Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review



This is not a review of Bob Dylan’s latest Bootleg Series Album but, rather, the contents of the little (7" x 5" x 3") bag pictured above hiding behind it:



My new camera outfit, designed for my upcoming Iceland trip. The aim is to travel light: all my clothes and accessories in one carry-on and one handbag. My camera outfit will consist of two 12MP camera bodies and four lenses.  Not pictured: two spare batteries, an optical viewfinder and lens shades.

Tiny. Up to one sixth the size and weight of the corresponding full-frame camera lens.

I've already posted some images from this setup; what the small sensor camera loses in ultimate image quality to a larger sensor is made up for in its increased depth of field and its ability to be hand held, especially for close-ups.

             The Lenses                                35mm Equiv. Field of View
  • 5-15mm f2.8-4.5                                        23mm-70mm
  • 9mm   f1.4                                                42mm
  • 24mm f2.8                                                110mm
  • 50mm f2.8                                                230mm


Time will tell how this set-up will work out. I've got over two months to test it, with several major photo-ops coming up.


By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 



Monday, July 27, 2015

When I’m Sixty-Four

Today: The last day I’ll be able to say that honestly.

Tomorrow: I attain my seniority.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 



Friday, July 24, 2015

Going Back



   Mary and Sean were walking in Hljómskálagarðurinn on the way back to their apartment. There was a light mist. Although it was nearly 11 P.M., the sun had not yet set but because of the thick overcast, it was quite dark. Some of the lights along the path had turned on.  As they neared Tjörnin, Mary stopped and put her hand on Sean’s arm.

   “Something’s happening.” she said. “I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’m sensing that there is a big change—something concerning Emily. It’s a good thing we’re going back tomorrow.”

   “We’d better check in with our lawyers when we get back to the apartment.” said Sean as he looked at his watch, “Something may have come up, there should still be someone working there, it’s not yet 4 in Seattle.”

   At the apartment, Mary opened her laptop and went to her inbox, there was a message from her lawyers:
Your flight destination has been changed from Seattle to Washington, D.C.. Exchange your tickets at KEF tomorrow. Your flight will leave at 1400 hours. Situation in Seattle is unstable. Your friend Jo killed an intruder who was probably an enemy agent. Molly was also targeted but managed to call police. FBI says there is a break in the investigation and needs you in Washington. At the present time Seattle is too dangerous for you to return.

   “So it appears as if my feelings were right.” said Mary as she stood up. “Something is going on. We’ll still have time in the morning to say good bye to Þora and Vilhjálmur.”

   “I wonder if I’ll have to testify to congress again.” said Sean. “When will all this end?”

   Mary walked over and laid down the bed, stretching out and closing her eyes.

   “Sean… ” she started, and then gasped: “It’s Emily!”

   Mary became rigid and her voice changed to that of Emily’s:

   “Listen to me, children. The time has come to end The Brotherhood and my captivity. On the next full moon The Brotherhood will meet again at midnight at The Chamber House. Be there, free me, end the curse, or else we are lost.”
 
   Then, as quickly as it started, the possession was over.

   “When is the next full moon?” asked Mary.

   Sean did a quick search on the laptop. “Tuesday.” he said.

   “We've got three days to find The Chamber House, and somehow get Emily out of there. Do you think the F.B.I. believe us?” said Mary, rising up to look at the message on the laptop.

   “Not likely. I fear that we’ll be in ‘protective custody’; they’ll want to arrest someone they can prosecute, not free my grandmother and enable The Matriarchy. They probably don’t want us in the way. It would look bad if we happened to get killed.”

   “Let me have that, I’ve got an idea.”

   While Sean got his things together for the flight tomorrow, Mary worked at the computer: first looking in her Ramsen files for information on John Regelind III, then at a map app. After a while she stopped and stared at the screen: there, in a clearing in a woods,  isolated from any road, was a round building. The resolution was only fair, but as she toggled between the satellite and 3D modes, she could just make out a heavy door on the north side of the building.

   “This is it Sean, the chamber house. That is where Emily is being held.” she said.

   “All we have to do is just walk up to it and open the door?”

   “I'm sure the perimeter of the estate has a security system.” Mary said, “ But I can deal with that. The trick will be in getting there at the right time. If we go along this river, here, we can probably bypass most of it. You don‘t mind getting your feet wet do you?”

  “If we aren’t being held in some maximum security prison, it looks like a go.” Sean paused then continued: “You aren’t afraid of anything, are you?”

   “I am afraid of what will happen to all of us, if we don’t stop them.”

                    ————————————————————

   John Regelind III sat in his study. He was drunk. He intended to stay drunk, at least until Tuesday, when The Brotherhood would meet again.  After then, it wouldn’t matter what he did.



  
Fiction

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Shitstorm in Iceland

The cartoon on the right (by Halldór for Vísir) says it all. Two of Iceland's most revered personages—statesman Einar Benediktsson and poet Jónas Hallgrímsson are depicted rising from the dead as tourists crap on their graves in the churchyard behind them. There has been a lot of commentary in Icelandic media lately about a situation which is rapidly becoming intolerable: there are too many tourists and not enough facilities. The tourist site Discover the World called it “Mass tourism of the worst sort.”

Another tourist problem manifesting itself is the proliferation of hotels in the central city. Many of the charming old buildings are being torn down or re-purposed from nightclubs and other interesting venues into new hotels. The not inconsiderable charm of Reykjavík is rapidly disappearing into a fortress of brutalist architecture:



The music scene has been under concerted attack for years. It is one of the main reasons I started going to Iceland, I really enjoy the atmosphere of their off-beat venues. I don't want to go sit in a sterile hotel lounge. Modern Icelandic pop music, starting with The Sugarcubes, did more to promote the idea of Iceland as a cultural destination than any other factor. Interestingly enough, Björk and her pals started making their name in a wild series of punk shows in the Hotel Borg, which has since been upscaled into a preserve for the rich. Other legendary venues such as Faktorý, Sirkus and NASA are already gone. Several nightspots will be closed to make way for what have been derisively called ‘puffin shops.’ More crap (most of it not made in Iceland) to sell to more tourists=less culture. Change can be good, but it needs to have an artistic component. Harpa is stunning, but it was wisely built a short distance away from the city center. The new designs I've seen are plunked right into the middle of the old town and heartless; a successful building must have some ‘soul’, not just be a package surrounding a money machine.

More troubling than these issues is a poll of Icelandic 10th graders, most of whom see themselves leaving the country in the futrue. Finally, to top it all: another sleazy American corporation is bullying its way into Iceland. I'll be in Reykjavík in October—hopefully there will be at least a few places remaining where I can hear some Icelandic music, get some Icelandic culture, as well as some authentic and uniquely Icelandic places.

This sign could be taken two ways, for both the despoiling of of the natural and the cultural landscapes:



What am I getting myself into?

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 



Monday, July 20, 2015

Loss of a Pet


Tommy, 1968

And here, my brothers and sisters, is the sad and weepy part...

A recent blog post about the death of an Icelandic cockatiel triggered in me an unexpected flood of emotions and memories about every critter with whom I've ever had the pleasure to share a roof.

Polly the cockatiel was just a bird, but I knew of her, and about her personality. Because I (and many others) had read about her she had unwittingly enriched not only her owner's life, but the lives of hundreds of others. I've had a dog, more than a few cats, and even a couple of lizards (although the reptiles weren't exactly chummy) while growing up and when our kids were young. One cat, in particular, was the closest. An ordinary tom, who moved in with us when I was about 8, who lived with me throughout my childhood and teen years, and even survived into my young adulthood. We did things together; we explored the backyard and the neighborhood (he would actually walk with me) and if I was troubled (or high) he could always tell. Still, he was just an ordinary cat, a cat whose favorite pastime was sleeping. In his old age, when he was suffering, I was the person who took him to the vet to be put down.

In this world filled with human death why is it that the loss of a pet can be so devastating? The answer was eloquently stated in the post I referred to:
... with animals, there is a complete absence of guile. They’re just whole and complete in who they are and they give of themselves unconditionally. And that is rare with people.

~Alda Sigmundsdóttir


So here's to Polly, Tommy, Skipper, Betty, Booger, Terry, Bodkay and all the other critters who have touched our lives. Love can be hard, it can be messy, it can be sad.

But it also can be perfect.




First posted 3/25/10
Re-posted, with edits, for Little Z

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 



Friday, July 17, 2015

Meetings



   “Have you been to a gynecologist yet?” asked Þora.

   Þora and Mary were talking in Þora's apartment. Sean and young Vilhjálmur were nearby at a small park. It was Vilhjálmur’s idea and Þora was glad to get a little respite from her childcare duties.

   “I really should have, I've been sort of busy.” Mary said with a rueful grin. “I have been taking my vitamins. Outside of some morning sickness early on, being tired a lot, and absorbing the wisdom of the universe, I've been feeling OK. Is there anything you’d care to share with me about the experience?”

   “Do you have any family history of difficult childbirth?” said Þora, “It’s different for everyone, of course, but I think there is something to be said for the experiences of your female relatives. My mother, and especially my grandmother, helped me a lot.”

   “I don’t have any blood relatives of which I’m aware. I was adopted.”

   “Have you ever tried to find you birth mother?” said Þora.

   “My adopted mother never talked about it. I was kind of anti-social when I was younger. I was my own person and didn’t want to pursue it.” Mary paused. “I’m still that way, to some extent.”

   “Sjálfstætt fólk…” said Þora, “… independent people. It’s both a blessing and a curse. You might say that it is the one trait which defines Icelanders the most. I was reluctant to ask Sean for help, but… well, you know as well as I do the Vilhjálmur Stefán is no ordinary child.”

   “I received a book of spells which Sean’s grandmother had. In the last few days I’ve been working with Hilmar, preparing a group of spells for an app for the Ásatrú Society. There are a couple that deal with children.” Mary took out her phone and quickly found them. “Can I send them to you? They are in Old Norse, Hilmar has made phonetic translations.”

   Þora gave Mary her email address and Mary forwarded the spells.

   “I can use all the help I can get.” Þora said, “How do you know they will work? Do I have to understand the words in them? I’m ashamed to say that my knowledge of archaic Icelandic isn’t what it should be. I’m part of the young generation, I really didn’t study the sagas the way my ancestors had.”

   “Trust me—they work.”

                    ————————————————————

   John Regelind III had arranged to meet with F.B.I. agents in Richmond. He didn’t want to risk being seen with them at their Washington D.C. headquarters, so he arranged to meet with them at the old Richmond train depot. It was usually deserted in the afternoon. The agent in charge of Sean's case had just returned from Seattle and chose to personally conduct the interview. At the appointed time Regelind arrived at the station and went to the portico where he found the agent, dressed casually, Regelind had been instructed to dress this way as well.

   When Regelind sat down, the agent introduced himself, shook hands and, after making sure they were alone, displayed his identification.

   “Thank you for coming. We have a lot to discuss. You and both understand that this is a most unusual case, and that we are dealing with dangerous individuals.  Although I am in no position to guarantee immunity from prosecution, your willingness to come forward and cooperation in this investigation will be taken into account.”

   “I understand.” Regelind spoke slowly and softly.

   “Before we begin, I'd like to ask you a personal question, if I may.” The agent paused. When Regelind nodded he continued: “All this, the business with Sean and his family, has been going on a long time. Why did you decide to come to us now?” There was a much longer pause before Regelind answered:

   “I can’t live with myself anymore. There was a time when I thought I was doing the right thing; that I was entitled to the privileged life I enjoyed. I don’t feel that way anymore. I can’t stop thinking of the suffering I’ve put people through; the degradations and perversions.”

   The agent remained impassive but inwardly was somewhat surprised. This would be no ordinary confession. There was so much to cover—according to Mary and Sean’s testimony there was at least seventy years worth of interaction with The Brotherhood and Sean’s grandmother.

   “Tell me what you know about Emily Carroll.” The agent said.

   “That’s where it all begins. Emily had power. My father, and his father before him, knew that and used her to enrich themselves. I'm guilty of that my self.”

   “How is that possible that you are involved?” said the agent. “She’s been missing and presumed dead since 1946. When you were a child.”

   “She’s not dead. I’ve seen her, I’ve touched her. I know where she is.” said John Regelid III. "She’s not dead.”

  
                    ————————————————————

   At the small park, Sean and his son Vilhjálmur were sitting on a bench, Vilhjálmur was giving Sean an informal lesson in Icelandic. Sean would point to an object and Vilhjálmur would give Sean the name. When Sean would repeat what the child had said, Vilhjálmur would laugh. And elderly woman, one of Þora’s neighbors, walked up to the pair. She knew Vilhjálmur but had never seen Sean before.

   “Hver er þessi maður?” the woman said—asking the boy “Who is this man?”

   “Það er pabbi minn!” the boy cried excitedly. “Það er pabbi minn!”

   The woman looked at Sean intently.

   “So you are the father?” she said.

   “Já.” said Sean, who was still in his basic Icelandic mode. Shifting to English, he added: “Yes, this is my son.”

   “Sum börn vaxa upp í sérkennilegu hátt.”  muttered the woman as she walked away. 
    

  

Fiction

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Amy


Image: The Guardian

A documentary, directed by Asif Kapadia

This long (128 minutes) film is a fascinating yet flawed look at the late singer. This is one of those films with a lot of ‘common’ English; it would have benefited in having subtitles. Amy grew up in London, and there was a fair amount of footage of her when she was a teen and young adult before she became famous. The early footage is rough, lots of jpeg artifacts and fuzzy images. As it progresses the quality of footage becomes progressively better: by the end it is almost all in HD. Conversely, the amount of the ‘real’ Amy begins to recede as she is devoured by the press, drugs, drinking and bulimia. But even towards the end she had her moments—the sequence with Tony Bennett is superb—and through the film we get glimpses of Amy at her best, when she was singing.

Amy Winehouse was a stylist, a singer who also had the ability to write strong lyrics and possessed an unerring knack for composing melody. It would be hard to project what she would have become if she had lived: the film gave me the impression that she wasn’t a particularly deep person. Her choice of men was abysmal. The film tried to make her parents‘ divorce as life shattering; I'm sure it was traumatic; but she did have a full family life, spending time with both parents (as well as a very strong grandmother.)

You should really be in the mood for a film like this, there is no humor in it, and the depictions of her ‘down’ periods are harrowing.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1