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.
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 a 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 in the Estate journals to them 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 …
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.’
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.
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.