What’s New for the 9th of April: choice SF from Elizabeth Bear, live music from Midnight Oil, Ottoman tulips, a history of breakfast and buckdancers choice on other matters

Stars on our door, stars in our eyes, stars exploding in the bits  of our brains where the common sense should have been. — Angela Carter’s Wise Children

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The tulips such as the one in the vase on my desk here in the Estate Library are the predominant flowers this time of year as every Estate Gardener for the past three centuries has had a rather keen interest in them. The more recent ones are acquired by Gus, our Estate Head Gardener for three decades now, in trade with MacGregor, a fellow tulip enthusiast who goes to the Turkish tulip markets to get the much rarer heirloom tulips. Just don’t get Gus talking about tuplips unless you’re planning on being there quite awhile!

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

I’m off to the Kitchen as soon as I get this Edition done and  I suspect you’ll want to join me in heading for the Kitchen after you read and listen to our offering this time as Mrs. Ware and her talented staff are serving up just baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies with glasses of Riverrun Farm whole milk. Yes whole milk — bet you’ve never had that!

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I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon is given a review by Gary:  ‘Warren Zevon died in 2003, within a week of Johnny Cash. While he was nowhere near the cultural icon that Cash was, Zevon was one of the most important voices in popular music in the second half of the 20th century. That much was clear to me before, but it was brought home to me by this biography compiled by his ex-wife Crystal Zevon.’

Robert has some comments on a book by one of our favorite authors, Peter S. Beagle. In this case, he’s discussing The Innkeeper’s Song: “. . . [L]et me point out that I should, by now, know better than to expect anything in particular from Peter S. Beagle. There is only one The Last Unicorn, and only one “Come, Lady Death.” I should have expected something like The Innkeeper’s Song. . . .’

Robert also had a chance to go back and survey Elizabeth Bear’s first published novels, Hammered, Scardown, and Worldwired: ‘It’s rather odd, from my point of view, to be sitting here after an intensive course in the works of Elizabeth Bear and finally have a chance to consider her first published novels. . . . These were greeted by the usual accolades, which in Bear’s case were honestly earned and have been fully justified. . .

Vonnie looks at a novel by Patricia Mckillip, a favourite writer around here: ‘McKillip uses the sea in many of her books, but in Something Rich and Strange the sea is not only the setting and a metaphor for mystery and magic and change — the sea is the subject. The book begins with protagonists Megan and Jonah (how is that for an apropos name?) experiencing a sea change after a long winter during which their lives had settled into a routine dependent on the shore. But the sea brings ambiguity, too. Just as the sea has the power to transform the people and things near it, the characters slowly realize that humanity has the power to overwhelm the sea, defeat it and kill the life in it. Moreover, man is doing so.’

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Heather Arndt Anderson’s Breakfast: A History is Reynard says ‘an endlessly fascinating book such as this passage: ‘By the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1819, bacon and eggs had already become firmly fixed as a part of the everyday breakfast. Even among most of the English working class, bacon was ubiquitous; in fact, the only time it was not served was on sausage or ham day. See I how worked bacon into this review? What a history of breakfast be without bacon in it?’

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Robert has a look at one of those “superhero” comics populated by not-so-nice people: ‘I first ran across the work of John Ostrander in his collaboration with Gail Simone in Secret Six: Danse Macabre. I had my reservations, but now that I’ve read what may be considered the forerunner to that series, Suicide Squad: Trial by Fire, I’m ready to ascribe the failings of Danse Macabre to an off day.’

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David says of Warden Zevon’ album that it’s ‘not a masterpiece. Warren Zevon made a couple of those earlier in his career. But The Wind is a classy record, made by a guy who went out doing what he wanted to do. One last toast to Warren Zevon, who made sure that anyone who ever really heard him would keep him in their hearts.’

Donna looks at Up in The Air’s Moonshine and Gavin Marwick’s The Long Road and The Far Horizon: ‘ Gavin Marwick is a talented and prolific Scottish composer and fiddle player. He’s in or has been in bands including Cantrip, Bellevue Rendezvous, Journeyman, Iron Horse, Ceilidh Minogue and Up in the Air. I’ve seen him perform (with Cantrip) and reviewed his Bellevue Rendezvous outings. So of course I was happy to offer to review these two CDs when offered. I’m just sorry it took me so long to listen and write!’.’

Lars looks at the debut album from The Alt who cleverly named it The Alt: ‘Irish music comes in many forms, from the loud and boisterous to the soft and soothing, from the long slow ballads to the fast furious instrumentals. The Alt is a trio focusing on songs, only three of the eleven tracks are instrumental sets, and traditional material. No pipes, no fiddle, but plenty of guitar, bouzouki, that special wooden Irish flute and vocal harmonies. Their sound is much closer to the style set by groups like Sweeney’s Men, Planxty and Patrick Street, than the Dubliner-side of Irish folk.’

Robert has some thoughts on traditions and folklore as they related to a group of CDs presented to him as “Welsh music”: ‘The more I am exposed to the various traditions of the world’s art and music, the more I credit Joseph W. Campbell’s observations, from The Flight of the Wild Gander, on the processes of folklore: in spite of the urge to identify “national” traditions, folklore is inevitably the result of cultural cross-fertilization. Thus I can sit in my room and listen to the music of the Balkans or medieval Spain and Portugal and find echoes of Ireland and the Highlands.’

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Our What Not this time is  a Bright Young Folk interview with The Alt which they about their links with the States, recording their first album in North Carolina and of course about the album itself: ‘Nuala Kennedy, Eamon O’Leary and John Doyle – three of the finest Irish musicians around on the folk scene today – have joined forces to explore and celebrate together, Irish traditional music and song. Established musicians in their own rights, the trio now go by the name of The Alt and have recently released their début album – featuring a stunning collection of tunes and stories.’

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Midnight Oil is one of the most politically active groups you’ll ever have the pleasure to encounter provided that you like their politics as I very much do. And bloody good rock and roll and as well. I’ve not encountered many great boots of them as most have really shitty sound but I did find one. But ‘Blue Sky Mine’ and ‘Earth And Sun And Moon’ from an aoustic set at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Boston  on the 23rd of June, 24 years ago which is from a soundboard recording and sounds amazing.

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I'm the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library here in Kinrowan Hall if the Neverending Session is elsewhere. I'm a violinist too, so you'll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.
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