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I s s u e 7 1 4

young and gay in putin’s russia

The evolution of budget airlines

Christine ohuruogu interview

rail renationalisation is not a radical policy

The art of drag

Photo Credit: Helen Dickman


orking in student media is hard – it really is. From the greenest writer to the most seasoned editor-in-chief, it simply makes sense not to do it.

and there are always multiple misspelled names. There are pages to design, degrees in decline, editors who are impossible to please, and way, way too many coffees.

There are late nights and last minute articles to write. There are frequent, probably too short deadlines to make, and there are photos to take. There are interviews to secure and editors’ instructions to procure. There are annoying edits, forgotten photo credits, and the omnipresent question of who’s even read it? There are review requests for shows, hijacked competitions for prose, and a relentless stream of typos. There are evenings spent covering obscure varsity games,

And yet, in spite of all of that, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a large group of talented people giving 110 per cent all year long. They’ve spent their nights and weekends (and afternoons and mornings) putting together this magazine, meeting every bar we’ve raised and every curveball we’ve thrown with grace, creativity, and passion. It’s easy to criticise and point out errors. It’s much harder, and much braver, to dedicate yourself to actually doing something,

to creating something – especially when everyone says what you’re doing doesn’t matter. To every single person who, in contributing to any of the magazines in any way, has done just that: We thank you one last time. Unlike the three previous issues from this academic year, Pi Magazine 714 has no overarching theme. Instead, it’s a compilation of the last things our writers and editors wanted to say – the last stories they wanted to tell, the last issues they wanted to cover. We thought we owed them that. Saying goodbye is difficult, so we’ll keep it simple: It’s been a privilege.

Katherine Riley and Wyndham Hacket Pain Editors-in-Chief Pi Magazine, 2015-16

CONTENT Photo Credit: Helen Dickman


Editorial: Do student elections really matter?


Why I never want to leave uni


Pi Debates: Uber


An interview with Vikki Dark


The (Fictional) Election of 2016


Rail renationalisation is not a radical policy


So you want to be President of the United States?


The history of the potato


“The pill is yesterday’s method of contraception”


The science of sleep


Living in the final frontier


Christine Ohuruogu interview


The weird and wonderful world of hybrid sports


Young and gay in Putin’s Russia


The evolution of budget airlines


Guide to mindfulness


5 Instagram stereotypes and who to follow instead


Campus Style: Trainers


Overheard/Best lifestyle apps for students


Pi Recommends


London’s best tattooists


The art of drag


Graphic novels since Watchmen


Art and mental health


Through a child’s eyes


New detective


Death of the poet


Why should we care about classical music?


Yes, we do judge a book by its cover


Animals in literature


Editorial Team

pi magazine 714 | editorial


Student Elections really



ince you’ve come to university there has been no election that would have impacted you more than the ones for UCLU. Yet, despite this it is most likely that you have never voted. Last year in the spring elections only 16.7 percent of students at UCL voted. This was not an anomaly or a one off. In the spring elections of 2014 there was only a 20.6 percent turnout, in 2013 16.3 percent, and in 2012 15.4 percent. The student union has many roles, ranging from giving students advice and support with the Rights & Advice centre, to helping students volunteer and get jobs. However, most of us will come into contact with the union through the societies that we are a part of. UCLU is responsible for the 230 clubs and societies currently operating around campus. For some of us the time we have spent doing these extra-curricular activities has been a major part of our university experience. More than 8,000 of us join a student society each year, and in many cases, it is the skills we learn there and not in the lecture theatre that shape the career choices we make once we have graduated. However you look at it, the results of the student union elections can have a large impact on your time at university. For less well advertised roles, or positions where only certain students can vote, the number of ballots cast is even lower. The classic line in any election that one vote can’t make a difference, but in the case of some of these positions it really can. In last year’s spring Elections, Kyle Jordan, Disabled Students’ Officer, was elected after

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gaining 64 of the 77 votes cast. With the current governments reduction of support for disabled students it’s more important than ever to show support for those who will try to prevent this trend. There is no excuse for not voting – it’s not like the posters and banners which cover every UCL building in the run up to an election are hard to miss. Unlike other elections you may vote in there is no need to register and manifestos for every candidate are easily accessible on the union’s website. When it comes to voting you don’t even have to move from your laptop, as it is all done online. Students at UCL are all too ready to share their views on how the university is run and how it could be improved, so why don’t they partake in the simple act of voting? Student elections are in no way perfect – just look at the alleged fraud at last year’s spring election that resulted in Asad Khan having a one percent of his votes deduced – but voting gives means that those are elected are more accountable. The student union can be disconnected and unknown to many students and the best way to address this is to vote and have some influence over it. There are so many issues that students care about, from the Junior Doctors strikes and cuts to maintenance grants, to Fossil Free campaigns and proposed increases in tuition fees. At a time when students’ issues are being increasingly ignored on a national level, it is more important than ever to engage with an organisation that is there to represent you.

Comment|Pi Magazine 714

Why I


Want to Leave Uni

Izzy Cutts laments the struggle of third year


ollowing a very typical third year fear breakdown triggered by a traditional future-based grilling by my parents over the holidays, I have concluded I never want to leave university and I never want to grow up. While my parents argue that freezing time is not a suitable career plan, in the face of the alternatives, even being that 40+ fresher is preferable right now. If you are not a finalist you might think you understand my worries, after all applying for internships and work experience and beginning to contemplate your future is rather traumatising. However, nothing can describe the heart-pounding dread that students in their final year experience when they realise there are only a handful of weeks left of their university experience - the words job or future are enough to induce hyperventilating panic. Being the dissatisfied moany student body that we are, those claiming to be desperate to leave and so done with UCL are extremely vocal in every library and café across campus. But why? Being a student is such a cushy deal. I have 6 contact hours a week and the rest of the time I am free. Ok, I’m not completely free, I still have reading and essays, but compared to the responsibilities of a full-time job, that is nothing. Plus, all those extra-long holidays mean we are only obliged to be here half the year.  The biggest struggle in the student’s life is the 9am lecture. In the working world you

are expected to be in for 9am every day. Having spoken to my friends who are in a similar position, it seems to be somewhat of a marmite topic; some cannot wait to get out and be free to do what they want, and never think about academia ever again - others never want this year to end.

I’ve only been to two of the 17 libraries Grace Nalty, a third year History of Art student like me, said “I can’t wait to leave university so I can get my life back. All I can do at the moment is my degree.” I think a huge part of it is those who are facing the reality of having to get a job by the end of the summer to avoid the dreaded moving back in with the parents, are beginning to realise how good they have had it. Whereas, people without the pressure of having to find a job straight away are looking forward to having even less responsibilities. Mattie Hernandez, another History of Art finalist said, “I don’t want to leave uni because I don’t want a real job!” Job fear aside, there are so many other great perks to student life that I will miss.

Obviously there’s the student discount, but also student oyster cards, not paying council tax, and having a valid reason as to why you need to live in central London. University is also a ridiculous excuse to try out new things, and there are so many opportunities I haven’t even had the time to take: I could use a few more years to discover my sport. I have only just mastered the History of Art department’s very unique referencing system, and I’m not sure I’m ready to give up all those hours work. I’m still battling with the printers, and I’ve only been to two of the 17 libraries. Then there are all the people I have met. My personal tutor is only just beginning to remember who I am. Think of all those hours of painful small talk: from freshers’ week to every new class. I have no idea where all my friends will be next year – it’s a very sensitive topic at the moment – but supposing we all do get jobs, who knows how often we’ll see each other. Realistically, I won’t see most of these people ever again, and I’m going to have to do those icebreakers all over. There are some things I won’t miss like rancid student flats, fighting for a space in the library, and Eduroam’s unpredictability. But I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. I think people take for granted how easy students have it, and people who are lucky enough to have never needed to work, honestly have no idea what’s coming. They say these are the best years of your life, and it’s time to accept it’s only downhill from here.

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FOR By: Nicoletta Enria


s the war between black cab and Uber drivers rages on, the question remains: What is so good about Uber anyway? The Uber app, for those of you who having been living under a rock, connects drivers and passengers directly without using a centralised booking service or having to hail a cab on the street. The app brands itself as a reliable, safe, and cheaper option for most of the world’s major cities. Without having to drunkenly beg your cab driver to take you to the nearest cash point, the fare is taken directly off your account. You can see the predicted fare amount before starting your journey and track your journey on your smart phone to avoid being ripped off. A revolutionary addition that seemed to be too good to be true after countless times I was taken on ridiculous detours growing up in Rome.

evening caught in the wrath of a thunderstorm waiting for a night bus for what felt like an eternity, I caved. I decided to blame it on my hypochondria and felt that I had to abandon all principles to avoid bronchitis during essay season and proceeded to download Uber. Perhaps the only time my hypochondria has brought me any good, stranded in a tiny road in the depths of Streatham my knight in shining armour came to my rescue and drove me home for a very reasonable price in a toasty clean car furnished with water bottles and sweets.

ways enjoyed my late night jaunts profusely, plugging in my music and enjoying the company of normally very friendly drivers. If I can avoid drunkenly waiting for night buses that will then take hours to cross London and instead get home at an affordable rate at the mere touch of a finger, I will 100 percent take that option.

Don’t get me wrong, getting into a car with a stranger, and even worse accepting sweets from him, seems like the beginning of a banal commercial you show children to warn them against sex offenders. I am lucky enough that I have never had any horrible experiences with Uber; I have al-

: s e

I admit I was late to jump on the Uber bandwagon. When it first came out, I didn’t trust it, it just seemed too good to be true. One

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r e b

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By: cinzia leonard

’ll admit it from the outset, as the daughter of a black cabbie, Uber has always been a no-go.

At first, I thought my dad was being paranoid and resisting a little healthy competition. But the thing is, he doesn’t have a problem with me getting a local minicab home after a night out, and at a push, he’ll stomach the occasional Addison Lee trip. At the end of the day, he knows a black cab to zone 4 just isn’t affordable for a student budget and a satnav will do just fine. His problem, as with many cabbies, is not with other cab services, but with having to adhere to regulations from which others seem exempt and suffering for simply adhering to the law. The standard pro-Uber arguments are fairly predictable – it’s cheap, convenient, tech-savvy, and it’s finally ridding the black cabbies of the monopoly they have no entitlement to. God forbid that we should try to regulate the great capitalist dream. After

coverage of the taxi protests in Central London, you’d be forgiven for not realising that they’re protesting for customer safety, not their own profit margins.

all, it’s proven to be a great success in ethics so far. Frankly, as far as the argument for convenience goes, you only have to look at apps like Gett, Hailo and Kabbee to see that Uber isn’t exactly unique, just cutting corners where others aren’t. The same goes for those arguing for Uber as the Robin Hood of the private hire industry – on Kabbee alone, there are over 60 separate minicab companies offering alternative fares, which doesn’t quite fit with the narrative depicting the economic dictatorship of black cabs. So, really, it’s about price. And yet, despite Uber having raised their rates during recent London tube strikes by over 200 percent, and playing similar tricks on nights like New Year’s Eve, it’s the black cabs that get the bad name. The irony is that black cabs are the only service with regulated fares – so unlike with Uber, you won’t get home to find you’ve been billed $200 for a ten-minute journey. No cash payments mean you had better leave on good terms with your driver or your finances could take a serious hit. The best part is, if you are overcharged, or are involved in an accident, Uber doesn’t even have a phone line that you can call – one of the many legal regulations they are not adhering to and which the black cabs, alongside minicabs, are fighting to have enforced. If you’ve listened to any of the recent radio

The fact is, there’s a reason it’s so cheap. For one, from a profit of £866,000 in the UK in the last financial year, Uber paid a little over £20,000 in tax - as much as just four black cabs. Undoubtedly, tax avoidance might not bother you enough to delete the app. That same knowledge doesn’t stop me from buying my morning latté from Starbucks either. What matters to me is my safety. Frankly, Uber isn’t safe because it isn’t properly regulated. The app-based company has already been fined $28.5 million in the US for misleading consumers about safety and an entire website is dedicated to its court cases, with over 50 cases of sexual assault alone listed for the last 18 months. The result of the lack of background checks speaks for itself. Conveniently, it took weeks before it was reported that the Leytonstone attacker Muhaydin Mire had been licensed and working as an Uber driver before his attempted attack. The app was even banned in Delhi after a driver was found guilty of raping a female passenger. Now, Uber executives faces charges in French courts for illegal operations, including violation of privacy laws. You have to ask yourself, when one company has caused strikes in Denmark, Montreal, and Budapest in the last month alone, is this solely about the desire for monopoly of London cabbies or are they simply the only ones bothered enough not to plead ignorance to what is happening? TFL are cashing-in at the expense of other drivers in the industry and with the likes of Google behind them, Uber’s billionaire investors are making it almost impossible for drivers to fight back. As consumers we have a say. Don’t support what Uber stands for.

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Pi magazine 714|features

An Interview With

Vikki Dark

The Author, feminist, and ex-glamour model talks to Oriol Roche about the glamour industry, literature, and her quest to change pornography laws


itting in the corner of a coffee shop, Vikki Dark sips on a cappuccino. Her long, purple nails almost glow in contrast with the white cup as she talks in a confident voice, accompanying her words with smooth hand gestures. She smiles a lot – a wide, earnest smile. Even when talking about the darker times of her life, she remains seemingly open.

books exploring the glamour industry and its darker underbelly. The topic is also central in Dark’s biography, since she was a glamour model for over 5 years. During her time in the industry, she also “visited” pornography and lap-dancing clubs. Now she is fighting against the sexual objectification and mistreatment of women in this industry.

Dark is a UK born author who specialises in the erotic genre. She has published three

As part of her fight, she visited UCL back in January as a proposition speaker for the

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UCLU Debating Society on the motion : “This House would make pornography illegal”. Although she didn’t win the debate, her heartfelt speech describing her experiences with pornography and the sex industry both shocked and moved the audience. As she reclines in her armchair at the coffee shop, she reminisces about that day: “I’m quite embarrassed to talk about it. But I will. I have to, it’s important.” “I had my very first experience with por-

features | Pi magazine 714

photographers looking for models. That was the beginning.” This was not a one-time events: she stayed in the business for half a decade. “At the end of it I felt like I was worth absolutely nothing... I felt like I had just been drained of any spirit”. It was at the age of 26 that she then decided to go to university: “I had my child in a buggy. I wheeled him into the University of Essex and I just signed up. I was actually crying. It was as dramatic as that.” She studied Media and did her Master’s degree on the language of film and its link to literature. She got published fairly quickly after quitting the glamour industry. “All the time I was in the industry, I was writing. I kept practising and practising... after ten years of constantly sending things off and getting rejections, I got a couple of offers come through.” Her first book, Disturbia, “eroticises the glamour industry” in a collection of short stories. After that, The Trouble with Beauty and Temptress followed: the former is a novel about a girl who rebels against the glamour industry, and the latter is a biography of notorious UK glamour model Lindsey Dawn Mackenzie.

nography at a very young age. It was a one-off. I went back to it later on in my life because of money. This man, who is still very much out there, and is trying to break into the mainstream, told me that a lot of the images and footage would be kept in a back catalogue that wouldn’t be released. And I did sign a contract that allowed for this imagery to be shared, but I was specifically told that they were going to be kept for a private collection. And it was for a lot of money, I’m talking £5000.” Dark explains that she didn’t make a living out of pornography, but she did make a living out of glamour modelling. Glamour modelling is a form of photography in which the subjects, usually female, are portrayed in erotic or exciting ways ranging from fully clothed to nude. Dark got into it when she was quite young, after what she calls “a decision based on a troubled mindset”. She adds “at the time, I was kind of ‘spontaneous’” – she draws quotation marks in the air with her fingers when she utters that last word. “I’m not trying to earn anyone’s sympathy, but I didn’t have much familial support. So one day I saw a newspaper article in The Stage. As well as doing very respectable thespian articles, they also have little adverts about

Her last book got her into legal trouble when Mackenzie decided that Dark was not portraying her truthfully. Dark denies this, claiming that “When you put a mirror in front of her, she can’t look. In her head, she’s a star. And that made me think: this bloody glamour industry.”

“I actually think it’s a proper form of propaganda to sexually degrade women.” So she created a pioneering petition where she demands protection of human rights from pornography drawing from her experience and her studies of film and literature. Pornography, she thinks, has now become almost synonymous with the gonzo genre. “Gonzo is in the camera angles and the way the woman is presented. It’s very intrusive. It is highly degrading and highly unattractive. The cameras are aligned with the male

gaze, and the woman has no voice that comes through in the visual. She’s silenced by the camera, because the camera angles do not support any freedom of will.” It is this extinguishment of the female voice and agency that she finds extremely harmful. “I actually think it’s a proper form of propaganda to sexually degrade women.” Dark is now doing her PhD on transgressive fiction. “Do you know transgressive fiction? Oh, you might fall in love if I introduce it to you”, she says happily when asked after her PhD choice. “Do you know American Psycho? I fell in love with it, because it’s all about form, and not content. It’s about the form, the way the writer gets the content across. It’s something called literary minimalism: a flat clinical narration, which actually makes the reader be confronted with the violence.” When the writer provides “no moral optic”, she explained, it “makes the reader accountable for their own response.” She then talks about Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange and Stanley Kubrick with a child-like excitement in her voice. “I love Kubrick, even though he’s totally misogynistic, because he constantly uses female sexualisation. It was kind of his thing. He was of a certain era.” It seems that Dark believes that a work of art can be enjoyed in spite of its moral message, and takes into account when it was created. “Transgressive fiction gets accused of being nihilistic, which some might think is worrying. Nihilism just means that nothing in the world is actually good or bad, intrinsically. I kind of like that – it’s so pioneering and forward thinking. It makes Christianity look so reductive.” Dark’s cappuccino has been resting on the table for the past thirty minutes, half-full. She’s been completely engrossed in describing her journey as a model, an academic, and a feminist. In her life, she’s grown from a position of despair to a position of empowerment. Now she is furthering her academic career and working to change pornography and human rights laws, in order to prevent women who are still working in the glamour industry from being exploited and mistreated. Unavoidably, there is something about her, as she walks out of the coffee shop surely, that makes me believe that she whatever it is she strives for, she will achieve it. Vikki Dark’s petition can be found at: http://

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Photo credit: Helen Dickman

Pi Magazine 714 | Politics


Grace Segers, Nancy Heath, John Bilton, and Matei Gheorghiu pitch their favourite fictional politicians in the biggest election battle of the year


Vote for Leia By: Grace Segers There are a lot of amazing fictional politicians, but one in particular sticks out as a leader of incredible skill and fortitude. Ladies and gentlemen, make way for the pride of Alderaan, because here comes the general: Leia Organa. In Episode IV, Leia Organa is a teenage senator who’s secretly a double agent for the Rebellion. Leia is tortured by agents of the Galactic Empire—including her dad, Darth Vader (whoops)—but she doesn’t crack under pressure. She sees her planet destroyed, but she still manages to keep the Rebellion’s secrets and help Luke Skywalker and Han Solo save the day. In Episodes V and VI, Leia is a skilled tactician, helping to make battle plans to take down the Empire. She’s instrumental in the Battle of Endor, guys! (#YourFaveCouldNever) Then, when we see her in The Force Awakens, Leia is a general. She’s the leader of the Resistance, still kicking ass and taking names. So basically, Leia is an amazing politician, warrior, sass master, and she gets to make out with young Harrison Ford. Case closed.

Please rise for President Frank Underwood By: Nancy Heath Frank will do anything for politics. Really

anything. This South Carolina sweetheart has a heart of gold behind the perfect suit and false smile. Let’s not forget how hard

he tried to help Peter Russo get that governorship... (How can we blame Frank if Peter then went a little off the rails?) Remember, Frank is ridiculously organised, efficient, and competent – something to always look for in a partner, I mean politician. Also, fourth wall, what fourth wall? President Underwood speaks directly to the camera with the occasional southern aphorism. This means Frank is watching you. So I’d vote for him. He might not be too pleased if you choose a different track. And yes, vote for Frank is a vote for scheming murderers everywhere, but at least this scheming murderer will be ruthlessly on your side. Tired of worrying about moral scruples and getting things done officially and legally? Then Frank is the guy for you. Let’s get the world back on the right track. [Zoe Barnes was unavailable for comment.]

“When the president stands, nobody sits.” – President Jed Bartlet By: John Bilton Is Jed Bartlet your favourite US President? No? Then put this magazine down and get back to Texas, Mr Bush. A blend of FDR and Carter with a dash of Clinton, Bartlet is the perfect statesman: a Nobel Prize-winning economist, deeply principled, exceedingly intelligent, and boundlessly compassionate. And yet, he is also human: he can be short-tempered, lonely, and at times ridden with guilt over some of his actions as president—from hiding his M.S. from the public

to ordering the assassination of a foreign defence minister. We all make mistakes. These flaws are part of why he is so likeable. Other reasons are his wit (see: any conversation between him and his secretary, Mrs. Landingham), his kindness, and his magnetic intelligence. He is a devout Catholic whose religious beliefs don’t stop him being pro-gay rights or pro-choice (see: his monologue in “The Midterms”). He’s a wise commander-in-chief who values the lives of soldiers, but will deploy them to stop atrocities abroad. He is, essentially, the anti-Bush. So really, who better to be president?

Malcolm Tucker: the Unf***able by: Matei Gheorghiu The star of The Thick of It, Malcolm Tucker’s furious demeanor is a magnificent reflection of the oily, murky darkness which by all accounts is the behind-the-scenes of establishment politics. This is a character that has absorbed the sordid dealings of Westminster while somehow managing to shield his immaculate heart. He always has some “greater good” in mind. His brutal methodology could, perhaps, be replaced with that of the unctuous bazaar merchant, but then, does it not feel good to see inane politicians tremble in their polished boots—even if just fictionally? Perhaps it’s unwise to endorse a systematic liar and professional spin-doctor, but something in Malcolm’s particular brand of Machiavellianism—his focus, his determination, his wit and omniscience—is somehow astonishingly, perhaps insidiously, compelling, as is his renowned foul mouth. You could say he speaks in a poetry of sorts. Malcolm is the master of his domain, and it’s irrelevant that he celebrates his 50th birthday friendless alone in his office. Should he be a role model? No. Is he? Hell yes.


Pi Magazine 714 | politics



ne of the things you’ll notice as you eat your £3 meal deal at Euston station is the striking array of different rail operators running the trains. (Alright, maybe it’s just me) London Midland, Virgin Trains, London Overground, and Caledonian Sleeper all serve passengers coming out of the Euston terminus, soon to be joined by High Speed Rail 2. What us 21st century kids might not remember is that it wasn’t always this way. After the stunning rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership showed a large contingent of voters would back traditionally socialist policies, perhaps it’s time to think about the policy of rail renationalisation. Some may say that Corbyn’s Old Left style makes his ambition for a “people’s railway” seem like the trappings of mid-century socialist nostalgia, but this is one Corbyn policy which is far from radical. Away from Westminster chambers and national media press rooms, public support is growing for a return to nationalised railways. According to Ellie Harrison,

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who runs the “Bring Back British Rail” campaign: “There’s a massive discrepancy between what happens in parliament and what people think.” In 2012, Guardian, MSN and GFK polls showed Britons are 93 per cent, 75 per cent, and 70 per cent respectively in favour of renationalisation. The most recent YouGov poll on the issue shows a more conservative estimate, but still finds 58 per cent – more than the Conservative and Labour vote shares in the 2015 general election put together – are in favour of the policy. It’s hardly a leap to suggest that this policy could become a political force within the next few years. “Support is growing,” says Harrison, “The [Bring Back British Rail] campaign’s been going since 2009, and over the last six and a half years, we’ve been instrumental in trying to popularise the policy and get more and more people behind it.” As it stands, over 38,000 people have signed the petition on the campaign’s website, and

that number is growing daily. Rail renationalisation isn’t an economic pie-in-the-sky dream either. We only have to look across the Channel to see instances of nationalised rail as a roaring success. The German state train operator, Deutsche Bahn (DB), is a stunning example of this success. The company, headquartered in the Bahn Tower skyscraper on Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, had over 300,000 employees and a net income after tax of €1.394 billion in 2013. Although it has its own problems, it’s hardly a struggling, inefficient state monopoly. DB is not restricted to Germany either. It owns and operates Arriva, which may sound familiar because they run several London bus routes. And DB is not the only state rail company that also runs foreign routes. The Dutch state rail operator, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) owns Abellio, another company running London buses, as well as Greater Anglia rail and ScotRail.

politics | pi magazine 714

The French have two significant slices of the British public transport pie. Kelios, a subsidiary of the French national rail company SNCF, owns part of several lucrative rail contracts in Britain, netting the French government a staggering £33.8m profit in 2012, according to ASLEF, the British train drivers’ union. RATP, the Parisian version of TfL, also operates six public transport franchises in Britain, including two sets of London bus services. All this adds up to some serious economic clout, and it’s been recognised as problematic, even by the Conservatives, the ideological enemies of renationalisation. Earlier this year, they helped develop a plan to hand all of South London’s commuter rail services to TfL. “[The Tories] know it’s a much more efficient way of running an integrated system of public transport,” says Harrison, “There’s a lot of hypocrisy going on.” Some might argue that, in the past, British Rail was vulnerable to abuse by governments who held back investment from the north of England. Harrison recognises this as a potential probem but is adamant it will not be an issue for a newly renationalised rail service. “The free market (or as free as you can get in transport) is uneven in investment and spending,” she says, “More goes to where

more people are living. You just have to look at trains in London compared to the North – there’s a huge discrepancy. What we need is a universal service.” Here lies the crux of the issue. What we have now, and have had in the past, is a system in which the transport needs of large parts of the population are ignored. As anyone who’s tried to get a bus outside of London knows, inequality is deeply embedded into the heart of British public transport.

a return to nationalised railways could be one of the key election promises in the 2020 election This inequality is now being felt by passen-

gers who have faced an average price rise of 30 per cent over the last ten years, just as real wages have stagnated. This price rise might have been accepted by the public if a privatised rail system had delivered an actual improvement in quality and comfort, as was promised by those who implemented the current system in the 90s – but it hasn’t. What’s even more galling is that those high-priced tickets don’t even make up the whole income of these corporations. Taxpayer subsidies to private rail companies totalled £4.8 billion in 2014-15, according to the Office of Rail and Road. So passengers are effectively paying twice for an subpar service. These complaints are starting to make waves in government, at long last. Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to rail renationalisation, as well as the consistent Green Party and Ukip attention on the issue, amount to a serious bloc of political support. With the increasing popularity of the policy, it’s conceivable that a return to nationalised railways could be one of the key election promises in the 2020 election. So who knows? Ten years from now, we may very well find ourselves sitting on a “People’s Railway” train, thinking about those weird couple of decades when a bunch of French and German companies ran all of our trains.

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Mary Newman gives out five serious tips on how to talk about foreign policy if you want to win the American presidency

So you want to be...

presdent of the united states 1. Don’t get too caught up in the details. China, Russia, Iran and North Korea – don’t bother differentiating between countries that can’t even learn the American alphabet. Just like Superman, you too will need a Lex Luther during your term in office, and these guys are pretty much interchangeable as enemies.

2. Immigrants are lazy AND they steal our jobs. Yes, both—at the same time. No, don’t ask questions. This is a fact.

3. Find advisors you can trust. Family friends—especially your father’s friends—are always a safe bet. Choose carefully though—make sure these people

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don’t have personal interests in any of the foreign regions you let them work with you on. That way you’ll know their opinions are “fair” and “balanced”.

4. Don’t work too hard! In the end, you’re not the only person who doesn’t know the difference between Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan, so don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you remember where your freedom lies (it lies with your gun), you’ll do fine!

5. Bombs and walls are your prerogative When times are bad, say you’ll bomb someone. When times are good, say you’ll threaten to bomb someone. If bombing really doesn’t apply to the situation at hand, then just say you’ll build a wall and make the country whose nationals you’re trying to keep out pay for it. How will you make them pay? Just say you’ll threaten to bomb them.

Photo Credit: Helen Dickman

pi magazine 714 | politics

Science & tech | pi magazine 714

Sam Fearnley looks at the potato’s long journey to our dinner table




s there more versatile food than the potato? I would argue no. From humble and slightly underwhelming beginnings, the potato has risen to become an economic and social driver of change in both old and new worlds. The potato was first domesticated in a region that now forms part of Peru and Bolivia, between 8000 and 5000 years ago. Its introduction to Europe came from sailors returning from Andean regions, around the end of the 16th century. Potatoes were delivered into ports in the Iberian Peninsula, the British Isles, and Antwerp. They proved to be quite a successful food, and were used in stores for long maritime ventures across the Atlantic. In the age of empire, peasants adopted the potato as a source of nutrition. They found that potatoes, which grow underground, were much safer from marauding armies than more conspicuous over-ground stores of grain. The potato later became the in vogue food item, and noble characters became intensely fascinated with this most unassuming tuber. Marie-Antoinette was even recorded as having worn a headdress of potato flowers at a fancy dress ball. The popular potato spread across Europe with ease. By 1845, about a third of Irish arable land was planted with potatoes. The potato was also a major driver of economic progress. It helped feed growing populations in the north of England and the whole of Europe, preventing rapidly populations from becoming malnourished. It also helped supply nutrition for labourers in the

ever-growing industrial centres that helped power the industrial revolution. At this time in the mid-19th century, the potato was attributed to this population explosion, though not as a source of nutrition, but as an aphrodisiac. Whether or not this is true is certainly up for debate, but potatoes are known to stimulate insulin levels in the body, which affects amino acid transfer between the blood and the brain, and causes the release of serotonin. This serotonin hormone can make you feel happier, and even perhaps in love. For its part in the industrial revolution, Friedrich Engels described the potato as being as “historically revolutionary” as iron. While William H. McNeill, a prominent Canadian-American historian, has argued that the potato catalysed the rise of the West on the global stage. He says, “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.” Countries that went on to colonise large swathes of Africa took the potato with them, where it was less eagerly embraced. Local farmers believed it to be poisonous, and a symbol of European domination. Nevertheless, potatoes did become a staple in some parts of the continent, especially in those areas that were ravaged by war. A similar story was seen in Asia, where the Imperial family of China began eating potatoes in the 1600’s. Oriental potato cultivation eventually became more ecumenical, and was later disseminated across the country.

Back in Europe, times of surplus were short-lived. The extremely low genetic diversity of European potatoes led them to an exceptionally high susceptibility to disease. Almost all potatoes in Ireland were of the Lumper variety, and all were clones of one another, because potatoes reproduce vegetatively, meaning they reproduce asexually and every offspring is genetically identical to the parent. With almost ineluctable consequence, a strain of potato blight, called Phytophthora infestans spread from the Americas to Europe, and in 1845 it reached Ireland and established what was to become the Irish Potato famine. One million Irish people died from lack of nutrition and associated diseases. Around this time began a massive emigration of a further one million people from Ireland to countries such as Britain, Canada, and the US. The modern potato is extremely widespread, and it’s a quite well-known fact that you can survive on a diet composed solely of potato and milk. This is not to say that the potato is some form of superfood. Chips, and many other potato forms, are one of the main sources of the current obesity epidemic. A more simple approach to cooking potatoes, such as cooking them in rapeseed oil, could be of benefit to populations where potatoes are a staple. The potato’s history is derived from its function as both a cause and product of social and economic changes through much of modern history. Who would have thought that the humble potato has been diversified, globalised, and fried?

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Pi Magazine 714 | Science & tech

“THE PILL IS YESTERDAY’S METHOD OF CONTRAC Sarai Keestra talks to John Guillebaud, UCL Professor Emeritus for Family Planning and Reproductive health, about the future of contraception


he pill is by far the most popular and yet most out-dated form of contraception for students, according to UCL Professor Emeritus for Reproductive Health, John Guillebaud. “There is not one perfect way of contraception, but the contraceptive pill is way down the list.” He sees Long-Acting Reversible Action Contraceptives (LARCs) and male contraception as the future. The pill seems like a simple solution for most women: take one every day and you don’t get pregnant. In reality, this is often not how it works. Only “perfect” pill users have a very small chance of getting pregnant with 3 in 1000 women getting pregnant within a year. However, most women

PAGe 16

don’t belong to that category. They regularly forget to take the pill or start a new packet too late. For these “normal” pill users, the chances of getting pregnant greatly increase to 9 out of 100 pill users yearly. Most commonly used is the combined oral contraceptive pill, a combination of the female hormones progesterone and oestrogen. This works in three ways: first it changes the body’s hormone balance so the egg doesn’t ovulate, then the mucus in the neck of the womb thickens so sperm cannot get through, and finally, it makes the lining of the womb thinner so a fertilised egg is less able to implant in the uterine wall. Different brands may vary the relative dose of the two hormones but most of them only

need to be taken for 21 days followed by a 7 day break. Patients who forget to start their new packet of pills after this break are the main contributors to unwanted pregnancies in pill users. Some brands came up with solutions like seasonal pills or 365/365 pills with fewer breaks. Another solution is putting seven dummy pills in a packet so the normal pill taking routine can be kept. Although this is common practice in the US and developing countries, placebo pills are forbidden in the EU and thus there is a greater chance of women forgetting to restart in time. Guillebaud highlights this: “If you do decide that you prefer the pill: never be a late re-starter!”

Science & tech | pi magazine 714

synthetics similar to the hormone progesterone, which thickens the mucus plug in the neck of the womb so that sperm cannot enter and it thins the lining of the uterus. Because LARCs only give you a low dose of progesterone often less side effects are reported.

CEPTION” So what about the good old condom? Bad news folks, the condom is not as safe as many people think. “With one ejaculation, a single man produces enough sperm to fertilise the whole population of North-America. If there is even a tiny leakage, one sperm can be enough,” Guillebaud explains Condoms are a good choice if you are having infrequent sex with different people as they also protect against STDs. However, they have a failure rate of two per cent, with 18 out of 100 women getting pregnant within a year if it is the only form of contraception the couple consistently uses. Guillebaud thinks that LARCs are a better alternative to these two contraceptives. “With LARCs, the default state is not getting pregnant. You don’t have to remember taking them and they are therefore the safer option.” A LARC gives low doses of

male contraceptive pill. Guillebaud is closely associated with one of the research team for the male pill led by King’s College London researcher Dr. Amobi. They are very close to a breakthrough with their cleanbed sheet pill. This is a pill that leads to a dry orgasm, which feels exactly the same as a normal one except no semen gets out. The semen gets naturally reabsorbed in the body. Not only would this method make a great contraceptive, it could also mean a reduction in HIV contamination. Unfortunately pharmaceutical companies are hesitant to invest in the research on the male contraceptive pill because they question the profitability.

The implant is the most effective contraception method currently Lack of available knowledge about the alternatives is the main reason that people still take the pill

LARCs come in various forms: patches, injections, in-uterine devices and as implants. The hormonal IUD is a good option for students: not only is it a very reliable method, it also gives you lighter periods because the uterine lining will not be as thick as usual. The implant is the most effective contraception method currently available, beating even female vasectomy and being nearly as effective as male vasectomy.

There seems to be a buffet of female contraceptive methods available but isn’t it weird that women have thirteen different methods to choose from while there are only two forms of contraception currently available for men? According to Guillebaud, this will change, “It is already normal that man and woman share the tasks in the house. I think that in the future men and women will take turns in taking some kind of contraception.” Research teams across the world are trying to make this a reality. Some promising research is done on chemicals that are injected into the vas deferens, which is the tube that leads sperm to the mixture of other fluids before ejaculation. The chemicals would form a plug, which stops sperm from leaving. The plug can be flushed out simply by another injection and would therefore be easily reversible.

According to a study by the Telegraph, 63 per cent of the British women only rely on two forms of contraception: the pill and the condom, although there are fifteen contraceptive methods available. Lack of knowledge about the alternatives is the main reason that people still take the pill. The best thing you can do is to inform yourself. Although the internet is always a good place to start, remember that often only people who have complaints write reviews on the internet. The best option is going to a family planning clinic for information. As Guillebaud says: “We give the facts, but the user should be the chooser.”

Another hopeful alternative would be the

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pi magazine 714 | science & tech


he rare few of us, the early risers, have experienced that wonderful feeling of waking up a few minutes before the alarm goes off, knowing that the day will be a good one. You feel like the sun is shining on the other side of the window, but, honestly, it wouldn’t even matter if it wasn’t. You feel optimistic, like you could conquer the world and no one could stop you if they tried. Most importantly you feel not-so-bothered about going to your 9AM. However, most days are different. Commonly for students, there are terrible days in which the awful alarm clock starts ringing at an ungodly hour, just when you were starting to drift into sleep. Opening your eyes is a struggle, let alone moving your feet to get out of bed. Those days, when it’s raining outside, all you want to do is crawl back to sleep, watch a movie, and, maybe then, dare to get up. Sleep is a touchy subject because, like every other touchy subject, it is tightly related to our emotions. This relationship has been proved and studied by Professor Talma Hendler at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Her research team kept 18 adults awake for 24 hours and post-sleep-deprivation. The participants and a few other well-rested subjects were asked to carry out a task,


while distracting images were presented to them. Some of these images were neutral, like a spoon; while others had a positive or negative emotional charge: a kitten and a mutilated body, respectively.

The so-called sleep hormone, melatonin, is the lullaby that puts us to sleep every night Interestingly, the well-rested subjects were only distracted by the emotional images but sleep-deprived people found neutral ones distracting as well. Brain activity of all subjects was measured with an fMRI scanner. The amygdala, a brain region known to be involved in emotion processing, was activated in well-rested subjects exclu-

sively when emotional images were presented, whereas, in sleep-deprived ones, the amygdala showed activation when neutral images were introduced as well. From these results, the research team concluded that neutrality is lost with sleep-deprivation. In other words, after an all-nighter our feelings might react weirdly to normal, everyday things. Maybe, that horrible feeling of not having slept nearly enough is influenced by this altered emotional processing. And perhaps, the happy feeling after a good night’s sleep has something to do with a stable emotional processing. What’s clear is that sleep affects our feelings and emotions, but there is a lot more to discover about why this is. What we do know is that people are different, emotionally speaking. Some can go a day without sleep and feel relatively fine, while others will be especially irritable and just fall asleep every chance that they get, and even when they don’t get a chance. Similarly, after a fight with a friend, some feel like the world is falling to pieces and can’t rest until the problem is fixed, while others are not as affected and can carry on with their lives. Unsurprisingly, adolescents are often described as the most dramatic, moody and emotional.


SLEEP Irene Echeverria Altuna delves into the dreamy world of sleep

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science & tech | pi magazine 714

Besides emotional distinctions, biological differences in teenagers regarding metabolism have been widely studied, and also differences in the way teenagers assess and face a problem, compared to adults. The origin of these deviations is the now widely accepted fact that adolescent brain circuits are not fully developed, and that they won’t be until the age of around 24. This means that we are more adaptable than adults, thus more susceptible to change. Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Deputy Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, studies these differences in great depth, and has recently proposed a specific deviation in teenage sleeping patterns. In fact, she passionately states that an 8.30am school start time is “the middle of the night for a teenager”, the equivalent of a 5am alarm for an adult. All of this goes back to the fact that the sleepwake cycle is regulated. We all have an invisible, yet clearly perceivable clock that regulates it. A body clock that sets a rhythm to our days and nights: a circadian rhythm. The light of the day and the darkness of the night influence this rhythm, but there are internal substances that can also alter our perception of sleepiness and wakefulness. The so-called sleep hormone, melatonin, is

the lullaby that puts us to sleep every night.

We should bear in mind the possibility of becoming an emotional roller coaster after an all-nighter The interesting fact is that the time at which melatonin is secreted, changes after puberty. Adolescents secrete melatonin a couple of hours later than adults do, triggering our full wakefulness while our parents are fast asleep. Parallel to this ease for being awake at night, our circadi-

an rhythm undergoes a “jet-lag” for waking up as well, making our warm beds harder to escape from every morning. In short, the science behind the so-called laziness that adolescents experience every morning is undeniable. Blakemore has recently claimed that these changes, among with other characterized differences in adolescent biology and behaviour, need to be socially included in active teenage education. In other words, discoveries provided by science should be used as a guideline for implementation of measures in adolescent education and in the way that society addresses teenagers, in general. This is the part that society has to play. On the other hand, the increasing understanding of the science behind our adolescent years, should also be present for us, young people. We should bear in mind the possibility of becoming an emotional roller coaster after an all-nighter, and the prospect of confronting a “jet-lag” every morning, at least, until social measures are taken. So, pay attention to your biological lullaby, sleep, and be ready to burst into tears after a night out, but, of course, don’t forget to benefit from this biological jet-lag from time to time, and to experience feelings, emotions, and the susceptibility to change that adolescent years consist of.

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Pi magazine 714 | science & tech

LIVING IN TH FINAL FRONT Liberty Jacklin and Camillo Moschner explore the challenges of living in space


n the last few years, movies like The Martian, Interstellar, and Gravity have increased the popularity of space exploration not only in the scientific and science-fiction community but among the general public as well. They remind us of the golden space age when humans visited the moon and inspired us to dream of a life outside our cosy earthly atmosphere. But what would life in space mean for our health? If we hope to ever truly explore the stars, we’ll need to think about space medicine: the study of how space changes our physiology and how we can control this process on our endeavours to other planets. The first Briton to go to space was Helen Sharman, who was just 27 when she went up to the Mir Station in 1991. In December 2015, another British astronaut was sent up into space. Tim Peake will spend a total of 6 months conducting various microgravity experiments on the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is a habitable satellite and science lab for astronauts, orbiting at a speed of 7.66 kilometres per second, at a height 400 kilometres above Earth. Thanks to the ISS, people have lived in space every day since 2000, allowing us to investigate the effects of space habitation on humans. Although the journey into space may be thought of as the most dangerous part of space exploration, once there, astronauts can be subject to equally hazardous physiological effects from their environment. So

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what are the main issues one faces in space? Exposure to radiation is the highest concern for astronauts living in space. The ISS is constantly being bombarded by galactic cosmic rays. These are high energy particles such as protons and the nuclei of atoms that mainly originate from outside our Solar System. Radiation poses risks of cataracts, cancer, and damage to the central nervous system.

living on Mars would require very strong radiation shielding As Dr Kevin Fong, an expert in Space Medicine at UCL, said in his Royal Institution lecture on How to Survive in Space: “Radiation… can damage your cells at the molecular level and cause all sorts of problems with your DNA, and your DNA’s ability to replicate and produce healthy new cells.” Although the ISS is 400,000 km above the

Earth’s surface, it’s still considered to be in Low Earth Orbit. The Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field shield us by absorbing energy and channelling particles away from us. However, if we were to venture further out, radiation exposure could prove to be one of the largest obstacles. Dr Fong says: “Radiation is a huge problem if you want to carry on journeying deeper and deeper into space. And particularly if you want to go to my favourite destination…the planet Mars.” Mars has a magnetic field 40 times weaker than Earth’s and an atmosphere 100 times thinner, so living on Mars would require very strong radiation shielding. Not only that, the journey there of around 18 months would mean a much longer exposure time than our astronauts are used to. Another challenge astronauts face is the redistribution of body fluids. On Earth, gravity causes the blood to pool in the legs but in space the body fluids shift upwards and pool mostly in the thorax and the neck. As a consequence, astronauts often feel that their eyes are bulging out and suffer from headaches and blocked noses. At the same time, their legs also become thinner. Cases have been reported where the calves of the legs shrank up to 30 percent of their original size. Associated with this redistribution of body fluids are adaptations in the vestibular system due to changes in the microgravity environment. This system features in an area of the inner ear to help us maintain balance.

science & tech | PI Magazine 714

HE TIER “the human body is so wonderfully adaptive and being in space is so easy that spaceflight poses relatively few problems” The feeling can be described as if you’re tumbling head over heel, and see the world

spinning around a funny angle. This causes space sickness which can result in nausea and vomiting without prior warning. The implications can be quite severe, and potentially lethal if it occurs when wearing a spacesuit. Due to the small size of the helmet and the absence of gravity, the astronaut is at risk of being suffocated by their own vomit. After the astronaut manages to orientate themselves in space another problem arises: anaemia. The human body needs about 77.5ml of blood per kg of body weight in order to survive and more than 70 per cent of which is contained below the heart level. It is therefore believed that a shift of fluids upwards into the chest tricks the body into thinking it has too much blood and causes a reduction in erythropoietin, the hormone responsible for red blood cell production. In practice, the loss of red blood cells seen in a space mission lasting 10 days corresponds to a blood loss of 700ml. It becomes therefore mandatory that astronauts on longer flights to take erythropoietin supplements to counteract this special space anaemia. However, there is also some good news: astronauts grow taller. Without the force of gravity acting on the spine the cartilaginous disks that the separate the bones are no longer compressed. Most astronauts manage to grow 1-2 cm, but cases of repeated space travel have been reported where the astronaut grew up to 6 cm. This needs to be taken into consideration when engi-

neers build the spacecraft. A number of astronauts have actually complained about their seat getting uncomfortably small by the time they return to Earth. So living in space may sound like a challenge, but it is actually the return to Earth that is the hardest of all. Helen Sharman in an interview with us said: “the human body is so wonderfully adaptive and being in space is so easy that spaceflight poses relatively few problems”. Sharman also notes “weightlessness feels relatively easy compared to returning to Earth”. While we are able to adapt to weightlessness relatively easily, it is adapting back to the burdensome mass of our bodies when they are confronted one again with gravity that is the hardest. When we consider the physical barriers humans face in regard to space exploration, we realise that such hindrances are simply obstacles to overcome. In the end, as many potential health problems and challenges as there are that we will have to face, none of this has, or will, hold humanity back from their desire to explore the extra-terrestrial realm.

Image credit: NASA

In a number of canals, hair cells protrude into a gelatinous mass called the cupula. If the head moves the inertia experienced by the cupula drags the hair cells against the direction of movement and sends the signal to the brain. In space, however, this gelatinous mass floats around more freely sending signals about movements to the brain that the brain cannot connect with what it sees.

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pi magazine 714 | sport

Chrstine Ohuruogu


Henry Hill sits down with the Olympic champion and UCL graduate

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sport | pi magazine 714


f you look back at the recent UCL sporting alumna, there is one name that rises above the rest. That is British Olympian and 400m specialist, Christine Ohuruogu. She is a double World Champion, Olympic Gold and Silver medallist, but above all, a 2005 graduate in Linguistics from UCL. Christine was kind enough to talk to me about her time at UCL, the role of university in sport, and how her season has gone in the run up to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. I must admit I was a little nervous for my first significant interview of the year – ever, if I’m honest – but Christine Ohuruogu was friendly and chatty, clearly enjoying reminiscing her time at Bloomsbury. Christine is a Londoner through and through, having been brought up in Newham, in East London. It therefore came as no surprise when she revealed, “I lived at home, it only took 40 minutes to get in, and just made life a lot easier for myself.” People say you find yourself at university, and clearly Christine had a sporting epiphany while here, explaining “I actually came playing netball, and left UCL as an athlete,” – wise career move. The interview was on a Thursday, and I couldn’t help but feel groggy from the previous Sports Night. We laughed about UCL, but Christine had sacrificed the wonders of Loop and its predecessors for focusing on sport. “I don’t think there is one I went to, I had lectures all day and Wednesday night was training, I wasn’t very sociable!” No one would blame her really. Refusing to believe her claims of not being social, we talked about night life. “I remember Roxy, but Ministry of Sound is where my friends and I used to go, but it was such a trek.” Christine was all too familiar with the problems of transport, laughing at how, “It used to take hours getting home, stuck on the night bus.” These are things we can all sympathize with. I was interested to hear Christine’s opinion on the growing trend of young British athletes moving to the USA for university, and sure enough it was something she had noticed. “Everything is taken care for them, I see why they do it.” She continued “I think it’s a shame really, because most athletes would like to stay here and train full time, but it can be quite difficult if you can’t afford it. The good thing about America is that young athletes start and finish, unlike here where most young sportsman tend to drop out.”

Christine successfully started and graduated, and was quick to emphasize the importance of a degree. “It very useful and something I really try and press upon young athletes.” Many sports stars retire and become “one of the many” as Christine explained, but, “To have something between your ears, show you can apply yourself outside track and field, it’s very useful.” It returned to our discussion on America, and how the opportunities for both lie there. UCL’s lofty world ranking was something Christine had not missed, joking, “It is something I do mention to a few people,” though amusingly rejected my claims she must be one of the most intelligent athletes on the circuit. “No no,” she laughed, “I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think it is really important to be able to apply yourself outside the track.”

“to have something between your ears, show you can apply yourself outside track and field, it’s very useful.” The biggest shock came when Christine responded enthusiastically to me asking about Pi Media. “Yes I was very aware of it,” she exclaimed. “I loved the magazine and journalism, and think I was part of one of the writing teams.” What a revelation, a Pi Media Olympian alumna. She did joke that “it would be a lie” for me to put her in such light due to how little she wrote, but this was a Pi exclusive. I couldn’t talk to Christine without mentioning London 2012, and as a Londoner it was lovely to hear her reflect back on her memories. “It was very special, just to see how the city was transformed to something

I didn’t imagine it could become.” No one could forget the friendly and ecstatic buzz that immersed the city for that one month. She continued, “The fact we did such a good job and put on a great show made me feel really proud.” Christine is involved in exploring how UCL could have a presence in the Olympic Park, the venue where many of our varsity matches are taking place. With the Rio Olympic Games around the corner, I imagined there was a heightened sense of excitement on the circuit, though Christine was quick to highlight “it is also very stressful. Everyone is trying to get through the year, it’s just work.” This made more sense when we reflected back on 2015, which for Christine was blighted by injuries. “I just have to work everything through and see where I end up, unfortunately I don’t have a crystal ball.” Christine has the remarkable ability to peak at the right time, following medals at two consecutive Olympic Games in the 400m. “It has come together before, so hopefully it can again.” Her calm self-belief was evident over the phone, and history would suggest she will once again be one to watch out for this summer. I couldn’t help but enquire about life in the Olympic Village. After the conclusion of London 2012 stories of wildness, fitting for a university halls during freshers’ week, came out in the media. Christine laughed as I tentatively posed my question about this, her delayed response perhaps making me think I had pushed my luck. “Erm... yeah. I mean... I don’t do any of that.” She continued; “my programme is very tight. We only come in when we are competing, whereas a lot of the guys who start early are finished by the time we come in so they have more time to do what they like!” The Olympics start on the 5th August, and, “Provided everything goes well,” Christine will feature across the second week in the individuals and the 4x400m relay, an event she is hopeful she and the girls can improve upon following their 3rd place at the World Championships. Talking to Christine, it was lovely to hear someone who clearly valued and enjoyed her experience at UCL. You could hear the fond reflection in Christine’s voice as we concluded our interview. “I loved university, I loved what I gained from there, I am really proud to say I went to do it and at UCL.” Among all of her titles and medals, it is inspiring to know that UCL has played its part in making Christine Ohuruogu the exceptional athlete she is today.

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Pi Magazine 714 | Sport

Photo credit: University of Oxford

THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORLD OF HYBRID SPORTS Jamal Rizvi, Ilya Altschuler, Henry Hill, and Gah-Kai Leung compile a list of wacky, muddled-up sports you can try in London

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Sport | Pi Magazine 714


f ever a word had experienced such a growth in its use over the past few years, then it is “hybrid”. Whether you’re driving hybrid cars, indulging in Ramen Burgers, or gawking at a liger on BuzzFeed, you’ve also become immersed in the world of crossovers and hybrids. It seems everything can be made into a hybrid in this day and age. Sport has also got in on the fun, producing an array of games that defy normal conventions. Classic sports like football and hockey are being blended together to create weird and wonderful new sports. These fusion sports are popping up all over the world, including in London. Here at Pi we decided to watch and test out some of these new hybrid sports to see whether they will just be short term Shoreditch fads, or long term fun for all.

Chessboxing by: Ilya Altschuler In December 2013, a mate and I took the train to London for what ended up being a rather surreal new experience. We had bought tickets for the end of season chessboxing finale at the Scala. The sport is a combination of chess and boxing in which the two players alternate between each activity. They play chess for three minutes in the middle of the ring, followed by a round of boxing with the winner being the player that either checkmates or knocks out his opponent. We were treated to three match-ups between international fighters pushing the boundaries of their physical and mental abilities. While the quality of chess was debatable, and the attempts of English Grandmaster Nigel Short to provide a comical commentary were even more woeful, this didn’t stop the boisterous crowd full of chess fanatics, chanting “chess, chess, chess” as the fighters boxed away. Ultimately, we witnessed two checkmates, a draw, a knockout, and, most importantly, a very unusual and amusing night. In the words of Tim Woolgar, founder of London Chessboxing: “You have to see to believe and once you’ve been to one night of chessboxing you’ll be hooked for good!” Perhaps not hooked, but it clearly appeals to some sports fans, as it’s three years later and chessboxing and its niche fan base are both still going strong in London.

Racketball by: Henry Hill The ultimate mash-up of racket sport based off of the US’s racquetball is spreading across to England. Racketball offers an alternative for those not comfortable with the technicality of tennis or the speed of squash. Sick of being destroyed by my friends at squash, I introduced racketball to my home town club to try and level the playing field. I have not looked back since. Played on a conventional squash court, racketball involves a short and fat squash racket, and a large, bouncier squash ball. The rules are almost identical to squash, but the rally’s last longer, and technique is more forgiving. If you, like me, have the fitness of a fly, then you will be crying in a pool of sweat after about 30 minutes (but in a happy way!). With basic racket skills can still play and work up a sweat. It’s a whole lot of fun, and it doesn’t matter if you’re rubbish. The organisation Racketball UK and tournaments across the country suggest the sport is here to stay, though I imagine most will stick to squash. But, if you can get hold of a racket and a court, why not have a go?

Octopush by: Gah-Kai Leung The British Octopush Association claims the concept for octopush originated in the 1950s, when a group of Southsea sub-aqua divers decided lane swimming was too boring. Over the years, this was refined into a sport thousands of people worldwide have grown to love. Octopush is essentially underwater hockey, played on the bottom of the pool: a ruthless combination of strength, speed, and stamina. I would consider myself a strong swimmer, but I have never tended to linger at the bottom of the pool for more than a few seconds. Octopush requires you to linger there for 45 minutes. So after a brief training session I was thrown in at the deep end, in more ways than one, for a trial match. Armed with my mini hockey stick, I managed to latch onto the puck for a few seconds, swimming like some drunken mer-

maid towards the opponents’ end, but my breathing reflex began to get the better of me and I was forced to surface. I gulped in some air and raced back down, only to find the puck was miles away and someone was probably about to score. Though octopush is meant to resemble its land-based cousin, I’d argue it’s much closer to rugby. Each pounce, tumble and dive felt more like being in the middle of a scrum than anything else. To ask whether I “enjoyed” octopush is really to ask the wrong question. Did I survive Octopush? Yes, I did.

FootGolf by: Jamal Rizvi Footgolf is as straightforward as it sounds – you’re playing golf with your feet. The ball is a football, the pitch is a golf course, and the holes are significantly larger than the wee-sized golf course holes. I personally have bad memories from playing both football and golf, but plenty of good ones, too. So, to me, the prospect of playing footgolf was both exciting and daunting. Couple that with the fact that Henry and I decided to play amid Hurricane Imogen, and we were bound to have a memorable experience. As we battled the elements in our pilgrimage around the nine holes, there was plenty of slipping over and kicking the football too high so that the wind caught it and actually took it backwards. But, every now and then, there was actually some semi-decent footgolf play. At the end of the day, I won 6-3, but in reality, we both went significantly over par. All in all, a good day out (just make sure to go when it’s sunny and there’s no Imogen to disrupt your fun). Hybrid sports certainly have a growing place in society, and give options to those fed up with the conventional choices of rugby or football. Whereas some may fade and merely become a YouTube sensation, others will continue to grow in stature and accessibility. Chessboxing offers an eccentric evening of entertainment, whereas others such as taserball—yes this includes tasers—are bewildering concoctions one would expect to see in a Willy Wonka factory. Whether you ride a horse, swing a racket, or find solace in a swimming pool, there is a hybrid sport out there for you.

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Pi magazine 714 | Travel

Young and Gay in Putin's Russia James Bennett discovers the difficulties of life in St. Petersburg


t. Petersburg is, in many respects, a European capital. The beautiful palaces, marvellous museums, and network of meandering waterside walkways make it easy to forget that you’re in Russia. (Except for the blistering cold, of course.) Russians live up to their stereotype of having a stony exterior. This is not to say that they are unfriendly. Smiling at strangers can be misconstrued in many ways. A Russian may be led to think that you are already acquainted in some way, that you are flirting, or perhaps that you are just a little bit strange. However, opening up to Russians over a bottle of vodka can reveal some of the friendliest and most genuine people you could ever meet.

it is now illegal to say that being LGBTQ+ is okay The only problem arises when you’re gay: How then, can you open up and be yourself? In short, you don’t. The LGBTQ+ community is widely discriminated against not only by the state, but also by society at large. Being a gay young man in Russia represented something of a shock, especially coming from London. Several documentaries in recent years have highlighted campaigns against the LGBTQ+ community here. Unapproved protests with more than one person often result in arrest. Following the legislation of an anti-gay propaganda law, it is now illegal to say that being LGBTQ+ is okay. Stories circulate of gay men being hunted down on dating sites to be assaulted and humiliated. They are left on the streets where the police ignore their calls for help. Sexuality is not understood in Russia. The majority of people believe that sexuality is a choice and therefore anyone who is not straight must be mentally ill. In January, Tyson Fury caused outrage in the UK by comparing gay men to paedophiles. The sad thing is many in Russia would agree with him. This environment is a minefield for a gay student to navigate and of course, unimaginably worse for the Russian LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Moving to Russia meant learning to cover my tracks. I changed my privacy settings on social media and hid letters from my boyfriend from my nosey host family. You find

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yourself worrying about the smallest details that might give you away. The idea of being out in Russia is absolutely terrifying. The idea of being out back home terrified me a few years ago, but in Russia it is of much graver importance. It is a matter of safety.

Moving to Russia meant learning to cover my tracks For LGBTQ+ students organising romantic encounters in Russia online or via apps, extreme caution is needed. Anything other than a meeting in public with a designated third wheel sat nearby is out of the question. In public you have to be really aware of your surroundings, especially at night. Are my jeans too skinny? Can anyone hear my phone call to my partner? In January, a motion proposing the imprisonment of gay men who come out was debated. Official state persecution of the LGBTQ+ community like this has meant that the movement has had to go underground.

Being young and gay in Russia is not impossible, it’s just not easy LGBTQ+ groups in Russia are beacons of defiance in the face of challenges. Public events organised by these groups are either halted by officials or surrounded by religious fanatics. Peaceful gatherings such as art displays and public talks have to operate with last minute secret location changes to throw off those who want to shut them down. When I was supposed to attend one event, I was surprised to see that the location was not given on the event information page. Instead, I was just given a phone number. The lack of protection for LGBTQ+ people in Russia leaves some completely downtrodden, but there is still hope. I have

travel | Pi magaine 714 heard some amazing stories in the backstreet bars while working with members of equal rights groups. By backstreet, I mean really backstreet. Most of the gay bars and cafes are off the main roads, hidden in basements and by bulletproof doors, often guarded by a security team. Yet, these are the places where the community shares stories of hope and faith amid adversity. One account that particularly resonated with me was that of a man being reunited with his boyfriend. His partner was living outside of Russia and had been unable to obtain a long term visa. An open-minded friend of his agreed to marry the boyfriend, just so that he would be able to move to Russia. The lengths that the community are forced to go to are shocking but at the same time heart-warming.

Russia needs our help, not our condemnation and sanctions For many young people that identify themselves as LGBTQ+, their only hope is to somehow get away by working abroad or emigrating. Those who remain have no choice but to suppress their sexuality, eventually forcing themselves to marry and have children just as society expects them to. Being young and gay in Russia is not impossible, it’s just not easy. It isn’t always safe and it’s hard to see things improving any time soon. Extremism is rife, even among the younger generation. I’m often asked: Why on earth, as a gay man, would you choose to study in Russia? The short answer is that I’m not going to let the political situation separate me from the history, language, and culture that I love. To quote equal rights activist Peter Tatchell, just hours after being punched in the face at Moscow Pride: Gay Russians need overseas support to protect them against the state and neo-Nazi violence. Russia needs our help, not our condemnation and sanctions. As a language student with dodgy Russian, I’d like to begin building bridges and make a difference.

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Pi Magazine 714 | Travel

The Evolution Of Budget Airlines Melvin Yeo investigates if budget airlines can continue to change the way we travel


s students, most of us have experienced the joys of getting to the airport at four in the morning to catch the cheapest flight out of London. Redrawing the boundaries of our tolerance for inconvenience is one of the many ways in which budget airlines have changed our perception of travel. The first budget airline, Laker Airways, originated in North America in the 1960s. The business model was popularised in Europe much later, in the 1990s, by Ryanair and Easyjet. Cheap fares and hassle-free boarding have contributed to the phenomenal track records of budget airlines in the last 20 years, making them the subject of envy of larger carriers. British Airways (BA) chief Willie Walsh once installed a spy camera at an airport to see for himself how Ryanair could possibly turn around an aircraft in 25 minutes. Not content with monopolising regional routes, budget airlines have begun encroaching into long-haul travel, traditionally the domain of national flag carriers. For instance, Aer Lingus now flies to major airports in the US such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles for under £300.

tickets from Europe to North America for just £45. If the airline follows through on its promise, it will be cheaper to fly across the Atlantic than to get from London to Manchester. For comparison, the lowest fare by BA to America is currently £500. Norwegian Air says it is able to offer such incredibly low fares by extending the modus operandi of budget airlines to longhaul routes: They will fly to smaller US airports, which currently have few international flights and lower handling and landing fees, which will help keep costs low. In Europe, Ryanair is notorious for taking liberties with the how it refers to these airports. For example, they famously refer to Bratislava’s airport in Slovakia as “Bratislava Vienna”. The “Frankfurt-Hahn” airport is actually nearer to the Netherlands than it is to Frankfurt. “Paris Beauvais”, “Milan Bergamo”, and “Barcelona Reus”, are more examples of them tagging the names of famous cities onto distant airports. It can take over an hour and a half to get to the main city from these airports.

tickets from Europe to North America for just £45

However, the use of secondary airports is not all bad for travellers. It has brought us to places we have never considered visiting. In Iceland, the popularity of Keflavik airport for visitors going to its capital Reykjavik has led to a tourism boom in the otherwise low-profile town. Of course, not all towns have a similar ability to attract visitors. Luton is still seen as solely a budget airport hub from where visitors can get to and from London. Despite not seeing an increase in footfall, amenities have improved nonetheless. It now takes just half an hour to get from Luton to London by rail.

Recently, Norwegian Air stunned observers by announcing its intention to sell

Budget airlines have also helped make travel as “no frills” and hassle-free as pos-

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sible. As boarding passes can be printed at home and there is no longer a need to check-in bags at the counter, we can now arrive less than an hour before the plane departs and still make the flight comfortably. On the flip side, this also means that if passengers arrive at the airport without a printed boarding pass, they will sometimes have to pay £70 for the checkin desk to re-issue the boarding pass. And in the air, things aren’t much better: a soggy sandwich will set you back £5.

So has the budget model finally run its course? There are signs that consumers are growing weary of this minimalist way of traveling. Last September, Ryanair issued its first profit warning after two decades of staggering growth. Intense competition in the European short-haul market has pushed down fares as flag carriers have lowered prices to remain competitive. So has the budget model finally run its course? Only time will tell what the future holds. Will budget airlines go to even greater lengths to cut costs and squeeze out every penny from passengers? Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary’s latest (demon) brainchild is the introduction of standing flights and a “pay-per-pee” policy. Will they succeed in creating a new market niche in long-haul travel? Will a £45 flight to New York entail a complete lack of legroom and unacceptable food? We’ll be waiting with bated breath.

life & style | PI Magazine 714

Guide to mindfulness Precious Adesina explains the power of mindfulness and the benefits of knowing how to let go


epression. It affects 121 million people worldwide, yet is something we don’t often speak about. What steps are being taken to help solve this problem? According to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, mindfulness can result in physical and psychological stress reduction, positive changes in well-being, and therefore reduces the chance of becoming depressed. So what exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness involves understanding the connection between your body and mind so as to recognise that your thoughts are just thoughts – that they’re temporary, transient, can be controlled, and are not necessarily a fundamental part of who you are. Not simply knowing this, but learning to feel this, allows you to control the way you think and thus change the way you experience life, especially during stressful times. Once you’re aware of your own thoughts and can recognise them for what they really are, you’re able to let them flow away – and to ultimately become free from them. It sounds simple, right? Get a yoga mat, tell yourself your thoughts are just thoughts for an hour with your eyes closed, and you’re set. Well, not quite. Mindfulness is like the gym for your mind – it takes time to train your brain to feel truly free from the need to think. You don’t lift a 1.5k dumbbell once and assume you’re ripped for life, right? It’s also simply harder than you might

think. How many of you are able to stop thinking? Not stop thinking about things, but literally clear your mind of any thought beyond your own awareness of your breathing. Go on, try it! As humans, we become mechanical in our day to day lives, so mindfulness also involves noticing and focusing on exactly what we are doing in the present moment, which really makes a difference to how we experience that moment. It doesn’t take away the pressures that come with life, but it helps us respond to those pressures in a calm and thoughtful manner.

mindfulness is about letting go

It doesn’t happen straightaway, but once you get used to it, you can really be taken away. At first, it may seem silly when the woman leading the meditation class says, while you’re sitting with your eyes closed on a bunch of cushions: “Breathe deeply, imagine the grass between your feet, picture the flowers, what colour are they?” But give it time, and don’t underestimate its power. It can also help to play some music when you’re meditating. Music therapy can actually be a type of complementary medicine. When you meditate, you’re supposed to find an anchor to use as your focus, usually these are sounds – like music – or your breathing. The point is that, when your mind wanders, you’re meant to notice it, accept it, and then bring yourself back to focusing on your anchor.

So how exactly do you learn how to do this?

Overall, mindfulness is about letting go. It sounds pretty simple, but allowing yourself to let go is important. We all have those moments of frustration that added up can drive us crazy. Mindfulness teaches you how to be in control in a healthy way.

Mediation is an important part of mindfulness. It simply involves sitting in a relaxed position and clearing your mind. You don’t need to “ommmm” or “aaah” (unless you want to), but focusing on your breathing for just 10 minutes a day has been proven to be a great short-term stress relief.

For the snide comment someone made to you, that person who thinks they’re better than everyone else and is really getting to you, and the coursework you just cannot see how you’re going to get done, you now know how to sit down, reflect, realise the stress is temporary, and let it all go.

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Pi magazine 714 | LIFE & STYLE

stereotypes, a Beth Flaherty searches for alternatives to the stereotypical Instagrammers


un Fact: The average person spends 21.2 minutes on Instagram every day. It’s one of the fastest growing and most addictive social media platforms out there. It allows us to view a wealth of photos and videos in just a few scrolls and post them with a couple of taps. We all have our favourite accounts, many falling under the typical Instagram stereotypes, like the fitness guru, the #ootd feed, the inspiring artist, the world wanderer, and the health food fanatic. So, in order to shake up your feed and make it more inspiring, here are some new accounts to follow.

1. The Fitness Guru

2. #OOTD

Stereotypical The Body Coach / @thebodycoach With the release of his new book and a crowd of celebrity followers (think: John Terry, Ellie Goulding, and even Sheridan Smith), most people have heard of Jon Wicks (aka “The Body Coach and founder of “Lean in 15”). He’s the one to turn to should you be looking to kick-start your fitness regime without the unrealistic time commitments. As for his Instagram posts, expect recipe and exercise videos, as well as motivating body transformations and the occasional shameless selfie.

Stereotypical OOTD Magazine / @ootdmagazine @ ootdmen The original outfit of the day account for both male and female fashion. Prepare for daily doses of the latest trends in front of edgy backgrounds. Of course, this is a company, so you can purchase the featured clothing online, which is a great (but also dangerous!). Plus, if you see an outfit you love, a link to the model’s page is included in the caption, so you can find more inspiration tailored to your own tastes.

Follow Instead Clean Eating Alice / @clean_eating_alice Meet Alice Liveing, the woman with the petite frame and killer body who runs the account, Clean Eating Alice. After developing a passion for fitness and transforming her eating habits, she began sharing all her daily workouts and meals on Instagram. Though not as high-profile as The Body Coach, she too has a forthcoming book. Her determination shines through and this, together with her enticing food snaps, make Clean Eating Alice the perfect page to follow if you’re in search of motivation.

Follow Instead Babes at the Museum / @museumbabes Under normal circumstances, this would fall under the “art” category – and yes, it is definitely up there as an account to follow if you’re looking for artistic inspiration. However, Babes at the Museum should certainly be including #ootd in its captions because not only do these women “stroll through some of the world’s exquisite museums”, but they also do so in incredible style. You know when people say that by liking a photo, it should magically appear in your wardrobe? Never has this wish been more apt.

Image: Instagram/ @clean_eating_alice

Image: Instagram/ @ootdmagazine

Image above: Instagram/ @tate – Tristram Hillier, ‘La Route des Alpes’ (1937); Image below: Instagram/ @thebodycoach

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LIFE & STYLE| PI Magazine 714

and who to follow instead 3. Inspiring Art

4. World wanderer

Stereotypical Tate / @tate The world famous museum, which houses the UK’s national collection of British art, has an Instagram account equally as impressive as its galleries. If you’re looking to delve into some culture without leaving the comfort of your bed, then this account is the one-stop place to find it. From 16th century portraits to the latest creations on the modern arts scene, the Tate’s feed offers it all.

Stereotypical Earth Pics / @earthpix With over seven million followers, this is one of the most popular accounts for daily images of amazing sights from across the world. It includes arguably some of the best photographs ever taken. The posts are an assortment of nature, landscape and architecture from all continents, cultures and seasons, with some of the most talented photographers on Instagram as contributors. Be sure to give this a follow (that is, if you haven’t already).

Follow Instead Rich McCor / @paperboyo This account demonstrates the power of simple materials in art. Never before has paper been put to a more imaginative use, as Rich transforms notable landmarks using only cutouts. The O2 as a birthday cake? The Arc de Triumph as a robot? This is what you can expect by following Paper Boyo. Take a look at this page to appreciate his incredible creativity.

Image: Instagram/ @paperboyo

Follow Instead World of Wanderlust / @worldwanderlust “Wanderlust” (a strong urge to travel and explore the world) is a desire shared by many. Following this page will provide endless bucket list additions, as well as cause serious travel envy! It’s the Instagram of Brooke Saward, a 24-year-old Australian who never seems to stop globetrotting. Her photos are mesmerising and transportative – until you look out the window and realise it’s still raining...

Image: Instagram/ @worldwanderlust

5. Health Food Fanatic Stereotypical Deliciously Ella / @deliciouslyella The queen of healthy eating, Deliciously Ella dominates the foodie world of Instagram. Recently, she’s been going from strength to strength, as a result of her positive outlook on life and admirable approach to eating well. Yet, her food philosophy does not demand that others follow her diet to the letter. Rather, Ella’s recipes are perfect to incorporate into your personal healthy lifestyle. Or, if you want to commit entirely to this way of eating, her posts provide all the inspiration you’ll ever need. Follow Instead Superfood Siobhan / @superfoodsiobhan Like that of Deliciously Ella, all the food on this Instagram page is vegan, wheatfree, and refined sugar-free. But what sets this account apart from the thousands of others all doing the same thing is that its owner, Siobhan, is a student herself. Superfood Siobhan demonstrates that a student budget does not have to prevent healthy eating. The stunning food photography showcases her delicious day-to-day meals and inventive snacks. Healthy food is about to get way more interesting (and affordable).

Image: Instagram/ @superfoodsiobhan

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Pi Magazine 714 | Life & style




JAMAL RIVZI Third Year English Nike Trainers

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PAULINE DANDIGNE Foundation Year Adidas Trainers from Lausanne, Switzerland

GUGLIELMO GUARASSI First Year Philosophy Puma Trainers from Italy


History, Politics & Economics Nike Trainers (via Asos)

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Pi Magazine 714 | Life & style

lifestyle apps

for students

Mikey williams details four must-have apps to aid the student lifestyle

drunk mode

“Go foucault yourself.” “it’s not radical if it doesn’t have a hashtag!” “It’s a leap year this year. one more day to write my dissertation.”

“i once ate out of date coleslaw. it was fizzy. i cried.”

“this was a famous cottaging spot.”

We all know the situation: You stumble out of a club at 4am and your drunken thoughts wander to your ex. Oh, how you miss them…The next morning you open your puffy eyes, grab your phone, and find you attempted to call said ex eight times. Then, at their lack of response, you sent four texts begging for their forgiveness. You’re utterly humiliated. If only you’d had the app Drunk Mode – the ultimate substitute for your lack of willpower while intoxicated. Drunk Mode not only allows you to bar yourself from calling particular contacts for up to 12 hours, it also allows you to track your movements from the night before. Download it now and save yourself a fair amount of post night out grief!


London is so overwhelming we somehow often find ourselves making dull, repetitive plans – once we find something that works amid the city’s chaos, we tend to stick with it. Dojo provides the solution to this monotony by curating the best of what’s happening in the city on a weekly basis. It gives you an easy to navigate list or map of London’s finest restaurants and events in a magazine style format. Want a steaming hot bowl of ramen right this minute? Feel like attending a thought-provoking talk on a Tuesday evening? London’s possibilities are endless, but they’re just so much easier to find and choose once Dojo puts them on a map.

or twenty something

Twenty Something is somewhat similar to Dojo, but its recommendations are more user-driven. One of its handiest features allows you to make custom lists you can share with friends. Need a restaurant to take mum to for her birthday? Create a “Mum’s Birthday Dinner Options” list and share it with your siblings to get their opinions.


Yes, it’s blindingly obvious, but I somehow still meet students who don’t have this London essential! It’s the most comprehensive journey planner out there, giving you to-the-minute updates for your selected route. It accounts for buses, tubes, trams, walking, and even the jetpack (if only!). Download Citymapper now and you’ll never be late for anything ever again.

seven >> Heard something funny around campus? Tweet at us @OverheardatUCL or with the hashtag #OverheardatUCL. page 34

Yet to justify the money you spent on your Bloomsbury Fitness membership because you only go once a fortnight? Seven provides a free alternative. Its premise is simple: simple, effective, seven-minute bodyweight workouts provided to you to do daily, for seven months. Miss more than three workouts in a month and it resets to zero. So download Seven now, get to work, and see if the number seven truly is magical.






Recommends page 36


By: Anna Tomlinson Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers Barbican We’re looking forward to this exhibition of international photographers, featuring legends like Paul Strand, Garry Winogrand, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. The show views Britain from the outside, as each of the photographers documented the UK, but did not settle down here. It provides historical perspective on modern Britain using photographs from previously unseen bodies of work capturing a range of photography, from surveillance photos of the London riots to official photographs of the Queen. The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism Saatchi Gallery This exhibition of over 5,000 random personal things belonging to the iconic band will include everything from photographs and films to stage costumes, following on from the success of the David Bowie exhibition. It’s a history of the band that made history, an archive of the group which critics have deemed the the greatest rock’n’roll band of all time, and we’re incredibly excited to go delve into this musical history. Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear V&A Opening this April, this is an exhibition featuring what we expect to be primarily women’s lingerie. Through advertisements, corsets, and photographs from the Agent Provocateur Soirée collection, the exhibition will explore the sexuality and sensuality of underwear and lingerie. We’re hoping it will be an empowering celebration of women which focuses on more than an ideal of beauty to develop a critical stance towards the objectification of the female body.


By: chowa nkonde


By: David Walker, Tamsin Hilliker, Amber Doig-Thorne

ANTI, Rihanna

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

A return to her Barbadian roots and touted by many music publications as “divisive”, Rihanna’s eighth studio album has prompted much discussion about who she is as an artist. ANTI is the antithesis of her earlier works, veering away from an anthology of catchy singles with staying power to produce a more nuanced compilation. Demonstrating her versatility across 16 songs, she flits between genres. ANTI is a subtle F-You to the naysayers of the music industry. She rejects the tired formula that most female musicians are encouraged to undertake for commercial success and gives us the opposite to critical acclaim.

If you’re looking for a tragic teen romance in the spirit of The Fault in Our Stars, then look much further. This isn’t that kind of film. It’s the kind where the narrator says it isn’t that kind of film. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is not a soppy tearjerker but a poignant coming-of-age story beautifully told through the unconventional camerawork of cinematographer ChungHoon Chung (Oldboy, Stoker) and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (American Horror Story). The protagonist captures the modern take on disenfranchised youth refreshingly well, and strong performances from the cast make this one of the most genuinely affecting movies of 2015.

Fones, MSSINGNO The mysterious Evian Christ and SOPHIE associate released his latest EP, Fones, hot off the heels of his Berghain/ Panorama Bar performance. The fourtrack EP contains many of the same elements of his previous EP, XE2, however, marks a definite progression. Fones brings with it darker and more industrial influences without sacrificing Mssingno’s characteristically sonorous melodies. In Inta, one of the tracks, the grime-futurist extraordinaire takes a Justin Timberlake sample to the depths of grime instrumentals creating an eerily familiar paradox that you can’t wait to hear in a big dark room.

Catch Me If You Can (2002) Considering the hype over his recent nomination, it only seems natural to look back on one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performances. Catch Me If You Can, the biopic of teenage conman Frank Abagnale, showcases the versatility of both Spielberg and DiCaprio. It’s witty, dramatic, and at times genuinely poignant. The film is also fast-paced, despite its length. Leo carries the role of Abagnale brilliantly, managing to capture a character who is charming and intelligent, yet troubled, thus reminding us that his Oscar was most certainly overdue.


Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-present)

SOPHIE, one of the hottest underground names and PC Music affiliate, has finally released a collection of his closely guarded songs. His songs are as much about his technical prowess as his social commentary on the trivial nature of the Instagram-generation. SOPHIE forces music critics to look introspectively at the often elitist nature of music journalism, mocking the trend of over analysing lyrical content in a race to appear most cerebral and controversial. SOPHIE’s songs have long been a hot topic for discussion in an industry saturated with homogeneity and tired musical formulas, finally a breath of fresh air in the form of a 7-track EP that comes with an onbrand “silicon product.”

Revolving around New York’s most talented cop, Jake Paralta, this comedy is about the people behind the police badge at NYPD’s 99th precinct. They prank each other in the office, sing karaoke, grab a beer (or twenty), and hit on each other – all while doing their best to become the top precinct in Brooklyn. This is a hilarious, easy-towatch series with relatable characters and a different, fun take on your average cop show.

literature By: byon abad

I Am the Messenger Markus Zusak Everybody knows Zusak for The Book Thief, but this novel is just as beautiful and powerful. It reminds anyone who feels stranded in their twenties that you don’t need to be famous or anything special to make a huge difference in the world. All you need to be is kind. Indeed, the way the book is written is ambitious. It may not float everyone’s boats, but if you can look past it, the book is in many ways a wonderful read. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a spine tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography. It is sure to delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows. What is life without the macabre? Little, Big John Crowley It’s an amazing book that takes the whole historical tradition of fantasy and pushes it into the postmodern era. It follows the life of Smokey Barnable, the love of his life Alice, and their family as they wrestle with the strangeness of the world and life around them. A legitimate masterpiece which it simultaneously pays homage to and subverts literary tropes.

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Photo credit: Milada Vigerova


Emma Groome explains why she has no tattoo regrets

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arlier this month, I found myself in a small shop in Farringdon, staring up at what might be some of the most bizarre artwork I’d ever seen. Images of two headed dogs, twisted luchador masks, topless women, and dancing skeletons. On the walls of the Into You Tattoo parlour were some of the most beautiful yet macabre decorations I could imagine. I sat and sipped my tea, questioning whether I was about to make a terrible mistake: I had booked in to get my first tattoo. Tattooing has a long history in London that stretches back to the 1700s, aboard the ship of Captain James Cook. Inspired by the indelible markings that adorned the indigenous people of New Zealand, the trend was brought back to London and gained popularity after the first rotary tattooing machine was made in the late 1800s.

it is estimated that around 30 percent of the adult population sports at least one tattoo The idea behind the art of tattoos is somewhat novel, it is not art that is housed in a gallery, or in a museum, but art worn by the human body, in most cases, forever. Speaking to Emily Johnston, of Into You Tattoo, she says: “It’s more immediate, and more personal. Once people would spend thousands on art to fill their houses, now they want to fill their skin. They want to be part of something. Tattooing is a strong community, that can’t necessarily be found in other art forms.” What makes tattooing so unique is the way

it forges a personal connection with artist and recipient. The art is effectively curated and commissioned by whoever selects the design, inviting greater interactivity, and personal expression through the art that results. Of course, this is extended, by the simple fact that it is art that is permanent.

Tattoos have become relatively mainstream in recent years, it’s rare you won’t see a celebrity, or a friend with some form of design however large or small. There’s something of a collector about those who have them, I have rarely seen someone with just one tattoo. When I go through to the workroom to get mine done I am without a doubt the least marked person there. Surprisingly, Emily tells me that she quite frequently gets first timers coming into the shop, and has noticed a definite rise in virgin-inkers deciding to take the plunge. Though there aren’t any concrete figures, it is estimated that around 30 per cent of the adult population sports at least one tattoo. “It’s exciting,” she says, “Watching the game change so quickly. While there are more people getting tattooed than ever, there are more artists too, coming into the foreground of the industry. It’s places with a history like Into You that provide such a sound platform for people like me.” Emily got her start from tattooing friends in her teens at parties, before gaining the recognition for her fun, daring, and delicate style that earned her a place at Into You. Comparable with the rest of the arts, she tells me that it can be a difficult field to break into, but with the rise of apps like Instagram, there are more ways than ever before to share work, revolutionising the industry. “I’ve planned get-togethers with some of the other girls around the world whose work is a similar style to mine. We share ideas, and tips- it’s great. The sense of community is so strong, and has helped level the playing field for women in what has the tendency to be a very male-dominated field.”

that I want – I can see why most people in the shop were tattooed from head to foot. Like any curated art form, it becomes almost necessary to have a collection.

tattoos are woven into the fabric of London The Museum of London has picked up on the growing trend, and is now hosting the Tattoo London events series, with days dedicated to life drawing, and the history of the macabre filling the line-up. The exhibition itself is proof that tattoos are woven into the fabric of London, as well as the skin of its inhabitants. It features artists such a Mo Copaletta, the founder of the Family Business on Exmouth Market, a parlour that prides itself on maintaining many of the original retro designs that appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in some cases updating them for the contemporary world. I can understand why many people wouldn’t dare get one: there’s the pain, the commitment. But there’s something exciting and seductive about it that so many people fall under the spell of. Some anthropologists have associated tattoos with a divided conception of identity, the belief that a person is not one but many things, and that the human identity can extend and stretch over a variety of forms. Though a rather philosophical approach, it’s not wrong. In this highly digital day age, we find ourselves longing for a new sense of self, one not bound by being inside our own skin, but one that stretches over social media, and every realm of the online world. Tattoos are just another way of achieving this. It may not an art form for everyone. But those who choose it are seldom disappointed. I for one couldn’t be happier.

I can’t deny the process is somehow addictive. Already I’m planning new designs

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muse| Arts

The Art of


Mikhail Iakovlev takes a look at the history of drag


or most people the word drag brings to mind the fabulous world of RuPaul’s Drag Race or Soho’s vibrant clubs. In the UK, we have come to firmly associate drag with the LGBT+ movement. In many ways it has come to be regarded as its poster child. But, is that all there is to it? Drag is a performance with a long established theatrical precedent that can be seen in Ancient Greek plays. Needless to say that drag was not always the extravagant and sometimes lewd performance that I have previously had the pleasure of experiencing.

in Ancient Greek drama, drag was about limiting unadvisable female influences in art The origin of the word drag is shrouded in mystery. Some think that the word came from the extravagant skirts worn by female impersonators in the third quarter of the 19th century that would quite literally drag across the stage. In any case, the first written uses of the word to mean cross-dressing come from 1870.

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Today, drag performers in popular culture are usually male. This is nothing new, in Ancient Greek drama, young teenage boys played female roles as it was believed that women could not be actors, one of the most respected professions of the Hellenic world. So far from being a celebration of a camp feminising aesthetic it is considered to be now, drag was all about limiting unadvisable female influences in art. But some Hellenes were still not satisfied, Plato and Aristotle come to mind. They feared that the young adolescent actors would be corrupted by impersonating weak female characteristics. Ironically the Elizabethan woman was banned from the stage not because acting was some sort of sacred profession, but because it came to be seen as lewd. No respectable Elizabethan woman could therefore act. Though in certain societies banning women from performing was a way to discourage waywardness. In Japan for example, women were banned from performing in Kabuki plays after it became apparent that their performances encouraged them into prostitution. In fact, there are instances where drag was performed by women outside of theatre to attain a level of power and prestige that was usually out of reach for women. A good example is the performer Hatshepsut from Egypt, who both styled herself as Pharaoh, a term used to describe a male ruler, and sported a false-beard on her statues. Drag today is quite different. First, it’s no longer concerned with sublimating wom-

en. Which surely is a good thing. Second, while it remains part of some theatre and film it’s no longer just a means to and end but an end in itself. Now, drag is no longer about a male role being played as naturally as possible by a female actor (or vice-versa). Drag artists tend to exaggerate the stereotypes of the other gender to such an extent that their character can be described in no other way than drag.

the positive of role of drag in challenging hostile attitudes shouldn’t be overlooked This has been reflected in the media in the 20th century, when the act of impersonating the opposite gender itself started to be portrayed on the screen. Those of you who are fans of Marylyn Monroe will surely remember the drag duet from Some Like It Hot. And it must be said that drag is much more than just a character. For some peo-

Arts |muse ple it as a way to express their alternative non-binary identity in their daily life. It’s true that modern drag has also been criticised for its emphasis on the drag queen - the male to female impersonator. The media is dominated by famous drag queens, of whom RuPaul is probably the most famous. And even the Oxford Dictionary seems to present drag as a male sport. Some have also objected to such a firm association of drag with the LGBT+ community. It can only be said that these attitudes are changing – albeit old habits take long to die. Already the definition of drag by the Gender Equity Resource Centre mentions both drag kings and queen, alongside stating that “drag performance does not indicate sexuality, gender identity, or sex identity.” There have also been some drag kings who have made it – though they are much fewer in numbers. I admit that I had to Google famous drag kings specifically before writing this article. Murray Hill was the only one with a separate Wikipedia entry I could find. But the positive of role of drag as an art form in challenging hostile attitudes to LGBT+ issues shouldn’t be overlooked. Even in places were the majority is hostile to the LGBT+, some form of drag has often been naturalized as an important form of artistic expression. Sometimes drag performance is the only way for the LGBT+ community to make itself visible in a positive light within the mainstream culture. For me personally this was the case. Having grown up in Russia, the sequin-clad Ukrainian drag popstar Verka Serduchka, who appeared in Paul Feig’s Spy, was almost the only positive manifestation of homosexuality in the open. Drag is especially important as a way to challenge negative attitudes towards the LGBT+ community when such attitudes have a cultural dimension. Take a look at Japan. As Adam McCluskey of St Thomas University writes: “[D]uring a period of time in which the traditional civilization of Japan reached its perfection” homosexuality was accepted. In later era, homosexuality was discouraged and came to be seen as something distinctly Western or non-Japanese. I was once told by an acquaintances in Tokyo that there are fewer gay people in Japan than in Europe. Like it or hate it, drag has been around throughout history, playing an important role in the development of the theatre before becoming an independent and singular art form in itself.

Reality TV star RuPaul (image credit: David Shankbone)

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Graphic novels 20 years on from

WATCHMEN Tristan French explores how graphic novels have evolved


s a guy who doesn’t read single-issue comic books – I doubt there are many people with that sort of time anymore – graphic novels and their collections have become the central publication of the comic book world. Probably the most well known graphic novel, if not one of the most, is Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

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Beginning serialisation as single-issues in 1986, Watchmen became a welcome change in a universe where comic books had started to all become centred around one broad and universal concept – saving the world. Alan Moore’s the man responsible for revolutionising this forever. Watchmen had no real villain and there was no ultimate goal of world salvation. Instead, Watchmen

produced an almost real world of a Justice League or Avengers like body of heroes, and zoomed in on their lives following their disbandment. It helped solidify the role of the anti-hero detective as well as heightened the story frame of government hired superheroes working against independent agents. In short, Watchmen, alongside Alan Moore’s follow up work V for Vendetta, showed comic book writers that there could be an even greater depth to their stories. There had to be more to it than good versus evil, and Moore’s writing style allowed comic creative to see that graphic novels could take on a darker edge without becoming horror-based or crass. Frank Miller’s epic tale The Dark Knight Returns is a case in point. This depiction of Gotham’s Dark Knight, sees Bruce Wayne at 55 years old, coming out of retirement to cease resistance in Gotham, awakening the Joker in the process. I won’t spoil it, but

arts | muse

to sum things up, 13 year old Carrie Kelley becomes Robin (so far the only female to hold the title), Superman is backed by the government, Batman isn’t and the two slug it out in a brilliantly symbolic fight.

[Dark Night] was also one of the few comic book representations of Superman not being entirely indestructible Not only does this graphic novel maintain a much darker tone than previous Batman outings, but he also becomes more of a maverick vigilante than a superhero, while Superman is now in the pocket of the government. The entire framework of righteous rebel vs. government lacky crafted in The Dark Knight Returns, would go on to influence the (now infamous) Marvel: Civil War storyline between Captain America and Iron Man. It was also one of the few comic book representations of Superman not being entirely indestructible, and that even a man without superhuman abilities could trump the Man of Steel. Combine this with the Watchmen like dystopian background, and it’s a recipe for one thrilling story.

Fast forward to 2002, and graphic novels have taken on a mind of their own, focusing less on superheroes, and more on semi-fantastical and post-apocalyptic tales. These are best displayed by Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man. Once again, focusing on the apocalyptic survival element, emerging from Watchmen’s dystopian foundation, Y: The Last Man weaves the tale of the last man on earth. A virus wipes out all those possessing a Y-chromosome on the Earth, save for a man

humanity is the drawing factor within most modern graphic novels and his pet monkey. Once again, something like Y: The Last Man would not have been possible without the groundwork laid by Watchmen, featuring less of a focus on superpowers and more on the human beings around them. Y: The Last Man eliminates superpowers altogether, focusing on the natural abilities of the characters. The central protagonists, must rely on pure survival skill, in order to truly reveal the cause of the death of all men, and the reason for the Last Man’s survival. It’s another key example of how humanity is the drawing factor within most modern graphic novels, not whether the protagonist can shoot lasers from their eyes or not.

Vaughan’s work hasn’t been limited to this however, ranging from 2006’s Pride of Baghdad, a social commentary on the 2003 invasion of Iraq told through the eyes of four lions from the Baghdad zoo, to 2014’s Saga, a combination of fantastical adventure and space-opera, combining magic and technology to outline a simple but compelling love story. Superpowers are not a regularity in Vaughan’s work, and had Watchmen not changed the dynamic of graphic novels, work like Vaughan’s may have never received it’s now widespread acclaim. It truly is amazing to see how far graphic novels have come as storytelling devices. Superhero comics still have their place, and it would be incorrect to say that Watchmen made them irrelevant.

what [Watchmen] did was prove that more realistic and human characters could tell just as compelling a story But, what it did do was prove that more realistic and human characters could tell just as compelling a story, leading to more writers like Frank Miller, Brian K. Vaughan, and even Alan Moore himself to weave even more compelling tales, and expand the graphic novel platform into a worldwide phenomenon.

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Muse | Arts

Art and Mental Health Anna Tomlinson explored the therapeutic benefits of colouring in


few weeks ago I was babysitting three young girls. After jumping around the house for several hours, we began a quieter activity before bedtime: colouring. Choosing the different crayon colours, deciding whether Cinderella’s dress should be dark or light blue, had a surprisingly calming effect – both on the girls, and on me.

A couple of days later, browsing through Amazon while attempting to do research for my dissertation, I was surprised to see that their list of best-selling titles like Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Colouring Book and The Little Book of Calm Colouring: Portable Relaxation. It seems that the rediscovery of this childhood joy has become a part of the growing, and arguably positive,

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trend of mindfulness. With the end of term coming up, along with essays, exams, and job applications, thinking about how to care for our mental health becomes especially relevant. According to a survey conducted by the National Union of Students at the end of 2015, surveying 1,093 students in higher education, 78% of students said that they experienced mental health issues in the last year. Within those numbers, 54% said that they did not seek out support for mental health issues experienced, and 40% reported that they were anxious about the support they would receive. Colouring, seen as a form of art therapy, could then be an easily accessible form of self-care. It can be a helpful tool to deal with the effects of anxiety, depression and stress. Art therapy includes many more art forms beyond colouring, and focuses on finding a creative outlet in the arts. It encompasses music, art, dance or drama – and can be done informally, or with a trained therapist. The focus of art therapy is to provide a form of expression that doesn’t require or rely on words. Dance therapy, for instance, focuses on body movement as a form of expression, drama therapy focuses on creative mediums such a plays and musicals to bring a new perspective to your feelings. Across London, there are quite a few established and new venues opening for “dramatherapy” or dance movement psychotherapy. It’s a booming industry, with universities offering specialised courses

and masters programmes in these forms of therapeutic artistic expression. It seems to be a reflection and reaction to our hectic lifestyles, and is helping to build an awareness of the importance of understanding ourselves. As more research is done on the effects and possible benefits of art therapy, this trend becomes further supported by fields like sociology and neurological science.

Making time for ourselves is an essential part of finding a balance to maintain mental health And even if we don’t become the next “tortured artist” or “mad genius” through exploring the world of art therapy, it can be a route to realising self-compassion and processing the stresses of university life. Making time for ourselves, even amidst the seemingly endless list of deadlines, is an essential part of finding a balance to maintain mental health. Perhaps, some of us could benefit from exploring the arts as a creative outlet. The arts offer a timeless means of self-expression.

FILM & TV | muse

THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES Ben van der Merwe discusses the depiction of children in film


erhaps we treasure films about childhood because those years are so temporary. The mistakes we make are charming for their harmlessness, and valued because of the lessons we learn from them. This is why the best films about childhood tend to be about its demise and the loss of innocence.

commandant threatens one with his pistol, Agu raises a rifle to his head. He has seen the weakness in the commandant’s eyes – the commandant realises that the illusion of power has been shattered and is reduced to impotent pleading.

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood shows Mason and his sister dodge drunken step-fathers and squabbling parents, yet the most potent moments of realisation are those which show their parents not as abusive or mean-spirited, but weak. A young Mason asks his dad whether he has a job, only for him to gauchely change the subject. An older Mason, about to leave home for university, finds his mother sobbing in the kitchen, and realises that she too has no plan.

Lenny Abrahamson’s Room centres on a kidnapped woman, played by Brie Larson, and her five-year-old son Jack, born in captivity. When Jack first interacts with the police officers who find him, this is also the audience’s first encounter with the outside world. As we adopt the perspective of the police officers, the child’s world which Abrahamson had built for us is exposed as absurd. Once children learn that adults are human, they in turn begin to empathise, to see their own world through another’s eyes, and ultimately to criticise it.

In Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, Agu, a West-African child soldier, is forced to experience all the horrors of war before the onset of puberty. Like in Boyhood, the greatest loss is the realisation that adults are fallible too. At the end of the film, resources have run out and the child soldiers decide among themselves to surrender. When the

Childhood teaches us to moderate our expectations of others because they, too, are flawed. It’s hard not to think that a belief in the adults’ omnipotence lies behind children’s tantrums. Their expectations are impossibly high, and when they aren’t met confusion turns into anger – when Jack throws a tantrum because his mother

didn’t get candles for his birthday cake, he can’t understand the limits she faces as a prisoner. Yet Boyhood begs us to see life through the eyes of children – not as a series of great events but as the passing of moments from day to day. The parents of the young protagonist, Mason, break up before the film starts, and their second marriages are merely implied. We don’t see his graduation from high school or his first breakup, only the aftermaths, as the actual moments of nail-biting danger pass without incident. By contrast, his mother, crying at the kitchen table, recites her life as a “series of milestones - getting married, having kids, getting divorced”, lamenting that she “just thought there would be more”. While childhood teaches us to lower our expectations of others, we all too often raise our expectations of life beyond our childhood visions – just think of the absurd non-ambition of children who dream of becoming a milkmen and bus drivers. Perhaps we have a lot to learn from children still.


muse | film & TV

New Detective Amber Doig-Thorne delves into the mystery behind the greatest fictional mystery solvers

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film & tv | muse


e all know someone who loves a good detective show. Whether it’s our parents going on about how amazing Midsomer Murders or Private Investigator was back in their day, or your best friend obsessing over the latest season of True Detective, there is a show to suit everyone. The way that programs portray detectives has changed dramatically over recent decades though. Gone are the old protagonists who are stuffy, antiquated, and impossible to relate to. Instead we now have witty, intelligent, human detectives that the audience can grow to love and relate to. I feel that it has been this change to detective shows that has increased their popularity to the high level of interest today. Older detective shows followed a similar formula in each episode, making the show familiar and easy to follow for their viewers. A prime example of this is Inspector Gadget, the animated series about a famous cyborg police officer that first aired back in 1983. Almost every single episode in its first season followed a very similar formula with little, or perhaps no, variation. Each show would begin with Gadget receiving a call from the Chief (who will often be in disguise or in hiding), who will give him his assignment, Gadget will accept his mission which will normally require him

to fight one of the MAD (Mean and Dirty) agents in some convoluted gadget related way. More recent shows have expanded their plot to be like other genres, including multifaceted and confusing protagonists and character relationships, interesting plot twists, and backgrounds to various characters that develop throughout the season, captivating the audience, making them desperate to watch the next episode to learn more about the mystery surrounding a specific character—not just the mystery case of the day. A good example of this is Gotham. This series follows Detective Jim Gordon, a talented cop struggling to hide his darker side. Detective Gordon works his hardest to take down the criminals in Gotham, but gets caught up and sometimes becomes the criminal himself. Series such as this humanize detectives, showing the audience they are not perfect and can make mistakes. This is clearly different to the detectives shown in earlier decades, whose leads tended to be sinless, lacking in character development, and difficult for the audience to relate to on any kind of personal level.

As the genre has become more ambitious, the characters on screen have also become more diverse Some shows, such as Sherlock, have combined the traditional and new apporaches. Sherlock has recently been rejuvenated from the original 1890s timeframe. The plots and characters have changed drastically from earlier adaptions of the books. Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories were first seen on television in 1954. In recent years Moffat, and Gatiss have once again brought Doyle’s stories to the small screen. In their adaptation, Benedict Cumberbatch depicts Holmes as a more realistic character. He is very deliberate with a more ascetic quality, rather than the character portrayed on the books as an eagle-eyed, undesirable, inhuman young man.

There has been a modern turnover of detective shows, with a higher number of good quality and innovative shows out there now, which has increased interest in the genre. Luther, starring Idris Elba as Detective Chief Inspector Luther, has built on the success of the genre. Luther blurs the lines between right and wrong in order to get the job done, a common character trait of modern detective shows. As the series develops, the crimes stretch across multiple episodes and the complications of Luther’s life become ever more tangled, making it almost impossible to watch just one episode, enticing the viewer to learn more about his shadowy past. As the genre has become more ambitious, the characters on screen have also become more diverse. Marvel’s Jessica Jones, which aired on Netflix in 2015, follows a former superhero that opens her own detective agency following an end to her superhero career. This is one of the first detective shows to have a female protagonist, representing the improvement in equality in recent years through having a female detective lead, a role television traditionally gives to men. This series has been critically acclaimed for both the portrayal of the main characters, and more importantly for how the screenwriters openly target these topics in a noir tone, showing how the detective genre has been reinvented in a new innovative way. Older detective series tended to approach darker topics such as rape, assault, and posttraumatic stress disorder in a way that undermines how serious they really are. In Jessica Jones they are dealt with sensitively and realistically, without shying away. One of the advantages of high television ratings and lower censorship, is that is gives more room for serious issues to be tackled in current television shows, allowing the genre to broaden even further. The Internet Movie Data Base, better known as IMDB, regularly keeps track of its most highly rated TV series. Currently there are 5 detective shows within the top 35 most highly rated shows in history: Sherlock, The Blacklist, Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, and Gotham. When we look back at the most highly rated TV shows a decade ago, only two detective or crime shows were included Criminal Minds and The Closer. Over recent years the detective and crime genre has not just gained popularity, it has produced some of the most initiative programs on television. What was once stuffy and old fashioned is grabbing our attention like never before.

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D E AT H OF T H E P O E T Amy Gwinnet explores the influence of spoken word poetry in music


he history of poetry and music have long been intertwined. Back in the day, before most people could read, the heroic poems were passed down through the musical voices of minstrels. They would sing the lyrics of the day in the courts of nobility, and then as their popularity waned, in the streets and taverns of Europe. Although it would be ignorant to suggest that a direct lineage can be traced from these medieval musicians to spoken word in music today, this genre of poetry has continued to make its mark throughout the history of popular music, and as far more than just part of the occasional single by a well-established artist. The combination of modern spoken word poetry and music holds its roots in various artistic movements of the 20th Century. The Dadaists created surreal sound poems that combined literary and musical composition. There were also many Beat writers who imbued their work with a musicality that would go on to bleed into the recording artists who combined their music with poetry, such as Patti Smith. However, the arrival of spoken word poetry as an actual musical genre is rooted in the civil rights movement of the late 60s and early 70s, which in many ways can be seen as proto-rap. An elderly relative, when hearing some Jay-Z on the radio, may claim that “it’s just talking with music” – although it is not quite that simple.

The origins of rap are certainly linked to poets. Take Gil Scott-Heron. His album The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, recorded in 1970, was perhaps the earliest, and certainly one of the most important examples of spoken word poetry in music to filter through to the general consciousness. It still makes for an incredible listen to this day. It is angry, scintillating and galvanising, with an awe-inspiring awareness of the rhythms of speech. In a similar vein, a group of poets named The Last Poets confronted racist America (and continue to today) by combining elements of jazz and funk with spoken word. Arguably these two acts influenced the modern rap movement more than any other. Few musicians have their work glorified to the standard of high-culture poetry, but those that do often incorporate elements of spoken word into their recorded output or live performances. For example, when watching Patti Smith performing her seminal album Horses at Field Day, a couple of revelling crowd goers shouted and whooped through Birdland, a song that aptly amalgamates poetry and music. Although any glorification of Smith’s work


MUSIC | MUSE is something that I would encourage, up against her poetry it seemed hopelessly inappropriate and irritating. I actually felt relief when a woman in front of us span around and with behemoth rage, spat “shut the fuck up” in their cheering faces. They grumbled for a while, but quickly made a retreat, maybe sensing that this crowd was not here to mess about. Deserving of it though she is, this reverence of Patti Smith as a high-culture poet is not just contained to this punk prophetess. A few years ago, a review in the Guardian of Leonard Cohen, another musician who easily moves between poet, spoken word artist, and singer, has the telling line: “Such is the reverence, so eager are people not to miss a beat that they don’t even sing along.” This makes sense when you consider the bravery evident in performing spoken word. We all know there are hugely successful songs with truly awful lyrics, because when something is simple and catchy it doesn’t really matter what it says. Spoken word has nothing to hide behind. When done well - as by Smith and Cohen - this courageousness produces work audiences will listen to in enraptured silence. So where can we find spoken word poetry in the 21st century? In what is admittedly a less literary vein, there is Art Brut, too hipster indie for some, but whose singer Eddie Argos happily pushes at the boundary of what it is to be a “singer”. On their first release, Formed a Band, Eddie says “yes, this is my singing voice/ it’s not irony and it’s not rock ‘n’ roll”. Does this refusal to sing make him a spoken word poet with a band rather than your bog-standard indie frontman? The question highlights the arbitrary nature of distinguishing between lyricists and poets, a topic that would need a whole other article to explore. Also this century, The Streets successfully combined spoken word poetry and catchy choruses back on their mega-hit Dry Your Eyes, in so affecting a way as to bring the most defiantly stoic to tears. Another natural heir is indisputably Kate Tempest, who has demonstrated the natural intersection between poetry (both performed and written), and rap. Starting off as an award-winning young poet and playwright, she transitioned effortlessly into making a rap album with her 2013 effort Everybody Down. This received rabid critical acclaim (which was robbed, I tell you robbed, of the 2013 Mercury Prize), while Tempest continued to publish written work. Her career aptly demonstrates the fertile areas of overlap between the record, the page, and the stage. As long as lyrics are appreciated poetry will always be important to music.



Muse | MUsic

Why should we care about

classical music?

Young-Jin Hur argues that classic music is still relevant today

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am a psychology PhD student who has a bit of a soft spot for classical music. The other day I could not hide my surprise when I found out that Wigmore Hall, one of the most renowned classical music concert halls in London, began an Under-35s scheme. Basically, anyone under the age of 35 can reserve any seat of any concert at any time for a mere fiver. At a time when ticket prices for premier league football matches in London are soaring beyond belief, to have a satisfying evening of exciting chamber music for the cost of a pint of Strongbow left me wordless. It’s a brilliant opportunity to see world-famous musicians live with little financial strain. Yet, I couldn’t help but worry, how few young people listen to classical music that concert halls have to initiate such desperate measures? In hindsight, this is hardly surprising. It appears to be a sad reality that classical music is losing its appeal to the younger generation. Amongst the under 25s, the general consensus towards the genre is that it remains difficult, archaic, outdated, irrelevant, dry, and elitist. However, when pressed for the reasons behind such opinions, most are based on stereotypes that have haunted the genre for decades. For instance, take the elitist label that is commonly used as a criticism of the genre. Elitism implies that the classical music is for a group of people who consider themselves above others. How can this be true when concerts are open to anyone willing to buy a ticket? If money is an issue, The

music | muse Book of Mormon is the most elitist show in London.

from profound experiences offered through music.

Sometimes these stereotypes betray the intentions of the composers entirely. The Leningrad Symphony by Shostakovich which was written to of console those within the city of Leningrad during the Siege of Leningrad, the succulent melodies of Verdi’s Operas that inhabitants of Rome sang in the streets after the unification of Italy, and the deeply personal music of Chopin, were all written for the masses.

I sometimes concede that classical music can be difficult. Indeed, it’s a genre which requires patience, concentration, and perhaps lack of immediate emotional gratification. Yet, just like many grand works of art, like War and Peace or Lawrence of Arabia, the eventual payoff is deep and one which stays with one for a long time.

Placing classic music in context doesn’t just make the music more intriguing but also more meaningful and emotive Classical music has always strived for great emotions for both the composers and audiences. Avoiding classic music because you think its elitist is lazy and limits yourself

I think that the emotional satisfaction that one attains from classical music is often unique. While you may be more entertained by a BuzzFeed article than a Dostoyevsky novel, there is a pleasure and satisfaction that can only be gained from challenging yourself. Classical music is perhaps most enjoyable when the context is appreciated. Needless to say, music is perfectly enjoyable in itself – who can possibly deny the deeply felt emotions of Beethoven’s dramatic works? There is no denying that knowledge of music enhances your experience of it. I found this with Smetana’s Moldau, even though it contains one of the most beautiful melodies in classical music. With a bit of research, I learnt that this piece was written after the composer had gone deaf. It was also one of the first major compositions to include traditional Bohemian folk elements. This work is a part of a series of tone poems called My fatherland, a work which was created in memory of the composer’s youth and homeland. Placing classic music in context doesn’t just make the music more intrigu-

ing but also more meaningful and emotive. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find such information to utterly transform my musical experience for the better. Suddenly, the piece of music becomes a work tof structural vigour, historical value, and of immense personality. Despite the piece’s purely sensory value, such knowledge adds a new dimension to musical pleasure. Classical music usually is abundant with such possibilities of knowledge due the tradition of research among historians and musicologists. With knowledge, each work attains a personal story and unique place in history. This allows our imagination and pleasure to expand greatly beyond what is given.

Classical music offers genuine emotions Music lies at the domain of communication beyond words. Classical music offers genuine emotions and allows listeners to communicate with and reflect on many things and people of the past. This is a totally unique form musical experience. It would be a shame if classical music becomes a relic of the past. I envy those who know little about classical music, because they have the pleasure of experiencing it’s surprise and wonder for the first time.

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muse | literature

R E V O its C

y b K ould change O O is sh B h t r a the e E h w G s and k o D o U ur b o J e g do w we jud

gins before the first page is turned.

e s ho r e d i W Abad cons

We all know the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but let’s be honest, people do judge books by their covers. A cover is a central part of a book’s aesthetic. This is one of the many reasons why I haven’t warmed to kindles: you lose the art form on the front of a book.

n Byro

Of course, we know we shouldn’t do this. We can’t tell the quality of the contents just by looking at its exterior. I was book shopping at my local charity shop with my sister. I took a book off the shelf and showed it to her, only to hear the words, “but it looks so kitschy”. Naturally, being older and wiser, I took a moment to lecture her for looking just at the surface of things without thought. However, after scanning through the first page and taking a second look at the cover, I found that she was actually right. It looked tacky and tasteless. I sneakily placed the book back. It is an inescapable fact of life and there’s no doubt that you’ve done it too. Online shopping platforms have conditioned us to judge books by their covers in an almost Pavlovian manner. If you find yourself engaged in book browsing on Amazon, you’ll most likely encounter the key book information listed there: title, price, availability, ISBN, shipping methods, grammatically unsound reviews, but above all is the book cover. To make matters worse, we live in an era of

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quickly transferred information: email, blog posts, tweets, Instagram, and Facebook. They are all there waiting for our consumption on our Swiss army-knife of a smartphone. I’m not a Luddite but our brains are being constantly assaulted with digitalised condensed information. We have plenty to read, and squeezing a book for pleasure into an academic reading list is harder than ever. For many the mentality stands that: “If I’m going to read something, it must be mind-blowingly good.” So what do we reach for? Something that is visually seductive.

Covers can effectively and quickly convey which genre a book is likely to fall under Gérard Genette, a canonical French literary theorist, argues the book cover is crucial. He calls the visual and even verbal material that accompanies the text “paratext” in his book Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. For Genette, paratextual features are an important medium between authors, editors, publishers, and readers. Our reading of a book be-

Book covers also play a much more obviously pragmatic role in placing a book into a genre. Grab your favourite book, and try to really notice their covers. What do you see? Covers can effectively and quickly convey which genre a book is likely to fall under. Of course, there are exceptions, but we have inherent expectations when browsing books, and it starts with the cover. There have been attempts to democratise book covers. For instance, uniform covers or books in livery, which are usually purely typographical. Among my favourite liveries are the elegant dove-grey Persephone books, with the addition of the delightful endpapers. The Penguin books, however, appeal to me most. And not just the orange sort, but the green, blue, and black classics. However, this democratisation of book covers became counter-intuitive for an obvious reason. We have sentimentalised them like I just did. In a sea of various editions, we jump to our favourite publisher. Penguin is such a strong brand that it is marketed on all kinds of merchandise. You can’t call yourself a booklover if you haven’t got at least one mug, tea-towel, or tote bag adorned with your favourite Penguin novel. Whether you choose to believe it or not, your decision to buy the last book you’ve bought was partly the result of its cover. So first impressions do really matter. It’s ultimately why we dress to impress before a date, make a meal look Michelin-star worthy before serving it, and take countless of selfies in pursuit of the best Facebook profile picture. Snap judgements are always made and the book cover is a central first introduction. As commercially-driven as it sounds, the cover has undeniably become a visual blueprint of the type of writing inside the book.

literature | muse




Bethan Scott examines literature’s most beloved animals

edwall. It’s funny how a single word rooted so deep in your childhood can be so charged with meaning. Say this particular word to me and my imagination explodes with images of cloaked mice, the clash of swords, flagons of white gooseberry wine, raspberry cordial, peach and elderberry brandy, candied chestnuts, riddles, badger lords, a fearsome rodent army led by a one-eyed rat covered in grey and pink scars, candlelit caverns filled with dancing woodland creatures, and above all, Martin the Warrior. Brian Jacques began his enchanting series in 1986 and subsequently published 22 books set in the Redwall universe, the final one released three months after his death in 2011. Often described as one of the greatest children’s authors of all time, he wrote his first animal story aged ten at school about a bird that cleaned a crocodile’s teeth. His teacher was so convinced that he must have copied it from somewhere, deciding that no ten-year-old could possibly have written it, that she caned him. Jacques left school five years later to become a merchant sailor in search of adventure, and eventually wrote the first of his Redwall tales for the children at the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind while working as a milkman. They spread across the globe like wildfire, fuelling the imaginations of millions. I think nostalgia is underrated. That bewitching rush of affection tinged with sadness for a moment buried in your past. I get it most intensely while reading novels I adored as a child. Rereading has that

unique synesthetic effect of evoking the places, feelings, sights, smells and sounds you experienced while first reading the story, be it the crash of waves, the rumble of the Underground, feelings of loneliness, or the warmth of a family home. And there is something so magical about anthropomorphic literature in particular, from singing bears to scheming tigers. It ignites that most romantic corner of our imaginations. But what is it about rodents? Well, the word rodent is charged with the negative connotations of disease-carrying creatures scurrying through pipes and sewers. Woven through their web of associations are traits of timidity, disloyalty and cowardice – just think of the rat Wormtail in Harry Potter – along with words like infection, vermin, and plague, not to mention the fact that rodent is actually an adjective meaning corrosive. You would think that with such damning qualities they would be doomed to malevolence and antagonism. But everything changes when they are given human traits. As soon as a mouse is invested with the powers of speech, reason, and free will, their true nature is revealed to spectacular effect. Jacques’ Martin the Warrior is a heroic mouse who becomes a Redwall legend. The more you read of their world, the more you come to realise that the mice of Redwall could not possibly be more heroic.

rodents who fly in the face of their connotations. From Squirrel Nutkin, Twinkleberry, and Mrs Tittlemouse, to Timmy Tiptoes, Johnny Town-Mouse, and Tom Thumb, they all have their own quirky personalities and grievances, often overcoming many challenges in their respective tales to emerge stronger and happier than ever before. These characters are particularly topical this year given the 28th July will mark the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth. September will also see the publication of her newly-discovered story, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots, thanks to some detective work undertaken by publisher Jo Hanks, who found a reference to the lost tale in an outof-print Potter biography. So what does all this really say about our interpretation of those most diverse and preyed upon members of the animal kingdom? Perhaps it merely illuminates the sheer intensity of the human adoration of animals and our quixotic propensity to idolise the underdog, or in this case, undermouse. More than anything, it shows just how much we want the weakest and most vulnerable to triumph. And nowhere is such an outcome more avidly hoped for than in the mind of a child. It rather restores your faith in humanity, doesn’t it? As George Eliot mused in The Mill on the Floss: “We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”

Perhaps even more famous worldwide are the stories of Beatrix Potter, also filled with

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Pi Magazine, Issue 714  

Unlike this year's previous issues, 714 has no overarching theme: instead it's a compilation of the last things our editors and contributors...

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