Month: May 2011

The Decemberists – Musical loveliness

Ahhhh The Decemberists.  Discovered on Saturday afternoons on National Radio with Kirsten Johnstone.  This totally gorgeous video gives you a taste of their music.  This is one of the most gorgeous looking videos I’ve seen in ages, those faces are just so clear and poignant.  They play great music make cool fun videos and I really like them.

The Decemberists

Somewhere

This is just gorgeous.  Lovely lovely music and the art is delicious.  I particularly love the dancing fish and also the little references to famous artists.  Turn your sound up and sit back and watch this lovely thing.  Have I said lovely enough?

The music is by Sanders Bohlke and if you click here you can have more!

The Facebook Sonnet – Facebook as a Xmas card list

The Facebook Sonnet

Welome to the endless high-school

Reunion.  Welcome to past friends

And lovers, however kind or cruel.

Let’s undervalue and unmend

The present.  Why can’t we pretend

Every stage of life is the same?

Let’s exhume, resume, and extend

Childhood.  Lets all play the games

That occupy the young.  Let fame

And shame intertwine.  Let one’s search

For God become public domain.

Let church.com become our church.

Let’s sign up sign in, and confess

Here at the alter of loneliness.

Sherman Alexie

Words to ponder on.  I decided to post the poem above onto my facebook profile and to see if anybody amongst my 107 ‘friends’ on there would comment.  Nothing!  This was a bit disappointing because I think that Sherman Alexie has a point.  While Facebook does give you a connection with people you are sorry you don’t have contact with in any other way anymore, and whom you miss.  Facebook also connects you with a bunch of people you don’t ever need to be connected to anymore.  People  you might be delighted to be connected to, but by the same token might feel duty bound to accept a ‘friend invitation’ from if they send you one, not accepting implies that you don’t wish to be friends with them, this by implication makes you mean.  Facebook is fraught!

What do you do about the friends who post constantly, inane trivia that does your head in, more than once a day sometimes.  What about the ones who send constant links to things that really don’t interest you, do you make it so that you can’t see their posts, will they know?  Maybe I am this person to some of my friends.  Do I post too often?  Do I put on too many links?  Am I talking about my inane ridiculous life?  Who knows? 

  • As for the reconnection with school friends and friends from previous times in your life.  This can range from the, frankly disturbing – how could I have been friends with this person, surely they weren’t like this when I knew them?  Who has changed me or them?
  • To the this person is too cool for me, I’m not the funky hip person this person thinks I am.
  • To the I’m only friends with this person because they are a newby on here and dear god if they send me another update on the Farmville or Zuma they are playing incessantly I will reach down the interweb cable and throttle the very life out of their mouse finger with that cable! 
  • To the deeply christian churchy types who tell me how awesome their church services are – why did I click the confirm friendship button I knew this particular relationship wouldn’t work out.  Why the hell did they want to me my friend anyway?
  • To those poor souls who search for meaning, happiness, and a purpose to life – you are just too lost for me.  I am too intolerant to be your friend, well I’ll be your friend but I don’t want to see your posts.  Actually you don’t like me anyway and don’t want to spend time with me, so why are we pretending to be friends on Facebook?

The last point is actually key, it is possible to be friends with all manner of annoying and irritating past friends etc if you can’t see what they are doing.  Block the buggers! I work on the principle that if they have something I need to know (I use the term need loosely here obviously) they will message me.

So, just like a high school reunion, people who knew an early version of you, feel like they still know you, and feel the need to catch up even though you have all moved on, and who don’t have anything in common with you any more, except memories of the previous you, want to rekindle something and befriend you in a Facebook kind of way.  Not in any kind of deeply connected real friend kind of way.

Facebook friendship is not the same as real life friendship.  It is a virtual friendship.  These are not the people you can pop round and have a coffee with at their houses, or go for a drink with on a Friday night.  These are not the people that you get together with at the drop of a hat.  These are a bunch of people, some of your nearest and dearest, and some who you will never see again but with whom you once had a connection.  These are the people that in the old days you would have been sending Christmas cards to and receiving them from.  Really once a year was enough!

So, go on, send me a friendship invite on Facebook.  If you know me well enough to go to coffee with me, if we have connections professionally and are actual friends.  If I would go for coffee with you.  We could be friends!  Or not!

Feijoa Cake

This is moist and yummy.  Only for those who really like feijoas of course, but if you like them you really like them.  The season is so incredibly short and they go off really quickly, so best get them inside you quickly!

Credit for the recipe goes to the lovely Michael.  He is in Year 11 at school and this is his Mum Alison’s recipe.  Michael gave me a piece of this cake one morning because he is a kind hearted young man and I have been dying to make it ever since.  I can thoroughly recommend it.  it certainly went down a treat at Bookclub last night.  The recipe originally comes from somewhere called Top of the dome, but I don’t know where that is.

300g self-raising flour

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnnamon

Photo from teara.govt.nz

1/2 tsp salt

250g demerara (or brown) sugar

125g butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

175ml milk

250g feijoas, peeled and chopped

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Line your cake tin with baking paper and grease lightly.  Works in round or square but it is quite a big cake.

Sift the flour, cinnamon and salt into a bowl.  Stir in the sugar and you can put in some raisins or cranberries at this point in you want (I don’t want)

In a separate bowl mix the butter, eggs, milk and feijoas and mix until smooth.  Combine the two mixtures and pour into the cake tin.

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the cake is springy in the middle when you give it a little poke with your finger.  Take out of the oven and let it stand in the tin for a good 5 minutes.  Then, when coolish tip it out and put onto a wire rack to cool.  Serve it warm as a desert with cream or yoghurt.  Yum.

There is no dog by Meg Rosoff

There is no dog is about God, whose name is Bob!  He is a teenager (he is 19) who has been given the responsibility of creating and then the ongoing maintenance of Earth.  Unfortunately like most teenagers he takes his eye off the ball fairly regularly and chaos ensues on our planet.  He is minded by Mr B, my favourite character in the book, who spends his time trying to juggle the catastrophes which God causes, a lot of which involve God being irresistibly  attractive to young women, and being consumed with himself, his dislike of his interferring mother, who won Earth in a poker game in the beginning which is how Bob came to be God, and who also has now carelessly lost Bob’s pet in yet another poker game.  Mr B, is responsible for whales being on earth and has his hands full ensuring their continued survival what with Bob being all involved with himself and his lovelife.  Confused, I was! 

Meg Rosoff is one of my favourite authors but this book seems like a good idea that just ran off with itself and left the author with not enough places to take what remained.  It seems a bit disjointed, a bit loopy and underdone.  There are tone changes which don’t sit quite right, there are disjointed chapters and the resolution is – weird.  I kept reading because I really wanted it to be fabulous, and I always enjoy the cleverness in a Meg Rosoff book, and that is there in this book but not in big enough doses to keep me hooked.   The book is good natured, and has heart which Meg Rosoff always brings to her books, her sense of humour really is great.

I have adored every single previous novel by Meg Rosoff  here is what I thought of The brides farewell,  (loved it) and I will certainly await the next one eagerly but this one is one I’m glad I didn’t have to spend my library dollar on.  I was loaned a proof which is fabulous and exciting and always a thrill, it feels like you are in with an early look at a treat before anybody else gets hold of it.  I enjoyed parts of the book but I’m really more looking forward to the next one.

Meg Rosoff has been in NZ for Auckland Readers and Writers Week and I have been so jealous that she came south as far as Nelson, but not to Dunedin, and it is so nice here!  Come a bit further next time Meg and we will look after you – and we have far more excellent water than Auckland down here!  Read this post on her blog to see why I wrote that!

Paper Airplane – Alison Krauss & Union Station

It is ages since I bought a CD. Ages and ages, I couldn’t even remember the last one – maybe K.T. Tunstall.  Then on Kim Hill on Saturday morning on National Radio I heard the CD I had been waiting to buy.  This one!   It is gorgeous.  I’m delighted with my purchase.  I really have nothing more to say about this except if you don’t know Alison Krauss’s music you are missing a wonderful clear voice and beautiful country music that is so likeable.

Her last album, with Robert Palmer, Raising Sand has been on high rotation in my car for ages and I’m really happy to have a new bunch of songs to sing along with her.  I tend to head towards the whine whereas she reaches the clear, bell-like high notes without a hint of whine, but oh well!  Here is one of the songs from the album called Paper Airplane.

The child thief by Brom

This book is causing controversy in my library. 

Firstly what is the story?  It is a take on the original Peter Pan, far more dark and disturbing than anything Disney would do.  This is no piece of fluff!  Peter sits in the trees, he creeps around, hiding behind corners and up high, out of sight of all but the neediest children.  He senses those who need rescuing from horrible home situations, those who are on the run from baddies and the lost and abandoned.  There is some fairly graphic violence and some nasty stuff going on fright from the start of the book.  Peter whisks off these kids and takes them to his world which sits alongside the real world, through the fog, he can’t take them unless they agree to go but most of them are pretty desperate and anything will be better than the life they currently have……. or will it.  Peters world is full of extremely scary stuff, battles and starvation, it is a dog eat dog world in there.  Life in the forest is being gradually destroyed and there are many many threats.

What is not to like?  For a start the sheer frequency of words which occur after 9pm at night and that start with f and c.  While it only very occasionally feels gratuitous it occurs so often I found myself sighing in frustration.

What is to like?  It is a great story, a cool freaky retelling of a classic.  The illustrations are stupendously good, and the look of the book was one of the things that attracted me to it when I spied it in the University Bookshop.  Lovely format, lovely paper, lovely pictures.  There is a touch of books with a simple story made sinister in this book, in the style of The Graveyard book by Neil Gaiman.

What is the issue?  A staff member read it and loved it, all of it, thought it was cool and clever and wasn’t upset by the language at all, he says “They’ll love it Bridget, stop being a prude.”  Another staff member read it, she said “Gross, it is far too graphic, violent and too much swearing.”   I read it first, I said “It is great, but the language and the constant battles got a bit wearing, and do parents really want kids to take home books like this?  Would I be happy if one of my kids bought this home?  Not if they were a junior that is for certain.”

Will I put it in the library?  Yep I will, but with a big loud seniors only sticker on it.  I’ll have the student librarians have a go at it first and see what they think.  I know some will love it, but some will not be so sure, discussion will rage I hope, and that is a good thing.

Want to see the art?  Head over to Brom’s website, lovely lovely lovely.

Some of the art from the book

Pear Ginger Muffins

Autumn means pears!  Lovely juicy and dripping with sweetness.  I love pears.  So I made up this muffin recipe, well I should probably say I adapted a muffin recipe lurking in my folder.  I have always loved the combination of pears and ginger, I remember going to my grandmothers place when she had made pear ginger jam and thinking she was incredibly clever to have made something so lovely.  Must find out if an aunty has the recipe actually.  Here is a quick easy way to use up the pears which are getting overripe in the fruit bowl.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger (more if you like)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 small pears, peeled and chopped finely
1 egg
1/2 cup yoghurt, plain (or use milk if you must)
1/2 cup butter (melted)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl

Mix together egg, yoghurt, vanilla and melted butter, add the chopped pear.  Stir into dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-mix or your muffins will get all peaky and tough and holey!  Put into greased muffin tin or in my case little loaves tin.

I think you could add walnuts if you wanted a little bit of extra crunch or crystallised ginger if you want a bit of extra bite.

Tuna and Lemon Pasta

This living alone business is tricky, well not so much the living but the cooking for one.  Every time I make something I make far too much of it, then I end up having to eat it for days and days and get tired of it, then it goes in the bin.  So I need to make quick, easy, healthyish food that fits in a bowl, with only a bit of leftover which can be taken to school for lunch the following day.  This is that recipe at the moment, I’m a little fixated on it.  Try it is is yummy.

This isn’t a recipe it is more of a method.

Cook some pasta – long pasta I think rather than spirals or other short types.  Drain it when cooked.

When it is cooked tip a small can of tuna with lemon and pepper flavour over the top and add some spinach leaves, some chopped fresh parsley or chives and mix them through the pasta.  Spring onions are good too!

Grab a lemon, grate a little bit of the zest finely and save it, squeeze the lemon over the pasta, sprinkle the zest over the top and add a grinding of black pepper and the zest.  If you have some lime flavoured oil, such as the one in the photo I think you should add a dash of this as well, delicious.

Voila dinner is ready

The Radleys by Matt Haig

Well I wasn’t expecting this, I chose the book a) because it was on special and b) the cover was stunning.  Perfectly good reasons.  I also had Matt Haig’s first book on my shelves at home and have been meaning to read it for ages, it is called The Last Family in England and is from the point of view of a dog, love the idea – see Dan Rhode’s Timoleon Vita on the books page and you will see I do rather like a book from an animal viewpoint, you could also have a look at The art of racing in the rain, which is reviewed on this blog quite a while ago.  So, The Radley’s  gorgeous cover, interesting sounding blurb on the back, I was after something not to heavy to read and so picked it up.  I put it down completed at the end of the day and sighed a happy, satisfied puff of happiness.  This is a cool book!

The Radley’s is the story of a seemingly ordinary suburban family, it is only subtle hints which most people wouldn’t pick up on, which might suggest that there is something a little odd about them.  Their poor teenage son is mercilessly bullied at school, their daughter is obsessed with the antivivisectionist league, Dad is a slightly distracted doctor and Mum is a sensible worried woman.  One night the daughter of the family comes under threat and all hell breaks loose, their family peace is shattered and terrible truths must be revealed.  If I write here that this is a vampire novel you won’t read it, so I won’t say that.  Lets say it’s the vampire book you read when you don’t want to read a vampire book!

This novel is funny, clever and a lighthearted read about a family with a serious problem, a wayward uncle and plenty to deal with when trouble comes to call.  I really enjoyed it and loved it’s little quirks.

Now I really have to read his other book.  Stat!

Tim Minchin

Via the wonderful Miriam Tuohy’s FB page.

Tim Minchin is an Australian comedian and musician, or musician and comedian.  Witty repartee is his specialty area that and fantastic piano stylings.  Check out his website here and the video below.  Nice.  He is also the voice in the film of Shaun Tan’s wonderful The Lost Thing which won an academy award in recent times.  More niceness.