Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Letter

Model Writing Postcards, Carl Larsson

Dearest darling,

Here's one from the heart.

I've nothing to hide.

Just thinking of you

gives me a good feeling.

Three weeks isn't so long,

and then we can make up our lost time.

You'll see.

I'll be here,

waiting for you.

All my love.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Après-Ski, Central Minnesota, circa 1920

Gunilla Bergman, unk., unk., Charles Anderson.     Photo by Oscar Anderson

My grandparents and friends on a chilly day in central Minnesota. It is strange to see them as young people- my earliest memories of them was when they were in their late 50's, already well weathered from lives of hard labor. The awkward posing hints that this was not a candid picture, although why the women were crouching is not clear. The dour expression of my grandfather seldom left his face, while my grandmother was a far more cheerful soul than this picture suggests. It may have had to do with the fact that the photographer was my grandfather's brother, who had a reputation of being a ne'er-do-well. I remember him as a sick old bachelor who lived on coffee and Snús.

My mother's greatest fear was that I would end up like him.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vendo the Clown

What ever it is that he is dispensing, I'm not buying.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spotbottom Thanksgiving

Bird feasting is a hog-wild Spotbottom family tradition.

Feast your eyes on this special holiday Sharon! Sharon returns a week from Friday...

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pike Place People

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Meme

Now that snow shoveling season has returned, my guilt at staying indoors and reading has diminished considerably. In order to further justify my indolence, I've joined this "5 things" meme:

1. The book I’m currently reading:

Dylan's Vision of Sin by Christopher Ricks.
Yes, The Oxford Book of English Verse, Christopher Ricks. If you've ever had a yen to see if Bob Dylan's lyrics hold up to a close reading under the "classical" microscope, this is the book for you. Although he may not cover your favorite Dylan song, those which Ricks does analyze are covered in depth: in their construction, in their relationship to other poetry, and in their meaning. At over 500 extremely verbose pages this is neither a quick nor easy read. It is, however, refreshingly free of the usual Dylan biographical sidetracks as Ricks takes each song as a stand-alone creation and doesn't dwell on what Dylan ate for supper the day he wrote it.

2. The last book I finished:

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. One of my Nobel Laureate "series", is a small gem of a novel concerning a sad affair between a middle-aged Japanese man (Shimamura) and a young woman (Komako, a geisha) who try to create a meaningful relationship in a mountain ski resort and spa. As it develops it shows various nuances of the very Japanese situation. It was hard for me to warm up to the characters in the book, Shimamura is aware of imbalance in their relationship but can do little or nothing to change it, his passivity lacks empathy. Komako, who seems to be somewhat different than other geisha girls, remains trapped in her role as well.

3. The next book I want to read:

Laterna Magica by William Heinesen. I found this book when I was in Seattle, one of several Faroese connections I made that weekend.
I had recently read Heinesen's The Lost Musicians, along with several pieces in Faroese Short Stories. This book contains more short fiction- it is his final book- and was published in Seattle by Tiina Nunnally for the Fjord Press in 1987 (Tiina translated Peter Høeg's immensely successful Smilla's Sense of Snow).
I've peeked at it; I'm sure I'll devour it once I'm through with the Dylan book.

4. The last book I bought:

The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir, translated by Brian FitzGibbon. This is a leap of faith, I've seen numerous favorable reviews, it is still a risky bet though. I've been burned before by on-line recommendations but have been pleasantly "warmed" by others. Outside of crime fiction writers, I am woefully ignorant of modern Icelandic fiction.

It's in my Amazon queue, I'll put off actually ordering it until after I make the rounds of the Minneapolis booksellers.

5. The last book I was given:

Icelandic Essays, explorations in the anthropology of modern life by E. Paul Durrenberger, Rudi Press, 1995.

This gifted book was a complete surprise from my blog-pal "Rose". It contains a series of anecdotal essays tying modern life in Iceland to its history and culture. Written just before the crazy economic expansion in the 2000's, its greatest value may line in its "time capsule" description of that time of transistion. While this book would have limited appeal for the general reader, Rose knows exactly what appeals to my fancy.

This meme is from Simon, via Niranjana...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sharon Pensive

Sometimes Sharon can stare right at something until it
takes on a new shape with new meaning.
No shape and no meaning.
They galactically part ways and all power is diminished.
This is how Sharon stays free.
Or so she thinks.

Freedom isn't free. Sharon is, however, free on Fridays at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Joni Mitchell's Coyote

“Great simplicity is only won by an intense moment or by years of intelligent effort, or by both. It represents one of the most arduous conquests of the human spirit: the triumph of feeling and thought over the natural sin of language.”
~T. S. Eliot
I am trying a little experiment today. If you'd care to join me in it open a new window in your menu bar and open:


in the new window. Squeeze the new window to the video width, let it buffer if needed and put it to the left of the screen. Then squeeze the original window a bit until they are both side by side. You may need to shrink the font a bit if you are using a laptop. Scroll along with the lyrics and my commentary.

Start the video and begin...

This song by Joni Mitchell is from the time she spent with Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue and deals with a sexual encounter she had with Sam Shepard (the writer, actor and musician), and how differences in their respective lives made it impossible to continue the relationship:

Verse 1

No regrets Coyote...

The affair is over, yet she feels compelled to revisit it...

We just come from such different sets of circumstance
I’m up all night in the studios
And you're up early on your ranch

... in Nova Scotia, near the Bay of Fundy

You’ll be brushing out a brood mare's tail
While the sun is ascending
And I’ll just be getting home with my reel to reel...

Joni defines their mutual attraction...

There's no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get
And still feel so alone
And still feel related
Like stations in some relay

Joni sees integrity in Sam's passion (wishful thinking?):

You’re not a hit and run driver, no, no
Racing away

… but of herself, she has a more realistic view:

You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway

Verse 2

We saw a farmhouse burning down
In the middle of nowhere
In the middle of the night
And we rolled right past that tragedy

The farmhouse = Joni and Sam's past life?

Till we pulled into some road house lights
Where a local band was playing
Locals were up kicking and shaking on the floor
And the next thing I know

Seduction begins:

That Coyote’s at my door
He pins me in a corner and he won't take “No!”

… but Joni is enjoying this immensely!

He drags me out on the dance floor
And we’re dancing close and slow

“ and she knows exactly what she’s getting into:

Now he's got a woman at home
He’s got another woman down the hall

Smiling, at the moment of conquest…

He seems to want me anyway…

Sam, speaking through Joni's voice:

“Why’d you have to get so drunk and
Lead me on that way?”

Joni answers:

You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway

Verse 3

Joni conflates their situation with the natural world, placing it in her personal experience:

I looked a Coyote right in the face
On the road to Baljennie near my old home town
He went running through the whisker wheat
Chasing some prize down
And a hawk was playing with him
Coyote was jumping straight up and making passes
He had those same eyes - just like yours
Under your dark glasses

... then puts his in the context of the current situation:

Privately probing the public rooms
And peeking through keyholes in numbered doors
Where the players lick their wounds
And take their temporary lovers
And their pills and powders to get them through this passion play

Joni won’t commit:

No regrets, Coyote...
I just get off up aways
You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway

Verse 4

No illusions the morning after:

Coyote’s in the coffee shop
He's staring a hole in his scrambled eggs
He picks up my scent on his fingers
While he’s watching the waitresses' legs

Sam is suffering from being away from his roots:

He’s too far from the Bay of Fundy
Appaloosas and Eagles and tides
The air conditioned cubicles
And the carbon ribbon rides
Are spelling it out so clear
Either he’s going to have to stand and fight
Or take off out of here

Still, Joni can't deny the power of his charm:

I tried to run away myself
To run away and wrestle with my ego
And with this flame
You put here in this Eskimo

Reestablishes her distance by defining herself:

In this hitcher

and finally achieves her moment of great simplicity:

In this prisoner
Of the fine white lines
Of the white lines
On the free, free way

Realizing that the need for independence defines her, Joni can let the relationship go. She fades out in the distance, going alone on her own “free” way…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 10 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Life of a House

Another antique store postcard. A modest bungalow, pictured in the early 1920's, with a one cent stamp and an address on the back.

I found the place with little trouble although the surroundings had changed somewhat over 90 years:

The life of a house is infinitely mutable, bad design often begets bad alterations, but the best measure of good design is how gracefully it ages:

Nearly perfect, I'd say.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 8 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Free Beer Tomorrow

"What did you have to eat?"

A teen, wearing a school jacket with a "Tennis Team" patch on the sleeve, interrupted out discussion. She was fair, with impossibly smooth skin, and had no reservations about talking to two gray-haired strangers. Old men sporting Saturday stubble, wearing Saturday clothes. When a Grace asks you a direct question, how can you do anything but smile and answer truly and sweetly, all the while basking in her radiance?

The "Moment" ended. She left- I don't know if she took our advice or not, perhaps she was polling all the other patrons as well! The food we had eaten (fajitas and wild rice soup) was standard suburban restaurant fare, forgettable, but palatable enough. Neater than the chicken wings.

Our conversation resumed.

"Have you talked to your cousin lately?"

"I saw him a little while ago, he was involved with some kind of conflict mediation therapy. He wanted me to attend a meeting."

"Conflict mediation?"

"Sure, don't you have conflicts?"

"Well... sometimes, I guess. Most of the conflicts I have usually depend on what I've had to eat. All-Bran usually mediates them."

After paying our bill, we headed out to the street.

"We should come back here tomorrow."

"Why is that? The meat raffle?"

"No, the free beer."

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Iced Sharons

Hey cupcake!

Get frosted with Sharon, Fridays at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seattle Connections

A weekend in Seattle is just the thing for breaking out of a rut. A big difference in Seattle that I've noticed from other destinations is that people in public places will talk to you- a lot. The least trigger- a book, a shared observation, standing in a line, and someone will start a conversational river; everyone seems to be searching for something. I was standing in line for the Reykjavík Calling concert and started talking to the woman in line. She was there to meet a friend who had been instrumental in creating the Nordic Fashion Biennale! During the concert Kevin Cole came up to me and started talking about his Iceland connections. An older woman also began talking to me, she was there to see Ólöf Arnalds; both of her great grandparents immigrated from Iceland. Later, after the concert, I ran into a guy I had met in Iceland in 2009.

Random images and impressions:

Leifur Ericksson Statue, former Icelandic Unitarian Church, both in Ballard

The older parts of the city have narrow streets and small lots, giving Seattle an almost European feel at times. The districts- Capitol Hill, Fremont, University, Green Lake, Ballard and others, retain a small town feel. The explosion of good coffee-houses (Starbucks #1!), restaurants, bakeries and other "social" businesses reflect this:

"Pie" is everywhere- both fruit and meat, English Pub serving books and ale

Rather than demolish it, Seattle turned its old coal gasification plant into an art installation. The hilly terrain makes for meandering roads, picturesque to be sure, but not for the faint-of-heart driver. Lush parks invite hikers, and the various waterfront areas can turn anyone into a flânuer. I think even Lenin would succumb to the city's charms.

Gasworks parks, Authentic Soviet Lenin statue in Fremont

Pike Place Market has been a tourist draw for many years, it was on the verge of being destroyed in the late '60s. Yes, it is a tourist trap, but a vital one. The market's salvation spurred similar efforts throughout the city. There is enough turnover that a visit every three or four years finds dozens of new places of interest:

I mentioned Kevin Cole, the senior program director of KEXP. He came to Seattle from Minneapolis, where he had been part of the REV 105 experiment. When that station changed ownership he made his way west and oversaw the growth of what once had been a small university station into a national (and even international) media powerhouse. It is unstinting in its support of local music; its Iceland Airwaves endeavors are important not just for the festival itself but is also part of a conscious effort to make Seattle more of a world city. Seattle already had very strong ties with Japan and the Orient, the relatively short flight to Iceland opens it to all of Europe.

A "big leaf maple" leaf in Carkeek park, yours truly at KEXP

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Nordic Fashion Bash

While I was in Seattle the Nordic Heritage Museum was hosting the Nordic Fashion Biennale (NFB). Designers from Iceland, Greenland, The Faroes, Denmark, Norway and Sweden moved their wildly diverse creations into the museum for a six week run. When I say moved into, I mean right into the existing museum exhibits! Curated by New York–based visual and performance artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir (AKA "Shoplifter"), the resulting show was often amusing, sometimes sublime, and always fascinating. Many of the modern designer fashions fit right into the depictions of immigrant life from the 19th century:

While some fashions were a bit more outré:

And some were simply stunning:

I've been on a Faroes kick lately and was pleased to find that they were well represented here:

The Seattle area is home to the greatest number of people of Icelandic descent in the United states. The museum is located in the Ballard district, where large numbers of Norwegians, Swedes and Danes also settled and still exert a strong influence. The show's integration of fashion into history reflects this heritage in the best possible way—full of imagination and with a sense of humor—that retains the connection between the past and present.

Thursday: Seattle Connections

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, November 07, 2011

Inni - Neptune - Fortune

Klikk Films

Seattle's Neptune Theater is a curious artifact from the 1920's. Recently restored, its baroque aquatic theme lent an air of excitement to the evening- even before the film started:

Director Vincent Morisset (and his brilliant production crew) has created an artistic experience which explodes existing film conventions, turning a Sigur Rós concert into a kinetic abstract expressionist canvas. Raw HD video footage was transferred to 16mm black and white film stock which was then optically manipulated in real-time producing an indescribable sense of sub-conscious unity with Sigur Rós's cathartic music. Watching it just before attending a Halloween party only heightened the evening's sense of surreality:

The fortune teller was gracious enough to also read my palm.

Most of my fortune lies in the past.

TOMORROW: Fashionista Batty has his mind blown at the NFB...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Highs and Lows- Reykjavík Calling II

Northeast meets Northwest as Ólöf embraces David at the end of the show
With the lights out it's less dangerous...
Here we are now entertain us...
I feel stupid and contagious...
Here we are now entertain us...
Smells Like Teen Spirit ~ Nirvana

The second pairing of KEXP's Reykjavík Calling concert at Neumos in Seattle was more than successful, it was absolutely inspired. Guðrið Hansdóttir is a singer/songwriter from the Faroes, with a fine voice and guitar chops to match. Her songs concern nature, and nature in the Faroes means lots of rain. Tomo Nakayama was born in Japan and grew up in Seattle, he was no stranger to mists and fog either. His ethereal singing and masterful playing might be considered a bit precious by some, but he was a perfect complement for Guðrið. Trading lead vocals, singing harmony on most songs, this unlikely duo from the opposite ends of the earth really captured the intent of the concert, with numerous highlights in their nature-inspired songs. They captivated the packed venue.

And they had met only the day before!

Snorri Helgason is a troubadour from Iceland, I had seen him in the power-pop band Sprengjuhöllin in 2006. This was a whole 'nother thing. His "partner" was the salt-of-the-earth David Bazan with his primal "bummer songs". Both performers were competent, but neither was very charismatic. Snorri had a top album in Iceland last year, I think his strength may lie in his writing:

Take a deep breath. Okay. The next act was Sean Nelson, performing with a yet-to-be named band. I really would rather not write about his performance, I'll just throw out a few concepts: Buzz Kill. Unbridled Ego. Neurotica.
He barely interacted with the rest of the performers, I think he thought this concert was being held for the sole purpose of showcasing for his new "act". He single-handedly cleared the room of all but the most die-hard Ólöf Arnalds fans. The picture says it all:

Finally, chanteuse Ólöf Arnalds took the stage. She is a paradoxical musician, capable of esoteric art-song and bawdy pub-tunes. She started off with the story of how she learned to play guitar by listening to the Nevermind album, including a spoofed version of Polly. She then tried an acoustic a capella version of a poem by the Faroese writer William Heinesen, but yakkers at the bar wouldn't hear of it.

She played tunes from her new EP of covers, with some wild singing (she definitely is one of a kind!) but this night was not going to be a "serious" performance for her:

Sean Nelson and his band then slooowly returned to the stage, sabotaging what momentum Ólöf had established, with a knuckle-headed mash-up of Lou Reed(?) and Ólöf's own Klara. The finale was a ragged version of, what else- Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit! Everyone (everyone but too-cool Sean) got into the "spirit" although I doubt if anybody really knew the lyrics.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

North by Northwest- Reykjavík Calling

It was a spur of the moment trip, triggered in part by my frustration at being unable to attend Iceland Airwaves. I found myself heading to the Pacific Northwest, to Seattle, home of my eldest son, and home to arty coffee-houses:

Inviting bistros:

Funky bookstores:

And, of course, rain:

There was a whole raft of Icelandic and Nordic related events going on last weekend in Seattle, which is how I ended up outside Neumo's, standing in a sodden queue, waiting to get into KEXP's Reykjavík Calling, a concert featuring four performers from the North Atlantic. Each performed solo with musicians from the Seattle area also sharing the stage, and, at times, dueting with their Nordic counterparts. The MC was none other than program director extraordinaire
Kevin Cole, formerly of the legendary Minneapolis station Rev 105, who put together this show and also was the driving force behind KEXP's astounding coverage of last month's Iceland Airwaves. In addition to their live coverage, they are currently in the process of archiving audio and video performances- poke around their site for an unbelievable amount of Airwaves and other great music.

The first artist of last Friday's concert was Nive (Nee-vey) Nielsen, from Greenland. Her pleasant, simple songs were just the thing to get the crowd into a good mood (she even took a trippy Kazoo solo). She was paired with Seattle's Shelby Earl, an enthusiastic performer of her own folk/country tunes. Nive's voice had a yearning, almost melancholy component on some songs, invoking long dark nights surrounded by snow and ice.

Tomorrow: Highs and Lows...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Be Back Tomorrow..

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

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