Sunday, 31 May 2015

Getting your Nerd Groove on...farewell thee NZ Music Month.


As we wrap up another awesome NZ Music Month, cram packed full of our incredible local talent and amazing performances all around the country (not to mention all the fabulous events held in our local libraries), I thought I'd take the chance share some of my favourite nerd tunes and soundtracks as found in our collections.

Thunderbirds are go: TV themes for grown up kids. Yes, I've seen the new Thunderbirds, and its not that bad, but I'll always love the classics. This disc also includes theme songs from Joe 90, Stingray and Dr Who. So much British telly musical goodness right here!

I have to be honest and say that when I think of John Williams, the first thing that comes to mind will always be Star Wars. I do have the Imperial March as my phone's ringtone after all ;) But he has had an amazing career, and as you can see in The music of John Williams: 40 years of film music, he is also responsible for music from E.T, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter. Such a talented man! 

Loved the recent Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular? Also a fan of Star Trek? Then the Symphonic Star Trek may indeed be the soundtrack for you! Performed for your listening pleasure by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

When I was putting this list together, I was super excited to see we have the Battlestar Galactica: original soundtrack on order. I love me some BSG, theres nothing like a little added Cylon goodness to improve your day ;). Now to put in a suggested purchase for the modern series soundtrack, which is even more incredible.

Seems like I wouldn't be a very good kiwi if I missed Themes from the Lord of the rings trilogy from my list. This has music from all three of the original Lord of the rings movies as performed by The Big Movie Orchestra. I can speak from experience and say this is most excellent background music for sweeping your army to victory in the great table top battle :) 

No Joss Whedon fan could ever miss Dr Horrible's sing along blog. In this amazing all musical web series, Neil Patrick Harris stars as Dr Horrible, a simple man who is just trying to find his place as an arch villain :) It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about the talented singing (and acting) cast. Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer? Bliss!

The science fiction album pretty much has it all....2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Aliens, Back to the future, Battlestar Galactica, Ghostbusters, Star Trek, Star Wars, War of the Worlds and I could go on! Something for every Sci fi fan to be sure....you just may want to skip track 13 of disc 4 (*cough - Jar Jar warning - cough*).

I will leave you now with the always brilliant Felica Day and The Guild in Game On - A Bollywood themed Gamer's Anthem. And if this is your first introduction to The Guild, it is another brilliant web series about online gaming, and a must for any World of Warcraft fans out there. We even have them on DVD for your ultimate viewing pleasure.



Friday, 15 May 2015

A book with a one word title - Midnight by Erin Hunter


If I was smarter, I would've made this one 'A book with non-human characters', but I didn't think far enough ahead and have already crossed that one of the list. Anyway!

Midnight is the first book in the second part (The New Prophecy) of the Warriors series, by Erin Hunter - a popular Junior fiction author. A friend got me into this series in the later years of high school and I can't recommend it enough.

First, let me warn you - it's about cats. The main character is a cat, who lives, fights, eats with other cats. If reading from a feline point of view will bother you (or your children, or niece etc) then maybe put this one back down. It's also quite a large series. In the first 'part' (Into The Wild), you meet Rusty who leaves life as a pet and becomes Firepaw, a wild warrior adopted by a forest Clan leader who fights to be accepted in his new home.

Fast forward to the next series - Firepaw (now Firestar) is the Thunderclan leader, and one of his warriors, the new main protagonist Brambleclaw, receives a message from 'Starclan' (basically, their ancestors) that he and three other cats from the different clans must join together and travel out of their homes to save all of the clans from destruction. Tagging along with him is Firestar's young daughter, Squirrelpaw - though not by any choice of his.

It seems pretty straightforward, right?

The reason the Warriors series is so appealing (to me, at least) is the honesty and perhaps brutality of it. My friend calls it the anyone-can-die rule; much like Game of Thrones, where your favourite character could die any moment.
The cats fight, get injured, lose friends and family members - all in the name of their clan. For example, in the very first book in the first part of Warriors, one of who I thought was going to be a main character, dies. I don't mean to spoil too much, but they do - and it's not glossed over or forgotten, either. The character is mentioned various times as they reflect on it's life and what they had done while they were alive.
The cats have disabilities, they have illnesses that affect them continuously. They fight adversity, overcome differences, and teach you that no matter what you look like, or where you come from, you can live bravely and soldier on - and others will accept you. Gosh - one of the noblest cats suffers from PTSD and depression - she loses her kits even, and still she is one of the most powerful characters in the book. All the while making sure this series stays kid-friendly and never focussing on the losses - only overcoming them.

These aren't cats that are side-characters, that you hear about once and then never again. And I feel like that's an important part of what we have to deal with as adults, or teenagers - as the grandchild of a war veteran, the mother of a paraplegic, as the lover of someone you 'shouldn't be loving - and to see it portrayed so well in a junior book about cats is something fantastic.

Warriors deals with all these things in a much more gentle, sensitive and hopeful way that ten-year olds can deal with and think about. It makes it real - 'these things exist' - but also shows how the cats handle life, how they move on or get past obstacles and I don't know, continue living.

Maybe this is just me - maybe I love these books a little too much. I plan to write the other reviews or comments about the books from the challenge much quicker and together (this one is getting long), but I felt Warriors needed it's own post because I just seriously love these books. These are brave books for brave children (and parents) and I could never recommend this series enough.

If you want to try it out for yourself, check out Into The Wild and Fire and Ice - the first two in the series of Warriors. They've even had revamped covers which I particularly like.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Podcasts are like wild mountain gorillas

They’re really hard to find, but when you do finally find one they scream, grunt and bang their chests and you realise that you’re not that interested in listening to them after all.

Let’s just say, there is a lot of rubbish out there, so here are some podcasts that I highly recommend.

Serial

The best and most popular podcast ever. This is a fact. Once you start you’ll be completely hooked and you’ll be binge-listening until the end. It’s the true story of the murder of an American high school student, told over 12 episodes. Her ex-boyfriend was convicted of the crime but he has always maintained his innocence. The podcast was a spinoff of This American Life. It goes over the facts and interviews everyone involved. Be warned, it's highly addictive.

This American Life

Weekly episodes of short, true stories, mostly about Americans and tied together thematically.

No such thing as a fish

The researchers of brilliant British comedy TV quiz show QI hosted by Stephen Fry make this podcast with their leftover facts. It’s fast and funny and you might even learn something new. Basically it’s fact!fact!fact!joke!joke!joke!fact!fact!fact!joke!joke!joke! so do try to keep up.

Comedy bang bang

Hosted by comedian Scott Aukerman and featuring regular and irregular guests, sometimes with improvisation that goes so deep you forget what’s real and what’s not. Also, this is the first podcast to make me snort with laughter while walking down the street. How embarrassing.

TED radio hour

TED stands for technology, entertainment, design but speakers cover all kids of subjects including science and culture, taken from TED conferences around the world.

How did this get made?

Another comedy podcast, this one takes the mickey out of bad movies and helps us to understand the director’s vision, however unclear and idiotic that may be.

Radio New Zealand has some great podcasts too, and check out Auckland Libraries' own music podcasts!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Geekalicious gifts you can make Mum this Mother's Day!



This Mother's Day, why not make Mum something a little different, something a little geektastic even. I took a wander around our library this afternoon and found an absolute treasure trove of books full of gift ideas that I would be proud to get from my own little mini-geeks this Sunday ;)

1000 steampunk creations. Surely Mum would love a little steampunk goodness in her life, this book is full of inspiration for home design, art and sculpture, fashion, jewellery and more. My personal jewellery collection is chocka with steampunk goodies but could always use some more (hint hint).

Maybe you have some old books you would like to turn into something special for Mum. The repurposed library : 33 craft projects that give old books new life could be just the thing for you! Can we just suggest maybe not using your library books for this one, we have lots of withdrawn books you can buy that would totally do the trick though ;)

Maybe Mum would love something that is a little eco-friendly too. MiniEco: a craft book is full of cool paper craft, macramé and more. Who wouldn't want an awesome pop-up pixel card or an incredible origami lampshade?

Just perfect for the cosplaying Mums out there is 1000 incredible costume & cosplay ideas : a showcase of creative characters from anime, manga, video games, movies, comics, and more! With ideas and inspiration from across a HUGE range of platforms, she'll be all sorted for future Armageddon events and cosplay picnics in no time at all.

If steampunk jewellery isn't Mum's thing, perhaps she'd be keen on some Creative chain mail jewelry. There are some beautiful pieces in this book, from the Bicycle chain bracelet to the chain mail watchband.

If Mum needs a little more adorable in her life (I know, she probably doesn't when she has you already, just humour me here), you can't really go wrong with Felted knit amigurumi : how to knit, felt and create adorable projects. I squee'd my way through the contents page, the book is just crammed full of cuteness :)

Perhaps you'd like to whip up something special for Mum in the kitchen? I picked up Gastrogeek for it's lovely geeky title, but apparently it is just the trick when you are in a hurry, hungry or hard up. I sure wouldn't say no to a batch of Salted peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, om nom nom!

The feisty stitcher : sewing projects with attitude uses all sorts of cool unexpected materials and top techniques to make Mum loads of home sewn goodies. I'm pretty sure we all need a Hit-the-road backpack and Nip & tuck T-shirt in our lives at some stage.

So these were just an handful (or rather an armful) of fab books I found in our library today - go forth and check out your local branch and make Mum something magical! We all know that Mum really loves something you've made yourself especially for her :) (although wine and chocolates never go astray either, ahem).