“Bullsh*t, Referencing the” (2017)

By: Ola Sleem

I’ve never written a blog or a long post, or even a status on Facebook for that matter, so I thought I’d do the best thing I can do which is to rant/vent/complain. So, I just finished my first year at university (let’s just exclude its name for now so there’s no “oh I know what she’s going to talk about”) and if you asked me right now, right this second, “what have you learned this year?”, my mind will not only draw at a blank, it literally will not comprehend the question. You may think I’m overreacting, which, for those who know me, is something I usually do, however for the sake of this article these words are neither exaggerated nor minimized.

I was in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program (no gloating, just explaining), when I was in school, and again, for those who were “fortunate” enough to be in the program may understand where I’m coming from. The IB program, okay you can look it up, let’s just say its tiring as hell. Procrastination, my favorite­ course of action, was not an option, you had to be working at all times and all hours, specifically working your mind. I still procrastinated, but that’s not the topic of discussion here. Scientists say crossword puzzles are a way of keeping your mind working, enhancing your intellect, and decreasing the chances of getting Alzheimer’s (the latter is most probably pseudoscience but I don’t want to get off at that tangent either) So, let’s just call IB a two-year long crossword puzzle.

Personally, (just in case you didn’t notice that this article was already personal), I value intellect more than most characteristics. Not most actually, but all. And by all I literally mean I’d rather be Sherlock Holmes than Superman (but let’s be real here, Superman sucks).

Ross

Anyway, with that said, instead of getting into depth of what courses I take and why I take them, I thought I’d go with the most interesting situation I had while I was taking English, Advanced Writing, if you may, (again not gloating, just trying to prove a point here) which is the highest level of “English education” there is at the he who shall not be named university. We had to write a cause and effect essay, so I chose to write about ‘technological abuse: the effects of cyberbullying’, sounds boring, right? Not only was it boring, but the scientific information behind the causes and effects were very minimal so I did what any self-respecting IB graduate would do. Nay (I’ve always wanted to say that), I did what any self-respecting student would do. That was to bullsh*t my way out of it. I was already bsing the rest of the essay, but there are levels of bs. This was so extreme, and I was so bored, I wrote a random name within the in-text citation to prove my point. By random I mean:

Granger

Who is this ‘Granger’ you may ask. If the words “It’s Levi-Osa, not Leviosaah” popped in your mind, then you are absolutely correct.

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Yes, in my, before final English essay ever, I bullshitted to the extent that I used a fictional character, not even (Watson, 2004), nope. Hermione Granger.

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I questioned that step for about two seconds before uploading it to Turnitin.com, where I proceeded to get a 0% (now I’m gloating), but there’s no surprise there, right? I turned it in and a week or two later the grades were out. I walk up, honestly expecting a C, which I’d be grateful for at that point, to receive the essay, and to my utmost disbelief, I get a B+, one point away from an A. The professor hands it to me and says, “this is a very good essay, but I expected better”.

            Just expected better? Very good essay? I wrote “Granger, H (2004)” in my final references…

 Now most of you reading this will ask “why is this b* complaining about not doing anything but still getting As and Bs? Some people bust their “behinds” and still get sh** grades”

My response to the former is: This example was just the tip of the iceberg. Because I value intellect so much, I genuinely feel like my brain cells are rotting away. Even though maybe just maybe I would have used those brain cells if I had put more effort. But frankly, I don’t respect the work enough nor do I see the purpose of putting more effort when I’m going to end up with a good grade anyway (so egotistical).

My response to the latter is: I’d rather bust my “behind” and get sh** grades and actually learn something new, than get excellent grades, not learn anything, and live in denial that I’m absolutely brilliant.

Which brings me back to IB: I learned so much, and really did work hard (sometimes), that compared to that I feel like it’s been a cake walk.

And on that bombshell (whatup Top Gear reference) a final note is that, I did learn one thing, which is to make the most of it (my free time) and I have been learning new subjects online (such a dork, I know) just to get my mind running again.

Bit of advice for those who might be feeling the same way 1- learn a new skill, be it an instrument, a language, or a subject. 2- get a job 3- try online courses (of your major or something you’re just interested in). And if you value intellect as much as I do, don’t take this lightly.

If all else fails, burn it and walk away.

sherlock

(Image: Sherlock, Season 4.)

Weirdest comments/questions I was asked as an Egyptian Muslim in the UK!

 

As an Egyptian, hijab wearing Muslim, living in the UK, I believe I have heard the weirdest ever questions about my Arabic background and my religion. Some questions are legit smart and make me do some research to actually find an answer, while some just leave me laughing out loud!

1-The number one most popular question is; do you have a camel back home?

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The closest I’ve ever been to a camel was in a zoo. And no we don’t move around using camels and we don’t all have a camel in our backyards!

2- It must be hard moving from a country that’s mostly a desert then coming to Europe right?

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Credits: Maher Najm, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mahernajm/

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Credits: Pietro Ferreira, https://www.flickr.com/photos/pietro_f/

The shock on lots of peoples’ faces after I show them pictures of Cairo or Alexandria (The two places where I lived in Egypt) is priceless! Because guess what? We don’t live in a desert after all!

3- Do you speak Hieroglyphic? 

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You bet I do!

4- You wear Pharaonic outfits in special occasions right?


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Now that’s what I call a fashion statement! And because lots of people truly believe in that myth, the answer is NO, we don’t wear Pharaonic outfits anywhere.

5- Aaanndd the one that never gets old; Do you live/Are you all buried in a Pyramid?

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Errrmm; no..

6- Did your dad ever see your hair? 

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I don’t even have a comment!

7- Muslim girls who wear hijab wear it to hide their hair when it’s ugly.

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Honey if I let down my wavy, shiny, chestnut hair, I’d steal the show!

In the end, a bit of research never hurt anybody! I may laugh at almost all of those questions when being asked them seriously! However, some of them are quite offensive and not everyone will take it lightly!

 

The Media Dominates

Have you ever read a newspaper and wondered how the news ‘coincidentally’ fits in the exact number of pages everyday?

It has baffled me for many years as to how do newspapers have this mysterious way of maintaining the exact amount of news on every single paper they sell!

This year when I started my University Journalism course, I was introduced to the term “News Values” which solved my paradox on the mysterious equal amount of news in newspapers.

It basically means that newspapers get to choose which pieces of news stories and other articles are ‘worthy’ of publishing on certain days and on certain issues.

This got me thinking again, but what makes a certain story worthy of publishing and another one unworthy?

Again in classes they explained that for a story to be worthy of publishing it must abide by a certain criteria checklist that each publication assign. So for example some publications only publish what they consider to be what their audience want to read only, others would publish stories based on their political agenda only, or some others would host a mix of stories to provoke their audience or generate a debate among them.

After further research into the subject of “News Values” it struck me that the media’s power in having an influence on the demographic was higher than I ever expected. It’s not just the newspapers that pick certain stories to publish and overlook others, it’s every other media outlet as well.

A very funny example, yet could be seen as sad in a way, that I face on regular basis is how many people in Europe still believe the Middle East is one large piece of desert! When in fact, some places in the Middle East such as Dubai or my very own hometown Cairo, are as far away from being a desert as possible. But the reason people still believe so, is because that’s how the media frames it, a large chunk of desert land with camels and tents!

Another example that I couldn’t help but notice is the coverage of the “Terrorist” attacks wave that has recently been hitting the world. During and after the Westminster attacks the media coverage and follow ups were, and still are in some extent, huge! The use of images, videos and sources was great. When it was revealed that the attacker was a Muslim and when ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks the coverage grew even bigger!

On the other hand, only a couple of weeks after the Westminster attacks, there was another attack in St Petersburg, Russia, where a bomb exploded in a train and killed 14 people. The media coverage was just as great as that of the Westminster attacks’, only until the suicide bomber was identified as a Russian, non-Muslim citizen, and no radical group claimed responsibility for the attacks, so the coverage started to slow down and follow ups were not as much detailed and everywhere to be found as what was seen on Westminster stories. It was no longer interesting.

Examples on that scales are so many. However, in so many occasions it seems to be overlooked by the people who may ignore the signs or just be genuinely unaware of the influence the media is putting on them.

All in all, I believe it is times like that need critical thinking more than ever in what one consumes from the media. The media truly is a double sided weapon and it needs to be handled carefully and with a little use of judgment. Media platforms today are more than just newspapers or TV or news websites, it’s everywhere on social media websites and all over the internet. Be smart, be critical.

(Header image credits: Jon Shttps://www.flickr.com/photos/62693815@N03/)

 

Go to places in UK to get away from the stress

As a journalism student, sometimes the stress just kicks in with the work I have to do and all the due dates I have to meet that I just need to get away from all of it and relax for a day or two. As a foreigner to the UK I have been doing some adventures trying to discover new places in the country and I have discovered some beautiful spots where one could just sit back and relax or even go do something interesting and fun away from all the stress.

Edinburgh

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The landscape in all of Scotland is mesmerizing. Edinburgh is known for the beautiful hills and green scenery that is so relaxing. It would be a great getaway for a weekend.

Chester

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Its a small city near Manchester but its full of things to do. From parks to Ice-cream farms, its really cozy and a great place if you have kids. P.S. it also has a lovely zoo.

London

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It still is my very favorite city in all of UK. It may be busy but the amount of fun you can have in London is huge. The museums and touristic places are endless. My very favorite thing in London was the ferry rides down the river Thames, specially at night when the whole city is lit, absolutely beautiful!

Northern Ireland

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(Credits: Meriam Haleem)

The mix of the greenery on the ground and the beautiful blue skies is just dazzling! It makes an amazing relaxing getaway.

 

Stay tuned for my future adventures which will come with a new list of places and more pictures 🙂

Brutally Judgmental

Did you ever laugh so hard at a meme making fun of someone on social media? Whether that certain someone was doing something seen as ‘stupid’ or not!

Did you ever think what the person you’re laughing at and picking on feels about that meme?

A couple of weeks ago I saw a picture of a girl and her friend (who happens to be a male), the girl wrote a post on Facebook about how that friend got her a gift and surprised her with it at her front door because she wasn’t feeling well.

She posted her reaction to her timeline where she publicly said she appreciated their long term friendship and went on about how friends are a crucial necessity to be happy.

Her post went viral with thousands of views, and accompanying all the fame was harsh backlash. Most of the comments were pointing out the fact that despite his presumably romantic efforts, she “FRIEND-ZONED” him awkwardly.

Eventually, after reading all the comments, the huge amount of judgmental comments left her depressed and overwhelmed.

She later posted about how sad the comments made her feel and that all the judgment shook their friendship.

People laughed and had fun tagging friends, not knowing that they were hurting someone’s feelings in the process.

Moral of the story, think twice before you re-post or even just write a judgmental comment on social media because words do kill, even if they are virtual!

Header image credits: Joe Penna, https://www.flickr.com/photos/pennajoe/

Books that changed my life!

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

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(Credits: Vanessa Fisher, https://www.flickr.com/photos/vanoodle/)

A Thousand Splendid Suns is by far my absolute favourite book! It’s about two Afghan women and their life struggles in Afghanistan and the Taliban. The way Hosseini managed to describe the heartbreaking events and the lives of those two women in a way that readers can relate to is just pure genius. It doesn’t just stop there, the book has so much historical information about Afghanistan, its political agenda, and the Afghani society that could not be this interesting in any other history book. Once you start the book, you can’t help but finish it!

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

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(Credits: Earthworm, https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthworm/2119128970)

Again a book about Afghanistan but this time it’s the males side of the story. The Kite Runner tells the story of two Afghan men in a very touching way. The story is very powerful, it even left me in tears at some parts. And again the book is quite rich in historical details. Hosseini’s use of words and descriptions in that book can only be described as a work of art.

Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom

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In this book, Albom tells his story with his childhood rabbi and a minister from his hometown. The book is a perfect example for religious toleration and calls for peace in the multi-faiths modern society.

The Forty Rules of Loves, Elif Shafak

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(Credits: http://blush.com.pk/book-review-the-forty-rules-of-love-by-elif-shafak/)

This book can only be described as a spiritual journey in which Shams of Tabriz takes the readers through his rules of love. Shafak builds a connection between shams and God with her brilliant use of words and descriptions which leaves you wanting to read more.

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho 

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(Credits: Evan Blaser, https://www.flickr.com/photos/evanblaser/)

The international bestseller takes readers on a journey with a young boy called Santiago in search of a treasure. Along the way, Santiago meets different people who teach him different lessons on life. The book is a true eye-opener and an Interesting read.

Animal Farm, George Orwell

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Politics has always been an area of interest for me, and to know more about politics you have to know more about its history, and there’s no better book to descriptively do both than “Animal Farm.” The book satirically tells the story of the Russian revolutions and criticizes the dictatorship in the form of a fairy tale. The book’s cover has the very catchy quote “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

(Header Image credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aki-photo/)

Who are you when nobody’s watching?

I read those words on a picture a few years ago. They immediately got into my head and made me think immensely,  who am I when nobody’s watching?!

I’ve always had this theory that nobody really knew who I am, what my personality was really like, not even me I guess.

Every person I have ever met has made an assumption, sometimes based on facts, as to who I am as a person. I’ve had friends who thought I was the most hilarious person they’ve ever met, others who thought comedy was not exactly my game. Friends who knew me for being a popularity queen, others who believe in their core I am the shyest, most timid person on Earth.

Some took me for a deep, intellectual thinker, others have only seen the silly side of me.

The truth is, I am all of those things. I am funny, when in the mood for it, and un-amusing when stuck in the wrong crowd. I am both confident and shy, and I am simultaneously deep and silly.

But the question remains, who am I when nobody’s watching?

The answer simply is, I don’t know!

I believe everybody’s life has a meaning, a purpose. Ever since I started asking myself the question of who I am, I have dedicated my life to answering that question.

I also believe everybody has the power to choose an answer to that question, you get to choose who you are, who you really want to be, how do you want people to know you.

At the moment, I like to think of myself as a woman of faith, faith in God, faith in dreams, faith in a better, brighter future.

And you, who are you when nobody’s watching?

Seven world renowned Journalists/Media figures to idolize

Growing up, I’ve always been the kid who likes to watch the news more than cartoon. Some Journalists and media figures have had a huge impact on my decision to be a journalist. Whether it is by how they made their way to greatness from the scratch or if they fought for freedom of speech, they have all inspired me in a way. In here, is a list of some of my favorites:

1- Christiane Amanpour

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(Credits: David Shankbone, https://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/)

The British-Iranian Journalist proved to be one of the few fearless Journalists there are. She is famous for her brilliant coverage of important political conflicts such as the Gulf War and the Bosnian War. She hosts a show on CNN called Amanpour. She has done interviews with some of the most famous world leaders such as the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former French President Jacques Chirac, Iranian presidents Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

2- Robert Fisk

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(Credits: Sofyan El Bouchtili, Flickr.com)

The English Journalist/Writer has been a Middle East correspondent in the Arab world for over 40 years. Covering conflicts in Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, and the 2011 Arab revolutions. He Occasionally described himself as an ‘Ottoman correspondent’ because of the huge area he covers,  He has written best-selling books on the Middle East, such as Pity the Nation and The Great War for Civilization. (The Independent, 2017)

3- Yosri Fouda

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(Credits: Engima magazine)

Fouda is an Egyptian born Journalist/Writer. He is most famous for his interviews with the September 11 figures, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. He has published many books such as ‘Masterminds of Terror’, and ‘Capture or Kill: The Pursuit of the 9/11 Masterminds and the Killing of Osama bin Laden’ which were both co-written alongside the British investigative journalist Nick Fielding.

4- Oprah Winfrey

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(Credits: Greg Hernandez, https://www.flickr.com/photos/greginhollywood/)

You can’t really talk about the media without mentioning “The Queen of all Media” Oprah Winfrey. For years she has been the idol of so many women all over the world and she has changed the lives of thousands of people through her television show. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former USA President Barack Obama. She starred in some films and was nominated for an Academy award for he role in ‘The Color Purple’. She has her own radio channel and magazine and has co-written several books.

5- Jon Stewart

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(Credits: Peabody Awards, https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/)

The American comedian and television host had been a huge influence because of his satire show “The Daily Show” that often criticized the American media and politicians. He has written many books, one of which ‘Naked Pictures of Famous People’ was a New-York Times bestseller.

6- Bassem Youssef

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(Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

The Egyptian satirist was originally a cardio-thoracic surgeon. However, at the time of the January revolution in Egypt, he started his own video channel with a thread of comedy criticizing videos of the Egyptian media. His show ‘Al-bernameg’ grew bigger and bigger and he was named the first ever satirist of his kind in the Arab world. He was compared to the American Jon Stewart and he often mentioned how he idolized Stewart and even made an appearance on his show in 2012.

7- Diane Sawyer

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(Credits: David Shankbone, https://www.flickr.com/photos/shankbone/)

Sawyer is an American T.V. Journalist. She is one of the most influential journalists in the world. She has delivered in-depth and breaking news reports from around the world, and has conducted interviews with almost every major news-maker of our time. Her documentaries have won critical acclaim for shedding light on difficult and under-reported topics. (ABC News, 2015)

Letter to my future daughter

Dear future daughter,

I hope this letter finds you well.

I may not have much experience in life but let me give you some advice on what I know and have seen in this world.

First off, know your worth. Know you are important. Know you are precious and loved in more ways than one. And most importantly, know that you are capable of achieving whatever you set your mind up to. And if anybody tells you can’t do something; you prove them wrong!

Know you are beautiful. Whether you are white, black, Asian, short, tall, thin, overweight, have silky hair, have curly hair…etc, you are you and that is beautiful! And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!

Travel the world! Meet new people. Learn all about different cultures. There is no better way to learn. It’s a therapy for the mind and soul. You’ll find beauty wherever you go.

Know that home, is where the people you love are. From my experience, it’s never about the place, it’s always the people that make the place worthwhile. You may find the need to belong, to a home, a country, maybe even a group of people, so choose wisely where you belong and be careful not to get your heartbroken by a place you called home.

Know that family is the most important thing in life, they’re your backbone and support system, so don’t lose your family for anything or anyone.

Know that your religion is important, but god made us brains for a reason, so don’t believe everything you’re told without thinking carefully. God is not cruel, and a religion that is not about peace and humanity is not something you should believe in.

Respect people, respect differences, and have an open mind. Don’t ever judge a book by its cover. You’d be surprised how many times you’ve judged someone and turned out to be wrong. At the end of the day we are all human.

Know that you are a free woman and you can make your own choices in life. You are allowed to do what you want, to say what you want, and to act the way you want. As long as you are not hurting anyone with your actions, you’re a free bird. So never let yourself be kept in a cage.

Stand up for what you believe in. Whether it’s a thought, or a person, or even your own self. Never be afraid of vague threats, most of the time they’re acts of weakness. Be confident. Confidence is scary, it’s intimidating to lots of people, but it’s the key to success.

Learn how to love. Love the place, love the people, but don’t forget to love yourself.

May the world be less cruel by the time you arrive. May people learn to be more kind and tolerant. May you never witness a day of sadness or sorrow. May you be a strong woman and a powerful role model. May you thrive and fly in your own skies.

With love,

Your future mother

 

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