Happy Birthday J. R. Cash

He was the man in black.

He was the father of two talented children Rosanne Cash and John Carter Cash.

His first wife Vivian wrote a book about her time with him.

He left his first wife for a daughter of the Carter Family clan.

He was a devout but troubled Christian, bothered by addictions of many kinds.

He was given the name “J.R.” because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials.

He met June Carter in 1968 and later she would help write the hit “Ring of Fire” and become his wife.

He was played in a movie by Joaquin Phoenix with Reese Witherspoon as his wife June.

He created an image of being an outlaw and although convicted of starting a forest fire his time in jail was pastoral – performing to prisoners in places like San QuentinFolsom and Osteraker Prisons.

His early recordings continue to be repackaged and reissued as yet another Best of Johnny Cash – but those early “boom-chicka-boom” freight train recordings are still fantastic.

With his wife June he fronted an eclectic television series – the Johnny Cash show, and later the Johnny Cash Christmas special.

After a period of indifference and troubles he was rejuvenated by Rick Rubin and produced a series of incredible recordings of covers and traditional songs in the series American Recordings.

He featured as a guest on the Simpsons,  the Muppets , and Dr Quinn Medicine Women, and you can listen to his authorized biography read by his friend Kris Kristofferson.

The posthumous American VI has just been released.

Happy birthday  Johnny Cash.

Forgotten Battalion of Brothers

The TV series Band of Brothers based on Stephen Ambrose’s book of that name faithfully recreated the stories of the surviving veterans of Easy Company (in full that’s “E company of the Second Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division”). Easy Company’s exploits are now legendary.

Other books soon followed giving further points of view including a couple about the company’s leader Dick Winters (Winters in his war memoirs has some interesting things to say about the television series). ‘The Filthy Thirteen’ jumped on the ‘Band’ band-wagon in 2003 with the story of a pathfinder unit of the 506th known for their ferocity and guts whose mission preceded everyone else’s. Yet Easy Company was just one small unit of the 506th and this well deserved attention makes one wonder where are the stories of the other 17 companies of the 506th Regiment?

Now at last we have a new book about the whole Third battalion of the 506th which hasn’t got the same level of attention until now. ‘Tonight we die as men: the untold story of the Third Battalion 506th parachute Infantry Regiment from Toccoa to D-Day’ by Ian Gardner and Roger Day captures far better than most books what actually happened when this battalion was dropped far from their planned drop zones often in very small, isolated, leaderless pockets.

Without any radio contact for the first three days, the high command assumed the whole battalion had been effectively wiped out and their objectives not gained (it has been called ‘The Forgotten Battalion’ ever since). It even reveals that the paratroopers were under orders not to engage the enemy until daylight.

I like the fact that the veterans interviewed for this book mention and acknowledge the presence and support recieved from and given to other units equally scattered in the drop. Intriguingly, one of the officers in the 3/506th whose account is used here was a Bobbie Rommel. Was he in any way related to the famous German Fieldmarshal Erwin Rommel? Read this book to find out.

Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center – a database for the informed

Let’s face it, we all love a good debate.

If you want to win the debating prize at school or those arguments around the dinner table, then this is the resource that will equip you. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center is the premier database covering today’s hottest social issues, from terrorism, endangered species, stem cell research, abortion to gun control.

Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center helps develop critical-thinking by bringing together a variety of information on social issues.  An excellent resource for those wishing to do in-depth investigations about major contentious topics for school, work, research or out of intellectual curiosity:

  • More than 9,100 pro and con viewpoint  articles                                              
  • Nearly 5,000 topic overviews
  • More than 300 primary source documents
  • More than 1,800 images and links to Google Image search
  • More than 140 full-text magazines, academic journals and newspapers
  • Nearly 6,000 statistical tables, charts and graphs

This database has a user-friendly interface that can be configured to different content levels – basic, intermediate and advanced to help users choose appropriate content for their abilities.

A translation feature also allows users to translate documents into Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian and simplified Chinese and Korean.

Access to this easy to use database is one of the many benefits of library membership. You can access Opposing Viewpoints and  many other useful databases  from home with your library card number and PIN, or at our community libraries!

Dead Dames – Barbara Pym 1913-1980

Vicars, curates, white elephant stalls and afternoon tea…..Barbara Pym’s novels are replete with dog collars, jumble and domestic details but they are also so very much more. Anne Tyler credits Pym with capturing ‘the heartbreaking silliness of everyday life’, and like Jane Austen, Barbara Pym delivers the everyday minutiae of small lives while simultaneously revealing concealed darkness and miseries.

Barbara wrote steadily throughout her life but there were two quite distinct periods to her published writing career. Her first novels came out between 1950-1961 and her last between 1977-1986 (several were published posthumously).

“The wilderness” years between 1961-1977 were when she went unpublished, An unsuitable attachment was rejected by her publisher Jonathan Cape for being too old fashioned and tame. Salvation came in in 1977 when the Times Literary Supplement asked critics to name the most underated authors of the last 75 years,  Pym’s name popped up twice with both poet Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil citing her.

Now in vogue, publishers were eager to publish Pym. Quartet in autumn, short-listed for the Booker prize, and The sweet dove died came out in 1977 and 1978 and her previous novels were re-printed and introduced to an American readership. Tragically Barbara Pym died of cancer on January 11th 1980 leaving her legacy of several quietly but brilliantly observed novels.

Books in to movies – I say yes, you say …?

Christchurch City Library catalogue link to Sherlock Holmes
His last bow; and the case-book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This in response to Zac’s blog post Should books really be made into movies. I know I could have commented in the comments but the more I thought about it, the more I had to say so bear with me. Now Lisa has swung into the debate with her blog Shutter Island : Good; Leo : Not so Good, now here is my two cents or is the going rate 10 cents? 

I too saw some movies over summer including Sherlock Holmes and The Lovely Bones – yes, both books. One of the things I noticed was that over half of the movies that were being advertised were based on books.

A lot of people are of the school that movies based on books aren’t as good as the real thing. In many cases this is true but look what it does to the reserve lists at the library. Because of the movie Sherlock Holmes, my husband and I have discovered the joys of Sherlock Holmes – the novels. Holmes was as Guy Ritchie portrayed him – a brilliantly analytical, drug-taking, street fighter who was more than likely manic depressive. Who would have thought! They’re a really good read.

And then there is the True Blood series. I couldn’t get Prime when it first came out so I tried the books to see if they were worth giving a go. Sadly they were – great pulp reading. I say sadly because now my reading is centring around Sookie Stackhouse, closely chased by Sherlock Holmes with the odd novel thrown in to break it up a little. So are any movies that inspired you to read? Or any movies that are better than the book?

Majestic Crossroads – Image of the week

Traffic at the intersection of High, Lichfield and Manchester Streets. 1962.

Traffic at the intersection of High, Lichfield and Manchester Streets

The Majestic Theatre is on the right and the Canterbury Building Society building in the centre, on the corner of High and Manchester Streets.

Do you miss the way things used to be? Share your photos with us! We love donations, contact us.

Also contact us if you have any further information on any of the images. Want to see more? You can browse our collection here.


Feverish anticipation is a must before fully enjoying any event, and counting the sleeps is well under way for 2010 New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Week at the New Zealand International Arts Festival.

I’m going to lots of events, but full fandom is reserved for Neil Gaiman (overseas division), Don McGlashan (domestic) and The Arrival (Australian).

With Gaiman it’s the writer as phenomenon aspect that’s really interesting. Sure he’s written some great books, but so have lots of other writers.

But this is the man the New Yorker called  Kid Goth in one of those hugely long stories you only get if you’re a really big deal; the man who is engaged to Amanda Palmer, the man who smiled proudly on the red carpet at the Golden Globes while she changed her knickers and stayed good natured (“it is a very good thing for a shy author to have a famous and extroverted fiancee”) when captioned as her ‘friend’ even though he was there for Coraline.

Twenty years of The Sandman. Will the Town Hall be full of “twee bisexual Goth Girls with BPD who are drama majors and who are destined to become cat ladies”? I can only hope – they sound like my kind of crowd.

Don McGlashan is above such base concerns; he’ll just be great,  he always is. Strictly speaking he’s not part of Writers and Readers but he wrote most of the wonderful words he’ll be singing and that counts.

The Arrival is also a performance but it’s based on a book, so that counts too.  Four years ago at the Festival Shaun Tan, the narrative artist and “West Australian wunderkind”, spoke about the book he was working on.  It was to be something new, based on archival photographs of immigrants in the twentieth century. That book was The Arrival and it is a masterpiece of graphic art. If the stage adaptation is half as good as the book it should be overwhelming.

As for the rest of them, this year I’m attending as a person rather than a librarian so it’s going to be trivia all the way, none of this worthy stuff about writing methods and how  long they write each day or where they do it or when.

It’ll be what they’re wearing, how old their author photos are, the relative  corkiness and screwiness of their corkscrew curls (Neil Gaiman and Kate de Goldi – curl off. My money’s on de Goldi who outcurled Margaret Atwood).

And that’s just the authors. Equally enjoyable are the insidious comparisons between the Wellington,  Auckland and Christchurch audiences. Best-dressed? Best mannered? Worst mannered? Best male-female ratio? Youngest? Most matching/confounding of stereotypes?

Also the awarding of imaginary awards for the most pompous question, the most nakedly ambitious question, the best “it’s all about me” question and the question that takes longer than the answer.

Will they have a festival T-shirt?

Healthy books

I have read 3 non-fiction books about health in just 2 weeks. Sweet poisonThat’s an amazing feat for me but they were interesting and relevant so I kept going.

The one that’s doing the rounds is Sweet Poison by David Gillespie. It’s about sugar and how it has become the white death of western society. Sweet Poison does a fantastic job of explaining how sugar is involved in the demise of good health and is a classic example of corporate food technology overtaking basic healthy eating.

We have now somehow become lumbered with a health system focused on sickness rather than health and the numbers on waiting lists for major operations just keep growing. There is an old saying that goes something along the lines of, if they didn’t eat it 100 years ago then chances are it might not be good food. Wouldn’t it be cool if supermarkets could try selling more real food and stop saturating their shelves with sugar-flavoured substitutes. Try taking a 4-year old to the supermarket! It’s really hard work having to say no all the time!

But to help remember that we aren’t all subject to corporate food technology schemes and that we can actually make healthy choices for ourselves, try reading New Zealand author and healer Franchelle Ofsoske-Wyber and her book The Sacred Plant Medicine of Aotearoa . It tells of the amazing power of New Zealand native plant healing properties. You don’t have to read it cover to cover, just pick out the most relevant bits.

Try these links, or perhaps even suggest another author you have come across who knows an easy tip to staying healthy:

Who on earth was Ray Blank?

It’s a name that might suit a Bond movie – Blank, Ray Blank. If you’ve ever played football in Christchurch, you’ll probably know that there’s a park named after this fellow – but who was he?

As part of our preparations for the Culture Galore festival in March, we’ve added a profile of Ray Blank to the library website.

Several colleagues have combined their efforts to search out information on the former principal and Waimairi County Councillor. Involved in many sports developments around the city, Ray Blank also designed golf courses, as well as pioneering the open air school concept.

He might not be as well-known as Bond, but he’s a fascinating character who made quite a contribution to Christchurch as we know it.  So on that note, which Christchurch person would you like to see a profile of on the library website? Any suggestions out there?

Culture Shock

Arriving on a cold, gloomy day, after spending four weeks at sea feeling seasick a lot of the time is probably not the best introduction to your new country!

It was the early sixties I was ten years old, and no-one had asked me if I wanted to leave my home, friends and family in Holland to live in New Zealand. One very vivid memory is watching as my cousins visited before our departure and were allowed to make their choice of my toys.

The only person in our family who spoke any English was my Father and we were totally left to our own devices. We eventually moved into rental accommodation, an old villa, huge by our standards, with a garden, something we had never had before.

The landlord, a Yugoslav, suggested I attend the local Catholic School, where he said the nuns would take good care of me. What a shock my first day at school was. Going from a very liberal school environment to one where the nuns ruled with an iron fist, was not easy. The nuns had decided to put me in the new entrants class to help me learn English. There I was, a very self-conscious 10 year old, sitting on a tiny chair, at a tiny table with 5 year olds I couldn’t understand. To make matters worse, I was dressed in my “dutch clothes”, standing out a mile from the other kids who were, of course in school uniform.

Some of my most vivid recollections? The wide, empty streets of Christchurch and the old cars. My Mum trying to communicate with the local butcher and grocer. The children at school and in the neighbourhood who befriended me. Pies in brown paper bags and fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. Our early New Zealand camping holidays. The five of us and our camping gear packed into a Ford Anglia, setting up camp in a dry river bed on the West Coast and being washed out of our tent in the middle of the night.

There’s a lot more support around for immigrants to New Zealand today

Anyone else like to comment on their experiences of Culture Shock?