Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Groove Book Report : Gottfried Lindauer's New Zealand The Maori Portraits - Edited by Ngahiraka Mason and Zara Stanhope

There are some books that arrive on my doorstep that are just a pure joy to review.  In fact, I spend so much time with them I almost forget to write them up.  This is definitely one of these.

This book coincides with a major exhibition currently on at the Auckland Art Gallery.  This is an opportunity to explore Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich history through more than 120 historical portraits of Māori and Pākehā by our most prolific professional colonial painter, Gottfried Lindauer.
Through this incredible collection (some privately owned, some in public hands such as the War Memorial Museum and Te Papa) you can experience for yourself the power of Māori chiefs and leaders whose images are forever recorded in oil, and see how artist Gottfried Lindauer captured the practice of tā moko (facial tattoo). Gottfried's attention to detail was almost photographic.  He was obsessed with the accuracy, capturing not just the idea but almost the very soul of the skin's owners.   The exhibition also includes photographs, taonga (treasures) and keepsakes, allowing you to discover Lindauer’s early art beginnings in Europe, as well as his life in New Zealand from his arrival in Wellington in 1874 until his death in Woodville in 1926.  And through out we learn about about the artist’s early days in Bohemia, his artistic inventions in New Zealand, and the close relationships he built with patrons and those he photographed and painted. Discover how the artist contributed to the significance of portraiture in New Zealand and learn what his works mean for us today.

The first 50 pages concentrate on Lindauer's background and his biography.  Emeritus Professor Patu Hohepa offers us a short introduction and prayer in Te Reo, a kind of blessing that anoints the reader and makes this journey extra special.  Auckland Art Gallery Director Rhana Devenport provides, in a potted perspective in the introduction, of an incredible life.  From the 1870s to the early twentieth century, the Bohemian immigrant artist Gottfried Lindauer travelled to marae and rural towns around New Zealand and – commissioned by Māori and Pākehā – captured in paint the images of key Māori figures. For Māori then and now, the faces of tūpuna are full of mana and life. Now this definitive book on Lindauer’s portraits of the ancestors collects that work for New Zealanders.

What is so fantastic about this book is the wonderful quality of the reproduction of the 67 major portraits and 8 genre paintings, accompanied by  well researched and detailed accounts of each subject.  I was on a Marae last month and was reminded that the photos displayed in the hare nui represent the ancestors - in fact while they are in the house, they are alive and part of the proceedings.  Just imagine the absolute joy for Ngati Raukawa when they come face to face with a portrait of Karawira Kapu (1883), the niece of Hitiri e Parekawa.  Kapu, herself was a major land holder in South Waikato and Taupo, she made claims to land in the Native Land Court,  and had tried to influence the government land purchasers of the day.  Plus, in Western society, she was a woman.  Women of note were still far and few so the fact that Lindauer knew she was important and chose to paint her portrait speaks volumes about his own egalitarianism and tolerance for his sitters who came to his Queen Street studio in Auckland, where Māori visited to see their ancestors; and the afterlife of the paintings in marae and memory.  For Māori, the faces that look out from Lindauer’s portraits are tribal leaders and family members. They are tohunga and politicians. They are ancestors and friends. Gottfried Lindauer met Maori tūpuna at the most basic level of human connection by capturing their likeness. This book returns the ancestors and the artist to the people.

At the end of the book there are a number of essays on the painter and his subjects.  Auckland Art Gallery Conservator Ute Larson and Auckland University Art Historian Jane Davidson-Ladd take us on a fascinating and intimate journey through Lindauer's personal relationship with painting and photography.  I was particularly taken with the accompanying painted photographs of Beatrix and Gertrude Anthony which still pop with energy.  They have the same mystique and grace as the best handcrafted photographs but with the depth of a painting and the clinical accuracy of a photo.

Sarah Hillary (Principal Conservator Auckland Art Gallery) takes us deep into Lindauer's Paint box to find out about his techniques and inventions.  Being so far from Europe he was free to paint as he wanted, without the inhibitions or the restraints of the salons of Paris or elsewhere.  His approaches were not only innovative  at time but also refreshing - even to the antipodeans that made up his patrons.  With the aid of a special ultraviolet light we can see the cross sections from the cloak in his painting Tamati Waka Te Puhi, which shows multiple layers and the resinous glaze between the grey and black paints that has levels of protein to maintain the luster even a hundred years later.  This is but one of the miracles revealed but there are plenty more.

Chanel Clarke (Maori Curator at Auckland Art Gallery) takes a look at the costuming in Lindauer's painting and asks why some of the subjects choose to wear Western clothing but others remain in the traditional or remain on the Pa as opposed to in the studio.  What also strikes me is how Lindauer never stoops to exploit his subjects or make them into cheap postcard images, which were so popular at the time.  He chooses to allow them to extol their mana through his oils.  Of course, it's no secret that his paintings also reveal the crumbling of the old world, as Western society takes hold.  This is the most evident in portraits like King Tawhiao ad his wife Hera who are photographed between 1880 and 1894 in a mix of top hats, jackets and cloaks.  An almost comical Victorian cartoon of the 'natives' - had it not been for the fact that these people in  their Sunday best really dressed like this and it was as normal to them as seeing a Kaumatua  wearing a tracksuit and sneakers today.

Ngarino Ellis looks at personal adornment and how Lindauer captured the details and the spirit of moko, jewelry and hei tiki.  An important thing to note was that these paintings reserve these pieces in a way keeping them and their special significance alive.  A Hei Tiki, for instance, could have special mana for the wearer, so it was essential that this was preserved in the painting.

Kahutoi Te Kanawa and Ngahirataka Mason look at the Kakahu tradition, that  of weaving.  Lindauer again was obsessed by the details and fascinated by the new crafts of Maori.  In the painting Heenai Hirini and Child (1878), for instance, he captures the cloak's white flax, red dots and black string strands with a very special touch.  It's so delicately done, you can almost touch the fabric.  This essay interweaves photos and comments about how the garment was made and how it was weaved, to give context and reference.

Finally, Jane Davidson-Ladd looks at the 'Speaking Likeness', as she notes that Lindauer's Pakeha portreaits have all but been overlooked in the modern age, compared t the Maori subjects.  Ad it is unknown how many there actually are in existence.  A contemporary Joseph Kofensky estimated that it was around 1000.  Art historian Leonard Bell estimates that about 2/3 of his subjects over his career were pakeha.  Davidson-Ladd looks at his appeal and why he was in so much demand, perhaps because of his photographic eye.  His most awesome skill.  "As viewers," she proffers, "we have the agency to make them (the portraits) once again a speaking likeness".

On the 7th Day of Christmas Groove Gave to me - Michael Bublé: It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Everyday until Santa finally arrives Groove will post a grooverlicious Xmas video to get you into the tinsel twirling mood.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Groove Book Report - New Zealand Wine: The Land, the Vines, the People - Warren Moran (Auckland University Press)

Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir and Spy Valley Riesling. Montana Sauvignon Blanc and Cloudy Bay Chardonnay. Though the New Zealand wine industry really began only fifty years ago, vines and winemakers have now spread across the land – from Central Otago to Kumeu, Waipara to Wairarapa – to produce notable wines for New Zealanders and the world.
For half a century, geographer and wine enthusiast Warren Moran has followed the development of the industry, talked to the winemakers and tasted the wines. In this book, he provides an unrivalled introduction to New Zealand wine: the climate, soils, and geography our winemakers work with; the grape varieties they have tried to tame; and the extraordinary personalities, families and companies who have made the wine and the industry. After introducing readers to the history and geography of New Zealand wine, this monumental book takes readers to each of the key winegrowing regions to tell the story of wines and winemakers in Auckland, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, the Wairarapa, Marlborough, Canterbury and Central Otago.
Illustrated with three-dimensional maps of regions and localities and spectacular photographs of the vineyards, the wines, and the winemakers, New Zealand Wine: The Land, the Vines, the People is a must for all of those interested in understanding the extraordinary wines of New Zealand.

Boy, this is such a book.  Way more than just another book about winemakers or vintages.   With topographical maps, detailed histories and personal accounts, this is more like a three dimensional journey into each region.  The stories behind how we end u planting in Central Otago, just beyond Queenstown - places like Chard Farm - are extraordinary.  Some of the stories involve the science of viticulture and some tell of the decisions made through good noses and intuition.  Many of the earliest wine makers were from the Balkan regions, the Yugos and the Germans, who, like the Delegat family saw potential in the soil.  And some were actually almost banished to the northern regions of Auckland, like Kumeu, to try to grow grapes among the apples and stone fruit. The story of Gimlet Gravels is another story of mixing science and intuition.

Moran has worked with a number of wonderful map makers to show just how detailed the soil and climate is under each region and just what makes it special for each.  I'm sure, when you visit a winery they talk up the various local features and what contributes to their particular vintage.  That's what this book does best.  It gives you that insight down to the macrobiotic level.. A book for wine geeks and wine lovers for sure. 

Warren Moran is a geographer and professor emeritus at the University of Auckland. Beginning with his 1958 MA thesis, Moran has published extensively on wine (and rural industries more generally) in New Zealand and overseas. He was co-author of an OUP book Geography: A Study of its Elements. Among other awards, he has been named a distinguished geographer by the New Zealand Geographical Society.

Groove Book Report - Rick Stein's Long Weekends

In his Long Weekend series, TV Chef Rick Stein takes us on some of his favourite destinations for a long weekend including Bordeaux, Berlin, Reykjavik (Iceland), Bologna and Vienna. Expect the usual fabulous local markets, local restaurants and in true Rick style, a few wineries along the way too.  I wonder how we'd do this post-BREXIT!  Either way I'm jealous of the Brits who can just pop over to these places on a whim.  For us, it's a lifelong dream and a massive airfare to get there.

Still, shows like his BBC series Venice to Istanbul are both informative and deliciously adventurous.  His new book certainly sums up the new series well with plenty of notes before each recipe on how he discovered each dish or how the locals should have it - in TV world, of course.

The easy ones are things like Spagetti Alla Bolognese, which is a mix of tomatoes, tuna flakes and Parmesan cheese.  Definitely not the SPAG BOG conncoctions we make here at home.  Even so, I always thought the famous dish was meat, carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes.  Who knew there were other versions?

There are other different dishes, too.  Some include local ingredients that you can get in the UK but not here, like Sardines.  But others you can approximate like Icelandic BreadedLamb Chops and spiced red cabbage.  The cabbage includes blueberries, the only really point of difference.

Some ingredients like cod and sea bass can be swapped with warehou or even terakahi and we can throw in good quality frozen prawns of even fresh clams.  We can't get proper Serrano Ham - for Flamenco Eggs with Tomato and Serrano Ham - but we have some pretty good approximations these days.

This book covers entre's, mains and deserts from a 'day of the week' point of view.  Friday's are quick, Saturday's a bit longer and Sunday's slow, time for the family, etc.  It's also broken up into a chapter for each location, so you can cook something French one weekend, something Scandinavian the next and so on.

Finally, the back section is also a brilliant wee collection of 'Extras' : a good chicken stock, vege and beef stocks, a trick with saute potatoes, Beurre Mane, Sourdough Starter and a whole lot more.

The photos alone will make you yearn to update your passport and book one of those European river cruises or a cooking tour.  They are great and match the dialogue brilliantly.

A brilliant book, if slightly a fantasy for most of us.  At least we can cook for our dreams.

Monday, November 14, 2016

7.5 magnitude earthquake/power cut in NZ takes Groove off-air this morning.

Damaged road, South Island - NZ Transport Agency
We were off-air for over 12 hours earlier today after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand near Hamner springs at 12.02am NZ time. Our studio is based in Wellington but the power was cut for most of the night and we temporarily evacuated after hearing Tsunami warning sirens at about 2.30am. Tsunami waves ended up being 2m - 5m and were not a threat to our area in the end.
There has been damage to buildings in Wellington and the South Island and 2 people are known to have died as a result of the earthquake and aftershocks around the country. Currently there is damage to Ferry wharfs in Wellington and Picton so at this stage no Ferry's or trains are running but luckily there are barely any reports of people being injured.
The moon is the closest it has been to the Earth in about 60 years over the next couple of days...will there be quakes in other parts of the world? It pays to be prepared with spare water and food, torches, battery radio's etc.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dame Fiona Kidman - New Zealand Books Winner of the Heritage Book Awards, Fiction Category

Our warmest congratulations to Dame Fiona Kidman for her winning Novel ALL DAY AT THE MOVIES, published by Vintage.

Wry, moving, beautifully observed and politically astute, this latest work from one of our finest chroniclers pinpoints universal truths through very New Zealand lives.
Life isn’t always like it appears in the movies. In 1952, Irene Sandle takes her young daughter to Motueka. Irene was widowed during the war and is seeking a new start and employment in the tobacco fields. There, she finds the reality of her life far removed from the glamour of the screen. Can there be romance and happy endings, or will circumstances repeat through the generations? Each subsequent episode in this poignant work follows family secrets and the dynamics of Irene’s children. The story doesn’t just track their lives, but also New Zealand itself as its attitudes and opportunities change — and reverberate — through the decades.

'. . . she is at a literary point when age is all gain – consummate craft, passion aplenty, the complex resonance of memory, and the edginess that comes from knowing about loss' – New Zealand Books
Winner of the Heritage Book Awards, Fiction Category 

About the Competition

The four categories in the New Zealand Heritage Writing competition are:
  • Fiction book
  • Non-Fiction book
  • Poetry
  • Short Prose

The Book Awards

Each category will award a grand prize of NZ$1000.
Books must have a connection to New Zealand Heritage. To be eligible for entry, books must have been published between August 2015 and September 2016.
An entry fee of $35 applies.
Please note: the competition is open to writers residing outside of New Zealand so long as the book entered features New Zealand setting(s).

The Poetry & Prose Prizes

Each category awards a prize of $200 for first place.
Hidden Histories is the theme of this year’s BECA Heritage Week. Poems and Prose pieces submitted to the competition should relate in some way to the theme of Hidden Histories. They must also feature New Zealand setting(s).
Poems can be up to 50 lines.
Prose entries can be up to 1800 words, and may be short stories, essays, memoirs or features.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo - Amy Schumer

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo is the femoir from Amy Schumer, one of the highest profile comedians in the world right now. Schumer has an interesting story to tell: she was born into a family of privilege, but her parents lost all their money when she was a child; she went from taking private jets to the Bahamas to sharing a bed with her mother in a basement flat. At the same time, her father developed MS and her parents’ marriage collapsed after her mother had an affair with the father of Schumer’s best friend. Schumer started doing standup in her early 20s and, within a decade, had achieved huge success.

The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo is not, she writes, a memoir: “I just turned 35, so I have a long way to go until I am memoir-worthy.” But considering she discusses everything from her hatred of watercress to her bowel movements before a show, it’s hard to imagine what else she could include in an autobiography. Presumably she would feel less obliged to include such typically femoir-esque “you go girl!” sentences as, “I feel beautiful and strong” (which contradict less cliched lines such as, “I sometimes forget a man may have actual feelings for me”). Nor would she need to soften her edges.

Schumer is at an awkward point in her career now, transitioning out of the dumb white woman stage persona she created over the last decade – when she’d say such things as “I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual” – and trying to become more palatable to the mainstream. This is apparent throughout her book; for example, she will compare an elderly African American woman to “a California raisin”, then to add hastily: “That is not racist. If she’d been white, she would have looked like a yellow California raisin. Anywhoozle …”
Early in the book she jokes, “Damn, it’s hard to write a book and not get yelled at”, and that is certainly true. While the rise of the femoir reflects the current vogue for women to reveal their personal lives in public, alongside this trend is another in which women are excoriated for revealing too much of the wrong stuff. New York loud ass Lena Dunham (Star of the TV show 'Girls' - who by the way, was paid millions to write this memoir, and her writing talent shines clearly through, but there are limitations to 'clit lit' and remorseless self-exposure) fell victim to this after the 2014 publication of her femoir, Not That Kind of Girl, when she was accused, absurdly, of being a sexual abuser after writing about the time she realised her baby sister had shoved some pebbles into her own vagina. (Gynecological narcissism is another common element of the femoir: Dunham discusses her vagina at least two dozen times in her book; Schumer kicks off hers with “An Open Letter to My Vagina”.)
Schumer has insisted: “I’m not trying to be likable.” You would not guess that from her book, in which she claims the only change her new riches have made to her life is she gives bigger tips. I’d have been a lot more interested to read how it felt when she negotiated her book advance from $1m to $8m, but that would perhaps have strayed too far outside the femoir’s approachable everywoman bounds.

In trying to be so likable, Schumer seems dishonest. The only essays that ring true are those about her family, in particular the one in which she describes how it felt to watch her increasingly sick father lose control of his bowels in an airport and, later, how furious she still is with her mother for having had an affair 20 years ago. I subscribe to the school of Nora Ephron – arguably the mother of the femoir – which says the statute of limitations for being mad at your parents for ruining your childhood is up when you leave home. But you can’t tell a woman to reveal her feelings and then damn her for having the wrong kind.

As you’d expect of a comedian of Schumer’s calibre, the writing captures her voice and is often funny. But this book proves the theory that the larger a book’s advance, the less editing it gets. I went to see Schumer’s live tour while reading this book and, although she relates many of the same stories on stage, the contrast between the two experiences underlined the reductive nature of the femoir. On stage, she dealt with the subject of inane women’s magazines in a brisk, amusing five minutes. Here, she spends 10 stodgy pages on the subject, making heavy weather of their effect on women’s self-esteem and saying nothing new.

It feels like Schumer is fighting the genre, insisting she has “no self-help or advice for you”, only to claim later, “I am all of you”, she reckons.  The 'femoir' (yes it's a thing!) was meant to celebrate original female voices, but it has ended up smoothing down their spikiness. Far from showcasing funny women, it grinds them down into feminism lite.

The Groove Book Report: Scrumptious by Chelsea Winter

Just when Master Chef Chelsea Winter couldn't give any more she slides in with this nifty collection of comfort food yummies.  From the day it arrived we've been treating ourselves to dishes that are perfect for the slow warming Spring and the fading Winter days.  Her Beetroot, Carrot and Orange Salad went down a treat at our first BBQ the other day, paying respect to the dying embers of the winter veges.  It's a refreshing wake up call and brilliant (in colour and taste) addition to the sausages and grilled steak.  Goes well as a leftover for the office lunches, too.

Her Cajun Chicken salsa with mango and Haloumi, the roasted Brussels and bacon and the winter (no pun) rice comforter are all excellent and really easy to do.  The coconut-poached Chicken Noodle salad is a real winner. 

Most of the recipes are pretty straight forward and uncomplicated.  That's because her philosophy is all about easy ingredients and good.  I can remember my grandmother making brandy snaps the old fashioned way - bending them over a spoon to get the curl and filling the with cream.  Chelsea must have nicked her recipe and done away with the fluffy bit.   Overall it's good cooking without the BS 'chefy' stuff and I like that.  Better still the recipes are generous and forgiving (you don't have to be pinpoint accurate on the measurements).  So she might look like a model but everything here is genuine and authentic, and real!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Fizzy Pop - Emma Vere-jones and Kat Snushall

"Get me a soft drink!" yelled Lizzy McNay. "Get me a dozen! I'll drink them all day. Soft drinks for breakfast, soft drinks for brunch, Soft drinks for dinner, soft drinks for lunch!" Lizzy loves fizzy drinks. But on the day of the school cross country, Lizzy is involved in a carbonated catastrophe. Can her classmates save her? And will Lizzy ever change her fizzy ways? From the author of award winning picture book Stan the Van Man comes a fantastical tale of flatulence, fizzy drinks and friendship.

Fast-paced, catchy rhymes and ingeniously different font size for added emphasis and some well placed alliteration. Kate Snushall’s vivid illustrations keep the story moving and make it visually appealing.  Lots of action on each page.  The use of cropping to show both size and movement is also a very cool effect.  Anything with farting is bound to get kid's vote and this one pretty much rides on that one joke.  At times it's a bit lame but not to kids.  My two loved the idea.  Fizzy Pop made them laugh, while also having some subtle messages about over indulging on Coke and Fanta.  Cool.

Emma Vere-Jones is an author and journalist. Fizzy Pop is her second book. Her first, Stan the Van Man, published in 2015 by Scholastic NZ, was winner of the 2014 Storylines Joy Cowley Award.


Groove Book Report: What Pet Should I Get? - Dr. Seuss

What Pet Should I Get? is a Dr. Seuss children's book, posthumously published in 2015. Believed to have been written between 1958 and 1962, the book chronicles the adventures of Jay and Kay the siblings from Seuss' One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish in their attempts to buy a pet.

In a pet store, a young brother and sister (Jay and Kay) are trying to choose a pet. They consider a vast array of possible pets as their deadline of noon approaches. Finally they settle on a pet whose identity remains unrevealed.

After Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote as Dr. Seuss, died in 1991, his wife Audrey Geisel renovated their house in La Jolla, California. Geisel went through her husband's papers together with his assistant Claudia Prescott, donating most of his material to the University of California, San Diego. However, a few sketches and unfinished projects were collected in a box and left not donated. In October 2013, Geisel and Prescott examined the leftover sketches and projects closely for the first time; the materials included illustrations for alphabet flash cards, sketches collectively titled The Horse Museum, a folder of miscellaneous drawings labeled "Noble Failures", and the most complete project, a manuscript titled The Pet Shop consisting of 16 illustrations and accompanying pieces of typed text.

Cathy Goldsmith, a Random House associate publishing director who had been the art director for the last six Dr. Seuss books and who is reportedly the last Random House executive to have worked directly with Seuss, examined the manuscript and judged it to date from between 1958 and 1962, in part because the brother and sister characters in the book are the same as in Seuss's 1960 book One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. It is possible that Seuss conceived The Pet Shop first but eventually decided to use the characters in a less narrative-structured book instead and developed One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish around them.

The Pet Shop was reconstructed for publication by Goldsmith, who also colored the black-and-white illustrations. The reconstructed book was published by Random House in July 2015 as What Pet Should I Get?. Random House reported it would likely publish two additional volumes based on the other material found in the same box.

Groove Books: A new Dr Seuss Book - Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories

The four stories in this book were originally published as installments of a monthly column that Dr. Seuss wrote for Redbook magazine during the 1950s. Dr. Seuss died in 1991, but the stories were later rediscovered by Seuss scholar Charles D. Cohen,

The four stories include in the book are:
  • ."Horton and the Kwuggerbug": A Kwuggerbug lands on Horton the Elephant's trunk and asks him to take him to his Beezlenut Tree, which Horton agrees to since when they get there the bug promises Horton will get half the nuts. The journey to the Beezlenut tree is quite hazardous, and Horton goes through all the hardships including swimming across a large crocodile infested river and climbing a large and rocky mountain, with the Kwuggerbug taking advantage of Horton's good nature. In the end, the Kwuggerbug tries to double-cross Horton, but a well-timed sneeze makes things more even.
  • ."Marco Comes Late": Marco from And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street explains to his teacher why he was late for school. His explanation involves a bird who landed on his books and laid an egg there, and various animals who argue over whether he should protect the egg or get to school on time. In the end, the teacher sees through the tall tale for the morsel of truth.
  • ."How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town": Officer Pat sees a gnat about to disturb a cat and realizes this could be the start of a string of disasters that could obliterate the town. So Officer Pat intervenes and the town is saved.
  • ."The Hoobub and the Grinch": A very short story in which a Grinch convinces a Hoobub that a piece of green string is better than the sun.
Michael Taube of The Washington Times was enthusiastic about the book, writing, "If you loved Dr. Seuss as a child (and as an adult), these little-known stories will bring back many fond memories." The reviewer for Publishers Weekly was more critical, stating, "By no means gems, these archives suggest how Geisel tinkered with characters, developed his signature tetrameter, and commented on ethical issues, circa 1950."

I'd definitely agree with that.   As soon as the book arrived both my girls pounced on it and started to read along.  The zaniness is still there and all the fun remains.   Just like the nutty Horton books we knew, this is a fine extension.