Bees http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz Books for Children Sat, 30 Aug 2014 20:30:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 200 Years of Grimm http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/200-years-of-grimm/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/200-years-of-grimm/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 20:30:33 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=4728

Everything in the tales appears to happen by chance – and this has the strange effect of making it appear that nothing happens by chance, that everything is fated. – A. S. Byatt

One of the appeals of the 200 year old tales of the Brothers’ Grimm is how random events seem connected; as A. S. Byatt says in her excellent essay (online here). They are stories of generic princesses, simpletons, brothers and sisters who meet with good or bad ‘luck’ on their quest, yet are bound by the rules of the fairy tale world – a kind of guided randomness, but usually with a happy ending. Perhaps this is the way children see the world: capricious, a little scary, but ultimately, a hopeful place.

When I was a child I loved how the Grimm’s characters met the forces of their fickle, often gruesome, world with kindness and cunning. I’d lay in bed and listen to Danny Kaye’s brilliant reading of Clever Gretel on Sunday morning radio. The illustration above is by the great Arthur Rackham (more Grimm illustrations here).

Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.– G.K. Chesterton

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A Wonder Book http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/stewy-stinker-turns-70/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/stewy-stinker-turns-70/#comments Sat, 23 Aug 2014 22:00:45 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=3511 The classic picture book Calico the Wonder Horse — The Saga of Stewy Stinker by Virgina Lee Burton was published in 1941. I adored this comic-book style cowboy adventure as a child mainly because of the bad guy. Stewy Stinker is so low he steals Christmas presents from children but in the end he repents. This picture of him crying out his rottenness always made me feel sorry for him:

The word ‘Stinker’ was censored from the book in the 1940s as it was considered inappropriate for children. Burton was one of the great illustrators and the idea for Calico from seeing her sons engrossed with comic books. The wonderful design, cartoon framing and action scenes of Calico are worthy of a modern graphic comic: the flash flood and stagecoach crash are gripping highlights. But it’s that haunting image of Stewy that will stay with me.

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Plan Bee http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/plan-bee/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/plan-bee/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 20:08:14 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=8200 HoneyBeeCoverAll royalties from my ebook about honey bees are donated to Oxfam, funding projects such as ‘Plan Bee’ which teaches beekeeping to women in Ethiopia. The Plan Bee project will enable an extra 4,400 women beekeepers to increase production by using modern beekeeping methods and equipment and thereby earn a living for their families. Read more about Plan Bee.

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Photo: Wubalem Shiferaw, beekeeper, Ethiopia (courtesy Oxfam).

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Science and Soul http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/science-and-soul/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/science-and-soul/#comments Sat, 09 Aug 2014 20:18:31 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=8177 Does the universe have a purpose or is it an accident? Scientists have divergent views on the significance of the universe. At one end of the spectrum is the iconoclast, Richard Dawkins, who sees an indifferent universe which has “precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose.” At the other end is biologist Jane Goodall who believes the universe is both purposeful and meaningful. In between there are theories ranging from a ‘conscious universe’ to a ‘self-creating universe’. Whatever their beliefs, at least there’s usually a shared sense of wonder among scientists…

…Read the rest of my essay, Science and Soul, here.

puppisPhoto: The remnants of supernova explosions, Puppis and Vela, birthplace of some of our atoms. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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Deadly Pesticide http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/deadly-pesticide/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/deadly-pesticide/#comments Sat, 02 Aug 2014 21:32:07 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=8146

The threat to nature is the same as that once posed by the notorious chemical DDT.– BBC News

A new study on ‘neonicotinoid’ pesticides says that they are a key factor in the decline of bees. The study combined 800 research papers from 20 years and concluded these nicotine-based nerve poisons are also damaging the wider environment. The pesticides are systemic – the whole plant remains toxic right through to flowering – so bees (and other critters) are poisoned by pollen, nectar, and drinking water. These pesticides are widely used in NZ and even sold in garden centres. The government has not yet responded to the new study, so meanwhile, avoid these products: Confidor, Advantage, Merit and Admire (what shameless names). And remember that there are ways to deal with pests without harming bees, including organic gardening and IPM:

It is high time we returned to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – an approach focussed on minimising pesticide use, maximising the number of biological control agents, using cultural controls such as crop rotations, and monitoring pest numbers so that chemical controls only need be applied when there is a problem.– Prof David Goulson

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Sci-Fi Classics http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/wrinkles/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/wrinkles/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 01:00:00 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=3569 I loved science fiction when I was a young teen – especially short stories about time travel, which usually had surprise endings. In Arthur C Clarke’s All the Time in the World, a man freezes time a second before a nuclear blast; in A Sound of Thunder, by Ray Bradbury, the death of an insect changes the course of history. I still have my old copy of Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun; the Corgi paperback cost me 65 cents new in 1970 (about the hourly rate for raspberry picking in my summer holidays). A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was a novel ahead of its time in 1960 (it was rejected 26 times by publishers). Its plot combines wormholes and angels and has a classic ending: a giant disembodied alien brain is defeated by love. L’Engle liked to tackle grand themes, as she said:

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.

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Electric Bees http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/electric-bees/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/electric-bees/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 07:47:28 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=8124 Honey bees and flowers have an electric relationship. A bee in flight becomes positively charged through friction with airborne particles. Fortuitously, flowers have a negative electric charge – and naturally, positive and negative attract each other. The bee (+) detects the tug of the flower charge (-) and lands on it. Immediately two things happen. Firstly, charged pollen leaps onto the bee’s body, a bit like your hair will leap onto a rubbed balloon. Secondly, the flower loses its negative charge – this tells nearby bees that this flower has just been visited. The flower has time to ‘recharge’ itself and refill its nectary. It’s a sweet friendship: bees get food (pollen, nectar) and flowers get pollinated.

LOTUS

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Tintin: a perfect level of abstraction http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/tintin-a-perfect-level-of-abstraction/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/tintin-a-perfect-level-of-abstraction/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 09:05:15 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=5142

Hergé was a master of evoking atmosphere. Think of the house of Professor Tarragon in The Seven Crystal Balls: the building of the storm, the heat leading to the burst tyre, the gust of wind as depicted by a slender tree against a slate grey sky, the sinister mummy in his cabinet, the ball lightning, Tintin’s nightmare (image below) – such a feeling of supernatural dread evoked by a confluence of natural events.

Despite the cinematic quality of Hergé’s stories, Tintin’s true home is in the comic book medium. He occupies a space at a perfect level of abstraction, real enough to evoke our world, pared back enough to activate the imagination. – Hugh Todd

Read the whole the interview with comic artist, Hugh Todd: My Dinner With Herge

 

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Sylvester and Steig http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/steig/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/steig/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 07:33:01 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=3450 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig was banned in 1969 in many states because it depicted police as pigs (even though they were kind pigs). The brilliantly absurd plot has Sylvester the young donkey trapped inside a boulder while his parents search frantically for him. It’s about a child’s fear of separation – Steig’s version of his favourite book, Pinocchio, about a boy trapped in a piece of wood. The ending is typical Steig: the child reunited with loved ones in with hugs and tears. When he was 15 years old, young William ran away to sea after an argument with his father:

When I finally got home, my mom and dad hugged and kissed me and we all cried. We were a very emotional family.

Read an essay about Steig and his books.

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Books Are Old Friends http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/why-books-will-survive/ http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/why-books-will-survive/#comments Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:43:22 +0000 http://www.raymondhuber.co.nz/?p=5695 Books are sensory objects – they have a pleasing look, a comforting smell, a grainy feeling, a reassuring weight. The best-loved ones are battered, dog-eared, coffee-stained, inscribed. You can lend a book, read it everywhere, stow it anywhere, hide treasures in it.  A book carries memories with it, locked into untold brain networks by all the experiences you had when reading it:

And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it.― Cornelia Funke (Inkheart)

A book works at my speed, comfortable and slow, faster when I want it to be, then slow again. Many of my books are old friends.– Jack Lasenby (interview here).

When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic. And for this serious task of imaginative discovery and self-discovery, there is and remains one perfect symbol: the printed book.– Julian Barnes

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