Killing Jokes

The Court TheatreSome reasons to see The Ladykillers at the Court Theatre.

  • The cast. You’re in safe hands with these old hands. Actually they’re not old hands, they’re experienced hands. And experience counts. It’s unfair to single anyone out they are so uniformly good, but Rima Te Wiata as Mrs Wilberforce, “the wraith in a pinny” is outstanding. Especially her feet. They have a life of their own. You’ll have to see it to see what I mean.
  • The bits of business. Stepping on a scarf, straightening a picture, being hit on the head with a rotating blackboard – yes it’s slapstick but there is still a place in the theatre for slapstick done well. Surely.
  • The parrot. You never see him but you don’t need to. Imagining a diseased washing-up glove is better (or worse) than seeing one.
  • The script. Based on the Ealing classic film of 1955, the play is written by Graham Linehan, who wrote or co-wrote  Father Ted, Black Books and The IT crowd. No more needs to be said.
  • The set.  It’s a  masterpiece of ramshackle precision used to great effect by actors who never put a foot wrong. And it’s so very Christchurch.

A real treat in a cold winter.

A half circle journey – Suki Kim and North Korea

Cover of Without you, there is no usThere are only patchy representations of North Korea in our popular culture – comedians dressed up as Kim Jong-il, Team America, that recent Interview movie. In a world where the Iron Curtain has come down, it is still Unknown. But Suki Kim knows North Korea, she’s been there many times. Suki is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August as part of the WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View events in the Christchurch Arts Festival. Her topic: On North Korea: Inventing the Truth and she’s in conversation with Paula Morris.

Her book Without you, there is no us: My time with the sons of North Korea’s Elite. A Memoir unveils what has been hidden. It starts with the death of Kim Jong-il in 2011 and then goes back into history, and into Suki’s time as a teacher at PUST- the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.

If this were the sort of story that invites readers to nod with empathy and walk away both satisfied and educated, I would say that I travelled full circle. But in truth my journey was barely half a circle, a sad one that could never be completed, because those who were at the center of the harrowing history are almost certainly long dead, or old and dying, and time is running out before their stories are lost in the dust of the past. (p. 11)

Suki shows us Pyongyang as a place of rules, bureaucracy, and regimentation. North Korea is full of constraints  – and the constriction is political, emotional, and intellectual. On some of their school trips, there are glimpses of starving people, and forced labour. It is a place where even the sons of the elite have an existence that is controlled, and devoid of freedom.  Everyone is watched, you are likely to be spied upon, and the very words you utter must conform or you might be reported. Suki wants to open the world up to her students, but knows she can’t:

It was a fine dance. I wanted to push them, but not too much; to expose them to the outside world, but not so subtly that no one would notice… Awakening my students to what was not in the regime’s program could mean death for them and those they loved … Awakening was a luxury available only to those in the free world. (p. 70)

Suki teaches, but she is continually taking notes for her book. She observes her students open up,  and how some lie and deceive.  I was swayed by her emotional currents:

And so I went from love to pity to repulsion and distrust, then back to empathy and love again, and these switches of feeling were confusing. I reminded myself that I did not come from a place where mind games were a prerequisite for survival to such an extreme degree, a place where the slightest act of rebellion could have unimaginable consequences. (p. 134)

This is a book that could easily be claustrophic. But it isn’t, because she provides such captivating views of the Koreas North and South, and family history, and her own emotional landscape. Her book will make you understand North Korea in a new way.

Cover of PyongyangIf you want to read more about this strange and fascinating place, I recommend the graphic novel Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. It captures that same alienness and constriction found in Suki’s story.

There seems to be a flurry of new books about North Korea. We want to understand.

Cover of The firector is the commander Cover of The girl with seven names Cover of The Great Leader and the fighter pilot Cover of Marching through suffering Cover of Under the same sky Cover of Dear Leader

A shed of your own

Backyrad BuildingMy Dad had a shed.  It was wonderful. Everything had a place, from the oddments of timber to the jars of old nails that he had painstakingly bent back into shape.  It was a place that I was allowed to visit – occasionally – but only the proviso that I didn’t stay long, and I didn’t interfere with whatever happened to be going on.

He would have been a great supporter of Menzshed:

It is a place where men can go to, socialise, have a yarn, be creative, share ideas, share skills and spend time with other men while working.

Men are the primary focus and are seen as the most in need of what Menzshed have to offer.  The website shows plenty of activity and branches throughout the country.

TheToolsheds community in Christchurch has focused on the Kiwi statehouses of the 30s and 40s that were often built with wonderful tool sheds in the back garden

The plan is to rescue a large handful of them from demolition in Christchurch’s earthquake red zone and turn them into port-a-com units for use by adventurous community groups.

Cover of The dark knight of the shedPerhaps you fancy setting up a shed of your own? In The Dark night of the shed: Men, the mid-life crisis, spirituality and sheds the author decided to build a shed to give himself the space to think, and to perhaps curtail the midlife crisis that was fast encroaching in the form of lycra, buying a new sportscar or starting an affair.

My Cool shedIf you prefer your sheds with a bit more ‘how to’ and less angst then Backyard building might be a good start, and if like me you like looking but not necessarily actually doing anything then My Cool Shed: An Inspirational Guide to Stylish Hideaways and Workspaces could be just the ticket.

Gallipoli – the August campaigns

While we remember the Gallipoli landings on 25th April every year, some major parts of the campaign took place in August. As the initial assault on the peninsula and subsequent fighting had turned into a nightmarish stalemate, it was decided to land more (mainly British) troops and attack again.

Once again New Zealand and Australian troops were heavily involved. It was in this part of the campaign that the famous battles of Lone Pine (6-7 August) and Chunuk Bair (8-10 August) took place. The Wellington Battalion took and occupied the summit of Chunuk Bair, but suffered huge casualties. Amongst those killed was the battalion’s commander, Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone.

I believe that my great-grandfather landed at Suvla Bay on or around 10th August as part of the Suffolk Regiment. He survived, but caught malaria. Do you have any connections to the later stages of the Gallipoli Campaign?

This week in Christchurch history (3 to 9 August)

4 August 1878
Severe snowstorm over the South Island.

4 August 1923
Railway to the West Coast opens. The much delayed opening of the Otira tunnel on June 18, 1918, had prevented earlier completion of the line.

6 August 1867
Unveiling of the Godley statue in Cathedral Square New Zealand’s first public statue. However, the statue’s inscription acclaiming him ”founder of Canterbury“ is possibly over generous. Wakefield should at least share the title.

John Robert Godley statue at the Quake City exhibition, Friday 15 February 2013
John Robert Godley statue at the Quake City exhibition, Friday 15 February 2013. Flickr CCL-2013 -02-15-IMG_3592

7 August 1982
Opening of City Mall, a major new pedestrian amenity created by the closure of parts of Cashel and High Streets. The project had first been mooted in 1967.

8 August 1989
Christchurch Central MP and Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Palmer appointed as Prime Minister after resignation of David Lange.  See some photos from his career on DigitalNZ.

Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and his wife Margaret, Premier House, Wellington
Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and his wife Margaret, Premier House, Wellington – Photograph taken by Ross Giblin. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1990/2349/20-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23121901

9 August 1840
Captain Langlois in the “Compte de Paris” arrives in Pigeon Bay with 63 French settlers.

More August events in the Christchurch chronology: a timeline of Christchurch events in chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

Te Reo Māori, ake, ake, ake

As Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori draws to a close we can all stop using our newly learned kupu and vastly improved pronunciation until next year, right?

KAO. (That’s a big NO, just in case you were wondering)

You can use te reo Māori and embrace the arts and culture of indigenous New Zealanders any time. And in Christchurch we’ve got some great opportunities coming up to do just that so let’s keep the poro rolling with –

Te Kupu o Te Wiki

Every Monday on this blog there’ll be a kupu hou (new word) to add to your vocabulary, complete with a link where you can listen online so no worries about not getting your pronunciation tino tika.

E Hoa

Māori art vector prints by Dallas Matoe and Lino cuts by George Aranui, until 15 August at Linwood Community Arts Centre/Eastside Gallery.

New Zealand International Film Festival logoEver the land

NZIFF documentary about the planning and building of New Zealand’s first “living building”, Te Wharehou o Tūhoe. This is no Grand Designs, it’s much more than that. Session on 15 & 16 August.

Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts 2015

This year’s expression of ‘Ngā Whanaunga’ – which means relatedness and connectedness between peoples – is realised with films from Aotearoa, Hawaii, Samoa and Tuvalu. Session on 19 & 23 August.

The Price of Peace

Investigative journalist Kim Webby’s documentary about Tūhoe activist Tame Iti and the Urewera Four. A portrait of a man and his “rightly embittered philosophy”. Session on 10 & 11 August.

Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses

Documentary about the tragic death of Janet Moses in 2007 as the result of a mākutu lifting by her family. Session on 17 & 18 August.

Modern Māori Quartet

These guys are the business. Don’t believe me? Check out their te reo version of Lorde’s Royals and then tell me one of their shows wouldn’t be a great night out.

Tickets for their 10 & 11 September gigs are selling fast so kia tere!

Christchurch Arts Festival logoNgā Tai o Kurawaka: He Kura e Huna Ana

He Kure e Huna Ana is a Pounamu creation story of Poutini and Waitaki but one which develops with the help of the audience. At the Court Theatre 8-10 September.

Rama Tuna

Priscilla Cowie (Ngai Tahu, Ngati Kahu, Nga Puhi, Ngati Pakeha) presents a new sculptural installation honouring the tuna or long finned eel. View it between 28 August and 13 September at The Arts Centre Market Square.

Whaikōrero – Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Rāhoroi

Whaikōrero – is an art form.
Kōrero Māori – is possible for all of us.

Te Aka defines whaikōrero as: Formal eloquent language using imagery, metaphor, whakataukī, pepeha, kupu whakaari, relevant whakapapa and references to tribal history is admired. Kōrero (as a verb) is defined as: to tell, say, speak, read, talk, address.

Cover for Manu rere i te rangi Cover for The Awakening Cover for Whaikōrero - the world of Māori Oratory

Ngā Kete Wānanga o Ōtautahi is the kaitiaki of our permanent Nga Pounamu Māori collection. Within these collections, taonga abound. Not only are some available in beautifully presented pukapuka but also through our Wheelers eBook platform. One available in both print and eBook format is Whaikorero: The World of Maori Oratory by Poia Rewi:

Winner of the 2011 NZSA E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for Non-Fiction, New Zealand Post Book Awards.
The judges felt that Rewi’s book ‘managed the difficult feat of being both a valuable record and manual of Māori oratory for practitioners, and an accessible overview for anyone interested in this ubiquitous cultural practice.’

Whilst the ability to be an outstanding orator (in any language) is beyond many of us, to use Te Reo Māori everyday certainly is not.

On line Te Reo Māori ExhibitionWe can start by knowing and using Ngā Ingoa Māori – the names of places right here in Ōtautahi me Waitaha.

We can also explore the range of pukapuka me moheni published in te Reo Māori available at your local library.

I am a strong advocate of the use of children’s Te Reo Māori books to help my confidence with Kōrero Māori – the pictures often help with the kupu I do not know, ngā rerenga can be short and simple and often there is an English publication for when I get really stuck.

Kia whakatipua te kaipanui – growing readers

Try reading one with your tamariki, rangatahi or mokopuna – ka pai akoronga mo tātou.

Cover for Whakaeke i nga ngaru - Gavin BishopTry Short stories for teens and adults – ‘You only Live once”.
We have graphic novels and  purākau me pakiwaitara in te Reo Maori.

For those of you who like to browse a magazine or periodical, Mana and Te Karaka (online) contain plenty of te teo Māori and some very cool reading to immerse yourself in too.

Karawhiua! Give it a go. Kōreroreo mai

The shipboard diary of Henry Bottle

Ship Himalaya
HIMALAYA. [picture] : 1008 tons. Built at Sunderland. Sold to America and renamed Star of Peru. Brodie Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.
In 1879 a young man named Henry Garmston Bottle undertook a great, but not uncommon journey from London to Lyttelton aboard the Himalaya.

He kept a diary while on board, and wrote several letters to his family back in England, to his father (My dear Papa), his sister Nellie and his brother Fred.

His shipboard diary is largely an unsentimental and factual account but it nevertheless conjures up fascinating images and vignettes of life onboard ship for months at a time. The following are some excerpts from his shipboard diary which covers 11 January – 14 April 1879.

21st – Vessel rolled very much when at breakfast the whole table was cleared and some things broken, running down coast of Portugal, pigs got loose had a spree.

24th – Heavy gale during night could not sleep. Off Str of Gibralter, went on deck & got drenched from head to foot by a sea, about 1ft of water in our cabin.

25th – Pig died, thrown overboard, saw a shark eat it

8th – Lat 4 Long 22 N Heat 96. 97 miles killed a rat in our cabin, slept on deck

Unsurprisingly there’s an awful lot of people being sick to start with and a surprising number of animal escapees including one passenger’s canary.

My dear Papa, letter from Henry Bottle to his fatherSimilarly his letters offer a glimpse into the “excitements” of life on board the Himalaya like this description of bad weather in a letter to his father dated 10 February 1879 –

We had a heavy gale yesterday morning it came on all at once & the wind blew & it rained as I never saw it before it came down in streams like pailfulls we all took our shoes & stockings off rolled our trousers up put macktos [mackintoshes] on, no hat & went on deck to catch water we caught a good lot. The gale lasted an hour.

You can read more about Henry Bottle’s journey and his life in Oamaru and Waimate in his digitised papers.

Quick questions with Margaret Wilson

Cover of The Struggle for SovereigntyMargaret Wilson is coming to Christchurch on Sunday 30 August to speak on The Struggle for Sovererignty. This event is part of the Shifting Points of View – WORD Christchurch at the Christchurch Arts Festival.  Margaret is Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Waikato, and she has been an MP and Speaker of Parliament. She will be in conversation with Dr Bronwyn Hayward, author and political scientist at the University of Canterbury.

This session is timely and relevant:

In the era of public choice and free markets, and when widespread public protest against global treaties such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is having little effect, does the New Zealand state still have the best interests of its individual citizens at heart? Margaret Wilson argues that the shift to a neo-liberal public policy framework has profoundly affected the country’s sovereignty and that New Zealanders must continue to engage in the struggle to retain it for the sake of individual and community wellbeing.

Thanks to Margaret for answering our quick questions.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I’m looking forward to meeting people in Christchurch who share my values.

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are essential for a democratic community – they provide pleasure, knowledge and well being for a community. (My sister is a librarian!)

What would be your “desert island book”?

I would take the bible and the Koran to try understand why religion is so important to so many people.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

If I had the time and money I would tour the world watching cricket.

Happy birthday to Parklands Library

The fabulous community library at Parklands is celebrating ten years. There are some events on next week – come along and join in with the people of Parklands to have some fun.

Parklands 10th Anniversary - Facebook tile

Hip Hip Hurrah! – Story-telling and craft

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 (3:30PM – 4:15PM)
A birthday themed Storytime for Parklands Library which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week, and for our favourite cat Slinky Malinky who turns 25 this year! For ages 3-7yrs.

3D Printer Taster

Thursday, August 6, 2015 (3:30PM – 5:00PM)
Calling all 3D tinkerers! Check out a 3D printer in action at Parklands library with a live demonstration and find out how you can start creating your own 3D designs using free software.

Family Fun Day

Saturday, August 8, 2015 (11:00AM – 3:00PM)

Live music and storytelling – a day for the whole family.

Better than Bacon – Live Music (11:00am-11:45am)
These young local rockers took Parklands by storm during May Music Month and now they’re back to help us celebrate our birthday! All ages

Tales with Tania – Story-telling (1:00pm – 1:30pm)
Stories, rhymes and music from our very own story-telling superstar Tania! Ages 3-5yrs

New Brighton Ukulele Pirates – Live Music (2:00pm-2:45pm)
Shiver yer timbers, these ukulele playing pirates will have the whole family singing and dancing with original pirate tunes and well-known classics. All ages – bring your ukulele!

There are also the usual Parklands activities, crochet, Science Alive, storytimes and more. Parklands is a lovely library with friendly staff, so if you haven’t been in – come and visit!

Sheep at Parklands Library

Sheep at Parklands Library. Art by Sally Blake and Knitting Ninjas. Flickr 2015-07-29-IMG_8422

Parklands Library

Parklands Library. Flickr 2015-07-29-IMG_8415