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 Book Report: Clover Moon - Jacqueline Wilson

Clover Moon’s imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage – and the chance – to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?

Introducing the brilliant and brave new heroine from the wonderful world of the bestselling and award-winning and prolific English writer Jacqueline Wilson.

It's a tale of loss, determination and bravery, as Clover fights to get the life she deserves, as she suffers the violence and hardship of home.  After tragedy strikes the family, Clover in particular, she decides that she is going to make her life better once and for all. It takes a while - but she battles and then wins.  Clover is safe and happy, and the fear and misery that once burdened her heart is gone. Unfortunately, near the ending the story takes a sudden turn, when the person Clover feared and hated from her past orders her to come back. To return to her old life of terror.  Although it's a sort of cliffhanger, the story has a kind of happy ending, I promise.

Wilson Jacqueline  is an extremely well-known and hugely popular author. My 7 year old Kate literally devours her work, as she did this one. Her most 'creepy' book The Illustrated Mum was chosen as British Children's Book of the Year in 1999 and was winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Award 2000. Jacqueline has won the prestigious Smarties Prize and the Children's Book Award for Double Act, which was also highly commended for the Carnegie Medal. In June 2002 Jacqueline was given an OBE for services to literacy in schools and in 2008 she was made a Dame.

Like her previous books, my 7 year old daughter eagerly awaited the arrival of this book. Wilson has a way of capturing my daughter's imagination like no other author and she has done it again with this one.  Kate was gripped from start to finish as she followed Clover's story. This is, as with many of JW's other stories, set in Victorian times. In this tale we find Clover living in difficult circumstances with a future working in service ahead of her. The story kept my daughter turning the pages right to the end and she loved every moment of it. (Particularly when a character from another book popped up!)

I don't want to spoil the story but suffice to say that Wilson continues to delight with her tales and that my daughter loved this one. It comes with Kate's 'five star' recommendation. If you love Hetty Feather, then, she said, you will certainly love this book too!  What more can you say.

The Groove Book Report: Did You Hear A Monster? - Raymond McGrath

I really enjoyed reading this delightful monster-themed picture book with Emily, my five year old.  After a couple of times SHE read it to me!  The pictures a clean and dramatic but not scary or graphic.  The story is simple.  The main character, Clarice Caroline is not exactly a brave little girl.
In fact, she's a little bit of a frighty-cat, frightened of . . . EVERYTHING!
So, just in case, she always wears her helmet.  In the middle of the night, there is a bump and a thump.  And, despite her fear Clarice gets up to investigate.  What happens next is not a horror movie or something from a Wes Craven scrip.  Quite the opposite.  But that would be telling....

This book is the companion title to It's Not a Monster, It's ME! and the award-winning Have You Seen a Monster?  It's a simple story filled with a charming suspense, and a surprise twist.

The package includes a bonus CD with three songs performed by The Little City Critters, plus a read-along version of the story.  Good value!

Raymond McGrath is an award-winning animation director, animator, illustrator, designer and writer who has been working in children's television and advertising for nearly twenty years. He has completely lost count of the number of books he has illustrated, television shows he has worked on and TV commercials he has made (because that requires maths and remembering and he isn't so good at either). But he does remember that he loves gardening, photography, music and drawing, that he is the creator and director of the educational pre-school TV series Puzzle Inc, and that he has both written and illustrated numerous picture books.

Here's the Youtube clip from It's Not a Monster, It's ME!

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Wellington singer-songwriter and internationally acclaimed musician Thomas Oliver has won the 2016 APRA Silver Scroll Award with his captivating love song ‘If I Move To Mars’.

Thomas Oliver accepted the prestigious award at a ceremony held at Vector Arena in Auckland tonight. The accolade acknowledges excellence in songwriting and has in the past been awarded to some of the most recognisable names and songs in New Zealand music, from the Swingers‘Counting The Beat’ and Bic Runga’s ‘Drive’ to Scribe and P Money’s ‘Not Many’ and Lorde and Joel Little’s ‘Royals’.

A sweet and simple, yet compelling, love song, Thomas Oliver says, “On the surface, it's a light-hearted song about taking someone to Mars and lying in the dirt, drinking Cognac and listening to records. But at its core, it's a love song and I meant every word."

“It’s a wonderful thing to recognise talented and hardworking songwriters like Thomas” says Anthony Healey, Head of NZ Operations for APRA AMCOS. “The acclaim of your peers is special, it’s the highest praise and in this case a well-deserved accolade.”

Critically acclaimed musician and songwriter Sean James Donnelly (SJD) was the musical director of tonight’s 51st APRA Silver Scrolls ceremony, which saw a host of other Kiwi songwriters collect awards.

The incomparable Rob Ruha took the esteemed APRA Maioha Award, recognising exceptional waiata featuring te reo Māori, for his stirring battle anthem ‘Kariri’. The East Coast singer-songwriter is now a two-time recipient of the award.

Wellington composer and violinist, Salina Fisher, won the SOUNZ Contemporary Award for her exquisite composition ‘Rainphase’, inspired by the beauty and chaos of rain in the capital.

The APRA Best Original Music in a Feature Film Award was won by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper and Tama Waipara for their work on the Lee Tamahori-directed movie Mahana.

One-time Supergroove frontman and well-known composer of music for film and television, Karl Steven, received the APRA Best Original Music in a Series Award for the drama 800 Words.

Rounding off the evening was the induction of Moana Maniapoto into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. As one of the most recognisable and important voices in Aotearoa, Moana Maniapoto was honoured for the significant impact she has had on the New Zealand life and culture through her music.

The event was supported by RNZ and hosted by RNZ’s John Campbell and proudly supported by Panhead Custom Ales.

Thomas Oliver - If I move to Mars

The winner of all awards were:

APRA Silver Scroll Award: Thomas Oliver – ‘If I Move to Mars’
APRA Maioha Award: Rob Ruha – ‘Kariri’
SOUNZ Contemporary Award: Salina Fisher – ‘Rainphase’
APRA Best Original Music in a Feature Film Award:
Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper + Tama Waipara – Mahana
APRA Best Original Music in a Series Award: Karl Steven – ‘800 Words’
Hall of Fame: Moana Maniapoto




I tēnei pō ka whakawhiwhia te Tohu Maioha a APRA ki a Rob Ruha, he kaitito-kaiwaiata nō Te Tai Rāwhiti, i tēnei te rima tekau mā tahi o Ngā Tohu Silver Scrolls a APRA i Tāmaki Makaurau.

Pakō ana te ‘Kariri’ a Rob Ruha i te nguha a IHI (Thomas Rāwiri rāua ko Mokoia Huata) me tā rāua waiata ‘Mana Whenua’, i a Kirsten Te Rito me tana waiata ‘Tamaiti Ngaro’, he mea tito e James Illingworth rāua ko Joseph Te Rito.

E whai wāhi ana a Tiki Taane ki rō ‘Kariri’, he mea hahu ake i ngā kōrero a te iwi Māori me tōna whawhai mō te Mana Māori Motuhake – Tino Rangatiratanga ki ngā ope tauā o Ingarangi i ngā tau 1850. Tērā te tohungatanga o Rob Ruha ki te whakairo i te mana, te wairua o te kupu ki te paeoro tākirikiri whatumanawa hei tohu i te kakari, te pōuri, te mate, te riri, te mārohirohi me te tūmanako.

Tā te Tohu Maioha a APRA he whakanui i te kairangi o te waiata reo Māori, ā, ko te tuarua tēnei ka riro i a Rob Ruha, nāna hoki i toa i te tau 2014 mō tana waiata a ‘Tiki Tapu’.

Nō Wharekahika (Te Tai Rāwhiti) tēnei poho kererū o Ngāti Porou me Te Whānau-a-Apanui, kua rongonui, kua tino kauanuanu a Rob Ruha i te Ao Māori me te ao waiata o Aotearoa. He pūkenga ahurei, he kairaranga, he kaitito waiata, haka, mōteatea, he mātanga kapahaka, he tupua ki te kōrero anō hoki.

Ka rangona te waiata ‘Kariri’ a Rob Ruha i runga i tana kōpae roa tuatahi a PŪMAU, i whakaputaina i tēnei tau, ā, e tāpoi ana ia i Aotearoa ināianei tonu.

I whakawhiwhia tuatahitia te Tohu Maioha a APRA i te tau 2003, ā, mai i tērā wā, kua tau a Te Ngore – te pakoko o te tohu Maioha i whakairotia ai e Brian Flintoff – ki roto ki ngā ringa o ētahi o ngā kaitito waiata tino kauanuanu o Aotearoa; pērā i a Ngahiwi Apanui - te tangata i whakawhiwhia tuatahitia ai ki te tohu, ki a Whirimako Black, ki a Ruia Aperahama, ki a Te Awanui Reeder, ki a Maisey Rika, ki a Vince Harder, ki a Troy Kingi rātou ko Stan Walker.

I te tukuhanga o Te Ngore i tētahi kaitito ki tētahi, ka mahara tātou he mana tō te puoro hei whakakotahi, hei taunaki, hei whakaako, hei whakakori, hei whakaahuru, hei whakamārama, hei whakaawe anō hoki i a tātou.

Ka riro mā te toa o te Tohu Maioha a APRA a Te Ngore e tiaki mō ngā marama tekau mā tahi, ā, ka whakawhiwhia te $3,000.

I tū Ngā Tohu Silver Scrolls 2016 i te Whare Tapere o Vector, i Tāmaki Makaurau i te Rāpare 29 o Mahuru.

Mō ētahi atu whakamahukitanga, me ngā toa katoa, tirohia

He mea tautoko tēnei kaupapa nā Panhead Custom Ales.
East Coast singer-songwriter and musician Rob Ruha has won the prestigious APRA Maioha Award, handed out at tonight’s 51st APRA Silver Scroll Awards in Auckland.

Rob Ruha’s dramatic waiata ‘Kariri’ faced fierce competiton from IHI (Thomas Rawiri and Mokoia Huata) with their song ‘Mana Whenua’ and Kirsten Te Rito with ‘Tamaiti Ngaro’, co-written with James Illingworth and Joseph Te Rito.

‘Kariri’, featuring Tiki Taane, is inspired by historical accounts of the Māori nations’ fight for sovereignty against colonial forces in the 1850s. Rob Ruha masterfully weaves together powerful and poignant lyrics with an emotionally charged soundscape that depicts war, darkness, loss, anger, resolution and hope.

The APRA Maioha Award recognises exceptional waiata featuring te reo Māori, and tonight’s win makes Rob Ruha a two-time recipient, after he was first awarded the prestigious accolade in 2014 for ‘Tiki Tapu’.

Hailing from Wharekahika (Te Tai Rāwhiti) and proudly Ngāti Porou and Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Rob Ruha is a well-known and highly respected figure in Maoridom and Aotearoa’s music scene. He is also an accomplished lecturer, weaver, composer of waiata, haka and moteatea, an expert in kapa haka and a legendary orator.

‘Kariri’ features on Rob Ruha’s award-winning debut album PŪMAU, released earlier this year, which he is currently touring around New Zealand.

The APRA Maioha Award was first awarded in 2003, and since then Te Ngore – the Maioha award sculpture carved by Brian Flintoff - has passed through the hands of some of Aotearoa’s most respected songwriters; including the inaugural recipient Ngahiwi Apanui, Whirimako Black, Ruia Aperahama, Te Awanui Reeder, Maisey Rika, Vince Harder, Troy Kingi and Stan Walker.

As Te Ngore passes from one composer to the next, it reminds us that music has the power to unite, bear witness, educate, agitate, comfort, illuminate and inspire us.

The winner of the APRA Maioha Award becomes guardian of Te Ngore for 11 months and receives a cash prize of $3000.

The 2016 APRA Silver Scroll Awards were held at Vector Arena in Auckland on Thursday 29th September.

For more information, including all winners, visit

2016 APRA SILVER SCROLL AWARD - will be announced tonight

Moana Maniapoto is inducted into the 2016 APRA Hall of Fame.

Maniapoto was born in Invercargill, New Zealand and attended St Joseph's Māori Girls' College in Napier. She is said to have paid her way through law school by singing covers in the highly competitive Auckland club circuit.
In 1987, Moana released "Kua Makona", as part of an effort to promote moderation to young Maori. The song was produced by Maui Dalvanius Prime and featured in the RIANZ Top 50 singles chart.
In 2002, Moana formed the band Moana and the Tribe which consisted of a large group of musicians and performers with a passion for Maori culture. Since their formation, the band has performed hundreds of international concerts, cementing their reputation as one of the most successful indigenous bands to emerge from New Zealand. Prior to 2002, Moana’s former band, Moana & the Moahunters released two albums, Tahi and Rua. Their feminist anthem Black Pearl reached no. 2 on the national charts in 1991, earning Moana her first gold.

Moana won the grand prize at the 2003 International Songwriting Competition with her song "Moko".

Moana has developed a high international profile, being described as ‘brilliant’ by The Beat (USA, 2004), ‘New Zealand's most exciting music export’ (Marie Claire, 2002), ‘music of great depth and beauty’ (New Zealand Herald, 2003) and gaining rave reviews from one Germany's more critical columnists in its largest daily newspaper (Süddeutsche Zeitung 2002, 2004),
In the 2004 Queen's Birthday Honours List, Moana was appointed Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. She is also a Life Time Recipient of the Toi Iho Māori Made Mark and received the 2005 Te Tohu Mahi Hou a Te Waka Toi Award from Te Waka Toi (Creative N.Z), in recognition of her outstanding leadership and contribution to the development of new directions in Māori art. Moana received a Music Industry Award at the Maori Waiata 2008 Awards, also for her positive contribution to Māori Music.
In 2006, Moana and the Tribe completed a 25 gig tour of Europe and had the distinction of being the first New Zealand band known to have performed in the former Soviet Union - playing at a private party hosted in Moscow's First Club, then at Le Club.

Moana released her fourth album Wha in May 2008. She toured in 2008 and 2009 Germany, Australia, Netherlands, Turkey, New Zealand and performed at the opening of the Biennale in Venice / Italy in June 2009. Moana & the Tribe launched songs from their 5th album "Rima" in 2014 at Womad NZ, in a performance described in the NZ Herald as "the most powerful, enjoyable and important act on the mainstage at this years Womad in Taranaki."

In 2014, Moana and her band formed the Boomerang Collaboration with Scottish band Breabach, Shellie Morris, Casey Donovan and Djakapurra, playing concerts at Womad NZ, Sydney Opera House and HebCelt (Scotland). "Rima" was a finalist at the 2015 Vodafone NZ Music Awards and the song "Upokohue" was a finalist in the APRA Maioha Award. It won 2nd place in the World category at the International Songwriting Contest.
Moana is one half of an award-winning film-making team led by her partner and band member Toby Mills. Their documentary work includes Guarding the Family Silver, which screened in the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival and The Russians are Coming, which played at the Sydney Opera House during the Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival in 2012.

She is also a regular writer for the Maori and Pacific online weekly newspaper e-tangata.


Lydia Cole – ‘Dream’ – Lydia Cole
The Phoenix Foundation – ‘Give Up Your Dreams’ – Samuel Scott, Lukasz Buda, Conrad Wedde, William Ricketts, Thomas Callwood, Christopher O’Connor
(Native Tongue Music Publishing)
Thomas Oliver – ‘If I Move To Mars’ – Thomas Oliver (Mushroom Music Pty Ltd)
Street Chant – ‘Pedestrian Support League’ – Emily Littler, Billie Rogers, Alex Brown, Christopher Varnham (Arch Hill Music Publishing / Native Tongue Music Publishing)
Tami Neilson – ‘The First Man’ – Tami Neilson, Jay Neilson

Rob Ruha feat. Tiki Taane – ‘Kariri’ – Rob Ruha
IHI – ‘Mana Whenua’ – Thomas Rawiri, Mokoia Huata
(Woodcut Productions / Waatea Music)
Kirsten Te Rito – ‘Tamaiti Ngaro’ – Kirsten Te Rito, James Illingworth, Joseph Te Rito

‘Piano Trip’ – Kenneth Young
‘Rainphase’ – Salina Fisher
‘Viola Concerto’ – Chris Cree Brown

Hunt For The Wilderpeople – Samuel Scott, Lukasz Buda, Conrad Wedde
(Native Tongue Music Publishing)
Mahana (The Patriarch) – Mahuia Bridgeman-Cooper, Tama Waipara
The Art Of Recovery – Tom McLeod

800 Words – Karl Steven (Native Tongue Music Publishing)
Jiwi’s Machines – Age Pryor
The Brokenwood Mysteries – Tami Neilson, Jay Neilson

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Groove Book Report - Burt Munro - The Lost Interviews by Neill Birss

Herbert James "Burt" Munro was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1,000 cc world record, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967. This record still stands; Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record.

"In the late 1960s in Invercargill, two blokes sat in a modest shed drinking tea. The old bloke was telling stories about his life, the young bloke, a junior reporter, was typing on his portable typewriter. Dramatic tales of youthful scrapes, motorcycle races, international travel and friendships. The young journalist Neill Birss moved away from Invercargill and never published the typescript interviews. They surfaced again many decades later"

Apart from racing and Salt Lake experiences, this new book also brings stories of Burt’s early motorcycling adventures Southland, his 'prior' life in Australia in the 1920s and again in the early 1950s, and of the great moments on the road through the United States (which are only touched on in Donaldson's movie).

Early Kiwi motor-ventures cover Burt’s ride up the Hollyford Valley while the road was still being built, and therefore extremely treacherous, and as a salesman for H&J Tapper’s, riding his  coal-gas powered one-speed flat out around the streets of Invercargill. ) bike powered by the coal-gas unit he built. And then there's explosion as a result of tempering steel at Melhop’s and another high-speed crash, this time at Teretonga.

If anything this is the Munro story you'd most likely get if Burt was your grandad and you were sitting attentive and quiet on his knee after he'd finished a plate of good roast and a couple of whiskeys.  It's all in his own words as recorded in a series of interviews with Southland reporter Neill Birss, nearly 50 years ago and  rounds out the Munro history with stories of his life not printed before.  In those days Burt was well known among New Zealand and American motorcyclists, but it was before the 2005 film, The World's Fastest Indian made Burt a world celebrity.

Birss' plan was to write series of articles on Munro for overseas and New Zealand motorcycle magazine. But the project was interrupted when Birss moved to Christchurch and the notes, which had been taken in the first person, were lost. Then after the Christchurch earthquakes he was dumping rubbish to make room for repairs and he found the notes just as they were about to go into a skip and it was this collection that we now have.  Maybe good things can come from bad, occasionally.

Neill Birss is a Christchurch business and technology reporter. As a young journalist in Invercargill he interviewed Burt Munro for a few months with the goal of writing a series of articles about Burt for overseas motorcycle magazines. Then he lost the interview material : until now. Birss rode an ex-army Indian motorcycle on a farm as a schoolboy, and much later commuted on a Honda road bike, but computers and electronics generally have long been his main technology interest.

 Burt's Indian, with commentary by Jay Leno

Groove Book Report - The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig. Norton

For nearly half of the 20th century, women were beating a path to Margaret Sanger's door with a plea: “Do tell me the secret, ” they wrote in their impassioned letters, “doctors are men and have not had a baby so they have no pity [sic] for a poor sick mother.” But Sanger concealed no great secrets preventing pregnancy, especially when you didn’t want to. By Sanger’s time, modern medicine had improved upon the crocodile dung ancient Egyptians used as vaginal plugs and the lemon half Casanova recommended as a cervical cap — but not by much. Let's face it men, and the church, and doctors and every God Damn politician this side of the North Pole had an opinion and an attitude on women's sexual health and believed they were the only ones who could determine when a women could or could not get pregnant.  Diaphragms were faulty and ill-used. And condoms depended on men’s will, at a time when a doctor could advise a woman to sleep on her roof to avoid her husband’s advances.  They were wrong.  Thank the Gods. 

The birth of the pill is about the four pioneers of the contraceptive pill, namely Margaret Sanger, a campaigner for women’s rights, Gregory Pincus, a physiologist, Katherine McCormick, a wealthy widow who financed much of the work, and John Rock, a Catholic gynaecologist. What they achieved is remarkable, particularly considering how little money and resource there was for the research.

The star of the book is undoubtedly Pincus. Sacked from Harvard, ostensibly because his work on reproduction was so controversial, he briefly worked at Clark University, US, then set up the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology. This privately-funded research institute had a precarious existence until it was taken over by the University of Massachusetts Medical School well after the events recounted in this book. The author treats Pincus as a scientific genius and visionary, though many of his colleagues took a less charitable view.
The book is written in a fast-paced style, without any hint of light or shade. The heroes are stereotypical heroes, flawless dispellers of darkness and brilliant in their pursuit of the truth. Personally, I prefer my history more nuanced than this.

Former Wall Street Journal reporter Eig (Luckiest Man) blends the story of the “only product in American history so powerful that it needed no name” with the lives of the four-larger-than-life characters who dreamed, funded, researched, and tested it. Eig recapitulates much of what’s known about the discovery of oral contraceptives and adds a wealth of unfamiliar material. He frames his story around the brilliant Gregory Pincus, who was let go by Harvard after his controversial work on in-vitro fertilization; charismatic Catholic fertility doctor John Rock, who developed a treatment that blocked ovulation and, with Pincus, began human testing (including on nonconsenting asylum patients); and the two fearless women who paid for and supported their work, rebellious women’s rights crusader and Planned Parenthood pioneer Margaret Sanger and her intellectual heiress, Katharine Dexter McCormick. The twists and turns of producing a birth control pill in the mid-20th century mirrored astonishing changes in the cultural landscapes: Eig notes how, in July 1959, the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and G.D. Searle’s request for FDA approval of Enovid presaged a “tidal wave that would sweep away the nation’s culture of restraint.” Eig’s fascinating narrative of medical innovation paired so perfectly with social revolution befits a remarkable chapter of human history.

The book is nimbly paced and conversational, but its breezy style can trip on the rails of those politics, particularly when it comes to what the pill, and all the forms of effective hormonal contraception that followed it, meant to women’s lives. Shifting social mores are reduced to postage stamps, and though the analysis is infrequent, it jars.
When it comes to delineating contraception’s downsides, Eig doesn’t seem to think he has to prove the offhand and highly arguable claim that in the years that followed, “birth control would also contribute to the spread of divorce, infidelity, single parenthood, abortion and pornography.” He also blithely dismisses as futile Sanger’s hope that “the pill might lift women out of poverty and stop the world’s rapid population growth. In fact, the pill has been far more popular and had greater impact among the affluent than the poor and has been far more widely used in developed countries than developing ones.” 

Contraception hasn’t been a panacea for broader inequality, and it will never be, even if IUDs were available free on demand on every street corner. But no serious accounting of women’s progress over the past decades, however incomplete, can leave out the transformative role controlling their fertility has already had in allowing women to chart their own destinies. That radical transformation also helps account for the enduring fierceness of contraception’s opponents.

It is an old argument to blame social ills on too much freedom for women, or on the tools of it. Eig notes that when Sanger gave an interview to Mike Wallace she was asked, “Could it be that women in the United States have become too independent — that they followed the lead of women like Margaret Sanger by neglecting family life for a career?” The year was 1957.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox. Wellington. 2 September. Shed 6

Created by Scott Bradlee, the rotating collective of Postmodern Jukebox has spent the past few years amassing more than 450 million YouTube views and 1.9 million subscribers, performed on “Good Morning America,” topped iTunes and Billboard charts and played hundreds of shows to packed-house crowds around the world.