What Quark Is Listening To In…September 2014

The winter’s coming in, and so are thousands of spiders…fun. Here are our nominations for September.

Juliet’s pick“Canon” by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

The emotive melody of the superb and unparalleled version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D sums up the feeling following last week’s referendum. The seemingly improved solo piper section is breathtakingly good – instrumental tracks, in my opinion, so vastly outperform vocal tracks for this very reason – imagine trying to perform this delicate and ornamental verse with mere vocal chords.

Pareesa’s pick “Never Catch Me” by Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar

I’m running out of synonyms for ethereal – and this is only the third What Quark Is Listening To In… post. While the production on Kendrick’s own, lacklustre single was pretty generic, FlyLo crafts a lush backdrop for Kenny’s unstoppable flow. The production is so textured that the bassline can dip in and out without causing the song to collapse. A musical head rush.

Daniz’s pick – “Rude” by Magic

Jazzy and classy, full of energy yet well controlled, Magic’s smash hit is an alternative to current songs in similar genres which smash windows and any suggestion of musicality.

 Tanvi’s pick – “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush

Kate Bush’s recent short concert appearances have had reviewers raving, and “Wuthering Heights” – perhaps her most popular hit – reminds us why. One learned observer said of her music, “Idk it just feels real”. If you’d rather hear a somewhat different version, Alan Partridge has it covered.

Nayana’s pick – “Waves” by Mr Probz

Mr Probz’ rock-style voice paired with this sort of summery relaxation piece brings a new dimension to the lyrics.

Joint choice from the Browns – “Crying in the Rain” covered by a-ha
Amazing, simply harmonies, a mournful guitar line and a tearful melody…the lyrics are deeply moving and very evocative, and the whole song reminds me of a requiem for a lost love (because that is what it is).  The a-ha cover version has rain effects in 4/4 time – nowhere else can rain in time with the music be found.

“The Great British Bake-Off” reached new social media heights in August when contestant Iain Watters was dispatched for the sin of letting his baked Alaska be judged by the bin. As our in-house baking supremo claims she doesn’t listen to music, we’ve selected the  campaign song “#JusticeForIain” by Jess & Laura Nicholson. With clever lyrics and a catchy melodic chorus, this epitomises the channelled fury typical of Facebook and Twitter during the heat of the outrage.

 Commentary by Pareesa Tai, Juliet Armstrong, Tanvi Acharya, Nayana Punnoose and Grace Brown. Check out our May and June picks!


Medicine: A Victim’s Guide

P1030869If you want to apply to medicine, be prepared for the sleepless nights, horrific admissions tests and gruelling interviews. It’s not an easy journey.

Even before you can start, think. Is this really something you want to do? Did you find your work experience interesting? Do you have the qualities required to succeed as a doctor? You’re probably thinking ‘How on earth am I supposed to know, I am only 16!’ You’re perfectly right: how are you supposed to be sure of a decision that will decide the rest of your life? The answer is, you’re not. The people who say ‘I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, I can’t wait to do medicine, I’m going to love it’ are a bit weird. You don’t have to be sure; it’s a career that is very demanding, and you are going to see lots of things that are really horrible…it’s not all enjoyable. Every time you make a decision, you are gambling with the patient’s health and possibly life. The responsibility on your shoulders is huge. You must be able to deal with the stress that comes with making mistakes. Having said this, it’s a very rewarding career. You might be lucky enough to sense that in your work experience. If you’re genuinely passionate about people, and you like the way science is used in treatment, then you’re on the right track.

Right so, where to start? Work experience. Get as much as you can. The G.P, the hospital, the children’s hospital etc. I cannot express how important it is to understand what you’re putting yourself through. Nothing is more valuable in giving you an insight into this career. Forget about expensive courses such as Medlink (although rather fun and a good to put into your Gold DofE residential section) – they’re quite useless, but WORK EXPERIENCE IS FREE! Email doctors or departments – if they don’t reply, try again. Keep on trying until you get responses. And apply early. Eventually they’ll have to accept you. Once at work experience, ask questions about things you don’t understand. Observe how doctors act around patients and ask yourself if is this something you want to do for the rest of your life. If after all this you’re still in, then do a lot of volunteering. Again, apply early to care homes and hospices; although there are often lots of volunteering spaces, in a sector ever growing with the ageing population, there will be lots of applicants. It’s not fun. It’s so sad to see what conditions like dementia can do to people. But you learn so much about compassion. You learn so much about communication. And you learn about making a small difference to a person’s life just by talking to them. It’s that ‘rewarding feeling’ that makes being a doctor so worthwhile.

You probably ought to aim to start your work experience during Year 11, while you’re thinking about your AS choices. All universities will require Chemistry, so if you don’t like Chemistry, maybe you shouldn’t be considering this career path. Most then also want Biology, but not all, so if you absolutely hate it you could always bear that in mind – but again, it’s incredibly relevant to medicine. I’d recommend Maths, because there are so many numerical and statistical skills required in the other sciences, in a medicine degree and in a medical career, and I took Physics to further my interest in science generally. However this fourth option is really up to you – some people use it to study an arts subject like History or a language like French or German. Pick the A Levels you really want to do, because they will guide you towards the right sort of degree for you.

Where to apply? Well, this all depends on what sort of person you are really, how you learn, and your academic record. Don’t worry if your GCSEs aren’t up to scratch, although you might want to reconsider if don’t have at least 6 A*’s, since you are going to be up against candidates who will have perfect academic records. You should be aiming for 4As at AS level, although it’s not compulsory. Medicine is highly competitive: the people applying are really the crème de la crème of the country. So, revise a lot, sort out anything you don’t understand and use the support you have from all your teachers. Then there are two medical admissions tests, the UKCAT and the BMAT. You will know your UKCAT score before you apply but you won’t with BMAT. Therefore, I’d say it’s too risky to apply to more than one BMAT university but it’s your choice. It’s what you feel confident about when you’re preparing for them. Look up which universities require which test as I think it changes slightly every year. In order to prepare for them, I’d recommend doing the Kaplan course for UKCAT. I know it’s annoyingly expensive but from my own experience I’d say it’s definitely worth it. They give you a huge amount of practice material, and it is a really important test, as so many universities require it. So cut down on new clothes, forget that new laptop you want and invest in Kaplan. Sorry. And do the test in the summer holidays of Year 12! It’s way too stressful to do it during school time in September. Knowing your score early will give you more time to focus on other parts of your application. As for the BMAT, revising your GCSE syllabus and doing the practice books should be sufficient; I’ve heard bad reviews about Kaplan for BMAT, although as of yet I haven’t been myself.

Which university? The way medicine is taught will differ from university to university. Problem-based learning is much more independent than integrated or traditional. Research which universities offer what type of course. What sort of learner are you? Do you like to be told things or do you like to figure out things for yourself? Your desire to attend a particular university should be balanced with whether you stand a realistic chance of getting in. Do you think you will meet the universities requirements? Sadly, not everyone can get in, it’s almost like a lottery, and you could be the ‘perfect candidate’ but still can be rejected. The process is tough. You need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario – do you want to take a gap year or do something else? This process tests your commitment and resilience. You must be prepared for failure. There are a lot of things to consider when applying to medicine. I haven’t even talked about interviews yet because I don’t know much really. I am still in the stage of filling out my UCAS form and editing my personal statement. Your non-medic friends will probably get offers very soon after sending their UCAS form, whilst you might have to wait all the way until March. Don’t be disheartened: you’re not alone.

Is it worth it? I don’t know. I’m not a doctor yet. However, I know I love science. I know I love helping people. I’ve loved my volunteering, brightening someone’s day by engaging in a basic conversation with them, and I’ve loved how studying 3 sciences has broadened my knowledge. Best of luck!

Quark interviews…Oleg Gordievsky

Oleg Gordievsky was perhaps the most prominent Soviet defector of the Cold War period. The FSB is the modern Russian secret service and the KGB is its most recent ancestor. Litvinenko, an FSB agent ordered to assassinate oligarch Boris Berezowsky, was poisoned with polonium in 2006, having defected to the UK, and the Cambridge 5 were graduates of Trinity College, Cambridge University, who passed on British and American secrets from MI6, Bletchley Park, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the diplomatic service and the BBC.

 Quark: How do you react to the current situation in Ukraine?

OG: The reaction of the Western countries, though weak, impressed the Kremlin.  The march of 3 tank armies on Kiev was prevented.  Despite it, Russia will remain forever without friends and allies.

Quark: What is your opinion on Edward Snowden’s actions and the surveillance on Angela Merkel’s mobile telephone?

OG: The noise about Merkel’s telephone is a result of the active measure by the KGB.  Referring to Snowden, they accuse the NSA . The next turn will be Britain.  Snowden himself deserves only one thing – an electric chair.

Quark: How do you react to the enduring popularity of Stalin in Russia, and the fact that in most Western countries people can quote the figure of people killed in Nazi extermination camps but not of those during Stalin’s purges?

OG: Certainly I am deeply upset.  There were 476 concentration camps between 1928 and 1964 in the USSR.  In that period more than 50 million people ( best Russian and Soviet people) were exterminated.  It was 6 times more the number killed by the Nazis  That answer you will find in the profoundly intelligent work by Anna Applebaum – Gulag History, 2004, Pulizer prize.

Quark: The identity of the 5th member of the ‘Cambridge 5’ spy ring is often debated. Was it John Cairncross and how sure can we be?

OG: The British intelligence services knew without any doubt that John Caincross was the fifth man. The five passed to the KGB information which was in the Foreign Office intelligence service, the Enigma information and other top secret subjects.  They passed them not to Russia, but to the Communist party of the Soviet Union and the KGB.  The two latest exterminated 35 million Russians, not like it was in China, but the elite of the country.  British people whose reputation concerns you, should know it.  Those five were the most outstanding spies of an evil power.

Quark: You said that Litvinenko’s book “Blowing Up Russia” was the cause of his death. Do you think it was the revelations of the role of the FSB or more the political revelations which necessitated his murder?
OG: The reason for the execution of Mr. Litvinenko is not clear, but most likely his articles which were very critical of Putin were to blame.  It is like the fate of the girls who danced in the church singing  Our Lady, remove Putin please. 

By the way, for the FSB and the SVR, the murder is the smallest and most insignificant part of their activities, and have very little to do with espionage.
Quark: Could you estimate the degree to which the FSB bears the hallmark of its predecessor and is responsible for the killing of Litvinenko and Berezovsky (indirectly in the case of the latter)? Perhaps even others of which the public are not aware?
OG: Litvinenko was killed by the KGB.  Berezovsky committed suicide.  The GPU, and now the FSB, never kills foreigners, only their own Soviet/Russian people.  The FSB is really the KGB with the methods.  There is now a number of undisclosed cases in Europe and Turkey.  In Britain, a bit more than a year ago, a Russian oligarch went for a walk,  and only one hundred yards away from his home, fell down dead.  The police and the Services never informed the public what happened to him. The media obviously received the instruction not to mention him at all.

Mango Upside-Down Cake

Catch the latest post from our lifestyle contributor, Sarah Sobka.

Young Foodie


I am in love with this cake.

This recipe came about when I found that a batch of mangoes that we had bought wasn’t very sweet and not so nice to eat fresh. The solution? Bake with them. An upside-down cake was a particular good choice as you caramelise the fruit that is on the bottom of the pan, hence making it sweeter. 20140629-163003-59403865.jpg

So, inspired by the well-known pineapple upside-down cake, I decided to create something new and this cake was born! Coconut was a natural accompaniment to this exotic cake, and I also thought that using it would ensure that any excess moisture released by the mangoes would be absorbed by the desiccated  coconut, preventing a soggy cake. 20140629-163002-59402528.jpg

All-in-all, however, I think this cake speaks for itself! I did have to use cup measurements as I was toggling the recipe around, however. Whilst my non-British readers should have no problem with…

View original post 244 more words

What Quark Is Listening To In…June 2014

Wow, sunlight…must be summer. And now there are clouds approaching – definitely a British summer. With that in mind, we have another host of the fruits of various musical labours for you to choose from and listen to.

There are uplifting pieces, designed to make you forget the fact that England are *already* out of the World Cup, pieces to make you psyched for the upcoming Tour…a generally eclectic selection.

Once again, here is the Spotify playlist:

Quark June 2014

The 1975

Olivia’s pick – “Girls” by 1975

The Manchester-born band triumph in this unique upbeat song which is perfect for the summer. In no time at all you’ll find yourself singing alone unable to escape the catchiness of the song. Enjoy!

Juliet’s pick“Sambadream” by Carlinhos Brown & DJ Dero 

What even is football? For Brazil, it’s a way of life. For anybody blissfully unaware, a month of tears and cheers has launched onto every inch of our lives, emanating from the tropical streets of Rio de Janeiro. I could have picked this eponymous track, but instead I’ve chosen a deeply Brazilian-flavoured samba sensation, also released in a World Cup year. In December we happened across a samba band playing in the street in Edinburgh – hearing the sounds merge and interact with each other, a rich mix of timbre from drum to whistle, is a live experience I recommend to everyone. Last month marked the 20th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s death, so, in as non-cliché a way as possible, this choice is dedicated to the memory of the most popular and talented Brazilian I can think of.

Pareesa’s pick“Cavity” by Hundred WatersHundred Waters

After stumbling across their single “Boreal” last year, I had a hunch that Hundred Waters would be ones to watch. Ambient sounds, shapeshifting time signatures and tempos, and a simmering beat form a ghostlike, eerie atmosphere. But just before dropping into its chorus, the song lets out a wail, ratcheting up the tension. Suddenly, the song morphs into something different, casting the listener into an intense and disorientating experience.

Daniz’s pick – “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake

The production has Timberland’s paw-prints all over it – more so than any other song on The 20/20 Experience. With a great use of a string section, “Mirrors” feels much more earnest and mature than JT’s past songs without compromising his trademark slickness.

 Tanvi’s pick – “Starlight” by MuseMuse

“Starlight”‘s ambition and scope matches its astronomical theme. The whooshing synth arpeggios during the bridge add a futuristic zing to the track. Matt Bellamy’s absolute commitment to belting out every note, dogged groove and cheesy lyrics (“All the souls that would die just to feel alive”) means it threatens to hurtle straight past operatic rock and explode into overblown camp. Still, Muse are at their best when there’s a whiff of cheese.

Nayana’s pick – “Magic” by ColdplayColdplay

After the dense and sprawling pop of Mylo Xyloto (or whatever it was called), Coldplay have pared down their sound and adopted a clean yet sleepy aesthetic for their sixth album, A Sky Full Of Stars. On the lead single, the muted lead guitar and haze of the reverberated piano and rhythm guitar are soothing. The infectious hook and soft, neat production also keeps it warm and accessible.

Christine’s pick – “Lost In The Light” by BahamasBahamas

I don’t know how to describe it – it’s very calming though.

Eve’s pick – Roses” by Cherry Ghost

Cherry GhostThis melodramatic semi-romantic-cum-spine-shivering number comes from Cherry Ghost’s debut album, and is sort of a musical manifestation of their name; it has musical ‘red’ and vibrant parts twinned to a lyrical, ghostly theme.

Grace’s pick – “New Lands” by Justice

Unlike the Daft Punk-inspired grooves and carefree attitude of their Justicedebut album, †, the tracks off Audio, Video, Disco take
inspiration from progressive rock. “New Lands” is no exception, blending prog-rock with electro.

Replacement for the Philistine

Once again, we’re replacing our philistine contributor: this time with not one, but two new Swedish alternative releases. The leading single from Lykke Li’s third album I Never Learn, “No Rest For The Wicked”. Beginning with a simple lullaby piano melody, it rises into a emotionally charged chorus where the narrator comes to terms with her role in her lover’s downfall.

Meanwhile, “Let Go”, the closing track from Little Dragon’s LP Nabuma Rubberband, isn’t as tethered to the band’s poppy foundations as before. Having eschewed their clean, immediate melodies and beats for shimmering waves of synthesisers, the result is a celestial slice of dream-pop.

 Commentary by Pareesa Tai, Juliet Armstrong, Olivia Tierney, and Christine Zhu.

Dark Ages? We’re heading towards a political power-cut

Everything has practically been decided, and there are 26 relieved people waking up to their Weetabix* this morning. Whilst 92.9% of Europe might have voted by proxy for ex-PM of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker to take up the presidency of the EU Commission, the valiancy and determination of the Anglo-Hungarian 7.1% has left rather more of a stain on the whole affair than one might expect.

The German press is a good place to start: ostensibly the powerhouse of the Union, it seems from the nation’s broadsheets that the British opposition has caused quite a stir. Die Zeit‘s Brussels correspondant Matthias Krupa warns that ever-closer union has actually suffered from Juncker’s appointment, by provoking the Brits to action and making Cameron even more ‘deadly serious’ against the ideals Juncker stands for. In another article he repeats the Financial Times‘ labelling of Juncker as “yesterday’s man”, and re-affirms his interpretation that picking such a clearly pro-closer union figure has done wonders for anti-EU sentiment, has increased the chance of the EU losing one of its most important member states and has sown seeds of division and indeed derision amongst the heads of government. Caustically he claims, “There aren’t many who are really convinced by him.”

“Es gibt nicht viele, die wirklich von ihm

überzeugt sind.”

Axel Springer’s Die Welt, more conservative than Die Zeit, emphasises how lonely Cameron now is. Claiming that he’s “lost Merkel”, despite positive noises about the necessity to reform from both the German chancellor and Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt, it goes on to write that he has “no concept, no concrete ideas” and that he is merely “sand in the gearbox” – at least according to top EU diplomats. Read the comments on that article, to a newspaper founded by British occupying forces, and you’ll find 2 particularly interesting statements – “Einsam sein bedeutet aber noch lange nicht, dass seine Argumente falsch sind.” [“To be alone does not, by a long stretch, mean that his argument is wrong”] at 230 positive votes and “Helden kämpfen immer einsam!” [“Heroes always fight alone!”] at 214 positive votes. Hmm.

“Kein Konzept, keine konkreten Ideen zu haben, sondern meistens nur der Sand im Getriebe zu sein –das wirft der Rest Europas Cameron vor.”

When we interviewed Nick Clegg, he attributed up his pro-EU stance not to the fact that he thinks it doesn’t urgently require reform, but to the reasoning that nobody can change an institution from outside. In reality, Cameron’s proposition of an EU-membership referendum is a pressure point on the other EU heads of government – and it seems to be working. Our PM realises that his reforms must go through – without reform, and with the chief pushing the whole institution towards ever-closer union, Europe is going to end up in serious peril of breaking up.

That might sound nonsensical, but think about it. Like Krupa pointed out, the more extreme the push for ever-closer union – united European police, militia, administration – the stronger the opponents of it will grow, and there will come a point when effective diplomatic relations between the institution and its member states will cease. As Juncker and advocates of his school of thought incite the EU to draw the countries closer and closer together, gradually more and more people will oppose this ideal and will draw even further away from each other than is economically and diplomatically sensible.

Juncker won the EU’s Charlemagne Prize in 2006, and if that isn’t clear-cut enough proof of his intentions, then what is? Charlemagne, or Karl the Great as he’s known in Germany, built up and legalised an empire covering most of France, about half of Germany and Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland, Lietchenstein, some of the Czech Republic and parts of Hungary. This was meant to revitalise the Western arm of the Roman Empire, and became a sort of proto-Holy Roman Empire – a macrostate.

But it crumbled a few years after Charlemagne’s death. It certainly didn’t do much to help European unity, not in the sense of harmonious relations between the European peoples. The UK was never part of this – wasn’t even a United Kingdom itself – and I doubt Alfred the Great or any other Dark Ages monarch would have wanted to have been.

So we live in this United Kingdom, some of us (around 43% if Die Welt has reliable statistics) backing Cameron’s efforts whilst simultaneously backing his efforts in the No campaign for Scottish independence. That might sound like a contradiction in terms, but for one thing the UK is much longer lasting (1707 for governmental union), has already let Holyrood have some degree of self-government by devolution and has a population much more inextricably linked and intertwined than the variant peoples of Europe. There’s contradiction with Yes too though – Scottish SNP MEP Alyn Smith informed BBC Radio Scotland that the SNP “could do business” with Juncker, with the man who presses for ever-closer union but seems to shine a kindly eye on independence, unlike Barroso. Although probably a canny move by the EPP Spitzenkandidat to align himself with at least some UK party and insure himself in the case of a Yes outcome, the SNP – probably also eager to give more weight to Yes despite obvious contradictions – seem very keen indeed. Maybe it’s simply another way of annoying Cameron and his supporters.

With Juncker more or less certain of getting the Commission presidency, we’re in danger of a political power-cut. Nobody, except Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, has been swayed by the necessity to have a leading figure suitable to the priorities of the EU (reform & modernisation). Relations have been strained between the UK/Hungary partnership and the other member states, and one can expect that to worsen with the appointment of such a hardline ever-closer advocate. The disappointing turnout and protest voting deployed for the European elections in May in this country have backfired – with UKIP now more prominent than the Conservatives in the European Parliament, how do people backing Cameron’s fight against Juncker’s appointment expect that he looks credible when Farage and friends swept past him at the polls? The EPP, the most prominent party in the European Parliament & the party who put forward Juncker for president, are basing the legitimacy of his appointment on the fact that they have the widest support across Europe.

Partially due to the fact that Cameron took the Conservatives out of the EPP in 2009 because they were too backward-looking, thereby losing some support from it, and partially due to the fact that the UK didn’t vote sensibly in the European elections, we’re now facing a power cut.


*Quark would like to point out that there are other breakfast brands available.


Read more:




Quark is watching…

Forget straight sets. Think of straight faces.

As Wimbledon heads into the third round, it’s worth taking a look at two of the ‘Big Four’ when they’re not being quite so competitive.

Fed and Rafa try to put aside their amusement to execute an effective advert for Federer’s foundation’s charity match, but are somewhat thwarted by their inability to be serious.