Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Down and out

Oh dear. It's getting worse. They're now bottom of the league after this defeat. The only positive thing I can think of saying is that there's nowhere to go but up.

Assuming they actually start putting some points on the board though. And it doesn't look like happening anytime soon...
Playing the game

Amid the light-hearted and progressively drunken baccanalia at the Notting Hill Carnival yesterday those looking hard enough might have noticed a small group of us playing capoeira in the Portobello Market. OK, it didn't start at the appointed time of 1pm, but the turn out was pretty good and I got in a few games without being too humiliated! Although I was quickly out of breath. Whether it as because I was out of shape I cannot say. I think I'll blame the heat.

Unfortunately there aren't any picture of the occasion that I have access to yet, but for a flavour of what it's like, there are some good photos of our last outing at the Shoreditch Festival earlier in the month (thanks Edward).
Beauty and the beast
(that's from left to right just in case you wondered...)

Fame at last! Well, of a kind. I hope Julia doesn't mind me nicking her photo of her and I, but finally, one of me to post on this blog.

But as she quite rightly says, it takes courage to wear a PT shirt at this moment in time. I just hope nobody at tomorrow's mini-conference on Brazilian economic and social policy (general theme: aren't we disillusioned with the Lula government) won't recognise me...

Friday, August 26, 2005

The time is nigh

So today is the day. By 5pm the Masters programme will be officially over. But I'm handing my dissertation into the administrative office in an hour or so - once I've got it printed off.

Now's not the time for reflecting on the course and the year (or more accurately 11 months) since I first registered. But for a sentimental view, Julia's depictions can't be topped.

I just wonder what I'm going to do next week when I wake up and have nothing to do...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Going over to the other side?

I consider myself a committed Eastender, having lived there for nearly 10 years now. But every time we visit friends over in Chelsea (as we did last night) I find myself strangely drawn a little closer to eventually making the decision and relocating there... in about 10 years' time. Maybe it's the period homes, the sense of living in a picture postcard image of London.

Or maybe it's the police and ambulance sirens and noisy neighbours from hell in the estate across the way when I get back to Bethnal Green.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Not where I am...

Oh alright, you've twisted my arm! Have another view of Jeri, this time a Friday sunset from the top of one of its sand dunes. It may look beautiful but what the guide books don't tell you is how strong the wind blows and the sand definitely stings...

My only grumble is that I'm not there. Mutter, mutter...
Something to remember the summer by...

OK, the funding options and studentships may have gone to pot, but I can still bask in the fact that I spent some of the summer in Brazil. Some of the photos have now come throgh from that, including from Jericoacoara. I may add another one later.

It's enough to make me give up London to relocate there...
Into the home straight

The end of the dissertation is in sight. A read through, review and now I'm in the process of tacking on the bibliography, glossary and acknowledgments. But I can't seem to get the table of contents function on Word to work properly - it insists on cutting out particular sections.

Of course I'm still not happy with it - but will I ever be? I keep feeling I could improve it, but every time I look at it I can't see how unless I scrap large sections and replace them with...

...well what exactly?

If the PhD interview went belly up the one for a research analyst position went better (also on the same day) - although I have yet to hear whether I made the short list for that one. But I noticed that as an interviewee taking notes while the interviewer talks seems to redress the balance of power between the two. That's about the only tip I picked up during last week's interviews.

As I suspected - I didn't get the gig at the UCL for the Brazilian history PhD. The silence which dragged on over the weekend prepared me for the worst.

THe frustrating thing about that interview last week was that I thought I was doing really well until they dropped the question: 'So what philosophical influences drive your academic work?'

Come again? And it came from the one member of staff who I assumed wasn't taking part in the panel discussion - she was the admissions tutor.

As might be imagined, after a question like that the interview started to unravel. And with it three years of potential work and full funding.


Still, it's nice to have options and it looks like it's the LSE for me (I'm sure there's a verse in there somewhere...).

What do you do on Saturday night when it's nearly 11.30 and most of the places charge you to get in?

A friend and I had this dilemma, which was made worse by the fact that we hadn't drunk at all - so faving the free bars at O'Neills or the Phoenix on Charing Cross Road were no-nos.

But then we found what looked like a conservatory-cum-bar at the back of Centrepoint. It called itself a Late Bar. Why not give it a go?

And that's how we walked - accidentally - into a lesbian bar.

I have been on this planet for 29 years and never been in one before. More surprising though, we actually got served.

But I reckon they probably thought that like them, us being two blokes, we were probably fellow travellers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

An empty pedestal

Well, that was that. I bombed.

It was all going so wel, my interview at UCL for this PhD on Brazil. I was making the right noises and points and the panel seemed to be nodding its collective head in approval.

But there's always one question, isn't there? And once it's asked the whole think unravels.

"Who have been your biggest influences on your conceptualisation of your work?"

Huh? Excuse me?

Yes, I was forced to think of intellectuals that I had 'looked up' to, or been influenced by. And the answer? Well, I struggled and then claimed I was an Enlightenment sort of chap.

Which is not what they wanted to hear; after all, they want someone who is going to consider post-colonial studies and alternative approaches for this project.

And so the project disappears into the breeze.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

First match blues

Not a good start at all.

But at least there's another 41 games to go. And they had better improve is all I'm saying...
Passing away?

Having been immersed in my dissertation and preparations for Wednesday's interview, I haven't commented much on the current shenanigans going on in Brazil. But a couple of stories in the Folha and among the London-based PT made me sit up and take note. It would seem there are two political deaths - the PT (probably overstated) and that of Miguel Arraes - dominating the Brazilian scene this week.

First, what is happening to the PT? There's been an interesting email exchange going on among London petistas regarding what exactly is the PT. While there is general disillusion with the path taken by the present government, what is intriguing is the perception group members have of the PT's mission. For some the PT has sold out, failing to deliver socialism. But for others the PT was never a socialist party in the traditional sense. Indeed, as one very articulate contribution points out, the wording in the PT's documents are vague. What is advocates is radical democracy, or democratic socialism (whatever that is).

At the same time some in the PT are considering abandoning the party, like Christovam Buarque. He's been feted internationally and his administration of Brasilia with its introduction of the bolsa escola is usually offered as an example of good governance. Interesting then that some in the London PT seem critical of hmn, accusing him of opportunism. Could this be because of his background and social-democratic orientation? After all, Christovam has never really been a red, dyed-in-the-wool petista. Might this also be a moment to plug my work on his administration in this book? Available at all good bookshops!

If he does leave the party there is a real question of where he could go. The Folha piece says the options are limited and beyond the PT there is no other party on the left which can offer the prospects of change for Brazil.

Troubling too is the suggestion that the PT in Rio Grande do Sul are also being caught up in this whole 'cash-for-influence' scandal. Of all the regional sections of the PT, I thought (perhaps naively) that the gauchos would be the least involved, due to the relative independent strength of the party down there. As a personal observation, I also met David Stival, the PT chairman who had to make a statement to the police, briefly while carrying out fieldwork there in June. It just gets more depressing...

And so finally we also say goodbye to one of the last great populists. After Brizola's death last year, this week Miguel Arraes passed away - yet another of the politicians who dominated the 'Populist Republic' between 1945 and 1964 before being booted out by the military and into exile before returning again in the 1980s. He's not of historical interest though; others, like Garotinho, owe their political style to him (more's the pity...).

Monday, August 08, 2005

Two strikes

When you're coming to the end of your Masters, summer should be a satisfying time. After the hard slog of winter, with its essays and seminars to prepare for, the months leading to August should be a time of celebration.

But it's not happening that way at the moment. The last few days have been up and down. Friday I received notification that the LSE would offer me a research grant. But which would only cover half the tuition fees - and if I registered as a full time student.

OK... And I'm going to do that with precisely what other funds?

And then today the other scholarship result finally came through - and no, I didn't get it. Even making the short list doesn't seem much of an achievement. In a race for one, you either get it or your don't.

So it looks like I've got several years of badly paid work ahead of me.

What joy!

I've already taken out my bad mood on the ESRC by writing them a letter of appeal on their utterly misguided decision to reject my application. It won't make any difference, but at least I felt better about it.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Yes, I've been quiet of late. I've been getting my head down on the dissertation. Whereas before it looked unclear, unstructured and unfocused, slowly it's starting to come together. Only a week ago it was a series of disparate, unlinked sections and paragraphs floating across three separate files. Now it's startting to gain some kind of order. Long may it last!

I've also been trying to sort out my rather dire financial situation. This has involved registering at various employment agencies and sending my CV off to possible openings as and when I hear them. Fingers crossed, but I may have something which would last a few weeks from Monday. That would definitely help, while just now I've completed an hour-long writing test to produce an essay for a job as a country analyst at a news service. The amusing thing is that I know of several others at the Institute going for the same position as well, so whoever gets it will have to buy the others drinks!

And now I have another place to fire a CV off to. Excuse me if I disappear...

Monday, August 01, 2005

New series of events

Saturday I went down to the Latin American Bureau for the first of their country-themed afternoons - on Brazil. I had gone because a friend at the Institute had said I should come since the organiser was worried no-one would turn up. A bit of solidarity, in other words.

I needn't have bothered though. The place was fit to bursting for the entire afternoon and evening which included Sue Branford's presentation on the current political situation there (her view: pessimistic to the point that she, a long-time left-wing supporter, is considering abandoning Lula), a film, O Caminho das Nuvens which followed a family's journey from the Northeast to Rio by bicycle (an antidote to other Brazilians films involving violence, drugs and the favela), a capoeira demonstration (which I was persuaded to have a go in...) and plenty of beer and salgadinhos (alright, bolinhos de bacalhau, coxinhas, kibe).

The audience was quite diverse, from those who didn't know who Lula was to people like me and others from the Institute. As a first effort I thought it went extremely well and look forward to the next - on Cuba at the end of August, I think.
Don't see many of those

Oddest sight of the weekend on the tube: an ordinary, middle-class blonde girl, around four years old being accompanied by her father - a leather-jacket, late-30s punk, with long varnished finger nails and a dog collar.