OMG! WTF? New club nights at the SU The Students’ Union introduces a new programme of Copper Rooms events as Top Banana finally drops off the schedule Grace Massey Warwick Student Union has recently announced a radical shake-up of the entertainment events at the SU. Staff at the Union spent a long time over the summer considering how to improve on and introduce new events to the SU’s programme. Staff felt that some of the old Union brands were old and tired and needed to be revamped in line with the new layout of the SU, which utilises extra space. In a controversial move, the traditional cheap night at the union, Top B, has been replaced by Manic Mondays. This event will now only take place in the Copper Rooms 1 but still offers some drinks promotions. However, at the beginning and end of term, Massive Mondays will take place, a larger
After the first of the Freshers’ Welcome Parties sold out, it is hoped that the following events will prove similarly popular event which occupies all the Copper Rooms and Terrace Bar. Entertainment Operations Manager Rob Chamberlain states that “OMG will cater to all musical tastes. There will be guest performers, commercial and chart stuff, indie, funk and hip-hop and costume performers interacting with the crowd. The music policy is more flexible, however OMG is not just about the music; the social atmosphere is paramount.” Last year, staff experienced problems with the venue and it seems that the ents programme suffered. Chamberlain added: “Some of the existing
Ben Fir shman
student nights did not translate to the new space. We don’t have a crystal ball but I honestly believe this term is a million times different to any of the previous years. This is a fresh start for a new building.” Student reaction to the changes appears to have been largely positive. Second-year history student Emilia Halton-Hernandez said: “I think it’s
good that the Union is going a bit more mainstream as they really need to fill it up. Because the nights have been changing so much, they haven’t been able to establish themselves properly. I think the new venue will prove to be popular. ‘ While one fresher commented that “the events seem to be aimed at people who like loud parties and
drinking”, another stated that “there is a really good line-up with a lot of variety”. Sabbatical officer for Democracy and Communications Chris Luck explained the rationale behind the changes. “Logistically it made sense to have the biggest night of the Union at the end of the week. “The popularity of Top B had been
Shake-up of education funding looms
Students’ Unions and the University and College Union join forces to oppose impending HE funding cuts Staff writer The Government’s review of higher education funding, headed by Lord Browne, is due to be released next week. Speculation and leaks from the review have indicated that it is likely to recommend a rise in the fee cap to as much as £10,000, and increase interest rates on student loans. The proposals will encounter substantial opposition, and may threaten the stability of the coalition government, with the Liberal Democrats having signed a pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees prior to the election. A month after the Browne review is released, the government will announce its cuts to public spending in its Comprehensive Spending Review. Our sources say that universities, as a non-ringfenced area of government,
are facing a 35 percent reduction in funding in the upcoming spending review. Warwick University may be facing additional cuts, with the axing of the government’s regional development agencies (RDAs) also on the
Funding cuts in higher education are being considered
cards. Advantage West Midlands, one of the RDAs to be scrapped, funds certain departments at the University, meaning those departments may lose key research funding if the agency disappears.
Student and lecturers’ organisations are gearing up to respond to the recommendations. The National Union of Students (NUS) and the lecturers’ union University and College Union (UCU), in an unprecedented move, have joined to create a united front against higher fees and deep cuts to education. They are organising protests for November 10th, where several thousand students and lecturers are expected to march in opposition to higher fees and cuts to education. Warwick Students’ Union has initiated a recruitment drive for students to sign on for a sustained campaign against the upcoming changes. As Education Officer Sean Ruston explains, “what we’re doing is building a broad-based campaign to respond to things as they happen throughout the year. The first six weeks will be most intensive, and the aim is to get as many students as possible to the NUS and UCU demonstration on
10 November in London.” Ruston hopes that once students have been signed on to the campaign, they will be able to respond to unexpected developments as they happen. Warwick SU is “working closely with Warwick UCU. We’ve agreed to extensive cooperation – all campaigns will have the UCU logo, and they’re helping with the cost of buses” to the November demonstration, said Ruston. A spokesman for the University declined to comment, saying they would wait for the final results of the Browne Review before discussing it. However, Chancellor Richard Lambert and Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift have previously argued in favour of higher fees.
Keep an eye on our website next week for our coverage of the final Browne report theboar.org/news
in decline for some years due to various factors. OMG is now the premier night at Warwick SU.” He emphasised: “This is the best Freshers ever, with an incredible line-up and the best goodie bags of all time.” With the first Freshers’ Welcome Party sold out, it is hoped that the following events and entertainment programme will prove similarly popular.
VarsityNews 2:2 student sues his university An engineering student from Queen’s University in Belfast has taken the university to court after they had the audacity to award him a 2:2 degree. Andre Crokery from County Dow claimed that if he had received better supervision from the university he would have got a 2:1. It is one of the first times the High Court has been presented with this sort of case following the university’s refusal to allow Mr Crokery to appeal against his final grade. His barrister claimed that the university’s stance was a denial of the student’s human rights. How a 2:2 is equivalent to being denied clean drinking water remains unclear. The lawyer representing Queen’s argued that the case was not suitable for consideration in court. Presumably simply working harder never crossed his mind.
Warwick drops out of Times 200 University’s top 50 aim takes a hit as newspaper’s changing criteria mean Warwick falls 150 places in ‘anomalous’ ranking Derek Hatley Warwick has been dropped from the Times Higher Education’s (THE) Top 200 World Universities, beaten by dozens of other UK universities who regularly score lower in UK league tables. Although Warwick scored 58 last year, the ranking methodology has been revised extensively for this year, resulting in Warwick’s lack of inclusion on the list. One expert connected to the study commented in a University press release that “in each country there are anomalies. Are these new views or are they signals of a need for further work? I think many people might raise their eyebrows at the absence of Warwick University from the Top 200, and in the UK sequence it doesn’t fall where you would expect.” The University notes that the latest Research Assessment Exercise ranked Warwick seventh in the UK, and that the RAE is considered the most accurate measurement of UK universities’ relative rankings. VC Nigel Thrift, commenting on the QS World Rankings from earlier in September, which ranked Warwick 53rd in the world, said: “I could simply note the fact that we have climbed several places in [the QS] table matches our own real experience that Warwick’s global repu-
tation continues to grow. However, I think it is actually more important to caution people against taking any of the current world rankings of Universities as gospel truth. “These tables can show unbelievably large changes of fortune for individual universities, and the vast disparities between each of the three main global university league tables leads me to think we are still far from finding a table that is able to truly compare and reflect the diversity of the worlds’ universities.
“Indeed THE admits that Warwick’s ranking in the tables is an ‘anomaly’” Peter Dunn, Uni. of Warwick “When considering research-led universities, one should take particular care that any global table should reflect, and indeed be benchmarked against, the results produced by the UK’s own robust and detailed research assessment exercises. “The best evidence of Warwick’s international reputation rests on the work, reputation, and influence on international scholarship and policy makers, of all Warwick’s staff and students of which we are very proud.” The fact that Warwick was not even in the top 200 of world universities, and VC Thrift’s comments on the inadequacy of world rankings would seem at odds with the Uni-
versity’s Vision 2015 strategy, which states: “Our over-riding ambition is to take Warwick into the top 50 world universities – as measured by the quality of research output and the strength of student demand – by the University’s 50th birthday in 2015.” The Times ranking used some measure of research output for calculating 62.5 percent of its score for each university, throwing the plans for bringing Warwick’s position into the top 50 on the basis of “research output” into doubt. When questioned on this, University press officer Peter Dunn said only: “It is clear that the only totally reliable research measures have been the research assessment exercise to date. These rank Warwick 7th in UK yet the THE table is way off on that placing many poorer RAE performers ahead of us and indeed THE admits that Warwick’s ranking in their tables is an ‘anomaly’. “The QS table ranks us 53rd in the world so we could simply cry ‘hooray job nearly done’ on the basis of that table but if we are honest we don’t believe that table either as UK universities seem to be doing much better in it than they should against some very significant US universities.”
Changed your mind about a masters degree due to the current economic climate? Discuss: theboar.org/news
Times Higher Education World Rankings Who made the top 200?
What criteria was used?
(1 6= 6= 9 22 40 68 77 79 81 85 86 87 88 90= 103 120 124 128 137 140 145 149 152= 152= 165= 168= 174= 174= 184
Times Higher Education has been ranking world universities for seven years, but this year they altered their methodology in an effort to make the tables more accurate. The previous system used just six ‘indicators’; the re-vamped system uses 13. The 13 separate indicators are combined into weighted categories: ‘Teaching’, which reflects the learning environment (30 percent); ‘Research’, which looks at the quality, funding and volume of academic research (30 percent); ‘Citations’, simply the number of academic citations, which measures research influence (32.5 percent); ‘Industry income’, used as an indicator of innovation (2.5 percent); and ‘International mix’, the level of international diversity at the university (5 percent). THE recognises that “It is, of course, rather crude to reduce universities to a single number” but adds that “despite the inherent limitations, these tables represent the most comprehensive and sophisticated exercise ever undertaken”. As this is the first year with this methodology, the criteria will likely change in the future.
Harvard University) Cambridge University Oxford University Imperial College London Univ. College London Univ. of Edinburgh Univ. of Bristol King’s College London Univ. of Sussex Univ. of York Durham University LSE Univ. of Manchester Royal Holloway (London) Univ. of Southampton St. Andrews Queen Mary (London Uni) Lancaster Univ. of Glasgow Univ. of Sheffield Univ. of Dundee Univ. of Birmingham Univ. of Aberdeen Birbeck (London Uni) Newcastle University Univ. of Liverpool Univ. of Leeds Univ. of East Anglia Univ. of Nottingham Univ. of Exeter
‘Elvin’ the UFO hits campus roads
Got news? Tell us. The Boar needs you to help make your student paper as good as it can be. Get involved – tell us if you hear about something you think we should write about. Join our Facebook group at http://bit.ly/aGP1hi or email firstname.lastname@example.org Grace Massey
Want to write for us? Come along to our open day at 3pm on Wednesday, Week 2 in SUHQ, or email email@example.com
There is a new electrical vehicle on campus, named Elvin (Electric Vehicle with Interactive Noise) with sounds that could be described as distinctly UFO-like. A little green van that resembles a little green man, it was created by Appraise. This is part of a major research project aimed at combating
the safety issues arising from the use of electrical cars, which are normally very quiet. Elvin is a utility vehicle used around campus to patrol the car parks and to gain experience of the reactions of drivers and pedestrians who hear its unique sounds. Researchers will ask those who hear Elvin’s sounds to give feedback to the project, with opinion on a range of subjects such as whether they are effective as a safety warning, or just plain annoying.
Professor Paul Jennings from WMG at the University of Warwick, the lead researcher on the project, said: “Electric Vehicles are very quiet externally and internally, which makes them a potential low-speed safety risk to pedestrians. Sound not only alerts people to the presence and direction of a vehicle, it also indicates the type of vehicle – for instance a bus – and whether it is stopping or accelerating.” However, it is possible that some of the noises emitted from Elvin strongly resemble those emitted from UFOs in early science fiction movies. This could cause considerable distraction to pedestrians looking skywards for the source of such strange emanations. This aside, the Elvin project is compatible with the University of Warwick’s wish to expand its own campus electric vehicle fleet and a desire to learn as much from their use as possible, including which sounds are most suitable. Following this pilot study there will be a wider-ranging and more long-term period of study and research using this vehicle alongside a range of other vehicles. The team hopes that word will spread about Elvin and attract different community groups to listen to its sounds.
Comment Carl Andrew’s Two Penn’orth Bonkers on conkers
Surviving a Warwick October The first few weeks can be overwhelming, but it is important to keep perspective – and keep your stuff
hey say a week is a long time in politics. Though it’s probable that the first person to utter this maxim would have agreed that, comparatively, a week is a giant epoch during freshers’ week. If you are a first-year student, hopefully you’ll be setting into your halls by now – put a few posters up and either unpacked or decided this year it’ll be more efficient to live out of a suitcase. Additionally, you’ll have overcome those chilly nights sleeping under a paper-thin blanket because you failed to realise the rooms didn’t come with a duvet. If you’re not a fresher, but haven’t yet drunk enough to completely wipe out your long-term memory, you’ll remember how significant the first week of university seemed to be. Bonds could initiate from anywhere, whether it was two people both being sick under a bush outside the Student’s Union, a few simultaneously mystified as to where their introductory lectures were, or even over a loud discussion at four in the morning about the merits of Marxist phi-
losophy. Catchphrases could spark up from a seemingly insignificant event like a broken egg whisk and if you hadn’t got back from the library before six, your kitchen’s whole conversation could go over your head while they used a whole different language that had only started that morning. The intensity of the first few weeks of university is such that friendships seem stronger and mistakes appear bigger as we are all squeezed together in small kitchens and common rooms, tiny nightclubs and cramped, musty seminar rooms. Friends from home seem so far away and more often than not, they’re having a fantastic time going to gigs seeing bands that wouldn’t step foot inside the Warwick SU. The pressure is on to have an even more amazing time, never mind the fact that your next-door neighbours are a bunch of weirdos and you’re certain someone keeps taking your cheese from the fridge. Before you got to uni, you meant to join lots of societies, from handball to Thai cooking. But time passes so quickly and it’s difficult to balance
your time between Karate, History Society, Amnesty, that game of Ring of Fire everyone’s going to be playing in the kitchen, phoning mum and dad, baking a cake for a hallmate’s birthday and a thousand effing pages of reading for your course. Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay in bed and work off that hangover, maybe getting up in the evening and starting on that foul bottle of wine you bought for two quid at Tescos? Time passes quickly during the first few weeks, but so much happens and so many opportunities can be grabbed or pass you by, that these weeks seem can seem like a decade. So what to do during these crazy few days? Lots of student help books will try to give you conflicting advice, like “go with the flow” but “make sure you be yourself ”. The Boar can offer little counsel, as our writers probably did it all wrong anyway, but we can recommend that you follow a few rules. Don’t think that if you use other people’s cutlery all the time they won’t notice. Using someone else’s spoon can be a devastating blow to
your social standing if you don’t ask. Make a timetable if you haven’t already. Writing lecture times on the back of your hand is unlikely to be viable as a long- term option, particularly if you plan to shower regularly this year. Remember that though the first couple of weeks seem like the most important ones, it’s likely they’ll seem less significant by the end of this term. Bonds can be broken and real friendships take time to develop. Missed work can be caught up on and societies can be joined later on in the year. Though make sure if you think you’ve got a talent, don’t be afraid to put yourself forward. If you do have some spare time, come to the Boar! As well as looking for writers, we have an opening for a budding Matt Groening to join the team and provide us with some topical cartoons. If you think you’d like to give it a crack, speak to us at the societies’ fair or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have fun but don’t feel under pressure to have to have fun. You’ve got all year for that.
You know the world has turned upside down when even conker fighting, that great tradition of every child’s autumn in school, turns into a health and safety risk. Since a young girl was struck with a stick after it was thrown to remove conkers from a tree, Nottingham Council has removed the conkers from the tree in order to avoid any further injury or similar situations. Council workers used cherry pickers and high rise platforms to remove the conkers on Queen’s Walk in the Meadows, Nottingham. Michael Williams, the city council’s Corporate Director of Communities, has been quoted as saying that the tree is on a main thoroughfare, and in his own words is “bombarded with a huge number of sticks, branches and even metal bars.” A bit exaggerated I think. He then went on to say, “We don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, [yeah right,] but after last year’s incident, and following some damage to nearby properties, it was decided to collect the conkers for children to safely pick up from the ground to avoid the possibility of further injuries.” Not only did they remove the fun part of the action, climbing up trees and grazing knees to reach those nuggets of childhood fun, but they take the easy part of the game out, removing conkers from the floor too and trying to find the shiniest and largest and show off to all your friends. It isn’t just conkers, though. In a bygone age, it was typical to see kids eating mud and climbing trees and this was seen as good for a child. It helped to create a healthy kid, good immune system, and teach them lessons, like mud doesn’t taste nice. Now if kids get close to a sneeze they are dosed full of Calpol (not that I was complaining, loved the taste of it) and kept in a clean sterile condition. I fear the next steps society will take to make sure that injury is avoided – bubble wrapping children and swapping conkers for foam balls? It takes all the fun out of the sport and our childhood. Gone are the days of conker fighting being a sport of strength, soaking conkers in vinegar and roasting them to destroy your friends. This is the new age of health and safety children, don’t get too close they may catch something.
T ê t e - à - t ê t e The issue
This week, the Warwick Debating Society investigates the question:
Is Ed Miliband the man for Labour? Yes: Ed Milliband is the bold leader Labour needs to No: Ed has neither the independence, the policies or stand up to the cuts agenda and its rhetoric the judgement to beat Cameron Ed Jones
P Ed Milliband has this week been elected leader of the Labour Party, narrowly beating his older brother David with the support of trade union members’ votes. The votes of trade unions have been seen as a poisoned chalice for Miliband as they have made his leadership seem illegitimate compared to that of his brother who gained more votes of both labour party members and the parliamentary party. He also has the problem of being perceived to be too left wing, dubbed “Red Ed” by The Sun. Labour is a party still traumatised by its factionalism and hard left “wilderness years” of the 1980s. Within the Blairite wing of the party he has alienated many in the shadow cabinet with his condemnation of the war in Iraq in his opening speech. Ed Miliband himself has identified his appeal to party members as his willingness to question the conventional wisdom of New Labour in light touch regulation on banks, a liberal view of immigration and the question of inequality of income and wealth. His argument seems to be that New Labour has been defeated and must move on to win back power. As Blair has made clear in his autobiography, he believes Labour’s loss can be put down to departing from the principles of New Labour. From this perspective Ed Milliband is making the classic Labour in opposition mistake: to think that Labour lost to the Tories because it wasn’t left-wing enough. For others in the party, a return to its leftist roots is just what the doctor ordered. Send us an email to have your say on this week’s article: email@example.com
rogressive politics has sorely needed the culmination of what has been a tediously protracted Labour leadership contest. Four months into a coalition that has redefined the landscape of British politics, possibly forever, the Government has gone unchallenged, in the absence of a coherent opposition, in its preparations for inflicting unprecedented damage on public services. Whilst there have been atomised attacks on the plans, such arguments have been deftly repudiated as the articulation of vested interests, economic illiteracy and, most catchy of all, ‘deficit denial’. The left and reasonable right now need leadership that can synthesise the voices of public servants, unions, and ordinary working people who believe, rightly, that there is an alternative to the devastation that awaits. Such leadership not only needs to represent the concerns of a population which is being told that hostility to the cuts is simply a blockade to tackling a national emergency, but also persuade the city and fiscal conservatives in general that the ConDem plans are the route to further economic distress and that, in our emergence from recession, our number one priority should be growth and jobs. Ed Miliband is up to this monumental task. Mr Miliband, in his first few days as leader of the opposition, has demonstrated how he has the ideas and ability to make his party the obvious choice at the next election. Whilst acknowledging the significance of the deficit and committing to not pretending that some pain wouldn’t have been inevitable under a Labour government, he has signified his desire to expand the depressing parameters of contemporary political debate from the deficit to encompass much needed discussions about inequality and the need for a living wage. It was on these issues that the younger Miliband fought his campaign and defeated his brother and why he has subsequently been accused of planning to take his party leftwards and into the realm on unelectable politics. We should remember here that the Labour party certainly didn’t lose the election because it was considered too left-wing. Furthermore, the living wage is no more left wing than New Labour’s flagship minimum wage and talking about inequality does not alienate middle class voters, only the super-rich. Mr Miliband recognises the importance of business and industry and accepts the modern state can work alongside private sector to produce public services and
tackle social problems. He seeks not a departure from these principles of New Labour but an evolution from them. He talks about a new politics where we do not accept the world as we find it. He promises a responsible opposition that acknowledges that ‘wisdom is not the preserve of any one party’. He, in sum, demonstrates that, far from being a rabbit caught in headlights, he is ready for leadership and offers the beginnings of a bold vision for the future. The worst possible scenario for the Labour Party in its leadership contest would have been that it produced a leader who sought to oppose the coalition as though the structural deficit wasn’t something that needed to be taken very seriously. It is a national disgrace that we pay more on debt interest each year than we do on education, transport, and climate change combined. New Labour sought to invest like a left wing Government and tax like a conservative one and the deficit was subsequently a problem even before the financial crisis because of this unsustainable ideology. But given that this is the legacy that
He demonstrates that he is ready for leadership and offers the beginnings of a bold vision for the future we are left to deal with, the question now is how we go about reducing it. Deficit reduction is not the most important crisis we face and its prioritisation puts our ability to tackle other serious problems in jeopardy. Ed Miliband expresses this and is right to say that the spending cuts:tax rise ratio is unjust and that whilst a much more moderate retrenchment is necessary, our priority should be boosting our economy and not allowing our public finances to dwarf the significance of other challenges we face. Mr Miliband has a great opportunity. The coalition looks set to alienate almost every segment of our society. Even the right is up in arms about how defence cuts look likely to dangerously reduce the military capability of our country and the City is suspicious about the danger posed to the wider economy as a result of the cuts. If he can put together a positive narrative as to how we can move forward, make positive change, and yet deal with the deficit then progressive politics will once again govern Britain. He has made a good start, and we should all get behind him. Ed Jones is writing for Warwick Debating Society and thus the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent his own
ince Saturday, in between checking who has changed their profile picture or done something which I really don’t need to be told about, I have been watching the latest edition of Facebook Wars. It all starts from his unfortunate nicknames. “Red Ed” is hardly endearing to voters, and unfortunately for those who point out its inaccuracy, nicknames are things which are more renowned for being “easy to remember, than “accurate.” Diane Abbott’s attempt to brand him “Steady Eddie” is slightly better, but makes him sound more like a reliable tradesman than a potential leader of a nuclear armed state. It doesn’t help that Ed Miliband is barely known to most voters, meaning that he needs to quickly develop a positive identity for himself or otherwise face the problem of his predecessor: others creating one for him. There is going to be a crucial delay between Labour members knowing what Ed stands for and therefore what they are defending; his appeal as an “other” candidate against the clearly defined centrism of his brother becomes less helpful now he has won. The hope for some party members seems to be that Ed will move right, towards the centre, being more aligned to his brother. Yet even if this were likely (not that it seems so), it does not explain why the Labour party has not suffered terribly from David not leading it. He is definitely a centrist Milliband brother, one with far more political experience, stature and menace to the Conservative Party. His support base is difficult to say the least. Trade Unions won him the election. He must spend his entire leadership quietly avoiding the issue hoping that no one really mentions it (which of course they will). Either he alienates his core and seems insincere if he deals with them strongly, or seems controlled by them if he does not. Some have claimed that because he has their support, Ed can be harsher to them than his brother could have been. This ignores the financial clout of the Unions in the diminished coffers of the party; if anything David might have been more conciliatory to keep funds. Ed cannot do this. If he ever does fall out with the Unions, he has fewer supporters in Westminster to watch his back. It’s all very well to move away from former government ministers (Blairites or Brownites), but it does mean you cannot use their experience in government to sell the party as a credible opposition. Ed also seems to have a problem
with naivety and poor decisions. By denouncing the Iraq War, Ed dropped the straw that broke the camel’s back, giving the media lots of damaging shots of his brother disapproving of his leadership. It finished any hope of David becoming shadow chancellor (attracting those ever important centre voters) and leaves the door open for more factional infighting. It was not a sensible choice; no one is blaming Ed for Iraq (he was not in parliament at the time) but he could have perhaps apologised for the current deficit, the issue which most effected voters at the last polls. He also seems unconcerned to put Labour into a realistic position of fiscal responsibility. The younger Milliband might make noises about taking the deficit seriously, but his brother had a powerful reputation for doing so. Ed denounced unreasonable union strikes against cuts, only for his next sentences to promise more spending. He seems to follow the school of thought that the cuts will make the Conservatives so unpopular that a slice of toast could defeat David Cameron. This is what might be called a “bad” election strategy, and ignores that the party in power is the Conservative Party, for which a common backup plan for elections is to be rather unpopular but still to be perceived to be better than the “crazy” opposition (also known as the “Major Fallback” plan). Ed has railed against how New Labour became too close to the Establishment, except of course that in a democracy, becoming part of the Establishment means winning elections. Politics is the art of compromise; Tony Blair was far more centrist than many Labour supporters, but his value to them in the early years was his ability to win elections with a centrist platform and still introduce powerful left wing policies such as the minimum wage and Human Rights Act. Ed Milliband has an uphill struggle to define himself and unite his party, but so far his continued emphasis on “old” Labour values at the expense of the wider electorate seems to suggest that even if he is an effective leader of the opposition, he will not get the chance to see how he fares as a leader of the government. Gareth Williams is writing for and is President of Warwick Debating Society and thus the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent his own
Do you think Ed Miliband is the man to take Labour back into power?
Back in my day, Britain was already broken The terminology and methodology have changed, but the problems of today’s United Kingdom have descended through the ages Eleanor Stanford
hen David Cameron promised to ‘mend Broken Britain’ he was repeating a term coined by the Sun newspaper, long used to articulate the perilous state of modern morality. In recent years Murdoch’s red top, along with other media sources, has bemoaned the social decay of our society with panicked headlines – The binge drinking! The vacuous celebrity culture! The sex! The violence! The lack of youthful respect! All are presented as new and terrifying afflictions. It was with the confident promise that he alone could mend these fresh cracks in society that Cameron swept to power in May, but how truly recent are these cultural tendencies? Upon closer inspection, many aspects of Cameron’s Broken Britain can be found in British society from centuries past. Firstly, the twenty-first century’s obsession with celebrity. Commentators take great delight in lamenting the talentless amoebas that we choose to idolise and as the media sector has burgeoned, so has the cult of the celebrity. Although we have been lead to believe that this worship of the unworthy is something new, in reality it bears a striking resemblance to the old high society of the English aristocracy. Before Queen Victoria and the Industrial Revolution came along, those in ‘Society’ such as Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire (yes, from that Keira Knightley film), enjoyed unparalleled lives of luxury and leisure. They also lived under the critical eye of the popular
» University party? No, just an 18th-century night in Plate Three of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress media, with cartoonists mercilessly satirising them in the national press for the wistful entertainment of the layman. The greatest excesses were rewarded with the biggest headlines and the celebrity magazines of today continue this proud tradition. The Duchess shared many favourite pastimes with Lindsay Lohan and her like: unrestrained drinking and drug use, the ability to devote incredible amounts of money to simply enjoying life, influencing popular fashion and the title of ‘socialite’ coming
to eclipse any other tangible talents. An advantageous Society marriage would seek the highest possible selfpromotion and financial reward, aspirations familiar to Katie Price and Jennifer Lopez. The Duchess of Devonshire’s blood may have been a lot bluer than Kerry Katona’s, but both have displayed inabilities to control live like adults under public scrutiny. Once an accident of birth determined your celebrity, today it is the accident of reality television. The middle class gap year is an-
other frequently cited example of our country’s moral decay. Each year the back-pack trails of Asia and South America are flooded with our finest indulged eighteen-year-olds who depart with the supposed intention of finding themselves and helping those less fortunate along the way. For the majority of these intrepid travellers, however, full moon parties and vomiting in exotic locations prove to be a more enticing rite of passage. When international travel was limited to boats and carriages it was the Euro-
pean ‘Grand Tour’ that satisfied the travelling bug of the young and restless. These cultural trips took in the best of the continent’s art and society, following as well trodden a path as the modern gap year, and with similar associations of indulgence and privilege. The diaries of these trips can also make for as debauched an account of travelling morals as a Thailand Facebook album. Next under the spotlight is inevitably binge drinking, the favourite target of politicians and parents alike. The health – and embarrassment – risks are unavoidable, but excessive consumption of alcohol is in no way a modern innovation. When water was too unsanitary to drink people were inebriated more frequently than they were sober and the gin streets of Hogarth’s prints were reality not artistic license. Excessive consumption of alcohol – and opiates – is for better or worse a part of Britain’s cultural past, no matter how fervently the media insist it was discovered in the last ten years. As the government talks of increasing university fees to £10,000 a year, it seems that the time when higher education was reserved for the rich rather than the worthy may no longer be a distant memory. If Britain truly is broken, Mr Cameron would do better to focus on strengthening the support system available to those falling down the cracks rather than dressing up the echoes of past practices as evidence of moral decay. firstname.lastname@example.org Eleanor Stanford is the Boar’s comment deputy editor
Tories give themselves licence to cut The deficit, deficit, deficit discourse undermines the political forces which protected the welfare state from Thatcher Chris O’Brien
o start with, I am an idiot. When I wrote “Tony Blair’s revenge” a year or so ago, I didn’t realise the unique political situation the deficit discourse has created in order to roll back the state. This isn’t Tony’s Blair revenge, its Thatcher’s. When the leadership contenders were asked in the TV debates whether the cuts they would bring about would be greater than those Thatcher carried out, all the candidates agreed. Having studied UK politics in second year and the academic writing on Thatcher’s and other neoliberal governments’ attempts to cut the welfare state, this question seemed to be based on the popular assumption that Thatcher decimated the welfare state. According to many academics, particularly Paul Pierson, although Thatcher may have wanted to roll back the state in welfare, the political structures protecting the welfare
state saved it from damage. The welfare state was left more or less intact following Thatcher’s governments. Looking at this analysis of Thatcher’s failure, the political game seems to have turned upside down in 2010. Pierson argues that the political forces that create welfare states are very different from the political forces which protect them. He argues that the politics of constructing welfare states is about claiming credit for helping those in need in society while there is a diffuse and unnoticeable cost to tax payers. The asymmetry he argues, is that existing welfare creates its own constituencies of support which can be mobilised to defend existing welfare structures. Cutting support to particular groups will lead them to mobilise in opposition and regard the negative effects as much more significant. This is due in part to the negativity bias and the relatively greater effect on them compared to any apparent positive benefits in hoped for economic efficiency and in lower taxation felt by a larger group. The principle at work is that
concentrated benefits are more likely to be defended than those which are diffuse. Cutting welfare states is about blame avoidance and it is extremely unpopular and politically difficult. The fact that Britain has highly centralised political institutions meant that Thatcher could not simply cut funding to states and then avoid the blame for cuts in welfare expenditure they would have to make. The need to win elections always overruled commitments to cutting welfare. This time it’s different. The media and the Conservative Party have persuaded the people at large and even the Liberal Democrats (who argued before the election for a slower rate of cuts in public expenditure) that cuts are a necessity. Therefore not only can the Conservative Party persuade those whom its policies will injure that it has no choice but, it can even blame Labour for this necessity. This is a political masterstroke, to create a social construct which leads to blaming one’s enemies for doing what you have always wanted to do
anyway. It is the fulfilment of unfulfilled Thatcherite commitments. It creates a picture of reality whereby to mobilize to resist cuts affecting you is like mobilizing protest against the rain. There is no alternative. How can this be resisted? The neoliberal right cannot be allowed to turn what started as a crisis caused by unregulated markets into a crisis of state expenditure calling for further neoliberalisation of the state. The state should be there to bail out those in need not bankers, but this government seems to want to reverse this principle. The social democratic left cannot be allowed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in a crisis which started as one to which showed that Thatcher’s economic model didn’t work. The answer is to question to discourse of the deficit, to say that the policies of the 30s will worsen the plite for society and the economy. email@example.com Chris O’Brien is the Boar’s comment editor
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Browne report due Sweeping changes are afoot for university funding Tom White
s always, this last couple of months has seen the announcement of Alevel results and universities across the country gain a new intake of students. But what marks this year out from others is the looming question of future university funding. University funding has always been an issue of contention but more so since the introduction of top-up fees in 2004 which have proved unpopular with students, not least because of the repeated inability of the Student Loans Company to deal with
The possible rise in university fees sees the most expensive courses rising to a potential £7,000 per year ever-increasing demand. However, the Browne Review, commissioned to investigate the state of university funding, is expected to recommend a substantial rise in tuition fees to the government. In response to this, solutions are being sought elsewhere. One suggestion, previously considered as an alternative to top-up fees, is a tax on graduates, proportionally tied to their future earnings. Vince Cable, secretary for business, innovation and skills, has come out in the press as a proponent of this alternative. The suggestion is also backed by the National Union of Students but has met with criticism from government and the Institute of Directors who published a report
damning the tax. The main criticism leveled at the tax is that it is a disincentive for students to perform well at university as those who achieve better grades and secure higher-paid careers will end up contributing more of their earnings in tax. This, it is feared, could lead to a brain-drain on the UK as more gifted students look for opportunities to study abroad. But this seems drastic in comparison to the maximum proportion of tax proposed which stands at only 2.5 percent of earning which would be paid back over a course of 20 years. The great advantage of the graduate tax is that it makes sure education is kept free at the point of delivery so education remains available to the many rather than the few. This can be contrasted with the possible rise in tuition fees which sees the most expensive rising to a possible £7000 per year. The tax is also likely to be popular with the public as hypothecation, the guarantee that a certain means of income will always result in a specific form of expenditure, provides transparency and accountability. But the same reasoning makes it unpopular with government. Either way, if they are to be contributing more to their degree, students should be asking for tangible results when universities like UCL, it came out last month, are reporting profits of £12 million and paying salaries in excess of £400,000 to non-academic staff. It remains to say that the Browne Review, due to publish its findings this month, will be of great importance to the future of higher education. Tom White is the Boar’s money editor
A year at university: A fresher’s account Patrick Edwards
he single most important piece of advice I could impart to freshers is the need to budget. Even if you only divide your annual net income across thirty weeks and keep tabs on your purchases by drawing up a simple table in Excel, you will immediately grasp how little your maintenance loans and overdrafts actually come to, as thousands become tens of pounds. Even Barclays’ generous £2000 becomes under £70 a week during term time. So almost by economic necessity, you will need to cut costs, but you will be rewarded. Take it from me: the best par-
ties are at the end of term and you will most definitely want to be there! Quite a large portion of your income will be consumed by the forests of textbooks that you’ll be expected to buy. From lawyers to scientists, from PPE to English & Latin literature students. You will be asked to fork out on anything up to £200 - £300 worth of books. This is the time to begin looking them up on eBay and Amazon as well as of course capitalising on the second-hand book sales that will be taking place on campus during fresher’s fortnight, where a £60 retail price becomes a £16 mate rate. It’s also wise to begin thinking about the day-to-day things you’ll be buying. Food is obviously the biggest cost you’ll face as Warwick is entirely self-catered.
As such, it’s advisable to get hold of an Eating at Warwick card (which although doesn’t technically cost anything, will require you to buy £20 worth of credit to activate it from Rootes Social). This card can be used like a debit card across campus – from the library coffee shop to CostCutters – and gives you a handy ten percent discount on all of your purchases. This is fine for the odd purchase like coffee or sandwiches, but your best bet for cheap food is still the Tesco behind the Maths & Stats field, which can be made cheaper still by getting hold of a Clubcard and racking up those points. Another cost will invariably be going out. Student rates might sound cheap, but don’t forget taxis there and back will cost something in the region of £12 between
you and four other friends, while admission prices can sometimes be as high as £6-7. This may be no sweat to you Londoners, but a shock to the rest of us expecting to pay £2 at most. Take advantage
Take it from me: the best parties are at the end of term and you will most definitely want to be there! of the UniExpress’s trips into Leamington and Coventry, whose ticket prices covers both transport and the entry price. However it’s the UniExpress’s £10-£15 tickets to Gatecrasher and Oceana in Birming-
ham – clubs which ordinarily charge a £10 entry fee - where it really shows its value-for-money. Normally billed for the end of term, you should definitely check out these deals on Facebook. Finally, for those looking to supplement their income during their time here, there are a couple of jobs available on campus. However, these are few and far between, so you will have to be quick! The Union offers bar work and also pays students to go around the residential blocks distributing copies of The Bubble and other leaflets. This is just a bare survival guide; people find different ways to manage their money. However, follow these simple tips and we know you’ll make it to term three.
theboar.org right one? Ed: It was already part of our sound, it was something we always did, we just kept it apart from our electric stuff and our live shows, and it just seems like a continuation of that really. It’s the same thing we were doing before, it’s just people are noticing it now. How does Warwick uni rank in terms of your festival appearances so far? Ed: These are always fun to do. You guys are the same age as a lot of the people here today. Do you ever regret not getting into the university life? Jack: We’d be first years now I think. Ed: I’d say it’s definitely worth sticking to what we’re doing now. I think that, coming from London, it’s a good thing to go to university, cos you get out of this bubble you’re in. It’s very much this North London bubble that we exist in from school, and to go out and meet people from all over the country is something which I think I could have done with. If the band could choose a band mascot, what would it be and why? Ed: That’s a nice question. It’d be a special breed of dog called a horn-dog... It exists... We just have to get one.
le wis bush
day? Charlie: God, no. Christmas number 2 is our next aim. Joe: We’re never going to beat the X-Factor entry, so let’s keep it realistic. What are your plans for the rest of the summer? Joe: Our next single is ‘Jackson’s Last Stand’ coming out on the 12th of July. We’ve got a great gig coming up in Victoria Park which has sold out. 25,000 people: our biggest gig by a long way! Charlie: Lots of gigs! We’re doing Oxygen. Ireland, Sweden and Norway. We’re going to Belgium, Germany, Austria. Doing a tour in Australia. Who is Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’s band to watch for the next year? Joe: ‘Ou Est Le Swimming Pool’? Charlie: Yup... pretty much us. Ou Est Le Swimming Pool were great to talk to; fun, lively, and best of all, genuine. Their set was lively; those who knew them were excited to hear them, and those who didn’t know them were converted. The energy was plentiful, despite a slightly passive pre-drinking-time crowd. Overall, they were impressive, showing us exactly why they were becoming one of the most popular electro acts around. Sadly, since the Warwick Summer Party, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool have fallen victim to tragedy. Following a performance at the festival Pukkelpop in Belgium, lead singer Charlie Haddon passed away after an incident backstage. A gig at London’s Koko is to be held in Charlie’s memory. Read more at http://www.myspace. com/ouestleswimmingpool. Funeral For A Friend Kings of the emo scene since their breakthrough in 2003, FFAF have been named as the number one reason for mass sales of black hair dye. We chat to Matt Davies (vocals) and Ryan Richards (drums). How’s your day been so far? Matt: It’s been very pleasant! The weather’s been kinda nice. Yeah! So far, so good. What’s the atmosphere like back stage? Matt: It’s quite chilled and relaxed. There’s a big kind of Buffet thing going on. Ryan: They’re all at the bouncy castle I think.
What’s the plan for the rest of the summer? Matt: Not very much... there’s Sonisphere on August the first, and we’ve got two shows in London and Cardiff, where we’re playing Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation in its entirety as a kind of send off to our shadowy guitar player Darren Smith, he’s leaving us.
just the way it is at the moment.
Over the years you’ve had a lot of different band members coming and going, has that changed the dynamic of the band? Matt: It’s just got better and better really. Ryan: Alcohol consumption has gone up. Matt: Amount of long hair has gone up. Amount of bare nakedness and naked torsos has gone up. Tattoos have gone up.
Does that friendly competition spur you on? Do you ever seek to out each other? Matt: Not really. I think friendly competition’s always healthy. I think you always want to kind of throw down, and to play the best you can and to push each other to higher and better things, and that’s always what it’s going to be, I think that’s what friendships are for and it’s a very positive thing.
Your music has had an enormous impact on many people’s lives over the years. Is that something you’re conscious of when you’re writing? Matt: I think if you consider that when you’re writing music then I probably wouldn’t be able to write anything, because it’s hard to write with other people in mind. I love that people have taken something that means a lot to them from our stuff, and that it’s helped them through a tough time. I don’t deliberately write stuff for that kind of purpose, but we write about real things and real issues, the things we’ve gone through as people, and if people can take stuff that helps them through their life from our music then that’s great... that’s a very big honour. Has it been hard to keep your inspiration genuine? Is there less opportunity to experience these kinds of things as a famous band? Ryan: We’re still having those experiences really, albeit being a little bit older whilst having them. Matt: And unfortunately, as it is, there’s still a lot of bad shit going on in the world, so that still fuels our fires I guess. It still keeps things vibrant and relative and as angry as it’s ever been. Do you find it frustrating that now, with bands getting famous on a first album, there’s no longer a chance for bands to build themselves up? Is it infuriating that the music industry produces such short-term acts? Ryan: It’s just the way things are at the moment. People’s attention spans are very short, and there’s so many new bands coming out all the time with things like Myspace, and things are just regurgitated and recycled so quickly that it is difficult for a band to sustain a fan-base over a wide period of time, which is a shame. But it’s
The Welsh music scene’s pretty big at the moment with Stereophonics, Lostprophets, Bullet For My Valentine... are you all friends back home? Matt: Yes we are! It works; we’re all good mates.
The band’s set later in the day was fantastic. The biggest crowd so far gathered to bounce up and down for FFAF. Watching the band on stage was like watching a band do what it was meant to do; there was no awkwardness; no question that belting out music like this was their true calling in life. The university’s power grid, however, had other ideas, and served up a tasty power-cut half way through the set. Matt Davies simply scribbled a message on a spare scrap of paper: ‘This is fucked up’. The sign brought band and fans together, and before long they returned to deliver the end of an amazing set. Bombay Bicycle Club North London indie-boys Bombay Bicycle Club swapped university for musical fame and fortune, and their fans have never regretted it. We talked to Jack Steadman (vocals) and Ed Nash (bass and keys). How was the journey up? Ou Est Le Swimming Pool had to meet one of their members on the motorway; any trouble like that? Jack: We’re very punctual actually. Ed: We’re a very polite, punctual and good natured band. Are you going to play acoustic, or more of your first album today? Ed: We’re going to play electric. I think we’d get booed off if we played acoustic. Everyone’s... what do they say at uni? On the lash. With the new album you went for quite a different style. Are you hoping to be a band with a diverse range of sounds, or are you just trying to find the
The band’s set that evening left a lot to be desired. They produced a strong aural performance, with fantastic musicianship all round; it was pretty much indie-heaven to hear. Watching the set, on the other hand, was a different matter entirely. Jack Steadman’s attitude changed little from interview to stage, as we moved from apathetic-and-sulky to apatheticand-sulky-avec-bass-guitar. He even spent a few songs leaning casually on the drum riser, looking like he wouldn’t mind being somewhere else entirely. The problem lay with Bombay Bicycle Club’s complete disregard for their audience. They seemed not to realise their fans were gathered there at all, creating a sort of impenetrable wall between the band and their fans. The one grace the boys did show their audience was to stand facing them, which seemed at times more like a convenience than much else. Bombay Bicycle Club could have been great; they could have been the most memorable band of the day, but they let themselves down. To top it all off came other power-cut. The boys looked stroppy and marched from the stage, with Jack Steadman eventually presenting the eager fans with a scrawled message: ‘No power’. Apparently, no matter how badly you think you’re failing your degree, you can still put two and two together faster than Mr. Steadman. The lads came across as brooding prima donnas, with their noses angled upwards just a few albums too early. The Courteeners put an amazing finish to the day. Despite the guitar that wouldn’t tune, and the mic that nearly wasn’t, the Manchester four-piece played out the perfect set to round the party to a close. Great atmosphere, great sound, great songs, great communication with the fans all made for an immense, shimmering end to the day. Hits like ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ were shouted back towards the stage at almost as many decibels as the speakers could send the sound crashing into the crowd. Overall, I am glad to report, Warwick’s Summer Party 2010 was a success. The music was altogether brilliant, the smiles were many, and the alcohol consumption plentiful. There genuinely was something for everyone, and despite the SU’s ents department’s unsteady reputation, the summer party turned out to be a fantastic mix of musical styles, inflatable fun and contented gig-goers. Kudos, Warwick. Kudos.
Read a bunch more interviews with the Summer Party bands and Conlan’s full report of the day online:
Cl aire Stone
Fringe players are thrust into the spotlight Lydia Shellien-Walker’s first Edinburgh Festival Fringe is one guaranteed to leave her returning to England wanting a second
aving never been to the Fringe, and never in fact having set foot in Scotland, the novelty of Scottish radio and the breath-taking scenery as we crossed the border got our trip off to a buoyant start. But, with no idea what to expect from the festival, and not a clue where we were going, we were soon lost. Obviously fresh to the Fringe we headed out of the city rather than in, ending up floundering in the mountains and wondering how this apparently thriving festival could have passed us by. Fortunately the Scots are a friendly bunch, and, though looking at us strangely, pointed us in the (obvious) direction of the city, and once more we commenced our voyage, spirits far from dampened despite the rain. Entering Edinburgh we wondered where it was all happening, but up a set of steps and on to the Mile, Edinburgh Fringe exploded before us. As the streets, the scenery and the buzz unfolded we were completely overwhelmed and the atmosphere was instantly invigorating after a long journey. The Fringe boasted a wonderfully juxtapositional vibe that feels both relaxed and restless; the city teems with people, creativity and energy. Anything goes and nothing is a surprise; from acrobats performing spinning handstands atop fifteen foot poles to wholly tattooed ladies and a dragon cradling a Chihuahua. With theatre, comedy, street performance,
market stalls, hawkers and musicians, every turn provides constant engagement with the city and its plethora of performance; the whole place is a veritable stage and every pub, club, garden, cobbled street and castle’s a venue. The first performance we came across after a stop off at the Half Price Hut (amazing for impoverished artists and students) was the poignant The City and Iris. This beautifully simplistic
really see the ducks, coat hangers and Tube carriage that the actors embodied and feel Iris’ rush as she is finally set free from her regimented existence and runs through the city, once more absorbing her surroundings. Both she and the audience end up utterly revitalised. Stunning. That night we headed out for some free comedy and came across A Nifty History of Evil, an intelligent, dark and wide-reaching social
Every turn provides constant engagement with the city and its performance – the whole city’s a veritable stage and every pub, club, garden, cobbled street and castle’s a venue work of physical theatre offered a vividly illuminated world created by nine unique and highly talented players, one red rope, and buckets of creativity. Centred around Iris, the endearing and trapped symbol of a society that proves unrelenting, unchanging and all too fast paced. This piece was thoroughly well observed and expressed, and touched a nerve with every audience member in the tiny Roxy Theatre; every one a member of the same looming world that eventually Iris overcomes and embraces. I could
and political commentary by a lone Australian comedian come song writer and puppeteer. With an echo of Tim Minchin, this comedian achieved many a gasp and guilty chuckle. With a first experience of free comedy under our belt, we braved another, and were told by a comedian, who soon after stormed off the stage after telling a range of homophobic jokes, to ‘leave or shut the f*** up.’ We chose the former. After a few more impressive free theatre pieces, haggis breakfasts and lady magicians we end-
ed our Fringe experience with one of the most controversial shows of the festival, Teenage Riot. Loud, crude and stimulating to say the least, this extremely emotive and uncomfortable, though often clichéd, depiction of teenage ‘angst’ split opinions wide apart. A group of Scandinavian fourteen-year-olds lock themselves in an on-stage shed and use an impressive range of multi-media techniques from film, cartoon, monologues, distorted perspectives and overpowering lighting and music to explore ‘teenagedom’, though I do hope a note of irony was intended. That would rescue the more clichéd, cringe worthy moments. Form over substance? Unnecessarily vulgar or transforming theatre? I’m still undecided as to whether I missed the point, or rather if there ever was one. The stunning beauty of Edinburgh, cuddled up next to the ocean, surrounded by mountains and overlooked by the formidable Edinburgh Castle, provided a spectacular back drop to a festival that surpassed all expectations. No longer a first timer at the Fringe I returned home to recommend it to my friends, parents, boss, neighbours and anyone who would listen, regardless of age or interests. Go for a day or go for the month, but just don’t miss it. You’re only a Fringe first timer once, but its addictive allure ensures your first visit will be just the beginning.
Kane & Lynch 2 Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days IO Interactive Xbox 360, PS3 and PC ★★★★★
Halo: Reach Halo: Reach Bungie Studios Xbox 360
’ve always known that I’m not a “cool guy”. I’ve also known that being a physicist and enjoying manga doesn’t make you the most popular at a party. What defines who I am the most is probably my reaction to the Halo 3 reveal trailer at E3 2006 where I literally had a heart attack; I was that excited. Obviously it’s been a while since that embarrassingly uncool moment and I thought that I had both matured and become less affected by pre-release media hype. Unfortunately while in the cinema a few weeks back, they ran the Halo: Reach live action trailer. After nearly hyperventilating, it occurred to me that no matter how old I become, Halo is always going to undermine any shred of dignity or popularity I might have. Not that I mind, that was an awesome trailer. As most of you are probably aware, Reach is the prequel to 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved and the final game to be developed by Bungie, the franchise’s creators. Instead of following the adventures of the near indestructible Master Chief, you helm one character of a team of six other Spartans as they attempt to prevent the fall of Reach, a human colony planet. Before even putting the disc in your 360, you know how the campaign is going to end; everyone gets completely merked with the events leading to the start of the original Halo. I’d like to be able to tell you that knowing this doesn’t matter and that it’s the journey that’s important, but unfortunately I can’t. The campaign feels too fast-paced and disjointed for any real emotional attachment to be formed with the characters meaning that when they finally meet their maker, which you already know is going to happen, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Although the campaign has had a number of changes, most notable of which being the addition of armour abilities, Reach is very much a Halo game at heart. You’ll have seen the ma-
jority of the weapons before, everything sounds basically the same and the gameplay mechanics are nearly identical to those found in Halo 3. The armour abilities, ranging from active camouflage to a jetpack, can result in some interesting gameplay dynamics but unfortunately, even on the heroic difficulty setting, the use of these abilities isn’t required to progress further through the story. The above makes Reach feel a little archaic; the delivery of the story is subpar compared to numerous first-person shooter releases since Halo 3, with titles such as Bioshock and even Modern Warfare offering more in terms of excitement and suspense, and the gameplay, al-
decoy ability results in players shooting at nothing but air. You’re also now given a choice of load-outs, at the start of each match, of varying weapons and armour abilities. This allows you to form a number of different strategies for the coming fight and puts less emphasis on running for the limited super weapons, such as the rocket launcher, that are scattered around each map. For everything that you achieve in Reach you are awarded points that go toward levelling up your character, allowing you to unlock hundreds of different types of armour and cosmetic additions. There are also commendations that accumulate over time and when awarded give an extra point boost to your character’s devel-
The campaign is only a small fraction of what Reach has to offer; it’s the additional modes that truly elevate it above the monotony of other titles though still very much Halo, feels distinctly stagnated due to a lack of evolution. However, the campaign is only a small fraction of what Reach has to offer; it’s the additional modes that truly elevate it above the monotony of other titles and add so much value and replayability that a vast number of people will probably still be playing it in years to come. Firstly there’s Firefight, a mode introduced in Halo: ODST that puts you and three other players up against wave after wave of Covenant forces with the objective being to rack up points and, more importantly, survive. While this feature was an excellent addition to ODST, it lacked matchmaking; meaning that you had to already have three other like-minded friends ready to play. Reach has now rectified this glaring omission, allowing you to slaughter Elites and Brutes with complete strangers. Of course, Halo’s signature competitive multiplayer modes have also all returned. Here the armour abilities that fell flat in the single player do make a considerable difference to how each match plays. The jetpack ability adds a verticality never before seen in the franchise and the
opment. More interestingly, Bungie have added daily challenges that also award you with a chunkful of points on completion. These range from killing a certain number in matchmaking to finishing so many levels of the campaign on legendary; they are always different and keep the entire game feeling fresh and still worth playing. Halo: Reach should be a five star game; its campaign offers more of the Halo goodness that so many know and love, the multiplayer has been developed and expanded to a point where no game, including the Modern Warfare franchise, comes close to competing with it, and throughout everything that can be done in Reach, it is simply a joy to play. When it comes to Halo however, I’ve always been invested in and drawn to the story the most. It’s the main reason I play these games and unfortunately I can’t help but feel disappointed by Bungie’s final entry into the series. Everyone else will probably think Reach is Bungie at its best, but for me this is reason enough for Reach, the nearperfect game, to lose a star. Will Brierley
y experience of Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is best described with this little anecdote: half an hour into playing I switched off my Xbox and went to watch You’ve Got Mail. This was not out of any dislike of the game, nor because I quite fancy Meg Ryan, but because this game is so overwhelming in its brutality and intensity that I urgently needed some antithesis of entertainment to calm me down and prevent a violent outburst of swearing in Mandarin. Dog Days is the sequel to Dead Men, a gritty and visceral tale of revenge and loss that balanced absurdity and pathos perfectly, let down entirely by dodgy gameplay and numerous technical faults. It continues the story of Lynch, a psychopath and convicted murderer, and Kane, an ex-mercenary, who meet in Shanghai to conduct an arms deal for a British mobster straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie, and from the outset everything starts to go wrong. Playing as Lynch, you and Kane battle through various kinds of urban environments against gangsters, police and the military. This relentless battle is viewed through a visual style that reflects the ‘user generated content’ of the net. Lights flare in horizontal bars, things blur, the colours are off and the camera shakes constantly. This raw feel is best compared to films like Blair Witch and Cloverfield, it adds to the intensity and pace, giving the title a unique art style. The mechanics of Dog Days are nothing new, the standard cover-based fare of shoot, move, shoot again, and occasionally blow something up. The controls are very fluid and easy to master, and the use of fire extinguishers as explosives and scrounging for ammo from dead bodies fits well with the desperate situation. The AI is visibly flawed though. The enemies may be good enough at killing you and hiding from you, but there is little about them that is interesting and rarely will they outsmart you in any remarkable way. Death comes quick and often without warning, leaving you staring at a blank screen with your time of death in the corner and white noise ringing in your ears; you struggle to wonder whether you died from a gangster’s bullet or if your buddy, Kane, had simply had enough of you and shot you himself. Lynch complains constantly and keeps making the wrong decisions outside of the player’s control, eventually leaving him bleeding, naked and in tears. The game’s attempt to tell a personal story of what a psychopath would do for the woman he loves is lost in the pace and grime of this game. It is too short and too crude for anyone to gain a full sense of passion in the claustrophobic and crime ridden Shanghai. This limited scope also has a knock on effect on gameplay, making the environments and combat more repetitive than in its predecessor. Dog Days is a game that no one can truly enjoy, any normal person will sigh in despair and mutter curses throughout. With each twist and cock-up you will begin to wonder if Kane and Lynch are better off dead; the game over screen brings a strange feeling of relief and the sudden silence is eerie enough to make you shiver. It is these moments that make it worth playing though, the adrenaline rush and fear counteracts the repetitive gameplay and limited scope. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it game, ugly round the edges in both plot and style but with a solid core and plenty of action to keep you on the edge of your seat. Nick Marshall
Animation and imagination
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Lydia Shellien-Walker brings you in a nutshell some of what you may have missed...
» Toy Story 3 captures the imagination at the same time as appealing to an audience that is just becoming grown-up
Toy Story 3 Director: Lee Unkrich Running Time: 103 minutes
Many film lovers fear the trilogy; especially from the likes of Toy Story - a film that we’ve all grown up with and holds a special place in all of our seven-year-old hearts. Thankfully, Toy Story 3 does not disappoint. In fact, it grows up alongside us, mirroring the story of our lives as
we watch Andy grow up and prepare for college. (Struck a chord with Freshers?) Funny, emotional and with even better one liners from Toy Story favourites – and some gems from characters we’ve just met, this trilogy is original, witty and packing a punch. I tried to hide my sobs, then looked around and realised I was by no means the only one. A trip down memory lane that has plenty unexpected to offer.
Inception Director: Christopher Nolan Running Time: 148 minutes
Though undeniably entertaining, this summer’s leading blockbuster was not the psychological mind blower it claimed to be. Non-committal and a bit unexplained at times (what were those wrist bands and how exactly did they allow Leo to infiltrate and construct dreams?),
Inception has been compared to the Matrix, but lacks the clarity and philosophical depth of the sci-fi classic. Unfortunately for a concept with intellectual potential, the finale ended up more of a shoot-‘em-up than a psychological thriller. The film was a fan of epic tag lines over insightful conversation, but inventive special effects somewhat made up for creatively lacking discourse.
... and what you shouldn’t miss Those of you new to campus (and even some older faces) may not be aware of what goes on at a wonderful cultural resource right here at Warwick – the Arts Centre. Located centrally and identifiable by its giant luminous spinning cone – or ‘Koan’, to give it its proper name – the Arts Centre has not only a great selection of gigs, comedy performances and theatre, but also a cinema which offers tempting student discounts. Its thoughtfully selected films range from the well-known to the arthouse, and from the brand new to age-old classics. Here are some of the flicks that the Arts Centre offers this October.
The Illusionist Director: Sylvain Chomet Running Time: 90 minutes The second beautifully animated film from Belleville Rendezvous’ Sylvain Chomet realises Jacques Tati’s lost story of a seasoned magician’s struggle in the changing world of contemporary entertainment.
The Girl Who Played With Fire Director: Daniel Alfredson Running Time: 129 minutes Second in the Larsson trilogy, this follow on from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines a murder investigation, prison sentence and billion dollar sex trafficking ring which leaves viewers pining for the third instalment.
Rashomon Director: Akira Kurosawa Running Time: 88 minutes This 1950 classic from Japan’s Akira Kurosawa explores the issues of justice and human nature with fantastic cinematic technique. Also check out Film Talk: Kurosawa, at Warwick Arts Centre, October 16.
B Birmingham: City of Culture? Despite missing out on the coveted ‘City of Culture’ award earlier this year, Gerard McHugh notes how the return of the Birmingham Book Festival ensures that the UK’s second city remains a hub of artistic vibrancy
irmingham: it’s not a name that’s instantly synonymous with literature, culture and the arts. More often than not, on heading the word ‘Birmingham’, your listeners eyes will light up and you’ll get an earful of “Buurrmeeingham” before you know it in their best/worst Brummie accent. Yet look just a little below the surface and you’ll see an undercurrent of organisations and projects designed specifically to promote the arts in whatever form to the inhabitants of the West Midlands. One such company, the Birmingham Book Festival, has long been seeking to bring the written word to the masses. Founded at the end of the 1990s, it is today entering its eleventh year, boasting a high profile line-up from all over the world and from a myriad of different literary backgrounds. The three-week event, the product of months of planning, unites all forms of the literary arts, chairing talks, hosting poetry readings, encouraging debate and running writing courses. They have created an event which has something for everyone with an interest in the arts. The Book Festival, which runs each October,
is just one arm of a Birmingham based company that seeks to organise literary projects throughout the West Midlands. ‘Midland Creative Projects’ seeks to organise workshops, writing programmes and events throughout the year with an aim to promoting the literary arts and specifically promoting creative writing. The company frequently arranges for writers to hold workshops in schools, encouraging schoolchildren from an early age to engage with creative writing, and displaying the various means that creative writing can take in the twenty-first century. And it is this notion that is core to Book Festival and Midland Creative Projects’ manifestos – the idea that ‘literature’ need not be specifically traditional. The Festival’s motto: “Read. Write. Think” surmises its aims aptly – the propagation of ideas as a response to literary art is at the heart of its ethos. As such, performance poetry, discussions and short story readings make up an important aspect of the Festival’s programme, and writing groups in schools are encouraged to present their work in interesting ways using modern technology, social networking websites, podcasts and the internet.
The cult of the celebrity biography
Yet, naturally, ‘books’ do make up a large part of the Birmingham Book Festival’s programming schedule. The festival works actively to discover and promote quality local authors, with Birmingham based writers chairing many of the Festival’s workshops, and up and coming authors such as Catherine O’Flynn appearing at
The festival works actively to discover and promote quality local authors evening events. This year also features an event from one of the best contemporary authors to come out of the West Midlands, Jonathan Coe, who will be talking about his latest novel, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim on the 7 October. The Festival is not exclusively about the Midlands however. Instead it seeks to display an ethos that writing is international and multi-
genre. As such, over the course of three weeks, it will be showcasing events from British comedian Jenny Éclair, to Pakistani journalist Fatima Bhutto; from Scottish poet Jackie Kay, to American novelist Lionel Shriver and from German multi-media artist Jörg Albrecht, to British Ambassador to Zimbabwe Philip Barclay. These days, many of the larger literary festivals (Cheltenham, Hay etc.) have reached a point where the sheer volume of acts that they attract lead to the festival experience becoming somewhat impersonal for writers and speakers. The Birmingham Book Festival, on the other hand, actively seeks to engage personally with all writers it books. The programme is not over full and does not contain any padding acts. Every writer that the festival showcases has been personally selected by the festival organisers, who pride themselves on offering writers a friendly, private and involved experience. The festival is, naturally, realistic about its aims. It simultaneously does not aspire to be a festival along the same lines as Cheltenham or Hay for the reasons explained, but it also recognises that the Birmingham environment is not going to provide an overnight haven for the
arts. In their own words, the Festival organisers seek to “work with, rather than against, the complex environment the city and the region presents” – seeking to carve something unique in a city which can, in places, be lacking an arts interest. Of course, the Birmingham Book Festival isn’t the only arts organisation within the Midlands. Despite all of the stereotypes, and the undeniable fact that a portion of the area remains (and perhaps always will remain) hostile to the arts, there is an undercurrent of a vibrant arts community. Every one of these organisations has a similar goal – to bring the arts to the masses, be that literature, cinema, music, fine art, or any other manifestation of artistic expression. It will never appeal to everybody, but it is important that these organisations exist, both for the work they do within the communities, but also for their work contributing to the foundation of a sense of culture in an otherwise faceless city. The Book Festival opens this year with a lecture entitled: “What is a City’s culture?” Yet it seems perhaps that organisations like the Book Festival have already provided an answer.
person must have a magnificent reason for writing out his or her Life Story and expecting anyone to read it”, wrote Marisha Pessl in her Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Current bestseller lists seem to provide countless counterexamples to this statement, with the autobiographical efforts of celebrities such as Katie Price and Wayne Rooney frequently outselling novels shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. Fortunately, every so often an autobiography comes along that is entertaining and has something worthwhile to say: such is the case with the second instalment of Stephen Fry’s autobiographical oeuvre, The Fry Chronicles. The first instalment, Moab is my Washpot, was published in 1997 and recounted his childhood, up to his admission to Cambridge. The Fry Chronicles starts with a few anecdotes from his earlier years, and then picks up where Moab left off. With this book, Stephen Fry—comedian, actor, journalist, director, presenter—once again proves that he is also a competent and entertaining writer. Fry’s early life is typically middle-class, and, in itself, neither very extraordinary nor particularly interesting. The book chronicles his time at Cambridge—acting with the Footlights and meeting friends such as Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson—and the first few years of his professional life. Fry quickly gets to grips with the demons that plague him, such as his addictions to everything from sugar to cocaine, and his homosexuality. He discusses and analyses his problems and insecurities in detail, and it is the insight that this probing provides that constitutes the main appeal of the book. The pages are permeated with characteristic humour and intelligence, but he thankfully does manage to avoid sounding overly pompous or self-satisfied. Instead, his tone is self-deprecating and infused with wit. Despite the book’s definite pertinence, Fry’s ego does shine through the pages and pure selfindulgence is never far away. His mild self-obsession shows in the form and content; one can see him posing on the front cover, a smug smile on his face. The pages are punctuated by sets of slightly incongruous photographs showing him and his equally famous friends prancing around in fancy dress and black tie, and others, such as those of his parents and grandfather, whose relevance is even more dubious. For all his problems, it can be difficult to sympathise with Fry. He is an adored or even idolised celebrity that has had a varied career and achieved a level of public renown that few can equal. Because of this, some passages may grate on less sympathetic ears, but his life does contain elements of genuine emotional turmoil, such as his suicide attempts, years of celibacy, and heavy addiction to cocaine. The book’s structure is nonlinear; the entertaining anecdotes oscillate backwards and forwards through time, and Fry often digresses within them. The result is a narrative that feels somewhat disjointed and chronologically hazy, but authentic. Many of us should be able to find something to relate to in the situations and problems he describes, and hopefully share some of his insight and humour. The Fry Chronicles is an autobiography, as narcissistic as any other, but one that manages to probe some difficult and interesting issues whilst remaining entertaining and funny. At least, unlike the majority of celebrity ‘autobiographies’, one can be sure that he at least wrote it himself. James Hamp
Hit me baby one more time
William Grove equates the freshers experience to an evening watching Babestation
K freshers, it’s time for a reality check. If you haven’t already established that life ain’t what you thought it was going to be like at Warwick, I’m afraid I’ve got bad news for you. You might think that you’re living with the perfect set of hallmates now, but give it a week and one of them will snap. Back in my salad days, my token crazy hallmate thought it would be a good idea to fill the entire fridge with large silver bowls of soaking chick peas. One of my friend’s doors got smeared with shit. You’re living with a group of strangers who may or may not decide to shower once every few days, may or may not be socially defective and may or may not have any sort of clue how they’re going to cope within the plastic coating of the Warwick bubble without their mummies by their sides. Your housemates, more likely than not, will have domestic abilities that equal those of the brown-throated three-toed sloth. You’ll probably be lucky enough to fall prey to the freshers’ curse of thinking that it’s bare cool blud to get tanked on Lambrusco at 10am every morning without realising that, to the more stagnant members of the student population, you look like a prize turnip. If you went on a gap year, you’ll probably also think that laughing about your ‘vomcanoes’ in an ironic fashion is hilarious, when in actual fact everyone knows that you’re barely disguising your vapid bragging about saving orphans in some unnamed third world country with outdated, overused and sloppy humour. If you’re male, you’re probably under the impression that University is a great place to either lose your virginity or to carry on your Summer Holiday wet spell of having sex with that one drunk girl who you met in a suburban night club. University, we are led to believe, is a promised land. It’s full of glamazons who are old enough to embrace their sexuality to the extent that they will probably have sex with every quiff-haired adolescent who offers to buy them half a pint of cider black. Hopes are no doubt raised by the carrier bags of condoms the SU will gift you during Freshers week. Well boys, for the vast majority of you the pre-freshers wet dreams are just going to be an illusion. Which, of course, brings me to Babestation. If you want to have the full freshers experience without having to pay for a university education, meet any new people or peel your flabby arse from the sofa, then you ought to watch Babestation. Babestation is a TV channel that is inexplicably still on air. The premise of the entire channel is that lonely men (who I can only assume have a place on the sex offenders register) phone women with the class of Chloe Mafia and the looks of a partially deflated sex doll and get them to enact their deepest, darkest fantasies. If their deepest, darkest fantasies involve watching a mum of three gyrating unconvincingly, licking her shoes and bouncing her sagging implants, then Babestation fulfils its purpose. I imagine that the men who are desperate enough to pay five pounds a minute to speak to someone who looks like they’ve got the intellectual prowess of a Magikarp might be hoping for a bit more than a half-assed simulation of
Pick of the week
Toby Steinberg recovers from a summer of crap TV
what might happen in a theoretical session of slap and tickle. Babestation’s economy is driven by fantasy in
...with the class of Chloe Mafia and the looks of a partially deflated sex doll... its crudest form. It’s basically Prostitution TV. The women are obscene cartoon forms of an angst-ridden teenage boy’s infantile fantasies. They’re what Jessica Rabbit would be if she became a crack addict. Babestation presents the
brutal face of the average adult’s sexual reality: that the pursuit of an impossible fantasy is often disappointing, expensive and, well, just that. Impossible. The men who peruse the babes of Babestation probably avert their attention away from the fact that it’s filmed in the spare room of some council flat in Bognor Regis. For some reason, their writhing appears to maintain the attention of something that vaguely ressembles an audience. It limbers on. And you will too, freshers. The prospect of three years of University might still be glimmering like Midas’ daughter, but soon enough it will be dulled. You’ll be rejected by the ugliest girl in the Copper Rooms, learn to hate your course and won’t be able to wait to leave. Welcome to Warwick, where dreams are crushed.
There’s a Hippo in My House
The X Factor
Tuesday 5th Channel 5, 8pm
Wednesday 6th BBC1, 9pm
Saturday 9th ITV1, 7.40pm
Channel 5 continues churning out absolute shite.
OMG The Apprentice is back. Sit back and squirm.
Simon Cowell mocks hopeless Mariah Carey wannabes for two and a half hours.
nother summer over. Despite the overwhelming evidence of every previous year, one still can’t help feeling furiously betrayed by the passage of time. The weather’s always so lovely. Everyone’s frolicking in the meadows and laughing with melting ice-creams before suddenly, through no fault of our own, all the trees die and the sun extinguishes itself at about 3pm. Somebody must be to blame for this. Fortunately, through the miracle of television, just as the outside world deteriorates into intermittent patches of damp and crunchy leaves, we get to hibernate on comfortable sofas absorbing quality entertainment. Think yourself lucky in comparison, for example, to the lowly vole who has to shiver in littered back gardens playing maudlin vole games like ‘count the dead voles’. However, while TV comes into its own at this point of the year, it’s always slightly redundant and lacklustre during the preceding months of summer, largely because television has yet to produce a compelling alternative to mucking about in the sunshine. In fact, in the USA, the seasons for virtually all the worthwhile shows run from autumn to spring, leaving Americans free to spend their entire summer playing with fire hydrants and saluting their flags. For the last few years in the UK, Big Brother has notionally filled the title of ‘Big TV event of the summer’. Channel 4 even had the gall to market it with the slogan, “your summer starts here”, which, if it were true, would be such a mind-numbingly depressing state of affairs that it would actually render our society bleaker than that of 1984 (where at least no-one spent the best months of the year fretting about the presence of some obnoxious people in an equally obnoxious television studio). Given the thousands of worthless, tedious hours transmitted through the live feed, it was, quite brilliantly, both a solution as to what on earth to broadcast and an admission that no-one really cared anyway. In a refreshing display of sanity, everyone eventually deserted, leading to the desperate announcement of the final series (at least for a while), which went out this year to all the fanfare of a lone alcoholic detonating a party popper in a deserted bed-sit. Incapable of going out with a bang and discontented with the whimper, they promptly produced ANOTHER SERIES, Ultimate Big Brother, which based on the fact that the only five minutes I witnessed consisted of Vanessa Feltz dancing for the amusement of the runners-up from Britain’s Got Talent , has permanently devalued the word ‘ultimate’. Except, hopefully, in its meaning of ‘absolutely the last’. Quite amazingly however, the end of Big Brother, despite not actually having watched it, is nonetheless the summer’s most memorable television, testament to its fiendish infiltration of the zeitgeist (and the aforementioned dearth of much else on). The rest of the prominent airtime was sports coverage: The World Cup, which was, of course, horribly marred by the drone of English commentators complaining about the manager, the ball and that incredibly significant disallowed goal, and Wimbledon which was ruined (again) by Federer not winning. As far as fictive television went, Tom Hollander’s Rev was very good, Simon Amstell’s Grandma’s House mostly wasn’t, Last of the Summer Wine was cancelled to the outrage of everyone who saw their own mortality reflected in the decision, and there was presumably some other stuff too. Thankfully, autumn looks to be a far more promising prospect, although, personally, I’d settle for a 24 hour broadcast of a crackling fire with a pleasant voice-over.
Boar breakfast: A freshers’ fortnight feast Our resident student cookery expert Danni Slater brings you a mouth-watering way to soak up those October hangovers
t’s the morning after the night before and you’re wandering around the kitchen aimlessly, looking for something to satisfy that post-alcohol hunger. We’ve all experienced that ravenous feeling, and yet it can often be difficult to muster the energy to make anything worthwhile. What we need is something easy, tasty and pre-prepared and this, my friends, is exactly that. What’s great about this recipe is that you prepare it all the night before, whack it in the fridge and just put it straight in the oven the next morning (or afternoon). You can also play around with the ingredients. I’ve used mushrooms, tomatoes and mozzarella in mine but you can easily substitute these for something else – maybe a BLT or cheddar and on-
ion. Whatever your choice, this recipe will cure that hangover in no time. Ingredients (serves 2) 125g mushrooms, sliced 6-8 cherry tomatoes 3 thick slices of bread – Tesco’s stay fresh loaf is even cheaper at the moment at just 65p! Ball of mozzarella (go for the Value range – it’s just as tasty for half the price) 2 eggs 125ml milk (about half a glass) Olive oil Butter/Spread Approximate cost per serving: £1.78 – a measly price for a clear head.
Method 1. Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and fry the mushrooms until browned. Meanwhile, spread each slice of bread with butter, cut in half and use a little more oil or butter to grease a deep oven-proof dish. 2. Slice the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella. Now for the fun bit; just layer the bread with the mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese alternately. After each slice of bread, squash the sandwich down a little to make it compact. 3. Beat the eggs together with a fork and add the milk, season with a little salt and pepper and simply pour over the layered bread into the dish. Don’t worry if there’s a little pool of the mixture at the bottom – this will be soaked up
overnight. 4. Cover the dish with Clingfilm, squash down once more and put it in the fridge overnight – though if you really can’t wait that long, four hours should be enough, but overnight is definitely best! 5. The next morning, simply light the oven (if you can find it) to gas mark 6 (200°C / 400°F), allow it to heat up for ten minutes and place the dish inside for about 40 minutes. Remember to remove the cling film; melted plastic is not a good flavour. If the top layer begins to brown quickly, just cover with a lid or some foil until the cooking time’s up. Et voila. Student: 1, hangover: 0.
Last call for Castro’s Cuba Duncan Tucker visits a country that is caught between clinging to its revolutionary past and participating in an increasingly globalised world
sk anyone travelling in Cuba why they chose to visit now and the response is always the same: “I wanted to see it before Fidel dies.” Rarely in recent times has one personality dominated people’s perceptions of a country to the extent that Castro has in Cuba. Having been imprisoned, led a popular revolution, survived countless assassination attempts, fought off a US-sponsored invasion, endured a crippling fifty year trade embargo, and been at the centre of a crisis which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, it’s fair to say Castro has lived an eventful life. Now, in the twilight of the
food you’ll find in Cuba too. Every day I received a hearty breakfast with heaps of mango, pineapple, guava, eggs, ham and cheese, while dinner generally consisted of chicken, pork, or lobster, accompanied with beans, rice and fried bananas. I had hoped to talk to as many native habaneros as possible, but even as a Spanish speaker it proved difficult to engage in sincere and meaningful conversation with anyone in the capital. As a tourist you are simply a big walking wallet here, and both the state and the locals will take you for all you are worth. The governmentowned banks charge a whopping 10 percent
As a tourist you are simply a big walking wallet here, and both the state and the locals will take you for all you are worth Castro years, much of the talk concerning Cuba is of change. I spent two weeks there trying to understand the complexities of socialist Cuba and questioning whether change really is just around the corner. My journey began in Havana. This city is history. It feels like it’s permanently frozen in the late 1950s – which in some ways it is. The US embargo has left Cuba economically isolated but also ensured its protection from cultureeroding globalisation. This is one of the last remaining places on earth where you won’t find a Starbucks or McDonalds. Like something out of a ’50s spy novel, classic American cars cruise the narrow streets below the crumbling facades of Old Havana. This place is a mechanic’s wet dream; they must make a killing keeping those things running. Typical tourist spots include the Plaza de la Revolucion and the fascinating but propaganda-filled Museum of the Revolution. Many tourists can also be seen downing overpriced mojitos in Ernest Hemingway’s old haunt, La Bodeguita del Medio. A country brimming with contradictions, Cuba has become a communist state as dependent upon capital from Western tourists as it is on discounted Venezuelan oil. Since the fall of its principal economic partner, the Soviet Union, tourism has become Cuba’s number one industry. But you won’t find many Cubans on “Couchsurfing”. Most tourists come here on allinclusive package holidays and are duly herded into expensive hotel complexes in gringo resorts like Veradero. Due to the absence of hostels, the only other option is to stay in casas particulares. These are basically B&Bs run by local Cubans with a permit from the government (which takes a healthy monthly cut, obviously). Staying in casas is the easiest way to meet and converse with local people and they generally serve the best
every time you change or withdraw money (plus another 10 percent if you’re foolish enough to bring US dollars). Meanwhile, local hustlers known as jineteros will do anything to convince you into buying them a drink/taking their tour/purchasing fake cigars/sleeping with a hooker. Sadly you soon learn that it’s best to ignore practically everyone that speaks to you. Cuba is certainly not the easiest place for independent travellers. Everything is relatively pricey (aside from the dodgy but irresistibly cheap local-currency pizza) and there are relatively few tourist buses, which all stick firmly to the beaten track. After a few days in the colonial towns of Trinidad and Cienfuegos, I decided it was time to abandon these well-worn bus routes. Instead I commandeered a taxi with a couple of friends to take us to Playa Girón, in the Bay of Pigs. This was the site of the disastrous invasion attempt by a force of Cuban exiles that were armed, trained and financed by the CIA. The operation was a shambles and the counterrevolutionary forces were soon defeated when the popular uprising that American strategists had been counting upon failed to materialise. As the Cuban government love to remind everyone, this was “Yankee imperialism’s first ever defeat in the Americas”. Having visited the Bay of Pigs museum and chilled on the picture-perfect Caribbean beach (best invasion site ever?) it was time to move on again. Next up was Viñales, which soon became my favourite place in Cuba. Out in the rural west of the island, the town is an oasis amidst a green sea of tobacco fields, abruptly punctuated by pincushion mogote hills. Exploring the lush valley of Viñales on both horseback and bike, I ventured through limestone caves and sampled some freshly-rolled cigars at a small tobacco plantation. From Viñales I took a day-trip to Cayo Le-
» The inescapable image of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara photo: Duncan Tucker visa, a gorgeous desert island just off the northern coast of Cuba. It was a perfect beach, but it was also a private beach, meaning no Cubans are ever allowed to visit it. From a Western perspective, it’s impossible to get your head around the pros and cons of Cuba’s socialist system. I was shown around Havana by a local journalist, who was openly critical of Fidel, claiming the economy has grown stagnant and that young people couldn’t care less about the revolution. Somehow they can’t identify with a bunch of 80-year-old men who led a revolution a good five decades ago (this despite the constant reminders on billboards throughout Cuba – this is a “REVOLUTION” in case you’d forgotten). Yet even my fairly cynical guide couldn’t deny the benefits that Fidel and co had brought the Cuban people. Everyone is entitled to a free education (including university) and an excellent free health service that puts the US system to shame. They all receive free daily bread from the state and other monthly rations at heavily subsidised prices. Cuba has a 99 percent literacy rate and there is virtually no extreme poverty. By Western standards they lack many basic goods, but no one here is dying of hunger and, in spite of the economic embargo, Cuba has still fared immeasurably better than its neighbour, Haiti. However, the dual currency system (locals are paid in moneda nacional which values 24 times less than the “convertible pesos” that
tourists spend) has created social and economic inequalities that betray the egalitarian idealism of the revolution. Many people opt against working official jobs as the state wage is practically worthless. Shockingly, a jinetero hassling tourists for money in the street can earn more in a day than a doctor does in a month. Were it not for the unjust embargo which has failed spectacularly in bringing an end to Castro’s regime – and only served to worsen poverty in Cuba (it has cost this small island over $90 billion in total) – perhaps socialism in Cuba would provide a viable alternative to the US-imposed neoliberal model which has created such devastating inequality throughout its “backyard” in Latin America. It seems that even the seemingly indestructible Fidel can’t have long left now, and younger brother Raul is no spring chicken himself. It would require a leader of some stature to maintain Cuba’s stubborn socialist system but there are no obvious younger candidates with the credentials or the charisma to take up the reigns. It seems Cuba might finally see significant change over the next few decades. But for now this remains a truly remarkable destination with few parallels in an increasingly globalised world. Go now, before history catches up with Cuba. To read the full version of this article visit: http://theboar.org/travel/
The same old story: England falter
After a disappointing summer, Channon Zhangazha investigates the age-old English custom of seeking someone to blame
ow that the dust has settled, and the ephemeral feelings of English patriotism and false optimism have subsided, I feel it adequate to assess this summer’s most premier sporting event and indeed the first of its kind, ‘Africa’s World Cup’. There are contradictory sentiments as to the successes on the pitch, however off it, events proceeded impeccably. What will be remembered? The Vuvuzela? Perhaps the Jabulani? Surely Africa’s tears in Gyan’s penalty miss? Or most memorably from an English point of view, the goal that never was. With the Football League and Premiership season underway, fans have returned to their partisan support of local clubs and all sentiments of ‘football coming home’ have well and truly died. Indeed, there is an age old English custom of seeking someone to blame, and no doubt following Mauricio Espinoza’s inexplicable error, England fans launched scathing attacks on the linesman. More alarming, however, was the sight of Fabio Capello joining those fans and blaming English exit on the Uruguayan. It is here that I must express a belief which I feel must be shared by all concerning the performance of the England national football team - they simply are not good enough. Players such as Lampard, Gerrard and Barry must no longer be lauded as ‘World Class.’ Such a label should only be reserved for the true greats of the modern game and those who have consistently produced at the highest level, or more poignantly, when it matters. Up against a dynamic and exuberant German side without the inspirational Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger excelled in a deeper, more central role along with the emerging Sami Khedira and classy Mesut Oezil. In the group stages, Jamie Carragher was exposed for a lack of pace by Jozy Alitodre and Upson’s performance alongside John Terry against Germany was no better as the defence left enough holes ‘to
park a bus.’ Similarly, Gareth Barry was made to look sluggish by Oezil, Lampard was out of ideas and Rooney looked out of sorts. The performance by the England side was laughable and quite frankly against Germany they were, for lack of a better word, violated. The only players to come out with any credit were Ashley Cole, whose performances were solid, Gerrard, who did show some endeavour and surprisingly Heskey who I feel, although ineffectual, played to the best of his ability. Such a humiliation was inevitable and it was a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if ’ a defeat would occur. Indeed, the warning signs were there, and all was not well as John Terry spoke out of turn and Wayne Rooney complained of boredom in the camp. It seems Capello, famed for ruling with an iron fist, in an attempt to distance himself from the lack of discipline that successive England sides under Eriksson and McLaren experienced, has overstepped the mark. In addition, he has demonstrated a tactical inflexibility, child-like obstinance, and obtuse manner that is baffling for a man that has won a league title with every club that he has managed in his career. Further still, the manager demonstrates an aloofness from his squad that was made apparent when Brown and Robinson publicly retired to Capello’s chagrin. The question that comes to mind is what now for England? A rebuilding is indeed necessary and Capello has shown signs of change following the inclusion of Jack Wilshere in his first England squad. However, for reasons unexplained, Capello withdrew the Arsenal youngster from his next squad in a move which rendered his initial gesture as a token. Perhaps, more worryingly, when asked why snubbing the promising Jack Rodwell, who enjoyed a successful season in the first team for Everton last year, Capello looked bemused and responded to the journalist by asking “Who?” seemingly unaware of the Everton starlet.
Although many have jumped on the bandwagon and indicted England for a lack of talent, I do believe the talent is there. Players such as Adam Johnson, Phil Jones, Richards, Wilshere, Gibbs, Rodwell, Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Delfouneso and even Andy Carroll, although not necessarily ready, have ability and the future is indeed bright. It is just a question of giving them the opportunities and bringing them through. I cannot complete this article without expressing my great sadness at the news that the career was over for England’s most capped outfield player. One of English football’s oldest adages proclaims that ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough.’ Reversing this, does there ever come a point when you are considered too old? You know the man in question by many names. Golden Balls, Mr Posh Spice, Captain Fantastic – it indeed is David Beckham.
Beneath the glitz and glamour is just a ‘good old east end lad’ who I believe still has the ability to compete at the highest level. Which other Englishman, can produce a cross
Although many have jumped on the bandwagon and indicted England for a lack of talent, I do believe the talent is there field pass with an effortless ease that defies belief? Which other Englishman can drop the ball on a sixpence from the by-line? Beckham has a timeless class that is still apparent and has been ever since he lobbed Neil Sullivan from the halfway line all those years ago. The continued success of Scholes and Giggs at Utd makes it apparent that class never leaves you, and al-
though Beckham has stated he will never retire from international football it seems that under Capello, we face a future without Beckham. Although this article just seems to be a damning denunciation of Capello, that was never its intention. Football is undoubtedly a results based industry, and prior to his most recent international tenure, Capello was a man famed for getting results. When those results do not come, fans can hopefully take solace in good performances, however those performances have not been apparent. Capello’s contract runs out in 2012 and the FA have announced that the new man to take the poisoned chalice will be an Englishman. In the meantime, Capello has two years and a European Football Championship to turn this all around. Will he able to do this? Will his successor be able to do any better? Only time will tell.
Warwick Polo Club earns success in National Championship
arwick Polo Club has once again proven itself to be one of the top university clubs in the country as they returned from the most important tournament of the year, the AKUMA National Universities Polo Championships, with a score of impressive results. Of the 85 teams that took part across Britain, Warwick entered more than any other university, where its strong base of playing members proved to be successful at every level. The Beginner section consisted of newcomers to the game, many of whom had never even ridden a horse before university, yet the standard of all the Beginner teams was very high. The Beginner A team in Division 1 were particularly unfortunate as they
met the eventual division’s winners in their first game. However they proved a tough team to beat with exceptional performances from Phoebe Robertson, Romain Hodot and Ben Goldsmith. The Beginner 1A team consisting of Chris Day, Fiona Brown and Rosie Thater competed in Division 2 and played very well against some difficult competition, culminating in a fierce final match where they were successful against an impressive Loughborough team. The Beginner 2 team narrowly missed out on the Division 3 final, finishing 3rd overall. There were commendable performances from captains Caitlin Macnamara and Alice Raicher as well as fantastic polo from newcomers Ruth Peters and Tripurdaman Singh.
In the Novice section, Warwick Polo Club fielded three exceptional teams in all three divisions. The Novice 1 team of Heather Lacy, Michael Burr and Jill Oxenham reached the final having scored 10 goals in total, and played a thrilling match against tough competitors London. It was a high speed end to end game but resulted in a 1-0 defeat owing to a generous penalty in London’s favour. Impressively, this was the only goal conceded by Warwick Novice 1 during the whole tournament, leaving Warwick 2nd overall. The Novice 1A team were outstanding in every match, winning the coveted National Champion title in their division, beating a very strong St. Andrews team in the process. All three members gave outstanding performances;
top goal scorer Joe Jawad was consistent throughout alongside numerous displays of great skill from Lizzie Jay and top defensive action from Ilesh Persand. All thoroughly deserve their Champion’s title. The Novice 2 team also performed admirably, finishing 3rd overall with great teamwork being shown between Tom Astley and Rhiannon Howe complemented by stunning play from Justine Alford throughout the tournament. For the first time in the Polo Club’s history, Warwick entered a team into the Lower Intermediate Division, in which a very strong team of Jeremy Pigeon, Lucia Mander and Rebecca Griffiths also triumphed, taking the title of National Champions. With some very fast and furious matches being played against excellent teams
from Royal Agricultural College and Bristol, Warwick’s success proved that we can triumph at all levels. Overall, we have had another very successful year at the National Championships. The club’s year finished with a fancy dress charity tournament. Polo shirts were swapped for charity shop clothes and money was raised for The British Heart Foundation and the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance. Due to its great success this event is planned to be held once a term. The University of Warwick Polo club has grown continually from year to year, and with a record number of beginner teams last year, we anticipate this year to be even better. Jill Oxenham