Reading many lives

With regards to the quote above, if one were of a sardonic frame of mind one might point out that at the rate at which Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin kills off his characters a thousand lives might be an understatement. Nevertheless the basic premise stands. Reading allows anyone the chance to “inhabit” a great many people and characters.

This is never more true than when you’re reading a book of short stories. Though you may become attached to a character, the next protagonist is probably only a few page turns away. Sometimes this is a relief. Sometimes it leaves you wanting more.

Recently I’ve found myself reading books that work with the theme of many lives but in very different ways.

Cover of deleted scenes for lovers by Tracey SlaughterDeleted scenes for lovers by Tracey Slaughter. I think her surname is appropriate because she killed parts of my soul with this book (in a good way). Her short stories are set in New Zealand, but a rather grimy, rundown one. The stories, with exception of the last one which is a novella, are short and sometimes brutal vignettes from the lives of damaged and lost people. You’ll want to set aside time between each one. This is not a book to rush through. The writing is incisive and brilliant and made me feel a lot of things, some of them against my will.

Cover of Meet cuteMeet cute is rather anodyne by comparison. It’s a collection of young adult short stories, all by different writers and all featuring the “how they met” story of two characters. As with any collection like this some authors and characters resonate more than others, and while the bulk of the stories have a contemporary romance kind of vibe there are a couple of sci-fi/fantasy genre tales too. Most, though not all, of the stories are about straight couples – one of the unexpected joys of the book is that you don’t know when you’re introduced to the main character whether their story will be a boy-meets-girl or a girl-meets-girl one – I found it was fun to try and guess in the first page or so.

He rau mahara: To remember the journey of our Ngāi Tahu soldiers: From the pā to the battlefields of the Great War is completely different again – a nonfiction title produced by Ngāi Tahu’s whakapapa unit about the iwi’s First World War soldiers. It’s a beautifully put together book, filled with photographs of soldiers with names you might recognise – Nortons, Pōhios and Skerretts. Nearly two thirds of the book is dedicated to a profile of every Ngāi Tahu soldier who took part in the Great War, with the first part of the book featuring a sample of stories of soldiers, war, and their families. A gorgeous and poignant memorial to South Island soldiers and their whānau, and the lives they lived.

What’s lava got to do with it?

What’s lava got to do with it? Quite a bit if you’re talking about volcanoes.

As a kid I had recurring nightmares about both volcanoes and earthquakes. I blame the abundance of seventies-era disaster movies that seemed to often make it onto the television during that period. I took games of “the floor is made of lava” Very Seriously.

My antipathy towards earthquakes has become less nightmare-based and more practical since 2010, but my morbid fascination with volcanoes is still one that I enjoy (not sure that’s the right word, exactly) though thankfully from something of a distance.

Certainly, Hawaii’s Big Island is plenty close enough for me. Mt Kīlauea started erupting in early May and is still doing a very convincing “Mount Doom”, destroying around 600 homes in the process (so far), and with no signs of stopping.

But New Zealand sits on the same Pacific Ring of Fire as the Hawaiian islands, Indonesia’s Krakatoa, Japan’s Fujiyama and Bali’s Mt Agung which is currently ejecting 2km high columns of ash. Our own history and landscape is peppered with reminders of eruptions, like the caldera that became our own Lyttelton Harbour, for instance.

Volcanic eruptions can and do happen in New Zealand, sometimes with devastating effect (looking at you, Mount Tarawera), so it’s probably just as well that we know something about what they are and how they behave (and preferably from a better source than an old Paul Newman movie).

If you’re keen on finding out more about lava, fissure vents, and pyroclastic flow, you could do worse than consult some of the resources below:

Gale Interactives screenshot
Gale Interactive: Science lets you remove half a mountain to see what’s underneath. In this case, it’s a magma chamber.

And if that’s not enough to quench your thirst for everything volcano, there are also lots of books on volcanoes, for kids and adults alike.

Cover of Volcanoes and thermal wonders

Brighten up your life

Tomorrow, 21 June, is the winter solstice. The shortest day. The point at which the southern hemisphere of our little blue planet, with its jaunty, tilted axis, reaches “peak gloom”. The weather will continue to grow colder from this point*, hardening into winter, but the days themselves and potential daylight hours will increase. And not a moment too soon.

Cover of the album Sunshine by The Emotions.
The connection between sunshine and emotions is not limited to this Motown album from 1974.

If you’ve been feeling down recently, the lack of sunshine may have something to do with it. According the MetService, sunshine hours in Christchurch this June are well below average. I don’t mind a bit of cold myself but the lack of blue sky and sunlight is rather dampening to the spirit.

Short of leaving town, or literally heading for the hills what can we all do to feel better? Our friends at All Right? have a lot of great suggestions but here are some of my own:

Make the most of what we’ve got – I just ran outside and stood in the sunshine for about 20 seconds before the sun went away again. Make hay (and Vitamin D) while the sun shines, and all. If you’re in the position to be able to go for a walk or be outside for a bit during the all too brief appearances the sun is making then do. But take a brolly because it will probably start raining again…

Get out and socialise – It can be tempting to stay indoors and hibernate but sometimes forcing yourself to be social is worth the effort. At the library there are options for crafting with company or book groups, or our Matariki Whānau Fun Day on Saturday at Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale Library and Community Centre might be the ticket. Or make the most of the darkness by lighting it up on the winter solstice night light bike ride through Hagley Park. Alternatively, you could organise your own Matariki shared dinner with friends and whānau – whip up a batch of soup and hang out together moaning about how rubbish the weather is!

Now that I mention it… SOUP – I firmly believe a hearty soup can have healing and mood-altering properties. When combined with a comfy pair of slippers and a good book, soup is a veritable panacea for whatever ails you. Also, leeks and potatoes are inexpensive at the moment and if you make them into a soup you can say you’ve made vichyssoise which sounds really fancy.

Watch (or read) something funny – My go tos for funny reading are David Sedaris and Caitlin Moran (both of whom have new books coming out), and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. On telly I’ve been watching comedy show Taskmaster and that regularly gives me a full on belly laugh, same for The Good Place. Or maybe a movie comedy? Our recent comedy DVDs are worth a look. My favourite funny movies from the last year have included Thor: Ragnarok, Jumanji, and The Trip to Spain.

Wear bright clothing or something that makes you feel happy – It’s tempting to match the sombre grey of the sky with your outfits but don’t! Go the other way instead with vibrant warm colours or really anything that makes you feel great: jewellery, a flower in your hair, an eye-catching pair of socks, anything that brings a smile.

Be nice to people – Acts of kindness or generosity are actually mood-lifters for both the recipient and the giver. I’m trying to dish out more compliments (rather than just think them in my head). The All Right crew have some cute compliment gifs that might come in handy for this.

*If you’ve ever wondered why the weather doesn’t start to warm up after winter solstice it’s because of the time it takes to change the temperature of the large bodies of water that make up most of the surface of our planet. Seas and oceans warm throughout summer and are slow to cool – like giant hot water bottles keeping us warm through the night/autumn. It’s only when they’ve lost their heat that we’ll start to really feel winter’s bite.

More information

Lighthouse, Akaroa: Picturing Canterbury

Lighthouse, Akaroa [1898]. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0091.
The Akaroa lighthouse began operation in Jan. 1880 with an oil-illuminated light. It was converted to electric power from a diesel generator in Nov. 1951 and later to the mains power supply. It operated manually from Akaroa Head 1886-1977, when it was replaced by an automatic light. The building was shifted to Akaroa township in Oct. 1980.

Do you have any photographs of the Akaroa lighthouse? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Queen’s Birthday 2018

Monday 4 June is a public holiday on which New Zealand celebrates the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. 21 April was her actual birthday and she turned 92 (she was born in 1926).

Queen Elizabeth II has visited Christchurch numerous times during her reign, most notably for the 1974 Commonwealth Games held at her namesake sporting venue, Queen Elizabeth II Park, often referred to as QEII.

Sadly, QEII had to be demolished in 2012 due to earthquake damage but the rebuilt pool facility, Taiora QEII is due to open this week, just in time for Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

With the recent royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex), and the popularity of television series The Crown, there is as much interest as ever in the Queen and her family – so if you’re keen on some royal reading over the long weekend, we have plenty to choose from.

For titles looking at the Queen’s life as portrayed in The Crown try:

Cover of The Crown: The inside historyCover of Young Prince Philip Cover of Young Elizabeth Cover of The private life of Elizabeth II Cover of Access Video Queen Elizabeth's coronation Cover of Coronation Cover of LilibetCover of My husband and I

For titles about Harry and Meghan try:

Cover of Harry & Meghan: An Invitation to the Royal Wedding Cover of Harry & Meghan: a royal engagement Cover of Prince Harry: The inside story Cover of Harry: A biography Cover of Prince Harry: Brother, soldier, son Cover of Harry: The People's prince  Cover of Hello! magazineCover of Meghan: A Hollywood princess

Read more –

All our libraries are closed on Monday 4 June 2018.

Podcast – Youth suicide

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

The latest episode deals with youth suicide. New Zealand has high rates of youth suicide, especially among Māori and Pasifika populations.

  • Part I: Sir Peter Gluckman (Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor)
    Youth suicide statistics in NZ and elsewhere; possible reasons; the importance of providing supportive contexts for young people.
  • Parts II and III: Jackie Burrows and Tanith Petersen (He Waka Tapu) and Wesley Mauafu (PYLAT – Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation). Possible reasons; situation among different ethnic groups; situation in post-earthquake Christchurch and Elements for youth suicide prevention initiatives – sport, music, support, etc.

Transcript of the audio

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Cover of Suicide awareness and preventioncover of Spin by Dylan Horrocks Cover of Y do u h8 me Cover of Breaking the silence Cover of Sorrows of a century Cover The Roaring Silence A Compendium of Interviews, Essays, Poetry, Art and Prose About Suicide Cover of Twelve Thousand hours Cover of After the Suicide of Someone You Know Information and Support for Young People Cover A Practical Guide to Working With Suicidal Youth Cover of Alcohol information for teens

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

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Movie and book: The shape of water

Guillermo del Toro’s The shape of water was the surprise winner of Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. A surprise because “genre” films tend not to reap critical acclaim of this sort. The shape of water is a fantasy film about a sentient water creature kept in a lab, and Oscar tends to prefer rather more gritty, “worthy” fare for its top gong.

I personally loved the film. It’s a cold war fairytale of loss, friendship, and the fear of those who are different. And as per del Toro’s usual style the whole thing is soaked in the sensuous and the visceral. The art and design on his films is always top notch and The shape of water is no exception – the blues and greens of the sea seep into what seems like the very fabric of the film, in other places they are jarringly absent – the visuals and sounds help tell the story.

Still, I wasn’t expecting too much of the novel of The shape of water. Novels based on films are, and I’m speaking generally here, not usually very good. Good books have often translated to good or great films, but can you say the same of films into books?

Often a movie novelisation is something of a cynical cash-grab… just another way to get money out of fans who can relive the experience of the film. And they have a tendency to be nothing more than fleshed out screenplays that don’t really offer much extra insight into the characters or themes. Even “quality” efforts like Alan Dean Foster’s The force awakens can end up making you feel like you should have just watched the movie instead.

But… The shape of water novel by Daniel Kraus is nothing like that at all. Rather than being a book adaptation of the film, Kraus’s novel was written alongside del Toro’s screenplay. Both writers worked independently on their respective projects but traded notes as the process went along. In fact, it was Kraus who first had the idea for a story about a creature being kept in a lab and from that germ of an idea del Toro’s movie grew. So The shape of water (novel) is a rather unique achievement in that it is a story in its own right – it has its own thematic pivots, lyricism and pacing, but which shares its characters, setting, and plot with del Toro’s film. And the language is as glorious and evocative as del Toro’s visual eye is keen:

There is a dark, underwater twitch, like the leg-jerk of a dozing dog, and a plip of water leaps a foot from the center of the pool. It lands and echoes outward in delicate concentric circles – and then the lab’s soft babbles are overwhelmed by a ripsaw of ratcheting metal. The water is torn into an X-shape as four fifteen-foot chains, each bolted to a corner of the pool, pull tight and shark-fin to the surface, sizzling foam and slobbering water, all of them attached to a single rising shape.

Better still, the novel expands on the film in some really satisfying ways, delving into the backstories of several characters, fully rounding out certain people and themes barely hinted at in the cinematic version. There’s a strong feminist storyline that runs through the book, and the Amazonian origins and capture of The Creature (which are never really discussed in the film) form an important part of the story. It also differs from the plot of the film in some minor ways that don’t really detract at all – any differences make sense in the story that it’s telling.

The shape of water is the best novel version of a film I’ve read since The abyss by (the now rather problematic) Orson Scott Card. Based on James Cameron’s also quite watery film set in a underwater drilling platform, the first chapters of the novel, which described the backstories of three of the main characters, were completed before shooting. The actors playing those characters were given “their” chapter to read to inform their performance so in some small ways the movie influenced the novel that then influenced the movie. It’s all a bit “fiction as Russian nesting dolls” but it seems like it’s exactly this kind of collaboration between novelist and director that makes for the best movie fiction.

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Infinity and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Later this month The Avengers: Infinity War will hit cinema screens (25 April to be exact). Ten years ago Iron Man was the first episode in what has become an ongoing, multi-layered series know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU). Infinity War represents the coming together of many of these interwoven strands. Hints of what or who would be involved in Infinity War were being dropped as early as Iron Man 2 and Thor, but various powerful Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet (which can wield the power of these stones), and the character of Thanos (who very much intends to do the wielding) have featured throughout the series.

With such a long timeframe and so many films, it can be easy to lose track of these appearances, so some re-watching might be in order before the release of Infinity War. Or you could just crib from the list below.

Due warning – SPOILERS FOLLOW:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010) – A drawing of a cube-like artefact is shown in one of Howard Stark’s old notebooks. This is the first appearance of an Infinity Stone, specifically the Tesseract.
  • Thor (2011) – A right-handed Infinity Gauntlet is shown in Odin’s trophy room. Post-credit scenes hint that Loki is up to no good with the Tesseract (also known as the Space Stone)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – The Tesseract’s earthbound history is revealed and its ability to be used as a weapon.
  • Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) – Loki really was up to no good with the Tesseract (aided and abetted by Giant Purple Bad Ass, Thanos). Both Loki and the Tesseract end up in Asgard for safe keeping. Loki’s Chitauri sceptre, which holds the Mind Stone is acquired by S.H.I.E.L.D.

  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013) – The Aether (or the Reality Stone) wreaks havoc with Astrophysicist Jane Foster and at the end of the film is transferred by Asgardian warriors Sif and Volstagg to the care of The Collector.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – The Mind Stone in Loki’s sceptre falls into Hydra’s hands and is used to create enhanced individuals Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – The Orb (that contains the Power Stone) is the thing that everyone, including Thanos, wants. Originally in the archives of The Collector, it ends up on the planet of Xandar in the care of Nova Corps. The Collector provides a brief explanation to the Guardians of what the Infinity Stones are.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Thor has a vision that includes several of the Infinity Stones and the Infinity Gauntlet. The Avengers capture Loki’s sceptre and the Mind Stone which is then used to power a synthetic body with an AI mind, called Vision. The stone sits in his forehead. It is revealed that Thanos has a left-handed Infinity Gauntlet.
  • Ant-Man (2015)

  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016) – The Time Stone is contained within a relic known as the Eye of Agamotto which resides in the mystical compound of Kamar-Taj in Nepal.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – The Tesseract is shown in Asgard where Loki makes eyes at it, so there is a suggestion he may have it. Hela reveals that the Infinity Gauntlet held in the same vault is a fake. Thanos makes an ominous appearance.
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – This is where the locations of the stones in relation to Thanos and his gauntlet will start to be Very Important.

If you’re planning on seeing Infinity War soon, my suggestion IS THAT YOU WATCH ALL THE MOVIES AGAIN WITH NO BREAKS. No, but seriously don’t do that. That’s just not wise from a health and safety perspective.

But if you do want to do a bit of catch up I’d recommend watching:

To Infinity and beyond!

Tick, tock: Timepieces of Christchurch

Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend (clocks back one hour on Sunday morning, folks) and while changing the time on various clocks and watches around the house can be a chore, it must surely be less hassle than having to change the time on a floral clock or a clock tower?

So here’s to the custodians of large clocks everywhere, but especially those in Christchurch!

Here are some of my favourite big timepieces; some still ticking, others now lost.

Central Post Office in Cathedral Square
Central Post Office in Cathedral Square, 1963, Flickr File reference: HW-08-FE-08, Private collection Christchurch City Libraries

Looking rather fetching here in the 1960s, complete with belfry, the chief post office clock was installed in 1879 but is not currently in place, with the hole where the clock should be covered up. Here’s hoping it comes back eventually.

Also in Cathedral Square, who could forget the Government Life Building digital clock? With it’s alternating time and temperature information, it was always satisfying to look up on a hot day and have it confirmed that actually, yes, it IS hot.

The Government Life Building was demolished in 2014.

Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2
Government Life Building showing clock 12:45 4 July 1963 CCCPlans Government-Life-11-2

Still in the central city, the Victoria clock tower, originally known as the Jubilee Clock, was previously at the High/Manchester corner (as it is pictured below).

The clock tower, Christchurch [ca. 1925]
The clock tower, Christchurch [ca. 1925] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0019
It wasn’t until 1930 that the clock tower was moved to Victoria Street where it can still be seen today. Following the quakes it has had a lot of restoration and repair and was officially unveiled by Mayor Lianne Dalziel on 22 October 2014.

89 to 91 Victoria Street: Jubilee Clock Tower after the 22 February Earthquake
89 to 91 Victoria Street: Jubilee Clock Tower after the 22 February Earthquake by D M Robertson in Kete Christchurch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

Who remembers this one on the old M. E. D. building (later Southpower, then Orion) on Manchester Street? I love the square shape and minimalist look, not to mention the steps and gantry that provide access to anyone who had to adjust the time on it.

Orion Clock, 218 Manchester Street
Orion Clock, 218 Manchester Street by CityScape in Kete Christchurch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

But in my opinion it’s not a patch on the original clock installed when the building was new, in 1939. The bold octagonal shape for the face, a rockstar font for the sign above it, neon on the hands and numbers… now THAT was a clock.

Close view of M.E.D clock, 1939
Close view of M.E.D clock, 1939, File Reference CCL-MED-0100

Out at New Brighton, another 1930s clock tower that has pride of place in front of the library has an interesting history. It’s perhaps not the most large or impressive clock tower in the city but I do like its vaguely nautical, art deco styling. This is another clock tower that has suffered some quake damage but repairs are planned.

New Brighton clock tower,
Cracks in Clock Tower – September 2010 39 by CityScape in Kete Christchurch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

And who could forget this beauty? The floral clock. Sitting in the northwest corner of Victoria Square it was donated to the city in 1953 and has a face 8.5m in diameter. It’s by far the prettiest of all the public clocks featuring, as it does, 7000 individual plants.

Floral Clock, Victoria Square
Floral Clock, Victoria Square [1963], File reference: HW-08-FE-14. From Kete Christchurch and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives 3.0 New Zealand License

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Haere ra Raumati, Kia ora Ngahuru: The change of season in children’s books

As the mother of a preschooler, one thing I’ve noticed is how much small children respond to learning about topics that they can see reflected in their day to day life. Whether it’s seeing a picture of a tuna (eel) or a duck (both creatures we’ve fed on the Avon River), or stories about diggers (of which there are many in Christchurch), or picture books about Christmas at that time of year – little ones really love stories that they can relate to what they see in the world.

Yesterday (21 March) marked the official beginning of autumn in the southern hemisphere and already there are clear signs of summer’s departure that even small folk can make note of – fruit from neighbourhood trees dropping, new warmer pyjamas being bought, some trees already losing their leaves, and the need for rainjackets or gumboots on rainy days. So now’s a great time to comb the library’s bookbins for titles that either explain the change of seasons or reinforce those signs of autumn that younger family members might be noticing.

There are plenty of titles in the library to choose from. Here are just a few to get you started:

Change of Season (Autumn)

List created by ChristchurchKids

Books about the change of seasons and the signs of autumn. A Christchurch City Libraries list.

Cover of LeavesCover of Weather and seasonsCover of Goodbye summer, hello autumnCover of AutumnCover of SeasonsCover of Awesome Autumn

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