Monday, January 16, 2017

Harriet and Desha

Como Park Conservatory,  Luella Busch, C. 1920

A reliable pick-me-up for the mid-winter blues is a trip to the Conservatory. This verdant getaway in Saint Paul, Minnesota, has been lifting spirits for over one hundred years with its mix of plants from around the world:

The Sunken Garden (pictured above), features this charming bronze of a petite young woman as its centerpiece:

This expression of innocent joy was captured by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth in the early 1920s. I think that there would be a public outcry if such a revealing sculpture were to be installed in a public place today:

Play Days, c. 1925

Harriet was old school—she had studied art under Auguste Rodin and Gutzon Borglum—and was unimpressed by Modernism. Appreciation of her art, which had been considered passé for many years, rose again in the 1970s, when Harriet lived long enough (1880-1980) to be able to enjoy it. Recently, sales of her large bronzes have brought upwards of a half million dollars. There is another Frishmuth bronze at the conservatory, one that expresses joy in an even more exuberant fashion:

Crest of the Wave, C. 1925

Looking into the story behind these works, I found out that these were both based on the same person, Desha Delteil, a noted dancer, who was the model for these and many other works by Frishmuth, as well as for other artists.  Harriet highly valued Desha’s ability to hold difficult poses for extended periods:

Desha, by Nickolas Muray, 1922, George Eastman House

A cast plaster bust of Desha by Frishmuth has been featured on Antiques Roadshow.

Not a bad way to spend a chilly Saturday afternoon in January!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Reader - Week 2

Boogie-Woogie Country Girl

Andy left the diner and went down the street to the pub. He wanted a stout to erase the stale grease mouth-feel from the diner. “How can you make greasy mashed potatoes?” he wondered. Some of his old high school buddies had a band that was playing at the pub that night: Big Dick and his Hot Dogs.  The Hot Dogs were capable, inspired at times, and “Big Dick” and had a way with a Little Feat cover. He was beginning to look his age. They usually played with an accordionist, but tonight he was missing—recouping from having had his pacemaker replaced. A woman was sitting in, singing Gershwin’s Summertime.

It’s hell growing old… ” Andy thought, “ …and it’s going to be hell growing old alone.

He wasn’t alone for long. A slim, well-preserved 40-ish woman pulled up beside him and asked if the seat was taken. She flashed an unapologetic smile, a smile without fear. She began to speak:

“I’m Jennifer,” she said, holding out her hand. Andy clasped it gently, as if it were a bird. He hadn’t touched a woman other than Evelyn for years. He hadn’t even touched Evelyn for months. Working at home—copy-editing e-files and manuscripts wasn’t the most sociable of occupations.

Evelyn was probably right when she called me socially retarded,” thought Andy, “Although she didn’t have to be so mean about it.

Catching himself frowning at the memory of Evelyn’s slur, he forced a wan smile. Jennifer didn’t notice either emotion. He thought that he’d try a more positive approach.

“Hi, my name is Andy,” he said, “Did you come to hear the band?”

“I saw them play at Minnehaha park a couple of weeks ago,” Jennifer said, “Old school, I like ‘em.” She moved closer to Andy, close enough that their thighs were touching.

Andy’s memory was jogged by the contact:
The night club was crowded. Andy had gone to see the most recent incarnation of a band that he had followed one summer a couple of years ago. As he made his way to the other side of the room he saw Sally, a woman who he had also followed that summer. She was usually talkative, sometimes maddeningly so, but Andy didn't mind her loquaciousness; whenever she got wound up he would just sit back and let her words flow over him. Her voice was smooth, and she wasn’t afraid of letting it drop into a lower register; a true contralto. It never had the scratchy “fry” of so many of the younger women that he saw on TV or in the movies.

But tonight she wasn’t talking. Her eyes were on the band. Jessie, one of her former lovers, was on stage with a new group, trying to rekindle the passion he had once held for performing. Jessie would toss a glance her way from time to time. Most of what the group played was turgid blues, but when Jessie counted off an up-tempo version of Big Joe Turner’s “Boogie-Woogie Country Girl” Sally came to life. She started moving her leg in time to the music, her thigh touching Andy’s in a subtle dance: primal, arousing. Sally and Andy were friends, but never in an intimate sense. Once in a while, late at night, before either of them had married, she would call him and have him over to watch Alfred Hitchcock reruns on TV. She talked then. As Sally got into the music her mouth opened reflexively, she was becoming aroused as well. The song ended, as did her “dance.” She turned and smiled at Andy, her eyes flashing a silent thank-you. The band took a break and she returned to her talk mode, all the while keeping an eye on Jessie. The “fling” that she had taken with him, nearly five years ago now, had ended badly—for her.

All of Jessie’s flings had ended badly for the women.
Andy’s reverie was broken by the touch of Jennifer’s hand on his thigh. Andy had the strange feeling that his flashback had really happened. Was it some erotic fiction that he had once proofread?

“Care to dance?” Jennifer asked, “The band is good.”

”I’m sorry, I have to go,” said Andy, embarrassed, he felt as if she had been reading his thoughts. He stood up to leave. “Some other time, sure… ” he said, and then was out the door. His thigh felt warm where Jennifer had been touching it. Where Sally had touched it.

When he was in his car, Andy thought about going back into the pub. Jennifer was pretty, and not too young for him either. And he thought about Sally for a moment as well. A fling. No. He’d call Sally tomorrow. They’d get together for coffee and talk. It had been too long. Jennifer. A fling. No.

Instead of turning back, Andy headed for the all-night grocery.

The Reader is serial fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pink Guitar Redux

Update of an earlier post.

Another guitar with no real reason to exist, this demented double neck has the capability of all the pickups operating at once. The two volume knobs control neck and bridge pickup pairs respectively, while the single tone knob is the master for all pickups. The long neck is tuned to the standard E-E, the short neck is tuned A-A, a fourth higher.

By tuning the standard neck to an open tuning, at high volume the higher pitched chords on the small neck are complemented by various drones or other open notes on the long neck, or vice versa. Both necks and their tuners are 'genuine’ made in Indonesia Fender, the body is MIC (from Guitar Fetish), as are the pickups and other hardware. This originally had two standard necks, but this option is much more versatile. Heavy, but not ridiculously so. That said, it might be better to sit down when playing this.

Lots of barely-controllable fun. Might be a good ax for conjoined twins or even an erotic duet with a simpatico partner. The possibilities, while not exactly endless, are intriguing:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, January 09, 2017

Explodo Boys - #1

An audio track from the Flippist Records archives:

April 10, 1980

Final track of The Later Years, an LP of live recordings, mostly from the late 70s. Jimmy, the singer, lead guitarist and composer, would be gone within  a month of this performance, off to the wilds of Riverton, Wyoming, there to start a new life.

It worked out well for him and his family, although we all miss him very much.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Reader - Week 1

Mashed Potatoes

Andy stood at the kitchen door as Evelyn’s car backed out of the driveway. After the sound of the tires on pavement had faded away, Andy realized that he had been standing there with his mouth open. “Like a goddamn cartoon character,” he mused, “A Goddamn Mickey Mouse.” He slammed the door. The sharp echo from the empty kitchen only added to his sense of unease. While their break-up was gaining momentum over the last few weeks, Andy had still thought that they were a couple: a couple in a horrible relationship, to be sure, but it was, at the very least, a commonality they could share. Now: nothing. He thought that perhaps he should eat something to get the bad taste out of his mouth. Going through the cupboards, he quickly realized that she had removed all the food—no she wouldn’t have just taken it, she would had given the dry goods to a food shelf and thrown the rest out in the trash. That had been picked up that afternoon. The only thing left was an empty jar of turmeric. That was her way, he thought, going the extra mile just to make things difficult for him. “Difficult,” was the world she used when she described their marriage. “When I was young, I thought marriage would be fun," she had said, “But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Andy hadn’t thought it was very hard. As he stood alone in the empty kitchen, he was beginning to realize that he really hadn’t thought about it at all. He’d think about it after he got some dinner.

Andy was a free-lance copy and re-write editor. When asked, he told people that his occupation was “reader”; it was the most fitting description of those various activities that he did for a living. It was the best description he could think of to end the conversation.

Corky’s Cafe was a throwback to the inglorious days of the local greasy spoon: a diner from the 40s, redecorated in the 70s, but certainly not upgraded since then. Andy made a habit of eating there whenever Evelyn would go out of town to visit her sisters. When he walked in, he saw that the tables were empty. There were some familiar faces at the counter, however, people he had seen around town, although none that Andy would consider a friend. He sat down a stool away from a bearded older man who was methodically devouring his plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

“Hmph,” said the man, looking up from his food, “Now whatcha gonna do?”

“What are you talking about?“ said Andy.

“I heard about your fights with Evey,” said the man, “Word gets around in a small town like this.”

“Is it that bad?” said Andy, “I thought nobody cared about our domestic life.”

“People gonna talk, nothing more entertaining that the misery of others,” said the man with a smile, “Evey told all her friends all about it. She called you ‘That deadbeat.’ You need to get out more, you need to try some new things. You can’t spend your whole life with your nose in a book.”

The man snorted and returned to his meal. The waitress came up and asked Andy what he wanted. He thought that the look the waitress gave him was a mix of pity and disgust. She knows too? he thought.

“Burger and fries,” he said, what he always got. “The man with the mashed potatoes was right,” thought Andy, “On second thought, I’ll take the special,” said Andy, “Just for a change.”

The man with the beard looked up and winked at Andy.

“You know,” he began, “There are more pretty women than one.”

The Reader is serialized fiction, published every Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Reader

          Abraham Joel Tobias, circa 1939

          The new “Flippist Friday Fiction Feature” starts TOMORROW!

          Ambiguous, Arresting, Alternative, Alliterative.

          Fun for some, not for all.

          Every Friday until it stops.

          See you there!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Mary Ford’s Country Album

Since I was a child I’ve been a big fan of Les Paul and Mary Ford, the 50s husband and wife musical team that a tremendous amount of success in the 1950s. I found a Les Paul/Mary Ford record at the thrift yesterday, one that I didn’t have. In fact, I hadn’t even known of its existence! Bouquet of Roses came out in 1962, a country album, it was recorded in Nashville with studio musicians and The Jordanaires, the vocal group that had backed Elvis on many of his early hits. This was a departure for the duo, prior to this most of their recordings were done at Les and Mary’s home, in Les’ state-of-the-art studio. Paul’s contribution to this effort was minimal, it may have been made to fulfill their Columbia records contract. Instead of guitar and vocal multi-tracking it was an album of straight-forward country standards—probably Mary’s favorites. The arrangements were pedestrian; the material consisted of radio hits from the previous twenty years, but Mary’s voice never sounded better.

On the final cut, She’ll Have to Go, Mary had the opportunity to use her seldom used but delightful lower register (C# an octave below middle C for those of you playing along):

The song’s theme of infidelity may have reflected the couple’s marital status at the time. They would be divorced a few years later, with charges of adultery and cruelty from both sides. After their divorce, Mary remarried and moved back to California where eventually she died in 1977 from complications of diabetes.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1