Friday, August 15, 2014

The CoffeeBar Kid Talks to Author Maria Gill

New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame

Lots of NZ sports people are WORLD champions, superstars of their time, men and women famous for their strength, speed, agility, endurance – and their capacity to win!
Meet 25 sporting heroes and discover what it is that makes them succeed. Join Maria Gill as she relates the stories, outlines the training programmes and details personal milestones. Stars of rugby, netball, soccer, cricket, hockey and league feature here, along with outstanding track and athletes, a swimmer, equestrian eventer, and sailors.
Marco Ivancic's remarkable illustrations capture the winning style of each sports person.

The original New Zealand Hall of Fame won the Children's Choice Award for non-fiction at the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards, was shortlisted for the LIANZA library awards and was a 2012 Storylines Notable Book.

Click here to Listen:

Cardboard Cathedral - Shigeru Ban

A temporary building that is loved by people – even one built with mere paper – can become permanent. I sense that this monument in Christchurch will be loved and used by the citizens of New Zealand for a long time to come. – Shigeru Ban

Rising from the ruins: Shgeru Ban’s temporary structure speaks hope after the disastrous Christchurch earthquake.  The earthquake that hit Christchurch on 22 February 2011 resulted in 185 deaths, and entered New Zealand’s history as one of its worst catastrophes. It was also a tragedy for Japan, with 28 Japanese nationals among the dead, the largest national group after Kiwis.

In Christchurch’s inner city an innovative and symbolic structure has just taken shape: a ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ to stand in for the historic building devastated by the earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011. Signalling the beginnings of renewal in the CBD, the cathedral is the first new civic building completed since the quake and is built to last forever.

Shigeru Ban, its designer, is a world-class architect and expert in disaster-zone building – and the new cathedral is his largest post-disaster structure to date. In essays, building plans and specially commissioned photography, Shigeru Ban: Cardboard Cathedral tells the story of this remarkable feat. Originally conceived as a temporary building, its construction involved design challenges, structural innovations and community involvement; and the finished, now permanent structure seems set to become an enduring symbol of Christchurch’s revival.

So it's appropriate that a Japanese architect should have some input into this project.  While the grey haired traditionalists all argue the toss about restoring a decrepit, damage stone monstrosity on an unstable foundation, wanting the past to return they miss what's right in front of them  Hope.  Christianity, if nothing else has tried and truly succeeded to reinvent itself in the face of adversity.  The old Cathedral represented an architecture and a culture that was our past but cannot be sustained in our future.  Christchurch's Cathedral was a fine building but it represented all the xenophobic snobbery brought down under by English immigrants who were running away but just couldn't unshackle themselves from the proud scum of England and all the inappropriate and transformed ideas from the mother country.  The building from the UK was highly inappropriate, as the earthquakes have now proved. 

In steps Shigeru Ban, an architect whose self manifesto was to design buildings for us, the people, instead of those with money.  His entire philosophy came from helping those in earthquake stricken and flood zoned countries.  Early bombastic work gave way to cheap, sustainable project in China, after severe damage.  His modus operandi is to focus on what recycled or local materials can be used.

Moreover, Ban brought in the idea, to conservative ostrich-headed Christchurch the idea of a temporary building as both a art exhibition and a response to a need.  The question of whether enough people would ever turn up to use the Cathedral seems to have been overlooked.  But that aside a unique opportunity for Christchurch to have a series of revolving designs, constantly changing, presents itself.  This gets around the issue of bad architecture remaining forever, as other cities can attest.

I've been to this building.  It's amazing.  It captures exactly what a church should - atmosphere, light and sound.  Why waste money on a dark and dingy construct hat simply represents oppression and colonialism when a revolving door of new designs could offer.  If you've ever been to the Christchurch art gallery, then you'd know what a cool space can be like.  Christchurch, I predict will have many more of these.  They deserve to have.  Ban's book is something of a bible, in it's own way, telling the story of hi career, his ambitions and those moments when he realised how good design can give life.  In a small way I'm jealous of the container mall because of the inspired innovation, the way that simple materials and simple ideas can achieve so much more than the overpriced, bland corporate abortions that litter our urban landscapes. 

If innovation is begat from necessity then bring it on.  Ban shows that a good design is good, no matter what materials are used.  This book will help you understand that.

The Keeper of Loast Causes - Jussi Adler-Olsen

The crime thriller movie, the first in a series based on Jussi Alder-Olsen’s Department Q bestsellers, has grossed close to $8 million in local release so far.  This is the book that gave you the film. 
Director Mikkel Norgaard’s The Keeper of Lost Causes stars Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Angels & Demons) and Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty) as detectives running a cold case division in Copenhagen. 
Prolific writer and sometimes director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) penned the screenplay to Keeper of Lost Causes.
Keeper of Lost Causes is the first in a franchise based on the bestselling Department Q novels by  Jussi Alder-Olsen.  The second instalment, The Absent One, which Norgaard is also directing, is currently shooting for a Fall 2014 release.
The current state of the art in the thriller and mystery genres puts me in the mind of the United States in the early 1960s, when The Beatles were introduced --- for the third time, actually --- to American listeners and became phenomenally popular. They were followed by The Dave Clark Five, The Searchers, The Rolling Stones, and a whole bunch of other groups (an early version of The Moody Blues, The Hollies, and does anyone remember Ian & The Zodiacs?). A similar thing is happening now, with the staying power of the Stieg Larsson books. Sure, Nordic crime novels have been popular here before (THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN, SMILLA’s SENSE OF SNOW) but not quite like this, with so many at once and so very well done. There is a deep backlist of books by a considerable number of authors awaiting translation, enough that those of us of a certain age might be kept busy until the end of our days reading them.
Jussi Adler-Olsen is one of those authors just now being introduced to American audiences after writing award-winning works for Nordic audiences for over a decade. His first few offerings were solidly in the thriller genre; THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (originally titled WOMAN IN A CAGE), the first in his Department Q series, was published in 2007. Three have been released since then in Denmark, so we have some catching up to do here. And believe me when I tell you that we will want to do so, if THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES is any indication.

This is a very character-driven series, centered on a brilliant but physically and emotionally damaged Copenhagen police homicide detective named Carl Morck. As the book opens, Carl has just returned to work after a disastrous incident involving a police ambush in which one officer was killed, another permanently paralyzed, and Carl scarred inside and out. He was almost impossible to work with before the ambush, yet is too smart and clever a detective to totally remove. A government grant gives his superiors the opportunity to make him a member of Department Q, the Danish equivalent of the Japanese window tribe: he is given an office in a basement and a bunch of cold, all but closed, case files to work with from all over Denmark.

Carl is also given Assad, a Muslim immigrant as a sort of undefined secretary/custodian/assistant. Little does anyone, including Carl, suspect that Assad, for all his quirks --- cultural and personal, among others --- is at any given time one of the smartest people in the room. Assad, in fact, at times steals the book away from Carl, either by accident or by design.

Still, there is that pile of cases. One of them concerns Merete Lynggaard, a popular but controversial political figure who disappeared into thin air some five years previously and has been presumed dead. Lynggaard, of course, is alive, though not very much so. The narration moves back and forth between Carl and Assad, who, over the course of a few hundred pages, develop a (somewhat) finely-tuned working relationship, and Lynggaard, who has been kept captive and tortured for five years in a secret location. There are ticking clocks within ticking clocks here, none of which Carl and Assad are aware until the very end.

Along the way, Carl balances a prickly personal life --- a stepson who needs a boot up the posterior, a quirky tenant, and a wife who won’t get a divorce but won’t live with him, either. Meanwhile, Assad has secrets upon secrets about his life before Denmark, which may or may not be revealed at some point in the future. Hardy, Carl’s paralyzed colleague, also plays a role in the proceedings, perhaps as somewhat of a nod to Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme. Throw in some extremely antagonistic relationships involving Carl and his fellow officers, and you have a riveting, addicting read.
If you come to THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES expecting a puzzling mystery, you will not find it here. I am hardly the sharpest blade in the drawer, but I managed to puzzle it out almost immediately. And that was fine. The dark joy is the journey and the traveling companions, good, bad and indifferent, who undoubtedly will appear in future volumes of the series. Hopefully we will see the already existing volumes much sooner rather than later.

The Thrill of it all by Joseph O'Connor

At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets the elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérèse Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past.

Spanning 25 years, The Thrill of it All rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter. Infused with blues, ska, classic showtunes, New Wave and punk, using interviews, lyrics, memoirs and diaries, the tale stretches from suburban England to Manhattan's East Village, from Thatcher-era London to the Hollywood Bowl, from the meadows of the Glastonbury Festival to a wintry Long Island, culminating in a Dublin evening in July 2012, a night that changes everything.

A story of loyalties, friendship, the call of the muse, and the beguiling shimmer of teenage dreams, this is a warm-hearted, funny and deeply moving novel for anyone that's ever loved a song.

O'Connor is one of the best writers on the planet right now.  He's clearly a music geek, so he's won me over already and this is a great, fun to read.

So hat have we got?  A fictional rock memoir - unusual, challenging beast, and I think O'Connor pulls it off.  A major part of the appeal of music memoirs is the name-dropping, the 'war stories' and of course esoteric trivia that every music fan wants.  Main character Robbie Goulding supports Brian Wilson, drinks with Elvis Costello, visits Patti Smith at her hone.  Of course in your own head you know that never happened - because he doesn't exist. But as a fictional, vicarious avatar to the inaccessible world of musical magic kingdom it's a was into through the portal usually reserved for A-listers and the occasional Rolling Stone Journalist.. 

O'Connor's deep Irish roots are both a great asset and an occasional handicap.  The spectre of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments will always haunt this.  You cant deny that one.  He doesn't wear his Irish culture lightly, and sometimes it's a simple crutch and a cheap gimmick. 

Howeverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, this is the wonderful, playful and inventive book - the use of language which springs from Ireland's bilingual culture is employed to devastating effect.- O'Connor is a maestro who wrings unexpected depths from the English language - like Hendrix squeezed God's very soul from his guitar. 

Anyone who enjoys rock will like this.  And it's a change from the usual suspects like Tom Stoppard, etc.  I loved this one and you will too.  TwaaaaaaaanG!!!!

Tom Clancy's Support and Defend by Mark Greaney

Like the assassin-dodging, terrorist-disrupting protagonists in his cliff hanging spy books, Tom Clancy defies death and outsources himself from the grave.  This is the second novel to land since the authors passing a little over nine months ago.

Mark Greaney is prolific in the spy/espionage genre.  He]s technically teamed up with Clancy on three prior works/  Same presence different person, I guess.  It's the same tense storytelling, special forces-trained characters, and highly detailed descriptions of military stuff, personalities and protocol's.  The same spy-geek of the earlier Clancy books.  It's got the same mojo that hooked millions ever since the debut The Hunt for Red October.

This new one is part of the so-called Campus series, starring  Dominic Caruso, nephew of Jack Ryan, the CIA-Op-turned-U.S.-president who's Clancy’s most famous character.  Here Caruso carries on the family business of bashing baddies - in his case, a rogue ex-U.S. intelligence officer armed with a microdrive of diplomatic secrets. 

It's a bit kitsch to expect spies who are action packed and gun toting, when we know the American intelligence industry  is eternally exposed by the likes of Asange and Snowden, et al.  Still a book about a bunch of suited pen pushers is not exciting.  This one, on the other hand is!  It's pulse-racing a military suspense, well-paced, clean written, and competently told.  The plot never slows. The casual Clancy reader will likely find it largely indistinguishable in style or effect from the Clancy novels of yore.

Which, of course, is the point.  Clancy’s first posthumous novel, Command Authority, also written with Greaney, selling over 303,000 copies (Nielsen (NLSN).  I'm pretty sure Support and Defend will achieved the same.