Staff Pick DVDs: July Part Two

With the closure of the Cemtral Library our AV loving staff haven’t been sitting idly by. Our first pop up at Arapaki has been open a couple of months and we have been digging into the DVD collection there, watching some old favourites and checking out some new releases. There is a bit of everything here, from modern classics to new docos and TV shows, as well as some brand new titles hot off the processing trolley. Our staff have been watching so much that we’ve had to split it into two lists, part one is here!


Shoplifters
One of the most consistent filmmakers of today, Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda has never made a bad film but his latest work is an exceptional work even by his standard. He questions what family really means by gracefully portraying vulnerable people who live in a shabby house in the edge of society. The narrative is gentle and atmospheric but it’s, in fact, almost Ken Loach-like social realism drama. (Shinji)

Kusama : infinity : the life and art of Yayoi Kusama.
The history, evolution and development of Kusama’s core themes, concepts and the ideas behind her work are well covered. While her conservative upbringing and her life story are covered in this documentary, for me this is one of the film’s weaker elements. By end of this well made and highly informative movie we know a lot about Yayoi Kusama’s art and practice and her position in the modern art world but perhaps a little less about the artist herself. (Neil J)

Ngati
Director Barry Barclay theorised a “fourth cinema” that would be made by indigenous film-makers, from an indigenous perspective with the primary intended audience being indigenous peoples. He achieved his goals with the beautiful Ngāti, the story of a young Australian doctor exploring his Māori heritage. The first feature film to have a Māori writer and director is one of the masterpieces of New Zealand cinema. (Joseph)

Bohemian Rhapsody
This is the biographical story of the life of Freddie Mercury from his youth through to Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance (of which this movie contains the entire performance). As a matter of course, this has all the wonderful Queen music that we know and love. Giving a wonderful ‘behind the scenes’ look at how they came to write their songs, Raimi Malek is wonderful as Mercury. (Brigid)

Informer
Tense drama as Raza Shar, a young charismatic second generation Pakistani from East London, is coerced by a Counter-Terrorism officer’s DS Gabe Waters (Paddy Considine) and DC Holly Morten’s into going undercover as an informer. As the stakes get higher Raza’s life slowly spins out of control, while Considine’s new partner begins to probe his undercover past and drag up some secrets he’d prefer to stay buried. (Mark)

Annihilation.
The husband of an ex-soldier now biologist goes missing on a deep secret mission in the Shimmer (a mysterious part of the world where strange things happen). Lena’s husband suddenly returns sick and minus his memory, so she and her team must enter the Shimmer to find out what happened. A good story. and reminiscent of The Fog. (Brigid)

Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde isn’t just set in cold war Berlin. It’s set in the end of days of cold war Berlin. Which is different. Something is about to happen. I can’t remember if this movie actually features the song Atomic by Blondie. But it doesn’t matter because the whole situation oozes Blondie and Atomic and crumbling trust, following crumbs, spies, hair follicles and sun bleached Charlize Theron as the most powerful American spy. (Tim)

Instant family
A great comedy starring Mark Wahlberg, and Rose Byrne, a professional couple who suddenly realise they are missing something in their lives. Children. After a discussion and doing a course they are all set to become foster parents! When matched with a Spanish-speaking rebellious teenager, they find out she has siblings and Pete and Ellie suddenly go from 0 to 3 children overnight. (Brigid)

The little drummer girl.
Adaptation of the novel by John le Carré, set in the ’70s in which Charlie is recruited by charismatic agent Gadi, to play a part in operation to ensnare a serial bomber for Mossad spymaster Kurtz. A Palestinian terror cell has been responsible for the killing of a number of prominent Jews in western Europe, and the aim of the mission is to embed Charlie within the cell so she can draw out its elusive leader. (Mark)

You were never really here
Lynne Ramsay is a poet of the visual cinema with a distinctive vision – You Were Never Really Here is a real departure in some ways from her previous films. In places it feels like a modern day Taxi Driver and as such it is a powerful, brutal, visceral and violent watch not for the faint hearted. Yet Ramsay’s trademark visual style is still there, only this time it’s the harsh neon city or the sheen of light on blood. (Neil J)

American honey
Shot on warm, saturated film, the viewing experience is an absolute pleasure. The soundtrack rattles with dance pop, 21st century hip-hop and country. The narrative rises and falls, resembling life; full of risk, sorrow and joy. Sasha Lane proves her acting chops in the lead role and Shia LaBeouf delivers his best performance. Director Andrea Arnold has bottled the spirit of youth in these economically precarious times. (Joseph)

The old man & the gun
Based on the story of Forrest Tucker, who had a unique leisurely style of bank robbery and escaped from prison 16 times, director David Lowery turned it into a witty laid-back outlaw tale. The centre of the movie is, of course, Redford who plays Tucker, and it is obvious that he loves playing this character. The chemistry between Redford and legend Sissy Spacek, who plays his love interest, is simply wonderful, and lifts the whole thing to another level. A perfect swansong. (Shinji)

The Happytime Murders
Melissa McCarthy stars in this Brian Henson alternative production about a place where puppets and people live and work together. A detective (McCarthy) is teamed with her ex-partner, a puppet, to investigate a series of murders of puppets from the Happytime movie series. Don’t be fooled by the puppets as this movie is very definitely R rated – most definitely NOT Sesame Street. (Brigid)

Bad times at the El Royale
A group of mysterious strangers show up at a once posh but now slightly run down hotel in the late 1960’s, but it soon becomes apparent that not everything or everyone are who or what they seem. There is much to be enjoyed about ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ as it has a twisty, compelling plot, it is very stylishly filmed and sports a stellar cast. (Neil J)

Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers are always a directing duo to watch, and this Oscar Isaac starring feature is one of their finest. Set in the early 60s folk music scene in Greenwich Village, the snow and solemn environments provide the backdrop to the road rambling of a failing folk musician. (Joseph)

Science-ish: Recent Science picks

This month’s selections features all sorts of science – from Kiwi science discoveries to astrophotography to science in films and everything in between!

Syndetics book coverScientific sleuthing : chemical discoveries made in New Zealand / edited by Rebecca Hurrell, Andrew Muscroft-Taylor, Glyn Strange, Bryce Williamson.
“Scientific Sleuthing begins with New Zealanders solving different problems: the cause of toxic honey, uses for our unique flora and fauna, paints that can withstand our harsh and temperamental climate. It then unfolds into a world where globalisation has propelled New Zealand scientists to international standing: seeking treatments for cancer; developing new processes; discovering compounds and materials that perform in ways that earlier generations could not have imagined. In their chosen fields, New Zealand chemists lead the world.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAstronomy photographer of the year. Collection 6.
“All the winning and shortlisted images from the 2017 Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, hosted by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. The images are submitted in one of the following categories:Image Categories* Earth and Space* Our Solar System* Deep Space* Young Astronomy Photographer of the YearSpecial Prize Categories* Best Newcomer* People and Space* Robotic Scope Each image is accompanied by caption, photographer, location and technical details.ExhibitionEvery year the Royal Observatory, Greenwich hosts a free exhibition of the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, showcasing some incredible images of the sky.www.rmg.co.uk/astrophoto” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlowfish’s oceanopedia : 291 extraordinary things you didn’t know about the sea / Tom Hird.
“The seas of our planet cover more than seventy percent of the Earth, yet we know less about the ocean depths than the surface of the moon. Join marine biologist and fish-fanatic Tom ‘the Blowfish’ Hird as he lifts the lid on a treasure chest of fascinating facts, to reveal just what we do know about what lurks beneath the waves.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe zoomable universe : an epic tour through cosmic scale, from almost everything to nearly nothing / Caleb Scharf ; illustrations by Ron Miller ; and 5W Infographics.
“In The Zoomable Universe , the award-winning astrobiologist Caleb Scharf and the acclaimed artist Ron Miller take us on an epic tour through all known scales of reality, from the largest possible magnitude to the smallest. Drawing on cutting-edge science, they begin at the limits of the observable universe, a scale spanning 10^27 meters–about 93 billion light-years. And they end in the subatomic realm, at 10^-35 meters, where the fabric of space-time itself confounds all known rules of physics. In between are galaxies, stars and planets, oceans and continents, plants and animals, microorganisms, atoms, and much, much more. Stops along the way–all enlivened by Scharf’s sparkling prose and his original insights into the nature of our universe–include the brilliant core of the Milky Way, the surface of a rogue planet, the back of an elephant, and a sea of jostling quarks.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverScience(ish) : the peculiar science behind the movies / Rick Edwards, Dr Michael Brooks.
“Covering movies from 28 Days later to Ex Machina, this is a … ride through astrophysics, neuroscience, psychology, botany, artificial intelligence, evolution and plenty more subjects you’ve always wanted to grasp.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverA grain of sand / text and photography by Gary Greenberg.
“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower. To hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.” – William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence” 1805
Here is the world viewed within a grain of sand, thanks to the stunning three-dimensional microphotography of Dr. Gary Greenberg. To some, all sand looks alike–countless grains in a vast expanse of beach. Look closer–much closer–and your view of sand will never be the same. Employing the fantastic microphotographic techniques that he developed, Greenberg invites readers to discover the strange and wonderful world that each grain of sand contains.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe botanical treasury : celebrating 40 of the world’s most fascinating plants through historical art and manuscripts / edited by Christopher Mills.
“For centuries, an eclectic group of plants have captivated the world and propelled explorers to extraordinary lengths to collect them. Now, The Botanical Treasury brings together centuries of botanical adventures and discoveries in one sumptuous collection.
This treasury features a full-color exploration of our most important and interesting plants; facsimiles of rarely seen letters, maps, and journals from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and forty beautifully reproduced, frameable prints. Together they offer a fascinating look at the world of plant hunting and the cultivation of our knowledge about the plant world.
Every one of the featured plants is extraordinary in some way, be it for its appearance, biology, medicinal properties, or importance to economics, politics, or the arts. Equally extraordinary are the stories associated with the discovery of these plants, revealing the lengths to which collectors and growers would go to find them. The entries build a history of botany and paint a larger picture of the age of exploration.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Books to satisfy your Game of Thrones cravings

Are you missing your Game of Thrones fix while waiting for Season 8 to return in 2019? Then look no further, for we have you covered with these books!

Syndetics book coverThe assassin’s apprentice / Robin Hobb.
“The kingdom of the Six Duchies is on the brink of civil war when news breaks that the crown prince has fathered a bastard son and is shamed into abdication. The child’s name is Fitz, and his is despised.Raised in the castle stables, only the company of the king’s fool, the ragged children of the lower city and his unusual affinity with animals provide Fitz with any comfort.To be useful to the crown, Fitz is trained as an assassin; and to use the traditional magic of the Farseer family. But his tutor, allied to another political faction, is determined to discredit, even kill him. Fitz must survive: for he may be destined to save the kingdom.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTemeraire / Naomi Novik.
“Naomi Novik’s stunning series of novels follow the global adventures of Captain William Laurence and his fighting dragon Temeraire as they are thrown together to fight for Britain during the turbulent time of the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old; finding a warmer berth in Nelson’s navy than any he enjoyed as the youngest, least important son of Lord Allendale. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancee, society’s esteem and a golden future. But the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to overrun her shores.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe emperor’s blades / Brian Staveley.
“In The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

 

Syndetics book coverWho fears death / Nnedi Okorafor.
“In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways; yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. A woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert, hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different– special –she names her Onyesonwu, which means “Who fears death?” in an ancient language.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGardens of the moon : a tale of the Malazan book of the fallen / Steven Erikson.
“Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discontent.
Even its imperial legions yearn for some respite. For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and for Tattersail, sole surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out – and Empress Lasseen’s ambition knows no bounds.
However, it seems the empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister forces gather as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe traitor Baru Cormorant / Seth Dickinson.
“In Seth Dickinson’s highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant , a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul. When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire’s civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe thief / by Megan Whalen Turner.
“Eugenides, the queen’s thief, can steal anything–or so he says. When his boasting lands him in prison and the king’s magus invites him on a quest to steal a legendary object, he’s in no position to refuse. The magus thinks he has the right tool for the job, but Gen has plans of his own.Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations and intrigue, battles lost and won, dangerous journeys, divine intervention, power, passion, revenge, and deception. Perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R. R. Martin.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKushiel’s dart / Jacqueline Carey.
“A nation born of angels, vast and intricate and surrounded by danger… a woman born to servitude, unknowingly given access to the secrets of the realm…
Born with a scarlet mote in her left eye, Phedre no Delaunay is sold into indentured servitude as a child. When her bond is purchased by an enigmatic nobleman, she is trained in history, theology, politics, foreign languages, the arts of pleasure. And above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Exquisite courtesan, talented spy… and unlikely heroine. But when Phedre stumbles upon a plot that threatens her homeland, Terre d’Ange, she has no choice.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Star Wars at the library

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has opened in movie theatres today, so we thought we’d round up some of the Star Wars items we have on our catalogue.

Star Wars: The Complete Saga Star wars. The complete saga
“Relive the exhilarating action, spectacular battles and ultimate triumph of good over evil that make Star Wars the greatest space fantasy adventure of all time – and the ultimate entertainment experience for every family. The Star Wars original trilogy episodes continue the saga with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo leading the rebel Alliance to claim victory over the Empire and win freedom for the galaxy.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWilliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars : verily, a new hope / by Ian Doescher ; inspired by the work of George Lucas and William Shakespeare.
“Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ‘Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome Stormtroopers, signifying…pretty much everything.
Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter — and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations — William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.” (Syndetics summary) Also available as an eBook through Overdrive.

Syndetics book coverPath of Destruction [electronic resource] / Drew Karpyshyn
“Once the Sith order teemed with followers. But their rivalries divided them in endless battles for supremacy. Until one dark lord at last united the Sith in the quest to enslave the galaxy-and exterminate the Jedi. Yet it would fall to another, far more powerful than the entire Brotherhood of Darkness, to ultimately realize the full potential of the Sith, and wield the awesome power of the dark side as never before!” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStar Wars. Dark empire trilogy / [script, Tom Veitch ; art, Cam Kennedy].
“Six years after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, the battle for the galaxy’s freedom rages on. The Empire has been mysteriously reborn under an unknown leader, wielding a new weapon of great power. Princess Leia and Han Solo struggle to hold together the New Republic while the galaxy’s savior, Luke Skywalker, fights an inner battle as he is drawn to the dark side, just as his father was.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverI, Jedi / Michael A. Stackpole
“From New York Times bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole, one of the acclaimed masters of imaginative fiction, comes a stirring new tale set in the Star Wars universe, the story of Corran Horn, a heroic X-wing pilot who faces the greatest challenge of his life: trying to come to terms with his Jedi heritage and learning to use the Force–without succumbing to the dark side. Corran Horn was an officer in the Corellian Security Force before casting his lot with the New Republic. As the grandson of a legendary Jedi hero, he has latent Force powers that have yet to be developed. But he has managed to distinguish himself with Rogue Squadron, the X-wing fighter force that has become the scourge of the Empire and of the pirates that prey on Republic shipping.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Empire Dec 2015Or you can keep up with all the Star Wars news through our movie magazines Empire (in print or through Zinio) or Total Film.

Nursing our boys: a Kiwi aboard the first hospital ship

Nurses RegisterCharlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais is a distant relative of mine, who joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. Her registration details can be found in the New Zealand Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882-1933, from the Ancestry database (available in-library only. Check out our Genealogy page for further information). She was one of fourteen nursing sisters who were selected for the first voyage of Hospital Ship No. 1 (the ‘Maheno’), which left Wellington 10 July 1915, and was bound for Gallipoli.

Here is a photograph of the ship in the 14 July 1915 issue of The New Zealand Herald, retrieved for the PapersPast database accessible from our Newspapers and History database pages. The page is full of War-related articles, a year into the 4 year campaign. (Click on the image to enlarge)New Zealand Herald, July 14, 1915 SMALL

Lottie completed her voyage, and was posted to the retired list 21 June 1916. On her return to New Zealand, she married her fiancé, Charles Gardner, with whom she had two children. Lottie died in 1956.

Two of Lottie’s four brothers served in WWI – Leddra (Leddie), who was killed in action at Gallipoli 23 July 1915, and Owen, who fought in France, and survived the war to return home.

A book was written about Lottie, and this is in our collections:

Lottie: Gallipoli Nuse coverLottie : Gallipoli nurse / text by John Lockyer ; illustrations by Alan Barnett.
“An extraordinary account of a nurse’s journey to Gallipoli aboard the New Zealand hospital ship Maheno. Her experiences include caring for the wounded and coping with the death of her brother Leddie, who was killed in action. Based on the letters of Lottie and Leddie Le Gallais and the war diary of John Duder.” (Syndetics summary)

Other titles

Syndetics book coverAnzac girls : the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses / Peter Rees.
“By the end of World War I, 45 Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service, and over 200 had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance, but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable. Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these courageous and compassionate women to enrich their experiences, and ours. Profoundly moving, this is a story of extraordinary courage and humanity shown by a group of women whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognized in our history. Peter Rees has changed that understanding forever.” (Syndetics summary)

White Ships coverThe white ships : New Zealand’s First World War hospital ships / Gavin McLean.
“In 1915 the government chartered the trans-Tasman liners Maheno and Marama for use as our first hospital ships. For the next four years, starting with the Maheno off the beach at Gallipoli, they travelled the globe, staffed by Kiwi seamen, doctors and nurses. Back home, thousands of New Zealanders made items and raised money to support these ‘mercy ships’ and followed their movements closely as they transported the sick and wounded from many countries.” (Syndetics summary)

All aboard the Catbus!

Having been to see the wonderful Studio Ghibli documentary (Kingdom of Dreams and Madness) and the gorgeous Tale of Princess Kaguya, I thought I would share some of the neat Studio Ghibli content that is in our libraries.

Syndetics book coverStudio Ghibli : the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata / Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc.
“The animations of Japan’s Studio Ghibli are amongst the highest regarded in the movie industry. Their delightful films rank alongside the most popular non-English language films ever made, with each new eagerly-anticipated release a guaranteed box-office smash. Yet this highly profitable studio has remained fiercely independent, producing a stream of imaginative and individual animations. The studio’s founders, long-time animators Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, have created timeless masterpieces. Although their films are distinctly Japanese their themes are universal–humanity, community, and a love for the environment. No other film studio, animation or otherwise, comes close to matching Ghibli for pure cinematic experience. All their major works are examined here, as well the early output of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, exploring the cultural and thematic threads that bind these films together.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArrietty [videorecording].
“In a secret world hidden beneath the floorboards, little people called Borrowers live quietly among us. But when tenacious and tiny Arrietty is discovered by Shawn, a human boy, their secret and forbidden friendship blossoms into an extraordinary adventure.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPrincess Mononoke [videorecording] / produced by Toshio Suzuki ; directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
“A young warrior searching for a cure for a deadly curse becomes entangled in a battle between a clan of humans and the forest’s animal gods.” (Syndetics summary)

Howl’s moving castle [videorecording] / Tokuma Shoten, Studio Ghibli, Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Mitsubishi and Toho present a Studio Ghibli production ; a film by Hayao Miyazaki.
“Sophie, an average teenage girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. After this chance meeting she is turned into a 90-year old woman by the vain and conniving Witch of the Waste. Embarking on an incredible adventure to lift the curse, she finds refuge in Howl’s magical moving castle where she becomes acquainted with Markl, Howl’s apprentice, and a hot-headed fire demon named Calcifer. As the true power of Howl’s wizardy is revealed, and his relationship with Sophie deepens, our young grey heroine finds herself fighting to protect them both from a dangerous war of society that threatens their world”–Container.

The Cat ReturnsThe cat returns [videorecording] / a film by Hiroyuki Morita.
“A young girl rescues a mysterious cat from traffic and soon finds herself the unwelcome recipient of gifts and favors from the King of the Cats, who also wants her to marry his son, Prince Lune. With the assistance of a fat, grouchy real cat and a an elegant cat statuette come to life (both characters featured in Studio Ghibli’s earlier anime “Whisper of the Heart”), the girl visits the Cat Kingdom and narrowly escapes again.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom up on Poppy Hill [videorecording] / a Studio Ghibli production. “A high school love story in the year before the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics as Japan begins to pick itself up from the devastation of World War II. A new generation struggles to move towards a prosperous future whilst trying not to lose the essence of their past. Capturing the beauty of Yokohama harbour, Umi and Shun’s budding romance develops as they join forces to save their high school’s ramshackle clubhouse from demolition.” (Books in Print)

Kiki's Delivery ServiceKiki’s delivery service [videorecording] / a film by Hayao Miyazaki.
“A young witch, on her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhen Marnie was there. This is the most recent movie from Studio Ghibli, based on the book of the same name by Joan Robinson. Hopefully it will make its way to New Zealand shores, but until then, you can watch the full trailer (in Japanese).

Syndetics book coverRonia, the robber’s daughter / Astrid Lindgren ; translated by Patricia Crompton.
“Ronia, who lives with her father and his band of robbers in a castle in the woods, causes trouble when she befriends the son of a rival robber chieftain.” (Syndetics summary) Ronia the Robber’s Daughter is Studio Ghibli’s first foray into television. The animated series based on the book of the same name will begin airing in Japan soon. I loved this book as a child, so while we wait for this to be released in New Zealand, you can watch the first footage here.

Miyazaki’s 50 recommended children’s books

As a number of Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli movies are based on either novels or manga, it is perhaps unsurprising that he has made a list of his favourite children’s books. Because it’s quite a long list (50 in total!), here are a few of his top books:

Syndetics book coverThe little prince / written and drawn by Antoine de Saint-Exupery ; translated from the French by Katherine Woods.
“This new translation into “modern” English brings a classic tale into sharper focus for today’s teens without sacrificing the beauty and simplicity of the author’s writing, and the “restored” artwork has all the charm of the original drawings. What appears to be a simple tale of two lost souls-one, a pilot marooned in the desert next to his ditched plane; the other, a minuscule prince in self-imposed exile from an asteroid so small that he can watch the sunset 44 times a day-reveals itself as something far more complex. What appears to be a fairy tale for children opens like the petals of the Little Prince’s flower into a fantasy that has lessons for all of us.” (adapted from School Library Journal)

The Rose and the RingThe Rose and the Ring / by William Makepeace Thackeray “Between the kingdoms of Paflagonia and Crim Tartary, there lived a mysterious personage, who was known in those countries as the Fairy Blackstick, from the ebony wand or crutch which she carried; on which she rode to the moon sometimes, or upon other excursions of business or pleasure, and with which she performed her wonders. When she was young, and had been first taught the art of conjuring by the necromancer, her father, she was always practicing her skill, whizzing about from one kingdom to another upon her black stick, and conferring her fairy favors upon this Prince or that.” (Books in Print)

Syndetics book coverThe three musketeers / Alexandre Dumas ; translated and with an introduction by Lord Sudley
“Dumas’s tale of swashbuckling and heroism follows the fortunes of d’Artagnan, a headstrong country boy who travels to Paris to join the Musketeers – the bodyguard of King Louis XIII. Here he falls in with Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and the four friends soon find themselves caught up in court politics and intrigue. Together they must outwit Cardinal Richelieu and his plot to gain influence over the King, and thwart the beautiful spy Milady’s scheme to disgrace the Queen. In The Three Musketeers, Dumas breathed fresh life into the genre of historical romance, creating a vividly realized cast of characters and a stirring dramatic narrative.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret garden / Frances Hodgson Burnett ; illustrated by Robin Lawrie.
“Ten-year-old Mary comes to live in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors and discovers an invalid cousin and the mysteries of a locked garden.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAlice’s adventures in Wonderland / by Lewis Carroll ; illustrated by POP ; adapted by Michiyo Hayano ; English translation by Camellia Nich.
“Lewis Carroll’s universally known story of a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole into a magical Wonderland is given a new spin in this lushly illustrated version of the classic tale. Alice was sitting in a field reading when a white rabbit scampered by. She didn’t know what was odder: that the rabbit was running on its hind legs, wearing a jacket, and carrying a pocket watch, or that it was talking, shouting, “I’m late! I’m late!” From the moment she decided to follow the rabbit into his rabbit hole, Alice was transported to a fantastical place called Wonderland, where anything was possible. All of the familiar characters are here: the Hatter, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, and the wicked Queen of Hearts.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe complete Sherlock Holmes / Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“Over one hundred years have passed since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle intoduced his inimitable sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, to the world–and his popularity has never waned. This oversized commemorative volume contains the entire canon of Holmes adventures, both before and after his creator’s attempt to dispatch him in print. Just as the character, Holmes, prevails and defies even death, these detective stories featuring him and Dr. Watson have withstood more than the test of time: they defined and changed the way modern crime writers approached detective fiction.” (Syndetics summary)

See here for photos from a lovely Miyazaki exhibition and the rest of the list (you may wish to cross reference with the list on Amazon, as some of the titles are in Russian script).

Remembering WW1 on Anzac Day

On 25 April 1915, New Zealanders along with other Allied troops landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, with the aim of taking the Dardanelles, and threatening the Ottoman capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul). At the end of the nine month campaign, about a third of the New Zealand soldiers taking part had been killed. Anzac Day commemorates all New Zealand soldiers killed in war, and also honours returned servicemen and women.  Here is some further reading:

Syndetics book coverShattered glory : the New Zealand experience at Gallipoli and the Western Front / Matthew Wright.
“The Gallipoli campaign of 1915 destroyed New Zealand’s fantasies of war as a glorious schoolboy adventure on behalf of a beloved Empire. The Western Front campaign that followed in 1916-18 gave shape to the emotional impact. it was a horror world of death and mud that destroyed the souls of the young men who fought in it. Together, these two campaigns shaped the lives of a generation of New Zealanders and have given a particular meaning to modern memory of war. In Shattered Glory, highly regarded historian Matthew Wright illuminates New Zealand’s human experience during these two First World War campaigns, exploring the darker side of New Zealand’s iconic symbols of national identity and explaining some of the realities behind the twenty-first century mythology.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverDevils on horses : in the words of the Anzacs in the Middle East 1916-19 / Terry Kinloch ; foreword by Dr Christopher Pugsley.
“Reunited with their horses in Egypt after the shattering experience of Gallipoli, the Anzac mounted riflemen and light horsemen were initially charged with the defence of the Suez Canal, then with the clearance of the Sinai peninsula, and finally with the destruction of the Turkish armies in Palestine and Syria.
At last they could pursue the style of warfare for which they had been trained: on horseback.
The First World War battlefields in the Middle East have long been overshadowed by those of Gallipoli and the Western Front. Yet the story of the mounted riflemen in Sinai and Palestine is a truly fascinating one. Using the soldiers’ original letters and diaries wherever possible, Kinloch vividly describes every battle and skirmish in the long campaign against the Turks: the crucial Battle of Romani, the defeats at Bir el Abd, Gaza and Amman, and the successes at Beersheba, Ayun Kara and elsewhere.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverMapping the first world war : battlefields of the great conflict from above.
“Some one hundred years on from the Great War, Mapping The First World War provides a unique perspective on the ‘war to end all wars’. Over a hundred maps and charts show the broad sweep of events, from Germany’s 1914 war goals to the final positions of the troops. There are maps depicting movements and battles as well as related documents, such as those on levels of conscription and numbers of weapons.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverPasschendaele : the anatomy of a tragedy / Andrew Macdonald.
“This extensively researched book tells the story of one of the darkest hours of Australia and New Zealand’s First World War military. With the forensic use of decades-old documents and soldier accounts, it unveils for the first time what really happened on the war-torn slopes of Passchendaele, why, and who was responsible for the deaths and injuries of thousands of soldiers in the black mud of Flanders. Macdonald explores the October battles of Third Ypres from the perspective of the generals who organised them to the soldiers in the field, drawing on a wide range of evidence held in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and Germany. His book is far more than a simple narrative of battle and includes critical and comparative assessments of command, personality, training discipline, weapons, systems, tactics and the environment. It looks equally at the roles of infantry, artillery and engineering units, whether Australian, New Zealand, Canadian or British, and in so doing presents a meticulous, objective and compelling investigation from start to finish. Along the way it offers numerous unique insights that have, until now, been obscured by a nearly century-old fog of war. This book will reshape the understanding of one of the most infamous battles of the First World War.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe other Anzacs : nurses at war 1914-1918 / Peter Rees.
“By the end of The Great War, forty-five Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service and over two hundred had been decorated. These were women who left for war on an adventure, but were soon confronted with remarkable challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them.
They were there for the horrors of Gallipoli and they were there for the savagery the Western Front. Within twelve hours of the slaughter at Anzac Cove they had over 500 horrifically injured patients to tend on one crammed hospital ship, and scores of deaths on each of the harrowing days that followed. Every night was a nightmare. Their strength and humanity were remarkable.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverArchduke Franz Ferdinand lives! : a world without World War I / Richard Ned Lebow.
“For Lebow (A Cultural Theory of International Relations), a professor of international political theory, the erasure of WWI from our historical timeline would have placed our world on a path quite different from the one we are on today. He expounds on the theory of counterfactuals to revisit and better understand our history. “What-ifs of this kind offer insights into the world in which we actually live,” Lebow claims, letting us “probe why and how it came about, how contingent it was, and how we should evaluate it.” He begins with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and its aftershocks, detailing what could have happened in the fields of science, art, medicine, and politics had the archduke survived. Using historical and personal records, supported by known personality traits of notable period figures, Lebow fashions two possible worlds, one better and one worse, had WWI been avoided. His confidence is evident on every page; this work of alternative history reminds us of our own position in flow of events and tempts us to follow Lebow’s lead in fantasizing about the possibilities inherent in these very distinct worlds. Though we can’t escape the realities of our past, Lebow provides his readers with exciting alternatives to consider.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverGallipoli : the final battles and evacuation of Anzac / David W. Cameron.
“This book is the first book since Charles Bean’s Official history to provide a detailed narrative of the bloody and tragic battle for Hill 60, along with the other engagements that went on until the very last days at Anzac – viewed from both sides of the trenches. It also examines in detail the planning and execution of the evacuation of the troops from Anzac – the most successful part of the whole Gallipoli fiasco. David Cameron’s detailed research and use of firsthand accounts including letters, diaries, and interviews, enables him to convey the confusion of battle while also telling a good story with a powerful emotional impact” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverMeetings in no man’s land : Christmas 1914 and fraternization in the Great War / Marc Ferro … [et al.] ; translations by Helen McPhail.
“In the winter of 1914, after long months of marching, soldiers on both fronts began to dig trenches and the war became a battle of attrition in which ordinary men faced each other across the bombed mud of No Man’s Land. The enemy lines were often no more than a few yards away, the soldiers of both sides in equal desperation, surrounded by carnage and horror. Out of this hardship came a shared feeling which was demonstrated in the unofficial armistice of Christmas 1914, when German and English soldiers laid down their weapons for a blessed moment of peace, played football and swapped food.
In this book, four international experts look at the story of Christmas 1914 and the evidence that fraternization was far more common than previously accepted. Using new research, the book explores these brief moments of humanity on all fronts and throughout the conflict, and shows them to have been not only prevalent but also vital, long ignored, factor in the war. For the French, defending their home territory, fraternization was the last taboo and until now omitted from the record.
Meetings in No Man’s Land reveals a story of the Great War that has long been forgotten or lost in censored official reports or officer journals, and brings new light to the harrowing experience of the ordinary soldier’s life in the trenches.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe Great War handbook [electronic resource] : a guide for family historians & students of the conflict / Geoff Bridger ; foreword by Cornelli Barnett.
“Geoff Bridger’s The Great War Handbook answers many of the basic questions newcomers ask when confronted by this enormous and challenging subject not only what happened and why, but what was the Great War like for ordinary soldiers who were caught up in it. He describes the conditions the soldiers endured, the deadly risks they ran, their daily routines and the small roles they played in the complex military machine they were part of. His comprehensive survey of every aspect of the soldier’s life, from recruitment and training, through the experience of battle and its appalling aftermath, is an essential guide for students, family historians, teachers and anyone who is eager to gain an all-round understanding of the nature of the conflict. His authoritative handbook gives a fascinating insight into the world of the Great War – it is a basic book that no student of the subject can afford to be without.” (Syndetics summary)

Comicfest: Some of our favourite things

To get us into the spirit of the upcoming ComicFest, I thought I would share some of my favourite things from the wider comic book universe. Ranging from adult to young adult – graphic novel, comic, and manga – alchemy, superpowers, science, wizardry or just plain bad-assedness, there’s a whole range of stuff here.

Syndetics book coverGirl genius [1] : Agatha Heterodyne & the Beetleburg Clank : a gaslamp fantasy with adventure, romance & mad science / story by Phil & Kaja Foglio ; pencils by Phil Foglio ; inks by Brian Snoddy.
“The Heterodyne family, who “travelled the globe negotiating peace, stopping monsters, and shutting down doomsday devices,” are heroes among those with the Spark, the ability to play with the laws of physics, until their disappearance. Now, student lab assistant Agatha Clay works for Dr. Beetle at Transylvania Polygnostic University. After soldiers of fortune steal the locket her uncle gave her years before, she is cast out of the university and left alone while her anxious foster parents go to retrieve it.” (Abridged from School Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverBlack butler. 1 / Yana Toboso ; [translation: Tomo Kimura].
“When a fire claims his parents, Ciel Phantomhive must step up as the head of his father’s company and as Earl Phantomhive. It would be a lot for the young boy to handle were it not for his faithful butler, Sebastian. He’s almost too good to be true – or at least, too good to be human.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFreakAngels. Volume one / story, Warren Ellis ; artwork, Paul Duffield.
“Twenty-three years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment. Six years ago, the world ended. Today, eleven strange 23-year-olds live in and defend Whitechapel, maybe the last real settlement in flooded London. When a dazed, gun-toting girl appears on the outskirts with a deadly grudge against the self-proclaimed Freakangels, the kids realize that an old enemy is still alive beyond the safety of their borders… a twelfth psychic child, evil and exiled, who can program human minds to hate, and send his private, pirate armies into Whitechapel for revenge. The first chapter in award-winning author Warren Ellis’ post-apocalyptic web comic series!” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFullmetal alchemist. Vol. 1 / story and art by Hiromu Arakawa.
“Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world, somewhere between magic, art, and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabble in these powers to grant their dearest wish, they become slaves of the military-alchemical complex.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Dresden Files : welcome to the jungle / written by Jim Butcher ; pencils by Ardian Syaf ; inks by Nick Nix…[et al.]
“When the supernatural world spins out of control, when the police can’t handle what goes bump in the night, when monsters come screaming out of nightmares and into the mean streets, there’s just one man to call: Harry Dresden, the only professional wizard in the Chicago phone book. A police consultant and private investigator, Dresden has to walk the dangerous line between the world of night and the light of day.
Now Harry Dresden is investigating a brutal mauling at the Lincoln Park Zoo that has left a security guard dead and many questions unanswered. As an investigator of the supernatural, he senses that there’s more to this case than a simple animal attack, and as Dresden searches for clues to figure out who is really behind the crime, he finds himself next on the victim list, and being hunted by creatures that won’t leave much more than a stain if they catch him.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFruits basket. Volume 1 / Natsuki Takaya.
“Nothing can dampen the optimistic spirit of orphaned high school girl Tohru Honda – not even being forced to live alone in a tent. One morning, she discovers a nearby house, where her popular classmate Yuki Sohma and his older cousin Shigure live by themselves. They invite her to stay with them as their (desperately needed) housekeeper, and she soon learns of the family curse: when the Sohmas are embraced by members of the opposite sex, they turn into animals of the Chinese zodiac. Tohru also meets Kyo, the 13th member of the cursed family, who turns into a cat, an animal ostracized by the zodiac members in an ancient legend. As Tohru brightens their lives, they give her something she thought she had lost: a family.” (Abridged from Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverHawkeye : my life as a weapon / Matt Fraction, writer ; David Aja, artist, #1-3 ; Javier Pulido, artist, #4-5. “Collects Hawkeye #1-5 & Young Avengers Presents #6. The breakout star of this summer’s blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton – aka the self-made hero Hawkeye – fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he’s out to prove himself as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence – before he becomes the most wanted man in the world.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverGunnerkrigg Court. Volume 1, Orientation / by Tom Siddell.
“Antimony Carver is a precocious and preternaturally self-possessed young girl starting her first year of school at gloomy Gunnerkrigg Court, a very British boarding school that has robots running around alongside body-snatching demons, forest gods, and the odd mythical creature. The opening volume in the series follows Antimony through her orientation year: the people she meets, the strange things that happen, and the things she causes to happen as she and her new friend, Kat, unravel the mysteries of the Court and deal with the everyday adventures of growing up. Tom Siddell’s popular and award-winning webcomic (www.gunnerkrigg.com) is here collected in print for the first time.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Boys. Volume one, The name of the game / written by Garth Ennis ; illustrated by Darick Robertson.
“THIS IS GOING TO HURT! In a world where costumed heroes soar through the sky and masked vigilantes prowl the night, someone’s got to make sure the “supes” don’t get out of line. And someone will. Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman and The Female are The Boys: a CIA backed team of very dangerous people, each one dedicated to the struggle against the most dangerous force on Earth – superpower. Some superheores have to be watched. Some have to be controlled. And some of them – sometimes – need to be taken out of the picture. That’s when you call in THE BOYS.” (Syndetics summary)

For more ComicFest information and an events timetable go here to our events calender or Facebook page, and check out the display items from Weta Cave on Central’s 1st floor from the 17th of April.

A very short introduction…

Do you have not a lot of time, snatched moments here and there, but still want to learn about new topics? Then the Very Short Introductions series might be just the thing for you. Written by experts in the field, but intended for a general audience, these short books offer a concise introduction to the particular topic, and often contain suggestions for further reading. Ranging from religion, ideologies, science, philosophy, history, and art, there is a Very Short Introduction on any number of subjects you may care to learn about.

Syndetics book coverBuddhism : a very short introduction / Damien Keown.
“This accessible volume covers both the teachings of the Buddha and the integration of Buddhism into daily life. What are the distinctive features of Buddhism? What or who is the Buddha, and what are his teachings? How has Buddhist thought developed over the centuries, and how can contemporary dilemmas be faced from a Buddhist perspective? Words such as “karma” and “nirvana” have entered our vocabulary, but what do they really mean? Keown has taught Buddhism at an introductory level for many years, and in this book he provides a lively, challenging response to these frequently asked questions.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverUtopianism : a very short introduction / Lyman Tower Sargent.
“There are many debates about utopia – What constitutes a utopia? Are utopias benign or dangerous? Is the idea of utopianism essential to Christianity or heretical? What is the relationship between utopia and ideology? This Very Short Introduction explores these issues and examines utopianism and its history. Lyman Sargent discusses the role of utopianism in literature, and in the development of colonies and in immigration.” (Abridged from publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverGalaxies : a very short introduction / John Gribbin.
“Renowned science writer John Gribbin takes us on a journey around the universe, looking at galaxies ranging from magnificent spirals like our very own Milky Way, to the ragged remains of massive intergalactic collisions, active galaxies which pump out jets of radiation into space, and those that we can just detect at the farthest reaches of space and time. Gribbin reveals how and why the study of galaxies has been central to our growing understanding of the cosmos, and why they remain one of the most exciting topics in astronomy today.” (Book jacket)

Continue reading “A very short introduction…”

Five frightening films from female filmmakers!

Want your Hallowe’en to be hair-raising? Here are five freaky films with female directors!

Cover imageNear Dark
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow – a mid-western farm boy reluctantly becomes a member of the undead when a girl he meets turns out to be part of a band of southern vampires who roam the highways in stolen cars. (Adapted from Syndetics)

Cover imageAmerican Psycho
Directed by Mary Harron – a young, handsome man with a Harvard education and success on Wall Street has terrible urges that take him in pursuit of women, greed, and murder. (Adapted from Syndetics)

Cover imageRavenous
Directed by Antonia Bird – Captain John Boyd is promoted during the Mexican-American War, but is sent to an isolated military outpost in the Sierra Nevada wilderness due to his cowardice. When the lone survivor of an ill-fated expedition that ended in murder and cannibalism arrives, the men must fight for survival against cannibals, the wilderness and their own murderous instincts. (Adapted from Syndetics)

Cover imageAmerican Mary
Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska – after she is betrayed and brutalized by one of her professors, medical student Mary Mason’s life takes a downward turn as she becomes a sawbones for the local mob after she stumbles into a seedy burlesque bar looking for work. Simultaneously ‘Bloody Mary’ becomes a hit in the body-modification underground after she helps a woman become the ultimate living doll. Before long Mary finds herself becoming increasingly unhinged and the constant surgeries begin to leave more marks on her than her so-called freakish clientele. (Adapted from Syndetics)

Cover imageIn My Skin
Directed by Marina de Van – Esther suffers deep gashes on her legs from an accidental fall. She begins to become preoccupied with her body and skin, especially her wounds. At first she merely traces the cuts on her legs, but it isn’t long before she is carving wounds directly and aggressively into her own body. Her boyfriend becomes concerned and angry, but his inability to understand forces Esther into reclusion to explore her new found passion. (Adapted from Syndetics)

“One small step for man…”

This year is the 40th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon. Apollo 17 was the sixth and final moon landing by the United States and launched from the Kennedy Space Centre December 7 1972. Apollo 17 had the first scientist/astronaut to land on the moon – Harrison Schmitt.

Syndetics book coverApollo : the epic journey to the moon / by David West Reynolds.
“Space expert Reynolds reconstructs all the key events and personalities connected to the Apollo space missions, from the experiences of the astronauts to the scientists and mission control operators who helped convert this extraordinary dream into reality. His text is accompanied by 400-plus color photographs, artwork showing the lunar explorations, and cutaway illustrations.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last man on the moon : astronaut Eugene Cernan and America’s race in space / Eugene Cernan and Don Davis.
“Eugene Cernan is a unique American who came of age as an astronaut during the most exciting and dangerous decade of spaceflight. His career spanned the entire Gemini and Apollo programs, from being the first person to spacewalk all the way around our world to the moment when he left man’s last footprint on the Moon as commander of Apollo 17. Between those two historic events lay more adventures than an ordinary person could imagine as Cernan repeatedly put his life, his family and everything he held dear on the altar of an obsessive desire. Written with New York Times bestselling author Don Davis, this is the astronaut story never before told – about the fear, love and sacrifice demanded of the few men who dared to reach beyond the heavens for the biggest prize of all – the Moon.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpacesuit : fashioning Apollo / Nicholas de Monchaux.
“When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface in July of 1969, they wore spacesuits made by Playtex: twenty-one layers of fabric, each with a distinct yet interrelated function, custom-sewn for them by seamstresses whose usual work was fashioning bras and girdles. This book is the story of those spacesuits. It is a story of the Playtex Corporation’s triumph over the military-industrial complex—a victory of elegant softness over engineered hardness, of adaptation over cybernetics. Playtex’s spacesuit went up against hard armor-like spacesuits designed by military contractors and favored by NASA’s engineers. It was only when those suits failed—when traditional engineering firms could not integrate the body into mission requirements—that Playtex, with its intimate expertise, got the job.” (Global Books in Print)

DVDs:
James May on the moon [videorecording].
“In this BBC documentary, James May commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings. He meets three of the men who walked on the moon, before experiencing the thrill of weightlessness, and the bone-crushing G forces of a Saturn V rocket launch. Finally, he puts on a space suit and flies to the edge of space in a U2 spy plane, where he looks down at the curvature of the earth and upwards into the black infinity of space.” (Syndetics summary)

From the Earth to the Moon [videorecording] / HBO presents a Clavius Base/Imagine Entertainment production.
“Through dramatization, this series relates the story of the conquest of the moon by the Americans, from the Mercury and Gemini projects to the legendary Apollo missions.” (Syndetics summary)

Websites:
NASA – Apollo 17
Project Apollo drawings and technical diagrams

The next train, stopping at all stations…

On 27 October 1904 the first underground New York City subway line opened. It is one of the oldest, and also one of the largest by number of stations (468) and by total length of routes (337km). Check out some of our books on subways, metros and other underground railways.

Syndetics book cover722 miles : the building of the subways and how they transformed New York / Clifton Hood.
“The New York subway was the vision of a few enlightened politicians working with a tight-knit mercantile elite who saw the potential that a high-speed underground rail system would have as a vehicle for urban development. Hood (American history, Hobart and William Smith Coll.) tells the fascinating story of the individuals who created this unparalleled achievement of civil engineering. This concise, scholarly history describes the impact on urban life and the creation of new neighborhoods (the Upper West Side, Harlem, Jackson Heights) separated only by a nickel fare from the heart of the city. Hood chronicles the changes in the city’s political climate, from a laissez-faire mood at the onset of the century through the rise of the progressive reform movement, concluding in the big-government era of the 1950s.” (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverWe own the night : the art of the Underbelly Project : New York Mar 2009-Aug 2010 / curators, Workhorse, PAC ; editors, Emeht Agency, Jiae Kim, John Lee.
“Having discovered a never-completed subway station in Brooklyn, two street artists-Workhorse and PAC-brought in artists from around the world to reclaim the space with original artwork. From the spring of 2009 to the summer of the following year, the Underbelly, as it came to be called, became a subterranean gallery, accessible only to those few who knew where to find it. Conceived in part as a commentary on the commodification of street art, notable figures such as Ron English, graffiti progenitor Haze, as well as the lesser known Dick Chicken and Indigo, sometimes hid from MTA workers or police in complete darkness for hours. Works such as Mint & Serf’s graffiti inflected dismantling of the American flag a la Jasper Johns or Trustocorp’s deconstruction of commercial art resonate with more conceptual pieces, such as Jeff Stark’s site-specific performance, in which the tuxedo clad artist served a multi-course dinner to two well-dressed friends in the underground space. The works in the Underbelly deliberately set themselves outside of traditional spaces for art and commerce, destined to be largely unseen firsthand. It is fitting-though tragic-that shortly after word of the space reached the press, the MTA sealed off access to the station. This book itself then becomes a testament to art for its own sake, an artifact of a project that posed the provocative question: “If no one will see it, will it still be important?” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverMetro : the story of the underground railway / David Bennett.
“In Metro, writer and engineer David Bennett gives a comprehensive insight into the rise of underground travel over the past 150 years.He traces the technological progress – from the risky breakthroughs in tunnelling techniques that made underground travel possible to the innovations that have made it safer and more pleasant, such as the move from coal-burning locomotives to the electrification of the line and the evolution of the first wooden carriages into the air-conditioned aluminium ones of today. He also explores the architecture of the most dramatic and inspiring stations ever built, including the clean, Bauhaus-influenced lines of Berlin’s U-Bahn, the stern grandeur of the Moscow Metro’s “socialist” architecture, and the breathtaking exuberance of the Hollywood Red Line in Los Angeles. Metro also takes an in-depth look at the cultural phenomena, such as poster art and graffiti, that have flourished on underground systems around the world. Thought-provoking, informative, entertaining, and expansively illustrated with 200 photographs, Metro reveals historical facts, heroic achievements, beautiful architectural details, and the secrets of subterranean engineering, and will appeal to historians, designers, architects, rail enthusiasts, and world travellers alike.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBeneath the metropolis : the secret lives of cities / Alex Marshall ; editor, David Emblidge.
“Independent journalist Marshall (How Cities Work) presents a unique and colorful view of the subterranean environments of 12 world cities. The comparatively recent settlements of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Sydney are joined here by the modernizing conurbations of Mexico City, Paris, Rome, London, Moscow, Cairo, Tokyo, and Beijing. Marshall occasionally draws parallels to other cities, such as Venice, Montreal, and Boston. Utilizing interviews with architects, engineers, and planners, as well as print sources, web sites, and some on-site visits, the author details the meandering underground networks that have evolved to convey people, water, electricity, effluvia, and telecommunications. Each city has faced obstacles imposed by its geology, archaeological history, and political and social constraints. Relying on either current or past watercourses, most did not make much use of underground potential before 1800, except for Rome with its catacombs. Thereafter, alternatively cooperating and competing public and private actors constructed these cities’ underground elements.” (drawn from Library Journal, courtesy of Syndetics)

Subway lives : 24 hours in the life of the New York City subway / Jim Dwyer.
“While the subtitle’s promise of a day-in-the-life of New York City’s colossal and troubled subway system is fulfilled, and quite dramatically, this robust and crackling page-turner also contains a hard-hitting history of the rise and damn-near collapse of the 85-year-old endeavor. Columnist Dwyer has that old-time, keyboard-pounding newsroom energy, breathing life and a whiff of incredulity into his historical facts while sketching vibrant portraits of people and suspenseful accounts of their predicaments. He brandishes the staggering statistics of the subway–the numbers of riders, dollars, crimes, breakdowns–with a mixture of respect and disgust, while his tone is almost tender when he focuses on individuals. He describes the day of a singing conductor, a token-booth clerk, an assortment of riders covering the spectrum from desperate to generous, and the last of the infamous graffitists. Dwyer keeps us in a continual state of amazement, exposing destructive sweetheart deals in one chapter, while in another, recounting the miraculous story of a woman giving birth on a stalled C train. An unforgettable tale of the craziness that is New York, that is humanity.” (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Websites:

Anniversary of supersonic flight

Sunday 14 October was the 65th anniversary of the first manned supersonic flight by Charles “Chuck” Yeager in the experimental Bell X-1 research rocket plane.  In celebration of this feat here are some of our books on supersonic flight.

Syndetics book coverFaster than sound : the story of supersonic flight / Bill Gunston.
“This is the fully revised and updated story of how British and American test pilots pierced the sound barrier in the late 1940s, support with many new photographs. Since then much has happened in the advancement of supersonic flight. As recently as 2003, tens of thousands of fare-paying passengers were routinely enjoying transatlantic intercontinental air travel at speeds of up to Mach 2 on Concorde. Internationally acclaimed best-selling aviation author Bill Gunston OBE describes in accessible style the rules and technologies of supersonic flight, developments in engine and airframe technology, the age of supersonic passenger transports, and advances in supersonic fighter and bomber design.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInto the unknown : the X-1 story / Louis Rotundo.
“Until Ezra Kotcher of Wright Field and John Stack of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) provided the leadership to convince officials to build a high-speed plane, public opinion was fraught with popular stories of a sonic “wall,” better known as the sound barrier. Now hanging in the Smithsonian, the X-1 was developed to conduct comprehensive flight tests and to acquire data in a scientific manner to demystify supersonic flight. The contributions of many people involved in the project are recounted, including Lawrence Bell, president of the contractor Bell Aircraft; Alvin “Tex” Johnson, Bell test pilot; and Chuck Yeager. Numerous first person interviews and exhaustive research into previously secret files relates the intrigue that surrounded the Mach 1 tests. Technical discussions of the aircraft design, power plant, and airframe are excellent, as are all the descriptions of the test flights, from the first to Chuck Yeager’s historic supersonic flight in 1947. The data gathered during this process helped set the stage for the X-15 and, later, for the space program. A significant contribution to aviation history.” (Drawn from Choice, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe X-planes : X-1 to X-45 / Jay Miller.
“This new and revised version of The X-Planes contains a detailed and authoritative account of each U.S. X-designated aircraft. Each aircraft is fully described, and coverage of history, specifications, propulsion systems, and disposition are included in a logical, readable format. Complementing the text are more than 900 photographs, many of which have never-before been published. Each X-Plane is also illustrated by an accurate and detailed multi-view drawing, which also provides color scheme information and scale data. Also included are appendices, an index, and miscellaneous tables. For aviation enthusiasts.” (Syndetics summary)

Doctor Livingstone, I presume? and other famous explorers

Need some motivation to go out and do great deeds today?  These books containing various heroic exploits may just provide the added push you need!

Syndetics book coverResolution : the story of Captain Cook’s second voyage of discovery / Peter Aughton.
“On 13 July 1772, a year and a day after James Cook had returned to England having claimed Australia and New Zealand for the British crown, he set sail again on another voyage to the Pacific with two ships, the Resolution and the Adventure, to complete his search for lands in the southern hemisphere. This three-year venture still remains the greatest exploratory voyage ever undertaken in the far southern waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. No other sailing ship has ever been further south through the ice. This was an epic voyage. The Pacific Ocean, covering more than a quarter of the earth’s surface, still had great lonely expanses where no ship had ever sailed. Numerous small islands had been spotted over the previous 250 years but nearly all had been sightings and not landings; even of the landings many were unvisited since their first discovery. Fresh food and water supplies were always a problem – and scurvy always a worry, in spite of the eighty barrels of sauerkraut they took with them. They also took invaluable instruments supplied by the Board of Longitude, not least a copy of Harrison’s fourth marine chronometer.” (Book jacket)

Syndetics book coverRace to the end : Amundsen, Scott, and the attainment of the South Pole / Ross D.E. MacPhee.
“Between 1910 and 1912, parties led by Norway’s Roald Amundsen and England’s Robert Scott made simultaneous attempts to be the first to reach the South Pole. Both parties attained the pole (Amundsen’s first, Scott’s second), but only Amundsen and his comrades returned alive. In a handsome volume that accompanies the American Museum of Natural History’s exhibit on the Scott and Amundsen expeditions, curator MacPhee sheds new light on this well-known story of triumph and tragedy. His text is complemented by a treasure trove of photos, maps, journals, and artifacts (some seen here for the first time). Seamlessly combining high adventure with meticulous documentation, this book will have broad appeal. Includes five contemporary panoramas showing Scott’s journey, as well as two vertical maps.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverExplorers : the most exciting voyages of discovery : from the African expeditions to the lunar landing / Andrea de Porti.The Explorers: The Most Exciting Voyages of Discovery — From the African Expeditions to the Lunar Landing
“Journalist De Porti not only explains the reasons why these apparently sane people left safe havens to explore the world and beyond, but supplies hundreds of period photographs and illustrations in gatefolds that create posters that explain the length and breadth of 53 journeys into the unknown. The seemingly sane people include Charles Lindbergh, Rosita Forbes, Richard Burton, John Speke, Robert Peary, Howard Carter, Freya Stark, Neil Armstrong and Yuri Gargarin, whom De Porti puts in context with their various and sundry motives, compatriots, beasts of burden, mistakes, and triumphs.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverXanadu : Marco Polo and Europe’s discovery of the East / John Man.
“Marco Polo’s journey from Venice, through Europe and most of Asia, to the court of Kublai Khan in China is one of the most audacious in history. His account of his experiences, known simply as The Travels, uncovered an entirely new world of emperors and concubines, great buildings — ‘stately pleasure domes’ in Coleridge’s dreaming; huge armies and imperial riches. His book shaped the West’s understanding of China for hundreds of years. John Man travelled in Marco’s footsteps to Xanadu, in search of the truth behind Marco’s stories; to separate legend from fact. Drawing on his own journey, archaeology and archival study, John Man paints a vivid picture of the man behind the myth and the true story of the great court of Kublai Khan.” (Global Books in Print)

Syndetics book coverThe race to the New World : Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and a lost history of discovery / Douglas Hunter.
“It’s hard to imagine that there is still uncharted territory in the history of the New World’s discovery. But Hunter indeed sails unsullied waters, offering an intriguing and surprising new twist on the old subject. Other historians have paralleled the voyages of Columbus and Cabot, Italian explorers for hire determined to find a westward route to Asia, but Hunter interweaves their stories and places them firmly into the complex geopolitical landscape of Renaissance Europe. Insisting that one cannot understand the career and motivations of one without understanding the career and motivations of the other, he analyzes the significant influence and impact these two rivals had upon one another. As this fascinating historical detective story unfolds, new pieces of an old puzzle are put into place, providing fresh perspective on the traditional discovery narrative. This important contribution to the scholarship of exploration history should also please readers who enjoy well-researched revisionist histories like Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower (2006).” (Drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Strange science at the library

Check out some of the more bizarre books about science found at the library. In amongst the time spent by scientists trying to find the cure for cancer, the common cold and global warming, they manage to get up to some pretty crazy things!

Syndetics book coverElephants on acid : and other bizarre experiments / Alex Boese.
A fascinating account of some of the stranger experiments from history that were done in the name of science. In the ‘a tad creepy’ basket we have zombie kittens and the 1970s Stanford Prison experiment.  In the ‘scratch your head and ask why’ basket we have the difference between Coke and Pepsi (you may think you can taste it, but you can’t actually) and whether your dog is likely to go get help if you are in distress (unlikely). (Staff member)

Syndetics book coverWhy don’t penguins’ feet freeze? and 114 other questions : more questions and answers from the popular “last word’ column / edited by Mick O’Hare.
In this book of questions from New Scientist’s popular Last Word column, all sorts of odd questions are posed (and answered). If you want to know why supermarket bags are so noisy, why milk will run down the bottle if you pour it too slowly or why planes can fly upside down, just grab this book to find out! (Staff member)

Syndetics book coverIg Nobel prizes : the annals of improbable research / Marc Abrahams.
In 2010 the Ig Nobel Physics prize was won by three ladies from the University of Otago for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in winter, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes. A trick I learnt growing up in Dunedin is that old wooly rugby socks are the best sort for wearing over your shoes. (Staff member)

Syndetics book coverThe hungry scientist handbook : electric birthday cakes, edible origami, and other DIY projects for techies, tinkerers, and foodies / Patrick Buckley and Lily Binns.
Did you know that cooking is actually chemistry? Delicious, tasty chemistry? Have you ever fancied making icecream with liquid nitrogen, or making edible origami? These and many more ideas bring science into the kitchen and onto the plate. (Staff member)

Syndetics book coverHow many licks? : or, how to estimate damn near anything / Aaron Santos.
Have you ever wondered how many grams of tea it would take to make the Boston harbour palatable? Or how long it would take to eat the Stay Puft Man from Ghostbusters? If you have, this book will show you how to go about estimating the answers to all sorts of wacky questions. (Staff member)