Christchurch 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Captain America: Civil War is worth another look to be reminded of how the various Avengers were placed at the end of that film, and it’s directed by the Russo brothers who are both helming Infinity War
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
If you happen to visit the Christchurch Art Gallery in the next few months you’ll see a piece of Christchurch City Libraries on display.
Ten of the library’s tukutuku panels are on temporary loan as part of an exhibition put together by assistant curator Nathan Pohio called ‘Moroki‘. This word refers to something with an ongoing nature and expresses continuity. In this instance the focus is on historic and contemporary Māori artworks that offer insight into the relationships between Māori art and architecture, and is part of a wider exhibition highlighting 19th and 20th century New Zealand art currently on display at the art gallery.
This is not the first time the tukutuku panels have had a temporary change of home.
Created in 2001 as part of a community art project led by Ngā Puna Waihanga, 19 tukutuku panels were installed in Ngā Pounamu Māori, the Māori resource area on the 2nd floor of the Central Library in 2002.
After the library building was damaged in the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes the panels were removed and eventually distributed to a number of libraries around the network. The tukutuku panels currently on loan to the art gallery were previously housed at the Linwood and Aranui libraries. When Tūranga, the new central library building currently under construction in Cathedral Square, opens the tukutuku panels will again be brought together and displayed with the Māori collection.
The ten tukutuku panels currently on display at the art gallery sit across from paintings of Māori architecture and carvings, and the colours, shapes and designs on the panels really have an opportunity to shine when placed alongside other artworks.
Opera has a reputation as a rather fancy, “highbrow” sort of pastime… but what do opera singers, conductors and directors read for fun (when it’s not all arias and librettos)? We asked the cast and crew of New Zealand Opera’s Tosca for some reading recommendations. Here’s what they’re enjoying:
Jacqueline Coats (Assistant Director)
I am reading Moonglow by American author, Michael Chabon, whose title jumped off the library shelf at me as I am obsessed with all things lunar at the moment (research for another opera production I am working on). I was then sold by the author’s note – “In preparing this memoir, I have stuck to facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrative purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it”. Who could resist that?! And three-quarters of the way through, it has more than lived up to its promise.
Marco Guidarini (Conductor)
At the moment I’m reading a fascinating book by a well known italian art historian and journalist Matilte Battistini, called “Simboli e Allegorie”, a fascinating journey through alchemy and magic in the history of art. It’s an extraordinary essay revealing an enormous amount of information concerning the symbols of artistic iconography through the centuries.
James Benjamin Rodgers (Spoletta)
American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur by William Manchester. Only 30% of the way through but fascinating look at the man who exerted huge influence in the Pacific during WWII. Amazing to read about that time and the people that made key decisions in the armed defence of their nations.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Baron Scarpia)
I’m not actually reading anything in particular at the moment but a book that has always stayed with me is In the heart of the sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. The story of the loss of the whaling ship The Essex back in 1820. It was made into a movie which in no way did the full story justice in my opinion. An epic, true and unimaginable historical journey that I was gripped by. It was recommended to me and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.
Dr. Erin Harrington is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Canterbury. Her area of expertise? Monsters, murderers and all things sinister and unsettling – or more specifically, the horror genre.
Harrington is giving a free talk at the university next week on just this topic. Being something of a horror enthusiast myself I was keen to pick her brains (not literally), about why people are drawn to movies and stories that, superficially at least, should make us run a mile.
What is it about horror that appeals to you particularly, as opposed to other genres?
I ask myself this every day! I have always liked horror – I have fond memories of going to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland when I was 6 years old – so there’s something fundamental about the way that scary stories are able to communicate with us that really appeals to me, just as other people might respond to fantasy or westerns. I think I always liked how evocative and transgressive horror can be. It’s a place where boundaries can be pushed, and where we can think through big or challenging ideas, or explore frightening things in a secure space, much in the way that slumber party ghost stories can be both thrilling and safe. There’s a visceral pleasure to horror, as it can range from the horrifying or thrilling to the hilarious or gross. I also think I just like monsters a lot.
Does studying horror academically make it more difficult to enjoy as pure entertainment?
It can do. It’s harder to switch off, as you become really aware of the cinematic language that they are using, and a lot of films are quite derivative, but the best films will draw you in no matter what. Sometimes watching films can feel a bit like homework, which is frustrating. Weirdly, it has made me appreciate average or even quite bad films a bit more, as I can kinda see what they are trying to do, or how they connect to other films within the genre and subgenres, even if they fail spectacularly. Perhaps it’s like being an expert cheese taster – you eat enough of the stuff that you come away with an affection for even the stinkiest gloop.
I love horror but my partner does not. Which one of us is right? Or rather, why is it that some people love to be scared but others loathe it?
You are both right (sorry). We all have different tastes in terms of the sorts of stories we respond to, and this will include how those stories are told – their imagery, the way they sound, their pace and so on. Not all horror films are graphic, but people definitely have varying levels of tolerance for images of fictional violence. Additionally, all film plays with our emotions, but some make us have a more physical reaction than others – comedies make us laugh (hopefully), emotional films might make us feel sentimental or sad, and so on. The emotions and sensations that come up with horror can be quite complex, and some people are just more comfortable with uncertainty or ambiguous feelings. Fear, dread, terror and horror all play with a shift between tension and release that some people find more interesting and stimulating than others. For example, I get really frustrated with films that have a lot of jump scares, as I don’t like being startled, but I find films that are unsettling or disturbing, or that have provocative imagery, or that retell familiar stories in new ways both rewarding and challenging. Some of us just like stories about monsters.
What should horror-fans (or the horror-curious) expect from your free talk at University of Canterbury?
I’m going to talk about some of the reasons people get pleasure or satisfaction from horror, but I’ll also look at the unique ways that horror can tell stories. I hope this helps the horror-phobic better understand why they may not respond to these films well, and prompts horror lovers to think about their own reactions to films. Whether people are horror newbies or experts, I want them to come away with an appreciation for how broad and diverse the genre is, but also but also how entertaining it can be. A lot of horror is really funny, and I reckon there’s a horror film for everyone.
Which movies or books would you recommend for those wanting to indulge in some horror research of their own?
How to Survive a Horror Movie is a really fun guide to horror tropes, and it looks at a lot of the most notable horror films from the last few decades. It can be really helpful to understand how horror films have changed over time, how they’ve reflected their own era’s fears and anxieties, and how they have influenced later films. Horror Films of the 1990s and Shock Value both do a good job of exploring context while highlighting significant films and shifts in tastes and subgenres.
Oscar-nominated film Get Out is one of the best horror movies in years, and easily one of the best films of 2017 full stop. It’s a great gateway film for the horror-phobic. If you’re after some international horror, then moody Iranian supernatural horror Under the Shadow, Norwegian horror comedy Dead Snow and action-packed South Korean zombie film Train to Busan are all pretty nifty.
It’s not in the library catalogue, but Stephen King’s 1981 non-fiction book Danse Macabre is still one of the best books out on the history of literary horror, even though it’s close to 40 years old.
Anything else you want to say about anything horror-related?
After the ‘Great War’ ended, there were many competing ideas for a permanent war memorial in Christchurch. Options discussed were varied and included a museum, a monument, a new tram shelter in Cathedral Square or a hospital ward. Vigorous debate around the suitability of the options often played out in The Press in letters to the Editor.
One very popular suggestion that came to fruition was initially offered by Lilian May Wyn Irwin in a letter to the Editor of the Press on 24 July 1919. This was to retain the arches that were created for the Peace celebrations held the previous week and combine these with a memorial bridge at the site of the Cashel Street Bridge. This was an appropriate location as all Canterbury soldiers would have crossed this bridge as they were coming and going from the King Edward Barracks.
A War Memorial Committee was created and after much campaigning and fundraising, the foundation stone for the Bridge of Remembrance was laid on Anzac day in 1923.The days’ proceedings followed a formal order of ceremony with the Governor General Viscount Jellicoe laying the foundation stone and addressing the crowd.
9 April to 6 May
Staff from Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre, Upper Riccarton, and Spreydon libraries share their research from the war stories
of men who enlisted from the Halswell area. Ready either to live or die valiantly, these are the stories not only of the men who died during the war, but those that came
home to live, their stories just as valiant as the men who never made it home.
25 April to 25 May
A collaborative display of research on the war stories of men who enlisted from the Sumner area. Stories and photos are included of soldiers on the roll of honour located on the
wall outside Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre.
A friend of mine has just started riding a bike around Christchurch. She is a very tentative cyclist but I’m so proud of her for getting on her new bike and giving it a go. So far her forays along bike paths have been positive ones and I hope she comes to love cycling as much as I do.
I thought this would be a great opportunity to share what I know about cycle commuting in Christchurch with her, but also with other wannabe cyclists who are thinking about trying to rack up some kilometres this month in the friendly competition that is the Aotearoa Bike Challenge. (Registering on the website is quick and easy and if you download one of the recommended apps to your phone it’ll record your cycle journeys automagically! Also there are prizes!)
Tips for newbie Christchurch cyclists
If you’ve never done it before, riding a bike can be a bit intimidating but the more you do it, and the more you learn, the more confident you’ll be. Here are some things it might help you to know:
Cyclists are friendly folk – We love encouraging new cyclists and there are numerous clubs and groups that would love nothing better than to encourage you towards freewheeling greatness. Try:
Frocks on bikes (for those that like to cycle in a leisurely fashion, usually in a frock. Frocks on bikes organises regular group rides, often around popular events)
Plan your route – If you’re nervous about busy roads and intersections plan your route so you can avoid them. And if you feel like a particular intersection or bit of road is dicey, there’s no shame in pulling over and being a pedestrian for a bit. I do it all the time!
Cycle lane etiquette – If you’re a slowpoke like me you’ll want to keep to the left of a cycle lane so it’s easier for faster cyclists to overtake you on the right. If you’re speedy calling out a cheery “coming up/overtaking on your right” as you approach is helpful for avoiding any collisions. A bell is a useful piece of kit for cyclists of all speeds as it’s great for getting the attention of pedestrians on shared pathways (or those who absentmindedly wander into a cycle lane). To me a bell always sounds more friendly than “OI!”.
Do wear a helmet – Because them’s the rules. And if you’re in an accident you’ll appreciate not being concussed (I speak from experience). And yes, it’s still the rules if you’re cycling on the footpath (but don’t cycle on the footpath unless it’s designated a shared pathway). Correct deployment of your helmet is firmly strapped on your head… not dangling off your handlebars.
Do wear whatever else you want though – There is no cycling uniform and I have successfully biked in everything from heels to jelly shoes (and even a veil once – it was Halloween). Short or floaty skirts can be problematic (especially when windy) but a snug pair of shorts underneath or the coin and a rubber band trick (or a peg) can successfully keep things “under wraps”.
Things to know about cycling infrastructure
There are a lot of cycling initiatives and changes to infrastructure happening in Christchurch and some of these can be a bit confusing or mysterious if you’ve never come across them before. Here’s what you need to know:
Sharrows – If you’ve seen road markings that incorporate a bicycle icon and a chevron shape then you’ve seen a “sharrow” (share arrow). These are used on slow or quiet streets and indicate that cyclists should bike towards the middle of the road. But do move across to the left if a motorist wants to come through.
How to make lights go – You may notice at or on the approach to an intersection a section of road that looks like the surface has been sliced into, often in the form of a box or rectangle. Underneath the road surface is a sensor that can detect bicycles and in some instances this may be the only way to trigger the lights. If you feel like you’ve been waiting an age for the lights to change, look down or around you. You may be a little too far ahead, behind or to the side to be registering as a cyclist.
Extra lights just for you – In the central city there are now some intersections that operate on a different system to work in with the new separated cycle lanes. Instead of following what the main traffic lights indicate, you’ll need to pay attention to the special lights just for cyclists (you’ll know they’re for you because they’ll have a bike symbol). Keep your eyes out for these at spots like the Tuam/Colombo intersection, and by the bus exit of the Bus Interchange.
Hook turn boxes – A hook turn is a handy option at really busy intersections where making a right hand turn in heavy traffic might not be the safest option. If you see a painted box featuring a hooked arrow and a bicycle icon at an intersection this is a good place for cyclists to perform a “hook turn” (although hook turns are allowed at most intersections). A hook turn is when you take a two step approach to a right turn. Staying to the left, a cyclist can go with traffic through a green light then stop in the hook turn box, and then go with traffic through a second green light (or even ahead of it if the road is clear), effectively making a right hand turn in two stages. The NZTA has official instructions on performing hook turns (with pictures) that explain this really well.