Thursday, September 29, 2005

How it must look

I didn't mention that now I've got access to the LSE I'm able to use the computers - something which I wasn't able to do before, either as an alumnus or a Masters student at ISA. But sitting here in the open basement of the Library, typing away, I'm put in the mind of how I and the others around me must look. It's as if we were a part of one of those sci-fi films which show armies of similarly dressed workers all sitting in front of the same computer terminals, grinding out small bits of information to make a whole. Rather like a cog in a wheel in fact.
Before the storm

Induction days this week. Yesterday it was the general welcome to all new graduate students at the LSE - the Peacock Theatre with a capacity of around a thousand (possibly more) was used three times for the same presentation. Most tellingly was the moment when the Director, Howard Davies, asked all students who were foreign to put their hands up - most of the audience.

Which means I can now be classified as a minority.

Today it's the Government Department inductions - us new PhD students are being met in the afternoon by the academic responsible for us new arrivals. From the email sent around it looks like there aren't many of us - I counted just under 10. But maybe I'm wrong on this?

And then there's the infamous Freshers' Fair which is starting today. I'm going tohave a look around. It will be strange seeing it with new eyes and perspective after first experiencing it ten years ago. Then there were a couple of years where I organised a stall - what a relief not to have to do that anymore.

And that will probably be it until next week when the new term starts. I've already started using some of the reading lists from the public administration courses for my own area of study as it may prove useful for where I hope to take my enquiries. Which reminds me: according to a good book I picked up on 'How to do a PhD' every academic has a core 150 or so texts which he or she is familiar with. I must check with both my supervisor and this public administration chap what their's are - and whether the reading list I'm using is essentially that. You can see I'm already looking for short cuts!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Through the door...

Well, it only lasted a day. A phone call to ISA from the LSE's Government Department and I'm in and registered as a PhD student. Which goes to show that no matter how many precautions you take or letters you bring to registration, it still takes the powers above to move and shape these decisions.

The only downside to all this is that my new student and library card shows me with a beard - which I no longer have. And this card is valid for the next four years. Hmmm...

Friday, September 23, 2005

LIfe goes on

Even though I wasn't able to register yesterday I did manage to meet some of the new students in the Government Department - all on the Masters programmes. British students seemed somewhat thin on the ground. This happened in the Three Tuns student bar, a place I haven't had a drink in since I graduated from LSE in 1998. It has completely changed since I was last there, looking like a cheaper version of All Bar One than the typical grungy-sticky carpet-dim student bar I was used to. At least the Grolsch was only £1.90 a pint. That's right: £1.90.

At least one other institution hasn't changed. Wrights Bar has been serving LSE students, staff and nearby office workers and is run by the same family and has the same cramped interior since I was first there. As I stood at the counter yesterday I had to pinch myself to believe it's been the same since I first registered at the LSE - 10 years ago. The only thing that's different is that finally they've updated the price list which sits on the wall - but then pricing was always an ambiguous experience in Wrights.
Bound to happen

I had hoped to be writing this as a newly registered LSE research student. But as it turned out, everything I expected to happen - and go wrong - did.

Despite being aware ever since I applied to the university that I wouldn't have my final marks for my Masters by the time I registered - and informing LSE of the fact several times and consulting with their graduate admissions staff earlier in the week - come registration day the inevitable happened. Even a letter explaining the situation from ISA and including 75% of my marks was insufficient.

So I'm now in limbo and have to brave the registration queues once again.

What joy!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Back to school

Have I got everything packed for today? From 10am till 4pm it's registration day for Government students (along with several other departments) at the LSE. I need my passport, offer letter and other assorted papers including my Masters degree (which I don't have, so I hope a letter explaining why will suffice).

I'm expecting the whole process to last for several hours - so I don't want to get to the head of the queue and find I've forgotten something. Afterwards there's a meeting drink for Government students in the Three Tuns student union bar - now that's a place I haven't visited since the late 1990s! God, I feel old...
Fancy pictures

Last Monday ISA's autumn term lecture series kicked off with a presentation by a Princeton sociology professor on how to visually present globalisation. The interactive project is at an early stage, but they've got some data up on world trade - one of the first gloablisation relationships which is most commonly presented. Other forms, including cultural forms may become available as data is presented by others in this open-source activity.

Given the cost of collating data on world trade, we were only able to see comparisons between 1980, 1990 and 2001. However, it as sufficient to show that in terms of volume and proportion there are really only three axes that matter - and which have got stronger over the timeperiod: the US, Europe and Japan. Latin America's relationship is relatively small while African presence in the world trade/globalisation relationship is virtually non-existent. Furthermore, in large part most other trade relationships by 'smaller' nations are centred around these regional hegemons, e.g. East Asia has stronger relationships with Japan. Interestingly also, when broken down by commodity, it becomes clearer that Middle East oil is directed more at the Asian market than the US.

I find myself wondering why I do things which I know I'm not going to like. Last Tuesday was one such example. I was down at the Brazilian Ambassador's residence on Mount Street near Park Lane for a reception to celebrate the publication of Josh Lacey's biography of Charles Miller,which I reviewed the month before last here.

What disconcerted me was the realisation that I wouldn't know anyone there. And I couldn't find anyone to talk to. It was all rather awkward, as there was no way into conversation as far as I could see. And even admiring the residency itself, or marvelling at the height of Gilberto Silva, the Arsenal midfielder who was also present to launch the book, had only limited attraction. But since Josh himself invited me and put me on the guest list I couldn't really refuse.

Once I'd managed to congratulate him, notwithstanding the minders who buzzed at his shoulders, I was able to leave - half an hour later.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Enjoyable viewing

I mentioned last week I would comment on the Brazilian film festival which took place in Brick Lane. I attended three screenings: Dona Carlota (the 1995 film about the queen who married the Portuguese Prince Regent and fled to Brazil when Napoleon came a-knocking and which kick-started the renaissance in Brazilian cinema), an Eduardo Coutinho documentary about spiritualism and Intermissions (which I saw last March but accompanied a friend to catch it this time).

The timing of the films was rather chaotic, with them never starting at the exact time as billed. The chairs were uncomfortable, but I saw someone had sensibly brought along a pillow for his back. But there wasn't much else to criticse. Part of the gallery space had been converted into a social space and bar with Brazilian drinks on offer and the strains of Marcelo D2 to keep the hunters happy in between screenings.

At first I had thought the choice of Bengali Brick Lane was an odd choice for Brazilian cinema. But the vibe created by the festival organisers ultimately made it a sensible choice. It definitely had an edgy feel to it, with that Hoxton and Shoreditch feel. On balance then, I'd give the organisers 8 out of 10 - just sort out the seating for next time!
Unplanned weekends

Truly decadent. There's no other way to describe the shennanigans which took place on Sunday with two friends.

After finally getting up and leaving the flat in Borough at 1 in the afternoon (following much late-night abandon in the Shoreditch area), a cabbie was duly summoned to take us to a Smithfields greasy spoon for breakfast at 4pm. Subsequent carousing then involved Carluccio's on the corner of said square with seven bottles of wine downed between the three of us.

Non of us remember how we got home or what time we got home. For my part toast was vaguely involved, along with a smashed plate and a serious hangover this morning.

Oh, and to top it all off, I then find my bike which I'd locked on Brick Lane on Saturday evening (I know, I know) had it's saddle nicked this morning.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pre-term trepidations

In just under a week I'll be registered for the MPhil/PhD programme over at the LSE - assuming that my letter in the summer is picked up on and the bureaucrats realise that I won't have my final marks or transcript from my Masters course. Because I'm almost betting on that happening. I'm off to the LSE again today to make doubly sure they know what's what. There's nothing worse than to queue for a couple of hours only to be denied the all-precious card that will open every door on account of a mere technicality.

But at least I have a clearer idea of what is expected during my first year. I only have to attend one seminar a week definitely, on how to do a doctorate, what it entails, what to expect, etc, etc. Sitting down with my future supervisor I've also identified one or two other seminars to attend, but compared to Masters study it will be less class-based and much more self-study.

Which raised the all-important question which three of my work colleagues mentioned had been raised during their own doctoral experiences yesterday, but to which no-one seemed to have an answer: what to do when you get lonely.

Now I'm worried...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Cinematic vintage

But before I attempt to bring the art of Brazilian cinema to this site (always depending on price, me being skint), I caught an extremely entertaining film on Saturday at the NFT via an old school friend and his girlfriend.

Harold and Maude is one of those films I've heard about and never seen, like most of the audience there. Good it is. But I won't expand on it - instead I'll just direct you to this site...

Friday, September 09, 2005


Some good news indeed. From 14-18 September the Old Truman Brewery down Brick Lane is going to host a series of 16 Brazilian films from the last 10 years along with cultural events. Looks like something to sink my teeth into, since I haven't written on Brazilian culture or issues for awhile. Even better that it's happening on my doorstep.

I'm afraid that it'll probably mean that long-awaited synopsis of Lib Dem policy and strategy (as if anyone comes here for that!) will have to be put on hold. Perhaps it'll also stop me assuming my ego's getting too big!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Change of direction?

First invites for the Lib Dem conference later this month have arrived through my front door. If I want to step away from debating policy in London or the 2012 Olympics I can make an appearance at the questionable-sounding London Government reception and disco.

Since I'm not heading to Blackpool this year I think I'll take a rain check on that. Besides, I'm not sure I'll be too impressed anyway. But I may have as go at rekindling some thoughts and observations on the party and its general direction over the next few weeks. I'm acutely aware that this blog appears on several Lib Dem bloggers' websites and I suppose I should cater accordingly. After all, it's not the done thing for interested British liberals to come to this spot and find whimsical material on being a postgraduate student and Brazilian politics.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Fed up

I'm convinced that West London is like the Bermuda Triangle. At least it was yesterday. Both Barons Court and West Kensington tube stations were closed for repair work on the District and Piccadilly Lines. I was directed to one of the replacement buses which didn't move anywhere, being caught behind a parade and carnival nearby.

Getting off I set off on foot to West Brompton train station to catch a train to Victoria - only to discover there wasn't any direct ones. Alright, I thought, I'll wait for the next one to Clapham Junction which the tannoy announced was just around the corner. But that train never appeared and soon the announcer was reporting that the next train would be heading north.

Once again I set off on foot, trying to walk out of Chelsea and eventually catching a bus that headed past Hyde Park. But it was ultimately quicker to walk the remaining half mile to Victoria than continue to sit on the bus. Sunday was not only hot, but everyone had taken to their cars.

And did I mention that Westminster was closed for the bicycle race through London? Who decides when to close the tube - especially on a day as busy as yesterday.

At least after this marathon journey I was able to pick up my new secondhand bike. And finally I was able to escape the vagaries of London's public transport system.