“Butterflies are not insects,” Captain John Sterling said soberly. “They areself-propelled flowers.” — Robert A. Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
I awoke well before dawn as I wanted to watch the Northern Lights as they’ve been particularly outstanding right now. Though none of the humans save Tamsin, our Hedgewitch, on the Estate joined me, but several of the Irish wolfhounds that guard our livestock accompanied me as well and even some of Tamsin’s owl companions flew low overhead. We, well at least we humans, found them fascinating as the wolfhounds and owls seemed to be playing a rather complicated chase game.
We later had breakfast back in the Kitchen nook created originally for members of the Neverending Session to play in the Kitchen — thick cut twice smoked applewood bacon, blueberry waffles with butter and maple syrup, tea for me and Tamsin as well, and Border strawberries, the ones that start red as blood and turn white as bleached bone, as well. We both felt like in need of a very long walk to work it off, or a long nap… I however needed to put this together so both choices were put off for later consideration!
Cat has a confession to make about Robert Heinlein’s fiction: ‘The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is, after over thirty years of my reading works beyond count by him, my favorite novel by him bar none. There are without doubt better written novels by Heinlein that stir strong passions in readers, say Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, both of which can cause otherwise sensible readers to start hissing and spitting at each over the perceived political and social commentary in those books, and let’s not even broach the matter of Stranger in A Strange Land, as that work will really get the mojo rising in many readers!’
Another novel written in the last years of his life drew this comment from Cat: ‘Robert Heinlein’s Friday, was a novel that deeply divided critics when it was published. Part of that was the gender and race politics of a male author writing a female character that got raped, part of it was the usual kvetching about every novel Heinlein wrote from Stranger in a Strange Land to the end of his writing career.’
Joel looks at a juvenile, The Star Beast: ‘Beating out The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by a good three decades, and Men in Black by over four, Heinlein didn’t just do this story first, he did it best. I’ve been enjoying the recent books in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. The last few books have been much more about diplomacy than space battles, and are no less riveting for it. But who knew that Heinlein, the creator of the self-same military science fiction tradition which led to Old Man’s War, was himself quite capable of having his heroes save the day by talking and listening as well?’
Kathleen has a confession regarding Time For The Stars: ‘Robert Anson Heinlein is inarguably one of the great formative writers of science fiction. His work is not only seminal, it’s good — well-told, well-plotted, with solid characterization. It’s also frequently thought-provoking, with underlying philosophy and speculation that stays with the reader for a lifetime. Most modern readers attribute these qualities to the more outré and/or famous novels, like Time Enough For Love and the iconic Stranger In A Strange Land. But Heinlein’s so-called juveniles are actually among the most thoughtful of his books.’
Cat looks at Doctor Who’s The Unicorn and The Wasp episode: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’
Robert has a look at a graphic novel that is best described as a “meditation”: ‘Daytripper, by Brazilian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, is a series of stories and vignettes on the lives and deaths of Brás de Oliva Domingos, the son of a famous writer who hopes himself to be one day equally famous. He makes his living writing obituaries. As Craig Thompson puts it in his introduction, Daytripper is a meditation on mortality.’
And from meditation to meander. Robert has this to say about Craig Thompson’s Habibi: ‘Craig Thompson’s Habibi is a sprawling tale (that’s 672 pages of sprawling) that relates the adventures of two lostlings, the girl verging on womanhood Dodola, and the much younger Zam, a boy who she finds lost in the desert. They stumble across a ship that somehow has found its way to the desert (whether abandoned before or after it arrived there is anyone’s guess) and there make a life until through one circumstance and another each independently leaves — or is taken away.’
Debbie reviews One Too Many: ‘If you are fond of dance-oriented traditional music, especially when liberally laced with accordion, then have I got a CD for you! Paul Sartin (oboe, violin, whistle and vocals) and Paul Hutchinson (accordion) are the two prime movers behind the group, Belshazzar’s Feast.’
Victor Prieto is a Spanish-born accordion player whose roots go deep into Celtic Galicia. He has released a new CD called The Three Voices that Gary says is mostly jazz music, although it draws on Galacian, Brazilian and other South American styles, as well as Tuvan-style overtone singing.
Michael is, to put it mildly, rather puzzled: ‘I’ve had this particular album sitting on my shelf and in my CD player for several months now. This is a lot longer than I usually let things sit, but it couldn’t be helped. You see, I couldn’t write any other reviews until I took care of this one, and I just couldn’t figure out what to say about Kila’s new release, Tóg É Go Bog É.‘
And now for something completely different: Robert brings us a look at a new release from ECM’s New Series: ‘Which brings me . . . to a new album from the Danish String Quartet of music by Thomas Adès, Hans Abrahamsen, and Per Nørgård, three composers – two Danish, one British – with whom I was not familiar. The disc presents the first foray by each composer into the realm of the string quartet, although none carries a title so mundane as “String Quartet No. 1.” All three were young when they composed these works, Nørgård and Abrahamsen both twenty, Adès twenty-three.’
And continuing our twentieth-century binge, Robert has a look at another new release from ECM of violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Blair McMillen performing music of Bartók, Lutosławski, and Schnittke: ‘If I had to choose one word to describe the music of Central and Eastern Europe in the years after World War II, it would be “restless.” This restlessness actually predates the War, having its roots in the Vienna of the years before World War I and spreading in the years between the Wars. Of course, this phenomenon was not confined to Europe east of the Rhine, considering the migration of composers such as Schoenberg to America, but it seems somehow to be concentrated there.’
And, just in case you were asking yourself “Who is Alfred Schnittke?”, Robert has some background for you, along with a review of his Symphony No. 9: ‘To Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke, music provided continuity, a connection with history and, in fact, to all of life. This is, perhaps, not so surprising: his musical education took place largely in post-War Vienna, and if anything typifies the life of Vienna, it is music.’
Someone named Clinton was in the news this past week, which brought to mind a big concert bash that was held at the White House on the night Bill Clinton was inaugurated as President of the United States for the first time, January 17, 1993. It was called the Blue Jeans Bash For Arkansas, and the house band was anchored by Arkansan Levon Helm, with Rick Danko of The Band also on board. Guest artists included Dr. John, Stephen Stills, Clarence Clemmons, fiddler Vassar Clements, Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Bob Dylan. Recordings of the evening have been circulating around for years, and one of my favorite bits is this one, when Arkansan Ronnie Hawkins laid down a fine version of the timeless blues ditty ‘Who Do You Love?’