For heroes do not make history—that is the historian’s job—but, passive, let themselves be borne along, swept up to the crest of the tide of change, of chance, of war.― Ursula K. Le Guin’s Orsinian Tales
It’s a cold, damp afternoon with temperatures nearly fifteen degrees celsius below normal, so many of us are in the Pub catching up on our reading, or just engaging in conversation. See Gus, our Estate Gardener at the end of the Bar enjoying our Queen’s Lament IPA? He’s reading Cheese Holidays, a magazine solely devoted to cheeses and cheese regions worth visiting, which cheeses to try, best hotels in terms of the cheeses they offer and even local history as related to the cheeses created there. It even has a centrefold of sorts with a spread of the cheeses from a featured cheesery.
I’ve been reading the recently published journals of a British diplomatic attaché who spent quite some years in Orsinia nearly three centuries ago. Fascinating look at a country few even visit now, but I’ve had a decades long mail-based friendship with the Librarian for the National Archives there.
And Catherine’s been happily immersed in a history of medieval musical instruments and the contemporary renaissance of their usage, and making notes on which ones Max, our resident luthier, might make for her. She’s enjoying an Irish coffee made with Kona beans we roasted here, a generous measure of Redbreast 12-year-old Single Pot Still Irish whisky and a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Now lets see what we’ve got for you in this edition…
Lis starts off with a Star Trek review, a novel by Janet Kagan, Uhura’s Song: ‘Enterprise is sent to respond to a devastating plague on a Federation world inhabited by a cat-like species, the Eeiauoans. McCoy and Chapel are on the planet working with local medical personnel, the disease has jumped species and is infecting humans, too, and Uhura’s old friend, Sunfall, an Eeiauoan diplomat who shares her love of music and gift for it, is among the ill. There’s an acting Chief Medical Officer on Enterprise, Evan Wilson, who when sent had hoped she’d be working with McCoy, not filling in for him. And she’s…unusual. As both Uhura and Spock search through all the information they have that might be relevant, they start pooling their efforts using the ballads she learned from Sunfall, and what he can piece together from their history and biology. Soon they’re convincing Kirk they need to go looking for the Eeiauons’ original homeworld. The result has Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Evan Wilson trying to get medical information from people who are deeply ashamed of their ancestors having exiled the Eeiaoans, two millennia ago, and don’t want to talk about it. Oh, and the landing party has to figure out how to deal with a culture according to whose customs they’re not even adults. It’s a lot of fun.’
Next she has a review of a Revelation Space novel by Alasdair Reynolds: ‘Elysium Fire is the second adventure of Prefect Tom Dreyfus and his deputies, Thalia Ng and Sparver Bancal, confronting a new crisis. Or two crises. Or maybe the two crises are converging into one … They’re facing the new fragility of the Glitter Band, a seemingly inexplicable wave of deaths, and a very effective demagogue of murky background and unknown motives.’
Finally she looks at a novellette, At Witt’s End to be precise, in the Spade/Paladin Conundrum series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: ‘Science fiction fandom’s most renowned detective when things go wrong, has a sad job of a different kind to do. An old friend, another BNF (Big Name Fan), going by the single name Witt, has died, and Spade has the job of both organizing his memorial service for the benefit of fandom, and of auctioning off his collection of fannish treasures and memorabilia for the benefit of the charities Witt designated. Since Witt never wanted a memorial, and no West Coast convention in the right timeframe is large enough to host the auction, Spade has a major challenge. But when he gets those details sorted out, he soon finds himself confronting a bigger problem. During the memorial preceding the auction, the most valuable item in the collection disappears.’
Well, I lied. She also reviews another Spade/Paladin Conundrum story: ‘Spade is determined to stay far away from Unity Con, a convention run by people he loathes, who have no conrunning experience, whom he is convinced will make a disaster for all of fandom if well-known conrunners are seen to be involved. Then he gets a call from Paladin, telling him about a disaster that’s going to damage fandom anyway, unless she and Spade can prevent it. And Spade can’t say no to Paladin.’
‘The scenery, costumes, and sets in the movie are really lovely,’ Andrea says of a Hallmark production, Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale. Never a good sign, when a reviewer praises the sets, costumes and such … so what else does she have to say? ‘A great deal of the acting was sub-par. It was in many places too childish for adults and in many others too adult for children, and did not do justice to the subject, one of the most revered writers in the history of fairy tales.’
Gary has all of our culinary reviews this time and he says in his first review, ‘Not only has alcohol been intimately involved in the history of the United States of America, it has been closely associated with some of the key moments in that history, from the very beginning. That’s the argument that Susan Cheever makes in her book Drinking in America: Our Secret History.’
A loving look at Reid Mitenbuler’s Bourbon Empire which bears the subtitle of The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey being his second review. A history of bourbon lovingly told? Need I say more to get you to read his review? I think not!
Amy Stewart’s book might be a novel from its title but as Gary notes ‘No, it’s not a murder mystery or a light romantic comedy. The Drunken Botanist is a botanical exploration of “The plants that create the world’s great drinks,” as its subtitle says.’
Michael tackled an omnibus review of the entire series of Paradox Press’ series called The Big Book of … ‘Each is the size of a magazine, weighing in at 200 pages, give or take a few. These are well-designed, sturdy volumes which will look good on any shelf. Essentially, they’re graphic novels, with the numerous entries in each book written either by one author or one of several, and illustrated by any one of dozens of different artists. That’s right, one book can include upwards of 70 artists or more, featuring a wildly varying range of styles. While listing them all would be prohibitive, some regular and familiar names include Gahan Wilson, Sergio Aragones (of Mad Magazine and Groo fame), Eddie Campbell (the From Hell graphic novel), Phil Jiminez (current writer and artist of Wonder Woman), Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil), Frank Quietly (The Authority, New X-Men), and so many more.’
Gary reviews One Night in Texas, a tribute to Willie Nelson recorded at his ranch about a year ago for his 89th birthday, by a bunch of like-minded musicians. ‘They were all backed by the house band of Bruce Robison’s all-analog record label and studio known as The Next Waltz, and Robison had tape running. The result is a stellar recording that celebrates Willie’s big milestone in the best way possible, with gritty, soulful renditions of some of the best songs associated with the Red Headed Stranger.’
John O’Regan turned in a massive omnibus review of all sorts of Celtic music: ‘Celtic music is a wild and strange beast at the best of times, but beauty exists alongside the power and fury. This omnibus crosses both power and beauty and also the whole gamut of performers from harpists and pipers to families – parents and sibling outfits, various artists and a sole female vocalist who stands on the operatic side of Irish music. The artists hail from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, USA and the UK.’
John also reviewed six CDs of ‘Celtic mavericks‘ music, which he characterized as ‘a bunch of releases from people who have more than once stepped outside the zone marked “Familiar.” ‘ For example, he says of one of them, Music From the Four Corners of Hell by The Woods Band: ‘Named after a Dublin side street at which a pub existed on each corner, nostalgia is part of this package – but only half. Taking a bunch of popular Irish ballads like ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, ‘As I Roved Out’, ‘Spanish Lady’ and ‘The Travelling People’, some of which have been battered to extinction or forgotten in Celtic Tiger/Cosmopolitan Ireland, Woods returns them to their state of beauty, but tinged with with a little smattering of depravity.’
Camille has a look at toys made based on the characters in a film that never existed except as a script: Dark Horse Books, a division of Dark Horse Comics, recently released Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the United States Air Force. In a slightly melodramatic and over-sentimentalized introduction, Leonard Maltin gives a nevertheless fascinating brief history of this Disney-movie-that-wasn’t.’ They even came with an actual Gremlin bitten cookie!
Once upon a time and place, Enya was a founding member of Clannad and there are live recordings of the band from that period. She has never toured as a solo artist so, alas, there are no live recordings of her doing her own work.
So here are two of Clannad’s early pieces, with first up being ‘The Two Sisters’ from a performance in Köln, Germany, in 1977. This is a variant of the better known ‘Cruel Sister’ which is a Child Ballad covered by myriad bands. Pay attention to the lyrics at the end as they tell the gruesome ending the murderous sister comes to. It’s an ending worthy of the original Grimm Tales!
The second piece by them is ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, which was performed in Bremen, Germany, in 1980 in what might have well have been one of Enya’s last performances with the band. The lyrics to the latter come from that well-known Irish poet William Butler Yeats.