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Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Groove Book Report- Selfie - Will Storr

We are supposed to be slim, prosperous, happy, extroverted and popular. This is our culture’s image of the perfect self. We see this person everywhere: in advertising, in the press, all over social media. We’re told that to be this person you just have to follow your dreams, that our potential is limitless, that we are the source of our own success.

But this model of the perfect self can be extremely dangerous. People are suffering under the torture of this impossible fantasy. Unprecedented social pressure is leading to increases in depression and suicide. Where does this ideal come from? Why is it so powerful? Is there any way to break its spell?

To answer these questions, Selfie by Will Storr takes us from the shores of Ancient Greece, through the Christian Middle Ages, to the self-esteem evangelists of 1980s California, the rise of narcissism and the selfie generation, and right up to the era of hyper-individualistic neoliberalism in which we live now.

It tells the extraordinary story of the person we all know so intimately – our self.

Infatuated with his own reflection in a pool, Narcissus pined away and died of self-love.  Our friend Freud, always vigilant about self obsession  diagnosed this as a perversion.  Or more aptly he saw it as a neurotic choice of sterile solitude.  The warning was futile. According to Author Will Storr, it was the beginning of the 'me' generation - the obsession of 'self'.  It's nothing new.  Anyone who's had small children will know all about this phase of life.  But look at it like this.  You can't know about the world until you learn about yourself.  And, extrapolating out, everything you do is retaliative to you, or more accurately, yourself because despite a 1000 self-help manuals we, as humans are hardwired to take everything in through two eyes (or ears, or touch) and those belong to us.  Ourselves.

So through history human kind had always pointed out the folly of self.  But with technology, especially cameras, hand held devices and the always-on of social media the pool has got bigger.  The iPhone has created the platform for mechanized narcissism.  Once a gadget meant to facilitate communication with others it has, instead  led the most addicted users to behave like long-lost Kardashians, grinning away  as they document their unexceptional everyday events.  Facebook, Instagram and twitter are the current platforms for their tedious and obsessive postings of cats, boring lunches and museum visits.  Ok, we all d this from time to time.  But how did we become so ensnared?

In his book, Storr takes the 'phenomenon' apart and to task.  This is wild-side anthropology and psychology with out a safety net. Or, sometimes without an ethical backbone.  He interviews a young woman who has hundreds of thousands of selfies stored on memory cards, hard drive and in the iCloud. She frequently works overtime to edit and filter her daily quota of new images so that she can update her social media channels. Sure, the unexamined life may not be worth living, but do all lives matter once they live in the public realm?  A place like facebook?  Actually, aren't they already living, as they walk the streets?  Do they deserve to be examined in such redundant detail? If we do this online, do we do it with such vigor in the street.  After all we pass judgement (i.e. swipe right) on every person that passes us in the street: too fat, thing, tall, ugly, bad hair, not enough, nice smile, et,etc, etc.  Only now we have it all on one page, like a book - like a children's book.  Big pictures.  Bold captions.  And the occasional mysterious slur.  In this case Storr’s interviewee confessed that it's not the online 'fame' that brought her alive.  No, indeed.  She says she feels most alive when slashing her flesh with a razor blade.  Storr was trying to create some kind of picture of narcissistic addiction here.  But instead what I saw was a person with mental health issues and a real need for quality care.  I felt that while he had valid points, he was, himself, exploiting her predicament, to raise a point.  She was a number to him.  Ironic, given that she'd spent so much effort trying to express her personality and to be unique.

Self-obsession, Storr argues is a reflex of self-dissatisfaction or self-dislike, a symptom of “social perfectionism” that pushes some of its victims towards suicide.  He introduces a book with a cliche case of a woman who attempts suicide because she can't be the perfect wife or mother, like she'd planned to be.  His lack of empathy for the issues his subject is going through is astounding.  All he can see is her reaction to her own failings to live up to the model in her head.  He doesn't spend much time considering the influences that helped shape that model or her own mechanisms to embrace change.  I suspect that his subject would have behaved this way, no matter what the drivers -  whether social media or Jane Austin was behind the motivation.

His 'survey' traverses centuries, challenging our so-called 'progress' to show how we reached this psychic dead end. Selfie begins in the tribal wilderness of an urban jungle. Here, he's encountering a contemporary version of the alpha chimps that roared and brawled their way to dominance in the jungle.  In this case a bouncer and gangland enforcer, and learns about how we can be so easily shaped by peer pressure and the desire for acceptance.  No matter how that's achieved.

Next is classical Greece - “the long story of the human” begins here. Aristotle separated the individual from the rest of nature.  And as a consequence, the idealized the 'self' became a living work of art.

Christianity then endowed the Greek body with a soul and forced it to chasten the sinful flesh.  The Romans, on the other hand celebrated the flesh and possibly created pornography in the process.   And so, Storr, conscientiously works his way through the eras.  He even learns about the process by suffering a week of medieval self-mortification in a dank Scottish monastery.

And then, like a movie that's run out of plot lines, we jump to modern day California.  On that last frontier, western individualism arrives at its most extreme and absurd development: the old-fashioned idea of what novelists call 'character'.   This, in effect is the sober amalgam of virtues and defects.  In legal terms, its a wish list of acceptable or unacceptable behaviors. A man or woman is often accepted due to good character.  Society determines what that list should look like.  For instance earnest, honest, virtuous, reliable, etc.  Or unworthy, viscous, ruthless, ambitious, loathsome, untrustworthy.  Our character is a blueprint or template overlayed onto the individual.   In olden times it was a reputational calling card.   But with the advent of Hollywood and fame it's become a glitzy notion success.  It's the driver behind of personality, projected in all those self-made, self-congratulating iPhone images. Simply put, why do something to earn fame when you can be photographed or blog like the famous.  And there are many examples where complete nobodies have become famous for projecting their fame, despite a lack or evidence of talent or skill.

Whilst in California, he tries on the self-awareness cult of therapy for size.  Through various hippie mumbo-jumbo practices, the state has developed the world's largest industry of alternative self-awareness therapy practices.  Storr has a go.  He signs on for a course of “humanistic alternative education” in a yurt on a cliff beside the ocean at Big Sur.  He's ordered by a bossy therapist to shed his adult inhibitions and return to being the juvenile delinquent he once was.   The experience, as he reports it, is hilarious.  Therapy bull shit in elephant sized droppings he concludes.

Storr finishes in Silicon Valley, where the current infliction of self-awareness was hatched.  It's a natural location, given how many slick entrepreneurs have transformed the computer from a bureaucratic machine into a plaything for the self. Promoters babble about “the Synthetic Age”, predicting that we will soon evolve into a post-human species, although not everyone is ready for the future.  They stay silent on the realities that we'll all be replaced by their robot minions in the space of our lifetime.

Speaking of his time in Silicon Valley, Storr recalls a geeky genius with a scheme for biohacking our DNA.  Rehearsing to play God, he devised a means of synthesising probiotics to waft away vaginal odors.  He called his formula Sweet Peach, and sold it as a means of “personal empowerment”.  Not surprisingly, angry feminists turned on him, unready to have their private parts 'refreshed'.  More like sanitized.  They argued that by doing this the product removed yet another human quality.  It was also yet another way of creating self awareness and then turning what is a perfectly natural function into something evil.  Women the world over have already been 'shamed' by the stigma of using feminine hygiene products and breastfeeding in public.  This was the last straw, apparently.  The story does not end well for the product's inventor.  He hanged himself in his lab.

You will find this sentence as absurd as it is true.  But Selfie is surely as much autobiographical as it is a woolly cultural history.   It transpires that Storr was prompted to write this book by a pile of  personal problems - all leftovers from a troubled adolescence combined with a middle-aged body revulsion.  Mostly self inflicted by hi-cal beer and pizza.  To that I can only say - get off the couch buddy and deal with your middle age spread the way the rest of us do it.  By moaning all the way to the gym and snorting up quinoa and wheatgerm and every other diet fad by the bowlful!

True, he finds no remedy for his self-dislike, instead concluding that the 'self' is a false divinity. Worshipping  the 'self' at the peril of more profound truths, he claims.  Put another way.  There's no 'I' in 'team!.  But we already knew that.  “We’re connected,” he writes, “we’re a highly social species”.  So, why have we eveolved into these units that have become so insular?  Whay are we cocconed in our own self importance?  Why are we so disconnected in a 24 hour digital world that always on? I think Narcissus died because he forgot he was human, too.  that he belonged to the human family.

Now, if like me you've come on Storr's journey and a nay-saying and laughing and tsk-tsking at all the right points, then you'll agree.  The 'Self' in the modern sense is a destructive cannon of self loathing and must be diluted.  That can only happen with humility and sharing, right.  we teach this to our children and in society all laws are based on the common good.  Yet This all-seeing book has failed to see the cult of Trump.  As if  this exception to the laws of humanity can exist in some Asimovian parallel universe.  Trump’s electoral success, Storr mentions only in passing.  He ignores the twitter-king, brushing off his blip on history as “a sumptuously narcissistic self-publicist” with a liking for Ayn Rand’s neofascist fiction.  If only!  Be that as it may jolly orange ogre with the golden quiff still merits closer inspection because Trump personifies the psychological and moral malady that Selfie investigates.  I suspect Storr is already collecting material for his second book.  Watch out. That one's thicker than a phone book!

One of the experts consulted by Storr refers to a “dark power… immensely powerful and concerned solely with pursuing its own interests at the expense of everyone else in the world”. That quote is a generalised account of the ego; scarily, it also serves as a description of Trump, a puffed-up primate with a nuclear arsenal at his disposal. Storr even indirectly explains Trump’s chronic mendacity: at our most crassly selfish, we act on irrational urges or fits of pique that we – or brown-nosed apologists such as Sean Sphincter – try to justify after the event by “confabulating”, inventing pretexts for our behaviour that are convenient but patently phoney.

A therapeutic industry caters to the self-esteem or self-delusion of such egomaniacs; it cossets them, Storr suggests, because their competitive frenzy masks an inner hollowness, a noisy “denial of their own weaknesses or incompetences”. The president’s current state of flailing mayhem could not be more pithily summed up. Trump is obsessed with winning: the worst he can say about jihadis is to insult them as “losers”, even when they have catastrophically succeeded in slaughtering the innocent.

Politics, for Trump, exemplifies what Storr rather awkwardly calls “the gamification of human life”. He viewed the presidential campaign as a game show and, after the wonky arithmetic of the electoral college awarded him the prize, assumed that he could look forward to eight years of victory laps and ego-boosting pep rallies, punctuated by recuperative spells watching alt-right rants on his panoramic TV screen. He didn’t expect to be exposed to scorn rather than acclaim. Still less did he reckon on having to do an arduous and uniquely complicated job. His former life, he now complains, was easier and more enjoyable: as a celebrity, his sole obligation was self-display.

It remains to be seen whether the superego, policing quaint old-fashioned concerns such as ethics and honesty, will manage to restrain this monster. Surely Trump’s permatan isn’t armour-plated? On the evidence of Selfie, the world is suffering from a bad case of the DTs and we urgently need detoxing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Groove Book Report - Book Review: Brushstrokes of Memory, by Karen McMillan

The minute this arrived Mum grabbed it and snuck away to a warm corner to begin reading it.  My review is coloured by her account.  She sits at my shoulder and corrects me, lest I get it wrong.  "That Karen deserves more", she tells me.  "A fine writer."

This novel is also close to home, being a ‘a novel of love, lost memories & rediscovering dreams’.  My father suffers from Alzheimers, so we know this tale well.

I first met Karen McMillan about 6 years ago and she's supplied me with many great books for the Groove Book Report.  This is her second, for us.  She's a North Shore, Auckland based writer. Her previous two books, set in WWII in Poland and America, The Paris of the East and The Paris of the West, received popular acclaim but are significantly different from this one.

I know it's a little tired but there's still much to say.  Karen taps into the well of 'losing memory’ when she tells of  Rebecca, who loses ten years of her life, from her 32nd birthday to present day. Her memory simply vanishes.  Now 42 years old she wakes up in the infirmary, recovered from concussion to find she's still married (to Daniel – an aging rock star).  Apparently she lives in Browns Bay and works in the city as a graphic designer capacity.  But how did she get here?  In the missing ten years many things happen to her and Daniel – deaths, illness, heartaches and good times.  But like the loss of a hard drive, her data banks are missing the files.

So the novel is an exploration of those years, and the consequences as the results finally start to dawn on Rebecca.  Karen writes a well crafted book with tensions, curve balls, even a strange 'stalker' and a bitch of an unsympathetic boss.  But at the heart is her marriage which has, hidden under surface many secrets.

Although the story is straightforward, Karen offers some very insightful writings on grief, loss and the nature of memory. You have to wonder about how it protects itself in order to process trauma.  one such is Rebecca's brush with breast cancer, based on the author’s own experiences, and the way her memory chooses to file away that incident.

Mum says she learnt a lot about the physical experience of cancer and of the emotional steamroller it brings with it.  But for her, it was the journey that mattered.  She's always after a few good yarns.  The unfinished threads bothered her a bit and she found Rebecca and Daniel a little wooden at times.  If it had been an American novel, she said, then she would have suspended the belief.  But in New Zealand such people can not exist - not in her imagination.  She thought Daniel was a bit limp.  Why didn't he fight back or become more emotional.  He was too - accepting.  And, unlike any Hollywood lead he couldn't bring himself to tell his wife of one terribly tragic event, or  even that they were on the verge of separating when she experienced the memory loss.  Such a book would have saved that up for the inevitable bombshell.

She loved the gutsy friend Julie for endlessly berating Daniel for his inability to tell his wife what was happening and spends her time as Rebecca's protector.

It was also very annoying that this was, yet again an 'Auckland' novel.  There are so many TV shows from Filthy Rich to Westside that just seem to forge the rest of us are here.  Bring back Crumpy and his rural tales, I say.  The love affair with real estate, cafes, transport woes and such is tired and the gloss fades quickly  - cliched and cringing.

But don't read to much into all this,  Karen's created a good read for a quiet Sunday afternoon or a plane journey.  Isn't good to escape into another world.  It took mum out of the retirement village for a few days, at least.

Brushstrokes of Memory
by Karen McMillan
Published by McKenzie Publishing

Groove Book Report - From the Blitz to the Burmese Jungle and Beyond, by Brian Hennessy

‘I consider myself lucky to have survived the global carnage still myself – a reluctant soldier who had to go to war, who only ever wanted peace for everyone.’ Brian Hennessy

Brian Hennessy was originally born in Cologne.  His father was in the army, like his father before and his before.  And as such, his father was stationed in Germany as part of the fallout from WWI.  He, 19r all intents and purposes and Army Brat.  His heritage also included a relative who was part of the Wild Geese, the infamous British troops stationed in Ireland from 1700 and his ancestor James Hennessy was gifted a vineyard in France where the famous Cognac was made.  In early life he had an accident involving a pram and was hospitalized for long periods of time.  It taught him about patience and survival and stood him in good stead for the future.  And what a future it was.  

He didn't want to go into the army but at the war came to him.  He was just seventeen years old and living in London when war broke out.  He experienced the Blitz first-hand.  He volunteered as a ‘roof-spotter’, trying to establish if the planes flying over were German or English.  Brian joined the British Army and upon graduating, he became the youngest armament artificer. This book tells in a very matter of fact way the true adventure story of how Brian journeyed to the remote jungles of Burma via South Africa and India and then finally Down Under. It's a memoir of World War II, the Blitz, Burma, and the devastation of Hiroshima.

His tales of skirmishes are the best.  Like the time he was caught out by Chinese troops (on the Allies side at the time) and stuck in a village with enemy on every side.  Or the time he was covered head to toe by ants, a consequence of fording the wrong river in the depths of the Burmese jungle.  At one time he was in charge of maintenance of all instruments issued to 26,000 men in 7 Divisions in Burma.  There are many other facts like this scattered through the book.  War promotes us to incomprehensible levels of responsibility, sometimes.  Each chapter is like a short story - that takes as long to read as to drain a cup of tea.  And in that they are punchy and compelling.

But this story is not a dry account, nor a lesson from an old man wanting to cash in on the current War fever surrounding the Anniversary on WWI.  It's action packed.  Danger was always present.  It opens with Brian hiding in the bushes surrounded by enemy, cowering under a rock.  It picks up the story a few chapters on as he manages to escape the impossible.  He does this many times over.  But this is not just another Commando comic.  In there are also Brian’s love of nature and his interactions with the local people – stories that are sometimes humorous, at other times poignant. At the end of the war, he took advantage of the chaos at the time, and he boarded a ship and went to Japan. There he saw first-hand the devastation at Hiroshima. he made friends and lost friends.  There are one or two heart breaking moments when he describes visiting after the fall out.

"I visited Hiroshima in April 1946," he says in his almost audible prose, "so that was some eight months after the atomic bomb had been dropped, and it was clear the devastation was immense.  There was really nothing left around ground zero....  (it was) terrible and undeniable .. But I also noticed there were green shoots sprouting from the ground and where there had been concrete framework...I didn't see any 'shadows' of the dead, but instead evidence of life."

But life did not end when Brian immigrated to New Zealand in after the war in 1952.  He married, had three children and continued to serve in the army until the mid 1960's.  He ran a dairy farm and owned a repair shop in Queens Street, Auckland.  He invented a meat grading system, currently used by twenty on EU countries in their production and quality standards.   He lived to ninety-two, but he never forgot his extraordinary war adventures. This is his story, published for the first time.  With the help of the wonderful Karen McMillan, Brian, at his advanced years, put this book together.  It is a remarkable feat.

A Memoir by Brian Hennessy

Publisher: McKenzie Publishing / RRP: $34.99, Trade Paperback / Release Date: 1 March 2017

Founded in 2013, McKenzie Publishing is an independent publisher with a catalogue of books by bestselling New Zealand author Karen McMillan, with the view to publishing other authors in the future. Publishing both non-fiction and fiction, books by McKenzie Publishing are life-affirming books that aim to enrich, entertain and uplift.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Harry Potter's birthday: 20th anniversary of the first book

As we mark the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book, let's consider the massive influence and worldwide appeal of the series.  Here a 46 considerations.

  1. The first book in the JK Rowling series, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone was published on June 26, 1997.
  2. Harry Potter first came to life on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990 when Joanne Rowling dreamt up the young wizard and his friends, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley.
  3. Over the next five years, the author developed plots for seven books – writing mostly in note form and longhand – set partly in the wizarding world and partly in a somewhat fictionalised modern-day England. The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry houses – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin – were created on the back of an aeroplane sick bag.
  4. Moving to Edinburgh with baby daughter Jessica in 1993, Joanne Rowling, who was living on benefits at the time, began writing in a café as she expanded her story. She sent the completed manuscript to a number of publishers – and at one point received 12 rejection letters in a row. 
  5. Publishing house Bloomsbury saw the story’s potential. The chairman gave the first chapter to his eight-year-old daughter to read and she immediately demanded the rest of the book. Just 500 copies of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone were initially printed.
  6. Since 1997, the seven books have sold 500 million copies worldwide and been published in 79 languages, making it the world’s best-selling series.
  7. Breaking every kind of literature record, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows became the fastest-selling book ever, with more than 2.65 million copies sold within the first 24 hours in the UK alone in 2007. If you own a first-edition Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone in hardback, you’re in luck. One sold in 2016 for £43,750. 
  8. The first film adaptation, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, was produced by Warner Brothers in 2001. Seven more followed, concluding with the release of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011, making a reported $6.5 billion at the worldwide box office. It shot all three of its stars to fame, with Emma Watson, who played Hermione, now on track to be the highest-earning actress of 2017.
  9. The franchise has spun into theme parks, with the Harry Potter worlds seeing thousands of visitors a day. The franchise alone is reported to be worth an estimated $25 billion.
  10. JK Rowling went from not being able to afford to photocopy her manuscript to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest women, worth an estimated £650 million.
  11. The author has 10.5 million followers on Twitter, which she uses to air her views. She is known for being very outspoken and often ends up in high-profile spats. 
  12. The editorial team advised her not to publish under her full name as they feared boys would not read a book written by a woman. She doesn’t have a middle name so added a K, in tribute to her grandmother Kathleen, to her own initial of J.
  13. She based quidditch on baseball. It has now become a sport with teams at many universities and its own world cup tournament. 
  14. Harry Potter’s birthday is July 31, 1980. His creator’s birthday is also July 31, but she was born in 1965.
  15. While playing schoolgirl ghost Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, actress Shirley Henderson was actually 37.
  16. To become better acquainted with their movie characters, the three main actors were asked to write essays about them. Emma Watson wrote 16 pages about Hermione, Daniel Radcliffe wrote a single page on Harry, while Rupert Grint, who played Ron, didn’t even turn his in.
  17. Rupert Grint dressed as his female drama teacher and rapped about Ron Weasley for his audition tape. His rap began, “Hello, my name is Rupert Grint, I hope you don’t think I stink.”
  18. Contrary to popular belief, the “t” at the end of Voldemort is silent. The name comes from the French and means “flight of death”.
  19. Rowling based 11-year-old Hermione on herself at the same age. She made Hermione’s patronus (wizard’s spirit animal) an otter, which is her own favourite creature.
  20. The idea for Sirius Black’s tattoos came from those used in Russian prison gangs. The markings identify the person as someone to be feared and respected.
  21. Dementors, the deadly phantoms that guard Azkaban Prison, represent depression and were inspired by JK Rowling’s struggle with the condition after her mother died from multiple sclerosis in 1990.
  22. “It’s so difficult to describe (depression) to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness,” she has said. “I know sadness – to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling – that really hollowed-out feeling. That’s what the Dementors are.” 
  23. One of the flying cars used in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets was stolen from the set. It was discovered seven months later after an anonymous caller rang to tell police they’d found it.
  24. In 2007, when asked by a fan whether Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore had ever been in love, JK Rowling responded, 
  25. “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” He fell in love with Gellert Grindelwald.
  26. Michael Jackson once approached the author about making a musical based on the books. She turned the idea down.
  27. For a long time, JK Rowling planned to have “scar” as the last word in the series, but she changed the last sentence to read, “All was well.” 
  28. Rowling killed Hedwig (Harry’s owl) because it represented the loss of innocence and security. Her fate marked the end of Harry’s childhood. 
  29. Two alternative titles for the final book were Harry Potter And The Elder Wand and Harry Potter And The Peverell Quest. She decided against the latter because she thought it sounded too corny.
  30. There are 700 possible fouls that can be made in the game of quidditch.
  31. Some of the original names of the books’ characters – before JK Rowling changed them – included Hermione Puckle, Neville Puff, Draco Spinks and Lily Moon, as an alternative to Luna Lovegood.
  32. Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy, originally auditioned for the roles of Harry and Ron.
  33. Having written half of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, the author realised she’d created a “giant hole” in the plot which she had to go back and fix, which is why the book is so long.
  34. While filming Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, the pockets of Tom Felton’s (Draco Malfoy) Hogwarts robes were sewn shut to stop him sneaking food on to the set, meanwhile other cast members asked for pockets for cigarettes.
  35. Dumbledore is an Old English word for bumblebee. JK said she chose the name because she pictured Dumbledore humming to himself around Hogwarts.
  36. The writer almost killed the character of Ron Weasley halfway through the series when she “wasn’t in a very happy place” in her life. She now believes that she wouldn’t have been able to go through with it, but at the time considered killing Ron off “out of sheer spite”.
  37. When asked by a fan how she chose the shape of Harry’s scar, JK Rowling replied, “Because it’s a cool shape. I couldn’t have my hero sport a doughnut-shaped scar.”
  38. Richard Harris – Dumbledore in the first two films – only took the role after his granddaughter swore she’d never speak to him again if he didn’t.
  39. Magic potion ingredients toadwax and mugwort may sound like made-up words, but in fact Rowling got most of them from a real book, Nicholas Culpeper’s The Complete Herbal.
  40. While filming the series, the actors weren’t allowed to play contact sports in case they were injured. Dominoes anyone?
  41. JK Rowling said she frequently saw crying girls in bathrooms when she was younger, hence the inspiration for Moaning Myrtle.
  42. “If I had any power, I would have the power of invisibility,” says the writer. “This is a little bit sad but I would probably sneak off to a café and write all day.” 
  43. West Ham is the only real football club mentioned in the books. One of JK Rowling’s oldest friends is a West Ham supporter.
  44. The seeds of a relationship between Ron’s sister Ginny Weasley and Harry were subtly planted throughout the series, such as during the quidditch match in which she beat rival Cho Chang.
  45. While filming on set, the young actors did real homework to make the setting more realistic.
  46. To mark the 20th anniversary, Bloomsbury has published new Hogwarts house editions of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone; Saturday sees a Harry Potter Trivia Tournament in 20 bookshops across the UK and on Friday in  Greater Manchester there will be a Guinness World Record attempt for the largest gathering of people dressed as Harry Potter.   

Thursday, June 22, 2017

If you have children, then check out Toi Toi

Charlotte Gibbs is the editor of Toitoi, a quarterly journal publishing the stories, poetry and illustrations of artists from 5 to 13 years old. So far, 700 works have been published in eight issues. Charlotte Gibbs says it's all about celebrating the ideas, imaginations and creative spirit of young people.

Toitoi celebrates the ideas, imaginations and creative spirit of our young writers and artists. We believe that their work has purpose and deserves a wide audience.

They publish material with an original and authentic voice that other young people can connect to and be inspired by and that reflects the cultures and experiences of life in New Zealand.   Their  philosophy is to treat young writers and artists with respect, handle their work with care and produce a beautifully designed journal of high quality that reflects how much we value and admire them.

Essentially, everything except the editing is provided by the kids.

You can find out more by linking to:

Groove for Kids - The New Book by Jacqueline Wilson - Wave Me Goodbye (Penguin)

Award-winning, bestselling and beloved Jacqueline Wilson tells the fascinating, moving story of a girl sent away from home as an evacuee during the Second World War.

September, 1939. As the Second World War begins, ten-year-old Shirley is sent away on a train with her schoolmates. She doesn’t know where she’s going, or what’s going to happen to her when she gets there. All she has been told is that she’s going on ‘a little holiday’.
Shirley is billeted in the country, with two boys from East End London, Kevin and Archie – and their experiences living in the strange, half-empty Red House, with the mysterious and reclusive Mrs Waverley, will change their lives for ever.

Award-winning, bestselling and beloved author Jacqueline Wilson turns to this period of history for the first time, in this beautiful, moving story of friendship and bravery against the backdrop of the worst conflict the world has ever known.

Read an interview with the author:

Published by Penguin:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Groove Book Report: Fighting Hislam - Women, Faith and Sexism - Susan Carland

The Muslim community that is portrayed to the West is a misogynist's playground; within the Muslim community, feminism is often regarded with sneering hostility.

Yet between those two views there is a group of Muslim women many do not believe exists: a diverse bunch who fight sexism from within, as committed to the fight as they are to their faith. Hemmed in by Islamophobia and sexism, they fight against sexism with their minds, words and bodies. Often, their biggest weapon is their religion.

Here, Carland talks with Muslim women about how they are making a stand for their sex, while holding fast to their faith.  At a time when the media trumpets scandalous revelations about life for women from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Muslim women are always spoken about and over, never with. In Fighting Hislam, that ends.

I have to say, up front, that I really struggled with the timing of this book.  Not so much the actual release date but the climate to which it has been released into.  My nightstand is groaning with books at the present, so I took me a little while to come around to this one.  In the meantime a bomb had just gone off in Manchester at a major concert and there were multiple attacks of civilians in London and in France involving cars, trucks and all manner of weapons.  On our TV's the new cop show Hyde/Seek had just started.  Its plot line predominantly dealt with terrorism.

Dial up Netflix or and other cable provider and Homeland or Designated Survivor is top billing on the watch list.  Fear of Islamic extremism is behind every story.  Add to that regular column inches, internet and radio feeds coming at us 24/7 and it's no wonder we Westerners are feeling overwhelmed.  We want peace.  We want this, this, this Islam/Muslim thing, this threat, these 'attacks' to just all go away.  But we can't escape, no matter what we do.  When it gets so deep that even our fiction is infiltrated we cannot look objectively any more.

Add to the mix the Kiwi/Aussie experiences of Afghanistan.  Both nations have troops over there 'helping' to restore peace and justice to that part of the world and fighting the Taliban model of sexism and oppression, particularly again women. And it is this mode; that colors the brush that we dip into the tar.  So this is why  we of the Westernized Pacific think that all Muslim women are equally oppressed.  That Muslim men are sexist pigs and do not respect their wives, sisters and mothers as they should. It's just so easy to write off the Muslim community as a misogynist’s playground.  Yet within the Muslim community and outside where it is also perceived as such, feminism for Muslim women is often regarded with sneering hostility.

This may be true in the extreme cases, argues author Susan Carland, who actually converted to Islam, as opposed to being born to it, and feels she is in the best position to offer a more balanced view on the subject.  The role of women in Islam is most definitely a hotly debated topic, she acknowledges, both among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But a Muslim women’s perspectives is rare, often excluded from mainstream discussion for a variety of reasons.  Some of these are because we, as Westerners chose to ignore or look past these voices.  Sometimes it is convenient to look at them as victims of a medieval (emphasis on Evil) system,.  one where these women must be rescued.  Modern feminism has always come from the point of view of the oppressed and the downtrodden, the restricted and the unspoken, so it's makes sense that we should identify Muslim women as slaves to the Hijab.

But we, in the West are, in fact, simply laying our own moral, ideological and political blankets over a culture and religion that we do not really understand, argues Carland.  OK, her book is not the first to raise this.   Beyond Veiled Clichés by journalist Amal Awad also dug deep to explore life from the perspective Muslim women living in both in the Western and Arabic world. As an academic, Carland chooses to go even further offering a new twist on feminism whereby religious beliefs and laws can co-exist in harmony with women’s rights.

he Muslim community that is portrayed to the West is a misogynist’s playground; within the Muslim community, feminism is often regarded with sneering hostility. Yet between those two views there is a group of Muslim women many do not believe exists: a diverse bunch who fight sexism from within, as committed to the fight as they are to their faith. Hemmed in by Islamophobia and sexism, they fight against sexism with their minds, words and bodies. Often, their biggest weapon is their religion. At a time when the media trumpets scandalous revelations about life for women from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Muslim women are always spoken about and over, never with. In Fighting Hislam, that ends.

People don’t realise the influence culture has on faith, she argues, through examples and through the voices of some of her own interviewees.  Sh notes that within Australia, where this book is set, the Muslim community is incredibly diverse. "It’s so multicultural and yet we’re all clumped together [but] if you look at the countries of origin,"she argues they often practice Islam in very different ways."  Somali Islam she notes, is practiced in a very different way and understood in a different way to practices in Indonesia, Afghani Islam or in Saudi.  Effectively, she's saying, that to us, Westerners, the impression is that Islam is a monolith.  Which is not the case.

One of the main intentions of this book was to change opinions.  Or at least to open the discussion.  Now that's extremely hard, given our current political climate.  As I outlined above, we Westerners almost revel in the painted doom that's been painted and into that paint pot we include the oppression of women who must endure within those confines.  We don't ask the questions the Carland has, we don't even look up to notice.  We are scared.  And even if we did, could we?  We white and middle class would be hypercritical and far too patronizing.  We would judge with our west-feminist eyes and our post-colonial spyglasses.  We wouldn't listen but we'd interpret.

Nothing much has changed, argues Susan Carland. Carland is a lecturer and researcher at Monash University's National Centre for Australian Studies. She has been listed as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, and as a 'Muslim Leader of Tomorrow' by the UN Alliance of Civilizations. She was a co-creator and presenter of the ground-breaking television show, Salam Cafe and is an ambassador for Possible Dreams International. She is a good spokesperson for this debate, indeed.  She knows the territory and ii anything, it’s harder for Muslims living in the west today than it once was. And that goes for the conversation about gender equality and Islam.  No, we really haven't moved on from 9/11, And Our views of Muslim women are even more archaic.  She highlight the Victorian fantasies of Harems, kept as sex slaves by Turkish Sultans.  Women who veiled their faces to create an 'allure' but were never chaste and pure like Western Women.  They were women to be rescued from debauchery and abuse.  The 'allure' has faded but the need to be 'saved' seems to remain, Carland says.  She wanted to get an 'in my shoes' perspective so when interviewing Muslim women, as a Muslim woman, she asked the "Why do you wear hijab?" "Do you feel oppressed?" "Does your husband make you wear that?" "Why does your religion command FGM?”

“The stereotype of Muslim women is that they’re meek and submissive. So they’re seen as a weaker target.  It’s Muslim women and kids in Muslim school uniforms who are more likely to be targeted with Islamophobia. Her findings are both surprising and acceptable.  There are some women in her interviews that talk abut the benefits of sisterhood.  This is true of many African variants.  Women work and cook together and spend many hours in the exclusive company of other women.  In doing so they have company, friendships, strength.  They learn skills, make bonds and are in no way as vulnerable as they may be living as individuals in society 'equal' to men.  It's hard to know if sexism and particularly abuse is higher in Muslim society, as compared to Western or even indigenous communities.  it is high in Maori and Pacific societies, especially when women are separated from the other women in their whanau and community due to Urbanization.  Anthropologically, this could be said to be true for nearly any society.  By the same token, women who remain close knit due to the confines of Muslim laws and practices are really no different to Western Women who through a need for friendship form book clubs or Women's Societies or Plunket support networks or any other.

And the Ha jib,  Carland argues, is both a perceived tool of oppression and a veil protecting independence.  To some of her interviewees it protected them from the scrutiny of other men.  The opposite of the leers young women endure when wearing skimpy clothes, for example.  Yet, whilst wearing the Hijab in a Western place like a shopping mall or a park, they are the opposite of anonymous.  They stand out, not as an admired individual, as a women dressed in punk gear or quirky, colorful clothing, or even dressed as a clown.  No they stand out as a women enslaved to our perceptions.

These are but two pints Carland makes in her book.  She has many more.  Her tone is sometimes critical of the Western view.  She holds no truck for our terrorist views or our obsessions with their consequences.  She is not the enemy, she thinks.  She's also honest about the fact she didn’t write this book to win fans.  Interestingly, even though she wants to speak out and reveal the soul of her interviewees - some in America, some in Australia and some elsewhere - she, herself is furiously private.  She's also personally uncomfortable with the media spotlight her husband, television host Waleed Aly’s fame has brought upon her and her family. Ally is Australian writer, academic, lawyer, media presenter and musician. But more importantly, he's a co-host of Network Ten's news and current affairs comedy twist program The Project. which has a high profile in Australia.

None the less, Carland is driven by obligation, as a teacher first.  Her ambition is to educate as many people as she can and to enrich the public conversation about women and Islam.  In this book she does it well.  As I said at the start this is a topic that is very hard to discuss at the present, without taking sides.  Add to that the debates about immigration and you've got a smoking safari to contend with.  But if you really want to push all that aside and take a brave leap at objectivity then give this a go.  You won't necessarily agree with everything and at times you'll shout "That's not Me!"  Isn't it?  

“There is this assumption," Carland points out, "that you all think the same thing, you’re all of one mind on these issues … It shows the desperation of the media and politicians to say ‘all of you people, who speaks for you?’ They can’t let go of this idea that someone should speak for all of us. No single person does”.  Here's a new voice in the conversation.

Fighting Hislam is published by Melbourne University Press.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Melodrama - Lorde. The New Album - CoffeeBar Kid Listens in......

Lorde's new album Melodrama drops today!!

Four years seems a lifetime ago for our Ella.  And in an increasingly fickle, hyper-paced world that's a millennium.  Can you believe that when she made Heroine with Joel Little Ella Yelich-O'Connor was only just 16.  Crikey.  At that age I didn't even know how to find the toilets on my own, let alone make an album and tour on the world's stages.  So now for the ever anticipated sophomore effort.  With a more mature, celebrity befriended and wiser performer what will come.  Will we get more about youth and growing up.  Will we get more about social media and the betrayal of commercialism?  Will we get more about fame and the fake bubble it creates?

Sort of.  Melodrama retains the core elements of her distinctive sound—minimalist arrangements and her angle (if that's the right word).  The catchy melodies are still there.  That's important to keep the kids wired in.  And her wry, deadpan vocal performances are still there, too. Another trademark.  At 16 how can you even have a trademark approach?  Well, it appears you can.  OK, so all that's still there but there are now more bends and twists.

2013's Pure Heroine was a wry and cynical snapshot of the 'disaffected youth'.  It was punctuated by plenty of narcissistic and sardonic black humor.  Way beyond the teen years but so very telling of what was currently raining down upon her at every  turn.  In reality, an artist like her had two choices.   Ignore and become a hermit or, in the spirit of most intellectual Kiwis, hit back with deadpan humor.  She chose the latter.  So now we get the same 'girl' now a woman on the cusp of adulthood, entering the big bad world and trying to deal with it.  Not original but maybe her take is a bit more original.  Maybe.  Adele's done it over and over again and will probably keep going until she makes an album call 90.  If the industry lets her.

Overnight stardom prompted by her first album created Melodrama, I think. Fame has the potential to keep creative minds hermetically sealed away from their former lives because their worldview myopic puts you out of touch with the rest of society.  Well, that's what normally happens.  But not so this time.

I'm not sure if it's a consequences of notoriety or just the result of the inevitable maturation four years on but you can feel that the 'inner life' of Ella, which is revealed on Melodrama is much richer and, likely more lived.  Hey, at 16 nothing's happened yet.  in her early 20's something's started.  So I think, for me, at least, as a 50 year old but with daughters I can see this album is more accessible than Pure Heroine.

Ella allows herself to be vulnerable and love-locked on songs like Liability (which has the wonderful word play 'Liar-bility' in the title chorus) and the challenge of meeting someone famous (Writer in the Dark).  The latter is a 360 degree view - the person meets the writer. The writer meets the person.  Both are vulnerable.  One meets her potential fan or she feels she is unknown.  How will she react?  The other meets a famous writer or they have no idea who they are?  But not likely.  How do they react?

Liabiliity also has a heartbreaking revelation that she's just “a toy that people enjoy/Til all of the tricks don't work anymore”.  Now that's gotta suck all the air right out of totem to self-love.

But it's not all self-stabbing, celeb bashing and wrist slashing.  This time we get a few more tales - drunken meet-cutes, messy mornings after (no walk of shame but hints are there).  Melodrama is an unexpected house-party record.

What I really want is for Ella to pop up on Graham Norton.  I'd love to see how she fits in with all the celbs chatting about this newbie. I heard her on RNZ last month and I must confess she sounds more confident and genuinely happy in her skin now.  Happy to be vulnerable, sometimes, I guess.  But also, she's sharp and funny (“They'll hang us in the Louvre/Down the back, but who cares?/Still, the Louvre,” she quips on The Louvre) and indulgent about being young (drinking, drugs, sex, even the romanticization of dying in a fiery car crash on Homemade Dynamite).  It's funny because a couple of years ago I interviewed Liam Finn at the National Library.  Directly below a copy of Heroine, which was hanging like a picture on display.  He called it the "Shrine of Lorde'.  There was a copy of the award and several photos added to give context.  Out version of the great art palace I guess.  Also this song, The Louvre, is delicious irony, aknowledging that very point.  It's lush, all baked in a package of digi-beats, overdubs and multi tracks and studio trickery.

Sound-wise, producers Jack Antonoff, Frank Dukes, Kuk Harrell, Andrew Wyatt and Lorde, herself, have created a much richer soundscape, without compromising the initial 'soul' that was developed by Ella and Joel Little on Heroine.  The minimalism was sometimes a little tedious.  It's more of a variety here and I like it all the more for it.  There are blips, muddy mixes, twerking noises and even a sample from an 80's computer game (Frogger?).  It's got layers, so listening will be a repeat journey.

In one way Lorde has more fully fleshed out her goth-witch caricature -“She thinks you love the beach, you're such a damn liar,” she hiss on the album's lead single, Green Light.  Oh Boy.  Whatch out, man!  And one man, in particular.  Her anger is ignited not just by the possibility that her former lover is deceiving someone, but that maybe she didn't know him either but then this is her bitter state.

It's not always like this.  So despite the title, the album isn't fully packed with hysterics and histrionics. It's not Panic at the Disco!  Nor is there a retaliation to being a pop bimbo or a cover girl gone wild - like bestie Taylor did on Shake It Off.

'Supercut' is as close as she comes to a out and out pop single.  It's hook laden and ready for radio.  The rest of the album is not for the airwaves.  It's for the headphones.  It may come out on vinyl but it's made for the smartphone.  It talks to the ipod generation.  It simmers and builds from track to track, loaded with unlikely catchy bits, from the spoken refrain of “The Louvre” to the taunts that close with the reprise Sober II (Melodrama).  Her vocals venture into a more playful, previously unexplored upper register. You get that on “Loveless,” which is a seemingly unfinished two-minute doodle of a song tacked onto the end of the industrial-infused Hard Feelings.  Now it's a happy surprise, as it's perhaps the most shamelessly poppy track but it's still peppered with prickly quips like “Bet you wanna rip my heart out/Bet you wanna skip my calls now/Guess what? I like it.”  It fades slowly, like a bit of a trick.  I had to check my phone wasn't losing battery as the song got quieter.  Nice.

OK, Meledrama is a bit of a unexpected house-party (that will be a phrase that's gonna be attached to this record by everyone).  It has a sort of theme gear around the night.  Pick-ups, drunk moments, fights, silly antics, morning after.  And sonically, it's where the really cool kids are at.  Still no Grey Goose, though.  Or gold teeth!  Post code envy is less an issue these days.  It's a break up a break down and a pick me up all at once.  It's cathartic, dramatic, and everything else you could want an album with a title like this.  And, ultimately, Melodrama concludes with the even more ironic Perfect Places - the ultimate mark of maturity because it's the realization that all our heroes and chemicals will inevitably fail us.  Essentially, it's nice while it lasts but the pursuit of escapism through these means is both futile and sublime.  Grow up and smell the coffee, kids!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jonathan Crayford wins Tui for Best Jazz Album

The Tui for Best Jazz Album was presented tonight at a cocktail party attended by Wellington’s jazz community and sponsors and supported for the Wellington Jazz Festival.  The event included Anthony Healey, Head of APRA and Damian Vaughan (Recorded Music New Zealand).  Jonathan Crayford picked up the award for Best Album for East West Moon, which he recorded in New York with Ben Street and Dan Weiss.  Crayford was up against some tough competition including veteran Jazzman Mike Nock (Vicissitudes) and new comer Myele Manzanza (OnePointOne). 

Callum Allardice (of The Jac) managed to swing Best Composition for his piece Deep Thought.  Festival favourites award went to The Brad Kang Quartet for their amazing concert at St Peter’s on Friday night.

Jonathan Crayford - photo Tim Gruar
Callum Allardice - Photo Wellington Jazz Festival

Jonathan Crayford with Steve Garden (Rattle Records) - Photo Wellingotn Jazz Festival

Wellington Jazz Festival - Classic album : Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch

Jake Bexendale and Rueben Bradley and Paul Dyne plus friends do Eric Dolphy's amazing classic.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wellington Jazz Festival - The Mellotones

The Wonderful all-Lady Jazz band the Mellotones entertain diners at the Wellington night market.

Friday, June 09, 2017

How to tune in - on the move!

Listen to Groove on the move.  Tune in to Tune In radio (get the app from the App Store or I-tunes) and search for 'Groove 107.7FM'

Google Play

Apple App Store

The Comet Is Coming – Wellington Jazz Festival – 10 June 2017

Playing the Wellington Jazz Festival this weekend are the London-based psychedelic funk-meisters The Comet is Coming. They mix sounds from the universe including snippets of Parliament, Sun Ra and Afro-funk pioneers like Fela Kuti – all channeled through a digital dashboard of synths and crazy sax.  Read more

Wellington Jazz Festival - SEOUL JAZZ: THE JAC & BLACK STRING

New Zealand & South Korea - Wellington meets world jazz in this exciting international premiere.

Opera House - Saturday 10 June - 4PM

Cheer on home-town jazz heroes The Jac as they’re joined by South Korea’s Black String in the culmination of a year-long collaboration. This powerful night of in-the-moment magic melds Black String’s electrifying and explosive play on Korean musical traditions with the cinematic sound of these award-winning New Zealand talents.

“Triumphant” (London Jazz News) in their own right, four-piece Black String are making waves on the world music scene for their fresh and fiery jazz sound.

Meanwhile, “spine tingling” (New Zealand Musician) eight-piece The Jac are a freight train of pure musical energy, featuring members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, The Troubles and the Richter City Rebels.

Be there as they forge a new Korean-Kiwi jazz genre.

The Jac: Lex French (trumpet), Jake Baxendale (alto saxophone), Chris Buckland (tenor saxophone), Matthew Allison (trombone), Callum Allardice (guitar), Nick Tipping (bass), Daniel Millward (piano) and Shaun Anderson (drums).

Black String: Yoon Jeung Heo (geomungo/Korean zither), Aram Lee (daegeum/bamboo flute), Jean Oh (electric guitar) and Min Wang Hwang (janggu/Korean drum).

Discover more: Five days in Seoul – The Jac member Jake Baxendale's South Korean diary takes us behind the scenes of an exciting international music project destined for the Wellington Jazz Festival.


South Korea’s Black String band formed as part of a cultural exchange when British and South Korean jazz festivals decided to engage young musicians from both nations in collaborative projects. Band founder Yoon-jeong Heo had already made a mark as leader of Tori Ensemble – a South Korean band that mixed traditional folk music with cello and clarinet and toured internationally under the Womad umbrella (playing Womad New Zealand in 2011).

Debuting in public in 2012 at the Jarasum International Jazz Festival in South Korea and then at the London Jazz Festival, Black String demonstrated exemplary technique alongside the ability to improvise. The band’s profile has continued to grow, with Black String being invited to perform an official showcase at Womex in 2017 and winning Best Jazz and Crossover Performance at the 2017 Korean Music Awards.

“Although South Korea is not a big country, we realised from different international relations that our music is the most beautiful among various music,” says Heo of the band’s success. “Also we met lots of talented musicians and created relations with them.”

At the heart of Black String’s sound is the geomungo, a Korean instrument whose origins can be traced back to the fourth century – and it is this instrument’s black strings that gave the band its name. The geomungo is a six-stringed zither and its prototype is found in the ancient murals of Goguryeo. It has six twisted silk strings, which are stretched over 16 fixed frets. The instrument is plucked with a short bamboo rod called a suldae (which Heo notes is crafted from bamboo that grows close to the sea) and produces majestic deep sounds.

Heo is a master of the geomungo and notes that the literati of the Joseon Dynasty particularly revered the instrument. The deep, beguiling tones that emerge from these completely natural materials could have been heard at any time since the seventh century, because Korean music has a continuous tradition far longer than Western music. The geomungo is the voice at the very heart of that tradition, with a role comparable to that of the piano in the West.

“The international audience, which has many experiences with different countries’ traditional music, was very interested in traditional Korean musical instruments and praised Black String’s powerful music and performance,” says Heo.

Wellington Jazz Festival - Look out - THE COMET IS COMING!!!!

Brace for impact with these futuristic space-jazz pioneers.

Fusing jazz, Afro-beat and electronica, The Comet is Coming are your Saturday night soundtrack to an imagined apocalypse, with members King Shabaka (Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down), Danalogue and Betamax your cosmic guides.

These one-time Snarky Puppy openers are charting their own path in the spirit of legendary freestyle funksters Sun Ra, Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix, making last year’s prestigious Mercury Prize shortlist.

Book fast and get ready to dance like it's the end of the world.  Saturday 10 June - 8pm Opera House

Jazz Festival Gigs: Today at 5pm - JIMMY AND THE JETS

All the tunes you want to hear - and some you forgot you wanted to!
With a killer repertoire they play all the tunes you want to hear - and all those you forgot you wanted to! With all of the members of the band studying at Te Kōki the New Zealand School of Music, you can expect an incredibly high quality of musicianship from these players.
For a great night of music, come down to Dillinger's Brasserie and Bar for a lovely atmosphere during the Wellington Jazz Festival!

Gig begins 5PM Tonight at Dillingers Bar :

Jazz Festival - Film Spotlight. FILM: LADY SINGS THE BLUES

Diana Ross plays the magnificent but tragic song stylist Billie Holiday

Diana Ross plays the magnificent, tragic song stylist Billie Holiday, who while writhing in a strait jacket in a prison cell, awaiting sentencing on drug charges, reflects on her turbulent life.

Raped in her youth by a drunk (played by Adolph Caesar), then compelled to work as a domestic in a Harlem whorehouse, Holiday is encouraged to try for a singing career by the bordello's pianist (played by Richard Pryor).

She rises as high as it is possible to go in the white-dominated show business world of the 1930s, but can't handle the pressure and turns to narcotics.

The film takes several liberties with the life of "Lady Day".   Worth a look.  Check out Light House Theatre's Jazz film programme;

Screen times for :  FILM: LADY SINGS THE BLUES
Friday 9 June - 1:30pm
Saturday 10 June - 1:30pm
Sunday 11 June - 11:40am

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

New Zealand Jazz Awards - 2017 Winners announced this Sunday

The New Zealand Jazz Awards will be held this Sunday afternoon.  The nominees are:

Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Album 2017 Finalists:

East West Moon by Jonathan Crayford
Teaming up once more with the same killer rhythm section on the critically acclaimed Dark Light (2014), Jonathan Crayford returns with another beautiful album. Recording again with engineer Mike Marciano at Systems Two Studio in New York, East West Moon takes the concentrated minimalism of the previous release a step further, this time with an even greater impressionistic spaciousness.  Jonathan composed the music for East West Moon while living in Berlin. The title is a comment on enmity and commonality, with 'East-West' denoting opposing positions and boundaries, and 'Moon' denoting that which is commonly shared, unpossessed, and freely available.  "It's a marriage of two hemispheres," says Jonathan. "East-West refers to the vast differences we think we see and feel between each other, our different cultures and approaches to living. We are perpetually in conflict over our take on life and someone else's. We form groups, and we want to be identified with the group, but we also want to be individuals. We look out at other groups and say 'Oh, that's a different group, but I'm not part of that, I'm in this group'. But we also see ourselves as 'different' from others in our group, so we have this perpetual fight with who or what we think we are and what we are becoming, which is always in change. Berlin is still haunted by the separation of 'east' and 'west'. People still live with the residue of that in their lives, which I found quite surprising."
"The moon has been meaningful for me for years, as it is for all of us. We can all be different, but we all share the moon. We all share the need to breathe. Instead of holding fast to our presuppositions, we need to look beyond philosophic intransigence and formulate a way forward that is devoid of conflict."

”On this album I tried to dig deep. If you’re not facing your own vulnerability, fragility, and bullshit, then you’re not really writing. It’s a bit like, if you haven’t fallen off a bike then you haven’t really ridden. I put so much work into these pieces, and it was hard some mornings to face another day of self-doubt, but that’s what it takes – those are the depths, but of course you also have wonderful heights. The pieces on this album are all about being alone – we share that aloneness, but we experience it alone.”

Vicissitudes by Mike Nock Trio & NZ Trio

Mike Nock (ONZM) is an internationally recognised master of jazz. His trio, with Christchurch-born bassist Brett Hirst and Australian drummer James Waples, is one of the top modern jazz groups in Australasia. NZTrio is New Zealand’s leading piano trio, and one of the finest in the southern hemisphere. Their innovative repertoire features dynamic and inspired interpretations of both traditional and contemporary classical music, as their critically acclaimed recordings for Rattle brilliantly attest.  Vicissitudes came about after Philip Tremewan (Director of the Christchurch Arts Festival) suggested to Mike Nock that he write a piece for two trios using a set of variations to show the different approaches each group might bring to the same piece of music. Mike wrote the piece as a way of offering something positive to the people of Christchurch in recognition of the extreme difficulties they’ve had to deal with in the wake of the devastating earthquake of 2011. The idea was to combine the disparate worlds of jazz and classical music to show the strength of the human spirit when faced with seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

“Over many years working together,” says Mike, “my trio has developed a largely intuitive approach to making music, so performing with NZTrio presents a very different musical dynamic. Improvisation is central to my trio's role, as this is where we do our best work, so a large part of the enjoyment and interest for all six players is to explore the musical opportunities we discover when rehearsing and performing the piece”.

OnePointOne by Myele Manzanza
Recorded live at the legendary Blue Whale in Los Angeles. The son of a Congolese master percussionist, New Zealand born Myele first gained international attention as one third of NZ soul act, Electric Wire Hustle. After six years of performing, recording and touring with the band that he formed, he left in 2013 in order to release his solo debut One (BBE).  By this time Myele had become an in-demand musician, culminating in 2014 when he joined dance music pioneer Theo Parrish as the drummer of his live outfit The Unit. As a drummer and a sideman he continues to tour internationally and collaborate with a broad range of artists including Mark de Clive-Lowe, FW label-mate Ross McHenry, Sorceress, Amp Fiddler, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Marcus Strickland, Recloose, Jordan Rakei and most recently joining Australian contemporary dance company, KAGE, in their forthcoming dance and drum based performance Out Of Earshot.

His roots in jazz and African rhythm, (as well as his childhood love of hip hop and dance music) bring a uniquely diverse take to his music. This is evident on OnePointOne, where he fuses a traditional jazz trio with a string quartet, underpinned with an undeniable hip-hop swagger. The album features the stellar talents of pianist/programmer Mark de Clive-Lowe, and the Quartetto Fantastico string quartet led by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (Suite For Ma Dukes), virtuoso bassist Ben Shepherd and guest vocalists Nia Andrews and Charlie K. The dynamic rendition of City Of Atlantis was deftly arranged by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and captured in a stunning live video by Eric Coleman of Mochilla (Timeless, Suite for Ma Dukes).

As well as live takes on some of the material from his debut album, there are covers of Theo Parrish, Jill Scott and the late, great Bobby Hutcherson, capturing an intimate performance from a fearless artist at the hub of the resurgent West Coast Jazz scene.

APRA Best Jazz Composition Award Finalists:

Deep Thought by Callum Allardice
Heralding from Motueka, Tasman Bay, is Callum Allardice, an NZSM jazz graduate who is in the running for his composition Deep Thought. The song is performed by Antipodes, a creative contemporary jazz sextet playing works by Callum, long-time collaborator and fellow jazz graduate Jake Baxendale and Australian pianist and composer, Luke Sweeting.

It's A Good Time (To Be A Man) by Bruce Brown
NZSM Artist Teacher Bruce Brown, a Los Angeles native who arrived in New Zealand in 1998, established the jazz vocal programme which is now part of the New Zealand School of Music. His composition It’s A Good Time (To Be A Man) was recorded and performed by the Bruce Brown Quintet.

Familia by Jasmine Lovell-Smith
The last finalist is saxophonist/composer and current NZSM DMA student Jasmine Lovell-Smith who has recently returned to live in Wellington after spending seven years in the USA and Mexico, where she taught jazz studies and the saxophone at the State University. Her composition Familia contains elements from both here and abroad.