The sport that dare not speak its name

There is a sport that dare not speak its name. Mere casual mention round here can result in glazed looks, harrumphs of disinterest, and if you’re unlucky, a toe-turning tirade about sportspeople who really should read more, whoever they play for.

Yes we are over-saturated with the sport in the professional era, and yes, the way the game is played now can be dull, and yes, there’s lots of other sports out there that don’t get the coverage they deserve, and yes, some of the players act like idiots sometimes, and no, we haven’t won the big one in ages. But as an ex-colleague of mine would say, “What’s that about?”.

On Saturday a fellow called Ox carried a log of wood home. By tradition it was his job after a successful challenge.

There’s a little glimmer of New Zealand life and  of the old pre-professional days in the trophy he was carrying. It’s an all too rare example of the long tail of the sporting world still swatting flies on the rear of the modern game.

Still wondering what I’m on about?

Sigh. Click here then find out more here, and whatever you do, don’t click here, or you’ll need to plan two month’s leave in 2011.

Fade out – Music to say goodbye by

MusicnotesHere’s a genius conceit for an album … what song would you like played on your deathbed or at your funeral?

Final song #1 asks some of the world’s most recognized DJs to choose a tune to play at their own funeral or on their deathbed. Not only were the artists asked to choose their final song but also to express their feelings as to why they chose it.

And what a range of selections – from the classical – Gymnopedie – Erik Satie (selected by DJ T.), the punky new wavey with a bit of baroque stone cold classic Golden brown by the Stranglers (selected by DJ Hell), the pertinently titled Is that all there is? by Peggy Lee) (selected by Ewan Pearson) to a bit of Brian Eno –  An ending (ascent) (selected by Coldcut).

 I think Consummation by Nina Simone would be a beautifully soaring finale. I’m sure some people would rock out with My Way (by Frank Sinatra OR Sid Vicious). What would you pick? A favourite song or one that sums up your philosophy of life?

Young Photographers on Display – September 7 to 18

PhotographerChristchurch City Libraries will be hosting a display of Ilford Shield Secondary Schools Photography Competition finalists at the Central Library from September 7 to 18. The show is on the First Floor and is an opportunity to see some of the most promising young photographers in New Zealand.

This is the 40th year of the competition and attracted 800 entries. It is organised by the Nature Photography Society of NZ on behalf of the Photographic Society of New Zealand and sponsored by C.R. Kennedy and UCOL, Universal College of Learning.

In 1967, PSNZ member Dick Poole started a series of photography classes for secondary students in Christchurch. Dick was so impressed with the work produced, that he suggested to Len Casbolt, who was then working for HE Perry Ltd wholesalers of Ilford products, that there should be a photographic competition exclusively for secondary students.

The idea of an inter-secondary school competition to encourage photographers came to fruition in 1969 with a the donation of a handsome shield and reimbursement of competition running costs by H E Perry Ltd.The PSNZ organised the Ilford Shield event, modelling it on a similar one run by Ilford Ltd in Australia.

At first it was restricted to monochrome prints, but later included colour prints and slides. The three original sections were ‘people, places and animals’, but by 2000 were changed ‘open, creative and digital’. The Digital imaging section was added in 2001. Then as digital has become widely used, the classes were reduced to two, Open and Digital Creative Effects.

The school gaining the highest aggregate receives the Ilford Shield. Various prizes of photographic equipment are given to the place-getters and the winning school.

The first winners, in 1969 were Christ’s College, Christchurch.

The Len Casbolt Trophy is for the overall Champion Print from both classes.

No shortage of short stories

As part of our 150th celebrations, there was a one-day short story competition held at the beginning of August. There was no shortage of entries, showing that the desire to write and get creative on the page is alive and well in our city. Competitors had to include four out of a series of Christchurch landmarks.

You can read the stories on The winner of the open section was Nic Gorman and his ‘story’, Reasons for Voyaging, is available, as well as a selection of other entries. The winner of the youth section – Kerry Lane’s Sunday Afternoon – will be available after The Press has published it next Thursday.

It’s great to see the variety of styles in this fresh crop of writing. If you had to write a short story which Christchurch landmarks would you include? What would it be about? Boy racers? Office politics? Go on, get creative on a sunny Friday!

Recent necrology, 17 – 26 August

Necrology – a list of notable people who have died recently. Now a regular feature on our blog.

  • Fred Whitsey, 1919-2009
    Telegraph gardening correspondent whose elegantly-worded columns always offered practical advice

Phantom billstickers do Poetry

ChristchurchpoetryYou may have spotted a splurge of poetry about town – it’s the Phantom Billstickers Poem Posters 2009. The New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre reports:

An initiative by poster company Phantom Billstickers puts poems by New Zealand and American poets on the streets as A1 posters. The first four posters were launched in Auckland 2 June by Tusiata Avia, James Milne (aka Lawrence Arabia) and Michele Leggott … The posters will go up in 13 New Zealand cities and in Nashville, Tennessee, where the company is also active. The poems will change monthly and the project will run for six months.

Phantom is also presenting “Poetry on the occasion of Janet Frame’s birthday” at Al’s Bar, 31 Dundas Street, Christchurch on Friday 28 August at 5.30pm. There’ll be refreshments and entry is free.

See the Phantom Billstickers site to find out more about this business that has been keeping citizens informed since 1982 – as musician and writer Bill Direen says: “No people is without art. Phantom Billstickers tell people about it”.

Have you ever played Calvinball?

Just wanted to plug one of my favourite comics – Calvin and Hobbes.

I’ve always enjoyed the world from both Calvin and Hobbes’ viewpoints. It makes me realise that as a six year old, Calvin certainly has a unique, but entirely cool, perspective on the world.

There’s plenty of copies of the various collections throughout the library network, so go on, borrow one and get your daily dose of laughter. You can also get Calvin & Hobbes cartoons for your Facebook page.

Most importantly you could even try your own version of Calvinball – the only over-arching rule is that you can’t play with the same rules. Essentially you just make it up as you go, which could be a great mantra on how to be happy at work, play, love and life in general.

Justin Cartwright’s latest novel

I can’t remember exactly but I think Joe Bennett (or was it Nicky Watson?) mentioned Justin Cartwright as one of his favourites. When you have been a fan of an author from the start. He’s always been a novelist who has a quite uncanny sense of the here and now and if people want to look back on how people behaved  and talked in our time they could go straight to his novels. Of course the people are very much London, very much middle class and often in the communications and entertainments industries.

This new novel is about a family – quite well off, liberal (of course), leftish (of course) and clever (goes without saying). The mother had died and the bereaved father isn’t behaving as a sadly bereaved parent is expected to behave: it’s not that he doesn’t miss his wife and regret her passing but he is actually quite content by himself. His family have messy muddled lives: his son, having an affair with a woman in his law office,  is married to a lovely woman who’d been a ballet dancer and is anxious to get pregnant but nothing seems to be happening; his daughter has dumped her awful boyfriend but he starts stalking her.

The father, David, had been a television correspondent of the Jonathan Dimbleby variety and he has friends, all late middle aged like himself, who meet sporadically. He had been in the film industry when young (as had Cartwright: he had once directed one of those awful 1970 soft porn comedies that the British film industry specialised in at the time: at least his one, called Rosie Dixon, Night nurse, didn’t feature Robin Askwith but it did have the wonderful comedienne Beryl Reid and this is fictionalised in one of his novels). One thing you could say about Cartwright is he is often a little over serious and his characters tend to agonise about their problems and be overly conscious of their feelings. This may, however, be par for the course in Hampstead, Highgate and the places these people play. It does mean that you miss the sort of humorous irony the English are supposedly good at (and the Americans are supposedly at sea with). There is, however, one very funny bit where Adam, a boozy onetime novelist who’s made a fortune out of television series writing, sounds off on why he doesn’t write novels:

I hate novels which describe the awful problems of being a writer and novels about a mysterious legacy of papers found in a trunk which may explain the meaning of the Gnostic gospels, and I hate novels which tell you the real story of William Shakespeare, who was secretly a Catholic priest, as you can tell from a small carving on a pew in a chapel in Stratford, and I hate novels about magic and elves and the lost arts of necromancy, and even worse – much ****ing worse – I hate novels about fairies and guardian angels and novels about sensitive people who have autistic children touched by ****ing genius and I also hate novels of suspense where the writer withholds from the reader details that he knows perfectly ****ing well in order to make it suspenseful and, even worse than having my nuts passed through the grinder, I hate reading novels about time travel and what is called – can you believe this? – fantasy, which turns out to be ****ing bollocks on a Homeric scale about people dressed in plastic armour with silly names like Snarfbucket of Zadok, Lord of the Fens and the Mountains.”

He could say that but a selector of library fiction couldn’t possibly comment (except to say we could add novels about sexy vampires, paranormal romances of any kind, crime novels that get mired on forensics, paranoia thrillers, the Left behind series…………euuuuuuuch, enough already! So read this novel instead: it has none of these.

Trash to treasure – bestsellers from decades past

Following on from our recent displays of classic and vintage science fiction and adventure thriller, the Popular team is once again taking us on a trip down memory lane (this time the slightly risque shaded reaches of Lovers Lane, perhaps?).

Wendy says:

Pop into Popular and have a look at our display of “sizzling” books from the past – books that defined a generation, made a difference, turned heads and pages.

For the post-war generation, it was little beauties like On the Beach, Room at the Top, or The Sun Also Rises. In the 60’s and 70’s, many of us remember most fondly the books we weren’t meant to read: for some it was Angelique and the Sultan, or Valley of the Dolls; for others, Lolita and Portnoy’s Complaint.

Trash or treasure?
Movies from the books became classics themselves – think Gone With the Wind, Far From the Madding Crowd, and Doctor Zhivago. The scene of Alan Bates and Oliver Reed’s naked wrestling in Ken Russell’s Women in Love is forever etched in my mind …

So if you would like a little stroll down popular fiction’s Memory Lane, come and have a browse here at Central, or leave a comment with any books that “sizzled” for you.

Shaun Tan scoops another award

The Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Award winners were announced last week and Shaun Tan, an amazing illustrator and author scooped one of the top awards.  Shaun Tan is one of those illustrators that appeals hugely to adults as well as children and his artwork is absolutely stunning and quite surreal.  My mum, who has introduced me to so many great books since I was born, doesn’t like him because he’s a little too weird for her tastes, but it is this quirkiness that really appeals to me.  One of the main things I love about his illustrations is that they are quite different from book to book.  His latest book, Tales from Outer Suburbia, is the book that has won the Older Readers category of the CBCA Awards and it is the best example of his different styles.  It is a collection of  short stories that he has written and illustrated, some funny and some slightly disturbing.  Definitely check out his work, even if you don’t normally read picture books.

Although some of the other finalists in the awards did not win their category, several of my favourites got an Honour Award including The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson (in the Picture Book category) and A Rose for the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French (in the Older Readers category).  You can check out all the winners on the Children’s Book Council of Australia website which also has some links to the websites of Australian authors and illustrators.