Welcome to GMR

If you haven’t encountered us before, read on; otherwise skip to the fortnightly edition which is up every other Sunday morning and which alternates with a Story on the other Sunday morning.

Everything that interests us as a diverse group of individuals will get attention here, be it Rock and RollIrish music, Nordic live music, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,  Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novels, action figures such as that of Spider-Man, the new Doctor Who series, fiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks

Stories about the Kinrowan Estate will show up every Wednesday, be it Gus the Estate Head Gardener talking about pumpkins; Reynard, our Manager of the Green Man Pub located in Kinrowan Hall, sharing stories; Zina on the Neverending Session and Midsummer as well; or even Iain, our Librarian, talking about life there such as the Several Annies, his Library Apprentices. You’ll see material from The Sleeping Hedgehog, the in-house newsletter for our staff, such as Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Estate Gardener here in the Victorian Era, on a tree spirit. You might even meet Hamish, one of the current hedgehogs living in the Library who sleep the Winter away in a basket near the fireplace in the New Library. And you’ll also get to hear music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album.

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What’s New for the 29th of November: A Very Special Cat, a River Journey, Breakfast, Tomb Raiders, Ultimate Pogues, Indonesian Pop, Beethoven, and more. . . .

We think of forgiveness as a thing. An incident. A choice. But forgiveness is a process. A long, exhausting process. A series of choices that we have to make over, and over, and over again. ― Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night: A White Space novel

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I’m having an afternoon meal of peppers, tomatoes and ground lamb rolled up in warmed up naan. The peppers and tomatoes are from our Conservatory built during the Victorian Era under the auspices of Lady Alexandra, the Estate Gardener, and a true blessing for fresh vegetables in the off-season. I’ve also got a pot of chai masala tea sitting on my work desk to be enjoyed as I listen to some sweet music from a group soon to be playing here.

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

Their music is a superb merging of Celtic and Bluegrass, something that might be Appalachian Trad, oh and more than a bit of Tex-Mex, so if you’ve heard  and enjoyed The Mollys, you’ll definitely like them. We’ve got them booked here for several contradances and a performance as well. Just for Estate staff, of course, given The Pandemic so it’s quite a treat. 

Now let’s get started on this edition…

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Cat says ‘The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is, after over forty years years of my reading works beyond count by Robert Heinlein, my favorite novel by him bar none. There are without doubt better written novels by Heinlein that stir strong passions in readers, say Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, both of which can cause otherwise sensible readers to start hissing and spitting at each over the perceived political and social commentary in those books, and let’s not even broach the matter of Stranger in A Strange Land as that work will really get the mojo rising in many readers!’

The Whovian Universe is vast and has grown increasingly complex over the fifty years that it’s been evolving. Torchwood was one of its spinoffs, the secret agency that fought alien invasions from its Cardiff base. He reviews their Torchwood India audio adventure and had this to say about it: ‘Golden Age is the story of Torchwood India and what happened to it. It is my belief that the best of all the Torchwood stories were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series.’

Cat continues with two novellas in a new series by Elizabeth Bear: ‘As I write this review just before Election Day, there have been but two novellas released in the fascinating Sub-Inspector Ferron series “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns” and “A Blessing of Unicorns”. I’m not sure how I came upon the first novella but it was a superb story, both in terms of the setting and in the characters that Bear has created here, including a parrot-cat called Chairman Miaow.’

Chuck notes that ‘I figure this much: Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road starts with a green man crossing the desert, so this has to be the perfect book for Green Man Review. OK, the book calls him a “greenperson,” and the desert is on a Mars of the future, transformed by mankind’s effort, but you get the idea. Trailing this greenperson is Dr. Alimantando. He comes to a place along a railroad, where, almost accidentally, he settles and starts the community that he names Desolation Road. Soon after, more people begin arriving and, in short order, the community becomes a village, a city, a war zone and a ghost-town — all within 23 Martian years. That’s the story.’

Kelly says ‘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.’

Richard looks at an Ian MacDonald novel which is set in the same reality as Desolation Road  and has a cautionary note as his first words: ‘You will know whether you will love or hate Ares Express long before you have finished the first chapter. The litmus test is very simple: what is your reaction to the name of the main character. If you find Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Assim Engineer 12th to be painfully twee or flat-out incomprehensible, then you will hate this book.’

Robert looks at the first book in a series for children — or young adults, perhaps: ‘Steve Augarde is a well-known British illustrator and author of children’s books. The Various, the first in a series, treats the adventures of twelve-year-old Midge, sent to stay with her Uncle Brian at the old family farm in Somerset while her mother Christine, a professional violinist, is on tour with the orchestra.’

He then takes us on a river journey, courtesy of Kage Baker: ‘The late Kage Baker was one of those admirably unpredictable writers whose stories never seemed to fit into any sort of mold, whether they were part of a series or stood alone. There is, though, a kind of magic in her storytelling that ties them all together, fully in evidence in The Bird of the River, a novel set in the universe of The Anvil of the World.’

Many of us here are fans of Holmes and Warner has a book about an actor whose considered one of the best film Holmes ever: ‘David Clayton’s The Curse of Sherlock Holmes: The Basil Rathbone Story is a look at a man defined by a character he felt was at best confining. Indeed given that Basil never really managed to recover the same level of star power once he left Sherlock Holmes for a while, one could argue it destroyed his career.’

His next review concerns the matter of pirates: ‘Life Under the Jolly Roger is an excellent look at the golden age of piracy from a somewhat political point of view. The book cites sources well, makes arguments cleanly and succinctly, and has the integrity to admit when an answer is not clear. While written from a radical point of view, Gabriel Kuhn’s book is easy to recommend to almost anyone looking at pirates from an academic point of view.’

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So speaking of food, I’ve a series that I think is properly Autumnal and full of fat and other things generally considered not good for you but ever so good for you this time of year. Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up the matter of thosei Two Fat Ladies whose DVD series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else, as I said,  that isn’t good for you. And funny as all Hell as well. Which the review is too. Remarkably they, or at least their ghostwriters, also produced at least a half dozen books off the series as well!

Stacy wrote this back in the days when she was running Sophia’s, a superb tea shop: ‘Considering it’s the most important meal of the day, restaurant owner Carrie Levin teaches us what breakfast should be in her new book, The Good Enough to Eat Breakfast Cookbook. After over 20 years at New York’s famous restaurant Good Enough to Eat, Levin generously opens her kitchen and shares her personal tricks of the trade with the home cook.

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So why do you wrap-up up a great SF series? ? Jayme yell us: ‘Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is a miniseries that never should’ve existed. That’s true on several levels. Firstly, there would never be a need to wrap up the major plot threads with a miniseries had the Sci-Fi Channel honored its commitment to produce a fifth season of the acclaimed space opera. But when Vivendi-Universal — the parent corporation at the time — ran into financial duress, its subsidiaries were ordered to cut costs, and contract or no, Farscape was toast. But TV series that die stay dead, as a rule. Sure, Star Trek had a revival, but that took more than a decade to come about. Battlestar Galactica wandered the syndication galaxy for 24 yahrens before it was brought back — ironically — by the Sci-Fi Channel. But a quirky, sexy, self-aware show populated by spacefaring muppets? Not a chance.’

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It’s not true that we like everything that we review here and Andrew proves that in looking at The Witchblade Compendium: ‘Some stories are merely bad — dull, uninspired, or simply misformed. Others are bad in entertaining ways — bad movies, outsider art, and demented pulp fiction. Some stories are so horrible that it’s physically painful to read them, such as the work of Rob Liefeld. And then there’s Witchblade.’ Ouch.

Cat looks at The Tomb Raider Compendium, another offering from the same publisher, Top Cow: ‘My, that was a great deal of truly fun reading! All fifty issues of the series, (1,248 pages!) including the covers for each individual issue, have been collected in a trade paper edition. Oh, did I mention the superb color? Or the fact that it is one of the sturdiest trade papers of this size I’ve encountered? Or that for a mere sixty dollars you will get hours and hours of really entertaining reading? What more can I say?’

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You’ll need to read Adam’s review to see why his statement here is not one he agrees with: ‘Mellowosity, the debut CD from the Scottish band the Peatbog Faeries, is wonderfully misleading in its packaging. A quick glance at the credits on the back reveals a synthesizer alongside all the usual traditional instruments (bodhran, fiddle, whistles, pipes, etc.). So this is another Corrs-type band, blending traditional Celtic songs with pop beats, right?’

Gary found a lot to like in Promise, the latest from New York-based ambient country band SUSS. What’s ambient country? ‘I call it beautiful, calming, comforting. With pedal steel, baritone guitar, ebow, harmonium, synths, loops and more, they conjure up the desert landscapes I’ve loved all my life.’

It’s that time of year again, Gary says, by which he means time for year-end lists. He listens to a lot of music, so this year he’s divided his lists up into some broad categories. First up is Gary’s favorite ‘world music’ of 2020.

Gary also has news of an upcoming album from the Finnish progressive folk band Gájanas. They’ve released the first single from the album, a dramatic number called “Diamántadulvvit (Floods of Diamonds).” He’s found a live video of the song, which they performed at the Ijahis idja Festival in Inari, Finland, in August 2020.

Kim looks at The Ultimate Collection from the Pogues: ‘And this music’s not just for the great hung-over masses, breathing tobacco and alcohol on morning commuters on the subway after a long session. I hadn’t listened to the Pogues all that much in recent years – an avocational hazard I guess — but after listening to both discs, I was seduced anew. I listened again. And again. I made excuses for why I couldn’t finish this review. I didn’t want to give it up. I played it at work. I played it at home. In between. It is really surprising how evocative this music is, even after all these years. I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time, a little smirk passes over my lips. I feel silly, taken in, like an old lady doting on a young lover. If it’s a joke, we’re all in on it.’

Robert brings us a collection that sheds new light on one of his favorite composers: ‘I first ran across the music of Arvo Pärt many years ago, in a coffee shop owned by a man whose taste in music was as eclectic as my own. It was the Passio, and I was intrigued enough that it was my beach music for the entire summer. (I think at the time it was the only work by Pärt available in the U.S. That’s how long ago it was.) That was then, this is now, and there is much more of Pärt’s music available, thanks in large part to record companies such as ECM, which brings us a new collection, The Deer’s Cry.

And then he has a look at Indonesiam popular music, courtesy of Uun Budiman and the Jugala Gamelan Orchestra’s Banondari: New Directions in Jaipongan: ‘Jaipongan is a newly designated Sundanese “traditional” form that incorporates elements of several other Indonesian forms of traditional dance theater, Sundanese gamelan styles, and even pancang silat, a traditional martial art, along with influences from Western rock and pop music.’

And then he comes back a little closer to home — or at least, more familiar territory for most of us, with a fresh reading of two concert-hall staples, Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 and 6:  ‘There isn’t much to be said about Beethoven: there he is, take it or leave it. It is doubtful that anyone had more influence on the music of the 19th century than he did — even the archenemies Brahms and Wagner both claimed Beethoven as their artistic forebear.’

On a somewhat quieter note, he has some thoughts on a collection of Beethoven’s Sonatas for Piano:  ‘The history of Western music is a history of exploration of forms. This statement is the end result of a chain of thought sparked by John Briggs’ comment, in his notes on Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23, the “Appassionata,” that Beethoven, at this point in his career, was self-confident enough to ignore “Haydnesque” traditions of form, noting that “he experimented tirelessly in all directions, as Haydn had done before him.”‘

Stephen has a CD for us that doesn’t actually exist: ‘So an unassuming little CD that (unusually) came my way by direct courtesy of Green Man‘s Chief Editor, Cat Eldridge. It’s a four-track ‘demo’ CD by an Australian band called Rambling House, whose membership (according to the booklet) comprises: ‘Paul’ (guitars, bodhrán), Sarah (vocals, flutes, whistles) and Mannie (bouzouki, mandolin, vocal). Normally, we don’t review ‘demo’ CDs, but both Cat and I were sufficiently excited to make an exception in this case. Why so? Well, ‘Paul,’ it transpires, is none other than Paul Brandon, author of Swim the Moon , a novel that’s very highly regarded at Green Man!’

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Cat has a select collection of Funko Rock Candy figures. Not action figures as they’re not at all posable. One is the Thirteenth Doctor figure that Denise reviewed here, but the rest are Marvel characters. One is the Spider-Gwen figure which was hard to find in her hooded appearance,  the Lady Thor figure which he thinks is the best of the ones he has acquired so far, the Captain Marvel figure for which he had to purchase a seperate figure of Goose, her cat. And then there’s the Hulkbuster which is just a little too cute to be a true representation of that machine.

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Let’s find something sprightly to listen to on this late Autumn day…  Ahhh that’ll do… Here’s De Dannan performing ‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’, a trad Irish reel which was first was collected in printed form by O’Neill in his Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies published in 1903. This version was recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, sometime in 1982 by the incarnation  of the band consisting of Jackie Daly on accordion, Alec Finn plying bouzouki and guitar, Frankie Gavin on fiddle and whistle with Colm Murphy playing the bodhran and Maura O’Connell providing the lovely vocals, which she amply demonstrates on ‘My Irish Molly’ from the same concert.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Designing Trolls

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Dear Anna,

Imagine an old forest witch, a crone with a cackle and gnarled hands. Well Justina did one of those when she was here the first time. Alas the Troll proved more elusive in design. Much more elusive. And of course, this troll was not the vision of just Justina, the potter, but instead was created on a collective basis.

There aren’t many descriptions of them in Old Norse and what exist are more intent on describing their personality as in the Prose Edda:

Troll kalla mik trungl sjǫtrungnis, auðsug jǫtuns, élsólar bǫl, vilsinn vǫlu, vǫrð nafjarðar, hvélsveg himins – hvat’s troll nema þat?

Which roughly translates as:

They call me a troll, moon of the earth-Hrungnir, wealth sucker of the giant, destroyer of the storm-sun, beloved follower of the seeress, guardian of the “nafjord”, swallower of the sun: What’s a troll if not that?

Other Old Norse sources note they are magical creatures with special skills, but that doesn’t say if that was good or evil. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s universe, trolls are large humanoids of great strength and poor intellect.

What they found with the help of Iain, who called on what he calls L-Space to ask private estate librarians in Norway to dig deep into their archives for folk material not commonly accessed by folklorists, was that they are dark and slow of movement and covered with a tangle of foliage, like a forested mountain brought to life. Now this of course added a whole new level of complexity to this project as most trolls under the bridge projects use a smooth looking design with almost no fine work. Justina, however, noted this actually made the project easier as the leaves, moss and such would make hiding the seams easier.

The first step was what is called a one sixth scale model of the troll-to-be. Now keep in mind that no one expected Justina to work full-time on this so she danced a lot, gossiped in the pub while listening to the Neverending Session, spent hours reading in the Library, taught the Several Annies (and anyone else interested) basic and advanced pottery.

That model went through, I think, at least a dozen iterations before it was considered right by just about everyone present here this Winter. It was indeed leafy, mossy, and similar to what one of Tolkien’s Ents might have looked like if it was far more stocky and a great deal shorter. (One of the models now lives in a museum in the home city of the Norwegian Several Annie who got the project going; Justine took one with her; and four got sold by us on behalf of her.) And so the project stood until after Candlemas as we agreed no one should would work on it during the Winter Holidays.

And that’s where I’ll leave the tale for now, as Chasing Fireflies, the contradance band that I’m calling for this coming weekend, wants to go over the list of dances they’re considering. Gossip has it that they’ve been intensely interested with the dances of John Garden, the Australian composer and Jane Austen scholar, so it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve come up with!

Affectionately, Gus

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What’s New for the 15th of November: Alternate Histories, Arthur Redux, Seafood, Teenage Superheroes, Music — Traditional and Not, Rodents, and more. . . .

So much of who we are is what we remember and retell.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire

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Yes I’m covered with kibbles and bits of straw. It’s the time of year that we make new scarecrows, bodach ròcais in Scots Gaelic, to replace the ones created the previous Autumn, as they only last a single growing season. No, they don’t go out until Spring but the straw’s available now and the Several Annies assist in the creation of them. There’s a minor magic placed upon them to keep the mice from eating them; besides, the Estate cats are very good at keeping the mouse population way down.

Give me a few minutes to get clean clothes on and I’ll serve you. 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 Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single malts ever done. Banks, of course, is the author of The Culture series and I’ll refer you to Gary’s review of The Hydrogen Sonata for a look at that series. 

oak_leaf_fallen_colored2Cat leads us with alternative history novel, The Peshawar Lancers, in which the British Empire decamps to India: ‘The much more Indian than English culture is a brilliant re-visioning of British history that reads like vintage Poul Anderson, particularly his Dominic Flandry series. It features rugged heroes — male and female — vivid combat scenes, exotic locales, and truly evil villains. Hell, it even has Babbage machines, the great analytical engines that Sir Charles Babbage never built but which also play an important role in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine.’

Speaking of which, Cat follows up with a look at The Difference Engine itself: ‘Steampunk is a relatively recent genre that mixes the image of a cyberpunk dystopia with the technology and culture of the Victorian Empire. I thought it was a fairly common motif, but it appears not to be as I can find very few other novels with this motif. With The Difference Engine, these two leading cyberpunk authors have joined together to produce an alternate history novel.’

Gary reviews The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel’s final book in her Cromwell trilogy. He says he found it ‘nearly as dark and difficult to get through for this reader as it was for Cromwell himself. I mean, okay, I wasn’t dead at the end of it, but I felt wrung out long before the final pages.’

Another novel Gary looks at in this review is set in a richly imagined future India, Ian Mcdonald’s River of Gods. And it’s a bloody good read as well: ‘You can hold whole universes in your hand, between the covers. And as with those old faery tales, you need to pay attention to books like River of Gods. They contain important truths, hidden inside entertaining stories.’

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.’

Jack has a look at Warren Dotz, Jack Mingo and George Moyer’s Firecrackers: The Art & History which he says ‘brings the tale of these fiendish devices to life, from their apparent invention in China to their current use in celebrations such as the aforementioned Fourth of July. The first full-color book ever published which includes the art of firecracker labels through the ages, Firecrackers: The Art & History is a major achievement in me opinion.’

Robert brings us the first two novels in Elizabeth Bear’s The Promethean Age. He begins his review of Blood and Iron with some thoughts on where fantasy has gone in recent years: ‘One of the freshest and most interesting developments in fantasy literature over the past decade or two has been the emergence of what I tend to call “contemporary fantasy.” Known also as “urban fantasy” or sometimes “mythic literature,” it combines the trappings and motifs of classic fantasy and sometimes horror with a modern-day, usually urban milieu. It also moves freely into other genres. Call it fantasy’s answer to cyberpunk: it has that kind of fluidity and, more often than not, that kind of hard-edged, dark vision.’

Of the second, Whiskey and Water, he notes: ‘The nice thing about reading the first volume to a really good new fantasy series is that when you reach the end, you know the story’s not over. The nice thing about getting your hands on the second volume is that now the waiting is over.’

Warner starts off with a mystery for us: ‘The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne provides an interesting mystery and characters, and even curious objects. Moments come when characters seem utterly irredeemable, yet the difference in time and their parts in the story easily account for these. Overall, an easy book to recommend to fans of Elsa Gary’s work, and fans of the historical mystery novel in general.’

He has a novel with a fresh take on Arthurian legends: ‘Lavie Tidhar produces perhaps his best novel in By Force Alone. It is a re-interpretation of the Arthurian legend by a man who is not only very familiar with politics but also a massive geek. He produces a rush through of various events, major and minor, putting a new spin on the classic saga which includes swearing, drug dealing, a disturbing Merlin, and the most licentious sexual elements.’

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Asher proclaims ‘Here is a tale of human folly — “Whatever the cost, do it”. Of a noble dream – “One land, one king!” Of magic – “Can’t you see all around you the Dragon’s breath?” Of its passing – “There are other worlds. This one is done with me.” And of memory – “For it is the doom of men that they forget.” Excalibur is arguably the most exciting film version of the myth of Arthur to date.’

Grey looks at a Terry Gilliam film: ‘The Fisher King is a modern fairy tale after the pattern of stories by authors of urban fantasy like Charles de Lint. Like de Lint, scriptwriter Richard LaGravenese gives us a story in which an indentured servant and a victim of the urban jungle are redeemed by a traditional quest, by their acceptance of roles which echo some of the deepest archetypes from our collective human myths. In this story, those archetypes are the wounded king and the holy fool. However, we also see that in this redemptive quest, the heroes must play both roles to find their Grail.’

oak_leaf_fallen_colored2Shall we talk about some rather delicious  seafood?

So let’s first sample some of Denise’s commentaries, to wit Aldi’s Hot Smoked Salmon,  Bar Harbor All Natural Smoked Wild Kippers and Trader Joe’s Boneless Skinless Mackerel in Sunflower Oil. Oh ymmm!

And now how about something hot and filling for the cold weather we’re having? Jennifer has her Thick Thai-style seafood chowder for a cold day, a fantastic sounding meal indeed! If that’s doesn’t tickle your fancy my I suggest her Quick-n-Dirty Crab ‘n’ Corn Soup instead? Or if you’re really looking to up your cholesterol and have a fancy for south-of-the-border spice hiding under a comfy-cozy layer of cheese and corn mush, try her Spicy cheesy polenta with chorizo.

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Robert brings us a look at one of Marvel’s crossover series that turned out much better than the average: ‘Marvel’s crossover series, Civil Wars, has offered up at least one gem: the Young Avengers & Ruanways volume.’

That volume piqued his interest in another series: ‘After reading Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways, I decided that Young Avengers was one series I definitely wanted to follow up on. It was worth it.’

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Alistair has some rather fine Celtic music for us: ‘Bonnie Rideout has been reviewed in these pages before. At that time, reviewer Stephen Hunt described her compilation album Scottish Reflections, her ninth on the Maggie’s Music label, as “brilliantly conceived.” Celtic Circles, issued in 1994 and her second solo recording, illustrates how consistently high her standards of musicianship, research, and arrangement have been from the beginnings of her recording career.’

Ensemble Karot’s Traditional Songs of Armenia, Volume 1 say Big Earl Sellar is ‘ This is a fine disc of vocal music from the middle European East. With great singing and great presentation, Ensemble Karot present their Armenian musical heritage in a wonderful light. Though not entirely spell-binding, this is a decent a cappella disc.’

‘As we all know, 2020 has been a trying year in so many ways, but it has been one of the best years for music in my recent memory,’ Gary says. ‘And Brooklyn Raga Massive’s In D touches me as deeply as anything in this extraordinary music year.’

Gary also reviews Lost Ships, a new offering from Albanian-Swiss singer Elina Duni and British guitarist Rob Luft. ‘It’s great to have a new Elina Duni album as we head into the cold and dark and damp of winter, especially one that gives us such grounded optimism.’

Kim has some some tasty Welsh music for us: ‘Carreg Lafar ‘s second album, Hyn, combines great vocals and tasteful arrangements of Welsh traditional music, along with some nice originals, in a mix that seems slightly medieval and mysterious, while at the same time anchored with contemporary folk sensibilities.’

Lars has some more such music for us: ‘Delyth Jenkins’ album Aros is about as Welsh as an instrumental album can be. She is no newcomer, having played professionally for 25 years. This is her third solo album, with another two recorded with her first group Cromlech and three with her next group Aberjaber.’

Robert, as seems to be a habit with him, takes us somewhat out of our usual musical haunts with a look at a masterpiece of twentieth-century music, namely Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice: ‘Many consider Benjamin Britten the most important British composer since World War II; indeed, some think him the most important since Henry Purcell. Although often thought an uneven composer, most writers in the area concede that his operas Peter Grimes, Billy Budd, and Death in Venice are among the greatest works in twentieth-century British music.’

From there, Robert takes a look at some nineteenth-century romanticism in Jan Vogeler’s The Secrets of Dvorák’s Cello Concerto: ‘Antonín Dvorák began a cello concerto in 1865, but left it, among other reasons because he claimed that the cello was insufficient as a solo instrument. The composer finally wrote a concerto for the cello in 1894, while Director of the National Conservatory in New York. History says that he attended two performances of a cello concerto by a faculty member of the Conservatory and was inspired finally to write one of his own. (The faculty member, by the way, was Victor Herbert.)’

Stephen has some Nordic music music that I think you’ll like: ‘Annbjorg Lien is a Norwegian composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and singer, who occupies an artistic space where clumsy attempts at easy definition are irrelevant. With Baba Yaga,  she’s created a music in which traditional fiddle tunes are pop songs, string quartets are folk dancers, electronic rhythms are an element of symphonic composition and the sound of human breathing is both rhythm and melody.’

Vonnie finishes out our music with a look at a darkly tinged album: ‘An Echo of Hooves has June 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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Our What Not this week are four rodent puppets from Folkmanis. First up is Denise with the Mouse in Pumpkin puppet: ‘All hail the spice! Pumpkin everything is the rule of the day this time of year, and I’m all for it. Give me my pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pies,spicy roasted pumpkin, and pumpkin crumble. And okay, a PSL or two while we’re at it, though I’m more a Chestnut Praline Latte gal myself. So when Folkmanis decided to indulge my love of the orange squash, my grabby hands eagerly shot out. And I’ve been snuggling with this adorable puppet ever since.’

Our next one this outing is the Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet that got overlooked when it came in so Reynard gives it a review now: ‘I’ve no idea when it came in for review, nor do I know how it ended up in the room off the Estate Kitchen that houses the centuries-old collection of cookbooks, restaurant menus and other culinary related material, but I just noticed a very adorable white mouse puppet holding a wedge of cheese in its paws there. Somebody had placed it in a white teacup on the middle of the large table so I really couldn’t overlook it. ’

Next is one reviewed by 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.’

He finishes off our reviews with a succinct note on this puppet: ‘The entry for the Mini Brown Mouse Finger Puppet at Folkmanis’ website reads: “The Folkmanis Mini Brown Mouse finger puppet is a pocket pet perfect to surprise your unsuspecting friends.” I see it.’

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Our Coda is ‘The Sleeping Warrior’ by the Scottish sort of trad group Iron Horse which was recorded on a April evening twenty two years ago at the Gosport Easter. I think it captures the band at its very best. If you want a second tune by them, give a listen to ‘Black Crows and Ravens’ which was recorded at the same festival.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Kedgeree

oak_leaf_fallen_colored2I had an exemplary kedgeree for my breakfast this morning along with a lovely lapsang souchong tea. Now if you’re reading this in the States, you might be puzzled as to what I ate. And when you hear what it is, you might well say that kedgeree doesn’t sound like a breakfast dish ‘tall!

Kedgeree, as prepared by Mrs. Ware and her kitchen staff here at Kinrowan, is a dish comprised of curried rice, smoked salmon and chopped eggs with a splash of cream as well.  On a cold, blustery morning such as we’re having here in the middle of November, since I promised Gus that I’d be part of the crew cleaning up the nearby grounds, it is bloody fine comfort food.

It’s considered a traditional British breakfast dish but its roots are in East Indian, cooking having started its life as khichari, a simple dish of rice and lentils. Due to the British Raj and the colonization of the sub-continent the, dish was adapted and turned into something more suited to those Brits serving in India, and it returned to Britain with them during the Victorian era.

Notice that I said we make it here using smoked salmon, specifically applewood smoked salmon. The salmon comes from the river that runs through our Estate and it works just fine. I Should note that our Kitchen doesn’t use sultanas, though some cooks do. Ours is also quite a bit more spicy than the somewhat milder version most Brits prefer.

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What’s New for the 1st of November: A Space Opera That’s Not, Earthsea Illustrated, Rhubarb, A Zombie Romance, Live Tull, Live Fiddles, and more. . . .

There’s this moment, when you’re sure you’re about to die, and then you’re born. It’s terrifying. Right now, I’m a stranger to myself. There’s echos of who I was and a sort of call towards who I am. And I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts, shape myself towards them. — The Thirteenth Doctor in ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth‘

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It is early November, which means the weather has lost whatever warmth early Autumn had. All the Russian design fireplaces in Kinrowan Hall are on for the season, to the gratitude of everyone here. The Kitchen is preparing a classic Autumn evening meal of beet and tomato salad with sour cream, beef stew with mushrooms, American-style biscuits, and a dark chocolate raspberry tart with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

I can hear the wind-driven sleet hitting on the windows, so I’ll limit my wandering to the inside of Kinrowan Hall, but first I think I’ll sit down in the Kitchen, get some breakfast — a bacon cheddar bap and a big mug of Darjeeling tea with cream will do — and watch what’s going on there.

I see a book Reynard reviewed, Big Book of Bacon, is now sitting on Mrs. Ware’s corner desk. I think he got it from her so it’s come full circle. And I see several bottles of our Kinrowan Special Reserve Pear Cider on her desk with a note from our Steward that they’re to be packaged up and sent to Riverrun Farm in appreciation for their providing honey for our ciser (half cider, half mead) bottling this year.

Hmmm… I spot a copy of Sleeping Hedgehog that has a loving look at a recent book, Children’s Games in Street and Playground by Ioan Opie, the British folklorist who we’ve reviewed here. Been meaning to read our copy of that work.

Oh, I do have a link for you — Time magazine under the capable editorship of N.K. Jemisen, the first author to have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years, for all three novels in a trilogy, has stitched together the best one hundred fantasy novels of all time. It’s already been attacked by conservatives as being anti-white male, so you know it’ll be interesting.

Ahhhh, I see they’re discussing how many American style buttermilk biscuits they’ll need with that beef stew for the eventide meal. And I see one of my Several Annies, Rebekah, is being asked by Mrs. Ware if she’d like to join her staff when she gets done with her Estate, errr, Library apprenticeship in two years. She’s the one who introduced us to wonderful Jewish baked treats. Oh, and I see that someone has been mushroom hunting, so the beef stew will have these tasty morels in it. Barrowhill beef is always a treat no matter how it’s used.

Now let’s get started with this edition…

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Cat really loved Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, Book One of the Teixcalaanli Empire series: ‘To say more about this not-a-space opera would spoil it. The improbable friendship that forms between our Ambassador and her Imperial liaison is still intact at the end of this first book, but I’m sure it’ll be tested in the second. It’s a wonderful novel that’s a great start of a hopefully long series. The setting, the characters and even the story feel fresh, quite unlike the usual riff on interstellar empires. It certainly doesn’t hurt that many of the characters are women and they are quite capable at what they do.’

He next has a collection with an an interesting premise: ‘Now we can add to the list of great Sf and fantasy pub tales  this Larry Niven collection, The Draco Tavern, which collects all of the previously printed Draco Tavern tales, with a few new pieces thrown in for a bit of value added like all the extras we get on DVDs these days.‘

Chris has a lovely book for us,  The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition: ‘Saga Press has released Ursula LeGuin’s collected Earthsea works, beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. This collection includes the original trilogy: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971 ) and The Farthest Shore (1972), as well as the novels in which LeGuin revisited the trilogy, Tehanu (1990) and The Other Wind (2001), which conclude the saga many years after the events of the originals. Also included are Tales from Earthsea, LeGuin’s 2001 collection, and four other stories, including the never before published “Daughter of Odren.” Her illuminating essay, “Earthsea Revisioned,” which she delivered as a lecture in Oxford in 1992, is also here, along with an introduction from the author. In short, this giant of a volume includes everything you need to know about Earthsea, and it’s a delight to see it all collected in one place.’

Robert takes us through Roger Zelazny’s last novel,Lord Demon: ‘Roger Zelazny is one of the few writers in any genre that I think honestly deserves the sobriquet “visionary.” My first contact with Zelazny was “A Rose for Ecclesiastes,” first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1963 with the best cover I had ever seen. It is still a brilliant and haunting story. By the time “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” won the Nebula award in 1965, Zelazny was a major noise in the genre.’

He goes on to look at another book that might leave you scratching your head, Gene Wolfe’s Castleview: ‘I think one thing the reader must keep firmly in mind when reading anything by Gene Wolfe is that Wolfe likes to play with your head — and he seems to have developed an admirable store of ways to do it.’

Warner looks a classic: ‘Robert Jordan’s The Eye of The World (30th Anniversary Edition) brings an impressive new copy of a classic volume of fantasy to readers. Like many anniversary editions, this volume includes not only the classic book but also a number of little details that make it a good get. As with any book new or old, the question of quality overall remains.‘

Next he has another great story for us: ‘Christopher Paolini is known for having started the Eragon series when he was quite young, and falling into a startling amount of success with it. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars represents not only his first novel targeted towards adults, but a shift to science fiction from what was previously a well-known fantasy author. The result is strikingly different from his previous work, a risky wndeavor for a man with a existing fan base.’

He finishes off our reviews with a collection from a master storyteller: ‘Jane Yolen’s The Midnight Circus is an appropriately titled collection of down of her darker stories, featuring sad endings. Disturbing implications, and utter beauty. While almost all qualify as dark, other genre’s they might be seen as range a gamut of genre’s, and more than one deals with the perils of actual historical events, albeit often in a somewhat fantastical way.’

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Denise digs into Chocolats Passion’s Dark Chocolate Skulls; she says it’s a tribute to Day of the Dead, but we have a feeling her review has more to do with delicious chocolate. ‘I’ll try my best to keep the last two bites for later…but I make no promises. They’re here, they’ll have to understand my willpower is nonexistent. Their lives are forfeit.’

Remember rhubarb? That huge tropical-leafed plant in your grandmother’s garden with red, red stems, and you chew the stems and your mouth goes dry for the next three days? Jennifer reviews Red Ass Rhubarb wine and gives us a recipe for dark chocolate mousse to eat with it.

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Robert brings us a look at a film that’s more than a little appropriate for the Day of the Dead — a romantic comedy featuring zombies: ‘I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies when I had gone to see something else, and thought “Cute, but probably not something I’ll want to see.” Well, I was looking to kill a couple of hours and discovered that it was at my favorite theater — 15 minutes away, cheap admission for early shows. So I went.’

And another film that’s more than a little fantastic. Says Robert: ‘The films of Guillermo del Toro have often dealt with innocence in a corrupt world; sometimes the innocence is found in surprising places, as in Hellboy, in which a demon becomes a savior. He also plays with the idea of redemption through transformation in such a way that the concept becomes almost Wagnerian in scope. And in Pan’s Labyrinth, he hinges these ultimately profound themes on a child’s belief in fairy tales.’

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Cat has some horror for us in a DC series: ‘Gotham By Midnight centers around Precinct Thirteen, the GCPD Detailed Case Task Force. It’s just a handful of personnel — a Catholic sister and a forensics expert, both consultants, a GCPD Lieutenant, and of course, Jim Corrigan aka The Spectre. But this is not The Spectre as traditionally depicted in flowing robes and such with a hooded cloak. No, this is a much horrifying Spectre — one that lives just within the skin of Corrigan who himself is far less handsome than he was in the DC Showcase I previously reviewed. Of course, this is Corrigan in the dark nights of Gotham City, not the sunny vistas of Los Angeles.’

oak_leaf_fallen_colored2Deborah really loved this recording: ‘Okay, I’m in love. Electric sitar! Bliss! No, seriously. Not hyperbole: it’s love. I’m replaying one of my happiest discoveries in a season of catch-as-catch-can, the Strangelings CD, Season of the Witch. And yes, that’s Donovan’s classic song, as redolent of the 1960s as anything short of “Purple Haze” could possibly be. The first three songs on the CD are covers, and they all work. Hoo.’

Gary tells us about a new record from an old soul, Felix Hatfield’s False God: ‘Hatfield is a remnant of the “old weird” Northwest, and his music – lyrics, delivery, arrangements and all – has that rough around the edges feel to it.’

Gereg says of a CD he reviewed before the artist passed on that ‘Let’s start with the obvious. David Bowie is a genius. Musician, composer, actor, and mime, his versatility is always impressive. He defined — and very nearly created — glitter rock; he was the first white man inducted into the Soul Hall of Fame; he narrated a superb version of Peter and the Wolf; his film performances have ranged from Pontius Pilate to the Goblin King to the most alienated alien in cinematic history.’ So now you’ll need to read his review of David Bowie: Rare and Unseen to see why it left him rather underwhelmed.

Kage and Kathleen have a look at Jethro Tull’s Live at Montreux 2003. ‘Montreux is no longer just about jazz. However, if you like jazz but are in the dark about rock and roll… . no, there is no Jethro in Jethro Tull — the group was named long ago for an 18th century agronomist. Even if you are totally befuddled about rock, you may well recognize Ian Anderson, the lead singer, lead writer and — well, leader: he’s the cold-eyed Scottish flautist who has been fronting the band (mostly standing on one foot) for the last 40 years.’

Lars has an in-depth look at two recent British folk recordings: ‘Both bands have fairly recently released new albums. Steeleye’s ”Est’d 1969” came in time for their 50th anniversary tour last autumn. Fairport’s ”Shuffle and Go” was released early this year, to be sold at the group’s traditional British winter tour. These albums show to illustrate how the bands have moved in different directions.’

Robert starts off with something traditional, more or less: ‘When our Editor and Publisher (also known as “the Chief”) first broached the idea of my reviewing a Blazin’ Fiddles release, I was hesitant. “A whole orchestra?” said I. “Of fiddles?” (Well, that’s what he said it was.) Somehow I knew it wasn’t going to be Henry Mancini.’

He then brings us something a little off the beaten track — Down the Track’s Landscapes (see what we did there?): ‘There is, in the history of “classical” music a — call it a “genre” — of what is known as “program music” going all the way back to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (at least), and including works by such luminaries as Richard Strauss (who can forget Also Sprach Zarathustra?), Hector Berlioz, and even Beethoven (Symphony No. 6, the “Pasorale”, with a really spectacular summer storm). It was with that in mind that I approached a new album by Down the Track, Landscapes.’

And he goes even farther afield with D1V1N1T1’s Terra Divina: ‘I’ve encountered several collaborations between Canadian musician Tim Clément and other artists. . . . Clément’s latest effort is a collaboration with Ben Watson; calling themselves D1V1N1T1, the two have created Terra Divina, which they describe as “a balanced exploration of what the external world offers our soul and the introspective space of our individual acquiescence.”‘
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As we bid October farewell, we don’t leave behind holidays. In fact, one is upon us this very day. Día de Muertos (more commonly known in the US as Dia de los Muertos), the Mexican All Saint’s Day/Day of the Dead, is a celebration of our loved ones who have passed away. Remembering them, celebrating them, and gathering together is a beautiful way to recognize those who have come before us. While the pandemic may make large gatherings difficult, it’s easy to have a bit of a celebration by yourself. Me? I’ll be thinking about friends and family that I love but are no longer here, enjoying the beautiful colors of marigolds, lighting a candle or two, and perhaps making a toast with some tequila. May you and yours – both here and on other planes – have a lovely start to this month.

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Now let’s have some music to finish out this edition. It’s Northumbrian piper and fiddler Kathryn Tickell performing   ‘The Pipes Lament’, a tune written by her, which was recorded at the Shoreditch Church, London on the 15th of June a decade, should do nicely. Tickell, by the way, connects indirectly to Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel as smallpiper Janey Little in the novel lists Northumbrian Bill Pigg as one of her inspirations to become a musician, something that Tickell also adknowledges.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: All Hallows’ Eve

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Gus, here. All Hallow’s Eve is less than a week away, and the Staff is deep in preparations. Mind you, a lot of those are just fun and games: putting up decorations and scurrying around with secret costume plans. Some of the more inventive around here won’t be able to move for the weight of their guisings on the night itself. Those who are already done are creeping about vying for dibs on copies of Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads – we’re giving them away this coming month, and they are the most anticipated Treat in the place: a entire book/bag of bittersweets by the likes of Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman.

It’s a busy month in the gardens, but I am leading from the rear at the moment; sitting here and watching the main courtyard, wondering if the great oak there is going to win this year’s contest with my lads pruning deadwood. Our esteemed cook  Mrs. Ware has requested my feedback, as it were, on an experimental batch of triple Brie and fig scones for the annual Halloween feast, and it’s my pleasure to sit and give it my deepest attention. That woman brings inspiration to a plate of crackers and cheese; what she does to a risen dough enters the realm of the sacred …

For the Kitchen Staff, Reynard’s Tap Crew, and for my own lads in the garden, there’s a lot of real work leading up to Samhain celebrations. Mrs. W. is, as I said, already cooking: she’s been laying aside a veritable treasure trove of pickles, relishes, butters, marinades, sauces, curds, creams and other culinary conceits — when the freshly baked and just roasted masterpieces hit the tables, they will be accompanied by her usual astonishing condiments. Do you fancy pork roast rolled in leeks and apples, with whipped sweet potatoes in a cognac sauce? And new bread? Well, plan to move fast when it’s served, then, because so do I.

Reynard, of course, is both laying in appropriate potables and fretting over the batches brewed here specifically for All Hallow’s. All this month he’s been serving Headless Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Halloween Ale in the Pub. Come try a pint, but be careful! I’m told the name is not only seasonal, but a fair warning of the effects of over-indulgence. And there are the porters, the stouts, the dark brews like liquid bread that are required for this holiday; the cider and perry and aged brandies to keep off the growing chill and light the holiday bonfires in us all.

The Endless Session has been having night ceilidhs in the gardens, before the nights get too cold and they retreat to the Pub for the winter. Autumn evenings the wind rises in the woods, and gives the music in the courtyards a special pace and chorus … the secret’s in the pruning, of course, though I doubt the Session has figured that out. But I go out and do the trimming myself, tuning the oaks like an Aolian harp, so their voices will be clear on All Hallow’s night.

Most of all, though, my lads and I are responsible for the bonfires. No one cuts wood in my gardens except me and mine, and at this time of year I’m just as particular about the fallen wood as I am about the trimmed. That wood’s been gathered and stacked with great deliberation, you know. The Halloween bonfires have to be carefully planned, and meticulously built; I daresay the mix of firewood I use is as complicated as Mrs. Wares’ pumpkin butter or Bjorn’s Samhain Stout. It needs a particular scent, a notable stamina and even special colour … which is why that one oak has to be pruned just so. The eastern boughs have seen soaking up the salt mist and should burn like tourmalines. It will make the perfect King Log … if that fool Andrew doesn’t hang himself with that guy rope!

Hi! Look sharp, lads! What are you about? We don’t do that anymore…

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What’s New for the 18th of October: It’s Late October So Some Halloween Matters and Not So Halloweenish Matters as Well

To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due. –Hob Gadling’s toast in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season of Mists

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It’s quite cold and blustery here on this Scottish Estate so we’re all thankful that the Fey provide the lighting for the exterior pumpkins as candles of a conventional nature wouldn’t stay lit at all. But the lighting of a supernatural nature is perfect. We here on the Estate will be celebrating by attending a concert by the Neverending Session  in which they perform Halloween music, both classical such asDanse Macabre’ and  more contemporary tunes such as ’The Great Pumpkin’ and one by the Red Clay Ramblers, ‘The Pumpkin Dance’.

Roast pumpkin soup with smoked ham, sourdough rolls shaped like skulls courtesy of an idea by a Several Annie decades ago, Indian-spiced veggie hand pies and nutmeg pumpkin ice cream will be our eventide meal tonight which will be perfect for working off when we have an evening contradance by Chasing Fireflies In the Great Hall which tonight is Ingrid, my wife who’s our Steward, on hand drums, Bela, our Hungarian violinist, Finch, one of our barkeeps, on Border smallpipes and Iain, our Librarian on violin.

Now let’s turn to our more or less Halloween-centric edition. To start things off, how about a lovely reading of ‘Halloween‘ by Robert Burns? It’s a poem perfect for the season, and read by David Hart with just a wee touch o’ the brogue. As for the rest of the haunts in this issue? Oh I think you’ll find much to check out later. I think there’s even going to be some food and drink of a Halloween nature courtesy of, well, let’s keep that a secret …

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So how about a Day of The Dead set story that involves a small town mechanic called Grace who discovers the man she loves is dead? And that she can cross over when the veils are thin to see him? Such is the premise of Charles de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace which Cat notes that ‘It is a perfect introduction to de Lint, as it doesn’t requite you to have read anything else by him at all, but gives you a good feel for what he is like as a writer, as it has well-crafted characters, believable settings, and a story that will hold your interest. And it is a novel that you will read again to get some of the nuances that get missed in the first reading.’

Cat brings us a full-cast audiobook production of a landmark graphic novel: ‘It’s hard work to adapt the Sandman graphic series to another medium, but I’ll say that Audible, with the participation of the author as the narrator, has done it most excellently.  It’s a full cast production with the usual exceedingly high production value that I’ve come to expect from Audible. This is the second Gaiman audio-drama that I’ve listened to recently as I experienced the recent BBC production of Neverwhere as well, which I highly recommend.  And I recommend this as well, as long as you’ve got a strong stomach, as this is a dark fantasy with more than a touch of horror.’

Cat next looks at Smoking Mirror Blues, a novel by Ernest Hogan. Cat says of it that ‘In the very near future, the citizens of Los Angeles are preparing to celebrate Dead Daze, a bacchanalian rave of a holiday that’s an over-the-top merging of All Hallows Eve, the Mexican Day of the Dead, and Mardi Gras. The reawakened Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, riding the body of a human, is feeling quite well, thank you! And let’s not forget that the Day of the Dead, which forms part of Dead Daze, is at its heart a time when the barriers between the dead and the still-living are all but completely erased. So maybe the gods do walk again … And this holiday, not dissimilar to the one in the Strange Days movie, needs National Guard troops to prevent rioting!’

Grey say that ‘Clare Leslie and Frank Gerace have provided a wonderful resource in The Ancient Celtic Festivals and How We Celebrate Them Today. This slender book (fifty-eight pages) can be read by anyone from upper elementary school on, but younger children would also enjoy it if it were read to them. It is clearly designed primarily for the school and library markets, but “folky” families and those interested in Celtic traditions will also want it for their own libraries.’

Possibly the earliest example of the American ghost story gets reviewed by Kestrell: ‘It is difficult to think of an American ghost story more well-known than that of Washington Irving’s short story ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. Though Irving’s original sources for the stories may have been local folklore based on the same stories which the Grimm Brothers would collect and publish back in the Old World, Irving’s tale would emerge as one of America’s first and most familiar stories until, like the best stories, it seeped into the American consciousness the way well water rises from some hidden source deep underground.’

Nellie found much to appreciate in The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: ‘Jean Markale’s telling of many traditional stories illustrates this history vividly and causes us to reflect on the essential nature of the holiday. Identifying, through Markale’s exploration, with our pagan ancestors, gives Halloween the serious reflection it deserves. We can look now at this black and orange night and see beneath the mischievous spectacle, a holiday of changes, of reverence, of comprehension and wisdom.’

A fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

We look at Ray Bradbury’s quintessential Autumn novel and film which gets an appreciative review by the same reviewer: ‘By right and nature, all October babies should love Something Wicked This Way Comes. It is a love letter to autumn, and to the Halloween season in particular, a gorgeous take on maturity and self-acceptance and all the dark temptations that come crawling ‘round when the calendar creeps close to October 31st.’

Books can get successfully turned into other forms as we see in a review by Vonnie of an interesting performance of an Ellen Kushner novel: ‘Ellen Kushner and Joe Kessler at Johnny D’s. Kushner performed Thomas the Rhymer as a combination reading/musical performance at Johnny D’s, the synergy between the songs and the narrative was much stronger. The pauses, in particular, highlighted the words far better than the end of a paragraph on a page ever could. Kushner sang and played guitar, whilst Josef Kessler played fiddle and mandolin.’

William rounds out these reviews with a look at Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree: ‘A must for young and older readers alike, this book belongs in your hands right now. Run, skip, leap to your book seller! Jump into it as you would a great heap of October leaves. If you begin to look at Halloween or yourselves in a secret, new way, then thank the grand old man of Fantasy for the privilege.’

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Festive Samhain, everyone! Denise here, and I’ve stolen away the food and drink section this issue. Why? Because ghoulish delights abound! I’ve stuffed my face with all sorts of seasonal delights … though not everything was particularly delightful. Come along and see, won’t you?

First off, in a nod to the spirit of the season, Dunkin’ Donuts released a slew of themed donuts. I tried their Spider Donut, but I wasn’t particularly impressed. “It’s a mess. Somewhere, Mary Berry is sobbing.” Read on to learn more!

Still got a touch of a sweet tooth? Well, why not try a Cadbury Screme Egg? ‘…I prefer the protoplasm look of that gooey sugar goodness. I’ve always been a weird kid.’  Check out this treat to see if it’s something you’d fancy!

Want something savory instead?  How about Transylvanian cheese?  Happy Farms Preferred Transylvanian-Romanian Cave Cheese, to be exact. Let’s just say that if you’re able to get your hands on some, you should. There’s more to be had in the review, but for now let’s just leave it at this; ‘Thank you, Transylvania.’

And what better way to wash things down this spooky season with a Harry Potter themed drink? Flying Cauldron’s Butterscotch Beer is just the thing. ‘A nice quaff when you’re feeling Potterish. And this time of year, especially with #HarryPotter20, who isn’t?’

Cheetos’ Bag of Bones is a suitably spooky entry into the holiday snack aisle, and a perfect go-to for the season. And I’m pleased: ‘When you queue up a spooky movie this season, grab some of these to really get into the spirit.’pumpkins
Cat now first looks at a Doctor Who adventure that’s a horror story which is beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

Babylon 5‘s ‘Day of the Dead’  as written by Neil Gaiman is a study of what happens when an alien race creates their own strange version of that Hispanic holiday on that space station. Read Asher’s thoughtful look at this episode. This being a Neil related thing, it won’t surprise you that there’s an annotated script which Grey reviews here.

Denise looks at two classics in the horror film genre: ‘Halloween and its sequel Halloween II put their own spin on the Boogeyman. This Boogeyman is Michael Myers, locked up in a mental institution after stabbing his sister to death on Halloween night when he was six years old. The house where Michael and his family lived remained empty ever since. Well, until the night HE came home (sorry, but I had to use that line somewhere in this review.) Anyway, Michael comes back home fifteen years after his murderous deed, seeking vice-minded teenagers (and unlucky adults) to add to his body count.’

Robert looks at the Justice League Dark film: ‘Once I got started on the Justice League Darkcomic, I had to go back and check out the 2017 animated film. If anyone is expecting a film version of the new comic series, guess again: the film was released before the new series was even announced, and while there are similarities, they are very different sorts of critters.’

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Charles Vess in his most excellent Book of Ballads illustrates Sharyn McCrumb’s take on the Halloween tale of Thomas the Rhymer. It’s the only All Hallows’ Eve related story here but everything here is well worth your reading time. Cat has a second opinion on it here.

Cat next has a look at a lavishly illustrated edition of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: ‘So if you’re looking for a new edition for yourself, I wholeheartedly recommend this edition. Indeed if you’ve got a fan of dark fantasy and horror, this is a perfect gift for them as well. With Halloween needing new traditions this year with the lockdown screwing it over, why not give yourself or them this book?’

And since we’re doing Gaiman, Rebecca takes a detailed look at his groundbreaking — and quite eldritch — series, The Sandman: ‘I admit to some trepidation about writing this review. So many authors, editors, musicians, and reviewers have said so much about these books. This series altered the face of the comics industry. It’s drawn in thousands of people who had never read a comic book before.’

In line with our mini-theme of Neil Gaiman, and slightly offside of our “autumn/Halloween” theme, Robert had a look at a whole complex of graphic works that started with Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic — the original story, not the series — began when DC Comics approached Gaiman about doing a series that would bring together the “magic” characters of the DC Universe. Gaiman created the character of Timothy Hunter, a twelve-year-old boy who has the potential to become the greatest magician of the age — our age. Gaiman’s story became the basis for the ongoing DC/Vertigo series of the same name.’

John Ney Rieber continued story, and developed a series: ‘John Ney Rieber’s continuation of Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic is a complex, multilayered story that focuses not so much on Gaiman’s mythic connections (although they are there in full measure) as on Tim Hunter: finding his magic, and his bearings in the world(s) he inhabits is intimately tied in with growing up, which Tim does a lot of in this series.’

Si Spencer took the idea one step farther: ‘Life During Wartime represents a distinct break with The Books of Magic as it had been developed by Neil Gaiman and John Ney Rieber. Si Spencer, working with Gaiman, “updated” the characters and took them into a new set of trials that speak strongly to a contemporary audience.’

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Lets offer up a lively bunch of Autumnal music this outing. Well Autumnal music in a loose sense I grant you…

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons is to the liking of Brendan, who says, ‘With their 1999 release Harvest Home, they have given themselves a new challenge. Arranging a set of tunes from the broad variety of American rural music traditions, designed to celebrate the seasons and labor of farm life, they also decided to try their hand at incorporating these folk themes (both original and traditional) into an orchestral piece called “The Harvest Home Suite.” The result is a beautiful, surprising complex CD which showcases the many rural traditions of the United States while, just as Ungar and Mason hoped, giving all of these pieces a new energy.’

Next up Cat has a look at a recording from 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.’

Dave leads off our music reviews with a look at the Burning Bright box set: ‘The title comes from the William Blake poem, “Tyger, Tyger” and the reason is…that Tyger is Ashley Hutchings’ nickname. Having said that…let me next alert all and sundry that Free Reed is the greatest box-set compilation maker in the world, nay, universe! There is such a wealth of material in one of their sets that to properly appreciate it one must spend quality time with it to savour each mouth-watering delectable. And it’s not simply the music, although they are called Free Reed MUSIC, but the posters, and especially the books that are prepared and accompany each package are filled with enough photos, posters, memorabilia and biographical text to keep all your senses busy. Stick your nose in the book…it even smells good! One warning though…if you don’t like the sound of the concertina, approach this one carefully…but…the concertina grows on you, and this is five hours of definitive British folk music.’

He also has a look at another box set,  The Time Has Come: 1967-1973, by another band that evokes Autumn for me: ‘By my recollection it was The Pentangle when they started. And then they lost the definitive article and were just Pentangle. Whatever they called themselves, they were like fish out of water at the time. My friends didn’t listen to them at all. We were all more into The Who, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix. The loud stuff. The flashy stuff. But now, years later, I find myself listening to this mix of jazz, folk, blues, and traditional music far more than I listen to those other bands.’

Deborah offers up the best look ever at Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief: ‘1969 saw the release of two albums that gave me a case of musical whiplash: Pentangle’s Basket of Light and Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief. (If memory serves, the third leg in that triad of bands, Steeleye Span, was still a year away from formation.)’ Go ahead and savour every word of this fascinating remembrance of things long past.

If there be a First Lady of English Folk Music for the past near fifty years, it must be Maddy Prior, whose singing has defined this tradition more than any other vocalist has. Deb has two looks at her, …And Maddy Dances and Comfort and the Unexpected:  In Conversation with Maddy Prior. Trust me when I say that each of these articles will enlighten you more about Maddy than a hundred articles in the English music press ever could!

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.’

English folk singer Fay Hield’s new release Wrackline seems suited to the season, with its songs of selkies and witches and cruel mothers. Gary says it’s ‘a beautifully realized album of traditional and trad-style folk song steeped in English lore.’

Gary also has a review of the latest release from the Montreal band Suuns. It’s an EP titled Fiction that features Arabic-colored indie rock, riotous Frank Zappa raps, and more kinds of experimental post-rock made with guitars, drums and analog synthesizers.

Looking At Sounds is a new album from a quartet led by French-Algerian bassist Michel Benita. Gary notes that it includes some fine contributions from Swiss flugelhornist Mitthiew Michel and especially Belgian keyboardist Jozef Dmoulin on Fender Rhodes. ‘All in all this is a lovely album full of intricate textures and rhythms and sturdy melodic explorations.’

I know it’s early Autumn but I have a Autumnal shopping idea so I devidently to include this release here, so let me quote myself:  ‘Are you looking for that perfect Winter Holiday 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 Rogues, Commoners Crown, and Now We Are Six being the recordings in between. This completely remastered collection has 46 tracks in all, including a number of very tasty bonus tracks.’

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Jennifer gives us detailed instructions on how to make disembodied heads to hang about in our grounds and messuages, the better to purify the sluggish livers of friends and visitors who might visit during the macabre season and come upon them unawares.

pumpkinsThe season in turning, so why a song to see you off that celebrates it that turning? It’s ‘Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)’ by Judy Collins who sung it at The Newport Folk Festival, fifty five years ago. It was written by Pete Seeger in the late Fifties and first recorded in 1959. The lyrics save for the title, which is repeated throughout the song, and the final two lines are the first eight verses of the third chapter of the ‘Book of Ecclesiastes’. The Byrds aLao recorded it and you can hear them sing it here. This version was recorded at the Boston Tea Party fifty one years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Fin Haddie

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There are certain winter foods that I look forward to every year and which the Kinrowan kitchen serves just often enough that hardly anyone wearies of them. One such food is finnan haddie. It’s a traditional Scottish fish dish made with smoke cured haddock. It’s simple to use, usually at hand in the winter, and, I must say, tastes great in many dishes.

It’s haddock cured by smoking with unseasoned green wood and peat, originally from somewhere in northeast Scotland. Where it originated is uncertain, though many have claimed they knew where it came from. Some claim around about Aberdeen, others say it originated in the area of the River Findhorn in Moray. The former claim may be stronger as it has been a popular food there since at least the 1640s. The latter counter-claim maintains that the name is just a corrupted form of Findhorn.

Finnan haddie can be served many ways, say simply with onions and red peppers, or in Cullen skink, a soup, or chowder as New Englanders call it, made with finnan haddie plus potatoes and onions. Mrs. Ware, our cook, adds whole cream and grinds black pepper into it as it simmers. Many now consider this the true Scottish national dish instead of haggis. It certainly tastes better than haggis does!

It took another two centuries after it started showing up in Aberdeen (and I’m accepting their claim as it’s better documented) before it made its way down to London, as the lightly smoked fish rotted in just a few days, and less than one in the summer. The rail link from Aberdeen to London built in the 1840s made it possible to get it there without spoiling.

Shall we see if it’s being served tonight? If not, I’m sure something warm and filling is!

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What’s New for the 4th of October: Diverse Music including Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Warren Ellis Goes Graphic, Spider-Mans, Peanut Butter and Chocolate, A Cherryh’s Alliance-Union Universe novel and Other Pleasant Diversions

“I really didn’t mean to steal it.” Mr. Williams shook his head. He scratched at his chin nervously. “Why not? That’s what they’re there for. Tunes belong to everybody. So do stories.”  ― Robert Holdstock’s Lavondyss

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I’ve been out on a long walk since just past dawn here on this lovely early Autumn morning. I left my lovely wife Catherine sleeping soundly, dressed and got several bacon and cheddar cheese rolls, a spiced apple muffin and a thermos of Lapsang Souchong tea with a splash of cream so I could have breakfast some distance out by the Standing Stones. Some of the Estate Irish Wolfhounds decided to join me, so off we went.

Now I’m back from that walk with the dogs settled near the fireplace in my Library workspace and I’ve moved on this week to reading Roadmarks by Zelazny, having finished off his Isle of The Dead novel, so the book awaits my attention shortly. No, not one of his better known works, nor arguably one of his best written ones, but an interesting one nonetheless, with its apparently ever branching road and constantly being created timelines.

Now let’s see what we’ve got for you. Do take note that I’ve compiled a number of Denise’s peanut butter and chocolate treat reviews fir you as I feel we all could use them in the lock-down era. And for your reading pleasure, I’ve stitched together an impressive number of reviews that we did of Warren Ellis scripted graphic novels.

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Gary says ‘Alliance Rising is approximately the umpteenth book set in C. J. Cherryh’s Alliance-Union Universe, a space opera series that starts on near-future Earth and extends far into the future and a good way into our galactic neighborhood. It takes place, as the title implies, during the early stages of the building of the Alliance, which is a union of merchanter ships that form a key part of the economy of the widespread Stations, and especially of the Families that operate those ships.’

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 gets her paws on Daniel Pinkwater’s upcoming Adventures of a Dwergish Girl, at least as subversive as his Devil in the Drain but longer, and therefore funnier by volume. She fails to mention how much food is mentioned in this book. Thank goodness I can bring it up here. Lot of great food. He even makes parsnips sound yummy.

Are you looking for a good Autumnal read? Well Richard  has one for you in Robert Holdstovk’s Ryhope Wood series: ‘Simply put, the Ryhope cycle is one of the most important fantasy series of the past two decades, at least. While other exemplars of the genre tell stories, Holdstock tells stories of storytelling, and yet manages to make them as exciting and engrossing as the most acrobatic bit of literary swordplay. His characters are multifaceted jewels, showing different aspects depending on whose tale they are cast in.’

One  of my favourite literary treats with ghostly presences for Autumn evening nights is reviewed by Robert: ‘Peter S. Beagle’s Tamsin first saw the light of day as a story idea for a Disney animated feature. Disney never followed through. Beagle did, finally, for which I think we can all be grateful.’

Another book I think that’s Autumnal in nature gets reviewed by hI’m: ‘It seems somewhat odd, on reflection, to realize that in a genre that so often uses magic as a metaphor and/or device, so few writers actually evoke the qualities of magic in their writing. That observation is prompted by Patricia A. McKillip’s Solstice Wood. 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.’

He then takes us to an under-underworld, Hollywood style, courtesy of Tanith Lee’s Indigara: ‘The idea of Tanith Lee writing juvenile/young adult fiction is one that stopped me for a moment. Lee was the “crown princess of fantasy” who appeared on the scene in the 1970s with dark, moody, lunar works such as Anackire, Volkhavaar, and The Storm Lord, followed by such fevered masterpieces as Night’s Master. Hmm, I said to myself; this should be interesting.’

Warner brings us a science-fiction/techno thriller that looks like the beginning of something larger: ‘Nucleation by Kimberly Unger is a science fiction novel that attempts to deal with everything from possible first contact, to nanomachines, to corporate espionage and personal rivalries. This would make the book seem overpacked in other hands, yet is quite effective overall. Indeed, the iclusion of many scientific concepts in this book is impressive (although the plot lends itself perhaps a little too well to a sequel).’

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Jennifer reviews Nordi by Fazer Finnish chocolate bars, and then, in keeping with her theme of more-fat-more-carbs-for-the-lockdown, feeds us Chorizo Empanadas, and shares a recipe modification that didn’t win. Don’t worry. You get the version of Chewy Grains and Sausage Casserole that works, as well as the blow-by-blow on what went wrong with the innovation.

Comfort food is very important in this time of lockdown and for many of us that means peanut butter cups. Denise has looked at Justin’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter CupsReece’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, Butterfingers of a  Dark  Chocolate nature (not quite peanut butter cups but close enough) and Reese’s Outrageous! Pieces bar. That should be enough peanut butter in a snapkin form to keep you going!

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Cat looks at a film that he wasn’t sure about: ‘Marvel’s animation has in contrast to that of DC generally sucked. It’s been weak, both in overall design and in actually carrying the story. It often looks awful and feels dated. DC live films may be a mess but their animation efforts are usually second to none. However Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse had been getting reviews that said its story was great and that its animation was stellar, so I figured I’d give it a go.’ Did he like it? Oh yes!

Michael looks at two Spider Man films. Of the first, he notes: ‘Spider-Man reinvents the classic comic book character for the big screen, remaining as faithful as possible to the source material.  We follow the evolution and growth of Peter Parker from tormented geek to daring hero.  All the classic elements are in here.’ And he follows up with Spider-Man 2.

And Robert takes a look at another version of the Spider-Man story: ‘So I had this coupon from Best Buy that allowed me to pick up a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man for half price. Another one of those films I’d heard of but didn’t really know much about, except that 1) it’s about Spider-Man, a character who has started to intrigue me, and 2) superhero.’

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Warren Ellis is a very prolific writer and he’s done quite a number of graphic novels down the decades.  So let’s take a look at some that we’ve reviewed.

Cat (the Cat also known as ‘The Chief’) has a look at 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.’

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.’

And it just so happens that Robert got his hands on another of his comics, Ignition City: ‘I promised myself, when I read Warren Ellis’ Planetary, that I was going to become more familiar with his work. Well, up popped the first volume of the collected Ignition City, and it’s just as good.’ Is that serendipity, or what?

Robert has a comics series that — well, let him explain: ‘Planetary is a comics series that ran from 1999 through 2009, with gaps. Created by writer Warren Ellis and artist John Cassaday, it’s what I can only call an archaeological thriller. Planetary is an organization that investigates “incidents” that don’t seem to have ready explanations. There is a field team composed of three members. The story opens as Jakita Wagner is recruiting Elijah Snow to become the new Third Man. The other member of the team is the Drummer — as he says, “First name ‘The,’ second name ‘Drummer.’’’

He finishes our reviews out with a look at Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street which takes us into territory that’s a bit beyond surreal: ‘Transmetropolitan is another of Warren Ellis’ spiky and superbly wrought stories that, in many important respects, turns comics on their head. Back on the Street incorporates the first three numbers in the series in the tale of Spider Jerusalem, journalist.’ Robert says, if you haven’t met Spider Jerusalem, you’re in for an experience.’

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April has a choice recording for us: ‘As an integral part of the band Frifot (with Ale Moller and Per Gudmundson) and the Nordan project (with Ale Moller and others), as well as numerous other side projects, Lena Willemark has been a fixture on the Swedish folk scene since the late 1970s. Windogur, a set of ten original compositions commissioned by the city of Stockholm (in its role of Cultural Capital of Europe ’98), was first performed live as part of a series of concerts entitled “Ladies Next,” and only later translated to CD.’

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Harvest Home: Music For All Seasons is to the liking of Brendan, who says, ‘With their 1999 release Harvest Home, they have given themselves a new challenge. Arranging a set of tunes from the broad variety of American rural music traditions, designed to celebrate the seasons and labor of farm life, they also decided to try their hand at incorporating these folk themes (both original and traditional) into an orchestral piece called “The Harvest Home Suite.” The result is a beautiful, surprising complex CD which showcases the many rural traditions of the United States while, just as Ungar and Mason hoped, giving all of these pieces a new energy.’

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 Guajira mas Guajira, an album of genre-skipping music by two of the top names in Cuban music, Eliades and Maria Ochoa. Eliades was a key player in the world-famous Buena Vista Social Club and has been a member of Cuarteto Patria for many years. Maria is a member of Alma Latina (“Latin soul”) and has sung with a host of Cuban acts. Together, Gary says, they make beautiful music.

Eric Brace & Peter Cooper have been recording together for several years, as well as making solo records and playing with other country and folk musicians on their Red Beet label. Their latest release, C&O Canal, which Gary reviewed, is an homage to the roots music clubs and musicians of Washington, D.C., where they grew up listening to the likes of The Seldom Scene.

If you’re familiar with the song “Gloomy Sunday” it’s probably from Billie Holiday’s version of it, which popularized it in the U.S. in 1941. Gary brings us a review of Hungarian Noir which collects a dozen versions of the song in many different styles. Will it drive you to thoughts of suicide, as urban legend has it? See if you dare.

Robert brings us a look at a recording from the other end of Europe: Boban Marković Orkestar’s Boban i Marko: ‘There seems to be, in the Gypsy tradition of Serbian music, an affinity for Western jazz. This does not mean that the music performed by the Boban Marković Orkestar is jazz, but simply that jazz wanders in and feels very much at home. What the music is, is lively, often exotic, and yet somehow familiar.’

And another album from an entirely different culture — would you believe Kurdish pop? Robert discusses Sivan Perwer’s self-titled album: ‘It may seem odd to make this statement about a recording by a Kurdish popular singer, but this album rocks.’

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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So our What Nots this edition are all Spider-being figures, all reviewed by Cat.

First up is a review of the masked Funko Rock Candy Spider-Gwen figure, out of the many figures in the Rock Candy line of Marvel characters. He says that ‘she was more than a bit difficult to find, as she was a Hot Topic exclusive but she had long since disappeared from those stores by the time I managed to track her down some months later. The non-masked version showing Gwen Stacy with blonde hair was available online just about everywhere — at the original price.‘

He purchased another Spider-Gwen, to wit the Marvel Femme Fatales Spider-Gwen Statue, he  ‘went shopping for a decent representation of Spider-Gwen after repeated watchings of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse while I had my first of two lengthy stays in-hospital for treatment of a staphylococcal infection. She was definitely a highlight of the film — tough, intelligent and a match in every way for the Spider-Man of that universe, Miles Morales.  Surprisingly there were very few available then, several years back, though there are many more now. Or rather there were lots sans her hood showing the face of Gwen Stacy.‘

The Miles Morales Spider-Man figure. is officially known as the Kotobukiya Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man Artfx+ Statue. a mouthful indeed. Ccat says ‘So I went hunting on the internet for a good Miles Morales Spider-Man figure. I liked that particular Spider-Man after seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse while I was in-hospital being treated for a staph infection that required not only that I have bone surgery but that I spend forty two days there having antibiotics three times a day.’

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Summer is over, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, autumn started nearly two weeks ago. It’s the season when the earth readies itself for its winter sleep, but it’s also a time for festivals celebrating the harvest and summer’s bounty. So, to honor the season, here’s “Aumumn” from Antonion Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons:

And with that, dear friends, adieu until next time.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Blackberry Cobbler

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Whisht! Hush now, will you, shhhh! Quick, over here, let’s go in the hallway under the window … outside the kitchen!

Oh, dear me, that’s better! Have a seat, Miss Denise seems to be elsewhere, this is her favorite place to read, but we’ll just sit out here for a bit, all right?

Whew! Thanks, darlin’,didn’t mean to rush you out like that, but Cook is sitting with her feet up, and none of us ever disturb her then. Not unless you  like eating burnt meat and curdled custards for the next fortnight! Never visited the kitchens in the afternoon before, have you? I’ve nearly had a coronary, you coming in like that! I’ll go and get us some tea in half a shake, how’s that?

Cook has kept the staff on our toes, it’s the season for it! Mr. Gus, the head gardener, has had a constant stream of his lads into the kitchens with lovely things from the gardens. Wonderful vegetables, the summer squash has certainly arrived, and, oh, the berries and stone fruits!

Late this morning they brought baskets and baskets of blackberries and peaches, ripe fit to burst, and I thought Cook would, too! Mr. Eldridge has asked for blackberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream — made with Totonac vanilla — tonight, for the staff dinner out on the back lawn. Cook let me help her with the cobbler! She says I’ve a nice light hand with the pastry and if I keep that up, I’ll soon be head pastry chef! Wasn’t that a nice thing for her to say! Her recipe for cobbler is wonderful; lots of sour cream and eggs inside. That’s what you’re smelling right now, the cobblers are cooling in the pantry.

Well, I say cobbler. Cook calls hers a crumble, and my granny would have called it a buckle. A grunt is covered with American-style biscuits, though, so it’s definitely not a grunt.

Oh, I’m so sorry, my name’s Kate. How d’you do? I’m the scullery maid. Sounds very Cinderella, dun’it? It’s more sort of job title than a job description, though, even though I do help the dishwasher sometimes, and I’m a handy woman with a knife! It’s a good way to start out in the kitchens, actually. Even though we call her ‘Cook’, Mrs. Ware is really more of a chef — you should see her putting the plates together for the fancy dinners! Such presentation.

At any rate, Cook has Mr. Gus’s boys out churning the ice cream in the ice house — lucky them. It’s been so hot, I’d think they’re quite grateful to be in the ice house! We’ll have plenty of noise when they bring the tubs back down to go in the freezers — are you staying for dinner tonight? Save room for dessert!

Would you like some tea? If I can manage it, I’ll try for a few bites of one of the cobblers for a bit of a sneak preview, as well! I do love the eating in high Summer, don’t you?

Here, Miss Denise left this week’s issue on the seat, you can look at that while I boil up the pot … be right back!

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