Friday, March 30, 2012

Sharon's Flock

Sharon plays favorites. Some are best for knitting and weaving while others are good to eat.

"Flippism is the Key hosts Sharon every Friday", Batty said sheepishly.

Used by Permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fathers and Daughters

Faye and Richard, 1992

The uneasy alliance.

The natural bond between doting dads and adoring daughters in childhood is tested in the teen years. I can't even imagine what a father would do when faced with the prospect of his “little girl” turning into a “riot grrrl” (I don't have a daughter). Usually the transition is sort of smooth, sometimes there is a temporary estrangement followed with reconciliation, but occasionally there can be an irrevocable break.

In a world of changing roles and general uncertainty, how can guidelines be established? It is a rare man who has much insight into the lives of his daughters, and the balance of power is inherently unfair for most girls. This situation is hardly new, although it seems as if the rise of communication technology has accelerated the trend. A Father, in what he considers diligence (and knowing the hearts of men) may attempt to stifle his daughter for what he thinks is her own good. The daughter may think otherwise:
"Great Caesar, I am impatient with being a girl. I have more courage and self-assurance than many a man, and yet I am treated as a mere wisp of femininity. A girl has so much harder a time of making good as it is—she has not so much vitality. To have always more enthusiasm, ideas, and ambition than you have energy for, and to run continually across obstacles which have been deliberately placed in your path because you are a woman. I tell you I will not let that come in my way. If I accomplish nothing else I mean to surmount that difficulty at least. I shall not rest until men are willing, and glad, to regard me as important as they (and with my hair hanging down in curls if I choose!) But I must fight forever. I have that within me—call it principles, standards or what ever you like—which is Myself, and consequently right. Part of it conforms to the world as it is, but the other part conforms to the world as it should be, and that is the part which I will fight for, to the end."
                                                           ~ Wanda Gág, July 16, 1915 (age 22)

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Northern Furniture

Model 1490, circa 1910

The latest (or is it the earliest?) piece of furniture at Flippist World Headquarters is this elegant dresser, found at a neighborhood yard sale festooned with contact paper and several layers of paint. Many hours of sanding (stripping didn’t touch the milk-primer base) along with a little minor reconstruction produced this handsome result, almost Shaker-like in its simplicity. The paint actually preserved the piece. The tight maple was unmarred by dings or scratches, it looked as if it had been milled yesterday. It was originally sold painted; the wood is not exceptional in its pattern, but using it for a painted piece shows how much really fine wood was available in that day.

The Northern Furniture Company of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, operated from 1904 until 1949, it was one of many furniture companies operating out of Northern Wisconsin and Northern Michigan at the time. In the Midwest, antique stores are full of the stuff, much of it covered in dark veneers.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sharon's Scream

Memento Mori with Sharon, Fridays at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

Who am I to disagree?

Every night now.

It was unsettling the first time they started, seven years ago.

Traveling, in a crowd of strangers.

But somehow I feel right at home.

I know in the long run it isn't really important.

I know that I'll always return home when I wake up.

But to live in a dream— it is possible, if only for a few weeks.

To change everything about your environment.

To escape— yes— escape is the right word.

A new rhythm for my daily life.

And then when I do come home my sleep of dreams will stop.

These dreams are the training for my last escape.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Let it Rain

Finally. It's been seven months since we've had any real rainfall at Flippist World Headquarters. Even our snowfalls this winter were on the skimpy side- I only shoveled twice, neither time memorable. A good old summer thunderstorm came through about an hour ago, (about three months early) and I can hear another wave rolling in. In the sand pit I call home it could rain every day for a month and we'd dry out the very next day.

Of all the weather we get (except for tornadoes) drought is the most worrisome. Not that worrying helps any. Drought = death and what's even worse- drought = boring.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Window Weather

This is chapter 6 of Window Weather, a serial fiction novel on FITK

“Let’s take our lunch out at the Gasworks park.”

Mrs. Robinson was not the sort of person to ‘do lunch.’ Her socialization always had a hidden motivation. The fact that she was Sean’s boss made it obvious to him that this occasion was to be more than an excuse to get out of the office. The old gasworks were a good place to talk: wide open spaces and several large masses of ferrous material to inhibit electronic eavesdropping. Sean knew that Mrs. Robinson was also intimately involved with the Billy Clarkson case, if for no other reason than the fact that the searches were starting to get expensive. She always monitored the cash flow.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Sean replied. They were standing in front of the elevator in ADR’s office suite. At ADR, any conversation in a common area of the building was always held in the most innocuous terms and, although they were generally trustworthy, the class of people ADR employed weren’t above bugging their co-workers. Sean and Mrs. Robinson drove to the park in silence as usual. It was easier than sweeping the car for eavesdropping devices. In this business ‘normal’ precautions were considered reckless; ‘paranoid’ precautions were the norm.

As they walked up the hill overlooking the old refinery the translucent red frame of Mrs. Robinson’s glasses became back-lit, as did her nappy hair. For a moment, it looked as if her head was on fire. Sean held his tongue. She was the kind of woman who always aware of how good she looked but wasn’t shy in cutting down a reckless flatterer. In the office, she was always referred to as Mrs. Robinson. Due to the nature of their work the staff was discouraged from becoming too personal. If there was a Mr. Robinson, or if that was even her real name at all, was nobody’s business. Sean felt a sudden surge of desire, a surge which he quickly extinguished.

“Let’s recap the Clarkson case,” began Mrs. R, “We’ve got Billy’s general location. He bought a laptop with his credit card and we’ve tracked its CPU’s identifier and found that he’s been using it from time to time on various Wi-Fi networks. The main reason the Senator’s people haven’t been able to find him is that these networks are all in Iceland. Relations between the US and Iceland have been strained for a long time—at least since the start of the Iraq invasion. Three F.B.I. agents who flew into Reykjavík to investigate an Icelandic Wikileaks connection last year weren’t even allowed into the country! Have you found anything in those old college files of Billy’s?”

“Yes, a bunch of old e-mails, mostly to and from girlfriends, and a list of bookmarks. We’ve been checking them, many of them are dead links, but several were in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine,” said Sean, “I’ve been looking at those sites he used to visit and it’s starting to make some sense to me now.”

“How so?” The glint in Mrs. Robinson’s eyes took on a feral intensity.

“The sites were all blogs. And they were all by Icelandic women.”

“Women… Huh,” She paused and her eyes met Sean’s for a split second, “You are about to pay your old college chum a visit. I’d pack a sweater if I were you. There is a flight to Iceland Friday. You’ll be on it. When you get there take the Shuttle bus to the Hotel Borg. Here’s a map of the central city. The apartment you will actually be staying at is a few blocks away. If anyone asks, tell them your visit is part of a ‘Scandinavian Studies Program.’ Find Billy, see what he is up to, keep me informed. If you find yourself in deep trouble, go to the American Embassy and tell the guard the word on this card—but only use it as a last resort. I’d prefer it that we didn’t get directly involved with the US government. They can’t be trusted.”

The word on the card was in Icelandic: gluggaveður.

“Look, I know that your work may be all hush-hush, but you just can’t announce that you are ‘going away’ somewhere,” said Molly, “For ‘awhile’... you just can’t treat me that way!”

Sean knew that this would be bad. Telling Molly that he would be leaving the next day, for parts unnamed, for an indeterminate time, for an unknown job… he could understand her anger. They were sitting in a Thai restaurant in Seattle’s U district; it was her favorite place to eat.

“It can’t be helped. I can’t explain why or where, but it’s very important, not just for me but also for your own well-being. You must not know anything about this project.”

Molly glared at Sean in a way he had never seen before.

“Look,” continued Molly, “If you want to split, just tell me. You don’t even have to give me a reason. I’ve been dumped before, but never in a way like this,” Molly hissed the last line and was beginning to tear up a bit.

“Molly... ” Sean was getting the feeling that anything he said now would only make it worse, “Listen to me,” Molly turned her head down and began poking at her Phad Pik Khing, “I’ll email you every day. It won’t be forever. I’ll come back.”

“Promise? As if that would matter.”

“We’ll make it through this, don’t give up on me, Molly.”

Suddenly, Molly regained her composure. She looked at Sean very closely and for a long time. A small smile appeared at the corners of her mouth.

“Ok,” she said, “I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I’ll give you a chance. Don’t blow it.”

“I’ve got to be at the airport by 5 P.M,” said Sean.

“I’ll be at work. I trust you can manage it by yourself. Just make sure that you come back,” said Molly. She wasn’t smiling.

“I’ll come back. I will. You’ll see me again. I promise.”

Next Chapter: Eight Miles High

By Professor Batty

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sharon Go Green

Happy St. Pats Day.

Don your Tam O'Sharon at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Stew

Going from 0 to 60 (degrees) in a couple of weeks has complicated my culinary efforts. When it was literally freezing I purchased these fine organic root vegetables with the idea of making a hearty winter-beating meal. The temps have drastically risen in the last few days, so I used these to make a “spring stew” full of garlic and spices in a wine/beef stock and then slow-cooked. Served with whole grain buns and some Imperial Russian Stout. YUM!

I went easy on the sunchokes.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Golden Gardens

This is chapter 5 of Window Weather, a serial fiction novel on FITK


Yes, Molly certainly had. Sean found that getting a synchronized day off with her was becoming harder and harder. Their life together had started out on a whim and a prayer but now they were both working so much that any moments of joy they shared seemed as if they had been stolen. Molly was generally tolerant of Sean’s long hours but she had her limits. Seattle’s beaches were far from tropical but they shared the same ocean and, in the off-season, were mostly free from hassles.

“OK! I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said Sean, “We can make up a picnic basket and toss in a bottle of Columbia Valley red: Velvety Washington vino, crackers and some fine Tillamook cheese and voilá! Romance will be ours.”

Sean really did want to reconnect with Molly, if only to see where their relationship stood. It didn’t help that Molly’s job had gone into overdrive at just about the same time as his had. Sean usually started work early. His east coast connections were three hours ahead of Pacific time. Molly started later, sometimes taking dinner in the office, often getting home after Sean was in bed. Usually, they worked Saturdays as well. Sundays were spent trying catch up on sleep.

In the car on the way to the beach, Molly was quiet. Finally, she spoke:

“Sean, will we ever have a regular life someday? I mean, at some time in the future, when it’s not so crazy, we’ll have something we can build together and not just see each in passing... in and out the door... you know... we could be more like regular people, with nights together and weekends in the country? Does that sound too needy? I’m saying this because I fell that we’ve been drifting away from each other.”

Sean had felt it too. What is the glue that keeps couples together? Shared life experiences, kids, a sense of purpose, Love? But the incontrovertible fact remained that Sean was a spook. At times, he felt as if he had been reduced to a pile of ciphers—a jumble of fragmented code.

“I know what you’re saying,” Sean said, “Why is our life so hard? Nothing is simple anymore. Let’s make some time, time like this, at least one day per week, and two days a week when my big job is done.”

“I’d like that,” Molly said, “We’ll be through our reorganization at the agency by then and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to make it right.”

Molly smiled as she got out of the car, the first real smile Sean had seen from her all day. It was hazy out over the ocean but the sun was trying to break through. They had walked out along the shore a few hundred yards when Molly said: “Stop Here.” She spread out a blanket between some relatively secluded shrubs. As Sean poured the wine, Molly looked out at the bay and began to speak softly, almost as if she were telling a secret:

“When I was little, my Mother used to take me here when she wanted to be away from my father. At the time, I didn’t understand why. I loved to run up and down the beach. Mom would sit and read, right here, right where we’re sitting. When I got tired, she would make up a little bed in the sand and cover it with half the blanket and I would lie down. Then she would put the other half of the blanket on top of me. I would nap for a little while, then she would wake me and we would go back home. Dad would be gone by that time. We’d eat dinner and then watch TV. I’d take a bath and then I would go to my regular bed. I would think that it had been a very good day. When Dad was around it was never a good day.”

“Was he abusive? Did he hit you?”

“Yes, no, I mean he didn’t hit me, but he say mean things about me, and mean things about Mom. How I was getting fat. Fat like my mother.”

“Your Mom wasn’t really fat, was she?” asked Sean, “And the pictures you have shown me—when you were young—you weren’t fat in them either.”

“I don’t know why he said those things. Somehow—I didn’t understand why—I felt that I had ‘wrecked things’ for him and my Mom by my being born. He comments about my weight didn’t help either. It really messed me up. Lots of gorging and purging. I didn’t start eating right until after I was out of college.”

“How were you able to change?”

“It happened suddenly, it was when my father was dying. He was lying in the hospice bed and was still trying to fuck with my head. He was pathetic. I knew then that I had to be my own person. And I still am.”

Molly had never spoken this way about her father, or herself for that matter, before. They ate and drank in silence for a while. Finally, Sean spoke:

“Does being in this place bother you now?”


She paused for a moment and then said, “This is our place now, the past is gone. This day is ours, and the night will be too.”

Next Chapter: Window Weather

By Professor Batty

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wanda Gág Day!

Edinburgh, July 1973
... I told him about my ideas on magazine illustration–for instance that I thought it was a crime to give the public bad pictures even tho they demanded it. Surely it is wrong to give a child candy and candy and candy when its stomach is out of order as it is, from candy. I told him I thought it was my duty to give the public the best that I was able to do. I said that if all illustrators were conscientious enough to do that, the public would gradually grow to appreciate good stuff. Therefore I thought it was my duty, altho I would play such an almost insignificant part in it, to be conscientious and refuse to cheat the public even tho the public would slash me a little (or much) for doing so. ~ Wanda Gág, 1914

Ah, Wanda! Whenever I need a little inspiration I consult your girlhood diary.

Blogging owes a lot to magazine articles—in their most basic form they are both simply a story with one or more pictures. Magazines have relied on that formula for well over acentury. Going back further, illuminated manuscripts were all the rage in the late medieval era. Egyptian hieroglyphics served a similar (albeit less portable) function.

The question remains. What are those qualities which make an illustration "good?" Wanda’s primary concern was with drawings but now, with the advent of instantly searchable image galleries, we have an almost unlimited arsenal of images at our fingertips. Why do I make the effort to make original photography and art when it would be soooo easy to go the Tumblr route and just copy a bunch of images every day?

I don't know.

I enjoy doing making new images—but that’s not much of a justification. I enjoy taking a bath as well but I hardly expect others to join me in it, the way people do when they look at what I’ve posted here.

Blogging is a new form of communication. Not in substance, but rather in its ubiquitous application: everywhere, instantly. It took me a long time to figure out that a post with a picture is worth much more than one without. I posit that the opposite is also true—I find that a text-less image post is wanting. The split-brain conundrum?

   About the illustration above—it is just a ‘tyre’ shop. Signifies nothing about this post. I just thought it turned out pretty good.

   Please don‘t slash me.

More on Wanda…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, March 09, 2012

Sharon's Garden

Sharon attracts birds to her garden with an extraordinary likeness she calls Sharon Krow.

Scary Sharon, Fridays at Flippism is the Key

Used by Permisson

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, March 08, 2012


"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results." ~ Albert Einstein
Lord knows I'm not a fussy person. When it comes to books, I don't mind if they've been read, even "well-read." Lately, however, I've had a "streak" of bad luck with books ordered through Amazon. Those stains are probably NOTHING BUT TEA, but the dog-ears, broken bindings and writing (in ink!) have caused me to deactivate my Amazon account. All of the offending books were listed as "very good" or "clean." I'm beginning to think that Amazon booksellers are just an outlet for damaged books that have been returned.

Is it just me? Over the last five years I've ordered about twenty books through Amazon and about ten through ABE. The Amazon books have been misrepresented about half the time- including the above offenses, but also mis-cut books, indelible stickers on dust jackets, rolled, wet or otherwise damaged. The ABE books I have received were generally better than their descriptions.

Of course, in a bookstore you can see what you are buying.

Did I just hear someone whisper "Kindle?"

By Professor Batty

Comments: 10 

Monday, March 05, 2012

(for) The Birds

Dowling Studio, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

I'm a sucker for completely original theater, either in a new production or by a radical re-workings of a classic. I'll take a chance, even knowing that most productions of new work are flawed in some way, but I know that I'll experience something which hasn't been done to death for the last 40 (or 400) years. Sometimes the results are stunning. Sometimes, such as last Saturday night's performance of Conor McPherson's play (very loosely based on the Daphne du Maurier short story) the result leaves the viewer scratching his head in wonder.

The play opens with Nat (J.C. Cutler) lying on a couch, in a delirium. Diane's (Angela Timberman) voice is heard in a voice-over(!) explaining the situation. Birds have been attacking and the middle-aged man and woman find themselves trapped in an isolated farmhouse. Soon, young Julia (Summer Hagen) arrives. She had been in a group of survivors, assaulted and then fled when she was found wandering and taken in. Soon her impetuous behavior rankles Julia while attracting Nat's attention. Diane is a writer, and as she journals the decay of the group's fragile relationship (also heard in voice-over!!) she becomes a mother-crone, ultimately driving Julia away after meeting another survivor (Stephan Yoakam) who wants Diane's companionship—and who may have had a previous sexual relationship with Julia.

All of the action takes place in the set shown above. From time to time the birds batter the house (those must be pretty big birds!). Between these attacks the cast members attack each other. There are some tangential Biblical themes worked in as well, but none of it amounts to much. The dialog remains awkward throughout, peppered with gratuitous F-bombs, and any flow is interrupted by the disjointed time-compression, the action takes place over several weeks, with day and night scenes alternating. This play might have worked better as an intense real-time drama. With the premise being the only thing carried over from the original story (and its best feature) this play remains a bit of a mess. It was originally done for a festival in 2009 and retains an unfinished feel. I ended up rooting for the birds.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, March 02, 2012

Sharon Tart

Sharon tree very pretty and the Sharon flower is sweet.
But the fruit of the poor Sharon is impossible to eat.

And how.

Pucker up with Sharon, Fridays at FITK

Used by Permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, March 01, 2012


I have seen the universe!
It is made of poems!

The Blue Fox
A novel by Sjón
Telegram Books, London, 2008
Translated by Victoria Cribb

This beautiful and peculiar short novel takes place in Iceland over the span of a few days in 1883. A reverend, a naturalist, a woman with Downs syndrome (Abba), an "eejit" and a blue fox are the book's primary characters, characters whose lives are intertwined by fate.

The book is filled with symmetries. The reverend and the naturalist, Abba and the eejit, the naturalist and the eejit (and Abba as well), the blue fox and the reverend, all mirror each other. Sjón is a noted Icelandic poet (and occasional lyricist for Björk) and there are moments when his prose becomes poetry, and his realism becomes mystic. Victoria Cribb's translation flows, never wordy, never awkward. A great introduction to modern Icelandic fiction, and to the ephemeral attraction of Iceland.

For more about this fascinating story, check out Caroline's review.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

                                                                                     All original Flippism is the Key content copyright Stephen Charles Cowdery, 2004-2024