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 a few pieces up now and more will follow. 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bad Wolf

Some of the, errr, visitors we get here would rival anything from the Inn called World’s End. Such was The Crooked Man, as he called himself. Again I stress that only those with The Sight, the ability to see the weird shit that blissfully escapes the notice of nearly all of humanity, would know he was more than a queerly dressed man. Oh, they might find him making them uneasy but never know why …

He was oddly assembled — his face not quite right, his eyes a colour that couldn’t be discerned, hair like a hedgehog, skin more rough hewn than humanly possible and a physique that struck me as just wrong. He was dressed in a suit that fit no era I had known down the centuries and he wore it badly. Add in lack of any accent what-so-ever and even my hackles were raised. I who had been hanged on That Tree and still bore the scars from battles long forgotten just didn’t feel comfortable near him.

Reynard offer a whisky, nothing special I noted, and turned his back on him. He turned to me and said that I might be able to help him. Help with what, I asked. Finding The Nightmare (yes I could hear the caps) that had kept him from sleeping for time beyond counting anymore. The Nightmare that kept him awake, unable to sleep for fear it’d catch up to him.

Why me, I queried. Because I think it’s the Bad Wolf. Ahhh, Fenris, I said. Why is He haunting you? Because I know how to chain him up. That caused me to shut up. Even I had never chained Fenris up. Killed him, yes, but he always came back in a rather foul mood.

Now I know why my hackles were up. Anyone who could chain Fenris up could likely kill me, as that being would have Power that I just didn’t have. Yes, I was the head of an entire pantheon of godlike beings but we had limitations imposed by our shapers. He apparently didn’t. And that was a tale for another time …

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What’s New for the 29th of March: the first real Celtic Rock album, a Celtic history, Holy Molé chocolate, Ray Bradbury poetry, Silly Wizard live and Other Neat Stuff

For one crazy moment he had the notion of a vanished tribe of librarians, lost in the deep underground caverns of the Bodleian, a wild and savage tribe that fed on unwary travellers. ― Lavie Tidhar’s The Bookman

I’m having a meal of peppers, tomatoes and ground lamb rolled up in just grilled to be warmed up naan. The peppers and tomatoes are from our Conservatory built during the Victorian Era under the auspices of Lady Alexandra, the Estate Gardener, and a true blessing for fresh vegetables in the off-season. I’ve also got a pot of chai masala tea sitting on my Library desk to be enjoyed as I listen to some sweet music.

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 from Big Foot County though I couldn’t find such a place in any gazetteer that we have, but that matters not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments which make for a very sweet sound.

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

Now let’s get started on this edition..

We occasionally review a single tale and  Cat does does so here: ‘I have mentioned in other reviews of Simon R.Green’s work that everything he writes is connected over and over again until a Gordian knot looks easy to untangle in comparison. If you haven’t been paying attention to that being true, now is a good time to do so as as Harry goes on in that bit to say that he ‘Had a bit of bad business with an angel in the Nightside, and now I find it necessary to do good works, for the sake of my soul . . . You know how it is.’ Those few words stated in Harry’s off-hand manner are spun out here into a well-crafted story aptly titled ‘Some of These Cons Go Way Back’.’

John has a choice piece of verse for us: ‘Ray Bradbury has explored mankind’s present through its future in his science-fiction novels Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. With his poetry collection, They Have Not Seen The Stars, Bradbury relaxes a bit, writing on matters both deep and trivial, musing and rambling in a multitude of areas.’

For the scholars among us, Robert has a choice offering: ‘Jane Frank’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century is a successor volume to Robert Weinberg’s Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists, published in 1988. Given the labor-intensive quality of a project such as this one, it is fortunate that Frank had Weinberg’s full cooperation in the creation of this volume.’

Warner has the origins of a well-known mystery series for us: ‘The idea of writing a prequel is less than adored in many circles and fandoms, and there are a wide assortment of generally disliked examples. With The Last PassengerCharles Finch proves that one can write a good end to a prequel trilogy. His historical mystery series gains an interesting element in this book, and the reader will certainly find that .’

Brooklyn Born Chocolate’s Holy Molé gets an appreciative review by Robert: ‘At first glance, the idea of chocolate laced with spices more often found in South American cuisine might seem a little off-putting. But hey, they’re all from South America, so there’s got to be some affinity there, right?’

Robin has some some some easy on the eyes and ears Irish history for us: ‘The Celts: Rich Traditions and Ancient Myths, a 6 hour series, was aired on the BBC in 1986, a documentary written and narrated by Frank Delaney, with Music by Enya. It was apropos that the video release would coincide with St. Patrick’s Day 1998.’

Robert wasn’t too happy with the latest incarnation of DC’s Suicide Squad: ‘I was fairly enthusiastic about the last version of the Suicide Squad, written by John Ostrander. Well, in the DC Universe, when all else fails, reboot: the latest version of the “team” (and you’ll see why I use the quotes) was part of the overall reboot, DC’s “The New 52.”‘

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.’

Gary brings word of a new release by a band from Halifax, Nova Scotia: ‘Frontman, singer and songwriter Nigel Chapman gives himself a good talking to on Snapshot of a Beginner, the new album by Nap Eyes.’

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.

Joe finished off our music reviews with a look at the creation of an entire genre: ‘It’s not many bands that can claim to have invented a whole musical genre, but that’s what Horslips are credited with. Without them we wouldn’t have Celtic Rock. Of course Fairport Convention had been rocking up jigs and reels for a few years before the Irish band released their debut single “Johnny’s Wedding” in 1971, but with their first album Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part in ’72, the first real Celtic Rock album came into being.’

Another Jennifer suggests a literary escape for couples suffering cabin fever in plague times. The Marriage Box Rule could be the saving of you! And if it doesn’t, at least the sex scenes might help.

The world of Celtic music and those who enjoy it is a little bleaker these days as Andy Stewart of Silly Wizard fame passed on several years back. I’ll leave you this time with him as lead vocalist singing ‘Queen of Argyle’ as performed by that group at Canon University in Atlanta on a November evening some thirty years or so ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Library Card Catalogue

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 all thirty 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 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.

That only applies to material we’ve ordered specifically for here. Works sent here unbidden that aren’t picked up for review rarely make it 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 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, 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 here a century ago.

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 that 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 …


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What’s New for the 22nd of March: A Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese, Wim Wenders’ Once, Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Live music from Skerryvore, Hot Chocolate, A Parcel of Steeleye Span and Other Matters



Schrödinger’s cat has far more than nine lives, and far fewer. All of us are unknowing cats, alive and dead at once, and of all the might-have-beens in between, we record only one.” ― Yoon Ha Lee’s Conservation of Shadows

I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try. It’s Toiteach, which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain brewery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it, as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way. If you’re interested in knowing more about Scots whiskeys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single drams ever done.

It’s our usual grey ending to March here in the Scottish Highlands: rainy, cold and blustery winds to boot. Even the most diehard of Estate staff, unless their duties require going outside, are quite willing to stay inside. Iain has been keeping to his hiding spot and I myself am spending time off duty in the Kitchen, quite content to play tunes and nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating, such as strawberry cobbler made with those exquisite frozen berries. 

So there’s no theme this edition, but rather it’s whatever the Editors found interesting with our usual mix of new materiel along with some older material from the Archives. We might even have something from Sleeping Hedgehog, our in house newsletter for staff and visitors. So let’s get started…

Brendan has a classic for us: ‘N. J. Dawood has translated the Tales from the Thousand and One Nights into an extremely easily-read format, apparently reflecting the every-day language in its original Arabic setting. In fact, any 12-year-old child could easily read this translation and enjoy it. Not that you’d want your 12-year-old child reading it: the various authors of these stories seemed to have been absolutely fascinated with infidelity, decapitations and gratuitous sex and violence, in general (Well, come to think of it, this is normal everyday stuff for any American 12-year-old).’

Iain was not surprisingly quite impressed by a critical study of Patricia McKillip, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building: ‘What she does very well is show that Mckillip has taken the often cliched fantasy conventions, say that of a harper with magical abilities, or the Norns themselves, and give them a fresh, lively feel embedded in stories that are exemplars of world-building. And she never loses track of McKillip herself, an all too common problem with such work.’

Robert has a fairly ambivalent reaction to a study of Hans Christian Andersen: ‘Hans Christian Andersen is quite arguably the best-known writer of fairy tales in the world, or at least that part of the world that derives from European traditions. In Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller, Jack Zipes argues that he is also the most misunderstood, an argument that at times is cogent, but just as often seems strained and in a large sense seems to me to miss the point.’

His reaction to Theodore Roethke’s last published collection, The Far Field, was far from ambivalent: ‘American poetry has given us a host of names that everyone knows – the household words, the people we all studied in high school: Frost, Sandburg, Dickinson, Whitman, Plath. There are others known to more than aficionados, if not to high school students. Among them, somewhere, is Theodore Roethke.’

Let’s see what got for cocoa ideas on this cool March day. Denise starts us off with a a look at Trader Joe’s Organic Hot Cocoa Mix. She found it a lovely way to start the day, and perhaps even enjoy the evening; “…if you’ve a mind, a splash of Kahlua and/or Bailey’s wouldn’t be amiss.” Now go see what she thinks cocoa lovers should give this one a try.

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.

Richard had a recommendation reprinted from Sleeping Hedgehog on where you can find great hot chocolate in a place called Matthews: ‘Now, North Carolina’s not what you’d call a hot chocolate hotbed, at least east of the mountains, on account of the fact that it’s generally pretty warm. Which is why I never expected the hot chocolate in this shop which my wife practically dragged me into (she’d done some scouting, having previously infiltrated Hillsborough with friends on a yarn-shopping expedition) would blow my socks off.’

Kage says ‘With The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, alas, the malign gods were paying attention and behaving not unlike Terry Pratchett’s Auditors, practically warping time and space to mess with Terry Gilliam. They failed to ruin the film — Munchausen is magnificent, and a fitting conclusion to the Trilogy of the Imagination — but they ruined everything they could, to such an extent that Munchausen is unfairly and incorrectly called one of the most expensive disasters in cinema history.’

Every once in a while we run across a work that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our categories, which is how Wim Wenders’ Once became, for our purposes, graphic literature. Says Robert: ‘Wim Wenders is, of course, a noted filmmaker. His first book, Once, reveals that, just in the photographs themselves: they are, in many respects, akin to movie stills, but not necessarily the ones that a studio would choose to release. The images come with stories, and sometimes the stories come by themselves.’

Gary reviews something different from the singers in the English big band The Unthanks: ‘Rachel and Becky Unthank grew up in a musical family in Tyneside, North East England, and came up singing unaccompanied traditional folk songs. With Diversions Vol. 5 they’ve come full circle, making their first album of unaccompanied songs as a trio, along with Niopha Keegan, who usually plays fiddle and sings.’

Gary also has something different from jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen – the debut album from his quintet Big Vicious. ‘And it flat rocks at times. Not really a surprise for a band that’s made up of two electric guitarists (one who doubles on bass guitar), two drummers and Cohen on trumpet.’

Iain has a look at a great release: ‘Are you looking for that perfect  gift for your lover of English folk rock? Oh, do I have a gift that’s perfect! EMI has served up 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.’

Robert brings us a look at a CD by a group that‘s definitely not British — in fact, it’s from the other end of Europe: Boban Marković Orkestar’s Boban i Marko: ‘There seems to be, in the Gypsy tradition of Serbian music, an affinity for Western jazz. This does not mean that the music performed by the Boban Marković Orkestar is jazz, but simply that jazz wanders in and feels very much at home. What the music is, is lively, often exotic, and yet somehow familiar.’

Our What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’

Our tune for you to hear the Edition out is ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ by Skerryvore, a Scottish group formed some fifteen years ago, as performed at the Shetland Folk Festival in 2013.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Absinthe

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No, we don’t serve absinthe here, nor do we ever intend to make it available. However, I do find it a fascinating drink. And yes I sampled it once while in Paris where you can find damn near anything you desire, particularly if it’s bad for you.

(We stock whisky, Irish whisky and poitin, brandy, and vodka. And we carry our own ales such as India Pales, Belgian, Imperial and Chocolate Stouts, along with our ciders, cysers and meads. Of the liquors, only the first three really sell though the vodka sold very well when the Finnish and Russian curling teams played here several winters back So we’re not exactly a full service pub but than we never claimed to be so.)

I’d heard of this nigh unto mythical drink decades before I actually decided to search it out a few years back. I’ll tell you my opinion of it after I talk about its history for a bit. You might have heard that it’s mildly or dangerously poisonous as it’s made in part with wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, which has minute amounts of thujone, but not enough to have any effect unless you drank really a lot of it. But its reputation was enough to get it banned in most countries over a century ago even in France. And though it was banned, it was more or less easily available in such cities as Amsterdam, New Orleans and of course Paris.

It was wildly popular among writers and artists alike with such folk as Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Wilde, Hemingway and Joyce all known to be absinthe drinkers, almost all because they spent time in Paris. Some historians believe that Toulouse-Lautrec died from excessive absinthe consumption but more likely he just drank himself to death and died of kidney failure.

Nonetheless it has entered popular culture to the extent that it shows up in a lot of literature including as wormwood brandy which is the favoured drink of detective John Taylor in Simon R. Green’s Nightside series. And pretty much any novel set in Paris that takes place in the seedier side of that city will mention it. Its reputation is based largely on its mythical story much more than on its realty.

So what does it taste like? It’s is, errr, quite sweet as sugar is one of its major components making it more of a liqueur than a spirit. The herbs in it give a bit of an edge but nothing like peated barley does in an aged single malt. The anise and other herbs gives it both a mild herbal taste and some bitterness but nothing objectionable. All in all a forgettable liqueur that I don’t regret trying but feel no need to drink again.

P

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What’s New for the 15th of March: It’s Almost Spring!

We can never be gods, after all — but we can become something less than human with frightening ease. ― N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

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I’ve been reading Haunted England which is the work of Jennifer Westwood who correctly notes in another book of hers titled Albion 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 contemporary 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 as it’s an intrinsic aspect of our humanity. How we retell a story is already shaped by our minds, say that cup of Mexican cocoa your housemate made for you when you came in on a cold, haily evening, or that new novel sought out in hard cover because that’s what you wanted to read — there’s a story behind that decision as well.

Those are some of the stories we all tell. Green Man Review is a set of stories told by everyone who has been a part of it down the many decades.  Now let’s see what we’ve got for you this edition…

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Though this author is best known for her Pern series, Grey gives us a review of her sole Arthurian novel: ‘”No hoof, no horse,” say the Worshipful Company of Farriers. “Farriery,” the craft of shoeing horses, was even more vital in the days when every mobile enterprise was dependent on horses, especially the enterprise of war. And what more famous warrior-king has there ever been than Arthur? What might it have been like to have been Arthur’s farrier? Anne McCaffrey gives an answer to this question in Black Horses for the King.’

Welsh mythology in the guise of a well-loved novel gets looked at by me: ‘I must have first read Alan Garner’s The Owl Service some forty years ago when I was interested in all things concerning Welsh mythology. I wanted a hardcover first edition which cost a pretty penny at the time. I mention this because it’s now been at least twenty years since I last read this novel, which is long enough that when Naxos kindly sent the audiobook, I had pretty much forgotten the story beyond remembering that I was very impressed by the story Garner told.’

Joseph takes a look at Bill Barich’s A Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change, and the Fate of the Irish Pub, which he describes as ‘a brilliant hybrid of new journalism and memoir: ‘By his own admission, Bill Barich is a dreamer on a mission to recapture his youth. But he greets each illusionary fishing hole, village, and forest with clarity and wisdom. In the end, the reader — not the author — feels nostalgic and thirsty for something never really existed.’ And Joseph even tells you how he did it.

Robert has I think a most superb novel for us: ‘Patricia A. McKillip does something in In the Forests of Serre that I don’t think I’ve ever noticed her doing before: there are recognizable elements of traditional folklore in the story. In fact, they are critically important parts of the story. And to top it off, in spite of the more-or-less Celtic-inspired feel of most of her work, they are from Slavic folklore.’

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Jennifer brings us a new bebida she’s invented called La Bruja Te Prende Fuego, or, The Witch Sets You Afire. Please sip it responsibly. And call her next morning to report on your dreams.

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April gives us a nice, succinct look at the next installment of Bill Willingham’s Fables — this volume titled War and Pieces. How succinct? She starts with this quote: ‘And that, my friends, is how the great war ended. Not with a bang, but with a wienie roast.’

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Gary reviews a new offering from Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, Angular Blues. He says of Muthspiel’s current trio, which includes Americans Scott Colley on double bass and Brian Blade on drums: ‘None of these three players are what you’d call flashy, but together this trio makes powerful and moving music.’

And Gary says a new EP by Anna Lynch, Apples in the Fall, consists of five country-folk songs with plenty of variety. ‘One thing they all have in common, though, is their emotional resonance. Lynch’s songs are rooted in personal specifics that are universal enough that every listener can see themselves in them.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

Vonnie looks at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

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Robert decided to upgrade the speakers for his computer and came up with a happy solution: ‘I spend a lot of time at the computer, surfing, writing, editing, and I like to listen to music from my rather extensive library, all of which is also stored on the computer. . . . Then I started thinking maybe I should upgrade, and started looking at speaker systems, but nothing clicked. Then one day I walked into Best Buy to pick up a replacement USB cable for my MP3 player, and spotted the Bose Companion 2 speakers. The price was reasonable, they were small and easy to deal with, so I bought them.’

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It’s been just about a month since St. Valentine’s Day, which is time enough for reality to set in. With that in mind, here’s a beautiful live ‘bootleg’ recording of The Everybodyfields singing the classic country song’s  ‘Love Hurts’. It was recorded in the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon, on Aug. 4, 2008, not long before they broke up in early 2009.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Raggedy Man

PDear Katrina,

You missed the Raggedy Man this week. Only Hangadróttinn and Liath Evergreen remember his last visit which means that visit was a very long time ago. Centuries, perhaps, even.

And an odd creature he is. Clothed in Autumn colours of brown, red, and orange, he was tall and broadly built, more like an oak tree than anything else. Brown eyes, brown hair, and skin like old leaves, he walked into the Library asking for a Librarian who had passed over the Border one does not cross back over from a very long time ago. A Several Annie hurried off to get Mackenzie who as current Librarian might be able to assist him.

Mackenzie obviously knew who he was as he gave a rare gesture not seen of him before — a deep bow to him! They then moved off where we couldn’t hear them and conversed very quietly for quite some time. They then bowed deeply to each other and the Raggedy Man moved off across the fields into the woods. 

Mackenzie rebuffed all attempts to find out what they had talked about, saying only that he would talk to the House Steward about what the Raggedy Man wanted. And the House Steward later on would only say the request was ‘unique but appropriate for the Estate’.

Just another day here . . .

Love, Gus

P

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What’s New for the 8th of March: A Book About Writing, a Film from the Rom, Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Music by Moby, Fables, a Short Story, and there’s always more. . .

She sounds like someone who spends a lot of time in libraries, which are the best sorts of people.― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

PIt’s the time of year that it actually starts to feel warm enough to sense that Spring is here or nearly here. We got that this week and it’s a welcome break from the long, cold Winter weather that we’ve had this past year. Residents of this remote Scottish Estate took advantage of those days and spent as much time as they could outside walking around and doing needed chores under the guidance of Gus, our Estate Groundskeeper.

Now mind we’re in the third day of an icy rain storm that barely sees temperatures a few degrees above freezing and with a wind that would guarantee anyone outside would be soaked to the skin in minutes even if they were wearing proper  storm gear. So we’re all inside until it passes, staying warm.

I hope that if you’re in the regions of the globe where it’s still Winter, you’re warm and comfortable as you read these words. Hopefully you’ll find much to entertain yourself here. Me, I’m off to get some more hot chocolate and maybe a peanut-butter and chocolate bar or two.

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In looking at The Time Quartet, Naomi has a confession to make: ‘As far as I am concerned, Madeleine L’Engle’s books should be required reading in all schools, as they open doors — not only in the imagination, but also in the academics, math and science especially. These wonderful tales could inspire the next Einstein to take the proper courses and feed his mind. I enjoyed the journeys that Mrs. L’Engle’s works took me on, and yet, I am saddened by the fact that I never read them as a child. I will rectify this mistake by introducing my own children to them posthaste!’

Vonnie says Patricia McKillip’s Something Rich and Strange ‘is nearly a prose-poem. The writing is lyrical, the events mysterious, the metaphors shadowy and aquatic. The plot suffers from it, as it does from turning the ocean into a character. This is a diffuse mystery, and the reader has to trust the writer that a point will eventually emerge from the pages. McKillip is both good enough and well-known enough to entitle her to our trust, but at its best, this novel is not a page-turner. Even more so than most of her books, the best way to enjoy Something Rich and Strange might be to read it aloud, enjoying the leisurely trip rather than racing to the destination.’

Warner has a book on writing for us: ‘The written word has been the standard mode of conveying information across time and distance for centuries. There was in Spring of 2019 an exhibit at the British Museum dedicated to the very topic of writing and its history. To accompany it the British Library put together Writing Making Your Mark with editor Ewan Clayton. Clayton is an excellent choice for editor, being already experienced in the subject and having written a celebrated volume on the subject, (The Golden Thread).  The British Library’s offering is a large and impressive volume, giving a brief history of the written word as well as a look into its potential futures.’

He also says ‘Providence After Dark and Other Writings collects much of T.E.D. Klein’s nonfiction. This includes his introductions, critical articles, and even reviews. There is a fair assortment in the book, and, being gathered together for the first time, this collection gives the reader an opportunity to both better understand a respected name in the genre and also to more easily get a view on the various works and writers he dealt with.’

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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’.

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Reese’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups doesn’t sound like the sort of roots and branches of our shared global culture that we’d bother to comment upon but our resident Summer Queen explains why we are doing so: ‘I have a confession to make. Yes, I have a problem. And that problem’s name is Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I’m the person at Hallowe’en who looks at the bowl of candy designated for trick or treaters and asks, plaintively, “Could we hold the Reese’s in reserve? Or at least hide them on the bottom of the bowl?” and who will blatantly pilfer from the bowl throughout the evening. And if there’s any left over? Bliss!

PApril is more than a little enthusiastic about another installment of Bill Willlingham’s Fables: ‘When a series is as consistently excellent as Fables, it can be extremely difficult to decide which is the finest issue or volume. However, The Good Prince, the tenth volume, certainly makes a strong case for itself as the best of the best.’

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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.’

Gary liked Land of Milk and Honey from Texas singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson: ‘This album is a satisfying and deeply felt blend of overt political comment and intimate personal observation.’

Kelly has a look at a splendid neo-traditional Nordic recording: ‘When last I heard of the Swedish folk band Ranarim, they had just performed at the 2001 Nordic Roots Festival in support of their debut album Till the Light of Day. Over the next five years, they expanded from a quartet to a sextet and recorded one album that didn’t get released outside Sweden, but had otherwise kept a low profile since 2003. As often happens with Nordic folk bands, the members of Ranarim had all sorts of other projects to work on. They have most definitely benefited from the time off, though, as their new album Morning Star is as fresh and vital as any Scandinavian album I’ve heard in quite some time.’

Robert once again takes us somewhat out of our usual music focus with Moby’s Innocents: ‘I have to admit, when I first listened, my reaction was “What have I done?!?” but it all makes more sense now. It’s definitely a strong album, although I’m not sure that’s the right word to use – maybe “substantial” is better.’

PSo here’s an interesting What Not for you. When Christopher Golden was Oak King here some years back, he gave us ‘The Art of The Deal,’ a short story that I’ll not detail at all as it’s best to read without being told about it, so go here to read it.  And do not post it elsewhere as we’ve got exclusive digital rights for it.

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So let’s finish out this week with some more music from Altan. It’s ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ from their performance at the Folkadelphia Session, 7th of March, 2015. It’s a really sweet piece of Irish if I must say so myself.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Kitchen Tales

PCome in! Just give me a few minutes to finish the House books for the last year (or three), and I’ll be right with you. So, you’ve applied to work in the Kitchen, eh? Pleased to meet you. Let me tell you a little about what the job entails.

In all the decades that I’ve been on the Estate staff, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t some sort of celebration involving culinary treats and interesting drinkables. Certainly the accounts kept by my predecessors (going back centuries, I should add), show just how expensive their tastes could be. Importing caviar fit for the Winter Court of St. Petersburg could be considered excessive, but, in fact, rates as frugal compared to some of the gastronomic tales that abound here! The wedding feast of Jack and Brigid included wild boar on the menu, but getting the beast here from France involved a certain amount of, ahem, ‘fiscal diplomacy’ in our dealings with the customs men. I suppose that seeing as how the boar was, on arrival, very much alive, very large, very angry, very musky and very incontinent, they had a right to feel a little inconvenienced. Still, once the chef had roasted it slowly over a hickory fire it was simply delicious!

As you might have noticed, we also brew our own drink. Bjorn is the latest of a long line of brewmasters that have carried out their arcane craft here. So what shall we discuss? Oh, you want to know about those raggedy shaggedy bears. The story is that Walter, Brigid’s uncle on the Germanic side of her family, is visiting us right now. He’s a great, shaggy man with a full beard and long, long ponytail who goes waltzing with bears. Really. Truly. Now, Brigid notes that her fiddler of a husband (me) has been known to do some very odd things, so she says that Walter’s not all that odd — everyone likes to dance. He’s also keen on having a long conversation with Bjorn, our brewmaster, as he thinks that Bjorn is a long-lost relative of his . . .

Bjorn showed up here a long time ago in a raggedy long coat with a cask of Applejack on each of his oversized shoulders. He volunteered to make us all the ale and other libations that we lusted after so long as the bears he brought with him could stay in Oberon’s Wood. After some serious discussion, during which one keg got consumed, we agreed, as long as the bears only ate such things as the salmon from the river, berries, morels, and honey! (The latter provided by us as they must not touch Gus’ centuries old bee colonies.) And that’s how the bears came to live in our woods!

Now do I hear the sound of a fiddle playing ‘The Berne Bear Waltz’? Let’s see if the bears and Uncle Walter are at it again . . .

One rather long-lived member of the Neverending Session claims he remembers a Scottish bloke by the name of Burns that dropped in to the Pub one cold day. (Was it Robbie Burns? The teller of the tale won’t say.) The publican that day had a large cauldron of hot spiced Applejack going in the fireplace. This Burns drank some, then drank some more, and started telling tales. Almost caused the musicians of the Neverending Session to stop playing to listen to him. He only stopped (after many hours) to go for a much needed piss…

Another brew exclusive to us is Dragons Breath XXX Stout. Have you ever encountered a Brazilian brew called Xingu? If not, think Guinness on steroids. It’s that thick. But compared to Dragons Breath XXX Stout, Guinness is as weak as one of those American beers that we won’t mention here. One swallow of Dragons Breath will cause . . . oh, just drink it and you’ll will know what I mean. Good, eh? Here’s a health!P

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What’s New for the 1st of March: Bacon and Tea Considered, John Fogerty Live, An SF Play and Other Interesting Things

No one owns you, I know that. No one owns me. No one owns anyone. We just get to borrow each for a while. ― Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s End of the World Blues

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It’s noticeably warmer this past week with Spring Equinox soon to be. You can see the trees beginning to bear buds, and  one can sense that Spring is upon us as it always is by now. That doesn’t mean that we cannot have more snow storms as we often do but it’s no doubt the turning of the year.

On a different subject, it’s  entirely possible that you’ve noted our fascination with all things consumable. Be it a British TV series such as Two Fat Ladies, an exploration of Scottish whisky distilleries, the perfect Scottish fry-up, a cracking good chocolate bar, preferably dark, or perhaps a look at bourbon, America’s whisky as it’s been called, we never pass up an opportunity to do a review wherever possible. So look for more such reviews here.

PAn 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.’

For your winter reading pleasure, we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets looked at by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Robert’s review of 9Tail Fox whittles down the general genre label and gets to the heart of the story. ‘The book cover claims that Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9Tail Fox is ‘A novel of science fiction.’ Considering what science fiction has become over the past generation, that could well be valid — with some qualifications. I’m going to call it ‘slipstream’ in honor of its genre-bending tendencies and let it go at that.’ Ahh, but is it any good? Robert’s review lets you know.

Warner says that ‘The written word has been the standard mode of conveying information across time and distance for centuries. There was in Spring of 2019 an exhibit at the British Museum dedicated to the very topic of writing and its history. To accompany it the British Library put together Writing Making Your Mark with editor Ewan Clayton. Clayton is an excellent choice for editor, being already experienced in the subject and having written a celebrated volume on the subject, (The Golden Thread).  The British Library’s offering is a large and impressive volume, giving a brief history of the written word as well as a look into its potential futures.’

He has la ook at a re-issue of a classic SF  work: ‘Richard Matheson has become one of the legends of horror fiction, a formative figure, and it takes only a glance at the novel I Am Legend to see why. A now classic tale of apocalypse in which the conflict is reduced to man vs. vampires, it asks questions about not only society, but the monstrousness of one’s own view of the world and that of a culture. Collectors editions of such works are rare. While I Am Legend has had several editions, a new one is welcome.’

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Jennifer L.S. Pearsal’s Big Book of Bacon gets reviewed by Gus: ‘Yes bacon. We use a lot of bacon at this Scottish Estate. Bacon in cheddar and bacon rolls, bacon and tomatoes in eggs, bacon in beef stew for a little extra flavour. Even one enterprising Kitchen staffer even created ice cream with smoky bacon and chocolate as its flavour. It actually tasted rather good. Well you get the idea. So when I discovered this book in a pile of galleys sent to us, I decided to give it a review.’

Jeff Koehler and Fajer Al- Kaisi’s  Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea audiobook gets reviewed by Reynard: ‘Tea is my favourite beverage since I was resident in southern Asia some decades ago as it was much easier there to find good tea than it was to find even one cup of coffee that was anything but horrible except in the high-end tourist hotels which I generally didn’t frequent. ’

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Kage loved video with a fierce devotion that showed in her reviews, as we see here with her lead-in to the Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series that gleefully screwed historic accuracy royally in favour of a more entertaining story: ‘In the soul of every history geek, there is a hidden volume wherein are listed the names of History Geek Guilty Pleasures. Don’t try to deny it, fellow history geeks; you know it’s true.’

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Robert has some thoughts on Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call: ‘If any comic published in the last couple of decades typifies the intrusion of a “noir” sensibility into the field, it’s 100 Bullets. . . . In this first collected edition, we’re given two episodes in which the mysterious Agent Graves approaches people who have suffered unjustly. He gives them an attache case with a gun and 100 bullets, all untraceable, with the assurance that they can use them however they choose for redress and as soon as those bullets are recognized, any investigation will be called off.’

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Muzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s Yugoslav Folk Music 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.’

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.’

Deb has an essay about Maddy Prior that she’s titled …And Maddy Dances: ‘Warning, up front, in advance: if you’re expecting a scholarly historical restrospective of Steeleye Span, you’re doomed to disappointment. (You also don’t know me very well, but that’s a different issue.) I’ve been a fan of theirs for over three decades, and I’m going to write about the way I’ve always listened to them, perceived them, felt them: prismatically, split into streams of sound and light over a central rock at the heart of the prism.’

Gary reviews Shalhevet by Divahn, a women’s ensemble singing religious songs of Middle Eastern Jews set to tunes from other cultures. ‘Led by the powerful Persian-American singer and composer Galeet Dardashti, Divahn’s latest release brings these traditional Sephardi and Mizrahi songs up to date with Western and Middle Eastern stringed instruments, Indian, Middle Eastern and Latin percussion, and lyrics in Hebrew, Persian and Arabic.’

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Our What Not this outing is by Jennifer who reviews a new science fiction play: Generation Red by Alexander Utz. It’s a fabulous illustration of The Marriage Box Rule. It’s belly-rubbin’-good meta. It’s like Kabuki, only, you know, science fiction.

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John Fogerty is a fascinating musician having been a very long time ago member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, but an artist in his own right for close to fifty years. So give a listen to him a few years back performing ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Blues’ which recorded a decade in Canada on a summers night. The song itself isn’t his but was was written by Cliff Hess and was first recorded and released by George Reneau in 1924, the same year it was written.

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What’s New for the 23rd of February: A Collaboration between Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett, Two of the Best-loved Fantasy Movies of the 1980s, Eight Classic SF Novels of the 1960s, Ritter Chocolates, Jazz Drumming, A Choice Zelazny, Live Nightnoise and Other Lively Matters

All of these things considered, it is not surprising that one can detect echoes, correspondences and even an eternal return or two within the work of a single author. The passage of time does bring changes, yea and alas; but still, I would recognize myself anywhere. — Roger Zelazny in his Unicorn Variations collection

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Yes, we’re hunkering down from the effects of the worst rains we’ve seen in generations here. Gus, our Estate Grounds Keeper, has his hands full making sure that none of the buildings get damaged from the high winds and torrential rains, but otherwise everyone’s inside until this passes, which it should by the time you’re reading this Edition.

So I’ve put together our usual eclectic Edition of books, music, food and such to tempt to open your purse strings. There’s everything from classic Sixties SF alongside the latest in a beloved offbeat detective series. There’s chocolate and hedgehog puppets and of course music.

So I’ll take your leave now as I smell Toll House cookies being delivered to the Library right now and I think they’d go very well indeed with a very large mug of hot chocolate made in my Office from that gift of Trader Joe’s Organic Hot Cocoa Mix. Do join me after you read this Edition. I’ll try to save some cookies and cocoa!

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Cat has an interesting work for us: ‘On a whim, I picked it up a novel and started reading it  — it felt like classic Zelazny such as The Isle of The Dead, so I kept reading. Now keep in mind that this never before published Zelazny novel was finished posthumously with the help of his co-author and companion, Jane Lindskold. But unlike so many of this sort of collaboration, Donnerjack has Zelazny written all over it. This is important to emphasise as the online reviews that I looked at for it generally trashed it as not being true to the spirit of Zelazny!’

Richard says ‘Lavondyss is perhaps the most problematic of the 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.’

Warner has a look at the latest in a beloved detective series: ‘The Hap & Leonard series is one of Joe R. Lansdale’s most engaging works, a series of strange and fragmented crime stories which showcase two men who care for one another like brothers and find themselves frequently in complicated situations of one sort or another. The latest collection of these stories is Of Mice and Minestrone and follows Hap and, to a slightly lesser extent, Leonard through some of their childhood formative years up to the time the two reunite after a Vietnam-war related separation.‘

Looking for some classic SF to read on these long Winter nights? Well, Warner has the collection for you: ‘The Library of America’s Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s is another impressive feat by editor Gary K. Wolfe. As he explains in his introductions, stories in this two volume slipcase set were chosen both for quality and impact. In addition, he includes information about the selection process to avoid including volumes that appear elsewhere in the Library of America collection. Of those included, two are very worthy of note.’

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Raspberry Creme and a Buttermilk Lemon are the two flavours in chocolate bars Robert looks at this time: ‘As you will remember, Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG is a major German chocolatier and candy manufacturer. I happen to have recently received two of their Limited Edition candies for review — which means, sadly, that I wasn’t allowed to just snarf them down. These are part of a series of candies made with yogurt and flavorings and covered in chocolate. Strangely enough, I wasn’t able to find information on the Ritter Sport website. I guess when they say “Limited Edition,” that’s just what they mean.’

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Michael has a double bill for your viewing pleasure: ‘Some of the greatest fantasy movies in recent memory have come from the incomparable, unbeatable, and sadly never to be repeated collaborations of Jim Henson and Brian Froud. Take the magical madness of Henson’s muppets and the bizarre mythic imagery of Froud’s faeries, throw in some special effects and superb actors, and you get two of the best-loved fantasy movies of the 1980s, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.’

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April reviews the first volume in an ongoing series by David Petersen: ‘The year is 1152, treachery is afoot, and the Mouse Guard, defenders of all mice, must suss out the traitor in their midst before the Guard is destroyed. So goes the basic plot of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, a graphic novel collection of Petersen’s award-winning comic. And just so there’s no confusion, Mouse Guard isn’t a nickname or colloquialism — the protagonists really are mice, the small, furry rodent kind.’

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Gary  enjoyed Wild Wild East by jazz drummer Sunny Jain. ‘It’s as wild a mashup of genres and styles as I’ve encountered in 30 years of reviewing music, and one of the most engaging and exciting releases of this young decade.’

Let’s have 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.’

Robert has a look at a couple of concert hall staples, none other than Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 and 6: ‘There isn’t much to be said about Beethoven: there he is, take it or leave it. It is doubtful that anyone had more influence on the music of the 19th century than he did — even the archenemies Brahms and Wagner both claimed Beethoven as their artistic forebear.’

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From the Archives a long time ago, comes our What Not this time: ‘“OK, you do know that we have a resident hedgehog at this Scottish Estate by the name of Hamish? So it won’t surprise you that Robert reviewed this puppet: ‘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.’”

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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-six 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.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Spring is Coming. Eventually.

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The time of the year  when cold, nasty weather here at the Estate is more common than not is upon us as I sit writing these words in my office behind the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room. A freezing sleet is being driven by a steady wind and even Gus, our Head Gardener who is outside in all manner of weather, is inside consulting with Mrs. Ware, the Estate Head Cook, on how many of the Estate geese she’ll need for our Candlemas feast this year.

I think the promise of yet more bread pudding with rum and dark chocolate also figured into his desire to be in the Kitchen. And I see that a goodly number of the Neverending Session musicians have taken up residence in the sitting area of the Kitchen where I heard then playing a hornpipe attributed to Billy Pigg when I passed by the Kitchen earlier today.

The Kitchen here is quite large as its been expanded several times down the years, most recently thirty years ago, when we added more yurts for visitors to stay in. And the Kitchen’s actually in an area of the sub basement though it’s got lots of windows facing the back courtyard there.  That expansion added a cozy sitting area where the Neverending Session as I noted above is oft times playing in the Winter. And it’s not at all  unusual to the Stitchers group to take up residence there.

It’s a mostly throughly modern with gas stoves, four eight burner Vikings, along with walk-in coolers and of course restaurant sized walk-in freezers. There’s always a stone soup of whatever the staff there thinks is appropriate to toss in — one time it might be lamb, lentils, and onions, another time it might be beef from High Ridge Farm with veggies we grew, or my favourite, smoked turkey with veggies and dumplings.

Mostly throughly modern because we do have an eight burner wood stove with a griddle area that those lovely soups and stews, plus other slows cooked food gets done on. Not to mention  superb pancakes and thick sliced bacon.

The best thing I think about the Kitchen is the fresh baked goodies from muffins with Turkish dates in the morning to a late night snack of double dark chocolate cake with a scoop of Madagascar vanilla ice cream. Or the warm enough to melt butter whole wheat rolls with the soup of the day for the Eventide meal.

Damn I made myself hungry! Shall we head down to the Kitchen for a snack? I heard that there might well be carrot cake. With cream cheese frosting. Doesn’t that sound tasty?

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What’s New for the 16th of February: On Breakfast, Judy Collins Live, Cats, Tolkien in Person, Champagne, Music from Just About Everywhere, and much more

One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast. — Robert A. Heinlein’s Friday

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Potatoes… Onions…  Smoked salmon… Well-aged cheddar cheese… Oh the eggs? Chicken, duck or goose? Your choice as we’ve  got all of ‘em. They’ve all got their own unique colour, flavour and, yes, texture.  The Kitchen has decided to do omelets on this Winter morning along with thick sliced bacon and oh so delicious corn bread with warmed butter for breakfast on this Winter morning. Oh and of course coffee. With cream.

Yes we like breakfast here a lot. It’s been covered here in the form of baked eggs, a history of breakfast, a Bison Uncured Bacon and Cranberry Bar (really it tastes great), Spam: A Biography (it is a superb breakfast food, particularly with eggs and sharp cheese) and Charles Stross on the full Scottish breakfast to name but a few of the things we’ve covered. Care to join us? Of course you do!

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Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest with illustrations by Charles Vess is based on A Circle of Cats by the same talented duo, which Mia reviewed here. Cat found a lot to like in this charming novel, so read his review to see why he liked it.

Jack has a rather charming book for us to consider: ‘Not surprisingly, the Kinrowan Estate library where the Green Man offices are contains many items related to J. R. R. Tolkien and his works. Tolkien is one of the best creators of fantasy that ever lived, period. And the recent films based on The Lord of The Rings have caused a resurgence of interest in him and his works. I have no doubt that you’ve read both The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, as you wouldn’t be reading this review if you hadn’t, but have you ever encountered the man who wrote those works? Well, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien will give you a look at Tolkien himself in ways that are both charming and perhaps surprising.’

Robert has a look at an entry in Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age series, this one titled Blood and Iron: ‘One of the freshest and most interesting developments in fantasy literature over the past decade or two has been the emergence of what I tend to call “contemporary fantasy.” Known also as “urban fantasy” or sometimes “mythic literature,” it combines the trappings and motifs of classic fantasy and sometimes horror with a modern-day, usually urban milieu. It also moves freely into other genres. Call it fantasy’s answer to cyberpunk: it has that kind of fluidity and, more often than not, that kind of hard-edged, dark vision.’

Warner has a choice bit of Sherlockian fiction for us: ‘Interesting new points of view for Sherlock Holmes tales are difficult, and even finding a new way to express an old point of view is impressive. Michelle Birkby, in All Roads Lead to Whitechapel, has produced a very nice mystery, one that simultaneously feels true to Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories while also producing an interesting and unusual read. The beginning of the unusual approach can be seen in the simple fact that rather than focusing upon Holmes and Watson, the story features them as secondary characters, with none other than Mrs. Hudson and Mary Watson as the leads.’

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Denise decided to go with the Valentine’s weekend vibe and pop open a (mini)bottle or two of  Cook’s Brut Champagne 187ml Bottle 4 pack. Wait, you ask; has our resident beer snob decided to slum it? Yep, and she’s just fine with that. ‘Sure, the purists will scoff, but it’s a lovely bottle to crack open on a Taco Tuesday when you’re feeling a bit Treat Yo Self.’ So why not treat  yourself and read her in-dept review of this bubbly!

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Jennifer loves the new Edward Norton film Motherless Brooklyn, which tears a strip off the unholy trinity of commercial real estate, public works projects, and corrupt government with a big fat creamy jazz-soaked noir project full of stuff to love.

Motherless Brooklyn talks explicitly about the role of racism in the (re)building of New York, but class is implicit, too, in everything from characters’ dress to their accents, homes, and the way they walk: class and race, race and class, joining and dividing these New Yorkers. PS, if you think you can’t get a crush on a guy with OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome, tough girl, give this a look.

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Gary takes an extensive look at three publications that marked the 25th anniversary of Maus, Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking graphic novel about his family’s experiences in the Holocaust. They included the original books, Vol. 1, My Father Bleeds History and Vol. 2, And Here My Troubles Began; and a hardcover volume called MetaMaus, about the making of the original works.

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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.’

He next has a review of an album by jazz saxophonist Oded Tzur. The mostly mellow music on Here Be Dragons is a blend of jazz and Indian classical styles and techniques. He says that if you listen closely, ‘you realize that this isn’t some variant of smooth jazz, just utterly controlled melodicism.’

He then says of porous structures a recent release by an acoustic quartet led by Belgian multi-instrumentalist and avant garde composer Ruben Machtelinckx: ‘Each of the eight performances recorded here is a variation on gently plucked guitars, high-pitched droning from reeds or voice, and a compendium of percussion.’

Gary rounds out our music reviews with a recording by Amarillis which has Allison Thompson on accordion and concertina and it gets high praise from him as a  contradancer: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home.’

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Our What Not is our perennial question of what’s your favourite Tolkien. Catherynne picked The Silmarillion: ‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’

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It’s been bloody cold here so let’s se if I can find something to remind us that every season will pass on the Infinite Jukebox, our media server. Ahhh Judy Collins will do very nice. ‘Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)’ was recorded by her at the Newport Folk Festival fifty five years ago this coming July. (Now I’m feeling old.) It’s a lovely take on a very old story that reminds us that everything is transient, even this time of bitter cold.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pub Rules

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Like any good pub, there are of course rules at The Green Man Pub. Everyone is welcome, provided they can behave like a reasonable being. (I don’t say human as some of our visitors are most decidedly not human, although most are humanoid in shape.)

No one gets drunk in our Pub, no one. And no one, other than visiting musos, drinks for free (with a few exceptions) here. Even raising your voice in what the Barkeep thinks is an agressive manner will get you banned from the Pub. Never have a staff — save one several decades back that was coming off a bad breakup — been banned as it effectively meant being ostracized from the Estate, but we’ve had several visitors to the Estate, band members all, who thought high spirits meant being really rowdy. Neither they nor their bands got invited back.

All manner of currency are excepted from the local pound scots to the decidedly odd such as the Roman coins the Traveling Doctor, as she called herself, offered that were as if newly minted. And no one runs a tab that extends beyond closing time. Yes, we close — generally between four and noon for cleaning and restocking as need be. Besides nobody should really be drinking that early in the day.

Buying rounds is allowed but the barkeep on duty has the right to ask for payment upon ordering. And we will ask for payment before pouring the decidedly expensive single drams, some of which cost over a hundred euros a shot. Just prudent policy on our part.

Though talking and general goings-on are expected when the Neverending Session is playing, respect and paying attention to visiting musos, storytellers, and such are indeed expected. And you will be asked to leave or be quiet by someone rather quickly.

That’s pretty much it. Otherwise just enjoy yourself.

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What’s New for the 9th of February: Horslips live, Bourbon, Definitive Earthsea, Traveling the Pacific, Robin Hood, and more

Every good fiddler has a distinctive sound. No matter how many play the same tune, each can’t help but play it differently. Some might use an up stroke where another would a down. One might bow a series of quick single notes where another would play them all with one long draw of the bow. Some might play a double stop where others would a single string. If the listener’s ear was good enough, she could tell the difference. But you had to know the tunes, and the players, for the differences were minute. — Fiaina in Charles de Lint’s Drink Down the Moon

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Ahhhh, you’re in the mood for a really great bourbon, eh? I’d recommend the WhistlePig fifteen Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey. We just got it in and it’s proved popular among bourbon drinkers willing to pay dearly for it. It’s finished off for six months in White Oak barrels harvested on the WhistlePig farm in Vermont. Bloody good if I must say so myself.

Oh and Gary has a loving look at Reid Mitenbuler’s Bourbon Empire which bears the subtitle of The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey. A history of bourbon lovingly told? Need I say more to get you to read his review and afterwards the book itself which of course is in our Library? I think not!

Now let’s get this Edition started which again has Whovian reviews, along with anchovies (yes anchovies), music composed by de Lint, Carla Bley‘s newest recording, another exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and music from the Horslips. Shall we get started?

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Chris has a review of The Books of Earthsea: ‘Saga Press has released Ursula LeGuin’s collected Earthsea works, beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. This collection includes the original trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971 ) and The Farthest Shore (1972), as well as the novels in which LeGuin revisited the trilogy, Tehanu (1990) and The Other Wind (2001), which conclude the saga many years after the events of the originals. Also included are Tales from Earthsea, LeGuin’s 2001 collection, and four other stories, including the never before published “Daughter of Odren.” Her illuminating essay, “Earthsea Revisioned,” which she delivered as a lecture in Oxford in 1992, is also here, along with an introduction from the author. In short, this giant of a volume includes everything you need to know about Earthsea, and it’s a delight to see it all collected in one place.’

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.’

Warner has two Doctor Who reviews of which this is the first first: ‘The final novelization of classic era Doctor Who has arrived with Eric Seward’s adaptation of his own Revelation of the Daleks. This volume has been a long time coming, with over thirty years between the airing of the television story and this release. Working from the relatively well regarded Colin Baker Sixth Doctor story, Seward brings a tale of Davros re-engineering the Daleks, a strange and deliberately anachronistic behaving DJ to the dead, honorable and impressive assassins, food shortages with familiar solutions, and planet wide graveyards, to  simply name some of the elements.’

His other Whovian book is a look at a collection of short stories: ‘One of the noticeable oddities about Doctor Who as a franchise is the tendency to use and reference historical personalities. Vincent van Gogh, William Shakespeare,  Charles Dickens, and any number “of royal figures have appeared on the television series. Many more characters have appeared in the various books, comics and audio dramas featuring the the Doctor. The short story collection Doctor Who: Star Tales represents an interesting attempt to push this aspect to the fore by dealing exclusively in stories of the famous throughout history, and how their experiences and lives crossed with those of the Doctor. The celebrities range from actors to scientists, and from the recent past to the ancient.’

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Either you love ’em or you have to run screaming from any room containing them and flush your mouth and sinuses, or at least your brain, until the very idea that you have shared the planet with them has been washed away. Enter at your own risk, because Jennifer’s about to get anchovy.

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Tim recalls a film classic (from 1938, no less), The Adventures of Robin Hood: ‘While numerous Robin Hood movies have been made, my dad steadfastly refuses to watch them. “There’s only one Robin Hood,” he says. He’s talking about Errol Flynn, of course, and this 1938 classic.’

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April is back with the next installment of Bill Willlingham’s Fables series: ‘In this ninth installment in the ongoing Fables series, Bill Willingham is back in top form, delivering solid character development and intriguing plot in spades. A mix of multi-part and one-shot stories, Sons of Empire introduces new characters and provides insight into the lives of others while driving the over-arching story forward.’

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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.’

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.

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.’

‘In addition to her prodigious output of composing, performing and recording in a wide variety of settings, 81-year-old Carla Bley has been playing in this trio with bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard for some 25 years,’ Gary notes in his review of their latest release Life Goes On. ‘Theirs is the kind of musical relationship that, when it’s right, is capable of producing astounding results.’

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Robert takes us on a tour of yet another exhibition at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: Traveling the Pacific: ‘The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water on the planet, at its widest stretching about 11,000 miles across — almost half the diameter of the earth. This is just one of the fun facts that lead into the Field Museum’s exhibit “Traveling the Pacific”. The focus of the exhibition is the islands, of which there are 20,000-30,000 — a firm count is hard to determine, since many of the islands are too small to be seen from space — another fun fact from the lead-in.’

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It’s certainly quite definitely Winter here as the calendar reckons such things and it feels like it with cold mornings and snowy, chilly days. So let’s see what I can find on the Infinite Jukebox, our server of all things digital, to brighten us up a bit… I’m choosing  the Horslips doing ‘Drive the Cold Winter Away’ as their cover of the John Playford composition is outstanding. It was recorded at The Spectrum, Philadelphia on the 24th Of March  forty years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Ghostly Librarian

PI haven’t seen him despite having The Sight but several persons down the years have said they’ve seen a man dressed in Victorian Era clothes and looking apparently quite solid. He looked to in his late fifties or early sixties, tall and skinny, wearing sliver rimmed glasses. He was putting away books on the shelves well after midnight according to one person and a Several Annie some sixty years ago was unable to sleep, as the Estate Journal of that time notes, and decided to get something and was surprised to see a person in the Library at three in the morning.

That’s when it got weird. She said what she called The Librarian turned to her and asked her what book she was looking for. She didn’t think anything of it beyond the oddness of the hour — no Librarian ever works that late, not even the very much unlamented and hopefully quite dead Grubb — and so she said she was looking for the latest Christie and he said it was on the desk waiting to be put away.

She said thanks, started to turn away, and remembered that she was also looking for any Sayers she hadn’t read, so she turned back and watched him fading away to nothing within a few moments. She decided that getting back to her bed was a very good idea and got out of there was fast as she could.

The last time that he was seen was by another Several Annie only twenty years back. She saw him in the early evening when Iain and Catherine were off on a trip to the Nordic region for a much deserved vacation. It appeared to her that he had simply decided to fill in as Librarian while Iain was elsewhere. Now that’s what I call a dedicated professional!

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What’s New for the 2nd of February: Johnny Clegg’s Final Album, More Fables Considered, Live Steeleye Span, Some Things Whovian, An Unusually Flavoured KitKat and Other Matters

Don’t be scared. All of this is new to you, and new can be scary. Now we all want answers. Stick with me — you might get some. — She Who is The Thirteenth Doctor

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Spring isn’t that far away with lambing season upon us, a sign of the coming warmth always, but you wouldn’t know it right now as we’re going a major clusterfuck of a snow storm starting yesterday and expected to be here ’til tomorrow. It’s kept the staff of Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and Groundskeeper, up around the clock. My Several Annies, the Library Apprentices, are off helping him out by watching the soon to give birth ewes. So I’m putting this Edition together by myself.

We’re avid fans of The Doctor here, and the Thirteenth incarnation has quite pleased nearly everyone saved reactionary fanboys, many of whom frankly hate the entire rebooted Who. Denise reviewed Her first season thisway and even looked several of Her figures including the Funko Rock Candy one. And Cat has a spoiler filled review of a Thirteenth Doctor episode that’s as much about the nature of spoilers as it is about that episode. So let’s get started. Oh and Warner looks at Doctor Who fanfic by an earlier Companion as well.

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A novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans  by Tim Lebbon & Christopher Golden is definitely rated adult by Richard: ‘Readers who come to The Map of Moments looking for something similar to Mind the Gap are in for a rude shock. Where the first novel of the Hidden Cities was essentially YA, The Map of Moments is steeped in sex and death, a whirlwind ride through centuries of secret history marked by murder, cannibalism, and lust.’

Robert takes us into the adventures of a very unusual detective agency: ‘Daemon Eyes is an omnibus edition of Camille Bacon-Smith’s two novels of the half-demon Evan Davis; his father, known to mortals as Kevin Bradley; and Lily Ryan, another demon. The three set themselves up as detectives, doing business as Bradley, Ryan and Davis, specializing in cases that are, shall we say, something out of the ordinary. In addition to the two novels, this edition includes a prologue that fills in Evan’s history (which is very helpful).’

Warner has a sort of fanfic for us: ‘There is a long history in the Doctor Who franchise of actors taking on writing credits. Colin Baker, Mathew Watterhouse, Nicholas Briggs, Tom Baker, and others have written or co-written adventures featuring their characters. Sophie Aldred has (with the assistance of Steve Cole and Mike Tucker) joined this company with At Childhood’s End, a tale of her screen character Ace long after her adventures in the TARDIS have ended and she has instead taken to running A Charitable Earth. Starting as the story of a former companion still investigating, the book becomes an examination of coming to grips with the past.’

Next up is something a bit more toothy. (Sorry I couldn’t resist.) He says: ‘Carrie Vaugh has been writing urban fantasy for many years, and her Kitty Norville series is only one example of her work. It is a series focusing on a werewolf, and like many werewolf stories, vampires come into play. Feeling a bit like a side step away from the main narrative, and indeed barely dealing with Kitty or her other friends, The Immortal Conquistador deals with a particular vampire from the series.‘

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You know that there are lots of cool and unusual flavors of KitKats out there, don’t you? Well, if that’s news to you, let Denise start you on the road to knowledge with her review of Nestlé’s Kumamon Ikinari Dango KitKat. Though you may want to use her review as a way to discover other flavors… ‘I’d seen their delicious Matcha flavor…but missed out by not picking them up immediately. So here we are, with Dango “flavored” candies as a consolation prize. And to quote an old meme, I am disappoint.’ 

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Cat brings us his thoughts on another Dr. Who episode, “Fugitive of The Judoon” — but he starts with a warning: ‘Understand right now that if you really, really don’t like spoilers and you’ve not watched this episode, that you should go away now and do something else as this review consists of nothing really but spoilers. I’m serious — just go away.’

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April was not quite so enthusiastic about the eighth volume of Fables: ‘Wolves, the eighth installment of Bill Willingham’s long-running series of fairy tale characters alive and well in our world (and at war with a fierce Adversary) finds Mowgli of Jungle Book fame still hunting down the Big Bad Wolf on behalf of Prince Charming, embattled mayor of Fabletown. Mowgli’s travels take him to Russia, then back across the Bering Strait to Alaska. We get to see him show off his buff body, unarmed combat skills and preternaturally keen tracking skills. To Bigby’s dismay, he’s found all too easily (by his standards), and made a offer: perform a task for Prince Charming and a way will be found for Bigby to live with Snow White and their cubs on the outskirts of the Farm.’

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We lost another great one as Scott notes: ‘In the fall of 2017, South African singer Johnny Clegg released what he knew would be his last album.  Clegg had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and while he’d already managed to complete a world tour after getting the diagnosis, the disease was winning.  King of Time is appropriately titled.  The album is very short — it has seven songs spanning 24 minutes — but Clegg was a busy man trying to get as much done in whatever time he had left.’

Gary says up of Quake, a  sort of trad Nordic recording from Den Fule that: ‘When I was trying to find something that my good friend, a Breton girl of 22 who loves nu-metal music, would like, I pulled out Den Fule. Her assessment: “That’s really fun, kinda’ like Irish music, but it rocks.” This accomplishes in ten words what will take me at least 300 to re-iterate.’

Joselle doesn’t like this time of year but a recording called An Ancient Muse cheered her up: ‘Normally, I can’t stand winter. It’s cold, it’s dismal, and I tend to get sick a lot. Nonetheless, winter 2006 has made me one happy woman, in spite of the general nastiness. This is largely thanks to an event that I and several other folk/Celtic/world/eclectic music fans have been anticipating for nine years?’

The self-named recording  that turned out to be the only recording by a Scottish group caught the ear of Naomi: ‘The sound of the CD really does reflect this large cast of musicians, revealing a broad spectrum of styles and influences with forays into country and pop music. However, the overall feel of this recording is remarkably unified and thoroughly Scottish at its core, although the members of Cantychiels clearly have the knack for injecting a pleasant modern sensibility into their music. Fans of early ’80s Clannad will not be disappointed with this CD.’

Richard wraps up our music reviews with high praise 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.’

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As some gear up for the annual football prom that is the Super Bowl, many of us here settle in to enjoy the commercials. One that’s gotten some advance notice is from Planters, who have decided to kill of their beloved mascot Mr. Peanut after 104 years of nutty service. (Gotta admit there were giggles when Michael Che did a “CREAM-ated” bit on the January 25th SNL.) But then Kobe Bryant, his young daughter, and seven other individuals died in a horrific plane crash…and death as marketing just isn’t feeling great right now. Planters is even pulling the social media hype for the commercial, though it may still play during the game as those spots cost companies millions and I’m guessing Planters doesn’t want to eat that loss.

Killing Mr. Peanut was a rather morbid stunt from the jump –  even though it’s sure to be a temporary thing –  and now it feels tacky too. Mr. Peanut dying in a fiery crash in one ad, then another for his funeral? It’s certainly bound to put an uncomfortable moment in this Sunday’s festivities. Cashew, anyone?

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So let’s have some music from what I consider the best electrified folk band ever that Great Britain gave birth to, Steeleye Span. Over forty years of live performances have produced a lot of excellent soundboard recordings. so let’s  start off with a perennial favourite of fans: ‘Tam Lin’ as performed at Fairport Convention’s Cropredy Festival, August of 2006, before finishing with  ‘Long Lankin’ from the same festival. Lovely, isn’t it?

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Enter The Sandman

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It was well past the witching hour on a night when a hard rain was beating against the windows in our Pub when the stranger clad in her woollen cloak dyed a black so dark that I wasn’t quite sure I could see it started her story: ‘The Sandman is a far more dangerous, feral creature than modern folk think of him as being. The Sandman of old didn’t make children sleepy.  No, he gave them nightmares that harmed them deeply for years after they became adults.’

I asked why had The Sandman became a fairly harmless bogeyman. She reminded me and the other listeners that the original versions of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm were full of incest, murder, and even cannibalism, but were watered down substantially by the Victorian Era translators who brought them first into the English language.

So The Sandman as she told the story was a creature cloaked in darkness whose face is so hideous that it made children scream. He would get very close to them and whisper in a voice so low that only his victim, and yes they are his victims, could hear the awful things he said to them. Whatever it was that he said, it made children wake up screaming.

There is a much darker version of this tale that says that The Sandman was so hideous that his victims became literally blind from seeing him. Call it nightmare creature induced blindness. I hadn’t heard this version but it sounded plausible. It’s surely a scary idea.  She added that there was a rare variant of The Sandman myth that said he induced the fear in children so that he could be the last thing they saw before he tore their eyes out leaving them blind, and also so he could savour the salty tears of fear in their eyes as he ate them down like treats.

She drank deeply of her Winter Ale and ended by saying ‘Pleasant dreams, everyone.’

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What’s New for the 26th of January: Lit Crit, Pulp Fiction, More Beer, King Arthur, Nordic Music, and more

After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink. — Iain Banks in Raw Spirit

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Yes, that’s a very fine Laphroaig quarter-century-old, cask strength single malt. You can thank Reynard  for it. One of the jobbers we deal with sent him a note about it. Yes, it is very costly, which is why I saw you wince when he quoted the single dram price to you. And as always, both of us strongly recommend the late Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as we believe it’s simply the best look at single malts ever done.

Indeed, it is a fine whiskey on a winter’s night when it’s cold and there’s nowhere to go, so let’s look at what we’ve got for this edition for you. I know we’ve a bevy of interesting books, as always, and there’s great music too and we’ll just have to wait and see what else we got that will surprise you, as I’m sure there’ll  be something else that will tickle your fancy. So let’s get started…

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Gary reviews a book of literary criticism about Iain M. Banks Culture series. He says Simone Caroti’s The Culture Series ‘is valuable reading for anyone who wants to move into a deeper understanding of what that series is really about, where it stands in the history of SF and literature, and why it’s important.’

We’d be remiss not to direct you to one of his Culture reviews, so here’s his look at The Hydrogen Sonata which according to him is ‘a book of equal parts jaw-dropping wonder and world-shattering violence, relief is offered by the Ships: their names themselves and the droll and witty dialog between and among them as they go about debating their course of action and concocting rationalizations for once again meddling in the affairs of another civilization.’

Warner delves into a crime story that holds its own in the genre: ‘Blood Sugar is quite a good little crime story, and a very nice example of psychological horror. There are characters one wouldn’t expect, twists and turns in both narrative and development, and very clever stylistic developments. This is a very clever but extremely dark story, very well told and easy to recommend for a good quick read.’

Next, he goes further into pulp crime fiction with Max Allan Collins’ Killing Quarry: ‘There is something nice about seeing an old character, genre, or style revived. Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins once again delivers an adventure of his ’70s pulp character Quarry, a Vietnam veteran who finds himself dealing with frequent strange criminal conflicts in his role as a hit man.’

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Denise is back with yet another brew review – this go-round it’s Yuengling’s Hershey’s Chocolate Porter. ‘Yuengling knew what they were doing when they collaborated with Hershey’s. And the brewery definitely let the chocolatier take the wheel.’ Read the full review to find out exactly what she thought!

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We’ve got two films reviewed this time, both of the Arthurian mythos, and both by the same reviewer it turns out.

A rather  brutal take on the Arthurian mythos draws this comment by reviewer Asher: ‘Here is a tale of human folly — “Whatever the cost, do it”. Of a noble dream – “One land, one king!” Of magic – “Can’t you see all around you the Dragon’s breath?” Of its passing – “There are other worlds. This one is done with me.” And of memory – “For it is the doom of men that they forget.” Excalibur is arguably the most exciting film version of the myth of Arthur to date.’

He goes on to state 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.’

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India shaped the British Empire every bit as much  the British shaped India over the centuries of ofttimes brutal occupation. Peter Milligan’s John Constantine: Hellblazer India, says Cat, ‘neatly plays off the British experience in India and what happens when that experience takes a horrible turn into the supernatural world that Constantine knows all too well.’

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Gary reviews aloha a new album by Son Little, whose stage name sounds like a Delta blues singer. ‘But although there’s a component of acoustic blues to his music, and some bluesy distorted electric guitar on a couple of tracks, what he’s making is old-school soul and R&B, liberally mixed with elements of classic rock and dare I say garage rock, and much more.’

Eclectic is the name of the game with Joe Russo’s phér•bŏney, which Gary says is a mostly instrumental album of electronic and analog music. ‘Not much like the majority of music I listen to, but it’s good to stray out of the comfort zone. These are some serious musicians having a bit of fun, which almost always results in something worth listening to.’

Finally, Gary brings us up to speed with music from the enigmatically named Squirrel Flower, ‘the stage name of the Boston-based singer-songwriter Ella O’Connor Williams, making her recording debut with the beautifully realized I Was Born Swimming … In an alternate universe I could hear a young Patsy Cline singing some of these numbers, which orbit around themes of movement and stasis, travel and home.’

Ranarop — Call of the Sea Witch is a recording Iain really liked — ‘Gjallarhorn is a foursome from Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speaking area of Finland. They are tightly bound to both folk music traditions, and ancient mythology. Musically, the band is a mixture of fiddle, mandola, didgeridoo, and percussion, with vocals provided by Jenny Wilhelms. Ranarop is an amazing album, with a singular sound which makes the band appear to be larger than it is.’

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Our What Not this edition is the matter of Arthur and the various tellings of his myth which  are writ both deep and wide upon the British folklore. (Robert Holdstock makes good use of that folklore in his Ryhope Wood cycle.) So let me offer you up A Gazetteer of Arthurian Onomastic and Topographic Folklore. Caitlin R. Green in her dense nineteen page article in Arthurian Notes & Queries lays out an argument for where Arthur fits in British folklore. It’s the usually dense academic prose but still worth reading if you got a keen interest in this subject.

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So let’s have some Nordic music to see us off on this not very pleasant Winter afternoon. ‘Vedergällningen’ by Garmarna, a Swedish band That has Emma Hardelin as their vocalist. The cut itself is of unknown origin but likely is at least twenty years old.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Old Ben

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Dear Anna,

You asked about the story you’d heard about Old Ben, the Steward in the early Sixteen Hundreds, who helped create the publishing house that is now here. I can’t tell you much about him as the records of where he came from or what he had for formal training as a printer is not recorded in the Estate Journals.

Yes, it’s true that the first thing Old Ben did was write and publish the first true history of the Estate. Or so they thought at the time. We now know that he, errrr, lied. Or if you prefer, Old Ben told his story in a way that he apparently thought was best for the Estate.

It’s a masterful piece of fiction accounting for all that a normal Estate would have, including a cleverly constructed history of the Kinrowan family all the way back to the Conquest. He even included genealogical charts for the family and insisted that somewhere on the Estate there was a Kinrowan family graveyard. There isn’t any such graveyard. A later Steward got the Head Librarian and his Several Annies to search the Archives and they also conducted a physical survey of the grounds that took a decade to complete. They found a number of unmarked grave sites but none that could possibly be a Kinrowan family graveyard.

Why Old Ben did this is unknown to this day, as he even lied in his Journal. Quite amazingly lied. And no one had the slightest clue he was doing this as they assumed he was just doing something he wanted to do. It was ap Owen, a much later Steward who realized that what he said was not what local folk remembered and ap Owen trusted them more than he did Old Ben.

Some of what — no, let me correct that — most of what he wrote became received history here. It’s even possible that he created the story of the Neverending Session, the myth of the Jacks and Jills, and certainly created the origins of the Estate itself. But since most of it is quite entertaining, no one cares if it’s really true. Well, Iain cares.

Until next time, Gus

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What’s New for the 19th of January: Mike Resnick, Beer, Dr. Who (Again), Music from Many Places, Egypt, and more

All that anxiety and anger, those dubious good intentions, those tangled lives, that blood. I can tell about it or I can bury it. In the end, we’ll all become stories. Or else we’ll become entities. Maybe it’s the same.  — Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder

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Ahh, that coffee. Yes, it’s cardamom spiced, which I admit that you Yanks most likely haven’t encountered. The Kitchen staff here’s been making it for those of us addicted to it since, oh, I think Alexandra Margaret Quinn was Head Gardener here, and I usually drink it every day. Ours is Turkish in origin. Well, Ottoman really. Nibbles to go with it, of course, are good. I favour freshly baked chocolate rugelach which Kitchen staffer Rebekah from Israel gave us.

We like chocolate a lot here, as you can tell from our reviews of many things chocolate, and we’re always pleased to see a new way of appreciating it, but even I was surprised by the amazingly good dessert Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff served up this past eventide meal: dark chocolate bread pudding with cardamon flavored ice cream! Sounds weird but actually tasted great!

Now  I suggest we  had down to the Kitchen as there’s Toll House cookies right out of the oven being offered up with eggnog per the recipe of Jennifer, one of our Winter Queens offered up once upon a Winter evening.

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Robert here. In honor of Mike Resnick, one of the most awarded authors in the field of speculative fiction, who passed away on January 9, 2020, this week’s book section is devoted to reviews of several of his works.

If I remember correctly, the first of Resnick’s novels that I read was Santiago. Just to give you a taste of this one, here’s the opening: ‘They say his father was a comet and his mother a cosmic wind, that he juggles planets as if they were feathers and wrestles with black holes just to work up an appetite. They say he never sleeps, and that his eyes burn brighter than a nova, and that his shout can level mountains.’ It gets better.

Resnick’s imagination was — well, rich, I guess, is the best way to describe it. He wrote several novels set in the ‘Weird West,’ an American West, peopled by characters who are part of our folklore, with a distinct twist. Cat got dibs on the first in the series: ‘Though billed as steampunk, The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale is far more original than most of that genre, as it is tightly focused on a small set of characters and what they will do over a fairly short period of time, so the technology never overwhelms the characters in this tale.’

The first of this series that I ran across was The Doctor and the Kid: ‘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.’ I liked the series enough that I went to on read The Doctor and the Rough Rider and The Doctor and the Dinosaurs.

Resnick wasn’t finished with alternate history. Faith got to read and comment on The Other Teddy Roosevelts: ‘There are seven stories in the collection, all plausible (well, maybe except for the vampire and the extraterrestrials in Cuba), all nicely-researched to make them fit in with documented events in Roosevelt’s life, all fascinating. The eighth piece, “The Unsinkable Teddy Roosevelt,” consists of facts and anecdotes about Roosevelt.’

And yet again — Denise dove into Dragon America and emerged smiling: ‘I’d bet that early colonists were surprised, even frightened, by some of the strange new creatures America had to offer. But I’m sure nothing surprised them more than seeing dragons soaring overhead. Wait, you never heard about the dragons? Looks like schools just don’t seem to teach anything really important nowadays. Or maybe that’s because dragons don’t exist in the history we know. But what if they did? Well, they’d probably be pretty close to what Mike Resnick describes in Dragon America.’

Next in my adventures in the protean Mike Resnick was his series about John Justin Mallory, who — well, this, from my review of Stalking the Unicorn and Stalking the Vampire, should explain it: ‘“Protean” I say, because now Pyr has issued two of Resnick’s entries into the “fantasy noir detective” subgenre, tales of John Justin Mallory, a private investigator in a Manhattan that parallels our own and sometimes intrudes. Unless we’re intruding on it.’ And after that, of course, I had to go on to Stalking the Zombie.

Michael also had a go at the first volume in this series: ‘It’s supernatural investigation with a surreal twist, filled with sly humor, comic undertones, and pulp sensibilities. In short, it’s as though Ross MacDonald and Monty Python had gotten drunk with Lewis Carroll, and written a book together. Stalking the Unicorn is clever and funny, and one of those books I return to every so often just for the satisfaction of a familiar, well-told semi-urban fantasy.

Kilimanjaro could be considered a departure for Resnick, had he not already demonstrated a phenomenal range in his work. It’s a hard book to describe, so let me just give you this summation: ‘Kilimanjaro is a gentle book with a hopeful attitude and a somewhat dated moral, deeply concerned with good people in conflict for the best of reasons. For some readers, that may be enough, or it may be nothing at all.’

Dreamwish Beasts and Snarks is a collection of stories that, once again, is hard to describe, although there is a unifying theme: ‘The overriding metaphor of this collection is “on safari.” Take that in the widest sense: although there are a couple of stories that do deal directly with safaris (“Hunting the Snark” and “Safari 2103 A.D.”), the stories are about the hunt in a much wider sense.’

Resnick didn’t limit himself to fiction, as evidenced by a collaboration with Barry N. Malzberg. Faith lays it out for us: ‘The Business of $cience Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing is a collection of essays from “The Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues,” a regular feature of the SFWA Bulletin. (The SFWA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.) It’s another excellent example of WYSIWYG in the area of titles, because this is exactly what you get, a discussion of the business of writing and publishing science fiction by two experts in the field, for other authors and would-be authors.’

Another example of Resnick’s forays into non-fiction is a collection of WorldCon Guest of Honor Speeches, co-edited with Joe Siclari. Kellly got to wade through this one: ‘The World Science Fiction Convention is the most venerable of all the various annual gatherings of SF fandom, and it’s arguably the most important of them all, as it is at each Worldcon that the highest awards in SF, the Hugos, are awarded. Since the first Worldcon in 1939, there have been 66 such gatherings, with the only non-Worldcon years coming during the final three years of World War II. At each Worldcon there has been a Guest of Honor, usually selected on the basis of lifetime achievement in contributions to the genre; much of the time the Guests of Honor are authors, but there have also been illustrators, publishers, and editors named as Guest of Honor. The position of Worldcon Guest of Honor carries with it a single requirement: the recipient must deliver a speech to the convention. This book, therefore, gathers more than thirty of these speeches.’

That’s just the tip of the iceberg that is the work of Mike Resnick. As you may have gathered, he’s worth looking into if you haven’t already.

And now, back to Reynard for the rest of this week’s edition.

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Welcome welcome!  Denise here, and I’ve got a beer for you that’ll warm up a cold January night. Oliver Brewing Co.’s Creator Destroyer is a lovely espresso brown ale, with lots of twists and turns. ‘As the name suggests, this brew is a mix of contradictions. Sweet nose, peppery bite. Smooth pour, saucy bubbles.’ Ah, but what did I really think? Read the review to find out all the info!

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Cat looks at Doctor Who’s The Unicorn and The Wasp episode, a Tenth Doctor Story: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’

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April has a look at the next two collections in Bill Willingham’s Fables: ‘Bill Willingham’s wonderfully developed series about fairy tales living among us today extends two more volumes with Homelands and Arabian Nights (And Days).’ Dive in and enjoy.

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Barb exclaims that ‘If there are superstars to be named on the Swedish music scene, I would like this opportunity to nominate Lena Willemark (vocal, fiddle, viola, whistle, drone whistle), Per Gudmundson (fiddle, viola, bagpipes, vocal), and Ale Möller (octave mandola, overtone flute, cow’s horn, drone whistle, folk harp, shawm, harmonica, vocal), otherwise known as Frifot. The group’s CD Sluring is most certainly a masterpiece.’

The intersection of Finnish and Balkan folk music for women’s voices is where Gary found Finn Emmi Kujanpää’s new recording Nani. ‘On this project, Kujanpää combines her strong, clear soprano with voices of the Bulgarian group on songs that address women’s lives – their joys and longing and sorrows, as well as what are now known worldwide as #MeTo topics.’

Jayme says that ‘Clannad is quickly becoming one of the most compiled bands in Celtic music. Already boasting two “Best Of” collections and a soundtrack collections, Clannad now adds An Diolaim to the list. Fortunately, An Diolaim isn’t just another opportunistic knock-off, for it repackages the majority of songs from Clannad’s hard-to-find second and third albums, Clannad 2 and Dulaman, respectively

A number of years into their career Lunasa got a best of treatment in The Story So Far of which Robert says ‘It’s easy to be enthusiastic about this collection. Yes, there is solid tradition here, from the haunting, intricate pipes that begin “Eanáir” to the intense fiddling that opens “The Floating Crowbar,” but there is a lot of contemporary sensibility that leads new places, not so much a matter of “hey, look, we’re being modern” as an integral part of the approach – guitar passages that could have come from R.E.M. (“Morning Nightcap”), a hint of Fauré by way of new age, perhaps (“The Miller of Drohan”), a bit of a jazz riff from time to time, never obtrusive, never really calling attention to itself, but undeniably there.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert takes on a tour Inside Ancient Egypt, courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History.

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In Roger Zelazny’s Isle of Dead, there’s a character frozen at the edge of death who has no heartbeat but instead always has music playing as a sort of substitute for the silence in his chest. If you visit me in the Estate Library, you’ll always find something playing and recently I’ve been listening to a lot of music by a Scottish neo-trad band called The Iron Horse who were active starting some thirty years ago. I’ve got two cuts from them performing live at the Gosport Easter Festival early in their existence,  ‘The 8-Step Waltz’ and ‘The Sleeping Warrior’.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bloody bones, and not much else

Raspberry divider

Like visiting musicians who get food, drink, and a place to sleep, storytellers are treated in the same manner. So it was that a storyteller looking a lot like John Hurt’s character in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller came to be resident here this past week. He settled comfortably into the chair by the fireplace in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room and told us this tale . . .

Not all ancient barrow mounds are the resting places of warrior kings long forgotten. Some contain things far worse. Some of those securely buried with chains and magical bindings are human, some very much not so. Things that even hardened necromancers have nightmares about.

One of these has no name now, or at least no name remembered now. It was either a being to escort the dead into the next life or something far worse. All that storytellers from time beyond counting have said is that it be left well alone. And so it was for millennia until a Victorian archaeologist decided to dig that barrow mound up. And he didn’t live to tell the tale as whatever it was disposed of all that were there that evening. Only blood and very small bone shards remained of them.

It took a major league necromancer, one variant says it was actually Crowley, to put it back in its resting place, as it was not dead, just resting. The necromancer added an avoidance spell to keep everyone away.

Now won’t you sleep well tonight?

Raspberry divider

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What’s New for the 12th of January: An Alternate British Empire, Music from Latvia, SF by Women, a Haunted Violin, Cookies, Favorite Tolkien, and more

Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair, and the Doctor comes to call… everybody lives. — River Song in the Eleventh Doctor story,  “Forest of the Dead”

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I think Our Library is at its very finest in the deep of Winter.  Yes, I’m the Librarian ‘ere so I like it all the time, but it somehow seems warmer, more friendly now. The travelers that visit us now tend to be readers who enjoy spending many hours in the warm comfort of the Library, with either a old favourite book or a soon to be favourite book. I overheard two readers discussing Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer’s novel which is an expansion of her ‘Cat Pictures Please’ which won a Hugo Award for Best Short Story.  It’s now in my To Be Read pile after hearing their conversation.

Now I’m off to the Kitchen to see if I can snag a large mug of hot cocoa and one of those oversized chocolate chip brownies, as you Yanks call them. Yes I’ve the jones for chocolate, and may  I suggest the Toll House cookies also, which are right out of the oven, being served with eggnog per the recipe that Jennifer, one of our Winter Queens, offered up once upon a Winter evening, and will bee perfect for you as well this afternoon?
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Cat leads us off with an alternative history novel, The Peshawar Lancers, where the British Empire decamps to India: ‘The much more Indian than English culture is a brilliant re-visioning of British history that reads like vintage Poul Anderson, particularly his Dominic Flandry series. It features rugged heroes — male and female — vivid combat scenes, exotic locales, and truly evil villains. Hell, it even has Babbage machines, the great analytical engines that Sir Charles Babbage never built but which also play an important role in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine.’

Mia looks at a 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.’ If you’ve read The Wood Wife by Terri Windling, you’ll get a treat as you’ll spot de Lints authorised use of a setting from there.

Robert brings us two companion volumes to two series by Gene Wolfe, Michael Andre-Driussi’s Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary of the Urth Cycle and The Wizard Knight Companion: A Lexicon for Gene Wolfe’s The Knight and The Wizard: ‘Together, these two volumes, the product of dedication, if not downright obsession, are, I think, valuable tools for the Wolfe scholar (yes, there truly are Wolfe scholars) and, what’s even better, fun to read in their own right.’

Warner has a great SF collection for us to considered reading: ‘Gideon Marcus’ collection Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963) represents a narrow slice of writing from a historically marginalized group within the genre. Featuring stories by both forgotten and known authors, this volume plumbed the depths of old magazines to find women’s stories and present them to the reader.’

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Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up the matter of Two Fat Ladies whose DVD series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else that isn’t good for you. And funny as all Hell as well. Which the review is as well. Like so many similar English series, there is a companion book which we’ll get around to reviewing someday.

PRobert has a second look at the second volume in an anime series: ‘I’m not sure why, but I remember The Devil’s Trill, the second chapter in the story of Asato Tsuzuki, his partner Hisoka Kurasaki, and the doings of the Summons Section of the Ministry of Hades, as being my least favorite segment of the season. It was a good idea to take a second look.’

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April continues our trek through Bill Willingham’s Fables series, starting with a volume that Robert reviewed last week: ‘These three volumes continue Bill Willingham’s fascinating tale of fairy tale denizens exiled to our own world, a story he began spinning with Legends in Exile and Animal Farm. Spanning issues 11-33 (albeit slightly out of order), these volumes provide further character development and some intriguing plot advancement, as The Adversary extends his reach far and wide to destroy those who escaped him.’

PGary reports back on Songs from Auleja, Latvian music by a women’s vocal group, Tautumeitas, whose name means folk maidens. ‘Their focus is the musical tradition of Auleja, a village in the eastern region of Latgale, which has a rich folk tradition, particularly in multipart singing of graceful, melodic song.’

Gary also reviews The Filter Bubble Blues by David Dondero: ‘The unjustly obscure blue-collar troubador who was once rated as one of the “best living songwriters” by NPR’s All Songs Considered, has made a good old-fashioned album of political folk songs to greet 2020.’

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…’

Scott has more Latvian music for us: ‘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.’

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Our What Not is our perennial question: ‘What’s your favourite Tolkien?’ Catherynne picked The Silmarillion: ‘I love The Lord of the Rings. I was once a hardcore Sindarin-speaking LoTR geek, in the days of my misbegotten youth. It is a vast and important book. But I have to say that I feel the book is incomplete without The Silmarillion, which provides a depth and mythology, an understanding of the forces at work, a breadth and beauty that LoTR does not have on its own. I am one of the few who loves The Silmarillion for itself, devoured it in one sitting, had no trouble with the archaic language. It should get more love than it does.’

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Our music this time is ‘Out in the Ocean (Jig and Reel)’ from Rambling House, one of the bands founded by Brisbane based Paul Brandon, author of two very excellent novels, Swim the Moon and The Wide Reel.

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What’s New for the 5th of January: Little Christmas Is Here, Kushner’s Riverside series & Her Winter Queen Speech, The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers considered, “Darkness, Darkness” covered twice and even recipes that are more or less inspired by that Riverside series!

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

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It snowed three feet in the past week here which means that no one, and I mean no one is coming or going from from this Estate. Fortunately we’ve but a handful of guests and all assure us that they have nowhere that they need be. It allows for just enough visitors to make it just a bit more lively here without being annoying.

We’ll likely be this way for at least a fortnight, so we do a few impromptu special things like a pouring of a reserve cider from my private Pub stock,  and assisting the Kitchen staff in baking sweet treats. Don’t laugh — it’s a great honour here to be allowed to be part of the Kitchen community! Rugelach made perfect is a hard thing to do right…

We’ve got Good Stuff for you including a look by Robert at all of Ellen Kushner’s Riverside works, two covers of Jesse Colin Young‘s ‘Darkness, Darkness’, some recipes to tempt you and…

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Ellen Kushner came up with one of the most captivating fantasy series in the history of the genre — at least, that’s Robert’s humble opinion. As he says in his opening remarks on Swordspoint: ‘Every once in a while, being a reviewer offers a special perk, whether it’s a new book by a favorite author, a new find who stands head and shoulders above the crowd, or the chance to take another look at an old favorite. So, when the Chief asked for a fresh look at Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, I was more than happy to agree. 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.’

Vonnie was equally enchanted by the audiobook: ‘A fantasy novel without overt fantasy elements, Swordspoint was written and now is narrated by Ellen Kushner, with some scenes dramatized by Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan, and Simon Jones. It is a witty book, and an engaging audiobook. . . .’

The next episode in the story of Riverside is, indeed, history, or at least, the discovery of the history, as told by Kushner and Delia Sherman: ‘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.’

Robert was equally impressed with a sequel: ‘If Swordspoint is a perfect gem, The Privilege of the Sword is the gem in its full setting: elegant, wicked, funny, intelligent, and fluent. There is, as is so often the case with truly good books, much more to this one than I can possibly discuss here.’

Next up for Robert was a novella in the series: ‘Ellen Kushner, in the tradition of writers of fantastic literature everywhere, has built an amazingly detailed and appealing universe in her series of novels and stories about the nameless City that contains Riverside and the Hill and those who inhabit it. 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.”

The final offering in the series — so far — is a multi-author collection: ‘Tremontaine is the latest foray into the world of Swordspoint, but it is not, as I had at first supposed, a collection of stories. It is, rather, an ongoing narrative with chapters by a group of writers, most of whom are new to me. . . . 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.’

Cat ran across an omnibus in the form of an audiobook, including Swordspoint and more: ‘I discovered on Audible that it 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.’

There — that should keep you occupied on those long winter evenings.

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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.

PDavid looks at the The Three Musketeers  and The Four Musketeers, both directed by Richard Lester: ‘The two films stand on their own merits individually but also form a wonderful whole when viewed together. The characters develop from the first to the second film. The relationships grow convincingly, and the action never lets up. There is sex, romance, and true love. There is action, and wit, and slapstick comedy. The scripts are glorious models of the screenwriter’s art, and there is not a bad performance to be seen. The sets are rich and faithful to the time, and the score (by Lalo Schifrin) underpins it all.’

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For our Graphic Literature offering this week, Robert has a look at a collection in Bill Willilngham’s Fables series: ‘Storybook Love is the third collected volume of Bill Willingham’s Fables, and given the somewhat mordant cast of the first two volumes, one might guess that the love of the title is not all it’s cracked up to be — it’s certainly not anything you’re going to find in a fairy tale.’

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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.’

Jayme looks at what I’d say is essential listening for Celtic music fans: ‘There’s no gloss and polish here like you’d find on, say, an Altan disc, no studio jiggery and double-tracked harmonies that are so commonplace on a Clannad release. Not that those are necessarily bad things, mind you, but every one of the 11 tracks on The Best of Silly Wizard sound like they were recorded in one take in the studio, with the entire band playing at once, rather than the more common practice of laying down each instrument separately and mixing later. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually the way Silly Wizard recorded the music here, but the end result.’

Mike went off to see 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.’ The band would disband six years after this concert and on their 50th year of being together. They’ve done some re-unions, but who doesn’t?

And Michael  looks at an album from Maddy Prior: ‘An icon of English folk rock, Prior knows how to set her impressive vocal talents among supportive instrumental accompaniment. I won’t repeat the history of her career with Steeleye Span and Carnival, because Lahri Bond has already done that in his retrospective review which gives a great summary of personnel changes and albums, while Naomi de Bruyn covered her decision to leave the band after 28 years in her review of Prior’s compilation album Memento. Known and loved for her sweet, clear voice, Prior continues the tradition of fine vocal delivery with Ravenchild.’

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One of my Several Annies found this week’s What Not in the Archives: Ellen Kushner’s Winter Queen Speech on The City in Winter: ‘Once, not so long ago – but longer ago now than it was then – it snowed in the city, and did not stop until everything changed. When we woke up, all the usual sounds were gone. No one was begging for loose change, or yelling for help from muggers, or telling her husband everything was all his fault. Some children were laughing and building snowmen in the courtyard of our building. There were no cars.’

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The Infinite Jukebox, our Media Server, says it’s ‘Darkness, Darkness’, the Youngbloods song written by Jesse Colin Young way back in 1969, here performed by the Irish-American group Solas at State Theatre in Ithaca just eighteen years ago. Now it just happen that we also have Robert Plant doing the same song, so let’s give that a listen as well. Well that’s awesome.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: New Years Eve

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Time is never called in my recurring dream of pubs. — Ciaran Carson in Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music

It is a hundred different late evenings in the deep of a hundred different winters in a hundred different cities.

What little light we’ve had today is fading from the lowering clouds, the wind blowing ever more bitterly cold. The few birds left scavenging the sidewalks in the late afternoon gloom sound small and worried as they speak in tiny, short notes. Even fewer people, muffled and featureless in scarves pulled high and hats pulled low, move quickly through the streets on their way to somewhere warm. Everywhere there are grey shadows and deeper shadows growing together into dark. Rain and snow and sleet fall in intermittent spurts, adding a baffling reflective quality to the deepening, developing night.

Frozen moments of different winters layer themselves into the same winter, the same dark, the same gloom, the same scurry for warmer spaces, like one of those flip books with the sketches slightly off-kilter.

Inside the pubs, the bars, the common rooms, it is that same moment of afternoon moving into night, too early for just-laid fires in the clamorous grate to have any effect at all on the loneliness of the room. You’re still waiting for the space to be warmed by others like you, your footsteps clunking noisily over wooden floors with no company but the ghosts of other feet stomping over the planks. The people have not yet arrived to make the room alive, they’re heading home to get ready for the evening to come, they’re at the shops laying on provisions for dinner, they’re trapped in the Tube, the buses, in the cars, in the trains, but you can’t see them, you’re still waiting for the session to come together, the musicians still somewhere out in the cold, with only the potentiality of the session to come.

The winter solstice has come and gone, and the nights are supposedly getting shorter while the days lengthen, but the dark comes far too early for real comfort, making the days feel stunted, aborted.

You hold cold fingers out to the infant fire, to the hundreds of fires that came before and will come after, the coal, the wood, the peat, piled up in a lumpy pyramid in the grate, thin young flames licking up in quick flicks and leaps; the fireplace, the stove, the firebox actually seeming colder than before the fire was lit, in that strange, backward way of the swept fireplace and a new fire.

You tacitly volunteer to feed the new fire, adding some coal, a piece or two of peat, as the voices of the bar staff echo around the empty room as they slice the lemons, stack the glasses, and check the inventory.

Perhaps not quite empty, there’s almost always that regular who seems to magically appear without coming through any doors, sometimes more than one, sitting at the bar, lines sagging down beside his mouth, facing down a glass of amber liquid between his cupped hands, quiet words for the guy next to him or to the bartender as he clanks the bottles into place for the evening.

And in a hundred potential moments, you are dimly aware of the session gathered in the corner around the table, already playing in full spate; you’ve never heard Jim Donohue’s played that fast or that drive-y before, god that big-boned fiddler and that tall narrow piper are cranking through it, mighty and mighty again.

And in a hundred moments the musicians are still trailing into the pub, trickling in like drops of water gathering themselves into a puddle, instrument cases slung over shoulders or dangling down their backs, eyeing the spot they want to sit in, stopping off at the bar for a drink in the case of early arrivals, or coming over to put the goods down in a chair in the case of later, claiming a space for their own before stopping for their drink.

In a hundred quietened rooms, the pretty singer the men have been eyeing all evening has been called on for a song, and she sways as she sings of the wee girl with a dark and roving eye and bad company and love betrayed and love found and wars fought and won and lost, young men dying for love or war or the right or the wrong or for nothing at all, and maids with agricultural jobs and love on their minds losing garters to soldiers, to craftsmen, to shepherds, in unlikely circumstance; and for a hundred potential moments it’s all true and as likely as anything else that happens to anyone.

A hundred moments flash over and under each other, shifting without even the blink of an eye, and you choose the one you want and move into the moment, the space, the place where you need to be.

And, in this moment and in this time, there you are, here along with us.

And the fire leaps and crackles, as we play the tunes in the warm and crowded room, as the music shifts from reel to jig to reel to polka, from good to wreckingly horrible to brilliant, from the hotshots to the beginners to the lot of us. We toast to the new year and the cycles that bring us together and tear us apart, and to the publican and to each other, here in a hundred moments at the Neverending Session, at the Pub on the Edge, the Green Man Pub under Reynard’s watchful eye, in the kitchens of the Green Man’s building, in corners of hallways, as we launch into another set of tunes.

Outside, the night is black and unbelievably cold, the wind biting at noses and fingers, and Samhain’s ever-present ravens are croaking as they huddle under dripping, icy trees. Inside, at this moment and in this time, we are together, and warm, and happy (or, at the very least, content as only someone forgetting unhappiness for the space of a night can be).

Best wishes to you in the New Year. May it bring you peace and warmth and happiness and music. Stay with us a while.

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What’s New for the 29th of December: Best Music of The Decade, Holdstock Interviewed, and Other Holiday Matters

Did she form out of the leaf- litter? Did wild animals carry sticks together and shape them into bones, and then, over the autumn, dying leaves fall and coat the bones in wildwood flesh? Was there a moment, in the wood, when something approximating to a human creature rose from the underbrush, and was shaped to perfection by the intensity of the human will, operating outside the woodland? — Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood

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As I write these words up a few days before publication, all the windows on the three sides facing the outdoors of the four story cube that’s our new Library, well a century and some decades old new, are reflecting the snow that’s coming steadily down as the lights inside illuminate it. Even many of the Estate felines are intently watching it fall.

In scattered groups, Estate residents are reading or conversing; in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room, a book group’s enjoying the roaring fire there with Kushner’s Riverside series getting the liveliest commentary; and I see Ingrid, our Estate Steward, sitting with a cup of tea with Reynard, our Pub Manager who’s her husband, who’s  in turn enjoying a wee dram of his private stock, conversing quietly as they watch the snow fall from their seats on the fourth floor of the Library.

So let’s see what’s my Several Annies who helped my select the contents of this edition found for you to consider for your pleasure over the holidays.

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Gary leads us off  with a truly epic novel: ‘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.’

Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘Subtitled “The Sliabh Luachra story,” this book attempts to demythologize the heartland of Sliabh Luachra, a legendary area where Irish traditional music is concerned. To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’

Autumn passing into Winter which is a time of  parting all too often so it’s apt that Richard has a look at this work: ‘Even before the untimely passing of author Robert Holdstock, it would have been impossible to read Avilion as anything other than a tale of partings, a resolution to many of the threads woven through the Ryhope Wood cycle. Now, it reads as a fond and graceful farewell to Ryhope and the Huxley family, an affectionate gift of endings to characters who, in their own ways, have all earned peace.’

Warner concludes his review of Nicholas Meyer’s The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by saying ‘ This volume is easy to recommend to fans of Sherlock Holmes, and fans of period mysteries in general. To anyone who enjoyed The Seven Percent Solution this book represents an obvious must read. To those looking for an interesting novel of the great detective featuring historical evils, it is similarly easy to recommend.’ Now read his review to see how he came to those conclusions.

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Liz has a tasty offering for us: ‘Fairy Tale Feasts presents 20 classic fairy tales from around the world masterfully told by ace word slinger Jane Yolen. The tales are accompanied by recipes written by her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrations by Philippe Béha. The book includes fairytales from European, African-American, Ashkenazi Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese cultures. Sidebars give quick facts regarding the stories and the foods mentioned in them.’

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Robert takes a look at a sequel to one of his favorite anime series: ‘Given how much I enjoyed (and still enjoy) Gensomaden Saiyuki, the first anime series based on Kazuya Minekura’s manga, getting my hands on the sequel, Saiyuki Reload, was a foregone conclusion. It’s only half the length of the first series, and left me with some mixed reactions.’

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Robert thoroughly enjoyed two collections of Gail Simone’s Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation and Unhinged: ‘Gail Simone’s Secret Six is actually the third superhero team under that name. The first two were really, truly heroes; this group, not so much. They are, in fact, all bad guys from the DC Universe, some recycled from other stories, some created for this series, and brought together for the first time in Villains United.’

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Our sole music entry this week is Gary’s look back at his favorite music from the decade that’s just about to end. He says he found the 2010s something of a turbulent decade, and that seems to be reflected in the nature of the music he enjoyed the most. ‘That probably helps explain why so much of my favorite music from the 2010s has been … not comforting, but evocative. Capable of arousing deep emotions of a pensive nature; inviting of contemplation; challenging but at the same time welcoming.’

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Our What Not this time is an authors’ look at his work, a work deeply infused with Arthurian, Celtic and English folklore, to wit Robert Holdstock on his Mythago Cycle. Richard reviewed for us the entire Mythago Cycle as the author calls it here  but it’s illuminating to hear what the author has to say: ‘It came as a shock to realise that 2009 is the 25th anniversary of Mythago Wood, the novel I wrote from my dreams, and under the influence of my grandfather’s eerie tales, told to me when I was a child. I loved his stories: frightening and vivid. They shaped me.’ You can read his article here.

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And what shall we part company with for music on this Winter night? Something spriteLy I think, how about ‘Take This Waltz’? which is well not quite upbeat perhaps but interesting as this was Leonard Cohen some ten years ago at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. I won’t say more about it as it’s based off a Spanish poem which you can do a search on it after you listen to it.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Package from Budapest

PNicholas Winter, the Global News Service correspondent who’s a friend of many folks here, just sent Bela and others lovers of Hungarian food a very tasty shipment of food and spirits from Budapest! The lucky soul got to spend December in that city, which really knows hope to celebrate the season in good fashion.

In his letter with this shipment which I’ll detail shortly, he noted that he hadn’t been there for the Christmas season since the Wall came down and it’s certainly been an amazing recovery for that city from the dark days of Communist Party rule. He was there to review, among other things, the Budapest concert by Chasing Fireflies, a band that includes small piper Finn, my wife Catherine on violin, and, in her first professional concert, violinist Svetlana, Ingrid’s sister from Ukraine who’s now resident here.

(There was a small group of us from the Kinrowan Estate who went over for a week after Christmas as that’s actually the best time as the tourists are gone. Catherine speaks Hungarian as she did her postgrad work in music history here. And that’s very handy there.)

I suspect Ingrid helped in choosing the contents as she’s the expert at finding the best of anything wanted. Winter’s admitted to me that shopping is not his favourite thing to do, but he’ll happily tag along and pick up the tab if someone else is doing the decision making. It’s a good thing that his bank account is flush.

There was a case of properly aged barack palinka, the apricot brandy every Hungarian loves; lots of lekvar, a preserve made of plums; smoked garlic infused Kolbasz sausage; several rashers of Kolozsvari bacon; large strings of dried whole paprika peppers; Egri Bikaver, a full bodied red wine; and even Csokoldetorta, a chocolate cake favoured in this season.

There was enough szaloncukor chocolate to decorate the fir tree in the Great Hall in traditional Hungarian style and have enough left over to enjoy.

There was, for the Estate knitters, wool from the Hungarian Racka sheep, both white and black. Of course it was fleeces as its best prepared by those who would be knitting with it. The shouts of joy from them were indeed enough to me me smile.

Now you and I should make our way quickly down to the kitchen for afternoon tea. There’s fresh baked Turos Lepeny (Hungarian yeast bread with cheese topping) out of the brick ovens, which goes well with the lekvar.

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What’s New for the 22nd of December: Winter Solstice Edition

Most dragons don’t know how to read. They hiss and fume and guard their hoard. A tasty knight is what they need For dinner (they spit out the sword), Then go to sleep on heaps of treasure. They’ve no use for the written word. — Ursula K. Leguin

It’s a bitterly cold and quite snowy December afternoon, so I am hankering for a lunch that was contained in a bowl, and that was warm and comforting, preferably with a tomato and garlic stock. Fussy, aren’t I? Let’s see what the Kitchen is up to…

Yes, that’s Kathleen tending the stockpot over in the corner of our Kitchen. She has a journal where she talks about her late sister Kage Baker, author of the  exceptionally good  Company SF series. This entry, which you can read here has her reminiscing about Kage during the Christmas season. And her stockpot smells delicious! I wonder what’s in it?

There’s a veritable bevy of books, music, films and yes, even hot chocolate, to keep you warm and hopefully cheery as the Winter sets in this week. Now excuse me while I go enjoy a soup of smoked garlic pork sausage and navy beans with grated cheddar cheese on it with floating herbed croutons.

Cat leads off our book reviews with a novel he really loves: ‘Emma Bull hasn’t written many novels in her career but all of them are superb in their own way. Be it Bone Dance, Finder or War for The Oaks, my favorite of her novels, all are superbly written. So when I recently was looking for a novel to read on one of the many cold, rainy nights we’ve had this Autumn, I turned to Finder, a novel I enjoy re-reading every few years.’

Robert weighs in with a look at a pair of novels by C. J. Cherryh: ‘C. J. Cherryh is known mainly as a science-fiction writer who sometimes writes fantasy. And then there are the times that she seems to be doing both at the same time. Rider at the Gate, the first of her Finisterre novels, is, strictly speaking, science fiction, and is marked by Cherryh’s characteristic density of plot and solid universe-building. It reads, however, like a particularly frightening fantasy.’

Warner likes this series and book a lot: ‘M.C Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series has been around for decades, and has permuted into both the television and radio series. The titular character, a public relations expert who finds herself increasingly drawn into crime solving, serves as an intelligent but odd and entertaining lead. The latest volume in this series is Beating About the Bush featuring the rather clever hook of the lead and her associate Toni finding fake body part disguised to look like that of a real woman, it is a volume that continues on a comic detective vein which Beaton has proven so well able to tap.’

Another mystery likewise appealed to him: ‘Another Sherlock Holmes tale has been released, in the form of Mercedes Lackey’s The Case of the Spellbound Child. Lackey is a very experienced author, known for her Valdemar series and this, the Elemental Masters, series amongst others. She has also written three prior volumes in this particular series which featured Sherlock Holmes, and 13 prior volumes in the series overall. Once again the reader is given a tale where Holmes plays something of an auxiliary role, and Watson, his wife Mary, and Nan and Sara must take the case.’

Hot chocolate becomes very popular with folks here when the weather turns cold, with or without a measure of brandy in it. Richard had a recommendation on where you can find great hot chocolate in a place called Matthews: ‘Now, North Carolina’s not what you’d call a hot chocolate hotbed, at least east of the mountains, on account of the fact that it’s generally pretty warm. Which is why I never expected the hot chocolate in this shop which my wife practically dragged me into (she’d done some scouting, having previously infiltrated Hillsborough with friends on a yarn-shopping expedition) would blow my socks off.’

Speaking of mysteries, an English country house murder mystery gets reviewed by David: ‘As traditional as the genres he chose might have been, in Altman’s hand they were turned upside-down, and sideways. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie became anti-hero and opium addict in Altman’s “western” McCabe & Mrs. Miller, set to the music of Leonard Cohen! A laconic Elliott Gould became Raymond Chandler’s private dick Phillip Marlowe in an updated LA for Altman’s “detective” classic The Long Goodbye. Robert Altman has been the most American of directors, and now, in Gosford Park, he takes on the English country house murder mystery. Altman’s Agatha Christie film? What could this mean?’

Kathleen looks at a work by another well-regarded composer: ‘Indeed Claude Debussy is one of my favorite composers, but I hadn’t heard ‘“Noel des Enfants Qui N’ont Plus De Maisons” (“Christmas Carol for Homeless Children”)’ until recently. It’s on soprano Carmen Balthrop’s lovely CD The Art of Christmas, Vol. 1. Strange, disturbing (and possibly disturbed) thing – Debussy wrote it in 1915 during World War I as a plea for vengeance, a prayer from the French children that the Germans should have no Christmas.’

Let’s have 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.’

Patrick says of the Solas concert he saw that ‘I went to bed with their music in my head, and when I woke up the next morning, it was still there. That’s just how good Solas’ March 21 show at Rosebud in Pittsburgh was. Strains of “Black Annis,” “Darkness Darkness” and “Dignity” ran through my dreams all night, haunting me with melodies I could clearly hear but not quite grasp in the darkness of sleep.’

Robert has an omni review of a group that somehow escaped our notice until recently: ‘Somehow, we’ve never reviewed any recordings by the Anglo-Swedish folk-roots group Swåp here at GMR. The four musicians who compose Swåp (Ola Bäckström, fiddle; Ian Carr, guitar and vocals; Carina Normansson, fiddle and vocals; and Karen Tweed, accordion and vocals) met in 1995 and, being musicians, jammed together for a bit. And then jammed some more — they had the distinct feeling they were on to something.’

 

Our What Not is Ellen Kushner’s Winter Queen Speech on The City in Winter: ‘Once, not so long ago – but longer ago now than it was then – it snowed in the city, and did not stop until everything changed. When we woke up, all the usual sounds were gone. No one was begging for loose change, or yelling for help from muggers, or telling her husband everything was all his fault. Some children were laughing and building snowmen in the courtyard of our building. There were no cars.’

So let’s leave you with some seasonally apt music. Or at least what I consider such which in this case would a steller performance by Loreena McKennitt of her “Dickens’ Dublin”. It’s from ‘A Loreena McKennitt Christmas’ on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic program from December 1994. McKennitt announced putting her performing career on hold to devote her time and energy to fighting the harmful effects of technology and the threat of global warming.

Oh and I should note we make our own Christmas music as well, which you can see in this letter to Ekaterina by Gus on “Carols and Other Matters”.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Queens

Most stories about the Fey, she told us, say there is a duality to the rulers that reflects the duality of Summer and Winter — a King who rules over Summer, and one who rules Winter, each with his own attributes, the Oak King and the Holly King, the husband and the sage. Oh, the stories differ on which aspect of the year is made flesh by one or the other, but the idea of one to rule the season is very, very old.

But what if there were two Queens, a Summer Queen and a Winter Queen? She told us that story just recently on one of those blustery nights where a blazing fire and a whiskey seem just right.  The storyteller was dressed for early winter in a skirt that looked like falling oak leaves, a blouse in a brown dark as the bark on a spruce, and a hat like the black of the night sky.

She said that the Queens had ruled for time beyond knowing by any mortal. The Queens, she said, keep the balance of the Year from going askew. There are no sacrifices of Oak Kings, no fighting for dominance, as one queen cannot exist without the other. Oh, they do battle as they please — both have their sword fighters, mostly female, but they only do battle to first blood, and even that is rare, since both are peaceful sorts, one ruling the season of growth, one the season of rest.

She drank deeply of her whiskey, and finished off by stressing that her story of course was just a story, nothing more. Then she stood up and left us to think about it.

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What’s New for the 15th of December: Gwyneth on Chestnuts, Reynard on De Lint, the Ministry of Hades, Live Music by Tull and Other Wintery Matters

Let me bring you songs from the wood:
To make you feel much better than you could know
Dust you down from tip to toe
Show you how the garden grows
Hold you steady as you go
Join the chorus if you can:
It’ll make of you an honest man

Jethro Tull

So, you’re curious about that pile of books? You know that we’re very fond of the music, food, drink and, of course, the literature of the Appalachian Mountains?  Charles de Lint wrote a children’s book, A Circle of Cats, that was set there, which was marvellously illustrated by Charles Vess, an artist extraordinaire. Just take a look at it.

Years later they took this work and created The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a full-blown children’s book rich in the folklore of that region that has even more astonishing illustrations by Vess. Yeah, it’s lovely too. Though marketed to a younger audience, I’d recommend to anyone looking for a excellent read, including you. I’ve got a copy on my iPad that I’m reading right now.

Now for something more adult. Yes, that is a chocolate malted rye straight bourbon whiskey. There’s actually no chocolate in it, just simply a malted grain that’s been toasted to bring out a lot more of its sugars, which yields chocolatey notes in the finished whisky. Yes it’s pricey but oh, so worth it. Shall I…? Good.

Gary says it takes a while for the action to start in the new book by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher, but it’s worth the wait. ‘Alliance Rising is approximately the umpteenth book set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Union Universe, a space opera series that starts on near-future Earth and extends far into the future and a good way into our galactic neighborhood.’

Matthew says cautiously ‘it is with hesitation that I read a book that is a “prequel” to another book I’ve enjoyed. But when that “prequel” is by one of my favorite authors, I set aside the reluctance and dive right in. Kage Baker, in The House of the Stag, delivers us the background history of the Lord of the Mountain, the half-demon father of spoiled lordling Lord Ermenwyr, who we met in Baker’s previous fantasy novel, The Anvil of the World.’

Robert brings us three stage adaptations of three stories by Orson Scott Card: ‘Adaptations for the stage or screen are often problematical, as witness the critical brickbats thrown several years ago over the relative merits of the screen renderings of The Fellowship of the Ring and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Stage adaptations are subject to much the same criteria for examination. What is most interesting, for those who do take interest in such things, is the circumstance in which the adaptations are done — such as with the willing connivance or (in the case of Posing As People) more or less at the instigation of the author of the original story.’

Warner says ‘Overall, Chloe Neill’s Wicked Hour is a rather good volume. It tells a complete supernatural mystery where the rules are fairly straightforward and motivations are understandable. The romance is believable and the interactions between the loving couple appreciated. If one likes Eileen Will’s World of the Lupi or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, this work might appeal.’

Befitting the time of year, we asked Gwyneth what her favorite winter comfort food was 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. . . until I finally tried them, and wondered what the fuss was about. (I’m sure they’re very nourishing, by the way) Now I live in Sussex, I expect to forage a kilo or so of sweet chestnuts in October or November. After that it’s hit or miss. One year I slung them in the freezer wet and still in the shell & they defrosted as mush. Another year I left them in a copper bowl in a corner they went mouldy & the bowl suffered too. The supermarket then provides, boring!’

Robert brings us his thoughts on the beginning of an anime series that he describes as “supernatural adventure with comic elements’: ‘Vampire’s Lure introduces us to the Summons Section of the Ministry of Hades, which is charged with leading the souls of the recently deceased to the afterlife, and with investigating any anomalies among such souls — like the ones who are supposed to be dead but haven’t shown up in the afterlife yet. The hero of the series, Asato Tsuzuki (voiced by Shinichiro Miki), is a very powerful shinigami (basically, “death god”) who happens to be a real slacker with an obsessive desire for sweets: as he says, he always makes sure to have dessert after every meal. At any rate, there has been a series of killings in Nagasaki, which is in Tsuzuki’s territory, all involving puncture wounds and bodies drained of blood. Tsuzuki is sent off to investigate. His new partner will meet him there.’

Gary say ‘if you’re looking for kick-up-your-heels Celtic rock, the Clumsy Lovers have it by the keg-full on Barnburner. A toast to these musicians, who not only write most of their own music, but also self-produce and distribute their own CDs and tapes.’

Kim says ‘Altan were one of the first truly traditional groups I came to love, and they will always be one of my favorites! I hadn’t seen Altan in five years or so–last time was at the World Theater in St. Paul–so this evening was a great treat, and anticipated with bated breath.’

The idea of four Finnish cellists playing Metallica didn’t appeal initially to Mia: ‘How often is an album of cover tunes the most original, creative, and enjoyable CD imaginable? Well, how about when the self-styled “Four Bowmen of the Apocalypse” released Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos? Yes, that’s right, four classically trained cellists playing music by one of the loudest, angriest bands in the heavy metal universe. Sound strange? Not being a big fan of Metallica to begin with, I wasn’t overwhelmed with any great desire to listen to Apocalyptica. Then I heard the first track, and discovered my mistake. Apocalyptica is amazing.’ As good as that album was, she also reviews a second album by them, Inquisition Symphony, which she says is even better!

Stephen reviews a CD that, well, never actually officially existed: ‘Overall, this is a fine piece of work from a talented, versatile and engaging group. The CD isn’t commercial available, and the criticisms expressed are almost certainly associated with recording on a ‘shoestring’ budget, rather than with musicianship. Rambling House should get lots of bookings on the strength of this ‘demo’. Hopefully, Mr. Brandon will still find the time to write a book or two!’

Our What Not this time is an authors’ look at his work, a work deeply infused with Arthurian, Celtic and English folklore, to wit Robert Holdstock on his Mythago Cycle. Richard reviewed for us the entire Mythago Cycle as the author calls it here  but it’s illuminating to hear what the author has to say: ‘It came as a shock to realise that 2009 is the 25th anniversary of Mythago Wood, the novel I wrote from my dreams, and under the influence of my grandfather’s eerie tales, told to me when I was a child. I loved his stories: frightening and vivid. They shaped me.’ You can read his article here.


Now indeed ’Songs From The Wood’ is one of the great Tull songs — full throated, pagan in nature and with Ian at his very best in this take of it. It was recorded some forty years ago at the LA Sports Arena off the soundboard by the band themselves, so it’s a great recording.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Maze

Dear Katrina,

The Several Annies wanted an outside work project for this early Winter so I’ve had them cleaning up the Maze, which has fallen into disrepair over the past few centuries. I blame that on it being in a remote part of the Estate, so remote that we had to pack lunches with us as it’s several hours walk each way to it. It almost made me consider the idea of having horses here once again as they would be ever so useful, but we really aren’t set up to house them without ramping up for hay and grain production and their upkeep is a pain in the royal arse. Small stock, the mastiffs, and the house felines are easy — the local vet comes in and does what needs doing with them at her convenience. Horses can need a vet at the spur of a bad moment and that doesn’t work when the vet in the Winter might be three hours getting here!

(I’ve suggested to the Steward that we need to hire a vet to be here but he balked at the cost of setting up a surgery for her. What I suggested is if we might serve as a sort of apprentice programme for the local practice instead. She said she’d mull it over.)

You’ll remember the Maze because we visited it several years back. Fortunately it’s made of stones set in the ground as opposed to the living mazes that the Victorians were ever so fond of. (Alexandra failed in her attempt to get the Steward to allow one of those to be constructed on the greensward. She pouted for months afterward according to her Journal.) So mostly the stones needed to pulled out of the ground where they had been mostly buried after falling over, vegetation cut back, and the stones scoured of dirt and uprighted.

It’s a big maze — well over thirty yards in breadth and shaped like a spiral. No idea who made it or when as, like the standing stones elsewhere on the Estate, the ancient builders didn’t leave records. The stones are obviously scavenged, showing no sign of being carved — just placed in a design. I’m very proud of the girls as they did all of the heavy lifting, sometimes using pulleys, to right the downed ones and generally being able to do what frustrates too many lads — thinking as they go along!

I think I’ll have Iain doing a Blessing of The Stones on Winter Solstice — If he’s truly ordained in the Church of Oak, Ash, and Thorn as he says he was when he did the handfasting this month, that should tickle his fancy. We’ll build a bonfire and have a feast here as well.

With love and affection, Gus

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Whats New for the 8th of December: Scarecrows, A Classic H.G.Wells’ Novel , Metallica in Antarctica, So-so chocolate, Improv Jazz, Steeleye sans Maddy and Other Interesting Matters

I cursed him in my heart. “Um, what day is it?” With the infinite patience of someone used to dealing with drunks, musicians, and techies, he replied, “Sunday.” — Sparrow in Emma Bull’s Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles (First chapter is here.)

Yes I’m covered with kibbles and bits of straw. It’s the time of year that we make new scarecrows, bodach ròcais in Scots Gaelic, to replace the ones created the previous Autumn as they only last a single growing season. No, they don’t go out until Spring but the straw’s available now and the Several Annies assist in the creation of them. There’s a minor magic placed upon them to keep the mice from eating them, plus the Estate cats are very good at keeping the mouse population way down.

Give me a few minutes to get clean clothes on and I’ll serve you. I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try, it’s Toiteach, which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain distillery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it, as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Scots whiskeys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single drams ever done.

Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata according to Gary is ‘a book of equal parts jaw-dropping wonder and world-shattering violence, relief is offered by the Ships: their names themselves and the droll and witty dialog between and among them as they go about debating their course of action and concocting rationalizations for once again meddling in the affairs of another civilization.’

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.

Naomi has what could considered what’s called a cozy mystery for us: ‘In Cat on the Edge, the first novel in a delightful series of fast-paced mystery and whimsical fantasy by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, we find tomcat Joe Grey undergoing a strange metamorphosis. Not only is he able to understand human speech, he can actually speak! This is enough to shake a cat out of at least eight of his nine lives, but then Joe Grey witnesses a murder in the alley behind his favorite delicatessen, and it could very well cost him his final ninth life!’

Warner has the newest edition of a classic for us: ‘There is something to be said for the extremely fine additions being put out at small presses today. An example of such would be the new edition of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau  released by Beehive Books, featuring an introduction by Guillermo del Toro and illustrations by Bill Sienkiewicz.”

Jennifer Stevenson substitutes a fancy brand of all vegan, all gluten-free, all dairy- and nut-free, all singing, all-dancing chocolate mega chunks in her whisky-cherry brownie recipe and reports on the results.

Gary reviews an album of trance and drone by a group called Nous. ‘Nous is a New York-based experimental music project with a fluctuating group of artists “exploring ritual and spontaneity,” and Nous II is an album of improvised instrumental works that seamlessly blend acoustic and electronic instruments and percussion.’

Gary also liked the two-disc vinyl LP reissue of Mal Waldron Trio’s Free At Last: ‘This package is a perfect way to put a wrap on ECM’s 50th Anniversary celebrations and to introduce Waldron to a generation of jazz fans who may have forgotten his unprepossessive genius.’

Kim sees an Irish singer sans her usual band: ‘If you are a fan of Solas’s early work, or if you’ve heard Karan Casey in one of her guest spots on other albums, you know why you will love Songlines. She’s simply got an amazing voice that is unique among Irish singers. I suspect this somber album will also work for those of us who long for more and find tales of like-minded, discontented types soothing. It certainly works for me, and I look forward to hearing Casey’s more recent work.’

And Tony sees Steeleye Span sans Maddy: ‘True of all Steeleye members is a good sense of humour; and Gay is no exception, during the inevitable ‘Hat’ instead of singing ‘a small sprig of thyme,’ Gay changed it to ‘a small sprig of logic’ which I found most amusing. If I was going to make any criticism of the evening it would-be that I would have liked to have heard more of the new album, and maybe a few more really old classics from years gone by, but I am nitpicking really, It was an excellent gig and a relief to know that Steeleye Span, despite a major upheaval, have lived to tell the tale, and here’s wishing them every success for a good few years to come.’

Vonnie really likes this recording: ‘Eivør Pálsdóttir has an astounding voice. I was speaking with two of my folk-music heroes at a folk festival the first time I heard her sing, and I stopped mid-conversation to find out who had hit that range of notes with such a clear and pure sound. In fact, the entire album of Eivør is about clarity and purity of sound, tempered by human concerns.’

Tis the season to hit the theater!  From Rockettes to your local school’s holiday concert, there’s a whole lot to enjoy. (Or sometimes to be dragged to, if we’re talking your distant relation’s piano recital…) But there’s one show that you’re gonna wish you could get to; Signature Theater’s A Chorus Line. Why am I excited about a musical that’s been around since 1975? Well, because this musical is incredible – don’t take my word for it, Line earned a Pulitzer in ‘76 – and in this production, the choreography has been modernized.

That’s right; except for ‘homage paying’ at the introduction and that epic kick-line ending, Signature’s choreography gives a fresh spin on the musical numbers, fitting perfectly in the smaller-ish theater. It’s the very first production to gain approval for a dance makeover in this musical’s history. And it’s outstanding. The production could easily go straight to West End or Broadway with little more than re-setting a few marks here and there to adapt to a larger stage. This Line is that good. And it had this Grinch’s heart growing three times when I saw it. Sadly, the rest of the run is completely sold out, but here’s hoping an extended run is in the cards. Trust me; it’d be a lovely holiday gift to any theater lover.

Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ is a definitely dark take on the Sandman myth for which vocalist and rhythm guitarist Hetfield wrote the lyrics, as it deals with the concept of a child’s nightmares. The lyrics such as this stanza, ‘Hush little baby, don’t say a word/ And never mind that noise you heard / It’s just the beasts under your bed / In your closet, in your head’ are as dark as any tale was that the Brothers Grimm collected oh so long ago.

This hour long concert was played acoustic outside with the sound transmitted to the listeners on wireless headphones so as not to disturb the the residents who weren’t human. Here’s what their website had to say about it:

This was the most unique show Metallica has ever done. The band, contest winners, research station scientists (from Russia, South Korea, China, Poland, Chile, Brazil and Germany), and the ship crew, all crammed in this little dome out on the helipad of Carlini Station in ANTARCTICA! The energy in the little dome was amazing! Words can not describe how happy everyone was.

The band cranked out 10 songs for the small crowd including Creeping Death, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sad But True, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Master of Puppets, One, Blackened, Nothing Else Matters, Enter Sandman, and Seek & Destroy.

No word on if there were any penguins were attendance.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: On Maps

I overheard an interesting conversation that took place during High Tea in The Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room ‘ere in the Library on a rainy afternoon while our Librarian was taking a break from fussing over the edition of Green Man Review that he was assembling which is devoted to J. R. R. Tolkien and his splendid literary affairs. What follows is the condensed version of what was said as I took notes but didn’t write it all down. I found it to be fascinating, and I suspect so will you!

A Several Annie

Why maps? Isn’t the geographic descriptions in the text of work such as The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings enough to give the reader a grasp of where things are? I never had any trouble following narrative!

Sigh. . . . I see that you’re early in your apprenticeship here in my library; possibly even your first year, I gather.

(Mackenzie never remembers which of the Several Annies he’s talking with as there’s been dozens of them down the decades. Many aren’t even really named Annie!)

Have you not seen and appreciated the splendid map that Ursula Le Guin did for her Earthsea series? She’s said that it was for the children reading about Ged and his adventures so she gave them a map of Earthsea so they can orient themselves to the world. (Adults can benefit from this map as well.) Other notable maps include the one you’ll find in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Frank Herbert’s Arrakis map in Dune, China Mieville’s map of the city in Perdido Street Station (but not in the concluding volumes of this trilogy), Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy, and Philip Pullman’s Lyra’s Oxford to name but a few…

That Several Annie again

Ok, so they’re pretty. But are they useful? Other than for overweight, pimply boys into role playing games? I’ve never seen you actually looking at one of them while reading say The Hobbit. Are you simply being an advocatus diaboli?

Mackenzie

Not strictly true. See the copy of The Hobbit over on my desk? Go get it. See the silk bookmark in the back? Open to those pages. That’s the map of Wilderland, which gives you an excellent look — literally! — of where Bilbo, our reluctantly wandering hobbit, and his band of compatriots go as the narrative in the story unfolds. A good map enhances the pleasure of a novel. And bad maps, which are fortunately rare, can just be ignored.

Another Several Annie

I’ve been cataloguing and shelving the new edition of Karen Wynn Fonstad’s The Atlas of Middle-Earth. Am I correct that maps to Tolkien were more than just an afterthought to the text? Certainly the sheer number of maps in this book suggest that the maps in his books were just as important to him as the narrative was.

Mackenzie

Ahhhh, The Atlas of Middle-Earth. A book that belongs in the library of any serious fan of Tolkien’s work. This edition is the first one since Houghton Mifflin first published it in the States over a quarter of century ago. I was traveling in Amsterdam at that time and even the Dutch Tolkien fans were excited about this book. Granted, not as excited as they would be about John Howe and Brian Sibley’s The Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, about which our reviewer noted, in a comment apt to our conversation:

There were two things that evolved in tandem as Tolkien came to write his fictional works: the language of his made-up world, and its topography. Indeed, his fictional languages were the inception of his great works of Middle-earth, while the maps he drew were ever considered a necessity. As you will find in the introduction Brian Sibley wrote to accompany John Howe’s maps, Tolkien would not hear tell of publishing The Lord of the Rings without an appropriate map.

Now I know that some academics weren’t very pleased as it wasn’t written the way they would have done it — go look at the so-called lead review on Amazon to see what I mean, but the rest of us will find it invaluable, as the author’s a qualified geographer and cartographer who first mapped Middle-Earth in her 1981 edition and has since added new details based on those endless reams of drafts, abandoned and much modified passages in published texts, alternative versions that were used in some editions, and laundry lists of places and situations published since Tolkien’s death. (Or at least what the holders of Tolkien’s papers have allowed researchers to see. Only they know what has not been made accessible: prolly as much as has been made available!)

The other Several Annie

But The Atlas of Middle-Earth is more than just maps. Isn’t it really about the process of creating a fiction that is grounded in a place which feels as real as this building and its grounds are? Maps for me are a way of saying that there really is something underfoot that I can feel. I think Professor Tolkien felt the same way as I remember you quoting him as saying that ‘I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit… The other way about lands one in confusions and impossibilities.’

Mackenzie

Indeed it is. Glad to see that you’ve been paying attention during our afternoon seminar on Tolkien geography. Even in works without maps, most of us create our own idea of the geography, i.e., how far did the murderer in that not so quaint English mystery by your favourite writer travel in the middle of that dark, rainy night to kill her victim? We fill in details even when they aren’t offered up by the author.

But the genius of Fonstad’s work is that it is as if it was an actual atlas of a place as real as the Republic of Scotland is. The maps are discussed as if they were real landscapes, drawn according to the restraints a map maker would have in drawing the bonnie banks of Scotland. For each area of Middle-earth, the history of the land is taken into account, as well as geography as it related to the whole of Middle-earth. David Langford said in a review that ‘he fills in gaps and details in the familiar Third Age maps from The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, goes back in time to map Middle-Earth’s First and Second Ages, and reconstructs the route and timescale of every important journey in the stories.’ I wouldn’t suggest that reading this book is a must before reading The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings but I will be having all of you read it next month as part of the Tolkien seminar we’re doing.

Now don’t groan — learning’s good for you. And there’s more to becoming a Librarian than the technical aspects of the job. A good reference work like Fonstad’s will add immeasurably to the appreciation of a reader for the sheer breadth and depth of the ‘mythology for England’ that the good Professor created in all of his Middle-earth material. just pair it with the aforementioned Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and you have the core texts of a fine course on the geography of Middle-earth which is why I use them in your seminar. As soon as we get through reading The Hobbit and looking at Bilbo’s journey with attention to the geography described, we’ll turning to these texts.

Now I know a cup of tea and a tatty scone or two; there’s no finer room in the place for a bite and a gossip over High Tea than in the Library staff room that overlooks Oberon’s Wood. But I hope the real attraction is the books here. It had better be, so let’s get back to our seminar. Now which of you wants to describe Bilbo Baggins and his journey to the Lonely Mountain?

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What’s New for the 1st of December: Tattoos, The Tempest, Dr. Who (Again), Peanuts, Reggae, Beethoven, and more

Restless in life and seeking no end in death
For breath of the ages in the face of the air
Still ghosts to the vitality

Robin Williamson

We just got our first serious snow of the year here at this Scottish Estate, three weeks before the Winter season officially starts. Not that unusual really, but a foot was a lot of snow nonetheless.

Despite the snow, it’s still late Autumn here, which means we’re in a lull between our Summer visitors and the Winter visitors we’ll get for the Holidays. It makes for a pleasant quietude that I like — it’s allowed me the time earlier today to listen to the promotional packet we got from Puppets of An Autumnal Nature, a West Coast US band that’s interested in coming here. Rather good they are, I’d say. They’re quite new, perhaps not even actually a touring band yet in any meaningful sense, so it’d be interesting to hear them play live.

Now follow me to the Kitchen, as Mrs. Ware decided that she’s making a special treat for everyone of legal age — Guinness stout ice cream.

Carter looks at a classic found on many an SF book shelf: ‘The Illustrated Man was first published in 1951, so this is Bradbury the Grand Master of Science Fiction. The science in these stories is, of course, badly outdated, but then Ray Bradbury never emphasized the science. His stories are about people. People in search of truth. People in dire predicaments. The science has always been mere window decoration in Bradbury’s stories. We read him for the power of his insight and the beauty of his language. You will find both in The Illustrated Man.’

Cat was delighted with a new audiobook, Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire: ‘It’s a wonderful novel that’s a great start of a hopefully long series. The setting, the characters and even the story feel fresh, quite unlike the usual riff on interstellar empires. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many of the characters are women and they are quite capable at what they do.’

Warner looks at a not-quite critical study of an American icon in Andrew Blauner’s The Peanuts Papers: ‘Peanuts was and arguably still is a key piece of the history of sequential art. Charles Schulz’ work of more than fifty years proved exceptional and is remembered to this day. The Peanuts Papers is editor Andrew Blauner’s attempt to coordinate as many thoughtful and interesting perspectives on the strip as possible into one volume, and it succeeds well. Over 30 contributors to this collection, varying from academics to comic artists, get a chance to say their piece, and prove most entertaining and informative in doing so.’

Warner also brings us a review of a collection of the more-or-less outre: ‘Themed anthologies are an excellent way for a reader to discover unexpected takes on an old idea. Editor John Miller’s Tales of the Tattooed is an excellent example of this, with stories and authors that are anywhere from household names to utterly forgotten.’

So Starbucks makes a reasonably good cup of coffee, don’t they? Well Leona says their chocolate isn’t nearly as great: ‘Final verdict: the milk chocolate is good. The dark is all right. But the dark with VIA was disappointing, to say the least. For the price, I expected much better across the board. Sorry, Starbucks fans; I’m not getting behind this set.’

Michelle has a tasty bit of Shakespeare for us: ‘The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s stranger plays; though it’s classified as a comedy or romance, it starts out very much like a revenger’s tragedy, and the happy ending depends on unexpected grace.’  Her review is frankly an amazing piece of writing by even the highest standards, so go read it here.

And Warner brings us something that’s not really television, but is focused on a very popular TV series: ‘A Doctor Who anthology typically involves multiple incarnations of the doctor, and multiple authors telling stories. In the case of The Target Storybook the reader is given a collection of 15 stories, each relating to one Doctor or another era, usually as a follow-up, side story, or prequel to an existing story. As with any anthology, the results are mixed. In this case one of the things that makes them so mixed is a subversion of expectations.’

Gary found lots of interesting music in Down in Jamaica, a sprawling new box set of reggae music covering 40 years of records from the VP label. ‘If you’re already a big reggae fan and follower, I bet you’ll still find a lot of sweet surprises here.’

Joselle offers us a retrospective look at the first decade of a well-regarded Celtic artist: ‘From her beginnings in the mid 1980s selling self-produced tapes from her car and by mail order, to international stardom — Loreena McKennitt has come a long way in her twenty-year career. For those just discovering her music with the release of An Ancient Muse, here follows a tour through this incredible singer’s previous recordings, all released on her independent recording label, Quinlan Road.’

Kim notes ‘This is the album that got the Hedningarna phenomenon going, a richly textured, darkly fascinating instrumental album by the “core” trio of Björn Tollin (frame drum, string drum, hurdy-gurdy, moraharpa), Anders Norudde (fiddle, hardanger fiddle, moraharpa, swedish bagpipe, bowed harp, jews harp, wooden and pvc bass flutes) and Hållbus Totte Mattsson (lute, baroque guitar, hurdy gurdy). On more recent albums, the group has expanded to include other players and some dynamite vocalists, most recently exploring the roots of Swedish folk traditions in Russia on Karelia Visa.’

Robert takes a look back at one of his favorite bands (yes, another favorite band): ‘Sometimes it takes a while to catch on, for me at least. On a whim, I purchased Foreigner’s all-time best album, The Very Best and Beyond. (It wasn’t really a whim – I had this song in my head and couldn’t get it out of there. How long had it been? It took me two or three days to remember who had done the song.) Listening to the album, I wonder that I could ever have forgotten Foreigner when thinking of my favorite things.’

And Robert goes even farther back, to another one of his favorites — not a band, but Beethoven, in a recording of four sonatas for piano, performed by the legendary Arthur Rubenstein: ‘The history of Western music is a history of exploration of forms. This statement is the end result of a chain of thought sparked by John Briggs’ comment, in his notes on Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23, the “Appassionata,” that Beethoven, at this point in his career, was self-confident enough to ignore “Haydnesque” traditions of form, noting that “he experimented tirelessly in all directions, as Haydn had done before him.”‘

Our What Not this week is another gem from Folkmanis, this one the Barn Swallow Finger Puppet. Says Robert: ‘Swallows seem to be everywhere in the summer, at least in this city. I see them on summer evenings soaring through the air over our parks hunting insects. (There’s a story here: there’s a bridge that divides the South Pond Nature Boardwalk in two. It arches over a narrow part of the pond, and the Zoo administration very thoughtfully left the banks without plantings — it’s a very solid bridge, supported by I-beams, and the Zoo thought it would be a perfect place for swallows to nest, with nice ledges and mud right there on the bank; they even slapped mud on the I-beams to get the birds started. The swallows, of course, decided that they like the pilings under the observation platforms better. I have, however, seen sparrows nesting under the bridge.)’

Our coda is Williamson performing ‘Five Denials on Merlins Grave’ which was recorded by him at The Brillig Arts Centre In Bath on a December night nearly forty years ago.  If you are interested in knowing more about this storyteller who’s also a musician and poet, Charles talks with him here about his days in the Incredible String Band to his interest in Scottish folktales as storytelling material. Tim  later also conversed with him and that interview has an interesting follow-up question to something said in the de Lint conversation.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Assembling A Contradance Band

Yeah we do this quite often as there’s more than enough musos here that have played at contradances that putting together a band at really short notice is not difficult. Remember that we have the apparently Neverending Session playing somewhere on the Estate at all times.

First person I asked was Bela, our Hungarian violinist who fortunately speaks French as do Gus and I. He of course agreed. And you’ve not experienced a contradance ’til you’ve heard Gus calling in two languages, sometimes three when a player who doesn’t speak English or French takes part.

We’ve experimented with hand drums as part of such a band so I knew a Scots player who didn’t want to be named here as he wasn’t supposed to be playing after injuring his wrist several months back but couldn’t resist the challenge. Janey, a smallpiper from the south of England, was the third player. She suggest Wicker, an Elvin wire  harpist, also be added and she did agree to play when I asked her.

With the band in hand, Gus met with them, planned out the tunes to be played, and even played through several of the less familiar tunes. Our contradances are a bit unusual as they usually are four to six hours long with a sort of potluck part way through and other breaks as need be. That gives the band an occasional respite before they get back to playing.

So join us later this evening in the Courtyard for a contradance quite unlike any you’ve been part of!

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What’s New for the 24th of November: Magic Realism, How Trolls See It, Chocolate, Hardanger Fiddles, Mammals, and More

She took everything I thought I’d learned about kindness from women, and she — she laid it on me like a curse. — Jennifer Stevenson’s Trash Sex Music

So Jen was telling me just now about her wonderful magic realism novel Trash Sex Magic and the weird distinction writers try to make which drive her nuts: Science fiction writers like to say that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishible from magic.’ I say, ‘Any internally-consistent magic is indistinguishible from technology.’  You can read her essay on this here. She’s way more coherent than Norman Spinrad was on the subject earlier this week when he was babbling that fantasy had shoved SF aside in bookstores.

Neuromancer is SF, right? Sure. The Loa are just AI.  And chocolate is just chocolate. My ass. It’s all in the assumptions which are never the same in us. Everything has magic in it if you know where to look for it. Keep that in mind as you read her essay and the rest of this edition. Now shall I pour you a drink? Though it’s pricey, I do recommend the ten-year-old Kinrowan Limited Reserve Cider. 

Cat has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart, which Reynard’s reading now. 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.

Kestrell has a very cool collection for us to read: ‘Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s Troll’s Eye View also includes stories by such writers as Jane Yolen, Holly Black, Garth Nix, Ellen Kushner, and Joseph Stanton. The variety of the characters and the quality of the writing in these fifteen fairy tales should make this book appealing reading for everyone and, although an inner leaf of the book lists its intended audience as grades four and up or ages nine and up, fairy tale lovers of all ages should pick up a copy.’

Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘Subtitled “The Sliabh Luachra story,” this book attempts to demythologize the heartland of Sliabh Luachra, a legendary area where Irish traditional music is concerned. To fans of Irish music, Sliabh Luachra will need no introduction. Something of a mini republic in Irish music terms, Sliabh Luachra, translated from the Gaelic as ‘the mountain of the rushes,’ is an area that has written its own rule book within the Irish traditional lexicon and produced its share of masterful exponents. The music is characterized by a wild reckless energy, which somehow symbolizes the rugged nature of the area.’

Robert happily says ‘The late Kage Baker was one of those admirably unpredictable writers whose stories never seemed to fit into any sort of mold, whether they were part of a series or stood alone. There is, though, a kind of magic in her storytelling that ties them all together, fully in evidence in The Bird of the River, a new novel set in the universe of The Anvil of the World.’

Robert has a cautionary note: ‘You probably already know this, but reviewers do try to research the items offered for review, particularly if they’re from a source new to the reviewer. Sadly, researching confectioners Lolli & Pops was very difficult, possibly because they recently filed for bankruptcy. The company’s website is not terribly informative — for example, a search on the site for their Madagascar Sambirano chocolate bar turned up no results. I did find, on another site, that this is No. 1 in a series of single-origin chocolates, this one from the Sambirano Valley in Madagascar.’

Richard brings us Bend It Like Beckham,  a film about ‘…Indian cooking, cultural absurdity, family love, and an abiding desire to play what the English call ‘the beautiful game’…’ That game, of course, would be football; what we in the States call soccer. What happens when a young Indian girl dreams of playing football like English football star David Beckham? Culture clash, among other things — but Nathan says that ‘[t]he underlying theme of culture clash is better because it is underlying, rather than politicised and angry. Instead of favouring either the Indian or the English culture, the writer shows how the two manage their uneasy coexistence.’


Gary is quite pleased with a bit of Norwegian hardanger fiddle music of a very contemporary kind. It’s the second release by the fiddle-guitar-drums trio Lumen Drones: Umbra is an album that can be played on background for atmosphere, but it also rewards repeated close listening.’

‘Anyone who enjoys international folk and dance music, and definitely everyone who loves Bulgarian and other Balkan music, should hop on the Blato Zlato bandwagon,’ Gary says. Read his review of In The Wake to find out why.

Gary found something to like on this new album of holiday tunes from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, titled Big Band Holidays II. ‘For the most part this is a very enjoyable program of holiday music, even for a Scrooge like me.’

Lars has a choice piece of Scottish trad for us: ‘I never really took to the last album, May You Never Lack a Scone, but after hearing this I think it is time to go back and check again. Cause Rare is really something special. Maybe not quite another “The Lasses Fashion,” but almost. Had Jock Tamson’s Bairns been 25 years younger we would have hailed them as the new Messiahs of Scottish folk, now we just get proof that these lads know their craft and that they still can deliver the goods.’

Paul with a head possibly clear of real ale says of Fairport’s Cropredy Capers: 1979 – 2003: ‘Okay, musically, it’s all here. From stalwarts like ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes’ and ‘Matty Groves’ to an epic version of ‘Sloth’ running at an astounding 19 minutes, and of course the tune sets where Swarbs or Ric Sanders (or both, oh and let’s not forget Chris Leslie) run riot. But it’s the odds and sods that make this album.’

Our What Not this week has Robert on another trip to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and a survey of mammals: ‘When I was a small boy, my father would periodically take me up to the Field Museum. I was always eager to see the “stuffed animals”, which formed a large part of the Museum’s public displays. Well, they’re still there, in a somewhat different arrangement than I remember, but still interesting.’ Go here to get the full tour.


Though it be a month before Winter is officially upon us, it feels and looks like it’s already here. So let’s have the quiet beauty of ’White Snow’ by Nightnoise to see us out. This was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April twenty-six 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 it included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Man Who Wasn’t There

We indeed get some very queer customers in the Pub, particularly as the weather gets grimmer, but he was one of the oddest I’d ever seen for more years tending bar than I care to think of. Not that at first I could quite say what was odd about him, just that something wasn’t quite right.

Then I noticed that no one but me was seeing him, despite the fact that he had a choice table, and no one was even going near that table. Even those who had The Sight seemed not to be noticing him, which was very, very odd. So why was I seeing him?

I tried to put the question to him gently, next time he caught my eye for another Rowanheart. “First time I’ve seen you here, I believe. And . . . ”

He interrupted me. “But not the first time I’ve been here.” He chuckled. “Just the first time I’ve had the wherewithal to pay.” He slid a seven-sided coin across the table, a mate to three others already in my till.

Ah, that was the explanation! I’d wondered where the Rowanheart had been going, and suspected a very new Annie from the other side of the Border. No need to bother Iain now.

He took a long pull on the Rowanheart. I turned back toward my bar, feeling myself dismissed. When I turned to look again, he was gone.

Three nights later he was back. The same bushy red beard, the same sheepskin lined coat, the same tweed cap pulled low over his eyes. This time he stopped at the bar for his first Rowanheart. It was odd how the three fiddlers drinking Picaroons Red between sets all moved to their left when he arrived, even though they didn’t greet him or acknowledge his presence. Ever hear of a personal bubble? His was about two handbreadths deep all around him. When one of the fiddlers spilled his Red, the runnels stopped just short of the stranger’s drink.

He knew I was puzzled, he knew I was watching him. As I mopped up the bar and got the fiddler another Picaroons, he slipped away to his old table. The couple who had looked to be headed in that direction veered slightly and sat on one of the blonde oak benches against the wall on the far side of the east fireplace.

He came in a few times after that, not on any regular schedule. Grinned, drank several Rowanhearts, always paid with those seven-sided gold coins. A pleasant enough customer, though no one else but me ever seemed to know it.

The last time I saw him was Old Christmas night. The festivities had been mostly the previous evening, and many were still recovering. The Neverending Session was playing something melancholy, though how they made a Shanklin Road cover sound melancholy I don’t know. Apart from the musicians, and the couple who had made the blonde oak bench their favourite sparking spot ever since they discovered to it, there was no one else in the bar except us. He signaled me for another Rowanheart.

“I’m heading out at first light,” he said. “Time to go back North again. See if the other lads have made it.” He took a pull on the Rowanheart.

“Will you be back?” I ventured to ask.

“Eventually. I usually end up here every couple of centuries.” That big grin split the bushy beard. It was warm enough despite the lack of a crowd that he had undone his coat. I could see a purple shirt. It looked like heavy silk. “Yes, it will be good to see the lads again. Maybe time for another roadtrip, even. Those are the good times, you know. Just you and the road and the stars. I remember the first trip we took together. Hiding from the sun’s heat all day. Picking a star to follow at night. Good times.”

He drained the Rowanheart and stood up. “Maybe I shouldn’t wait for dawn. No stars left then.” He fastened his coat up tight around his neck and gave a drag on his cap. Out of his pockets he fished a little leather pouch and a pair of fairisle mittens.

“Here’s part payment on some of those Rowanhearts I took on credit.” He handed me another couple of those seven-sided coins. “Oh, and as for why you can see me and others can’t, it’s because you believe and they don’t.” Another big grin. “Or maybe that’s malarkey, and it’s because I need something from you and not from them. When the lads come looking for me, and one day they’ll come, tell them Cass has gone after the brightest star.”

Then he left.

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What’s New for the 17th of November: Charles de Lint, Robert’s Potato Soup, Folkmanis’ Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet, Rosanne Cash and Other Matters as Well

Once upon a time there was what there was, and if nothing had happened there would be nothing to tell. — Charles de Lint’s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’


I’m  listening to The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ while doing paperwork in the Library. It is superbly narrated by Kate Reading, who has narrated a number of de Lint’s works, including the Memory & Dream, Widdershins and The Onion Girl novels. I rather like this because it’s a short story and therefore easily listened to in a short span.  Not that I don’t mind getting lost in one of his novels such as Memory & Dream  which Jayme reviewed for us.

It’s our usual grey late Autumn here in the Scottish Highlands: rainy, cold and blustery winds to boot. Even the most hardy of Estate staff aren’t outside unless their duties require to them to be. I myself are spending some of my time off duty in the Kitchen quite content to nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating, such as blackberry cobbler or the very last of the fresh fruits (save the ubiquitous apples).

Now let’s see what I’ve for you in this Edition…

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.’

Kestrell looks at The Grin of The Dark: ‘Ramsey Campbell demonstrates the power and eloquence of horror as a mode of highlighting the uncanniness of modern technology and the dark side of human monstrosity. Campbell is a master at developing strange menacing images, whether it is the creepiness of the silent laughter of actors in an old film or the eeriness of the flickering glow of a television screen transforming the faces of those we love into white-faced staring zombies.’

Robert brings us a look back at early — well, fairly early — Charles de Lint, with a review of one of his novels set in and around Tamson House. This one is Moonheart: ‘Moonheart may very well be the first novel by Charles de Lint that I ever read. I can’t really say for sure — it’s been awhile. It certainly is one that I reread periodically, a fixture on my “reread often” list. It contains, in an early form, all the magic that keeps us coming back to de Lint.’

Warner ran across a slightly spooky collection of short stories for those long chilly evenings: ‘Algernon Blackwood is a  formative influence in the weird fiction genre, with his works “The Wendigo” and “The Willows” being staples. Editor Xavier Aldana Reyes collects not only those stories but two less well-known novellas by the author in Roarings From Further Out: Four Weird Novellas by Algernon Blackwood

It’s that time of year when nights are falling earlier and there’s a definite chill in the air — at least for those of us north of the Equator. Robert has a recipe for something guaranteed to be warm and filling on those nippy evenings — how does a nice bowl of hot potato soup sound? And for those of you heading into longer days and higher temperatures, it can make a nice summer dish. Get your kitchen in order and be ready to get creative.

Mia says of Frazetta: Painting With Fire that ‘Documentaries are like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: when they are good, they are very, very good, and when they are bad, they are horrid. You might think that a production company formed initially by fans to create a documentary about their favorite artist would create something that would fall into the latter category. And, when the film is Frazetta: Painting With Fire, you’d be really, really wrong.’

Ahhh, Steeleye Span. Chris notes that ‘This is one of those situations that throw into sharp relief the difficulties of writing live reviews. Lahri, one of our US reviewers, went to one of the American dates on the current tour and found it a significantly less than satisfying experience. Just a few days later I went to one of the UK dates at the Daneside Theatre, Congleton and was knocked out by the gig.’

David looks at the output of Johnny Cash’s daughter between 1979 and 1996: ‘Rosanne branched out, writing books, taking a long time between albums. Her work is thoughtful and moving. You can see from the pictures included in the insert booklet, from the informative liner notes, and from the development of the music through the 21 tracks Raven has selected that she was searching for her voice. By the time this collection ends, she had found it. But it’s there throughout this collection. Sure Rosanne Cash has a new CD out this month, but if you aren’t familiar with where she’s been, Blue Moons and Broken Hearts is a good place to start.’

Meredith saw not one but but two great groups at the Town Crier: ‘After a delectable meal of impeccably prepared Southwestern fare, the main event begins: usually a contemporary folk or traditional music act, such as you’ll see at the Bottom Line in New York City or the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. It’s one of the best places to experience live music in the Northeast. And on Sunday, June 27 an intriguing double bill was on the menu: Susan McKeown and the Chanting House, and the up-and-coming “Irish-tribal” group Kíla.’

Robert once upon a time commented that ‘Well, as it happened, while checking out my mail cubby at the GMR offices, I ran across Oysterband’s Granite Years: Best of. . . 1986-97 with a scribbled note from the Chief that I eventually translated as “Check this out. Let us know what you think.” I took that to be a request for a review.’ Now read his review to see what he though of this compilation.

Well, looks like it’s the season to think about holiday gift giving. And Denise has an option for you; Folkmanis’ Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet. While she’s as entranced as ever by this company’s creations, there’s one quibble. ‘Mine looks as if he’s suffering from agoraphobia. Exo-karpoúzi-phobia, maybe?’ Read her review to find out what’s going on…

So we’re well past the time of year when there’s even the chance of the day holding a bit of warmth which means music becomes a needed matter of comfort for most of us here. And I for one turn to Celtic music.  So what shall we hear this time as we take our leave? Hmmm… So how about ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ by the legendary Bothy Band as recorded rather well at the Lisdoonvarna Folk Festival some forty four  years ago.

Variants on Old Hag tunes are so common that they actually figure into the narrative of at least one Charles de Lint story,  ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’, which is collected in his Dreams Underfoot anthology and you can purchase the digital edition of your choice here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pumpkin Ale and Cheese

Dear Anna,

Did you know the Swedes make pumpkin ale? I’ve been researching the history of it and thought that it existed not ‘tall outside of Britain, Ireland, and North America where various small breweries such as ours are doing it every Fall. So I was delighted that Scandinavian brewers make it as well. We visited you too late to sample these ales this time but Katrina and I are planning to visit Stockholm next Fall for a week. I’ve got it planned into my work schedule as Katrina’s got a concert with her Leaf & Tree group at the same time.

My excuse for coming over (other than to drink pumpkin ales as ‘research’) is that our Steward is interested in getting a true cheesery going here, as the number of dairy cows would support one. Right now, we ship the milk over to Riverrun Farm for their use but Jean-Paul thinks it’d make a nice addition to the Estate revenues. So I’ll be looking at small cheese operations in the countryside.

Katrina’s also talking with a Swedish luthier who’s expressed keen interest in moving his operation to the Estate, as he’s got more English and Scottish clients these days than Scandinavian ones. And there’s a crofters cottage suitable for his shop and living space. Not surprisingly, he loves the idea of the Neverending Session!

Until next time, Gus

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What’s New for the 10th of November: Fairy Tale Feasts, Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’ , Charles de Lint’s The Wild Wood. The Dubliners Live, A Worm in An Apple puppet and Other Tempting Things

She can sniff it as she can sniff the pungency of the earth where it hides little treasures for the table; or the remains of the long-dead. ― Tallis as described in Robert Holdstock’s Avilion

Yes, there’s hot cider, blissfully free of spicing, and still-warm apple cinnamon doughnuts on the top of the Bar for our Pub patrons to enjoy on this quite, quite nasty Autumnal day. The Pub has become rather busy and Finch, my associate manager, has called in extra help hours earlier than she usually has to this time of year.

I note with some delight that Charles de Lint just put out a digital edition of The Wild Wood novel. Our review is here, complete with a link to where you can purchase the digital edition of your preference. It’s a wonderful read, which I’ve been doing on this Autumn afternoon in quiet moments. Did I note that MaryAnn Harris, his ever so talented wife, did the cover art for it? When the Pub is much quieter, I’ll go back to reading it on my iPad.  Right now, help yourself  to those cider and apple doughnuts while I finish this edition off…Ahhh, the egos of authors! Craig has a study of one here: ‘Nowhere on her Web site does novelist Sharyn McCrumb mention her Edgar Allan Poe Award, the most coveted award in the mystery genre and something that most winners would be shouting from the rooftops. One can only assume that this is because the novel for which she won goes by the title Bimbos of the Death Sun. Perhaps she would simply prefer that we forgot all about it. But the fact is that she not only wrote Bimbos of the Death Sun, but also its sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool, both starring electrical-engineer/science-fiction-author Jay Omega. Both novels are terrific reads and, as a bonus, showcase something missing from McCrumb’s more literate Ballad novels is McCrumb’s quirky sense of humor.’ Read his somewhat silly review here.

Early in his career, Charles de Lint did a number of novels set in Ottawa which is where he and his lovely wife MaryAnn Harris live to this day. Robert has a review of two of those linked novels for us: ‘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.’

A certain culinary guide has Warner noting that ‘In guide books there are typically the introductory and the exhaustive. Brett Cohen and Mark Luber’s Stuff Every Sushi Lover Should Know falls in the former category. It does so, however, by pressing an impressive amount of information into a small space. While part of QuickBooks series of “Stuff Every…Should Know” is serious, the nature of that series and its individual subject matters means that serves mission quite well on its own.’

Eric Saward’s Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks gets this wrap-up by Warner: ‘Overall this was an enjoyable, short, read. Having a third person point of view help did a great deal, as the internal logic many characters used allowed for strange behavior to make significantly more sense. The action is direct, the characters are consistent, and the book does not feel padded as one often worries they will find in novelizations. This is an enjoyable story featuring the Fifth Doctor, and easily recomendable to someone who enjoys Doctor Who, particularly of slightly older shade of it.’

Liz has a tasty offering for us: ‘Fairy Tale Feasts presents 20 classic fairy tales from around the world masterfully told by ace word slinger Jane Yolen. The tales are accompanied by recipes written by her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, and illustrations by Philippe Béha. The book includes fairytales from European, African-American, Ashkenazi Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Chinese cultures. Sidebars give quick facts regarding the stories and the foods mentioned in them.’

The Return of The King, the very last of those Peter Jackson films ,says Grey, was emotional for her: ‘I’ve never laughed and cried so much in one movie. The thing is, I’m not a big movie crier. Those of you who read my Seabiscuit review are thinking, “Yeah, right!” It’s true, I swear. But I think I went into this one with the pump already primed. As I’ve said before, I love The Lord of the Rings, and I’ve spent my life since the first time I heard the story read aloud (by my dad, when I was seven) wishing for it to be made into a movie.’


Christopher has a sweet sounding album for us: ‘New Yorker Susan McKeown has been gradually establishing a reputation as a classy and innovative interpreter of Irish traditional song for some time, without ever gaining the breakthrough she deserves. On first appearances, Blackthorn appears to be a rather low key release in her oeuvre, the to-the-point subtitle Irish Love Songs suggesting a straight-up approach.’

David exclaims ‘Eliza Carthy is a fiddler, singer and folk babe extraordinaire. Rough Music is her latest album. Released in 2005, it’s taken a while for us to review it because…well…I guess I would rather listen to it than write about it! From the striking cover photo, to every note that is played, this is a gorgeous record of English folk music.’

Gary reviews a new compilation of “insurgent country” music from the Chicago label Bloodshot Records, released on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. He says, ‘I’ve reviewed countless compilation discs over the years, and Too Late to Pray is hands down one of the best.’

Gary also liked a disc called Psychedelic Disco Cumbia from the New York band Locobeach. ‘This is such a fun record! Based solidly in cumbia, it has elements of dub, chicha, disco, funk and more, including house, courtesy of those divine analog synthesizers.’

Gary has an album for us that he liked a lot: ‘Ever since they first sang together on the 2002 Vanguard album Evangeline Made, I’ve been waiting for Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy to put out another record. Here it is, and it was worth the wait. Adieu False Heart is one of the most touching, graceful and beautiful albums of 2006.’

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.’

Our What Not this time is about a Folkmanis Puppet of an Autumnal Nature, or at least that’s how Cat defined them. They were the ones Cat asked Folkmanis specifically to send and then he handed off to various staff members for review. So here’s the review of one of these puppets.

The Worm in Apple Puppet gets reviewed by Robert: ‘One of the more unusual items to cross my desk from Folkmanis is their Worm in Apple Puppet. It’s a nice, big apple — not shiny, since it’s made of plush, but it is very appealing — unless you count the small green worm peeping out of a hole in the side.’


Our coda is Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’ which I think as Autumnal music is here performed by the Rolling Stones. Yes the Rolling Stones!  So here’s their decidedly offbeat version.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Korean Breakfast

Now that was tasty!

I was grumbling yesterday morning to Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook here at the Estate that houses us, that porridge is often boring even if many here like it as Winter breakfast fare. (OR Melling actuall found a way to make eating porridge sound cool.) She smiled and said to stop by the Kitchen ‘morrow morning as she had an idea.

So I came to the Kitchen the next morning early before it got too busy and discovered that I was being served thick soup made from rice and minced pork with interesting spicing, served along with green tea and a deep fried cruller. She said it was called Canjii in Korean and a visitor showed her how to prepare this hearty meal years ago.

Now I knew that Korea has a millennia old cuisine with food traditions from a number of sources but I hadn’t actually had this traditional breakfast staple from there, as I spent my time overseas in India and Sri Lanka, which have a decidedly different cuisine.

Indeed the staple food for Koreans is rice, and specifically a particular type of Korean short grain rice called sticky rice, because its grains stick together rather than falling apart. Mrs. Ware decided to use well-cooked brown rice as she likes the flavour better than the white rice used in Asia. It was a wonderfully tasty and quite filling breakfast.

Now I’m off to find her a copy of The Pooh Cook Book as she’s catering an all-day event for younger children from the School of The Imagination and she wants to do their meals as Pooh and company did them. I will of course review the book as well so you, our dear readers, can see how good the recipes are!

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What’s New for the 3rd of November: The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Homefires’, Mice, Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech, Mini Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes and Other Matters

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta 

As Christopher Fowler has bitterly complained, Guy Fawkes Day has fallen out of favour in Britain being called now Bonfire Night more often than not, and Halloween, that holiday started long ago by the Irish, has become way more popular than Guy Fawkes.  Of course The Kirk has more or less mostly fallen across all of Britain so it’s hardly surprising that an anti-Catholic holiday is fast waning in popularity.

Now we don’t do fireworks here on Guys Fawkes Day or any day as it spooks the companion animals, the livestock, and the wildlife all too much. The loudest ‘fireworks’ you’ll see here is a roaring bonfire. Now I know it’s quite nasty out there, so let’s get you a cider and you can hunker down by the Pub fireplace while I get this Edition ready for you…

Jack leads off our book reviews with a look at a novel he really didn’t like: ‘I’m a fiddler. I like Steven Brust. I love most any novel with folk music as a theme, particularly when musicians are the characters. So why the fuck did I find Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grill to be not even worth finishing? Good question — and one that I will answer in some detail. Perhaps more detail than this badly written novel deserves.’

Robert brings us a book for curling up with the little ones on a chilly night, Helen Ward’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: ‘You’ve undoubtedly heard this story, or at the very least heard of it, probably under some variation of “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse,” or the reverse. It’s a well-loved children’s story that has received innumerable treatments throughout the years. Author/illustrator Helen Ward has brought us the latest version.’

Warner really liked this book: ‘A tribute to Golden Age mystery fiction is always welcomed, and a specific tribute to Peter Wimsey is a welcome surprise. What Would Wimsey Do? is Guy Fraser-Samson’s tribute to that great detectives, in the form of a more contemporary murder mystery. It is worth noting that the book had been previously published as Death in Profile in the United Kingdom, and that this new publication by Felony & Mayhem represents its first American publication.’

He also loved this novel: ‘Overall Always Coming Home is at an impressive achievement in storytelling, and World building. It is a staple of future history, and the work of obvious influence. And this is possibly the most thorough and dedicated interpretation of the texts assembled, included many related pieces throughout. I can highly recommend this volume, particularly it to those with any interest in the work of Ursula K. Le Guin.’

‘…Buckle up and I’ll tell you about pumpkin cupcakes so delicious my friend told me to never buy them again, because they were way too dangerously good. Yes, supermarket brand cupcakes so good my friends threaten my life.’ With an opening like that, Denise’s look at Aldi’s Village Bakery’s Mini Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes is definitely worth a look. Because Fall is just getting good, and you want to enjoy the best, don’t you?

Grey turns her attention to The Two Towers: ‘Yes, I had a press ticket. Yes, I went to the earliest possible showing yesterday, opening day (December 18), and refused to eat any popcorn or drink any soda, lest I be distracted even minutely from the film. Yes, I am an obsessed fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. Actually, I prefer “devoted.” (There are different sorts of obsessed, err, devoted fans. Cat, our Editor in Chief, collects all sorts of special editions of Tolkien’s work, and has reviewed the extended-release DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring for this issue. I, on the other hand, have among my most prized possessions the tattered paperback of The Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham that I first read as a child, and a copy of “The Red Book” in which some of my dearest friends have written their favorite passages or quotations on the fly leaves and end papers. I think of Tolkien as one of my grandfathers.) The point being that if you want an unbiased opinion from a viewer who came to the movie yesterday without any preconceived notions as to what it ought to be… well, I’m sure they’re out there.’

Gary says Historia Natural is the third release by the Colombian trio Los Pirañas, “which deftly and excitingly mixes South American rhythms of cumbia, tropicalia, salsa and more, with psychedelic rock, surf guitar, dub, and computer effects for a sound and style that’s all their own.”

Lars says of Western Wall and The Tucson Sessions: ‘For me, this is very much a case of old heroes returning. Who could help but be infatuated by the lovely Ms Ronstadt in the middle of the Seventies? She had it all: looks, voice and a clever choice of songs. Ronstadt was one of a wave of American female singers on the borders between rock, country and folk. Emmylou Harris was another of those singers. But she was definitely more country, carrying on Gram Parson’s vision of a marriage between rock and country.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

The concert season, for those who follow such things, is in full swing, and Robert has a look at an album of chamber works by Henryk Wieniawski: ‘Henryk Wieniawski, like his countryman Frédéric Chopin, was in great demand as a soloist — so much so that his performance schedule seems to have seriously impacted his work as a composer. Another prodigy, he entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of eight, in spite of being underage and not French. By age thirteen, he had completed his course of study on the violin (with gold medal), written his first compositions, and met Chopin at his mother’s Paris salon.’

Vonnie looks at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

Winter is not far out,  so a Winter Queen of ours from some years back,  Josepha Sherman, talks of it and its folktales in her Winter Queen Speech: ‘What is Winter? A time to fear? A time for darkness and death? No. Winter is merely part of the endless cycle of sleep and awakening, dying and rebirth. The trees know it: they don’t die each year. They merely sleep through the coldness and put out new leaves in the spring. The birds know it: they come and go by the seasons. The snow is merely a blanket that protects the earth, insulating it against the cold and providing it with moisture in the spring. The darkness doesn’t last throughout. It ends in the middle of the winter, with the solstice in December, and the light returns even in the deepest cold of winter. No, Winter is nothing to fear.’

Our music for you as our Coda is quite naturally is The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s ‘Homefires’, their look at Guy Fawkes Day and what it means to British culture. Where and when they recorded it seems to have been lost right now though I’ll add in if I find out that information. There’s a trove of live recordings they sent us, so expect more music from them.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Chasing Ghosts

His accent was thick, understandable if you listened carefully, English though it be, it sounded more Welsh in cadence than English. And he was a burly man, well over six feet tall and stocky to boot with grey eyes and a bread and hair as white as new fallen show. His name, he said, was Dyffd ap Owen.

I found a mug made of beaten silver, centuries old most likely, with sigils and other things best not discussed on it, and it held damn near a litre of liquid. I asked what his favour in drink was and he said metheglin, a mead his people made from time immemorial. Fortunately we had just tapped a cask of it made with honey from the High Meadow where clover, wild strawberries, and other plants make for a very good honey.

He sipped, nodded his head in appreciation, and sat back in the Falstaff Chair near the roaring fire on that cold winter night. And no, I’ve never figured out how travellers get here on foot in weather so bad that only those tending the Estate livestock venture outside, but they do. Some have an instrument with them be it pipes, fiddle or just their voice; some come like him to tell stories late into the night; and a few, a very few thank whatever Deities you believe in, seem to be lost and simply need shelter. Those usually stay here but a few weeks, but some Bela, our apparently Hungarian violinist, have stayed  for decades.

I asked as casually as I could given my curiosity, what was reason for being here was. He drank deeply of his mead and said he’d come to find a ghost. Now those of us who have The Sight, be that a blessing or a curse it is a matter of personal belief, know this Scottish Estate is lousy with ghosts ranging from wives strangled by their abusive husbands to an entire encampment of ancient soldiers long dad waiting for their commander who ran screaming away from the battle they were all slaughtered in. But this was the first time I knew of that I knew anyone had come here looking for a ghost.

He said that he be both Welsh and Highland Scots, and a Scots ancestor of his had fought and won a duel here against a mortal enemy of his clan, the MacAllisters. Or more properly both had died on a leyline, so they were now locked in battle, evermore hacking away at each other, mortally wounding each other, dying, and starting the duel over again ’til the end of time.

He was hoping to find a way to put his ancestor to rest after a thousand years of endless battle. I remember a story being told here by Iain who also has The Sight of Seeing those kings in a remote part of the Estate. It’s an unfortunate truism that violent deaths create ghosts tied to here they died. And these two are definitely too such ghosts.

Now I admit I’m torn if it was safe to tell him that we know where the cursed ghosts are as I admit I’m not sure that tampering with them is a good or a bad thing. It might be possible to end their endless circle of violence but equally possible it could unleashed them from their temporal prison and that would be a disaster! So I’ll need to think on this. For a long time. Over many drams of a good single malt.

So for now I’ll tell him that we’ll research the subject to see what we can find and get back to him. I hope that, for now, that will placate him.

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What’s New for the 27th of October: Our Halloween Edition

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Traditional Scottish prayer

I’ve also seen that prayer credited to Cornish, Welsh, and “Celtic” sources — nothing specific, but you get the idea.

Robert here, with some thoughts on the traditions of the holiday. Yes, as you might guess from our opening quote, Halloween is approaching, when all the neighborhood ghoulies and ghosties (and hobos and witches and Darth Vaders) are going door to door demanding treats as a sort of ransom. It wasn’t always like that: Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is what happened to the old Samhain holy day of the Celtic Pagan year, one of the two days in the year when the veils between our world and the Otherworld are thinnest and the spirits wander the earth — some say looking for the way home.

And that’s the origin of the Jack O’Lantern, from the old Irish custom of putting a candle in a hollowed-out turnip (they didn’t have pumpkins before Europeans discovered the New World) and ensconcing it in the window to guide the spirits on their way.

As for the rest of it — well, the early Church, as was its wont, appropriated that holiday as All Saints Day (actually the day after the Pagan holiday, which, like most Pagan holidays, was celebrated at night) and tried very hard to make it a Christian holiday, with varying degrees of success. (In Mexico, it became Dias de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, in which the Christian holiday got a strong infusion of traditional Indian customs.)

As for the “trick or treat” part, that also goes way back to Pagan times, when villagers would dress in scary costumes to drive the spirits away and would be rewarded for their efforts with a banquet. It may have also been conflated with the Wren Boys, an ancient Irish observation around Christmas, when children would dress in costume and go door to door collecting money. Its present incarnation is recent, as late as the mid-twentieth century — some even credit Walt Disney with popularizing it, but I’m not going to go there.

Oh, and speaking of appropriation — well. candy manufacturers have a vested interest in pushing the whole trick or treat thing, driving a final nail into the coffin of what was once one of the holiest days in the Pagan year.

Now, it’s almost upon us, and I’m going to hand this back over to Reynard, with a nod for the excellent job he’s done on putting together our Halloween edition. Enjoy.


Cat starts off our book reviews with Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues. Cat says of it that ‘In the very near future, the citizens of Los Angeles are preparing to celebrate Dead Daze, a bacchanalian rave of a holiday that’s an over-the-top merging of All Hallows Eve, the Mexican Day of the Dead, and Mardi Gras. The reawakened Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, riding the body of a human, is feeling quite well, thank you! And let’s not forget that the Day of the Dead, which forms part of Dead Daze, is at its heart a time when the barriers between the dead and the still-living are all but completely erased. So maybe the gods do walk again … And this holiday, not dissimilar to the one in the Strange Days movie, needs National Guard troops to prevent rioting!’

So how about a Day of The Dead set story that involves a small town mechanic called Grace who discovers the man she loves is dead? And that she can cross over when the veils are thin to see him? Such is the premise of Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace which Cat notes that ‘It is a perfect introduction to de Lint, as it doesn’t requite you to have read anything else 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.’

Craig has a review of a horror novel set on a closely related holiday: ‘Brian A. Hopkins is an acclaimed writer and editor (he has won Bram Stoker Awards under both guises) who also operates an innovative publishing company (Lone Wolf Publications, which produced the multimedia anthology Tooth and Claw, Volume One and another Stoker winner, The Imagination Box), yet who still has time to crank out terrific work for other smaller houses like Earthling Publications. El Dia de los Muertos (“the Day of the Dead”) is his most recent Stoker recipient, winning the 2002 award for best novella.’

Halloween is the time for vampires, and so Denise takes a look at Gross and Altman’s Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Buffy and Angel. She found an detailed “oral history” that is sure to please fans of both shows.  ‘I can feel the authors’ love for their subject, and their excitement is contagious.  … [A] fun read that’ll keep you in party anecdotes for this coming holiday season, and into the next one.’

One of our Garys has a look at Christopher Golden and James A. Moore’s Bloodstained  Oz: ‘If you like lots of violence and gore, and you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz, then you’ll like this book. The evil manifestations of Baum’s characters are one of the highlights of the book. If you like a book with an ending, prepare yourself to write your own, as the authors apparently intended.’

Neil Gaiman’s Day of the Dead: An Annotated Babylon 5 Script gets the lead-off note in Grey’s review: ‘Whenever two Babylon 5 fans meet, whether it’s at a used book store, a sci-fi speakeasy, or somewhere else that’s safe for our species, it doesn’t take long for conversation to turn to the required topics: “Who’s your favorite character?” “What’s your favorite season?” “What’s your favorite episode?” and so on. And whether your favorite character is Commander Sinclair (the real Commander) or G’Kar, whether your favorite season is the first or the third, it’s almost universally agreed that Season Five, Episode Eight, “Day of the Dead,” is one of the show’s top ten episodes.’

Jack looks at a Diane Wynne Jones novel that befits this holiday: ‘It’s a good solid book with memorable characters and an engrossing plot which got read in one rather long sitting on a cold, rainy afternoon late in October. Several pots of Earl Grey tea and a number of the the Kitchen’s excellent scones were devoured in the reading of Fire & Hemlock.’

Love, hate, or baffled by The Wicker Man, there’s no denying it’s a horror classic.  No, not the horrendous 2006 remake, but the original 1973 film starring Christopher Lee.  The original film has caught the eye of many, including many academics. Kestrell takes a look at Benjamin Franks’ The Quest for The Wicker Man: History, Folklore, and Pagan Perspectives, a collection of articles from a conference that focused on the film.  ‘The Quest for The Wicker Man is highly recommended for any dedicated Wicker Man fan and especially for academics writing about this classic cult film.’  Read more about this collection in her review!

Nellie looks at The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: ‘Through Jean Markale’s book we can find the real legitimacy for Halloween as a holiday. It is not simply about children traipsing from door to door looking for candy (or else! Trick or Treat!). It is not simply about a reverence for ancestors, or a time to let go of all inhibition. There is a reality to it that gives it a deeper presence, and which beckons us to seek its true meaning, in addition to its true history.’

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.’

We next look at Ray Bradbury’s quintessential Autumn novel and film which gets an appreciative review by the previous reviewer: ‘By right and nature, all October babies should love Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is a love letter to autumn, and to the Halloween season in particular, a gorgeous take on maturity and self-acceptance and all the dark temptations that come crawling ‘round when the calendar creeps close to October 31st.’

Just in time for the festivities a couple of nights from now, Robert has a look at Alex Irvine’s The “Supernatural” Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons, and Ghouls: ‘I seem to be faced with another one of those television spin-offs, this time from the series Supernatural, about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who hunt demons and other nasty customers not entirely of this world …. Alex Irvine has taken this basis, and the various creatures the brothers encounter, drawn from myths, urban legends, and folklore, and turned it into a “bestiary of the unnatural”.’

Thomas has a guide to this holiday for us: ‘Halloween, an unofficial holiday, is nonetheless celebrated by millions of people in North America and the British Isles, rivaling only Christmas in popularity. In the heavily illustrated Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, York University professor of history Nicholas Rogers traces the history of this holiday from its alleged beginnings as a Celtic festival, Samhain, marking the end of summer, to its many and various manifestations today. ’

And Warner wraps up our book reviews with a look at a collection from Steve Rasic Tem, The Night Doctor and Other Stories: ‘Centipede Press is known for putting out quality volumes, and The Night Doctor and Other Stories by Steve Rasnic Tem is no exception. A long-running, highly celebrated author, Rasnic here offers a collection of his more recent short stories, including two new tales previously unpublished. These run the gamut of dark subject matter, ranging from dark fantasy to horror and back again.’

Horror films have been part of the Halloween experience in the States for a very long time now. And we’ve had our share of wonderful seasonal treats, as well as time-wasting tricks.

Denise takes a look at a ‘trick’ of a tale with her review of Halloween III: Season of the Witch. She doesn’t hold back on her distaste: ‘If the folks responsible for this garbage really wanted to depart from the first two films and create something authentic, this basic story could have been an interesting movie …. Happy Halloween? Not with this clunker.’  Read her review for exactly why she’s nonplussed.

Another trick-y tale is The Haunted Mansion, a film based on a ride at the Disney resorts. Denise thinks that all the beautiful set design can’t make up for a film that can’t quite figure itself out.  ‘This is a lovely film to look at, but there’s not a lot of substance. Just double-check to make sure any young children you take are up for a pretty good scare.’

A choice bit of British horror is next.  Jekyll is ably reviewed for us by Kestrell who says that ‘this version is not so much a remake as a retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde story. The story is relocated from Victorian Edinburgh to contemporary London and follows one of Jekyll’s descendents, a research scientist named Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt).’ Kestrell concludes that ‘While I found this re-telling of a traditional story exciting and exceptionally well done, I would suggest that this series is not for everyone. Viewers looking for a remake of the original story will not find it here; those viewers who prefer American Hollywood effects may also be disappointed.’

Festive Samhain, everyone! Denise here, and I’ve stolen away the food and drink section this issue. Why? Because ghoulish delights abound! I’ve stuffed my face with all sorts of seasonal delights … though not everything was particularly delightful. Come along and see, won’t you?

First off, in a nod to the spirit of the season, Dunkin’ Donuts released a slew of themed donuts. I tried their Spider Donut, but I wasn’t particularly impressed. “It’s a mess. Somewhere, Mary Berry is sobbing.” Read on to learn more!

Still got a touch of a sweet tooth? Well, why not try a Cadbury Screme Egg? “…I prefer the protoplasm look of that gooey sugar goodness. I’ve always been a weird kid.” Check out this treat to see if it’s something you’d fancy!

Want something savory instead?  How about Transylvanian cheese?  Happy Farms Preferred Transylvanian-Romanian Cave Cheese, to be exact. Let’s just say that if you’re able to get your hands on some, you should. There’s more to be had in the review, but for now let’s just leave it at this; ‘Thank you, Transylvania.’

And what better way to wash things down this spooky season with a Harry Potter themed drink? Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer is just the thing. ‘A nice quaff when you’re feeling Potterish. And this time of year, especially with #HarryPotter20, who isn’t?’

Cheetos’ Bag of Bones is a suitably spooky entry into the holiday snack aisle, and a perfect go-to for the season. And I’m pleased: ‘When you queue up a spooky movie this season, grab some of these to really get into the spirit.’

Robert looks at the Justice League Dark film: ‘Once I got started on the Justice League Dark comic, I had to go back and check out the 2017 animated film. If anyone is expecting a film version of the new comic series, guess again: the film was released before the new series was even announced, and while there are similarities, they are very different sorts of critters.’

Robert has a look at a suitably scary graphic novel from a story originally penned by Robert E. Howard: ‘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.’

And what would Halloween be without demons and ghosties and that sort of thing? Well, that’s what we get with the latest incarnation of John Constantine, in Hellblazer, Vol. 1: The Poison Truth. Says Robert: ‘I’ll be honest: John Constantine is not a comic book hero who has ever really grabbed me. I can’t think of any particular reason for that, unless it’s his rapid-fire delivery and glib personality. Maybe it’s because he’s a sociopath, and I’ve learned to be wary of those — even comics. (It’s a wonder how many of the characters in this collection really don’t like Constantine very much, but they go along with him.)’


Robert has a look at a fairly tale full of goblins, ghosts, and witches — it’s Philip Glass’ The Witches of Venice, based on the book by Beni Montresor: ‘The King and Queen of Venice are bemoaning the lack of an heir. Sure enough, two fairies appear from the Lagoon with a plant: if the King plants it in his garden, a child will be born. The King is not impressed and throws the plant out the window.’ You can guess what happens after that, but read the review anyway.

Gary tells us about an album of what’s called ‘dark polar ambient’ music by a Russian musician who performs under the name Ugansie: ‘If you like drone or ambient or dark experimental music, Border of Worlds is for you. If you just want something spooky to play in your haunted house at Halloween, ditto.’

Iain says ‘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 Opera. 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.‘

Robert has a What Not for us in keeping with the holiday — after all, what would Halloween be without bats flying around? In this case, another cutie from Folkmanis. You can read about it here.

Very long after the band recorded Leige and Leif, which Deborah plays proper homage to in, “Trad Boys, Trad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do….?” Liege & Lief remembered, Fairport Convention played the entire album live at their own summer bash, the ‘07 Cropredy Festival. Everyone who was on the 1969 recording save Sandy Denny who had passed on was on stage so with Chris While doing the vocals for this epic experience. The soundboard recording is stellar, so here’s ‘Tam Lin’ as performed on a warm summer night.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Apple Brandy

A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to Tessa, her botanist friend who is on an extended botanical collecting trip in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. She copied her letters into her Journal and her will stated that they should be shared after her death. Alex as she preferred to be called lived to be well over a hundred and indeed outlived her beloved Queen.

Dear Tessa,

I must confess that I just got over a headache brought on by drinking more than a bit of a most excellent apple brandy that we laid down ten years ago. We were celebrating the birth of a daughter to a couple who works here, Ingrid and Jacob. It’s their first and she takes after her mother in both her blue eyes and flaxen hair.

Our idea for doing apple brandy came to us from a Several Annie whose family in Normandy in the northwest of France was fond of Calvados, their version of apple brandy that is produced as a rather coarse, rough brandy that must age for several years to acquire its flavor, amber color and the right amount of alcohol, which our Brewmaster, Sven, says is ideally between 40 and 43 percent. Sven got the distillery equipment that he needed to produce it from France, and didn’t The Steward complain about the cost as he approved the funds transfer to our agent in Normandy.

We sampled it after the preferred two years of aging, then at five years, and now at ten years. Sven figured long aging would make it more smooth, less biting, and he was right. Sipped cold, it’s simply wonderful. And all too easy to drink while sitting by the roaring fireplace in the rooms of The Steward on a nippy early spring night.

We were also celebrating Ingrid’s being promoted to Lead Publican in the Green Man Pub when her baby was past nursing, the first woman to hold that post. She’s been studying with the retiring Lead Publican, who’s moving back to Glasgow so he and his wife can be near their grandchildren.

Love Alex

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What’s New for the 20th of October: Norwegian singer and songwriter Jens Carelius , Ciarán Carson Passes On, Brownies! Music from Steeleye Span, Books of An Autumnal Nature and Other Such Matters

Never trust the storyteller. Only trust the story.
Neil Gaiman’s Fables & Reflections

Québécois style pork pies, spiced with nutmeg, are the main entree for the eventide meal somewhat later on this Autumn day, along with roasted carrots, beets and onions, as the weather turned decidedly nippy over the past week, with even some nasty periods of freezing rain and sleet. Ironic, as I was putting together the invitations to Sixtieth Annual Estate Croquet Invitational which will be held here next Summer.

Before heading into the Pub for my evening shift, I was assisting Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and all around groundskeeper, with the gathering of the squashes, which had to be harvested before a hard frost harmed them beyond them being usable. And I do so look forward to the squash and smoked pork with pickled ginger soup that’ll be served for some cold Winter eventide meal!

Now shall I pour you a Conor McGregor’s Proper Irish Whiskey to enjoy while I put the finishing touches on this edition? And if you’re feel at all peckish, I recommend one of the apple and cheddar tarts that are still warm in the basket on the Pub bar. They’re quite excellent.

I’ve picked some fiction for you that I feel is perfectly Autumnal in nature. Even the Babylon 5 script is, though I’ll let you figure out how.

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.’

Neil Gaiman’s Day of the Dead: An Annotated Babylon 5 Script gets the lead-off note in Grey’s review: ‘Whenever two Babylon 5 fans meet, whether it’s at a used book store, a sci-fi speakeasy, or somewhere else that’s safe for our species, it doesn’t take long for conversation to turn to the required topics: “Who’s your favorite character?” “What’s your favorite season?” “What’s your favorite episode?” and so on. And whether your favorite character is Commander Sinclair (the real Commander) or G’Kar, whether your favorite season is the first or the third, it’s almost universally agreed that Season Five, Episode Eight, “Day of the Dead,” is one of the show’s top ten episodes.’

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.’

A review from William finishes off my picks: ‘In his typically enlightening and always entertaining style, Ray Bradbury puts his cold hand in ours and leads us through the darkness of a million wind-swept October nights in The Halloween Tree, a classic novel of dark fantasy. Recognized as a living legend of imaginative fiction, Bradbury is one of those few, precious authors who delivers the thrills he promises. Revered for such novels as Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles, and Fahrenheit 451, the author breathes such life into his fictions that we can’t help but share the enthusiastic energy exploding from his pen.’

Brownies anyone? Jen makes her whiskey, yes whiskey, soaked cherry brownies in big batches so she give them out as she so desires. Are they good? Oh YES!: ‘Eat them warm for a terminal chocogasm, alone or with ice cream and a glass of red wine.’

Robert got something rather nice from Bissinger’s Chocolates, a company founded in 17th Century France: ‘The example of their products that crossed my desk (well, landed on it) is the Caramelized Blood Orange, covered in dark (60%) chocolate, with hazelnuts. Being somewhat of a chocolate purist, I’m often dubious about additives, but since orange and chocolate are one of the classic combinations, I decided to give it a try.’

April says of a Matt Wagner graphic novel that ‘As far as character re-imaginings go, Madame Xanadu: Disenchanted is a lively, lovely read and more is definitely something to look forward to!’

She goes on to tell us about that second volume, Matt Wagner And Michael Wm. Kaluta’s Madame Xanadu: Exodus Noir: ‘ This second collection in Matt Wagner’s back story of Madame Xanadu has a more intimate focus than the first, which spanned a number of centuries and exotic locales.‘ Read her review for all the details on this story.

A sad note to lead off our Music section. Ciarán Carson, author of Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music, has passed away just recently. Both a keen trad Irish musician and a writer of quite some note about that music and all things Irish in general, he was a native of Belfast who died at seventy of lung cancer. A brilliant poet by trade, which you can see in our review of  his translation of Táin Bó Cúailngne:The Cattle Raid of Cooley).

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.

Norwegian singer and songwriter Jens Carelius has turned a legendary figure in his ancestry into a unique album, Gary says. ‘Opsi is a song cycle based on the diaries of Carelius’s great-great-grandfather Fritz Doerries … a German naturalist who spent much of his young life collecting butterflies and other animal specimens in the sub-arctic lands of eastern Siberia.’

Istanbul psychedelic rockers BaBa ZuLa have a new recording out, their first new release in five years but following close on the heels of their 20th anniversary retrospective called XX. Gary says the new CD, Derin Derin has ‘plenty of transcendant sound packed into each song and tune.’

A Parcel of Steeleye Span — Their First Five Chrysalis Albums 1972-1975 contains Below the SaltParcel of RoguesNow We Are SixCommoner’s Crown, and All Around My Hat! which was released as a set. Iain, our Librarian, got to review that impressive set which is taken from some of their early albums. ‘So the bottom line is that this is a near perfect introduction to one of the finest folk rock groups ever to grace Albion. Hell, you even get to hear the original recording of the song which they end nearly every concert with — ‘All Around My Hat’, off (obviously) the album of the same name.’

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.’

Steeleye Span is rather appropriately providing our taking leave song for this Edition. Not their ‘Tam Lin’ as that’d be more a Halloween thing, but rather their ‘One Misty Moisty Morning’ which seems so Autumnal in nature. It was recorded at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, NY on the twentieth of April forty six years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Harvesting

Dear Love,

I see from the papers that your tour with Leaf & Tree is getting glowing reviews across Canada. Hopefully this letter will reach in Halifax before your last performance there. (I know I can email you anytime but I like old-fashioned letters as do a fair number of the Kinrowan residents. I think it’s ingrained in the warp and weave of the Estate community.) I’m still surprised that medieval Swedish music is so popular among the older, more affluent Classical music audience.

Gus has been co-opting the Several Annies this past fortnight to help with the immense amount of late summer garden work (and grounds work as well) as the weather forecasts generally, according to his sources, agree with Tamsin, our hedgewitch in residence, that is going to be a brutally cold and rather snowy Winter. That means that everything must be checked and rechecked to make sure there are no nasty surprises, say slates coming loose in high winds or a barn door coming open because a hinge failed.

Tamsin indeed asked if there was a sheltered space that could be made ready for the many owls if need be. Gus said the big barn could be made so with just a bit of work by making entry spaces under the eaves. He noted that he didn’t know if the owls would take advantage off it so he will also add myriad shelter boxes in the woods around her cottage as well.

Mrs. Ware, despite the Estate now having reliable electricity thanks to the small hydro power station The Steward agreed to, still believes in root cellars and canning as much as possible. Pickles, relishes, fruits in honey, various vegetables, and even some meats get preserved for Winter use. And of course, lots of different sauerkrauts from the traditional cabbage ones to a decidedly quirky beet and carrot one.

Lastly there’s the matter of pumpkins and squashes. Either as part of a meal, in dessert forms say as pumpkin tarts, or in pumpkin ale, we use a lot of them and they must be harvested carefully so they’re not damaged. Gus has the Several Annies working with some of his lads on getting them harvested in the next two weeks which would be just after a light frost which helps mature them.

I must leave you now as a shipment of books awaits my attention. I’ll see you here in just over a week and I have a pleasant surprise for you!

With love, Iain

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What’s New for the 13th of October: Music from Aaron Copland, a Superstar, a Horrible Folk Tale, Tolkien (Again), a Cuddly Leopard, and Do Have an Apple and Cheese Tart

She is our moon. Our tidal pull. She is the rich deep beneath the sea, the buried treasure, the expression in the owl’s eye, the perfume in the wild rose. She is what the water says when it moves. ― Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood

They’re sort of linked, so may I recommend McKillip’s Winter Rose and Solstice Wood for your Autumnal reading pleasure on a rainy, cold afternoon? They’re elegant novels full of  very interesting characters involved in stories both fantastical and believable at the same time. The latter novel even has a lot of stitchers in it!

Needless to say they’re always on heavy circulation here at the Kinrowan Estate Library. The Library has been particularly busy this week as we’ve gotten that wet, wind and frankly cold weather which means outside chores are in abeyance. So I  asked for recommendations on what to read, a task I delight in doing.

The Kitchen staff under the watchful eye of Mrs Ware has been doing all things apple right now. Apple muffins, apple pie, chicken stuffed  with apples and bacon, apple ice cream… you get the idea. And of course we’re pressing cider as well, some of it destined to be what you Yanks call hard cider. If you’re interested in learning more about that process, I recommend Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide. Now let me finish off this Edition so you can read it…


April has a truly horrific folktale for us: ‘In Deerskin, Robin McKinley delves into a dark tale of royal incest, derived from Frenchman Charles Perrault’s “Donkeyskin”. At its simplest, this oft-neglected, disturbing tale revolves around a deathbed promise extracted from a King by his Queen, to marry no woman not at least her equal. The Queen may have had good intentions, or may simply have been petty; either way, the result is inevitably the same: the King dutifully promises, remains unmarried for a number of years, then notices the striking resemblance of his daughter to her late mother.’

We usually give you a blurb from the review that we’re linking to but Chuck’s look at Steven Brust & Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy, Steven Brust’s The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, and Boiled in Lead’s Songs From The Gypsy recording is quite resistent to being blurbed as it is a magnificent, sprawling review that is well worth you reading, so just go read it over a mug of hot cider with an apple and cheddar cheese tart to nibble on.

Robert has a trip back in time, sort of, to the days of Andy Warhol and The Factory, with a book that has more than a few surprises: ‘Imagine, for a moment, that it is the 1960s – the last half of them, actually – and that you are a small-town boy attending a major Midwestern university in a major Midwestern city, where you are majoring in theater and art. One thing that is very big in your circle is Andy Warhol’s movies. Michael Ferguson’s Little Joe Superstar: The Films of Joe Dallesandro is a little bit more than nostalgia, and a little bit more than dèja vu: it is a lot that you never knew at the time, that in a way you wish you had known then but, in a way, you’re glad you didn’t.’

Warner looks at a story about a story about a story — or something like that: ‘Stories about stories can be interesting, whether they fail or succeed in their own right.  Clay McLeod Chapman, in The Remaking, has given us a story about ghost stories which is itself a ghost story in which the tale of Ella Louise and her daughter Jessica is being relived over and over again through different eras of telling. The particular focuses are the classic campfire tale, the 1970s low budget horror film, the self-aware 90s remake, and the modern podcast.’

Robert’s always on the lookout for something easy and filling for dinner, and came across one that fits the bill: ‘I like Mexican food almost as much as I like Indian food. Well, I like food, especially if it’s easy to prepare and filling. It’s even better if it’s something I don’t have all the time — as in, I made a huge batch of it and now I have to eat it. One of the recent additions to my fast dinner repertoire is Jose Ole’s Steak and Cheese Chimichangas.’

Good thing Robert has us covered, because Denise gave Reese’s Wasabi Horseradish a try, and was none too impressed. ‘No. No no no no no. NO. This isn’t wasabi, it’s an abomination.’ Read her review to see exactly why you should give this a wide berth.

Grey starts off her review of The Fellowship of The Ring in this most proper manner: ‘When a reviewer makes specific comments about plot elements in a book or a movie, it is a common internet convention to say, “Spoilers ahead!” I cannot think of a single movie made in recent years for which that warning has been less necessary. J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings is the cornerstone of modern fantasy, the trilogy that most readers of fantasy under sixty either cut their teeth on or discovered as an already well-established and well-weathered feature on the landscape of fantasy fiction.’ Go read her ever so delightful review thisaway.

Ed says this is a weak excuse for a Greatest Hits compilation: ‘If you missed the Horslips the first time around — they disbanded in 1980 after 10 years together — here’s a chance to hear a small piece of their ground-breaking work. Horslips Greatest Hits is probably a good introduction to this Dublin roots-rock band, but at only 40 minutes and with a mere 12 tracks gleaned from just a few albums, it offers an awfully skimpy history. The liner notes are virtually nonexistent, an underwhelming three sentences. There is no indication of which albums these songs originally appeared on. The tunes aren’t laid out in any logical order — certainly not chronological or based on the band’s musical development. Indeed the song order seems random and disjointed, a mindless cut and paste job.’

Peter saw Steeleye Span on their Reunion Tour and he says ‘I know it is hard to put a band together with a lineup that creates that little bit of extra magic, but I have said it before and I will say it again: ‘This is the line up, they are the Steeleye Span that everyone remembers and loves.’ Long may they reign!’

Richard argues strongly that ‘Contrary to what the liner notes in the recent Pearls from the Oysters compilation suggest, the finest period in the Oysterband’s long and illustrious history was the three CD arc that began with Deserters and culminated in The Shouting End of Life. The Shouting End of Life, the last of the three, is the most bitter of the lot. Holy Bandits, its predecessor, is the angriest. And Deserters? It is, for lack of a better word, the bravest of the trio. It’s defiant without being vitriolic, proud without being arrogant and energetic without being enraged.’

Robert ran across something new from a favorite composer — a twofer, in fact: Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air and Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band: ‘A Rainbow in Curved Air is a hard piece of music to describe, in part, perhaps, because although easy to listen to (at this point in history, at least), it’s not really very easy to make sense of.’

After her horrible experience with ‘wasabi’ in this edition, Denise had a chance to snuggle up with her Emotional Support Puppet, Folkmanis’ Snow Leopard Cub. ‘I just stare into his big dark blue eyes and give him a pat. And another. And yet another. ‘I think I’m in love.’ As the days begin to grow darker earlier and earlier, and the weather has a nip i it, why not find comfort in a snuggle? Furred, faux or fleshed, doesn’t matter. Everyone needs a big of cheer as we dip into Fall.’


Where’s that music by Aaron Copland that feels perfectly Autumnal to me? Ahhh there it is! It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’ from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Bonfires

Nothing warms my heart and body as much as a bonfire does. Other than my wife that is. Oh I know that I could be inside with my wife Catherine enjoying the warmth of one of the many fireplaces in this old building, but I love, particularly as Fall gives way to Winter, being outside when a roaring bonfire’s been built.

We build bonfires often in the courtyard here at the Kinrowan Estate. Sometimes we have contradances deep into the night with bloody big mugs of hot chocolate, spiced cider or tea to aid in keeping everyone warm, and sometimes the Neverending Session treats those who care to come out in the cold to music by fire and moonlight. There’s something rather amazing to hear those musos play long into the night with the stars overhead.

Now building a proper bonfire is not something most folks know how to do. They think just throwing anything wooden into a pile and lighting is all there is to it. And we won’t even dwell on the idiots who use petrol to ignite their bonfires which is a sure way to get someone hurt badly.

A proper bonfire first of all needs a pit, preferably made out of stone. Ours is twelve feet across and three feet deep — need I say that it’s set a safe distance from anything that could catch fire? The wood for the bonfire should be a mix of softwoods like spruce and pine for both its quick burning and its lovely crackling sound; the hardwoods we use are maple and oak as they’ll burn a long time.

Our fire pit has a three foot wide flat lip — perfect for sitting on as the fire dies down. As the courtyard has a nice stone tile surface perfect for dancing (at least ’til it gets really cold), we often use the bonfire as a light source for those dances. And we’ve actually roasted whole pigs in the pit — really good eating that makes!

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What’s New for the 6th of October: A breakfast biscuit, Women in Genre Fiction, Princess Bride Times Two, Trad Plus, Robert Hunter RIP and Autumn has really arrived!

Brown-eyed women and red grenadine,
The bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean.
Sound of the thunder with the rain pourin’ down,
And it looks like the old man’s gettin’ on.

Robert Hunter’s Brown-Eyed Women

Remember I mentioned Ingrid, my wife, who’s the Steward for the Estate,  did an inventory of the woollen blankets that we got last October, as most staffers keep the heat cool enough in their sleeping areas not to be too warm, and woollen blankets are preferred covers by most every soul here? Well, these are really nice ones. Some blankets seem to get lost, some down the decades just wear out. And replacing them is bloody expensive! Well the ones we ordered from the Anatolian mills just came in. I sense much wonderful sleeping is upon us this Winter season!

I’ve had breakfast, well an early afternoon one of a really big biscuit brimming with smoked ham, well done egg as I like it to be, sliced onion and cheese along with lots of cardamon coffee, so I’m ready to finish this Edition off so you can go ahead and have a go of it. There’s music from the late Robert Hunter  and a look at The Princess Bride in both of its forms, along with lots of other neat stuff.

Up for a bloody good alternate steampunk adventure based in a Victorian London that wasn’t? Elizabeth has one for us: ‘Nevertheless, an unconvincing conclusion aside, S.M. Peters’ Whitechapel Gods is a gorgeously written, endlessly inventive steampunk novel and a truly entertaining read.’

Jayme has the Good Parts for us: ‘Some forms of fantasy are pure escapism. Other forms use magic and myth to promote social consciousness. And then there’s The Princess Bride, a book that exists in a class all its own. William Goldman’s tale of True Love, Harsh Revenge and Rodents of Unusual Size exhibits a gleeful audacity seldom seen in literature before or since.’

Kathleen has a bit of Southern magic for us: ‘Cherie Priest is a first time novelist. However, she writes with ease and a deceptive power, like the flow of the Tennessee River through her home city of Chattanooga. Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a Southern Gothic with a hint of hard boiled mystery: there’s grit in the magnolia honey and in the heroine as well.’

Warner says happily ‘Gauging the influence of women on genre fiction can be rather difficult due to years of gender bias in criticism and historical recording. As a result I was pleased to hear the announcement of Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson. I love histories and biographies, and this work combines the two rather effectively. Written in a colloquial, almost casual, style this book nonetheless is informative and clear. As a result it is not only useful, but could easily serve as a textbook in a class for beginners studying the subject matter.’Denise welcomes the new month by…reviewing a St. Patrick’s day brew? Well, it is stout season, so we’ll allow it. Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.’s Cookie O’Puss Limited Edition Stout had her happily draining her glass. ‘…a lovely cycle of mint, chocolate, raw cocoa, and roasted malt that’ll have you emptying your glass before you know it.’

Denise also took a bite of Billinger’s Coffee Toffee 75% Dark Chocolate, Almond Toffee & Rich Roasted Coffee bar. ‘Sometimes I feel as though I’m not cool enough for some of these uber-fancy chocolate bars. Such was the case with this one…’ Read her full review to find out what she thinks of this treat!

L.G. happily says ‘Envision a film with Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk, and Peter Cook that is absolutely hilarious, yet none of them appear in the lead roles. “Inconceivable!,” you cry and I reply, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” Yes, indeed, we are talking about The Princess Bride — the wildly successful movie based on the wildly successful book of the same title. Both book and screenplay were written by William Goldman which explains two things; 1) why they match up so well, and 2) why they’re both so very, very good. Fast-paced adventure and laugh-out-loud humor are combined to wonderful effect.’

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.’

Jack looks at a band back together after a very long break: ‘Pastures of Plenty, named for one of the more famous Woodie Guthrie song, brings back togather all the original members of the JSD Band for only the second time in the recording studio since their breakup in 1974. The band have been compiling new material over the last couple of years which draws from the same original mix of traditional Irish, Scottish and American traditional music along with a new song penned by fiddler Chuck Fleming. ‘

Meredith has a two-for for us: ‘Irish singer, songwriter, and vocalist Susan McKeown, originally of Dublin but now emigrated to New York City, is widely considered to be one of the fastest rising stars in contemporary music. She has released several critically acclaimed albums, both on her own and with her New York-based Celtic/jazz/rock band The Chanting House. She has proven herself to be a very versatile artist, as two recent collaborations amply illustrate.’

Aly Bain’s Aly Bain & Friends says Pat is ‘Exuberant, rich, steeped in tradition and eclectic, this album is a snapshot of one of the great fiddle players of recent times having a bit of fun. At the end of the day though, despite his forays into other musical genres, Aly Bain remains the quintessential Shetland fiddler and his many fans around the world are glad of it.’

So this What Not is a review of the masked Spider-Gwen figure, out of the many figures in the Rock Candy line of Marvel characters. She was more than a bit difficult to find, as she was a Hot Topic exclusive but she had long since disappeared from those stores by the time I managed to track her down some months later. The non-masked version showing Gwen Stacy with blonde hair was available online just about everywhere — at the original price.

I just learned that Robert Hunter died on the 23rd of September. Fuck. Since I rather like ‘Brown-Eyed Women’ quite a bit but my favorite version isn’t the one with Garcia singing that the Dead did, but rather is one done by Hunter who wrote much of what they played including this song and my favourite version is done by him during a show at Biddy Mulligan’s in Chicago on the tenth of October some thirty years ago. So let’s now listen to him doing that song.

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