Douglas Adams: 25 May is Towel Day!

“Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

After having spent a few weeks Time Travelling this month, you can be sure I kept my towel handy.

Towel Day, 25th May, is a day to Celebrate the life of Douglas Adams, who left us for the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul on 11 May 2001. I hoped he was just spending a year dead for tax reasons.

Cover of The Long dark tea-time of the soul Cover of The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy: the original radio scripts Cover of Wish you were here: The official biography of Douglas Adams Cover of The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy eBook

Adams is the inspired writer of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, first broadcast by the BBC Radio in 1978.  A cult following was inspired by the series and its characters, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, Marvin the paranoid Android and Slartibartfast.

Adams’ inventive use of language, his imagination and humour have immortalised his writing. Using fantasy as a vehicle, Adams explores very human issues such as shyness, meeting women, rain, politics and the demolishing of houses to build motorways – or hyperspace byways.

Douglas Adams also penned three episodes of Dr Who (The Pirate Planet (1978), Destiny of the Daleks (1979) and City of Death (with Graham Williams, 1979); The Salmon of Doubt, the Dirk Gently series, and created the game Starship Titanic, based on a book he wrote with Terry Jones (Monty Python).

I love English wit. Its as stinging as English rain…or indeed Christchurch rain.

RIP Chris Cornell – Soundgarden

Chris Cornell played his final gig with Soundgarden in Detroit on Wednesday night and hours later was found dead in his hotel room. Chris Cornell was best known as singer and songwriter for Seattle grunge band Soundgarden, which had critical success with the 1994 album Superunknown, and Grammy Award winning singles “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman”.

Rock’s Backpages has an unpublished, uncut interview with Chris Cornell in 2011 by Pete Makowski that was supposed to be in MOJO, it is an interesting read and talks about early influences, why Soundgarden split up, and his solo acoustic tour.

Other articles in Rock’s Backpages include a Melody Maker review of a 1989 gig, Soundgarden and Mudhoney at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London. It describes Cornell as part monkey, part Adonis and all of a doodah. In an interview with Paul Elliot, from Select June 1996, Chris muses on alcohol, nuns and the President of The United States of America.

Chris Cornell will be sadly missed, especially by Soundgarden and Audioslave fans.

Find music by Chris Cornell in our collection.

Matariki – Māori New Year 2017

Matariki – the Māori New Year – will take place on Pipiri 25 June 2017. During Matariki we celebrate our unique place in the world. We give respect to the whenua on which we live, and admiration to our mother earth, Papatūānuku.

Matariki 2017 is a fresh look through old eyes at Māori oral traditions, practices and customs associated with the Māori New Year.  Over the next three years the Christchurch City Libraries will be re-introducing ‘Te Iwa o Matariki – the Nine stars of Matariki’ beginning with Te Kātao o Matariki – the water stars of Matariki, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā.

Matariki 2017

Matariki Toi – Community Art Project in the Library

Each year a community art project runs in all our libraries for all to explore their creative side. This year the project is weave a star.  Materials are supplied, all you have to do is bring your creativity.

Matariki yarn stars
Matariki star weaving

Matariki Wā Kōrero – Matariki Storytimes

In addition to our normal Storytimes we have Matariki Storytimes. Come celebrate and welcome the Māori New Year with stories, songs, rhymes and craft activities. All welcome, free of charge.

See our list of Matariki Wā Kōrero – Matariki Storytimes.

Matariki storytime at Te Kete Wānanga o Ōraka
Matariki storytime at Te Kete Wānanga o Ōraka. Shirley Library. Monday 16 June 2014. Flickr 2014-06-16-DSC04495

Matariki Wānaka, Matariki Takiura – Saturday, 17 June

Christchurch City Libraries and Kotahi Mano Kāika (KMK) host a family day at New Brighton Library. Activities will include:

  • art activities and competitions
  • Cover of Matariki: Star of the yeara presentation relating to the book by Associate Professor Dr Rangi Matamua, Matariki, The Star of the Year.
  • exploring the stars with Skyview
  • explore KMK te reo Māori resources on the library computers
  • storytelling about Te Iwa o Matariki

10:30am – 3pm
New Brighton Library

Rehua Marae Matariki Wānaka – Saturday, 24 June

Matariki celebrations continue at Rehua Marae. Stalls, waiata, workshops for the whole family to enjoy. Pop in and say kia ora to staff from Christchurch City Libraries at our library stand/table.

10am-4pm
Rehua Marae
79 Springfield Road
Christchurch

Matariki at Rehua Marae
Rehua Marae, St Albans, Christchurch. Saturday 28 June 2014. File Reference: 2014-06-28-IMG_0501

All Matariki events at the library

Our Learning Centres are offering special Matariki Connect sessions for schools, introducing students to the key concepts of Te Iwa o Matariki with a focus on the three water stars, and involving a range of fun activities. This programme is now fully booked.

Other Matariki events in Christchurch

Matariki in the Zone – Sunday, 25 June

Organised by the Avon-Ōtākaro Network – a celebration of Matariki at the Mahinga Kai Exemplar site including the opening of the Poppies commemoration garden. Activities include –

  • planting
  • carving
  • weaving
  • build your own hut
  • displays and talks

10am-2pm
Anzac Drive Reserve
Corserland St (access of New Brighton Road)

“This is what the river told me” art and writing competition

Year 1-13 pupils can submit a written work (up to 2000 words) or artwork (maximum size A3) along the theme of “This is what the river told me”. Entries close 16 June and should be emailed (for artworks a photograph of the art and dimensions/media) to kathryn.avonotakaro@gmail.com

Please include your first and last name, age, school and year.

More on Matariki

Matariki colouring in

Download these colouring in pages.

Mana - colouring in Mātauranga colouring in Ngā Mahi hou colouring in Whānau - colouring in Matariki

Matariki

Te Rerenga Kōrero – Kaua e mate wheke mate ururoa!

Kia ora. To encourage the use of Te Reo Māori Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori – The Māori Language Commission publish weekly Māori phrases that can be used to support or cheer someone on.

Kaua e mate wheke mate ururoa!
Don’t die like an octopus, die like a hammerhead shark!

akina te reo rugby

All that jazz – Naxos Music Library Jazz is our newest music eResource

We have a new streaming music service — Naxos Music Library Jazz. Good timing for jazz-lovers as the Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival starts here in Christchurch next week!

Naxos Music Library Jazz has over 9000 jazz albums from over 32,000 artists including luminaries like Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, and Ella Fitzgerald. It features music from some of the most renowned jazz labels including Blue Note Records, Warner Jazz, EMI, Fantasy and Enja. Use at a library or enter your library card and password/PIN.

Growing up in a house where jazz was often the music of choice, I found all the music from my childhood — Miles, Oscar, Ella, Charlie Parker, Nina Simone …

     

If you are not sure where to start, there are some great playlists. Depending on your jazz tilt, you could try Thelonious Monk from the Piano Legends, or John Coltrane if a saxophone is more your thing. If you’re looking to Take the “A” Train, Take Five, or My Funny Valentine they are all here — and boy do these cats know how to play. Can you dig it? Yes you can.

See more of our music eResources.

The Dead Poets and the Non Poetry Reader

It is for his prose that I love the writing of Laurie Lee, although it’s darn near poetry anyway. Cider with Rosie was what started this love affair, the flames were fanned by Village Christmas, a slim little number that had me wanting to be ‘carol-barking’ with the young Laurie and the boys from the village choir, trudging through the snow and being given food and hot drinks.

CoverThat speaks to his power of writing. I mean who in their right mind would want the poverty and the poor accommodation of his early life? He was happy though, he knew what to expect with each season as behoves a true countryman. His Mother loved him and his siblings, his Dad having left Lee’s Mum with children from his previous marriage and the children they had together, then departed the scene only to show up occasionally and send money at about the same rate. Village Christmas does cover a wide range of other subjects besides Christmas, festivities and seasons: Things I Wish I Had Known at 18, Chelsea Towards the End of the Last War, The Lords of Berkeley Castle, The Lake District, and the Lying in State of Churchill to name a few.

CoverAs I Walked out One Midsummer Morning has Laurie leaving his beloved Slad and walking slowly to the coast and eventually London and the next stage of his life. Becoming a builder’s labourer keeps him in food and shelter until the building work is finished.

By this time he’s keen to see abroad and has learned to ask for a glass of water in Spanish, so the choice is obvious. Arriving in 1935, he makes his way from north to south, living with the people (especially the girls). Laurie witnesses the dissatisfaction and poverty which led to the start of the Spanish Civil War, and when war starts he is rescued along with other expats by a British warship.

These delightful books are written from the retrospective of an exile. Laurie has been accused of an incurable leaning towards nostalgia and to quote the man himself “The only truth is what you remember”. This fan is delighted with nostalgic excess.

CoverAnother poet, another nostalgic read — Dylan Thomas‘s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Thomas’s writing is also evocative of another time and place and gives such a warm glow – despite the snow which arrived from the heavens each and every Christmas without fail. Firing snowballs at cats and writing naughty snow messages were a regular event. Written as an adult with sly humour, this creates pictures in my head that make me laugh aloud.

coverMore grown up — but even more entertaining — is Under Milk Wood. The library has it as a narrated play, a talking book to lose yourself in, and play form in a book. Join the dreamers of Llareggub:

  • No Good Boyo a lazy young fisherman who dreams peevishly of “nothing”, though he does fantasise about Mrs. Dai Bread Two in a wet corset and is known for causing shenanigans in the wash house,
  • Myfanwy Price and Mog Evans who conduct a romance entirely by correspondence and dreams,
  • Mrs Organ Morgan wife of Mr Organ Morgan who plays the organ constantly,
  • Mr and Mrs Willy Nilly, he’s the postman and together they open the mail each morning, so they can spread the news around the village.
  • Mr Pugh, the schoolmaster who would dearly like to murder the domineering Mrs Pugh and hopefully orders the book “The Lives of Great Poisoners”,
  • Dai Bread the bigamist baker who dreams of harems,
  • Mrs. Dai Bread One, Dai Bread’s first wife, traditional and plain and
  • Mrs. Dai Bread Two, Dai Bread’s second wife, a mysterious and sultry gypsy.

Prepare to lose yourself in Llareggub as your narrator takes you from dawn to dusk with a host of exuberant, very human and memorable characters.

Milkwood was 20 years in the writing and is viewed as the best radio play ever written.
I’ve been stumbling around in my head for words to describe Thomas’s and Lee’s hold on me and why their work brings me such pleasure, but was bowled over completely and failed. I think silver-tongued, spellbinding weavers of words gives you an idea of their work — but read and listen for yourself, and see what you think.

Despite all of these books being written later in the author’s life, and being set long before my time, they reach me still. Do you find yourself reading nostalgia from before your time? Of your time? Do you revel in a read that makes you smile and feel good?

Tomboys, Dead Gophers, and a Coyote – Ivan Coyote at the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

Funny, tender, perceptive – Ivan Coyote is all these things, and on Monday night I was lucky enough to see them talk at The Piano as part of the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season.

I was really disappointed to miss Ivan on their last trip to Christchurch last year, so as soon as I learnt they would be back this year, I made sure to get my ticket in my hot little hand. I have been a fan of Ivan’s work since reading Missed Her several years ago, and have only become more of a fan with Gender Failure and Tomboy Survival Guide.

CoverCoverCover

The audience who attended An Evening with Ivan Coyote was – to quote one of my neighbours – ‘quite an eclectic crowd’. Despite any differences in age, gender, or any other identifier, however, everyone was completely drawn in by the stories of growing up in small-town CanadaWhat’s it like to be the only little girl in the world who didn’t want to grow up to be Princess Di on her wedding day? Why open the door to someone empty-handed when there is plenty of road-kill around to offer? What songs would you include in the soundtrack of your life? And how cool is it to live near a World Record-holding giant squash?!

Ivan Coyote
Ivan Coyote. Image supplied.

Much of the material was from Tomboy Survival Guide, Ivan’s most recent book, but the fact that I’d already read the stories did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the evening. Ivan’s portrayal of different characters had me laughing out loud, nodding in agreement with their observations of life, love and public toilets, and feeling like I was watching more than just one person. The elderly grandmothers, the best friend from childhood, and the ball players and sports coaches – Ivan’s storytelling and use of voices  brought these characters to life, and it was a parade of the weird and the wonderful that we saw up on stage.

With a large number of gender-diverse audience members, Ivan also had words of encouragement and support for those who don’t look or act the way boys and girls ‘should’ look and act – be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and embrace what it is that makes you individual and unique. Be yourself, and know that asking people to use the ‘singular they’ pronoun to refer to you is not going to cause the end of the world!

Ivan is a fantastic storyteller, with some great stories to tell, and I look forward to hearing more from them. With sold-out audiences this year and last, Ivan has said they will be back, and I know that there will be keen interest in their next show. Until we hear about their next visit down to Aotearoa New Zealand, however, have a read of Ivan’s books available here at the library.

Anne Enright : Lyrical Words from The Green Road

I could almost be in Dublin right now. It’s 13 degrees and in the freezing rain I bike up to the beautiful Piano venue on Armagh Street, for the last event of the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. Anne Enright, first Laureate for Irish Fiction, is here to talk about her book The Green Road.

Cover of The Green Road Winner of Irish Novel of the Year, The Green Road is a family saga, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s ‘Great American Novel,’ The Town and the City. Is this Enright’s Great Irish Novel? Well she did get her prize…

Family, says Enright, are a common focus in many of her novels. The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2007, is about a family of nine who reunite for a funeral. Other common themes are the drinking father, the difficult mother, and the death of a parent or sibling.

There’s nothing brings a family together like a good funeral.

Often splitting her stories between characters before gathering the threads back together, Enright insightfully examines different perspectives of a common experience or issue.

The Forgotten Waltz, (a lyrical story about a love affair), is more introverted. Both lyrical and ironically funny, it follows Gina as she navigates her way through an affair, and the death of her mother. Apparently it has long been illegal in Irish culture to talk in the first person: “It’s not about you…!”

Enright is part of a new canon of Irish writers who “write what they like”. She discovered women writers were overlooked in Ireland, and figured no-one would read her… so wrote for her own pleasure.

The landscape is a strong character too. Quietly dominating the prose at times, foreshadowing perhaps a storm to come in story:

“The sky was full of weather.” (The Green Road).

Enright felt she could not write about it at first but remembered a connection with the cliffs around County Clare.

Anne Enright looking like she’s about to say something (Photo by Ali Ng)

Enright is the first to say that she doesn’t want to be “abouty”. She means that she doesn’t want each book to be about the same theme, though issues do inspire her. The drinking father persona of Ireland, the difficult mother…

When asked what inspired the story for The Forgotten Waltz, I was blindsided by her answer: the economic boom and bust of Ireland… the dishonesty and financial fallout of the affair being a vehicle for Irish investment in a failing property market… So there you go.

Enright‘s narrative voice charms the reader from the first paragraph. After a week of reading The Forgotten Waltz, my mind was speaking in brogue. So it was a pleasure to hear her read Hannah’s trip along the Green road with her Da, and the dramatic scene around Holy Thursday dinner.

Her observations of human experience have been described as an unblinking eye. I see it more as winking. Like the Catholic Church, (nurturing, but subversive, ‘you can’t get out of it” she says,) her work is poignant, with the humour that comes along with the dramas of life.

Further information

James Gleick at WORD Christchurch: No spoilers for Time Travellers

James Gleick does not want to offend anyone.

The author of numerous books of a scientific bent is careful with his words and keen not to ruffle any feathers. It’s speculation on my part, but I wonder if his experience is that, on the topic of Time Travel, passions might sometimes become inflamed?

A curious full house gather at the Piano for this WORD Christchurch session featuring Gleick and fellow New Yorker Daniel Bernardi (erskine fellow, film and media studies scholar, science fiction expert and documentary filmmaker). They discuss the ins and outs, twists, turns and paradoxes of Time Travel. Before long there is, as is the new tradition when two educated Americans speak in the presence of non-Americans… a jocular swipe at the current US president.

James Gleick and Professor Daniel Bernardi
James Gleick and Professor Daniel Bernardi, Flickr File Reference: 2017-05-16-IMG_0194

Fortunately this science-loving audience is not in the least offended by the joke.

Cover of Time Travel by James GleickGleick’s book Time Travel: A history is an exploration of the literature, science and zeitgeist of Time Travel. It’s far-ranging, smart and brain-expanding.

But what made him want to write on that topic in the first place?

I discovered this weird fact – that Time Travel is a new idea. That didn’t make any sense to me.

Why did it take until H. G. Wells’s novel The Time Machine for people to explore that as an idea? It seems a few things came together: photography and cinema were showing people a slice of the past in the present; instantaneous communication was suddenly possible making the lack of temporal alignment in different places more obvious; and time standards became a thing for the first time. As Gleick puts it, “the way people thought about Time was up for grabs”.

Then Einstein came along and things got really interesting.

Though Einstein’s theories allowed for the possibility of a sort of Time Travel, Gleick is quick to point out that it’s not the punching-a-date-on-a-machine or opening-a-portal-to-another-era kind. It’s really just the acknowledgement that there is no universal time. Everyone’s experience of time is personal and given the right set of circumstances (speedlight travel, for instance) your version of time can slow down relative to everyone else’s. This means that the Time Travel stories of the “Rip Van Winkle” (or Futurama) kind become technically possible. But Gleick doesn’t believe the imaginary, sci-fi type Time Travel that continues to excite our imaginations exists, or that it will. Though he seems apologetic about it, as if he’s mindful of deflating the aspirations of wannabe Time Travellers in the audience.

On the enduring appeal of Time Travel in literature and popular culture, Gleick feels that it lets people explore many things about families and relationships – it gives you the ability for “a do-over”. Like the movie Groundhog Day. He points out that a lot of Time Travel stories are about fathers and mothers, families and parents.

Take Back to the Future – isn’t this really just a movie about looking at your parents and realising they were once young like me, and wondering “what was that like?”

This is far from the only reference to Time Travel in popular culture, and many in the audience probably come away from this talk with a reading/watching list that includes:

  • A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – indicative of pessimism about the future of “our benighted country”.
  • Doomsday book – H. G. Wells never wrote about going into the past but Connie Willis does.
  • “All you zombies” by Robert Heinlein – An early short story that became the movie Predestination and is an interesting example of The Grandfather Paradox.
  • Looper – Movie that nicely skirts over the paradoxical plot difficulties by having Bruce Willis tell his younger self “If we’re going to talk about Time Travel sh*t we’re gonna be sitting here making diagrams with straws all day”.
  • Interstellar – Bernardi’s pick as the film that best visualises the science of Time Travel.
  • The Planet of the Apes series – Bernardi’s favourite for its use of Time Travel to address issues of gender and race.
  • Arrival – A film that Gleick feels works very well in performing a “subtle trick” on the audience. All Time Travel stories have to do this but in this film you barely notice it happening.
  • Twelve Monkeys – Another Bruce Willis film that deals with a Time Travel loop and deals with a death.
  • “Blink” – Gleick’s favourite episode of Doctor Who, in particular a scene set in a spooky old house, “old houses are great time travel machines”. It’s also the first episode in which the phrase “timey-wimey” is used.
James Gleick
James Gleick: a man in want of some straws. Flickr File Reference: 2017-05-16-IMG_0198

Gleick is at great pains to try and describe these stories in a way that does not reveal any important plot twists. In the case of Planet of the Apes this is… is adorable the right word? The movie came out in 1968. But no spoilers!

Another appealing aspect to Time Travel is that it’s a way of escaping death. After all, (spoiler alert!) Time will kill us all in the end.

When we hear Time’s winged chariot it’s not delivering good news.

But what is Time (other than universally deadly)? Scientists may tell you that Time is the 4th dimension and that it’s similar to the other physical dimensions in that we inhabit one spot and the rest stretches out away from us, both backward and forward. This rather flies in the face of what Gleick says we know “in our guts” about Time i.e. that the past has happened and the future hasn’t.

It seems an oddly obvious statement to have to make, and Gleick says it’s not a scientific one but a religious one.

Some of the audience questions delve into this idea of religious thought versus Time Travel and at this point I get lost, draw a spiral in my notebook and label it “loop of confusion”. Questions like “is God in Time with us?” and “doesn’t an interventionist God imply that the future isn’t set?” do somewhat “screw my noodle”. Given the heady topic, it seems inevitable that I lose the thread of the discussion at some point in proceedings. Perhaps it always has, and always did happen?

Other questions posed include one from my colleague Fee (who wrote her own post about James Gleick) and wonders if the future is set, then what about premonition? Which Gleick says (gently) that he does not believe in, though it’s a powerful idea.

Another question asks how it is that Gleick can explain such scientifically complex stuff in ways that non-scientist folk can understand. He says simply that he’s a journalist so he asks lots of questions and that a big part of it is just getting scientists to talk you as they sometimes “live in their own abstruse world”.

I am lucky enough to get the last mic grab of the night and ask my own question (which if I could have a Time Travel do-over for, I would make slightly less waffley). It’s with reference to the way we think about Time in terms of spatial metaphor. In the Western world we conceive of the past as being behind us and the future in front of us but in Māori culture this is flipped around – the past is known and therefore visible before you and it’s the future that approaches you from behind. In the course of researching had he found any other cultures that view Time this way? Gleick replies that the language we use, the words that we use to describe Time really shape how we think about it and that in some Asian languages Time travels on an “up and down” axis or “right to left”.

And if I thought my noodle was screwed before it definitely is now. As I exit the theatre along with the rest of the audience I concentrate on travelling forward through space and backwards/forwards/vertically through time.

More information

Cool stuff from the selectors. What more could you ask for? Food, Cats and Storytelling

CoverDavid Wiesner And The Art Of Wordless Storytelling
This is definitely a book for someone who has an interest in children’s illustration as it contains well-researched and far-reaching essays on the history and development of book illustration as an art form.

David Wiesner is of course the focus, and I enjoyed revisiting his wonderful illustrations. I remember sharing these books with my children, all of us having varying viewpoints about what was happening, delving deeper into each illustration with each reading. This is a beautifully produced book.

CoverFrom the sublime to the ridiculous! Crafting with Cat Hair is the sort of book you just have to have a look at because it is so unlikely. Taking itself completely seriously, this book gives you in-depth instructions on how to use your moggie’s fluff for felting crafting pleasure.  Perhaps if you are so inclined, it could be a way to immortalise your feline friend.

CoverFood Fights and Culture Wars
Chomping away on my couple of pieces of dark chocolate, it was interesting to read about the violent past of chocolate. The chocolate we eat today is barely recognisable as the cacao that was produced by the early Mayan people.

Cadbury (whose Dunedin factory is set to close next year) was founded by Quakers. Their desire to fend off slavery underpinned the chocolate trade. Filled with beautifully reproduced pictures from the British Library, this is a fascinating romp through history and food.