Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gaza demo - Abu Dhabi

This was a while ago. I had been mainly watching the war in Gaza on Al Jazeera Arabic and I have to admit they do some very good quality (& obviously partisan) montages using various footage, punchy photos, inventive lettering and dramatic music. So the intro and outro to this slideshow are influenced by that...

The demo itself was pretty big, surprisingly so. There are a lot of Palestinians in the UAE, some (many?) from families that left the Palestine area after the war in 1948, never to return. You sometimes see references to this population in news articles or blogs, they are often described as the "smarter and more capable" Palestinians of the time. Anyway, the UAE doesn't have a tradition of encouraging demonstration so the fact that police closed off the Corniche for several thousand people to walk along yelling is significant. Some of the chants and placards were pretty hairy by sensitive Western standards, with women leading kids in chants of "Death to Israel" and so on.

Indeed had this demo taken place in the UK there could easily have been arrests for "incitement to racial hatred" (which saw people jailed in the UK for encouraging the bombing of European countries during a protest against publication of the Mohammed Cartoons. The same charge could have been levelled at John McCain for his contemptible chant of "Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran").

But obviously this wasn't the UK, this is the Middle East and things are different. The overall mood was lively but not confrontational - one UK colleague professed slight disappointment that there hadn't been more friction between demonstrators and the police. But again, that's how they do things in Europe, not in the UAE...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Covering the GCC summit in Oman

The big stories at the GCC summit in Muscat, Oman, were of course Israel's assault on Gaza, which the GCC was unable to react to in any meaningful way, and monetary union for the 6 GCC states, which they were decisive on: we will see the common currency, to be called the "Khaleeji" (Gulfy) or the "Karam" (something to do with generosity), by 2011, allegedly...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taking a break from freelancing

It looks unlikely that I will be working as a freelancer for a while. I've found myself doing it for most of the past 3.5 years and what I've found toughest is managing myself.

Work itself can be found, but it's easier to find the good stuff if you're feeling fresh, positive and sharp. Things like proper sleep, regular exercise, social life and hobbies help cultivate this but in turn the irregularity of freelancing can make it trickier to organise a routine, especially if like me you are the type that works like a cheetah, burning lots of energy in a high-octane sprint and then needing a long break to recharge the battery.

I remember watching a nature programme showing the cheetah performing an unbelievable kill - and then being too tired to prevent a hyena ambling up and stealing the carcass.

A lack of colleagues and of an office to go to to vary your daily backdrop can lead to a sense of isolation, particularly if you work in print and don't collaborate with anyone beyond your interviewees to create the product. It's lonely out there, like standing near the top of a mountain. You have to be tough to embrace the freedom, to breathe in all that oxygen without becoming too dizzy. Of course, jumping into a new country every 6 months doesn't make it any easier...

I hadn;t considered much of this when I launched 3.5 years ago - although of course it's common sense. Anything is easier and better if you're feeling good. Above all, you need to feel good in your life because it's your life.

My plan now is to work full-time for a period and try to use the routine to find some stability upon which to build. If I can find that then I may be able to consider going freelance again. If you;re going to climb the mountains of the mind then you need good kit.

I wrote this after seeing this freelancer profile on His tips were:

* A few words of warning, and advice: never, ever stop marketing, even when you are snowed under; it is always easier to get new work when you already have work, than to go cold-calling when you have none.

* Never think you've cracked it: I have lost count of the number of times that I have had praise heaped on me for my performance, only to then lose the contract in question. The minute people start telling me that they couldn't do something without me and that I'm the best in a particular field, I start hearing alarm bells.

* Never ever send out an email without a message stating your availability for work, and carrying your contact details.

* Never ever turn down work if you can possibly avoid it. So long as it meets your quality and yield criteria, take it and worry later how you will fit it in. People you reject tend not to come back.

Reading the rest of his profile I was struck by how often he referred to taking a run as part of his routine.

Here are a couple of other sites I saved at Delicious:

A passionate amateur almost always beats a bored professional

Beating the work blues

Making the most of your time

*** Pix taken yesterday at Cherry Tree Wood ***

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Icesave - gits!

Icesave - gits!, originally uploaded by Tom Spender.

Great - now facing having to claim back my 2 ISAs. Come on Putin - please bail out Iceland so they in turn can bail me out...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Wedding bells

Congratulations Robbie & Seiko!!!

PHOTOS from the wedding can be seen HERE

Seiko - a big konichiwa to the Spender family...