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.

A Type of Improvisation

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I J  K  L


Q  R S  T


Y  Z  1  2

3  4  5  6

7  8  9  0

A tear-off number enters another life.

Scale alters context and meaning.


A E I O U, or is it I LOVE U?

Great War

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Visit to Dunedin Public Library for the opening of the Reed Gallery Exhibition, Keepsakes: Souvenirs of the Great War.  Two thoughts:

  • Good display of ephemera from the 1915 Knox College Reunion ‘Somewhere in France’.  Special reference was made Adam Madill, the Presbyterian Minister who resigned his charge to fight in World War I.  He was killed in a raid on German trenches in France.  There’s a date to keep for 2015 at the Castle, the centenary of that event.
  • Troopship newsletters were produced by soldiers on their way to the front.  They are an unexplored source of genealogical information.  I wonder if any of my ancestors are mentioned in the collection.

Live Music at Dunedin Library – A Summary

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The amazing Nick Knox would have to be a highlight of Music Month Gig Night at the Dunedin Public Library.  The Library has other clips from the month on their YouTube channel.  The YouTube link in the screen above should take you to one of their pages.

I understand that performing at one of these venues can be terrifying for performers.  It’s well-lit.  You can see everyone.  No one is drunk in the library.  They are all sober and their focus is on you.

Not everything worked for me.  I found the simplest things worked best and kept me from thinking about wandering off to browse.  Often this was an acoustic performance, like Robin and Penelope from the Grawlixes who being as sexy as white acoustic music can be; or the three guys with two guitars from Kings College who sang their own stuff.  I don’t remember the name of their line-up.  There was Paul Cathro from Alizarin Lizard who seemed to be singing the same themes in six different songs.  He didn’t create a repartee with the audience like others managed but I still enjoyed listening.  The rap artist Arcee put on a London accent and pulled no punches with her profanity.  She made me blink several times.

Maddy Parkins-Craig from Some Other Creature may have got the best line with about a broken-down relationship: “The American Congress is gonna make more progress than us”.  Graeme Downes had some great working titles: “Too Old To Grow Up”, from a mutual interview with Shane Carter, and “The Fascist Boys Are The Snappiest Dressers”.  Kira Hundleby got in before the Library to thank them for having us all in their place.  Applause all around.

Back again next year?

Music Month at the Library

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Music Month 2014My first night at this event.  People were already present by twenty past five and waiting for the show.  First on was Martin Philipps from The Chills.  He was singing new stuff, not covering his old stuff.  It wouldn’t have mattered to me as I’m not familiar with his song-book.  It was all good and there is a new album in production for the end of 2014.  We were asked to keep any recordings of tonights performance private as not to pirate what he is preparing.

This was followed by two young bands.  They had exchangeable members.  I thought Iron Mammoth was the more interesting front: three skinny guys, two beards, a Hammond, drums, a glockenspiel and a cornet.  I see the programme describes them as “indie trio with a touch of carnivale”.  I picked up on the fairground/carnival influences in their sound.  It was dark-edged and chirpy, and foot-tapping stuff.  They were fun.  People gathered to listen and sat down for more when they were finished.  They were the last act for the evening.  Wait another week and see if Wednesday’s and Thursday’s programmes bring more good sounds.

There was a discussion on National Radio earlier this week, “Do we still need Music Month?”  Dunedin Library’s Live Music During May was cited as something that draws out an audience.  I’m glad to see it going again this year, providing us with an opportunity to get and enjoy some public entertainment.

Listening to The Night Circus on Playaway

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A friend recommended the Dunedin Library’s Playaways to me.  Playaways are audio devices that come with the recording built in as hardware.  Presumably each of them has one book.  As I walk a lot between my bedsit in town and my workplace in the archives in the suburbs then borrowing these from the library would provide me with a diversion while I’m walking.

It is one of the curiosities of my life that at the moment when most people are walking into the central city to work and attend the university I’m walking against the flow for the same reason.  Then again at the end of the day we reverse the flow to walk home for the night.

I find listening to a book restricting.  It becomes more linear.  I don’t go back and check the detail of a passage a few pages back.  I stop when I reach my destination and resume it again when I start walking again rather than finding a natural break in the narrative.  Nevertheless I enjoyed the stimulus of listening to the flow of words and missed it the day I left it at home.  This raises the fear that I will lose the company of my own imagination.  Where is my own story-telling in my head?  It did not disadvantage my own safety when I was walking.  Other pedestrians surprised me more than the traffic did.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was the first playaway I have tried, a romance about dueling wizards in a travelling circus.  The story was carefully dated so it took place in the nineteenth century, culminating on All Saints’ Evening 1902.  The story is written independently of historical events and personalities so it could have happened at anytime, no mention of imperialism, social change, or epidemics; no princes or presidents cross the stage.  The story is written from the perspective of ‘upstairs’.  There are no servants, no word from ‘downstairs’.  An impresario stages fabulous midnight feasts.  We are told no word about the catering, or their opinions of their service.  In the end he dismisses all his servants except his kitchen staff.  Not a happy ending for them perhaps?

Likewise the circus travels by train from each location.  At one point we are told the tents pitch themselves ‘by magic’.  The circus performers never notice that the original workers are gone.  Presumably their contracts had ended.  The circus travels between continents, Europe, America, Australia and China are mentioned.  It is not mentioned if the train crosses oceans.  It would be nice to know if this is done by magic.  The detail is not raised.  One character is a fortune teller from Barcelona.  I could not tell from the story whether she was Catalan, Spanish or migrant.

The epilogue makes it clear that the circus continues.  It would be interesting to know if it continued to remain self-contained through the ugly ages of the last century.  It would be nice to think that its magic aided people to escape the darkest hours.  Perhaps this story is not big enough for me.  The battles between good and evil still take place in our world.

Tomorrow I shall be walking inside my own head.  Until I find another Playaway to which I want to listen.  I wonder if the library has a non-fiction selection?

Hobbit Spotting

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This is the week that was.

Dave went back to Invercargill.  He dropped me off at church which saved me some time.  When he got home he joined the Facebook group for Brithenig words that I have started, bringing that community to 13 people, of which half I can identify.

I added some reference points to the invisible city of Lamborough.  I wondered how one character would get from South Shore across Lamborough Harbour to the Weather Downs in the hill country of Big Sharkey.  I realised that I knew enough details to travel the distance in his car: across the Harbour Bridge, then over the Tava River, turn back south until he reached Hundred Road which would take him out of the city.

On Thursday I went to the Gig Night at the Library.  I had mixed it together in my head and expected gothic ukelele. A four piece band played original pieces about the Transit of Venus, coffee and the carousel cowboy.  An alternative group did Talley Ho! and a synthesizer had me leaning forward to hear some interesting harpsichord.

I was at work for the last day for our reseach archivist.  We went to the ministry common room so she could say farewell to all who met for afternoon tea, one last time.

The cold nights have given me a cough that is slow in going away.  A harbinger of the winter to come.

I have collected my mother from the bus station.  You can hear her in the background.  My hat went off for adventures.  Fortunately the taxi driver brought it back.  She has found my collection of Arthur Mee titles on my bookshelf.  I have Golden Year, One Thousand Beautiful Things, The Children’s Bible and Talks for Boys.  She has One Thousand and One Everlasting Things and the volumes of the Encyclopedia at home which I hope to add to my collection.  She will look out for other titles at the book sale in Invercargill.

Bow to the Fiddle

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Any one who knows me will know that New Zealand Music Month is not significant in my liturgical calendar.  It was mentioned that one of the staff at the Castle was performing tonight.  As well as a couple of other artists that I wanted to see.  It was early in the evening with rain arriving later.  I chose to go.

The title above was given to the Gig Night: A quartet of local bands celebrate the feisty, fickle and soulful power of the strings.

First up a tall skinny rat emerged from the book shelves and Alan Star Rat serenaded us for half an hour of violin music without a break except where the audience broke into applause.  I’m sure there was some use of distortion that caught my ear at one point.

Second Catgut and Steel, a duo, long-term supporters of Music Month at the Library, playing on guitar and violin.  I guess Jason would approve of this use of ‘cat’ for playing folk and retro.

Julian Temple and Alex Vaatstra up next, again guitar and violin.  Julian Temple has a voice like gravel at the bottom of a coal-mine, Alex Vaatstra proved that he could use a violin to match and compliment that singing.  I didn’t think I had enough money on me at the time for a CD, although I want one!  They ended with the nightmare  song Who is Bazil if the Devil’s Daughter is his wife?

Unfairly Humboldt County had to follow them.  Their music was sleepy and laid-back at the end of the evening and the audience was drifting away.  Perhaps they would have been better appreciated if they had been earlier in the line-up.

Caxton Press: The Art of Ordered Plainness

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Consideration of the reader makes an ordered plainness the first, and sometimes the last requirement of typography.

Denis Glover, 1941

The opening of this display in the Reed Room of the Dunedin Library began with an address by Noel Waite.  Caxton Press began with a group of students at Canterbury University who wanted to start a typography club in the 1940s.  The University approved, but withdrew that approval when their first issue hinted at things that students do together when they are not supervised.

Leo Bensemann

Denis Glover was the editor of the Caxton Press and he was joined by the designer Leo Bensemann, an “artist of sorts”.  (There’s a pun there apparently.)  Typography is about points. (Usually 12 point!)

Designo (Italian, if I heard it correctly) is the emergence of the idea from the blank page, aided by fantasia, arte and scientia.  Everyone designs who creates preferred situations out of existing ones.