Category Archive – Randomness

There And Back Again: Part Two – Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold

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Bilbo Pony

Well dear reader, I find myself at the telling of the second part of this adventure story. The first part wasn’t all that bad if you don’t mind me saying. Perfectly pleasant and very respectable. Nothing unexpected or too adventurous…well, unless you count the part about finding a gold ring. It’s not like there were dragons or anything…(ahem) I might as well continue from where I left off. I believe it was time for me to leave Hobbiton and set out on an adventure. Little did I know then just how adventurous my adventure would become.

So for the second leg of my journey I took the road less travelled so to speak.

eagel1One minute I was on the ground minding my own business and then the next I was flying. Some bloody great eagle picked me up and off we went. Can you imagine what that is like? Cold! Very incredibly cold and windy! On the ground the weather may seem one way but up in the clouds it is a completely different story. South we flew over mountains and what turned out to be an entire island. Did you know that New Zealand is made up of two island? And that the sheep outnumber the people five-to-one? Or was it eight-to-one? Whatever the odds they are not good if the sheep suddenly got it into their heads to have a wooly uprising.


So there I was being flown over hill and dale when I happened to cross paths with a company of swarthy dwarves plastered onto the side of an airplane. Startled? Yes. All that surprised? No. Only in Middle Earth could you ever hope find such a thing. At least it wasn’t the one with the dragon on it.

And if you think a decorated airplane is over the top you should see what the Middle of Middle Earth looks like. Wellington, the film and entertainment capital of the country, is were the WETA studios are located. The WETA workshop, or better known by all as the WETA Cave, is a place of magic and wonder. It reminds me of Rivdendell to be quite honest. Everything and anything you can imagine can be found there. Prop pieces and costumes from legendary films are on display. Swords, spears, bows, arrows, helmets…

rohan2I spent half a day in that wondrous place. And that was just the gift shop. I was able to gain access to the workshop itself to see first-hand how things are made movie ready. It was movie magic at its finest but for my eyes only. rohan1WETA guards its secrets as carefully as a dragon guards its gold but there were some things there that I was permitted to touch. Everywhere on every available inch of wall space, floor space and ceiling space was covered in film props. More weaponry, shields, and armor than you can shake a wizards staff at! Items from the Hobbit movies, the Chronicles of Narnia films, and even The Amazing Spiderman 2 were on display. Did you know that the armor for the Green Goblin was actually designed and 3D printed by WETA?

The things that the magic makers at WETA can and have come up with would leave you speechless. WETA is the ultimate Makerspace. Not only do they craft things painstakingly by hand, hair by hair even, they also 3D print, laser cut, digitally reproduce and construct. Sometimes actors cannot go to the workshops to be fitted for their costumes due to being on the other side of the world. That is no longer a problem because now all WETA has to do is 3D scan a person where they are in the world and use that to quite literally print them into being. Once that is done the costume can be built onto the 3D print job of the actual person.

ThorinI was not prepared for this. I went in thinking I knew everything there was to know about the Middle Earth films and how they were made only to discover that I in fact know nothing. The attention to the smallest detail imaginable is carefully crafted by skilled hands and elf-sharp eyes.

It also turns out that they have elf-sharp hearing as well. The tales that the WETA workers had to tell about what went on behind the scenes and in the workshop with the Middle Earth actors are worth the price of admission alone. I cannot repeat most of them but there is one that I can share.

boromirIt is about a certain Captain of the White Tower and just how ruggedly determined the Men of Gondor can be. Life imitating art is how the saying goes.

During the filming of the Fellowship of the Ring actor Sean Bean, who played the roll of Boromir of Gondor, opted to climb up a mountain for seven hours in full costume instead of taking a helicopter to the film location point due to his fear of heights. That is no small feat. Do you know how big the mountains in the South Island are? How high they go?

Here let me show you.

Rohan20After spending however many hours necessary to film the necessary scene, which could run anywhere from a few hours to an entire day, he would then spend another seven  hours climbing back down, still in full costume. Which had to have been heavy because Boromir wore quite a few layers and some hefty chainmail. Not to mention his large shield and sword.

That is without a doubt the most Gondorian thing I have ever heard tell.

Week of Geek: Stop talking, stop watching… and just listen…

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Hello geeklings!  How’s everything?  School almost over?  Summer coming up?  Epic plans, I’m sure.

And since summer is coming up and we can all agree it’s a season for fun and new things, I thought I’d take the opportunity to mention one of my favorite ways to absorb info and have a great time doing it… ya know, aside from the Teen Summer Reading Challenge.  Which is coming up soon.  More on that as it develops 😉

We all know I love me some podcasts (Night Vale, anyone?).  I commute, so they’re an awesome way to learn or be entertained while you’re driving.  But I’ve plopped down on my bed and listened to them there too, or while I’m working around my place.  It’s great when you can just listen to something and leave your hands and eyes free for other things.  Multi-tasking!

And you see, the idea of podcasts is not new at all.  Somewhere in between when books were easy to come by and TV was invented, there was one mode of entertainment that a wide variety of people had access to from home, and it was radio.  When radios started getting popular in the early 20th century, it became the main mode of communicating news or playing music to a wide audience.  The “Radio Drama” was basically a serialized television show without the vision part.  Actors would play parts and writers would account for the fact that audiences couldn’t see what’s happening by making the dialogue nice and descriptive, and then throwing in sound effects.

And if you tried to merge the mediums of drama and news, hoo boy, it got a little hairy.  See Orson Welles and his infamous 1938 broadcast.

Anyway, radio dramas hit their hey day in the 1940s, but when TV came along in the 50s radio dramas went by the wayside, as progress often causes forms of entertainment to do.  But they weren’t forgotten.  One of my best memories from the library where I grew up was signing out cassette tapes of the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a radio play that ran from 1939 to 1950, which for most of it’s run featured Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson.  My mom and I would listen to them, as we’re both mystery/Holmes fans.  Rathbone is still one of my favorite actors to play Holmes, which he did not only on radio but, along with Bruce’s Watson, on film too.

But, the idea of audio storytelling didn’t go away entirely.  It just evolved, and would soon emerge on the internet.  Podcasts feature all kinds of ways to tell a story, from non-fiction to fiction to mock-reality to news to music to etc.  They cover a wide variety of subjects.  You can access them from your phone, your mp3 player or straight from YouTube or a website.  You can learn about so much and/or just really be entertained.

And one of the best parts is it’s pretty much ALL FREE!  AND there are sometimes spin offs in other mediums, like this (or this), or this.

So, naturally, we have books on the subject.  If you’d like to learn more about history of podcasting there’s a great graphic novel called Out on a Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio.  And we have a couple of books on making your own podcast.  Have something to say?  A really passionate interest or opinion?  Then a podcast might be for you.  Try these two books to get started.

And did you know that our Teen Book Reviews has a podcasting option?  Give us a call, send us a msg or come in to see us to learn more.

So now that I’ve whetted your appetites, let me go over my top picks for podcasts.

Welcome to Night ValeMy true love as far as podcasts go.  I know I’ve spoken about it at length so there’s nothing more to say… other than I still listen, and it is still amazing.  Go check it out!

LoreA new-ish cast that only launched last year, Lore is already being developed into a TV series.  So what is Lore?  Well, basically it’s a history of scary stories.  Author Aaron Mahnke gives you real life frightening tales every episode and discusses how our primal fears and our myths and legends play into either influencing these events or how these events influence our fears, myths and legends.  It’s comprehensive, fascinating, freaky and wonderfully written and told.  Any fan of horror won’t want to miss this.

The Thrilling Adventure HourMy latest podcast of untoward adoration, one I first encountered when they did a crossover with Welcome to Night Vale.  A loving and hilarious skewer of old-time radio, TTAH is performed just like you would’ve done for a radio drama back in the day, but live in Hollywood in front of an audience.  It features segments and storylines like Moonshine Holler (a hobo fairytale), Jefferson Reid: Ace American (basically Captain America but way more over the top, if that’s possible, and with Nathan Fillion as Reid) and Captain Laserbeam (a superhero with kid side-kicks called the Adventurekateers).  My favorite segments are their most well-known ones; Beyond Belief (a married couple who drink too much and solve supernatural mysteries) and Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars (exactly what it sounds like, a western… but on Mars).  With politically incorrect ads and awesome guest stars, it’s a must.  And it has what could be one of my favorite theme songs ever.


SerialOnly 2 seasons in, this podcast from This American Life made a big splash when it debuted in the fall of 2014.  As they say in their openings, it’s “A Story Told Week by Week”.  The first season covered the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee, the investigation that followed, the trial and conviction of Adnan Syed, and investigates the likelihood of Syed’s guilt or innocence.  It was riveting, interesting and thorough, and had real-life implications, as Syed’s case has been reopened since.

Season 2 just wrapped in March, and focused on Sgt. Bowe Bergdhal, who in 2009, for reasons everyone is still trying to figure out, just walked off his U.S. Army post in Afghanistan.  He was kidnapped by the Taliban and held for four years before finally being rescued in a prisoner exchange and now he faces charges of desertion by the army.  Serial discusses the ramifications of his decision, Bergdhal’s history, his captivity, the climate of the US and Afghanistan at the time, what went into his release and wonders just how much blame the sergeant should shoulder.  Is he a victim?  A traitor?  Did he just make a stupid mistake?  The story is worth at least one listen, maybe more.

The Stuff You Missed In History ClassTotal history buff *points fingers at self* right here!  I’m a firm believer that history is way more interesting and awesome than what we learn in schools.  Granted, schools only have so much time and there’s A LOT out there, but thankfully there’s sources like this podcast to fill in the blanks.  From the website, Stuff You Missed In History Class covers a wide variety of topics.  Plus, the hosts are big fans of the Haunted Mansion, even dedicating a couple of their episodes to it.  How could you not be a fan?

So whether you like to knit or craft, or you have chores to do, or you have to drive for long periods of time, or you’re travelling and looking pensively out at the scenery, or have some other tedious job that doesn’t involve you already listening to something, or even if you’re hanging out outside and lounging in a chair under the sun and you’ve got your headphones on or a speaker, try putting on a podcast.  Really, it goes with so many things.

Until next time, End of Line.

Living the Dude Life (Life Lessons I Learned From My Snake)

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Let me start off by saying this: Libraries are magical places. You never know who you will meet or what you will learn when you step into one.

On that note meet Dude.

Better known as The Dude.

Full name, Edgar “The Dude” Lebowski.

Yes, he’s a Lebowski.

He is also a snake. A Pueblan Milk Snake or Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli to be more Latin specific.

He currently abides at the Pierre Berton Resource Library  but will be changing residences fairly soon. Because where I go the Dude goes. Or is it the other way around? Bup.

The Dude has been living at Pierre Berton for about three years now and during that time I couldn’t help but learn a few things from him. So I thought I’d share some of these serpentine insight with you all.

For example. Dude? He is, in fact, not a snake. Well technically speaking he is a snake, what with the lack of legs and the whole tongue thing he’s got going on, but he is not defined solely as a snake.

Dude is Dude. He is simply himself.

If there was ever such a thing as an existential snake it would be Dude. I kid you not. There are some snakes out there that when you meet one you know “That is a snake! It does not like humans! Eeek! Beware the Danger Noodle!”. But with Dude, things are different.

IMG_0010How? Well Dude has his own Dudelike personality. Honest to noodle goodness he actually does. Dude is Zen. He Is as He Does so He can Just Be. If he could speak human he’d probably sound like a combination of Jeff Bridges and T.J. Miller and spend the day spouting quotes about taking things easy. Nothing phases Dude. He’s got a life to live so that’s what he does. No time to sweat the small stuff or freak out about things he can’t control. No worries. It’sssss all good.

Now that is a philosophy that I can get behind.

One thing that I have always found fascinating is that the Dude can sense things. I am prone to uber anxiety and panic attacks that sometimes strike out of nowhere. It happened once while Dude and I were enjoying a walk-about around the library. He had wrapped himself in my scarf and was happily enjoying the view of the branch from on top of my head. One minute all was well and the next el whamo, panic attack.

Now I know what you are thinking. This can only end badly. Snake, constrictor, human neck…it is like a bad comedy sketch waiting to happen. But it didn’t. Snakes are touchy critters by nature and Dude is no exception. He probably felt that things were off but instead of tightening his coils in a death grip he slithered his way down to my shoulders to see what was the matter. Snake tongues are very ticklish and while he was busy doing what he does best I started to laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine and in no time the panic attack was a thing of the past. When things calmed down Dude slithered his way back to his usual spot around my neck and preformed his impression of an Uraeus to the delight of library patrons. All the while he gave my neck a gentle squeeze as if to say “Hey, it’ssss okay”, before going limp noodle as he does when he’s content.

I have owned a few snakes over the years but none of them have made such a big impression on living life as The Dude has. He is a slithery Zen Master who happens to sport some impressive stripes instead of Fu Manchu whiskers. So the next time you are at the library make sure to stop by his tank and say hello. Who knows, maybe he will have some ancient wisdom of the Serpents to bestow. Or maybe he’ll just be snoozing. The Dude does as the Dude does.

Stay awesome amigos.

There And Back Again: Part One – Concerning Hobbits

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Gandalf:You will have to do without pocket handkerchiefs, and a great many other things, before we reach our journey’s end, Bilbo Baggins. You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire, but home is now behind you. The world is ahead.”

As promised, I have a tale or two to tell if you’d like to hear them. There’s a fair bit of adventure in them, unexpected happenings, many meetings, incredible discoveries, some danger, and it is safe to say that I am not the same person I was when I first set out on this journey. There is so much to share, tell, and show that I best take things in parts. After all, all the good stories have parts to them. J.R.R. Tolkien proved that the moment he put pen to paper.

So to start off this tale, we will have to go to the very beginning. To a hole in the ground. Not just any hole. A hobbit hole to be exact. One with leaded glass windows and a large green circular door set deep into the side of a hill. To Bag End, where all the good adventures begin.
Shire8Hobbiton, one of the many of the Halfling townships that make up the Shire, is located in the middle of a vast rolling sheep farm far away from any signs of modern civilization. So tucked away that all you can hear is the sound of the wind racing across the lush hills and the constant bleating of fluffy white sheep as far as the eye can see. Not a single car horn, cellphone ring, overhead airplane, big boxmart, or rush of traffic.

No wonder hobbits are a content and peaceful people.

Along with those sheep, it is a working sheep farm after all, there are some of the most stunning trees you have ever seen. After all, that is what drew director Peter Jackson to film in this location in the first place. Story goes that he travelled through this part of the North Island in his younger years and never forgot it. So when it came time to bring the Shire to life this is where he decided to scout out a location. All he needed was a very special tree to be the focal point of a very special eleventy-first birthday.

Shire1This is what you see the moment you round the bend that Gandalf drove his wagon through all those years ago. The prettiest sight in all of Middle Earth. Well-groomed hobbit holes dotting the gently rolling hills in every direction. When the first location sets were built for the Lord of the Rings Trilogy they were temporary. After filming everything was dismantled and all that was left were a few hobbit hole outlines and plenty of wandering sheep. However when The Hobbit Trilogy came to pass the set builders resurrected the place and installed a permanent functioning movie set. Everything was left as it was when the filming of the Hobbit movies was finished. Well, almost everything.

Shire3Hobbiton has its own small population of workers whose sole purpose is to keep the place running. Gardens are tended to on a daily basis, flowers weeded, clothing washed and hung up on lines, fences mended, apples picked, windows cleaned, doors painted, and sheep kept as far away from the Samwise Gamgee’s gardens as possible. The smallest detail is protected and everything is kept as if the entire population of the town simply stepped out for a second and would return at any moment. Here and there smoke wafts up from tiny chimneys as if someone were keeping the hearth fire going.

shire1The sights, sounds, and smells are exactly what you think they would be. The only thing that was missing was the faint smell of pipe smoke around Bag End. Stories from behind the scenes were shared as I tarried as long as I could to see every nook and cranny. I was told that in order to be considered for a roll as a hobbit extra you had to be 5’4 and under. No exceptions. Happily I am exactly 5’4 and had I been living in New Zealand a few years back there would be been a decent chance of me being able to don the large furry feet.

Shire2The hobbit holes were actually built in two sizes. Some are very small while others are much larger. The reason for this was that when they needed to film hobbits being all hobbit-like they placed the smaller actors and extras near the larger holes and vice versa when they needed change the camera’s perspective. To get an extra dressed it would take around roughly two hours. The clothes were the easy part. The delicate fake ears and hobbit feet were another matter. Once in full costume actors would stand around on set for hours. More than hours. Majority of the day for the most part just to film a few seconds. Often times those few seconds were re-shot the next day if everything was not just right. This is the reason why every still frame in the Middle Earth movies looks like it can be a work of art. The attention to tiny details was borderline meticulously insane (in the best way possible).

Shire4The only downside about visiting this magical place is that a short time-limit was put in place for all tour groups. Instead of having Hobbiton flooded with tourists for hours on end small controlled groups were sent in at specific times in order to retain that magic movie-like effect. Great for amazing photo-shoot opportunities but lousy for die-hard fans. There is just too much to see and take in and not enough time to process it. It all became very overwhelming. Also slipping away from the group to go bawl your eyes out in a secluded corner behind some sacks of West Farthing grain took up a number of precious minutes. But once all of the paths were trod and butterflies chased there was one last place to visit.

Dragon1The Green Dragon Inn.

“You can keep your fancy ales, you can drink ’em by the flagon. But the only drink for the brave and true comes from the Green Dragon!

It is real. It is big. It is, without the tiniest hint of doubt, simply incredible. Built for the Hobbit films the Green Dragon is now kept as a fully-functioning pub that brews its own ales and cider as well as offering a wonderful selection of home cooked Hobbit fare that make your eyes pop right out of your head. Parties and big functions are held here and while I was there they were setting up for one. It took every ounce of self control I had not to jump the rope barrier and touch all of the decorations and traditional hobbit table settings. Step into the Green Dragon my friends and you are instantly transported straight into the films.

Shire11Like the hobbit holes everything is carefully preserved but in the Dragon you can touch everything. Props are cleverly hidden all through the place while a merry fire cheerily burns in a stone fireplace where the big squashy chairs are located. Sit in one and suddenly I knew how Bilbo felt after a long day of avoiding relatives and well-wishers. Overstuffed and over-sized you just sit back in and sigh. What a day! All that wandering. Good smells coming from the kitchen, the happy hum of conversation in the background, the clinking of pints, a joyful laugh here and there, the sound of the big flour mill wheel churning the pond water just a ways off…I stopped being me and suddenly became Bilbo. I didn’t want to leave this place. I was home. Speaking of home, I should return to Bag End for a nice cup of afternoon tea.

shire1Well now, what’s this? A gold ring? In my pocket? How on Earth did it get there I wonder? It is a rather nice ring. I wonder who it belongs to? Somebody is probably looking for it. I should hang onto it for safekeeping. Would be a shame to just leave it behind. Somebody might take it. Something like this is simply too precious to throw away. I should find out who it belongs to and give it back. Or maybe…maybe I should…keep it?
One ring

Week of Geek: Happy Belated Geek Pride Day!

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Ugh, geeklings, I hang my head in shame this day.  SHAME!  SHAAAAAAME!

I have the outright hubris to name my regular post Week of Geek and then I go and miss one of our most important days.  I didn’t forget last year, I was all over it last year.  But this year?  Perhaps it was because I was so dazzled by the new Beauty and the Beast trailer, but no excuses!  The day came and went and I said nothing.  NOTHING!  Bad Al, BAD!

Yes, yesterday was Geek Pride Day.  I know, I know, what the heck?!  Shame, etc.

So my bad.  I hope you had a great day yesterday, whether you knew it was Geek Pride Day or not.  I hope you have a great day today too.  If you’re looking for geeky items here, we got you covered.  I covered a lot in last year’s post (see link above), but a couple of new ones for you include The Geek Feminist RevolutionThe Geek’s Guide to Unrequited LoveGeek KnitsNerdy Nummies and The Geeky Chef.

Perhaps, one day soon, I will atone for my oversight.  Until that day, enjoy a couple of the latest trailers for awesome upcoming movies, and until next time, End of Line.