cmd, option, esc.

In case you were wondering where I’d got myself off to after my post-WisCon comments, I sort of fell headlong into wedding planning and a bit of MA degree work. Then there was a honeymoon. Then there was transatlantic relocation (if I was in Birmingham, is this then re-relocation?).

Suffice it to say, I’m back, and now a bit more firmly expatriated in Glasgow as I hunker down to finish my dissertation. Then I’m looking for work. Not a hint, just saying that we do like to keep ourselves in biscuits around here and that I must contribute.

But at the moment, it’s all Paige vs. the jetlag here. So do stay tuned, I’ll be back with you shortly…after I go change all my account timezones back to BDT/BST, for that matter.

ISO Representation. Must Love SF.

In meeting and greeting at WisCon this past weekend, I was asked if I would participate in Hack Gender, perhaps regarding my dissertation…which, if for some reason you didn’t know, is a self-reflexive documentary exploring women and the identity of being a science fiction fan. Fortunately, in a preliminary review of the eleven (!) interviews I managed to get, I found a common thread or two, which I think will form my argument later on in the documentary. Therefore, if you don’t want to be spoiled for the doc itself, or you don’t want to have my initial mindset influence your later interview, stop reading now.

Also, a disclaimer: these thoughts are not fully fleshed out, and I haven’t had a load of time to chase them round to conclusions yet. I may overgeneralize, I may run into problematic areas, and I may mess up, but I hope to have at least uncovered a little theory by the end of it. Comments and thought and calling me out, all welcome.

Continue reading

My thoughts, I confess, verge on dirty.

Sorry about the delay in posting. Yours truly finished up her work placement a while back, then promptly settled into dissertation work (should reeeeeally make a webpage to centre all that information, come to think of it) and didn’t get around to much blogging. Tweeting, yes. If you actually want to know what’s going on in my life, Twitter is vital.

And here I am in mid-May, about to ship myself back to the US, provided that Eyjafjallajokull doesn’t change its mind and blow a bunch more ash this way over the next 24 hours. While I’ll miss my loved one and friends, I eagerly await a three month period of (amidst wedding and dissertation chaos) decent Tex-Mex, warm weather, brewed coffee at low prices, World Cup news only when I feel like it, and substantially lower levels of jeggings.

Which reminds me of a little tidbit that I’d meant to share. Britain does a lot of things well, some things better than America (coughhealthcareandpublictransitcough). But a few things, they just Don’t Get. I read Nigel Slater’s Eating for England recently, and in one of the vignettes, he indicated that Americans were as hooked on instant coffee as Britons. This, quite frankly, is BS, mostly because I don’t know anyone in the US who drinks or has drank instant since probably 1988. Admittedly, that’s anecdotal evidence, but considering the reaction to Starbucks’ VIA last year, I wouldn’t say it’s too far off the mark. Whereas, in the UK, if you go to someone’s house or to an office or a university function, and they offer coffee, it will almost definitely be instant. Seeing as for tea, all you need is hot water and a bag, I suppose instant has a reason for being de rigeur.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.

So I started thinking about coffee out there in the world, and decided that you could really just relate the taste of an average cup of coffee in a country to songs from said nation. Perhaps the metaphor’s a little stretched, but I think it’s still valid.

In Italy, it’s short and deep, like an aria. France, well-brewed and nuanced, like an Edith Piaf track. America…well, either you have the enamel-melting Starbucks sweetness of a pop song, or the strong grittiness of a Springsteen song; not to everyone’s taste, but vibrant. Your average cup of coffee in Britain, to my experience, is made from freeze-dried instant. In terms of taste, it’s about on the level of a drunk careening down the street at 3am bawling out ‘Come On Eileen’.

Now, it’s not that that doesn’t have its appeal, or that that can’t be borne. It’s just…I swear that daily I thank god my fiancĂ© was raised in a family that brews and drinks coffee, or we would have some serious problems. And no, sadly, for those of us raised on coffee, tea–even builders’–simply, simply can’t cut it in the mornings. Nor can a can of Coke. I need black coffee, and I will even settle for instant, Nigel.

Then again, there’s a whole blog post in the works…well, okay, in my head…about how I’m a food philistine in some cases (I dislike Brie rinds, for example). We’ll see if it gets written.

By the way, you can follow my culture shock, and possibly reverse culture shock in the coming months, on Twitter. I’ve been using #rhiisforeign to particularly highlight certain issues, including the latest general election, but since you can’t search back too far, it may be a moot point. Oh well. Follow me anyhow, if you like.

Ada Lovelace Day

If, for some reason, you are completely oblivious to the tech world, then you may have missed the fact that today is Ada Lovelace Day (findingada.com, #ald10). It’s the day to recognise and honour women in technology, like Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who was essentially the first computer programmer–not just the first woman, the first ever, period. You can pledge, as I did, to post about inspirational women in tech, and yesterday I made a whole list of people I could post about. In fact, I urge you to look up all of those women, because they each are brilliant and important.

But in the end I got sort of self-centred.

See, I’m a woman in technology, but only sort of, where it intersects with media. On the technical end, I’m pretty rubbish; I tire of coding and I have no engineering skills whatsoever. While I admire the crap out of women with those skills, it’s not my cuppa. I’m interested in the product end of software–non-linear editing, Photoshop, web editors–and in community construction online. (They call the latter ‘social media’ now, which is a term I dislike, because it implies the wankers who randomly follow you on Twitter claiming to be experts. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a very long-time user.)

Personally, I believe women and ‘minority’ groups are the future of internet community, because we’ve been doing this for ages, waiting for the technology to catch up. The strongest, most forward-thinking networks that I’ve seen have been run or dominated by women. I’d like to highlight two who have successfully navigated the inanity of the ‘social media’ buzz into actual meaningful community…and I’d speculate that’s because they didn’t get in it to ‘be successful’, but to fill a need.

The leadership and employees (I know one, they work hard) of BlogHer are amazing. They have built a company, a community and a highly influential blog network from nothing in a matter of five years. If I want to read good blogging by women, I know exactly where to start–everything on BlogHer is quality, and a substantial number of topics and viewpoints are covered. And on top of that, they have an ad network that’s remarkably unproblematic in comparison to about every other one ever.

The people at the Archive of Our Own project are quieter, for various reasons. They took a look at internet fandom (dominated by women) and saw that there was no reliable searchable archive of fanfiction that wouldn’t reject various forms of fan works…this is for various reasons I won’t go into here. Fundraising, programming, time and effort, and now they own the servers and the backend, free to set their own TOS and provide a fan-run alternative that is intuitive and responsive.

So kudos to both of these groups of women. I only wish I could be as utterly badass and innovative as you. Perhaps someday I will do…but thank you for being here.

Also, a quiet shoutout to the tech women I know–from theatre engineers to comp sci majors to new media producers to designers to fangirls. Don’t ever let anyone get you down. You do important things.

A moment about films…

Every year I make it my business not to comment about the Oscars, for the most part (partially because I might get ranty and I do still vaguely hold the hope of someday being nominated…yes, laugh it up as a pipe dream). If you want to read some good commentary and predictions quite similar to my ideals, go check out my friend Anita’s thoughts.
But this year I will say a few brief things, because I feel the need to clarify a few positions and unpopular opinions:

- I thought the acting performances in Precious were fantastic. It’s not a Best Picture film, but the acting was phenomenal. I didn’t find it unbelievable…probably because I read the book nearly a decade ago.

- Michael Giacchino deserves an Oscar for Up, but in my mind he’d get it as well for Star Trek, which was utterly amazing in its fit to the film and its play off the original Trek themes and film sound. You get big and you risk going John Williams/Jerry Goldsmith, which is fine but not astounding. Giacchino managed to take a cliche and turn it into something that still inspired wonder and emotion. Between that and Up, he’s the one to watch. Someone give this man more work.

- Team Bigelow. Not just because Hurt Locker is by all accounts lovely and my distaste for Avatar (on about ten different levels) is well-documented, not just because it is high friggin time a woman had a chance and pwned, but because I’ve been a Kathryn Bigelow fan since I watched Near Dark on VHS in 2002. Even when her films aren’t great (…K-19), they are always well-constructed and gorgeous.

- Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate James Cameron’s work as a whole. Terminator 2 is one of my top 20, I liked Aliens and I enjoy True Lies. I just firmly believe something snapped in the man’s head when Titanic worked for him; I have a big problem with the auteur theory of cinema, I don’t believe it has a place in the current film industry. Avatar is classically, ridiculously OTT auteurism, and the fact that it cost more than a small nation’s yearly GDP to make is seriously worrisome for its implications about future Hollywood product. Of course, part of my distaste for Cameron could come from the fact that I was first taught film studies by the foremost academic critic of his work…

To sum up: I’d rather not have my heart ripped out. Best Picture is more than OOH THE PRETTY, it does have to have content. Kathryn Bigelow deserves all the acclaim she’s been getting and more. I’m going to go listen to the End Credits from Star Trek about five more times in a row. Good night.

(By the way, I did manage to get a haircut. It took one day notice. I am Paige’s melodramatic firstworldproblem sigh.)