Thursday, March 31, 2011

School holiday ideas for parents: 5 books chocker block full of ideas or activities you can do as a family

List by Tosca

"A three year old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm.
- Bill Vaughan

This is true! As a child the best activities mum organised were the ones that cost next to nothing, usually ideas she'd gotten out of books. We forever had those 'Things to do on a rainy day' kind of books around the house. Considering my mum had eight children and seven of them were always underfoot, I don't know how she handled school holidays and stayed sane. I don't ever remember being idle, though. I have memories of mum arranging daily activities to keep us busy which is probably why now, as adults, we try to do the same with the nephews/niece. Every school holiday each of my sisters (and mum until she moved away - wait, was this *why* she moved away?) agrees to take the kids for a day and entertain them. How you choose to spend that time is wholly up to you. I tend to go one of two ways: throw money at it and take the kids to Kelly Tarlton's or the Auckland Zoo and ooh and aahh over creatures and generally run screaming through the grounds (you've probably seen me and didn't even realise it) OR put a bit of thought into it and draw up a day of activities and crafts. The last few years have seen the return of books that advocate retro family fun - the kind of fun we had as kids before technology took over: hopscotch, charades, magic tricks, gift-making, fishing, and so on. For the next few days leading up to the school holidays I'll be recommending books that will give you some great ideas for keeping the kids busy. Today's post is a collection of books that focus on crafts and activities you can do with dad, with mum or as a family. They're also books that I'll be using for my day with the kids. Wish me luck. I may need it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

5 of Harlow's poems that made me want to dog-ear the pages of a library book (although I resisted)

List by Tosca

"Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry."
- W.B. Yeats

I'm an inveterate dog-ear folder of pages. Not because I'm intentionally destructive (although some ardent bibliophiles may argue otherwise). Maybe more because when I connect with a book emotionally I feel as if I have to create some obvious landmark that says, 'Epiphany here!' Once I've finished reading the book in its entirety I tend to go back and re-read the marked pages and try to figure out why I had such a lightbulb moment. Sometimes the reasons aren't always so clear why some lines strike a chord and others don't. I had lots of those moments when reading Michael Harlow's The tram conductor's blue cap. So much so that narrowing down my selection to 5 wasn't so easy. So many passages, if not the entire poem, came to life for me. This is a whimsical post and I make no apologies for my flights of fancy. Here I do little more than share the titles of 5 of Harlow's poems that struck a chord with me although I couldn't begin to tell you why.

Monday, March 28, 2011

5 things I never knew about animals until I read 'Why?' by Lila Prap

List by Tosca with lots and lots of fantastic animal links by Danielle

"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms."
- George Eliot

At least once a year Mr 7 and I take a visit to the zoo and we spend the whole day watching animals and talking about where they come from. It's a yearly trip we both look forward to. No matter how many times we've been, though, there's always so much more to learn about animals. While browsing the shelves downstairs in Manukau Library I came across a book that taught me five things I did not know about animals - Why by Lila Prap - that I shared with Mr 7 just last night seeing as how we're already planning our next visit. I'd imagine there are tonnes more facts I don't know about animals but this is certainly a great place to start and, even better, the facts aren't too technical. This post is little more than my chance to share five facts about animals I never knew until now.

About a year or so ago Danielle put together a fantastic top 5 list of 'Rumble in the Jungle' themed library resources for a school holiday programme. The resources are just as useful now as they were then which is why I've added them below. There's such a wide range of choices that we're sure you'll find something to enjoy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top 5 New Zealand cookbooks

List by Barbara

Please note: This top 5 list has been transferred across from our Manukau Libraries website.

"The biggest seller is cookbooks and the second is diet books — how not to eat what you've just learned how to cook."
- Andy Rooney

Writes Barbara: The books below are for people like me who avoid the kitchen like the plague if they can possibly help it. Just quietly, I know exactly how Barbara feels :-/

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Top 5 girlie books that men will probably never read (unless it's to prove me wrong on purpose)

List by Tosca

Please note: This top 5 list has been transferred across from our Manukau Libraries website.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
- Jane Austen, Pride and prejudice

An article I read a while ago (and have never been able to find since) discussed the gender differences in fiction selection. Women, it seemed, would read across a variety of genre by both male and female writers. A lot of women also commented that during troubled times in their lives they were able to find solace or guidance from a book. In fact, when interviewed, most women said the book that helped them the most during their lives was Jane Eyre, followed just as closely by Pride and Prejudice.

Men, on the other hand, did not see a link between fiction and life choices. A clear theme was that men preferred stories with a strong narrative, so much the better if it included an intellectual struggle. Another point of interest - and I'm not so sure this is a male trait so much as it is a human trait - is that when men would find an author who they identified with, they would use them as a literary guide. They would also read other authors that this particular one cited or quoted.

Something I try to do is re-read books that made a huge impression on me at least three times in my lifetime: as a child, as an adolescent, and as an adult. Each time I get something new out of it. It must be a girlie thing, then, because the article tells me that men do not do this. A book that was painfully important at puberty would, apparently, seem overly sentimental later, thereby spoiling the experience.

In short, women like touchy feely books, and men aren't looking for instrospective characters. A huge generalisation! The list below is all my own - ones that I've used as experiments and tried to foist off on male friends and brothers and had thrust right back.

We'd appreciate our male readers telling us what they would or wouldn't read, either from the list below or at all. So leave us a comment today!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 5 crime fiction debuts I enjoyed because they were murder most foul done so well

List by Tosca

Please note: This top 5 list has been transferred across from our Manukau Libraries website.

"Thrillers are like life—more like life than you are ... it's what we've all made of the world."
- Graham Greene

I'm an armchair detective at heart, whether it's tv series or books I fancy myself as Sherlock Holmes. Only with rings, bracelets and a pair of pink tartan shoes. There are a number of crime fiction series that I enjoyed following at first, only after a while they became formulaic, and I carried on reading them for no other reason than loyalty. But sometimes...sometimes, a debut novel comes along and reminds you of how it should be done.

The books below are all debut novels that made rather a big impression on me for various reasons.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Top 5 nonfiction books I've enjoyed thumbing through for NZ Book Month

List by Tosca

"Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me."
- Anatole France

EEK! This published before I even had a chance to finish it properly LOL Cursed technology :) It's a quick list of NZ nonfiction titles I spotted by chance and really, really (I can't stress *really* enough) enjoyed. From fish to holidays to museums to baches...

Honourable mention:
  • 101 must-do weekends edited by Renée Lang - 101 great suggested weekends away in different parts of the country, divided into 10 broad themes. Whether you're into history and culture, or prefer to concentrate on food and wine, you'll find the perfect weekend here.
  • Baches of Raglan edited by Venetia Sherson, David Cook, Andrea Wilkinson ; foreword essay, Bery Fletcher - "This is a book about Raglan's older baches. Many were built in the "boom years" of the 50s and 60s when thousands of Kiwis invested in a bit of land by the sea; others are much older and have been handed down through families with long connections to the Raglan community. Built of wood, concrete or firbrolite with iron roofs, they remain largely unaltered. Their owners have no interest in granite bench tops, polished concrete floors and tinted glass" - Publishers blurb
  • Baches & cribs : a pictorial journey through New Zealand's favourite holiday places by Jeff Grigor - Fishing shacks at river mouths, beloved family hideaways at the beach or on a remote rocky shore, follies perched precariously on cliff edges, converted railway carriages, mountain huts above the snowline... The Kiwi bach or crib is likely to be a very long way from SH1, have a fantastic view, perhaps not even have electricity - and be regarded as paradise by generations of a New Zealand family. This colourful book is made up of photographs of their favourite baches and cribs supplied by ordinary New Zealanders. Often under threat from local councils and spiralling land values, some of these baches and cribs are now being torn down. This book is thus an invaluable record of an iconic New Zealand way of life.

  • Top 5 New Zealand titles

    List by Josie
    'Though methods of warfare have changed, the military machine remains essentially the same; and the record of my own battle against that machine, on behalf of my fellow humans, is therefore relevant to this time also.'
    ~ Archibald Baxter, Preface to the 2003 edition of 'We will not cease'

    Another in our series of posts celebrating New Zealand Book Month, here we present Josie's favourite NZ titles of all time. Josie works in the South Auckland Research Library as an Assistant Reference Librarian.

    Top 5 Kiwi cookbooks

    List by Rachel (wongrae)
    'Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.'
    ~ Harriet Van Horne
    Rachel, a Customer Services Advisor at Botany Library, is also a frequent and fabulously entertaining reviewer on the Manukau Libraries website - have a looksee through her reviews of cookbooks, scurrilous romances, fashion tomes, rock chick bios and more...

    Top 5 motorbike journeys

    List by Tosca

    Please note: This top 5 list has been transferred across from our Manukau Libraries website.

    "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
    - St. Augustine

    About four or five years ago I read and watched 'Long way round: chasing shadows across the world' by Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman and Robert Uhlig and it struck a chord. The idea that two men, both of them actors, decide to travel the world on motorbikes with a camera crew seemed like a crazy trip - but I envied them the freedom to be able to make that decision. At the heart of it this book is about two guys who always dreamed of riding around the world but this memoir also manages to entertain and inform at one and the same time, and allows readers to get a frank and honest look at life on the road in all its exhaustion and glory.

    Which got me thinking, what other great books do we have about people who head off to see the world on two wheels...?

    We'd really like to hear from you if you know of books that would fit this theme and, if you've experienced your own two wheeled odyssey, leave a comment and tell us about it :)

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Top 5 best picture books of 2010 according to Huffingpost.com that I will be testing on Mr. 7

    List by Huffingpost.com

    "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
    — Emilie Buchwald

    I don't know much about children except that some of them like peanut butter and some of them don't. Weirdly, that has not stopped kids from liking me. My mother thinks that it's probably because I see them as mini-adults with quite distinct personalities of their own and, as a result, never talk down to them when really it's more that I really just don't look them in the eye and then they won't know that I'm afraid and/or don't know what I'm doing. I taught Mr. 13 and Mr. 12 to read and write by the time they were 4 years old and it was a hassle free process. Mr. 7...not so much. In fact, we tend to argue about what he wants to read versus what I want him to read. Quite heated discussions, too. Choosing picture books for my nephews has been, over the years, a hit and miss event anyway, only these days it's been more miss than hit. Mr. 7 trusts me to pick his nonfiction books but not the 'fun stuff' (as he calls it) and so my 'methodology' havers somewhere between letting him run crazy to choose whatever he wants and feeling like I should pick 'quality' books every now and then. Sometimes, though, to stop feeling like I'm being a neglectful aunt with next to no rules or boundaries, I will deliberately hunt up a few lists and see what other people are recommending as good, solid reads where the images and the text work well together. And Huffingtonpost.com think that they have such a one :) Is it? I'm not sure yet, I've only just requested the books. Assuming Mr. 7 sits still long enough I may find out. I live in hope eternal...

    Honourable mention
  • City dog, country frog by Mo Willems
  • Dog loves books by Louise Yates
  • Other goose : re-nurseried, re-rhymed, re-mothered, and re-goosed by J. Otto Seibold


  • Top 5 New Zealand non-fiction recommendations

    List by ex-Manukau Research Library and Central Services staff

    'For me each day starts with the same ritual - drawing the curtains and gazing out to sea, often for just a split second, or, if I'm lucky, for a minute or two. I find it's like checking on a friend...'
    ~ From 'Go fish', by Al Brown

    Like the New Zealand fiction recommendations, the 5 books below are the favourite picks of local library staff, and really only just a drop in the bucket of great NZ titles... they aren't so much a 'Top 5' as a sampler platter of the 'Top 1' for each of the staff who responded. Non-fiction covers so much ground, so we've got biographies, gardeners, grandmas, an artist and a chef, as well as an award-winning sharing of traditional teachings and local history.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Top 5 Irish actors we argued over for this top 5 St. Patrick's Day post

    List by Jolene, Natalie and Tosca

    "If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough!"
    - Irish Saying

    Happy St. Patrick's Day! My favourite day of the year, when I worked at the Manukau Library branch, was St. Patrick's Day - all day long you were guaranteed to have Irish customers pop in to email home and, if there's one thing I've always loved, it's an Irish accent. This post is little more than a quick St. Patrick's Day salute :)

    Late yesterday afternoon three of us were kicking around the idea of an Irish-related blog post that, somehow, got derailed. One thing we absolutely agreed on was that it should be about Irish actors. Once we'd named Liam Neeson - and argued about Gerard Butler's national identity (he's Scottish - who knew?) - we ran out of names. A quick Google-fu session later and we had a whole heap more. What we couldn't decide on was which actor belonged at what number. Some *very* intense discussion later, it ended up somewhere around here:

    Jolene: And Michael Flatley!
    Tosca: What? He's not an actor! *adopts scathing tone* He's a dancer.
    Natalie: He's Lord of the Riverdance.
    Jolene: He's more than a dancer! And I think he should be on this list.
    Tosca: No. He's not an actor. And anyway, riverdance is synchronised swimming without the water.
    Jolene: *silent for a moment* Fine. I'm making my own list and it'll be called 'MY top 5 list of naff Irish people that Tosca wouldn't let me put on her list including Westlife and Michael Flatley.' *smug look*

    For the sake of the list we haggled and bartered and traded and, generally, argued rather loudly (poor Tony who has to sit in our open plan office). And finally we had our list of top 5 Irish actors (with links to some of their films we've enjoyed).

    Top 5 hardcover fiction bestsellers for March 10 according to NPR.org

    List by NPR.org

    "A good book is always on tap; it may be decanted and drunk a hundred times, and it is still there for further imbibement."
    - Holbrook Jackson

    Quick and simple list that will, hopefully, help you if you're stuck for ideas for what to read next in the way of bestselling fiction.

    Honourable mention:
  • The help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Room: a novel by Emma Donoghue
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
  • When the killing's done by T. C. Boyle
  • Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy


  • Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    Top 5 NZ fiction recommendations

    List by ex-Manukau Research Library and Central Services staff

    'I have always known that in another life I was - or will be - a dolphin. I am a pink human, caught in a net of ambition and years of hard work. In a few minutes I will dive into artificially turquoise water waiting at my feet. A minute later I'll either be ecstatic or a failure.'
    ~ From 'Alex', Tessa Duder

    In honour of New Zealand Book Month, I put out a call for votes for top reads by New Zealand authors, and here are the favourite fiction picks from my neighbouring librarians. I decided not to number them because I would have had to have asked the librarians in question to duke it out for rankings (though I have a sneaking suspicion that Jolene's passion for the Alex quartet may have taken out top spot, so's you know)...

    Top 5 reads for my NZ Book Month challenge

    List by Tosca

    "No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting."
    - Mary Wortley Montagu

    I don't read a lot of NZ authors as an adult. As a child, yes. As a teen, absolutely. As an adult - very, very few. If I see an NZ sticker on the spine in the library I tend to wince and move on. The 3 most recent NZ books I read were Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, The 10pm question by Kate de Goldi and Ruined: a novel by Paula Morris and those were well over a year ago. It was while reading 'Ruined' that I realised I'd become an NZ-book bigot and, really, my reason for being so wasn't good enough: I don't identify with a lot of NZ books. Which sounds totally daft because, as some of you know, I edit our romance newsletter and there's no way in Hades I identify with a Greek gazillionaire tycoon nor an impossible virgin secretary. Maybe, then, it's that I identify too much with NZ characters. I don't read romance stories with Maori or African-Americans because the character voices - and the possibilities - would feel too much like I was looking into my sibling's backyard. That would strike too close to home. And I think I'd prefer to have it all one giant step removed.

    A year or two ago I set an NZ book challenge and lost focus halfway through. This year I plan to step outside my comfort zone (or maybe step back into it, I'm not totally sure yet) and pick 5 books across kids, teens and adults (fiction and nonfiction) and read them all for this year's NZ Book Month. The hardest part of setting this challenge has been choosing the books. Remember, it's been years since I've really read anything NZ-ish that hadn't been picked by our branch book club so I had no clue where to start. In the end I looked up a mix of book award finalists and winners from the Montana Book Awards,NZ Post Children's Book Awards and the NZ Post Book Awards - and so I offer up a jumbled mishmash of all.

    I'm already partway through my Top 5 NZ Book Month challenge and, so far so good! Touch wood it stays this way. This month could either be really interesting. Or really awful. I'm about to find out. There are no re-reads on this list - everything is a first-time read for me. Almost as if I were an impossible virgin secretary about to meet a Greek gazillionaire tycoon but yet not.

    Top 5 best comic book movies according to Metacritic.com

    List by Metacritic.com

    "In the right hands, comics are an excellent medium for revealing character with a few concise words and lines."
    - Michael Berry

    Mum and dad both encouraged me to read comics. It wasn't anything they specifically said so much as it was that they read comics themselves and would then pass them on to me. I grew up reading Peanuts, Little Lotta, Hagar the Horrible, Asterix and Archie and Jughead. In fact, if I remember right, I had a crush on Archie and wished desperately that he would choose Betty over Veronica :) Even at 7 I was looking for the romance angle in a book. That's slightly disturbing and yet sickly sweet at one and the same time. While both of my parents read comics much like Spider Man and Superman I stuck to the kiddie fare and never really ventured outside of that. Years later, as an adult working in libraries, I decided to make a tentative foray into graphic novels...and was blown away by the content, the art, the darkness and most of all, the depth of the stories. My problem, though, is that there are far too many to choose from. I am constantly spoilt for choice. A little bit of time surfing for book recommendations made me ask myself, 'What are the best and the worst comic book movies?' Which was a crazy question to ask because, hey, it's all subjective. One quick and dirty Google-fu session later I managed to find a list on Metacritic.com that, roughly, appealed. So, here are the top 5 best comic book movies according to Metacritic.com :)

    Honourable mention:
  • The dark knight
  • A history of violence
  • Iron man
  • Akira
  • The crow


  • Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Top 5 hardcover nonfiction bestsellers for March 10 according to NPR.org

    List by NPR.org

    "To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list."
    - John Aikin

    There are easier ways to choose books, I assure you! You can ask library staff - we don't bite, we're relatively friendly and, even better, we love to talk about books - or you can do what I do: try a variety of reputable websites for 'what to read next' ideas. In this instance, I visited NPR for a list of possible nonfiction reads. These days I'm mostly about fiction (and romance fiction at that) so I apologise to the non-romance readers among us who would prefer something with a little more literary weight. Et voilà! Here are the top 5 hardcover nonfiction bestsellers for March 10 according to NPR.org.

    Honourable mention:
  • Life by Keith Richards with James Fox
  • Townie by Andrew Dubus III
  • The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Autobiography of Mark Twain. Volume 1 by Mark Twain, Harriet Elinor Smith, Benjamin Griffin
  • The information : a history, a theory, a flood by James Gleick


  • Monday, March 14, 2011

    Top 5 books that I read as a child and have never been able to re-read since because they were too scary or too darn sad

    List by Tosca

    "I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."
    - Anna Quindlen, Enough Bookshelves, New York Times, 7 August 1991

    Ever since I was a child I have realised that my attachment to characters in books was probably not normal. I'm not talking about literary crushes on characters such as Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth. In that respect I am sure I am wholly normal. I'm talking more about having so much of your personal energy invested in one character (or a group of characters) that you feel every twist and turn of the plot as if you were living it with them. Every hope and every hurt is yours, too. And then there are the storylines that so creepily scary that you think the best defense is to read it quickly and never touch it again. But, as with anything else, out of sight doesn't necessarily mean out of mind. These are the top 5 books that I read as a child and have never been able to re-read since because they were too scary or too darn sad.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Top 5 top grossing movies that never hit #1

    List Box Office Mojo

    "Why should people go out and pay money to see bad films when they can stay home and see bad television for nothing?"
    - Samuel Goldwyn

    The interwebs is a beautiful, terrible thing, no? In the space of five minutes I have seen many strangely hilarious and disturbing things that no person should ever see. The upside to that is that I've also got lots of notes for ideas for future posts such as 'Top 5 worst comics into film' and 'Top 5 Keanu Reeves movies somehow not ruined by Keanu Reeves' (thank you AV Club for this one!) and 'Top 5 movies of 2010 that I had to watch twice before understanding them' and 'Top 5 best books into film' and even 'Top 5 songs from the Pasefika Collection cd' :) This list, however, is a nice simple list! I accidentally ended up at Box Office Mojo's site cruising through their list of movies that never quite made it to #1. It doesn't mean that they were bad movies, by the way. Well, except perhaps in the case of the Alvin movies...

    Honourable mention:
  • The day after tomorrow
  • Dances with wolves
  • A beautiful mind
  • Chicago
  • Casino Royale


  • Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Top 5 new book covers and titles that caught my eye on a sneaky visit down to see cataloguing staff

    List by Tosca

    "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it."
    - Oscar Wilde

    I heart new books! I've often been told that to admit that makes me sound terribly naive. To be honest, I don't care if it does. When I was first interviewed for a library assistant position 8 years ago with Manukau Libraries I was asked, 'Why do you want to work in libraries?' and, like a true hick, I replied, 'Because I love books.' And I do, I really do. It wasn't long though before I realised that, even better than indulging my own love of books, I was able to help others do the same. I enjoy face-to-face readers' advisory with customers. There's something particularly satisfying about seeing people make connections with books. It's the one reason I've stayed in libraries so long. These days I don't work at a branch customer service desk like I used to so being able to recommend books through this blog and via some of the eNewsletters I edit is the icing on the cake of my job, and I live to take ten or fifteen minutes out of the day to skip down to visit cataloguing staff and raid their trolleys for ideas. I'm conflicted, though. I'm not quite sure which gives me the greatest kick: the new books trolley or seeing staff :) This list is little more than my most recent 'DO WANT' list for pretty covers and/or quirky titles.

    Honourable mention:
  • Nostradamus & the third Antichrist : Napoleon, Hitler and the one still to come by Mario Reading - totally made this list for the title alone

  • Friday, March 11, 2011

    Top 5 authors, dvds, musicians, songs and tv series that remind me of Trace

    List by Tosca

    "No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow."
    - Euripides

    On 11 March 2009, staff at Manurewa Library lost a much loved friend and colleague to cancer. I remember the day we received the phone call. I remember what we were all doing. Most of all, I remember that we were numb with shock and pain and grief. It was a heartbreaking and devastating blow for all of us. This post is nothing more than a chance to remember a friend.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Top 5 most requested titles for February 2011

    List by Danielle and Natalie
    "Popularity is the one insult I have never suffered."
    ~ Oscar Wilde

    New titles by best-selling authors take up the majority of places on our list this month, rather than the books-into-movies heavyweights which often take out top spots. Speaking of which, if the recent Oscars made you curious enough to check out some of the books behind the hit films, here are some handy links:

    True grit /Charles Portis
    The accidental billionaires : sex, money, betrayal and the founding of Facebook / Ben Mezrich(The basis for 'The social network')
    The King's speech : how one man saved the British Monarchy / Mark Logue and Peter Conradi(also have a look at Natalie's History and Current Events eNewsletter which discusses this film and King George VI)
    127 hours: between a rock and a hard place / Aron Ralston
    Winter's bone / Daniel Woodrell
    Rabbit hole / David Lindsay-Abaire

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Top 5 good childhood reads by Kiwi authors

    List by Danielle

    "At the same time, I think books create a sort of network in the reader's mind, with one book reinforcing another. Some books form relationships. Other books stand in opposition. No two writers or readers have the same pattern of interaction."
    ~ Margaret Mahy

    NZ Book Month, salutations!

    Things were pretty great for a budding fantasy reader in the 70s and 80s. Treasured and much re-read titles on my bookshelf included Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, Tanith Lee's Companions on the Road and East of Midnight, Richard Adams' Watership Down, and a battered old ex-library copy of Diana Wynne Jones' The Power of Three. Alongside mostly British fare, Kiwi authors also provided some of my favourite childhood fantasy reads, as well as the less fantastical tales that gave me recognisable settings and characters I could relate to, as I lived through their adventures with them.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Top 5 tv clowns whose serial killer tendencies confirm why I will forevermore be scared of clowns

    List by Tosca

    "And where are the clowns?
    Quick - send in the clowns
    Don't bother - they're here."

    - Stephen Sondheim from 'A Little Night Music.'

    I've never liked clowns so the above lyric always seemed more like a threat that killer circus clowns would take over the world rather than the song of irony and regret it seems to be. With an imagination like this I'm never lonely! Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns but, seriously, what's not to be afraid of? They're creepy and monster-otherworld looking. I don't have coulrophobia. What I do have, though, is a very healthy, albeit somewhat irrational, dislike of clowns. I can remember when I first became scared of them - years ago my parents took me to see a circus and I remember being afraid of the too bright clothes, the orange wig and the too wide smile that looked like it ate children for dinner. Soon on the heels of that, my love affair with the tv series Little House on the Prairie ended abruptly when Laura, my idol of the time (I was 5 or 6 - don't judge me) had to dress as a clown (season 6, episode 5). I felt so betrayed. An episode of David Soul's Unsub series (1989) featured a child-killing clown (which sure as Hades didn't engender any warm and fuzzy feelings) but the final crushing blow came when Brian Dennehy, an actor whose work I'd always liked (yes, even as a kid) played John Wayne Gacy (1992) and ensured that my intense dislike for clowns was set in stone. Any tv episode where they're the bad serial killer just confirms why they scare me and I live for the moment they get their just desserts at the end, whether it's an arrest, surrendering, being exorcised, opting for death by cop or, even better, having it's huge inanimate head used for target practice by a hot FBI agent. Welcome to my silly list of top 5 tv clowns whose serial killer tendencies confirm why I will forevermore be scared of clowns.

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Top 5 favourite Elvis Presley movies

    List by Tosca's dad, introduction and comments by Tosca

    "Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together."
    - Elvis Presley talking about the way he moves on stage (1956).

    My main reasons for coming to Taipa were to visit dad in hospital and to reassure myself that my parents had settled in ok to rural living. My maternal grandfather is from Kaitaia so in some respects this was a kind of homecoming for me. I may not come back often but I do consider the far north home. My parents had decided to relocate here permanently about a year ago. It wasn't a total surprise as mum had been dividing her working life with half weeks both in Auckland and in Kaitaia for the last three years. During our stay we learned how dad had ended up hospitalised and it made for a pretty harrowing tale (in short: falling in the Mangonui harbour, passing out, floating under a boat and being dragged aboard by fishermen). No time is a good time to be faced with any family member's mortality and yet, in some ways, it's been a really good trip. Over the last few days dad and I have had some good talks, some even greater silences and, better yet, have re-discovered a mutual love of Elvis movies. Where our tastes differ is that dad enjoys all of Elvis, including the hype and the tacky jumpsuits and the Las Vegas days, and I'm just a fan of his early films and music. This list is nothing more than dad's top 5 favourite Elvis DVDs. Or at least, top 5 that match what he owns and what our libraries hold :)

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Top 5 films nominated for The 31st Annual RAZZIE® Awards Worst Picture 2010

    List by Tosca

    "Only thing worse than watching a bad movie is being in one."
    - Elvis Presley

    And Elvis would know, right? Not to diss the man because I enjoyed his music even if I didn't understand the hype but, for whatever reason, he sure had his share of bad movies. If there's one thing I've learned about people's tastes when it comes to film, it's all subjective. One man's eww is most definitely another person's ooh.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Top 5 songs from iTunes 'Vocal' top ten list that are oldies but serious goodies (although two only half-so but that's my personal opinion)

    List by Tosca

    "Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."
    - Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name

    I'm getting old. I know this because earlier today while browsing iTunes I finally found music I recognised lumped under the rather innocuous heading of 'Vocal.' Vocal. What does that even mean? I suspect it's code for 'way too old to even be categorised so let's choose some inane and inoffensive term.' Well WIN if that's the case >.<