Off the shelf (3)

As followers of our blog will know, voracious reader Robyn has been sharing with us on a regular basis the titles that she has been adding to her For Later shelf. This time she reports back on some of the titles that have graduated to her Completed shelf.

Some lovely books that have come off the For Later shelf recently.

Cover for Robert KimeRobert Kime by Alastair Langlands. Matthew Dennison, author of a great book about Vita Sackville-West, reviewed this in that madly aspirational magazine World of Interiors. He said that Kime can “claim to devise schemes that genuinely appear ‘undecorated’: stylish but lacking obvious contrivance, with nothing matchy-matchy and not too much strangulated coordination”. An irresistible recommendation and the book did not disappoint.

The Face of Britain: The Nation Through its Portraits by Simon Schama. Power, Love, Fame, the Mirror, the People – these themes are covered with Schama’s customary skill; matching great stories with images from the National Portrait Gallery in London. This book accompanies a television series of the same name.

Cover for Portrait of FashionA Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery by Aileen Ribeiro with Cally Blackman. A happy accident that two books featuring the collections of the National Portrait Gallery  arrived at the same time. Amazing that so few of the images overlap. The reproductions in this one are bigger and more colourful than in The Face of Britain but then they should be; clothes need detail.

Conspicuous consumption

For me holidays are always an opportunity to consume, not merely Christmas dinner leftovers and far too many Ferrero Rochers, but also culture. The books, movies and TV shows I haven’t had time for during the year get their chance over the festive break. It’s always a struggle, of course. There’s simply too much to get through.

So how did I do this year? Not too badly actually. Here’s what I managed to cram into a week and a half of public holidays and annual leave.

Movies

I made a real effort this year to grab a bunch of movies I was curious about but never got around to watching. Results were patchy.

  • Housebound – I’d heard good things about this Kiwi horror-comedy and they weren’t wrong. High on the creepy factor but plenty of laughs too. Haunted house meets awkward mother-daughter dynamic. Highly recommended.
  • Spirited Away – Critically acclaimed Japanese animation from Studio Ghibli. I’ve never really been into anime and this movie didn’t change my mind. Just a bit too weird and fantastical for me.
  • Never Let Me Go – I really like Carey Mulligan but when the other two points of a love triangle are Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley, I’m going to struggle. A beautiful film to look at (if you like the colour brown) but quite slow paced. Do not watch if you’re in a bad mood already, as it’s a bit of a downer (based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro).

A selection of DVDs

  • They Came Together – I really, really wanted to like this. I’m a massive Amy Poehler fan and I adore Paul Rudd but this attempt to subvert the cliches and tropes of the rom-com failed to hit the mark. I couldn’t help thinking this would have worked brilliantly as an SNL sketch, but just couldn’t stretch to a whole film. Some fun moments but not enough of them, unfortunately.
  • Turbo Kid – Canadian/NZ co-production that had a lot of buzz at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival. A retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic wasteland, BMXs, extreme cheesiness, that guy off McLeod’s Daughters, and what must have been an absolutely massive fake blood budget. What’s not to love? With knowing nods to everything from Soylent Green, to Mad Max and Cherry 2000, this pastiche/homage to sci-fi was a lot of fun to watch (though sometimes through your fingers because INTESTINES).

Television

  • cover of The White Queen The White Queen – On a whim, for a bit of escapism I started watching this series based on Philipa Gregory’s historical novels The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter and ended binge-watching the whole thing. It covers the turbulent period during which the houses of York and Lancaster were battling for the throne of England, the War of the Roses. It begins with King Edward IV falling for a fetching Lancastrian widow and portrays the power grabs, manipulations and betrayals of his reign and beyond. It was this period of history that inspired George R. R. Martin’s Song of ice and fire novels and this series is similar, in bloodiness, intrigue, and, er, nudity. Not a bad substitute until the next season of Game of Thrones turns up (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Books

  • Cover of Truths, half truths & little white lies: A memoirTruths, half truths & little white lies: A memoir by Nick Frost – Often memoirs of famous people give you the impression that from a young age they were destined for stardom and great things. Nick Frost’s book has you marvelling that he managed to leave the house, let alone have a successful career, what with all the drugs and not being very confident and having a traumatic upbringing. It’s the story of an ordinary man who has struggles and demons just like everybody else and not in a “oh, I’ll just book into The Priory for a bit of rehab, dahling”, showing off kind of way, but the unglamorous “everything’s gone a bit terrible” way. This made me want to read Simon Pegg’s Nerd do well again and compare flatting anecdotes.
  • Concrete Park vol 2 – More violence, betrayal and sci-fi adventures on a prison planet. Waiting not very patiently for volume 3.

So how did you do over the break? Get a few titles ticked off your To Read (or To Watch) list?

What is it about Scandinavian drama?

Film stripsI have just completed the second series of the Danish television drama  The Legacy. The Legacy tells the story of four adult siblings dealing with the repercussions of their mother’s death. Their mother was no ordinary woman. She was an internationally renowned artist who let her children to lead chaotic lives and this has continued to impact them in adulthood. It is only their mother’s death that brings them all back together. If you add a love child, adultery, fraud, drug abuse and suicide to an already fraught situation what you have is addictive viewing.

Then there is another personal favourite Borgen. A political drama series about Birgitte Nyborg the fictional first female Prime Minister of Denmark. A political drama that is riveting? Believe it. After watching all three series, you will never look at politicians or political announcements the same again. This series takes you behind the scenes – to the spin doctors, the compromises that have to be made and the destruction such exposure can have on your family and ideals. This is not dry, predictable drama. When you see Nyborg struggle to get into a skirt due to recent weight gain, you fall a little in love with her vulnerability and then you cheer her on as she tries to convince other political parties to form a coalition government. She is magnificent.

I can also recommend The Bridge. This crime drama begins with a body that has been cut in half and placed precisely on the border between Denmark and Sweden. This results in the cooperation between two unique detectives, Saga Norén, from Sweden, and Martin Rohde, from Denmark. Again there are no predictable plots here, and much of the drama comes from the interactions of the lead characters. You have Martin with his troubled private life, and Saga who has difficulty in social situations due to an unspecified almost Asperger-like condition. Together they make for fantastic viewing.

So what is it about Scandinavian drama? Well, to me it is about the quality of the acting and the unpredictability of the storylines. Combine that with relatable characters and strong female leads and I am won over – despite subtitles.

If you are looking for an evening more interesting and entertaining than another cooking or DIY TV show, then you need to get your hands on these DVDs. A friend of mine told me she hates subtitles as she didn’t come home after a hard day at work to “read the TV”, but I have even managed to convert her! Are you next?

A Blessed life

Cover of Absolute PandemoniumBritish actor Brian Blessed is a force of nature. Everything about him is big, robust, and gung-ho. He’s a boys’ own adventure wrapped in facial hair.

His autobiography, Absolute Pandemonium, is everything you would expect from such a singular creature – full of ripping yarns, scrapes, scraps, and quite a lot of swearing. Oh yes, the language is quite colourful in places.

By any measure Blessed has had an extraordinary life. From humble beginnings in a mining town in South Yorkshire he’s had a career that has seen him steadily employed (when he wasn’t too busy climbing Mount Everest) for over 50 years. He’s appeared in everything from Blackadder and I, Claudius to Flash Gordon and Much Ado About Nothing. And he’s got a few stories to tell, some of which might actually be true.

To give you a bit of insight into what Absolute Pandemonium is like, I thought I’d share a few descriptions of famous people Blessed has met, loved and worked with over the years –

On Peter O’Toole:

Peter O’Toole wasn’t just a man of extremes; he was the man of extremes: Lord Byron with a knuckle-duster, love.

On Prime Minister Harold Mcmillan:

…he was about as animated as a curling stone, though seemed to move slightly slower.

On Orson Welles:

He seemed to be about the size of a rhino. Absolutely enormous, he was, and smoking a cigar that looked more like a log.

On Katharine Hepburn:

Boudicca in slacks

On Geneviève Bujold:

She was effervescent, naughty and very, very beautiful.

On meeting legendary Hollywood producer, Dino De Laurentiis for the first time:

He greeted me warmly, like a long-lost son.

‘Who the hell are you and wada-you-want-a?’

On Timothy Dalton:

Tim’s an incredibly handsome man and looked just like Errol Flynn in the film. A bit of rough compared to me, of course, but he definitely has something.

And finally, on his own good self:

Now, if I ever had to choose one word to describe myself, in addition to virile, sensual, intriguing, dainty, elegant and of course sensitive, it would have to be tenacious.

Definitely recommended for fans of the man himself or the people he’s worked with to get the inside (though possibly exaggerated) story on what they were like – honestly the section on O’Toole is rivetting.

To be honest, towards the end I was a bit over all the anecdotes in which Blessed’s tremendous actorly insight saved the day but I’ll forgive him because if you can’t skite a bit on your own memoir, when can you? It’s also extremely funny and I was hooting with laughter within the first few pages so I can forgive Blessed a bit of ego stroking.

What are your thoughts on Mr Blessed? Delightfully madcap or too much like a foghorn for polite company? I suspect both…

Geek girls unite!

I am something of a fangirl about a variety of things but my main obsessions at this point in time are Star Wars and anything Joss Whedon has ever done, said, or breathed on.

Some people will never understand the levels of devotion and excitement I experience when trawling the action figures aisle at K-Mart, or researching Star Wars cosplay on the Internet…and that’s perfectly okay. I cannot for the life of me understand the appeal of motorsport, and scrapbooking leaves me cold. Each to their own.

Cover of The fangirls' guide to the galaxyThis idea of respecting each others fandoms is a big one in Sam Maggs’ brilliant how-to The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls. This book is the self-affirming “I’m okay, you’re okay” tome that geek ladies everywhere have been waiting for. I wasn’t very far into the book before I found myself wondering why on earth noone had written it before. It very obviously needed to exist and Sam Maggs’, fangirl extraodinaire (her cosplay game is on point) and associate editor of geek girl culture site The Mary Sue, is just the woman for the job.

The book celebrates the variety of fandoms that we lady-folk enjoy and it’s actually quite educational. There’s some fangirl terminology explained, (I have an additional use for the word “shipping” now), as well as providing the basics on a range of fandoms, some of which I’m not personally that familiar with, like gaming and anime. The book includes short interviews with some successful fangirl actors, writers, and artists, a rundown on the best “cons” aka fan conventions (sadly all North American though SDCC is on my bucket list) and con etiquette, and a really useful primer on feminism. What exactly is “intersectional feminism” and where do I sign up? This book has got you sorted.

Cover of Ms Marvel 3My favourite chapter is “Your new faves: Kick-ass female characters you need to know” as it’s basically a recommended reading (and watching) list. It’s what turned me on to Ms Marvel, has me adding the movie Haywire to my For Later shelf, and casting my gaze towards Tamora Pierce’s Immortal series. Yes sirree, we librarians like a good book recommendation more than most.

Speaking of which, I’d also highly recommend Felicia Day’s You’re never weird on the Internet (almost). Day swims in much the same sea that The Fangirl’s Guide does. She’s well known as an actor in genre shows like Supernatural, Eureka, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has always been a nerd and fangirl herself, particularly in the area of MMORPG.

Cover of You're never weird on the internet (almost)Just to give you a notion of Felicia Day’s cultural caché – Joss Whedon wrote the foreword to the book and the back cover features a glowing endorsement from… George R. R. Martin.

So yeah, lady is connected.

But it wasn’t always so. The funniest parts in the book are where Day documents her offbeat childhood of being homeschooled and rather isolated from her peers. In such conditions her weirdness was able to fully ripen (to the benefit of us all). As an awkward oddball, she sought out belonging and community via the only means available to her… the Internet. And she’s been hanging out there, making awesome things happen ever since.

The book is heavy on self-deprecating humour and tells the tale of an awkward child who turned into… an awkward woman. But one who has learned to back herself, make stuff she loves and push on through the bad (addiction, anxiety issues, gamer-gate etc) with humour and whatever the dork equivalent of “grace” is.

Do you have any recommendations for great geek girl reads (or viewing for that matter)?

High Fives at South Learning Centre

A few wee things to celebrate at South Learning Centre.
Ep9 Trigger

HNN (Hillmorton Network News) finished off their year in style. I am so proud of their film and media progress, learning and confidence. The students presented to their Year 7/8 peer group. This was very nerve wracking for them with over 100 pairs of eyes scrutinizing them. This was followed by them presenting to school staff – who fired many questions at them ranging from their cross-over learning into other areas, what new skills they learned, and where could their skills take them?

Look out for HNN 2016!

HNN Episode 7

HNN Episode 8

HNN Episode 9

HNN Episode 10

HNN Episode 11

The second celebration is for Beckenham Centennial Film School. This was a hugely successful experience working alongside Beckenham School learning all about their 100 year history. We discovered some great stories of the past, devastating details of the fire and some exciting plans for the future of Beckenham.

Beckenham of Old

Beckenham Now

Beckenham Fire

Future Beckenham

In our Learning Centre, students experience eLearning programmes aligned with the New Zealand Curriculum document. These programmes provide learning in a technology-rich environment and the teaching within these programmes keep abreast with the latest teaching philosophies and strategies.

If you are interested in working with us to tailor an existing programme or work alongside us  please contact us Tel: 941 5140 or  Learningcentre@ccc.govt.nz

 

Pressured Viewing

Woman of the Year publicity photograph
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year, Wikimedia Commons
Once upon a time there was ‘The Movie’.  I’ve  never tried to work out how many hours I’ve spent watching them (the hours lost that can never be regained), but as a child/stroppy teenager I would slump down in a chair on a Saturday afternoon at around 3pm to watch the Saturday afternoon matinee.

It would greatly annoy my Dad (extra kudos for me playing the bolshy ‘teen’ card), as he had just purchased his first Colour television set and there I was making a mockery of it all by watching Black and White 1930s and 1940s classics.

Eventually a mockery of a compromise was reached – the kids got the old telly and bickered and argued between themselves for viewing rights whilst the ‘Head of the Household’ watched uninterrupted colourful sport…

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday
Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, Wikimedia Commons
Edith Head fashion, sumptuous sets, orchestrated Busby Berkeley choreographed extravanzas all in Black and White!!  Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Norma Shearer, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Van Heflin, John Wayne, Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn (I could continue ad nauseam but will give you all a break!).  It was fantastic.

Fast forward countless years and we have, yet again, ‘The Movie’ – normally taken out of the library for one week.  No problem, you would think – given my amazing ability of yesteryear, I could watch the one film countless times – but NO!!  Invariably I receive the email gently reminding me that the DVD has to be returned to the library in the next 2/3 days and panic ensues as I haven’t even had time to read the synopsis on the back of the DVD cover.

The number of films and TV series I have had to return without even inserting them into the DVD machine…  But now, especially with regard to a TV series, I have a longer time frame to play with:

Two Whole Weeks!!

The Bridge season 2 Kim Bodnia as Martin Sofia Helin as Saga Photo Carolina Romare 2012 (8724803961)
The Bridge season 2: Kim Bodnia as Martin, Sofia Helin as Saga, Photo Carolina Romare 2012, Wikipedia Commons
Until very recently I was watching  TV series on DVD such as the Danish production of The Bridge, Shetland, Parade’s End, and Desperate Romantics under immense pressure – two or three episodes a night so that I could return them, haggard and red-eyed, back to the shelves having gone through 3, 4 or even sometimes 5 DVDs in the set.

Times they are a-changing…  I’ve even been known to watch in Colour.

Mike McRoberts joins Hillmorton Network News

Hillmorton Network News (HNN) celebrates a great partnership with the South Learning Centre at South Library. This is a partnership that utilises our expertise within the community to assist students to reach otherwise unattainable goals.

HNN students work collaboratively to plan, scriptwrite, film and edit their own stories. These stories celebrate individual successes and that of their school and local community. Each episode is shared to celebrate the school’s culture and to promote pride within the Community.

The Year 8 and 9 students have learned so much and were very excited when I announced our special guest, Mike McRoberts, would be part of our crew for the day.  It was a chance to hear real stories from a TV journalist, about his biggest challenges, his war-torn stories and his Olympic highlights.

Mike, an ex Hillmorton student, shared some tips and tricks when filming and left them with some powerful words – Never give up!

Here is our latest episode :

Mike 4

Mike 3

Long ago, in a rapidly expanding galaxy, far, far away

Prepare yourselves. From this point on things are going to get increasingly Star Wars-y.

My meaning is two-fold.

Star Wars Reads day First, the official annual celebration of Star Wars and reading, Star Wars Reads Day is tomorrow. Shirley Library is playing host to a day of fun and activities and even some special Star Wars guests. It should be fun so if you’re a fan or have one in the family you should consider heading along.

Second, a new Star Wars movies is scheduled for release just before Christmas. On 17 December Episode VII: The Force Awakens (hits cinemas). Expect to see A LOT of merch in the shops between now and Christmas.

The Force Awakens is the first of the Star Wars movies to be made by Disney rather than Lucasfilm, and kicks off another trilogy (the third) in the scifi space saga. But that’s not all because some standalone films are planned, and then there’s the TV series’ and… you know what? Let’s make a nice list of these things. This is starting to feel like that time I tried to explain the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Long ago, in the seventies and eighties…

Cover of The making of Star WarsThe original Star Wars trilogy comprised of –

George Lucas had always envisaged his rollicking space yarn as the middle segment of a much broader tale but I can imagine people in 1977 being confused and wondering whether they’d somehow missed the first 3 instalments. For much of my young life I believed, somewhat despondently, that these would be the only Star Wars films ever made. Boy, was I wrong about that…

A new millennium (falcon)

Cover of Star Wars Episode I The Phantom menaceIn the meantime George Lucas and crew got busy making the first part of the story, in the process inventing, or at least popularising, the word “prequel”.

An animated series “Star Wars: Clone Wars” aired on the Cartoon Network (and online) between 2003-2005 and bridged the gap between episodes II and III.

I hoped at this point that this was the end of Star Wars viewing opportunities. Boy, was I wrong about that…

Interregnum

Cover of The Clone Wars episode guideAfter the dust had settled a bit, Lucasfilm, capitalising on the derring-do aspect of the pre-Sith Anakin Skywalker character, and the success of the Clone Wars series made another animated series set between episodes II and III called, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I did say this was a bit confusing.

A very Disney future

Cover of Star Wars Rebels the visual guideIn 2012 The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm and all the rights to Lucasfilm properties including Star Wars. Disney got into the swing of things Star Wars with their own animated television series set between episodes III and IV.

But they more famously committed to a new trilogy of Star Wars films –

However, there’s also a Star Wars anthology series of stand-alone films. A trilogy of films that exist in the same Star Wars universe but are unrelated stories.

  • Rogue One (2016) – Set between episodes III and IV, so before the original 1977 Star Wars film, the plot revolves around a band of resistance fighters stealing the plans to a huge Death Star battle station. Production is currently underway.
  • Untitled Han Solo film (2018) – Set between episodes III and IV but before Rogue One, this film will have a youthful Han Solo so definitely not Harrison Ford.
  • Untitled third film (2019) – Your guess is as good as mine. No details on this one yet.

So we’re pretty much going to have a new Star Wars movie every year for the rest of this decade. Depending on your inclination this either makes you feel tired or really, really excited. If you’re the latter we have literally hundreds of Star Wars items in our catalogue.

May the books be with you!

Cover of The making of Star Wars Revenge of the SithCover of Star Wars absolutely everything you need to knowCover of Star Wars the ultimate action figure collectionCover of Star Wars wheres science meets imaginationCover of Star Was the complete visual dictionaryCover of The secret life of droids

Twenty years of Darcy’s wet shirt

Believe it or not, Pride and Prejudice, the BBC television series that introduced us to the charms of Colin Firth, first hit TV screens 20 years ago.

Cover of The complete novels of Jane AustenOriginally airing in the UK between 24 September – 29 October 1995, it’s difficult to overstate just how phenomenally succesful it was. In just six episodes Pride and Prejudice turned Firth into a heart throb and reignited the public’s interest in both Jane Austen’s novels and their adaptations (films of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Emma all came out within a year or so). Austen-mania was at its height.

And let’s not forget that without this television series and it’s massive popularity we would have no Bridget Jones books and movies.

Why was it so ridiculously popular? Much credit must go to the casting. While Firth is considered by many as “the perfect Darcy” – so much so he essentially played the role again in the Bridget Jones films – there are several other performances in the series that come together to make it a stand out.

And so, I humbly offer to you the following list.

The 5 best characters in Pride and Prejudice

  • Darcy. Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy fairly glowers up the place for the first few episodes before revealing his “vulnerability” by diving into a lake and emerging in a clingy linen shirt. Pedants everywhere scoffed that this was “not in the book” but they were rather drowned out by the sound of ladies everywhere squealing and fanning themselves.
  • Elizabeth Bennet. The perfect foil to Darcy’s dark looks and mono-syllables, Jennifer Ehle is all winsome grins, intelligence behind the eyes, and wry amusement while also pulling off the scenes where haughtiness is required with equal skill. Lizzie is a sympathetic character even as you’re desperate to grab her by the shoulders and yell at her to be a bit less stroppy with Darcy. He’s just misunderstood, okay?
  • Mrs Bennet. Alison Steadman’s performance as the mother of the five Bennet sisters is perhaps not a pleasant one but it’s masterful all the same. With a voice that could strip paint from a Regency chaise her plaintive cries of “Mr Bennet!” whenever perceived disaster struck are on a par with Bianca’s screams of “RICKY!” on Eastenders, or that noise that polystyrene makes when you rub it together.
  • Mr Bennet. Dimpled and jocular but mostly in his study reading. When Mr Bennet rolls his eyes, usually after Mrs Bennet has said something ludicrous, you know he really means it. If his wit were any drier it would be a fire risk.
  • Mr Collins. Played by David Bamber, Mr Collins is probably the most pompous, creepy, boorish clergyman in literature. If you don’t feel icky after every scene he’s in you must be made of sterner stuff than I.
  • Lydia Bennet. She’s irritating in that way that teenage girls specialise in. Flirty, flighty and self-obsessed, Lydia is the polar opposite of the other role that Julia Sawalha is famous for, that of bookish, put-upon Saffy from Absolutely Fabulous. With all her declarations of “Oh LORD” and begging to be allowed to go to dances, Lydia is basically the worst. But the best worst.

If all this talk of Pride and Prejudice has got you itching to revisit “Austen-mania” you can rewatch the original or you try one of the many versions, unofficial sequels, reimaginings and books based on the novel –

Cover of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - An annotated editionCover of Pride, Prejudice and popcornCover of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice graphic novelCover of Flirting With Pride & Prejudice Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-lit Masterpiece

What are your Pride and Prejudice memories? Are you similarly shocked that 20 years has passed since it came out?