Thursday, 5 April 2018

PopculturAL blog merges with Auckland Libraries blog

Just a brief note to let you all know that our popculturAL blog has now merged with the new Auckland Libraries blog.

If you subscribe to popculturAL, then I encourage you to change your subscription over to Auckland Libraries blog to be sure of being kept up to date with Auckland Libraries pop cultural happenings, and to learn more about our collections and news.

Other blogs joining us at Auckland Libraries blog include All things musical and Books in the City.
Now these blogs will be together on the Auckland Libraries blogspot - so don't forget to subscribe to keep up to date!

See you there!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Emma Watson and Feminism

If you, like me, have been gradually discovering the awesome person that is Emma Watson, you would be excited to discover that she is just as obsessed with books as the bookworm characters she plays. As well as apparently taking a year off acting to ‘read more books’ (oh, the luxury!), she is an actress, an English Literature graduate, a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador who launched a campaign to encourage men to advocate for gender equality,  and a woman who sometimes takes time off to hide books on trains. Whew. And yes, I may be fan-girling just a little bit.

At the beginning of last year, inspired by her collaboration with the UN, she decided to start a feminist book club online, on a popular book-sharing platform, to discuss the wealth of information about equality she had been reading. If you’d like to join, all you need is a Goodreads profile, and boom, you’re in. Every second month Ms. Watson selects a book, posts some questions and thoughts to start it off, and the community takes it from there. Currently there are over 190,000 members across the globe.

Curious about the books she chose? You can head over to Goodreads (incidentally; a great website for discovering and discussing books) and join Our Shared Shelf. If you want to get your greedy little mitts on the actual books, though, they are all available through your local library.

Emma Watson and her fellow ‘book fairies’ have got famous for hiding dozens of books on public transport, to the delight of fans. Unfortunately, unless you live in London, Paris, or New York, you’re unlikely to come across Our Shared Shelf’s new pick.

As well as the classics, there are some less well-known choices in there, ripe for exploring. Here is the full list:

  1. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  2. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
  3. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  4. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  5. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  6. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
  7. Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
  8. The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler and Gloria Steinem

Coincidentally, for someone so identified with the ‘bookish’ characters she plays, nearly all the major film roles Emma Watson has taken on are based on books. She appears in the Harry Potter franchise, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Bling Ring, (all originally based on books), as well as Noah, based on a book of the bible, funnily enough.

Or maybe, knowing Emma’s love for reading, it is truly not a coincidence at all.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Why Don't You Blog About It: the best blog-to-books

With people these days spending half of their lives online, it’s no wonder that ‘normal’ has changed the world over. Even in book publishing, technology has been slowly reaching its’ tentacles in. While the concept has been building in popularity for a few years now, recently there has been an explosion of blog-to-book concepts.

From mega-famous YouTuber’s getting in on the act, including Pewdiepie, Miranda Sings, Shane Dawson, and Zoella’s bestselling effort (which outsold Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey in its' first week), it seems that one of the best ways to get a book deal nowadays is to have a strong online following (*cough, cough* hello?). With a ready community to sell to, it seems an obvious way to re-start the currently struggling publishing industry.

The trend, however, started with the original digital over-sharers, the bloggers. Here are some of the best blog-to-book adaptions I have read.
Slaughterhouse 90210 is a book I stumbled on while checking in items, and I was struck by the unusual title. If you’re the type of person who loves keeping up with philosophy, but you also can’t turn down a good trashy TV show, you. will. love. this. It mixes the high with the low-brow, printing literary quotes alongside pop culture icons, and the results will surprise and intrigue you. It is a philosophy nerd’s dream.
The insanely popular twitter account Sh*t my dad says is one of the original examples of how online popularity has translated into other mediums. This bought the eponymous dad’s son a TV sitcom deal, which starred William Shatner (it was cancelled after one season), and several book deals. The first book on the shelves was ‘Sh*t my Dad says’ (funnily enough). The author, Justin Halpern has also recently published a book about his lack of talent with the opposite sex. The namesake book, however, is true to the original content, full of his Dad’s’ blunt and hilarious sayings, and personal anecdotes from their life. If you’re looking for a light read about a man who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘passive-aggressive’, this will be your cup of tea.
If you have been on Facebook recently, (and let’s face it, who hasn’t) you might have stumbled upon a striking photograph of a person, followed by a caption telling an intriguing story of that person’s life. This is the social media-famous ‘Humans of New York’ blog, which has gone on to spawn many imitations. Renowned for their share-ability, the posts provide a remarkable insight into the similarities and differences in humans across the world. This is obvious in the books they have spawned, the beautiful tomes a permanent record of the influence of the blog. As well as two separate volumes of the posts, there is also a picture book for the smaller humans on our planet, titled ‘Little Humans'.
Lastly, there’s Stuff White People Like. Yes, that’s the name of the book. Based on the blog of the same name, it is captioned ‘A guide to the unique taste of millions’. Taking aim at liberal, left-leaning white North Americans, it satirises their ‘unique’ tastes. The book includes the full list that first appeared on the website, including notable entries such as ‘#87 Outdoor Performance Clothes’, ‘#5 Farmer’s Markets’ and ‘#62 Knowing what’s best for poor people’, with pretty hilarious explanations. As a self-identifying Liberal White Person, it is scary how accurate it is. Read on if you would like to find out how to befriend your local “cute girls with bangs and cool guys with beards”.
Have any more recommendations of great books by bloggers? Comment below!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Churchill - movie review

If the thought of a Winston Churchill film has you reminiscing warily about your stuffy old history tutorials, cast your mind back instead to the amusing & unexpected tidbits you learned about history in class – because this is the essence of Churchill.

Churchill cuts an intimidating figure, and Brian Cox has it down pat. Much like the real Churchill, Cox appears in the film as a solid, rotund man draped in a thick trench coat, gnawing like a baby with a pacifier on thick cigars in both occasions of great satisfaction and moments of abject despondence.

This film stands in time on the precipice of D-Day, and Churchill is wavering as wildly as if he too is on a precipice. He was, unbeknownst to millions of people, deeply uncertain about Operation Overlord, and did attempt to have it cancelled right up to the day prior to D-Day.

Live Q&A with Brian Cox

Brian Cox, it turns out, is very unlike his Churchill! A man with a much less clipped tone, who only issues his startlingly hoarse bellows when in character – Mr. Cox is actually a charming guest and a generous question answer.

The Q&A runs overtime with his encouragement, and we learn about his hometown connection to Churchill (Churchill was MP of Dundee from 1908 - 1922); his opinion on the arts (vital); and his secret inspiration for Churchill’s characterisation (Stewie Griffin – from Family Guy. IT MAKES SENSE!).

Churchill is a human portrayal of a man otherwise sketched as a two dimensional legend, and isn’t it always more powerful to see a human struggle to succeed? History buffs and biopic fans alike will enjoy Churchill.

Churchill is in New Zealand cinemas from Thursday 15 June.

Watch the trailer here:

Our reviewer was generously provided with complimentary tickets to an advanced screening.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Viceroy's House - movie review

Today we have a rare treat: two perspectives on a new film soon to be in cinemas! Two of our library staff were lucky enough to attend a special pre-screening of Viceroy's House, starring Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson, as well as attend a Q & A with the director, Gurinder Chadha.

Viceroy's House is in cinemas from 11 May.

Gurinder Chadha – of Bend It Like Beckham fame - has done a tremendous job of portraying a very complex historical event. The division of British India and the formation of the independent dominions of India and Pakistan resulted in devastating violence and the displacement of approximately 10-12 million individuals - including Chadha’s grandmother. Viceroy’s House focuses on the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, as he oversees India’s bittersweet transition to independence. It’s not a light topic, nor is it simple – in fact it’s staggering, as is practically anything apropos of the kaleidoscopic realm of Indian religion and history.

But Chadha manages to make this film light in many fine ways. It’s a classic upstairs downstairs take (catch Hugh Bonneville aka Mr. Downton Abbey starring as Mountbatten) and there are plenty of chaste British laughs to be had – obliviously racist elders, long suffering wives (Gillian Anderson aka Dana Scully is expert here, naturally), Jane Austen references, posh people and their little dogs (and horses). There’s a romantic subplot that’s definitely okay to unashamedly indulge yourself in because of its serious and revolutionary context (and because Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi are both beautiful and brilliant.)

However, none of these things are at the expense of being truly chilling, horrific and revealing. The murky dealings of the men in power are punctuated brilliantly by touching domestic scenes of bustling villages comprised of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh families – and by shocking archival footage of the massacres that eradicated many of these communities. Without spoiling anything for those not quite au fait with their British-Indian history, Viceroy’s House is a revelation of invisible networks of power, political scapegoats, and of the cost of independence - and who ultimately pays it.

I laughed, I cried, and I found Michael Gambon as General Hastings Ismay more odious than as Albert Spica in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Lover. Overall I give Viceroy’s House a 7/10 and highly recommend seeing it.

This review by Amber of Parnell Library.


The timeliness of the release of this movie coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India in 1947. The end of the British Raj after 300 years of domination over India, to the birth of two nations, India and Pakistan. This in itself would be an epic task for any director to undertake. Director Gurinder Chadha (Bend it like Beckham) hasn’t disappointed. 

Eight years in the making, before Downtown Abbey, a parallel is notable to Viceroy House (the building is now known as Rastrapati Bhavan).  Viceroy House is a period drama with divisions, upstairs home to the last Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville, Downtown Abbey) his Vicereine Edwina (Gillian Anderson, The X-Files), below-stairs the 500 domestic servants, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. It sets the stage with the Mountbatten’s arrival to give independence to India through to the aftermath of partition. 

Inside Viceroy House multiple viewpoints are explored between the key players. It is entertaining viewing. The theme traces the mechanism, political relationships against a background of civil unrest, pro-independence challenges and a romance. A romance between two of Mountbatten’s staff, a Hindu boy, Jeet (Manish Dayal) and Aalia, a Muslim girl (Huma Quereshi). A sign…hope for the future?

Mohandas Gandhi (Neera Kabi), Jawarhal Nehru (Tanveer Ghani), Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Denzil Smith) the actors playing these roles have a physical resemblance to the people they personified. Hugh Bonneville unfortunately does not, and at times this gets in the way of a convincing portrayal of Mountbatten. Gillian Anderson showcases Edwina Mountbatten’s style and comes across as astute, showing and understanding complexities with a genuine concern for the people. A very slight hint of the Edwina - Nehru relationship.

Controversial too, is the partition map drawn up two years earlier by Winston Churchill himself; is Mountbatten thus a pawn in an pre-prepared secret war cabinet plan? With Britain’s “divide and rule” policy drawn out on religious boundaries this would bring atrocities, death, destruction, and a mass migration of 14 million people in opposite directions, Muslims to West and East Pakistan, Hindus and Sikhs to India. Death toll: one million.

A deeply personal connection for Gurinder Chadha as her own family (grandparents) were caught up in these tragic events. This movie is based on research from the British Library and guided from the book The Shadow of the Great Game, by Narendra Singh Sarile (2006). The music is composed by A.R. Rahman of Slumdog Millionaire fame. Ben Smithard’s cinematography is splendidly shot….while the use of black and white newsreels heightened the storytelling. Would I go and see it again: yes!

This review by Manjula of Avondale Library

Our reviewers were generously provided with complimentary tickets to an advanced screening.