Restless in life and seeking no end in death
For breath of the ages in the face of the air
Still ghosts to the vitality
We just got our first serious snow of the year here at this Scottish Estate, three weeks before the Winter season officially starts. Not that unusual really, but a foot was a lot of snow nonetheless.
Despite the snow, it’s still late Autumn here, which means we’re in a lull between our Summer visitors and the Winter visitors we’ll get for the Holidays. It makes for a pleasant quietude that I like — it’s allowed me the time earlier today to listen to the promotional packet we got from Puppets of An Autumnal Nature, a West Coast US band that’s interested in coming here. Rather good they are, I’d say. They’re quite new, perhaps not even actually a touring band yet in any meaningful sense, so it’d be interesting to hear them play live.
Now follow me to the Kitchen, as Mrs. Ware decided that she’s making a special treat for everyone of legal age — Guinness stout ice cream.
Carter looks at a classic found on many an SF book shelf: ‘The Illustrated Man was first published in 1951, so this is Bradbury the Grand Master of Science Fiction. The science in these stories is, of course, badly outdated, but then Ray Bradbury never emphasized the science. His stories are about people. People in search of truth. People in dire predicaments. The science has always been mere window decoration in Bradbury’s stories. We read him for the power of his insight and the beauty of his language. You will find both in The Illustrated Man.’
Cat was delighted with a new audiobook, Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire: ‘It’s a wonderful novel that’s a great start of a hopefully long series. The setting, the characters and even the story feel fresh, quite unlike the usual riff on interstellar empires. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many of the characters are women and they are quite capable at what they do.’
Warner looks at a not-quite critical study of an American icon in Andrew Blauner’s The Peanuts Papers: ‘Peanuts was and arguably still is a key piece of the history of sequential art. Charles Schulz’ work of more than fifty years proved exceptional and is remembered to this day. The Peanuts Papers is editor Andrew Blauner’s attempt to coordinate as many thoughtful and interesting perspectives on the strip as possible into one volume, and it succeeds well. Over 30 contributors to this collection, varying from academics to comic artists, get a chance to say their piece, and prove most entertaining and informative in doing so.’
Warner also brings us a review of a collection of the more-or-less outre: ‘Themed anthologies are an excellent way for a reader to discover unexpected takes on an old idea. Editor John Miller’s Tales of the Tattooed is an excellent example of this, with stories and authors that are anywhere from household names to utterly forgotten.’
So Starbucks makes a reasonably good cup of coffee, don’t they? Well Leona says their chocolate isn’t nearly as great: ‘Final verdict: the milk chocolate is good. The dark is all right. But the dark with VIA was disappointing, to say the least. For the price, I expected much better across the board. Sorry, Starbucks fans; I’m not getting behind this set.’
Michelle has a tasty bit of Shakespeare for us: ‘The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s stranger plays; though it’s classified as a comedy or romance, it starts out very much like a revenger’s tragedy, and the happy ending depends on unexpected grace.’ Her review is frankly an amazing piece of writing by even the highest standards, so go read it here.
And Warner brings us something that’s not really television, but is focused on a very popular TV series: ‘A Doctor Who anthology typically involves multiple incarnations of the doctor, and multiple authors telling stories. In the case of The Target Storybook the reader is given a collection of 15 stories, each relating to one Doctor or another era, usually as a follow-up, side story, or prequel to an existing story. As with any anthology, the results are mixed. In this case one of the things that makes them so mixed is a subversion of expectations.’
Gary found lots of interesting music in Down in Jamaica, a sprawling new box set of reggae music covering 40 years of records from the VP label. ‘If you’re already a big reggae fan and follower, I bet you’ll still find a lot of sweet surprises here.’
Joselle offers us a retrospective look at the first decade of a well-regarded Celtic artist: ‘From her beginnings in the mid 1980s selling self-produced tapes from her car and by mail order, to international stardom — Loreena McKennitt has come a long way in her twenty-year career. For those just discovering her music with the release of An Ancient Muse, here follows a tour through this incredible singer’s previous recordings, all released on her independent recording label, Quinlan Road.’
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.’
Robert takes a look back at one of his favorite bands (yes, another favorite band): ‘Sometimes it takes a while to catch on, for me at least. On a whim, I purchased Foreigner’s all-time best album, The Very Best and Beyond. (It wasn’t really a whim – I had this song in my head and couldn’t get it out of there. How long had it been? It took me two or three days to remember who had done the song.) Listening to the album, I wonder that I could ever have forgotten Foreigner when thinking of my favorite things.’
And Robert goes even farther back, to another one of his favorites — not a band, but Beethoven, in a recording of four sonatas for piano, performed by the legendary Arthur Rubenstein: ‘The history of Western music is a history of exploration of forms. This statement is the end result of a chain of thought sparked by John Briggs’ comment, in his notes on Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23, the “Appassionata,” that Beethoven, at this point in his career, was self-confident enough to ignore “Haydnesque” traditions of form, noting that “he experimented tirelessly in all directions, as Haydn had done before him.”‘
Our What Not this week is another gem from Folkmanis, this one the Barn Swallow Finger Puppet. Says Robert: ‘Swallows seem to be everywhere in the summer, at least in this city. I see them on summer evenings soaring through the air over our parks hunting insects. (There’s a story here: there’s a bridge that divides the South Pond Nature Boardwalk in two. It arches over a narrow part of the pond, and the Zoo administration very thoughtfully left the banks without plantings — it’s a very solid bridge, supported by I-beams, and the Zoo thought it would be a perfect place for swallows to nest, with nice ledges and mud right there on the bank; they even slapped mud on the I-beams to get the birds started. The swallows, of course, decided that they like the pilings under the observation platforms better. I have, however, seen sparrows nesting under the bridge.)’
Our coda is Williamson performing ‘Five Denials on Merlins Grave’ which was recorded by him at The Brillig Arts Centre In Bath on a December night nearly forty years ago. If you are interested in knowing more about this storyteller who’s also a musician and poet, Charles talks with him here about his days in the Incredible String Band to his interest in Scottish folktales as storytelling material. Tim later also conversed with him and that interview has an interesting follow-up question to something said in the de Lint conversation.