Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Tennessee, I love you: Tim, Taylor and Keith

Here I am again telling you/bragging about my trip to America and my new favourite place in the world Nashville, Tennessee.

I was there for this! It was so awesome. 
While in Nashville I did a lot of things for the first time. I went honky tonking, western horse riding, ate deep fried pickle chips, fan girled*. Some of you maybe thinking that I fan girl all the time and I thought that I did too! That was until I was watching Taylor Swift at CMA Fest and she bought out Tim McGraw and Keith Urban to perform with her.

I freaking lost it. 

There were screaming and profanities coming out of my mouth that even surprised me. I full on fan girled. I must admit that I'm kind of proud of that fact that I freaked out over something so awesome. It was so completely exciting and unexpected that if you were there you would've freaked out too..... maybe. Below is the official music video for Highway Don't Care (their amazing song) and a fan video of the actual performance. 

Make sure you check out Taylor, Tim and Keith's music and Tim's latest album featuring Highway Don't Care.

*In case you don't know what a fangirl is this is the Urban Dictionary definition: 'Girls who are fanatical about a particular person, group of people, or idea.'

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Is Twitter reading?

Yes, it's the full moon again, and Scriven's off on another one. But it's hard not to get your fangs out when you see some of the crap they write in library journals. Honestly.

The latest bit's from VOYA, the Voice of Youth Advocates magazine. (Voice of Youth Advocates? - pfff, nice name >:-}) Anyway, there's an article called Do You Like to Read? in which the author lambasts these hidebound librarians for asking such a question of Young People. And expecting that to mean printed texts. How dare they? Of course teens love to read! They read Twitter and Facebook, which are every bit as worthy as a book! Why are we expecting them to read things they don't like?

Come on, lady. Pull your head out.

Speaking as an accidental librarian, I've become an ardent supporter of graphic novels and magazines as pathways into reading. There's some damn good writing, illustration and storytelling in both these formats. But since when is a tweet an adequate replacement?

A tweet is, in essence, someone's immediate thought posted online. It's a brief, unfiltered thing. It's as much "literature" as a Tui billboard. Sure, to read anything requires a modicum of literacy. But you can't argue that catching up on Twitter or Facebook is the same as reading an actual structured, coherent argument or work of imagination. What do these media give teens that a text message or a note stuck to the fridge couldn't? "Need milk - pls pick some up. Love you." How do they encourage creativity and deeper thought?

If transactional information or gossip is all teens are expected to read, God help them. They'll end up a generation of unimaginative, materialistic...uh oh.

Jokes aside, today's teens do like to read real books. And we should be encouraging that, not telling them it's OK just to check their inbox. There are whole universes out there besides this one, and the only way to access them is through literature. Teens aren't all stupid and shallow, and we shouldn't be treating them that way. Reading doesn't have to be about War and Peace and Vanity Fair, but they also don't have to like all of it. Challenge them, for God's sake. Let them know the difference between good literature and bad. Encourage them to explore and contrast.

Digital formats are changing the world, and have the power to do so much good. I can't imagine what my life was like before the internet. By all means, be inventive and include digital content in classrooms and libraries. But you'd never let a child eat only what it liked, would you? Likewise, the fast-food outlets of cyberspace, the Twitters and the Facebooks and the Tumblrs should never be the whole diet. Or tomorrow's society will be very sick indeed.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Fanfic Or Not To Fanfic

"Fan fiction can be defined as any piece of writing inspired by the original work of another."

I am a fan fiction fan.  I"m also a fan fiction writer.

And yes I can hear the cries of shock, horror and outage from here.  Because admitting that you like fan fiction (much less saying that you write it)  is a bit like admitting that you like porn (which some...okay a lot... of fan fiction is).

Fan fiction never has an easy time.  Those that hate it see it at best as lazy writing and at worst as plagiarism, stealing and akin to selling your soul to the devil.  And don't even mention Fifty Shades of Grey.

And yet despite all this I love fan fiction with a passion... and I'm not the only one. FanFiction.Net a website devoted to fan fiction works has more than 2 million users.

2 million.

That in itself should tell you the popularity of fan fiction.  Of course just because something is popular doesn't necessarily mean that it's a) good or b) legal.

From my own personal perspective fan fiction is just as legitimate and worth while as any other creative endeavour.

Is is lazy writing? Well yes there is a lot of bad fan fiction but there is also some really great fan fiction.  You just have to dig a little deeper for it.  But trust me it's there. 

Plagiarism and stealing? Perhaps. Though most (about 99.9 %) make no money from what they create and have no desire to do so.  They do it for love of a show/book/movie, to share their love with others, as a way of improving their own writing skill and a great many other reasons.  People with a love of art or music copy and adapt famous works all the time and no-one cries out.  So why is writing any different?

Of course fan fiction fans don't always help themselves.  Some in the fan fiction community can be pretty brutal in their defence.  It's enough to make a fangirl like me hang her head in shame at the antics of others.  Luckily there are plenty of others that make up for this and help make fan fiction a warm and entertaining community where you can share your love of whatever it is that makes you *flail*.

And at the end of the day that's what fan fiction is all about.

It's about exploring possibilities that the original author never thought of.  To celebrate a TV show/movie/book/character that another created in a way that is original to you and to share that love with others.  And that is a pretty great thing.

By the way check out Auckland Libraries latest events.  There's a discussion about Fifty Shades of Grey on next Thursday.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tennessee, I love you: The Loveless Cafe

I just got back from the US and I have fallen right into the post holiday blues. I miss Tennessee so much. I miss the long, hot summer days. I miss the southern charm and that fact that being from New Zealand makes you really exotic in that part of the world. I miss hearing country music everywhere you go. I miss drinking sweet tea constantly. I just miss it all.

One of my favourite parts of my trip was when we had a free afternoon we decided to go to The Loveless Cafe. The Loveless has been running for over 60 years and it one of the most famous restaurants in Tennessee. Serving delicious southern food to more than 450,000 guests a year.

Coming back to work was a bit depressing I must admit but I was really excited when I saw we had the dessert cookbook from the Loveless! I never actually got to have any of the desserts from the Loveless as I was too full of chicken and biscuits so I can't wait to try some of these out!

"This long-awaited cookbook offers recipes for all of the famous cakes, pies, puddings and crisps that the Loveless Cafe serves daily to throngs of hungry diners. The recipes highlight traditional Southern flavours such as peaches, pecans, bourbon, buttermilk, and sorghum. Including fruit, nut, and custard pies, layer and pound cakes, cheesecakes, pudding, bars, and cookies, the recipes are easy to follow, but the updated flavour combinations make them suitable for even more experienced bakers. Derived from southern traditions, the recipes come with interesting stories, which are conveyed in chapter introductions and recipe head notes. Essays extolling the virtues of Southern ingredients and food customs are scattered throughout the book. The down-to-earth charm of the Loveless Cafe is reflected in the full-colour photos and the design of the book."

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Love to hate

I can be pretty judgemental. In fact, what I think are well-phrased arguments delivered in a persuasive manner can sound, to some people, like the pronouncements of God, or Simon Cowell. It's not until I notice them cowering in a corner with their eyes darting all over the place that I realise I've frightened them off - yet again. Whoops.

I still get incredibly hurt when friends say "But you don't like anything". It makes me sound like Bitchelinda de Curdlemilk-Snottington. There are many things I love. Beyond reason. I just - know when I don't.

So this week I'm unmuzzling my inner critic. Celebrating my darkest disdainianism. Pooh-poohing till it's positively unsanitary.

Step in, if you dare, to Scriven's Gallery of Horrors. Feel free to request any of the titles on this list, by the way - it's only my opinion.

James Patterson - Any title
Poor guy. He gets a bad rap from critics, he really does. And it's wholly undeserved. Fact is, he doesn't even write most of his stuff anymore. I think a computer programme does it through algorithms or something of that nature. Or possibly they've finally trained gibbons to type. That would explain the short chapters. There are only so many words in their vocabulary.

In three words: Kill Alex Cross.

Dan Brown - Any title
Yeah, well, so, I'm picking on the easy targets. Anyway, there's nothing I could possibly write that 1,000,023 other critics haven't already spewed out. I confess, I did enjoy The Da Vinci Code, which was a fine, suspension-of-disbelief thrill ride. Then everyone else started raving and it totally lost its appeal. Come on, guys, even I got the mirror writing before Robert I'm-supposed-to-have-a-doctorate-in-this Langdon. So did my dog. It's not Pride and Prejudice.

Lee Child - Any title

Now that's spare storytelling.

Titanic - James Cameron
I remember seeing the trailer for this movie and snorting "Who's going to want to see that crap?" That year I realised why everyone bullied me.

But the rest of the world is wrong. You're all wrong.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Trilogy
I don't hate The Hobbit. I don't even dislike it. It makes the list, however, because I find it totally overrated. As a children's story, which it is, it's just OK. As a seminal work of inspiration to generations of hippies - wtf? It gets brownie points for being first among fantasies, but that's all. To me it's just a pleasant, slight bunch of episodes about a hairy little humanoid - and the movie is even more episodic. Three films? I nearly fell off my chair.

But I repeat - Martin Freeman can do no wrong. Ever.

Bones - TV series
I found this sort of thing funny when I was 14. Not!

Glee - TV series
What's all the song and dance about? Aaaand that was about as funny as the show. Like, eww?

Elementary - TV series
They put that up against the BBC version? It's like watching West Auckland FC playing Brazil...Wearing flippers.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Nasty screwed-up people trying to screw each other up even more. Nope.

Miranda - TV series
Haha. Nope. Or Is It Just Me?

The Simpsons - TV series
I used to love The Simpsons. It was the cleverest, funniest thing on TV for a long time. A long time ago. Now it's a positive telezombie. Retire it before the torches come out.

I could not possibly comment on Game of Thrones because I just can't bring myself to watch it. So, does anyone out there agree with me? What do you love to hate?

Monday, 17 June 2013

Today's the Day... New Wellsford Library is Open for Business

After months of planning, building and organising the new Wellsford Library building is finally opened for business. 

And it's a wait that's been well worth it as the new library building is just wonderful.  Light and bright and airy with plenty of space and energy efficient too with 115 solar panels making it the first solar-powered library in New Zealand.

It's certainly a far cry from the cupboard in the town hall that acted as the Wellsford Library back in 1946..

Yep you read correctly - a cupboard.

To say that the new building is a massive improvement from that very first library is... well an understatement.  It's a great testament to all the people who have been involved.

Not only is the new library building a vast improvement but the collection that fills it is sure to please the local patrons.

More than 2000 new items have been added, ranging from books to CDS to DVDs and magazines. 

There is something for everyone.

So if you live in the area or just passing through why not pop into the new library and check it out.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Why is Supergirl in a miniskirt? My thoughts on women in comic books.

Now before I get angry comments from comic book enthusiasts. I will openly admit that I'm not ultimate nerd level on comic books. I do however work in a library so everyone just be cool.

I was browsing the library shelves the other day in the adult comic book section and I noticed that almost every depiction of women on the cover of the comic books was borderline ridiculous. Everywhere I looked there were cartoon boobies, cartoon thighs and cartoon butts. I couldn't help but wonder why the hell they're all dressed like that, I mean is it really necessary for Supergirl to be in a miniskirt? 

First of all let's talk about practicality. Say you're hypothetically fighting an evil Nazi spymaster as Wonder Woman often did. Are you really going to wear high heels? Of course not! You've got a job to do, ain't nobody got time for that! Don't even get me started on her playsuit. There is no amount of fashion tape in the world that's going to keep those knockers in. I guess my real question is this: Are women in comic books just there to be sexualised or do they have a real purpose? 

I will say that from my experience a lot of female characters in comic books are tough and intelligent women and we are defiantly moving away from them being just the love interests and side kicks but isn't it time that we were at least a little realistic about what a woman actually is? Can't we have female super heroes who are  intelligent and awesome without being ridiculously over sexualised? I'm all for a bit of leg meat now and again but there comes a point when they're just there for the sake of their bodies and nothing else. 

Now I'm not necessarily pointing fault at libraries for this even though we are the ones stocking these books so yeah, I'll admit it's partially on us but I really don't think there are a huge amount of books available that feature women who aren't nearly naked.

I'd love to see more comic books featuring women who are a tad more practically dressed while being smart and generally kicking ass. Either that or we need a little more of this: 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

You're lookin' at country

As you read this very blog post I am in Nashville Tennessee watching some of my musical heroes rock out in front of 65 thousand people. (I'm not even going to try and pretend that I'm not bragging about this). I'm at a country music festival called CMA Fest which is an epic festival of 4 days, over 115 acts, 10 stages and a whole lot of cowboy boots.

To celebrate the friggin amazing that I'm experiencing right now I thought I would try and share with you the music that I love so much. I'm well aware that it's not popular in NZ and honestly if it wasn't for the internet and Shania Twain I doubt I would even listen to it myself but I love it enough to go to the other side of the world so just give it a go okay?

There are so many different styles of country that I really think anyone will like it provided they find the right artist. Here are just a few of the many different styles of country music for your listening pleasure:

You've got your country/pop sweethearts (Taylor Swift, Hunter Hayes),

Your self confessed red necks (Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton).

The female firecrackers (Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn, Pistol Annies).

The good ole boys of country (George Strait, Johnny Cash).

Rockabilly rock stars (Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins).

Your traditional Bluegrass (Alison Krauss, Blue Grass Boys).

And some of the most amazing guitar players you will hear in your life (Brad Paisley, Keith Urban)

And countless amazing country music trios and duos (Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Brooks and Dunn)

I sincerely hope that one day country music has a steady following in New Zealand. I really believe that country isn't just for pig farmers and red necks, it really is for everyone. I'm not saying you have to like all of it and I don't expect you to but just try it! You're missing out. Trust me on that.