The Power Of Art

Simon Schama's Power Of ArtI thought Simon Schama’s Power Of Art series was about the best television I’d ever seen when it screened a few years ago. This series was one of those rare successes in that it managed to be intellectual AND entertaining at the same time. I know, I was suprised too. I missed a few episodes and was appalled to find it unavailable on DVD when I looked a while back. The library has had the companion book for a while now, which is great, but certainly a lot more dry. I’m thrilled to report the library now holds copies of the full series on DVD, which has finally been made available.

For those that caught the series and know how good it was, here’s a chance to see it again. For those of you who missed it when it aired amidst the cathode-ray mediocrity, prepare to be delighted. Simon Schama first appeared on our screens presenting the almost-as-enthralling A History of Britain series and seems to be the BBC’s smarty-pants of the moment. The key to his success is the genuine passion and enthusiasm for the subject matter overflowing through his narration. This interest is infectious and enables Schama to present ‘boring’ topics in an accessible and entertaining manner. Schama is an historian, and is drawn to drama so he has carefully chosen works that represent powerful ideas and were produced by artists in the grip of some sort of historical or psychological crisis. This, of course, makes for compelling story telling. Purists may object that the biography and history overshadow the art at times, but to Schama they are one and the same.

The impassioned narration is broken up by re-enactments of historical episodes from the artist’s lives, which vary in effectiveness (Andy Serkis of Gollum fame is just as scary as a deranged Vincent van Gogh). Overall, the series is enthralling and highly recommended for appreciators of painting, history or drama. For those that don’t ‘get’ modern or abstract painting, I particularly recommend the Rothko installment, you’ll never look at a red square the same again!

Champion Mo-Mo

Mo-Mo is a star. Well we all knew that but now it has been acknowledged nationally at the  Qantas Media Awards where she won the award  for Best Blogger of 2009.  In her day job Moata contributes to the Library blog but by night she masquerades as Blog Idle on the Stuff website.  Since winning the Stuff Blog Idol competition a year ago Moata has gathered a legion of fans for her funny and pointed writing about the daily events of life.

Stuff describes Moata as a “librarian with a black-belt in sarcasm who’s been meaning to get one in procrastination too but always ends up watching TV instead. Her blog is an unholy mash-up of whimsy, cynicism and wry observation.” If you haven’t already I’d recommend you check out Mo-Mo’s writing on both blogs. There are some great laugh-out-loud moments and plenty of wry acknowledgements when she hits the nail (or maybe the mouse!) on the head about the ups and downs of daily life.

Canoe well launched

I’d been looking forward to the launch of Apirana Taylor‘s new poetry book A canoe in midstream at Madras Cafe Books last night, not just because of the chance to have “a drink and a nosh-up and a talk” ,  the best bit of launches according to Taylor.  That was all good but even better was getting to hear Taylor read.

He had all his multiple talents on show last night; actor, musician, raconteur and most of all poet.  And he had the cleanest, shiniest shoes. Call me trivial but attention to details like that carry over into other things, like making sure the words in a poem are perfect and true. 

 The book was launched by Fiona Farrell in typically poetic fashion, as she talked about those  ‘poetry moments’ when a poet’s voice comes back to us as we’re walking along a hilltop or attending a funeral.  A scratchy recording of Yeats reading The lake isle of Innisfree in his quavery old man’s voice, James K. Baxter declaiming A small ode to mixed flatting or Margaret Mahy reciting Down the back of the chair.

We are uplifted, challenged and moved by these memories and the audience last night was given lots of opportunities to lay down some new ones as Taylor read in his unforgettable voice.  If you ever get the chance to hear him, take it.

Do you know where your towel is?

Author Douglas Adams, who passed away in 2001, has been responsible for more than a few entries into the English vernacular “babel fish”, “pangalactic gargleblasters”, the facetious use of the number 42 as an answer to incomprehensible questions, the difficulty of Thursdays…the list goes on*.

Amongst this list of sci-fi, hitchiker’s guide references you can surely include the importance of the humble towel, which is perhaps not so humble after all –

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V… you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough… any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Two weeks after Adam’s death in 2001 the inaugural towel day was held. On 25 May every year since Adams fans have clutched their towels to their chests, necks, or waists and worn them throughout the day in the kind of offbeat remembrance that the author would surely have appreciated. If you are brave and/or devoted enough why not wear your towel on Monday? At least then you’ll know where it is, and you never know, it might just come in handy.

For more information check out the official Towel day website.

*If none of this comprehensible to you, well firstly “Shame!”, secondly go read this immediately.