Monthly Archives: December, 2013

Project Bond

I like James Bond movies. In fact, I went through quite a phase as an 18 year old of reading all the Bond books I could get my hands on (even, gasp! non-Fleming ones).

My husband likes James Bond movies.

Together, we have seen all the Brosnan and Craig films, and a few of the classics when the opportunity has arisen. A few weeks ago we went to Melbourne Museum’s Designing 007 exhibition, and it’s incredible. Costumes (golly the women have been tiny), props, mood boards, story boards… an enormous casino room, clips from films, etc etc. Brilliant!


Now, it must be said that I have a spectacularly poor memory. Yet even taking that into account… well, it turns out that I may not have seen as many classic Bonds as I thought I had. As many as I had assumed, and been assuring the husband of.

UnknownAnd thus is born Project Bond. Said husband dreamed it up while drunk on the glory of Aston Martins and sharp suits. We have purchased the entire suite of James Bond movies from the last 50 years (all 23 of them), and we plan to watch one a fortnight for 2014. And the only way that I was convinced to go along with this crazy idea was the tantalising suggestion that – you guessed it – I should review each one. It was briefly suggested that perhaps I would refrain from indulging in too much ranting over the gender politics… but this suggestion was quickly retracted.

2014 starts this week, and so does Project Bond. Stay tuned for our first review, as James Bond takes on the nefarious Dr No.

Chaussons mignons

Knitting these are my latest fad:photoAren’t they cute?? I got the pattern from this blog, and although I initially found the instructions for the construction phase a little confusing when I actually attempted it, it made sense.

They require very little yarn, and I think I make a pair in about 90 min – including TV watching time. And they require yarn at the chunkier end of the spectrum – I think the grey is 10 ply – so they’re not finicky to knit.


Local suffrage history

This is quite impressive, for me: my mother bought me a book that I read before it got dust on it! (Think I’m exaggerating? See this review and this one for how I am a bad daughter.)

UnknownAnyway, knowing that I am developing a keen interest in the history of women’s suffrage in Britain, Mum found me Burning to Get the Vote, a history of the suffrage campaign in Buckinghamshire.

There were two things that did not work for me in this book; one substantive, the other a niggle. The first is that I don’t know the area, and that definitely had an impact on my enjoyment. This is not really a reflection on the book itself, although a map would have gone some way to alleviating that issue and made it more accessible for non-Bucks readers, and especially non-UK readers. Instead it’s a reflection that probably, this history wasn’t imagined to have a general readership outside of the locality, and an academic one a bit more broadly. So I lived with that; I skimmed over the bits where Cartwright goes into detail about the actually location of various meetings – which is probably a delight to those people who know High Wycombe or Wendover or Aylesbury. The second, the niggle, is a style thing. There were a lot of commas that I felt were misused.

Those things aside, this volume has a lot going for it. Cartwright has clearly undertaken a monumental task in sifting through local newspapers to find references to suffrage (and anti-suffrage) activities in his area, as well as digging up minutes from meetings and some correspondence as well. This in itself I find fascinating: the suffragettes and suffragists (the terms, sometimes interchangeable, were often used to differentiate between militant and constitutional approaches) were often holding important enough meetings that they did feature in the media – despite not always getting big numbers to those meetings, and perhaps sometimes because of the opposition they met.

What this history does is set the national women’s suffrage campaign in a local context. So much of this story that gets popularly talked about is London, or perhaps Manchester, based – which is unsurprising because it’s where the Big Names (Pankhursts, Fawcett) were, and where a lot of the eye-catching activities (pilgrimages to Hyde Park, chaining to gates) occurred. But as I’m increasingly realising, this doesn’t cover the entire campaign. And how could it? Of course it is important to convince non-capital city residents of the righteousness of your cause! The leaders of the WSPU and other organisations all travelled around the country, drumming up support. They corresponded with the women (and men) organising local branches in small towns. Sometimes, they retreated to the countryside to recover from hunger strikes and force feeding. So this book should help Buckinghamshire people to understand their contribution to an important national movement, and it should make everyone else realise that history does occur in small towns, too. It should also be seen as a spur to people who are running similar campaigns at the moment. There is no doubt that many of the people (especially the women, I would suggest) who were involved in Buckinghamshire probably got quite disheartened over time; their numbers were never huge, the number of supporters was varied, there was active dislike and vitriol from the community… and it took a really long time. Cartwright believes that the first 20th century women’s suffrage meeting in the county was held in 1904 – although there was some action in the nineteenth century too; women got limited rights to vote in 1918 (over 30, married to a householder) and then voting rights on the same terms as men in 1928.

I liked that Cartwright went to some lengths to find out details about many of the women involved, which often involved finding their obituaries. I appreciated the extensive quotes – from newspapers largely – from the speeches made, and in debates with anti-suffrage campaigners. (The notion that the newspaper would quote so extensively from speakers is awesome.) And I also liked that he included a chapter on those anti-suffrage activities, to demonstrate the arguments that were being made and to show that the suffragists weren’t just battling indifference but serious opposition.

This book is not for the general reader – unless you’re from central Buckinghamshire, in which case definitely read it since you might be living in a house that was used for meetings! But it’s great if you want to see how local history can and should be interesting, or if you’re interested in suffrage history more generally. There is also a bonus for Australian readers: Muriel Matters, an Australian suffrage campaigner, worked quite a lot in the area and is mentioned several times.

Galactic Suburbia 92

gallifreyan-baby.american-apparel-baby-one-piece.white.w760h760In which we get the band back together again, just before we go on our summer holidays!

Culture Consumed:

Alisa: Doctor Who; The Fall; Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror Season 1

Tansy: Adventures in Space and Time; Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, Apex Issue 55

Alex: Snuff, Terry Pratchett; Thor: the Dark World; Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton

Pet subject: The Year in Review

Alisa: PhD, Conflux, Nancy Kress’ After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Twelfth Planet Press (Trucksong, A Trifle Dead, Twelve Planets, Shirley Jackson/WFA), made a SF fan

Tansy: Hawkeye; The Almighty Johnsons; A Song of Ice & Fire; reading with Raeli (Edward Eager & Diana Wynne Jones); Doctor Who

Alex: Saga; Doctor Who; Naomi Novik’s Temeraire; re-reading; Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

This is our last episode of the year, because we’re going on a summer hiatus… but we will back in 2014!

Please send feedback to us at, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Thor 2: a spoilery discussion

SPOILERS, right? You’ve been warned.

UnknownLet me get this out of my system: oh my GOODness WTH  Greenwich? GREENWICH? ARE YOU FOR REAL??


So. Thor’s second solo(ish) outing. I think it’s got a slightly better plot than the first. It’s still a crazy romp (see here for The Mary Sue’s review that suggests it’s not as crazy as it could/should be – too caught up with realism for a story that is hello, based on Norse mythology – which I agree with). There’s going to be a conjunction of the nine worlds (which makes me think that Lara Croft should be finding something awesome, amiright?), and this is causing all sorts of gravitational ructions between the worlds… and the Dark Elves are waking up, having been totes smashed by Odin’s dad a while back, and they want reveeeeeeenge. Also the Aether, a magic substance that will help them bring about everlasting darkness (which raises all SORTS of questions about why they have eyes, etc, but this movie is not the place for a discussion of evolutionary biology (insert joke about Chris Hemsworth’s abs here)). Things go wrong for everyone, surprise! There are battles, there is science, there are monsters, and there is kissing.

Things I liked:

Sif is awesome.

Jane was science-y! (And thanks to a science discussion early on with Darcy, the movie passes the Bechdel test.)

Friga was brilliant. With a sword. Also the tricksiness.

The relationship between Thor and Loki. Prickly but sad, angry but wanting-to-be-hopeful… more nuanced than I was expecting, to be honest. Not knocking Hemsworth but I think a lot of that was down to Hiddleston, because as the wrong-doer he had a harder job making Loki both unrepentant and dismayed at the outcome of his actions. That moment when you realise that everything you’re seeing in Loki’s cell is a trick? – sheer brilliance.

The end! (of the movie itself that is, not the stingers). I was pretty sure I knew what was going down, but it was nice to see it actually happen.

Things I was sad about: 

There is not enough Sif.

UnknownI will never get the image of Stellan Skarsgard in y-fronts out of my brain.

GREENWICH. You cannot be serious about using Greenwich as as the locus of the nine worlds’ conjunctions. And you really cannot be serious about drawing lines that converge there that start at Stonehenge, Snowdon and… other unnamed places because if you named them it’d be even more obvious how STUPID this is…. And in conjunction with this, you really, really cannot be serious about the ancients having left messages for us from “last time”: the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Mayans… the MAYANS? The Mayans were not building monumental structures at the same time as the Egyptians and the Chinese! I… I have no words. Look, even Skarsgard is dubious about his own words!

Darcy and the intern getting it on. Yes I was expecting it, but still.

I liked it. I love superhero movies (except for Spiderman. It just hasn’t worked for me). So… there are explosions and fight scenes and some delightful snark. And Loki. It’s exactly what I expected.


Way back when I was doing my undergrad degree, I did a subject called Popular Fiction. I was excited to be reading popular fiction and calling it work for uni! I was less excited when I got to the first tutorial to discover that, of about 20 of us, I think only 2 or 3 admitted to actually reading popular fiction regularly… everyone else said they were doing the subject “to know what other people read” (I paraphrase).* This made me a bit bullheaded. So did the lecturer insisting on differentiating between the reading/appreciating of literature, versus the consumption of popular fiction. This one still makes me angry, although I do wonder now how much the younger me missed nuances here; the lecturer was definitely cluey enough to understand Austen and Shakespeare as originating in the popular sphere. So perhaps I overreacted and/or misunderstood some aspect.

Anyway, over time I have come to terms with the fact that yes, actually, I am a consumer of popular culture, and that is OK. It does not make that culture bad, it does not mean that I am no appreciating it properly, etc etc. Basically I have grown up, and grown into my skin. So I am quite happy to say that hell yes I consume Terry Pratchett books. I devour them: I read them quickly, in concentrated blocks of time; they don’t require me to stop and worry over words or sentences that don’t make sense. That said, I tend to treat Literature (when I have to read it) in much the same way. At the very same time, though, as Anita Sarkeesian rightly insists, just because you enjoy a product of popular culture doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be critically analysed (again, I paraphrase).


This is the long way round to saying “I read Snuff! It was awesome!”

… and dealt with some big issues in clever ways, as you would expect. (There are some spoilers below.)

Pratchett has dealt with racism, via speciesism, before: human reactions to werewolves, vampires, dwarves, trolls, zombies, etc etc – these have all been coded as racial. And, from memory, generally done well (I could be wrong there; it’s been a while). In Snuff Pratchett makes this the central issue, because the main problem revolves around goblins and whether they ought to be treated as sentient, sapient, creatures. For a long time they have been regarded as vermin, and many people have treated them in ways matching that perception. But now Sam Vimes and family are off for a Holiday, and there are Hints that all is not well in the bucolic surrounds he finds himself in. Not least the difficulty of understanding crockett, and having to confront horses.

I’ve had to think carefully about the way Pratchett portrays the goblins. One of the crescendo moments is a goblin, Tears of the Mushroom, playing the harp for a huge crowd in Ankh-Morpok. That is, a member of a subjected race, wearing ‘civilised’ clothes, goes to the heart of civilisation and plays an instrument that is coded as approaching the zenith of musical accomplishment, and there impresses the (civilised) bigwigs. This could all be seen as uncomfortably close to recreating the classic idea of the western civilising mission.

… Except. Except that the goblins have already been shown, very clearly, to have their own culture and don’t need ‘civilising’. They have a rich language, evidenced clearly by their names (Tears of the Mushroom!); they make art (some of which is so precious that humans who regard the goblins as little better than animals will steal it); they care for one another and about justice. They are wretches in that they are wretched – through no fault of their own. And Tears of the Mushroom plays her own composition, and is in no way dismayed by the audience before her. By the time Tears of the Mushroom plays, the reader should be so convinced about the sentience and sapience of the goblins that any of the characters doubting it should cause serious eye-rolling. Many of the human characters are also convinced early on, which is also intended to convince the audience, just in case you missed all of the other very obvious signs.

Thus what Pratchett is doing is showing, to some extent, an example of the old westernising/civilising mission – there’s no doubt that’s what Miss Beadle is doing, whatever her intentions – and then… not entirely sending it up, but certainly undermining it, and definitely showing that is is quite unnecessary for the sake of the goblins themselves. Although maybe it’s necessary for the acknowledged-as-civilised, to make them realise what they are doing to this race.

There are other issues under examination here too. The place of landed gentry and inherited titles (written after all by Sir Pratchett), with a lovely sneaky homage to Jane Austen; and how a copper manages to love both his work and his family. Pratchett has delved into Sam Vimes’ head a few times in the recent books and I think his ideas about policing etc are utterly intriguing. I especially loved here the abstracted notion of the Street as something that stays with people like Vimes, and helps him to be who he is.

I love the Discworld. I think the books are, as a whole, getting better. I wish I thought there were many more to come.

*I was also less excited about having a Jackie Collins novel on the booklist. In three years of English at uni, this is one of the few books I just did not read.**

** One of the others was Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle.***

*** I also didn’t finish James Joyce’s Ulysses. Peh; bad taste in the mouth.