Books vs Movies: We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

By Tony Allen

“We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.”

The famous couplet from Michael Rosen’s classic children’s picture book is ingrained in the memories of scores of people, young and old. Unfortunately, the recent festive cartoon adaptation leaves much to be desired in comparison to the book, mainly because it tries to deal with far too much and fails at its fundamental purpose of providing entertainment.

If you didn’t watch it then I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but We’re Going on a Bear Hunt has been tragically desecrated and I was shocked by what I saw.

If you’re going to make a children’s story ‘adult’, you have to do it properly and this adaptation, animated not dissimilarly to The Snowman and shown at primetime on Christmas Eve, is therefore never going to fulfil this task. Of course, any picture book would need padding out to fill twenty-odd minutes of screen time. But the TV version just doesn’t seem to know who its target audience is.

The whole first part of the adaptation is new, in which the parents of the family leave, and it is truly woeful. It feels as if everything added to this adaptation is a metaphor. The new hero of the story, the second eldest sibling in a large nuclear family, is let down by every independent male she encounters. Her parents desert her to deal with the mechanical ineptitude of the grandmother, even when their own children need their help the most.

Later, our protagonist’s ham-fisted elder brother fails to listen to her sensitive pleas to stay with her new bear friend and forces her away from the bear. Her brother’s unwelcome intervention leaves both girl and bear perpetually miserable; isolated and lonely with precious little hope of change.

She is also let down by her grandmother who more or less tells her that she is destined to be unhappy, as passive misery is part and parcel of life. This is despite the fact that it is her grandmother who is culpable for the root of the problems by calling away the girl’s parents and leaving her in her brother’s less than capable hands.

The animated characters are so stereotypical they may as well have come from an age or gender studies textbook. Old woman can’t manage with car. Adult children come running to help. Eldest brother takes charge. Girl just sits back and follows. Aren’t these concepts becoming a bit worn out now? The story has been changed, but it hasn’t been modernised.

You can’t help but wonder if the bear is used as an elaborate animalistic metaphor for EU economic migrants in the wake of Brexit. We are the comfortable, middle class family, and we’re happy to go and visit them in their own habitat, but as soon as they pass through the threshold of ‘our’ territory, they somehow turn into a threat that must be kept out at all costs.

While using different mediums to highlight and call out the twin scourges of the patriarchy and our dog-eat-dog, selfish, capitalist society would normally be a positive move, in a seasonal adaptation meant for children, this is somewhat excessive.

The long and the short of it is that an albeit cautionary tale of a fun family adventure is turned into one of neglect, pure and simple. Let’s not even talk about the borderline criminal treatment of the poor baby.

Of course, the original story was no bed of roses. But, crucially, the bear is never personified, and is certainly never explicitly called “friendly”- it is an unarguable adversary, not a character offered up to us as a potential ‘goodie’, that is then cruelly whipped away.

Granted, perhaps the themes I have discussed are present for those who want to find them, but in nowhere near as obvious a way. I can enjoy the book, as a form of escapism, as much now as when I was a child. I’m not so sure that would have been the case with the animated version – a thought borne out by the reactions of some bemused parents on social media.

Along with its good animation, the score, which includes George Ezra’s theme song Me & You, is one of the redeeming features of this badly planned adaptation. But Channel 4 even spectacularly dropped the ball here, overlaying their continuity announcer above Ezra’s song on the closing credits and rendering it unlistenable, consequently depriving many of the sole aspect they tuned in and sat through the soul-destroying narrative for.

The genius of the book lies in its simplicity. The repetition, the onomatopoeia, the simple yet vivid adjectival descriptions mean that it is more about the reader than the characters. Therefore, it serves its purpose as a children’s story with an intended audience of those influenced more by the Teletubbies than Karl Marx or Simone de Beauvoir. If I was Rosen, I would be ashamed to have sullied the reputation of my masterpiece twenty-seven years later by volunteering to narrate this shambles. The animation is completely devoid of joy and for this reason I would far rather any children I knew stuck firmly to the book.

All in all, the increased complexity of the screen version ruins the story. There is not even a hint of a resolution or a happy ending, either for the story or for the little girl’s future in a world where she seems fated to be controlled, cheated and denied autonomy forever. This programme left a bitter taste in my mouth, because it is a con and not what we want to see on our screens at this time of year.

But, hey, maybe I’m just overthinking things. My New Year’s resolution is to get out more…

Image from Flickr

Votes at 16

By Tony Allen

At the Union Council meeting on the 23/11/16, a motion was carried which gained a great deal less attention than that about poppy sales on campus. It was Motion 2008: The fight for Votes at 16. Proposed by Cameron Mellowes of UEA Labour and seconded by the SU’s Campaigns and Democracy officer Amy Rust, an overwhelming majority of 75% of councillors in attendance voted to enshrine into Union policy our support for lowering the minimum voting age in UK elections from 18 to 16.

I was delighted, in my first Union Council meeting, to be able to contribute to such a significant step in the right direction. However, of course this is only the start of the hard work. The SU has been going through a tough few weeks publicity-wise, but this is truly something to smile about. Here is why I feel so strongly about the campaign and look forward to participating in any way I can:

My personal experience of electoral injustice at the age of seventeen informs my view heavily. On Friday 8th May 2015, they day after the General Election, I clearly remember sitting in my A Level politics classroom before my teacher arrived for the morning’s lesson. My class watched BBC News on our projector screen, rapt, as Ed Balls lost his seat. But by then we already knew that the Conservatives were waltzing away with a Parliamentary majority- some were delighted, others distraught.

Whatever the result of the election, it would have rung hollow for me. I was bitterly disappointed with it, but more deeply with my helpless inability to have been able to register my opinion. What could have been a brilliantly encouraging introduction to the world of politics outside the textbook for our class turned out to be little more than a damp squib.

When we next get the chance to vote in a General Election, most of us will be in full time employment (or not, as the case may unfortunately be). Mr Smith’s politics lessons, and the passion they engendered, will be a distant memory.

I hate the thought that some people who might have started the habit of a lifetime by voting when inspired by our fierce common-room debates might not bother five years on.

The global political landscape is in a period of unprecedented upheaval and most British born UEA students will have had the chance to participate by voting in the EU referendum. But we can’t forget about votes at 16 just because it wouldn’t make a difference to us any more.

That is why I was so glad that the Union Council motion passed with such a resoundingly positive vote. Even when you look at the 24% who didn’t back the motion (rounded to the nearest %), only 10% voted outright against, with 14% abstaining.

The recent NUS demonstration, attended by UEA students, has thrown the spotlight on cuts and fee rises made by the government. It’s a tragedy that many of the new intake of freshers didn’t get the chance to have their say in the election of this government who are imposing austerity on them and could continue to do so unabated for the rest of our undergraduate careers.

And you wonder why young people have a reputation for political passivity and disenfranchisement.

Scottish 16-and-17-year-olds were granted the vote in their independence referendum, by all accounts with great success. So, I’m sure they were as perplexed in 2016 as we were envious of them in 2014 that every under-18 was denied a vote on the EU. The final referendum result would probably not have changed had the franchise been extended to 16-and-17-year-olds. However, it would have gained more legitimacy in my eyes.

The flippant arguments made after the EU referendum for an upper age limit for voting are of course completely absurd. But isn’t normalised age discrimination a key excuse for failing to listen to the well-reasoned arguments of young people to extend the franchise? These things have got to work both ways.

Thankfully for the sake of sensible debate, not all arguments against extending the vote are so condescending as Julia Hartley-Brewer’s infamous diatribe in the Daily Telegraph. Dr Andrew Mycock has argued reasonably that education must be improved first.

But that would be so easy to do. Even a sixteen-year-old could probably make a good fist of suggesting how.

General Studies at A Level needed not to be scrapped, as it has been in the latest cull of so-called ‘soft’ subjects (not so, but that’s another article), but instead to be reformed to make it exciting, accessible, and more weighted towards real-life politics. Form time activities in schools need to be changed to concentrate on providing an objective, rounded political education. It’s not about ramming politics down students’ throats- we have compulsory education for a reason.

I don’t buy for one second the arguments that it would be too difficult/expensive/time consuming (delete as appropriate) to revolutionise political education in schools. Improving and standardising what’s already in place with regards to citizenship education will go a long way towards ensuring young people are equipped to use their votes.

If only our elected representatives had to appeal to voters in the traditional Sixth Form age range, then they might put more time and effort into exploring such beneficial, student-focused education reforms…

In essence, my support for votes at 16 can be boiled down to the fact that life nowadays for young people is just not the same as it was in 1969, when the most recent Representation of the People Act lowered the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.

Education is perhaps the single biggest example which cements my optimism in the ability of 16 and 17-year-olds to vote wisely and respect our democratic institution.

Arguably the biggest responsibility on teenage shoulders now is that of attaining those all-important A*-C grades in Maths and English GCSEs- necessary not only for many careers, but also for regular entry into UEA.

Aside from those GCSEs being hugely important to the individual student, the careers of teachers and school staff are on the line and effectively decided by a group of 16-year-olds and their independent decisions on whether to engage and revise. Why are our MPs’ careers any more sacrosanct than those of their fellow public servants in the classroom?

At fifteen or sixteen we choose A Levels, or other post-16 routes, that will effectively rule us in or out of particular careers. We decide where our next steps should be, and have a chance to move away from the safe confines of secondary school and pave the way for our futures. So why would we be any less able, interested or willing to decide on the future of our country too?

Image from NUS votes at 16 campaign

Flatmate Diet Interviews -How Has Arriving at University Affected You? Part One

By Jodie Bailey

  1. Before arriving at UEA how would you have described your cooking skills?

Pretty good, I follow recipes pretty well and I grew up watching a lot of cooking shows. Also I worked in the food industry for 3 years since I was 17 years old.

  1. How would you say your cooking has changed since arriving at UEA, if it has at all?

I cook dishes more often as my parents used to cook a lot and I cook bigger portions so I can reheat leftovers. I eat more convenient and easy foods, and a lot of cheaper foods as well as food is more expensive here.

  1. Do you have any special dietary requirements, if yes, then how does this affect your cooking style and the food you eat?

I am Muslim so I only eat Halal foods, and I’m partially vegetarian as Halal foods are more expensive here than back home in Canada.

  1. How much do you spend on food each week roughly?

£17

  1. How much do you spend on food out (including takeaways)?

£15

  1. What are your cupboard staples/ the one food that you could not live without?

Tea, bread with butter and jam, bananas

  1. How many fruit and veg would you say you eat each day?

5

  1. What is a typical breakfast for you?

Scrambled eggs and toast or fried egg, or yoghurt with fruit

  1. What do you normally have for lunch?

I don’t usually eat lunch, I tend to have a few little snacks throughout the day

  1. What do you typically have for dinner?

A rice dish like curry or a pasta

  1. How much alcohol do you drink each week and how much would you say you spend on alcohol?

Hardly drink at all, so £0

  1. Care to share any advice for future students regarding cooking or food at university?

Budgeting is really important, try to make a lot of food at one time so you can eat it throughout the week, and try to limit your intake of alcohol as it will be cheaper and healthier for you. Also, try to make brand swaps to save money. Get stuff high in nutrition but low on cost e.g. eggs and bananas. Buying produce is cheaper than take out.

 

  1. Before arriving at UEA how would you have described your cooking skills?

I didn’t cook, I didn’t think I had any cooking skills

  1. How would you say your cooking has changed since arriving at UEA, if it has at all?

Well I’m pleasantly surprised by the stuff I come up with, if you don’t cook you don’t eat and I get hungry a lot

  1. Do you have any special dietary requirements, if yes, then how does this affect your cooking style and the food you eat?

Nope

  1. How much do you spend on food each week roughly?

£30-40

  1. How much do you spend on food out (including takeaways)?

No more than a tenner a week

  1. What are your cupboard staples/ the one food that you could not live without?

Sweet potato

  1. How many fruit and veg would you say you eat each day?

3 portions of fruit, 3 portions of veg

  1. What is a typical breakfast for you?

Peanut butter porridge or yogurt with granola

  1. What do you normally have for lunch?

Sweet potato, tuna and sweetcorn

  1. What do you typically have for dinner?

Chicken and mixed veg

  1. How much alcohol do you drink each week and how much would you say you spend on alcohol? I don’t know …A lot …a lot, about £30
  2. Care to share any advice for future students regarding cooking or food at university?

Relax, it’s not as hard as you think it’s going to be.

 

Image: A student cupboard from one of the University flats. Independently sourced.

The Science of Christmas

By Luke Farnish and David Winlo

It’s that time of year again. Secret Santas are being set up, house Christmas dinners being planned, and many a slightly frozen student is heading to Unio for a seasonal hot drink. In other words, it is December, and Christmas will soon be upon us. Here at The Broad we celebrate Christmas in various ways, and we scientists are no different. So here is a scientific explanation of some, if not all things Christmas.

1. Santa is on his way, and what a way it is!

Even if we discount the children of parents from non-Christmas-celebrating backgrounds, Santa is going to have to deliver to around 700,000,000 children in a single night. Then we need to divide those children by household and assume even distribution of those households around the world, otherwise we’ll still be calculating by New Year’s. Now with 1.47 km between each house, Santa has a journey of 342,510,000 km on his hands, and we haven’t finished yet.

If Santa travels so as to maximise the length of the night of Christmas Eve, he has 32 hours. To travel over 342,000,000 km in that time will require him to really push his reindeer, as they’ll need to pull him along at 6,650,808 mph, or 10,703,438 kph, about 167 times faster than the fastest-moving machine ever made, the Voyager 1 space probe. So spare a thought for the poor guy and his reindeer, and leave them a mince pie and some cherry.

2. Christmas has its origins in religion.

For Christians, this time of year is about the birth of Jesus, and now, this is true for many physicists and astronomers. The bible writes that Jesus’ birth was accompanied by a new star in the sky and, what’s more, it’s not the only source from the time (5BC, a date even many high ranking church members agree with) to mention such an event. We call three of the visitors of Jesus the ‘three wise men’ but their true name is the Magi, followers of an ancient religion whose beliefs are focused on a single God and that contact may be made through the stars. They were astronomers! Texts of the time record the stars in fantastic detail and most scientists believe that there truly was a temporary ‘star’. But what was it? There are some strong contenders.

In 1614, Johannes Kepler, one of the most famous astronomers of all time, suggested a conjunction (overlapping from the perspective of Earth) of planets. It can be calculated that were a number around this time. However, they are not always very bright and many occurred in the wrong place for the Magi to follow. A supernova, an exploding star, can be VERY bright, even brighter than the moon. But, supernovae leave a trace, that being a nebula, a huge cloud of gas. No nebula of the correct age and position has been found, but, the Andromeda galaxy, our own galaxy’s neighbour has many nebulae and could have been in the correct place.

Another big contender is a comet, a large ball of ice that circles the sun in a huge orbit, meaning they can only be seen every few hundred years or so. Chinese astronomers noted one in 5BC that remained stationary in the sky for 70 days. What’s more, comets have huge tails of ice that could easily ‘point’ to the ground, much as in the Christmas card depiction of the star. The only major issue with this theory is human nature of the time, where comets were seen as bad omens. Perhaps we will be trying to work out what the ‘star’ was for many years to come, and perhaps that, to an astronomer, is the best sort of Christmas present.

3. The Nativity story.

Another Christmassy source of scientific intrigue is the Nativity story, in particular, the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. What by many is held to be a highly significant miracle can be interpreted very differently by looking back through the translations of the Bible. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, a form of the language no longer spoken natively. The writer of Matthew, the book which contains the Nativity story, referred to a passage from the Old Testament, saying ‘a parthenos shall conceive and bear a child’. ‘Parthenos’ is the word which translates to ‘virgin’ in the English translations of the New Testament, but can also simply mean ‘young woman’, which was the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘almah’ used in the passage the Greek author refers to.

Whilst Mary giving birth to Jesus may not have been an example of parthenogenesis, the scientific word for a virgin birth, there are plenty of animals which are. Among them is an animal likely to be seen on dinner tables across the nation this 25th of December – the turkey. In most cases the egg either doesn’t develop at all, or doesn’t develop normally. But some other animals, including various sharks, lizards and invertebrates, have been documented as being capable of parthenogenesis as a successful method of reproduction, though not a sole one.

4. On a rock band’s Christmas wish…

In 1973 Wizard told the world that they ‘Wish it could be Christmas every day’. Well, it can be, but only in one place, Christmas Island! Technically a part of Australia, despite being over 2,600 km (about 1,600 miles) from Perth near West Java. It’s not a big place, just 19 by 14 km with a population of about 2,000, the majority of the island’s inhabitants being of Chinese descent. Much of the island is made up of protected wildlife areas with the mining of guano (hardened bird faeces) for use in fertilisers being a well-known trade on the island since its initial colonisation.

It’s interesting, however, that Wizard mentions ‘every day’ because there is, in fact, a second Christmas island whose days are rather special. Kiritimati (pronounced ‘Christmas’ and previously spelt ‘Christmas’) is about 10,000 km (about 6,200 miles) east from Christmas Island and part of the Republic of Kiribati. It’s a fascinating place. The whole island is now a nature reserve (although much of its internal area is taken up by a lake), but in the 1950s the area was used for nuclear tests by the UK, leading to still detectable damage (many locals have suffered as the people of the island were not removed during tests). The towns of Kiritimati have rather unimaginative names including London, Paris (now abandoned), Poland and Banana, sometimes called Banana wells. But perhaps the most interesting fact about Kiritimati is its days. Christmas comes early here as Kiritimati is the only country in the UTC+14 time zone, meaning that a day starts for them 14 hours before it does in London (that’s the London in the UK, not their London!). This enabled the islands to trade more easily with other Pacific nations. So, not only is it Christmas every day, but for some, Christmas comes early.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas from the both of us (and everyone at The Broad), and hope you enjoy all the science articles in 2017. ¡Feliz Navidad!

Image “Red Crab” by David Stanley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

UEA Society Spotlight: Egg Box

By Tony Allen and Olivia Minnock

As a society, Egg Box began in 2015 as the less intriguingly titled ‘UEA Publishers’. We started off having two distinct sections dealing with the experience of the professional publishing process, such as publishing the annual Undergraduate Creative Writing Anthology, self-publishing and the “fun” side of print, like holding Zine workshops.

So why Egg Box? Originally, Egg Box was an independent publisher as part of UEA’s publishing project, which worked in partnership with students to publish the annual anthologies among other works. It was run by UEA’s very own lecturers, Nathan Hamilton and Philip Langeskov, with the help of students in editing. However, they were keen to hand more of this over to students, to give us an opportunity and to breathe new life into the label.

And that’s exactly what we did.

We rebranded Egg Box, with a funky new logo and style, and amalgamated it with the original society so members could be part of both.

This also meant that we could work more closely as a society with both the professional side and the self-publishing side being sold together at markets, readings and on our brand new website! As the start of a new generation on an existing label, we’ve inherited a large following and the help of those more experienced than us. This pairs with the creativity and enthusiasm offered by students to balance out the original and dynamic with the established and respectable. We hope that this will enable us to organise more successful careers and publishing events as well as increase the sales and exposure for anyone who wants to get published!

As a society as well as a business, Egg Box publishing hopes to include each and every student at UEA who might be interested in the publishing industry. Whether you’re hoping to boost your CV and get an internship, or you’ve got some artwork or writing knocking about that you want to put into a booklet, we’re here to help.

So what are we up to at the moment? Tony, our new Union rep, explains why he loves being a part of Egg Box:

“Perhaps the best thing about Egg Box is the freedom to express yourself in print in whatever way you wish. The society as a whole produces a collaborative monthly zine on a broad theme (our first was on ‘maps’, we are currently putting the final touches to our Christmas edition). Under these themes, submissions are welcomed of any format, for example poetry, creative writing, illustrations, photography or any other type of art.

All are welcome in Egg Box, and the diversity of work produced by the society means that there is something that everyone can get involved with, be it contributing, editing, designing, marketing or selling.

In addition to the collaborative zine, and sessions to guide submissions organised by our brilliant workshop co-ordinator Emma, the society also assists people with any aspect of self-publishing and printing or preparation for a career in the industry. For example, help and advice is available for those wishing to create and sell their own publications. We regularly sell our wares, for example at the recent ‘student pop-up market’ in the Hive, and will be attending the Christmas market there too. As well as selling the collaborative zines, this is also a platform to sell individual society members’ own self-printed publications too!

A big part of our work is centred around the creation of chapbooks, containing the writing of students, and we have now also taken responsibility for editing and publishing the end-of-year undergraduate creative writing anthology. Submissions have just opened for this and we can’t wait to start sorting through them all!

The society organises lots of social events to inspire the would-be publishers and printers of tomorrow. For example, I recently took part in a visit to the On Paper festival which showcased some of the best printers and graphic artists in the world, right here in Norwich.

Egg Box enjoy collaborating with other societies too. We have recently completed a joint publication entitled ‘PROMPT’ with Octarine, the UEA’s creative writing periodical. In the past we have collaborated with both the Feminist and Creative Writing societies. If you are interested in finding out more, or your society is interested in working with us, please drop us an email to ueapubsoc@gmail.com!”

We hope to hear from you or see you at our office hours, 12.00-2-30pm in Unio every Wednesday.

Christmas Films You Can’t Go Another Year Without Watching

By Sophie Lurcuck

It’s that time of year again. Not just the run up to Christmas, but the run up to deadlines. Therefore below are the Christmas films that are worth watching, so if you only have a short amount of free time to feel festive, you will choose the movie that will make that well-deserved break worthwhile.

If comedies are your thing then Christmas with the Kranks is a must see because, it is quite underrated compared to other Christmas comedies, but well recommended. With the actor who voices Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and actress who plays the principal in Scream Queens (Jamie Lee Curtis) it has a great comedic cast. They play a couple attempting to skip Christmas on a suburban street praised for their annual festivities, leading to some sticky situations and laughs, making it an easy-going and merry movie to enjoy.

A darker Christmas comedy is Bad Santa, which entails, as the name suggests an unorthodox mall Santa, who is an all-round delinquent that breaks the law with the help of his elf co-worker. Although not the traditional light-hearted Christmas film, it is a refreshing break from children aimed films, if you prefer more adult themes and criminal action. One to watch out for is Bad Santa 2, which is in cinemas now with the same alcohol fuelled and unsaintly antics.

If your stress levels are really high, then take a trip on the Polar Express and be transported elsewhere. Alternatively, it features the voice of Woody (Tom Hanks) who plays multiple characters, including the conductor of the train that transports children to the North Pole.  The story follows the journey of a young boy embarking on this magical adventure in his dressing gown, where he discovers friendship, courage and Santa Claus.

Lastly, Love actually is a film that everybody should see at least once. With an all-star cast, it follows the intermingled lives of several different characters over the holiday period, including Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Bill Nighy. It is a heart-warming British comedy which explores love, loss and different types of relationships, making it the perfect accompaniment to this cold weather.

Image: “Snowman” by Digidreamgrafix is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

By Beth Papworth

This magical spin off of Harry Potter is well worth a watch, it captures the hearts and minds of fans that are enchanted by the wizarding world. Directed by the esteemed David Yates, who does not fail to impress, we are introduced to wild and fantastical beasts like the Niffler and Occamy. The film follows  busy body Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne), who protects his magical creatures in his suitcase and helps fend off dark magic.

Soon we are transported to 1926, where Scamander arrives at Ellis Island with a bottomless suitcase full of illegal “livestock”, ranging from a naughty Niffler (a mole that loves shiny objects and money) to a giant storm-causing Thunderbird. You can’t help but love the adorable Newt with his particular idiosyncrasies and adoration for magic. It is his encounter with Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a factory worker who unleashes a dozen magical creatures onto the streets, that we witness a budding friendship.

Eddie Redmayne is the perfect casting for the lead role. He’s kind, awkward and quintessentially British. The chemistry that unfolds between him and Katherine Waterson, who plays auror Tina, keeps the audience hooked. Jacob is the comedic legend of the film, who is utterly besotted with flapper Queenie (Alison Sudol).

It’s a real rollercoaster ride through New York City in the jazz age. Entertainment fills the screen with wild beasts on the loose and heroic Newt bravely on the hunt to catch the escaped creatures. Visually, the film is impressive with its tall buildings, squalid city streets, and realistic looking beasts. Audiences will warm to the Niffler, in spite of its mischievous antics and crazy escapades around the city. A creative, charming and enchanting film that would be a shame to miss if you’re a fan of all things magical.

Image: “Eddie Redmayne” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A Street Cat Named Bob Review

By Luke Farnish

As a lover of small budget, feel-good, indie films, I leapt at the ‘chance to see a street cat named Bob’. The film, closely based on the book of the same name, itself a written account of the life of the main character, centres on James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a London busker and recovering heroin addict. He’s given a lucky break when his support worker, Val (Joanne Froggatt, Anna Bates in Downton Abbey) finds him emergency housing. A short time later, James’ life is changed when he has a break in, only to find the trespasser is no thief, but a ginger cat who a neighbour (Ruta Gedmintas) names Bob (played by several cats, but most notably himself). The film then shows how James’ life slowly improves by having Bob around, through highs and lows until ending on the high of publishing the book that the film is based on, with some special guests in the final scenes.

As mentioned, this is my kind of film. The budget was estimated to be around $8,000,000 (or about 1/30th the cost of Star Wars VII) but the relatively low budget does not show. Although, while watching it’s hard to ignore the fact that the cast is small and the use of locations limited, as well as James’ flat being hardly full of expensive props, you can’t help but feel that this sort of film plays to the strengths of the indie genre and avoids having to pay for expensive CGI and other effects.

The casting choices are interesting as, excluding Joanne Froggatt and Anthony Head (who plays James’ father), the major actors are relatively unknown. Despite this, the performances by all involved were compelling and emotive, with Treadaway’s performance being of particular note as all of the songs shown while busking are performed by him. However, all the actors are overshadowed by one debut performance, that of Bob himself. Bob comes across as by far the most deeply thought about and complex character of the film. His curious and loving nature making even the most stone-hearted viewer warm to him. While several cats portray Bob and his antics, the real Bob is among them too – something rarely done with such a film. It’s rare for a film that is ‘based on a true story’ to feel so much like it really is. It’s hard to find any element of the film that does not seem believable even if some parts are obviously slightly edited to improve flow.

There are, as with any film, issues. Pacing is certainly one. The film moves at a relatively even pace which is not very typical for a genre that enjoys taking the viewer on an emotional roller-coaster and that pace is perhaps a little slower than a modern audience might be expecting.

Overall, though, this film ticks all the right boxes for an evening of movie delight. An easy four stars for a film about nine lives.

Image “That London” by Bryan Ledgard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Where Do You Start With Jeremy Corbyn

By Tony Allen 

Unsuitable to be a leader, or just the tonic that British politics needs right now? Future Prime Minister, or the man who could drag Labour into oblivion? The reality is, no-one will know until the next election. but here’s why I believe he is the man to lead both Labour and Britain to a better future

First and (perhaps) foremost, people can identify with Corbyn. Of course he’s not perfect. But he’s served his time in the Labour Party and has a wealth of experience to draw upon. He knows what it’s like to be a party member and little-known backbencher both in government and opposition, knowledge that could be crucial in the period up to the next election, and could well also make him a better Prime Minister. His whipping power would consequently be extremely useful in forming a stable government and party from the grass roots up.

I suppose the main reason I wanted to write in support of Corbyn is this: I am an ordinary, lay person in terms of politics. Beyond studying the subject at A Level and making use of Charles Clarke’s public lectures at UEA, like much of the active electorate I am interested but no expert. I personally feel more sympathetic towards Corbyn as a leader than anyone else in modern politics. This trend is repeated up and down the country. A sixty-seven year old man is whipping up a fervour among many people (especially the young) in Britain, so why not give him a chance?

Anyone with even a passing interest in current affairs will remember the emotion around Corbyn’s election as party leader. I myself was halfway through Sixth Form and I felt real hope after watching the results as they were announced live on TV. Labour members had not just elected a new leader, they had voted for a change in their party and a new movement.

Many people who hadn’t been for a long time were genuinely excited about politics and after the great participatory event that was the EU referendum, they could be again.

As for the criticisms of the £3 registered supporters who got Corbyn elected? Well, I see their voices as being just as valid as any regular member of the Labour Party. After all, if Labour are to be the party of the working people, they need to allow as many people as possible a say in policymaking. I can’t help but think that some critics of the Labour leadership electoral system have lost sight of what it means to be socialist at a time when Labour needs to reinvent itself, regroup and assert its position in the British political spectrum. And no-one has a mandate to lead the party like Corbyn does.

Our MP Clive Lewis is a major supporter of Corbyn, and it is unsung heroes in the party like him who hold the key to Labour’s future success, not the loud figures like Chuka Umunna seemingly interested primarily in their own interests. Corbyn loyalists withstood the tense moments when resignations were ten-a-penny from his shadow cabinet. Having remained resolute throughout that, those who remain are now perfectly equipped for taking the fight to a more obvious adversary.

Admittedly, polling isn’t always great in terms of Corbyn’s personal popularity. However, if you’d have listened to the pollsters, the Conservatives would have been nowhere near a majority in 2015 and the UK would have voted by an overwhelming majority to remain in the EU.

Image: “Jeremy Corbyn” by Garry King is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

An Alternate View

By Luke Farnish

Humans have always loved drawing maps, ever since the Greeks and their contemporaries began to explore the world, we have recorded the lands we have seen on sheets of paper. However, the most important fact about any map of the Earth is that it is wrong. It is impossible to completely accurately plot a spherical surface onto a flat rectangle; therefore, all maps are wrong. The issue is, our current most used projection is very wrong. This projection you will have seen on the walls of your old geography classroom is called the Mercator projection and was drawn up in 1569.

There are features of the projection that make it useful or at least aesthetically pleasing. The top and bottom of the map represent the poles and the equator runs through the middle with the centre of the map being the prime meridian (the line of longitude designated as 0ºE) and the left and right hand edge being 180°E, roughly denoting the international date line (excluding American versions of the map which place the USA in the centre of the map and the right and left edge of the map show roughly 80°E, just east of India). However, there are huge issues with the projection. Everything is highly distorted, with areas nearer the poles being more distorted. For example, Greenland looks very large on a Mercator map, around the size of Africa but is, in truth, not much larger than just the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or is you prefer, around the same size as India looks on the projection, or the height of Australia). The issue is even worse for Antarctica which is stretched across the whole southern part of the map, making it almost impossible to tell what shape it truly is.

In the 450 years since the Mercator map was first drawn many people have suggested new projections. There is always something good about the Mercator that is sacrificed, the position of the equator, the shape of the map etc. But all of these maps are far more useful in the real world for navigation or simply educational purposes. Now a new map has come along that could top all of these. That map is AuthaGraph.

AuthaGraph is the brainchild of Hajime Narukawa, an artist and architect based in Tokyo. The idea behind the map is to change the sphere of the Earth into a sphere-like object made out of triangles (the same technique that’s used to make computer generated objects in video games). From there the map can be folded out. This in itself is a new approach and leads to a very accurate projection, but the next step adds a new level of usefulness to the map. Narukawa then flipped the map several times so that the full projection is not one Earth but nine Earths.

The projection not only shows the proportions and the positions of the landmasses with far greater accuracy than Mercator but has numerous other advantages. Due to there being nine Earths the large image can be sliced in numerous ways placing any point on the globe in the centre of the map. Equally, because the Earth is a sphere the map need not be a rectangle – equilateral triangles, parallelograms and other shapes of maps are also possible. Equally, maps that show anything that circumnavigates the Earth can be easily illustrated (Narukawa demonstrated this with a map of the voyage of Captain Cook in a Ted Talk video).

It may be some time before we see these in the classrooms, if ever. Until then, we can but dream of a world where our maps are accurate.

Image from Mental Floss