Over the last month, our upcoming columnists have been busy planning and writing to get ready for the launch of a new series of columns next week.
What better way to welcome our writers than through some Desert Island Picks? Get to know columnists Chris and Flora through what they would take with them if they were marooned in the middle of nowhere.
From the 5th August, the Blue will be releasing four brand new columns over the course of the week. Keep an eye on The Oxford Blue Facebook page to see when they come out!
CHRIS O’NEIL: More Than The Game
Brasenose College, History and Politics
Anyone who knows me well will speak of my drunken, stentorian rants about the love I have for my city. Glasgow is a magical place to inhabit. For all its faults, I honestly couldn’t imagine life without the comforting embrace of the ugly urban sprawl and grand green spaces, the nostalgia of our thick accents and sharp patter, or the warm welcome one receives from even their most churlish neighbours.
It’s for this reason that the only television I would need if stranded on a desert island is a box set of Glaswegian sitcom Still Game (excluding the last two, sadly second-rate series). Whenever I feel homesick in Oxford – which is not uncommon due to the incredible uniqueness of Glasgow living – I stick on a random episode and feel immediately at home. Everything about its modest, unpretentious portrayal of Scottish city life is spot on, painting a lifelike, sentimental portrait of the Glasgow that I, and everyone around me, knows and loves.
One of the books I hold closest to my heart is George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. It was one of the first ‘proper’ books I ever chose to read, and it gripped me so tightly, running parallel with many of my own thoughts and experiences, that I haven’t put it down since. Researching and writing about the travel novel turned social commentary for my English coursework was one of the moments I first felt my incessant intellectual curiosity turn into passion for academia; I hold that, among other things, as the catalyst for the eventual success of my Oxford application.
Outwith Orwell, I greatly appreciate James Joyce’s collection of short stories Dubliners for giving rich life to the unimposing and telling, bold yet simple narratives in such a stirring way.
I hold E.P. Thompson’s ever-eminent work of social history The Making of the English Working Class in high regard for many of the same reasons. Thompson sought to rescue the previously trivialised working-classes from permanent historical victimization; he succeeded in doing so with the humanist flair that continues to draw generations of historians like myself to his colossal opus.
One of the few things I pride myself on is my varied and impassioned music taste, hence selecting the tracks I would choose to accompany me on a desert island is possibly the most difficult task I have ever been met with.
Having been a fan of the new, rejuvenated British punk scene for some time, something by artsy Irish four-piece Fontaines D.C., or politically animated IDLES would keep me going on a desert island for years. On the opposite end of the spectrum, anything disco (ABBA, Chic, Sister Sledge, and especially Marlena Shaw) is my guilty pleasure. In particular, disco-influenced, French house music, like Folamour’s Tapes for the People or Bellaire’s Saint Amour, is hands-down my favourite genre of music, and any DJ set is instantly made 10/10 with their inclusion.
I recently saw visionary director Ari Aster’s latest work Midsommar and was utterly blown away. Although I had heard whispers of the explosive nature of the film, the stunning visual portrayal of the Hårga commune, combined with the unnerving and, at times, horrific plot shocked me into stunned silence. After a second viewing, the film reached new heights in my estimations. The memory of the climactic, final twenty-minute sequence is now burned into my mind along with its striking, beautifully deranged closing shot.
For the next few months, I’ll be combining my two great passions – sports and socio-political issues – while writing a column for the Blue called ‘More Than A Game’. I hope that many of you will read and enjoy my commentary, even as its self-fellating tone intensifies.
FLORA WINDEBANK: Everyday Economics
Christ Church College, French and Italian
There’s a reason that Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt is one of the most well-known and recommended economics books out there. It focuses on the various incentives behind situations by merging sociology with economics and is written in an incredibly accessible and engrossing way, often linking ideas that would not usually be considered (such as the legalisation of abortion and a later decrease in crime).
I shamefully have to admit that I only very recently watched it, but I thoroughly recommend The Big Short. For a subject that is ultimately quite technical and therefore not particularly appealing to the masses, The Big Short manages to neatly explain the economics behind the Financial Crash of 2008 in incredibly understandable and witty terms (thank you Margot Robbie in a hot tub).
If I had to choose a specific artist to spend my days on a desert island listening to, I think it would have to be ABBA. There isn’t much they can’t do – whatever the mood, they always have a classic that fits it perfectly. Podcast-wise, the Economist Radio manages to cover a hugely broad scope of topics from around the world and has so many episodes that whatever your interests, there is something for you (and they’re only about half an hour long!).
Not to be overtly basic, but John Maynard Keynes would be the dream. He predicted that the reparations to be paid Germany after WW1 were too high to the extent that they would leave the nation politically unstable. He revolutionised the way economics was perceived; in short, his mind is brilliant. If I could pick two, I think I’d add on Grimes. Just for entertainment value.
My Column and Why You Should Read It:
I’ll be writing about the relationship between our student lives in Oxford and economics. Economics is quite daunting and often seems limited to the financial world. This is very much not the case, as concepts such as behavioural economics (and Freakonomics) have come to prove. In order to understand our day-to-day lives, having a general grasp of the economics behind what drives our student society is both important and revealing. That’s why I decided to write this column: both to further my own knowledge, and to offer a discussion of economics that clearly relates to our own lives here. If you’re looking for something relatable and even a little educational, give it a read!
Illustrations by Emily Perkins, Alexander Abrahams, and May Moorwood
You can find these writers’ columns when they go live in the Columns section here.