Friday, October 31, 2014

Retro caravans : vantastic Kiwi collections by Don Jessen [Claire - Central Library]

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Don Jessen knows a thing or two about caravans. His dad started the business Liteweight Caravans in 1946 and Don worked for him for 23 years until it finally closed in 1990.
Eight years ago he spotted a dilapidated Liteweight in a field. He bought it and restored it. His passion for vintage caravans was rekindled.

The interest in retro caravans is not just a kiwi thing but a world wide phenomenon. Some don’t even get to travel after they’ve been renovated but are used instead as backyard sleepouts, studios ,offices etc. It’s a great way of gaining an extra room.

Over three years the author has chased down caravans and their owners and put together this wonderful collection of photos and stories.

This is a book that will bring back memories of summer holidays for many baby-boomers. (If only we’d hung on to that old caravan!)

Some of the original finds are shown before and after their makeovers. The transformations are amazing. The interior restorations are immaculate. Some have been restored to their original vintage specifications  while others have used their imaginations and created their own retro feel.

Some owners have even painted the caravan’s exterior to match their retro cars. Wow! Now that I’ve seen all the variations I can only say one thing ….. “I want one!”

Title: Retro caravans : vantastic Kiwi collections
Author: Don Jessen
Publisher: Auckland, New Zealand: David Bateman Ltd, 2014
ISBN: 9781869538705


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Soviet Ghosts by Rebecca Litchfeild [Nick - Central Library]

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The post-apocalyptic landscape photographs collected in Rebecca Litchfield’s book Soviet Ghosts, constitute a hauntingly beautiful ode to death and decay, and arouse in me a voyeuristic fascination. Here, desolated and disintegrating buildings, their interiors wreathed in pealing plaster, function as “galleries of cultural memory, exhibiting the social detritus of a recent civilization”.

The unnatural absence of people amidst the abundant evidence of their once industrious activity and everyday lives conjures an eerie silence, a vacuum, while the accompanying essays wax lyrical; "The lack of life, the presence of absence in this body of work, creeps across every page" and "It is the recognition of emptiness in these spaces that adds to their power. The more one turns the pages, the more the desolation becomes shockingly apparent, a lack of life that laments the exodus of the living". 

These ruins resonate with a melancholic nostalgia, with poetic sentiment that harks for a turn of phrase; In the gathering dust a child’s doll wrests, here a hat perches on the edge of a chair, and broken windows gaze somnolently out on wild urban prairies, on burgeoning forests that crowd in against mans intrusion, everywhere the sublime in nature, and everywhere the entropic passage of time casts its pall in wonderfully textured patterns of corrosion and colour.

The text elucidates expertly on the underlying aesthetic theory "Many of the photographs are what in German would be described as unheimlich, a term derived from Freud’s musing upon aesthetics and translated loosely as ‘uncanny’. It describes a feeling of unease in a familiar setting, or might also suggest a hidden secret that is not known. Far from being just documentary in form, the unheimlich in the aesthetic of decay breathes life into the inanimate, an existence not measured in its lifetime but recognised through its decomposition in death. For it is here and now that it finds its true significance, where the mundane becomes an object of beauty."

For me, the photographs evoke a contemplative intimation of the void, what Daniel Pinchbeck describes as, "that vast garbage heap of all that is unknown and forgotten — that empty maw into which all celebrated enterprises eventually follow". Everywhere the fragility and fleetingness of human existence is made visible, while offering an unsettling presentiment about the ideological master narratives that animate our own lives, the closeness is almost suffocating, post-society, post-human, post-life.  In this context Susan Sontag’s famous commentary on photography offers a grave literality "Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to times relentless melt".

 

Title: Soviet Ghosts

Author:  Rebecca Litchfield; written by Tristi Brownett, Neill Cockwill, Owen Evans.
Publisher: Great Britain, Carpet Bombing Culture 2014 
ISBN 9781908211163


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fashion Knitwear by Jenny Udale [Louise - Central Library]

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There’s something about the word ‘knitwear’ that makes me feel itchy, and it is not helped by the knitted cocoon wedding dress (yes, it is exactly as it sounds) by Yves Saint Laurent (1965) which features in the introduction to this book. But don’t let that kooky knit put you off: it just serves to highlight how far knitwear has come since the invention of Christmas jumpers and scratchy skivvies. Knitwear today is where ancient craft meets modern technology.

This book gives you a real sense of the possibilities for knitwear, whether it’s sculptural or slouchy, casual or conceptual: some of the world’s most interesting and talented fashion designers are creating garments with knitting needles, knitting machines, macramé and crochet.

Daniel Palillo from Finland does cartoony, roomy sweatshirt dresses in jersey and might just be the first designer to make high fashion onesies. Julien MacDonald, who once worked with Alexander McQueen, does intricate, lacy and sexy knitwear (yes! sexy knitwear! it’s a thing!) Tilda Swinton in a cashmere and silk top by Scottish brand Pringle is a practically perfect combo. And a book about knitwear wouldn’t be complete without Italian fashion house Missoni’s distinctive wavy patterns for artful clashing in body-conscious shapes.

This book’s beautiful soft photography gives you such a real sense of texture you may find yourself stroking the pages. (No? Just me? Ok then.)

Whether you’re a knitter yourself, a follower of fashion, or you just like looking at lovely books about clothes: get your cat to make you a Milo and curl up with this book. It’ll keep you cosy even if the jumper you’re wearing is 100% acrylic.

Title: Fashion Knitwear

Author: Jenny Udale

Publisher: London : Laurence King Publishing, 2014

ISBN: 9781780673431

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Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen [Annie, Helensville Library]

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Captain Hook – nefarious pirate and comic villain. That’s the man we grew up with thanks to Barrie’s Peter Pan – or, more likely, the Disney version. In Lisa Jensen’s reimagined Neverland, we meet James Benjamin Hookbridge, an embittered man who became more than lost but, like Pan’s Lost Boys, has not grown up. Trapped in Neverland for centuries, Hook has railed against his fate and watched his men die at the hands of Pan and the Boys, something he cannot do. For the first time, a grown woman has appeared in Neverland – much against Peter Pan’s wishes. This may be Hook’s chance to leave.

Retaining the charm of the original, this tale is wonderfully lush and magical – in only the way a true quest / love story can be. With sexual content and violence, this is not a Peter Pan tale for children.

Title: Alias Hook.
Author: Lisa Jensen.
ISBN: 9781907777875.
Published: 2013.
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books / St Martin's Press.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

The reluctant fundamentalist (DVD ) [Suneeta, Highland Park Library]

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The film The reluctant fundamentalist is an adaptation of the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid. That the film was directed by U.S. based Indian director Mira Nair (The namesake, Salaam Bombay), was a definite attraction and it delivered most of what I expected – a visual treat and food for thought.

There are two strands to the story in which Changez, the young, westernised, upper-class, Princeton educated Pakistani is at the centre of both. In the present we see him as a professor in his native Lahore, telling his story to an American journalist. As they sit in the tense atmosphere of a café, the journo’s task is to find out whether Changez is involved in the abduction of an American professor visiting a local university.  

Interwoven into this narrative is the story of a younger Changez, the economic analyst specialising in corporate downsizing, living the capitalist dream in New York and very much in love with an American artist. Then the Twin Towers are attacked and the subsequent cultural divide that cracks the city, changes him.  As people of his colour and background come to be mistrusted, he reconsiders his loyalties and while his brand of “fundamentalism” appears rather vague, he reassesses his life choices and goes back to Pakistan.

Though the film has received some criticism for its lack of clarity, length and somewhat loose labelling as a thriller, there is much to enjoy in the performances by Riz Ahmed and the supporting cast, in this story of race, fear and inner conflict of a man forced to choose between two worlds.

Director: Mira Nair
Producer: Lydia Dean Pilcher
Year: 2013
Distributed by: Vendetta
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