What’s New for the 29th of September: A Folkmanis Robot, Mug Cakes, Pogues Sans Shane McGowan, McKillip’s “Mystery” Story and Other Autumnal Matters

If the evidence says you’re wrong, you don’t have the right theory. You change the theory, not the evidence. — John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar

Oh those puppets. They’re the extra ones of an Autumnal nature that Folkmanis sent along, so I gave them a home on the shelves behind my desk here in our Estate Library. I particularly like the Mouse in the Pumpkin one, which Denise is reviewing for Autumnal Matters edition. Cute, isn’t she?

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 oh so exquisitely chocolate, rich Eastern European sweet, leavened bread along with the just as tasty rugelach, both a good treat as the weather cools, especially  when served with warm cider in those oversized mugs that some of my Several Annies crafted quite a while back.

Jayme has a book he’s very pleased about for us: ‘What a fascinating book! I’ve long been a fan of the Henson-produced science fiction series Farscape, particularly the effort the program always put in to making the alien species that populated the Farscape universe seem, well, alien. In The Creatures of Farscape: Inside Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, author Joe Nazarro takes readers behind the scenes to show with informative, straightforward prose — along with the aid of lavish photographs, sketches and concept art — just what kind of effort was needed to pull off one of the ambitious creative works ever presented on television.’

Richard has a cautionary note for us: ‘To say that Summer Morning, Summer Night is minor Bradbury is, I think, to miss the point entirely. While it shares the same Green Town, Illinois setting as his legendary Something Wicked This Way Comes, the material collected here works on a smaller, more delicate scale. It’s chamber music, not a brass band or a full orchestra, affectionate and truth-telling and warm in a way that only Bradbury can manage.’

Robert has a novel that’s merely good by the standards of that writer: ‘Patricia A. McKillip seems to write two kinds of novels. On the one hand, she has produced what I can only call thoughtful adventure stories, such as Riddle-Master. On the other are what I call the “mystery” stories — not detective fiction, but those stories that involve a central mystery in the religious sense: a transcendent image that cannot be explained or really even described. The Tower at Stony Wood is one of the latter.’

Sara’s ecstatic about a sequel: ‘Yay sequels! Loved faces and familiar places! Well, okay, maybe not in the Abarat. This gorgeous and meaty second book, in Clive Barker’s four book series about the adventures of Candy Quackenbush through the Abarat’s many things rich and strange is certainly every bit as entertaining and mysterious as the last, but in the Abarat, nothing is familiar, or comfortable, or certain.’ Read her review of Days of Magic, Nights of War to see what got her excited.

West Coast Cat takes a foray into mug cakes. Mug cakes? you ask. Says Cat: ‘Food crazes come and go, and I noticed that a current one is for mug cakes of various sorts. I tried a few and have thoughts. Mug cake, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is cake made in a mug in the microwave. Look in the baking mix section of your supermarket, if you’re American, and you’ll notice a sudden abundance of the “cake for one” concept.’ As for her thoughts on this phenomenon, you can find them here.

Mia happily notes that ‘Ignore the requisite “cute” child actor playing Mike Benedict (oddly, “cute” in 1960’s movies was often portrayed by whining and acting both obnoxious and mentally slow) and concentrate on the amazing performances by Tony Randall and the harsh but satisfying lessons taught by Dr. Lao and his circus performers. Moral but never preachy, sentimental but never maudlin, The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao is not to be missed.’

Craig happily notes that ‘Will Eisner’s The Best of The Spirit culls twenty-two stories from the dozen-year run of The Spirit, with two early selections (including the 1940 origin story). The vast majority, however, come from the postwar period, with 1946, 1948, and 1949 the most heavily represented. The introduction by Neil Gaiman (author of The Sandman series) acknowledges Eisner’s influence on him and otherwise reinforces Eisner’s importance to the medium (the community’s annual awards are named after him).’

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

Peter wryly notes ‘The second album by the JSD Band was released in 1972 with declamatory sleeve notes by John Peel (the hippest man alive at the time). It included this account of a typical gig by this effervescent young band: “In a dark corner I danced with as much abandon as I ever allow myself and, for the umpteenth time blessed bands like the Faces and Lindisfarne who have brought joy and rowdiness back to our music.” He also went on to mention that “…no-one who goes on to buy this LP is ever going to flog it again…” How right he was.’

Robert has some comments on Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns: ‘Full disclosure: as much as I am ever a “fan” of anything, I am a Linkin Park junkie. I suspect that’s only partly because they do loud, obnoxious rock and roll; it’s also partly because they are very sophisticated musicians who use the same vocabulary that musicians have been using since at least the sixteenth century. There’s a nice sense of continuity there.’

And Robert has something from the other end of the musical spectrum — or is it? Decide for yourself after reading his review of Leopold Stokowski’s collection of Rhapsodies: ‘No one who ever saw Disney’s Fantasia can forget Leopold Stokowski, who in many ways was the star of the film, even though he shared conducting honors with Mickey Mouse. Stokowski’s reputation as one of classical music’s greats is still largely unassailable, even though our taste as turned towards “purer” renderings, those that are more about the composer than the interpreter. Stokowski was, first and foremost, an interpreter, known as much for his tendency to pull out all the stops as for his musical erudition. This collection of concert favorites is a showcase for his particular brand of conducting.’

West Coast Cat brings us this week’s What Not, a somewhat odd creation from Folkmanis: Are you ready for a robot hand puppet? Well, that’s what we’ve got for you. You can go here to read Cat’s reaction.


So you hear the band name The Pogues and quite naturally think that their vocalist is Shane McGowan. Well for  most of the time the band was around,  you’d be right. But they did have a number of other vocalists down the decades when that wasn’t so and I’ll introduce you to one tonight in the guise of Andrew Ranken who performed the lead vocals on the ‘Star of the County Down’ in Köln Sporthalle, Germany on the seventh of November twenty eight years ago. He was their drummer and harmonica player and he appeared on all their official releases in those capacities.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.

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