Monthly Archives: June 2005

Soon to be leaving

My time in Manchester and England is almost up for this time. Tomorrow morning at some ridiculously early hour, I’ll journey towards Manchester Airport and from there to Copenhagen.

Since this afternoon is my last great chance to swoop for souvenirs and what-have-you’s for friends and family, I won’t delve to deeply into the great status report of my exchange here, but rather go out and enjoy the sunshine.

I can imagine that I’ll get to meet most of my readers within the next couple of days, so: see you soon!

London

I’m writing this in an Internet Cafe just across from Paddington Station, feeling rather exhausted from another day of wandering around London. I’m staying with Martha, a friend from my Hall of Residence in Copenhagen who’re spending this semester here, and it’s been great fun.

..and rather hectic – with lots of people and getting in touch with the last stragglers of the international students fleeing Manchester. And then there’s been all the sights to be seen. I went to the National Gallery for the first time, and was amazed by some of the pictures there.

I particularly liked this one:

called Girl on a Divan (‘Jeune femme au divan’) by Berthe Morisot.

and this one:

by J.M.W. Turner, called ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway’

It’s culture, baby. Tomorrow I plan to go to the Tate Modern and see even more art. Now, I think I’ll go home and relax.

England 1 Denmark 2

Wednesday sent me on another field trip. This time to Blackburn via Bolton to experience the high-tempo football and electric crowd intensity of a women’s European Championship match.

Going to Blackburn, you’ll most likely switch trains in Bolton, 25 minutes North of Manchester. We (me and my friend Anna, who wanted to go to the match) took the opportunity to sightsee in Bolton as well. Unfortunately, both Bolton and Blackburn are rather boring old industrial cities in Lancashire, now mostly known for their Premiership football teams. But there are remnants of the industrial age, such as this big, covered market in Bolton:

One of the shops had something extraordinary on offer: A full life size wookiee!

I find it funny that they found it necessary to put up the sign advocating the “don’t touch” policy, since the whole expression that this particular hairy biped is conveying seems to be one saying specifically: “Don’t touch me, or I’ll gut you!”

Anyway, we made our way to the stadium, picked up our tickets and found our seats just in time for Kick-off. Unfortunately, the small contingent of Danish fans were sitting in the stand to the right of us, so we had no chance to mingle.

The game got underway, and the first half proved seriously boring, with little or few open chances and nervous play from both sides, lots of lost passes and late tackles. But at the beginning of the second half, England came out with a lot more determination, and quickly won a rather clear penalty:

Which they duly scored. 1-0 to England. The crowd goes wild.

Denmark was under serious pressure and soon afterwards England carved another opening in the Danish defence, but somehow managed to miss the goal from this:

Another 20 minutes passed, and it suddenly seemed as if Denmark realised what was at stake. They began battling and won a free kick at the edge of the box:

The Danish Top-scorer, Pedersen, curled the kick over the wall and under the crossbar for a superb equalizer:

And soon afterwards, Denmark managed to secure a winner through a headed goal concluding a nice passing move. The Danish players went mental:

All in all, a fun game. And Ewood Park in Blackburn is a surprisingly nice stadium, so now I can say that I’ve been to three English League football grounds (two of which were Manchester City’s)- a humble beginning for the full 92. Visiting all of them is a matter of pride for some hardcore football fans, and it is sure to bring you to every corner of England, even though most of the stadiums seem to look alike..

I’ve won something!

Just for fun, I entered the Guardian’s competition for tickets for the upcoming Football international between Denmark and England tomorrow night. Two pairs of tickets were up for grabs and I won! Sensational!

I’ve never won anything in any sort of draw before, and I guess it took something that I’m not desperate to win, to break that record. Did I mention that the game in question is a game in the Women’s Football European Championships?

Even so, that won’t break my joy. I’ll be journeying to Blackburn tomorrow all the same to see the select 11 of my two birth nations. Maybe this game can offer some insight as to which team I ought to support – f’real. 😉

Liverpool in pictures

I went to Liverpool some ten days ago, and I completely forgot to put up the few pictures I took from that day. So here goes..

Liverpool is of course mostly famed for its harbour, where much of the trade and goods from the New World arrived, and which was also Manchester’s link to the world. I went to the excellent Liverpool Maritime Museum, which is located on the harbour in an old dock warehouse that has been converted into a culture centre (which also contains Liverpool Tate Gallery, the Beatles Story and lots of handicraft shops and restaurants).

They had two brilliant exhibitions – one on the transatlantic slavetrade, and one on European transatlantic migration of the 19th century. Most of the British ships dealing in both were based in Liverpool, and it was curious to note how many parallels there were between the two. Though, of course, there are slight differences in the quality of the middle voyage on Steerage and in some unventilated hull.

All that money made from that sort of transportation went to making Liverpool a rich city, yet big parts of it were blitzed and bombed during the second World War. Therefore they had to spend new money building their cathedrals all over again. This is the entrance to the Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool:

And this is the massive Anglican Cathedral, built on a hilltop with a view over the harbour:

Just across from the Anglican cathedral, there is this house, with the cat seemingly staring disapprovingly of the huge edifice in front of it:

Something was amiss that day in Liverpool. Everybody seemed so light-hearted and were drinking excessively. But the reason for that was pretty straight-forward. The day before, Liverpool Football Club had won the Champions League. Thousands of people dressed in red, waving flags and balloons the shape of the big eared trophy were milling about town, waiting for the triumphant parade of the returning footballing heroes:

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery juice by the time I took this picture, so I can only offer everybody else’s pictures of that happy occasion.

As it was, I spent the previous evening in my local pub, watching the game, listening to the emotional rollercoaster of an Everton fan who desperately hoped that Liverpool would lose. He was heartbroken. Such is football, and the rivalry in Liverpool in particular.

Summer sheeze..

I had Bob Marley’s “Caution” playing in my head as I wrote my final exam on Friday. After two hours of questions on Technological determinism and the Indian Green Revolution, that song might well have been have crossfaded into “Everything’s gonna be alright” – despite having a customary stress crisis after half an hour (realising that there’s no easy way to do cut and paste and revise your sentences when you writing with pen and paper, thinking that all that you’ve written so far is utter shite), everything did indeed seem to turn out for the better.

Thus, this weekend marked the beginning of three months of summer for me. Most of the other international students finish on Monday with their English exam (which I spared myself), but even so, I managed to lure a sizely bunch of them with the rumour of an illegal warehouse rave somewhere in Manchester on Saturday night.

By mere coincidence I had stumbled upon the website of MISSING, a bi-annual independent party with lots of underground music and funny, fluffy people. Manchester has bred quite a fair bit of the techno and clubbing culture in Europe, especially through the Hacienda – a notorious in-spot in the early 80’s, as portrayed in the film 24 hour party people. I thought that this would be my golden opportunity to experience that unique atmosphere and meet a lot of friendly people.

The whole invitation procedure was proper cloak and dagger stuff to keep the police off their tails, as they were trying to disguise it as a private party. Therefore everybody had to be invited (ie. join the mailing list), and they would then send out an email on the day, offering 3 phone numbers which the guests could then call in order to get directions to the warehouse where the party would take place.

Manchester has lots of old warehouses, and lots of old semi-derelict industrial neighbourhoods with few nieghbours to complain – all of which is required for this sort of all night partying. Therefore, the party could take place in any number of places, and we could only wait until they would tell us where to go.

So when the word came, we joined the throng and took the tram to Trafford Bar where the party supposedly was taking place. But by the time we got there, the police had arrived and were closing down the party before it even had begun. Some of the other tram travellers got really paranoid and went straight back into the tram fearing, as they said, “snif-dogs”!

As we were much too decent to be doing any drugs, we had a good laugh about that, though it didn’t really help us much. We didn’t know where to go, and despite the promise of “back up venues”, it soon turned out that the police had gotten the better of the party planners, and that no rave would be taking place that night. Several thousand disappointed youngsters spread across town, looking for some party or another.

We happened to come across a tiny club where most of the clientele were of Caribbean descent, playing loud dancehall and funk, and we had our chance to dance and have fun there.

But one of the other students told me that in the mid-nineties, the British government passed a law inspired directly by a wish to be able to break up raves more easily without having too much trouble with civil rights of private gatherings. Potentially illegalizing any parties “with 100 or more persons at which amplified music is played during the night. Music includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

It seems to be just another glorious case of a government trying to legaslate their way out of something that they don’t understand. Thus attacking symptoms rather than causes. Did I mention the new case against hoodie sweatshirts?

Sheez.

Lies and Damn Lies

Today, I chanced upon an alternative American history text book with the rather provocative title “Lies My Teacher Told Me.”
Based on 10 years of research partly spent comparing 12 different common US high school history textbooks with the more or less accepted historical “truth” as it is decided in academic circles, the author, James Loewen paints a dark picture of what kind of history is being taught in American high schools.

He finds that in many cases, such as the story of Columbus’ discovery of America, the political leanings of Helen Keller and the policies of Woodrow Wilson, integral facts are being overlooked or transformed to fit with an image of the USA as overcoming all challenges and supporting the American way of life and liberty.

Clearly, Columbus’ rampant genocide on Haiti, Keller’s socialist sentiments and Wilson’s racist, colonialist and anti-communist policies do not fit well with these images of true American ideals.

Loewen argues that not only does this white-washing of history present American youth with blatant un-truths, but it also makes them lose all interest in learning history. The scrubbed text-books are good for multiple choice tests, but not for inspired learning as all the American heroes appear to white and unblemished, and all the drama that history is full of, becomes boring melodrama as everybody knows that there can only be one outcome: “Despite these setbacks, the United States were triumphant in its endeavors.” [sic]

Loewen not only tries to rectify some of the worst historical lies (which still seem like such a strong word, but appear to be justified), but seek to the roots of the matter of why such obvious wrongs can continue to be taught.

He finds that in the case of the textbooks themselves, it is because the publishers all seek to produce the end-all win-all history textbook. Therefore, they all attempt to appease the interests of all 50 states to ensure good sales in all states. Woe is the textbook being marketed in Vermont that doesn’t give good mention to Chester A. Arthur and equally shame on the Texan textbook that doesn’t give in-depth detail on the Alamo.

Accordingly, history text books are crammed with factoids, “main ideas” and figures to be remembered for testing, and the 12 books in Loewen’s analysis have a average length of 888 pages and weight of 4,5 pounds!

Combine that with the mildly boring blandness of these facts, it is little wonder that American students consider history the least interesting subject of all. And since 5/6ths of those high school student who do go on to get a college education won’t bother with history classes ever again (not to mention all those high-school students and drop-outs that never make it that far), the level of ignorance of foreign politics and the world outside North America among Americans should hardly be surprising.

But as Loewen also does well to point out, the history a society teaches its young is quite telling for that structure of that society. Unlike the Soviet Union, it is not a case of the State version is the only proper version, rather, it is a case of the version that the people will feel comfortable with. And as it seems, most American (white middle-class) parents, seem to prefer that the US of A is presented as a cleanly and untroublesome as possible. Just possibly to save themselves from answering to many difficult questions.

Loewen’s book is written directly to high school history teachers, not only to take them to school, but also in hope to affect the way American school children learn about history.

It is an important book, even for non-Americans, for often, the version of American history that we receive are filtered through American entertainment and information media. In that vein, I want to not just recommend this book, but also Eric Wolf’s classic anthropological history book Europe and the People Without History – a paradigmatical and very detailed break with eurocentric historiography.

Both of these authors have obvious (or ill-concealed) left-leanings, which may not be for everyone to enjoy or appreciate, but even so, their academic ability should still make their arguments worthwhile for a debate, even if you don’t agree with their political convictions.

Finally, I’ve found this alternative history textbook on America that I’m about to start reading. Looks interesting anyway.