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 just a few pieces up now but more will follow. 

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Chasing Fireflies

Come on in, you,re just in time! We haven’t started yet. Don’t just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I’m Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I’m also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we’ll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and oh, there’s a fiddler missing!

Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub? I’ve danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something. As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we’ll walk through the first dance. You’ll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, its very easy. It is so! Its just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don’t you worry, the other dancers will help you.

Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?

It’s that new porter that’s been tapped in the pub, Im sure. Béla’s developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You’re certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you’ll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in

Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Lets dance “Lady of the Lake”. Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back past around. Do a ladies’ chain over and back. Now balance and swing with that person below and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You’ve got it! Now, everyone back to place and well dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please.

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What’s New for the 16th of September: Tull live, a really big chocolate treat, a favourite reading space in Kinrowan Hall, Irish music books, good milk chocolate, live music from De Dannan, an excerpt from de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart and other matters as well

Do we ever fully know a tune, or only versions of it, temporary delineations of the possible? — Cairan Carson on the reel most commonly called ‘Last Night’s Fun’ in his Last Night’s Fun: In and Out of Time with Irish Music

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Summer is passing as it always does on the Kinrowan Estate in fits and starts with both unseasonably warm weather and weather that requires a fire be started in the rooms that Ingrid, the Estate Steward, and I have on the fourth floor of Kinrowan Hall. I think that the fire this time of year as the early Autumn rains begin in earnest is as much about feeling warm as being warm.

And they also applies to my fondness for both playing and listening to Irish music as both activities are quite comfortable.  It just feels good to be part either a member of the Neverending Session, particularly when they’re here in our Pub, or working behind the Bar when they’re playing as that space feels at its very best especially on an Autumn evening when there’s a chill in the air and they’re  playing this music.

So I’ve decided to select reviews of books that look at Irish music this edition and several choice albums get reviewed but this is not an Irish music edition as we’ve already have that here. No I just felt like directing you to several favourite things of this manner.

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Our Publisher has a look at Charles de Lint’s Forests of The Heart novel which I’m reading now and it says that we should ‘Have another drink and just listen to the music’ which I must say is most excellent advice. The novel  has an astounding description of Irish music sessions which we just added it to our Words section courtesy of de Lint and you can can read that here.

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

Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music gets reviewed by John: ‘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.’

Diana Boullier’s Exploring Irish Music and Dance gets a look from Kim: ‘Diana Boullier seeks to bridge the gap between children’s interest and the world of Irish traditional music.’

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

Robert has chocolate (funny how that works out, isn’t it?). This is another from Ritter, Ritter Sport Golden Edition Milk Chocolate Squares (and if you think that’s a mouthful, just wait): ‘I have another (huge) bar of chocolate from Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG of Germany, a major chocolatier. This one is the Ritter Sport Golden Edition Milk Chocolate Squares, and when I say “huge”, I mean just that: It’s about half a pound (8.8 oz, or 250 g) of fairly thick squares of milk chocolate.’

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Alistair looks at a recording from the Celtic Fiddle Festival, a group I like a lot: ‘Play On is the fourth release from a group of musicians who had no real intention of continuing as such beyond a one-off concert series in 1993. The enthusiasm, both on and off stage, generated by that project, which featured three of the Celtic world’s most noted fiddlers, Irishman Kevin Burke, Scot Johnny Cunningham, and Christian Lemaitre from Brittany has resulted, twelve years later, in hundreds of performances and numerous successful international tours.’

Brendan has a look at group that’s Irish to the core, to wit From the beginning: The Chieftains 1 to 4: ‘The Chieftains were one of the first modern Celtic music bands. Although completely traditional in material and instrumentation (even to point of eschewing any guitar or piano), they were one of the first bands to present Irish music to an international audience as a serious craft, whose still-quite-living tradition demanded serious attention. Paddy Moloney — then a founding member of the influential (and much larger) Irish group Ceoltoiri Chualann — formed the band in the early Sixties as a compact ensemble of Irish musicians showcasing purely Irish stylings.’

Chris was able to get into a sold-out show on Ian Anderson’s golden anniversary tour: ‘Fifty years ago, a group of young musicians from Blackpool released a record called This Was, launching the career of Jethro Tull, one of the most influential and original rock bands ever. This year, Ian Anderson is out on the road, celebrating this golden anniversary with a series of shows across the US and Europe.’

Gary reviews Ameriikan Laulu, the second release from Aallotar, the chamber-folk duo of Finnish accordionist Teija Niku and Finnish-American fiddler Sara Pajunen. ‘Throughout, this music is sharply observed and deeply felt.’

Lars brings us a look at an EP by someone who’s relatively new on the country music scene, Rachel Button’s Long Way Round: ‘Rachel Button is a singer, songwriter, fiddler and vocal coach. She was born and raised in Britain but she has also lived in Vancouver and Nashville, where this EP was recorded. Rachel started out as a folk performer, but here she is closer to mainstream country.’

Robert has a recording of music by contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, a group of shorter works gathered together in an album titled Da Pacem: ‘The music of Arvo Pärt, one of the best known contemporary composers, is something I’ve always found attractive. From my first recording of Passio, which was, believe it or not, my beach music for a whole summer way back when, I’ve been an enthusiastic follower of his works.’

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Our What Not is a look at a favourite reading space in Kinrowan Hall as Denise found a small charmer of a spot: ‘My favorite spot to read is a tiny rounded nook that’s just off the passage between the kitchen and the library. I sit on a large, overstuffed cushion on the floor, where I battle for supremacy with Blodeuwedd, who has decided that since I found her, I’m responsible for her . . . and her comfort. We usually find a happy compromise. Blod usually sits in the middle of the cushion, and all the mathematical formulas in the world couldn’t find the dead center of that cushion with more accuracy. After she gets comfy, I pack myself tightly underneath the little stained-glass window and lean myself back on the cool stone wall, which is a nice counterpoint to the heat of the kitchen. Cracking the window a bit gives a nice breeze and plenty of light for daytime reading. Being near the kitchen has its pluses and minuses; the kitchen staff often peek in and ask me to taste new recipes if they know I’m about. I keep hoping they’ll ask for my opinion of the wild mushroom and barley stew again, but the haggis omelet flambe was something even Blod was glad to see the back of.’

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Ysbaddaden and his brood are telling me that ’tis time for their eventide feeding, so I’ll take your leave now. Now where did the kitchen staff put that leftover smoked duck from last night? Ahhh, there it is! Let me feed them and I’ll see about some music to leave with you after their feeding, so one moment please…

So what am I leaving you with for Irish tradish music? Well it’s a choice live performance of ‘‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’ by De Dannan at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio nearly thirty years ago. This is before the band split into two, each faction not speaking to the other, with only a different spelling of the name as a way of telling them apart. As of five years ago, both bands were still active, and both are very much worth hearing live if they perform in your area.

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An Kinrowan Estate Story: Mushroom hunters


Well, here we are, are you ready? Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were among my fellow mushroom hunters! How d’you do? My name is Kate, I’m one of the Assistant Cooks in the kitchens here, and I’m all dressed like this to go mushrooming — oh yes, in Oberon’s Wood! Mrs. Ware has the most divine receipt for risotto with morels, just for this time of year.

Oh me, no, we never go mushrooming but in groups, and it’s the Head Gardener who leads us only. At least, in Oberon’s Wood! The King himself has given us permission to mushroom in his woods, so long as Mr. Eldridge invites him for one of the morel dinners, but it’s still quite a dangerous place. Only the Head Gardeners know all the ins and outs of getting in and out with the morels, and any group without the Head Gardener with them will run all the risks anyone does in the Wood.

We’re still waiting for Patrick to come back, you know — he was one of the under-gardeners about a century or so ago. They went mushrooming, he got separated from everyone else, and one of the Fey took a fancy to poor Patrick. The Head Gardener back then went to the Fey Court to protest and to try and get him back in one piece, but the most he could get was a promise that Patrick would be returned to us when his Fey was tired of him. It’s almost been a hundred years now, I believe, and that’s about the usual time, so the gardening staff has been on the lookout. I’ll bet Patrick’s gardens there are quite nice by now… I hope he’s not gone mad as a hatter.

Old Gus, our Head Gardener now, knows all the things to look out for, where the sweet spots are where the morels come back dependably, or as dependably as any morel patch does…and all the regular mushrooming things, of course, plus there’s the extra bits of mushrooming in a fairy wood. Mushrooming is dicey enough, what with poisonous ones and mushrooms that look like other mushrooms but aren’t, and all. Oh my, no, I don’t know all that, I go along to learn about mushrooms and mainly to help carry morels and other mushrooms back.

It’s rather dangerous, being one of the bag carriers, actually, so one of the senior Under Gardeners are always among us to take a look at the shrooms as people gather them and hand their bags over. There’s always little creatures in mushrooms, for they like them as much as we do, but the creatures from a fey wood are sometimes a tad more dicey to chase around one’s kitchen, especially if they’re angry for being doused in salt water when we soak the mushrooms. The King’s given the Cook a charm for the kitchen, but every now and again someone or something doesn’t get the hint, and sometimes we have to call one of our resident Fey in to help clear the kitchen.

There’s a story that the King once got a morel dish at dinner here with a fey creature in it — supposedly it jumped out of his dish and bit him on the finger, not realizing whose dish it was in. That was when he gave our Cooks the charm, see!

Mrs. Ware makes a lovely polenta with mushrooms, and that risotto with morels is Mr. Eldridge’s favorite, so he always gets to pick who shares that meal with him. The best recipes are the simplest — morels sauteed with a bit of butter are probably the very best, really. I like them in eggs though, for breakfast!

Oh, here comes Gus and the rest of our little party, boots and all — see you later, be sure to be here for dinner tonight, there’s bound to be morels!

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What’s New for the 9th of September: Summer hambos, A Tombstone fiction, Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, Junior Superheroes, and other matters of an Autumn nature


Fire on the Mountain. Run, boys, run!
The Devil’s in the house of the rising sun;
The chicken’s in the bread pan picking out dough.
Granny, will your dog bite? No, child, no.

Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’

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Autumn technically isn’t here for another couple of weeks but it’s damn cold in the morning and Ingrid, my wife, who’s the Steward for the Estate, just did an inventory of the woollen blankets that we’ve got, 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, really nice ones are. Some blankets seem to get lost, some down the decades just wear out. And replacing them is bloody expensive!

That Charlie Daniels song I’m quoting is, I think, on the Infinite Jukebox. I’ll check later to see if it is. A band we’ve got in played it last evening in the concert they did for us. 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 claimed to hail from Big Foot County though I couldn’t find any such a place in any gazetteer that we had, but that mattered not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments, which made for a very sweet sound.

April has a Western of sorts of us: ‘The gunfight at the O.K. Corral is one of those seminal historical events that every American knows about — or at least thinks they know. In the materials accompanying the ARC for Territory Emma Bull comments that there are many conflicting historical versions of the events leading up to those thirty seconds of gunfire that transpired between the Earp brothers (and Doc Holliday) and the Clanton gang. So instead of settling on any particular version of the truth, she set out to write a novel that could encompass all of them. I can’t claim to be well-versed in Tombstone historical lore, but I can vouch that Bull has done a excellent job of blending original characters and scenarios with the ureality of history into an entertaining read.’

Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale gets a loving look by Grey: ‘Cat Midhir has stopped dreaming. People assure her that it isn’t possible, that she just doesn’t remember her dreams, but Cat knows they’re wrong. Where her dreams have been, there is only heaviness and loss. For Cat, this loss means more than it would to most of us, because she is that rarest of all dreamers, a person who returns to the same dream every time she sleeps. In her dream world live her truest friends and her only source of inspiration for the books and stories that have won her acclaim in her waking life…’

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.’

Robert has a look at what he calls a ‘quasi-critical study’ of a giant of American literature, Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction: ‘Ray Bradbury has always presented a problem for the science-fiction establishment: from Judy Del Ray’s comment defining the field by invoking Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, and noting “one could almost add Bradbury,” to his being solemnly consigned to the nether regions by critics and scholars for not fulfilling the “requirements” of the genre (whatever those might happen to be in any given circumstance), he represents a quandary.’

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I’ve found that reviewers are always hungry so Jennifer’s recipe is one they should like: ‘These empanadas are quick’n’dirty. You will like them just as much as my Mexican Casserole, but unlike the casserole, this recipe gives you only four to six spicy empanadas with an irresistable flaky, browned-butter crust and a juicy chorizo center. The finite number of empanadas means you can still overeat, but you won’t actually pop.’

But if you’re feeling like a quick meal rather than a recipe – and who hasn’t had that feeling now and again? – Denise reviews Trader Joe’s Boneless Skinless Mackerel in Sunflower Oil. And she’s got a tip for you; ‘Hey save that oil! Why? It’s delicious tossed with pasta. ‘ Read what she’s got to say about the fish itself in her review!

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Robert has a twofer for our Graphic Literature department this week, starting with Allan Heinberg’s Young Avengers: ‘After reading Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways, I decided that Young Avengers was one series I definitely wanted to follow up on. It was worth it.’

And he followed up into a second collection, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade: ‘As our story opens, the Young Avengers are battling the Sons of the Serpent, a paramilitary group (read “militia”) devoted to racial and moral purity — their words, not mine — when Captain America, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel show up — just in time for Wiccan (Billy Kaplan) to unleash a psychic blast that KOs the Sons and about half of Lower Manhattan.’

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I don’t think we’ve ever reviewed a music video but Cat decided that he’d take a look at the Primus animated version of Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, so he did: ‘Primus, a rock band from San Francisco, recorded this version of Charlie Daniels’ classic, which was released as a Claymation music video on their 1998 Rhinoplasty EP and its companion Videoplasty video album, and also re-released on their 2003 EP Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People.’

Denise gets an early jump on what she likes to call ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ – otherwise known as Halloween Season – by looking at Charmed: The Complete First season. ‘No matter if you lost track of the Halliwell sisters after Prue’s departure, Phoebe’s flirtation with the dark side, or the coming of the kids, Season One is worth a peek for it’s straight-up look at sibling power, wiccan and otherwise.’ Check out her in-depth review for more!

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Cat looks at a recording from 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 us a debut album by two old hands performing as a new duo, Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson’s Temporary Kings: ‘I was sad and a little concerned in 2017 when pianist Ethan Iverson left The Bad Plus, the modern jazz trio he helped found nearly 20 years ago. Not to worry, though. [He’s] creating vital new music of his own. One place he’s doing that is in this duo with sax player Mark Turner. The two met at New York jam sessions in the ’90s and have played and recorded with the Billy Hart Quartet, but Temporary Kings is their debut as a duo.’

Mike says of this recording by Alban Faust  and Josue Trelles  that ‘At first glance at a bi-cultural collaboration like Polska pa Pan, I’ve come to expect one of two possibilities. The collaboration can be an exchange of traditions or it can be slanted towards that of one of the participant’s. This CD definitely is in the latter category, but the project is so well executed I can easily live with it.’

What happens to tradition when a contemporary composer gets his hands on it? Robert has some thoughts on that in his review of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 7, “Toltec”: ‘Philip Glass was invited to compose a work for conductor Leonard Slatkin’s 60th birthday season with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2005; the result was the Symphony No. 7, “A Toltec Symphony”, based on the wisdom tradition of the ancient Toltec civilization of Mexico.’

For our What Not this week, Robert took another trip to his favorite museum (Again? Well, there’s a lot to see) and an exhibition for school kids, “What Is An Animal?”: ‘When I was a small child (as in, about five years old), my father would take me to the Field Museum; I always wanted to look at the “stuffed animals.” (And I should note that the “stuffed animals” on display are barely the tip of the iceberg of the Museum’s specimens.) In the intervening years, the Museum has done some rethinking on the organization of those exhibits, grouping them in ways that more or less make sense (“Mammals of Asia,” for example). One thing that is new (well, since I was five) is an introductory exhibit geared toward school children, “What Is An Animal?”’

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Our music coda is indeed ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ but not as done by the band that created it but rather by the Levellers, an English folk rock band whose music we’ve reviewed here over the years, including this review by Jack Merry of not one, but two collaborations between them and McDermott’s 2 Hours.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Oh That Biography

So you want to know about the Sandy Denny bio that Reynard was alluding to in the Pub earlier this evening?  Well I can’t give any specifics about it but I can tell the tale by changing the names of all involved. A writer for a long gone American music magazine, call it Frets, decided to write a biography of Sanny Denny who died as the result of  a fall down some stairs at her home even though her death was some weeks later. The Coroner’s Inquest found mid-brain trauma to be the cause of her death.

if you need to acquaint your self with her as an artist, go read read read Deb’s review of Leif  & Leige which will be more than enough to make you realize some was truly among the world’s best musicians, not just one of the world’s finest English folk musicians. I’ll wait — go read it .

She just over thirty years old when she died, a tragedy for a folk musician of high esteem working with Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, the Strawbs and otherwise. Here’s a link to her singing with Fairport, circa —-.

He got an advance from a well-regarded publisher here in Britain and set out doing interviews and such. So far, so good. And then she turned in her draft which was when the shit started piling up. It’s been speculated on who was her pusher. (Her husband had left her and taken their daughter as her drug usage was getting worse rapidly.) And the writer decided to say who it was, a gross speculation at best. (I read the draft — hid evidence was scant at best. And I no longer remember who it was. And the Infinite Jukebox, our figital media server, no longer has the PDF on it.) Hid publisher hit the roof and said that bit had to go (he refused), so he got a ban from it being published anywhere and demanded the advance back. And that’s where the story ends.

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What’s New for the 2nd of September: Steeleye Span’s ‘Robbery With Violins’, New Zealand candy, Colombian music called vallenato, a Benjamin Britten bio, First chapter of James Stoddard’s The High House and Autumn is Coming

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 now departed Josepha Sherman in her Winter Queen Speech some years ago.

I know it’s a little odd to be quoting those words as Autumn is yet to arrive here with its promise of bonfires, fresh pressed cider, of blackberries fat and tart on their prickly bushes  and pumpkins still ripening on the vine, but it’s also the time of year that we get serious about getting ready for Winter. If you visit us on this Scottish Estate, someone will no doubt ask you to pitch in on some task that needs doing. So dress appropriately, have a good attitude, sturdy footware and you’ll be appreciated here quite nicely.

Now why don’t you give me a few minutes to finish up this Edition and we’ll head off to the Kitchen as the season’s upon us when the staff’s making babka, that exquisitely chocolate, rich Eastern European sweet, leavened bread along with just as tasty rugelach, both a good treat as the weather cools…

Donna leads us off a look at two non-fiction books regarding ‘the Raj, the British rule over large parts of the Indian subcontinent as she read David Gilmour’s The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj and Lawrence James’ Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India, and concluded that ‘although these are both serious and well-researched history books, they are readily accessible to the general reader.’

So what does Iona and Peter Opie’s The Classic Fairy Tales have to offer that makes it worth being reprinted numerous times since its first publication in 1974? Chiefly this says Grey: ‘collected here are twenty-four of the best-known traditional fairy tales as they were first published in English. The earliest is “The History of Tom Thumbe, the Little, for his small stature surnamed, King Arthvrs Dwarfe: Whose Life and aduentures containe many strange and wonderfull accidents, published for the delight of merry Time-spenders,” dated 1621. The text from which “Hansel and Gretel” — the last tale in the collection — is taken was published in 1853.’

Michael has a look at the first two books, The High House and The False House in the Evenmere trilogy by James Stoddard: ‘Welcome to the House that God built. Evenmere, the High House, that unending ever-changing building which crosses and contains worlds. It is, and represents, all Creation, an enigma, a parable, a mystery. Within its halls and rooms, passages and basements, attics and terraces, are the undreamt worlds, the lands of dream, places like Ooz and Innman Tor and Arkalen. The House bridges upon our own world, but is far more than a house. It just Is.’ We’ve just added the first chapter of the first novel to our Words section here.

Robert brings us some comments on what might be the definitive biography of a giant of modern music, Humphrey Carter’s Benjamin Britten: A Biography: ‘Whatever one may think of Benjamin Britten’s place in the history of music, there is no doubt that his life provides a fascinating and insightful look into the place of the artist in the twentieth century.’

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

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

We get an enthusiastic review of a somewhat unusual manga — well, considering the creator, that is. Robert says: ‘BL manga legend Youka Nitta’s Otodama: Voice from the Dead, is not BL. It’s a crime thriller, and it’s a good one.’

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.’

Gary enjoyed Daisy’s Beauty Salon, the latest release by the Los Angeles-based band Very Be Careful, which he says plays a style of Colombian music called vallenato. ‘The song titles, lyrics and simple melodies all speak to this music’s origins as a working class dance music.’

Gary is also enthusiastic about a new honky-tonk record from Cliff Westfall. ‘Baby You Win is music you can dance to, whether a fast shuffle or a slow waltz. Electric guitars and pedal steel and high harmonies. Sad songs that make you laugh and funny songs that make you cry, quick with a turn of phrase that brings you up short.’

Jo looks at a Welsh recording, Telyn: ‘Fans of Robin Huw Bowen and the Welsh triple-harp tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’

Richard gives a detailed review of what turned out to be a spectacular evening at Minnemeers Theater despite some preconceptions: ‘I have seen June Tabor live numerous times in recent years and I thought I knew what to expect at her concerts. I own just about every recording she ever made, the first review I wrote for GMR, when it was still Folk Tales, was of a Tabor CD and I do not expect many surprises from her performances.’

Our What Not is the time that we once asked  Josepha what her favourite folk music was: ‘OK, my dear: I play the folk harp a wee bit (I’m sadly out of practice) and of the older songs, I like ‘Sumer is icumen in,’ ca. 1260 or so, by our old friend, Anonymous. I like it both for the melody and the words, which are cheerful and alive with the image of animals jumping about for the joy of it. It also makes for a cheerful round for several voices. For the earliest songs, though we don’t have the melodies, alas, I love some of the Ancient Egyptian love songs, which are downright modern — such as the one about the girl who sees her boyfriend and rushes out to meet him with half her hair still undone!. She went on to note The Ancient Egyptians had our concept of romantic love, btw, clear in their songs. There’s even a sadly fragmentary one of a wife undressing her husband, who’s passed out after what was clearly too much drinking at a party, and how she loves him even so.’

Steeleye Span’s just now gearing up for its fiftieth anniversary tour, just the British Isles this time if I remember correctly. The current lineup’s is good as any that’s existed in very long and distinguished career but today’s cut is when violinist Peter Knight (who once took extreme exception to a review we wrote) was still a member.

Our music this edition is ‘Robbery With Violins’ was recorded at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, NY on the 20th of April 1973 which means the band was Tim Hart on guitars and vocals, Maddy Prior as lead vocalist, Peter on strings, keyboards, guitars and vocals, Bob Johnson on guitars and vocals with Rick Kemp on bass, drums and vocals.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Biscuits

BISCUIT

JAM

BUTTER 

BISCUIT 

On a t-shirt worn by an American tourist visiting the Estate

Okay, let’s make one thing clear: an American-style biscuit is not the biscuit you find here in Scotland, which is more akin to the thing Yanks call a cookie. That biscuit is a sort of bread made with flour, water, baking soda or yeast, and, well, that’s it. The ones made here by Mrs. Ware and her talented staff most likely were first made here a century ago when we hosted for a summer a number of American farm workers interested in learning how a Scottish farming Estate worked.

They were a very tasty addition to the baked goods here as they made for most perfect hand meals with such fillings as smoked ham and cheese, or, when the weather was cooler so the contents didn’t spoil, baked turkey and our own mayonnaise. The ones we make are a good four or so inches across and each part of the biscuit is easily a full inch thick. 

The best ones I think are with butter, lightly salted of course, and jam, usually strawberry but raspberry and even blackberry have been known to meet with my favour, especially just out of the oven, particularly on a sharply cold Autumn morning when the all too fast approaching Winter means every able-bodied staffer is going to be putting in a long day on chores around the Estate.

So let’s head down to the kitchen to get one of those freshly baked biscuits with whatever jam you like and butter, along with a coffee, or tea if you prefer. Though we’re pressing cider now and that’s a nice pairing as well!

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What’s New for the 26th of August: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Imagine film, Mint juleps, First chapter of an Emma Bull novel, Leonard Bernstein, Aretha Franklin, Peter Beagle on chocolate and other end of summer matters

Traditionally, people are always supposed to feel empty, devastated, when a god leaves them. Nobody seems to wonder how the god might feel. Leaving the only people who almost understood. — Peter Beagle’s Summerlong

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Yeah that’s Peter Beagle — author of such delightful works as the above-quoted  Summerlong along with In CalabriaTamsin and of course The Last Unicorn to name but three of his many works — over in the sitting area in the Kitchen here at Kinrowan Hall.

Reynard and he have been talking about ales and he says that ‘When I can get it — and I only know one pub in Berkeley that stocks it — I’ll take Blackened Voodoo, which is really a dark ale (as is the Brazilian Xingu, which is even harder to find). Blackened Voodoo is a Dixie Beer product; I think Katrina almost put them out of business — anyway, I couldn’t find it for quite a while. Sierra Nevada’s always a reliable bet, but BV’s worth the extra searching…’

He’s just been offered a particularly decadent chocolate bar and the Several Annie is asking him if he wants it: ‘Whatever you may have heard, it is not true that I have ever killed for really good chocolate. Trampled … well, sort of.  But only when the person was directly between the chocolate and me.  I mean, after all …’ and I see the chocolate is indeed to his liking.

If you like chocolate, may I recommend the strawberries dipped in dark chocolate over in the cooler? Tasty, aren’t they? Yes they’re bone white in colour — all  Border strawberries start red and turn white when ripe. You can find them in Emma Bull’s Finder — A Novel Of The Borderlands which  is reviewed this time and whose first chapter can be found in our Words section.

Cat has one of his favourite novels for us: ‘Emma Bull has written a fair number of novels in her career and all of them are superb in their own way. Be it Bone Dance, Finder or War for The Oaks, 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. You can read the first chapter here courtesy of her.’

J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec’s Gaslight  Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes gets a review by Kage: ‘Here we have an anthology of eleven stories by diverse hands set in Sherlock Holmes’ universe. As the subtitle implies, however, there are more fantastic creatures roaming around in this particular universe than ever Holmes encountered in the days when Arthur Conan Doyle was getting the royalty checks.’

Ellis Peters’ Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, a favourite novel of mine for autumnal reading,  receives a loving look by Lenora: ‘This is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and fact combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series took a while to hit its stride, but, as Robert notes in his review of Summer Knight, it did: ‘I read Storm Front and Fool Moon, the first two volumes in the Dresden Files, when they first came out, and enjoyed them but wasn’t so overwhelmed that I kept up with the series. My bad. Summer Knight, the fourth book, shows that the series has grown up and become a substantial companion to Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novels and Tanya Huff’s Blood series.’

Raspberry dividerDenise digs into Epic’s Bison Uncured Bacon & Cranberry Bar, and thought it was absolutely delicious.  But she’s got a warning; ‘Think of this as a snick-snack, and you can enjoy this delicious bar as it should be enjoyed; as a treat.  But folks looking for a long-term hunger basher and/or meal replacement will want to look elsewhere.’ Read why in her review!

It’s late Summer and Jennifer has an easy way to make a damn fine mint julep, a classic American southern  drink: ‘Some author, I believe it’s Wodehouse, reports that the mint julep is like a baby sister who steals her little hand in yours, and the next thing you know, the judge is telling you to pay five pounds to the bailiff. (That’s an approximate quote.) Sounds like Wodehouse, doesn’t it?’

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More Jim Butcher, this time in graphic novel form, which Robert has some thoughts on: ‘Jim Butcher has moved the Dresden Files into the realm of graphic novels with Welcome to the Jungle, a prequel of sorts to his series on the adventures of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard for hire.’

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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.’

A debut 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.’

It’s Leonard Bernstein’s centennial,and Robert brings us two landmark recordings. The first is Bernstein’s Mass: ‘Lights! Camera! Kyrie! Sounds rather theatrical, doesn’t it? Some might even say disrespectful. It’s no surprise, then, that Leonard Bernstein’s Mass generated so much controversy at its premiere in 1971. Thirty-five years later, the controversy is muted.”

He follows up with The Original Jacket Collection: Bernstein Conducts Bernstein: ‘I’ve mentioned before that there are vanishingly few orchestra conductors in the twentieth century whose names have become household words. There are, if anything, even fewer composers who have achieved that degree of notoriety. Leonard Bernstein is all of the above: conductor, composer, and household word.’

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In 1971 John Lennon and Yoko Ono filmed the recording of John’s Imagine album. They created a conceptual film also called Imagine, edited to a soundtrack created from that album and Yoko’s FLY. It’s being re-released to cinemas (as well as DVD and Blu-Ray), and we’re pretty excited about that. Its guest stars include George Harrison, Fred Astaire, Andy Warhol, Dick Cavett, and more. It’s got previously unreleased cinema-exclusive bonus material such as studio footage of John and the band (including Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, Alan White from Yes and Klaus Voormann) performing ‘How Do You Sleep?’ and ‘Oh My Love’ in Dolby surround sound. Here’s a trailer for Imagine, and you can find out where and when it’s playing here and learn more about the related releases, too.

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Our coda this week is a tribute to the late great Aretha Franklin. Watch this very upbeat performance of one of her signature songs (there are so many), ‘Respect’.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood, Part II

Ah, there you are! I’m so glad you’re back again, because now I get to finish the story Kit told me about the Handfasting of the King and Queen of the Faeries.

Where was I? Oh, right — Kit and I were sitting on our log and having a bit of a snack from that miraculous hamper of his, and he said, ‘Anyhow, she was Queen in her own right, Lady of the Blessed Ones who live here in the Wood, though they stay pretty much to themselves. Beautiful they were, all of them, as the Fay are, but she was the most beautiful: all moonlight and night skies, with great lovely eyes that spoke riddles and answered with mysteries, a tall and regal Lady indeed. He was a vagabond prince, a lord of the fianna, as much as they would have such a thing, all golden, a dashing figure shining in the twilight, and his eyes were full of sorrow and joy, but there was ever laughter in his voice. Some said he was a son of the Lord of Beasts — he had that sort of wild look to him — and some said he was the Lord himself, or one of his brothers. And some said she was more than she seemed, and that her mother was the Moon herself. And that night was the night they were wed.

‘The guests came from all over. There were the retainers, of course, and a delegation from the Unseelie Court, and a party of dwarves and kobolds, led by a brawny man who walked with a limp, and a group of the water-folk who stuck close to that brook there,’ and he leaned close and pointed it out to me, ‘and others who you could see were very important, although I didn’t catch their names. One woman — African, she looked — arrived in a great wind, with sheets of lightning across the sky. She was an ample woman, but ‘lovely, as a ripe yam is lovely,’ as they say, and with her was a tall skinny man who had a twinkle in his eye and a big smile. And there was a beautiful Chinese lady, dressed all in silks, who arrived with a large rabbit. (I noticed a number of rabbits in the woods around, and foxes, and the Cats all seem to have trooped down from the House. That might explain the way the evening went.) And a quiet young man with a white dove on his shoulder; everyone treated him with great respect, as they did the wild-looking, dark-haired man wearing a leopard skin, who greeted the quiet man as ‘Brother.’ And there was another couple I remember, quite striking they were: he was blue, but a fine looking man nevertheless, with large, lustrous dark eyes, and she was dusky and curvy, and very beautiful. They had with them a boy, a lovely little thing with long lashes and a mop of curly black hair. I remember when they arrived they presented the boy to Herself, to be her servant. I don’t think they noticed the look on the King’s face at all. There were more, but I can’t remember them all — it was quite the turnout. Almost the last to arrive, though, was a very young man, with a bow — a great hunter’s bow it was — and a quiver of wicked looking shafts. That caused a stir at first, but one look into those eyes of his and no one argued. Old, they were, as old as anything, and no pity in them at all.’ He shivered. ‘He was treated with great deference — I heard someone call him ‘Eldest,’ so I suppose that was it, although he seemed the youngest. With this bunch, though, there’s no telling. He drew aside with the Quiet Man and the Leopard-Skin Man, and the three of them stood there talking quietly.

‘The ceremony was brief, as such things tend to be among the Old Believers, and then the couple stripped off and swam the brook, then ran straight to their bower.’ He leaned closer and pointed to where the bower had been. He smelled musky and fresh at the same time. ‘Well, then everyone relaxed and started eating and drinking and visiting — most of them seemed to know each other, and it was quite the happy crowd. The musicians struck up a tune, and the Blue Man and his lady led the dancing — such dancing it was! I’ve never seen anyone dance like he did, graceful and forceful, and . . . well . . .’ he gave me a sidelong look — and he was blushing again. ‘And a little, uh, suggestive, if you know what I mean. I saw the Chinese lady’s rabbit over by the drinks table talking to the Leopard-Skin Man, and the tall skinny African man joined them. The faeries danced, and then the kobolds and dwarves did a dance — a noisy, stomping dance — and things were just getting a little loose and friendly when there was this shriek like all the bean-sidhe ever were proclaiming the death of everything, and the King came splashing across the brook without a stitch on, looking more than ready to do his husbandly duty, snatched that pretty boy up and ran off into the woods with the boy clutched to him, and his bride racing along behind him swinging a claymore — I’ve no idea where she got it — and screaming curses and oaths like a whole crew of sailors.

‘Well, no one knew what to do. The retinues lined up on opposite sides of the glen eyeing each other, and the dwarves and kobolds drew off to the third side, although the lame man was laughing and cheering the King on (which earned him no few dirty looks). Everyone else just looked confused, except the Leopard-Skin Man, who was standing off to one side smiling to himself. Suddenly he gave a great shout and waved his hand, casual like, you know? There came heady scent in the air, like a fine strong wine, and everyone just started throwing things and tackling each other and yelling. The Quiet Man walked up to him and spoke with him, quite urgently, but I think it was too late — with all the shouting and fighting, it was a sorry mess.

The Eldest was standing off to the side and started shooting people with his arrows, but no one seemed to get hurt. I noticed when he hit those who were going hand-to-hand, the fighting — well, they didn’t really seem to be fighting any more, you know? And the ones who weren’t going hand-to-hand soon were, although they all seemed to be enjoying it a great deal.’ I noticed he was really blushing. ‘It wasn’t much of a party at that point, so I left before I got hit with something. But I wonder if I should have stayed.’

It had gotten cool, and he reached into that hamper again and drew out a blanket, which we shared. ‘And that’s just the way it happened. Probably.’ That twinkle was back in his eyes, but it was different, somehow. And his hands were very warm.

Oh, sorry — got distracted for a moment. At any rate, that’s Kit’s story of the Handfasting of the King and Queen of Faerie, just the way he told it to me, and he should know, having been there. What’s that? My eyes? Well, they’ve always been green, but. . . . Really? Well, I suppose things happen when you spend a night in the Wood.

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What’s New for the 19th of August: an exhibition hall of all things Chinese, Irish music live and reviewed, fantasy reading, a fantasy film, salmon bites and other tasty things

A note: At long last, we’re back after some misadventures in online publishing. We now resume our regular programming:

‘Name the different kinds of people,’ said Miss Lupescu. ‘Now.’ Bod thought for a moment. ‘The living,’ he said. ‘Er. The dead.’ He stopped. Then, ‘… Cats?’ he offered, uncertainly.  — Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book

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So it’ll be a John Crabbie’s Ginger Beer for you? Excellent choice. Did you know the Company’s in the process of opening up a new whisky distillery? The Scotsman has the details here on their website. Give their whiskies a few dacades to age and they should be rather good.

Too damn bad that Iain Banks, author of such SF novels as The Hydrogen Sonata, hadn’t lived to see it open as I’m sure that he as author of  Raw Spirit, a book suitably subtitled In Search of the Perfect Dram would have had a few thoughts on their products.

We’ve got some fantasies for you this time, all I’d say suitable for the coming Autumnal evenings. We’ve also got some Irish music, both reviewed and for you to listen to, Robert has a film that was more fun than he expected it to be and some interesting manga for you as well, and he’s makes yet another a visit to his favorite museum. Oh and Denise look at salmon and cookies, no not a single product… So let’s get started…

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Cat starts off our book reviews with a look (a listen?) to the latest from GraphicAudio, Simon R. Green’s Once in a Blue Moon — but first, a bit about the publisher: ‘First, a thanks to the GraphicAudio staff for providing this for review. I’ve reviewed quite a number of their productions in the past, including several in their World of Lipi, Ghost Finders and Rogue Angel, so I’m going to lead this review off by talking about what they do and also about the GraphicAudio app, which is how I’m listening to this work.’

Kestrell waxes poetic on Theodora Goss’ In The Forest of Forgetting: ‘Every book is a grimoire, a witch’s recipe book for summoning thoughts and feelings, travels and transformations. Books of different genres can be used to invoke different seasons: horror for the haunted harvest time of late autumn, mysteries for the long nights of winter, and ghost stories to accompany the thunderstorms of spring. But fantasy — with its bewitching call to be out and away — is for summer. One June day you may open a book of fantasy stories and notice that, as if dried petals had been pressed between its pages, the faintest scent of roses begins to stir upon the air, banishing the last memories of wool socks and raincoats. Your senses begin to awake, slowly noticing that wisps of birdsong and tendrils of soft breezes have come curling like magically growing vines through the crack of a half-open window, inviting you to escape.’

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.’

Robert was going through his bookshelves and ran across one that’s worth a look: Greg Bear’s Songs of Earth and Power: ‘Greg Bear is known for his science fiction, despite the fact that his first two published books were fantasies — Blood Music and The Infinity Concerto, which is the first part of Songs of Earth and Power. The second part, The Serpent Mage, was originally published a number of years after Concerto. Bear has revised them to stand as one novel, and quite a novel it is.’

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Robert found a DVD that turned out to be a lot of fun — it’s pure Edgar Rice Burroughs: Andrew Stanton’s John Carter: ‘I missed John Carter in the theaters, but ran across the DVD on one of my browsing trips through Amazon. I figured I’d probably enjoy it, but I remember my first question was “Who is Taylor Kitsch?” As it turns out, Taylor Kitsch portrays Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the combination of pretty face and gruff voice was too much to pass up. And I found the DVD for half price. How could I say no?’

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Epic Bites’ Maple Glazed & Smoked Tender Salmon Bites Get gets, errr, consumed by Denise: ‘ Mmm, salmon. I never liked fish when I was a kid – blame that on a mother that overcooked every finned creature to sawdust – but when I started cooking for myself I fell in love with salmon. Miso glazed, wood plank grilled, poached, however it’s prepared I’m up for it. So when I found out that Epic came out with a jerky-esque salmon – “100% Wild Caught Salmon” – I couldn’t wait to give it a try. And these Bites are, in fact, Epic.’

On the other hand, Stonewall Kitchen’s Cocoa Sea Salt Caramel Waffle Cookie doesnt quite please Denise: ‘I fell in love when I visited Belgium. Waffle cookies. Stroopwafel. While the cookies originated in the Netherlands, I first tasted them on a trip from Paris to Amsterdam, a small packed of two I grabbed up during a break at a gas station. Now a US company has decked out these cookies with luscious add-ons like cocoa and sea salt…but I’m missing the plain-ol’ deliciousness of the original.’

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Robert offers a take on one of the most unusual superhero duos, James Asmus’ Quantum and Woody! Vol. 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team: ‘I’ll be very honest here: James Asmus’ Quantum and Woody! had me at the cover. How can you beat “The World’s Worst Superhero Team”? (And yes, there’s a goat.)’

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Brendan says in his review of the first four Chieftains recordings that ‘For an excellent assortment of really great Irish music, this set of CDs really cannot be beat. Each clocks in at about 40 minutes, which means that the Chieftains packed their LPs as much as possible, and which also means that there are many other gems on these CDs that I’ve left out in this review. ‘

Cat says: ‘Australian author and Celtic musician Paul Brandon, who wrote of one of the finest fantasy novels of recent years, Swim the Moon, has a new novel, The Wild Reel, coming out this summer. He’s also a great fan of Lúnasa, who are capable of some really wild reels! Now, I know that Paul hasn’t heard this album yet, but I’m certain that he’ll find the very wild reels and jigs here to be quite fine, as The Kinnitty Sessions is the first live recording that this group has released. ’

He also looks at this recording: ‘It’s no secret that we love Gaelic music around here.  For this issue, Cat takes a listen to Skara Brae’s Skara Brae, an album that is widely considered the most important album of Gaelic music ever produced. ‘Skara Brae was the first group that put harmonies to Gaelic songs…. For lovers of songs in Irish this album is a must.’

Mike looks at one of the the more interesting Irish sort of trad bands: ‘Nightnoise was formed in the early 1980s by the recently departed Irish traditional musician, Micheál Ó Domhnaill and American violinist, Bill Oskay. They were soon joined by Micheál’s sister, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and flautist, Brian Dunning, with Oskay eventually being replaced by the late Scottish fiddler, Johnny Cunningham. Pure Nightnoise presents a compilation of material spanning the band’s career, from their first album — 1984’s Nightnoise, right up to their 1995 album, A Different Shore.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert makes a visit to his favorite museum, this time to the Cyrus Tang Hall of China: ‘No, I don’t know who Cyrus Tang is, or was, but I suspect this exhibition is named for him because a major portion came from his collection. That said, the exhibition itself gives an overview of the history of China from the Neolithic to the early 20th Century.’

Our parting music for you this Edition is ‘An Cailin Rua’ from Skara Brae’s Reunion Concert recording made at the Dunlewey Lakeside centre in Centreon, Donegal on the second of January, some fifteen years ago. Now don’t go looking to order it as it was never released commercially but I was handed a soundboard recording of it and it’s one of the most played performances by me as both the music itself and the recording of it are first rate.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Wood

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Hi there, it’s me — Robert. Here, come sit with me under this oak tree here. I was just remembering the other night at the Pub. It had gotten late and we were all sitting around swapping stories, and of course I can never think of a story when I need one, but I just remembered one that Kit, the woodsteward, told me. That’s what he calls himself, ‘woodsteward,’ although forest warden or ranger might be just as accurate. He takes care of the Wood behind the GMR building (as much as it needs caring for — it’s a self-sufficient sort of place, when all is said), and he’s quite an interesting character. He’s quite striking, sharp-featured, great bones, tall and slim, but with broad shoulders, well-knit, of no particular age, with a great mane of fox-red hair that he wears in a tail down his back most of the time. And of course he knows all about the animals and trees. He always seems to have a little smile hovering around his lips, but it’s his eyes that hold you — strange eyes, golden, watchful like a cat’s, tilted like that, with a sparkle to them that says good humor and maybe just a touch of mischief.

At any rate, we’ve gotten to be friendly over the years — I spend a fair amount of time in the Wood. And it’s definitely ‘the Wood,’ and not any sort of common old ‘woods,’ Kit made that clear early on. He says it’s part of the First Wood, but that’s all he’ll say about it. It’s a nice place to be when I’m too restless to settle down in my office or my reading room, quiet but not too quiet and always something interesting to watch. And of course, Kit spends almost all his time there. He does have a little room down by the kitchen where it’s warm in the winter, but he only uses it during the worst weather — he says everyone needs a nice cozy den sometimes, but he’d rather be under the trees. So, I guess it was inevitable we’d start spending time together, and he’s even invited me to visit him in his room. It really is a snug little place to spend a long winter night. Uh, ‘evening,’ I meant to say. ‘A long winter evening.’

Sorry, where was I? Oh, right, Kit’s story. I was out walking down the Road one day about this time of year — maybe a bit later in the Summer, right about First Harvest — Lughnasadh, they call it around here — and I happened across Kit. He greeted me warmly, and suggested we take a walk into the Wood. ‘I want to show you something,’ he said, ‘and you might as well not waste your time on this Road. It only goes from here to there, since it’s not really part of the Wood at all, and I suppose that’s good enough for most times, but today is special.’ And he led me off into the Wood, along a path I had never noticed before, guiding me along by the hand, and putting an arm around to help me over the tricky parts. He’s certainly nimble, for such a big man — and very strong, too.

The Wood was wonderful that day, warm and a little sleepy, and every once in a while we’d hear the buzz of a greenbottle or see a butterfly glowing in a shaft of sunlight, the trees and bushes all leafy and green, and every so often we’d cross a small clearing where summer flowers had found a place to bloom, asters purple and white, and sunflowers and rattlesnake weed and swamp lilies (the Wood does have some wet parts) and all sorts of things, all like little bits of sunlight themselves. I have to confess, I was surprised to see some of them in the woods, although I suspect Kit does as much gardening as stewarding, and even more surprised that some were blooming this time of year, but we had crossed the Border, I think, so I guess time wasn’t that much of a consideration.

Well, we eventually got to a clearing around a great, ancient oak, a really massive old tree. Kit says he thinks it might be as old as the Wood, or almost. We found a fallen log to sit on, all mossy, just like a storybook log, and Kit made sure I was comfortable — he was being particularly nice that day — and produced a little hamper with some lunch for us, and a flagon or two of ale.

‘It was right here,’ he said, ‘where the Lord and Lady of the Wood tied the knot. Just this time of year, at the First Harvest, High Summer, as the poet says, when —

our days are long and sleepy,
our nights too brief for rest,
summer’s bloom is sweetest now
and summer’s pleasures fullest.

I looked at him, and he blushed, just a little. ‘I do know some things besides woods and beasts, you know.’ He seemed quite pleased with himself.

Oops, look at the time. On this side of the Border I have to pay attention to it, I’m afraid, and I’ve really got to run. Will you be around for a while? Good. Why don’t you meet me back here later, and I’ll finish the story for you. It’s quite the tale. Wonderful! Later, then.

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What’s New for the 12th of August: On Folkloric Matters

“But stories are fragile. Like people’s lives. It only takes a word out of place to change them forever. If you hear a lovely tune, and then you change it, the new tune might be lovely too, but you’ve lost the first one.” “But if I stick to the first tune, then I’ve lost the second.” “But someone else might discover it. It’s still there to be born.” “And the first tune isn’t?” “No,” Tallis insisted, although she was confused now. “It has already come into your mind. It’s lost forever.” “Nothing is lost forever,” Mr. Williams said quietly. “Everything I’ve known I still know, only sometimes I don’t know that I know it.” All things are known, but most things are forgotten. It takes a special magic to remember them. “My grandfather said something like that to me,” Tallis whispered. “Well there you are. Wise Old Men, one and all…”  ― Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss

It is, as all nights are on this Scottish Estate far from the light pollution of any city, a good night for star gazing if weather permits. I’ve got my gaggle of Several Annies, my always female Library Apprentices (and yes I do know their names but I usually use this appellation) are getting a stars-related mythology lesson from Tamsin, our resident hedgewitch, on this crisp evening.

I listened for awhile but realized being warm was a far better option so I decided that I’d stitch together this edition in the Pub while ensconced in the Falstaff Chair near the fireplace with a generous pour, neat of course, of Talisker Storm whisky as the Neverending session backs a sweet  sounding red-headed coleen singing ‘Run Sister Sister’,  a Red Clay Ramblers song with deep Appalachian roots.

Everything this edition is folkloric in nature. I’m selecting some of our myriad folktale reviews, music that’s equally folkloric and other interesting material as well. I’m sort of avoiding contemporary fiction, be it Sharon McCrumb’s  Ghost Riders, Seanan McGuire’s Indexing, Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country or Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt as all are frequently cited here. For contemporary short story takes on folkloric themes, I recommend such works as edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling such as Black Swan, White Raven and The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales.

April starts us off with a treat for fairy tale aficionados: ‘Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are well known, even to those who’ve never heard his name. His stories have entered our cultural consciousness (who doesn’t know of “The Little Mermaid,” even if it’s only through Disney’s version) and verbal lexicon (“The Emperor’s New Clothes”) and are here to stay. Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen offers a glimpse at the man behind the tales, the subtle nuances of his art and language and renders the stories all the more powerful.’

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

Terri Windling’s The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors says Diane is an anthology that ‘reinterprets classic fairy tales with reference to contemporary issues of childhood. In short stories,essays and poems the various authors examine the issues of confusion, fear, and, ultimately, survival.’

Denise looks at Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood: ‘I surveyed Josepha Sherman and E.K.F. Weisskopf’s great green paperback with a twinge of envy. These folks took my long-ago discussion and tuned it into a book. It’s a work of scholarship, to be sure, but it’s a lot more fun than most scholarly tomes. Like the great collection of Ozark folktales Pissing in the Snow, Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts makes telling statements about American culture even as it induces milk-out-the-nose guffaws in its readers.’

John Colarusso’s Nart Sagas from the Caucasus gets reviewed by Eric who says ‘The Narts are a legendary race of heroes, whose deeds form the basis for the culture of the Caucasus. The stories are examples, both inspirational and cautionary, of how a warrior of the Caucasus should measure his life. The language is extraordinarily direct; the sagas’ talent for understatement is difficult to equal. . . .”

Jack Zipes edited a new edition of Thomas Frederick Crane collection which Faith reviews for us: ‘Italian Popular Tales, first published in 1885, was the first comprehensive collection of folktales from Italy published in English. It is meticulously organized by subject (fairy tales, tales of Oriental origin, etc.). This is not just a collection of stories, however, as each one is introduced and commented on in the text. The copious endnotes list the origins of each tale and cross-reference their various stock elements. They also include variants on several of the tales, some of them quite long, that were not included in the body of the book for whatever reason.’

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.’

Jo looks at two versions of a Welsh collection of myths: ‘Grand quests, swords, sorcery, gods, mortals, love, war, and a healthy sense of mystery can all be found in The Mabinogion. These eleven ancient Welsh tales date back to somewhere around 1200 in written form and are classics of the folk tale genre. There are few places where you can find so many archetypal folk themes, presented within such a short space. Celtic lineage, culture, and heritage are presented with grace and passion within the framework of a group of stories. These tales are a must for anyone interested in Celtic folklore or in Arthurian legend, for Arthur plays a minor role in many of the tales.’

Leona comments that ‘When I started writing for Green Man Review, I thought of myth and folklore as primarily Irish and Greek, Latin and German. I suspect that’s fairly common in America, but that view misses several important and fascinating segments of the world. In Latin American Folktales, editor John Bierhorst has gathered together in print a wide variety of traditional oral Hispanic and Indian stories.’

Lory loves Jilali El Koudia’s Moroccan Folktales: ‘El Koudia did not merely transcribe the tales he heard, but rewrote, reconstructed and retold them, eliminating wordiness and repetition. His English translation (with Roger Allen) gives us the tales in direct, unembellished and almost stark language. It is an excellent basic source for storytellers and teachers,es who can retell the stories in their own idiom. For scholars, there is a critical analysis and an impressive numerical index of tale types and motifs.’

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

Charles Downing’s Armenian Folk-tales and Fables gets reviewed by Naomi: ‘Armenia is a land which has been ravaged by war on far too many occasions. Other nations keep turning it into a battlefield, and tearing it apart. These tales have survived for many generations in the only way possible, through word of mouth. They were told and retold during the long hard winters, told in the coffee houses for entertainment, and have survived just as the Armenian people have survived.’

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.’

Asher proclaims ‘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.’

Grey looks at a Terry Gilliam film: ‘The Fisher King is a modern fairy tale after the pattern of stories by authors of urban fantasy like Charles de Lint. Like de Lint, scriptwriter Richard LaGravenese gives us a story in which an indentured servant and a victim of the urban jungle are redeemed by a traditional quest, by their acceptance of roles which echo some of the deepest archetypes from our collective human myths. In this story, those archetypes are the wounded king and the holy fool. However, we also see that in this redemptive quest, the heroes must play both roles to find their Grail.’

April, our resident Summer Queen, starts off graphic novel reviews with an intriguing offering by looking at the first two volumes in a sprawling series: ‘Imagine, if you will, if the inhabitants of the fairytales you know so well — human and fantastical alike — were alive and well and living in New York. Such is the premise behind Bill Willingham’s Fables series for Vertigo Comics. The Fables, as they call themselves, have long since been driven from their lands by an entity they call only The Adversary. The human-looking Fables settled in New York City, in a neighborhood they call Fabletown. Those who are less than human (think the Three Little Pigs, Shere Kahn, and Oz’s winged monkeys) live in bucolic upstate New York. Good King Cole is mayor of Fabletown, but the real power is in his deputy, Snow White.’

The four issue run of Ballads and Sagas get a look by Debbie: ‘Charles Vess, an extremely talented graphic artist, has done just that. Vess, who has a solid reputation for illustrating such works as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories (also published in graphic novel form) also loves the ballads and sagas that have been entertaining people for hundreds of years, and in this series of books he has collaborated with some of the best-known writers in fantasy literature, including Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Sharyn McCrumb (not a fantasy writer but an author of mysteries with an Appalachian folkloric theme), Midori Snyder, Robert Walton and Delia Sherman (whew!) — I hope I’ve not left anyone out! They tell the stories: he does the illustrations.’

Mia tells us about a charming Appalachian folktale for all ages, as are many such works intended for children: ‘Prequel or stand alone fairy story, A Circle of Cats is a bewitching little book, much bigger inside than out, and a wonderful collaboration between two enormous talents. There’s a place of honor on my bookshelves for this one … when I can finally stop going back to it every little bit and actually bring myself to put it there.’

Steeleye Span, Fairport Concvention and the like were an aspect of the subject of a book, to wit Michael Brocken’s The British Folk Revival, 1944-2002  has a title which sounds like its a history of that re I al but also our reviewer says ‘I better come clean from the get-go: Brocken’s book is a prolonged attack on A.L. Lloyd, a revival singer and writer whose work I love and revere, although I never had the good fortune to meet him.’ You really should read her full review to see where this writer went wrong including as Liz put it, ‘what is probably the most unappealing metaphor ever to muck up the pages of Green Man Review.’

Robert takes a look at a graphic novel that’s not quite a fairy tale. In fact, it’s pretty firmly grounded in Greek mythology: ‘Mike Carey’s The Furies, illustrated by John Bolton, is another spin off from Neil Gaiman’s series The Sandman, and captures that same blend of myth and everyday life that was such a striking feature of Gaiman’s work.’

Robert found another series that updated the Greek myths, Peter Milligan’s Greek Street: ‘Greek Street: Blood Calls for Blood is the first compilation of the individual numbers of the comic series. It offers another retelling of the Greek myths, translated to the seamy underbelly of a contemporary city — in this case, London’s Soho. The center of action, so to speak, is a strip club — the strippers serve as the Chorus. The main story arc is the story of Oedipus — in this case, Eddie, just released from the orphanage and left to his own devices.’

And the story continues in Greek Street: Cassandra Complex: ‘I’m sure you’ve heard the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me, Kate. Well, in the case of Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice’s Greek Street, it should go “Brush Up Your Aeschylus.” And Sophocles. And Euripides. Because you’re going to run into all of them here. In one story.’

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

Colcannon offers us two tales with Irish music as part of those tales in ‘The Pooka and the Fiddler’ and ‘Happy as Larry’ that Jack loves: ‘Ahhh, there you are. I saw you sitting over in Falstaff’s Chair by the cheerfully cracklin’ fire on this cold, windy, and even rainy night. I see you’re enjoying your novel. . . . Me? I’m reading de Lint’s Moonheart — perhaps his best known work. Not all great literature comes in the form of the printed page — indeed some can only be listened to like those told by the storytellers, who sit in that chair telling stories long after midnight is but a memory, or the entertaining tale told by Colcannon on the recording I saw you eyeing a short while ago in the Library.’

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.’

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.

Staying with the folklore theme,  I’ve got some music for you that I think befits the Autumn season. It’s 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.

Oh and Gary did a review of Howard Pollack’s Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man which you can read here.

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What’s New for the 29th of July: Ravens musical and otherwise, Totem Poles, some novels by Charles de Lint, new music and old music, and Other Matters

One flies in to case the joint,  boldly struts around.
Two fly in to make it three,  laugh a while and knock each other down.
Four flies in with a frowning walk  gains a laugh from out a squawk
but it’s five who owns the place  and proves it with a look, stopping
six and seven in their tracks from smuggling a book.

SJ Tucker’s ‘Ravens in The Library’

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The only Raven I’ve ever known to be let in the Library is Maggie, the one eyed corvid that showed  up here one late Autumn with a damaged wing and a scarred over eye some decades back. She can’t fly all that well anymore as she has a certain lack of balance from the eye damage and the wing,  which even with the assistance of our hedgewitch Tamsin, didn’t heal right so she sticks close in the trees just beyond the outside Library entry and has her own nest just inside that door so she’s safe at night and in bad weather.

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Gary reviews the first book in a new fantasy series, Kevin Hearne’s A Plague of Giants. It begins with the invasion of the continent Teldwen. ‘Five of the six peoples in Teldwen have a kenning or mystical power that is linked to them as a people, and to the place where they live, and perhaps to the spirit or god of that place. A Plague of Giants, in addition to being the story of the war sparked by the giants’ invasion, is also the story of the discovery of the sixth kenning.’

Phil Brucato’s Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard’s Name anthology was done as a fundraiser for SJ Tucker who was seriously ill at the time. Tucker’s doing much better now but do read Leona’s review to see why you should seek out this stellar work for a fine summer read!

Richard looks at a novel I’ve enjoyed reading several times:’Seven Wild Sisters, a collaboration between Charles de Lint and Charles Vess, holds no surprises, and that’s a very good thing. The companion-cum-sequel to their earlier collaboration The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, the book delivers exactly what it promises: Gorgeous illustration and an encounter with the otherworld that’s ultimately more about wonder than it is about peril.

Robert starts off a review I think is perfect for Summer reading this way: ‘I’ve long followed Charles de Lint’s writing, starting with, if I remember correctly, Moonheart way back when, and I’ve been as close as I ever come to being a fan for years. (I even got my hands on some early stories, somehow.) So when I was asked to do a review of The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, I said, “Yes. I haven’t had a chance to read de Lint in a while.”’

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Robert’s discovered a nifty kitchen short-cut for those fond of Indian cuisine: Trader Joe’s Masala Simmer Sauce: ‘I know one thing about Indian food — I love it. I don’t claim any real expertise in that particular cuisine (although I do have an Indian cookbook stashed away around here somewhere), but one of my favorite nice things to do for myself used to be to go up to an Indian restaurant in the neighborhood and hit the buffet — then invariably, I’d waddle home and take a nap.’

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The Cats of Tanglewood Forest is an expansion of a much shorter work by de Lint and Vess entitled A Circle Of Cats which Mia says is ‘is not a novel, or a novella, or even, at 44 pages, a chapbook — those are merely convenient labels assigned by publishers and booksellers to assist them in categorization. Call Cats instead an enchantment, a weaving of words and pictures into pure magic. Charles de Lint is adept at converging the mundane world and the Otherworld: at touching them together briefly to produce intense moments and life altering episodes, and then gently letting each world retreat from the touch and settle back into its own normality, usually with both sides all the better for the experience.‘

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Reaching way back in our Archives, Asher has a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries — ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairytale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.“

Ahhhh, summertime and the living is fine indeed which is why Gary says ‘The Sadies’ In Concert Vol. One is my feel-good disc of the summer. Put these discs on, crank up the volume, and rock out!’

Robert takes a look at a recording that rapidly became a favorite: Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet: ‘I’ve remarked before on Morton Feldman’s propensity to shape sound with silence, a tendency he shares with Toru Takemitsu. Listening to Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet, a late work, written two years before his death in 1987, I realize that the juxtaposition of sound and silence in Feldman’s work is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.’

And now, Robert takes us back in time, about 600 years, more or less, for The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin: ‘In spite of the dearth of records concerning his life, we do know that Josquin was the foremost composer of his time. Although his music was largely overshadowed by that of Palestrina and Tallis for literally centuries, Josquin has, over the past hundred years or so, been rediscovered.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert takes us to one of his favorite places, and one of his favorite parts of that place: Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: The Alsdorf Hall of Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples: ‘I’ve come to think of the Field Museum as the “everything museum” — from evolution to paleoanthropology to conservation to meteors: it’s all here. . . . One of the more intriguing areas is the Alsdorf Hall of Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples, which is just what it claims to be.’

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I’m going to finish this edition out with Tucker performing ‘The Raven in The Library’. This performance is at ConFusion in Troy, Michigan on January 23, 2010, and the performer you see here with Sooj is Betsy Tucker.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Cranachan

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Good Evening Ekaterina,

Ingrid sends her love and hopes your trip to Canada is going well.

Mrs. Ware cooked the traditional Scottish dessert that you love earlier tonight — cranachan which you know is made with oats, cream, whisky and raspberries.

Scottish cranachan is a very quick, easy recipe. It is also a very festive recipe and perfect for any celebration especially Christmas, Hogmanay and rounds off a Burns Night Supper quite beautifully.

However, Scottish cranachan is too good to save just for special occasions and is especially good in the summer, making the most of the delicious raspberries found on this Estate growing wild in immense brambles for a truly authentic recipe. But don’t worry if you can’t find them, use any raspberries, as with the other wonderful ingredients in the cranachan it’ll taste good anyways.

If you use frozen raspberries, make sure to decrease the amount of sugar you use as most of them come in a sweetened syrup. Though I’ve noticed that the natural foods movement has resulted in just raspberries, no sweetener, being sold as well.

Mrs. Ware has been pondering the idea of substituting blueberries in the recipe which should be tasty as well.

Yours with affection,

Gus

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What’s New for the 22nd of July: The Art of Mouse Guard, Medieval Japan, Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ and some other possibly odd things

Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head

White Rabbit’, written by Grace Slick

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Yes, we love chocolate a lot around here, to the extent that Ellen Kushner once shared her hot chocolate recipe with us, the same chocolate drink quite popular with the characters in her Swordspoint novel and other Riverside tales. You’ll have to ask Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff for it as I’ve never actually been told what it is. Oh, and that toast is spread with the Lindt Chocolate Hazelnut Spread which they’ve just starting selling here in the UK. Really, really ymmmy!

It’s summer, so the Neverending Session has decamped from the Pub to the Greensward ‘til the sun starts to come down to take advantage of the fantastic summer weather. Yes, I know this is Scotland, which has shitty summer weather, but we share The Border with that place, call it, if you will, Tír na hÓige, and their Summer Court love warm, sunny summers so we get the same. Now guess what it’s like when the Winter Court holds sway…

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Cat has a rather good SF novel with mythological underpinnings 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 coauthor and companion, Jane Lindskold. But unlike so many of this sort of collaboration, Donnerjack has Zelazny written all over it.‘

Robert has a look at a poetry collection, Mark Doty’s Sweet Machine: ‘I don’t know if it’s possible for anyone not to be taken by Mark Doty’s poetry. Reading one or two (which I try to do with poetry, so as not to become too glib about it) is like eating one or two pistachios: before you know it, you’ve done the book cover to cover and your mind is too congested for any use whatsoever. And your hair is standing straight up.’

How about life in medieval Japan? That’s what’s in store in our next offering. Robert says: ‘f the title sounds daunting, don’t be worried. William E. Diehl’s Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan is a well-organized and eminently usable reference to the history, arts, and customs of Japan from 1185, the beginning of the Kamakura Period, to 1868, the end of the Edo Period, which is to say, the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of the Emperor.’

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Robert has a Scandinavian candy bar for our inspection: ‘Troika is one of those candies that comes only in Norwegian — the label is in Norwegian, the web site is in Norwegian, and so on. Nidar is one of three companies that consolidated to form Orkla Confectionary and Snacks in 2013, and is a major confectioner throughout the Baltic region, with companies in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Latvia and Estonia.’

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Sometimes the companion work to an awesome series is every bit as good as that series, as Cat tells us here: ‘The Art of The Mouse Guard is nearly three hundred and seventy pages of awesomeness and it’s packed with artworks such as sketches, pen and ink illustrations, and painted art. Let’s not overlook the photos of miniature sets of interiors and buildings that were used as references. Yes miniature sets of interiors and buildings were built by David Peterson to help him visualise the unique reality that his mice exist in.’

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Three albums from one of the legendary San Francisco rock bands, Jefferson Airplane, get an appreciative look-see by David: ‘Psychedelic music was originally so named because it sought to recreate musically the mind-expanding experience of LSD. “Psychedelic, man!” The center of this music was unquestionably San Francisco, with bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Jefferson Airplane. Straight from Haight-Ashbury to you they brought in special lighting techniques, extended trippy solos, exotic Middle Eastern modal influences, and more . . . “far freakin’ out!” These three albums provide a workshop on yhe latter’s efforts to expand the minds of a nation.’

After you’ve read that review, go read Deborah’s Flight Plan: A look back at the Jefferson Airplane an essay which not only covers some essential recordings and even a few books about the band, but is also a fascinating look at her relationship to that music.

Gary reviews a new CD by Clay Parker and Jodi James, a musical couple from Baton Rouge. Their album The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound ‘stands out quietly in the crowded Americana field,’ he says.

Canadian folk-rockers Cowboy Junkies are marking the 30th Anniversary of one of their best-known albums The Trinity Session. Gary says  ‘All That Reckoning, all these years later, still is built around Margo Timmins’ hushed vocals, but this one seethes with a barely suppressed rage at the present state of the Western world.’

‘John Prine is the folk singer America deserves. And needs,’ Gary says. ‘And boy, do we need this new album of his.’

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We’re not sure who wrote this Folkmanis review as our What Not this time, as that information does seem to have gone walkabout: Folkmanis has gained an excellent reputation in recent decades for its overwhelming array of puppets. The plushies range from eerily lifelike to utterly fantastical. Right now I’m holding the Sea Serpent Stage Puppet in my hand. Well, okay, I’m wearing it on my hand. . . is that so wrong?’

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If there’s any voice that match the cool, strong feel of Grace Slick, it’d be in my not so humble opinion that of June Tabor, whom I’ve heard live and that we’ve reviewed many a time, including this review of An Echo Of Hooves. Now imagine that she performed Slick’s ‘White Rabbit’ with quite possibly the finest English folk rock band ever in the form of the Oysterband which has been reviewed here many, many times, including Ragged Kingdom which is their second second album with Taborr, the first being Freedom and Rain some thirty years ago .

Well you don’t need to imagine it happening as it did and you can hear ‘White Rabbit’ as performed by her and the Oysterband at City Varieties in Leeds on a November night just seven years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Green Lady

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If we’ve left the impression with you that we’ve only encountered only Green Men on this Scottish Estate down the centuries, that’s not correct. There’re stories about The Green Lady in Sleeping Hedgehog, our Estate community newsletter, as far back as the Sixteen Hundreds.

Sometimes she appears completely human until you get close enough to see that her apparently tanned skin is ‘nought but fine grained wood. Though there were other  times she was definitely nothing more than a plant vaguely shaped like a woman. The Welsh have Blodeuwedd, a being made of roses and owl feathers, but that’s not this being. She’s all plant from her toes that restlessly seek the nearest soil to her hair that looks to be tangled dreads but is actually very fine -eafed strands of ivy which are always moving.

Like the Green Men we see here, none of them speak. However, none of the Green Ladies plays an instrument whereas all the Green Men do, but instead they seem to be all gardeners instead. I’ve seen them in our gardens, apparently talking in a low rustling voice to them. I know that I said that they didn’t speak but what I’ve heard is something far older than our speech is. Something felt in my soul more than heard with my ears.

One was apparently tasking bees to do certain pollination, an impressive task that Gus felt was more a dance of thousands than mere work. They don’t take notice of we mortals, fey or human alike, but neither do they not know we’re there.

I assume they live in the Wild Wood but not even Gutmansdottir, our resident botanist studying that region, has seen them there.

Now, shall we head over to the Pub for some of the mead that’s been made from the hives they tend? It’s a truly blessed drink.  

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What’s New for the 15th of July: Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’, Music that Defies Classification, Indians from Day One, Patricia A. McKillip’s World-building, Gummi Butterflies, and Other Matters

Brown eyed women and red grenadine
the bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean
Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down
and it looks like the old man’s getting on

Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’

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It’s a wet day here with constant rain and wind enhanced by the sound of thunder as those storms roll through the region. By no means a day to be outside, so Kinrowan Hall is busy from the Kitchen in the lower basement to the private flats for senior staff on the top floors of this ancient, sprawling building. My Several Annies are managing Library affairs such as need doing so I’m putting together this Edition while sampling the just tapped Summerland Ale named after a certain novel  by a baseball loving staffer and munching on some Riverrun cheddar cheese.

More than a few of our contributors down the years have been writers of quite some talent — Charles de Lint, Kage Baker, Paul Brandon, Peter Beagle, Elizabeth Bear, Christopher Golden, Catherine Valente, Jennifer Stevenson, Cat Rambo, even Stephen Brust have done reviews or sometimes stories published here. We’re thrilled to have them involved here and certainly look forward to what they do here in the future.

Shall I get to this edition then? Then I shall.

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Cat R. does another multiple book wrap-up, focusing on independent and small press works, looking at works by Kyell Gold, Watts Martin, Gretchen Rix, N. J. Shrock, Tim Susman, and Ursula Vernon.

I was, perhaps not surprisingly, favorably impressed by a critical study of Patricia McKillip, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building: ‘We’ve reviewed damn near every book that Patricia A. Mckillip has published over the many decades she’s been writing. Indeed the editing team is updating the special edition we did on her so that it can be republished this Autumn, as many of us here think of her as befitting the Autumn season. And so it is that I’m reviewing what I think is the first academic work devoted to her.’

Jennifer takes a look at a series she wishes she’d discovered sooner, namely Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Night Calls series: ‘Once in a while I find out I’ve missed something important in the book world, some classic that’s been out forever that I somehow never noticed when it was first published, something that turns out to be wonderful. Then once in a very great while I find something I wish I’d read thirty years before it was ever published.’

Speaking of Jennifer Stevenson, Wes finishes our book reviews off with one of her entertaining novels: ‘A storm’s a’brewing, the women restless, the men conflicted, and there are the strangest foxes you’ve ever seen running wild along the bucking river. Trash Sex Magic isn’t just a lurid, sexually charged magical romp. Complex characters drive an organic plot, elegantly woven of mythic resonance and familial metaphors.’

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

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Neverwhere was rumoured to have been planned as a film by the Jim Henson Company but this never happened but you’ll love the graphic novel I think as April tells us about it here: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’

Robert has a series for us that did get the video adaptation experience but that’s not what he’s looking at here for us: ‘Preacher is one of those series that was always on my list of things to check out someday. I had a vague idea that it involved some guy walking around in a cowboy duster shooting things up. It’s not that, although there is a character that fits that description. He’s not one of the good guys. (There’s a lesson there: browse carefully.) The first collection, Gone to Texas, sets the stage.’

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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.’

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

Lebanon’s Marcel Khalife is a prolific, controversial and well-known composer, singer and player of the oud. Gary takes a look at his latest work, Andalusia of Love, which draws on the poetry of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. He’s joined by his sons, pianist Rami and percussionist Bachar, and Jilbert Yamine on the hammered dulcimer called the kanoun. ‘Throughout this work there is virtuosic playing, some of a solo nature but mostly by the ensemble,’ Gary says. ‘It’s a moving performance of music that is complex yet welcoming.’

Robert has something that defies description. Almost: ‘Classifying things seems to be, for some reason, a basic human need. And it is axiomatic that our systems for classification have built-in limits and conceptual gaps: Archaeopteryx lithographica is, therefore, a bird. And Wolfsong Night, a collaboration between Tim Clement and Kim Deschamps, is New Age.’

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This week’s What Not is another visit to one of Chicago’s cultural treasures: The Field Museum of Natural History, specifically “The Ancient Americas”. Says Robert: ‘When I offered to take my cousin to the Field Museum, showing off my new membership, and suggested that we see the permanent exhibition “The Ancient Americas,” she said, “What’s that?” “Indians,” I said, “from Day One.” She said later that it wasn’t what she was expecting. (What? Cowboys?) To allay any mistaken assumptions about the exhibition, read on.’

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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 someone here found some years back. Robert 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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A Kinrowan Estate story: Palimpsests (A Letter to Justina)


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Dear Justina,

You asked why it’s so hard to say what the beginning of the Estate was. As you know, the accepted beginnings are a complete fabrication by a Steward some centuries ago who decided we needed a history that made sense. So he created one that sounded good but had no basis in truth that we can reasonably verify.

The truth is that the accepted practice we now have of journals kept by the Cook, the Gardener, the Librarian, and the Steward only go back a mere four hundred and fifty years. And the Pub Journals barely go a hundred and fifty years.

I suspect that the Estate records were destroyed deliberately at some point for reasons unknown to us now. And that disrupted the flow of history that’s a palimpsest. Oh, the Estate itself no doubt is well over a thousand years old but everything, including the Estate name, likely as not came much later.

The trustees at the Scottish bank that holds the monies that underwrite us claim that the the trust is many centuries old but say that they aren’t at liberty to say who set it up. All they’ll say is that it’s generous and that it’s quite flexible on what it can be spent on so long it benefits the Estate.

So our palimpsest is really only a half a millennium old — old enough that traditions have been created and evolved that obscured what came before that time.

Your friend, Iain

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What’s New for the 8th of July: Kage on Time Bandits, Olivier Greif’s Sonate de Requiem and Trio avec piano, The Haiku of Basho, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger gets panned, Charles de Lint in conversation, A History of Ice Cream and other matters…

I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.) —  Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder — A Novel of Borderlands

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There’s a contradance going on just now, but my left knee, injured many decades ago, is acting out, so I decided to stay in the Pub and listen to the Neverending Session which has been playing a lot of hambos, think of them as a sort of a mazurka, this evening as I write up these notes. It makes for a pleasant eventing particularly with a wee dram in hand  for searching through the Archives for interesting reviews and of course to see why the current staffers turn in for reviews as well…

Speaking of the latter, we should welcome sone folk who are both great writers and all around nice to have around, Cat Rambo who’s been here for some months now, Jennifer Stevenson who’s done some reviews in the past and is the amazing author who does our Solstice stories, to the present fold, as well as John O’Regan, one of our more prolific Celtic music reviewers who’s back with us. Welcome all!

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Cat starts off our book reviews with a good listen: Simon R. Green’s Ghost Finders 6: Forces from Beyond audiobook: ‘Michael, in his review of the second Ghost Finders novel, Ghost of a Smile, has the perfect introduction to the series: ‘When you have a problem with ghosts, you call the Carnacki Institute. They’ll discreetly handle everything from poltergeists to Big Black Dogges, exorcising or just plain terrorizing phantoms until they go away.’

A novel by Emma Bull and Steven Brust that’s now available as a digital book gets this comment from Richard: ‘Thankfully for readers of Freedom & Necessity, the two authors’ collaboration, the safe money is right this time. The book, while completely unexpected in its content, delivers on all the implied promises its authors have made with careers of sustained excellence. It’s just that Freedom & Necessity, perhaps inevitably, does so on its own, very demanding terms.’

A consummate storyteller in the form of one of his newest works also gets a look-see by Richard: ‘Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong is an exercise in masterful, hopeful heartbreak. Deeply steeped in mythology yet relentlessly modern (if a bit sentimental), it tackles the big questions of love, compromise, dreams, and what you might do – or forgive – in the face of the sublime.’

Robert takes a new look at an old favorite: ‘I have a reread list of books that have impressed me one way or another over the years. One that I only recently took up again is Sean Russell’s duology, The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds, which really is one work, a huge, sprawling epic that nonetheless remains intimate in scale.’

And in keeping with the milieu in that pair of books, Robert brings us some poetry: Basho’s On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho: ‘Basho is, to many, synonymous with haiku. He took his name from a wide-leaf banana tree, rare in Japan, given to him by a student, which stood beside the door of his hut near Edo (modern Tokyo). Basho wrote during a time of renascence in Japan, the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th Century, when the power of the Emperors moved from Kyoto to Edo, although the Emperors stayed in Kyoto, and purely indigenous forms in the arts regained their popularity.’

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Meanwhile, West Coast Cat is sadly disappointed by Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger. Her review however is not ‘tall disappointing.

Denise dives into more dark chocolate; this time it’s Butterfinger Dark. A twist on the usual milk chocolate and toffee everyone knows, though Denise wasn’t particularly impressed. “…with Butterfinger Dark, these two great tastes don’t quite make a satisfying whole.” Read why she was let down in her review!

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

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

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My favourite work by Alan Moore is by far the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which April reviews for us: ‘Moore and O’Neill’s premise is simple but elegant: bring together a motley crew of Victorian literary characters and drop them into a delightfully pulpy penny-dreadful. And so we have H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, Bram Stoker’s Mina Murray (Harker), Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jules Vernes’s Captain Nemo, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Moriarity, H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man, Edgar Alan Poe’s August Dupin and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu all rubbing shoulders in a Victorian England (and briefly Egypt and Paris) of Moore’s own devising.’

Alan Moore in many ways is akin to the late Harlan Ellison in benig a a brilliant crealtor and a pain in the arse to deal with. Rebecca looks at one depiction of him in  George Khoury’s The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore is a birthday toast. It’s an exploration of his life and works. It’s a collection of interviews, old Moore fiction and art, tributes from friends and family, and startling photographic portraits of the man himself.’

And Richard says that ‘The main draw of Alan Moore’s Exit Interview comes from the fact that Moore dishes, at great length, on where exactly his relationship with DC Comics went sour. To a lesser extent, Moore talks about upcoming projects, the origins of British comics fandom, and his take on the mainstream comics industry, but the sensational stuff is likely what’s going to draw the most readers. That’s as should be, as Moore provides a fascinating look into the inner workings of big-time comics publishing, and how the creative talent can get mangled in the gears of the machine once Hollywood gets involved.’

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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.’

Buss-Calle wins the approval of Naomi: ‘The Nyckelharpa orchestra is comprised of six top musicians from the younger generation of nyckelharpa players. They are all working at preserving the nyckelharpa tradition, as well as developing it, both as an ensemble, and as solo artists. Their playing is exquisite, all six are adding in passion and talent to a ensemble which has much potential. And after listening I would have to agree that this is a tradition which should be preserved.’

Robert takes on the late twentieth century in two works by French composer Olivier Greif, Sonate de Requiem and Trio avec piano: ‘Olivier Greif was one of those musicians: he entered the Paris Conservatory at age ten, and in 1967, at the age of seventeen, won the first prize for composition. The bulk of his output is chamber music, largely sonatas for any combination of strings and piano and sometimes voice. His works are not only a product of the last half of the twentieth century in terms of their musical foundations, but also in terms of the engagement with spiritual matters that marked his adult life.’

Robert also has something that may at first sound even more esoteric, Chants, Hymns and Dances by Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Vassilis Tsabropoulos: ‘The name Gurdjieff calls up images of mysticism, esoteric spiritual doctrines, perhaps to some extent a certain wild-eyed fanaticism. Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was, in point of fact, one of those restless wanderers in the realm of ideas who crop up from time to time in our history, seeking something a little more than most of us think about, and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.’

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Our What Not is a conversation with Charles de Lint held at the FaerieWorld Convention in 2013. You can hear the entire delightful affair here. We’re busy reworking and updating our last edition on him and his work for publication sometime this coming Autumn. Right now he, his lovely wife MaryAnn and their canine companion Johnny Cash are summering for a few months at their lake cottage. May they all have a wonderful time!

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Speaking of Cash, the Infinite Jukebox, our somewhat fey media server, has a song written and performed by his daughter that shows that she’s every bit as great covering her own material as she is covering his material as she did last week here. This week it’s ‘Runaway Train’ which comes from the same Bimbos concert in San Francisco that January evening. It details the end of a relationship that may or may not have been about her own such ending but it’s certainly heartfelt.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Summer afternoon (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

So, Spring is waning fast, but summer’s not an event that just happens — it sneaks up on us like a barn own gliding past in the night. No, now we’re in the golden eternity, that endless perfect afternoon that arcs from June to September, a rainbow in every shade of heat. The air smells of forges and plums, cool water becomes a lover, and the best room in any house is the bower under a tree.

The oaks are favoured for the best shade, one of the apricot or peach trees for snacks, or the rose arbors for the sheer overpowering delight of the perfume. With, of course, a book or three. It’s that way here of course. Most of the staff, including the Several Annies, are either out under the trees all day, or down in the cellar making sure the ale doesn’t evaporate in the heat. Reynard says that’s both a public service and a public trust, and tries to restrict it to his own staff; but when the heat hits triple digits, a lot of us turn dwarf and head for that little iron-bound door to the down-below beside the bar.

In defense, Reynard has posted the score sheets for the Summer Reading Club on the cellar door. MacKenzie is the judge, of course. He keeps a special cart in the hall outside, filled with select and unusual volumes: that’s the trick, see, you have to read and review whatever he selects. MacKenzie, I think, is trying to educate the lot of us. At least I think that explains the Baba Yaga stories in Russian. One got points for finding a Russian fluent staffer and providing the proper bribes to get their cooperation.

Next to drink, the regulars in the Pub like books best, so there’s hardly a one who won’t pause before he tries to dive down the stairs to check his standing in the ranks. There are dozens of little leather wallets hanging on that door, and every one in the Club has personalized theirs some way: poker work, horse brasses, Avery labels, glowing eldritch script. When someone finishes a book, they add a review to their wallet. Scores are kept for quantity, of course, but also for quality — a thoughtful analysis of my little monograph on pumpkins suitable for use in ales got twice the points garnered for someone’s exceedingly detailed review of the complete correspondence of Lady Raglan. And of course, a lot of the non-drinkers — well, people who drink somewhat less, anyway — are usually popping in to check their scores as well, so there’s a sort of automatic defensive cordon in front of the door.

And not only are all the readers checking the master lists to see who has read what and how long it took them, most of them are trying to peek in someone else’s wallet to check out their latest effort as well. It’s all anyone can hope for to get an ale they actually ordered! Of course, we all manage. You can’t keep us away from books or ale, not if those delights were guarded by the Queen of Air and Darkness’ guards themselves! I’ll keep you informed on the contest as it evolves over the Summer.

Affectionately Gus

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What’s New for the 1st of July: Cash’s ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’, A Raccoon in a Garbage Can puppet, Mouse Guard short stories and other Summery things

Stories require faith, not facts. ― attributed to T.A. Barron

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I’ve been reading Joy Chant’s The High Kings: Arthur’s Celtic Ancestors in which a Storyteller in Arthur’s Court tells tales of his ancestors and the many deeds that they did. Need I say that they all do Great Things? If you’re interested in our take on all things Arthurian, just go read our one-off on those matters which we did several years back.

Ahhh that smell that’s making your mouth water is Salmon in Puff Pastry per a recipe from Deborah. The salmon are caught here in the river that runs through this Scottish Estate. We’ve a long and abiding interest in food here and we’ve reviewed a lot of food and drink, shared recipes and thoroughly vetted a lot of superb books. You’ll find a sample in our food and drink section this time.

I’ll note here that Harlan Elision has passed on after some years of declining health. We’ve got a review of one of his so-called New Wave collections called Deathbird Stories here, but I’m remembering him best for the screenplay of ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ that he wrote for Star Trek. The experience led to considerable bile between Ellison and Roddenberry for the rest of the latter’s life, in particular over a public statement by Roddenberry that Ellison had the character Scotty dealing drugs in an early version of the script. I note this because Ellison will be remembered for his perpetually angry attitude as much as for his writings.

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Cat considers Emma Bull’s Finder to be the best look at the Terri Windling created Bordertown series: ‘My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled “A Novel of The Borderlands”, which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.’

Cat R. gets down to the nitty gritty of writing and gaming. You don’t think there’s an intersection? Well, read her review of three authors on where writing and gaming meet: ‘My recent nonfiction reading has tended to be driven by the fact that as a writer and gamer, I’m always looking for new tools to put into my virtual toolbox. Here’s three recent reads aimed in that direction.’

A novel full of music and myth should make great Summer reading and Grey has a recommendation: ‘Charles de Lint dedicates The Little Country to “…all those traditional musicians who, wittingly or unwittingly, but with great good skill, still seek to recapture that first music.” A traditional Celtic musician himself, de Lint has peopled The Little Country with musicians and filled it with music. All of the chapter titles are titles of (mostly) traditional tunes, and there is an appendix of tunes written by Janey Little, the book’s main character — tunes actually written by de Lint himself. (‘Tinker’s Own’ on their Old Enough to Know Better CD recorded de Lint’s “The Tinker’s Black Kettle,” one of the tunes in this novel.) Any readers who are at all musically inclined may find themselves itching to reach for their instruments and try out the tunes.‘

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

And, speaking of evocative, Robert shares a poetry collection, Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Black Mesa Poems: ‘Baca is one of those rare poets whose work is immediately accessible and yet indefinably rich, dense and profound. His diction is seemingly very basic and direct, but he maintains the ability to shift from the mundane to the magical in a phrase, making his everyday life into a lens that examines events with no pity, but with a great deal of compassion and love.’

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Denise brings us beer! Well, not literally (at least, not this time), but she does take a look at a seasonal treat, Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale: ‘As a DC gal born and bred, I love cherry blossoms. I think it’s the law of the local land. So when I moved up and away, I longed for those delicate blooms around the Tidal Basin. (Still do.) So I’m glad Baltimore brewers Oliver Brewing Company catered to my cherry blossom loving heart with their season offering, aptly titled Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale.’

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

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Our Editor Cat leads off with The Little Country based on the compositions in the de Lint novel Grey reviewed above: ‘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 band describes itself as ‘a band made up of classically trained musicians who also have fun exploring other musical styles. We arrange all of our own music, pulling themes from the Celtic tradition, Chinese and Spanish folk melodies, bluegrass, pop/rock, film soundtracks, ragtime, the Classical era, and even composing original pieces!’’

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

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

Robert, as might be expected, has something a little out of the ordinary as a music offering: ‘Harold Budd is one of those composer/performers who pops up periodically and wanders around like a medieval jongleur just doing his thing and collaborating with everyone. Noted for his piano improvisations, he has worked with the Cocteau Twins and Brian Eno, who seems to have given him a good swift kick in the ambient, reflected on the first part of Lovely Thunder.’

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This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience. . . . )

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I just added some performance recordings to the our media server, The Infinite Jukebox, so let’s see what I’ll finish this week out with… ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’ is performed by Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny and June Carter Cash. The recording comes from a concert she did on the 16th of January 1988 at Bimbos in  San Francisco. The story goes that she recorded it at the insistence of her then husband Rodney Crowell and neither of them knew her father had written it. He was pleased she had covered it and a reconciliation between them happened because of it.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Strawberry Ice Cream

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During the early Victorian Era, the Head Gardener at the time, Jacob Niles, persuaded the Steward, Allison MacPhee, to invest in a conservatory. According to the Journals kept by him and the Steward, the deciding factor was that it could be used for growing fruit in the long winter, including oranges and bananas. It wasn’t cheap and was costly to heat as it needed lots of seasoned wood to make it warm. Fortunately, triple glazed glass was used (at no small expense), and that helped. Certainly the fresh tropical fruit was a hit during our long Scottish winter. We still use it for that purpose but now we use solar power to heat it more efficiently than the original builders could possibly have imagined.

So what does that have to do with strawberry ice cream? Well, that was my idea. You see, we exist on The Border with the Faerielands. Several decades back, I made friends with the Head Gardener for the Red Dragon House, who had no luck growing their version of strawberries — the ones that start red and turn white when fully ripe — when it turned cold there. So he asked me to see if I could make them flourish.

It took several years before I figured that it needed a symbiotic bacterium that didn’t like being cold ever, so I started growing them for the Red Dragon House with the proviso that we could also use them. Would you believe that took a contract signed by all parties? Elves are big on formality! Three pages of contract to be precise. And that’s how we came to have strawberry ice cream in the winter. The whole milk comes from High Meadow Farm, the ever so costly vanilla from Madagascar, and it’s sweetened, just a bit, with honey from our hives. It’s quite delicious!

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What’s New for the 24th of June: Ian Macdonald‘s King of Morning, Queen Of Day, ‘Kashmir’ by Page and Plant, Beef jerky, Baseball films, A Spanish Christmas candy, A Dragon honours Ursula Le Guin and other matters as well

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

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As for calendar matters, this is the first edition of Summer, but as is usually the case here, we’ve had warm weather since mid-May. Now Ingrid, the Estate Steward who’s my lovely wife, tells me that the Estate Head Gardener in his Sleeping Hedgehog article this month says there’ve been times this month in past centuries which saw the temperature struggling to get to ten degrees for weeks on end.  I’ll definitely take the pleasant twenty-three degrees we’ve got this afternoon!

Strawberries just started bearing ripe fruit in the Estate gardens, which means a New England favourite that a staffer from coastal Maine brought to the Cook as a dessert possibility generations back. It uses just three ingredients, the berries with biscuits (not our cookies, but a risen baked good that somewhat resembles a dinner roll but isn’t) and lots of whipped cream or, if the kitchen is feeling like doing it, freshly churned vanilla ice cream. Yummy is an understatement for how good it is!

Denise has a review of some exemplary beef jerky this outing, a first for us I think, and Gary sent us film of a dragon doing honours to the late Ursula K. Le Guin, along with reviews of some tasty English folk-rock and other great things worth  your attention. Our Coda music is a live performance of hmmm… Kashmir’ by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant!

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One of my fave Summer reads gets a look-see by Mia, a  Charles de Lint novel to be precise: ‘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.’

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

Kim found a book that was more than merely good: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals. This novella, she says, takes the reader ‘..into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things too beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up.’

Michelle offers up a book themed to the Summer game: ‘It’s already been established that baseball exists primarily to serve as a metaphor for the meaning of life. If you didn’t get that from Malamud’s The Natural or Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, then surely you got it from Mays’ Say Hey or Kahn’s The Boys of Summer. So it should come as no surprise that Summerland, the most recent novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, reiterates this all-important theme. And should you be a reader who is only happy when the Red Sox are winning or who actually doesn’t like baseball — should you fail to appreciate that “a baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day,” to quote Chabon — then Summerland is even more important for you.’

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MIchelle begins her look at a number of baseball films in this manner: ‘In the big inning, God created baseball. Or perhaps it was Loki, patron of athletics and other tricks; the origins are shrouded in antiquity. There is also debate about which mortal first received the divine inspiration. Abner Doubleday often gets credit, though some historians claim the game was played in England in the 1700s. What is known is that, in 1845, a team called the New York Knickerbockers adopted the rules of the game we know as baseball. In New Jersey that summer, they played the first organized baseball game, and America acquired its own pantheon.’

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

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

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Jackalope’s Dances with Rabbits gets the wholehearted approval of the other Cat but comes with a caveat: ‘Let me start this review off by saying that most of what the musician who created Jackalope, R. Carlos Nakai, plays leaves me terribly bored. Yes, bored. Bored quite stiff. Even the other Jackalope albums that I’ve heard over the years were not very interesting for me. But Dances with Rabbits has had more playings in this household than I can count as it simply has not a less-than-stellar cut on it.’ 

Gary looks at some English folk-rock from a duo that includes yet another member of the Thompson clan. ‘Kami Thompson and James Walbourne are gifted musicians with something to say as artists. That makes The Rails’ Other People a deeply engaging folk-rock excursion.’

Speaking of English folk music, Gary also reviews the latest from Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy. Their Anchor, he says, is ‘another album of traditional and contemporary songs, drawing on their extended family and a crack band.’

Gary also reviews a new release by a new group, the self-titled disc by Oliver the Crow. ‘These classically trained musicians based in Nashville make a progressive, stripped-down Americana that draws on everything from Appalachian ballads to classic rock on their beguiling self-titled debut album.’

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

Richard rounds our music review with a look at Ma Rosalie: ‘Monsieur Pantin is not the name of some newly discovered French or Belgian or Swiss or Québécois musician. It is, as the CD’s skimpy documentation (see last paragraph below) informs us, the French title of a Scottish air found in an English collection from the 18th century. This may seem to be a piece of trivia too far! Monsieur Pantin is also one of the newer musical ventures of the multi-talented French piper and woodwind player, Jean-Pierre Rasle. It is not clear why he has chosen to give the trio this name, and there is no explanation included in the already deplored skimpy documentation. Moreover, the tune in question does not appear on the CD, but lots of other fine tunes do.’

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On June 13, Portland, Oregon, had a big send-off for Ursula K. Le Guin, who had lived there for several decades before she died in January. Fans, family members, readers and literati packed the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland on a lovely late-spring evening, to hear fellow writers, artists and activists pay tribute to Le Guin. They included Le Guin’s editor at Harcourt Andrea Shulz, her biographer Julie Phillips, as well as writers Molly Gloss, Jonathan Lethem, China Miéville and, by videotape, Margaret Atwood. She was remembered as a Dragon of art and storytelling, and the evening ended with a dragon dance featuring a drum-and-cymbal ensemble and a huge dragon puppet from the Portland Chinatown Foundation.

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Midsummer

ivy

This time of year, my heart is full. Everything that can bloom is blooming, or has bloomed and fruited already, like mayapple and shooting star and trillium and the flowering trees that line my street. All the plants are up. Every rain sees them shooting up another few inches. If you leave your lawn another week, aw, it’ll be fine, I can mow it Sunday, well, better bring a scythe. Out in the country they’ve already cut the first hay.

My allergies play up the most in this season, too, but I welcome them, crazy at as that sounds.

Today I’m thinking about two mysteries I inherited from my mother’s father.

I’m thinking about people, and how each one of us has a radiance of our own, detectible but not necessarily visible. Certain members of my family have … rather more of that radiance than most people. I’m not sure why. It follows a line through my mother’s father, a German whose forefathers came from Baden Baden, I’m told. Maybe that’s why we have this connection to nature as well. Those are the two mysteries that come to me from my maternal grandfather, then: this personal energy, which is so very powerful that some of us seem to walk around inside a weather balloon that extends far outside our bodies, and inconveniences people standing quite far away. The other mystery is what I’m going to call … our religion.

I shouldn’t call it that. Not only because it has no name and no rituals and no liturgy and no priesthood and no history, but because those of our bloodline have been careful never to call it that; we keep our worship secret, and our practice is disguised in a hundred little ways so that even we ourselves do not have to think, I could be burned at the stake for this. We just quietly and joyfully … do it.

The first time I ever heard it referred to as religion by a member of the family was at my father’s funeral, where I met my mother’s cousin for the first time. This cousin announced that she and her husband were evangelicals, and proudly told me of having visited my mother in her hospital bed after my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, and tried to sell her religion. Catching her when her fear of death was strong, like a good saleswoman. ”But, you know, Carol and I have always been…” a hand gesture “…on different planes, spiritually. Her and her nature thing.”

And there it was. Wow. Someone actually came out and said it.

In my twenties, I found out that there was official, actual, named nature worship, when I met some pagans. ”Pagan” is a very random word. It covers everything from ”people not like us” to “hicks” to “nature worshippers” to practicers of syncretic homemade religion and Greek revival. And so much more. I rather liked the idea of a religious denomination that didn’t tell anyone a damn thing about your beliefs and practices. It fit in with my own nameless, traditionless, secret faith.

But I began to pay a little more attention to certain aspects of nature in my adult years. Befriended certain animals, took certain plants deeper into my heart, as it were, than others. Or maybe I just recognized that those plants and animals had always been there, deep in my heart, beloved and trusted. With the example of my mother and her parents alive inside me, I could skim right past the world’s efforts to screw a name and a law onto the things that sustain me the most.

They can’t burn me for taking a walk in the woods, I would think. Or for gardening. Or for feeding the birds. Or for planting a tree.

My father worked nights, and my mother was forbidden to work or to have friends, so we were alone with her a lot. Her parents would pick us up and we’d load the dogs and us kids and my mom into the station wagon, along with a giant cardboard banana box full of provisions, and drive maybe an hour or so to a forest preserve in the Chicago area. There are hundreds of such preserves. Some are prairies, some are decorous parks with shaved lawns and picnic benches and cast iron barbecue grills, some are wild woods whose paths were, in those days, just dirt … no asphalt, no graveled jogging paths, just dirt. Mud, if it rained. It was heaven on earth.

I suggest you think about that phrase very specifically. It’s the key to everything real in my world.

The car door would open, we would lug the provisions and crappy aluminum folding chairs to the chosen picnic bench, and then my mother and her mother would turn us loose. My brother and I and the dogs would go helling off into the woods, following every path that offered, looking for edible berries and fruits, wondering at the fungi, hoping to see a raccoon or a skunk or a woodpecker, throwing sticks for the dogs, clambering up hills and down ravines, soaking our feet and finding crawdads in the creeks, or just running, running in the woods.

Nowadays I walk. I see and hear more. I smell the woods better. The woods enter me through all my senses if I’m standing still.

So, of course, do the mosquitoes. There’s always something.

That, I think, was a big part of what made nature realer to me than any religion could have been: the mosquitoes and the mud and rain and poison ivy and the things you shouldn’t eat. Nature wasn’t manufactured. It didn’t have all the sharp edges milled off and painted. No chrome cross, no smooth pew, no carefully printed and illustrated list of official prayers and songs, no indoor plumbing.

Nature pretty much ignored us. We yodeled and ran about and picked berries and climbed trees and nature paid us no mind. We marveled at lady’s slipper or jack-in-the-pulpit or mayapple, and we knew not to eat that one big green berry, and we were careful not to pester hornets or damage the big stands of mushrooms where they erupted from the soil. Nature could kill us, break our ankles, make us vomit, or give us a nasty rash, and nature wouldn’t even notice.

Instead, we noticed. We found the fallen sparrow. We looked for the rainbow. We attended the wars of ants, but we didn’t have to intervene in order to feel validated or loved by our creatrix. Knowing it was happening was our reward, our validation.

At the end of the afternoon, my mother would whistle for us, and we’d come back to the picnic table on the lawn with “squaw wood” to cook our weenies and marshmallows.

With my mother’s family gone, I share all this with my husband. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a building and a day where we could come together with other people and confess our love for all of this, sing some songs, eat more weenies and marshmallows. But that would be littlifying the enormity of nature.

She might poison us, or drown us, or carry our houses away in the wind, or bury us in molten lava, but she will never leave us, or threaten to put us out of heaven. Whether we die unregarded in a crevasse while mountain-climbing, or in a hospital bed surrounded by a lot of very expensive attention, we are part of her, and she is part of us. We can’t lose her. We can’t be excommunicated from her. Our faith in her and our understanding of her don’t matter to her. She knows she owns us. She takes us for granted. In death as in life, we are part of her system, which is so big that we are not the center of it.

It seems to me that some people cannot be comforted by this knowledge. They have to construct a different system, one where they are the center and crowning achievement, the end of creation. It often seems to me that all of human endeavor is an attempt to claim a bigger place than the one we were born into, to demand more attention than our species warrants, to devour all, to “find a use”–a human use–for everything, everything. We remake our environment until it is immaculately unnatural. Or we try.

So far, that’s not working. Thank goodness.

I’d still like to plumb the first mystery my grandfather left me. Why am I different? What can I do with this difference, besides try not to annoy other people with it?

But those are questions I think every human being asks themselves, at some time or another. Maybe an ant here or an ant there pauses in the middle of a war and asks itself, What am I doing here?

I suspect it wouldn’t be good for our egos to know.

ivy

Copyright 2011 by Jennifer Stevenson who has granted Kinrowan LTD exclusive online rights (except for her use on her website). All print rights are retained by the author as is any other use such as ePub publication. Re-use by other parties in any form online is prohibited.

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What’s New for the 17th of June: family friendly rootsy music, a look at queer comics, offbeat Columbian music, Peanut butter cups, Folkmanis’ Narwhal puppet, ‘City Of New Orleans’ and other stories

If I told you the whole story, your head would burst. There is no one story, there are branches, rooms… corridors, dead ends. — John Hurt as The Storyteller in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller

ivy

All stories including our reviews are never the whole story as every story is made neat, made more understandable, or sometimes deliberately less,  in its telling. And everything has a story behind it including that novel you’re reading out on this stone paved patio at Kinrowan Hall on this nicely warm Summer afternoon enjoying our Special Reserve pear cider. Most times neither you nor I know the whole story of a story but if we’re lucky the author tells us in a preface about how the story came to be. And if she doesn’t, rest assumered that an academic will be glad to do so.

Our book reviews this outing have a few of the latter books including some academic looks at the works of Robert Holdstock and Diane Wynne Jones, and, well, you’ll just have to see. And I’m sure that the new reviews this Edition will be be interesting to you as well. If not, please do remember that everything’s just a story…

ivy

Kelly looks at a classic work of SF: ‘Poul Anderson, who died in 2001, was one of the grand old voices of science fiction right up until his death, winning the Hugo Award seven times, the Nebula Award three times, and being named in 1997 as a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. His was a long and prolific career. In the middle of that career, he created a character named Dominic Flandry, whose adventures had eluded me as a reader until my review copy of Ensign Flandry arrived on my desk. Now I’m wondering why.’

Farah Mendlesohn’s Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature gets a review by Kestrell: ‘Diana Wynne Jones (DWJ to her fans) is one of those writers who, despite the fact that she is frequently referred to as a “children’s author,” has a significant following of adult readers. Although there are an increasing number of literary critics addressing the subject of children’s and young adult fantasy, there is still a lack of literary criticism addressing why those books often shelved in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries hold such a strong appeal for so many adult readers. Despite the title of this book (a title chosen by the publisher, not the author), its subject is a sophisticated exploration of Diana Wynne Jones’s complex approach to writing and storytelling.’

Richard looks at Donald E. Morese and Kalman Matolcsy’s The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction: ‘The myth-infested landscape of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood would seem to be fertile ground, not only for walking legends and “mythagos”, but also for literary criticism. After all, in the sequence Holdstock tackles not the structures of mythic fiction – dark lords, questing heroes, magical macguffins and so forth – but rather the concept of myth itself, and how the same core stories have echoed down through the millennia, amplified and distorted and reflected by centuries of human experience.‘

Robert has a somewhat unusual book for us this week — a werewolf story, in verse: ‘I’ve had one previous experience with fantasy in verse (well, unless one counts the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the like), and it wasn’t a happy one. Nevertheless, when Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth crossed my desk, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, as they say, and I’m happy to report that my valor was justly rewarded.’

ivy

Robert brings us a film developed from a game. Don’t groan — it’s not bad. It’s not bad at all. It’s Battleship, and it takes place in Hawai’i: ‘There’s a lot in this film that’s thoroughly predictable, but it’s a lot of fun, the effects are effective, and the action sequences are real edge-of-the-seat sorts of things. It’s tight and focused and the pacing is excellent. Perfect if you want to spend a couple of hours cheering on the good guys.’

ivy

Denise does something she never thought she’d do; review a confection made with – GASP! – milk chocolate.  The dark-chocolate-or-bust member of GMR dug into Justin’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, and didn’t mind them in the least. ‘The combination of smooth milk chocolate and that gritty, chewy, substantial peanut butter makes me reconsider my ennui over milk chocolate in general.’ Read her review for more!

ivy

Robert has a look at a very special book of and about graphic literature, Justin Hall’s No Straight Lines: ‘It’s tempting to say that comics underwent a radical transformation in the 1960s and ’70s. They didn’t. What did happen was that comics as a medium, with the rise of underground comics through the agency of R. Crumb and his peers, underwent a radical expansion of style, genre, and subject matter as an addition to the “mainstream.” Part of that was the advent of what Justin Hall, in No Straight Lines, has termed “queer” comics.’

ivy

Cat R. tells us about a couple of rootsy albums that she calls ‘family friendly’. She says both Why Why Why and Old Barn qualify as ‘… music I can share with my godkids, ages 6 and 8, on roadtrips without anyone’s sanity or boredom being threatened.’

Epilogue, a tribute to mandolinist and singer John Duffey, got Gary’s toes tapping. ‘Duffey was a founding member of both The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene, two of the most important groups in the history of modern bluegrass.’

He found something new in Bienaventuranza, the latest release by the Argentinian musician who goes by Chancha via Circuito. It’s called digital cumbia. ‘This musical style combines Colombia’s highly popular folkloric music, cumbia, one of the most popular in Latin America, with electronic beats and other modern touches.’

We finish off our music reviews with Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham’s Spring The Summer Long which solicits this lead-in by Jack: ‘Yawn, another bloody brilliant album from a duo, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, who can do no wrong. So why should you get excited? Are you completely daft, man? This is Aly Bain on fiddles and Phil Cunningham on damn near everything else (accordion, whistles, cittern, piano, keyboards, mandolin) with more than capable assistance from Malcolm Stitton acoustic guitar, and bouzouki and Stuart Nisbet on acoustic guitar, dobro and pedal steel. How can you not like it? Do you ‘ave not a touch of magic in your soul?’

ivy

Puppetry is our What Not theme this time.  In his review of Figures of Speech Theatre’s Anerca, Chris writes of a puppet theater that owes as much to Japanese drama and American-Indian Mythology as it does to Jim Henson and Sherri Lewis. ‘Among the complex issues they set out to explore with Anerca are cross-cultural interactions, the misunderstandings of language, and direct emotional communication. Rather than putting Western words into another language, they focus on the emotional tone, physical world and spiritual quest of the characters.’

Speaking of puppets, Denise dives back into our stock to review Folkmanis’ Narwhal puppet. She was smitten with the sea creature, and took to him right away. ‘I soon had him tootlin’ around while I sang “Octopus’s Garden”.  He seemed to be the type that’d like that song.’ Read her review for more about this puppet!

ivy

All songs are stories and Arlo Guthrie’s ‘City of New Orleans’ is certainly one of the better told ones. Recorded at a Stanhope, NJ performance on the eighth of August, twenty nine years ago, it tells the melancholy story of a train as it’s headed to New Orleans one night. Arlo, son of Woody as you most likely know, is in particularly fine voice here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Memory Maps

ivy

What, you ask, are memory maps? Well, all of us use maps all our lives, printed or digital, be they for traveling, locating something, or just out of sheer curiosity. But memory maps are the other type of maps that we all use.

Say you’re in Glasgow and a cute girl asks you where your favourite pub is. Without thinking, you tell her to go up this street, cut down that kill (alley to you Yanks), and go past the news agent and you’ll find The Wolfshead Pub. She thanks you and heads off to the Pub for a pint or two.

But memory maps are beyond that, as they form deep structures in our minds. When you decide to walk from your flat to The Wolfshead Pub, you don’t consciously map out the route in you mind, as you already instinctively know where you’re going. So I’m betting you’re listening to music, thinking about the girl you directed there, or admiring that it’s not raining in Glasgow, a rare occurrence indeed.

Before you know it, you’re at the Pub, standing at bar and enjoying that Glenglassaugh single dram that you’ve been anticipating. All without actually thinking about the journey you made there.

Now imagine living on this immense Scottish Estate for a few decades. In that time, you’ll develop a memory map that’s so detailed that you’ll know everything you need to know about spaces, interior and exterior, that you’ve memorized over the years and the routes that get you from, say, the gardens on the south sloping hill to the Kitchen to the Main Building. You’ll also know just where everything is to prepare the carrots you dug from the MacGregor carrot patch.

So Mrs. Ware asks you to drop the carrots off and to see if you can get someone to forage for some mushrooms. You decide to do it yourself, grab a basket, and take a stroll to where you know where the best ones are in late March after a few mild days. All the while thinking about Chasing Dragonflies playing at the contradances tonight.

So what’s your favourite memory map? Or is it so deeply rooted that you aren’t even aware it exists?

ivy

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What’s New for the 10th of June: Weezer’s rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, two by Jane Lindskold, Anthony Bourdain, Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect, an impressive TBR pile, WF organic dark chocolate, Skara Brae’s only album, Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet and other matters

Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying. ― Iain Banks’ Against a Dark Background which may or may not be a Culture novel. 

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Ahh I see that you’re reading Iain Bank’s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram. Since you’re obviously a lover of truly great whiskies, may I pour you, neat of course, a dram of the Craigellachie 23 year old single malt? Good — there you are. I assume you know about his Culture series, which are sort of space opera but far better done than most such books are? If not, go read Gary’s review of The Hydrogen Sonata which will give you a good look at this series.

if you’re in the mood for some great fantasy instead, Robert has two books he thinks are worth your time, Cat has a space opera audiobook he really liked, the other Cat has a look at her recent readings;  and, among other things, Denise looks at Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet.

With great sadness, I must note that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide a few days ago. He was a personal favourite of many staffers here. Joseph looks at his No Reservations: Iceland episode: ‘Whoever chose to create and release this DVD is a genius. By showing the misery of his job (albeit with funny commentary and cutting remarks), Bourdain reveals his human side. He becomes one of us with good days and bad.‘

Now I’ll take your leave, as I see you’re eager to read this edition and I’m off to see if the installation of the two meter tall brass Ganesh in the library is complete. It’s rumoured that it was acquired from an antiquities dealer in Mumbai who said it might date back to Raj years.  Neat, eh?

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Cat delves into an audiobook this edition, giving a listen to Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect. ‘Reynolds is among the best writers of sf I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. … John Lee, who narrates, is perhaps my favorite male narrator.’ But does this combination make for an engaging listen?  Tune into Cat’s review and see!

Our West Coast Cat does away with a bit of her book pileup this edition, posting nutshell reviews of several books that have come her way in a single article. An editor has made it known that she’s extremely impressed with Cat’s brilliant idea, and may just ‘borrow’ it in future. But for right now, read all about what Cat thought about books featuring Wolves, Wives, Knives, Curses, A Hospital, and a Henchgirl. A few of these look worthy of making it to summer reading lists, so dive in to her reviews!

Robert brings us two novels by Jane Lindskold, who has proven to be a very versatile fantasist. The first is Changer: ‘Urban fanstasy is a subgenre with as many sets of criteria as there are practitioners. Ranging from the Celto-Amerindian universe of Charles de Lint’s urban Canada and Neil Gaiman’s eclectic universe of the Dreaming, with even hybrids such as Mark Anthony’s Last Rune paying tribute to fairies and hobgoblins, Lindskold has stepped neatly in and taken as her purview the myths and legends of all places, all peoples, and set them down in the contemporary American Southwest.’

He follows up with the sequel, Legends Walking: ‘Jane Lindskold has followed up Changer with Legends Walking, which opens a few weeks after Changer closes. The same characters appear, many in expanded roles, new athanor characters participate, and the story takes on added complexity as several plot lines develop.’

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Robert has a look at a French film that almost defies description: ‘I hardly know where to start with Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups) – it’s sort of outside my normal range of subject matter, but the DVD case looked interesting enough, and the price was right, so I thought, “Why not? A historical-costume-mystery-revenge-monster flick – what could be better?”’

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Robert has chocolate! (Big surprise.) This time it’s organic dark chocolate from Whole Foods Market: ‘As might be expected from a chain with Whole Foods’ reputation, all ingredients are organic, fair trade, and socially conscious. (Well, the ingredients themselves aren’t socially conscious, but you get my drift.)’

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It’s no secret that we love Gaelic music around here.  For this issue, Cat takes a listen to Skara Brae’s Skara Brae, an album that is widely considered the most important album of Gaelic music ever produced. ‘Skara Brae was the first group that put harmonies to Gaelic songs…. For lovers of songs in Irish this album is a must.’

Gary explores Drift, the second release by Seattle-based trio Duende Libre. ‘Though based in American and Latin (especially Cuban) jazz, Duende Libre’s music makes some significant departures, even more so on Drift than on their debut.’

Gary also enjoyed Anima, the debut album from Uruguayan-born singer Valeria Matzner. ‘It wasn’t until after she moved to Canada as an adult that she studied jazz, and it was there that she also eventually reconnected to her roots – in South America and in her own family as well. I’m very glad she did.’

And then, Gary says, there’s Waterdrawn by the Chicago-based duo The Horse’s Ha. They’re influenced by the singers and songs of the 1960s British folk revival, but with a twist: ‘Folk songs that sound like lovely pastorals on the surface – the delicate acoustic instruments plucked and bowed and the singers’ oddly matched voices – but which hide dark undercurrents.’

Shining Down, an album from a member of the North Carolina based Red Clay Ramblers, gets high praise by Judith: ‘Craver’s piano playing is marvelous, and to add to the quirkiness his vocals are plain, as if he were singing on a kids album. As on Wagoner’s Lad he plays most of the backing music himself.’

Jack has an oddity for us in ‘a quaint remnant from an earlier, less driven-by-commercial-interest society where quality of production was higher than it is today. This artifact, The Road Goes Ever On — A Song Cycle, comes from an earlier age, the Sixties, when readers were madly obsessed with Tolkien and his work. Here in this book composer Swann gives Tolkien characters Bilbo, Treebeard, Samwise Gamgee, and Tom Bombadil tunes for their ballads of the road. Tolkien approved of this and added a tune of his own, along with a glossary of Elvish terms and lore.’

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Denise has decided to give puppets a try this issue, with a review of Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet. And she came away impressed. ‘Holy cow this puppet is beautiful.’ But how does it actually…puppet?  Read her review to find out!

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As warmer weather creeps in, thoughts turn memories of summers past, and to this year’s summer plans that will soon become cherished memories. Weezer ties together past and future nicely with their rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, a cover they dropped late last month.

Why cover such a classic favorite? Because a fan (@weezerafrica, to be precise) asked them to. Many, many times. And with Weezer being very responsive to social media requests, the decided to go for it. And I’m glad they did. Rivers Cuomo was made to cover this song, his smooth, beautiful voice doing the lyrics justice. Weezer performs this song in a slightly different key, but it works perfectly.

As the band has covered many performers, from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd and even Toni Braxton, who knows what they’ll do next? Meanwhile, enjoy ’Africa’, and think of all the lovely summer memories you’ll get to make this year.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: 3 a.m., When The Veils Are Thinnest

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Sometimes I believe that the door off the Courtyard into the Pub here is just a little too close to The Border with, oh, let’s just call it somewhere else and possible somewhen else. It would certainly explains some of the strange things and people that end up here, usually late at night.

Such was the case one late Fall evening when several strange beings wandered in here, one seeking refuge and the others seeking him. What happened is the story I tell here.

The first was a dead bluesman, or at least it was assumed he was dead given he was murdered long ago, who showed up with his guitar slung over his back. Clad in a sharp suit and elegant hat, he sat down in a corner table, back against the wall, and started playing the blues, really old tunes at that. Never said hardly a word, but ordered whisky which was paid for with silver dollars that were truly collectors items.

Several weeks after he appeared, two very dark-skinned impressively large individuals equally well-dressed as the bluesman showed up and attempted to remove him from the Pub. (You should realise that only those with The Sight such as myself could See that any of these individuals was unusual. All others thought they were just human.) He smiled at them, showing a lot of teeth and played a low chord that made them turned sharply around and leave.

Not so his luck with the red-haired, green-eyed, leather-clad woman who, for those with The Sight, had black wings, more like those of a crow than an angel. I thought She was The Angel of Death but the look on his face suggested something much more dire. She ordered one of the best whiskies we had and sipped it as she looked at the bluesman. It was a sad smile, a smile that suggested she had a job to do but wasn’t a job she wanted to do.

I’m old enough to know who she was, but was surprised she was here as I’d only seen her a few times down the centuries and I knew she was never the bearer of good news.

She finished drink, nodded to Reynard and walked towards the bluesman. She talked quietly with him for a while and then left without him, which surprised me as the stories about her always say she never leaves without her, errr, prey.

And the bluesman was now playing ‘Cross Road Blues’.

ivy

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What’s New for the 3rd of June: Some Things Turkish and Ottoman Empire Related

Legends should stay legends otherwise they just become history, when the natural course of things is the other way around, from history to legend. ― Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House

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The Several Annies, Apprentices to me, the Estate Librarian, come from all over the world. And several years back one of them was from Istanbul. Sümeyye, now on our Grounds staff,  is responsible for the  incredible spread you see in the Kitchen this morning, a spread which includes breads, soft, creamy cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, a spicy Turkish sausage, and an amazing range of jams, marmalades, and honeys for your sweet tooth. Of course there’s menemen which are really yummy eggs, and lots of tea.

You’ll find some of our many reviews of things Turkish this time as we’ve done a number of such reviews down the decades. And there’s certainly some stories to tell as well such as Zina’s look at the the Turkish coffee she was served one evening at the Estate.

Shall we get started?

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Walter Jon Williams’ Deep State gets a review by Cat as he notes Dagmar Shaw is once again in trouble in this series: ‘So now she finds herself trying to keep Great Big Idea, the ARG running company, afloat. Not an uneasy task given she’s an über geek, not an über money person. All of which explains how she ends up in yet another unstable country, Turkey this time, running an ARG just as those Generals decide to throw out those democratically elected leaders, a situation that has played itself out before in that both young and very old state.’

That we Westerners find Turkey and the Ottoman Empire it came out of fascinating is not surprising to me. Indeed a certain Peter Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, in his Best Of a decade back picked an Ottoman Empire mystery as one of his favored novels: ‘And there’s this English writer named Jason Goodwin, whose novels take place in the Istanbul of 1830 or so, and whose hero is a eunuch whose best friends are a transvestite dancer, and an ambassador from a Poland that literally doesn’t exist anymore, having been swallowed up by Russia, where it remained for 150 years. Gruber, Furst and Goodwin…’ So it’s not surprising that Donna loves it as she says in her review: ‘In spite of these minor quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed The Janissary Tree and look forward to seeing more of ‘Inspector’ Yashim in the future!’

Donna also has a look at  Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman Coffee: Leisure  and Lifestyle in the Eighteenth Century, which has a nice article on the actual history of the so-called Tulip Period of the Ottoman Empire. Do beware that these papers are dry at times as they’re intended for other scholars.

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

Robert notes that the Ottoman Empire included a dizzying array of peoples and traditions, which necessarily led to a less-than-monolithic culture, as outlined in Suraiya Faroqhi’s Subjects of the Sultan: ‘In many ways it is a dizzying survey: Faroqhi’s coverage is extensive, the very richness of the subject is somewhat daunting, and the fascinating sidebars she explores almost lead to severe input overload — but I didn’t care. (She even devotes a section to cooking and dinner parties, and how many “cultural histories” do that?)’

A more historic/political perspective is found in a pair of books, Suraiya Faroqhi’s The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It and Handan Nezir Akmeşe’s The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to World War I. Says Robert: ‘The Ottoman Empire and its successor, modern Turkey, have time and again played an important role in European politics, and yet there are vanishingly few sources in English to bring us the viewpoint of the Turks themselves, or, indeed, to focus on the Anatolian peninsula as other than an adjunct to the doings of European states. Addressing that lack is one of the aims of two recent histories.’

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Zina has a story for us about something quite wonderful: ‘For me, the inky little cups of Turkish coffee are exactly that — it’s not so much the coffee itself that’s so wonderful, but what tends to happen over the cups of it, even if I’m drinking it alone. I was in a tiny, tiny village in the pastoral English countryside visiting friends a bit ago, and after dinner we had Turkish coffee, some tunes, and a great deal of talking and laughing, in the lovely, warm, hospitable dining room of that unbelievably old house.’

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And then there’s Turkish music. Big Earl Sellar has quite an absorbing overview of some of the many traditions involved: ‘Turkey is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions on this planet. With the Karain cave giving us evidence of Anatolian civilization beginning at least 10 000 years ago, the people of this corner of our planet have had a long time to develop a musical culture with the same complexity as India’s, a tradition to rival Celtic, and a beauty that is truly universal.’

He follows up with a look at several CD’s of Turkish classical music: ‘Although I’m familiar with Turkish popular and traditional music, the first three of these discs mark my introduction to Turkish classical music. This is a relatively recent musical invention, dating back 1000 years: composers, inspired by the tradition and the court music, creating a new vocabulary of written, organized works, and defined frameworks for instrumental improvisations.’

Gary has a look at an interesting four-volume set of Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio. First he looks at Volumes 1 and 2,Sultan Composers and Music of the Dancing Boys, followed by Volumes 3 and 4, Minority Composer and Ottoman Suite: ‘The Lalezar Ensemble is part of a current revival of classical Ottoman music under way in Turkey. The group — four instrumentalists and three vocalists — have created four CDs that give a sampling of some of the best and most representative of the five centuries of the Ottoman Empire’s art music.’

A bit of something different is next up: ‘My favorite musical discovery of 2017 was Turkish psychedelia’ Gary says. As an example, he explores an album called XX, which he explains is ‘a two-disc set celebrating the 20-year career of a band called Baba Zula.’

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Our What Not comes from The Armenian Weekly, Armenia once being part of the Ottoman Empire and is entitled What Was Left Behind: Music of the Ottoman Empire:  ‘Record collector Ian Nagoski has been buying up cheap 78 rpm discs for over a decade. The 36-year-old music junkie and record store owner always had one rule: “My policy was to buy anything in a language other than English,” he said in an interview with the Armenian Weekly. In June 2011, Nagoski, in collaboration with Tompkins Square Records, released the three-disc album set “To What Strange Place: The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929,” which features polished tracks from Armenian, Greek, and Turkish records, etched mostly in New York.’

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For our Coda, Robert went searching and came across this performance by one of the many groups we discussed this week, Kardeş Türküler. It’s pretty catchy and more than a little interesting.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Cats

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While our Kinrowan Hall is justly famous for the music that keeps the old place resonating nicely, we’re also home to a fair number of our feline friends. While some of the cats just come and go (not unlike the notoriously peripatetic musicians of The Neverending Session), there are a select few who’ve taken up permanent residence, albeit sometimes in the cellar while the music’s going on, especially if there’s whistles.

Collectively they’re generally known simply as ‘the cats’ (original, huh?), but we figured that it was time to introduce them to you; it’s usually polite — and politic — to greet a cat by name (using his or her sensible, everyday name, or at the very least using ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’), and one often comes across one of our feline inhabitants in one nook or other around the Building.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the moggies . . .

First up is Ysbaddaden (‘King of all Giants’ from the story of Culhwch & Olwen), who’s sometimes affectionately known as ‘Bad Daddy’ by the human staff. He’s the alpha tom of the place, and you mainly find him guarding the gardens, or stalking the great hall. He’s probably tortoiseshell, but it’s difficult to be entirely sure given the amount of ‘markings’ that he’s picked up over his long life of battles. Fiercely loyal and protective towards the other cats, he still packs a hell of a wallop and a frightening turn of speed for an old ‘un!

Didjan is a smaller-than-average tabby female, probably the runt of her litter. Something of an outsider, ‘Didjie’ somehow manages to thrive on any food scraps left unattended for more than a second by the others — and occasionally the inattentive human as well. She can generally be found in the windows of the kitchen passageways. Both feline and human rumours of her forming an unholy alliance with Maggie Pye are probably completely accurate. . . . (A ‘didjan’ is a morsel of food — the bit of pasty crust that the dirty fingers hold, left by Cornish tin miners to appease the ‘buccas’ in the ‘bal’ (mine).

Phynnoderee is a very sleek, black Manx tom cat. ‘Finn’ is of the ‘rumpy’ (no tail) rather than the ‘stumpy’ variety of Manx, and seems rather proud of the fact. He’s hugely popular with the she-cats (which may explain the high percentage of oddly-tailed kittens mewling around underfoot.) He can often be spotted in the Reading Room, on some high spot overlooking his domain.

Wattie mysteriously arrived as a kitten in the Green Man cellars, shortly after a touring Scots band (friends of Our Jack) stored their flight cases down there . . . Growing up to be quite burly, his indescribably long and shaggy ginger fur means that he’s sometimes known as ‘that orange brute.’ Wattie has claws like claymores, and pursues his favourite sport of ‘moosing’ in the storerooms with an intensity that borders on the psychopathic.

Maddy and June (aka The Silly Sisters), are two tabby females, very alike, and usually seen together. June is the slightly larger of the two and is distinguishable by the white patch below her neck. Maddy is probably the wilder-natured cat (and has been known to bear a few ginger kittens). One stumbles across them gamboling together wherever their fancy takes them.

Blodeuwedd is the youngest of the females. Denise found her by the Green Man entrance, hiding among the flowers (in a hanging basket, strangely), and invited her in for a saucer of milk. While ‘Blod’ co-exists quite happily with the other cats, she frequently seeks the company of humans in the offices of the building, and has the unnerving ability to magically appear on desks like a very sudden Cheshire Cat.

Maeve is a splendid and stately black and white female of indeterminate age; she’s at least as old as Ysbaddaden, who she’s clearly known from kittenhood. Largely sedate and inactive these days, and usually to be found on the velvet cushions of the second floor landing window seat where proper homage may be paid to her when one goes past, when Maeve does go for a stroll, she does so as queen of all that she surveys. Though well past breeding age, Maeve will still (when no ‘prying eyes’ of the younger cats are about) invite Ysbaddaden to assist her with her grooming.

Cats, underfoot and in unexpected places, skulking in the cellars, haunting the hems of the drapes, purring to themselves on sunny windowsills, licking each other’s ears before the fires, and, while you’re reading this edition of the Review, probably draping themselves over your reading material. It’s in their nature.

ivy

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What’s New for the 27th of May: Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale, Canadian singer-songwriter Dana Sipos, Scottish singer Siobhan Miller, another treat from Folkmanis, the interconnectedness of our reviews, Oysterband’s ‘Red Barn Stomp’, ‘Places’ in fantasy novels, and other cool things

But you must stop playing among his ghosts — it’s stupid and dangerous and completely pointless. He’s trying to lay them to rest here, not stir them up, and you seem eager to drag out all the sad old bones of his history and make them dance again. It’s not nice, and it’s not fair. — Patricia McKillip’s Winter Rose

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So what was the best book you’ve read this year? Or the best recording you’ve had  a listen to? Do you have a favourite dark chocolate? Mine’s the Ritter dark chocolate with hazelnuts which is the perfect size for an afternoon snack while walking out and back to our Standing Stones.

Everything we like is unique to us as I noticed when Cat asked Deborah, author of the Haunted Ballad Series and the JP Kinkaid Chronicles, what her favourite Grateful Dead was and she replied, ‘I’m an old school Dead woman. Give me Aoxomoxoa, Anthem Of The Sun, Live Dead, Workingman’s Dead, and American Beauty. I helped Annette Flowers and Eileen Law stuff cartons of Europe ’72. After Pigpen died, they started losing me for good and never really got me back. But that was my period of Dead.’

 To me, one of the joys of this enterprise we are doing is reading what other staffers, both now and going back decades, has found that they really appreciate (and what they sometimes really, really don’t appreciate) as they’re often things I’d not a clue existed such as gremlins made physical from Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins: The Lost Walt Disney Production!

So let’s see what we found for you this time.

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Not all that uncommon is the tendency of one of our reviews to be linked to other reviews we’ve done down the decades. Such is the case this edition as everything Robert looks at is connected to other reviews by him…

Robert has a review of Winter Rose: ‘The story is told in McKillip’s characteristically elliptical style, kicked up an order of magnitude. Sometimes, in fact, it is almost too poetic, the narrative turning crystalline then shattering under the weight of visions, images, things left unsaid as Rois and Corbet are drawn into another world, or come and go, perhaps, at will or maybe at the behest of a mysterious woman of immense power who seems to have no fixed identity but who is, at the same time, all that is coldest and most pitiless of winter.’

He also looks at Solstice Wood, a sequel of sorts to Winter Rose: ‘McKillip has always been a writer whose books can themselves be called ‘magical,’ and it’s even more interesting to realize that she seldom uses magic as a thing of incantations and dire workings, or as anything special in itself. It just is, a context rather than an event, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.’

Robert also found something that Solstice Wood has in common with Jane Lindskold’s Child of a Rainless Year — although that one can certainly stand on its own: ‘Jane Lindskold is one of the more adventurous authors working in the mode of speculative fiction. From her transparent contributions to Roger Zelazny’s last two books through the contemporary urban fantasy of the athanor novels through the more-or-less “classic” fantasy world of Through Wolf’s Eyes, she has shown not only great ease in moving among subgenres, but a remarkable proficiency in pushing the envelope stylistically without becoming precious, an affliction suffered by many in the field.’

And would you believe that Orson Scott Card’s Magic Street shares a –what? An image? A metaphor? — with those two novels? ‘Mack is nobody’s and everybody’s — he wanders the neighborhood and, eventually, is welcome wherever he happens to be. And then one day, when in his early teens, he sees a house that isn’t there, and goes in.’ivy

While the warmer temps have us gearing up for Summer, Denise’s review of Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale has us dreaming of Spring. But don’t assume it’s just a Spring beer; this is one that jumps seasons nicely. ‘Grab ’em while you can, or you’ll have to wait ’til next year. And you won’t want to wait.’ See why she’s a fan in her review!

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Robert has a look at a rather unusual graphic novel, Alex Woolfson’s Artifice: ‘The basic premise here is a science-fiction trope that goes all the way back to Isaac Asimov’s Robot stories — how smart does an artificial intelligence have to be to be considered human?’

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Chuck looks at an offering from a well-known Nordic musician: ‘Mats Eden is a founder and the only original member of the Swedish contemporary folk group, Groupa. With Lackerbiten (which, I believe, translates to “Little Bits”), Eden goes solo and traditional, performing thirty — yes, thirty — tunes originating in the Varmland region, straddling the border of Sweden and Norway.’

Gary took a shine to a new recording from Canadian singer-songwriter Dana Sipos. ‘If like me you appreciate deeply rooted folk music that’s recorded with the sort of post-modern studio wizardry that enhances that music’s moods and meanings, then you owe it to yourself to check out Dana Sipos’ Trick of the Light.’

Lars was favorably impressed with Strata by the Scottish singer Siobhan Miller. ‘I have played Strata continuously for more than a week and it still grows on me with every new listening. A good selection of songs, very well sung and nice, varied arrangements; what more could you ask for?’

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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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.’

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I think a bit of rather lively music in the form of ‘Red Barn Stomp’ to show us out this edition will do very nicely.  Recorded sometime in June of 1990 in Minneapolis by the Oysterband  with June Tabor joining them there as well. The lads were on tour in support of their Little Rock to Leipzig album where you can find another version of this tune.

Ian Tefler, a band member, tells us that the name of this piece was chosen to sound trad. It features John Tefler calling the tune and very neatly incorporates the actually trad tune, ‘The Cornish Six-Hand Reel’ in it as well.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Béla

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I noticed that Béla was enjoying a meal of  goulash and dark beer, something that the Kitchen being fond of him cooks him frequently. (I’ve had that goulash — it’s as good as any I’ve had in Hungarian eateries!) Like many here at this Estate, I’ve pondered just who he is as no one here now is clear quite how he fetched up here.

He’s been here at least forty years and was a man of middle age when he got here according to what I remember from being told by the previous Steward. I’d guess that he’s in his eighties now but quite hale still.

He speaks German, Hungarian and French but not a bit of English after all the time he’s been here. It doesn’t seem to be a problem as there’s usually someone here who shares at least one language with him.

I though he was Hungarian but Iain, our Librarian, says what Béla claims is quite a bit stranger. Iain says that he claims to have been born in the Ottoman Empire long before it became Turkey. Now that it would make him well over a hundred! Not impossible give we’re situated on The Border, but still odd as that usually only effects those who spend time in what Yea called The Celtic Twilight.

His room is sparse with just his clothes, his books in the languages he knows, and his violin. That violin is a Strad. Yes, one of those rare instruments. I’ve been told by Max, the resident luthier here at the Estate, that it’s definitely the real thing. Béla won’t say where he acquired it, nor does he think it’s anything extraordinary that he has it.

I’ve never heard him play anything except various folk tunes, be they of European origin, or of the Celtic traditions. He’s very fond of learning new tunes and actually had Sara ap Morgan, a  cwrth  player who stayed with us for a summer that turned into several years, teach him Welsh fiddle tunes as she spoke French as well as English and Welsh. He even learned quite a bit of Welsh from her as well.

He always lends a hand, be it with Kitchen work or helping me with work outside. He’s as handy with a cross-cut saw at his age as workers fifty years his junior. Th local GP who does his annual physical says he’s in his late fifties or early sixties.

So the mystery remains…

ivy

 

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What’s New for the 20th of May: Some Terry Riley works for string quartet, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a Charles de Lint novel and video fiction, a new Fairport album, Mast Sea Salt Chocolate and other matters


We’re all such beings because we tell every story from our oh so personal viewpoint with little or no regard for what most of you know. Nor do we often care what you know. — A patron to Reynard late one night in our Pub

ivyGutmansdottir, our resident botanist and now junior only to Gus in terms of tending the Estate gardens and grounds, has been cultivating orchids in the Conservatory on the quite logical grounds that everyone needs flowering plants nearby. That’s why you’ll see them here in Kinrowan Hall pretty much everywhere they can be.

Likewise books are to found everywhere in this ancient Hall as books are creature comforts as well.  Be it a well-used and beloved cookbook, a mystery that has entertained generations of readers or a novel from a favoured writer of fantasy,  you won’t go far here without seeing someone reading something or a book sitting somewhere carefully marked with a personal bookmark to note where the reader left off.

So let’s see what works tickled the fancy of our reviewers this time. And we’ve got other good things for you to consider as well, so let’s get started…

ivy

Cat has a mystery for us: ‘Christopher Fowler’s Full Dark House is the best mystery set during the London Blitz of the early 1940s that I’ve ever read, bar none. It is also the best mystery set within the very peculiar world of the theater that I’ve read. It is every bit as good as Foyle’s War, the BBC series I watched, where the Second World War has just begun and England’s fate looks bleak indeed in the face of an inevitable German invasion, bur someone still has to fight crime on the home front. Who better than Christopher Foyle in that series, and who better in this mystery series than Arthur Bryant and John May of the newly formed Peculiar Crimes Unit?’

Craig has some prime horror for us: ‘Robert E. Howard wrote short stories during the heyday of the pulp era, mostly for Weird Tales, from 1924 until his death by suicide in 1936 at age 30. Howard wrote in various genres, but he is now best known for his stories popularizing the fantasy subgenre “sword and sorcery,” and especially the hero he created, Conan the Barbarian. His range of talent, however, is becoming better known as pulp-era fiction regains a modern readership. Del Rey Books is doing their part to keep his name in front of book-buyers with their affordable trade-paperback collections of his work, of which The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard is only the most recent.’

Richard says reading Elizabeth Bear’s New Amsterdam ‘for the mysteries is missing the point. As mysteries, they’re nothing special. There’s usually one suspect, who gets introduced late in the game, and their motivations are often given as exposition as opposed to revealed. If the mysteries themselves were the point, that would be aggravating.’ Need I note that it’s an alternative history with vampires and zeppelins?

Robert got to read Charles de Lint’s newest book, The Wind In His Heart, and was suitably impressed: ‘Let me put it this way: I’ve been reading de Lint’s fiction for about thirty years now, and a lot of it has been good enough to stand up under repeated readings. This one kicks the whole game up a notch.’

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OK I’m not sure this exists anymore and I’m reasonably certain it was only released on VHS but Michael says it’s worth seeking out: ‘Adapted from the Charles de Lint short story of the same name, Sacred Fire was produced as an episode of the anthology television series, The Hunger, and first showed in 1999. A horror/dark fantasy series initially hosted by Terence Stamp and then David Bowie, The Hunger takes dark, twisted looks at the world around us.‘ In an email, the author notes that one of his favourite things about it is ‘David Bowie dressed up as a mad scientist as he introduces it!’

ivy

Denise decided to give Mast Sea Salt Chocolate a try, and liked what she tasted. ‘However you decide to indulge, you’ll be happy you did.’ If you’re a dark chocolate fan, you’ll want to read her review!

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

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Gary says American guitarist Steve Tibbetts’ latest album Life Of draws on world, ambient, jazz and experimental musics, but ‘at its root, this music is a deeply Midwestern sound of wide-open space.’

Michael looks at What We Did On Our Saturdaythe latest from a venerable English band: ‘Saturday, August 12 2017 to be precise. The final evening of Fairport’s Cropredy festival in their 50th year. It was always going to be a special occasion, and the likelihood of a recording was strong, after releases of similar previous anniversaries. The pun of the title, referring back to the band’s 1969 ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’ album, is carried over to the design of this new set, echoing the blackboard drawing of a now different and older grouping of band and friends.’

Robin Laing’s Ebb and Flow gets an appreciative look see by Peter: ‘This is the 6th album from Robin Laing, consisting entirely of his original songs. Robin, who is also a fine traditional singer, has, over the past 10 years, also established himself as one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary singer-songwriters. He draws a lot of his influences from everyday life, tales and stories, and some encountered by life on the road.

Robert brings us a group of works by Terry Riley: ‘Cadenza on the Night Plain (the disc, not the work of that title) presents four of Terry Riley’s works for string quartet, works that, if your only acquaintance with Riley has been pieces on the order of In C or other larger-scaled works, are going to be something of a surprise — no matter how complex and abstract their conceptual underpinnings, they are possessed of a refreshing liveliness and clarity.’

Scott has a look at a recording from the founder of Malicorne: ‘Gabriel Yacoub began his career singing and playing guitar in Alan Stivell’s band, before going on to form the legendary French Renaissance rock band Malicorne. Malicorne’s compilation CD Légende: Deuxieme Epoque exceeds the quality of any of the similar compilations from their English contemporaries Steeleye Span, and is on a comparable level with the best output from Fairport Convention. Malicorne split up twenty years ago, and I hadn’t heard any of Yacoub’s subsequent solo material until I recently got the chance to listen to 2002’s The Simple Things We Said. This album combines new songs with reworked versions of some older songs, with the specific intent of cracking the American world music market.’

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

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Our Coda this time’s ‘Pierre De Grenoble’ by Malicorne, a band Scott noted in his review as being the French version of Steeleye Span for their blending of trad material and electric instruments. This was recorded at Hunter College, New York thirty-four years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Staging Shakespeare

ivy

Come in! Glad you got here in time for some theatre tonight. Let’s drop your kit off in the room you’re staying in for the next fortnight before heading out.

It shouldn’t surprise you at all that we do theatre in the long winters here at this isolated Scottish estate. And it further won’t surprise you that Shakespeare is a perennial favourite here century in and century out. So why is that playwright so popular?

Setting aside the literary genius of Shakespeare, he’s one of the easiest playwrights to stage, as the focus on the words allows for a minimalist staging to take place. Oh I’ve seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged at summer solstice deep in an English wood, Macbeth performed in the ruins of a Scottish castle, and even The Tempest against the backdrop of a sullen sea. But those admittedly spectacular performances are only one side of a ha’penny.

The other side of that ha’penny is staged readings, just actors reading the words on a bare stage. Now that’s where you can really see who understands in their heart and soul the magic of Shakespeare, as you can hear that belief in the way they do the lines. Now if they’re lacking in that belief, the words feel as if they’re being read by a politician using a teleprompter for the first time.

We fall somewhere just off being a staged reading by making use of strategic props and even a bit of fey magic where appropriate, such as Lady Macbeth washing her hands in a basin on stage and her hands coming away in red that drips upon the front of her white dress, or using a skull in the gravediggers scene in Hamlet combined with an ever so convenient service stairway as the grave itself.

And I find that my Several Annies, the Library apprentices from around the world, all grasp the joy and agony of Shakespeare. Indeed one of them, I’m proud to say, is now a research fellow concentrating on the interstices between Shakespeare as a writer of fiction using history and Shakespeare as a chronicler of history without interpreting that history.

Enough of my prattling on, as it’s now time we headed off to hear the performance of Much Ado About Nothing in our Theatre in The Round, which is the former livestock auction house. Rebekah, one of my former Several Annies is directing it, a honour for her indeed!

ivy

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What’s New for the 13th of May: Nietzsche, Stephen King considered, chocolate of course and other matters

The advantage of a bad memory is that one can enjoy the same good things for the first time several times. — Friedrich Nietzsche

ivy

Yes, that’s lox and cream cheese on a toasted bagel I’m having along with Komodo Dragon coffee. The salmon are harvested from the river that runs through this Estate and smoked right here. The cream cheese is from Riverrun Farms, a neighbor of ours, and the bagels are created right here, all in all a quite delicious breakfast indeed.

That tasty music playing was recorded at the reunion concert of Skara Brae, an Irish trad music group from Kells, County Meath. The group consisted of three siblings, the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, with Dáithí Sproule from Derry. It is two tunes,  ‘Ar A Dhul Chun’ and ‘Chuain’ off the soundboard recording.

There’s no theme this edition, so you’ll find a bit of everything from two chocolate reviews by Robert to reviews of music such as those from the Scottish trad and Americana genres. Our What Not is a bit different as our Publisher delved into several recent pop culture purchases he made.  And I’ve been told that the Coda music is of a Nietzschean nature. H’h.

ivy

Denise delves into love of Uncle Stevie for a look at Tony Magistrale’s Hollywood’s Stephen King. ‘Tony Magistrale’s comprehensive but not all-inclusive review of King’s filmography not only stirred my interest in the deeper meanings of these films, but sorted their various themes and connections. Hollywood’s Stephen King shows that there are films in the author’s oeuvre that are just as worthy of discussion and critical review, and in some cases the stories these films tell are just as important as the original works they were based on.’

Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales From The White Hart, says Gary, is ‘is a series of superficially linked stories told by the fictional patrons of a fictional pub somewhere in London. The narrator is a fictionalized version of Clarke (the other patrons rib him for being a teetotaler), and I’ve no doubt some of the other patrons mentioned are probably based on others in his scientific and writing circles. These patrons are all either scientists or writers, and they tell each other science-based shaggy dog stories. Most of the stories are told by one fellow in particular, a Harry Purvis, who seems to have led several mortal lifetimes.’

He also looks at Geoff Emerick’s  Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles which he says is by one of the unsung heroes behind that group: ‘Inveterate reader of liner notes that I am, I’ve been aware of his name for some time, but it tended to blend into the amorphous blob of names of other guys on the periphery of The Beatles story, like their roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans. I wasn’t all that clear on what his role was. Eventually I figured out that George Martin was the producer and Emerick the engineer on most of The Beatles’ records – whatever that meant.’

And we have a book about writing, and history, and science fiction — Kate Wilhelm’s Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Says Robert: ‘I was prepared to like this book just because of the publisher’s name — and, of course, the fact that it is by Kate Wilhelm, one of science fiction’s legends: aside from the quality of her stories, in the 1950s and 60s she was one of the two or three women of note in a field dominated by men.’

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Cat has something a little out of the ordinary for our film selection this week — would you believe ‘Saturday morning cartoons’? Yep — a whole season of Justice League Action: ‘Justice League Action is the latest animated series to be set in the DC universe. Unlike earlier series that were roughly twenty two to twenty four minutes long and had seasons of no more that twenty or so episodes, this series has forty, yes forty, episodes running roughly twelve minutes each in what is called its first season.’

ivy

Robert seems to have had a ‘choco-rama’ week. First, he treats us to Lindt’s Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffle Eggs: ‘Lindt (more formally Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG) is a Swiss chocolatier founded in 1845 and known for, among other things, its chocolate truffles.’

And then he got to sample Ghirardelli’s White Chocolate Premium Baking Bar: ‘I have to confess that even in the days when I was an active cook, my baking was limited — I was much more a main dish sort of guy, and not really into sweets. Consequently, I didn’t essay any baking with this bar, but I will readily admit to having nibbled my way through it.’

ivy

Gary has a recording for us that he says is top-notch: ‘Beatrice Deer is a singer-songwriter from Nunavik, the icy region of Quebec north of the 55th parallel and home to Quebec’s Inuit people. My All to You is her fifth record since she left her tiny hometown of Quaqtaq for the big city of Montreal in 2007 to get serious about making music as well as for other personal reasons.’

He also writes about a new album by Kiran Ahluwalia, who was born in India, raised in Canada, and now lives in New York. On her seventh album 7 Billion, he says, ‘She embraces the desert blues of Mali, but she also incorporates Western idioms like the blues, rock, R & B and even a little jazz, into her own new hybrid artform.’

Ryley Walker says he wanted to change his approach on his new release Deafman Glance. Gary says, however, ‘Eschewing the “jammy acoustic” thing doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of really tasty guitar playing on this record. To the contrary.’

Robert looks at a recording where narrative boundaries get challenged: ‘Robert Wilson, Philip Glass’ collaborator on Einstein on the Beach, noted that until that work hit the boards, theater was bound by literature. Thinking on it, he’s pretty much right: stage plays, opera, even film were constrained by a narrative line that relied on a chronological sequence, all based on language. Not so Einstein.’

Terry Riley’s The Cusp of Magic also gets reviewed by him: ‘That’s the key thing to remember about Riley’s music, I think — he’s taken all those traditions, all those influences, all those idioms, and truly synthesized them into a new vocabulary — it’s far beyond references or quotations — and yet it’s very comfortable.’

ivy

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

ivy

Robert, after reading our opening quote, immediately came up with our Coda for this week: Friedrich Nietzsche, by way of Richard Strauss and Stanley Kubrick.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pub Ghoulies

ivy

From the archives of Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house journal published here for centuries now.

Welcome, laddy-buck. Come in and find a seat here by the fire, and tell me your pleasure! Take a settle; they’re cushioned and wide enough for two, should fortune favour you. It’s quiet now, but there’s no end of entertainment due — we’ve a master storyteller, one Charles de Lint, come to regale us, and he’s a marvel and delight. And the lovely Mistress Elizabeth Bear, too, who they tell me is a bold lady, will be telling ghost stories for them as likes.

Well and so — ’tis the season of ghosts and witches soon, and we’re to smarten up the Pub for the celebrations. What’s to celebrate in ghosts and witches, I wonder? But, there — not my place to set our course, not here and now. I know a bit about ghosts and witches, though, that I do; being in the way of being both, you might say.

Oh, don’t shy so! We’re all ghosts from time to time in life, boyo. And can you claim I’m the first you’ve met in a bar? I’ve met ’em, more than once. Aye, that’s better, give us a smile — you’ve a good smile, and I’ve ever had a weakness for a lad with a sweet mouth. That was my undoing, when I sailed with Jack Rackham. Now, here’s your ale; shift over a mite, and let me sit with you for a moment…

Anne is my name, and I’ve been called bonney in my time. But that’s just my little joke, see. It’s my pleasure now to serve ale here in the Green Man, and Reynard is too canny a hand to think he’s my master. But this time of year, when the fogs are coming in black off the sea and salt and frost both flavour the air, it’s good to have a warm harbour here. Why, even the ravens and crows come in for a sup and a nap by the fire – so watch your coin, or our Hooded Maggie will have it away for a play-pretty in her nest under the library eaves.

Aye, she drives Liath the librarian to distraction, fey though Liath is — for Maggie’s always after the gilding on the old books, she is, sharp as any sailor after a coin. But she’s a darling despite it, pretty Maggie — with her beak like a black marlinspike and her gold-doubloon eyes. Oh, you can keep your gulls, says I; no true seaman looks twice at one o’ them! But the ravens and the crows, for all they’re landsman’s birds, they’re fine enough. Reavers and rogues at heart, on the account as much as any buccaneer and merry with it while they may be. And not afraid of the dead nor the dark, neither.

See how she comes to my hand, the sweeting? Some of it’s the sparkle of my rings, to be sure — watch how sly she is, trying her beak all gentle to see if a gem can be slipped off my finger! But more than that, she wants her neck scratched. There, see how she mantles her feathers, ruffles ’em out for a kind finger to stroke. A lass likes a petting now and then. Maggie and I are of a mind, there.

So come, put your arm around a body and we’ll watch the fire a bit. Nay, don’t peep at the mirror yonder. Your cap is straight, and the glass’ll show nothing you want to see.

A fire is such a lovely thing — not just the warmth, but the colours and the sound. When a fire is big enough, wild enough, it roars like the surf on a shingle shore. Have you ever heard it so? It roared like that above the roofs of the towns on the Spanish Main, so it did . . . and ain’t the scarlet and the gold brave, now! Nothing brighter as they twine up a wall or a mast, like roses, and climb a mainsail faster than the best topman goes up the ratlines. All women love what sparkles, like Maggie and her trove; and I never saw anything sparkle fairer than the way wild fire glitters on a dark horizon, or a sacked galleon, or a dead man’s open eyes . . .

Ah, now, lad — I told you not to look in the mirror! What’s a reflection, after all? To be sure, here’s my hand, and the glass I bring you — here’s my smile for you, and my eyes that see you clear enough. You’ll see yourself in my eyes, if you look; no need to gaze at that tricksie glass. What matter that you don’t show in the mirror? It’s nothing to me nor to anyone else here.

‘Tis your season, after all.

ivy

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What’s New for the 6th of May: folk gone electric and it’s finally warm out!

Crop handle carved in bone,
sat high upon a throne of finest English leather.
The queen of all the pack;
this joker raised his hat and talked about the weather,
All should be warned about this high born Hunting Girl;
She took this simple man’s downfall in hand,
I raised the flag that she unfurled.

Jethro Tull’s ‘The Hunting Girl’

ivy

If you’re looking for the residents of Kinrowan Estate, most have found somewhat valid reasons to be outside today, from planting the annual herbs in the Beatrix Potter kitchen garden to helping out with the scrubbing down of the slate patios, as the weather’s warm, somewhat muggy and blessed with full sun. I’ll be headed out as soon as I finish this GMR edition; we’re doing a whole leg of lamb roast in the Courtyard, followed by a concert.

The visiting band’s Snow on the Mountain and they’re named after a plant that has green and white leaves that’s up as soon as the first Spring warmth arrives. They hailed from Big Foot County though I couldn’t find such a place in any gazetteer that we had, but that matters not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments, which makes for a very sweet sound.

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

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

ivy

I have a look at Mark Cunningham’s Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography  which is of a band that clearly shows fusing trad music and rock sensibilities wasn’t just something British bands did: ‘Horslips were, and in many ways still are, the Irish equivalent of Steeleye Span and, to a lesser extent, Fairport Convention, as they blend English and Irish traditional material and a rock and roll sensibility into what was the first Irish folk rock group.’

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.’

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

ivy

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

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

Jethro Tull’s Live at Montreux 2003 gets reviewed by Kage and Kathleen: ‘This live concert was recorded in 2003, at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The event’s founder and chief instigator, Claude Nobs, invited the group to participate in that year’s festival; Ian Anderson, having both fond memories of Montreux and a deep background in jazz, accepted. The result was a 2-hour DVD and a double CD, both released this year as part of Montreux’s program of making individual concerts widely available.‘

ivy

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

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

He also has very nice things to say about The Animals’ Gratefully Dead 1964-1968: ‘Eric Burdon has been in the news recently. As of early July 2004, he has a new CD and a new book, neither of which we will discuss today. He is on tour, somewhere, playing a variation on the blues-based rock (dappled with psychedelia) for which he is famous. But the big news is that the antipodean re-issue label Raven Records has released a new collection of The Animals greatest non-hits! Entitled Gratefully Dead (after an obscure B-side) this new anthology should sit next to its sister disc, Absolute Animals, in any record collection that seeks to understand and appreciate British music of the late ’60s. This is great stuff!’

Donna looks at a box set from the Byrds: ‘So I was quite enthusiastic about reviewing the preview of There is a Season when it arrived in the Green Man offices several months ago (the boxed set was scheduled for release in September 2006, so we probably received this a few weeks before that). When I say preview, I mean that we received the CDs in a plain package with the accompanying liner notes printed on regular 8 1/2 by 11-inch photocopy paper. I can’t tell you a thing about the aesthetics of the final product, but I can actually read the liner notes, which would not be very likely once they were reduced to the booklet size that would be in the boxed set. They include some nice retrospective pieces by Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks) and Rolling Stone’s David Fricke.’

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.

Of course I’m including Steeleye Span here and 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 just 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.’

Inigo rounds off our CD reviews with a look at Aqualung Live: ‘This new recording of Jethro Tull’s classic rock album Aqualung was produced for XM Radio’s “Then Again Live” programme. This is a show that aims to “re-create the most important albums of all time . . . offering total creative freedom for artists to re-visit their milestone recordings [in order not to] rival the original, but to re-experience it.” Well, I haven’t experienced Aqualung for many years, apart from a few songs heard on the radio; but the recent book by Allan Moore which provided a track by track analysis and this new recording have brought me back to the album with new ears.‘

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Our What Not is about the Endless Jam: ‘Have you heard the Endless Jam? No, not the Neverending Session; we’re almost certain those guys are alive — they eat and drink and fall asleep under the tables in the Pub, and I’m pretty sure one of the pipers knocked up that little blonde sous-chef last winter. The Endless Jam is different. Very different.’

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I personally have a keen liking for the Tull of the Sixties and early Seventies which is why you’re getting a cut off their 1976 album, Songs from The Wood. The cut I’ve selected is ‘The Hunting Girl’, a fine pagan story about boy meets girl riding horse and… Oh just go give it a listen!

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Storyteller

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Storytellers and those who read or listen to stories both expect stories to have a beginning, a narrative that tells the tale, and a more or less plausible ending. It’s too bad that that’s a fucking lie — stories are rarely that neat when they actually play out in real life.

There was a storyteller here a few months back that was telling her version of The Bloodied Kings, a story that is recorded in the Estate Annals from nearly a thousand years ago. The Annals doesn’t name either of the Kings but details their final battle against each other at the end of a battle that left nearly everyone dead save the skald that told the tale and (may) have written it down. So consider this — we don’t know who the Kings were, though we know roughly where they fought and died, and we might know where they might be buried though that is suspect as well. Messy, isn’t history?

Now our Storyteller took these threads, these small pieces of torn fabric, and wove a whole tapestry out of them. Nothing wrong with that but she went one step beyond that by adding in her conjectures about who they were (both Scots in her telling though it’s more likely one was Scandinavian), how they died (both from sword wounds though we know not what they were wielding for weapons), who buried them (though it’s more likely they left for the carrion birds to consume as the survivors likely were retreating fast to save their lives). Her Tale took those scant threads and brought them to life in the mind’s eye.

Was it a bad story? Not at all, but as our Librarian said stories always simplify what happen, be it based on something that actually happened or told from whole cloth, be it a story they created or borrowed from other sources.

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What’s New for the 29th of April: Yemeni coffee, Jack Vance: a tribute volume, A 40,000-year-old hedgehog, interlibrary loans, lakriti and other cool things


Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a
glory of civilization. ― Jo Walton’s Among Others

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What’s that? A Maypole going up in the courtyard in front of the Green Man Pub? There can be no surer sign that summer’s ‘acumin’in!’ It looks like the denizens of the pub’s Neverending Session may be lured outside, along with staff members tucked away in offices in the most unlikely places.

Yes, spring has burst out all over, and some of the folks around here seem to be feeling the effects of the impending May Day. Who was that slipping into Oberon’s Wood just now? Well, spring is as good an excuse as any, I suppose.

We’ve got spring greens in our salad, and some of the winter vegetables roasting on the grill, along with some tender lamb steaks, braised with mint and garlic. Are we starting early? I suppose, but this is the Green Man Staff, after all.

So pull up a chair, fill your plate, get Reynard to pour you a pint, and feast your eyes on this week’s set of reviews.

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Gary may or may not have had an assist from caffeine when he zipped through Dave Eggers’ The Monk of Mokha. Either way, he says it is ‘a solid and entertaining book of reportage about the life so far of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, an American of Yemeni descent who has made it his mission to return Yemeni coffee to its former place of prominence in the world.’

Liz says Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett’s  Irish Folk, Trad And Blues ‘ is a sprawling, overcrowded, rush-hour subway car of a book that piles on more eccentric musicians, frenetic booze-ups and unscrupulous music industry types than my brain could keep track of. It is a collection of essays and previously published reviews and interviews that covers roughly thirty years of Irish, English and American music-making (from 1962 to 1998). The book explores the history of the English and Irish Folk Music Revivals of the 1960s, Van Morrison and Them, the Blues boom in Northern Ireland, Irish Rock, Irish Folk Music in the 1970s, The Irish Trad Revival, and the Folk Music Revival of the 1990s.’

Remember Jack Vance? Robert’s been digging around in the Archives again and came up with something — well, it’s not by Jack Vance, it’s sort of about Jack Vance: a tribute volume, Songs of the Dying Earth, featuring a host of science fiction’s luminaries: ‘Anyone who doubts the pervasive and ongoing influence of Jack Vance need only look at the table of contents to this tribute volume. Many of the contributors are legends themselves (Glen Cook, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Robert Silverberg); others are some of the clearest and strongest voices of newer generations (Kage Baker, Jeff VanderMeer); and the influence seems to span the English-speaking world, from Britain (Matthew Hughes, Liz Williams) to Australia (Terry Dowling). And that’s not even half of them.”

Robert has some thoughts on a book about another legendary figure in science fiction, not a writer but an editor: Gary Westfahl’s Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction: ‘Hugo Gernsback occupies a unique role in the history of science fiction, but exactly what that role is at present has generated a fair amount of controversy. He has been depicted as the visionary creator of a new genre of forward-looking fiction, and equally as a high-handed editor who thought nothing of rewriting his contributors’ stories to fit his ideas.”

Skip rounds out our book reviews with this audiobook: ‘In Return to Inverness Fulton has eschewed not only the Eastern mysticism of his first tale in favor of Wicca and neo-pagan lore but also the annoying habit of constantly thrusting these metaphysical ideas in the listeners’ ears.’ See what else his review has to say about this Meatball Fulton 30-year anniversary celebration of the first Jack Flanders audio adventure.

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Cat R. reviews lakriti (Finnish fruit licorice) and finds it very sweet: ‘There is certainly both a determined sweetness and solidity to this Finnish candy (lakritsi in Finnish). The label tells me this is called “black gold” in Finland but a cursory scan of search engine results failed to corroborate this. It is an enigmatic candy that, despite the name, has no black licorice taste to it.’

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April has a warm response to the first volume of what looks to be an intriguing comics series, Air: Letters from Lost Countries: ‘Blythe is not your typical airline attendant. Sure, she’s blonde, pretty and personable, playing into every conceivable stereotype there is. But Blythe is much more than that. For starters, she’s acrophobic, surviving each flight only through the wonders of modern pharmaceuticals. Then there’s the attractive, mysterious passenger she’s fallen in love with, who may or may not be a terrorist.’

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‘We humans are wanderers,’ Gary says in his review of Albanian singer Elina Duni’s new solo recording. ‘Elina Duni with Partir continues the long tradition of assuaging, through song, the pain that comes with leaving, exile, and parting.’

Nik Bärtsch is back with a new recording with his ensemble Ronin, titled Awase. Gary says, ‘The Swiss composer and pianist makes what I think of as “iterative jazz” and which Bärtsch calls “ritual groove music.” ‘

Kim notes that  ‘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).

Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King draws this note from No’am: ‘This disk tries primarily to separate the fact from the fiction. “The historical Arthur is a highly controversial figure. Theories abound as to his region of activity and his ancestry.” are the first two sentences in the well written sleeve notes. Arthur also tries to provide in music a feeling of what it was like to have been alive in time of Arthur. ‘

Our  Belgian based Richard starts off his review of  Smoke and Strong Whisky this way: ‘Everyone knows Christy Moore, a central figure in the Irish folk revival of the 1960s and indirectly a significant contributor to the English folk revival that paralleled it. We know of his work with Moving Hearts and we are familiar with his earlier role in the highly influential Planxty, in both of which his path crossed with those of several other leading traditionally-inclined Irish musicians. The cross-fertilization of the Planxty years produced a series of solo and collective ventures by Moore that have built on and developed Irish folk and folk-derived music down to the present day.’  Now read his review to why this is not the Christy Moore you’d expect to be performing!

He also has a goodie for us: ‘Richard Thompson is often described as a cult figure, a description that Thompson himself defines as meaning that he does not have hit records and, as a result, does not make a fortune from his art. Even adepts of the cult who have all of his officially issued recordings will find things to rejoice at in Watching the Dark (hereinafter WtD.) It is also a marvelous introduction to Thompson’s career for anyone unfamiliar with his work.’

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One of our favorite Twitter accounts to follow is that of one Jamie Woodward, professor of georgaphy at the University of Manchester. He tweets as The Ice Age (@Jamie_Woodward), and his missives range from the profound to the whimsical – and sometimes they’re both at once. A recent thread has concerned new evidence that the extinctions of large mammals during the last Ice Age was linked to human activity. And an ongoing series consists of photos of artworks created by humans during the Ice Age. Cave art, of course, but also small works in antler and mammoth ivory, including this delightful little 40,000-year-old hedgehog.

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For our Coda this week we have a song that seems to be very popular among Nordic musicians. Some sources cite it as ‘traditional’ and imply that it was first written down by Gjermund Haugen, others say it it was composed by Haugen. Whatever. It’s an appealing tune, and we offer first a version by Annbjørg Lien (who recorded it on her first album, Felefeber) on hardanger fiddle, with Bjørn Ole Rasch on keyboards. And you can follow that up with a version by the Danish String Quartet, from their album Last Leaf.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our very small art exhibition space

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Well it is. Very small that is. And it’s been located here at the Estate for at least several centuries as the endowment that created it goes back that far. One piece of art, be it painting, sculpture or banzai tree — it didn’t matter just as long as it fit within the four foot high by three foot wide display case just outside the entry to the Library.

Some artists you’ll recognize — Arthur Rackham, Jilly Coppercorn to mention two that have widespread fame these days. Others that I could mention wouldn’t mean anything but to you such as one whose dissertations were on an artist so obscure that her career as a scholar employed at a Uni was over before it began, but she’s a stunning designer of jewelry using silver and amber.

My favourite pieces are either ceramic or fiber in nature. The artist who designed the ceramic troll under the bridge for us did a stunning model for us of the troll and the stone bridge; our luthier did a deconstructed hurdy gurdy with descriptions rendered in Middle French as the original drawing had; the stitching circle here decided to also recreate something, a Swedish tapestry from the Fourteen Hundreds using only tools from that time; and a Several Annie from Japan designed labels and fired prototype bottle models for Kinrowan Special Reserve Fruit Wines.

There’s a generous stipend that comes with is from our bank in Glasgow with visiting artists getting room and board while they stay here. Each piece is purchased by us and added to the collection here.

So let’s see what went up this morning. I knew nought about it as the artist, a ceramicist, has been very coy about her final design.

ivy

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What’s New for the 22nd of April: Disposable fountain pens, Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu, two chocolate goodies, Space Opera and other matters

I sipped my own coffee, heavy on the sugar and cream, trying to make up for the late work the night before. Caffeine and sugar, the two basic food groups. — Laurell K. Hamilton’s Cerulean Sins

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Ahhh that heavenly aroma is coming from the Kitchen, which is making the coffee this fine late Spring morning with Komodo Dragon coffee beans that they roast themselves. It’s an Indonesia bean that Ingrid, my wife who kept her job of being the Estate Buying Agent when she become our Steward,  found several years back when we were in that country. It’s been a favourite around here ever since.

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.

Lambing season is wrapping up here on the Kinrowan Estate, but I remember that Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter, had an article on the care and feeding of the tenders of the ewes. Let me see if I can find it while you read this edition…

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Cat looks at Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven’s The Mote in God’s Eye which he say of that ‘Until the likes of Iain M. Banks with The Culture series and Neal Asher with the Polity series came along, quite possibly the best Space Opera of all time was this forty year-old novel that took the Space Opera novels of the 1930s and 1940s and very, very nicely updated them.’

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.’

Gary also reviewed a recent SF anthology called The New Space Opera: ‘Of course, “space opera” is what all science fiction used to be, up until about the 1970s or so. Thrilling tales of adventure in outer space, usually featuring huge starships, weird aliens, strange planets and battles, either physical or of wits.’

Joel looks at Neal Asher’s Gridlinked, a space opera of sorts that’s a novel in The Polity series which has been running a lot longer than The Culture series did: ‘I’ve never been one for long series, and certainly the greater part of my reading time is spent on authors I’m encountering for the first time, rather than always going with the same old stand-bys, but what can I say? I get something new in the Polity universe and I know it will always be good. When it comes to escapist fiction, Neal Asher has become my most dependable travel guide. No surprise then I moved him to the top of my reading pile.’

Robert came up with a series that is quintessential space opera, with a twist: C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga, including Chanur’s Homecoming, and the sequel, Chanur’s Legacy: ‘C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga is an almost-omnibus edition of her tetralogy about Pyanfar Chanur and her ship, the interstellar trader The Pride of Chanur. Because of length, the “omnibus” volume contains the first three in the series . . . , and one would be well-advised to be sure that Chanur’s Homecoming, issued separately, is within easy reach, lest one be left hanging off a cliff.’

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It’s not a film but this novel is what happens when a series, no matter how short-lived, becomes beloved by legions of viewers. Firefly was a one-season space opera created by Joss Whedon that was brilliant. Unfortunately the network didn’t think the ratings were good enough, so they killed it after a single season, though they wrapped it up in a movie called Serenity. Stephen Brust, a writer many of you will know, wrote My Own Kind of Freedom and Cat says it’s quite true to the series.

And Robert, having been a Star Trek fan in his younger days, has a look at one of the reboot films, Star Trek: Into Darkness: ‘I’ve sort of lost track of Star Trek, after being glued to the TV every week in my younger days, as Gene Rodenberry’s original series was airing. Strangely enough, the last Star Trek movie I saw was The Wrath of Khan. (If that’s a spoiler, well, life is like that.) Let me say right off the bat that Star Trek: Into Darkness is not that.’

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Cat R. got the chance to sample a whole bunch of chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier: ‘Here in America we like our add-ins, ice cream and candy full of other candy, nuts, random sweets, and sometimes savories. Chuao (pronounced Chew-WOW) has a shelf-load of such, chocolate bars with all the goodies, created by Venezuelan chef Michael Antonorsi.’

Denise digs into a chocolate bar for this edition; someone’s got to do the dirty work, she explains. Her look at Godiva’s Dark Chocolate Almond bar may have you looking elsewhere though. ‘Good chocolate is good chocolate. Unfortunately for Godiva, this bar is only fair to middling.’

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Warren Ellis & J. H. Williams III’s Desolation Jones has, says Richard, ‘The long shadow of John Constantine lingers over the figure of Desolation Jones. But whereas Constantine is a spiky-haired Brit occult operative who abuses his odd network of friends while intimidating people into giving him answers by sheer force of personality, Jones is a spiky-haired Brit ex-spook who abuses his odd network of friends while intimidating people into giving him answers by sheer force of personality.’

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Gary reviews Absence by a jazz trio led by Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu. ‘The son of two classical pianists, born in Estonia but raised in Germany, [Randalu] grew up playing classical piano himself until he heard Chick Corea’s Inside Out when he was 13 years old.’

Gary had a lot of fun listening to the debut recording of The Turbans, a multi-cultural group whose music is a heady mix of European and Levantine styles and much more. ‘The Turbans bring a passionate spirit of adventure and an infectious liveliness to their music. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics – which are in up to a half-dozen languages – it’s impossible to not be captured by their joy.’

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.’

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 is that the music has all the punch and immediacy of a live performance, with none of the drawbacks that the raw sound of live shows often suffer from.’

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Our What Not this week is one that should be dear to the heart of anyone who writes — or at least, anyone who is not tied to a keyboard. Cat R. brings us a look at a line of disposable fountain pens. Yes, that’s right: fountain pens.

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I’ll take your leave now with some music and  ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ is my choice for your listening pleasure as that was what Iain was playing in the Library when I psssed by earlier this afternoon. This was taken from a Altman performance listed as a Folkadelphia Session on the seventh of March just three years ago.

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What’s New for the 15th of April: Furry fiction, Live music from Danú, Pamela Dean’s favourite ballad, Welsh music, a Stonewall Kitchen chocolate bar and other tasty matters

My feeling says there is history here. But sometimes a thing might feel true to me, not because it is, but because the writer believes it is. — Pamela Dean’s The Dubious Hills

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Iain, our Librarian, has the Several Annies, our Library Apprentices who are actually Estate Apprentices as they learn butchering, carpentry and other hands on skills, is off with Guðmundsdóttir, a botanist who’s our expert on The Wild Wood, for a lesson on spring foraging. And because the weather is splendid on this afternoon with both warm temperatures and sunny skies, the Pub’s more than quiet enough for me to work up this edition.

I’ve dipped into the Archives for most of our book reviews this time, a repository of myriad reviews, most not yet imcluded here on this version of GMR. China Miéville is one of favourites so we look at Kraken, one of at lest there London sort urban fantasies that he did; we’ve also reviewed a lot of work by the late Diana Wynne Jones and an awesome look at her work gets reviewed by us: and I also single out the Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary novel by Pam Dean that is also figures into our What Not this edition.

Shall I pour you some of our freshly tapped Spring Ale for you to sip while reading this edition? I think it’ll go well with the Irish trad music by Danú that is our Coda this time…

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But first, for something new — and more than a little out of the ordinary:  Cat R. takes a look at, not a book but a genre, in her survey titled An Armload of Fur and Leaves: ‘In the last year or so, I found a genre that hadn’t previously been on my radar, but which I really enjoy: furry fiction. Kyell Gold had put up his novel Black Angel on the SFWA member forums, where members post their fiction so other members have access to it when reading for awards, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The novel, which is part of a trilogy about three friends, each haunted in their own way, showed me the emotional depth furry fiction is capable of and got me hooked. Accordingly, when I started reviewing for Green Man Review, I put out a Twitter call and have been working my way through the offerings from several presses.’

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

Farah Mendlesohn’s Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature also gets a look by Kestrel: ‘Diana Wynne Jones (DWJ to her fans) is one of those writers who, despite the fact that she is frequently referred to as a “children’s author,” has a significant following of adult readers. Although there are an increasing number of literary critics addressing the subject of children’s and young adult fantasy, there is still a lack of literary criticism addressing why those books often shelved in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries hold such a strong appeal for so many adult readers. Despite the title of this book (a title chosen by the publisher, not the author), its subject is a sophisticated exploration of Diana Wynne Jones’s complex approach to writing and storytelling.‘

Rachael has a cool sounding novel for us: ‘In her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Pamela Dean offers a story inspired by a traditional ballad, a familiar and fascinating blend of lyrical writing spiced with literary references and a perceptive glimpse into everyday life touched with mystery and magic.’

Richard looks at the last, or perhaps that’s not the correct framing, novel in Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood series: ‘So why Avilion now as my reading material? As you well know, late November is a cold, rainy, and often simply nasty time as regards the weather ‘ere in the place where the Green Man offices are located. This being the case I decided to read the Green Man Library copy of Avilion, the latest novel in the Ryhope Wood series. These tales seem born of the colder time of year even when the story is set in warmer months, and fiction with a strong seasonal feel to it — such as Emma Bull’s midsummer-set War for The Oaks — is something I always enjoy. This series handles seasonal changes in its corner of Albion very well indeed.’

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Robert brings us a look at another nature documentary, Wild North, that he thinks is in every way superior: ‘Wild North is another treasure I found on Netflix. It’s a nature/wildlife series but not from the BBC or the Discovery Channel — this one’s an independent film from Norway. There are three episodes, “The Coast,” “The Forest,” and “The Mountains.” And, although the series talks about the wildlife of Scandinavia, it seems that it was filmed almost entirely in Norway.’

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Cat, one of our our West Coast based reviewers, reviews a surprisingly spicy chocolate bar from Stonewall Kitchen: ‘It is dark as a stormy night, but carries a surprising amount of heat (of the various chili-augmented chocolate bars I’ve tried, it is the most fiery.)’

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Lars has a look at the latest release that Arc Music sent us, The Ultimate Guide to Welsh Music: ‘Cerys Matthews of Catatonia fame, and also an author and a readio presenter, has tackled the task of giving us an overviewof Welsh folk music and I must say she has done a brilliant job. Two CDs packed with music, in total 48 tracks with 48 different acts, clocking in at two hours and 36 minutes, complete with extensive liner notes presenting every artist or group taking part. The oldest recording are from the 1940s, the newest from 2015.’

Gary takes note of the second release of Balkan songs by American singer Eva Salina. This one, Sudbina, is a duet with accordionist Peter Stan, presenting the music of Serbian Roma singer Vida Pavlović. ‘These two musicians have amazing chemistry between them, and bring great passion and joy to the music.’

Gary also reviews an album by various artists called Hummingbirds & Helicopters, a benefit for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston, Texas, area last year, spearheaded by folk singer Jolie Holland. ‘It opens with an intriguing cover by Holland of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927,” with the avant-garde percussion ensemble Thor and Friends backing Holland’s vocals and piano.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers have just released their second CD, titled Years. It’s a rip-roaring collection of punk-influenced country. Gary says Shook’s ‘refusal to be heartbroken even when she has a broken heart runs through most of this album’s 10 songs.’

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Our What Not comes courtesy of  Pamela Dean: ‘As I went through all the Child ballads when I was trying to think of a frame for Juniper, Gentian, & Rosemary, and the only other remotely feminist ballad I could find was ‘Riddles Wisely Expounded,’ which is not nearly as active for the young woman as ‘Tam Lin’ is. Well, there is the one where a young woman ransoms her guy and says, ‘The blood had flowed upon the green afore I lost my laddie,’ which is nice, but all she does is take all her money and hand it over.’

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So how about some Irish music for our Coda this time? ‘Old Ruined Cottage In The Glen’ and ‘Think Before You Think’ is on found on the Think Before You Think album as well by Danú, a somewhat newish group by the standards of some groups we’ve reviewed. This recording is from their performance at  Johnny D’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the eighth of March sixteen years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Busking (A Letter to Tamsin)

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Greetings Tamsin,

We’re in Stockholm right now, as Ingrid’s working on the tea and related foodstuffs that Jean-Pierre requested she procure. And yes, she’s got a lead on the botanical material you want.

I took a fortnight off from the Pub to go with her, so I’ve been out busking most afternoons when the weather’s decent. I take my English concertina, which is credited to Sir Charles Wheatstone, which means it’s nearly two centuries old. It’s small enough that it fits in my rucksack and different enough in appearance and sound from the mostly fiddle playing buskers that it gives me an edge at attracting listeners. And my language skills are helpful as I speak Swedish, Norwegian, German, and French, having spent a decade working in pubs in Europe when I was much younger.

(I keep my language skills intact largely because our Estate draws many conference attendees from Europe; it also helps that Iain’s Library apprentices, the Several Annies, often come from those polities.)

So I’m on Drottninggatan (Queen Street), which is a major pedestrian street. It’s warm, sunny and there’s a lot of people here, all out shopping, eating and drinking, and enjoying themselves. I’m dressed neatly in all green which offsets nicely my red hair and beard, so I stand out in this culture.

What did I play? I start off with ‘Sommarvals’ (The Summer Waltz) then I move onto ‘Waltz From Boda’ named after a town in the Dalarna region of Western Sweden, and next up is a set of tunes, ‘Da Day Dawn’ / ‘The Jos Mill Tune’ / ‘Da Aald Foula Reel’ / ‘Winyadepla’, that I picked up from Aly Bain & Ale Möller’s Fully Rigged recording.

(Jack’s hoping to book them for an Estate concert them the next time they play together in Scotland.)

So I went on for the next hour or so, which made for a nice time for me, and so it seemed, the listeners. Did I mention I put no place for money out? I noticed that several Polisen apparently appreciated that I wasn’t asking for money as I got hassled not ‘tall by them. And being older probably helped as well.

After thanking the listeners (in Swedish of course), I went off to the cafe where I’d arranged to meet my wife and ordered myself tea and pastries. I must admit I never even liked tea until Jean-Luc, our current Estate Steward, started offering classes in proper tea making some twenty years ago. Now I prefer it to coffee!

With regards, Reynard

ivy

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What’s New for the 8th of April: Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations, Irish whisky, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, life on Earth, and other neat stuff

You know what English is? The result of the efforts of Norman men-at-arms to make dates with Saxon barmaids.― H. Beam Piper’s  Fuzzy Sapiens

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That’s ‘Number 37’ which is  James Keelaghan’s homage to a female horse racer playing here in the Green Pub this lovely Spring day. It’s off one of the myriad samplers that we get, Festive to Go, An All Canadian Sampler that came in some years ago. I’m looking for a live recording of  it so I can share it but no luck so far.

I remember seeing him play this quite some years back at a concert somewhere in Canada where I was managing the door as a favour to a friend. He pulled a flask out of his jeans that held some of the finest Irish whisky that I’d ever had. Don’t recall who distilled it but fuck it was good! If you’re in the mood for some Irish this afternoon, I’ll recommend the Powers John’s Lane. It’s pricy but worth it.

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April looks appreciatively at Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations: ‘Published as a hardcover edition in 1990, Hamilton’s illustrated biography of English painter Arthur Rackham has been gorgeously reproduced here as an oversized softcover edition. Rackham is perhaps best known for his exquisitely detailed paintings of whimsical fairies, gnarled and tangled tree folk, and other such flights of fancy. His work has been used as illustrations for such diverse publications as Rip Van Winkle, Peter Pan, A Midsummers Night’s Dream and Alice in Wonderland. Hamilton’s book is an excellent glimpse into the painter’s life for both fans and those unfamiliar with Rackham’s own special brand of whimsy.’

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.’

Mike has a choice fantasy work for us: ‘Patricia McKillip, a World Fantasy Award winner, writes with a sparse style that evokes great magic with the barest of words. She possesses a fine knowledge of funky musical instruments and the endearing qualities of musicians. Her power is that of place; it defines and motivates her characters. Song for the Basilisk explores how the expression of that power is shaped by the predilections and history of those who wield it.’

Robert rounds out our book reviews with a look at Garth Dahl’s Masks from Around the World: A Personal Collection which he says has something well nowing here: ‘The wealth found here is in the illustrations and descriptions of the masks themselves. Each is illustrated in color, and while the images are not all large, they are very clear, with a good rendering of detail. Dahl’s descriptions and anecdotes add context, and as one goes through the various sections (arranged by geographic areas), one gets a feeling for a deep “ur-tradition” underlying the variety of examples he shows.’

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Robert got a treat this week — Chocolat Frey’s Chocobloc Dark 72% with Honey-Almond Nougat: ‘Chocolat Frey AG was founded in 1887, and is presently the number one chocolate in the Swiss retail market. Like all good chocolatiers these days, Frey is environmentally and socially conscious, which extends not only to its procurement of raw materials, but to its conservation-minded manufacturing and shipping.’

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Ensemble Alcatraz’s Cantigas de Amigo is an album Brendan‘s raving about: ‘I’m beginning to suspect that eventually Dorian will have released a version of every single piece of Iberian medieval music still extant. This is by all means a good thing: although the current booms in Celtic and English traditions are nice, there are plenty of older and just as appealing musical traditions from the Continent that need our attention — particularly from the Iberian peninsula.’

Gary reviews the new album from the Seattle country band Western Centuries. ‘Songs From the Deluge is their sophomore full-length release, and with it Western Centuries continues to up the ante on just how good a country band can be in this day and age.’

Huw wasn’t in the best mood when he popped this rendition of Handel’s Water Music and Royal Fireworks Music by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic: ‘[G]rouchy as I was when I put the disc into my CD player, I have to admit that I pretty soon found myself in a much more cheerful mood. There’s no getting away from the fact that, cliché or not, this is wonderful music!’

Speaking of medieval Iberian music, Robert was quite taken with the Dufay Collective’s Music for Alfonso the Wise: ‘Alfonso X, “el Sabio” (“the Wise”), was king of Castile and Leon from 1252 to 1284, a time when those realms were an outpost of European culture on a peninsula under the domination of the Muslim Moors. . . . This collection, which includes the first known song cycle, ascribed to Martin Codax, gives a glimpse of a time and place which is deliciously foreign while at the same time hauntingly familiar.’

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This week’s What Not is a little unusual, but, as Robert says, “You want roots and branches? I’ll give you roots and branches!” Bring comfortable shoes for a tour of “Evolving Planet” at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

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‘Hallelujah’ is what the Infinite Jukebox is now playing which is a live recording of Leonard Cohen performing that song which he wrote. It was recorded at the Beacon Theater in NYC on the 19th of February nine years ago. Rather moving, isn’t it?

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Pub

It was a fairly typical evening in our Green Man Pub. The weather had turned sharply colder and that meant a steady flow of custom her which kept Finch, my lead barkeep, busy along with one of the Several Annie’s, Iain’s Library apprentices, who was working the floor got us tonight.

So listen as I give you a tour of the Green Man Pub.

The Pub got expanded and modernized when we started hosting music festivals, community gatherings and even the occasional wedding here. The location of it is actually underground as it’s on the first of three levels of cellars under the Estate Main Building. You get it from the greensward side of the building where it has a door out to a stone patio that overlooks the greensward. That wall consists almost entirely of very energy efficient windows which make for a spectacular view, especially during Winter storms.

The other way in is a circular staircase near the check-in area for guests here.  It’s interesting to watch first time visitors emerge from the Stars there as they more often than not expect a Ye Olde Pub and get something that looks like a Scandinavian coffeehouse.

Ale, bourbon, cider, mead and whiskey, both Irish and Scottish, are the mainstays here,with us making the first three here. We also stock bourbon, brandy and vodka.  Don’t ask for a cocktail as we don’t do them ever though I’ll make you what I consider the best Irish coffee anywhere.

The fireplace is reputed to be a thousand years old but I doubt it. It’s big enough to stand me to stand in and I’m nearly six feet tall. We made it energy efficient several back, so it gets used from early Fall to late Spring. We have roasted a whole hog in there and the smell permeated much of the Estate Building.

We can seat upwards of sixty punters here but it’s best when there’s a smaller crowd here. I like it best when there’s thirty or so here with the Neverending Session here playing tunes as the punters talk quietly among themselves and we serve them as need be. No TVs here, but there’s a dart board that gets a lot of use.

There’s an area in left corner that’s always dark and cold. I’ve seen the ghosts that haunt that area and I’ll spare you the nightmares that the ghosts engender. If you’re lucky, you’ll never see them. Just don’t sit near that spot.

Come sit at the bar and I’ll pour you an Autumn Ale for you to enjoy. It’s got a touch of our honey in, the raspberry honey to be exact.

 

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What’s New for the 1st of April: music from Clannad, Cat Rambo joins our staff, Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast, Reckoning 2: Creative Writing on Environmental Justice, the latest from Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Cocaine & Rhinestones website, another dark chocolate review and other tasty things as well

Irish folk is probably the biggest influence musically that I’ve ever had. My mother’s Irish. And when I was very young, both my brothers were very into traditional music, English and Irish. They were always playing music, so I was always brought up with it. — attributed to Enya (Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin), source uncertain

  , .  ivy

It appears that the truly shite winter weather we’ve been having here in Scotland has finally ended. There’s been a restive feel to the Estate for some time now as we got more snow, more bitter weather than we’ve gotten in many, many years. I’ve got the windows here in the Library open to give the place a good airing out and I’m pleased to say that there’s not a soul here this afternoon, so I’m playing through the live recordings that the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, has of Clannad in their early years when they were pretty much a trad Irish band.

Oh and we’ve been remiss not to welcome Cat Rambo, noted sf writer and SFWA President whose site is here, to our staff as our newest reviewer. You’ll see her latest review for us in the book reviews section below, and she’s even got chocolate from us to consume and review.

We’ve got a fat edition chock full of tasty reviews and live music for you too, so let’s get started. If you’ve got any questions, I’ll be in my office, where I’m working on the soon-to-be-available-for-reading Sleeping Hedgehog website.

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That Cat has something for us that’s more than ordinarily timely: Reckoning 2: Creative Writing on Environmental Justice is solid in weight and content. The stories, poetry, essays, and art deal with the world around us and our ethics in dealing with it. This refined focus sharpens the magazine’s impact, I think, and makes it something that tries to evoke change through its art rather than the shallow comfort afforded by something whose theme was simply “Nature”.’

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

Robert has a look at an extraordinary novel that might — or might not — be ‘cyberpunk’ — Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End: ‘I’m not sure that Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End counts as cyberpunk, although it might seem like it at first glance. The “cyber” part is there in full measure. Vinge envisions a world in the not-so-distant future in which clothes are the means of Internet access and most of “reality” is virtual. The “punk” part is somewhat lacking, however: this is, by and large, a supremely middle-class novel, without the dark-edge, seamy underbelly feeling one gets from a William Gibson.’

Next, Robert’s take on two poetry collections by Catherynne M. Valente, Apocrypha and A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects: ‘I remind myself that Valente is still a young writer. That is not a dismissal, but an expectation: she certainly has talent, no doubt on that score, but it’s rather like hearing Mozart’s early symphonies –- there’s no way of knowing that young musician will eventually compose something as overwhelming as the Requiem, and in the meantime you’ve heard Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Haydn’s Creation. Moving into that territory, already occupied by some formidable people, requires not only power but finesse.’

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

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

Gary reviews Time is Everything, the debut recording by Vivian Leva. ‘The young country-folk singer-songwriter is rapidly becoming someone you need to know about, so you can say “Heck, I’ve liked her since her first album way back in 2018!” ‘

‘This band really swings,’ Gary says of Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints. He’ll tell you all about their new album, Western Soul, in his review.

ivyOur What Not this time is one of the best new music podcasts of the past year. ‘Cocaine & Rhinestones’ bills itself as ‘a podcast about the history of country music made in the 20th century, and the people who gave it to us.’ The first season of 14 episodes recently concluded with a superb look at the highly influential pedal steel guitarist Ralph Mooney. But we’re also partial to the three separate episodes inspired by ‘Harper Valley PTA,’ and the one about ‘Ode To Billy Joe,’ one of the greatest American ballads of the past 50 years. The Cocaine & Rhinestones website has links to all of the stories and a host of other resources.

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Once upon a time and place, Enya was a founding member of Clannad and there are live recordings of the band from that period. She has never toured as a solo artist so, alas, there are no live recordings of her doing her own work.

So here are two of Clannad’s early pieces, with first up being ‘The Two Sisters’  from a performance in Köln, Germany, in 1977. This is a variant of the better known ‘Cruel Sister’ which is a Child Ballad covered by myriad bands. Pay attention to the lyrics at the end as they tell the gruesome ending the murderous sister comes to. It’s an ending worthy of the original Grimm Tales!

The second piece by them is ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, which was performed in Bremen, Germany, in 1980 in what might have well have been one of Enya’s last performances with the band. The lyrics to the latter come from that well-known Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Estate gossip (A Letter to Tessa)

A letter from the journal of 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 her friend who was in Constantinople as of this letter. Alex, as she was known, copied her personal correspondence into her Journal. She noted in her will that her letters were to be part of the Estate Library upon her death. She would live to well over one hundred, even longer than her Queen would! She is buried on the Estate beneath her beloved oaks.

Dearest Tessa,

Thank you for your wonderful gift of spices and herbs for the kitchen here! Blackie said that they would certainly be well used here. I, for one, am looking forward to cardamom-infused coffee with cream as your description of it sounds wonderful.

I have shipped the botanical society bulletins you requested this past week. The Royal Post said the ship should reach you within the month if the weather holds. I’ve also included professional correspondence from your fellow botanists, as they had far too many questions and requests for you for me to list here. I think they’re just envious of your receiving sponsorship for your travels and I had to fend off questions about how you got such backing. My, they’re like cats looking at another cat with a new toy!

Speaking of cats, the orange tabby you named Gefjun has lived up to her name as she gave birth this past month to four terribly cute kittens, all of which had very short stump tails. Their colour was quite odd too — a black so deep it looked as though they were made out of the midnight sky at lunar eclipse — with intense green eyes. No idea who their father was as no male cat about here looks like that. And all of the kittens are males, which is very strange.

They’re being raised near to the furnace in the sub-cellar, which is warm enough. More than one of the Several Annies has been derelict in their duties as they’re spending a lot of time down there but Isabella has been understanding. I’ve put in a claim on one of them, as has Isabella.

Isabella was delighted by The One Thousand and One Nights that you found in the Grand Bazaar and sent her. Fortunately, you knew that she read Turkish, so she’s being pestered by almost all of the Several Annies to read tales to them, which she is delighted to do.

Oh, you’ll be delighted to know that the grape vine stock from Bordeaux is doing well. I think we may be able to do a reasonable champagne within a few years. You were indeed right about the climate being good enough to grow them here. We’ll need help with the pressing and casking, as neither of us knows enough to do it properly!

Lastly Isabella’s futile quest to discover to the identity of Our Patron showed how badly the Journals needed annotating and indexing. Even my beloved Estate Garden Journals need this!

Still missing you, Alex

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What’s New for the 25th of March: The Cultured Cook, Frouds, Joseph Campbell, Complaint Choirs, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons and other matters

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. — Margaret Atwood

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Yes the doors into the Green Man Pub from the stone patio outside Kinrowan Hall have been open since mid morning as it’s both warm and sunny out, a refreshing change from the stormy weather we’ve been having. And the inhabitants here have been all lending their help to the annual task of cleaning out the Winter debris from the flower beds that surround this building.

We’re also doing the annual repotting of all the house plants that are resident here — hundreds of pots holding everything from bromeliads that need bigger pots to the ivy that hangs thickly from the shelves on either side of the windows here in the Pub. If you look through that ivy to your left, you’ll see a number of greenman representations ensconced there.

What’s that music I’m playing? That’s Skara Brae’s ‘Casadh Cam na Feadarnaigne’ recorded off the soundboard at Dunlewey Lakeside Centre, just after New Years fourteen years ago. It’s a superb concert that never got released officially but that recording is fairly widespread these days. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you…

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Most of us know Brian Froud of Dark Crystal and Labyrinth fame, but Mia introduces us to his wife, an artist in her own right: ‘Wendy Froud’s The Art of Wendy Froud is an 80 page art book, a collection of examples of her amazing faerie and mythic sculptures and her musings on the nature of her work. More than that, it’s an adventure for the reader, as every page brings new and amazing images to awaken the imagination.’

 Another artist get an appreciated  look by Jack in his review of  Michael Babcock’s Susan Seddon Boulet — A Retrospective: ‘Pomegranate has done the art world and its often not terribly bright chroniclers a service by showing what a truly great retrospective is. From the quality of the printing job, which is superb, to the text by Babcock which is both well-written and intelligent, this is one of the best books of its kind that I’ve ever read. It will certainly have a treasured spot in our collection of art books!’

Given the preponderance of books featuring images this week, it’s only fitting that we see Robert’s reaction to Joseph Campbell’s The Flight of the Wild Gander, which is, after all, ultimately about images: ‘The Flight of the Wild Gander is a series of essays produced betwen 1944 and 1968 in which Campbell was, he says, “circling, and from many quarters striving to interpret, the mystery of mythology.” The “mystery,” as comes clear as one reads, is that of the origins, dissemination, and meaning of the archetypes of human myth.’

And guess what: we just happen to have on hand a review of The Secret Sketchbooks of Brian Froud. How’s that for a nice balancing act? Robert says: ‘I suppose there might be someone, somewhere, who has never heard of Brian Froud. He was already gaining a reputation as an illustrator of books for children when his distinctive vision was brought to a wider audience through his designs for the films The Dark Crystal in 1978 and Labyrinth in 1986, both directed by Jim Henson. His first collaboration with Alan Lee, Faeries, published in 1978, set the course for his future work, which has garnered him a number of awards, including a Hugo in 1995. The rest, as they say, is history.’

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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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Denise takes a look at culture. Well, cultured food that is. As in probiotics, fermentation and the like. Michelle Schoffro Cook’s The Cultured Cook is more than a recipe book, it’s a look at how these foods interact with our bodies. But don’t think this book is too scientific for you: ‘What I like best about this book? It’s not scary. I like to keep my scares in my fiction reading, thank you. Each recipe is easy to understand, with less than ten ingredients per item – most with five or less – and the instructions are simple.’

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

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Lars is pleasantly surprised by this recording: ‘Why was I taken by surprise by Himmerland’s The Spider in the Fiddle? Firstly, Denmark is full of good music, and Danish groups are constantly producing lovely music. Secondly, I have twice before discovered new favourite groups with Ditte Fromseier in. First there was Flax in Bloom, a group that never recorded but in concert turned out smooth Irish music, then Habbadam, a trio playing traditional music from Fromseier’s native Danish island of Bornholm. Habbadam’s albums still get played in my stereo.’

Gary reviews the new release from folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, The Invisible Comes to Us. He says ‘on their third full-length, Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt have moved to the forefront of avant-garde folk music.’

Robert brings us back to Nordic music, this time with a Norwegian cast, in Gabriel Fliflet and Ole Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusik: ‘My first reaction to Fliflet and Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusick was to break into laughter from sheer surprise and delight. One forgets, sometimes, how raucously fun-loving Norwegians can be. That is only one point in favor of this collection — one gets a strong sense that the performers take their music very seriously, themselves, not so much so. (And how often does that happen?)’

And another Nordic tradition (it’s actually a Baltic tradition, but we’re sticking with Nordic for now): two collections of choral music, Oslo Kammerkor’s Kyst, Kust, Coast and Voces Nordicae’s Nordic Voices: ‘Together, these two discs offer a good glimpse of the range of choral music in the Nordic countries, from traditional folk songs to thoroughly contemporary choral works. I found them particularly hard to review, simply because I was too absorbed in listening to write anything down.’

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Our What Not is on the matter of Complaint Choirs. So you might well be asking ‘What is a complaint choir?’ No, it’s not the musicians in the Neverending Session expressing their annoyance at having to wait too long for a fresh pint of Winter Ale, so go thisaway for the charming tale of them. Yes, charming.

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And for our Coda this week — well, Spring is here, so why not go with the obvious choice, especially if you have a high-energy version, complete with bird calls? Presenting Red Priest performing Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. (Yes, of course we’ve reviewed it.)

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Weavers and Stitchers

ivy

There’s been a group of stitchers here according to the Estate Journals for at least four centuries. And there’s certainly been weavers here for as well for at least that long. And certainly that’s why we’ve raised sheep here so long that some of them became recognised breeds!

I’m fairly certain that the first stitchers group was founded by the Norns or some deities similar to them as The Old Man and His Ravens clearly remember that being so. The Old Man says that they were tired of their living conditions in Norway, cold and always damp, so the allure of a place with modern accommodations by the standards of that period, errrr, summoned them here. I’m convinced that The Old Man had something to do with this but he says no, not that I believe him.

Be that as it is, stitchers and weavers of all sorts have called the Kinrowan Estate has been home to these folk and they in turn have contributed socially and economically, to this community ever since. Though there are no full-time stitchers or weavers here currently, about a third of resident staff, call it a dozen, spend quite sometime engaged in this activity. Certainly they’re more active in the Winter generally spending several hours a night in the Pub, or the Library or even that cozy corner in the Kitchen weaving or stitching while engaged in conversation or listening to the Neverending Session.

They do have their needs being fond, in addition to our wool, of interesting wools from such places as Iceland, the Shetland Islands and Turkey. Ingrid, the Estate Buyer, consults with them (she’s a weaver too) before going on a buying trip. It’s amazing us hat she finds for wool!

They fond of freshly brewed tea when the group meets and Mrs. Ware who manages our Kitchens (yes there’s multiple Kitchens here) makes sure they have it at hand along with cream, honey and sugar. They don’t eat as that’s never a good idea when doing these activities but the group often has High Tea, usually in the Russian manner, at least once a week.

We’ve even built a very large yurt that been set aside for them as looms and stitching frames take up a lot of room. It’s got full light as we put in windows with glare reducing film all the way around, and it has electric heat courtesy of solar panels on the roof. It’s quite cozy in the winter, especially when a snow storm is occurring!

Now I must beg off as the group is meeting a few minutes and I’m set to read to them this evening. Cat Valente’s Fairyland novel, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, is what I’ll be reading this time, not all of it of course as that’ll take several meetings to get through…

ivy

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What’s New for the 18th of March: Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf, Lindt dark chocolate, music from Planxty, some very different approaches to “traditional” music, and Neverwhere in various forms

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

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Come I’m. I was discussing with Bjorn, our brewmaster, what he had cellared for barley wines and porters this past Fall that are now ready for the Pub here. Oh, the tale I was going to tell? It concerns the Rat Fiddlers… The staff is engaged in a discussion to name the group that the Rat Fiddlers are thinking of putting together — medieval music with small pipes, hurdy gurdy, and fiddles.

Who are these Rat Fiddlers, you ask? And why haven’t I heard of them? They play mainly in London Below stations where their appearance is not an issue. What they were before they became ‘rodents of unusual size’ is a tale known only to themselves — and who transformed them into their near human shapes is something even Reynard doesn’t claim to know. All I know is that they are some of the best dance music fiddlers I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with!

And they work for cheese and ale! One staffer suggested The Merrie Vestry, whereas another one, after a few pints of Brasserie Artisanale Du Tregor, put forth two ideas — Couer-de-Lionor or Lacklands Consort. The Rats aren’t sure if they like any of those . . . So have you got any ideas?

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Not all rats are the kind you’d want to share ale and cheese with as Cat notes in this review: ‘China Miéville writes fantasies that would do Clive Barker or Neil Gaiman proud. But no one will mistake his prose for anyone else’s, as he has a style as unique as either of those two gents, who are among my favorite writers. King Rat, his first novel after years of writing short fiction, is both a fine urban fantasy and a well-crafted horror novel.’

Un Lun Dun, a fantastic look at a London that is just out of sight, gets a very detailed review by Kathleen: ‘China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The Iron Council) is renowned for the world he has created around the great, multi-species, many-storied city of New Crobuzon. Those are adult works, beyond a doubt: ferocious and frightening, full of the incandescent mysteries and fatal sins of maturity. At the same time, one of the conundrums of Mieville’s style has been the sense of a small boy peeking through his writing; the kind of little boy who delights in snot and crawly bugs, who chases his sister with a frog and forgets to take that interesting dead bird out of his lunch box. Sometimes this gleeful grossness amuses the reader in turn. Sometimes it seems unnecessarily provoking. But it has always reminded me of how young Mieville is.’

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

Speaking of urban fantasies, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is but one facet of what turned out to be a multi-media event. Richard says that ‘Neverwhere is the story of a not-quite-nebbish named Richard, who is a perfectly archetypal young executive. He’s got a suitably generic job, a suitably socially climbing fiancee and a suitably mundane existence being harried along by the demands of each. Richard’s is exactly the sort of life that could do with a swift kick of magic, and that’s exactly what he gets.’ Now read his review to see why this tale of London Below is worth reading.

The audiobook verosion of this novel has a review by Kestrell that starts off this way: ‘I’m not a big fan of audiobooks. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy having someone read to me, because I do — I’m even married to a man who reads to me as often as I let him.’  Now read her review to see why Gaiman narrating it won her over!

Richard finds another excellent book in that genre: ‘Hidden, magical London is all the rage these days. First there was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, then China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. And now there’s Mind the Gap, a collaborative effort between American novelist and comics writer Christopher Golden and British horror novelist Tim Lebbon. To be sure, that’s fast company for any book to be in, but Mind the Gap manages it more than respectably, and is an enjoyable, engrossing read that delivers plenty of thrills while deftly avoiding the numerous clichés lurking in wait for it.’

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The ‘multi-media’ event that is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was, not unexpectedly, a television series as well as a novel. Rebecca takes a look at it here: ‘Like most American fans of Neil Gaiman, I read the novel Neverwhere years before seeing the BBC television series he based it on. Having written the script for the show and been aggravated by the changes he’d been forced to make in it, he started writing the novel on the set so he could put all the bits back in. A&E finally put the show on a region-free two-disc DVD set. And there was much rejoicing.’

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While most are indulging in various forms of Irish delicacies this weekend in honor of St.Patrick, Denise dug into a chocolate bar.  A Lindt Excellence Roasted Hazlenut Dark chocolate bar, to be precise. And she was pleased.  ‘A nice balance of creamy dark chocolate and hazelnut that tastes like a praline filling all grown up.’ She also says it goes well with a stout, so perhaps you should head to her review here and see if you need to add a bit of chocolate to your weekend festivities.

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Graphic novels are an art form in themselves, as we see in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. As April notes in her review: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’

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Fifteen years after they first appeared on stage and some twenty years ago as we count time, Gary saw The Knitters At the Aladdin Theater: ‘A near-capacity crowd in the 600-seat Aladdin on a Friday night in December hung on every lyric and jest of Exene Cervenkova and John Doe, as The Knitters ran through every song from Critter, plus several countrified versions of X songs, and a few cover tunes thrown in for good measure.’

Robert brings us a different take on traditional music in the form of the Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf: ‘Last Leaf is the Danish String Quartet’s second foray into “traditional” music. Their previous album in this vein, Wood Works, focused on music of the Faroe Islands and various small Nordic towns and villages. Last Leaf, although still focusing on Nordic folk music, is somewhat more far-ranging, including tunes from Sweden, Denmark, the Shetland Islands, and a few written by members of the quartet.’

Another look at tradition, in this case two very different approaches to a traditional instrument, as evidenced in Jody Marshall’s Cottage in the Glen and Malcolm Dalglish’s Jogging the Memory. Read Robert’s review to see his reaction to two very different approaches.

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

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Our What Not is another Gaiman affair as Kestrell notes for us: ‘Thus, when I sat down to view Lifeline Theatre’s live stage production of Neverwhere, I had my doubts. Works of fantasy offer a particular challenge for live theatre in that the fantastic often translates poorly to the limitations of the flesh and the material world, resulting in bad fur suits and the omission of many favorite passages.’  Read her review to see if this adaptation worked for her.

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Our  coda this time is in rememberence of  trad Irish musician Liam Og O’Flynn who played Uilleann pipes and tin  whustle with Planxty that passed away this week. As a founding member, he played alongside Christy Moore, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny. Folk armadillo Uak ha a full look st his I’ve and music here.

This Planxty tune, ‘Rambling Boys of Pleasure”  was recorded at the De Doolen,  a concert venue in Rotterdam some thirty years ago. Splendid, isn’t it?

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 18th of March: Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf, Lindt dark chocolate, music from Planxty, some very different approaches to “traditional” music, and Neverwhere in various forms