Friday, October 24, 2014


   The second drawer contained several trays of oil paints in tubes, a couple of well-used palettes as well as various brushes neatly wrapped in a leather sheath.

   "Tools of the trade." said Sean. "Those pigments look as if they were expensive. Are there any collectors of vintage pigments?"

   "There are collectors for almost anything. Those labels are all in French, certainly prewar, I imagine that they would fetch some serious money in the right auction. I know a dealer in Seattle who would be most interested in these." Mary said, taking pictures of the drawer contents. "I'll send these image files to her."

   The bottom drawer held a paint-spattered drop-cloth covering a pile of old newspapers.

   "No treasure here." said Sean as he emptied it, "We should box up these paints and put the drawings in a portfolio. The rest we can toss—those newspapers are just want ads. This is a nice commode, even if it's not in 'Seattle Modern' style. If you don't want it we can put it in with the rest of the stuff for the auction. I'll go get some boxes."

   After he left Mary put her hands on the commode's marble top and closed her eyes. Again she saw nothing but held her pose and tried to quiet her thoughts—as if Emily would speak to her if she would only calm her inner voice. Still nothing. Mary opened her eyes and began to look closely at the commode. It was well made, with distinctive joinery on the edges of the drawer-fronts. She carefully lifted the marble top off and set it aside. Empty, and with the top removed, the commode still seemed heavier than its appearance suggested. On a whim, Mary turned the piece on its side—exposing the bottom.

   Underneath the commode was smooth wood, flush with the bottom edges of the sides and back.  Something about it didn't look quite right.

   "Even an expensive piece of furniture wouldn't be finished like this on the bottom." Mary thought, "There should be blocks of wood glued here. What's behind this?" She gave the panel a rap; it responded with a muffled thud. Looking at the perimeter of the panel, Mary noticed that there was a thin gap where it joined the sides and the back. On the front, however, the panel was rabbeted into the kick-plate and the joint was filled with a bead of glue.

   "It's another drawer." she said aloud, yanking on the kick-plate. It made a cracking sound but didn't yield.

   Sean walked in with some cardboard boxes.

   "What's up?" he said, noticing the upended washstand.

   "I think there is another drawer in this thing; behind this panel. Set it down again. OK, on the count of three give that bottom board a yank on your side as I pull on the other side.  One… two… three…"

   The front board released with a loud 'sprong' and, just as Mary had suspected, revealed itself to be the front of a shallow drawer held in place by flat springs mounted on its sides.  It held old stamped envelopes, stuffed with handwritten letters. All of them were addressed to Emily Carroll.

   "Treasure." said Sean.


   After the EMTs wheeled Roger Ramsen out to the ambulance Sally O'Donnell returned to Roger's office to notify his daughter with the bad news. She picked up his phone and searched the phone's directory for Nora's number.  When she found it she placed the call. As she waited for a reply she came to the realization that Roger's computer, which he had never allowed anyone else to use, was still on. When Nora answered Sally told her of Roger's attack and where he was being taken. Nora said that she would be there in an hour.

   After Sally hung up, she rifled through Roger's desk where she found a new USB drive in an unopened pack. She opened the package and put the drive in Roger's computer.

   Sally took a deep breath and began to search through his email.


   "The only thing left is the trunk." said Mary. "Will you do the honors?"

   "This has been a day full of surprises," said Sean, "can you stand another one?"

   "Just open it, Sean." Mary said.

   Sean lifted the heavy trunk lid and opened it all the way.

   "More old newspapers… " said Mary, as she peeled them away, "… tissue paper… and beneath it's… it's full of clothes. Emily's clothes. Oooh… designer labels!" Mary lifted up a red satin gown. She draped it over her body. "Just my size!"

   "Thinking of going retro?" asked Sean as he handed her a stunning black and white art deco outfit.

   "God, these are all stunning!" said Mary, her eyes widening.

   They began to pile the garments, interleaved with tissue paper, on top of the commode.  At the very bottom of the trunk they found a garment bag. Sean held it up while Mary opened it and looked inside.

   "It's a wedding dress." said Mary.

   "It's your wedding dress." said Sean .




By Professor Batty

Comments: 2

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


The stage is set:

The Queen's arrival is nigh:

Our moment to shine:


Minneapolis, 1977

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1

Monday, October 20, 2014


Lonely is the wearer of the crown:

Her anxiety grows while her subjects await her arrival:

Finally, the moment of glory:

But it is the Princesses who really have the most fun:

Minneapolis, 1977

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Die Wunderkammer

   Die Wunderkammer is the German expression for "The Chamber of Wonders"—a cabinet of curiosity. Yesterday the Minneapolis College of Art and Design opened their own version in an occasionally unsettling mélange of paintings, sculpture, photography, fossils, human teeth, animal bones and other oddities.

   Artist Denise Rouleau basks in the attention:

   Conversations animated; observations intense:

   With an occasional flash of style:

   And what memento mori exhibit in Minnesota would be complete without a contribution from its own mistress of the macabre - Caitlin Karolczak:

Exhibited artists include:

Amber White
Aaron Culey
Brooklynd Turner
Caitlin Karolczak
Denise Rouleau
Erin Elizabeth Hunter
Joan Bemel Iron Moccasin
Kathryn Warren
Kelsey Zigmund
Mark D. Roberts
Michael Thomsen
Paula Barkmeier
Richard Johannisson
Sara Suppan
Shanice Jackson-Ellison
Sonja Olson
Tyler Peck
Vivian Charlesworth

The work will be on display from October 17-29

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Key

   “I’ll see what Tina has that we can use to clean this up.” Sean said, turning to leave.

   Mary stifled a sneeze and looked at what had once been Emily’s studio. "Very humble, just the minimum needed to create art." thought Mary.  She closed her eyes and suddenly had a vision of Emily working here with her baby cooing along side her in a bassinet.  The sensation gradually grew more intense; it seemed to Mary that she was seeing the room through Emily’s eyes—as if she was inhabited by Emily's memories. When Mary opened her eyes the vision faded, as well as the eerie feeling of possession.

   “A half dozen old towels and a pail of warm, soapy water.” said Sean as he walked back into the studio. “Where do we start?”

   “I’ll take the the commode, why don’t you do the trunk?”

   “Tina wanted us to bring down anything of value for the auction.”

   “Certainly. That wheel might be a little awkward, but there isn't anything in here that looks to be very heavy.”

   Mary began to clear a layer of dust from the commode.

   “This is a nice piece: walnut, brass pulls, marble top. Has some paint on it, but it should clean right up. The drawers are locked. Sean, would you be a dear and go down and see if Tina has any old barrel keys?”

   “Barrel keys?”

   “A key that looks like the barrel of a pistol—hollow, with a tab on the end. It would be a shame to force these drawers open. Is the trunk locked?”

   “No. The hasp is gone. I'll go see what Tina has in the way of keys. Be right back.”

   Mary found herself alone again and, in a way, she was glad that Sean had left. She closed her eyes in an effort to reconnect with the spirit of Emily but saw nothing. Mary then directed her attention to the trunk. After wiping it off it appeared to be nondescript save for a couple of old shipping labels. While she tempted to open it Mary decided not to, thinking that Sean should be there as well. Leaning against the wall behind the trunk was what appeared to be an old style wagon wheel. It was at least five feet high, with a wooden band for the rim. As she began to clean it, she realized that it wasn't a wagon wheel at all. Its construction more akin to a clothes-drying rack. Supporting that notion were pieces of what appeared to a stand on the floor beneath it.  The rim was decorated with chipped, yellowed decals of flowers.

   Sean soon returned with a ring of old keys.

   "Tina said that Uncle Henry never threw anything away. She found these keys in a drawer in the garage. She told me that he used to buy a lot of stuff from old estate sales. One of these might fit, or maybe none will." Sean said.

   "My mother had an old dresser with locks like these. She always kept one drawer locked. I was fascinated by it; by the fact that she kept some things secret from me. Once I tried to pick it with a bent paper clip but I couldn't open it." Mary said. "Let's see what we can do with a proper key."

   "Nancy Drew." said Sean, laughing at the sight of Mary bending down as she fiddled with the keys.

   Mary returned Sean's laughter as she began trying keys in the top drawer.  "Today's episode is 'The mystery in the old attic'. Here… I think this is the one… it fits but the lock is pretty tight…. it won't open… the bolt didn't move."

   "Try it in another lock." said Sean.

   Mary tested the two lower drawer locks and the result was the same. Then she tried it in the nightstand's door which easily opened. Inside were several glass bottles and tins, most with paper labels: turpentine, thinner, acetone, among containers with other artist's materials. Those bottles fitted with corks saw the stoppers disintegrated and were empty.

   "No treasure yet." Sean said as he picked a small oil can out from inside the nightstand. "This oil might do the trick on those drawers."

   He squirted oil into the top drawer's lock as Mary worked it with the key. This time the bolt did move and they were able to open the drawer.  It contained miscellaneous drawing tools as well as several pencil sketches of various scenes, overdrawn in ink. Sean began leafing through the pile but stopped when he came upon a rendering of the entrance to the Ice Cave.

   "One of Emily's power spots?" said Sean.

   "There are markings on the back of some of these," Mary spoke, looking at the pile of overturned drawings, "Hold these up to the light."

   Sean went through the pile again, holding each drawing so that it was illuminated from behind. Most had markings on the back which aligned with some feature on the front.

   "Look, there are those rocks in the pasture again." Mary said, "and the mark on the back is right behind on the spot where I saw her standing. It's as if Emily left us treasure maps. First the code book, now this. There must be some underlying logic in all of this."

   "But what? It'll be tough to match up the other drawings with the area, a lot has changed around here in sixty-eight years." said Sean as he went through the pictures yet another time. He pulled out another drawing from the stack and looked at it closely. "This one, I know where this is. It's under the bridge that goes over the creek." He held it up to the light. The drawing showed the bridge and the creek clearly. The mark on the back was centered on one of the limestone blocks which comprised one of the bridge's footings. "This one we can find, it's just down the road a bit. It might be the key to the others."

   "Let's see what's in the other drawers." said Mary.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 1

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dramatic Reykjavík

Note:  a slightly different form of this post was originally written for the I'd Rather Be in Iceland Blog.
   Those of you interested in exploring Icelandic culture may find that a visit to one or both of the two major theater companies in Reykjavík to be most rewarding. They aren't usually listed in most tourist guides for a couple of reasons:  they are not active in the high tourist season and the plays are all in Icelandic. If you do happen find yourself in town between September and May you would be wise to check them out:

Þjóðleikhúsið, Reykjavík

   Þjóðleikhúsið, the National Theater, is located in an intimidating structure on Hverfisgata, with a smaller "box" theater situated on the street behind it—Lindargata. Þjóðleikhúsið produces a mixture of plays every season, including serious drama by foreign playwrights, modern Icelandic drama, several productions for children, and  contemporary Icelandic comedy. These are world-class productions with fantastic sets and brilliant direction. They feature many of the fine actors you've probably already seen in Icelandic films. The smaller Kassinn (box) venue features intimate productions and are usually somewhat "edgier". Baltasar Kormákur's 2006 production of Peer Gynt was the most intense theater experience I've ever had. The main stage offers a little more traditional fare (but only a little), Hallgrímur Helgason's Þetta er allt að koma in 2004 was a wild ride through Icelandic consciousness.


   Borgarleikhúsið is the City Theater. Located on the south end of Kringland, it usually runs a little lighter in tone, with an emphasis on musicals and family fare (Mary Poppins, for example). The smaller theater offers current playwrights; on a recent visit I saw John Logan's Red (Rautt), a Tony-award winning play about the artist Mark Rothko. The theater complex is newer than the Þjóðleikhúsið and contains a vast lobby (for both venues) well worth a visit on its own.

   Don't let the language barrier prevent you from attending one of these plays. You might want to avoid overly "talky" dramas, but I've found that the expressive acting in most plays usually makes up for my lack of literary comprehension. A play you are familiar with, for example Shakespeare's Macbeth, would lose little in translation. The tickets are reasonable (4400 kronur, about $35 or £24) and while it is possible to order on line, it requires some help from Google translate. You might want to visit the box office a couple of days in advance for the performances often sell out. If you are by yourself, or can't convince your traveling partner to come along, you'll have a better chance of scoring a single ticket to a popular show.  Part of any theater experience is people watching during the intermission and the Icelanders do enjoy dressing up for the occasion so dress up yourself—and you'll become part of that show! The matinees are somewhat less formal.

   A big part of Iceland's appeal for me is its spoken language.  Attending a play there is an opportunity to hear it at a very high level.  This form of Icelandic culture, when distilled into a dramatic context, creates memories which you'll never forget.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0

Monday, October 13, 2014

Auður Update

   It's October, that time of year when the professor's thoughts turn to Iceland. As any regular reader of FITK knows, some of the the prime inspirations for this blog were Iceland and my all time favorite Icelandic blogger Auður Ösp Olafsdóttir. I consider her I Heart Reykjavík website the finest Icelandic travel site anywhere. She has managed to create and maintain an informative and entertaining site while still retaining a personal touch. Her humorous "Learn Icelandic" podcasts allow the listener to get a sense of her low key yet engaging personality.

   Recently she has become the focus of international attention, with mentions in the Sunday travel section of The New York Times and this segment from the website Daily Travel Podcast.

   Speaking as one who is usually allergic to podcasts, I found this one to to be well worth thirty minutes of my time—especially around the 19 minute mark when Auður opens up about her personal history leading up to her starting I Heart Reykjavík.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1