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New Deputy SU scoops £10k Vice Chancellor in E&Y societies announced competition Rozina Sabur
Warwick University’s Council appointed Professor Koen Lamberts as the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor on Thursday 23 February in the wake of Mark Smith’s departure from the post. Professor Lamberts will take up the position immediately, which has been vacant since Smith’s departure in December 2011. Lamberts has already represented the Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift at a number of national and international events, including conferences in Japan, Australia and Brazil. In addition, he was one of the key academic leaders of the University who played an active role in the creation of the recent partnership with Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, which has attracted some controversy. “I feel honoured that the University’s Council has chosen to appoint me as Warwick’s new Deputy ViceChancellor,” Lamberts said. “This is a critical, but also exciting, time to
Warwick Students’ Union (SU) has won £10,000 in an Ernst & Young’ competition. The campaign involved a prizetagging competition which enabled students to enter into a draw by ‘liking’ the Ernst & Young UK Careers page on Facebook. In order to encourage more students to get involved, the Union pledged to give £500 of the £10K to the club or society that had the most members enter the competition. Around 600 individuals tagged their clubs, with Netball ultimately winning the prize money just a few posts ahead of the Rowing club. Daniel Stevens, student brand manager (SBM) for Ernst & Young at Warwick, said, “I campaigned so hard for Warwick to win was because it would help the SU.” Stevens, who was responsible for launching and implementing the campaign on campus, added, “The SBM with the most entries gets a £250 bonus, but I vowed to, and still intend to, donate that money to charity. Warwick SU getting £10,000 to help students is a large enough bonus for me.” President of Netball and third-year Politics student Hannah James said, “We’re thrilled to have won the £500; the two days spent convincing all the girls to tag the club was definitely worth it”. SU Development Officer George Whitworth said, “We’ll be working with Ernst & Young to spend the money to best benefit Warwick students. I hope that it’ll have been put to good use by the summer.” Runners-up were Glasgow University and Imperial College London.
Lamberts has already represented the ViceChancellor at a number of national and international events take on such a role. “In 2015, Warwick will celebrate its 50th birthday and much is planned for our University in the run-up to those celebrations. For instance, we have begun a three year programme of work that will see around £10 million invested in our student learning experience.” Lamberts has been working for the University since 1998. He is a cognitive psychologist, with a background in experimental and theoretical research on human perception and memory. His research has won prizes from both the Experimental Psychology Society and British Psychological Society. He also has extensive managerial experience. He served as Head of the Department of Psychology between the years 2000 and 2008 and chair of the Science Faculty between 2007 and 2010. In 2010 he took up the position of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and has been the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Resourcing since November 2011. Beyond the University, Lamberts’ roles have also involved leading the establishment of Warwick’s Global Priorities Programme in order to promote emerging strategic research areas with a focus on multi and interdisciplinary research.
Is Lamberts the right man for the job? Discuss: theboar.org/news
Placement Learning Unit unveiled by Careers and Skills
» Staff at the Placement Learning Unit photo: University of Warwick Michael Allen A new service to help more students into work placements and internships has been opened in the University of Warwick’s Student Careers and Skills department. The Placement Learning Unit
(PLU) provides assistance in finding relevant work placements and will help students fund these placements through bursaries. The PLU aims to “capitalise on existing relationships with 1,000+ regional, national and international employers across all sectors,” said a University spokesperson. Kate Cox, Communications Man-
ager at Warwick Medical School, said: “Employers these days are placing greater value on those students who can demonstrate they’ve done some work experience above those who haven’t. While you have two candidates who might be very similar from an academic point of view, if one of them has work experience, that might actually give them the edge in terms of a job offer.” 70 per cent of applicants offered a job in the banking sector had prior work experience with the bank, according to Cox The service will aim to help students from all subject areas. “Someone who is doing a History of Art degree very often believes that only work experience in galleries and museums is going to be of benefit to them, when actually the skills a History of Art student uses, such as analysing data, comparative work and gathering research, can be used in business,” said Cox. Students undertaking unpaid work placements may be eligible for a bursary of up to £200 (£100 per
week). In order to receive the money, students must complete a reflection of their experiences, outlining what they learnt on the placement. This will be made available to fellow students.
70% of applicants offered a job in the banking sector had prior work experience with the bank Laura Mugford, a second-year German studies student, said: “I went to an alumni event and they emphasised the importance of work experience. Since then I have thought that I need to get more work experience – so this service would be ideal.” Students can either make appointments or simply drop in to the service, located in University House.
Students hit by Leamington crime wave Thieves make the most of open doors and windows in South Leamington break-ins
Warwick enters Fairtrade Frenzy
Leamington Police have reported a significant increase in crime levels in the south Leamington area in the past week. The rise has been particularly prominent in vehicle crime and domestic burglaries, and in several cases the victims have been Warwick students. Leamington Police stated that five vehicles and five houses have been broken into. The Boar spoke to one student house in south Leamington, which recently experienced a burglary at six am., whilst all but one of the residents were in the house. Second-year Mechanical Engineering student Sudeep Gurung commented on the effect of the burglary: “Leamington’s not as safe as I thought it was. It was one small mistake that led to an expensive loss for us.” Housemate and second-year Maths student Zoe Tavares disagreed: “I don’t think the case is that Leamington is unsafe per say. Crime is everywhere, it’s just easy to forget when you’re at university and you never think it will happen to you.” Tavares, who had her laptop and mobile stolen whilst asleep in the room at the time of the burglary, said that whilst it had not particularly scared her, “It’s made me more security conscious. Obviously the fact that I was in the room was a bit creepy, but it hasn’t really had much effect.”
Week 8 saw the arrival of the University of Warwick’s annual Fairtrade Festival, run as part of the nationwide “Fairtrade Fortnight”. The Festival aims to encourage students to consider the ethics of production and is run in conjunction with the Fairtrade Foundation. A stall on the Piazza provided information, leaflets and conversation about the importance of Fairtrade. Surveys were conducted to find out how aware students and staff are about Fairtrade. Wednesday saw the Festival relocate to the Duck for a quiz with Fairtrade prizes, followed by a discussion about the future of Fairtrade at the University and the possible establishment of a Fairtrade Society. On Thursday and Friday the Festival hosted a forum featuring a student panel and discussions about the role of Fairtrade in the wider world. “Fairtrade is an example of responsible capitalism in action” said Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation. “Choosing Fairtrade offers farmers and workers a chance to emerge from poverty, through fairer wages, safer conditions and the Fairtrade Premium.” In a week where Dalibor Rohac of the Legatum Institute made a number of claims on the BBC about why he thinks Fairtrade does not work, events such as the Warwick Fairtrade Festival are significant.
» Police report a rise in vehicle crime and burglaries in South Leamington photo: Flickr/ Kiwi-Lomo “There’s a student housing sign outside our door, and I think burglars know that students will both have more valuables (every student has their own laptop and mobile etc.) and are more vulnerable and easy to target.” Another housemate, second-year Maths student Callum Calvert, commented: “I never took burglaries seriously before but I sure will now. We students make very easy targets, so always lock your doors folks!”
Leamington Police stated that in many of the incidents reported there were no signs of forced entry, which
“We students make very easy targets, so always lock your doors folks!” Callum Clavert may suggest that the vehicles involved may not have been locked. Out of the five house burglaries
reported to them in the past week, Leamington Police believe that two were entered through open windows, and one through an open rear door. Students’ Union Welfare Officer Izzy John advised students to insure their possessions with a studentfriendly company, adding: “If students have any concerns or have been the victims of a crime they should get in touch with the police, their landlords or estate agents and their Safer Neighbourhoods Team.”
Vice-Chancellor’s office costs soar
VC’s office cost £72,946 more this compared to the previous year, according to a Freedom of Information request Chris Hackett
» Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift photo: University of Warwick
Warwick’s Vice Chancellor’s Office spent over £800,000 last year, a Freedom of Information request has revealed. The total expenditure of the office was £860,640 between 1 August 2010 and 31 July 2011, an increase of almost £73,000 from the previous year. The costs include salaries of six full-time staff, a proportion of the salaries of the four Pro-Vice-Chancellors, accommodation, travel, equipment purchase, maintenance and catering. Warwick’s Head of Communications Peter Dunn said the cost is justified and there are no plans for costcutting: “The office has invested to open new significant international opportunities for Warwick staff and students and will need to continue to sustain those new opportunities.” One of the biggest increases was in staff travel and accommodation expenses, increasing by £31,049. “A key part of the University Strategy is increasing internationalisation to help enhance Warwick as globally
connected University,” explained Dunn. “[This includes links between] Warwick and Monash and New York and therefore the run up to those developments obviously required more travel in the last 18 months.” Salaries totalled £702,603, which grew by £50,000 due to the increase in pro-Vice Chancellors.
£860,640 Cost of Warwick’s ViceChancellor’s Office between 1 August 2010 and 31 July 2011 “The increase is because we needed them to do more things such as Student Experience [and] the Institute of Advanced Study,” said Dunn, “and as the University has physically grown, things have had to be split, so instead of just having one for Research we now have a Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (Arts and Social Sciences) and one for Research (Science and Medicine).” “It seems to me that the real ques-
tion is whether this is a good use of the money,” said second-year Physics student Paul Horgan. “If it will be spent effectively and contribute to Warwick’s prowess and international standing, then I would say that it is. “Given that a cost of £70,000 divided among 12,000 undergraduates, not to mention postgraduates, is a very small percentage of our fees: it doesn’t seem an unreasonable price to pay.” A first-year International Business and French student, who wishes to remain anonymous said: “I think the additional money could prove worthwhile as international links currently bring in a lot of money to Warwick through international fees. In order to justify the increase in costs, the question I would ask is where exactly the University is looking to spend the additional money.” The costs incured for purchasing equipment also increased by 80 per cent due to the increased staffing levels. Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift took up his role in July 2006. The ViceChancellor is “the chief academic and administrative officer of the University,” according to the Office’s website.
So long, RON Olivia Morton Tom Newham Continued from front page democratic problem, whereby voters are asked to choose between just three serious presidential candidates this year, compared to nine last year.” “We are absolutely protesting against joke candidates as well as serious candidates,” The campaign added, though Bowater, whose policies included the abolition of free range eggs and a Gregg’s bakery on campus, had declared that if elected he would select RON as his Vice President - a post which does not currently exist. Marijn Nieuwenhuis, a postgraduate student who to voted for RON, told the Boar before the election that his decision was based upon “the issue of representation or the lack thereof ”, adding “I do not think (or cannot recall) that previous presidential elections have ever witnessed such a low number of candidates.”
The number of people who voted for R.O.N for their first preference for President Latoya Ferns, a third-year PPE student, added that she intends to vote RON as a way of “addressing the quality of the choice”. She noted that “there are more candidates to be had from within our community and indeed… a few who stepped down or were daunted by such a big decision at first will run again”. She also said that “it is possible to question the motives of candidates” who are currently running. Other students are firmly against voting RON, however. Second-year Biomedical Sciences student Katy Braddick observed that “RON will produce candidates who are worse if people couldn’t be bothered to run in the first place why will they be better than the candidates that could?” “It effectively amounts to negative campaigning and I can’t help suspecting that will reflect badly on Union democracy if it goes through. It might provoke a flurry of copycat RONs in the future,” commented Andrew Burchell, a second year History and French student. ‘Ron Pres’ was ebullient despite ultimate defeat. The campaign’s facebook page urged students to “remember through the overwhelming apathy and disdain, that we spoke out for a better choice, for more serious candidates, and for your representatives to care about student issues.” The final results saw Nick Swain,
“we spoke out for a better choice, for more serious candidates” ‘Ron Pres’ who took 34 percent of first preferences, win the election, with Binita Mehta and Aaron Bowater securing 18 percent of first round votes each. Aimen Burhan and Tanmoy Sen totalled 7 percent and 2 percent respectively.
India forum achieves recognition
VC and Head of Economics join with big name speakers to celebrate ‘Warwick-India relationship’
» 573 Warwick students and 60 members of university staff are Indian photo: Warwick India Forum Rozina Sabur Warwick University’s first ever India Forum took place on 3 and 4 March. The Saturday programme entailed talks from high profile figures followed by a student panel debate. Sunday involved a mock parliament session, allowing audience members to engage with issues discussed over the weekend. The inaugural event, ‘Unraveling India’, opened with a performance by members of the Indian Classical Dance Society. Chief Coordinator Sanjana Haribhakti gave a welcome speech and then went on to outline the aims of the event, “to address this inherent and increasing fascination with India” whilst giving an “honest and balanced account” of the country. She spoke of her hopes that the student panel debate would give stu-
dents a unique opportunity to engage with the forum and “harness an academic interest in India.” Haribhakti accredited Professor Abhinay Muthoo, Head of the Economics Department at the University, with making the forum become a real possibility. She ended by commenting: “If you leave ‘Unraveling India’ asking more questions than when you came, this, I believe, will be our biggest success.” Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift applauded the student organisers’ initiative in bringing about the event, but also identified the important support from the Department of Economics. He particularly commended Professor Muthoo’s “interest and dedication to the forum.” Thrift focused on ‘unraveling’ Warwick’s association with India, which he described as 35 years of “serious interaction.” Thrift highlighted the important Indian presence with-
in the University: 573 of Warwick’s students are Indian, with an eight per cent intake increase from India this academic year. Thrift also celebrated the fact that the University also holds 60 Indian members of staff. Thrift commented that, based on these figures, what he dubbed the “Warwick-India relationship” was a deeply important one. Thrift recognised the forum’s importance in line with India’s emerging position as “one of the world’s power houses.” An impressive array of Speakers followed. Rajiv Pratap Rudy, MP for India’s second largest political party Bharatiya Janata, discussed India’s economic position. He highlighted economists’ extremely positive forecasts for India in the next few years. Within this context, Rudy discussed India’s political system as well as its flaws and inequalities. Harish Salve, former Solicitor General of India, presented on the
Supreme Court, and asked if judicial review justified policy making in India. He criticized politicians for hiding behind the Court to avoid making decisions or responsibility.Other speakers included Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Professor Amit Chaudhuri and Professor Sumantra Bose. One attendee, second-year Management student Himanshu Gupta commented on the event: “The speakers are very nice, but I wanted the speakers to discuss the economy more.” Given the calibre of speakers at the event, it is likely that audience turnout was lower than expected. However, Haribhakti highlighted the event’s infancy and anticipated the forum becoming a annual event: “For the first time, it’s a good response. I’m sure next year will be sold out! It’s definitely succeeded the expectations of the execs; I’m very proud of everyone involved.”
Clear rise in counselling use on campus Natasha Clark From 2005 to the present, the University has seen a huge increase in the number of students using its counselling support service. From the 2005/06 academic year to the end of the 2010/11 academic year, the number of students using the face-to-face counselling service increased from 518 to 771. This figure does not include the number of people using the email service, or who take part in group counselling sessions. The University’s Press Officer Peter Dunn suggests that the figures are due to an increase in the number of students attending Warwick, which rise year on year. Other possible explanations for this are the increase in press attention and publicity that mental health is receiving from celebrity figures such as Steven Fry endorsing Nightline services, and J.K Rowling speaking out about her experiences with
depression. Izzy John, the Welfare Officer for Warwick SU noted the improved advertising and promotion of the services around campus, and that more students are now aware that the service exists. However, with the increase in fees to £9000 next year, some have cited that financial pressures may result in increased numbers of students suffering from poor mental health. Students who have used the counselling service have mixed responses about it, although most highly commend the service. A postgraduate student commented: “I found that they responded very quickly to my urgent needs and helped me through a very difficult time.” One PPE student said that they felt that there were some key issues with the email service. “The main problem is that they only respond on Mondays. So I fired off an email to them – but despite being so stressed out I could hardly leave the house, I had to wait a week before I got anything at all back.”
However, they did feel that the service was reliable and did make an effort to try and help students. “They always say when they will reply and whether there are weeks when they’re not going to. They also use a lot of different techniques to try and help you.”
771 The number of students using face-to-face university counselling services in 2010/11 Another student, has mixed experiences with the service. “Gaining access to a counsellor took far too long – several weeks. When I did eventually get an appointment, the counsellor was friendly and open but I didn’t feel they provided me with many solutions and ended my sessions without any sort of resolution.” The University currently has two
mental health coordinators who work with students to give advice, support and information to students struggling with mental health issues. During Mental Health Awareness Week, the University, along with Warwick Students’ Union, signed the ‘Time to Change’ pledge, which is a public display of commitment to combating mental health discrimination in the workplace. John added that she hopes it will have a knock on effect for students: “If staff can get educated on it, then students can get better support at the same time. We have to talk about it at all levels. There’s no reason why we can’t have a multi-lateral approach.” Other services that are available for students who may be struggling include Nightline, a peer to peer support and listening service. open from 9pm until 9am which provides phone, email and drop-in listening, as well as giving out information and condoms. More information about the counselling service, Nightline and other SU and University support services can be found online.
Baron Cohen: the great dick-tator
Twitter is a-buzz about Sacha Baron Cohen’s new look; but was this one publicity stunt too far? Melissa Morgan
he Oscars. Even if you are someone with little interest in popular culture, the name must ring a bell. It is one of the most talked about nights in the film industry and one which requires twelve months of preparation, countless hours of work and more stars than Oprah’s phone book. This year, the night was dominated by the incredible silent film The Artist, the beloved Meryl Streep, and countless other hard-working individuals... However, things didn’t quite pan out the way the way they should have done. That’s who the worldwide audience should have been watching; the true stars. Instead, their eyes turned to a rather tall peculiar looking man with a big beard and a bright white suit, who was being flanked by two glamour models and clasping his version of a clutch – an urn containing the ashes of Kim Jong-il. Classy. Despite being warned by the Academy Award committee that he was not allowed to promote his film on the red carpet or appear controversially dressed, Cohen shamelessly flaunted his new character ‘The Dictator’ in front of countless cameras and journalists. And clearly the Academy Award committee carried out the appropriate punishment – they let him walk along the red carpet regardless. Yet Cohen felt that defying the committee was just not funny enough; he then proceeded to ‘accidentally’ pour the ‘ashes’ of Kim
Jong-il all over much loved TV presenter Ryan Seacrest. One Burberry tuxedo ruined, and a whole lot of press coverage for Cohen. What joy. When did tastelessness become the new ‘funny’? When did stupidity and bigotry become the new ‘in’ thing? And when did ruining someone else’s night become a celebrated act? I must have missed that along with the one dated from six years ago declaring Sacha Baron Cohen the funniest guy in film. Whilst Cohen was swiftly ushered inside, Ryan Seacrest went in search
Photo: Flickr/Beacon R adio
for a new suit and tried to quickly swap his shocked expression for a sheepish grin. In my opinion, he was a very good sport. His co-hosts joked that at least now he would be the most popular ‘trend’ in the world of Twitter – they were mistaken, Sacha Baron Cohen and ‘The Dictator’ were being tweeted about far more. A further worry immediately presented itself; the Americans began labelling this act as ‘British humour’ since their audiences tended to find it shocking whilst a few British journalists classed it as ‘hilarious’. Great.
Thanks for that Cohen. If you represent what the world thinks of as ‘British’ humour I dread to think about what British music or role models are defined as – whoever won The X Factor this year round and Ashley Cole? Our international reputation for comedy is already in tatters; British comedians who make a name for themselves in the US tend to screw it up. Take Russell Brand, for example: breaking Katy Perry’s heart is hardly the best way to win a legion of admirers. If this is the kind of comedy a Cambridge-educated comedian like Cohen is promoting abroad, we need to Fedex Michael McIntyre or Jack Whitehall over there immediately. I can take a joke as well as the next person, but I feel this was a step too far. Making a mockery of the Oscars is as amusing as making a mockery of the annual Bravery awards. The Oscars aren’t some trivial television trophies handed out to the cast of TOWIE or Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. By trying to steal the show away from those who had truly worked for their awards, Cohen demonstrated that he felt he was above all other stars. Maybe he was having a sulk that his film Hugo did not revolve around him, or would it be furnishing his mantlepiece with any individual awards? Perhaps he acted out of sheer boredom, since even the Oscar Red Carpet is below him and his reputation? I’m not too sure, but what I do know is that now, any Oscar headline is dominated to show his grinning bearded face or Seacrest’s stunned one. Mission accomplished for Sacha Baron Cohen.
Fear not: there is life after Warwick
One Warwick graduate gives us his unique perspective on life, work and plastic storage boxes Vincent Evans “If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. White
pon leaving Warwick I was a 22 year old with four years of studying physics behind me. I had enjoyed two joyous years of debauchery with Warwick Surf, was a veteran employee and patron of Kelsey’s in Leamington, and my welldeveloped skill for oversleeping had never been better. Almost two years later, I work for an information exploitation consultancy in London. I have invested in a better alarm clock which sometimes manages to wake me up on time. I have spent 18 months working as a ‘young professional’ getting to know London (it’s a bit bigger than Wigan), and have saved a total of £0. The driven, high-achieving world that I had imagined I would inhabit post-graduation has a much lower population than I originally thought.
In my experience, most graduates are riddled with uncertainty; even those who really enjoy what they do. I now see to be true what I always quietly suspected – any thinking person always has at least a faint background hum of doubt in their mind. I find this tremendously reassuring. The lucky few that have decided what they want to do will chase their dream, but the rest of us (normals) get our first job out of university in order to tread financial water. Does it pay for rent, bills, transport, food and going out? Cool, I’ll take it. The trap I fell into in final year was imagining that I was selling my soul into one profession for the remainder of my days. Usually around 3am in the grid, I would imagine listening to a 40-yearold me talk about what I did at work. This internal monologue bored me to death and I could talk myself in and out of a career path in an energy-drink fuelled haze in seconds, dismissing it as preposterous that I would even consider doing something as tedious as that. What am I THINKING? If only onlookers knew that the innocuous, tired-looking guy wearing headphones and staring gormlessly into the middle-distance was actually
engaged in very serious hypothetical discussions about his career path with his future self. My analytical physics-guy side and my laid back demeanour still meet in fierce battle when it comes to the tiresome question of ‘What should I do with my life?’ The brilliant quote from E.B. White above sums up the philosophical dilemma with clarity. There is no rule book and no right answer. There exists an entire con-
The trap I fell into in final year was imagining that I was selling my soul into one profession for the remainder of my days tinuum of possible world views upon which these two outlooks lie. And what’s more, a person may not exist at only one point on this continuum all the time. I rarely manage to remain at one point for more than a few hours before changing my mind. In the end I accepted the one job offer I had and moved to London. How’s it been? It’s been OK. Up and down. What are the chances that a person’s first job after university will be perfect? Unless you’ve got some
phenomenally impressive mathematics to show me, it’s fair to say that they are pretty slim. This is liberating to realise. For me, some things are great and others really aren’t yet, which is fine – what was I expecting?! I’d like to claim that I make life improvements Kaizen-style and that I make clever, well-executed changes as required, but that would be lying. What really happens is I go to work, spend too much on lunch, see friends, feel constant guilt because I never go to the gym, keep up with my interests, try to keep up with Warwick Surf, fit in the occasional visit to Kelsey’s and sometimes travel. I recently had my first piece of science journalism published which was nice, but on the flip side I ordered some plastic storage boxes the other day and they’re smaller than I was hoping. It’s swings and roundabouts. Things aren’t perfect, but on balance they’re pretty good for now. Freedom lies in knowing that I am able to make changes as and when I decide to. I’m realistic about the opportunities that are out there and have a better idea of things that I want to do. It’s a slow process deciding what to do next, but I’m looking forward to my future plans.* *Subject to change
Happy atheist Easter! Kirsty Judge
aster can be a miserable time for atheists. If you’re sticking to your principles this year and valiantly resisting the siren call of Cadbury ovoids stuffed with caramel treats, there is little that is fun about Christianity’s most chocolatey holiday. Fear not, comrades! Providing you’re willing to market your own festival, with the fuzzy exterior of the Easter bunny and the cold heart of a vicious profiteer, there’s no reason why you can’t have the whole country celebrating ‘RichardDawkinsIsABossmas’ within a century. As any aspiring cult knows, the psychology of the average human is such that, on discovering any quasireligious holiday that might bestow upon them time off work and/or an excuse to ritualistically gorge themselves, they will immediately desire to celebrate it, regardless of the religion, the meaning of the event, or their capacity to actually persuade anyone they’re really interested. This can be as simple as a saint who has no business with candlelit dinners becoming the patron of badly rhymed love notes, but probably doesn’t exclude “No really, I am thoroughly committed to celebrating the octuplet birth of the Goat Gods to Mother Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People! Now pass me the commemorative chocolate goat foetuses.” Such is human nature. It also helps if your new festival has no compunction with nicking the more delicious traditions of its predecessors. Have you ever wondered what the all-singing, all-dancing, all cheek-turning body of Christ has to do with chocolate eggs? Or rabbits, for that matter? Either we must assume that the Bible is wrong on some details and Our Saviour was actually crucified by bunnies on a massive egg, or we must admit that there’s something fishy here. Or eggy. When planning your own festival, it’s worth remembering that in a line up of possible mascots, most people will opt for the adorable fluffy thing with ears over the torture victim hanging from a post, mostly because sending pictures of dead people to your friends and family is a surefire way to get yourself taken off the Christmas invite list. The success of a holiday is all about products, not substance. When I realised that Easter Lindt bunnies are the only thing that make excruciating family reunions bearable, I realised that if I believed in anything, it wasn’t God, His zombie son or even egg-laying rabbits. I, like most of humanity, believe in my incontrovertible right to masses and masses of food. So there we have it: the Easter effect. Take one relatively enjoyable ritual, copy and paste it over a pagan festival we all celebrate anyway (midsummer is still free, if you’re interested), add generous layers of commercial profit potential, smother the entire affair in chocolate and you’re all set. Merry RichardDawkinsIsABossmass.
T ê t e - à - t ê t e The issue
Ethics at the Union
SU democracy: the only way is ethics?
Richard Hopps and Akash Mukerji from Warwick Debating Society discuss the real role of the Union Considering the low attendance at General Meetings, should the Students’ Union be able to make ethical decisions?
Warwick Students’ Union General Meetings can be called in response to a petition by students, by the Union President, or can be recommended by Union Council. For a General Meeting to take place, quorum (a presence of over 1% of the student body) must be met. Any issue can be brought up for debate by students, are proposed in advance and are then discussed and voted on by those present. The Union has faced criticism lately as a result of low voter turnout and the failure to meet quorum at the 30 January meeting. In the event of a failure to meet quorum, the meeting is cancelled and then rescheduled. Anyone who attends the rescheduled meeting becomes the quorum figure. Another contentious factor comes in when the Union is prompted by members of the student body to make ethical decisions, as was the case with the infamous Ban Bacardi motion, reaffirmed by a vote of 70 to 45 at the last General Meeting. Whilst some contend that the General Meetings should restrict their debates to issues directly affecting the student body, others would say that what matters to students should matter to the Union, regardless of whether it is a moral question or not.
Letters & Comments Dear Madam, Tom Newham (Your Union needs you – and you need your Union, Volume 34, Issue 9) seems to be living in some kind of fantasy world, one where we are all still freshers and so the year counts for very little, and we all live on campus and can amble down to General Meetings with virtually no effort. If a student lives in Leamington, they are at least a twenty five minute trip away. That’s nearly thirty minutes there and thirty minutes back to sit in a lecture hall for two hours listening to people discuss issues on which you may already know how you’re going to vote. The time doesn’t help either. They are generally at around 7, and I understand that this is so that most
Richard: I went along to a Students’ Union General Meeting the other day; I’m really pleased that our union is politically active enough to take a stance on so many important issues. Akash: Actually Richard, I disagree. I think it’s ridiculous that the Union feels empowered to take stances on political issues that have a variety of viewpoints and dimensions, particularly when those aspects of the issues aren’t voted on or properly discussed by the members. R: But anybody can come to the General Meetings to vote on the issues discussed. Surely the system is open and democratic enough to make sure that the resolutions passed represent the views of the student population? A: The problem isn’t that people can turn up to vote on contentious issues like Bacardi or Eden Springs, but that the Students’ Union doesn’t have the right to take a moral position on things like sponsorship or ethical companies. To begin with, these issues are composed of a great number of complex ideas and values that vary widely from student to student and, furthermore, relate to very
people are free. But a student finishing between 4 and 6 who has probably had a long day isn’t going to want to hang around for a couple more hours on campus. Nor are they going to want to dash home to wolf something down and dash back. They are going to want to head back, eat, and then either unwind or work, depending on what their deadlines or priorities are. So, in summary, Newham chastises people for not taking an hour or more’s round trip to vote on things they probably won’t feel the effects of (support fairtrade products, boycott Eden Springs, fighting to allow postering -- the Bacardi was an exception), are incredibly vague (‘Campaign for an affordable Warwick experience’) or obfuscatory in their wording (‘Lobby the University to affiliate to the Worker Rights Consortium’). Perhaps the biggest hang-up that
individual beliefs. It isn’t the Union’s place to supersede the student body and publish its own take. R: Surely the Union’s role is to make sure that its students are happy at the university. For example, if people don’t feel able to purchase rum from SU outlets on campus, surely they have a right to take those feelings to a democratic body, and have the student population vote on whether their concerns are justified? At the end of the day, the Students’ Union is a collection of individuals, and individuals are entitled to moral views, so why shouldn’t their union? A: Individual views on these issues manifest in a particular way, i.e. refusing to purchase a certain brand of rum. At the point at which the Union decides that a small body of the student population’s views should come to dominate the entire campus, it undermines the values and views of every student who has no problem with Bacardi. It’s fundamentally the tyranny of the majority, except that in this case, it’s almost certainly tyranny of a politically active minority. R: Even if it is a small number of people, they’re people who care about the issues. When it comes to aggregating interests, ignoring those who don’t care whether they drink ‘moral rum’ or ‘morally dubious rum’ seems quite sensible to me.
Moreover, they get these issues right. The companies that we aim to shut out of campus do unethical things which no sensibly minded person should condone. If your problem is simply the lack of attendance at AGMs, that’s a problem that can be solved by things like online voting, and all the things we’re about to see in the DDO manifestos. A: The problem isn’t a lack of voting, it’s the expectation that the Union should be an activist body putting forth political views that will impact everyone on campus. Unless, that is, every student has to take time out to oppose the Union. I firmly believe that a small Union is a good Union and it should seek to serve the interests of all students, sticking to issues that everyone cares about. As soon as the Union bans Bacardi, it sends a message to everyone that the whole of the University of Warwick has taken a stance on the issue, which simply isn’t the case. R: Those interested in our Union being a safe space for students have a far more powerful voice when they are able to speak not only for themselves, but the whole of the Warwick student body. Which is basically who they are speaking for, even if they’re the only ones who take an interest in their Union. See the SU support of the Alternative White Paper: these
some, more cynical, students (myself included) have is that in the 6th of February meeting, for example, four of the six motions were to do with the university. Over which the Union has no official power. But my problem is not with Newham chastising people for not getting involved. It is with him chastising people for not getting involved in this laborious, time consuming way when there would be a much easier and more inclusive method if the Union would just set it up. I am certain there has been an article in the Boar before to this end, but why not move the voting process online? It has already been implemented with Sabbatical elections, so why can’t it be done for General Meetings? Then there truly would be no excuse.
Dear The Boar,
Yours faithfully, Jacob Andrews
I am writing to express my concern about the number of articles written by women that appear in the Boar. Though I can accept female contributions are valid, the natural emotional state/capacity of women in general causes a shift away from the naturally analytical mental process exhibited by the male; instead, the focus becomes overly-emotional and dependant upon the hormonal state of the writer. Whilst women should not be dissuaded from writing in general (I abhor sexism in all its forms) they should perhaps be confined to topics that lend themselves to such an emotive, and emotional, response. Political comment and sport are naturally off-limits for the female author, but recipe books, charity appeals (for pandas and the like) and advice columns are clearly a natural
things are necessary to protect the interests of our students. And if the rest of the student body doesn’t want this protection, they do still have the chance to oppose it by voting on the issue! A: But we need to clarify the role of the Union – it isn’t (or shouldn’t be) to go out on a limb for the views of a small minority of students. Its role is to provide services and facilities that the entire body require. The fact that people are too busy or not motivated enough to attend General Meetings doesn’t mean that the Union has a mandate to take their absence as consent for any radical policies it wants to put forward. Fundamentally, a university is composed of a number of individuals who require assistance from the Union – this doesn’t entail wide-sweeping, normative moral judgements. R: I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. But given Warwick SU policy isn’t going to disappear overnight, people should stop grumbling and come and vote.
abode for the fairer sex – I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t enjoy dispensing some kind of advice, regardless of whether it is required, or even relevant. It is said the pen is mightier than the sword; perhaps within the male context, this could well be true. For women, wielding a sword that typically weighs around twelve kilos is an unattainable dream – instead, it could be more beneficial to wield an iron, or indeed a cooking utensil. Yours sincerely, Anon.
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The Amazing Chang: Leamington’s infamous magician
Michael Allen meets the woman who unearthed the secret past of Leamington’s mysterious magic circle
t may seem a cliché to say that history is everywhere waiting to be discovered; but one lady from Leamington Spa, retired professional vocalist/musician Sandra Evans, experienced this phenomenon first-hand when she discovered that a famous magician had previously owned her property, a former coach house in St. Mary’s Road, Leamington Spa for a period of seventy years. By June 2002, she had already resided there for some twenty years prior to unearthing its magical secret. During my tour of her house she commented, “The kitchen as it stands today was his workshop where he invented his illusions. Our lounge once had an array of multi-coloured caged birds that he specially trained to visually enhance his magical stage performance and bring mystical wonder to a worldwide audience. He also stored all his gorgeous stage Chinese silk costumes, his most secret illusionary inventions and an enormous Chinese dragon in what are now our bedrooms.” The man in question is Samuel WhittingtonWickes, born on December 26, 1893 on Leamington’s Avenue Road. He is better known by his stage-name, “The Amazing Chang”. It was only upon the completion of her mortgage that Sandra found out about her home’s former resident, as it was then that she read the Victorian deeds to her property. She decided to research the names of the former residents in the local archives and made the incredible discovery. She began more research into Chang, and after four years of tenacious work self-published a biography of the man on 6th October 2006, to commemorate the 36th anniversary of his death. “I took a real chance,” says Sandra. “I was a novice author and given that my forty-year career had been in the music industry, I knew nothing about magic. Nonetheless I was determined to uncover every aspect of this fascinating story and provide the finance myself. Realistically I could have put myself in serious hock if the publication had gone belly-up, but thankfully much to my delight, the book sold worldwide.” Turning his back on the family timber business, Chang’s magic career began at the age of 12, when he ran away to London to follow his dream. “He auditioned in theatres in a slot known as the ‘Wines and Spirits’,” says Sandra. “The well-known acts always received the prime time slots, but everybody retired to the bar during the interval, the unknown artists were given their moment of glory, hence the reference ‘Wines and Spirits’. “He spent quite a few days trudging around all the primary Moss & Stoll Empire theatres in the capital to no avail. Inconsolably despondent he decided to utilise his train fare home on a good lunch and then give it one last try. His sheer determination finally paid off when his act was accepted and contracted by the Empire Theatre on Edgware Road.” Chang’s career was abruptly halted by the onset of World War I. He volunteered to join the Warwickshire Regiment during which time he was on the terrifying receiving end of numerous mustard gas attacks by opposing forces in the trenches of Northern France. Severe damage to his lungs ensued, causing him inability to speak without frequent
» Chang, as painted by Anne Wild photo: Flickr/ Anne Wild coughing fits. Bravely he turned his disability to his advantage and adopted the persona under which he achieved his greatest fame – “The Amazing Chang”. An opportunity conveniently arose for Chang to impersonate a Chinaman, thus he could perform his entire act in mysterious silence. “Chinese magic was very popular,” says Roy Davenport, fourth-generation grandson of world-renowned Lewis Davenport and professional magician from the famed Davenport
dressing up in Chinese costume. The act would go down well because it was something different.” During his years of fame, Chang travelled the world with his act. Perhaps his most beloved appearance, however, was a show in which he performed the ‘Bullet Catch’ in the role of ‘Chang’, the main character of the legendary romantic story of the ‘Willow Pattern Plate’. It was showcased in Jephson Gardens Pavilion in his native Leamington Spa on numerous occasions between 1934- 1945, where he is reputed Chang’s career was abruptly halted by to have attracted a crowd of several thousand. the onset of World War 1... during which On 17 October 2009, an exhibition on he was on the terrifying receiving end of Chang opened at the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. Vicki Slade, Senior Curatorial numerous mustard gas attacks Officer, said: “It all started back in 2007 when Sandra Evans, who wrote Chang’s biography, contacted me along with professional muralist family that runs Davenports Magic Shop in Lynsey Cleaver and local magic historian and London and Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop in retired magician David Budd MIMC (MemGlasgow. “The only experience people had of ber of the Inner Magic Circle) to ask if we’d be China was in theatres. So with a lack of genu- interested in putting on an exhibition about ine Chinese magicians, you had Europeans The Amazing Chang.
I’d never heard of him before, but I met with them and they told me all about him. He seemed like a really interesting character to have come from Leamington, so we decided to go ahead with the exhibition.” Then began the difficult task of acquiring exhibits for the exhibition. Chang memorabilia was spread throughout the world amongst various collectors. After putting out press releases to the local media and the Internet, Sandra was contacted by Roy Davenport MIMC, current owner of a vast collection of Chang memorabilia. “We went to Norwich where he lives,” said Vicki, “and in his barn he proudly showed us all his Chang collection. It was really exciting for us. There were loads of things there. There was an enormous butterfly made of silk, there were his Punch and Judy puppets, there was his ‘Willow-Pattern Plate’ illusion which he was famous for, costumes that he wore – it was a real treasure trove.” The exhibition was successful, attracted over 20,000 visitors and won 2010 Renaissance West Midlands Best Exhibition on a Small Budget award. “It was not only appreciated by the visitors but by our peers and others in the museum world as well,” said Vicki. When asked how significant she thought Chang’s contribution to the history of Leamington was, she replied: “Chang was obviously an important personality in the history of the town. The town was and always has been a leisure and tourist attraction, because of the spa and its origins – its growth in the 19th century. Chang, I feel, really continues this tradition of Leamington being a place for pleasure and amusement...It inspires you when you see the type of people who have come from your home town and what they’ve achieved.” The story of Chang is on going, as more and more information about his fascinating life comes to light. “It’s a labour of love,” says Sandra. “Ten years hence, I’ll possibly never retrieve the time or money I spent on it, but it was hugely exciting, rather like writing a book but being in it as well, because every day there was and still is something new unfolding.” Sandra is keen to stress how we can learn from the experience of people like Chang, in comparison to our current transient celebrity culture. “In those days the shallowness of X-factor, Hello magazine or Big Brother featuring here today, gone tomorrow pretentious ‘wannabies’ was non- existent. These were show people that had to prove to the public they were the best. Their career was a serious responsibility; they had a family to support and if their act didn’t meet audience expectation, then best do something about it quick or their wages would not be forthcoming. Their rules were, ‘Failure to prepare is preparation to fail’” She encourages anyone with an interest in local history, theatre, performing arts or his or her community: “Do your own research, be prepared for pitfalls, never give up, don’t publish anything you cannot prove and just follow your dream with a passion, Visit the reference library and ask all the questions – that’s what I did.” ‘The Biography of the Amazing Chang’ by Sandra Evans is out now, priced £12.99.
Protection perfection: different lovers, different rubbers
Roxanne Douglas meets with Joe Nelson, founder of TheyFit, a new company which specialises in producing genuinely bespoke, custom fit condoms
» Condoms of all shapes and sizes are a slippery topic for men photo: Flickr/violet.blue
mong students, condoms are a cause of major agro. Condoms, Johnnies, Raincoats, French-Letters, Sheaths: boys, whatever you want to call them, 45 per cent of you complained that standard one-size-fits-all condoms didn’t fit correctly, according to TheyFit’s statistics. Joe Nelson, founder of TheyFit and self-proclaimed ‘Condom Revolutionary’, suggests that “that number actually underestimates the extent of the problem, because most men don’t realise ‘it doesn’t fit’ is even a valid complaint to have.” Thankfully TheyFit are here to help, and are particularly interested in the student market. The ‘Condom Revolutionary’ states: “In fact, along with the gay community the student community is one of the highest risk areas for STD transmission and unwanted pregnancy. Fortunately condom use can prevent all of those issues.” According to sciencedaily.com, “Health professionals are regularly confronted by men’s complaints that condoms do not fit, or that they are uncomfortable… an Indiana University study found that study participants who reported problems with the fit and feel of condoms were also among those who reported the highest rates of condoms breaking and slipping.” So properly fitting condoms are paramount to good sexual health, and of course enjoyment: if the condom doesn’t fit, nobody is going to enjoy themselves. The idea is that you can measure yourself using the attached FitKit, which uses random size codes rather than explicit labels like small, medium and large. The ‘Condom Crusader’ says: “We find this layer of obfuscation makes men very comfortable ordering from us because it makes it less obvious if, for example, S17 is bigger or smaller than B11. Further, because the whole process takes place online, men are remarkably honest with us – most people’s experience of buying condoms face-to-face in a pharmacist or supermarket ranges from the embarrassing to the traumatic, so this is another reason men are so comfortable ordering
from us.” All orders arrive in plain packaging with no TheyFit logos or indications that condoms are the contents, and the credit card statement does not say TheyFit condoms either. The size codes on each packet are removable stickers which can be disposed of – other than that, all boxes/foils look identical so the only person who knows what size they are is the man himself. “A lot of thought has gone into the privacy/anonymity aspect!” the ‘Rubber Revolutionary’ adds. The price isn’t bad either; a pack of 6 “per-
“I had problems with standard condoms before, but I’m not saying if they were too big or too small... I can say that I’m very happy now though!” fectly fitting condoms” is £6.99, which if you buy an equivalent pack from, say, Durex, is about the same price. Apparently, once you try TheyFit you won’t want to use anything else: “Repeat business is very frequent… Many customers talk of using a comfortably fitting condom for the first time as ‘a revelation’ or ‘life changing’. Our pricing structure encourages men to try out their particular size code with a single pack, refine their fit based on personal preference, then order multipacks to achieve some real price savings. The typical customer does just this, and with expiry dates of 2016, many men are stocking up on the 60 condom deal which makes the cost per condom just 67p. Most men get the perfect fit first time; for the rest all that is needed is a little adjustment (which only TheyFit’s concept can offer) and we are here to offer expert fitting advice.” All TheyFit condoms carry the CE mark, and are made in one of the world’s largest and most advanced manufacturing facilities. The condoms have been safety-tested using methods agreed to by the world’s experts, since condom are regulated medical devices and must conform to international standards.
Standards specify what a company must do to test each condom to ensure that it works properly, and must also be approved by medical regulatory bodies such as a Notified Body in the EU or the FDA in the US. TheyFit has enjoyed increasing popularity and media attention since its launch in December, after a development period spanning nearly 15 years. The company is run by three people: Joe Nelson, his girlfriend Joanne, and Joe’s brother, Samuel. The founder, Joe, is as discreet as his company: “We don’t reveal explicit sales numbers,” the ‘Condom Crusader’ says, “but I can reveal that we sold every width and every length condom in the range of 95 sizes in the first 72 hours – the distribution of penis sizes is like most things in nature (height, weight, shoe size) and follows a normal distribution/bellcurve,” so sorry, boys, no revealing an ‘average’ at TheyFit. Which is sort of the point. But where on earth did this idea come from? The ‘French-Letter Fitter’ reveals the thinking behind it: “We all have different sized feet, so we all wear different sized shoes. We do this to maximise comfort and the pleasure we get wearing them. TheyFit is exactly the same concept, just applied to a different part of the body (and arguably one where comfort is even more important!)” But what is even more puzzling than the project itself is the fact that the ‘Prophylactic Pioneer’ used to be a banker: “I had worked solidly at the bank since graduating (in fact, I missed my graduation ceremony as a result) and TheyFit had been a personal side project since 2006. When it came time to launch we all knew the best chance for success would be if I dedicated myself to it 100 per cent.” How did friends and family react to the drastic sideways move? “Extremely positively” is all the ‘Rubber Renovator’ would reveal. Although the TheyFit revolution is aiming to reduce Sexually Transmitted Infections and unwanted pregnancies, it is also important to note that correct usage is a huge factor as well as fit. According to BBC News Online, Natika Halil from sexual health charity FPA said that both
men and women needed to take time to learn the skills needed to put a condom on properly. Confidence and the skill of putting on a condom also contributes to how well they are used. However, Halil adds: “Men come in all shapes and sizes and so do condoms. When we talk with men on the FPA helpline about condoms tearing, slipping off or being a nuisance to use, one of the main culprits is often something as simple as not using the right size.” So these double-patent protected sheaths may be as innovative as the ‘Raincoat Refiner’ thinks they are. As for the TheyFit founder and ‘Condom Revolutionary’, Joe Nelson? All he’s saying is: “I had problems with standard condoms before, but I’m not saying if they were too big or too small. I can say that I’m very happy now though!”
Win a term’s supply of condoms! The Boar and TheyFit are teaming up to provide a term’s supply of fitted condoms to five readers. All you have to do is email us explaining why you deserve them. Send your answers, amusing or otherwise, to features@theboar. org in time for the deadline – Friday 18th March (Week 10). If you’re too shy to send us an email, you can always order online with our special 20 percent discount – just enter the code BOAR and get yourself protected. It’s as simple as that!
Da Vinci fever: could it be fatal? Rachel E. Guthrie, the Deputy Arts Editor, visited the ten Leonardo drawings on show at the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and to hear expert Martin Kemp speak of his perception of them
What’s On Yayoi Kusama, Tate Modern, on until 5 June, £8.50 concession. 2012 has already become the year of the dot. First Damien Hirst, next this enigmatic Japanese lass. Her art has been all things to all men over the nine decades of her life, and is (probably most interestingly) scarred by her voluntary residency at a psychiatric institution since 1977. Don’t miss the artist’s largest mirror installation to date. Henry Moore in the Arts Council Collection, Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington, on until 15 April, free. One of Britain’s most famous sculptors, fetching millions at sale – Henry Moore, with the help of the Arts Council, comes to your local Pump Rooms. His distinctive approach to figuration I’m sure will not go unnoticed in this exhibition, which scans five decades of his works (on paper, and in the round). David Shrigley: Brain Activity, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, until 13 May, £7 concession.
» Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying machine photo: flickr
may have been misled when I suggested in a previous ‘What’s On’ that the ten drawings of Leonardo’s at Birmingham City Art Gallery and Museum would be a queuefree viewing. As I navigated my way through the galleries to a centrally-located room, I spotted a 2-hour mark sign and then a 1-hour mark sign… Not this again, I thought. Could this exhibition really have caused as much of a frenzy as the infamous National Gallery one which closed at the start of the month? It is certainly not of the same calibre as the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter in the Court of Milan’, but with free admission, it is accessible for those who missed out or still haven’t had enough of Leonardo. In some semblance to the National Gallery show, it has brought out of the woodwork some pieces otherwise concealed in treacherous places (at Birmingham, it is pieces from the Queen’s Collection, and in the National Gallery case, we had a war with France to retrieve ‘Madonna of the Rocks’ from the Louvre’s clutches). Or, could it just be that Birmingham’s desire to be London led those in charge to arrogantly overestimate their popularity? Regardless, on a Sunday afternoon, we had to wait only 15 minutes (thankfully) to see an assortment of Da Vinci drawings: from niggling sketches of apocalyptic scenes, to a refined preparatory drawing for an equestrian monument, to quintessentially Da Vinci anatomical drawings of arm muscles. His drawings are wonderful – so considered, and comprehensive in any and all mediums
– I have always insisted on this. However, what was interesting about the emphasis Dr Martin Kemp brought out of the drawings in his lecture (held at the Water Hall on Sunday 26th February), was not the draftsmanship of his technique, but the knowledge of nature at work that it embodies. Da Vinci regularly compared the human body – the anatomical drawings of the arm being a perfect example – to observations from nature (in this case to the muscles necessary for
The natural world is Da Vinci’s main concern... they are clues to the obsession he held in making every recordable object or phenomenon known to him a bird to fly) and from these drawings he could then design new painterly compositions or new inventions, more often flying machines and the like. He could not help but compare, with a knowledge of life that went beyond the surfaces, thus compelling him to compare all number of things together with a deep sense of logic about what man-made products should work. Kemp, therefore, introduced the idea of ‘the body of the earth’ – saying that all pipes within that transfer liquid are like waterways, the bronchitis are like trees made of vessels, the curls that a woman’s hair naturally spiral into are like cas-
cading water. For example, the drawing ‘Head of Leda’, c. 1505-6, reveals little interest in the goddess’ face but reveals a great concern for her hair. Landscapes take prominence more so than in many Southern artists before, for as Leonardo’s notes illuminate, the natural world is the source of all design. Not many move past the Mona Lisa’s quizzical expression to take note of the landscape over the lady’s shoulder. Martin Kemp called the audience to consider primarily the rocks and vibrant and mysterious receding context in which the Madonna and Child in the ‘Madonna of the Rocks’ sits. The natural world is Da Vinci’s main concern and this should be evident when admiring his drawings. They are clues to the obsession he held in making every recordable object or phenomenon known to him. As a direct result of this, it is not in the ‘final’ paintings that his talent, diligence and intelligence are most tangible. A couple of the drawings in the exhibition are truly fantastic, and if the queue is generally a measly 15 minutes, it really is well worth a visit. I would have only asked of the curators and experts drafted in (so that we may delight more in drawings) that we could know more about what he annotated his drawings with, because these provide deep knowledge into what lies beneath one form and another, and between a philosophy wider than the snapshot of life he so neatly represents.
Supposedly Shrigley’s exhibit is a right laugh. He beckons back the dead-pan humour of 1960s British pop art, opting similarly for low-brow mediums and has been described as at the ‘cross-roads between absurdity and philosophy’. So if you can’t decide between many cultural activities, pick one to cover them all. Picasso and Modern British Art, Tate Modern, on until 15 July, just £12.20 concession. Everyone’s seen a Picasso show, but have you seen one where it suddenly becomes about us, our lovely nation? I haven’t. The Tate will aim to plot in this exhibition, the legacy of the artist in Bacon, Sutherland, Hockney, Nicholson, Wyndham Lewis and Henry Moore; bringing together 60 works by Picasso and 90 works by British artists since. It’s (quite importantly) a chance to see his ‘Weeping Woman’ and ‘Three Dancers’. The Electric Cinema, Birmingham, £12.80 per ticket, any film. The Electric Cinema is the oldest working cinema. Go and see one of our recommended films: The Artist, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, or War Horse in the first weeks of March. Compiled by Rachel E. Guthrie
The pervading power of Potter E
As J.K. Rowling announces she is writing a novel for adults, Poorna Mishra reflects on the books that made her a household name
very child in our world will know his name. We can only speculate as to whether J.K. Rowling could feel the impending extent of the literal truth that this sentence would soon come to bear when writing the opening chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, a book that for many adults and children alike became the gateway into a fantastical world of magic, myth and madness. Even for those that wouldn’t describe themselves as die-hard fans, the story of the skinny, bespectacled boy wizard will undoubtedly, by now, have secured some form of significance in their lives. I’m sure you will not dispute the fact that at least once during your childhood, you dressed up as Harry (or another character from the series), considered how extremely cool it would be to be able to zoom around on a broomstick (perhaps even secretly tried), longed to attend a school where there were ghosts and poltergeists and portraits that moved or even just anticipated a trip to the cinema with friends to see the latest instalment of the young wizard’s story. Now, more than ever, at a time where the large part of our future is perhaps only a little more than a blur of uncertainty, Harry Potter will remain in the hearts and minds of many, reminding us all of the importance of strength in whatever it is we may strive for. Despite the eventual success of the phenomenon, Rowling, like Harry, comes from fairly unassuming beginnings. While she was surviving on social security benefits, scribbling ideas in local cafés whenever time and the demands of being a single parent would permit, he was raised in a family that neglected and overlooked him. In this sense, the story of Harry Potter mirrors the story of its birth beautifully, both tales accounting the desire to find identity, the fear of not being accepted, and most of all, the struggle to succeed; a struggle which, through stories of love, friendship, courage and redemption, is magnificently depicted. Originally rejected by twelve British publishing houses, it was Bloomsbury that at last made the captivating world that until then only ex-
isted within the author’s head a reality. It is strange to think that the series was initially marketed towards a target audience of young boys, when it has now reached possibly the widest range of readers in literary history. It has crept into adult imagination to fill a void largely ignored in the world of ‘grown-up’ fiction, which is evident from the writing and the themes, both of which deepen and darken intensely as the novels progress. Harry is made to endure loss after loss; to encounter truly terrifying creatures; to embark on dangerous, life-threatening missions; to bear ridicule and slander from his community and to be impossibly brave in the face of death. Yet it is neither the writing nor the sheer genius of the ideas per se that make the books so special. What does is the way in which Rowling enabled us, as her readers, to grow up with them, to stay connected to the characters and to the story whilst we ourselves were growing and changing. Surely enough, a ten year old reading the first book would not grow up to find that he was suddenly reading children’s stories, because as well as immaculately encapsulating the charm of childhood and the angst and anguish of teenage years, Rowling subtly yet impeccably illustrates the bits in between. The small, intricate details that chronicle one stage of Harry’s journey to the next – the changes occur so accurately that they go unnoticed, but demand that we grow up with, and not ‘grow out of ’ Harry Potter. It is this elusive quality to the writing that allows Harry to truly become everyone’s hero. Essentially, Rowling’s saga embodies all of the values and ideals that dwell at the very core of human existence. For many, it is a form of escapism: a world filled with excitement, adventure and adrenaline. But aside from all the vigour of dragons and goblins and giants, it is a story about the virtue in innocence, the fight for what is right, and, principally, the immense power of love. Even if we don’t spend hours tapping bricks every day trying to make secret entrances appear (not that we ever have), belonging to what has come to be coined the ‘Harry Potter Generation’ has affected our lives far more than we
» From humble beginnings to a global enterprise Flickr: bibicall would have imagined. For many of us, the end to the saga, closing with the final movie instalment last year, marked a crucial milestone: the realisation that the ‘growing up’ process is complete – we are now essentially alone in everything we care to venture. But with Harry in our minds, we can be comforted by the continuing influence he
will have on all we think and do. At this time especially, with our nearing graduations and the not-so-distant prospects of finding a job in the current economy, I am certain a part of us all wishes that instead, we too were out on the road hunting evil with two loyal accomplices by our side.
Searching for a room of one’s own Claire Hamlett finds much to admire in Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
t’s a strange experience to read another person’s reflections on their own life. When I read memoirs, although I know that the author has chosen to write about themselves so personally, I still feel like a bit of an intruder. I feel this with particular acuteness when reading passages about the dead, as it is not clear how much information might be too much. With these reservations in the back of my mind, I opened the recently published memoir of Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? It must be said first of all that this is a poignant and well-written book – funny at times, poetic at others. But the intimacy of Winterson’s portrayal of her adoptive mother, the formidable Mrs. Winterson – sometimes a dispassionate Mrs. W; the knowledge imparted to the reader of the psychological damage done to Winterson at this woman’s hands gave me a bit of a sense of being the guest at a family dinner who doesn’t know where to look when a fight breaks out among the family members. Nonetheless, Mrs. W is a fascinatingly dam-
aged character, and any reticence about her on the author’s part would undoubtedly have impoverished the rest of the book. Winterson herself appears as a rougher, tougher Matilda-type who you wish would be taken in and adored by her own Miss Honey. It doesn’t get quite so neatly tied up as that for Winterson, but the narrative, which largely traces her childhood spent with her adoptive parents, is littered with increasingly less unhinged characters who, in their own ways, help Winterson escape and recover from the cruelties of her youth, inflicted on her by her mother. Anyone who has read Winterson’s 1985 debut novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit or seen the BBC adaptation will be familiar with the story of the author’s decision to leave home at the age of sixteen and make her own way in the world. Raised in the working-class town of Accrington, Lancashire, on Mrs. W’s apocalyptic religious sentiments and the refrain that she was a ‘Devil baby’, Winterson committed the sin of being gay and incurred the fury of her mother.
First, she was subjected to an exorcism. When that failed, an ultimatum: give up your girlfriend and be normal, or get out. Winterson’s trials and successes following her departure from the family home are movingly told, always with an underlying melancholy over not only the inevitability of the rupture with Mrs. W, but also the tragedy of her mother’s having lived in such self-imposed isolation. Skipping ahead twenty-five years, the latter part of the book describes Winterson’s breakdown after the end of her six-year relationship with a theatre director, her slow recovery from an attempted suicide, and her decision to search for her birth mother after the discovery of her original but defaced adoption papers (Mrs. W. is dead by this point). The harrowing experience of trying to track down the woman who gave her up at just six weeks old is also an attempt to learn, at last, that she is loved, that she was and is wanted. Of all the punishments and cruelties meted out to her by Mrs. Winterson – the nights spent locked out of the house or in a coal-hole as a
child, the hurtful words, the oppressive home life – Winterson’s inability to believe that she could be truly loved, and the fact that for such a long time she ‘had not found a way to love’, are by far the worst. Yet even though Mrs. Winterson underpins the entire story and shapes in so many ways the course of Winterson’s life, this is no personal diatribe against Winterson’s own hard luck. This is also a celebration and eulogy to the north that Winterson knew as a child; the neighbourliness, the noise of the markets, the language with its assimilated quotes from Shakespeare and the Bible. It is an homage to the great writers (from A to Z) who rescued her with words – ‘every book was a message in a bottle.’ It is a rumination on the significant ideas and symbols of life that are scattered not only through literary works but also through the human psyche – home, thresholds between inside and outside, time and all its varying speeds. But most of all, it is a meditation on love and happiness, and a search for a room of one’s own.
Album review special For when 80 words isn’t enough for us to sum up how mediocre your favourite band’s latest album was The Shins Port of Morrow
★ ★ ★ ★★
Not since January 2007 have the Shins released an album. Let’s put that into perspective: during May of that year Madeleine McCann disappeared. Luciano Pavarotti then died in September, and the Writers’ Guild of America went on strike in November. That seems an awfully long time ago, doesn’t it? It’s been five years since the release of Wincing the Night Away, but James Mercer returns this March with a brand new fourth album. Despite a completely different band line-up (with Mercer being the only constant member), Port of Morrow’s sound is one that is initially joyously familiar. That is not to say that the Shins have run out of ideas – in fact, this is far from the case. Demonstrated by his work in the interim with Brian Burton (AKA Danger Mouse) on Broken Bells, Mercer has the incredible ability to experiment with music, but always make it uniquely his own. Take ‘Simple Song’ as an example, the lead single off of the new album. Opening with quirky guitar twangs and theatrical drums, it
Avatar Black Waltz
★ ★ ★ ★★
When thinking of Sweden, there are a few things that spring to mind. Snow, Ikea and Volvo. The female supporters of their national football team. A positive, liberal attitude towards life in general. All nice things for sure. Musically speaking, the country’s output is largely along the same lines: when taken in comparison with the darker aesthetic of neighbours Norway and Finland, Swedish music tends to align with Scandinavia’s status as a community of healthy, prosperous people on top of the world. It’s ABBA and Robyn rather than Lordi and Immortal. Avatar, then, are an oddity: a melodic death metal band from Gothenburg, a combination that shouldn’t really work. Or does it? Black Waltz begins in an unassuming fashion with ‘Let Us Die’: a single-note guitar riff is gradually manipulated by a phaser effect before being blended into the arrival of a second guitar. Then, before interest is lost, all hell breaks loose. The band comes crashing in, drums and bass doubling the tempo and bringing the song up to the speed and intensity of a rampaging herd of elephants, with all the finesse to match
Andrew Walker soon becomes strikingly clear that this could be none other than the Shins. The intricate lyrics and the blissfully sad choruses are all present, yet it still takes a good couple of listens before one can truly appreciate the complexity and work that has gone into the album. And that’s just the lyrics. This is the theme that runs throughout Port Of Morrow. The production quality of the album is completely faultless, and tracks seem to shift effortlessly between genres, from 90s pop to melancholic vulnerability. If some audiophiles are expecting a ‘typical’ Shins sound, then guess again. Instead, what you get is surprise after surprise, for both old and new listeners alike. It’s as if Mercer knows exactly what you want, even if you don’t know what that is yet. Standouts include the hauntingly beautiful acoustic ‘September’, the brutally honest but touching ‘40 Mark Strasse’, and the enjoyably life-affirming ‘It’s Only Life’. After a long five years, Port Of Morrow finds Mercer doing what he does best: crafting a unique yet remarkably relatable set of beautiful songs. MP3: ‘September’ Similar to: The Decemberists, Broken Bells, Fleet Foxes
Tim Greenwood as vocalist Johannes Eckerström contributes the expected death-metal roar. Over the top of the chaos, however, comes an indication that all is not as it seems: a singular, frenetic harmonica lick. That’s right – a harmonica in a Scandinavian metal album. Moving from the opening salvo, Avatar do not relent, and yet at the same time manage to sound significantly more cultured than they rightfully should. ‘Torn Apart’ is somewhere between Muse and Enter Shikari, while the title track careers between a circus waltz, a heartfelt guitar line, and thunderous, off-kilter thrash. Closing with the majestically slow, 9-minute satanic metal/ blues crossover ‘Use Your Tongue’ really does seem an appropriate way to put an end to the madness. Black Waltz is not just another uninspired release by a Scandinavian metal band with questionable musical ability and a predisposition for blowing up churches. The 11 tracks segue together as a cathartic symphony of bombast and terror – a demonstration of just how far a metal band can push themselves with the help of a little creativity, and actually be pretty catchy on top of all that. Sweden should produce music like this more often. MP3: ‘Ready for the Ride’ Similar to: ‘Children of Bodom’
Sleigh Bells Reign of Terror
★ ★ ★ ★★
Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller came shredding and shouting onto the scene in 2008, with the swagga of Harlem rappers and songs to trash hotel rooms to. But these same songs backed adverts for Windows, Kopparberg and FIFA, and it’s this antithesis of sherbet media-friendly POP! melodies and angry, massive, smash-up-guitars rock which made the duo such an exciting prospect, and 2010’s Treats one of the records of the year. Treats was all about grabbing our attention, but now they’ve got it, the duo need to show they’ve got more than one trick up their sleeves. Reign of Terror is certainly a continuation of the macho/girly, heavy/light sound that defines Sleigh Bells, but there’s progression towards an even bigger stadium-rock aesthetic. Deliciously angry and brutal opener ‘True Shred Guitar’ indicates this intent, featuring a swearing, spitting Krauss whipping up a handclapping crowd. On the excellent ‘Crush’, Krauss turns demonic, cheerleader chanting ‘I gotta crush on/I gotta crush you now!’ surrounded by stomping drums and another
Dry The River Shallow Bed
★ ★ ★ ★★
From its very conception, Shallow Bed was always destined to trace the line between total unoriginality and just-for-the-sake-ofit gimmickry – it was an album damned either to drown in endless, unfavourable comparison or burn with ridicule for some perceived self-indulgence, an album that would never live up to its awardladen, critically acclaimed predecessors, that would be filled with tracks persistently tainted by their listeners’ preconceptions and would struggle to adequately place itself within the ever-expanding confines of ‘folk’. Shallow Bed, unfortunately, was always going to be the youngest child of the family – constantly striving to live up to its older brothers, constantly competing and admiring and idolising. It was sadly destined to be the child for whom duplication is the only path to individuality. And it’s true: Shallow Bed could stagnate in a pool of endless comparison if you let it. If you were so inclined, it might be simple to argue that Dry The River combine the soaring pastoral vistas of Fleet Foxes with the old-world
Trahearne Falvey handclapping crowd. But there’s nothing self-indulgent or narcissistic about Krauss – her generosity as a songwriter and vocalist is embodied by her performance on ‘Comeback Kid’, where her beautiful airy vocals are purely in service of the song, and her lyrics are a heartfelt pep talk (‘You’ll come back some day’). ‘Demons’ is another highlight, a strongly metal-influenced song with Krauss singing, ‘You’ll be taken down brick by brick by brick!’ It’s simultaneously frightening and gorgeous, and you know this is exactly what Sleigh Bells are going for. There are guitars everywhere: drilling guitars, buzzing guitars, reverb-laden beast-like guitars. Miller said of this record: “The beats are still important to me, but the guitar won.” With guitars this powerful, they were always going to win. What lost out though – the hip-hop beats and samples – are sorely missed. There’s nothing as immediate and danceable as ‘Rill Rill’, and Reign of Terror makes clear that Sleigh Bells are no longer a party band. They’re just not all that fun, and fun – big, loud, dancey fun – is exactly what you want from Sleigh Bells. MP3: ‘Comeback Kid’ Similar to: St Vincent, Cults, Tennis
Josh Suntharasivam love-psalms of Stornoway. It might be even easier to link them with the earthen, worldweary, steel-strung grandeur of Goldheart Assembly’s Wolves and Thieves, or the fellowLondoners’ forlorn lyricism. If you wanted, you might even take Fleet Foxes, Stornoway, Goldheart Assembly, Mumford and Sons and Leonard Cohen, and blend them together until you were left with the gooey primeval ooze of Shallow Bed – all bible-belt love-stories, strummed-out laments and familial ballads. It would just be so damn easy. The thing is, it would do a great disservice to the Sound of 2010-nominated fellas to so flippantly palm them off like that. Dry The River have perfected the difficult knack of compelling, story-sculpting lyricism. These tracks hum with the echoes of past loves, they crunch with young rebellion and they swoon with nostalgia. They may not capture youth and joy and nature with the same clarity as Fleet Foxes and they may not be as heart-achingly poetic as Bon Iver, but every phrase that frontman Peter Liddle sends soaring into the stratosphere seems bristling with raw, pent-up, beautiful emotion. MP3: ‘Weights &Measures’ Similar to: Goldheart Assembly, Mumford and Sons, Stornoway
Warwick students reach TV finals
Alexander Gibson journals his journey to the Pointless finals...
Homeland Verdict: it is worth the hype Janay Carrott is positive that this is one show you can’t miss
ew programmes arrive across the pond with as much fanfare as Homeland. Unanimously praised by critics, the television drama has two Golden Globes and the endorsement of Barack Obama amongst its many accolades. Based on the Israeli show Prisoners of War, Homeland follows disgraced CIA officer Carrie Mathison. After a vague tip off from a disgruntled asset, she becomes convinced that recently returned prisoner of war Nicholas Brody has been ‘turned’. Now that we’re a few episodes into Channel 4’s newest acquisition we can ask: is Homeland worth it? The short answer is yes. On the strength of its two leads alone, Homeland deserves every ounce of praise it has gotten so far. Claire Danes plays the neurotic Carrie, who is utterly ruthless in her pursuit of Brody, setting up illegal surveillance in his home so she can watch his activities from her front room. There is an underlying discomfort in her surveillance of the family, especially when her conception of giving Brody and his wife privacy on their first night alone together is to watch with the sound on mute. This is made all the more problematic when we remember that she doesn’t have the benefits of Brody’s flashbacks to justify her conviction. Carrie is also surprisingly manipulative: we watch her lie and cajole people into helping her, including her sister, who she persuades to give her anti-psychotics so she can keep her bipolar disorder a secret. Despite this, Carrie comes across as a likable heroine. She genuinely wants to help and her priority is saving as many lives as she can. Her determination and assertiveness is particularly refreshing when she comes across as sympathetic and heroic rather than the typically aggressive careerdriven woman. Damien Lewis plays Nicholas Brody, who returns to America after eight years in captivity, and almost immediately you can add him to the list of morally ambiguous characters that have come to dominate America’s best dramas. The pilot may end with the viewer certain that Carrie is on to something, swayed if not by her epiphany then by Brody’s behaviour. His frequent lies, insincere joviality with his loved ones and that deeply unsettling smile which he flashes towards the White House, are just some of the things that suggest his conversion. Yet
we also see him wracked by symptoms of posttraumatic stress and struggling to cope with his new position as a public figure. Whilst the draw of the show is the mystery surrounding Brody, much of the show is devoted to the CIA’s search for a leading figure in Al Qaeda, Abu Nazir. After seven years in hiding, Nazir has mysteriously surfaced, giving the CIA their first real lead into Al Qaeda’s future plans. The drama also features some interesting political commentary such as Brody proceeding to resent the war having been left behind. Homeland also questions the utilitarian actions of the government and intelligence services whilst depicting America’s hunger for a hero, in particular one who has undergone unthinkable torture. The political side of Homeland is undoubtedly what makes the program such a success. Less compelling is the drama surrounding Brody’s home life, which feels a little uninspired. Brody returns to a wife who has been sleeping with his best friend in his absence, and while he figures this out within thirty minutes of the first episode, that doesn’t mean it won’t potentially drag out for a season or two. He must also readjust to children who are suddenly quite a lot older than he remembers. His little girl has become a rebellious teenager who smokes weed and constantly fights with her mother whilst his son barely remembers him. If the youngest Brody isn’t glued to the television, he is asking awkward questions with an absurd naivety or witnessing his father’s meltdowns. The saving grace is really performance: the young actor and actress behind the Brody siblings are actually talented and manage to make annoying characteristics likable, if not a little endearing. Like any good psychological thriller, Homeland excels in keeping the viewers second-guessing themselves. There have already been plenty of twists and turns: each feeling too ambiguous to be taken seriously, yet entirely too coincidental to be dismissed. An episode may end leaving a viewer feeling one way, only to have their perceptions shattered by the next episode. With such solid performances all round and a story which promises to deliver, Homeland is well on its way to becoming the best thing on television we may see all year.
’d always wanted to be on a game show: trivial knowledge, bad jokes, tacky prizes and, just maybe, big money – all these things foster my love of this television staple. From the simple joys of Catchphrase and Blockbusters to the madcap brilliance of The Crystal Maze, I love them all. But appearing on a game show required two things of which I am in short supply: effort and courage. Nevertheless, at rare intervals I have enough of the two to actually do something. The BBC series Pointless provided an outlet for that rarity. The show, quickly becoming one of the most popular with around 5 million viewers daily at 5:15 on BBC One, is like reverse Family Fortunes, requiring contestants to provide the most obscure answer to a question, in the hope that as few of the 100 people surveyed said it as possible. Alexander Armstrong and his informative sidekick Richard Osman present the show in an entertaining, joke-filled style. The show is a two-person game, with four pairs competing over three rounds for the coveted Pointless trophy and a crack at winning the show’s jackpot. If you fail to make the final, you return the following day for a second attempt. My teammate was my friend and fellow Pointless fan Praveen. We scrawled out the application form and sent it off, expecting to never hear from it again. However, a few weeks later we each got a call to say we had been selected for an audition. “They’ll probably realise our unsuitability for TV there,” said Praveen, although I was just amazed that they could read my handwriting. Yet to further our surprise, after introductions, a quiz and a mock game of Pointless we were called back in for a camera interview. We gabbled on about how we met, our preferred subjects and our ‘interesting’ stories, repeating ourselves multiple times and using no word more often than ‘er’. Finally, it was over, and we left enriched by the experience, but sure that that would be that. Thankfully, no. We were selected. So what’s it like to be on a game show? Well, after a jarringly early 7 am awakening, I tucked into a fried breakfast, while Praveen (who “doesn’t do breakfast”) sat pensively, staring into a glass of juice. We got our stuff and ventured onto the mean streets of London, making it to the BBC Television Centre for 9 AM. As I entered the site where many of my favourite TV moments of all time were produced, I couldn’t believe our luck that we were there. Luck was the word of the day. After selecting the lucky podium four, we stood behind our podium and chatted with Alexander and Richard, barely able to suppress
our nerdy awe. It was baffling! After painfully dragging ourselves through the introductions, the game began. Round One: British Olympians with two gold medals. We sailed through with Rebecca Adlington and Steve Redgrave – it was the only time we actually led throughout the entire show. Round Two: Dates of historical events. Horrific. I shamefacedly muttered ‘1066’ for the Norman Conquest, fully expecting our exit. Luckily, it said Norman Conquest, not the Battle of Hastings, so it was actually not a bad score. Praveen likewise had to go with the obvious answer of ‘1939’ for the Second World War’s outbreak, but others’ incorrect answers managed to see us through. The Head-to-Head: luck shone through again and we sailed into the decider, Government department acronyms. I knew them all, but, alas the other pair went first and went with the lowest answer: Defra. If they got it right, our dream would end. Luckily, the ‘F’ stands for food, not fisheries as they guessed, and the Department of Work and Pensions did something useful for a change, and won us the show. Wow, we were in the final. The choice of category was rather like when you open an exam paper and wonder if you’re in the right room. Dismissing ‘Populations’ and ‘British Boxers’, ‘Acting Couples’ became the only feasible choice. Much to my disappointment, it wasn’t about sham marriages. No, instead it was Warren Beatty and Annette Bening films. The clock started. We faced one problem: I couldn’t remember who Annette Bening was, leaving me with the sole answer of Bonnie and Clyde, easily Warren Beatty’s most famous film. In a flash of inspiration I remembered seeing the name Beatty on the credits of Toy Story 3 and Deliverance. We had the only three answers we were ever going to get, so we stopped the clock and opted against prolonging the inevitable. Alas, the Endemol bank transfer of our dreams was not to be, but we didn’t care. We somehow got to be on TV, on one of our favourite shows, we got to meet Alexander and Richard, and, oh yeah, we won the coveted Pointless trophy given to us as a reward for reaching the final. So my advice? Apart from making sure you catch our episode on iPlayer if you want to play along and see if you can beat us, go out and get an application form! It was a fantastic experience I would recommend to anyone. It was great fun, full of lovely people and a rather memorable event. And there is also the fact it will take pride of place on my otherwise gapintensive CV.
Some assembly required
Alex King previews this year’s edition of the ever eclectic, weird and wonderful Flatpack Film Festival
et’s start with a bold statement: Flatpack Film Festival is probably the coolest thing any ex-Warwick student has produced. Ever. Admittedly, the words ‘Warwick’ and ‘cool’ are rarely heard together in the same sentence, but after thoroughly racking my brains I have found absolutely nothing to compete. Even if there is something huge I have overlooked, its cool rating would have to be off the scale to have a hope of giving Flatpack a run for its money. For now the statement stands. After graduating from Film Studies at Warwick, Ian Francis founded 7inch Cinema and began putting on eclectic film nights in pubs all over Birmingham. 7inch’s guiding motto states: “We are firm believers in the old-fashioned communal film experience.” It was this yearning for a more social cinema that eventually lead to the birth of Flatpack Festival. Now in its sixth incarnation, Flatpack has always managed the delicate balancing act of showing off the freshest new films from all over the world, whilst also paying tribute to Birmingham’s local cinema history. Leafing through the festival programme, you are taken on a journey through the cool, sometimes passing through the weird, and often wheeling off into the realm of the wholly unexpected. The festival seems to be able to shift gears effortlessly between cult
classics and cutting edge animation and film. Highlights include Four Horsemen, in which 23 thinkers, advisors, and Wall Street moneymen attempt to explain the simple matter of how the world really works. All in just over an hour and a half. The Bikermania strand includes Mod favourite Quadrophenia and seventies supernatural thriller Psychomania, about a gang of undead bikers who worship frogs and terrorise the innocent shoppers of Walton-on-Thames. You just couldn’t make it up. The festival takes place in a range of interesting venues scattered about the city, including The Electric, the UK’s oldest working cinema, and the legendary Custard Factory, the festival’s base, in shabby chic Digbeth. Bursting at the seems with off the wall delights, the expansive animation section has helped build Flatpack’s considerable reputation. Boro in the Box tells the life story of Polish auteur Walerian Borowczyk, zigzagging between animation and live action, arthouse and porn, while Outer Sight is a “headlong plunge into Psychedelic Psynema obscuritanism.” What that means when it’s at home is anyone’s guess... Other treats include a canal boat cinema, a magic lantern show, and electronic music outfit Capsule providing psychedelic party action on Saturday night. Simply, Flatpack is a festival like no other. Various locations
» All images courtesy of Flatpack Festival
Shooters of 2012: The Ones to Watch
Benjamin Banfield takes a look and the shooter games worth keeping an eye on this year
his year is shaping up to be an exciting year for new First and Third Person shooters. Last year felt like a bit of a letdown despite a few good releases. The games didn’t experiment enough and stayed too close to the general mould (COD...). Being a shooter fan myself, I decided to take a look at the ones that I feel hold the most promise, especially after a good start with the likes of The Darkness II and Syndiacte.
Max Payne 3 - May
When it comes to games, Rockstar never fail to deliver and have made some classics in recent years with GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption. The Max Payne games were some of my favourites with an intriguing and sinister story of a cop in search of revenge. Max Payne 3 follows on from this, with the player stepping into the shoes of an older Max, this time swapping the streets of NY for the favellas of Brazil. With bullet time set to return, some interesting shooting mechanics and a new take on multiplayer, this is one to look out for come its release.
Everything Ubisoft is Working On
Well, not everything, but Far Cry 3, Ghost Recon and Rainbow 6 Patriots all look fantastic and are set to be major releases for 2012. All a follow up of some sort, it seems to me in name and concept only as each one seeks to reinvent
the series that started it. Far Cry returns to a tropical island paradise inhabited by armed militia, but this time there’s more emphasis on the protagonist and what he is going through, as well as how the setting reacts to your actions. The characters, most notably the insane militia leader, all seem to have a lot more depth to them and are not just there to give you missions or pose a threat. Ghost Recon Future Soldier is similar in many respects but puts more emphasis on team work than it did before. You can point out targets to allied troops to then take them out all at once without drawing too much attention. There are also plenty of gadgets and toys to play around with, meaning you’ll have to be strategic about each mission. Finally, Rainbow Six Patriots is perhaps the one I’m looking forward to most (though it might not be till 2013). The last two iterations in Vegas I found good but a little slow. Patriots seems to have upped the speed, and more importantly puts meaning into each action you perform. The story goes that a wave of terrorist attacks have gripped the US and you are sent in to deal with them. How you do that is up to you as the player has to make tactical decisions as how
best to sort out a situation. The scene shown off was an innocent man strapped with enough C4 set to blow up the Golden Gate bridge filled with hundreds more innocent people in a matter of minutes. Throwing him off the bridge seems like the only option...
Spec Ops: The Line – Spring
I’m not 100% convinced this is going to be a great game – in my eyes it could go either way. But if the amount of publicity the game is getting, as well as some of the trailers and images I’ve seen are anything to go by, it definitely holds promise. Set in Dubai after a sand storm has completely ravaged the city, you play a soldier sent in to find a previous team who’ve gone off the radar and whose Colonel has supposedly gone insane. The environment itself looks to be one of the biggest stars with sand being as much a menace as the enemy forces, covering sink holes and pestering you during storms. With a dark story inspired by Apocalypse Now, an interesting and unexplored environment and some stong gameplay, despite a cheap name, Spec Ops could be the shooter of 2012.
Aliens: Colonial Marines – Spring
James Cameron’s Aliens is in my eyes one of the best sci-fi horror films of all time. If developers Gearbox can successfully recreate the same atmosphere and sense of dread that the film did
along with some stellar shooting action then I can’t see why this wouldn’t be the best shooter of the year. Having said that, Aliens vs Predator wasn’t fantastic, but hopefully the developers have taken the criticism on board to build a better game. From what I’ve seen, Gearbox have invested a lot into making this the best Alien experience possible whilst also staying faithful to the source material.
Halo 4 – Autum
I can’t really see Halo 4 reinventing the shooter genre, but let’s face it, who isn’t excited? Little information has been released so far other than the fact that it’s the start of a new trilogy set on a new planet. Both Master Chief and his AI advisor Cortanna are present, and so far that’s about it. From the short trailer the Chief has learned how to use a jet pack in his isolation in deep space, so one can expect the return of something similar to the armour abilities of Halo: Reach. The game is no longer in the hands of Bungie, the creators of all the previous games, but before you light your torches, Microsoft isn’t holding back, having created a team of some of the best people in the industry. Game on! Worth a mention: Borderlands 2, Bioshock Infinite, Prey 2, XCOM
Review: Chris Lennard brings out the flaws in Killing Floor Killing Floor Trip Wire Interactive PC ★★ ★★★
n recent years, there has been a huge rise in the number of shooters that focus on pitting the player against large hordes of the undead. Games such as Left 4 Dead spring to mind, as well as Call of Duty’s ‘Nazi Zombies’ game mode. Being a great fan of zombie games in general, I decided to invest in Killing Floor, the online shooter from Tripwire Interactive.
Killing Floor leaves the player feeling like they have only purchased a quarter of a game, which then goes on to cheat them at the final hurdle Killing Floor is largely an online cooperative game which challenges up to six players to survive several waves of deadly specimens. At the end of each successive wave, players have the opportunity to quickly purchase new weapons and ammunition and prepare themselves for the fight ahead. The action is fast-paced and the environments are detailed given the game’s age. However, despite offering a promising premise, Killing Floor fails to impress. Despite its age (bear in mind it was originally a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004), Killing
» Enemy Clot in the streets of West London photo: Flickr/ Tamahikari Tammas Floor offers a variety of sprawling and exciting environments which really help to bring the game to life. Maps based on a deserted West London help to immerse the player and provide the game with a 28 Days Later feel. Conversely, other maps such as Evil Santa’s Lair help to create a more amusing atmosphere similar to that which is experienced when playing a game such as Team Fortress 2. Additionally, I must give credit to Killing Floor’s soundtrack and character phrases in general. All of the playable characters come equipped with ridiculous and somewhat hilarious phrases and in this sense, the game really doesn’t take itself seriously, and this helps to make it far more entertaining.
Moreover, the soundtrack features some fairly heavy music, which adds to the fast pace of the game and makes mowing down enemies more exciting. However, I feel that this is where the positive aspects end. Unfortunately, it seems that the developers may not have taken Killing Floor seriously enough, providing players with a game that offers virtually no replay value in return for a fifteen pound price tag. Everyone knows that Nazi Zombies gets boring after playing it for a while, yet that doesn’t matter as it is part of a much larger game. Killing Floor, on the other hand, offers players nothing more. Sure, you can play for a couple of rounds, but the game
soon becomes rather uninteresting. What’s more, it almost seems as if the developers have realised this, by offering players new character models, maps and weapons; yet it is the fundamental gameplay that is at fault and no amount of extra additions can solve that. In addition, Killing Floor is infuriating. Having survived up until the final round, the game then pits you against one final enemy, the Patriarch. But compared to the previous rounds of enemies, he is almost impossible to defeat. It is as if the game wants you to feel like you have won, only to slap you across the face and demand that you start again. Countless times my squad was wiped out in a matter of seconds, with very few opportunities to fight back. Killing Floor, then, leaves the player feeling like they have only purchased a quarter of a game, which then goes on to cheat them at the final hurdle. You could argue that this is to make the game challenging, but then that begs the question as to why the previous nine waves were so ridiculously easy compared with the final round. Evidently, when the game was first released around the time of Left 4 Dead, it was probably quite entertaining. But with so many similar games out there which cost far less, I really wouldn’t waste my time with this one. Perhaps a more apt name would have been ‘Killing Flaw’.
There’s more online! Don’t miss out on more of the Boar’s games reviews
Trekstock: charity and careers Emily Middleton has found a solution to arts students’ job woes
The Paleo Diet: fact or fiction? Roxanne Douglas
» Graduation today, unemployment tomorrow? photo: flickr/dsb nola
o, it’s Week 9, Term 2 of my final year, and this week alone I’ve been rejected by the BBC and I haven’t heard back from two other positions I applied for. After many hours answering situational tests (‘Would it be very effective or ineffective for you to hide in the toilets all day?’), I am considering paying £2000 for the privilege to teach ten hours a day, six days a week somewhere in remote China. Once I pass the application process, one phone interview, another form and another interview, that is. What’s the problem? I’m an English student, heavily involved in x, y and z society, with four summers of irrelevant work experience, and I’m apparently incapable of getting even poorlypaid placements with bad working hours. Maybe it’s because my attention span is too short to sit through hours of personality tests; business students are better prepared - they know from their first days as bleary-eyed freshers that soon they will have to plough through contradictory questions intent on tripping them up and making them admit that they have no clue what they’re doing. Arts students? Not so much. From what I’ve gathered, we’re expecting long slogs through unpaid internships that help us carve our own niche in the media market. And while it might be a bit excessive to ask for job interviews that involve correctly referencing in MLA or expressing your faults through interpretive dance, I think I’ve found the next best thing. That ‘thing’ is Trekstock, a charity launched in March 2010 aiming to help beat cancer by
funding research and providing information for young people, and with such names as Mark Ronson, Vivienne Westwood and James Corden offering their support, they’ve managed to be Oxfam’s cooler younger sibling, holding mountain-top gigs and collaborating with designers. They’ve also raised the bar on internship applications. Rather than just accepting CVs,
I’m an English student, heavily involved in societies, four summers of irrelevant work experience, and I’m incapable of getting even poorly paid placements they have found an innovative way of weeding out unlikelies: having candidates compete in intense fundraising challenges and then allowing them the honour of applying. Bizarre? Maybe. As they’re willing to pay two lucky final year undergraduates £500 a week, a wage pretty mythical to arts graduates, it may just work. A donation will give you the golden key to the whole process: the ‘trade up challenge’. Trekstock have hit on a unique method of recruitment; you can fundraise to win tickets, prizes, even jobs. Inspired by the man who traded a paperclip for a house, keen finalists get a virtual Trekstock badge, donned by the likes of Beyoncé, and trade it for items of higher value with the aim of getting something so kick-ass amazing
that it can then be sold on eBay to raise money for the charity. Jump through these hoops, and you get to fill in a form, then, if you’re lucky, be interviewed. Hurray...? Cue frantic phone calls to see if parents can rope in any favours/buy something expensive to trade you, then potentially buy it back off eBay. While the project is an interesting one and certainly a worthwhile cause, it does make you wonder: do employers really think arts students have unlimited free time, or are they just testing us? The challenge starts on March 5th and runs for three weeks. With an eleven thousand word essay due in Week 10 and a dissertation that just won’t quit, as well as Warwick students hesitating over lending a pen, let alone swapping one for a ‘virtual’ badge, I don’t rate my odds. And yet, with the aforementioned string of rejections and the salivating prospect of a job I might actually enjoy that pays (but also raises money for charity, win/win), how can I not give it a go? When I inevitably fail and spend my hardearned student loan buying something to trade to myself to buy from eBay in a desperate attempt to not look like a friendless loser, at least I will have tried. And I can say that the money goes to charity.
Support Emily’s job-hunting endeavours by following her on twitter @emilyyyjlm
Read more: theboar.org/lifestyle
he Paleo Diet is a widespread diet trend that is growing in popularity: the name sounds like another jargon word for just another fad diet, doesn’t it? Granted, it follows the typical profile: a very popular idea, revived from the ‘70s, following a quirky principle: the Paleo Diet dictates that if cavemen (or Paleolithic humans, rather) couldn’t eat it, then neither should you. Our modern diet contains high levels of saturated fats and sugars that our bodies cannot handle and processes badly, so this diet calls us back to our gastronomic roots. Of course this can only go so far, because unlike our cave-painting, sabre-tooth tiger hunting ancestors (actually early man probably ran from sabres in terror, but that’s not as romantic), we need to cook food in order to not die of food poisoning, and you are (thankfully) allowed to buy your food from Tesco, rather than catch it out in the wilderness. I was cynical when I started three weeks ago: a friend of mine was utterly enthused by it, which I simply put down to that sort of ‘convincing yourself ’ hysteria that one gets when you’re on a diet due to a joy-deficiency from lack of cake, or something. Naturally, being a 5’2” female with a love of chocolate and vintage cheeses, I have indeed felt the need to diet before, and every time to no avail. Either it simply takes too long or it feels joyless, and I can’t stick to it. But this time it wasn’t about body image, it was about general health, so this needed to work. I’m not going to lie: after sticking to it for three or four days I wanted to eat the world; cutting so much from my diet felt, initially, awful. But then one week in, I stopped being so hungry. I looked in the mirror, and the weight was practically falling off. However, I would say tread carefully: the diet strictly bans dairy, carbohydrates (even chickpeas and lentils, surprisingly), sugar (obviously) and alcohol (difficult), with the only exception being a moderate sample of daily dark chocolate. What worries me is the fact that you don’t take in any calcium: you actually only build up calcium reserves until you are 30, and then after that if your diet is calcium deficient you use these reserves, which, if insufficient, can lead to osteoporosis and the like. We obviously know all of these, if not moderated correctly, can be bad for us, yet cutting them out completely seems drastic. The thing is it’s working, and it’s working quickly. I’m eating three meals a day (granted, mostly comprising of fruit and veg), and I even feel healthy. Admittedly, if you diet and exercise in the right balance, you will lose weight. It is literally as simple as that, but we forget this when trying to slim down for the summer. If you want a quick fix and have reasonable willpower this will work. Whether it is sustainable on a long term basis, however, is yet to be seen of this curious dietary craze.
Serial dating and the art of seduction
Who says there’s no such thing as a free meal? Maya Westwick tells us how it’s done...
e all know the popular phrase ‘a girl’s gotta eat’, but between all the lectures, seminars and checking the Topshop website for updates, it’s a wonder we find any time at all to cook a decent meal. And decent meals cost money. Money we may not necessarily have because we’ve been scouring online for that pair of can’t-live-without leopard-print heels. What if I could tell you I’ve found a way for you to enjoy the best of Warwick’s cuisine without having to open your wallet or swipe your trusty bright pink card? Got your attention? Good, listen up. I have a friend who hasn’t had to pay for dinner a single day this week! Yes, an entire week of free meals, free drinks and God knows what else. I’ve been at home nursing what seems like my 567th packet of super noodles – chicken flavour – and she’s eaten her way through half of the Dirty Duck’s menu. ‘How does she do it?’ I hear you ask. Well, either she’s hit the jackpot and found herself Daddy Warbucks, or she’s mastered the elusive art of serial dating. Whatever her secret is, her techniques are about to be revealed. After careful study of this magnificent male predator, I’ve come up with some top tips for every girl to bag her very own meal ticket. I mean after all, we’re all on a student budget! So here goes:
ested in what your date is saying cannot be stressed enough. Even if you’re more absorbed by the description of the mushroom ravioli than his Star Wars conversation starters, gaze deeply into his eyes and let him imagine your entire future together in yours. Finding the perfect balance between a seductive glance and a serial killer stare could be all that’s stopping you from free meal number two. Get up close and personal Men like to feel important. Men like to feel in control, that’s why they refuse to take directions from anyone and that’s why they’ll love it when you make an effort to get to know them. Ask him about his family, laugh at his jokes, compliment him shamelessly and casually use phrases like “You intrigue me.” Chances are, he’ll be so caught up in explaining why he thinks his father didn’t love him as a child, he won’t notice you’re about to order your second dessert! Respect yourself
Something exotic and mysterious. I’m not quite sure how it works, but it does. I assume a sultry foreign accent appeals to the protective gene located in the male chromosomes… it’s all very scientific. “You’re not from around here, you can’t take care of yourself, and you probably haven’t eaten for days. Let me take you to dinner,” he says. Think more Sofia Vergara, less Borat.
When I was younger my grandma sat me on her lap and said: “No one wants to buy the cow when they can get the milk for free.” At the time I thought, “Great, grandma’s losing her mind,” but now it makes perfect sense. Free food doesn’t have to mean free entry into the promise land. You’ve secured yourself a first date, he’s paid for the cheque, you’ve already won half the battle! Warm-blooded males love the chase; it would be unforgivable to not give him what he so desperately needs. Why not do him a favour and string him along with the hopes of that third date first kiss whilst you enjoy the benefits of fine dining a little while longer? Just remember, no man likes a prude, so a gentle leg graze or tender arm stroke should tie him over till the next time.
Eye contact is key
Don’t get emotionally attached
Develop an accent
The importance of pretending to be inter-
There we have it. It’s foolproof. But, be-
» Romantic dinner for two? Photo: Flickr /Flower Factor fore you embark on this clever money-saving scheme, the most important rule to remember is, don’t get emotionally attached. Don’t be scared to say goodbye The main goal here is to develop a healthy, active romantic lifestyle and provide for the ap-
petite that comes along with it. Besides, by the fourth date it’s probably better to say goodbye and move on to your next target rather than having to answer the dreaded “Where is this going?” relationship killer. If you are looking for love, it’s probably better to throw caution to the wind and just be yourself, but until then, I hear Gusto is taking reservations for two.
A day in the life of a library steward How to survive a shift as a library steward – and do it like a boss Sarah Knightley
got up sickeningly early this morning. Had to catch a bus at 8am to ensure I was in by 9 to start work. Possibly the most depressing part of my day is donning the fated black tshirt which screams, ‘Ask me any library related or unrelated question and I will chirrup the answer like a dejected robot.’ Wander up to the third floor. Yet another bloody fresher having problems with the mobile library shelving units. Do they arrive at this university naturally thick? It’s really not that complicated. You just have to pop in the right red light combination, press the arrows, and hey presto! They will move. A word of warning – any student found to be exerting unnecessary pressure or force on library shelving units in order to move them will face disciplinary action. Drift down to the second floor. Someone tries to leave the newspaper area, abandoning a banana skin and half a packet of Skips, but I’m too quick for them. Seizing the moment, I prepare to pounce. Our eyes meet. They amble slowly back to the desk, pick up their shit,
and amble towards a bin. They proceed to place both items of litter in the clearly marked green recycling bin. I sigh. This is beyond my levels of communication. Perhaps they are an international student – and so cannot read the clear litter bin signage. Need some peace and quiet so cross the
Wander up to the third floor. Yet another bloody fresher having issues with the mobile shelving units. Do they arrive at this university naturally thick?
hallowed bridge to the second floor extension. Two Maths students chatting away in the non-laptop silent study area. Kick them right out. Boom. Appreciate these rare moments of supreme power. They balance out the hours of crippling depression. Two girls are whispering in between the bookshelves. “You can’t talk here,” I say, “it’s library policy.” “Why?” one of them asks. “Because it’s a quiet study area. You need to have respect for other workers around you.” “But
we’re not working,” one of them hazards. ‘Do I look like I care?’, I expostulate. After fifteen rounds of the fourth floor it’s time for the second most depressing part of this endless day. I have to man the desk on the first floor for an hour, standing in front of the luminous orange screen which dictates ‘Ask a library steward’ and answering ridiculous nonsensical questions from wealthy brats in Ugg boots and gilets. The most frustrating part is when students have issues with the printers or photocopiers. One girl has got her hand stuck in a photocopier. I did not previously think this possible. Another young lady is staring at each of the ‘lyflo_1’ printers in disbelief, just waiting for one sheet of paper to appear. “I just don’t understand this fucking place,” she says, “where is my work? I’ve pressed print five times!” I calmly ask if she knows her current printing credit balance. “What’s that?” she asks. Finish work at about 6pm and head straight to café library for a massive coffee. The woman behind the counter refuses to serve me as it closes at 6pm. “But I’m a library steward!” I almost shout. “And?” she replies. Sigh. Just another day at the library, I suppose.
» Look familiar? Photo: Flickr /Massmat
Butter tea in Buddhist temples
Emily Wright, recounts her chaotic journey and the intensifying spectacle that occurs when first arriving in Ladakh.
Loving, hating and Darjeeling Frances Ellis
hilst I’ve never been a laid back person, the moment I arrived in Vietnam I knew it was time to chill the hell out. When I ended up in Thailand with someone I’d met a week earlier and they invited me along to India, I was never going to say no. Two weeks later I was waiting for a visa in Chiang Mai. Although I loved the go-go-go attitude of the so-called ‘banana trail’, I wanted something ‘different.’ Not even Mark’s* horror story of shitting himself and throwing up on himself simultaneously for seven days could put me off, it just made me laugh: nonetheless, with the constant ‘you’ll either love it or hate it’ reports I was beginning to worry I might actually hate it. But the moment I landed in Kolkata and was told to sit between two rather large men with the gear stick between my legs in a ‘car’ I knew that for me, I’d love it and hate it. All the unpleasant experiences I’d been warned of I approached with both tears and smiles. How can you hate something so utterly surreal? Whilst my travel buddy groaned about the hundreds of begging children, I let one hang on to each arm and another jump on my back and ran down the street with them. Now I’m not saying I actively enjoyed waking up to the re-
Where else in the world will you get stones with sadhus at a ghat at one of the most holy rivers on the earth?
» Views from Ladakh photo: Emily Wright
e flee up north to escape the dreaded monsoon that floods India in the summer months. Ladakh, the northernmost state of the Republic of India, and its capital Leh prove to be the perfect destination. Nestled high in the Himalayan rain shadow, rainfall is close to zero in the summer months, and for the other nine months of the year access is limited, with closed roads and heavy snowfall. At the crack of dawn, my boyfriend and I board a bus, heading for the ancient capital of Leh across the world’s second highest road, along with eight Tibetan monks, a dozen seasonal workers, two extended families and a couple of other backpackers. Across the Routang pass, a perilous mud track that could delay us indefinitely, we enter the roof of the world, the land of high passes: Ladakh. A high altitude desert of empty and barren valleys, covered in shale and scree and rimmed with immense mountains that disappear into the clouds, occasionally revealing snow-caped peaks. It’s vast and still, its landscape strangely lunar at times. Government buses (suspension gone), garishly coloured trucks, army vehicles making their way to the Line of Control and leatherclad bikers wend their way up the Manali-Leh Road. Its narrow roads, vertiginous cliffs, and no help, hospital or mechanic for hundreds of miles leave lots to be desired for. Signs, wittily
devised and painted on the rock faces by the Border Roads Organisation remind drivers to “Divorce Speed”, that “After drinking wisky, driving is risky” and that “Speed thrills but kills”. After miles and miles of inhospitable landscape, chai stalls, set up under old army parachutes, mushroom by the roadside like little multicoloured mirages, offering a cup of warm spicy tea, some filling momos (Tibetan dumplings) and a chance to stretch our legs. The scenery takes my breath away, but so does the altitude, and half of the bus gets violently ill as we cross the highest pass. Three days later, after a stomach-churning journey and the most mesmerizing scenery I have ever seen, we arrive at Leh. A green plateau resting at 3,500 metres, Leh is tucked in between two of the highest mountain ranges in the world, the Himalayas and the Karakoram, and spans the upper Indus river valley. The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh palace and is undeniably influenced by Tibetan culture. Its quiet lanes, dusty underfoot, sprawling up into the mountains from the main road, reveal traditional Ladakhi houses, stores selling incense and reams of prayer flags, white stupas above doorways, ‘people’ cafés, women’s rights co-operatives and eco-friendly enterprises. Tibetan kitchens greet you from every corner, offering staple veggie cuisine, and the local
market is dominated by the sale of in-season apricots. Children, faces open and smooth, cheeks rosy from exposure, run gleefully to school, and old women, their years marked by the length of their plaits, sit and chatter in little courtyards. Coffee is served in Lala’s art café, with paintings by local artists decking the walls. The villages around Leh are a scattering of houses, parceled green fields of barley and wheat, yaks tethered to apricot trees and the friendliest people alive. A system of homestays has encouraged trekking and gives a rare glimpse of village life and a chance to visit some of the oldest monasteries in the world. Religion thrives in the thin air around Ladakh. Only Tibet has a larger cluster of Buddhist temples and monasteries. The monasteries, intrepidly perched on the edge of cliffs, cascade down the hillside in a flurry of white and red. Cotton prayer flags are pinned between the temple roofs like the clouds pinned to the surrounding peaks. During the daily prayer of puja, the smallest monks – boys of six – scurry around with jugs of butter tea, whilst their elders in plum-coloured robes chant their mantras or beat the two large drums at the entrance. Tea served, the sleepy young monks smuggle chocolate digestive biscuits out from under their robes and hesitantly, so as not to be seen, dip them into their tea.
alization that I’d shared a bed with a somewhat ugly rat, or a week of Delhi belly in Darjeeling, or being repeatedly conned by ‘friends’ and ‘astrologists’, but I didn’t hate it either: where else in the world will you experience that? Where else in the world will you get stoned with sadhus at a ghat of one of the most holy rivers on earth? Where else will you share a nine-seater jeep with thirty-two people who on said jeep stare at you in astonishment for five straight hours? Where else in the world will you drink free chai with strangers at least five times a day? You just can’t help but enjoy all of the utterly bizarre and bewildering delights of India: it’s a country like no other. Now if you let the loss of 50 rupees or an admittedly severe case of the shits depress you, of course you will leave hating it. To enjoy all the parts of the Indian experience most people hate, you simply have to want it: you have to want a culture shock that is actually shocking, you have to enjoy the ‘bad’ parts or you’ll miss the truly wonderful joys of India which are nothing but magical, you have to trust people because nine times out of ten you’ll make a great friend. Let passers-by take your picture all day every day without grumbling, hand children a few pencils and see them happy as Larry, let your new friend take you home to meet his family over chapatis and chai, and you will never want to leave. I’ve never experienced anything like India; even when I hated it I couldn’t stop smiling, you can’t help it. Wait and see.
Games theboar.org 27
Why exactly do people play sport?
Participating in sport has physical, mental and emotional benefits, writes Jessie Baldwin
ith the much-anticipated Varsity finale rapidly approaching, sports players at Warwick are excitedly preparing and showing support for the many athletes facing our Coventry rivals. Despite Warwick’s reputation as a highly academic university, sport is hugely popular and is an intrinsic part of many of our lives. Hundreds of students commit countless hours every week to a sport, dragging themselves out of bed at unearthly hours for gruelling earlymorning fitness sessions, running around outside on cold winter nights at training, and even missing compulsory lectures on Wednesdays for away matches. To many of us, this seems like madness… why invest so much time and effort in an unpaid ‘hobby’ that will not lead to a career? Yes,
we all know that exercise is ‘good’ for us, but the recommended amount is far less than the average sports player puts in at Warwick. Science, in the form of sports psychology, has attempted to answer this baffling question by identifying several physical, emotional and cognitive factors that motivate people to partake in sports, as well as the personality traits that are associated with achievement in sports. Let’s first focus on the physical and emotional benefits of sport. Once you’ve grumpily dragged yourself out of bed in the morning and begun some physical activity, you will in fact be extremely likely to experience positive emotions such as excitement, exhilaration and enjoyment. Exercise creates physical arousal, as adrenaline is released causing the heart to beat faster to pump oxygen to our cells. This causes
players to feel excited, alert and ready to take on competition. Neurotransmitters in the brain known as serotonin and endorphins are also released, causing feelings of pleasure and well-being. These neurotransmitters are also secreted when humans engage in sexual activity, or eat appetising food. No wonder David Beckham always looks so content. As well as inducing pleasurable physical feelings, engaging in sports also boosts self- esteem. So much so that doctors and psychologists even recommend sport as a self-help treatment for mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Improving a skill, winning a game and even making new friends all increase our feelings of confidence and satisfaction. Moreover, successfully overcoming challenges increases our motivation to improve further, so we push
ourselves to achieve greater things. Alexandria Dempster, a member of the women’s rowing novice squad, felt this sense of achievement after she faced a great sporting challenge last December: the Warwick rowing winter training camp. The week consisted of 6am starts and hours of intense rowing every day in freezing cold temperatures, through rain, wind, hail and snow, whilst being assessed the whole time for squad selection. Alex told the Boar: “Rowing became my life that week, and I was mentally and physically drained by the end of it. However, it was completely worth it when I found out I had made it to the top 8. It was a huge personal achievement and I couldn’t wait to tell my family.” This unbeatable sense of triumph is undoubtedly what makes sport so addictive.
» Support Warwick sports teams as they go head-to-head with their Coventry rivals photo: Warwick Sport Everyone on a sports team also knows that sport at Warwick would just not be the same without the social side. The unity and strong social bonds created when belonging to a team create excellent social support. Affiliating with and being accepted by a group is undeniably important in all aspects of life, especially for freshers at university who may not have made close friends in their halls. As well as feeling part of the team on the playing field, drinking circles and regular socials organised by sports clubs further enhance social relations between members. Alex Polding, second team captain of the men’s football team (UWMFC) told the Boar: “Men’s football wouldn’t be the same without Circle. Drinking with everyone
definitely brings the team closer and makes us stronger on the pitch. It’s also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people from different year groups, and it’s fun going out with such a large group of mates.” So it’s clear why sport is enjoyed by so many people, but in that case, why doesn’t everyone play? Psychologists have proposed that certain personality types are more likely to participate and succeed in sports than others. These traits include possessing a greater aspiration for success rather than a fear of failure. Successful athletes will be drawn towards competition and realisable challenges, as their motivation to achieve will be greater than their motivation to avoid failure. A high self-efficacy (the
belief in one’s own competence) is also associated with sporting accomplishment. As Lance Armstrong once said, “If you are worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.” Furthermore, individuals that are high in conscientiousness have also been identified as likely to succeed in sport. These hard-working people are more likely to be motivated to attend training sessions and stick to schedules, to keep practicing a tricky skill to perfect it and to not give up at the first hurdle. Unsurprisingly, world record-holding marathon runner Paula Radcliffe scores highly in this trait. However, it is important to bear in mind that some of the most outstanding sports players are not necessarily those achieving Firsts in
academic work, suggesting that one’s personal enjoyment of a sport most strongly predicts commitment. When asked about what sport had brought to his university experience, Alex Polding told the Boar: “My time at Warwick wouldn’t have been half as good if I hadn’t played for UWMFC: it’s given me loads of friends, sporting achievements and a much welcomed break from uni work.”
Want to find out more about Varsity? Try:
bringing you the sport www.atass-sports.co.uk