Friday, April 30, 2010

Approved Reading



Cover, Archie Comics, c. 1950

Rites of passage vary from culture to culture, but in the United States (at least) Archie Andrews and his Riverdale chums have kept pre- and early teens supplied with sex education information for seventy years. The mysteries of adolescence are confusing and often frightening; these comic books show young men and women interacting in enjoyable teen-age activities, with a base of sexuality underlying the proceedings. In a sense, it is a realistic depiction- desire and frustration is the motivation in many of the stories. In another sense, it is quite unrealistic- there are never any lasting consequences or real violence. Nor is the darker side of sexuality shown.

Over the years these comics have actually become less suggestive, more "acceptable" in terms of its presentation. This may have more to do with trends in illustration. The creator of Ren and Stimpy, John Kricfalusi, has explored this fascinating cultural phenomenon in his blog, JohnK Stuff.


Comments: 10


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flickan (The Girl)



A final report from the Minneapolis St. Paul International film festival.

This Swedish film features a 9 year old girl with long red hair, living alone in a villa- and it isn't Pippi Longstocking! It is, rather, a serious look at a girl's late childhood, directed by Fredrik Edfeldt and shot with an extremely sensitive touch by Dutch cimematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema. It shows the girl becoming aware of the forces which have begun to change her life. It also shows the special kind of loneliness which can occur in a child who is able understand things that she is still too young to take part in. The plot seems a bit contrived at first, but this is one of those movies which grows on you as it progresses. It isn't sentimental in the slightest, making it all the more touching.

Highly recommended.


Comments: 0


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Child's Bedroom


Minneapolis, 1981

Simple pleasures, animal dreams.


Comments: 0


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When It Was All So Easy


Barbara, 1968

Was there really such a time? A time when it was all so simple, when you could take a few moments before class began and just talk? And you weren't going steady, you weren't even dating. You were just there, 9:00 every day, for 50 minutes and then gone, gone on to another group of kindred spirits, mostly friendly, mostly happy.

Mostly.

In a few weeks it would all end. School would be over, as would childhood. War would take away some, booze and dope and car crashes take more and for a few- a missing gene would stop a young heart's beating.

But not this day. Not this day in spring, a day with no worries, only smiles.

A smile for the camera. A smile for a lifetime.


Comments: 2


Monday, April 26, 2010

The Bloodstone Papers

Are there any good new writers anymore? There are plenty of prolific heavyweights (Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Joyce Carol Oates, etc.) but below that pantheon
(and especially among younger writers) it is harder to winnow the wheat from the chaff. A lot of what I've tried to read of modern fiction is often glib or else minimal to a fault. Therefore it was a most pleasant surprise to come across The Bloodstone Papers, the sixth title by the Anglo-Indian (his description) writer Glen Duncan. In this trans-generational and trans-continental novel, Owen, the protagonist, is an early forty-something writer-teacher-bartender who is trying to make sense of his own life and, via his writing project The Cheechee Papers, sense of his parents'.

Clashes between races and cultures drive the story, as does Owen's struggle with his own sense of futility in his life- and particularly with his relationship with women. His is the modern dilemma- a rejection of past values without any viable replacements. I'm not one to indulge in plot summaries, and although this book has two successful (and intertwined) plots going for it, the real worth of this book is in Duncan's writing, particularly his attention for detail. A sample:
Stairs, handrails, newels, benches, trestles, desks, kneelers, sills – Jesus and Mary Convent School has been Kate's introduction to things with a sad history of touch. The pathos of these objects is that they stay and you leave. Every girls' palms and fingertips and feet and knees, intimacy – then gone. You can feel sorry for a coat-hook, a doorknob, a bowl, a chair. When you sit on the stairs alone with your arms around your shins and your palms or calves on fire from the cane, the dark wood offers you its inarticulate sympathy, a moment you take, consume and forget but which it absorbs and will remember, uselessly, for ever. Some future girl will sit here and feel the same sympathy, years from now. You'll be a part of it, but she won't know and neither will you. That's the object's' sadness, that they connect the private moments of people who will always remain strangers.


Many thanks to Niranjana Iyer, and her excellent book review site, for steering me to this fine author.


Comments: 4


Friday, April 23, 2010

Stories From The AV Club



It's been a tradition for several years now. A group of men with whom I had graduated from high school meet once every two months for dinner and conversation. I'll call them "The AV Club", although they weren't really in it, this group of guys were mostly from that social strata when in school- not exactly nerds, but close (they actually went on dates!) They were guys who did stuff, made stuff, but weren't "cool". I finally made it to one of their meetings Wednesday night. Over the years we had all become a lot grayer and somewhat "rounder".

There were stories being told. Little stories. Stories about school days and teachers, stories about grads who had made good, stories about grads who had made good and then lost it all, and stories about grads who had somehow never managed to grow up. I was feeling better about myself and my lot in life after hearing of the trials of some of my former classmates.

Then came THE BIG STORY. A man and woman from my class, people who I knew well, had recently started having an affair. It was discovered by the man's wife (via an eMail which hadn't been deleted, no less!), and they both ended up splitting from their respective spouses. It was a story which would have been titillating and intriguing twenty or 30 years ago, but now just seemed kind of sad.

The AV club members were all nice guys, all hard workers, good fathers, respectable citizens. I might go back again, I might not. Sometimes ignorance has it rewards.


Comments: 5


Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's The End of the Internet as We Know It

This scares me.

This scares me even more.

This has some background on the whole affair.


Comments: 0


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More From the Minneapolis Mill District



Glazed brick silos and elevator building.


Comments: 0


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pillsbury A Mill



It was the biggest flour mill in the world for 40 years.

It ran from 1883 until 2003.

It still stands, sentinel over all the ruins and ghosts

of the great Minneapolis Milling district.

It fed the world
.


Comments: 1


Monday, April 19, 2010

Reykjavík-Rotterdam

So the Minneapolis - Saint Paul Film Fest is finally here, and over the weekend I did manage to catch three films. One was French (35 Rhums), one was Chinese (Dixia De Tiankong- The Shaft), and one was Icelandic- the aforementioned Reykjavík-Rotterdam. The French and Chinese films were both slice-of-family-life dramas, very minimal action, and not a whole lot of character interaction either. They both had some redeeming qualities, but entertainment was not one of them.

Óskar Jónasson's film was, in contrast, a vivid and at times sordid crime drama. Co-written by the director and Arnaldur Indriðason, it is a "last caper" movie, with Baltasar Kormákur in the lead role as a reluctant bootlegger. An excellent cast includes many regulars from the Icelandic scene including Ingvar Sigurdsson, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, and Jörundur Ragnarsson. Although it does feature some good local color, it is more of a Hollywood style movie. Indeed, it is being remade with Mark Wahlberg in the lead! Lots of hoods, creeps and lowlifes, with some disturbing beatings and bloody violence. Realistic footage on a freighter and a wild heist scene in Rotterdam filled out the well-plotted story. Not much of Icelandic culture, but as I said, it is a Hollywood style movie, and a successful entertainment.


Comments: 0


Friday, April 16, 2010

Where the West Begins #2



Mulder's Farm, Deuel County, South Dakota, 1997


Comments: 0


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where the West Begins #1



Tunerville, Deuel County, South Dakota, 1997


Comments: 0


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Them

Them. Those mysterious, faceless, powers-that-be that mess up everybody's lives. I'm talking about those nefarious forces of darkness who take it upon themselves to mess with the time and the calendar. Daylight savings time is just plain annoying, and "they" keep changing it- it was year-round in the seventies, it is now longer than it was a few years ago, and depending on where exactly you live in your time zone, your "high noon" can be an hour's difference anyway!

Then there are the holiday shenanigans. The Fourth of July fireworks are on the Third in our town- and the celebration of Halloween can be as much as a week away from the actual date! There are movements afoot to start school before Labor Day (sacrilege! BTW, did you know that Finland, which gets the highest achievement scores has the fewest school days?) Easter? Who knows?

And don't get me started on President's day.

At least Thanksgiving is always the same.


Comments: 1


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sharon Incandescent



Some may say she's a dim bulb, but she still lights up my life.


Comments: 6


Monday, April 12, 2010

Orphanage



A trip to Grand Avenue in Saint Paul is always pleasant, one of the few areas in the Twin Cities which has resisted franchises, with the result being a diverse mix of shops, restaurants and small businesses. On one of the restaurants there was this reminder from a bygone era. The beautiful sandstone and brick building from the 1920's used to house a Studebaker dealership, a car company which went bankrupt in the mid-sixties. It was an old corporation, starting as a coach maker in the 1850's. Its cars, with the exception of the Avanti, were somewhat dowdy. My dad had a couple, but by the time I was old enough to drive Studebakers were already collector's items.

There now seems to be a new wave of "Orphan" cars: Oldsmobile, Saturn, Pontiac maybe Saab and others. When I was young, car makes and models were a big thing, now- not so much, for me at least, most new cars are very similar.


Comments: 2


Friday, April 09, 2010

Still Clean



My spring cleaning enthusiasm has shown signs of becoming an obsession. The guest room (above) has been transformed from being a teenagers lair into quite an elegant boudoir (the Batty B&B is open for business!) I've even stopped bring home stuff from the thrift store- I passed on a mid 60's KOYO transistor radio yesterday, even knowing that it was highly collectible:


By sheer force of will I restrained from bringing home any more clutter (but that darn radio sure was cute!) and it was as if my desire was intended to torment me further by some cosmic coincidence when I found this blog post by John Kricfalusi (of Ren and Stimpy renown.) It also brought back memories of those days when electronic gadgets were fun and colorful, instead of serious and black.


Comments: 6


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dr. Kitti Nava Anurak Wants Me to Have $7.5 Million!


KITTI & ASSOCIATE CHAMBERS
Bangkok Thailand 10240
Email: (xxxxxxxx)@yahoo.com.hk
Website: www.sbcinterlaw.com

My Regards to you and Family,

This is a personal email directed to you and I request that it be treated as such. I must solicit your confidentiality and assure you that I am contacting you in good faith and this proposal will be of mutual benefit to both of us. I am Dr. Kitti Nava Anurak, a solicitor at law. I am the personal attorney/sole executor to late Mr. Oliver Greene, hereinafter referred to as 'my client' who worked as an an oil merchant/contractor here in Thailand, On the 21st of April 2003, My client, his wife and their three children died in a car crash in east Thailand.

My late client, had Assets here in Thailand and had left behind a deposit of US$15 Million(Fifteen Million United States Dollars only) with a finance company here in Bangkok Thailand. After the death of my client, the finance company contacted me, as his attorney to provide his next of kin who should inherit his fortune, this according to them is their policy in sure circumstances.

Since the death of my client, I have written several letters to the Embassy with an intent to locate any of his extended relatives whom shall be claimants/beneficiaries of his abandoned personal estate and all such efforts have been to no avail. I had to inform the finance company about my fruitless effort in locating my late client close relative or his next of kin. The board of directors of the company just adopted a resolution and I was mandated to provide his next of kin for the payment of this money within the next 10 official working days or forfeit the money as an abandoned funds.

The company had planned to invoke the abandoned property decree of the company to confiscate the funds after the expiration of the period given to me, Also I have received official letters in the last two days suggesting a likely proceeding for confiscation of his abandoned personal assets in line with existing laws of the institution.

Well I have reasoned very professionally and I can use a legal means to present a next of kin of my deceased client. This is legally possible and would be done in accordance with the laws of the land. I do sincerely sympathize the death of my client but I think it is unprofitable for his funds to be submitted to the government of Thailand or some financial institution, My aim is to retrieve this funds and let it be claimed by the deceased family, etc. for this I seek your assistance since I have been unable to locate the relatives for the past 6 years now.

I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased so that the proceeds of this account can be paid to you and then both of us can share the money, 50% to me and 50% to you. Can I trust you on this? I shall assemble all the necessary documents that will be used to back up your claim.

I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of law. I will not fail to bring to your notice that this proposal is hitch-free and that you should not entertain any fears as the required arrangements have been made for the completion of this transfer.

Like I said, I require only a solemn confidentiality on this. Please get in touch with me by my Email:{ kittilawcounsel@yahoo.com.hk} for better confidentiality and send to me your telephone and fax numbers to enable us discuss further on this transaction. If this proposal is acceptable by you, do not take undue advantage of the trust I have bestowed in you,Thanks for your understanding.

Many thanks.
Yours Sincerely.

LLB. DR. KITTI N. A.
Attorney at Law
Website: www.(xxxxxxxxx).com


Sounds like a good deal to me! Too bad about Oliver Greene and his family. Hmmm, I wonder would find out more information about Mr. Greene if I googled him? No luck, although there is a "self-help" guru of that name. I wonder how Dr. K happened to pick me, personally, and if it is legal in Thailand for a lawyer to arrange a fraudulent transaction involving identity theft? Should I trust him on this? If he would only send me his bank account numbers so I could check out his resources, I'd feel a lot more confident in this whole thing.

UPDATE: I found another copy of this email, dated March 20th. I guess the ten days are up. Just my bad luck, I guess. I could have used that money too, the Batty-mobile needs new mufflers!


Comments: 0


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Foot in the Door

Perhaps it was my recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts "Foot in the Door" exhibition which gave me the impetus to clean my garage last week-end. 5000 pieces of some of the worst art ever displayed in an internationally recognized museum. Step this way, the show is about to begin:



There were three more rooms like this. It looks like my messy garage!

Some of the work was, to be fair, pretty good.

But some was just downright evil:



Pleasant dreams!


Comments: 1


Monday, April 05, 2010

QUEEN- FOR A DAY!



"Go put the tools away..."
~my father

When I was a child, before I started going to school, I spent far, far too many hours watching daytime TV. One show in particular was titled Queen for a Day, wherein a quartet of hapless housewives would tell their sad stories and then the audience would vote on which one deserved to be "Queen for a day!" to receive prizes (mostly appliances to do more housework with) and a robe and crown. Lots of tears, and the next day there would be a new queen. In my unformed mind, I didn't think about my MOM winning the prize (she was usually pretty cheerful when I was very young) but I thought about MY winning the prize- although I knew I'd have to be "Prince for a day"- a day when a bunch of people would come and clean my room, give me toys, etc., which, now that I come to think of it was my childhood! Now that I'm an adult, I do clean from time to time (not enough, I know!) but my exclusive cleaning duty is the garage.

I know that Winter is finally over when I am able to clean the garage. All throughout those cold, dark months stuff accumulates on every shelf and table top. Various leftovers from numerous projects, which requires systematic arranging and storage. When it is -20° F it just won't happen. Saturday it was +65° F and sunny. Everything got put away, each tool to its proper drawer, wood scraps either stored neatly or discarded, the floor was swept and a lot of stuff was simply thrown out.

I do have a few of my father's old tools, and yes, they got put away:



It is still a bit early for most garden projects but when those begin I'll be back to square one, but for now, the garage is clean: CLEAN- FOR A DAY!

But no prizes, and no crown. (I do have an old bath robe, however).


Comments: 7


Friday, April 02, 2010

Al Milgrom - Man or Myth?

One of my favorite people was on the radio today: Al Milgrom, the feisty octogenarian who has been THE MAN as far as foreign film is concerned in the Minnesota area. For nearly 50 years he has promoted, booked and shown thousands of movies from all over the world- films which otherwise wouldn't have had a chance of being seen here in "Flyoverland". Most of the Icelandic films I've seen on screen and championed on this blog have come through Al. The 2010 Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival will open in a few weeks; the link has the full line-up of films. Even if you can't attend, take a peek- if only to see what a wonderful thing this is. Now multiply this by 28 years and you will get some sense of what one man with a meager budget and a staff of volunteers has done over the years; bringing world culture to the prairie in this enduring festival. This isn't some pre-packaged offering, Al personally picks most of the films and his taste is impeccable.

On the radio, the host referred to Al as "Legendary", but Al was quick to object: "I'd rather be a myth than a legend, then no one would have to believe that I was real."

Now, I know for a fact that Al is truly real, but sometimes I can scarcely believe it. When I see him at the screenings, still taking pleasure in the palpable excitement of the crowds, describing him as a legend or a myth isn't quite right. I think the word treasure is the most appropriate.

P.S. Oskar Jonasson's Reykjavik-Rotterdam will be showing!


Comments: 1


Thursday, April 01, 2010

The End of Professor Batty!


Comments: 3