In this edition of the newsletter, there’s an answer to the question in the subject line, a global letter from lockdown in Cairo, Egypt and a tweet that sums up my feelings on Glastonbury.
Writer and comedian Alex Bertulis-Fernandes guests on the latest episode of Freelance Pod, telling me about the time her artwork when viral on Twitter, how writing for stand-up has improved her other writing and why vulnerability in a writer is so important.
Alex has been performing stand-up for the past year, and she’s also writing a book on the Penguin WriteNow scheme. Two very different kinds of writing, but the constant testing and editing of live comedy material can improve our attitudes towards longform writing, too.
Twitter is a major part of a comedian’s job these days, but Alex actually first went viral with a tweet about a dial she made in a college art class. Her teacher had asked her to “dial down the feminism,” which led her to making the dial below:
She talks about both the welcome and unwelcome attention that the tweet’s virality brought her, especially as it’s about feminism.
Alex also talk about how tough it is to deal with the different public images she puts out there on social media. On the one hand, she’s the comedian, talking about dark subjects and mining them for comedy; on the other hand, she wants to be seen as a viable employee too. We talk about how to juggle these different personas on the internet; what happens when you dilute humour to try and please everyone; and Alex’s advice for writers in any medium.
Global Letters from Lockdown
This week’s global letter from lockdown comes from Cairo, Egypt. It’s from Kim Fox, ssociate professor of practice in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication (JRMC) at The American University in Cairo.
Lockdown in Cairo, Egypt - Kim Fox
My home state is Ohio and my home city is Akron, Ohio, back in the US. I’ve been in Cairo since 2009. It's been kind of quiet here during lockdown, even though we had Ramadan and Eid - that’s when everyone wants to be together, but this year they couldn’t be.
The curfew meant that it got very quiet in Cairo during lockdown, when normally it's really, really noisy. You could just really hear all of nature. There was less pollution. For me in the mornings, the walk was really great, but otherwise you couldn't really appreciate benefit from all of the good that was taking place, because it’s too hot to be outside during the day.
Normally, Cairo is just full of car horns, a lot of old cars are out there spewing fumes, people having loud conversations on the streets. Cairo has a lot of character. So t’s unusual, during the lockdown, to find that you can hear the birds. You can just see that the air is cleaner.
This morning, I was out at 7:30am. I am still teaching, the academic year continues, so I try to get my walk in before I have to teach my first class on on Zoom.
We were teaching our normal class times over Zoom which is 75 minutes, but for Ramadan, we’ve reduced it to an hour at a time. We realised that it was tough on the students while they were fasting.
I think our students, are suffering from a lack of socialising - that’s having a negative effect on their wellbeing. Ramadan is such a social time, and it’s hard for them to be home all the time and not physically around their friends.
When you're teaching online, you don’t have those incidental chats where you find out how people are doing by asking a question after class or when you bump into each other in the corridor. So I’ve been trying to reach out to them via phone or a separate Zoom call, just to check in on them, see how they were doing.
In Cairo - in Egypt generally - there's a huge culture of going out and socialising as groups and families. So, to have the group component removed, I just think it has had a negative impact on lots of people.
I’m part of a very social expat community here. Before lockdown, there were a lot of dinners, parties and events. Now, it’s been reduced to phone calls and the odd Zoom if we can manage it. I’m looking forward to the rules relaxing.
Links Links Links
This is nice for people with 22-letter names like, ahem, me:
I’ve been watching Avenue 5 and I love it - any good podcasts on it out there?? LOADS to chew over. I’m sorry to say that spotting this clip on Twitter sold me on the show…
I reviewed Wendy Liu’s memoir Abolish Silicon Valley for Red Pepper Magazine
Incredible, should-be-mandatory reading: “I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South.”
I love this and I want it to be true:
And so my belief and my view of these protests is that they are different because they are marked by a period that has been deeply personal to millions of Americans and residents of the United States, and that has them more tender or sensitive to what is going on.
It was nice seeing all your vintage Glasto pictures, but I am so glad that I need never, ever go, because I spent years working in a newsroom in the bloody middle of Camden Market, so I *feel* this:
BBC Glastonbury @bbcglastoIn a tweet, describe Glastonbury to someone who’s never been...
That’s all from me, podcasts are weekly at the moment so there’ll be another one out soooooon x