Nearly all men can stand adversity, but ifyou want to
test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln
Candlemas is past, which means Spring’s approaching. We mark Candlemas here not as a Church celebration but rather as the time when the days are noticeably longer. We’ve got a Several Annie by the name of Astrid, from Sweden, who initiated the present Estate residents into the tradition of St. Lucia’s Day.
Its been an unusually rough winter here with Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, suffering several broken ribs when one of our draft horses pinned him up against a stone wall. Not the horse’s fault, as he was startled by an owl swooping toward him. And our Head Cook, Mrs. Ware, has been away for a month as her daughter took ill and the grandchildren needed looking after. We’re just a a bit short on grounds staff, too, as the flu made its very much-lamented presence known.
I see from my notes that Robert has taken over the book reviews for a bevy of reviews of books on and by fantasy and science fiction writer Jack Vance; Gary’s got looks at two Americana recordings and one from … well, you decide; Cat reviews a very cute Groot sort of action figure.
Robert’s been digging around in the library and ran across some treasures from one of the greats of science fiction’s Golden Age — Jack Vance. First, he brings us a look at a collection of early stories, Hard Luck Diggings: ‘Hard Luck Diggings collects fourteen of Jack Vance’s earliest published stories, originally appearing between 1948 and 1959. As editors Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan point out in their Introduction, what we see here is Vance not only mastering his craft, but finding his audience. As might be expected, these stories, while all capable, are not uniformly wonderful (although which are what is going to have a heavily subjective basis), nor are they all uniformly what we now think of as “Jack Vance stories,” although one can find here not only the beginnings of Vance’s distinctive voice, but some full-blown examples of what that voice would become.’
To add to the fun, he’s also looked at Tales of the Dying Earth, perhaps Vance’s best-known cycle: ‘Jack Vance has been, throughout his long career as a science-fiction writer, one of the most consistently creative universe-builders in the field. From the far-flung stellar civilization of The Demon Princes to Alastor and The Dying Earth, his creations are marked not only by imagination but by a degree of attention to how they work — the structure of the milieu — that makes them inescapably real.’
And, hearing from the man himself, we have Vance’s autobiography, This is Me, Jack Vance!: ‘There is a quality in this book, as there is in Vance’s fiction, that we used to call a sense of wonder, a wide-eyed look at a world in which everything is an adventure and life’s lessons, no matter how ruefully one looks back at them sometimes, are a preparation for the next part of the voyage. I think maybe that’s the word I would use to describe This is Me — a voyage. So hop aboard.’
If you thought that was enough (how can there ever be enough of Jack Vance?), well, Jerry Hewitt and Daryl F. Mallett came up with The Work of Jack Vance: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide: ‘This is not the first bibliography of Vance’s writings. It is, in fact, the fourth. It was simply, at its publication, the most complete (and the authors note that it probably is not completely complete).’ Robert thinks this is an adventure in itself.
Robert had the happy opportunity to sample another offering from Taza Chocolate, this time their Coconut Almond bar: ‘[T]his is one I can recommend for those times when you just have to have a little bit of chocolate — more than two bites verges on overwhelming, even for a confirmed chocoholic like me.’
In the realm of graphic literature, Robert came up with a manga series that deserves attention, Studio CLAMP’s Legal Drug: ‘Legal Drug is a series by CLAMP, with story by Ageha Ohkawa, illustrated by Tsubaki Nekoi, that, sadly to my mind, was dropped in 2003 when the magazine in which it was being serialized ceased publication. The first three volumes, however, are worth looking at.’
Barb notes that ‘Mention Hungarian music in a sentence and the word gypsy will inevitably follow. But as is the case with stereotypes, that doesn’t give you the whole picture (a lot of it, but not all of it). The Rough Guide to Hungarian Music takes you all through this small country (as well as some surrounding areas) and gives you a peek at the diversity that lies within, from the many different traditional styles to the new music infused with influences from technology and other world music.’
Denise takes a look at the Bee Gees’ One For All Tour Live in Australia 1989, a concert video that has only just been given the Blu-ray treatment. And well it should have, she says. “The brothers Gibb at the top of their vocal game, playing just about everything. It’s truly a joy to listen to.”
We’ve lost count of the albums Joan Baez has released in her long career, but her new one is the first in just about 10 years. Gary says, ‘With Whistle Down the Wind Joan Baez proves she still deserves her standing as one of the voices of her generation.’
Gary also takes a look at Lord of the Desert, the fourth CD from the Utah-based Americana group 3hattrio. ‘This one’s an open range of a record, with this trio wandering like spirit animals over a landscape that covers cowboy poetry to airy space jams.’
And then there’s Bu Bir Ruya, the latest release from Dirtmusic. Gary says of it, ‘The multinational band Dirtmusic’s fifth album Bu Bir Ruya is a startling and timely recording that confronts the worldwide refugee crisis head-on.’
Robert, as might be expected, came up with something a little out of the ordinary: the self-titled debut album from an Austrian group, Wûtas: ‘“Wûtas” (pronounced “wuotas”) is an Alemannic word denoting the Wild Hunt. . . . It is also the name of a group formed in 2008 with the avowed intention of performing medieval music, which seems to be a going concern in the German-speaking world. However, Wûtas (the group) also evidenced a love of folk music and a tendency to get a little experimental, as well as a fondness for themes from myth and legend. The result, as presented on their eponymous debut album, can perhaps best be described as “medieval pagan folk rock.”’
Abraham Lincon. Emancipator. President. Wrestler? In getting ready for this year’s President’s Day here in the States, I decided to forego my usual cherry pie and dig into the life of our 16th President. And I found out he was quite the grappler back in the day, and could ‘trash talk’ with the best of them. Who knew? Well, anyone who’s visited the Wrestling Hall of Fame, apparently. Because he’s there. I tip my stovepipe to you, Mr. President.
And to add something fun to this week’s What Not, Cat reviews NECA’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Body Knocker Groot figurine. Because who doesn’t love Groot? Cat marveled at the detail; “Even the Boom Box that he’s sitting on is nicely detailed and looks like it could actually play music.” And did I mention this figurine is solar powered? Because it is. Read the review here!
Let’s have something different from our usual trad music Coda this time. ‘‘Volunteered Slavery’ is from an April 1971 Fillmore East concert in New York City by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who was an American jazzman who played flute, tenor saxophone, and quite a few other instruments.
He was one of the liveliest musicians you’d have the pleasure to experience, as his verbal diologue during any concert was a mixture of lighthearted, often comic banter and political ranting while he played several instruments at the same time. He died from a second stroke at forty two, a much too young an age for anyone, let alone someone of his genius.