There was a “terrorist attack” in London yesterday, but I didn’t know it until after 10 pm, when Chima and Imade caught me up. You can read more about it here:
More recent: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/10073910/Woolwich-attack-terrorist-proclaimed-an-eye-for-an-eye-after-attack.html
So I’m not going to go into detail about this horrific incident. Except to remark that seems to have been, not unlike the Tsarnaev brothers’ attack in Boston, not part of any organized act of terrorism by an institution, sect or government, but an act of reprehensible violence by frustrated young men under some personal aegis of jihadism. We remarked last night that we were sad, but relieved these attackers seemed not to have guns or bombs (didn’t employ them, anyway).
We also talked about the long history of terrorism in London. The 7/7/05 suicide bombings, the IRA bombings from 1970 through the ’90s. BUt not for all that long; it’s too unsettling.
We call the living room area of our flat “the day room,” since it resembles the neutral, oppressive rooms in mental institutions where patients do therapeutic activities. Last night was the second night we holed up in there until late, talking, the TV on but not paid much notice. There was a moment of hope when Imade and I thought ESPN global (or something?) was airing the NBA finals, but the signal was scrambled.
But let me back up a little.
The day before yesterday, after my meeting with Sam, I had class from 6:30-9. Part of this internship is academic credit; we have to take a course while we’re over here.
The instructor is Richard Sharpe, a senior lecturer in journalism at the University of East London and a glorious, but self-aware caricature of an Englishman; voluble, witty, vastly knowledgeable about history, jokey, self-effacing.
He lectured for three hours about the history of the British press, starting in the seventeenth century. I eat that shit up. Any history of media, I love, and Sharpe’s really good. He described how The Restoration, The Glorious Revolution and the Great Fire contributed to experiential and political public discourse, the evolution of first-person narrative as it later pertained to Victorian literature, the role of Kant and the Enlightenment in reifying individual experience, the history of paper, the historical evolution of London both architecturally and as the center of mercantilist constitutional monarchy and the rise of the merchant class of readership… and was well-versed and passionate and funny.
It was media nerd HEAVEN. The PR kids, for the most part, HATED IT.
The vast majority of my USC cohorts in this exchange program are PR majors, undergrad. There are a couple very smart diplomacy grad students, a couple other grad students of whose background I’m not totally sure (one’s in broadcast journalism I think), me, Imade, and Chima, and a mess of PR students who, as interns, are the kind Sam described to me, if you remember from my last letter. Some of them are nice, but/and they’re all very, very young, and the majority of them are Southern Californian and very privileged.
There is one young man and 18-19 young women. I am the oldest in this program by at least 10 years, more commonly by 15 or 20. The one dude is WASPy and 20ish, a rower for USC Crew and looks great in a suit. Before Sharpe’s class began the day before yesterday, one of the young women joked that he was surrounded by estrogen, and he smirked that it’s “toxic.” WHich, whatever. A joke. And it’s probably more difficult than I realize to be the only dude in this equation. I’m not giving this poor kid a chance, but he looks like a John Hughes villain. He sits with his legs comically far apart, is interning for the Financial Times. But I’m sure he’s great. Whatever.
Our whole London cohort had a class together last semester at USC, the focus of which was some London history and media context.Bewildering to me, a cluster of 3-4 PR girls would whisper and giggled to each other in class, flip through their phones, and never made eye contact with the instructor, Mr. Kotler, a funny, gruff retired American criminal lawyer and London semi-resident.
I’ve got ADHD and some pretty serious issues with authority, but in my (cretaceous period) childhood and adolescence I was trained that if you’re not gonna (or can’t) pay attention in class, you should at least fake it, out of respect for the teacher and fear of recrimination. This after a childhood of being told to stay in my seat and quit disturbing my neighbors. (ex. Me, at age 9: “hey Ronda, hey Ronda, look, a prairie dog outside!” Ronda: “SHUSH!” Also Malcolm pretty much got me through HS chemistry.) I eventually got it though, and tempered disturbing my classmates with doodling quietly. By college, anyway, I could sit there pretty convincingly…when I showed up.
But I digress.
After the Sam “internship in England dos and don’ts) meeting and the Sharpe lecture, I felt pretty English-ified, y’all. Britishized? Anglicized?
I am now prepared to appear erudite, enthused, but self-effacing and reserved whilst* serving tea without the teabags in there, and recounting, if it seems appropriate, the effect of the 18th century magazine as it influenced the normalized spellings in Chancery English. Maybe. I mean, that sentence was about all I got.
*this use of “whilst” a shout-out to Imade, who finds the word ridiculous thus hilarious.
I tagged Chima but didn’t get around to what-all I was gonna say. But here’s a sneak preview: Chima the firecracker got here on Monday, and by yesterday was already working at the entertainment desk at AP. Last night, she attended the premiere of The Hangover III! She wore a gold outfit and interviewed celebrities on the red carpet, a gig she’s done many times before. She had anecdotes and photos. More to come.
Also, Imade would like y’all to know that she does not care for English food or weather. The mushy peas we had on Sunday with our fish and chips “left a terrible taste in my mouth and on my mind.” She maintains that “underseasoned food is a direct insult to my people, and disrespects my African heritage.”
She would like somebody to please send her some Lawry’s. Also, she brought a bunch of summertime dresses to wear and it’s too cold. She is considering tights, reluctantly.