Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dairy Queen

Fourteen, maybe fifteen

Pippi Longstocking with breasts

Braids, freckles

A gap-toothed smile

Orthodontist, spare this one

"Can you watch my bike?"

I can

A natural gait

An athlete's body

Enters the store

Returns with her prize

Soft-serve ice cream nipple

Tongued vigorously, unselfconscious

Blue sky eyes

Sunshine hair

Venus in cut-offs

A fountain of blood

In the shape of a girl

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mondays In Iceland - #8

Krýsuvík, 2006

Inspiration for this week's post comes from Alda Kalda, our fearless Icelandic corespondent who went hiking in active earthquake country. The Reykjanesfólkvangur is a national park just east of Keflavík and the international airport. My trek through it was taken during an intermittent squall inside a tiny rental Toyota Yaris. This is a fantastic place, full of mossy lava formations and hot springs. The water in the picture above is boiling hot. Every so often a foolish tourist will step through the crust and get severely scalded. There are plenty of places to hike without fear, as Alda's pictures show. If it weren't so tectonically hot, I'd say "way cool..."

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, June 26, 2009

What Is It? #2

Once again, the caption, artist or story behind the image is up to you...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Is It? #1

The first in a series of visual riddles. Make your guess in the comments. Extra points for creativity.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth

When I was much younger, working in the receiving area of a large department store, I was instructed to bring a pallet of porcelain goods to "Johnson" in the China department. "Johnson" turned out to be John Singh, a young man from India, who was working part-time while in medical school. In the course of my duties, I would stop in and see him, these visits in his quiet department were a welcome respite from the clamor in the rest of the sub-basement where we worked. He had gone home to India for a few weeks and when he returned he had pictures of his visit. Family, cities, and sights, all of them wildly exotic to my sheltered sensibilities. The pictures of the Sun Temple at Konarak, with all of its erotic carvings, were the topper. He explained that they were historical, that the people of India were very restrained in public displays of affection, and very circumspect about sex.

I was returned to the memory of those Konarak images while reading the title story from Interpreter of Maladies, one of a trio of books I've just finished reading. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize, this is as fine a collection of short stories as I've read in a long while. Jhumpa Lahiri, born in London and raised in Rhode Island, explores the lives of various immigrants and first generation Americans who travel from India and back again. She explores the space between men and women, in arranged marriages and affairs, and the inhibiting forces of tradition and family.

The Namesake, a novel, follows one family over many years. It revolves around Gogol, a boy named after the Russian writer, who grows up with a self-loathing which he blames on his name, but is probably due to his lack of any sense of belonging. The distance between all of the characters, coupled with the poised, deliberate writing, may make this book difficult to stay with for its duration.

Unaccustomed Earth contains more stories, and a three part novella, Hema and Kaushik, which may have the best structure of any of these stories.

It isn't often I get to read the entirety of one author's work in the space of a couple of weeks. I was struck most by the tone set by the author, hers is a style that quickly gets into one's head, very natural, almost conversational at times, especially when describing food or fashion. Lahiri's writing, when read over three books, has the characteristics of a fugue: repeating themes, varying in color and intensity, but always returning to the base- the space between men and women, and how culture and family dominate and define it.

Reading them made me miss RS a little, as well.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Haunted Castle

When I was a child there existed a castle, a haunted castle full of spirits. It was a fortress which stood in the midst of an evil forest populated by strange and devilish creatures. I was a ten year-old who had no defense against such malevolence, save for my own naïveté. I had heard tell of the place, for it was spoken about in hushed tones by those neighborhood wise women who toiled as keepers of the scrolls. They spoke of its majesty, its quietude, and the mysterious wizards who trod upon the polished granite floors, and climbed the wrought iron stairways. There was even talk of an Egyptian mummy that "lived" in the basement.

The "forest" a cluster of bars, strip clubs, pawn shops and transient housing. The "creatures" were winos, drifters, muggers and hookers. The "Castle" was the Central branch of the Minneapolis Public Library. I only went in it once, for it was downtown, and a five mile bus ride. But I simply had to go. As you can see, the exterior (which hadn't changed in 60 years) was formidable. The interior was dim and what light there was came from large globes, hanging from chains. I remember wrought iron and shelves of old leather-bound books. I was there looking for Bram Stoker's Dracula but I left empty-handed, being too shy to ask the desk librarian for assistance. I ran from the building in near terror. In a few years, a new modern library was built at the other end of downtown, with walls of glass, a planetarium, and a large museum. It was a friendly place, OK in its own way. Now it has been demolished as well, replaced by a stunning, although somewhat intimidating modern structure by a famous architect.

My childish fears were groundless, of course, but there really was a mummy!

Special thanks to Rose for her post which revived this memory.

Image from The Library of Congress, via Shorpy.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mondays In Iceland - #7

Highway 1, near Hveragerði, 2000

While many people avoid guided tours, the various "Golden Circle" day trips out of Reykjavík are well worth it, if only for the fact that no one has to drive. The problem with driving through the Icelandic countryside is that every turn offers some new vista- spectacular or subtle, making it very hard to devote 100% of one's attention to the road. When the clouds are low with occasional open patches it sometimes seems as if one is driving through Valhalla itself.

When one is driving through the countryside, make sure to plan some extra time to stop and enjoy the scenery- it never ceases to amaze.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Art Crawl

The Art Crawl address I was given ended up being in a formerly industrial section of Northeast Minneapolis. One by one the old factories and warehouses have been converted into artists' studios. The enormity and drabness of their interiors is a vivid contrast to the colorful and eccentric studios themselves:

Jim Grafsgaard, painter and video artist

In my next lifetime, perhaps.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Firework Season

With the coming of warm weather comes firework season. Minnesota only has wimpy, non-exploding types, although enough people find a way to injure themselves on them. The illegal ones they bring in from South Dakota, are another matter. As a child, the best small firecrackers were Black Cats, followed by Zebras. The air of our summer days was filled with the scents of gunpowder and punk, and the sounds of explosions, some sharp, others muffled as we tried to blow cans high into the sky. We were young and dumb, although no one on our block ever got any injury worse than a "stinger." The best big ones were M-80's, quite capable of destroying a toilet in an unattended park restroom, or causing a permanent disfiguration.

A few years back I bought some fireworks- showers of sparks, Roman Candles, etc.
I lit them off on the fourth, they burned brightly and hissed, giving off a sulfuric stench.

What was once dumb fun now just seemed dumb.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I recently ordered a pair of tickets online to see one of my favorite Icelandic music acts. When I printed them out on the third page was the above disclaimer. I'm no lawyer, but some of this legalese seemed pretty anal-retentive, and even counter-productive.

The first line, about scalping, is pretty routine. Not that it will stop any of it. The second line is laughable. Is there any way that disclaimer could hold up in court? Hint: think Rhode Island nightclub fire.

"No alcohol, drugs or weapons." I guess I'll forgo my Claritin™ that day, and I can live without booze, but jeez! You can get a drink at the symphony! No weapons is always a good idea in a crowded theater.

"No recording devices, still cameras or video cameras..." This is a pretty common
restriction, although the advent of cellphones with decent cameras on them kind of renders this a moot point. When I saw Amiina a few years ago, they announced that pictures were OK during the first three songs. My pictures of that event have been viewed on Flickr over a thousand times- what artist wouldn't want that kind of free exposure?

"No... ...transmitting any description, account, picture, or reproduction of the event." So now it appears that I'm not allowed to even talk about the show? Great way for an act to build word-of-mouth. The ticket Nazi says: "NO BLOG FOR YOU!"

And of course they can search you, and use your likeness. But you'd better not enjoy the show too much, or it's out in the street with your disorderly conduct.

Maybe I'll just stay home and listen to the CD.

Or go to church, and ponder my sinful desires.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On the Road Again

Treasure City ~ Royalton, Minnesota

Whenever we used to take the boys up Highway 10, we'd stop in Treasure City. There had been teaser signs all along the way, signs featuring a lurid depiction of a sword-bearing pirate glowering over a treasure chest full of plunder. What boy could resist? "Something for everybody" meant cheap toys, trinkets and souvenirs for the kids and restrooms for the adults. There is a small park behind the place where the young'uns could run around a bit, next to where the RVs can empty their holding tanks.

Not many places like this left in Minnesota. Not as many kids, more vacations are spent flying to real tourist destinations. South Dakota still has quite a few, and of course it has the grand-daddy of them all: Wall Drug.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mondays In Iceland - #6

Hotel Borg

This was our room in the Hotel Borg in 2000. How we managed to end up there is still beyond me. Usually these rooms are $400+ per night. I think they got our package mixed up (we had been seated in first-class on the flight over!) The hotel's interior design let us know right away that this was no Motel 6. No Ikea furniture, (but there was an heirloom walnut burl writing desk in the room) and two of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimt and Frank Lloyd Wright were represented in prints that were color coördinated with the bed and the chair.

This place has been renovated since we stayed there in 2000. If you've got the money, I recommend it highly. If you get a room facing Austurvöllur square, you may get more of a view than you bargained for.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, June 12, 2009

That Thin Wild Mercury Sound

The Band, Saint Paul Minnesota, 1971

Levon Helm returned to Saint Paul last night, almost thirty eight years after the picture above was taken. Life for a musician is never easy, Levon and his "Band"-mates have had their share of trials. Richard Manuel (not pictured) and Rick Danko are both gone, while guitarist Robbie Robertson has been MIA for years. Garth Hudson gigs from time to time- session work with Norah Jones and others- but Levon is still drumming and playing in a band, whether at his place in upstate New York or out on the road. A bout with throat cancer left him mute for several years, he's recovered enough to be able to sing again. His reputation secure, he can play when and what he wants to now. Old time, Band tunes, even the stuff the Band played with Dylan:
"It's that thin, that wild mercury sound.
It's metallic and bright gold,
with whatever that conjures up."

-Bob Dylan

Whatever that conjures up indeed. A lifetime of magic.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Persons Sisters

More rummage.

This time, it is a picture of two of ancestors of a relative of my father, possibly the relative's mother and her sister. This picture was probably taken in the late 1890's, somewhere in or near Long Prairie, Minnesota. Fabulous dresses aside, what caught my eye was the board with dozens of pictures (Cabinet Cards, similar to the earlier carte de visite) pinned to a cork-board on the wall. These types of pictures were all the rage then, now they fill boxes and boxes in antique stores.
Not many people buy them, for they are usually stiff studio portraits of unknown people, usually without even a name or item of interest.

This picture has a few other noteworthy things. The large portrait festooned with flowers, and the cherished possessions of the sitters: one girl with her knitting and the other with her reading.

As it was, so it remains.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Artist Named Frieda

While rummaging through "The Archives" (and doesn't that sound better than "digging through a pile of junk in the basement?") I came across this little (2" x 4") treasure of an oil painting.

The artist was Frieda Johnson, my Grandmother's sister, who managed to escape the farm to spend her days in the desert Southwest painting and drawing, or so I've been told. I don't know much about my grandmother's family, I had the relationships explained to me once, but without any reinforcement I quickly forgot them.

I did remember Frieda, however, if only for this winter scene.

Art trumps memory.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Mount TBR

The Book Nook, Flippist World Headquarters

Most of the "keepers" in our book collection are stored in a corner of the bedroom. "Mount TBR" is a phrase I first heard used by correspondent Niranjana to indicate that pile of books "To Be Read." It struck a chord (C#dim 7th?) in me, for although I'm pretty much a one-at-a-timer as far as the reading of books goes, I do have those books which I know I'll revisit. I tend to purge my library of anything I know I won't read. So, just for the fun of it, let's take a "widescreen" peek at my "special" corner of the Batty library, those books I'll probably open again:

Of course Laxness leads the way, presented in order of publication, I'm only missing The Happy Warriors. I've even got Under the Glacier in Icelandic! Going down the row are various Sagas and "teach yourself Icelandic" books (I haven't given up hope yet!) and even a copy of Kristin Lavransdatter which I MUST re-read someday. A couple of Indriðason´s mysteries and my treasured Bill Holm. Going down a row, into the Biography section, Björk, Dylan and Gág share space with Huxley and Mary Magdalene. Further on are myths and tales; the rest of bookshelf contains mostly reference works.

The Weaver's shelf holds more modern literature; our tastes overlap; but there are some differences:

Snoop to your heart's content... ...UPDATE! Rose's Mount TBR is here... and Niranjana's is here...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 11 

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mondays In Iceland - #5

The City By Night


Although the old part of Reykjavík is quite small, it is crisscrossed with numerous small side streets, many less than 100 meters long. With the turning of every corner comes a new scene, a scene on a very human scale, for many of the businesses and restaurants are located in old houses. At night, it's as if they become stage-sets, with their inner glow inviting the chilly stroller in.

This particular restaurant, Skólabrú, has evidently closed; its website is down.
It was a wonderful place, if somewhat pricey even for Reykjavík's high-flying days. Fabulous French cuisine, with 19th century museum-grade oil paintings on the walls. The lavs were on the second floor, which was evidently a private club where members' personal bottles were neatly arrayed on racks under the broad-beamed ceiling.

UPDATE: It is open again (2015) under new management. There isn't any fancy art anymore but is still a fine dining experience.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, June 05, 2009

Cocktail Party Banter

The party was already underway. Small talk. Someone, I didn't catch the name or connection, was being the picaresque sailor and spilling yarns of his daring-do.
For some reason, he zeroed in on me, peppering me with questions about various dangerous water sports. "Well, I do enjoy canoeing" I sputtered.
He seemed offended. "You've got to try kayaking, you get two people in a kayak, its like a canoe on steroids! You take it out on Superior, you can really go fast..."

Some people make even the most tranquil activity into a challenge, I guess. They even have fishing tournaments! Canoeing, for me at least, is a way to escape frantic activity. Put in on a gentle river and you won't even have to paddle much! So next month, up on the edge of the BWCAW, I'll be out on my little canoe, and not on steroids thank you very much, letting the world pass me by for a change...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Too Much Time

Bemidji, Minnesota, 1975
"I've got too much time...
Too much time...
Too much time...
To be without love."

~Captain Beefheart

When we were younger, we always seemed to have time. Time to goof, time to talk, time to play cards. A zero-sum game, although for me, the final figure was always a negative number. A few of the guys had a knack for poker, some had a need. When it turned into a con game I would usually bow out. The wide-spread availability of casinos has turned card games from a social activity into something else- something professional, with high stakes, it's serious business. Of course nowadays the real gamblers are the bankers and hedge fund managers.

It seems that they forgot that they were playing with other peoples' money.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

T.A. Batty?

Portrait of the blogger as a young man.

Photo by J. Mooney

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Monday, June 01, 2009

Wheels and Barrells

The Whim Estate, St. Croix, USVI, 2009

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

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