Film and television – a mid-year review

Seen anything good on the tele lately…?!?!

Me neither. That’s why I borrow films and tele series’ from the library! It’s a much better way of being in control of what you’re actually watching during screen time, and you can tailor your viewing to perfectly suit your taste and your timetable, WIN-WIN and, no more infomercials!!

And it’s really just about good old-fashioned storytelling isn’t it!? For me, film and television is a coming-together of multiple artforms that, when it’s done well, has the ability to move you at a level many other artforms might not individually.

So here’s a list of the best films and series’ that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing this year, so far – many more to come!

2018 – The Best of Film and Television

List created by DevilStateDan

These are the best films and television series’ that I have explored throughout the year so far, all available to you through Christchurch City Libraries membership.

The fencer – Post WWII Estonia. The Germans are gone and the Russians are taking control. They’re especially interested in those Estonians that fought for the Germans and are systematically hunting them out. This story is about one such man, a world-class fencer who is concealing himself as a sports teacher for a country college. This is a stunning and heartfelt film about humanity, strength, and love.

Get Out – A gripping story of a young black man heading away for a weekend with his as-yet un-met in-laws… what comes after is a web of dark intrigue and something is definitely not right!

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch – Ever wanted to know more about the mysterious Hieronymus Bosch?!? Then get a load of this – it’s a part of the ‘Exhibition on Screen’ series that takes viewers on a tour of the works and life of some of history’s great artists. This one is all about Hieronymus Bosch and is surprising in its revelations about who he was and where his inspirations were drawn, plus you get up close with some of his most amazing works!

Chasing Trane – The latest telling of the life, love, and music of the great jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane. Rare footage and loads of interviews with music legends that were close to him. He was truly a musical visionary and died at such a young age from liver cancer, it begs the questions of how much more impact could he have had on contemporary music!? A must-watch for all music fans!

Saint Amour – An old man and his adult son go on a wine-tasting road trip around France in order to reconnect. Sounds normal, but this is French comedy and things get strange! Good story.

The Limehouse Golem – I really liked this film – a Victorian Whodunnit! I loved the Victorian era look of it, the clever direction, the story was weaving and uncertain – as it should be for a classic whodunnit! And the acting was solid and dramatic without being over the top. It’s a small shame that I picked the killer in the first 20mins but I still liked the story and enjoyed it to the end!

The Dinner – A family of privileged white Americans meet for a very posh dinner to discuss an incident that involved their children. The details slowly emerge as the film unfolds and explores the issues of parenting, mental health, social navigations etc. Great performances from the four lead actors.

Detectorists – A short series about the engrossing world of metal detecting in rural Britain. Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (from the Office, and Pirates of the Caribbean), it’s full of pathos and at once hilarious, cringey-embarrassing, and full of heart. It’s about how even small lives are big and important and that everyone deserves to be happy. Highly recommended if you like British comedy.

Rellik – A dark and twisted crime series with an uniusual device; the story is told in reverse. We begin with the outcome of a police investiagtion into a series of acid-burn murders, from there we go back in increments of hours/days as the foundations are explored and new light begins to show on reasons for behaviours evident earlier/later… it’s a little confusing to explain so just watch it, it’s quality crime drama!

Swinging Safari – A gloriously retro look at family life in 1970’s Australia. Try to think of every brand name, in-safe parenting practice, cliché, and add a bit of over-styling and you’ve got it. Loosely wrapped as a coming-of-age story, it centres around 3 Aussie families living, loving, and loafing. Very funny film, especially if you’ve lived through some of these circumstances.

For more view the full list

Armageddon is coming…next week!

This year the masses will descend on Horncastle Arena for the annual Armageddon convention on the weekend of 2-4 June. The 4th of June being, conveniently, Queen’s Birthday holiday.

I myself have attended Armageddon religiously since 2012, after discovering that an actor from one of my then (still) favorite television shows would be in attendance. Last year I somewhat satiated my Tolkien obsession and obtained Pippin’s [Billy Boyd’s] signature on my beautifully illustrated yet dog-eared copy of ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Other highlights include spending my hard-earned money on a replica Evenstar and discovering the stall that sells moonshine in hipster-ish mason-style jars. Does this still exist? Where was it last year? ;-(

Not much has changed. Still a shameless fan girl.

Because I get excited about these things, in preparation I will be wading through several of my favourite Armageddon-worthy television shows over the coming weekends: check out our catalogue for inspiration, and for my top picks.

And if you have a lot of time on your hands…check out these books:

Armageddon 2018- Must Reads

Cover of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. MartinA Game of Thrones – George Martin’s epic fantasy is intimidating to say the least, but well worth the time. Pick it up now and you just might get through it before the long-awaited Season 8 is released.

Supernatural – Ah, Dean and Sam. Sam and Dean. The excellent chemistry between the two lead actors carried me through a whooping 13 seasons of the TV show, but this fan-fiction is helping with my withdrawals somewhat.

Cover of Epic cosplay costumesEpic Cosplay Costumes – Who doesn’t love a good dress up…and the chance to upstage all the other Armageddon-goers.

Star Trek – Star Trek 101. Visually stunning effort by DK. If not the most comprehensive of guides, a great intro to the world of Star Trek for budding fans!

View Full List

Photos from our Collection

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of attending an Armageddon convention before, here is some of what you’ve been missing out on:

Three Furry Creatures. File reference: 2015-03-13-DSC00749
Pop culture baby onesies
Little nerds in the making. File reference: 2015-03-07-IMG_6159.
Pinhead cosplayer
A Pinhead Looking for Action. File reference: 2015-03-07-IMG_6156.

See more photos from Armageddon’s gone by

Youth Week events at Shirley Library

For all you gamers and budding artists out there, in honour of Youth Week we are putting on some exciting events at Shirley Library. Come along to our Playstation Tournament this Friday to WIN great prizes, and get in on this Drawing and Visual Storytelling Workshop, hosted by comic illustrator/fantasy artist Ryan Green, this Saturday.

So back to Armageddon. I’ll be there, rubbing shoulders with the sweaty rabble and hoping for a glimpse of a certain someone who may have rubbed shoulders with a certain Jon Snow.

Will you be dressing up this year? See you there 🙂

Vale, Peter Temple (& Jack Irish)

It’s always a sad day when you hear of the death of someone whose work you have appreciated over the years. For me, this time, it’s Peter Temple; Australian crime author who died from cancer at his home in Ballarat on the 8th of March, 2018 at the age of 71.

Peter Temple was born in South Africa but immigrated in 1977 due to his anti-apartheid political stance. He moved to Germany at first and then two years later he arrived in Australia and began on his journey to becoming one of Australia’s great writers – and it was lucky for Australia!

CoverCoverCoverCoverCoverCover

He’s most famous for his books featuring Jack Irish; the loveable, roguish lawyer/drinker/debt-collector who likes a flutter on the nags and to prop up the bar at his local Fitzroy watering hole. The character of Jack Irish and the excellent use of language to convey the very matter-of-fact communications of the Australian working class male made these books a tremendous success and highly influential in the Australian crime writing genre. The books are entwined with plot twists and intrigue, corruption and politics, are very well paced, and perfectly capture the social nuances of Australian life. As do the television series that they have been turned into, featuring a who’s who of Australian acting and Guy Pearce as the main man Jack Irish. The producers really nailed the casting, the style, feel, and sense of place and the books really were celebrated in this particular telly treatment!

There are four books in the Jack Irish series, all worth reading but begin with Bad Debts. The tv series is available on DVD and to stream on Lightbox.

Peter Temple’s other books also saw critical acclaim. In 2010 he landed Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin Award, for his novel Truth – sequel to The Broken Shore. For a crime writer to win the Miles Franklin was quite a coup and his acceptance speech was trademark self-deprecation and wry humour, inviting the judging panel to “…take the flack for giving the Miles Franklin to a crime writer”. His third book in this new series has not been presented to his editor as yet, but perhaps sometime on the future another Australian literary great will take the final steps and finish the story and we will see the results. Possibly a posthumous award to go with his Miles Franklin, his five Ned Kelly Awards, and his Duncan Lawrie Dagger!?

For now I suggest we kick back, appreciate the fact that our region has produced another great writer, and for fans I suggest a nostalgic re-read.

Or if you’ve never tried his books before, get stuck in, mate!

Vale, Peter Temple.

Armageddon – No, not the end of the world…

“Woo-hoo,” I said to my friend “Armageddon’s happening 11th and 12th March, yayee!”

Inexplicably she looked worried, “But I’m not ready for the end of the world yet!”

Ooh, we are obviously talking about two different events – the one I want to go to is the Armageddon Entertainment Expo which is happening in Christchurch at the Horncastle Arena, costs $15 to get in (or $6 for children aged 5-12 years), and involves lots of fun, not the one talked about in the Book of Revelations…

The Guest list shows some great people will be there:

Cover of The Scions of Shannara Cover of The Fellowship of the Ring Cover of A song of Ice and fire Cover of Snowglobe 7, Doctor Who

Or try the following –

Enjoy!

New titles on Access Video

Access Video LogoDo you find that appealing offerings on TV are rather meagre these days? If so, why not check out Access Video?

Access Video is one of our many eResources. It gives you access to thousands of streaming world-class documentaries, award-winning educational films, and helpful instructional videos on every known subject. The videos can be watched as a whole or just in  segments. Some titles even have transcripts so you can read along if your hearing is impaired.

The library has recently added over 100 new titles to this collection. Although most are about some aspect of American life, there are many of interest to those of us Down Under.

They include a group about dance theatre, mainly set in New York, e.g.:

  • David Rousseve, Part 1 and Part 2, which include some of his work and interviews
  • Douglas Dunn & Jim Neu #1, which pokes fun at at America’s obsession with health clubs
  • Jeff McMahon & Brian Webb, a multi-disciplinary work that looks at the issue of intimacy in the age of AIDS
  • Sosua: Make a Better World, which tells the story of Jewish and Dominican teenagers in New York City’s Washington Heights, who together with the legendary theatre director, Liz Swados, put on a musical about the Dominican rescue of 800 Jews from Hitler’s Germany.

There are also many on important social issues, such as

  • Loose Change, which challenges the official record of September 11, 2001
  • Trump: What’s the Deal? which investigates the reality behind this most public of figures
  • Chernobyl’s Café: Chernobyl is emerging as a popular tourist destination, with local industry on the rise
  • My Jihad, a film about the growing number of young Muslims from all over Europe who are leaving their home towns to fight for ISIS
  • Football Hell, where it is alleged that 4,000 workers will die in Qatar to put on the 2022 Football World Cup
  • Allow Me to Die, which follows the stories of two Belgians considering assisted suicide, exploring the moral difficulties behind the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world
  • Abortion: Ancient and Modern, which explores the ethical, legal and religious dimensions of the abortion debate
  • Reflections on Media Ethics, which includes in-depth discussions with renowned filmmakers, journalists and academics, and interviews with Noam Chomsky, Albert Maysles, George Stoney, Amy Goodman, Jon Alpert and Mary Warnock

And for the Shakespeare fans or newbies, there is The Tempest (S1), presenting the Bard’s work as an animated masterpiece.

So instead of shaking your head in dismay at what’s on the box, try out Access Video – all you need to access it is your library card number and PIN/password.

Still boldly going: Star Trek, 50 years on

I remember it quite clearly. It was 1989*, I was 14, and TV had just got a third channel. My sister and I were watching the box when an ad for a new show came on. There was this guy with what looked like a gold banana clip wrapped round his face. We turned and looked at each other and burst out laughing!

That was the first I ever saw of Star Trek: the Next Generation. Not that I actually watched it.  Oh no! It obviously was a show for total dorks. Not a girl like me trying desperately to be cool.

What would 14 year old me think of 41 year old me? Between then and now, I have to admit, I turned into a Trekkie. I like to think I’m not one of those super crazy Trekkies who wear Starfleet uniforms in public and know how to speak Klingon, but…. When Miss Missy was a baby and said “qapla” (that means “success” in Klingon, you know) I claimed that as an actual factual word, and even said it back to her whenever she did something clever.

I’ve planned family holidays to Wellington and Las Vegas around Star Trek exhibits and experiences. I own every available Trek movie and series from Enterprise to the Kelvin timeline reboot. I’ve even got Star Trek The Animated Series – but not the original series (that could be because I’m not a big fan of Captain Kirk, but actually it’s because I’ve never seen it for sale). And I do wear my Starfleet T-shirt in public.

Star Trek, original series memorabilia
Star Trek, original series memorabilia, Spreydon Library, Flickr File Reference: 2016-07-20-ST_Display_5

See, the thing is, when I actually watched Star Trek a few years later, I discovered a show that is not only exciting sci-fi, but also funny, poignant, and thought provoking. My first exploration of the final frontier was Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home**, otherwise known as “The Whale Movie”. Funnily enough, this is the movie that doesn’t feature the Starship Enterprise, isn’t set in space, or the future, and doesn’t have Spock’s iconic pointy ears (as he spends most of the movie with a bandana round his head). What it is, is a lovable, funny, conservation parable, where the crew of the Enterprise (in a stolen Klingon Bird-of-prey) go back in time — to what was the present, but is now 30 years in the past (that’s as far back as Marty McFly goes in Back to the Future, you know!) — to rescue some whales in order to save the world, and the future.

ICover of The Autobiography of James T. Kirkt’s full of wonderful scenes like Chekov wondering round 1980s San Francisco looking for “nuclear wessels” with his Russian accent; Scotty trying to talk to a (now very old school) computer; Kirk getting the girl (as usual) and excusing Spock’s odd behaviour by mistakenly claiming that he had a bit too much “LDS” back in the ’60s. I recently watched it again, with The Young Lad, and enjoyed it just as much as I had when I first saw it on TV when I was 17.

After seeing the Voyage Home, I started watching The Next Generation now and then — until I became hooked when Jean Luc Picard (aka Patrick Stewart) was captured by the Borg. It turns out that resistance really is futile. Becoming a Trekkie was inevitable. Although I must say, you can call that thing Geordi La Forge wears a Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement (or VISOR) all you like, it still looks just like a banana clip to me!

Cover of Star Trek CostumesOf course, my first contact with Star Trek in 1989 was nowhere near the beginning of the story. Before my generation of Trekkies, there were those who were captivated by The Original Series which first aired 50 years ago today on 8 September 1966.

1966 was the year that The Sound of Music won an Academy Award, the year that John Lennon said The Beatles were bigger than Jesus. The year that US planes began dropping bombs on Hanoi and Haiphong in Vietnam.  It was the year that the Black Panther Party was formed, and the year Martin Luther King was stoned during a civil rights march in Chicago. It was the year that Luna 10 became the first space craft to orbit the moon.

And it was the year that Gene Rodenberry surprised the world with his groundbreaking “Wagon Train to the stars.”

Star Trek: The Original Series featured a mixed race, mixed gender, mixed species crew on a space ship, in an imagined future where planet earth is at peace.

At its core, Star Trek has been about tolerance and understanding, with reason triumphing over prejudice.

~Jay Garmon

The show had a hard time getting on air, with the first pilot being rejected because it was too cerebral, had a female character as second in command, and because Spock looked too demonic with his pointy ears and slanty eyebrows. Roddenberry wrote a new pilot (with a fist fight at the end) and recast Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel instead of Number One — but he refused to get rid of Spock. And thank goodness! Imagine what Star Trek (and pop-culture) would be like without Spock! No “Live long and prosper,” no Vulcan hand salute, no “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few.” Were those network executives out of their (non-Vulcan) minds?

Well, the show did make it to air, but it struggled to survive. It managed three seasons mainly thanks to a million-letter-strong writing campaign by the ever loyal fans. But then, even though it was cancelled, the world just refused to say goodbye to Star Trek. Because whatever the network execs said, the audience found it inspirational.

When I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.

~Whoopi Goldberg

And so here we are, fifty years later, celebrating the anniversary of a franchise that totals (to date) six TV series and 13 movies, and all manner of spinoffs.

Now I can’t bring you anything as exciting as a make-up collection, or a collectors edition Barbie doll. Or something as weird as an inflight Spock bag. But I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. I made a Star Trek book list not that long ago, so this time I decided to trawl through all our Sci-fi and movie magazines for all the best Trek bits on offer. Well, I’m not usually much of a magazine junkie, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering the wonders of PressReader and Zinio, which can bring you magazines on the go on your smart phone or tablet — the PressReader app will even tell you when the latest issue of your favourite mags are available.  And I’ve realised just how easy it is to place a hold on the right issue of a magazine. And so, without further ado, I present to you:

Missbeecrafty’s Star Trek Magazine Round-up

  • rbz0005427SciFi Now Timewarp Collection, Volume One: A guide to the first six Trek movies, with some interesting ‘did you knows’ and a guide to The Next Generation. Interestingly, only one of my favourite episodes made it onto their Best list (Chain of Command), and another favourite (I, Borg) is on their Worst list. I would definitely add Measure of a Man and The Outcast to the Best list!
  • SFX, Issue 270, March 2016: The anniversary issue, sporting a fetching but anachronistic red cover and command emblem. Interviews with William Shatner (James Kirk), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), Robert Picardo (The Doctor), and Brannan Braga (writer and producer). Also a 52 year, logical temporal anomaly of a 50 year timeline.
  • SFX, Issue 275, Summer 2016: An interview with Brent Spiner, which is actually about Independence Day, but I did like his idea of Tilda Swinton playing a Soong-type android.
  • Empire, Issue 326, August 2016: Another anniversary edition. This one is a 58 page mag-within-a mag ram-packed with Trek-ness. Some wonderful photos from the CBS archives; my favourite is Anson Williams (aka Potsie from Happy Days) chatting with Seven of Nine. I never knew he grew up to be a director! Did you know Christian Slater, Famke Janssen and Kirsten Dunst all starred in Star Trek? Check out Before They Were Famous to find out who else! Celebrate Redshirts, and finally, test your knowledge with the 50 years, 50 points quiz.
  • SciFiNow, Issue 105 2015: A touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy
  • SciFiNow, Issue 119 2016: Part 1 of a timeline which includes info about voyages that never made it to the screen. (Sorry, I didn’t manage to track down part 2 in time to include it in this list).
  • Total Film, Issue 248, August 2016: The making of Star Trek Beyond and another timeline. This one is worth mentioning because it includes Galaxy Quest (“the greatest Star Trek film that isn’t”). It’s wonderful to know that Patrick Stewart loved it, and laughed longer and louder than anyone in the cinema!

And there you have it folks. Live long, and prosper!

*The nitpickers among you may know that Star Trek: the Next Generation originally aired in 1987, but that was in America of course, and this was a loooooong time before anyone invented “same week as the US” TV!

**While we don’t have the DVD in the catalogue, we do have the soundtrack for Star Trek IV, The Voyage Home, on LP no less!!

How to be a writer: Steve Hely – WORD Christchurch

Steve Hely author photo for The Wonder Trail
Steve Hely (image supplied)

I’d be willing to bet cold, hard cash that of all the writers who took part in WORD Christchurch this year, Steve Hely is the only one who has “actor: flautist and shirtless bohemian, The Office (US)” on their CV. Assuming that he does, in fact, even have that on his CV… and if not, why?

One possible reason is that despite this and at least one other noteworthy appearance on 30 Rock, Steve Hely is actually a writer.

He’s also one of those annoying people who are intelligent, funny, and interested in lots of things and therefore make the rest of us feel bad with their rampant overachieving.

In addition to having worked on some of the best comedy shows EVER (in addition to The Office and 30 Rock, there’s American Dad and chaotic political comedy Veep – pretty sure those are on the CV), he also does a podcast, The Great Debates, in which he argues passionately about the big questions in life… such as whether dogs should be allowed on the beach.

He’s also written several books. His novel “How I became a famous novelist” is a satire of the literary world (and somewhat awkwardly, given the context of this talk, literary festivals).

His two non-fiction efforts are both travel books, of a kind. The first, The Ridiculous Race, documents the competition he and friend Vali Chandrasekaran undertook to travel around the world, in opposite directions, without air travel. First one back to Los Angeles won. The second follows him on his trip down the west of the South American continent, right down to Tierra del Fuego at the southern end of Chile.

On Comedy writing

Toby Manhire started out asking him quite a few questions about the process of television comedy writing*, and how it differed between shows like Late Night with David Letterman and 30 Rock.

Letterman had much more of a factory approach where people worked independently like “12 monkeys at 12 typewriters”, which answers the question “if infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters will eventually produce Shakespeare, what will a drastically smaller number get you?” A Letterman top ten list, is the answer.

Toby Manhire with Steve Hely
Toby Manhire with Steve Hely, WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival. Flickr File Reference: 2016-08-27-IMG_2495

Sitcoms, according to Hely are a more collaborative kind of environment, though being employed as a writer on a show that is already hugely successful is pretty intimidating. Of his arrival at 30 Rock, says Hely “I was a scared little puppy trying to help out”.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Great television writers have a magpie-ish ability to retain “something weird, some odd sentence that someone said to them” and turn that into a gag or even a whole episode. There is also such a thing as “riffing” for comedy writers though it’s “embarrassing to talk about compared with guitar music because it’s less cool, but it is, in a way, similar to how music is made”.

With regards to his forays into sitcom acting, it was definitely useful, as a writer, to have that experience, to be able to understand what it’s like for the actors.

 “The feeling of being an actor is terrifying and strange.

And in a long-running show like The Office, the actors have spent more time with their characters than many of the writers have so “you’re wise to listen to the actors’ ideas about their characters.”

On Travel

Hely admits to a certain kind of wanderlust and feels that travel breaks a person out of the routine ways of doing things, creating a certain kind of heightened awareness. Where will I get food? Where will I sleep?

“It really makes you feel alive”.

He’s also interested in the whole genre of travel writing – the history of going somewhere and reporting back on it, from Herodotus to Mark Twain (another American writer who has visited Christchurch, by the way).

Cover of The wonder trailThere are examples of this interest in The Wonder Trail, which in certain chapters feels like a meta-travel book (a travel book about travel books) when Hely documents the history of what what travellers of old have made of the place that he’s visiting in the present, which allows you the perspective of seeing what has changed (or not) in the meantime. It’s an amusing, enlightening, and informative read, whether you’ve any interest in travelling to South America yourself or not, there’s plenty to keep you reading.

On Trump, Clinton and Sir Edmund Hilary

There’s no denying it, things have gotten weird. Or as Hely puts it “that satire is being outpaced by reality is alarming”. Er, yes, it is rather.

Hely is in a good position to say just how alarming as he got press credentials for and attended the Republican National Convention. He found it “upsetting”, though in the wake of Ted Cruz not endorsing Trump it felt “like a pro-wrestling match – I enjoyed the chaos of that”.

A lot of Trump’s political success, he believes, is “because politicians are boring”… as they should be – “I want boring people working on policy,” he says.

Trump is woefully unprepared for the job.

“His plans for being president don’t seem like those of someone who thought about being president for more than an hour…”

Whereas Hillary Rodham Clinton has probably been thinking about being president “since the second grade”. This is not to say that he’s necessarily a fan of HRC. In fact he thinks she’s very cavalier with the truth, going so far as to call her “chronically dishonest”.

An amazing example of this was the time she claimed to have been named after our own Sir Edmund Hilary. Later fact-checking revealed that Clinton was born years before Sir Ed and Sherpa Tensing reached the summit of Mt Everest. So why lie? Did she even really claim that? Was it a joke that got misreported? If not had she just, as Hely put it “wigged out” and made it up, or did someone in her family tell her it was true and she believed it?

We know from audience member (and veteran political cartoonist) Peter Bromhead, who knew Sir Ed and spoke with him about this very topic, that Clinton certainly did relate the story as fact and that the man himself had believed it to be true initially. As to why Clinton lied…well, who knows? Or as Hely suggested, was it true after all? Might her parents have just been really, really keen on beekeepers?

Reading recommendations

Cover of The PossessedHely is a fan of Cormac McCarthy but also evocative non-fiction like The Possessed by Elif Batuman. He’s also loves the design of Penguin classics.

*And one from me. If you’re at all interested in the topic of American comedy writing, may I recommend And here’s the kicker: Conversations With 21 Top Humour Writers on Their Craft.

More Steve Hely

More WORD Christchurch

Father’s Day

CoverBring it on – I am prepared!!

On Sunday 4 September I will be armed with both a card and a small gift to celebrate the fact that I have a long-suffering but wonderful father.

When considerably younger I possibly needed a ‘mental jog’ about the impending event from my ‘constantly on my case’ mum, but in more recent times (a few exceptions aside when I was in different hemispheres and the dates were different), I have managed a card at the very least.

CoverMy last-ditch attempts during my self-obsessed teenage years must have been very taxing, but it sharpened up Dad’s ‘acting skills’ as he managed to look delighted when yet another ‘Brut soap on a rope’ appeared.  I hit the jackpot one year when I recycled a mother’s day present (who I found out was not a fan of ‘crooners’), and Dad became the proud owner of Francis Albert Sinatra’s ‘Greatest Hits’. That was indeed ‘a very good year’.

Fascinated since childhood by all things nautical – past, present and future – he has, since retirement, done a lot of reading courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries, ploughing through C S Forester’s ‘Hornblower‘ novels; Patrick O’Brien’s Captain Jack Aubrey works and recently Dewey Lambdin’s main character Alan Lewrie.

If transported through the medium of print or film back to the Golden Age of  Sailing albeit in the form of Egyptian wooden sailing Feluccas, Spanish Armadas, Tea Clippers, early Ocean Liners and Thor Heyerdahl‘s balsa wood ‘Kon-Tiki’ expedition you witness a totally captivated audience of one!

Many a Sunday night we sat down to watch The Onedin Line ; the Pater to appreciate wooden vessels whilst I watched a ‘period drama’ unfold and desperately hoped the seas wouldn’t be too choppy, NEVER having been a good sailor!!

The Christchurch City Libraries holds a wealth of information that keep fathers occupied and out of trouble – what can all its resources offer your Dad? Investigate all the possibilities – books, ebooks, audiobooks, films and report back (especially if I’ve missed a little ‘gem’ in the nautical line).

Oh, and the gift definitely isn’t soap-on-a-rope this time Dad!!

A glut of literary cookbooks

Cover of Dinner with Mr DarcyAs so often happens with me, I recently spotted a single title that lead me down a library collection rabbit hole that I’ve only just scrambled out of.

The book in question was Dinner With Mr Darcy: Recipes Inspired by the Novels and Letters of Jane Austen. My interest was piqued. I had a sudden appetite to know – what other literature could I consume, literally?

I seemed to recall my sister attending a Cover of A feast of Ice & FireGame of Thrones themed party in recent years that featured some Westerosi cuisine along the lines of Sansa Stark’s beloved lemon cakes. And sure enough, I found the very book, A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Companion Cookbook.

And well, from there it was cookbooks all the way down. And being that it’s winter and nobody really wants to go out much, I wonder if putting on a bit of a shindig with themed eating might not be the way to go? If that tickles your gastronomic fancy, then have I got the reading list for you!

First off, Dinner with Mr Darcy is not the only option for Austen fans as Cooking With Jane Austen covers similar Regency fare. Complete with food-related quotes from Austen’s work and with over 200 recipes there’s sure to be something to tempt even the most proud and prejudicial of guests.

Cover of Green eggs and ham cookbookFor kids (or the ravenous child within) there are a number of titles to choose including those inspired by childhood classics such as The Winnie-the-Pooh Cookbook and Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook. Not to mention two volumes of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes.

Or if you know a child who’d like fairytale-inspired food then you could try Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literacy CookbookCook Me A Story: A Treasury of Stories and Recipes Inspired by Classic Fairy Tales or Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook. Fans of Brian Jacques long-running children’s series will no doubt be interested in The Redwall Cookbook.

Cover of Fifty shades of chickenThose looking for something a little more adult might like Fifty Shades of Chicken: A Parody in A Cookbook. I only hope is that none of the shades is “pink”. I also suspect the name of the author “F L Fowler” is a nomme de (poultry) plume.

Also for the grownups are the thirst-quenching literary themed cocktail recipes of Tequila Mockingbird, and True Blood Drinks & Bites.

Cover of The geeky chef cookbookMore pop culture than literary? Geeks of several flavours can explore their fandom through food with The Official DC Super Hero CookbookThe Geeky Chef Cookbook (covers Harry Potter, Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Dr Who and more), and The Unofficial Harry Potter cookbook.

For those with more refined palates, Mrs Patmore’s kitchen secrets are revealed in The Unofficial Downton Abbey cookbook.

Cover of VoraciousIt’s comforting to know I’m not the only person to ever ask the “what books could I eat?” question either, in fact a book by a former pastry chef turned butcher asks just this…and what’s more provides some recipes in answer which can be found in Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books.

There’s also a photographic twist on the same idea in Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals which includes culinary creations from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Oliver Twist, and To Kill a Mockingbird among others.

Meanwhile, there are certain dishes or kinds of food that are, in my mind, inseparable from the fictional characters for whom they were favourites. I often think of the Famous Five when I enjoy a ginger beer, and should I ever find myself in possession of a rock cake I’m sure I’ll make the same association.

What food item from literature would you like to try the recipe for? Bags not Anne of Green Gables’ liniment* cake!

*Apparently very easily mistaken for vanilla extract when you’ve got a cold.

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.