What’s New for the 15th of July: Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’, Music that Defies Classification, Indians from Day One, Patricia A. McKillip’s World-building, Gummi Butterflies, and Other Matters

Brown eyed women and red grenadine
the bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean
Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down
and it looks like the old man’s getting on

Robert Hunter’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’

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It’s a wet day here with constant rain and wind enhanced by the sound of thunder as those storms roll through the region. By no means a day to be outside, so Kinrowan Hall is busy from the Kitchen in the lower basement to the private flats for senior staff on the top floors of this ancient, sprawling building. My Several Annies are managing Library affairs such as need doing so I’m putting together this Edition while sampling the just tapped Summerland Ale named after a certain novel  by a baseball loving staffer and munching on some Riverrun cheddar cheese.

More than a few of our contributors down the years have been writers of quite some talent — Charles de Lint, Kage Baker, Paul Brandon, Peter Beagle, Elizabeth Bear, Christopher Golden, Catherine Valente, Jennifer Stevenson, Cat Rambo, even Stephen Brust have done reviews or sometimes stories published here. We’re thrilled to have them involved here and certainly look forward to what they do here in the future.

Shall I get to this edition then? Then I shall.

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Cat R. does another multiple book wrap-up, focusing on independent and small press works, looking at works by Kyell Gold, Watts Martin, Gretchen Rix, N. J. Shrock, Tim Susman, and Ursula Vernon.

I was, perhaps not surprisingly, favorably impressed by a critical study of Patricia McKillip, Audrey Isabel Taylor‘s Patricia A. McKillip and the Art of Fantasy World-Building: ‘We’ve reviewed damn near every book that Patricia A. Mckillip has published over the many decades she’s been writing. Indeed the editing team is updating the special edition we did on her so that it can be republished this Autumn, as many of us here think of her as befitting the Autumn season. And so it is that I’m reviewing what I think is the first academic work devoted to her.’

Jennifer takes a look at a series she wishes she’d discovered sooner, namely Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Night Calls series: ‘Once in a while I find out I’ve missed something important in the book world, some classic that’s been out forever that I somehow never noticed when it was first published, something that turns out to be wonderful. Then once in a very great while I find something I wish I’d read thirty years before it was ever published.’

Speaking of Jennifer Stevenson, Wes finishes our book reviews off with one of her entertaining novels: ‘A storm’s a’brewing, the women restless, the men conflicted, and there are the strangest foxes you’ve ever seen running wild along the bucking river. Trash Sex Magic isn’t just a lurid, sexually charged magical romp. Complex characters drive an organic plot, elegantly woven of mythic resonance and familial metaphors.’

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Cat R. looks at some candy that is a favourite of hers: ‘Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.’  Now go read her insightful look at what makes for a great candy treat.

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Neverwhere was rumoured to have been planned as a film by the Jim Henson Company but this never happened but you’ll love the graphic novel I think as April tells us about it here: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’

Robert has a series for us that did get the video adaptation experience but that’s not what he’s looking at here for us: ‘Preacher is one of those series that was always on my list of things to check out someday. I had a vague idea that it involved some guy walking around in a cowboy duster shooting things up. It’s not that, although there is a character that fits that description. He’s not one of the good guys. (There’s a lesson there: browse carefully.) The first collection, Gone to Texas, sets the stage.’

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Barb exclaims that ‘If there are superstars to be named on the Swedish music scene, I would like this opportunity to nominate Lena Willemark (vocal, fiddle, viola, whistle, drone whistle), Per Gudmundson (fiddle, viola, bagpipes, vocal), and Ale Möller (octave mandola, overtone flute, cow’s horn, drone whistle, folk harp, shawm, harmonica, vocal), otherwise known as Frifot. The group’s CD Sluring is most certainly a masterpiece.’

Brendan gives us a detailed look at Grateful Dead’s So Many Roads (1965-1995): ‘So often dismissed as a anachronistic hippie band that would somehow never die, the Grateful Dead actually formed a keystone of sorts between the traditional forms of American roots music and the rock music of the 60s. Looking past the psychedelic trappings and bizarre skeleton images, one can easily see that foundations of the Dead’s music consist mainly of the American Musical Triumvirate: jazz, blues, and country, with of course a healthy dose of rock and roll to keep things interesting’

Lebanon’s Marcel Khalife is a prolific, controversial and well-known composer, singer and player of the oud. Gary takes a look at his latest work, Andalusia of Love, which draws on the poetry of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. He’s joined by his sons, pianist Rami and percussionist Bachar, and Jilbert Yamine on the hammered dulcimer called the kanoun. ‘Throughout this work there is virtuosic playing, some of a solo nature but mostly by the ensemble,’ Gary says. ‘It’s a moving performance of music that is complex yet welcoming.’

Robert has something that defies description. Almost: ‘Classifying things seems to be, for some reason, a basic human need. And it is axiomatic that our systems for classification have built-in limits and conceptual gaps: Archaeopteryx lithographica is, therefore, a bird. And Wolfsong Night, a collaboration between Tim Clement and Kim Deschamps, is New Age.’

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This week’s What Not is another visit to one of Chicago’s cultural treasures: The Field Museum of Natural History, specifically “The Ancient Americas”. Says Robert: ‘When I offered to take my cousin to the Field Museum, showing off my new membership, and suggested that we see the permanent exhibition “The Ancient Americas,” she said, “What’s that?” “Indians,” I said, “from Day One.” She said later that it wasn’t what she was expecting. (What? Cowboys?) To allay any mistaken assumptions about the exhibition, read on.’

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I rather like ‘Brown-Eyed Women’ quite a bit but my favorite version isn’t the one with Garcia singing that the Dead did, but rather is one someone here found some years back. Robert Hunter who wrote much of what they played including this song and my favourite version is done by him during a show at Biddy Mulligan’s in Chicago on the tenth of October some thirty years ago. So let’s now listen to him doing that song.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Palimpsests (A Letter to Justina)


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Dear Justina,

You asked why it’s so hard to say what the beginning of the Estate was. As you know, the accepted beginnings are a complete fabrication by a Steward some centuries ago who decided we needed a history that made sense. So he created one that sounded good but had no basis in truth that we can reasonably verify.

The truth is that the accepted practice we now have of journals kept by the Cook, the Gardener, the Librarian, and the Steward only go back a mere four hundred and fifty years. And the Pub Journals barely go a hundred and fifty years.

I suspect that the Estate records were destroyed deliberately at some point for reasons unknown to us now. And that disrupted the flow of history that’s a palimpsest. Oh, the Estate itself no doubt is well over a thousand years old but everything, including the Estate name, likely as not came much later.

The trustees at the Scottish bank that holds the monies that underwrite us claim that the the trust is many centuries old but say that they aren’t at liberty to say who set it up. All they’ll say is that it’s generous and that it’s quite flexible on what it can be spent on so long it benefits the Estate.

So our palimpsest is really only a half a millennium old — old enough that traditions have been created and evolved that obscured what came before that time.

Your friend, Iain

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What’s New for the 8th of July: Kage on Time Bandits, Olivier Greif’s Sonate de Requiem and Trio avec piano, The Haiku of Basho, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger gets panned, Charles de Lint in conversation, A History of Ice Cream and other matters…

I sliced strawberries with all my attention. They were particularly fine ones, large and white clear through without a hint of pink. (Wild Borderland strawberries are one of the Border’s little jokes. They form bright red, and fade as they ripen. No strawberry has ever been so sweet.) —  Orient in Emma Bull’s Finder — A Novel of Borderlands

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There’s a contradance going on just now, but my left knee, injured many decades ago, is acting out, so I decided to stay in the Pub and listen to the Neverending Session which has been playing a lot of hambos, think of them as a sort of a mazurka, this evening as I write up these notes. It makes for a pleasant eventing particularly with a wee dram in hand  for searching through the Archives for interesting reviews and of course to see why the current staffers turn in for reviews as well…

Speaking of the latter, we should welcome sone folk who are both great writers and all around nice to have around, Cat Rambo who’s been here for some months now, Jennifer Stevenson who’s done some reviews in the past and is the amazing author who does our Solstice stories, to the present fold, as well as John O’Regan, one of our more prolific Celtic music reviewers who’s back with us. Welcome all!

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Cat starts off our book reviews with a good listen: Simon R. Green’s Ghost Finders 6: Forces from Beyond audiobook: ‘Michael, in his review of the second Ghost Finders novel, Ghost of a Smile, has the perfect introduction to the series: ‘When you have a problem with ghosts, you call the Carnacki Institute. They’ll discreetly handle everything from poltergeists to Big Black Dogges, exorcising or just plain terrorizing phantoms until they go away.’

A novel by Emma Bull and Steven Brust that’s now available as a digital book gets this comment from Richard: ‘Thankfully for readers of Freedom & Necessity, the two authors’ collaboration, the safe money is right this time. The book, while completely unexpected in its content, delivers on all the implied promises its authors have made with careers of sustained excellence. It’s just that Freedom & Necessity, perhaps inevitably, does so on its own, very demanding terms.’

A consummate storyteller in the form of one of his newest works also gets a look-see by Richard: ‘Peter S. Beagle’s Summerlong is an exercise in masterful, hopeful heartbreak. Deeply steeped in mythology yet relentlessly modern (if a bit sentimental), it tackles the big questions of love, compromise, dreams, and what you might do – or forgive – in the face of the sublime.’

Robert takes a new look at an old favorite: ‘I have a reread list of books that have impressed me one way or another over the years. One that I only recently took up again is Sean Russell’s duology, The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds, which really is one work, a huge, sprawling epic that nonetheless remains intimate in scale.’

And in keeping with the milieu in that pair of books, Robert brings us some poetry: Basho’s On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho: ‘Basho is, to many, synonymous with haiku. He took his name from a wide-leaf banana tree, rare in Japan, given to him by a student, which stood beside the door of his hut near Edo (modern Tokyo). Basho wrote during a time of renascence in Japan, the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th Century, when the power of the Emperors moved from Kyoto to Edo, although the Emperors stayed in Kyoto, and purely indigenous forms in the arts regained their popularity.’

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Meanwhile, West Coast Cat is sadly disappointed by Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger. Her review however is not ‘tall disappointing.

Denise dives into more dark chocolate; this time it’s Butterfinger Dark. A twist on the usual milk chocolate and toffee everyone knows, though Denise wasn’t particularly impressed. “…with Butterfinger Dark, these two great tastes don’t quite make a satisfying whole.” Read why she was let down in her review!

It being summer here that means lots of fresh hand churned ice cream with various fruits, especially those Borderland strawberries. So it’s apt that Richard has this book for us: ‘Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.’

Raspberry dividerKage, author of The Company series featuring  time traveling cyborg immortals who loved chocolate, was a great film fan and it’s no wonder she liked this film: ‘Blessed with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being, David Warner as Evil, and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon (and a fireman), Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’

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My favourite work by Alan Moore is by far the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which April reviews for us: ‘Moore and O’Neill’s premise is simple but elegant: bring together a motley crew of Victorian literary characters and drop them into a delightfully pulpy penny-dreadful. And so we have H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain, Bram Stoker’s Mina Murray (Harker), Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jules Vernes’s Captain Nemo, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Moriarity, H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man, Edgar Alan Poe’s August Dupin and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu all rubbing shoulders in a Victorian England (and briefly Egypt and Paris) of Moore’s own devising.’

Alan Moore in many ways is akin to the late Harlan Ellison in benig a a brilliant crealtor and a pain in the arse to deal with. Rebecca looks at one depiction of him in  George Khoury’s The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore is a birthday toast. It’s an exploration of his life and works. It’s a collection of interviews, old Moore fiction and art, tributes from friends and family, and startling photographic portraits of the man himself.’

And Richard says that ‘The main draw of Alan Moore’s Exit Interview comes from the fact that Moore dishes, at great length, on where exactly his relationship with DC Comics went sour. To a lesser extent, Moore talks about upcoming projects, the origins of British comics fandom, and his take on the mainstream comics industry, but the sensational stuff is likely what’s going to draw the most readers. That’s as should be, as Moore provides a fascinating look into the inner workings of big-time comics publishing, and how the creative talent can get mangled in the gears of the machine once Hollywood gets involved.’

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Cat looks at Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part.  Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’

Buss-Calle wins the approval of Naomi: ‘The Nyckelharpa orchestra is comprised of six top musicians from the younger generation of nyckelharpa players. They are all working at preserving the nyckelharpa tradition, as well as developing it, both as an ensemble, and as solo artists. Their playing is exquisite, all six are adding in passion and talent to a ensemble which has much potential. And after listening I would have to agree that this is a tradition which should be preserved.’

Robert takes on the late twentieth century in two works by French composer Olivier Greif, Sonate de Requiem and Trio avec piano: ‘Olivier Greif was one of those musicians: he entered the Paris Conservatory at age ten, and in 1967, at the age of seventeen, won the first prize for composition. The bulk of his output is chamber music, largely sonatas for any combination of strings and piano and sometimes voice. His works are not only a product of the last half of the twentieth century in terms of their musical foundations, but also in terms of the engagement with spiritual matters that marked his adult life.’

Robert also has something that may at first sound even more esoteric, Chants, Hymns and Dances by Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Vassilis Tsabropoulos: ‘The name Gurdjieff calls up images of mysticism, esoteric spiritual doctrines, perhaps to some extent a certain wild-eyed fanaticism. Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was, in point of fact, one of those restless wanderers in the realm of ideas who crop up from time to time in our history, seeking something a little more than most of us think about, and inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.’

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Our What Not is a conversation with Charles de Lint held at the FaerieWorld Convention in 2013. You can hear the entire delightful affair here. We’re busy reworking and updating our last edition on him and his work for publication sometime this coming Autumn. Right now he, his lovely wife MaryAnn and their canine companion Johnny Cash are summering for a few months at their lake cottage. May they all have a wonderful time!

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Speaking of Cash, the Infinite Jukebox, our somewhat fey media server, has a song written and performed by his daughter that shows that she’s every bit as great covering her own material as she is covering his material as she did last week here. This week it’s ‘Runaway Train’ which comes from the same Bimbos concert in San Francisco that January evening. It details the end of a relationship that may or may not have been about her own such ending but it’s certainly heartfelt.

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Summer afternoon (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

So, Spring is waning fast, but summer’s not an event that just happens — it sneaks up on us like a barn own gliding past in the night. No, now we’re in the golden eternity, that endless perfect afternoon that arcs from June to September, a rainbow in every shade of heat. The air smells of forges and plums, cool water becomes a lover, and the best room in any house is the bower under a tree.

The oaks are favoured for the best shade, one of the apricot or peach trees for snacks, or the rose arbors for the sheer overpowering delight of the perfume. With, of course, a book or three. It’s that way here of course. Most of the staff, including the Several Annies, are either out under the trees all day, or down in the cellar making sure the ale doesn’t evaporate in the heat. Reynard says that’s both a public service and a public trust, and tries to restrict it to his own staff; but when the heat hits triple digits, a lot of us turn dwarf and head for that little iron-bound door to the down-below beside the bar.

In defense, Reynard has posted the score sheets for the Summer Reading Club on the cellar door. MacKenzie is the judge, of course. He keeps a special cart in the hall outside, filled with select and unusual volumes: that’s the trick, see, you have to read and review whatever he selects. MacKenzie, I think, is trying to educate the lot of us. At least I think that explains the Baba Yaga stories in Russian. One got points for finding a Russian fluent staffer and providing the proper bribes to get their cooperation.

Next to drink, the regulars in the Pub like books best, so there’s hardly a one who won’t pause before he tries to dive down the stairs to check his standing in the ranks. There are dozens of little leather wallets hanging on that door, and every one in the Club has personalized theirs some way: poker work, horse brasses, Avery labels, glowing eldritch script. When someone finishes a book, they add a review to their wallet. Scores are kept for quantity, of course, but also for quality — a thoughtful analysis of my little monograph on pumpkins suitable for use in ales got twice the points garnered for someone’s exceedingly detailed review of the complete correspondence of Lady Raglan. And of course, a lot of the non-drinkers — well, people who drink somewhat less, anyway — are usually popping in to check their scores as well, so there’s a sort of automatic defensive cordon in front of the door.

And not only are all the readers checking the master lists to see who has read what and how long it took them, most of them are trying to peek in someone else’s wallet to check out their latest effort as well. It’s all anyone can hope for to get an ale they actually ordered! Of course, we all manage. You can’t keep us away from books or ale, not if those delights were guarded by the Queen of Air and Darkness’ guards themselves! I’ll keep you informed on the contest as it evolves over the Summer.

Affectionately Gus

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What’s New for the 1st of July: Cash’s ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’, A Raccoon in a Garbage Can puppet, Mouse Guard short stories and other Summery things

Stories require faith, not facts. ― attributed to T.A. Barron

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I’ve been reading Joy Chant’s The High Kings: Arthur’s Celtic Ancestors in which a Storyteller in Arthur’s Court tells tales of his ancestors and the many deeds that they did. Need I say that they all do Great Things? If you’re interested in our take on all things Arthurian, just go read our one-off on those matters which we did several years back.

Ahhh that smell that’s making your mouth water is Salmon in Puff Pastry per a recipe from Deborah. The salmon are caught here in the river that runs through this Scottish Estate. We’ve a long and abiding interest in food here and we’ve reviewed a lot of food and drink, shared recipes and thoroughly vetted a lot of superb books. You’ll find a sample in our food and drink section this time.

I’ll note here that Harlan Elision has passed on after some years of declining health. We’ve got a review of one of his so-called New Wave collections called Deathbird Stories here, but I’m remembering him best for the screenplay of ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’ that he wrote for Star Trek. The experience led to considerable bile between Ellison and Roddenberry for the rest of the latter’s life, in particular over a public statement by Roddenberry that Ellison had the character Scotty dealing drugs in an early version of the script. I note this because Ellison will be remembered for his perpetually angry attitude as much as for his writings.

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Cat considers Emma Bull’s Finder to be the best look at the Terri Windling created Bordertown series: ‘My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled “A Novel of The Borderlands”, which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.’

Cat R. gets down to the nitty gritty of writing and gaming. You don’t think there’s an intersection? Well, read her review of three authors on where writing and gaming meet: ‘My recent nonfiction reading has tended to be driven by the fact that as a writer and gamer, I’m always looking for new tools to put into my virtual toolbox. Here’s three recent reads aimed in that direction.’

A novel full of music and myth should make great Summer reading and Grey has a recommendation: ‘Charles de Lint dedicates The Little Country to “…all those traditional musicians who, wittingly or unwittingly, but with great good skill, still seek to recapture that first music.” A traditional Celtic musician himself, de Lint has peopled The Little Country with musicians and filled it with music. All of the chapter titles are titles of (mostly) traditional tunes, and there is an appendix of tunes written by Janey Little, the book’s main character — tunes actually written by de Lint himself. (‘Tinker’s Own’ on their Old Enough to Know Better CD recorded de Lint’s “The Tinker’s Black Kettle,” one of the tunes in this novel.) Any readers who are at all musically inclined may find themselves itching to reach for their instruments and try out the tunes.‘

Desiring an engaging and lengthy fantasy for your Summer reading? Robert has the work for you: ‘I was surprised some while back to discover that Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master Trilogy was marketed as young-adult fantasy when it was first published. I don’t think I’m particularly backward in terms of understanding what I read, and I was in my thirties when I first read the books (which have earned an unchallengeable place on my “reread frequently” list), and I knew there were things I was missing. Even in a recent re-reading, the trilogy is a complex, subtle and evocative story that lends itself to much deeper examination than one might expect.’

And, speaking of evocative, Robert shares a poetry collection, Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Black Mesa Poems: ‘Baca is one of those rare poets whose work is immediately accessible and yet indefinably rich, dense and profound. His diction is seemingly very basic and direct, but he maintains the ability to shift from the mundane to the magical in a phrase, making his everyday life into a lens that examines events with no pity, but with a great deal of compassion and love.’

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Denise brings us beer! Well, not literally (at least, not this time), but she does take a look at a seasonal treat, Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale: ‘As a DC gal born and bred, I love cherry blossoms. I think it’s the law of the local land. So when I moved up and away, I longed for those delicate blooms around the Tidal Basin. (Still do.) So I’m glad Baltimore brewers Oliver Brewing Company catered to my cherry blossom loving heart with their season offering, aptly titled Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale.’

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Robert comments that ‘Given the popularity and critical acclaim of David Peterson’s Mouse Guard series (as witness our own very positive review of the first book, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152), it was almost inevitable that there would be spin-offs. And indeed, Peterson has brought us one himself, with the aid of a number of collaborators: Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard. So will you like it? Ahhh you’ll need to read his review to see!

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Our Editor Cat leads off with The Little Country based on the compositions in the de Lint novel Grey reviewed above: ‘Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band. The band describes itself as ‘a band made up of classically trained musicians who also have fun exploring other musical styles. We arrange all of our own music, pulling themes from the Celtic tradition, Chinese and Spanish folk melodies, bluegrass, pop/rock, film soundtracks, ragtime, the Classical era, and even composing original pieces!’’

Gary has a recording for us that sounds like a lot of fun: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home. Amarillis is a Pennsylvania-based trio: Maro Avakian on piano, Donna Isaac on fiddle and Allison Thompson on accordion and concertina. They play a mixture of traditional and contemporary Irish, Scottish, English and North American jigs, reels and slip-jigs in medleys or sets. Of course, no contra dance is complete without a few waltzes now and then, and this collection has several good examples.’

Some composers invoke Summer for me and Aaron Copland is one of them, so let’s look at what Gary has to say about A Copland Celebration: ‘To mark what would have been Aaron Copland’s 100th birthday in 2000, Sony Classical disgorged a cornucopia of Copland works. This three volume, six-CD set gives a good overview of the career of this quintessential American composer. It includes the best-known works — chamber, orchestral and choral — as well as a smattering of some of Copland’s lesser-known works, and some alternate versions and rarities previously unreleased on CD; and even a few never before released at all.’

Robert, as might be expected, has something a little out of the ordinary as a music offering: ‘Harold Budd is one of those composer/performers who pops up periodically and wanders around like a medieval jongleur just doing his thing and collaborating with everyone. Noted for his piano improvisations, he has worked with the Cocteau Twins and Brian Eno, who seems to have given him a good swift kick in the ambient, reflected on the first part of Lovely Thunder.’

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This week’s What Not is another cutie from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert says: ‘The latest Folkmanis hand puppet to come my way is the Raccoon in a Garbage Can, which seems appropriate — garbage cans are one of raccoons’ favorite places. (Trust me — I know this from personal experience. . . . )

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I just added some performance recordings to the our media server, The Infinite Jukebox, so let’s see what I’ll finish this week out with… ‘Tennessee Flat Top Box’ is performed by Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny and June Carter Cash. The recording comes from a concert she did on the 16th of January 1988 at Bimbos in  San Francisco. The story goes that she recorded it at the insistence of her then husband Rodney Crowell and neither of them knew her father had written it. He was pleased she had covered it and a reconciliation between them happened because of it.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Strawberry Ice Cream

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During the early Victorian Era, the Head Gardener at the time, Jacob Niles, persuaded the Steward, Allison MacPhee, to invest in a conservatory. According to the Journals kept by him and the Steward, the deciding factor was that it could be used for growing fruit in the long winter, including oranges and bananas. It wasn’t cheap and was costly to heat as it needed lots of seasoned wood to make it warm. Fortunately, triple glazed glass was used (at no small expense), and that helped. Certainly the fresh tropical fruit was a hit during our long Scottish winter. We still use it for that purpose but now we use solar power to heat it more efficiently than the original builders could possibly have imagined.

So what does that have to do with strawberry ice cream? Well, that was my idea. You see, we exist on The Border with the Faerielands. Several decades back, I made friends with the Head Gardener for the Red Dragon House, who had no luck growing their version of strawberries — the ones that start red and turn white when fully ripe — when it turned cold there. So he asked me to see if I could make them flourish.

It took several years before I figured that it needed a symbiotic bacterium that didn’t like being cold ever, so I started growing them for the Red Dragon House with the proviso that we could also use them. Would you believe that took a contract signed by all parties? Elves are big on formality! Three pages of contract to be precise. And that’s how we came to have strawberry ice cream in the winter. The whole milk comes from High Meadow Farm, the ever so costly vanilla from Madagascar, and it’s sweetened, just a bit, with honey from our hives. It’s quite delicious!

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What’s New for the 24th of June: Ian Macdonald‘s King of Morning, Queen Of Day, ‘Kashmir’ by Page and Plant, Beef jerky, Baseball films, A Spanish Christmas candy, A Dragon honours Ursula Le Guin and other matters as well

I’ve always been impulsive. My thinking is usually pretty good, but I always seem to do it after I do my talking—by which time I’ve generally destroyed all basis for further conversation. — Conrad in Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal which started out as the Call Me Conrad novella

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As for calendar matters, this is the first edition of Summer, but as is usually the case here, we’ve had warm weather since mid-May. Now Ingrid, the Estate Steward who’s my lovely wife, tells me that the Estate Head Gardener in his Sleeping Hedgehog article this month says there’ve been times this month in past centuries which saw the temperature struggling to get to ten degrees for weeks on end.  I’ll definitely take the pleasant twenty-three degrees we’ve got this afternoon!

Strawberries just started bearing ripe fruit in the Estate gardens, which means a New England favourite that a staffer from coastal Maine brought to the Cook as a dessert possibility generations back. It uses just three ingredients, the berries with biscuits (not our cookies, but a risen baked good that somewhat resembles a dinner roll but isn’t) and lots of whipped cream or, if the kitchen is feeling like doing it, freshly churned vanilla ice cream. Yummy is an understatement for how good it is!

Denise has a review of some exemplary beef jerky this outing, a first for us I think, and Gary sent us film of a dragon doing honours to the late Ursula K. Le Guin, along with reviews of some tasty English folk-rock and other great things worth  your attention. Our Coda music is a live performance of hmmm… Kashmir’ by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant!

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One of my fave Summer reads gets a look-see by Mia, a  Charles de Lint novel to be precise: ‘Seven Wild Sisters advertises itself as a modern fairy tale. Including the seven sisters, it certainly has all the trappings: an old woman who may be a witch, an enchanted forest, a stolen princess. But Sisters is not just borrowing the clothes of fairy tale. It sings with the true voice of fairy tale: capricious, wild, and not entirely safe, but rich and enchanting.’

An Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully-engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’

Kim found a book that was more than merely good: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals. This novella, she says, takes the reader ‘..into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things too beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up.’

Michelle offers up a book themed to the Summer game: ‘It’s already been established that baseball exists primarily to serve as a metaphor for the meaning of life. If you didn’t get that from Malamud’s The Natural or Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, then surely you got it from Mays’ Say Hey or Kahn’s The Boys of Summer. So it should come as no surprise that Summerland, the most recent novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, reiterates this all-important theme. And should you be a reader who is only happy when the Red Sox are winning or who actually doesn’t like baseball — should you fail to appreciate that “a baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day,” to quote Chabon — then Summerland is even more important for you.’

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MIchelle begins her look at a number of baseball films in this manner: ‘In the big inning, God created baseball. Or perhaps it was Loki, patron of athletics and other tricks; the origins are shrouded in antiquity. There is also debate about which mortal first received the divine inspiration. Abner Doubleday often gets credit, though some historians claim the game was played in England in the 1700s. What is known is that, in 1845, a team called the New York Knickerbockers adopted the rules of the game we know as baseball. In New Jersey that summer, they played the first organized baseball game, and America acquired its own pantheon.’

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Sanchis Mira Turron de Alicante gets reviewed by Cat R: ‘This candy is a Christmas delicacy in Spain, a dense honey and almond brittle with a generous helping of the latter (the label says at least 60% almond.) The company, based in Alicante, Spain, is well-established, having been turning out the product along with other sweet treats since 1863 and this candy will definitely have a nostalgic appeal for some folks with a Hispanic heritage.’

As it’s summertime, a woman’s thoughts turn to beer infused beef jerky.  Denise dives into a bag of Righteous Felon Jerky Cartel’s Victorious B.I.G. Beef Jerky, and in-between licking the bag for stray crumbs, managed to write a review. ‘…this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’ Want to know more? Read her review!

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Jackalope’s Dances with Rabbits gets the wholehearted approval of the other Cat but comes with a caveat: ‘Let me start this review off by saying that most of what the musician who created Jackalope, R. Carlos Nakai, plays leaves me terribly bored. Yes, bored. Bored quite stiff. Even the other Jackalope albums that I’ve heard over the years were not very interesting for me. But Dances with Rabbits has had more playings in this household than I can count as it simply has not a less-than-stellar cut on it.’ 

Gary looks at some English folk-rock from a duo that includes yet another member of the Thompson clan. ‘Kami Thompson and James Walbourne are gifted musicians with something to say as artists. That makes The Rails’ Other People a deeply engaging folk-rock excursion.’

Speaking of English folk music, Gary also reviews the latest from Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy. Their Anchor, he says, is ‘another album of traditional and contemporary songs, drawing on their extended family and a crack band.’

Gary also reviews a new release by a new group, the self-titled disc by Oliver the Crow. ‘These classically trained musicians based in Nashville make a progressive, stripped-down Americana that draws on everything from Appalachian ballads to classic rock on their beguiling self-titled debut album.’

One of the most amazing things we were sent to review was the Folk Music in Sweden series, all twenty-five discs. Yeah, you read me right, twenty-five discs of Swedish trad music. Lars got the honour of reviewing this set from Swedish label Caprice and he has a word to the wise at the end of his most excellent review: ‘Well, a summary of this project would be: A very ambitious project which helps to preserve the musical traditions from Sweden for future generations, and give them access to some of the treasures that are hidden in various vaults in Stockholm. But beware, do not try to taste it all in one go. Remember the old advice about how to eat an elephant. You do it bit by bit.’

Richard rounds our music review with a look at Ma Rosalie: ‘Monsieur Pantin is not the name of some newly discovered French or Belgian or Swiss or Québécois musician. It is, as the CD’s skimpy documentation (see last paragraph below) informs us, the French title of a Scottish air found in an English collection from the 18th century. This may seem to be a piece of trivia too far! Monsieur Pantin is also one of the newer musical ventures of the multi-talented French piper and woodwind player, Jean-Pierre Rasle. It is not clear why he has chosen to give the trio this name, and there is no explanation included in the already deplored skimpy documentation. Moreover, the tune in question does not appear on the CD, but lots of other fine tunes do.’

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On June 13, Portland, Oregon, had a big send-off for Ursula K. Le Guin, who had lived there for several decades before she died in January. Fans, family members, readers and literati packed the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland on a lovely late-spring evening, to hear fellow writers, artists and activists pay tribute to Le Guin. They included Le Guin’s editor at Harcourt Andrea Shulz, her biographer Julie Phillips, as well as writers Molly Gloss, Jonathan Lethem, China Miéville and, by videotape, Margaret Atwood. She was remembered as a Dragon of art and storytelling, and the evening ended with a dragon dance featuring a drum-and-cymbal ensemble and a huge dragon puppet from the Portland Chinatown Foundation.

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Midsummer

ivy

This time of year, my heart is full. Everything that can bloom is blooming, or has bloomed and fruited already, like mayapple and shooting star and trillium and the flowering trees that line my street. All the plants are up. Every rain sees them shooting up another few inches. If you leave your lawn another week, aw, it’ll be fine, I can mow it Sunday, well, better bring a scythe. Out in the country they’ve already cut the first hay.

My allergies play up the most in this season, too, but I welcome them, crazy at as that sounds.

Today I’m thinking about two mysteries I inherited from my mother’s father.

I’m thinking about people, and how each one of us has a radiance of our own, detectible but not necessarily visible. Certain members of my family have … rather more of that radiance than most people. I’m not sure why. It follows a line through my mother’s father, a German whose forefathers came from Baden Baden, I’m told. Maybe that’s why we have this connection to nature as well. Those are the two mysteries that come to me from my maternal grandfather, then: this personal energy, which is so very powerful that some of us seem to walk around inside a weather balloon that extends far outside our bodies, and inconveniences people standing quite far away. The other mystery is what I’m going to call … our religion.

I shouldn’t call it that. Not only because it has no name and no rituals and no liturgy and no priesthood and no history, but because those of our bloodline have been careful never to call it that; we keep our worship secret, and our practice is disguised in a hundred little ways so that even we ourselves do not have to think, I could be burned at the stake for this. We just quietly and joyfully … do it.

The first time I ever heard it referred to as religion by a member of the family was at my father’s funeral, where I met my mother’s cousin for the first time. This cousin announced that she and her husband were evangelicals, and proudly told me of having visited my mother in her hospital bed after my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, and tried to sell her religion. Catching her when her fear of death was strong, like a good saleswoman. ”But, you know, Carol and I have always been…” a hand gesture “…on different planes, spiritually. Her and her nature thing.”

And there it was. Wow. Someone actually came out and said it.

In my twenties, I found out that there was official, actual, named nature worship, when I met some pagans. ”Pagan” is a very random word. It covers everything from ”people not like us” to “hicks” to “nature worshippers” to practicers of syncretic homemade religion and Greek revival. And so much more. I rather liked the idea of a religious denomination that didn’t tell anyone a damn thing about your beliefs and practices. It fit in with my own nameless, traditionless, secret faith.

But I began to pay a little more attention to certain aspects of nature in my adult years. Befriended certain animals, took certain plants deeper into my heart, as it were, than others. Or maybe I just recognized that those plants and animals had always been there, deep in my heart, beloved and trusted. With the example of my mother and her parents alive inside me, I could skim right past the world’s efforts to screw a name and a law onto the things that sustain me the most.

They can’t burn me for taking a walk in the woods, I would think. Or for gardening. Or for feeding the birds. Or for planting a tree.

My father worked nights, and my mother was forbidden to work or to have friends, so we were alone with her a lot. Her parents would pick us up and we’d load the dogs and us kids and my mom into the station wagon, along with a giant cardboard banana box full of provisions, and drive maybe an hour or so to a forest preserve in the Chicago area. There are hundreds of such preserves. Some are prairies, some are decorous parks with shaved lawns and picnic benches and cast iron barbecue grills, some are wild woods whose paths were, in those days, just dirt … no asphalt, no graveled jogging paths, just dirt. Mud, if it rained. It was heaven on earth.

I suggest you think about that phrase very specifically. It’s the key to everything real in my world.

The car door would open, we would lug the provisions and crappy aluminum folding chairs to the chosen picnic bench, and then my mother and her mother would turn us loose. My brother and I and the dogs would go helling off into the woods, following every path that offered, looking for edible berries and fruits, wondering at the fungi, hoping to see a raccoon or a skunk or a woodpecker, throwing sticks for the dogs, clambering up hills and down ravines, soaking our feet and finding crawdads in the creeks, or just running, running in the woods.

Nowadays I walk. I see and hear more. I smell the woods better. The woods enter me through all my senses if I’m standing still.

So, of course, do the mosquitoes. There’s always something.

That, I think, was a big part of what made nature realer to me than any religion could have been: the mosquitoes and the mud and rain and poison ivy and the things you shouldn’t eat. Nature wasn’t manufactured. It didn’t have all the sharp edges milled off and painted. No chrome cross, no smooth pew, no carefully printed and illustrated list of official prayers and songs, no indoor plumbing.

Nature pretty much ignored us. We yodeled and ran about and picked berries and climbed trees and nature paid us no mind. We marveled at lady’s slipper or jack-in-the-pulpit or mayapple, and we knew not to eat that one big green berry, and we were careful not to pester hornets or damage the big stands of mushrooms where they erupted from the soil. Nature could kill us, break our ankles, make us vomit, or give us a nasty rash, and nature wouldn’t even notice.

Instead, we noticed. We found the fallen sparrow. We looked for the rainbow. We attended the wars of ants, but we didn’t have to intervene in order to feel validated or loved by our creatrix. Knowing it was happening was our reward, our validation.

At the end of the afternoon, my mother would whistle for us, and we’d come back to the picnic table on the lawn with “squaw wood” to cook our weenies and marshmallows.

With my mother’s family gone, I share all this with my husband. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a building and a day where we could come together with other people and confess our love for all of this, sing some songs, eat more weenies and marshmallows. But that would be littlifying the enormity of nature.

She might poison us, or drown us, or carry our houses away in the wind, or bury us in molten lava, but she will never leave us, or threaten to put us out of heaven. Whether we die unregarded in a crevasse while mountain-climbing, or in a hospital bed surrounded by a lot of very expensive attention, we are part of her, and she is part of us. We can’t lose her. We can’t be excommunicated from her. Our faith in her and our understanding of her don’t matter to her. She knows she owns us. She takes us for granted. In death as in life, we are part of her system, which is so big that we are not the center of it.

It seems to me that some people cannot be comforted by this knowledge. They have to construct a different system, one where they are the center and crowning achievement, the end of creation. It often seems to me that all of human endeavor is an attempt to claim a bigger place than the one we were born into, to demand more attention than our species warrants, to devour all, to “find a use”–a human use–for everything, everything. We remake our environment until it is immaculately unnatural. Or we try.

So far, that’s not working. Thank goodness.

I’d still like to plumb the first mystery my grandfather left me. Why am I different? What can I do with this difference, besides try not to annoy other people with it?

But those are questions I think every human being asks themselves, at some time or another. Maybe an ant here or an ant there pauses in the middle of a war and asks itself, What am I doing here?

I suspect it wouldn’t be good for our egos to know.

ivy

Copyright 2011 by Jennifer Stevenson who has granted Kinrowan LTD exclusive online rights (except for her use on her website). All print rights are retained by the author as is any other use such as ePub publication. Re-use by other parties in any form online is prohibited.

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What’s New for the 17th of June: family friendly rootsy music, a look at queer comics, offbeat Columbian music, Peanut butter cups, Folkmanis’ Narwhal puppet, ‘City Of New Orleans’ and other stories

If I told you the whole story, your head would burst. There is no one story, there are branches, rooms… corridors, dead ends. — John Hurt as The Storyteller in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller

ivy

All stories including our reviews are never the whole story as every story is made neat, made more understandable, or sometimes deliberately less,  in its telling. And everything has a story behind it including that novel you’re reading out on this stone paved patio at Kinrowan Hall on this nicely warm Summer afternoon enjoying our Special Reserve pear cider. Most times neither you nor I know the whole story of a story but if we’re lucky the author tells us in a preface about how the story came to be. And if she doesn’t, rest assumered that an academic will be glad to do so.

Our book reviews this outing have a few of the latter books including some academic looks at the works of Robert Holdstock and Diane Wynne Jones, and, well, you’ll just have to see. And I’m sure that the new reviews this Edition will be be interesting to you as well. If not, please do remember that everything’s just a story…

ivy

Kelly looks at a classic work of SF: ‘Poul Anderson, who died in 2001, was one of the grand old voices of science fiction right up until his death, winning the Hugo Award seven times, the Nebula Award three times, and being named in 1997 as a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. His was a long and prolific career. In the middle of that career, he created a character named Dominic Flandry, whose adventures had eluded me as a reader until my review copy of Ensign Flandry arrived on my desk. Now I’m wondering why.’

Farah Mendlesohn’s Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature gets a review by Kestrell: ‘Diana Wynne Jones (DWJ to her fans) is one of those writers who, despite the fact that she is frequently referred to as a “children’s author,” has a significant following of adult readers. Although there are an increasing number of literary critics addressing the subject of children’s and young adult fantasy, there is still a lack of literary criticism addressing why those books often shelved in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries hold such a strong appeal for so many adult readers. Despite the title of this book (a title chosen by the publisher, not the author), its subject is a sophisticated exploration of Diana Wynne Jones’s complex approach to writing and storytelling.’

Richard looks at Donald E. Morese and Kalman Matolcsy’s The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction: ‘The myth-infested landscape of Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood would seem to be fertile ground, not only for walking legends and “mythagos”, but also for literary criticism. After all, in the sequence Holdstock tackles not the structures of mythic fiction – dark lords, questing heroes, magical macguffins and so forth – but rather the concept of myth itself, and how the same core stories have echoed down through the millennia, amplified and distorted and reflected by centuries of human experience.‘

Robert has a somewhat unusual book for us this week — a werewolf story, in verse: ‘I’ve had one previous experience with fantasy in verse (well, unless one counts the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the like), and it wasn’t a happy one. Nevertheless, when Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth crossed my desk, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, as they say, and I’m happy to report that my valor was justly rewarded.’

ivy

Robert brings us a film developed from a game. Don’t groan — it’s not bad. It’s not bad at all. It’s Battleship, and it takes place in Hawai’i: ‘There’s a lot in this film that’s thoroughly predictable, but it’s a lot of fun, the effects are effective, and the action sequences are real edge-of-the-seat sorts of things. It’s tight and focused and the pacing is excellent. Perfect if you want to spend a couple of hours cheering on the good guys.’

ivy

Denise does something she never thought she’d do; review a confection made with – GASP! – milk chocolate.  The dark-chocolate-or-bust member of GMR dug into Justin’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, and didn’t mind them in the least. ‘The combination of smooth milk chocolate and that gritty, chewy, substantial peanut butter makes me reconsider my ennui over milk chocolate in general.’ Read her review for more!

ivy

Robert has a look at a very special book of and about graphic literature, Justin Hall’s No Straight Lines: ‘It’s tempting to say that comics underwent a radical transformation in the 1960s and ’70s. They didn’t. What did happen was that comics as a medium, with the rise of underground comics through the agency of R. Crumb and his peers, underwent a radical expansion of style, genre, and subject matter as an addition to the “mainstream.” Part of that was the advent of what Justin Hall, in No Straight Lines, has termed “queer” comics.’

ivy

Cat R. tells us about a couple of rootsy albums that she calls ‘family friendly’. She says both Why Why Why and Old Barn qualify as ‘… music I can share with my godkids, ages 6 and 8, on roadtrips without anyone’s sanity or boredom being threatened.’

Epilogue, a tribute to mandolinist and singer John Duffey, got Gary’s toes tapping. ‘Duffey was a founding member of both The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene, two of the most important groups in the history of modern bluegrass.’

He found something new in Bienaventuranza, the latest release by the Argentinian musician who goes by Chancha via Circuito. It’s called digital cumbia. ‘This musical style combines Colombia’s highly popular folkloric music, cumbia, one of the most popular in Latin America, with electronic beats and other modern touches.’

We finish off our music reviews with Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham’s Spring The Summer Long which solicits this lead-in by Jack: ‘Yawn, another bloody brilliant album from a duo, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, who can do no wrong. So why should you get excited? Are you completely daft, man? This is Aly Bain on fiddles and Phil Cunningham on damn near everything else (accordion, whistles, cittern, piano, keyboards, mandolin) with more than capable assistance from Malcolm Stitton acoustic guitar, and bouzouki and Stuart Nisbet on acoustic guitar, dobro and pedal steel. How can you not like it? Do you ‘ave not a touch of magic in your soul?’

ivy

Puppetry is our What Not theme this time.  In his review of Figures of Speech Theatre’s Anerca, Chris writes of a puppet theater that owes as much to Japanese drama and American-Indian Mythology as it does to Jim Henson and Sherri Lewis. ‘Among the complex issues they set out to explore with Anerca are cross-cultural interactions, the misunderstandings of language, and direct emotional communication. Rather than putting Western words into another language, they focus on the emotional tone, physical world and spiritual quest of the characters.’

Speaking of puppets, Denise dives back into our stock to review Folkmanis’ Narwhal puppet. She was smitten with the sea creature, and took to him right away. ‘I soon had him tootlin’ around while I sang “Octopus’s Garden”.  He seemed to be the type that’d like that song.’ Read her review for more about this puppet!

ivy

All songs are stories and Arlo Guthrie’s ‘City of New Orleans’ is certainly one of the better told ones. Recorded at a Stanhope, NJ performance on the eighth of August, twenty nine years ago, it tells the melancholy story of a train as it’s headed to New Orleans one night. Arlo, son of Woody as you most likely know, is in particularly fine voice here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Memory Maps

ivy

What, you ask, are memory maps? Well, all of us use maps all our lives, printed or digital, be they for traveling, locating something, or just out of sheer curiosity. But memory maps are the other type of maps that we all use.

Say you’re in Glasgow and a cute girl asks you where your favourite pub is. Without thinking, you tell her to go up this street, cut down that kill (alley to you Yanks), and go past the news agent and you’ll find The Wolfshead Pub. She thanks you and heads off to the Pub for a pint or two.

But memory maps are beyond that, as they form deep structures in our minds. When you decide to walk from your flat to The Wolfshead Pub, you don’t consciously map out the route in you mind, as you already instinctively know where you’re going. So I’m betting you’re listening to music, thinking about the girl you directed there, or admiring that it’s not raining in Glasgow, a rare occurrence indeed.

Before you know it, you’re at the Pub, standing at bar and enjoying that Glenglassaugh single dram that you’ve been anticipating. All without actually thinking about the journey you made there.

Now imagine living on this immense Scottish Estate for a few decades. In that time, you’ll develop a memory map that’s so detailed that you’ll know everything you need to know about spaces, interior and exterior, that you’ve memorized over the years and the routes that get you from, say, the gardens on the south sloping hill to the Kitchen to the Main Building. You’ll also know just where everything is to prepare the carrots you dug from the MacGregor carrot patch.

So Mrs. Ware asks you to drop the carrots off and to see if you can get someone to forage for some mushrooms. You decide to do it yourself, grab a basket, and take a stroll to where you know where the best ones are in late March after a few mild days. All the while thinking about Chasing Dragonflies playing at the contradances tonight.

So what’s your favourite memory map? Or is it so deeply rooted that you aren’t even aware it exists?

ivy

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What’s New for the 10th of June: Weezer’s rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, two by Jane Lindskold, Anthony Bourdain, Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect, an impressive TBR pile, WF organic dark chocolate, Skara Brae’s only album, Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet and other matters

Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying. ― Iain Banks’ Against a Dark Background which may or may not be a Culture novel. 

ivy

Ahh I see that you’re reading Iain Bank’s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram. Since you’re obviously a lover of truly great whiskies, may I pour you, neat of course, a dram of the Craigellachie 23 year old single malt? Good — there you are. I assume you know about his Culture series, which are sort of space opera but far better done than most such books are? If not, go read Gary’s review of The Hydrogen Sonata which will give you a good look at this series.

if you’re in the mood for some great fantasy instead, Robert has two books he thinks are worth your time, Cat has a space opera audiobook he really liked, the other Cat has a look at her recent readings;  and, among other things, Denise looks at Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet.

With great sadness, I must note that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide a few days ago. He was a personal favourite of many staffers here. Joseph looks at his No Reservations: Iceland episode: ‘Whoever chose to create and release this DVD is a genius. By showing the misery of his job (albeit with funny commentary and cutting remarks), Bourdain reveals his human side. He becomes one of us with good days and bad.‘

Now I’ll take your leave, as I see you’re eager to read this edition and I’m off to see if the installation of the two meter tall brass Ganesh in the library is complete. It’s rumoured that it was acquired from an antiquities dealer in Mumbai who said it might date back to Raj years.  Neat, eh?

ivy

Cat delves into an audiobook this edition, giving a listen to Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect. ‘Reynolds is among the best writers of sf I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. … John Lee, who narrates, is perhaps my favorite male narrator.’ But does this combination make for an engaging listen?  Tune into Cat’s review and see!

Our West Coast Cat does away with a bit of her book pileup this edition, posting nutshell reviews of several books that have come her way in a single article. An editor has made it known that she’s extremely impressed with Cat’s brilliant idea, and may just ‘borrow’ it in future. But for right now, read all about what Cat thought about books featuring Wolves, Wives, Knives, Curses, A Hospital, and a Henchgirl. A few of these look worthy of making it to summer reading lists, so dive in to her reviews!

Robert brings us two novels by Jane Lindskold, who has proven to be a very versatile fantasist. The first is Changer: ‘Urban fanstasy is a subgenre with as many sets of criteria as there are practitioners. Ranging from the Celto-Amerindian universe of Charles de Lint’s urban Canada and Neil Gaiman’s eclectic universe of the Dreaming, with even hybrids such as Mark Anthony’s Last Rune paying tribute to fairies and hobgoblins, Lindskold has stepped neatly in and taken as her purview the myths and legends of all places, all peoples, and set them down in the contemporary American Southwest.’

He follows up with the sequel, Legends Walking: ‘Jane Lindskold has followed up Changer with Legends Walking, which opens a few weeks after Changer closes. The same characters appear, many in expanded roles, new athanor characters participate, and the story takes on added complexity as several plot lines develop.’

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Robert has a look at a French film that almost defies description: ‘I hardly know where to start with Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups) – it’s sort of outside my normal range of subject matter, but the DVD case looked interesting enough, and the price was right, so I thought, “Why not? A historical-costume-mystery-revenge-monster flick – what could be better?”’

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Robert has chocolate! (Big surprise.) This time it’s organic dark chocolate from Whole Foods Market: ‘As might be expected from a chain with Whole Foods’ reputation, all ingredients are organic, fair trade, and socially conscious. (Well, the ingredients themselves aren’t socially conscious, but you get my drift.)’

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It’s no secret that we love Gaelic music around here.  For this issue, Cat takes a listen to Skara Brae’s Skara Brae, an album that is widely considered the most important album of Gaelic music ever produced. ‘Skara Brae was the first group that put harmonies to Gaelic songs…. For lovers of songs in Irish this album is a must.’

Gary explores Drift, the second release by Seattle-based trio Duende Libre. ‘Though based in American and Latin (especially Cuban) jazz, Duende Libre’s music makes some significant departures, even more so on Drift than on their debut.’

Gary also enjoyed Anima, the debut album from Uruguayan-born singer Valeria Matzner. ‘It wasn’t until after she moved to Canada as an adult that she studied jazz, and it was there that she also eventually reconnected to her roots – in South America and in her own family as well. I’m very glad she did.’

And then, Gary says, there’s Waterdrawn by the Chicago-based duo The Horse’s Ha. They’re influenced by the singers and songs of the 1960s British folk revival, but with a twist: ‘Folk songs that sound like lovely pastorals on the surface – the delicate acoustic instruments plucked and bowed and the singers’ oddly matched voices – but which hide dark undercurrents.’

Shining Down, an album from a member of the North Carolina based Red Clay Ramblers, gets high praise by Judith: ‘Craver’s piano playing is marvelous, and to add to the quirkiness his vocals are plain, as if he were singing on a kids album. As on Wagoner’s Lad he plays most of the backing music himself.’

Jack has an oddity for us in ‘a quaint remnant from an earlier, less driven-by-commercial-interest society where quality of production was higher than it is today. This artifact, The Road Goes Ever On — A Song Cycle, comes from an earlier age, the Sixties, when readers were madly obsessed with Tolkien and his work. Here in this book composer Swann gives Tolkien characters Bilbo, Treebeard, Samwise Gamgee, and Tom Bombadil tunes for their ballads of the road. Tolkien approved of this and added a tune of his own, along with a glossary of Elvish terms and lore.’

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Denise has decided to give puppets a try this issue, with a review of Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet. And she came away impressed. ‘Holy cow this puppet is beautiful.’ But how does it actually…puppet?  Read her review to find out!

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As warmer weather creeps in, thoughts turn memories of summers past, and to this year’s summer plans that will soon become cherished memories. Weezer ties together past and future nicely with their rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, a cover they dropped late last month.

Why cover such a classic favorite? Because a fan (@weezerafrica, to be precise) asked them to. Many, many times. And with Weezer being very responsive to social media requests, the decided to go for it. And I’m glad they did. Rivers Cuomo was made to cover this song, his smooth, beautiful voice doing the lyrics justice. Weezer performs this song in a slightly different key, but it works perfectly.

As the band has covered many performers, from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd and even Toni Braxton, who knows what they’ll do next? Meanwhile, enjoy ’Africa’, and think of all the lovely summer memories you’ll get to make this year.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: 3 a.m., When The Veils Are Thinnest

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Sometimes I believe that the door off the Courtyard into the Pub here is just a little too close to The Border with, oh, let’s just call it somewhere else and possible somewhen else. It would certainly explains some of the strange things and people that end up here, usually late at night.

Such was the case one late Fall evening when several strange beings wandered in here, one seeking refuge and the others seeking him. What happened is the story I tell here.

The first was a dead bluesman, or at least it was assumed he was dead given he was murdered long ago, who showed up with his guitar slung over his back. Clad in a sharp suit and elegant hat, he sat down in a corner table, back against the wall, and started playing the blues, really old tunes at that. Never said hardly a word, but ordered whisky which was paid for with silver dollars that were truly collectors items.

Several weeks after he appeared, two very dark-skinned impressively large individuals equally well-dressed as the bluesman showed up and attempted to remove him from the Pub. (You should realise that only those with The Sight such as myself could See that any of these individuals was unusual. All others thought they were just human.) He smiled at them, showing a lot of teeth and played a low chord that made them turned sharply around and leave.

Not so his luck with the red-haired, green-eyed, leather-clad woman who, for those with The Sight, had black wings, more like those of a crow than an angel. I thought She was The Angel of Death but the look on his face suggested something much more dire. She ordered one of the best whiskies we had and sipped it as she looked at the bluesman. It was a sad smile, a smile that suggested she had a job to do but wasn’t a job she wanted to do.

I’m old enough to know who she was, but was surprised she was here as I’d only seen her a few times down the centuries and I knew she was never the bearer of good news.

She finished drink, nodded to Reynard and walked towards the bluesman. She talked quietly with him for a while and then left without him, which surprised me as the stories about her always say she never leaves without her, errr, prey.

And the bluesman was now playing ‘Cross Road Blues’.

ivy

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What’s New for the 3rd of June: Some Things Turkish and Ottoman Empire Related

Legends should stay legends otherwise they just become history, when the natural course of things is the other way around, from history to legend. ― Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House

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The Several Annies, Apprentices to me, the Estate Librarian, come from all over the world. And several years back one of them was from Istanbul. Sümeyye, now on our Grounds staff,  is responsible for the  incredible spread you see in the Kitchen this morning, a spread which includes breads, soft, creamy cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, a spicy Turkish sausage, and an amazing range of jams, marmalades, and honeys for your sweet tooth. Of course there’s menemen which are really yummy eggs, and lots of tea.

You’ll find some of our many reviews of things Turkish this time as we’ve done a number of such reviews down the decades. And there’s certainly some stories to tell as well such as Zina’s look at the the Turkish coffee she was served one evening at the Estate.

Shall we get started?

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Walter Jon Williams’ Deep State gets a review by Cat as he notes Dagmar Shaw is once again in trouble in this series: ‘So now she finds herself trying to keep Great Big Idea, the ARG running company, afloat. Not an uneasy task given she’s an über geek, not an über money person. All of which explains how she ends up in yet another unstable country, Turkey this time, running an ARG just as those Generals decide to throw out those democratically elected leaders, a situation that has played itself out before in that both young and very old state.’

That we Westerners find Turkey and the Ottoman Empire it came out of fascinating is not surprising to me. Indeed a certain Peter Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, in his Best Of a decade back picked an Ottoman Empire mystery as one of his favored novels: ‘And there’s this English writer named Jason Goodwin, whose novels take place in the Istanbul of 1830 or so, and whose hero is a eunuch whose best friends are a transvestite dancer, and an ambassador from a Poland that literally doesn’t exist anymore, having been swallowed up by Russia, where it remained for 150 years. Gruber, Furst and Goodwin…’ So it’s not surprising that Donna loves it as she says in her review: ‘In spite of these minor quibbles, I thoroughly enjoyed The Janissary Tree and look forward to seeing more of ‘Inspector’ Yashim in the future!’

Donna also has a look at  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.

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.’

Robert notes that the Ottoman Empire included a dizzying array of peoples and traditions, which necessarily led to a less-than-monolithic culture, as outlined in Suraiya Faroqhi’s Subjects of the Sultan: ‘In many ways it is a dizzying survey: Faroqhi’s coverage is extensive, the very richness of the subject is somewhat daunting, and the fascinating sidebars she explores almost lead to severe input overload — but I didn’t care. (She even devotes a section to cooking and dinner parties, and how many “cultural histories” do that?)’

A more historic/political perspective is found in a pair of books, Suraiya Faroqhi’s The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It and Handan Nezir Akmeşe’s The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to World War I. Says Robert: ‘The Ottoman Empire and its successor, modern Turkey, have time and again played an important role in European politics, and yet there are vanishingly few sources in English to bring us the viewpoint of the Turks themselves, or, indeed, to focus on the Anatolian peninsula as other than an adjunct to the doings of European states. Addressing that lack is one of the aims of two recent histories.’

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Zina has a story for us about something quite wonderful: ‘For me, the inky little cups of Turkish coffee are exactly that — it’s not so much the coffee itself that’s so wonderful, but what tends to happen over the cups of it, even if I’m drinking it alone. I was in a tiny, tiny village in the pastoral English countryside visiting friends a bit ago, and after dinner we had Turkish coffee, some tunes, and a great deal of talking and laughing, in the lovely, warm, hospitable dining room of that unbelievably old house.’

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And then there’s Turkish music. Big Earl Sellar has quite an absorbing overview of some of the many traditions involved: ‘Turkey is one of the oldest continuously inhabited regions on this planet. With the Karain cave giving us evidence of Anatolian civilization beginning at least 10 000 years ago, the people of this corner of our planet have had a long time to develop a musical culture with the same complexity as India’s, a tradition to rival Celtic, and a beauty that is truly universal.’

He follows up with a look at several CD’s of Turkish classical music: ‘Although I’m familiar with Turkish popular and traditional music, the first three of these discs mark my introduction to Turkish classical music. This is a relatively recent musical invention, dating back 1000 years: composers, inspired by the tradition and the court music, creating a new vocabulary of written, organized works, and defined frameworks for instrumental improvisations.’

Gary has a look at an interesting four-volume set of Music of the Sultans, Sufis & Seraglio. First he looks at Volumes 1 and 2,Sultan Composers and Music of the Dancing Boys, followed by Volumes 3 and 4, Minority Composer and Ottoman Suite: ‘The Lalezar Ensemble is part of a current revival of classical Ottoman music under way in Turkey. The group — four instrumentalists and three vocalists — have created four CDs that give a sampling of some of the best and most representative of the five centuries of the Ottoman Empire’s art music.’

A bit of something different is next up: ‘My favorite musical discovery of 2017 was Turkish psychedelia’ Gary says. As an example, he explores an album called XX, which he explains is ‘a two-disc set celebrating the 20-year career of a band called Baba Zula.’

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Our What Not comes from The Armenian Weekly, Armenia once being part of the Ottoman Empire and is entitled What Was Left Behind: Music of the Ottoman Empire:  ‘Record collector Ian Nagoski has been buying up cheap 78 rpm discs for over a decade. The 36-year-old music junkie and record store owner always had one rule: “My policy was to buy anything in a language other than English,” he said in an interview with the Armenian Weekly. In June 2011, Nagoski, in collaboration with Tompkins Square Records, released the three-disc album set “To What Strange Place: The Music of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929,” which features polished tracks from Armenian, Greek, and Turkish records, etched mostly in New York.’

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For our Coda, Robert went searching and came across this performance by one of the many groups we discussed this week, Kardeş Türküler. It’s pretty catchy and more than a little interesting.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Cats

ivy

While our Kinrowan Hall is justly famous for the music that keeps the old place resonating nicely, we’re also home to a fair number of our feline friends. While some of the cats just come and go (not unlike the notoriously peripatetic musicians of The Neverending Session), there are a select few who’ve taken up permanent residence, albeit sometimes in the cellar while the music’s going on, especially if there’s whistles.

Collectively they’re generally known simply as ‘the cats’ (original, huh?), but we figured that it was time to introduce them to you; it’s usually polite — and politic — to greet a cat by name (using his or her sensible, everyday name, or at the very least using ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’), and one often comes across one of our feline inhabitants in one nook or other around the Building.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the moggies . . .

First up is Ysbaddaden (‘King of all Giants’ from the story of Culhwch & Olwen), who’s sometimes affectionately known as ‘Bad Daddy’ by the human staff. He’s the alpha tom of the place, and you mainly find him guarding the gardens, or stalking the great hall. He’s probably tortoiseshell, but it’s difficult to be entirely sure given the amount of ‘markings’ that he’s picked up over his long life of battles. Fiercely loyal and protective towards the other cats, he still packs a hell of a wallop and a frightening turn of speed for an old ‘un!

Didjan is a smaller-than-average tabby female, probably the runt of her litter. Something of an outsider, ‘Didjie’ somehow manages to thrive on any food scraps left unattended for more than a second by the others — and occasionally the inattentive human as well. She can generally be found in the windows of the kitchen passageways. Both feline and human rumours of her forming an unholy alliance with Maggie Pye are probably completely accurate. . . . (A ‘didjan’ is a morsel of food — the bit of pasty crust that the dirty fingers hold, left by Cornish tin miners to appease the ‘buccas’ in the ‘bal’ (mine).

Phynnoderee is a very sleek, black Manx tom cat. ‘Finn’ is of the ‘rumpy’ (no tail) rather than the ‘stumpy’ variety of Manx, and seems rather proud of the fact. He’s hugely popular with the she-cats (which may explain the high percentage of oddly-tailed kittens mewling around underfoot.) He can often be spotted in the Reading Room, on some high spot overlooking his domain.

Wattie mysteriously arrived as a kitten in the Green Man cellars, shortly after a touring Scots band (friends of Our Jack) stored their flight cases down there . . . Growing up to be quite burly, his indescribably long and shaggy ginger fur means that he’s sometimes known as ‘that orange brute.’ Wattie has claws like claymores, and pursues his favourite sport of ‘moosing’ in the storerooms with an intensity that borders on the psychopathic.

Maddy and June (aka The Silly Sisters), are two tabby females, very alike, and usually seen together. June is the slightly larger of the two and is distinguishable by the white patch below her neck. Maddy is probably the wilder-natured cat (and has been known to bear a few ginger kittens). One stumbles across them gamboling together wherever their fancy takes them.

Blodeuwedd is the youngest of the females. Denise found her by the Green Man entrance, hiding among the flowers (in a hanging basket, strangely), and invited her in for a saucer of milk. While ‘Blod’ co-exists quite happily with the other cats, she frequently seeks the company of humans in the offices of the building, and has the unnerving ability to magically appear on desks like a very sudden Cheshire Cat.

Maeve is a splendid and stately black and white female of indeterminate age; she’s at least as old as Ysbaddaden, who she’s clearly known from kittenhood. Largely sedate and inactive these days, and usually to be found on the velvet cushions of the second floor landing window seat where proper homage may be paid to her when one goes past, when Maeve does go for a stroll, she does so as queen of all that she surveys. Though well past breeding age, Maeve will still (when no ‘prying eyes’ of the younger cats are about) invite Ysbaddaden to assist her with her grooming.

Cats, underfoot and in unexpected places, skulking in the cellars, haunting the hems of the drapes, purring to themselves on sunny windowsills, licking each other’s ears before the fires, and, while you’re reading this edition of the Review, probably draping themselves over your reading material. It’s in their nature.

ivy

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What’s New for the 27th of May: Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale, Canadian singer-songwriter Dana Sipos, Scottish singer Siobhan Miller, another treat from Folkmanis, the interconnectedness of our reviews, Oysterband’s ‘Red Barn Stomp’, ‘Places’ in fantasy novels, and other cool things

But you must stop playing among his ghosts — it’s stupid and dangerous and completely pointless. He’s trying to lay them to rest here, not stir them up, and you seem eager to drag out all the sad old bones of his history and make them dance again. It’s not nice, and it’s not fair. — Patricia McKillip’s Winter Rose

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So what was the best book you’ve read this year? Or the best recording you’ve had  a listen to? Do you have a favourite dark chocolate? Mine’s the Ritter dark chocolate with hazelnuts which is the perfect size for an afternoon snack while walking out and back to our Standing Stones.

Everything we like is unique to us as I noticed when Cat asked Deborah, author of the Haunted Ballad Series and the JP Kinkaid Chronicles, what her favourite Grateful Dead was and she replied, ‘I’m an old school Dead woman. Give me Aoxomoxoa, Anthem Of The Sun, Live Dead, Workingman’s Dead, and American Beauty. I helped Annette Flowers and Eileen Law stuff cartons of Europe ’72. After Pigpen died, they started losing me for good and never really got me back. But that was my period of Dead.’

 To me, one of the joys of this enterprise we are doing is reading what other staffers, both now and going back decades, has found that they really appreciate (and what they sometimes really, really don’t appreciate) as they’re often things I’d not a clue existed such as gremlins made physical from Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins: The Lost Walt Disney Production!

So let’s see what we found for you this time.

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Not all that uncommon is the tendency of one of our reviews to be linked to other reviews we’ve done down the decades. Such is the case this edition as everything Robert looks at is connected to other reviews by him…

Robert has a review of Winter Rose: ‘The story is told in McKillip’s characteristically elliptical style, kicked up an order of magnitude. Sometimes, in fact, it is almost too poetic, the narrative turning crystalline then shattering under the weight of visions, images, things left unsaid as Rois and Corbet are drawn into another world, or come and go, perhaps, at will or maybe at the behest of a mysterious woman of immense power who seems to have no fixed identity but who is, at the same time, all that is coldest and most pitiless of winter.’

He also looks at Solstice Wood, a sequel of sorts to Winter Rose: ‘McKillip has always been a writer whose books can themselves be called ‘magical,’ and it’s even more interesting to realize that she seldom uses magic as a thing of incantations and dire workings, or as anything special in itself. It just is, a context rather than an event, and perhaps that’s the way it should be.’

Robert also found something that Solstice Wood has in common with Jane Lindskold’s Child of a Rainless Year — although that one can certainly stand on its own: ‘Jane Lindskold is one of the more adventurous authors working in the mode of speculative fiction. From her transparent contributions to Roger Zelazny’s last two books through the contemporary urban fantasy of the athanor novels through the more-or-less “classic” fantasy world of Through Wolf’s Eyes, she has shown not only great ease in moving among subgenres, but a remarkable proficiency in pushing the envelope stylistically without becoming precious, an affliction suffered by many in the field.’

And would you believe that Orson Scott Card’s Magic Street shares a –what? An image? A metaphor? — with those two novels? ‘Mack is nobody’s and everybody’s — he wanders the neighborhood and, eventually, is welcome wherever he happens to be. And then one day, when in his early teens, he sees a house that isn’t there, and goes in.’ivy

While the warmer temps have us gearing up for Summer, Denise’s review of Oliver Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Cherry Wheat Ale has us dreaming of Spring. But don’t assume it’s just a Spring beer; this is one that jumps seasons nicely. ‘Grab ’em while you can, or you’ll have to wait ’til next year. And you won’t want to wait.’ See why she’s a fan in her review!

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Robert has a look at a rather unusual graphic novel, Alex Woolfson’s Artifice: ‘The basic premise here is a science-fiction trope that goes all the way back to Isaac Asimov’s Robot stories — how smart does an artificial intelligence have to be to be considered human?’

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Chuck looks at an offering from a well-known Nordic musician: ‘Mats Eden is a founder and the only original member of the Swedish contemporary folk group, Groupa. With Lackerbiten (which, I believe, translates to “Little Bits”), Eden goes solo and traditional, performing thirty — yes, thirty — tunes originating in the Varmland region, straddling the border of Sweden and Norway.’

Gary took a shine to a new recording from Canadian singer-songwriter Dana Sipos. ‘If like me you appreciate deeply rooted folk music that’s recorded with the sort of post-modern studio wizardry that enhances that music’s moods and meanings, then you owe it to yourself to check out Dana Sipos’ Trick of the Light.’

Lars was favorably impressed with Strata by the Scottish singer Siobhan Miller. ‘I have played Strata continuously for more than a week and it still grows on me with every new listening. A good selection of songs, very well sung and nice, varied arrangements; what more could you ask for?’

Michael looks at an album from Maddy Prior: ‘An icon of English folk rock, Prior knows how to set her impressive vocal talents among supportive instrumental accompaniment. I won’t repeat the history of her career with Steeleye Span and Carnival, because Lahri Bond has already done that in his retrospective review which gives a great summary of personnel changes and albums, while Naomi de Bruyn covered her decision to leave the band after 28 years in her review of Prior’s compilation album Memento. Known and loved for her sweet, clear voice, Prior continues the tradition of fine vocal delivery with Ravenchild.’

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Our What Not this week is another treat from Folkmanis. Says Robert: ‘I seem to have another Folkmanis puppet lurking around, this one the Rat In a Tin Can. The Folkmanis website describes him as being ready for a playful picnic (note the napkin in one paw). However, it seemed to me that he might just as easily be a waiter in an upscale rat restaurant: his black-and-white pattern might almost be taken for formal wear.’

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I think a bit of rather lively music in the form of ‘Red Barn Stomp’ to show us out this edition will do very nicely.  Recorded sometime in June of 1990 in Minneapolis by the Oysterband  with June Tabor joining them there as well. The lads were on tour in support of their Little Rock to Leipzig album where you can find another version of this tune.

Ian Tefler, a band member, tells us that the name of this piece was chosen to sound trad. It features John Tefler calling the tune and very neatly incorporates the actually trad tune, ‘The Cornish Six-Hand Reel’ in it as well.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Béla

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I noticed that Béla was enjoying a meal of  goulash and dark beer, something that the Kitchen being fond of him cooks him frequently. (I’ve had that goulash — it’s as good as any I’ve had in Hungarian eateries!) Like many here at this Estate, I’ve pondered just who he is as no one here now is clear quite how he fetched up here.

He’s been here at least forty years and was a man of middle age when he got here according to what I remember from being told by the previous Steward. I’d guess that he’s in his eighties now but quite hale still.

He speaks German, Hungarian and French but not a bit of English after all the time he’s been here. It doesn’t seem to be a problem as there’s usually someone here who shares at least one language with him.

I though he was Hungarian but Iain, our Librarian, says what Béla claims is quite a bit stranger. Iain says that he claims to have been born in the Ottoman Empire long before it became Turkey. Now that it would make him well over a hundred! Not impossible give we’re situated on The Border, but still odd as that usually only effects those who spend time in what Yea called The Celtic Twilight.

His room is sparse with just his clothes, his books in the languages he knows, and his violin. That violin is a Strad. Yes, one of those rare instruments. I’ve been told by Max, the resident luthier here at the Estate, that it’s definitely the real thing. Béla won’t say where he acquired it, nor does he think it’s anything extraordinary that he has it.

I’ve never heard him play anything except various folk tunes, be they of European origin, or of the Celtic traditions. He’s very fond of learning new tunes and actually had Sara ap Morgan, a  cwrth  player who stayed with us for a summer that turned into several years, teach him Welsh fiddle tunes as she spoke French as well as English and Welsh. He even learned quite a bit of Welsh from her as well.

He always lends a hand, be it with Kitchen work or helping me with work outside. He’s as handy with a cross-cut saw at his age as workers fifty years his junior. Th local GP who does his annual physical says he’s in his late fifties or early sixties.

So the mystery remains…

ivy

 

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What’s New for the 20th of May: Some Terry Riley works for string quartet, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a Charles de Lint novel and video fiction, a new Fairport album, Mast Sea Salt Chocolate and other matters


We’re all such beings because we tell every story from our oh so personal viewpoint with little or no regard for what most of you know. Nor do we often care what you know. — A patron to Reynard late one night in our Pub

ivyGutmansdottir, our resident botanist and now junior only to Gus in terms of tending the Estate gardens and grounds, has been cultivating orchids in the Conservatory on the quite logical grounds that everyone needs flowering plants nearby. That’s why you’ll see them here in Kinrowan Hall pretty much everywhere they can be.

Likewise books are to found everywhere in this ancient Hall as books are creature comforts as well.  Be it a well-used and beloved cookbook, a mystery that has entertained generations of readers or a novel from a favoured writer of fantasy,  you won’t go far here without seeing someone reading something or a book sitting somewhere carefully marked with a personal bookmark to note where the reader left off.

So let’s see what works tickled the fancy of our reviewers this time. And we’ve got other good things for you to consider as well, so let’s get started…

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Cat has a mystery for us: ‘Christopher Fowler’s Full Dark House is the best mystery set during the London Blitz of the early 1940s that I’ve ever read, bar none. It is also the best mystery set within the very peculiar world of the theater that I’ve read. It is every bit as good as Foyle’s War, the BBC series I watched, where the Second World War has just begun and England’s fate looks bleak indeed in the face of an inevitable German invasion, bur someone still has to fight crime on the home front. Who better than Christopher Foyle in that series, and who better in this mystery series than Arthur Bryant and John May of the newly formed Peculiar Crimes Unit?’

Craig has some prime horror for us: ‘Robert E. Howard wrote short stories during the heyday of the pulp era, mostly for Weird Tales, from 1924 until his death by suicide in 1936 at age 30. Howard wrote in various genres, but he is now best known for his stories popularizing the fantasy subgenre “sword and sorcery,” and especially the hero he created, Conan the Barbarian. His range of talent, however, is becoming better known as pulp-era fiction regains a modern readership. Del Rey Books is doing their part to keep his name in front of book-buyers with their affordable trade-paperback collections of his work, of which The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard is only the most recent.’

Richard says reading Elizabeth Bear’s New Amsterdam ‘for the mysteries is missing the point. As mysteries, they’re nothing special. There’s usually one suspect, who gets introduced late in the game, and their motivations are often given as exposition as opposed to revealed. If the mysteries themselves were the point, that would be aggravating.’ Need I note that it’s an alternative history with vampires and zeppelins?

Robert got to read Charles de Lint’s newest book, The Wind In His Heart, and was suitably impressed: ‘Let me put it this way: I’ve been reading de Lint’s fiction for about thirty years now, and a lot of it has been good enough to stand up under repeated readings. This one kicks the whole game up a notch.’

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OK I’m not sure this exists anymore and I’m reasonably certain it was only released on VHS but Michael says it’s worth seeking out: ‘Adapted from the Charles de Lint short story of the same name, Sacred Fire was produced as an episode of the anthology television series, The Hunger, and first showed in 1999. A horror/dark fantasy series initially hosted by Terence Stamp and then David Bowie, The Hunger takes dark, twisted looks at the world around us.‘ In an email, the author notes that one of his favourite things about it is ‘David Bowie dressed up as a mad scientist as he introduces it!’

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Denise decided to give Mast Sea Salt Chocolate a try, and liked what she tasted. ‘However you decide to indulge, you’ll be happy you did.’ If you’re a dark chocolate fan, you’ll want to read her review!

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Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is a graphic novel that comes with a warning from April: ‘The Escapist is an original comic creation springing from Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. And though it’s not at all necessary to have read that marvelous novel to enjoy The Escapists, readers should, because this graphic novel takes both its heart and inspiration from Chabon’s work.’ Read her full review to see why she liked this.

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Gary says American guitarist Steve Tibbetts’ latest album Life Of draws on world, ambient, jazz and experimental musics, but ‘at its root, this music is a deeply Midwestern sound of wide-open space.’

Michael looks at What We Did On Our Saturdaythe latest from a venerable English band: ‘Saturday, August 12 2017 to be precise. The final evening of Fairport’s Cropredy festival in their 50th year. It was always going to be a special occasion, and the likelihood of a recording was strong, after releases of similar previous anniversaries. The pun of the title, referring back to the band’s 1969 ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’ album, is carried over to the design of this new set, echoing the blackboard drawing of a now different and older grouping of band and friends.’

Robin Laing’s Ebb and Flow gets an appreciative look see by Peter: ‘This is the 6th album from Robin Laing, consisting entirely of his original songs. Robin, who is also a fine traditional singer, has, over the past 10 years, also established himself as one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary singer-songwriters. He draws a lot of his influences from everyday life, tales and stories, and some encountered by life on the road.

Robert brings us a group of works by Terry Riley: ‘Cadenza on the Night Plain (the disc, not the work of that title) presents four of Terry Riley’s works for string quartet, works that, if your only acquaintance with Riley has been pieces on the order of In C or other larger-scaled works, are going to be something of a surprise — no matter how complex and abstract their conceptual underpinnings, they are possessed of a refreshing liveliness and clarity.’

Scott has a look at a recording from the founder of Malicorne: ‘Gabriel Yacoub began his career singing and playing guitar in Alan Stivell’s band, before going on to form the legendary French Renaissance rock band Malicorne. Malicorne’s compilation CD Légende: Deuxieme Epoque exceeds the quality of any of the similar compilations from their English contemporaries Steeleye Span, and is on a comparable level with the best output from Fairport Convention. Malicorne split up twenty years ago, and I hadn’t heard any of Yacoub’s subsequent solo material until I recently got the chance to listen to 2002’s The Simple Things We Said. This album combines new songs with reworked versions of some older songs, with the specific intent of cracking the American world music market.’

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Our What Not this week is a collectible from Guardians of the Galaxy, namely a figurine of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Says Cat: ‘Accurate representations of Rocket Raccoon, best known from the two Guardians of the Galaxy films are difficult to find without spending a lot of cash on the accurate one-sixth scale models costing in the hundreds of dollars. I wanted one such figure largely because I thought that Rocket and Groot were the most interesting characters in those films.’

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Our Coda this time’s ‘Pierre De Grenoble’ by Malicorne, a band Scott noted in his review as being the French version of Steeleye Span for their blending of trad material and electric instruments. This was recorded at Hunter College, New York thirty-four years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Staging Shakespeare

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Come in! Glad you got here in time for some theatre tonight. Let’s drop your kit off in the room you’re staying in for the next fortnight before heading out.

It shouldn’t surprise you at all that we do theatre in the long winters here at this isolated Scottish estate. And it further won’t surprise you that Shakespeare is a perennial favourite here century in and century out. So why is that playwright so popular?

Setting aside the literary genius of Shakespeare, he’s one of the easiest playwrights to stage, as the focus on the words allows for a minimalist staging to take place. Oh I’ve seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream staged at summer solstice deep in an English wood, Macbeth performed in the ruins of a Scottish castle, and even The Tempest against the backdrop of a sullen sea. But those admittedly spectacular performances are only one side of a ha’penny.

The other side of that ha’penny is staged readings, just actors reading the words on a bare stage. Now that’s where you can really see who understands in their heart and soul the magic of Shakespeare, as you can hear that belief in the way they do the lines. Now if they’re lacking in that belief, the words feel as if they’re being read by a politician using a teleprompter for the first time.

We fall somewhere just off being a staged reading by making use of strategic props and even a bit of fey magic where appropriate, such as Lady Macbeth washing her hands in a basin on stage and her hands coming away in red that drips upon the front of her white dress, or using a skull in the gravediggers scene in Hamlet combined with an ever so convenient service stairway as the grave itself.

And I find that my Several Annies, the Library apprentices from around the world, all grasp the joy and agony of Shakespeare. Indeed one of them, I’m proud to say, is now a research fellow concentrating on the interstices between Shakespeare as a writer of fiction using history and Shakespeare as a chronicler of history without interpreting that history.

Enough of my prattling on, as it’s now time we headed off to hear the performance of Much Ado About Nothing in our Theatre in The Round, which is the former livestock auction house. Rebekah, one of my former Several Annies is directing it, a honour for her indeed!

ivy

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What’s New for the 13th of May: Nietzsche, Stephen King considered, chocolate of course and other matters

The advantage of a bad memory is that one can enjoy the same good things for the first time several times. — Friedrich Nietzsche

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Yes, that’s lox and cream cheese on a toasted bagel I’m having along with Komodo Dragon coffee. The salmon are harvested from the river that runs through this Estate and smoked right here. The cream cheese is from Riverrun Farms, a neighbor of ours, and the bagels are created right here, all in all a quite delicious breakfast indeed.

That tasty music playing was recorded at the reunion concert of Skara Brae, an Irish trad music group from Kells, County Meath. The group consisted of three siblings, the late Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, with Dáithí Sproule from Derry. It is two tunes,  ‘Ar A Dhul Chun’ and ‘Chuain’ off the soundboard recording.

There’s no theme this edition, so you’ll find a bit of everything from two chocolate reviews by Robert to reviews of music such as those from the Scottish trad and Americana genres. Our What Not is a bit different as our Publisher delved into several recent pop culture purchases he made.  And I’ve been told that the Coda music is of a Nietzschean nature. H’h.

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Denise delves into love of Uncle Stevie for a look at Tony Magistrale’s Hollywood’s Stephen King. ‘Tony Magistrale’s comprehensive but not all-inclusive review of King’s filmography not only stirred my interest in the deeper meanings of these films, but sorted their various themes and connections. Hollywood’s Stephen King shows that there are films in the author’s oeuvre that are just as worthy of discussion and critical review, and in some cases the stories these films tell are just as important as the original works they were based on.’

Arthur C. Clarke’s Tales From The White Hart, says Gary, is ‘is a series of superficially linked stories told by the fictional patrons of a fictional pub somewhere in London. The narrator is a fictionalized version of Clarke (the other patrons rib him for being a teetotaler), and I’ve no doubt some of the other patrons mentioned are probably based on others in his scientific and writing circles. These patrons are all either scientists or writers, and they tell each other science-based shaggy dog stories. Most of the stories are told by one fellow in particular, a Harry Purvis, who seems to have led several mortal lifetimes.’

He also looks at Geoff Emerick’s  Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles which he says is by one of the unsung heroes behind that group: ‘Inveterate reader of liner notes that I am, I’ve been aware of his name for some time, but it tended to blend into the amorphous blob of names of other guys on the periphery of The Beatles story, like their roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans. I wasn’t all that clear on what his role was. Eventually I figured out that George Martin was the producer and Emerick the engineer on most of The Beatles’ records – whatever that meant.’

And we have a book about writing, and history, and science fiction — Kate Wilhelm’s Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Says Robert: ‘I was prepared to like this book just because of the publisher’s name — and, of course, the fact that it is by Kate Wilhelm, one of science fiction’s legends: aside from the quality of her stories, in the 1950s and 60s she was one of the two or three women of note in a field dominated by men.’

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Cat has something a little out of the ordinary for our film selection this week — would you believe ‘Saturday morning cartoons’? Yep — a whole season of Justice League Action: ‘Justice League Action is the latest animated series to be set in the DC universe. Unlike earlier series that were roughly twenty two to twenty four minutes long and had seasons of no more that twenty or so episodes, this series has forty, yes forty, episodes running roughly twelve minutes each in what is called its first season.’

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Robert seems to have had a ‘choco-rama’ week. First, he treats us to Lindt’s Lindor Milk Chocolate Truffle Eggs: ‘Lindt (more formally Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG) is a Swiss chocolatier founded in 1845 and known for, among other things, its chocolate truffles.’

And then he got to sample Ghirardelli’s White Chocolate Premium Baking Bar: ‘I have to confess that even in the days when I was an active cook, my baking was limited — I was much more a main dish sort of guy, and not really into sweets. Consequently, I didn’t essay any baking with this bar, but I will readily admit to having nibbled my way through it.’

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Gary has a recording for us that he says is top-notch: ‘Beatrice Deer is a singer-songwriter from Nunavik, the icy region of Quebec north of the 55th parallel and home to Quebec’s Inuit people. My All to You is her fifth record since she left her tiny hometown of Quaqtaq for the big city of Montreal in 2007 to get serious about making music as well as for other personal reasons.’

He also writes about a new album by Kiran Ahluwalia, who was born in India, raised in Canada, and now lives in New York. On her seventh album 7 Billion, he says, ‘She embraces the desert blues of Mali, but she also incorporates Western idioms like the blues, rock, R & B and even a little jazz, into her own new hybrid artform.’

Ryley Walker says he wanted to change his approach on his new release Deafman Glance. Gary says, however, ‘Eschewing the “jammy acoustic” thing doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot of really tasty guitar playing on this record. To the contrary.’

Robert looks at a recording where narrative boundaries get challenged: ‘Robert Wilson, Philip Glass’ collaborator on Einstein on the Beach, noted that until that work hit the boards, theater was bound by literature. Thinking on it, he’s pretty much right: stage plays, opera, even film were constrained by a narrative line that relied on a chronological sequence, all based on language. Not so Einstein.’

Terry Riley’s The Cusp of Magic also gets reviewed by him: ‘That’s the key thing to remember about Riley’s music, I think — he’s taken all those traditions, all those influences, all those idioms, and truly synthesized them into a new vocabulary — it’s far beyond references or quotations — and yet it’s very comfortable.’

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Cat has our What Not for this week — they’re not exactly action figures, but close enough: Quantum Mechanix’s Pinky & The Brain Q-Fig Toons Figures: ‘Pinky and The Brain are two laboratory mice that were enhanced to be smart but only one ended up being a genius and one ended up, well, not insane as the intro to the show puts it, but definitely odd and hyperkinetic to boot.’

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Robert, after reading our opening quote, immediately came up with our Coda for this week: Friedrich Nietzsche, by way of Richard Strauss and Stanley Kubrick.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pub Ghoulies

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From the archives of Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house journal published here for centuries now.

Welcome, laddy-buck. Come in and find a seat here by the fire, and tell me your pleasure! Take a settle; they’re cushioned and wide enough for two, should fortune favour you. It’s quiet now, but there’s no end of entertainment due — we’ve a master storyteller, one Charles de Lint, come to regale us, and he’s a marvel and delight. And the lovely Mistress Elizabeth Bear, too, who they tell me is a bold lady, will be telling ghost stories for them as likes.

Well and so — ’tis the season of ghosts and witches soon, and we’re to smarten up the Pub for the celebrations. What’s to celebrate in ghosts and witches, I wonder? But, there — not my place to set our course, not here and now. I know a bit about ghosts and witches, though, that I do; being in the way of being both, you might say.

Oh, don’t shy so! We’re all ghosts from time to time in life, boyo. And can you claim I’m the first you’ve met in a bar? I’ve met ’em, more than once. Aye, that’s better, give us a smile — you’ve a good smile, and I’ve ever had a weakness for a lad with a sweet mouth. That was my undoing, when I sailed with Jack Rackham. Now, here’s your ale; shift over a mite, and let me sit with you for a moment…

Anne is my name, and I’ve been called bonney in my time. But that’s just my little joke, see. It’s my pleasure now to serve ale here in the Green Man, and Reynard is too canny a hand to think he’s my master. But this time of year, when the fogs are coming in black off the sea and salt and frost both flavour the air, it’s good to have a warm harbour here. Why, even the ravens and crows come in for a sup and a nap by the fire – so watch your coin, or our Hooded Maggie will have it away for a play-pretty in her nest under the library eaves.

Aye, she drives Liath the librarian to distraction, fey though Liath is — for Maggie’s always after the gilding on the old books, she is, sharp as any sailor after a coin. But she’s a darling despite it, pretty Maggie — with her beak like a black marlinspike and her gold-doubloon eyes. Oh, you can keep your gulls, says I; no true seaman looks twice at one o’ them! But the ravens and the crows, for all they’re landsman’s birds, they’re fine enough. Reavers and rogues at heart, on the account as much as any buccaneer and merry with it while they may be. And not afraid of the dead nor the dark, neither.

See how she comes to my hand, the sweeting? Some of it’s the sparkle of my rings, to be sure — watch how sly she is, trying her beak all gentle to see if a gem can be slipped off my finger! But more than that, she wants her neck scratched. There, see how she mantles her feathers, ruffles ’em out for a kind finger to stroke. A lass likes a petting now and then. Maggie and I are of a mind, there.

So come, put your arm around a body and we’ll watch the fire a bit. Nay, don’t peep at the mirror yonder. Your cap is straight, and the glass’ll show nothing you want to see.

A fire is such a lovely thing — not just the warmth, but the colours and the sound. When a fire is big enough, wild enough, it roars like the surf on a shingle shore. Have you ever heard it so? It roared like that above the roofs of the towns on the Spanish Main, so it did . . . and ain’t the scarlet and the gold brave, now! Nothing brighter as they twine up a wall or a mast, like roses, and climb a mainsail faster than the best topman goes up the ratlines. All women love what sparkles, like Maggie and her trove; and I never saw anything sparkle fairer than the way wild fire glitters on a dark horizon, or a sacked galleon, or a dead man’s open eyes . . .

Ah, now, lad — I told you not to look in the mirror! What’s a reflection, after all? To be sure, here’s my hand, and the glass I bring you — here’s my smile for you, and my eyes that see you clear enough. You’ll see yourself in my eyes, if you look; no need to gaze at that tricksie glass. What matter that you don’t show in the mirror? It’s nothing to me nor to anyone else here.

‘Tis your season, after all.

ivy

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What’s New for the 6th of May: folk gone electric and it’s finally warm out!

Crop handle carved in bone,
sat high upon a throne of finest English leather.
The queen of all the pack;
this joker raised his hat and talked about the weather,
All should be warned about this high born Hunting Girl;
She took this simple man’s downfall in hand,
I raised the flag that she unfurled.

Jethro Tull’s ‘The Hunting Girl’

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If you’re looking for the residents of Kinrowan Estate, most have found somewhat valid reasons to be outside today, from planting the annual herbs in the Beatrix Potter kitchen garden to helping out with the scrubbing down of the slate patios, as the weather’s warm, somewhat muggy and blessed with full sun. I’ll be headed out as soon as I finish this GMR edition; we’re doing a whole leg of lamb roast in the Courtyard, followed by a concert.

The visiting band’s Snow on the Mountain and they’re named after a plant that has green and white leaves that’s up as soon as the first Spring warmth arrives. They hailed from Big Foot County though I couldn’t find such a place in any gazetteer that we had, but that matters not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments, which makes for a very sweet sound.

Their music is a happy merging of Celtic and bluegrass, something that might’ve been Appalachian Trad, and oh and more than a bit of upbeat Tex-Mex, so if you’ve heard  and enjoyed The Mollys or Celexico, you’ll definitely like them. We’ve got them here for several contradances and this performance as well. 

Now let’s see what we’ve got this edition…

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I have a look at Mark Cunningham’s Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography  which is of a band that clearly shows fusing trad music and rock sensibilities wasn’t just something British bands did: ‘Horslips were, and in many ways still are, the Irish equivalent of Steeleye Span and, to a lesser extent, Fairport Convention, as they blend English and Irish traditional material and a rock and roll sensibility into what was the first Irish folk rock group.’

Kate has a look-see at Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are two of my fav British folk rock(ish) bands, so it’s apt that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as he helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’

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David looks at Festival Express which certainly was a long, strange trip: ‘It opens with a faded map of north Ontario, Kapuskasing dead centre. Then the camera pulls back and from the middle of the screen comes a train — an old Canadian National engine — and tracks, lots of tracks. This is a movie about that train and the people who rode on it, and the places it stopped, and what happened one week in 1970 when this train went from Toronto to Calgary . . . with a cargo of rock’n’rollers and all their paraphernalia. What a summer.’

Inigo Jones has a look at yet another band that fused trad music and a rockier music: ‘No tale of Shane McGowan and the Pogues would be complete without mention of the man’s teeth — just like the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo, the Pogues were exemplified by the rotting and misshapen tangle of teeth that exploded in every direction out of Shane McGowan’s mouth. From their first appearance on the cover of the Pogues’ debut EP, “Poguetry in Motion,” the fortunes of those teeth mirrored those of the man himself, and the decline and fall of both are amply documented in the Sundance Channel’s documentary, If I Should Fall from Grace – the Shane McGowan Story.’

Jethro Tull’s Live at Montreux 2003 gets reviewed by Kage and Kathleen: ‘This live concert was recorded in 2003, at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The event’s founder and chief instigator, Claude Nobs, invited the group to participate in that year’s festival; Ian Anderson, having both fond memories of Montreux and a deep background in jazz, accepted. The result was a 2-hour DVD and a double CD, both released this year as part of Montreux’s program of making individual concerts widely available.‘

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Brendan gives us a detailed look at Grateful Dead’s So Many Roads (1965-1995): ‘So often dismissed as a anachronistic hippie band that would somehow never die, the Grateful Dead actually formed a keystone of sorts between the traditional forms of American roots music and the rock music of the 60s. Looking past the psychedelic trappings and bizarre skeleton images, one can easily see that foundations of the Dead’s music consist mainly of the American Musical Triumvirate: jazz, blues, and country, with of course a healthy dose of rock and roll to keep things interesting’

Fairport Convention has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unCconventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!’

He also has very nice things to say about The Animals’ Gratefully Dead 1964-1968: ‘Eric Burdon has been in the news recently. As of early July 2004, he has a new CD and a new book, neither of which we will discuss today. He is on tour, somewhere, playing a variation on the blues-based rock (dappled with psychedelia) for which he is famous. But the big news is that the antipodean re-issue label Raven Records has released a new collection of The Animals greatest non-hits! Entitled Gratefully Dead (after an obscure B-side) this new anthology should sit next to its sister disc, Absolute Animals, in any record collection that seeks to understand and appreciate British music of the late ’60s. This is great stuff!’

Donna looks at a box set from the Byrds: ‘So I was quite enthusiastic about reviewing the preview of There is a Season when it arrived in the Green Man offices several months ago (the boxed set was scheduled for release in September 2006, so we probably received this a few weeks before that). When I say preview, I mean that we received the CDs in a plain package with the accompanying liner notes printed on regular 8 1/2 by 11-inch photocopy paper. I can’t tell you a thing about the aesthetics of the final product, but I can actually read the liner notes, which would not be very likely once they were reduced to the booklet size that would be in the boxed set. They include some nice retrospective pieces by Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks) and Rolling Stone’s David Fricke.’

The Oysterband are certainly a folk rock band but Ed has a review of their very early years when they weren’t: ‘I stumbled onto the Oysterband several years back via a copy of Little Rock to Leipzig, received as a premium during a college radio station’s fund drive. This was blind good luck. The two CDs I had originally wanted were gone, so I picked this one based on its “folk-rock” label. I haven’t stopped listening to this band and now own ten of their CDs. As a devoted and possibly obsessed fan, when the chance came to review some of their earliest and long out-of-print albums, I jumped. I now feel blessed to have acquired this piece of their history. In short, these LPs prove that the Oysters were always good, but have nevertheless gotten much better.

Of course I’m including Steeleye Span here and 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 just 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 RoguesCommoners 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.’

Inigo rounds off our CD reviews with a look at Aqualung Live: ‘This new recording of Jethro Tull’s classic rock album Aqualung was produced for XM Radio’s “Then Again Live” programme. This is a show that aims to “re-create the most important albums of all time . . . offering total creative freedom for artists to re-visit their milestone recordings [in order not to] rival the original, but to re-experience it.” Well, I haven’t experienced Aqualung for many years, apart from a few songs heard on the radio; but the recent book by Allan Moore which provided a track by track analysis and this new recording have brought me back to the album with new ears.‘

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Our What Not is about the Endless Jam: ‘Have you heard the Endless Jam? No, not the Neverending Session; we’re almost certain those guys are alive — they eat and drink and fall asleep under the tables in the Pub, and I’m pretty sure one of the pipers knocked up that little blonde sous-chef last winter. The Endless Jam is different. Very different.’

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I personally have a keen liking for the Tull of the Sixties and early Seventies which is why you’re getting a cut off their 1976 album, Songs from The Wood. The cut I’ve selected is ‘The Hunting Girl’, a fine pagan story about boy meets girl riding horse and… Oh just go give it a listen!

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Storyteller

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Storytellers and those who read or listen to stories both expect stories to have a beginning, a narrative that tells the tale, and a more or less plausible ending. It’s too bad that that’s a fucking lie — stories are rarely that neat when they actually play out in real life.

There was a storyteller here a few months back that was telling her version of The Bloodied Kings, a story that is recorded in the Estate Annals from nearly a thousand years ago. The Annals doesn’t name either of the Kings but details their final battle against each other at the end of a battle that left nearly everyone dead save the skald that told the tale and (may) have written it down. So consider this — we don’t know who the Kings were, though we know roughly where they fought and died, and we might know where they might be buried though that is suspect as well. Messy, isn’t history?

Now our Storyteller took these threads, these small pieces of torn fabric, and wove a whole tapestry out of them. Nothing wrong with that but she went one step beyond that by adding in her conjectures about who they were (both Scots in her telling though it’s more likely one was Scandinavian), how they died (both from sword wounds though we know not what they were wielding for weapons), who buried them (though it’s more likely they left for the carrion birds to consume as the survivors likely were retreating fast to save their lives). Her Tale took those scant threads and brought them to life in the mind’s eye.

Was it a bad story? Not at all, but as our Librarian said stories always simplify what happen, be it based on something that actually happened or told from whole cloth, be it a story they created or borrowed from other sources.

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What’s New for the 29th of April: Yemeni coffee, Jack Vance: a tribute volume, A 40,000-year-old hedgehog, interlibrary loans, lakriti and other cool things


Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a
glory of civilization. ― Jo Walton’s Among Others

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What’s that? A Maypole going up in the courtyard in front of the Green Man Pub? There can be no surer sign that summer’s ‘acumin’in!’ It looks like the denizens of the pub’s Neverending Session may be lured outside, along with staff members tucked away in offices in the most unlikely places.

Yes, spring has burst out all over, and some of the folks around here seem to be feeling the effects of the impending May Day. Who was that slipping into Oberon’s Wood just now? Well, spring is as good an excuse as any, I suppose.

We’ve got spring greens in our salad, and some of the winter vegetables roasting on the grill, along with some tender lamb steaks, braised with mint and garlic. Are we starting early? I suppose, but this is the Green Man Staff, after all.

So pull up a chair, fill your plate, get Reynard to pour you a pint, and feast your eyes on this week’s set of reviews.

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Gary may or may not have had an assist from caffeine when he zipped through Dave Eggers’ The Monk of Mokha. Either way, he says it is ‘a solid and entertaining book of reportage about the life so far of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, an American of Yemeni descent who has made it his mission to return Yemeni coffee to its former place of prominence in the world.’

Liz says Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett’s  Irish Folk, Trad And Blues ‘ is a sprawling, overcrowded, rush-hour subway car of a book that piles on more eccentric musicians, frenetic booze-ups and unscrupulous music industry types than my brain could keep track of. It is a collection of essays and previously published reviews and interviews that covers roughly thirty years of Irish, English and American music-making (from 1962 to 1998). The book explores the history of the English and Irish Folk Music Revivals of the 1960s, Van Morrison and Them, the Blues boom in Northern Ireland, Irish Rock, Irish Folk Music in the 1970s, The Irish Trad Revival, and the Folk Music Revival of the 1990s.’

Remember Jack Vance? Robert’s been digging around in the Archives again and came up with something — well, it’s not by Jack Vance, it’s sort of about Jack Vance: a tribute volume, Songs of the Dying Earth, featuring a host of science fiction’s luminaries: ‘Anyone who doubts the pervasive and ongoing influence of Jack Vance need only look at the table of contents to this tribute volume. Many of the contributors are legends themselves (Glen Cook, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Robert Silverberg); others are some of the clearest and strongest voices of newer generations (Kage Baker, Jeff VanderMeer); and the influence seems to span the English-speaking world, from Britain (Matthew Hughes, Liz Williams) to Australia (Terry Dowling). And that’s not even half of them.”

Robert has some thoughts on a book about another legendary figure in science fiction, not a writer but an editor: Gary Westfahl’s Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction: ‘Hugo Gernsback occupies a unique role in the history of science fiction, but exactly what that role is at present has generated a fair amount of controversy. He has been depicted as the visionary creator of a new genre of forward-looking fiction, and equally as a high-handed editor who thought nothing of rewriting his contributors’ stories to fit his ideas.”

Skip rounds out our book reviews with this audiobook: ‘In Return to Inverness Fulton has eschewed not only the Eastern mysticism of his first tale in favor of Wicca and neo-pagan lore but also the annoying habit of constantly thrusting these metaphysical ideas in the listeners’ ears.’ See what else his review has to say about this Meatball Fulton 30-year anniversary celebration of the first Jack Flanders audio adventure.

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Cat R. reviews lakriti (Finnish fruit licorice) and finds it very sweet: ‘There is certainly both a determined sweetness and solidity to this Finnish candy (lakritsi in Finnish). The label tells me this is called “black gold” in Finland but a cursory scan of search engine results failed to corroborate this. It is an enigmatic candy that, despite the name, has no black licorice taste to it.’

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April has a warm response to the first volume of what looks to be an intriguing comics series, Air: Letters from Lost Countries: ‘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.’

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‘We humans are wanderers,’ Gary says in his review of Albanian singer Elina Duni’s new solo recording. ‘Elina Duni with Partir continues the long tradition of assuaging, through song, the pain that comes with leaving, exile, and parting.’

Nik Bärtsch is back with a new recording with his ensemble Ronin, titled Awase. Gary says, ‘The Swiss composer and pianist makes what I think of as “iterative jazz” and which Bärtsch calls “ritual groove music.” ‘

Kim notes that  ‘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).

Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King draws this note from No’am: ‘This disk tries primarily to separate the fact from the fiction. “The historical Arthur is a highly controversial figure. Theories abound as to his region of activity and his ancestry.” are the first two sentences in the well written sleeve notes. Arthur also tries to provide in music a feeling of what it was like to have been alive in time of Arthur. ‘

Our  Belgian based Richard starts off his review of  Smoke and Strong Whisky this way: ‘Everyone knows Christy Moore, a central figure in the Irish folk revival of the 1960s and indirectly a significant contributor to the English folk revival that paralleled it. We know of his work with Moving Hearts and we are familiar with his earlier role in the highly influential Planxty, in both of which his path crossed with those of several other leading traditionally-inclined Irish musicians. The cross-fertilization of the Planxty years produced a series of solo and collective ventures by Moore that have built on and developed Irish folk and folk-derived music down to the present day.’  Now read his review to why this is not the Christy Moore you’d expect to be performing!

He also has a goodie for us: ‘Richard Thompson is often described as a cult figure, a description that Thompson himself defines as meaning that he does not have hit records and, as a result, does not make a fortune from his art. Even adepts of the cult who have all of his officially issued recordings will find things to rejoice at in Watching the Dark (hereinafter WtD.) It is also a marvelous introduction to Thompson’s career for anyone unfamiliar with his work.’

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One of our favorite Twitter accounts to follow is that of one Jamie Woodward, professor of georgaphy at the University of Manchester. He tweets as The Ice Age (@Jamie_Woodward), and his missives range from the profound to the whimsical – and sometimes they’re both at once. A recent thread has concerned new evidence that the extinctions of large mammals during the last Ice Age was linked to human activity. And an ongoing series consists of photos of artworks created by humans during the Ice Age. Cave art, of course, but also small works in antler and mammoth ivory, including this delightful little 40,000-year-old hedgehog.

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For our Coda this week we have a song that seems to be very popular among Nordic musicians. Some sources cite it as ‘traditional’ and imply that it was first written down by Gjermund Haugen, others say it it was composed by Haugen. Whatever. It’s an appealing tune, and we offer first a version by Annbjørg Lien (who recorded it on her first album, Felefeber) on hardanger fiddle, with Bjørn Ole Rasch on keyboards. And you can follow that up with a version by the Danish String Quartet, from their album Last Leaf.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our very small art exhibition space

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Well it is. Very small that is. And it’s been located here at the Estate for at least several centuries as the endowment that created it goes back that far. One piece of art, be it painting, sculpture or banzai tree — it didn’t matter just as long as it fit within the four foot high by three foot wide display case just outside the entry to the Library.

Some artists you’ll recognize — Arthur Rackham, Jilly Coppercorn to mention two that have widespread fame these days. Others that I could mention wouldn’t mean anything but to you such as one whose dissertations were on an artist so obscure that her career as a scholar employed at a Uni was over before it began, but she’s a stunning designer of jewelry using silver and amber.

My favourite pieces are either ceramic or fiber in nature. The artist who designed the ceramic troll under the bridge for us did a stunning model for us of the troll and the stone bridge; our luthier did a deconstructed hurdy gurdy with descriptions rendered in Middle French as the original drawing had; the stitching circle here decided to also recreate something, a Swedish tapestry from the Fourteen Hundreds using only tools from that time; and a Several Annie from Japan designed labels and fired prototype bottle models for Kinrowan Special Reserve Fruit Wines.

There’s a generous stipend that comes with is from our bank in Glasgow with visiting artists getting room and board while they stay here. Each piece is purchased by us and added to the collection here.

So let’s see what went up this morning. I knew nought about it as the artist, a ceramicist, has been very coy about her final design.

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What’s New for the 22nd of April: Disposable fountain pens, Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu, two chocolate goodies, Space Opera and other matters

I sipped my own coffee, heavy on the sugar and cream, trying to make up for the late work the night before. Caffeine and sugar, the two basic food groups. — Laurell K. Hamilton’s Cerulean Sins

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Ahhh that heavenly aroma is coming from the Kitchen, which is making the coffee this fine late Spring morning with Komodo Dragon coffee beans that they roast themselves. It’s an Indonesia bean that Ingrid, my wife who kept her job of being the Estate Buying Agent when she become our Steward,  found several years back when we were in that country. It’s been a favourite around here ever since.

It’s  entirely possible that you’ve noted our fascination with all things consumable. Be it a British TV series such as Two Fat Ladies, an exploration of Scottish whisky distilleries, the perfect Scottish fry-up, a cracking good chocolate bar, preferably dark, or perhaps a look at bourbon, America’s whisky as it’s been called, we never pass up an opportunity to do a review wherever possible. So look for more such reviews here.

Lambing season is wrapping up here on the Kinrowan Estate, but I remember that Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter, had an article on the care and feeding of the tenders of the ewes. Let me see if I can find it while you read this edition…

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Cat looks at Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven’s The Mote in God’s Eye which he say of that ‘Until the likes of Iain M. Banks with The Culture series and Neal Asher with the Polity series came along, quite possibly the best Space Opera of all time was this forty year-old novel that took the Space Opera novels of the 1930s and 1940s and very, very nicely updated them.’

Gary reviews a book of literary criticism about Iain M. Banks Culture series. He says Simone Caroti’s The Culture Series ‘is valuable reading for anyone who wants to move into a deeper understanding of what that series is really about, where it stands in the history of SF and literature, and why it’s important.’

Gary also reviewed a recent SF anthology called The New Space Opera: ‘Of course, “space opera” is what all science fiction used to be, up until about the 1970s or so. Thrilling tales of adventure in outer space, usually featuring huge starships, weird aliens, strange planets and battles, either physical or of wits.’

Joel looks at Neal Asher’s Gridlinked, a space opera of sorts that’s a novel in The Polity series which has been running a lot longer than The Culture series did: ‘I’ve never been one for long series, and certainly the greater part of my reading time is spent on authors I’m encountering for the first time, rather than always going with the same old stand-bys, but what can I say? I get something new in the Polity universe and I know it will always be good. When it comes to escapist fiction, Neal Asher has become my most dependable travel guide. No surprise then I moved him to the top of my reading pile.’

Robert came up with a series that is quintessential space opera, with a twist: C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga, including Chanur’s Homecoming, and the sequel, Chanur’s Legacy: ‘C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga is an almost-omnibus edition of her tetralogy about Pyanfar Chanur and her ship, the interstellar trader The Pride of Chanur. Because of length, the “omnibus” volume contains the first three in the series . . . , and one would be well-advised to be sure that Chanur’s Homecoming, issued separately, is within easy reach, lest one be left hanging off a cliff.’

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It’s not a film but this novel is what happens when a series, no matter how short-lived, becomes beloved by legions of viewers. Firefly was a one-season space opera created by Joss Whedon that was brilliant. Unfortunately the network didn’t think the ratings were good enough, so they killed it after a single season, though they wrapped it up in a movie called Serenity. Stephen Brust, a writer many of you will know, wrote My Own Kind of Freedom and Cat says it’s quite true to the series.

And Robert, having been a Star Trek fan in his younger days, has a look at one of the reboot films, Star Trek: Into Darkness: ‘I’ve sort of lost track of Star Trek, after being glued to the TV every week in my younger days, as Gene Rodenberry’s original series was airing. Strangely enough, the last Star Trek movie I saw was The Wrath of Khan. (If that’s a spoiler, well, life is like that.) Let me say right off the bat that Star Trek: Into Darkness is not that.’

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Cat R. got the chance to sample a whole bunch of chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier: ‘Here in America we like our add-ins, ice cream and candy full of other candy, nuts, random sweets, and sometimes savories. Chuao (pronounced Chew-WOW) has a shelf-load of such, chocolate bars with all the goodies, created by Venezuelan chef Michael Antonorsi.’

Denise digs into a chocolate bar for this edition; someone’s got to do the dirty work, she explains. Her look at Godiva’s Dark Chocolate Almond bar may have you looking elsewhere though. ‘Good chocolate is good chocolate. Unfortunately for Godiva, this bar is only fair to middling.’

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Warren Ellis & J. H. Williams III’s Desolation Jones has, says Richard, ‘The long shadow of John Constantine lingers over the figure of Desolation Jones. But whereas Constantine is a spiky-haired Brit occult operative who abuses his odd network of friends while intimidating people into giving him answers by sheer force of personality, Jones is a spiky-haired Brit ex-spook who abuses his odd network of friends while intimidating people into giving him answers by sheer force of personality.’

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Gary reviews Absence by a jazz trio led by Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu. ‘The son of two classical pianists, born in Estonia but raised in Germany, [Randalu] grew up playing classical piano himself until he heard Chick Corea’s Inside Out when he was 13 years old.’

Gary had a lot of fun listening to the debut recording of The Turbans, a multi-cultural group whose music is a heady mix of European and Levantine styles and much more. ‘The Turbans bring a passionate spirit of adventure and an infectious liveliness to their music. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics – which are in up to a half-dozen languages – it’s impossible to not be captured by their joy.’

Ranarop — Call of the Sea Witch is a recording Iain really liked — ‘Gjallarhorn is a foursome from Ostrobothnia, the Swedish speaking area of Finland. They are tightly bound to both folk music traditions, and ancient mythology. Musically, the band is a mixture of fiddle, mandola, didgeridoo, and percussion, with vocals provided by Jenny Wilhelms. Ranarop is an amazing album, with a singular sound which makes the band appear to be larger than it is.’

Jayme looks at what I’d say is essential listening for Celtic music fans: ‘There’s no gloss and polish here like you’d find on, say, an Altan disc, no studio jiggery and double-tracked harmonies that are so commonplace on a Clannad release. Not that those are necessarily bad things, mind you, but every one of the 11 tracks on The Best of Silly Wizard sound like they were recorded in one take in the studio, with the entire band playing at once, rather than the more common practice of laying down each instrument separately and mixing later. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually the way Silly Wizard recorded the music here, but the end result is that the music has all the punch and immediacy of a live performance, with none of the drawbacks that the raw sound of live shows often suffer from.’

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Our What Not this week is one that should be dear to the heart of anyone who writes — or at least, anyone who is not tied to a keyboard. Cat R. brings us a look at a line of disposable fountain pens. Yes, that’s right: fountain pens.

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I’ll take your leave now with some music and  ‘A Tune For Mairéad And Anna’ is my choice for your listening pleasure as that was what Iain was playing in the Library when I psssed by earlier this afternoon. This was taken from a Altman performance listed as a Folkadelphia Session on the seventh of March just three years ago.

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What’s New for the 15th of April: Furry fiction, Live music from Danú, Pamela Dean’s favourite ballad, Welsh music, a Stonewall Kitchen chocolate bar and other tasty matters

My feeling says there is history here. But sometimes a thing might feel true to me, not because it is, but because the writer believes it is. — Pamela Dean’s The Dubious Hills

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Iain, our Librarian, has the Several Annies, our Library Apprentices who are actually Estate Apprentices as they learn butchering, carpentry and other hands on skills, is off with Guðmundsdóttir, a botanist who’s our expert on The Wild Wood, for a lesson on spring foraging. And because the weather is splendid on this afternoon with both warm temperatures and sunny skies, the Pub’s more than quiet enough for me to work up this edition.

I’ve dipped into the Archives for most of our book reviews this time, a repository of myriad reviews, most not yet imcluded here on this version of GMR. China Miéville is one of favourites so we look at Kraken, one of at lest there London sort urban fantasies that he did; we’ve also reviewed a lot of work by the late Diana Wynne Jones and an awesome look at her work gets reviewed by us: and I also single out the Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary novel by Pam Dean that is also figures into our What Not this edition.

Shall I pour you some of our freshly tapped Spring Ale for you to sip while reading this edition? I think it’ll go well with the Irish trad music by Danú that is our Coda this time…

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But first, for something new — and more than a little out of the ordinary:  Cat R. takes a look at, not a book but a genre, in her survey titled An Armload of Fur and Leaves: ‘In the last year or so, I found a genre that hadn’t previously been on my radar, but which I really enjoy: furry fiction. Kyell Gold had put up his novel Black Angel on the SFWA member forums, where members post their fiction so other members have access to it when reading for awards, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The novel, which is part of a trilogy about three friends, each haunted in their own way, showed me the emotional depth furry fiction is capable of and got me hooked. Accordingly, when I started reviewing for Green Man Review, I put out a Twitter call and have been working my way through the offerings from several presses.’

Kestrell has a look at a novel that  mixes magic and science and a bloody big squid as well: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

Farah Mendlesohn’s Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children’s Literature also gets a look by Kestrel: ‘Diana Wynne Jones (DWJ to her fans) is one of those writers who, despite the fact that she is frequently referred to as a “children’s author,” has a significant following of adult readers. Although there are an increasing number of literary critics addressing the subject of children’s and young adult fantasy, there is still a lack of literary criticism addressing why those books often shelved in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries hold such a strong appeal for so many adult readers. Despite the title of this book (a title chosen by the publisher, not the author), its subject is a sophisticated exploration of Diana Wynne Jones’s complex approach to writing and storytelling.‘

Rachael has a cool sounding novel for us: ‘In her novel, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Pamela Dean offers a story inspired by a traditional ballad, a familiar and fascinating blend of lyrical writing spiced with literary references and a perceptive glimpse into everyday life touched with mystery and magic.’

Richard looks at the last, or perhaps that’s not the correct framing, novel in Robert Holdstock’s Ryhope Wood series: ‘So why Avilion now as my reading material? As you well know, late November is a cold, rainy, and often simply nasty time as regards the weather ‘ere in the place where the Green Man offices are located. This being the case I decided to read the Green Man Library copy of Avilion, the latest novel in the Ryhope Wood series. These tales seem born of the colder time of year even when the story is set in warmer months, and fiction with a strong seasonal feel to it — such as Emma Bull’s midsummer-set War for The Oaks — is something I always enjoy. This series handles seasonal changes in its corner of Albion very well indeed.’

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Robert brings us a look at another nature documentary, Wild North, that he thinks is in every way superior: ‘Wild North is another treasure I found on Netflix. It’s a nature/wildlife series but not from the BBC or the Discovery Channel — this one’s an independent film from Norway. There are three episodes, “The Coast,” “The Forest,” and “The Mountains.” And, although the series talks about the wildlife of Scandinavia, it seems that it was filmed almost entirely in Norway.’

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Cat, one of our our West Coast based reviewers, reviews a surprisingly spicy chocolate bar from Stonewall Kitchen: ‘It is dark as a stormy night, but carries a surprising amount of heat (of the various chili-augmented chocolate bars I’ve tried, it is the most fiery.)’

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Lars has a look at the latest release that Arc Music sent us, The Ultimate Guide to Welsh Music: ‘Cerys Matthews of Catatonia fame, and also an author and a readio presenter, has tackled the task of giving us an overviewof Welsh folk music and I must say she has done a brilliant job. Two CDs packed with music, in total 48 tracks with 48 different acts, clocking in at two hours and 36 minutes, complete with extensive liner notes presenting every artist or group taking part. The oldest recording are from the 1940s, the newest from 2015.’

Gary takes note of the second release of Balkan songs by American singer Eva Salina. This one, Sudbina, is a duet with accordionist Peter Stan, presenting the music of Serbian Roma singer Vida Pavlović. ‘These two musicians have amazing chemistry between them, and bring great passion and joy to the music.’

Gary also reviews an album by various artists called Hummingbirds & Helicopters, a benefit for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which devastated the Houston, Texas, area last year, spearheaded by folk singer Jolie Holland. ‘It opens with an intriguing cover by Holland of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927,” with the avant-garde percussion ensemble Thor and Friends backing Holland’s vocals and piano.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers have just released their second CD, titled Years. It’s a rip-roaring collection of punk-influenced country. Gary says Shook’s ‘refusal to be heartbroken even when she has a broken heart runs through most of this album’s 10 songs.’

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Our What Not comes courtesy of  Pamela Dean: ‘As I went through all the Child ballads when I was trying to think of a frame for Juniper, Gentian, & Rosemary, and the only other remotely feminist ballad I could find was ‘Riddles Wisely Expounded,’ which is not nearly as active for the young woman as ‘Tam Lin’ is. Well, there is the one where a young woman ransoms her guy and says, ‘The blood had flowed upon the green afore I lost my laddie,’ which is nice, but all she does is take all her money and hand it over.’

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So how about some Irish music for our Coda this time? ‘Old Ruined Cottage In The Glen’ and ‘Think Before You Think’ is on found on the Think Before You Think album as well by Danú, a somewhat newish group by the standards of some groups we’ve reviewed. This recording is from their performance at  Johnny D’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the eighth of March sixteen years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Busking (A Letter to Tamsin)

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Greetings Tamsin,

We’re in Stockholm right now, as Ingrid’s working on the tea and related foodstuffs that Jean-Pierre requested she procure. And yes, she’s got a lead on the botanical material you want.

I took a fortnight off from the Pub to go with her, so I’ve been out busking most afternoons when the weather’s decent. I take my English concertina, which is credited to Sir Charles Wheatstone, which means it’s nearly two centuries old. It’s small enough that it fits in my rucksack and different enough in appearance and sound from the mostly fiddle playing buskers that it gives me an edge at attracting listeners. And my language skills are helpful as I speak Swedish, Norwegian, German, and French, having spent a decade working in pubs in Europe when I was much younger.

(I keep my language skills intact largely because our Estate draws many conference attendees from Europe; it also helps that Iain’s Library apprentices, the Several Annies, often come from those polities.)

So I’m on Drottninggatan (Queen Street), which is a major pedestrian street. It’s warm, sunny and there’s a lot of people here, all out shopping, eating and drinking, and enjoying themselves. I’m dressed neatly in all green which offsets nicely my red hair and beard, so I stand out in this culture.

What did I play? I start off with ‘Sommarvals’ (The Summer Waltz) then I move onto ‘Waltz From Boda’ named after a town in the Dalarna region of Western Sweden, and next up is a set of tunes, ‘Da Day Dawn’ / ‘The Jos Mill Tune’ / ‘Da Aald Foula Reel’ / ‘Winyadepla’, that I picked up from Aly Bain & Ale Möller’s Fully Rigged recording.

(Jack’s hoping to book them for an Estate concert them the next time they play together in Scotland.)

So I went on for the next hour or so, which made for a nice time for me, and so it seemed, the listeners. Did I mention I put no place for money out? I noticed that several Polisen apparently appreciated that I wasn’t asking for money as I got hassled not ‘tall by them. And being older probably helped as well.

After thanking the listeners (in Swedish of course), I went off to the cafe where I’d arranged to meet my wife and ordered myself tea and pastries. I must admit I never even liked tea until Jean-Luc, our current Estate Steward, started offering classes in proper tea making some twenty years ago. Now I prefer it to coffee!

With regards, Reynard

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What’s New for the 8th of April: Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations, Irish whisky, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, life on Earth, and other neat stuff

You know what English is? The result of the efforts of Norman men-at-arms to make dates with Saxon barmaids.― H. Beam Piper’s  Fuzzy Sapiens

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That’s ‘Number 37’ which is  James Keelaghan’s homage to a female horse racer playing here in the Green Pub this lovely Spring day. It’s off one of the myriad samplers that we get, Festive to Go, An All Canadian Sampler that came in some years ago. I’m looking for a live recording of  it so I can share it but no luck so far.

I remember seeing him play this quite some years back at a concert somewhere in Canada where I was managing the door as a favour to a friend. He pulled a flask out of his jeans that held some of the finest Irish whisky that I’d ever had. Don’t recall who distilled it but fuck it was good! If you’re in the mood for some Irish this afternoon, I’ll recommend the Powers John’s Lane. It’s pricy but worth it.

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April looks appreciatively at Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations: ‘Published as a hardcover edition in 1990, Hamilton’s illustrated biography of English painter Arthur Rackham has been gorgeously reproduced here as an oversized softcover edition. Rackham is perhaps best known for his exquisitely detailed paintings of whimsical fairies, gnarled and tangled tree folk, and other such flights of fancy. His work has been used as illustrations for such diverse publications as Rip Van Winkle, Peter Pan, A Midsummers Night’s Dream and Alice in Wonderland. Hamilton’s book is an excellent glimpse into the painter’s life for both fans and those unfamiliar with Rackham’s own special brand of whimsy.’

A novel set in post-Katrina New Orleans  by Tim Lebbon & Christopher Golden is definitely rated adult by Richard: ‘Readers who come to The Map of Moments looking for something similar to Mind the Gap are in for a rude shock. Where the first novel of the Hidden Cities was essentially YA, The Map of Moments is steeped in sex and death, a whirlwind ride through centuries of secret history marked by murder, cannibalism, and lust.’

Mike has a choice fantasy work for us: ‘Patricia McKillip, a World Fantasy Award winner, writes with a sparse style that evokes great magic with the barest of words. She possesses a fine knowledge of funky musical instruments and the endearing qualities of musicians. Her power is that of place; it defines and motivates her characters. Song for the Basilisk explores how the expression of that power is shaped by the predilections and history of those who wield it.’

Robert rounds out our book reviews with a look at Garth Dahl’s Masks from Around the World: A Personal Collection which he says has something well nowing here: ‘The wealth found here is in the illustrations and descriptions of the masks themselves. Each is illustrated in color, and while the images are not all large, they are very clear, with a good rendering of detail. Dahl’s descriptions and anecdotes add context, and as one goes through the various sections (arranged by geographic areas), one gets a feeling for a deep “ur-tradition” underlying the variety of examples he shows.’

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Robert got a treat this week — Chocolat Frey’s Chocobloc Dark 72% with Honey-Almond Nougat: ‘Chocolat Frey AG was founded in 1887, and is presently the number one chocolate in the Swiss retail market. Like all good chocolatiers these days, Frey is environmentally and socially conscious, which extends not only to its procurement of raw materials, but to its conservation-minded manufacturing and shipping.’

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Ensemble Alcatraz’s Cantigas de Amigo is an album Brendan‘s raving about: ‘I’m beginning to suspect that eventually Dorian will have released a version of every single piece of Iberian medieval music still extant. This is by all means a good thing: although the current booms in Celtic and English traditions are nice, there are plenty of older and just as appealing musical traditions from the Continent that need our attention — particularly from the Iberian peninsula.’

Gary reviews the new album from the Seattle country band Western Centuries. ‘Songs From the Deluge is their sophomore full-length release, and with it Western Centuries continues to up the ante on just how good a country band can be in this day and age.’

Huw wasn’t in the best mood when he popped this rendition of Handel’s Water Music and Royal Fireworks Music by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic: ‘[G]rouchy as I was when I put the disc into my CD player, I have to admit that I pretty soon found myself in a much more cheerful mood. There’s no getting away from the fact that, cliché or not, this is wonderful music!’

Speaking of medieval Iberian music, Robert was quite taken with the Dufay Collective’s Music for Alfonso the Wise: ‘Alfonso X, “el Sabio” (“the Wise”), was king of Castile and Leon from 1252 to 1284, a time when those realms were an outpost of European culture on a peninsula under the domination of the Muslim Moors. . . . This collection, which includes the first known song cycle, ascribed to Martin Codax, gives a glimpse of a time and place which is deliciously foreign while at the same time hauntingly familiar.’

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This week’s What Not is a little unusual, but, as Robert says, “You want roots and branches? I’ll give you roots and branches!” Bring comfortable shoes for a tour of “Evolving Planet” at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

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‘Hallelujah’ is what the Infinite Jukebox is now playing which is a live recording of Leonard Cohen performing that song which he wrote. It was recorded at the Beacon Theater in NYC on the 19th of February nine years ago. Rather moving, isn’t it?

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Pub

It was a fairly typical evening in our Green Man Pub. The weather had turned sharply colder and that meant a steady flow of custom her which kept Finch, my lead barkeep, busy along with one of the Several Annie’s, Iain’s Library apprentices, who was working the floor got us tonight.

So listen as I give you a tour of the Green Man Pub.

The Pub got expanded and modernized when we started hosting music festivals, community gatherings and even the occasional wedding here. The location of it is actually underground as it’s on the first of three levels of cellars under the Estate Main Building. You get it from the greensward side of the building where it has a door out to a stone patio that overlooks the greensward. That wall consists almost entirely of very energy efficient windows which make for a spectacular view, especially during Winter storms.

The other way in is a circular staircase near the check-in area for guests here.  It’s interesting to watch first time visitors emerge from the Stars there as they more often than not expect a Ye Olde Pub and get something that looks like a Scandinavian coffeehouse.

Ale, bourbon, cider, mead and whiskey, both Irish and Scottish, are the mainstays here,with us making the first three here. We also stock bourbon, brandy and vodka.  Don’t ask for a cocktail as we don’t do them ever though I’ll make you what I consider the best Irish coffee anywhere.

The fireplace is reputed to be a thousand years old but I doubt it. It’s big enough to stand me to stand in and I’m nearly six feet tall. We made it energy efficient several back, so it gets used from early Fall to late Spring. We have roasted a whole hog in there and the smell permeated much of the Estate Building.

We can seat upwards of sixty punters here but it’s best when there’s a smaller crowd here. I like it best when there’s thirty or so here with the Neverending Session here playing tunes as the punters talk quietly among themselves and we serve them as need be. No TVs here, but there’s a dart board that gets a lot of use.

There’s an area in left corner that’s always dark and cold. I’ve seen the ghosts that haunt that area and I’ll spare you the nightmares that the ghosts engender. If you’re lucky, you’ll never see them. Just don’t sit near that spot.

Come sit at the bar and I’ll pour you an Autumn Ale for you to enjoy. It’s got a touch of our honey in, the raspberry honey to be exact.

 

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What’s New for the 1st of April: music from Clannad, Cat Rambo joins our staff, Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, Cocaine & Rhinestones podcast, Reckoning 2: Creative Writing on Environmental Justice, the latest from Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Cocaine & Rhinestones website, another dark chocolate review and other tasty things as well

Irish folk is probably the biggest influence musically that I’ve ever had. My mother’s Irish. And when I was very young, both my brothers were very into traditional music, English and Irish. They were always playing music, so I was always brought up with it. — attributed to Enya (Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin), source uncertain

  , .  ivy

It appears that the truly shite winter weather we’ve been having here in Scotland has finally ended. There’s been a restive feel to the Estate for some time now as we got more snow, more bitter weather than we’ve gotten in many, many years. I’ve got the windows here in the Library open to give the place a good airing out and I’m pleased to say that there’s not a soul here this afternoon, so I’m playing through the live recordings that the Infinite Jukebox, our media server, has of Clannad in their early years when they were pretty much a trad Irish band.

Oh and we’ve been remiss not to welcome Cat Rambo, noted sf writer and SFWA President whose site is here, to our staff as our newest reviewer. You’ll see her latest review for us in the book reviews section below, and she’s even got chocolate from us to consume and review.

We’ve got a fat edition chock full of tasty reviews and live music for you too, so let’s get started. If you’ve got any questions, I’ll be in my office, where I’m working on the soon-to-be-available-for-reading Sleeping Hedgehog website.

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That Cat has something for us that’s more than ordinarily timely: Reckoning 2: Creative Writing on Environmental Justice is solid in weight and content. The stories, poetry, essays, and art deal with the world around us and our ethics in dealing with it. This refined focus sharpens the magazine’s impact, I think, and makes it something that tries to evoke change through its art rather than the shallow comfort afforded by something whose theme was simply “Nature”.’

A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files got this note from Richard: ‘Generally speaking, the supernatural western rests roughly at the heart of Joe Lansdale’s run on Jonah Hex. You can shift it a little toward Briscoe County here, a little toward the Deadlands RPG there, but really, the metaphor’s pretty solidly set. Until, of course, something comes along like Gemma Files’ A Book of Tongues, which takes the traditional supernatural western, sizes it up, and then calmly shoots it in the back of the head.’

Robert has a look at an extraordinary novel that might — or might not — be ‘cyberpunk’ — Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End: ‘I’m not sure that Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End counts as cyberpunk, although it might seem like it at first glance. The “cyber” part is there in full measure. Vinge envisions a world in the not-so-distant future in which clothes are the means of Internet access and most of “reality” is virtual. The “punk” part is somewhat lacking, however: this is, by and large, a supremely middle-class novel, without the dark-edge, seamy underbelly feeling one gets from a William Gibson.’

Next, Robert’s take on two poetry collections by Catherynne M. Valente, Apocrypha and A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects: ‘I remind myself that Valente is still a young writer. That is not a dismissal, but an expectation: she certainly has talent, no doubt on that score, but it’s rather like hearing Mozart’s early symphonies –- there’s no way of knowing that young musician will eventually compose something as overwhelming as the Requiem, and in the meantime you’ve heard Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Haydn’s Creation. Moving into that territory, already occupied by some formidable people, requires not only power but finesse.’

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Robert has another tasty treat from Lindt chocolatiers: Lindt’s Excellence Dark Chocolate with Caramel and Sea Salt: ‘We are no strangers here to Lindt chocolates, and it’s generally a happy association — on our part, at least. The latest example of Lindt’s chocolates to cross my desk is a new flavor in their “Excellence” line — dark chocolate with caramel and sea salt.’

ivyGary takes an extensive look at three publications that marked the 25th anniversary of Maus, Art Spiegelman’s groundbreaking graphic novel about his family’s experiences in the Holocaust. They included the original books, Vol. 1, My Father Bleeds History and Vol. 2, And Here My Troubles Began; and a hardcover volume called MetaMaus, about the making of the original works.

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Our Editor Cat finds balm for the soul in The Quiet Room, a new release from Americana duo Jay Ungar & Molly Mason. The album, which came out of a time of personal hardship, contains both new material and some of the best of their extensive back-catalog. ‘Everything here, new and old, I hope will delight you as much as it does me,’ Cat says.

Gary reviews Time is Everything, the debut recording by Vivian Leva. ‘The young country-folk singer-songwriter is rapidly becoming someone you need to know about, so you can say “Heck, I’ve liked her since her first album way back in 2018!” ‘

‘This band really swings,’ Gary says of Birch Pereira & the Gin Joints. He’ll tell you all about their new album, Western Soul, in his review.

ivyOur What Not this time is one of the best new music podcasts of the past year. ‘Cocaine & Rhinestones’ bills itself as ‘a podcast about the history of country music made in the 20th century, and the people who gave it to us.’ The first season of 14 episodes recently concluded with a superb look at the highly influential pedal steel guitarist Ralph Mooney. But we’re also partial to the three separate episodes inspired by ‘Harper Valley PTA,’ and the one about ‘Ode To Billy Joe,’ one of the greatest American ballads of the past 50 years. The Cocaine & Rhinestones website has links to all of the stories and a host of other resources.

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Once upon a time and place, Enya was a founding member of Clannad and there are live recordings of the band from that period. She has never toured as a solo artist so, alas, there are no live recordings of her doing her own work.

So here are two of Clannad’s early pieces, with first up being ‘The Two Sisters’  from a performance in Köln, Germany, in 1977. This is a variant of the better known ‘Cruel Sister’ which is a Child Ballad covered by myriad bands. Pay attention to the lyrics at the end as they tell the gruesome ending the murderous sister comes to. It’s an ending worthy of the original Grimm Tales!

The second piece by them is ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, which was performed in Bremen, Germany, in 1980 in what might have well have been one of Enya’s last performances with the band. The lyrics to the latter come from that well-known Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Estate gossip (A Letter to Tessa)

A letter from the journal of Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to her friend who was in Constantinople as of this letter. Alex, as she was known, copied her personal correspondence into her Journal. She noted in her will that her letters were to be part of the Estate Library upon her death. She would live to well over one hundred, even longer than her Queen would! She is buried on the Estate beneath her beloved oaks.

Dearest Tessa,

Thank you for your wonderful gift of spices and herbs for the kitchen here! Blackie said that they would certainly be well used here. I, for one, am looking forward to cardamom-infused coffee with cream as your description of it sounds wonderful.

I have shipped the botanical society bulletins you requested this past week. The Royal Post said the ship should reach you within the month if the weather holds. I’ve also included professional correspondence from your fellow botanists, as they had far too many questions and requests for you for me to list here. I think they’re just envious of your receiving sponsorship for your travels and I had to fend off questions about how you got such backing. My, they’re like cats looking at another cat with a new toy!

Speaking of cats, the orange tabby you named Gefjun has lived up to her name as she gave birth this past month to four terribly cute kittens, all of which had very short stump tails. Their colour was quite odd too — a black so deep it looked as though they were made out of the midnight sky at lunar eclipse — with intense green eyes. No idea who their father was as no male cat about here looks like that. And all of the kittens are males, which is very strange.

They’re being raised near to the furnace in the sub-cellar, which is warm enough. More than one of the Several Annies has been derelict in their duties as they’re spending a lot of time down there but Isabella has been understanding. I’ve put in a claim on one of them, as has Isabella.

Isabella was delighted by The One Thousand and One Nights that you found in the Grand Bazaar and sent her. Fortunately, you knew that she read Turkish, so she’s being pestered by almost all of the Several Annies to read tales to them, which she is delighted to do.

Oh, you’ll be delighted to know that the grape vine stock from Bordeaux is doing well. I think we may be able to do a reasonable champagne within a few years. You were indeed right about the climate being good enough to grow them here. We’ll need help with the pressing and casking, as neither of us knows enough to do it properly!

Lastly Isabella’s futile quest to discover to the identity of Our Patron showed how badly the Journals needed annotating and indexing. Even my beloved Estate Garden Journals need this!

Still missing you, Alex

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What’s New for the 25th of March: The Cultured Cook, Frouds, Joseph Campbell, Complaint Choirs, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons and other matters

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. — Margaret Atwood

ivy

Yes the doors into the Green Man Pub from the stone patio outside Kinrowan Hall have been open since mid morning as it’s both warm and sunny out, a refreshing change from the stormy weather we’ve been having. And the inhabitants here have been all lending their help to the annual task of cleaning out the Winter debris from the flower beds that surround this building.

We’re also doing the annual repotting of all the house plants that are resident here — hundreds of pots holding everything from bromeliads that need bigger pots to the ivy that hangs thickly from the shelves on either side of the windows here in the Pub. If you look through that ivy to your left, you’ll see a number of greenman representations ensconced there.

What’s that music I’m playing? That’s Skara Brae’s ‘Casadh Cam na Feadarnaigne’ recorded off the soundboard at Dunlewey Lakeside Centre, just after New Years fourteen years ago. It’s a superb concert that never got released officially but that recording is fairly widespread these days. Now let’s see what we’ve got for you…

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Most of us know Brian Froud of Dark Crystal and Labyrinth fame, but Mia introduces us to his wife, an artist in her own right: ‘Wendy Froud’s The Art of Wendy Froud is an 80 page art book, a collection of examples of her amazing faerie and mythic sculptures and her musings on the nature of her work. More than that, it’s an adventure for the reader, as every page brings new and amazing images to awaken the imagination.’

 Another artist get an appreciated  look by Jack in his review of  Michael Babcock’s Susan Seddon Boulet — A Retrospective: ‘Pomegranate has done the art world and its often not terribly bright chroniclers a service by showing what a truly great retrospective is. From the quality of the printing job, which is superb, to the text by Babcock which is both well-written and intelligent, this is one of the best books of its kind that I’ve ever read. It will certainly have a treasured spot in our collection of art books!’

Given the preponderance of books featuring images this week, it’s only fitting that we see Robert’s reaction to Joseph Campbell’s The Flight of the Wild Gander, which is, after all, ultimately about images: ‘The Flight of the Wild Gander is a series of essays produced betwen 1944 and 1968 in which Campbell was, he says, “circling, and from many quarters striving to interpret, the mystery of mythology.” The “mystery,” as comes clear as one reads, is that of the origins, dissemination, and meaning of the archetypes of human myth.’

And guess what: we just happen to have on hand a review of The Secret Sketchbooks of Brian Froud. How’s that for a nice balancing act? Robert says: ‘I suppose there might be someone, somewhere, who has never heard of Brian Froud. He was already gaining a reputation as an illustrator of books for children when his distinctive vision was brought to a wider audience through his designs for the films The Dark Crystal in 1978 and Labyrinth in 1986, both directed by Jim Henson. His first collaboration with Alan Lee, Faeries, published in 1978, set the course for his future work, which has garnered him a number of awards, including a Hugo in 1995. The rest, as they say, is history.’

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Michael has a double bill for your viewing pleasure: ‘Some of the greatest fantasy movies in recent memory have come from the incomparable, unbeatable, and sadly never to be repeated collaborations of Jim Henson and Brian Froud. Take the magical madness of Henson’s muppets and the bizarre mythic imagery of Froud’s faeries, throw in some special effects and superb actors, and you get two of the best-loved fantasy movies of the 1980s, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.’

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Denise takes a look at culture. Well, cultured food that is. As in probiotics, fermentation and the like. Michelle Schoffro Cook’s The Cultured Cook is more than a recipe book, it’s a look at how these foods interact with our bodies. But don’t think this book is too scientific for you: ‘What I like best about this book? It’s not scary. I like to keep my scares in my fiction reading, thank you. Each recipe is easy to understand, with less than ten ingredients per item – most with five or less – and the instructions are simple.’

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Cat (the Cat also known as ‘The Chief’) has a look at Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency, a comic series that starts to seem frighteningly real: ‘Global Frequency is a organisation devoted to combating those incidents that are too extreme, too weird, or just too dangerous for the usual first responders to handle. Funded by the mysterious Amanda Zero, it consists of exactly one thousand and one agents, all of whom are specialists in something, say, for example, bioweapons or taking out snipers.’

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Lars is pleasantly surprised by this recording: ‘Why was I taken by surprise by Himmerland’s The Spider in the Fiddle? Firstly, Denmark is full of good music, and Danish groups are constantly producing lovely music. Secondly, I have twice before discovered new favourite groups with Ditte Fromseier in. First there was Flax in Bloom, a group that never recorded but in concert turned out smooth Irish music, then Habbadam, a trio playing traditional music from Fromseier’s native Danish island of Bornholm. Habbadam’s albums still get played in my stereo.’

Gary reviews the new release from folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, The Invisible Comes to Us. He says ‘on their third full-length, Elizabeth LaPrelle and Anna Roberts-Gevalt have moved to the forefront of avant-garde folk music.’

Robert brings us back to Nordic music, this time with a Norwegian cast, in Gabriel Fliflet and Ole Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusik: ‘My first reaction to Fliflet and Hamre’s Eine kleine Kraftmusick was to break into laughter from sheer surprise and delight. One forgets, sometimes, how raucously fun-loving Norwegians can be. That is only one point in favor of this collection — one gets a strong sense that the performers take their music very seriously, themselves, not so much so. (And how often does that happen?)’

And another Nordic tradition (it’s actually a Baltic tradition, but we’re sticking with Nordic for now): two collections of choral music, Oslo Kammerkor’s Kyst, Kust, Coast and Voces Nordicae’s Nordic Voices: ‘Together, these two discs offer a good glimpse of the range of choral music in the Nordic countries, from traditional folk songs to thoroughly contemporary choral works. I found them particularly hard to review, simply because I was too absorbed in listening to write anything down.’

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Our What Not is on the matter of Complaint Choirs. So you might well be asking ‘What is a complaint choir?’ No, it’s not the musicians in the Neverending Session expressing their annoyance at having to wait too long for a fresh pint of Winter Ale, so go thisaway for the charming tale of them. Yes, charming.

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And for our Coda this week — well, Spring is here, so why not go with the obvious choice, especially if you have a high-energy version, complete with bird calls? Presenting Red Priest performing Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons. (Yes, of course we’ve reviewed it.)

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Weavers and Stitchers

ivy

There’s been a group of stitchers here according to the Estate Journals for at least four centuries. And there’s certainly been weavers here for as well for at least that long. And certainly that’s why we’ve raised sheep here so long that some of them became recognised breeds!

I’m fairly certain that the first stitchers group was founded by the Norns or some deities similar to them as The Old Man and His Ravens clearly remember that being so. The Old Man says that they were tired of their living conditions in Norway, cold and always damp, so the allure of a place with modern accommodations by the standards of that period, errrr, summoned them here. I’m convinced that The Old Man had something to do with this but he says no, not that I believe him.

Be that as it is, stitchers and weavers of all sorts have called the Kinrowan Estate has been home to these folk and they in turn have contributed socially and economically, to this community ever since. Though there are no full-time stitchers or weavers here currently, about a third of resident staff, call it a dozen, spend quite sometime engaged in this activity. Certainly they’re more active in the Winter generally spending several hours a night in the Pub, or the Library or even that cozy corner in the Kitchen weaving or stitching while engaged in conversation or listening to the Neverending Session.

They do have their needs being fond, in addition to our wool, of interesting wools from such places as Iceland, the Shetland Islands and Turkey. Ingrid, the Estate Buyer, consults with them (she’s a weaver too) before going on a buying trip. It’s amazing us hat she finds for wool!

They fond of freshly brewed tea when the group meets and Mrs. Ware who manages our Kitchens (yes there’s multiple Kitchens here) makes sure they have it at hand along with cream, honey and sugar. They don’t eat as that’s never a good idea when doing these activities but the group often has High Tea, usually in the Russian manner, at least once a week.

We’ve even built a very large yurt that been set aside for them as looms and stitching frames take up a lot of room. It’s got full light as we put in windows with glare reducing film all the way around, and it has electric heat courtesy of solar panels on the roof. It’s quite cozy in the winter, especially when a snow storm is occurring!

Now I must beg off as the group is meeting a few minutes and I’m set to read to them this evening. Cat Valente’s Fairyland novel, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, is what I’ll be reading this time, not all of it of course as that’ll take several meetings to get through…

ivy

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What’s New for the 18th of March: Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf, Lindt dark chocolate, music from Planxty, some very different approaches to “traditional” music, and Neverwhere in various forms

Is it more foolish and childish to assume there is a conspiracy,
or that there is not? — China Mieville’s The City & The City

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Come I’m. I was discussing with Bjorn, our brewmaster, what he had cellared for barley wines and porters this past Fall that are now ready for the Pub here. Oh, the tale I was going to tell? It concerns the Rat Fiddlers… The staff is engaged in a discussion to name the group that the Rat Fiddlers are thinking of putting together — medieval music with small pipes, hurdy gurdy, and fiddles.

Who are these Rat Fiddlers, you ask? And why haven’t I heard of them? They play mainly in London Below stations where their appearance is not an issue. What they were before they became ‘rodents of unusual size’ is a tale known only to themselves — and who transformed them into their near human shapes is something even Reynard doesn’t claim to know. All I know is that they are some of the best dance music fiddlers I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with!

And they work for cheese and ale! One staffer suggested The Merrie Vestry, whereas another one, after a few pints of Brasserie Artisanale Du Tregor, put forth two ideas — Couer-de-Lionor or Lacklands Consort. The Rats aren’t sure if they like any of those . . . So have you got any ideas?

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Not all rats are the kind you’d want to share ale and cheese with as Cat notes in this review: ‘China Miéville writes fantasies that would do Clive Barker or Neil Gaiman proud. But no one will mistake his prose for anyone else’s, as he has a style as unique as either of those two gents, who are among my favorite writers. King Rat, his first novel after years of writing short fiction, is both a fine urban fantasy and a well-crafted horror novel.’

Un Lun Dun, a fantastic look at a London that is just out of sight, gets a very detailed review by Kathleen: ‘China Mieville (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The Iron Council) is renowned for the world he has created around the great, multi-species, many-storied city of New Crobuzon. Those are adult works, beyond a doubt: ferocious and frightening, full of the incandescent mysteries and fatal sins of maturity. At the same time, one of the conundrums of Mieville’s style has been the sense of a small boy peeking through his writing; the kind of little boy who delights in snot and crawly bugs, who chases his sister with a frog and forgets to take that interesting dead bird out of his lunch box. Sometimes this gleeful grossness amuses the reader in turn. Sometimes it seems unnecessarily provoking. But it has always reminded me of how young Mieville is.’

Another fantastic look at London is reviewed by Kestrell: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

Speaking of urban fantasies, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is but one facet of what turned out to be a multi-media event. Richard says that ‘Neverwhere is the story of a not-quite-nebbish named Richard, who is a perfectly archetypal young executive. He’s got a suitably generic job, a suitably socially climbing fiancee and a suitably mundane existence being harried along by the demands of each. Richard’s is exactly the sort of life that could do with a swift kick of magic, and that’s exactly what he gets.’ Now read his review to see why this tale of London Below is worth reading.

The audiobook verosion of this novel has a review by Kestrell that starts off this way: ‘I’m not a big fan of audiobooks. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy having someone read to me, because I do — I’m even married to a man who reads to me as often as I let him.’  Now read her review to see why Gaiman narrating it won her over!

Richard finds another excellent book in that genre: ‘Hidden, magical London is all the rage these days. First there was Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, then China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. And now there’s Mind the Gap, a collaborative effort between American novelist and comics writer Christopher Golden and British horror novelist Tim Lebbon. To be sure, that’s fast company for any book to be in, but Mind the Gap manages it more than respectably, and is an enjoyable, engrossing read that delivers plenty of thrills while deftly avoiding the numerous clichés lurking in wait for it.’

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The ‘multi-media’ event that is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was, not unexpectedly, a television series as well as a novel. Rebecca takes a look at it here: ‘Like most American fans of Neil Gaiman, I read the novel Neverwhere years before seeing the BBC television series he based it on. Having written the script for the show and been aggravated by the changes he’d been forced to make in it, he started writing the novel on the set so he could put all the bits back in. A&E finally put the show on a region-free two-disc DVD set. And there was much rejoicing.’

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While most are indulging in various forms of Irish delicacies this weekend in honor of St.Patrick, Denise dug into a chocolate bar.  A Lindt Excellence Roasted Hazlenut Dark chocolate bar, to be precise. And she was pleased.  ‘A nice balance of creamy dark chocolate and hazelnut that tastes like a praline filling all grown up.’ She also says it goes well with a stout, so perhaps you should head to her review here and see if you need to add a bit of chocolate to your weekend festivities.

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Graphic novels are an art form in themselves, as we see in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. As April notes in her review: ‘Over a decade after the original televised mini-series and the novel it spawned, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere has found new life in comic form — but not scripted by Gaiman himself. That honor has gone to Mike Carey, writer for the Vertigo series Lucifer and Crossing Midnight, with Glenn Fabry (Preacher, Hellblazer) providing the artwork. Gaiman did serve as consultant for the project. In his introduction, Carey remarks on the difficulty of adapting a novel to comic format, noting that some scenes have been moved around, some cut, dialogue changed to accommodate both, and the omission of a character. His hope is that fans of the original will appreciate the decisions that were made and the final result.’

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Fifteen years after they first appeared on stage and some twenty years ago as we count time, Gary saw The Knitters At the Aladdin Theater: ‘A near-capacity crowd in the 600-seat Aladdin on a Friday night in December hung on every lyric and jest of Exene Cervenkova and John Doe, as The Knitters ran through every song from Critter, plus several countrified versions of X songs, and a few cover tunes thrown in for good measure.’

Robert brings us a different take on traditional music in the form of the Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf: ‘Last Leaf is the Danish String Quartet’s second foray into “traditional” music. Their previous album in this vein, Wood Works, focused on music of the Faroe Islands and various small Nordic towns and villages. Last Leaf, although still focusing on Nordic folk music, is somewhat more far-ranging, including tunes from Sweden, Denmark, the Shetland Islands, and a few written by members of the quartet.’

Another look at tradition, in this case two very different approaches to a traditional instrument, as evidenced in Jody Marshall’s Cottage in the Glen and Malcolm Dalglish’s Jogging the Memory. Read Robert’s review to see his reaction to two very different approaches.

Stephen looks approvingly at Baba Yaga — ‘Annbjørg Lien is a Norwegian composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and singer, who occupies an artistic space where clumsy attempts at easy definition are irrelevant. With this CD she’s created a music in which traditional fiddle tunes are pop songs, string quartets are folk dances, electronic rhythms are an element of symphonic composition, and the sound of human breathing is both rhythm and melody.’

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Our What Not is another Gaiman affair as Kestrell notes for us: ‘Thus, when I sat down to view Lifeline Theatre’s live stage production of Neverwhere, I had my doubts. Works of fantasy offer a particular challenge for live theatre in that the fantastic often translates poorly to the limitations of the flesh and the material world, resulting in bad fur suits and the omission of many favorite passages.’  Read her review to see if this adaptation worked for her.

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Our  coda this time is in rememberence of  trad Irish musician Liam Og O’Flynn who played Uilleann pipes and tin  whustle with Planxty that passed away this week. As a founding member, he played alongside Christy Moore, Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny. Folk armadillo Uak ha a full look st his I’ve and music here.

This Planxty tune, ‘Rambling Boys of Pleasure”  was recorded at the De Doolen,  a concert venue in Rotterdam some thirty years ago. Splendid, isn’t it?

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Cold, Haily Day

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If you’ve visited us and been here when it was raining, you know why we put in a modern heating system. Heating with wood was cold, really cold in the winter, and miserably damp when it rained. I mentioned that as we’re in the middle of what is forecast to be a week of heavy rain.

Even I who love all things outdoor in some pretty miserable weather have curtailed all outdoor activities as much as possible. I’ve gratefully let my staff, many much younger than me, do the duties needed to keep Estate livestock safe while I and my wife stay in our modernised crafter cottage reading, listening to music, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Mind you even that much rain impacts everything. It’s far worse in its own way than a blizzard as folks know that’s really dangerous in a blizzard but forget that a torrential rain storm can both cause hypothermia and cause anyone to get lost under the worst possible conditions. It’s certainly possible at this altitude to die within a handful of minutes. And the livestock has to be kept inside (save the ducks and geese who really like getting wet) in order to be safe.

Not to mention that I and my staff will have very long work days as soon as it stop raining as there’ll be paths to rebuild, gardens to check for damage (good practices help minimised damage), forests to survey for dangerous hanging branches and such, and so forth.

But for now, we’ve got the Penguin Cafe Orchestra playing, I’m writing this post up, my wife is reading some mystery novel, one by Tony Hilllerman I think, and we’re nice and toasty. That’s enough to make us as content as our cats are right now.

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What’s New for the 11th of March: Well, It’s Still Winter I See

I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.― Corwin in Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber

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I had a brisk walk outside today with the Estate wolfhounds, as there’s a freezing rain falling that started off late yesterday afternoon, which makes it bloody unpleasant out. I’m now warming myself in the Library near the fireplace on the outside wall of the New Library here in Kinrowan Hall.  Indeed, there’s a goodly number of staffers here reading and talking quietly which isn’t surprising.  Corwin’s right: libraries do hold back the darkness.

Music holds it back as well, which is why you’ll always find trad and not so trad music playing here. Right now it’s Red Molly doing their cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning’, which they did at the Center for Arts in Natick several years back. We reviewed their Love and Other Tragedies recording here.

Now let’s see what we’ve got for you. I’ll be in the a Kitchen if you’ve got any questions as Rebekah is baking up an array of Jewish and Palestinian nibbles for all of us…

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Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’

Joel ends his review of Neal Asher’s first Polity novel in this manner: ‘The danger of reading an early work by an author after later entries to a series, or even later stand-alone novels from the same author, is that one might discover the writer is still feeling things out, and perhaps stumbling a bit, lacking the experience his later works will reflect. While Asher has certainly found a somewhat firmer footing in later books (relatively speaking), this first novel is anything but clumsy. So I can happily recommend Gridlinked as the logical place to start for new initiates to the series. If you’re like me, you will be rewarded with a long and happy relationship with the Polity universe.’

Robert does a little catching up, bringing us a review of the most recent installment of Glen Cook’s Instrumentalities of the Night: Working God’s Mischief: ‘It’s hard to know how to lead into this one, so I’m going to let Cook do it: Arnhand, Castauriga, and Navaya lost their kings. The Grail Empire lost its empress. The Church lost its Patriarch, though he lives on as a fugitive. The Night lost Kharoulke the Windwalker, an emperor amongst the most primal and terrible gods. The Night goes on, in dread. The world goes on, in dread. The ice builds and slides southward.

And as long as we’re talking about fantasy noir (and we were, no two ways about it), Robert has some thoughts on the first five books of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Books of the Fallen: ‘I’ve been listening to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen and I’ve been reading Midnight Tides, book five of Steven Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Although it may seem a little odd, the two fit together quite nicely: both are vast in scale, both have a strong basis in myth — not necessarily the stories of myth themselves (although that’s obviously true of the Wagner), but the resonances of myth — and both push against our perceived boundaries of what is possible.’

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It’s still very much Winter here, so Gary picks these lovely Winter Ales: ‘Full Sail’s Wassail is very good. As I recall, it’s just a good strong winter ale, no flavorings used. Another excellent Oregon winter brew is Pyramid’s Snow Cap ale. It’s my favorite winter brew so far. Deep, dark and caramel-y, perfect for a cold night in front of the fire with a good book — although after a while, my eyes always cross and I have to switch to an audiobook or some music. The Decemberists, say.’

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Robert once again brings us something a little out of the ordinary for GMR as our film offering this week: BBC’s South Pacific (no, not the musical): ‘South Pacific is another of the BBC’s “nature” series that I’ve been watching recently — “nature” in quotes because, while it does deal with the wildlife on the islands of the Pacific, it also focuses on the people and their adapations to island life.’

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Interested in a really great graphic novel series? If so, go read April’s look at the first deluxe volume of this series: ‘As might be surmised from the subtitle to this collection, Vertigo has given Bill Willingham’s long-running series Fables the deluxe treatment, much as it has with other top series, such as Sandman, V for Vendetta and Death. This gorgeous volume reprints the first ten issues of Fables, previously collected in Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, along with a sketch gallery. If somehow you’ve missed out on reading Fables, this is a perfect opportunity to dive in feet first.’

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Asher starts our music reviews off with a look at Aliens Alive, a Nordic recording that definitely stretches musical boundaries — ‘Annbjørg Lien finds, in folk music, everything from fairy tales to science fiction. Indeed, the title of her previous album, Baba Yaga, is drawn from a fairy tale. Aliens Alive is a selection of live performances culled from Annbjørg Lien’s 2001 Norwegian tour.’

Big Earl looks at Grow Fins: ‘So Green Man Review has come to this: the inevitable “who or what is a Captain Beefheart?” paragraph. I’ll reduce it to a sentence: Captain Beefheart is the all-encompassing focal point of all 20th century American music idioms, rolled into one composer. Better still, I’ll reduce it to one word: genius. I’ve seen that word used with many musicians, but if it had to apply to only a select few, Beefheart would be on that list. Brahms, Beethoven, Beefheart… I’ll refer you to the absolutely wonderful Beefheart Web site if you want more background information on the man. Time and space don’t permit…‘

Cat has some thoughts on an EP from Boiled in Lead, The Well Below: ‘I’ve heard Boiled in Lead in person but one time, and that was twenty years ago when they played in a field one late summer. Lovely they were, and their live sound carries over very well to being recorded.’

Judith was thrilled by Robin & Linda Williams’ Visions Of Love! She says, ‘Visions Of Love is, by my count, the sixteenth album by American music harmonists Robin and Linda Williams. It is produced by Garrison Keillor and, unlike most of their other releases, it contains no originals but rather covers of old songs they’ve “known for a while.” The songs are indeed about love.’ Keillor was touring with the Williamses when news broke about the accusations  against him and that tour was canceled. The show that replaced that show is Live from Here which is hosted by Chris Thile and Cat’s upbeat review is here.

Robert brings us a recording by someone who has become a household word, even for those who don’t follow classical music — it’s Arturo Toscanini’s complete recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra: ‘The legend of Toscanini springs from a remarkable career. He was one of the first to bring order to what had been the sometimes barely restrained anarchy of the nineteenth-century European orchestra, demanding, for example, that all the instruments be in tune and that the performers all play at the same tempo, somewhat revolutionary concepts for the time.’

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For this week’s What Not, Robert has a brief commentary on a small offering from Folkmanis Puppets, which you can read here.

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So let’s end with Richard and Linda Thompson doing ‘Shoot Out the Lights’ which was from their show at the Paradise in Boston way back on the 19th Of May thirty six years ago! The deluxe edition of the Shoot Out the Lights album gets reviewed by Gary here.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Of Bloodied Kings

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There are stories of hauntings here at the Kinrowan Estate going back centuries. Of ghostly patrons of our Pub in the Kinrowan Hall who came back again and again at last call to hoist just one more pint of their favourite ale, of the gameskeeper (in those long ago days when we had such a post) who is still spotted watching over the deer as they eat acorns in the late fall, of the piper heard playing in the distance as the dawn breaks over the hills where High Meadow Farm is.

And any other of the myriad  tales passed down generation after generation ’till they past from being remembered to being part of our history into being simply stories…

There is one ghost, or rather a set of ghosts, that I See in my vision when I’m unable to sleep and leave Catherine sleeping soundly in our bed to roam around Kinrowan Hall and nearby grounds in warmer weather. So it was when some decades back that I first encountered them.

At first all I noticed was the crickets chirping loud in the warm night air.  Then I heard the Irish wolfhounds we have to keep the sheep and pigs safe from wolves and other predators growling lowly in their throats as if something was well beyond their ken. So I walked out to where they were and stopped awfully fast when I saw them.

They were I thought that they were just some waking dream I was having, not really there but I son realised that they were really there. They were a King, stocky and red haired, terribly wounded but still standing,  fucking huge sword unsheathed and covered with blood and gore, and his foe, equally stocky and blond haired, obviously Viking from the runes etched on his equally bloodied sword. Dead men walking. As I watched, they resumed hacking at each other. Over and over again.

They went on, silently, never saying anything, cutting at each other ’til they were far past the point where they should have been dead, but they went one cutting at each other. They were still having at each other as they faded away.

I’ve seen them several times since, always on the same date. I’ve tried researching the old battles, the old kings of Scotland, but never found anything that even vaguely matches up properly to what I saw. I do know that there are several barrow mounds on the Estate that may indeed be those of Kings lost now to even myth as they live and died so long ago that no one even remembers them  even in stories.

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What’s New for the 4th of March: G. Willow Wilson’s Cairo, Chinese magic, a first from the Archives, Frigg’s Frost on Fiddles, gamelan complete with dancer, and Other Matters

Happiness, in the land of Deals, is measured on a sliding scale. What makes you happy? A long white silent car with smoked-glass windows, with a chauffeur and a stocked bar and two beautiful objects of desire in the back seat? An apartment in a nice part of town? A kinder lover? A place to stand that’s out of the wind? A brief cessation of pain? It depends on what you have at the moment I ask that question, and what you don’t have. Wait a little, just a little. The scale will slide again. — Emma Bull’s Bone Dance: A Fantasy For Technophiles

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It’s  cold, near minus ten and with blowing snow from the tHiroyuki cm storm we just got this week, so most Estate residents are inside our various buildings doing needed chores, such as getting the scarecrows ready for the growing season or assisting in the cleaning of the sub-basements, which are always surprising in what they hold. That miniature construct of Kinrowan Hall that’s in the halleay near here was found during one such cleaning several years back. Magnificent, isn’t it?

Speaking of cleaning out, we were going to move musical reference guides to storage but Reynard pointed out that he sees them being used in our Bar rather often. He says such works as the Walton’s Guide to Irish Music and the Rough Guide to the Music Of India simply don’t exist on the web. Oh, there are websites that talk about specific  artists but there’s nothing on the depth like such works as  Donal Hickey’s Stone Mad for Music: The Sliabh Luachra Story and but very little that looks at a genre of music. So they stay after all.

So you’re in the mood for  a cider? May I suggest our Kinrowan Special Reserve Pear Cider? And for appropriate reading while you’re savouring that drink, there’s Simon McKie’s Making Craft Cider: A Ciderist’s Guide.

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Another Cat joins us this week, writing about photographer Tim Cooper’s book, The Reader: War For the Oaks, as well as the Emma Bull novel inspiring that book, which was originally a Kickstarter project. She predicts varying reactions to the book; read her review to find out what category yours may fall into.

She also has a look at Catherynne M. Valente’s forthcoming book, Space Opera: ‘It is difficult to describe how Catherynne M. Valente’s new book Space Opera manages to be so wonderfully resonant of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy yet so insistently, inimitably her own. And yet, that’s the challenge.’

Jane Lindskold is an author who has done some adventurous things with urban fantasy. Mike got hold of a copy of her Thirteen Orphans, the first book in Lindskold’s ambitious urban fantasy series Breaking the Wall, which is, he says, ‘one of the best things I’ve seen from her in quite a while. Drawing from Chinese history, mythology, and astrology, she’s created a fascinating new setting, one that straddles two very different worlds.’

He also had a copy of the next book in the series, Nine Gates: ‘Nine Gates is a wonderfully-told story, using the mythic resonance of the Chinese Zodiac along with elements of history, gamescraft and magical theory to build a world almost entirely divorced from the European traditions that make up so much of urban fantasy. It’s new and different, but not enough to create culture shock.’

Happily, Robert had a copy of the third (and final) installment, Five Odd Honors: ‘Five Odd Honors continues the story begun in Thirteen Orphans and Nine Gates, leading the Orphans and their allies back to the Lands of Smoke and Sacrifice from which they were exiled years before. . . . The group decides on reconnaissance as the first necessity, but the scouting party runs into Lands bizarrely changed by a ruthless emperor determined to remake the Lands according to his own somewhat rigid and limited sense of what should be. (Yes, one can read a political subtext into this, if one wishes.)’

While poking around in the Archives, we ran across something of a milestone: Robert’s first review for Green Man Review‘s prior incarnation, Jim Grimsley’s Kirith Kirin: ‘Jim Grimsley is a successful playwright and novelist who has produced, in Kirith Kirin, a singular work of fantasy. The story revolves around Jessex, a boy of fourteen when the story opens, who narrates the tale of his entry into the service of Kirith Kirin, the Prince who lives in Arthen Forest, awaiting the call from the Queen, Athryn Ardfalla, to fulfill the next round of the Cycle and succeed her as King.’

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Denise looks at Swamp Thing — the film version of the DC Comics hero. She very much liked the 1982 offering now on DVD. Read her very entertaining review of Swamp Thing to find out why she says ‘The only way this film could have been any better is if it had been in Aroma-Vison.’

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Jack looks at a work by a Muslim writer now better known for her endeavours for Marvel Comics: ‘The first graphic novel by journalist G. Willow Wilson, Cairo is a rather well-crafted retelling of the Aladdin story set in contemporary Cairo. With a riff that will please fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and Ernest Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues, here too are very old gods who find themselves confronting humans who are very much of the modernity. Here, residents of Cairo, human and otherwise, several Americans, a Leftist journalist and a djinn meet in a journey from the streets of Cairo to Undernile, the fabled river said to run deep below the Nile, in the opposite direction.’

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Capercaillie’s Dusk Till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie, and Karen Matheson’s (lead vocalist of Capercaillie) solo album, The Dreaming Sea got a review a quarter century ago by April who says these recordings ‘are the perfect introduction to the band’s sound and history.’ Yes we’ve been reviewing, well, the roots and branches of global culture a very long time.

Gary is very fond of Muzsikas and Marta Sebestyen’s  Live at Liszt Academy : ‘The music of Hungary is a rich gift to the world. Muzsikas is the best-known of the ensembles that have brought this mesmerizing tradition to the world since the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 1990s. This recording is yet another demonstration of the power of this music and the mastery of Muzsikas. It documents a series of concerts in 2003 at the Liszt Academy. Several tracks feature the ethereal vocals of the ProMusica Choir of Nyiregyhaza, 50 young women directed by Denes Szabo.’

Robert came up with something of historical interest — no, wait, it’s much more than that: Odetta at the Gate of Horn: ‘Albert Grossman, who among other things managed Bob Gibson and a number of other prominent folk artists, opened The Gate of Horn in Chicago in 1956. It became quite arguably the performance venue for the burgeoning folk music scene in the 1960s and early 70s — everyone played The Gate: Gibson and Camp, Glenn Yarborough, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Odetta.’

Somehow, while we were busy blinking, the group Frigg went from being promising newcomers in the Finnish folk music scene to being seasoned veterans.  Now Scott reviews Frost on Fiddles, their eighth album that came out this past year.

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Our What Not this week is another offering from Folkmanis Puppets. Robert was, he says, a bit unnerved by this one, for a couple of reasons. You can read his explanation of his reaction here.

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Our Coda this week is something a little out of the ordinary, but not as much as you might expect. We’ve done quite a bit of commentary on Indonesian gamelan (if you don’t believe me, just do a site search for ‘gamelan’  and see what you get); one of our earliest forays into that area was an album by Çudamani, a gamelan from Bali. (Just to remind you, ‘gamelan’ is not only the music, but the orchestra that performs it.) But a recording can’t give you the whole spectacle, so we thought it would be nice to give you a sample of a gamelan in action, so to speak, complete with dancer, which you can see here.

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A Global News Service story: Clockwork Beings

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15 January 1880
Istanbul, Ottoman Empire
Global News Service

I’ve been chasing rumours of a true clockwork man for decades now. Not a pale shadow of a living being called automatas, but one that looks like and acts like a true human being. I’ve thus far seen a clockwork go player in Imperial China who could play a decent game, a fortune teller in Berlin who spoke German and Romany, an amazing working approximation of a Riverside sword fighter, and something that appeared to be a crossing for no apparent reason between a human and a pig. But even when they looked human, I could tell instinctively they weren’t human.

The creatures that I saw and examined in my travels were far more impressive. There was a full-sized tiger in Rajasthan that looked and moved as it were flesh and blood.; a raven in Paris that quoted Poe impeccably; and  a scarecrow that tilted its head in a manner that made me not want to meet it ever again. Each of them was a marvel of complexity with workings so fine and intricate that they would each fetch a godly sum in any of the shadow markets that handled fenced goods as their owners had no intent of parting with them. Indeed the creator of the tiger said that two different thieves had tried to steal him and both were turned to bloody bits by him.

I encountered fakers, the most common of which was to use a dwarf ensconced within a body working the puppet and speaking when asked questions. I was told that one of these dwarfs met a bloody demise when a perspective owner used a sword to make sure on-one was inside.   And the perpetrator made his own bloody demise shortly thereafter. No one likes being taken by this sort of chancer.

So I came to Istanbul as I had heard tales of the Grand Vizier offering extraordinary wealth to anyone who could create a clockwork storyteller who could entertain him with tales from <strong>The Arabian Nights</strong>. Failure of course would most likely mean death. I asked for in a most polite to meet with to ask about his desire for such a creation.

In due course, that being several years as the request had to pass upwards from one clerk to another clerk and so one until it reached his personal secretary  who could have made a decision but really did wasn’t keen on losing his head if the Grand Vizier decided his decision was wrong. Indeed this personal secretary got his appointment to that post by having information about such a decision by the previous personal secretary. The the Grand Vizier was so displeased that he made the death last a full month ending in a beheading of course.

When I finally met with him, a date set a year in advance, we sipped sweet tea and listened to music from a trio of oud players. After a decent interval of me telling him the latest from Imperial India which fascinated him, I asked my question.

He admitted that he was not the one that suggested this affair, but rather was what he took to be a djinn. The djinn found itself unable to be fully tangible in our world and wanted a body that it could inhabit. Mortal bodies were too fragile and failed within a few days, so a mechanical man would have to suffice. Or so the djinn thought was the deal with the Grand Vizer was. But the latter thought he was going to capture and imprison that djinn thereby binding him to his service.

We shall see what happens when that mechanical man is finished. If indeed the Grand Vizer ever found someone that met his and the djinn’s exacting needs!

P

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What’s New for the 25th of February: Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’, Wild China, identity in science fiction, ‘hedgehog highways’ and other neat stuff

He tried to reconstruct the story in his mind, but it kept getting confused, bleeding into itself like watercolors. ― Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden

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If you like Irish whiskey, I’ve got a definite treat for you as several bottles of Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt came in from our Dublin Agent and the Casker site noted ‘that it is distilled through traditional Irish pot stills and aged for eight years in oak barrels before being re-casked in first-fill bourbon barrels.’ Shall I serve you up a dram, neat of course?

I’m not quite ready for you, so let’s give you a bit of a story to listen to while I finish off this edition. ‘The Girl in the Garden’ from the Sirens recording by SJ Tucker does this nicely. It tells the tale of the orphan in Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tale:  In The Night Garden. If you like what Tucker does here, you’ll love this work by Valente, the first of two volumes with  the second being The Orphan’s Tale: The Cities of Coin and Spice. There are many stories told here, all brilliant, in a metanarrative that connects everything together.

So now let’s look at this edition, which has many tales for you — even music tells its own tale if you pay attention carefully…

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Cat had, not a look but a listen to Rita Mae Brown’s Crazy Like a Fox audiobook: ‘It’s a joy to listen to, with a skilled narrator, great setting, compelling mystery, and distinctive characters, both human and otherwise. Highly recommended, as are the previous audiobooks in this series, which are all read by the author as well.’

John Has a look at a book by contradancer and historian Allison Thompson: ‘The Blind Harper Dances: Modern English Country Dances set to airs by Turlough O’Carolan: ‘This book is at once fascinating and difficult to review. The fascination lies in the idea of combining the music of Turlough O’Carolan with modern English country dances. The difficulty lies in my own lack of experience in the world of choreography, which renders me unable to offer objective criticism or judgment to this project. Having said that, the work is an interesting collection in its own right.’

Robert has a look at a work of fantasy? Science fiction? Both? Not either? See what he has to say about Nalo Hopkinson’s The New Moon’s Arms: ‘Nalo Hopkinson gave a speech (“Looking for Clues,” reprinted in The James Tiptree Award Anthology 3) in which she addressed one of science fiction’s quandaries with great wit and eloquence. The thrust of her remarks involved the problem of finding someone she, a Caribbean woman of mixed, mostly non-white ancestry, could identify with in stories written usually from a white, male, mostly middle-class point of view.’

And speaking of questions of identity and the James Tiptree Awards, Robert has a look at the first three anthologies of those prize winners. First, Volumes 1 and 2, followed by Volume 3: ‘Tiptree’s career, as much as her writing, led to the creation in 1991 of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award by Pat Murphy and Karen Fowler. As Murphy says in her introduction to the first anthology, “We did it to make trouble. To shake things up. . . . And to honor the woman who startled the science fiction world by making people suddenly rethink their assumptions about what women and men could do.”’

We finish out our books section with an announcement by Richard Thompson: ‘RT is excited to announce the title of his book: Beeswing: Britain, Folk Rock and the End of the 60s. Due for publication in Autumn 2019, Beeswing is a memoir of musical discovery, personal revelation, and social history written by Thompson with journalist and author Scott Timberg. In the title, Thompson will describe how this “intense and fertile” time in Britain led to a spiritual crisis both personal and culture-wide. The book will also detail his conversion to Sufi mysticism, the legendary partnership with wife Linda, years of musical experimentation, and how he wrote some of the “saddest and most emotionally resonant” songs in pop-music history.’

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Robert brings us something out of the ordinary for our film section this week: a documentary series from the BBC, Wild China: ‘I have a confession to make: I’ve become addicted to the BBC nature series on Netflix. It’s probably the natural result of a boyhood spent poking around in the empty lots and forest preserves around my childhood home, seeing what was there to see, aided and abetted by a father who encouraged my curiosity. One of the better series from BBC is Wild China, which examines not only the wildlife of a vast and highly variable country, but also the geography, geology, and the attitudes of the human populations.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons garners accolades from Brendan: ‘This is an amazing CD that manages not only to pay tribute to the rural style of life but the entire field of American traditional music as well. Ungar and Mason have created a unique blend of orchestral and folk music that manages to preserve the integrity of each style while enhancing each other.’

Jackalope’s Dances with Rabbits gets the wholehearted approval of Cat but comes with a caveat:’ Let me start this review off by saying that most of what the musician who created Jackalope, R. Carlos Nakai, plays leaves me terribly bored. Yes, bored. Bored quite stiff. Even the other Jackalope albums that I’ve heard over the years were not very interesting for me. But Dances with Rabbits has had more playings in this household that I can count as it simply has not a less than stellar cut on it.’

A recording by Amarillis which has the aforementioned Allison Thompson on accordion and concertin getd high praise from veteran contradancer Gary: ‘Waltzing in the Trees is a delightful record that brings lively contra dance music into your home.’

As Richard Thompson noted above, he has a book coming this Fall, so let’s have this reviewer tell you about one of his legendary boxsets: ‘What can you say about a musician whose career began more than 40 years ago and whose creative and physical energies are still going strong? If the artist in question is Richard Thompson, you needn’t say anything. Just open the cover of the career-spanning box set Walking On A Wire: 1968-2009 and marvel.’

Jo wrote a review of the Labyrinth recording by a band created by Scots fiddler Alasdair Fraser: ‘All of the members in Skyedance are consummate musicians, who have honed their craft to excellence. It is pure pleasure to hear these six phenomenal performers work together with such precision and craftsmanship.’

Popcorn Behavior’s Hot Contra Dance Tunes, Journeywork and Strangest Dream meets with the approval of Naomi: ‘It is rather disconcerting at first to listen to this group. The music is impeccable and surpasses much of what I have heard in my life. This in itself is not all that remarkable. However, when you realize that the musicians are only 10, 13, and 14 years of age, it kind of makes you suck back and reload, if you know what I mean. These Vermont youngsters are all musical marvels who have been playing together for years!’

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Today’s What Not has a rather spiky subject. Now, you may be aware that just about every continent has a mammal that has found a way to protect itself with spines. New World porcupines, as might be expected, inhabit the Americas, while Old World porcupines are found in southern Europe, western and southern Asia, and Africa. Madagascar even has its own version, the tenrec, which is not related to any of the others. The one that has captured our hearts here at Green Man Review, of course, is the hedgehog — not the long-eared hedgehog of the Arabian desert that eats, among other things, snakes, but our own little fellow native to Britain. (If the name of our in-house newsletter, The Sleeping Hedgehog wasn’t a dead give-away — well, we couldn’t have made it much plainer. We’ve even commented on a hedgehog puppet.) Sadly, like so many other animals, our native hedgehog is having trouble adapting to urbanization — fences and walls have put a crimp in its normal wanderings, which has not had a good result. However, one man has decided to do something about that, and his solution is quite down-to-earth and simple. You can read about Barnes Hedgehogs and ‘hedgehog highways’ here.

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So I’ve got some music for you that I think fits pretty much any season. It’s Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’from Rodeo from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian Institution music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Snow

Snow, especially heavy snow falling without any wind, quiets everything. And we’ve had such going on for three days now. It certainly changes the rhythms of this Scottish Estate!

Every winter season this happens several times when a weather front sets up just so. It’s not a blizzard as the winds are usually fairly light and the temperature doesn’t bottom out like it does in a really bad storm. It just starts snowing, keeps snowing, and then refuses to stop. It quickly becomes hazardous to be out in it, as there’s just enough wind to create whiteout conditions, so everyone except those tending the animals stay where they are.

It’s true that we’ve added lights along the path to the old renovated crofter cottages, where folks like Gus and his wife live, which assists in staying safe while getting around. But skiing or being out skating on the Mill Pond are not a good idea. So we stay put. Life slows down, chores get set aside, and we just enjoy ourselves.

Mrs. Ware and her Kitchen staff prepare lots of treats, such as cookies and s’mores, the musicians in the Neverending Session break up into smaller groups to play everywhere they’re wanted. Inevitably a contra dance gets organised by Chasing Dragonflies, the in-house dance band, to keep those interested from being too slothful. And the various informal groups, the chess players, reading groups and such take advantage of the downtime to engage intensely in their leisure activities.

I’m not saying everyone gets to take it easy — Gus and his staff, as I noted before, have the animals. They also try to keep the paths clear, watch for trees that might be hazards with heavy snow on their boughs, and generally keep a watch on the Estate.

I, on the other hand take the time to do some reading, say a mystery I want to read without interruption, just be with my wife, and enjoy the quietness.

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What’s New for the 18th of February: A New Album by Joan Baez, Bee Gees Down Under, Yet More Taza Chocolate, Jack Vance, Baby Groot and Other Matters

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but ifyou want to
test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACandlemas 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.
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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.

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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.’

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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.’

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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.”’

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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!

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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.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Cookbook (A Letter to Anna)

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Dear Anna,

I’m going to pitch a book for that culinary folklore seminar you’re teaching next Winter here for those visiting food writers, as I really tkink it’ll be a good addition to that endeavour.

One of Several Annies, Iain’s library apprentices, was literally squealing with delight in the kitchen this week over a book that just got added to the collection of cookbooks and culinary history we have here at the Kinrowan Estate. It was Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook by Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple. And I would be remiss not to note that the illustrator is Sima Elizabeth Shefrin, whose work here is simply charming.

The recipes look really great, with easy to follow instructions that allow even an inexperienced cook to make each dish easily. Our reviewer noted that ‘When I think of the books I loved as child, I get hungry. There was Pooh lapping up honey and cream teas, Mary Poppins handing out magical gingerbread, while Frodo chowed down on mushrooms and lembas. Food surely is an integral part of children’s literature. After all, where would Cinderella be without her pumpkin coach? Would Alice in Wonderland be half as memorable without the magic mushrooms and the strange bottles labeled “Drink Me?”‘

This is traditional fare like you find here with lots of butter and the like: no thought about healthy cooking is here! But then food centered on Jewish folklore would hardy be concerned about counting calories and getting enough greens in your diet, would they? (Iain used it in a course on Jewish traditions for his Several Annies several years back, as he firmly believes learning should be fun. And this is a very fun book.)

I’ve got other books that I’ll bring to your attention but the person skiing down to the Post in the village as the road’s closed again wants to get going.

Warmest regards Gus

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What’s New for the 11th of February: ’De Herinacio: On the hedgehog’, Don’t Talk About It by Australian expat Ruby Boot, live Irish Music from De Dannan & Skara Brae, Hobos, Mary-Sues, Live from Here replaces Prairie Home Companion and other matters

Most times we only see things for the way we are. But we’re good at lying to ourselves. Sometimes we need somebody who’s not living in our skin to point out how things really are.  ― Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

What am I listening to? Well it’s a choice live performance of ‘‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’ by De Dannan at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio nearly thirty years ago. This is before the band split into two, each faction not speaking to the other, with only a different spelling of the name as a way of telling them apart. As of five years ago, both bands were still active, and both are very much worth hearing live if they perform in your area.

There’s a not-at-all-gentle wind driven freezing rain battering itself against Kinrowan Hall on this rather dark afternoon. Needless to say there’s lots of Estate staff here in the Library — some reading, some holding conversations, some even napping as we we don’t have the usual Library rules here but everyone’s respectful of not being too loud. Even Ysbaddaden and his feline kin  aren’t raising their voices here as they’re all curled up near one of the patrons.

So let’s see what our staffers have for reviews for you this Edition; the Coda this time will be of a Celtic Music nature as well as you’ll see see when you get to it…

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Craig brings us a look at an anthology on an American icon, Cliff  ‘Oats’  Williams’ One More Train to Ride: ‘What does the average reader really know about the culture of the American hobo? Mostly they keep themselves out of sight due to the misdemeanor status of actions necessary to their survival (e.g., riding on freight trains). Still, there are hundreds of transients constantly traveling, making their way back and forth across the country — riding trains, working where they can, taking handouts, and just enjoying the freedom from society’s strictures.’

Denise takes us into uncharted territory (uncharted for GMR, at least) with a review of three romance/fantasy novels. Alas, the prospects don’t look good: ‘Mary Sue (n.) : (1) A type of story where characterization, plot and theme is supplanted by the author’s quest for his or her own wish fulfillment. (2) any character that is a thinly disguised idealized version of the author when the story suffers from such usage. The term is almost always derogatory.’

Robert was fairly enthusiastic about three chapbooks from small presses, to wit: Jack Vance’s The Kragen; Thomas M. Disch’s The Voyage of the Proteus: A Eyewitness Account of the End of the World; and Cat Rambo and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories: ‘You may recall that we here at GMR are extraordinarily fond of the small presses that publish so many of the things we discuss. We are fond of them because they bring us all-but-forgotten classics, exciting new works from important writers, and challenging new voices, all in attractive new editions — as witness the group of chapbooks that I have on my desk right now, representing successive “waves” in the history of speculative fiction.’

Robert brings us a look back at early — well, fairly early — Charles de Lint, with reviews of two of his novels set in and around Tamson House. First is Moonheart: ‘Moonheart may very well be the first novel by Charles de Lint that I ever read. I can’t really say for sure — it’s been awhile. It certainly is one that I reread periodically, a fixture on my “reread often” list. It contains, in an early form, all the magic that keeps us coming back to de Lint.’

And next is Spiritwalk: ‘Spiritwalk is a loose sequel to Moonheart, a series of related tales, again centering around Tamson House and including many of the same characters. In fact, the House is even more important as a Place in this group of stories.’

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And now, something that has never happened before here at GMR, as far as we can determine: two reviews of the same work, namely, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. First, a very thorough, in-depth review from Rebecca, written back in the day: ‘The hype began months ago. The first I knew of it was the full-page ads in my monthly comics. Then I caught the teaser on Apple’s site. The concept caught me immediately: a movie in which everything but the actors themselves was created by computer. The more I found out, the more intrigued I became. Most of my friends were fascinated, too. We all agreed that, visually, this would be a terrific movie if things had been done even half-right.’

Next, from Robert, a more impressionistic review from someone who happened on the film by chance. Once again, Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: ‘I’m not sure when or where I first ran across Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but it has become one of my favorite “something to watch when I’m just up for some light entertainment” movies. (This is not a bad thing, and is no reflection on the quality of the film, as you’ll see below.)’

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, Denise leapt at the chance to review some candy and beverages for this issue.  She dug into Lovely’s Salted Cashew Chocolate CaramelsStarbucks’ Cherry MochaChocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company’s No 3 – Dark Strawberry Champagne Truffle Bar, and Contadino’s Pinot Grigio Vivace.

Some were hits – she says of the Vivace, ‘Not too shabby for a fiver! Seek this out.’ But there were some misses as well; of the No3 bar, she says ‘The strawberry may not be overkill, but the total amount of sweetness is. Instead of being happy, I feel over-sugared.’ If you’re trying to figure out what do add to your holiday table, check our these reviews!

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Cat looks at Live from Here, the show formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Chris Thile: ‘Having sort of followed A Prairie Home Companion and the dreadful and frankly disgusting behaviour of Garrison Keillor, the very long time host and creator of APHC  before Chris Thile, Americana musician par excellence, took over. I listened to him in the early months of his hosting but it didn’t impress me as it felt too much that Kellior was haunting it from offstage.’ Now go read his review to see why he’ll be listening to this show!

A new recording by a trio of superb musicians in the Americana tradition caught Gary’s ear. He says of the album See You Around, by the group calling themselves I’m With Her, ‘I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here to predict it will be one of the top Americana albums of the year.’

Gary got some kicks out of an album called Don’t Talk About It by Australian expat Ruby Boots. ‘This is hard-rocking country, rooted in tradition but not afraid to sound modern.’

Author and musician Willy Vlautin has a new book out this month, and Gary reviews Don’t Skip Out On Me … not the book, but the soundtrack album he wrote for it. ‘Fans of Richmond Fontaine and of Willy Vlautin have a real treat in store with this book and its accompanying soundtrack,’ he says.

Huw finishes us off with some Classical music. Not bein’ a fan of anythin’ more classic than my old pair of Wayfarers I know absolutely zero about this music, but Huw knows his stuff. He wuzn’t in the best mood when he popped this rendition of Handel’s Water Music / Royal Fireworks Music by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic in ‘…but, grouchy as I was when I put the disc into my CD player, I have to admit that I pretty soon found myself in a much more cheerful mood. There’s no getting away from the fact that, cliché or not, this is wonderful music. Foot-tapping melodies, indeed!’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AWe stumbled on this older post in the British Library’s Medieval manuscripts blog the other day. It’s the sort of combination of the ancient and the modern that we love: an animation inspired by one of the library’s Medieval bestiaries. Here is ’De Herinacio: On the hedgehog’.Do read the credits and visit the websites or Facebook pages of the blog and the animator!
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Ysbaddaden and his brood are telling me that ’tis time for their eventide feeding, so I’ll take your leave now. Now where did the kitchen staff put that leftover smoked duck from last night? Ahhh, there it is! Let me feed them and I’ll see about some music to leave with you after their feeding, so one moment please…

I’m thinking that I mentioned here a few months back that I had been playing a concert recording by Skara Brae, The short-lived Irish trad group which the sorely missed Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill wa a member as he was of a number of bands including  Nightnoise, so I’ll finish off with a set of tunes, ‘Ar A Dhul Chun’ and ‘Chuain Dom’, from that performance. And I’ve no idea why they didn’t get a commercial release of this performance as both the music and the production are quite fine indeed.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Burns Supper

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January and early February can be a rough timr. After the champagne glasses have been washed and returned to the cabinet following New Year’s Eve, it sometimes seems there’s not much to do but hunker down and wait for spring. So, when word spread around the office that a few special kegs of oatmeal stout were to be tapped in honor of Robbie Burns I made one of my rare visits to the pub to get a pint or two before they ran out. I’m glad I got there early.

Not long after I’d settled into a seat in the corner and gotten my first taste of the stout . . . smooth as a baby’s bum it was, with a hint of chocolate in the finish and a head so creamy you’d swear you could whip it; but I digress . . . as I was savoring the stout the door burst open and a lanky fellow in a kilt arrived. He was leading a rag tag lot of close to forty. Tartans were in great abundance and there was no doubt that this self-selected voluntary clan was out to celebrate the poet laureate of Scotland with a Burns Supper here in the Pub. No idea where they came from given that the nearest village is twenty miles away from us!

What a sight they were. They ranged in age from a few who seemed to have slipped off from Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sporting their class emblems, to geezers with plenty of grey in their hair but spry of step and bright of eye. There was one bespectacled professorial chap in a tartan tie that you wouldn’t have noticed save for his face being painted blue. Some of the younger lot seemed to be returning to the old ways and sported druidic looking tattoos. By the time they all tumbled through the door there wasn’t a seat left.

I found myself sharing the corner with a few of them including a raffish young witch who tucked a fiddle case carefully behind her. Close by there was a hale fellow with a big drum, a balding gent with guitar and fiddle cases along with a book of Burns poetry, a wee little Goth lass and a vibrant woman who seemed to have forgotten that her lineage was more likely to include a leprechaun or two rather than Wallace or Bruce.

The ostensible head of this clan was enjoying his role as toastmaster, but it was clear that his lovely lady was really the one in charge. Belying the stereotype of Scots’ parsimony, I noted that the pub keeper was handed a well-weighted purse and told to keep the food and drink coming for one and all. Serving trays with steaming dishes were brought in and carried out to the kitchen to wait their proper serving time. And it seemed that for every one of the visiting crowd there also appeared a bottle of single malt; there were Highland, Lowland, and Islays of every description. I thought to myself, ‘Oh, what a night this is going to be!’ as Reynard poured a dram of a peaty 16 year-old Highland, refilled my stout and handed me a steaming mug of cock-a-leekie soup.

Now, I’d read a little about Burns Suppers and knew there were Burns Societies that held highly ritualized and formal affairs with specific toasts and a format that must be followed. One of the visitors explained that their approach was instead predicated on having the kind of party they assume Burns would have enjoyed, ‘Food and drink in abundance, shameless flirtation, jokes and poems, song and sentiment, how can you go wrong?’

Periodically someone would ring their glass to gather attention so that they might offer a toast or read a bit of Burns. A funny youngster with the ears of an orange tabby cat read the bard’s paean to the ritual center piece of the meal, haggis, that amalgam of oats and sheep parts you don’t want to know about, upon its emergence from the kitchen.

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race!
A boon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang ‘s my arm.

Somehow, my own interest in the stuff waned at the lines:

Tenching your gushhing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

The several regular players in the Neverending Session were much expanded by the many guests who brought out instruments of all sorts once the haggis course was over and a sufficient quantity of single malt had been consumed. The lovely young witch with the fiddle case who sat in my corner played bewitchingly indeed. There were singers and dulcimer players and drummers and fiddlers. (Fortunately, no one brought bagpipes.) The material ranged from the expected, Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘John Barleycorn’, to the incongruous, ‘Rocky Raccoon’ seemed to be traditional with this crowd.

Well, as I said, I had just gone down to get a pint of oatmeal stout with every intention of leaving when the pint was gone. Instead, it was nearly three in the morning when I stumbled out the door. By then the pub was definitely out of stout, not to mention low on brown ale and a few other provisions. I was stuffed with haggis and salmon, tatties and ‘neeps, shortbread and Dundie Cake, all of which moderated the many wee drams of single malt that had been pressed upon me. (I tried to resist, really.) I’d heard poems by Burns and a few other Scotsmen, but I swear someone read Ginsberg or Kerouac, too. All in all, I think Burns would have enjoyed himself.

Now, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we might yet make it to Spring.

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What’s New for the 4th of February: Ursula Le Guin

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.

Ursula K. Le Guin in The Wizard of Earthsea 

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Before you read the rest of this edition, go to In Memoriam, Ursula K. LeGuin which writer Peter S. Beagle wrote this week amid his considerable sorrow at her passing: ‘It takes the shiny off everything. Everything. Including the pure shameless pride of being declared a Damon Knight Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. All of it.’

We indeed lost, as Peter makes apparent in his memorial, one of the nicest, most creative folk this civilization had when Ursula Le Guin passed on just a short while ago at the age of just over eighty-eight. Being somewhat younger than her and a fan of well-crafted fantasy and science fiction, she’s been part of my world ever since my teens. I started off, as many of you did no doubt did, by reading the Earthsea series when it came out oh, so many years ago, as just a trilogy before it expanded greatly. Saga Press is working on a Charles Vess illustrated edition of the first three novels, which should be eyecatching.

The Lathe Of Heaven is a quirky novel about a man in Portland, Oregon (her home town) who when he dreams makes changes in reality. His psychiatrist manipulates those dreams in an attempt to make the world what he wants. This being a novel by her, things really don’t go his way. I’ve read the novel, seen the first of I think three attempts to film it (needless to say she didn’t like any of them) and have heard the audiobook. The novel’s wonderful in print and audio forms, the films really not even mediocre.

I read The Dispossessed first in University not long after I came there in the early Seventies. Subtitled An Ambiguous Utopia, it’s set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness (part of the Hainish Cycle). I think it’s easily her most visibly political novel with its capitalist-to-the-max planet and the moon-based social democratic society that only exists because they’re effectively a mining colony for their former homeworld. A reading group I was once part of it was discussing it and that discussion got very heated.

Those are my picks for you to read. Now let’s see what our reviewers had to say about her works.2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Cat reviews something that’s not a novel and which reflects that she was the was the daughter of anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber of the University of California, Berkeley, and writer Theodora Kracaw: ‘Some fifteen years ago, Le Guin created Always Coming Home, an ethnographic history of a people living in a future version of Northern California. Though it’s possible that this might be a far future version of our culture, Le Guin cares not a bleedin’ bit about where or when this takes place; the intent here is world building at its very finest. And world building that is very anthropological in nature.‘

Cat really liked everything in The Selected Short Fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin: The Found and the Lost and The Unreal and the Real and he breaks his rule here on reading short fiction: ‘I always suggest that a reader treat short stories like really great chocolate, but if my experience was any indication, these tales are too good to parcel out. I had not encountered nearly all of these as I hadn’t read the collections they’d been collected in. Note that the various Earthsea short stories aren’t here but will be in the Earthsea book noted below. At sixty dollars for two volumes, they’re a bargain for what you get. And I look forward to the Charles Vess illustrated Earthsea, which Saga Press notes will be the complete novels and short stories compiled in one volume titled The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. Ymmm!

Grey reviews more of her short fiction: ‘When I finished reading the last pages of the last story in The Birthday of the World, I wandered around disoriented for perhaps an hour. This new collection of short stories and novellas by Ursula Le Guin is not like some books that convey comfort and delight so strongly that I finish them in a warm glow, glad to be alive. It isn’t that these stories make me sorry to be alive; rather, I find myself, after reading them, wondering just how alive I’ve been lately. How long has it been since I’ve looked at the sky and thought about how far away it is? How do I truly share space and self with another being? How would it be with me if I considered this year not as 2002, but as the Year One, with last year being one-ago, the way it is in Karhide?’

Changing Planes, another collection of stellar short fiction, gets reviewed by Grey as well: ‘Ursula K. Le Guin is an anthropologist of people and cultures that might be. Her book Always Coming Home is the clearest example; in it she studies a possible future civilization in northern California, unearthing stories and descriptions of architecture, festivals, healing ways and recipes. But a great many of her science fiction novels and short stories, set in the imagined future of the galaxy-wide Ekumen, are the explorations of a curious, observant mind who is truly able to hypothesize the differences that might make a culture alien to us, as well as the commonalities that can draw disparate cultures together.’

She also has a look at the first collection of Earthsea stories: ‘of us who have voyaged in Earthsea have reason to rejoice that its creator, Ursula K. Le Guin, has further news from the Archipelago. When we read the epic adventures of Ged, Tenar and Arren in A Wizard of EarthseaThe Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore, these books were a trilogy. Many years later Le Guin continued the story, while changing directions slightly, in Tehanu. And then, less than a year ago, she surprised and delighted us yet again with Tales from Earthsea, five more stories that brought previously unknown aspects of the islands vividly to life. To quote Le Guin herself in her forward to Tales from Earthsea, “At the end of the fourth book of Earthsea, Tehanu, the story had arrived at what I felt to be now….Unable to continue Tehanu‘s story (because it hadn’t happened yet) and foolishly assuming that the story of Ged and Tenar had reached its happily-ever-after, I gave the book a subtitle: ‘The Last Book of Earthsea.’ O foolish writer. Now moves. Even in storytime, dreamtime, once-upon-a-time, now isn’t then.” In The Other Wind, Le Guin acquaints us with what is happening in Earthsea “now.”’

Jack was very pleased with this offering from her: ‘Some books are just too good not to review as soon as they arrive. Such is the case with Tales from Earthsea, five mostly new tales of Earthsea, the delightful universe created by LeGuin more than 30 years ago.’

Kim looks at a story Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight? which got very special treatment: ‘I got this illustrated book that arrived in the mail. Susan Seddon Boulet’s illustrations take us into the magical world Gal, or Myra as she is known in some circles, experiences after being injured in a plane crash and then rescued by Coyote. Boulet’s work draws us into the world Gal sees with her new eye, a multilayered field of vision that bridges the nature and the appearance of things so beautifully communicated in Le Guin’s story. It has earned a place next to my treasured “children’s” books — the selfishness of an adult who finds some things to beautiful to actually let the wee wilds grub them up. (Mine! Ahem — They get their own copies whenever possible.)’

Michelle looks at a work by her that still provokes fierce arguments some forty years after being published: ‘For the first several pages of The Left Hand of Darkness, readers see the country of Karhide on the planet Gethen as a typical Western monarchy. Through the eye of Genly Ai (pronounced “I,” like a cry), we witness all the traditional trappings of power, military might and courtly intrigue as a king officiates at a pompous ritual. The narrator notices only men at the ceremony, but this may seem quite natural to readers accustomed to European history narratives, which often fail to account for the presence of women at public functions. The Left Hand of Darkness could be historical fiction set just about anywhere — until we learn that the king is pregnant.’

Rebeca got the honour of reviewing this work by her: ‘This classic fantasy series is often compared to The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, but this is not a fair comparison. Although all three can be read as allegorical fantasies, Le Guin is concerned with different religious and philosophical issues, and her writing style differs considerably from Tolkien and Lewis. Le Guin’s trilogy possesses a quiet charm and mystical beauty all its own and is in no way derivative of the other two.These three novels are known collectively as the Earthsea trilogy, but they can be read independently. They are categorized as being for grades 6-9, but their themes are complex enough to challenge adults, and Le Guin’s writing is not over-simplified or condescending.’

The fourth book in the Earthsea trilogy got her attention later on: ‘Tehanu is the last book in Le Guin’s Earthsea tetralogy. It was published in 1990, considerably after the first three books. Although this book, as with the others in the series, has been classified as a children’s/young adult book, make no mistake: this is a mature book about grown-up subjects, and it is a beautiful ending to the Earthsea saga.’

Robert was left almost — but not quite — speechless by LeGuin’s young adult fantasy, Gifts, notwithstanding his admiration for her as a writer: ‘I find myself sometimes genuinely shocked at the books being written and published for children and teenagers in recent years, but then, I grew up in perhaps less trying times, with the likes of Heinlein’s Red Planet and The Rolling Stones as my fallbacks. In the past couple of years I’ve read science fiction and fantasy for juveniles and young adults that deal with divorce, dysfunctional families, spouse abuse, attempted suicide, not to mention the complete collapse of human civilization.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

A little known facet of her creativity was her work as a composer. She composed music for her ethnographic study in a fictional form of a matriarchal society in a future California, and as the article titled Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera points out, she also wrote the libretto for a real “space opera”: ‘But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

I’m going to end this edition with her stellar reading of much of A Wizard of Earthsea. She reads  from it in her oh so wonderful voice, and fields questions from the audience afterwards. This performance took place  at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Friday, October 10, 2008. It was made possible by the sponsorship of Timberland Regional Library.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: The Sleeper Under The Hill (A Letter to Ceinwen)

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Dear Ceinwen,

As a fellow librarian interested in all things mythopoeic, you’ll find this interesting.

This is the month that I’ve got the Several Annies studying a myth in depth, this one being that of The Sleeper Under the Hill. They started off by studying the myth of the king under the mountain or the sleeping hero, as it’s a prominent motif in mythology that is found in many folktales and legends. Arthur of course was believed to be taken away to the Isle of Avalon to sleep until he was needed by the people of Britain. Now, not all sleepers are Good. Loki was bound with cold iron by  Odin after he caused the death of Baldr. With the onset of Ragnarök, Loki is to slip free and fight alongside the forces of the jötnar against the gods.

Now all of this was fairly dry and I could see that the dear lasses were not that interested in the subject, even though they loved Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, so I decided to have Jack take them out to a barrow mound several hours distant here on the Estate. So they got their warm clothes on, waxed up the skis, and had the Kitchen staff pack them a hearty lunch. I figured the combination of Jack and outdoor exercise would do them good. Besides, I had a curling match that I didn’t want to miss!

Our barrow mound is a small one, barely thirty feet long, but obviously not a natural feature. No archaeologist has dug into it, nor are we willing to let them do so, so the reality of what it is will not be known. The stories of what it is are all that matters. And given a thousand years of storytellers here, you can well imagine how interesting those stories are.

So Jack had them build a warming fire which they sat around as he told them tales of a long-dead King who defended his people until the enemy struck him down, though his army won the battle, won that long forgotten war, and whose Merlin, not our Merlin, put him to sleep under this barrow mound to sleep with his sword ’til his people need him again. A king who will sleep forever, as his people vanished from history into legend and finally into myth a very long time ago.

Just before they journeyed back, he rosined up his bow, drew a long note on his fiddle, and played ‘A Lament for a Sleeping King’, a mournful tune.

I can’t say that they dove into their studies with any more enthusiasm after their trip out there, so we moved on to another subject, Medieval music with Catherine, my wife, as their tutor, and that does interest them.

Cheers,

Iain

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What’s New for the 28th of January: Music by the Taraf De Haïdouks, Catherynne Valente & SJ Tucker’s ‘The Girl in the Garden’, Two Octavia E. Butler novels, June Tabor’s An Echo of Hooves and other nifty things

She who invented words, and yet does not speak; she who brings dreams and visions, yet does not sleep; she who swallows the storm, yet knows nothing of rain or wind. I speak for her; I am her own. ― Catherynne M. Valente‘s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AAhhh, there you are. Did you find something interesting to read in our Library? Ahhh, excellent … I first read that novel at least forty or so years ago… I was very happy I did so as it was a cracking good story! Quite a few of our staff join the book groups we do here each Winter with the most popular being The Hobbit and the book you choose is a perennial favourite as well.

MacKenzie, like all of our Head Librarians down the centuries, is justifiably quite proud of the rather impressive fiction collection here, but the best stories oft times are not contained within the pages of a novel or a story, but are those told where folks gather late in the evening when the fire grows low.

So enjoy the fire and have a drink of whatever your favourite libation though I’m recommend that you try the Teeling single pot Irish as it’s fantastic while I finish off this Edition for you to read.

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There’s a lovely Charles de Lint novel called The. Cats Of Tanglewood Forest that had its origin in a much shorter woak which Mia looks at here:’Prequel or stand alone fairy story, A Circle of Cats is a bewitching little book, much bigger inside than out, and a wonderful collaboration between two enormous talents. There’s a place of honor on my bookshelves for this one … when I can finally stop going back to it every little bit and actually bring myself to put it away.’ Oh and both are illustrated by Charles Vess!

There’s a bar in Medicine Road where the sisters play called A Hole in The Wall which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (with permission). It’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first modern fantasy to take full advantage of the myths of this region. Grey says of the latter novel that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

Robert brings us two reviews of works that also occupy places outside of what we’ve come to expect in fantasy and science fiction. The first is Octavia E. Butler’s Parables series: ‘The late Octavia E. Butler is one of those science fiction writers whose work can — and does — stand easily in the company of the very best “mainstream” literature being produced today. She is, I regret to say, another one whose novels I am only just discovering, and at this point I can’t think why I waited so long to investigate her writing: she wrote with power and authority and was one of those writers who brought the formal and stylistic tools of literary fiction into the service of some of the best genre writing available.’

He follows that with Butler’s Lilith’s Brood: ‘Octavia E. Butler, at the time of her emergence as a major voice in science fiction, was a rarity because she was a woman and she was African-American. In neither area was she unique, but the combination was. Lilith’s Brood, also known as Xenogenesis, has been called Butler at her best and for that reason alone would deserve a close look. There are, however, many reasons to look at these books closely, because they raise so many issues and operate on so many levels.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

Long time staffer Barb is back with us and she reviews one of her favourite bands: ‘Väsen, from Sweden, has been creating new tunes and re-imagining old ones for 28 years now. As Rob Simonds (founder/producer at Northside Records) states in the liner notes of this latest release, Brewed, “… they have done so continuously at the highest level, maintained their friendships, and kept their senses of humor and humility…”. This is the stuff you hear in their music whether it is a collection of their own creations, as in Brewed, or whether there are traditional tunes along with tunes written by others in the mix.’

Don’t ask us where Gary comes up with these things. This time it’s an album called Polygondwanaland, the fourth of five 2017 releases by an Australian band called King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. He says, ‘…if you ever liked anything by Jethro Tull or Pink Floyd or Deep Purple or ELO or King Crimson, you really should go to their website and download the files.’ That’s right, it’s a free download.

Gary reviews Sunny War’s With the Sun. ‘A young African-American woman who grew up in Nashville and Los Angeles and is now based in the lively Venice Beach, Calif., street scene, she’s a powerful and innovative guitar player and has a unique style of songcraft, too.’

Kim says of the debut album by Chris Thile which is Not All Who  Wander Are  Lost  that ‘This one is a cut above, folks, from a fine young player that has all the stuff it takes to become one of the greats as he matures.’ Chris is the host of Live from Here, the re-named and greatly changed show that was A Prairie Home Companion before Garrison Kellior’s self-inflicted fall from grace. If you like great Americana music, the show is well worth listening to.

Some recordings seem to me to be more in tune with the colder time of year and so it is with the Old Hag You Have Killed Me recording, which pleases Peter: ‘The Bothy Band’s second release was hailed by many as a ground breaking album. Irish music was to move forward in a different direction. It is hard to believe it was 33 years ago when listening to this album, as it sounds just as crisp as anything that might have been recorded today.’

Vonnie finishes off with a rather choice album by June Tabor: An Echo of Hooves has Tabor returning to what, in my mind, she does best, delivering ballads or songs that tell a tale. For this she has chosen eleven Medieval ballads. Some of them are very well-known, like “The Cruel Mother,” “Hughie Graeme,” “Sir Patrick Spens” and “Bonnie James Campbell”. Others are new to me.’

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‘Hora Moldovenesca’ is a splendid piece by the Taraf De Haïdouks to end on this Edition.  it’s from the Førde Traditional and World Music Festival 25th Anniversary Sampler. Taraf De Haïdouks is one of tHe favourite bands around here, so I’ll recommend you look at our reviews of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts which Donna reviewed here and Maskarada which she also reviewed.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Tunes

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AWhat happens is that the tune happens to you — you don’t happen to it. You can’t help it, because it’s not you, it’s the tune. Night after night, morning after morning, day after day, the tunes live inside your head. They sing themselves to you, they have their own life independent of yours, and when your life and their lives intersect, the minor, everyday magic that all musicians live for…happens.

You might first hear a tune out at a session, or on an eagerly-awaited new album, or at a performance. It weaves itself into your head, into your gut, into the spaces between the cells of your body. You may not even know it’s there, not for days, weeks.

And one day, while wholly occupied with something else, or just waking up in the morning, or last thing before dropping off to sleep, the tune sings itself to you — sometimes so softly you hardly know it’s there, sometimes in such an insistent, demanding way that there’s no mistaking that it wants your attention.

Sometimes it’s just a fragment, a phrase, or just one half of the tune. (At that point, it’s sometimes worth going out to find the tune rather than letting it find you, before the unresolved tune drives you to distraction.) Other times, the entire tune is whole and entirely itself, like Athena stepping fully formed from Zeus’s forehead.

Which is not to say it’s not best to double check that you’ve got the thing right; there’s any amount of tunes where it’s fairly obvious someone’s done what a friend calls a ‘cut and shunt’ — the A part of one tune grafted onto the B part of another — and it’s stuck to become an entirely different tune. (Last night, we played a tune and someone led the B part into a different phrase from another similar tune at the end of it…which was obvious when we turned it round to the A again, as everyone briefly wanted to go into the other tune; but never mind, we all did it together and every time we came to the phrase, so it probably didn’t matter much.)

They’re pretty much simple little things, these tunes. They’re a bit like nursery rhymes, repeating themselves and dangerously skirting a kind of musical doggerel, yet the best tunes form a complicated, fascinating tapestry from simple, plain threads.2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

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What’s New for the 21st of January: Mary Gauthier’s Rifles & Rosary Beads, Elizabeth Bear on chocolate truffles, some Roger Zelazny reviews, Music from Sufjan Stevens, Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series and other matters

Endings are rubbish. They’re only the place where you choose to stop talking. — The Narrator in Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACome in, we’re almost ready for you to read this edition, but first have a drink. As always, this edition’s just one of many going back decades, which is why you’ll find material that appeared quite some time back, say a review of a book still beloved but then still to come out when the review was written from a galley provided by the publisher.

Back then, all galleys of forthcoming books and preview CDs were physical, none of these services like NetGalley existed, which is why we got delivered to us all ten hardcover volumes of Tolkien’s The History of Middle-earth, or that Fairport Unconventional box set.

Oh, we still get many deliveries, but I‘ll frankly admit that I do miss the days when our Mail Room brownies here on this Scottish Estate sorted through the weekly postal delivery and put things into staff postal boxes based on their somewhat eccentric beliefs of what should go where. Now let’s see what piqued the interest of the editors this time…2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AFor your winter reading pleasure, we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets looked at by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Robert has a rather unusual book by Roger Zelazny — well, unusual for Zelazny, at least — Damnation Alley: ‘One of the key elements of Zelazny’s work was his complete disregard for the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream literature. Consider that, within a science fiction framework he frequently introduced mythological characters, not as mythic archetypes but as actual characters, and pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable stylistically within the genre into more widely accepted literary conventions. And, having said that, I’m faced with Damnation Alley, a novel from early in his career (1969) that seems, on its surface, to undercut my points.’

And more Zelazny, again from Robert, this time Creatures of Light and Darkness: ‘Among his other virtues, Roger Zelazny was as willing to experiment with narrative structures as he was with thematic content. This wasn’t a constant thing — most of his writings fit into a standard naturalistic narrative framework quite easily — but one catches glimpses in, for example, the “traveling” passages in Nine Princes in Amber. Creatures of Light and Darkness, published in book form in 1970, shows Zelazny at his most inventive, formally and thematically.’

Scott has for us a review of Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings, a book that has some serious flaws. Michael Perry’s book is a mixed bag for Scott: ‘Perry intends the book to serve as a reference to The Lord of the Rings, enabling the reader to get a better sense of what events happened simultaneously in the story, where in Tolkien’s writings a particular event is described, and a deeper appreciation of the structural coherence of Tolkien’s work. Untangling Tolkien generally succeeds in these regards, especially the latter; this book is essentially an exposition on Tolkien’s attention to chronological detail. Unfortunately, the book also gives every appearance of having been put together in great haste, as though the publishers were more concerned with releasing the book by a certain date than with presenting the best possible book.’

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Kage loved video with a fierce devotion that showed in her reviews, as we see here with her lead-in to the Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series that gleefully screwed historic accuracy royally in favour of a more entertaining story: ‘In the soul of every history geek, there is a hidden volume wherein are listed the names of History Geek Guilty Pleasures. Don’t try to deny it, fellow history geeks; you know it’s true.’

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A writer by the name Elizabeth found something very much to her liking in Dean’s Sweets: ‘Portland seems to me one of the quintessential New England seacoast towns. With its long streets of red masonry buildings and its quirky alleyways, coffee shops, and squares, it’s a fine place to spend a wandering day. It makes sense to me that one of the best local New England chocolates I’ve tried should make its home here.’

I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try. It’s Toiteach, which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain distillery. 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 whiskys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Bank’s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single malts ever done.
2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AMuzsikas’ The Bartók Album gets an appreciative look by Brendan, who also reviewed Bartok’s Yugoslav Folk Music which you’ll see connects intrinsically to this recording: ‘During a recent festival in celebration of the works of Béla Bartók — one of this century’s most important musical composers — at Bard College, the Hungarian tradition revivalist band Muzsikas discovered that many people were quite familiar with Bartok’s classical compositions while being quite ignorant of the Hungarian folk musical traditions that inspired much of those compositions.’

Of Many Languages, One Soul Gary notes that ‘If you at all like instrumental music from southeastern Europe, if you enjoy the sound and versatility of the clarinet, or if you just like wildly eclectic international music – personally, all three describe me – then this Balkan Clarinet Summit disc is a must-have.’

Gary also reviews a new album by American singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier. Rifles & Rosary Beads is a collection of songs co-written with service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their loved ones, through the auspices of a project called Songwriting With Soldiers.

An career-spanning tribute album to Captain Beefheart? Gary says Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas’s The World of Captain Beefheart is pretty good. ‘It’s great to hear these reverent but not by-the-numbers covers of Captain Beefheart tunes.’

Scott Allen Nollen’s Jethro Tull: A History of the Band, 1968-2001 gets a superb look-see by Kate: ‘Scott Allen Nollen has proven his devotion as a Tull fan in the countless miles travelled and the hours passed collecting details and interviewing band members and other associates. He has included nostalgic pictures of the band, some of which were borrowed from Ian Anderson, the often frenzied flautist who, despite some controversy, became the Fagin-like front man for the band. After ten long years of research, here is a comprehensive and entertaining story of the much misunderstood Jethro Tull. The authenticity is underlined by the thoughtful and honest foreword written by Ian Anderson himself.’

Robert picked Tummel’s Payback Time as his recommended recording  this outing: ‘Think about the band playing on while the Titanic goes down. Think of some of Joel Gray’s bitchier numbers in Cabaret. Think of Josephine Baker at her most outrageous taking Paris by storm. Think of a bunch of crazy Swedes with no inhibitions whatsoever getting together and letting everyone have it, right between the eyes. That might give an inkling of the tone of Tummel’s Payback Time.’
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Every s often we ask folks which work by Tolkien they liked best. Here’s how one writer, James Stoddard, responded: ‘Is this a trick question? The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece in so many ways. I recently listened to a reading of the trilogy on CD. Despite having read the book five or six times, I was amazed at how it kept my attention. Only the Council of Elrond chapter flags a bit for me. I see the work differently every time I read it. I thought Sam a silly fellow when I read the book as a fifteen-year-old; now his constant loyalty invariably moves me. But the best part of many excellent scenes is at the Crossroads–the thrown down head of the statue of the ancient king, garlanded with flowers, a single ray of sunlight shining on the shattered visage. ‘They cannot conquer forever,’ Frodo says, and my eyes always unexpectedly mist over. It is the book’s theme, captured in four words. Brilliant.’

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For this week’s Coda, Robert brings us a clip from an artist who was new to him — ‘Although,” he says, “I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more from him. I first ran across Sufjan Stevens in the soundtrack to Call Me By Your Name, in which he has three songs, two written for the film and one remix, which are compelling, to say the least — the combination of Stevens’ ethereal vocals and rich instrumentation, which seems to be a hallmark of his work, is immediately engaging. At the risk of introducing a spoiler, here’s ’Visions of Gideon,’ which closes the movie. I won’t say more, except to caution you to brace yourself.’

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 21st of January: Mary Gauthier’s Rifles & Rosary Beads, Elizabeth Bear on chocolate truffles, some Roger Zelazny reviews, Music from Sufjan Stevens, Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series and other matters