On My Reading List: October 2017

This month’s reading list consists of more interesting contemporary works than heavy literature, with a couple of heavyweights for balance.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, is a carry-over from last month. Although the story is exciting and the characters engaging the language, while lyrical, is dense, so it’s taking me a while. It’s interesting to see the treatment of Jewish characters: I suspect from his tone that Scott was progressive by the standards of his time, but I shall emphasise ‘by the standards of his time’ and leave it there.

Mrs. D is Going Within, by Lotta Dann. Dann’s first book, ‘Mrs. D is Going Without’ opened up the experience of an alcoholic going dry to me, through the eyes of New Zealander Lotta Dann, and her second book is giving me similar insight into an ‘ordinary’ Kiwi’s journey into the world of mindfulness. She’s got me interested, and I’m planning on reading more, and maybe giving it a go.


The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir, is one of the heavyweights I mentioned. The world has changed a lot since 1949, when de Beauvoir first published what became the foundational text of Second-Wave feminism, and it’s fascinating to recognise the genesis of modern ideas in her words. I’m already noticing, though, that in advocating for women de Beauvoir seems to display a certain disdain for the feminine, and a sometimes rather low view of women in general. Continue reading “On My Reading List: October 2017”

Much Ado About Joss Whedon

If you’re sitting there thinking ‘Joss who?’ you’re probably not alone, but Joss Whedon is the reason I was never able to take the Twilight series of books and movies seriously. Because Whedon is the man behind the 1990s TV hit show Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy would have kicked Edward Cullen’s arse. Don’t believe me? Someone made it happen), as well as spinoff show Angel; cult sci-fi shows Firefly and Dollhouse; and the trope-tastic horror movie The Cabin in the Woods. He’s been involved with a number of other big name movies as well, but what I didn’t know, until very recently, is that in 2012 he adapted for the screen, produced, and directed a movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Continue reading “Much Ado About Joss Whedon”

Glory, Hallelujah

What We Do In The Shadows
New Zealand mokumentary What We Do In The Shadows plays an extensive excerpt from Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ when the human Stu wins over the vampires.

It happens most often in comedy movies. The protagonist has just had an epiphany (or pseudo-epiphany), found the plot-relevant object or achieved an important goal, and their success is greeted with the sound of an angelic choir and perhaps a ray of heavenly light.

In order to really hammer home the importance of the moment (and because they are well and truly in the public domain) movie-makers often fall back on excerpts from two instantly-recognisable pieces of stock music to convey the significance of this moment.

The first is Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ . The second is the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’  from Handel’s Messiah. Continue reading “Glory, Hallelujah”

Spot the Difference: Opera and Musical

Opera Week was my first experience of opera (apart from one I went to in high school, which may or may not have been Bizet’s ‘Carmen’, and about which I can honestly remember absolutely nothing), but I’ve loved musicals since I was a teenager and have been fortunate enough to attend a number of them over the years. Opera and Musicals are two different things, but I started asking myself ‘where does that difference lie?’ Continue reading “Spot the Difference: Opera and Musical”

On My Reading List: Late Jaunary 2016

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Canterbury Tales is likely to be on my reading list for quite some time, although I have made it as far as ‘Sir Thopas’. Why does no-one ever think to mention the amount of rape, murder, and general mayhem contained within Chaucer’s stories? Continue reading “On My Reading List: Late Jaunary 2016”

What is ‘The Culture Project’?

What is culture? It’s a word that comes loaded with many different meanings. Yoghurt, sauerkraut, wine and cheese are all cultured foods, produced by introducing bacteria, fungus or yeast into a particular food in a particular way. To speak of a person’s culture is to speak of their heritage: the food, clothing, art, architecture, dance, rituals and so forth that form their past and inform their present. Continue reading “What is ‘The Culture Project’?”