Schrödinger’s cat has far more than nine lives, and far fewer. All of us are unknowing cats, alive and dead at once, and of all the might-have-beens in between, we record only one.” ―
I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try. It’s Toiteach, which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain brewery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it, as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way. If you’re interested in knowing more about Scots whiskeys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single drams ever done.
It’s our usual grey ending to March here in the Scottish Highlands: rainy, cold and blustery winds to boot. Even the most diehard of Estate staff, unless their duties require going outside, are quite willing to stay inside. Iain has been keeping to his hiding spot and I myself am spending time off duty in the Kitchen, quite content to play tunes and nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating, such as strawberry cobbler made with those exquisite frozen berries.
So there’s no theme this edition, but rather it’s whatever the Editors found interesting with our usual mix of new materiel along with some older material from the Archives. We might even have something from Sleeping Hedgehog, our in house newsletter for staff and visitors. So let’s get started…
Brendan has a classic for us: ‘N. J. Dawood has translated the Tales from the Thousand and One Nights into an extremely easily-read format, apparently reflecting the every-day language in its original Arabic setting. In fact, any 12-year-old child could easily read this translation and enjoy it. Not that you’d want your 12-year-old child reading it: the various authors of these stories seemed to have been absolutely fascinated with infidelity, decapitations and gratuitous sex and violence, in general (Well, come to think of it, this is normal everyday stuff for any American 12-year-old).’
Iain was not surprisingly quite impressed by a critical study of Patricia McKillip, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building: ‘What she does very well is show that Mckillip has taken the often cliched fantasy conventions, say that of a harper with magical abilities, or the Norns themselves, and give them a fresh, lively feel embedded in stories that are exemplars of world-building. And she never loses track of McKillip herself, an all too common problem with such work.’
Robert has a fairly ambivalent reaction to a study of Hans Christian Andersen: ‘Hans Christian Andersen is quite arguably the best-known writer of fairy tales in the world, or at least that part of the world that derives from European traditions. In Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller, Jack Zipes argues that he is also the most misunderstood, an argument that at times is cogent, but just as often seems strained and in a large sense seems to me to miss the point.’
His reaction to Theodore Roethke’s last published collection, The Far Field, was far from ambivalent: ‘American poetry has given us a host of names that everyone knows – the household words, the people we all studied in high school: Frost, Sandburg, Dickinson, Whitman, Plath. There are others known to more than aficionados, if not to high school students. Among them, somewhere, is Theodore Roethke.’
Let’s see what got for cocoa ideas on this cool March day. Denise starts us off with a a look at Trader Joe’s Organic Hot Cocoa Mix. She found it a lovely way to start the day, and perhaps even enjoy the evening; “…if you’ve a mind, a splash of Kahlua and/or Bailey’s wouldn’t be amiss.” Now go see what she thinks cocoa lovers should give this one a try.
Chris has something to warm up with, and an extra treat as well, when he brings us a look at Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and Ghirardelli’s Dark Twilight Delight and Peppermint Bark. Both, he thinks, are a bit decadent and maybe the least little bit self-indulgent, but you’re worth it.
Richard had a recommendation reprinted from Sleeping Hedgehog on where you can find great hot chocolate in a place called Matthews: ‘Now, North Carolina’s not what you’d call a hot chocolate hotbed, at least east of the mountains, on account of the fact that it’s generally pretty warm. Which is why I never expected the hot chocolate in this shop which my wife practically dragged me into (she’d done some scouting, having previously infiltrated Hillsborough with friends on a yarn-shopping expedition) would blow my socks off.’
Kage says ‘With The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, alas, the malign gods were paying attention and behaving not unlike Terry Pratchett’s Auditors, practically warping time and space to mess with Terry Gilliam. They failed to ruin the film — Munchausen is magnificent, and a fitting conclusion to the Trilogy of the Imagination — but they ruined everything they could, to such an extent that Munchausen is unfairly and incorrectly called one of the most expensive disasters in cinema history.’
Every once in a while we run across a work that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our categories, which is how Wim Wenders’ Once became, for our purposes, graphic literature. Says Robert: ‘Wim Wenders is, of course, a noted filmmaker. His first book, Once, reveals that, just in the photographs themselves: they are, in many respects, akin to movie stills, but not necessarily the ones that a studio would choose to release. The images come with stories, and sometimes the stories come by themselves.’
Gary reviews something different from the singers in the English big band The Unthanks: ‘Rachel and Becky Unthank grew up in a musical family in Tyneside, North East England, and came up singing unaccompanied traditional folk songs. With Diversions Vol. 5 they’ve come full circle, making their first album of unaccompanied songs as a trio, along with Niopha Keegan, who usually plays fiddle and sings.’
Gary also has something different from jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen – the debut album from his quintet Big Vicious. ‘And it flat rocks at times. Not really a surprise for a band that’s made up of two electric guitarists (one who doubles on bass guitar), two drummers and Cohen on trumpet.’
Iain has a look at a great release: ‘Are you looking for that perfect gift for your lover of English folk rock? Oh, do I have a gift that’s perfect! EMI has served up A Parcel of Steeleye Span. This triple disc set contains the entirety of their first five albums for Chrysalis, from 1972’s Below The Salt to 1975’s All Around My Hat with Parcel of Rogues, Commoners Crown, and Now We Are Six being the recordings in between. This completely remastered collection has 46 tracks in all, including a number of very tasty bonus tracks.’
Robert brings us a look at a CD by a group that‘s definitely not British — in fact, it’s from the other end of Europe: Boban Marković Orkestar’s Boban i Marko: ‘There seems to be, in the Gypsy tradition of Serbian music, an affinity for Western jazz. This does not mean that the music performed by the Boban Marković Orkestar is jazz, but simply that jazz wanders in and feels very much at home. What the music is, is lively, often exotic, and yet somehow familiar.’
Our What Not this outing is a Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’
Our tune for you to hear the Edition out is ‘The Ginger Grouse Jigs’ by Skerryvore, a Scottish group formed some fifteen years ago, as performed at the Shetland Folk Festival in 2013.