Style Isn’t About Age- Style Debate

Style isn’t about age

The notion of style could be seen as a somewhat elusive one; you can’t just buy it or copy it. It doesn’t involve buying the most expensive clothes as suggested by Vogue or straight from a mannequin. Instead, style requires knowing yourself and your body and channelling this into an outward form of expression. Age then has no influence on style, because there can be no guarantee as to when such self-knowledge can be achieved.

Looking back on past outfits, we can all single out a few that we may wish we’d never worn. From oversized khaki pants to dungarees, the word fashionable may not be our first choice to describe such things. Yet this seems to be where the line between fashion and style is drawn. While fashion relates to trends, style can be timeless and need not correspond to them at all. We can be consistently stylish yet questionably fashionable. We call somebody stylish when they own what they wear, and when we just sheepishly follow what we’re told is fashionable, we can never look properly comfortable. The slender twenty-somethings that storm the catwalks and fill our magazines may epitomise fashion, but there are undeniably pensioners who own their style much more. There are clear examples in both extremes of age who demonstrate that style is in no way about age. Chloë Moretz, still only 17, was given the Future Icon Award at last year’s ELLE fashion awards for effortlessly incorporating some of the more challenging designers into her style, proving that style has no age limit. At the other end of the age spectrum, 87-year-old June Brown recently bonded with Lady Gaga on the Graham Norton Show about their fashion choices, whilst sporting a trademark blonde streak in her fringe. Two very different people in terms of backgrounds and influences, yet both have a clear sense of style unique to their individual personalities.

Style is therefore not about age, being fashionable or buying the most expensive clothes. It is a form of expression that allows us to use the creations of others to define our own identity. As our ideas about ourselves and the world around us develop, so does our style, meaning that while it is influenced by the trends of our times, it stays loyal to our own interpretation of them.  Style is experimenting with clothes and finding your own distinct way to express yourself through them.

[caption id="attachment_51133" align="alignright" width="200"]Lady GaGa and June Brown proving style is ageless Lady GaGa and June Brown proving style is ageless[/caption]


Style is about age

First of all, anyone can look chic. From your five-year-old cousin to your imposing great-aunt, the use of clothes to express ourselves and look great is a universal activity. But just think what would happen if that cousin and aunt were to swap clothes. Suddenly the child is weighed under by layers of silk and wool, a string of pearls dragging her comically to the ground. Meanwhile the aunt finds herself the unlikely model of dungarees and a T-shirt featuring The Tweenies. Even with sizing considerations put to one side, it doesn’t work. Style is about age; it’s about locating who you are at this particular time and reflecting that in your apparel.

This isn’t to say that individuality should be restricted by age; life would be rather boring if everyone born in the same year wore the exact same thing. But the truth is that we do dress to reflect our generation. There are many stylish older ladies who have maintained a rather 1950s aesthetic in their wardrobes, partially because it’s an elegant look, and partially because this was the time when they were young women encountering and enjoying fashion fully for the first time. Similarly, there’s a lot to be said for the aged hippy who still wears the kaftan they bought during the Summer of Love. I’m not saying that I’m going to continue wearing my tartan miniskirt well into my 90s, but I imagine that many of the style sensibilities which I form now, during some of the most exciting and eye-opening years of my life, will stay with me for a long time.

Besides, surely sticking to fashion which is vaguely age-appropriate and reflective of your own generation has greater integrity than constantly trying to keep up with the latest fads and trends? There comes a point when one stops looking like an ‘It’ girl and more like Edie from Ab-Fab.

Style should by no means have proscriptive criteria, but it is important to maintain an idea of who you are – something which is inevitably affected by age – if you are going to be comfortable and confident in your outfit. By staying true to yourself, you can stay eternally chic.


Homeless cuts spark debate between City Council candidates

Homeless cuts spark debate between City Council candidates

Students campaigning for seats on Oxford City Council are in a war of words this week over the recent 38 per cent cuts to homeless services in the city.

According to a statement from the Liberal Democrats, the Labour-run City Council recently voted down an amendment which would have provided an extra £100,000 for homelessness services.

Labour claims it is maintaining current spending levels on homelessness rather than cutting “in proportion to the government budget.”

Mark Mills, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Oxford, said: “Most of the shelters get most of their funding from the Conservative-controlled County Council, which has proposed the £1.5 million cut.”

“The loss of this funding will likely mean either one of the shelters will have to close or services at each shelter will be seriously damaged.”

Jean Vila, a Biology student at Wadham and Central Oxford Liberal Democrat campaigner, said: “Oxford’s Labour councillors have shown complete hypocrisy over the cuts to support for the homeless in Oxford. Twice in one week they’ve had the chance to help the homeless and twice they’ve failed to do so.”

“We need to hold the City Council to account when they fail to live up to their rhetoric and let down some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Aled Jones, a second-year Law student at Corpus Christi who will run for Labour against Vila in May’s council elections, said: “What the Lib Dems are saying is completely unfounded and purely an attempt to play politics with a serious issue.

“The City Council can’t send a message that it will pick up the slack when the County cuts vital services, as it also faces financial constraints imposed by this Tory/Lib Dem government.

“The Lib Dems should be directing their time and energy into opposing the Tories at the County Council, who are actually making the cuts, instead of attempts to smear Labour with baseless attacks regarding homelessness provision,” he added.

Labour councillor Ed Turner said: “The truth is the City Council grant has been reduced by 47 per cent yet we are going to maintain every penny going towards homeless services instead of cutting in proportion to the government budget. It’s the Conservative County Council that isn’t doing their bit.”

Vila and Jones will go head-to-head in the council elections on 22nd May. They are both standing for Holywell ward, which covers colleges such as Merton and Teddy Hall.

Jones, who is a former co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club, has said: “It’s only fair that local students have an active voice on the local council.

“Beyond the bubble of dreaming spires, Oxford has some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country which are being particularly badly hit by this government’s policies, which is why what the City Council does matters.”

Both parties have accused one another of using these cuts as an excuse for political gain. Tony Brett, another Liberal Democrat councillor, said: “It’s more important to help the homeless than to play politics. It’s a shame Labour can’t appreciate that.”

Ed Turner hit back, saying: “We tried our very best to have cross-party cooperation on this matter. It’s incredibly frustrating that the Lib Dems cannot help but use homelessness as a political football.”

The cuts to homelessness services have been widely condemned by figures such as OUSU President Tom Rutland and VP (Charities and Communities) Dan Tomlinson. The Oxford Student reported last week that the budget had been formally approved despite extensive protests from residents and students.

Lesley Dewhurst, who co-ordinates Oxford Homeless Pathways, said: “Given that Oxford is the most expensive place in the country, this cut does feel very short sighted. In the run up to the election, it seems political backstabbing has become more important than issues such as homelessness.”


Union Debate: “This House Would call Edward Snowden a hero”

Union Debate: “This House Would call Edward Snowden a hero”

The Oxford Union’s 6th debate was a passionate affair, with speeches focusing on whether whistleblowing constitutes treason or a call for justice, and whether Edward Snowden, the now-famous source of the files that revealed the National Security Agency global data-tapping programme, merits the title “hero.”

Chris Hedges, a long-time journalist with the New York Times, opened for the proposition. Hedges said that a hero “shows moral courage and disobedience to higher authority even at the risk of persecution” and drew parallels between Snowden and soldiers who stopped the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Hedges stated: “There is no free press without the ability of newspapers to protect the confidentiality of their sources” and “the relationship of tracking and being tracked by the state is the relationship between a master and a slave.” He ridiculed the NSA for collecting data on “the UN Secretary General, cardinals at the papal conclave, American companies, and NSA agents’ ex-lovers.”

Mr Hedges made an analogy between the situation of Congressional oversight committees being knowingly lied to by intelligence agents and that of the March Hare offering wine to Alice while knowing there is none.

The first speaker for the opposition was Charles Vaughan, a member of the Standing Committee from St John’s College. Vaughan started by asking: “When is it in the public interest to blow the whistle?” He continued: “Governments derive their legitimacy from democratic mandate, which gives them the right and duty to guarantee security” and argued that a range of discretion was necessary when it came to revealing information, and that “whistleblowing should only happen when it is in the public interest.” Vaughan criticised Snowden for “not merely evidencing the existence of a programme that went beyond its legal and constitutional limits, but going so far as to release current data.” Vaughan blamed Snowden for damaging international relations by revealing the precise ways in which the data was collected, and his actions following the leak.

Annie Machon, a former intelligence agent with MI5 and MI6 who read Classics at Cambridge, started her speech in proposition by informing the audience of the Greek definition of herōs: “guardian, defender, protector.” She said Edward Snowden befitted this title, and criticised the argument that he could have resorted to other means to draw attention to illegal acts, pointing out: “Spies can manipulate the mechanisms in place to control their actions, and oversight bodies can be lied to.” Ms Machon argued that government-monitoring of communications would lead people to self-censor, and that “democracy cannot exist under self-censorship.” She referred to the Official Secrets Act of 1989 for the current state of affairs in intelligence gathering, under which her whistleblowing against criminal actions by British intelligence meant that the people committing the crimes could not be prosecuted, whereas she could.

Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst for CNN and the New Yorker who spoke second in opposition, characterised the proposition’s view as one where “the ends justify the means” and that “the rules of society don’t apply to moral zealots.” He downplayed the significance of government data collection, arguing that governments now have records that phone companies already have. Toobin also drew laughter in stating: “It’s a dangerous world out there; there are people who are willing to kill us for our freedoms.” Toobin questioned if the world was safer “with Russia and China knowing the information that the US has collected.”

William Binney, a former American intelligence agent, argued that the NSA, since it began domestic surveillance of Americans after “Vice President Cheney decided he needed information on all Americans”, violated the First Amendment of the American constitution. He drew attention to the fact that the NSA could track all information since 2009, but also that “the sheer bulk of data is smothering crucial information”, impeding the NSA’s ability to find real dangers, such as the bombers of the Boston Marathon.

Stewart Baker, former General Counsel for the NSA, described Snowden in unequivocal terms: “A back-stabbing toadie who might have had courage to take responsibility for his disclosure, but had significantly less courage since he fled.” Baker criticised “holes” in Snowden’s motives for his leaks, such as how he said “nothing about surveillance of journalists at Sochi, government repression of protests in the Ukraine.” Baker said that Snowden was “not allowing a debate by imposing his moral judgement on other countries’ intelligence programmes” and jokingly described Snowden as a “hero” in the sense that the word describes “Americans who impose their moral judgements on the world.” Baker also cast aspersions on Snowden’s character and fundamental beliefs, arguing that Snowden’s chat logs showed: “He was a paranoid gun enthusiast who was ready to fight if the government infringed on his right to firearms.”

After the floor speeches, Chris Huhne, former Secretary of State for Energy and currently a contributor for the Guardian, applauded Snowden for revealing that the UK intelligence services were just as out of control as the NSA. He also rebutted the view that Snowden’s leaks put lives at risk, stating the Guardian was given “less than one per cent of Snowden’s total information” and the paper made sure no information could put lives in danger. He said: “Besides Snowden, there were 480,000 private contractors with the same level of security clearance” and argued there was a high chance that one of them already leaked Snowden’s data to Russia or China before he did. He concluded by stating that Snowden’s actions highlighted the “cluelessness of British oversight bodies” and “allowed us to once again decide the balance of security and liberty for ourselves.”

Philip J. Crowley, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs before resigning over comments about the treatment of Chelsea Manning, argued that labelling Snowden a hero was too hasty, stating: “In sports or politics, it takes more than one play or act to be called a hero.” Crowley stated that both Snowden and Manning deserved to be prosecuted for “overstepping the boundaries and revealing confidential information that was classified for a reason.” Crowley affirmed the scope of the NSA’s mission, stating it was “vital” to “determine the thoughts and motivations of the people who move our world.” He concluded by stating that Snowden “sidestepped his duty to defend the national mission,” and instead “made it his job to reveal information that had nothing to with his obligation.”

Is the internet good for music?

Is the internet good for music?

Kate Bradley

When I was about thirteen, I was madly into the Kaiser Chiefs. Writing that makes me feel like I’m introducing myself at an Arseholes Anonymous meeting, especially now the Chiefs’ lead singer Ricky Wilson is one of the panellists on The Voice. All the same, I loved them once, and as we look at our exes, we look at our past favourite bands – with disdain, and perhaps a little shame. Nevertheless, Kaiser Chiefs were my gateway into (better) rock music.

The way I fell in love with Kaiser Chiefs was through the internet. I don’t know what band forums are like today, but back when I was thirteen, they were really great fan communities full of people sharing articles, pictures, facts and gig stories relating to their favourite artists, and giving each other recommendations. Through the Kaiser Chiefs forum, I found bands like Maxïmo Park and The Cribs. Then, at some point, someone linked me to, a website which tracks your music listening and offers you personalised recommendations based on your taste, and through that I found  some of my favourite bands.

Though we may be losing the wave-based culture of music fandom, I don’t think that musical communities have died out – they’ve just moved onto the web, and now co-exist instead of competing. Internet musical communities can be even better than real-life ones – they unite even the smallest fan groups, creating global social networks. Modern communications mean that friendships can be kept alive across huge distances, and musical taste is the perfect social glue. In real life, it’s all fine as long as you’re fashionable, enjoying the same thing as the people in your locale. On the internet, someone will undoubtedly share your taste, no matter how niche it is.


Henry Holmes

The internet is big. You won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. Over two billion people have access to it, and a lot of those like music. A smaller amount of those make music and a smaller amount of them actually put it on the internet. That’s still a lot of music on the internet – it’s practically saturated. Sites like Bandcamp and Kickstarter are great, but it’s so hard to actually get noticed. What’s more, so much is free, with Youtube and Spotify and other various sites, not counting the ease of straight-up piracy. So people get used to not having to pay for their music.

What this means is that, while there it’s very easy to get your music out there, and it’s entirely possible for someone in Zagreb to listen to that neo-folk EP that you recorded in your bedroom, there is a lot of competition between little-known bands, and people expect to be able to listen to your music for free. Getting out there is not necessarily any easier with the internet than without it, and the live music scene has waned now that so much is available for free wherever and whenever you want it.

The internet has massively affected the logistics of musicianship, and has really just raised the base amount of exposure that everybody gets. It’s still just as hard as before to get past that level, especially with all the additional competition. It’s important not to view the internet through rose-tinted glasses – in many ways, it’s made life harder for new artists


Joshua Barfoot

The monumental shift to internet music consumption has changed the way we all think about music. For some artists, it has proven to be a huge aid in their musical careers.

Go-to no-bullshit record engineer Steve Albini (below) is an outspoken advocate of the internet in terms of its potential for exposure. Whilst he has helped major label groups, like Nirvana, to make records, Albini has always been a firm supporter of independent music. He has talked in interviews about how the shift in the industry, while scaring the major labels, has allowed independent bands to find an audience and to become autonomous sustainable units. He used the example of his own band Shellac, who, because of the fanbase the internet has allowed them to reach, have been able to finance and manage their own tours without having to spend money on management and PR companies. This means that they have been able to tour places as far-flung as eastern Europe, something which just wouldn’t have been possible before the internet.

Sites like SoundCloud allow unknown artists and bands to upload their own material for free for the whole world to listen to and share. Dylan Baldi used MySpace to create numerous fake band accounts to share his original music. It just happened that the one picked up by promoters was Cloud Nothings, whose awesome 2012 album Attack On Memory was engineered by Steve Albini.

The internet gives bands the opportunity to act completely outside of the music industry. Bands can even become their own producers, using powerful software, such as Ableton and Logic, downloaded from the internet. Whilst the internet acts as a platform for mediocrity, it has also given artists the tools to be noticed and to build a career on their own merit.

“This house believes Thatcher saved Britain”

“This house believes Thatcher saved Britain”

This week’s debate began with mixed tidings.  Union President Paulina Ivanova opened proceedings with the unfortunate news that Ken Livingston, a speaker for the opposition, would be unable to make the debate following  the cancellation of trains from London due to flooding.  The audience were not left regretting the loss long.  Ivanova quickly softened the blow with the announcement that a video recording of Edward Snowden responding to questions sent by Oxford students would be screened in the Union ahead of next week’s debate, “This House Would Call Edward Snowden A Hero”.

With this news the room filled with an excited hum and the anxious rustle of seats, as  Rupert Cunningham of Christ Church stood up to open the case for the proposition.  Cunningham speech began with an hilarious false letter from Livingston, in which Livingston had seemingly written his apologies for not attending, “I have researched the motion”, it read, “and found no cogent case in opposition […] yours, Blue Ken”.

The main body of Cunningham’s argument stressed the difficult state of 1970s Britain, “the government control of the 70s” and the “depravation of freedom”.  To assess the legacy of Thatcher, Cunningham stressed the importance of understanding the Britain she took over.

It fell now to Ben Nabarro of Pembroke to make the opposition’s response. Nabarro took Cunningham’s model of the 70s and raised him Thatcher’s 80s.  “Child poverty and malnutrition both went up under Thatcher”, he argued.  Nabarro also introduced an argument which would form a mainstay for the opposition all evening: that Thatcher, by opening up the economy brought on the financial crisis of 2008.

Lord Tom King, the Secretary of State for Defence under Margaret Thatcher, argued in response to Nabarro that “the cause of the financial crisis was Blair and Brown, not Thatcher”.  He continued to tell a number of anecdotes about the dangers of Northern Ireland and the rousing moment when Thatcher, against all opposition, gave the decision to protect the people of the Falklands.

Matt Handley returned fire for the opposition defining a “saviour” as “someone who does right by the worst off in society”.  Thatcher, he argued, did not meet that criterion.  He stressed the harsh working conditions for people in Liverpool,  the anti-homosexuality laws passed in schools and concluded with the damning memory of Thatcher labelling the “African National party a ‘terrorist organisation’” in their fight for the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

Sue Cameron, a Daily Telegraph columnist, blamed the crash on Ed Balls, and reiterated the proposition argument that the Britain of 70s was a country in need of rescuing, “the sick man of Europe”.  Tim Bale, a biographer of Thatcher, gave a very strange speech in response which appeared not to come down on either the side of the opposition or the proposition, but academically weighed the positive and negative aspects of thatcher’s government without offering any conclusion.

Eamon Butler, Co-Founder of the free market supporting institute began his speech in favour of the motion by claiming that “I once said that I would never speak longer in public than I could make love in private”.  With that, he made to sit down.  Only to rise once more and give a rousing speech in defence of Thatcher’s treatment of the economy.  At one point he thanked Handley for a point of information with the words “Thank you for that little ejaculation”.

There followed a number of speeches from the floor in which Jonathan Goddard, a Brasenose student, criticised the proposition speakers for stressing the legacy of Thatcher abroad, when the motion was about Britain.

The debate was rounded off with a speech from Conor Burns, a conservative MP, who spoke of how he, as a gay man used to visit Thatcher at her home every Sunday before her death. “This was not a woman who had a problem with homosexuals”, he concluded.  Finally, Lord Maurice Glasman a Labour peer gave a methodological assessment of Thatcher’s treatment of the lower classes, summing up with the statement, “Thatcher took sides with the rich against the poor” and “was the cause of our present malaise”.


“This House believes that nothing worth knowing can be taught”

“This House believes that nothing worth knowing can be taught”

On Thursday the 30th of January, the Union’s normally serious proceedings took a back seat to the Oxford RAG Comedy Debate, contesting the motion that “This House believes nothing worth knowing can Be Taught”.

This was a true battle of comedic wit, with the Cambridge Footlights pitching up in proposition against the Oxford Revue home team providing the opposition. Shortly before the debate began there was an emergency motion entitled, “This House Would Rather Give than Receive”. This led to various individuals testing just how many innuendos they could use in a brief speech.

The Cambridge Footlights then took to the floor, with their opening speaker making a valiant attempt to encourage audience participation. After several failed efforts to get those assembled to ask “Is there nothing worth knowing that can be taught?” with exactly the right intonation, he moved on to an enjoyable but rather confusing vignette about his alcoholic uncle.

Following continued battles of wit between the Oxbridge comedy giants, there was then break in the debate as some of Oxford’s up and coming stand-up comedians took the floor. Anna Dominey, in one of the most selfless contributions to women’s health ever seen, lobbed a handful of tampons into the audience as part of the act. Alex Farrow also did his part for the feminist cause by playing a hugely informative game entitled “Robin Thicke or Rapist”.

After this we came to the closing speeches. The last speaker for the Footlights pointed out that, if nothing worth knowing can be taught, that means that one would have come to the debate already knowing their opinions in advance, making one a “bad person”. The final speech was unexpectedly interrupted by a series of improvised comedy games by the Oxford Imps, and then a closing set by Oxford’s own Out of the Blue. All-female a capella group “In The Pink” also performed on the evening.  In the end, the Oxford Revue claimed victory in the debate, with a 2-1 victory margin against the Footlights. However, the real winner was Oxford RAG. The debate raised £300, more than any debate has earned over the past years.


Should song lyrics be considered poetry?

Should song lyrics be considered poetry?

Alex Cowan:

It’s hard to deny that ‘lyrics-as-poetry’ is an appealing concept. The very idea of ‘poetry’ comes with a whole raft of associations—artistic, literary, profound—that, (among other things) can go along way to justifying one’s own taste in listening. While I don’t want to argue that this kind of comparative literary judgement is an entirely narcissistic exercise, I think it’s necessary to contextualise the discussion before any further comments should be made.

The idea of emotional authenticity residing in lyrics alone is more recent than we might think. Much of it, as with almost all of our conception of pop music, was shaped by responses to The Beatles in the early ‘60s. Part of their appeal came from the sense of authenticity created by the knowledge that they wrote their own songs; and as their uniquely successful attributes became a set of standards against which most other popular music was judged, ideas of lyrical authenticity entered the mainstream. Over the course of the decade, this strand of thought merged with ideas from the urban folk revival. Folk music, in the way it was constructed by ’50s and ’60s revivalists, was a movement concerned with bringing back genuine expression to a music scene dominated by the trite sentiment of the culture industry. The type of song most associated with the folk movement, the narrative ballad, effectively became an signifier for lyrical authenticity. The way these ideas were fused in the mid-’60s has remained effectively unchanged since, forming the basis of our own criteria (making it hardly surprising that modern folk & indie genres retain a monopoly on perceived lyrical expression). Good lyrics tell stories. Good lyrics convey authentic experience. Good lyrics are both original, and universal.

I propose a different approach. Rather than looking at lyrics alone, spare a thought for the music. Songwriting is not a balancing act between music and text, but a unified effort, conceived in sound. To judge the result by any other standard would be like judging a film by the standards of a painting—an exercise that, while using some of the correct vocabulary, is almost entirely missing the point. When a song’s lyrics captivate you, then, take a moment to listen between the lines: there’s almost always more to be heard than the lyrics let on.


Harry Chancellor:

The song lyric relies on its musical backdrop. In this sense it is distinct from what is conventionally termed ‘poetry’, as the strength of a poem is conveyed through words alone. Nevertheless, I believe similarities between song and poem can be drawn. Both rely on being spoken aloud; on rhythm, flow and scansion. Put otherwise, how different are the metrical devices employed by ancient poets and the swift, sharp turns of a Kendrick Lamar verse? If I could, I would take a degree in pop culture: rap, pop and rock lyrics are the new poetry.

Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City was in my view the finest album of 2013. Rostam Batmanglij is as eloquent with the atmospheres created in his smoggy melodies as lyricist Ezra Koenig is with words. In an interview with the New York Times, Koenig likened their three albums to a trilogy. He stated, “It reminds me of Brideshead Revisited… the naïve joyous school days in the beginning, then the expansion of the world, travel, seeing other places. And then the end is a little bit of growing up, starting to think more seriously about your life and your faith. If people could look at our three albums as a bildungsroman, I’d be ok with that.” Big claims, perhaps, but Koenig’s lyrics often consciously allude to his favourite works of literature. They bearfurther unpacking, and I’d like to support this with ‘Ya Hey’ off last year’s album.

‘Ya Hey’ reflects the influence of James Joyce’s epiphanic short story, ‘The Dead’. Koenig has stated that Dubliners was one of his favourite books at high school, and his lyrics rely on the famous conclusion of Joyce’s tale. Gabriel Conroy’s “soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly”, but Koenig rehabilitates this, finding his moment of grace in a DJ’s transition between Desmond Dekker and the Rolling Stones. The lyric reads, “my soul swooned as I faintly heard the sound / of you spinning ‘Israelites’ into ‘Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown’”. Anyone who has ever had a spiritual or moving experience through music can relate to the sentiment.

Dominic Pollard:

It would be easy and, believe me, I am fighting the temptation, to approach this question simply with a succession of my favourite lyrics with the phrase “how is that not poetry?” following each one (“Like a bird on a wire / Like a drunk in a midnight choir / I have tried, in my way, to be free” – how is that not poetry?!).

But the fact that song lyrics are often seen to fall short of true ‘poetry’ is more than simply artistic snobbery on the part of poets. One undeniable difference is musical accompaniment, which poetry lacks, but without which song lyrics often feel flat, lacking the rhythm and energy with which a poet must imbue their words. Yet for the most poetical of lyricists, mastery of phrasing, rhythm and cadence shines through, music or no music.

I want to talk about The National. Lyricist Matt Berninger has a rare, truly poetical, gift for capturing a feeling not just through the words’ meanings, but their rhythmic and aural contour. From the internal rhyme of ‘Apartment Story’ (“we’re so disarming, darling, everything we did believe…”, “tired and wired we ruin too easy”) to the bitter refrain of Ada (“Ada don’t talk about reasons why you don’t want to talk about reasons why you don’t want to talk”) Berninger’s skill for repetitive phrasing captures time and again a yearning to break from a routine existence. “Hey Joe, sorry I hurt you but / they say: “love is a virtue” / don’t they?” he begs on ‘Sea of Love’, the certainty of the sentiment shattered by the final, rhythmically disruptive phrase. The best lyrics have a music all of their own, spread their message both semantically and rhythmically, and in the hands of a skilled writer are truly deserving of the moniker of ‘poetry’.

MEP “compares student to disabled King”

MEP “compares student to disabled King”

There are reports that MEP Godfrey Bloom mocked a physically disabled student at an Oxford Union debate this week.

David Browne, a student from Merton, delivered a floor speech in which he criticised Bloom for accusing a previous speaker of racism.

Bloom, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, responded by asking him: “Are you Richard III?”

Bloom was speaking in proposition of the motion “This House believes post-war Britain has seen too much immigration”.

When asked to comment on Bloom’s remark, Browne said: “My reply was to laugh it off as far as possible before replying by invoking Margaret Thatcher, who said that people only resort to personal attacks when they have run out of political arguments.”

Douglas Murray, a journalist who spoke on the same side as Bloom, described it as “a gruesome moment”.

In an article for The Spectator, he accused Browne of making an “unnecessary criticism of Bloom” in his speech.

In response, Browne said: “The previous opposition floor speaker had asked Mr. Bloom if his opinions were serious [...]. Bloom took this as an accusation [...] and called the student a racist”.

“I made the point that it should have been obvious that the previous speaker had been referring to comments such as Bongo Bongo Land and told Mr. Bloom that to gratuitously accuse the other student of racism was deplorable.”

Bloom later told journalist Michael Crick that he and Browne later “enjoyed a good drink and a laugh until one o’clock in the morning on the strength of it.”

Browne confirmed this report stating: “It’s fair to say that we did get on well [...] he’s a very interesting man to talk to.”

However, he conceded that he “didn’t think it was a very nice thing to say.”

“I wasn’t happy with the remark,” he added.

Although the audience responded to Bloom’s statement with laughter, the proposition was defeated 204-63.

In his article, Murray criticised students for voting against his side, saying: “There are still some people – including, it seems, many Oxford students – who hear ‘too much immigration’ and think ‘Eek, this is about my friend/ my great-great-grandmother’”.

He added: “I cannot think Oxford students are so completely out of touch with the opinions of the vast majority of the public and all major politicians.”

The press office of Godfrey Bloom was unavailable for comment.

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