A Time for Pumpkins

To everything, there is a season. And I have to say, that the fall and winter holiday season-that candy and food filled trio of Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas-is my favorite, because I can indulge my passion for punkin flavored everything without people thinking I'm like, totally weird. I can't help it. I like gourds, okay?!

Last year was a difficult one. The lady at Tesco thought I was crazy when I asked if she had pumpkin pie filling. In fact, pumpkin anything seems to be a n0-no in England. At least, as an edible food.

So, okay, maybe I'm going a little overboard this year to compensate for the great Pumpkin drought of 2004. I've already bought a few mini-punkins to scatter around my apartment, because in addition to being delicious, pumpkins are actually really cute too. I usually treat myself to coffees on Mondays and Fridays on my way to school, and I've been gorging on pumpkin lattes (nonfat, no whip of course) at Starbucks instead of my usual sugar-free vanilla. And on the way home today, I stopped by Choices, the organic supermarket, for some delicious pumpkin fritters...not like, pastries, but little pieces of pumpkin lightly coated in chickpea flour, to dip in some yummy chutney. And then, um, on the way home from Choices, Cobs' had a pumpkin seed bread, so I bought some of that to stick in the freezer...

Okay, yes. I'll admit it. I am obsessed now. But I have yet to buy a pumpkin pie, so if anyone finds a whole wheat crust, no sugar added, all-pumpkin-all- the-time pie, well, let me know....

You gotta fight for the right...

...or have it handed to you without asking for it. One of the weirder (and least legitimate, in my opinion) benefits of being a citizen of a Commonwealth country is that I get to vote in Britain, and, as we all know, Tony's head is on the block May 5th. I was under the impression that I had missed the deadline to register to vote in the UK back in March, so I have been following election coverage kind of halfheartedly, just interested in the big quiz sessions on PM on BBC4, or sensational stuff like when Jack Straw was grilled about legal memos regarding Britain's decision to head off to Iraq this morning. Imagine my surprise then, when my voter registration card showed up yesterday.

Boy, do I feel like a democratic slacker now. I mean, of course I'm going to totally abuse this really ridiculous opportunity and vote. But I don't wanna go in and vote for whoever just because it's funny. I gotta do right by my hood (officially: Southwark North and Bermondsey). I'm furiously playing catch up now on who the local candidates are (since none have actually provided me with any information, not a leaflet to be seen) and the issues around here, specifically (I'm gonna go with crime. Poverty. And, uh, crime). Last time we (uh, they) went Lib Dem. I'll keep you up to date on how I do (but not how I's a seeeeeecret).

Here's some info on my riding, courtesy of the Beeb:

2001 Result: Won by LD, majority 26.1%
Profile: One of London's most densely-populated, inner-city constituencies, this was also one of the poorest. It includes the run-down Elephant and Castle - whose shopping centre is one of the landmarks of the area, along with the GLA building, Southwark Cathedral, Guys Hospital and London Bridge Station. However, a massive regeneration programme on the riverside between Tower and London Bridges, and around Surrey Quays, is already well advanced. The Jubilee line extension through Southwark and Bermondsey has begun to revive the area. Further schemes are planned around the Elephant. Mixed in with this gentrification are some vast council estates, like Aylesbury on the other side of the Elephant and Castle. Some 67% of the population is white; 20% black. Unemployment is twice the national average and there are a high proportion of flat dwellers - 83% and renters 83.5% - half of these from the local council. This used to be a safe Labour seat - and was until 1983 when long-serving Labour MP, Bob Mellish, resigned. The subsequent by-election pitted the far Left Peter Tatchell against Simon Hughes for the Lib Dems. Mr Hughes won and has been there ever since. This was the party's only true inner city seat, until Sarah Teather won Brent East in the 2004 by-election. Southwark Council, having been Labour previously, is now hung with the Lib Dems having the largest number of seats. Labour has made many attempts with a variety of candidates to win back this seat from Mr Hughes, but has yet to be successful. In 2001 he increased his majority to 9,632 or 26%. Currently Liberal Democrat President, he was the party's mayoral candidate for London in June 2004 but came third behind Ken Livingstone and the Conservatives' Steven Norris.

The only thing that might turn this into an embarassment of democratic riches is if the government falls at home and I get to vote by absentee ballot. Whee!

"The Looming Threat of Exams"

Okay, so maybe that was a bit melodramatic. The term is quickly coming to a close, that's true, and the great paper race is on now. I am starting to suffer academic burnout at this point as I've been in school full-time without a break since September 2003. This burnout sunk to a new low last night when I attended a panel discussion at school simply to make fun of the panelists.

Last month marked the third anniversary of the death of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journalist who was abducted and murdered in Pakistan. LSE hosted a panel discussion called "Press Under Fire," in which several prominent journalists would discuss the growing risks to their profession, as a memorial to Mr. Pearl. The panel would be moderated by Christiane Amanpour, the ubiquitous CNN "Chief International Correspondent" who manages to make every "story from the war zone" that I've ever seen her file be more about HER than the people actually affected by conflict. Also, she just has this very dramatic and over-the-top delivery that I find absolutely hilarious. My comment about the "looming threat of exams" is definitely a tribute to Ms. Amanpour...I can imagine her saying it in her long, drawn out braying English accent (I know, I know, I'm being a bit bitchy now, but I just find her SO affected, it's hilarious).

Anyways, the panel discussion was due to start at 7 p.m., and at 7:40 p.m., Ms. Amanpour finally graced us with her presence. This didn't endear her to me whatsoever. What...was she on a plane from Baghdad? Give me a break! In her "official bio," which she provided the student organizers with, and which they dutifully read before she began the panel, it was stated that Ms. Amanpour is "widely credited" as actually bringing the crisis in the Balkans to the world's attention...apparently, no one KNEW what was going on until Ms. Amanpour and CNN made their way to Sarajevo. Barf.

Anyways, the other journalists were all very interesting people and obviously do very difficult work, and it was worthwhile to hear what they had to say, but mostly, I was just interested in listening to C.A. speak (so I could perfect my impression). The best HAD to be C.A.'s opening question to John Simpson of the BBC, who was attacked in Kurdish territory during the first Gulf War: "John, are we [journalists] hopelessly trapped in an unbelievable vortex of violence and terror?" I mean, come on. What was he supposed to say to that? "Yes, Christiane. Yes we are. There is no hope." That's a real conversation stopper, I think.

Anyways, it was semi-interesting but mostly good for a laugh. CNN is the most trusted name in news, though, don't forget. Whatever C.A. says must be true....unbelievable vortex here we come...