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Friday, June 28, 2013

Jane Austen on the British ten-pound note?

From the Christian Science Monitor

According to Sir Mervyn King, who is retiring as governor of the Bank of England, the famous author is merely “waiting in the wings” to appear on the country’s currency and could be the new face to grace the 10 pound note.

However, King’s replacement Mark Carney will have the final word on the decision. Carney takes up the post July 1.

“It is not the question of whether she is a woman or not, but she seems to me the greatest English writer apart from Shakespeare,” John Mullan, an English professor at University College London, told the Guardian.

However, Daily Mirror writer Susie Boniface was not impressed by the idea.

“If ever there were a reason to abandon money altogether it is [this],” she wrote. “There’s nothing wrong with Austen – she wrote perfectly good books, was a woman trapped by her class and found a voice that still resonates. Good on her, but she didn’t change the world.” Boniface suggested scientist Rosalind Franklin, writer Mary Wollstonecraft, or mathematician Ada Lovelace as possible substitutes.

Not change the world?  Good lord, has Ms. Boniface not read any romance at all? Jane Austen inspired the genre that has ruled the bestseller lists for several generations. 

But Victoria McNally, a writer for the website Geekosystem, was so won over by the Austen money idea that she asked when “the U.S. [is] gonna step up its game?”

“Between this and Canada’s dinosaur coins, why is everybody else’s money so much cooler than ours?” she asked. “Come on, USA, get with the times!”

And it would be lovely if American notes were different colors for different denominations, too.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I was delighted to read in this morning's Dominion Post that the brilliant film UTU has been remastered, and will be re-issued as UTU REDUX.

Zac Wallace as Te Wheke in Utu
Veteran director Geoff Murphy is hoping to get some revenge on film critics when a remastered version of his classic 1983 movie Utu premieres in Wellington.

New Zealand critics savaged the film at the time, but Wellington director Gaylene Preston hails it as a "visonary" piece of work.

Murphy says Utu: Redux will be shown to a "completely different country", unmarred by the confrontational nature of Maori and Pakeha relations in the 1980s.

The film reaped international kudos at the time - becoming the first New Zealand film to be accepted into the Cannes Film Festival - but audiences at home were less embracing.
A new cut of the historical epic will premiere as part of the International Film Festival in Wellington and Auckland next month.

Along with Sir Peter Jackson's production studio Park Road Post, Murphy and photography director Graeme Cowley have spent three years and $250,000 digitalising and remastering Utu.

If you get the chance, go and see it.  One of the most moving and thought-provoking films I have ever seen.

I am Legend author dies

The BBC reports that Richard Matheson has passed away

Born in Allendale, New Jersey, in 1926 and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Matheson first began publishing science-fiction and horror stories in the 1950s.

"Richard Matheson's ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break when he wrote the short story and screenplay for Duel," Spielberg said in a statement.

Steven Spielberg's first feature-length film, Duel, was based on Matheson's short story of the same name.

"His Twilight Zones were among my favourites, and he recently worked with us on Real Steel. For me, he is in the same category as [Ray] Bradbury and [Isaac] Asimov."

In a career spanning some 60 years, many of the author's works were adapted for both the big and small screens.

I Am Legend was his most successful, inspiring four film adaptations - most recently in 2007 starring Will Smith (pictured in a scene from the film).

The novel was considered a landmark work in the genre, ushering in apocalyptic themes to post-WWII America.

Vincent Price starred in the first adaptation in 1964, titled as The Last Man on Earth.

Charlton Heston later starred in the 1971 adaptation, Omega Man.

The 2007 version saw Smith star as Robert Neville - the seemingly last human on Earth - trying to find a cure for a genetically-engineered virus that has turned the population into mutant vampiric creatures.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Self-published book wins major award

A teen novel that begins its dramatic journey on New Zealand’s East Coast has picked up the top prize at this year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

Into the River was the book that stood out for us,” says Chief Judge and author Bernard Beckett.

“Traditionally, books aimed at the top end of the young adult market [ages 15+] have not been a strength of ours here in New Zealand, with most books aimed nearer the junior fiction boundary. We were delighted to see a book that both engaged and respected older readers, with material as subtle as it is honest and provocative.

“We congratulate Ted for his superb book, as well as the other winners and finalists who have shown the calibre of children’s books in New Zealand to be well above par.
“It was great to see new talent emerging to line up alongside more established authors and illustrators,” Bernard Beckett said.

The judging panel also comprised children’s literature expert and author Eirlys Hunter and presenter of Radio New Zealand’s Arts on Sunday programme, Lynn Freeman. Together, the panel handpicked 19 finalists from a field of more than a hundred children’s book entries.

The New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards promote excellence and provide recognition for the best written and illustrated children’s books published by New Zealand authors each year.

As the winner of both the Young Adult Fiction category and the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, Mr Dawe received a total of $15,000 in cash prizes.

A major achievement, and congratulations to the gifted Mr. Dawe.  This prize-winning junior novel was published by "Mangakino University Press" -- an inside joke, as Mangakino is a tiny settlement in the central part of the North Island, in an area that is focused on farming, timber and hydro-electricity generation.  Ted Dawe published his first prize-winner with Longacre Press ... so what happened?  Why did he make the decision to launch out on his own?  His rather jerky website does not explain, but it does have a tempting sample from the book.  And you can purchase it from the site, as well.

Recommend an Indie author

The Guardian newspaper poses an interesting challenge

"Welcome to our new series on self-publishing," says the author of this new blog, Hannah Freeman.

And, forthwith, she starts a voyage of discovery of great Indie authors. 

"The format of this series is straightforward: each week we invite a self-published author to complete a Q&A, telling us about their work and giving us a little taster of it. They then nominate the next self-published author to answer our questions - like a daisy chain. If we find that we have a run of pieces from authors writing in the same genre or on the same subject, we will break the chain. This is where you come in. Using the form below, we'd like you to tell us about any great self-published authors you have read and you think deserve more attention. We'll pick the next author from your suggestions. Make sense? I hope so."

Want to recommend an author or a book?  It's easy.  Hit the link, find the form, and fill it out. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Simon Sweetman reviews Richard Clayderman

In his DomPost review, Simon Sweetman emphasizes that the world-ranking pops-pianist got an empty hall

French pianist Richard Clayderman sold millions of records by combining easy listening pop melodies and trace-around classical playing, he says (enviously?).

In fact, he has sold so many albums he has been deemed the world's most successful pianist by the never-discerning Guinness World Records. ("Never discerning? Oh dear!)

It's a very small audience to greet Clayderman - embarrassing, in fact. The Michael Fowler Centre hall is almost echoing with the emptiness, just the handful of front rows full, two-thirds of the auditorium offering a silence that should speak louder than any other form of criticism. This concert could have been held in the foyer.

For heaven's sake, the concert (Friday 21 June) was the second night of Wellington's biggest storm since the Wahine disaster.  It hit like a freight train at 5 pm on the Thursday, and it was almost impossible to get outside until the Sunday morning.

All of Wellington was cowering under gale-force blasts and torrential rain.  And the blue-rinse audience that would have gladly attended this concert was particularly prone to stay at home.

And this reviewer was surprised that the hall was empty?

Methinks he had an axe to grind...


From Old Salt Blog

Joan Druett’s Judas Island, the first book of her Promise of Gold trilogy, is a delightful mix of nautical adventure, romance and droll comedy.

In the novel, Harriet Gray, an eighteen year old British actress, finds herself abandoned on the deck of the brig Gosling, a ship whose ownership is unclear and which is under the command of Jake Dexter, a captain who technically may be a pirate, even if he does not think of himself as such.

The crew is a motley band of treasure seekers, now highly distracted by the lovely young actress who stands before them. The Gosling is anchored off the brooding Judas Island. Captain Dexter and his crew are trying to unravel the island’s mysteries and find the treasure that is rumored to be be hidden somewhere on its shores, although to no avail.

Harriet impetuously buys her way into the band of adventurers and induces them to sail to Valparaiso in search of her brother, who is rounding up a herd of alpaca, which she promises the crew will bring them all riches.

What makes this novel such fun is that it is quite different from much of nautical fiction and yet feels wholly authentic. Joan Druett has written over 20 books of both nautical fiction and non-fiction, and has won multiple awards for her histories. Among other things, Druett is an authority on women at sea in the 19th century. Whereas in most nautical fiction, women are either loyal wives, mistresses or prostitutes, Harriet Gray is a resourceful young woman making her way under difficult conditions in a dangerous world, both at sea and ashore. No less fascinating is Captain Jake Dexter, out to seek his fortune after being betrayed by his employer and the woman he loved. The sparks of both attraction and repulsion between these two strong and vividly drawn characters will be entertaining to see develop over the next two books of the trilogy.

One other wonderful aspect of the novel is the dry humor throughout the book. Usually, it lurks just below the surface, though in several scenes it breaks through uproariously. When the Gosling‘s crew goes ashore in Valparaiso to seek out Harriet’s missing brother, who turns out to be a wanted fugitive, they succeed in finding the slender Englishman, reeking to high heaven after being spat upon by unhappy llamas. In the process, they also tip off the authorities to his whereabouts. In the ensuing chase, the Gosling‘s crew and their smelly companion are narrowly rescued by Captain Dexter in a purloined public coach, careening through Valparaiso’s waterfront streets. A very funny scene indeed.

Judas Island is a highly entertaining sea adventure with a refreshingly different cast of characters told by a master storyteller. Highly recommended. I look forward to reading the next two books of the trilogy, Calafia’s Kingdom and Dearest Enemy.

"Cultural diplomat" awarded Hawaii writing residency

Former diplomat, magazine columnist, Pacific historian and poet Leilani Tamu from Auckland will spend three months in Hawai‘i writing about “Cultural Diplomacy” for a book of the same name, as recipient of the 2013 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency.

A self-professed “pale-skinned, brown-eyed woman of Pacific Island descent”, Leilani examined her mixed Samoan/Pākehā heritage in an opinion piece for Spasifik magazine in mid-2012, while working as a New Zealand diplomat to the Kingdom of Tonga. Soon after, she was offered a regular column for Auckland’s Metro magazine. In the column “Cultural Diplomacy” she has written about social and cultural issues including racism, unemployment, home ownership and youth suicide.

On her exchange to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa from September, Leilani will work on a second book of poetry and prose, also entitled Cultural Diplomacy (her first book of poetry is scheduled for release in early 2014). The book will include an exploration of the life of Princess Kaʻiulani, a 19th century Hawaiian princess of mixed cultural heritage who was heir to the throne before the monarchy was overthrown and the kingdom annexed by the United States of America. Born to a Scottish father and educated in England, Princess Kaʻiulani visited the US following the deposition of her aunt as queen to fight for her kingdom and people, and is held up by Leilani as “a great example of a Polynesian ancestor who effectively exercised the art of cultural diplomacy in her time”. The book will also feature dialogue with contemporary New Zealand and Hawaiian poets of mixed cultural heritage, discussing how their heritage has shaped their work.

Leilani Tamu is the tenth recipient of the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer’s Residency, which was established in 2004 to develop and foster closer links between the peoples of New Zealand and Hawai‘i, to increase the profile and awareness of Pacific literature as an art form within New Zealand, and to provide New Zealand writers of Pacific heritage with the time and opportunity to undertake creative and professional development while working on a new project. Previous writers from various genres to receive the award have included filmmaker Sima Urale, poets Tusiata Avia and Daren Kamali, and playwright Victor Rodger.

“This residency has offered great opportunities for many talented New Zealand writers of Pacific heritage for over 10 years,” says Creative New Zealand’s Pacific Arts Committee Chair Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. “Leilani’s fascinating exploration into mixed cultural heritage through her rich and varied career makes her a deserving recipient of this year’s residency. We are excited to read the material she will produce.”

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How the internet can "mutate" reality

Fake Blake poem widely disseminated on the 'net

From the BBC

A school librarian has discovered that a poem widely attributed to William Blake, including in school reading lists, was not really written by him.

Rather than the work of an English poet in the 19th Century, Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room was written in the United States in the 1980s.

This mislabelling shows how the internet can replicate errors, warns Thomas Pitchford, a librarian in a Hertfordshire secondary school.

"We just accept too quickly," he says.

An online search for "Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room" will produce numerous references to this as a poem by William Blake, the radical English writer and artist who died in the 19th Century.

There are essay questions, anthologies, lesson plans, discussion forums, teachers' resources and online reference websites all interpreting this poem as an example of 19th Century poetry.

But Mr Pitchford says that when he saw the poem attributed to William Blake, he immediately thought the style bore little relation to the poet's other work.
He soon established that the poem was really by Nancy Willard and had been published in 1981 in an anthology called A Visit to William Blake's Inn.

But the librarian, who works at Hitchin Boys' School, then realised how far and wide the mistake had travelled, with internet sites copying and distributing the false connection with Blake.

Story by Sean Coughlan

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The impending collision

 The transcript of communications between a U.S. Naval vessel and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10 October 1995…..

AMERICANS: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”

CANADIANS: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”

AMERICANS: “This is the Captain of a U.S. Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course 15 degrees North.”

CANADIANS: “ Negative, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”


CANADIANS: “This is a lighthouse….your call.”

With thanks to Margaret Muir

Painting of Scituate lighthouse, Cape Cod, by Ron Druett

Wellington's winter storm

It arrived with a blast at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday


Millions of dollars in damage has been caused by the storm, which rivalled the 1968 tempest that sent the Wahine ferry on to rocks in ferocity and destruction. Ferries, trains, planes and bus services were cancelled as emergency services responded to 1400 calls received during the eye of the storm, between 5pm Thursday and 2pm Friday. Disruptions continue today.

Chunks of road on the south coast were torn up as record 15-metre swells surged into Wellington harbour.

The ferry Kaitaki broke its moorings in the night.  

Wind gusts of up to 200kmh uprooted trees, ripped roofs off houses, smashed windows and flung trampolines into powerlines in Wellington, Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa, closing roads and schools across the lower North Island.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Creating a cover from public domain images

Today, GalleyCat on heads up with list of places to find PD images.

Coincidentally, the jacket background of the third in the Promise of Gold trilogy, Dearest Enemy, is one such image.

It is a view of Sacramento City from the Embarcadero, about the year 1850, showing the foot of J Street, where the Gosling Company's theater was built. Coincidentally, there is a brig moored up to the waterfront, exactly where the brig Gosling is moored in the story.

The original is panoramic, so this is just a fragment of it.

According to Wikimedia commons, where I first found it, it was used as an illustration called "Sacramento-City in California" in a book called The United States Illustrated, by Charles A. Dana (New York, 1855).

That is by no means the only book where it has appeared, and there are plenty of copies of the original lithograph, too.  It is featured on many public domain sites, including the Library of Congress, which gives a detailed history of the engraving.  

Title: Sacramento city, Ca. from the foot of J. Street, showing I., J., & K. Sts. with the Sierra Nevada in the distance / / C. Parsons ; drawn Dec. 20th 1849 by G.V. Cooper ; lith. of Wm. Endicott & Co., N. York.
  • Creator(s): Parsons, Charles, 1821-1910, artist
  • Related Names:
    Cooper, George Victor, 1810-1878 , artist
  • Date Created/Published: New York : Published by Stringer & Townsend, c1850.
  • Medium: 1 print : lithograph, tinted ; 43 x 60 cm. (sheet)
  • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-pga-04015 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-2853 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-93402 (b&w film copy neg.)
  • Call Number: PGA - Parsons--Sacramento City, Ca. ... (C size) [P&P]
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

  • So, there is a rich repository of images that can be used for book jackets, many of them in high definition, and many ways they can be found.

    The list, given by GalleyCat:

    1. The Library of Congress’ image collection to find public domain images
    2. American Memory Project to find public domain images
    3. for public domain books
    4. Public Domain Images Google Search
    5. Illustrated books on Project Gutenberg
    6. Creative Commons search on Flickr

    Dyslexic writer wins Carnegie Medal

    An inspiring report from the BBC

    Sally Gardner, a dyslexic author once branded "unteachable" at school, has won the prestigious Carnegie Medal for her book Maggot Moon.
    Gardner's novel tells the story of a dyslexic boy living in an alternative 1950s Britain, whose rulers are intent on winning the space race.

    "I'm still wondering if I'm going to wake and find that winning the Carnegie Medal is a dream," Gardner said.

    "If it is true, then it has the quality of a dream come true."
    Accepting her award at Wednesday's ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London, Gardner - who campaigns on behalf of those with dyslexia - criticised education secretary Michael Gove's new curriculum.
    "Without books I would not be a writer and without the zeal of librarians I would not have won this award," she said. "I believe teachers and librarians should be free to instil a life-long love of learning, without being policed by an outdated curriculum.
    "I firmly believe Gove's new curriculum excludes rather than embraces those like me, and millions of others, with a different way of seeing and thinking."
    Alongside Maggot Moon, the seven Carnegie shortlisted titles were A Greyhound of a Girl by former Booker prize-winner Roddy Doyle, Wonder by RJ Palacio; The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan; A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton; In Darkness by Nick Lake; Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick; and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2013

    Elizabethan child actors abused

    From the BBC

    Child performers on the Elizabethan stage were subjected to abduction, cruelty and violence, reveals a study by a University of Oxford academic.

    Dr Bart van Es says court documents show some child actors had been forcibly snatched from the streets and threatened into performing.

    Their parents were then legally obstructed from rescuing them from working in London's seediest theatres.

    Dr van Es says these children faced "systematic exploitation and abuse".

    The study of London's theatre in the late 16th and early 17th Century reveals a dark underside of cruelty to children.

    'Violence and force'
    From the 1570s, there had been theatrical troupes in which all the performers were boys, competing for audiences with plays performed by adults.

    But research from Dr van Es has examined the cruel way in which some of these children had been seized with "violence and force", kept as captives and threatened with whipping.

    These street kidnappings were not illegal, as the theatre owners had licences to forcibly recruit children. These powers had been granted by Queen Elizabeth I and carried her royal seal.

    Dr van Es, a fellow of St Catherine's College, says that in theory these powers were intended to find choristers for the royal chapel, but it was an "open secret" they were really about forcing youngsters to join commercial theatre companies.

    Theatre owners exploited this royal approval, saying it gave them "authority sufficient so to take any nobleman's son in the land".

    This left distraught parents unsuccessfully trying to retrieve their abducted sons through the courts.

    Henry Clifton, father of 13-year-old Thomas Clifton, said that a gang of men "did haul, pull, drag and carry away" his son on his way to school, inflicting "great terror and hurt".

    He was being held at the Blackfriars Theatre - and rather than returning him to his family, the theatre owners said the boy would be whipped if he failed to obey.
    The father struggling to get back his son complained of their "scornful" disregard for his complaints.

    And it wasn't only his own boy who was being held against his will.

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    One children's book and stacks of romance

    Indie bestseller lists for the week are monotonous, with one interesting exception

    From GalleyCat at

    Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of June 17, 2013
    1. Forever Too Far by Abbi Glines: “Rush promised her forever… but promises can be broken. Torn between his love for his family and his love for Blaire, Rush has to find a way to save one without losing the other. In the end one has to be more important. Letting go isn’t easy.”
    2. Conquer Your Love by J. C. Reed: “Brooke Stewart, a realtor in New York, finds forgetting is hard, but forgiving is harder. When the man she trusted, betrayed her, the only way to forget is to move on. Brooke is determined to start a new life, until she meets him again: the green-eyed, sexy as sin, six foot two sex god.”
    3. Surrender Your Love by J.C. Reed: “Meeting Jett was like lightning. Dangerous. Better left untouched. And better forgotten. But lightning always strikes twice.”
    4. Before Now by Cheryl McIntyre: “Park Reed is a bastard in every sense of the word. He hasn’t always been this way. But after his heart was broken by the only girl he ever loved, being heartless gets him through the day and allows him to fill his nights with the nameless girls he has no intentions of seeing again.”
    5. Beauty from Surrender by Georgia Cates: “How do you move on when he’s every song you sing? After Laurelyn Prescott walks away from the love of her life, she returns to Nashville to pursue the only dream she has left.”
    6. Delayed Penalty by Shey Stahl: “I am Evan Masen, a hockey player for the NHL. I spend my nights roughing up two hundred pound defensemen and spend more time in the penalty box than I do on the ice … One night changes everything I thought I once knew about my life on the ice.”
    7. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines: “To want what you’re not supposed to have… She is only nineteen. She is his new stepfather’s daughter. She is still naïve and innocent due to spending the last three years taking care of her sick mother.”
    8. Beauty From Pain by Georgia Cates: ”Jack McLachlan is a winemaking magnate and easily one of Australia’s most eligible bachelors. His success and wealth makes him no stranger to the complications of romantic relationships and that’s why he goes to extreme measures to avoid the hassle.”
    9. Off The Record by Sawyer Bennett: Ever Montgomery suffered the ultimate betrayal … It has left her hurt, jaded and incapable of forming relationships, but it also means that she can spot a liar a mile away. These traits are earning her a reputation as a reporter with a keen nose for a good story and a complete understanding of the extreme power of the written word.”
    10. The Impact of You by Kendall Ryan: “Needing an escape from her past, Avery chooses a college where no one knows her. Keeping a low profile was the plan, falling for the intense frat boy, Jase wasn’t. Yet she can’t deny how alive she feels when he’s near. Even as common sense implores her to stay away, her body begs her to get closer.”
    Barnes & Noble Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of June 17, 2013
    1. Forever Too Far by Abbi Glines
    2. Don’t Leave Me by James Scott Bell
    3. Return to Paradise by Carol Grace
    4. Mine To Take by Cynthia Eden
    5. Conquer Your Love by J.C. Reed
    6. Snatched by Pamela Burford
    7. Taken By Chance by Chloe Cox
    8. Family Pieces by Misa Rush
    9. The Ninth District – A Thriller by Douglas Dorow
    10. The Impact of You by Kendall Ryan

    Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of June 17, 2013
    1. Beauty from Surrender by Georgia Cates
    2. Jocomo by Timothy Cohorst
    3. Salvation by Erica Stevens
    4. Forged in Blood I by Lindsay Buroker
    5. Elysian by Addison Moore
    6. A Fair Prospect: Desperate Measures by Cassandra Grafton
    7. Tales of the Were: Grif by Bianca D’Arc
    8. Notice Me by Lili Lam
    9. Dangerous to Know & Love by Jane Harvey-Berrick
    10. Running from Romeo by Diane Mannino

    Bestselling Self-Published Books at Apple for the Week of June 17, 2013
    1. Forever Too Far by Abbi Glines
    2. Forever Black by Sandi Lynn
    3. Forever You by Sandi Lynn
    4. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines
    5. Never Too Far by Abbi Glines
    6. Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart
    7. Lily’s Mistake by Pamela Ann
    8. Mine For Tonight / Mine For Now / Mine Forever / Mine Completely by J. S. Scott
    9. Let Me Love You by Morgan Rayne
    10. Salvation by Erica Stevens

    These four eBook lists were recorded on June 17, 2013.

    Monday, June 17, 2013

    MediaWorks in receivership

    Shock news bulletin

    June 17 (BusinessDesk) - MediaWorks New Zealand, the broadcaster whose stable includes TV3 and Four, and radio stations including Radio Live, the Rock and MoreFM, is expected to be put into receivership today after a planned recapitalisation failed to win over its lenders.

    It is understood KordaMentha will run the receivership as part of a restructuring plan to switch assets into a new entity, write down the company's debt, and allow the broadcaster to continue operating.

    Story by Paul McBeth

    Matthew Crawley reinvented?

    The BBC reports that Dan Stevens looks hauntingly familiar in his big screen role

    As Summer in February arrives in cinemas, Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens explains why his latest period drama has been years in the making.

    Fans of actor Dan Stevens left heartbroken by his shock exit from Downtown Abbey at Christmas might find some comfort in his latest big screen role.

    In Summer in February, Stevens is back in period costume as Gilbert Evans, an army officer in Cornwall in the years leading up to World War I.

    As the 30-year-old actor points out, his latest character bears more than a passing resemblance to his aristocratic alter-ego in ITV's hit drama.

    "We shot this film between series two and three of Downton, so Gilbert Evans does look suspiciously like Matthew Crawley a lot of the time!"

    Adapted by retired teacher Jonathan Smith from his own novel, Summer in February tells the story of a tangled love triangle among a colony of bohemian artists, known as the Lamorna Group, on the Cornish coast in 1913.

    Story by Tim Masters

    Quote of the day


    I also pledge that from this day on I'll slaughter all unruly dragons, and rescue any damsels in distress who request my help

    Art forgery ring busted

    The BBC reports that German police have succeeded in halting an art forgery operation

    Police have arrested two suspects alleged to be leaders of a group of six artists.

    A series of searches were carried out at art galleries, businesses and homes in six German cities, as well as Israel and Switzerland.

    Since 2005 the ring is believed to have produced and sold more than 400 faked paintings.

    They were passed off as "previously unknown" works by such Russian avant garde artists as Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov.

    The police say they were sold for sums ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of euros.

    The arrested men, aged 41 and 67 respectively, are accused of selling forged artworks to customers in Germany and Spain for a total of more than £1.5m (1,7m euros) over the past two years.

    The suspected counterfeiters are thought to be of Russian, Israeli and German-Tunisian nationality.

    Tan Twan Eng wins another prize

    From the BBC

    Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction for his second novel The Garden of Evening Mists.

    He travelled from his home in South Africa to be at the ceremony in Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

    He received his prize from the Duke of Buccleuch at a special event during the Borders Book Festival.

    The Garden of Evening Mists is the first novel by an overseas writer to have won the four-year-old prize.

    A new rule was introduced last year making books by authors from the Commonwealth eligible for entry.

    The novel prevailed over a strong shortlist including Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, which has already carried off some of the UK's most prestigious literary awards, and novels by English writers Rose Tremain, Pat Barker, and Anthony Quinn, and by Australian author Thomas Keneally.

    Earlier this year Tan Twan Eng won the Man Asian Literary Prize with the same book.

    The Scott Prize judges commented: "All the authors on this year's shortlist have written wonderful books, illuminating times and breathing life into personalities in a way that is enlightening and which brings lasting pleasure to the reader.

    "However, The Garden of Evening Mists is the book that left the deepest imprint on us.

    "The poignancy of both remembering and forgetting is what this book is all about."

    What about the Man Booker?  It's easy to see this book winning the biggie....

    Sunday, June 16, 2013

    Cat runs for mayor

    Does he look combative enough?

    The aggro is necessary.

    He's running for mayor...

    A mayoral hopeful in Mexico promises to eat, sleep most of the day and donate his leftover litter to fill potholes.

    Morris, a black-and-white kitten with orange eyes, is running for mayor of Xalapa in eastern Mexico with the campaign slogan "Tired of Voting for Rats? Vote for a Cat." And he is attracting tens of thousands of politician-weary, two-legged supporters on social media.

    "He sleeps almost all day and does nothing, and that fits the profile of a politician," said 35-year-old office worker Sergio Camacho, who adopted the 10-month-old feline last year.

    Put forth as candidate by Camacho and a group of friends after they became disillusioned with the empty promises of politicians, Morris' candidacy has resonated across Mexico, where citizens frustrated with human candidates are nominating their pets and farm animals to run in July 7 elections being held in 14 states.

    Also running for mayor are "Chon the Donkey" in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, "Tina the Chicken" in Tepic, the capital of the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, "Maya the Cat" in the city of Puebla and "Tintan the Dog" in Oaxaca City, though their campaigns are not as well organised as that of Morris.

    Politicians repeatedly rank at the bottom of polls about citizens' trust in institutions.

    Morris' cuteness, the clever campaign and promises to donate money collected from the sales of campaign stickers and T-shirts to an animal shelter has attracted cat lovers, but Camacho said most of his supporters were citizens tired of corrupt politicians and fraudulent elections.

    "Morris has been a catalyst to show the discontent that exists in our society," Camacho said.

    "Our message from the beginning has been 'if none of the candidates represent you, vote for the cat' and it seems people are responding to that."

    Xalapa, a university city of 450,000 people, is the capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where residents have in last two years been beleaguered by drug violence, corruption scandals and the killings of at least nine reporters and photojournalists.

    Morris has a website, a Twitter account and a Facebook page with more than 115,000 "likes", that makes him more popular in social networks than the five human mayoral contenders.

    His website has a collection of memes that picture Morris yawning while describing his "ample legislative experience," an image that mirrors photographs of lawmakers sleeping during congressional sessions.
    Morris' campaign managers are asking supporters to write-in "Morris" or draw a cat's face on the ballot to send a message to authorities, who are not taking the cat's growing popularity lightly.

    Asian Publishing Awards winners announced

    Manila, June 13, 2013 - (ACN Newswire) - The Asian Publishing Convention (APC) 2013, a two-day event for publishing professionals, is pleased to announce the GOLD and EXCELLENCE award winners for the Asian Publishing Awards 2013. A panel of international judges selected the winners in 18 categories. A total of 31 media companies from 8 countries submitted 171 entries.

    The top line / overall winner award is the GOLD Award - followed by the EXCELLENCE Award. Winners of the GOLD and EXCELLENCE awards will be officially announced and awarded on the second day of APC 2013, during the Gala Dinner Ceremonies on Friday, July 12, 2013.

    The Asian Publishing Awards recognizes best multimedia practices in magazine, book and corporate communications sectors.

    For a full list of winners, click HERE

    A sampling ....

    CATEGORY 1: Best Cover Design
    • Asian Geographic Magazines Pte Ltd – “Disease & Decay”
    • C! Magazine Group – “Calibre (POCKET COMPLICATION)”
    • MediaCorp Pte Ltd – “CPA Singapore Jan’13”
    • Rogue Media Inc. – “Iza Calzado Cover – July 2012 issue”
    • SPH Magazines Pte Ltd – “SilverKris Dec 12”
    CATEGORY 2: Best Use of Typography
    • Magazines Integrated Pte Ltd – “Fairy Tale Feasts”
    CATEGORY 3: Best Use of Illustration
    • INK – “Bards of Burma”
    • Rogue Media Inc. – “Rogue Magazine “House of Cards”
    CATEGORY 4: Best Photo Documentary
    • INK – About Face
    • C! Magazine Group – “F1 Dreams to reality Lotus and Marlon”
    CATEGORY 5: Best Feature on Asian Fashion
    • L’ Officiel Thailand – “Mae Fah Luang (Queen Mother)”
    • SPH Magazines Pte Ltd – “Female Brides LookBook 5”
    • ABS-CBN Publishing Inc – “Pomp and Splendor” as seen in Metro
    • Blu Inc Media Sdn Bhd – “Total Recall”
    • Blu Inc Media Sdn Bhd – “WALK OF STYLE 2012”
    CATEGORY 6: Best Feature on Asian Travel
    • Expat Living Publications Pte Ltd – Expat Living November 2012
    • Eastgate Publishing Corporation- “Of Party Animals, Wildlife, & History”
    • INK- ” Scoot – Old School Thai”
    About Asian Publishing Convention

    The Asian Publishing Convention (APC) is an annual 2-day convention for magazine and online publishers, to be held on July 11 & 12, 2013. It completed its 5th cycle in Bangkok. APC travels across ASEAN: Kuala Lumpur (2007), Singapore (2008), Manila (2009), HCMC (2010), Bangkok (2011) and Kuala Lumpur (2012).

    APC's program includes a combination of plenary and bootcamp sessions featuring widely recognized multimedia industry leaders and gurus from around the world, workshops and demonstrations on topic-specific innovations and up-to-date best multimedia publishing practices. In just two days, the delegates to APC 2013 will sharpen their skills, expand their thinking, increase their expertise and become inspired to achieve a higher level of excellence. Plus, they will experience a rare opportunity to network with fellow senior publishing professionals and solutions suppliers from all over the region.

    The principal organizer of the APC is EXEDRA EVENTS, event management specialists. EXEDRA EVENTS organizers of the Asian Publishing Convention, the Asian Publishing Awards, the Hospital Management Asia and the Asian Hospital Management Awards. For more information, please visit

    Oprah Winfrey backs new museum

    From the BBC

    American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey is donating $12m (£7.7m) towards a new museum in Washington DC dedicated to African American history.

    After previously giving $1m (£640,000) to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, her total contribution is its biggest so far.

    The museum on Washington's National Mall is due to be completed in 2015.

    It will house a 35-seat theatre named after Winfrey, who is also a member of the museum's advisory council.

    Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum said the media mogul had been very much involved in its creation and talks were taking place to acquire memorabilia from her career.

    Saturday, June 15, 2013

    Is the word "thank you" doomed?

    A grandparent asks an increasingly common question

    There is a sort of agony aunt in the Wellington Your Weekend by the name of Peta Mathias (who is also a chef).  The questions she gets are the usual ones, on the whole, about boyfriends, lovers, sex, and marriage.  Her answers are sensible and occasionally hilarious.

    Maybe she was surprised to get this one:

    Dear Peta, I am a grandparent with several grandchildren.  I am quite doting, always remember their birthdays and special occasions with presents, but never get any thank yous.  I know times have changed and one doesn't send thank you notes any more, but don't you think they could zip off an email, text, or even make a phone call to acknowledge my gifts? I have gently brought this up with my son and daughter-in-law and they say "yes yes", but nothing ever changes.  What do you think? Evan, Akaroa.

    What I think is that it is significant that the writer is a man.  What Peta suggests:

    Dear Evan, There is no excuse not to say thank you to someone who loves you and has been kind and generous to you. If these children do not learn this basic politeness now, they will be miserable adults because saying thank you is the most elementary of social skills. Stop giving presents and see what happens -- they will learn that entitlement is a sad attitude.

    Will Evan take her advice?

    Somehow, I doubt it... 

    Griffin poetry prizes awarded

    From the BBC

    Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan has won the International Griffin Poetry Prize for Like A Straw Bird It Follows Me, receiving C$65,000 (£41,000).

    Described by judges as poetry which "reminds us why we live and how, in the midst of war, despair, global changes", the poems are translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah.

    The annual award recognises new poetry translated into, or written in, English.

    What's the Score? by David W McFadden wins the Canadian prize.

    The Griffin Poetry Prize is Canada's most generous poetry award. It was founded in 2000 by businessman and philanthropist Scott Griffin. The awards go to one Canadian writer and one international poet who writes in the English language.

    The winners were announced at an award ceremony in Toronto, attended by some 400 guests including trustees Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.

    Friday, June 14, 2013

    Holocaust mastermind's diary recovered

    WILMINGTON, Delaware (AFP) - US officials and the National Holocaust Museum announced Thursday the recovery of the long-lost diary of a top Nazi war criminal that experts say could shed new light on the Holocaust.

    The Rosenberg Diary, kept by Alfred Rosenberg, a confidant of Adolf Hitler whose racist theories underpinned Nazi Germany's annihilation of six million Jews, had been missing since the Nuremberg war crimes trials ended in 1946.

    "Having material that documents the actions of both perpetrators and victims is crucial to helping scholars understand how and why the Holocaust happened," said Sarah Bloomfield, director of the National Holocaust Museum in Washington.

    "The story of this diary demonstrates how much material remains to be collected and why rescuing this evidence is such an important Museum priority," said Bloomfield in a statement.

    The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, a key player in finding the loose-leaf diary, said it had initially been taken by a Nuremberg prosecutor, Robert Kempner, "contrary to law and proper procedure."

    Kempner, a German lawyer who fled to the United States during World War II and settled in Pennsylvania, held on to the diary -- which covers a 10-year period from 1934 -- until his death in 1993, ICE said.

    It remained missing until November 2012 when the US Attorney's office in Delaware and Department of Homeland Security special agents got a tip from an art security specialist working with the Holocaust museum.

    "The Rosenberg Diary was subsequently located and seized pursuant to a warrant issued by the US District Court for the District of Delaware," ICE said, giving no details.

    In his role as the Nazis' chief racial theorist, Rosenberg was instrumental in developing and promoting the notion of a German "master race" superior to other Europeans and, above all, to non-Europeans and Jews.

    Born in 1893 into an ethnic German family in what is today Estonia, Rosenberg -- who loathed Christianity and "degenerate" modern art -- doubled as Hitler's point man in occupied eastern Europe and Russia throughout the war.

    He was also tasked by Hitler to oversee the systematic plundering of countless works of art throughout occupied Europe, many of which remain missing to this day.

    Captured by Allied troops at the end of the 1939 to 45 war, Rosenberg was convicted at Nuremberg of war crimes, crimes against humanity, initiating and waging wars of aggression, and conspiracy to commit crimes against peace.

    He was executed with several other convicted Nazi kingpins -- Hermann Goering having cheated the hangman by committing suicide in his jail cell the night before -- on October 16, 1946. He was 53.

    Yahoo, tinkering disastrously again

    It has happened again.

    Yahoo mail has "upgraded."  With total unexpectedness, I opened my mail to find that there was a new, swish version taking over. 

    First, it stalled my computer. Out of the program I went, and again it stalled when I reopened the mail page, and so it went on ... and on.  System restore and a bout of muttering finally fixed it, but then I found that all my mail had been converted to tiny fonts.  Unreadable.

    "Help" was no use.  It simply told me to go to mail options, hit "general" and opt for one font in a very short list, mostly involving choices like "Serif 1" or "Serif 2", and then hit small, medium, large, or extra large.  But that, I found, only worked with plain text.  With html -- surely the preferred option, these days -- I am stuck with tiny, tiny fonts. There is nothing in the tools that allows me to zoom.  That lovely drop down list where I could hit 100% or 125% or whatever has vanished, in favor of that confounded "mail options."

    And that invaluable button "check mail" has vanished from the top ribbon.  To check for mail I have to go out of yahoo mail and then go back into it.  Time-consuming, and just plain infuriating.

    Thank God, I say, for my iPad. 

    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    Alaric Bond's latest to be published by OLD SALT PRESS

    Old Salt Press is an independent press catering to those who love books about ships and the sea -- an association of writers working together to produce the very best of nautical and maritime fiction and non-fiction. Old Salt Press was launched by author and well know maritime blogger Rick Spilman.

    I have the honor to be a founding associate of this maritime writing cooperative, and am delighted that Alaric Bond has opted to be published under the Old Salt Press umbrella.

    As David Hayes, of Historic Naval Fiction, has announced:

    This exciting new project will be enhanced by the news that Alaric Bond's new novel, outside his Fighting Sail series, is to be published by them. Turn a Blind Eye will be available worldwide Autumn 2013.

    "Autumn, 1801. Newly appointed to the local revenue cutter, Commander Griffin is determined to make his mark, and defeat a major gang of smugglers. But the country is still at war with France and it is an unequal struggle; can he depend on support from the local community, or are they yet another enemy for him to fight?

    With dramatic action on land and at sea, Turn a Blind Eye exposes the private war against the treasury with gripping fact and fascinating detail."

    Both Ron and I had the pleasure of reading the manuscript of this book, and both enjoyed it mightily. As Ron said, It is a page-turner.  I particularly liked the evocative setting, the beautifully described coast of Sussex ... infamous haunt of pirates and smugglers.

    A meticulous historian, Bond does not romanticize the smugglers or their stealthy trade. Instead, he describes the damage they did to the economy of Britain during the war with Napoleon -- the sheer scope and nerve of their activities; how they traded extravagantly with the enemy, carrying scarce bullion over the Channel and coming back with luxury goods.  The job of a revenue man was a tough and exciting one indeed, particularly when that man was based in a shoreside village where the smuggling gangs ruled with bribery and force.

    All the personalities in the book are well rounded and real, and Captain Griffin is particularly so.  If I was to fall in love with one of the characters, though, it would be with the revenue cutter Bee...


    Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    Heroine of the sea

    From the BBC

    Triple Trawler Tragedy

    Forty-three years-ago the whole country was shocked as three Hull trawlers were lost within three weeks of each other.

    The trawlers sank with the loss of 58 lives. Only one person survived the disasters.
    The first vessel to be lost was the St Romanus which went down in the north sea 110 miles off Spurn Point on the 11th January. All 20 crew members died.

    On the 26th January the Kingston Peridot sank off Skagagrunn on the Icelandic coast, again with the loss of all 20 men.

    The final loss was the Ross Cleveland on the 4th February. The boat had sought refuge from a storm in the natural inlet of Isafjord in northern Iceland.

    Isafjord, Iceland Isafjord: Resting place of the Ross Cleveland

    Dozens of other trawlers were also in the fjord, so the Ross Cleveland had to stay further out. The trawler was swamped by mountainous waves and sank. The last message from the skipper Phil Gay was "I am going over. We are laying over. Help me. I’m going over. Give my love and the crew`s love to the wives and families".
    Eighteen lives were lost.

    Three crewmen made it to a life raft, but only one, Harry Eddom, survived the bitter cold. After 12-hours in the raft he was washed ashore and found help at a remote farmhouse.
    After the initial shock of the losses the mood in Hull turned to anger. Many of the wives of fishermen began to campaign for better safety conditions on trawlers.

    Lilian Bilocca Lillian Bilocca in a dockside protest

    One of the leaders of this campaign was Lillian Bilocca who lived in the heart of the Hessle Road fishing community. Big Lil, as she was known, organised a 10,000 signature petition calling for reform. She led a delegation to Parliament and eventually met with the Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

    She and her supporters carried out direct action, trying to stop boats leaving St Andrew’s Dock and even threatening to picket the PM’s house if there weren’t reforms. Speaking to a BBC reporter she said “If I don’t get satisfaction I’ll be at that Wilson’s house, private house, until I do get satisfaction in some shape or form.”

    The campaign was successful with many new safety measures introduced, including making it compulsory for every trawler to have a full-time radio operator.

    Air New Zealand makeover

    Air New Zealand has a new livery

    To our astonishment, as we were taxiing out of Auckland airport last week, a black and white plane taxied in. There was the familiar koru design, and there was the fernleaf design that the so-called "All Blacks" plane featured during the Rugby World Cup, but the rest (except for the wings) was matte black.

    This according to Australian Business Traveller, is the new Air New Zealand livery. Going out is the turquoise and blue blend that reminded historians of the origin of Air New Zealand as TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited), and coming in is what is popularly considered to be the iconic color of the country, BLACK.

    The new livery will introduced later this year as part of a worldwide NZ$20m (A$16.7m) marketing campaign between Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand.

    Most aircraft will be dressed to impress in the airline's standard white livery, which will now feature a dramatic black section sweeping up from the rear of the wings, as seen below in this PR shot showing the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner due for delivery next year (and which will likely launch on the Auckland-Shanghai route).

    However, Air New Zealand will paint a select number of aircraft in a distinctive "all black" version of the new design. And that is the plane that we saw...

    Egyptian middens and crocodiles

    "It's hard to imagine, but many ancient Egyptians paid to become slaves"
    -- Bob Brockie, science columnist for the Dominion Post

    "I am your servant from this day forward and I shall pay 2 1/2 copper coins every month as my slave fee, before Saknebtunis the great god."
    -- papyrus contract found in an ancient rubbish tip in the Egyptian village of Tebtunis

    And who, pray, was Saknebtunis the great god?

    He, Bob Brockie informs us, was a crocodile god who was worshipped in every village near Tebtunis that owned a suitable temple with an attached lake and some sunbathing mud.

    Shudder. Worshipping a crocodile is not my idea of fun, but 2200 years ago the villagers took their religion so seriously that archaeologists have unearthed dozens of crocodile mummies. Interestingly, these mummies were wrapped on layers of papyri which turned out, on investigation, to be legal documents such as tax receipts, marriage contracts ... and arrangements where slaves paid their masters to become their servants.
    Presumably, the alternative -- of digging canals, or rowing in galleys -- was worse.  But how could slaves afford the monthly payment? Apparently they had jobs on the side, such as interpreting dreams, or copying legal documents.
    The croc pictured above is not an Egyptian reptile, but an Aussie example. There is rather a fetching tourist attraction at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays called "Crocodile Safari," where not only do you drift down a river watching crocs doing their thing (which seemed to alternate between mud-bathing and sliding rather dramatically into the river), but you are taken through the marshes to look at birds and wallabies, and are fed lots of great Aussie tucker.
    Highly recommended.  Here's another picture ...

    50 Shades running down

    The dream run for EL James is ending, it seems...

    Currently, in Whitcoulls on Lambton Quay, Wellington, there are piles of boxed sets of the Fifty Shakes trilogy, on sale at ... $35.95

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    CATS awards

    No, it is nothing to do with musicals

    It is all about Scottish acting

    The BBC reports that Alan Cumming and Blythe Duff have won best actor awards at the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS).

    Cumming won for "an unforgettable, bravura performance" in the National Theatre of Scotland's one-man Macbeth.

    The Perthshire-born actor, who had previously won a Tony award on Broadway, said Macbeth was "the thing I am most proud of in my whole career".

    Duff won her award for playing a convicted husband-killer in Iron.

    The 2013 CATS were presented by one of Scotland's leading playwrights, John Byrne, at a sell-out event that also marked the 50th anniversary of the Traverse Theatre.

    The special CATS Whiskers award was given to the inaugural artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, Vicky Featherstone.

    It recognised her contribution to Scottish theatre in the seven years since the National Theatre company was formed.

    We were particularly pleased to see Blythe Duff's award, being committed Taggart fans.

    KIRKS, 150 years later


    Kirkaldie and Stains, affectionately known as "Kirks," is Wellington's premier department store, where you can browse designer models of everything wearable, and buy top brand cosmetics, as well.

    It's a wonderful place to browse, and while filling in time yesterday, I was delighted to find a little museum on the top floor.  It's Kirks' 150th birthday, and the display of artifacts, clippings, and archives is part of the fun.

    The little museum is a delight, and a wonderful way to spend an hour.  Professionally curated and skilfully displayed, with a timeline painted around the walls, it commemorates an important part of Wellington history.

    John Kirkaldie and Robert Stains

    Back in 1863, two enterprising young men met in Sydney. One was John Kirkcaldie, a Scotsman who had served his apprenticeship as a draper, and the other was Robert Stains, an Englishman who had worked in the retail trade in London. They came to the settlement of Wellington, which offered the best prospects for the business they had in mind. Each had a capital of £350, which they pooled, and together they built a small store from the timbers of a wrecked ship, at the southern end of Lambton Quay.  (Today, it is the site of the historic Bank of New Zealand, now an enclosed Victorian-style mall.)  In 1868 it moved a few blocks to the south, and built in a style that is reflected in its grand form today.

    During its long history Kirkcaldie & Stains has survived many upheavals, including earthquakes, fire and flood, the famous Tea Room shooting of 1898 and extensive renovations. However through all of the changes the store has continued the tradition of its founders and Kirkcaldie & Stains stands proud today as New Zealand’s premier department store. Most unusually, it is almost entirely owned by its staff and its customers, most of them Wellingtonians.

    So, it is quite a heritage to celebrate, and the little museum is a great way to take note of it.