Archive for October, 2009

October 20, 2009

Mother tongues

By now it feels like about half of the people in this city have congratulated me on how well I speak English, and I have gotten very good at smiling through gritted teeth. So really, I can do nothing better that quote from this mad/awesome/explosive interview with Ashok Banker at the World SF News blog.

I’ve met this particular cultural bogey before and it remains as unfunny as ever! My mother tongue was English, not Hindi, and in fact, there are more English-speaking people in India than in the US [...] I grew up speaking only English, learned Hindi only later in school because it was a compulsory subject (as were either Marathi or French – I took French), and English remains the only language I’m completely fluent in even today.

(I picked French too, after a year of Sanskrit established that I was completely useless at it).

October 17, 2009

In which I tell you what to read

Mostly though, what the other boys called him — what everyone in the village called him — was Parish Fool. Cause his mum didn’t have no money to dress him in aught but a suit of rags, stitched up from scraps of handmedowns and castoffs what had been worn to nothing and chucked away. A right motley it was, in every sodding shade under the sun. Every shade what’s been faded and filthed to a shade of dirt and dust, that is. So they calls him the Parish Fool for it, shouts, Where’s yer bells? and, Tell us a joke! Fucking cunts.

But we don’t call him Poor Dear or Parish Fool, us Scruffians. Don’t call him none of those names the groanhuffs use in their stories about him neither. Cause what do groanhuffs know? All’s they’ve done is heard our tales and passed em along in a game of Chinese Whispers, getting em all mixed up, like. Peer-a-Door and Pierce-a- Veil, they calls him! Dozy twats. Still, we gots to call him summat. Hero needs a name, don’t he? So we Scruffians calls him Jack, cause that were a word for any Scruffian-to-be in those days.

If you wish to read what I have been reading (and you should) go here and here. I am a big fan of Hal Duncan’s work in general, but now that he’s playing around with playground games and children’s rhymes (as well as myth and politics and storytelling and the like) I think my head is likely to explode with the happy. I wanted to quote massive chunks of “Jack Scallywag”, because it’s really good, but I don’t want to give too much away. I hope you’ll buy it, though, (it is entirely in my interest that writers I like not starve) and I really hope there will be more of these Scruffians stories.

And once you’ve gone over and read those (and you will, won’t you?) maybe you should read Vellum and Ink and Escape from Hell! (the last of which really needs to be moviefied). And then this series, and perhaps this. It’s all worth it.

October 6, 2009

High expectations

One of the more memorable moments in the new Dorian Gray film (of which I did not approve*) is a scene where Dorian is partaking of tea and scones. As he sips his tea and slathers jam onto a scone, we are treated to flashbacks of his recent debauched activities. There is whipping and screaming and blood that is visually very like the strawberry jam that plays a central role in his seemingly innocent high tea.

In the three weeks or so since we watched the film, my friend T has consumed vast quantities of scones, with increasing desperation and disappointment. Why, he asks, when the scones themselves, weighted down with jam, are so decadent, are no orgies forthcoming?

I myself expect nothing of scones. Baked goods are fundamentally wholesome in any case, however hard they try. But I do sympathise.

I first encountered fondue as a child through Asterix in Switzerland. This was a mistake.I grew up under the impression that this

(click for larger image)

would lead inevitably to this

and maybe some of this.

It looked exciting.

Years later, when I finally encountered fondue in real life, it was something of an anticlimax. It was delicious, of course, and cheese is capable of a decadence that baked goods can only dream of. Still, it was bread and cheese. Where were my feisty Roman matrons? My nine year old self was severely displeased.

And this is why, I think, the frequent association of food and sex is not necessarily a great thing. Think of that nine year old. Think of T, sitting at home with a plate of scones, looking around him hopefully. It’s harsh.

* I did approve of the kiss between Ben Chaplin and Ben Barnes, though. More Ben Chaplin, please.