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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

About Nicholas Winter

Nicholas is a friend of the Estate who’s been around since st least the early Forties and possibly quite a bit longer. Isin’s sure he’s not Fey but is uncertain as the source of his longevity.

He’s a writer by trade, preferring to freelance instead of working for any one publication. He  a polyglot when it comes to languages— Reynard saw him late one evening in a London pub  simultaneously hold conversations in Turkish, French, Hebrew and Spanish while being somewhat obviously intoxicated.

He’s a reader of pretty much of mystery fiction in English, Grrman, French and even Turkish. He’s a drinker of whiskey and ale mostly but’s very fond of Raki, the Turkish national alcoholic drink.

He’s been associated with the Estate  long enough that he actually has a room permanently ser aside for him tucked up under the eaves. An honoured statement indeed.

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