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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Marijuana plants ablaze at Hamilton rotary

The Silly Season has started early, downunder.

As of just minutes ago...

The Fire Service has doused a scrub blaze at a Hamilton roundabout, which turned out to be a marijuana crop going up in flames.
They received a number of calls about the fire at the busy Avalon roundabout.
Their air brigade was sent to deal with it, and found three marijuana plants on fire.
They were quickly put out.
A Fire Service spokesman says when it comes to callouts they receive, it was certainly 'different'.

Yet another dragon for Wellington

Wellington airport has just regained the great eagle that fell down in a (relatively) minor earthquake.

And has gained Smaug the dragon, too.

Now, it appears that Wellington International Airport (WLG) could get very crowded, as yet another dragon is about to feature in the city.


Walt Disney studios has confirmed that it would start shooting a big-budget remake of the classic musical "Pete's Dragon" (but without music) in New Zealand early next year.

The base will be Sir Peter Jackson's Stone Street Studios in Miramar, on the scenic peninsula in the city south.  Filming will be all over the country, including Canterbury (hopefully without earthquakes), and the Bay of Plenty.

In the corridors of power in Wellington much delight is being expressed.  With the final "Hobbit" about to be released, it looked as if there was going to be a pause on the headlong rush to make Wellington the film capital of the world.  As the mayor memorably uttered, it will fill a gap in the roller-coaster.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mystery of missing miners' ship solved

In 1902 the ship Ventnor set out for China with the bones of 499 Chinese men who had died in New Zealand. The men were being returned home to the care of their families and ancestral villages. Most were old goldminers from the Otago / Greymouth area who had not been able to make enough money for their return passage home.
Under the auspices of a charitable association, the Cheong Sing Tong, community members pooled their money so that the remains of their countrymen could be returned home.
Tragically the men never made it.  The Ventnor hit a rock off the Taranaki coast and eventually sank off the Hokianga Heads (pictured). This was a great catastrophe for the community, as it was believed the men’s spirits would not be at ease. Far from family and in a watery grave, there would be no-one to tend to their needs in the afterlife.
As soon as it got news of the sinking, the Cheong Sing Tong hired the steamer ‘Energy’ from Auckland to try and locate the wreck and possibly recover as many of the coffins as possible.  This was not successful.  Then it was found that some of the bones had washed up and were buried by local Maori iwi who lived along the coastline, leading to the chance to locate the burial sites and hold religious ceremonies.
And now the wreck of the ship itself has been found.

From NZnewswire

The wreck of a ship carrying the remains of 499 Chinese gold miners has been discovered off Hokianga harbour 112 years after it disappeared.
SS Ventnor sank in 1902 on the northeast coast of the North Island while carrying the remains of the miners who had worked in the Otago goldfields.
The ship had been chartered by a Dunedin-based Chinese businessman to transport the exhumed remains of Chinese men who had died in New Zealand so they could be reburied at home.
On Wednesday the group who had been searching for the missing ship confirmed the wreck, which was found last year, was the Ventnor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oddball art featured at Taipei International Book Expo

From the DomPost

What started as a protest against the Wellington inner-city bypass has turned into an international publishing business for two capital ex-pats.
Taipei-based editors Ron and Mark Hanson have been commissioned to produce a special bilingual magazine showcasing left-field Kiwi arts, music and history at the Taipei International Book Exhibition, one of the largest book fairs in Asia.
New Zealand is the guest of honour at next year's exhibition and three of our best and brightest artists will be featured in the Hansons' special edition of Subconscious Restaurant and will visit Taiwan for the event.
While the magazine, and sister publication White Fungus, can now boast sales everywhere from Wellington's Adam Art Gallery to London's Tate Modern, the brothers found themselves in the editing game almost by accident.
Their impetus to start White Fungus in 2003 was in protest at Wellington's inner-city bypass, which was to displace much of the artists' district of upper Cuba St.
The pair wanted to get the word out about the importance of the area, Ron said.
"We wanted to write about the history of Cuba St - everyone seemed to be forgetting," he said.
"I profiled a lot of the artists that were being kicked out of their studios, including Taika Waititi, Bret McKenzie, Plan 9 who did The Lord of the Rings soundtrack."
Ron admits the first edition of 400 copies was a bit of a rush job.
"The first issue was made on a photocopier . . . We just threw ourselves in and learnt on the job." Over the 12 later editions, White Fungus has morphed from its protest roots into an international arts, culture and political showcase.
Ron hoped the book fair publication would help to teach the wider world a little bit more about Kiwi culture. One article would focus on the country's DIY approach to music production over the years.
There was a lot of interest in New Zealand's "oddball talents", Ron said. He saw it as perfect timing to introduce these to the Taipei literary and culture world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sean Bean to star in new horror series.

News from GalleyCat @

In my own honest opinion, Sean Bean touched the pinnacle of his career in his energetic and attractive depiction of Richard Sharpe, Napoleonic era soldier, in the adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's series of adventures.  That was a great show, and certainly not shadowed by his role in the first Lord of the Rings movie.

He has become more prominently featured on the small screen, however, with "The Game of Thrones."  And now we are to see more of them than ever ....

Sean Bean, an actor who has appeared in multiple book adaptations such as Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring movie and the Game of Thrones HBO series, will star in a new six-part crime show called The Frankenstein Chronicles.
Bean (pictured, via) will play the main protagonist, Inspector John Marlott. Production is set to take place in Northern Ireland starting in January. The story was inspired by Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinFollow this link to download a free digital copy of the book.
Here’s more from Deadline: “Set in 1827 London, the drama begins when Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel recruits Marlott after a successful operation by Thames River Police to apprehend a gang of opium smugglers. As Marlott stands on the water’s edge contemplating the arrests, he makes a shocking discovery: A corpse washed up on the shore is not what it seems at first glance. Instead, it’s a crude assembly of body parts arranged in a grotesque parody of a human form. The mutilated child-like body leaves an indelible impression on Marlott who is tasked by Peel with tracking the perpetrator of this heinous crime.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Death notice for a seafarer

"Threw tails, Slipped the Cable, Crossed the Bar
"And set sail for Snug Harbour at Fiddler's Green.
"Proud life member of the Seamen's Union.
"Remember Joe Hill -- Don't mourn, educate, agitate, organize.
"O Lord above send down a dove
"With wings as sharp as razors
"To cut the throats of evil ship-owners
"Who deny seamen of their conditions and wages."

Newspaper death notice for Joe Hill, seafarer.

From Jane Bowron's amusing collection of old birth and death notices, DomPost, 17 November 2014.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tracey Moffatt Calls

As the Director of the Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Art Gallery, says, Tracey Moffatt is arguably the most prominent Australian artist exhibiting in Australia and around the world today.  The work of this beautiful and vivacious Australian visual artist is held in major repositories -- including the Guggenheim -- and featured in major exhibits.

Accordingly, I was overwhelmed to be suddenly accosted, first by a barrage of emails and then with phone calls, by this hugely enthusiastic and talented artist, who asked me for a brief interview for her planned TV show, ART CALLS.  Two minutes, she said . . . and somehow it extended into an hour.

A thoroughly enjoyable hour, I might add.  You can watch the pilot of the show HERE. It gives a good idea of what it is going to be like -- Tracey calls artists and writers all over the world, talking to some, Skyping some, and the result is edited into a show that is not just highly entertaining but also does something rare and wonderful -- it promotes artists and the arts.

Then I had the pleasure of meeting Tracey herself in Sydney.  She drove us around her cherished part of that beautiful and vibrant city, and walked us to a special place, an ancient Aboriginal petrograph of a whale.  (I blogged about it HERE.)  We lunched, we talked, we walked, and we laughed.  Great memories were all I expected when we flew home, but no, Tracey always manages the wonderfully unexpected.  A book arrived, featuring Tracey's latest body of work, "Spirit Landscapes."

"Spirit Landscapes," currently on display at the Queensland Art Galley, Gallery of Modern Art, comprises five photographic series in which the artist explores human relationships. Typical is this amazing study of a woman with a baby. Being a writer, I love an image that tells a story, and this one certainly does that.

Tracey tells me it is one of the "Up in the Sky" photo series, which is exhibited internationally.

The rest of the works are just as evocative.  If you are in Brisbane in the next few weeks, don't miss a visit to the Gallery of Modern Art.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Indie publishing reveals a new market

From The Bookseller

Self-publishing has revealed a market that trad publishers were not aware of, says Orna Ross, of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

"Readers want very different things to what publishers in London and Manhattan think readers want," she elaborated.

Speaking at an event debating the best route to publishing for authors, Ross said self-publishing, a term she said she was “not wild about”, meant there was more choice for readers, including books that would never have been picked up by a traditional publishing house.
“I think the old [publishing] model is in flux and needs to change,” Ross said. “I think what’s happening is overall very positive. It’s good for readers because they have more choice and more access.”

Joining Ross on the panel on Monday night (10th November) were Suzie Doore, editorial director at Hodder & Stoughton, literary agent Juliet Mushens from The Agency Group, and author Dominic Selwood, who has been traditionally published and has self-published.

Hit the link and read on to see what the agents and trad publisher had to say.  In my view they sounded slightly desperate.  And here are the hybrid author's thoughts -- 

Selwood said both traditional publishing and self-publishing were “successful models but are different businesses”. Traditional publishing was about a number of things including building a brand, and at its centre was risk and reward, he said. On self-publishing, he said: “On the other hand you have the ability as an individual to hold the levers of power and decide your own creativity if the only limit.”

Well, that certainly sums it up!
The debate was organised by Byte the Book and held at The Club at the Ivy yesterday (10th November)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Franklin wreck identified

Lady Jane Franklin (pictured above) would be delighted.

She was the person who instigated the Sir John Franklin-led search for the Northwest Passage in 1844. The authorities weren't happy when she pushed her husband's eligibility: Sir John was too fat and too old -- in his sixtieth year -- but that made no difference to her plans.

She prevailed. The Navy organized the most ambition Arctic expedition to date, outfitting the 372-ton Erebus and the 325-ton Terror, and they put Sir John in charge of it, Sir Edward Parry writing to the Admiralty, "If you don't let him go, the man will die of disappointment."

They sailed on May 19, 1845, and Sir John certainly did die, taking all hands with him.  When exactly the demise took place is hard to tell, as it took two years before anyone got worried. And, of course, it was Jane who felt the first concern -- and did something about it, starting up a lobby for a rescue mission. By March 1848 she had a huge and popular following, and not only had the Admiralty caved in, offering a huge reward, but the challenge had met an enthusiastic response.  Ships set off, and most returned, and it all involved an awful lot of money.

The most successful was one of my heroes, John Rae (a terrific book about him is Ken McGoogan's Fatal Passage), who at the end of the year 1854 arrived in London with some strange articles -- crested spoons, one of sir John's medals -- that Unuit had sold him, saying that at the same time they told him even stranger stories, about white men staggering about and starving.  The Admiralty listened, gave Rae the ten thousand pound reward, and declared Franklin dead, and the matter closed.

Jane did not believe them.  Instead, she hit the roof, and kept on lobbying.  And so the searches continued .... but it took almost exactly another 160 years before even one of the ships was found.

And now, courtesy of the Globe and Mail, we know what ship it was.  It was the flagship. The 372-ton Erebus. 

With thanks to Martin Evans.