Saturday 31 December 2011

A reading update

Because you never know, you may be interested:

Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls (impulsive insert) four stars[would have been three, but for the brilliant illustrations and the sheer production values]

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (on the original list) just as good as everyone says it is

Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races (impulsive insert) four stars

Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth (on the original list) abandoned, one star

Mal Peet, Life: An Exploded Diagram (on the original list) five stars

I'm still grinding my way through Mary Gabriel's biography of Jenn and Karl Marx, finding Karl Marx thoroughly exasperating but learning too much to put it down, and am about to embark on another impulse addition, Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas reading

Here's my list:

  • George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones
  • Mal Peet, Life: An Exploded Diagram
  • Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead
  • Best American Science Writing 2011
  • Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth [in progress, perilously close to being ditched]
  • Pippin Barr, How to play a video game
  • Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began
  • Mary Gabriel,  Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the birth of a revolution
Posting will probably be infrequent as I make my way through this pile - see you in 2012!

Friday 23 December 2011

Bob Semple, heart throb

Diving around the National Library's collections the other day, I stumbled across Robert Semple.

I knew about the Semple tank, of course, but I had no idea Semple (coal miner, trade unionist, mine inspector, Labour MP, Minister for Public Works and Transport) was such a hottie.

Obviously a bit of a show man, then. I wanted to add Mr Semple to My Daguerrotype Boyfriend, but their T&Cs scared me off. So I've put these here for you instead.

Images, from top

Gaze, Henry Edward 1874-1953. Portrait of Robert Semple. Gaze, Henry Edward :Negatives. Ref: 1/2-174828-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Creator unknown :Photograph of Robert Semple. Ref: PAColl-7985-79. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Pratt, J, fl 1974. Pratt, J, fl 1974 :Photograph of tank designed by Robert Semple. Ref: 1/2-050790-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Robert Semple. Ref: 1/2-044054-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Robert Semple, former Minister of Public Works, at the controls of an earth-moving machine, Berhampore. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-NZ Obits-Se to Sh-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Hey, good looking

Some people have cigarette breaks. Me - when I need a break from wireframing or proposals or carefully wording emails, I go for a sift through the National Library's online collections. Which is where I found these gorgeous things this week:

Those flies are so fly. Also, shades of Rick Killeen.

I like to think someone saw the poster and said 'Oh, shit, guys, sorry - I forgot to tell you we were changing it from Moral Army to Moral Re-Armament. No, there's not time to start over. Just paste the extra letters on at the ends.'

New Zealand. Department of Health. [New Zealand. Department of Health?] :Where flies fly in, health flies out. Cleanliness means no flies and good health. Carelessness breeds flies and sickness [1960s?]. Ref: Eph-D-HEALTH-1960s-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Moral Re-Armament (Organisation)Harry H Tombs Ltd. Moral Re-Armament (Organisation) :MRA; Moral Re-Armament. H H Tombs, poster printers - 23195. [1950?]. Ref: Eph-D-RELIGION-1950-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Meg Rosoff - There is No Dog

From the occasional book reviews column - Meg Rosoff's funny, filthy, thought-provoking There is No Dog.


What kind of God would make a world like this? It's the question we ask when we start testing our theological chop in our teenage years: a world of wars and rape and environmental disaster, of pimples erupting just before the school dance and turning up to the ball and seeing your arch-enemy in the same dress as you (but a size smaller).

Meg Rosoff's answer? A negligent, floppy-haired teenage boy god - irritable, distractable, sex-mad and short-tempered, yet also rather luscious and prone to the odd moment of utter brilliance. In short, Bob.

Bob got the job of God of Earth after his mother won it in an intergalactic poker hand. 'There is no Dog' starts off like Douglas Adams: Bob takes up the job with some enthusiasm, bashing out the world in six days, with - as his factotum and middle-managementy sidekick Mr B likes to reflect - no long term plan or strategy, no consultation, no common sense:

In the beginning the earth was without form and void and the darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light.

Only it wasn't very good light. Bob created fireworks, sparklers and neon tubes that circled the globe like weird tangled rainbows. He dabbled with bugs that blinked and abstract creatures whose heads lit up and cast long overlapping shadows. There were mile-high candles and mountains of fairy lights. For an hour or so, Earth was lit by enormous crystal chandeliers.

Bob thought his creations were very cool.

They were cool, but they didn't work.

So Bob tried for an ambient glow (which proved toxic) and a blinding light in the centre of the planet, which gave off too much heat and fried the place black. And finally, when he curled up in the corner of nothingness, tired as a child by the harebrainedness of his efforts, Mr B took the opportunity to sort things out - with an external star, gravity, roughly half a cycle in darkness and half in light so there was a Day and a Night. And that was that. The evening and the morning were the first day. Not fancy, but it worked.

Mr B's job is to clean up after Bob: he filters and files the prayer, and fixes things in small ways, where he can (where doing so doesn't fuck everything up beyond all belief accidentally). He spends a lot of time worrying about the whales, his own personal creation. But millennia on, Mr B has had enough of Bob - his ingratitude, his laziness, his romantic and sexual conquests. Mr B is submitting his resignation.

Meanwhile, Bob has fallen cataclysmically in love. The world will end (perhaps literally) if he doesn't get into the pants being worn by Lucy, a virginal and exquisite 21-year-old zookeeper. As Bob pursues Lucy, the weather goes nuts - snow in summer, floods, tornadoes. Bob is not a god of small considerations. Like any boy guided largely by his sexual organ, he is singleminded and one-eyed in this endeavour.

In another side story, Bob's mother Mona - a voluptuous, voluptuary goddess with more than a taste for gin - has lost Bob's pet Eck (a strange cross between a penguin and a lemur with an anteater's nose) in yet another poker game. In six weeks Eck will be eaten by Emoto Hed, a dangerous and powerful god. Bob's too busy wooing Lucy to worry his head overly much about Eck's fate right now (aside from moaning at Mona for messing with his life yet again), but Eck is undergoing an existential crisis:

So the answer to the question about whether he would have to die, Eck gathered, was yes. Yes, he would have to die; yes, he would be forgotten and the world would go on forever without him. With no mitigating circumstances to make the horror easier to swallow.

It strained his relationship with Bob. Why did you bother creating me, he wanted to ask. Why bother giving me a brain and a realisation of how miserable existence can be? Why did you invent creatures who die, and worse, who know they are going to die? What is the point of so unkind an act of creation?

Rosoff floats between Douglas Adams' giddiness, Douglas Coupland's work-place malaise, Michael Chabon's humid descriptions of teenage sexual obsession, and some P.G. Wodehouse sit-com humour. And through it all she maintains her own inimitable style, mixing musing on mortality with wanking.

The thing that's stayed with me from this book? Rosoff's evocation of teenage boys: self-centred, short-tempered, sex-mad and occasionally insanely amazing:

Mr B marvels that the same God who leaves his dirty clothes in a mouldering heap by the side of his bed could have created golden eagles and elephants and butterflies. Such moments of transcendent inspiration! Other creatures fill him with admiration as well - heavy loping striped tigers and graceful long-necked swans, creaking as they fly. Ludicrous pincushion porcupines. It's not that the boy is altogether devoid of talent, but he is devoid of discipline, compassion and emotional depth. Foresight.

And the last thing that I love? This isn't typical YA. By the end of the book, Bob's not a better person. Most of the adults have learned something and are moving on, but not Bob. Bob's still Bob - eternally teenaged, god bless him.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

My year in reading

Inspired by my friend Emma, I've been reviewing my year in reading. I collect (almost) all the books, and (almost) everything I think about them on Goodreads.

I can't quite be arsed recording everything here again, so here are some screenshots:

Overall, the differences between 2010 and 2011 seem to be:
  • more poetry
  • more YA
  • less science
  • more World War One memoirs
  • less contemporary fiction
I'm not sure what the 2012 focus will be. In the meantime, here are the books I gave 5 stars this year:
  • Meg Rosoff, There is No Dog
  • Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat
  • Margaret Mahy, Memory
  • Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist
  • Robert Graves, Goodbye to all that
  • Colette, Cheri and The Last of Cheri
  • W.H. Auden, Another Time
  • Judith Schalansky, Atlas of Remote Islands
  • Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie
  • Sarah Bakewell, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Answers
  • Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution (December 29 2010, but hey ...)

Monday 19 December 2011

A rich man's world

Blake Gopnik might be a very good art critic (I freely admit that I don't read enough of his work to know for myself). But he evidently hates art fairs; however, he perked up when he took some Monopoly money along to Art Basel and picked himself up ten million dollars worth of goodies (you can see what he 'bought' here).

In a follow-up article, Gopnik attempts to explain 'why art is so damned expensive'. The tl;dr - art pricing is entirely unreasonable, in that there's no logic to it. I have an extremely intelligent friend who, every so often, asks me to explain how people decide how much an artwork is 'worth'. He can't wrap his head around it because there's no pattern, no rules, no reasoning - it's utterly opaque unless you're all the way on the inside, and even then, if you look at the subject in the right light, all the sense rushes out the door again.

Of course, that's the top of the market. I love buying art. I love thinking about how a piece will fit in with what is already at home. I like to think of the money going back to the artist who made the piece. I have a ceiling (which, as the years go by, slowly goes upwards) which means that each piece is carefully considered, but often also bought with a sense of joyful recklessness. I don't understand how people who love art can't want to come home to it every night. It might be senseless over all, but on the personal level, it makes a lot of sense to me.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Six lamps a-glowing

The National Library's twitter folks (@NLNZ) are doing a Twelve Days of Christmas count down.

Trying to outsmart them, I found this for 'six' (proto-Bill Culbert, no?)

But was aesthetically trumped by @shiftermike with this beauty

Black and white photos, huh? There's nothing like them.


Six freestanding lamps. K E Niven and Co :Commercial negatives. Ref: 1/2-209830-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 

Six different tyre treads. K E Niven and Co :Commercial negatives. Ref: 1/2-227689-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday 16 December 2011

YA musings

This article by Andrew Karre on Hunger Mountain is one of the smartest pieces I've read on the topic of YA.

He begins by noting that articles about YA have become internet crack, racing to the tops of 'most emailed' lists and filling Twitter with hashtags. These articles come largely in two flavours:

Strand one can be called the “YA is too dark” strand, or, as I prefer to call it, the “Think of the children!” strand. Strand two is the navel-gazing strand, or, if you prefer, the “YA is/is not a genre!” strand. I have established positions on both (for the record, barely dark enough and it’s a genre for me), but I think the fact of these coexistent debates is evidence of something much more interesting and important than either debate.

But why do we (well, some of we) care so much? Because, Karre argues - persuasively and readably - that YA publishing has become disruptive, in the same sense that Apple's i-Products are disruptive. YA titles - Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games - have become culturally ubiquitous.  Writing from the inside of the debate, Karre concludes:

Arguing about whether YA is too dark is the literary equivalent of arguing about whether consumers will ever want a cell phone without a physical keyboard. Worrying about whether YA is a genre is the equivalent of agonizing over whether an iPad is a computer or merely a media consumption device (the answer, conveniently, is the same in both cases: It doesn’t matter; it’s whichever you need it to be). The only meaningful outcome of these debates is this: What we’re doing matters.

Arguing from the outside is Adam Gopnik in his recent piece in the New Yorker, a fascinating analysis of what it is about long, complex fantasy series that enthrall kids and teens (and adults). Many are ponderous, over or underwritten:

What is it, then, that makes the books enter kids’ consciousness?

First, kids experience them as mythologies more than as stories—the narrative sweep is, curiously, the least significant part of their appeal. When kids talk about movies, it’s usually the cool parts that get highlighted. (“So there’s this, like, cool part where the guy—the blue guy?—has to tame, like, a flying dinosaur and they’re all on a cliff and he says, like, ‘How do I know which one is mine?’ And, so, the blue girl is, like, ‘He will try to kill you!’ ”) Readers of the Eragon books don’t relate cool incidents; they relate awesome elements. You hear about the Elders, the dragon riders, the magical fire-sword Brisingr; what drags readers in is not the story but the symbols and their slow unfolding. The sheer invocation of a mythology casts a deeper spell than putting the mythology on its feet and making it dance. If you talk to an Eragon reader, you will see why the introductory seven-page synopsis of the mythology is necessary. The synopsis is the story.

And the truth is that most actual mythologies and epics and sacred books are dull. Nothing is more wearying, for readers whose tastes have been formed by the realist novel, than the Elder Edda. Yet the spell such works cast on their audience wasn’t diminished by what we find tedious. The incantation of names is, on its own, a powerful literary style. The enchantment the Eragon series projects is not that of a story well told but that of an alternative world fully entered. You sense that when you hear a twelve-year-old describe the books. The gratification comes from the kid’s ability to master the symbols and myths of the saga, as with those eighty-level video games, rather than from the simple absorption of narrative.

It's such an interesting point. Kids love mastering complexity. This makes me wonder - how could that love be better harnessed in the classroom?

Thursday 15 December 2011

My year in perfume

I spent the weekend in a nostalgic haze of the Body Shop's 'White Musk'. I'd sniffed it on someone this week, and got one of those immediate scent memories that dragged me all the way back to 6th form English, where every second girl in the class (including me) was drenched in the stuff.

Today, it smells strangely old-lady for such a classic starter perfume (there were, of course, no 'by Taylor Swifts' or 'by Beyonces' or 'by Britney Spears' back in my day). It's got a big white flower, and then a big musk (the clean laundry variety, not the dirty sheets) and underneath it all a powdery sweet cosmeticy note. It's as sweet as all get out, and kind of soothing.

Wondering around snuffing at my wrists (I spend rather a lot of time doing this) I got to thinking about my year in perfume. It's a vain pleasure, sure, but one that pleases me deeply.

Summer was spent drenched in Guerlain's Vetiver - sharply, freshly green, a cold spice smell (if you can imagine that: not cardamom or star anise - green, yet with that same intensity), that makes me think of the very innermost leaves of a blade of plucked grass, cast in crystal.

When I felt like a change I'd swop to Guerlain's Mitsouko, which I find pleasingly sharp, almost aggressive - the angular cousin of Jicky (see the next paragraph), beautiful in its own way but far less eager to please.

Winter was spent alternating between Guerlain's men's cologne Habit Rouge (I can't top Luca Turin's description of it smelling like 'sweet dust') and their classic women's fragrance Jicky - apparently the oldest perfume in continuous production.

I love the progression of Jicky - a big hit of lavender, then a very weird moment where it smells like curdled milk, then a deep purple oily cloud where the lavender is balanced with vanilla, with an underpinning of dried herbs - a salty lick under all the sweetness.

On a visit to Melbourne (and more specifically, the magical Klein's Perfumery) I added to my collection with Frapin's Terre de Sarment - a rich blend of woodsmoke and vanilla freshened by dollops of citrus, with an underlying note of booziness, more whiskey or bourbon than berried wine. It smells like the night after the pub, in the best possible way.

I also gave in to L'Artisan Parfumeur's 'Dzing', which smells like vanilla-drenched manila folders with a strange musk underpinning. It's a very odd smell, curiously flat (not lacking fizz, but flat like a huge roll of butcher's paper - a single, uninflected surface) but I find it compelling.

During the year, I also experimented with a bunch of samples of leather perfumes, drawn from Turin's top 10 list: Estee Lauder's 'Azuree' (work glove and citrus), Chanel's Cuir de Russie (amazing, impossible to find here) and S Perfumes S-eX (does what it says on the bottle). I couldn't find one that I could wear (as opposed to it wearing me) so I'm saving that up for when I'm an irascible old lady with a lip full of snuff and no qualms about being thought odd.

But the perfume that blew me away, that lingers, that delights every day, is L'Artisan Parfumeur's Timbuktu. Turin describes it as woody smoky - I get less of either of these than an incredibly clear, bright shaft of pink peppercorns - but it's taught me what he means by 'radiance', a smell that sings out like a cleanly plucked note. I can't wear it myself (not yet, anyway) but luckily someone else in the house can.

What's next? There are some Chanels I'm still very keen to lay nose on: Bois de Iles, Sycomore. I've been ummming and aahing about a bottle of Eau Sauvage all year; that or maybe Guerlain's Eau de Cologne for an alternate summer scent (yes, Guerlain is a bit of a theme here, but in terms of readily accessible, high quality perfumes, they're our best option). I might put more effort into exploring Serge Lutens. Overall, I'll continue to feed my healthy little obsession.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Not remembering Don Driver

Today I talked on the radio about Don Driver and his work.

I wish I could have thought of a better short title than 'Remembering Don Driver'. It's the traditional wording, but it implies that you're dragging stuff up from the depths of your memory, which is wrong on two counts for me. First, I never (to my great regret) met Driver, so I'm not recalling personal memories. And second, there is nothing at all past tense about how I feel about Driver's work: it is vital and fresh, and I strongly believe only continue to become more eye-smacking as time passes.

Anyway - here's the audio, should you want to have a listen.

There's also a gallery of images on the RadioNZ website.

Judging a book

Two takes on the resurgence of beautifully designed and printed print books: The Guardian takes the high road, the New York Times goes straight for the commercial jugular.

Both note that the print market is having to differentiate itself from the e-market in order to survive (and make money). A year on from first having a whirl with a Kindle, I'm still a resolute print-book reader and buyer.

I still read print books because the public library can supply (almost all) my needs. It's still cheaper for me to reserve a book I want through the library than to download it from Amazon, and because my reading backlist is so long, I don't feel like I'm missing out by not having it now.

My print buying has tailed off mostly to YA fiction (cheaper than 'adult' books), new releases by my favourite authors (completist urges) and essay collections (no real reason, there's just something I like about them). I buy very few books that I haven't already read. In fact, I buy books largely in order to loan them - there's something irreplaceable, for me, about the physical act of handing over a book for someone else to love. I haven't (more shame me) bought an art book all year.

Some people have photo albums. I have bookshelves:  even without cracking them open, my books remind me of people and places and moments in my life; where and when I read them, who I was at that time, who I shared them with. Plus, yeah - they do smell good. 

Monday 12 December 2011

Fritsch in Chch

The National has a simply glorious looking show of Karl Fritsch's work on at the moment. Not only do the pieces look terrific, but his characteristically rough-edged yet elegant displays look just as good. Go visit and shop, if you can.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Some chewy weekend reading

James Bridle's WebDirections keynote on 'The New Aesthetic' (video and transcript - the transcript is awesomely annotated with links to images and articles).

A nice bookend to the above - Russell Davies on the post-digital.

Relevant to PBRF funding in universities: Mark Bauerlein asks in The Chronicle of Higher Education whether all the publishing in the field of literary studies is actually benefiting anyone.

Michelle Nijhuis in 'The Last Word on Nothing' (an awesome science blog) on the the different narrative styles of environmental reporting (Quest, Rebirth, Tragedy, Rags to Riches).

Aimee Levitt on Laura Ingalls Wilder and American economic downturns.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Don Driver

Jim Barr and Mary Barr have written beautifully on Don Driver, who died today.

I never met Don Driver. It makes me sad. Over the last few years I've become a fervent admirer, seeking out as many shows and opportunities to see the work as possible (and opportunities to mention him here and when on the radio).

Driver's work holds the room. It squawks and it growls and it sings (and occasionally it's quite trippy) but it's impossible to look past. It grabs your eyeballs and it makes you think.

I owe five people real credit for my love of Driver's work: Jim and Mary, William McAloon, Julian Dashper and Hamish McKay. It's a delight to see curators my age (or thereabouts) taking up his work as well - Aaron Kreisler in Dunedin (a NP kid himself), Aaron Lister in his sculpture show at City Gallery next year. People have been saying today that Driver is sadly overlooked. Me, I think he was loved and admired where it mattered.

(Having said that - a dirty great survey show would not go amiss.)

UPDATE: That first 'Aaron' should have been Kreisler - sorry, both. And Sarah Farrar has written a nice short piece about Driver and her own discovery of his work (another one of those young curators) on the Te Papa blog. And Roger Taberner has written a lengthy and insightful piece on the Auckland Art Gallery blog.

Pretty ... smart

I've been oohing and aahing over Australian jewellery gallery Pieces of Eight's recently-launched online store Edition X, which stocks limited edition pieces of jewellery, textiles, books, objects and more.

In addition to the seductiveness of the objects, I've been seduced by the little design touches on the website; feminine, not too girly, and a strong sense of the Pieces of Eight personality.

Now eg.etal, another of my favourite Melbourne haunts, as also launched an online store.

Although eg.etal's stock doesn't quite delight me as Pieces of Eight does, the site also has some really lovely, simple touches - like how the thumbnails on the homepage react as you scroll over them.

Now all I need is for Gallery Funaki to make my life complete.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

City Gallery Wellington's Future - The Survey

When I saw the announcement of Paula Savage's retirement from City Gallery in their enewsletter, and an invitation to take a survey on the future of the Gallery, I was quite excited. Would they give us a multi-choice list of potential directors to choose from? Could I ask for a larger number of smaller, shorter-run exhibitions throughout the year? Could I tell them about the public programme events I want to attend?

Nope. But you can tell them what you think about the idea of a $10 entry fee for anyone who can't prove Wellington residency to visit City Gallery Wellington and the Museum of City and Sea.

Some sample questions:

After all these days

It's been a couple of weeks now, and I'm still loving NPR's Infinite Player (original post here).

Usually, the glow of new internet toys wears off pretty quickly (or I bookmark things and never return). But I've just kept the Infinite Player alive in a browser window, switching it on whenever I want a little bit of background chatter (like right now). It's less commitment than a podcast, but more varied and controllable than normal radio. Joy.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Sport and cancer

Yeah, I think it's a weird pairing too. Never mind.

First, a fantastic profile of Siddartha Mukherjee, oncologist and author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, one of the best on-fiction books I read this year (even if the second half does drag somewhat).

One of its most arresting observations was inspired by a conversation between Mukherjee and a friend many years earlier "about the nature of interior and exterior", which returned to him as he was working on the book. "Every era," it suddenly struck him, "casts cancer in its own image." The US in the 70s was haunted by cold war fears of the enemy within – and so the "big bomb" was replaced by "the big C". HIV overshadowed the following decade, and then the search for cancer-causing viruses became oncology's new obsession. Now that we're obsessed with genetics, the focus of research has moved on to hereditary causes. "When a disease insinuates itself so potently into the imagination of an era," he writes, "it is often because it impinges on an anxiety latent within that imagination."

I got all riled up on behalf of (American) football fans when I read this WSJ article about how the NFL will not release the 'All 22' footage - the angles that show what all the players on the field are up to during the game - to fans. 

By distributing this footage only to NFL teams, and rationing it out carefully to its TV partners and on its web site, the NFL has created a paradox. The most-watched sport in the U.S. is also arguably the least understood. "I don't think you can get a full understanding without watching the entirety of the game," says former head coach Bill Parcells. The zoomed-in footage on TV broadcasts, he says, only shows a "fragment" of what happens on the field. 

And a rather good list of the top sports books of 2011 from Dan Shanoff on Quickish, interesting also for this final observation, his prediction for sports publishing in 2012:

Shorter-form (and quick-turnaround) e-books from "indie" publishers like Byliner and Atavist; from sportswriters publishing on their own; from mainstream publishing houses (including Amazon, foreshadowed by Emma Span and Ben Cohen); and -- most interestingly -- directly from mainstream sports media companies (taking a cue from what The Atlantic did with Taylor Branch's cover story this fall and Politico's e-book strategy, which made its first surge this week) will explode.

Friday 2 December 2011


I'm quite taken by the Walker Art Center's new homepage.

Some people will find it way too busy. Me, I like how they seem to have expanded their remit - not just a homepage for their gallery, but a homepage for the visual and performing arts. I like, for example, how articles from other sites are getting pulled through to the page.

I also like all the small touches - little features where you can flick through three panes, the three views for opening hours, this little feature on the far left that highlights different content by theme.

It's a bit super-user, but I enjoy how it rewards exploration. The more you adventure through it, the more it reveals to you - a nice metaphor for art itself, no?

Thursday 1 December 2011

The day after

I hope to write something more reflective about the NDF conference in the next few weeks. Overall, I couldn't be happier with how it all turned out: fantastic speakers, a highly engaged audience, and - miracle of miracles - sunshine.

I slipped out just before lunch on the second day of the conference to do my regular spot on Nine to Noon, and covered some of the projects featured at the conference. The way Kathryn was immediately sucked in by some of the sites we talked about reinforced for me some of the messages we heard at the conference about helping people sense the texture and colour of our collections.

Here are links to the sites I touched on:

Old Weather, National Maritime Museum, London
A citizen-science project where volunteers are helping transcribe the logbooks of Royal Navy ships from around the time of World War One.

What's on the menu, New York Public Library
Learning what people were eating a century ago in New York by transcribing NYPL's special collection of historical menus.

Australian Dress Register
Collecting examples and information about clothing in New South Wales before 1945, from public and private collections.

History Pin -
A global map for sharing pieces of people's personal histories to create a global resource

Remix and Mash up competitions:
[New Zealand] Mix and Mash winners
[Australia] LibraryHack winners

A Grand Mother from Candy Elsmore on Vimeo.