A minor thought

We consider it “inhumane” to keep a gorilla in an indoor, concrete environment with no exposure to greenery or anything resembling its natural habitat, and yet we put ourselves in these environments all the time.

The Mind Does Not Belong in a Cubicle – Laura Smith – The Atlantic

Office, around 1710–1720; from: Julius Bernhard von Rohr image

Office, around 1710–1720; from: Julius Bernhard von Rohr

Game of Thrones Open Thread

Game of ThronesGame of Thrones! Have you read it? Have you seen it? I hear the second season premiered somewhere the other night.

So, I have questions. Did you see the TV show or read the books first? Do you think it’s better to read the books before you see the adaptation? (Also, we need to talk about The Hunger Games, but I need to finish the series first, so shhh.)

Some people believe that coming to the books from the adaptation taints the experience. Do you agree? Do you think that’s realistic? Is my reading of Game of Throne lesser for having seen the first four episodes of season one before reading the books? Is my reading of Dune coloured by playing the computer game before reading it? Or, did these adaptations lead me into books I never would have read otherwise? Can you really discover an older work without being introduced to it, anyway? (Yes, I found The Dice Man in a second hand book shop and it continues to blow my mind.)

Also, who was your favourite character in Game of Thrones? I liked Sansa, but only from the books, because her character develops, but maybe I identify too much with that princess-in-a-tower shtick. From the TV show I like Jon Snow because mmmmmm.

I declare the thread open! Answer my questions, if you like, or add thoughts of your own. Please say if you’re going to Spoiler, because some people haven’t read the books, like the ending of book four, when it turned out [character] had become a [something] and I was all: NO WAY.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – I’ll be here all Easter to respond!

The Best Books of 2011 (That I Didn’t Blog About)

Between all the books I read this year for BookieMonster, I squeezed in a few others here and there. You already know what I think of the books I’ve reviewed this year, so I thought I’d give you a run down of The Best Books of 2011 (That I Didn’t Blog About).

The Happy HookerThe Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller – I wrote an article a year or two ago about the benefits of craft. There are clear mental and physical benefits to working with your hands – it can improve your overall health in measurable ways. So, in a period of me life which is perhaps best summed up as “pretty stink”, I took up crochet. It helped a lot. While I’ve never actually made any of the projects in The Happy Hooker – not even the crocheted bikini -  it has a clear stitch dictionary and a chipper “you can do it!!!” attitude which is nice at any time.

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – I KNOW. It’s a TV show. Let me regain my internet book reviewer and general geek cards by comparing it to Dune. Have you read Dune? Of course you haven’t, no one’s read Dune. Except me. Game of Thrones is like Dune, except good. There’s that same sprawling hierarchy of families and clans and ever-shifting allegiances, struggles for territory, threats which are barely understood, and some wizards and swords and stuff. It might be better if George R. R. Martin wasn’t so intent on teaching me that everyone I love will die. Goodness, 2011′s been a real shitter of a year, huh? But that’s okay – I’m only two hundred pages into the fourth book, so I have approximately a bajillionity more pages of GoT to enjoy.

Anne's House Of DreamsAnne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery- I’ve been working through the Anne series again on and off for a couple of years now, and House of Dreams is as far as I’ve gotten. Rereading about Anne’s soul-crushing loss, and watching some of the light go out of her dancing eyes again, as an adult with a better grip on emotions, was even more devastating than the first time around. Plus, it’s the book that taught me the value of trepanning, which is priceless. Rereading is funny – you notice more and more each time.

Usually I like to reread more than I did in 2011. I like to read Dr Zhivargo in the summer – a long cold story for long hot days, and For Whom the Bells Tolls in winter. I like The Pillow Book when I’m feeling pensive, and I like my big pile of New Zealand books any other time.

What I haven’t read this year says as much as what I have read. Books aren’t just words on a page, or volumes on a shelf. They’re the stories we tell ourselves, about who we are, the things we value, and how we see our place in the world.

Here’s to 2012. I hope it’s even better – and even more bookie – than 2011 was.

Clothes Swap!

SClothes Swap - all welcomeo, in these tough times it’s not always easy to keep one’s wardrobe in tip-top shape. But your friend always has such nice things! What to do? Take her along to Clothes Swap next Sunday!

This is your Henchperson’s side project and it promises to be a lot of fun: the last one sure was!

And everyone is welcome – and there will be clothes in all sizes.

So bring your clothes and your girl friends for an afternoon of new-to-you fashion. Tea, coffee and bikkies are provided, plus enter our raffle.

Give Something – Get Something

  • You Bring $10 entry fee + 2 pieces (or more!) of clean, wearable ladies clothes, shoes, bags or accessories
  • You Get 3 chits to exchange for 3 new-to-you clothes.
  • Bring more clothes and get more clothes. Still want more? Just make a donation – it’ll still be a bargain!

You can respond to the invite on Facebook here. I expect to see you all there!

New Zealand’s Book Stores are in Trouble – What Does This Mean for You?

Borders and Whitcoulls are in trouble. Picture shamelessly borrowed from here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10707872

Borders and Whitcoulls are in trouble. Picture shamelessly borrowed from here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10707872

Two of New Zealand’s biggest booksellers are in serious trouble. The mammoth Borders and Whitcoulls chains have gone into voluntary administration. What does this mean for books in New Zealand? What does this mean for you?

First of all, voluntary administration is serious, but not necessarily a death knell. I once worked for a company which was placed into voluntary administration: we had an awful meeting where it was explained that administration meant that the company was in serious trouble and the management would be kicked out in exchange for some new people who would try and turn things around. There would be job losses, but they were hopeful that Everything Would Be Okay (I’d already seen the writing on the wall and quit my job at that point, but I think things actually turned out fine for that company). It was absolutely awful to lack job security though, and my heart goes out to the poor folks who work at the chains, not knowing whether or not they have a job to go to.

Especially since it seems the company’s problems are linked to debt, and the administrators are being paid $830 an hour.

But we still need to buy books – there was genuine concern floating around Twitter that the demise of these chains (There are 65 Whitcoulls stores and 5 Borders shops in New Zealand) would mean that books would be unavailable in Auckland.

There are great independent book stores throughout New Zealand (and no, I haven’t forgotten about that map I promised you!) which sell books for the same price or less as the big chains – in fact, price inflation seems to be the reason for some of the book seller’s woes.

Books cost money. Which they should do: they represent a lot of work, from the writing, to the editing, the printing and binding, the marketing, the distribution. But when the price is inflated, and you know you can get it cheaper elsewhere, it can be hard to justify giving all your pennies to a faceless conglomerate, rather than giving half as many pennies to a faceless conglomerate online. (Did you know you can buy books from BookieMonster, by the by? BookieMonster is a real person, too!)

Especially when your friends tell you how much cheaper books are in London: half the price or less (sez them. Go back to London then, you guys).

The answer? More independent book sellers. People that stock interesting things, and can answer you when you say vague stuff like: ‘I want to buy a book that my mum would like.’ They know their stock, they know their customers. That’s not to say that the staff at chain bookstores aren’t great: they can be. But they can also be working for close to the minimum wage and utterly uninterested in your mother’s day gift dilemma.

One last point: a lot has been made of the fact that Whitcoulls is an iconic New Zealand brand. But it’s owned by People Overseas : a lot of the profits go offshore, and it’s partly overseas business models that have got it in trouble. (I am still mad at them for the way they handled the order of my Kobo. Terrible service! Terrible! And no one in New Zealand could help me!) Choosing to buy your books at actual independent New Zealand book stores, instead of a chain which used to be Kiwi would go a long way to ensuring that good bookshops stay with us now and in the future.

So what do you think? And where do you get your books from?