Friday, 30 January 2015

"You're no Jane Austen...or novels I should read but actually, probably won’t.”


A friend was reading some fiction I’d written the other day and after telling me what she did like about it, commented, “But you’re no Jane Austen.”

I once read a Jane Austen.  It was “Emma.” It was read under duress at university. I consider myself a person of not massively low intelligence, but it took three reads to get my head around it. Interestingly, that paper was not only my first and only complete Jane Austen experience, but my first and only experience of analysing English literature. I did get an A but not without suffering a degree of depression as a result. Yes, I gained an appreciation for some things (Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnets, oh my gosh!) but analysing Emily Dickinson was enough to sap the will to live right out of me. Fortuitously, at the end of that semester, I watched the movie Stargate on TV,  and promptly un-enrolled myself from Shakespeare, signed up for Egyptology, and all became well again. The literature of Egypt's Middle Kingdom? Now, that I could get into.

It would be dishonest to say I never tried to read Jane Austen again. I have read the first page of “Pride and Prejudice” many, many times, and the second page a few less. I believe one year I may even have finished the first half of chapter one. Another time I got "Northanger Abbey" out of the library and looked at the cover for quite a while. I can’t recall actually opening it, but that’s not to say I didn’t.

But it got me thinking about those books that are acclaimed either for their literary merit or their popularity, and the ones I've never read. All the other Jane Austens, of course, but what else comes to mind?

Harry Potter 
I did start the first one, but when Harry arrived at Hogwarts, it lost me. I have actually vowed on many occasions to read them all but since the first book came out in 1997, it's looking unlikely unless I’m in prison or somewhere with nothing else to do.

The Luminaries 
I feel I should run away and hide for a few months after admitting this but the truth is, I will never read it. I did read the first six pages or so but the thought of making my way through it all when I can barely make it to the end of a 70,000 word romantic comedy… No. I feel no guilt over this either because Ms Catton doesn’t need me to like it.

Fifty Shades of Grey
I once gave a talk related to romance publishing and got asked what I thought of the trilogy and when I said I hadn’t read them, it felt a bit like when people used to say 'I read Playboy for the articles'. Like I was lying, or something. A lot of the criticism over the books seems to be due to the writing-style, and given that I’m no Jane Austen, I  must assume E.L. James isn't either and we thus have a bit in common.  But then I tend to read more on the sweet and light side, and I don’t believe Christian Grey is at all about sweetness and light. Or maybe he is… I mean, how would I even know unless I go and read for myself? Oh, the quandary... But then there is, of course, the movie... Hmmm.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit
Many’s the time I’ve driven through Matamata and thought, “I must read Tolkien.” Many’s the time when in Wellington I’ve spotted the Embassy Theatre and thought the same thing. Many’s the time I have picked up an actual Tolkien book, opened it, and thought, "I’m going to finally read this genius and see what all the fuss is about."  Every time I have gently closed it, placed it reverently back on the shelf - and reached for Bridget Jones instead.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Check it Out!


It’s difficult to describe, but if you imagine all the worst infomercials(are there any good ones?), Triangle TV and  all those many horrific moments from Kiwi award shows thrown together you may get a rough idea of what ‘Check it out, with Dr. Steve Brule’ is like. The 'format' very loosely mimics an investigative report on an issue fronted by a naive, endearing moron called Dr Steve Brule.

Dr. Steve Brule is the comic creation of actor John C Reilly. The character originally appeared on the truly great 'Tim and Eric Awesome show', and was so successful that he rightly got his own spin-off, which has been going for three seasons.

This show can seem like homemade TV made by people who only just discovered technology, or like a bad television nightmare - even if you are a fan like me. Jarring edits enhance already awkward pauses as Dr Brule bumbles his way through thoroughly bizarre interviews centered around ‘issues’ like: health, relationships, family, fear, food and friendship. 

So…well…check it out!



Friday, 23 January 2015

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt



Here is the first official trailer for Tina Fey's new comedy series! Starring the wonderful Ellie Kemper of The Office (US) and Bridesmaids fame as Kimmy Schmidt. After living in a doomsday cult, Kimmy is rescued and starts life over in New York. Also starring 30 Rock alums Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess, this first look is very encouraging!!

It was sold to Netflix on a 2-season order and will start streaming on March 6. I for one will definitely be tuning in!

In the meantime check out Fey and Kemper's other excellent works

Bridesmaids
30 Rock Season 1
30 Rock Season 5 (Tituss Burgess appears for the first time in this season)
The Office (US)
Bossypants (which I also highly recommend as an audiobook - Tina Fey reads it and it is the most hilarious)

Monday, 19 January 2015

Graphic novels ARE art!

I'm an animator. Or, an animation student. I can animate (though I don't get paid for it). I can draw (which sometimes I do get paid for) and I can ink and I can paint (a little). Art like this is the love of my life and I blame it all purely on cartoons and comics.

Working in a library, you see a lot of people – mostly parents - scoff over the value of comics and graphic novels. ‘Not real books,’ they say. ‘I don’t want my kids reading those.’ Full of pictures and therefore empty of anything worth acknowledging. Well! To those people I say –

‘...’

I mean, it’s my job. I’m not going to openly disagree with any patron in the library about the rights and wrongs of literature, but here – here, I can stand up for comics and my love for them. Comics expanded my world. It got me into Japanese (and I went to Japan) and drawing (I went to animation school) and webcomics (which I’m thinking of doing myself). Imagine what it could do for you? Or your kids? Or anyone?

When I was little, I drew Sailor Moon. As I got older I branched out into different styles and techniques, and most of these have been a direct result from something I've read. These are just some of the more memorable comics and manga that helped me pave my way into a world of art and magic that I will never want to leave.

Sailor Moon – Naoko Takeuchi
As I said, Sailor Moon is what got me into drawing. Now, back then it was the anime, but the manga is just as beautiful.  Usagi Tsukino (Serena in the English anime) is a lazy fourteen year old who likes nothing better than playing video games and eating junk food. One day, she saves a cat with a moon on its forehead, and the cat follows her home. That night, the cat tells her (yeah, it can talk) that her name is Luna and Usagi is undoubtedly Sailor Moon, the Guardian of the Moon reincarnate. She must find the other Sailor Guardians and protect the mysterious moon princess. Cue awesome transformation scenes/panels, battles and romance. Great stuff.

Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne (or Phantom Thief Jeanne) – Arina Tanemura
This manga is for the older teen, but definitely not as risque as Arina Tanemuras other works.
Maron Kusakabe, main protagonist and lonely teenage girl meets a half-angel, Finn Fish. Finn tells Maron she is the reincarnation of Jeanne D'Arc and must save the world by capturing demons that take human hosts for God in return for a wish. Again, fancy costumes appear and battles commence. A pretty big difference between Sailor Moon and KKJ is this one gets darker and heavy, fast.
This manga is beautiful. When I first started reading it, I really adored Tanemura’s attention to detail, and I still do. Her art is stunning and emotive and it’s not easy to get that in a manga. I'm pretty sure I cried over this book. Don’t judge me.

xxxHolic - CLAMP
Clamp, who made xxxHolic (thankfully pronounced just 'Holic') is also the dream team behind childhood memories like Cardcaptor Sakura. Another magical girl thing, though? No. No no no. The lovely thing about Clamp is they're made of a group of ladies, and the art tends to vary between each different title they bring out - as well as the story. XxxHolic is not for kids, either. It’s not terrifying, and it’s not filled to the brim with sex – it’s just serious.

Yuko is a time witch who lives in a shop, where she will grant your wish for the right price - be it your money, your favourite thing or your very life. Watanuki is a teenager who runs to her shop one day and declares he's plagued by spirits, chasing him everywhere he goes. In return for stopping the spirits, Watanuki becomes Yuko's cleaner and all around maid. He becomes more important as he starts to help with the wishes being granted as well.

This manga inspired my love for black and ink work and flow. You only have to look at the detail in the cover pages to know it’s a piece of art.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl – Faith Erin Hicks
Here is where I started to read more indie comics and venture out of my comfort zone. Faith Erin Hicks has a style and humor I could only hope to emulate one day.
Superhero Girl is just that - a superhero. Having to deal with mundane things like buying new capes after her old one gets destroyed and living up to her (superhero) brothers legacy, she has it tough. This one got me into webcomics as it shares a lot in common - one liner puns, two page storylines, hilarious characters.

Very light hearted and funny, so I suggest you check anything of Faith Erin Hicks out if you need something less serious after those manga.

And last but not least...

French Milk and Relish - Lucy Knisley
A journal, rather than fiction, Lucy Knisley is a comic artist with a great simple style to boot. Knisley takes us with her as she traverses countries and navigates her life. In French Milk, she decides to go to Paris for her birthday with her mom, and stay for a month. As you get to know her, you get to know Paris and all its landmarks and foods. Especially foods.

In Relish, a more recent publication, she goes over her deep connection to food and cooking, sharing recipes from her childhood and the memory's that go with them – all with beautiful illustrative comics.

I love food. I love journals (especially reading other peoples) and of course I love comics. Lucy Knisley made me a huge fan since the first time I picked up her book and I have a feeling I'll stay a fan for a long time coming.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

New Year, New Hobby - Crochet for beginners with Bella Coco


Yep - It's officially 2015 and I still find myself writing 2014. Not quite broken that habit yet.

I decided not to set any New Years resolutions this time round due to continuously breaking them in previous years. Instead I got inspired by a lovely customer to try a new hobby. 

Crocheting - Something I never thought I'd be so excited to be doing in my 20's! I've tried my hands at knitting and unfortunately all I managed to accomplish was making a big ball of knotted mess. Safe to say, knitting is not for me.

After a bit of researching for some simple steps on how to crochet for beginners I found an amazing lady on YouTube, by the name of "Bella Coco" who does some gorgeous crochet tutorials, and the best part is that they are so easy to follow.


I have decided for my first project I am going to make a Granny Square crochet blanket, with a slight twist - I am taking the blanket and making it a year long project. I plan on making a 2015 "Mood Blanket". Each day during 2015 I will make a small granny square, and the colour will be picked depending on the mood I was feeling each day.

Here is the tutorial I found really helpful by Bella Coco on how to create the squares for the blanket - 




After you have created all the squares you want and are ready to connect them all together to create the blanket here is another fabulous tutorial from Bella Coco on how to do it - 



When you are ready and feel more confident with crocheting, check out the crochet books that Auckland Libraries have by clicking here for even more wonderful projects to have a go at.

If any of you feel inspired to have a go at this too I would absolutely love to see photos of your work.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

London, the modern babylon and patchwork histories.


Julien Temple’s documentary London, the modern babylon is, like it’s subject, a cacophonous cornucopia of sounds and images.

Mixing archival and present day footage with interviews, the mode is an impressionistic sound and image patchwork of a city rather than a by-the-numbers portrait.

The result is overwhelming, but there are calming anchors to the experience, like the 106 year Londoner Hetty Bower recounting just a few of her personal memories.

I loved the freewheeling mixing of music with images from different eras. This is particularly effective when female fronted  punk group X-ray Spex are used for the soundtrack to the archival footage of the suffragette movement.

Recently I’ve been digging around in our own city’s rich history via our Heritage et AL blog one of the many blogs available on the Auckland Libraries website. One recent entry fascinated me, a colleague had collected 11 of her favourite maps of New Zealand. I loved seeing early incarnations of how either parts or the whole country have been visualised. There’s a ton of amazing archival photos, documents, maps and on and on…