Monday, 13 June 2011

PonderBoxes is coming back....

Hi all,

We've been on temporary hiatus but PonderBoxes will be back from 5th July 2011.

Email us at: to be added to the mailing list or if you're interested in becoming a PonderBox contributor.

Love and stuff

The PonderBoxes


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A Graphic Movie About Auschwitz, Really?

By Candice Carboo-Ofulue

As far as adaptations of real life go, Hollywood, or the motion picture in general, has pretty much scraped the bottom of the barrel. Alive, Munich, Hotel Rwanda, Blood diamond, Joan of Arc....Nothing is above cinema. It’s almost easier to list what hasn’t been done.

Some subjects, however, do seem to be beyond certain genres. I couldn’t tell you what they are, but I know they exist. And until last week, few of us could have imagined a graphically gruesome, horror flick about Auschwitz. But you tell that to Uwe Boll, known for his gory adaptations of video games, who feels it’s time to cinematize the "full horror" of Auschwitz, no matter how controversial. Well Uwe, I guess somebody had to do it, in the same way that some idiot has to pull the alarm-lever on the tube in the middle of rush-hour.

The critics, however, do not appreciate Boll's unique tribute. In fact, they are hyperventilating in outrage, accusing it of being distasteful and disturbing, with some even pledging a boycott. This is probably water off Boll’s back. In the end, it’s us, the box-office tickets, who get the final verdict. So what do we think? (Speculatively talking, since it’s scheduled for release next year). There is, apparently, a YouTube teaser, which I have to admit I'm too chicken to watch, so feel free to read this ponder with a pinch of salt.

Boll’s justification for this picture, apart from enlightening us to the excruciating horror of Auschwitz, is that we’ve been somewhat nullified by the “special story films”, such as Schindler’s List. Hmmm, sorry Uwe but I struggle to see your point; Schindler’s List was pretty good.

In my opinion, depicting every murderous tentacle in its full, graphic inhumanity is about as helpful in conveying the harrowing crimes of Auschwitz as a pumpkin. Did you watch the “Passion of Christ”? I did, or at least I tried. Yes, it captured the violence, but did it invoke any profound awareness about the plight of Christians, the persecution of religious minorities, or even the state of humanity? Err, nope. Well, at least not in my immediate circle of intellects. I did, however, hear discussions akin to: Did you watch it to the end? Wasn’t it horrible? Did you see the part when......?

Where's the benefit in simply sensationalising the violence? Here’s my question Mr Boll: How exactly do you expect to communicate the torturous agenda of Auschwitz, if people are too afraid to peer over their popcorn box, or beyond their partner’s jacket? I think you’ll find you don’t need violence to convey violence. Any wife beater will tell you that much. The nightmare of Auschwitz, and thus the Holocaust, is embedded in its inhumanity, which cannot be reduced to gas chambers. Why have a scene of gruesome experiments performed on twins capture the nuances of fear and despair of the Holocaust, when a closed door can have the same effect?

In fact, in an era where films such as Saw and The Hostel have normalised murder and brutally, I would go so far to suggest that it is an overly violent movie, which is desensitising

Uwe, I’d be more inclined to embrace your movie if you were tad more honest. Try: “I’m an uninspired Director, partial to exploiting people’s amygdales for a cheap scare, and what better material than Auschwitz, I don’t even have to invent the violence. After this, I’m considering a torturous spectacle about Nelson Mandela’s years in an apartheid prison”. Or something like that.

Of course, this is just my opinion; I’m open to other perceptions. What do you think about this latest production about Auschwitz? Are some subjects just too taboo for Hollywood, or at least some genres? Or is nothing above being interpreted (or exploited) by film, or Art?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Should Prisoners Get The Vote?

By Euclides Montes (@Gatulino)

The British broadsheets are reporting that the government is poised to bring the UK in line with most European countries and allow prisoners to participate in the electoral process by voting.

This is one of those heated topics that usually divide people throughout the country regardless of their political leanings. So, should prisoners get the vote? And what does this question in itself mean for the role of the prison system in modern society?

On the one side, there are those that would argue that prisoners have excluded themselves from the rights law-abiding citizens enjoy, including the right to take part in participatory democracy. Those on this side of the debate often liken voting to undertaking jury duty and they argue that a person who has been given a prison sentence has also effectively given up their right and that this is a privilege of sorts that can only be regained once the prisoner has paid their debt to society. This disenfranchisement of prisoners is very much in line with the way the prison system worked in British society for most of the 19th and 20th century where a prisoner was understood to have lost their citizenship rights.

This is a view that has been disputed for a long time and the other side of the argument has gained a real foothold of the debate in modern society. Those in favour of giving prisoners the vote usually argue that rather than a right, voting should be seen as a civic duty and giving prisoners the opportunity to join in with wider society is a useful tool in their process of reintegration. Beyond that, an argument that has driven this debate over the last decade is that by giving prisoners the vote and raising their electoral capital in the process, politicians would pay closer attention to our prison system as it would mutate from a problematic field of policy into a possible source of important votes during an election.

Although it’s quite clear that there is probably not a right or wrong answer, allow me to have a go at answering the question of this ponder.

My personal feeling is that it really depends on how we view prisons and their role in society. Whilst it is a very valid view that prisons should remain a place where those who have transgressed against society pay their penance, I personally believe that prisons should instead be a place where prisoners are rehabilitated and given the tools to rejoin and be able to participate fully in their society. An eye for eye is a bit outdated for my liking and a prison term should not be seen as a payment for faults but as a system that helps our fellow citizens to gain the skills needed to be integral parts of their society. I believe voting, or rather having the choice to partake in participatory democracy, is a key part of this rehabilitation. As such, I personally welcome this move. How about you?

Click here to go to first post

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Meaning Of Life

By Rachel Surtees (@RVSurtees)

I have a theory. Hot off the press so to speak: I think that the idea that we're all still hunting for "the meaning of life" is ridiculous. I think we know exactly what it is and always have done.

For some reason we have allowed ourselves to be so overwhelmed by the enormity of the question that we've left it to the scientists and philosophers to fight it out. And yet, "the meaning of life" floods our every movement; shapes our legal systems; informs our sense of morality (both personal and societal); and colours every political system from London to Lima to Lagos.

How could it not? The meaning of life is the reason we are. And of course, every culture, family, individual will have a different interpretation of what it means to them, but surely the meaning of life is to live. Isn't it?

Isn't that why the idea of working in a stuffy office fills us with horror whilst achieving the holy grail of the perfect work-life balance so appealing? Because we all need time "to live" otherwise we begin to feel that life has no meaning.

Isn't that why we (most of us at least) find the idea of long-term imprisonment of young-offenders so troubling? Because to effectively deny someone the right to a chance "to live" freely is so contrary to our nature.

Ironically enough, isn't that why proponents of the death penalty have such an easy time defending their stance? Because acts that inhibit someone else's ability "to live" seem so indefensible.

And isn't that why we have memorials for our loved ones who have died? Because it allows them to live again - if only in memory.

Last week my father died of lung cancer. I barely knew him and yet have felt such sadness for him in these last few days. Because by all accounts he didn't live. He allowed past mistakes to prevent him from living and then died within hours of finding the forgiveness he craved but didn't seek out. What a shame. To have a life but not live it. Isn't it? Perhaps this post could be a memorial of sorts. Give him one last chance "to live".

Click here to go to first post

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Hello all,

Please accept our apologies but our hosting website [Blogger] is experiencing problems today and we haven't been able to put up our weekly post.

Hopefully all problems will be sorted out soon and pondering will resume as usual.

Thanks for stopping by.

The PonderBoxes

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

By Euclides Montes (@Gatulino)

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard the horrible stories coming out of “Mexico’s drug war” or maybe heard about the street battles between different gangs trying to regain control of the drug business in Medellin (Colombia) and I’m sure that like me you have shuddered at the idiocy and senselessness of the situation.

Whilst this is happening, drug use in the West is said to have stabilised and it is not uncommon to find guests at different parties powdering their noses away without any care in the world. Although drug using still conjures up images of dirty flats and broken lives (see current Eastender’s plot line for proof!), this is also an image that is being challenged by my late 20s generation and this is a move that will certainly continue – lest some major cultural shift takes place – being pushed by the younger generations.

So, what’s my ponder? I read over the weekend an article by Antonio Maria Costa (executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) who in very diplomatic terms peddled the view that the decriminalisation of drugs would lead to ‘catastrophic consequences’ in the world. Although it cannot really be called scaremongering – after all, Mr Costa does make some very valid arguments about the way we as societies deal with drugs and their consumption – I found myself disagreeing with him in principle and fact in several passages.

So, rather than fisking his article here, I thought I’d open the floor with my ponder. Is it really such a bad idea to decriminalise drugs? I’m personally of the view that introducing a system akin to the one introduced by Portugal over a decade ago on a large scale in the West would help not only to curb the problem of addiction but it would help the countries producing the drugs to fight the production of what would be no longer illegal substances. This has been true for decades of tobacco and alcohol, why not just extend it to other substances? (it’s worth pointing out that Portugal’s system has been rather successful in helping the country to deal with the massive drugs problems it faced a decade ago)

I have rewritten this article a couples of times now because I really want to avoid the preachy tone many articles like this one usually take but I hope you will all forgive me one little indiscretion in that respect. After all, every line of coke that we in West consume at our parties and festivals contributes to the deaths, violence and poverty enveloping so many nations right now. So, rather than asking you to ‘stop and think’ before you use drugs, which would be a hypocritical stance by anyone who enjoys many of the other benefits that life in the West has to offer, I’d like to ask you to ponder about where you stand in terms of the argument for decriminalisation and help us bring the debate forward regardless of which side you fall upon. To quote Mr Costa, “are we ready to engage?”

Click here to go to first post

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

What's In A Name?

by Rachel Surtees (@RVSurtees)

I got married a couple of weeks ago. I think that there are a lot of interesting things to ask about that. For instance, what does marriage within atheism mean? Do you marry because you expect something to change or because it already has? Do you seriously expect us to save a piece of wedding cake for our unconceived child, or was that a joke? Yet the only question that people seem to ask is: are you going to change your name?

Just so that you don’t spend the whole post pondering, the answer is: no, we haven’t decided what we’re going to do with our names yet.

I’ve found the whole process of getting married wonderful… and fascinating. The mere mention of the word seems to elicit an ingrained and impermeable reaction in people (myself included). What’s more, not only do most people seem unable to control that reaction, but they also seem oblivious to it. And the issue of the name appears to be king.

There are two things that I’ve found particularly interesting. The second most interesting of these is that whilst the question is significant enough to be asked again and again and again… and again, it seems that my actual name pales in significance by comparison. “It doesn’t matter Rach, why not just consider changing it”, “Why hold on to your name Rach, isn’t that just ego?”, “Rachel Montes? It’s pretty.” As if that was in some way relevant.

By writing the above I risk offending most of my closest friends… which leads me to the most interesting thing. The pressure to bow to tradition hasn’t come from “society”, but from within my closest social groups. Odd.

Incidentally, no one’s asked my husband if he’s going to change his name. Perhaps that’s the most interesting thing.

So my ponder? My ponder is: what’s in a name? A quick flick through the papers suggests that there’s quite a lot actually.

1. There are those who have their names changed for them.

Hands up if you remember John Darwin? Nope, didn’t think so… how about the Canoe Man? There we go.

The Tabs have affectionately renamed the man who was brutally stabbed to death and hacked into pieces: Spy In The Bag… seriously?

Susan Boyle post-break down and post-waxing became known as SuBo. It didn’t catch on, nor did she.

I’ve become quite accustomed to hearing about Baby P. The tragedy of his story never seems to be far from us. And then every once in a while I hear someone refer to him as Baby Peter and the reality of it punches me in the stomach again.

2. There are those who adopt additional names.

Having a pseudonym has become an accepted and unquestioned tradition, particularly within the arts. But when you do stop to question it, it really does beg a question or two. Of course there are some who build entire personas and lives around a pseudonym and that ability is their artistry; think Banksy.

And then there are others who, like the George Elliots and Currer Bells of this world, rely upon pseudonyms to break down barriers and find expression. I get that.

But on the whole, pseudonyms seem to be used by people who are either scared that their “created” vs “true” identities are incongruous, or, they’re embarrassed about one or the other… or both… and so hide behind a pseudonym. And on the whole, we accept this practice. Perhaps we shouldn’t? I’m not sure.

3. There are those who give up their names all together.

The jury’s still out on this one too. There’s something distinctly uncomfortable about the current use of anonymity. Again, there are clearly situations in which the right to anonymity is not only acceptable, but should be fiercely protected. But, if you give a statement to the press, or post online anonymously, i.e. you’re not willing to put your name to it, then why should anyone be willing to give validity to what you’re saying? Surely, by indiscriminately encouraging anonymity, all we’re encouraging is cowardice?

4. There are those who have become convinced of “the value” of their names.

Super injunction. I’m afraid I can’t say anymore.

There isn’t necessarily a consistent theme to the above, except that names clearly matter, otherwise why would we go through the hassle of changing or hiding them.

So all in all, I don’t know what’s in a name… but I do know that there’s something. I also know that I’m not going to be in a hurry to lose mine just yet. So maybe I’ll be Rachel Montes, or maybe he’ll be Mr Surtees, but either way, I do wish people would stop asking.

Click here to go to first post