Friday, August 31, 2007

Been Too Long At The Fair

Oh Mama!

I just didn't know what to make of this carnival ride. It is so wrong on so many levels, and yet... who wouldn't want to be embraced by Wonder Woman and her fair sisters, taken to their collective bosoms, to be carried away to a pinnacle of excitement?

It's time to go home.




Comments: 2


Thursday, August 30, 2007

In Pursuit Of The Perfect Pickle



Pure Pickled Perfection in a jar. Year after year homemakers submit these briny cukes and veggies in pursuit of fame and glory. To the chosen few, they stand as a validation for years of canning. As for the rest, well... you could always eat 'em.

Note: A local cannery actually selects blue ribbon winners and puts out pickles and other preserves made from these recipes. And they're usually pretty good. Not exactly a food made in a research lab, these humble treats actually came into existence because someone liked the taste- rather than having a marketing group design a product that could maximize profit. What a concept.




Comments: 0


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On A Stick

The running joke about food at the fair is that it is always "On A Stick." Pronto Pups, AKA Corn Dogs, were introduced there long before I was born, but only in recent years has the idea of putting otherwise normal foods on a wooden skewer taken off. "Pork-Chop-On-A-Stick" is a big hit. "Walleye-On-A-Stick" is actually pretty tasty, with the depths of decadence defined by the breaded, deep-fat fried "Snickers-On-A-Stick" and, if you can believe it, the breaded, deep-fried "Twinkie-On-A-Stick". YUM!

Actually, I did try a "Mocha-On-A-Stick" which was probably the ultimate in a Fudgsicle variation. With a caffeinated kick! My other Fair Food Favorite is a simple Cream Puff: fresh whipped cream on a equally fresh pastry. The real deal, and impossible to eat on a stick.

And then there's this:




MMMMMM! A frosty Mug-O-Maggots.

ON A STICK!




Comments: 4


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Hear Music


So the real reason I went to the fair was to see some old friends play on one of the many stages there. Now when I say old, I mean it- they were performing at the senior center, and although they may have been a little young to actually qualify as "Seniors" the music they were playing was mostly from the twenties and thirties, older than most of the seniors who exhibited there.

This was "parlor" music, or perhaps even "backporch" music, old folk songs (ie: Wildwood Flower) simple tunes, with plain stories, the banal elevated to art by its purity. Karen and Helen, the women in the photo, have been performing as a duo for several years now, they're even set to tour Scandinavia and Ireland in the fall. They were supported by some friends, "ringers" from the Minnesota music scene, guys who understood just what this music is all about. The thirty or forty people in the audience, some of whom just wandered in for a breather, enjoyed being played to, rather than at; all in all it was a delightful way to take a break from the maddening crowd.




Comments: 1


Monday, August 27, 2007

Our State Fair Is A Great State Fair


Went to the "Great Minnesota Get Together" Saturday, and there were a scary amount of people there. I hadn't been there in nearly twenty years- it never really changes, there just seems to be more of it. The first thing I passed on my way in was the "Miracle of birth" center where one could see "One day old baby piglets!" One can only wonder about what happens to the two day old piglets:


Moving through the throngs, I got a sense of being in a global village, all sorts of cultures represented now, not just the Scandinavian/German culture of my youthful attendance here. There were many exhibits: animals of all sorts, crafts, commercial and industrial, even a classic pitchman selling knives. I went to the Fine Arts exhibit, but found it wanting compared with the classic Midway Art, there's just something about a woman in her underwear with her head on backwards that really does it for me:

You can easily imagine the effect of an image such as this would have on my impressionable pre-adolescent mind. It was featured in an exhibit about the old fair attractions. There was a "torture chamber", an electric chair, pictures of staged head-on train crashes, pictures of unstaged stock car race crashes, chain-saw sculptures, exotic dance revues, prior grandstand attractions (Lawrence Welk twice!) all displayed in actual rail-cars used by the traveling shows as a home-away-from-home. There were pictures of some of the "Freaks" I remember seeing in my youth, including the Siamese twin boys and even one of the Viking Giant:


















I'll be back with more from the Fair tomorrow...




Comments: 1


Friday, August 24, 2007

The Berserker

A section of South Minneapolis, between Bloomington and Hennepin Avenues and Franklin and Lake Streets, was known to the old-time door-to-door salesman who practised their trade there as "the jungle." It has always been an area of young people, either people living on their own in apartments or duplexes, or young couples, just starting out on their life together. As these people get older, they move away, and are in return replaced by a new generation. The salesmen, who could make a pretty good living selling home necessities to an always changing clientele, are but a distant memory, with the possible exception of security system installers or home improvement entrepreneurs. Now, people buy things like that at Wal-Mart or Target, or even on the internet. I remember my mother getting regular visits from her "Men"- the magazine salesman (always wearing a suit and a fedora), the Fuller Brush man (who was blind), and even Bubber, who would try to sell her greeting cards. But I digress.

So this section of Minneapolis was (is) also renown for Friday or Saturday night parties, and just a general air of excitement. At one such party, some considerable time ago, the young Batty and an avian-named friend found themselves on a hot August night. The vibes were mellow, with Joe Cocker on the stereo and a willowy hostess who was casually embracing each arriving party-goer, as if she were giving a hands-on definition of the word "lithe." We hadn't been there very long, when a loud shouts and the sounds of things crashing were heard from the kitchen. A fight. We barely knew these people, we made for the front door. When we were out on the sidewalk, the screen door exploded, a young wild man, fists flailing and feet kicking, was smashing anything he could, he truly had the demeanor of a Berserker.

We went to a nearby friends house, where things were somewhat more civilized. He was dieting to escape the draft, nibbling on sunflower seeds to stave off hunger pangs. He had a strange gleam in his eye as well- but the "high" of a fasting person is a whole 'nother realm from that of a maniac.

We went back to the party house after a while. My friend had a large bag that she had left behind, in it were some beads (I know, Hippie Beads, right? Well it was 1970, after all!) that had been taken. Evidently the Berserker was a distraction so his buddies could steal what ever they could get their hands on. Saturday night in "The Jungle" where the excitement never ended; and where, by day, the vacuum cleaner and encyclopedia salesmen would also be on the prowl.




Comments: 2


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Burn, Baby, Burn!

When a gulf coast storm moves inland to the north, we in Minnesota usually get a fair amount of rain, and always receive a big ol' helpin' o' Southern Humidity. Such conditions greeted me this evening on my after-supper "constitutional". The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife, it looked like smoke- it even smelled as if someone was burning trash, and by golly, there was! Just down the street some thoughtless soul thought this would be a good night to get rid of some trash, neighbors' lungs be dammed. There were dull orange flames (Roofing shingles? Tires? Industrial chemicals?) shooting high into the sky. As I approached, I saw two small children in the yard, dancing around this inferno. Getting still closer, I heard the youngsters coughing, and then saw them go into the house. And so the fire continued, unabated and unattended. I went home and called the Fire Department. They said they'd "look into it", as they always say, but seldom do. Later on, the fire had burned down enough that the whole city wasn't reeking, and life returned to normal.

But I'm still burning.

Oh, if you are wondering why I didn't knock on the door of the offending house. Y'all just don't do that after dark here in Freedomland, where there may be another type of "firepower" waiting for you, behind the door.




Comments: 0


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Man

She's got her man now, after years of waiting, wondering, trying too hard or not trying at all. And how easily it happened; one day you were alone, the next day, you weren't. And the laughs were good, and the love was pure. Just like that. Smiles all around. If it has been this good for this long already, what would a life time be worth? It's just a little longer.

Congratulations!




Comments: 1


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Start At The Beginning

Not always. Most well-defined creative projects (making a picture, an art work, writing a story or novel) usually, but not always, benefit from starting at the end and working backwards. Working with other people's image files all day, I am constantly amazed at how many people don't actually have any idea what they want to end up with. I'll be handed a square format image, and be instructed to: "make it a 16x20, but don't crop anything out." With the advent of the "four-thirds" format in digital cameras, none of the traditional print sizes fit the new cameras. Which is OK, IF you specify a crop, or figure out a size that does fit (multiply the short dimension by 1.33 or the long dimension by .75 to find a size that matches your format.) You were sick that day during math class in grade school? For three years? Try a calculator!

Of course I could cheat and stretch the image digitally (not recommended), or even "clone in" some extra sky or background to fill in a blank space (done far more often than is admitted to.) In the end, my job is to make people happy. So I start there on my tasks, and work backward.

Of course, you can just start some projects to see what will happen. But that would be play, not work, sort of like blogging?




Comments: 3


Monday, August 20, 2007

Mona Lisa Overdone?

The new header is here, courtesy of the font "Mona Lisa Solid ITC TT", with a little massaging in Photoshop. Now if I could just remember what it was I did to get that "Neon Marquee" look...




Comments: 5


Friday, August 17, 2007

Summer Crunch

This is it. The End of Summer. The carefree, frolicing, life-with-nary-a-care time is over. Everything is now on a schedule, THINGS MUST BE SEEN TO. All of the summer plans have to be acted on. NOW. With two family events this week-end (the crown of pater familia weighs heavy on my head) and the Minnesota State Fair NEXT weekend, and an eye exam the Monday after that, and then Labor Day week-end, (with the emphasis on LABOR) and then back-to school (not for me, personally, but traffic will be worse!)...

help.




Comments: 4


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Twinned.

We are refugees
From a war only we saw,
Skinny limbs curled around one
Another as though,
Just a little more warmth
Might be had
From two than one.

We are opening our eyes
And seeing the hope of
A returning.
We are slowly,
Slowly uncurling and
Remembering how to be
Two people.

Do you feel as I do,
Drunken off deception,
Pretending I am standing
Just fine
Alone.

Do you reel as I do,
Dizzy from destruction,
Pretending it wasn't me
Spending nights
Alone.

We are slowly growing borders
Between where one person
Ends and another begins,
Letting me breathe,
On my own,

We are slowly learning to
See one another as people
Do, eye to eye from
Far enough away you aren't
A blur of color and motion,
Making me faintly sick
In your abstraction.

We are slowly becoming two,
Who maybe, just maybe,
Might be able to love
As people do.




Comments: 1


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

August 15th, 1947

"Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny. At the stroke of the midnight hour, while the world sleeps, India will awaken to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance."-Jawaharlal Nehru, to the Indian constituent assembly, on the eve of Indian independence.
"I hate Indians... They are a beastly people with a beastly religion."
-Winston Churchill
Ostensibly the end of the British Empire, at least on a massive scale, the Independence of India, (and Pakistan, on the same date) set the stage for much of the modern conflict in the Middle East and Asia. England's "divide and conquer" strategy for ruling the Asian subcontinent had already increased antagonism between groups; its refusal to recognize small ethnic cultures inflamed conflicts which are still active. In the power void immediately after independence, chaos reigned, with the British protecting only themselves.

The current state of India is just as complex as ever, and it has become a major international power politically, economically and culturally. It may already be the largest English-speaking country in the world. On this, the 60th anniversary of its independence, I salute you and your people, on your achievements and your future!


Quotes from The New Yorker article "Exit Wounds", by Pankaj Mishra, August 13, 2007




Comments: 1


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Stormy Weather

Monday night... Another big storm headed our way, and those sirens are going off again... Time to head for the basement... be back later with an update- I hope!

UPDATE: Missed us, Ma Nature! Ha, ha....

UPDATE: Another storm headed our way...

UPDATE: This one won't miss...

UPDATE: I'm wondering why I live here- our city's high school nickname is "The Tornados"

UPDATE: Raining again...

UPDATE: "If I should die before I wake..."

I give up. I'm going to bed. Fatalism Is The Key.




Comments: 1


Monday, August 13, 2007

Night Rider

so the aurora was hopping- at least above hudson's bay- as i headed north to escape the city lights and the summer heat, getting about ten miles out of town but no northern lights just the heat lightning dancing over lake millacs with some clouds coming in so there goes my chance; auður said they only come when its cold but i said it just has to be dark she looked at me as if i was jiving her but one august night on lake lida the lights were pouring down from the zenith and all around and that wasn't the only time i saw them but time is running out now, summer is over six weeks from when the crickets start chirping- that's what old martha used to say until they found her sitting at her kitchen table with her voice stilled by a stroke and they took her away and it was summer then, the summer after we came home from iceland the first time and found her standing in her back yard with fire all around her; jimmy from inverness was with us quite bewildered by it all and the next day jimmy and I drove up to alexandria to visit the kensington runestone and it was real; people coming from europe a hundred years or more before columbus and later the indians moved the stone down the very river i'm driving over and then down to falls of st. anthony where there are still people under the concrete and the water and then up the minnesota river to a sacred hill top where it slept until olof öhman dug it up, or so the story goes...




Comments: 0


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Power Trip

"Never forecast rain in a drought" - Old weatherman's proverb.

Friday night/Saturday morning was peculiar, to say the least. After fighting a summer cold for a couple of days, I finally succumbed in complete defeat. I was home alone, and, as usual, my fancies turned frightful in my solitude. I folded up on the couch in the screen porch with a box of Kleenex, whimpering, gushing a torrent of acidic nasal discharges. There had been showers forecast, but they had been forecast before, usually going North or South of my barren quarter-acre.

I dozed fitfully until about 3:00 a.m., until the thunder became more or less continuous and the sky was full of spectacular branching lightning strokes. This went on for a half hour or more, still no rain.

And then the rains came, Biblical in scope, the streets rapidly filling with rushing water. I turned on the TV, one channel had a lonely announcer in a half-darkened studio, giving us the story, until a "squee-pop" came from the set. The power was out.

Now those of us living in storm country have learned a drill about power outages- get a flashlight, (my MacBook screen is actually pretty bright) unplug sensitive appliances and most importantly, monitor foods in the refrigerator for thawing. Well, the power had already been out for several minutes when I remembered that there was a half-full carton of Dove™ chocolate ice cream in the freezer. Thank God it wasn't spoiled.

So I stayed up, writing in a sugar-sudafed-chocolate coma (see tomorrow's post) until the power was restored a half hour later.




Comments: 2


Friday, August 10, 2007

Behind That Door...

THERE ARE STRANGE... NEW... WONDERFUL THINGS...

behind that door...

THERE ARE QUESTIONS... ANSWERS... REWARDS...

behind that door...

THERE ARE KINGDOMS... EMPIRES... DYNASTIES...

behind that door...

THERE IS STIMULATION... CLIMAX... RELEASE...

behind that door...

THERE IS JOY... SOLACE... FULFILLMENT...

all this, and more...

THERE IS BETRAYAL... ANGUISH... DEATH...

behind that door...

THERE IS EVWERYTHING YOU DESIRE...

behind that door...




Comments: 0


Thursday, August 09, 2007

All Politics Is Local

It was Neighborhood Night Out on Tuesday, where the sociable among the locals meet at someone's front yard with food and drink and get to know each other a bit. Hizzoner the mayor was there (he lives next door) and I got a chance to talk to many of the people I see as I stroll by on my nightly constitutionals. The big buzz this year was the "spruce up the city campaign" or what ever it's called. I've been doing my part, God knows, with shingles, caulk and paint. The couple hosting the event were "busted" for not having their 1 inch wide molding painted (which surrounded three windows.) The windows themselves had been newly replaced and the couple were waiting to finish some other projects before doing all the painting at one time. "Court Action or Fines are possible!" said the notice. Someone at City Hall (but not the mayor, thank goodness!) has a problem of perspective.

This is in a State whose leaders (who carried this city in recent elections) are so parsimonious as to deny a gas tax increase (equivalent to about the price of one cup of coffee per week per motorist) which would have provided enough money to have prevented motorists from crashing to their deaths into the Mississippi River.

But that was last week's news. The school bus full of kids missed becoming a fiery inferno, or being squished under tons of concrete, or coming to rest on the bottom of the river by a second or two. That was "lucky." There has been money appropriated by Congress to replace the fallen bridge, but a proposal for a national gasoline tax increase to prevent this from happening again and again, is already being opposed vigorously. The Alaskan "bridge to nowhere" is proceeding apace, for about the same amount of money. A special session in the State has been proposed to deal with "transportation issues." I'm not holding my breath on any results from that one. But let a few strips of wood sit for a few days without paint- that kind of negligence we'll dispatch with prejudice!




Comments: 3


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Pick-up Artists

... No! not the Oliver Hardy tie twirling bit! And it's working!

"Good evening ladies, and good night 'gentlemen.' We'll see you guys later... "

The standard operating procedure for the band members' post-gig was to involve some sort of pick-up attempt, whether merely symbolic or involving an actual consummation. Most of the guys in the group were taken so that left the job to Billy and Tom, confirmed bachelors. We were in an all-night truck stop just outside of Elk River, Minnesota, regrouping after having played for peanuts at a lakeside resort further north. This time the boys got "lucky." The girls had a hot car and a wild streak to match. A few days later Billy and Tom showed up, none the worse for the experience, despite having to hitch-hike over 30 miles to get home. They said that their "close encounter" ended with the four of them parked near a cesspool and that "those girls were swallowing ugly pills by the minute."

That was about as detailed a description we ever got from those two would-be Romeos, although after a night of playing, smoking and drinking the same description of them could have come from the girls as well.

Who says youth is wasted on the young?

Or was it: "The young are wasted in their youth?"




Comments: 2


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Perennial Philosopher

The world is an illusion, but it is an illusion that we must take seriously, because it is as real as far as it goes, and in those aspects of reality which we are capable of apprehending. Our business is to wake up. We have to find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the one illusionary part which our self-centred consciousness permits us to see. We must not live thoughtlessly, taking our illusion for the complete reality, but at the same time we must not live too thoughtfully in the sense of trying to escape the dream state. We must continually be on our watch for ways in which we may enlarge our consciousness. We must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform and transfigure it. Too much 'wisdom' is as bad as too little wisdom, and there must be no magic tricks. We must learn to come to reality without the enchanter's wand and his book of the words. One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it. A way of living in time without being swallowed up in time.

-Aldous Huxley, on his deathbed.


If there were ever a person who might be called my mentor, it would have to be Aldous Huxley, novelist, essayist and life-long searcher for human fulfillment and consciousness. Now primarily remembered for his dystopia Brave New World and his exploration of "psychedelic" drugs (he coined the phrase), Huxley's open-mindedness was in stark contrast to the ideologues of the thirties, forties, fifties and early sixties. Had he lived (he died on the same day that JFK was shot) to see the wretched excess of the late sixties and seventies, he no doubt would have had a clear vision of that "Brave New World" as well.

Personally, I found in his writings a sense that was all right to be an intellectual. From the perspective of my blue-collar upbringing, this filled a big gap in my education. Later on, in my twenties and early thirties, I lost the thread Huxley had spun, and suffered the consequences from being "comfortably numb."




Comments: 1


Monday, August 06, 2007

Kool-Aid Stand

               

Take some water, sugar, citric acid, artificial flavors and colors. Add a warm day, a few kids, a bag of ice and a card table and you have a summer Kool-Aid stand. This little bit of traditional Americana has been under assault from crime, suburban sprawl, organized recreation and video games; it still exists however- at least it does in my hometown.

25¢ a glass.

Cherry.

Delicious.




Comments: 0


Friday, August 03, 2007

Memo:

RE: Subliminal Advertising in Internet Media

TO: P. Batty, Flippism is the Key

FROM: R.Murdoch, CEO, Fox News

Batty, old bean! Thanks for the prime position of our logo on yesterday's post! It's "viral" marketing like that which will ensure our complete media domination. Now that I own The Wall Street Journal, there will only be a handful of renegade "bloggers" that stand in the way of "The Truth" as I see it. Your check will arrive within three business days. Keep up the good work...

RM




Comments: 1


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Unthinkable


Every parent's worst nightmare, played out on TV. The I-35 Interstate Highway bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed last night, throwing 50 cars into the water from a height of 64 feet, as it suddenly self-destructed during rush hour. The children on the school bus were all rescued, but there have been reports of six fatalities, with dozens of injured. There will certainly be more deaths as the recovery efforts continue.


This is a big bridge, in the center of Minneapolis, with over 150,000 cars using it every day. The implications of this event will be profound. Until engineering reports come in, it is hard to say exactly what went wrong, but it was definitely some sort of structural failure.

The bigger failure is in the transportation system, a system that has been starved for funds for years, with an administration proud of its attempts to short-change the State of Minnesota. There has been talk of raising the gas tax. In Minnesota, it is a fixed tax, not a percentage. It hasn't been adjusted in twenty years, with the result that it is actually near the lowest percentage of all time. The position of State Commissioner of Transportation is currently a part-time job, held by the lieutenant governor.

You get what you pay for.

UPDATE: Some further thoughts on this from an expert.




Comments: 5


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Magazine Lady

She was tall, 6' 2" at least. She had been a model and she even had a few Vogue covers in her portfolio. What she was doing at a crooked diploma mill, studying Radio-TV broadcasting was anyone's guess. I had taken the job of "Technical Associate" which meant I was an unwilling "Smithers" to a man who was at least as evil as "Mr. Burns."

This statuesque model and I shared up a few conversations- she liked to talk- about Jesus mostly, but her Jesus was a "media" Jesus. I introduced her to The Soul Stirrers and Sam Cooke. This was a different sort of Jesus for her, although she responded warmly.

She had a financial angel who footed the bill for her tuition, later on I saw promotional photos of him with her. He was over twice her age and had the look of a failed lawyer about him. They were starting up a gospel broadcasting network and she filled the role of a photogenic spokesperson quite nicely. Where she is now, and what success she's had is unknown to me. There are several big media churches operating out of Minnesota, there's even the headquarters of Eckankar located near Prince's Paisley Park. So perhaps the Magazine Lady did all right. Her benefactor would be in his Nineties by now, whereas she would just be in her late forties- with her genes she could still command attention. When I was younger I wrestled with theology. From the looks of things today, I should have gone into media production in my quest to get closer to God.




Comments: 1