Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some stocking filler suggestions ...

Here at Groove we've been reading our way through a mountain of new material.  Here's but a few that might be good for under the tree this year.

The Sting Man - Robert W. Greene
How did a Bronx hustler nearly bring down the US government?  This is the inspirational story behind the film American Hustle, directed by David O'Russell (Silver Linings Playbook).  This is the inside story of Mel Weinberg one of the most audacious con men in American, indeed the modern world's history.   From street hustling to the legendary FBI sting Abscom this is an amazing story.  Julian Asange has not always been the only public enemy no. 1 in the info game.  A great read.  Think Catch Me If You Can, but sexier!

Game - Anders De La Motte - Book One of the Game Trilogy
Play or be played in book one of the Game Trilogy , the Swedish thriller series taking the world by storm.  It began by spray-painting a door. Then detonating a hand grenade. Each task is secretly filmed and uploaded for other ‘Players’ to comment on. The more daring the mission, the greater the thrill and reward – and the acclaim.  But how far will loser Henrik “HP” Pettersson go before the seemingly innocent game he was invited to play on a ‘lost’ mobile phone begins to play him? With his police protection officer sister dragged into the action, and the game looking more and more like a trap, HP’s excitement is turning to fear.  Dripping suspense, edge-of-your-seat thrills this is the first instalment in ex-policeman and security expert Anders de la Motte’s hot new Scandinavian thriller series.

The Young Desire It - Kenneth MacKenzie
It was dark under the trees, and heavy drops had begun to fall from the branches...he knew there was someone there, walking on the leaves like rain.
It was a girl, a stranger.
Fifteen-year-old Charles Fox is sent away to boarding school from the isolated farm where he has grown up. There he must deal with both the bullying of the other boys and the intense affection of Penworth, one of the masters. But then, home for the holidays, he meets Margaret, a girl staying at a nearby farm, and a passionate bond develops between them.
Published in 1937 to extraordinary acclaim when Kenneth Mackenzie was in his early twenties, The Young Desire It is an unparalleled account of erotic awakening, and, judging from the first chapters a fine re-read.  Worthy of slipping in your pile for the summer  bach!

Changing Times: New Zealand Since 1945 - Jenny Carlyon & Diana Morrow

Our main pursuits were only cultural in the broadest sense. They were horse-racing, playing  

Rugby football and beer drinking - especially playing football. – John Mulgan, Report on Experience

A revolution doesn’t have to be bloody, there don’t have to be guns and grenades. A revolution can take place inside people’s heads . . . – Dunedin Collective for Woman, 1972

Pirate radio in the Hauraki Gulf and the first DC8 jets landing at Māngere; feminists liberating pubs and protests over the closing of Post Offices; kōhanga reo and carless days: Changing Times is a history of New Zealand since 1945. From a post-war society famous around the world for its dull conformity, this country has become one of the most ethnically, economically and socially diverse countries on earth. But how did we get from Nagasaki to nuclear-free? What made us embrace small-state, free-market ideology with such passion? And were we really leaving behind a society known for its fretful sleepers and ‘the worship of averages’? In Changing Times, Jenny Carlyon and Diana Morrow answer those questions, taking us from the ‘Golden Weather’ of post-war economic growth, through the globalisation, economic challenges and protest of the 1960s and 1970s, and on to the free market revolution and new immigrants of the 1980s and 1990s. Throughout, stories from the lives of New Zealanders are key: a tank driver yelling in his sleep after World War II, a woman in the Wairarapa discovering The Feminine Mystique, a Tapawera forestry worker losing his job.

This is a powerful history of the transformation of New Zealand life.

I was highly impressed by the breadth of this book.  With Nelson Mandela's death recently many Kiwis have been returning to poignant moments in our history, such as the 1989 Springbok Tour.  This and many other moments are examined with a 360 lens.  This less the academic read and more a story, a view or rather many views and something I appreciated.  History should not be the preserve of the University.  Carlyon and Morrow, perhaps because they are not dusty old tweed jacket types have brought our past to life, without compromising quality or validation.

Hanns and Rudolf: The True Story of the German Jew Who Tracked Down and Caught the Kommandant of Auschwitz -

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cook by Rob Mundle ABC Books (Harper Collins inprint)

Captain James Cook is one of the greatest maritime explorers of all time -- only the acclaimed fifteenth-century explorers, Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama, can stand with him. Bestselling author of FATAL STORM, BLIGH and FLINDERS, Rob Mundle explores the life and travels of James Cook in a major new biography for lovers of adventure and the romance of sail. Over three remarkable voyages of discovery into the Pacific in the latter part of the eighteenth century, Cook unravelled the centuries-old mystery surrounding the existence of the great south land, Terra Australis Incognita; became the first explorer to circumnavigate New Zealand and prove it comprised two main islands; discovered the Hawaiian Islands; and much more. Cook was a man who pursued a teenager's dream that evolved from a chance encounter in a small seafront village on the east coast of England. It was a dream that became a reality and transported him to legendary status among all who mapped the world, on land and sea. Through the combination of hard-won skills as a seafarer, the talents of a self-taught navigator and surveyor, and an exceptional ability to lead and care for his men, Cook contributed to changing the shape of the world map more than anyone else. I think I've seen about 25 biographies of James Cook, in recent days. Nothing of course could ever touch Tim Beaglehole's massive 3 volume history, but then who has time to read that these days. Mundle's book - well, there's a clue in the cover, which looks like a 1970 School text book cover, with it's noble portrait of th man himself. Then there's a few facts. Mundle is a nautical author. He's written of the Sydney Harbour yacht race and about Bligh, who sailed with Cook and Mathew Flinders who was the first to circumnavigate Australia. So he's looking at Cook from an adventurer's point of view, from a sailors view. It spends the first chapters about his early days, as the son of a Yorkshire labourer and his part in charting alliances under campaigns against the French and mostly it's about the three great voyages - The Endeavour's trip charting the course of the Transit of Venus for the Royal Society (which discovered Australia and New Zealand) and then the two shorter trips ending in his death in Hawaii. All through we get no sense of whom he really is. This is more about the mechanical, historic figure. Only during the last village, which Mundle talks of how he flogs his me, more than his usual disciplinarian treatments and animosities towards the 'natives'. It's less a character study than the adventures. There are exciting tales, like when the Endeavour is blown on to rocks, headed into storm and stuck on the Great Barrier Reef. The colour plates and the sailor's glossary is excellent. This is a great first reader of Cook. Any 12 -18 year old interested in this man would do well to start here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Autobiography - Morrissey - Penguin Classics

Stop me, stop me, if you've heard this one before…. "I come not to praise Morrissey, but to bury him' write the critics. They tear at the carcass of his mottled career, they point at his bones, sticking through the thick skin of irony and they shout: "Fake!", "Poseur!", "Charlatan!" They call to question his public comments and they challenge his sexual agnostics, his vegan lifestyle and his abandonment of the mother country for the crass urbanism of the Americas. They even grunt and moan at the voluptuousness of his new Autobiography, it's ample 600 pages bosom of beared soul-poetic hate, loathing and embracement, which, it seems spent an eternity in its rumoured gestation period. And they are cynical about the imprint of its release, on Penguin Classics. This, now, shouldn't be a surprise. After all Morrissey had pushed for the release of his solo albums to go out on EMI's HMV imprint, which was, at the time, an exclusively classical music vehicle. Typical Morrissey hubris - ad nauseum (sic! The real problem lies in the expectations of the word 'classic'). Can Stephen really expect to live along side The Iliard, Rudyard Kipling or even Frances Hodgson Burnett. The joke or the pun, intended, is on the critic! Like a deeply depressing Dicken's novel he begins with the account of childhood, in miserable post war, sludge-grey Stretford. Life was terrible, school was unhappy and Angela's Ashes seemed like luxury - it did! Yes we all lived in a paper bag in middle of road! Morrisey does not believe in paragraphs or punctuation, reeling against his mid 70's state education with a languid verbosity. He disenfranchises the north in one fell swoop of the keyboard, never to return, but always to dwell. Sad tales told with the weight of a wet dog from the sewers "…these were times when…" he writes of the Smith's early sparkle "a personal music collection read as private medical records." Any student of the Smiths knows how Marr stopped by Morrisey's house and was vastly impressed by his music collection. That early collection of rare Motown inspired the music of the band, the look and the ideas to come. We also get early glimpses of humour. Morrissey had an early career scraping human waste off surgeon's scrubs. He flunks an interview at Sounds magazine, despite his encyclopaedic music knowledge, and botches an interview at the local blue rinse shop when he can't differentiate between a wig and real hair! The Smith's years are fascinating and probably the best bit to read. The ensuing 50 page diatribe from the court case where Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce attempt to claim royalties for the band's work from Marr and Morrissey is reaction I've read for some time. Morrissey does not share with others. All sympathy is lost through this tedious read. If ever an editor was needed - how soon really is now for this? Speaking of which, I hope Sandie Shaw, or relatives of, are not reading it lest they find his icy distaste for her version of the song. But, not all is the chiding of ol' misery-guts. There is the surprisingly tender revelations about relationships such as Jake Walters and Tina Dehghani and even sweeter reflections on family members. Sad but true - Kirsty MacColl sends a postcard from her holiday in Mexico, where she goes on his recommendation, only a few days before her tragic death, killed by a speedboat whilst diving with her sons. "I never found love from one, I instead find it from thousands". Anyone who's been to a Morrissey concert is in on the self-adoration jokes. They get it. Yet his lyrics and music continue to define parts of our lives, they soundtrack our feelings, our loves, our desires. A pity that they can't do this for the man himself.

Friday, November 8, 2013


The Walkley Foundation today announced the shortlist for the Walkley Book Award, part of Australia’s most prestigious accolades across print, radio, television, photography and publishing. More than 70 books were entered into the book award category of the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism this year, with subject matter ranging from true crime, politics and war to biography and investigative journalism. The 2013 Walkley Book Award shortlisted finalists (in alphabetical order) announced at a literary long lunch in Sydney include: • James Button, Speechless: A year in my father’s business, Melbourne University Publishing • Anna Krien, Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, Black Inc. • Pamela Williams, Killing Fairfax, Harper Collins The judging panel for the 2013 book awards included: Malcolm Farr, chief political writer, Catherine Fox, freelance journalist, author and speaker Adele Horin, writer and journalist John Van Tiggelen, editor, The Monthly Richard Guilliatt, author and journalist, The Australian Deborah Cameron, project director, KJA Strategic Engagement and Communications Susan Wyndham, literary editor, The Sydney Morning Herald Paul Bailey, editor, The Australian Financial Review Ian Reinecke, author and journalist The winner of the 2013 Walkley Book Award will be announced at the Walkley Awards on Thursday November 28 in Brisbane. The Walkley Awards will be broadcast on a special “pop-up channel” on ABC3 from 9.00pm on November 28, with highlights airing on ABC1 Saturday November 29 at 1.00pm and on November 30 at 11.00pm. Highlights will also be available on iView. A full list of Walkley Awards finalists and judges is available at

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Solo – A James Bond Novel by William Boyd

Boyd comes to this project after 17 other books, none which I’ve previously read.  Yet, that really doesn’t matter because this time Boyd is channelling Ian Fleming – literally.  Despite the man passing away in 1964 he is still very much alive thanks to the Albert Broccoli Empire and Sean, Roger, George, Pierce and Craig.  Boyd’s challenge was to capture Fleming’s ‘voice’ picking up Bond midlife (i.e in his 40’s) and slowly allowing the reader into the world created for Goldfnger, Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  In this book Bond consumes way too much rich food, womanises, drinks entire bottles of spirits at virtually any occasion, gets his flat decorated and indulges beyond comprehension buying expensive sports cars, celebrating birthdays by staying at the Dorchester and outlaying ridiculous amounts of cash on airline tickets and firearms.  No, Q branch do not provide all the whizzy gadgets – only Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan get those!

Without spoiling it the plot is basically something direct from the early 60’s.  Bond is sent to a tin pot little African country to sort out a procrastinating revolutionary leader who refusing to lay down.  The plot thickens when Bond’s ally turns on him and shoots him.. Back from the dead, bond discovers his mission was successful but only for now.  There are bigger fish to fry including revenge for his near assignation and a string of untied threads.  As the cliché’ goes – This time-it’s personal!
I’ve read everything Fleming ever wrote.  So the question is – would he have ever, even in a fantasy world, ever written something like this?  Yes and no.  Bond, the Fleming Bond anyway, is cold heartless, a little sentimental but he’d never embark on a revenge mission.  He would have, instead out thought and out manoeuvred his foe, and somehow worked within the rules.  Despite his roguishness, charm would have won the day.  That and cold, hard brutalism.  But Boyd is commended for a cracking read.  He’s not reinterpreting Jane Austin here.  Fleming was never a complex writer.  There are a huge number of detailed facts and observations about Bond’s various meals, including recipes for his own salad dressing – which is a little OTT, to be exact.  And given that, the Martini method HAS to be in here.  Descriptions of every room, the cut and grain of every steak, brand of liquor, wine and precise location of every table and chair in swinging London’s best café’s are documented ad nauseam, almost to the point where the plot is a bit of a distraction.  Almost.  If you want to live dangerously and vicariously then this one would be worth the ticket.       

Bridget Jones - Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding

[SPOILER ALERT!] Author Helen Fielding has decided to kill off Mark Darcy in the new novel, which is out NOW!  Instead, her heroine Bridget has to enter the dating scene again after becoming a widow.

MMM - So is there any point reading on?  G'wan I dare you ...

Reasons to avoid reading this because I’m a guy and I really don’t give a rat’s ass about the trials and tribulations of a neurotic, born-again lonely woman in her 50’s, with two children re-dipping her toe into the dating pool in the modern era: 1,000,000.  Reasons why even for a guy to enjoy the familiar irony and characters made so popular by the first two books – Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason and the ensuing films starring Renee Zellweiger (mmmm), Colin Firth (Whatever) and Hugh Laurie (Annoying, good looking floppy haired heartthrob – Euuuch!): 386 pages.

OK, cards on the table.  It was during one weekend skiing trip.  We were snowed it and there was absolutely NOTHING to read.  It was then that I was introduced to Bridget, the overweight neurotic dating failure who idealised Mr Darcy from Sense and Sensibility and lusted after his spitting image and ironical copy from the British TV drama - She had met him before, of course, running around naked on his front lawn, aged three years.  Plenty of arguably girly, pointless action (ie no guns or chicks or cars occur and, long story short, Bridget gets her man and marries Darcy and has a family and everything ends happily ever after.

Then this year we catch up with Bridget in 2013.  She’s writing (or procrastinating to write) a screen play based on Hedda Gerbler (go figure!), Darcy’s been killed off (because he was a brave and fearless Human Rights Lawyer and Fielding just had to drive him over a mine in the Sudan).  So Jones, with her two children, surrounded by arrogant Sloane Rangers, a lovable but hippy neighbour, and the same cast of friends from before (Gay Tom, Jude – still pursued by vile Richard who she married, divorced and is still taunted by) bar the foul mouthed Shazza who’s off in South America doing deals.  Her mad, over committed mother is still over arranging Bridget’s social calendar, which is now completely bare thanks to her widowhood. 

There is however peer pressure to get back on the dating horse, with the new additions of texting, Google, relation and dating sites and Twitter.  Bridget quickly masters the art of losing weight and becoming a ‘followed woman’ on Twitter.  If the irony of being in her own web blog/diary about dating as a middle-aged widow is lost on you then ask any of your single (or recently divorced/widowed) female friends.  This book is, to a degree the same as the first, only gagging to be released on  Seriously, the whole thing isa digital download of flirting, anxiety and conquest addressing the aged old question first posed when Fielding ripped off all the best bits from Sense and Sensibility: Does a woman need a man to define who she is?.  Fish riding bicycles aside, in the world of Bridget Jones chivalry, manners, romance and all the advice of a library of dating manuals and parenting books adds up to a huge pile of beans.  This book, for some reason is funnier, smarter and less exasperating perhaps because I’ve been there (not recently, but texting was around) and I know others going through that now.  If you are in your 20’s venturing out on the universe of dating remember this: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Bridget Jones is still stuck well up her own Uranus – only in a later model, so read the first tow and do not venture to this the third until you’re in your 40’s at least!

And in response to that Spoiler Alert .... well, ok a little OTT - But I made you look!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The CoffeeBar Kid will be off air for 2 weeks

Sadly other commitments are dragging the Kid away from the mike but he will be regularly posting info.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Getting Hot in the Kitchen

Three Kiwi cook books worth a look.

On tonight's show we have a look over a number of books currently out in the market.

A Bit of What You Fancy - Jo Seager - Penguin $55.00 - This will be released in October 2013

Jo "Easy Peasy" Seager is a professional "Home Cook" - a sort of latter day Alison Holst, a woman you can rely on to provide no fuss enduring recipes, and some clever Ideas, to boot.  These are a bunch of recipes from her cooking school, but they're not nancy-fancy, or 'chef-fie!  The ideas are old and new and the are an approach from the point of view of a question: "What am I going to cook tonight?"  The answer.  What about retro 70's Chicken Kiev? - Minus the huge fat content of the decade. This was almost as good as my mum's.  Or what about A nice slice for tea?  Fresh fish Ceviche?  MMMMM.  Or meringues don in the microwave?  Seriously?  Yes, in 2 minutes flat!  I tried them  It does work!  Seager's advice is no nonsense and straight forward.  There are some really cool recipes in here too, ones I'd steal for every day meals like a bacon and couscous salad, quinoa and feta cakes and even a catering quality crayfish roll made with cucumber.  It looks delicious and is very Moorish.  What a brilliant alternative or maybe upgrade to the Holst book.  Mind you, topping Alison is always going to be a tough move.  So let's just say a compliment to Alison's cookbooks.  Yes, let's do that.

Hungry & Frozen - Laura Vincent - Penguin - $40.00

Laura Vincent started a food blog a while ago. Yes it sounds like the plot to Jules and Julia, but she did and it was very successful.  The site was her opportunity to try out ideas and share thinking on food.  But she was a student, on the bones of her ass.  Her vision as it is now clearly proclaimed on her site, is "luxury, squalor, Wellington, the world, ice-cream, tofu, butter, feelings and seriously, so many feelings and one cookbook', err this one. There are some truly neat ideas that I have delighted in - peanut granola, noodles with miso butter and spring onions, bourbon bacon chicken (is that ever a "2 ingredients inn the cupboard' student recipe.  There's fun, too  Vincent attacks the kiwifruit and banana topping of the trad palova and replaces it with a topping of Smarties.  Is that really a recipe? Probably now.  Gordon Ramsay would not be impressed.  But not every one has limited access to Sea Bass and Risoooooto (al Hell's Kitchen) .  Actually, lollies and alcohol feature a bit here.  Clearly plenty of cocktail parties in her flats over the year.  And That's the thing, this is a book for bright young things.  Not expensive but not entirely appropriate for family dinners.  But then not everyone is cooking for kids and grannies, are they?  I tried many of these recipes out but there is one I haven't got to, but must: Red wine chocolate cake.  This is the ultimate Valentine's day treat, surely!  Essentially it's a straight forward 23 CM chockkie cake with a ganache topping (chocolate and cream) but with a twist a glass of pinot noir - which is the ultimate chocolate wine isn't it.  Many of Vinecent's recipes are simple twists on bog standard  recipes.  But I'd contest that if Jo Seager, above is the professional home cook, then Vincent is a budding amateur chef.  Vincent cooks like me - she takes the ordinary or the regular and plays with it.  But she's definitely not the lady in the Vicar of Dibbley - no anchovy and banana sandwiches here!  I'd like to hang with her in the kitchen, it's be fun to see what she does with scrambled eggs of fruit salad - or anything.  I look forward to her next book, and adventures in food. 

Homemade - Simon Gault - Penguin

From amateur chefs to professional home cooks to professional chefs at home.  Simon Gault is a judge on Master Chef, a show that takes home cooks and makes them into ninja warriors of the kitchen - the professional kitchen!  Gault is also a successful restaurant owner, he runs Euro in Auckland, the Crab Shack and Shed 5 in Wellington, he has a range of stocks and spices and he does TV adventures like Al Brown and his mate Logan.  He knows food at a business level and a personal level.  His home food is an attempt to jazz up the Kiwi kitchen.  Though I wonder, does it compete with Chelsea Winter and Nadia Lim, who have their Masterchef prize winning books out there, too.  Is the master stealing the student's thunder?  The proof will be in the eating, I suspect.  Surprise surprise this is a collection of family fav's and parental hand-me-down recipes, tweaked I suspect beyond recognition.  I still find it hard to believe that any mother who fed their children in the 70's and 80's did not over cook the vege or produce grey well cooked steak, nor did our dad's bbq prawns or Hapuku, or even mussels, with a fresh salsa or Asian pesto.  "Mum's Lamb Shanks contain a bunch of ingredients that were impossible to secure back in the 70's when Gault grew up.  Olive oil for example, could only be bought at the chemist, for cleaning the ears!  My times have changed.  Having said that, the Shanks are fantastic, no matter who the patriarchal inspiration was.  PArt of Gault's book is about menus, he has food for fancy and more standard occasions.  And he has brunch and dessert, including the all important ice-cream, which has dominated Masterchef and the competition My Kitchen Rules.  Gault's is a honey flavoured one and is really simple as it doesn't require an ice-cream maker.  although he does recommend churning it in if available.  Also e recommends blitzing ice-cream from the tray if it should turn from soft and fluffy into icebergs - a cool trick and worth a go.   I was not entirely impressed with this collection.  If it was Ray McVinnie the variety would be greater, but Gault's not the galloping gourmet his Masterchef partner is.  His food is comfort food.  Mostly.  I'm not sure his Lobster Thermodore will ever be that, but we can dream can't we?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Margaret Mahy - Donovan Bixley

Follow the chaotic antics of the dashing dog and his family in a mad, dizzy and joyful walk along the beach. Margaret Mahy's beloved children's story has been beautifully reillustrated by the talented Donovan Bixley who also illustrated The Wheels on the Bus, The Looky Book, Old MacDonald's Farm and many more.
Another from the cannon of one of New Zealand's most beloved writers.  The rhymes are clever and tricky.  This is a story to read out loud and is a challenge both to parents and older readers and I like that.  It's a bit of a tongue teaser - also cool.  Essentially, another winner.  Not quite the legend that is "Down the Back of the Char", but almost there.  Interestingly, there's an underlying theme to parents to get their priorities straight.  The story goes that the dog is professionally groomed and paraded in public. Dogs being what they are, he chases a cat and becomes eternally de-shelved.  But, whilst the pride and joy is distracting the parent s and family little bubs walks off the pier into the sea.  The Dog, seeing the errors of it's ways becomes the saving hero! MMM!

Plus it comes with a CD reading, in case tongue's are permanently tied. .   

Margaret Mahy (1936–2012 ) is the most acclaimed of New Zealand’s children’s writers. The author of more than 120 titles, and translated into 15 languages, Margaret has readers across the globe. She worked as a librarian for more than 10 years before becoming a full-time writer. Mahy’s books ring with humour, fantasy, adventure, science and the supernatural, but always engage with the ordinary world. Awarded the Order of New Zealand in 1993, she also won many of the world’s major prizes for children’s writers, including the Carnegie Medal and the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award.

Read more here:,%20Margaret

The Weather Machine - Donovan Bixley

Once upon a time, in a world not so different to ours, a little blue man decides to create a machine to control the weather. It all goes terribly wrong. The illustrations capture the hopefulness and naivety of human industry in this wordless book".

I love this book.  Like Sean Tan's work, it is simple and the narrative is universal, but still quirky enough to appeal.  My 4 year old took one look at the name Donovan and shouted "It's the Looky Book" writer/drawer guy!"  Indeed it was, err is.  Donovan Bixley is a superb author and illustrator.  I love his uniquely Kiwi take and the expansive imagination he boils down to these very accessible pictures.  But, like the aforementioned "Looky Book" there are layers.  Kate (the four year old) immediately started re-analysing the pictures.  She 'read' her way through the unscripted pages telling the story as she viewed each pic, but also investigated each cranny of each panel, discovering hidden or well placed ideas, and minutia within each picture.  For that, alone this is a winner.  At the highest level it's a story not unlike Seuss's Grinch or any other post apocalyptic/climate change tale of the 50's (or 80's if you remember "Where the Wind Blows").  But still this is a tale of discovery and delight.  And the ecological message at the end is simple and worthy.  Good on you, Bixley.  We love it!   

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Max Cryer on the Beat Goes On

Every Dog Has Its Day - A thousand things you didn’t know about man’s best friend - Exile Press 29.99

This week our guest is the venerable Max Cryer - author, broadcaster and dog-bert.  Indeed, he's with us to talk about his new book: Every Dog Has Its Day - A thousand things you didn’t know about man’s best friend

AuthorMax Cryer
Our price:$29.99

Why has Fido become a generic term for all dogs?
How did dogs help to roast a haunch of venison?
Why did hundreds of people collect dog faeces – and sell it?
Dogs never eat other dogs, so why is it a dog-eat-dog world?
Did any dogs survive the Titanic?
Do mad dogs really go out in the midday sun?
And exactly why are the ‘dog’s bollocks’ the best?

Max Cryer’s new book is a splendid collection of historical facts and eccentricities of language that will delight all dog-lovers and anyone with a morsel of interest in the world around them. Every Dog Has Its Day pays homage to man’s best friend, telling the stories of famous dogs in history, tracing the origins of some of our favourite breeds, showing how dogs have become a significant part of our language, and describing the amazing range of activities in which dogs are involved. Written with Max Cryer’s characteristic light touch and sense of humour, every page contains unexpected facts and fascinating stories: this book truly is a delight from beginning to end.

Mr Wiki tell us about Max:  Cryer was educated in Vienna, Italy, and New Zealand, holds a Master's degree with Honours in Language and Literature. He has been Chairman of the Oxford Union debates and a judge of the Watties (Montana) Book Awards.
His professional career began onstage at Sadlers Wells Opera, London, following which he appeared in TV in Berlin and films in Rome. Then came an international career in cabaret, and a ten-year American contract with seventeen tours of the USA as an entertainer in San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas and Hollywood.
Cryer has been New Zealand's Entertainer of the Year, was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal for services to New Zealand, and became a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1995 New Year Honours for services to entertainment.[1]
He was New Zealand's first television quizmaster, host of twelve different television series and many specials, spoke the first words when New Zealand television was linked over the full nation for the first time, and was host of NZ's first live talk-variety show "Town Cryer."
His recordings include 15 long-playing albums and stage roles include Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady," the King in "The King and I," Count Danilo in "The Merry Widow" and Prince Orlovsky in "Die Fledermaus." From 1977 he produced over 300 TV shows for TVNZ, including Mastermind, International Mastermind, and University Challenge (New Zealand). Max is 6'6" tall, famously having had his photo taken in the 1970': standing at the entrance of the Farmers' Car Park building with his head touching the sign stating "Max Height 6'6" ".
In 1977 he received the Benny Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc.[2]
He was seconded by the New Zealand Government to direct all New Zealand entertainment for the World Expo 1988 (Brisbane) and World Expo 1992 (Seville) where he organised and supervised 1000 Māori musical and cultural performances, and became repertoire co-ordinator for Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's best-selling recording of Māori music.
Since 1997 his weekly radio session (now on Radio Live) has answered listeners' questions on the English language and his non-fiction books have been published in New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany and Russia.

The Pros And Cons Of Reading On A Kindle Vs. A Physical Book

I’ve always loved reading. Even as a young child, I can remember immersing myself into a book on rainy days. The imagery of a good book could easily pull me in and make me feel like I was in the story. Additionally, I always loved the physicality of a book giving me the ability to dog-ear pages and highlight important sections. That being said, I was definitely hesitant to try out a Kindle or any electronic reading devices. However, once I gave it a try, I was sucked in and now love my Kindle. I still have love for physical books, but there’s no doubt that both options have their pros and cons. Here are the pros and cons of physical books and Kindle books that I have found throughout my experience: 

Physical Books: 

Pros: When I read and find a sentence that really speaks to me or if I’m studying and hit an important section, I love to take note of it. I especially love to use color-coded Post-It flags that I can use to just flip back to a page when I need it. Being able to flip back and forth between sections is definitely easier with a paper book. Additionally, it’s nice to have a bookshelf filled with books that you can use to easily refer back to. Even if it’s just filled with books that you have the best intentions to read when you have time, bookshelves still have appeal and draw people in. While e-books tend to be cheaper, you can sell your books and textbooks back for cash, which is a huge plus! 

Cons: Physical books, especially textbooks, can get heavy! I remember back in college, while I might have built some good arm muscles, it was still cumbersome to carry heavy textbooks around. Also, if you need a physical book, you either have to order it online or go to a bookstore. Waiting too long to get a book you need for a class can get you behind and in trouble. Additionally, if you have limited space and collect books, you can clutter up a room quickly. 

Kindle Books: 

Pros: Reading on a Kindle looks very similar to reading a book so I find that experience to be the same. However, Kindles are so portable and light! I never really noticed how bulky physical novels can get until I started using the Kindle. Unlike with a physical book, I’m still able to read while blow-drying my hair or eating because I don’t have to use my hand to hold down the pages to keep the book from closing. Secondly, e-books, since they’re cheaper to produce and distribute, tend to be less expensive to buy, which is always good. Sometimes libraries and Amazon even offer free e-books that can be decent reads. Finally, one of my favorite things about my Kindle is that people can’t tell what you’re reading. There are just some books that you want to keep to yourself (ahem, Fifty Shades of Grey). With a Kindle, you don’t need to worry about getting questionable looks while reading at your local coffee shop. 

Cons: While you can take notes and highlight things within a Kindle book, it’s just not the same as having Post-Its sticking out of important sections. As I mentioned earlier, I love being able to color code things, especially for studying. While using a Kindle, I find myself having to take notes separately in a notebook rather than using the notes feature on the Kindle. Overall, maybe it’s my generation and the heavy use of technology, but after trying the Kindle, I did find it hard to go back to physical books. Although, for studying, it is nice to have a physical book that you can just pull off your shelf to refer back to. I think both books still do have a place for now, at least for me. 

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer physical books to Kindle and other electronic readers?

Friday, August 9, 2013

RIP Pixie Williams

About Pixie Williams

Pixie Williams was a shooting star of New Zealand music – a clear, bright magical voice, a brief luminous career, a brilliant flash of light that lives on as a memory for some - both distant and familiar.
 “No matter where you are, music will always have some meaning. When you have music in your heart, it stays with you.  Music will always live on."  Pixie Costello (nee Williams ), January 2010

The Early Years 

Pikiteora Maude Emily Gertrude Edith Williams was born 12 July 1928, in Mohaka near Gisborne in the Hawkes Bay.  Taken from her mother when only a few months old to be raised by her beloved grandparents (my “mother” and “father”) her happy childhood years were spent with them  and her love of music was born – singing around the piano most evenings and on the Marae from age three.
“Ours was known as the  musical house where everyone gathered to sing or play the piano and guitar.  It was a simple, but magical childhood – full of music and singing.” 
 With the death of her “father” in 1934 and “mother” in 1941 Pixie’s happy childhood years ended. She was 12 years old – and now under the care of her Uncle.
"Everything went downhill for me when “mother” died. Working on my Uncle’s farm,  I’d get up at 4.30am with my two cousins to milk 32 cows before school, all by hand, then have to race back home to do the afternoon milking and other farm chores.  To make it bearable we’d sing.  ‘Blue Moon’ was a favourite – the cows loved it.  They’d join in when we sung ‘Moooooon’.  We’d always sing that word as long as we could so they could all join in”.
By age 14 relatives stepped in.  Concerned at the way Pixie was being worked, they told her natural mother who came by one day and picked her up.
“Not much changed though, I still worked my butt off.” 
By age 15 Williams moved to Napier where she got a job cleaning at the hospital, followed by a six month stint housekeeping at the Masonic Hotel.
“I met Gladys Moncrieff there – a famous Australian soprano singer who was touring New Zealand.  Her voice was incredible.  She inspired me.  I loved to sing – and wanted to do it right, so I got some lessons from the Sisters of Mercy.”

The Move to Wellington

Williams and her mates 1949, YWCA, Wellington

At age 17, Williams moved to Wellington thanks to the same relatives who ‘rescued’ her at age 14.
They got me a job working at a factory.  I was so glad to leave, I never wanted to go back.”
Moving into the YWCA Hostel on Oriental Parade, her extraordinary voice came to the attention of songwriter and musician Ruru Karaitiana. At that time her talent was known only to the girls she shared lodgings with. Fellow resident and room-mate Joan Chittleburgh (whom Karaitiana later married) suggested Williams who was always singing in the shower and at hostel piano sessions.  Blue Smoke was one of the songs in Williams’ repertoire.
Ruru Karaitiana's Blue Smoke launched Williams' career.  It was a magical collaboration between artists that nearly didn't happen.
 Williams and the hockey team 1949
Williams twice turned down Karaitiana when he asked her to record his song.  After one final plea, two months after first asking, she agreed - on the proviso that the recording didn't interfere with her Saturday hockey games.

About the Music

The Making of Blue Smoke 

Blue Smoke was written on the British troop ship Aquitania, off the coast of Africa in 1940.  It was the first song Ruru Karaitiana composed.  A jazz pianist from the Ngati Mutuahi hapu (sub-tribe) of Rangitane, Karaitiana toured locally before the outbreak of World War II.
A member of the 28th Maori Battalion Concert Party, it was sung in the desert between battles and became popular at troop concerts and at home long before it was recorded. Evoking the emotion and sadness of parting loved ones heading to war, the song appealed to post-war sentiments.
The recording was a true DIY production.  It was Dallas who hit on the idea of connecting the electric guitar direct to the recording equipment instead of using a microphone – a practice that became the way recording studios worked internationally.
Jim Carter who played the lap-steel guitar introduction to Blue Smoke, made his own five-watt amplifier, having gone to night school to learn radio technology.   With no sound-proofing and the sporadic hum of a fridge next door being clearly audible, New Zealand’s first commercial recording took nine days to capture.
Originally released in early 1949, Blue Smoke was arguably New Zealand’s first pop song – the first song wholly written, produced and recorded in New Zealand. It was also a huge hit topping the New Zealand chart for six weeks and selling 50,000 copies. It was played on radio stations and juke boxes around the world and covered by a host of international artists, including Dean Martin.
The B side of Blue Smoke featured another Karaitiana composition ‘Senorita’ – which drew a single review that it was “a gay, inconsequential trifle written by the same composer in Latin American rhythm’. (source: Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918 – 1964).
In 2001 the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) celebrated their 75th Anniversary by giving it's 3000 members and an invited academy of 100 other voters the opportunity to vote for the 30 best songs composed by New Zealanders in it's history. Blue Smoke was voted number 17.

More Williams/Karaitiana magic

After the surprise success of Williams’ first effort, she recorded a second hit for Karaitiana ‘Let’s talk it over’ in 1949.  An emotional and slow moving song about a relationship break up, it went on to sell 20,000 discs.  Recorded with the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette (the same musicians as Blue Smoke) the melody is technically more difficult than Blue Smoke, which Williams’ voice handles with ease.
Two more Karaitiana songs were recorded in 1949.  Ain’t it a Shame – a classic jazz number about lost love and regret and Windy City, a cultural classic about, where else, Wellington.

Samuel (Sam) Freedman (1911-2008)

Enter another pioneer of New Zealand popular music, composer Samuel (Sam) Freedman.
Well known for his arrangements and writing English lyrics for Maori songs, as well as for his own compositions, Maoriland was recorded by Williams in 1949. A song about the beauty and magic of post war New Zealand, it was the first of Freedman’s songs to be recorded in a career lasting right through the 1960s with more than 300 compositions. On the B side Williams also recorded Freedman’s Christmas song ‘Best Wishes’.
Today, his best known song is Haere Mai (thanks to Air New Zealand advertising)  written in 1952 possibly to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and her forthcoming 1953 tour of New Zealand.

Colin O'Connell

In 1950 Williams was introduced to Colin O’Connell who wrote two songs for her.  Recorded that same year Bell Bird Serenade is based on a folktale that when a courting couple hears the song of the Bell Bird they will marry and Sweetheart in Calico about memories of childhood love.

Karaitiana - 1950

Karaitiana moved to Dunedin with his family in early 1950 to be near his wife’s family, originally touring with Dunedin promoter Joe Brown. He soon penned two songs for Williams to record. The first, a tribute to Dunedin’s landmark Saddle Hill and ‘It’s Just because’ written in honour of the troops of K-Force departing for the Korean War.
In 1951 Williams and Karaitiana reunited for concerts at Dunedin’s His Majesty’s Theatre, and in the same year Williams went into the studios of 4YA Radio Station to record Karaitiana’s new songs with narration by radio announcer ‘Doug Harris’.  With his BBC radio voice, the inclusion of Harris's narration might possibly be considered the 1950's version of today's rap.

Two more gems

Little is known of the composers responsible for two other songs made before Williams left Wellington. Recorded with Allan Shand and his Orchestra, but not released until 1951.  Maori Rhythm, about a pakeha boy falling in love with a Maori girl and her tantalising sway, was composed by Dorothy M Vincent with lyrics by M E Purser.  On the B side Williams recorded Sailing along on a moonbeam by composer ‘Rayling’ – a lovely melody that takes you on a journey across time to a slower pace where the world was full of promise.
Information about the original recordings is as complete as possible. Please contact Blue Smoke Records if you have additional information about the composers and/or artists involved – we’d love to hear from you.

Pixie today - 2011

Pixie Williams couldn’t read music but taught herself to play guitar, ukulele, the banjo and piano accordion.  At age 73 she decided to teach herself the organ - for something to do.   After the death of her husband in 2006, Pixie left Dunedin 57 years after stopping in on her holiday for a week or two.
Today, at the age of 83 , she lives in Wellington and still loves to sing, whistle and hum her way through each day.
“Music – it’s what keeps you going through good times and bad.  It kept me sane in the hard times.  Forget the pills.  When you’ve got music in your life – you’ll be ok.” Pixie Williams
Anyone who knows Pixie, and her life, knows this to be true.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde - Book One: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso (Children's graphic Novel)

Salem Hyde just isn’t like other kids. For one thing, she’s stubborn, independent, and impulsive. For another, she’s a witch. Salem acts first and thinks later—which means most of her thinking involves coming up with excuses! Good thing she’s been assigned an animal companion, Lord Percival J. Whamsford III. This over-anxious cat doesn’t like Salem calling him “Whammy,” and Salem doesn’t like listening to his long-winded explanations as to why she shouldn’t do something . . . like enter the class spelling bee. Salem knows she can beat all her classmates at spells, no problem. Too late, she realizes the competition is about spelling words, not magic. And there’s nothing like a misspelled spell to cause all kinds of havoc! I found this book rather charming. it has the old school, quick fire wit of Calvin and Hobbs or Dennis the Menace. It reads like a simple newspaper strip, albe it in a slightly longer panel format. The story is based around a fifties retro art style, or perhaps the reinterpretation - ala Spumco (the makers of Ren and Stimpy) but the humour and wit is very clean. it would definitly suit a 10 year old - mine's read it four times to date -"Finally something decent on your Kindle, Dad!"

Together in Cyn - Jennifer Kacy - Smith Publicity -- Elloras Cave Publishing Inc - Available as a Kindle read

The teaser read like this "She knows it’s wrong. Cyn shouldn’t have feelings for fraternal twins Jared and Chris, her best friends. She shouldn’t want them to tie her up or strap her down, to take her one at a time—or together. The only way to control her taboo desires is to write them down and lock them away in her diary. Guys like Jared and Chris could never be interested in someone like her, or in the kind of sex she craves." I should have known better. With a plot sucked straight out of the middle of 50 Shades of Gray, and a style to match this book is pure Mummy-Porn all the way through. Smaltzy, gushy, romantic tripe. But some how I felt compelled to read on. The sex scenes aren't original, or too explicit, but sufficiently juicy to get a, err, rise! What weigh it down is the random waddles into self-analysis. The main character, Cynthia, is haunted by rape and bondage issues. So she chronicles them in her diary. Brothers Chris and Jared, lifelong sweetheart/lust material, and super buff to boot, read the diary ad put a plan in place to take her to their special club to help her over come (and cum) her fears of the unknown. Whilst there she is confronted and whipped and almost raped by her former boyfriend. I wont giveaway the ending, but you can guess where this is going. Clearly this is written for strong, intelligent, conservative, deviant women who want a bit of dominance with their cliché romance heroes (Mr. Darcy in leather bondage jodhpurs). However, this is not sexy, or interesting. I found it way too sickly sweet. If you want sexual arousal and a mind f**k that leaves you seriously testing your boundaries then read Anais Nin. Her work will challenge you. This, alas falls short of that standard. Oh well.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A while back we interviewed Doris Du Pont about her wonderful new book 'Black' which exspored the colour Black in the NZ fashion psyche. Doris is in charge of the NZ Fashion Museum, and this book, which toured it's first exhibition 2 year's ago was their inaugural project. The museum is now fully up and running and we here at Groove celebrate that. We invite you to take your own tour and to also refresh your minds on the wonderful book - so click here to go to the museum and here to have another read of the article. +

From @ 9:48 am Online Fashion Museum goes live New Zealand now has its own virtual fashion museum, in what aims to be the “go to” portal for a comprehensive record of the country’s fashion history. The New Zealand Fashion Museum had been planned since the creation of the Fashion Museum in 2010 and is now live, after three years of fundraising from private donors. The online museum currently features the photographic records of garments and accessories from the Fashion Museum’s prior exhibitions, as well as video footage from the exhibitions. However, as it evolves, the online museum is expected to have its own exhibition programme. The website developers, We Are Mouse, have also created the platform to allow other museums, libraries and fashion designers and individuals passionate about fashion to upload and share their own historical content directly onto the site. The user upload will enable the Fashion Museum to collect some of the oral history and living knowledge about the New Zealand fashion industry and experience that may otherwise be lost. The upload feature has only been live for a week but promising content has already been added, including a pair of suede shoes from the 1960s manufactured in New Zealand under the label Schiaparelli. “Over 100,000 New Zealanders have already been to our pop-up exhibitions. We anticipate our web reach will be considerably larger as our online museum relays information from our prior exhibitions, the digital collections, historic images and narratives and it is open 24/7,” says Fashion Museum founder and trustee Doris de Pont.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Encounters - The Creation of New Zealand A History - Paul Moon (Penguin)

I own a house, and a small parcel of land, ti which I paid the current market rate for, slap bang in the middle of an old swamp. It was once known as Aglionville. Now it's known as Alicetown, after a prominent settler, by the name of Alice. On first meeting me, people often ask where I live. They need a sense of place to locate me and everyone else on their own map of the world. Where they live, in relation to me determines their status in society, it reaffirms their own choice of location, it identifies their cultural tribe, their clique, it helps to build their identity. And every one they meet is equally assessed. This is not a Western phenomenon. Maori do it too. They talk about them selves in terms where they are from - their mountain, their river, their whakapapa. All of this helps to determine who we are as individuals and where we sit in the world.
Massey University has a TV jungle "Find your place in the world", as if potential students don't know who they are, or where they belong. Only academic study and collegiate camaraderie can suitably direct their un-positioned compasses.

American author Walt Whitman referred to the great 'Yawl!"; A concept of standing on a rock, high up in the wilderness and balling out to the trees and rivers. The American identity, he believed was encapsulated by nature, the pioneer spirit and the yearning for freedom in the wild, escaping the squalor and oppression of the cities.

Playwrite Greg MCGee charged his most famous character, Foreskin, when addressing an after match rugby function, with the most profound question in all of our literature to date" "What are ya?"
Who are we, indeed? That question of identity - real, imagined and desired is a pivotal question in Paul Moons new book "Encounters'. In his chapters, Moon explores the historical identity of our land and our people. Who were they? Who are they and what did we think of our selves as we journey through time. He looks at the Maori mythical explanations of how this country was first settled and the later misguided interpretations of European academics, with agendas of racial purity and Christian morality. He also looks at the imagined identity of New Zealand. The creation and selling of land parcels, some of which still exist today, by the New Zealand Company from maps drafted in London, never locally surveyed, impresses upon history the desires to escape the old world for the new yet reinforces the Victorian arrogance that because they were British the early settlers could just arrive and set up without any question of challenge from the current occupants.

Later, Moon tackles the question of physical geography. New Zealand's literacy tradition and it cinema of unease endlessly refers to the ways in which the land shape us. The weather, the earthquakes, the sea and the mountains all enclose and embrace us. I recently heard a comment that New Zealanders are not tolerant in large crowds, such as 2 hour queues for rides at Disneyland, because we are so use to the sparseness of population and the vast ness of open spaces. Yet at the same time it would be difficult to move far in any town or city without encountering the encircling hills, or meeting the ocean or having to ford a river. The land and its infinite natural incarceration can not be escaped. Even in the densest city areas a mountain or a river is close by and can even be seen out of the nearest window.

Finally, he looks to the future. With the resurgence of Maoritanga and Te Reo, the new respect for ANZAC day and New Zealand's involvement in the wars and our ongoing battle to 'punch above our weight' in the international arena. Almost sine the beginning New Zealand has been identified by its commercial prospects. The need to get our produce onto the pantries of Europe, Britain and now in Asia has driven innovation, inventions such as the freezer ships and milk biscuits, the electric fence and a strew of agricultural products. Yet the invention that most sums up our ongoing desire to mix history with the present, honouring the past, embracing it, repackaging it and laying it down for interpretation and identity is the Garmon GPS. This humble in car navigation device contains all the maps, place names and landmarks of our country and many others. It is a very small device yet it can identify any land parcel, any road, any street and tell you who lives there, the proximity to the township, and from that one can speculate on many things about who they are. And despite the ethereal make up of pixels and data the implicit history and identities encapsulated are real and imagined, mythical and legitimate. It is the ultimate map, and like the land always changing and always reinterpreting - just like our history.

'Throughout its human history, New Zealand has been interpreted and experienced in often radically different ways. Each wave of arrivals to its shores has left its own set of views of New Zealand on the country – applying a new coat of mythology and understanding to the landscape, usually without fully removing the one that lies beneath it.' Encounters is the wide-ranging, audacious and gripping story of New Zealand's changing national identity, how it has emerged and evolved through generations. In this genre-busting book, historian Paul Moon delves into how the many and conflicting ideas about New Zealand came into being. Along the way, he explores forgotten crevices of the nation's character, and exposes some of the mythology of its past and present. These include, for example, the earliest Maori myths and the 'mock sacredness' of the All Blacks in the twenty-first century; the role of nostalgia in our national character, both Maori and Pakeha; whether the explorer Kupe existed; the appeal of the Speight's 'Southern Man'; and ruminations on New Zealand art and landscape. What results is an absorbing piece of scholarship, an imaginative and exuberant epic that will challenge preconceptions about what it means to be a New Zealander, and how our country is understood. Lyrical, breathtaking and provocative, and illustrated with artworks throughout, Encounters offers an extraordinary insight into the beginnings of our country.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Firing up the Kindle - New books available on e-book format

Like everyone, when Kindle format came our I was sceptical.  I couldn't believe that this new tablet format could replace the wonderful tactile nature of a book.  However, having 20-odd titles on my current device, carrying around a couple of magazines and several cookbooks, I could be swayed - a little.  One of the criteria I used for critiquing the titles below was how they translate to the new format from their original paper book layout.  Some do well, some do not.

The Vogue Factor

From Front Desk to Editor

Kirstie Clements
In May 2012 Kirstie Clements was unceremoniously sacked after thirteen years in the editor’s chair at Vogue Australia. Here she tells the story behind the headlines, and takes us behind the scenes of a fast-changing industry.

During a career at Vogue that spanned twenty-five years, Clements rubbed shoulders with Karl Lagerfeld, Kylie Minogue, Ian Thorpe, Crown Princess Mary, Cate Blanchett, and many more shining stars. From her humble beginnings growing up in the Sutherland Shire in Sydney to her brilliant career as a passionate and fierce custodian of the world’s most famous luxury magazine brand, Clements warmly invites us into her Vogue world, a universe that brims with dazzling celebrities, fabulous lunches, exotic locales and of course, outrageous fashion.

Amidst the exhilaration and chaos of modern magazine publishing and the frenzied demands of her job, Clements is always steadfast in her dedication to quality. Above all, she is always Vogue.

Clements' style is an easy read. I'd expect this from a fashion editor.  Her early days could have been the template for the movie "The Devil wears Prada", the flirty chick flick starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. With that in mind, I'd expect at least a little dirt on the Gaultier.  Yet his light touch steers clear of the really serious issues.  Clements talks about how she runs interference across a variety of issues such as anorexia, exploited models, outrageous photographers and blatantly commercially minded sponsors.  None of this was new,  What I really missed was how she could have transformed the industry, or convinced designers to ditch their ridiculous notion that women with the waists of five year olds are sexy, desirable or even possible.  I really wanted an honest expose - alas I got a nice, reminiscent and slightly gushy romp through the annals of Aussie fashion industry. 

Another point that missed was Clements' laudable but incredibly isolated rise in fashion publishing.  She seems to have remained only with one journal through her entire career, and that must simply be the main reason why her views are so coloured.  Even now, Clements, who's been recently treading around the traps, promoting the her book, seems reluctant to really get stuck into the meat and bones of her topics.  She clearly doesn't want to upset her former employers.  Perhaps they might withdraw their references.  and this after a very public and un-ceremonial dismissal for a reason that still seems a bit unclear, and certainly undefended in employment law, anyway.

As I read this on my Kindle the irony of reading in electronic format was not lost on me.   “The day is fast approaching when a magazine and its website will only be full of lifts," she wrote,"promotional shots handed out by clients, and staff Instagrams. And there will be a whole tier of upper management scratching their heads, wondering why circulation is tumbling and blaming the editor.” A bleak message, that shows no optimism for any creative for publishing in the new world.  This rejects the efforts of other Aussie mags such as the free music press (Drum mag in particular) which tie in web links, audio and interactive content.  It may be true that the days are numbered for the 10 page fashion spread - but then who really believed that you could wear a $3000 ball gown and Jimmy Choos on a Tahitian surf beach anyway?

The Artisan Market (US edition)

Cure Your Own Bacon, Make the Perfect Chutney, and Other Delicious Secrets

Emma Macdonald
Titles such as Charcuterie, Artisan Cheesemaking at Home, and Whole Beast Butchery have blazed a trail in bringing gourmet deli techniques into the home.
Having grown up on the family's delicious, homemade Cucumber Relish, Emma Macdonald had the simple idea that full-flavored, quality chutneys and preserves needed to be brought to the specialty sector.
Since 1994, Emma and her colleagues at The Bay Tree, have been a key supplier of well over 150 chutneys, pickles, jellies, sauces, dressings and preserves to Britian's network of gourmet delicatessens.
Bay Tree products are carried in leading UK gourmet delis such as Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols.
Home pickling, smoking, curing is a major trend in food.
Two types of recipes are featured in this book - recipes for deli ingredients you can make yourself, and recipes for 'semi-home made' items that make use of deli-bought ingredients.
These are things you wish you learned from your grandmother, but didn't.
Contains 'before and after' photos.

I hope this comes out in paperback format in New Zealand because this American-centric take on mostly European recipes is sorely missing from the Kiwi cook's repertoire.  In recent years American food has taken a bad rap for being over-sugared-over-processed and just plain evil.  But if you think back to the Deli food promised in the TV shows of the 70's - Pastrami on Rye, Kosher food, Chipped Beef and the like then that sends you down a better path.  The Artisan Market sort of approaches that theme, although there is a distinctively new flavour.  This is the work of a commercial caterer, Emma Macdonald, who owns her own establishment, The Bay Tree which specializes in cured meets and pickles.  Yum!  The recipes here are tricks of the trade for the home cook, focussing, in the main on traditional methods with a modern twist.  Like curing your own bacon - I was impressed with how easy this was.  Rubbing smoked salt on Pork Belly is a no brained.  and it's delicious, though not cheap.  Pork Belly is one of the priciest cuts now-a-days.  As is duck.  I won't be confiting anything in the short term on this family budget. 

Mediterranean cheese, made by mixing yogurt and salt was much easier, and affordable.  And a remarkable edition to the home kitchen.  One thing that our Grannies all did was make the most of the cheap cuts and the discarded bits, like peel and egg whites, meat bones, etc.  An artisan kitchen it seems is the upgraded model.  in a world where hunting down a real butcher, taking out a mortgage to pay for the family roast and then trying to perfect a culinary masterpiece in an apartment kitchen the size of a microwave I was a little bemused at the blatant frivolousness of the recipes.  I liked the idea of undergoing a technique and then providing the recipes to use the new ingredient.  But what I didn't like was the outrageous Masterchef quality, out of season, out of store supplies required.  Once, in a simpler time, these things were a dime a dozen.  But thanks to costly, greedy, organic specialist growers, the mass blandness and exclusion of supermarket butcheries and the over bloated demand of high end Gordon Ramsay inspired eateries many of the items in this book are simply unavailable.  Where, for instance can I just pop down to my local fish mongers for a few sardines to cure in salt brine?  Really, even in the US they aren't immediately available.  Are they fresh, native?  In Arkansas? 

Reading a cookbook that was never formatted for the genre is virtually impossible on my kindle, but a little easier on the iPad and Tablet versions, which use full colour photos, at least enhancing the ttext.  Page sizing and placement goes out the window.  Recipes are cut in half or spread out between multiple screens and interspersed with large chunks of black, indecipherable squares.  I presume this was a blackboard concept, with the original text in white font over the top.  But somehow the device has misinterpreted the idea and everything is all deconstructed, like a discarded BLT at the bottom of your lunchbox.  

The book is sound, and apart from the high costs involved with some it on the whole.  Just get the Kindle formatting right, provide alternatives for the cheaper cuts and there could be a winner here! recipes, I enjoyed

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Zealand Post Book Awards

Best First Books revealed in New Zealand Post Book Awards

One of New Zealand’s oldest birds wins prize for newest talent

A book about a Moa - that has been described by judges as illuminating, entertaining and utterly original - has won the New Zealand Society of Authors’ Best First Book Non-Fiction prize in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.   We reviewed and IV'd the author a while back.   This is a great book!  Quinn Berentson’s book Moa: The life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird was singled out by the judges as one of the “best surprises of all the books we read”.
Chief Judge John Campbell said: “Think of Moa as a really great historical biography, in which almost everyone (including the bird itself) is varying degrees of mad.”

The other winners were the Poetry book Graft by Helen Heath and the Fiction book, I Got His Blood on Me by Lawrence Patchett.  I'd definitely be hunting this down!

The overall quality of this year’s Best First Books was so strong that many could easily have been finalists of the New Zealand Post Book Awards in their own right, the judges said.

The category finalists in the New Zealand Post Book Awards will be announced next week, and the winners will be revealed during a star-studded literary awards ceremony in Auckland on 28 August.  What the judges said about the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book award winners: 

Graft by Helen Heath (winner of the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book for Poetry award)

“Helen Heath is a candid poet, unflinching, both with what she sees close to her and in the mirror, but capable of great generosity too. Her mother is so beautifully evoked that we feel we know her. Some of the poems are so sad they ache. This is a brave, moving, revealing and assured collection.”

I Got His Blood on Me by Lawrence Patchett (winner of the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book for Fiction award)

“We congratulate Lawrence on his originality, his skills as a story teller, and the welcome audacity of a short story collection which ranges from playing with history, to magic realism, to a tougher kind of realism entirely: all of it somehow plausible. We can’t wait to see what Lawrence Patchett does next.”

Moa: The life and death of New Zealand’s legendary bird by Quinn Berentson (winner of the NZSA E.H. McCormick Best First Book for Non-Fiction award)

“Moa tells the extinct bird’s story in an exhaustive, scholarly and utterly engaging way. Think of Moa as a really great historical biography, in which almost everyone (including the bird itself) is varying degrees of mad. Illuminating, entertaining and utterly original, Moa is also lovingly presented and was one of the best surprises of all the books we received.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Citadel by Kate Mosse – review

The complex history of the Languedoc has proved fertile territory for Kate Mosse in her recent trilogy of adventure novels, beginning with the phenomenally successful Labyrinth in 2005, shortly to be a mini-series, and now reaching its conclusion in Citadel.
  1. Labyrinth was concerned with the Albigensian crusade and the destruction of the Cathar heresy in the 13th century, weaving historical truth with the legends of the holy grail that flourished after the final massacre of the Cathars at their fortress of Montségur.
This idea of a connection between the story of a secret Cathar treasure and the grail was given substance in the 20th century by the work of Otto Rahn, a German historian and SS officer who believed that the Cathars held the key to the grail mystery, and that the evidence was somewhere beneath the ruins of Montségur. His writings attracted the attention of Himmler, whose own fascination with the occult, and with the possible ancient pedigree of an Aryan race, led to the founding of the Ahnenerbe, a society dedicated to research into proving the historical origins of a master race.

Author Kate Mosse
This Nazi connection provides a richly dramatic setting for Citadel. The novel takes place largely between 1942 and 1944, between the occupation and liberation of southern France.
Mosse has marshalled a large cast of characters, although (as in Labyrinth and its successor, Sepulchre) the story centres around a determined young heroine, in this case 18-year-old Sandrine Vidal, an orphan living with her older sister in Carcassonne. Sandrine is shocked out of her innocence in the summer of 1942 when her life is saved by a young resistance fighter, Raoul Pelletier, just as he discovers that his network has been infiltrated by a spy, Leo Authié, working for the Deuxième Bureau, the French military intelligence agency. When a bomb goes off at a crowded, peaceful demonstration, Raoul realises he has been set up by Authié to look like the perpetrator. He goes on the run, aided by Sandrine and her sister, Marianne, who is already working with the resistance.
But Authié wants Raoul for his own purposes: Raoul is in possession of a map belonging to his former comrade, Antoine, who died under torture at the hands of Authié's henchman without revealing its whereabouts. Beneath his official guise, Authié is a kind of latter-day inquisitor, obsessed with restoring the purity of the Catholic faith; he knows that Antoine corresponded with Otto Rahn, and suspects that before Rahn's death the German passed to Antoine a map revealing the whereabouts of an ancient codex containing a secret so powerful it could change the course of the war. The Ahnenerbe are also pursuing this codex, apparently with Authié's assistance, though to their cost they fail to realise that his motivation for securing it is quite different to theirs.
As in the first two books, Mosse sets up two narrative threads progressing in parallel, though the difference here is that neither concerns the present day. Although the principal story follows Sandrine and her friends as they attempt to find the codex, while evading capture and throwing Authié and his collaborators off the scent, we also glimpse the far distant history of the region in the subplot of the codex's original journey into the mountains, in the hands of a young, fourth-century monk risking death to save the heretical text from the flames.
Though the elements of fantasy and magic require a firm suspension of disbelief (there is a whiff of Tolkien about the alleged powers of the codex), what capture the reader most powerfully are the horrors of the Nazi threat and the sacrifices necessary to survive and resist, which make Citadel feel the most substantial and mature of the trilogy.
Mosse has grounded her story in exhaustive research, as testified by the bibliography, but she wears her learning lightly, keeping the characters and their personal dramas to the fore, switching neatly between perspectives to maintain tension. She has a particular knack for creating vivid action scenes — the blood, debris and panic of a bomb attack, or a skirmish – but she describes with equal precision the small, daily hardships of life under occupation: the endless paperwork, the difficulties of communication, the twitching curtains next door. Fans of the previous two books will be pleased to find characters and themes recurring here, most notably the magus figure of Audric Baillard, the enigmatic scholar who has lived many centuries and seems to embody the resilience of the land and its people.
Citadel is a deeply satisfying literary adventure, brimming with all the romance, treachery and cliffhangers you would expect from the genre. It is also steeped in a passion for the region, its history and legends, and that magical shadow world where the two meet.