Monday, October 31, 2011

Sharon's Halloween

Have yourself a Happy Halloween with Sharon!

Used by Permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sharon Zapped

The popping and cracking sounds in her head made this
the best part of every flight.

Come fly with Sharon, Fridays at Flippism is the Key

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking Off Today...

... the Professor is

leaving for a week

on a top secret mission

of vital international

importance.   In the

meantime, Sharon will

be demonstrating proper

airport security on

Friday and give a flying lesson on Monday. Ég mun vera aftur næsta fimmtudag...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Life is a Carousel

But at times it can become somewhat surreal.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pascal Pinon on Parade!

Pascal Pinon, Nordic House, Reykjavík, October 17, 2009

This will be my last Pascal Pinon post.

I promise.

Until I hear their new CD. In the meantime, check out what they are up to via these links:

Audio (In Icelandic*) of Pascal Pinon playing outdoors with reactions of swimmers at the Vesturbæjarlaug pool...

Archived audio stream of Jófriður's other project Samaris in a video from last summer in Europe

Vienna Songwriting Association's Blue Bird Festival announcement**

The thing to remember about Pascal Pinon is not that they are so young, it is that they make great music. Jófriður's seemingly innate songwriting ability is what differentiates this group from other teen-age acts. Best wishes to them on their fall tour (rumor has it they will tour Japan next year!)
   *Rough translation of video caption:
Pool Guests have a pleasant surprise
Visitors to Vesturbæjarlaugar received more for their money last Saturday when the band Pascal Pinon performed there on the pool deck; part of the Off-Venue agenda of the Iceland Airwaves festival. MonitorTV  arrived and took the opinion of pool visitors to this non-traditional concert.
   **Rough translation of Blue Bird site:
Pascal Pinon is a project of the Icelandic twin sisters Jófríður and Ásthildur. Together with two friends, she decided at the age of 14 years, to revive her room with her ​​enchanting music. For their first live show "The friendly concert" had to serve the twins' room. A short time later, they played numerous gigs in Reykjavik and played a debut album. They borrowed a house in the small town of Vogar and began recording with only one microphone. What emerged there are wonderful teenage stories - a potpourri of acoustic neo-folk and low-fi pop. On their first tour they also stop at the Blue Bird.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sharon's Muzzle

Floss with Sharon Fridays, FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Lonesome Death of Tommie Carroll

It was a high school reunion, of sorts.

A few members of the class of '68 get together from time to time.


Everybody is pretty mellow.

It's fun to see your old buddies and girl friends.

Old flames never really die, you see, they just smolder.

Sometimes a secret crush is finally revealed.

“I wonder why I never asked her out?” a friend said, nodding toward a silver haired yet still very attractive woman who had just confessed her attraction to him in high school.

“Perhaps it was the fact that she had been seeing Tommie Carroll?”

“Oh yeah, that.”

Tommie was a Bad Boy.

You didn’t mess with him, not because he was tough, although he was tough enough.

Tommie was involved with bad people, not some punks in a high school gang, but real criminals.

He never finished school and by the time we graduated he had dropped out of sight.

Years later, his name came up in the papers.

Police had found his body in a shallow grave.

He had been shot in the head and his body covered with lime.

Tom had been playing a dangerous game with some guys who were even badder and Tom had lost.

Looking around at my former classmates, now showing their age,

I thought that our lot in life had turned out OK.

Compared to Tom's.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Virtual Festival

Páll Oskar and Hjaltalín, Iceland Airwaves, 2009

Is the internet sufficiently developed to allow an immersive virtual experience? Writing about the Iceland Airwaves festival last week, I posted some links and expanded them as the festival went on and as I discovered more sites and blogs covering the event. I've been a fan of Iceland Airwaves for years, its mix of funky and cozy (sometimes very cozy) venues all within a short walk of each other may be unique- adding to that attribute the dozens of really new and innovative groups made it really special and... it is in Iceland!

There are some major differences this year. The scale of the event has probably doubled since I first covered it in 2006. This appears to be a mixed blessing. There is a lot of talent in Iceland, but not that much, and having the big new concert venue Harpa added to the mix may have thrown the event out of balance. Many of the reports from the festival have mentioned the lack of intimacy at the various auditoria within Harpa itself, perhaps they are only birthing pains; it may run smoother next year. I'm afraid that Harpa's need for revenue will dictate much of the festival's scheduling from now on. I'd love to see the basement of the National Theatre along with the old opera house (Gamla Bío) used as venues. There is a lot to be said for unique performance spaces, especially ones without formal seating. The elegance of Iðno and the quirkiness of the Art Museum (Listasafn) really add something to the experience.

One thing which has changed for the better for the most part is the blog and video coverage of the events. There are many more blogs covering the shows, some of which are well written, although the plague of cell-phone pictures has actually diminished the quality of the average photo. There are good photographers, of course, but it seems strange that overall image quality has gone backwards! Video quality, on the other hand, is better than ever, with some HD vids so intimate and clear that it might almost be better than being there. Almost.

I must mention Sindrí Eldon's wonderful creative and strange reviews for the Rekjavík Grapevine. Music criticism is a thankless job, but Sindrí has made me laugh out loud on several occasions over the last few years. I'm sure he rankles a few feathers but he does deliver an entertaining, informative and innovative read.

Speaking of the Reykjavík Grapevine's website, I know they are trying to update their layout, but why couldn't they simplify it a bit? Or a least kill the animations- it's like trying to shoot a moving target just to click on a link. Maybe it is supposed to be a web game. A lot of the blogs (usually Wordpress) have trouble with formatting as well, it really doesn't have to be that complicated!

Next year I hope to be back at the Airwaves, blogging in almost real time, with photos uploaded the same night- there's definitely an interest (my single post this year has been accessed dozens of times from festival goers) both during the festival and long afterwards- my posts, pictures and videos have been read or viewed tens of thousands of times in the last five years. I try not to be a jerk about it, I usually hug the wall or hide in a corner when taking pictures. I don't know what it all means in the long run, but to see two* groups of 15-year-olds go from small showcase performances to touring the world and releasing great music makes me think that in some tiny way my efforts are worthwhile.

*Retro Stefson in 2006, Pascal Pinon in 2009

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sharon's Toast

Mmmm, Vegemite.

Share a lunch break with Sharon, every Friday at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, October 13, 2011


It has been 4 years since Björk's last album, the often derided Volta. That effort found Björk paired with some questionable collaborators; it was probably her least successful major release. There has been a lot of talk about Biophilia: its merging of science and technology with music, its iPad app, its newly invented instruments. I've heard snatches of it on the radio, but have yet to hear it in one sitting, in its entirety. I've got the candles and incense lit around my Björk shrine, the lights are dimmed, and I've copied and pasted the list of tracks with each track's subtitle and writer(s).

It's time.

I'll post my initial reactions as I listen to it for the first time:

Moon (Lunar cycles, sequences)..............Björk, Damian Taylor

Delicate intro with halting sprechgesang lyrics turning ominous, then flowing smoother reminiscent of a Verspertine song, very natural voice.

Thunderbolt (Lightning, arpeggios)........Björk, Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir

Majestic church organ morphs into science-fiction soundtrack behind B's impassioned lyric- turn up your subwoofers on this one.

Crystalline (Structure).........................Björk

Music-box "gameleste", Joga-esque rhythm- effective lyrics reflect an impression of patterns.

Cosmogony (Music of Spheres, equilibrium)...Björk, Sjón

The creation story as seen through Bjork's and Sjón's sensibilities, beautiful ensemble brass and choir, wonderful refrain.

Dark Matter (Scales)........................Björk, Mark Bell

Bizarre wordless vocalizations over funeral organ, nightmare soundtrack, very evocative of its subject.

Hollow(DNA, rhythm)........................Björk

Pipe organ madness through the space-time of DNA.

Virus (Generative music)....................Björk, Sjón

B takes on the role of an invading virus over "gamelest" background.
Infect me! Infect me!

Sacrifice (Man and Nature, notation)........Björk

Wiggy "sharpsichord" plays behind heavy lyrics.

Mutual Core (Tectonic plates, chords).......Björk

Volcanic eruptions punctuate the irresistible forces of plate tectonics.
Wild, wild stuff!

Solstice (Gravity, counterpoint)............Björk, Sjón

Organic, oriental approach to daily cycles.

Hollow (original 7-minute version)..........Björk

More intense than short version, actually works better in a longer form.

Dark Matter (with Choir & Organ)............Björk, Mark Bell

Lighter, not as scary as first version.


Originally a single released to benefit Icelandic conservation efforts, with a real drummer and spooky choir, sung in Icelandic, somewhat different than the rest of the album.

Whew! What can I say? It would be a great mistake to think of this as an album of pop music. The "new" instruments sound great, although traditional organ voices are used even more. I never thought anyone would make such an experimental album with so much pipe organ in it! Musically and sonically challenging, yet her voice retains its natural sonority and it is as compelling as anything she's ever done. The sprechgesang delivery of the lyrics verge on becoming a bit stilted at times, but on the whole it is quite listenable. It is a n audiophile's delight- test your sound system with this disc! The Biophilia Wikipedia article covers the concepts behind each track far better than I ever could. Even if you aren't interested in Björk or her music it's well worth reading to see how her creative genius works.

While I was listening and writing this post, the Reykjavík Grapevine put up a review of Björk's Wednesday night concert at Harpa.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Iceland Airwaves 2011

Dr. Spock, Tryggvagata, 2009

The Iceland Airwaves Music Festival starts today! I don't have any direct links to the festival this year, but here are some good on-line sources of information:

The Grapevine Airwaves site, offering daily reviews and photos.

A wide selection of videos from this year's Airwaves along with other, related video, is at Wim's IMM site.

Auður's HD videos from the downtown hostel are almost unbelievable- the camera is right next to some of the performers!

Columbia College is sponsoring a group of journalism students who are covering this year's Airwaves.

The Seattle radio station KEXP has blog with photos from their live broadcasts (to be archived later)

And, of course, the Airwaves Site itself.

According to Airwaves Insider Bob Cluness, next year's Airwaves will be held in November. This is a terrible idea, the weather is much worse, and there is about an hour less of dimmer daylight every day. It also means that some of the airports which Icelandair uses seasonally (Minneapolis, for example) will not be available for Airwaves patrons. In 2009 I had to go through Boston's Logan which added a full day's travel time (including a night spent in that horrendous airport) and $500 to the cost of the trip.

Of course, I'm not in the desired demographic. The festival has always been aimed at Western Europe; limiting it to nearby countries might well make some economic sense. Few Americans are interested in anything foreign, and the cost of an Airwaves package, while reasonable, is higher than the disposable income of most young people.

The new player in the Airwaves festival is the Harpa concert hall. Construction was started before the economic collapse, and I suspect that it needs to be used as much as possible to cover the construction costs. There may be more profitable uses for the hall in October, I don't know. I do know that the days of glorious fall weather spent exploring Reykjavík and the surrounding countryside will be greatly diminished for the Airwaves patrons. If the weather is foul enough it may discourage festival goers from ever returning to Iceland, which is exactly opposite of its original intention.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 8 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ring of Destruction

Where the Shadows Lie

A novel by Michael Ridpath

Minotaur Books, New York, 2010

Scandinavian crime fiction is so hot these days that it is little wonder that non-native writers would want a piece of the action. Michael Ridpath is a Londoner who started his literary career writing financial thrillers; this is his first “Magnus Jonson” detective novel. Magnus is a native Icelander who had moved to Boston while in his teens and where his father was murdered. This spurred the young Magnus to become a policeman and then a homicide detective. He kills two hitmen in Boston while investigating a drug ring, and is sent to Iceland for his own protection. When he arrives he is immediately swept up in a series of murders involving a lost Saga, obsessive Lord of the Rings fans, and a family with a millennium's worth of secrets. The plot’s major twist involves some letters from J. R. R. Tolkien inferring a real-life connection with the “Ring of Power”. All that, along with plenty of action in exotic Icelandic locales, makes this novel a good source for an action movie.

Needless to say, this is not a subtle examination of Scandinavian psychology. It is a page-turner however, and even becomes a cliff-hanger at times. It also refers to recent news events in Iceland. Things there have changed so much recently that the book already seems somewhat dated. That said, Ridpath has done his homework concerning the Icelandic particulars; the places and cultural references are, for the most part, accurate. The weakest part of the book is his protagonist, possibly the most unappealing detective since Joe Don Baker’s Mitchell. Part of my distaste might come from the author’s prurient attitude toward Icelandic women. I’ve run into that before, is this some UK travel writer’s sex fantasy thing? The Icelandic women I’ve met wouldn’t give this slob the time of day. There is another title in this series, 66° North.

I don’t think I’ll regret it if I miss that one.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Whales, Fish, Wool

The Old Man and His Sons

A novel by Heðin Brú
Translated from the Faroese and with
an introduction by John F. West
Paul S. Eriksson publisher, New York, 1970

This is the final entry in my Faroese authors series. It was first published in 1940 (Feðgar á ferð) and it reflects the turmoil of the change from a primitive society to a more modern one. Ketil, a vital seventy-year-old, is caught between his traditional self-sufficient hunter-fisher-farmer existence and his sons' lives of working for wages and living on credit. The story starts with an intensely graphic account of a whale massacre. After the slaughter Ketil overbids on a quantity of whale meat because he doubts if he'll have the strength to participate again. The rest of the book deals with Ketil's efforts to raise money to pay for the whale meat while trying to deal with his unsympathetic adult chidren.

The writing is pithy, dryly ironic at times, and extremely down to earth. The introduction mentions how Faroese is a very concrete language and abstractions are not common. The book is simple in its language, but Brú's mastery of understatement and his use of dialog to examine the issues of generational conflict and aging make this a surprisingly moving story. One thing this novel shares with the others I've recently reviewed (The Lost Musicians and Barbara) is its open-ended resolution. Life goes on.

Recommended, but Brú's terse writing and his humble protagonist's lifestyle may not suit every taste.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, October 07, 2011

Sharon's Boat

In troubled times, the Spotbottoms always enjoyed being an island unto themselves.

Sail away with Sharon, Fridays at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Desire Amidst the Faroes


A novel by Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen
Translated from the Danish by George Johnston
Norvik Press, 1993

This is the third entry in my Faroese Authors series. Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen was a tragic figure- this is his only novel and was written as he was dying from tuberculosis. The manuscript was taken from his deathbed and prepared for publication (the book wasn't finished) by his friend and literary contemporary, William Heinesen. First published in 1939, it quickly became a classic of modern Scandinavian literature. Barbara is a tale of an 18th century Faroese woman who remains a free spirit with an eagerness for sexual adventure in spite of the consequences. She acts thoughtlessly at times, but has no personal sense of sin.

Although the plot is simple, it is not the standard fallen woman story. The effects of her actions can be tragic (for her lovers), but she is not evil. Some of the townsfolk call her "wicked, wicked Barbara" but others are not so harsh in their judgement, for she brings light into the dreary lives of many. Her only vice, if it may be termed such, is that she can't be be tied down to any one man.

This conflict is played out over a variety of locales in the Faroes, these set-pieces are described with a sumptuous, almost cinematic quality. Barbara's sensuality as well as the cast of well-drawn secondary characters all come to life in the absolutely fabulous writing. The ambiguous ending meshes with the story's lack of rigid moralizing.

The first English translation of Barbara was done by Estrid Bannister, who was a friend of Jacobsen and was the real life model for Barbara. It might be fun to compare the two translations. Although Johnston writes vividly and seems to capture the Faroese idioms, I can't help but think that Estrid's version might possess a special charm of its own.

Highest recommendation.

Next week: The Old Man and His Sons, by Heðin Brú.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Antiquing Aftermath

I really thought we could make it/ I couldn't melt your cold, cold heart/

We sang in the sunshine/ All alone am I/ Where did our love go?/ Suspicion/

You've lost that loving feeling/ You don't have to say you love me/ Crying/


Send me the pillow that you dream on...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, October 03, 2011


Antiquing on a Saturday/Classic Mod Girl/Perfume and Cigarettes/

Where have you been the last 40 years?/Let's smoke and make out/

Life is short/Don't speak/Don't break the mood/Just look at you:


By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

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