News of the World an Overdue Downfall

Last year I wrote a column for Snipe pondering the continued existence of News of the World

How the News of the World avoids prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act is one of life’s little mysteries. The venerable tabloid stakes its reputation almost entirely on elaborate entrapment schemes designed to catch gullible semi-public figures with their trousers down (often literally)…. People have, thanks to years of shoddy journalism and media navel gazing, been conned into the tacit belief that if something happens and is reported upon it is automatically “news.”

It is awfully satisfying that NOTW finally collapsed under the weight of its own mendacity.

Advertisements

Penn – the Social Ivy

I am amused to find a 1999 newspaper column (see below) that I wrote for The Daily Pennsylvanian preserved on the Harvard Crimson site. Did I write it at their request? Syndicate it? Damned if I remember but at least I can claim to have published at Harvard.

Joan Didion wrote: “We are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the poeople we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” I don’t think I’d find my 19-year-old self attractive company. Her politics are non-existent and the jokes are toe-curling. (The Fresh Prince! Really?) But bless her, she had chutzpah.

In West Philadelphia, The Social Ivy

Welcome to the University of Pennsylvania.

If you want to find out about that state school with the good football team, you’re in the wrong place. But if you want a school that offers its undergraduates a vast array of academic opportunities; great sports teams (well, for the Ivy League); and a thriving metropolis (if you can call West Philly that), then read on.

Here’s an account of the good, the bad and the toast throwing to help you see if Ben Franklin’s university is the one for you.

Academic Life

Before you applied to Penn, you selected which of the four undergraduate schools you wanted to be a part of: Wharton School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, Engineering or Nursing. What you probably didn’t know is that when you chose a school you also chose your academic reputation for the next four years.

Wharton is the best undergraduate business school in the nation, and the Wharton students will never let anyone else forget it. From their building in the center of campus to their computer labs from which everyone else is banned, Whartonites spend four years looking down on everyone else on campus.

The college, often referred to as the College of Arts and Crafts, is the largest of the schools with departments in the liberal arts as well as the natural and life sciences. The college also offers very popular interdisciplinary majors, such as biological basis of behavior and politics, philosophy and economics. Some college students have an inferiority complex, because they do not have a clear professional path to follow after graduation. But most enjoy the flexibility the college offers.

Students in the school of engineering and applied sciences (SEAS) are not known to be the most fun-loving people on campus. If you see someone in the library on a weekend night, they are probably in SEAS.

Nursing is by the far the smallest of the four schools with only 80 students in each year. But nursing students have the highest average starting salary of the four schools.

No matter what school you are in, you will find that your classes are almost always taught by professors. The only classes that teaching assistant lead are some of the introductory foreign language courses and many of the writing courses.

Penn has its share of the huge lecture classes, too. If you take introduction to economics, psychology, biology or chemistry, expect to be in a class with hundreds of other. All of these big classes break into recitations once a week to discuss the material in a smaller setting.

You will also have the opportunity to take small classes of under 18 students, especially if you are in the college. It is not unusual to have dinner at the professor’s house once during the semester. Many students have found themselves at past Penn President Sheldon Hackney’s house after taking his seminar on America in the ’60s.

The one thing that students in all four school agree on is the problems with the advising system–or lack thereof. Although all students get an adviser in their school and then one in their major, many students feel that advisers exist largely to sign innumerable forms and to give unsolicited advice based on precisely no prior knowledge of one’s skills or goals.

Out of the Classroom

The place where you will learn the most is probably going to be your extracurricular activity.

You can join the oldest all-male college comedy troupe in the country, Mask and Wig, or one of our many a cappella groups. You can write for a daily newspaper or go skydiving with our outdoor clubs. Whatever you choose, you will find yourself and other students completely in charge of running organizations that are among the best in their respective field in the nation. And who cares if that means no sleep?

Many students complain that Penn is a completely apathetic campus. This school is not the type where you will find students having many protests. Penn students this year were the only ones in the Ivy League not to hold a rally about sweatshop labor.

But Penn students do get excited about some things, namely our football and basketball teams. After the third quarter of every football game, students sing a song which ends with the line, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn.” Back in the day, Penn students used to drink alcohol after singing that line, but many years ago the administration clamped down on the practice. As a protest, Penn students threw actual toast on the field, and the tradition continues to this day. Many Penn students also spend a whole weekend in October camping out at the Palestra, our fabled sports arena, in order to get season basketball tickets.

After the football team clinched the Ivy League title this year, Penn students stormed the football field, tore down one of the goalposts, marched to the Schuykill River and threw it in. And students loyally followed the basketball team to Princeton to see them capture the Ivy title and then tore down the Tigers’ own nets. Some students even flew to Seattle to see the team play in the NCAA tournament.

Housing

Last year, Penn decided to create a “college house” system, so its dorms would feel more like communities. Dorms, or college houses, now have senior faculty living in them and many programs based in the residence. Many students say they don’t notice the difference with the new system, but it is too early to tell how these will pan out.

As a first-year, you likely want to be in one of the four college houses in the Quadrangle. About half of the students decide to move off-campus. But most of the off-campus housing is directly adjacent to campus, so even if you live there, you are still close to everything. Many upperclassmen who decide to stay on campus move to one of the three high rises, apartment-style college houses.

Social Life

They don’t call Penn the “social Ivy” for nothing. Come Friday and Saturday nights (and often Thursday nights, too), you will find Penn students leaving their work behind to find a good time.

Much of your social life during the beginning of your first year will center around fraternity parties with cheap beer and bad ’80s music. However, only a third of people at Penn are involved in the Greek system. Rush occurs in the spring, so you will already have a group of friends and a better idea of how you fit into the school before you have to decide about joining.

Penn students do not confine themselves to campus, but rather take advantage of all that Philadelphia has to offer: from attending concerts at the Electric Factory to dancing at the many downtown clubs to dining out at Restaurant Row. You can easily reach downtown using the subway system, SEPTA, or taxis. But we warned, SEPTA, is dirty, slow and not so safe to ride alone at night.

Penn is also home to Spring Fling, the biggest party on the East Coast (or so they say). This year, however, the University implemented a new alcohol policy that slowed down, but certainly did not stop, people form drinking. A committee is still reviewing the alcohol policy, so it is unclear how is will affect future years.

The ‘Hood

Perhaps Penn’s most famous feature is its location: West Philadelphia. Everyone has heard the stories about the threat the neighborhood and the neighbors pose to the safety of Penn students.

However, while West Philly certainly isn’t Hanover, N.H. or Ithaca, N.Y., it is not half as bad as it is made out to be. In the past few years, violent crime has dropped dramatically. There have been a few major incidents, including an assault in the fall, and there are always the nuisance crimes, such as panhandling and bike theft. But overall, students, including the large number that come from “sheltered suburbs across the country, feel safe.

By now, you have learned almost all there is know about Penn. (You’ll have to wait until you get here to find out about Naked Dash through the Quad.) If you are looking for a school situated among rolling green hills with students who spend their free time discussing Anna Karenina, Penn is not the place for you. But if you are looking for an urban environment with students who study hard and party hard, then head on over to West Philly. The Fresh Prince is waiting.

Glasgow Not Quite Fighting Fit

Posted by Cila Warncke

Two Scottish food groups


Experts say “The Scottish population seems to be living dangerously”. Unfortunately, not in a Aston-driving, sky-diving, lady-killing kinda way, a la favourite son Sean Connery. Instead, risk-taking Scottish style involves scoffing burgers, downing “the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka each in a year”, smoking furiously and not taking any exercise (apart from walking to the offie).

Glasgow seems a poor place for a vegetarian long-distance runner to set up house, but this isn’t the first time I’ve spent in a city awash in cheap booze, bad food and hard drugs. I lived in Philadelphia for three years. If anything, West Philly is far less salubrious than the west end of Glasgow. If you wanted fresh veg there you had to go to the over-priced salad joint on campus. The only local supermarket was a hot, crowded, piss-scented emporium surrounded by iron bars. Grocery shopping usually meant going to the 7-11 on the corner and buying bagels, Kraft Singles, and breakfast cereal. The native delicacy is the Philly cheesesteak: fried steak, smothered in cheese, served up on foot-long baguettes drenched in mayonnaise. Makes Irn Bru ice cream floats look like health food. Glasgow, in fact, has health food stores. Within metres of my flat is an array of shops including Roots & Fruits and Waitrose where I can merrily fill my basket with fresh veg, oat milk (really), quinoa bars, posh olive oil, dense rye bread and all the things dear to my health-geek foodie heart. And you can go for a run here without worrying about crossfire, which is something of a luxury.

The difference: the west end of Glasgow is relatively upper-crust, West Philadelphia isn’t. The Glasgow University study reporting 97.5% of the Scottish population has at least one of five “major risk factors to health” – cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, poor diet, physical inactivity, and overweight – tersely notes “The most important determinants for multiple risk factors were low educational attainment and residence in our most deprived communities”.

Education is even more important than economics. Eating nutritiously is cheaper than eating processed food. I’ve fed five a homemade feast of sweet potato & cashew curry with rice, salad and chapatti for less than the price of a Supersize Big Mac meal. Yet people persist in thinking that eating well means spending big. A basic problem is that deprived areas lack access to fresh fruit and veg, or reasonably priced basics like rice, flour and pulses. Why? Because retailers don’t see a market there.

This is where education comes in: shop owners need to be educated that being poor doesn’t automatically mean wanting to live on crisps and cola. They need encouraged to open shops in poor neighbourhoods, otherwise people have no choice but to eat badly. Consumers need education too. Part of the problem is the machismo in British food culture. Men eat meat, salad is for girls, etc. Perhaps there is an argument for letting troglodytes who buy into that crap eat themselves into an early grave. But it wouldn’t hurt to get into schools and persuade the younger generation there is no glory in being a fat, wheezing, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen. If we (the government, parents, the medical community, volunteers, whoever has the opportunity to pitch in) could make that happen perhaps future health statistics won’t be quite so dire.

Snipe Media Column – Advance Notice

Posted by Cila Warncke

Snipe London


London is about to have its first dalliance with a North American-style free newspaper in the form of Snipe and — I’m pleased to say — yours truly will be writing a media column for the bi-weekly publication.

Check out their pre-release website. Then look for the launch issue, out 15 May. I won’t be home yet, quite, so grab me a copy please!

Farewell, JD Salinger

I feel obliged to write something, to salute, acknowledge, remark upon the passing of the writer who I cherish above all others: JD Salinger. I was sitting in Les Schwab, waiting on a tyre change, trying not to smell the combination of rubber and free popcorn, when the news flashed up. Reclusive author dead at 91. The tears that sprang up were undoubtedly for me, not for him. Liquid selfishness.

Franny & Zooey


I don’t remember what Salinger I read first. Not ‘Catcher in the Rye’ because my uptight religious school would never have assigned it. Was it ‘Franny & Zooey’? How would I have encountered it? My sister was my literary guide, but I gave her ‘Franny & Zooey’ when I was a teenager, so it didn’t come from her. Maybe my brother had a copy, or perhaps I stumbled on it at the library. What I do recall, very clearly, is the summer I was 15, living with my sister, working at Wendy’s. It was three months of sweating fry grease and repainting my nails every Friday, because we couldn’t wear nail varnish at work. There was a tiny staff room, the size of a cupboard, and ‘Franny & Zooey’ lived there. Every break I read it in furious, fifteen minute chunks. In the course of the summer I probably read it twenty times.

After that, ‘Franny & Zooey’ became my amulet. I carried the same copy, heavily underlined in pencil, through high school, on class trips, to university, on my study abroad sojourn; it joined me in moving from Oregon, to Philadelphia, to London, to Ibiza. Then, in the last six months, it’s gone missing. I have a horrible feeling it might have gotten lost in Mexico. So I borrowed a copy from the library to foist on my brother, who read it, and laughed uproariously. The library hardback lies next to me, but the rhythms of the language are under my skin. What marvellous language it is: “she was, from an undeniably hoyden point of view, a rather refreshing eyesore”; “why do I go? I go because I’m sick to death of waking up furious in the morning, and going to bed furious at night”; “we speak a kind of esoteric family language, a sort of semantic geometry in which the shortest distance between any two points is a fullish circle”; “the furniture — seemingly a small warehouse of it — was in its usual static-dynamic arrangement… [it] would have lent a snug aspect to a banqueting hall in Valhalla” and so on and on. My favourite line, perhaps? “It’s a compound, or multiple, love story, pure and complicated.”

Pure and complicated, like Salinger’s prose; like his life. Various reports leaked from behind the walls of his New Hampshire home suggested he wasn’t entirely pleasant, but who is? No-one is going to come out well as the subject of a memoirist with an axe to grind. I’m only curious if we’ll see his writing, have a chance to revel in more of his literary magic. Apart from that, I hope he preserves the same aloofness in death he sought in life. True artists live in their art.

You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of the work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working. Never give way to laziness, either.
— “Bhagavad Gita” [from ‘Franny & Zooey’]

DJs 4 DRC – DJs for the Democratic Republic of Congo

Posted by Cila Warncke

An excerpt from my interview with DJ/producer and philanthropist Jay Haze about his
DJs for DRC charity project.

djs for drc

Read the original at Ibiza Voice

Jay believes music can help save the world and he’s leading by example with his charity project DJs4DRC (DJs for the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Jay has changed since he gave Ibiza Voice an unforgettable interview chronicling his chaotic journey from teenage jailbird to musical powerhouse. Then, he simmered with ideas and outrage, drawing a self-portrait of the artist as a bareknuckle brawler. Today he is equally sharp, still occasionally self-aggrandising, but he has the confidence and urgency of someone who is pushing towards the future, rather than meditating on the past. Here’s what he has to say…

What’s new with you, Jay?
I’ve been travelling a lot – Thailand, Brazil, all over. I’m working on DJs4DRC, trying to raise awareness within the club culture and motivate people to do something.

What is DJs4DRC?
It is a charity project I started by donating 100% of the proceeds of my Fabric mix to charities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is [the site of] the world’s biggest peacekeeping operation right now. There are children being used as soldiers, women being sexually abused. It’s bad. What I’m trying to do is kick people in the butt, remind that even small efforts can have big results.

What are asking people to do?
I’m donating 50% of all my DJ gig fees from September through December to the charity, and asking other DJs to donate 50% of their fee from one gig. Tiefschwarz, Tiga, Loco Dice, Luciano and DJ Sneak are some of the DJs who are contributing.

Where do those donations go?
In January I’m taking the money to the DRC. We’re going with a film crew and we’re going to shoot a documentary. We want to raise clubbers’ awareness, as well as DJs and promoters. We want to create a picture of what is going on [to educate] club culture as a whole. Right now the face of club is one of ignorance.I want to represent dance culture in a positive way, through my charity work…

Does this mean you’ll retire from music?
No! Music is my passion. I’ll never stop making music. But I make music to express myself. I never made music to get a gig, never made music to be cool. I make music to feel. This is why I have so many musical styles. It’s a form of expression to me.

What about paying the bills?
Art and money should be completely separate. One is an expression of thoughts and feelings; the other is an expression of ego.

What’s next for you?
Just keep doing what I’m doing! I want to represent dance culture in a positive way, through my charity work. Through releasing what I believe in and doing projects I believe in. After we shoot the documentary [in DRC] I want to set up DJs4DRC as a foundation.

What kind of work will the foundation do?
I want to build schools to teach music in Africa, to promote peace through creativity. Tapping into my creativity changed my life, and I want to share that. I see my future doing music with children, with people from all different kinds of backgrounds. If people in conflict zones can go and put their mind into something creative it can have a huge impact.

Dance music has a reputation for being self-centred – can you change that?

This industry is not filled with people who only care about themselves. It is full of people who don’t yet know how they can help. DJs4DRC is showing a way they can.

DJs for DRC

Fuckpony ‘Let The Love Flow’ is out 26 October on BPitch Control.

|

More on Essential Feminist Literature

Posted by Cila Warncke

Bringing up to date my post on Essential Feminist Literature… a look at where “Outlier” Malcolm Gladwell nicked his latest money-spinning idea from: Virginia Woolf


Share It

Share this post using del.icio.us del.icio.us  Share this post using Digg Digg  Share this post using Facebook Facebook  Share this post using Google Google 
Share this post using Live Spaces Live Spaces  Share this post using MySpace MySpace  Share this post using Newsvine Newsvine  Share this post using Reddit Reddit 
Share this post using StumbleUpon StumbleUpon  Share this post using Technorati Technorati  Share this post using Twitter Twitter  Share this post using Yahoo! My Web Yahoo! My Web