Welcome to GMR

If you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the weekly edition which is up every Sunday morning and which alternates with a Story every Wednesday morning.

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,   Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks… Well you get the idea.

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his sort of Library Apprentices.  And you’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in the New Library.

So if you’ve got something you’d like reviewed, whatever it might be, email me here as you never know what’ll tickle our fancy.

PS: you’ll also get to hear some choice music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

PSS: If you look to the far left of the standing menu, you’ll see Words. That’s where you can find the various pieces of fiction that authors have given us exclusive permission to reprint here. Some are excerpts such as from Charles de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart whigh is reviewed here or Deborah Grabien’s The Weaver and The Factory Maid with the review thisaway.

Other are full stories such as Solstice by Jennifer Stevenson, or poems such as ‘The Sturgeon’s Wife’ by Catherynne Valente. Some exist too as audio readings by authors of their work as you’ll note by the link at the bottom of the fiction piece where they exist. There’s quite pieces up now and more will follow. 

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on Welcome to GMR

A Kinrowan Estate story: Twa Corbies

Oh, come on in and join us. Mackenzie and I were admiring the repair job our resident bookseller and binder did on one of the older Estate journals as I had need of the information on the proper apples for making a good cyder that is in it. Yes, that’s an illustration of a raven sitting in the rafters in the Pub. Good one, ain’t it? And indeed the gentleman talking to the raven looks all too familiar.

We’ve had written records ‘ere of ravens, hooded rooks, and other corvids around the Estate offices as long as this ancient pile of stone, wood, and brick has been standing. No doubt in me mind they were here soon after the first highwayman was hanged here so many centuries ago. Yes indeed, from the kind of make-shift gallows all too commonly found in the oaks that are still in our courtyard. That the ravens were feasting on the corpses is quite certain.

Certainly there’s no doubt that they were making their raucous sounds when the very first Jack was here: or so he claims, in the Archives as told there by someone who calls himself simply The Old Man. As The Old Man in the journal entries tells it, Jack escaped the sure grasp of Death Herself and Her Ravens. (Never mind the poor bugger whom that same Jack tricked into taking into taking his place on the gallows! I never said the Jacks were nice fellows, did I?)

What’s changed since those times is that somehow the ravens came to be inside the building instead of outside. But then, the pickings in the oak trees have dwindled to acorns in these modern times, and a raven’s got to eat, don’t he? They don’t seem to mind the pub lunches here. After all, they’re birds of wisdom!

As The Old Man tells it, he himself brought the first pair of ravens with him when he decided this was a more than adequate place to sit out the harsh Winter. Some of the musicians here thought he had stolen them from The Tower and that Albion Itself was now in dire threat. After a few tense days, he convinced them that these ravens were Nordic in origin and Albion was in no danger. At least not from him. Or at least not right now. Or at least it was no one’s business while the snow flew and he wanted a quiet drink. Convincing old gent, and the ravens themselves staring from his shoulders didn’t hurt the argument none.

Big bloody birds they were too! Have you heard a storyteller tell the story of Odin and His Ravens? How they sit on his shoulders cawing something into his ears? How they know everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen? These birds, according to an entry by our Librarian of the time, could well have been them. It sure as ‘ell spooked the bleedin’ fiddlers from the Shetland Islands, who knew both the tunes and stories of their Nordic ancestors. I certainly ‘ave found them spooky enough late at night as they gaze down at you from the rafters overhead … it’s right unnerving to stare into a raven’s eyes. You can’t help wondering why they’re staring at yours, like.

Though someone who looks like The Old Man has been ‘ere off and on down the centuries (and no, I do not know it’s the same gentlemen), the ravens are always here. One pair, watching us, and occasionally stealing food and other things as they see fit. Who’s to tell them they can’t? Not me!

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Twa Corbies

What’s New for 14th of July: Writings Based on Music, A New Mythology, Japanese Photography, Cider, Supervillains, Nordic Music from the Midwest, Aaron Copland, and other goodies

Whenever one does extraordinary things, someone is bound to try to repeat them for themselves. It’s the way of the world. ― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale: In The Night Garden

I’m listening to The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark, a supernatural mystery set in an alternate early twentieth century Cairo where the djinn are very much real. It’s a novella and it’ll take but a few hours to finish, perfect as I’ve the Library to myself on this fine summer day as I put the final touches on this Edition as nearly everyone not working elsewhere on the Estate is outside enjoying themselves.

I’ve been enjoying a light meal of iced chai, Indonesian spiced cold noodles with diced veggies and cheese. It made for a yummy summer feast on this hot summer day. After that I’m  turning to my iPad where I’ve got WordPress loaded with this Edition ready for the reviews up in draft ready to be edited and blurbed. H’h, I see placeholders for a number of Folkmanis puppet reviews for future editions, and is that, yes, damn it is. So let’s see what I’m using this Edition…

Chuck has a book for you that’s very popular to take out from the Library here at Kinrowan Estate: ‘Ciaran Carson is an Irish poet and musician, who has, in Last Night’s Fun, put together a series of writings, each inspired by a traditional tune. In most cases, these are short essays. For others, he has written poetry or put together sets of quotations. Occasionally the subjects in consecutive chapters are directly related, but that is most likely happenstance.’

Gary has a truly epic novel for us: ‘The world is groping for a new mythology, one that makes sense in a world that has seen nuclear devastation and sent humans to the moon; a world that encompasses both communications satellites and children starving to death in the midst of plenty. Perhaps the new mythology will be found in the multiple collisions of cultures, histories, arts and religions; maybe it will be birthed through the agency of pop culture, which has supplanted classical music and art. Or so Salman Rushdie seems to be saying in his sprawling, entertaining and challenging novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.’

Robert brings us something out of the ordinary, an anthology of the work of Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe: ‘“Take art as your weapon and use it to destroy the present and create the future.” This was the motto of a group of artists in post-War Japan who called themselves the Democrats, working in various mediums and allied in their search for new subject matter and new approaches as artists in the new Japan.’

Denise decided to go all-in with the post-Solstice season and dive into a can of Wyndridge Farm’s Crafty Cider. ‘I had my first sip right out of the can, then poured it into a glass and tried it, and then plopped an ice cube in because I am an animal.’ What’d she think? Only one way to find out…

She then decided to munch on some Noble Jerky. The Chipotle flavor got a thumbs up from our friendly neighborhood Hufflepuff: ‘…this jerky just may fool your more carnivorous friends.’ If you’re still trying to wrap your head around plant-based jerky, best to head over to read what Denise has to say. Better than waiting in line for an Impossible Burger.

Robert was fairly enthusiastic about a Spider-Man ‘reboot’: ‘So I had this coupon from Best Buy that allowed me to pick up a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man for half price. Another one of those films I’d heard of but didn’t really know much about, except that 1) it’s about Spider-Man, a character who has started to intrigue me, and 2) superhero.’

A superhero (supervillain?) series that’s well worth the time: Robert starts it off with a look as two collections of Gail Simone’s Secret Six: ‘Gail Simone, with her crew of D-list villains turned super-sort-of-heroes, has hit on a winning series — she’s turning out some of the best multi-layered, post-Dark Knight adventure stories going, with enough plot twists and quirky — and sometimes downright twisted — psychology to keep anyone happy.’

And Robert did go back to the beginning of this series, with a look at Secret Six: Villains United: ‘I mentioned at the end of my review of two of Gail Simone’s Secret Six collections that I was “going to lay hands on a copy of Villains United — I want the back story on this bunch.” Well, I did it.’

Mister Kitty, errr, Cat looks at Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part.  Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’

Cat also looks at Live from Here, the show formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Chris Thile: ‘Having sort of followed A Prairie Home Companion and the dreadful and frankly disgusting behaviour of Garrison Keillor, the very long time host and creator of APHC  before Chris Thile, Americana musician par excellence, took over. I listened to him in the early months of his hosting but it didn’t impress me as it felt too much that Kellior was haunting it from offstage.’ Now go read his review to see why he’ll be listening to this show!

Some composers invoke Summer for me and Aaron Copland is one of them, so let’s look at what Gary has to say about A Copland Celebration: ‘To mark what would have been Aaron Copland’s 100th birthday in 2000, Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’

Jennifer looks at a recording from a member of De Dannan: ‘Fierce Traditional is the long anticipated new solo album from Frankie Gavin, and it sees him paring the sound right down, getting back to the essence of the music. With the usual stalwart suspects in the studio, long term partner Alec Finn, piano/banjo extraordinaire Brian McGrath and brother Sean Gavin, this album is all about the tunes, pure and simple.

For our What Not this week, Robert pulls a review out of the past and puts it on his hand. What? you say. Well, just take a look: ‘Well, I finally got my first Folkmanis puppet to review, and appropriately enough, it’s the Little Hedgehog — and let me tell you, he’s a real charmer.’ So pop on over to get the details on Folkmanis’ Little Hedgehog.

So what fits a sunny day when no one wants to anything more strenuous than gossiping, drinking a fine ale,  eating whatever is offered up to them, and telling stories? Let’s see what I can find in our sound and video archives that might be suitable…

So about a Story? ‘The Girl in the Garden’ is from the Sirens album by S.J. Tucker and it’s her telling of the girl at the centre of the Story being told by Catherynne Valente in The Orphan’s Tale which is is told in the the rest volumes of In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice. These are not the male dominated stories of olden fantasy but much more balanced in their telling.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for 14th of July: Writings Based on Music, A New Mythology, Japanese Photography, Cider, Supervillains, Nordic Music from the Midwest, Aaron Copland, and other goodies

What’s New for the 7th of July: A Magical Family, Historical SF, Chocolate, The Cat In the Hat, Music, Traditional and Not, and other neat stuff

“Look,” said Janet, irritated, “if the thing you liked best to do in the world was read, and somebody offered to pay you room and board and give you a liberal arts degree if you would just read for four years, wouldn’t you do it?” ― Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin

It’s been raining quite nastily over all of Britain for nearly a week now so everyone who doesn’t need to venture outside has avoided doing so. Indeed it’s been cold enough that we’ve turned the heating system back on in Kinrowan Hall and even been keeping the fireplaces in the Pub and elsewhere banked nicely. Some folks are antsy but most are taking it as a welcome break as they know the rest of this warm weather season will be busy enough.

Oh those hand pies in the warming tray on the Pub bar? In our hearts, we all want to hear those three little words: ‘pie for breakfast’. Well hand pies, anyways. Mrs. Ware and our ever-so-skilled Kitchen staff are keenly aware that a working Estate doesn’t mean staff can always take the time out of their busy schedules to sit down and eat a meal, hence breakfast hand pies. Ham, egg and cheddar; apple and yet more cheddar; sausage, egg and cheese — something to please any hearty appetite, no matter what time of day. So she prepared those for the Pub staff to munch on all day long.

This edition has some interesting things for your to consider reading or listening to, or, well, you’ll find out. Might even me something worth drinking…

Our Publisher Cat says that Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of  Graceis a perfect introduction to de Lint, as it doesn’t requite you to have read anything by him at all, but gives you a good feel for what he is like as a writer, as it has well-crafted characters, believable settings, and a story that will hold your interest. And it is a novel that you will read again to get some of the nuances that get missed in the first reading.’

Krestrell looks at a something very special, the stories of a family imbued with magic: ‘Aiken wrote the Armitage family stories over the entire span of her career, but The Serial Garden, published by Big Mouth House (Small Beer Press’s new imprint for readers of all ages), is the first time all the stories have been collected into one volume. There are twenty-four stories, including four stories never published before. ’

Mia looks at another Charles de Lint novel: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’

Warner says ’The Violent Century is a historical sci fi novel by Israeli author Lavie Tidhar. Featuring a wide array of preexisting kudos from the likes of Charles Stross and James Ellroy, this is a volume that will make a reader take note. That said, it is a near-superhero tale, which will make some readers raise an eyebrow, and the overall storytelling is in a style not often used, which might help or harm it depending upon a reader’s tastes.’

Die-hard dark chocolate lover Denise tries Marabou’s Schweizer Nöt milk chocolate, and enjoyed it. Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria! ‘This chocolate is flavorful and packs a lot of enjoyment in each wee square.’ Next thing you know, she’ll be praising white chocolate…well, perhaps not. But read her review of this bar to see why she’s making an exception to her usual nosh!

Denise also dives into a packet of Lakritsfabriken Swedish Premium Sweet Liquorice, and these little tidbits won her over. (No surprise there; she’s our resident black licorice ‘expert’…) ‘Tiny bits of heaven is what this is.’ Her review lays out why she’s a fan, so check it out.


Rebecca mildly laments in this review from some years past that ‘I actually promised this review to Maria and Grey for last week, you know. Oh, don’t look at me like that. I did have it in on time… sort of. You see, when I volunteered to review the movie The Cat in the Hat, I realized that I didn’t actually have a copy of the book. Oh, horrors! Well, thought I, this is a perfect excuse to pick it up, and to pick up Cattus Petasatus as well. So I hopped on to Amazon and ordered them up. Unfortunately, Finagle’s Law holds sway here at the Green Man offices as much as anywhere else in the Universe, and the rush-delivery package took an extra three days to arrive. By the time it got here, I had already shrugged and turned in an actually rather pleased review of the movie. However, when I finally read the book, I threw my hands up in the air, cursed in Latin for several minutes (Mater glis erat et olens sabucis pater! Foetorem extremae latrinae!), and ran for Mia, to ask her if I could possibly have that review back, thanks very much…’

Gary was delighted with this feast of music: ‘What started as a three-day music and art festival in the farmlands of upstate New York in July 1969 became one of the touchstones of a generation and an era. This 25th Anniversary “director’s cut” edition of the movie that documented the phenomenon that was Woodstock captures the event in all its sprawling chaos and unlikelihood.’

Lars looks at a recording from the Kathryn Tickell Band: ‘Air Dancing is an album full of great playing, both from the individuals and from the group as a whole. Its well produced, while at the same time the music on it has kept it freshness and shows a little roughness in its attitude. There is a nice balance between the traditional way of playing and a more modern approach to the music. It is firmly rooted in tradition, the way that tradition was portrayed on the very early Tickell albums from the 1980s, but it does not stay entirely within that tradition, but takes it further and widens the possibilities.’

Robert takes a look at what many have called Capercaillie’s ‘crossover’ album: ‘To the Moon was my first exposure to Capercaillie, so of course, it was what’s generally considered their ‘crossover’ album. This is by no means a negative, or even something that’s very obvious: it’s more apparent in the rhythm patterns, the instrumentation (sorry, but no one is going to persuade me that the bouzouki is a traditional Scottish instrument), and the general treatment.’

Robert then takes a turn to territory outside our usual haunts with an unabashedly New Age offering: ‘If you’re going to tackle romance in art — any art, but especially, I think, music — you have to be good at it, or else you wind up with something fit only for hormonal teenagers. Cusco is good at it, and in Apurimac II they are not only good, they are spectacular. A German group who draw on the Inca pan-pipes for their basic sound, they have, according to the CD label, “returned to Ancient America.”‘

Jen’s doing research for a new spy novel series by watching tons of spy-lite movies. This week is the estrogen version as she reports on Ocean’s 8, Spy, and The Spy Who Dumped Me. Drop by and comment if you know any great funny spy movies she may have missed!

So what shall we listen to on this rainy day? Let’s see what the Infinite Jukebox has to offer… Oh that’s nice, it’s ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ by Skerryvore from the Shetland Folk Festival in 2013. And yes I’ve used this music before but it’s worth hearing again as it’s quite delightful indeed.

Posted in Commentary, Uncategorized | Comments Off on What’s New for the 7th of July: A Magical Family, Historical SF, Chocolate, The Cat In the Hat, Music, Traditional and Not, and other neat stuff

A Travels Abroad story: A Theatre Company

Overheard in the Green Room one night…

There, my friend. I am not good company tonight, but if you can stand the long face, I’ll buy the rounds, all right? Here, Reynard — a pint for this compassionate one, the poor bastard…

No, sure it will be all right. Surely. It is just that…you know they say that the world is a stage, yes? Vesti la giubba, vesti la giubba! The sad fruit of hate, the agonies of grief, the cries of rage, the bitter laughter. We breathe the air of this lonely world along with everyone else, and we hold up a mirror — but which is the reflection?

The stage and the world. As Signor Shakespeare said — are they not the same thing? We think, no! they are not, surely they cannot be . . . yet disaster strikes in a mockery of our mockeries, like mirrors reflecting mirrors over and over again, until you cannot tell where life starts and then art continues on, or perhaps it’s the other way around. Which is art? Which is life? Reynard, give me another? No, it’s all right, you know I can hold my drink, I’ve been drinking since before you were whelped! Another for you, my friend?

Ah, don’t look so worried, you. Surely it will be all right. Our company…we follow the grand tradition, the great art, yes . . . we are one of the few companies left of the Commedia dell’Arte, we are! Each performance different, the story the same, but everything fresh, each night new . . . We each have our roles, our specialty, each of us has studied long and hard.

Yes, I am Arlecchino, sometimes I am Truffeldino. Someday when I am a bit older I will master Pedrolino as well, or perhaps he will master me — but Arlecchino, he is my favorite and always has been. Troublemaker, servant, go-between, clever boots . . . that’s me! Your servant, my master!

Ah, my master. Well, he is our director, he is a great clown, a subtle actor, a genius of improvisation! And a good businessman as well; he owns our company. Ah, my friend, I am worried. We came to this great city, was it years ago now? Surely not . . . but now, they shout for us as the kings and queens of the stage!

Tragedy and comedy, both the mirror image of the other… He has a terrible temper, but he is honest, my master is, you can trust him.

She is beautiful, you know, my master’s wife. She is much admired. Much admired. She is sometimes my Columbina, sometimes she is Isabella. She is very clever as Columbina, her improvisations are very good.

Look at the time. I will have to be at the theatre soon. Reynard, one last one for the night. Perhaps just a bit of that whiskey. A sniff of water.

Yes, I am worried. It is this damned city, it turns everything around. Do we become our roles, or do they become us?

But surely it will be all right.

Come down later to see the performance tonight, the? For some reason, I’m actually dreading tonight, I don’t know why. I will feel better if you are there in the audience, my friend. I must go, for, as they say, the show must go on, no matter how we feel, the?

Ridi, Pagliaccio!

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Travels Abroad story: A Theatre Company

What’s New for the 30th of June: Composer and Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, A Bonnie Bunch of Steeleye Span, Another Spider-Man Film, Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven bar, Online Crafters Ban Trump as a Conversation Subject, A Lúnasa Recording, A Yolen Fantasy and Other Delights

No one is making me say this. No one is making me tell this story. Nobody’s ever been much good at making me say anything I hadn’t already made up my mind to say.  — Elizabeth Bear

I’ve returned from the short concert tour that I and my wife Catherine took in the Nordic countries. It was but five dates, which made it pleasant indeed, and all were small venue concerts, barely fifty attendees each,which made it even more more pleasant, as we knew most who attended from our previous concerts in those cities. We spent three to five days in a city so it was a leisurely time we had there.

If you want a really good look at a certain well-known conductor of the concert scene in the nineteenth century Paris, go read Evenings with Orchestra by Hector Berlioz. It’s an highly amusing look at that scene and he certainly is brutally blunt at times too. I took it with me this trip for my reading material.

Now let’s see what we’ve got this Edition…

Cat has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart. It says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’. The novel  has some astounding descriptions of Irish music sessions it, so do check it. The novel itself is about far more than Irish music and his review tell you why you should be reading it.

Deborah says ‘ (Jane) Yolen initially compiled Not One Damsel in Distress for her daughter and three granddaughters, as she wished to provide for her girls that which she had not been able to access — stories where girls are the heroes. Not heroines or sheroes but true heroes, in every sense of the word. Stories where it is the girls who are the knights and the serpent slayers and the pirates. As Yolen writes in the open letter to her girls at the beginning of the collection, “This book is for you because in it are folktales about heroes — regular sword-wielding, spear-throwing, villain-stomping, rescuing-type heroes who also happen to be females.”‘

Kate has a look-see at Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968 – 2001: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Warner says happily: ‘The Last Tsar’s Dragons is an interesting little historical fantasy written by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple. Dealing with revolutionary Russia, this little volume represents a delightful amd multilayered example of the historical fantasy.’

Denise dives into Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven bar, and she’s a fan. ‘ The website says this bar is perfect for sharing, but screw that. It’s too yummy; before you know it, it’s gone.’ Read her review to see exactly why she’s eager to devour this chocolate!

Elizabeth didn’t like the Spider-Man film which we reviewed here but she loved Spider-Man 2: ‘Just about every aspect of this movie is a step-up from the original. First off, the acting is top-notch. Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, James Franco as villain-in-training Harry Osborn, and Rosemary Harris as moral compass Aunt May are all back in fine form, and with meatier roles, too. J.K. Simmons had me rolling in the aisles as J. Jonah Jameson, who now has more opportunities to gripe, cheat, and chew on his cigar with ruthless vigor. And — finally! — the filmmakers have seen fit to actually recognize that Kirsten Dunst possesses a remarkable acting talent.’

Cat (the Cat also known as ‘The Chief’) has a look at Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, a comic series that starts to seem frighteningly real: ‘Global Frequency is a organisation devoted to combating those incidents that are too extreme, too weird, or just too dangerous for the usual first responders to handle. Funded by the mysterious Amanda Zero, it consists of exactly one thousand and one agents, all of whom are specialists in something, say, for example, bioweapons or taking out snipers.’

The Oysterband are certainly a folk rock band but Ed has a review of their very early years when they weren’t: ‘I stumbled onto the Oysterband several years back via a copy of Little Rock to Leipzig, received as a premium during a college radio station’s fund drive. This was blind good luck. The two CDs I had originally wanted were gone, so I picked this one based on its “folk-rock” label. I haven’t stopped listening to this band and now own ten of their CDs. As a devoted and possibly obsessed fan, when the chance came to review some of their earliest and long out-of-print albums, I jumped. I now feel blessed to have acquired this piece of their history. In short, these LPs prove that the Oysters were always good, but have nevertheless gotten much better.

Gary reviews a new release from the living legend, South African composer and pianist Abdullah Ibrahim. Of The Balance, his first new album in four years, Gary says, ‘It’s a treat from top to bottom’.

I’ve got a look at  A Parcel of Steeleye Span: ‘This triple disc set contains the entirety of their first five albums for Chrysalis, from 1972’s Below The Salt to 1975’s All Around My Hat with Parcel of RoguesCommoners Crown, and Now We Are Six being the recordings in between. This completely remastered collection has 46 tracks in all, including a number of very tasty bonus tracks.’

Paul, who’s got a new baby as of a few days ago,  has a review of a Lúnasa recording : , (pronounced Shay), is Gaelic for ‘six’, and as well as the obvious meaning, is a lovely great mouthful of a title. For those of you who may be new to Lúnasa, this is a four-piece (Cillian Vallely joined a number of years back on pipes and low whistles) traditional Irish band. Just tunes. Great, great tunes. Fiddle, whistles, flutes, upright bass, pipes, guitar, bodhran, a little piano and trumpet even… The variety is wide but never overwhelming. It’s one of the things that have made Lúnasa what they are today: the ability to undertstand just exactly what a tune needs, without ever overcomplicating matters.’

Our What Not today deals with crafts, social media, and freedom of speech. Or, to be more specific, what one can refuse to allow on a website. The social crafting site Ravelry just banned pro-Trump posts; ‘We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.’ They’re not banning supporters, nor are the endorsing any political party. They’re just dis-allowing hate.

But crafting is so soft and fluffy, right? Hah. Fiber-y types have always been more than a little revolutionary. There’s yarn-bombing, irreverent and subversive cross-stitch, ‘stitch and bitch’ events, and the ‘Pussy Hat’ movement, to name a few current bits of craftiness. Why? Because as with all other forms of art, fiber artists deal with their own forms of censorship, most notably with regards to what can and can’t be shown, according to whatever pearl-clutcher gets bent out of shape. So why not shout out using what you’ve got on hand? In taking a stand, Ravelry uses what they’ve got on hand to deliver a message against hate and racism. And I’m damn proud to be one of their members.

Our music to take our leave this time is some Rock and Roll as I’m in the mood for it. Yes I like that music — of a certain vintage that is.  It’s by Credence Clearwater Revival and it’s their ’Bad Moon Rising’ from their Madison Square Garden show on the thirteenth of May forty nine years ago.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 30th of June: Composer and Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, A Bonnie Bunch of Steeleye Span, Another Spider-Man Film, Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Hazelnut Heaven bar, Online Crafters Ban Trump as a Conversation Subject, A Lúnasa Recording, A Yolen Fantasy and Other Delights

A Kinrowan Estate story: Did You Notice…?

Just past Midsummer, and life around the Kinrowan Estate offices has started getting a little weird. Oh, all right, a little weirder. I’m reporting in from the Estate building on a beautiful warm day. I’ve been noticing that the young plants in the gardens and window boxes have started hitting their stride and the baskets outside the doors are approaching full speed on the floral display. But there’s other stuff going on. The Midsummer Solstice is our namesake’s time, sure, mischievous nature and all, but this is ridiculous.

Things have been going missing a little more often; one puts something down and it disappears — a week later, one finds it in a totally different room than the room from which it went missing. Poltergeists? The early onset of senile dementia? One of The Cats has developed opposable thumbs? Hmmmm.

Inanimate objects — computers, sound equipment, bicycles, you name it — have started developing what might be called personalities, or perhaps a migration path. Surely that computer desktop was different yesterday when you put it to sleep, but you can’t quite think how. One of Reynard’s taps has gotten cranky (okay, so that’s not all that unusual, but throw it in anyway) down in the Green Man Pub, and the musicians in the Neverending Session have recently started complaining of strings that won’t stay in tune, cracks in previously entirely stable reeds (all right, pipers’ complaints can’t be called unusual either), and rosin going missing.

And don’t get me started on the kitchen staff complaints.

Significantly, there’ve been some magnificent displays put on by lightning bugs in the gardens the last few evenings, and the cats have been very alert indeed.

I suppose you could make a case for overflow of life-force, or biorhythms going off kilter, or just that the midsummer energy has gotten into us all (and the building). But I’m plumping for a slight rash of fairies.

Mind you, not the tall, Seelie noble-looking fairy or elf of literary and celluloid fame, but the average, household, put-the-milk-out-in-a-saucer-so-we-don’t-end-up-cursed-Mildred kind of fairy, common as measles.

I can’t be the only one who has suspicions. Someone has risked the wrath of old Augustus, our concertina-playing gardener, by taking clippings off the young morning glory vines on the brick wall outside the kitchen garden. I even noticed a new horseshoe hanging up over the door of Gus’s shed near the old stables the other day; I expect not so much for its luck, but for its iron.

And now I’m wondering if it wasn’t Gus who’s been cleaning up the twigs under the rowan copse on the east side of the grounds.

Mind, one wouldn’t want to rid oneself totally of fairies. Besides the fact that they can be just as capriciously generous and benign as they can be suddenly irritable and malign, there’s the wonder factor; life without them might be a bit too grey and predictable. Anyway, when odds and sods go missing, they make excellent scapegoats.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Did You Notice…?

What’s New for the 23rd of June: The Very First Spider-Man Film, Four Fantasies, Bees, Mouse Guard short stories, A Spanish Christmas sweet fit for year round, Dr. John Live and Some Other Matters

You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you. ― Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway

Come in … let me turn down the music. Yes that’s Dr. John, the New Orleans musician. He’s been a favourite of mind for some forty years now. We’ll close with some music by him this time.

You’re looking for Iain, our Librarian? Well he’s off again on a vacation trip, errr, I mean another short concert tour with his wife, violinist and vocalist Catherine, in the Nordic nations this time. While he’s gone, Gus is having the Library Apprentices, the Several Annies, help him with much needed gardening work, so I’m writing up this edition without their usual assistance. That also means The Library is looking after Itself in his absence, something it’s quite capable of doing.

Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this Edition. The novels I picked are all ones that I’ve read many a time and are favourites of staffers and visitors alike; the music is choices that most likely you’ve not encountered before but which are well worth hearing. And Cat R.  has something sweet for you. Now let’s get started.

An Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’

I know it’s not Autumn but a fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

He also has a look at a difficult but rewarding fantasy: ‘Lavondyss is perhaps the most problematic of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood books, the least accessible and at the same time the richest. It also plays the most games with time, narrative flow and character identity, and as such is either going to delight or frustrate the reader far more than an ordinary tale of a young girl lost in the wood has any right to.’

Robert has a treat for us: ‘Ellen Kushner’s first novel was Swordspoint, a romantic fantasy set in a universe strongly reminiscent of Jacobean and Restoration London, with admixtures of the Elizabethan and Georgian eras – life is bigger than life, intrigue is rampant, the City, which is the main locus of the action, is a lively, vital part of a story that ranges from the crime-ridden Riverside to the artistocratic estates on the Hill. The only magic involved is Kushner’s storytelling. The Fall of the Kings is set sixty years after the events in the first novel, and with Delia Sherman as collaborator Kushner has broadened and enriched the context and created a story that still rings with the bustle of a vibrant city and adds an element of darker, more mysterious past to a time bathed in reason.’

It’s hot weather, so let’s have something sweet to cool our taste buds. Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is as a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’

Long before the current Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence, there were Marvel films and so therefore we have the very first Spider-Man film nearly a generation ago. Michael ended his review in this manner: ‘Overall, I loved Spider Man. Where it’s good, it’s very very good. Where it falls down, it doesn’t so much disappoint as it fails to match the rest of the movie. As far as pure story goes, it’s primal Spider-Man, essence of character boiled down for a new audience, and that’s what matters. Go see this and have some good old-fashioned superheroic fun.’ Now go read his detailed review to see how he got to that conclusion.

Robert comments that ‘Given the popularity and critical acclaim of David Peterson’s Mouse Guard series (as witness our own very positive review of the first book, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152), it was almost inevitable that there would be spin-offs. And indeed, Peterson has brought us one himself, with the aid of a number of collaborators: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard. So will you like it? Ahhh you’ll need to read his review to see if that might be so!

Our Editor Cat found a concert recording, John Fogerty’s The Long Road Home, to be a keeper:Though Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the best bands of the Sixties, I’m more fond of the recordings of the post-CCR career of vocalist John Fogerty. And his best recordings are by far the concert recordings, both the legit ones like this release and of course the many bootlegs done as soundboard recordings.’

Gary has a recording for us that sounds like a lot of fun: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home. Amarillis is a Pennsylvania-based trio: Maro Avakian on piano, Donna Isaac on fiddle and Allison Thompson on accordion and concertina. They play a mixture of traditional and contemporary Irish, Scottish, English and North American jigs, reels and slip-jigs in medleys or sets. Of course, no contra dance is complete without a few waltzes now and then, and this collection has several good examples.

Gary also reviews a new release. The Low and Low is by Locust Honey, and it’s their third. ‘Their first two were under a longer monicker, Locust Honey String Band, and the name change is instructive,’ he says.

Creole Moon gets an enthusiastic review by Patrick: ‘If somebody tells you to pick up the latest album by Malcolm John Rebennack, you’ll probably say, “Huh? Who dat?” But if somebody says, “Dr. John,” then it’s a pretty sure bet you’ll know just what’s being prescribed: a dose of good ole Creole medicine for the soul.’

Our What Not concerns bees. We have a lot of bee hives here, several hundred at least, and there’ve most likely been hives here for a thousand years. Every culture has its folklore about bees and the Irish are no exception. Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and our primary beekeeper, passed on this article to me, Eimear Chaomhánach’s ‘The Bee, its Keeper and Produce, in Irish and Other Folk Traditions’. If you’re interested in folklore of these fascinating creatures, this is a must read for you.

I saw Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. better known as Dr. John some fifteen years ago in New Orleans when Ingrid and I took a vacation there. A New Orleans native, his music combined combined the blues, a dash of pop, quite a bit of jazz, more than some boogie-woogie and even rock and roll, all in a theatrical voodoo flavoured show which was reflected in the larger than life personality of the Night Tripper. He was already in somewhat ill health when we saw him, and he passed recently at the age of seventy seven.

So let’s honour him and his considerable talent with ‘Walk on Gilded Splinters’ recorded at JVC Capital Radio Jazz Parade in 1990. It first appeared as the closing track of his debut album Gris-Gris  back in 1968, credited to Dr. John the Night Tripper.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on What’s New for the 23rd of June: The Very First Spider-Man Film, Four Fantasies, Bees, Mouse Guard short stories, A Spanish Christmas sweet fit for year round, Dr. John Live and Some Other Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Firewood

Though we have long since adopted new technologies here at the Kinrowan Estate for providing heat, including electric radiators from low head hydro on the river that runs through our lands, and deep thermal power pumps (expensive but worth it), nothing beats a roaring fire for cheering up us during the long winter here.

So I and the Estate lads, using cross-cut saws and axes, harvest roughly twenty cords of wood every year. Some is from limbs and whole trees that winter winds and snow bring down. Those are mostly conifers which have brittle branches and shallow roots. They smell good and crackle quite lovely when burning.

We’ve been growing trees specifically for firewood for centuries now, so there’s always plenty of oak, maple, ash, and (culled from the orchards) apple. Most of it gets harvested during the winter when the ground is frozen hard and the stuff keeps the horse drawn sleighs from damaging the fields and woods that we transverse in bringing the wood back to the curing buildings.

Curing the wood is required as all freshly cut wood has a high moisture content which must be reduced by stacking it in a dry but well ventilated space. One year is good, two years is ideal. And of course, we must plant new trees to replace those we harvested, which many decades from now will be harvested by the Head Estate Gardener of that time.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Firewood

What’s New for the 16th of June: Folkmanis’ Rat in a Tin Can, Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood, Sam Adams Seasonal Ale, A Dance & Concert by Blato Zlato, A Futuristic Riff off Holmes, Clash’s ‘London Calling’ and Other Neat Matters

Remember what they said? Some of it was true. — Clash’s ‘London Calling’

I’ve been madly, deeply this past fortnight into the various permutations of Clash, which in turn became Big Audio Dynamite and the Carbon/Silicon duo spin-off, not to mention the solo act of Joe Strummer, not to overlook his brilliant work with The Mescaleros. It’s fascinating to listening to the musical evolution of a group of musicians. The Infinite Jukebox, our media server, contains a lot of their music and it certainly was fascinating to see how these musicians handled diverse forms of music.

Now lets turn to this edition…

David has a few words to say about a book on his favourite band: ‘In the year 2000, a series of books was published under the imprint “Kill Your Idols.” They were published in a neat little format, black covers with a b&w photo of the subject and his name as the title. Neil YoungTom WaitsElvis CostelloLeonard Cohen and The Clash. The only band that matters is the only band that got a book! David Quantick, a writer whose work has appeared in SpinNME and Q magazines, is a good choice for authoring a book about the Clash. He is a fan, but he understands their weaknesses, as well as their strengths.’

Kelly looks at a fascinating work of obsession, err, love called The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: ‘To the casual reader or observer, it sometimes may seem that the twentieth century was the time of real blossoming in terms of the Fantastic in literature: after all, that’s when science fiction really came into its own, and when a certain Don of Oxford penned a tale about hobbits and gold rings. But the more rigorous student of the Fantastic knows that Fantasy, as well as those tropes that eventually spun away to become science fiction, are far older than just a hundred years. The literature of the fantastic stretches back as far as Homer, after all, and likely even before that.’

Robert looks at a favorite novel of mine: ‘It seems somewhat odd, on reflection, to realize that in a genre that so often uses magic as a metaphor and/or device, so few writers actually evoke the qualities of magic in their writing. That observation is prompted by Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood. McKillip has always been a writer whose books can themselves be called “magical,” and it’s even more interesting to realize that she seldom uses magic as a thing of incantations and dire workings or as anything special in itself: it just is, a context rather than an event, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.’

Warner has a novel for us that’s not quite what it appears to be: ‘The Hound of Justice by Claire O’dell has little to do with Sherlock Holmes, and nothing to do with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Truth be told, it has more in common with the BBC series Sherlock than the literary source. The leads are called friends. But Watson shows no real positive emotion for Holmes, and the familiar investigator shows little sign of caring for their friends in turn.’

Richard has a look at yet another band that fused trad music and a rockier music: ‘No tale of Shane McGowan and the Pogues would be complete without mention of the man’s teeth — just like the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo, the Pogues were exemplified by the rotting and misshapen tangle of teeth that exploded in every direction out of Shane McGowan’s mouth. From their first appearance on the cover of the Pogues’ debut EP, “Poguetry in Motion,” the fortunes of those teeth mirrored those of the man himself, and the decline and fall of both are amply documented in the Sundance Channel’s documentary, If I Should Fall from Grace – the Shane McGowan Story.’


Denise is jumping the gun by reviewing a summer brew before Solstice. But we’ll give her a pass just this once. Especially since the new recipe for Samuel Adams Seasonal Summer Ale sounds like a good ‘un. ‘To be honest, I never cared for SA’s usual take on this brew; it felt too spicy and robust for a warm weather brew. But this? This is groovy, baby.’

Cat has some comments on a very non-traditional rendering of the music of Charles de Lint, Zahatar’s The Little Country: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band.’

Blind Faith were an English blues band made up of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. The band released their only studio album, Blind Faith, in August 1969. (There’s also Live Cream & Live Cream, Volume II.) Craig says about the deluxe version of Blind Faith that: ‘For collectors and rabid fans of the artists, this deluxe edition is probably worth the extra cash, given the expanded and informative liner notes and the extra 90 minutes of music.’

The Guardian said of Kathryn Tickell, the great Northumbrian piper and fiddler, that her live show features ‘… tunes played at times hauntingly with fingers blurring as they flick up and down the chanter or over the fiddle neck. Each set of tunes is separated by stories about friends and places all told quietly, ramblingly and with a gentle wryness. Her act is gripping, funny and moving.’  Ed  certainly agrees, as his review of her Debateable Lands is quite glowing.

‘Whenever I hear live Balkan music, I find myself wondering, “Why do I ever listen to anything else?” ‘ says Gary. He got an earful of it at a dance/concert by Blato Zlato, the New Orleans-based Bulgarian group that’s about to release their second full-length CD.

Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’

Our musical coda quite naturally is ’London Calling’ which was recorded off the soundboard at Edenhall, Amsterdam on the ninth of July thirty eight years ago. Damn, I’m suddenly feeling old.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 16th of June: Folkmanis’ Rat in a Tin Can, Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood, Sam Adams Seasonal Ale, A Dance & Concert by Blato Zlato, A Futuristic Riff off Holmes, Clash’s ‘London Calling’ and Other Neat Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Tea & Scones

I’ve been listening to some album that Reynard thought I’d find interesting. She was singing some Irishy sounding dirge, low and quite depressing, just perfect given the rainy, cool weather that came upon the Estate over the night. Even Gus, who never grumbles, was unhappy as there’s always work to done around the Estate, especially as Summer is nigh upon us. And one can’t work the gardens in the rain, let alone paint or do other always needed outside maintenance.

It being the weather that I just described, I decided to treat myself to some seriously great tea. What I decided to brew up was a tea that Ingrid, Reynard’s wife who is the Estate Buyer along with being our Steward, had bought a quarter kilo as a birthday gift for me — an organic Darjeeling first flush that I would have most of the time if I could, but at a two hundred pounds a kilogram, it was too costly for everyday drinking.

I made a pot of this tea, poured a mug with just a splash of cream delivered this morning to us from the Riverrun Farm up the coast, and plated up two of the just baked scones with Border strawberry jam. Those are the strawberries that being Fey start red and turn white as bone as they ripen. I retreated to my office, went back to that Irish album, and proceeded to ignore any demands on my time for the few next hours as I watched the rain beat against the windows.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Tea & Scones

What’s New for the 9th of June: A Whiskey Review Site, The Birth of British Folk Rock, Charles de Lint digital editions, Grateful Dead live music, A Great Supernatural Novel From Robert McCammon, Rocket Raccoon & Groot and Other Rather Charming Things

I see myself as a novelist, period. I mean, the material I work with is what is classified as science fiction and fantasy, and I really don’t think about these things when I’m writing. I’m just thinking about telling a story and developing my characters. — ‘A Conversation With Roger Zelazny’ in Science Fiction, Volume 1, #2, June 1978

We’ve had warm weather since mid-April. Now Ingrid, the Estate Steward who’s my lovely wife, tells me that the Gus the Estate Head Gardener in his Sleeping Hedgehog article this month says there’ve been times this month in past centuries which saw the temperature truly struggling to get to ten degrees for weeks on end.  I’ll definitely take the pleasant twenty-three degrees we’ve got this afternoon! I’ve got all of the Pub windows open to air this basement space out and, it being exceptionally nice, there’s not a soul here on this pleasant afternoon. Perfect for letting me work on this edition.

I’m in a Grateful Dead mood so that’s what you’ll be hearing here this afternoon. Mind you nothing past the late Seventies usually as that’s the period I like part as that’s when Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux were still part of the band. It’s pleasant music that reminds me of my busking days in Europe before I met Ingrid and we settled down here.

So we’ve got our usual mix of new material and the very best from the decades of Archives that accumalated over from the myriad periodicals we’ve published down the years such as Roots & Branches, Folk Roots, Mostly Folk, Sleeping Hedgehog and so forth. Now let’s get started…

I’d like to announce that Triskell Press has released a digital edition of Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, which Grey delightfully notes is ‘set in de Lint’s Ottawa, the one he first envisioned for his novel Moonheart, and expanded in its sequel, Spiritwalk. Those readers who have fallen in love with the wonderful Tamson House of these two novels will be delighted to note its brief appearance in Yarrow as well. However, the characters in Yarrow are part of different story than the residents of Tamson House and their associates, and Yarrow is a stand-alone novel.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span always seem to evoke the best in British folk rock music for me, so it’s fitting that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’

Desiring an engaging and lengthy fantasy for your Summer reading? Robert has the work for you: ‘I was surprised some while back to discover that Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master Trilogy was marketed as young-adult fantasy when it was first published. I don’t think I’m particularly backward in terms of understanding what I read, and I was in my thirties when I first read the books (which have earned an unchallengeable place on my “reread frequently” list), and I knew there were things I was missing. Even in a recent re-reading, the trilogy is a complex, subtle and evocative story that lends itself to much deeper examination than one might expect.

Warner says ‘The Listener is Robert McCammon’s take on a depression-era supernatural thriller. And it does all of these things brilliantly, illustrating the time. And the desperation that would create as well as the tension of a particularly dark situation and the side effects, both fortunate and unfortunate, that certain supernatural elements can add. Read his full review to see he says that this is ‘one of the best supernatural suspense novels’ he’s read.

David looks at Festival Express which certainly was a long, strange trip: ‘It opens with a faded map of north Ontario, Kapuskasing dead centre. Then the camera pulls back and from the middle of the screen comes a train — an old Canadian National engine — and tracks, lots of tracks. This is a movie about that train and the people who rode on it, and the places it stopped, and what happened one week in 1970 when this train went from Toronto to Calgary . . . with a cargo of rock’n’rollers and all their paraphernalia. What a summer.’

Our food and drink section this time is just  a recommendation of a whiskey tasting blogspot which is described this way: ‘SmokyBeast is penned by a whisky-loving wife and husband team in New York City. We sit down every Sunday night after our daughter goes to bed, and crack open a well-earned reward: a bottle of dark, smoky, and delicious whisky. Here are some of our favorites, and some lessons we’ve learned along the way.’ Need I say more? I think not.

It’s not a graphic novel but it’s definitely of a graphic nature as Charles looks at Charles Vess’ Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess. Now as his detailed review’s as much about the friendship that grew between them, I’ll let you read this charming tale of friendship and art without further ado. Oh and the book itself is simply stunning — truly an art gallery in a book form!

Grateful Dead’s So Many Roads (1965-1995) catches the ear of Brendan: ‘So often dismissed as a anachronistic hippie band that would somehow never die, the Grateful Dead actually formed a keystone of sorts between the traditional forms of American roots music and the rock music of the ’60s. Looking past the psychedelic trappings and bizarre skeleton images, one can easily see that foundations of the Dead’s music consist mainly of the American Musical Triumvirate: jazz, blues, and country, with of course a healthy dose of rock and roll to keep things interesting.’

Charles rightfully notes in the lead to his Together Through Life review that: ‘There’s a funny thing that happens whenever Dylan releases an album that the critics like (I think it averages out at one every three releases). When they fall all over themselves praising an album, as they did 2006’s Modern Times, you know it doesn’t matter what the next album is like, they’re not going to like it.’

One of the most amazing things we were sent to review was the Folk Music in Sweden series, all twenty-five discs. Yeah, you read me right, twenty-five discs of Swedish trad music. Lars got the honour of reviewing this set from Swedish label Caprice and he has a word to the wise at the end of his most excellent review: ‘Well, a summary of this project would be: A very ambitious project which helps to preserve the musical traditions from Sweden for future generations, and give them access to some of the treasures that are hidden in various vaults in Stockholm. But beware, do not try to taste it all in one go. Remember the old advice about how to eat an elephant. You do it bit by bit.’

Johnny Clegg & Savuka‘s Live and More DVD gets these sage words from Scott: ‘As good as the concert performance on this DVD is, and as good as the live concert I saw from Clegg’s recent American tour was, those shows are forced to compete with the memory of a night whose legend grows with each retelling. Somehow, I get the feeling that anybody who caught Johnny Clegg & Savuka during 1990, when they were quite likely the best live act on the planet, will respond to this DVD similarly.’

Our What Not this week is a collectible from Guardians of the Galaxy, namely a figurine of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Says Cat: ‘Accurate representations of Rocket Raccoon, best known from the two Guardians of the Galaxy films are difficult to find without spending a lot of cash on the accurate one-sixth scale models costing in the hundreds of dollars. I wanted one such figure largely because I thought that Rocket and Groot were the most interesting characters in those films.’

It’s full Summer here, so I think some Grateful Dead music would be in order. Oh don’t sneer, they were the quintessential summer band for several generations of both European and North American summer concert goers. So let’s give a listen to their ‘The Music Never Stopped’ recorded quite appropriately at near Summer Solstice in Passaic, NJ forty three years ago. It’s a remarkably great soundboard recording, but that’s another thing they did well.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 9th of June: A Whiskey Review Site, The Birth of British Folk Rock, Charles de Lint digital editions, Grateful Dead live music, A Great Supernatural Novel From Robert McCammon, Rocket Raccoon & Groot and Other Rather Charming Things

A Kinrowan Estate story: How the Troll Came To Be

Dear Anna,

There are everything from ashrays (sea ghosts) to wulvers, a sort of werewolf but, alas, no trolls in Scotland. There is however now a splendidly ugly and rather large troll under the bridge over the river below the Mill Pond. How it got there is a story worth knowing, which is why I’m telling you in this letter.

Several years ago, we had a potter in residence here, Justina, for an entire winter, during which she built a most magnificent kiln of a rather frightening size as she was interested in creating life-sized men, women, and other creatures. Most are now in museums and private collections around the world but we kept several including the one of Robert Graves that lives in the Reading Room named after him. More than one visitor has been startled by it late at night while doing research, as it seems to shift location by itself when they’re not looking. Or someone has an odd sense of what’s funny. Whoever is responsible is very fast, and quite strong!

But nothing she did was on the scale of what was contemplated by the Several Annie from Norway who decided the area under the Mill Pond bridge needed a troll. A full-sized troll to be precise, which meant it had to be created in sections, given it would be fourteen feet tall and ten feet across its shoulders. So I had the Steward contact Justina and ask her if she’d like to be here for an extended winter contract. Not surprisingly, she was delighted.

She arrived in late October and set up a studio in the cottage she used years back. The Troll Under the Bridge project she figured would take ’till Candlemas at least. (I think she was looking forward to a long winter of conversations, music, contradances, good food, and reading.) Though she could’ve lived in the cottage, she asked if she could have one of the third floor rooms and the Steward agreed, with a note of amusement in his voice.

Iain lost his entire current crop of Several Annies for a full fortnight while they met with Justina to brainstorm this project. We had the clay needed on the Estate but a considerable amount of other supplies were needed that caused the Steward to become a whiter shade of pale, as a fourteen-foot troll is best constructed of solid weatherproof pieces and that required an even bigger kiln. Justina’s stay would likely be through Beltaine at least. She openly admitted that this was going to be a tricky project with likely several spectacular failures before she and her crew got it right, as she had an idea for it that would make it look truly living.

Ahhh, that was a knock on the door … I see I’m needed in the apiary right now as the lads are moving the hives out to the gardens for the growing season and I need to check over their preparations. I’ll finish the story in the next letter.

With affection. Gus

PS: You’ll find the books on the history of ravens in our folklore you wanted enclosed with this letter. As always, Iain grumbled when I checked them out so please be careful with them!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: How the Troll Came To Be

What’s New for the 2nd of June: Killer Robots, Dirty Rice, Gifted Children, Aaron Copland and other neat stuff

Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers. ― Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine

It’s warm enough out that we’re having a contradance this evening on the terrace outside the Green Man Pub. And the band here is rather special I think. They named themselves Snow on the Mountain after a plant that has green and white leaves that’s up as soon as the first Spring warmth arrives. They hail, they say, from Big Foot County though I can’t find such a place in any gazetteer that we had, but that matters not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments which makes for a very sweet sound.

Their music is a happy merging of Celtic and Bluegrass, something that might’ve been Appalachian Trad, oh, and more than a bit of Tex-Mex, so if you’ve heard  and enjoyed The Mollys or Calexico, you’ll definitely like them. We’ve got them here for contradances and a performance as well. 

Of course we have lots of interesting reviews this time, including with a look at a most unusual space opera from Elizabeth Bear, an album of great American folk songs, a recipe for dirty rice that sounds ymmmy, music from Iron Horse and I see an interesting What Not as well. So let’s get started…

Cat has a look at a new novel by Elizabeth Bear, Ancestral Night: ‘ Haina, Singer and Connla, plus the cats Mephistopheles and Bushyasta, are the inhabitants of the boat without a name. Oh, it has a registration number but not a name. Haina considers them a family. Not sure what the cats think the five of them are, and since Bushyasta is named after the Zoroastrian demon of Sloth I’m not sure she’s awake long enough to care.’

Gary reviews All Systems Red, the first book in Martha Wells’ series “The Murderbot Diaries.” ‘It’s a highly entertaining series of novellas set in a distant semi-dystopian future in which bots and borgs and other kinds of artificially intelligent constructs do the dirty work for humans.’

Warner starts off his look at a decade old novel this way: ‘Running With the Demon is an urban fantasy or dark fantasy novel by Terry Brooks. It also represents an example of the start of a series for him as it would go on to be the first in the short Word and the Void series.’ Now go read his insightful review for the details on this novel.


Jen gets nostalgic again, this time for dirty rice, that ishy-squishy mélange of sweet rice, savory spices, earthy chicken livers, and lots and lots of butter. As usual, this is not food for the cholesterol-conscious. If the butter and livers don’t getcha, the carby rice will. But what a way to go!

Robert brings us the first collection in a series that looks very interesting, Joshua Dysart’s Harbinger: ‘Peter Stanchek is gifted, and not necessarily in a good way: he’s able to make people do what he tells them, among other things, but there’s a downside to that: he’s a kid, one who has good impulses — as witness the energy he expends on caring for his best friend, Joe Irons, who’s a borderline schizophrenic, usually on the other side of the border — but being a kid, Peter’s judgment isn’t always rock solid, so he winds up using his powers to hold up pharmacies for meds for Joe.’

Some composers invoke Summer for me and Aaron Copland is one of them, so let’s look at what Gary has to say about A Copland Celebration: ‘To mark what would have been Aaron Copland’s 100th birthday in 2000, Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’

Gary reviews an unusual release called Lost River from a trio comprising trombone, guitar and drums plus electronica. ‘The album’s 10 tracks, mostly in the five- to six-minute range, explore watery themes through mostly spontaneous improvisation,’ he says. ‘I find it for the most part utterly fascinating, alternately calming and joy-inducing through its wildly creative exploration of sounds and textures.’

Of the new CD Out of Sight by Jake Xerxes Fussell, Gary says, ‘This is a finely wrought album of great American folk songs of the sort that might be lost if not for the likes of Mr. Fussell.’

Robert has a real treat for us: ‘Philip Glass is not only arguably the best-known contemporary American composer, and one of the most prolific, he is also one of the most versatile. He’s done operas, film soundtracks, orchestral works for the Philip Glass Ensemble, and chamber music. Wendy Sutter is one of those musical wonders (she made her solo debut with the Seattle Symphony at age 16) who has a wide background and a strong connection with contemporary music: she’s worked with Tan Dun, the White Oak Ensemble, is a member of Bang on a Can, and premiered Glass’ Cello Concerto in the U.S. Songs and Poems for Solo Cello were composed for Sutter and represent a collaborative effort: they were premiered after a year of the two working on them together.’

Cat has our What Not for this week — they’re not exactly action figures, but close enough: Quantum Mechanix’s Pinky & The Brain Q-Fig Toons Figures: ‘Pinky and The Brain are two laboratory mice that were enhanced to be smart but only one ended up being a genius and one ended up, well, not insane as the intro to the show puts it, but definitely odd and hyperkinetic to boot.’

Now let’s see what I can find on the Infinite Jukebox for some summery music to see us off. Ahhh that’ll do: ‘The 8-Step Waltz’ by the Scottish band Iron Horse is a spiritedly piece of music guaranteed to just make you feel good. And I’m certain that I’ve heard Snow on the Mountain perform it.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 2nd of June: Killer Robots, Dirty Rice, Gifted Children, Aaron Copland and other neat stuff

A Kinrowan Estate story: Herne

Herne.

His voice was like moss on the bark of an ancient tree… deep and smooth, making you expect velvet. And then you touch the bark and it is cold, cold and with a hardness like stone under it.

I first heard it in the small courtyard off the Long Hall, where sometimes people go to get out of the heat of the hall fires, and rest their ears from the storytelling. I’d been sent out with a tray and a bottle of one of the oldest whiskeys, and told to deliver it to whoever I found there. I didn’t think too much of that — you get orders like that all the time from Reynard — so I went right out to the one table with people sitting at it.

He was a shadow darker than the shadows of the walls, sitting in the twilight; light from the windows gleamed on the glass in his hand, the metal at belt and wrist and knee, the gleam of his eyes — like cold sparks struck from a flint. Calm radiated off him like cold from a stone, too. Coming near to him was like wading into heart-high water. You felt yourself slowed and surrounded.

That surprised me, that he breathed out such a vast, calming peace. If you’ve heard his train whooping through the nights, men and horns and hounds howling all alike under the moon, you’d never expect their Lord to be so… quiet. There’s a solace in his company, and in that deep, sweet voice. At least when you catch him a quiet moment, drinking in the moonlight with a lady.

She was sitting on a cushion, her head against his knee, her pale hair flowing like starlight over them both. Their voices were low and easy as they spoke, with the rhythm of long years’ intimacy between them; like the voices of your parents through the walls in the middle of the night – you hear just a moment of their conversation as you burrow into your pillow, inexplicable and remote and far, far older than anything you know — but the sound means all is well in the world, and you go back to sleep comforted. That was what they sounded like.

I don’t know who she was, though her face had every beauty you could ever imagine in a woman. I didn’t know who he was, until he shifted into the light from the Hall window. Then, what I had thought were vine-shadows on the wall behind him were plain to see — the great branching antlers, like amber and ivory and iron in the dim light. And I just stood there, staring like I’d never seen any of our older, stranger guests before, like a booby. But when the Lord of the Hunt is looking into your eyes, it’s damned hard to remember you’re only there to deliver his bar order and not to be judged eternally . . .

You’ll get a better judgment, of course, if you do remember to give the Lord his order. I can testify to that, because when I finally got my wits together enough to put the tray down and display the label, he smiled and thanked me in that deep voice.

I don’t know why anything ever flees from him, with that voice . . . I could have stood there, drowning in it, forever. Which I guess he knew, because he dismissed me very kindly, so I could remember I still had a body and walk away. But the singers in the Long Hall sounded like crows when I went through, after the dark voice in the dark courtyard.

They still do.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Herne

What’s New for the 26th of May: Music from Down Under, A History of Ice Cream, Supernatural Westerns, Game of Thrones, the Great Machine, and other goodies

If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Over-long, detailed to the point of distraction – and ultimately without a major resolution. — Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten

It’s been an indoor period for almost everyone here as we’ve had an extended weather front consisting mostly of rather feisty thunderstorms making it unsafe to be outside. That they’ve occasionally mixed with hail has added to the unpleasantness of the weather as Gus, our Estate Gardener and his Staff, have needed to erect protection over our tender growing crops to keep them from being utterly destroyed. That required all available staff to help out as it was a job that needed doing before the storms got here.

Now other needed tasks such as cooking and the usual upkeep chores, everyone’s taking this unexpected downtime to relax and is just doing as little as possible. So the Pub which I manage is rather busy and Iain, our Librarian, says his corner of Kinrowan Hall has been unusually humming for late Spring.

Now let’s see what our reviewers have for you this time. I see a review of the final season of A Games of Thrones, and some choice music reviews as well. Shall we get started?

Michael looks at The Eyre Affair, the first of the Jasper Fforde Thursday Next novels: ‘[He] has created a truly unique, fascinating new world, filled with over-the-top characters and an unforgettable atmosphere.  This is the sort of book Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett might have created if they’d ground up Dickens and Lewis Carroll for some highly unorthodox cigars, and gotten schnackered one fine weekend.  The humor is unconventional, the literary tributes unmistakable, and the plot highly original.  This is a world where people go to Richard III in the same way they might see the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the real world, right down to the audience participation.  This is a world where just about anything can happen, and seems rather likely to happen anyway.  Time-traveling literary detectives, extinct species brought back as pets, a villain worthy of any hero, and enough twists to keep even the most scholarly of English majors bemused.’

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files got this note from Richard: ‘Generally speaking, the supernatural western rests roughly at the heart of Joe Lansdale’s run on Jonah Hex. You can shift it a little toward Briscoe County here, a little toward the Deadlands RPG there, but really, the metaphor’s pretty solidly set. Until, of course, something comes along like Gemma Files’ A Book of Tongues, which takes the traditional supernatural western, sizes it up, and then calmly shoots it in the back of the head.’

And speaking of supernatural Westerns, Robert has a look at Mike Resnick’s The Doctor and the Kid: ‘Subtitled “A Weird West Tale,” Mike Resnick’s The Doctor and the Kid is an installment in his stories of the Weird West — an alternate universe in which the westward expansion of the United States has been halted at the Mississippi River by the magic of Indian medicine men. That doesn’t stop a few intrepid souls from making the journey to what would become the American West. (Well, in our universe, at least.)’

Robert brings us a view of religion somewhat different than what we’re used to: ‘Vine Deloria, Jr., is a well-known American Indian scholar and activist; having been in the forefront of bringing attention to the injustices suffered by Native Americans, he has been an eloquent spokesman, not only on their behalf, for a widening of our cultural viewpoint. God Is Red remains a crucial volume for anyone interested in the study of religion.’


Denise looks at Game of Thrones Season 8, and is full of conflicting emotions. ‘…much like any other survivor of King’s Landing, I try my best to sift through the wreckage and come up with bits and pieces that were unscathed by the destruction. I’ve found a very nice pile of moments. It’ll have to be enough.’


It being nigh unto summer here that means lots of fresh hand churned ice cream soon with various fruits, especially those Borderland strawberries that start out red and turn white. So it’s apt that Richard has this book for us: ‘Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’

 

Robert was very enthusiastic about the first three collected volumes of Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina: ‘I was impressed enough with the first collected volume of Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga that when I spotted Ex Machina at my local comics store, I grabbed it. I wasn’t disappointed.’ You can start the adventures of Mitchell Hundred here.


Fairport Convention has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unConventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!

Gary tells us about a new recording from a new singer, the banjo-playing Kelly Hunt. ‘The songs on Even the Sparrow are remarkably well-honed for a debut release, as are Kelly Hunt’s playing and singing.’

Gary also peers into some gothic Finnish Americana on Sings by the outsider artist H.C. Slim. ‘Slim creates eerie, dark Americana-style music from his home deep in the countryside of eastern Finland.’

Robert has some reservations about the album that was considered to be Icehouse’s best: ‘Released in 1987, Man of Colours is generally considered to be Icehouse’s best album, and was their most commercially successful. I found it most interesting that not a single cut from this one was included in Great Southern Land, generally taken to be a “best of” compilation.’

Our What Not is a longstanding question we ask folks, to wit what’s your favorite work by Tolkien. Once again, Tolkien’s one volume affair proves popular as Jasper Fforde says ‘it’s The Hobbit, because it’s the only one I’ve read – I liked it a great deal but was never really into spells, wizards and trolls, so never took it any further.’ it’s worth noting that The Hobbit, despite having a reputation as a children’s book is far and away more popular than  The Lord of The Rings among the staff, particularly according to Iain Mackenzie, the Estate Librarian, as it’s read mostly in the Winter and  there’s a reading group for it that’s been around as long as the book has been around.

Now let’s have some music to finish out this edition. It’s Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell performing   ‘The Pipes Lament’, a tune written by her,  which was recorded at the Shoreditch Church, London on the 15th nearly nine years ago, should do nicely. Tickell, by the way, connects indirectly to Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel as smallpiper Janey Little in the novel lists Northumbrian Bill Pigg as one of her inspirations to become a musician, something that Tickell also claims.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 26th of May: Music from Down Under, A History of Ice Cream, Supernatural Westerns, Game of Thrones, the Great Machine, and other goodies

What’s New for the 19th of May: Pickled Eggs, Brideshead Revisited, Maxx and Bad Apple, A Scree on Author Politics and Other Matters

I’m a leftist. I don’t argue with anyone unless they agree with me.— Steven Brust, author of Vallistathe fifteenth and latest novel in the Taltos Cycle whose lead-off novel, Jheregis reviewed in our book review section. 

We do have conferences held here from time to time at this Scottish Estate, mostly during the warmer months when the clusters of yurts, built first in the Fifties and added later on, are more comfortable — there’s room for some sixty folk to be accommodated here at one time. It’s a steady and rather lucrative source of revenue for the Estate. And yes, we do get the odd political gathering such as Women in Black, but they must keep with our decidedly left of centre political leanings or go elsewhere.

The same applies to our Library here. You’ll find the complete collections of the works of Ursula Le Guin, Elizabeth Hand and Catherynne Valente, but if you’re looking someone like Larry Correia, the leader of the Sad Puppies movement, who’s definitely not someone we’d host here, you won’t find his books here. Don’t like our politics, well we aren’t going to buy your books. Our Library, our rules.  And given how badly those authors publicly treat authors we like, is it any wonder that they we don’t give them space here?

So you’ll find me reading Seanan MacGuire’s The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which is a superb ghost story, or listening while I work in the Library late in the evening wrestling with the Indexes when there’s few patrons here, as they’re  most likely to be found in our Pub, to Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night which is fantastically narrated by Nneka Okoye.

Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this time.

Running back and forth on errands isn’t conducive to reading a book, so Denise gave a listen to Anansi Boys on the Playaway. And she was smitten. ‘The icing on the cake was their selection of Lenny Henry as narrator. I’ve been a huge fan of his ever since I stumbled on an episode of Chef many years back. … The ten hours of audio sailed by, thanks to Gaiman’s and Henry’s storytelling skills.’

Kathleen has a few choice words to says about an unusual collaboration, to wit Good Omens: ‘Neil Gaiman (Caroline) and Terry Pratchett (Thud, Where’s My Cow?) are world class fantasists and giants of popular literature. But back in 1990, when they were, in their own description, “not yet Neil Gaiman and just barely Terry Pratchett” (Locus, February 2006), they wrote a book together. They did it for fun, thinking it would be amusing. And it is. However, since they were themselves (even if they didn’t quite know it at the time), it is much more than that. Over the years it has grown in audience and import, and now — mirabile dictu! — it has been reissued.’

Robert has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’

He also takes us back to the beginning of Brust’s Taltos Cycle: ‘Jhereg is the first book in Steven Brust’s Taltos Cycle, the story of Vlad Taltos, human, as opposed to Dragaeran (also “Easterner”, the East being inhabited by humans), crime boss, assassin. Note: That’s first in order publication, not first chronologically — but more on that later.’


Liz looks at Brideshead Revisited, 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition: ‘The very rich are different from you and me,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. A great part of your reaction to this DVD will depend on whether you find the doings of the very rich fascinating or a big yawn. When I saw Brideshead 20 years ago, I wrote it off as an incredibly slow moving, soggily nostalgic depiction of upper-class twits and their endangered way of life. Well, I was wrong. From the vantage point of 20 years later, I realize that it was actually about upper-class twits approaching spiritual enlightenment at the deliberate speed at which paint dries.’


Jen has a savoury-gasm over her first pickled egg and attempts a recipe, so that you may replicate her experience in the privacy of your own home.

Robert has some thoughts on Joe R. Lansdale’s Pigeons from Hell: ‘Pigeons from Hell is an adaptation by Joe R. Lansdale of a story by Robert E. Howard, with art by Nathan Fox and color by Dave Stewart. Lansdale is at pains to point out, in his “Notes from the Writer,” that it is really an “adaptation” — updated, exploring some new facets of Howard’s story, and not to be confused with the original, all of which leads me to treat it as its own creature.’ Just click on the link to see how this creature fared in Robert’s opinion.

Dave has a look at a box set,  The Time Has Come: 1967-1973, by another band that evokes Autumn for me: ‘By my recollection it was The Pentangle when they started. And then they lost the definitive article and were just Pentangle. Whatever they called themselves, they were like fish out of water at the time. My friends didn’t listen to them at all. We were all more into The Who, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix. The loud stuff. The flashy stuff. But now, years later, I find myself listening to this mix of jazz, folk, blues, and traditional music far more than I listen to those other bands.’

Deborah offers up the best look ever at Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief: ‘1969 saw the release of two albums that gave me a case of musical whiplash: Pentangle’s Basket of Light and Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief. (If memory serves, the third leg in that triad of bands, Steeleye Span, was still a year away from formation.)’ Go ahead and savour every word of this fascinating remembrance of things long past.

Michael say a few words about the next recording: ‘It would be easy to say that a collaboration between Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett was always inevitable, given their respective histories and their proclaimed admiration of each other’s work. It may be an example of retrospective inevitability now that it has actually happened in the form of the Wintersmith CD, however. In any case, the end result is one that is overwhelmingly a credit to all concerned; worthy of the names involved and their reputations.’

Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album; ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’

Our usual What Not can be a puppet or a tarot deck, but this time Reynard has a review of two action figures that inhabit his office space behind the Green Man Pub: ‘Well back in 2003, Stronghold Group released two characters based on the sort of people that inhabited the CBGB club, one being Maxx, a singer, and the the other being, Bad Apple, who is less clearly defined though he too could be a musician, a fan, and even perhaps  bouncer. One site claimed these are ‘extreme look-alikes of Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten’ but the manufacturer doesn’t say who they based on.’ Read his full review for a look at two fascinating characters!

So let’s see what if I can find on the Infinite Jukebox for some Celtic music to see is out on this pleasant May Day. Hmmm..  ‘Newmarket Polkas’ by  Patrick Street is a splendid piece of music indeed to see us off on I’d say. It was recorded at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on the 30th of April, fourteen years ago.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 19th of May: Pickled Eggs, Brideshead Revisited, Maxx and Bad Apple, A Scree on Author Politics and Other Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Thank You! ( A Letter to Anna)

Dear Anna,

Katrina and I enjoyed our visit in Stockholm with you over the last fortnight. We hadn’t enjoyed the wonders of Stockholm since we were there nearly a decade back as it’s hard to get away for enough time to really enjoy a vacation.

The accommodations you found for us at the Stureparkens Hotel in Gästvåning was perfect as it was, as you promised, small enough to feel cozy down to the communal kitchen! It was perfect for us to have a late night snack and featured a decent selection of rather good breakfast foods. Katrina said it really felt more like the hostels she stayed in during her student busking adventures.

She’s ecstatic about how well the Leaf & Tree concerts went for them. Your publicity efforts were stellar at filling the intimate venues they played. I’m always surprised how superb Medieval music is when played by a trio of a gamba, violin, and llefarydd, my favorite type of Welsh bagpipes! The audiences were very appreciative of their programme of all Welsh tunes followed by an extended encore of Swedish waltzes.

I’m very pleased with the coverage Angus provided for me while I was away. Takes after his grandfather rather well. Time to see if I can get Ingrid, our Steward, to raise his salary as he and his new wife have a wee bairn on the way come summer.

Until next time, Gus

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Thank You! ( A Letter to Anna)

What’s New for the 12th of May: Another Thirteenth Doctor Figure, A Tanya Huff trilogy, Recordings by Molly Mason & Jay Ungar, A Conversation with Charles de Lint, Lots of Chocolate, ‘Saturday in the Park’ by Chicago and Other Tasty Matters

Chocolate. The food of the gods, as my grandma used to call it. And I totally agree. It’s the answer to prayers. Emotional relief. A form of currency. An aphrodisiac. Raw and dark. White and saccharine. Milky sweet. Mouthwatering. It’s all good; I don’t discriminate.” ― K.K. Allen


The Kitchen here decided to do dishes that all had chocolate in them, such as a traditional Chinese steamed bun with dark-chocolate ganache and ginger. OK not so traditional after all. And the dark chocolate waffles served with dark chocolate ice cream and chocolate whipped cream seemed like overkill but were rather delicious.

Now I thought the twice roasted chicken with chocolate mole sauce and poblano chilies was quite wonderful. Bjorn, our Brewmaster, did a killer chocolate stout that I managed to tuck away some of for later drinking, and the Mozart Black and Sabra liqueurs made for interesting drinking as well. Particularly in coffee the next morning.

I’m sure there’s something of a food nature in this Edition though I’m not sure what, so that’s up to you to discover. (The Several Annies, our Libraian’s Apprentices, actually edited this edition.) Myself I’m off to the Kitchen as I’m feeling a bit peckish…

Not everything in this section is a book review, so what have for you first is a conversation with Charles de Lint held at the FaerieWorld Convention in 2013. You can hear the delightful conversation here. And we’ve also updated our edition devoted to him and his works with a guest appearance by MaryAnn Harris, his wife. That can be found thisaway.

Craig says that ‘Michael Streissguth’s Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece doesn’t aspire to much higher than providing indepth coverage of a seminal moment, both in the career of Johnny Cash, and in music history in general. Despite its flaws, it does this job fully and; therefore, remains a must-have for Cash aficionados and music historians.’

Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’

Robert has a look at a trilogy by Tanya Huff, The Smoke Trilogy, newly reissued in an omnibus edition: ‘One thing that I find marginally irritating about some of my favorite fantasy and science fiction writers is that if I don’t pay attention for a minute or two, they start a new series and then I have to catch up with them. Tanya Huff, for example, one of those protean writers who seems to be able to write in any subgenre, from “classic” fantasy to military sf to supernatural thrillers, and do it well, started a new series while I wasn’t looking. So I went back and caught up.’

Robert has a look another superhero film featuring a character who is, to say the least, unusual: ‘Another coupon, another DVD. This time it was The Amazing Spider-Man at half price. Another one of those films I’d heard of but didn’t really know much about, except that 1) it’s about Spider-Man, a character who has started to intrigue me, and 2) superhero. (Note: I haven’t started really digging into Spider-Man yet, so I’m not going to comment on the success of this as a reboot.)’

Look, more chocolate! These are just a sample of the many, many chocolate related reviews we’ve done.

Gary really seems to have enjoyed a chocolate bar made from single-origin beans by a company based in Eureka, Calif. From his review, it sounds like a multi-media experience. ‘The bar is beautifully decorated in an incised pattern that resembles Islamic geometric tesserae.’

A boozy chocolate trifle is the recipe for Jen: ‘This dessert is highly alcoholic. And huge: the finished recipe weighs about 8 pounds, not counting the heavy glass trifle bowl, without which it really isn’t worth doing. I developed it after reading, yes, way too many English novels and wondering how to make it with chocolate.’

And Robert has another tasty treat from Lindt chocolatiers: Lindt’s Excellence Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt: ‘We are no strangers here to Lindt chocolates, and it’s generally a happy association — on our part, at least. The latest example of Lindt’s chocolates to cross my desk is a new flavor in their “Excellence” line — dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt.’

Jasmine, with a certain amount of puzzlement, says, ‘When I started reading Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch, I had already entered into the story by listening to the radio play. I thought that I might gain additional insight into the family events which lurk and jump out at one in the course of the narrator’s story. What I found was exactly the same impenetrable mystery which informs the radio version.’

Brendan looks at Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons: ‘This is an amazing CD that manages not only to pay tribute to the rural style of life but the entire field of American traditional music as well. Ungar and Mason have created a unique blend of orchestral and folk music that manages to preserve the integrity of each style while enhancing each other.’

Our Editor Cat finds balm for the soul in The Quiet Room, a new release from Americana duo Jay Ungar & Molly Mason. The album, which came out of a time of personal hardship, contains both new material and some of the best of their extensive back-catalog. ‘Everything here, new and old, I hope will delight you as much as it does me,’ Cat says.

Gary looks at another album from them: ‘Jay Ungar and Molly Mason are best known for their waltz, “The Ashokan Farewell,” which became the centerpiece tune of the Ken Burns/PBS documentary about the American Civil War. They’re more than a one-trick pony, though, as they demonstrate on Relax Your Mind, in which they team up with the acoustic jazz combo Swingology. Together, they’ve recorded an album of laid-back western swing and swing-influenced dance music that hits all the right notes.’

Denise looks at a figurine inspired by the 13th Doctor, TITANS’ 6.5” ‘Twice Upon A Time’ 13th Doctor Kawaii.I love this little figurine. I figured I’d think it was cute, shrug, and tap out something that’d sound nice but not really have any true feeling one way or the other. But dang y’all. This one’s a keeper.’

‘Saturday in the Park’ is my choice this week for our music coda. It’s by Chicago, the not quite rock band. If you were around in ‘72, you no doubt heard the song playing in heavy rotation on pretty much every FM and AM radio station. The song was written by Robert Lamm and recorded by the group for their album Chicago V. It’s upbeat song, suitable for a warm day as it is today. I can’t tell you where or when it was recorded as the database for the Infinite Jukebox has absolutely nothing on it.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 12th of May: Another Thirteenth Doctor Figure, A Tanya Huff trilogy, Recordings by Molly Mason & Jay Ungar, A Conversation with Charles de Lint, Lots of Chocolate, ‘Saturday in the Park’ by Chicago and Other Tasty Matters

What’s New for the 5th of May: It’s Spring, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Time Travel, Candy, Jazz, and more

None of us know for sure what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Keep your faith. Travel hopefully. The universe will surprise you, constantly. — Thirteenth Doctor in ‘The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos’

Can you smell it? No, not the Turkish coffee I’m drinking, which is earthy and most excellent. That other earthy smell. That’s spring here. Windows are open, everyone’s rambling around this old estate looking at the plants coming up, and I’ve even overheard more than one couple contemplating doing the two-backed beast in Oberon’s Wood when it gets just a bit warmer.

And there’re always contradances going on here — what better way to check out a new partner? After all, G B Shaw once said ‘dancing is the vertical expression of the horizontal desire.’  So there’ll be a dance tonight in the Courtyard with Chasing Fireflies which is currently myself on concertina, Béla on violin, and a lovely smallpiper-lass named Finch. It’s a truly sweet sound and you’ll want to step lively if you’re here. 

Andrea looks at an Appalachian set tale for you: ‘Ghost Rider is the latest novel in Sharyn McCrumb’s “Ballad Series.” Ghost Riders is different from the others in the series in that there is no mystery (in the “mystery novel” sense of the word) to be solved. In the other books, the storyline goes back and forth between past and present, the stories linked sometimes obviously and sometimes tenuously. Usually in the “modern” story there is a mystery which the story in the past fleshes out or provides with a new insight. In Ghost Riders there are two separate tales from the past and a storyline set in the present. The narratives set in the past are linked by a chance meeting but still remain separate tales. One of these stories has a direct influence on the present. There are various characters, past and present, whose lives intertwine briefly in interesting and occasionally surprising ways.’

It being being Sping, Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life was a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’

Marian looks at a trilogy by Jane Yolen that deserves to be a classic. First up is ‘The Books of Great Alta which is the compilation of Yolen’s two books in the series,  Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. It is the story of the women of Dale, who worship Great Alta, the mother goddess and what happens to them for better or worse.’ If you’ve read these already, then do read Marian’s review of  the final volume, The One-Armed Queen, but otherwise do not as it has major spoilers about what happens in the first two novels.

Warner says ‘The Gates of Stone is Angus Macallan’s first novel, and also the first book in the “Lord of the Islands” series. A first novel is a hard sell for many; this one also promises that it is a part of a coming series. For any series, the question of engaging the reader with the world and characters from the beginning paramount.’

Robert went out to see the new Marvel Comics film, and had a mixed reaction: ‘In spite of my reservations about the Avengers films (to be honest, aside from the first one, I haven’t found them all that satisfying), I decided to see Avengers: Endgame. It’s a lot more complex than I had expected, offering a deeper examination of character and psychology than one might expect from a “comic book” movie, and I’m not sure just how successful it is.’


Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! But if you’re full up on Tex-Mex and don’t want to look another nacho in the face, Denise is here with some beer and candy for you. First, she looks at Orchard Valley Harvest’s Sweetened Cherries in Dark Chocolate. ‘My only issue is the chocolate coating, with tends to crumble if you try to make each cherry a two-bite treat.’ But is it worth a try? Only reading her review will give you the full story.

Next is a look at McKeever & Danlee Confectionery Co.’s Liquorice Allsorts, Australian black licorice. ‘Think of this licorice as training wheel bits for the really hardcore European stuff. That said, they’re perfect with a cup of tea, or perhaps a glass of champagne if you’re feeling fancy. (Hint: I’m always feeling fancy.)’

And how about something to wash that candy down? Victory Brewing Company’s Storm King Imperial Stout, perhaps? ‘King ain’t one of those sweet stouts, people. It’s bitter, strong, and proud.’ Not sure if you’re ready to let your taste buds walk on the wild side? Then read her review for more info!

Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is a graphic novel that comes with a warning from April: ‘The Escapist is an original comic creation springing from Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And though it’s not at all necessary to have read that marvelous novel to enjoy The Escapists, readers should, because this graphic novel takes both its heart and inspiration from Chabon’s work.’ Read her full review to see why she liked this.

Our West Coast Cat has this to say about Rupa and the April Fish’s Growing Up: ‘It’s a complicated, layered, beautiful piece that is hopeful and fierce all at once, exercising that loving kindness and radical tenderness on the listener and challenging them to follow suit.’

Gary reviews the latest from the prolific musician Stephan Micus, a true solo effort. ‘On White Night, his 23rd solo album for ECM, Micus unleashes his visionary creativity to take his listeners on a journey through his imagined world, illuminated by the full moon and with a soundtrack out of his sublime dreams.’

For something completely different, Gary reviews a country-western record called O Bronder, Donder Yonder? ‘Forrest Van Tuyl, who performs as An American Forrest, is a young cowboy poet and horse wrangler from northeastern Oregon who slings archaic lingo around like flapjacks.’

Finally, Gary reviews Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It’s a five-disc box set from Smithsonian Folkways, documenting 50 years of the Crescent City’s signature cultural festival. ‘I can’t imagine anybody with a speck of soul who won’t absolutely dig this beautiful box set,’ he says.

Our What Not this time is sort of about Jane Austen, who was an devoted dancer. Extended scenes set in the ballroom are intrinsic aspects of all of her novels. Alison Thompson, noted musician, dancer and writer, wrote an article called ‘The Felicities of Rapid Motion; Jane Austen in the Ballroom’ which was printed in Persuasions, Winter 2000. That’s the online journal of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

We’ve got these reviews of other works by her, Dancing Through Time subtitled Western Social Dance in Literature, 1400-1918, Lighting the Fire: Elsie J. Oxenham, The Abbey Girls, and the English Folk Dance Revival and The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances which is set  to airs by Turlough O’Carolan.

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to what I like for music which is why the playlist here in the Pub when the Neverending Session isn’t, errr, in session leans heavily towards Celtic trad music. So it will surprise you that my selection for parting music today isn’t of that manner but rather it something a bit more modern, to wit ‘The Cuckoo’s Nest’ by De Dannan, recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, in 1982. Well, as if something composed in the 1920s by John J. Kimmel is to considered modern…

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 5th of May: It’s Spring, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Time Travel, Candy, Jazz, and more

A Kinrowan Estate story: The Oysterband

The Old Man here — Indeed it’s cold and wet outside, not ‘tall good for a long walk today, so I’m mucking about the database for the Infinite Jukebox here. Now, some might think it is indeed more than a bit queer that the Infinite Jukebox contains recordings of performers beyond count — but it is, after all, the Infinite Jukebox. I found a version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Let It Bleed’ with Marianne Faithfull fronting, as her boyfriend had overdosed all those years ago. I also loved the other female fronted rock and roll I listened to this morning — ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles, with Linda Ronstadt as the lead vocalist! Cool, really cool.

However, I was searching the Infinite Jukebox because I fondly remembered an Oyster Band album called English Rock and Roll — The Early Years. Yes, Oyster Band, not Oysterband. The band started life some thirty years ago as Fiddler’s Dram, later becoming the Oyster Ceilidh Band and eventually dropping the Ceilidh part of their name. As the name suggests, much of their music is bloody fine dance tunes which I really like on days like today!

If you are a fan of the present-day Oysterband, their rather sedate earlier sound might surprise you. Especially when compared to the band’s angry tone during the Thatcher years, when they would sing in ‘The shouting end of life’ that ‘Hacks that want to see me shuffle off the shelf / I hand them each a bottle, I say — Go fuck yourself!’ No, this is a far quieter, more traditional band that aficionados of good electrified English folk music will love, as almost everything, unlike later albums, is traditional material — only ‘A Longport Hymn’ (written by Alan Prosser) and the ‘Holligrave’ tune (written by Ian Kearey) are contemporary in composition. Oh, John Jones’ lovely voice is here, as is the voice of the soon-to-depart Cathy Lesurf of later Albion Band fame.

Indeed it has the aspects of the later band, but it feels much different than they do a decade or so later. Listening to it play in my office as it rains outside, I’m reminded of a time before Thatcher. Bloody bitch that she was, she made folk music political as a reaction against her evil reign. Here is a more innocent, pre-Thatcher Oysterband, one where saying ‘Go fuck yourself!’ would have been unthinkable. I miss that time, that sense of innocence. As the years pass, I find myself less interested in electrified English folk than I was when it started out some forty years ago. I want to be cheered up, not depressed!

Now let’s listen in as the ever so perfect tenor voice of John Jones sings the lyrics of ‘The Prentice Boy,’ a Cheshire folk song about a cobbler’s boy who runs away to join the Spanish army. And yes, do help yourself to a bottle or two of the rather good ale I found in the Pub this afternoon!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: The Oysterband

What’s New for the 28th of April: Folklore in the Twentieth Century, Russian Music, Real Fairy Tales, Swedish Pan Pipes, and more

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. — T.S. Eliot

I spent some time in Southeast Asia many years ago working for the British Consulate there, and so acquired a taste for the food served there. Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff blessed me this morning with a repast worthy of being called magnificent — sunny side eggs done up in the Thai style, both pork and shrimp dumplings pan fried of course, fried Thai donuts, and a mug of tea  with a generous lashing of cream. They amazingly even got me a day old copy of the English language Bangkok Post to read with it. Not sure how they did that, but I’m certain there’s a favour in the asking for later.

Now here’s our Edition…

Deborah gives us a glimpse of fairy tales by Neil Gaiman, in M is for Magic: ‘There is a child who burns with curiosity, who is full of the Wood. He knows there are scary things in the world, and amazing things too. This child understands that trolls still lurk under bridges and she knows that magical things can be found in the most ordinary of places. She knows that she should be careful in the world but that she shouldn’t let that keep her at home. He realizes that the categorically scary can be oddly comforting and that the impenetrably beautiful can often times be terrifying indeed. And yet this is all to say there’s a child who’s every child.’

Faith brings us a bit of gothic horror by way of Douglas Clegg’s Isis: ‘Have you ever read “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs? It’s a nasty little story that proves quite graphically that bringing the dead back to life, no matter what the motive, is a horrible idea and not for amateurs. Although its plotline is not identical, Isis nicely illustrates the same thing.’

Robert has a look at a book for anyone with an interest in folklore and its place in the arts: ‘While the authors of Re-Situating Folklore are concerned largely with the relationship between folklore and literature, what they describe is something that happens across the spectrum of “high art” and the vernacular: folklore, or the vernacular (which is the ultimate origin of folklore), in its forms or content, is adopted as high art, while reciprocally, literary or artistic works work their way into folk or pop culture.’

Robert bought the DVD for an X-Men spinoff that was pretty impressive: The Wolverine: ‘It should come as no surprise that I saw The Wolverine when it came out. I was impressed enough that I bought the DVD when that came out. (Another coupon – I try to avoid paying full price for anything.) Yes, it was worth it.’

Garth Ennis’ Midnighter: Killing Machine got an ambivalent reaction from Robert: ‘I have to confess to some ambivalence toward Midnighter: Killing Machine, the first collection of the eponymous series on the character introduced in Stormwatch and who continued as part of the Authority in the Wildstorm universe. I think that ambivalence will be apparent as you read through this commentary.’

Chris got tickets to Martin Barre’s concert of “greatest hits” from Jethro Tull: ‘Martin Barre, who for more than four decades was the guitarist of legendary rock band Jethro Tull, is celebrating the band’s fiftieth anniversary this year with a greatest hits show that delves into the band’s deep, wonderful catalog. . . . The show I saw at the Iridium in New York on April 25 featured reworked versions of songs spanning much of the band’s career, and was in every way worthy of Tull’s long history.’

Lars has a look at a rather unusual mix of traditions in Alban & Josué’s Polska på Pan: ‘
f you are the least interested in Swedish traditional music, keyed fiddles, Indian flute music, or just crosses between different musical cultures, you should well consider giving some of your listening time to this. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved if one is firmly rooted in a tradition but daring enough to expand the boundaries of that tradition.’

Robert looks at a pair of recordings of music by twentieth-century Russian masters, performed by twentieth-century legends, including none other than Van Cliburn and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: ‘Music by Russian composers in the twentieth century presents some interesting contrasts, not only between those who remained in the Soviet Union after the 1917 Revolution, such as Dmitri Shostakovich, but also among the expatriates, such as, in this case, the composers I have been calling over the past few days “The Two Sergeis”: Sergei Rachmaninoff and Sergei Prokofiev.’

Our What Not this week is a convention. Denise says: ‘Washington DC’s Awesome Con was this weekend, and it was a chance to check out all sorts of entertainment-type things. But my personal favorites are the science-y type stuff at Future Con. Educational booths from the Smithsonian, NASA, National Geographic and many more sated wannabe science nerds like me with tales of robotics and biological research. But I think I enjoyed panels that combined genre fandoms and hard science, like The Science of Aquaman, Germ Warfare: A Very Graphic History (with special guest Max Brooks!), and Harry Potter and the Genetics of Wizarding. Who says you can’t have fun and learn something? Weekend well spent, and I’m already looking forward to next year.’

So how about some tasty pop from nearly forty years ago? ‘Come On Eileen’ is  from the Dexys Midnight Runners, a Birmingham pop band with soul influences founded by Kevin Rowland and Kevin Archer. The song was a success in large part because of heavy radio play and because of MTV airing its video in heavy rotation in ‘82, just four years after the band was formed. Our version is from Rockpalast, a German radio programme that apparently let everything it taped loose in the marketplace as soundboard recordings as I’ve seen amazing music productions ‘released’ by them. This was done on the 9th of April, the year after the song was officially released.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 28th of April: Folklore in the Twentieth Century, Russian Music, Real Fairy Tales, Swedish Pan Pipes, and more

A Kinrowan Estate story: Lost Empires

More Midnight Wine? A bit of smoked savannah slinker? Some snow-white strawberries from the other side of that Border? What tickles your fancy this fine morning?

I was eating a very late breakfast with a few other Green Man staffers after a late night of trading truths, half truths, and outright lies over a poker game a Jack — who had dropped by on his way to yet ‘nother adventure — had started when he walked into the Pub, when a stranger walked in and took a seat nearby. There was nothing unusual about him until over his second cup of Sumatra he said that he was the last King of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire . . . Who were we to disagree? What profit was there in doing that?

Mind you, he was dressed all in black with a smart cut to his slightly old-fashioned clothes and a haughty demeanor of one to the Manor born, but that said little to who he was, and we’ve heard far stranger statements made here by much odder looking individuals. Now I know that most historians claim that Charles I succeeded to the Austro-Hungarian throne during The First World War, and that he abdicated from it a short time later in 1918 when the Armistice took effect and the war ended with the surrender of the Central powers to the Allies. Historians further say he died five years later — a mortal lifetime ago. Our visitor, Karl by name, rejected that history with an angry shake of his head. Indeed Bela, our resident Balkan violinist, has also claimed for years that he was born in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire!

One of the poker players shrugged her shoulders — I think it was Zina who was playing on her fiddle a spritely set of tunes, ‘Never Wed a Hendrake Lass / Hangman’s Reel / Midsummer’s Night’ — and asked him to tell his story. So over the course of that morning, he told us tales of Empires lost and regained, of parties so lavish that vassal states were impoverished to keep the festivities going, of a lover who betrayed him for a handful of silver, of another lover who risked everything for him, of mad priests who couldn’t be killed, and many more tales.

He drained his tankard of Skull-buster Strine beer, picked up his walking cane, and said in his faintly accented English that it was time to catch a train back to His Imperial Capital. Bela bowed deeply to him as he turned toward the door, and that was the last we saw of him — but he left behind ‘nough stories for lifetimes…

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Lost Empires

What’s New for the 21st of April: A History of Tull, the Polesotechnic League, Chocolate Eggs, More Tull, Payback, and other neat stuff

She who invented words, and yet does not speak; she who brings dreams and visions, yet does not sleep; she who swallows the storm, yet knows nothing of rain or wind. I speak for her; I am her own.― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden

So have you read The Orphan’s Tales? No? So think A Thousand and One Nights told from the viewpoint of I’d guess a teenage girl spiralling out to encompass myriad other storytellers telling their tales, all interconnected into one Story. Each Story piece is short, sometimes only a paragraph and certainly no more than a few pages at the most. Absolutely delicious to dip into for a few minutes or get lost for hours on end. I’ve got both of them here behind the Bar and have been known when the Pub is quiet to pull one of them out and read a narrative thread until I’m needed again.

Want a flavour of them? Well SJ Tucker recorded ‘The Girl in the Garden’ which is off her most excellent Sirens album which sets the premise up, and I think that there’s a short tale from them on the Infinite Jukebox… Yes there’s it is, ‘The Tale of The Tea Maker and The Shoe Maker’  so that should whet your appetite. Our reviews of the two volumes are here and over here.

Of course this Edition contains lots of other neat stuff for you as well from a history of Jethro Tull and music from the band too, YA from Kage Baker, Easter chocolate, bulldogs, baked eggs, Irish music, even stories from Poul Anderson. With that, I’ll take your leave for now.

Chuck has a book for you that’s very popular to take out from the Library here at Kinrowan Estate: ‘Ciaran Carson is an Irish poet and musician, who has, in Last Night’s Fun, put together a series of writings, each inspired by a traditional tune. In most cases, these are short essays. For others, he has written poetry or put together sets of quotations. Occasionally the subjects in consecutive chapters are directly related, but that is most likely happenstance.’

Kate has a look-see at Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Matthew looks at a Kage Baker venture into children’s fiction: ‘In comparison to her other works,’ says he, ‘I would consider The Hotel under the Sand to be one of Kage Baker’s lesser works, but it is still highly enjoyable.’

We have another first from Robert — well, sort of: A collection of stories from the late Poul Anderson: ‘At long last, someone has begun the monumental task of issuing the late Poul Anderson’s classic stories of the Polesotechnic League in internal chronological order. Hank Davis, who compiled this volume (there are three volumes in total), has expanded the timeline to include some League prehistory and the series is being called The Technic Civilization Saga. Anderson was one of the luminaries of the Golden Age of science fiction, and his stories of the League rank with Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy series and Heinlein’s Future History as landmarks in the field.’


Remember when you could eat anything? Under certain circumstances we all have the digestions of teenagers, even now. Such as when that April storm blows through, leaving the world coated in ice, every twig and windshield glittering in the ironical sun, and let me tell you, it’s not a good idea to pour the kettle on that windshield. It’ll shatter. But a baked egg can set you up to walk out into that slippery, glittering world, chip your windshield clear, maybe snap a few pix for Instagram, and know in your heart that Spring is on the way.

Denise dives into the holiday spirit with a look at Specially Selected’s Chocolate Truffle Eggs and Choceur’s Dark Chocolate Marzipan Mini Eggs. One she enjoyed, one she…tolerated. How to figure out which is which?  Well that’s easy; just read her reviews to see what you may want to include in your basket!

Big Earl says of Ånon that ‘Ånon Egeland is a master of the mighty hardanger fiddle (a violin with drone strings). As a collector of traditional songs from his area, Egeland is noted for keeping the traditions of the north alive. On this, his first solo album of his twenty-plus year career, he brings forth a beautiful collection of dances from Sweden and Norway, some learnt from the great masters of the idiom.’

Got a Tull fan on your Birthday shopping list? Oh does Chris have a suggestion for you: ‘Did I really need a box set of an album, when I already had an LP, cassette tape, and, as in the case of Aqualung, the 25th anniversary CD? However, I found myself tempted by Songs from the Wood, a personal favorite album of mine, and decided to take my chances with it, and the reissue of Heavy Horses. I wasn’t disappointed.’

‘You know it’s true love when a Swede compares you to coffee, right?’ That’s what Gary says about Wooh Dang, the new Americana release by Daniel Norgren.

Robert picked Tummel’s Payback Time as his recommended recording  this outing: ‘Think about the band playing on while the Titanic goes down. Think of some of Joel Gray’s bitchier numbers in Cabaret. Think of Josephine Baker at her most outrageous taking Paris by storm. Think of a bunch of crazy Swedes with no inhibitions whatsoever getting together and letting everyone have it, right between the eyes. That might give an inkling of the tone of Tummel’s Payback Time.’

With Spring officially sprung, more and more people are enjoying the out-of-doors. And many are doing that with a furry friend. Today, on National Bulldogs Are Beautiful Day, it bears mentioning that these stout little bringers of happiness come in many forms. From Frenchies to Olde English, Cataholula to Continental, there’s surely a bully pup or twelve that’ll make you swoon. You know they’re good for your heart, right? Check out these little bebbes, and enjoy a lovely bit of Bulldog time. That feels better now, doesn’t it?

I’m a Tull fan from days on old when Ian successfully bludgeoned rock and folk music into one art form. So I got thinking about what might be on the Infinite Jukebox and to my delight I discovered it had ‘The Hunting Girl’ in which boy meets girl on horse and they get down in the dirt for a good fucking. Even the lyrics make that clear (‘She took this simple man’s downfall in hand; I raised the flag that she unfurled) and Ian’s Flute playing adds a sexual urgency to the song. This version was recorded on the 12th of November, forty years ago at the LA Sports Arena.

 

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 21st of April: A History of Tull, the Polesotechnic League, Chocolate Eggs, More Tull, Payback, and other neat stuff

A Kinrowan Estate Story: Writing Retreats (A Letter To Peter)

Dear Peter,

Here’s my thoughts on the history of writing retreats here

The first recorded one was in the Twenties, a small group of mystery writers, no one that anyone reads now, but who were all fairly well-known at that time. They stayed here for a few weeks, talked about their editors and how little the magazines were paying, drank well and ate even better. They wree very impressed with the collection of mystery works in our Library including a full run of Strand magazine.

A rather interesting writing group that met here off and on during the Second World War apparently was under the auspices of the War Office though we didn’t get told that until some fifty years later. We were told then that they were a group of historians and novelists, who were to develop deep covers for agents in Nazi occupied Europe.

When the yurts got built in the Sixties, we started getting groups here in the Summer that liked meeting outdoors. One of the odder groups was apparently devoted to writing Feminist versions of the Arthurian mythos. Now none of us had any problem with that but they brooked no arguments as to the validity of that idea. And that made for some rather tense moments in the Pub late in the evening.

I think that was what led The Steward to turn down a group of Marion Zimmer Bradley acolytes who wanted to meet here some summers back. That he had brown eyes and had read The Mists of Avalon I’m sure had nothing to do with it . . .

By the Eighties, we started to get creative writing groups which I swear meant that grammar, logic, and even telling a story that makes sense were tossed in the rubbish bin. Iain, our new Librarian, actually started planning his vacations so that he and his wife were off somewhere else when such a group was here as he wanted nothing to do with them. Wise decision all in all.

(They got banned from reading their work to each other in the Pub. And pretty much anywhere else except where they had rented space.)

We still get to this one or two writing groups a year that meet our standards and are allowed to use the Estate, but I’m still more fond of knitters, artists, bread and cheese makers, real ale fans, and even the occasional horde of mass voice orchestras.

Cheers Reynard

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: Writing Retreats (A Letter To Peter)

What’s New for the 14th of April: Joanna Russ, Live Music from Altan, Outlander, Really Great Brownies, Haunted Gotham and Other Neat Stuff

Of all the things a man may do, sleep probably contributes most to keeping him sane. It puts brackets about each day. If you do something foolish or painful today, you get irritated if somebody mentions it, today. If it happened yesterday, though, you can nod or chuckle, as the case may be. You’ve crossed through nothingness or dream to another island in Time -― Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead

The weather was sublime this afternoon for nearly the middle of April: somewhat over twenty degrees, light breezes and full sun. Anyone who could get outside did, so I took advantage of the weather to continue my reading all things Zelazny by re-reading Isle of the Dead, a novel I hadn’t read in some thirty years but figured I’d let my Several Annies staff the Estate Library while I did some recreational reading. My book is a signed copy of the 0ver fifty-year-old Berkley Ace edition I had him sign at a con where he was a Guest of Honour some years back.

So I grabbed the novel, a large thermos of kickass Sumatran iced coffee with a generous splash of cream and an even more generous splash of Baileys, some sharp cheese, some dried meats, both pork and beef,  and salted smoked almonds as well.  There’s a spot near the Cricket pitch where there’s a few seats out of the wind but in full sun that’ll do for a reading spot.

I’ve got this Edition ready for you and it’ll be posted at four in the morning Sunday as they always are. Or it was posted at four in the morning Sunday — time’s something that’s kind of flexible oft times here…

Camille looks at a work that was the first novel in what has become a global cultural phenomenon: ‘It’s 2006, and the sixth novel of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, has just recently won the 2006 Quill Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror category. For some of you, it may be 2007 or beyond, but like Gabaldon does in this series, I’m going to allow that time may have a more elastic quality than we have hitherto thought. In fact, like Outlander heroine Claire Randall, I’m going to step through my ring of magical stones here, and. . . . Ah! Here I am in 1991, with the first book of Gabaldon’s series, Outlander, newly published under the title Cross Stitch.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are two of my fav British folk rock(ish) bands, so it’s apt that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’

An edition of The Grimm Tales edited by Francis P. Magoun, Jr. and Alexander H. Krappe wins the favor of Michael:  ‘So what’s so good about this particular volume, as opposed to the numerous other Grimms’ Fairy Tales out there on the market? Quite simply, accuracy. I have to admit a great deal of respect for anyone who can translate this many stories from German, and still manage to keep the authentic flavor of the text, and the colloquial language intact. And if some of the stories seem just a tad … surreal, you can thus blame it on the original text involved. Trust me, some of the originals -are- a bit on the surreal side. It’s a safe bet that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to publish the Grimms if they were alive and submitting manuscripts today.’

Robert takes a rather detailed look at a critical study of one of the key voices in science fiction in the twentieth century: ‘Anyone who wants to discuss science fiction since the mid-1960s, particularly with reference to sf’s increasing willingness to ponder questions of sexuality and gender, had better know their Joanna Russ. Happily, Farah Mendlesohn has, in On Joanna Russ, made that not only possible, but enjoyable.’

Asher states forthrightly that Mists of Avalon which is based on the Marion Zimmer Bradley novel ‘is a revisionist Arthurian tale. The film opens much like Braveheart‘s “Historians in England will say I am a liar…” with an agonized and weary, almost crucified Morgaine narrating — “No one knows the real story. Most of what you know… is nothing but lies” — as her boat glides into the mists, a device that welded this viewer to his seat, not wanting to miss any of the necessary adjustments to the legend.’

Kimberly has a choice bit of popcorn viewing for us: ‘As a made-for-television flick, Merlin is watchable fantasy fun. But if you want any fidelity to the original Arthurian legends, f’get-about-it! It ain’t gonna happen in this movie. Still, there aren’t tons of fantasy pieces on television that don’t require a barf-bag, so enjoy what you can from this one — particularly the special effects. The fairies in the magic woods are delightful, and so is the early scene where young Merlin is asleep in a hollow tree, where he meets Nimue for the first time and discovers his powers. Of course, Evil Queen Mab snatches Nimue from Merlin for revenge and scars her for life, but she is restored by Merlin’s love and last act of magic, to her youth. Merlin lives happily ever after with her. Awwwww.’


Don’t leave home with them. Jen certainly doesn’t as she says of her fabulous whiskey cherry brownies that she has been known to do this: ‘When I go to a conference or a doctor’s office or a small gathering of drunk authors, I bring these brownies in those tiny plastic “snack” boxes from the dollar store.’ H’h, I’ve known drug dealers that started out that way..

Cat has some horror for us in a DC series: ‘Gotham By Midnight centers around Precinct Thirteen, the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force. It’s just a handful of personnel — a Catholic sister and a forensics expert, both consultants, a GCPD Lieutenant, and of course, Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre. But this is not The Spectre as traditionally depicted in flowing robes and such with a hooded cloak. No, this is a much horrifying Spectre — one that lives just within the skin of Corrigan who himself is far less handsome than he was in the DC Showcase I previously reviewed. Of course, this is Corrigan in the dark nights of Gotham City, not the sunny vistas of Los Angeles.’

The atmosphere evoked by the south of France and the art made by the Impressionists who lived there informs guitarist Dominic Miller’s new album Absinthe, Gary notes. ‘Every track on Absinthe is almost like a short story.’

Gary also takes a close listen to the new CD from guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan, Epistrophy. ‘It is indeed all in fun, so grab this disc and prepare for epiphanies aplenty, of the musical kind.’

Robert takes us in quite a different direction with a look at Toru Takemitsu’s I Hear the Water Dreaming: ‘I’ve long been fascinated by the music of Toru Takemitsu, one of those post-War Japanese artists who incorporated Western ideas in music while maintaining a strong sense of Japanese traditions. My first run-in was with November Steps on vinyl, bought when I was in one of those experimental moods I get into in music stores. I loved it, which happens about 50% of the time with those purchases.’

And Robert follows that with a look at works by another contemporary composer, American Ned Rorem’s Winter Pages/Bright Music: ‘First, the confession: I have avoided Rorem’s music for years because I have an inexplicably deep-seated resistance to the art song in any form (whether this is because I was once a folk-singer or in spite of that fact, I’m not sure; the fact remains, the only “art songs” that have ever penetrated this reserve are Mahler’s great cycles, which are actually more symphonic than anything else). I then ran across selections from Rorem’s Nantucket Songs, performed by soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson accompanied by Rorem himself (part of the CRI disc Gay American Composers), and decided to think about it again.’

This week’s What Not is a bit out of the ordinary. Well, not really, not for us. Robert takes a look at the Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi (that’s ‘tarot’ for you non-speakers of Italian), with a bit of history thrown in.

So it’s Spring and I can hear the Neverending Session playing some spritely tune in the distance as they too are outside which I know I’ve heard on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, before. So let me pull Memoria, our music search app, up on my iPad and see what it says it is…

So it’s ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ which I forgotten had been added to their list of favourite tunes a fortnight or so back. It’s by Altan as recorded  at the Folkadelphia Session in  Philadelphia though I see Memoria has not a clue what year it was done. Tasty piece of music indeed!

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 14th of April: Joanna Russ, Live Music from Altan, Outlander, Really Great Brownies, Haunted Gotham and Other Neat Stuff

A Kinrowan Estate story: Musical Ganeshas

Dear Svetlana,

Glad to hear that your trip to Ukrainian-speaking Canada went well. It’s amazing how much of their culture, including language, they’ve retained, as it’s well over a century since their ancestors settled there!

So you want know about the four Ganeshas residing in a spot behind the bar here in the Pub? You won’t be surprised to know there’s an interesting story behind them. It starts off a couple of decades ago when Ingrid and I were in Mumbai on a fabric-buying trip for a Glasgow client of hers. As is our usual habit in a city like this, we spend as much time as we can in markets looking for interesting things to buy, from spices and interesting grains to offbeat art when we see it.

Ingrid spotted these in a stall selling the usual tourist tat — hookahs, badly dyed fabrics, and fluorescent-coloured Buddhas. Does anyone buy an orange Buddha bright enough to see at midnight even if they were not stoned? She spotted the Ganeshas on a shelf in the back of the stall — not dyed for festival use but just plain brass and about eighteen inches high. She dickered for them and got a reasonable deal on them.

Getting them through Indian customs required using a broker, some baksheesh, and considerable patience. Our broker swore to the export staff that they were going in a library of some importance befitting that deity. They ended up in the Pub because they are playing instruments.

A few years later, I ran across an odd little place in Roundtree, Ireland, that had only sculptures from India. And that’s where the photo I’ve attached to this letter is from. They’re the biggest set of these I’ve ever seen!

Warmest thoughts, your Fox

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Musical Ganeshas

What’s New for the 7th of April: A Tale of Two Cities, A Bokashi Composter, Zombies, Scrapple, Jazz, Opera, and Other Tasty Matters

Is it more childish and foolish to insist that there is a conspiracy or that there is not? ― China Mieville’s The City & The City

A really great mystery that’s also an outstanding work of sf is rare indeed which is why is I read The City & The City every few years. That it also has great characters and a believable though fantastic setting are just added points in its favour. So I’ve got Finn covering the Pub on this warm, quiet evening as there’s a contradance outside on one of the stone patios that I knew my knees weren’t up to, so I’ve got that novel, a pint of our Two Ravens Stout to enjoy and I can hear the Neverending Session running through their tune list from the open windows near where I’m sitting.

But first, this edition. We’ve got a tasty recipe for scrapple, you Scots can think it of as Lorne sausage, a look at the  Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse film, a composter (!), some neat recordings and, errr, unicorns. Yes unicorns.

Chuck says wonderingly of our first Ian McDonald novel review that ‘I figure this much: Desolation Road starts with a green man crossing the desert, so this has to be the perfect book for Green Man Review. OK, the book calls him a “greenperson,” and the desert is on a Mars of the future, transformed by mankind’s effort, but you get the idea. Trailing this greenperson is Dr. Alimantando. He comes to a place along a railroad, where, almost accidentally, he settles and starts the community that he names Desolation Road. Soon after, more people begin arriving and, in short order, the community becomes a village, a city, a war zone and a ghost-town — all within 23 Martian years. That’s the story.’ Or is that the whole story ?

Richard looks at another Ian MacDonald Mars novel and has a cautionary note as his first words: ‘You will know whether you will love or hate Ares Express long before you have finished the first chapter. The litmus test is very simple: what is your reaction to the name of the main character. If you find Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Assim Engineer 12th to be painfully twee or flat-out incomprehensible, then you will hate this book.’

Robert has some comments on a book about writing. In fact, that’s the title: About Writing, by Samuel R. Delany: ‘A bit of history: I don’t really remember when I started reading Samuel R. Delany’s novels. . . . I liked his novels: they were “good,” which at that point was the most precise description I had available. (Now that term falls somewhere between describing my evaluation of literary quality and my gut response as a reader.) Then Dhalgren happened, which led me to understand that there was much more going on in these books than I had bothered to think about.’

Speaking of Dhalgren, guess what: Robert has a review of that, too: ‘Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren was originally published in 1974. It was brash, it was overtly experimental, it was greeted with everything from wild hallelujahs to roars of outrage. It was in many ways the culmination of science fiction’s New Wave: where writers such as Aldiss, Ballard, Disch, Zelazny, and Delany himself had pushed the envelope, Dhalgren finally ripped it up and scattered the pieces. Mainstream critics, caught flat-footed, came up with the term “magical realism” in an attempt to link it to “respectable” if someone outré writers such as Borges and Garcia Marquez.’

Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman‘s The Unicorn Anthology gets a loving and detailed review by Warner: ‘As one who enjoys both older and newer fantasy works, a variety like this is appreciated, where many volumes would keep only to more recent fare, seeing previously anthologized pieces as less desirable. This is a brilliant little collection with a wonderful introduction and I recommend it wholeheartedly.’

Robert remembers a rather unusual zombie movie he saw some time ago: ‘I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies some while back, when I had gone to see something else, and thought “Cute, but probably not something I’ll want to see.” Well, I was looking to kill a couple of hours and discovered that it was at my favorite theater — 15 minutes away, cheap admission for early shows. So I went. Well, the Apocalypse has come, but it hasn’t been “the fire next time.” It was a virus, or something, that turned people into the living dead.’

And Cat was very enthusiastic about Marvel’s new animated feature, Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse: ‘I decided to watch Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse as a diversion while on an extended stay in the hospital. I expected it to be entertaining, and I was right!’


Jen reveals a recipe handed down to her mother from Appalachian cooks who specialized in corn and pork. Accept no substitutes from bowdlerized ‘country’ chain-restaurant menus. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, savory with roast pork and sage, sweet with sorghum syrup, scrapple is a food of the gods. And, since it’s country food, it’s cheap.

Robert takes us through a couple of what he calls ‘top-notch superhero comics’, The Authority: Vol. 1 and The Authority: Under New Management: ‘Looking for the beginnings of The Authority, I finally found Warren Ellis’ complete run, issued by DC as The Authority: Volume 1, which begins after the demise of Stormwatch.’

Cat says of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s The Quiet Room that ‘If you’re expecting a logical appraisal of this new recording — whose subtitle ‘Music to heal the heart and soothe the soul’ could be applied to every recording that this superb artistic couple has done over their long career — then you’re reading the wrong review. I like everything that they’ve done.’

Aaron Copland’s A Copland Celebration gets looked at by Gary who notes that ‘Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’

Gary finishes off his look at Fade into Dawn with these words: ‘Field Medic’s music at first glance seems pretty far from the country, Americana and traditional folk music that typically hits my pleasure spot. But I’m totally won over by Kevin Patrick’s creative and subtle wordplay and blunt portrayal of his own emotional states inside catchy but minimal tunes.’ Now go read his stellar review to see how he came to that conclusion!

Robert rounds out this week’s music reviews with a look at yet another opera by one of our favorite contemporary composers: ‘Philip Glass’ Kepler is another of his “portrait operas,” this one of the seventeenth-century German mathematician and astronomer who developed the laws of planetary motion, which became the foundation, ultimately, of Newton’s theory of gravitation. It’s no mistake that the opera is set in the period of the Thirty Years’ War, — not only was that when Kepler lived, but it marked a transition point in the history of Western thought. Martina Winkel’s libretto, in German and Latin, contrasts Kepler’s words as he wrestles with the concepts he is developing with the words of one of his contemporaries, Andreas Gryphius, on the plight of Europe during the war.’

West Coast Cat is getting ready for her spring gardening and tries something new, a bokashi composter, a form of indoor composting that allows dairy and meat to be composted. She notes, “As far as tweaking one’s day to day life to be more eco-groovy, this is about a medium level effort in terms of work, set-up, and daily maintenance.”

So what’s that tasty piece of music Finn’s playing right now on the Pub sound system? Why it’s ‘Volunteered Slavery’ by Rahsaan Roland Kirk & His Vibration Society recorded forty six years at Fillmore East In New York City. Kirk was renowned for his lively presence onstage during which his improv of continuous banter, impassioned political speech making and the ability to play several instruments simultaneously.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 7th of April: A Tale of Two Cities, A Bokashi Composter, Zombies, Scrapple, Jazz, Opera, and Other Tasty Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Fuck, That Was Strange

PIt was three in the morning, the time most babies are born and more people die than at any other hour. The Pub was empty but for me and The Old Man writing in his journal as His Ravens looked on. It was then she walked through a door which went where I did not know. She took a seat at the bar, order a whiskey from me  and looked at me with a gleam in her eyes.

I am, She said, just a figment of your imagination. I pondered this as I was sure it had been many, many years since I’d taken anything that gave me anything that odd for visions, be they dreams or nightmares

Ok, I said, I’ll play along. Why are you a figment of my imagination? Because I’m a figment of your imagination, she said.

Ahhhh a recursive loop, I thought. We can’t possibly both be the products of the other, I said.

Why not, she said, Is there any reason we can’t both be dreaming the other into being? Surely if Old Gods can sit here and no one notices them, then why not this as well?

Well, she had me there. So, I said, are we all but dreams of someone else? Is there an objective reality at all?

Surely you’re kidding, she murmured, you’re the Pub Keeper on an Estate where dead kings will keep fighting each other until time itself ends, where a dead librarian has been known to help patrons out late at night, where midnight wine is offered up as something to toast with, and where the very boundaries of the Estate encompass an ancient Wild Wood whose dimensions are far larger that can really exist in a rationale universe? And where you border what’s the Summerlands?

That earned her a dram of my very best whiskey which is centuries old and so costly that no one has ever ordered it. Need I say that the distillery was one that never existed in our reality as it’s from a Scotland where Bonnie Prince Charlie beat the English oh so long ago?

So, I asked, who are you?

Ahhh that would be telling was all she said as she downed that single malt. Suffice it to say that you and I will meet again as all mortals meet me eventually..

I turned to get her another dram but she was gone and when I turned around her glass was there, empty of course. I asked The Old Man what he thought of her and he gave me a queer look before saying that no one had been here for hours.

That made me pour myself from that ever-so-rare bottle and I never drink while working.

P

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Fuck, That Was Strange

What’s New for the 31st of March: A Full Scottish Breakfast, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Terrorists on Mars, Celtic and Eastern European Music, and more. . .

At the end of the season of sorrows comes the time of rejoicing. Spring, like a well-oiled clock, noiselessly indicates this time.  — Roger Zelazny’s “Passion Play”, found in Threshold: Volume 1, The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny

She arrived bearing a tray covered with a thick, colourful cloth. ‘It is’, she said,  ‘your full Scottish breakfast, complete with rashers of bacon, eggs cooked in the bacon fat, fat pork sausages seasoned with dried herbs, baked beans, fried tomatos and mushrooms, black and white puddings, hash browns, toast dripping with butter and Fey strawberry jam, and a very large mug of tea thick with cream. Now shall I sat it on the desk or the side table?’  I gestured to the desk and she left it there.

I set aside Threshold and picked up my iPad to read my overnight emails. I see that the Kitsune statue I want is available, there’s a niche picked out for it in the Pub admidst the Japanese folklore books that I’ve collected over the years. And one of my my sources says he’s found the cider craft books that Gus and Bjorn wanted. Nice. Those are very hard to find as they were printed in small runs.

Another friend wants to know if I and Ingrid might be interested in using their Reykjavík flat for a fortnight around Jónsmessa as they’ll be be out of the county on business. Certainly  we will — we adore Iceland that time of year and Finn said she’s willing to cover for me anytime. Lastly I see that there’s the last of the contracts for the curling contest this coming Winter being signed and returned  which means it’s a go!

Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life was a work much liked by Gus: ‘Like many serious gardeners, I collect books about gardens and those who created them. This one is a recent acquisition of mine that ranks among the best I’ve encountered! Subtitled ‘The plants and places that inspired the classic children’s tales’, it is just what it says it is: a look at the gardens (and botanical things) that inspired her children’s writings.’

Iain reviewed the audiobook edition of The Owl Service when it came out several years back: ‘Listening to The Owl Service as told by Wayne Forester, who handles both the narration and voicing of each character amazingly well, one is impressed by his ability to handle both Welsh accents and the Welsh language, given the difficultly of that tongue, which make Gaelic look easy as peas to pronounce by comparison.’

Margaret Lane’s The Tale of Beatrix Potter garners this intro by Laurie: ‘I like biographies, especially author biographies. When I was a small child, I was absolutely fascinated by a copy of a children’s biography of Louisa Mae Alcott that I found in my elementary school library; I thought it was an even better story than Little Women. I had a copy of a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and I loved to read it and look at the pictures included in the center. And Humphrey Carpenter’s Tolkien has long been a favorite of mine.’ Read her review to see why this biography measured up to those works.

Robert has a look at a pair of short fantasy novels from a master of fantasy literature: ‘Charles de Lint is known as “the godfather of urban fantasy,” and indeed, it’s in that genre that he’s made his mark – he’s never been a writer of heroic fantasy: in a better than thirty year career, very few buckles get swashed, although the two short novels included in Jack of KinrowanJack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon — come close, something of a romp a la Dumas pere — by way of Harold Lloyd, perhaps. Both concern the adventures of Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel, best friends who find themselves enmeshed in the doings of the land of Faerie that coexists with modern-day Ottawa.’

Warner brings us his thoughts on The Future Is Female!, an anthology with a different point of view: ‘The Future is Female! represents The Library of America’s continued efforts to provide authoritative volumes on any given subject. This is a large collection, featuring twenty five stories that show a wide rang of fiction. In addition, there are notations both in the text proper and on a convenient website that the jacket links the reader to, detailing the history of the authors in question and their work.’

Robert has a look at an exceptional anime, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie: ‘When I first encountered Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, I had not read the manga nor seen the TV series — which actually left me with no expectations, which is a good thing. The basic story is your standard action/adventure with terrorist plot, future universe variety.’

Denise takes one for the team by reviewing Reese’s Outrageous! Pieces bar, and is less than impressed. ‘I’d much rather have each item separately, or simply wait for them to re-issue their vastly superior Reese’s Nutrageous bars that has peanuts instead of minis.’ Want to know why she’s wishing for candies of yore? Read her review!

Jen brings another quick ‘n’ dirty favorite with a ‘tump’ recipe for corn ‘n’ crab soup. It’s ideal for shoveling calories into a sudden bunch of guests. The crab makes them think it’s fanc-ay!

Robert has some thoughts on the dark side, as portrayed in Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda’s Stormwatch Vol. 1: The Dark Side: ‘It’s significant of something or other that so much in comics and comics-related work in recent years stresses “the Dark.” One of those is DC’s new version of Stormwatch, titled The Dark Side, which is something of a prequel to later (chronologically) Stormwatch teams and the Authority.’

The Guardian said of Kathryn Tickell, the great Northumbrian piper and fiddler, that her live show features  ‘… tunes played at times hauntingly with fingers blurring as they flick up and down the chanter or over the fiddle neck. Each set of tunes is separated by stories about friends and places all told quietly, ramblingly and with a gentle wryness. Her act is gripping, funny and moving.’ Ed certainly agrees, as his review of Debateable Lands, her eighth album, is glowing.

We get the nicest things in the post, which is how Lahri ended up reviewing Celtic singer-songwriter Jez Lowe’s Live at the Davy Lamp. He comments, “Jez Lowe is one of the consummate performers in Celtic music today. Hailing from the Northumbrian lands of Northeast England, near the Scottish Borders, he brings a distinctively northern edge to his music. Lowe grew up among the coal miners and working class people of the region. The fact that he is Irish on both sides of his family gives him a bit of an outsider’s perspective, and a perfect viewpoint for his novelette style songs. Over his long career he has made many fine albums, each a little gem, and has been backed by some of Britain’s most understated and finest musicians.”

Classical music from Argentina? Yes, says Robert, in discussing Bernarda Fink and Marcos Fink’s Canciónes Argentinas: Piazzola, Guastavino and Others: ‘We don’t normally think of Argentina when we think of “classical” music. Well, time to do some re-thinking. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a group of composers emerged in Argentina, the “Generación de 900,” that in many respects echoed movements in Europe and America at the time, particularly their emphasis on establishing a “national” music.’

Scott takes us through two albums by the all-woman vocal group Kitka: ‘Kitka are an all-female vocal ensemble from the the San Francisco Bay area that started in 1979. While members have come and gone over the ensuing forty years, Kitka remain firmly committed to promoting and celebrating the rich and diverse musical traditions of Eastern Europe and the women who shaped many of these traditions with their voices. This past year, Kitka decided to revisit the musical themes they explored on Wintersongs with a new CD called Evening Star. Both albums are worth a close look, not simply to assess the quality of the music but to see how Kitka have evolved over time.’

Our What Not is on Tolkien, which means the reply to our question as to what’s your favourite work by him comes from  Christopher Golden this time: ‘As much as I love The Hobbit , the trilogy always appealed to me more, even as a child. There’s a terrible wisdom that hangs over The Lord of the Rings, a thematic undercurrent that is all about mortality and acceptance of the limits of humanity. In so many ways, it’s about twilight. Yes, there’s love and magic and the brotherhood of human society that we must embrace and relish, but the joy that brings is a wistful joy, draped with melancholy. In the midst of orcs and songs and grand battles and fellowships, those are the things that have always spoken most intimately to me, and what make The Lord of the Rings, in my heart and mind, Tolkien’s greatest achievement.’

It’s April and the Neverending Session has finally decamped itself from the Green Man Pub so I’ve started thinking about what I’ll be doing for playlists in the evening. It’ll be mostly trad Celtic and here’s a sample of what I’ll be playing in the guise of The Braes of Moneymore by the legendary Patrick Street, as recorded off the soundboard at the Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny on the tenth of April fourteen years ago. So not strictly trad Celtic but you get the idea, I take it?

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 31st of March: A Full Scottish Breakfast, Beatrix Potter’s Garden, Terrorists on Mars, Celtic and Eastern European Music, and more. . .

A Kinrowan Estate story: Booking Matters

From: Jack Merry, Booking Manager, Kinrowan Estate
To: Simon Sterling, Agent for Banish Misfortune

In talking to you last week about wanting to book one of the bands you represent, Banish Misfortune, I told you our terms for booking them and you agreed that they were indeed good terms. So imagine my surprise when I received not one, but four separate contracts totaling thirty pages in length!

No, we do not pay the band fifty percent in advance in order the ensure they get here. Our fee for performing is generous and I’m not daft. And where did you get the idea that we’d pay for transport here? Have you ever had a venue do so? I think not!

No, we do not accommodate vegan and vegetarian dietary needs. (Not that I believe a touring Scottish band has any such members.) We’re a working Estate that includes everything from bacon and sausages at breakfast to a really tasty roast chicken at supper.

We do not pay extra so that bands can afford to have their own sound technician come with them. If they need a sound technician, we’ll handle it, as there’s three of us who do sound.

We do record every show played here and I told you that when we talked. (And see my email to you for this as well.) So no, we will not ask the band’s permission to do so.

Publicity for this concert on local radio stations and in the area papers? Did you listen at all when I stated that the Kinrowan Estate is a remote Scottish land holding nearly twenty miles from the nearest village? And that the audience consists of Kinrowan Estate community members? I suppose I could tack a note to the Estate community bulletin board…

Accommodations in a hotel, not crash space where we have room? You do know that the nearest hotels, save the small ones in the village, are three to four hours away? They’ll stay in the guest yurts here.

Look I know that you’re young — I asked around to get your history — and are eager to build a stable of Irish and Scottish bands that you’ll be agent for, but you need to learn to be flexible or you won’t survive long.

Attached to this email is a one-page contract. Sign it and return two copies to me. The contract will be binding when I sign it.

Yours Jack Merry

PS: If you decide not to sign our contract, I’ll book Banish Misfortune directly as I’ve played with all three musos. (Yes, that’s a threat.) And Reynard, our Pub Manager who’s a concertina player, has played with Scott’s mother on a tour of Scandinavia and Josh’s father on a tour of France several times. So booking them directly means you get embarrassed and the thirty percent you’d get stays with them.

And I’ve got a small stable of groups I provide management services to, so I’d be glad to add them if they so desired. (Yes, that’s another threat.) My management cut’s flexible too.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Booking Matters

What’s New for the 24th of March: Istanbul, Tulips, Church Music, Tyrannical Gods, Giant Bears and Other Colourful Matters

Many individuals grew suddenly rich. A golden bait hung temptingly out before the people, and, one after the other, they rushed to the tulip marts, like flies around a honey-pot. Every one imagined that the passion for tulips would last for ever, and that the wealthy from every part of the world would send to Holland, and pay whatever prices were asked for them. — Charles Mackay’s Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

I was mucking about the Estate these past month, so Iain offered me up the chance to edit an edition of Green Man and I whole-heartedly accepted. After all, I’ve been around here for many decades off and on. Remember that Hungarian food hamper? I started the tradition of exchanging of food laden hampers shortly after the War. Damned if I can remember which war that was…

So did  you notice how colorful the tulips are right now? Most of them are rarer breeds, many acquired by Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, in trade with MacGregor, a fellow tulip enthusiast who goes to the Turkish tulip markets to get the rarer heirloom tulips. Just don’t get Gus talking about tuplips unless you’re planning on being there quite awhile!

If you’re really interested in the history of tulips, drop by his workshop late this afternoon as he’s giving the Several Annies, Iain’s Library Apprentices, a practical exercise in how history really happens, using the Dutch Tulip Mania as his example. And we’ve reviewed a book on their origins in the guise of  Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century, which has a nice article on the actual history of the so-called Tulip Period of the Ottoman Empire. Do beware that these papers are dry at times as they’re intended for other scholars.

Istanbul’s been one of my favourite cities for, well, a very long time now. So science fiction set there is certainly of interest to me. So I was appreciative of Cat’s look at Walter Jon Williams’ This Is Not a Game: ‘All of us in one manner or another are storytellers, so I found the idea of a novel that told the story of Dagmar, a woman who runs ARGs (augmented reality games) hence her being called the puppet master, to be very appealing. She runs these ARGs for Great Big Idea, a company founded by two of her University friends who were deep into role playing games where they were all in university.’ See what happens when the game merges with real world politics.

And likewise Gary says the Istanbul of Ian McDonald’s near-future novel The Dervish House is rather like what our own world could be very soon: ‘…hotter, more crowded, with an even starker divide between rich and poor, and teeming with technology. … It’s also brimming with Anatolian spirits that sometimes seem indistinguishable from the effects of nano-technology.’

Speaking of hotter, Denise takes a look at Naomi Bloom’s Sealed, a post-apocalyptic (rather, make that during-apocalypse) tale well worth a read. ‘This is a first novel? Wow. Absolutely stunning.’

Warner has an in-depth look at a new edition of Madeleine L’Engle‘s Kairos Novels: ‘This Library of America collection includes the eight novels most readily associated with L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, including that book itself. These are divided in this instance into two smart little volumes, The Wrinkle in Time Quartet and The Polly O’Keefe Quartet. What sets the Library of America editions apart is a wealth of new and, relatively, lesser known material.’

Robert approached this week’s film offering with some hesitation: ‘Stargate presented a bit of a problem for me — it became a “cult film”, which is something I usually tryd to avoid, but it was a) science fiction, and b) somewhat out of the ordinary. So, I picked up the DVD.’

We once upon a time asked Gwyneth what her favorite cold weather comfort food and here’s the lead-in to her long and delightful answer: ‘Chestnuts, I’m obsessed with chestnuts at Christmas. The obsession dates back to childhood, when chestnuts roasted over the coals on a fire-shovel were a winter treat, back in the primitiive and labour intensive days when my parents’ house was heated by an Aga (solid fuel range) in the kitchen, and coal/wood fires elsewhere. And marrons glacees were the ultimate in sophistication…’

G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker’s Air: Letters from Lost Countries is, as April notes, a bit unusual: ‘Blythe is not your typical airline attendant. Sure, she’s blonde, pretty and personable, playing into every conceivable stereotype there is. But Blythe is much more than that. For starters, she’s acrophobic, surviving each flight only through the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals. Then there’s the attractive, mysterious passenger she’s fallen in love with, who may or may not be a terrorist. Not to mention that because of him, she’s become involved with the rather violent Etesian Front, who claim to be an anti-terrorist group, but may be little more than vigilantes. So when her beloved disappears, then sends her a letter from a country that isn’t on any map, what’s a woman to do? If you’re Blythe, you pack up, enlist the help of trusted friends, and go find him, maps be damned.’

Our West Coast Cat has this to say about Rupa and the April Fish’s Growing Up: ‘It’s a complicated, layered, beautiful piece that is hopeful and fierce all at once, exercising that loving kindness and radical tenderness on the listener and challenging them to follow suit.’

Gary reviews American Music, Vol. VII, the new CD by Austin, Texas-based Grupo Fantasma. ‘I don’t think you’ll hear many records this year that move effortlessly from Turkish psychedelia on one track to Tex-Mex to cumbia and other Afro-Caribbean rhythms, all set to a big, brash funk sound.’

Lars looks at Flat Earth Society: ‘I must say West of Eden has done it again. It is an instantly recognizable West of Eden album, while at the same time being very different from their last. (Not counting the retrospective sampler from two years ago.) A more mellow, acoustic product. But give it time and it will grow on you. An album to keep, cherish and come back to in years to come.’

Robert has some thoughts on John Tavener’s The Last Sleep of the Virgin and other works: ‘Like many contemporary composers, John Tavener uses music in the service of spirituality. He is a convert to the Russian Orthodox faith; the traditions of that faith have influenced his work as much or perhaps more than trends in music.’

And as long as we’re on the subject of what he calls ‘church music’, Robert also has some thought’s on Arvo Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen: ‘ It is no small irony that in an age that is condemned for being increasingly secular and materialistic, at least some of, if not the most significant and compelling music in Europe and America is, or has as its inspiration, church music: Krysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion, Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, the music of John Tavener, Terry Riley’s Requiem for Adam and, perhaps more than any of these, the music of Arvo Pärt.’


Ever need to feel a soft touch, warm arms around you, the feel of fur…just me? Well apparently not, because Costco has heard our cries for a freakishly large teddy bear, and they’ll deliver. Quite literally. Yep, they’ve gone and created a ninety three inch teddy, for all your snuggle needs. That’s right; almost eight feet of pure teddy bear goodness. Shipping and handling included. I hope that means white glove service, as teddy bears do deserve the very finest treatment.

It’s caused quite a stir around here, as many of us would love one…purely for work purposes. Not to nap on, or to plop down in that corner by the kitchen where a certain editor likes to snuggle up to whatever kitten is nearby, (and perhaps a bowl full of the latest kitchen ‘experiment’). We are professionals here. But there are others who have gone absolutely crazy for this ted. I can’t blame ’em one bit. Oh, to have a room full o’ these bears, to burrow into and relax in quiet, floofy contentment. But perhaps one will do as a start? Now, about that latest ‘experiment’…

It being early Spring, let’s have something warm and sprightly for our music this time from the Infinite Jukebox. Hmmm… ‘Kashmir’ by Page and Plant will do nicely! It was recorded  apparently thirty three years ago, possibly at Glastonbury but I wouldn’t bet the Estate on how truthful that is. It’s definitely a lovely take by them on this Moroccan influenced work.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 24th of March: Istanbul, Tulips, Church Music, Tyrannical Gods, Giant Bears and Other Colourful Matters

A Travels Abroad story: Reykjavik, or busking in the cold

P

One of the finest ales I’ve ever encountered was while I was busking in Reykjavik one cold November day when it was getting far too cold to make a profit. I looked around and saw a pub near the corner where I was playing that looked inviting — hell, anything would have looked more comfortable than where I was at that point, but it really did look cheery. After settling my rather cold self into a corner near the fireplace, I ordered an Egils Premium Lager from Egil Skallagrímsson Brewery and it was quite excellent with an open-faced smoked mackerel and onion sandwich. Most tasty! Fortified by the ale, warmth, and the good pub fare, I ventured out to busk for a few more hours. I can’t say I made all that much doing so but at least I felt a bit more alive.

Fingerless gloves help a bit. A long military greatcoat and sturdy boots helped too, as I kept my feet warm by stamping my heavy boots every so often. But nothing really helps all that much when it gets that cold. The main problem is keeping the fiddle strings from getting too brittle as it’s certainly cold enough to damage them if they weren’t being kept warm by constant playing. I eventually decided I’d rather be warm and retreated to a nearby Pub to sip ale and read more of Theodora Goss’ In the Forest of Forgetting I borrowed from the Estate Library.

Brigid had a far easier time of it while I out busking as she was on a buying trip for The Steward. She had the mission of helping Reynard restock the Pub with choice Icelandic spirits including Brännvin, flavored and unflavoured, and several different vodkas, particularly Reyka, a relatively new small batch vodka that is considered quite good. Now, unless a vodka is flavored, it all tastes to me like, well, nothing. I’ll stick with ales, ciders and whiskies, each of which has its own distinctive taste.

We’re hosting Several Annies currently who hail from this city, so they asked us to bring home some treats. Fortunately not fermented sheeps head! No, they had more mundane requests such as Skyr cheese, which to my eye looks like yogurt but really isn’t, copies of mystery novels including Arnaldur Indriðason’s new one called Svartur Festingin, and lots of íslenska sauðkindin wool to use in knitting, as they claim it’s far superior to our Scottish Blackface sheep. I’m certain the knitting circle that Liath Evergreen has going on in the Pub most nights during the Winter will be delighted by the several hundred pounds we shipped back. And I’m sure the members of the Old Norse Reading Group will be delighted by the Brännvin we brought back.

(That group’s currently learning Hrafnkel’s Saga. I’ll admit it’s one of the leading gems of Old Icelandic literature, something that’s not a field with a lot of gems in it. Hrafnkel is more or less the Job of the North — a pious but overbearing bully, he offends all his neighbors with his violent ways, refusing to pay wergild and indulging in ostentatious sacrifices. This gets him a long run of bad luck and worse politics, culminating in his being reduced to being dependent on one of his own shepherds. And then the cabal of his enemies murders his beloved horse. At that low point, Hrafnkel becomes a non-believer, and curiously, The Saga reports he’s also a much nicer guy after he decides the gods are no help.)

Reynard had a request as well, as he has a fondess for rímur (epic vocal poems) which were first collected in the late Nineteenth Century by folklorist Ólafur Davíðsson and were then printed up in the first Icelandic folk music collection, Íslenzk þjóðlög (Book of Folk Songs), by Bjarni Þorsteinsson which first published in 1936 by Oxford University Press. We’ve reviewed a few of the recordings of this music over the years including Rímur: A Collection From Steindór Andersen. I used to blame Reynard for introducing Icelandic tunes to the Neverending Session until The Steward pointed out this story to me which proved they’ve been played here for a very long time.

It was a nice visit but as always it was nice to get back home in Kinrowan Hall where I needn’t venture out in the cold unless I want to!

P

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Travels Abroad story: Reykjavik, or busking in the cold

Whats New for the 17th of March: It’s Almost Spring, Or Is It? Aliens, the Irish, Chocolate, Bartók Does Folk, and more

Where I’ve been is places, and what I’ve seen is things, and there’ve been times I’ve run off from seeing them, off to other places and things. I keep moving, me and this guitar with the silver strings slung behind my shoulder. Sometimes I’ve got food with me, and an extra shirt maybe, but most times just the guitar, and trust to God for what I need else.”
Manly Wade Wellman’s Who Fears The Devil

P

We had a party here last week to welcome in Spring (and of course we got a nasty blizzard a few days later) and the late night antics among band members got a bit strange, such as when a quite besotted Irish band member was fighting with an equally drunk member of a Welsh punk band over who got the snout of the pig from the roast…  and no,  I’ve no idea where the snout actually ended up, nor what either of them wanted of it.

Iain’s off with the Several Annies,  his Library apprentices,  assisting Gus in watching over the pregnant ewes so Gus or one of his staff can assist with the birth when the Goddess so deems it to be. That means I get to assemble this What’s New, so let’s see what I found for you… P

Cat had high hopes for Philip DePoy’s The Devil’s Hearth as he has ‘a special fondness for mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains, even though there aren’t a lot of good ones and a lot of not so great ones. Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballads series had some memorable outings, particularly among the later novels, and one which was outstanding, Ghost Riders.’ Read his review to see if DePoy lived up to his expectations.

Denise reviews Aliens Omnibus Volume 7: Criminal Enterprise and No Exit. if you’re a fan of this mythology (because let’s face it, this behemoth of a franchise is large enough to warrant that descriptive), you’ll want to dig in.’ If you’re on the lookout for something spooky, take a look at her review to see if these tales might do the trick.

Richard has a look at The Third Cry to Legba, and Other Invocations, the first in an impressive series : ‘Manly Wade Wellman is the literary equivalent of a favorite corner bar. The regulars all know the place and sing its praises to the heavens, but somehow the restaurant critics and Saturday night crowds never seem to find the place. And we, as patrons, are secretly relieved that we still have it all to ourselves. That way, when we pass other patrons, we can give each other secret little smiles because, well, we know something the rest of you don’t.’

In honor of the day, Robert has a couple of books on things Irish. First off, Malachy McCourt’s The Claddagh Ring: ‘The Claddagh ring is a ring fronted by a crowned heart held in two hands; usually gold (although I have seen them in silver), it symbolizes “friendship, loyalty and love.” Irish in origin, it has a rich history in Irish folklore and has become a transcultural phenomenon. Malachy McCourt has a reputation as gifted storyteller. The combination should be unbeatable.’

And next, a look at Ireland’s recent history in R. F. Foster’s Luck and the Irish: ‘One might think, just on the face of it, that a history of Ireland over the past thirty years or so would be of interest mainly to a specialist. (Or perhaps a gung-ho Irish expatriate.) However, in his introduction to Luck and the Irish, R. F. Foster casts his history into a much broader perspective.’

P

HandMade Films was a British film production and distribution company founded by that George Harrison. Notable films from the studio included Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Time Bandits, The Long Good Friday and the film Cat’s reviewing for us, The Raggedy Rawney. He says that it ‘is based on traditional Rom folklore — something I personally found fascinating. This adaptation of folk tradition to contemporary times makes it more fully comprehensible, compared with portraying it in the ancient long, long ago time. At least for me.’

The Michael Kamen soundtrack is equally fascinating for him, as he tells us: ‘Some pieces of film music stick with you long after you’ve seen the film. And if it’s a really interesting tune or song, it may make you seek out the soundtrack and see how it sounds outside of the film. Such was the case with the specific piece that got my mojo rising: the Blowzabella-style music that showed up in the wedding scene in Raggedy Rawney’.

P
For all you chocolate lovers (and I’m sure there are many), Robert has a look (taste?) of a nice variation — Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark: ‘Now, I’m pretty much a purist as far as chocolate is concerned — the more cacao the better, and I want it to taste like chocolate. However, there are exceptions to that self-imposed rule, and chocolate with orange, being one of the classic combinations, qualifies.’

P

Danger Girl: The Ultimate Collection by J. Scott Campbell and Andy Hartnell caused Denise’s inner five-year-old to think ‘the best marketing for this series would be a ‘Got Boobies?’ campaign.’ Her adult self answers, ‘As a woman I’m sure I should be offended / flabbergasted / spouting off some sort of Subjugation Of Women claptrap, but this series is just too beautifully drawn to be anything less than breathtaking.’

P

Muzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s  Yugoslav Folk Songs which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikas discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartok’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions.’

No’am says of the release simply called 25 Years of Celtic Music that ‘The Connecticut-based record company Green Linnet is celebrating its silver jubilee and in recognition of this fact has issued this double CD, containing two and a quarter hours of some of the best traditional Irish music available. Although length-wise the discs are divided equally, the first disc covers 1976-1996, whereas the second disc covers only three years, 1997-2000.’ An addendum by an editor: Green Linnet would last but another five years before its assets were sold off to another company.

Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album; ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’

For all you contemporary music aficionados, Robert suggests an album from one of the premiere ensembles in that area: ‘Winter was Hard is one of Kronos Quartet’s anthology albums, and contains a wealth of contemporary music from a wide range of approaches. It is one of the first of their recordings that I owned (in cassette) and my first exposure to many of the composers included. Coming back to this album after several years, I am amazed at how much of this music is now familiar from other contexts.’


P
Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’

P

So let’s finish off with some choice music from Nightnoise, to wit ‘Toys, Not Ties’ which was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April twenty-seven years ago. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and also included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on Whats New for the 17th of March: It’s Almost Spring, Or Is It? Aliens, the Irish, Chocolate, Bartók Does Folk, and more

A Kinrowan Estate story: Concert tales

P

Greetings Reynard,

I hope you and Ingrid are enjoying your break from here while on a busman’s holiday in Scandinavia. As you well know, it’s quiet here right now as there’s no conferences or other bookings here, and most of the staff is busy helping Gus with lambing and other spring activities.

But I got a question here last night that’ll amuse you. The visitor was here from Riverrun Estate checking on how his daughter was doing in her Several Annie library apprenticeship and he was having a pint of ale, I think it was the last of the winter ale, and he overheard me talking to Finch who was tending bar about a band I managing a tour for and he sighed and said it must be exciting to work with musicians.

I snorted and said ‘not always.’ So then I told tales of musicians that were less than fun to be around. I started off with the tale of the female English folk rock legend who demanded that the I turn off the furnace in in the venue we were having the concert in as it disturbed her concentration. I looked at the contract, saw no such clause, and said no as it was February! She called the next morning to bitch that the CD sales count was off and I simply asked if she’s given our merch staff a count. She cursed loudly and said ‘what did that matter’. I hung up.

And then there are the bands that get lost. I had one Scottish band, good lads all, who called three hours before concert time, and just one hour before tech check, to say they couldn’t find the venue. After a few minutes, I discovered they were thirty miles away in a town with a similar name. After finishing their pints, they got here just in time for the concert. No tech check, so they played it acoustic and were simply brill!

I had at least three bands over the years, all relatively new bands and all quite young as well, break up before they got to play. Usually it was because there was a couple in the band and frankly that breaks up younger bands. One such band had the female vocalist dating one of the fiddlers and the other female vocalist dating the smallpiper. Finch who knows the smallpiper says none of them are talking to each other these days.

The next-to-last story I told wasn’t one that happened to me but happened to a friend of a friend. A fairly well-known Celtic band was doing a tour through Western Canada and down to the Southwestern USA where they were to join up with Big Bad Wolf as their opening act. The promoter was dating the vocalist and allowed him to handle the money receipts for the tour. She was to join them in New Mexico for the Big Bad Wolf tour they were the opening act for and she drove to the hotel there where they were to be staying.

She got to hotel, went to the front desk, and asked the clerk where the band was. He said ‘Who?’ She gave him the name of her boyfriend and he informed her that he canceled the reservations. It took her a full day to figure out that they done their date last night and, this being long before The Towers came down, had booked seats back to Ireland. With some forty thousand dollars in cash.

Yes, she was out one boyfriend, her thirty percent as promoter, and had one very pissed-off music company as they’d fronted her ten thousand to cover tour costs. The band never played here again but my friend met one of the fiddlers in Stockholm a few years after and he said that the boyfriend figured that was easier than breaking up with her.

I ended on an up note by telling him the tale of the Scottish fiddler who I booked on a Canadian tour who was a perfect gentleman who treated the merch staff right proper, played three sets every night, and even played in several céilidhs when invited to do so. All he asked was good drams of single malt and places to eat that did a Scottish fry-up or something similar for breakfast along with a pint to start the day.

I think our visitor left a wee bit disillusioned at my stories but that I cannot help as music is a business for many of us.

See you in a few weeks, Jack

P

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Concert tales

What’s New for the 10th of March: American and Nordic Roots Music, Yummy Recipes, Fiction by Roger Zelazny and Other Comforting Matters

Death is the only god that comes when you call. — Roger Zelazny’s 24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai 

P

I’ve been reading a lot of Zelazny this winter as he’s one of the writers I go to when I want to be absolutely sure of  a good read that’s interesting but not too challenging. He’s not a perfect SF writer by any means but his characters are interesting, his settings reasonably thought out and his stories generally well developed. Right now I’m reading Donnerjack which just perhaps was written mostly by Jane Lindskold whose relationship with him is uncertain. It certainly wasn’t completed before his much too early death since it consisted, or so it is said, largely of notes and story fragments.

There’s been ample reading time as no one’s been going outside on the Kinrowan Estate ground save essential staff as our most recent storm by the name of Freya brought dangerous amounts of snow and freezing ice this week here. The Kitchen staff has as always been making lots of soups and they gotten into serving American style biscuits with them which means that I can get those for breakfast when I want them. Ham, egg and cheddar cheese, Border strawberry jam and butter… I’m drooling now.

Denise dug into her almost toppling To Be Read pile and has three non-fiction reviews for us, Jen has two very yummy recipes, our What Not is a double dose of de Lint’s Crow Girls,  our music reviews include lots of interesting music and the Tim O’Brien Band sees us out this time. So let’s get started…

P

Denise digs into her stash of nonfiction this go-round, and reviews My Beer Year by Lucy Burningham, a memoir of Burningham’s studies for a Master Cicerone certification. ‘ [S]he tackles her year of living with beer just as dutifully as she did her beer studies, delivering a fun real-life tale.’

Ever wonder what it must be like to run a kitchen? Wonder how an award winning female chef does it? That’s all in Jen Agg’s I Hear She’s A Real Bitch. ‘Agg’s unflinching look at her life feels like a master class in the art of running a restaurant…’ Well, read Denise’s review to find out more!

And Denise finishes her hat-trick of nonfiction book reviews this edition with Reading Stephen King, a collection of essays from Cemetery Dance. ‘This collection has the vibe of King’s Danse Macabre – a feeling that you’re not really reading, you’re having a mind conversation.’ If you’re into Uncle Stevie – or just enjoy essays from very talented folks – check out the review to find out who’s got what to say about King’s oeuvre.

The Ides of Octember: A Pictorial Biblography of Roger Zelazny is, I’ll  note, ‘a bibliography which was prepared as part of The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, a six volume undertaking, of which you’ll find the first volume, Threshold, reviewed here.’ Read my review on this bibliography which admittedly only diehard Zelazny fans or libraries with a strong  sf emphasis will consider buying, so quite naturally we have a copy here in the Kinrowan Estate Library.

If there is one essential work by Zelazny, it’s the The Great Books of Amber which Rebecca says of that ‘Zelazny has a distinctive and entertaining voice, and an easy way with a story. I highly recommend the Amber series.’ Read her detailed review to see why, despite some reservations, why she really likes this series. For a second take on the first five books which form the first story in the series, read Cat’s review of the audiobooks here.

P

For those who are still enjoying a winter refrigerated by frequent polar vortices and ornamented with snow, snow, snow, Jen cooks up a cold-weather stew of beef chunks with smoky dried guajillo peppers and fresh mushrooms, splashed with wine and served with beer.

Do you love the tastes of Thai? She also  brings us coconut milk, ginger, lime, garlic, cilantro, and mild curry together in a thick, hearty seafood chowder with shrimp, scallops, and … peanut butter? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

P

Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar gets a review from Rebecca: ‘Pepicek (very small) and Aninku (his sister, even smaller) have a problem: their mother is very sick. The doctor told them to go to town to get milk, but how can two children who have no money buy milk? And how can they get money when they have nothing to sell? They could sing for money … except that Brundibar (Czech slang for bumblebee) can sing much louder than two small children, and he chases them off. With the help of three talking animals, three hundred schoolchildren, and eventually the whole town, they chase off bullying Brundibar, get money and milk for their mommy, and so are happy again.’

PGary must’ve liked the self-titled debut by Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves, for he says ‘this is a highly entertaining album of old-time music drawn from a wide variety of sources, played by two very talented young people who sound like they’re having a great time.’

Kjell-Erik Arnesen’s Calls and Jrgen Larsen and Frydis Ree Wekre’s Ceros are recommended by Joel — ‘Both of these albums are horn-based. The horn is much less popular, it seems, than its cousins in the brass family. Most jazz bands have saxophone, trombone, and trumpet sections (in order of decreasing size), but no horns. I haven’t heard much where the horn was the primary instrument before now (nor as the only brass instrument), but two talented horn players demonstrate its versatility on these albums.’

Robert, as we’ve come to expect, has something a little out of the ordinary — or at least, ‘ordinary’ for GMR. The Dowland Project’s Romaria is a contemporary collection of early music: ‘I’ve remarked often enough on the relative importance of tradition and innovation in performance (which I consider variables) that I have no real need to repeat myself here, except to note that any performer who is working with material that he or she has not personally created is really negotiating with the past.’

He follows sup with Stephen Emmer’s Recitement, which — well, as Robert says: ‘I love it: pop culture invades the avant-garde. OK – now I’ve got that off my chest and am sitting here listening to Stephen Emmer’s Recitement. It’s really popular music, and Emmer has boosted it up a level in the “serious” vein by coupling it with spoken word segments from a wide range of speakers: actors, authors, artists, performers, many of whom are household names (at least in this household), and some of whom are total strangers.’

P

Our What Not is something that strictly speaking should’ve gone up over Christmas but it’s such a charming story that I decided to share it again now. So let’s start off  this time with a look at Charles de Lint’s Newford Stories: The Crow Girls. Of all the immortal shapeshifting beings that inhabit the Newford stories, the most charming, at least for me, are Maida and Zia, the two Crow Girls, who look like pinkish teenagers — all in black, naturally. After you read Cat’s review, you can experience them first hand in ‘A Crow Girls Christmas’ written by (obviously) the author and charmingly illustrated by his equally talented wife, MaryAnn Harris.

P

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up soon, we’re pleased to be able to feature a special track from American roots musician Tim O’Brien’s new release. Tim O’Brien Band‘s self-titled CD drops on St. Paddy’s day itself, Friday, March 15. It’s a sprightly cover of the tune set of “Hop Down Reel / Johnny Doherty’s Reel,” from Irish fiddlers Kevin Burke (The Bothy Band, Patrick Street, Celtic Fiddle Festival, and, well, Kevin Burke) and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Altan, String Sisters, T With the Maggies). It’s a lovely blending of Irish and bluegrass styles and traditions. More about the album at O’Brien’s website.

It’s a double celebration, too, because the day after St. Patrick’s Day, O’Brien will mark his 65th birthday! Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on March 16, 1954, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist first toured nationally with Colorado bluegrass band Hot Rize, which last year marked 40 years as a band. Over the years, Tim has collaborated with his sister Mollie O’Brien, songwriter Darrell Scott, and noted old-time musician Dirk Powell, as well as with Kevin Burke, Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler, Bill Frisell, and Steve Martin.

Without further ado, here’s Hop Down Reel / Johnny Doherty’s Reel with the Tim O’Brien Band. Sláinte!

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 10th of March: American and Nordic Roots Music, Yummy Recipes, Fiction by Roger Zelazny and Other Comforting Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Garden Planning

P

All the gardens here are by long standing tradition an ongoing collaboration between the Estate Head Gardener and the Estate Head Cook. So you ask, how does that work out? Quite well actually . . .

Keep in mind that one is not ‘hired’ for either of those positions but ends up in them after decades of working here. I started here as a seasonal worker under the tutelage of a somewhat eccentric Head Gardener who called himself Badger. I worked here nearly a decade during summers weeding and harvesting before he thought I’d proved myself worthy of full-time work. I think it helped that I was truly interested in learning all things botanical so I spent much of my time ‘ere after work (and after cleaning myself up!) either in the Kitchen learning what they did with what we grew or in the Estate Library reading the centuries of journals kept by the Head Gardeners ‘ere.

(Mrs. Ware speaking. The Journal kept by the Head Cook at the time says he also spent a lot of time eating and drinking, flirting with the younger female staff, and being a bloody pain in the ass of Mrs. Hellstrom, the Head Cook at the time, by always asking questions. But he was quite willing to do the hard work of cutting up soup stock, cracking marrow bones, and even cleaning pots.)

I also discovered the area around the Estate (and I did not know this though I grew up not far from where I live and work now, as my Swedish parents moved here from Stockholm when I was quite young) had a long tradition of hedge witches. Don’t laugh: these folk know more about practical botany than you and I have long since forgotten! They know which herbs the midwife needs to ease a difficult birth; they can make a fever go away with a tea made of just the right plant; they know where the ley lines run; and I’m convinced a few knew more than a bit of Wild Magic.

But the best teachers are the plants and their companion creatures: listen carefully and an apple tree will tell you how it’s feeling; knock just so on a pumpkin and you’ll know how ripe it is; listen to the bees in the spring and they’ll tell you what’s coming for weather. Even the bloody ravens are worth listening to. Well, most of the time . .

I worked my way up through the gardening staff ’till the day came that Badger retired to raise bees in Sussex like a friend of his from London did.

So, Mrs. Ware and I (as I did with previous Head Cooks – I’ve been here now as Head Gardener nigh unto fifty years and she’s ‘only’ been Head Cook for a mere twenty years), sit down in December in her Office and plot out what will be new this year.

Will we try those Border berries that start out red and turn white as they ripen? Is it possible to grow those potatoes that a Several Annie remembers from her childhood in Breton? Can we find a way to grow more tomatoes outside as the Greenhouse ones just lack something? Why did the Russian rhubarb bolt so early this year? Questions, debates, and then answers emerge over several months of conversation.

Of course, the collaboration continues during the growing season as we harvest the bounty of the Estate, plant new crops, and look at what is working and what isn’t.

Now you’ll need to excuse me as Iain, our Librarian, has his apprentices scheduled to take a walk with me to the Oberon’s Wood where they’ll get a talk on the history of holly and evergreen boughs as decorative elements for the Winter Holiday season. You can come along if you want . .

P

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Garden Planning

What’s New for the 3rd of March: Bond, Beast, Dr. Who, Hedgehogs and other late winter matters

I’ve always been impulsive. My thinking is usually pretty good, but I always seem to do it after I do my talking—by which time I’ve generally destroyed all basis for further conversation. — Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal, a novel that stated life as Call Me Conrad, a novella

P

It’s but three weeks until Spring officially arrives and I actually saw yellow crocuses up against the south side of Kinrowan Hall this past week! Which promptly got buried under a foot of snow several days later. Oh well. They’ll soon be back as the snow will soon melt away as the sun’s too strong for it to last that long.

One moment while I feed Hamish, one of our resident hedgehogs, his live grubs. I keep trying to convince him to try woodworms, but a hedgehog is not an innovator. Unfortunately. Ingrid, one of my Seveal Annies, is in charge of maintaining the supply of the grubs, not an easy task. Though I usually only note Hamish here, we’ve actually a half dozen ‘hedgies here as they’re social beasts.

The Library is its usual busy self this time on a Winter evening so I’ll need to turn to my duties so I’ll have to let you go. Now that means you can get to this Edition. You’ll find a visiting author on his favourite Tolkien work, Jen on a yummy recipe of hers,  Cat on a rather unique Doctor Who graphic novel, another author we adore sharing her hedge photos and other neat stuff as well. Oh and and live music from the Oysterband tonsee us out.

P

Book reviews aren’t the only source of opinions on literature here. Sometimes we ask authors questions like which of the Tolkien books is their favourite one. James Stoddard, author of The High House whose first chapter you can read here and The False House, when asked that question said ‘Is this a trick question? The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece in so many ways. I recently listened to a reading of the trilogy on CD. Despite having read the book five or six times, I was amazed at how it kept my attention. Only the Council of Elrond chapter flags a bit for me. I see the work differently every time I read it. I thought Sam a silly fellow when I read the book as a fifteen-year-old; now his constant loyalty invariably moves me. But the best part of many excellent scenes is at the Crossroads–the thrown down head of the statue of the ancient king, garlanded with flowers, a single ray of sunlight shining on the shattered visage. ‘They cannot conquer forever,’ Frodo says, and my eyes always unexpectedly mist over. It is the book’s theme, captured in four words. Brilliant.’

Donna R. White’s A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature is examined by Robert: ‘The prospect of an adult discussion of some of my favorite childhood authors has great appeal, if only because it legitimates my occasional re-reading of Alan Garner and Lloyd Alexander as an adult. Although my adult self wishes to quarrel with certain aspects of their interpretation of the Mabinogi (a series of Welsh tales told orally for centuries and then written down in various forms), their work undeniably had a great impact on how I came to view the world, at least the best parts of it. White delivers a very competent discussion of both Garner and Alexander, particularly the influence of poet Robert Graves‚ White Goddess on both authors, and includes enough interview material to satisfy adult fans looking for a reason to revisit these works.’

Scott has for us a review of Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings, a book that has some serious flaws. Michael Perry’s book is a mixed bag for him: ‘Perry intends the book to serve as a reference to The Lord of the Rings, enabling the reader to get a better sense of what events happened simultaneously in the story, where in Tolkien’s writings a particular event is described, and a deeper appreciation of the structural coherence of Tolkien’s work. Untangling Tolkien generally succeeds in these regards, especially the latter; this book is essentially an exposition on Tolkien’s attention to chronological detail. Unfortunately, the book also gives every appearance of having been put together in great haste, as though the publishers were more concerned with releasing the book by a certain date than with presenting the best possible book.’

Warner brings us a new take on an old fairy tale in Leife Shalcross’ The Beast’s Heart: ‘The retelling of fairy tales is a time honored tradition. As a result, Leife Shallcross’s The Beast’s Heart is in excellent company. This volume attempts to do a perspective flip, by focusing upon the Beast of Beauty and the Beast rather than a more usual view of following the young woman. It is a clever decision, as the character is not quite an antagonist and thus somewhat easier to make sympathetic, but it’s still an unexpected point of view for such a tale.’

P

Robert takes a look back at one of the ‘new’ James Bond films, Skyfall: ‘Full disclosure: I was an early James Bond fan, and saw all of the early films. Then, as happens sometimes with early enthusiasms, I lost track of them, but did give myself a treat one Christmas Eve and caught the remake of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. After that, it was probably pretty much a given that I’d be up for Skyfall, the next release in the saga — Daniel Craig and Judi Dench: how could you go wrong?’

P

Jen revisits the Indiana Dunes home of an environmentalist family friend with a heartwarming dish of potatoes rough-cooked with chipotle peppers and garlic. Her ymmmy recipe can be found thisaway.

P

For all you Dr. Who fans out there — you know who you are — Cat has a look at what may be the ultimate Dr. Who comic: The Thirteenth Doctor, The Many Lives of Doctor Who: ‘So being interested in what they’d published, I purchased the one that appears to be the first in the series. What it turned out to be is a rather interesting way to bring delight to fans of the series by giving them a conversation that spanned all Thirteen Doctors and many of the Companions in a manner that was both fun and refreshingly well-done for this sort of comic.’

P

Nearly twenty years ago, Barb went to see Childsplay at the Street Church in Portland, Maine:‘Imagine anywhere from 21 to 28 fiddlers/violin players on one stage with a rhythm section, throw in a random banjo or wooden flute … sound like a party?’ Childsplay is still holding these annual concerts twenty years later,  this past year saw them undertake a Pacific Northwest tour.

Joe K. Walsh, a talented mandolinist, singer and songwriter in the progressive stringband vein, has released his debut solo CD. ‘Borderland is full of excellent ensemble music all around, with solid contributions from all involved,’ Gary says.

Iain looks at an opera based on a Grimm story:  ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.’

Let Kim calm the frisson of fear that might steal up your spine upon reading the words ’12th century chants, 21st century sounds.’ With her review of Garmarna’s Hildegard von Bingen, she assures you that you don’t have to worry about the commercial appropriation of Gregorian chants; rather, you can look forward to ‘a powerful interpretation of medieval music brought forward through astonishing vocals and accompaniment, that for the most part, really work.’

Lars finishes off his review of McDermott’s 2 Hours’ Besieged by saying ‘I could go through the record track by track, but just believe me, If you are looking for something powerful, with good singing and musicianship, variation, catching melody lines this could be for you. Highly enjoyable.’ Now go read his full review to see why he say this.

Vonnie finishes out our music reviews with a look at an album in which they returned to their roots with a collaborator: ‘June  Tabor has reunited with the Oysterband for a second album, Ragged Kingdom and the two suit each other better now than when the first album, Freedom and Rain, made in 1991. Considering that the first album was magnificent, many of us had high expectations for this album. It a very different creature, and very good.’

P

Our What Not comes courtesy of Terri Windling, author of The Wood Wife, who had a charming essay back one May on a favourite subject around the Kinrowan Estate, as our in-house journal’s aptly named The Sleeping Hedgehog: ‘It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week, sponsored by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. I adore hedgehogs…’, so she shares some of her favourite hedgie photos and gives us a look at them in myth and folklore down the centuries. You can read it here.

P

Now what shall I leave you with for music? Let’s see what sounds cool… So how about the  ‘Red Barn Stomp’ which is  a traditional sounding tune by the Oysterband that was actually composed by band member John Jones? It was performed in Minneapolis in 1991.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 3rd of March: Bond, Beast, Dr. Who, Hedgehogs and other late winter matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Queen’s Law

P

Morgan ap Owen, Estate Head Gardener, in his Journals from the mid Seventeenth century tells the tale of why Fey law, Queens’ Law, is binding on humans as well. (It is not binding on cats on either side of the Border, but that’s a story for another night as the fire gets low and the whiskey takes full effect.) He said that ‘The Fey had many realities, but only one one True Ruler: The Summer Queen, as The Winter King holds his title at her sufferance.’ And Queens’ Law, Morgan said, ‘was harsh but fair.’

A visitor, a young male from the Riverrun Estate, had noticed and fallen in, not love, but certainly more than mere lust with what he took to be a Fey woman of his own age. (She was in fact many centuries old but still considered a child.) He thought she liked him. She said she did and claimed sanctuary here. The Queen was not amused. She asked for and got both sent over The Border to her. Then she showed the male just how old his prospective mate was. And that he would soon just be but a toy to her to be discarded when he grew old. He was rightfully appalled. And rather frightened!

She applied Queens’ Law on both of them. The Fey ‘child’ was banned from crossing the Border ever again. And Her law is binding: crossing the Border would have meant death by her becoming mortal, stripped of her magic. She was merciful on him: she stripped him of his memories concerning all things Fey and placed a Binding on him to keep him any future knowledge of the Fey. No star-crossed lovers would they be longing across a Border they cannot cross.

P

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Queen’s Law

What’s New for the 24th of February: Food and Drink Edition

Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give
all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.—  Henry V

P

Over the years, we’ve reviewed a lot of food and drink related material here, from novels that had food as an allegory for sex (and the subsequent movie was damn hot) to  SF authors that wrote amazing space operas, who sort of conned their publisher into financing  them in exploring the great whisky distilleries of Scotland. So we’ve decided without further ado to select many of those reviews to be showcased here.

P

Denise revisits her review of Anthony Bourdain’s The Nasty Bits for this special edition. ‘To keep things on the up-n-up, I must confess this is a re-print of the piece I wrote back in ’06. I could change tenses, and/or mention Bourdain’s passing, but I’m still in denial. So here ’tis, unsullied by the march of time. Rest ye well, Tony.’ Read her review for her look at this collection of essays by a master chef and traveler.

P

OK, I must offer up one of our favourite food reviews ever which is the Two Fat Ladies DVD set. If ever there was a series that felt like it was Autumn all the time, it is that one Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up. The series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked whenever they pleased and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t ‘tall good for you. And funny as all Hell as well which indeed the review is too.

PRichard has this book for us: ‘Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’

Kelly takes a look this week at Sara Perry’s The Tea Deck. She says, ‘As the now almost mythical door-to-door encyclopedia salesman knew, the opportunity to sell your product goes up exponentially once you’ve gotten it into the hands of a customer.’ How does this relate to a Tea Deck… and just what the hell is one?

Meanwhile Stephen has something more boozy he looks at: ‘And so I address myself to the matter in hand, the very pleasant task of reviewing Raw Spirit — In Search of The Perfect Dram by Iain Banks, “Uber-MAB” and (according to The Times) “the most imaginative British novelist of his generation.” The central premise of the book is that the author undertakes a mammoth road-trip around Scotland, tours its numerous distilleries, and recounts his adventures and experiences along the way. Given that Banks’ four principal passions appear to be writing, the driving of exotic four and two-wheeled machinery, whisky and his native land, this, as he cheerfully admits, is a “cushy” gig.’

P

Cat R. looks at some candy that is a favourite of hers: ‘Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.’  Now go read her insightful look at what makes for a great candy treat.

Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante also gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’

Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.

Ahhh beer infused beef jerky.  Denise dives into a bag of Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel’s Victorious B.I.G. Beef Jerky, and in-between licking the bag for stray crumbs, managed to write a review. ‘…this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’ Want to know more? Read her review!

Gary reports back from the wilds of New Zealand on an exotic candy treat: RJ’s Licorice Choc Twists. ‘As soon as I bit into one, I was hooked. They’re fat little chunks of licorice twist, about 1.5 inches long, with milk chocolate filling the hole in the middle of the tube. Though soft, the licorice gives a very satisfying little “pop” when you bite into it. It’s very good licorice, though you wouldn’t call it “gourmet.” And the chocolate likewise is just good enough.’

Jen is without doubt a quite amazing baker as her offering this week demonstrates: ‘This cake is a real punch in the mouth—extreme chocolate and extreme lemon. Because I’m extremely lazy and because Ghirardelli makes that lovely brownie mix in a box, I use their mix, adding only an extra egg and using butter, but you can go nuts and use your own recipe. Remember that butter is your friend, beating the batter is a no-no, and flouring the pan with cocoa helps make it OMG. I serve it in very small slices with hot tea.’

Back at the dawnatime when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the Klingons were the enemy, Asian-style cooking became fashionable. Jen shares a recipe for Hot Pepper Chicken and Smoked Oysters that she came up with, using those fun ingredients we could barely pronounce back then.

Robert looks back to days of yore, and the ultimate Chicago-style pizza, now at your grocer’s frozen food section: Gino’s East Classic Sausage Patty Frozen Pizza: ‘Once upon a time, late in my college career and for some time therafter, one of the places we used to go for a good, relatively inexpensive meal was a restaurant called Gino’s, on Rush Street on Chicago’s Near North Side. It was down a short flight of stairs from the street, dimly lit, usually crowded, and sort of rough around the edges — a perfect student place. It also served what was arguably the best Chicago-style pizza ever: deep dish, loaded with toppings, and one pizza would feed a party of four, even in the hungry days of our youth.’

And from the other side of the world, but available nearby, is Trader Joe’s Chicken Tikka Masala Frozen Entree, for those who don’t always have time to cook: ‘I decided I had to check out Trader Joe’s, not without some misgivings — I had checked out Whole Foods a while back and left reeling at the prices. But an acquaintance works there, and he said I should give it a try. I got stopped at the frozen foods section when I ran across the Indian dinners, which were quite reasonably priced — about $3.50 each. They had three varieties in stock, so I grabbed a couple of the Chicken Tikka Masala entrees.’

And of course, there’s chocolate the top it all off. (Gotta have our chocolate.) Robert has some tasty treats: Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate, Organic Maya Gold and Organic Bittersweet Dark Chocolate: ‘The provenance of the name, “Green & Black’s,” should be obvious: organic chocolate with a dark, rich color and flavor.’

P

Our single music review this outing is Randy Armstrong’s Dining On The Diner which has the dubious honour of being the first recording that got legal action threatened by the artist against us for defamation. Big Earl, a Canadian baker, just wasn’t pleased with either the music or the recipes in the booklet. And no, we didn’t get sued and so here’s the review for you to read!

P

Our What Not this time is our oft asked question about what a favored libation is. Kathleen Bartholomew, sister of the late sf writer Kage Baker and a fine writer as well,  waxes nostalgic:  ‘Nova Albion of blessed memory – a bright copper, richly hopped ale with an aftertaste of roses. But in the world of beers I can actually get my hands on … maybe Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, full of fresh new Zealand hops. Or Lagunitas Censored Ale. Or even the venerable Bass Ale — served room temperature, of course. With straw floating on the top. I like hops…’

P

And for a Coda to this edition, what could be more fitting than a paean to “Food, Glorious Food!” From the film Oliver!:

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 24th of February: Food and Drink Edition

A Kinrowan Estate story: A Hungarian Hamper

P

If you’ve got a bit of time to spare, I could use your help! Remember me mentioning a couple of weeks ago that the fellow violinists in the Huddled Masses Violin Ensemble (at their reunion somewhere in central Europe) insisted on giving Béla, our resident Balkan violinist, lots of ‘creature comforts’? And that he shipped them back here via the Orient Express? Well, they arrived en masse this week… It took the porters at the station hours to load them onto the delivery van and bring them to our offices. Large crates with scribbling in languages long forgotten, casks of ale from breweries once thought mythical, and other goodies that made the kitchen staff literally weep with joy. But now it’s time to inventory all of it, so grab the clipboard and pen over there and I’ll start telling you what we got…

Besides Barack pálinka, a Hungarian apricot brandy, here’s two crates of Velkopopovicky kozel, a wonderful award-winning Czech beer that goes well with the Czech traditional eventide meal of roasted pork, cabbage and dumplings. Béla raved about it. Ahhh, nice — note that several bottles of a Lithuanian vodka (Baalta) are here too. And I see some very good Retsiona over here.

Moving on from libations… Looks like this box was carefully packed to avoid jarring the contents in transit. What’s here? Cooking chocolate. And not just any cooking chocolate, but French Le Noir Gastronomie, a bittersweet chocolate that our baker will use in making cheesecake! Speaking of cheese, I see several whole rounds of Gorau Glas, a rare and costly Welsh cheese, as well as several large jars of a traditional Hungarian liptauer cheese spread. Yummm! Hmmm… Smell the garlic? That’s from the Hungarian kolbasz in this basket — heavy on garlic and paprika. Look, even better: kovbasa, spicy Ukranian sausage patties! Those should be good… perhaps in a hearty soup.

We’d better sample the Velkopopovicky kozel… And I thought there was more lekvar, but I don’t see it…

P

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: A Hungarian Hamper

What’s New for the 17th of February: A Bevy of Nordic Recordings, Live Music from Skerryvore, Gaiman’s Books of Magic and Other Wonderful Things

Everyone thinks of them in terms of poisoned apples and glass coffins, and forgets that they represent girls who walked into dark forests and remade them into their own reflections.

Seanan McGuire’s Indexing

P

I’ve been reading Haunted England, which is the work of Jennifer Westwood, who notes in Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain that ‘legend-making is not something that took place in the dim and distant past but a continuing process.’ We’ve reviewed more books than I care to count where authors such as Jane Yolen (The Wild Hunt), Pamela Dean (Tam Lin), Charles de Lint (The Cats of Tanglewood Forest) and Terri Windling (The Wood Wife) use folkloric stories and give a fresh feel to them.

We all tell stories, too, as it’s an intrinsic aspect of we do. How we tell a Story is shaped by who we are and what we know, say that cup of Mexican cocoa your housemate made for you when you came in on a cold,  stormy evening because that’s how you like it, or that new novel sought out by you in hard cover because that’s how you wanted to read it, has a story behind that decision as well.

Those are some of the stories we all tell. Green Man is a set of stories told by everyone who has been a part of it down the many decades. If you decide to email us, your comments become of that story too. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this edition…

P

Gary looks at a perennial favorite of lots of us: ‘The long and colorful publishing history of Tolkien’s The Hobbit continues with a new edition that seems to be aimed at reclaiming the written version of the story as a way to introduce it to young readers. It’s a handsome hardcover book with illustrations by the young Jemima Catlin, who was hand-picked for the assignment by the Tolkien Estate.’

Lory says of this mystery series: ‘Before there was Lyra Belacqua, there was Sally Lockhart. Prior to creating the unforgettable Lyra of The Golden Compass and its blockbuster sequels, Philip Pullman was perhaps best known for his trio of books featuring another kick-ass female: a pistol-packing, checkbook-balancing, mystery-solving Victorian orphan. I adored these books as a teenager (like Sally herself, I was sixteen when the first volume was published), but hadn’t read them in years when the chance came to review them for GMR. Would they still be as compelling as I remembered, half a lifetime later?’

Richard has this lead-in to a classic English work of fantasy: ‘The first fully fledged novel in the Robert Holdstock’s epic novel cycle is Mythago Wood. The book, which first saw print in 1984 (though part of it appeared earlier in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) is awash in both the Oedipal struggle and the Jungian subjective unconscious. At its heart, it’s a tale of family struggle. Sons war against each other for the love of a woman, and both struggle against their monstrous, inhuman father. Or so it seems.’ And though he’s doesn’t note it in that review, he does note in later reviews of other novels in the series that Mythago Wood is a character unto itself.

Desiring an engaging and lengthy fantasy for your Winter reading? Robert has the work for you: ‘I was surprised some while back to discover that Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master Trilogy was marketed as young-adult fantasy when it was first published. I don’t think I’m particularly backward in terms of understanding what I read, and I was in my thirties when I first read the books (which have earned an unchallengeable place on my “reread frequently” list), and I knew there were things I was missing. Even in a recent re-reading, the trilogy is a complex, subtle and evocative story that lends itself to much deeper examination than one might expect.

P

And something a little out of the ordinary for our film selection this week — but only a little. Robert has some comments on the Bleach Movie 2: The Diamond Dust Rebellion: ‘The Diamond Dust Rebellion is the second animated feature based on Tite Kubo’s very popular manga series, Bleach. It won’t leave you as completely at sea as did Memories of Nobody if you’re not familiar with the series, but the more you know, the more fun you’ll have.’

P

Robert brings us a look at several takes on a new series with the first being the writer’s own: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic — the original story, not the series — began when DC Comics approached Gaiman about doing a series that would bring together the “magic” characters of the DC Universe. Gaiman created the character of Timothy Hunter, a twelve-year-old boy who has the potential to become the greatest magician of the age — our age.’

And we continue with John Ney Rieber’s continuation of the series: ‘John Ney Rieber’s continuation of Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic is a complex, multilayered story that focuses not so much on Gaiman’s mythic connections (although they are there in full measure) as on Tim Hunter: finding his magic, and his bearings in the world(s) he inhabits is intimately tied in with growing up, which Tim does a lot of in this series.’

And finally, Robert brings us his take on the ‘update,” Si Spencer’s The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime: ‘Life During Wartime represents a distinct break with The Books of Magic as it had been developed by Neil Gaiman and John Ney Rieber. Si Spencer, working with Gaiman, “updated” the characters and took them into a new set of trials that speak strongly to a contemporary audience.’

P

April recommends Groove — ‘A sextet from Sweden, Hoven Droven live up to their name, which roughly translates to ”Helter Skelter.” To call their music merely sprightly would be an insult; to say they are just energetic, a gross understatement. The eighteen instrumental tracks on this compilation seem to quite literally pulse with vibrant life and energy, driven by Kjell-Erik Eriksson’s fierce (or one might say fearsome) fiddle playing, and embellished by instruments as diverse as flugelhorn, Harjedals-flute, saxophone and congas. Lest one assume though, that they are all sound and fury, with little or no talent, never fear, the music is never bombastic, but crisp, clean and well played.’

Brendan has a tasty recording from Finland for your consideration: ‘JPP — short for Järvelän Pikkupelimannit (” Little Folk Musicians of Järvelä”) — originally formed in 1983 as a local fiddle orchestra in the small town of Järvelä, Finland. Formed around the nucleus of 3 fiddlers, including leader Arto Järvelä, a harmonium player, and a bass player, they spent most of the Eighties and early Nineties gathering a devoted following in Finland and across the world and the reputation of being particularly inventive interpreters of Finland’s rich folk heritage. With the publication of Kaustinen Rhapsody, JPP proved itself to be excellent performers of contemporary music as well.’

Michael  looks at Karelia Visa — ‘A previous Hedningarna CD that I had the pleasure of hearing (Kaksi!) had far more of a folk-rock feel, which I believe is more typical of the band’s style. On this album, however, they have chosen to interpret the pieces in a more traditional, acoustic style. This may be due to the respect they afford the material, which is localised to the Karelia region, on the border between Finland and Russia.’

Scott has a look at two albums by a then young Nordic group, Frigg — namely, their Live album and a new studio album, Economy Class: ‘With their self-titled debut CD and their sophomore effort Oasis, Frigg have quickly established themselves as the best young band in Nordic folk music. . . . With an independently released live album from last year and a brand new CD called Economy Class released in Europe over the summer (Northside will release it in the U. S. in October), the core septet have been augmented by a number of frequently recurring guest musicians, including some vocalists. The basic concept of Frigg remains unchanged, though, as does their commitment to quality output.’

P

It’s several weeks past Candlemas so there’s definitely a feel that we’re headed towards Spring even if Winter is still holding us in Her grip. So let’s see I can find some spritely music to see out off this Edition. So how about ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ recorded at the Shetland Folk Festival six years ago on a warm Summer evening by Skerryvore? This Scots band came together sixteen years ago and is quite splendid indeed.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 17th of February: A Bevy of Nordic Recordings, Live Music from Skerryvore, Gaiman’s Books of Magic and Other Wonderful Things

A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood Between The Worlds

P

Guðmundsdóttir, our resident expert on The Wild Wood that forms an impossibly large region of this Scottish Estate, has a new theory on what is and why it contains literally multitudes of very queer things from Herne the God of The Wood to whole communities that look a thousand years behind now. Her theory as given over a late evenings worth of Winter Ale is something she calls The Wood Between The Worlds.

She first noticed something wasn’t quite right an late autumn afternoon several years back when she heard a commotion headed towards her. For quite sometime nothing was visible but then she saw a fox with a white blaze across her face running well ahead of a mounted hunter in leathers. What was really odd was that the fox never attempted to lose the hunter but instead stopped when it looked like the hunter would lose the fox in the denser areas of the woods. She soon lost track of both of them and went back to cataloguing botanical specimens.

Guðmundsdóttir asked for another summer ale before continue on to tell the oddest tale of all. She’d been here long enough that she had an intuitive feel for the geography of the Wild Wood that allowed her to know where she was without thinking about it, so she was very surprised one evening (and yes, evenings were when things were out really odd there) near summer solstice when she had no idea where she was. She looked around for something familiar but there was nothing at all.

Not even the trees were right as the season was clearly late fall and not the midsummer it was in her world. And once again, there was a female red fox with a white blazer across her face watching her as she had so many other times in her world. The fox looked at her and obviously wanted here to follow her which Gutmansdottir did which brought her back into her world.

She watched in amazement as the fox clearly turned into a woman with a silver streak through her short cut red hair. Dressed in a green skirt, she wore a circlet of silver around her head and her carriage was that of royalty, so Guðmundsdóttir bowed to her and our Summer Queen nodded to her in turn. Gutmansdottir left her standing there in the dying sun as she walked towards Kinroean Hall.

So the Wild Wood might truly be the Wood Between The Worlds.

P

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood Between The Worlds

What’s New for the 10th of February: Really Small Libraries, Joni Mitchell does William Butler Yeats, The Dubliners in Concert and Other Fine Matters

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

William Butler Yeats

P

Ahhhh, cinnamon buns. Yes that’s the heavenly smell coming from the Kitchen this cold Winter morning, when a tasty treat would warm both the body and spirit of just about anyone, I’d think. These cinnamon buns are courtesy of a Several Annie from Sweden by the name of Tindra who was apprenticed here under one of my predecessors nigh well over a century ago.

She claimed that the recipe has been handed down from mother to daughter for generations beyond counting, along with how to make proper cardamom coffee. Yes I know that’s a Turkish coffee tradition but family customs are oft times complicated, aren’t they?

So if you drop by here this morning by whatever means possible,  you’ll find those cinnamon buns and her cardamom coffee waiting for you. If a certain traveler can make it here from really distant shores, so can you.

P

Christopher Finch’s Jim Henson: The Works: The Art, The Magic, The Imagination gets a well- deserved review by Cat: ‘This is another authorised project by the Jim Henson Company making it akin to Imagination Illustrated which I reviewed here. It’s even copyrighted by Jim Henson Productions! Unlike that book, it actually covers the life of Jim from birth, in a nifty little laid-in booklet. That’s after not one but three introductions by Harry Belafonte, Frank Oz, and Candice Bergen. Belafonte and Bergen were just two of the many, many actors who appeared on The Muppet Show.’

Cat also has a review of Kage Baker’s Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen: ‘This volume collects what was obviously a labor of love by Kage (which I can confirm as we had ongoing email based conversations while she was writing these) and kept them up even as her health declined badly in her last months among us. Kathleen has done us a service by editing this collection of the Tor columns in a volume you can read with considerable enjoyment and actually learn something really interesting at the same time!’

Grey says of Medicine Road that ‘I suppose it’s fitting, for a story about twos, that the creators are two Charleses. Charles Vess’s illustrations make this not-so-simple fable deeper and richer. Vess combines line drawing and painting in a way that makes his pictures simultaneously vividly life-like and fairy tale-remote.’

There’s a bar in the above novel where the Dillard sisters play called A Hole in The Wall, which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood WifeIt’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first novel  to take full advantage of the myths of Southwest USA and Mexican region. And Grey notes that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

P
Kage, author of The Company series featuring  time traveling cyborg immortals who love chocolate, was a great film fan as you can see from Cat’s review of her Ancient Rockets collection above and it’s no wonder she liked this film: ‘Blessed with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being, David Warner as Evil, and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon (and a fireman), Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’

P

Denise dives into Heavy Seas Brewing’s Blackbeard’s Breakfast Salted Caramel Porter, a limited edition brew that adds a touch of candy to their popular porter. What’d she think? ‘I can add one more to the very short list of barrel age-ers that I will definitely seek out. Salted Caramel (let’s just call it BBSC) is a delightful, complex and decidedly friendly porter that will please the palate of any dark beer lover.’ Read her review to find out why she’s a fan!

P

Robert brings us a light-hearted comic about what could be the end of humanity. Seriously: ‘The Griff, scripted by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson, and drawn by Jennyson Rosero, is a story of the Apocalypse, told while said Apocalypse is happening. It was developed, we are told, from the script for a film — Corson is a film director — that Moore and Corson realized was never going to be made. And here it turned out to be ideal for a comic.

PGary enjoyed a big new four-CD set of folk music from around the world from Smithsonian Folkways. ‘The theme of the set is revealed by its title The Social Power of Music as it looks at the way music affects the lives of individuals and social groups all over the world. It’s primarily drawn from American music but includes a generous sampling of music from other traditions worldwide.’

Mike sees a legendary group: ‘The Dubliners are true legends of folk music, having now performed together as a group for 44 years. Many of the stories they tell of Dublin, are of a city that has all but disappeared in this day and age, and they are now as much a part of folklore as the songs and tunes that they perform.’

Robert has a look at a master musician, Keith Jarrett, as revealed in Radiance: ‘Keith Jarrett is a remarkable example of the phenomenon of the performer/composer. Although he is generally considered a jazz pianist — one of the finest — I first became acquainted with his work through his recordings of the twentieth century repertoire, as soloist in works by composers such as Colin McPhee and Lou Harrison. I guess that just goes to show that Jarrett has small patience with categories.’

A Welsh band live once caught the ear of Vonnie: ‘Crasdant plays music to warm your heart and tells tales to tickle your funnybone. This Welsh band played on a wet windy night that, they said, reminded them of home. The two sets of instrumental music for flute, harp, fiddle, and guitar, with an impressive bit of clog dancing thrown in were varied and fascinating, and the evening was over too soon. The concert was part of the excellent Celtic music calendar put together by Music-For-Robin, in the same venue as Pipeline.’

P

Who doesn’t love a library? No matter how big or small, a place where books are housed is always a comfort. In Coeru d’Alene, Idaho, there’s a library that may not be big, but is most welcome in the world. Made from the still substantial stump of a black cottonwood tree, this library looks as if Celtic sprites met Hobbits from The Lord of the Rings, and decided to combine their design expertise and make a snug book bolt-hole. Atlas Obscura visited this ‘Little Free Library’, and the photos are simply stunning. I wish I lived there, if only to visit that library a few times a month. Oh who am I kidding; a few times a week.

P

So what shall I leave you with for music on this this Winter day? What does tickles my fancy? So how about ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ by Joni Mitchell as performed by her on the fifth of August twenty one years ago on Max Yasgur’s Farm In Bethel New York? Yes it’s the Yeats poem done rather tastefully.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 10th of February: Really Small Libraries, Joni Mitchell does William Butler Yeats, The Dubliners in Concert and Other Fine Matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: A Library Story, Or Why Indexes Have Nervous Breakdowns

P

The indexes were quietly sobbing again in protest as the librarian’s apprentice misfiled ‘McZweygle, Doris F., A Receipt Book for the Proper Preparation, Garnishing, and Serving of the Salmon of Wisdom‘ (sadly, the magic charm of the traditional Alphabet Song can only extend its power so far), while the library ladder looked on with its characteristic air of mockery, gleefully anticipating the inevitable row which would occur when the Master Librarian returned. During the previous week’s dust-up a transformation spell had gone quite astray, with the result that most of the objects in the library had been left feeling out of sorts and unsettled.

The indexes, poor things, felt the disorder most keenly and their restless rufflings had even spooked one of the library cats (although, to be fair, why a cat suddenly levitates straight up into the air and teleports itself from a room, well … ours is not to reason why).

When the librarian’s apprentice misfiled ‘Ware-Elfrinke, Basil, On the Particulars of Lexomancy and the Care of Cataloguing Systems for Magical Libraries,’ a soft sound — something between a sigh and a shuddering breath — shivered faintly upon the slightly dusty air of the library. Master Librarian Mackenzie claimed that the dust in the library represented the knowledge which sticks to the persistent and undaunted scholar.

The librarian’s apprentice, who was slightly allergic to dust and had a special filter for his vacuum cleaner in order to keep his own tiny room dust-free, sneezed three times in quick succession before continuing on with his shelving duties.

As the afternoon waned and the anticipated return of the Master Librarian drew ever nigh, the pair of gargoyle bookends on the Master Librarian’s desk began to nervously furl and unfurl their wings, and the library ladder practically wriggled in a paroxysm of anticipatory delight….

P

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: A Library Story, Or Why Indexes Have Nervous Breakdowns

What’s New for the 3rd of February: Pulitzer Prize winning poets, Rhetorics of Fantasy, Sipping Chocolate, Live Music by Philip Glass, Sonic Screwdrivers, Jelly Babies, Gruagachs and other matters

She was the greatest American writer of her generation. Her work deepened, expanded and challenged my expectations of literature, awed me with the power of an unfettered imagination, and obliged me to sympathize with and understand  — and in some stunning measure belong to —cultures and societies far removed in space, time, and even biology from my own. — Michael Chabon on Ursula Le Guin

P

You can finally see the extra light during the day here which is nice as it’s still bloody fucking cold with temperatures below minus ten centigrade and nasty winds outside to boot. Several of the staff are suffering bad colds which have the Kitchen staff treating them to their special chicken soup (staff made noodles, heavy on garlic and Estate mushrooms) and Mrs. Ware swears by whiskey toddies so I’ve had to break out the bottle of not too expensive whiskey that serves just fine for that purpose.

Series like Doctor Who are interestng in cultural sense as they are generators of pop culture in a way that’s amazing. If you look behind the bar here in the Green Man Pub, you’ll see a TARDIS  and a Thirteenth Doctor figure on a shelf there along with the jelly babies I mentioned lastioned last week. All came courtesy of that visitor who stayed here with us recently. Nice lady, brilliant conversationalist.

P

Given we’ve got a quote about le Guin, we can hardly not have a review of some of her fiction, so Cat has a look at something truly awesome which is  The Selected Short Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin: ‘The Found and the Lost is a complete collection of all thirteen of her novellas, while The Unreal and the Real, being published for the first time in a single, hardcover volume, brings together thirty-nine of her best-regarded short stories.’

Chuck says ‘Various Internet sources define a gruagach as a creature similar to brownie. In these tales, however — and Robin Williamson claims to draw from traditional Irish and Highland Scottish sources — a gruagach is a wizard, long of hair and beard, often red-haired, and usually malevolent. Williamson shows of his storytelling and story-composing talents on this double CD set, Four Gruagach Tales, telling of these wizards and those who dare to go up against them.’

Elizabeth exclaims that ‘Liz Williams creates the perfect second book in a series. While maintaining the best elements of the first book, The Demon and the City also maintains a distinctiveness in character, plot, and focus that makes reading it a different, albeit no less enjoyable, experience than Snake Agent.

Lory’s review of Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy which is an in-depth academic study of the fantasy genre, and discovers that academia and genre literature aren’t natural enemies after all: ‘Farah Mendlesohn takes fantasy seriously. Other scholars may tend to skip over the genre, or feel the need to explain or excuse their focus on popular fiction, but she takes for granted the worthiness of a body of literature which relies on the creation of a sense of wonder.’

Robert brings us a look at a Pulitzer Prize winning collection from a distinguished American poet: ‘Jorie Graham has been honored in just about every way it is possible for America to honor a poet, including the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for The Dream of a Unified Field, a selection of poems from 1974 to 1994. . . . She has been called “a European poet transplanted to America,” and speaks in a manner “that is both lush and hauntingly other.”’

P

Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.

P

Robert, with a little help, came across a comic collection that, believe it or not, won a Hugo for Best Graphic Story: ‘The very helpful and knowledgeable young man at my local comics store directed me to Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, which is one of the more bizarre examples of graphic lit I’ve run across recently.’

P

Larry Grenadier is an in-demand jazz double-bass player releasing his first solo album, The Gleaners. Says Gary, ‘It doesn’t necessarily follow that even the best of bassists ought to record a solo album, but Grenadier seems to have loads of ideas that translate well to such a project.’

Gary also reviews the latest release by the prolific Americana act Mandolin Orange. ‘Tides of a Teardrop is their sixth since their debut in 2010 with Quiet Little Room, all featuring songs written by Andrew Marlin and sung by Marlin and Emily Frantz.’

Robert got hold of a recording of a live performance of music by one of our favorite composers, Philip Glass. Signal performed Glassworks and Music in Similar Motion — well, as Robert explains: ‘Philip Glass’ Glassworks had never been performed in New York until the contemporary ensemble Signal asked Michael Riesman, long-time music director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, to arrange it for live performance. (It was originally conceived for the recording studio.) It was performed at (le) Poisson Rouge on April 10, 2010, resulting in, among other things, this recording.’

And in a different vein, Robert has a look at two masterpieces of the Late Romantic repertoire, César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor and Igor Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka, conducted by Pierre Monteux: ‘Pierre Monteux brings magisterial authority to these recordings. Of course, if his reading of Pétrouchka satisfied Stravinsky, I’m certainly not going to argue. Equally intelligent and adept is his reading of the Franck; in spite of the Chicago Symphony’s strongly Germanic temperament at the time (1961), the Symphony in D Minor comes across as quintessentially French. Monteux himself was one of the most respected conductors of the twentieth century, and, thanks to sound recording, is still, among classical music buffs, a household word.’

P

Denise takes a gander at the thirteenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. No, not the real one. se7ven20’s Thirteenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver. And she’s excited. ‘So, my cosplayers and collectors. Is this one for the shelf? Yes. Yes it is.’ Read her review for all the details!

 

P

Our Coda this week is another live performance of music by Philip Glass, this time by the maestro himself: Philip Glass, performing at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal. The piece is titled “Mad Rush”:

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 3rd of February: Pulitzer Prize winning poets, Rhetorics of Fantasy, Sipping Chocolate, Live Music by Philip Glass, Sonic Screwdrivers, Jelly Babies, Gruagachs and other matters

A Kinrowan Estate story: Danse Macabre

P

Greetings Anna,

You’ll be tickled to know that Jack is putting back together the Medieval music group called Danse Macabre that he had here well over twenty years ago. Of course, there’ll be new musos including my wife, Catherine, joining the ones from the first version of the group.

Danse Macabre’s been looking for a hurdy-gurdy player for quite some time now, as Jack had no trouble finding violinists, bagpipers and just the right amount of percussion in the form of hand drums, but good hurdy-gurdy players are as rare as musicians willing to play all-night dances! So he cajoled Catherine into joining his group. Finch is playing English bagpipes, specifically Leicestershire smallpipes as popularized by Julian Goodacre, Jack and Bela are the violinists, and one of my Several Annies, Justina, is skilled at hand drums, being a fan of Davy Cattanach, who played his kit by hand with the Old Blind Dogs some twenty years ago.

It’s fun to watch them play as they’re trying to avoid the achingly dull manner in which most Medieval performance groups perform, as if they’re afraid the music community will disbar them for being innovative. Instead they’re adapting the music to modern sensibilties, making it more fast-paced, more spritely than it’s typically played. They’re more akin to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and the Turtle Island Quartet.

Like Leaf & Tree, Catherine’s other Medieval music group, they’re planning on touring next Winter in Europe. I’ll send you their press packet as soon as I’ve got it, as ideally they’d like to play several dates in Stockholm, and I know you’ve got the contacts to make it happen, having done it for Leaf & Tree.

I’ll see you in just a few days and we’ll be staying in Stockholm for at least ten days. Your teaching is over now I believe, so it’ll be fun just to hang out. Catherine’s bringing her violin along and I’ve got my concertina as she wants to all of us to do some busking just for fun.

Affectionately, Iain

P

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Danse Macabre

What’s New for the 27th of January: music from Fairport Convention and Johnny Clegg, a couple of scholarly endeavors, Volsungasaga, Coconut Porter? and other unusual things

“She has her own glamour, Willy lad. All poets do, all the bards and artists, all the musicians who truly take the music into their own hearts. They all straddle the border of Faerie, and they see into both worlds. Not dependably into either, perhaps, but that uncertainty keeps them honest and at a distance.”Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks

P

The weather at this remote Scottish Estate turned nasty even for us last week with a steady freezing sleet and temperatures well below freezing bringing a need for the grounds crew to make sure that roofs particularly don’t getting overloaded with icy slush.

For those of us who don’t need to be outside, that means we get to help with the chores inside Kinrowan Hall. I’ve kept my hand in when I’m not working in the Pub, which I obviously do most days as Manager, by helping out in the Kitchen by playing music for them, something they very much appreciate. I’m a button box player, an instrument that as a busker I found appealing and easy to carry from place to place.

Oh those are jelly babies. A traveller with a multicoloured stripe across her T-shirt and the most interesting earrings left them behind when she left so help yourself to them. She said something rather odd I thought about previous incarnations of herself being fond of them. They’ve quite good. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you…

P

Chuck states that ‘When it comes to Shakespeare, everyone is entitled to an opinion. When it comes to Yale professor, MacArthur fellow, and self- confessed “Bardolater,” Harold Bloom, you’re entitled to his opinion, as well. And in the 700-plus pages of Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, you definitely get the author’s opinion.’ Read his his detailed review to see if you should investigate Bloom’s tome.

Kathleen looks at an academic endeavour worth reading: ‘Charles Butler is the author of several fantasies for children (The Fetch of Mardy Watt, The Darkling, Death of A Ghost). Having recently switched genders, she also teaches English literature at the University of the West of England. In Four British Fantasists, he surveys juvenile fantasy through the lens of his professional scholarship, in a detailed analysis of the work of four acclaimed modern writers. He has chosen Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper and Penelope Lively as his subjects, identifying them — with good reason — as shining examples of the modern Golden Age of children’s fantasy: inheritors of the traditions of both E. Nesbitt and J.R.R. Tolkien.’

A fantastic look at London is reviewed by Kestrell: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

Robert brings us a look at one of those works that is at the root of modern fantasy: Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer: ‘Volsungasaga is the Norse version of the pan-Germanic epic that shows its southern persona in Das Nieblungenlied. Like so many national epics, it is a series of stories linked by a folk hero, in this case Sigurd (Siegfried in the German version) and his ancestors. Sigurd comes complete with divine ancestry (the grandson of Odin himself), childhood as an orphan, and a doom-filled destiny. (Oops — almost forgot the magic ring, the reforged sword, and the dragon.) Astute observers will recognize not only the elements of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen but also J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.’

Stephen says of an Alan Garner work , which is definitely aimed at adults, that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’

P

Johnny Clegg and & Savuka‘s Live and More DVD gets these sage words from Scott: ‘As good as the concert performance on this DVD is, and as good as the live concert I saw from Clegg’s recent American tour was, those shows are forced to compete with the memory of a night whose legend grows with each retelling. Somehow, I get the feeling that anybody who caught Johnny Clegg & Savuka during 1990, when they were quite likely the best live act on the planet, will respond to this DVD similarly.’

P

For this edition, Denise takes a tipple. She tries Oskar Blues Brewery’s’ Death By Coconut Irish Style Porter, and is quite literally blown away by the brew. ‘Get ready y’all, because it’s coming in hot.’ What’s this? Hot beer? Not a bit – but you’ll have to read her review to see what she’s talking about. You might get thirsty after though, fair warning.

P

April says ‘Melinda is Neil Gaiman and Polish artist Dagmara Matuzak’s first collaboration, and the resulting illustrated poem is a unique literary work. According to the press notes accompanying this release, Gaiman wrote the text specifically for Matuzak to illustrate, hoping for a few drawings and perhaps a painting or two, and she responded with forty-eight stunning black and white drawings and eight colour plates that delineate the harsh world Gaiman’s seven year old Melinda inhabits.’

P

After the critical and popular success of their 2017 self-titled double release Deer Tick Vol. 1 and Deer Tick Vol. 2, the Rhode Island rockers are back with a beguiling compilation, Gary notes. Mayonnaise is a companion piece to those previous two records, with 13 songs altogether: alternate versions of four songs from Vol. 1, six originals and three choice covers.

Gary also liked Abigail Lapell’s latest, Getaway. ‘It is a remarkably mature record — both musically and emotionally — for a young musician cutting her third album.’

While listening to And Then Comes the Night by the Mats Eilertsen Trio, Gary found himself fondly recalling a high point on his recent travels: ‘… a visit to the Royal Albatross Centre on the Otago Peninsula near Dunedin, New Zealand.’

Lars looks at a recording from the Kathryn Tickell Band: ‘Air Dancing is an album full of great playing, both from the individuals and from the group as a whole. Its well produced, while at the same time the music on it has kept it freshness and shows a little roughness in its attitude. There is a nice balance between the traditional way of playing and a more modern approach to the music. It is firmly rooted in tradition, the way that tradition was portrayed on the very early Tickell albums from the 1980s, but it does not stay entirely within that tradition, but takes it further and widens the possibilities.’

Richard has high praise indeed for a Maddy Prior album; ‘Flesh & Blood is one of the finest CDs I’ve heard in years. Prior’s voice, always angelic, has never sounded better; and, with the able help of Nick Holland and Troy Donockley, she has picked material that does her vocal talents justice. Indeed, the collection is so captivating that I’ve had to take it out of my work rotation; after all, I don’t get paid to stand around and gawk dreamily to music.’

P

Robert seems to spend a lot of time at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History — “But there’s a lot to see,” he says.  His latest visit was to the exhibition Restoring Earth:  ‘We tend to think of museums as places that display artifacts, sometimes on the walls, sometimes in cases, with descriptions of varying degrees of completeness on labels next to the objects. . . .   The Field Museum has well gone beyond being a repository of objects, however, as evidenced by the exhibition “Restoring Earth”.’P

Our Coda this Edition is  ’Reynardine’ as performed on an August night night in 2008 by Fairport Convention at their Cropredy Festival. Consider it a reminder that Summer will return for those of us in the in Northern Hemisphere!

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 27th of January: music from Fairport Convention and Johnny Clegg, a couple of scholarly endeavors, Volsungasaga, Coconut Porter? and other unusual things

A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Library Card Catalogue

P

A library catalogue is an index of all bibliographic items found in a library such as the one here at Kinrowan Estate. Our catalogue covers several hundred thousand or so books, chapbooks, maps and even art. The Catalogue includes data about the physical location of items. For instance, the extensive collection of culinary-related material that the Kitchen staff has in their extensive library space (which is also their break room), the Estate Gardener’s collection is kept in his library (which includes centuries of Estate Gardener journals and gardening and animal husbandry material going back a very long time).

We even include the personal libraries of the permanent staff here so that their collections can be used by staffers. Indeed we ask them if this will be permissible when The Steward does their final hiring interview. If they enthusiastically say yes, it counts a lot towards being hired.

Any book or other item entering the permanent collection, no more than a few hundred each year as space is limited (even the Estate chapel, unused since The Restoration, is now part of the Library), is inventoried: author(s), title, subject, date, type of media and even language the works in, are all part of the information on the card.

Now that’s after a Several Annie reads the book and summarizes the contents in a single paragraph that will be entered on the card, so that Kinrowan Estate staff and visitors alike can get an idea of what the work is like. We expect a fair but opinionated summary.

That only applies to material we’ve ordered specifically for here. Works sent here unbidden that aren’t picked up for review rarely make over the threshold, as at least one community member must be enthusiastic enough about it to recommend it for inclusion. Oh, it might end up in a pile to read later or a staffer might find it worth keeping but doesn’t recommend it be added to the Library collection.

Every a decade the group of Several Annies here then get the task of checking the card catalog against the actual item. Yes, we’re making sure it’s still there, but every item has a geas, a traditional Gaelic prohibition against removal from a particular place without permission of a proper Library staffer, so items simply don’t disappear. They’re also checking to see what condition it’s in as some of the older items either need work or, in the case of heavily used books, need to be replaced if possible. That gets noted into our Master Catalogue, forty thick oversized volumes with a page for everything in the Card Catalog plus a notation on its condition. The condition and status information’s only a few lines long but it’s invaluable as a safeguard against forgetting what happened to a work that’s been here for centuries.

The Annies are assisted by the staffer who has a separate collection, say Bela whose collection is exclusively in French and Hungarian, which means the Several Annie must speak one of those languages or receive assistance from a staffer fluent in one of those tongues. Those are relatively quick tasks as there’s rarely more than a thousand volumes to be checked.

(The catalogue for Fey material we have here is maintain by Laith as only a Truebood could possibly understand the convoluted system that their Librarians use.)

And of course The Annies are learning the taxonomic structure of books and other media which means they’re assimilating the structures underlying information itself. They may never work somewhere else which has a card catalogue, hard copy or digital, but they’ll know how information is structured better than anyone who hasn’t grasped the fundamentals of it.

Now let me show you our card catalogue. It’s handcrafted out of white oak by an Estate carpenter working from plans we got in 1885 from the office of Thomas Dewey himself. He built extra space into the wall where it lives, so it’s got room enough for centuries to come…

P

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Library Card Catalogue

What’s New for the 20th of January: Riverside, Spain, and other interesting things

Let the fairy tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood newly-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as a single spot of claret on the lace cuff. ― Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint
P

It’s been quiet in the Library so I decided to read again one of my favourite novels, War for the Oaks, since my Several Annies are with Gus, our Estate Gardener sssisting him in disassembling the Winter decorations as we usually take the wreaths and such down just after we celebrate Little Christmas here as Ingrid, our Estate Steward and wife of Reynard, our Green Man Pub Manager, is Ukrainian. So she likes that it to be celebrated. You did hear the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is now superate from the Russian Orthodox Church? Interesting times are upon us.

Now where was I? Oh Emma.  Of all the novels she wrote I like Oaks best. It’s got characters in a real world setting, Minneapolis,  in a season, near midsummer, who are both strong and fragile at the same time. It’s long enough to keep me entertained for an entire evening and it’s unusually well-written for a first novel. All I want in a Winter read.

I’ve got a great Edition for you today featuring reviews of the Riverside fiction of Ellen Kushner which you haven’t read is definitely Winter treat waiting for you to be served up with cups of hot chocolate. Oh and Check out our Food and Drink section which is linked to her website where you’ll find recipies folks created of food they think would serve in the Riverside. It’s quite entertaining.

P

We promised you reviews and comments on Ellen Kushner’s Riverside novels, which, as it turns out, winds up being a lot of books. Where to start?

I suppose the best place is the beginning, with Swordspoint, of which Robert says “Call it “mannerpunk,” call it “fantasy,” call it what you will, it is still one of the best examples of speculative fiction I’ve ever read.’

Fast forward fifteen years or so, to The Privilege of the Sword, for further adventures of Alec, although the book is centered around his niece, Katherine Talbert, who, through no fault of her own, has become Alec’s ward. Robert says of this one ‘If Swordspoint is a perfect gem, The Privilege of the Sword is the gem in its full setting: elegant, wicked, funny, intelligent, and fluent.’

And a number of years farther along bring us to The Man With the Knives. Just to place it in the timeline, Robert notes: ‘The Man With the Knives takes us out of the City for a tale that takes place between The Privilege of the Sword and “The Death of the Duke.”’

And yet farther ahead, to a novel with a new cast of characters and a new set of complications, Kushner’s collaboration with Delia Sherman, The Fall of the Kings. Robert notes: ‘The blurbs for this book include references to Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Dunnet, Oscar Wilde – I would say, add in some of the bawdier comedies of the Elizabethans, perhaps a dose of Richard Sheridan’s brittle dialogue, and a good helping of the eroticism of Anne Bishop’s universe of the Blood (oh, and don’t forget Jane Austen’s merciless satire), and you are starting to get close – but only close.’

Just when you thought we were going to keep going ahead in time, we backtrack. Tremontaine is an anthology, of sorts, with a number of authors contributing to a collection that nonetheless maintains a coherent story line. Robert again: ‘One thing that deserves mention, given the number of people working on this story, is the stylistic consistency: if there are differences in style or diction, they are so subtle as to escape notice.’

It starts to look as though Robert was the only one to comment on Kushner’s work, but that’s not really the case. To start at the beginning once more, Vonnie gives us her thoughts on the audiobook version of Swordspoint: ‘A fantasy novel without overt fantasy elements, Swordspoint was written and now is narrated by Ellen Kushner. . . . It is a witty book, and an engaging audiobook, with a plot that plays out across the economic spectrum of a city in duels and parlor conversations, clandestine rendezvous’ of lovers or plotters, as well as lords and young ruffians jockey and maneuver for power.’

And Cat rounds off our reviews with The Swords of Riverside audiobook: ‘I discovered on Audible that [Swordspoint] was the start of forty-five hours of listening pleasure called The Swords of Riverside, which also contains, if anything so mundane can contain such superb novels, The Privilege of the Sword and The Fall of the Kings.’

P

Not at all well received among Neo-Pagans is a film reviewed by Michelle: ‘There’s no denying the negative stereotyping in Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches, based on Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name. It’s a guilty pleasure, watching sophisticated women degraded by a little boy whom they’ve turned into a mouse. Adults will have an easier time than the intended young audience in recognizing the satiric elements of the film, but for some viewers that may not make it more tolerable; works of art like this one contribute to the demonization of Pagans and practitioners of folk medicine historically and in our own era.’

P

In keeping with our book reviews this edition, Ellen Kushner has published a group of recipes that are more or less inspired by the Riverside novels.  She notes:  “On this page, you’ll find everything from recipes and menus created by fans of the series to delight the Mad Duke Tremontaine and his Riverside friends, to ones created by friends of the author to keep her at her desk.”  You can find them all here.

P

Gary listened to an album by the French-Israeli pianist Yonathan Avishai and his trio: ‘For such an economical package — at eight tracks and just 55 minutes, it’s practically an EP by today’s jazz CD standards — Yonathan Avishai’s Joys and Solitudes is brimming with musical riches.’

Gary also reviews Olympic Girls by New Zealand’s Tiny Ruins. Hollie Fullbrook, who fronts Tiny Ruins,’has an arresting, husky alto that makes her singing stand out immediately,’ he says.

Hedningarna’s Karelia Visa gets this comment from Kim: ‘It’s an odd thing — one of the words which keeps coming to mind when I listen to this CD is “evocative.” But that raises the question, what exactly does it evoke? And I can’t really give you an answer, as I am not of Nordic origin and have never visited the area. So, it is indeed an interesting phenomenon to listen to a CD of a Swedish band travelling to the now-Russian province of Karelia, collecting the songs from that region to include on this recording, and to find it both exotic and evocative at the same time. Ah, the mysteries of music…’

Stephen looks approvingly at Baba Yaga — ‘Annbjorg Lien is a Norwegian composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and singer, who occupies an artistic space where clumsy attempts at easy definition are irrelevant. With this CD she’s created a music in which traditional fiddle tunes are pop songs, string quartets are folk dances, electronic rhythms are an element of symphonic composition, and the sound of human breathing is both rhythm and melody.’

P

Our What Not this Edition is a video teaser for Snowflake Trio‘s new album. They will play a release concert for their first CD Sun Dogs January 24 at Drygate Brewery in Glasgow during Celtic Connections. The trio – flautist and singer Nuala Kennedy, genre-defying accordionist Froda Haltli and hardanger virtuoso Vegar Vårdal – combines the roots music of Ireland and Norway in unique and exciting ways. Gary’s been waiting eagerly for this release since he caught them on stage at Celtic Colours in Cape Breton Island in 2013.

P

For our Coda, Robert has one of his favorite, over-the-top pieces from the Romantic repertoire, and one that’s very, very Spanish: the Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, with none other than the legendary John Wiliams on guitar:

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 20th of January: Riverside, Spain, and other interesting things

A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part II

I was looking down the hallway when he appeared at my shoulder, silent as smoke.

‘Ah, the little mite — he’s fast asleep, holding onto his yarn for dear life. The room’s telling him Genji Monogatari — in the original court language, it sounds like — and I ‘d guess it was too much. Hmm? Oh, yes — learned it some while back.’ He smiled again, as though at some private joke. ‘But that story is hard to follow, even for me. I’m not sure I approve of it for Pix, but Robin says he needs to learn about such things sometime, and he’s a straightforward sort of boy — he’ll ask about things he doesn’t understand. I’d just rather he ask Robin.’ He his face was a little flushed. ‘Robin can explain — um, those sorts of things — much better.’

‘Hmm. Anyway, look at the patterns in the paneling here. That thing about the root makes some sense, doesn’t it? Because of the Tree, you see: it’s the First Tree, the Tree of Knowledge. What’s that? Tcha, that’s all much later, and more than half made up. I mean, look you — the Tree’s an ash — not much in the way of edible fruit, like. Oh, they’re real — they’re still out there in one of the gardens, wandering around without a stitch on and eating figs, perfectly content. Naming things — well, he does, but I would have thought he’d have run out of things to name by now — it’s been some time. I suspect he’s naming them more than once — his memory’s not too strong, I think. He seems a bit simple, when you talk to him. Oh, what the hell — they’re happy.

‘Anyway, this Tree knows everything. It’s a very helpful Tree, or it can be — Pix uses it for his lessons. But Pix seems to be able to get through to it better than most. There are rumors, I’m told, about this Library, and I hate to tell you how many eager scholars I’ve seen turn sad and dejected when the Library just won’t cooperate. The Tree will answer any question you want to ask, but the thing about trees, though, is you have to get their attention, and it’s not always that easy. And this is a very old tree, and a bit careless of ephemera — that’s what they call us, ‘ephemera.’ Maybe that’s why they gave up on having it keep track of the books.

‘Well, they have all sorts of ways to do that now, but none of them seem to work very well. Maybe if the apprentices could remember which alphabet they’re using. . . . There was talk at one point about putting in one of those electronic things, with the little guns with red lights in them, and bar codes on the books. I remember the Annies were very much for it, and inked bar codes on their arms — sort of like wearing a campaign button. (Funny things, bar codes — I don’t understand how they actually mean anything, you know?) I seem to recall there was some controversy about it. You might ask Iain about it next time you see him in the Pub.’ The eyes were all bland innocence, but his grin made me a little uneasy. ‘I know he always has a lot of ideas about that — he’s like to go on, though.’

‘Ah! Talk of going on, listen to me. I’d best go fetch the boy and be on my way. Robin’s making a special lunch for us in the Wood, just because, he says — and that’s the best reason, don’t you think?’

He ducked into the side room and came out with the boy held close, still fast asleep — a tiny little sprite, cradled in massive arms, dark hair all tangled curls, ball of yarn clutched tight to his chest. The big man held him gently as he looked across at me, a twinkle just barely sparking his eyes. And then, with a slight bow and a cheery “sayonara!” he made his way down the hall.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off on A Kinrowan Estate Story: The Living Library, Part II