Welcome to Green Man

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. There’s even stories about the felines here. And you’ll also get to hear music here every week such as Michele Walther and Irina Behrendt playing Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’  from his Rodeo album.

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What’s New for the 2nd of October: Contradance music and Arabian fuzz, William Gipson redux, military SF and horror, soul cake, and more

The most complex programs in existence are used for consumer analysis. They’re everywhere, watching and analyzing every aspect of our lives. The amount of data gathered on any one of us is mind-boggling.
Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light


Care to have a pint of our new All Hallows Eve Ale? It’s quite good. I’ll get Finch to draw you a pint. I’ve been getting stellar comments about it from those who’ve had a few. Or a few too many.  Bjorn, our Brewmaster, always seems to enjoy creating new Autumn libations more than those he does for the other seasons. And he’s hinting that he’ll be doing an authentic Octoberfest beer very soon but he’s kept everything a secret from even me.

In the meantime, I’m writing up this edition as Iain, your usual host, is running through the tunes that Red Robin will be playing later this evening in the Sanctuary as he’s the caller. Two violinists, one smallpiper plus a mountain dulcimer player — all from Ashville, North Carolina — and it should be quite tasty to dance to.


Cat says for some time he’s been looking forward to a full length novel in P. Djèlí Clark’s Dead Djinn series set in an early 1900s alternative Cairo where magic has returned to the world. It’s now here in A Master of Djinn, which Cat enjoyed on audio. ‘Now let me be clear that this is a pulp story with a heroine who has her own sidekick and truly deliciously evil antagonists. The story starts fast, gets faster and never slows down.’

Drawing Down The Moon: The Art of Charles Vess is is an exhibition catalogue for a show that should’ve been for someone who’s illustrated such works as Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a favourite of mine. Let’s have Charles explain why I believe this: ‘All you need to do is flip through the book to realize that when it comes to traditional fairy, folk tale and fantasy art, there are few artists who do it better than Vess.’

Gary found Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light, to be quite a page-turner. ‘I think of myself as … not exactly a pacifist, but pacifist adjacent. It’s hard to square that with how much I enjoy good military SFF. My experience with it goes back to early Heinlein like Starship Troopers, through Niven-Pournelle and Joe Haldeman, and now you can add Linda Nagata to that list.’

With the new TV series adapted from William Gibson’s The Peripheral beginning Oct. 21 on Amazon Prime, we thought we’d re-run Gary’s review of the 2014 book. ‘Once again, a William Gibson book seems ripped from today’s headlines, extrapolated forward a bare few years. I like The Peripheral as much as I’ve liked any of Gibson’s books. Probably better. It takes place in a very real-seeming world, among real-seeming people.’

And while we’re at it, here’s his review of the sequel, Agency. ‘It’s the second book in yet another trilogy by Gibson, the septuaginarian North American who since the 1980s has made a career of writing plausible tomorrows by looking hard at today. This one picks up sometime after the action in The Peripheral. The gist of these tales, as it continues to emerge in Agency, is that the world’s political, social, and climate upheavals that we see happening around us today culminated in a catastrophe they now call the Jackpot (in one of these timelines), which led to the extinction of three-quarters of the world’s human population and at least that much of its other animal life.

Leona gives an incisive review of Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, an 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.’

Ben Aaronovitch‘s The Furthest Station (Rivers of London #5.5) is a cool story says Lis: ‘ The London Underground has ghosts. Well, the London Underground always has ghosts, but usually they’re gentle, sad creatures. Lately there’s been an outbreak of more aggressive ghosts. Groping, shoving, insults that are racist and/or misogynistic–offensive and provocative. Victims of the assault report them, but have completely forgotten them by the time Transport Police get back to them to follow up.

Joseph Campbell’s Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth got reviewed by her: ‘This book is a collection of his lectures and writings on the Arthurian adventures and Grail Quests of the Middle Ages, specifically the “Matter of Britain” stories of the 12th and 13th centuries. These are the stories, or the basis of the stories, of Arthur’s court and its knights and ladies that we are most familiar with, and have nothing to do with the probable historical Arthur figure of the late 5th/early 6th centuries who may have led the Celtic Britons in resistance against the invading Saxons. If the historical Arthur existed, Arthur would have most likely been a nickname or title, not his name.’



Denise got a kick out of the contemporary horror film Jeepers Creepers. ‘Controversial filmmaker Victor Salva acts as writer and director for this film, and proves himself a capable storyteller. This film grabs your attention in the first few minutes and doesn’t let it go. It is a fast-paced 90 minutes with few unessential bits. As I watched the ending credits roll, I wished it had been a little longer; the bits of exposition as well as the glimpses of The Creeper’s lair hint at a larger mythology that I would like to have learned more about. As it stands, it’s a well-paced thrill ride that goes by so quickly you don’t have time to think about wanting more until you realize it’s over.’

PThe late and much missed Kage Baker, a woman who loved all things culinary such as the Two Fat Ladies series, once upon a time taught the bakers in our kitchen to make a most excellent soul cake according to what she says is a traditional Scots recipe. Let’s listen in as she tells them how she makes these nibbliesP
Richard was a little disappointed with Brian Azzarello & Victor Santos’s Filthy Rich modern noir comic Filthy Rich. ‘Considering the way in which the Vertigo imprint helped revolutionize American comics, one would hope that the lead title for Vertigo Crime would offer some of that same freshness. Instead, it’s just solid work. Victor Santos’ strong artwork helps — the tone of period film is evoked perfectly, with square-jawed men and seductively rounded women — but the ultimate effect is a strong take on a timeworn formula, rather than something new.’


Cat turned in a wide-ranging interview with Nick Burbridge of McDermott’s Two Hours.  ‘I first encountered his band when reading George Berger’s 1998 book Dance Before the Storm: The Official Story of the Levellers, which had this lovely bit about his band: “All the Levellers are keen to cite McDermott’s Two Hours as their original inspiration. A Brighton band, they were the natural fusion of the anger of Crass and the Irish-driven music of the Pogues.”

David wrote up an omnibus review and remembrance of Canadian folk and blues musician Jackie Washington. ‘He was born in 1919, and the family has lived in Hamilton forever. Jackie worked as a porter on the railroad; he worked at American Can for a time, bottling soda pop; and his whole life he has been a musician. A quick glance through the quasi-autobiography More Than a Blues Singer [compiled from interviews by poet James Strecker] shows a connection from Jackie to some of the greatest names in 20th century jazz and blues.’

Gary enthusiastically reviews Slash, a new album of Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton and American old time tunes by American guitarist Alex Sturbaum and a host of guest musicians on fiddle and a few other likely instruments. ‘I’m just gobsmacked at how much wonderful music there is on this album. Maybe my reaction is partly due to the fact that I haven’t been to a contradance since late 2019, and I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever get to go dancing again. But if you’re a contradancer or just enjoy energetic, rhythmic fiddle music out of these traditions, you owe it to yourself to check out Slash.’

Gary was pleased with the ‘Arabian fuzz’ emanating from Al-Qasar’s Who Are We? ‘What do you get when you combine a French-American electric guitar whiz-kid, a Moroccan singer and percussionist, a versatile rhythm section, and guest singers and players from the top ranks of World music and punk rock? Probably something like Al-Qasar, whose first full-length album Who Are We? raises the flag of Middle Eastern psychedelic rock with a decidedly political focus.’

Lory checked out a set of holiday music from an established musician and his daughter, Craig and Kara Markley’s Once Upon a Winter Moon. ‘There’s nothing wildly original here, but the arrangements are well-crafted and pleasant to listen to. The two original instrumentals, “Lady With the Silver Thread” (by Craig) and “Tinuviel” (by Kara) are cut from the same cloth, fitting in seamlessly with the more traditional melodies.’


Robert brings us a review of something that has nothing to do with witches: ‘Well, another cutie from Folkmanis came across my desk — or maybe I should say, “swam” across my desk: it’s their Baby Sea Otter hand puppet, and it’s a real cutie.’

PSo I’m going to finish off this Edition with  a live recording of the Dead doing ‘The Music Never Stopped’ which appropriately was recorded near Summer Solstice, the nineteenth of June, forty two years ago in Passaic, New Jersey. Blues for Allah, their eighth studio album, which had been released in September of 1975, included this song.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Chasing Fireflies

Raspberry dividerCome on in, you’re just in time! We haven’t started yet… don’t just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I’m Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I’m also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we’ll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and… oh, there’s a fiddler missing! Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub?! I’ve danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something.

As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we’ll walk through the first dance. You’ll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, it’s very easy. It is so! It’s just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don’t you worry, the other dancers will help you.

Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?

It’s that new porter that’s been tapped in the pub, I’m sure. Béla’s developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You’re certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you’ll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in …

Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Let’s dance ‘Lady of the Lake.’ Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back… cast around. Do a ladies chain over… and back. Now balance and swing with that person below… and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You’ve got it! Now, everyone back to place and we’ll dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please…

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What’s New for the 18th of September: Our Elizabeth Bear edition, plus some de Lint on film and in comics, contemporary raga, lots of traditional fiddle music and a Bert Jansch tribute, and of course dragons and chocolate.

Was this what having an identity felt like? Was this being someone? Feeling like there was a core of who you were beyond which you could not be altered? Feeling . . . continuity. Feeling like you existed as a real, solid thing, apart from your trauma. ― Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night

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Autumn here with its promise of bonfires, pumpkins, cider on tap in the Pub, of blackberries fat and tart on their prickly bushes  and pumpkins ripening on the vine, but it’s also the time of year that we get serious about getting ready for Winter. If you visit us on this Scottish Estate, someone will no doubt ask you to pitch in on some task that needs doing. So dress appropriately, have a good attitude, sturdy footware and you’ll be appreciated here quite nicely.

Now why don’t you give me a few minutes to finish up this Edition and we’ll head off to the Kitchen as the season’s upon  us when the staff’s making babka, that exquisitely chocolate rich Eastern European sweet, leavened bread along with just as tasty rugelach, both a good treat as the weather cools…

Raspberry dividerWe’re looking at just Elizabeth Bear this outing. Now we can’t possibly include the reviews here that we’ve done, so I’m picking just some for here.

First up is her not quite space operas, Ancestral Night and its not quite sequel Machine. Gary reviewed both. He says ‘Ancestral Night is the tale of Haimey Dz, a nominally lesbian engineer on a little salvage tug whose ship mind is named Singer and which is piloted by her friend Connla Kurucz. Both Haimey and Connla live nearly full time in zero gravity, so of course their bodies have been modified in many ways, including replacing their feet with “aft hands.” The three of them make their living in the vastness of interstellar space by going to the rips in spacetime caused by unsuccessful transfers out of white space back into Newtonian space, and salvaging the wrecks they find there … if there’s anything left or worth salvaging. ’

In the second novel, he says, she ‘is playing a long game in Machine, the second installment in her White Space series. The series is shaping up to be an exploration of those dark places – not to say dystopian spaces – that are always found around the edges of any apparent utopia. Via that path she’s casting her eye on some of the current ills facing humanity in the 21st century — and tossing out some thoughts about how we might resolve some of those issues before it’s too late.’

Cat has a look at two novellas in an interesting series: ‘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.’

Kestrell looks at a novel of decided Shakespearean tones: ‘Elizabeth Hand’s new novel Illyria follows in a long tradition of science fiction and fantasy stories which reference the works of Shakespeare, particularly the romances, and Hand’s lyrical writing style is a wonderful fit for the dark romance she sets out to tell. The romance tells of the relationship between two cousins, Maddy and Rogan, but like that of the twins Viola and Sebastian in “Twelfth Night” to which the title Illyria alludes, the relationship between Maddy and Rogan proves to be a powerful touchstone for drawing together all the “big ideas” of love, ambition, and conformity to family and social expectations.’

Richard has zeppelins for us in New Amsterdam: ‘ There is no more surefire signifier of the alternate history novel than the zeppelin. One giant commercial dirigible hanging in the background is all you need to say “This world is not our world. This is a place where things are/were different.” And, often enough, a signifier is all the zeppelin remains. They’re cool, they’re different, and they’re background.’

Without telling us a damn thing about the novel, Robert has high praise for high praise for one of her works: ‘Elizabeth Bear has started to scare me. All the Windwracked Stars packs a terrific wallop, and any artist who can achieve that level with any consistency is frightening indeed. There’s a degree of honesty that any artist has to achieve if they want us to pay attention beyond the moment: they can’t be afraid of the hard places. Bear’s there.’

Next is her Promethean Age novels.  he begins his review wwith Blood and Iron this way: ‘Blood and Iron is the story of what turns out to be the latest battle in an ongoing and centuries-long war between the Courts of Faerie, whose power is of song and bindings and innate gifts, and the Magi of the Prometheus Club, whose magic is a thing of arcane knowledge and iron weapons, against which the Fae have little recourse. Both sides, of course, are fighting in self-defense, ‘

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

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Yes, it is currently available in the States on HBO Max as part of The Hunger series and Michael says it’s worth watching: ‘Adapted from the Charles de Lint short story of the same name, Sacred Fire was produced as an episode of the anthology television series, The Hunger, and first shown in 1999. A horror/dark fantasy series initially hosted by Terence Stamp and then David Bowie, The Hunger takes dark, twisted looks at the world around us.’ In an email, the author notes that one of his favourite things about it is ‘David Bowie dressed up as a mad scientist as he introduces it!’

The story is found in the Dreams Underfoot collection, which is available from what I call the usual suspects.

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

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Speaking of de Lint, Mia has a charming children’s book for us: ‘A Circle of Cats is intended to be the prequel to the de Lint/Vess collaboration Seven Wild Sisters. Since I’ve been thwarted in every attempt to procure a copy of Sisters, and haven’t had a chance to read the story sans Vess artwork in Tapping the Dream Tree collection, I have no idea how A Circle of Cats stands in relation to that rare release. In relation to de Lint’s body of work as a whole, and indeed to the field of modern fantasy and fairy tale overall, this piece is simply outstanding.’

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Debbie had some thoughts about Peter Knight’s The Gemini Cadenza, a very different sort of recording by the Steeleye Span fiddler. ‘Knight’s high level of technical expertise, coupled with his willingness to step outside the boundaries of any particular genre, make him an artist of the highest caliber, in my opinion. You may not like all he has to offer, depending on your own tastes, but he is very much worth listening to, in whichever of his incarnations you choose to experience him.’

Gary was mesmerized by a contemporary raga recording, Purbayan Chatterjee and Rakesh Chaurasia’s Saath Saath. ‘It was recorded in March 2022, in a small chamber orchestra environment in one or sometimes two takes. We hear the introduction and a little chatter at the beginning of most tracks, and sometimes a bit of follow-up jamming as the musicians wind down from their intense focus. It’s all very charming. If you want a very beginner-friendly introduction to “Indian” music, or if you’re an old hand looking for a refreshingly informal take on it, Saath Saath is highly recommended.’

Gary also reviewed a various artists collection of field recordings, Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks, Volume One: Along the Eastern Crescent. ‘This CD is the first of a three-volume set in Rounder’s excellent North American Traditions series, focusing on the old-time fiddle music of the Ozarks. It was clearly a labor of love for producers Gordon McCaan and Mark Wilson, as well as the 10 fiddlers, most of them well beyond 70 years of age. As Wilson says in his extensive liner notes, it’s important that these regional fiddle works be recorded, because the process of homogenization is well along. The advent of records, radio and TV, as well as the greater ease of traveling in the second half of the 20th century, all have conspired to nearly kill old-time dance music played by small string bands.’

John Benninghouse reviewed a collection of field recordings, Work & Pray: Historic Negro Spirituals and Work Songs From West Virginia. ‘This album is the fruit of the labors of Cortez Reece, who recorded these performances from 1949-53 as part of his doctoral thesis, “A Study of Selected Folk Songs Collected Mainly in Southern West Virginia.” It collects most of the religious pieces and songs sung by black workers as they laid railroad track. Aside from any academic trappings, the 38 tracks here stand on their own as wonderfully evocative performances.’

‘If you only buy one more CD this year (unlikely, I know!) and you love the sound of the fiddle, then this should be the one you choose,’ said Richard Barnes of a various artists disc called The Fiddle Collection (Volume 1). ‘It’s been a labour of love for Phil Beer (who better to coordinate such a project, fiddler extraordinaire that he is himself?), and well worth the effort.’

Richard Condon had high praise indeed for People On The Highway: A Bert Jansch Encomium. ‘If you are an admirer of Bert Jansch and his music or if you are a fan of the scene onto which he erupted, the London of the 1960s, you will find much to please you on these two discs. They demonstrate the love and admiration that BJ inspired in his own generation and also the influence and affection that can still be discovered in later and more widely scattered musicians. Many of the songs continue to hold their own, even if a few now seem lighter in weight in a changed world, and they are generally performed here with understanding and respect.’

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Our What Nots are of a Dragonish manner, and let’s have Camille start off for us: ‘Like every Folkmanis puppet I’ve so far seen, the Baby Dragon Puppet is a marvel of workmanship for the price: carefully stitched seams, articulated wings, darts along the inside of the limbs and belly to allow for movement and keep shape. The tag tells us it’s made in China, so we know who to thank.’

Mia finishes off with a look at four of Folkmanis’s creations, to wit Blue Dragon, Green Dragon, Three Headed Dragon, and Phoenix and she says, ‘Oooooh, shiny! I have a box of dragons here! Folkmanis makes the best puppets ever, and their dragons are some of the finest of their puppets.’

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Autumn for me is when I start craving the sound of certain performers, one of which is Kathryn Tickell. She to me is one of the more interesting sounding of the Northumberland performers that risen up in the past thirty years in the years since Billy Pigg was active.

So let’s listen in to her performing three tunes, ‘The Magpie’, ‘Rothbury Road‘ and ‘The Cold Shoulder’ which is from an outstanding soundboard recording of a performance at the Washington D.C. Irish Folk Fest from the 2nd of September, some twenty years ago.

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A Kinrowan Estate Story: Kedgeree, or Khichari You If Prefer

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

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

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

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

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What’s New for the 4th of September: A Rivers of London novella, a Piece of Pulp gets the Film Treatment,Ice Cream, Jethro Tull’s ‘The Hunting Girl’

Crop handle carved in bone; sat high upon a throne of finest English leather.
The queen of all the pack, this joker raised his hat and talked about the weather.
All should be warned about this high born Hunting Girl.
She took this simple man’s downfall in hand; I raised the flag that she unfurled.

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The end of Summer is nigh upon us as the Autumnal Equinox is but a few weeks out and we here on this Scottish Estate have begun the only partly conscious shift into Autumn as a given thing. Everything — from the behaviour of the lynxes as they hunt their prey to the food served up by Mrs. Ware who’s our Head Cook and her staff — starts the shift to serving the heartier foods that the increasingly cold, too frequently wet weather causes us to crave.

By this time of year,  even the Neverending Session starts folding in on itself as the ancient boon of food, drink and a place to sleep is outweighed by our remoteness. So that group is largely comprised of the mmusicians here, a number somewhere around a third of the Estate staff such as myself (violin),  my wife Catherine (voice and wire strung Welsh violin), Béla (violin), Finch (smallpipes) and Reynard (concertina). It’s always interesting to see who’s playing in it at any given moment. Nor is it by any means always present, a myth started by the musicians a long time ago.

Raspberry dividerRegarding Alan Moore & José Villarrubia’s poetry volume The Mirror of Love, April said ‘Alan Moore, known primarily as a cutting edge comic author (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Watchmen), is no slouch when it comes to other artistic endeavors. He’s written a novel, songs, and even poetry. The Mirror of Love is one such foray into the realm of poetry. Originally published in 1988 in comic form (as part of an AARGH!, or Artists Against Rampant Government Homophobia, comic anthology) as a protest against England’s anti-homosexual Clause 28, Mirror encapsulates the history of same sex love, from pre-history to Sappho to today.’

Camille said the writing, the characters, and the plot in Perry Moore’s Hero didn’t win her over, but she liked it in the end. ‘What did win me over was the absolutely brilliant use of Thom’s struggle to understand himself and his place in the world as a superhero paralleled with his struggle to understand himself as gay. All this, of course, set against the familiar coming-of-age backdrop of the struggle to understand himself as adult. Weaving the three elements together, Moore manages to highlight the poignancies of each, and to forge a single, universal tale of teenage angst, self-loathing, redemption, and resolution.’

David received a review copy of a 33-1/3 book, an extended essay about Jethro Tull’s Aqualung by music professor Allan Moore, and … he’s not having any of it. ‘The book is short, only 110 pages, but it seems to go on forever. As I read, my wife said, “Stop grunting!” as I responded verbally with huffs and puffs on nearly every page.’ Read his review to see what bothered him so.

David also looked at a couple of other titles in the 33-1/3 lineup, Kevin Courrier’s Trout Mask Replica, and Sean Nelson’s Court and Spark. ‘It’s interesting, in both books, that the albums are treated as vinyl. Not CDs. Nelson divides Joni’s work by song, “putting the needle down on side one …” and Courrier discusses the value of the four different sides of a double album, not one continuous piece of music. That’s what makes these 33 1/3 books valuable. They maintain a connection to the past, not just in their reassessment of old records, but in their respect for the medium.’

In his review of Christopher Moore’s Lamb, Gary says ‘Moore is a popular American novelist who specializes in humorous horror, for want of a better term. … Generally, in his five previous books, Moore has taken monsters, gods, creatures and demons from old stories, legends and myths and set them in the modern world, where they do their best to confound the lives of some confused Americans. … In Lamb, however, he has done the opposite: put characters with 21st-century sensibilities inside an old story, the tale of Jesus. Or rather, Joshua, which was his Hebrew name.’

‘Short-form science fiction is pretty much my idea of perfect summer reading,’ Gary says as he dips in to Gardener Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-fifth Annual Collection. ‘I want something to dip into that will hold my interest at least briefly on a languid afternoon, so a big ol’ volume of great SF is just the thing. And what better sort of collection than one of the 35 “year’s best” compilations edited by the late Gardener Dozois between 1984 and his death in 2018?’

Gary was less than thrilled about Hayden Childs’ Shoot Out The Lights, a book in the popular 33-1/3 series about the classic album by Richard and Linda Thompson. ‘Childs is a good writer. And he knows how to write about music. And he certainly seems to have a good deal of passion and some genuine insights about this album. I just don’t like the way he chose to write about it.’

Kate lost a good night’s sleep in order to finish reading Christopher Moore’s Island of the Sequined Love Nun. ‘Ironically, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about picking it up to begin with. I have read several of Moore’s novels, and I think by now I can claim to be a pretty dedicated fan. I hadn’t read this one for a few years though, and remembered it as being one of the weakest of the bunch. Had I a better memory, I would have planned to read it on a far more accommodating schedule!’

Next Kate made a startling confession in her review of Christopher Moore’s Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings: ‘I don’t like whales. Its true. They’re like huge containers of lard, with unattractively gaping maws, lolling in the ocean and taking up an unsettling amount of space. And they’re crusty, which is just icky. Having made this incredibly un-PC statement, I have to qualify it with this: I do like the whales in Fluke. And I really like the researchers who study them. And this is Christopher Moore, after all, who can make me like just about anything, or at least keep me entertained with any of the myriad subjects he chooses to write about.’

Ben Aaronovitch’s What Abigail Did That Summer (Rivers of London #5.83) is says Lis ‘The Rivers of London series features the adventures of Police Constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant. But Peter has a younger cousin, Abigail Kamara, who also has ambitions to be a wizard. This novella is what happens when Abigail is largely unsupervised over the summer, and discovers that teenagers are disappearing around the Heath, and then reappearing before the police get concerned enough to mount real investigations. Of course she decides to investigate herself.’

The stories in C. L. Moore’s Judgment Night are not your usual pulp science fiction, Robert says. ‘These are solid stories, not at all the hack work we tend to think of when someone mentions the pulps, and serve to fix Moore’s place as a major voice in science fiction of the Golden Age. This edition is a facsimile of the original Gnome Press edition of 1952, and it’s a trip down memory lane, from the cover by Frank Kelly Frease to the stories themselves.’

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Cat enthusiastically endorses the 1994 film version of an old story, The Shadow, this one starring a young Alec Baldwin. ‘At it’s very core, The Shadow harkens back to a much simpler age when one could reasonably expect that Good was different than Evil. The movie captures that feeling rather well. John Lone is an absolute delight as Shiwan Khan … a somewhat too obvious and somewhat darker reflection of The Shadow’s supposed goodness. The art deco sets are terrific; the music is moody and fits the film. The visual scope of 1933 New York City is breathtaking.’

Raspberry dividerJennifer gives us a recipe for corn bread that’s better than ya muthah’s. Note the stress on extra butter. Nothing can be done for you if you will eat corn bread but won’t add extra butter. No low-carb diet on earth allows you corn bread, so, since you’ve decided to have some anyway, go on, be a devil and add that extra butter!?”’

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‘…(F)ans everywhere are sulking,’ Kage said in her mixed review of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. ‘Most of the book consists of excerpts from the Dossier, in a wide variety of styles and voices. Some work brilliantly. “What Ho! The Elder Gods,” in which Bertie Wooster mixes with the Lovecraft set, had me laughing until I wept. Other bits misfire.’

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David offered up a review of an album by an Irish blues singer and guitarist. ‘There’s no mistaking what’s going on with Bad For You Baby. Right from the first note, guitarist Gary Moore opens his new CD with a raw, loud riff, and then blues singer Gary Moore jumps in, “You got a wiggle when you walk, you got a giggle when you talk, I see you comin’ it makes me smile, you beat the other women by a million miles … I got it bad for you baby and I just can’t help myself.” And there’s no turning back. Full tilt rock’n’roll boogie time.

David didn’t find much joy in a 2006 reissue of Christy Moore’s Live In Dublin recording, mostly because of the dour political nature of the songs. ‘Recorded in April 1978 at a series of gigs held “at The Meeting Place, Pat Dowling’s of Prosperous, Trinity College and the Grapevine Arts Centre in North Great George’s St.” and even in “Nicholas Ryan’s front room,” the sound is intimate and clear. Acoustic guitars and a bouzouki provide a firm foundation for Christy’s reedy tenor. His Irish brogue adds a touch of reality to the atmosphere invoked by these songs of rebellion and strife.’

Gary approves of Popular Culture … at least this album by Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra by that title. ‘As with much of what Bernstein does, the spirits of New Orleans and Elllington permeate Popular Culture. Lots of urbane cool slinkiness and joyous funky grooves behind rich interplay from the horn section. “Black Peter” is a swampy take on this Dead cut from Workingman’s Dead, with guitarist Matt Munisteri taking the instrumental and vocal lead.

Gary found a lot to like in Kallio, a solo project by Finnish fiddler Päivi Hirvonen. ‘Hirvonen composed and arranged all nine songs presented here, and she also performs all of the music herself, with the exception of some backing vocals on the opening track. In addition to the violin, she also plays the Finnish bowed lyre called jouhikko, and there are also some dramatic electronics and studio effects added by the Finnish artist and producer Oona Kapari, to the extent that Kallio does not come off like a solo project.’

Gary also greatly enjoyed Erlend Apneseth’s solo Hardanger fiddle album Nova. ‘As with so many of the unique artists on the Hubro label (and elsewhere on the Nordic scene) Apneseth is rooted in traditional music, but unites it with a improvisation borrowed from jazz and a curiosity for sonic exploration from the avant garde. The result, especially when united with the sonic possibilities of the recording space and the fiddler’s use of himself as another instrument, is wondrous.

John Benninghouse reviewed Christy Moore’s first two post-Planxty solo albums, Whatever Tickles Your Fancy and Christy Moore. They had a mixed reception from critics and fans, he noted. ‘These albums on re-release by Raven have been packaged together, and they give a snapshot of Moore getting back to his feet and establishing himself once again as a solo artist.’

Lars was a wee bit more positive than David about Christy Moore’s Live in Dublin 2006, a double CD and DVD that was new, not a re-release of an old live disc. ‘If you ever lose your faith in music, in the ability of songs to give you something more than simple statements of love, these products will restore it very quickly. This is what music is about: good friends playing songs they love. Hypnotic, magnetic – I get lost for words. One of the best live CDs I have ever heard, and one of the best concert DVDs around.

Christy Moore’s This is the Day also received Lars’s unqualified endorsement. ‘If you are looking for rock and roll or speedy jigs and reels you’re better off avoiding this. But if you want something genuinely moving, a collection of lovely songs executed by three real experts, you must not do without it. In my book it’s one of Moore’s best ever, up there with Ride On and the other classics.’

Lars was highly entertained by two eclectic and eccentric albums, The Charlie Moorland Trio’s Excentrique, and Jaune Toujours’s Barricade. Of the first, he says, ‘The Charlie Moorland Trio describes its own recording thus: “A collection of swing/French/Gypsy/trad and original material, including some French musette transcribed from disc, jazz from the real book, a Romanian Gypsy tune ‘Doda’ from a trad score and Macedonian tunes from Linsey Pollak’s collection.” ‘ And of the second: ‘If you want to get under the skin of Brussels, capital of the surreal, as Maris’s lyrics call it, this CD would be a good place to start.’

Richard says the music on Smoke & Strong Whiskey is not by the Christy Moore we’re all familiar with from Planxty and Moving Hearts. ‘This is the other Christy Moore, present to varying degrees in the earlier groups already mentioned and more so on his numerous solo albums. It is Christy the roaring boy, Christy the politically committed activist, Christy the cynical and world-weary social commentator, Christy the star able to laugh at himself, Christy the contemporary musician, using fashionable sounds and styles.’

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

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

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

She finishes off with the Mouse in Pumpkin puppet: ‘All hail the spice! Pumpkin everything is the rule of the day this time of year, and I’m all for it. Give me my pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pies,spicy roasted pumpkin, and pumpkin crumble. And okay, a PSL or two while we’re at it, though I’m more a Chestnut Praline Latte gal myself. So when Folkmanis decided to indulge my love of the orange squash, my grabby hands eagerly shot out. And I’ve been snuggling with this adorable puppet ever since.’

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I personally have a keen liking for the Jethro Tull of the Sixties and early Seventies, which is why you’re getting a cut off their 1976 album, Songs from The Wood. The cut I’ve selected is ‘The Hunting Girl’, a fine pagan story about boy meets girl riding horse and … Oh just go give it a listen! It’s a soundboard recording done forty three years ago at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: You’re Invited to A Pig Roast

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You’re invited to a last pig roast which is coming up this weekend.

Needless to say, you need a pig. Figure two pounds of meat per person. More if you’re feeding them all day long, as properly cooked pig — I swear — creates ravenous appetites, even with lots of sides on hand. I saw at the pig roast last year a hundred-pound-dripping-wet female (not a metaphor — she was wet from skinny-dipping in the Mill Pond) eat three pounds of pork over the course of the afternoon, according to one of the servers who dished out the pig straight off the roasting pit.

It didn’t slow her down — she danced in all three of the contradances that day. And she and one of the gardening lads went off late that night to one of the yurts for some private exercise. Must have been a good time — she got pregnant, they got handfasted at the next full moon, and moved to a farm in New Zealand a year later with another bairn on the way.

And German-style potato salad. And oodles of cole slaw, again German style. And yeast rolls with butter. And strawberry shortcake with vanilla ice cream. Oh of course ale and cider. The summer ale was a German-style wheat that Bjorn, our Brewmaster of long standing, had brewed in consultation with Gus, our Estate Head Gardener and pig roast planner extraordinaire.

Not just any pig but one suitable for roasting over an open fire or buried in coals for essentially steam cooking. We favour the latter, as everyone thinks it tastes better even though it’s far less impressive as it’s a process that largely invisible.

First you start with the right breed of pig. Some are good for roasting, some less so. We use the Red Wattle, the Rolls Royce of breeds for this purpose. It’s an expensive, really expensive, breed but oh when slow cooked with lots of cider drizzled over it to keep it moist as its tended, it’s easily the best pork you’ll ever eat!

Add in some great music — we hire several Appalachian bands that play bluegrass, Celtic and such, hold the party on the greensward which is an easy walk to the Mill Pond which is perfect for skinny dipping, and make sure there’s enough to feed both the serving crew and your guests. We end up having to use a fairly large pig as there’s never enough meat when we use a smaller one such as most pig roasts use.

I’ll bet that you’re hungry, aren’t you?

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What’s New for the 21st of August: Summer Queen SJ ‘Sooj’ Tucker including her performing ‘Ravens in the Library’, Swedish folk music, Matt Wagner’s Grendel and a wee bit more.

One flies in to case the joint,  boldly struts around.
Two fly in to make it three,  laugh a while and knock each other down.
Four flies in with a frowning walk  gains a laugh from out a squawk
but it’s five who owns the place  and proves it with a look, stopping
six and seven in their tracks from smuggling a book.

SJ Tucker’s ‘Ravens in The Library’

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Our new Summer Queen, SJ ‘Sooj’ Tucker is hanging out with us this month and I just handed her a drink of choice  while I looked over her interview with Leona. She will be known to many of you who are in the Ren Faire circles as she’s an honoured performer at them.

She’s an Arkansas born singer-songwriter who says that she was inspired by musicians like Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and Ani DiFranco but as the Skinny White Chick (as she’s also known widely), she quickly branched out to assume a more diverse identity with her music, adding bits and bobs of electronica, filk, spoken word and world music . With the Fire & Strings company, she’s quite an accomplished fire spinner which we hope she’ll do here during her visit. For a detailed look at her, go read Leona’s charming essay on her and her works here.

Lammas is tomorrow which makes this an auspicious time for introducing our new Summer Queen, the latest in a line that has included such luminaries as OR Melling, Jennifer Stevenson, Sharyn November and Emma Bull to name but few of those that have been honored with this esteemed title. Like Emma, she’s both a musician and writer, and quite good at both I’d say.

We’ve got two interviews with her, one on food and another on books on such as well. Both are delightful and amusing looks at her that will tell you much about her as a person.

She’s also a children’s literature author having written Rabbit’s Song, a charming work illustrated by Trudy Herring. Cat says of it that ‘If you’ve read books like Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife or Charles de Lint’s Medicine Road, you’ll recognize the use of First Folk animal archetypes here. The story is of course told more simply here than it is in those books but suits the intended audience.’

May I offer you what she’s drinking before I turn to this edition? She’s drinking her summer go-to refreshment which is coconut water with pineapple juice. We always have coconut water and canned sliced pineapple on hand in the Kitchen as Lahkshima, one of my current Several Annies, favours it as well.

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Remember last week, 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.

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Hedningarna’s Hippjokk and Trå elicits this comment from Iain: ‘If Gjallarhorn is cool and crisp like a late winter day, Hedningarna is a winter day when the storm is raging. Dirty Linen said of them — ‘Only a few bands really seem to define their own genre, but Hedningarna is definitely one of them.’ This is not your grannie’s folk music — this is folk music filtered through a rock sensibility, and blended with the feel of a rave.’

One of the most amazing things we were sent to review was the Folk Music in Sweden series, all twenty-five discs. Yeah, you read me right, twenty-five discs of Swedish trad music. Lars got the honour of reviewing this set from Swedish label Caprice and he has a word to the wise at the end of his most excellent review: ‘Well, a summary of this project would be: A very ambitious project which helps to preserve the musical traditions from Sweden for future generations, and give them access to some of the treasures that are hidden in various vaults in Stockholm. But beware, do not try to taste it all in one go. Remember the old advice about how to eat an elephant. You do it bit by bit.’

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Our What Not is from Howlin’ Wuelf Media who us an interesting press release which I’ll quote in its entirety…

The BBC recently presented an examination of the online streaming archives maintained by the Association For Cultural Equity of field recordings collected by renowned musicologist Alan Lomax. Their site says:

Adventures in music; ancient to future. Max Reinhardt dips into the Alan Lomax archive of over 17,000 recordings made from 1946 into the 1990s. Lomax spent his whole career capturing the musical performances of everyday people and their songs across the globe. Navigating through this great mass of historical audio treasures is the archive’s guardian and curator Nathan Salsburg, who joins Max to share some of his favourite selections.

Listen to the show here, and investigate yourself here along with the 17000 audio streams there’s video, airchecks of Alan’s radio shows, interviews, features and more!

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So I’m going to finish this edition out with our Summer Queen performing ‘The Raven in The Library’. This performance is at ConFusion in Troy, Michigan on January 23, 2010, and the performer you see here with Sooj is Betsy Tucker.


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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Cat Myth

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Gather around, kittens. I, Maeve, shall tell you of Oweynagat, the Cave of Cats, on the isle of Eire, so far away in the land of men. Pay attention — all cats must know these things!

The humans call Oweynagat the Mouth of Hell, but it is simply one of those places where the Beautiful People and their creatures emerge into the realm of Man. Though it is but a cave to the eyes of the humans, to the eyes of us cats and of the Sidhe, it is the pathway to a great and beautiful palace standing near the borders of The Underworld.

The entrance to the cave is small — five large cats walking abreast with their tails held high might brush the sides and top! Humans, even small ones, must crawl to enter. But it opens to a high and long cave that descends into the earth.

This cave is in the land of my namesake, Queen Medb, who was born to the maidservant Crochan, who waited upon Queen Étain of the Sidhe. Medb ruled over the kingdom of Connacht, and made her palace near to Oweynagat.

Listen carefully, kittens! This is important. If you need to walk between worlds quickly, Oweynagat is a good place to do so.

The Mórrigan, that Crow, she and her creatures often make their way into the human world through Oweynagat to sow war and destruction, and most often on Samhain. For this reason, humans who are clever do not tarry long near Oweynagat at Samhain.

The legends of and around Oweynagat are largely stories of human and godly foolishness, of little consequence to us cats. Our tempers flare and die, we spit and growl and fight, but it is rare for the temper of a cat to change the course of the history of Felinity. We are not like humans or gods, who allow their temper tantrums and foolishness to change their own destinies! Irusan, King of the Cats, found out why paying attention to Man is a terrible thing, and paid with his life. Men talk of little else but money, and so stories of Oweynagat often feature cattle, which were how men in those old days measured riches.

The humans have collapsed the middle of the cave now, but those of us who can walk-through-walls know that you can still reach the Underworld here. And today, on Samhain, the veil between the worlds is especially easy to cross.

The humans don’t remember why they call the cave Oweynagat. They wonder now at the name, and try to link it to the wildcats of the old stories who came to fight human heroes. But I will tell you, kittens, that if the humans go into the cave with no lights, they will remember very quickly! You have but to look up to see the cats of the cave looking back at you, eyes glowing in the dark.

Remember, kittens! Mrwowr – so be it!

Now. Shall we go find some milk for our dinner?

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What’s New for the 7th of August: lots of SF books and audiobooks; Euro-folk, Indian classical, and some jazz, plus lots of African music; jerky; Jonah Hex; and more!

It is a man’s face, with oak laves growing from the mouth and ears, and completely encircling the head. Mr. Griffith suggested that it was intended to symbolize the spirit of inspiration, but it seemed to me certain that it was a man and not a spirit, and moreover that it was a Green Man. — From an essay by Lady Raglan entitled ‘The Green Man in Church Architecture’ in the Folklore journal,  Vol. 50, No. 1 (Mar., 1939), pp. 45-57.

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There’s six green men here on Kinrowan Hall, the most noticable being the ones on the two doors to the Green Man Pub. They’re not the traditional ones of an archer dressed in green which likely is a reference to Robin Hood, but rather are the foliate heads Lady Raglan talked about in her essay. Mind you it was complete shite that she invented the term green man, as it predated her article by centuries.

The earliest reference to them in the Estate journals is by Estate Gardener Lady Alexandra Quinn in a Sleeping Hedgehog note that they had been carved in the late eighteen hundreds. It appears that the doors they are on were designed and constructed with them in mind as they’re carved right into the six inch thick oak.

Another one’s carved over the main doorways to the new Library constructed about the same time. And yes, these too were called green men, sixty years before her article was published. The Library itself has no name other than simply the Kinrowan Library and Alex, as she was known, says in the article that they, including the final ones that are over the two main entrances to Kinrowan Hall are all intended to be potent wards to keep everyone safe.

Now let’s turn to this edition …

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Cat has a review of the BBC Dune audiobook: ‘I’m assuming that you know about Dune, so I’ll not detail it here. Did you watch Farscape? If you did, you’ll remember that everyone save the U.S. astronaut thrown into that weird setting spoke with a variety of Australian accents? Well welcome to the Macmillan Audio full cast adaptation of the Hugo Award winning novel where everyone has a British accent. Snark by me notwithstanding, this is a superb production well worth the time to listen to it.’

And he looks at another audiobook, one by Alastair Reynolds in his Revelation Space Universe franchise: ‘A great audiobook consists of two needed ingredients, one obviously being the story itself, the second being (also obviously) the narrator. As to the story, Reynolds is among the best writers of sf I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. The Prefect is the first of two novels involving Tom Dreyfus, Prefect for the Panoply, the law enforcement service that oversees matters in the Glitter Band. That’s the ten thousand orbital habitats circling the planet Yellowstone in the Epsilon Eridani system, and the height of human civilization at the time (some four centuries from now), a civilization richly detailed by the author in sometimes excruciating detail.’

Gary takes a deep dive into Ancestral Night, the first volume in Elizabeth Bear’s White Space series. ‘I love a good space opera and Ancestral Night is a very good one. Bear mentions both C.J. Cherryh and Iain Banks in her Acknowledgments, and I definitely see traces of both those space opera forbears in this book’s themes and accoutrements.’

He went on to review the sequel saying: “Elizabeth Bear is playing a long game in Machine, the second installment in her White Space series. The series is shaping up to be an exploration of those dark places – not to say dystopian spaces – that are always found around the edges of any apparent utopia. Via that path she’s casting her eye on some of the current ills facing humanity in the 21st century — and tossing out some thoughts about how we might resolve some of those issues before it’s too late.”

An Ian Macdonald novel garners this comment from Grey: ‘Today, I picked up King of Morning, Queen of Day again just to refresh my memory before writing this review. After all, it doesn’t do to refer to a book’s main character as Jennifer if her name is actually Jessica. But my quick brush-up turned into a day-long marathon of fully engaged, all-out reading. I’ve been on the edge of my seat, I’ve been moved to tears, I’ve laughed, I’ve marked passages that I want to quote.’

Phil Brucato’s Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard’s Name Is reviews by Leona: “ Most anthologies are notable for their contents; the authors, the concepts, the theme, the prose, the artwork. This one is all of that, and more: proof that magic can and does happen. Magic, as editor Brucato notes, that “flows from grim necessity.” In this case, the desperate need of noted singer/songwriter S.J. Tucker, who was diagnosed with a serious illness in 2008. And had no health insurance. And had to be in the hospital rather a lot for a while. As Brucato says: “You do the math. And if you’re not sweating afterward, you’re not doing it right.”

Cat to the Dogs was warmly regarded by Naomi: ‘To be honest, I owe Ms. Murphy an apology. The first paragraph of this novel elicited an audible groan from me, and some fast second thoughts. After all, who wants to read about a woodrat dangling (still warm by the way), from the mouth of the protagonist, even if he does happen to be a tomcat? Well, I persevered, and by the end of the first page was intrigued, if not engrossed, in the unfolding tale

Robert has a look at the first two volumes of a new series by Tanya Huff, Peacekeeper: ‘Tanya Huff has started a new series, a spin-off of her Confederation novels, again featuring now former Gunnery Sergeant Torrin Kerr leading a group of her former Marine comrades. Kerr may be out of the Marines, but she hasn’t left fighting for the Confederation: she and her group are now free-lancing doing those jobs that need to be done but that no one wants to admit any involvement: call it “black ops,” with plausible deniability.’

Steven Brust, a musician himself, brings us, in collaboration with Megan Lindholm, The Gypsy, which — well, as Robert puts it: ‘There are three brothers who have become separated. They are the Raven, the Owl, and the Dove. Or perhaps they are Raymond, Daniel, and Charlie. They are probably Baroly, Hollo, and Csucskari. One plays the fiddle, one plays tambourine, and one has a knife with a purpose.’ There’s a lot more to it, of course, so check it out.

He also has a review of Brokedown Palace by Brust: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’

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The live action Jonah Hex was, to put it charitably, quite awful. A true stinker of a film in all ways. Cat has a much better choice for us in the animated Jonah Hex released by DC Showcase. A mere handful of minutes, the short script by Joe Lansdale – a master of horror if ever there was one – it is, Cat says, everything one wants in a story about this scarred bounty hunter.

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Denise sampled three jerkys and all were winners in her opinion. Read on for her tasting notes!

Beer infused beef jerky? She says it’s definitely a winner: ‘Righteous Felon crafts a whole lot of jerky. But I sunk my teeth into their Victorious B.I.G. because I needed to know what beer infused jerky tasted like. This one’s a collaboration with PA’s Victory Brewing Company, using their Storm King Imperial Stout to infuse this jerky. So this collaboration is all PA, and it feels like a match made in beer and beef heaven.’

Next up is some very meaty jerky: ‘I get a carnivorous hankering every now and then. And when I’m too lazy to throw a hunk of animal muscle on the barbie, I grab some jerky. I love dried meat; it’s got a lot of flavor, a lot of protein, and while the majority of jerky chews like shoe leather, I tough it out. Because mmmm, meat. When I saw Chef’s Cut Real Jerky Co. had Smoked Beef Chipotle Cracked Pepper Jerky that’s described as “premium meats smoked to tender perfection”, I knew I had to give ’em a try.’

Finally she finishes off with Golden Island’s Sriracha Pork Jerky: ‘Pork jerky! I’ve had beef and bison, but never pork. So I dug into this bag, curious…and hungry. The first piece out of the bag, and I got something that was stringy and thinly sliced. This is a jerky you’re gonna have to chew.’

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Rachael was enthusiastic about Alan Moore’s Promethea: Book One. ‘Promethea’s lush artwork, by J. H. Williams III, Mick Gray, and Charles Vess, matches the mythic depth and sardonic fillips of Alan Moore’s writing. The book is a sophisticated exploration of the roots of legend and creativity that also functions as a wickedly funny parody of every genre from superhero comics to science fiction to fairy tales, a moving story of female friendship, and a platform for scenes in which a gorgeous and scantily clad superheroine kicks whisker-twirling demons to kingdom come. Literally.’

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Gary turned in an in-depth review of a big various artists compilation disc of modern European folk music called Folk and World Music Galore Vol 1. ‘Those releases include such a wide range of styles, from Finnish chamber jazz to Siberian overtone singing, bouncy Slavic electro-folk to tear-jerking Bosnian sevdah, somber Icelandic folk to Finnish folk metal and punked-up klezmer. “Sometimes a little overview is needed,” label head Christian Pliefke says with typical understatement.’

Gary found himself drawn into Manel Fortià Trio’s Despertar by one track in particular, “Espiritual.” ‘It’s a deep, bluesy gospel number with a groove that won’t quit, a perfect example of the power inherent in the simple form of the jazz trio. In this case the multi-award winning Spanish pianist Marco Mezquida and French drummer Raphaël Pannier are so perfectly in sync with each other and with bassist and leader Manel Fortiá, and the song itself so beautiful … it’s irresistible.

Gary has a preview of a new album and U.S. concert tour by Indian sitarist Purbayan Chatterjee, which will include an Aug. 14 concert at Carnegie Hall, to celebrate India’s 75 years of independence. Read more about it here.

A lot of music comes out of Africa or has African roots. And we’ve reviewed a lot of it over the years. Here are a few from the Archives:

Big Earl had mixed reactions to four discs of music from Africa, but he especially loved one of them, Badenya les Freres Coulibaly’s Seniwe. ‘The music of Seniwe is a percussive wash of the most incredible rhythms I have ever heard! More than willing to play with tradition, the band plays far more “in-your-face” than many similar outfits, probably with the understanding that playing in this manner makes them more appealing to a wider audience. … A fantastic disc: the soundtrack to the intrinsic desire of human beings to dance.’

Next, Big Earl reviewed a couple of Rough Guides and found them agreeable: ‘The Rough Guide To The Music of Africa is one of those nightmare discs for any compiler to put together: what to put on, what to leave off, and how to work on the often dicey recording quality of African recordings. This disc’s compilers did a very good job, providing not only a disc that a novice would like, but a decent comp for anyone familiar with African music in general … The Rough Guide to Congolese Soukous, on the other hand, is musical dynamite.’

Big Earl also wrote about three other Rough Guides African collections covering the music of Senegal & Gambia, Marrabenta Mozambique, and Unwired: Africa. ‘I always find it a tad embarrassing to listen to Rough Guides releases. I mean, I should really just get off my butt and track down the original releases, instead of relying on these compilations. They are generally quite well done, though, and in our convenience-oriented society, they unfortunately fit the bill quite nicely.’

David was moved by The Rough Guide To Highlife: ‘Before Paul Simon broke out with Graceland in 1990, not many people outside of Ghana and Nigeria had heard of highlife music. Simon had been given a cassette of some highlife music, and mentioned it as an influence on that album. The highlife influence was more strongly felt on Simon’s next album, Rhythm of the Saints, but whatever you think of these musical stews, you have to admit he got people to listen to some new music! Rough Guides though, goes right to the source!

Gary found much diverse music on three discs of music with African roots, The Rough Guides to the Music of Mali & Guinea, South African Jazz, and Master Fiddlers of Dagbon: ‘As befits its size, history and incredibly diverse populations, Africa produces an amazing variety of music. These three discs give just a glimpse of the scope of that diversity, from traditional music created on gourd instruments, to Cuban, Brazilian and North American-influenced jazz, to a blend of traditional griot songs with modern pop stylings.’

Gary also reviewed three discs from Putumayo that he found diverse and likable: Mali to Memphis, Louisiana Gumbo, and The Oliver Mtukudzi Collection. ‘These three discs from world music purveyors Putumayo present a study in how the music of America and Africa have influenced each other.’

Jennifer reviewed four Rough Guide collections of music rooted in Africa and found them to be quite good overall: ‘Sometimes extremely specific in their subject choice, sometimes considerably more general, the thing that stands out most about this collection is its no nonsense approach. The music appears to be chosen for its indisputable value and standing within the particular tradition or genre. The albums are presented without fuss or gimmick, but will always be winners, thanks to the quality of music.’

Rebecca took a deep look at a CD from Smithsonian/Folkways, Wade in the Water Volume 1: African American Spirituals. ‘Spirituals were the sacred music of American slaves, originating as early as the 1700s. They became especially important in the southern states in the nineteenth century, just before America’s Civil War (1861-1865). Enslaved people were often allowed to sing as they worked in the fields, as long as the songs did not express overt discontent with their lot in life, so they sang spirituals. The words sounded like descriptions of Heaven, references to Bible stories, and generally harmless religious rejoicing. But the spiritual was a deeply subversive form of music.’

Richard gives us a good introduction to a popular dance music that arose in North Africa in his review of Rebel Music of Algeria: The Rough Guide to Raï. ‘There are no slow songs on this CD – raï is always dance music at heart, even when its lyrics express serious ideas. The word “raï” is variously translated as opinion, judgment, advice, objective, point of view, will or outlook. The lyrics are usually repetitive but have a meaning and reflect, in however debased a form, an ancient tradition of philosopher poets putting their ideas into verse.’

Richard also reviewed a Putumayo various artists’ collection, North African Groove. ‘This particular compilation is the seventh in Putumayo’s “groove” series, by which they appear to mean that there is no track that you couldn’t dance to. The influences that overlay the basic sounds of Arab North Africa are varied, but seem to be overwhelmingly Cuban and European, much less North American or Sub-Saharan.’

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What Not comes courtesy of Mia who looks at four of Folkmanis’s creations, to wit Blue Dragon, Green Dragon, Three Headed Dragon, and Phoenix and she says, ‘Oooooh, shiny! I have a box of dragons here! Folkmanis makes the best puppets ever, and their dragons are some of the finest of their puppets.’

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Our coda is Aaron Copland’s ‘A Fanfare for The Common Man’ as performed by the Rolling Stones. Yes the Rolling Stones! A number of bands including Styx and Emerson Lake and Palmer have adapted it for use. So here’s their decidedly offbeat version.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 7th of August: lots of SF books and audiobooks; Euro-folk, Indian classical, and some jazz, plus lots of African music; jerky; Jonah Hex; and more!

A Kinrowan Estate story: Dolmens

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I was passing by the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room when Iain was lecturing the Several Annies on a subject that was dear to his heart: ‘There are a number of  dolmens — ceremonial standing stones — scattered about the Kinrowan Estate. And these are not Victorian follies built to look like the real things, but are all very real dolmens situated where a number of ley lines come together, forming a nexus of supernatural energy.’

He went on to say that ‘The Victorian follies were new constructs, dolmens and water wheels to use two examples, made to look very old. So the water wheel would be broken, or the dolmens falling down. I think there were Greco-Roman temples built on some of the Estates. Fortunately it was something the prim and proper Edwardians disdained, so it ended as fast as it began.’

A Several Annie asked a question: ‘Do we know the purpose of the dolmens?’ Iain said, ‘No, not really. They’re far too old to have either oral or written histories that could be considered reliable. Sacrificial sites to what ever bloody gods the culture believed in is entirely possible, given many dolmens have a flat centre stone in them. Leyden’s ‘Ballad of Lord Soulis’ describes one such sacrifice at Skelf Hill — it was a horrid affair by any standards!’

I asked from the doorway where I was listening in, ‘So were the ley lines there before the dolmens were constructed? Or did the sacrifices bend them to where the dolmens had been raised?’ Iain looked at me and said, ‘Absolutely no idea. Archaeologists admit they have not a clue, though lots of New Agers think they know. Me, I know that those here on the Estate who’ve The Sight including myself know that some of them are safe to be around and some of them feel bad.’

He went on to say, ‘If you’re uncertain ask me, Tamsin, or Finch, as we can advise you. And never visit any of them without taking one of the Russian Wolfhounds with you as they’ll give you warning if a safe dolmen has changed its nature, as they ofttimes do. Someday I’ll tell you the story of Bloody Bones, who appeared as a shade out of one of the dolmens that had been quiet for years…’

With that, he broke off the lesson as it was afternoon tea time.

Oh, and here’s the tale in ballad form as recounted in Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain.

In a circle of stones they placed the pot,
In a circle of stones, but barely nine
They heated it red and fiery hot
‘Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.

They rolled him up in a sheet of lead
A sheet of lead for a funeral pall.
They plunged him in the cauldron red,
Melted him, lead and bones and all.

At the Skelf Hill the cauldron still
The men of Liddesdale can show
And on the spot where they placed the pot
The grasses they will never grow.

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