The Joys of Just Thinkin’ and Drinkin’

So why was this last semester so good? Well as mentioned before, the last five months in Nottingham and generally at Uni were excellent. It took a month to find my feet but when I did, it all went so fast with such variety. This last semester in particular changed my outlook.

The academic focus shifted to more sociology from migration, NGOs and globalisation and an international relations module called disaster politics. Not only are the modules far more global in perspective but the group I study with are nicer, more varied and make up a good team. We socialise together, help each other with essays and party. I’m also auditing a post-colonialism module taught by Colin Wright, a really impressive man.

I’ve got 4 more essays to write but they are under control. Then one last, the dissertation at 15,000 words is a challenge but I think I can meet it.

I’ve said friends with the people from the first semester (Leanne, Josh, Oscar and the critical theory crew) and built on it. Guys like Edan, Arthur, Sam, Keaton and Wei are all laid-back and fun. The girls (Laura, Elena, Dena, Kat, Heather, Ces and Cat) are all fun and out-going. Its a warm atmosphere.

I’m involved much more closely with the magazine, contributing more travel, music, news and commentary and socialising with them. I’ve put up a few articles up here and there are more to come. Ones about Love, Ronda and world music. Rosie, Ellie, Ruth and Claudia have all proved great fun with jabber with. I’ve made friends with Vicky too.

Other activities include going to Vivali, bbq or picnics in the park, a night at the theatre, seeing Bright Eyes and the Wombats and a whole host of random occasions.

Pedro, Oli and Sarah came up to visit. Joe is over next month, Linden should be over and the new guys I live with in Lenton seem cool.

And I’ve learnt a lot. Ultimately it has just been nice to sit back and gather a framework round your ideas. Its like a Sunday in the pub, sitting with like minded people every day. Its all been pretty damn good. 😀

In a World of Trouble

To get gossip on politicians used to be simple. Head to the Red Lion on Whitehall, get talking and drinking with the researchers and soon tongues loosen and you’ll find out who is having sex with who, who loathes who and why and any sidelines the politician had. But that kind of gossip or corruption was hardly ever published unless it was the right season for it, meaning a government on the slide.

Getting celebrity gossip simply involved hanging out outside bars and clubs and doing some basic one plus one maths. But since (and I’m taking arbitrary times here) Princess Diana, Murdoch taking over the Sun or the beginning of OK! magazine, the press has got far more competitive (and shallow) and therefore the chase for the stories gets dirtier. And now the biggest fish has been snagged.

Finally the News of the World has admitted what we knew all along. That it hacked the phones of hundreds of famous people all in the pathetic name of celebrity gossip. What a bloody mess. Its been clear for a while the NoW hadn’t just checked their email account and uncovered compromising emails in the trash. They’ve been playing it out, discussing it behind closed doors, running for cover, trying to arrange the cards as opaquely as possible until they were ready to admit some liability.

That happened today. They’ve offered to compensate 8 celebrities up to £1 million but don’t expect it to end there. NoW won’t fall. Its too big for that, backed by political influence and unfortunately for the real ‘truth’ to come out, the very politicians who were hacked aren’t now in power. And yes I am saying politics (and money) will affect the extent of investigation and who gets convicted.

Andy Coulson, the PM’s former head of communications has already fled. If he is found guilty, this will affect Cameron in the short term but it won’t do long term damage unless he refuses to throw him to the wolves. He must know he has to and will gamble on what he knows. That being, a large section of the media have been very quiet over this festering story because they too will have checked their emails and have information they can’t account for. With that in mind, their criticism will be fairly muted. A lot of concerned faces and head shaking before they can scurry back to their offices.

What I am saying is the long term repercussions will be less than we could hope for in a democracy who consistently congratulates itself on its ‘fair play’ and promotion of democratic values. Having worked in Parliament, I am aware of the melting pot atmosphere between the media, politicians and the bureaucracy. Everyone knows everyone and works the same conduits. Prescott banged on about the press last night (rather than his secretary) and he is right, its all very illegal but the truth is any politician would let the press running with a story as long as there is political capital in it. The same is true for business (over corruption) and it all comes down the slurry pipe to us to exclaim ‘well I never’ at celebrities and shake our heads at business and/or politicians as we download some music or a film illegally. So we all get something out of it.

Now just to check the cupboard…

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.

Political turmoil has overrun Egypt and Tunisia over the last few months bringing the usual sensationalist images of tourists (aka white Europeans) boarding any plane they can get to ‘safety.’ But how dangerous is the situation for us tourists. Well there have been no reported attacks on tourists and Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab and Luxor remain open. The Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of the ever-expanding Cairo reopened this week with a slow trickle of gazers.

Tourism is vital to Egypt, bringing in hard currency estimated at $14.7 billion annually, accounting for 11 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product and provides 10 percent of its jobs. And this is in a country with 34% unemployment for men under 25. These kind of numbers alongside the poor education, infrastructure, bureaucratic inertia (an Egyptian civil servant were once found to do an estimated 11 minutes work a day!) and rampant corruption fed a frustration that exploded after Tunisia’s revolution a month earlier. It was never centred on Europe. Egyptians are smart enough to not bite the hand that feeds them.

Yet despite the protests being mostly peaceful and almost completely confined to central Cairo and the second city Alexandria, Sharm el-Sheikh is like a ghost town. An estimated 35,000 German tourists have left even though Sharm is a gated resort. Only the scuba divers have remained. Possibly a hardier bunch.

I’ve lived in Cairo and have also witnessed political unrest first hand in Mexico, Thailand and London! The student protest/riot in Mexico City was one of the best political experiences of my life. As a student interested in social anthropology and the notion of social capital, the solidarity between these protesting groups is impressive. They too are usually only asking for what we take for granted.

So rather than fleeing when the going gets interesting, don’t waste your time in your room. Modern 24 hour news needs your attention and images of police, tanks and isolated fires will do that. Rather than that, stick it out, eat at a local cafe and ask locals for information. Seeing the sights without the usual throngs is better too. On a more cynical side, it can also be cheaper straight after a crisis. Try to get around as much as possible. Hail a camel maybe. Hold your nose though. They stink.