'There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilocus which says,
fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.'
-- Isaiah Berlin
13th of March, 2005
In the case of Hamish the hedgehog, who lives here in the Green Man building, that means sleep as he's very, very good at it. Well, and making sure we feed him lots of fresh crickets when he's awake. How a hedgehog named Hamish came to be here is a wee bit of a mystery at this date, but records kept by the Archivist here suggest that there's been a hedgehog in residence for centuries now. Certainly the staff has learned to look carefully when sitting, mostly in the kitchen, where he's commonly found, for fear of getting an arse full of quills from a disgruntled creature. And leaving one's tea with cream on a low table oft times results in the tea being lapped up by Hamish who afterwards, no surprise, waddles off to find a place to sleep. Hamish knows a good thing when he sees it!
(Now I must admit that many of me fellow musicians are little better than Hamish this time of year if they are not making music or drinking in the Pub. . . .)
The hedgehogs here have lent their name and likeness to The Hedgehog, the inhouse newsletter for the Green Man staff where rumours, gossip, and even sometimes useful information is printed for all here to read. Recently in its pages, we're had a article on what the staff and visitors here of what the perfect wintertime breakfast is. I've said before that I'll always go with an old favourite of mine -- huevos rancheros, which for me are eggs and chorizo wrapped in warm tortillas, then covered with a green chile sauce. That and strong black coffee served with real cream will do nicely, provided all of this is served 'round noon, when I'm, more or less, ready to be awake. If I don't 'ave that, I'll settle for a full Welsh breakfast of three thick Welsh bacon rashers, pork sausage and two lovely eggs. And strong tea.
So let's see what they said. . . .
Gary Whitehouse has tastes similar to mine: ' Well, since my favorite place to be in the winter is either Rarotonga or Tucson, my favorite breakfasts would be: in Rarotonga, fresh tropical fruit and yogurt, followed by one of The Cafe's chocolate-chip muffins, liberally spread with luscious New Zealand butter, all chased down with a mug of strong black tea with milk; in Tucson, huevos rancheros with some fresh corn tortillas and black coffee.'
Peter Massey says 'My wintertime breakfast is usually the same as summer -- that is one Weatabix or porridge, a slice of toast, and mug of coffee. However on Sunday I have a cooked breakfast (only allow myself one a week because I try not to eat junk food and I value my heart and lipids level) -- that is grilled bacon, sausage and tomato and a fried or scrambled egg. Plus a mug of coffee and slice of toast with marmalade.'
Vonnie Carts-Powell likes it simple: 'Oatmeal, made with milk, adulterated with raisins and apples and sunflower seeds, served with maple syrup.' That's not terribly different from what Chris White and Barbara Truex have on a winter's morning: 'Especially by January: pancakes (non-wheat of course for me) with warm strawberry syrup made from last spring's homegrown berries. Sometimes we're lucky enough to do it with raspberries, blackberries, and/or blueberries depending on the year's crops.' Whereas J. J. Boyce says 'I'm a working student, and I have classes during the winter months. I like the cheap two dollar breakfasts that you can get at some restaurants. Two eggs, toast with jam, a coffee and some bacon. Satisfying to stomach and wallet.'
Patrick O'Donnell varies his breakfast very little 'round the year: 'Same as my summertime one: a few thick slices of bacon, a few nice sausage links, one or two eggs sunny-side up with the yellow runny but the white firm, some baked beans, some stewed tomatoes, some mushrooms, perhaps some hashbrowns, and a few thick slices of buttered toast. Finish it all off with some black coffee strong enough to make your toes curl and perhaps, if there's room, something sweet. And of course, there's always second breakfast, so leave room for that. . . .'
Robert Tilendis is of Southern USA ancestry so he notes his choice is 'a bow to [that] Southern side: chicken-fried steak and eggs, grits with lots of butter, biscuits, and strong coffee with cream. Just don't ask me to move for the rest of the day.' I promise that we'll leave him sleeping in a comfortably overstuffed chair in the corner of the Pub nearest the fireplace!
Senior writer John O'Regan has both of our featured reviews this edition. First, he looks at the new (!) recording from the Horslips: 'Roll Back is both a nostalgic trip and voyage of discovery. For the old fans it will be curious to hear what settings of these classics they prefer. New fans will lap this up as a vital record of a seminal Irish Celtic rock band whose reputation is strictly word-of-mouth until now and they can see what the fuss was about. Definitely one of the quietest comebacks ever attempted, Roll Back finds Horslips re-inventing themselves and shining up their back-catalogue with a fresh coat of interpretative ingenuity. I for one can't wait to see them attempt this live, should they ever decide to do so! On the evidence of Roll Back, Horslips are back and the Celtic rock crown has another main contender, this time from the Irish original of the species.' John picks an Excellence in Writing Award for this superb review!
Next, he relives the halcyon days of his youth at a concert by the reconstituted Thin Lizzy at the University of Limerick Concert Hall in Limerick, Ireland. Thin Lizzy, John passionately assures us, 'is alive and kicking. Their performance was, in the words of a fashionably dressed society matron, 'a good old fashioned rock and roll gig!' But it also was a rock and roll gig with a difference; comprised of loyal fans from the '70s and '80s, as well as new fans, and even families of fans! John says the music has appeal across the generations because 'The Thin Lizzy songbook is full of classic radio rock songs, hummable choruses, melodic twin lead guitar runs, and memorable lyrics. It is everything melodic rock ought to be -- concise, powerful and memorable. While loosing none of its original style and attitude, Thin Lizzy's music contains a freshness and life seldom found in today's contemporary sounds.' To learn more about this very memorable concert, click here.
It's me 'gain. Flu has hit the staff hard towards the end of this winter season, so many of our staff including Maria Nutick, the Book Editor 'ere, are not feeling terribly well. I, on the other hand, am feeling quite well with the warm glow of a mug of spiced hard cider in me, so I got drafted to write book commentary this outing. What? Eh? Oh, our Editor just slipped me a note over the bar here in the Green Man Pub that he hoped to have a review of the 20th Anniversary edition of Charles de Lint's Moonheart ready for this issue, but his conversation with Charles Vess who illustrated it is not quite finished yet, so it'll be up next edition. I will note that he said it was so impressive that he's buying the Limited Edition printing which has all eight of Vess' color prints in it!
Though Craig Clarke had reservations about this book on Johnny Cash similar to those of Liz Milner in her review below, he cautions that '[t]o be fair, though, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece doesn't aspire to much higher than providing in-depth coverage of a seminal moment, both in the career of Johnny Cash, and in music history in general. Despite its flaws, it does this job fully and; therefore, remains a must-have for Cash aficionados and music historians.'
Cat Eldridge comments: 'We in this household have been watching the Warner Brothers DVD release of the animated Batman series covered in Batman Animated one or two episodes at a time for a few months now. There's at least three more animated Batman series which were done later than Batman: The Animated Series -- Batman: Gotham Knights, Batman Beyond and the current show, The Batman. The Batman and Batman Beyond are respectively the series that deal with Bruce Wayne as the young Batman and Bruce Wayne as Batman no longer -- as he has grown old and quite crippled -- but rather as mentor to a new Batman, a teen named Terrence 'Terry' McGinnis. Interestingly enough, all three versions of Gotham bear little resemblance to each other. Pay attention to that as Batman Animated spends a great deal of time talking about Gotham as a character in the Batman series, and it definitely is that.'
Cat also looked at Charles Stross' The Family Trade, the first book of The Merchant Princes. This is, he notes, 'a new series from Stross being marketed as a fantasy that is, to quote the advance uncorrected proof, 'a bold fantasy in the tradition of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber. Now, as the Amber series set the gold standard for series dealing with 'world walkers' embroiled in family affairs where blood gets spilled all too easily, Stross has a lot to measure up to. Having read most of his published fiction, including Singularity Sky and its sequel, Iron Sunrise, and his riff off the cthulhu mythos as collected in The Atrocity Archives, I can say that Stross is a talented writer who can craft a story as good as anything that Roger Zelazny wrote. Is it as good as The Chronicles of Amber? Actually, it's better in some senses, as it feels more harsh, more in keeping with what I'd expect a group of people who can walk across timelines to be like -- ruthless, amoral, and very much interested in accumulating wealth to the point of avarice. In that, they are like the mortals of Zeus Inc., who control the time-traveling immortal cyborgs in Kage Baker's sprawling The Company series.'
I'm bloody jealous! April Gutierrez got to review Melinda, which is the latest limited edition Neil Gaiman which Hill House has published. As she notes: 'Melinda is Neil Gaiman and Polish artist Dagmara Matuzak's first collaboration, and the resulting illustrated poem is a unique literary work. According to the press notes accompanying this release, Gaiman wrote the text specifically for Matuzak to illustrate, hoping for a few drawings and perhaps a painting or two, and she responded with forty-eight stunning black and white drawings and eight colour plates that delineate the harsh world Gaiman's seven year old Melinda inhabits.' For her sheer elegance in writing, April earns an Excellence in Writing Award.
Liz Milner has a cracking good review of Michael Brocken's The British Folk Revival, 1944-2002. Despite a fascinating subject which gets short shrift as the American folk revival more oft times catches the fancy of writers, Liz cannot recommend this telling: 'Brocken desperately needs an editor. His prose is flabby; he shoehorns in twenty words where one would have done just fine. His writing isn't impenetrable; it's just tedious to wade through -- a Great Dismal Swamp of verbiage.' Read the rest of her review to see if it gets any better. Or worse.
We've got a bonnie bunch of film reviews for you this edition ranging from a look at a well-known folk performer to the finale of the Farscape series which the Henson folks created and produced. So let's get started...
Jayme Lynn Blaschke has this to say: 'Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars is a miniseries that never should've existed. That's true on several levels. Firstly, there would never be a need to wrap up the major plot threads with a miniseries had the Sci-Fi Channel honored its commitment to produce a fifth season of the acclaimed space opera. But when Vivendi-Universal -- the parent corporation at the time -- ran into financial duress, its subsidiaries were ordered to cut costs, and contract or no, Farscape was toast. But TV series that die stay dead, as a rule. Sure, Star Trek had a revival, but that took more than a decade to come about. Battlestar Galactica wandered the syndication galaxy for 24 yahrens before it was brought back -- ironically -- by the Sci-Fi Channel. But a quirky, sexy, self-aware show populated by spacefaring muppets? Not a chance. Which is why it's so gratifying to watch Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. It's grand SF adventure equal to any of the various Star Treks at their apex, not to mention matching Babylon 5 in terms of epic drama and galaxy-spanning Big Ideas. The Jim Henson Company lavished much love and sweat over this miniseries, and fans of quality science fiction programming are all the richer for it.' Jayme picks up an Excellence in Writing Award for this well-crafted review!
This film dates from 1939 but just released on DVD recently! Craig Clarke, an appreciative fan of this late Victorian detective, says of this film that 'The Hound of the Baskervilles is the ideal introduction to both Holmes / Watson and the Rathbone / Bruce pairing (although their radio work is at least as entertaining, with Bruce taking the innovative role of storytelling host to the sponsor's representative). By the time he wrote the book, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was quite in his stride with it came to Holmes stories and this one is considered one of the best -- it's certainly the best-known. This gives Rathbone and Bruce some work to do in making their new acquaintance seem like a very old, if sometimes antagonistic, friendship -- and they are more than up to the challenge, beginning with the same level of development they would carry throughout the series.'
Denise Dutton gives us a resounding raspberry in her review of a horror film: 'Cursed opens with Bowling For Soup's take on the classic Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs tune, and that's just the first of several tidbits thrown out to the audience in hopes of luring moviegoers into the woods for Wes Craven's newest fright-fest. But instead of casting a spell that pulls you in, these glimpses of genre touchstones only serve as a trail of breadcrumbs to follow out of the theater and onto greener pastures. Which is too bad, because this movie could have been a great ride. Unfortunately, these hints of greatness overshadow a film that is mediocre at best.'
Liz Milner has a look at a modern fairy tale -- A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Eh?!? Indeed that is so as she notes in her review: ' A.I. combines a bittersweet fairy tale (in the style of Hans Christian Anderson, not the Brothers Grimm) with a sci-fi story set in a high-tech America of the future. The story also combines the dark, satirical edge of Stanley Kubrick with the sweet wistfulness of Steven Spielberg.'
Kate Rusby and Band -- Live From Leeds caused Liz to melt down in a very nice manner: ' First a confession: I am putty in Kate Rusby's hands. Let her be as insufferably pink and "girlie-girlie" as she likes, I am hooked. At her best, she performs with heartbreakingly sad, soulful intensity and nobody is better at singing about loss than Rusby.My inner cynic has always preferred more kick-ass sounds, so I'm constantly arguing to myself about whether my Kate Rusby fixation represents the first inroads of sloppy sentimentality.'
Despite major reservations by Rebecca Scott on how Hollywood mangled one of her favourite comics, she says '[i]n all honesty, Constantine is a pretty good genre movie. It looks good, has an entertaining plot, colorful characters, and some nifty special effects. It's two hours of mostly mindless entertainment. Any fan of occult horror films will probably like it -- unless he or she happens to be a fan of Hellblazer.'
Peter Massey, the lucky bastard that he, won the honour of reviewing A Poor Man's Labour, the newest recording from the Mick West Band. He simply notes that 'Mick is one of the best traditional singers I have heard for a while. The band also must take a bow, as the music is tight and backing well balanced. In short A Poor Man's Labour a joy to listen to.'
Old Roads, New Journeys is from the Wolfe Bros who play old-time Bluegrass, which is what Copper Creek Records releases for recordings. Peter says 'I'd have to say this a nice album of some fine traditional sounding American music, extremely well played and presented with a down home feel -- with the added bonus of some songs and lyrics not heard before.'
Lars Nilsson can always be counted on for a good tale. His review of Gaate's Iselilja is no exception: 'In 2003 I wrote that Gaate had taken folk rock into the 21st century with their first full length CD Jygri. After having sold more than 40,000 copies of that album and been awarded a platinum record in Norway for that achievement they are back with Iselilja, and I must say that it was with some hesitation I put it in my CD player. Would I be disappointed? I mean, often you find young groups and artists just copying a successful formula for their second album, and they seldom sound as fresh on the second one as on the first.'
Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff and Vassilis Tsabropoulos' Chants, Hymns and Dances gets the once-over from Robert M. Tilendis. Sort of what I'm sorely tempted to call modern Ottoman Empire music, I'm not sure that I can take a bit of Robert's review and call it adequate for capturing the review he has written, so go read his Excellence in Writing Award winning review!
Sony, bless 'em, has been re-releasing vintage recordings as dual discs, a CD on one side, a DVD on the other side. Gary Whitehouse claimed rather quickly one of these new hybrids -- Miles Davis' Kind of Blue which he says of, 'of course the soundtrack is superb. It's still mostly heads talking about jazz, but it'll help you understand a little bit about what makes the album tick and its place in jazz history. That and the DVD version of the album tracks, and Robert Palmer's essay in the booklet, make it valuable to neophyte and connoisseur alike.'