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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A Kinrowan Estate story: Riddles (A Letter to Elizabeth)

Green Leaves

Dear Elizabeth,

You asked me about the power of rhymes as I mentioned they’re common in Swedish children’s songs, and indeed there is power in the old rhymes, spells that they be, which even most hedgewitches forget, but not our Tamsin. Like all hedgewitches who have lived here at the Kinrowan Estate, she has a working knowledge of how important they are as she’s read the Journals written by centuries of the of hedgewitches before her at the Estate. She even claims that there’s an old fox with one eye that listens keenly when she recites riddling spells in the woods near her cottage!

I was drinking Oberon and Titania’s Ale in the pub with Tamsin and Reynard, the latter taking the evening off as Finch was on duty. There was a contradance later that night with me calling and Reynard playing with Chasing Dragonflies. Somehow the subject got into the matter of rhymes as sung by children.

Tamsin mentioned ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ first appeared in print in the late eighteen hundreds, but it’s probably at least a century older, maybe a lot more. She noted that some folks, particularly fellow hedgewitches, say that the song originally described the plague as posies were thought to prevent the plague, but folklorists of recent years reject this idea. Silly lot, those folklorists in her opinion — she says that just because you can’t prove something is true is not proof it isn’t true.

Iain had just added a book on riddles in The Hobbit. He mused about the idea of riddles, as a riddle is a statement or question or even just a simple phrase having a double or often hidden meaning which makes what is a riddle rather expansive.

That led a Several Annie who was listening in to suggest a riddle slam, a contest in which anybody can state a riddle and both the riddler and the riddle get judged on the best of each. We set it for the next stormy day so that the Steward could declare it a Respite Day in which everyone (including the Kitchen staff as our eventide meal would be soup and such to keep prep minimal) got the day off.

That was several weeks ago and it’s been fun to watch everyone writing riddles and reciting them aloud to see how they sound. Tamsin has cautioned them about saying aloud riddles with an embedded wish, as they might just come true.

I’ll tell how the riddle slam goes after we have it. It might be a while (I almost said ‘spell’ but resisted) as the weather’s been ideal for my estate work crews and we’re still in lambing season as well!

Your friend, Gus

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What’s New for the 2nd of May: A Fat Music Review Section, Four British film mysteries, Live music from from Tatiana Hargreaves and Allison De Groot, Jennifer wallows in two historical fictions with delightfully authentic voices, Evil Kit Kat Bars, Willingham’s Fables series, Bordertown fiction and Other Cool Matters

I only laid the cobbles for the streets of Bordertown; it took all of us, an entire community, to bring the city to life. And that’s as it should be. Community, friendship, art: stirred together, they make a powerful magic. Used wisely, it can save your life. I know that it saved mine. – Terri Windling in Welcome to Bordertown

Green LeavesSomewhere, a chicken is roasting as I can most clearly smell its deliciousness all the way from here in in the Green Man Pub as I serve a patron her Kinrowan Special Reserve Pear Cider. Well it’s in the Estate kitchen obviously. With sage, rosemary and garlic. And fatty Lancashire bacon slathered over it as well. I’m guessing that it, along with several others, is intended for a large copper pot later this afternoon to become an awesomely delicious rice, veggie and chicken stew for our eventide meal tomorrow.

When not working in the Pub, I’m been reading the second Teixcalaanli Empire novel from Arkady Martine, A Desolation of Peace. If anything it’s even better than the first novel in the series,  A Memory Called Empire which most deservedly won a Hugo last year which I voted for. And I’ll be nominating A Desolation of Peace for a Hugo at the proper time.

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We’re running a special book review section this time exclusively looking at the fiction set in the Borderland universe created by Terry Windling.

First, read Michael’s incisive look at the series save Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems which came out after this first ran: ‘There are seven books in all: four anthologies, one solo book by Emma Bull, and two solo books by Will Shetterly. Together, they comprise the down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty, flight-of-fancy grunge-rock-punk ballad known as Bordertown. How can I describe it? It’s a stylized vision of New York in the ’80s, leather-and-lace big-hair bands, and the Wild West, all rolled into one. Youth gangs, runaways, flamboyant rock-and-roll bands, Elven court politics, people seeking their dreams … it was all there. You could find your heart, lose your soul, find your dreams, lose your way, and always come back to the beginning, in Bordertown.’

Cat has a look at Finder which he thinks is the best look at this shared universe: ‘My personally autographed copy of the hardcover edition is subtitled A Novel of The Borderlands, which tells you that it’s set in The Borderland ‘verse created by Terri Windling. It’s not the only Borderland novel: her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote two splendid novels set here, Elsewhere and Nevernever. I, however, think that it’s the best of the three.’

Grey says that ‘The Essential Bordertown anthology (edited by Terri Windling and Delia Sherman) was written to be your first Bordertown friend, the handbook you keep with you until you find your niche — or at least until you get to The Dancing Ferret and have your complimentary first drink. It’s partly a collection of stories told by a variety of the city’s residents and visitors, and partly a really good travel guide — the kind you wished you had the first time you visited a place where you didn’t speak the language.’

Life on The Border was the third and last of the original Bordertown series until The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller’s Guide to the Edge came out some seven years later. It was a fat little paperback with two weird looking individuals, one of whom might have pointed ears. I think they’re meant to be Bordertown elven punks. Iain has a loving look at it here.

Michael also  looks at Holly Black and Ellen Kushner’s Welcome to Bordertown anthology, the latest entry in this series: ‘A generation ago, Terri Windling and Mark Alan Arnold introduced us to Bordertown, an abandoned American city sitting on the Border between the “real world” (The World) and Faerie (The Realm). A place where science and magic both worked, if equally unpredictably, it became a haven and a destination for runaways and outcasts of both worlds, a place where humans and the Fae (aka Truebloods) could mingle, do business, eke out a living, and find themselves. It was a place where anything could happen.’

This last novel properly doesn’t belong here. So let’s have Michael tell the tale of why I included it: ‘For all its familiarity, The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford is -not- Bordertown. It’s Bordertown with the serial numbers scraped off and placed in the Witness Protection Program. But it’s also its own creature, and it’s on those merits that we’ll judge it.’

Green LeavesThe KillKat Evil Wafers vinyl figure, is Cat says, an odd thing for this section of this edition: ‘OK, I’ll admit that obviously speaking that this item didn’t  belong under our food and drink section as it’s quite inedible. Really, really inedible. But we like Kit Kat bars around here and actually reviewed some of the Kit Kat flavours though admittedly some should have never happened such as the Kumamon Ikinari Dango KitKat. Really should never have happened.’ Go ahead and read his review to see why this this vinyl figure is so tasteful. Pun fully intended.

Denise digs into a childhood favorite; Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate with Marzipan. ‘As my Grossie would say, “Dem Germans know how to make marzipan.” I concur.’ Check out her review for a taste of her thoughts about this bar!

Elizabeth (whose White Space novels, Ancestral Nights and Machine, are popular around here and which Gary is reviewing for us) reviews Berkshire Chocolates for us: ‘All in all, good respectable snacking chocolate, high quality, not a trace of bloom or unintentional grittiness in any of the bars, but not a lot of depth or nuance either. (The espresso beans are a bit gritty, of course.) It’s not the nuanced, rounded flavors of a Callebaut or a Schokinag, but it’s about as good as supermarket chocolate is going to get.’

J.S.S. says that ‘I’ve received a sampling of three different bars of chocolate  from E. Guittard, the oldest family-owned chocolate company in the United States. San Francisco chocolate-makers since the 1850s, the company began with one enterprising Frenchman, Etienne, who saw a market for premium chocolates during the California Gold Rush.’ Read his review here to see what he thought of these tasty treats.

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I‘be been watching a lot of British mysteries this month, so I’m going to recommend four of them for you —a Sherlock Holmes mystery of sorts, Gosford Park, a Hercule Poirot Christmas story and a Doctor Who episode. Yes, a Doctor Who episode.

Craig starts us off with a choice Sherlock film: ‘Nicholas Meyer adapted The Seven-Per-Cent Solution from his own novel, and he and director Herbert Ross turn out a fine Holmes pastiche. The book is even better, capturing the language as well as the different mannerisms of the characters. Meyers’ other outings were not as successful and can be skipped, but this one is a must-see (and read) for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-known creation.’

David is up next 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!

Next 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 ‘ Now there’s no snow falling out outside on this April day, but it’s still a most splendid mystery.

Finally we have a Tenth Doctor story, ‘The Unicorn & The Wasp’ which he 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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So do you need a long graphic novel series to read? If so, I’m going to recommend Bill Willingham’s Fables series, which lasted for thirteen years and was collected in twenty volumes. Cat has a look at Fables, The Deluxe Edition: Book One: ‘Imagine, if you will, if the inhabitants of the fairytales you know so well — human and fantastical alike — were alive and well and living in New York. Such is the premise behind Bill Willingham’s Fables series for Vertigo Comics. The Fables, as they call themselves, have long since been driven from their lands by an entity they call only The Adversary. The human-looking Fables settled in New York City, in a neighborhood they call Fabletown. Those who are less than human (think the Three Little Pigs, Shere Kahn, and Oz’s winged monkeys) live in bucolic upstate New York. Good King Cole is mayor of Fabletown, but the real power is in his deputy, Snow White. Long divorced from Prince Charming and estranged from her younger sister Rose Red, Snow White is quite far removed from her former passive self. Helping her maintain order is the Big Bad Wolf, better known now as Bigby Wolf, gumshoe detective.’

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Donna has an overview of several CDs from the Spanish folk group La Musgaña from the late ’90s through the early 2000s. ‘Although the music is primarily Castilian Spanish, the band’s official website notes that the central Iberian region has experienced cultural influences from other parts of Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.’

David thoroughly enjoyed two releases from Maury Muehleisen, a guitarist and singer-songwriter you’ve probably never heard of. Who was he? ‘He was Jim Croce’s guitar-playing accompanist, and the guy who made Big Bad Jim sound the way he did. He was killed in the same plane crash that killed Croce, on September 20, 1973.’

Otis Taylor masterfully realizes the premise of his CD Recapturing the Banjo, according to David. In Taylor’s hands, he says, ‘The banjo becomes more than simply that percussive, harsh thing in the background. It’s more than the flashy solo bluegrass instrument. It takes on an identity of its own. And you begin to hear subtleties you never thought possible.’

David also reviews Tom Paxton’s Comedians & Angels, a followup to his Grammy nominated 2002 album Looking For the Moon. ‘Paxton calls all these song “songs of love,” and admits that since he’s almost 70 years old his “definition of love songs is broader than I once would have found it to be. Still, there is love in them all.” ‘

‘The late great John Hartford’s legacy continues to resonate down the generations of American roots music.’ Gary notes in his review of Eli West’s Tapered Point of Stone. ‘The music itself is something Hartford would be pleased with, too, I like to think. Hartford liked music that could be played by folks together, not by soloists showing off, and there’s not much of that kind of bluegrass pyrotechnics here, although the playing is all top-notch.’

‘Will Beeley has spent the past three decades and change as a long-haul trucker, but before that he was a Texas troubadour,’ Gary says. He reviews 1970 Sessions, an album of demos Beeley cut that year, that he says offer ‘a perfect window into 1970.’

Gary reviews a CD from the Basel Music Academy made by jazz students from around the world as part of an annual residency program called Focusyear. ‘If nothing else, the Focusyear Band 21’s Bosque represents assurance that the future of jazz is in good hands. But it’s a lot more than that; it’s an hour of good music, for one thing.’

Gary’s getting all nostalgic for the “Cosmic American Music” of a half-century ago. Seems he’s been listening to the debut disc from the Athens, Georgia band The Pink Stones, who are influenced by Gram Parsons, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Tom Petty … you get the picture. ‘So if you’re looking for some Americana that has a bit more of an irreverent, cosmic vibe to it than the usual fare, Introducing… The Pink Stones would be a great place to start.

Kathleen was pleasantly surprised by a collection of folk songs called Old Wine, New Skins. ‘The CD is a companion piece to The Folk Handbook: Working With Songs From The English Tradition (Backbeat Books, 2007). Clean and straightforward, it showcases 17 songs from the book in an exquisitely simple presentation: Good songs. Good singers. Good musicians.’

Mike liked pretty much everything about a CD from Old Crow Medicine Show called Tennessee Pusher. ‘The five-piece Old Crow Medicine Show take an old-time American roots sound and give it a contemporary makeover, in much the same way that Gram Parsons did with country music some 40 years ago.’

Peter highly recommends a collection of Irish songs and tunes from Canadian singer and flutist Norah Rendell and American guitarist Brian Miller, titled Wait There Pretty One. ‘Put together these two experienced and talented musicians from the folk world, and you get, as you would expect, something above average in terms of performance and taste.’ Put together these two experienced and talented musicians from the folk world, and you get, as you would expect, something above average in terms of performance and taste.

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Jennifer wallows in two historical fictions with delightfully authentic voices: David Liss’s new novel, The Peculiarities, and the first novel in a new series of Victorian mysteries by  bestselling author Barbara Monajem, Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen.

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Spring is definitely upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere. If that makes you feel like dancing, check out this offering from Tatiana Hargreaves and Allison De Groot. They’re joined by clogger Ruth Alpert as they play the delightful Appalachian tune ‘Cotton Bonnet’ at a house concert in early 2020.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Foxes

Green Leaves

Though fox hunting by the gentry was common in Scotland for centuries, this Estate never allowed them to be hunted here, so the Estate foxes have thrived. Even when we had a Gameskeeper here, before we abolished that position and created the Estate Head Gardener position that I now hold, they were safe from being hunted.

There are, roughly speaking, two types of foxes here — those who like humans and those who really could do without us. Given the size of the Estate, both types can easily find their preference here. There’s a long history of the human inhabitants here noting in The Sleeping Headehhog who were the foxes they were especially interested in.

There was Tess, who according to the Estate Ghillie, had a burrow down by one of the salmon breeding pools; he fed rabbits to her and her kits during a particularly bad winter; there was the fox that bedded down with the Irish wolfhounds who guarded the sheep; there was one fox that, based on his markings, was estimated to be over thirty years old, an impossible age for a fox, even in captivity; and one Estate Gardener swore he had not been drunk when he had a conversation with a ghost fox out in the Wood.

The foxes that are truly wild are harder to get a handle on as they avoid us at all costs. Some have only been glimpsed, being known as individuals solely because of their unique characteristics, such as the male known as Diamond as he had a perfect white diamond bit of fur on his forehead, or the one called Broad Arrow as he had such a marking on his back.

So if you visit our Estate, do take the time to look for our foxes. It’ll be worth your while to do so.

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What’s New for the 18th of April: Chicago’s Field Museum’s Cyrus Tang Hall of China, Live Music from Midnight Oil, A Potpourri of Music Reviews, Some Mars Fiction, Lots of Chocolate and Other Cool Stuff

The most important thing in the universe, it turns out, is a complex of subjective and individual approximations. Of tries and fails. Of ideals, and things we do to try to get close to those ideals. It’s who we are when nobody is looking. — Elizabeth Bear’s Machine: A White Space Novel

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Spring is upon us but the weather is cold today with snow steadily falling so that hearty food was warranted which is why that heavenly smell is coming from the Estate Kitchen sone distance  away from the Pub. One smell is from the garlic and bacon jam infused challah baking off in the wood fired oven while the other smell is the smoked ham hocks slowly baking in the same oven for our eventide repast. It along with basmati rice with saffron served with steamed veggies along with apple tarts with fresh made vanilla ice cream for dessert is the rest of that delicious repast.

I’ve been re-reading Elizabeth Bear’s White Space series which so far consists of Ancestral Nights and its sequel Machine. Though set in the same universe, they’re delightfully different. They’re well worth the time to read again. Indeed I nominated Machine for a Hugo.

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Carter starts off our review with a classic: ‘Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is a baklava of a book — rich, layered, so sweet it has to be enjoyed in small bits. This novel-that-is-not-a-novel rightfully remains a classic in the science fiction genre, and a classic example of Ray Bradbury’s genius with words. As with all of Bradbury’s work, don’t look for accurate or even consistent science. Look, instead, for tales well told, stories that seep into your mind and blood and become part of you forever.’

Cat has a neat work for us: ‘At a mere one hundred and three pages, this is one of the best Robert Heinlein works I’ve ever read. Oops, I meant Kage Baker works. Or did I? Ok, let me reconcile the contradiction I just created (somewhat). The Empress of Mars reads like the best of Heinlein’s short fiction from the golden period of the 1940s and 1950s. It is so good that I’ve no doubt John W. Campbell would’ve published it! It would sit very nicely alongside much of his short fiction such as ‘Blowups Happen’, ‘The Long Watch’, and ‘The Green Hills of Earth’, to name but three classic Heinlein tales. It’s that well-crafted. It’s that entertaining. And it’s that rarest of short works — one that is just the right length.’

(You can hear her narrating it here. It’s a splendid telling by her.)

I’ve got your late  reading in one splendid volume. Let’s have Chris tell you about it: ‘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.’

Craig notes ‘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.’ You’ll need to read to read his review to see why this tale is so much more.

Gary tackles In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, a book of essays by Margaret Atwood about the fiction that she writes, which is hard to define. Is it fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction? ‘Actually, that is exactly the topic she tackles in this collection of some of her writings, mostly non-fiction, about the definition and meaning of science fiction.’

Richard looks at an Ian MacDonald novel set in the same world 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 has a choice bit of non-fiction for us to consider: ‘Being the purist that I am, I wince when people talk about the evolution of this, the evolution of that – evolution has nothing to do with automobile design or cell phones or political systems. It is, however, a legitimate concept when discussing language: language does change over time, languages to descend from common ancestors, and there are exchanges and mutations of “genetic material” – words. Merritt Ruhlen, a prominent linguist, has, in The Origin of Language, given us a fascinating, hands-on investigation of that evolution. He also gives us a history of linguistics and in particular, brings us up to date on developments in historical linguistics over the past fifty years.’

He also looks at Hugo winning set of stitched together stories: ‘Old Earth Books has done us the signal service of reissuing two of Clifford Simak’s most memorable works in honor of the centennial of his birth in 1904, of which City is one. I confess that reading this book was an unsettling experience. It is, first off, one of the great “future histories” concocted by science fiction writers of the Golden Age. I remember vividly Poul Anderson’s version, and no less than Spider Robinson had reason to wax eloquent over Heinlein’s. Simak’s City is a series of connected stories, a series of legends, myths, and campfire stories told by Dogs about the end of human civilization, centering on the Webster family, who, among their other accomplishments, designed the ships that took Men to the stars and gave Dogs the gift of speech and robots to be their hands.’

Warner starts off with Elly Bangs’ Unity which he says ‘is a fascinating little novel, filled with unexpected turns and twists to a set of concepts that are extremely familiar to a scifi reader.  The concepts explored here have been touched on before, however the writer’s style does a great deal to remind the reader that individual point of view is important, even when combined with others.’

He’s with an neat take off historical reality: ‘Loren D. Estleman’s The Eagle and The Viper looks at a set of attempts upon the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, and in no small part doing so from a contemporary police investigative point of view. Told in the style of a suspensful thriller, this historical novel moves fast enough some readers might just expect it to slip into the alternate reality.’

He next has a WW II mystery for us: ‘Overall The Consequences of Fear gives an excellent example of Jacqueline Winspear as a historical mystery author, and a good argument for picking up the Maisie Dobbs series. There might be better volumes to start with, however this one will work fine for the reader who happens to see it first.’

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Robert watched a film courtesy of browsing a well known retailer one day: ‘I missed John Carter in the theaters, but ran across the DVD on one of my browsing trips through Amazon. I figured I’d probably enjoy it, and I found the DVD for half price. How could I say no?’ Read his review to see if it was worth his time.

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Reece’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups doesn’t sound like the sort of roots and branches of our shared global culture that we’d bother to comment upon but our resident Summer Queen explains why we are doing so: ‘I have a confession to make. Yes, I have a problem. And that problem’s name is Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. I’m the person at Hallowe’en who looks at the bowl of candy designated for trick or treaters and asks, plaintively, “Could we hold the Reese’s in reserve? Or at least hide them on the bottom of the bowl?” and who will blatantly pilfer from the bowl throughout the evening. And if there’s any left over? Bliss!’

Sukkerfri Dent Duett: Berry + Licorice Pastilles found a fan in Denise: ‘ I’m an unabashed fan of black licorice. I’ve tasted (and reviewed) lots of different styles, from salty to sweet, and even covered in chocolate. (Don’t knock ’em ’til you’ve tried ’em y’all.) But licorice and berries? No, not berry flavored licorice. A mashup of black licorice and berry flavors. For those days when you can’t seem to make up your mind on what kind of taste you’re craving – which for me is just about every single day of my life – Duet has an equal amount of sweet and sweetly savory. And I’m a fan.’

Looking for a different taste to snack on or stir into your oatmeal? Gary has a recipe for Curried Cashew Trail Mix, which he used to buy in bulk but now makes himself to reduce the sodium content. ‘It’s probably 10 years that I’ve been putting this in my porridge (and occasionally snacking on it by itself), and I’m not tired of it yet.’

Jennifer knows that when you’ve been overdoing the tests and tasks of Spring, it’s time for hearty comfort food from Mexico: chilaquiles, the best and easiest breakfast in the world.

And because one good pepper deserves another, Jennifer provides a hearty beef stew with gobs of mushrooms and rich, complex, not-very-hot guajillo peppers.

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David and Gary delve into late recordings of one of the greats of classic country and Americana music, Charlie Louvin. First up is his first comeback album, the self-titled Charlie Louvin. Gary says, ‘Now nearing his 80th birthday in July 2007, Charlie is still performing occasionally, and has put out this disc as a career overview, with assistance from a stable of Nashville regulars in the band and a gaggle of singing partners from among his peers and later generations of admirers.’

Next up, David tells us about the first album of all gospel songs Louvin released in his long career: ‘Steps to Heaven belongs on the shelf next to Johnny Cash’s My Mother’s Hymn Book as testament of the faith and devotion of a lifetime. Finally, David looks at Charlie Louvin’s Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs: ‘I waited a long time for this album. Not as long as Charlie Louvin did, though. The liner notes tell us that he’s been “singing about murder and disaster all his life.” And that’s 81 years.’

David also reviewed the re-release of two, two-disc sets of some of the best music from the “exotica” music craze of the 1950s and 1960s, Arthur Lyman’s Bwana Á & Bahia, and Isle of Enchantment & Polynesia. ‘You put these CDs on, and you are transported out of the city, out of this world and into another world. A fantasy world perhaps, but one where nature still has input — monkey sounds, bird calls, wind and waves, and the exotica of Arthur Lyman’s music.’

Donna got a lot of enjoyment out of a disc called Goodbye to the Madhouse, by McDermott’s Two Hours. ‘I can count on the fingers of one hand, with at least the thumb left over, the number of singer-songwriters whose work I tolerate, let alone enjoy. That puts Nick Burbridge, the powerhouse behind McDermott’s 2 Hours, in rare and precious company.’

Gary reviews a new album from Norwegian accordionist Frode Haltli and his 10-piece ensemble, Avant Folk II. ‘The album’s four tracks explore folk themes in ways that reflect folk, jazz and avant garde idioms. And they’re clever, did I mention clever?’

Gary also delves into two collections of pianist Dave Brubeck’s music released in honor of his 90th birthday: Dave Brubeck’s Original Album Classics – Jazz Goes To College, Brubeck Plays Brubeck, Gone With The Wind, Brandenberg Gate: Revisited, Jazz Impressions Of New York; and The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Original Album Classics – Time Out, Time Further Out, Time Changes, Time In, Countdown – Time in Outer Space.

Gereg surprised himself by liking a Steeleye Span album that took a left turn in 1980: ‘Sails of Silver isn’t the sound I expect from Steeleye. For long-time listeners, that can’t be emphasised strongly enough. Because if you go in expecting electric folk, you’ll be disappointed. This is rock with folk roots. And yet those roots run deep. So if you can wrap your imagination around the incongruous concept of a rock with roots, then this might be the album for you.’

Scott had fun listening to Ljova and the Kontraband’s Mnemosyne: ‘Ljova displays some serious skill as both a composer and player throughout the disc, but he definitely has a playful side as well. Often this side manifests itself in the tune titles — my two favorite instrumentals on the disc are called “Love Potion, Expired” and “Crutchahoy Nign”– but the music itself often unpredictably bounces off on some fun tangents.’

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Robert takes us on another adventure through Chicago’s Field Museum, this time the mysterious East — namely, the Cyrus Tang Hall of China: ‘No, I don’t know who Cyrus Tang is, or was, but I suspect this exhibition is named for him because a major portion came from his collection. That said, the exhibition itself gives an overview of the history of China from the Neolithic to the early 20th Century.’

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Icelandic Tunes

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You up too? My old bones are aching far too much to sleep, so I thought I’d sit here in the Pub, a glass of something strong in hand, and listen to the Neverending Session who for some reason are playing Icelandic tunes tonight while I ponder how each winter’s just a bit harder to take. Oh, but the warm fire as I sit in Falstaff’s Chair does feel rather good!

Why Icelandic fiddle tunes, you ask? I, too, was wondering. Even here, in a building that was practically built on music, they were once an uncommon thing to hear. But Estate staffers have been collecting music for so long that it’s said we have a Fey recording somewhere of a carnyx being played at the burial of a Elf Lord — a sound that will send a chill clear to your marrow as it did to Roman soldiers encountering it in ancient Britain.

It is said that an Icelandic woman by the name of Kárhildur came here to share her herbal lore a century back on the invitation of Lady Alexandra, the Estate Head Gardener, and she ended up staying far longer than the Summer and Autumn she planned. Being here in the Winter meant she, being a violinist, shared her tunes and other much older Icelandic ones.

So do have a drink of Brennivín (Black Death), a particularly potent drink fashioned after a libation popular in Iceland, while we listen for a while. It sounds as though they’re just beginning ‘Rimur Og Kvaedalog’, a favorite of mine to play as well.

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What’s New for 4th of April: Holmesian matters, lots of chocolate…

He. Does there have to be a he? It seems weak and unoriginal doesn’t it,  for stories told by girls to always have a he?” ― Rinsai Rossetti’s The Girl With Borrowed Wings

Green LeavesSomewhere a chicken is roasting as I can clearly smell its deliciousness. Well, it’s in the Estate kitchen, obviously. With sage, rosemary and lots of roasted garlic. And fatty bacon slathered over it as well. I’m guessing that it, along with several others, is intended for a soup pot later this afternoon along with lots of tasty veggies.

In the meantime I know that Mrs. Ware has been making use of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook to make really fudgy chocolate brownies that are truly awesome with a glass of that really amazing chocolate milk that she’s been making lately.

So it’ll be all Holmes related material this time for our book reviews this time because that’s what tickles my fancy. Now the culinary section is all chocolate related as it often with items drawn from our Archives. And I’d write of a review of that bottle of Bicerin Italian Chocolate Liqueur made with hazelnuts that came in, if I could ever get it back from Iain – though I’m expecting it’ll be empty soon…

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Craig starts us off with a tasty buffet including offerings from from the Firesign Theatre and Michael Moorcock: ‘No doubt Sherlock Holmes will continue to be the subject of more literary, audio, and even cinematic offerings for years to come, so we’ve no need to fear his disappearance any time soon. Personally, I prefer the old standards myself, but I’m always interested in a new voice’s interpretation of a mythic character. These offerings show just in how many ways he can be approached. Holmes is in our public consciousness now; we all own him, so why not have a little fun with him?’

Faith is next up with this tasty reference work: ‘Andrew Lycett puts Arthur Conan Doyle in context in The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, talking about his parents and grandparents and the circles they moved in so as to explain the milieu into which he was born and the influences on his childhood. The advance copy has spaces for family trees and I’m sorry not to have had the benefit of them. Both sides of Conan Doyle’s family had a lot of interesting people in them, and a family tree would certainly make them easier to keep track of.’

Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’

J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec are the editors of Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes of which Kage says, ‘All in all, Gaslight Grimoire is well worth picking up if you enjoy lighting the fire, curling up in your armchair with a glass of sherry at your elbow in the gloom of a winter afternoon, and having a good Victorian-era read.’

Matthew has some Sherlockian fiction for us: ‘In Sherlock Holmes: A Duel with the Devil, Roger Jaynes has added another leaf to the immense Holmesian corpus. In this slim volume, Jaynes provides Holmes fans with three mysteries tied together by the character of Holmes’ archnemesis, Moriarty. In ‘The Case of the Dishonoured Professor’, Holmes and Watson labor to remove scandal from an academic’s reputation. In ‘The Case of the Baffled Courier’, they turn their attention to good smuggling. The final mystery, ‘Moriarty’s Fiendish Plan’, is half the book’s length and pulls out all the stops, bringing in most all the trademark Holmesian mystery elements: a secret code, deception, and of course, Moriarty, not to mention Watson attempting to murder Holmes.’

Wat er next a neat Sherlockian reference work for us: ‘Mike Foy’s The Curious Book of Sherlock Holmes Characters is a new incarnation of a rather old concept. It is a full alphabetical concordance of the many characters and personages to appear or be mentioned in the original Sherlock Holmes tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In a tried and true formula, attempting to stand out can be difficult, and Foy finds clever ways to do so.’

Next up for him is one is one in which Holmes isn’t a character: Tales of Scotland Yard: Lestrade is a most entertaining volume, and speaks well to publisher Orange Pip Books and author Bianca Jenkins. There is a mystery, and a carefully and considered investigation. Easy to recommend as a short and easy, if not particularly light, read. This review has failed until this line to mention Sherlock Holmes, and has done so because the book stands well enough entirely apart.’

He’s got some offbeat Holmes for us next: ‘Dorothy Elllen Palmer’s Wiggins: Son of Sherlock is not for anyone looking to read a Sherlockian story as it is known. It is not a traditional Watsonian tale, nor even one of the more common variations upon reinventon. It is a well written reinvention and reexamination of the classic concepts and characters. Certainly worth a look to someone a bit tired of standard Sherlock Holmes pastiche, me, someone wishing for surprises. It is well told, and a reader will look forward to seeing what else Dorothy Ellen Palmer creates.’

He wraps up our Holmesian reviews with a look at a (relatively) slim volume of Sherlockian scholarship: ‘A difficulty for most Sherlockian scholars is getting their hands on much of the wealth of older material. One reprint anthology that aids in this a great deal is Philip A. Schreffler’s Sherlock Holmes by Gas-Lamp, which contains a variety of materials from the Baker Street Journal from its first forty years of publication.’

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Cat leads offs with a look at Diana’s Bananas’ Dark Chocolate Banana Babies: ‘OK, it’s way too cute a name, I’ll grant you, but once you meet them and taste them for the first time you’ll forgive the overly cute name, as they’re amazingly good. Diana’s Bananas’ Dark Chocolate Banana Babies are one of those snacks that are both an indulgent treat and, surprisingly, rather good for you, as I’ll detail shortly.’

Cat R. encounters chocolate of a different manner: ‘By the register little chocolate squares beckoned. Labeled, somewhat exotically, ‘Xocolatl de David’, there were three sorts, but the one that caught my eye read “72% Ecuadorian Chocolate with Black Truffles and Sea Salt.” Not a chocolate truffle, mind you, but the kind of truffle pigs sniff out of the woods in Italy and France. I surrendered to impulse and bought one.’

Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Hazlenut Heaven Bar is a new favorite of Denise’s: ‘I’m always game for dark chocolate. Plus, I’m a sucker for hazelnuts (aka filbert, a name I absolutely love) in any form. So hello, combination of the two! Ghirardelli blends their premium chocolate with nicely minced nuts to create a bar that’s going onto my list of favorite scandies.’

Gary seems to have enjoyed a chocolate bar made from single-origin beans by a company based in Eureka, Calif. From his review, it sounds like a multi-media experience. ‘The bar is beautifully decorated in an incised pattern that resembles Islamic geometric tesserae.’

Jennifer flashes back to a consulting firm’s typing pool, where every birthday was celebrated with all that was good and fattening. This sour cream chocolate cake lives on long after its creator, alas, has left the red dust of earth.

Robert was a little ambivalent about Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate PB&J Minis, but decided that, on the whole, they’re a plus: ‘I don’t know if I’ll go searching for these at my local Trader Joe’s, but they are a nice treat if you’re in the mood for PB&J and don’t feel like making a sandwich. And the chocolate is a plus. But be warned: it occurs to me that it would be very easy to work through a whole bag without realizing it.’

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Craig has a choice Sherlock film for us: ‘Nicholas Meyer adapted The Seven-Per-Cent Solution from his own novel, and he and director Herbert Ross turn out a fine Holmes pastiche. The book is even better, capturing the language as well as the different mannerisms of the characters. Meyers’ other outings were not as successful and can be skipped, but this one is a must-see (and read) for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-known creation.’

Green LeavesBarb very much enjoyed an album of Icelandic folk music, Bára Grímsdóttir’s Funi. ‘Each of the 18 songs on Funi has something very special to offer. The variety is refreshing. So often folk music albums have no dynamic or textural changes. Not so with Funi. And it accomplishes this without losing its focus on the singing. I also find the accompaniment exceptional for the way that it always supports that singing without getting boring.’

Gary explored Volume 11 in the Naxos World Folk Music of China series, Folk Songs Of The Dai And Hani Peoples: ‘The music of this region could hardly be more different from that presented in Vol. 9, Folk Songs of the Uzbeks & Tatars of China, Turkic peoples in China’s far west, whose culture and music are closer to those of the Central Asian republics than to Han China. You won’t mistake the music on Vol. 11 for anything other than East Asian.’

Mike reviews a concert recording by Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies, Northern Echoes: Live On The Tyne. ‘There is a perceptible warmth that permeates Lowe’s lyrics, demonstrating empathy and gentle humour, whilst painting vivid portraits of the characters and their livelihoods that fill his songs. A more palpable warmth is captured in the exquisite quality of this live recording.’

Music festivals are getting set to resume in one form or another, so we looked through the archives for some past examples. Peter very much enjoyed the Chester Folk Festival he attended: ‘As festivals go, Chester Festival may not be biggest, but it must surely take the prize for one of the best thought-out festivals on the calendar. It has something going on most hours of the day between 11 a.m. and midnight for three days, and importantly, all the venues are within yards of the main stage marquee making it easy walking distance.’

Peter also greatly enjoyed the English folk trio Isambarde’s Living History. The three young musicians all sing and play multiple instruments as well. ‘So, what’s the music like? In short, bloody marvellous! Isambarde have re-worked and breathed fresh life into another collection of mainly traditional songs such as ‘The Outlandish Knight’, ‘Ye Mariners All’, ‘The Maid On The Shore’, ‘Just As The Tide Was Flowing’ and ‘Annan Waters’, to name but a few.’

From the archives this time we delve into francophone music from Canada and the United States. Gary kicks things off with a twofer of Genticorum’s La Bibournoise and Le Vent du Nord’s live album Mesdames et Messieurs!: ‘Genticorum plays Quebecois music that displays its connections to Celtic folk music more than most, due largely to the presence of flute on many tunes,’ he notes. And of Mesdames et Messieurs! he says: ‘This is Quebecois music as it was intended, fast, hot and sweaty and live, with a partisan crowd dancing and cheering at the lip of the stage. Wish I’d been there!’

Speaking of Le Vent du Nord, Gary also listened to their followup studio album: ‘On La Part de Feu they incorporate a few ideas from other avenues of world music, particularly Celtic and American roots, that they’ve picked up on tour. But mostly, they continue to do what they’ve always done, perform traditional French Canadian music with an ear toward modern sounds.’

Gary also will tell us about two discs from Quebec: Reveillons!’s Quiquequoidontou? and Belzébuth’s Les Pèches du Diable. ‘Both of these albums are superb and highly entertaining examples of contemporary Quebecois folk music. Both include lyrics and more information (in French) in the liner notes. Though self-produced and released, both are solidly professional products.’

Gary heads south for an album by a boundary-pushing group from Louisiana. ‘Grand Isle, the 11th album by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, continues to push southern Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole music in new directions while remaining solidly rooted in tradition.’

Finally, Richard takes a deep dive into Le Vent Du Nord’s Les Amants Du Saint-Laurent and La Volute’s Descendez A Gaspé, and he notes both are primarily dance music. Of the former, he says, ‘Not only the instrumental pieces and passages but also most of the songs are danceable, with the foot-tapping and step dancing to encourage listeners to start moving their own feet’; while of the latter, ‘Most of the tracks again follow the Québecquois tradition by being eminently danceable even when they are songs rather than instrumentals, and there is again much unison singing.’

Green LeavesThe Austin, Texas folk fusion group Ley Line recorded a song about the importance of water, the day before a record-breaking storm cut off power and water to millions across the Lone Star State in February. It’s a lovely song all in Spanish with rich harmony vocals and minimalist percussion, called “En Busca del Agua,” and sales benefit Austin Youth River Watch, an organization working to protect and conserve water in Central Texas.

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That looks like it for today, so for our Coda we have a special video presentation by The Lonely Lockdown Consort, a.k.a. early music specialist Jude Rees, formerly of the superb folk trio Isambarde. She presents several versions of herself performing “A Round of 3 Country Dances” spliced with “A canon for four voices” plus hurdy-gurdy and two crumhorns.  Very creative!

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Our very small art exhibition space

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s New for the 21st of March: Lots of Doctor Who stuff, Jennifer has a warming soup for these cold days, and music from Hawaii, Turkey, Russia, Finland, and elsewhere

Don’t be scared. All of this is new to you, and new can be scary. Now we all want answers. Stick with me — you might get some. — Thirteenth Doctor

Green LeavesYes it feels full Summer today despite being the last day of Spring with the temperature of near twenty degrees this afternoon and full sun making it very, very pleasant indeed. It’s warm enough that I’m dressed in shorts and my fav Doctor Who t-shirt, the one with the Bad Wolf illustration. I’m working on this Edition outside on my iPad on the stone patio put the Pub with a large mug of chai masala with a generous splash of cream and a just baked cinnamon roll to munch for my late breakfast.

I’ve included a fair amount of Whovian related material, mostly about the new Doctor, in this edition in celebration of the fact that the principal shooting on the next season of the Thirteenth Doctor’s adventures is well underway. It’ll be shortened, just eight episodes, due to the Pandemic but it’s definitely happening.

Green LeavesLet’s start off with a number of  takes concerning Doctor Who. Some about Her, some about previous incarnations, some works about the Doctor in general.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, there have been non-fiction books focusing on various aspects of the Doctor and his adventures. April brings us a look at a not-so-reverent example, The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who: ‘Remembered by many for its wobbly paper-mache Pinewood Studios effects, frequently changing casts and cheesy incidental music, Doctor Who is, nonetheless, a unique experiment in television, and one that has been frequently engaging and entertaining, despite the production quality. There have been numerous books about the show, some more serious than others; here’s one that refuses to take itself seriously, and fans will love it.’

Cat was somewhat taken (but only somewhat) by two Doctor Who cookbooks: ‘This review is really an acknowledgement that there’s a nearly infinite 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 this, as I’m sure that there’s a Harry Potter cookbook or two out there.’

Cat says ‘I’m not going to give anything away but will note that if you like Doctor Who, I think you’ll like Jodi Houser’s Doctor Who: A Tale of Two Time Lords, Vol. 1: A Little Help From My Friends. Her Doctors are believable and the story is told very very well with the artwork good enough to carry her story excellently.’

Cat also reviewed 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 were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series. Please note that it was BBC and not Big Finish that produced these despite the fact that latter produces most of the Doctor Who and spinoff dramas. This is so because the new Doctor Who audio dramas were kept in-house and these productions were kept there as well, though Big Finish is now producing the new Doctor Who adventures as well.’

Cat 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 the 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.’

Cat also looks at Doctor Who‘s The Unicorn and The Wasp’ episode which I think had one of the better companions in Donna Noble: ‘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.’

Denise has her review of the first season of Doctor Who, and she 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!

While she might have loved Season Eleven, Season Twelve had her feeling a whole lot of different emotions…not all of them good. ‘Unfortunately, things get a bit messy this season, with the usual overarching story coming back into play with the thirteenth Doctor’s second season. There are stories and themes that work well, but most of the time? Things get a bit too heavy-handed.’ How so? Only one way to find out – give her review a look!

Greg, not to be outdone, brings us a tome that does take itself seriously — perhaps too seriously: ‘With essays covering the entire span of the various Doctor Who television series from 1963 onward, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who addresses various ideas of The Doctor as a mythic figure. Unfortunately, the central premise — the idea that he is in fact mythic — is one that is never successfully supported.’

John looks at a lot of Doctor Who audiobooks and is very impressed: ‘The Big Finish audio adventures are a rousing success. Not only do they allow us to wallow in a familiar past, they also give us the chance to experience stories that would have been impossible for the television series. The return of familiar voices is treat enough but to have the 8th Doctor brought to life is a joy indeed. Fans who may not have liked the TV adventures of these Doctors would do well to listen to the audio dramas. Characters are fleshed out and given more substance. In many ways the Big Finish productions move Doctor Who away from being a series for kids. There’s a small amount of mild profanity, for instance. But there’s also some very intense violence and situations. Plus when the stories tackle weighty issues or when they turn narrative conventions upside down, most of the thematic material will go over the heads of younger listeners.’

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Jennifer supplies us with a warming soup made with pot stickers, shrimp, and vegetables that promises that winter will indeed end.

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As the long winter winds down, many people’s thoughts turn to warmer climes – Hawaii, say. It’s very difficult to visit there right now, but how about a virtual visit via some Hawaiian music? ‘Legend has it that Spanish and Mexican cowboys brought acoustic guitars to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s, David says. ‘The native Hawaiians acquired some of these guitars and developed uniquely inventive techniques for playing them. Influenced by their own traditional chants and also by the European hymnals provided by generations of Christian missionaries, a generic “Hawaiian” sound was created. He discusses a couple of Hawaiian-style guitar albums, Ozzie Kotani’s To Honor A Queen: the Music of Lili’uokalani, and Led Kaapana & Bob Brozman’s In the Saddle.

Next up, David has a whole raft of reviews of ukulele music. ‘The ukulele first arrived in Hawaii on the afternoon of August 23, 1879, when the Ravenscrag arrived in Honolulu with 419 Portuguese immigrants coming to work in the sugar cane fields,’ he says. Check out his omnibus review of four albums by Langley Ukulele Ensemble plus one by their star pupil James Hill; his review of two of James Hill’s solo albums, On the Other Hand and A Flying Leap; and another omnibus review, this one covering two more by Langley Ukulele Ensemble plus John King’s Royal Hawaiian Music.

Donna has a survey of Anatolian and Levantine music, starting with the Kurdish lute player and singer Sivan Perwer’s Min bêriya te kiriye. ‘In the mid-1970s, Perwer sang Kurdish songs in a Turkish stadium before a sell-out crowd. Since the singing of Kurdish songs, the speaking of Kurdish, and indeed any other expression of Kurdish culture was banned in Turkey at the time, Perwer nearly caused a riot, and had to be spirited away by his fans before he got arrested.’

Next up is Back to Anatolia by the instrumental and vocal ensemble Efkar, many of whose members also played with Sivan Perwer. ‘All but one of these performers appear to be from Anatolia, the peninsula that comprises the modern Turkish nation-state, although most are living in Europe now. For these artists, playing this music is a way to stay rooted in their traditions, and a way to share those memories with others. In fact, the band’s name Efkar translates as “thoughts” or “ideas turning around in your mind.” ‘

Finally Donna looks at the music of two American-based groups: the Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble’s Soul of a People: The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh, and the group Anatolia’s Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World. Of the former, she notes that Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh is a towering figure in Egyptian music. ‘In terms of his popularity and his influence on modern Egyptian music, I would compare him to early twentieth century American composers Cole Porter or George and Ira Gershwin.’ And of the latter she notes that Anatolia is a project of American ethnomusicologist Edward J. Hines. ‘Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World is an entertaining and well-produced CD of traditional Middle Eastern music.’

Gary reviews the debut recording of an ensemble from the Russian republic of Udmurtia, which blends traditional songs with modern electronic music accompaniment: ‘This amazing, mesmerizing debut recording called Shooldyrak by the techno-folk duo ShooDJa-ChooDJa is a wonderful example of the way music can open up the world for you,’ he says.

‘Finnish musician and composer Ilkka Heinonen plays the jouhikko, a bowed version of the kantele, a box lyre or zither common in Karelian dance music of Finland and Russia,’ Gary says. ‘In this album Lohtu (Solace) he has made a recording that reflects the anxiety of our time, grappling with a pandemic in the short term while struggling with the long-term consequences of ongoing climate change.’

Gary has a brand new disc from Americana singer Melissa Carper called Daddy’s Country Gold. ‘This is finely honed Americana music,’ he says. ‘Musically and lyrically, Carper hits the bullseye on every song, but neither she nor any of her band ever overplay their parts. Sonically these songs come right out of some Western lounge circa 1960, but the lyrics subtly reflect more modern realities while remaining true to their genre.’

Another offering from Gary is something quite different. He says Sakili’s Creole Sounds from the Indian Ocean … ‘is Séga, a Creole music of the island of Rodrigues and the rest of the islands of Mauritius, which may be one of the last types of African music to make its way to the world stage.’

‘In a far distant past (1986) I saw the then very young Kathryn Tickell charm an audience at Sidmouth Folk Festival with her Northumbrian pipes and her fiddle. She was named as one of the bright hopes for the future of British folk,’ says Lars. How does her 2004 release AirDancing hold up to those hopes?

‘Tim Harrison is a classic guitar playing singer-songwriter, with several obvious merits; he’s a tuneful singer with a pleasant voice, and a decidedly skilled guitar stylist,’ says Lenora. ‘There’s Spanish and classical guitar technique here if I’m not mistaken, and considerably more going on than the strumming of chords. He also chooses superlative backing musicians …’ So what did she think of his 2002 album Wheatfield with Crows?

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Our What Nots are all Doctor Who related this time.

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.

Denise has noted that she really dug the eleventh season of Doctor Who,  she says ‘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.’

And seven20’s Thirteenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver gets a look-see by her: ‘ I fell in love with the Thirteenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver the moment I saw it. It’s a groovy bit of steampunk and crystal, and I wanted one immediately. My editor was obviously attuned to my craven covetousness, and sent me one to review. And y’all, I’m not even gonna try to be neutral here. I’m too stoked.’

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Our Coda is a just bit different this time though it still has music in it. Doctor Who some fifty years old and has had obviously opening sequences that whole time. Until now, BBC has never compiled them together so we could experience how they’ve changed down the years. (And yes, there’s entire sites devoted to complaining about about how the new series has ruined these title sequences.) So for your considerable entertainment, go here and be delighted by what you see and hear as the music has been changed and not changed.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Breakfast, Korean style


Now that was tasty!

I was grumbling yesterday morning to Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook here at the Estate that houses us, that porridge is often boring even if many here like it as Winter breakfast fare. She smiled and said to stop by the Kitchen ‘morrow morning as she had an idea.

So I came to the Kitchen the next morning early before it got too busy and discovered that I was being served thick soup made from rice and minced pork with interesting spicing, served along with green tea and a deep fried cruller. She said it was called canjii in Korean and a visitor showed her how to prepare this hearty meal years ago.

Now I knew that Korea has a millennia old cuisine with food traditions from a number of sources but I hadn’t actually had this traditional breakfast staple from there, as I spent my time overseas in India and Sri Lanka, which have a decidedly different cuisine with a flat griddle cake called a roti which was made of shredded coconut and cooking oil being common where I was.

Indeed the staple food for Koreans is rice, and specifically a particular type of Korean short grain rice called sticky rice, because its grains stick together rather than falling apart. Mrs. Ware decided to use well-cooked brown rice as she likes the flavour better than the white rice used in Asia. It was a wonderfully tasty and quite filling breakfast.

Now I’m off to find her a copy of The Pooh Cook Book as she’s catering an all-day event for younger children from the School of The Imagination and she wants to do their meals as Pooh and company did them. I will of course review the book as well so you, our dear readers, can see how good the recipes are!


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What’s New for the 7th of March: Equal Exchange Chocolates, A Bevy of Mysteries, Wagner’s Grendel, Jesco White on Film, Ursula Le Guin Reading for You and Other Stuff to Warm You Up

All civilisations might fall, but forfend one might disturb a cat.— Elizabeth Bear’s “A Blessing of Unicorns: A Sub-Inspector Ferron Mystery”


It is finally Spring but still cold enough that an Icelandic supper of lamb tenderloin in licorice-sauce, and fish chowder with rye bread and plenty of the infamous Icelandic spirit Brennivín was called for last night. Skyr, Icelandic blueberry cheesecake was served for dessert. All in all it was a most memorable feast. And no, we did not include shark that rot on the beach as part of the menu.

Iain’s off skiing on the last of the spring snow with the Several Annies, his Library apprentices, out to the Standing Stones which are in the Wild Wood as a break from their Icelandic language lessons that Gutmansdottir, our resident expert on the Wild Wood, is immersing them in for a full year. Mind you since Gutmansdottir going along with them, they’ll get plenty of Winter botany learning.


Cat had high hopes for Philip DePoy’s The Devil’s Hearth as he has ‘a special fondness for mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains, even though there aren’t a lot of good ones and a lot of not so great ones. Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballads series had some memorable outings, particularly among the later novels, and one which was outstanding, Ghost Riders.’ Read his review to see if DePoy lived up to his expectations.

Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas’ Haunted Legends, says Gereg, is ‘something of a paradox: As a collection I found this volume kind of weak, but there are a lot of very fine stories in it. So many, in fact, that on going back over the anthology a second time, I wondered why I’d thought it was weak in the first place. As a reader, I’d probably just leave it at that; but as  reviewer, I feel I owe it to my adoring public to tell you precisely why I feel the overall effect is weak. So I dove back into the book for a third time. Such travails are how I earn my fabulously high salary here.’

Gary has some thoughts about Wayward Heroes, the 1952 book by Halldór Laxness recently published in an English translation for the first time. ‘Halldór Laxness is, of course, Iceland’s greatest and best-known writer and the island’s only Nobel Laureate,’ Gary says. Wayward Heroes is the mock-heroic tale of two ‘sworn brothers’ who wish to return to the days of Iceland’s epic sagas. ‘Everyone who prizes great story-telling owes it to themselves to read Wayward Heroes and other Laxness titles,’ he concludes.

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

Kathleen has a confession regarding Time For The Stars: ‘Robert Anson Heinlein is inarguably one of the great formative writers of science fiction. His work is not only seminal, it’s good — well-told, well-plotted, with solid characterization. It’s also frequently thought-provoking, with underlying philosophy and speculation that stays with the reader for a lifetime. Most modern readers attribute these qualities to the more outré and/or famous novels, like Time Enough For Love and the iconic Stranger In A Strange Land. But Heinlein’s so-called juveniles are actually among the most thoughtful of his books.’

Leona gives an incisive review of  Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, a Ellis Peters novel: ‘Originally published in 1967, ‘this is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and facts combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

So how about a major reading experience. Let me offer you  The History of Middle Earth which is the extensive background Tolkien wrote for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I suggest you get comfortable before reading Liz’s look at it as it is a very detail essay on this massive work: ‘The History of Middle-earth offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine a great writer’s creative development over a period of 60 years. At his death, J.R.R. Tolkien left a huge body of unfinished and often unorganized writings on the mythology and history of Middle-earth. In The History of Middle Earth (HoME), his son, Christopher, has sought to organize this huge collection of drafts, revisions and reworkings into an organized and intelligible whole.’

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

Richard has a look at a book containing a very big mystery: ‘David Hutchinson’s Europe In Autumn is really three books. There’s the first half of the volume, which is an elegantly crafted spy thriller set in an all-too believable near future Europe of endless “pocket” nations. Reminiscent of early period Le Carre (you’re going to hear that comparison come up a lot in connection with this series, and with good reason), it’s a slow burn that details the transformation of the laconic Rudi, a chef in a Polish restaurant, into a high-powered member of the secret organization Coureurs des Bois.’

Warner starts off with a mystery: ‘Caz Frear’s Shed No Tears starts with a wikipedia infobox relating to a serial killer. This is a clever and very current way to start a mystery novel, and all the more appreciated for it. Furthermore, the material in this info box is entirely relevant to the novel without revealing too much to those who prefer to solve a mystery along with the detective.’

He has next a rather offbeat book for us: ‘The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart is an interesting take on the historical mystery. Sporting a pair of women investigators and an esoteric collection of both objects and suspects, The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne contains intrigue and danger among the backdrop of 18th century London. Like many good historical mysteries, the story relishes in its setting witbout becoming overly didactic, drawing the reader further into the mystery.’

He next has a magic tinged sea adventure for us: ‘Chloe Neill’s The Bright and Breaking Sea is a rollicking bit of historical fantasy that harkens baco to Horatio Hornblower and other nautical adventures. Less adult than some of her urban fantasy work, this volume is clearly intended for a somewhat wider range of readers.’

He also has a nifty bit of non-fiction for us to wrap his reviews: ‘Holly Ordway’s Tolkien’s Modern Readings: Middle-Earth beyond the Middle Ages is a wonderful new entry into the area of Tolkien studies. Going somewhat against the grain Ordway spends the pages not only arguing, but providing meticulous proof that the long passed author and academic was well read and clearly influenced by the work of his day.’

Zina ends our book reviews with Charles de Lint’s What The Mouse Found and Other Stories: ‘Ah — two of my favorite things, paired in one slim volume. (Sorry, I’ve always wanted to use the phrase “slim volume” somewhere.) Fairy tales and Charles de Lint. The postman dropped the package through the door this afternoon. Just a bit later, here I am at my computer. I couldn’t not read it right away, could I?’


Remember our last edition when Robert took on the beginning of Matt Wagner’s Grendel series? Well, he’s found a lot more. Let’s start with Grendel: Devil by the Deed: ‘Grendel: Devil by the Deed represents another breakthrough. It is, in general terms, the story of Grendel’s first incarnation, Hunter Rose, as told from his journals by his granddaughter, Christine Spar.’

Success has its vicissitudes, as Robert notes in his review of Wagner’s Grendel: Devil Quest: ‘Devil Quest is one of those spin-offs, concerned with the cyborg Grendel Prime and his search for the spirit of Hunter Rose, who, although not, according to Wagner, the first Grendel in history, is the first of whom we have knowledge.’

And of course, there comes the inevitable crossover series, in this case, Batman/Grendel: ‘Matt Wagner did two crossover series, the first a joint effort between Comico, his publisher at the time, and DC Comics, and the second between Dark Horse and DC, to bring together Grendel and Batman.’

Grendel became a family history. Remember Christine Spar? Well, her mother, Stacy Palumbo, was Hunter Rose’s adopted daughter, and Grendel: Devil Child, tells their story.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AGary points us toward Dancing Outlaw and Dancing Outlaw 2, Jesco Goes to Hollywood, a pair of documentary films about Jesco White: ‘Jesco White is a mountain-style tap dancer, an ex-con, a hillbilly of the first degree, and a hideous channeler of Elvis Presley. And he’s something of a star — at least, he’s had his 15 minutes of fame, and then some.’


Denise digs into some chocolate this week – shocking, I know. But she’s up for the challenge of reviewing Equal Exchange Chocolates’ Organic, Dark Chocolate, Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt, 55% Cacao. ‘This bar is a mouthful to say, but happily it’s also a mouthful of deliciousness. Oh my God this is so good!’ Wanna know why she’s happy? Read her review!

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ADavid reviews two offerings from Laurie Anderson, recorded just before and just after 9/11: ‘This is music that makes you think. And yet, the persuasive tones of her voice, the persistent gentle rhythms of inherent percussion, and the professional contributions by a superb band combine to provide an essential listening experience. If you are not familiar with Laurie Anderson’s work, this powerful live album and the studio work which preceded it make wonderful starting points.’

David also explores the two late 1970s releases that revived the career of Muddy Waters, Hard Again and I’m Ready. ‘I’ve had on-going arguments with other blues fans who insist that these late recordings are but a shadow of Muddy’s classic ’50s material on Chess. And, maybe there’s a point to be made for the early stuff, but “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Rock Me,” “Screaming & Crying,” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” are positively scary as played but this hot band.’

What’s Gary been listening to? For starters, Zabe i Babe’s Drumovi. This Bosnian-American group, he says, ‘is a side project for members of the American folk-punk group Cordelia’s Dad, whose frontman, Tim Eriksen, sings and plays on this disc, joined by Cordelia’s Dad drummer Peter Irvine on vocals and percussion, and Eriksen’s wife Mirjana Lausevic on vocals and keyboards. Other members of Zabe i Babe include Tristra Newyear, vocals, and Donna Kwon, vocals and percussion, with American fiddler and singer Rani Arbo as guest vocalist on one track.’

Gary also reviews a new release from guitarist Ryan Dugré called Three Rivers. ‘It’s a beautifully played and (mostly) comforting collection of minimalist and soundtrack-type pieces. They’re largely centered around intricate rhythm tracks laid down by Dugré on acoustic guitar and occasional piano, with melodies and accents played by his friends and guests on pedal steel guitar, a string quartet, synthesizers and percussion.’

Gary also brings word of a new self-titled release by young Americana musicians Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno. They wrote most of the songs on their debut album while attending universities thousands of miles apart. ‘What they ended up with is a strong album of country music filled with poignant vocal duets on love songs that are hopeful, sad, and every mood in between.’

Gary says, ‘I’m ambivalent about the way my music streaming service uses an algorithm to guess what kind of music I might like to hear next, but sometimes it comes up with a real winner.’ Such a winner, he says, is Yom’s Songs For the Old Man, which combines dusty southwestern Americana with klezmer music, an odd combination that somehow works.

Jayme tells us about Andean Sounds for the World Vol. VII by a group called Andean Fusion: ‘The South American themed band is famous for its daily performances at the trendy Rivercenter along San Antonio, Texas’s River Walk, offering a distinct change of pace and sound in a city overrun with tourist-centric mariachi bands.’

And Mike enjoyed two CDs that put the spotlight on the guitar in Celtic music, Steve Reel’s Celtic Knights and The Unfortunate Rakes’ Rakes Alive!Celtic Knights is really fun to play along with, especially if you like to invent rhythm guitar lines,’ he says. And ‘Rakes Alive! is indeed a live recording, and it’s always great to hear an appreciative audience respond to a group that’s been at it for a while.’

‘With a tribute album, if you are not familiar with the artist as a person or what he has done, then looking at the album cover in a record store is about as much use to you as a one legged man in a bum kicking contest.’ You’ll have to read Peter’s review of A’ The Bairns ‘O’ Adam: Hamish Henderson Tribute if you want to know what that’s all about!

We’ve covered a lot of music by the Waterson and Carthy clans over the years, so lets take a look back at some of those reviews. When setting out to review Waterson:Carthy’s Common Tongue Alistair said ‘To embark on yet another review of the offerings of England’s foremost folk ensemble, Waterson:Carthy, is a bit like putting a pebble on top of the great pyramid of Cheops.’

Judith found A Dark Light to be a high quality listening experience: ‘You would think that after all these albums, the little extended family would get boring, rest on their laurels, but actually Dark Light is quite fresh-sounding, a nice album with subtly interesting interpretations of the old songs.’

And Richard gives a brief overview of the family’s lengthy career by way of introduction to their Broken Ground. ‘This stream of outstanding music continues with Broken Ground, in which parents and daughter are joined by melodeon player and additional vocalist Saul Rose, who is, through his marriage to Eliza’s half-sister Lucy, another member of the family.

And finally, David takes a deep dive into the four CD box set The Carthy Chronicles: ‘The Carthy Chronicles is a massive set. Sure there are lots of four disc box sets on the market, but this one includes more rare and unreleased tracks than almost any one I’ve ever seen. It leaves the listener hungry for more!

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AA little known facet of Le Guin’s creativity was her work as a composer. She composed music for her ethnographic study in a fictional form of a matriarchal society in a future California, and as the article titled Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera, and she also wrote the libretto for a real “space opera”: ‘But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

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

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