Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve



"Ten..."
New Year's Eve, party of one.
"Nine..."
How many years has it been,
"Eight..."
Dancing with a lover?
"Seven..."
The songs remain the same.
"Six..."
Still working their adrenaline magic.
"Five..."
My shuffling dance attracts no partners now.
"Four..."
But my flask still warms me.
"Three..."
These old bones start to move.
"Two..."
Now!
"ONE!"
Happy... Happy... Happy...


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Clean Car


Nothing like a clean car for the holidays. It may be ten years old, but it still gleams. We took off for the in-laws Saturday morning, the weather report was a little iffy, but the roads were fine as we began. At about the half-way point, things got worse. Perhaps it was the overturned truck in the median that first signalled something amiss. Then there was another. And another. A car was half buried in the snow off the shoulder. Then an upside-down SUV. And another, and yet another. We made it OK, but that night, as I was fetching some wine from the car, I saw that my clean car had been neatly spray-painted with road salt.

But it was right-side up.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Monday, December 29, 2008

YEAR IN REVIEW AT FITK

A tough year. A year of loss. A year of change. I can't think of a more pivotal one since 1968. I hope the world can recover in a more timely manner this time. The blogosphere seems to have suffered the same fate. People who stop blogging usually do it for a good reason however: work, love, or other positive interests all can make one's output diminish. There are unhappy reasons as well. I've lost more than a couple of my regular reads, my best wishes to all of you, you are all missed.

Looking back on the year, I've selected a few posts to summarize. I'm still learning, still pushing my expression to ridiculous extremes, with the only constant being no constants. If you can click on this site and be a little surprised almost every time, then I've succeeded. Click on Month for full post.

January
The new year augurs ill, I'm afraid. Barring a twist of fate, we'll be stuck with Dubya all year (he'll leave office January 2009) and if there is anything we can be sure of it will be more wrong-headed incompetence from him and his cronies. The situation in the Mid-East looks as if "We ain't seen nothin' yet." Watching the value of the dollar (and my retirement) shrink by double digit percentage points every year makes me laugh (to keep from crying.)
Never have I been so (regrettably) prescient (except the part about losing weight.)

February
My proverbial ass has been kicked.
Old Man Winter, AKA Jack Frost, has done whupped me good.
It isn't the dirty snow. Nor the salted crust on my car.
It isn't the 90 days in a row below freezing (only a slight exaggeration.)
It is the sting of sub-zero air on my delicate epidermis.
The burn of frost-nip on my fingertips.
The shock of icy air in my lings, dropping my core temp in an instant.
I want the hurting to stop.
I want spring.
It isn't even January yet and we've already gotten worse weather this winter!

March
...The food was great, the conversation stimulating, and as we talked I mused on the meaning of it all. Each of us is at a different stage of life, with each of us moving in a different direction. Getting together here, even though our only previous meeting was in "virtual" reality, seemed natural. It is funny thing to follow someone's blog for a while. A little room is created in your head for that person, a room you can visit from time to time, with each visit learning a little more about its resident (and yourself) in the process...
Some days are MUCH better than others. This was the best.

April
The professor's new media player only gets one channel, but that one is good enough.
In the words of Björk- "I miss you.."

May
You know what they say about BC girls.
Those BC girls.
They got cars of their own, give you a whirl,
Fast BC girls, gone BC girls.
They got a card of pills in their purse,
BC girls, huh. BC girls.
They smell good, better 'n North Side girls.
BC girls, nice BC girls.

Some adolescent dreams never die. (BC refers to Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis.

June
Worse prose is barely conceivable.
But it is something.
It isn't you, yet it is.
Something to shout about.
Something to whisper quietly to an audience of one.

"Worse prose is barely conceivable..." Were truer words ever written?

July
In order to maintain a man's trousers in
a state of tidy readiness various remedies
were tried and all were found wanting.

One of my most popular posts, with 63 google-hits already in only 6 months.

August
The stink of money, money made at any cost, clouds these games.

That seems to be changing.

September

Another eerie omen which unfortunately also came true.

October
An unexpected surprise in a plain white envelope.
A pair of snapshots, from another dimension.
Beatle bangs and a black guitar.
Skinny legs and all.

The past can catch up with one when one least expects it.

November
AND A SPLENDID TIME WAS HAD BY ALL!

Annie rocks the heartland.

December
I can't even begin to comprehend some of the things which that kid gets himself into.

Got a call from him via satellite on Christmas Eve, he was 300 miles from the south pole. Climbing mountains.

Looking Forward

Could 2009 be worse than 2008? Let's hope not, although I have a feeling that we're all in for a few years of "going sideways", if not in reverse.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 5



Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thanks to everyone for stopping by FITK this year! I'll be back next week with some very special year-end ruminations. See you then!


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Truth or Dare

We'd been talking about blogging- nothing earth-shaking- just about the stuff we'd posted, the people we'd met through blogging, our readers.

"Some people don't believe what I write."

"I believe you. There may be an inherent morality in blogging, but it isn't an absolute morality."

"Sometimes it just needs a little extra."

While reading a novel some weeks later, the main character stated the three guiding principles in her life, they seemed to me to pertain to blogging as well:

Play your roles with care.

You mustn't show them how sad you are.

Never look back, just cross it out and keep going.


These aphorisms are easier to read than to live. What is important in a blog? The absolute, verifiable truth? Or a greater truth, arising like a blossom from a freshly manured flowerbed? It depends on what the blog is, of course, and sometimes that "is" can be a pretty slippery concept in its own right.

So, let us have the germ of truth, not necessarily the whole loaf at once.

Seasoned with that little pinch of salt.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Monday, December 22, 2008

Wanted By The New Zealand Dairy Board


Almost every day in my site meter stats an icon of a little New Zealand flag pops up with the visitor listed as The New Zealand Dairy Board. Never leaving a comment (that I'm aware of) but that certain someone, between managing milk production and arranging international food conglomerate deals, has taken an interest in this humble blog.

I thank you, o mysterious antipodal friend. Since your fair isle has been so hospitable to my globetrotting son I feel a bit indebted to you. NZ has been on my to-see list for quite some time, the present world financial situation has put those travel plans on hold for the time being.

My plans for world domination continue...


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Friday, December 19, 2008

Don't Make Me Come Up There and Use This Thing...


It was just harmless banter.

The "last men standing" band, the legacy group of various local combos is scheduled to play tonight at the Eagles Club in south Minneapolis.

"We should all come down, with all of our instruments and sit in."

"Saxophones, congas, electric guitars, Marshall amps, lets really blow it out."

"Well, I've been working out on my banjo-ukulele a bit..."

"What? A What?"

"A banjo-ukulele, you know, the neck of a ukulele mounted on the body of a banjo."

"You do know, don't you, that two wrongs don't make a right?"


By Professor Batty




Comments: 4



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Firefox 3 and My Winter of Discontent


The weather here has been January a month early. Nesting instincts have taken over therefore I don't feel guilty doing a tune-up on my laptop. Kicking and screaming, I updated to Firefox 3 last night. Mr. Minimal (yours truly) abhors any extra visual stimulation on the desktop- I'd prefer to leave my multi-colored, pulsing hallucinations back in the sixties. Downloading and installing FF3 was no problem, although I went into full panic mode when my current bookmarks were replaced with some from a year ago. It seems that if you tried FF 3 in beta (which I had) and then deleted it causes your bookmarks to revert to that previous state. A few pokes in my library and normalcy was restored. The next task was to get rid of the default theme- some faux shiny metal corruption with a bunch of junk on it that I never use. I did find a nifty one- "Full Flat", whose description aptly states: "Less is more."

Happy, happy, happy.

My next step, to be taken over the holidays, will be to rethink FITK's appearance. Nothing too drastic, just some tinkering. Once a year I try to go through all the old posts to check for broken links and outdated stuff, but that was a lot easier when I didn't have 1400 of them.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Soft-Core

A little over a week ago, I made about a dozen purchases from Amazon.com. No big deal, just a variety of CD's (remember them?) DVD's, and ONE BOOK. One book, one book ONLY. My Halldór Laxness collection was missing two titles, The Happy Warriors and Iceland's Bell. Warriors is available, for well over $200, I'll have to wait on that one. I've checked Bell out of the county library several times since its release in 2003 but I was getting nervous that they'd decommission it in their current reorganization.

Digression #1: I have never exactly understood why our library gets rid of perfectly good books when it has acres of empty shelves. When it used to be the city library they had lots of very old books, many classic titles, some of which were very rare. All these vanished when the county took over.

The various titles have been trickling in. Monday I received a rather plump package from Adsrus, a bookseller in Des Moines. It was the Laxness, along with a slim volume of soft-core porn. Enclosed with the books was this note:


Evidently if NOBEL LAUREATE Halldór Laxness wasn't satisfactory I'd have this deathless prose to fall back on:
"Her fingers curved around him, hugged his swollen, aching flesh, making him desire her even more. "Please!" she rasped. "Now."

Digression #2. Years ago Dahl's bookstore existed on the fringe of downtown Minneapolis. Mr. Dahl loved his books, so much so that he lived in an apartment on the second floor, the door of which opened into his musty stacks. He would often be sitting there, listening to his beloved opera- "If you need anything, just knock!"
I was browsing near the front door one day when a seedy looking character (my future self?) came in, looked around furtively and asked me "Got any of those 'Spicy' books?"

Well.

It seems that now I do.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 6



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Road Trip


Cambridge, Minnesota, 1976

Another motel.

No pretensions here, not even a cheap print screwed to the wall.

But the sheets are clean.

A little smoke, a little drink.

Carol Burnett on the TV.

Wishing you were somewhere else.

Another Saturday night in downtown nowhere.

But you still have your youth, a least for one more day.

Might as well burn a little of it here.

It's as good a place as anywhere.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Monday, December 15, 2008

Model


Growing up in the confused and repressive fifties, my impressions of femininity and sexuality were shaped by television (where married couples slept in separate beds!) and magazines such as Life, Good Housekeeping, McCalls, Popular Mechanics and Mad, none of which gave much realistic information on the subject. There were other influences which were "under the radar", so to speak: Girlie magazines, "Naturist" publications and pulp fiction titles, all of which crudely attempted to exploit the hedonistic side of life (note: links below may be NSFW.)

In the middle of this post-war scene strode Bettie Page, unashamed and stunning, with her now iconic hair-do and look (often copied, never equaled) who would cause a minor revolution in sexuality over the next five decades. The issues surrounding the portrayal of female anatomy and its exploitation are older than history, probably as old as humanity itself.

Betty choose this mode of expression over "typing for eight hours a day" and made the most of it. It is odd which iconic motifs stand the test of time- religions develop and perpetuate them, industry and commerce spend a great deal of money and effort to instill them into the public consciousness, but the idea of "Bettie Page" as a cultural and sexual icon grew almost on its own, supported almost entirely by her fan base. Betty suffered with bouts of mental illness in her later years, but she did recover enough to be able to appreciate the tremendous growth of interest in her in the last twenty years.

This article, written by her biographer, gives a more concise overview of Bettie's life and its import. There is also an interview with Mary Harron who directed the 2005 biopic The Notorious Bettie Page.

To catch a glimpse of Bettie (Betty) herself, this video link shows her in all her naughty/nice glory, dancing for her favorite audience, the camera.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Friday, December 12, 2008

Ice Cream


"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream..."

The ultimate in comfort food. Sweet and fat with memories of lactation and infancy tying the whole experience together. I lived on it when I was young and thin. There was no need for any upscale brands then, just an instant cold and wet gratification. I had my turn with the dipper as well. Working in The Edina View restaurant/ice cream parlor, I mixed it in a big freezing churn in the back room, twenty gallons at a crack, then served it up to the neighborhood swells. No tips for the help, either.

The Edina View was run by a married couple, transplanted southerners, the shambling, scruffy man was always working angles to get ahead- he had a basement full of old candy vending machines, he supplied fruit-punch for wedding receptions and worked part-time for the school district. The woman was frilly, with big hair. There were always a few "special" customers she gave special attention. Me, I just dished the ice cream, cleaned tables and washed dishes. Buck-ten an hour and when the afternoon sun shone through the front doors you could see through the summer dresses of the women who walked in. Life was good.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Further Adventures of Tin-Tin


Also known as the eldest. Received a call tonight from McMurdo base, Antarctica. He is chillin' there (actually warmer than Minnesota) while waiting for the flight to take him and his expedition to the hinterlands- way, way, WAY down south. There are more photos from this year and last on his Flickr site, along with some not-so icy shots of New Zealand mixed in. The picture above is an old crate from Scott's 1910 expedition, in Scott's hut, well-preserved by the cold, dry climate.

I can't even begin to comprehend some of the things which that kid gets himself into.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 7



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Great Weaver From Kashmir

A late winter's snowstorm had left Reykjavík clad in white. After sitting down to breakfast in the day-room of Bólstaðarhlíð 8 I was soon joined by a group of grad students and their advisor who were also staying in the family-run guesthouse. We had a stimulating discussion over muesli, smoked fish, cheese, breads and, of course, skyr- none of which the students would touch but I found delightful. The doorbell's chime signaled the arrival of Þora, an older woman who would be the students' guide as they compared the Icelandic educational system with their own experiences.

Conversation turned to the city and its landmarks, notably Hallgrimskirkja, which brought forth a scornful comment from Þora, who thought that the towering cathedral was in poor taste and disrespectful of Hallgrímur Pétursson, its namesake. "We should have never left the Catholic Church, either."

So began my introduction to one of the still smoldering religious questions that has haunted Iceland for centuries. The Great Weaver from Kashmir continues this education.

Halldór Laxness wrote this unusual novel when he was 23 years old, at which time he was a practicing Catholic. This book was definitely born of that experience, large sections of it are dialectics about sin (usually meaning women), perfection and the relationship of man to God. During the time he was writing it Halldór was involved in a prayer group whose aim was to reinstall Roman Catholicism over the upstart Lutheranism as the state church in Iceland (although it too had once been the usurper, driving out paganism in the year 1000.) Laxness was struggling with many religious and political questions (as were many others in the aftermath of WWI) and this book covers them in almost tedious detail at times. If Laxness hadn't been such a good a writer this book would be as insufferable as trying to engage in meaningful conversation with a verbose, narcissistic young man. The "hero" of the story, Steinn Elliði, leaves Iceland and his adolescent sweetheart Diljá in a quest to become "the most perfect man on earth." His journey takes him deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the "one true faith", estranging his family and ultimately his humanity in the process. That Steinn's life is portrayed as a downward spiral and not a spiritual ascent shows the conflict Laxness endured; in the book lively domestic scenes exist in sharp contrast to the drab, internalized life of the abbey.

As with Laxness' World Light, (1937), this novel has a searching central character. Whereas Ólafur in Light is a light-hearted ne'er do well, Steinn plays his part in dead earnest. Even more of a contrast is comparing Weaver with Laxness' next novel Salka Valka which had the very much grounded and human Salka facing her difficult and often grim reality head-on in a way which would be unconceivable for the selfish Steinn. The other Laxness coming-of-age-novel, The Fish Can Sing, (1957) possesses a gentle, almost magical realism which is also far removed from the struggles of the unhappy Steinn.

The Great Weaver from Kashmir, while a must for Laxness completists, is a tough go for the general reader, possibly Halldór's most difficult work currently available in English.

Be sure to also check out Bill Holm's review of this most unique book.


More on Halldor Laxness at Laxness in Translation


By Professor Batty




Comments: 6



Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Shared Dreams



I discovered that my recurrent dreams of hidden rooms in a house I once lived in are not unique, they have been shared by J-, who lived in the upper duplex at the same time. She brought it up, we had been talking of something completely unrelated. The dreams, at least in outline, were identical. Another floor existed, a third floor which was much more elaborate, filled with furnishings, things left behind by her ex-husband. In my dreams the third floor was filled with things left behind by the former occupants- our landlord- things that were much nicer than his family had in real life.

Another variation that J- and I shared was the sense that the whole neighborhood had undergone gentrification, with chic restaurants and upscale town-homes surrounding our squalid shacks. There was also the sense that something had to be done, that lawyers and the city were trying to seize the property and we were powerless to prevent it.

Once, years ago, my mother was coming out of anesthesia. She kept speaking about "The garage- is it going to be in the right place?" My parents had built a new garage many years prior, it went up without a hitch, but the mild trauma of that experience for her still lived at the top of her subconscious. This sense of place must be important for an organism and surely the relentless change of the modern world must be at least partially responsible for the lack of grounding that so many people experience in their lives.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Monday, December 08, 2008

Fertility


Amulets by Lorie Bergstrom

Beyond my understanding, but not my appreciation. A world of women, each similar, each different. Charms of minute don't dissipate, they only transform. What was once youthful passion matures into a multifaceted personality, but the diamond within remains the same.

Ten million years and counting, but who's counting? Beginning, middle, end. Only the first and last are givens, while the middle remains a mystery to be explored. And if a carved stone can help make another beginning a reality, who am I to question its efficacy?

Worship the Goddess.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 7



Friday, December 05, 2008

Replacement Series

Flippist productions announces the new television series PB&J, Starring PB as a mild-mannered blogger by day, crime fighter by night. With his literary side-kick, J, this dialectic duo cleanses the big city of miscreants and fights spam-bots on the internet. Dashing from chat-rooms to casinos, the worldly wordy wonders span the globe in their search of the "perfect post." The season premiere finds PB&J in Miami Beach, looking for a lost URL and the recipe for a perfect sandwich.
Vanilla Ice guest stars.

Professor Batty is PB.
Introducing Erica Jong as J.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Thursday, December 04, 2008

E

City Planners have given the area of downtown Minneapolis between Hennepin and First Avenues and 6th and 7th streets the name "block E." It was redeveloped about ten years ago into sort of a "Vegas-style" entertainment district, but without a casino. In the late sixties and early seventies it was a funky collection of scruffy businesses- steak houses, Moby Dick's bar, pool halls and porno shops. None of them could beat E Floyd's Paranoid Art Gallery for downright weirdness. Located in a half-basement right on the corner of 7th and Hennepin, his gallery stayed open for a couple of years with no apparent means of support. It was said that E scrounged stuff from the dumpsters of MCAD (a local art college) for his gallery ("found art"?) but if you went down and acted interested, E would talk about "his" art with you. E was more of a beatnik/hipster than an artist, even sporting shades and a goatee. E was about ten years ahead of the curve. Soon there would be lofts and galleries throughout the nearby warehouse district while E had disappeared without a trace.

I like to think that the city planners named the block after him.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 4



Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Forbidden!

And the truth shall make you free"
~ Patrick Henry

My old high school motto.

"And the truth shall land your sorry little ass in detention" would have been more "appropriate."

appropriate: adjective

1. Suitable for a particular person, condition, occasion, or place: apt, becoming, befitting, correct, felicitous, fit, fitting, happy, meet, proper. See right/wrong.
2. Suited to one's end or purpose: befitting, convenient, expedient, fit, good, meet, proper, suitable, useful. See right/wrong.
3. Consistent with prevailing or accepted standards or circumstances: deserved, due, fit, fitting, just, merited, proper, right, rightful, suitable. See right/wrong.

The whole internet was built on the dance between right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. Thank heaven(?) for pop-up ad blockers (do you remember how creepy the internet was back in the late 90's?) Forbidden fruit is always sweeter. The fruit of that tree is knowledge. Knowledge=sin.
Genesis 3:6
The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for the knowledge it could give, and she took fruit from it. And ate it. She gave some to her husband who was with her. And he ate it. The eyes of both them were opened, and they knew that they were naked."

And thus began the institution of pornography.

Well. I don't know about all of that being 100% true, but I do know that the library is the modern day "tree of knowledge." Dropping in for a Linn Ullmann title, I stopped to use the library's internet access. Checked my site-meter to see who's been visiting FITK, and then clicked through my sidebar to see if  Annie Rhiannon had posted a new chapter from her Great American Novel: To the Left of the Midwest...
















Forbidden category?
Pornography?
What caused this?
Was it her "Push-up" post?
The notorious "Seven Men in Seven Days"?
Or perhaps it was her infamous "Bulging Britney" which caused the censorious finger of the librarian to click on "BLOCK THIS SITE"?

In the (slightly altered) words of the Luther Ingram song:
If reading you is wrong, I don't wanna be right...
If being right means being without you,
I'd rather live a wrong doing life...
My librarians say it's a shame,
It's a downright disgrace...
Long as I got you on my sidebar,
I don't care what those people say...
If reading you is wrong I don't wanna be right
I don't wanna be right
I don't wanna be right


And the truth shall make you free, except in my hometown.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 4



Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Commute



How many more times?

How many more times, running that gauntlet?

12 years x 250 days x 2 = 6000.

6000 lashes from the psychic whip named "Modern Life."

A sentence, to be served until my obligation is completed.

And then what?

Instead of racing the masses,

I'll be rising from naps.

Instead of tensing up at every intersection,

I'll be taking a pleasant walk.

Commute.

Commute my sentence.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Monday, December 01, 2008

Unsavvy Shopper

Another Saturday spent hopelessly pursuing
the Holy Grail of Consumerism. I was just
along for the ride, my eldest needed to pick
up some expedition supplies before heading
off to Antarctica for the third time. We
stopped in the sporting goods store, I've
never quite figured out what their definition
of "sport" was, but it seems to involve
spending lots of money on esoteric
(and often lethal) gear, in the hope of
killing some unarmed critter. While he
shopped, I wandered into the fly-fishing
supplies:



Being the barely evolved simian which I am,
these sparkly things caught my eye right away.
New hair for my "Glam-Rock Barbie" dolls?
End "flames" for my bicycle's hand grips?
The best tinsel ever?

Further on, I found this disturbing package:



Now I am not a fan of what some call "tree
rats", especially after they chewed holes
in my soffit and peed in the attic, but I
did find it rather harsh that you could buy
their "body pieces" in little cello bags.
It did say "natural", although not "organic."

We left that charnel house and stopped in
the nearby SUPER Target. With the exception
of the ubiquitous beef jerky (offered for
sale in Minnesota in nearly every retail
outlet) Target seemed to be animal-friendly,
I think even the shoes there are made of
plastic. I was in the drug/cosmetic area
when I found this:



My old childhood friend "Pixy-Stix™"
had been reincarnated, as a "dietary
supplement", formulated by a "school
teacher!" Nothing says "I love you"
more than a sprinkle of chemicals
whipped up by your kid's second
grade teacher. $7 a box.

Turning around, I did a double take:



Plump up the gloss, mothers and sisters...

Shaken, I went home and took a nap.

Then I woke up, convinced it had all been a bad dream...


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3