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, a  jazz or classical recording, tarot decks,   Folkmanis puppetsmanor house mysteries and science fiction novelsfiction inspired by folklore, sf filmsegg nog recipes,  ymmmy street foodchocolatewhisky and cookbooks… Well you get the idea.

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 sort of Library Apprentices.  And 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.

So if you’ve got something you’d like reviewed, whatever it might be, email me here as you never know what’ll tickle our fancy.

PS: you’ll also get to hear some choice music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album. I sourced it off a Smithsonian music archive which has no details where or when it was recorded which surprised me given how good they usually are at such things.

 

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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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A Kinrowan Estate story: Stockpots

oak_leaf_fallen_colored2There’s always a need for a bowl of hot stockpot soup no matter what the hour, be it the Eventide meal or for a break from watching the ewes during lambing season all night long (a task I gratefully now leave to the much younger staff). A bowl of that exhilarating warmth along with a slice of just-baked bread slathered in butter does wonders for a cold, tired staff member.

The stockpots themselves are immense thirty-gallon affairs made of thick gauge copper. I’ve been told that these cost four hundred pounds thirty years ago and would easily be double that today. One always has either a chicken- or turkey-based concoction in it, the other has a similar one with beef and other stuff in it.

The chicken one usually has just vegetables in it (well aside from bacon ends for an added smokiness) with carrots, potatoes, onions, dried mushrooms and spicing as need be. However, Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook, has offered up everything from the same soup but with dumplings to curried chicken with rice and lentils, or on rare occasions, one of the Several Annies gets to cook a pot of whatever from their regional or national culture, such such as Swedish chicken and noodles.

Though we do raise our own chickens, we don’t raise beef. Instead we trade for it from one of the neighbouring farming Estates, say Riverrun or High Meadow. We buy it already butchered and frozen for later use though we do get a side aged and unfrozen for immediate use. We trade cider, ale and slots in our various apprentice programmes for it.

Our most common beef soup’s simply beef, bacon and vegetables with salt, pepper and garlic. That stockpot starts happening well before Samhain and doesn’t end ’til after Beltaine. If the Kitchen decides to do something different with beef, it goes into yet a third copper stockpot, so it doesn’t stop the main beef concoction from continuing.

The favourite one here is Gulyás, the Hungarian paprika-spiked beef soup that gets served up with a dark bread which may or may not be traditional. Béla, our resident Hungarian violinist, gets tears in his eyes when we serve it (and always with several bottles of Szekszárd, a full-bodied Hungarian red wine, to drink with it).

I don’t know about you, but I’m now ravenous so I’m heading down to see what’s in those stockpots. Care to join me?

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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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What’s New for the 20th of September: Autumnal Folkmanis Puppets, Demon Detectives, British Mysteries, Soundscape Designers, and more

The stability of the Glitter Band depends on social cohesion, Mister Garlin. We don’t have standing armies, we don’t have a citizen militia. Even the local constabularies constitute a vanishingly small proportion of our population. But this system only functions in the absence of malicious fear-mongering. I have no time for those who disseminate lies and half-truths for their own ends. ― Prefect Tom Dreyfus in Alastair Reynolds’s Elysium Fire

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Come in, let me turn down the music which is all live Oysterband this afternoon. It’s Autumn today with a hard frost forecast within three weeks. Gus, our Estate Gardener, is busy organising work schedules for everyone who’ll be doing the harvest before that event occurs. It’s easier this year as we’ve no events on the Estate because of the Pandemic so everyone’s able and eager to help out. It’s a little earlier than ideal but weather is what it is.

The harvest this year was changed as we didn’t host any events so lots of what we’re farming this year will go to other Estates in this region. We’ll do everything strictly on a barter basis but somebody’s always interested in, say, lots of blackberries or pear cider in exchange for what they’ve got, say their version of feta cheese.

Lots more reading has been going on here as the staff has more leisure time without the events we usually host. Even the Pub’s been quiet so I’m working my way through all of Xuya Imperium stories of Aliette De Bodard while listening in off hours to Alastair Reynold’s Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies series. I include Chasm City in there even though Dreyfus isn’t in it as it deals with what happens to the Glitter Band.

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Cat has a story for us: ‘I don’t normally purchase a collection for just one story but the community over at File 770 was saying in a discussion of AIs that the Hugo Award-winning ’Cat Pictures Please’ was a story that the folks there who hadn’t read it should really read, so I went to iBooks and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other StoriesYes they were right — you really should go read  it, as it’s a unique take on what happens when an AI decides it’s concerns about us and wants to make us feel better.’

He then moves on to a full-cast production audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: ‘I spent nearly four very entertaining hours listening to the latest interaction of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a full cast production that I swear was completely rewritten yet again for this production. Gaiman would win the 2015 BBC Audio Drama for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Drama for this series. He certainly deserved it!’

Triskell Press has released a digital edition of Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, which Grey delightfully notes is ‘set in de Lint’s Ottawa, the one he first envisioned for his novel Moonheart, and expanded in its sequel, Spiritwalk. Those readers who have fallen in love with the wonderful Tamson House of these two novels will be delighted to note its brief appearance in Yarrow as well. However, the characters in Yarrow are part of different story than the residents of Tamson House and their associates, and Yarrow is a stand-alone novel.’

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

Robert has a review of a story about three very unusual detectives: ‘Camille Bacon-Smith’s Daemon Eyes is an omnibus edition of Eye of the Daemon and Eyes of the Empress, which tell the story of the half-daemon Evan Davis, who is part of a most unusual detective agency.’

Next, he takes us on a tour of Masks of the World: ‘Masks occur in every human culture I’ve ever run across, and their purpose is always the same: disguise. In the theater of ancient Greece, the disguise served to submerge the actor in the persona of the god or hero he portrayed. Among the Cherokee and Iroquois of North America, the fearsome headgear served to frighten malignant spirits away. In Mycenae, masks were funerary effigies, a practice found throughout the ancient world and also found among the great pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas. . . .’

Warner brings us a combination that may at first seem somewhat outré: Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion is Robert Valentine’s look at the famed horror author through the lense of a Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama. Featuring a living weapon that feeds on the fears of its host, the tale quickly centers upon the titular author and takes a look at his creations and his flaws.

Warner next presents us with a story collection that falls into several different genres: ‘Carrie Vaughn is an experienced hand at urban fantasy, and Kitty’s Mix Tape is a nice collection of shorter works set in one of her milieus. These stories range from the distant past to after the end of the Kitty Norville book series, and feature a wide variety of characters from that setting. It is a fascinating range of stories that veers from detective fiction, to period romance, to war drama and beyond. Indeed, there is a little something for everyone in these stories, and as such they serve as an impressive look at Vaughn’s talents.

Jennifer feeds us mint juleps, chipotle-garlic potatoes, and a killer dark chocolate and lemon brownie cake, because life on lockdown is a clear-cut choice between eating heart-healthy and eating for your sanity.

Speaking of eating during lockdown, one never can have enough chocolate at hand to eat, can one? Robert has three Lindt Excellence  bars for us to consider, to wit Cocoa Supreme Dark Lindt Excellence.Intense Orange Lindt Excellence and Intense Mint. Read his review to see which he really, really liked.

Denise on the other hand looked at some snacks for you —  DeLallo Flat Fillets of AnchoviesFamily Volcano Popping Candy of the lychee variety and Huang Fei Hong Spicy Crispy Peanut. Those should keep you snacking happily!

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It’s Autumn which to me is the perfect time to start watch some British mysteries so I’m going to recommend three for you — Gosford Park, a Hercule Poirot Christmas story and a Doctor Who episode.

David starts us off with Gosford Park: ‘The film begins, as do most studies of murder in British society, by setting the tale. We meet an inordinate number of people (an Altman trait) who come and go with little logic. This is a common enough ploy in the films of Robert Altman, everyone has a reason for being there, and everyone has a story. Pay attention.’ Oh and what stories they tell!

Nect up is Poirot’s Christmas as reviewed by Cat: ‘Ahhhh, an English locked room mystery set at Christmastime! What could be a better diversion on a cold winters night with snow falling outside? I had heard that this DVD was a perfectly faithful adaptation of a beloved Agatha Christie novel so I asked Acorn Media to send along copy for review.’ Yes DVD. It was reviewed a long time ago.

Finally we have a Tenth Doctor story, ‘The Unicorn & The Wasp’ which hep also reviewed: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’

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It got made into a video series but I think the original series is far superior. You may remember Garth Ennis’ landmark series Preacher. Well, for our graphic offering today we have a collection of Glenn Fabry’s covers, Preacher: Dead or Alive: ‘You’re an artist, and you’ve been given a very unusual task. Create eye-catching, evocative comic book covers, month in and month out for a new series. The main characters include a hitwoman, a vampire, a preacher possessed by the Word of God, an unstoppable killing machine fueled by divine wrath and mortal hate, a conspiracy to take over the world, and God Himself.’

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Cat leads off our music reviews with 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.’

Gary has a review of a recording by a group called numün, a trio of ‘soundscape designers’ from New York. He says voyage au soleil is a ‘combination of American and Balinese instruments, synthesizers and loops. It’s ambient, it’s soundscape, it’s collage and more, and I personally find this kind of thing a balm during these chaotic times.’

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

Gary tells us about Cells Remain, by Midwestern bassist and singer-songwriter Pat Keen. ‘On the surface it’s a sort of singer-songwriter album, featuring Keen singing his songs with baritone-to-falsetto facility, accompanying himself on six- and twelve-string guitars with equal or perhaps surpassing facility.’

The Nashville-based duo called Anne Malin has a new offering that Gary reviews: ‘Sleep, dreams and reveries predominate in Anne Malin’s Waiting Song, a deeply personal and quirky album of country-tinged indie folk-rock.’

‘Brian Scarborough is a trombonist and composer with influences that include two of the great centers of jazz in the Midwest: Kansas City and Chicago,’ says Gary, who reviews his debut solo album Sunflower Song.

Scott was lucky enough to attend a Hoven Droven concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis that later became a two-CD live set. ‘All in all, Jumping At The Cedar is a fine example of what a Hoven Droven concert sounds like, and fans of the band will certainly enjoy it.’

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Our What Not this time is about the Folkmanis Puppets of an Autumnal Nature, or at least that’s how Cat defined them. They were the ones Cat asked Folkmanis specifically to send and then he handed off to various staff members for review. So here’s the review of these wonderful puppets.

The Worm in Apple puppet gets reviewed by Robert: ‘One of the more unusual items to cross my desk from Folkmanis is their Worm in Apple Puppet. It’s a nice, big apple — not shiny, since it’s made of plush, but it is very appealing — unless you count the small green worm peeping out of a hole in the side.’

Next up Denise looks at the  the Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet. While she’s as entranced as ever by this company’s creations, there’s one quibble. ‘Mine looks as if he’s suffering from agoraphobia. Exo-karpoúzi-phobia, maybe?’ Read her review to find out what’s going on…

She finishes off 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.’

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Our music this time is the rave-up by the Oysterband of their ‘The Shouting End of Life’. It was recorded in Bremen, Germany on the 3rd of April 1996. It was first released on the album of the same name a year earlier. It’s the take of John Jones on Thatcher and her ugly politics. It memorably has lead vocalist John Jones saying ‘Go fuck yourself.’

 

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Pub Ganeshas

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Dear Svetlana,

Glad to hear that your trip to Ukrainian speaking Canada went well. It’s amazing how much of their culture, including language, they’ve retained, as it’s well over a century since their ancestors settled there!

So you want know about the four Ganeshas residing in a spot behind the bar here in the Pub? You won’t be surprised to know there’s an interesting story behind them. It starts off a couple of decades ago when Ingrid and I were in Mumbai on a fabric buying trip for a Glasgow client of hers. As is our usual habit in a city like this, we spent as much time as we could in markets looking for interesting things to buy, from spices and interesting grains to offbeat art when we see it.

Ingrid spotted these in a stall selling the usual tourist tat — hookahs, badly dyed fabrics, and fluorescent coloured Buddhas. Does anyone buy an orange Buddha bright enough to see at midnight even if they were not stoned? She spotted them on a shelf in the back of the stall — not dyed for festival use but just plain brass and about eighteen inches high. She dickered for them and got a reasonable deal on them.

Getting them through Indian customs required using a broker, some baksheesh, and considerable patience. Our broker swore to the export staff that they were going in a library of some importance befitting that deity. They ended up in the Pub because they are playing instruments.

A few years later, I ran across an odd little place in Roundtree, Ireland, that had only sculptures from India. And that’s where the photo I’ve attached to this letter is from. They’re the biggest set of these I’ve ever seen!

Warmest thoughts, your Fox

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What’s New for the 6th of September: A Very Special Science-Fiction Story, a Fairy-Tale Opera, Dr. Who, a Rising Country Music Star, and more

If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written. John Bangsund, Australian SF fan, 1939 – 2020

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Its not yet the time of year that the Estate orchards smells of cider and and rot in equal amounts, but it’s not that far away as the temperature  went down to four degrees last night as a low. Granted that’s well above freezing, but the Kinrowan Hall heating system kicked on as it was far too cold to be comfortable. However the orchards are yielding rather fine ciders this year as the weather has been perfect fir apple ripening.

And then there’s blackberries in great quantity which Björn, our Brewmaster, is delighted to making into a rather fine Himbeergeist style schnapps. I’ll be stocking it here in the Green Man Pub when it’s aged properly.  Of course we’re also doing a rather nice pear brandy too.

In the meantime, you can savour this first edition of September which is published in the transition from Summer to Autumn. I’ve even included some live music composed by Aaron Copland.

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Cat looks at the urban legend retold yet again of a ghost girl asking for a ride home on the anniversary of her death: ‘Seanan McGuire decided to tell her own ghost story in Sparrow Hill Road which, like her novel Indexing, was originally a series of short stories published through The Edge of Propinquity, starting in January of 2010 and ending in December of that year. It appears they’ve been somewhat revised for this telling of her ghostly narrator’s tale but I can’t say how much as I’ve not read the original versions.’

We have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a look by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unraveling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Robert has a look at a couple of Elizabeth Bear’s earlier novels, starting of with a vampire story, of a sort: ‘Elizabeth Bear’s The White City is the third installment in her ongoing saga of Sebastien de Ulloa, vampire and wanderer in a universe somewhat different than out own in important respects.’

He follows that with a very special science-fiction story: ‘At her best, Elizabeth Bear can deliver the kind of hard-edged poetry that one often searches for in vain in science-fiction. (She also does some hard-nosed fantasy, but that’s for another review.) It may seem strange to talk about “poetry” and “science fiction” in the same sentence, but one need only read Dust to see exactly what I mean.’

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Cat was somewhat taken (but only somewhat) by two Doctor Who cookbooks: ‘This review is really an acknowledgement that there’s a nearly inifinite number of writings about Doctor Who done by the fans of the show over the past fifty years. Yes there’s fanfic where they’ve created their own stories, some using existing characters in new stories, some creating new characters in new situations. And then there are, err, cookbooks. Seriously you can’t be surprised that someone did did this, as I’m sure that there’s a Harry Potter cookbook or two out there.’

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Denise as promised has her review of the just concluded season of Doctor Who, and enjoyed almost every moment of Season Eleven. ‘The new Doctor loves bobbing for apples candy floss, purple sofas, and fast talking…. I love it. Yes, I’ve said that I love things several times here. I’m not sorry.’ Why is Denise so enraptured? Only one way to find out; give her full review a look!

Cat also looks at an adventure 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.’

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I look at an opera based on a Grimm story:  ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.’

No’am has a review of Maddy Prior’s Arthur The King: ‘The practice of writing quasi traditional songs may horrify some, but it’s been my experience that such songs are much richer to our ears than the “finger in the ear” standard diet. Whilst I imagine that this fine disk will be labeled as “contemporary folk,” it’s difficult to picture any of these songs being played in a folk club by one person with an acoustic guitar. Modern technology is necessary in order to present these songs in their full majesty, and we are all the richer for Maddy and her merry men having done so.’

Vonnie looks 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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I really dug the eleventh season of Doctor Who, and I love the new Doctor. And this SuperBitz plushie tribute to her is absolutely adorable. I’ve seen SuperBitz items here and there, but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to get a really good look. And it’s a well made plushie with great attention to detail.

Denise takes a look at one of the many collectible tributes to our new Doctor, Funko’s Rock Candy’s Thirteenth Doctor Vinyl Collectible. (No, it’s not actual candy, but a type of collectible from Funko.) She’s rather fond of her new Doctor. ‘She’s here! And she’s fantastic.’ Read Denise’s review for more information, and why she’s a fan of this collectible.

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Our Coda this week is a twofer from a young country music star.  Robert says of the first song, “This was the first song by Cameron Hawthorn to come to my attention.  Billed as his “coming out” song, it’s a nicely romantic, almost nostalgic piece:

And here’s his newest song, a melancholy piece about a first love that wasn’t:

Strangely, Hawthorn doesn’t seem to have come out with an album yet. Soon, we hope. .

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Gingerbread

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I hope you’re enjoying the still-hot-from-the-oven gingerbread with a scoop of Madagascar vanilla ice cream on it. Bet you another piece that you don’t know the history of this culinary treat, do you? Thought so. So do take another piece and I’ll tell you all about it.

Our gingerbread is the Swedish version which actually is Germanic in origin. It came to my nation with German immigrants in the same way that Christmas traditions such as greeting cards, Christmas trees, even wreaths came to Great Britain with German royalty that married into the English royal family. Thus it was that gingerbread is a Swedish delicacy that we bake here. During the thirteenth century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. By the fifteenth century in Germany, a gingerbread guild controlled who could bake it.

Gingerbread in German is Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen (pepper cake). Properly spiced gingerbread has a slightly peppery taste, not strong but definitely there.

Several sources note (no writer cited) that ‘In Germany gingerbread is made in two forms: a soft form called Lebkuchen and a harder form, particularly associated with carnivals and street markets such as the Christmas markets that occur in many German towns.’ The hard gingerbread is made in decorative shapes, which are then further decorated with sweets and icing. The tradition of cutting gingerbread into shapes takes many other forms, and exists in many countries, a well-known example being the gingerbread man.

Though our gingerbread is spiced like the Swedes, ours is moist cake instead of thin biscuits (cookies as the Yanks call them) that tastes delicious warm with, as I noted above, vanilla ice cream. Oh and we don’t put raisins, candied orange peel or other such things in our gingerbread.

So would you like yet a third piece?

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What’s New for the 23rd of August: Kage Baker on Peter Beagle, dark fantasy, Brahms-a-rama, other somewhat Autumnal matters


I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.  ― Patricia A.  McKillip’s Winter Rose

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Impressive, isn’t it? When we built the new Library in the late eighteen century, we moved the Pub here to top floor of the cellar. And we made sure the Greensward facing side had as much glass as possible. So that means for you that every sunrise, barring inclement weather, is visible here and with all of them being spectacular indeed.

The chair you’re sitting in is commonly known as The Falstaff Chair as Estate lore has him telling tales in it one winter’s night. Yes I know he’s fictional but I’ll bet you’ve got characters and stories you believe strongly are real. So do be careful what you think of while here as nightmares as well dreams can come true …

I see you’re reading Solstice Wood by Patricia Mckillip. I assume you’ve read Winter Rose already? It’s sort of a prequel to the book you’re reading but not quite so. Both are excellent reads, though I prefer Solstice Wood to read again. Now let’s see what we found this time…

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Liz has a choice morsel of Tolkieniana for us: ‘In Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon Brian Rosebury presents a critical assessment of the entire body of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. He also attempts to locate Tolkien within Literature and the History of Ideas and to examine the “afterlife” of Tolkien’s works in today’s popular culture. He sees the book as both a complete introduction to Tolkien and his works for general readers, and as a critical analysis for fans and scholars. A shorter version of this book appeared in 1992. This new extended edition was written in the light of new scholarship and two new developments: the publication of Tolkien’s unpublished manuscripts by his son Christopher, and the release of Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lord of the Rings.’

Robert — no, not that Robert, a different Robert — brings us a look at James Morrow’s The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, which he rates as somewhat difficult: ‘I knew from the title that the story was at least related to the classic silent horror movie, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with which I am only passingly familiar. That was not as great a handicap as I’d feared. . . . I did not, however, anticipate the amount of artistic theory and discussion that I would find within.’

And Robert — no, not the other Robert, the regular Robert — has a look at Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewels Trilogy: ‘I have to regard The Black Jewels as something of a landmark. I don’t think it will spawn a host of imitators — how could it? It is so individual as to defy imitation. Aside from my reservations about the portrayal of villains and madness, it is a marvelously rich tale inhabited by fascinating people who, in spite of their differences, are more human than we have any right to expect.’

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Robert takes us back to the nineteenth century and one of his favorite composers of the Romantic era, with a look at two recordings of works by Johannes Brahms: ‘Johannes Brahms was, to put it mildly, one of the more thoughtful composers in the history of Western music, as evidenced by the fact that, although he is known to have been working on a symphony in 1854 (never finished, although parts did find their way to the Concerto for Piano in D Minor and the Deutsches Requiem, his first, the C Minor, was not published until 1877, when he was forty-four.’

And more Brahms: Robert also takes a look (a listen?) to one of his favorite pieces of music, Brahm’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, Op. 34: ‘We’ve run across the thematic material in the Piano Quintet before, in the two-piano treatment of the Sonata in F Minor, but here the character is somewhat different: that Brahmsian bigness that is somewhat muted in the Sonata is here given greater scope, and the feeling of a symphony orchestra lurking in the wings waiting to jump in is that much more prevalent.’

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Our What Not is about Peter S. Beagle, who is not only of one our best storytellers ever, but also without doubt one of the best loved as well. We decided to ask some of the many writers who’ve passed through our pub, errrr, offices what their favorite piece of fiction by him was, and why so. Their answers run from the obvious choices, i.e. The Last Unicorn, to some that greatly surprised us.

Kage  pondered her answer — ‘How to decide? The Last Unicorn probably had the greatest effect on me, reading it as I did at an impressionable age and learning there that fantasy could cut through the mannered, medievalist crap and speak sharply of real life. I See By My Outfit always delighted me and still does, as it must delight anyone who has ever been young, dumb, brave and On The Road. To take off across the country on motor scooters (of all things), sleeping in tents, trusting in fate, having adventures — yeah!! But my all-time favorite Beagle character I met in The Innkeeper’s Song: the little, little fox with soft fur…’

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Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ is a definitely dark take on the Sandman myth for which vocalist and rhythm guitarist Hetfield wrote the lyrics as it deals with the concept of a child’s nightmares. The lyrics such as this stanza, ‘Hush little baby, don’t say a word/ And never mind that noise you heard / It’s just the beasts under your bed / In your closet, in your head’ are as dark as any tale was that the Brothers Grimm collected oh so long ago.

This hour long concert was played acoustic outside with the sound transmitted to the listeners on wireless headphones so as not to disturb the the residents who weren’t human. Here’s what their website had to say about it:

This was the most unique show Metallica has ever done. The band, contest winners, research station scientists (from Russia, South Korea, China, Poland, Chile, Brazil and Germany), and the ship crew, all crammed in this little dome out on the helipad of Carlini Station in ANTARCTICA! The energy in the little dome was amazing! Words can not describe how happy everyone was.

The band cranked out 10 songs for the small crowd including Creeping Death, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sad But True, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Master of Puppets, One, Blackened, Nothing Else Matters, Enter Sandman, and Seek & Destroy.

No word on if there were any penguins were attendance.

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