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


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…


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?

Modern modem romance

Cover of Modern romanceModern Romance by US comedian Aziz Ansari (of Parks and Recreation fame) is just another in a growing list of books I have started reading expecting one thing, but which turned out to be something else entirely (looking at you, High-rise).

What I had expected was a comedic look at modern courtship, man-woman relationships in the internet age etc. Having previously watched a bit of Ansari’s stand-up via YouTube, I knew this was a topic that he touches on a lot, so I expected to read a more or less extended stand-up routine. One man’s humorous philosophy on the opposite sex, feminism, relationship blunders and so on. Something similar to what Chris Rock was writing 10 years ago.

Um, yes. But also…no.

In fact, Modern Romance, is solidly non-fiction. Ansari, himself caught up in the changing courtship habits of a dating populace now fixated with mobile devices, became intrigued with what seemed a very flawed and frustrating process –

I got fascinated by the questions of how and why so many people have become so perplexed by the challenge of doing something that people have always done quite efficiently: finding romance. I started asking people I knew if there was a book that would help me understand the many challenges of looking for love in the digital age.

He didn’t find exactly the book he was looking for SO HE WROTE IT.

He wrote the book with help (Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology at New York University is co-author), and after undertaking quite a bit of research with the help of online dating websites like OKCupid, as well as interviews, and focus groups. Most comedians don’t quote focus groups in their books, unless by “focus group” you mean “crazy cab drivers I’ve conversed with”. Nor do they have thorough indices and footnotes for the many research papers they cite.

So rather than being a written comedy routine with the occasional fact thrown in, Modern Romance is a book about the effect of technology on modern dating mores, (but with swearing and jokes). What Ben Goldacre did for Bad Science, Aziz Ansari has done for the sociology of modern dating.

But does it work? On the whole, yes. For someone who wasn’t intending to learn anything particularly much from Modern Romance (I am not on “the market”), it does a good job of entertaining and informing. I’ve learned that less choice can actually be a good thing, that the search for perfection in a mate is a fool’s errand, and though I’ve never used the dating app Tinder, I now understand better what it does and why it’s so popular. I’ve also been given a window into differing dating “cultures” via interviews with singles in Tokyo, Paris, and Buenos Aires.

And this isn’t really related to anything but I really wanted to include this quote about a Tokyo barman with an apparently quite active love-life who Ansari describes thusly –

Like most fedora wearers, he had a lot of inexplicable confidence.

This book has a lot of wisdom to offer, on a great many things, it seems.

So what are the takeaways from Modern Romance, other than ramen recommendations from Tokyo (Ansari is something of a “foodie” and the book is liberally littered with references to delicious meals), and the characteristics of hat-wearers?

  • Don’t get so caught up in the multitude of options that you forget to actually pay attention to and invest time in the person you’re with.
  • Make introductions online but don’t date online. Dating is a real world activity.
  • Treat potential partners like real people, not a bubble on a screen.

If you’re a bit sensitive to swear words then Modern Romance probably isn’t the read for you but thankfully Ansari and Klinenberg have included a bibliography of titles they consulted when writing their book, so one of the below may be of interest instead.

Cover of It's complicated: the social lives of networked teens Cover of Love @ First Click The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating Cover of The art of choosing Cover of Everything I ever needed to know about economics I learned from online dating cover of Sex at Dawn cover of Alone together Cover of Data, a love story Cover of Going solo the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone

Any thoughts on how modern technology is affecting our approach to courtship? Is it okay to ask someone out on a date via text message?

Land is the very soul of a tribal people

Photograph Maori Land March demonstrators between Te Hapua and Mangamuka. Heinegg, Christian F, 1940- :Photographs of the Maori Land March. Ref: PA7-15-16. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Photograph Maori Land March demonstrators between Te Hapua and Mangamuka. Heinegg, Christian F, 1940- :Photographs of the Maori Land March. Ref: PA7-15-16. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Forty years ago a landmark event in New Zealand history began in a small Northland community called Te Hapua, the most northerly settlement in Aotearoa.

This was the beginning point of a protest march that, over the course of a month, would take in the length of the North Island. The greater distance however was yet to be travelled – that towards a bicultural New Zealand.

This was an important moment in New Zealand history. Since the signing of the The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Māori had been increasingly alienated from their land. Legislation often disadvantaged Māori in the way it applied to land that was collectively (or tribally) owned.

Time after time, Māori land was transferred to Crown ownership via one piece of legislation or the other. Māori land ownership had dwindled from 67,000,000 acres to just 2,000,000 acres. The petition that accompanied the march, or hīkoi, identified the Town and Country Planning Act, the Public Works Act, the Rating Act, and the Counties Amendment Act as contributing to this problem.

Organised by Te Rōpū o Te Matakite, a pan-tribal group, and led by Dame Whina Cooper the march culminated in a 5000-strong crowd arriving at Parliament with a petition signed by 60,000 people and presented to Prime Minister Bill Rowling. The petition called for “the abolition of monocultural laws pertaining to Maori land” and pressed those in power “to establish communal ownership of land within the tribe as a legitimate title equal in status to the individual title”.

In a booklet issued by Te Rōpu o Te Matakite, they go into more detail as to why the march is needed emphasising the importance to Maori of the land –

Land is the very soul of a tribal people.



Māori Land March (1975) - Route of March
Māori Land March (1975) – Route of March.  Archives New Zealand, AAMK 869 W3074 684/d 19/1/774 Part 1 (R11838413) (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Though it took place in the North Island, as this map of the march route shows, the intention was that Māori from all over the country would be involved, making it a national movement. It was expected that South Island protesters would meet with their northern counterparts in Wellington.

For those wanting to know more about this watershed moment in New Zealand’s bicultural journey, National Library in Wellington has an exhibition of photographs taken by Christian Heinegg during the Māori Land March called ‘Not one more acre’. Some images from Heinegg’s photo essay are available online.

Archives New Zealand has digitised a selection of documents and images that tell the story of the march. View them in their 1975 Māori Land March set on Flickr.

You can also watch, via NZ On Screen the full length television documentary Te Matakite O Aotearoa – The Māori Land March, made during the protest.

Further reading

Best reads for bogans

With new documentary television series Bogans now gracing our screens, are we about to see a Bogan Renaissance? Are we on the cusp of a rediscovered cultural trend? Are black skinny jeans and a Nirvana t-shirt now retro-cool?

Whether you’re a born-again bogan, are a “bogan in disguise”, or have never been to a concert where you didn’t “throw up the goat”, the following would make worthy additions to your reading list –

Cover of ACDC Hell ain't a bad place to becover of Metallica enter nightCover of Metal catsCover of Watch you bleed the saga of Guns n RosesCover of The dirtcover of It's so easy (and other lies)Cover of Hair metalcover of The art of metalCover of the heroin diariescover of Black Sabbath FAQCover of Mosh potatoesCover of The story of Judas PriestCover of Dirty deedsCover of Iron MaidenCover of Iron manCover of Bad reputation

Need further Bogan research? Try –

Cover of Bogan an insider's guide to metal, mullets and mayhemcover of Things bogans like

And if the Bogans television series has you wanting to watch more, you can’t go past –

It’s not vegetating, it’s enriching – honest! Binge watching TV

I’ve recently become a convert to ‘binge watching’ television series. Instead of the days where you had to watch an episode a week of your favourite drama, waiting desperately for Sunday night to roll around again,  there are so many ways you can set some time aside and watch episode after episode. The Guitar Man and I like to watch 2-3 at a time for a few nights in a row. Three such series we’ve watched recently that you can get from Christchurch City Libraries in boxed sets, are Peaky Blinders, Outlander and Hinterland.

Dinosaurs relax watching TV
Dinovember display at New Brighton Library, November 2014. Flickr CCL-2014-11-05-DinovemberNB-DSC.JPG

These are all very different and interesting in their own ways:

Peaky Blinders is a tale of gangs on the gritty streets of Birmingham after the First World War. It stars not only Cillian Murphy, he of the startling blues eyes and chiselled features, but our own Sam Neill, with a very impressive Northern Ireland accent. It’s a fascinating watch and one thing I enjoyed was the lack of ‘Game of Thrones’ gratuitous violence and random sex scenes. It’s gritty all right, but not excessive. There are strong women together with men both damaged by war and desperate to make better lives, in any way possible.

You think I’m a whore? Everyone’s a whore Grace, we just sell different parts of ourselves.

Outlander is a television adaption of the Diana Gabaldon series of books of the same name.  I’ve not read the books, as romantic history is not usually my bag, but it proved to be quite a riveting series, full of Scottish highland scenery, intrigue, romance, fights, and enough hearty men in kilts to keep anyone into hearty men in kilts happy. I also find you can never go wrong with a Scottish accent.

Hinterland is a gritty bleak murder mystery series, set, not in Scandinavia as all my favourite ones have been lately, such as The Killing and The Bridge, but in Aberystwyth, Wales. Interestingly, it is the first series to be filmed in both English and Welsh, with two different versions made. Each scene was done in English, then immediately in Welsh for the first time ever. Sadly, my Welsh leaves a little to be desired, so I only saw the English version. Wales does bleak very well and Tom Mathias, is a troubled DCI with a mystery past. It’s tightly scripted with great characters, but some of the crime scenes were a little bloody and graphic, just a heads up if you’re not into that sort of thing.

With the winter dragging on, perhaps a little binge watching is in order. Do you have some favourites?