Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End Leftovers


The Professor, in his study, crafting yet another timeless blog-post...

   As another year at FITK draws to a close, I've got a few thoughts about this strange world known as the blogosphere. It's been full of change for me, as it always is, but this year saw the end or diminishing output from some of the people I've followed for a long time: Alda, Elisa, and Eva (all from Iceland), along with Lab Munkay and Rose (although I think they'll both be back) from the U.S. The big new development in blogging has been Tumblr, the characteristics of which were precisely defined by Annie Atkins:
"'Tumbling' is a bit like 'blogging', except instead of spending my days desperately trying to think up clever and/or funny things to write, I just quote other clever and/or funny people and post interesting pictures, trying to make myself appear funny, clever and interesting all in one go by default."
   I've found some great new blogs this year, most notably in design, but I've also found someextremely personal ones, and my interaction with some others (Niranjana, Some Chilean Woman, Heiða, Chris) has grown as well. There is also a "behind the scenes" facet of the blog- interactions which don't show up on FITK, but are carried out via email and even (gasp!) the telephone and (double gasp!) snail mail. I look forward to the lines of communication blurring, although I do refrain from Facebook and Twitter (I need to draw a few lines- I only have so many hours in the day!) I've taken off quite a bit of time from posting this year and I'll probably be posting even less next year, but I will be getting a little help every Friday from a kindred spirit (find out next week!) I have been encouraged by the kind words which many commenters have left here; it makes it all seem worthwhile when I can connect with a reader.

   This is my last post for 2010, but I'm looking forward to many more in the following years.

Image: Rembrandt in His Studio, by J. L. Gérôme, Engraved by P.A. Rajon, 1879


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Thursday, December 30, 2010

Almost Viral

My YouTube video of Icelandic pop star Pall Oskar singing with Hjaltalín has recently reached its 1000th viewing milestone in a little over a year. At that rate it is not exactly burning up the web but I do think that it is pretty neat that about three people a day, every day, are watching that clip.

In the long term, I wonder what will survive of that performance. There were video crews there, and I have seen some snippets of it in HD, but mine is the whole song, the final song of Saturday night at the Art Museum, and arguably the climax of the entire Iceland Airwaves 2009 festival. Concerts were traditionally ephemeral, but recent advances in video distribution have made almost every musical performance of note available. Who knows how long You Tube will last? My video is not of the highest quality, but it does capture the spirit of the night, and that spirit is the reason why people go to concerts.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Love You, Big Dummy

Due to my Holiday haitus, I missed commenting on the passing of Don Van Vliet, also known as Captain Beefheart. Don was a painter and an enormously influential musician who, along with his group The Magic Band, released a series of albums- the most notable being Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Wildly experimental, The Captain's Howlin' Wolf-inspired vocals delivered his abstract expressionist poetry over angular beats and disjointed melody lines. Not easy listening but, if one is able to cross the threshold into the Captain's house, very rewarding.

I saw the Captain perform with his band in 1971 in the intimate confines of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I had heard the Decals album, but was unprepared for what was a total assault on my musical sensibilities. The band was unbelievably precise, playing with inspiration and intensity. The Captain was a man possessed. It was certainly the most memorable concert I have ever attended.

I'll leave you with some of Don's finest poetry in the form of the lyric to his song Doctor Dark, from Lick My Decals Off, Baby:

Mama, mama, here come Doctor Dark
Horse clippin', clappin' 'n his ol' hooves makin' sparks
Black leather lady Lord carried her bags
The hell horn, hell horn, hell horn
Horn rim crimped
Glasses look out on the pale hell bent
Moon milk run
O' lady go home
Lord they done cookin' done
Black lady
Black leather lady
Done had a white, white, white poor son
Mama, mama, here come Doctor Dark
Horse clippin', clappin' 'n his ol' hooves makin' sparks
Gotta git me who I want to
God, Lord knows I've got to oh see that Doctor Dark
Mama, mama, here come Doctor Dark
Horse clippin', clappin' 'n his ol' hooves makin' sparks
Shed a tear on the meadow lark 'n like
Tear t' drink
T' brush away
'n tear apart 'n black 'n white 'n like
Tear t' drink t' brush away
'n tear apart 'n black 'n white 'n like
The moon a pail of milk spilled down black in the night
Little girl lost a tear
'n her kite
T' the night 'n like 'n light
God, Lord knows I've got to oh see that
Doctor Dark


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reverse Viking



This Christmas I plundered Icelandic culture, a reverse Viking, so to speak. No Harðfiskur, alas, but plenty of music, movies and reading. Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason, was a gift from my blog-pal Rose, to replace my missing copy. Definitely related to that book is the non-fiction Promising Geonomics, by Mike Fortun (a signed copy!) about deCode Genetics, the Icelandic company doing genetic research. My nephew found a copy of the vinyl LP What's Hidden There?, a reissue of a scarce prog-rock album by the early 70's Icelandic band Svanfriður. I'm almost afraid to listen. I have listened to the late 90's CD Super Shiny Dreams by UNUN, fronted by another blog-pal Heiða (you'll have to Google translate her site); pleasant pop by a super-group of Icelandic musicians.

Rounding out my hoard are three DVD's: the legendary 101 Reykjavík, White Night Wedding, and Devil's Island. I've reviewed Wedding, I'll post reviews of the others as I watch them.

Finally, the best for last:

The Islander: A Biography of Halldór Laxness by Halldór Gudmundsson. 600+ pages, I'm only on the first chapter and it is already great, a review of this book will be forthcoming as well.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Friday, December 24, 2010

The Music of Failure

music of failure
I saw a star fall from the sky,
And the people of Uruk stood around and admired it.
And I was zealous and tried to carry it away,
But I was too weak and I failed.
What does it mean?
I have not dreamed like this before.

~The Gilgamesh Epic

   The calendar has always been somewhat arbitrary in its composition: twelve months don't fit a year nearly as neatly as thirteen would. The months and days of the week are named after a variety of gods and emperors, but the cosmological basis of the solstices and the equinoxes cannot be denied. That Christmas day ended up between the winter solstice and New Year's day is not a coincidence.

   Sometimes I think that Christmas activities are a way to avoid year-end ruminations. If the year has not gone so well, why not let loose a little? And if it has been a very good year, why not celebrate it? Any excuse for a party. If it goes on long enough you just might miss that 3 a.m. wake-up call from your conscience- all those things that you've been trying to ignore throughout the year which keep bubbling up into your fitful dreams until you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night.

   Things such as:
Those ten pounds you want to lose.
The car needs repairs.
The war and the economy.
How your circle of friends is fracturing.
The "Big R" (retirement.)
Christmas get-togethers.
More snow.
Those ten pounds (again!)
How this year wasn't as good as the last.
And next year may not be any better than this year.
Or, more simply stated:
The general entropy of your life's arc.

   Now just try to get back to sleep.

   The title of this post is based on an essay of the same name by Bill Holm. In it, Bill examines the lives of various people he grew up with in his small town, people who never made much of a mark on the greater world, people who could be considered failures in some sense, but whose lives played out to a different tune, "... the melody that counterpoints everything but is never heard..."

   The music of failure. Lives spent in the failure of living them. But Bill's message is not one of despair. For our lives have a meaning even if the meaning is beyond our understanding: "Yet in every artery of my body, and in yours too, that music of failure plays–continually. It sounds like Bach to me, and you must make up your mind what it sounds like to you."

   I'll continue to wrestle with my minor demons of the night and still try to pick up the fallen star of my writing and "art": continuing to play my own music of failure. And when I do start feeling a little down about my efforts I find these lyrics from Pascal Pinon to be a great consolation:
All the books I've never read
All the words and phrases I've never said
Is life as good as it's going to get?

The music playing loud in my ears
I am trying to evaporate all my fears
It's not getting any good- until that clears.

Today is the one day I have left
In a whole new adventure and a whole new step
That I'm taking to another direction.

I wonder what it will be like
I am kind of excited, still terrified
I'm standing at a new beginning...

The future may be looking bright
I'm still convincing myself for what is right
But time has never been on my side...

Things I may not understand
Are slightly getting out of hand
I don't know anything, anything at all...

Seems that I'm about to make
An overwhelming huge mistake
With everyone disagreeing...

But seeing things a positive way
Is making me feel like it's OK
So I'm gonna enjoy the day...


~ Jófriður Ákadóttir, New Beginning

   And so, on this Christmas Eve, I offer my best wishes and good cheer to all who have struggled with serpents of self-doubt.

   And may each of you have a new beginning every day.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Friday, December 17, 2010

Tis' The Season



The Flippist Christmas tree (a living Norfolk pine with LED lights) has gone green this year; the presents are arrayed underneath with the ghosts of Xmas Sharon past nearby, our eldest is flying in Sunday... Time for a break, methinks.

So, from now until December 24th all those who wander here may gaze upon the above egg-nog enhanced scene of holiday cheer in lieu of any new posts. I'll be back then with a special holiday greeting.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 7



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hugenots, Hypocrites, the Death of Cloud Computing, and Torture



The Huguenot, J.D. Linton painter, T. Brown, Engraver

Glenn Greenwald at The Salon opines on the 7 month torture of Bradley Manning, the army private who allegedly leaked the material about U.S. war atrocities in Iran and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Julian Assange has spent a week in solitary confinement without even having been charged with a crime!

In related activities, Amazon caved to political rumbling from a demagogue US Senator over the Wikileaks affair thereby killing any serious consideration of "cloud computing" as a viable independent method of storing and retrieving information for any private, business or political group.

The French persecution of the Huguenots, for the group's refusal to accept Roman Catholic dogmas, seems to parallel the current situation. The use of coercion to enforce adherence to dogma, at any cost, in the face of increasing divergence of cant from reality, is the main dynamic of the hypocritical despot.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My eMail Is Now Safe, Thank Goodness!

A recent decision by the 6th district court of appeals has ruled against warrant-less seizure and examination of eMail records.





Whew!

I was worried that my Icelandic correspondence (a "terrorist state" according to then UK PM Gordon Brown) could come back to haunt me- I was corresponding with a known confidant of Julian Assange, after all! And I don't think anyone needs to read those emails exchanged between me and certain 15 year-old twins!


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Next Car?



Image: The Weaver, Shanghai, 2009

A cute little commuter vehicle, 80+ mpg., I'm always driving alone anyway.
I don't think I'd like to take it over 45 mph, it's basically a three-wheeler with a box on top, but it would do alright for my commute (except when there's 20 inches of snow- LIKE TODAY!) Still, the economics are compelling:

Operating costs and depreciation (over a ten year life span)= $1000 a year vs. $3000 a year for a full-sized car.

That's $2000 annually!

A trip to Iceland every year!

Or two trips to the BWCAW each year.

Or two packs of cigarettes a day! (I could finally afford to take up smoking!)

Well, maybe that last idea is a bit ridiculous. Unless you are already a smoker- then you could smoke THREE packs a day.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Monday, December 13, 2010

Barrowland Revisited



Barrowland, Glasgow, July, 1973

Been going through the archives, trying to get them in order (almost there!), and ran across the negative of another picture I had taken but never seen. Barrowland is a flea market/concert venue, I was truly an "accidental tourist" on this occasion, having just wandered in while on a day trip to Glasgow from Edinburgh.

It is as mundane a scene as could be imagined, although the passing of time bestows it with an interest for me: fashions, the cold weather that summer, those anonymous people in it, and the grayness of it all; it would be a completely different picture if it had been in color.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Friday, December 10, 2010

Beautiful Child



Illustration by Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel, 1886

This somewhat surreal image is from one of a pair of art journals I unearthed in the basement of the local bookstore. Both are full of engraved plates, some of which are exceedingly fine. The bindings, which were once luxurious, are tattered beyond redemption. The text of the English book is quaint, concerned mainly with "the art scene", that of the French volume are extended essays on people and places of interest in 19th century France. Why did I buy them? To start a fine art book collection? Lord knows I don't need another hobby, and I have quite enough books and images already.

Still, they are a fascinating glimpse through a window into another world.

A one hundred and twenty-three year-old tumblr, as it were.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Thursday, December 09, 2010

30 Years Ago

I remember exactly where I was when I heard that John Lennon had been murdered.

I had been helping a band set up for a Monday night gig at William's Pub in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. It was a blues band; they didn't know any Beatles songs so they played a Chuck Berry tune to honor John instead. The few people who were in the back room where the band played drifted out slowly. Nobody had anything to say. It was too awful, stupid and pointless.

And so we lost a guiding light, a complex and sometimes confusing figure, but someone who always let you know what he felt. Many of us still feel his loss. A greater loss was the loss felt by a little boy who lost his father and a woman who lost her man; a family torn apart for nothing.



Photo: Yoko Ono


By Professor Batty




Comments: 6



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

My Back Pages - #9245



Piccadilly Line, London, 1973


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The World is Her Oyster

Congrats Annie! A well deserved honor, but we'll all be winners when the story of your latest exploits are finally told:

Untitled-1

More information about Annie's good fortune here.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Monday, December 06, 2010

The Future of the Internet?



With the recent DDoS attacks on servers hosting the latest Wikileaks files and Senator Lieberman's bully posturing on the affair (including threats to Amazon which was hosting an index of the latest Wikileaks material), it appears that the future of the internet will be one of an endless "cyber-war", with political groups of various persuasions using any means at their disposal to disrupt the free flow of information on the world wide web. How Lieberman intends to prosecute foreign nationals is really beside the point, it's all a smokescreen to inflame the public (and further his career.)

The ongoing Wikileaks' series of disclosures (just wait for the banking memos due to be out shortly) has revealed "secrets" to be sure, but what it really has revealed is the disdain for law and the embrace of duplicity which all major governments and businesses have for the public. It has also revealed how media and political figures in the US culture have developed a similar disdain for law with calls for the murder of Julian Assange, who may only still be alive due to his having even more damaging documents.

This thing I find curious about this media orgasm (all sides in the controversy are using it for self-promotion- they all love it!) is that not one person has ever said anything in any of the leaked files is false. Not one single thing. Has there ever been a news story of this magnitude where not even one tiny detail is in dispute? The media pundits are right about Wikileaks in one respect. It is not journalism. It couldn't possibly be, because it is the truth.

More on the meaning of the Wikileaks phenomenon here.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Friday, December 03, 2010

Masterpieces of Modern Architecture- Anoka, Minnesota



Feral Cat Colony, 2004


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Thursday, December 02, 2010

b-ball



Minneapolis, circa 1990

For many years the arrival of winter brought with it the resumption of pick-up basketball. A group of us guys, with overlapping neighborhood and professional connections, would gather at a community gym to play basketball. No league, just choosing sides, skins and shirts, a core of regulars supplemented with a bunch of occasional players ranging in age from the early twenties to the early forties. It wasn't a real high level of play; whenever a ringer did show up it was pretty obvious that we were not going to make anyone forget Michael Jordan. It was often chaotic, but would sometimes coalesce into a real nice flow- back and forth, some strategy, almost like ballet when we were really inspired.

This went on for many years. I was one of the older guys, and after one too many sprains I finally begged off. I was concerned about getting really hurt, I had a mortgage and a car loan and couldn't afford to miss any work. The other guys kept it going, there always seemed to be a younger guy or two who would replace those who had "retired." Some of the older guys weren't in the best of health- overweight with high blood pressure- there was always a feeling that any one of us could have an "incident."

A few years after I stopped going it happened. But it was a young guy, not one of the geezers, who suffered a massive heart attack. No prior indications, an undiagnosed condition, the guys started CPR but by the time medics arrived he was gone. Later, after the funeral, some of the remaining guys tried to keep the b-ball thing going, but the days of those pick-up games were over.

Looking back on the extended adolescence which is young adulthood for most American males, it seems as if all the intense recreational activity we enjoyed always had a bit of a deadly element to it: sports, fast cars, drugs, drinking, carousing, the whole rock 'n roll lifestyle. A substitute for war, perhaps. Or was it the desire to let one's body experience great intensities of feeling, to be really alive and not just existing?


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2