Casey, the almost man

Image from our collection

At first glance, this is just another pleasant scene of historical interest, at the A&P Show in 1910. You can look at the clothes and the expressions of the people; you can marvel at the beards and hats – you can even wonder what people were looking at on the left.

Then, if you’re like me, you look to the back of the picture and see the sign for Casey, the almost man. What the? A genuine sideshow?  Diving into Papers Past, I find that The Grey River Argus described Casey in 1911 as ‘the wonder of the age’. Were they overdoing it? Possibly; but Casey’s talents were more highly evolved than ‘almost-man’ suggests.

He played the mouth organ and the piano, swung his right like a prize fighter, and even toasted the audience’s health. As a finale, the Argus reported, he shook hands with spectators in a way that ‘makes one think he belongs to some Masonic lodge or secret society‘.

The paper’s review concludes with the line that audience members left freely expressing the opinion that:

never before in the history of Greymouth has such a marvellous and interesting entertainment been placed before the West Coast public.

Whew. High praise. Read more about Casey, the almost man, in Papers Past. And ponder this: What would today’s equivalent be?

Christchurch on screen: DIY digital video

coverEveryone’s a shooter these days, trying out their camera’s movie functions with the extraordinary scenes that confront us in Christchurch.

For those people with iMovie, there’s a new book online from Safari Tech Books Online – one of the many free resources that your library card gives you access to – which gives you a step-by-step guide to the new version of this popular piece of software.

There are also a couple of dozen good titles on digital video editing, so there’s bound to be one to suit you.

And what do you do with your masterpiece when you’re finished? If it’s earthquake related, donate it to the library, or upload it to the Canterbury Earthquake Kete.

What we document today will be fascinating in the future, as these 1980s titles from NZ on Screen show:

Have you had a go at DIY digital video? Which are the best Christchurch videos you’ve seen lately?

Disaster recovery – a resource for all

WorkersSpread this far and wide: The Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Reference Center is  full of examples of what has been tried before in different parts of the world which have suffered natural disasters.

My search for earthquake recovery found lots of articles like Economic lessons of the Kobe earthquake. Another useful extract I found was Test drive your disaster recovery plan – which included tips from companies that had plans in place before Hurricane Katrina – and the changes they made after this event.

Most articles are .PDF files that can be downloaded or stored for later use. There are also detailed technical drawings for structural engineers, costings of repairing historic buildings and much more.

LogoSo, if your business or organisation doesn’t have a continuity or recovery plan, this resource will help you create one. If you want to investigate detailed urban planning, or other aspects of disaster recovery, this is where you can do it.  All you need is your library card number and PIN.

Whim Wham, thank you man

CurnowSome people get into poetry at university, all berets, booze and broodiness. I discovered it through Whim Wham in The Press. The Saturday poems were bitingly funny, took the mickey out of people, and had all sorts of things in them I didn’t understand.

Whim Wham was a pen-name for noted poet, academic and former sub-editor Allen Curnow. Today would have been his 100th birthday. So for all those laughs and grins and questions, and for all the ‘little of the little I know of myself and the world’, thanks man.

The importance of Matariki, as explained by Rakiihia Tau

Rik TauMatariki is the Aotearoa new year according to the lunar calendar.

In this audio file Upoko of Ngai Tuahuriri Rakiihia Tau  explains the importance of Matariki in terms of what it meant for the life of southern Māori, and puts it in the context of the year-long cycle of mahinga kai — gathering food and the necessities of life.

Summertime, and the living is easy …

Hugh Campbell and Jon Hooker… or so it seemed for a lazy hour at South Library last Saturday. The sun streamed in through tall windows and it was easy to forget that winter is just around the corner as local duo Hugh Campbell and Jon Hooker treated book browsers and music lovers to the gentle sound of fingerpicking, slide and blues guitar.

It was great to see people hunting for books while tapping their feet to the rhythm of the blues. And one elderly couple was spotted jiving in a stately fashion as the Cannonball Rag twinkled over the non-fiction shelves.

I’d like to think that one or two young people were inspired to pick up a copy of Guitar for Beginners by Minna Lacey or to grab The Devil’s Music: A History of the Blues by Giles Oakley. I borrowed a CD called Ragtime Memories and I’m almost sure I saw that elderly couple leaving with a copy of Peggy Spencer’s The Joy Of Dancing tucked under an arm.

Hugh and Jon are playing at New Brighton Library at 2pm tomorrow and at Shirley Library at 2pm Wednesday, 25 May. Head on down, grab a sofa and enjoy a slice of summer.

Sunday @ the festival: Push your literary limits

Auckland viewHere’s our audio wrap-up from our final day at the festival – and as we bid farewell to Auckland, we thank the organisers, writers, poets, experts, volunteers and audiences for their energy, dedication and all-round pleasantness over the last few days.

We have tried to convey the breadth and depth of the festival, and hope you have enjoyed the coverage. Keep your eye on the blog for the final few posts over the coming days.

Festivals like this are, in the end, about people who love reading and writing. They’re also about trying the unknown, and pushing your literary limits. So, if you want to write, write. If you need to read, read. Your library is a permanent literary festival. Use it.

[12 min 54 sec, 12.1Mb .mp3]

If it looks like magic, we agree: 34 minutes with Rives

A present for TessaRives and I began our chat by sharing earthquake experiences. He’s had his fair share whilst living in Los Angeles.

If you haven’t heard of Rives, seek him out – he is a master-craftsman with a huge ability to deliver knock-out lines which “break your frickin’ heart”.

We went on to talk about paper engineering (he made a pop-up brochure for my daughter); life and love and libraries, and sometimes love in libraries; about poetry on stage and page; the importance of quietness; and his desire to respond to circumstances more than the demands of his diary.

He also likes to encourage others to have a go – last night he invited people to meet him outside if they had any questions or would like to talk – I began by asking him how it went:

[34 min, 31.9Mb .mp3]

Saturday @ the festival: This one’s for Christchurch

This one's for ChristchurchAnother massively busy day at the festival for the team, capped off with a special event – This one’s for Christchurch. There was a large contingent of Canterbury people in this session, hosted by Morrin Rout and Ruth Todd. The Christchurch writers festival has been cancelled twice due to earthquakes, so it was teleported to Auckland for a mini-festival.

Special mention was made of The Press for its commitment to supporting the Christchurch festival, and its incredible determination to publish come hell or high water. In Bronwyn’s words, we felt “proud to be Christchurchians”.

We also talk about David Mitchell, Cassandra Clare, New Zealand poetry, Antarctica, and reveal some little known facts about Vincent O’Sullivan. [13 min 44 sec, 12.8Mb .mp3]

Rising star: Tina Makereti

LogoTina Makereti’s collection of short fiction, Once upon a time in Aotearoa, contains stories about the young, the old, the mythical, the alien and more. She gives old stories new treatments, has characters it feels like you have known forever, and a knack for dialogue and observation that is perceptive and dreamy, yet down-to-earth at the same time.

In this interview I talk to her about her new collection, her writing style and her first time on stage in Auckland [10 min, 10.4Mb .mp3]: