Some things I have been listening to

Those of you in Auckland and Wellington are lucky to have the chance to see Beach House this weekend.  I’ve been listening to the second album from this Baltimore band a lot over the past week and it has quickly become one of my favourites.  Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally create lush, dreamy pop just perfect for wintry nights.   Of course I like my pop to sound from another time, and Beach House make their keyboards, fuzzy guitars and harpsichords sound other-worldly.  Legrand’s vocals are warm and hazy at times reminiscent of Nico, at others a drugged Debbie Harry.  The lyrical subject matter is the stuff of all good pop – romance, unrequited love, lonesomeness, etc.  The result is an assured and fully realised sound, which I think you will like if you are a fan of Cat Power or Isobel Campbell.  Incidentally, Legrand is the niece of Michel Legrand, the composer of many a hallucinogenic French film soundtrack.  Maybe it is something in the genes. Continue reading

Book Review: Atoms, dinosaurs and DNA: 68 great New Zealand scientists

Atoms, dinosaurs and DNA
Atoms, dinosaurs and DNA

What motivates a person to become a scientist? That’s one of the questions answered in Atoms, dinosaurs and DNA: 68 great New Zealand scientists. Conservationist Don Merton, for example, learnt as a child that goldfinch chicks could be raised successfully by his grandmother’s canary. This discovery proved exceptionally useful when he became involved in the preservation of the Chatham Islands only remaining breeding pair of Black Robins. Eggs were successfully removed from the nest and raised by the Chatham Island Tomtits. Now there are about 250 Chatham Island Black Robins which is a major achievement.

I wouldn’t normally choose to read a book about scientists, but the format – a single page devoted to each scientist, and filled with nice pictures – I thought that I could probably cope. If you want in depth-information then this is not the book for you, as the profiles on each scientist are short. However, they do contain the relevant information about major achievements, as well as information you may not get in other books or articles, including childhood experiences and motivations to enter the world of the obsession and passion for a particular subject.

The photographs and illustrations are a nice addition to the book, with some of the early botanists showing a remarkable skill as artists in their own right. I found this is a good book to dip into, and being well presented and easy to read was certainly a help.

Co-author Rebecca Priestley is speaking at the Christchurch Readers and Writers Festival and you can see her at the session titled ‘Why does the earth move?’ Her profile, alongside other authors and information about the festival is on our festival homepage..