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?

We’ll remember you when we’re famous

We’re going to be on TV!

Or at least, some of the kids who took part in a stop motion animation session (part of our holiday programme) at South Learning Centre will be. This Sunday. On What Now.

So keep your eyes peeled. Here’s a sneak preview from our Flickr – photos of the What Now crew filming the other week.

What Now at South Library and Learning CentreWhat Now at South Library and Learning Centre
What Now at South Library and Learning CentreWhat Now at South Library and Learning Centre

Amy Poehler? Yes Please!

Amy Poehler author photo
Possibly my favourite author dustjacket portrait of all time.

Amy Poehler is one of those actresses I was vaguely aware of but to whom I’d never really paid much attention. She occasionally cropped up in movies like ‘Blades of Glory’ and Mean Girls, usually playing someone blonde and kooky.

Later I associated her with Tina Fey, as her friend, and as one half of the legendary Saturday Night Live Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton “I can see Russia from my house” sketch.

It wasn’t until I started watching sitcom Parks and Recreation, that I truly came to appreciate the comedy genius that is Amy Poehler. And by the time she and Fey formed The Ultimate Funny Lady Tag Team to host the Golden Globes I was a solid fan.

It’s from this perspective that I came to read her book Yes please.

Cover of BossypantsI’d already tried Fey’s autobiography Bossypants, and despite a love of the 30 Rock creator’s humour, I found the book something of a letdown. Yes, there were reminisces about SNL. Yes, I learned some things about her childhood (like how she got that scar on her chin – random knife attack by a stranger), and yes there were jokes, and feminism, and a chapter devoted to Poehler, but it was all a bit, er, cold? I felt, as a reader, that I was being kept at a respectful distance. Stand-up as an arena show, with Fey present but rather far away.

In Yes please Poehler covers similar territory but, hey reader, wanna bring it in for a hug first? Come on, tough guy. Get on over here.

If Fey’s book is a gig at Horncastle Arena, Poehler’s is a small, intimate, comedy club where the tables are so close to the stage performer and audience can see each other sweating.

Cover of Yes pleaseAnd “Yes please” is not at all a straight out autobiography. It’s that but it’s also part self-help manual in which her experiences (which include waitressing, improv, performing a rap number live on TV a few hours before going into labour, motherhood, divorce, visiting an orphanage in Haiti) all feed into reflections and wisdom, all with a sharp, self-deprecating, “I know what my crap is and I own it” attitude.

You feel as if you just made a new best friend and she’s dishing all her dirt to you and you love her because of it. Poehler admits her mistakes, celebrates her triumphs, and tries not to be too hard on herself. And she encourages you to do the same for yourself.

But don’t just take it from me. Listen to Amy. Continue reading

Outlandish kilt addiction

Cover of OutlanderThe things you find when trawling through the library catalogue.

I was just trying to fill the hole that the conclusion of the first season of the Outlander TV series, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, had left in my leisure time.

I found a blog post about the source novels, and an If you like… Diana Gabaldon book list. It seemed I wouldn’t have to wait until the next series to get some more 18th century kilted historical-time-travel-romance in my life. Very good.

But then I idly went searching to see if we had any copies of Highlander (either the movie, or the TV series) and shove me in a sheep’s gut and call me haggis, I stumbled upon… a bunch of shirtless kilt-wearing cover-boys. And not just a couple, but legions of them. Well hello, Jamie Fraser!

It must have been warmer in Scotland in days of yore if this lack of upper body garments is anything to go by. Will ye nae put a vest on, lad?

After rigorous research I can confirm that covers in this particular genre fall in to three categories in which the muscular hero can be –

holding a lady,
Cover of Rogue with a brogueCover of Mad, bad, and dangerous in plaidCover of to marry a scottish lairdCover of In bed with a highlanderCover of Never seduce a Scot

holding a sword, either pointy side up…
Cover of To wed a wicked highlanderCover of The chieftainCover of Sins of the highlanderCover of The guardian

…or down,
Cover of Temptation in a kiltCover of The stone maidenCover of Moon awakeningCover of The hellion and the highlander

or at least, wearing some kind of armband (face optional).
Cover of awaken the highland warriorCover of The immortal highlanderCover of The dark highlanderCover of Sweet revenge

And am I allowed to say that some of the titles are AMAZING? For my money Mad, bad and dangerous in plaid is a standout, though Temptation in a kilt must surely get an honorable mention.

You’ll be pleased to know that almost all of these titles are available in eBook format, possibly as a result of the “embarrassment factor” that does apparently influence choice of format for recreational reading. Though why you’d be whakamā about reading In bed with a highlander on the bus, I can’t imagine (okay, yes I can).

Which of the above is your favourite Caledonian cover-boy?

Don Draper’s bookshelf and other Mad Men reading

After seven seasons, and innumerable long, boozy business lunches, the very last episode of 1960s advertising drama, Mad Men, screened last week.

No more of the sharp-suited, advertising wunderkind and human trainwreck, Don Draper. No more of the prickly but talented Peggy Olsen. No more of the dapper and urbane Roger Sterling. No more Pete, Joan, or Betty.

Well this simply will not do. I need something to fill the Jon Hamm-sized hole in my life. Fortunately we have plenty of reading material to keep pining Mad Men fans occupied.

First up are the Mad Men reading lists. Books read by characters, referred to, or quoted from in every episode. We’ve compiled two lists of titles we hold for you to consult for seasons 1 – 4, and 5 – 7 (based on the lists made by the inimitable New York Public Library).

But there are plenty of other options for delving into the world of Don Draper like the following –

Cover of The Real Mad Men The Remarkable True Story of Madison Avenue's Golden Age, When A Handful of Renegades Changed Advertising for EverCover of The golden age of advertising  - the 60sCover of Mad women - The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the 1960s and BeyondCover of 60s All-American ads

Vintage cocktails: retro recipes for the home mixologistCover of Miller's collecting the 1960sCover of Mad Men's Manhattan

Cover of Fifty fashion looks that changed the 1960sCover of The 1960sCover of The fashion file

Do chicks dig time lords?

I have no idea how I found this book. I was just sitting at the computer looking for a book. Now the book I was looking for didn’t have anything to do with chicks, digging or time lords, but there it was.

And I wanted it.

I have been often told, that one should never judge a book by its cover. I did. The psychic paper, the scarf and the key to the Tardis all said ‘read me’. And maybe the title Chicks dig time lords: A celebration of Doctor Who by the women who love it.

I quite like time lords, so I was curious. I knew Verity Lambert liked time lords, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that Carole Barrowman did too. But a whole book written by chicks who dig time lords was a surprise. They all had different reasons for liking them and they all quite possibly had favourites.

While Doctor Who is off air, the Doctor is hopefully repairing his Tardis and maybe even getting its chameleon circuit to work. I think I could help him out. Not because I can run in high heels and mini-skirt. I can’t. I could get his Tardis fixed.

Cover of An unofficial guide companions fifty years of doctor who assistantsHe probably can’t travel back through time and space to arrive outside the Tardis repair shop on Gallifrey, but he could go to the planet-sized library which contains every book ever written and get a book on how to repair a Tardis. That’s where I come in. I have a library card which isn’t valid for all libraries in time and space, but since when do small details like that stop the Doctor and his companions?

I do know how libraries are organised and I know how to ask the right questions. If the library has a copy of a Tardis repair manual, I could find it with the help of the Librarian. If the Tardis materializes within the library, we won’t need to borrow the repair manual, but if he does borrow it, the Doctor will be able to keep it for ages, then travel back in time and return it on time. How cool would that be?

Do you dig time lords?

Dare I ask, which one?

While you are waiting for the return of Doctor Who, why not borrow a DVD featuring your favourite Doctor.

Locked and loaded for the Zombie Apocalypse

Cover of Zombie SurvivalIt’s Zombie Awareness Month. Do you know where your cricket bat/lawnmower/blunt object of choice is?

No, but seriously, it IS zombie awareness month. What’s more, it’s nearly over and I haven’t even revised my evacuation plan or topped up the first aid kit in case of the Zombie Apocalypse. I deserve to get my brains munched, frankly.

But fear not! For your library is practically overflowing with zombie-related reading and viewing. So here are my picks of the best of the shambling undead.


Better check out some fight sequences and bone up on your best zombie combat moves –

  • The Walking Dead – We’re between seasons with everyone’s favourite zombie horror TV series, but why not got back and rewatch the first season before Rick went feral and facial hair took over his face? You know, back when the post-apocalyptic world was a kinder, gentler, better groomed place.
  • Warm BodiesCover of Warm bodies – A zombie as a romantic lead? Seems a bit unlikely but that’s the premise of this film starring Nicholas Hoult of TV show Skins.
  • World War Z – Where the zombies are fast and really good at climbing, the little monkeys. But are they a match for Brad Pitt in “action” mode? Well, they give it a good try at least…
  • I am Legend – Not technically zombies because they’re not dead (much like the ones in World War Z) but if you spend time quibbling about such distinctions during the apocalypse you’ll likely become someone’s afternoon tea, so just enjoy the ride (and make note of Will Smith’s survival skills and strategies).
  • Shaun of the dead (we’ve got this as a double-DVD combo with Hot Fuzz). Just the rom-zom-com to lighten the mood a touch.


Board up the windows and hunker down with some reading material –


No actual zombies around just at the moment? Make your own with the following crafty titles –

I think you’ll agree that’s plenty to be getting on with, but if you’ve got an hot tips for zombie reading or preparedness please do make suggestions.