Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ride Is Over



So; the dream-world of easy money seems to be ending.

No matter how hard one tries to believe that it is a reality, a dream remains a dream.
Now we all must pay, or so we are told. To those of us watching our retirement investments diminishing by $10,000 a day, it is fast becoming a nightmare. It may bounce back, it may not. When Enron collapsed there was much tut-tutting among the money merchants. Nothing has changed; we repeat the cycle over and over with the intervals becoming more frequent and more severe. Let us not despair, at least not yet. Life will go on, we will adapt, and maybe, just maybe, things will change. In the words of the spoken recitation from the old standard I Cried for You...
...Life is just an idiot's delight
And as I speed through the dark night
Into the abyss of oblivion
I can only say thanks!
Thanks for the memories...


~Arthur Freed


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Monday, September 29, 2008

Look At Me

Look at me

Look at me

I can sing

I can dance

Look at me

Look at me

A big girl now

But still your little girl

Look at me

Look at me

Daddy


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Women

Two Women

Two icons of the "counter-culture" revolution that started in the sixties were both named Robert- the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and the artist R. Crumb. Both have been the subject of cultish fandom, both have continued to be productive into what would be the retirement years for many people. And both have had vital, artistic women in their lives, women who have recently released their memoirs: Need More Love, by Aline Kominsky Crumb, and A Freewheelin' Time, by Suze Rotolo.

Aline Kominsky Crumb, a few years younger than Suze but sharing a New York upbringing, is an artist and cartoonist. Her story, benefiting from the graphic novel medium, is as colorful and vibrant as her illustrations and artwork. This is not a book for the prudish or judgmental. ALL of the excesses of the sixties and seventies are here, some graphically illustrated (although the rawest x-rated comics are not included.) She was a true pioneer in "Wimmin's Comix", although her most famous work was done in collaboration with her husband. Those comics, mostly about mundane domestic situations, contain some of the most accurate and pithy examinations of the interaction between male and female psyches ever written. The story of their "open" relationship, mutual admiration, and subsequent family life which is told in this memoir is truly unique. Aline's unbridled vitality is nothing short of astounding.

Suze Rotolo was the main woman in Dylan's life as he made the rapid transition from scrabbling folkie into musical legend. Suze was a "Red Diaper" baby, the child of communist sympathizers, politically aware (participating in civil rights demonstrations as a teen-ager) and active in the performing arts (exposing Bob to modern drama) and remains a part of the Greenwich Village scene to this day. Her life story is a fascinating study of the times of the protest movement, with many vignettes of colorful artists and musicians. It is written in a plain style, almost bloodless, more a list at times than a memoir. Her slow-motion break-up with Bob in 1964 is told and while her heartbreak is hinted at it is not deeply developed. Her book ends in 1966 but there is just enough here to make it worth your while if you are a student of those times.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Soliloquy



We had been hiking in and around the Jay Cooke State Park, near Duluth Minnesota. Our path led to the Old Thompson Cemetery, almost abandoned and unused for over a hundred years, with those buried there all but forgotten. Only a few headstones remained upright; another dozen or so lay in pieces, slowly sinking into the prairie. The birds were singing all around us. The sky was blue and the air was fresh and sweet. This double grave seemed especially poignant, two lives cut short before they had even really begun. Epidemics were common then, Scarlett Fever, Influenza, Diphtheria and Whooping Cough took many. These children are gone now, but a bit of beauty remains in this organic composition of stone and grass. A soliloquy came to mind, I dedicate it now to Lida and Emma, who died within a few days of each other in the spring of 1882.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?


-E.Y. Harburg


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blog Tired

must get sleep...

can't blog...

eyes closing...

zzzzzzz...

(dreaming...)

"Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the next president of the United States..."






















... and then I woke up!


By Professor Batty




Comments: 4



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Icelandic Cinema and Me

There have been a number of notable films with strong connections to Iceland in the last few years.
The IMDb lists 302 titles in its Iceland section. I'll be giving a short impression of the ones I've seen, (using English titles) seeing any one of them is definitely the next best thing to being there...

101 Reykjavík, 2000, probably the most well known release of the last ten years, an unflinching look at the wild side of "101"- the central district of Reykjavík. I had a discussion about this film with a native in the Laugardalslaug pool, he was not at all pleased with its depiction of the city.

Beowulf and Grendel, 2005, Not the Angelia Jolie film, but the same story, told pretty well on a striking Icelandic location.

Cold Fever, 1995, Japanese-Icelandic production, very good, quirky, touching at times. Lots of countryside.

Screaming Masterpiece, 2005, The Icelandic music scene, wildly uneven, a must for music fans.

Dís, 2004, Coming of age story written by a woman who was a night clerk at Hotel Borg (Shen was working the night desk the time I stayed there), not the greatest film, but lots of Reykjavik locales, with a cameo from Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Heima, 2007, Sigur Rós concert film, and much, much more. #1 rated documentary at IMDb.

The Juniper Tree, Brothers Grimm-type story concerning witchcraft set amidst Icelandic scenery. Björk's film debut. A bit thin on drama but very good atmosphere.

Cold Light, 2004, a brooding, dark film about a man haunted by a childhood trauma. Extremely well done, not for everyone. Good views of modern life in Reykjavík.

The Seagull's Laughter 2001, great film about an extended family of women whose worthless men meet their demise in various "accidents." Told from the point of view of a girl on the verge of adolescence. A must see.

Jar City, 2006, an Inspector Arnaldur mystery. Taut mystery with good cast, very dark, excellent location shots.

Noi the Albino, 2003, a peculiar young man in an isolated town on the northern coast of Iceland. Very odd, even by Icelandic standards, well worth viewing if you enjoy a Twilight-Zone type story.

There are obviously many more, some titles I've left off because they were not directly concerned with Iceland (notably Niceland, 2004, A Little Trip to Heaven, 2005, Dancer in the Dark, 2001) and there are some I've been wanting to see but haven't yet had the chance (The Sea, Angels of the Universe) to say nothing of the Halldór Laxness books that have been filmed (Salka Valka, 1954, and Atom Station, 1984.) Most of those are in Icelandic only, some aren't available in compatible formats.

I found Noi at my local Hollywood. Netflix should have most of the others...

UPDATE! Check out Rose's reviews of selected Icelandic films!


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Monday, September 22, 2008

Progression


                        We were walking in the sculpture garden.



                        We had a definite sense of something being amiss.



                        Unfortunately, we then found the answer.
 
 


By Professor Batty




Comments: 4



Friday, September 19, 2008

Familiarity Breeds Content

Garrison and Chet
Garrison Keillor and Chet Atkins, 1994

Pontoon, A Novel of Lake Woebegon

For better or worse, Garrison Keillor has been more or less a constant presence in my life since my teen years. He is sort of like an elder brother, one who left home early and did well for himself, or at least better than I did. He was born and attended school in the town I live in, he went to the University of Minnesota, where he was the editor of the Ivory Tower, a literary magazine which reached its peak under his tenure, (my older sister would bring it home) it was as good as any national publication. He would even eat at Lloydy's Diner, which was right behind my childhood home. By the time I made it to the "U" four years later The Ivory Tower was long gone, but by then Garrison had cropped up on the University's radio station, hosting a program with an eclectic mix of music. He went on to Minnesota Public Radio, began writing for The New Yorker, started his Prairie Home Companion radio show and wrote a best-selling book entitled Lake Woebegon Days.

Which brings us back to Pontoon, his eleventh novel which, as the subtitle indicates, is yet another Lake Woebegon tale. To anyone raised in Minnesota, reading these books is a bit like comfort food: filling, tasty, yet somewhat bland. The books are filled with references to Minnesota geography and culture; many of the fictional characters are pastiches of local celebrities. How well this translates to those living elsewhere is a good question, it seems to me that it must be like looking at a photo album of people you don't know.

Still, Garrison perseveres. He is so immersed in this world that it seems to supply its own content, or else he is just content to stay where he is, cranking out these books nearly as fast as he does his weekly radio monologues about- you guessed it- Lake Woebegon! During the time I spent reading this book, he came out with yet another one (Liberty, A Lake Woebegon Novel), which is more of the same. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis both left Minnesota to pursue their careers; Garrison left too, but returned after a few years in Denmark to Minnesota, where his career path and inspiration seems to have stalled.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 7



Thursday, September 18, 2008

Potter


J. Mooney, 1981


Porcelain Princess,

our kitchen is full of her work.

I never tire of it.

She burned out doing production work for Renaissance Fairs.

Still, once a year, she fires up the kiln.

And I buy it still.

 


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

EMP



Frank Gerhy's Experience Music Project building in Seattle must be seen to be believed. His other notable, late period works (including the Weisman museum in Minneapolis and the Guggenheim Bilbao) share a sense of whimsy, seeming to defy logic and gravity in the wild interplay of their curvilinear surfaces. They have been criticized for overwhelming their functionality, but nevertheless remain glorious in their defiance of the "traditional modern" which has been imposed upon most institutional building of the last sixty years.

The museum it contains, devoted to modern popular music, has just enough unique displays to make it worth the time of anyone with the slightest interest in the history of music of the last sixty years. A fantastic guitar collection, the full stage set-up of the Jimi Hendrix experience, and rotating exhibits of rock curios- when I was last there I managed to see Buddy Holly's "death glasses", Ringo's Beatle suit, and the "Stonehenge" sculpture from This is Spinal Tap, all in one room!


By Professor Batty




Comments: 4



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pep



Fall brings the football season, with all of its associated pomp and ceremony. Cheerleading evidently began in 1898 when University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell stood in front of the crowd, and directed them in a chant. Soon after that, the University of Minnesota organized a 'yell leader' squad of 4 male students. Up until the 1920’s cheerleading was male dominated, but eventually more women began participating due to limited availability of female collegiate sports. In the nineteen-fifties keen competition for limited cheerleading positions gave an impetus to the formation of additional groups of flag wavers, who would appear with the marching band. In the sixties, small groups of "elite" "danceline" marchers appeared, with such monikers as "the Front Five" and, in the case of my alma mater, "The Pastel Pats" (both groups pictured above.)

While their contribution to school spirit and athletic success may be debatable, their presence certainly brightened many an otherwise dreary autumn afternoon. In the nineteen-seventies, landmark legislation ("Title IX") gave girls equal opportunity for athletics, but these "pep squads" have remained popular.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Monday, September 15, 2008

Method to Their Madness


                        Burn After Reading

Another shaggy-dog story from the Coen Brothers, this spy thriller/comedy noir is, on its surface, a character-driven farce. The complicated plot functions merely as the track which this roller-coaster of a movie rides upon. This is really a movie about love and desire, but the love is self-love, personal gratification on a very base level, the comedy/tragedy is caused by hormones, not hubris. I read a few reviews which have taken it to task for being cold and heartless; it is that, but that is the point of it. This is a subtle morality play, with a Deus Ex Machina in the form of a CIA director who lets events play out in their own twisted logic.

The Coens love movies, love reshaping genres and love confounding expectations. This is not a 'great' film, it is too funny for that. It isn't a trifle either, in a market saturated with stale sit-coms and tired formula flicks, it is a guilty pleasure.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Friday, September 12, 2008

Sad Songs of Love and Desire


















all my songs are sad songs
sad songs of love and desire
once I had songs of pride
songs of hope songs of triumph
now all my songs are sad songs
sad songs of love and desire
once my songs rang out
loud and clear
now my songs are whispered
late at night when all are asleep
once my songs were shared
throngs sang them in unison
now I am the solo voice
singing to the walls
once my songs opened doors
opened hearts opened zippers
now all my songs are sad songs
sad songs of love and desire
 
 


By Professor Batty




Comments: 6



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Zipper

It is not a barrier.

It may be a gateway.

It is not sexual.

It may be sensual.

It is not always there.

It may appear where it is unexpected.

It is not always smooth.

It may be pinching.

It is not silent.

It may be surprisingly loud.

It is not an invitation.

It may be a opportunity.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Op-Ed

At the local fast-food franchise there is always a pile of newspapers, more or less complete, if you search for them. One set always has the additional value of having been augmented with editorial comments neatly written in ball point pen. Not that there is a lot to his or her opinions, mostly it is just cranky geezer talk, aimed at anyone in the news. The writer probably has an audience of about ten people a day.


Hmmm, lets go through this again, from the top. Snide comments on daily events, written in short bursts, for a very small audience.

A blog!


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Monday, September 08, 2008

New and Improved?


While my evening "constitutionals" take me to many of my hometown's finer attractions, I usually steer clear of the downtown area because all those bright lights and all that heavy traffic can upset my delicate disposition.
There have been some new things on this scene however- the most note worthy of which is the Harrison Street Storm Water Catch Basin Memorial Garden, with a picturesque stand of prairie grasses perched atop massive septic tanks.



Equally artful, in an edgier way, is this new shop, still undergoing renovation.
I'll assume that these charming cherubs on the door are meant to appeal to a demographic which does not include yours truly.

An anarchist bookstore, perhaps?

Or possibly an arsonist's supply house?

I suspect that it may be some sort of online gaming/coffee house.
That location used to be a daily labor office, maybe it still will be-
just trying to appeal to a younger crowd...




And then there is this place!

For some reason, someone felt that our town needed a kilt store.
It actually is pretty classy,
with a selection of fine plaids and other Scottish-themed merchandise.

I was some what surprised at the badge on the model's shirt, however...

(click on image for larger view)


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Friday, September 05, 2008

My Very Last Post About Sarah Palin

I usually don't follow
long comment strings,
but the site Mudflats,
an Alaskan political blog,
has had some whoppers lately,
including over a thousand comments on the "Babygate"
affair as it developed.
Also noteworthy is an entry
which gives a detailed history
of the local political intrigues
which the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee
has been involved in.

Enjoy.


Illustration reprinted with the kind permission of Sharon Spotbottom


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Thursday, September 04, 2008

Time Out


Time to take a break from the madness.

Time to sit calmly, in the dark, look out my bay window and not think.

The world will still be there tomorrow.

The people you know and love are not filled with lies and hatred.

Trundle off to bed, to dream sweet dreams.

Tomorrow is another day.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Soap Opera at the RNC

I am almost at a loss for words.

Who was pregnant? Who is pregnant? Who is the mother? Who is the father?

These things should be, with modern testing and records, pretty obvious.

A photo can be faked.

A person can be mistaken.

But when a trickle turns into a flood, no amount of diversion can halt its flow.

What is going on?

Mark Okeson, the assistant principal at Wasilla High School, told the Chicago Tribune that Bristol started her junior year last fall, in the town where Sarah Palin grew up.

He said Bristol inexplicably transferred to an Anchorage high school midyear, leaving Levi behind.

"I never heard the story why," he said.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Teen-age Fornication!

Grampa Batty stirs from his afternoon nap just long enough to catch the end of a news bulletin.

"For-or-ornication!" spittle flying, the grizzled geezer howls, with the first syllable rising in a tremulous quiver. "Teen-agers! You can't trust 'em! Why in my day..."

Grampa stops in mid-sentence, falling back to sleep.

It was all just a dream, wasn't it? Nothing to it. Nothing at all.

Or perhaps it was something else entirely?


By Professor Batty




Comments: 5



Monday, September 01, 2008

How to Tell When You've Had Enough Coffee


When the menu at the coffeehouse looks something like this.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 5