owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
2002 SFF: M. John Harrison, BSFA: Gwyneth Jones
2003 SFF: Kim Newman, BSFA: Ian Watson
2004 SFF: Alastair Reynolds, BSFA: Paul McAuley. Also, Liz Williams.
2005 SFF: Karen Traviss, BSFA: Ian McDonald
2006 SFF: Steven Baxter, BSFA: Juliet McKenna. Also, Bruce Sterling.
2007 SFF: Francis Spufford, BSFA: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
2008 SFF: Geoff Ryman, BSFA: Peter Weston
2009 SFF: Paul Kincaid, BSFA: Nick Harkaway
2010 SFF: Rob Shearman, BSFA: Malcolm Edwards
2011 SFF: Mike Ashley, BSFA: Tricia Sullivan
2012 SFF: Aliette de Bodard, BSFA: Marek Kukula
2013 SFF: Gaie Sebold, BSFA: Ben Aaronovitch
2014 SFF: Jo Fletcher, BSFA: Frances Hardinge
2015 Brian Aldiss, Pat Cadigan (joint SFF-BSFA guests)
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
Older women rarely get to be protagonists, or otherwise portray as complex and interesting characters. That's a reason why there was a moderate amount of buzz around Harry Connelly's A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark. Its aging protagonist had adult nephews, and a long career in her past. It's sad that's worthy of remark.

Worse than not being the star of a tale is the opposite: being entirely erased from the narrative.

So last week we took Grouting to Peppa Pig World. It was vaguely en route to where we were spending most of the week, and other parents whose judgement I trust had told me it was worth going. It was, indeed, a decent day out and we didn't run out of things to do, Grouting crashing before we made it through all seven toddler-friendly rides plus other things and people to browse and meet respectively. She played in the small water park and was hugged by Susie Sheep. The weather wasn't too bad.

What was increasingly obvious to me, however, was that Granny Pig was nowhere to be seen. Peppa is a young anthropomorphized pig, with a younger brother George, parents, and grandparents on her mother's side, all of whom play major roles in the television series. Her grandmother has a pet parrot, raises chickens, has an orchard, cooks, and creates games for her grandchild. She is, following entrenched gender norms, nurturing. Her grandfather takes them on adventures in their boat and on his miniature train. He is, to be clich├ęd, a man of action. He also tends the garden.

In the themepark, right next to the entrance, is "Grandpa Pig's House", with Grandpa standing outside. There's "Grandpa Pig's Train" to ride on and "Grandpa Pig's Boats" to ride in. In the dinosaur ride, there's Grandpa Pig again, looking after the garden and telling the riders about seed packets. Two of the seven rides are named after, and sculpturally manned by him, and he appears in a third.

There is not a single Granny Pig to be found outside of the gift shop. She's even been erased from her own house.

In this version of Peppa's world, has Granny died? Was Grandpa divorced much earlier? Is Granny lurking inside house, her name not on the deed to the property?

Or, mostly likely, is it that Granny is categorized as so much background noise, nurturing and supporting, but not leading adventures?

Except for that, I had an unexpectedly decent time there.
owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:50pm on 13/08/2015 under ,
The phrase "bunfight" has been in avid use today, apropos of UK university Clearing, the process by which would-be university students go shopping for last-minute university paces, this year run on an unprecedented scale. (For example, in this THE article.)

I've assumed from long-casual reading that it meant "a conflict over something relatively trivial." But today's ubiquity prompted me to go digging a bit further.

The OED fails to mention this meaning, which briefly made me wonder if I had it all wrong.
bun-fight n. a jocular expression for a tea-party (cf. tea-fight n. at tea n. Compounds 3).
1928 R. Campbell Wayzgoose 7 It [the wayzgoose] combines the functions of a bun-fight, an Eisteddfod and an Olympic contest.

But it was baffling to think my friends were calling Clearing an expression of civility.

Collins does better with meaning #2 being "a petty squabble or argument".

More historical synonyms for bunfight in the tea party sense... )

A bun-fight Ngram: the rise of "bunfight", although without distinguishing between its senses.

Another person to briefly look at the subject observed the nineteenth-century terms "crumpet-scamble" and "muffin-worry" as synonyms for "bunfight", in the sense of "tea party".

It's not clear than anyone has bothered digging back to exactly where the argument meaning was first documented, but presumably it was post-'20s.
owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 05:13pm on 07/07/2015 under ,
The first few times Grouting was sent forth from a child's birthday party with a slice of cake wrapped up in a paper napkin, I assumed it was an oversight. They'd forgotten to bring wax paper or tin foil or whatever for wrapping the slice of decorated sponge cake.

But no. Clearly this is ensconced tradition. With a single exception where the grandmother made sure we were all offered cake to eat at the birthday party itself, Grouting has consistently been sent away from her cohort's parties with cake wrapped in a paper napkin.

I knew about being sent off with slices of fruit cake from weddings, but fruit cake lasts in a way that sponge - especially iced sponge which sticks to paper napkins - does not. Marzipan holds up better than the frequently-encountered buttercream on birthday cakes.

This is a baffling tradition to someone who'd rather just eat the cake at the party when it's fresh. Unless a gift bag with bonus paper+cake is excavated promptly, it goes rapidly stale, and is already sticky. And it's really easy to forgot to do it promptly if, for whatever reason, one's offspring is not inclined to lead the way on doing so that particular day.

How long as this been a tradition in England or further afield? And WHY?
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 02:03pm on 22/05/2015 under
There were fewer pieces I felt strongly about in the second semi-final, even if one more country was competing for the same number of places as on Tuesday.

Second semi-final comments... )

Voting: You'll be glad to know the BBC saved money by re-using the existing recordings of Graham Norton saying the names of all the countries. Even though he's not hosting this year. (Or at least hasn't been co-hosting the semis.)
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 02:38pm on 21/05/2015 under
Notes on Eurovision Semi-Final #1 (Spoilers, for any of you who want to watch it still and don't know who's gone through to the final)

Hurray, four female-presenting hosts! Surely that's a first for Eurovision?

The following is in alphabetical order, not performance order.

Semi-final entries.... )
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 02:43pm on 20/05/2015 under ,
I realized yesterday that none of the local baby/toddler song groups I've been going to for the last several years has done "I'm a little teapot." And yet I *know* I know at least a couple of UK natives who know it, having heard them use it before.

[Poll #2011574]

P.S. There's a missing "have" in that last line.
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 03:20pm on 19/05/2015 under
[I have run out of time to finish this post before going to collect Grouting, so in case I don't get a chance to get back to this later today, I'll post it as-is now.]

Most years, I write up my first impressions of the Eurovision entries, based on their videos. Often, the videos are highly distracting, and better or worse than the songs themselves.

This year, I've already watched most of the videos over the course of the previous week with my daughter. Grouting's favorite entry is the Australian one. Yes, that well-known part of Europe, Australia. The country has lots of Eurovision fans, and this is a one-off (in theory) as part of Eurovision's 60th anniversary celebrations.

I will finish updating this later... )
owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 03:25pm on 09/04/2015 under , ,
One advantage of doing a formal celebration with a very small number of people is that, several years ago when it happened, we felt we choose a really nice restaurant for it. I was initially leaning towards Hibiscus: creative, high reviewed, private dining room. Only on further reflection, I started to think that Claude Bosi's cooking might be a little *too* creative to impose on my extended family. I wanted them to enjoy the meal a little less critically than the truly unexpected might permit.

In the intervening years, the restaurant has, from all accounts, only improved. Last year, Bosi bought the restaurant back from its backers, and with full oversight, has pushed the cuisine in new and interesting ways. It was very pleasant; but one of the first tidbits to arrive reaffirmed my certainty that we had made the right choice in going somewhere else for the wedding meal.

Arriving in dark wooden block holder, two svelte, crisp ice cream cones looked gentile, but were, in fact, revelatory. As introduced by our waiter, they held smooth, fairly delicate, light fois gras ice cream, with an underlying, hidden layer of blood orange jelly - gently tart, brilliantly, glowingly, red - filling the bottom of the cone, slowly oozing out through the small shatters of narrow cone. Creamy ice cream, sweetly tart orange. It was delicious.
owlfish: (Feast)
A post of [livejournal.com profile] desperance's on kumquats reminds me that I've been meaning to start writing about our meal at Hibiscus. I'll be writing this in likely-erratic installment. Thanks to Chaz, I'm starting with the cheese course.

The cheese course was a sumptuous lump of melted Mont d'Or cheese partially smeared across a plate, a modest quantity to keep us comfortable in the midst of the installments of a tasting menu. A little bit of well-cooked leek added nominal vegetative fattiness to the cheese's well-rounded unctuousness. Black truffle shavings were applied, as they were to many dishes, with unnecessary abandon and, oddly, more coarse texture than flavor.

But the leek and truffle played supporting roles. The thin slices of lightly candied kumquat were the real contrast to the Mont d'Or, their distinctive sharp bittersweetness assertively balancing the smooth richness.

It was an evocative moment for me, one which put me on the edge of tears, because kumquats - a fruit of which I am not especially fond, but can work well as a condiment - are the fruit which reminds me of Louise Noun.

My family were over at her apartment for a rare dinner there (my memory is that she didn't really like to cook), her amazing collection of artwork by female artists on the walls. I was probably a high schooler at the time. After the meal, she served a bowl of fruit for dessert, and I tried my first kumquat: small, hard, bitter. It was so small, I thought I surely could finish it, and did. It wasn't a particularly pleasant experience, although obviously I grateful for the introduction.

The bittersweetness though wasn't just from the fruit or the largely pleasant memories of that dinner. It's Louise herself. She said she would commit suicide when sufficient age incapacitated her to the extent that she was in danger of becoming more burden than benefit. And she did.

She was in her 90s, she lived an amazing, accomplished life, and she ended it on her own terms. It still took away from my mother one of her best friends, and from the rest us, a well-loved family friend. One aspect of her work lives on the Chrysalis Foundation, which works to help girls and women be safe, secure, and educated.

So that was the cheese course.

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