A Kinrowan Estate story: Our very small art exhibition space

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Well, it is. Very small, that is. And it’s been located here at the Estate for at least several centuries as the endowment that created it goes back that far. One piece of art, be it painting, sculpture or banzai tree — it didn’t matter just as long as it fit within the four foot high by three foot wide by three foot deep display case just outside the entry to the Library.

Some artists you’ll recognize — Arthur Rackham, Jilly Coppercorn to mention two that have widespread fame these days. Others that I could mention wouldn’t mean anything but to you such as one whose dissertations were on an artist so obscure that her career as a scholar employed at a Uni was over before it began, but she’s a stunning designer of jewelry using silver and amber.

My favourite pieces are either ceramic or fiber in nature. The artist who designed the ceramic troll under the bridge for us did a stunning model for us of the troll and the stone bridge; our luthier did a deconstructed hurdy gurdy with descriptions rendered in Middle French as the original drawing had; the stitching circle here decided to also recreate something, a Swedish tapestry from the Fourteen Hundreds using only tools from that time; and a Several Annie from Japan designed labels and fired prototype bottle models for Kinrowan Special Reserve Fruit Wines.

There’s a generous stipend that comes with is from our bank in Glasgow with visiting artists getting room and board while they live and work here. Each piece is purchased by us and added to the collection here in our Gallery.

So let’s see what went up this morning. I knew nought about it as the artist, a ceramicist, has been very coy about her final design.

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What’s New for the 21st of March: Lots of Doctor Who stuff, Jennifer has a warming soup for these cold days, and music from Hawaii, Turkey, Russia, Finland, and elsewhere

Don’t be scared. All of this is new to you, and new can be scary. Now we all want answers. Stick with me — you might get some. — Thirteenth Doctor

Green LeavesYes it feels full Summer today despite being the last day of Spring with the temperature of near twenty degrees this afternoon and full sun making it very, very pleasant indeed. It’s warm enough that I’m dressed in shorts and my fav Doctor Who t-shirt, the one with the Bad Wolf illustration. I’m working on this Edition outside on my iPad on the stone patio put the Pub with a large mug of chai masala with a generous splash of cream and a just baked cinnamon roll to munch for my late breakfast.

I’ve included a fair amount of Whovian related material, mostly about the new Doctor, in this edition in celebration of the fact that the principal shooting on the next season of the Thirteenth Doctor’s adventures is well underway. It’ll be shortened, just eight episodes, due to the Pandemic but it’s definitely happening.

Green LeavesLet’s start off with a number of  takes concerning Doctor Who. Some about Her, some about previous incarnations, some works about the Doctor in general.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, there have been non-fiction books focusing on various aspects of the Doctor and his adventures. April brings us a look at a not-so-reverent example, The Discontinuity Guide: The Definitive Guide to the Worlds & Times of Doctor Who: ‘Remembered by many for its wobbly paper-mache Pinewood Studios effects, frequently changing casts and cheesy incidental music, Doctor Who is, nonetheless, a unique experiment in television, and one that has been frequently engaging and entertaining, despite the production quality. There have been numerous books about the show, some more serious than others; here’s one that refuses to take itself seriously, and fans will love it.’

Cat was somewhat taken (but only somewhat) by two Doctor Who cookbooks: ‘This review is really an acknowledgement that there’s a nearly infinite number of writings about Doctor Who done by the fans of the show over the past fifty years. Yes there’s fanfic where they’ve created their own stories, some using existing characters in new stories, some creating new characters in new situations. And then there are, err, cookbooks. Seriously you can’t be surprised that someone did this, as I’m sure that there’s a Harry Potter cookbook or two out there.’

Cat says ‘I’m not going to give anything away but will note that if you like Doctor Who, I think you’ll like Jodi Houser’s Doctor Who: A Tale of Two Time Lords, Vol. 1: A Little Help From My Friends. Her Doctors are believable and the story is told very very well with the artwork good enough to carry her story excellently.’

Cat also reviewed their Torchwood India audio adventure and had this to say about it: ‘Golden Age is the story of Torchwood India and what happened to it. It is my belief that the best of all the Torchwood were the audio dramas made by BBC during the run of the series. Please note that it was BBC and not Big Finish that produced these despite the fact that latter produces most of the Doctor Who and spinoff dramas. This is so because the new Doctor Who audio dramas were kept in-house and these productions were kept there as well, though Big Finish is now producing the new Doctor Who adventures as well.’

Cat looks at an adventure beloved by many fans of the series: The Talons of Weng Chiang’ featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that the British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

Cat also looks at Doctor Who‘s The Unicorn and The Wasp’ episode which I think had one of the better companions in Donna Noble: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’

Denise has her review of the first season of Doctor Who, and she enjoyed almost every moment of Season Eleven. ‘The new Doctor loves bobbing for apples, candy floss, purple sofas, and fast talking…. I love it. Yes, I’ve said that I love things several times here. I’m not sorry.’ Why is Denise so enraptured? Only one way to find out; give her full review a look!

While she might have loved Season Eleven, Season Twelve had her feeling a whole lot of different emotions…not all of them good. ‘Unfortunately, things get a bit messy this season, with the usual overarching story coming back into play with the thirteenth Doctor’s second season. There are stories and themes that work well, but most of the time? Things get a bit too heavy-handed.’ How so? Only one way to find out – give her review a look!

Greg, not to be outdone, brings us a tome that does take itself seriously — perhaps too seriously: ‘With essays covering the entire span of the various Doctor Who television series from 1963 onward, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who addresses various ideas of The Doctor as a mythic figure. Unfortunately, the central premise — the idea that he is in fact mythic — is one that is never successfully supported.’

John looks at a lot of Doctor Who audiobooks and is very impressed: ‘The Big Finish audio adventures are a rousing success. Not only do they allow us to wallow in a familiar past, they also give us the chance to experience stories that would have been impossible for the television series. The return of familiar voices is treat enough but to have the 8th Doctor brought to life is a joy indeed. Fans who may not have liked the TV adventures of these Doctors would do well to listen to the audio dramas. Characters are fleshed out and given more substance. In many ways the Big Finish productions move Doctor Who away from being a series for kids. There’s a small amount of mild profanity, for instance. But there’s also some very intense violence and situations. Plus when the stories tackle weighty issues or when they turn narrative conventions upside down, most of the thematic material will go over the heads of younger listeners.’

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Jennifer supplies us with a warming soup made with pot stickers, shrimp, and vegetables that promises that winter will indeed end.

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As the long winter winds down, many people’s thoughts turn to warmer climes – Hawaii, say. It’s very difficult to visit there right now, but how about a virtual visit via some Hawaiian music? ‘Legend has it that Spanish and Mexican cowboys brought acoustic guitars to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s, David says. ‘The native Hawaiians acquired some of these guitars and developed uniquely inventive techniques for playing them. Influenced by their own traditional chants and also by the European hymnals provided by generations of Christian missionaries, a generic “Hawaiian” sound was created. He discusses a couple of Hawaiian-style guitar albums, Ozzie Kotani’s To Honor A Queen: the Music of Lili’uokalani, and Led Kaapana & Bob Brozman’s In the Saddle.

Next up, David has a whole raft of reviews of ukulele music. ‘The ukulele first arrived in Hawaii on the afternoon of August 23, 1879, when the Ravenscrag arrived in Honolulu with 419 Portuguese immigrants coming to work in the sugar cane fields,’ he says. Check out his omnibus review of four albums by Langley Ukulele Ensemble plus one by their star pupil James Hill; his review of two of James Hill’s solo albums, On the Other Hand and A Flying Leap; and another omnibus review, this one covering two more by Langley Ukulele Ensemble plus John King’s Royal Hawaiian Music.

Donna has a survey of Anatolian and Levantine music, starting with the Kurdish lute player and singer Sivan Perwer’s Min bêriya te kiriye. ‘In the mid-1970s, Perwer sang Kurdish songs in a Turkish stadium before a sell-out crowd. Since the singing of Kurdish songs, the speaking of Kurdish, and indeed any other expression of Kurdish culture was banned in Turkey at the time, Perwer nearly caused a riot, and had to be spirited away by his fans before he got arrested.’

Next up is Back to Anatolia by the instrumental and vocal ensemble Efkar, many of whose members also played with Sivan Perwer. ‘All but one of these performers appear to be from Anatolia, the peninsula that comprises the modern Turkish nation-state, although most are living in Europe now. For these artists, playing this music is a way to stay rooted in their traditions, and a way to share those memories with others. In fact, the band’s name Efkar translates as “thoughts” or “ideas turning around in your mind.” ‘

Finally Donna looks at the music of two American-based groups: the Chicago Classical Oriental Ensemble’s Soul of a People: The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh, and the group Anatolia’s Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World. Of the former, she notes that Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh is a towering figure in Egyptian music. ‘In terms of his popularity and his influence on modern Egyptian music, I would compare him to early twentieth century American composers Cole Porter or George and Ira Gershwin.’ And of the latter she notes that Anatolia is a project of American ethnomusicologist Edward J. Hines. ‘Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World is an entertaining and well-produced CD of traditional Middle Eastern music.’

Gary reviews the debut recording of an ensemble from the Russian republic of Udmurtia, which blends traditional songs with modern electronic music accompaniment: ‘This amazing, mesmerizing debut recording called Shooldyrak by the techno-folk duo ShooDJa-ChooDJa is a wonderful example of the way music can open up the world for you,’ he says.

‘Finnish musician and composer Ilkka Heinonen plays the jouhikko, a bowed version of the kantele, a box lyre or zither common in Karelian dance music of Finland and Russia,’ Gary says. ‘In this album Lohtu (Solace) he has made a recording that reflects the anxiety of our time, grappling with a pandemic in the short term while struggling with the long-term consequences of ongoing climate change.’

Gary has a brand new disc from Americana singer Melissa Carper called Daddy’s Country Gold. ‘This is finely honed Americana music,’ he says. ‘Musically and lyrically, Carper hits the bullseye on every song, but neither she nor any of her band ever overplay their parts. Sonically these songs come right out of some Western lounge circa 1960, but the lyrics subtly reflect more modern realities while remaining true to their genre.’

Another offering from Gary is something quite different. He says Sakili’s Creole Sounds from the Indian Ocean … ‘is Séga, a Creole music of the island of Rodrigues and the rest of the islands of Mauritius, which may be one of the last types of African music to make its way to the world stage.’

‘In a far distant past (1986) I saw the then very young Kathryn Tickell charm an audience at Sidmouth Folk Festival with her Northumbrian pipes and her fiddle. She was named as one of the bright hopes for the future of British folk,’ says Lars. How does her 2004 release AirDancing hold up to those hopes?

‘Tim Harrison is a classic guitar playing singer-songwriter, with several obvious merits; he’s a tuneful singer with a pleasant voice, and a decidedly skilled guitar stylist,’ says Lenora. ‘There’s Spanish and classical guitar technique here if I’m not mistaken, and considerably more going on than the strumming of chords. He also chooses superlative backing musicians …’ So what did she think of his 2002 album Wheatfield with Crows?

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Our What Nots are all Doctor Who related this time.

Denise takes a look at one of the many collectible tributes to our new Doctor, Funko’s Rock Candy‘s Thirteenth Doctor Vinyl Collectible. (No, it’s not actual candy, but a type of collectible from Funko.) She’s rather fond of her new Doctor. ‘She’s here! And she’s fantastic.’ Read Denise’s review for more information, and why she’s a fan of this collectible.

Denise has noted that she really dug the eleventh season of Doctor Who,  she says ‘and I love the new Doctor. And this SuperBitz plushie tribute to her is absolutely adorable. I’ve seen SuperBitz items here and there, but this is the first time I’ve ever been able to get a really good look. And it’s a well made plushie with great attention to detail.’

And seven20’s Thirteenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver gets a look-see by her: ‘ I fell in love with the Thirteenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver the moment I saw it. It’s a groovy bit of steampunk and crystal, and I wanted one immediately. My editor was obviously attuned to my craven covetousness, and sent me one to review. And y’all, I’m not even gonna try to be neutral here. I’m too stoked.’

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Our Coda is a just bit different this time though it still has music in it. Doctor Who some fifty years old and has had obviously opening sequences that whole time. Until now, BBC has never compiled them together so we could experience how they’ve changed down the years. (And yes, there’s entire sites devoted to complaining about about how the new series has ruined these title sequences.) So for your considerable entertainment, go here and be delighted by what you see and hear as the music has been changed and not changed.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Breakfast, Korean style

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Now that was tasty!

I was grumbling yesterday morning to Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook here at the Estate that houses us, that porridge is often boring even if many here like it as Winter breakfast fare. She smiled and said to stop by the Kitchen ‘morrow morning as she had an idea.

So I came to the Kitchen the next morning early before it got too busy and discovered that I was being served thick soup made from rice and minced pork with interesting spicing, served along with green tea and a deep fried cruller. She said it was called canjii in Korean and a visitor showed her how to prepare this hearty meal years ago.

Now I knew that Korea has a millennia old cuisine with food traditions from a number of sources but I hadn’t actually had this traditional breakfast staple from there, as I spent my time overseas in India and Sri Lanka, which have a decidedly different cuisine with a flat griddle cake called a roti which was made of shredded coconut and cooking oil being common where I was.

Indeed the staple food for Koreans is rice, and specifically a particular type of Korean short grain rice called sticky rice, because its grains stick together rather than falling apart. Mrs. Ware decided to use well-cooked brown rice as she likes the flavour better than the white rice used in Asia. It was a wonderfully tasty and quite filling breakfast.

Now I’m off to find her a copy of The Pooh Cook Book as she’s catering an all-day event for younger children from the School of The Imagination and she wants to do their meals as Pooh and company did them. I will of course review the book as well so you, our dear readers, can see how good the recipes are!

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What’s New for the 7th of March: Equal Exchange Chocolates, A Bevy of Mysteries, Wagner’s Grendel, Jesco White on Film, Ursula Le Guin Reading for You and Other Stuff to Warm You Up

All civilisations might fall, but forfend one might disturb a cat.— Elizabeth Bear’s “A Blessing of Unicorns: A Sub-Inspector Ferron Mystery”

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It is finally Spring but still cold enough that an Icelandic supper of lamb tenderloin in licorice-sauce, and fish chowder with rye bread and plenty of the infamous Icelandic spirit Brennivín was called for last night. Skyr, Icelandic blueberry cheesecake was served for dessert. All in all it was a most memorable feast. And no, we did not include shark that rot on the beach as part of the menu.

Iain’s off skiing on the last of the spring snow with the Several Annies, his Library apprentices, out to the Standing Stones which are in the Wild Wood as a break from their Icelandic language lessons that Gutmansdottir, our resident expert on the Wild Wood, is immersing them in for a full year. Mind you since Gutmansdottir going along with them, they’ll get plenty of Winter botany learning.

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Cat had high hopes for Philip DePoy’s The Devil’s Hearth as he has ‘a special fondness for mystery series set in the Appalachian Mountains, even though there aren’t a lot of good ones and a lot of not so great ones. Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballads series had some memorable outings, particularly among the later novels, and one which was outstanding, Ghost Riders.’ Read his review to see if DePoy lived up to his expectations.

Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas’ Haunted Legends, says Gereg, is ‘something of a paradox: As a collection I found this volume kind of weak, but there are a lot of very fine stories in it. So many, in fact, that on going back over the anthology a second time, I wondered why I’d thought it was weak in the first place. As a reader, I’d probably just leave it at that; but as  reviewer, I feel I owe it to my adoring public to tell you precisely why I feel the overall effect is weak. So I dove back into the book for a third time. Such travails are how I earn my fabulously high salary here.’

Gary has some thoughts about Wayward Heroes, the 1952 book by Halldór Laxness recently published in an English translation for the first time. ‘Halldór Laxness is, of course, Iceland’s greatest and best-known writer and the island’s only Nobel Laureate,’ Gary says. Wayward Heroes is the mock-heroic tale of two ‘sworn brothers’ who wish to return to the days of Iceland’s epic sagas. ‘Everyone who prizes great story-telling owes it to themselves to read Wayward Heroes and other Laxness titles,’ he concludes.

There’s a bar in Medicine Road where the sisters play called A Hole in The Wall which de Lint borrowed from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (with permission). It’s possible that The Wood Wife is the first modern fantasy to take full advantage of the myths of this region. Grey says of the latter novel that it is ‘not only an expertly-crafted tale of suspense. It also stands squarely within the realm of modern fantasy. Windling’s Arizona desert comes alive with fey beings, shapeshifters small and great that are as mysterious and amoral as any European Fair Folk, yet practical and earthy and distinctively Native American in their coloration.’

Kathleen has a confession regarding Time For The Stars: ‘Robert Anson Heinlein is inarguably one of the great formative writers of science fiction. His work is not only seminal, it’s good — well-told, well-plotted, with solid characterization. It’s also frequently thought-provoking, with underlying philosophy and speculation that stays with the reader for a lifetime. Most modern readers attribute these qualities to the more outré and/or famous novels, like Time Enough For Love and the iconic Stranger In A Strange Land. But Heinlein’s so-called juveniles are actually among the most thoughtful of his books.’

Leona gives an incisive review of  Black Is the Colour of My True-love’s Heart, a Ellis Peters novel: ‘Originally published in 1967, ‘this is a book of music, of silence, of words; it has love, hate, and all their analogues. Myths and facts combine to wrap the storyline in a heavy cloak of authenticity. This is a story of high passion and cool deliberation; it dances through the morals and minds of another age and gives the reader a wide window into the world of folk music and ballad-singers.’

So how about a major reading experience. Let me offer you  The History of Middle Earth which is the extensive background Tolkien wrote for The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I suggest you get comfortable before reading Liz’s look at it as it is a very detail essay on this massive work: ‘The History of Middle-earth offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine a great writer’s creative development over a period of 60 years. At his death, J.R.R. Tolkien left a huge body of unfinished and often unorganized writings on the mythology and history of Middle-earth. In The History of Middle Earth (HoME), his son, Christopher, has sought to organize this huge collection of drafts, revisions and reworkings into an organized and intelligible whole.’

Next we have A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a classic English manor house novel that gets a looked by Lory: ‘The story is not really a “whodunit” — the “who” is pretty clear from the outset — the question is “how” and, even more, “why” he did it, and Milne keeps us guessing until the end. The plausibility of the solution is not one that would hold up to heavy scrutiny, but the pleasure lies not in the verisimilitude of the puzzle but in the ingenuity of its construction and unravelling, and the witty repartee among the characters.’

Richard has a look at a book containing a very big mystery: ‘David Hutchinson’s Europe In Autumn is really three books. There’s the first half of the volume, which is an elegantly crafted spy thriller set in an all-too believable near future Europe of endless “pocket” nations. Reminiscent of early period Le Carre (you’re going to hear that comparison come up a lot in connection with this series, and with good reason), it’s a slow burn that details the transformation of the laconic Rudi, a chef in a Polish restaurant, into a high-powered member of the secret organization Coureurs des Bois.’

Warner starts off with a mystery: ‘Caz Frear’s Shed No Tears starts with a wikipedia infobox relating to a serial killer. This is a clever and very current way to start a mystery novel, and all the more appreciated for it. Furthermore, the material in this info box is entirely relevant to the novel without revealing too much to those who prefer to solve a mystery along with the detective.’

He has next a rather offbeat book for us: ‘The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart is an interesting take on the historical mystery. Sporting a pair of women investigators and an esoteric collection of both objects and suspects, The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne contains intrigue and danger among the backdrop of 18th century London. Like many good historical mysteries, the story relishes in its setting witbout becoming overly didactic, drawing the reader further into the mystery.’

He next has a magic tinged sea adventure for us: ‘Chloe Neill’s The Bright and Breaking Sea is a rollicking bit of historical fantasy that harkens baco to Horatio Hornblower and other nautical adventures. Less adult than some of her urban fantasy work, this volume is clearly intended for a somewhat wider range of readers.’

He also has a nifty bit of non-fiction for us to wrap his reviews: ‘Holly Ordway’s Tolkien’s Modern Readings: Middle-Earth beyond the Middle Ages is a wonderful new entry into the area of Tolkien studies. Going somewhat against the grain Ordway spends the pages not only arguing, but providing meticulous proof that the long passed author and academic was well read and clearly influenced by the work of his day.’

Zina ends our book reviews with Charles de Lint’s What The Mouse Found and Other Stories: ‘Ah — two of my favorite things, paired in one slim volume. (Sorry, I’ve always wanted to use the phrase “slim volume” somewhere.) Fairy tales and Charles de Lint. The postman dropped the package through the door this afternoon. Just a bit later, here I am at my computer. I couldn’t not read it right away, could I?’

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Remember our last edition when Robert took on the beginning of Matt Wagner’s Grendel series? Well, he’s found a lot more. Let’s start with Grendel: Devil by the Deed: ‘Grendel: Devil by the Deed represents another breakthrough. It is, in general terms, the story of Grendel’s first incarnation, Hunter Rose, as told from his journals by his granddaughter, Christine Spar.’

Success has its vicissitudes, as Robert notes in his review of Wagner’s Grendel: Devil Quest: ‘Devil Quest is one of those spin-offs, concerned with the cyborg Grendel Prime and his search for the spirit of Hunter Rose, who, although not, according to Wagner, the first Grendel in history, is the first of whom we have knowledge.’

And of course, there comes the inevitable crossover series, in this case, Batman/Grendel: ‘Matt Wagner did two crossover series, the first a joint effort between Comico, his publisher at the time, and DC Comics, and the second between Dark Horse and DC, to bring together Grendel and Batman.’

Grendel became a family history. Remember Christine Spar? Well, her mother, Stacy Palumbo, was Hunter Rose’s adopted daughter, and Grendel: Devil Child, tells their story.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AGary points us toward Dancing Outlaw and Dancing Outlaw 2, Jesco Goes to Hollywood, a pair of documentary films about Jesco White: ‘Jesco White is a mountain-style tap dancer, an ex-con, a hillbilly of the first degree, and a hideous channeler of Elvis Presley. And he’s something of a star — at least, he’s had his 15 minutes of fame, and then some.’

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Denise digs into some chocolate this week – shocking, I know. But she’s up for the challenge of reviewing Equal Exchange Chocolates’ Organic, Dark Chocolate, Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt, 55% Cacao. ‘This bar is a mouthful to say, but happily it’s also a mouthful of deliciousness. Oh my God this is so good!’ Wanna know why she’s happy? Read her review!

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ADavid reviews two offerings from Laurie Anderson, recorded just before and just after 9/11: ‘This is music that makes you think. And yet, the persuasive tones of her voice, the persistent gentle rhythms of inherent percussion, and the professional contributions by a superb band combine to provide an essential listening experience. If you are not familiar with Laurie Anderson’s work, this powerful live album and the studio work which preceded it make wonderful starting points.’

David also explores the two late 1970s releases that revived the career of Muddy Waters, Hard Again and I’m Ready. ‘I’ve had on-going arguments with other blues fans who insist that these late recordings are but a shadow of Muddy’s classic ’50s material on Chess. And, maybe there’s a point to be made for the early stuff, but “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Rock Me,” “Screaming & Crying,” and “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” are positively scary as played but this hot band.’

What’s Gary been listening to? For starters, Zabe i Babe’s Drumovi. This Bosnian-American group, he says, ‘is a side project for members of the American folk-punk group Cordelia’s Dad, whose frontman, Tim Eriksen, sings and plays on this disc, joined by Cordelia’s Dad drummer Peter Irvine on vocals and percussion, and Eriksen’s wife Mirjana Lausevic on vocals and keyboards. Other members of Zabe i Babe include Tristra Newyear, vocals, and Donna Kwon, vocals and percussion, with American fiddler and singer Rani Arbo as guest vocalist on one track.’

Gary also reviews a new release from guitarist Ryan Dugré called Three Rivers. ‘It’s a beautifully played and (mostly) comforting collection of minimalist and soundtrack-type pieces. They’re largely centered around intricate rhythm tracks laid down by Dugré on acoustic guitar and occasional piano, with melodies and accents played by his friends and guests on pedal steel guitar, a string quartet, synthesizers and percussion.’

Gary also brings word of a new self-titled release by young Americana musicians Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno. They wrote most of the songs on their debut album while attending universities thousands of miles apart. ‘What they ended up with is a strong album of country music filled with poignant vocal duets on love songs that are hopeful, sad, and every mood in between.’

Gary says, ‘I’m ambivalent about the way my music streaming service uses an algorithm to guess what kind of music I might like to hear next, but sometimes it comes up with a real winner.’ Such a winner, he says, is Yom’s Songs For the Old Man, which combines dusty southwestern Americana with klezmer music, an odd combination that somehow works.

Jayme tells us about Andean Sounds for the World Vol. VII by a group called Andean Fusion: ‘The South American themed band is famous for its daily performances at the trendy Rivercenter along San Antonio, Texas’s River Walk, offering a distinct change of pace and sound in a city overrun with tourist-centric mariachi bands.’

And Mike enjoyed two CDs that put the spotlight on the guitar in Celtic music, Steve Reel’s Celtic Knights and The Unfortunate Rakes’ Rakes Alive!Celtic Knights is really fun to play along with, especially if you like to invent rhythm guitar lines,’ he says. And ‘Rakes Alive! is indeed a live recording, and it’s always great to hear an appreciative audience respond to a group that’s been at it for a while.’

‘With a tribute album, if you are not familiar with the artist as a person or what he has done, then looking at the album cover in a record store is about as much use to you as a one legged man in a bum kicking contest.’ You’ll have to read Peter’s review of A’ The Bairns ‘O’ Adam: Hamish Henderson Tribute if you want to know what that’s all about!

We’ve covered a lot of music by the Waterson and Carthy clans over the years, so lets take a look back at some of those reviews. When setting out to review Waterson:Carthy’s Common Tongue Alistair said ‘To embark on yet another review of the offerings of England’s foremost folk ensemble, Waterson:Carthy, is a bit like putting a pebble on top of the great pyramid of Cheops.’

Judith found A Dark Light to be a high quality listening experience: ‘You would think that after all these albums, the little extended family would get boring, rest on their laurels, but actually Dark Light is quite fresh-sounding, a nice album with subtly interesting interpretations of the old songs.’

And Richard gives a brief overview of the family’s lengthy career by way of introduction to their Broken Ground. ‘This stream of outstanding music continues with Broken Ground, in which parents and daughter are joined by melodeon player and additional vocalist Saul Rose, who is, through his marriage to Eliza’s half-sister Lucy, another member of the family.

And finally, David takes a deep dive into the four CD box set The Carthy Chronicles: ‘The Carthy Chronicles is a massive set. Sure there are lots of four disc box sets on the market, but this one includes more rare and unreleased tracks than almost any one I’ve ever seen. It leaves the listener hungry for more!

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AA little known facet of Le Guin’s creativity was her work as a composer. She composed music for her ethnographic study in a fictional form of a matriarchal society in a future California, and as the article titled Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera, and she also wrote the libretto for a real “space opera”: ‘But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.’2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2A

I’m going to end this edition with Ursula Le Guin’s  stellar reading of much of A Wizard of Earthsea. She reads from it in her oh so wonderful voice, and fields questions from the audience afterwards. This performance took place  at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Friday, October 10, 2008. It was made possible by the sponsorship of Timberland Regional Library.

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A Kinrowan Estate story: A Contradance in The Round Barn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACat looks at a Doctor Who adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that the British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Kinrowan Estate story: Winter Talismans


2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AJack Merry ‘ere. I want to talk about a conversation I was havin’ in the Kitchen with other staffers about what their favourite food, beverage, or book was — whatever each used as a winter talisman of sorts to keep The Dark from coming too close.

Oh, don’t tell me you don’t have one! Mine is an old leather overcoat from some war best long forgotten — faded green in colour with fur lining, shearling lamb I think. Ugly as can be after years of very hard use, but oh so warm. It’s kept me warm buskin’ in St. Petersburg, served as a pillow under me head on the Trans-Siberian express as Bela sat nearby smokin’ his pipe, and has enough pockets to hold everything I need on the road save me fiddle. Bloody ‘ell, there’s just ‘nough room to tuck the fiddle case inside if need be. And need there has been, ‘pon occasion.

But me old coat, ragged as she may be ’bout the edges, is a damn sight less hard-worn than that what a couple t’other staffers offered up as wards against the chill of winter midnights. There were of course the predictables — the steaming-hot plate of shepherd’s pie; the bottle of single malt (heat of a different sort to me old shearling, but just as warming); even the worn, dog-eared pages of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. (‘And what of it?’ said that particular staffer, defensive-like — ‘reading always keeps off the cursed Dark, and if the chill still creeps into my bones, I solve the mathematics the Good Doctor hid within … nothing keeps a body half so warm as a good round of obscure mathematical equations…’)

And those were just the predictables, like I said. As the night (and the discussion, and the dozen or so bottles of stout) wore on, more unusual talismans were confessed to. One of our library staff — the shy one, the one you’d never suspect — pulled from her pocket a tiny stone reliquary, carved of agate. ‘A lock of hair from the Faery Saint’ was all she’d say. Two other staffers, more raucous now, deep in their cups, dredged up tiny reliquaries of their own. ‘The blessed toenail of St. Augustine,’ said one. ‘A rolled-up scrap from the hem of the gown of St. Beatrix,’ whispered another, and kissed the little cylinder of polished silver, then tucked it back into his sweater where it hung once more from the chain ’round his neck.

Stout moved to whiskey. Another couple o’ great logs were tossed ‘pon the fire, and though the mood’d grown of a moment serious, out of respect-like, it weren’t un-merry. What with the company of several Green Man cats, the fire, the mellow glow of good whiskey in me belly … understanding crept ‘pon me. Though me lovely old coat (bless ‘er!) had kept me warm and safe through many a drear moment; though we Green Man bunch had the combined, formidable powers of protection in our cozy kitchen of mathematics and good books and good food and good stout and the blessings of a dozen saints both human and fey — I wager there wasn’t a one of us at that moment who felt the least haunted by the dreads, nor bit by the cold. We had, after all, the greatest talisman ‘gainst the Dark, and that what keeps a body warmest of all on cold winter nights — good friends.

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What’s New for the 7th of February: Some trad music for your listening pleasure, Spiegelman’s Maus considered, lots of dark chocolate, two looks at Garner’s Owl Service and Other Creature Comforts

He wanted to run through the stacks, pick at the books, sample them one after the other, climb the stacks to their highest reaches and see what treasures were hidden there. ― Lavie Tidhar’s The Bookman

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Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, pointed out to me on a recent afternoon as I took a walk outside on a particularly brisk day that many of the owls that overwinter here have made their seasonal transition into the protected spaces we built generations back to harbour them when the Winter gets too cold for them to be outside.

I’ve always found our owls to be as fascinating as our corvids, though the owls are far more aloof than those birds are. And I’m certainly not the only one who does, as I found a long note in The Sleeping Hedgehog from 1845 in which Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here for many, many years during the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, wrote for the Estate inhabitants about the need to be respectful of the hollow trees and other places where the owls took residence for the Winter.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AYou might be aware that we’re very fond of works of Roger Zelazny here and April has a look at a work about his longest work: ‘Roger Zelazny’s Amber series spans three decades, ten volumes, several short stories, a RPG, graphic novels and even a recent revival attempt (John Betancourt’s Dawn of Amber series). Packed into those original books and stories is a wealth of characters, settings, items and plots — far too much minutiae for any but the most die-hard fan to remember. And that’s where Krulik’s The Complete Amber Sourcebook comes in. The Sourcebook is not for someone who has not read the entire series, as spoilers are literally everywhere. Krulik assumes an audience already familiar with the core set of books.’

A first novel in a new series by Genevieve Cogman found favour with Cat: ‘The Invisible Library combines storylines I love: alternate Earths, steampunk, and libraries. That it is well-written comes as a pleasant surprise, as usually the stone soup approach to writing fiction results in indigestion from too much grit and too little real flavour. This is really tasty!’

Denise found two things to adore in Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter’s Vampira and Her Daughters: Women Horror Movie Hosts from the 1950s into the Internet Era; female horror hosts, and a comprehensive guide to ’em.  “Cotter digs deep into the history of the horror host, and uncovers a wealth of knowledge about these hidden stars … And he does a bloody great job with it.” Happy haunting, horror hounds!

Elizabeth says of a Glen Cook novel that ‘Cruel Zinc Melodies has an interesting mystery, intriguing characters, and a truly original fantasy world that melds the magic and decadence of high epic fantasy with the grittier elements of ’40s detective novels. Glen Cook’s writing still has zing after twelve novels, so fans of the series should be well satisfied, and newer readers who enjoy this will have a large backlist to explore.’

I reviewed the audiobook edition of The Owl Service when it came out a decade back: ‘Listening to The Owl Service as told by Wayne Forester, who handles both the narration and voicing of each character amazingly well, one is impressed by his ability to handle both Welsh accents and the Welsh language, given the difficultly of that tongue, which make Gaelic look easy as peas to pronounce by comparison.’

A fantastic look at London is reviewed by Kestrall: ‘Don’t let the tentacles fool you — yes, China Miéville’s Kraken takes as its starting point a tentacular god of the deep reminiscent of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, but then Miéville adds to it the baroque psychogeographies of Moore and Moorcock, the whimsy of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and American Gods, the surreal imagery of a Tim Powers novel, and a dizzying barrage of geeky pop culture references, not to mention what is probably the best use of a James T. Kirk action figure ever.’

I’m going to give you a second opinion on The Owl Service as Kim reviewed the novel: ‘This is a magical book, and the finest of Alan Garner’s young adult novels. Now, a lot of people associate magic with ethereal forces, great quests and spells and all that, and indeed spells can be found in several of Garner’s other books. The Owl Service reveals a different kind of magic, the kind that arises from the interaction of people with patterns, of desires that unwittingly mesh with the larger forces around us, harsh magic that people employ without knowing it.’

Lory tries out Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy, an in-depth academic study of the fantasy genre, and discovers that academia and genre literature aren’t natural enemies after all: ‘Farah Mendlesohn takes fantasy seriously. Other scholars may tend to skip over the genre, or feel the need to explain or excuse their focus on popular fiction, but she takes for granted the worthiness of a body of literature which relies on the creation of ‘a sense of wonder.

In looking at The Time Quartet, Naomi has a confession to make: ‘As far as I am concerned, Madeleine L’Engle’s books should be required reading in all schools, as they open doors — not only in the imagination, but also in the academics, math and science especially. These wonderful tales could inspire the next Einstein to take the proper courses and feed his mind. I enjoyed the journeys that Mrs. L’Engle’s works took me on, and yet, I am saddened by the fact that I never read them as a child. I will rectify this mistake by introducing my own children to them posthaste!’

Robert says ‘We all have our personal lists, individual counterparts to those periodic lists of “most important,” “best,” or whatever the accolade of the moment might be. I have a personal list of “best fantasy series” that includes some works that might not be “great,” but several that I think arguably are. In the realm of modern heroic fantasy, in particular, I think anyone would be hard put to protest the inclusion of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Ftiz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Michael Moorock’s great cycle of stories of The Eternal Champion, and Glen Cook’s Black Company.’ Read his review of The Chronicles of the Black Company to see why this is so.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AApril says that ‘I can only speak for myself as a chocolate addict, but I loosely categorize chocolate into three general categories: cheap chocolate to be scarfed as needed, mid-grade chocolate that’s to be enjoyed more slowly . . . and then there’s the really good stuff, chocolate to be savored and hoarded and mourned when it is gone. My guilty pleasure, Reese’s, falls into the first category. Ritter Sport, Godiva and Ghirardelli fall into the second. And the third … well, it’s sparsely populated, but now includes, courtesy of Green Man Review, Amano dark chocolate bars.’

Camille looked at three bars from Chocolove (orange peel, toffee almonds and raspberry) which she summed up thusly: ‘All in all, three delightful chocolate bars if one has a particularly sweet tooth. Pleasant finish and texture to each, and a variety of interesting flavors to choose from and dead poets to sample.’

Cat R. got the chance to sample a whole bunch of chocolate bars from Chuao Chocolatier: ‘Here in America we like our add-ins, ice cream and candy full of other candy, nuts, random sweets, and sometimes savories. Chuao (pronounced Chew-WOW) has a shelf-load of such, chocolate bars with all the goodies, created by Venezuelan chef Michael Antonorsi.’

Denise picks out something rather spicy for her yearly ‘Winter Chocolate Binge’ – Moser Roth Privat Chocolatiers’ Dark Chili Chocolate Bar. ‘[T]his bar is actually five smaller bars, each wrapped individually. It’s nice portion control, though this chocolate is tasty enough that stopping at one mini-bar will be a test of your willpower.’ Read her full review to find out why!

Chocolate at this time of year is one of the most sought after treats. So let’s let Kelly tell us about one she found: ‘By the register little chocolate squares beckoned. Labeled, somewhat exotically, ‘Xocolatl de David’, there were three sorts, but the one that caught my eye read “72% Ecuadorian Chocolate with Black Truffles and Sea Salt”. Not a chocolate truffle, mind you, but the kind of truffle pigs sniff out of the woods in Italy and France. I surrendered to impulse and bought one.’

Robert brings us a look at some fairly intense chocolates from Lindt’s Excellence line: ‘The latest treat to cross my desk was a package of chocolate bars from Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli, who have been doing this since 1845. The line is billed as “Lindt Excellence” and comes packaged in elegant slim boxes. But enough of that — what does it taste like?’

He also looked at three chocolate squares from Ritter, the German chocolate company. (Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnuts; Rum, Trauben, Nuss (Rum, Raisins, Nuts); And Dark Chocolate with Marzipan). His answer to why he has less satisfied this outing than when he reviewed the first three Ritter squares is detailed by him.

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Gary takes a look at three volumes of graphic literature by world-renowned comics artist Art Spiegelman. They include the two-volume Maus which simultaneously tells the story of how Spiegelman’s father survived the Holocaust, and of how the artist extracted the story from his father 40 years later. Vol. I, My Father Bleeds History, ends with Vladek Spiegelman’s arrival at Auschwitz; Vol. II, And Here My Troubles Began, tells how he survives. The third work is MetaMaus, an exhaustive compilation in book and DVD form that takes you behind the scenes of Spiegelman’s creation of his masterpiece.

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ABarb has a story to tell us in her review of Trio: ‘Väsen is Olov Johansson on 3-row chromatic nyckelharpa and kontrabasharpa, Mikael Marin on viola, 5-string viola, and pomposa, and Roger Tallroth on 12-string guitar and bosoki. Having had the opportunity over the last few years to immerse myself in many of Väsen’s recordings, see them perform live, and interview Olov Johansson, these musicians (unbeknownst to them) have become old friends.’

Brendan found much to like in the recording called Glory Be: ‘Finality Jack is a trio of instrumentalists based in Northamptonshire, England and named after an obscure 19th century English politician, Lord John Russell. Consisting of Tim Perkins on violin and bouzouki, Richard Leigh on violin and kantele (a nordic form of the violin), and Becky Price on accordion and keyboards, they play an intriguing mixture of English- and French-influenced instrumental music with a smattering of Eastern European polka in there as well. These may not be typical traditional dance tunes, but in their quiet way they all feel as exuberant and full-of-life as the Greek morris dancers on the cover of the CD.’

Blind Faith were an English blues band made up of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. The band released their only studio album, Blind Faith, in August 1969. (There’s also Live Cream & Live Cream, Volume II.) Craig says about the deluxe version of Blind Faith that: ‘For collectors and rabid fans of the artists, this deluxe edition is probably worth the extra cash, given the expanded and informative liner notes and the extra 90 minutes of music.’ Now if were I betting, I’d say it was very good odds that  Live Cream & Live Cream, Volume II are where the extra material on it came from.

Gary first looks at the Escape Artists recording: ‘Vocal harmony has always played a leading role in country music. Today’s alternative  country and country folk music continues to draw on that tradition, as we see in this recording from The Dolly Ranchers. This Santa Fe, New Mexico based female quartet’s music revolves around the harmonies of two lead singers. Amy Bertucci usually takes the low parts and Sarah-Jane Moody the high. Moody also contributes Dylan-esque harmonica, rhythm guitar and hand percussion. Rounding out the quartet are Maria Fabulosa on bass and chief songwriter Marisa Anderson on guitar and banjo.’

He next tells us about Frixx, the 20th anniversary release from the Finnish folk septet known as Frigg. ‘Frigg plays like a well-oiled machine, but also demonstrates lots of personality. Solemn but never stuffy during the slow parts, frisky and witty on the fast songs, the arrangements always fitting and the recording superb.’

He tells that on their third CD, Après Faire le Boogie Woogie, ‘Louisiana’s Magnolia Sisters cooked up a winner that pays tribute to their Cajun and Creole musical roots with an attitude that’s thoroughly modern. The three original Sisters, Ann Savoy, Jane Vidrine and Lisa Trahan Reed, are joined by young fiddler and singer Anya Shoenegge, with drums and percussion supplied by “Mr. Sister” Kenny Alleman. Savoy, Vidrine and Reed all have deep ties to the music of southern Louisiana, and all as well are experts in various aspects of its folklore and culture.’

Folk singer Toshi Reagon’s Toshi also gets a nod from Gary. ‘Toshi is a fascinating, genre-busting record. Excellent production and musicianship, and most of all Reagon’s powerful but not overpowering vocals make this well worth listening to.’

Jo wrote a review of the Labyrinth recording by a band  created by Scots fiddler Alasdair Fraser: ‘All of the members in Skyedance are consummate musicians, who have honed their craft to excellence. It is pure pleasure to hear these six phenomenal performers work together with such precision and craftsmanship.’

Lars says Eilean mo Ghaoil: The Music of Arran ‘is the brainchild of Gillian Frame, fiddler and Arran native, and if the Arran tourist board doesn’t adopt it as its official soundtrack (assuming there is such an animal as an Arran tourist board) then they’re definitely missing a bet.’

Mike says ‘Stockholm 1313 Km is a greatest hits compilation of a fine Swedish folk band. The tunes are great out of the gate, and I actually became nostalgic upon hearing the fourth and fifth selections, “Pojkarna pa landsvagen” and “Hambomazurka efter Blomqvistarn,” respectively.’

Robert also brings us an album that is a favorite around here, String Sisters Live: ‘There seems to be something magical about the number “6” when you’re talking about fiddles. Maybe that many fiddlers reaches a kind of critical mass that sets off a chain reaction of some sort. At any rate, when the six fiddlers in question are six star-caliber women from across the Britanno-Nordic musical realm, what you wind up with is some really, really good music.’

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This issue’s What Not is brought to you by Jennifer, who discovered the NotJustBikes Youtube channel and found wonderful articulation for the dissatisfactions of growing up in the suburbs.

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So let’s finish off with some seasonally apt music from Nightnoise, to wit ‘White Snow’ which was performed at Teatro Calderón de la Barca, which is a theater in Valladolid, Spain, on the 23rd of April ’91. For more on this superb sort of Celtic band, go read our career retrospective here. Nightnoise had its origins in members of the Bothy Band and Skara Brae, august bands indeed, and included fiddler Johnny Cunningham for a while.

You can hear Skara Brea perform ‘Casadh Cam na Feadarnaigne’ off their reunion concert at Dunlewey Lakeside Centre seventeen years ago here. Nice, very nice indeed.

Speaking of the Bothy Band, let’s see if there’s any  Bothy Band whose Old Hag You Have Killed Me is one of best Irish trad albums ever done. Yes we’ve audio of them performing ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ which we’ll share with you as it’s very splendid. No idea when it was done, though nearly fifty years ago is the most common guess, though there’s no idea where it was recorded for that matter. So here it is for your listening pleasure.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 7th of February: Some trad music for your listening pleasure, Spiegelman’s Maus considered, lots of dark chocolate, two looks at Garner’s Owl Service and Other Creature Comforts

A Kinrowan Estate story: Porridge

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AEnglishman Dr. Samuel Johnson’s dictionary once slammed porridge by defining oats as ‘a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.’ Obviously he never had a good bowl of hot porridge with applesauce mixed in, which I have quite often once the weather turns cold here at this Scottish Estate.

Porridge is quintessentially Scottish, with its roots in the simple fare of crofters, the tenant farmers. Since those beginnings centuries ago, it has spread as a result of Scottish emigration to kitchens way beyond those folk. And in the past years, it has become a cool thing to eat among the culinary taste makers always looking for something old made new once again.

Now most of you might think of porridge as something relatively plain that’s served hot with milk. Well it can be but there are ways to make it quite interesting. And so I wondered what our porridge fans did to jazz it up. Not that all of them did so — Mackenzie likes his every time just with some unsweetened applesauce and warm milk.

So what did I find for interesting porridges? How about finely chopped smoked bacon and cheddar added in? Or perhaps with strawberries and cream? I’m fond of just warm milk and honey, but my wife, Ingrid, likes hers with blueberry preserves.

Finch, my Assistant Pub Manager, says she once ate it with our Estate smoked salmon and Riverrun stilton as a very early morning meal while helping Gus, our Estate Gardener, by taking a turn watching the ewes during spring lambing. She said it was quite filling, along with strongly brewed Darjeeling tea.

So what’s your favourite way to have porridge?

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What’s New for the 24th of January: Live music from Lúnasa in Australia, Taco Tapes’ Trad is Rad, Robert’s Visit to the Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect audiobook, Tom Baker’s Birthday, Jennifer Stevenson’s Lasagna and Other Neat Stuff

Or is anyone’s identity a matter of fragments held together by convenient or useful narrative, that in ordinary circumstances never reveals itself as a fiction? Or is it really a fiction? ― Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice

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No, it’s not that cold but it’s definitely nasty enough that I passed on my morning ramble on the Estate, as once again there’s a stiff wind along with a freezing drizzle — not what I would want to walk or ski in. So I settled in for a quiet day of reading, Patricia McKillip’s Solstice Wood being my novel of the day, and answering correspondence (my fellow librarians and book lovers still like physical letters as much as I do), as Ingrid, our  Steward, took my apprentices for the day for them to delve into what a Steward does.

So first, breakfast. I always drink tea as I never developed a taste for coffee no matter how good it was. So it was lapsong soochong, a loose leaf first blush smoked black tea from Sri Lanka that Ingrid got for me, bless her. With a splash of whole cream of course. And a rare surprise too — scrambled eggs and apple fritters served with thick cut twice smoked bacon, using apple wood only, and yet more apples in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg infused apple sauce. There was even mulled cider for those wanting even more apples in their breakfast fare! Thus fortified, I turned to writing up this edition …

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ACat has one of his favourite audiobooks for us: ‘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 US 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 worth the time to listen to it.’

Cat delves into an another audiobook this edition, giving a listen to Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect. ‘Reynolds is among the best writers of sf I’ve had the pleasure to encounter … John Lee, who narrates, is perhaps my favorite male narrator.’ But does this combination make for an engaging listen?  Tune in to Cat’s review and see!

Gary tells us about Albert Glinsky’s Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage, the biography of the man who invented one of the world’s weirdest musical instruments. ‘Its inventor was a strange man, and the tale of his life is a microcosm of Russia during the 20th century, through revolution, purges, gulags, Cold War, perestroika and post-Soviet reconstruction.’

Rebecca has some thoughts on one of the less classifiable works we’ve run across, Alan Moore’s Voice of the Fire: ‘A leg is wounded. A boy, or a hog, or a man, or a woman, is offered in burnt sacrifice. An enormous black dog which is not a dog points the way. A severed head watches. A fire burns on a hilltop. The images whirl, kaleidoscopic, through a dozen stories, through the landscape of Northampton. They fill me, and the words fill me, and I feel pregnant with them. Not, perhaps, a conventional way to discuss a book I’m reviewing. But it’s not a conventional book.’

Robert’s been rummaging in the Library, and ran across a couple of books of note. First, from Elizabeth Bear, a science-fiction-cum-diplomatic thriller. (Yes, there is such a thing.): ‘Elizabeth Bear has put me in an odd position: I read Blood and Iron, loved it, found it rich, stimulating — altogether an extraordinary book. I’ve now read Carnival, and find myself without much to say.’

And then he found a collection of Bear’s stories: ‘Stories are like a painter’s drawings or a composer’s piano studies: they can range from sketches, bare hints of ideas working themselves out, to polished, elegant miniatures, fully realized. Take, for example, the stories presented in Elizabeth Bear’s The Chains That You Refuse. (You can hear her reading ‘The Chains That You Refuse’  here.)

Stephen says of an Alan Garner work that ‘These are only the questions which I find myself considering today. When I read Thursbitch again (and I will), they may be different, as they may be for you, when you read this book. The reasons for this are that Thursbitch is a book that casts the reader as an enthralled participant, rather than a passive recipient. It is, to repeat, a mystery. It may unsettle you (if not actually give you nightmares), but you’ll love it unequivocally nonetheless.’

Warner starts off with a mystery for us: ‘Waiting for the Night Songs  is easy to recommend for anyone who enjoys character base stories, or a good mystery that comes in a form other than the traditional whodunit. Julie Carrick Dalton has produced an impressive debut, and readers should look forward to more.’

He has a bit of rather lurid true crime for us: ‘Michael Cannell’s A Brotherhood Betrayed: The Man Behind The Rise And Fall Of Murder Inc. is a good read for someone interested in mid Twentieth Century crime, particularly that centered out of New York. By including rumors and innuendo, as well as those who spread them, it successfully gives the reader an inkling of just how easy it is to become unsecured with such a mottled and in complete set of facts.’

Let us speak of Jennifer Stevenson, and so Wes finishes our book reviews off with one of her entertaining novels: ‘A storm’s a’brewing, the women restless, the men conflicted, and there are the strangest foxes you’ve ever seen running wild along the bucking river. Trash Sex Magic isn’t just a lurid, sexually charged magical romp. Complex characters drive an organic plot, elegantly woven of mythic resonance and familial metaphors.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AJust another lasagna recipe from Jennifer, this time, the no-boil version. With Pinkwater (The Afterlife Diet) we must agree that certain foods are wonderful, and we could eat them for a solid month. This recipe has so much sausage, ricotta, garlic, and wine that it cannot but please a true lasagna addict. Plus, you don’t have to futz with the noodles.

Gary tried some chocolate that he liked, Equal Exchange’s Organic Very Dark, which he notes has just a few ingredients. ‘I like a short list of ingredients in a chocolate, the same way I like music reduced to a few elements: a jazz trio, say, or a couple of singers accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar and fiddle.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ATom Baker turned eighty seven this week so let’s look at Cat’s review of  a Doctor Who adventure beloved by many fans of the series: ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. That it is set during the Victorian Era is something that British have been fond of setting dramas in, well, since a few years after the era ended. Doctor Who has had stories set in this era myriad times.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AWarner has a look at a classic strip: ‘Chester Gould’s The Complete Dick Tracy Voume 28: 1974 to 1976 represents the second to last collection by the original creator of the comic strip. This volume is well into the era when Gould was known for injecting his politics at times in downright annoying fashion. It is also a volume with a number of well-remembered stories, and which illustrates the large supporting cast Dick Tracy often brought with him.’

He also looks at a contemporary work: ‘Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds’ Dying is Easy is a strange bit of comic noir. A wonderfully illustrated piece of graphic fiction, the story follows cop turned down-and-out comedian Syd Homes. It is an interesting setup, and one that would lend itself to darkly comic moments.’

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2AGary has some new music from an outfit called Taco Tapes, a recording called Trad is Rad. ‘The guys in Taco Tapes know their way around traditional American music, and it shows, whether they’re cranking out an instrumental dance tune, or singing their take on an old old song, or writing one of their own.’

A new live album by Swedish Americana player Daniel Norgren pleased Gary: ‘Until I can once again join fellow music lovers in front of a stage occupied by musicians pouring out their hearts and dazzling with their instrumental and vocal techniques, I’m going to frequently put on Daniel Norgren Live and let it console and uplift me.’

Gary reviews Fall Like Rain, the first solo album by Justin Moses, an in demand, award winning bluegrass session player. ‘Moses is a prodigious talent in many, many ways: he can play seemingly anything with strings, and not just play it but play it brilliantly.’

Gary brings word of a collection of folk songs from one of the far-flung regions in the vast nation of China. ‘These aren’t field recordings — as far as I can tell, none in the series are — but are professionally recorded in a studio or auditorium with a certain amount of lofty reverb in the vocals. All in all, Folk Songs of the Uzbeks & Tatars of China, as with the others in the series, is a valuable addition to the World music catalog.’

And Gary also brings word of a set of ballads by Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti and his all-star ensemble: ‘All in all, Lost Within You is a delightful and soothing way to kick off 2021.

Ahhh Clannad, that sort of Celtic group with New Age pretensions as well as jazzy riffs. Well it wasn’t so always, as Jayme notes in reviewing their debut recording called simply Clannad: ‘The surprise is that this album probably doesn’t sound like what the casual Clannad fan expects at all. Every band must start someplace; and Clannad, like most every other Celtic band before and since, started with a repertoire of traditional covers.’

Jo says that Telyn is for all  ‘those interested in the Welsh tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’

Lars has a look at the latest release that Arc Music sent us, The Ultimate Guide to Welsh Music: ‘Cerys Matthews of Catatonia fame, and also an author and a readio presenter, has tackled the task of giving us an overviewof Welsh folk music and I must say she has done a brilliant job. Two CDs packed with music, in total 48 tracks with 48 different acts, clocking in at two hours and 36 minutes, complete with extensive liner notes presenting every artist or group taking part. The oldest recording are from the 1940s, the newest from 2015.’

Patrick likes Changeling’s The Hidden World: ‘This married duo’s music is nothing short of — sorry, Batman and Robin — dynamic. It’s an old approach, if you will, to old and new music. But that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s what sets this album apart from the countless other Celtic CDs released this year. Changeling has found a way to dig down into the roots of folk and unearth some old treasures that likely haven’t been heard in generations.’

Robert brings us several selections of music for strings. The firsti s Blazin’ Fiddles Live: ‘When our Editor and Publisher (also known as “the Chief”) first broached the idea of my reviewing a Blazin’ Fiddles release, I was hesitant. “A whole orchestra?” said I. “Of fiddles?” (Well, that’s what he said it was.) Somehow I knew it wasn’t going to be Henry Mancini.’

Next is a pair of albums from cellist Angela East: ‘Angela East is the cellist for Red Priest, the baroque chamber ensemble noted for its innovative approach and flamboyant public style. In the two recordings presented here, East has gone solo, pretty much, and brought this approach to the smaller-scale works of Johann Sebastian Bach and other baroque masters.’

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Robert has another treat for a family outing — the ‘stuffed animals’ at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History: ‘When I was a small boy, my father would periodically take me up to the Field Museum. I was always eager to see the “stuffed animals”, which formed a large part of the Museum’s public displays. Well, they’re still there, in a somewhat different arrangement than I remember, but still interesting.’ (Be sure to check first to be sure the Museum is open — the pandemic is playing hob with Chicago’s major attractions). ‘

2C543E11-A245-4D39-B1E1-8507614B4A2ASo let’s have some music by Lúnasa to see us out, some tunes from their Melbourne concert thirty years ago which author and musician Paul Brandon provided us. I cannot tell you anything more than that as he didn’t provide any additional information to me, but you really don’t need that anyway to enjoy them, do you?

Now Paul is an amazing author so I’ll send you off to read the review of Swim the Moon, his first novel, and if you go thisway,  you can read the first chapter of his second novel, The Wild Reel. And he’s a damn fine musician as well as you can hear here.

Posted in Commentary | Comments Off on What’s New for the 24th of January: Live music from Lúnasa in Australia, Taco Tapes’ Trad is Rad, Robert’s Visit to the Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect audiobook, Tom Baker’s Birthday, Jennifer Stevenson’s Lasagna and Other Neat Stuff