Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ruins of Anoka- #2. The Giddings Gazebo

Thaddeus P. Giddings built three of these structures on the banks of central Minnesota's Rum River. He used them as a practice space- he was a noted music educator in the early twentieth century. Giddings was also responsible for the ampitheater, also in ruins. This is the only gazebo still standing, and it remains a pleasant place to visit being only a foot or two above the water (and quite inundated during the spring floods) with a beautiful willow tree shading it. At night it becomes a magical castle, with imagined færies and water-sprites cavorting in its inky shadows.




Comments: 1


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pretzel Logic


This Friday will be the one year anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The former head of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau (not an engineer) was forced to cede her position by the legislature, against the wishes of our Governor, Tim Pawlenty.

Tim Pawlenty vetoed (later overridden) a small increase in the state gas tax which was intended to supply more money to fix bridges and roadways in Minnesota.

President Bush has vowed to veto a one billion dollar bill to rebuild "structurally deficient" bridges in the country, saying "it's too expensive."

In a few weeks, the Republican National Convention will open in St. Paul.

The presumptive nominee, John McCain, has vowed to stay in Iraq "a long time."

It costs about a billion dollars a day to occupy Iraq.

Tim Pawlenty is on the short list for the Vice-Presidential nomination.



Last weekend a thousand pound slab of concrete fell from a 35E bridge overpass, hitting one car and shutting down the freeway for hours.




Comments: 3


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Milestones In Haberdashery - The Setwell Hanger

   In the history of mankind clothing was, from its earliest eras, a distinguishing hallmark that separated man from the lesser beasts. Traditionally, pants were the one iconic piece of clothing that signified masculinity. This state of affairs has changed somewhat in recent years, but one need not look any further than the universal sign for "The Men's Room" to see how that imagery still persists. One problem remained, however. In order to maintain a man's trousers in a state of tidy readiness various remedies were tried and all were found wanting.

   Enter the Setwell pants hanger: Patented on April 24th, 1934 by F.K. Deknatel, The Setwell is a must-have for men of style and fashion. True, there have been numerous knock-offs of this classic, but one only has to compare them to the original to see how superior it still remains.


   The keen-eyed observer will no doubt notice the suit-grade flannel (#11) or the precision roller bearing (#20), or the piece de resistance: the tempered spring (#22) which opens the hanger automatically, with minimal effort, yet holds the jaws tight when closed.

   Fashions may come and go, empires may rise and then fall, even the mightiest of mountains will someday return to the sea, but a well-hung pair of trousers will
remain the standard by which mankind is judged.




Comments: 17


Monday, July 28, 2008

The Goddess

"What song the Sirens sang?" ~Sir Thomas Browne























Cronos Odysseus, steer your boat
Toward Silver Island whence we sing:
Here you shall pass your days.

Through a thick-growing alder-wood
We clearly see, but are not seen,
Hid in a golden haze.

Our hair the hue of barley sheaf,
Our eyes the hue of blackbird's egg,
Our cheeks like asphodel.

Here nothing ill or harsh is found,
Cronos Odysseus, steer your boat
Across these placid straits.

A starry crown awaits your head,
A hero feast is spread for you:
Swineflesh, milk and mead.


~Homer, the Odyssey

You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.
Dancing queen, feel the beat, from the tambourine.
You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen.


~Abba, Dancing Queen

Throughout history there has always been a feminine undercurrent in the great
myths and legends. The English poet Robert Graves named it "The White Goddess"; a large body of speculative and interpretive literature has been written about the subject since the 1948 publication of Graves' still-controversial thesis.

Mamma Mia! is the new movie musical derived from the successful London stage production, a modern classic of "juke-box opera" featuring the music of the Swedish supergroup ABBA. As I watched it, I was struck at how much mythology could be read into it. Single women, powerful women all, enchanting and seducing men, not from a point of needy weakness, but rather from the acceptance of all that life has to offer, with men being a just a part (and not an absolutely crucial one) of it. The casting of the women's roles is wonderful, with Meryl Streep every bit the Goddess. She is in charge of a falling down hotel with a cracking tile piazza which may be situated over Aphrodite's legendary spring. The men are there as comic relief and to propel the plot, they are not given the strongest roles. This is a pop-culture musical about women, not a patriarchal high drama. All the action takes place on a beautiful island in Greece, with just about as much sun, sea and beautiful scenery that one can stand.

The plot, which is actually pretty well developed as such things go, involves Donna's (Streep) daughter Sophie's (Amanda Seyfried) pending wedding and her invitation of three of her mother's old lovers- one of which is the father. This is a film about women's relationships, and as such it gives plenty of opportunity for joys, tears, and reconciliation.

Which leaves the music.

ABBA: Which side are you on? Did their poppy-disco hits drive you to dance, or drive you insane? They never made a big impression on me, and this film's weakest link is, I think, the Abba songs themselves. It is a tribute to everyone involved that such an enjoyable movie could be made from such inconsequential fluff. It is rare that a film musical's weakest link is the music (although I must confess, I never saw Xanadu.) My only fear is a rash of seventies-rock operetta remakes- The Who's Tommy being a good warning example of one not to remake.




Comments: 5


Friday, July 25, 2008

The Melancholy Quotient

Bill Holm

                                             The Windows Of Brimnes

                                                     An American In Iceland



This book of essays by the Minnesota writer Bill Holm is poetic, angry and sad.

Poetic in its stories, poetic in its language, and poetic in its vision. It is firstly and foremost an effort to tie together the meaning of the Icelandic diaspora with Bill's own family and his personal history. These essays touch upon his youth, illuminate Iceland and its history, and bring to vivid life the people and places he has come to know while living in his small summer-house in Hofsós on the northern coast. Covering some of the same themes as his earlier book Eccentric Islands, this book is more personal.

It is a book that is angry with the America of venality, political immorality, and wasted opportunity; and also angry with Iceland and its rush to industrialize - "The stink of money" is the way Bill's father put it. There is enough vitriol here for another, different kind of book, but that book would not be nearly as rewarding as this one.

And it is a sad book, as is any book with tales of fading memories, descriptions of photos of departed ancestors, and a perspective of one's own life that is looking backwards, not forward. There is joy to be found here as well- joy in music, in friendship, in nature- an overall joy of life. But there is, on balance, more sadness; it is the same sadness that creeps in like a fog to envelop each of us as we get older and approach our own final chapters.


For another view of this book, check out Rose´s Windows of Brimnes blog post.




Comments: 9


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Höpsismi


This Finnish Wikipedia entry gives a nod to the the efforts of yours truly- the unreliable narrator of this fractured archive:

"Höpsismi (engl. flipism) on innoittanut myös muita taiteenlajeja: 1970- ja 1980-luvuilla on ollut levy-yhtiö Flippist Record Minneapolisissa Minnesotassa.[4]"
with this foot note:
4.↑ Flippism is the Key

I wonder if that is a good sign, or a sign that I may have gone too far?

Or if Lab Munkay's Finnish connections helped any?

Or could it be phase three of Batty's plan for world domination?

Here is the site in English...




Comments: 3


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Things We Used To Have To Do


A thorough house-cleaning unearthed this now obsolete relic from the not-so-distant past. A sheet of Chartpak™ (siimilar to Letraset™) rub-on letters. Prior to computers typography, every layout artist had drawers and drawers of this stuff, for that line or two of type that wasn't in the phototypesetter's font collection. The picture looks as if I'm trying to "install" the sheet on my MacBook. The font, Rustikalis Modernized Gothic, would be pretty cool to have- there are some newer variations available- but I fear this exact one now exists only in type specimen books. The rub-on letters have found a niche in the craft market, and you can even get a film to print your own designs on in your home ink-jet printer. I tried to use this sheet, but it was far too old, the letters had dried on permanently.




Comments: 5


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Neil Young's 100 M.P.G. Gamble


                        ... They arrested me and they put me in jail
                        And called my pappy to throw my bail
                        He said, "Son, you're gonna' drive me to drinkin'
                        If you don't stop drivin' that Hot Rod Lincoln!"
                        Hot Rod Lincoln~ Charlie Ryan

Neil Young, "The Godfather of Grunge", has been making the talk-show circuit as of late with a new movie to plug and a plan to convert his 10 mpg 1959 Lincoln Continental into a 100 mpg "green machine."

Whether his classic 19 foot long hybrid-electric is up to the challenge remains to be seen, but his thoughts are in the right direction. If we used one fifth of the fuel we currently consume (average mileage 20 mpg) there would be not much of an energy crisis, no war in Iraq, and probably a healthier atmosphere. It has been pretty obvious that the automotive industry and 28 years of governmental inaction has completely missed the boat on this "crisis" and we are now reaping the just desserts of that short-sightedness. It's like Charlie Ryan and his hot rod: our lust for big fast cars has imprisoned all of us in a pointless cycle of consumption. In ten years 100 mpg will the the norm, with 200+ pushing the envelope.

But perhaps not in a 5200 pound car. A 1000 lb car (600 pounds vehicle + 200 pounds Battery/fuel cell + 200 pound passenger) should be able to easily reach that goal. This won't necessarily be at 75 miles per hour (although there should be trains that go at least twice that fast.)

What's the chance of all this happening with the current NASCAR-ROAD RAGE-OUT OF MY WAY-HURRY UP AND STOP mentality of most drivers?

100%.

Why?

BECAUSE THERE ARE NO ALTERNATIVES!

Keep on rockin' in the free world Neil; you're on the right track.




Comments: 5


Monday, July 21, 2008

Dreaming of Iceland

HotspringsKrysuvik, Reykjanesfólkvangur

It happens almost every night now. I dream that I'm back in Iceland, wandering about the countryside, looking for something in the city, checking in to a hotel or guest house, being lost in crowds (because it is Iceland they are small crowds) and generally filled with a sense of longing. I have no current plans for any Icelandic trips other than a very vague possibility of one in October, 2010 (if Icelandairwaves is still going- like almost everyone they're having cash-flow problems.)

So what's up with these "night visitors?" I would have thought they would have stopped by now, or at least become very infrequent. There is no Icelandic book or movie that I've read or seen recently (Journey to the Center of the Earth hardly counts) and I've even avoided Sigur Rós' latest release (although I did take a peek at their nudie video.)

Perhaps it is time for a "Dream Diary" on my bedside nightstand- although when I've tried that trick before everything I wrote was illegible gibberish- somewhat like this blog!




Comments: 7


Friday, July 18, 2008

One Quarter and One Half

grandfatherPhoto by Oscar Anderson, circa 1920

My late grandfather (on the right) and I have about 25% of our genes in common. This photo was taken when he was about half my age. Looking back at yourself-not-yourself through an old photograph is, for me, strangely calming. Here is a man, part of me, looking ahead in life, looking forward to what I've already left behind. The life of a farmer/laborer during the twenties and thirties was not exactly trend-setting. A semi-skilled worker, a man without pretense, but an honest man. A man of the 19th century, who lived long enough to find himself out-dated in a world that had rapidly changed.

But those genes! Even with a diet of white bread and Snüs he lived well beyond his expectancy- the blessing/curse of most Scandinavians. "Too dumb to know when to die" I've heard it said, but the fact remains that the "three-score and ten" rule is, barring calamity, about 20-30% low for this ethnic group. It makes planning one's estate especially daunting.

Here's to you Charlie Aaron! And to your pal in the photo (with that jaunty hat it might well be "Poker Charlie".) And here's to you, my great-uncle Oscar, the family ne'er-do-well, whose pictures are all that remain of that fine summer's day, so many, many years ago.




Comments: 2


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Loring Park Girls


Loring park is Minneapolis' answer to New York City's Central park. Proportionally smaller, it still occupies several square blocks (including a pond) in downtown Minneapolis. In the late 60's it hadn't yet reached the pinnacle of its notoriety but even then it was a place best to be avoided after dark. There was the Salvation Army home for unwed mothers next to it, a funky "junior college" and many apartments around its perimeter. Its reputation as a gay cruising spot was (and is) completely warranted.
At the time there were kids who played there, kids on their own, doing kid stuff like using the swings, playing hopscotch, and like the girls above even doing a little dress-up role-playing. When we at the college used the park for impromptu photo sessions these kids would insist on getting in on the action.

The park has made a comeback since then, The Walker Art Center's Sculpture garden is connected to it and the once humble "JC" is now a mammoth community college- Loring has become a "Quad" to it. These girls are in their late 40's now, I wonder if they ever "play" in this park now?




Comments: 1


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

For Annie, Whose Heart Was Broken

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in 68,
And he told me:
All romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe

You laugh, he said, you think you're immune.
Go look at your eyes they're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies

Pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies?
Only pretty lies
Just pretty lies

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer
And he pushed three buttons and the thing began to whir
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie and she said
Drink up now its getting on time to close

Richard you haven't really changed, I said
Its just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head
You got tombs in your eyes, but the songs you punched are dreaming
Listen; they sing of love so sweet

Love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh love can be so sweet,
Love so sweet

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright

I'm gonna blow this damn candle out
I don't want nobody coming over to my table I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hiding behind bottles in dark cafes

Dark cafes
Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away
Only a phase
These dark cafe days


~Joni Mitchell, The Last Time I Saw Richard




Comments: 3


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ruin


The amphitheater in ruins
A rare relic in our town
Built in better times
Before the war- the big war
The war to end all wars
We were looking forward then
Art and Culture- then every citizen's birthright
Now, just a jumble of concrete
On an inexorable slide into the river
Gardens planted around it
As if their petals could halt the decay
A preservation society has raised thousands
When it needs millions
Once we thought it was important
Now we have other priorities
Other building projects
In other countries
Other ruins




Comments: 1


Monday, July 14, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Cineplex

I just had to do it.

I went to see the current incarnation of Jules Verne's The Journey to the Center of the Earth at my local cineplex, and in case you didn't notice it's The glasses are a little better, but it is still the same cheesy effect. Having the sleepy-eyed Brendan Fraser in the lead role didn't help it any. They did have the attractive Anita Briem as the capable Icelandic guide (although they gave her a boy's last name- does anyone even look at these scripts?) and some nice helicopter scenes of the Icelandic countryside. Once you got into the caves that led to the center of the earth it was lots and lots of falling and THINGS COMIN' AT YA!This really isn't a movie, it is a virtual roller coaster ride.
The 1959 version, with James Mason and Pat Boone(!) was better in two dimensions than this one was.




Comments: 7


Friday, July 11, 2008

Bell Curve


So the preparations for my 40 year high school reunion (next October) have started to pick up speed. The weekly "sports page" updates of those who have passed beyond the mortal veil continues as well. Last week it was a girl who had been my biggest crush in first grade.

This week it was a list of the departed with the dates of their deaths.

A little quick tabulation showed that the attrition rate has been increasing at an exponential rate. It will slow down again after 80, when most of us will be already gone.

The middle years, the "normal years" drifted by with only distant thoughts of mortality. Those thoughts are here now, with an immediacy that is breath-taking.




Comments: 0


Thursday, July 10, 2008

(   )



                              sitting in the gathering dusk with Sigur Rós on the stereo

                              the sounds of the children at play on the street diminish

                              a day, a week, spent in mild frustration

                              Jónsi's falsetto shapes the shadows

                              another day, another year

                              rolling by faster now

                              take pause

                              (  )




Comments: 4


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Ultimate in Summer Blockbusters

Wanted- Kung Fu Wall-e and the City of the Smart Crystal,
or,
Dark Hancock: An American Girl's Journey to Her Hulk's Mummy


The heartwarming story of a martial arts robot seeking sex and Mayan antiquities who finds his efforts thwarted by a super-human homeless 10 year old girl during a race to the center of Gotham city's shopping district. Indiana Zohan, a harlequin hairdresser, sings Abba songs while wrapped in gauze in this depression-era comedy/thriller set in outer space. With Bob Balaban as "Carrie." Rated PG, now playing in theaters everywhere...




Comments: 1


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Using Another's Toothbrush

Blogging from a Vista-equipped PC tonight. The inner sanctum of Flippist World Headquarters has been invaded by hostile forces, so in the name of domestic harmony I've expanded my desk so that there are "dueling keyboards"- my MacBook and the Weaver's Toshiba laptop are now back to back. After resolving some technical difficulties (a bad USB cable) that required me to use the dreaded Microsoft operating system, I thought I would, in the name of fairness, post from "the dark side" tonight.

Yuck.

Everything on the keyboard is about a quarter-inch off, there are about a jillion "task bars" that cut into the dispay space, the images are coarser, the type is poorly kerned and my thumb keeps hitting the 2nd button, the one that brings up the copy-paste-delete options.

And it's hot! (As in roasting, not as in sexy)

The killer is IE, however. Life is too short for that kind of foolishness. That situation will change. Firefox here we come.




Comments: 2


Monday, July 07, 2008

The Lake


... I began to understand why people said of the lake there's no end to it, when of course, as I always thought, it was bounded by rocks. But there were rivers flowing in and flowing out, secret currents, six kinds of weather working on the surface and a hidden terrain underneath. Each wave washed in from somewhere unseen and washed right out again to go somewhere unknown...
~Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves

Spending a weekend at what we Midwesterners call "The Lake" can be most sublime, or just plain ridiculous. "The Lake" is a concept, a fictional conceit, a mass delusion. Wilderness trekkers aside, the Modern Idea of "The Lake" is a home away from home, in fact, just like home, except that instead of streets and parks, there is a body of water. "The Lake" used to be a humble cabin, with a rickety dock amidst the reeds, a place where Nature was unchallenged, visitors were few and respectful. Somewhere along the line the experience became another form of consumerism, of display, with noisy and smelly machines churning the aqueous mirror, shattering the silence and destroying the shoreline habitat. Not much sustenance for the mystic poet here: Walden be dammed.

Last weekend was not completely misspent, however, for I read the latest book from Louise Erdrich, who is by now some sort of patron saint of Minnesota-North Dakota literature. The Plague of Doves is her twelfth novel, a glorious mash of small town secrets and passion. All of her books are great- if you're interested in starting a relationship with a new author her novel Tracks would be a good place to begin but feel free to dive right in if you happen across any of these other titles:
Love Medicine
The Beet Queen
The Bingo Palace
Tales of Burning Love
The Antelope Wife
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
The Master Butchers Singing Club
Four Souls
The Painted Drum

and
The Crown of Columbus (with Michael Dorris)




Comments: 3


Friday, July 04, 2008

Graffiti Bridge

Life on the Mississippi, part 5


The taggers' handiwork under the bridge lets you know that you are back in civilization.


The Love Boat- three horsepower version.



And like all trips, this one has reached its end.




Comments: 2


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Trailers

Life on the Mississippi, part 4



Different strokes for different folks.




Comments: 0


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Real Fun Guy

Life on the Mississippi - part 3


There's nothing quite like paddling down an unexplored backwater...


Modeling the latest in outdoor wear, P. Batty displays his svelte figure with a diaphanous set of anti-mosquito togs, frosted vinyl and camo green nylon mesh...


The local fungi puts on its own style show with this brilliant yellow frock...




Comments: 2


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Yes Nukes

Life on the Mississippi- Part Two


We tried our luck at fishin', but we saw more fission:


That's the big nuclear power plant, near Monticello Minnesota. We stopped on a sandy beach across from the reactor building. We didn't catch "Blinky", the three-eyed fish from The Simpsons, but Homer and Lenny were there- out on a donut break and giving us the old stink-eye:


Even bigger than the nuke was the coal burning power plant:



Pick your poison.




Comments: 0