Monday, July 27, 2015

What I’m Reading #128

Jay Rayner in the Guardian excoriates London’t latest steakhouse, Smith & Wollensky:
We order the bone-in ribeye. The char is feeble and the overwhelming taste is of salt. Worse is the texture. It’s floppy. Part of this, I think, is a cultural difference; Americans like to celebrate steaks based on tenderness, as if being able to cut a piece of dead animal with a butter knife is an aspiration. I think that if you’re going to eat beef, you want to know it has come from an animal that has moved. This steak slips down like something that has spent its life chained to a radiator in the basement.
Staying with food, Ron Paste on what happens when you put a photo of poet RS Thomas on your Tyrells crisp bag. A Twitter storm ensued. Quote unquote:

Via David Thompson, Katherine Timpf in National Review on ethical and responsible vampires:
Sociology researchers are now insisting that we as a society start accepting people who choose to “identify as real vampires” — so that they can be open about the fact that they’re vampires without having to worry about facing discrimination from people who might think that that’s weird. The study, titled “Do We Always Practice What We Preach? Real Vampires’ Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals” was conducted by researchers from Idaho State University and College of the Canyons and the Center for Positive Sexuality in Los Angeles. “Most vampires believe they were born that way; they don’t choose this,” said Dr. D. J. Williams, the study’s lead researcher and the director of sociology at Idaho State. The study is based on the experiences of eleven “real” vampires — which, by the way, are different from “lifestyle vampires.” [...]
Williams explained that no one should be bothered by a person wanting to drink another person’s blood because “it is generally expected within the community that vampires should act ethically and responsibly in feeding practices,” and it’s not their blood-drinking that’s the real problem here — it’s the fact that they have to worry that other people will judge them for their blood-drinking.
James Joyce cracks the China market with Finnegans Wake thanks to translator Dai Congrong. Quote unquote:
So the 41-year-old professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University was incredulous when the translation became a surprise bestseller in China after hitting shelves last month. Backed by an elaborate billboard ad campaign, the first volume of “Fennigen de Shouling Ye” sold out its first run of 8,000 copies and reached number two on a prestigious bestseller list in Shanghai, second only to a biography of Deng Xiaoping. Sales of 30,000 are considered “cause for celebration” according to Chinese publisher Gray Tan, so 8,000 in a month has made Joyce a distinctly hot property. Ian McEwan, for instance, is considered pretty buzzy in translation, but the print run of Atonement was only 5,000 copies
English vegetarian Tom Cox writes:
There can be a tendency to force your mind open when you eat a thistle, prepare yourself for it tasting surprisingly different to your preconceptions, but what it actually tastes like is a thistle. At best, you might say it tasted like a fibrous, angry cucumber, which doesn’t really work for me as someone who’s always believed cucumber to be redolent of many of the most disappointing parts of British life.
Rolling Stone says that a documentary about Frank Zappa, who died in December 1993, is “in the early stages of development”, so don’t hold your breath. Also that there is a new album, which it calls both Dance With Me and Dance Me This. Either way, it is his 100th official release. Quote unquote:
“Historically, musicians have felt real hurt if the audience expressed displeasure with their performance,” Frank Zappa told Rolling Stone in 1968. “They apologized and tried to make the people love them. We didn’t do that. We told the audience to get fucked.”
Which brings us, regrettably, to New Zealand poets. Ashleigh Young, author of Magnificent Moon (her debut poetry collection is fantastic and you should buy if there are any copies left: try Unity Books in Wellington), blogs occasionally at EyelashRoaming. In her latest post she discusses how writers react to criticism. This is especially interesting for me because as a book editor and manuscript assessor my job is to dish it out, and as an author my job is to take it.

Ashleigh writes:
In terms of how well I weather criticism, I have a very thin skin. I have the skin of an Antarctic krill. An Antarctic krill doesn’t have skin exactly; it has a chitinous shell from which it sometimes ejects itself to use as a decoy against predators. The krill leaves this tiny ghost self behind while it makes a getaway.
She proceeds to elicit responses from writers, musicians and even a comedian. Let’s hear from poet Tim Upperton:
I haven’t had many reviews, so I should be grateful for the ones I get, I suppose. But I’m not. I remember a sentence from a review of my first poetry collection: ‘Heavy poems can leave a reader with an intense grimy experience.’ I guess that means something, but what? What’s a ‘heavy poem’? Are my poems insufficiently uplifting, for his taste? I quite like ‘an intense grimy experience’, but I don’t think the reviewer does. Fuck him.
On a more positive note, poetry-wise, Simon Armitage is the new Professor of Poetry at Oxford. Good. He is from Yorkshire, like my mother, who is from Halifax. The Guardian interviewed him in May, before the appointment. Quote unquote:
On stage in London, Armitage introduced another poem. “I think every poet at some stage in their writing life should try and write the definitive home-town poem. With Huddersfield, that was difficult. I didn’t really know what to lock on to as a coordinate. I eventually felt that the one thing that was most authentic were these synthetic – sort of Tudor – coffeehouses.” Laughter. “They’ve even proliferated into Halifax.” The laughter built. “There’s a drive-in! Ye olde drive-in coffee-house.”
Next time I go to Halifax to see my cousins, I know where to go for coffee. Despite what some may say, poets have their uses. So here is kd lang live in 1993 with “Black Coffee”:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Waikato Times letter of the week #55

This is from the edition of Tuesday 21 July. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times.
Harper Lee book
So, at last we see Almighty God’s forthcoming intervention in the perverse and wicked generation in which we all live and have our being!
Confirmed by the interesting ‘sign’ from the Bible, from Isaiah 21:6 – “Go, set a watchman, (Harper Lee) let him declare what he sees.”
Though having not read the book yet myself, (and leaving it to one side for a moment) the title is really all that matters in the declaring of the “all I have seen” area over the last 10 years or so concerning the decadent moral collapse of this country’s condition – not to mention the global scenario!
No doubt, the general public will look for the relevance of this book’s title and character in relation to that scenario as it applies to New Zealand, but the rest of the Biblical passage should ring a few bells amongst those who have at least a modicum of intelligence, and are able to discern the present shambles our civilisation is in!
My usual ending is very applicable I feel: Food for thought?
Glywn McInnes

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lookalikes #3: Jerry Garcia and Ayatollah Khomeini

One (seen here in 1981) was the lead guitarist in the Grateful Dead, a peacenik American band. The other (seen here in 2015) is the president of Iran, a not-so-peacenik Middle East country. Spookily, the Grateful Dead called their eighth album Blues for Allah. Coincidence?

So here are the Grateful Dead in 1991 as backing band for John Fogerty with his Creedence Clearwater Revival hit “Proud Mary”. Yes, really:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Harper Lee in New Zealand

Page & Blackmore Booksellers (254 Trafalgar Street, next time you are in Nelson) posted on their Facebook page this startling news:
Rumours are rife that Harper Lee wrote a third, even earlier book, an Ur-novel set in New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands, in which an elderly recluse, Scout Finch, looks back over the circumstances of her life that led her to turn her back on the intransigently unjust society in which she grew up. Apparently her editor advised her to rewrite it – twice.
So here is the cover:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Waikato Times letter of the week #54

This is from the edition of Tuesday 14 July. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times.
TV pronunciation
I want to talk about just a few things that are annoying. It seems some kids might be confused about how to properly pronounce things which TV presenters cannot. Such as Samoa – not as they say it (sarmoar). Also, Whakatane is not fakatane. Maybe they should go back to school and learn proper English. Also the discussion on climate change may be or may be not the thing nobody talks about: that all the atomic tests could have knocked the Earth off its axis by a fraction of a degree, which would alter our weather patterns. Also, the moon might have moved, which would alter our weather. But it seems you can’t make money out of saying that, as the world is greedy.
P Lyon

Lookalikes #2: Patrick Macnee and David Cameron

One died recently at 93 and was a beloved star of the TV series The Avengers. All the press has been about the series with Diana Rigg, 1965-68, as the “coolly kittenish” Mrs Emma Peel. It was fantastic but some of us remember even more fondly the earlier series, 1962-64, with Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore in the Bond movie Goldfinger) as Cathy Gale. Scorchio.

The Daily Telegraph has a brilliant obituary of Macnee. Quote unquote: 
He decided he was too old not to have a proper job, a conclusion reached when he came home to find he had been replaced in the affections of a much younger girlfriend by a French thief and his team of huskies.

That is not even the third-best sentence in the obit.

The other is a 48-year-old English politician. Yes, English. Prime Minister of the UK, but English as, despite his Scottish surname. Nothing wrong with that.

They went to the same secondary school – Eton, obviously – but only one of them was expelled for pornography and bookmaking offences. Can you guess which one it was?

So here is an hour with Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Waikato Times letter of the week #53

This is from the edition of Saturday 4 July. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times. (I wish I had kept a copy of the letter mid-week complaining that the writer’s previous letter had been mangled in the sub-editing process, thereby proving that these letters are in fact sub-edited and so have passed whatever sub-editorial and proofreading tests the Waikato Times applies.)
What values are left?
We now have so many changes taking place in the values of what is acceptable and unacceptable. Legal changes have all come down to what’s good and what’s politically acceptable? Religion in schools, marriage (same sex), euthanasia, abortion etc.
We have the flag and what it represents to the country, we have the monarchy also in question, and whether or not we should teach Christianity in schools. The police and all authorities are in question at the moment. What values are left to look up to? No laws. No values. We have a few serious values we can look up to anymore?
Next we have the spiritual side of life. Religion, the ten commandments and spiritual values which have been the basis of our country are being disregarded.
We don’t have many actual values left, so what is next to change, I wonder? There is definitely a question on what tomorrow is going to offer? It seems to me the tail is wagging the dog and not the majority being represented.
Ken Weldon
So here are the Beatles in 1967 with “Tomorrow Never Knows”:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two threesomes

In the adult fiction category of this week’s Nielsen Weekly Bestsellers Lists there are three by the same author. I don’t recall this ever happening before. Two by the same author, yes; three, no. The author is Graeme Lay and the books are his Captain Cook trilogy The Secret Life of James Cook (2013) at #9, James Cook’s New World (2014) at #10, and this year’s James Cook’s Lost World at #2. I assume that with the success of the latest novel people are buying the first two volumes to read them in sequence. Good.

The other thing these novels have in common is that I edited all three.

Spookily, of the 10 novels on the longlist for the 2015 Ngaio Marsh Awards for NZ crime fiction, I edited three: Paddy Richardson’s Swimming in the Dark, Tina Shaw’s The Children’s Pond and Paul Thomas’s Fallout.

Three must be my lucky number. On the other hand, I am lucky in the authors I get to work with.