Did you know…about video-game movies?

A new film based on the Tomb Raider series of games was released today. A reboot of the franchise that previously featured Angelina Jolie, it will be interesting to see how it performs both at the box office and with the critics.

You see, 2018 marks 25 years since Hollywood began tapping video games for movie plots, of which very few have been successful. That first film based on Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers series of games stared Bob Hoskins in the role of Mario and was a box office failure, costing more than $40 million to make but returning only $20 million. It was also panned by critics and today only has a 15% approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes review site.

Financially, the most successful video game film to date is Warcraft by Legendary Pictures. Adapted from Blizzard Entertainment’s Strategy and online Roleplaying game, the film failed to break even in its US release and was only saved by the Chinese market despite the online game boasting more than 100 million active accounts. Critically, the most successful video game film is Prince of Persia with a rating of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes (Warcraft recieved 28%). On average the video game films recieve a 16% approval rating on the review site.

Will the new Tomb Raider finally break this trend?

Only time will tell…

In the meantime, why not check out the history of the Tomb Raider franchise or check out the Angelina Jolie incarnation of the character. Or, if you are brave, see if you can find some other video game movies on the library catalogue

Did you know…about Chinese New Year?

Tomorrow, February the 16th will be Chinese New Year for 2018 and herald in the Year of the Dog. known as Sheng Xiao, the Chinese Zodiak is based on a twelve year cycle, with each year of the cycle represented by an animal and is calaculated based on the Chinese lunar calendar.

The twelve animals are (in order of the calendar) the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

Why these animals, you may ask?

As the calendar dates back to the Han Dynasty (and possibly earlier) the truth may have been lost, but there are several legends.

One ancient tale tells the story of the great race. The Jade Emperor (the head of the Chinese pantheon of gods) had called a meeting of the animals and had decreed that the years of the zodiac would be named according to the order in which the animals arrived. To reach the emperor, all of the animals would have to cross a wide river. Now, the Rat and the Cat were not very good swimmers, so they asked the Ox if they could ride on his back. The Ox (who was very kind) agreed to carry them, but half way across the river, the Rat pushed the Cat in! He then jumped of the Ox and ran to the emperor’s side, becoming the first animal of the Zodiac. It is said that this is the reason Cats hate Rats.

Conversely, a Buddhist story tells of the Buddha summoning all of the animals of the earth to come before him before he departed, but only twelve came to bid him farewell. As a reward, the Buddha named the years for these twelve.

Would you like to know more about Chinese New Year? Why not check out some of the library resources on the subject? Or, if you have pre-school aged children, why not come to a special Storytime in the library tomorrow at 10:15am?

 

Did you know…what to do with your Christmas leftovers?

If you are anything like me, you will no doubt have over-catered for Christmas. I actually believe that if you haven’t over catered, you are not catering properly! But after everyone has eaten their fill, what do you do with all those leftovers?

Here is one idea:

Christmas Leftover Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 heaped of thyme leaves
  • 200g of leftover turkey (shredded)
  • 200g of leftover ham (diced)
  • 300g Arborio rice
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan (or any cheese you may have)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of cream cheese (optional)
  • Olive oil

Method

Heat the stock.

Chop up the leak, onion and garlic.

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the leak, onion, garlic and thyme.

Once the leak and onion starts to turn transparent, add the white wine and bring to the boil before adding the rice and meat.

Reduce the heat and begin to ladle in the stock, stirring continuously. Cook for about 20 minutes, continuing to add stock as it is absorbed. It is important to keep the dish ‘wet’.

Once the rice is soft and the butter and cheese and stir through.

Serve immediately with some crusty bread.

Delicious!

Did you know…about Passchendaele?

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle…
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
      Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells…
This paraphrasing of the opening stanza of Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen sums up the tragedy that was the battle of Passchendaele.
ChateauwoodFought in Belgium, the goal of the campaign was to gain control of the ridges south and east of the city of Ypres, putting the Allies  within striking distance of the vital rail junction at Roulers.
Also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, the campaign began on the 31st July, 1917, making  Monday this week its centenary. The battle saw approximately fifty Divisions from Britain and her Empire, support by a further six French Divisions engage more than eighty German Divisions and lasted until mid-November 1917 with the capture of the village of Passchendaele before being called off, having failed to produce the breakthrough desired.
Both sides suffered huge casualties for very little gain. Though there are conflicting reports on the final casualty figures, the minimum figure given is in excess of half a million with the higher estimates approaching 900 000 killed and wounded for an advance of less than 10km.
Along with the Somme and Verdun, Passchendaele has become synonymous with the ‘blood and mud’ misery of the First World War.
Want to know more? Check out the books on the Passchendaele Campaign or other accounts of the First World War.

Did you know….about Harry Potter

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverWell…who doesn’t know about Harry Potter, right?

Seriously though, did you know that Monday June 26th 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? That’s right, the series about the boy wizard is turning 20!

The book was author JK Rowling’s debut novel and was far from an overnight success. Indeed, Rowling began writing the novel in 1990 while riding on a train. According to an interview the author gave in 2009, the idea just hit her of a boy riding a train to wizard school. The death of her mother influenced much of the writing process.

The book was not well received by publishers and agents who felt that it was too long for a children’s book. That is, until Barry Cunningham of Bloomsbury recommended the publishers accept the book based on the recommendation of his eight-year-old daughter.

With seven books, eight films, a stage play and now a spin-off series of films, the rest, as they say, is history.

The library will be holding events from 10:00-1:00 this Saturday to celebrate the occasion so why not come along or maybe re-read the books, play or films.

BTW – Did you know that the books are actually set in the early-to-mid 1990s? You can work this out from information provided by Gryffindor ghost Nearly Headless Nick. In the Harry Potter and the Chamber of  Secrets, he celebrates his 500th ‘Death Day’ which occurred on October 31st, 1492, meaning that book takes place during 1992-1993!

Did you know…about the Easter Eggs and the Easter Bunny?

Everyone knows the Easter Bunny, right?

Cute little fuzz-ball that delivers chocolate eggs on Easter…but…rabbits don’t lay eggs! Where, then, did this idea come from?

It would appear that the tradition comes from Germany, with one of the earliest references to the Easter Bunny turning up in a mid-late 16th century text. Another text from the late 17th century entitled ‘About Easter Eggs’ by Georg Franck von Franckenau makes reference to the German tradition of a Hare or Rabbit bringing eggs for children.

The eggs themselves tie into the tradition of the fast of Lent, during which ‘rich’ foods such as butter, sugar and eggs are forbidden (see Did You Know…About Pancake Day for more). As part of the tradition people would decorate eggs (usually by boiling them with flowers to change the colour which was typically red, representing the blood of Christ) and give them as gifts.

But how does one link a rabbit and eggs?

In ancient times it was believed (by the likes of Pliny the Elder and Plutarch, among others) that rabbits and hares were actually sexless and reproduced by laying eggs! This sexless reproduction was linked to the Virgin Mary by the early church with rabbits and hares appearing in paintings with Mary and the Christ Child.

So there you have it!

Why not checkout some more Easter Traditions, or pick up some cute Easter Bunny stories to read to the kids?

Did you know about…the Battle of Jutland?

I love battleships!

Did you know that this week marks the centenary of the Battle of Jutland? Involving over 250 warships, Jutland was the largest naval battle of the First World War, and one of the largest sea battles in history.

The battle was the culmination of an almost 20-year naval arms race between Britain and Germany. In the late 19th Century, German naval commander Admiral Alfred Von Tirpitz (with the support of Kaiser Wilhelm II) began to increase the size of the German High Seas fleet. This build up was seen as a serious threat by the Royal Navy, who maintained a fleet as large as the next two largest battle fleets (the ‘two-power’ standard).

HMS Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought

In order to meet the German challenge, the British increased battleship production, culminating in the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1905. A technological revolution, Dreadnought was larger and faster than any other battleship afloat and had two-and-a-half times the firepower, mounting a total of ten 12-inch guns to the average of four ‘big guns’ on preceding battleships. Dreadnought was followed by HMS Invincible, the world’s first battlecruiser (battleship-size hull and armament, with cruiser speed and protection) in 1908. Germany responded by building her own ‘dreadnought battleships’ and battlecruisers, beginning with the launch of the Nassau and Von Der Tann launched in 1908 and 1909 respectively.

By the outbreak of the war, Britain could boast a fleet of 29 dreadnoughts to the 17 German vessels.

It was expected that these two powerful fleets would immediately engage one another in a pitched battle that (in the words of Churchill) could decide the outcome of the war in a single afternoon. Instead, the two great fleets sat at anchor, with the British Grand Fleet conducting a long range blockade of the North Sea with skirmishes being fought between small groups of vessels.

Knowing that they could not fight the Grand Fleet head on, the Germans drew up a plan to draw out a small portion of the British Fleet (such as the battlecruiser force) by using its own battlecruisers as bait to lure them into the guns of the entire High Seas Fleet.

The German battlecruisers, under the command of Admiral Hipper set out at approximately 01:00 hours on the 31st May 1916, 90 minutes ahead of the main German Fleet (16 battleships; 5 battlecruisers; 6 pre-dreadnoughts; 11 light cruisers; 61 torpedo boats)  under the command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer. Unfortunately, the British had cracked the German codes and the entire Grand Fleet (28 battleships; 9 battlecruisers; 8 armoured cruisers; 26 light cruisers; 78 destroyers; 1 minelayer; 1 seaplane carrier), commanded by Admiral John Jellico, had already departed their harbour at Scapa Flow two and a half hours earlier with his battlecruisers (under Admiral David Beatty) acting as advance scouts.

The opposing battlecruisers sighted one another at approximately 15:22 and opened

HMS Invincible explodes

HMS Invincible explodes

fire about 25 minutes later. Though the British would lose both the HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, they successfully lured the Germans north into the waiting guns of the Grand Fleet. The battle raged through the night, with the German’s performing two ‘battle turn-away’ manoeuvres before finally breaking contact and escaping.

The badly damaged German battlecruiser Seydlitz

The badly damaged German battlecruiser Seydlitz

Far from the decisive action that both sides had expected, the battle was as much of a stalemate as the trench warfare on the western front. Both sides would claim victory in the battle, with the German’s achieving a ‘tactical win’, sinking three battlecruisers, three cruisers, and eight torpedo boats and destroyers, almost twice their own losses (one battlecruiser, one pre-dreadnought battleship, four light cruisers and five destroyers). The Royal Navy however, could weather these losses thanks to its fare greater size, and more importantly, retained strategic control of the sea for the remainder of the war.

Why not read more about the ships that fought in the battle or check out some documentaries on naval combat.