Road Trip of the Weird & Wonderful!

There’s nothing like a road trip to bring out the strangeness in a country: the oversized fruit; the abandoned houses; the mysterious side-roads that go who-knows-where. But if you choose carefully–or have help from your local librarian–then the same feeling can be created with books: the sense of being in between, or out of time, or unhooked from the everyday world.

That’s where this blog comes in! Join us as we travel across America, stopping at seven weird, wonderful, scary and strange sites, from New England to California and a few places in between. Along the way we’ll recommend a selection of titles that create a similarly peculiar feeling. Read on to begin!


Bread and Puppet Theater, VT

What: Politically radical puppets and sourdough bread
Where: Just outside Grover

Born in the midst of the anti-Vietnam War protests, the puppets of the Bread and Puppet Theater have loomed over crowds since the 1960s. Their giant faces and stilted legs have become one of the key symbols of American counterculture–but where do they go when they retire? To this barn, of course!

Related Readings:

The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff — What kind of life would you lead if you’d been trained to be a living mannequin?

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion — Suffering from writers block, Joan Didion sets off to the heart of America’s counterculture.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene — Written in 1955, The Quiet American predicted America’s role in Vietnam throughout the ’60s and ’70s.


Centralia Coal Fire, PA

What: A small town perched upon an everlasting fire
Where: North-west of Philadelphia

There are several theories about how a fire began in the tunnels beneath the coal mining town of Centralia, but when a 12-year-old boy almost fell into a fiery sinkhole in his backyard, one thing became certain: the town would have to be abandoned. Today Centralia has fewer than 5 residents, and is the inspiration behind the Silent Hill series.

Related Readings:

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer — Area X has been sealed up for over three decades, and has a strange influence on anyone who enters.

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson — The book that broke the romantic notion of life in small town America (and the traditional structure of the novel).

The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick — 2000 feet above sea level lies Denniston, a tough, West Coast coal mining town for those with something to escape.


Fury 325, NC

What: The world’s best steel roller coaster four years running
Where: Carowinds Amusement Park

Have you ever wondered what goes into making a roller coaster? In the case of the Fury 325, the designers took inspiration from the hornet–not just the insect, but also Charlotte’s reputation as a “hornet’s nest of rebellion” during the American Revolution. (For the record, the Fury 325 is the fifth tallest roller coaster in the world, with a top speed of 153 km/h!)

Related Readings:

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal — There are just 50 years before Earth becomes uninhabitable, but for pilot Elma York, the first challenge will be convincing people that women should be allowed to fly.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe — Did you know that when NASA was preparing the first manned space flight, they wanted to use trapeze artists? (But settled on test pilots instead.)

Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather — A convent of nuns (and a living space ship) tackle the theological and physical dangers of a post-war solar system.


Creation Museum, KY

What: A museum where dinosaurs and humans co-exist
Where: Petersburg, Kentucky

It’s not often that a museum opens to protests, but that’s exactly what happened at the Creation Museum in 2007. With a focus on young Earth creationism, the Creation Museum has displays showing the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs, and drew 800,000 people in 2017. (By comparison, in 2015/16 Te Papa had 1.7 million visitors.)

Related Readings:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — A dying reverend writes a letter to his six-year-old son about the strange wonders of the world and his place in it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman — The book (and TV series) that asks the question, “What happens to gods when people stop believing in them?”

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin — Baldwin weaves together race, religion, sexuality and family in this seminal–and semi-autobiographical–work.


Iowa State Fair, IA

What: One of America’s largest state fairs (and home of the Butter Cow)
Where: Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines

With its carnival rides, butter sculpting and delicious deep fried foods (cookie dough in a waffle on a stick, anyone?), the Iowa State Fair is a Midwest institution. And every four years it’s also the place you get to see presidential hopefuls vie for votes while trying to eat deep fried oreos–never easy.

Related Readings:

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter — The life and times of Sophie Fevvers, a winged woman who tours with a circus to the far reaches of Siberia.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury — Did you know that Ray Bradbury’s inspiration for writing was a magician named Mr. Electrico who told him to “Live forever!”?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern — When magicians fight, giant dreamlike circuses are the result. ‘Twas ever thus.


Neon Museum, NV

What: Where Las Vegas’ neon signs go to die (and be resurrected)
Where: Las Vegas Boulevard

When you think about visiting Las Vegas, stopping at a museum isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But the Neon Museum–or Neon Boneyard, as it’s often called–isn’t an ordinary museum! Scattered across the campus are signs from some of Vegas’ most well-known historic casinos and motels, including the Sahara, the La Concha and more.

Related Readings:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson — No matter what you do in Vegas, chances are it won’t rival what Hunter S. Thompson got up to (which is probably a good thing).

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky — Did you know that Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler to pay off his own gambling debts?!

The Power by Naomi Alderman — When women gain the power to emit electrical currents through their fingers, the world is changed forever.


Winchester Mystery House, CA

What: Secret passages, mystery doors, staircases to nowhere…
Where: San Jose, California

If you were designing a house for ghosts, and you had an unlimited budget, you’d probably end up constructing something like the Winchester Mystery House. Built between 1884 and 1922, the house was designed to appease (or escape) the ghosts of all those who had been killed by Winchester rifles. Pop in and have a look around…

Related Readings:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson — Did you know that The Haunting of Hill House is one of several novels influenced by Winchester House?

The Amityville Horror by Jay AnsonThe Amityville Horror is supposedly based on true events, but has caused a lot of controversy!

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes — A body is found in a Detroit tunnel. The top half is human, but the legs are those of a deer.


Black Lives Matter: Fiction & Film Resources

Omaha, Nebraska, 1915. A young postal worker named George Johnson quits his job to found the Lincoln Motion Picture Company with his brother Noble. Just over a year later the brothers have moved to L.A., where they go on to make six films before winding down in 1923. Today, the Lincoln Motion Picture Company is recognised as not only America’s first all-black movie production unit, but the first to “showcase African-American talent in the full sphere of cinema.

Two years after the closure of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, another series of stories exploring the black experience in America is being assembled, this time in print. They emerge not from the Midwest but New York, in the pages of The New Negro: An Interpretation, under the editorship of Howard University professor Alain Locke. The New Negro will go on to become the key text of the Harlem Renaissance.

Film and fiction have been two particularly powerful mediums for exploring the black experience in America since the work of the Johnson brothers over one hundred years ago. Below you’ll find a selection of contemporary films and novels that continue this exploration, including the award-winning works of Spike Lee, the genre-expanding novels of M.K. Jemisin and the experimental movie-making of Cheryl Dunye. For equally powerful non-fiction examples, visit our Black Lives Matter: Non-Fiction Resources blog.


FICTION

Sing, unburied, sing : a novel / Ward, Jesmyn
“Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Nickel boys : a novel / Whitehead, Colson
“Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. But one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife. Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’ But fellow inmate Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Such a fun age / Reid, Kiley
“Alix is a woman who gets what she wants. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler in their local supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping. Alix resolves to make things right, but both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about each other.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The fifth season / Jemisin, N. K
“This is the way the world ends…for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Red at the bone / Woodson, Jacqueline
Red at the Bone opens with Melody celebrating her 16th birthday at her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Melody’s mother never did get her own 16th birthday party, and therein lies a tale of two families separated by class, ambition, gentrification, sexual desire, and unexpected parenthood.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 


FILMS

The Watermelon Woman
Year: 1996
Director: Cheryl Dunye

Watch the full film here.

“Cheryl Dunye plays a version of herself in this witty, nimble landmark of New Queer Cinema. A video store clerk and fledgling filmmaker, Cheryl becomes obsessed with the “most beautiful mammy,” a character she sees in a 1930s movie. Determined to find out who the actress she knows only as the “Watermelon Woman” was and make her the subject of a documentary, she starts researching and is bowled over to discover that not only was Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson) a fellow Philadelphian but also a lesbian.” (Kanopy)

Fig
Year: 2010
Director: Ryan Coogler

Watch the full film here.

“Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Black Panther), Fig is a this sympathetic look at the life of a working class mother, a prostitute named Candice wants nothing more than to provide a good life for her daughter Kyla. One night that she is unable to find a babysitter for Kyla, Candice takes her to the corner where she picks up johns and leaves her in the car. When Candice is with a john, Kyla is found alone by the police and is taken into emergency foster care. When she finds out, Candice does everything in her power to convince the social worker in charge of Kyla’s case that she really does love her daughter very much.” (Kanopy)

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus
Year: 2014
Director: Spike Lee

Watch the full film here.

“Spike Lee’s stylized thriller Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is a new kind of love story. Dr. Hess Green becomes cursed by a mysterious ancient African artifact and is overwhelmed with a newfound thirst for blood. He, however, is not a vampire. Soon after his transformation he enters into a dangerous romance with Ganja Hightower that questions the very nature of love, addiction, sex, and status in our seemingly sophisticated society.” (Kanopy)

NZ Music Month: In Conversation with Ruby Solly!

On her Facebook page, Ruby Solly describes herself as someone who writes things, sings things and plays things. While true, it doesn’t take much work to discover that this description doesn’t quite capture the scale–or success!–of Solly’s recent projects, publications and accomplishments.

For starters, Solly (Kai Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a music therapist, having recently graduated with a Master in Music Therapy from Victoria University (read her thesis here!). She’s also a taonga puoro practitioner, composer and role model at the Conversation Collective.

Solly’s poems have been published in The Spinoff, Landfall, Sport, Orongohau/Best New Zealand Poems 2019 and more, and her recent article in e-Tangata, Being Māori in Classical Music is Exhausting has brought increased insight into the attitudes and privilege within New Zealand’s classical music community.

This blog is also being written during New Zealand Music Month, so it wouldn’t be right to forget her musical achievements, including playing with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Whirimako Black, Trinity Roots and The New Zealand String Quartet. She describes her current project as music that reflects “my connection to the land I live on and the ancestors that passed through here”.

Anyway, all that is just the tip of the iceberg. For more–including what she’s been up to during lockdown–check out our conversation with her below. Solly also performs two fantastic poems: “Arrival” and “Six Feet for a Single, Eight Feet for a Double.” Enjoy!

2020 Ockham NZ Book Awards: Fiction & Poetry Winners!

The results are in: the winner of this year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards is debut author Becky Manawatu with Auē!

Manawatu (Ngāi Tahu) was up against big names, including Elizabeth Knox, Owen Marshall and Carl Shuker, but managed to emerge victorious with a story about the death of an orphaned boy that has been described as an “immense, deep and powerful work” and has been compared to both Once Were Warriors and The Bone People. Check out an exert from the novel here or reserve a copy here!

Also victorious last night was Helen Rickerby with How to Live. Rickerby won the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry, beating out Anne Kennedy, Steven Toussaint and Ashleigh Young. How to Live is Rickerby’s third collection, and has been described as “lucid, uplifting, provocative, revealing, acidic, groundbreaking“.  Have a listen to ‘How to Live Through This’ from How to Live here, or reserve a copy of the collection via our catalogue!

Watch Becky Manawatu read from Auē:

Watch Helen Rickerby read from How to Live:

#StayAtHome Film Festival: Susannah’s Horror Picks

If you are looking for some scares and chills to take your mind off the real world, then consider these five horror features on Beamafilm. From classic early black and white German cinema, to a Chinese epic, and an Australian contemporary film, there’s lots to sink your teeth into!

(Not a library member yet? No worries! Simply sign up here and then check out Beamafilm and Kanopy, our fantastic film streaming services.)


The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Year: 1920
Length: 75 minutes
Director: Robert Wiene

Watch the full film here!

As the Beamafilm synopsis describes: “Two men on a park bench discuss the story of Cesare, a sleep-walking circus performer under the control of the murderous Dr. Caligari. But all, of course, is not quite as it seems.” Often cited as the first true horror film, this is the quintessential example of 1920s German Expressionism in its use of symbolism, and symbolic acting. This black and white silent classic uses non-realistic sets, costume and makeup to portray the characters’ emotional states, exploring mental illness and madness.

Discover More:

Combined Search: Did you know that the script for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was based on the wartime experiences of writers Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer? Learn more about this fascinating film via our eLibrary Combined Search!


Nosferatu

Year: 1922
Length: 93 minutes
Director: F.W. Murnau

Watch the full film here!

Nine years before Bela Lugosi’s legendary portrayal of Dracula, Max Schreck starred as the Dracula-inspired Count Orlok in the German Expressionist film Nosferatu. Although the filmmaker’s tried to avoid copyright infringement, it was close enough to the source material for Bram Stoker’s widow to sue and have the original prints destroyed. It is also known for the addition to the vampire mythos that sunlight is lethal to vampires. This 1922 black and white classic of silent cinema is a masterpiece of atmosphere, and its influence can still be seen in popular culture nearly 100 years later.

Discover More:

OverdriveNosferatu may be one of the first works to be influenced by Stoker’s Dracula, but it’s definitely not the only one! Explore Dracula, Dracula’s Guest, Anno Dracula and more via Overdrive and Libby.


M

Year: 1931
Length: 110 mins
Director: Fritz Lang

Watch the full film here!

Director Fritz Lang’s other classic film (the first being Metropolis, which is also available on Beamafilm), and his personal favourite, M deals with the unpleasant subject matter of a child killer in Germany 1931. The title “M” is short for mörder, the German word meaning murderer. Beautifully shot in black and white with sound, and once again part of the German Expressionist movement, this is regarded as one of Lang’s finest films, and one of the best German films ever made. It features one of Peter Lorre’s most famous roles before he fled Germany and went on to achieve international fame in Hollywood in films such as Casablanca.

Discover More:

Mango Languages: Did you know that director Fritz Lang made films in both Weimar Germany and also as part of the Hollywood system? Check out his German language productions (without the need of subtitles!) with a little help from Mango Languages.


Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame

Year: 2010
Length: 123 minutes
Director: Hark Tsui

Watch the full film here!

Not strictly a horror film, although you will find it under that category on Beamafilm, this is also an action/mystery/historical film with horror and supernatural elements. Set in 689 A.D in China, Detective Dee is called back from exile to investigate a series of fiery deaths. Featuring lots of acrobatic fighting, lavish sets, and special effects, it was so popular it has since spawned two prequels. This will appeal to anyone who is a fan of Netflix’s Korean series, Kingdom.

Discover More:

Dragonsource: Did you know that our eLibrary includes Dragonsource, a database with hundreds of Chinese language magazines in both simplified and traditional Chinese?


The Babadook

Year: 2010
Length: 123 minutes
Director: Hark Tsui

Click here for the full film!

This Australian contemporary film is about a solo mother struggling to raise her son on her own. One day she finds a disturbing storybook called “Mister Babadook”, only the story and the monster within seem to want to come out of the page. The title, Babadook is an anagram of ‘A bad book’. Debut director Jennifer Kent has created a powerful film that explores the monster that is depression and loneliness.

Discover More:

RBdigital: Want to know more about the latest horror films? Check out magazines such as Empire, Hollywood Reporter and Total Film via RBdigital!

#StayAtHome Film Festival: Hannah’s Travelling Picks

Travelling introduces you to new places, new people and new cultures. However, as the world has gone into lockdown and travelling is at a standstill the only way to travel safely is vicariously through film. Thanks to the magic of film you can be transferred to somewhere outside of your bubble. Here are some films that incorporate travel and discovery that take you to France, Turkey, Spain, China, Australia and America. These films can be accessed on our wonderful streaming services Beamafilm and Kanopy!


Faces Places

Year: 2018
Length: 89 minutes
Country: France
Directors: Agnès Varda and JR

Watch the full film here!

This film is simply wonderful and is a real joy to watch. It follows the iconic film director Agnès Varda as she teams up with artist JR. They go to rural parts of France in a photobooth van and take photos of locals to print off on a massive scale to paste onto the side of buildings. They travel to small villages which is great to see as they go to places that you wouldn’t think to visit. Every local they meet is friendly and has a story to tell. It makes you appreciate the importance of listening and learning from people.

Agnès says, she wants “to meet new faces and photograph them so they don’t fall down the holes in my memory” which I can relate to as I take photos of everything as a reminder. There is a joyful playfulness to this film but there is also melancholy as Agnès wonders “if everyone that she meets will be the last”. This film celebrates and embraces life as they both marvel and wonder at every aspect and it makes you realise you need to appreciate life.

Discover More:

Beamafilm: Find out more about the artist JR by watching Inside Out The Peoples Art Project.

CIA World Factbook: Find out facts about France with the CIA World Factbook! This provides data and information on different countries so you can find out about key demographics, government, economy and more.

Lynda.com: If you want to improve your photography skills then there are heaps of useful photography tutorials on Lynda.com.


Kedi

Year: 2016
Length: 79 minutes
Country: Turkey
Director: Ceyda Torun

Watch the full film here!

This sweet and charming documentary transports you to Istanbul where there are an incredible number of stray cats roaming the streets which has been the case since the Ottoman Empire! One person in the documentary states that “without the cat Istanbul would lose a part of it’s soul” and throughout the film you can see how much of an impact the cats have on everyone. The people who take care of the cats show incredible displays of kindness, such as a café owner who donates all his tips to look after the cat who frequents his café. It’s amazing to see how cats can change and enhance people’s lives as one man states that the cats that he looks after helped him to recover from his nervous breakdown. I especially like how the camera shows you Istanbul from the cats’ point of view as they explore and wander through the city.

Discover More:

PressReader: Want to know more about cats? Then you should check out the magazine Modern Cat that is available for you to read on PressReader!

Mango Languages: Did you know that the title of the film Kedi is Turkish for cat? Learn some more Turkish words by heading to Mango Languages.


The Trip To Spain

Year: 2017
Length: 108 minutes
Country: Spain
Director: Michael Winterbottom

Watch the full film here!

This is the third installment of The Trip as comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan play fictional versions of themselves and on this occasion, they take an adventure around Spain. Steve wants to follow in the footsteps of Laurie Lee and Cervantes and their route is heavily influenced by these writers. They drive around the country and this allows us to soak up the exquisite scenery, especially Malaga’s amazing coastline road. The impressions are non-stop as they compete to be the best Sir Mick Jagger, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Ian McKellan and Sir Roger Moore in a variety of fancy restaurants. If you are familiar with The Trip and The Trip to Italy then you’ll know what to expect but I still enjoy spending time with these two as their often cutting exchanges and quick-witted banter is fun to watch.

Discover More:

OverDrive: If you’re looking for new recipes to try out at home during lockdown, then check out this awesome Spanish cookbook eBook.

OverDrive: Want to read As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee that inspired the trip? Well you’re in luck as it’s available as an eBook here.

OverDrive: The other book that was mentioned a lot in The Trip To Spain is Don Quixote and this can also be borrowed from our extensive eBook collection.


The Nightingale

Year: 2015
Length: 96 minutes
Country: China
Director: Philippe Muyl

Watch the full film here!

In fast-moving, business-focused Beijing two parents Chongyi and Qianying are busy trying to make a career and don’t have enough time for their child Renxing who is glued to her iPad. The parents both have work trips at the same time, so Qianying entrusts Renxing to be looked after by her grandfather, who has previously lost her whilst under his care. Renxing and her grandfather are off on their travels to visit his village along with his bird, a nightingale. At first Renxing acts up, but they soon bond after getting lost in a luscious bamboo forest. Rural China’s scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. This film is extremely cute and lovely and the grandfather and granddaughter are engaging characters who have a beautiful rapport as they learn much from each during their journey.

Discover More:

Dragonsource: Take a look at Dragonsource for Chinese language magazines in both simplified and traditional Chinese for online reading.

Encyclopaedia Britannica: This is a treasure trove of interesting facts where you can learn more about the nightingale and specifically the Chinese nightingale too.


Dusty

Year: 1983
Length: 85 minutes
Country: Australia
Director: John Richardson

Watch the full film here!

The Australian countryside is shot stunningly in this film that is all about the bond between man and his dog. A dog gets sold to a farmer, Tom, who is told that the dog is pure kelpie but is actually part dingo. By day, Dusty becomes a trusty and reliable sheep dog but at night he does like to terrorise the sheep when his natural dingo traits come out. This causes tension on the farm as some people want Dusty dead whilst Tom has grown incredibly fond of him. The film shows how much humans and dogs can be attached to each other due to friendship and gives an insight into life in the Australian countryside.

Discover More:

OverDrive eAudiobooks: Want to know how to make your dog happy? Then listen to Cesar Milan’s Guide to a Happy Dog here.


Buddymoon

Year: 2016
Length: 79 minutes
Country: America
Director: Alex Simmons

Watch the full film here!

This silly comedy follows David and Flula as they go on what would have been David’s honeymoon hike. David has been dumped by his fiancé so his incredibly happy and enthusiastic German friend Flula decides to join the hike to cheer him up. Flula is a character that you’ll either love or hate–I love his eccentricities, strange logic and how excitable he is. David provides narration of journal entries from American pioneer explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the comparison of Meriwether to Flula is a running joke. This is a sweet bromance film that is lots of fun. Their hike into the wilderness is incredibly shot and will make you yearn for an outdoor excursion which hopefully we can do again sometime soon!

Discover More:

OverDrive: This film is all about friendship and David and Flula are best friends in real life. If you want to carry on the theme of friendship with humour thrown in then take a look at these eBooks.

#StayAtHomeFest: Aotearoa Road Trip–Day One!

We’ve all seen them: photos of deserted highways stretching through the country, not a car or truck in sight. While this emptiness is a testament to the great work being done to stop COVID-19, it can be hard not to imagine a time when you can once again venture out and re-discover the rest of the country.

But now there’s no need to wait! Thanks to the magic of our eLibrary you can join us on a road trip across Aotearoa, from classic sites on State Highway One to secret spots known only to the wisest, most road-wily librarians. So grab your road atlas, double-check your internet connection and prepare for an epic (virtual) road trip. Read on to begin!


Day One: Pōneke/Wellington to Taupō

Pōneke/Wellington

Population: 202,737
Weather: Probably windy

It may be the first day of your road trip north, but you can’t help having a quick look around the capital. So fire up your new electric car (click here for charging stations), grab your thermette and see what you can find!

Digital Attractions:

Glamorous Histories: Did you know that the site of Wellington’s Central Library was once home to Carmen Rupe’s Balcony strip club–and the legendary Red Mole theatre troupe? Discover more via Wellington City Recollect.

A City of Film: Wellington was chosen as a UNESCO City of Film in 2019, but it’s not just blockbusters that give the city it’s cinematic reputation. The 2013 documentary Gardening With Soul won Best Documentary at the New Zealand Film Awards and is set in Island Bay–watch it now via Beamafilm.


Kapiti Coast (State Highway 1)

Okay, now it’s really time to go. Luckily the traffic out of Wellington isn’t too bad, and you get a smooth run past Pukerua Bay and all the way up the Kapiti Coast–nice one! Your first destination is Whanganui, but there’s plenty to see before then!

Digital Attractions:

Range on the Right: The Tararua Range may look like an impenetrable wall of mountains and bush, but don’t be fooled–up to 150,000 people a year explore its slopes! For more info check out Wilderness, New Zealand’s most popular tramping magazine–and available at RBdigital.

Desirable Island: While adverts promoting Kapiti Island highlight its role as a bird sanctuary, the island has another, more strategic history–discover it via the Roadside Stories audio guides, accessible through Digital NZ and our eLibrary.


Whanganui

Population: 45,309
Weather: Not so windy

Well done, you’ve reached the first stop on your trip. Time for a quick coffee and a snack somewhere–raspberry and lime Fruju, anyone? You park by the river and watch it slide by. What’s waiting for you upstream?

Digital Attractions:

Te Awa Tupua: The Whanganui River has its own legal identity, with all the rights, duties and liabilities of a person! Learn more via NZ Geographic (or explore He Whiritaunoka through the Waitangi Tribunal).

Moturoa: Did you know that in 1868 there were rumours of abandoning Whanganui after Riwha Titokowaru’s victory at the Battle of Moturoa? Find out more in James Belich’s I Shall Not Die–described as “a riveting piece of historical writing.”


Forgotten World Highway (State Highway 43)

You continue on around the coast, stopping for a Fanta and a bag of Fruit Bursts in Stratford before turning onto State Highway 43–aka the Forgotten World Highway. It doesn’t take long for things to get a bit bumpy, and the Fanta suddenly seems like a mistake. But never fear, Taupō isn’t far off!

Digital Attractions:

Turning Green: If you’re feeling a bit car sick by now, distractions can help. And luckily BorrowBox has a range of fantastic audiobooks to help you out–including great local content!

Breakaways: 1989 was a tough year for a lot of New Zealand, not least the people of Whangamomona. So what did they do? Formed their own republic, of course! Past presidents have included Sir Murt Kennard and Billy Gumboot the Goat. Learn more about Billy’s reign thanks to the library’s combined search.


Taupō

Population: 23,900
Weather: Not so cold that you can’t swim

You made it to Taumarunui without being sick–an achievement! You celebrate with a suitably greasy lunch, then continue on to your destination of Taupō. Just enough time for a swim before dinner–congratulations!

Digital Attractions:

Beauty and Fear: Whether you want to experience terror or awe while you’re in nature, Taupō has you covered. If you just want to read about terror or awe, then Pressreader has you sorted, too–with NZ Adventure Magazine.

New Boots: Have you read New Boots in New Zealand yet? It tells the story of Gillian Orrell’s quest to walk all of New Zealand’s Great Walks–including the Tongariro Northern Circuit! Have a read of it via Overdrive.

#StayAtHome Film Festival: ANZAC DAY

How do you mark ANZAC Day in a time of social distancing? It’s a question that had to be tackled during the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic, with marches postponed and commemorations held privately at gravesides. The approach this year will be different again. Virtual dawn services are being held across the country; cut-out poppies will adorn windows; the Royal New Zealand Ballet will give a special performance of Dear Horizon.

Another way you can mark the day is with resources such as books and films–including the documentaries below. Works include Leanne Pooley’s 25 April, the excellent Paris 1919 which looks at events at the end of WWI and the recent documentary Almost Sunrise, examining PTSD in returned soldiers. There are other great sources of information as well, including NZ History, and footage such as Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old and the 100 year commemoration of the return of members of the Māori Pioneer Battalion to Tairawhiti.


25 April

Year: 2015
Length: 85 minutes
Director: Leanne Pooley

Watch the full film here!

25 April is an innovative feature documentary created to bring the story of the New Zealand experience at Gallipoli (Turkey) to life for a modern audience through a re-imagined world. Using graphic novel-like animation, 25 April brings First World War experiences out of the usual black-and-white archive pictures and into vibrant, dynamic color. Weaving together animated ‘interviews’ based on the diaries, letters and memoirs of six people who were actually there, the film tells the compelling and heart-wrenching tale of war, friendship, loss and redemption using the words of those who experienced it.”


The Colour of War: The Anzacs

Year: 2004
Length: 135 minutes
Features: Russell Crowe

Watch the full film here!

“This is the story of Australia and New Zealand at war as never seen before. For the first time, only original colour footage is used to paint a vividly detailed picture of these closely allied nations, from the build up to World War Two to the end of the Vietnam conflict.”


Paris 1919: Negotiating Peace After WWI

Year: 2009
Length: 95 minutes
Director: Paul Cowan

Click here to watch the full film!

“For six months in 1919, Paris was the capital of the world. The last shots had just been fired in the most devastating war of all time – and the old global order lay in tatters. Delegations from over 30 nations urgently descended upon Paris for the most ambitious peace talks in history. Paris 1919 takes us inside this singular event with a vivid sense of character and narrative.”


Almost Sunrise: Two Iraq Veterans Confront their PTSD on a Cross-Country Journey

Year: 2016
Length: 98 minutes
Director: Michael Collins

Click here to watch the full film!

“This moving documentary follows two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, both tormented by depression for years after they returned home and pushed to the edge of suicide. The two embark on an extraordinary journey – a 2,700 mile walk across the country from Wisconsin to California, in order to reflect on their haunting experiences of war and to ultimately, save themselves.”


The Ottoman Empire: WWI (Lecture Series)

Year: 2017
Length: 31 minutes
Features: Kenneth W. Harl

Watch the full lecture here!

“Though it entered the First World War enthusiastically, the Ottoman Empire was not prepared for total war. In this lecture, focus on the empire’s offensives against the Russian Caucasus Army and the Suez Canal, as well as its struggle against an impending British invasion in the Dardanelles.”

#StayAtHome Film Festival: Shinji’s Picks

Wellington City Libraries’ film streaming services Beamafilm and Kanopy have a range of must-see international movies to get you through lockdown. Included is the Criterion Collection, which includes titles like Summer with Monika–a lovely early Bergman film with some memorable, historically famous scenes. There are also other contemporary and classic films from around the globe, from 2016’s Julieta to the cult classic Funeral Parade of Roses–and many more, including titles previously unavailable on DVD!


Summer with Monika

Year: 1953
Length: 96 minutes
Country: Sweden
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Watch the full film here!

A girl (Andersson) and boy (Lars Ekborg) from working-class families in Stockholm run away from home to spend a secluded, romantic summer at the beach, far from parents and responsibilities. Inevitably, it is not long before the pair are forced to return to reality. The version initially released in the U.S. was reedited by its distributor into something more salacious, but the original Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika), presented here, is a work of stunning maturity and one of Bergman’s most important films. (Kanopy)

Discover more:

Mango Languages: Kanopy has a great range of films by Ingmar Bergman–but to watch them without subtitles you’re going to need to brush up on your Swedish! Get started with Mango Languages.


Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Year: 2010
Length: 110 minutes
Country: Thailand
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Watch the full film here!

Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him and his long lost son returns home in a non-human form. Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave – the birthplace of his first life… (Kanopy)

Discover more:

Lynda.com: Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has described how for Uncle Boonme he tried to replicate the style of old Thai TV shows, where the “monsters were always in the dark to hide the cheaply made costumes. Their eyes were red lights so that the audience could spot them.” Begin your own adventure into special effects design with Lynda.com!


Funeral Parade of Roses

Year: 1969
Length: 106 minutes
Country: Japan
Director: Toshio Matsumoto

Watch the full film here!

Director Toshio Matsumoto’s shattering, kaleidoscopic masterpiece is one of the most subversive and intoxicating films of the late 1960s: a headlong dive into a dazzling, unseen Tokyo night-world of drag queen bars and fabulous divas, fueled by booze, drugs, fuzz guitars, performance art and black mascara. No less than Stanley Kubrick cited the film as a direct influence on his own dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange. (Kanopy)

Discover more:

Archives of Sexuality and Gender: There are several reviews of Funeral Parade of Roses in the Archives of Sexuality and Gender–with a variety of different opinions on the film! Have a read via our eLibrary.


Julieta

Year: 2016
Length: 95 minutes
Country: Spain
Director: Pedro Almodovar

Watch the full film here!

In this powerful and thrilling family drama from contemporary auteur Pedro Almodovar, a chance encounter causes a woman (Emma Suarez) to reflect on the tragic circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her daughter. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Nominated for Best Film Not in the English Language at the BAFTA Awards. Winner of Best Lead Actress (Emma Suarez) and nominated for Best Director and Best Film at the Goya Awards. (Kanopy)

Discover more:

Overdrive: Did you know that Julieta is based on several short stories from Alice Munro? Have a read of Munro’s work via Overdrive–part of our eLibrary!


Eat Drink Man Woman

Year: 1994
Length: 124 minutes
Country: Taiwan
Director: Ang Lee

Watch the full film here!

A gastronomic delight from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain), Eat Drink Man Woman is a classic tale of simmering frustrations and relationship woes as semi-retired Master Chef Chu (Sihung Lung) shares his culinary skills and tends to his three unmarried daughters’ respective emotional journeys. (Beamafilm)

Discover more:

Gale Intereactive: Science: Did you know that Ang Lee’s wife Jane Lin is a microbiologist and university professor? (She also supported Lee before he was able to find work as a director.) Begin your own quest into science with Gale Interactive: Science–and check out the great 3D models, including one of the human body!


Tall as the Baobab Tree

Year: 2013
Length: 82 minutes
Country: Senegal
Director: Jeremy Teicher

Watch the full film here!

Coumba and her little sister Debo are the first to leave their family’s remote African village, where meals are prepared over open fires and water is drawn from wells, to attend school in the bustling city. But when an accident suddenly threatens their family’s survival, their father decides to sell 11-year-old Debo into an arranged marriage. Torn between loyalty to her elders and her dreams for the future, Coumba hatches a secret plan to rescue her young sister from a fate she did not choose. (Beamafilm)

Discover more:

Combined Search: Tall as the Baobab Tree is the first film to be performed in the Pulaar language–spoken by almost a quarter of Senegal’s population. To learn more about Senegal’s language, culture and history, try a combine search of our eLibrary.

#StayAtHome Film Festival: Mark’s Music Doco Picks

I can’t get by without a daily dose of music, so during the lockdown I’ve been using PressReader and RBdigital to keep up with the latest releases. I’ve also been checking out some music documentaries on our online streaming services Beamafilm and Kanopy–old favourites I enjoy seeing again, plus some new ones. Below are six fantastic music documentaries from the last few years, including Academy Award-winners and local gems–enjoy!


Searching for Sugar Man

Year: 2012
Length: 86 minutes
Director: Malik Bendjelloul

Click here to watch the full film!

In the late 60s, a musician was discovered in a Detroit bar by two celebrated producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They recorded an album that they believed was going to secure his reputation as one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity. Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Academy Awards winner for Best Documentary.

Discover More:

Naxos Jazz Library: Did you know that Rodriguez opened the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2013? Discover more great jazz resources via the Naxos Jazz Library–including over 200,000 tracks.


20 Feet From Stardom

Year: 2013
Length: 91 minutes
Director: Morgan Neville

Watch the full film here!

This great documentary shines the spotlight on the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others.

Discover More:

Lynda.com: Did you know that Lynda has courses on how to sing? Start practicing now via our eLibrary.


The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble

Year: 2015
Length: 96 minutes
Director: Morgan Neville

Watch the full film here!

Spanning the globe, this is the celebratory story of the renowned international musical collective created by legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The feature-length documentary follows this group of diverse instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, arrangers, visual artists and storytellers as they explore the power of music to preserve tradition, shape cultural evolution and inspire hope.

Discover More:

Press Reader: Press Reader has a range of great music magazines from around the world, including BBC Music Magazine and more.


Liam Gallagher: As it Was

Year: 2019
Length: 85 minutes
Directors: Gavin Fitzgerald and Charlie Lightening

Watch the full film here!

Liam Gallagher went from the dizzying heights of his champagne supernova years in Oasis to living on the edge, ostracised and lost in the musical wilderness of booze, notoriety and bitter legal battles. Starting again alone, stripped bare and with nowhere to hide, this intimate doco sees Liam risks everything to make the greatest rock’n’roll comeback of all time.

Discover More:

RBdigital: Want to read more about Oasis and Liam Gallagher in Rolling Stone? You can–right here in RBdigital!


Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Year: 2013
Length: 88 minutes
Directors: Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin

Watch the full film here!

On Feb. 21, 2012, members of the feminist art collective Pussy Riot, donning their colorful trademark balaclavas, or ski masks, participated in a 40-second “punk prayer protest” on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral before being detained. Arrested and tried for trespassing, wearing “inappropriate” sleeveless dresses and disrupting social order, Nadia, Masha and Katia were accused of religious hatred in a trial that reverberated around the world and transformed the face of Russian society. An official selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Punk Spirit.

Discover More:

Combined search: Wellington City Libraries’ eLibrary has some great articles, videos, audio and biographies on Pussy Riot–have a search right here!


The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps

Year: 2019
Length: 95 minutes
Directors: Julia Parnell and Rob Curry

Watch the full film here!

Martin Phillipps came tantalizingly close to conquering the international musical world with his band The Chills, but instead fell into decades of debt and addiction in his hometown of Dunedin, New Zealand. At 54, he’s been given a dire medical prognosis, forcing him to face his demons and realise his musical ambitions before it’s too late.

Discover More:

Wellington Music at WCL: With interviews, reviews, archives and a gig guide, our specialist music page has got your local music needs covered.