Duqqa and Despotism

This post title is dedicated to Carrie’s performance reading of the blurbs from The Peridale Cafe Mystery series.

Our selfie with Bassem Youssef

Our selfie with Bassem Youssef

Last night we went down to Hyde Park with Jason and Carrie for a screening of Tickling Giants, a documentary about ‘the Jon Stewart of Egypt’, Bassem Youssef, and his satirical TV show Al Bernameg which ran from 2011 to 2014. The comparison with The Daily Show is appropriate because Youssef was openly inspired by Stewart, but also underplays the phenomenon of Al Bernameg which at its height drew an audience of 30 million out of a total Egyptian population of 82 million.

The film runs through the show’s beginnings on YouTube amid the protests which toppled Mubarak, its glory days under the unpopular (though elected) Morsi and then growing intimidation and finally cancellation once General Sisi comes to power.  ‘Cancellation’ is a mild word, but it comes about through protesters outside the studio chanting for Youssef’s death, the arrest of the crew’s family members, the scrambling of the satellite transmission and finally a warrant for the arrest of Youssef himself, who instead flees to the US with his wife and young daughter. And all the while, Youssef and his amazing team of young writers and other crew battle on for their right to satirise the news. When Stewart refers to himself as ‘America’s Bassem Youssef’ towards the end, he’s not really joking.

Youssef himself was at the screening for Q&A, book signing and self-taking opportunities. Unsurprisingly he is intensely charismatic and funny. Oh, and he’s also a surgeon. So if you get a chance, definitely go check out Tickling Giants.

Enjoying the sun with Francisco

Enjoying the sun with Francisco

La Scarola with Billy and Taylor

La Scarola with Billy and Taylor

Other stuff! After too long a gap we had a reunion with Billy and Taylor at La Scarola, and enjoyed catching up so much that Randi forgot to eat any of her food. We also celebrated Catherine’s birthday with much luxuorious foundue at Geja’s (where no one forgot to eat anything), took advantage of the sunshine while Francisco was in town to wander around Lincoln Park, tricked an unsuspecting group of friends into watching Channel 4’s Naked Attraction (sorry about that) and celebrated heartily on Friday night at Paul Ryan’s big fat healthcare failure. With Indian food, as you do.

Randi and I also decided to expand our pitiful film watching a little. I picked Gladiator because I’d had several “you’ve never seen Gladiator?!” moments recently… and it was fine. An enjoyable 155 minutes, for me at least, although I kept stupidly expecting a scene where everyone would defiantly claim to be Spartacus. Turns out that was in Spartacus. Randi’s choice, Spotlight, was a more unanimous success, although it must be said that the more sobering part of watching a film about brave investigative journalists expose the cover-up of child abuse within the Catholic Church is not the story itself – which I sorta already knew – but the nagging feeling of “wait, who’s paying for investigative journalists anymore?”.

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