Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Santa Fe Entryways - I

One of the delights of Santa Fe is its plethora of entryways, all different, all intriguing:
Most are in the adobe revival style (set by zoning laws from the 1930s) but some are earlier:
I find them to be just as interesting.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, March 20, 2023


Chapter 12 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
I have mentioned sprakkar, an Icelandic word meaning ‘outstanding or extraordinary women’ before. Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, pictured above, is married to Eliza Reid, who, in a recent book, has popularized the word.

He also happens to be the president of Iceland.

I was in the assembly hall of Grund, a senior residence in Reykjavík. Guðni was speaking to a varied group: Seniors, schoolchildren, media types and a handful of jet-lagged attendees of the Iceland Airwaves music festival. This was a repeat performance, he had spoken here in 2018 (when I was also here) and in 2019. Covid had caused the cancellation of this ceremony in 2020 and 2021; this was a much smaller gathering (the festival had been scaled back considerably) so this event had a special significance. Guðni’s speech was short; a pleasant mix of greetings and platitudes, but his attention to supporting the performing arts in Iceland was a genuine reflection on the country’s support for education in music and the arts. Guðni is a historian and is acutely aware of Iceland’s role in the world and its strategic location in it. He left he following week on a tour of various colleges and universities around the world. I was duly impressed that he took the time to talk with us, even more so after interacting with Eliza (albeit virtually) at the 2020 Iceland Writers Retreat and (in person) in Minneapolis the previous spring.

After Guðni’s speech an Icelandic pop duo Sycamore Tree came up and sang several pleasant, if somewhat nondescript, songs in English with a backing of strings. They have been an act for a while, YouTube videos don’t show much change in their repertoire, although their hats have gained some embellishments over the years. I wondered what the elderly residents (some of which were my age-peers) thought of them. Cognitive Dissonance? After they had finished, the troubadour Júniús Meyvant performed, solo, singing and playing guitar, also in English. He offered more of the same bland fare, except with whistling. My musical allergies to CD (and whistling) were beginning to act up so I left after a few of his songs. It wasn’t that his music was bad, but it just didn’t measure up to what I had seen here four years ago: The magnificent Soléy, performing heartfelt tunes sung in Icelandic along with her father’s support on the trombone. This situation of singing in English is a not a problem unique to Iceland, English lyrics are everywhere in pop music. It takes real courage to perform in an obscure language before an international audience, and a great deal of determination to write lyrics in one. This issue will come up again and again over the festival—my fear is that in not too many years Icelandic songs will have become historical curios; and festivals such as this one will become even more culturally diluted.

Another reason for my early departure was that I had a luncheon date at noon, and it was a good twenty-minute walk to Hlemmur Mathöll, a food hall at the eastern end of Laugavegur. In 2004 the old Stræto city bus terminal was a place that had an unsavory reputation but has a most savory one now. That old bus terminal was one of the few places in Reykjavík where I felt ill-at-ease.  I had stopped in there then to change film in my cameras (Film! Ancient History!) and was given the evil-eye by a young ruffian. Not a likely occurrence today as the station has been transformed from a shelter for miscreants into a bustling hub of dining opportunities. I made it there in time and my partner in gustatory delights worked only a block away (at the Foreign Ministry) so I expected her shortly, although that hadn’t always been the case in the past.

By Professor Batty

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Friday, March 17, 2023


16th century church, Pecos, New Mexico

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, March 15, 2023


Kiva: an underground or partly underground chamber in a Pueblo village, used by the men especially for ceremonies or councils.

A kiva in an active pueblo village is usually off-limits to the casual tourist. These are in a now-defunct pueblo which had a population of over 2,000 in the 1500s when Spanish explorers came upon it. The pueblos gradually fell out of use (for multiple reasons) and there is no longer any native population there. These images were taken in a rebuilt kiva in the Pecos National Historical park near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, March 13, 2023

Adventures in Never-Never-Land

Chapter 11 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
After leaving Maria, I had some free time before the before the first off-venue show began.

I wandered down to the old harbour area to check out one of the new off-venues: the Hafnartorg Gallery, a food court in a multipurpose building. The last time I was here (in 2018) it was under construction. Its appearance was undistingushed, but far from the worst of the new developments in the area. On the way to it I passed Hafnarstræti (shown above) a monument to the dearth of imagination of the city planners. This area used to be open to views of the harbour, of Mount Esja and to the skies above. Now it was a scene from a nightmare, a mausoleum, a perverse temple dedicated to Mammon. Nearby streets, even Austurstræti with its tacky bars and stores, were full of life but Hafnarstræti’s brutal austerity had even driven the low-life idlers and drunken panhandlers away.  I went and picked up my Airwaves wrist-band. The headquarters seemed to be decidedly low-key, although they are nearly sold-out. I walked over to Austurstræti where I stopped into the usurous 10-11 convenience store to buy a replacement toothbrush. They had some for the equivalent of $8 (ouch!), but also had a child’s toothbrush for $2 (and one that would actually fit into my travel toiletry kit-yay!) On my way back to my apartment via Lækjargata, I walked past the new Sirkus bar, now featuring Indian food. A big change from the old place I visited in 2006. While change is inevitable, and can be for the common good, what I feared in 2015 has now become a reality.

After freshening up I made my way over to the Smekkleysa record store off-venue, where Hekla, a famous (and famously shy) thereminist was setting up her gear in an unadorned basement room, a truncated white cube about 10 meters on a side with a 5 meter-high ceiling. It was just the two of us as all the other people were in the store proper (on the level above). She finished with her equipment and was standing alone, looking a bit forlorn. I made my way over and started gushing like a fan-boy: “Oh, I have to tell you I much I enjoy your music, I first saw you playing with Bárujárn, your music has become part of the soundtrack of my life, it’s on heavy rotation in my car, I listen to it all the time! Thank you so very much!” She smiled and clasped my hand and simply said “Takk.” My blood pressure rose with the touch of her hand. Other people began wandering in so I reluctantly left her to mingle while I picked out a dark corner in which to hide to catch her performance. Her theremin was augmented by backing tracks and an occasional keening vocal. As she continued I was transported to the never-never-land of my imagination. As odd as the theremin sounds, it is absolutely mesmerizing to watch someone playing it.

After her set I returned to the apartment and made a dinner of Fiskibollur (fish cakes) that were entirely adequate. It is better to eat light before a night out than to be logy from over-indulgence.

The evening’s Airwaves preview show (at Iðno, a nineteenth-century concert venue) was new this year at Airwaves. It seemed to be more of an ad hoc collection of Icelandic musicians in various proto-groups than established acts. Kilður, a choir, was wrapping up their set when I walked in and of course they were wonderful (Icelandic choirs are always great.) The next performer was Neonme (Salka Valsdóttir) who stunned the crowd with her art-songs. Backed by a sax, harp and guitar, Neonme is also dancer; when she wasn’t singing her graceful moves put the crowd in a trance. Her guitarist also sang a song; she had an angelic voice, I was transported. There were also some what I thought might be sound effects, or perhaps they were glitches? Neonme was enchanting as she sang melancholy tunes of regret, a tiny bit like Lana Del Rey. Her peek-a-boo “Peter Pan” outfit made for a beautiful, transcendent experience:

As the intensity of the set increased, it seemed as if there would be a point where something would have to give and it did: a member of the crowd collapsed, right in front of the stage. Immediately the crowd gave her space and some water and the venue’s crew opened the side doors of the venue to let in some welcome fresh air. The afflicted audience member recovered but the spell was broken. Another group, Kónguló, came on but was plagued by equipment issues. In an attempt to preserve my lingering afterglow, I left and went back to the apartment for a relatively early bedtime. It meant missing some other good acts but tomorrow would be a full day and I needed to get up early; there would be no pool visit in the morning.

By Professor Batty

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Saturday, March 11, 2023

Wanda Gág Day!

Scene from a never-written fairy tale:

Wanda Gág, ~ circa 1921

By Professor Batty

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Friday, March 10, 2023

We Interrupt This Blog…

Due to technical issues, FITK will be posting a day later than usual.

You may now return to your other mind-numbing internet pursuits.

Thank you for your patience and your patronage.

By Professor Batty

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