Today Chad & I went with some friends on a bus tour to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. The advantage of taking a bus tour (or possibly just this particular tour, I'm not sure) is that (a) you don't have to drive there yourself—major advantage, twisty narrow narrow roads; and (b) reserved time for a tour of Newgrange (again, I don't know if all buses get this).

Newgrange is really fascinating. It's a passage tomb that's over 5,000 years old and that's aligned so that the burial chamber in the center is lit by the winter solstice. The passage in is very narrow and low (we had at least one person decide that they were that claustrophobic after all), but being inside this vaulted chamber, that has stood water-tight for all this time, that was decorated by the builders (and then, alas, defaced by vandals over decades before the site was properly excavated and controlled), well, it's kind of hard to describe how amazing it is. The art of the interior and also the exterior kerbstones that circle the base is also mesmerizing.

Here are a few pictures of the exterior:

Chad outside the heavily-carved entrance stone

the reconstructed front wall—this is controversial, because fairly early in the tomb's history it stopped being used and the stones and earth on the top slid down and covered everything, and so while the big dark stones on the bottom were in place when it was excavated, the white quartz stones were on the ground. Wikipedia says that critics think the technology to put a retaining wall at that angle wasn't available at that time and that a plaza/path is more likely (Chad heard someone describe it today as kind of a classic 1970s over-reconstruction). The reconstruction is very visually striking, from a long ways away, and I'm sure a plaza would have been likewise.

Carved kerbstone roughly a third of the way around to the back.

Then we had basic sandwiches & soup, and rather good pie (there's a caramel and banana pie which is apparently very good if one likes banana) at a farm just down the hill, and then we piled back in the bus and went to the exhibition center that's been built to control visitors to Newgrange, which is 1/2 mile directly but our bus had to go the long way. This did a nice job of context, though its reconstruction of the passage is way too wide and its reconstruction of the chamber leaves out the left-side chamber that opens off the main one, which was the biggest and apparently most-important (two basins instead of one). I also bought some art from a local artist who was part of a craft fair that's held there for a few weeks in high tourist season.

Then we went to the Hill of Tara. Considering it's relatively low, the view is amazing; I can absolutely believe you can see 20% of the island on a clear day (which we did NOT have) and that it would be hugely symbolically important.

We had a tour guide meet us there and heard about the church & the Rath of the Synods, which is a very lumpy area that was a ringfort, a circular fort surrounded by walls or embankments, which was dug up by a bunch of unscientific types hoping to find proof of some religious theory I can't remember the details of now, and it took about three years (?) to rally public opinion enough to get the means to stop them. We peeked into another Neolithic passage tomb, this one much smaller, called the Mound of the Hostages, and heard about the full skeleton of a teenage boy that, unusually, had been buried there (cremation was the norm) with grave goods suggesting high status; the guide said that he was believed to have been a visitor who was being accorded an honor?

And then we went over to the Forradh (Royal Seat) which is the current location of the purported Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, where the High Kings were crowned. (At this point the rain, which started over at the Mound, was blowing sideways and we got pretty soaked, but it didn't last long.) What particularly fascinated me about this is that the stone was moved in the early 1800s allegedly to mark graves of Irish fighters in the Battle of Tara in 1798, but our guide said that that part hadn't been excavated so it wasn't clear whether those burials did take place. That was not that long ago! Anyway, we were able to admire the view with clouds but at least without rain before we squelched back to the bus.

We went back to the tapas place from last night for dinner because it was only 5:00 and we knew they'd be open and would be good for a group, and shared round many dishes and enjoyed it very much. Then Chad & I came back to the hotel so I could drop off my art and change into dry socks, and we walked around some more.

First we went to Merrion Park, which is near-ish and which has some very nice public art, some colorful and some quiet. There's also a great Jester's Chair that's a genuinely fun tribute to Dermot Morgan, an Irish comedian and actor (Chad will be uploading pics of both of us in it, I think) and a monument to Oscar Wilde that shows him lounging on a big rock, with choices quotes hand-written (etched) into two columns that have statues on top.

Then we discovered that the National Gallery of Ireland is open late on Thursday nights and went in for a half-hour wander. I took a bunch of pictures which I briefly put up on G+, but I was able to find them all on the Gallery's website, so I will just link directly:

"Banks of a Canal, near Naples," Gustave Caillebotte, c.1872. I find this weirdly compelling.

"The Castle of Bentheim," Jacob Isaacksz. van Ruisdael, 1653. I'm fairly sure I've seen this cover art before, and I mean that in a good way.

Things that need to be captioned by the Toast: "Bathers Surprised," William Mulready, 1852-1853; and "Saint Mary Magdalen," Felice Ficherelli, c.1640 (which made me want to bust out laughing).

"The Artist's Studio : Lady Hazel Lavery with her Daughter Alice and Stepdaughter Eileen, 1909-1913," John Lavery. It's a huge work and the photo can't convey how creepy the looming dark space over the actual people is.

"The Cottage Girl," Thomas Gainsborough, 1785. Chad says this is the face of "They gave me this puppy but I really wanted a cat."

"Ophelia", Margaret Clarke. An extremely good Ophelia from Hamlet.

"The Taking of Christ," , Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1602. It's stunning.

And tomorrow we'll do another museum or two here and then fly back to London, and then Saturday morning I head back to the States (and SteelyKid and the Pip! I miss them so much. No delays for weather, volcanos, or other disasters, universe, please.).
What, I answered comments instead of starting this report right away, I'm losing steam now. (The sangria's probably worn off, though.)

So today we tramped around Dublin and saw All the Old Things. We started at Trinity College, to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room.

Now, I have been to see these things before, in 1997 with [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel and possibly also [livejournal.com profile] papersky. And it might be just my terrible memory (I have a journal from this era, but it's in a format and possibly a location I can't read right now), but what I remember is looking at a couple gospels from the Book of Kells, open to whatever page they decided for that time period, and then looking down the Long Room and saying "yup. Long."

Things have become considerably more informative since then. There is a couple rooms worth of displays before the Book of Kells about the history, what materials were used to make it and what the illustrations meant, the scholarly theories on how many people worked on it, what they did about errors, all kinds of things. My favorite tidbits were two: (1) there's a whole page that was copied twice, which in a remarkable show of restraint is merely marked with red crosses in the margins; and (2) the illustrations sometimes went out of their way to emphasize the Latin meaning "he (Jesus) said", including once drawing a lion, which formed the first two letters, with its paws held to its mouth, which was surprisingly adorable.

Also, because the exhibit blows up all the illustrations so you can see the detail, it's all the more impressive to see the actual thing, which is bigger than a standard hardcover these days but not that much bigger, and all the exquisite artwork is tiny.

The Long Room had a display about Brian Boru which was told with text banners on one side and the most amazing art banners on the other: you can see all of them at the exhibit's webpage, and I highly recommend looking (they're by Cartoon Saloon, a local animation studio). It also had relevant original documents and artifacts as well as other pop-culture things about Brian, like a Mexican comic book.

And, of course, it's a really long room filled with books. And the very narrow ladders needed to reach the top shelves.

(It was very crowded even pretty much first thing on a week-day morning, but with some patience and willingness to maneuver, you can read and see everything. And they send you through the gift shop on the way back out too, not just on the way in, though weirdly I was prepared to buy a big pack of postcards with images from the Book of Kells (I was going to rotate through them with the diptychs from Bath), but the gift shop would only sell me individual ones, and only 7 different ones at that.)

Before we left, we saw workers restoring the cobblestones, which involved re-laying the stones themselves and then pouring asphalt or suchlike around them with what looked all the world like gravy boats.

Then we walked over to Dublin Castle, which I was also at in 1997—I went to the Eurocon, which was held in the convention-center part of the complex. Have some pictures:

On the way: stained glass over the Olympia Theatre

An example of the conglomeration that is Dublin Castle: a medieval tower joined to a more modern building, electricity included.

Two bits of the Royal Chapel (which dates from about 1814): how you did ventilation back then, and child(-like?) faces judging you from the ceiling.

One of a set of cool sand sculptures.

Did I mention, conglomeration?

The accompanying gardens are not very interesting in the center (flat grass laid out in a circle with spiraling brick paths to look nice from above), but in each of the four corners around the circle was something hidden: a memorial, a glass snake, another sculpture, and an overlook with garden and more statuary. It was pretty great.

There was also a free exhibit on the Ulysses Cylinders, which doubtless would have been more meaningful to me if I'd read Ulysses, but the process of making the glass cylinders themselves was pretty neat: a painter sketched designs, glassworkers recreated them in very thin rods of glass, and that glass design was then impressed on the hot unblown glass that would become the cylinders. (This involved a big team of people, none of whom are credited at the opening of the exhibit, but which are mentioned in the second room, which has the details on how it was done.)

After that we had an undistinguished lunch at the first place that appeared to be open (though it was serving drinks but not food for another fifteen minutes), and then we went Christ Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Christ Church was not as interesting to me, and I can't put my finger on why? I mean, both of them have needed heavy repairs over time, and Christ Church has actual crypts, but St. Patrick's must play on some prejudice of mine regarding what "old" looks like. Also, it has better stained glass and is well-supplied with anecdotes about Jonathan Swift, who was Dean there for over thirty years.

I don't have a lot of pictures, because they're dark inside and the cameraphone can't cope with stained glass, alas, but here's a few:

Flying buttresses at Christ Church—I can't remember if this is the side that's 18 inches off plumb? It's incredibly disorienting.

A well-loved cat outside Christ Church.

A rare face on the exterior of St. Patrick's: no gargoyles, no statues, just this little face and, on the window below, two looking inward at the end of the surrounding direction, which are not nearly as prominent (and not in this picture). If anyone knows more, please chime in.

Anyway, we stomped around those, and then we stomped around by the river, and then we came back to the hotel and took a short nap before dinner, being thoroughly stomped-out.

We had tapas at Zaragoza for dinner, which was very tasty and a great value—we were there just before 6:30 and thus got their early bird special, which was a plate of 6 dishes for €17 and which would have been more than enough for just me. Chad & I split one of those and also had a single extra dish, and it was all delicious. (It was often difficult to get a server's attention, but when we did, they were pretty prompt.) Recommended if you're in the area.

Tomorrow, Newgrange and Tara.
I have two more panel reports to do, but I am so, so tired and I have promised myself that I will go to bed before 10 tonight. So have some tourism instead.

Monday we blew off all panels in favor of conversation with people and wandering around the dealers' room & exhibits (more on that later). And that was excellent and restorative. Then we had a reservation for the extremely touristy event of afternoon tea at a fancy hotel.

Specifically, The Wolseley, which one of our guidebooks said was good and fancy and also about half the price of afternoon tea at most other places. And indeed it was: here's our two-person tier of sandwiches, desserts, and scones (under the dome). It was all great: the sandwiches were not flavors I want a lot of, but they were a nice base for the scones, which are (a) ballast and (b) a delivery vehicle for copious quantities of clotted cream (mmm) and strawberry preserves. And then there were the desserts; turns out I hate marzipan with an unholy passion, which is what the checkered cake is flavored with, but everything else was excellent. (I had green tea because I don't much like tea and I rarely drink caffeine. It was hot.)

So that was delightful, which was good because we had a not-very-fun adventure getting there. [profile] mari_ness came with, and though the TFL website assured me we could be step-free all the way, it specified that to go to Green Park you had to get on a particular car number on the Jubilee Line. Well, we didn't see any numbers, but it seemed like a high number so we went toward the back and hoped for the best. Turns out that access at Green Park is in the form of a "hump" in the platform, and the door we initially tried to use had a several-inches step down. We could have managed it—Chad could have helped Mari lower her chair out backwards, or she could have walked the couple steps necessary—but we had no notice of why we needed a specific car and we kind of froze for a moment, while the train was all the while getting ready to leave. Fortunately Chad, who'd gotten out first, saw that the next door down from us was at the platform hump and we made it out, but it was an unpleasant jolt. And then to get to the lifts involves this endless set of sloping hallways, and getting out of Green Park itself is extremely steep, and I was feeling pretty terrible by the end of it for suggesting that we take the DLR/Tube just because it was half as long as the bus.

tl;dr: accessibility on the Tube sucks.

After our tea, we waved Mari into a cab (they all have ramps built-in and capacious interiors) and wandered around to work off some of the food. We headed down to Trafalgar Square and past Westminster, and I took some pictures along the way:

The current art on the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square, which is a giant blue rooster ("Hahn/Cock," 2013, by Katharina Fritsch).

A somewhat odd memorial to the women of WWII.

Sunlight glinting off gilt with ominous background clouds.

"Big Ben! Parliament!"

Then we picked up laundry and found people at the tail end of the con and drank and talked, and then I packed, fretting all the while that I was missing something because I had so much space—even though I knew that I'd vacuum-bagged some stuff and put it in a different suitcase—and had a hard time getting to sleep because I was all anxiety-ish.

Unfortunately the—not brain weasels, that's too serious, what's a smaller critter in the same family?—were still running around this morning, even though objectively everything went very well until we hit Dublin: no significant delays, no hassles, luggage came through.

Ugh, I can't even bear to rehash all the details. Suffice it to say that we walked with our luggage for way longer than we should have trying to find our hotel, at least half of which was my fault, so, awesome; and our smartphones are completely useless as phone-and-data devices for the duration of this part of the trip [*], so we had to buy the cheapest call-and-text-only phone possible just to give us a way to be reached here in Ireland.

[*] We're on pay-as-you-go, somehow got out of Heathrow without "topping up", i.e., paying to add credit to our phones, and (1) Vodafone IE can't add credit to Vodafone UK phones and (2) Vodafone UK won't accept credit cards with zip codes rather than post codes. So we have no way to pay for roaming here.

But then we had good food and drinks at the Porterhouse [*], which also established that I am now spoiled for easily-available cider in the U.S., because I like the darker, richer stuff from Ireland (and one of the kinds I had in Bristol) much better, and then we stomped around looking at St. Stephen's Green (very pretty), and noticing Captain America's Cookhouse and Bar and Writers' Tears Whisky, and now we have something like a plan for the next days of tourism, so all is well.

[*] Its Oyster Stout is literally made with oysters, which Chad did not know before he tried it. He said it was very good.

(Apologies to Dublin for the entry tag; I created it before I knew we were coming to Dublin, and to change it now would break links elsewhere.)
A list. I see at least one of those being retweeted by people I trust to know those involved (the #OperationHelpOrHush PayPal)--news searches are not coming up useful for me right now, maybe because I'm in the UK?
I have just discovered that not only am I solo-parenting for the week after I get back from this vacation, but that daycare will be closed for two of those days, the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day. (Chad gets back probably mid-day the Sunday just before Labor Day, assuming no delays.)

Yeah. See the subject line (half-day trips! Extended projects! Lots of time at the swimming pool! Comprehensively getting over missing them a lot now!), with an addition of "think of the motivation to be stunningly efficient at work!"

. . . right?
It's late but I'm jazzed from good conversation and think I can quickly make this presentable before I go to bed.

Description:

Strictly speaking, there's no reason an artificial intelligence should express gender in human terms (or at all). Yet in much recent film and TV -- such as WALL-E, Her, Person of Interest, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Caprica -- gender and/or sexuality has been integral to the vision of AI. How have such portrayals affected what stories are told? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What would it mean to imagine a genderless AI -- or a queer AI?

Charlie Jane Anders, Abigail Nussbaum, Nic Clarke, Michael Morelli,Jed Hartman

Nic: reviewer, watched all the programs being discussed

Jed: former fiction editor for Strange Horizons, now consumes media; fascinated by gender for long time

Mike: Masters student, giving paper on sexuality in Banks tomorrow, feminist literary critic

Abigail: blogger & reviewer, Reviews editor at SH, writes lot about film & TV from feminist perspective

Charlie Jane: writer, blogger at io9, including AIs in some of work (including one forthcoming resolutely ungendered one)

notes, with no fail that I recognized! )

So this was fun! If I've mis-identified anything let me know.
This was the panel immediately before the prior one and it was lovely, which is why I saved it for last.

Description:

Who is the narrator? Where and when is the story being told? These are just a few questions a reader may ask at the start of a new story. For many years, third-person has been genre's preferred narrative form, but lately it seems first-person narratives are having a resurgence. How do writers choose their viewpoint, and how does it affect the sorts of stories they can tell? Why is YA so often told in first-person, and epic fantasy generally (but not always!) third? To add another layer of complexity, the present tense also seems to be increasing in popularity -- Lauren Beukes' Zoo City and Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus are just two notable examples. How does the use of present tense change a reader's experience?

Kate Nepveu, Robin Hobb, Patrick Rothfuss, Edward Cox, Maureen Kincaid Speller (m)

(I don't know how the order of names is generated on the program list.)

I think the con generally is having a lot of trouble with its available spaces, because this was in one of the smaller rooms and there were likely as many people waiting in line outside hoping to get in as where outside.

I was a little nervous about being on this panel, because look at those other names! But everyone was generous toward other panelists conversationally and it really was a conversation, it was so much fun. (You all know I could talk about point of view and narrators basically forever.)

Maureen had us introduce ourselves in our preferred POV. IIRC, Ed tried third and found it surprisingly difficult; Robin and Pat both used first; and I (who had the advantage of going last) started in first and then switched to third, and ended with "she may or may not be fascinated by unreliability in narration."

We talked about a million things. The limitations of first-person, and how they'd got around it by the frame story in the Kvothe books or the found documents in the first Assassin's trilogy. I talked about floating first and concrete first, where it's never explained how the words get on the page or where a specific mechanism is mentioned. Pat said that floating first will always get the author asked how the words are getting on the page, that someone will care; toward the end, we had a talk about the history of POV in novels that I can't reconstruct now, but that I think came down to the origin of first-person in face-to-face storytelling, was carried through in the frame story idea that was once obligatory and since has been dropped (I met a mysterious stranger who told me this story, I found this manuscript), and it's been recent enough that the obligatory frame story was dropped that people aren't quite accepting of "the words just get on the page somehow, darn it" as the price of admission to that work.

There was the obligatory shout-out to Peter S. Beagle's The Innkeeper's Song, which is multiple-first and brilliant; Pat said it was currently out of print but "I'm going to fix that."

We talked about multiple viewpoints; Pat blamed the sudden explosion of really-multiple-third on A Song of Ice and Fire, but Martin has been honing his craft for decades, new writers are allowed a maximum of three. Also, people try to go right to the action by shifting POVs but that can actually remove suspense. Robin choose POV for the best-situated character and then stayed pretty tight with them, but also employed an omniscient sometimes to show competing understandings of situations and so forth. I mentioned an unpublished friend who generally constructs their multiple-POV book on the theory of "who in this scene knows least," because that allows for dramatic irony and the reader making connections and so forth, and how I'd suggested that maybe at plot or action-heavy moments might be a time to step back from that principle. (But I don't know how they solved it yet because the W is still IP.)

(In terms of cutting to the action, I mentioned _Ancillary Justice_, of course (booklog discussion of POV.))

Uh, what else? We talked about omni with a present narrator and how fun that can be: Catherynne M. Valente's _Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland . . . _; _Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell_; Lemony Snicket. We talked briefly about sex: I observed that romance is generally in third, while "chick lit" is in first, and while I don't know about professionally-published erotica, I don't see a lot of first-person fanfic. I sort of thought this might be because for people who read with themselves in the place of the first-person narrator, there would be too much of a disjoint if a scene was very physical or physically-based emotional, but that was just a theory--which can't account for "chick lit." (Pat had previously said that he made a distinction between character-based stories and plot-based stories, and that the former got first-person and the latter got third, but that he's working on two things now that are in third and follow female characters from his trilogy, and he thought possibly that he instinctively went to third was because they were female.)

Someone in the audience asked about really rare POVs like second-person or future tense; no-one seemed particularly enthused by them, but as writing exercises to stretch your craft, sure.

There was a lot more, but I'm stumped now, and for some reason it's a million degrees where I'm writing this and I desperately need to hydrate before my next panel. If you were there, chime in, and if not, feel free to comment! (Seriously, could talk about this forever.)
This was my last panel of the day, but I'm going to write it up before the other remaining one, because it had an upsetting thing at the end that I'd like to clear off my list of things to talk about.

Description:

On the one hand, initiatives like the SF Gateway are helping to ensure the SF backlist remains accessible to today's readers, and an increasing number of "classic" SF writers are receiving the establishment seal of approval in series like the Library of America (Philip K. Dick) and the Everyman Library (Isaac Asimov). On the other hand, the SF readership is increasingly diverse, with fewer readers who have come to the field via those "classics", and many who find little of value in them in any case. In other words the traditional SF canon is no longer tenable -- but the history is still out there. So what alternative models and narratives should we be using to understand the field's past? Should we be working to expand the canon, or to describe multiple overlapping histories -- or something else?

Kate Nepveu (m), Connie Willis, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Chris Beckett, Joe Monti

I saw criticisms of my moderation from a person on Twitter, who thought I talked too much. I will not apologize for one of those instances (or for believing that I have things to contribute to the panel beyond just setting discussion in motion), but there were some points where I could have been more concise, especially since this was another 50-minute panel.

I asked by asking why we want to convey genre history: is it different for readers and writers, or between fantasy & SF? I said that I thought it was genuinely useful for fantasy readers to read _LotR_--though less so than twenty years ago--but I wasn't sure the same was true for SF, since the commercial genre can't be traced back to a single book that way.

I think the general consensus was that it was more important for writers. Connie said that when she teaches Clarion she hands out a 50-book list, because her least favorite critique is "this is a really good story that Bradbury did in 1952." Generally people agreed that writers should know the most famous plot twists/types; something of the genre conventions (insert here the thing about genre being distinguished, if not defined, by way information is conveyed to reader); and something about the major works in your topic area, otherwise you get mainstream writers thinking that they're saying something profound about robots etc. when genre readers are like, "done that back in 19-whatever."

(But tropes are different; just because someone's done "Adam & Eve in space" before, as one of the panelists, I think Chris?, had done, doesn't mean you can't. It's the gimmicks that only work once because of surprise, and even then if they're not well-known now . . . )

Somewhere pretty early people said that readers shouldn't read the canon because it's (medicine/work/homework--I forget the exact phrasing). They should read the canon because it's good (or the good bits of the canon).

I mentioned the rare works specifically in explicit dialogue with an identifiable thing: Peter Watts' "Things" (the movie _The Thing_); Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald"—which I embarrassingly called "A Study in Scarlet" until the audience corrected me, thank you, audience—the latter of which doesn't work at all if you don't know Sherlock Holmes canon. But besides those, which are pretty easy to spot, what benefit can there be for readers to know genre history?

Connie said that every work is in some way in dialogue with others, because that's what storytelling is, all the way back to its origins. When she started writing her time travel stories, she made a list of all the things she disliked about existing time travel stories. Possibly here, Joe said that Ann Leckie hadn't read _The Left Hand of Darkness_ before writing _Ancillary Justice_, which both do things with pronouns and gender, but she was aware that _Left Hand_ existed and what it did, which he found surprising, but maybe it was hard to say what reading it would have added.

In response to a question, the panelists were generally not in favor of authors making that kind of inspiration/works-being-referenced explicit to the reader, in afterwords or suchlike, because it's so much fun for readers to make those connections themselves, and if they don't, the works ought to stand on their own anyway. It's to enrich the understanding not to create it. (Somewhere prior to this I'd said that I was of the view that The Author Is Dead, and though I heard some objection to that from the authors on the panel =>, at this point I believe at least one person said okay, maybe The Author Is Dead after all, at least somewhat.)

I'm fairly sure about this point we were running very low on time, so I said, here are the other things I was hoping we'd talk about, let me rattle them off in case they spark questions from the audience. (This is the bit I won't apologize for talking.) They were: what multiple overlapping histories (mentioned in the description) might consist of: subgenres, groups of authors working together, publishers . . . ?; other ways these genre histories might get conveyed: reviews, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of SF?

I learned a lesson about myself as a mod here: because the panel was on the same level as the room, I stood up to see people and point at five people to ask questions in order. But when it was time for the next person I should have stood back up, because it turns out I rely on physical locations of people and I couldn't remember who was next, which was awkward.

Unfortunately the only question I actually remember at this point was the thing that was upsetting, a.k.a., In which Connie Willis and I disagree whether the historical formation of the canon excluded women and minorities )

Until that point I had been enjoying the panel quite a bit, and I do think there was fodder there for more discussion. So further thoughts would be welcome, from anyone. However, I am going to screen anon comments out of an abundance of caution: if you're new here, please review my commenting policy. I will unscreen comments as soon as possible.
This is going to be a not-report for reasons I will get to.

Description:

Fandom has a rich heritage of exploring gender roles, sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. In current fandoms there are repeated discussions of the problems associated with fandoms includingDoctor Who, Supernatural, Harry Potter, X-Menand Game of Thrones. Fans write detailed meta incorporating popular terms such as fridging and the Bechdel test as well as more complex cultural theory. Yet, at the same time, there is a common trait in fandom, especially media fandom, where sexually active female characters are slut-shamed, women who are perceived to interfere with the popular relationships on a show (whether canonical or not) are vilified, and fan works recreate heterosexism. Sometimes actresses playing characters receive online hatred and bullying while fans who criticise the sexism of an object of affection are rejected by fellow fans. In this session we explore ways in which (largely) female fans engage with feminism and misogyny within their own communities.

Megan Waples (m), Katherine Jay, Kristina Knaving, Kate Keen, Kate Nepveu

Here is what I wrote yesterday:

This was a very wide-ranging panel, so much so that I kind of have no idea how to talk about it.

Uh, here are links to two things of mine that I mentioned at the panel: How to Discuss Race and Racism Without Acting Like a Complete Jerk, which has a good deal of applicability to discussions about all kinds of oppressions; and An Introduction to Mary Sue and Her Critical Uses and Abuses.

. . . my brain is not working right now. Um.

In no particular order!

Removing sexism and other oppressive attitudes from one's reflexes is hard. Everyone is at different points in journey.

cut for racism )

Anyway! After that I did not get back to these panel notes until now, which is mid-day Sunday. There was other stuff yesterday (more anon) and then I saw some criticisms of me on Twitter and I thought about going to another racism-related panel to be supportive and I wanted to cry at the thought of someone being an asshat again, so I went back to bed. (It's early in the con to be hitting the wall, and yesterday was objectively not that bad, but all the tourism before was catching up with me, I think.)

So. The panel started with Megan, as the mod, asking us to express / vent our rage in a really good yell, which was surprisingly easy to summon (at that point I wasn't actively angry about anything!) and very cathartic. Megan also shared a story of a woman she knows getting a fat-shaming Tweet from someone at the con about her outfit.

We acknowledged that gender is not a binary and that sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are all connected, but I'm not sure how good a job we did after talking in non-binary terms, for which I apologize.

My notes for the panel ahead of time, besides the links above:

* Intersectionality can be hard. Listen and be empathic but don't assume that one experience of oppression maps to another.

* Fanfic: if your reason for not writing female characters is that they're poorly characterized in canon, you should, and I mean this with love and support, sit down and think hard about that, because what fandom does is take underdeveloped characters and develop them (and give them fandom-eating pairings, in some cases *cough* Clint/Coulson *cough* ).

* Need for female-led/dominated spaces.

* Things to do:
** Call out sexism you see
** If you can't or can't yet (and it's hard, though it gets easier): support people who do by commenting, retweeting, reblogging, emailing, etc.; promote fests for underrepresented characters, leave comments or kudos on works that feature underrepresented characters, make the fanworks you'd like to see. Little bits really do matter.

Other panelists added teaching and supporting kids and young adults in your life (your children or the children around you). Sexism exists in fandom because fandom is part of society.

That's almost nothing to report on from a ninety-minute panel, so if you were there, or if you want to ask about if something was brought up, please do.
Despite making it a four-panel day, I asked to be added to this because it specifically mentions Con or Bust and it sounded really interesting. And it was!

Description:

Fan Activism takes many forms: campaigning for wider representation for people of colour in media (racebending.com); performing charitable acts inspired by celebrities (Misha Collins's therandomact.org); pushing for films to be made (Dredd 2, Serenity 2, Xena: The Warrior Princess), organising charitable funds to enable fans to travel to conventions (TAFF, GUFF, Con or Bust), expressing political discontent (Anon/V for Vendetta, The Hunger Games salute in Thailand). The different kinds of fan activities and how the activism is undertaken varies depending upon the community and desired outcome. In this session people experienced in and knowledgeable about fan activism share their practices with anyone who is interested whether for curiosity's sake or because they wish to be an activist.

Crystal Huff, Eylul Dogruel, Kate Nepveu

Crystal does lots of con-running stuff, including chairing Readercon during this and working on Helsinki's bid for the 2017 WorldCon. Eylul was involved in the Gezi protests in Turkey. I run Con or Bust and am on the Readercon safety committee that was formed as a result of the above link.

I am giving myself half an hour to do this before I get lunch before my next panel, so this will be short. I always welcome corrections and additions, but particularly here since I will be specifically referencing personal experiences described by the other panelists.

Eylul talked about how pre-existing fannish skills were employed in the Gezi protests, particularly by two sets of fans: football fans, who used their skills both in mobilizing and coordinating large groups of people and in, uh, being hooligans and resisting the police; and media fans, who raised Western awareness and sympathy by reshaping the narrative on Twitter with gifs and jokes and so forth. (Yes, Eylul acknowledged the uncomfortableness of having to use Western media properties like _LotR_ in this endeavor.) The media fannish stuff also extended to cosplayers at the protests and graffiti and so forth, which also helped keep people's morale up in scary times. The mass protests also improved people's awareness of and respect for each other: football fans stopped shouting slurs that involving denigrating prostitutes, the next year's Pride was the biggest ever, things like that.

Crystal talked about doing activism with cons: how it was important for crafting the Readercon statement linked above to give people time to express their feelings and clear the air so that they could turn to the details of the statement; how cons need to take visible action to support their principles, like the Helsinki bid sending a group to march in Pride there and heavily promoting it on Twitter; how cons need transparency about their workings and decisions and to stay on top of public relations and announcements in social media.

I talked about how you have to know your strengths and weaknesses and how you can be an activist without mass protests or running conventions (not that I think the other panelists disagree!). I would be terrible at conrunning because meetings, but I knew I could do Con or Bust because I'd done a very much smaller-scale thing before and I had models of online auctions from other people in my online fannish community. I also talked about transparency, especially since I was receiving and distributing money, and how people are often very glad to help out . . . if you just ask. ("Just," I know.) I mentioned knowing the landscape so you don't unknowingly overlap existing efforts.

We all said to ask other people who are doing stuff you admire! Odds are extremely good that they'd be delighted to offer suggestions and there's no need to reinvent the wheel. And, as always, it's important to accept criticism thoughtfully, to be prepared to adjust how you do things in response to actual reality, be aware of intersectionality, and be aware of your own resources and whether existing organizations are fixable or need to be abandoned.

And now my self-imposed time is up. I always love comments and questions, but I particularly welcome them here--at any time!--or in email, knepveu@steelypips.org .
Food notes:

Last night I got a club sandwich at the Fox and Connaught pub out the east end of ExCel. The thing is, if you insist that bacon not be crispy, as the English do, then you really need your bread to be actually toasted in order to have a satisfactorily texture-balanced club sandwich. This was not. (Also the chips paled in comparison to the ones we'd had earlier in the day.)

Possibly as a result, I was in the mood for something crispy at lunch today. Walking down the interior of ExCel, I ended up having a pasty as the best apparent value, which was hot and crispy but was subtly, well, foreign-to-me in flavor. Not that I blame it!

So for dinner I ended up having a sandwich from something that may have been called the Upper Crust further toward the west end of ExCel, which was ham & mozzarella heated up to melting on a sourdough baguette, and was very simple and satisfying and also not ridiculously expensive.

Then I had what purported to be a chocolate orange cheesecake from a place that does make-your-own-sandwich at lunch (can't remember the name), which was a lot more like mousse than cheesecake and possibly didn't agree with me, causing me to leave early tonight. (But I felt better pretty quickly.)

Other notes:

Between panels, I went to a stitching meet-up in the fan tent, and I had such a good time. We commiserated over lessons learned the hard way, showed off projects (either what we'd brought to work on or through pictures), admired different techniques, and used the wonder of smartphones to show each other pictures when we weren't sure if we were using the same terminology. By luck I was sitting near several cross-stitchers, and now I've seen evenweave stitched in the hand, which I could never get the hang of, and which I will have to try again because it looks a lot faster. And a couple of the people were self-taught and identified as newbies, so we got to talk about things they'd like to know and give them a few tips and reassure them that they were doing fine, all would be well, and it was just really delightful.

. . . wow, I have no idea what I was going to type next, I think I really need to go to bed.

Four panel day tomorrow! Breaking out one of my new dresses to give myself strength.
My second panel of the day, and last programming thing of the day.

Description:

The podcast Welcome to Night Vale exploded in popularity in mid-2013. It's a pastiche of community radio set in the US Southwest, in a small town where all the conspiracy theories are true, the dog park is forbidden to both dogs and humans, and no-one bats an eye at Cecil, the radio host, rhapsodizing over Carlos, a new scientist in town. This panel will discuss the nature of reality in Night Vale; how the show's long-term plotting is working out; the good and less-good ways the show treats characters from underrepresented groups; the traditions it works with, and its counterparts in other media; and the panel's favourite moments, characters and quotes.

Douglas Spencer (m), Jesi Pershing, Zalia Chimera, Kate Nepveu, Tanya Brown

(No Glow Cloud, but three Hooded Figures with signs about the Dog Park.)

I've talked extensively about WtNV here, so I'm only mentioning other things.

At least one person found the live show I went to, "The Librarian," more funny and less scary than the podcast. I had exactly the opposite reaction (well, still funny. But not much of the podcast actively gives me the creeps and the show came close.).

At least one person didn't get a very American vibe from Night Vale because it was so unmoored from a larger political context, which seemed to be a minority view; I said I put it down that down to the genre and was perfectly happy to believe it was somewhere in an alternate American Southwest, as did most other people.

I gave my spiel about disability in WtNV, now updated for Old Oak Doors! People generally agreed that those episodes were not very satisfying on lots of levels. Note to self: next time, be sure to preface by saying that this is what you understand from listening to disabled activists, but you are able-bodied and do not speak for all disabled people, who are indeed not a monolith. This was particularly awkward since there were two people in wheelchairs at the panel; I at least had enough sense not to appeal to them during the panel for validation. (They thanked me afterward for saving them from saying it, but still, I should have done better and next time I will.)

Someone asked whether the writers were going to have to keep making things weirder and scarier because the audience was getting acclimated. I & at least one other person on the panel were not wild about that idea: hard for new listeners who don't go through the whole backlog, and instead we get some pretty explicit reminders that Night Vale is a horrible dystopia, it's just _their_ horrible dystopia.

Uh. I asked about whether Tamika's name and Dana's mother's natural hair came across as signifiers that they were at least part African-American to non-Americans, but I'm not sure I got an answer. I attempted to formulate a theory on the fly about who gets last names in Night Vale, and failed.

. . . all the other things I can think of I'm pretty sure I've already written about before. But we can talk more about it!

Assume spoilers in comments for . . . everything except today's episode, let's say.
Last detailed notes for today! . . . getting really, really tired, especially since I had Opinions about this panel.

Description:

Fantasy world-building sometimes comes under fire for its pedantic attention to detail at the expense of pacing or prose style. Do descriptive passages clog up the narrative needlessly, when reader imagination should be filling in the gaps? Where does that leave the landscapes and cultures that are less well represented in the Western genre: can world-building be a tool in subverting reader expectations that would otherwise default to pseudo-medieval Euro-esque? If fantasy is about defamiliarising the familiar, how important is material culture - buildings, furnishings, tools, the organisation of social and commercial space - in creating a fantasy world?

Mary Anne Mohanraj (m), Tobias Buckell, Kate Elliott, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Victoria Donnelly, Ellen Kushner

notes; some uncomfortable bits about race )
Panel two of three that weren't mine today! I appear to be losing focus fast, so I apologize if my proofreading is inadequate; feel free to ask.

Description:

Sofia Samatar recently suggested [*] that SF genre writers and readers have "a tendency to focus on content rather than form", even or especially when engaging with marginalised perspectives. Does our genre inevitably tend towards the form and structure of western, English-language stories, regardless of what cultural tradition(s) are reflected in the content? How can a non-western or non-Anglophone writer engage with science fiction and fantasy while also operating outside of the conventions of western-style storytelling? Is it possible for western writers to engage with non-western traditions in an authentic way and produce a story that a wider audience will recognize as science fiction or fantasy? What are some of the different forms offered by non-western cultures that need to be told?

Amal El-Mohtar, Aliette de Bodard, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, JY Yang, Nick Wood

[*] source

notes )

[*] Here's the whiteboard rec list for the African SF panel at Nine Worlds; thanks, [twitter.com profile] shaded_sun!
My first panel of today, though second writeup because I have to turn paper scribbles into notes.

Description:

This panel celebrates some of the ways that London has been represented in games; including LARP, tabletop, point-and-click and videogames. We also explore some of the darker aspects of seeing London with a player's eye.

Kate Nepveu, Jonathan Green, Frances Hardinge, Christi Scarborough (m)

Fallen London is basically the only game I play these days (though I did bump into someone last night randomly from my NetHack days!), so this was a panel I was very consciously intending to keep my mouth shut for most of. And the other panelists were excellent and all was well. (Those of you who really like Frances Hardinge's books, you'll be pleased to know she's very smart and interesting in person.)

I have more notes than usual for a panel I'm on, because I was scribbling to keep myself busy while listening for something I could genuinely contribute to. I'm going to re-order things a bit to make them make more sense in a static report.

Victorian London, supernatural elephants, and more )

I did not get to mention the gender selection text for Fallen London, which I will quote here because I love it:

May we ask whether you're a lady or a gentleman?

* A lady
* A gentleman
* My dear sir, there are individuals roaming the streets of Fallen London at this very moment with the faces of squid! Squid! Do you ask them their gender? And yet you waste our time asking me trifling and impertinent questions about mine? It is my own business, sir, and I bid you good day.

(That is about 85% of the reason I play as an individual of mysterious and indistinct gender, honestly. The spinoff, Sunless Sea, doesn't even ask you for gender, just how you want to be addressed.)
I went to the wrong panel at first (there are two doors into Capital 7, and I went into one of those thinking I was going into Capital 8) and so I missed the introductions.

Description:

Translations of SF/F books from one language to another offer a snapshot of the global SF/F scene, and in recent years it seems there has been an uptick in translated material available in the English-language market. But how representative is the sample of books translated into English? What factors determine which books get translated, and which don't? Who initiates a translation: does the translator work on spec, or are they commissioned by overseas publishers? How are translated books marketed to their new audiences? And why are so many SF and fantasy works by English-language authors translated into other languages, year after year, while so few from the rest of the world make their way into English?

Sue Burke (m), Gili Bar-Hillel, Tom Clegg, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Marian Womack

Shorted bios via program: Sue was born in the US, lives in Spain, and works as a writer, editor, and translator. Gili founded Utz Publishing House in Israel and is a translator. Tom was also born in the US, lives in France, and is a translator and the editor in charge of the SF imprint at Editions Bragelonne. Elisabeth was born in France, lives in Quebec, and is a writer and translator. Marian lives in Spain and runs a small press called Ediciones Nevksy.

notes )

I don't know much about this topic so I found this pretty informative and a good balance of experiences and perspectives in the panelists.

We registered at Loncon late today, so we missed the huge lines (I don't know if that suggests any problem with the con itself or is just inevitable). The convention center that the con is in one end of is certainly very, very long. But on the bright side, that means lots of mall-food-court type food and lots of tables with chairs where people can hang out, which Chad & I did after our program items.

Anyway, my first panel was today. Here's the description:

The creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been one of the most exciting pop culture developments of the last decade – and contradicts the decades-long strategy, followed primarily by DC, of keeping superheroes in their own worlds for their screen incarnations. Now DC have plans to follow Marvel's lead (and Sony are developing an entire Spider-verse), but will the "Marvel megafranchise model" work for others? Does an interconnected universe imply certain kinds of stories and not others? What are the advantages of solo films? And how are different studios using other media – in particular, TV – to further develop their properties?

Kate Nepveu, Jenni Hill, Glyn Morgan, CE Murphy, Gavia Baker Whitelaw

I was looking forward to this enormously, and it lived up to my expectations: it was well-attended and lively and fun (despite my feeling that I didn't quite do my best possible moderating job). However, I was kicking myself for not realizing that there were 90 minutes slots available and pushing for one, because it really needed it. I'd hoped to cover four things, and we really only got through two and a half, specifically:

(1) Everyone wants a cinematic universe / megafranchise because Avengers literally made a billion and a half dollars, but is being part of a cinematic universe necessary or sufficient for that kind of success?

(2) What are the pluses and minuses of cinematic universes from storytelling points of view?

(3) What about TV adaptations, how do they compare and contrast with cinematic adaptations?

(4) Diversity, please (damn it)?

And we covered the first two pretty thoroughly, got some digs in about the fourth along the way, but only glanced at the third and mostly through discussions of animated series, not Arrow and the many forthcoming live-action series.

We talked a lot about humor, about backstory and hoping to ditch or truncate the origin story, and the need for really good writing if you're going to connect up bits of a bigger universe with a standalone story without things feeling pasted on. With regard to the MCU, we talked about its structure and how its future scope depends on Guardians of the Galaxy (space; check!) and Doctor Strange (magic; unknown). Someone asked if there was anything Marvel could do that would wreck the MCU. I said that considering that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is currently atop the U.S. box office, we just have to accept that spectacle sells, sometimes regardless of whether it is accompanied by quality, so it's hard for me to imagine. Other people said that if Ant-Man [*] or Doctor Strange tanks, that's not such a big deal, but if the next Avengers is terrible . . . well, maybe you'd need two high-profile disasters before people lost their goodwill, but it was theoretically possible.

[*] Someone also pointed out that in any other situation, losing the director of a movie so close to its release date would cause a studio to just push back or shelve the movie; but since Ant-Man is part of the MCU, Marvel apparently views it as immovable, presumably because it is connected to or sets up things in other movies, despite the incredible time pressures that puts on production.

With regard to backstory, after the panel someone who lives in Europe and doesn't have English as a first language told me that interconnected movies are getting harder to follow without prior homework, which I thought was interesting, though Thor: The Dark World was specifically cited and I'm not sure I get the impression it made a lot of sense in English (I haven't seen it).

Ugh, there was a lot of other stuff but it's past midnight and I really need sleep. Chime in if you were there or ask questions if you weren't, jog my memory!

A few things I mentioned:

Max Gladstone on the appeal of small-f fellowships particularly as applied to Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy

Comics Alliance article about the MCU and diversity and how it's falling behind (a little more charitable than I would be, but I agree with the overall thrust)

And finally, if I didn't mention it I should have, a column from Forbes of all places about GotG:

But come what may this is a terrific start that firmly establishes that Marvel is a brand name unto itself and a more important marketing variable than whatever property it happens to be producing this time around.

[ . . . ]

Second, it means that Marvel can do whatever it wants now. So if they choose not to make a female-centric or minority-centric superhero film, it’s because they just don’t want to.

Oh, and before I go to bed, shout-out to the volunteer audience member who fiddled with the soundboard until our mikes turned on! We salute you, gentleperson, as otherwise we would have had to shout the entire time to be heard in that large room.

Yesterday Chad was giving a talk in Bristol (his post-mortem, with a link to the host's writeup in comments), so we stopped in Bath along the way for some tourism, and I also stomped around Bristol a bit.

We had an extremely nice time in Bath. The Abbey right next to the Roman baths is very beautiful: St. Paul's is more impressive, but this was more lovely. The ceiling has this beautiful fan-shaped vaulting, which is carried through in the rest of the design, such as the altar. Also, there was lots and lots of stained glass, which I missed at St. Paul's.

The Abbey also hosts an amazing set of diptychs by Sue Symons that pair calligraphy with needlework to tell the life of Christ. I noticed the needlework first, of course, and here are some pictures: needlework portion of one diptych, needlework portion of another diptych. I also tried to get a picture of a full diptych, calligraphy plus needlework. I ended up buying a set of postcards of all 35 diptychs, on the ground that while a print was bigger and easier to see, I didn't really have anywhere to put it, but I could rotate through the postcards at work.

Then we went to the Roman baths, which are mostly pretty nicely done. They rely more heavily than I would like on audio tours, which I find annoying because I can read so much faster than I can listen. (Also, there is a Bill Bryson portion of the audio tour that is not nearly as funny as I was hoping, though Chad enjoyed it, so YMMV.) But the signs were generally sufficient and did a good job of putting things in context. Chad's post for the day has more pictures, but here a few I took: Gorgon's face, temple of Minerva; Julius Caesar, on the left, looks down at the (untreated) swimming pool in the rain; and The Pump Room, of Regency novel fame.

After lunch, I continued my not-very-serious quest to do research for the Strange & Norrell re-read / generally amuse myself by doing things I'd read about in books by sticking my head in at the Bath Assembly Rooms, where you can see the Tea Room and the Grand Octagon for free. I also indulged myself by taking a picture of the fancy mirrors in the Grand Octagon, which are exactly opposite each other.

Then we went to the Museum of East Asian Art, which is small and has very little explanatory text, but has some nice things and is worth a look. I took a lot of pictures, and these were just the ones that were lit well enough to come out reasonably on my phone: jades: pig and carp turning into dragon; ceramics: crab and horse; ivory: cheerful Immortals and
ocean life card case; other: dragon and fox and drum netsuke (I forgot to write the material down, but it looks like clay?). (Full titles and time periods are in the links.)

Then we went to Bristol, and while Chad gave an interview and prepped for his talk, I took a little walk around. In Castle Park, I found a Bristol space egg at St. Peter's Church, which for reasons you can see in the last picture is dedicated to those who died in the Blitz. I walked down to Queen's Square, which has many elegant buildings around it, and then got slightly off-track and stumbled upon a very tiny but lovely park behind the building where the talk was being held, which turns out to be Temple Church and Gardens. If it had been earlier I could have visited the ruins of the church and seen the former Templar church revealed by the WWII bombing and admired the leaning tower, but instead I was delighted by the tree-lined path and the gardening along the ruins.

After Chad's talk we went out for dinner at The Stable, where I discovered a cultural difference in the form of my instinctive "no, one does not put a soft-cooked egg in the middle of pizza!" Also, I had some very good cider, but unfortunately I can't recommend varieties because it was a tasting menu and we didn't get the number key—I mean, I'm never going to be back there, so it hardly mattered. Then we came back, getting to the hotel after 1:00 a.m., which is why there was no post yesterday.

Today, again on the vaguely research-ish theme mentioned above, we went to Apsely House, which besides never looking correctly-spelled no matter how many times I check it, was Wellington's house after he was created the first Duke. No pictures, because a lot of it was very dimly lit—not good for art viewing, unfortunately, especially since the explanatory text was minimal and many of the painting labels were on the paintings themselves and angled in a way that I had trouble seeing. But it definitely gave me a sense of the aesthetic of the era and the massive gratitude toward Wellington—literally, in, e.g., the form of two huge porphyry candelabra from Russia and the centerpiece of a Portuguese plate service that is literally eight meters long. (Not all the plates and dishes and stuff laid out end-to-end. Just the centerpiece.) Though to my mind the most boggling was the porcelain Egyptian-themed china service than Napoleon commissioned as a divorce gift for Josephine: yes, I want to display seven meters of replica Egyptian buildings and statues at formal dinner parties and say "hey, my emperor husband divorced me, but at least I got this nifty porcelain service out of it!" (She refused it, which is why Wellington got it; the King of France gave it to him after Waterloo, IIRC.)

Anyway, I wouldn't recommend it as a general matter, but for my purposes it served well enough. But I realized I should read a decent—short!—bio of Wellington (Napoleon too, but that can wait); any recommendations?

(Oh, and there was a fox rolling and stretching in the private garden, which was pretty great; I've never seen a wild fox at such length before.)

On the way to Wellington Arch, I was amused to note that equestrians have to push for the light like anyone else.. On the way out, we walked through Hyde Park, which is very nice. We were at the end with the Rose Garden, which is very lovely but this statue is a bit of an odd introduction, since it looks like the kid is forcing water out of the fish's nostrils by kneeling on it and squeezing. (Here's another bit of the Rose Garden.) We also came across this fabulous tree with branches that grew down to the ground; as I said on G+ when I posted it, imagine growing up with this to play hide-and-seek and tree house with?

Then we had very good pub food at The Victoria near Lancaster Gate, and came back for the con, about which more in a moment.

Oh, and here's Chad's pictures for today.

Now let's see if the WiFi is back . . .
Today, after some frustration trying to buy rail tickets to go to Bath and Bristol tomorrow (which as I start this post may not be over, as we discover further convolutions of the British rail system), we made a quick pass through the Tate Modern, mostly because it's very close to the Globe Theater.

Modern art is mostly not our thing, but it was free and I found some things I liked. I put pictures on G+, along with links to the museum's information in the comments, which in some cases include better pictures. G+ won't let me create new albums at the moment, so I'll link the posts individually.

"Seated Nude" by Pablo Picasso (cubist mother of future robot armies)

"Before the Storm," by Zao Wou-ki (photo doesn't do it justice but maybe hints at the quality of the small amount of light that's in it)

"The Invisibles" by Yves Tanguy (visually-appealing surrealism)

"Ships in the Dark," Paul Klee (the tiny bright dots are, unfortunately, the ceiling lights)

"Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1," by Ibrahim El-Salahi (large striking modernist figures)

Chad has more pictures in his album for the day, including one toward the end of "Eluhim" by Leonora Carrington which I also quite liked (oh, and me on a very large couch that was a public art installation on the way to the Tate, I think).

Then we went over to the Globe, picked up our tickets, and met up with [personal profile] thette ([personal profile] filkerdave, I didn't get any email from you and we figured that Chad would be spottable even among the crowd; if we miscalculated, sorry). Chad and I hadn't had lunch, so we tried the pork pies. I didn't like them, I thought they needed more spice or flavor, and gave my uneaten portion to Chad and had one of the anachronistic energy bars I'd brought for emergencies.

The play was great. There had been some tomfoolery with actors in costume in the ticket area and outside the seats, such as someone telling us not to go in because it was all lies and *shudder* actors in there [*] , and people in costume had been finishing setting up the stage when we got in, so when the play actually started, it was very subtle and natural: Act I, Scene 1 opens with Flavius asking commoners why they weren't at work and why they were out in the streets, so the commoners were down in the yard with us, and it took me, at least, a little while before I realized that no, this is the Chorus-equivalent, the play's started, this isn't more crowd warmup.

[*] And, to my great delight, an actor making a puppet deliver Aragorn's "a day may come" speech from the movie Return of the King, while another actor commented sarcastically. It was amazing.

It was tons of fun to be in the Yard and to have the actors move through you and be among you. (And though standing for 2:45 is not ideal, the seats did not look comfortable, though I don't know if the reconstruction kept the dimensions of the benches or maybe quietly added a few inches to allow for modern heights somewhat more. Happily it only rained a smidge at the very end, and I'd brought a raincoat.)

The acting was excellent, though I wonder how well the highest and furthest seats heard Caesar's lines, as they were notably more quiet than the other actors; it worked for me, because I could hear them and they gained power from that contrast, but I did wonder. I don't know if casting two of the main Citizens in Act III as women is ahistoric, but I appreciated it, because it gave the excellent women playing Portia and Calpurnia more to do. (Sometimes the doubling of actors was confusing to me; I didn't always catch names, so late in the play I would find myself thinking, "Is this one of the conspirators / Brutus' servant taken up arms / etc. or a different person?") And I never fail to be impressed by actors who can deliver incredibly famous lines as natural speech.

Spoilers, insofar as one can spoil Shakespeare. )

The close of the performance was also not what I expected: after the last lines, everyone came out and lined up . . . and then did a big stompy group dance around the stage. I think I saw some Charlie's Angels poses in there. It was very lively! But a bit jarring. I don't know if that tradition is historically-based either.

Then we met up with [livejournal.com profile] kjn and child and went to Tas Pide, where we had excellent Turkish food. It's not great if you don't like bell peppers or eggplant/aubergine, as I do not, but I had one of the variants on the dough-based dish that gives the restaurant its name with potatoes, goat cheese, parsley, and red pepper flakes, and it was delicious. Chad had a similar one, and Thette and KJ had an assortment of small dishes, and then we had wonderfully sticky desserts and I had a very small glass of dessert wine that was smooth and sweetly honeyed and potent, whoosh, if I held it in my mouth too long my tongue started going numb. Anyway, good stuff, recommended if that's the kind of thing you like.

Then we walked across the Millennium Bridge so we could say we'd done it, and I got a shot of St. Paul's that emphasized just how many stairs we'd climbed yesterday. And that was Tuesday.
Today we started our tourism with a walk around the Tower of London (we decided not to go inside when we saw that adult admissions were over £20 and that there was a big line. I would have liked Chad to see the ravens, because they are really much bigger than I personally expected, when I saw them in 1997, but that was about it). The still-in-progress ceramic poppies installation is really beautiful and moving; here's a picture I took of poppies mounting in a wave, or maybe an incomplete arc, and Chad has a nice one of the shadow over the moat in the start of his picture set for the day.

We also amused ourselves by noting the two space eggs visible from the Tower: one, two. As I said when I posted those, Chad noted that if they hatch at the same time, London's in trouble . . .

Then we walked over to St. Paul's Cathedral, which isn't super-close but which was a perfectly fine stroll. I particularly noted the Bank of England, which is even more fortress-like than the Tower, honestly: that is just one monolithic lump of a building saying "No."

St. Paul's is of course very big and very impressive. We did go inside for that, and admired the architecture and the ornamentation. We also climbed a whole lot of stairs to get better views.

note: contains discussion of stairs, heights, and unhappiness with the prior two )

We also looked at the chapel at the back of the ground floor, dedicated to the American dead of the Second World War, and a striking video art installation called "Martyrs" (information).

After St. Paul's we had a very pleasant lunch at Cote Brasserie, and then stopped by the British publisher of Chad's first book and had a nice chat (and admired the cover art on the wall). After that, the British Museum.

The British Museum and I did not get off to a good start with the first exhibit we went into, on the Enlightenment. It was in a long room with floor-to-ceiling specimen/book cases and for some reason I just found it oppressive and unwelcoming, all those looming cases that were only minimally labeled. (The actual thematic bits about the Enlightenment were in cases out on the floor.) And after that I may have somehow led us in the wrong chronological order or something, so I felt disoriented.

But things got better! The Assyrian lion hunt reliefs are very excellent (though my enjoyment of the realism of the lions was tempered by the fact that they were being led out of cages to the slaughter; really, they should be "lion 'hunt' reliefs"); the Nereid Monument had three statues of sea-nymphs (not placed in the reconstructed temple) whose dramatically-billowing draperies made them look like fashion models; and there were the Parthenon Sculptures, known to readers of Regency novels as the Elgin Marbles.

Really, that's why I wanted to see them, because they're in so many books I've read (e.g., one of Kate's early letters to Cecilia: "The second day, we were taken to see the Elgin Marbles, which was interesting, and to listen to other people see the Elgin Marbles, which would make the eyes roll right back in your head with boredom."). Unfortunately, the gallery they're in now is modern, donated in 1939 if we did the Roman numerals right, so the experience isn't the same.

Of course one can't talk about these sculptures or a good deal else of the art in the British Museum without talking about how it was acquired. The tone of the display's discussion is somewhat fascinating to me , such as the statement in bold letters that no, we can't put these back on the Parthenon, it's in too bad shape, even the Greeks are taking the remaining statues off . . . (You can get a sense by seeing the museum's online statement on the matter.) To me, whatever the merits of the preservation argument for removing them in the first place, the current arguments don't seem very strong, and it always seems a shame to me to split up works of art that were intended to be see as a single piece. But then, I'm probably influenced by rolling my eyes at a prior display, which noted that an ancient cylinder had become so important to the Iranian people that the British Museum gave Iran . . . a replica. Gosh, you shouldn't have.

(There was also a large totem-like carving from the Pacific Northwest, IIRC?, that the label made a point of saying was sold by the chief of the tribe after the tribe had already moved locations; things like that made me think the museum was aware that people would or should have those concerns.)

But the Parthenon exhibit is well-done and more interesting than I expected (art from the Greek & Roman eras often does not particularly speak to me). After that we popped into African art, but got shooed away before we saw more than a couple of great contemporary pieces (Chad has pictures at the end of his post). I'll never believe British museums' stating closing times again, as we were shooed out by 5:15, when the listed closing time is 5:30.

We had a bit of an unpleasant adventure after that, trying to find a Vodaphone store to buy international voice minutes (since our Internet is so bad that Skyping home won't work), during which we conclusively decided that Google Maps is no good for real-time walking, because it just doesn't update fast enough (and also showed us two stores that apparently don't exist any more). (I realize we don't walk faster than we drive, and so I can't explain why it works for driving and not walking. And yet, both after the museum and on a prior occasion during the day, it just didn't.) Also, it was raining.

After we threw in the metaphorical towel and came back to the hotel, we had restorative Indian food at a place right outside the convention center (Bollywood Brasserie or Bollywood Grill, depending on which sign of theirs you read), I lost the fight to buy international minutes online (it was trying to validate my credit card's zip code as a post code and, unsurprisingly, failing) and looked up a nearby store location for tomorrow morning, and now I've taken much too long writing this up. I think from now on I have to stop putting in links, because half the time I have to find them on my phone and then sync them in my text editor program over to the tablet, because the wireless is just that bad, which takes up lots of time.

Tomorrow, Shakespeare at the Globe in the afternoon, and maybe Wellington's house in the morning. Wednesday, Bath and Bristol for Chad's evening talk. Thursday, Worldcon starts (though there may still be tourism in the morning.) And no more spiral staircases if I can help it.

August 2014

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