Give your family Goosebumps

Cover of Classic Goosebumps CollectionI was a big fan of the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine when I was a kid. There weren’t a lot of scary, horror stories for kids around at that stage so Goosebumps were the go-to books if you wanted to scare yourself a little. There were always plenty to choose from and they were pretty quick reads. A search of the library catalogue tells me that we have 97 Goosebumps items in our libraries, which includes paper books, eBooks, and DVDs. That’s enough Goosebumps to keep you going for quite some time!

Earlier this year there was a Goosebumps movie released in cinemas which looked really good. My family and I didn’t get a chance to see it then but I hoped that we might get it in the library eventually. While perusing the catalogue last week I discovered we did have it on order and promptly reserved it. In our house, every Saturday night is Family Movie Night, where we choose a movie that we can all enjoy. Last week it was the Goosebumps movie and it was excellent!

Cover of Revenge of the Lawn GnomesThe movie follows a kid called Zach who moves to a small town and moves in next door to R.L. Stine, the author of the Goosebumps books, and his daughter Hannah. When Zach hears screaming coming from next door one night he thinks that something horrible has happened to Hannah. He breaks in to try and rescue her but unwittingly unleashes the creatures from the Goosebumps books. The monsters that R.L. Stine made famous are real, and he protects his readers by keeping them locked in their manuscripts. One of R.L. Stine’s most evil creations, Slappy, releases the monsters one by one, and now it’s up to Zach and his friends to trap them back in their books where they belong. Jack Black plays R.L. Stine which is a perfect role for him as he’s a mix of manic and slightly crazy. The movie is the perfect mixture of funny and creepy so it’s ideal for both young and old Goosebumps fans.

Reserve the Goosebumps movie at the library now for your own family movie night. You can also check out all the other Goosebumps books and the Goosebumps TV series too.

Bleaker than bleak

For some reason, it took me ages to read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I’ve been told it’s been very popular in book groups and it’s been shortlisted for a few literary prizes. It was one long read, but not because it was boring or dreary, far from it, I had settled into a reading malaise and just didn’t read very much.

Cover of Burial rites

This is Hannah Kent’s first novel and it is based on fact. Burial Rites tells the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be put to death in Iceland, in 1829.

A servant with a past as bleak as an Icelandic winter, Agnes is found guilty for her part in the murder of two men, one of whom was her employer and in the book, her lover as well.

The author has used a great deal of factual information and certainly done her homework to make details as accurate as possible, but also filled in the emotional details and made a sympathetic case for Agnes’ innocence with fictional aspects. Agnes is regarded still today in Iceland as an evil woman of almost witch-like proportions.

I loved the book, it was very evocative of the landscape, time period and people, and Agnes became very real to me, a woman whose circumstances overwhelmed her control over her own life and future. Knowing it was based on a person who existed and met such a tragic end, made it all the more riveting.

Since becoming obsessed with Vikings through the television series, and Danish crime dramas such as The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen, anything set up there in the cold Northern climes piques my interest. The intense, dark and never ending winters, the hard lives and meagre existences hold a great deal of fascination.

I look forward to Kent’s next book.

The play’s the thing – 400 years since the death of Shakespeare

On 23 April 2016 it will be 400 years since William Shakespeare died. He is believed to have been born on 23 April 1564. Certainly in the English language, few writers will have left such a legacy as this most celebrated of playwrights.

Shakespeare

As an actor as well as a playwright he performed his own material, and in the four centuries following his death this material has continued to be performed, reinterpreted and reimagined in a huge variety of ways. His language can seem impenetrable, at least at first, but its richness, uncanny relevance, profundity and humour make it all worthwhile.

Some of his plays are performed with great regularity – who hasn’t seen a fluffy version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in some lovely gardens on a pleasant summer evening? (No, MSND is not one of my favourites) Others are far more obscure – King John, anyone?

Very broadly speaking Shakespeare wrote comedies (eg As You Like It), histories (Henry V) and tragedies (Hamlet). Yet a good number of the plays cannot be easily pigeonholed, for example Troilus and Cressida and The Winter’s Tale. As Polonius says:

The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2.

As for my favourite Shakespeare? Hard to say – I find Troilus and Cressida fascinating and wish I could have seen the Te Reo Māori version at the 2012 International Shakespeare Festival in London. I love Richard III – a masterful and still influential piece of Tudor propaganda that works just as well played for comedy as deadly serious. Who cannot love Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing – a star truly did dance when she was created.

It’s so hard to choose – Macbeth is so fast paced and profound, and as for Hamlet. Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 4, Scene 4 might just be my favorite piece of his writing – but what about Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2:

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?                                                                                         Was ever woman in this humour won?

Exit pursued by a bear.

What’s your favourite Shakespeare?

Brush up on your Shakespeare

#shakespeare400 tweets

Where have all the young men gone?

(Note to reader: This post starts with housework but is actually about kids’ DVDs.)

When it comes to housework, I tend to be a bit all or nothing. Weeks and weeks can go by, and I’ll just do the barest minimum, and then I go crazy-mad and clean just about everything in sight. Like, the other day, I walked into the bathroom just intending to give the vanity a quick wipe, and ended up not leaving till I had cleaned the ceiling, scrubbed the floor, and attacked just about everything else in between. And as if that wasn’t enough, I then walked into the living room, took one look at the couch, which looked frighteningly like this couch* —

crappy-couch-1
Image: ©2011-2015 Crappy Pictures LLC

— and realised I couldn’t live with it a single moment longer and cleaned that too.

It seems I’m a bit the same with blogging…no posts since before Christmas, then all of a sudden, three posts in (almost) as many weeks!

Anyhoo…this post isn’t actually about housework**, it’s about kids DVDs. See, I noticed something the other day while I was popping DVDs back on the shelf… a whole cohort of the TV heroes and heartthrobs of my youth have taken to making — (wait for it… )

— pony movies and shaggy dog tales. Ya huh.

horseRemember Luke Perry from Beverley Hills 90210? Well, he’s swapped dreamboat for dad in Black Beauty (a modern retelling of Anna Sewell’s classic story — though Miss Missy and I thought the stories don’t have that much in common apart from the title). I know he was a teen heartthrob and all, but really, Luke Perry makes a better dad anyway — remember Dylan’s prematurely receding hairline and wrinkled brow?  Luke Perry also stars in A Fine Step and K9 Adventures.

What about Kevin Sorbo from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, remember him? Who could forget those open shirts and woven leather pants? No more mythical Cretan Bulls for him — he’s now roping rodeo bulls in Rodeo Girl.

Apparently Kevin Sorbo actually auditioned for the role of Superman in Lois & Clark, but of course Dean Cain got that role — and now you can see him without a cape in Horse Camp and The Dog Who Saved Summer.

Does anyone remember Ricky Schroder from Silver Spoons? My big sister had a bit of a crush on him, as I recall. No more spoiled rich kid for Ricky, now he’s playing the rugged cowboy father in Our Wild Hearts.

I was too young to actually watch Miami Vice, but nothing says ’80s TV quite like Don Johnson in a white suite, pastel t-shirt, and shades. Well, he’s dropped the white suit, but he’s still wearing shades in Moondance Alexander. Although it’s a pretty a typical girl-finds-horse-overcomes-odds story, Miss Missy and I did enjoy watching it.

Lastly, even though it’s not a pony story, I have to tell you about A Little Game, which stars Ralph Macchio, otherwise know as The Karate Kid (sorry folks, we don’t have the original at the library, we’ve only got the Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan version). There’s no “wax on, wax off” in this one, but it’s a similar tale of a young protégée and an older mentor, but instead of teaching karate, he’s teaching chess — and of course a few life lessons along the way.

So if the kids are getting bored over the holidays (especially if the rain keeps up!) why not give one of these movies a try? We’ve got plenty of new DVDs for kids, and they’re free to borrow!

*Minus the books propping up the corner. Of course I would never do that, what kind of librarian do you take me for? BTW, if you liked the Crappy Picture, you might enjoy Amber Dusick’s ebooks

**If you actually wanted a post on housework, I wrote one on clutter awhile back

The BBC Video Collection warms our dark nights

BBC cover-tempWhen I lived in the UK as long as there was not a Tube delay due to “man under train”, bomb threats, mechanical failure or leaves on the tracks I would normally watch the BBC news. I would just get in the door in time for the familiar Beep, Beep, Beep which always comes just before the start of the news. I loved the BBC news as it was my time to collapse after work and the presenters would soothe me with their proper pronunciation, quality news reporting and interesting television. To me the BBC has succeeded in its royal charter where it must – “inform, educate and entertain”.

There can be no denying that as well as news the BBC has produced some amazing television over the years and we are now in a position to gather together some of its most viewed documentaries in one place with the BBC Video Collection.  So far I have set up a personal account so I can create a playlist which includes Sister Wendy’s Grand Tour and Terry Jones’ Barbarians. This quick list I made will guarantee that as the evenings get darker and colder I will not be reduced to watching dating or cooking shows on our own TV networks. If history is not your thing, do not despair as there are titles on engineering, music, health, business and science and a multitude of other interests. All you need to do is search, watch and relax. If Christchurch traffic tests your nerve endings much like the Tube did mine then you too can escape into the world of the BBC.

Excuse me while my inner fangirl palpitates…

There was much excitement in the Beecrafty household last weekend! We went to Armageddon and met Marina Sirtis (a.k.a. Deanna Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation – see the signed photo we got)!

Marina Sirtis signed photoEven Mr Beecrafty was so star struck that he lamented having to wash his hand after shaking hands with the beautiful Betazoid heroine! Marina (yes, we’re on a first name basis now) was just lovely, so warm and funny despite saying that the hardest things about conventions was having to be nice to people for so long! We were all amazed to hear her British accent, so different from her screen persona’s voice. I asked her whether she thought Riker was more handsome with or without the beard – she preferred without, while I preferred with which she said was no surprise when she saw my bewhiskered husband. I admitted that the Young Lad actually preferred Star Wars, as I haven’t fully indoctrinated him yet, and we left to her cry of “Bad parent, bad parent!”

All in all, as Miss Missy put it, it was the best day ever. So, in honour of this momentous fangirl experience, I have scoured the catalogue for all things Trek. Naturally we have Star Trek on DVD, and plenty of Trek fiction of course. But wait, there’s more!

If cosplay is your thing, then Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary: the Ultimate Guide to Characters, Aliens, and Technology or the five decades of fashion from the final frontier found in Star Trek Costumes are sure to inspire.

You can read about Kate Mulgrew’s life before Janeway in her memoir Born With Teeth

0786861827For fans of Mr Spock:

BenStarWarsI’ll have to take a look at Star Wars Vs. Star Trek – even though we all know that Stormtroopers are the worst shots in the Galaxy, not to mention their susceptibility to Jedi mind tricks would surely mean they’d be no match for the Vulcans. Now to convince the Young Lad…

And if you still want more, then why not take a look at my Trekdom list?

Welcome Access Video!

ckey923530-AVOD-250wIf you are like me and only have poor person’s TV (not SKY) then you are constantly channel surfing and finding yourself stuck with cooking, renovation and dating shows. Well, surf no more – the library can now connect you to a new eResource – Access Video. It has over 10,000 world-class documentaries, award-winning educational films, and helpful instructional videos on every known subject.

Personally I am in heaven, as though I may not have access to the History Channel I can now watch a number of history documentaries from a variety of sources including the BBC. I have even set up my own account so I can save videos I want to watch in future. Now don’t roll your eyes at the thought of “educational” films as they can be entertaining too. I defy you to open this eResource and not find something that takes your fancy. I had a wee look at a documentary on “Animals in Love” and went all gooey over the Orangutan kissing his partner’s eyes and the capuchin monkeys that throw rocks at the boys to get their attention … is that what I have been doing wrong?

This eResource will be a source of information, entertainment and mirth for all. What else can I say but lights, camera and action!

Access Video

Armageddon is coming!

Woohoo ! I’m so looking forward to going!

Despite having lived in Christchurch for six years now, somehow I’ve never quite made it to Armageddon Expo, the annual celebration for pop culture geeks: always something else to do, somewhere to go, or something else to pay for… But this year it falls on my birthday, so I am going instead of just dropping off the teenagers.

But to get the best out of it, I need to do my homework.  So :-

Armageddon Pop Culture Expo
Pikachu and The Joker, Armageddon Expo 2015, Flickr 2015-03-07-IMG_6162
  • Where? When? How much?  Programme? The Armageddon website has all the info
  • Watch Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs as Marina Sirtis will be there, and I loved her character Deanna Troi
  • Also need to watch Stargate again, three guests are from that series, and I only ever saw a few episodes when it was on TV (raising children is hazardous to your TV viewing!)
  • Re-read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander.  When I first read it, was one of those “un-put-down-able books” that I stayed up all night reading
  • Find out if any TV/Movie producers will be going, and aim to convince her/him that Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan would make the most AMAZING film!  Could have it’s technical challenges, of course, but I’m sure Weta Workshops would be up for the job!
  • Then there’s the people watching – if previous photos are anything to go by, I think I’ll need to load up my tablet so I know who some of the cosplay characters are
  • Costume!  Eek!  What will I wear?  Not very good at sewing, so hopefully  I love paper: paper-cutting Techniques and Templates for Amazing Toys, Sculptures, Props, and Costumes will do the trick
  • And finally, dust off the credit card, ready to go s-h-o-p-p-i-n-g

Phew! Sorted!  How about you?  Are you going to Armageddon Christchurch this weekend?

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?