We think of forgiveness as a thing. An incident. A choice. But forgiveness is a process. A long, exhausting process. A series of choices that we have to make over, and over, and over again. ― Ancestral Night: A White Space novel
I’m having an afternoon meal of peppers, tomatoes and ground lamb rolled up in warmed up naan. The peppers and tomatoes are from our Conservatory built during the Victorian Era under the auspices of Lady Alexandra, the Estate Gardener, and a true blessing for fresh vegetables in the off-season. I’ve also got a pot of chai masala tea sitting on my work desk to be enjoyed as I listen to some sweet music from a group soon to be playing here.
They named themselves Snow on the Mountain after a plant that has green and white leaves that’s up as soon as the first Spring warmth arrives. They say that they hail from Big Foot County though I couldn’t find such a place in any gazetteer that we have, but that matters not. Voice, Appalachian dulcimer, fiddle and concertina are their instruments which make for a very sweet sound.
Their music is a superb merging of Celtic and Bluegrass, something that might be Appalachian Trad, oh and more than a bit of Tex-Mex, so if you’ve heard and enjoyed The Mollys, you’ll definitely like them. We’ve got them booked here for several contradances and a performance as well. Just for Estate staff, of course, given The Pandemic so it’s quite a treat.
Now let’s get started on this edition…
Cat says ‘The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is, after over forty years years of my reading works beyond count by Robert Heinlein, my favorite novel by him bar none. There are without doubt better written novels by Heinlein that stir strong passions in readers, say Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, both of which can cause otherwise sensible readers to start hissing and spitting at each over the perceived political and social commentary in those books, and let’s not even broach the matter of Stranger in A Strange Land as that work will really get the mojo rising in many readers!’
The Whovian Universe is vast and has grown increasingly complex over the fifty years that it’s been evolving. Torchwood was one of its spinoffs, the secret agency that fought alien invasions from its Cardiff base. He reviews their Torchwood India audio adventure and had this to say about it: ‘Golden Age is the story of Torchwood India and what happened to it. It is my belief that the best of all the Torchwood stories were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series.’
Cat continues with two novellas in a new series by Elizabeth Bear: ‘As I write this review just before Election Day, there have been but two novellas released in the fascinating Sub-Inspector Ferron series “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns” and “A Blessing of Unicorns”. I’m not sure how I came upon the first novella but it was a superb story, both in terms of the setting and in the characters that Bear has created here, including a parrot-cat called Chairman Miaow.’
Chuck notes that ‘I figure this much: Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road starts with a green man crossing the desert, so this has to be the perfect book for Green Man Review. OK, the book calls him a “greenperson,” and the desert is on a Mars of the future, transformed by mankind’s effort, but you get the idea. Trailing this greenperson is Dr. Alimantando. He comes to a place along a railroad, where, almost accidentally, he settles and starts the community that he names Desolation Road. Soon after, more people begin arriving and, in short order, the community becomes a village, a city, a war zone and a ghost-town — all within 23 Martian years. That’s the story.’
Kelly says ‘Poul Anderson, who died in 2001, was one of the grand old voices of science fiction right up until his death, winning the Hugo Award seven times, the Nebula Award three times, and being named in 1997 as a Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. His was a long and prolific career. In the middle of that career, he created a character named Dominic Flandry, whose adventures had eluded me as a reader until my review copy of Ensign Flandry arrived on my desk. Now I’m wondering why.’
Richard looks at an Ian MacDonald novel which is set in the same reality as Desolation Road and has a cautionary note as his first words: ‘You will know whether you will love or hate Ares Express long before you have finished the first chapter. The litmus test is very simple: what is your reaction to the name of the main character. If you find Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Assim Engineer 12th to be painfully twee or flat-out incomprehensible, then you will hate this book.’
Robert looks at the first book in a series for children — or young adults, perhaps: ‘Steve Augarde is a well-known British illustrator and author of children’s books. The Various, the first in a series, treats the adventures of twelve-year-old Midge, sent to stay with her Uncle Brian at the old family farm in Somerset while her mother Christine, a professional violinist, is on tour with the orchestra.’
He then takes us on a river journey, courtesy of Kage Baker: ‘The late Kage Baker was one of those admirably unpredictable writers whose stories never seemed to fit into any sort of mold, whether they were part of a series or stood alone. There is, though, a kind of magic in her storytelling that ties them all together, fully in evidence in The Bird of the River, a novel set in the universe of The Anvil of the World.’
Many of us here are fans of Holmes and Warner has a book about an actor whose considered one of the best film Holmes ever: ‘David Clayton’s The Curse of Sherlock Holmes: The Basil Rathbone Story is a look at a man defined by a character he felt was at best confining. Indeed given that Basil never really managed to recover the same level of star power once he left Sherlock Holmes for a while, one could argue it destroyed his career.’
His next review concerns the matter of pirates: ‘Life Under the Jolly Roger is an excellent look at the golden age of piracy from a somewhat political point of view. The book cites sources well, makes arguments cleanly and succinctly, and has the integrity to admit when an answer is not clear. While written from a radical point of view, Gabriel Kuhn’s book is easy to recommend to almost anyone looking at pirates from an academic point of view.’
So speaking of food, I’ve a series that I think is properly Autumnal and full of fat and other things generally considered not good for you but ever so good for you this time of year. Kathleen and her sister Kage wrote up the matter of thosei Two Fat Ladies whose DVD series documented that they were brilliant English cooks who rode a motorcycle with a sidecar, drank excessively, smoked and cooked using bloody great hunks of meat, butter and anything else, as I said, that isn’t good for you. And funny as all Hell as well. Which the review is too. Remarkably they, or at least their ghostwriters, also produced at least a half dozen books off the series as well!
Stacy wrote this back in the days when she was running Sophia’s, a superb tea shop: ‘Considering it’s the most important meal of the day, restaurant owner Carrie Levin teaches us what breakfast should be in her new book, The Good Enough to Eat Breakfast Cookbook. After over 20 years at New York’s famous restaurant Good Enough to Eat, Levin generously opens her kitchen and shares her personal tricks of the trade with the home cook.
So why do you wrap-up up a great SF series? ? Jayme yell us: ‘Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is a miniseries that never should’ve existed. That’s true on several levels. Firstly, there would never be a need to wrap up the major plot threads with a miniseries had the Sci-Fi Channel honored its commitment to produce a fifth season of the acclaimed space opera. But when Vivendi-Universal — the parent corporation at the time — ran into financial duress, its subsidiaries were ordered to cut costs, and contract or no, Farscape was toast. But TV series that die stay dead, as a rule. Sure, Star Trek had a revival, but that took more than a decade to come about. Battlestar Galactica wandered the syndication galaxy for 24 yahrens before it was brought back — ironically — by the Sci-Fi Channel. But a quirky, sexy, self-aware show populated by spacefaring muppets? Not a chance.’
It’s not true that we like everything that we review here and Andrew proves that in looking at The Witchblade Compendium: ‘Some stories are merely bad — dull, uninspired, or simply misformed. Others are bad in entertaining ways — bad movies, outsider art, and demented pulp fiction. Some stories are so horrible that it’s physically painful to read them, such as the work of Rob Liefeld. And then there’s Witchblade.’ Ouch.
Cat looks at The Tomb Raider Compendium, another offering from the same publisher, Top Cow: ‘My, that was a great deal of truly fun reading! All fifty issues of the series, (1,248 pages!) including the covers for each individual issue, have been collected in a trade paper edition. Oh, did I mention the superb color? Or the fact that it is one of the sturdiest trade papers of this size I’ve encountered? Or that for a mere sixty dollars you will get hours and hours of really entertaining reading? What more can I say?’
You’ll need to read Adam’s review to see why his statement here is not one he agrees with: ‘Mellowosity, the debut CD from the Scottish band the Peatbog Faeries, is wonderfully misleading in its packaging. A quick glance at the credits on the back reveals a synthesizer alongside all the usual traditional instruments (bodhran, fiddle, whistles, pipes, etc.). So this is another Corrs-type band, blending traditional Celtic songs with pop beats, right?’
Gary found a lot to like in Promise, the latest from New York-based ambient country band SUSS. What’s ambient country? ‘I call it beautiful, calming, comforting. With pedal steel, baritone guitar, ebow, harmonium, synths, loops and more, they conjure up the desert landscapes I’ve loved all my life.’
It’s that time of year again, Gary says, by which he means time for year-end lists. He listens to a lot of music, so this year he’s divided his lists up into some broad categories. First up is Gary’s favorite ‘world music’ of 2020.
Gary also has news of an upcoming album from the Finnish progressive folk band Gájanas. They’ve released the first single from the album, a dramatic number called “Diamántadulvvit (Floods of Diamonds).” He’s found a live video of the song, which they performed at the Ijahis idja Festival in Inari, Finland, in August 2020.
Kim looks at The Ultimate Collection from the Pogues: ‘And this music’s not just for the great hung-over masses, breathing tobacco and alcohol on morning commuters on the subway after a long session. I hadn’t listened to the Pogues all that much in recent years – an avocational hazard I guess — but after listening to both discs, I was seduced anew. I listened again. And again. I made excuses for why I couldn’t finish this review. I didn’t want to give it up. I played it at work. I played it at home. In between. It is really surprising how evocative this music is, even after all these years. I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time, a little smirk passes over my lips. I feel silly, taken in, like an old lady doting on a young lover. If it’s a joke, we’re all in on it.’
Robert brings us a collection that sheds new light on one of his favorite composers: ‘I first ran across the music of Arvo Pärt many years ago, in a coffee shop owned by a man whose taste in music was as eclectic as my own. It was the Passio, and I was intrigued enough that it was my beach music for the entire summer. (I think at the time it was the only work by Pärt available in the U.S. That’s how long ago it was.) That was then, this is now, and there is much more of Pärt’s music available, thanks in large part to record companies such as ECM, which brings us a new collection, The Deer’s Cry.
And then he has a look at Indonesiam popular music, courtesy of Uun Budiman and the Jugala Gamelan Orchestra’s Banondari: New Directions in Jaipongan: ‘Jaipongan is a newly designated Sundanese “traditional” form that incorporates elements of several other Indonesian forms of traditional dance theater, Sundanese gamelan styles, and even pancang silat, a traditional martial art, along with influences from Western rock and pop music.’
And then he comes back a little closer to home — or at least, more familiar territory for most of us, with a fresh reading of two concert-hall staples, Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 and 6: ‘There isn’t much to be said about Beethoven: there he is, take it or leave it. It is doubtful that anyone had more influence on the music of the 19th century than he did — even the archenemies Brahms and Wagner both claimed Beethoven as their artistic forebear.’
On a somewhat quieter note, he has some thoughts on a collection of Beethoven’s Sonatas for Piano: ‘The history of Western music is a history of exploration of forms. This statement is the end result of a chain of thought sparked by John Briggs’ comment, in his notes on Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23, the “Appassionata,” that Beethoven, at this point in his career, was self-confident enough to ignore “Haydnesque” traditions of form, noting that “he experimented tirelessly in all directions, as Haydn had done before him.”‘
Stephen has a CD for us that doesn’t actually exist: ‘So an unassuming little CD that (unusually) came my way by direct courtesy of Green Man‘s Chief Editor, Cat Eldridge. It’s a four-track ‘demo’ CD by an Australian band called Rambling House, whose membership (according to the booklet) comprises: ‘Paul’ (guitars, bodhrán), Sarah (vocals, flutes, whistles) and Mannie (bouzouki, mandolin, vocal). Normally, we don’t review ‘demo’ CDs, but both Cat and I were sufficiently excited to make an exception in this case. Why so? Well, ‘Paul,’ it transpires, is none other than Paul Brandon, author of Swim the Moon , a novel that’s very highly regarded at Green Man!’
Cat has a select collection of Funko Rock Candy figures. Not action figures as they’re not at all posable. One is the Thirteenth Doctor figure that Denise reviewed here, but the rest are Marvel characters. One is the Spider-Gwen figure which was hard to find in her hooded appearance, the Lady Thor figure which he thinks is the best of the ones he has acquired so far, the Captain Marvel figure for which he had to purchase a seperate figure of Goose, her cat. And then there’s the Hulkbuster which is just a little too cute to be a true representation of that machine.
Let’s find something sprightly to listen to on this late Autumn day… Ahhh that’ll do… Here’s De Dannan performing ‘Jenny Rocking The Cradle’, a trad Irish reel which was first was collected in printed form by O’Neill in his Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies published in 1903. This version was recorded at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, sometime in 1982 by the incarnation of the band consisting of Jackie Daly on accordion, Alec Finn plying bouzouki and guitar, Frankie Gavin on fiddle and whistle with Colm Murphy playing the bodhran and Maura O’Connell providing the lovely vocals, which she amply demonstrates on ‘My Irish Molly’ from the same concert.