Hobbit-spotting 13 June 2016

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I’m a month in to living at my new flat, for which I’ve taken out a mortgage.  So far, so good.  Nearly everything is set up as I would want it.

This weekend, visits from Southern Dave, and from my mother.  Dave was here two nights, he has secured my bookcases to the walls.  He was here for the Regent Theatre’s 24 Hour Book Sale.  This year I left the sale with only two books: The Maestro, by Hoffnung; and The Algebraist, by Banks.

Mum was here for Turandot, the Metropolitan Opera performance at the Rialto Cinema.  My new couch is now more colourful with a blanket throw and cushions from Mum and family in Invercargill.

I went to the volunteers meeting for the Midwinter Carnival, which is this weekend.  I visited the Public Library on the way back, just in case the books I had been looking to borrow from there were in.  They were.  I am set up to spend time reading for the next month, in the comfort of my own home.  All good.

The Flag Referendum II, and books

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In a week the flag referendum changes, the stalemate is broken by the Green Party pushing through an amendment supported by the National Party to add Red Peak to the first referendum.  The flag referendum has become a wheelbarrow issue, that is, every one is pushing it in the direction that they want it to go.  The reptiles in charge of the country have decided to re-brand us in an exercise that I don’t find is nation-building.  The prime minister wants this to be his legacy when he leaves office.  That he remade us in his image.

When I get my papers for the first referendum I will make my choices.  I will be voting Red Peak and the Koru flag.  If Red Peak makes it through to the second referendum I will be voting to support it.  If it doesn’t I will vote for status quo.

I’ve finished some books from the library and returned them.  I think London Falling by Paul Cornell suffered for being his first book.  His training for writing has been scripting for television and comics.  The books I have read by people coming out of those fields have been okay, if the characters felt flat and unrounded.  The characters did not come alive, instruments of the plot.  No later books on the shelves but I will continue with the series when I see them.

The Water Knife by Paul Bacigalupi was a grimmer book, a near future dystopia where the ancient aquifers of North America have run dry and the continent is turning to desert.  One by one the individual states of America are failing.  They are closing their borders.  Texas has fallen, Arizona is failing, and Nevada and California are in a hot/cold struggle to claim the last of the spoils.  Bacigalupi pushes his characters to the edge, every effort to survive just leads to greater disaster.  It’s grim reading because his science is feasible.  This is where the trends are taking us.

I added one book to my reading.  After the reading the suggestion that Arkady and Boris Strugatsky are writing about civilisations that could become the early days of what would become Iain Bank’s the Culture, I sent a librarian on a search of the stacks to bring back Hard to be a God, the first title of their works that the library holds.

Hobbit Spotting

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We began retreat last weekend with a crowd breaker exercise.  Everyone wrote down one thing the rest of the group didn’t know about them.  I wondered what I wanted to share about myself.  I wrote ‘father was a linesman’.  They were read out and we guessed which one around the circle.  Mine was one of the last.  I was asked if he fell from grace.  Yes, he did.  He had a stroke, or something similar, while up a ladder and fell to his death.  This was back in the 1980s when I was still at school.  I did not regret sharing it.  As I have said elsewhere I do not mourn my dead as much as I take joy in remembering them.  I was happy to talk about dad and would have said more.  An honoured memory.

On the book front, I have finished Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch.  It was an entertaining read, a diversion about the police department that deals with the magic side of the city of London.  I will look out for Moon over Soho, the next in the series.  Currently I’m reading London Falling, a darker book by Paul Cornell, again about London police, and a much darker occult.  For the first 80 pages the characters seemed to blur and slide in my reading, they didn’t have distinct voices in my head.  Now the story has kicked in and the magic begins to get more interesting.

I’m currently working on translating some sentences from Maori Language Week into Brithenig.  While it is topical I want to have a go at the poem Home, by Warsan Shire.

Hobbit Spotting

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A friend read my blog and asked me where I was.  I’m across town in an old house halfway between Columba Collge and the green belt.  It’s an old character house.  This is a nice way of saying it could be warmer,.  The owners are away until the end of the month on a tour across Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.  Mostly cathedrals.  Every so often I see a little photo story from St Magnus in Orkney, Petersborough, Ely or Jarrow.

It could be warmer, especially today with spring snow in Dunedin.  The days are getting earlier in the hypernotides, the islands beyond the south wind.  I wake up to the cold blue sky of the pre-dawn.

Also picked up some books from the library that I have been waiting to read: Rivers of London, the first in the series by Ben Aaronovitch about the wizarding and supernatural cops of that city.  The protagonist, new cop Peter Grant, is a little slow.  I worked out about 100 pages ahead of him that the big bad he is hunting is a popular sea-side puppet anti-hero, who just happens to be on the cover!  I am enjoying reading the magic training classes Grant is doing, so far making balls of light, levitating apples, and now up to casting fire balls.  I haven’t read this kind of description in a while.

The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi, is sitting on my dressing table. I’m getting through it more slowly, only my second chapter in.  It’s a different kind of fiction.  I have set Saints of the Shadow Bible aside while I work through the library books.

At work I have swapped Poems by Iain Banks and Ken McLeod for McLeod’s Descent. It was a mutual swap for titles the other had not read.

After looking at the dictionaries again it looks like ill pasedig a weddir will remain the word for boarding pass.

Home Interiors

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Acoustic TerritoriesI have been reading Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life by Brandon Labelle.  It grabbed my attention in the University Library’s new books and I took it home to read further.  His chapter, Home, interested me for laying out ideas that affect my understanding of my own identity.

In our homes we cultivate our privacy and individual identities.  Migrant and vagrant lives are apposite to home life.  They are homeless, happening outside our walls.  Our material boundaries create the safe space where the domestic rituals of our lives happen.  Since the Nineteenth Century home has become apposite to work.  Work happens in a different domain.  Noise from outside invades our homes.  The sound culture of our neighbours invades our lives, especially those who have not divided their lives as we have.  It becomes classist, the clash of different sound-scapes; they should not allow their work and their music to intrude into our peace.

So how do I construct my identity within and outside the boundaries I set myself?


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And that was the Easter that was for 2015.

A visit over the long weekend down to see my mother in Invercargill.  I tried to do some tidying up at home.  A bit Grimm’s Fairy Tale.  Once I had filled the rubbish bin there was not much more I could do.

Stayed with Southern Dave again and did a bit of family catch up.  At the last moment I rummaged through the shelves for something to take with me and pulled Hellboy: Oddest Jobs edited by Mike Mignola from the shelves.  It proved to be an excellent anthology of short stories to travel with.  The constant figure in these stories is Hellboy, a monster, a demon, a constant indefeatable champion for humanity.  They were a delight to read, and I would like to track down the earlier anthologies Odd Jobs and Odder Jobs.  I’m sure that they will have the same taste for comic book horror and superheroes.

I returned from Invercargill with loot, Southern Dave found me books:

  • Light in Dark Isles, by Alexander Don, NZ Presbyterian book on mission to the New Hebrides in 1918, lots of period writing
  • By Love Serve: The Story of the Order of Deaconesses of the Presbyterian Church of NZ, by J. D. Salmond, another one for my Presbyterian bookshelves
  • Spirit in a Strange Land: a selection of New Zealand spiritual verse, edited by Paul Morris, Harry Ricketts & Mike Grimshaw.  Excellent to have my own copy of this, my original thoughts on looking at this collection, some years ago, was that NZ poets view religion with a powerful hermeneutic of suspicion. I will be interested to see if that sense is still dominant in the collection.
  • Enduring Legacy: Charles Brasch, patron, poet and collector, edited by Donald Kerr, another book about Brasch for my collection at Manono House.

From mum, an easter egg and and a jar of relish from the Centre Street Dairy; and from my sister in law, a selection of Mama Jo’s Homemade Jams and Pickles: apricot, black berry, gooseberry and mixed berries jams, and capsicum and mango relish.  I have some serious sampling to do!

John Buckland Wright: Engraver and Book Illustrator

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This week’s lecture was Dr Christopher Buckland-Wright hosted by the Centre for the Book talking in Dunedin about his father John Buckland Wright, a New Zealand-born illustrator active in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

John Buckland Wright was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, before the turn of the Twenthieth century.  The Wright family of Redroofs had been one of the founders of the Wrightsons firm.  The family left New Zealand after the death of his father and settled in England.  Wright was educated at Clifden College in Bristol and at Rugby School.  His education was interupted as an ambulance driver in the Great War.  At the end of the war he returned to his studies at Magdelene College at Oxford and at the Bartlett School of Architecture.  His vocation was not in architecture and a grand tour of Europe took him to Europe where he joined with Alexander Stols in the creating and binding of the ideal book.  He worked in copper plate images moving from straight lines into swirls and curves.  In 1933 a crisis of confidence stopped him in his work.  He moved away from copper engraving, experimented with oil painting, and then into wood engraving.  He had a contract with Golden Cockerill Press that produced 14 books between 1936 to 1952.  During the Second World War Wright and his wife fled Europe from France, one step ahead of the advancing German forces.  Back in London he worked on a series of illustrations for Endymion.  Wright’s book, Etching and Engraving: Techniques and the Modern Trend remains a standard in its field.

He died suddenly in 1954 aged 56.  During a thirty year career Wright was producing a new design on average one per week.  Much of it was on the female human form.  He delighted in retaining sensitivity to the female model.

Pervigilium Veneris Plate 9, by John Buckland Wright.

Pervigilium Veneris Plate 9, by John Buckland Wright.

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