a party—changing lights can't remember where i am, then i am alone looking down into a deep hole—i know if i get too close i'll be pulled in by some perverse/reverse will power something important is happening—i can sense it, but what? where did everyone go? and now i am a child again—throwing stones i hit a boy on the forehead, and the blood flows right out and i feel sick so i run away and then my mother tells me not to do it and i have to go to the apartment house and tell the boys mother i'm sorry even though he started it then there is the wail of a siren i think it is the police coming for me and...
... and I wake up, in my apartment, in Reykjavík, with the television playing static and something happened.
Empty wine bottles on the table.
And I really am sick, I haven't had a queasy stomach like this since the days in the dorm, when Billy thought it would be amusing to drug the wine. That asshole did it again! I staggered to the bathroom and took my toothbrush and stuck it down my throat. Another trick I learned in the dorm. After a few minutes of purging I was awake, but still fuzzy. I went back into the living room.
Billy had gone through all my things; the laptop was gone, as were my jacket, wallet, passport, phone and shoes. That dirtbag had even stolen my shoes! And the keys to the apartment. He left his jacket, but took his own shoes- to keep me from following him, no doubt. Billy had even emptied out my suitcase, dumping out my underwear, socks and a pile of papers—receipts, the guide map, nothing of value. But in that pile was the most important thing—the scrap of paper that Mrs Robinson had given me in Seattle, which was beginning to look like my only way out of this mess...
Out side the window there were reflections of blue lights flashing off the buildings near the harbor. The siren in my dream! Something was happening. I put on the three pair of socks I had left in lieu of shoes and went outside wearing Billy's jacket. The lining had been torn in one of the pockets; my right hand felt something hard when I thrust it inside the pocket to keep at warm. It was a single key on a key ring with a leather tag and the number 11. I walked down the street, passing the now-dark Russian Embassy and went down to the harbor where the lights were brightest.
There, on Geirsgata, were emergency vehicles. Medical and police personnel surrounding a man lying in the roadway amid pieces of a smashed laptop computer.
It was Billy. Dead.
The police were talking to a taxi driver, it was Ole—my taxi driver. The front end of his cab was damaged. A small crowd was gathering, in it were the two goons I had seen the night before at the nightclub. That didn't look like a coincidence, so I turned and walked away without looking back.
When I was around the corner I started to run: away from Billy, the goons, through the square by Hotel Borg, past the pond, then, with my lungs on fire, I ran to the big corrugated metal church and then up the hill.
Presenting my newest toys, a 2012 camera on a 2012 tripod and a 1972 lens. It struck me that someone in the design department at Pentax must have had a fondness for the old gear. Not only does that lens work with the new camera, but it also looks as if it fits, a perfect match of styling between the eras. Recent years have not been kind to the Ashai corporation, they put out a spate of cheap and ugly plastic cameras in the `80s and the `90s when it was beginning to look as if the world of photography was passing it by. When digital hit even their mighty 6x7 workhorses fell out of favor.
My new camera is about 2/3 the size and twice the quality of my old one (also a Pentax) and my "new" lenses (all 40 years old) are also very compact. I have a couple of monster plastic zooms but I never warmed up to the concept of toting around an outfit the size of a toaster just to take a few pictures. Most of the new pictures you see on this blog were done with a compact Point and Shoot (albeit with manual controls), but there are times when a higher quality image just can't be beat. I'll have plenty of opportunities to use this new rig in Iceland when I go back—IN SIX WEEKS! SIX WEEKS! SIX WEEKS! OMG! OMG!
Until last Thursday, I had never dreamt a recipe before. In the dream I was at a country restaurant where the cook offered me some black, tarry chunks of meat.
"It's our specialty, 'Tar Baby Chicken'."
It was delicious, so I asked her what the ingredients were.
"Just regular chicken, with a sauce made from molasses and garlic."
"But isn't that name a bit offensive? Couldn't you call it 'TB Chicken'?"
"Who want to eat chicken with TB?"
"I've got it, instead of Tar Baby just call it The Best chicken."
After I woke up, I was still obsessed by the thought of delicious chicken with a black molasses coating. Checking out the internet, I found just the thing at Allrecipes. I modified the recipe to fit my dream:
3 pounds chicken, cut into pieces 1 teaspoon salt (omit if using frozen with brine) 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or ginger 2 tablespoons molasses 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 2 tablespoons horseradish mustard 1 tablespoon minced garlic
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and cinnamon or ginger. Arrange on wire rack over flat pan or foil. In a bowl, mix the molasses, vinegar, mustard and garlic. Bake chicken 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Coat chicken with the molasses mixture. Continue baking 20 minutes till black.
I baked it Saturday and it tasted just as good as it had been in my dream!
Sharon has become one with The Karen people of Burma. The Karen people's ancestors were from Tibet. Karen was originally applied pejoratively by enemies. However, the term has since been claimed by the Karen themselves as a badge of pride.
"So what's your story Sean?" Billy said, holding tightly to the wine glass, as if it were a hammer. "How did you end up with the job of being my baby-sitter? And just what are you doing with yourself when you aren't dashing off to the arctic?"
"I never know how to answer questions about me. I can't see myself completely committed to anything. I am always ready to move on. I thought it was different with Molly, but somehow I have ended up four thousand miles away from her, in a strange place, on a dubious mission with no chance of succeeding. I could have had a job coding for Oracle once. Now I'm just a glorified hacker, a not very good P.I. and yes, a baby sitter."
"Molly? That wasn't the woman you were with the last time I saw you? You haven't gone soft on me, have you? You've settled down?"
"She's alright, Bill. Somehow it works between us."
"So who is she? I mean where is she from? Where did she go to school? Does her family have any money?"
"Ha ha. No money Billy. We live under her mother' apartment, in a lower duplex. Father's dead. She's from Seattle, where we are now. I met her in Chicago. Then there was this road trip… "
"Who knows about her? Your boss know? I bet the Senator has a file on her."
"Anything is possible. I take precautions. Are you ready for some more wine?"
"I'll get it. I need some water for my meds."
"Uh oh. So Little Billy's still playing doctor, is he? How can you stand that shit, especially with booze? You'll kill yourself on that combo."
"Not to worry, just a little something for some pep, no prob. Give me your glass, you're almost empty."
When he went into the kitchen I took the opportunity to hit the can. I never liked to see anyone dosing. When I came back Billy was staring out the window in the direction of the Russian Embassy. His foot was tapping, in the way it always did when he was speeding.
"No story on the girlfriend, Sean? Not good. Everybody needs a story, that's what makes us human. Apes don't have stories. They don't know how to lie. That's what it is all about, Sean. Little lies, grow into big ones, but it's the telling of them makes them come true… Sort of. That's why daddy's running for president. It's his story, ever since he was a teen, he wrote it, he believed in it, and now it's coming true. And heaven help anyone who gets in the way. What's your story Sean? Got writer's block?"
"Something Happened. What's your story Billy? The Valley of the Dolls? A Million Little Pieces? I've already read them."
"Sometimes a Great Notion." He raised his glass. "Cheers!"
As if Jófríður Ákadóttir didn't have enough on her plate with the successful Pascal Pinon group, she is also the main singer of the moody electronica/clarinet trio Samaris. I rarely post music videos here, but this one is far more sophisticated than the usual, especially considering that the members of the group are all in their teens. It was directed by Thora Hilmarsdottir who, judging by this effort, is a name to watch. The delicate lyrics are by the poet Steingrímur Thorsteinsson (1831-1913.) Even Google translate can't destroy the dreamy feel of the piece:
Góða tungl (Good moon)
Good moon, through the sky you pass
Sweetly by the clouds' silver bosom
As the Almighty's will bids
On your sure path.
Bring your light to all the tired
Sneak in through each window.
Let, in dusk, the suffering hearts
Be sweetly comforted by your beam
Good moon through the streets baptized
Walks to and expresses
It is set to the glory
God himself, your bright bang
Look for our low morphology
Let your peace faces
And as a friend in guard men
Answer by the Lord's love
Good moon beam in fog
Glitters you Astro Asael
And plankton lower latitudes fist quiet
Solemnly in the night air
Brings us, from the highest
Father gently kiss of grace,
And until the morning, golden splendid,
Good moon to lead us
I had been meaning to catch one of the performances at the Brave New Workshop's Student Union for a long time. My old friend Andy was in the troupe and last Friday night was reserved for their "Stage Match" format, where a group of students in the program were picked at random to be in one of three groups an hour before the show!
Sink or swim.
Audience members could vote for their favorites (and you'd get an additional ballot for the each drink you bought.) The improvs were pretty good; each member got a chance for a short monolog which could lead into a longer riff while cast members "tagged off" with one another to sustain the hilarity:
Between the second and third match was a short intermission (just enough time to get another drink, I mean ballot) and a chance for the cast to interact with the audience:
High points of the "matches" included a couple with a dead dog in an igloo, a talking buffalo (with wings) trying to persuade a hunter not to shoot him and a less than enjoyable vacation in Saudi Arabia. The last of the three "matches" ended with two dying children in a hospital. OK, that one might not have been as funny- it's all in the context. My friend Andy's team won (free drinks!) and then the audience and cast ate chicken wings and had more drinks afterward. It was all very social—the mugging continued long after the show had ended:
If I lived in the neighborhood (Uptown Minneapolis) I could see this becoming a habit.
Sean, I'm writing from the library downtown, I'm getting really paranoid at home, there are definitely people following me. I don't think they'll try anything in a public place, I think I lost them (for a while at least) back at the market. I've got a friend in Ballard I can stay with, I'll take a taxi, I know they're watching my car. This may not have anything to do with you. Remember when I asked you not to run a background check on me? It was for your own good. Things aren't turning out the way we planned, are they? Shit. They're here, in the library. I'll say good bye, maybe I can
"Molly Berenson? Agent Mathaison, FBI. Don't get up, don't make a scene, trust me, it will be better this way. Pick up your things, and walk calmly to the elevator. Don't try to run."
"And if I refuse?"
"Have you ever seen anyone have a grand mal seizure?" The agent said as he took a thick bracelet out of a case and deftly clipped it around Molly's wrist. "You have a choice. You can walk out with us like a sensible woman, or you can be rolled out convulsing while strapped to a gurney." The agent was impassive. "Don't speak anymore. Come with us, the bracelet is on in its lowest setting. Don't make us turn it up."
Molly could feel a tingle on her wrist. The agent closed her laptop and placed it in his briefcase. It was still on. Molly stood up carefully and then walked to the elevator with the FBI man.
Of all the 'blessings' of the internet revolution, perhaps the one which most fulfills the ideal of a free and unfettered world access to knowledge is Wikipedia. It isn't perfect, some of its entries are just plain bad, but on the whole it works surprisingly well. I've often been pleasantly surprised by the quality and depth of the information it contains. I've contributed to it myself, it is easy to do (if you don't try to get too clever with formatting) and can be very rewarding to be able to watch an awkward stub blossom into a in-depth treatment of an obscure topic.
The two subjects I've been most involved with in the creation of Wikipedia content are the Icelandic author Halldór Laxness (of course) and the artist and author Wanda Gág. Of the two, I've done more research and writing for the Wanda Gág article. Her history is not as well known and the story of her personal life (free thinker, feminist, leftist sympathizer) had been bowdlerized in the past—perhaps to protect impressionable children or to promote her life as a sterling example to young women. If you click on the "talk" and "history" tabs at the top of the page you can see for yourself how many changes this simple article has already undergone.
The Halldór Laxness page is still quite incomplete. I've given it a chronological structure and numerous references but have not written much. Someday I hope to flesh it out and help give this great writer a more complete article (I've already created a separate site devoted to his work.) The "talk" and "history" sections also give a sense of the varied input of many people (and more than a few "bots"- those automatic programs which unify structure and formatting.)
Wikipedia and its founder, Jimmy Wales, have had their share of criticism, I suspect most of it is from people who wish they could monetize it. As I said before, it isn't perfect, but it is by far the best and most positive feature of the internet.
The venerable local camera store (since 1917!) holds a "tent sale" every summer. I seldom need anything, but I always go and I always buy. The sale usually features refurbished and overstock items, some used gear and tons of "other" stuff—printers, paper and ink, albums and other accessories. This year, in preparation for my trip to Iceland in October, I actually required some gear, specifically a quality tripod with a calibrated pan head which was small enough to fit inside a pack on the rack of a bicycle. I found just what I was looking for and at a price much less than Amazon's. I also took a look at the used lenses; my Pentax K20D is compatible with any lens made for any Pentax camera in the last 50 years. The 'helpful' salesclerk couldn't understand why I would be interested in an old lens made for a film camera. "You can't use that on your camera, the meter won't work! The autofocus won't work!" As if I needed a meter! Most of my cameras didn't have one, and with instant playback (or preview, if you like to fiddle) you can see exactly what your actual exposure is. Autofocus? Never use it, not even on my modern lenses (Anyone want to buy a 16-50 F2.8 DA* zoom?) The prices of used gear has fallen so far that I bought three lenses for less than the cost of a high-end filter. I've already grown attached to the cute little 28mm f2.8 I got there, I might just take only that and my 50mm f2 to Iceland (along with my pocket camera.) I'm tired of lugging a bunch of stuff around.
And image quality? I'll let my $25 tent sale Vivitar speak for itself:
"Just go in the foyer and wait, keep the door open a crack so it won't slam. I'll come in about three minutes later. We look enough alike that anyone seeing me enter after you will just see one person entering, and forget about it. If we go in together he would remember there were two men, and wonder what the connection was between us."
"Sounds good to me. A little paranoia never hurt anyone."
Billy stayed behind in the graveyard while I walked the block and a half to my building. Nobody was on the street, although I did notice children doing homework on a dining room table in the ground floor flat beneath mine. They didn't look up. I waited in the foyer a few minutes, then I heard Billy's footsteps on the porch and he slipped in silently.
"Step in unison" he whispered.
We managed to get in my apartment without being seen. Evidently that was very important to Billy. My flat opened into a hall with the tiny bath on the left. At the end of the hall was a "living room": a single bed, two chairs, a small table, a TV. Off to one side was a doorway to a small kitchenette. Billy turned on the TV.
"Just for a little masking noise."
The program that came on was a dreadful call-in strip show from the UK. It featured comatose young women with bad skin gyrating in their underwear while callers suggested lewd acts.
"You're witnessing the fall of the British Empire, Sean."
Billy managed a faint smile, the first one I'd seen. He relaxed a little as he sat in the overstuffed Ikea chair. As I was opening the wine I wondered if four bottles would be enough.
"Billy, can I use your phone? I left mine in its charger."
He used it to text a couple of messages then handed it back.
"OK, I'm free, you've got my undivided attention—a luxury in this age. I see that you are still lugging around a laptop." He spoke to me the same way that he used to when he thought I wasn't being quick enough on the uptake."
"I'm not ready to commit everything to the cloud just yet."
We lifted our glasses.
"A toast, then. To our many secrets, my brother."
As he spoke, Billy smiled again, this time with a glint in his eye. We drank without talking for for a few minutes as we watched the host of the television program do her best 'big sister' act, imploring lonely men across the British isles to "pick up, call in, we can't make it happen without your call." I switched the channel to an Icelandic newscast, then turned to Billy.
"Ok, Bill. I'm still trying to process the Senator as my father, forgive me if I don't follow everything as quickly as I should... tell me, what's the story with these Icelandic women? Silu, and Þora, is it?" One of them is the mother of your child, I take it."
"Silu is the mother, but she won't admit it. She doesn't want anything to do with me. Þora is her sister, she thinks I'm here for her. How it actually works is complicated, messy. That's why it doesn't help matters any with you running around here dressed like me. One of me is trouble enough! I need some time. Silu will come around. Þora will get distracted soon enough."
The sun was setting. The room was getting darker, but I didn't turn on the light.
I refilled our glasses with the remainder of the first bottle.
Its over. Whatever cachet Photoshop™ may have had as a "tool of the elite" is gone, buried under an avalanche of smart-phone images and cruddy YouTube™ vids. I've attended a few of these before, they had the air of a religious festival, with hundreds of eager acolytes, devouring the missives from the anointed. Today a few dozen weary souls (most of them older than me!) ran through the motions, listening to the virtues of the newest iteration of Adobe's™ flagship product. It is a good program, but not much improved (except for video editing) from the previous version. The presenter was solid, not flashy, and was mercifully free of annoying anecdotes. But we'd seen it all before. Those of us who use it in our regular jobs appreciate its depth and complexity, but know that using it quickly becomes routine. Younger people have grown up with it, they don't need instruction. At its worst, it becomes a way to alter history, to create a visual world with surface attraction, but no substance. Those who become ensnared by the program's wiles tend to become removed from reality:
Another thrift store find, not exactly cutting edge art, but a pleasant watercolor of a north woods cabin in the moonlight. I thought it would look good in our kitchen, less intimidating than my latest State Fair entry. It was signed; a quick search of the name brought up numerous references to Ted. He was a professional sign painter, a pioneer aviator, he trained flyers for World War II, was active in church affairs and evidently had time to pursue artistic hobbies. He established a land trust to keep wilderness property from being developed; his sons are continuing this legacy.
The thing which caught my eye about the composition is its birds-eye perspective. It makes sense, seeing as Ted was a pilot. This kind of scene may be something of a cliché, but for anyone who has spent time in Northern Minnesota, it resonates with a spiritual essence beyond criticism. Ted died in 1997:
Word has been received of the death of Ted E. Tinquist. He was born March 28, 1910, in Bristol, S.D., and his family moved to Grand Rapids in 1921. He graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1928 and started Tinquist Signs right out of high school. He married Lily Parks on March 21, 1932. In 1941, he started the Grand Rapids Airport and worked with both the sign company and the airport until he was drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he worked full time with the flight training school at the Grand Rapids Airport for two years. In 1948, he sold the airport and spent full time with the sign business. He served as a lay pastor for many years in the surrounding area, including Bethel Lutheran Church in Warba where he served for 20 years. He also served in many community organizations including the Itasca Art Association, Restoration of Central School, and the Itasca County Historical Society. He was chairman of the Bass Brook Township and was a member of the Itasca County Planning Commission. He was a well known area artist and creator of the picture "Devotions."
I used to visit all the very gay places Those come what may places Where one relaxes on the axis Of the wheel of life To get the feel of life From jazz and cocktails
I spent much of my late twenties and early thirties in places like this, working, not drinking, but nevertheless the atmosphere permeated my existence. Ray Price once sang: "The nightlife, it ain't no good life, but it's my life." I was making minimum wage (barely) by schlepping gear for an R&B band in exchange for three hours of glory when the music and the booze would take us all away from our everyday miseries. Most of the places we worked weren't too bad, but the ones with strippers and sleazy wet t-shirt contests were the worst.
The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces With distant gay traces That used to be there you could see Where they'd been washed away By too many through the day, Twelve o'clock tales
And then there were the bad times, really bad things, bad things involving fists and guns and then nobody had any fun. I got out. Others did not. I'll still drop in to a nightclub once in a while—to hear a band or perhaps to get together with a group of old friends. But that time when every night was Saturday night is over for me; no regrets, except maybe one small one, but the small sadness it brings is a comfort, not a sorrow.
I’ll forget you, I will While yet you are still burning Inside my brain Romance is mush Stifling those who strive I’ll live a lush life in some small dive...
And there I’ll be, While I rot With the rest of those Whose lives are lonely, too