youth issues more generally. So we will start to also talk about youth unemployment which is a huge issue for current students worried about the jobs market, and those that have graduated in the last two years and still haven’t found a job. We want to talk about the scrapping of EMA which is a grant to the poorest students, and about the AimHigher programme which looks like it’s about to be scrapped. We want to

The Vice Chancellor at the University of Reading explained that the university had to either cap fees and shrink the number of students to fit the University’s funding regime, or raise fees and allow more students to apply. Do you accept that if we want to widen participation, fees need to go up? I reject the false choice between places and price, because what vice chancellors and others have failed to recognise is that if you keep fees where they are, and stop people going to universities it doesn’t mean that there are no additional places. The state have to pay for that individual’s job seekers allowance per year, so actually it’s cheaper to put them in university for a year. I would say to the Vice Chancellor and the government that they didn’t need to freeze or cut student places, because then there would be more unemployed people who they would still have to pay for. Instead they may as well fund them to go to university, I think that will allow us to have a more highly skilled workforce, there are more benefits of going to university for the individual, society and the economy, and we could try to promote those benefits rather than setting up a false choice between price and student numbers which was deliberately set up in a narrow-minded way.

I want students to recognise that we are on your side on day-today issues like teaching quality and feedback Last year you came to the University of Reading to take part in a debate on higher education funding. What were your overall impressions of the University and the Student’s Union? Well, I think it’s great that the students union put on the debate and I have to say I’ve been incredibly impressed with RUSU over not just this year, but in previous years as well. They’ve brought an incredibly large number of students to the national demonstration on the 10 November, they’ve run some fantastic and innovative

campaigns, and I think it’s one of the best student unions in the country in truth. My hat goes off to the sabbatical officers, to the staff at the student union, and to the volunteers that help to make the Reading union one of the best in the country. You’ve been involved with student politics for quite a few years, you were a sabbatical officer for two years, and NUS VP for Higher Education before becoming President. What is it about the NUS that you inspires you the most? When I was a student I had a very good experience, I enjoyed the university and the course, I was heavily involved with the student’s union, and it gave me lots of opportunities. I wanted to ensure that future generations of students got those opportunities as well, which is why I stood for NUS in the first place, why I wanted to be President in this particular year, and why I wanted to see this through to the end, which is to say that we will retain our principle opposition to the trebling of tuition fees. You are standing for re-election to the NUS Presidency. What will your priorities be?

The kind of things I’ll be taking forward is to make sure that there are new rights and protections for students in a new environment. So I want to see commitment on contact time, commitment to students on feedback of their assessed work, and universities abolishing their hidden course costs. I want assurances that accommodation prices will be contained and not allowed to spiral out of control, and students unions to be given more funding from their universities if more money is coming from tuition fees. I want students to recognise that we are on your side on day-to-day issues like quality of teaching, contact time, feedback on work and feedback on assessed work. Will we be expecting to see you in politics anytime soon? It’s a question I get asked more than I spend time considering. I know a lot of NUS presidents have gone on to politics, but to be honest I haven’t decided either way what I’ll be doing after finishing my term as NUS President. Pick up the next edition of Spark*, where Reading’s Vice Chancellor Professor Gordon Marshall will have his say on student fees and the HE funding debate.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

comment.spark@reading.ac.uk

DEBATE 9

Debate

Too hard on Woollard?

Was Edward Woollard dealt with unfairly? No Yes chris riley

rhodri buttrick

A fire extinguisher hurtles to the ground, glinting past the windows of Millbank Tower. A metre from an oblivious policeman, the extinguisher lets out a musical peal as it bounces on the concrete. This will be the most famous fire extinguisher in history. Fast forward a few months and Edward Woollard, the protestor responsible for throwing the extinguisher, is sent to prison for two years and eight months. I do not support the violence which took place during the university fees protest. I am, however, arguing against Edward’s imprisonment. With regards to this case, there is a complete lack of sensible, balanced opinion in the press and on-line. One cohort brandishes pitchforks screaming, “Throw away the key!” At the other end of the spectrum, Woollard is a hero who should have “killed a copper”. This latter opinion I do not need to debunk, as an underprepared police force had an arduous task that day. Does the punishment fit the crime? When child abusers have been sentenced to nine months, it seems bizarre that a sixth former with no history of bad behaviour or violence received such a harsh sentence. Woollard’s defence described his action as a “moment of madness”. Let’s not forget the strange psychological effects crowds have on people. Imagine standing in a football stadium, cheering your team, part of the crowd. If trouble starts, responsibility feels collective, not personal. The wayward Woollard was swept along on a tide of adrenaline to the roof of Millbank Tower, there to commit an act of stupidity. I’m shocked by the unsympathetic and judgemental attitude of those who want him locked up for longer because, “He could have killed a policeman!” But he didn’t. This isn’t Minority Report. We can’t charge people for crimes they haven’t committed, or in his case, didn’t plan to commit. Drunk drivers could, in theory, kill someone just by driving a car but we do not imprison them as potential murderers. What good will imprisoning

Woollard do? Yes, the consensus is that he should be punished, but our judicial system also aims to reform and rehabilitate. Yet to complete his A levels, Wollard’s academic career and, possibly his whole life, is ruined. Repentant, and with no history of violence, he is not a public threat. The shock of appearing in court would have made Woollard consider the consequences of his actions in future. His imprisonment will achieve possibly one of two things. He will either emerge a wreck, incapable of contributing positively to society, or a bitter, resentful individual, fully qualified for a career in crime. Surely a more appropriate sentence would be a lengthy stint of community service, enabling him to undo his crime by serving his community. Violent youths are given ASBOs when our hapless school pupil is locked up for his first offence. On drunken nights out people commit equally stupid acts and get away with them; at least Woollard had the guts to own up to his crime I also have a hunch his imprisonment is politically motivated. The Judge said, “It is deeply regrettable, indeed a shocking thing, for a court to have to sentence a young man such as you to a substantial term of custody. But the courts have a duty to provide the community with such protection from violence as they can and this means sending out a very clear message to anyone minded to behave in this way.” The police are expending huge resources in tracking down other protestors and Woollard is being made an example and a scapegoat to discourage further protest. Sky News (Martin Brunt)  interpreted the “tough sentence” as designed to send a message to the protest community: “The judge may have made an example of him not just for his own ‘moment of madness’, but perhaps for the violence that followed in subsequent student protests, including the attack on Charles and Camilla. And perhaps for any student protest violence to come.” Is it really fair, to be judged for the rest of your life on one moment of teenage stupidity?

No amount of “but he got caught up in the event” talk saves you from the simple facts

This will be the most famous fire extinguisher in history

Is it really fair to be judged for the rest of your life on one moment of teenage stupidity?

What do YOU think about this?

Do you that the sentence Edward Woollard received is fair or not? You can tune in on Thursdays, from 1-2pm to NEWSJUNCTION by going to www.rusu.co.uk/junction11. Let your opinions be heard! OR you can comment on Rhodri’s view at www.blog. rhodders.com/too-hard-onwoollard/

So Edward Woollard, the New Forest sixth-former with the Meatloaf haircut and the apparent handling skills of Robert Green, has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, serving at least half of that in a young offender’s institution, for throwing a fire extinguisher off the roof of Conservative Party HQ; an act that drew the immediate condemnation of the 4000 protestors beneath and painted a reckless hue onto the already tarnished events of that day. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC calls this a “deterrent sentence”, designed to put people off making such stupid acts in the future. Simple. Case closed. Use punishment to put people off committing crimes in the future; isn’t that what the whole point of punishment is? Some disagree. I was reading through Deborah Orr’s article in The Guardian (dated 13/1/2011) and she seemed to think that Woollard’s naivety and the fact that “he seems... basically a pretty straight guy” deemed him less worthy of punishment than if the act had been carried out by a seasoned protester. Indeed, if this act had been carried out by a member of Rent-a-Mob, a professional anarchist, would we even be having this conversation? Woollard could have been given the maximum sentence, and if he did have a previous criminal record, he’d be staring at five years in prison. Or seems convinced that Woollard is the victim of a politically motivated sentence, whose fate is deemed by other protesters and commentators as nothing other than “collateral damage”. Leaving aside the potential ramifications of the judiciary being heavily influenced by the government for a moment, Woollard never considered that his actions could possibly have any consequences; it never occurred to him that a fire extinguisher being thrown off a tall building could kill someone. No amount of “but he got caught up in the event” talk saves you from that simple fact. I was recently having a conversation with Rhodri Buttrick, a man that most of you will know as the author of the argument debating

this article, and he kept coming back to the idea that this sentence was completely disproportionate, citing “that MP who recently got done for expenses fraud” as a prime example. Well, let’s take a look at that. David Chaytor was imprisoned for 18 months for illegally claiming £22,000 in expenses, essentially defrauding the taxpayer. It was premeditated, greedy and above all it was wrong; but David Chaytor didn’t almost kill a police officer. He didn’t endanger anyone. If it comes down to money, then just think how much was spent trying to identify Woollard (before his mother convinced him to turn himself in), and then the legal costs. It all adds up, so you could argue that Woollard has cost the taxpayer. But I won’t argue that, as it would be petty and straw-clutching and beneath me. Ahem. If you would allow me, I’d like to finish with the same words I used when I first talked about this with young Rhodri (apologies to those of you who were watching at the time). The whole point of imprisonment is deterrence. If Edward Woollard had been given community service, or a suspended jail sentence, or even six months in a Young Offenders Institution, there would be very little to deter life-endangering acts like this in the future, and a precedent would have been set. If Woollard got 200 hours community service, then the next one would have got the same. People could have used that case when defending themselves from throwing another fire extinguisher off another roof at another protest, except that one was six inches further to the right and killed a policeman.  If you think his sentence is wrong and disproportionate to other crimes, then shouldn’t we be re-evaluating the jail terms given to other criminals, instead of to Woollard? Of course child-traffickers and sex-offenders should be given more than two years, but we should be increasing the jail terms given for these more serious offences, not reducing terms that have been given as a deterrent.


10 COMMENT

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

comment.spark@reading.ac.uk

comment

Do too many people go to uni?

yasmine patpatpia

nate saunders

‘A bath’; often suggested to achieve relaxation. That is to say, the type filled with water, possibly accompanied by other moisturising or exfoliating substances, as opposed to ‘bath’ as an object. I suggest that you have one of these ‘baths’ when you are suffering from emotional or physical tension. It does something magical to you that any other form of washing couldn’t. Ignore the fact that as time progresses, you will just be sitting in a tub of pleasant smelling water which is mostly comprised of your own dirt, and it can be quite luxurious.

University is a hot topic at the moment. But it is basic funding, not the logistics of how many people are using the once hallowed institutions, that is currently dominating the news agenda. We need universities, and in ancient times their function was to equip people with the skills for certain subject areas. The arts were predominant. Medicine and foreign languages have traditionally been the crucial backbone to many a university institution. But something in the last few years has shifted away from this tradition.

The old Labour government’s ‘inclusivity’ meant shoe-horning people into university It is estimated that before the General Election earlier this year, 48% of young people went to university after completing their A-levels. One charge made against the Labour government was that it had made education far too easy, and with 96.6% of students now getting at least an E grade at A Level (an E, not a C, is now considered to be a pass grade) there seems to be certain validity to that claim. In doing this, it is arguable that the former government did not better equip students to go to university, but rather created a revolving door which allowed a wider range of people to go into it.

The University of Brighton offers wine studies From a distance, you can see their logic. Get more people into university, increase ‘diversity’, break down the shackles of what was once seen as the education chamber of the elite rather than the masses. However, the old Labour government’s obsession with ‘inclusivity’ meant shoe-horning every person who was willing into university. This was achieved in a number of ways. The government encouraged the proliferation of the ‘new course’. The University of Brighton, for example, offers a course in Viticulture and Oenology - that’s wine studies to you and me. However, I will highlight an example that is relevant to me - a

Tea and baths

BA in Journalism. And I will, of course, explain my logic. I would love to be a journalist in the not too distant future. I was always advised against doing a Journalism degree, however, for several reasons. Firstly, is it a subject area appropriate for academic study?

Employers cringe at the thought of ‘Sports Journalism BA’ on a CV I would think the best way for a budding journalist to get into the profession would be to build up relevant experience, enrol on one of the many NCTJ courses, and get work experience with local papers. Spending many thousands of pounds, and at least three years of your young adult life, studying the profession you should actually be working in does seem a bit of a waste. After research, I discovered that eight established universities offer courses in Sports Journalism.

The former government did not better equip students for university Now, I am the Sports Editor of this newspaper, and preferably would want to report on sport if I ever did get into the field of journalism. At a recent London Irish game, speaking to several of the gathered reporters in the media room, I was told in great detail how employers in the field of journalism cringe at the thought of an applicant presenting them with the words ‘Sports Journalism BA’ on their CV. It is a good example

of the many courses that were created in the last decade to increase university numbers, yet these courses serve to water down the effect of university education and lessen the prestige of degrees.

Students are simply being told that university is the only option for them The view broadly shared by those who have many years of experience in the profession is that a good, conventional degree, followed by a short, practical course in general journalism is a far better use of a prospective sports journalist’s formative years than a three- or four-year degree course in Sports Journalism. This does not just apply here, but to a multitude of other subjects. Students are simply being told by parents, schools and government that university is the only option for them, when really there is so much more they could achieve by avoiding university.

When you are sitting on the edge of the bath in your towel those minutes of frustration seem like years However, preparing for a bath isn’t as relaxing as the bathe itself will be. You didn’t think that you would purposely fill the bath with water of a suitable temperature so that you could get straight in, did you? God no, we’re British! No matter what anyone says, we love a good a wait. We’re supposed to be fabulous at queuing, even though I can’t say I’ve mastered it particularly well. Please note, I think the trick is to pick a queue and stay there, as opposed to continuously jumping to shorter and faster moving queues. In actual fact there are no faster moving queues, none; not even the one where you’re just supposed to buy fags and lottery tickets. The fastest queue will be yours, just close your eyes and do not be distracted by the super quick, young checkout assistant at the far end. She’s actually just a mirage and only there to test your semi-permeable patience. But seriously, bath preparation is rather tedious. I’ve been asking people, mates and that, about how they like to bathe. The broad and common answer is this; as the hot water is pouring from the tap, scented bubble bath of some flavour is added, along with oils, salts, flowers or other supplements that won’t necessarily make you any cleaner. They swirl it around quickly with their unwashed foot to avoid burns and then simply wait until the scorching water cools to a more human-friendly temperature before plunging in. You might think that you only need

to wait a couple of minutes, but when you are sitting on the edge of the bath in your towel, meticulously calculating the severity of burns you will receive from getting in early, those minutes of frustration seem like years. Had you premeditated the wait, you might have been able to use those wasted minutes more appropriately. You might think that I’m rattling on about a matter of little significance, but add up all that waiting and maybe you’d have time for another long soak! I’m hoping not everyone is this illogical in their approach to bath running, and that I just have barmy mates. When properly considered, there are plenty of other rituals that adopt a similar approach. I call it conscious faffing, but you call it what you will. Tea making is similar, is it not? We make up cups of liquids too hot for our mouths and then wait whilst they take their time to cool. This isn’t quite the same as bath preparation, because waiting for a mug of tea to cool down will disable your ability to engage in other activities less so than being perched on the rim of a roll-top will do. Nevertheless, the principle is the same surely? A splash of cold water in a mug of something hot never killed anyone as far as I’m aware. Obviously biscuit dipping could be majorly hindered, but that’s for another day. What interests me about the way we function is that if something delays us, we tend to become irritated by the sheer disorganisation of it. If your plane is delayed you get a right hump on; it’s an insult to your urgency! But when we delay ourselves it’s naturally acceptable and mostly unnoticed. When you’re 10 minutes late to meet your best mate in the pub, it’s the bus you’ll blame, not the bath. The bath completely ducks the firing line. Tea and baths... they’ve beaten us.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011 

comment.spark@reading.ac.uk

COMMENT 11

It’s time to take what’s yours

Angus james ferraro

People around the country are now truly starting to realise the implications of the ‘Con-Dem’ government’s spending cuts. Students are taking to the anti-cuts movement with gusto, galvanised by cuts to HE funding and fees increases. Previously, student activism was seen as ‘edgy’ and unfashionable.

I have experienced too much condescension about my activism to think things have changed completely Then things changed. On 27 November 2010, 1,300 people gathered at a Coalition of Resistance conference. A 15-year-old named Barnaby spoke about how we - the youth of today - were supposed to be the first post-ideological generation, reduced to economic robots. He argued that this was no longer the case: “we are no longer the post-ideological generation; we are now the generation at the heart of the resistance”.

Personally, I have experienced too much condescension about my activism (mainly with People & Planet) to be naive enough to think things have changed completely. Many treat it as a phase. I will say this as clearly as possible: I will never stop exercising my democratic rights. I have some ideas about the kind of world I would like to live in, and I think they are worth sharing. I want to help shape this world. This isn’t a cute affectation. It isn’t a fad, nor is it a delusion of grandeur. It’s simply one human being, doing what all human beings can, and should, do. The first blush of the student anti-cuts movement will not last forever. Now the fees increase has been confirmed in parliament, people will forget. We need to understand what power we can wield.  If we do this properly, we become the generation that moves democracy up to a whole new level. We can take control. What we have at the moment is a pretty lazy representative democracy. A centralised government makes decisions and if we don’t like it we can complain ineffectually and vote in a different, disembodied, removed government at the next election. This is assuming

you are fortunate enough to be able to vote in a marginal constituency. It doesn’t have to be this way; we can create a participatory democracy. People need to get out and get together, and get involved with campaigning groups. This way communities (widely lamented as being on the wane) are strengthened. Ideas can be discussed, improved and acted upon. 

People need to get out and get together, and get involved with campaigning groups In this new democracy everyone is an activist. It is accepted that people hold varying sets of values and that these might not always match up, but that fundamentally people want to live in a better world and are willing to work together to achieve that. For too long people have been content to sit back and let things happen. It’s been recognised that some people take more power than others. Rather than encouraging empowerment for all, society

seems to have collectively agreed that we should be equal by having no influence. This has allowed other influences - governed by the size of your wallet - to take over. All this has happened because we have signed an unwritten contract to suppress our ideas. We have become far too polite, too ‘civilised’ to get involved in debate, action or self-government. Instead, our ideas have become lost in a sea of self-interest. It is time to drag

them back. It is time we took responsibility for our impact on the world, and realised we cannot live in isolation. In this world, everything we do has an impact. To be anything other than an activist shows a lack of humanity and common sense. Victor Hugo knew what kind of power activists can mobilise: “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come”.

The student housing market: to let or let be? james fitzgerald

January: a time of resolution and regeneration. Regeneration, not least, of the seasonal house-hunting hysteria which seizes the student population and shakes every last hurried signature out of it. I cannot pretend that it is with anything but selfish joy that I remember that this year, the frosty horrors of January will not be compounded by a ham-fisted foray into the housing market. And so the spirit of goodwill, too frequently curtailed by squabbles over who can and cannot bear to live with whom, lives on in my household – extended even towards muddy hopeful buyers traipsing over our carpets at unsightly hours. At the risk of sounding pious and, heaven forbid, experienced, perhaps I can even impart some words of advice to those hunting in the student enclave for chambers to call their own. Remember that there is a wealth of excellent material and an invaluable support service available from RUSU; until then, here are some personal chronicles of dubious interest. What’s the rush? My gripe has always been with the fierce velocity at which one is herded up and down the narrow lanes in enormous droves, grouped together by such ludicrous classifications

as “you’re all looking for a house, yeah?”, by tardy, pinstriped mavericks slobbering over your fresh student loan. The clumsy manoeuvres around “cosy” student properties at breakneck speed, with awkward thanks to the invaded, pyjama-clad residents, noodles dangling from bemused mouths, are akin to a super-accelerated round of Cluedo and are equally as liable to result in murder. Thus this rambling treatise arrives at its first point: take care to truly inspect a property.

The ‘winter rush’ to snap up properties is a predatory and selfperpetuating sales tactic Sometimes the pros and cons are obvious; at other times they are hidden behind strategically-placed wardrobes. It pays to be interrogative; summon the landlord if need be. “Where, oh where, are your electrical sockets?” you might ask. “What are your heating bills like?” “Do you realise that rising damp in the corner is also creeping up your leg to finish you off?” Bear in mind that the tenants have only been living there a matter of

months – your expedition through their back garden might be their first too. Take time. Leave a hand unattended and a short-hold tenancy agreement and ballpoint pen will be thrust into it faster than you can cry ‘mycotoxic mould allergy’. The supposed winter rush to snap up student properties is a predatory and self-perpetuating sales tactic, made true only upon its pronouncement because inexperienced students buy into it. Ask for a house in March and you’ll be treated to a sharp intake of breath and received wisdom that they’re ‘all gone’. Rubbish. Many properties are still to let for this year, twelve months on from the last frenzy. Understand that it is the job of the man with a big BMW and an even bigger Windsor knot to lean on you to rent his dankest, dampest and downright dirtiest houses. But pick a respectful letting company, which engages with you as adults, and you will find the experience a dream. Better still, choose a house from the University’s soon to be launched housing website, to feature pre-checked houses all across Reading. I remember a house in which I could never be at full stretch: it was a series of cupboards; a glorified Wendy house. The wall between kitchen

and living room was a stack of VHS tapes (not even DVDs, alas), and a nauseating mud of cigarettes and leaves lined the floor. Thanks, but no thanks. Weeks later, we found the perfect suite to suit our needs, with a superb agency – and well after the popular panic had died down. The key is not to be frightened into irrationality by the abysmal properties, and to be canny of the sales rhetoric used on you and your co-habiting chums. I’m conscious of sounding too negative. What great fun it is living with friends: the independence, the antics, the inescapable

‘banter’. But step back from it, and don’t subscribe to the panic. After a housemate went AWOL in my first year, owing to a rushed shotgun letting we were compelled to find a replacement. That replacement was lovelier than we could ever have dreamt, but this was a predicament arising from the mass, apocalyptic panic foisted upon impressionable youngsters with itchy contract-signing fingers. This January, make it a resolution to relax as chaos unfolds on the streets below - and keep your patience as all around you lose theirs.


12 FILM&TV

Friday 21 January 2011  Spark*

film.spark@reading.ac.uk

film&TV

TRON: Legacy

Director: Joseph Kosinski Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen Running Time: 125 mins Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure Rosi hirst

“Perfection is unknowable” spouts Flynn (Jeff Bridges) to his digital double in the film’s climactic finale, and this is unfortunately too true for Tron: Legacy. The longawaited sequel to Tron, 1982 sci-fi classic Legacy, is a flashy, shiny affair which succeeds wonderfully in creating a visual spectacle, but falls down in terms of plot. The storyline is often confusing, particularly for those who haven’t seen the original, which will likely be most of the audience considering how old the film is (the CG sequences, while revolutionary at the time, seem laughable today). Despite this, Legacy references the events of the original film extensively with only a brief explanation given. Admittedly, as a fan of the original I enjoyed the links to the previous film, but even I got lost occasionally. A flaw too often found in sci-fi movies is when over-

The Way Back

Director: Peter Weir Starring: Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan Running Time: 133 mins Genre: Drama Patrick Rynne

The Way Back is an epic tale of human survival against the adverse forces of nature. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War and communist Russia, it tells the story of a group of survivalists desperate to break free from their imprisonment in a Gulag. The film stars Jim Sturgess as Janusz, a young Polish former soldier; Ed Harris as Mr. Smith, an enigmatic American; and Colin Farrell as Valka, a psychopathic, institutionalised Russian. The narrative follows them on their escape through an astounding range of climates and terrains; from the frozen forests and icy lakes of Siberia, across the dry deserts of the Gobi, and finally over the colossal Himalayas. Each new landscape presents different challenges for their survival, constantly compelling the group to draw on all their

excited writers get carried away with the advanced technology they have to play with, and this is a problem with Tron: Legacy. The viewer is often left feeling out of their depth, and it takes serious effort to follow the film all the way through. However, while Legacy’s writing may be lacking, visually it is absolutely stunning. There can be no comparison between the

bland blocky graphics of Tron and the perfectly polished world of its sequel. The Grid, the colourful electronic playground where the majority of the action takes place, is realised using the latest in CGI technology, and every one of the 28 years that separate Tron from its sequel is apparent on the screen. Although the 3D effects are disappointing and gimmicky, overall the film is sleek, vibrant

and very stylish, even if Clu (a digitally de-aged motion capture of Bridges) definitely inhabits the uncanny valley. The action sequences are exciting and far more memorable than the rest of the film; the arena scenes in particular are brilliant (although too brief). The adrenaline fuelled games are flawlessly choreographed and full of tension; the discus event is very impres-

reserves of physical tenacity to withstand the conditions. Early in the film, a prison guard warns that the boundaries of their incarceration are not formed by the Gulag perimeter, but Siberia itself. The virtually impassable barrier represented by the vast tundra is conveyed powerfully. The group of escapees include a variety of characters: Sturgess’s Janusz is an educated Pole, who, owing to his principles and leadership skills, finds himself the defacto leader of the group. Farrell’s Valka is a sociopathic Russian who threatens Janusz into accepting him into the group due to his gambling debts within the Gulag, and Harris is a typical “quiet American”. The film is shot beautifully, offering landscape shots of some of the most incredible scenic views on earth, whilst also offering a visual warning as to the deadly forces of nature inherent in these vast, dramatic panoramas. The storyline is compelling, if a little porous, and the acting is largely excellent. But for The Way Back, the problems lie in the weak characterisation and broken narrative. There is something about these characters that somewhat prevents the audience from empathising with them. Unless approached as a compelling

and convincing fact or documentary, a film about human survival can only excel if the audience can genuinely warm to the characters. Despite valiant efforts by Sturgess and Farrell in particular, their parts are underwritten and often resort to cliché.

a diplomatic one; to suggest that women also have fighting spirit, or, more cynically, she may serve a commercial purpose in assuring a potential female audience that the film is not just another macho action flick. Despite being well acted by Saoirse Ronan, this is another underwritten character, and she dies before she bores the audience to the same fate. There are question marks over the authenticity of the story, based on the book The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz, which was purported to be a true account of the

The Way Back offers landscape shots of some of the most incredible scenic views on earth

sive, although it is the lightcycle race - arguably the most famous feature of the Tron series - which is the highlight of the film. A mixture of powerful modern CG technology and live action is used to create a blisteringly fast and seriously cool spectacle. This thrill is partially recaptured later in an intense airborne dogfight; while enjoyable, the sense of danger is far less noticeable, and fails to match the earlier highs. Tron: Legacy is flawed in several ways, but what makes up for many of these are the buckets of sheer cool this film radiates. From small effects like how the ‘programs’ (inhabitants of the virtual world) disintegrate into pixels when they are hit, to more important factors such as the glossy new light suits sported by the characters, this film simply has style. The inclusion of Daft Punk as composers, and thanks to a cameo as DJ programs, actors too, was a stroke of genius; their bleepy electro beats were made for this film, and many scenes are made by their brilliant underscoring. Tron: Legacy may not be “perfection”, but it certainly makes for a dazzling show.

HHH writer’s own experiences. However, in 2006 the book was effectively debunked, and Weir, who spent a total of seven years on the film, now acknowledges it as a work of fiction. As much as I feel for Weir, I can’t help but see this as a missed opportunity; it could have been a great film, but instead it is a little hollow and perhaps one mountain too long, leaving the viewer feeling as emotionally drained as the characters themselves.

HHH

Harris’s character, for example, is portrayed as an absurdly overused stereotype of an enigmatic, battlehardened, reticent American in a foreign country. Halfway through the thus far male-dominated film, a young Polish woman catches up with the group, and after initially being rebuffed, she follows them, eventually being accepted as one of their own. It is unclear what exactly Irena’s function in the narrative is; she doesn’t seem to change any of the group dynamics, nor does she appear to tempt any of these presumably sex-starved males. Perhaps her role is simply

FILM NEWS IN BRIEF - The Social Network & The King’s Speech won loads of awards at the 68th Golden Globe Awards. Stay tuned for our Awards coverage!


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

127 Hours

Director: Danny Boyle Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamlyn Running Time: 94 mins Genre: Adventure/Drama BARBARA FLETCHER

Based on mountain climber Aron Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 127 Hours is an intense personal view into the desperately long five days that Ralston (Franco, Spiderman) became trapped while canyoneering in Utah. The film opens up immediately with fast-paced scenes and upbeat music to enable the audience to sync themselves with the adventurous thrill-seeking life of Ralston, searching for the last of his equipment before he heads off on what seems like one of his usual adventures. In Franco’s first scenes, he emits a confident, self-absorbed vibe, believing himself to be the epitome of Man. With his athletic physique and good looks, Franco’s presentation of his character through the beginning of the journey is almost cocky and egocentric. Even when meeting people through flashbacks and canyoneering, Ralston still seems distant. Needing no-one and enjoying life as just “me and my music”, he even leaves his family and friends behind with just messages on his answering machine.

Gulliver’s Travels

Director: Rob Letterman Starring: Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel Running Time: 85 mins Genre: Adventure/Fantasy Patrick Rynne

Is there no diamond in the history of English literature capable of evading the supposed “improvements” that the suits of Warner and Fox think they would bring by dumbing it down and filming it in 3D?!  Gulliver’s Travels is the perfect example of why certain pieces of classic literature should have protection orders placed on them to fend off the money-

film.spark@reading.ac.uk

FILM&TV 13

The build-up to the scene where Ralston falls and catches his hand between the canyon and a rock is heightened with shots concentrating on his hand positions, as he glides his hand across smooth rocks, making us hold our breath for his sake in the knowledge that this was the moment where he would fall and the entrapment would begin.

Director Danny Boyle envelopes the audience in Ralston’s solitute and desperation Much like the recently released Buried starring Ryan Reynolds, 127 Hours focuses on the singular character, with only a few other characters briefly entering the scene. Much like the way they are depicted in the film, other characters are unimportant until Ralston’s meetings with them haunt him whilst he is caught within the canyon. For a film to portray the life and personality of Ralston whilst caught in one unchanging scene could not have been easy for director Danny Boyle, and it is understandable that for some viewers the film may appear longwinded; maybe a great idea for a subplot, but not an entire film. However, in my opinion Boyle does well to envelope the audience in the solitude and desperation Ralston experiences, even without too much insight into who he was. grabbing Hollywood fat cats. Rob Letterman’s take on Jonathan Swift’s timeless satire is not only dreadful, it’s also inconsequential, saccharine, watered down and, above all, an insult to the wit and sophistication that characterised Swift’s best work. Anyone who’s ever seen an interview with Jack Black will know that he invariably plays a caricature of himself in most films. He’s a likeable enough chap, but consistently playing yourself will never win you an Oscar, especially when you are portraying the protagonist of such a distinguished piece of literature.   To make it more accessible, Gulliver’s Travels is modernised, formulaic and full of current pop

All sounds and views are intensified; from close-ups of Ralston licking his dry, thirsty lips as he craves water and the bubbles rising in his strictly rationed bottled water, to slow pans of the landscape in silence to show how alone he really is. All of this accumulates and becomes overpowering until Ralston is plagued by hallucinations. The use of split screen and a multitude of shots and closeculture references. This typically means it is a lazy, abhorrent attempt at creating a cash cow and a nice, simplified family film which occasionally hints at sleazy adult humour without ever straying outside the “safe” zone. In the original, Lemuel Gulliver himself is from Nottinghamshire, and Lilliput is a strange foreign country populated by a tiny species with chips on their shoulders, aptly named Lilliputians. However, this remake, tailored for American audiences, manages to kill two birds with one stone by making Gulliver an American Star Wars fanboy, and by giving the proud, obnoxious little people English accents. Not to mention the fact that it only includes vague reference to the first two parts of the book (out of four), and omits the rest completely. How clever and bohemian. Despite being generally poor, Gulliver’s Travels redeems itself by being proudly unfaithful to the book. The majority of criticisms I have made have been related to its butchering of the original story. However, as a stand alone film, and one which sets out to be just that in unabashed fashion, it is not terrible -  for children.

HH

ups works well in depicting the madness while trapped with only yourself for company, and ends up becoming very claustrophobic. It is when Ralston is on his own and facing death that he realises the importance of values and beliefs, and the need to continue: this then becomes his reason and fuel for survival. 127 Hours is well put together, and a hint of humour within the

madness helps disperse the tension and desperation of the situation. I would not be surprised if Danny Boyle was acknowledged for his hard work, and I wish James Franco luck, in that he might receive something more than just hosting the Oscars this year.

HHHH

This Fortnight at the RFT... The RFT is kicking off its Spring season with some brilliant movies - don’t miss George Clooney’s steely assassin in The American, or the final film instalment of Stieg Larssons’ Millennium Trilogy: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Grab a copy of the RFT’s Spring Film Guide outside Palmer G10 and start planning, because this season they’ve got The King’s Speech, Black Swan, 127 Hours and The Tourist showing!

Tuesday 25 January (19.15): The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (15) Thursday 27 January (20.00): The American (15) Tuesday 1 February (20:00): My Afternoons With Margueritte (15) Thursday 3 February (20:00): The Arbor (15)

Prices: Members/Students £4.00 Non-members £5.50 Annual Membership £9.00

FILM NEWS IN BRIEF - Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt is directing her first ever movie, a ghostly tale called Wait Till Helen Comes. Hmm, maybe not...


14 FILM&TV

Friday 21 January 2011  Spark*

film.spark@reading.ac.uk

film&Tv

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Director: Michael Apted Starring: Georgie Henley, Skander Keynes Running Time: 115 mins Genre: Fantasy Stuart Pryke

The Chronicles of Narnia has always had a bumpy ride transferring from page to screen and once the third instalment came along, it did not look as if it was going to get any easier. After the disappointing box office results of Prince Caspian, Disney declined to complete the ‘Pevensie Trilogy’, leaving Aslan and his friends in limbo. Yet Narnia is back, thanks to Twentieth Century Fox. Voyage of the Dawn Treader follows Prince Caspian, Lucy and Edmund Pevensie as they search for the seven lost lords of Narnia, banished by Caspian’s evil uncle, Miraz. So, is Dawn Treader worth the trip to your local cinema? Yes. Is it the best in the franchise? No.

The Tourist

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Burkoff Running time: 103 mins Genre: Action/Thriller James FitzGerald

Stalking femme fatale Angelina Jolie through chic Venetian alleys and waterways, The Tourist owes a debt of thanks not only to the 2005 French film Anthony Zimmer it ‘remakes’, but also to a vintage brand of espionage flicks. Retro romance is very much the theme, as the film attempts to recreate the picturesque spy adventure, in all its fifties Technicolour glory. For all its zeal, however, the film has us in stitches a few times too often, as it unintentionally summons the spirit of that most infamous European detective: Inspector Clouseau. A thriller more Agent Cody Banks than Hitchcock, Jolie improbably chats up maths teacher/ tourist Johnny Depp on a crosscountry train, with the misguided aim of persuading her malignant pursuers that he is Alexander

The failure of Prince Caspian has affected this film more than expected. With The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, audiences were transported into a magical world; the perfect ingredients for a Christmas family film. Its sequel, however, presented us with a savage world that highlighted the barbarism of war and invasion. It goes without saying that it was quite a different tone. In some respects, this change has left Voyage in a dilemma. In an attempt to draw back audiences, director

Michael Apted has returned to the original formula that made the first chapter so successful, or at least tried to. Everything is lighter, there is more comedy and the running time has been shortened to the extreme. Unfortunately, it is moves like these that can polarise fans. Voyage was always going to be one of the hardest books to film. Its sporadic and episodic plot may work as a novel, yet as a film it makes everything a little too fast paced. In just under two hours,

our heroes are captured by slave traders, haunted by invisible, one-footed dwarves, attacked by sea serpents and followed by a mysterious green mist that makes your nightmares come true. What makes it worse is that there is no real link between any of them. One cannot help but think that this would have worked better as a television series than a feature film. That is not to say that Voyage is a bad film. At certain times it shows moments of brilliance, hindered only by the snappy plot.

Burke - an old flame of hers they are hunting for some financial misdemeanour or other. A classic premise, peppered with the clichés that were recognised as such even in the days when such a film was at its peak. Depp, his jaw perpetually dropped, unconvincingly falls for Jolie, her eyebrow arched just as eternally. Certain that Depp is their man, the gangsters effect a good, old-fashioned cat-and-mouse chase through the piazzas and canals of Venice, with a sweaty Scotland Yard (Paul Bettany and former 007 Timothy Dalton) bringing up the rear in a predictably flustered fashion; all temple-massaging exasperation and slammeddown telephones.

sabotaging the beautiful veneer of aloof, European cool of The Tourist is an inner buffoon. In this austere, post-Bourne world of spy film - in which the bad guys wear polo-necks, are back to being unironically Russian, and are wanted for tax evasion - the moments of Clouseau-esque inanity are incongruous and mire the film in nightmarish slapstick tomfoolery. Depp leaping across rooftops in evasion of ominous dark-clad thugs, in his pyjamas. Depp clinging on to the back of a boat for dear life as Jolie tears up the Venetian waterways in a powerboat, still in his pyjamas. A cameo, thankfully minus the nightwear, for Depp’s Cap’n Jack Sparrow drawling British accent is the final straw. The suspicion is that both Jolie and Depp signed up for something a little more stylish than a film which too often stares down the barrel of rank farce. Unfortunately no quantity of shots of St. Mark’s Square can avert our attention from the most irresolvable tussle going on within The Tourist: between those moments of inadvertent comedy and its pretensions of deadly-serious European noir. Henckel von Donnersmarck made his name with 2007’s Oscar-winning The Lives of Others, about Germany under the Stasi regime. Hardly a barrel of

laughs - and one cannot help but wonder how The Tourist might have turned out with a similar dose of Teutonic severity. Enjoyable, at least, for its gorgeous views of the City of Water, The Tourist might have been best received fifty years ago. It is at best

Jolie and Depp signed up for something more stylish than a film which stares down the barrel of rank farce Jolie must, of course, crack the inevitable safe with Burke’s money in before her aggressors punt in for the kill. The tour through Venice is doubtless as stunning as its leads, Jolie and Depp (appalling facial hair on his part aside). But

Apted does his best with what he is given; the climax is nothing short of thrilling and boasts one of the most spectacular CGI creatures ever created on the silver screen. Georgie Henley as Lucy and Skander Keynes as Edmund manage to carry the film along on their shoulders while the casting of Will Poulter as their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb is absolute genius. If a fourth film is ever made, Poulter will be our leading man, and the film will be a lot better off for it. I predict a bright future for his career. Ben Barnes as Caspian is dull at best, although he has thankfully lost the awful accent he adopted for his character in the second instalment. Harry Gregson Williams’ score is greatly missed. While newcomer David Arnold does his best, the music does not compliment the film as it did with the first two. There is almost no continuity, with the main Narnia theme kept to an absolute minimum. Hopefully, Twentieth Century Fox will get a chance to redeem the fantasy franchise next year, although I guess we will just have to wait and see.

HHH

a modestly entertaining venture. But treat it as its name invites – as a cheap exercise in touristic sightseeing and a hundred minutes of swanky nonsense – and you might find it amusing enough.

HH

FILM NEWS IN BRIEF - Female leads are currently being auditioned for The Dark Knight Rises, Anne Hathaway and Keira Knightly are being considered


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

Top 10 Film Websites

Emmeline Walls and tom hill

1) Internet Movie Database

http://www.imdb.com Very useful when you find yourself saying, “Where have I seen that actor before?” IMdB is the best site for film trivia, photos and cast listings.

2) Film4 On Demand

http://film4od.film4.com Cheap internet film rental site. Unlike Love Film, it is not a subscription service and you pay varying prices to be able to watch a film as much as you like in 48 hours.

3) Run Pee

http://www.runpee.com Excellent for those with weak bladders, or if you can’t get through a film without stopping for a snack, this site recommends at what point in the film to nip out. Now available as a mobile site for spontaneous cinema trips.

4) How It Should Have Ended

www.howitshouldhaveended.com How It Should Have Ended offers fan-inspired and usually humerous alternative endings to popular films which just didn’t end in the optimum way.

5) Last Exit to Nowhere

www.lastexittonowhere.com This British t-shirt and apparel site is themed around well-known and cult films.

6) iTunes Movie Trailers

www.trailers.apple.com Always the first destination for newly released film trailers, iTunes Movie Trailers features all the latest offerings in excellent quality.

7) Empire

www.empireonline.com Online home of Empire magazine. Includes all the articles from the magazine and more, as well as competitions, interviews and usergenerated content.

8) UK Student Films

www.ukstudentfilms.co.uk A platform used to promote quality student-made film material (mostly short films) and showcase the up and coming talent this country has to offer.

9) 5 Second Films

www.5secondfilms.com Short attention span? Try these frequently hilarious fan-made snippets of video, all of which are no more than five seconds long.

10) Play

www.play.com Amazon’s strongest competitor in the online DVD market, this Jersey based company is also probably your best choice for movie merchandise, t-shirts, posters and more.

film.spark@reading.ac.uk

True Blood Series 2

Created by: Alan Ball Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgård Episode length: 50 mins Genre: Supernatural Drama Steven Howse

After a groundbreaking first season, True Blood had a high expectations for a second season that would match the suspense, mystery and sexual explosiveness of the first. With Alan Ball delving deeper into the True Blood mythos of writer Charlaine Harris’ bestselling books, the True Blood universe explodes into life with more gore, sex and violence than ever before. Starting with the traditional Bon Temps murder, Sookie Stackhouse’s life is thrust straight into the mysterious world of the supernatural dealing, with maenad’s vampires and crazy Christian cults sworn on destroying the vampire population. However, Sookie isn’t the only one in danger this time. With Tara (Sookie’s best friend) seemingly finally finding happiness with the strange Maryann, and Jason (Sookie’s brother) experi-

encing spiritual awakening the supporting cast is expanded and developed, excelling in their added screen time. This allows for a more balanced series without the running storylines from the past series seeming boring or repetitive. With the main storyline of the series being the growing influence of Maryann over the town and Tara in particular, one of the criticism of the series can be that this story seems a little too extended and bland, only truly picking up pace in the epic series finale. With the expansion of the cast and the increased involvement of supporting characters there were some good and bad developments within the series. The increasing importance of Eric is a genius move by Alan Ball; Alexander Skarsgård oozes charisma as he steals every scene, and his ice-cold charm is a welcome change to the ever-increasingly annoying Bill (Stephen Moyer). With Eric’s interest in Sookie evolving, Bill’s character quickly becomes very bland and frustratingly one-dimensional. The highlight of the season takes their love triangle to Dallas in search of a kidnapped vampire, and the show hits an all time high in excitement, introducing the magnificently psychotic Lorena (Mariana Klaveno) while delv-

ing deep into the vampire/human struggles. For newcomers to the TV show, True Blood is nothing like the usual vampire films. With gore ranging from ripping out hearts to the total obliteration of a man’s torso, this isn’t your usual Bella/Edward love fest. One of the more delicately placed themes of the series is the underlying connections to the gay rights movement. With

Little Fockers

Director: Paul Weitz Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Jessica Alba Running Time: 98 mins Genre: Comedy Craig carruthers

To begin this review, one must first establish the prior films in this multi-million dollar franchise. First we had Meet The Parents, which was generally funny. Not groundbreaking, or mind blowingly hilarious, but passable as a comedy nontheless. What came next was nothing short of a travesty. Meet The Fockers was a vile, badly acted, cynical, flatulenceridden mess. A disaster of such epic proportions that the franchise it surely couldn’t have got any worse. But alas, it has. Little Fockers, the third in this tiresome franchise, is a horrible film experience akin to torture. The plot is simple enough to understand. Ben Stiller’s character Greg Focker and his wife have had a son who, quite frankly, is a torrid, vile brat, and Robert De Niro returns as the father-in-law from hell to observe Greg’s movements like the hawk he is. They come to blows again in a series of

FILM&TV 15

regular hints to when the vampires “came out the coffin”, this is an issue heavily intertwined with the series. Overall, True Blood series two is a brilliant compliment to the first series with the expansion of the True Blood universe introducing new dimensions to the vampire hit.

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This fortnight at The cheesiness of the Christmas holidays is making way for more serious fare as awards season starts in preparation for the upcoming BAFTAs and Oscars! The darkly stylish Black Swan is released on January 21, detailing the trials faced by a prima ballerina (Natalie Portman), and The King’s Speech is the story of how King George VI overcame his stutter featuring a brilliant performance by Colin Firth. For those looking for a more theatrical experience, a performance of King Lear (starring Derek Jacobi as the eponymous monarch) is being streamed live from the Donmar Warehouse in London on February 3.

unfunny gags involving wrestling and even a heart attack at a party they attend. This kind of nonsense continues to the end.

Little Fockers is a horrible film experience akin to torture The worst element of this movie is its laziness. The vile, tasteless jokes, poor performances and references to Youtube all reflect a total lack of effort. With such a talented cast as this, which includes the mighty Robert de Niro and Blythe Danner, I would have expected a movie to focus on narrative, character development and tone. This movie doesn’t really have anything going for it. It is not funny. It is not entertaining. It bores to an extreme degree, and it offends with its disgusting jokes.

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Prices:

Student: £5.15 (Mon- Thurs start times before 5pm)

£6.25 (Mon- Thurs start times after 5pm, Fri start times before 5pm) £6.95 (Sat and Sun, Fri start times after 5pm) (must provide NUS card)

Teen (13-18): £4.85/ £5.80/ £6.50 (must provide proof of age, e.g. passport)

Adult: £6.10/ £7.30/ £8.15

FILM NEWS IN BRIEF - A film adaptation of fan-favourite manga series Death Note is being developed by Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black


16 MUSIC

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark* 

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music

NEW MUSIC

Spark* brings you the hottest new artists making waves in 2011

James Blake Rachel Pilcher

Brother

Tim Combley

Brother seem to be the indie world’s worst kept secret. The hype being built around the band has music fans trawling the internet to find out what all the fuss is about. Problem is, recorded material is pretty limited due to the fact they have only recently been signed to record label Geffen. They have teased fans with a couple of songs on their website and some tour footage on You Tube. The huge profile that has been created around Brother can be explained by the fact that they are actually a great band. They

will do what The Twang were not quite able to, and bring back the lad band. Not wanting to be painted with the Oasis or Blur brush, Brother have described their music as ‘grit-pop’, a perfect description of what this band is about. They play down to earth modern rock without the frills. Brother will be supporting The Streets on their upcoming tour and have a string of their own headline shows up and down the country. It is inevitable they will pack out tents on the festival circuit in the summer. They’re playing on 11 April at Play in Reading; catch them here while you can because they won’t be playing venues this small for long.

Dry The River Paroma Guha

Dry the River are an unsigned, five-piece alt-folk band from East London. Band members include Pete Liddle (vocals), Matt Taylor (guitar), Scott Miller (bass), Will Harvey (violin), and Jon Warren (drums), who cite Fleet Foxes and Paul Simon among their influences. With hints of gospel, the group are reminiscent of the gentle and pastoral-sounding Bon Iver and Midlake. Their best songs to date - although they sound more like elegant ditties or folk tales than songs - include History Book and Shaker Hymns, which can be compared to the epic melodies

of First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale. The rise and fall of their sorrowful lyrics, aided by the voice of lead singer Tom Liddle, allude to another long-lost world, whilst carrying the naivety, nostalgia and infectious rhythms of Mumford and Sons. History Book is particularly catchy: “As heavy as a history book can be, I will carry it with me” sings Liddle, before reaching the sublime crescendo, “As sweetness sings in the pasture, we throw ourselves on the mercy of the earth”. You can download their Bible Belt EP for free from their website now.

Since the release of his first EP back in 2009, Blake’s work has been praised by many wellrespected DJs, including Gilles Peterson and Zane Lowe. His cover of Feist’s Limit to Your Love has already stormed the Radio 1 playlist, gaining him the second place slot in the BBC Sound of 2011 poll. Not only can he produce stunning vocals like this, but listen to his other work, and you hear his talents as a dub-step producer.

Devlin

A dub-step producer with stunning vocals

Laurence Green

British hip-hop seems to be going through something of a renaissance at the moment, with the likes of Tinie Tempah and Dizzee Rascal hitting levels of success previously reserved only for the nation’s favourite pop darlings. It’s injected the charts with a dynamic, intelligent new breed of music and artists like Essex’s 21-year-old Devlin are leading the charge. You may have already heard his brilliant singles Brainwashed and Runaway, and 2011 looks set to be the year he hits the big time. Devlin’s sound is distinctly British; profoundly witty and razor sharp. Angry, funny, euphoric – all these emotions and more are caught up in the whirlwind of energy that is his debut album Bud, Sweat & Beers. Imagine The Streets, but on steroids. Frenetic beats collide with epic string orchestrations and thundering guitar hooks. Devlin’s sound is big, attention grabbing - “My name’s lodged up in your brain, just like a blade in an operation”, he boasts in Brainwashed, proving he is nothing if not ambitious.

Devlin’s sound is witty and razor sharp Tracks like London City and Dreamer present a more subtle, laid back side to the rapper; anthems to the country’s capital and the VIP clubbing lifestyle. It’s this sense of the here and now that drives Devlin’s music, it’s distinctly contemporary, a vivid portrayal of the very streets we walk every day. And with collaborations with Tinchy Stryder and Labrinth already in the bag, for Devlin, the only way is up.

Hailing from London, his experimentation with different sounds knows no bounds, making his work somewhat unique, especially as he adds more and more of his own vocals. This is shown on tracks Lindisfarne and Wilheim’s Scream, as he recreates these numbers as calmer versions of their dubstep originals. The true quality of his voice shines through as it

proves to be a pleasure to listen to whether used acoustically or in a more produced manner. Air and Lack Thereof is perhaps a more laid-back dub-step creation, particularly when compared to CMYK, both of which are available on Myspace. Again, this showcases his ability to manipulate electronics, and anything else for that matter, to their full potential.

Funeral Party Rachel Pilcher

Yasmin Nia Thomas

Yasmin first made her name as a hip hop DJ and after being spotted by Pharrell Williams she toured worldwide with N.E.R.D. She then decided to try singing and songwriting, and was quickly signed to one of the best independent labels in the country, Ministry of Sound. Now at 21 years old she has been working with Labrinth (Tinie Tempah), Future Cut (Lily Allen, Devlin) and Shy FX (Dizzee Rascal) on her album. You may already recognise her voice as she featured on rapper Devlin’s single Runaway, which charted within the top 20 back in October. Her debut single On My Own is an airy trip-hop number about independence, reminiscent of Massive Attack, which shows off her voice and gets better every time you hear it.

This four-piece LA-based band have been making their mark on the music industry since early 2009, but with the release of their album scheduled for late January, Funeral Party are set to storm 2011. Formed from boredom of their hometown Whittier, Funeral Party are about to make the sort of high energy music that instantly evokes partying and often mayhem - just the way they like it. New York City Moves to the Sound of LA was an instant radio hit, spurring on support for later singles Finale and Just Because. Having already supported Julian Casablancas on tour, leading him to announce them to be “the future”, Funeral Party should have no doubts as to the success of forthcoming album, Golden Age of Knowhere.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

music.spark@reading.ac.uk

MORE NEW MUSIC The Vaccines Peaches Wainman

If there is one band to follow in 2011 then it’s The Vaccines. They’re already making waves with headline slots on the NME Awards tour, third place on the BBC Sound of 2011, poll, whilst Zane Lowe has labelled them as the “band that will kick-start a new era”. They’ve even managed to make their debut on Jools Holland’s Later..., with the shortest ever song featured on the show, and their gigs have particularly caught the eye of the press, some of which have been a mere twenty five minutes long. The Vaccines have most obviously been compared to The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Ramones, whom incidentally the Mary Chain also shared much in common with, and it’s not hard to see why with their penchant for songs drowned in a fuzzy wall of sound.

Zane Lowe: “A band that will kick-start a new era” In recent years, indie music has taken a decidedly pretentious turn - the band names kept getting longer, the guitar hooks yet more complex, and many were spending far too much time procrastinating on social networking sites as opposed to ‘getting out there.’ Despite the media hype, The Vaccines remain remarkably unfazed by the attention they’ve been receiving. The Vaccines let the

music do the talking and rightly so - just listen to the punchy single, Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra), clocking in at a very modest 1.24 minutes, and my personal favourite, Blow it Up. At last a group has managed to step outside itself and face up to its own pretentions. Even the title of their soon to be released debut album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, suggests that this group possess a wit that is certainly more laconic than you would expect from your average skinnyjeans indie band.

At last, a group that has managed to step outside itself and face up to its own pretentions Whilst guitar bands come and go, there’s something about The Vaccines that suggests they’re about to make a big mark on the British indie scene. After the BBC reported that rock songs have had the worst year in the chart since 1960, with only three rock songs appearing in the Top 100 singles chart in 2010, the current hype surrounding The Vaccines suggests that they are desperately needed to fill that void in the current singles chart. The Vaccines are not exactly making music which can thus be described as original, but most importantly, They are taking guitar music back to the fundamental basics, and that’s why they deserve our attention.

MUSIC 17

Jamie Woon

Jamie Milton

Jamie Woon’s influences are far more straightforward than the music he makes. Woon cites Stevie Wonder and Jeff Buckley amongst the reasons he went into recording music, and whilst you can hear the soulful tinge of his counterparts immediately on the likes of Night Air and Wayfaring Stranger, it’s not quite that simple.  Blame Burial; the mysterious Mercury-nominated dubstep producer who takes the helm at the mixing desk for Woon’s forthcoming debut album.  Burial (William Bevan) manages to add unsettling, underground elements to what would otherwise be a fairly uncomplicated set of songs.  In actual fact, Bevan kick-started something of a career for the newcomer; years back, Wayfaring

Stranger was released to little buzz and very little praise. But add a Burial remix to its name, and it takes off.  Perhaps it’s cheating; adding one of music’s most universally adored producers to your record, is a sure-fire way of increasing interest.   Add to that the fact that arguably Woon sounds better remixed than in original form; the Ramadanman adjustment of Night Air, spanning a whole eight minutes, is one of 2009’s most transfixing and utterly brilliant songs.  But on a fulllength, most are expecting Woon, who still contests his music to be more R&B than anything else, to come out of his shell. Recorded using low-budget bedroom equipment, expect a slanted, unorthodox pick of pop songs with their own unique slant.

Nero

Ben Howard

Y Niwl

Daniel Bate

KATE ALLEN

2010 saw the rise of dub-step and drum and bass from underground to mainstream. Whether it’s the thumping beats at the end of Tinnie Tempah’s Pass Out, or the low end synths of Katy on a Mission, everyone knows this could be dubstep’s year. At the forefront of the wobbles, beats and bass is Nero. A D&B/ dub-step duo from London comprised of Dan Stephens and Joe Ray. Both the composition and incredible ability to make songs capable of tackling the mainstream makes them not dissimilar to rising stars Chase and Status. What Nero do have is a massive back catalogue of remixes. Chart hits of 2010 mixed with the iconic bass and beats of dub-step. Take their offering of Plan B’s The Recluse, the string lead build-up leading to the drop doesn’t alienate fans of the original, but has just enough dub-step influences to make it really stand out.

North Wales may seem like an unlikely source for authentic, sunsoaked surf pop, but that’s exactly where you’ll find it, courtesy of Y Niwl. Just so you know, when you want to name drop this band, it’s pronounced ‘uh nule.’ This Welsh language instrumental surf band are the first of their kind, and take inspiration from American 1960s surf greats such as Dick Dale and The Del-Tones, and The Surfaris, to produce what they call “deformed cold water surf music”. Their self-titled debut album is a riptide of live recordings with high octane luminous guitar hooks and buzzing ripples of elctric organ, and is of course drenched in reverb. Despite their nonchalant claim that “the appeal of not having to write lyrics was too much to resist”, Y Niwl are definitely the antidote to the all-American stoner surf-rock of last summer, as this Welsh four-piece possess the vitality and instrumental dexterity that 2010’s lo-fi movement so sorely lacked. As difficult as it might be, discard images of the Californian coast as the sole birthplace of all things surf, as Y Niwl are bringing sunshine sounds to the chilblain-bitten masses.

A dub-step duo capable of tackling the mainstream Here lies Nero’s wide appeal - the ability to create something for fans of the growing genre while also creating something for those still sitting on the fence. The best example of this is their latest single Me and You, combining elements of dub-step and D&B, tightly packed together with hard hitting synths and the brilliant vocals of Alana Watson. If this is the year for drum and bass and dub-step, then be sure that Nero will be there; if not on your iPod then without a doubt on the dance floor.

ANGUS GRIFFIN

From the cosy Cornish town of Totnes, Ben Howard is emerging as one of the most talented singersongwriters of the last decade. Having won the Red Stripe Music Award in 2009, he has gone on to secure support slots for the likes of Jason Mraz and Willy Mason, not to mention playing at Boardmasters and Glastonbury. His music combines serene acoustic tones and ambitious lyrics that create an ambience like no other. Taking influence from John Martyn, Joni Mitchell and Donovan amongst others, he creates a sunny, summer sound that will brighten any dark day. He adopts an alternative guitar style that adds a refreshing touch to his already inspirational music. By creating a strange concoction of hits, slaps and taps using the body of the instrument, the meaningful strumming and intricate finger picking becomes all the more exciting in songs such as Cloud Nine. With Island Records showing huge interest in him, it’s only a matter of time before he is the next folk sensation. As the finishing touches to his debut album are being completed, we are left to wait for its release. In the mean time, check out These Waters EP.


18 MUSIC

music.spark@reading.ac.uk

ALBUMS

A confident return from Wywh while Warpaint deliver psychedelic feminine rock debut album, The Fool. Their psychedelic, melodic art-rock transports listeners right onto the heat-shimmering highways of Los Angeles, where the band hail from.

compared to previous tracks; it’s a disco record with a Concrete twist. Not disco like the seventies style, rather a chill-out vibe - one that makes you want to dance with your eyes closed. It’s disco with a difference.

Their music is good enough to sustain the hype, as is proven by their debut album

Warm, mellow and intimate songs

The Concretes Wywh Licking Fingers

Emily Tredinnick

All had been quiet amongst The Concretes for some time. The departure of lead vocalist Victoria Bergsman in 2006 left a gaping hole in the hearts of a band left to pick up the pieces of what had been. Their first record released, Hey Trouble, reflected a risky attempt in replacing the unique voice of Bergsman with that of former drummer Lisa Milberg. Wywh however had other ideas. The new album breathes an alternative sound for the band

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Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

Good Evening, the opening track of the album, maintains a rich, electronic sound with an impressive guitar riff that turns the song into one of smooth discothèque - Swedish style. The eight-piece band originate from Stockholm; with English as a second language, Milberg pulls it off pretty well. Sadly, the closing track Wywh has a half-hearted feel which slightly spoils the raw energy the album so confidently boasts. Regardless of the last track, the blend of keyboards, bass and percussion still brings the album together in an almost flawless trance. The warm, mellow and intimate songs create the ideal autumnal album and hopefully the profound success they so rightly deserve.

HHH

Warpaint The Fool Rough Trade

Alex Hoskins

There’s probably not much point in hailing Warpaint as the next big thing; they’ve already been splashed all over mags like NME and the Fly. It seems that everybody has already realised they are going to be huge in 2011, so much so that they run the risk of becoming unfashionably popular before anybody’s even listened to their music. Fortunately, their music is good enough to sustain the hype, as is proven by the release of their

Opener Set Your Arms Down is an echoing, hypnotic lament against combat, perhaps providing a kind of subtitle to their band name. Could we call it a war cry? Perhaps, but this is something far less aggressive; far more intelligen than that. Highlights of the album include single release Undertow and the tenderly minimal Baby. Their sound evokes a mood of calm but fierce femininity, something between The Jesus and Mary Chain and Bratmobile. Whether it’s the sound, the image or the members of the band themselves, something about Warpaint recalls the Riot Girl scene of the nineties. There is something in the question “How can I keep my com-

posure?”, in the track entitled Composure, which speaks of the expectations of the female, and something in that vulnerable ballad Baby which is defending boundaries as a girlfriend. This makes this album feminine, but not soft. They may not write songs about feminist issues, or even be feminists themselves, but the list of credible girl bands in the past few years consists pretty much of the Vivian Girls alone, so it’s at least great to finally hear an all girl group making excellent music again, let alone getting wide critical acclaim for it.

It seems that everybody has realised that they are going to be huge in 2011 Please don’t let me shoving them into a feminist shaped compartment stop you listening to them. They are promising, and hopefully sound just as good live as they do on record.

HHHH

A fairytale of New York in the heart of Brixton; post rock from Godspeed You! Black Emperor

The Pogues 21 December 2010 Brixton Academy, London Tim Combley

The Pogues’ December tour has been an annual event in the UK and Ireland since 2004, and for thousands of fans it has become a fundamental part of their Christmas festivities. Tonight is part two of a three-night, sold-out, stint in South London’s Brixton Academy, proving that people are not getting tired of forking out around £30 to see Shane MacGowan and co. every year; possibly because any time you see The Pogues there is a high chance it will be the last. The Pogues come on stage to an adoring crowd who cheer on the stumbling frontman. He mumbles something into the microphone before the band tear into set opener Streams of Whiskey.

A shower of fake snow pours down from the ceiling The set is made up of fan favourites from their extensive back catalogue, all played impeccably. The musicianship of the band can-

not be faulted and MacGowan’s gravelly vocals still fit in perfectly. A couple of times throughout the performance MacGowan leaves the stage to let tin whistle-wielder Spider Stacey take over vocal duties. Stacey delivers songs from the band’s two most recent albums on which he sung lead vocals. Without the usual drunken vocals, the band appear far more polished, but lack the edge that MacGowan provides.

A spectacular scene that has left the crowd coming back for more of the same Seeing MacGowan in such a drunken state can raise some ethical questions. It is beyond doubt that he is the USP of The Pogues. Spider Stacey can hold his own as a secondary vocalist but the fact of the matter is the crowd are here to see MacGowan, and his alcoholism adds to the ‘charm.’ He can be marketed under the cliché of being a tortured genius and there is no doubt about his ability to provide a show, but behind the punk-rock image is a human with a severe problem.

Morals aside, the night gets special towards the end of the set as they play some of their best material. Hairs stand up on the back of necks as the 5000-strong crowd sing along to Dirty Old Town. If there is just one song that the crowd have come to hear then it is Fairytale of New York. The original co-vocalist Kirsty MacColl tragically died in 2000, so Ella Finer, daughter of the band’s banjoist, takes over the female vocals. The live performance recreates the beauty of the song brilliantly and is a perfect centre-piece for a great show. As the long instrumental outro begins, MacGowan and Finer embrace to dance under a shower of fake snow that pours down from the ceiling. It’s a spectacular scene that has left the crowd coming back for more of the same every year.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor 12 December 2010 Anson Rooms, Bristol Tom Dop

As the lights go out on the Bristol Anson rooms, a ominous drone can be heard from the speakers. The noise grows and grows as the word ‘HOPE’ flickers on the screen behind the stage. After several minutes the drone reaches its peak. Floors shaking and ears hurting, a single violin pierces the wall of noise and the cacophony suddenly subsides. Godspeed You! Black Emperor are back, and they’re as dramatic as ever.

They left the stage to almighty applause Playing a genre of music known as ‘post rock’, GY!BE take instruments used by rock bands (guitars, drums etc.) and use them to orchestrate their own inimitable compositions. With their long songs divided into movements and their weaving together of many different instruments to form one all-encompassing sound, GY!BE’s style is more akin to classical mu-

sic. 2010 marks Canadian GY!BE’s first live gigs since their hiatus in 2003 and evidently their time off hasn’t left them rusty. With nine members on stage there was certainly no room for error, so it was no surprise that GY!BE didn’t miss a beat.

They command an almost reverential respect From the haunting guitar line of The Sad Mafioso, to the blistering leads in Moya, each piece interlocked perfectly, commanding a silent, almost reverential respect from the audience. Whilst GY!BE are not known for being an animated band when playing live, they more than make up for it with their on-screen displays during the show. The intensity of the music on its own is emotional as it is, but coupled with films of nature, war and death, the power of the music was amplified and many members of the audience were visibly moved. After two and a half hours Godspeed You! Black Emperor left the stage to almighty applause, hailing the end of a spectacular live performance.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

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20 ARTS&BOOKS

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

arts.spark@reading.ac.uk

Arts&BOOKS Another take on a classic love story... Romeo and Juliet Written by William Shakespeare Performed at the Oxford Playhouse Autumn 2010 Rachel Curley

A neon geometric frame is certainly not the conventional choice of staging to house the pain and love of our ‘star-cross'd lovers’. The center-stage steel construction that acts as both Juliet’s bedroom and tomb is reminiscent of an austere Francis Bacon portrait and, as a concept, is both striking and intriguing. As too are the masses of flowers (markedly the average ‘garage-bought’ variety) that lay artfully strewn, first in a heart shape, and then become trampled and depleted as the scene grows from one of love to hate; from life to death. Unfortunately, such bold and experimental modes of produc-

Review of Great Expectations written by Charles Dickens Sarah Wheatley

Typical of Dickens, the novel Great Expectations captures the reader from the very outset. The image of young Pip hovering over the gravestones of his deceased family members immediately intrigues and tugs at the heartstrings of the reader. Moreover, as the turbulent novel unravels, the reader is

Review of Oranges are not the only fruit written by Jeanette Winterson Adam Knowles

I think my favourite novel is Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson. Although it presents an interesting story,

Review of 1984 written by George Orwell Jack Cooper

Not only is it a novel that people lie about reading more than any other, it is also a piece of literature that gave birth to the concept of the TV programme that gave us a

tion, which the York Theatre Royal and Pilot Productions deem “an emotionally evocative scene recognizable after any tragic accident”, proves to be a hindrance that producers Katie Posner and Marcus Romer do not anticipate. The heaps of flowers that aim to ‘represent fragility and beauty’ merely act as an eye-sore in Romeo and Juliet’s love scene as they become engulfed and almost disappear in the mess of papered flowers that hope to appropriate their marriage bed. The steel frame itself is also a hindrance to the logistical staging of the play and rather than simplifying the backdrop and giving precedence to the poetry, it serves to complicate the viewing in terms of conceptualising location. It is difficult to decipher whether Romeo is crawling up the walls of the Capulet mansion or, as he struggles upstage on the floor, is in fact battling an imaginary wind machine that is blasting him in the opposite direction of his Juliet.

soon confronted with a colourful array of complex characters, such as Magwitch, the alleged dangerous convict, the beautiful yet cold hearted Estella, and mad Miss Havisham who lives in Satis House, a significantly dark and mysterious building. Besides the clever and unexpected twists in the novel, it is the incredible layering of description combined with the vivid use of imagery that makes this such an entertaining novel and Dickens such an excellent writer.

and is very well-written, the most outstanding element of this book is the characters, who are just strange enough to be real people. Despite this, and the fact that the novel was based loosely around events in the author’s own life, it doesn’t rely on being a “true story” to get its point across.

shrewd exposé of Jade Goody: Big Brother. I suggested this book to my classmates in sixth form and to put it figuratively; it’s a Marmite book! You either find it boring or you will see that it is book of utter brilliance. It is a fantasised portrayal of government and their endless control that has a startling relevance to modern society.

Our 21st century Romeo (Oliver Wilson) emerges as an image from a JLS music video, his All Saintsclad attire and pristine appearance is unfortunately also a reflection on his prose delivery; squeaky clean with little originality on poetic emphasis and an all-round, over-eager approach to some very diverse emotive language. His lust, comic, and loss scenes are barely distinguishable in his tone and are therefore rendered unconvincing.

Romeo emerges as an image from a JLS video Juliet (newly graduated Rachel Spicer of RADA) epitomises the typical feisty tomboy that echoes any of our modern characters, in line with Bella from Twilight and Hermione from Harry Potter. Her sullen, sulky, slouchy teenage ways are a perfect depiction of a rebel youth who dons workerboots and denim to accompany her

harmless snarl and sarcastic rolled eyeballs. Her petulance though, however appropriate to the theatre’s target teen audience, does grow old in its insistence to sound permanently aggrieved. Shakespeare has not been completely misrepresented however, and there are a couple of striking performances, notably from the lesser characters who adopt dual roles. Louisa Eyo’s stern and somewhat frightening Prince is a world apart from her empathetic, warm and comical Caribbean nurse. Her on-stage relationship with Juliet is remarkable for its chemistry and true fondness; which is more than can be said for what is shared between the supposed lovers. For the northerners, there is Mercutio, the laddish Scouse played by Chris Lindon (who I spent the entire play deliberating over why I recognised his face only to find, to my dismay, that he was previously cast in Yorkshire Television’s Heartbeat – what an

admittance). His over-sexualised interpretation of Mercutio’s ‘naked sword’ scene is aptly slapstick and he provides for us a character to whom we can both laugh with and feel deep sorrow for when he declares himself a ‘grave man’; perhaps this is due to his more fluid and perfectly emphasised recitals. Lord Capulet also deserves applause for his faultless depiction of the embarrassing Dad, whose outlandish dancing at the party is as much for everyone’s entertainment as it is to humiliate his mortified daughter – think Peter Kay’s family wedding stand-up. Moments of disappointment sadly outweighed such artful depictions though. For example Friar Lawrence’s Che Guevara imprinted t-shirt and the frenzied rubbing of opium onto his gums is perhaps a step too far and an example at the company’s attempt to experiment with modes of expression that are certainly unnecessary and border on the crude.

A peek into student artwork This week’s artwork comes from Jim Birdsall. A thought-provoking piece of work, his inkwork is entitled ‘all we need is a map’. Would you like to publish your artistic creations or photography? Then please email them to arts.spark@reading.ac.uk.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

Don Giovanni National English Opera London Coliseum 6 November 2010 Jim Birdsall

Going to see Don Giovanni in English, I was terrified that the opera was going to sound like Gilbert and Sullivan - fortunately my fears were unjustified. Jeremy Sams’ translation of Da Ponte’s original Italian was crisp and funny; the Don is described by Leporello as “trying to force an entry” while he is inside the house in the first scene romping with Donna Anna. This is one of the many obscenities that become the centre of attention in Rufus Norris’ production, after all, it is labelled a Dramma giocoso (a jokey drama), although opera-goers for the most part are more used to seeing a Don where the Dramma outweighs the giocoso. I felt like I was rediscovering the opera because of

Review of Dracula written by Bram Stoker Amy Knaggs

For me, a novel has to be so engaging that I cannot put it down. I admit this is not an easy task for authors; however, one book in particular has repeatedly harnessed my attention time and time again.

Review of Anne of Green Gables written by L.M. Montgomery Jess Cropper

Set in the late 1800s, Anne of Green Gables follows the impulsive and hot-headed little orphan Anne. Far from perfect, she lands herself in no end of scrapes, such as accidentally dying her hair green and unwittingly getting her new

this new approach to the libretto, though unfortunately ‘yes yes yes’ is not as easy to sing as ‘si si si’. In the famous ‘Catalogue Aria’, where Leporello gives Donna Elvira the lowdown on his master's comings and goings, the list of conquests is told not through a book. A list of how many women from each country Don Giovanni has bedded is instead projected onto a wall as a spreadsheet. We learn that from March to April there were 103. Then there are amusing slides of photographs of women from the cute to the beastly, the old to the young. This scene gave the impression that the Don will bed any woman. The rest of the opera, however, did not. Iain Patterson was rather too nice in the title role for us to believe he was capable of the lust described by his servant. Though he did have a brilliant chemistry with Leporello on stage which was one of the highlights of the evening, both characters responded to each other very naturally, both physiThat novel is Dracula. Not only is Dracula fast-paced, imaginative, and entertaining, it manages to keep my all-too-often wandering mind (never a good thing when studying for exams!) on its words for almost 500 pages. This is why, whenever I need to take my mind off something else, I will blow the dust off my dog-eared copy of Dracula and let it carry me away.

friend, Diana, drunk (to the horror of Diana’s straitlaced mother), and it is this Bridget Jones-style character that makes Anne accessible to the reader, increasing her likeability. This is a charming read about a lonely orphan with the best of intentions who manages to soften the hardest of hearts. There is little room for complexity in this novel, but this is the secret to its popularity.

Creative Writing Day Saturday 22 January 10am - 4pm Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) Places available to book via MERL website: www. reading.ac.uk/merl or by calling 0118 378 8660 An opportunity to take part in a Creative Writing course with course tutor Rebecca Reynolds, a visiting lecturer at the University of Reading. Using the library as inspiration, those who sign up will practice short pieces of writing in a supportive atmosphere, using documents, photos, recordings, objects and museum spaces as inspiration. Participants will gain an idea of what the museum has to offer. The course costs £40 and sounds like a fantastic opportunity!

cally and vocally, and the scene where Leporello is pretending to be Giovanni was brilliant. The cast on the whole was impressive. Patterson sung his role well and vocally was very convincing.

Pretty music about people doing ugly things Katherine Broderick as Donna Anna was a bit of a warbler at first but once she got to the scene where she recanted her adventure to Don Ottavio she really got stuck into the role. Sarah Tynan was fabulously sweet as Zerlina. Brindley Sherratt was a great, droll Leporello. John Molloy was a hearty Masetto. Kirill Karabits conducted at a good pace and the music never dragged. Despite the quality of the music, is it trashy? Yes! Much of the action on the stage is purile and kitsch with chorus members wear-

arts.spark@reading.ac.uk

ing the sort of grotesque facemasks we used to wear when trickor-treating. At moments there is a soundclip of heavy breathing (this is the first sound we hear in the Second Act, so we must conclude that these almost belch-like noises are pivotal to the director's vision - nice). Presumably it is the devil waiting to drag the Don to hell, plus the colours used for the set and costume design didn't really match. It pretty much looks ugly and cheap. The demise of the Don looks really lame as he unconvincingly pretends to be dragged down to hell as a bit of smoke rises. Many of the qualities of Don Giovanni are typical throughout opera, like the archetypal Don Juan figure, including mistaken identity, men taking advantage of women and vice versa, so it is ripe for spoof. This appears to be what has happened here; the dramatic quintet at the end of Act One is particularly full of over-acting and the ridiculous image of five singers

ARTS&BOOKS 21

facing the audience and letting rip. The banquet at the end is a mockery of a meal: there is a plastic carrier bag with bits of bread and colour-less food. The opera is ultimately pretty music about people doing ugly things, and in this respect the production is a success. Although it does not go far enough down the road of obscenity as one would hope from this type of production. If a director is going to do a trashy production then they may as well go the whole way and include some extreme profanity. How about when Leporello is showing us the pictures of the Don's conquests - a photo of a goat (because they're sexier than sheep) slips in? When in Bayreuth in August, I met two dyed-in-the-wool Wagnerites who explained to me that they would be closing their eyes when they went to see Katharina Wagner’s production of Meistersinger. I wonder how many Mozart fans at the Coliseum that Friday evening had their eyes closed.


22 FASHION

fashion.spark@reading.ac.uk

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

FASHION

Best dressed of 2010... Clémence Poésy

Roberta Sarll

Be it in Harry Potter, Gossip Girl or even real life, actress Clémence Poésy is always a French belle. Beautiful shades of navy, grey and white form the basis of most outfits. This simple palette allows for her androgynous style to come through but in an altogether more subtle and stylish way. Not one to wear jewellery or busy patterns, Poésy instead accessorises outfits with quirky touches, a bowler hat perhaps, or a chunky scarf. Pour finir; her trademark tousled locks of course. A winning mix of both charm and naïveté as Eva Coupeau in Gossip Girl, she both bewitched and tamed Chuck Bass (well nearly!) and irritated Blair, with her heart of gold and European cool. Her chic tweed Chanel jacket and skirt combo meanwhile, won plaudits with Gossip Girl fans and fashion bloggers alike. Such is the fashion furore around her that she was featured in the April issue of Vogue, as well as being snapped by Garance Doré, street style photographer extraordinaire and owner of corresponding blog, garancedore.fr. Expect to see more of Poésy in 2011, as she stars alongside James Franco, in Danny Boyle’s latest film 127 hours; no doubt becoming a style icon along the way.

Alexa Chung Amy Barlow

From T4 presenter, to a front row regular at the hottest catwalk shows, Alexa Chung is the ‘London look’. Her unique style inspires legions of copycats to emulate her infamous preppy yet quirky British fashion sense, which usually compromises of either highwaisted shorts, a slouchy skirt or a tunic. Chung’s killer wardrobe also consists of chunky cardigans, knee-high socks and of course, her trademark blazers, making her the ultimate queen of geek chic. With friends like Vivienne Westwood and Pixie Geldof as well as being partnered to Alex Turner, her look naturally has a touch of grunge with vintage tees and cropped leather biker jackets. Chung’s star-studded appearance has made 2010 a year to remember as she was named number one of Vogue’s Best-Dressed List for 2010. She also launched her a/w collection for Madewell, which consisted of pieces representational of her style aesthetic, like long-sleeved dresses with Peter Pan collars as well as brogues and clogs. Furthermore, Chung’s influence on the fashion scene has inspired Mulberry to create a new bag named after her, called ‘the Alexa’. Who knows what to expect of the London chic goddess this year? A monument maybe...?

Rihanna Flo Maats

Diane Kruger Margaux basset

Blake Lively Laura Davis

As far as I am concerned, I have chosen Diane Kruger as one of 2010’s best dressed. The German actress and former model is known to not have a stylist which is really rare. I love that this girl does her own hair, makeup, styling… she does it all! And most of all, I always love the result. She is both classic and unpredictable at the same time. Her and her boyfriend, Joshua Jackson, have been seen many times wearing matching clothes. It can be tricky, but in their case it is just so stylish and never too much.

I love that this girl does her own hair, makeup, styling… she does it all

With her new bright red hair, the 23-year-old singer Rihanna didn’t only set a trend with her shocking new do, she also embodied a new, less crazy, high-end fashion style. 2010 showed that the Barbados beauty couldn’t only sing, but that she truly is a style icon. Rihanna manages to stay youthful, daring and colourful while still showing the fashion world a more confident, fashion-forward style. What separates Rihanna’s style from that of other celebrities is that she is not scared to be daring, and yet still manages to make it look beautiful and effortless. Rihanna’s style has been suddenly brought to the spotlight by her love for famous designers and styles that were very fashionable in 2010, but she always maintained her typical ‘cool’ Rihanna look. Rihanna loves flirty, youthful, little dresses by designers such as Herve Leger and Emilio Pucci. She then balances out this look with a more mature style – a stunning, frilly Marchesa dress at the 2010 EMA’s and a show-stopping, sexy Ellie Saab red dress at the 2010 AMA’s. Rihanna reinvented – be bold, be colourful, be confident, be sexy - we’re looking forward to 2011!

Diane Kruger, friend of Karl Lagerfeld, is often wearing Chanel clothes and I think it is the brand that is the most close to her style by being both timeless and chic. She has known Lagerfeld since she was 16 years old and described him as being “like a dad” to her. And with him for a “dad”, who can be badly dressed?! In this picture, Diane Kruger is wearing (so well!) an amazing Chanel dress for the 2010 Oscars.

Blake Lively, the 23-year-old American actress, gained her breakthrough role as the Upper East Side socialite Serena van der Woodsen on the popular TV show Gossip Girl in 2007, and has been splashed over magazines, newspapers and celebrity websites ever since. 2010 was definitely her year to shine, both on and off screen, with Gossip Girl entering its fourth series and Lively being spotted schmoozing with Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld at fashion week. Renowned for not having a stylist working for her, Lively often sports a classic look with a modern twist, whether it be accessorising with a piece of statement jewellery or showing off her enviable long legs. Lively is a firm favourite with designers because of her willingness to transport the catwalk to the red carpet, regularly snapped wearing the exact outfit the model wore on the runway. This dedication to the designer’s vision can only have helped her blag the new Chanel campaign; hand picked by Lagerfeld himself, Lively will be the face of the “Mademoiselle” handbag line due to be launched in March 2011.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

fashion.spark@reading.ac.uk

Fashion news in brief Lauren Clifton

New editor for French Vogue

As of 1 Feburary 2011, Emmanuelle Alt will be the new Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Paris, taking over from Carine Roitfeld, who held the position for 10 years. Alt has worked as fashion director under Roitfeld for the duration of her editorship, and is confident that she can develop the incredible potential of the magazine, due to the strength of the talented team behind her. She told Vogue, “It is a great honour for me, and also a great pleasure, to arrive at the head of Vogue Paris which I know so well.” With the support of Karl Lagerfeld - who declared, “as Editorin-chief, she may blossom!” – and Xavier Romatet, president of Condé Nast France, who said; “Emmanuelle has all the professional and personal qualities required to maintain Vogue Paris as a world reference among fashion magazines.” Alt, who embodies rock’n’roll luxe, will bring a new edge to Vogue, with her tomboyish, understated sexy style. Her influence in the industry is already visible, with Parisian silhouette of big shoulders, long legs, and tight jeans already available on the British high street.

The Great Gatsby

Earlier rumoured to feature Leonardo DiCaprio alongside every-

body’s favourite Gossip Girl, Blake Lively, Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel is now confirmed to star Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan as socialite Daisy Buchanan. So expect more of Mulligan’s polished 1920s-style make-up - red-hot lips and smokey eyes; a big hit on the s/s 2011 runways. Jazz-age waistlines, light, floaty fabrics and plenty of glamour, Gatsby is set to be the most stylish film of the year.

(modelled by the new star of the label’s s/s 11 campaign, 16-year-old Lindsey Wixson). The challenge she accepted in taking over the role has clearly paid off, and really highlighted Burton’s creative imagination.

Alexander McQueen s/s 2011

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl’s Leighton Meester has joined Jasmine Guinness and Jade Parfitt with the Missoni family in the label’s new s/s 11 campaign. The ‘family album’ style photographs, shot at London’s Museum of Everything, create a rich view of natural family life, with Jasmine Guinness cradling her newborn baby, and Meester riding a child’s rocking horse. Gossip Girl co-star Blake Lively has also been busying herself in the world

With VAT rising to 20% in the new year, attention has turned back towards scary words like ‘budget’ and ‘deficit’, but what we all want to know is, how will it affect us? Well, a new study by online shopping comparison site Kelkoo and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR), suggests that costs will be passed onto customers gradually. Only one in five retailers are planning to pass the full VAT increase onto consumers by the end of January, but 95% are expecting to do so within three months. However, Phillip Green will not let his Topshop customers suffer, as he confirmed that the increase will not be passed on to his loyal shoppers. He said; “2011 is not going to be easy. It could be challenging from a cost point of view, with the VAT rise, overseas labour costs, and local taxes, but we have got to sell merchandise at great value, and continue to give our consumers fresh products.”

Key fashion moments 2010 petrina de gouttes

The ‘Alexa’

The death of McQueen

Oh the Alexa! Is a commentary really necessary? Named after British fashion favourite Alexa Chung, Mulberry’s ‘Alexa’ is without a doubt the ‘it’ bag of our generation. The high street has been full of replica satchels, but there’s really been nothing worth buying. We only want the Alexa. Likely to remain a ‘must-have’ for years to come, could it one day become be as iconic and timeless as the Hermes Birkin or Mulberry’s Bayswater?

The tragic death of Alexander McQueen in February, three weeks before he was due to present his latest collection at Paris Fashion Week, startled the fashion industry. At first it seemed like an obscure joke, but when news broke that the designer had committed suicide in his London home, news began to surface that McQueen was a deeply troubled man. Known for his idiosyncratic and flawless designs, McQueen was considered as one of Britain’s greatest fashion designers, and forever will be.

Lanvin at H&M When the oldest Parisian fashion house, Lanvin, announced a collaboration with H&M back in September, it was going to be, without a doubt, the ultimate high street partnership. High fashion meets the high street. This could only mean three things; affordable(ish) prices, the chance to own a piece designed by Alber Elbaz, and crazy women clawing their way through this once in a life time opportunity. Luxury fashion for the masses never looked so good.

Male Style Icon of 2010

VAT Rise

Alexander McQueen

Following the success of her first collection as the new creative director of the Alexander McQueen label, Sarah Burton, the former assistant to McQueen, has spoken out about her hesitation in taking over the role. She told Vogue she thought, “how would I ever begin to begin? Lee’s mind was so different to anyone else’s”. But begin she did, and the British label’s spring/summer 2011 collection impressed fashion editors and fans alike. Burton created a collection that was true to the spirit of McQueen, keeping alive the dramatic silhouettes for which he was famous, but introducing a more feminine, romantic mood. With pagan elements, dresses made of wheat and feathers featured, alongside a dress consisting of burnt orange butterflies, which appeared to be taking flight from around the model’s neckline

of fashion, having recently been chosen as the new face of Chanel Mademoiselle handbags, photographed by Karl Lagerfeld. Lively and Lagerfeld were introduced to each other by Anna Wintour during Couture Fashion Week in July last year. An experience of which Lively said, “a dream come true is an understatement. I can say that I feel like the happiest, luckiest girl around.”

FASHION 23

Aaron Johnson Collette Naden

Aaron Johnson was recently crowned Britain’s most stylish male by GQ and it’s easy to see why. It wasn’t Johnson’s tight body suit in Kick Ass that won him the title but his classic style. The nonchalant way he can carry off his hats and leather jacket is enviable. And wow! The boy scrubs up well, looking drop-dead gorgeous when he hits the red carpet in perfectly tailored suits, often mismatching blazers and trousers. Johnson is also a rare species of male who makes facial hair look good. Perhaps his most notable accessory is his 43-year old wife, Sam Taylor-Wood who is 23 years his senior and the mother of his baby daughter, Wylda Rae. As a doting daddy with great style could Johnson be anymore perfect?

Blog Spot Missi

“The Black Wardrobe” www.the-black-wardrobe.blogspot.com

Lady Gaga’s meat dress Parading slabs of meat around in the name of fashion and controversy, Lady Gaga turned heads at the MTV Video Music Awards back in September. Complete with a hat, a purse and a pair of boots, Gaga’s beef dress had critics deeply confused – was it art? Was it a feminist statement? Was it anti-fashion? Who cares! It was spectacular.

A fashion blog with a gothic bite. Want to add a bit of vintage glam? Black glitter? Excessive eyeliner? The Black Wardrobe allows those of us heavily into gothic culture to branch out into areas we might have previously seen as ‘mainstream’, or show those into mainstream fashion how some areas of gothic fashion can be added to casual or work outfits to add vintage glam.


24 BEAUTY

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

fashion.spark@reading.ac.uk

BEAUTY Step by step: skin care Katie Bowers

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Cleanser is the next essential step in your daily routine to gently remove make-up and the impurities our skin gathers, which will leave you feeling revitalised and ready for the day ahead. Sweep No7’s Soft and Soothed Gentle Cleanser all over the face (be particularly careful around the eyes) to achieve a fresh and radiant glow.

Begin your cleansing routine in the shower by applying a face wash, such as Sanctuary’s Fresh Faced Purifying Wash. This gentle foaming formula will remove impurities while leaving your face feeling soft and cleansed. Wet face before application, apply in circular motions and rinse off after a few minutes. Exfoliate skin once a week for a deep cleanse, using Clarins One Step Exfoliating Cleanser.

Step 4:

Step 5:

Moisturising daily will help reduce dry and flaky skin and restore the essential hydration skin needs. Good Things Face The Day Moisturiser keeps skin soft and boosts radiance, with the added bonus of UV filters for protection against sun damage. To apply, massage gently onto your face with clean hands.

After using a cleanser, toner is crucial to shrink the appearance of pores and smooth skin, it will also reduce oily complexions when used daily. Use cotton pads to apply and stroke over skin in circular motions. Clarins wide range of toners are great if you want to splurge on a luxurious product, or for a cheaper option try Garnier’s Clean and Fresh Invigorating Toner.

The final step in your facial maintenance routine is a face primer. Primers ensure you have a glowing complexion, and create the perfect pallet for flawless make-up application. Try Benefit’s lavish Dr Feelgood Primer - for best results allow the primer to sink into the skin for a few minutes, then with a beautifully prepped face, your make up routine can commence.

Top five spring nail colours Rebecca Lord

Gold

Shattered

Bright

Launching in late January with the aid of Katy Perry, this revolutionary nail lacquer creates a unique marbled or leopard print effect. Barry M also offer a more affordable alternative, Instant Nail Effects.

Beauty resolutions and tips

O.P.I Nail Lacquer Black Shatter around £9.50

Rainbow brights have been dominating Versace and Prada runways and with the likes Rihanna on board, this trend is set to soar. Barry M offers a wide selection at an affordable price.

Nathanael Saunders

Sophie Blackman

“This year I want to be less beautiful... I’m fed up of being objectified. I’m not meat”

Tangerine

This limited edition colour from Nails inc. is perfect for finishing a feminine look, where nail colour mirrors skin tone - a la Dior!

Revlon, around £6.49

Barry M, around £2.99

China Glaze Gold Digger, around £4 Spotted on the House of Holland and Holly Fulton runways this spring, celebrate the return of the seventies by teaming this shimmery tone with a deep smokey eye.

Neutral Browns

“I want to get my eyebrows done professionally for the first time”

Nails inc., around £11 Collette Naden

“I want to stop peeling off my nail varnish as soon as I have applied it”

Pull off the tricky tangerine trend with statement nails with the latest, and truly unique release from Revlon. The vibrant colour and lasting scent will lift you out of the January blues! Sarah Rana

“Rub olive oil onto your eyebrows to help the hairs to grow back faster”


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

marketing@rusu.co.uk

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26 HEALTH&FOOD

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

health.spark@reading.ac.uk

HEALTH

Top ten Christmas gut-busters Miriam Rudge

1. Continue eating seasonal vegetables which will cut your expenditure and your figure as vegetables which are in season are often cheaper and better for you. There is more to seasonal vegetables than traditional Christmas sprouts!

back you’ll begin to think twice about buying more chocolate. A natural disincentive; and good for you too! 6. Go through your wardrobe and find your favourite clothes you can no longer fit into (at all, or as well as before). Decide what

2. Try one of the winter sports before they’re out of season again, such as tobogganing, snowboarding, skiing or ice-skating.

5. Drive less, take less public transport and walk or cycle more - tiring, but trust me, by the time you’ve walked to the shops and

8. Get at least eight hours of sleep a night; sounds a little strange as a way to lose weight but it’s true! Getting the right amount of sleep gives you more energy so should increase your chances of being willing and able to do more exercise. 9. Drink plenty of water; sometimes dehydration can make you feel hungry, causing you to eat food your body doesn’t really need. It also helps absorbs nutrients.

3. Set-up an advent calendar style system, where you reward yourself with the treat when you achieve a set weight loss target. Having a goal has been proven to help motivation! 4. Hide the Christmas chocolateout of sight, out of mind. Or if you don’t think you can manage this one, hide all but the chocolate you’re currently eating until you finish that piece/bar/box.

with your flat mates or regular fitness competitions for the super competitive. Find something that will make you want to exercise rather than force yourself too.

you would really like to keep and aim to fit into it by a certain date. Another incentive to lose weight! If you don’t have any clothes like this, then buy something a size too small with the aim of making that fit instead. 7. Start a new exercise schedule; whether it’s trips to the campus gym with friends, weekly runs

10. Stop judging yourself so harshly; pretty much everyone gains some weight over Christmas! Take a look at a table of what your weight should be for your height. Do you even need to lose weight? If you’ve already given up, well then better luck next year! If you’re staying the course, then full speed ahead! But either way a Happy New Year to you all!

Be resolute Renate Cummings-Benson

New years Resolutions. We make them every year and break them within a couple of weeks. This year, instead of making daft weight-loss plans you’ll ditch faster than you can say ‘diet’, why not concentrate on making small changes you will hardly notice, but will make a huge difference to your health?

1. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day British health authorities recommend consuming five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and this should be the bare minimum. Indeed, in Australia it is recommended that two portions of fruit and five portions of vegetables should be eaten daily, bringing the total up to seven a day. Contrary to popular belief, vegetables do fill you up, and the great thing is you get more for your money because they are lower in calories than starchy carbohydrates.

Work-out DVD on trial:

The Tracey Anderson Method Mat Work-Out

Renate Cummings-Benson

I bought this work-out DVD because I was bored of the same old gym routine - 40 minutes on the cross trainer followed by a few reps on the same old machines. I wanted to try something to ‘shock’ my system, so when I read about Tracey Anderson’s unique method I was intrigued. Who is Tracey Anderson? For

those of you who don’t know, she is the trainer responsible for the bodies of Gywneth Paltrow and Shakira - an instant selling point given that the latter has one of the hottest bodies in showbiz. Anderson’s method is rare in that it focuses not just on the major muscle groups, but on the accessory muscles, the toning of which gives that longer, leaner, dancer look. You don’t need any specialist equipment to do the Mat WorkOut’, just a dining room chair and some weights, or a couple of tins or a bottle of water. Anderson stresses that you must not lift more than a few pounds in weight in order to look lean rather than bulky. The idea is to exhaust the muscles through dozens of repetitions, rather than heaving weights. The work-out begins with a warm-up followed by six mini work-outs targeting the upper body, lower body and abs. There are standing work-outs for each area, an arm work-out with weights and two mat work-outs for the lower body and abs. As you execute the moves, you can tell that Anderson has trained as a dancer

- every exercise is choreographed to involve the entire body. There are times during the workout when you feel close to collapse, especially during the standing arm work-out when it feels as though you can hold your arms out to the side no longer. But like everything, if you stick with it, it will get easier and you will feel more toned. On the whole, the DVD is easy to follow, but you do need to concentrate because there are times when Anderson changes a movement without warning. This was the only gripe I had with the DVD, because you can’t always be looking at the screen, for example, when you are performing a stretch bending over, or crunches on the floor. The aforementioned aside, I would recommend Tracey Anderson’s Mat Work-Out DVD, especially if you are bored of the same gym routine and want to mix things up a little. The Mat DVD is not the only work-out in Anderson’s repertoire either - you can read more about her method and her products at her website, tracyandersonmethod.com

Wisdom of the Week: ‘Before healing others, heal yourself’ - Anon

Binge drinking ravages your body in the long run - not worth it just to feel out of it for a few hours.

4. Drink more water

Poor hydration is linked to such daily ailments as headaches and afternoon energy slumps, it is also a cause of overeating. Hydration levels need to be topped up throughout the day - if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. If you feel hungry but your belly isn’t grumbling, you might just need a glass of water. Experts recommend consuming eight glasses of water per day (that’s roughly 8 x 240ml, so 1920ml), more if you are exercising. Ensure you are getting enough by drinking a couple of glasses when you wake up, and keeping a big bottle of water beside you to sip throughout the day.

5. Incorporate exercise into your everyday life

2. Ditch the empty calories It is incredible how many extra calories, sugar, salt and saturated fat you can consume when junk food makes a regular appearance in your everyday diet. It is better to eat calorific foodstuffs that give you some nutrients - a wholemeal tuna sandwich and a sausage roll might have a similar calorie content, but the sandwich is packed with protein and fibre so will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

3. Cut down on alcohol Not only the cause of ghastly hangovers, too much alcohol can make you overeat and bloat up. And then there are the aforementioned empty calories and sugar - it isn’t called a beer belly for nothing!

It is recommended that for an acceptable level of fitness, adults should exercise five times a week for 30 minutes. Of course, if you want to achieve super-fitness, you need to do more, but if you are currently leading a less than active lifestyle, this minimum weekly quota could do wonders for your health.

It is so easy to incorporate exercise into your everyday life. Do tricep dips off the kitchen chair when you are waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning, walk to university and back, take the stairs instead of the lift - these are all ways of sneaking exercise into your life without feeling as though you are using up valuable study time.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

health.spark@reading.ac.uk

HEALTH&FOOD 27

Food ‘Docile bodies’ - an era of eating disorders Daisy Bradley

The term ‘docile bodies’ is used to describe the theory of strictly controlling the body, in the same way that a factory would control its workers, a school teacher controls school children and a sergeant would control his soldiers. It has been developed over the last century and becomes especially interesting when applied to weight-related issues in modern day society. Eating disorders stem from ‘control’ and whichever extreme end of the weight spectrum a sufferer falls into, it has all stemmed from their desire, their need, to control their intake of food. For obesity it is their need to ‘comfort eat’ or as some people would say they ‘eat their feelings’. But for anorexics it is their way of controlling their life through food. When they feel everything has snowballed out of control the one aspect they can grasp back is regulating their calorie intake. The disorder that bridges these two extremes is bulimia, the illness that means a sufferer can ‘eat their feelings’ but then control theirr weight by throwing up the food before the

body has absorbed any nutritional value. Anorexia, bulimia and even diabulimia (regulating and/or rejecting the diabetes medication in order to lose weight) are all recognized as illnesses and unfortunately, in today’s society, women are striving for the ‘perfect size zero’ body, and as a result eating disorders have become almost acceptable. Obesity on the other hand, is a direct relation to gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins. We see obese people as greedy, people don’t have sympathy for them and it is not seen by the majority of

the public as an illness. When you see a morbidly obese person in the street most people would think, “Why don’t they just stop eating at McDonalds!” Television programs such as Supersize vs. Super-skinny or Half Ton Man as part of the Body Shock series on Channel 4 exploit this concept through the issue of eating disorders and the prejudices surrounding them. Society has come to accept both issues as the norm. A counter-argument to this is that society has made it acceptable to be both ‘supersize’ and indeed ‘super-skinny’. We made it ac-

ceptable the minute we started to cater for the extreme ends of the disorders, the shops that sell XXS and XXXL, this issue of whether an obese person should have to buy two seats on aeroplanes (the issue being that if they don’t, imagine being the unfortunate person sat next to them!), and the fashion industry for making us believe that size zero is something every girl should aspire to. A debate prevalent in the NHS at the moment is the issue that hospital beds have had to be made bigger. The cost of these modifications is huge. Also, rooms now also now need a winch system in order to move an obese person. Upon death their bodies won’t fit into the usual coffins, and they are too large to go onto the normal post mortem table. The repercussions of obesity affects almost every aspect of healthcare, both when alive and dead. Without our culture compensating or making excuses for these people, then maybe we could have stopped it before it went this far. Look back 50 years and there were very few, if any, morbidly obese people. Even Twiggy, the skinny supermodel of the sixties, was a healthy size eight (American size two).

But again, weight is not the only cultural assumption that we make, we can also gender this argument. For example, when you think of an anorexic person you automatically picture a woman. And in the same sense, when you imagine an obese being, you tend to picture an overweight man. It seems the American ‘Supersize’ culture has crossed the waters to England. Bigger is better, including our portion sizes. Statistics show that America has the highest obesity levels in the world with a shocking 30.6% obesity rate. This is compared to 23% in the UK and only 3.2% in Japan. In conclusion, society in the 21st century has lead us to have very specific preconceived ideas about the issue of eating disorders. We not only view them in a very narrow minded way, we gender the issue and also introduce racial difference into the argument. But when all is said and done, it is a direct result of the cultural changes over the last 50 years and of the government turning a blind eye and just accepting both extremes without a thought for the long term outcome, that has lead us to the situation we find ourselves in.

N.U.T.S. - The special forces of the food army shenol chakar

There are soldiers. They have the ground. There are marines. They tour the sea. There are pilots. They rule the air. We are a squad unlike any other. Some people think we can make you fat. Yeah, can do! But don’t worry, we won’t. Thing is, we are invaluable if we get deployed in the right place at

Cashew equipped to keep you in top shape. Almond. He’s armed with the latest developments in the nutritional spectrum – magnesium, calcium and vitamin E; he has devoted himself to keeping your skin, vision, kidneys and cardiovascular system healthy.

Peanut is rich in folic acid needed for cell regeneration. He’s got what it takes to improves memory, enhance concentration and aid the nervous system. Furthermore, he lowers bad cholesterol and prevents cancer. Hazelnut is low in carbohydrates and can be consumed even while on a strict diet. She’s beneficial for various conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic fatigue. To achieve

Brazil nut and high doses of vitamin C in his arsenal to fight off colds and flu. The omega-3 fatty acids he commands improve brain function and prevent breast cancer. Brazil nut is strong against heart disease and weight gain because he has fiber, copper, magnesium and selenium on his side. Ac-

Cedar nut

cording to research, selenium is a natural mood booster. Cashew possesses vitamins A and B, proteins and iron at her disposal. She uses them to keep the nervous and digestive systems healthy. She can also assist with kidney function and formation of healthy bones and teeth. Cedar Nut has many amino acids and vitamins A, B and D. He combats cholesterol, keeps your heart

Peanut

Almond the right time. We specialize in a very specific form of security… immune security. How can we define ourselves? We are Nutritional. We are Unbelievable. We are Terrific. We are Superstars. We are N.U.T.S. Meet our Spec Ops Team, specially trained and

Hazelnut

that, she carries calcium, iron and iodine. Walnut has an abundance of proteins and vitamins from B group, which energize and lower cholesterol. He’s got powerful antioxidants to prevent heart attacks and improve cognitive function

Wisdom of the Week: ‘Life goes faster on protein’ - Martin H. Fischer

Walnut

safe and strengthens your nervous system. Deploy us as a snack or as part of a meal and get all of the extra support that we can provide. So eat up, enjoy, and make us part of your diet and we’ll help you feel healthier, happier and better.


28 GAMING

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

gaming.spark@reading.ac.uk

GAMING

Gran Turismo 5

Very shiny cars Alun Wheatley

Announced in 2006, developer Polyphony Digital delayed Gran Turismo 5 repeatedly from its initial launch date in 2008, to the point that I once expressed concerns that it did not, in fact, even exist and was just an elaborate hoax by publisher Sony. Even though the series’ creator stated in 2009 that GT5 was ready for release “at any time”, it would not be confirmed for release again until March 2010. Even then this release date was pushed back until November, for which, despite my reservations, I did actually place a pre-order. To the collective relief of gamers worldwide, GT5 hit the shelves as promised. There is a significant amount of expectation that comes with a Gran Turismo release; especially surrounding the visuals and attention to detail on both the cars and the tracks. The game even brands itself as a driving simulator, encouraging the impression that GT is all about realism.

I once suspected GT5 was an elaborate hoax by Sony With this in mind I booted up the game. Initially you are treated to an incredibly long opening video, consisting half of actual footage of the manufacture of a vehicle, and half in-game footage. Suspecting that the video alone probably took three years to shoot, I sat through it and was immediately very impressed with the in-game footage, which seemed to achieve photo realism for the very first time (on the car models at least). The first step in every Gran Turismo game is to buy yourself a car with the 20,000 credits you start with. This is usually on the slow end of the spectrum, with the aim of the game to win races, and earn more credits, until you can buy all the Ferrari Enzos and Bugatti Veyrons you want. I made my way into the dealership and bought myself a brand new Honda Civic Type-R for the beginner races. In the racing series, old classics like the High Speed Ring, Deep Forest Raceway and Trial Mountain make a welcome return, with a HD upgrade to the tracks. New tracks, such as the London and Rome city

Real life is more pixelated than this tracks, Cote d’Azur (Monaco to the F1 crowd) and Toscana dirt track provide for a change of pace, while the essentials like the 23km Nürburgring Nordschleife make for an impressively long track list. The handling of the cars is much like it always was. Sufficient practice and patience is required to master the corners and overtaking manoeuvres to win a race in which you invariably start middle of the field. With the addition of rain into the mix comes the distinct change in a car’s handling during wet weather, and you will often need to remind yourself to slow it down on the sharper turns. Night racing also makes an appearance, and becomes a whole new challenge on tracks without lighting along their length.

The opening video alone probably took 3 years to shoot Despite the steep learning curve, you do not need to be the best driver in the world to win races – if anything, far from it. While you can discipline yourself into sticking to the rules of racing, in the main series there is no punishment for leaving the tarmac of the track

or smashing headlong into the car in front, which takes some of the edge and skill out of the racing. Frequently the races themselves are more about the power of the car than the skill of the player. Where you will need skill is the special events, a new addition to GT mode. In here you can find Go Kart racing (top speed 80 mph, outdoor) which is completely different to anything else in the game, requiring a much lighter touch whilst steering to avoid spinning out. Nascar driving is probably the most challenging mode I have come across, requiring perfect use of the game’s slipstream physics to overtake the car in front. Also included are single make races around the Top Gear track (e.g. with the Volkswagen campervan or Mazda MX-5), an introduction to rally driving and time trials around the Nurburgring. All of these require you to hone your driving skills in order to overcome them, as shunting the car in front or cutting a corner always results in disqualification. The licence tests make a return, and remain an extremely challenging part of the game, especially if you want gold trophies across the board. In the overtaking challenges found here you will often experience the driving moments

you are most proud of as you perfectly work those overtakes to put you in the lead. Of course, GT5 would not be a Gran Turismo game without the cars to back it up. With somewhere in the region of 1000 models, the list is fairly comprehensive.

The license tests remain an extremely challenging part of the game The cars are divided into “premium” and “standard” cars. The premium cars are better modelled externally, have an incredible interior view which is as realistic as it gets, and have the option of being taken to one of the game’s many photography locations. Unfortunately for us, they only make up 25% of the total, the other 75% being standard models. These are noticeably rougher around the edges, feature no interior view, and are only available in the used car dealership, where they appear randomly. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, with a few notable exceptions, such as the Bugatti Veyron being a standard model.

One important flaw in the game remains the AI. In standard races these drivers will often brake unexpectedly, especially if you are right behind them, with no room for you to avoid a collision. They often pay very little attention to where you are on the track, determinedly sticking to the racing line and careering into you if you happen to be occupying that space. The supposed addition of damage to the game is the most perplexing feature, with several high-speed collisions making only the slightest dent in the front of your car. It’s unclear whether Polyphony Digital intended for the damage model to work in this way, or if it has not been properly implemented. On the whole I found GT5 to be an excellent game, and one that will suck up many hours of my spare time over the next few months. The presentation is excellent and the gameplay is varied. Those aiming for 100% completion are definitely in for the long haul, but that is hardly something the average Gran Turismo fan would complain about. A few niggles still make me question the development time and budget that went into its production, and stop it from obtaining a perfect score.

9/10


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

gaming.spark@reading.ac.uk

Indie: Minecraft Sam moss

Many games these days are touted as sandbox or open world, in which you find yourself in an environment where exploration is required as part of the gameplay. Perhaps the best examples of this is the Grand Theft Auto series or Fallout 3, however, in many cases the illusion of exploration is secondary to the story, with the ‘sandbox’ feature acting as filler for missions along the lines of go to this place and kill this person/ pick up this item etc. In that respect, Minecraft isn’t your typical sandbox game. At some point in the future, a minimally scripted story will be implemented, aimed at easing new players into the world of Minecraft, however after this the story comes from emergent narrative, where goals come from the actions of the player, such as gathering enough raw material to build a shelter from the enemies that spawn at night, or searching for coal and iron to access better tools. What really sets this game apart from other sandbox games, however, is the sheer scale of the game world. The community wiki for Minecraft states that “[the game] can generate a world that is

eight times larger than the Earth”. This, combined with the ability to tear down and rebuild anything as you see fit, means that there are endless possibilities. A quick search on YouTube for Minecraft reveals a diverse selection of videos, ranging from survival guides and tutorials through to giant cannons, mega-structures and even a working 16 bit computer chip. In essence, playing Minecraft is a lot like playing with Lego; the only limitation is your own imagination.

well-lit bases with traps to kill any invaders. Both methods have their individual merits, however when it comes to exploring the vast systems of caves that are generated in game, it is often best to take a mixture of both approaches. While it’s all very well sitting tightly in a well-protected fortress, the best materials - such as diamond, coal, redstone and iron - can only be found below ground, where the dangers of enemies looming out of

the darkness and flows of lava are a real and present threat. Further danger can be found in the form of the Nether, a hellish world of lava and fireball-spitting ghasts that provide further challenges for more advanced players. In conclusion, Minecraft is an immersive, somewhat addictive first-person mining sim with an almost limitless amount of potential. While it may not offer photorealistic graphics, there is a certain

GAMING 29

amount of charm to the blocky, randomly generated landscapes, and the gameplay, while apparently simple, offers a surprising amount of depth that will keep players hooked for some time to come, especially with new features being unveiled almost weekly now that the game has made it into beta release. Minecraft can be downloaded at www.minecraft.net for about £12.60.

Minecraft isn’t your typical sandbox game Gameplay-wise, the basic premise is to survive against the enemies that spawn in the environment. These range from the fairly standard RPG enemies such as skeletons, spiders and zombies, through to the infuriating and destructive creeper, which has a habit of sneaking up on players and exploding to deal massive amounts of damage and destroying everything in close proximity to itself. How to survive is up to the individual player; some prefer to actively hunt down enemies with bow and arrow or sword, while others build

This was just before the creeper army showed up

Amnesia: The Dark Descent Philip Pears

Recent survival horror games have nothing on Amnesia: The Dark Descent. While Resident Evil gives you friends to share the fun, Dead Space had you slaughtering your way through hundreds of Necromorphs, and Alan Wake has a writer turned a sort of super ghostbuster, Amnesia beats them all as a genuinely scary experience. While Dead Space, Alan Wake and the like are all good games to be sure, they are low on a true survival horror experience and the accompanying fear. In Amnesia, you have no means of defending yourself; when you see a lumbering horror coming towards you, there is only the option of fleeing and finding a shadowy corner, in which you can only hope your character won’t be torn to pieces. You play as Daniel, awakening inside the dark and seemingly abandoned rooms of Brennenburg Castle with, unsurprisingly enough, amnesia. Shortly after this awakening you discover a note written from your past self instructing you to find and kill Alexander, the master of the house. The story is progressed through flashbacks and through finding journal entries that slowly develop the story along with why Daniel lost his memory, why Al-

exander deserves to die and what the shambling ‘things’ are that pursue you. Taking the time to find and read these journal entries will reveal a dark and oppressive story which will last around five to seven hours, depending on your skill level.

The only option is flee As mentioned, you have no means of defence. Your survival in the game relies on your ability to stay hidden and stick to the shadows. Unfortunately Daniel is of a delicate mental constitution, and remaining in the dark will result in him eventually going crazy; thus apart from maintaining his health you must also prevent his complete mental breakdown by seeking out and lighting candles, huddling in light and careful, rationed use of an oil lantern. A low sanity results in warped, blurred landscapes, making the castle even more gloomy and oppressive. Getting through Amnesia relies on getting a balance between light and darkness; liberal use of light will see your supplies collapse or a quick death, lack of light and Daniel will end up drooling on the floor. Almost all game actions are controlled through mouse actions similar to Frictional Games’

Penumbra games, so you can manipulate objects through clicking and dragging with the mouse; this simple control method used to open doors and drawers, and solve the numerous puzzle sequences throughout, maintaining a real level of immersion and realism. Horror is constantly reinforced by the castle’s atmosphere, and the terrifically terrifying use of sound from sudden gusts of wind, echoing footsteps closing down on you, pattering of rain and a low sanity

resulting in Daniels unhinged muttering. Graphics are much improved over the prior Penumbra games and are stellar for such a small studio as Frictional, the level of detail in the castles ruined walls, flickering candles and the pulsating organic growths that swallow up the walls around poor Daniel. For those who crave a real horror experience, Amnesia is about as good as it gets and a real success for indie games in general.

Selling over 200,000 units in the running for the grand prize at the 2011 Game Developers Conference (along with Minecraft) and nominated for ‘Technical Excellence’ and ‘Excellence in Audio’, showcasing how small independent games offer a real alternative to the big, corporate blockbusters of the console world. Play Amnesia with the lights low and the sound high, and immerse yourself in an oppressive and frightening environment.

I wanted to write a caption here, but I remembered I had to be somewhere else. Anywhere else


30 SCIENCE&TECHNOLOGY

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

SCIENCE&TECHNOLOGY Deadly dioxins Elizabeth Holderness

Since the start of the year, German farms, amongst others, have frequently been in the news for an explosion in the number of dioxin outbreaks.  Dioxin has a potentially catastrophic affect on health if ingested, and impacts agricultural techniques and global trade.  Yet dioxin had previously received minimal exposure in the media spotlight before 2011; it is therefore worth a closer examination into the potency and nature of this little-known compound. Dioxins are an incredibly diverse range of chemical compounds that are highly toxic, and as such can be responsible for devastating and far-reaching effects on the environment.  They are formed as a common by-product of many industrial processes, including combustion, oxidation, metal refining, bleaching, photochemical processes, and through the manufacture of chlorinated chemicals.  Once they have been released into the atmosphere, they can be quickly and easily spread and ingested by any living organism, as they are comparatively small and robust, thus can be carried large distances

and can survive numerous biological processes.  Typically, they either enter the human body through flora or fauna.  In areas where they are produced, they are widespread and attach themselves to plants or settle in the water or on land. 

There, they are commonly unknowingly consumed by cattle or fish where they cannot be absorbed into bloodstreams, so form part of the fatty reserves of these animals.  Thus, human exposure is often through the digestion of animal fats - as this is where dioxins bind - such as full fat dairy produce

and fatty fish.  They can also be consumed through contact with industrial components that are used in the inadvertent formation of dioxins.  Consequently, they can be breathed in where contaminated gases are released from medical and biological incinerators, or

through exposure to chlorinated pesticides, paper or acids.  Once dioxins have entered the food chain, they are incredibly difficult to expel, and are nearly impossible to purge from the body when they have been ingested.  They are highly toxic, and have been found to be a common

cause of several types of cancer and birth defects.  They can damage the immune system, nearly destroying it in extreme cases, and can seriously reduce the effectiveness of the reproductive cycle.  Short-term exposure leads to skin lesions and altered liver function, which coupled with an impaired liver function from smoking, drinking and the modern less hygienic lifestyle, can have dire consequences on the liver. Dioxins have been present at a low level in the majority of geographical locations in the world nowadays through previous human pollution, although it is unclear what effect this has on long-term human health.  The most significant problems occur when the presence of dioxins become more concentrated, either through unclean working practices or as a result of sporadic outbreaks, as was recorded in German farms a few weeks ago.  Generally, levels of exposure are kept low by closing farms where high quantities have been reported, the close monitoring of food distribution controls and practices, the trimming of fat from all meats, and by choosing dairy products with minimal fat.

Climate linked to downfall of civilisations Alun Wheatley

A recent article published in Science links changes in climate to the high and low points of whole civilisations. The team, led by Ulf Büntgen at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, used the rings found inside tree trunks to build a model of European weather over 2,500 years. Trees grow broader rings during times of higher moisture and a long growth season, but rings formed during a year of drought will be much narrower. The model for this was built by comparing modern records from the last 200 years to the rings found in living trees. Analysis of 9,000 samples showed long periods of warm and wet weather coincided with more prosperous eras in Roman and Medieval history, but periods of high variability in climate conditions coincided with low points in European history. Alternating decades of dry and wet weather between AD 250 and 550 coincided with the fall of Rome in AD 476, and large popula-

tion migrations throughout Europe. The evidence also suggests that the Black Death, a plague which spread throughout much of the European continent and as far as China’s Pacific coast, coincides with high levels of humidity which would have aided the spread of the disease.

Long periods of warm and wet weather coincide with prosperous eras in Roman and Medieval history Long periods of war in China over the past 1000 years have been previously linked to a colder local climate, and low temperatures may have encouraged mass migrations from Europe to America. However, researchers agree that many factors must be taken into account when analysing human history, and that the data presented here shows that climate must be one of those factors.

It is uncertain whether modern society would be as directly affected by changes in climate, given the travel and technological advances which may mitigate its impact on our lives. There is an on-going debate about whether current fluctuations in climate may be linked to high instances of civil wars on the African continent. A by-product of the study was an analysis of the shift in availability of samples over these periods. It was found that more wood samples were available from periods of high prosperity, versus the years following significant social events. This results in a measure of human activity during these periods, with more wood being used as fuel and construction materials during relatively prosperous times in history. This most recent study backs up similar studies, such as that led by Michael Mann in Nature in 1999, which resulted in the famous “hockey stick graph” used in the climate change debate. This new data set significantly increases the catalogue of climate data available. The full published article can be found in the second 2011 issue of the journal Science.

In other news

The cryptographic key protecting Sony’s Playstation 3 has been discovered. The group responsible say that this will open up the Playstation to home made programs. Sony, however, say all it will do is open a backdoor for piracy. Not surprisingly Sony has launched legal action.

So called ‘piracy websites’ such as megavideo.com have been put under the spotlight, as it has been revealed that they receive tens of billions of visits a year. The RIAA would like these sites to install content filters to prevent redistribution of copyrighted material, the sites say they already have. Internet piracy remains a problem for studios as it ‘costs’ them large amounts of money.

Microsoft has demonstrated a version of Windows that runs on ARM processors at CES 2011. This has been heralded as a milestone for the UK processor maker, as it could allow ARM to expand from mobile device microprocessors to larger home or server computers.

A methodology has been presented to track ‘dark dwarf galaxies’ - that is dwarf galaxies made purely of dark matter. The idea is to measure trails of hydrogen gas at the edge of visible galaxies and to measure any perturbations that could indicate the existence of extra-galactic forces that are interacting with this gas. This can be modelled to see if it is perturbations caused by satellite dwarf galaxies made of dark matter.

Finally, a group of UK scientists working in Edinburgh and Cambridge have developed a genetic modification for chicken which will make them resistant to avian influenza.


Spark*

SCIENCE&TECHNOLOGY 31

Friday 21 January 2011

Consumer Electronics Show 2011 ing people they require a 3D TV is only half of the story, as this 3D revolution will eventually require inputs to be in 3D as well. Here Sony would seem to have excelled themselves, with 3D camcorders, cameras and computers all being shown off at CES. Bloggie is a 3D camcorder from Sony that aims to make HD 3D recording easy for anyone, with the actual camera not that much larger than a standard HD camcorder.

Tim Snow

Another Christmas has passed and, as many people might say, January is a month of beginnings. One such beginning is CES 2011 where many companies showed off their new technology or direction for the upcoming year. As the name suggests, the Consumer Electronics Show is about new technology that will be in the hands of the consumer within the year, with many products being launched for near-immediate or immediate release. So without further ado, let us look at the main announcements of CES 2011. First, tablet computing; last year a large push was put on tablet computing. Steve Ballmer took to the stage to show us the HP slate; it is worth noting that this was before the official release of Apple’s iPad. One year on and tablet computing is still going strong, although it would seem that for all the attention Microsoft gave it, Android seems the biggest winner for tablet computing, in terms of number of tablet computers launched, and which OS they are running.

Notable tablet launches this year include the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Motorola Xoom It would seem that the tablet market has taken off for one reason or another in the last year, with a plethora of options now available to the end user. Similar to last year, Apple is tipped to release the iPad 2 soon, although that’s such an obvious statement that it’s not as much news as just a question of timing. Notable new tablet launches this year include the BlackBerry PlayBook and the Motorola Xoom. The BlackBerry PlayBook is BlackBerry’s first foray into the tablet market; running its own proprietary BlackBerry Tablet OS, it claims to beat the iPad for the web browsing experience, with both a faster speed and the inclusion of the Flash plugin.

Most notable here is the absence of Microsoft from the tablet arena The Motorola Xoom is the first tablet that runs Android 3.0, tailored for tablet usage which, combined with the NVidia Tegra 2 1 GHz dual-core processor, gives it a noticeable speed advantage over the competition, as well as

being kitted out with everything you could ever want, including a barometer. It would seem that this year people have gone out of their way to compete in the tablet market. Obviously Apple’s iPad has had some influence here as companies don’t want to be caught short, however tablet computing is nothing new. Most importantly, the technology has come along in great strides which has no doubt helped this area of computing in the last year. Most notable here is the absence of Microsoft from the tablet arena. After last year’s demonstration of how important it was to Microsoft, they seem to have left it to languish.

not given a release date for this OS though, so it could be some time before we see this operating system hit the shelves. Next up, 3D TV; apparently this is coming to a TV near you soon. Or so Sony and Panasonic seem to be saying. Of course they would. They sell a lot of TVs and are cur-

smaller people at the trade show are still presenting new ideas and inventions However, it would appear that people remain sceptical; whether it be the almost exclusive need for 3D glasses, the massive expense, or the feeling of too small a gain from 3D, it seems it will take a bit

rently going through the HDTV ‘revolution’, so it could otherwise be a difficult sale, especially to those who have just bought a new HDTV. Especially as watching new 3D TV mostly requires the user to wear glasses. Although there are rumour that Sony already has a 3D TV that doesn’t require glasses. Of course, convinc

The Kitara from Misa Digital Instruments, billed as the first fully digital guitar The built-in synthesiser, complete with effects, allows you to plug headphones into the guitar and play without the need for an effects pedal. According to the manufacturer, the only problem with it is being able to put it down; my only problem with it is the price tag - almost $850! So ends the trade show for this year; as usual, a mix of interesting and mainstream ideas, all bundled up in a CES 2011 wrapper.

Notable mentions here go to Celpad, Recon Instruments and the Kitara However this may be set to change, as Microsoft have announced that the next major release of Windows will run on ARM chips as well as Intel chips. The move was welcomed by the tablet industry, largely powered by ARM chips, but was not welcomed so much by Intel, who could lose out in this new sector if other processors force them out through better power efficiency. Microsoft has

goggles, they claim it will not distract you from your skiing, but if you choose to look at it you will be able to see information such as maps, times, speed and stopwatch timer. Finally, the Kitara from Misa Digital Instruments, billed as the first fully digital guitar. It features a fret board made of buttons where you might press down the strings and a touch screen for strumming. However this is only the beginning; full MIDI output means you can digitally input your music into a computer.

more to get people fully into the 3D revolution. Of course, these are only the biggest two focusses of CES 2011; as with any trade show there are many, much smaller innovations and inventions that were showcased this year. Notable mentions here go to Celpad, Recon Instruments and the Kitara. Celpad is a company that works on inductive charging technology; put simply, place your phone on an inductive charging mat, and the phone will start to charge without wires. There is nothing new about this technology, in fact most rechargeable toothbrushes use this; however their implementation is available now and they provide a range of charging pads for various peripherals that might not already have inductive coils inside them. Next, Recon Instruments and their augmented reality goggles. These skiing goggles are the first to have a heads-up display built in, which displays statistics of your ski trip whilst you ski. Due to the way the HUD is built into the

Bloggie is a 3D camcorder from Sony that aims to make HD 3D recording easy for anyone Although the main focusses of the show, tablet computing and 3D TV, are nothing new, it fills me with confidence that the smaller people at the trade show are still presenting new ideas and inventions that keep diversity and interest alive for people who really do love technology.


32 TRAVEL

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

travel.spark@reading.ac.uk

travel

Snowy highs and lows Six hours spent on the track Libby Holderness

If you had taken the train in late November or December, you would have experienced several setbacks on your journey. A broken down engine at Basingstoke stopped numerous trains from reaching Reading on their way north. A smattering of snow on the rails in north Wales, northwest England and eastern Scotland significantly slowed down trains, with many having to be cancelled as delays lasted for hours. Leaves on the network near London caused more havoc. These factors all combined to drastically lengthen journey times and provoke scores of people to primitive reactions. We were in for another rather bad winter, journey-wise, at least. The mere mention of ‘snow’, ‘December’ and ‘2010’ would awaken memories of epic expeditions, travel-induced trauma and

human emotion in their barest form. Hour-long delays for the simplest trip, trains bursting to the gunnels and meaningless reservations were just a few of the joys to which we were subjected. The grumpiness, anger and selfish attitudes portrayed by some of our fellow passengers were second-to-none. Without a lot of thought or effort, people managed to stop others from making a much needed connection by filling up the gangways, congregating at the entries and feigning business to avoid answering questions. A little more egocentricism was rewarded with people putting bags on seats to stop themselves from feeling too crowded, resulting in an elderly woman fainting from having to stand for too long. Though all is not doom and gloom; six hours spent on the track in November revealed more than a few acts of kindness. People shared their lunch with others

who weren’t expecting such long delays. Others carried very heavy luggage not only onto a train for an elderly couple, but through the station and out to the taxi area. Students, who had never met before, gathered together to share travel information and stories to help the hours pass. A pregnant lady yielded her seat for an elderly gentleman. A guard printed off reams of paper with various travel details then distributed these around a station so travellers could be at ease knowing at least when their next connection would be, if not their final arrival times. A young couple snuggled up on the luggage rack to give some kids the opportunity to sit down. It seems pathetic that the UK cannot cope with their cold weather conditions, causing trains to grind to a halt and journeys to take exceedingly longer than they should, especially when compared

Driving home for Christmas

Photograph by Lou Pruce Lucy Richards

The looming prospect of snow warranted a voicemail from a concerned mum. Having casually visited BBC Weather’s homepage, and witnessed the numerous snowy icons displayed beside Kentish towns for the upcoming weekend, the voicemail and returned call ensued. Most students would revel in the prospect of a white Christmas, the thought of snowball fights with the family and numerous photo opportunities causing a flush of excitement. Here, I differ from most students. I have the same

fondness for snow as for credit card bills. Three days after the phone call, my room was packed, essays handed in and my car windows were coated in de-icer. Having distractedly farewelled my housemates I was relieved to be in the cosy comfort of the Yaris, racing the clouds that struggled to contain the troublesome snow. Sunshine poured through the car windows on the M3, an odd contrast to the jingly Christmas songs that played on every radio station. Accompanied by Paul McCartney and The Jackson 5, my two-hour journey home to Kent began very pleasantly. And I will admit I did smile when I saw the smatterings of snow on roadsides. On entering Kent, however, I fully understood the parental concern. Hills of patchwork fields had transfigured into a single vast marshmallow, the odd sheep or strip of vegetation betraying its disguise. “No problem,” I thought, “it’s not on the roads.” Fate shook his finger at me. Half an hour later I was driving in the third lane, a rare occurrence for Kent’s most nervous driver. The hard shoulder was iced over and its frosty sheet was threateningly stretching out onto

the inner lanes. My front window constantly formed an icy shell as the windscreen wipers furiously fought off and compressed the large snowflakes that attacked the Yaris, and yet this was nothing. On entry into my now white hometown, 40 minutes later, I contacted the ideal agent for the snowy mission. The Dad. With his four-wheel drive. Agreeing to meet him on a sliproad that leads into a residential area and my house, I left the single carriageway.

Racing the clouds that struggled to maintain the troublesome snow The sliproad of inch-thick and untouched snow lay before me; my first time driving on snow and ignorance was undoubtedly bliss. My brakes failed, instead choosing utter panic mode. As the brakes made a thumping noise and I a shrieking one, the car drifted onto the pavement, a fortunate incline meant the Yaris naturally came to a stop. Handbrake securely in place, I watched a figure’s outline approaching through the white haze.

with neighbouring regions that deal with far worse than us in the range of climates encountered in a typical year. It’s crazy that human behaviour can vary so widely; from contempt to generosity. But if the UK is to be plunged into another ice age

this year, which favours well with those experienced much farther east, at least we can all rest easy knowing that bad snowy weather brings out the best as well as the worst in civilization, and acts of human compassion know no bounds.

Recognising the trudge and wave of my Dad, I pulled on a hoodie in preparation for the change in temperature and turned back to witness my hero now lying crumpled, slap bang in the middle of the road. Man down, I stood no chance. “Stay calm and change to second gear as quickly as you can,” bruised Dad instructed me. “When you need to brake, pump the pedal, don’t hold your foot down.” So our gradual homecoming began, Dad following me, while keeping a safe distance, down the numerous hills to our house. I attempted a turn into a lane on my right but the car was not interested. Like a distracted horse it wandered off to the left. I did not remain calm and did not pump the breaks as the Yaris ambled into a leafless hedgerow. A mound of snow tumbled onto my bonnet and a flicking curtain of the house behind it signalled I was being watched. I managed to reverse and make a second attempt down the road. Backup followed behind... at a slightly further distance than before. I succeeded down the first decline and successfully turned left into my road. This has various curves and a steep decline and it

was clear that few had driven on it since the snow had settled. You can guess the rest.

A flicking curtain signalled I was being watched Involuntarily, I slid down the road at a fair old lick and bounded into a curb where a car is usually parked. (I’m still counting my blessings that on this one day the car was absent). Now positioned at an awkward angle by a pavement, I must confess I did not care. The hubcap of my front left wheel popped off with the collision and I ruined the perfectly even snow with my impressive slide. But I was home. I didn’t have to worry about walking through treacherous snow on campus to get a library book or living off toast due to bare cupboards. It was worth the nerve-wracking journey for the sense of achievement and thankfulness that was forced upon me as I bounced off the curb. A true epiphany moment, it was the first time I felt a genuine fondness for snow. How ironic.


Spark*

Friday 21 January 2011

travel.spark@reading.ac.uk

TRAVEL 33

International airport antics A snowed off UK Yasmine Patpatia

Canada functions normally, Russia does it perfectly and so do many other countries all across the globe. It’s just us; Arthur Sicard would be devastated. We prepare for every season shamelessly well, no sooner than summer is over, the insect repellent and shades are swapped for pumpkins and bats. When Halloween leaves, Christmas swans in escorted by advent calendars and violently cheery tunes. So long as everyone is fully prepared for Christmas at the beginning of November and the temperature stays too warm for snow, all is well in the United Kingdom. Every year we wish for a white Christmas but when it actually arrives, sheer panic strikes. Our beloved dark, damp winter is brightened by a white sheet of horror. We just aren’t used to snow! Yes, it has snowed before during winter months; yes, it normally snows; and yes, it has been fore-

cast that it shall snow more heavily in coming years but we British deal with it in the same manner ever year - shut everything. Nobody is mildly shocked because it’s simply the way we function. Of course nothing is open!

That white fluffy stuff affects absolutely everything ‘Snow’ is the word on everybody’s lips, the excuse in everyone’s minds. Facebook statuses are updated every minute, sharing snow troubles with the world and although everybody moans, everybody loves it! Secretly you love it too because it means that you cannot physically reach your stale smelling grandma in the inch of snow that fate has laid. It just wouldn’t be safe, your car was not designed to cope. That white fluffy stuff affects absolutely everything, even your

shopping list completely alters. Fresh produce is swapped for tins and things that last. Trying to track down a baked bean is a nightmare. Booking flights early normally saves a few bob, but I wouldn’t recommend this if you are travelling to or from the UK in winter. Flights tend to be cancelled if it is snowing, it might snow, or of course, if it has snowed, it will probably leave you stranded as it did thousands of Britons at Gatwick Airport this Christmas period. Apologies for the snow havoc come from the underprepared, and the news is swarmed with warnings not to go out unless it is absolutely necessary. Maybe, if these people stopped apologising and started actuallyclearing the roads, we might save a bit of time next year. As pathetic as it is, we just aren’t equipped to deal with sub-zero temperatures - but it is about time we were.

Above and beyond reality Lucy Richards

I would like nothing more than to perch on a bar stool at Heathrow, dangling fabulous back-breaking heels from my feet, a mojito in hand and my hand luggage (ideally designer) claiming the neighbouring stool. I long to echo the stewardesses in the Virgin Atlantic adverts, turning heads as they ooze class and glamour in their crisp suits. In reality, any flight makes me as appealing as the ‘Go Compare’ chap, due entirely to the practicalities of travelling by plane. For example, I could never walk onto a plane in heels; I want to be comfortable, thus any flat footwear permitting bedsocks is the only option. As for a cocktail, I need to make the flight, not find myself in a tipsy stupor asking the Bureau de Change if they could play a Rihanna track.

I long to echo the stewardesses in the Virgin Atlantic adverts Clothing is my one attempt to nod toward a Virgin Atlantic model, choosing layers of tops and scarves that one wouldn’t ordinarily wear when writing an essay in bed.

The downside to said layers is the constant re-shuffling; the stress of finding the correct gate etc. causing changes in body temperature and thus the alteration of worn layers. The packing and re-packing of these layers also causes general upheaval in a moving queue. As for the flight itself, here I continue my sexual appeal. In February 2010, I flew out to visit the boyfriend, then living in Italy. I refreshed BBC’s weather page every 30 minutes in the 24 hours before my flight, having seen Bologna airport was typically the only Italian airport shut as a result of snow. I caught a bus and two trains to Stansted, finally boarding the flight and watching the continuous flurries of snow drifting innocently from the dreary skies. Finding myself above the clouds and in glorious sunshine, blue skies emanating from pre-Raphaelite clouds, I was delighted at the change in scene. I took advantage of the sunny light through the window to top up my makeup. On arrival in Bologna, a sore nose prompted the boyfriend to point out its salmon pink glow, evidently a pre-holiday tan. Yes, reader, I burnt my nose in the space of half an hour on a Ryanair flight. Through several inches of glass. In February. Clearly, Virgin Atlantic stewardess is not a future career.

Finally, on arrival at destination, one goes to collect one’s luggage, another opportunity to appreciate the unglamorous airport experience. After rushing to claim a decent spot by the luggage belt (and the change in body temperature causing an inevitable removal and storage of layer) one heaves one’s case off of the belt, straining a body part and having to apologise to a neighbour for knocking their child.

Wear what you want to wear when travelling to enjoy the journey Relieved, one wheels one’s case toward the exit, checking one’s self out in a duty-free shop window, spotting a nasty grey mark across one’s leg after leaning against the luggage belt’s metal frame. The moral of this tale? Virgin Atlantic adverts are entertainment, not recruitment videos. Never trust a female (or male) passenger wearing heels in an airport; they’ll realise the error of their ways when teetering haphazardly on the moving belts. Most importantly, wear what you want to wear when travelling to enjoy the journey without complications (though suntan lotion may be required for fellow freckled-nosed flyers).

Top 10 airports

Libby Holderness

Since its founding over 20 years ago, Skytrax, an internationallyorientated, independent travel company, has sought to evaluate and judge the current states, recent changes and relative merits of each of the world’s international airports based on a collection of customer satisfaction surveys, airline comments and submitted corporate reviews. Its primary purposes are to develop and continually improve more established airports whilst giving a valuable insight to both passengers and staff as to why a particular location has gained a peculiar fame. The results of the 2010 survey were released in December, and its overview is fascinating. Based on a mean of the comments received for cleanliness, security, shopping, baggage delivery, immigration services, toilet facilities, ease of transit, smoothness of check-in and dining experiences, hundreds of airports are ranked and catalogued according to their position on a five-star rating scale. Of the airports voted to be the top ten in this last year, six are in East Asia (Singapore, Incheon, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur , Beijing and Bangkok), three in Western Europe (Munich, Zurich and Amsterdam) and one in New Zealand (Auckland); among the top five, only one is outside the Far East. Other regions are placed much less favourably with few American airports in the top 20. Vancouver is their highest (ranked as 11th), South America’s strongest contender, Lima placed 33rd, and Africa’s best, Cape Town, failed to make even the top 50. Being a well-travelled tourist, I have frequented most of these airports and would generally agree with these findings, although I question which features have positioned Beijing as being so high as it has a pitiful number of shops and appears to be largely devoid of life. Many quote Singapore (this year’s number one) as being a

unique airport which typically produces a love or hate response from each of its visitors. It is one of the most extensive airports in the world, and along with Dubai, has one of the biggest ranges of shops in the world. It’s incredibly unique on many accounts as it contains a free swimming pool, cinema, access to an (indoor) primary tropical rainforest and ample places to sleep or chillax, from its dear Marriott suites to cushy sofa chairs. The Singaporean government consider Changi to be as important, if not more so, as the rest of its land in being a chief earner for its invaluable tourism industry, and thus, has spent years building up an airport that caters for almost every taste and budget. On the other side of the spectrum, Moscow Sheremetyvo, was positioned as the worst international airport in the world, which, having seen several reports from there over the recent sudden snowfalls, is hardly surprising. Most passengers complain of cramped conditions, lack of communication with staff and no compensation or additional support given in response to frequently delayed and cancelled flights. This is unequivocally one for budget travellers or those wishing to experience more of developing world conditions. Official reports don’t always give the same impressions as personal experience, however, and some of the best airports I’ve heard about don’t even appear on the ranking at all. Alice Springs is apparently one of the ‘nicest’ airports in the world, being incredibly easy to travel around and having wonderfully friendly staff who, if you play your cards right, will do almost absolutely anything for you. Heathrow is one of the best places to bed down for the night, particularly if you hit it early and base yourself in the café on the first floor of terminal two; Gatwick, on the other hand, almost always has free alcohol at any time of the year.


34 LETTERS

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

editor.spark@reading.ac.uk

Letters

Fortnightly Media Blog - Junction11 Hi guys, Firstly, I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas and New Year! I’m hoping that this year we can build on what we achieved with the station last term, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s been involved with Junction11 in some way over the past few months. We’ve come across some really talented presenters – many of whom had never done anything in radio before – as well as some dedicated contributors behind the scenes, who are vital to ensuring that a) we’re broadcasting, and b) we have something to broadcast! If you didn’t manage to get involved with the station last term, but it’s still something you’re interested in, then you can still get involved. We re-do the schedule every term, so if you fancy having a go at presenting, you can join the Only Official Junction11 Group on Facebook to make sure you’re kept in the loop in terms of presenter training, which was held during the first week of term. Following training, shows will be allocated to everyone who signed up – last term I had a lot of emails in subsequent weeks from people enquiring about having a show and

unfortunately we couldn’t accommodate them all – so get in early! Last term we encouraged new presenters who hadn’t presented before to pair up, with fantastic results – we’ve got some great copresenting going on, which makes the experience a lot less daunting for many people, as well as getting everyone who signed up on to the schedule, so we’re hoping to do the same this term.

“We have high hopes for this year” We’ll also be continuing the support for presenters that we offered last term, with full training for new presenters, refresher sessions for returning presenters who would find it useful, and we’re also hoping to organise a jingle workshop as well as some socials over

what’s going on? when 21st January

25th

what

where

RUSU election workshop

RUSU boardroom

Student Voice

Mondial

January

27th January

27th

Refreshers Fayre

January

Services and Ents forum

1st

RUSU AGM

3sixty The Lounge 3sixty

February

next issue of Spark* out:

Friday 4 February 2010 across the students’ union

the coming weeks! Finally, on behalf of everyone at Junction11, I’d like to say a massive thank you to Stuart Wood, who stepped down as Head of Tech at the end of last term, having held the position since January 2008. His advice and never-ending knowledge of all things ‘Jazler’ has been much appreciated by everyone at the station – we wish him all the best, as well as welcoming David and Simon who will now be heading up the department. I think I can speak on behalf of the exec when I say that we all have high hopes of what this year will bring for the station, and I look forward to meeting more and more people who are up for getting involved in student radio. Any queries or questions, just drop me a line at manager.junction11@ reading.ac.uk! Sarah x

Does Spark* talk to you? If not, talk to us! Email: editor.spark@ reading.ac.uk Any comments, suggestions, complaints or praises are always welcome

Letter from the Editor Dear readers, I hope everyone enjoyed the Christmas break and is getteing back into the normal routine without too much bother. If you fancy a trip down memory lane, turn to the Travel pages for some snowy stories - fingers crossed the word ‘snow’ will stay out of Spark* for the rest of the term! If you’re feeling the effect of all those mince pies, not only does the Health page offer several tips on how to bust those pounds, but the Sports page has a list of several teams you can join this term,

which will help you on your way to post-Christmas fitness. Stuck for a new years resolution? Write for Spark*! Sophie

P.O. Box 230, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AZ Tel: 0118 378 4140 Vol 56. Issue 1

Editorial Staff

Editor:

Sophie Blackman editor.spark@reading.ac.uk

Deputy Editor:

Chris Searle deped.spark@reading.ac.uk

News Editor:

Vicky Wong news.spark@reading.ac.uk

News Sub-Editor:

Lucy Chamley news.spark@reading.ac.uk

Comment Editors:

Aileen Latheef and Lizzie Pollington

comment.spark@reading.ac.uk

Political Comment

Sarah Rana

Editor:

politics.spark@reading.ac.uk

Interview Editor:

Jon Erridge interview.spark@reading.ac.uk

Film, DVD & TV

Louise Pruce and Rosi Hirst

Editors:

film.spark@reading.ac.uk

Music Editor:

Kate Allen music.spark@reading.ac.uk

Music Sub-Editor:

Laurence Green music.spark@reading.ac.uk

Science & Tech

Tim Snow and Mat Greenfield

Editors:

scitech.spark@reading.ac.uk

Gaming Editor:

Alun Wheatley gaming.spark@reading.ac.uk

Arts&Books Editor: Alice Carter-Tyler arts.spark@reading.ac.uk Fashion Editor:

Sarah-Jane Stenson fashion.spark@reading.ac.uk

Fashion Sub-Editor: Collette Naden fashion.spark@reading.ac.uk Travel Editor:

Lucy Richards travel.spark@reading.ac.uk

Health Editor:

Ben Fox health.spark@reading.ac.uk

Fun&Games Editor: Chris Ryder fun.spark@reading.ac.uk Sport Editor:

Nathanael Saunders and Chris Roberts

sports.spark@reading.ac.uk

Photo Editor:

Saskia Duff photo.spark@reading.ac.uk

Head of PR:

Joanna Coulton pr.spark@reading.ac.uk

Proofreaders:

Cheryl Saverus, Rosi Hirst, Rhodri Buttrick, Maddy

Brown, Lizzie Pollington, Lou Pruce, Lucy Chamley

Spark* is written, designed & typeset by students at the University of Reading. Printed by Newbury News Limited, Newspaper House, Faraday Road, Newbury, Berkshire. RG14 2DW. Published and funded by Reading University Students’ Union vp.studentactivites@rusu.co.uk. Spark* is completely editorially independent. Complaints should be made to the Editor, in the first instance, and thereafter to RUSU. All complaints should be made in writing. All articles, letters etc. must include a name, address, and contact number/e-mail address. These may be withheld from publication at specific request. Spark* or RUSU can take no responsibility for products or services advertised herein. Spark* reserves the right to reject or edit any submissions. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the Editor. The views expressed in Spark* do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor, particularly those expressed in the comments pages, which are often the opinions of the specific authors. Photographs in Spark* are copyright to the photographer concerned.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

fun.spark@reading.ac.uk

fun&games Crossword 017 19. Harmony of California falls during disaster (5) 20. Goddess raising mountains (5)

Straight Clues ACROSS

7. Comprehend someone’s meaning (10) 9. Units of electrical resistance (4) 10. Relating to the clergy (8) 11. Fights with a sabre (6) 12. School specializing in technical subjects (11) 15. Firm; resolute (7) 16. Slang term for low wages (7) 18. Individual payments (11) 21. Type of fruit such as a lemon (6) 22. Surprising; distressing (8) 23. Information (4) 24. Appreciation for oneself (4-6)

Cryptic Clues

holding the facts (4) 24. Student of Shakespeare’s fool to enter intimate confidence (4-6)

ACROSS

7. Apprehend suspect (10) 9. London detective heard to have measures for resistance (4) 10. Poem gets the chop, replaced by short song from the church (8) 11. Evades guards (6) 12. Policy Ten deals with church school (11) 15. Determined musician (7) 16. Barely anything comic (7) 18. Issues left me in seconds (11) 21. Church suit coloured orange, perhaps (6) 22. Gangster preparing for war is dangerous (8) 23. Accused a tanner of with-

DOWN

1. Relative noun 10 embraced (5) 2. Drops charges (5) 3. Thought-study pays cash only – is in need of a re-think! (14) 4. Stops ordinary people walking through passage on Sunday (7) 5. Bootleg night light? (9) 6. Now I’m referee (9) 8. After definite proof, Bob finds derivative (14) 13. Like President, I calmed inside (9) 14. Stream flowed alongside wall in capital (9) 17. Reports squads (7)

Answers to last edition’s puzzles (Friday 10 December 2010)

DOWN

1. Brother of one’s parent (5) 2. Produced when crying (5) 3. Area of science pioneered by Sigmund Freud (14) 4. Accosts (7) 5. Illegally distilled liquor (9) 6. Instantaneous (9) 8. Makes a distinction between things (14) 13. Exactly the same (9) 14. Dutch Capital City (9) 17. Specific circumstances of an event (7) 19. Friendliness (5) 20. South American mountain range (5)

Eric’s Tips At my last visit to eccentric exbusinessman Sir Eric Conway-Carlton at the King George III Hospital for the Incurably Mentally Ill, I was delighted to learn that, under new guidelines, Sir Eric has been deemed fit to return to his home in Whiltshire. It was a smiling and cherful nutcase that passed on this week’s words of wisdom:

“Do your bit for the workers of London by becoming a member of Tube staff and striking the whole year through.”

Sudoku

FUN&GAMES 35


36 SPORT

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

sports.spark@reading.ac.uk

SPORT COMMENT An autopsy of Australian cricket Edward Fletcher

First things first, it is important to note that not only did England beat Australia; they hammered them. All three English victories were by an innings; the only blip coming in Perth, on a pitch tailor-made for Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson. Lest we forget only four years ago Australia hammered England as they inflicted a 5-0 series whitewash on the tourists. Surely this begs the question, what went wrong for the Australians? Firstly and perhaps most importantly, Australia repeatedly picked the wrong side. Selections such as Xavier Doherty, Steven Smith and Michael Beer simply failed to perform, and it is still a mystery why proven Test spinner Nathan Hauritz was overlooked and why David Hussey, brother of Michael, never got a chance to prove his Test credentials after amassing

thousands of runs in first class cricket. However, it is very unlikely that these alternative selections would have many any sort of difference to the overall result, as England simply outplayed the Australians from start to finish.

Not only did England beat Australia; they hammered them It was always going to be a nearimpossible task to replace the team that humiliated England ‘Down Under’ in 2006/7. Players such as Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were all worldclass cricketers, and the Australians currently do not have the talent to fill the void created by these retirements; thus they need

to be patient until the required talent arrives. Australia’s failings in this series owe much to their inept batting displays. Only three hundreds were scored compared to England’s nine. The biggest disappointment was the form of struggling captain Ricky Ponting, who only managed one half-century in the series, and consequently his test career looks to be in jeopardy. While this battling line-up pales in comparison to Australian sides of old, one should not take away from the achievement of the English bowlers. In stark contrast to the Australian seamers, especially Mitchell Johnson, very rarely did England offer the Aussie batsmen anything loose, and this enabled the tourists to build pressure, which ultimately led to the fall of wickets at regular intervals. The lack of a quality spinner in the Australian side never enabled Ricky Ponting or Michael Clarke

to gain any control, and with Mitchell Johnson always liable to offer up at least one four-ball in an over, runs for the English batsman were easy to come by. It is fair to say that England were superior to Australia in all three departments, and the statistics duly reflect this.

But for the moment England can enjoy this overwhelming success and move on to becoming the number one test playing nation As already stated, England outbowled and out-batted the Australians, but they were also immaculate in the field. England barely dropped a chance all series, and took the majority of their run out chances.

Next Week: Is Darts a Sport?

Matt Prior took 23 catches, compared to the paltry eight of Brad Haddin, which reflects the gulf in class between the two bowling attacks more than anything else. Now while their is no need for any knee-jerk reactions for the Australians, it is important for the supporters and selectors alike to acknowledge that it will be some time before the test side returns to its former glory. The team is currently in a period of transition, and it is now the job of the Australian selectors to identify the talent and give these players a chance to fulfill their potential and replace the former Aussie greats. But for the moment, England can enjoy this overwhelming success, and move on to becoming the number one Test playing nation. However, Australia are always going to produce world-class cricketers and believe me... they’ll be back.

Have an opinion? Write to: sports.spark@reading.ac.uk


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

sports.spark@reading.ac.uk

SPORT ENGLAND RATINGS

Alistair Cook.........................10 The star of the series by a country mile, with a maiden double-century in the first test and scoring the second highest number of runs over by an Englishman in Australia.

Andrew Strauss (c) ................9 The captain led by example, and aside from a duck in the opening innings he was superb with the bat, with three half-centuries and a ton in Brisbane.

Jonathan Trott......................9.5 Undoubtably the star of the series behind Cook. Trott averaged close to 90 and clearly loves playing against Australia.

Kevin Pietersen...................7.5 An impressive 227 with the b.at, and then the crucial evening wicket of Michael Clarke in a rare bowling turn were the highlights from a man who reminded everyone of his potential.

Ian Bell....................................8 Finally got a century against Australia in the final test, and with three other half centuries to his name, it was a reliable effort with the bat.

The Ashes England win the series 3-1

Terrific England trounce Australia Fourth Ashes Test, Melbourne: England 513 beat Australia 98 & 258 by an innings and 153 runs Tom Puddy

The fourth test was the day that history was made down under; for the first time in 24 years England would be taking the Ashes with them when they leave Australia. The test started with Andrew Strauss winning the toss, and controversially choosing to bowl first. This came in the wake of the suprise decision to drop in form Steve Finn and replace him with Tim Bresnan. Indeed, despite the greenness of the wicket, Shane Warne commented at the time that he thought the choice would work well for Australia. Fortunately however, England’s bowlers were on excellent form, and some fine fielding soon led to a

England were going to retain the Ashes; a monumental occasion for England and a crushing blow for Australia. This fact didn’t seem to affect either side’s performance however, with Watson reaching a very respectable 54 before being out lbw to Bresnan. England meanwhile retained the inspiring form bowling of the first day and by close of play had taken six Aussie wickets for 165 runs. The fourth day opened with Bresnan bowling to a chorus of “Jerusalem” from the always brilliant Barmy Army, whose voices echoed round a stadium almost deserted by Australian fans. The calls from the Australian commentators for a chance of a draw soon seemed like a bad joke, as Tremlett

Paul Collingwood....................7

Lack of confidence with the bat overshadowed his usual brilliance in the field; took a handful of important wickets. Matt Prior (wkt).........................9 Was in exceptional form behind the stumps, and hardly put a foot wrong; also added a brilliant century in the second innings in Sydney.

Graeme Swann........................8 5-91 in Adeleide was crucial, and he went largely unrewarded in the latter tests despite some exceptional bowling. Deserves special mention for popularising the ‘Sprinkler Dance’.

Steve Finn................................8 Was exceptional in the three tests he played, taking a remarkable 14 wickets at the tender age of 21. It was unfortunate, but right, that he had to be replaced in Melbourne.

Jimmy Anderson.....................9 Perfect line and length throughout series, and lethal with the new ball. The golden duck of Ricky Ponting in Adelaide will remain a cherished memory for years to come.

Stuart Broad............................7 Unlucky to get injured, and would surely have added to his two wickets with characteristically reliable bowling.

Chris Tremlett........................9 Surprise success story. Found pace and movement off the seam in three tests, and took a few vital wickets in his three test matches.

Tim Bresnan.........................8.5 Took vital quick wickets of Ponting and Hussey at MCG. and continued to frustrate the Aussies in Sydney.

SPORT 37

Courtesy of Getty Images: Chris Tremlett celebrates the vital wicket of Ricky Ponting on day one monumental collapse by Australia, who appeared to be getting everything wrong. It’s difficult say anything positive about the Australian first innings; Mitchell Johnson’s duck, the frankly foolish shots that the batsmen played, and of course the fact that they were all out for 98, all make it a record breakingly bad day for Australia. Things continued to get worse for Australia, as Strauss and Alistair Cook ended the day on a partnership of 144, further annihilating Aussie moral. The next day went even better for England, with Pietersen getting a much needed half-century, and Prior ending the day 75 not out. However, the day belonged to Jonathan Trott, who ended on a massive 141, eventually finishing on 168 and leaving England on an unassailable 513. It was clear even before Australia’s batsmen reached the crease for their second innings that with England leading by over 400 hundred,

bowled Johnson cheaply. Credit must however be given to Siddle and Haddin, who dug in and were just short of a century in their partnership when Pietersen caught Siddle, who was out for 40. England needed to take only one more wicket to retain the Ashes, and this arrived almost instantly with Haddin caught by Prior for 55, to retain the Ashes down under for the first time in a quarter of a century. The test had been tarnished for the Australians on day three as beleaguered skipper Ponting launched a scathing diatribe toward Umpire Aleen Darr, who had decided to review a decision against Pietersen that eventually led to the English batsman staying at the crease. Ponting was condemned by both nations’ media, and received further bad news when it was confirmed that an injury would keep him out of the final Test - sparking speculation that his career as Australia’s test captain was over.

Fifth Ashes Test, Sydney: England 644 beat Australia 280 & 281 by an innings and 83 runs Jonathan Low

7 January 2011 will long live in the memory of English cricket fans, as England sealed a comprehensive Ashes win in Australia for the first time in 24 years. A thumping win in Sydney ensured Andrew Strauss’ men won the five game series by three games to one. The emphatic innings and 83 runs victory aptly demonstrated England’s superiority over the course of the series. Despite some early signs on the final morning that a miracle could happen and Australia would escape with a draw, Chris Tremlett wrapped things up with the final wicket of spinner Michael Beer. The game ended before midday on the fifth day in front of a sparse crowd, bar a section of the ground that was completely filled with English fans and the ever boisterous ‘Barmy Army’. Sounding more like a football crowd, they played their part to perfection in urging the team on to a momentous victory. Andrew Strauss’ team turned in another superb batting performance, with man of the series Alistair Cook hitting 189, as he passed 36 hours in total at the crease over the course of the five matches. The overall total of 644

also included centuries from Ian Bell and wicket-keeper Matt Prior. The match signalled the end of a magnificent series for opener Cook, who scored 766 runs in total, the highest in the series. James Anderson took 24 wickets overall, the most by an England bowler down under for over 60 years. The Aussies’ scores of 280 and 281 were not good enough, as their batsmen’s ongoing problem of failing to post a big score ultimately proved their downfall. Michael Clarke, who stood in as captain for the injured Ricky Ponting, failed to make the most of his big opportunity as he yet again failed with the bat. The result capped a near-perfect series for England, as the memories of the whitewash in 2007 were firmly forgotten. Although Australia were clearly not the side they once were, England convincingly outplayed them in every way. Furthermore, Andrew Strauss warned afterwards that this was only the beginning for his side; ‘The majority of the team are going to be hitting their peak time in the next couple of years’. This is perhaps a scary prospect for the other international sides, and there is much work to do to build on this momentum; with key tests this year against India and South Africa, it is an exciting time for English cricket.

Hard not to be smug down under Nate Saunders Sport Editor

It is not often that an Englishman can gloat about such a huge success over Australia. It is even rarer that we get the chance to do so in Australia. I was lucky enough to have this opportunity in the past month; a family holiday to Perth coinciding perfectly with the greatest Ashes victory we will probably ever witness down under. I even managed to see some of the test action at the WACA - a paltry 52 minutes in the unforgiving Perth heat as Mitchell Johnson finished off the English lower order for the victory that turned out to be somewhat of an anomaly. You would not have thought England lost, however. Only 25 metres to the left of my position on the famous West Grass Bank was a

group of loud, passionate, and horrendously sunburnt Englishman who of course go by the moniker of ‘The Barmy Army’. The boisterous mood of this group was infectious, and the short-lived songs toward the Aussies, “You all live in a convict colony” and “God save your gracious Queen” being better than ever; it was as if we all knew the defeat in Perth was not the beginning of the end of our chances. From Boxing Day onwards, as England re-wrote the rule book for Test cricket, whether my family and I were in Perth, Freemantle or even the rather daunting Tiger Snake Island, I made sure I wore my Barmy Army shirt or England cricket hat, accompanied with the smuggest smile I could manage. As our former cricket masters would have said after such a victory - yes you beauties!


38 SPORT

sports.spark@reading.ac.uk

Barclays Premier League, Christmas recap

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

PDC Darts World Championship

Lewis hits ‘jackpot’ with first world title Jack Bowyer

The festive period has left the Premier League table looking as close as it has ever been. Manchester United find themselves at the top of the pile, ahead only on goal difference of their neighbours Manchester City, with their unbeaten record still intact and having played two games fewer following their goalless draw with Tottenham Hotspur. This has left many fans, including United’s, scratching their heads, as a string of unconvincing performances has been enough for them to secure pole position in the title race. The truth of the matter remains that none of the chasing pack has been able to match the consistency level of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Chelsea’s form has been woeful at best. Despite a convincing 2-0 home win over Blackburn at the weekend, the champions have recorded just two wins in their last ten league matches and has seen them slump to fourth in the table. Whilst key players such as Michael Essien and Frank Lampard have returned to full fitness, they have seemingly failed to inspire any resurgence in the Blues form, with back-to-back titles now looking unlikely. This has allowed the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham to put pressure on United, and although there is still a lot to play for, they will all feel disappointed in not really stamping their authority on proceedings over the busy Christmas schedule. Despite City’s recent 0-0 draw with Arsenal extending their unbeaten run, the club will feel the need to catch their Manchester rivals due to having played a couple of games more. The rest of the top half sees Sunderland and Bolton well placed

after both clubs ended 2010 in impressive form. Newly-promoted sides Newcastle and Blackpool will also be happy with their seasons so far, knowing that safety will be guaranteed if they can match their efforts up to this point. Elsewhere, Roy Hodgson left Liverpool after only six months in charge, with former player and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish taking over as manager. However, with a cup defeat against old enemy Manchester United at Old Trafford, defeat at lowly Blackpool and a draw against Everton, problems continue at Anfield. Only three points separate the league’s bottom six teams, with Fulham and Aston Villa struggling to adapt to life under new management. Fulham will be hoping that the return of striker Andy Johnson can fire the team up the table, whilst Villa will hope that new signing Jean Makoun will inspire the side. West Ham still occupy last place, but their recent upturn in form since their manager Avram Grant was supposedly issued an ultimatum will give their fans hope of survival. The east London club will be looking to join West Brom in being the only teams to survive relegation despite being bottom of the table on Christmas Day. With this proving to be the closest Premier League in recent history, both at the top and the bottom of the league, the second half of the season will no doubt prove as unpredictable as the first. With so few points separating so many teams, jostling for position will surely continue up until the final day of the season, providing fans everywhere with plenty of excitement.

Picture of the Week

Jonny Wilkinson at the University of Reading Picture courtesy of Simon James, Dec 11 2010. Unable to train at the Madejski Stadium ahead of their Heineken Cup clash with London Irish, in-form French side Toulon came to the University rugby pitches. Students flocked to see the Toulon stars, in particular Englishmen Jonny Wilkinson and Paul Sackey, in action.

Cameron Humphries

Last year’s football world cup had its brilliant moments, The Ashes test series was an exceptional sporting contest, and October’s Ryder Cup arguably exceeded both in terms of drama. Another event that some would argue should be talked about in the same high regard is the 2011 PDC World Darts Championship. For two weeks, Alexandra Palace played host to a tournament where from start to finish players arrived at the oche and played their best darts. There were upsets from start to finish, with many big name players such as James Wade and Simon Whitlock exiting in the early rounds. The biggest shock of all came in the quarter-finals, with Mark Webster knocking out 15-time world champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. Taylor had only recently finished as runner-up to AP McCoy in the 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, with many citing this as the reason for his out-ofcharacter 88-average performance in the first round. On the same evening that Taylor fell, Gary Anderson dispatched of five time world champion Raymond Van Barneveld, with a comfortable 5-1 win. With the two most successful players in the history of the game both falling at the quarter-final stage, this increased the likelihood that come the end of the tourna-

ment, a new world champion would be crowned, with one-time BDO World champion Mark Webster the only former winner still in the draw. Anderson continued in fine form to beat Terry Jenkins 6-2 in his semi-final, continuing to keep his streak of consecutive matches with an average over 100 alive. Taylor’s protege, Adrian ‘Jackpot’ Lewis, was also able to produce one of the performances of the tournament, as he was able to see off Webster 6-4 to reach his second consecutive major tournament final.

The final itself will go down as a classic The final itself will go down as a classic, as both players looked to take advantage of the opportunity of a Taylor-less final. Lewis further wrote his name into darts folklore by making a 9 dart finish in the first set of the match – in doing so becoming the first player to throw a 9 darter in a world championship final. This was a feat that not even his mentor Taylor has accomplished in his incredible career, and provided the perfect foundations for a classic final. In the opening stages Lewis was almost unstoppable, winning the first set with a 3 dart average of 123. Anderson may have averaged

106, usually enough to win a set, but he just could not win a leg. The standard did not dip, both players holding an average just short of a hundred by the end. Lewis opened up a two set lead, but the impressive Anderson was able to level the match at three sets each. From there, Lewis snatched back the initiative to storm into a 6-3 lead, just one set short of achieving his dream. Anderson, also looking for a first world championship in his first final appearance, fought back bravely to 6-5, potentially setting up a finale to match the suddendeath finish of the Taylor-Van Barneveld final of 2007. It was everything professional darts can be at its best; high scoring with a dramatic comeback mixed in, and both players missing crucial doubles as the pressure built. However, in the end Lewis managed to keep his nerve and close out the match on double 11, to win his first world title and pick up a cheque for £200,000. The future looks bright for darts; the world championship was a fantastic advert for the game, with a scorned Phil Taylor attempting to regain ‘his’ title alongside so many young talents. He will certainly have his work cut out as top players from the BDO continue to crossover to challenge for the PDC world title. Certainly, next year’s world championship cannot come soon enough.

American Football, NFL playoffs

Putting the ‘wild’ in wildcard Ben Stephenson

The two number one seeds from the AFC and NFC are out. They were both beaten at home by wild card teams. Only four teams remain in one of the most unpredictable and extraordinary playoffs the NFL has seen for a long time. The New York Jets will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, and the Green Bay Packers will travel to the Windy City to play the Chicago Bears. The Divisional round has come and gone; the New York Jets travelled to Foxboro to take on the 14-2 New England Patriots as underdogs. They were handed a 45-3 loss in the regular season at Gillette Stadium, but entered the game with a vigour and a swagger. On the back of sacking Tom Brady five times and limiting the Patriots explosive offence to only 21 points, the Jets pulled off the shock of the round, handing Brady and the Pats only their second home playoff loss since 2000. The Jets will now be looking to be only the fourth team to represent

the AFC in the Superbowl since 2002; the Patriots, Colts and Steelers have dominated the AFC in recent years. Two of the fiercest NFL rivals played out the chance to reach the Conference Championship, as the Baltimore Ravens travelled to the Steelers.

My tip for the title? The Steelers The Steelers relied on Rashard Mendenhall to pile on some points as the BR only gained 46 yards but counted for two scores. Pittsburgh held off the impressive third year Joe Flacco, appearing in his third straight playoff season, consisting of seven games, all of which have been on the road. Despite falling behind 21-7 at the half, Pittsburgh rallied during an incredible third quarter which saw the Ravens amass negative offensive yardage in the fifteen minutes of play, and were able to seal an impressive 31-24 win over their divisional rivals.

Over in the NFC, there were more shocks. The top-seeded Atlanta Falcons were knocked off by the impressive Packers. Aaron Rodgers turned in a masterful performance as he threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for another score. The Falcons were ultimately disappointing as they only accumulated 194 net yards. The Bears turned over the Seattle Seahawks, who provided one of the biggest upsets in NFL history as they beat the defending champs, the New Orleans Saints, a game earlier. Jay Cutler was dominant as he won his first playoff game for the Bears. So there we have it. The Jets play the Steelers and the Packers travel to the Bears. My tip for the title? The Steelers. Roethlisberger has the big game experience, and the defence cannot be rivalled. The team in black and gold look good for their second title in three years, but will certainly be challenged by the impressive Jets this Sunday.


Spark* Friday 21 January 2011

sports.spark@reading.ac.uk

Reading University Sport Preview 2011 BUCS Overall Championship points table 2010/11 Ranking

Institution

BUCS points

30

Brunel West London

29

31

Roehampton

25

32

Kings

24

32

Reading

24

32

Staffordshire

24

35

Bangor

23

Top 10 sports teams performance - BUCS league points Position

Team Name

League Points

Cup Points

Total

1

Rubgy Union M1

30

0

30

2

Fencing M1

26

0

26

3

Squash M1

26

0

26

4

Basketball M1

23

0

23

5

Hockey M1

23

0

23

6

Football W1

16

6

22

7

Golf

16

6

22

8

Hockey W1

22

0

22

9

Volleyball W1

21

0

21

University Sports form table Position

Team Name

Games Played

W-D-L

Win (%)

1

Hockey M3

6

5-1-0

88.89

2

Rugby Union M1 7

6-0-1

85.71

3

Rugby Union M2 6

5-0-1

83.33

4

Rugby Union M3 5

4-0-1

80.00

5

Rugby M4

5

4-0-1

80.00

6

Netball S1

8

6-1-1

79.17

7

Squash M1

8

6-0-2

75.00

8

Golf

4

3-0-1

75.00

9

Netball 2

6

4-1-1

72.22

10

Tennis M1

6

4-0-2

66.67

SPORT 39

CAPTAINS’ OPINIONS Lois Hunt Ladies Hockey

Gemma Abrook Netball 1sts Captain

Ben Stephenson Mixed Lacrosse VP

“The Ladies Hockey Club has had a promising start to the season, with matches being won in all teams, impressive and winning results of 9-0 from the second team and 12-0 from the third squad. The newly created fourth team is also off to a great start having won most of their matches. Another new change to the Hockey club is sponsorship from KPMG company which we are very happy about and plan to use this to enhance and develop our club further.”

“We are looking forward to our continued success from last term, which saw many promising result and great play. The Netball first team has really focused on fitness this season, which has successfully develop our match play. We have has some talented freshers who have enhanced the team this year, proving to be great assets. We have some challenging upcoming games, and would be grateful for supporters. Well done girls, keep up the good work; it is a pleasure to play alongside you all!”

Currently Ladies Hockey have 28 BUCS points.

Currently Netball W1 have a winning percentage of 57.14%

“The Reading University Lacrosse Club had a hugely successful 2010; with the introduction of two new teams and strong finishes in both the domestic league and cup competition. The mixed team ended the 2009-2010 Lacrosse league in third place and also won the Royal Holloway Freshers’ Tournament. Salou was also a huge success for the club. 2011 promises to be just as successful, as the new teams enjoy their inaugural season. The men’s team showed promise as last year ended and can expect great things, the women’s team can begin to gather momentum, and the mixed team will strive for more glory.”

Philippa Goodall Ladies hockey 1sts

Rebecca Lindsay Mixed Hockey

The season so far has been challenging, having been promoted from League 2A to 1A. That said, the team is very determined and working extremely hard throughout every game. The most exciting thing about the start of this season was undoubtedly the prospect of facing new and tougher opposition from the league above. We aim to stabilise our position in this league throughout the season and are all looking forward to taking part in National Trophy matches after our league season. It was also extremely pleasing to see a great deal of interest in joining the Ladies Hockey Club from all levels of ability, thus leading to the formation of an official fourth team who participate in matches most Saturdays.

The Mixed Hockey team have had a hard term and despite always giving a valiant attempt, have often not quite pulled it together. Despite the initial triumph at Middlesex, Reading showed the absence of its graduated students and suffered a series of losses including a solid 2:12 defeat from league leader Portsmouth. When others may have let their chins slip, Reading Mixed Hockey fought bravely on, and with the help of Captain Bobbie’s training, the development of this year’s recruits and a team determination to keep on fighting, they came back strong against Winchester and Greenwich. At the Christmas formal the President’s Award was presented to Alicia Parker, Spencer Holdstock was given the Player of the Year Award and Craig Caruthers

A few key sports dates for the term: Wednesday 26 January - Athletics Meet - Prospect Park Wednesday 2 February - Riding Club Fixture - Hall Place

received the Most Improved Player Award and for playing an amazing game and scoring the two goals against Portsmouth. This term has started with a disappointing loss to Brunel, but I have complete and utter confidence in the team’s resilience and know that if we focus and play to our strengths, work as a team and just believe in ourselves, then we will eat up the lost ground. Mixed Hockey have a winning percentage of 41.67%

American Football trials Rookie Trial Day Saturday 22 January at 2pm Bring boots and sports clothing

Saturday 5 February - Alumni Sports Day - Whiteknights Campus Wednesday 23 March - BUCS South Eastern Conference Cup Finals Saturday 7 May - Varsity - Whiteknights Campus Reading University vs Buckinghamshire New University

The trial day is free and will consist of a few drills, where trialists will be assessed on their speed, agility, catching ability, tackling ability and general footwork.


40 SPORT

Friday 21 January 2011 Spark*

sports.spark@reading.ac.uk

SPORT England destroy Australia Ponting’s career on the ropes as England bring the Urn back from down under for the first time in 25 years

Npower Championship, Reading FC Recap

Royals march up the table over Christmas period Chris Roberts

Happy and glorious: England celebrate wrapping up the Series, and retaining the Ashes, in Sydney Nate Saunders

In a series of dominance with bat and ball, England triumphed 3-1 down under for the first time in many Reading students’ lifetimes to retain the Ashes. Beating Australia in test cricket used to be a rare feat; beating them on their own soil even rarer. The result marks a great seachange in modern cricket - heralding a time of excitement and talk of greater success for English cricket, while Australia lick their wounds and start contemplating how they are going to return to the summit of the game once more. England wrapped up the series in a nearly empty Sydney Cricket Ground on the morning of the fifth day, the only noise coming from the swelling crowds of the Barmy Army. After Australia’s tail-enders tried their best to prolong the

Inside

inevitable, as midday approached Australia’s Michael Beer cut a Chris Tremlett delivery onto his stumps, triggering jubilant English celebrations. After failing to win at the WACA in Perth in the third test (England have not had a victory at this ground since 1977) many were commenting that Australia had snatched the English momentum and would run home with it for a crushing series victory. But the Australian resurgance never came, and England arrived for the Boxing Day test looking like the team that had left victorious from the second test at Adelaide, not defeated from Perth. The destruction of the Australian batsmen, who were bowled out for a paltry 98, was a certain highlight and summed up the way the final two test matches would go. The manner of each victory, all coming by the margin of an

innings, was in itself remarkable and highlighted the superiority England enjoyed over Australia - proving that the defeat in Perth was nothing but an anomaly. Ricky Ponting may be the most high-profile casualty in the Australian investigations in what went wrong for them. The skipper was in poor form with the bat - only recording an average of 16.4 from eight innings, and also stirred controversy in the fourth test in a heated exchange with Umpire Alin Dar - which was roundly condemned by Australian fans and former captains alike. Ponting may be one of several casualties in the Australian national team, with former captain Ian Chappell saying this may be the “defeat Australia needs” to rectify the problems at the heart of their game. England and Australia are currently playing the one day games.

University Sport Preview 2011 p. 39 The new masters of Test Cricket? Ashes review p.

37

The Christmas period is often hailed as one of the most important parts of the football season, and the Royals were certainly able to take advantage of the deluge of games. The run started with a difficult trip to Pride Park to take on a Derby team who have playoff aspirations of their own. Reading weathered early pressure to take a first half lead through a Shane Long penalty, only for the Rams to equalise thanks to a Kris Commons header. However, the three points would travel back to Berkshire with McDermott’s team due to a late header from Long, to give Reading the 2-1 win. Boxing Day marked the next time the Royals were in action, with a home tie against Bristol City. Jonathan Stead continued his good scoring record against the Royals to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead, before goals from Jobi McAnuff and Noel Hunt made it 2-1 to Reading before the break. Momentum was clearly with the home team and they were able to capitalise thanks to another brace from Long, equalling their biggest home win of the season with a 4-1 victory. A visit to Hull City was the next challenge for McDermott’s men, coming just two days after the Bristol clash. Former Royal James Harper gave the Tigers the lead with a 25 yard strike, before striker Long missed the chance to tie the game with a missed penalty. The Royals would eventually get their equaliser however, when substitute Simon Church was able to bundle in a free kick late in the game. New Year’s Day saw Reading travel to South Wales to face

Swansea City and former Royals manager Brendan Rodgers, looking to avenge a 1-0 defeat at the Madejski Stadium earlier in the season. The momentum was gained by high-flying Welsh side, who took the lead on the hour mark through Darren Pratley. Despite late pressure from the Royals, Swansea were able to hang on for the win, ending Reading’s run of eight games unbeaten. Reading’s first opportunity to respond to the defeat came at home to Burnley in a clash between two playoff hopefuls. The Royals would fall behind for the fourth game in a row, as a Ross Wallace strike found its way past keeper Adam Federici. It took the home team only three minutes to respond, with Long able to level the game, having been sent through on goal by fellow striker Hunt.

The Royals were certainly able to take advantage of the deluge of games A second successive home win was secure with 20 minutes to play; a McAnuff corner met with an unstoppable header from Long, whose sixth goal in five games helped send Reading up to eighth in the table. Attentions then turned to the FA Cup, as the Royals faced Premier League side West Brom, a repeat of last year’s fifth round classic. Reading were once again able to progress thanks to another strike from Long, and they will face League two side Stevenage Borough in the fourth round. A tough trip to the Keepmoat Stadium to face Doncaster marked the last time the Royals were in action. Long continued his good form to open the scoring before a Jimmy Kebe lob and a deflected Jobi McAnuff strike gave the dominant Royals a comfortable 3-0 win to send them up to seventh in the table, poised for a playoff push in the second half of the year.

Sport Comment: ‘An autopsy of Australian cricket’ and ‘Hard not to be smug Down Under’ p. 36


Spark* 21.01.11 Vol 56 Issue 1  

Reading University's Student newspaper • Academics honoured in New Year list • RUSU visits Katesgrove Primary School • Interview with NUS Pr...

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