Monday, February 26, 2024

A Sense of Balance

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2013

Images and text can be conflicting or complimentary.

What text could capture the essence of this stone? A novel, a trilogy… perhaps.

What image could reproduce the geological complexity of this erratic? A photograph could capture its outline, a movie might capture some of its three-dimensionality, but its constituent minerals would be only superficially represented, as is the sense of gravity that one experiences when right up next to this behemoth.

A rock star.

By Professor Batty


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Friday, February 23, 2024

Parallel Realities

Paul and Joan, March 30, 1979

The news reports were just coming out.

A serious accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania had damaged the core and was still being assessed and dealt with by engineers.

Meanwhile, me and some of my friends were having a pot-party.

Technicians frantically worked to try and understand the situation.

Paul and Joan were falling in love, although they didn’t know it yet.

The incident at Three Mile Island would halt nuclear power plant development for decades, although we didn’t know it yet.

The two young people were both in relationships with others, affairs that would meltdown before the summer was over.

After a while, the Three Mile Island reactor was finally stabilized.

Paul and Joan ended their previous relationships and eventually married each other.

The Three Mile Island facility was eventually decommissioned at a final cost of over 2 billion dollars.

Paul and Joan's divorce, while painful, didn’t cost nearly that much.

By Professor Batty


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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Swamp Thing



When this post goes live I will have returned from the semi-arid Southwest and my mini-retreat from the  harsh Minnesota winter.

The Weaver and I have a recurring discussion about where we’d live if money was no object: the desert, the sea side, a tropical island, perhaps Scandinavia. The deal-breaker for me would be any place without an abundance of fresh water. Mosquitoes aside, there is no place I’d rather be than in a small canoe in some reedy swamp; a place full of slimy life.

The primordial ooze.

A quiet symphony of aromas.

A minimalist soundtrack.

Getting in touch with my inner amphibian.

Minnesota nice.

By Professor Batty


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Monday, February 19, 2024

Artists and Canvases

Street fair, Anoka, Minnesota, 1989

By Professor Batty


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Friday, February 16, 2024

Imperious

Beth, 1969

Imperative: adjective: imperious:

Assuming power or authority without justification; arrogant and domineering.

But it’s only a photograph, a frozen moment that means little. Beth was a sweet girl, straight off an Iowa farm, taking art classes at a “junior” college in the late 60s. Ours was a chaste dance, model and photographer, that lasted on and off for several years.

Or, perhaps, it was an accurate portrayal. Women were expected to hide their feelings toward men then, was this stare a more realistic expression of her feelings towards men, towards me?

I’ll never know, but I do remember Beth’s usual mien as much less intimidating:

By Professor Batty


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Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Tales of Old Santa Fe
You never know who you might encounter in Old Santa Fe.

The Weaver and I found this excellent bookstore a couple of blocks from The Plaza. A plaque on the outside wall stated that this was the site of the jail which once held Billy the Kid. In addition to this provenance the store featured a wide variety of quality books, a coffee bar, and a stage/seating area. When we first stopped in on Sunday there was a spirited discussion about water rights going on. I made a note to return and later discovered that the author James Penner was going to appear the coming Thursday to speak about his book, Timothy Leary: The Harvard Years. Arriving at the appointed time, we joined a couple of dozen gray hairs and a smattering of younger people who were filtering in. A wag sitting in the back whistled the tune from The Moody Blues song Timothy Leary's Dead.  I used to own a copy of Psychedelic Review which had published many of Leary's early papers, so my interest was already piqued.

At the appointed time, Professor Penner was introduced by Joanna Harcourt-Smith, who, I later found out, was not only an author herself, but was Leary's partner and the mother of one of his children. No wonder James seemed a little nervous during his presentation. He had made considerable efforts in tracking down almost all of Leary's published work and had incorporated most of it, along with a commentary, into this book. The story of Leary and Richard Alpert being fired from Harvard's faculty was also touched upon, including Andrew Weil's little-known and somewhat shady role in the affair.

Penner explained that due to political and media backlash the original papers had long been out of print and many had been removed from university libraries—they were virtually unknown to new generations. Afterwards he took a Q&A. The questions were apt and focused; the crowd was obviously well versed in Leary and his psychedelic message. After about a half-dozen questions, the oldest person in the audience was given his turn to speak.  The man had been at Harvard during the time in question, and knew both Leary and Alpert as well as the pioneering ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes. The old man described how closely integrated the three men were with other disciplines in the college, how it was an exciting time of discovery and innovation: not just in Leary's and Schultes' fields. He said that the story of how all these people, as well as other luminaries such as William S. Burroughs, remained close throughout their lives was still little known.

As he continued to lucidly speak I could almost hear the sound of jaws dropping to the floor. It was an intensely "mind-expanding" experience for every one involved. I could almost visualize the trailer for A Major Motion Picture which could be made from his story. Professor Penner was obviously moved by coming face to face with two original sources.

Just another night in Old Santa Fe.

By Professor Batty


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Monday, February 12, 2024

The Best Day

When my boys were young we took a trip to Dayton’s Bluff, a natural geological feature that overlooks the Mississippi River near downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. The bluffs were well known, even before the white man, as there are numerous Indian burial mounds on the plateau above the bluffs. There was large cave there that used by the Native Americans for gatherings and ceremonies. The explorer Jonathan Carver “discovered” and named it in 1766. In the nineteen-twenties bootleggers used the cave to store their goods. In recent times, most of the cave has been destroyed to make room for a railroad, but the bluffs were still dangerous,  midnight drinking parties by reckless youths could prove fatal, you could fall or suffocate in the cave. It was into this locus I brought my pre-teen sons. Child endangerment? Perhaps. We had a good talk beforehand about the dangers this place possessed and they were duly impressed. We had a good time clambering up and down the cliffs.
We lived on a sand plain, so any elevation was a novelty to the boys, and the bluffs supplied that. There were plenty of places to climb, and the soft sandstone was festooned with carvings:
Chuck, the youngest, was enthralled:
For Seth, the oldest, this was the start of a long fascination of climbing. He later became adept at mountaineering and parlayed his skill into many trips to the North Shore, the Rocky Mountains, New Zealand and Antarctica:
As I look at these images I wonder what kind of parent I've been. I managed not to have killed them but I did put them in harms way that day. But kids have to be exposed to the natural world sometime, even if it can be dangerous it has to be better than just living a life of computer games and TV.
It was the best day ever.

By Professor Batty


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Friday, February 09, 2024

Metamorphosis

“What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

~Richard Bach



Prepared for a Homewood Photo Collective project.

By Professor Batty


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Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

It’s All Too Beautiful

Scenes from a midsummer day…



When we were so very young…



All we needed for entertainment was a flat-top guitar…



But it was enough to just sit and be.





Lindwood Township, Minnesota, 1983

By Professor Batty


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Monday, February 05, 2024

Cold Fear

A Thriller by
Brandon Webb and John David Mann
Bantam Books, 2022

Another Icelandic thriller for winter reading.

This novel is not by Icelandic authors: Webb and Mann are an American writing team. Despite that fact, the way the authors handle the Reykjavík setting is commendable, with a lot of street-level action occurring in the novel. It even has a (mostly) accurate map to help the reader “navigate” the town. The protagonist, Finn, a disgraced Navy Seal, finds himself in Reykjavík, on the run, trying to find details about a traumatic experience he had in Yemen years earlier. He becomes involved in a situation where a young woman has evidently committed suicide under the ice at Tjörnín, the pond in the center of town. He also discovers that a trio of Seals are in town to neutralize him, and that a solo assassin is also in the area, looking to eliminate all four of them. The body from the pond disappears and the clockwork plot is set into motion.

Via a hacked cell-phone, Finn develops a weird relationship with Krista, a Reykjavík police investigator. There are other MacGuyver-isms in the story that threaten to sidetrack the narrative but then again, this isn’t exactly a police procedural.

This is pretty standard thriller fare, barely believable but well-written and, as I mentioned before, full of details and descriptions of Reykjavík. It is great fun if you know the city on foot. Fairly grisly (more murders happen in a week in the book than happen in Iceland in a decade) but it maintains its pace right to the exciting finale.

Marginal recommendation.

By Professor Batty


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