Friday, March 30, 2012

Sharon's Flock

Sharon plays favorites. Some are best for knitting and weaving while others are good to eat.

"Flippism is the Key hosts Sharon every Friday", Batty said sheepishly.

Used by Permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fathers and Daughters

Faye and Richard, 1992

   The uneasy alliance. The natural bond between doting dads and adoring daughters in childhood is tested in the teen years. I can't even imagine what a father would do when faced with the prospect of his "little girl" turning into a "riot grrrl." (I don't have a daughter.) Usually the transition is sort of smooth, sometimes there is a temporary estrangement followed with reconciliation, but occasionally there can be an irrevocable break.

   In a world of changing roles and general uncertainty, how can guidelines be established? It is a rare man who has much insight into the lives of his daughters, and the balance of power is inherently unfair for most girls. This situation is hardly new, although it seems as if the rise of communication technology has accelerated the trend. A Father, in what he considers diligence (and knowing the hearts of men) may attempt to stifle his daughter for what he thinks is her own good. The daughter may think otherwise:
"Great Caesar, I am impatient with being a girl. I have more courage and self-assurance than many a man, and yet I am treated as a mere wisp of femininity. A girl has so much harder a time of making good as it is—she has not so much vitality. To have always more enthusiasm, ideas, and ambition than you have energy for, and to run continually across obstacles which have been deliberately placed in your path because you are a woman. I tell you I will not let that come in my way. If I accomplish nothing else I mean to surmount that difficulty at least. I shall not rest until men are willing, and glad, to regard me as important as they (and with my hair hanging down in curls if I choose!) But I must fight forever. I have that within me—call it principles, standards or what ever you like—which is Myself, and consequently right. Part of it conforms to the world as it is, but the other part conforms to the world as it should be, and that is the part which I will fight for, to the end."
                                                           ~ Wanda Gág, July 16, 1915 (age 22)

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thai Food

   "Look, your work may be all hush-hush, but you just can't announce that you are 'going away' somewhere, for 'a while'... you just can't treat me that way!"

   I knew this was going to be bad. Telling Molly that I would be leaving the next day for parts unnamed, for an indeterminate time—I could understand her anger. We were in a Thai restaurant in the U district; it was her favorite place to eat in Seattle.

   "It can't be helped. I can't explain why or where, but it's very important, not just for me but also for your own well-being that you know nothing about this affair."

   She glared at me in a way I had never seen before.

   "Look, if you want to split, just tell me. You don't even have to give me a reason. I've been dumped before, but never like this." She hissed the last line and was beginning to tear up a bit.

   "Molly..." I was getting the feeling that anything I said now would only make it worse. "Listen to me." She turned her head down and began poking at her Phad Pik Khing. "I'll email you every day. It won't be forever. I'll come back."

   "Promise? As if that would matter."

   "We'll make it through this, don't give up on me, Molly."

   Suddenly she regained her composure. She looked at me very closely for a long time. A small smile appeared at the corners of her mouth.

   "Ok. I don't know why I'm doing this, but I'll give you a chance. Don't blow it."

   "I've got to be at the airport by 5 pm."

   "I'll be at work. I trust you can manage it by yourself. Make sure you come back." She wasn't smiling.

   "I'll come back. I will. You'll see me again. I promise."


By Professor Batty


Monday, March 26, 2012

Northern Furniture

Model 1490, circa 1910

The latest (or is it the earliest?) piece of furniture at Flippist World Headquarters is this elegant dresser, found at a neighborhood yard sale, festooned with contact paper and several layers of paint. Many hours of sanding (stripping didn't touch the milk-primer base) along with a little minor reconstruction produced this handsome result, almost Shaker-like in its simplicity. The paint actually preserved the piece. The tight maple was unmarred by dings or scratches, it looked as if it had been milled yesterday. It was sold painted; the wood is not exceptional in its pattern, but using it under paint shows how much really fine wood was available in that day.

The Northern Furniture Company of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, operated from 1904 until 1949, it was one of many furniture companies operating out of Northern Wisconsin and Northern Michigan at the time. In the Midwest antique stores are full of the stuff, although much of it is covered in dark veneers in dated styles.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 


Friday, March 23, 2012

Sharon's Scream

Memento Mori with Sharon, Fridays at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

Who am I to disagree?

Every night now.

It was unsettling the first time they started, seven years ago.

Traveling, in a crowd of strangers.

But somehow I feel right at home.

I know in the long run it isn't really important.

I know that I'll always return home when I wake up.

But to live in a dream— it is possible, if only for a few weeks.

To change everything about your environment.

To escape— yes— escape is the right word.

A new rhythm for my daily life.

And then when I do come home my sleep of dreams will stop.

These dreams are the training for my last escape.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Let it Rain

Finally. It's been seven months since we've had any real rainfall at Flippist World Headquarters. Even our snowfalls this winter were on the skimpy side- I only shoveled twice, neither time memorable. A good old summer thunderstorm came through about an hour ago, (about three months early) and I can hear another wave rolling in. In the sand pit I call home it could rain every day for a month and we'd dry out the very next day.

Of all the weather we get (except for tornadoes) drought is the most worrisome. Not that worrying helps any. Drought = death and what's even worse- drought = boring.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Window Weather

   "Let's take our lunch out at the Gasworks park."

   Mrs. Robinson was not the sort of person to "do lunch." Her socialization always had a hidden motivation. In that she was my boss it was pretty obvious that this was to be more than an excuse to get out of the office. The old gasworks were a good place to talk, wide open spaces and several large masses of ferrous material to inhibit electronic eavesdropping. I knew she was intimately involved with the Billy Clarkson case, if for no other reason than the fact that our searches were starting to get expensive and she always monitored the cash flow.

   "It's a beautiful day." I replied. Any conversation in a common area of the building was always held in the most innocuous form possible. We were standing at the elevator, anyone nearby could have heard us, and the spooks we employed weren't above bugging their co-workers. We drove to the park in silence as usual. It was easier than sweeping the car for eavesdropping devices. In this business "normal" precautions are considered reckless, "paranoid" precautions are the norm.

   As we walked up the hill overlooking the old refinery the translucent red frame of Mrs. Robinson's glasses became back lit as did her nappy hair. For a moment it looked as if her head was on fire. I held my tongue, for she was the kind of woman who always seemed to be well aware of how good she looked, but wasn't shy in cutting down a reckless flatterer. In the office she was always referred to as Mrs. Robinson. Due to the nature of our work we weren't encouraged to get too personal. If there was a Mr. Robinson, or if that was even her name at all, was none of my business.

   "We've got his general location. He bought a laptop with his credit card, We've tracked the CPU's identifier and found that he's been using it from time to time on various Wi-Fi networks. The main reason the Senator's people haven't been able to find him is that these networks are in Iceland. Relations between the US and Iceland have been strained for a long time- at least since the start of the Iraq invasion. Three F.B.I. agents who flew into Reykjavík to investigate an Icelandic Wikileaks connection last year weren't even allowed into the country! Have you found anything in those old college files?"

   "Yes, some old e-mails, mostly to and from girlfriends, and a list of bookmarks. We've been checking them, most of them are dead links, but several were in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Those sites he used to visit- it's starting to make some sense now."

   "In what way?" The glint in Mrs. Robinson's eyes took on a somewhat feral intensity.

   "The sites were all blogs. And they were all by Icelandic women."

   "Women… Huh." She paused a moment. "You are about to pay your old chum a visit. I'd pack a sweater if I were you. The next flight to Iceland is Friday. Book it under your name and when you get there take the Shuttle bus to the Hotel Borg. Here's a map of the central city with an apartment a few blocks away. If anyone asks tell them your visit is part of a 'Scandinavian Studies Program.' Find Billy and keep him out of the papers. Keep in touch. And if you find yourself in deep trouble, go to the American Embassy and tell the guard the word on this card- but save it as a last resort. I'd prefer not to get directly involved with the government, they aren't to be trusted."

   The one word on the card was in Icelandic: gluggaveður.


By Professor Batty


Friday, March 16, 2012

Sharon Go Green

Happy St. Pats Day.

Don your Tam O'Sharon at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Thursday, March 15, 2012


Edinburgh, July, 1973
... I told him about my ideas on magazine illustration–for instance that I thought it was a crime to give the public bad pictures even tho they demanded it. Surely it is wrong to give a child candy and candy and candy when its stomach is out of order as it is, from candy. I told him I thought it was my duty to give the public the best that I was able to do. I said that if all illustrators were conscientious enough to do that, the public would gradually grow to appreciate good stuff. Therefore I thought it was my duty, altho I would play such an almost insignificant part in it, to be conscientious and refuse to cheat the public even tho the public would slash me a little (or much) for doing so. ~ Wanda Gág, 1914

   Ah Wanda! Whenever I need a little inspiration I consult your girlhood diary. Blogging owes a lot to magazine articles—in their most basic form they are both simply a story with one or more pictures. Magazines have relied on that formula for well over one hundred years. Going back further, illuminated manuscripts were all the rage in the late medieval era and Egyptian hieroglyphics served a similar (albeit less portable) function.

   The question remains. What are the qualities which make an illustration "good?" Wanda was concerned with drawings, of course, but now we have an almost unlimited arsenal of images at our fingertips. Why do I make the effort to make original photography and art when it would be soooo easy to go the Tumblr route and just copy a bunch of images every other day? I don't know. I enjoy doing it—but that's hardly a justification. I enjoy taking a bath as well, but I hardly expect others to join me in it the way that visitors to this blog do when they stop here and absorb my "ART."

   Blogging (including Tumblr and Twitter) is a new form of communication, not in substance, but rather in its ubiquitous applications. Everywhere, instantly. It took me a long time to figure out that a post with a picture is worth much more than one without. I posit that the opposite is also true—I find that a text-less image post is wanting. Split brain, anyone?

   Oh, about the illustration above, it is just a 'tyre' shop. Signifies nothing about this post. I just thought it turned out pretty good.

   Please don't slash me.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Stew

Going from 0 to 60 (degrees) in a couple of weeks has complicated my culinary efforts. When it was literally freezing I purchased these fine organic root vegetables with the idea of making a hearty winter-beating meal. The temps have drastically risen in the last few days, so I used these to make a "spring stew", full of garlic and spices in a wine/beef stock and then slow-cooked. Served with whole grain buns and some Imperial Russian Stout- YUM

I went easy on the sunchokes.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 


Monday, March 12, 2012

Golden Gardens


   Yes, she certainly had. Getting a synchronized day off was becoming harder and harder. Our life together started out on a whim and a prayer, by now we were both working so much that the moments of joy we shared seemed stolen. Seattle's beaches were far from tropical, but they shared the same ocean and, in the off-season, were mostly free from hassles.

   "OK! I'll tell you what I'll do- I'll make up a picnic basket and toss in a bottle of Columbia Valley red. Velvety Washington vino, crackers and some fine Tillamook cheese and voilá! Romance will be ours."

   I really wanted to reconnect with Molly, to find out where we now stood with each other. Her job had gone into overdrive at just about the same time as mine had. I usually started work early—my east coast connections were three hours ahead of me. She started later, sometimes taking dinner in the office, often getting home after I was in bed. In the car on the way to the beach she was quiet. Finally, she spoke:

   "Sean, will we ever have a regular life someday? I mean, sometime when it's not so crazy, we'll have something we can build together and not just meeting in passing... in and out the door... you know...  be more like regular people, with nights together and weekends in the country? Does that sound too needy? Cause I think that we might be drifting away from each other."

   I had felt it too. What is it that keeps couples together? Shared life experiences, kids, a sense of purpose, Love? But I was a spook, it felt as if I had become a mass of ciphers—a jumble of fragmented code.

   "I think I know what you're saying." I said. "Why is life so hard? Nothing is simple anymore. Let's make some time, time like this, at least a day every week, and two days a week when my big job is done."

   "I'd like that." She said. "We'll be through our reorganization at the agency by then, maybe, maybe it will be alright."

   She smiled as she got out of the car, the first real smile I'd seen from her all day. It was hazy out over the ocean but the sun was trying to break through. We walked out along the shore a few hundred yards she said "Stop Here." We spread our blanket between some relatively secluded shrubs. When I was pouring the wine she looked down into her glass and started speaking softly, almost as if she were telling me a secret.

   "When I was little, my Mother used to take me here when she wanted to be away from my father. I didn't know why she did it at the time.  I loved to run up and down the beach while Mom would sit and read, right here, where we are. When I got tired, she would make a little bed in the sand and cover it with half the blanket and I would lie down. Then she would put the other half of the blanket on top of me. I would nap for a little while, then she would wake me up and we would go back home. Dad was always gone by then. We'd eat dinner, watch TV, I'd take a bath and then I would go to my real bed. I'd think that it had been a very good day. When Dad was around it was never a good day."

   "Was he abusive? Did he hit you?"

   "Yes, no, I mean he didn't hit me, but he say mean things about me, and mean things about Mom. How I was getting fat. Fat like my mother."

   "Your Mom wasn't really fat was she? And the pictures you showed me of when you were young, you weren't fat in them either."

   "I don't know why he said that. Somehow, I felt that I had 'wrecked things' for him and Mom by being born. It really did mess me up. Lots of gorging and purging. I didn't start eating right until I was in college."

   "How were you able to change?"

   "It was when my father was dying. He was lying in the hospice bed and was still trying to fuck with my head. He was pathetic. I knew then that I had to be my own person. And I still am."

   Molly had never spoken this way about her father, or herself, before. We ate and drank in silence for a while. Finally I spoke:

   "Does being in this place bother you now?"

   "No." She paused for a moment and then said: "This is our place now,  the past is gone. Now the day is ours, as the night shall be as well."


By Professor Batty


Friday, March 09, 2012

Sharon's Garden

Sharon attracts birds to her garden with an extraordinary likeness she calls Sharon Krow.

Scary Sharon, Fridays at Flippism is the Key

Used by Permisson

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Thursday, March 08, 2012


"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results." ~ Albert Einstein
Lord knows I'm not a fussy person. When it comes to books, I don't mind if they've been read, even "well-read." Lately, however, I've had a "streak" of bad luck with books ordered through Amazon. Those stains are probably NOTHING BUT TEA, but the dog-ears, broken bindings and writing (in ink!) have caused me to deactivate my Amazon account. All of the offending books were listed as "very good" or "clean." I'm beginning to think that Amazon booksellers are just an outlet for damaged books that have been returned.

Is it just me? Over the last five years I've ordered about twenty books through Amazon and about ten through ABE. The Amazon books have been misrepresented about half the time- including the above offenses, but also mis-cut books, indelible stickers on dust jackets, rolled, wet or otherwise damaged. The ABE books I have received were generally better than their descriptions.

Of course, in a bookstore you can see what you are buying.

Did I just hear someone whisper "Kindle?"

By Professor Batty

Comments: 10 


Tuesday, March 06, 2012


   There's only so much data crunching a man can stand. Opening a window and looking out over the market and the Sound beyond it, I tried to remember the breathing exercises I was taught in the "Freshman Wellness" class I had taken in college orientation. Where I had met Billy. He was my current project at ADR, a project I needed a break from, Senator Clarkson's wayward progeny. The Senator was making a run for the Presidency and his son, who had a history of wildness, had disappeared altogether. This situation could pose a problem for the Senator's campaign. It wouldn't be long before a nosy reporter doing a feature on the candidates' families would realize that there might be a good "prodigal son" story or, even better, something really sleazy. As I did my "cleansing breaths" I sensed that the current inversion layer over Seattle meant that air might not be the freshest in the world. The aroma from all the coffee being roasted below did perk me up, however.

   Working for a state-of-the-art data-mining operation meant that I had access to the Google crawlers—and their raw data. This was not the "free" search results they give to consumers, this was the stuff they sold to marketers, corporations and governments. Billy was careful in never leaving any personal ID on the net, but I knew enough about him that I could "plug in" all the things I knew he was interested in and after several cross searches I managed to assemble a list of addresses sharing these interests. That trick usually got the results reduced to a couple of thousand potential "hits", looking at this group with some additional filters brought the pool down to a couple of dozen—certainly more manageable than the original three billion. What I needed was his credit card activity and to get this meant going way beyond the usual search protocols- and was highly illegal.

   We had been in touch with the Senator's damage control team. For obvious reasons they couldn't go where we could, but they were able to give us a trust fund number from the Senator. It made regular deposits to a blind trust; we were trying to get monitoring access to that account. We found that had we could access an underpaid low-level wage slave who worked in that bank. I had another ace in the hole as well- when we were roommates, I had tapped into his desktop computer and mirrored the whole thing, just to see if I could do it. I never did anything with that data then- it was encoded- but it was still stored on an old hard drive, a drive which had been in storage with the rest of my college things at my aunt's house.  It was now in transit to me, to be examined by our team of cryptologists.

   Looking down on the street vendors selling their tacky tees and cheap blouses, I was reminded of our old dorm room, with our "wardrobes"- similar junk, style-less, sometimes tasteless. I had graduated to tailored shirts and slacks, I was more preppy now that I was on the other side of thirty than I had been when I was in school.

   I wondered if Billy was as well.


By Professor Batty


Monday, March 05, 2012

(for) The Birds

Dowling Studio, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

I'm a sucker for new theater, either new productions or radical re-workings of a classic. I'll take a chance, even knowing that most productions of new work are flawed in some way, but at least I'll experience something that hasn't been done to death for the last 40 (or 400) years. Sometimes the results are stunning. Sometimes, such as last Saturday night's performance of Conor McPherson's play (very loosely based on the Daphne du Maurier short story) the result leaves the viewer scratching his head in wonder.

The play opens with Nat (J.C. Cutler) lying on couch in a delirium, as Diane's (Angela Timberman) voice is heard in a voice-over(!) explaining the situation. Birds have been attacking and the middle-aged man and woman find themselves trapped in an isolated farmhouse. Soon, young Julia (Summer Hagen) arrives. She had been in a group of survivors, assaulted and then fled when she was found wandering and taken in. Soon her impetuous behavior rankles Julia while attracting Nat's. Diane is a writer, and as she journals the decay of the group's fragile relationship (also heard in voice-over!!) she becomes a mother-crone, ultimately driving Julia away after meeting another survivor (Stephan Yoakam) who wants Diane's companionship- and who may have had a previous sexual relationship with Julia.

All of the action takes place in the set seen above. From time to time the birds batter the house (those must be pretty big birds!)and in between these attacks the cast members attack each other. There are some tangential Biblical themes worked in as well, but none of it amounts to much. The dialog remains awkward throughout, peppered with gratuitous F-bombs, and any flow is interrupted by the disjointed time-compression- the action takes place over several weeks, with day and night scenes alternating. This might have worked better as an intense real-time drama, with the premise being the only thing carried over from the original story (and its best feature) this play remains a bit of a mess- it was originally done for a festival in 2009 and retains an unfinished feel. I ended up rooting for the birds.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Friday, March 02, 2012

Sharon Tart

Sharon tree very pretty and the Sharon flower is sweet.
But the fruit of the poor Sharon is impossible to eat.

And how.

Pucker up with Sharon, Fridays at FITK

Used by Permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 


Thursday, March 01, 2012


I have seen the universe!
It is made of poems!

The Blue Fox
A novel by Sjón
Telegram Books, London, 2008
Translated by Victoria Cribb

This beautiful and peculiar short novel takes place in Iceland over the span of a few days in 1883. A reverend, a naturalist, a woman with Downs syndrome (Abba), an "eejit" and a blue fox are the book's primary characters, characters whose lives are intertwined by fate.

The book is filled with symmetries. The reverend and the naturalist, Abba and the eejit, the naturalist and the eejit (and Abba as well), the blue fox and the reverend, all mirror each other. Sjón is a noted Icelandic poet (and occasional lyricist for Björk) and there are moments when his prose becomes poetry, and his realism becomes mystic. Victoria Cribb's translation flows, never wordy, never awkward. A great introduction to modern Icelandic fiction, and to the ephemeral attraction of Iceland.

For more about this fascinating story, check out Caroline's review.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2