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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lorde to curate music for Mockingjay 1

Lorde (Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor), New Zealand's incredibly young pop super-star, is to curate the music for the film of the book that hooked the incredibly young.

Famously beloved for never letting her Auckland fans down, even when jetlagged out of her mind, Lorde shot to fame with her track "Royals"

Lionsgate has hired Grammy Award winner Lorde to curate the soundtrack for Mockingjay Part 1. An announcement on Facebook has drawn more than 30,000 “likes.”
Lorde has been tasked with selecting the artists who will be featured on the album. The New Zealand pop singer will also record the first single.
Lorde had this statement in the press release: “The cast and story are an inspiration for all musicians participating and, as someone with cinematic leanings, being privy to a different creative process has been a unique experience. I think the soundtrack is definitely going to surprise people.”
This project is not the first time Lorde has been involved with The Hunger Games film franchise. Fans can hear her cover of the song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” (originally recorded by Tears for Fears) on the Catching Fire soundtrack.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Around the cabin table

As I have remarked before, the company of those who sat about the table could make or break a long and tedious sailing ship voyage.  And recently I have discovered the wonderful Eliza Fay, who sailed on the Natalia in 1779. 

At sea, 28th October...

We have now been six weeks at sea and in the course of a few days I hope to reach Calicut. Our passage across the Indian Ocean we found very pleasant ... Fortunate indeed may we deem ourselves in having experienced such fine weather, for our ship is not half laden and has not cargo enough to keep steady; you will now expect me to say something of those with whom we are couped up, but my account will not be very satisfactory, though sufficiently interesting to us--to being there.

The woman, of whom I entertained some suspicion from the first, is, now I am credibly informed, one of the lowest creatures taken off the streets in London ... Her pretended husband, having been in India before and giving himself many airs, is looked upon as a person of mighty consequence whom no one chooses to offend...

Chenu, the Captain, is a mere "Jack in office." Being unexpectedly raised to that post from second mate by the death of poor Captain Vanderfield and his Chief Officer on the fatal Desert, he has become from this circumstance so insolent and overbearing that every one detests him ... And although the wretch half starves us; he frequently makes comparisons between his table and that of an Indiaman which we dare not contradict while in his power....

Dissensions run very high on board. The very day we sailed from Mocha, a sudden quarrel arose between the Captain and Mr. Hare, the Barrister; on which the ship was ordered about, and they were going ashore in a great hurry to decide it, but, by the interposition of friends, they were prevailed upon to curb their wrath till their arrival at Calicut, as, in case of an accident, no officer remained to supply Chenu's place. About a month after, they were reconciled, and so ended this doughty affair.

More to come.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Collecting Cooper

Some years ago, I was talking over coffee with a New Zealand publisher, and she observed, very ruefully, that she had brought out a crime novel by a new New Zealand author that was "absolutely brilliant," but had not done well in New Zealand.  "Yet he's a bestseller overseas," she told me with a great sigh. "Readers in Europe love him."

It's something odd about the average New Zealander who is looking for a page-turner novel.  He or she does not go for a fellow Kiwi's effort, though he or she will buy New Zealand non-fiction (as long as it is about the New Zealand environment and other New Zealanders, either "blokey" men or sports stars).  The deep suspicion is that New Zealand fiction is either pretentiously literary, or just plain bad.  Embarrassing, you know.

I strongly suspect that this is why Paul Cleave is not better known in his own country, despite those overseas sales, gushing reviews, and a raft of awards.

I picked up Collecting Cooper because I was urged by KiwiCrime blogger and energetic promoter of New Zealand crime fiction, Craig Sisterson.  And from the first page I just could not put it down.

The word has been that Cleave's books are "black," and "noir" and "violent," and I don't particularly like any of that, especially when serial killers are involved.  My problem with serial killers in fiction is that they kill for no apparent reason, and in the grubbiest, most sick-making ways possible. Simply unbelievable.

Cleave, on the other hand, is very clever. There are two serial killers involved in this book (if one doesn't count the detective), but the reasons they turned out like that are sketched out very plausibly.  They're not grotesque scarecrows.  Instead, they are real, repulsive, but understandable creatures.

And the violence is implicit, rather than explicit. Instead of wallowing in blood, Cleave leaves it to the reader's imagination.  And that is the most effective ploy possible.

Brilliant writing. I can't wait to read the next.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Save Sean Bean

Here he is in Game of Thrones, where I believe he was beheaded.

And I vaguely remember his corpse being floated off in a boat towards the end of the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

According to The New Zealand Herald, the actor with the funny name has been killed off perhaps a couple of dozen times.  Usually in nasty ways, what's more.  Sean Bean has been decapitated, perforated with arrows, and impaled on an anchor in a boat that explodes. In Black Death, he was tied to horses that galloped off in different directions.  Ouch.

The man who has met all these horrid fates in the world of film has now lent his support to a social media campaign called "Don't kill Sean Bean."

Linked to his current American TV series, Legends, the campaign, supported by several hundred fans, demands that Sean Bean plays a character that actually makes it all the way to the final credits.

"I've died a lot of different deaths," Bean mused. Maybe, he thought, it was the manner of his dying that made him famous. People wondered what manner the next demise would be and became fascinated by the mystery.

So will he survive the end of Legends?  Apparently, it depends on the ratings.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

William Mein Smith

After the Edward Hughes arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, and Lady Anne Barnard settled in to being the hostess of Cape Town, there were just a couple more significant entries about Little Mary Mein in her diary.  Both of them were happy.

November, 1797, at the Cape:  “The little Crumb to our astonishment was married soon after her arrival to the contractor for naval stores, a worthy and clever man . . . he dined with us though she did not, as he hinted there was a Family reason which prevented her.”

February 10, 1800, at the Cape. “Monday we all dined with the Smiths, it was the little womans birthday, and the wedding day [anniversary] of Anne [Elizabeth] and the Col[onel]: so we drank a bumper to each the Smiths are Happy people, and tho she is less good tempered, consequently less amiable than Anne, yet I think their Happiness is justly more likely to last than that of my two friends who I do not think so well fitted to get chearfully thro the world as the other two . . . much depends always on the Man & Smith is of an uncommon worth & gentleness of temper I hear -- they have a fine Healthy boy bigger than its mama & we may safely pronounce her a lucky woman.”

The worthy Little Mary married was William Proctor Smith, and the baby boy was none other than New Zealand's first surveyor general, William Mein Smith, the fellow who laid out the first of Wellington's streets.  The picture of him, above, is not quite as beautiful as he doubtlessly was as a fine Healthy boy, but it is the best that we have.

You can read a biography of William Mein Smith HERE.

And to read Lady Anne's diary on board ship and over her first year in Cape Town, you need to find a rather scarce copy of:

The Cape Journals of Lady Anne Barnard, 1797-1798, edited by A. M. Lewin Robinson, with Margaret Lenta and Dorothy Driver. Published in Cape Town by the Van Riebeeck Society (Second series no. 24, 1994 for 1993).  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Met Museum puts 400,000 free images online

Free for scholarly use, that is ....

FROM Open Culture On Line

On Friday, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that “more than 400,000 high-resolution digital images of public domain works in the Museum’s world-renowned collection may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use.” Even better, the images can be used at no charge (and without getting permission from the museum). In making this announcement, the Met joined other world-class museums in putting put large troves of digital art online. Witness the  87,000 images from the Getty in L.A., the 125,000 Dutch masterpieces from the Rijksmuseumthe 35,000 artistic images from the National Gallery, and the 57,000 works of art on Google Art Project.

The Met’s online initiative is dubbed “Open Access for Scholarly Content,” and, while surfing the Met’s digital collections, you’ll know if a particular work is free to download if it bears the “OASC” acronym. In anFAQ, the Met provides these simple instructions.
How can I identify the Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) on the Met’s website?
Look for this icon Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) Icon below images in the Collections section of the website to identify images that are part of the OASC initiative.
How do I download an image designated for Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)?
Look for this icon Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) Icon below the image in the Collections section of this website, then click on the download icon next to it Download Icon to save the image to your desktop or device.
 Undoubtedly, if you hunt the site, you will find out how you can use these wonderful images for jacket art.

With thanks to Jacqueline Church Simonds.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Challenge to a duel

Back to the East Indiaman Edward Hughes, in the year 1797, on the way to the Cape ...

Cartoon by George Cruikshank
I haven't quite finished the seating at the saloon table in the Edward Hughes, having neglected Major Baynes, who sat at the elbow of Little Miss Mary Mein (the Little Crumb).

Lady Anne did not have much to say about him, apart from the fact that he changed his uniform often -- "he appeared at Dinner in a Scarlet coat, having been in dark blue at breakfast" -- but he featured large in the dramatic events to come.

Remember my mention of Mr. Barnard's illegitimate sons, whom he brought as a kind of dowry to the marriage?  One was ten-year-old Hervey, who traveled with Mr. B. and Lady Ann on the Edward Hughes, and proved both a problem and an entertainment.

Mr. Eastfield, by the way, was the ship's purser.

On March 29, 1797, Lady A wrote about her cousin, Anne Elizabeth, who had sailed as her companion, and who received several unsuitable proposals of marriage during the voyage, passages by sailing ship being so long and boring.  Then:

“Miss Mein in her band Box, the little Crumb, has got a lover too of late she has begun to improve . . . filling out a little . . . talking a little . . . and the trifle has become a little animated without being a "whipped trifle." But what do I say? she has two lovers . . . the first was Hervey . . . he ten years of age . . . she 17 . . . & their little round heads exactly parallel. Never was poor Boy more enamoured, and Jealous as a Turkey Cock, kicking and boxing every one who comes near her, the consequence is that to provoke him all the Men make love to Miss Mein, and the elegant purser whom I have so much extolled as being a Prince fit for a Romance, having began this in play now not only loves but adores the crumb, & knows no longer what he is about.

"That such a young Man as Eastfield my Lady" said the first mate, "so well educated! . . . his Father so rich & so fond of him, sticking him in here for one voyage only, I know not why, should be caught by such a Mouse as this little lady, and ready to marry her, is a thing I never knew the like of, since the day I saw Pompeys Pillar! . . . It is a thousand pities, but Master Hervey here, tells me that Miss Mien has promised to keep herself for him, so may be she will refuse Eastfield."

"What, he think of marrying Miss Mein" cried Hervey disdainfully as he skipped with his Rival on deck to us where we sat . . . "No no Mr. Purser, she is not your mark, mind your beef and mutton Sir and your Pigs and your split pease. Miss Mein has promised to keep herself for me when I shall be a Man and that is not far off, for Girls marry at fifteen and so should boys and five years will soon slip away."

"Hervey" said I, "in the first place that Gentleman's name is Mr Eastfield -- in the second place we will talk over your marriage when the five years have slipped away, mean time be so good as to slip away to your lesson and let me have the writing well done within an hour."

April 2. To Lady Anne’s astonishment, she found that a challenge to a duel had been made on board.

“I found a challenge of the most regular nature had been sent by Hervey not to the Purser (whom he reckoned beneath his notice) but to Major Bayne, whom he desired might instantly give up his pretensions to Miss Mien who "by his squintings" he saw very well he was in love with, or give him satisfaction by pistols at which he believed he was his match, as he "had already shot two Cock Sparrows."

The Major was a good deal annoyed with the prospect of being accused of cowardice by the little love, but as we all thought it best to treat the Challenge as a Gambol it passed over.

And so it did ... as did the voyage.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Around the cabin table ...

... on the Indiaman Edward Hughes.

Lady Anne Barnard recommences her voyage ... and her shipboard journal.

On 25 February 1797, after the untrustworthy HMS Trusty was fixed, and the convoy had successfully made its departure from England, Lady Anne settled down to describe her fellow passengers, one by one, according to their seating in the cuddy—the ship’s big saloon. 

Presiding at the head of the table was Captain Urmston. “A well bred worthy Irish Man of 48, whose complexion varies from yellow to Orange and from Orange to black as matters go ill or well.” 

At his right was Lady Anne herself, with Mr. Barnard at her elbow. Opposite was Miss Anne Elizabeth Barnard, Lady Anne’s cousin, who was sailing partly as her companion, and partly to find a husband.  Next to Miss Anne Elizabeth was General Hartley, who was gentle, brave, sensible and rich, and very pleased to be heading out to India, where he would have a command. 

“By the General’s left hand sits ‘notre belle’”—Mrs. Campbell, wife of Captain Campbell, an army captain who appears to be firmly under her thumb—“When things go ill with her, then woe to the Captain . . . for then in a low voice ‘Brute’ is often heard, which makes the Men gaze at her and bless their Stars if they are Bachelors and still more if they are Married men.”

Next to this commanding figure sits Dr. Patterson, who sits opposite his wife, who is sister to Little Mary Mein. At Dr. Patterson’s elbow is Mr. Keith, whom Lady Anne calls a “pretty” young man, in the fashion of the time. He is going out as an “aid du Camp at the Cape . . . and by him Colonel Lloyd an honest Welch man, hot . . . hearty . . . Brave and good natured.” And right at the bottom of the table sits the first mate, Timothy Goldsmith, “the picture and model of a Chief Mate of an India Man”—who is in love with Mrs. Saul, “and hopes earnestly to hear of Saul’s death when we arrive at the Cape.”

Obviously, it was going to be an interesting voyage!   

So what did this lady with the malicious, entertaining pen have to say about little Mary Mein?

Half a line should be sufficient to describe the Body & mind conversation and powers of the little—little Miss Mein,” Lady Anne wrote; “Sister to Mrs. Patterson, to whom she sticks fast, and who is a comely unaffected Girl, who makes the doctor very happy and who will make me also a very reasonable companion at the Cape.  

“‘Doctor . . . Doctor’ said I, ‘with so many handsome Sisters in law round you in the House of Mr. Mien, what could induce you to select this Crumb for the Cape?’  

“He shook his head sorrowfully . . . ‘Ah’ said he—‘you may wonder! but I am more grieved at it than you can be surprised.’ He then told me that Mrs. Patterson had petitioned for a good looking cheerful lass to go with her who infinitely wished to be of the party, but Mr. Mein the Contractor for prisoners, I could see had been so much in the habit of putting off bad stock on a hungry market that there being one little daughter at home who was no favourite, contracted in mind and body so much that . . . ‘She is to sleep in one of my Wifes bandboxes’ said the Doctor.

The KU confusion continues

Good for authors or bad for authors?

Something unexpected has happened.  Kindle Unlimited borrows are affecting the Amazon bestseller list.

From Digital Book World

Kindle Unlimited is minting best-sellers, or so it seems.
According to Publishers Lunch, the number of ebooks on the Kindle best-seller list that are Kindle Unlimited titles has just about tripled since the launch of the all-you-can-read service from Amazon last week. Amazon is counting Kindle Unlimited reads as well as Kindle store sales in its best-seller rankings.
Last week at this time, there were 15 ebooks that would have been part of Kindle Unlimited that were top 100 best-sellers on Kindle; this week, that number has ballooned to 45.
kindle unlimited best-sellers
As the chart shows, Amazon Publishing titles (which are in Kindle Unlimited), titles by other publishers included in the service, and Kindle Direct Publishing Select titles (those by self-published authors who only sell on Amazon and not other platforms like Nook and iBooks, which are included on KU), seem to have all benefited greatly from being a part of Kindle Unlimited. Books by self-published authors who aren’t exclusive to Amazon and those from publishers not participating in Kindle Unlimited have suffered — at least when it comes to hitting top-100 Kindle best-sellers.

And it could be the way that the borrows are marketed that is making such a difference.

Have a look at the change in the "Buy now with 1-click" box, reproduced at the top.  Quite subtle, really, but significant. 

Perhaps it is the reason that Island of the Lost -- published by Algonquin, which opted into KU -- is selling a few more copies than usual.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little Mary

"Wellington's grandmother"

On the right (wearing the hat) is Mary Mein, who was apparently the plain one of her family. She married William Proctor Smith in Cape Town, and in 1798 she bore a son, William Mein Smith, who was the architect of Wellington.

Yes, he was the progenitor of our beautiful city.

No one has thought much about his father, let alone his mother, but to my surprise, while going through the journals of an eighteenth century female seafarer, I found several references to Little Mary Mein.

The female seafarer was Lady Anne Barnard, who sailed on the East Indiaman Edward Hughes in 1797, to accompany her husband, "Mr. Barnard," who was to take up a plum job as secretary to the colony.

Formerly Lady Anne Lindsay, she had married beneath her social station, to "Mr Barnard," a man 12 years younger than she, with whom she fell madly in love.  She brought him her noble connections (and the posting as colonial secretary at the Cape) when they married, and he brought her his two illegitimate sons, as they did in those days.  One of the boys, Hervey, sailed with them to the Cape (they were glad to send him back to school in England the following year). Hervey was an independent soul. Lady A tried to control him by setting him the task of keeping a journal, but it didn't work very well.

(I should also note that Lady A used full stops the way Barbara Cartland does, as long pauses in thought and action.  They don't mean that I have missed out words.)

The convoy, which included the Edward Hughes, was delayed in Plymouth, England, after their escort, HMS Trusty, sprung a bad leak, and during the enforced interval Lady Anne went on shore to dine with Mr and Mrs Mein, who were the parents of one of her fellow passengers, Mary Mein, and parents-in-law of another fellow passenger, Dr. Patterson -- who was, by logic, the husband of one of Mary's sisters. And here, in February 1797, is what Lady Anne wrote about the day.

[We visited] "... Mr and Mrs Mein, he, the Agent for Prisoners, and Father in law to Doctor Patterson, a good humoured Scotchman who was making an enormous fortune without any reflection being thrown on him, by his contract for supplying the French prisoners with necessaries which he did so judiciously and at the same time to liberally that good sense was making him rich and good Character kept pace with it.

"Of one thing I was certain, that Mrs. Mein gave us amongst other excellent things, a very uncommonly good but odd dish, A Cornish pye, in which she had imprisoned two fowls, a piece of ham, some sweet breads, apples, two ducks, a large quantity of stuffings, truffles, mushrooms and pickles, the whole having poured into it before it left the oven two quarts of rich clotted cream.  It sounds ill but it was good."

I have already blogged about this pie, but not in this context.  Much more about "Little Mary" to come.