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: Foxes

ivy

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.

ivy

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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

Green Leaves

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: chilequiles, 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

Green Leaves
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.

Green Leaves

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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

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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”

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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.

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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?’

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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.’

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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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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Contradance in The Round Barn

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Ahh, you noticed the poster for tonight’s event — let me pour you a Banish Misfortune stout while I tell you about it …

We’ve got a new contradance band here on the Estate. Drink Down The Moon is the name they’ve given themselves after the novel by author Charles de Lint. They’re comprised of Catherine on violin and hand drums,  Béla on violin, Finch playing English smallpipes, which I believe those are made by the esteemed Julian Goodacre, and Gus or myself as usual on concertina.

Like all contradance bands over the forty odd years that there’s been ones here, they play a lively mix of English tunes, particularly those compositions by John Playford, plus Scottish, French, Irish and Scandinavian material. Béla even has taught them some trad Hungarian dances such as Karikázó (the maiden’s round dance) and Pásztortánc (Herdsmen’s Dances). 

The old Church is where we hold the dances, ironic I know as the Scots Church didn’t like dances at all, but we’ve not had Services there since well before the First World War. It was used as storage ’til the Fifties when it became a space for gatherings such as Eventide meals done buffet style where the dining space was too small for all who were invited, so we do community suppers there. And the stone floors and no seating make it perfect for these dances, so let’s head down that way…

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What’s New for the 21st of February: Charles Stross’ The Halting State, Matt Wagner’s Grendel Archives, The Talons of Weng Chiang, La bruja te prende fuego, Pappy Van Winkle, Steeleye Span and Other Matters

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

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There is a sharp edge in the air that reminds you that the dark winter months are still upon us but there are always warm places in the Kinrowan Estate building where one can be comfortable, such as the kitchen!

With the sun shining through the windows into that hallowed space, enticing smells of baking on the air, and quite pleasant Nordic music being played by the Neverending Session — including a hardanger player — who have taken up residence there in a cozy corner near the fireplace, it was no wonder that the staffers kept dropping by to see if they could cadge a treat … Me, I’m eating a grilled cheese and ham breakfast sandwich with cheddar and raclette  and thin sliced smoked Lincolnshire ham slathered with French onion jam between in an oversized American style biscuit.

I had a shot of Pappy Van Winkle straight up from the flask I had on me with my breakfast. The Coyotes, an American band that played here a few months back, had sent Ingrid, our Estate Steward, several bottles of this superb bourbon in appreciation for the time they were here, along with a note that I and Reynard should get one of the bottles. Though a whiskey drinker by choice, this particular drink is bloody fine!

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Cat starts off our book reviews with a look at Charles Stross’ The Halting State, which he says ‘is the best near future thriller I’ve read since first encountering John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider nearly thirty years ago. Indeed I’m quite surprised that it’s being marketed as sf genre fiction and not as a mainstream novel! Like Brunner’s novel, The Halting State is a clear and logical extrapolation of current technology pushed a mere decade into the future. And like Brunner’s novel (which deserves to be read by anyone who cares about what technology can do to a society), Stross’ novel presents a society both like and quite unlike our own.’

Next he looks at Walter Jon Williams’s This Is Not a Game: ‘All of us in one manner or another are storytellers, so I was intrigued by the idea of a novel that told the story of Dagmar, a woman who runs ARGs (augmented reality games) hence her being called the puppet master, to be very appealing. She runs these ARGs for Great Big Idea, a company founded by two of her university friends who were deep into role playing games where they were all in university.’ See what happens when the game merges with real world politics.

We’re very fond of works of Roger Zelazny here and April has a look at a work about his longest work: ‘Roger Zelazny’s Amber series spans three decades, ten volumes, several short stories, a RPG, graphic novels and even a recent revival attempt (John Betancourt’s Dawn of Amber series). Packed into those original books and stories is a wealth of characters, settings, items and plots — far too much minutiae for any but the most die-hard fan to remember. And that’s where Krulik’s The Complete Amber Sourcebook comes in. The Sourcebook is not for someone who has not read the entire series, as spoilers are literally everywhere. Krulik assumes an audience already familiar with the core set of books.’

Grey looks at a work quite deep in editors (Teya Rosenberg, Martha P. Hixon, Sharon M. Scapple and Donna R. White)  but a reasonably short and I must say poetic title, Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. You’ll find that her review is excellence in writing indeed!

Kathleen looks at at an academic work with a rather longer title than the previous work but just one writer, to wit Charles Butler’s  Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children’s Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones & Susan Cooper. Like the previous review, her superbly written in-depth review looks at both the strengths and weaknesses of this work.

Marian looks at a trilogy by Jane Yolen that deserves to be a classic. First up is ‘The Books of Great Alta, which is the compilation of Yolen’s two books in the series, Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna. It is the story of the women of Dale, who worship Great Alta, the mother goddess and what happens to them for better or worse.’ If you’ve read these already, then do read Marian’s review of  the final volume, The One-Armed Queen, but otherwise do not as it has major spoilers about what happens in the first two novels.

Robert says that ‘A Confederation of Valor’ is the omnibus edition of Tanya Huff’s first two novels in the Confederation series, Valor’s Choice and The Better Part of Valor. They demonstrate that Huff, whom I first encountered as a writer of sharp, witty urban fantasy, is equally at home in the realm of military sf.’

The late Iain Banks, best known for his Culture novels such as The Hydrogen Sonata and Surface Detail, decided to ask his publisher for money to sample the smaller whiskey distilleries in Scotland. The resulting book, Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram was given a rave review by our Cornish-based Michael, who aptly notes that ‘This review was written over Hogmanay 2003, under the influence of Ardbeg and Glenmorangie Port-Wood Finish, both of which, I’m delighted to report, meet with the approval of Mr Banks.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AGary has a recipe of sorts for what he considers the perfect winter comfort food: khichdi. ‘Khichdi is a South Asian dish that at its simplest is rice and lentils cooked together into a type of porridge. In fact it’s rather like the East Asian comfort food congee with the addition of pulses, in that it’s a blank slate for whatever flavors you want to color it with. And whatever degree of spiciness!’

Giving the lie to winter, Jennifer offers us La bruja te prende fuego, or, The witch sets you on fire, a next-level margarita that uses mezcal. Be careful, friends. This stuff is nothing to mess with.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACat looks at a Doctor Who 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. 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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Robert brings us the beginning of a series by one of the comics creators who turned the medium on its head: ‘Matt Wagner was one of a generation of writers and artists who essentially remade comics in the 1980s. This does not count R. Crumb and the others who opened comics up to new modes of expression (and content) in the 1960s, or the singular examples of outrageousness such as Krazy Kat and Little Nemo that have inhabited the comics world since its beginning. (And one wonders when that might actually be — Gustave Doré? Francisco Goya? Egyptian tomb paintings? Lascaux and Altamira? There’s quite a deep provenance here.)’ See what he has to say about Wagner’s Grendel Archives.

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All Steeleye Span this time. Iain, our Librarian picked his favourite recordings by them.

Deborah says she soothed her soul after Back in Line (see below for the gory details) by switching over to the Steeleye anthology, The Lark in the Morning [Hark! The Village Wait (1970), Please To See The King (1971) and Ten Man Mop Or Mr. Reservoir Butler Rides Again (1971)] —This does not only what I wanted, but what I expected of it: it brings me the best of Steeleye Span, done properly.’

Heed the words of Gereg as regards this album — ‘Absent friends Bob Johnson and Peter Knight may have returned to the fold, but the sound is new and unique. From the opening chords onward – crisp, smooth, and electric – you know that this is not your first-generation Steeleye album. And although Sails of Silver was originally slated to be a sort of triumphant return, the listening public did not respond well to the sound. The album was a commercial failure. And that’s truly a shame. Because artistically, it’s a distinct – and quite distinctive – success.’

Want a really good look at their early recordings? A Parcel of Steeleye Span — Their First Five Chrysalis Albums 1972-1975 contains Below the SaltParcel of RoguesNow We Are SixCommoner’s Crown, and All Around My Hat! I got to review that impressive set (2009) which is taken from some of their early albums. As Iain says  here,  ‘So the bottom line is that this is a near perfect introduction to one of the finest folk rock groups ever to grace Albion. Hell, you even get to hear the original recording of the song which they end nearly every concert with — ‘All Around My Hat’, off (obviously) the album of the same name.’

Lars reviewed Winter ‘Folk rock and Christmas always seem to go well together. There is a long line of successful seasonal albums incorporating singers and musicians from that field … So it should not come as a surprise to anyone to find Steeleye Span joining the Christmas-album force. After all they had their first hit with a song in Latin telling about the birth of Christ, Maddy Prior has already explored the territory with the Carnival Band, though with medieval instruments, and the newly recruited Ken Nicol played a crucial part on the Albion Christmas album of 1999.’ Not sure about you, but I like to pick up one Christmas album every year to add to my collection, and this sounds like an essential buy!’

Lars  also reviewed Bloody Men and he posed a question in doing so — ‘It is lovely to have Steeleye Span back in business again, with what seems to be a stable line up. After all this is their third studio album in a row with the same five members, something we are not used to. And with it also being the third studio album in two years, they are close to the production pace we saw from them at their very beginning, some 35 years ago. One of the problems with listening to new albums from old groups is that we each have our favourite era of those groups’ history. Any new product is always compared with those ‘classic albums’

Michael looks at two albums from the same time, with the first up being Storm Force Ten [which] came out in 1977, the year preceding the ‘final’ split, and from the opening track ‘Awake Awake’, it is apparent that Steeleye trademarks such as tuneful and memorable songs adorned with gorgeous harmony were still to the fore. Hart, Prior, Carthy and Kirkpatrick each have distinctive voices that work well en masse, and the swirling accordion sounds as much at home in the arrangement as the fiddle work of yore.’

Steve weighs in on Present — The Very Best of Steeleye Span (2002) — ‘It is a double-album, one CD coloured blue and the other brown (if there is a significance to that, I’d love to know what it is) with interesting sleeve notes by Maddy, Bob and Peter. (The words would have been good, too, guys!). The lineup is close to that of the ‘glory days’ — Maddy Prior (err, who else?) on vocals, Bob Johnson on electric guitar and vocals, Rick Kemp on bass and vocals, Peter Knight on fiddle and vocals, and Liam Genockey on drums.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AOur What Not this time is a look at the birth of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra: ‘Some groups form in school or college, some grow out of teenage friendships and others from “musicians wanted” ads; nearly all of them are formed with the initial idea of sounding like somebody else. None of the above applies to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Nor, for that matter, do most other generalisations about how modern music is and should be made, or why.’  You can read the entire Independent article here.

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So let’s end with some music by Steeleye Span, to wit ‘Long Lankin’ performed at the Fairport’s Cropredy Festival fifteen years ago on a warm August evening. It’s Child ballad number ninety three, not well known in the States but popular in Scotland and Northumbria.

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