Thursday, May 30, 2013

Up on Cripple Creek

When I get off of this mountain
Ya know where I want to go?
Straight down the Mississippi river
To the Gulf of Mexico
To Lake Charles Louisiana
Little Bessie, girl I once knew
And she told me just to come on by
If there's anything that she could do

Now me and my mate were back at the shack
We had Spike Jones on the box
She said, "I can’t take the way he sings
But I love t’ hear him talk"
Now that just gave my heart a throb
To the bottom of my feet
And I swore as I took another pull
M’ Bessie can’t be beat

Up on Cripple Creek, she sends me
If I spring a leak, she mends me
I don't have t’ speak, ‘cause she defends me
A drunkard’s dream if I ever did see one

Lyrics: Robbie Robertson, ©1969 by Canaan Music, Inc.
Images: Cripple Creek Colorado, 1999

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wild in the Kitchen

Photo: Joseph Zimbrolt

Wild in the Kitchen
A Cookbook by Will Jones
Gilbert Publishing, Minneapolis, 1961

With the estate, yard, and garage sale season finally upon us (its been too cold to really enjoy them until now) I've been making the rounds.  The most intriguing find so far has been this cookbook.  Will Jones wrote After Last Night, an entertainment column for The Minneapolis Tribune, from 1947 until 1984. He was also a self-styled epicure; a bold stance for a time when the concept of Haute Cuisine hadn’t made many inroads in the Midwest. Will was also a bit of a hipster, in the original 50s sense (dig the hat!) and an entertaining writer. He was a pioneer in the campaign to eliminate smoking in public places. All of that biography aside, this book is a hoot.

In it Will not only gives recipes, he also weaves a story about the Twin Cites on the cusp of the “soaring sixties”—a decade which would change everything. Many of the names he drops are of his acquaintances: Cedric Adams, Charles Van Doren, Lauren Bacall, Edgar Bergen, Van Heflin, Dick Cullum, Hugh Hefner, Ancel Keys. Most of the big name Minnesota restaurants of the day and their respective chefs are here as well. The recipes are pretty heavy fare with lots of meat, cream, butter and fat (including “meat waffles” and “minnow pancakes.”) Here's an example from the book describing one of his stranger gastronomic experiences:
The Beefsteak

At a remarkable social event in Dania Hall on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis not long ago, the real beefeaters were separated from those who merely like a good steak every now and then.

In the kitchen, some of the finest steaks available—cuts of well-aged prime beef two and a half inches thick—were being made ready for the evening's festivities.

Meanwhile a bowl of ground trims and tails of these aged steaks, a stimulatingly fragrant mound of meat really too elegant to be called hamburger, was passed among the beer-drinking
early arrivals in the hall to be sniffed and admired.

Many did more than admire. They dipped in with their fingers, and enjoyed the beef unsalted, unpeppered and raw: beefsteak for its own sake. They were the real beefeaters, among a crowd who by their very presence had declared their dedication to beef.

The occasion was an attempt to recreate, partially in atmosphere, but mostly in sheer purity and unclutteredness of the beefeating, an old pre-prohibition New York social event: the beefsteak...

 …The menu at a strictly-run (a beefsteak is always thrown or run, never held or given) consists of meat and beer, and some slices of day-old bread upon which the meat is served. There are no napkins and no silverware. Butcher's aprons are supplied to every guest. Slices of meat are placed upon the bread, the juice is poured on the meat, and the drippy open-faced sandwich is eaten with the hands. Fingers and chops are wiped with the aprons...

...One bit of authenticity was carefully preserved that night: All the meat was cooked rare. Those who wanted medium or well done had to seek out the slices from the ends of the steaks. Or two or three traitors sneaked into the kitchen to persuade the cooks to put some rare slices back on the stove.

There was another authenticity in another department. Almost nobody in that greasy-eared lot who turned in their aprons and left the hall that night could hold another bite of anything. They had, indeed, been to a beefsteak.

These lurid passages were followed by several pages of raw beef recipes.

The book was printed on quality paper with very 50s-modern illustrations by Rob Roy Kelly:

It is readily available on Amazon for less than $6.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Studio Arts

Sculpture collage materials, Cupcake Building, Minneapolis, 2012

Where is the line drawn in the creative process between raw materials and finished Art?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two Tickets to Paradise

Broadway Theater, Minneapolis 1973

Roger, a kid in my ninth grade civics class, kept bugging me. He had a cousin, Janet, an eighth grader who attended a different school. She lived over by the Drive, a parkway just off Broadway. Roger said she was tall and she wanted to go on date with someone who was taller. I was OK with that as a premise for my first blind date. He set it all up. There was a double feature playing a a theater a few blocks from Janet’s house: Get Yourself a College Girl with Love Me Tender. The suggestiveness of the two titles was completely lost on me. My dad dropped me off at her house. Janet answered the door.

She was tall, nearly as tall as me, and considerably bigger.

The theater was kind of run down, but Janet made sure that we sat in a row in a dark corner near the rear of the auditorium where one of the seats was missing an arm rest. Janet had evidently done this before. I don’t remember much of the first movie, and Janet wanted to leave soon after the second movie started. We went back to her house, where I was introduced to her St. Bernard. We drank lemonade. Later, her father gave me a ride back home. Janet must have liked me, she wanted me to give her a ring, which I did. I saw her a couple of times after that, we had a “stormy” relationship. She mailed my ring back to me a little while after that..

Years later, when I was doing a photo project of some of the older buildings on Broadway, I took some pictures of the movie theater, it had evidently been closed for quite a while:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Homer in Iceland

Gracie Films

The Simpsons’ season finale found Homer, Moe, Lenny and Carl in Iceland. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of detail they put into the show:

Homer threatening Carl with a piece of Hákarl:

Moe missing out on the Northern Lights:

Relaxing at the Blue Lagoon:

Also noteworthy was the Sigr Rós soundtrack and the cameo by Former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

I suspect this episode will do as much for Icelandic tourism as anything Icelandair has ever done.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Monday, May 20, 2013

More from Art-A-Whirl 2013

The most intriguing studios are those where the Art is the hardest to comprehend:

Grain Belt Warehouse

Large scale sculpture needs a lot of space to be appreciated:

Sheridan Memorial Park

The occasional surprise of a completely over-the-top entryway:

Northrup King Building

And, of course, the industrial heritage of the area has its own plethora of art and design:

Monroe Street Viaduct

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mr. Lucky

More from the Art-A-Whirl 2013…

My luck was definitely changing for the better, especially when I ran into these young fortune-tellers:

The one on the right (Maddie?) told me after she read my tarot that I'd come into "good fortune" in a year divisible by four.

I can hardly wait for 2016.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Art-A-Whirl 2013

Abstract Study in Blue, Caitlin Karolczak, collection of the author

It's the third weekend in May, which means its time for the Northeast Minneapolis Art-A-Whirl. I've gotten into the habit of going, there is always something of interest, even if it may not always be the artwork. Most of the studios on the tour are in re-purposed industrial buildings, which sometimes have interesting links to the past:

The very first place I stepped into was the studio of Susan Armington, who was doing a painting/oral history project on the Mississippi River. I talked to her and her most charming volunteer assistant Bridget for a long time about a subject dear to my heart:

There was far too much to talk about in one post, but I'll leave you with this image of a couple of "Art-Cars":

Some people know what great art is when they see it!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More Laxness

Halldór Laxness
By Peter Hallberg
Translated by Rory McTurk
Twayne Publishers :: New York, 1971

My infatuation with Halldór Laxness continues unabated. My most recent acquisition is this biography of Halldór Laxness which was written in the late sixties by a Norse scholar from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. In contrast to Halldór Guðmundsson's expansive 2008 biography The Islander, Hallberg’s approach starts from the “inside”—through an examination of Laxness’ novels and other significant writings. It has less coverage of the man’s personal life, but offers much more insight into his work. Hallberg’s close reading of The Great Weaver from Kashmir, for example, paints a vivid portrait of the artist as a young man as seen through the themes of the novel. Pertinent quotes and excerpts from Laxness’ essays and correspondence of the time show a deep understanding of how Laxness developed as a writer and a thinker. All of his novels up through Paradise Regained are covered here in similar detail, demonstrating how Laxness used contrasting positions within a scene to illuminate a social or philosophical issue. Liberal quotes from his essays are also included—an important part of Laxness’ literary output which has not yet been translated into English.

   This is a great companion to the Guðmundsson book, even if Hallberg’s coverage ends just before the publication of Under the Glacier. It is usually available through ABE or Amazon books.

More at Laxness in Translation...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


This example of Brutalist Architecture is situated in the middle of a cluster of fine old buildings on the University of Minnesota Minneapolis campus:

It isn’t a hall, it’s a bunker.

Even the patio is intimidating:

The building is mostly below grade, but it managed to sprout this little utilities annex, just to make sure it wasn't ignored:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Found Abstract Art

Iris left her mark in the world.

Found by a playground on the University of Minnesota Campus:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gehry's Spark

Last night's PBS special “Ten Buildings that Changed America” was a quick look a several “uniquely American” architectural styles. All the big names were there:  Thomas Jefferson’s neoclassical temples,  Richardson’s Romanesque, and ending with Frank Gehry’s free-form Walt Disney Concert Hall. The show was especially timely for me; I had been admiring one of Gehry’s lesser known works only the week before: The Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus. The playfulness of its stainless steel siding has given a new life to the University’s Mall for across the street there is now another inspiring a modern masterpiece (with the most uninspired name, however) “Science Teaching Student Service”:

The information desk couldn’t help me with the name of the architect (William Pederson), but the design he and his team created is a winner, both on the outside and the interior:

When I was at the “U” this was the site of a truly dreadful temporary building made of concrete and plywood.

The idea of human progress isn’t dead yet:

This may have been built without the spark from Gehry’s Weisman, but I doubt it.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pillsbury Hall

Possibly the most fanciful building on the University of Minnesota’s campus, Pillsbury Hall was designed by LeRoy Buffington and Harvey Ellis in the Richardson Romanesque style. Massed Minnesota sandstone, in various colors, give it the air of a playhouse, rather than a fortress. When I was a student there in the late 60s and early 70s it was a solid black, covered by decades of coal soot from the then nearby University heating plant; it was scrubbed clean in the 80s. It remains a delight in its use of decorative arts in architecture:

Buffington designed many other Minnesota landmarks, including the spectacular Old Minneapolis Library.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, May 09, 2013


The first nice day of the year found me strolling the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota. The barely budding trees (a month behind!) in the bright warm sunshine gave the scene a slightly surrealistic edge.

There was an anti-abortion demonstration being held on the plaza in front of Northrup, in which each black balloon represented one of the fetuses aborted every minute, about 71 million a year. That figure that seemed high at first, but works out to about one 1% of the worlds population. I had thought it would have been higher.

The demonstrators were displaying samples of disposable diapers and car seats and baby oil.

I didn't see any takers.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Berryman’s Bridge

Washington Avenue Bridge, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2013

John Berryman
was a Pulitzer prize winning poet and scholar, active from the 1940s into the early 1970s. I always think of him when I walk over this bridge. He taught at the University of Minnesota. More than one of his students said that he was the best teacher they had ever had. He was a truly gifted writer, especially when he dealt with his personal demons in his various Dream Songs.

He also wrote a book dealing with his alcoholism, titled Recovery. But he didn't recover.

He jumped to his death here on a cold January day in 1972.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Lonely Avenue

Minneapolis, May, 2013

Partial eclipse of the sun.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Saturday, May 04, 2013

May Media Madness - Icelandic Style

Our frigid May (another 15 inches of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin yesterday) has been redeemed by a flurry of Iceland-related media. Of Monsters and Men, the double-platinum Icelandic rock group, will perform on SNL tonight. On May 19th, The Simpsons season finale will take place in Iceland—with Sigur Rós supplying the musical soundtrack!

On a less frivolous note, yesterday I received a DVD copy of Anti-American wins ’55 Nobel Prize, a documentary by Halldór Thorgeirsson. It is a fascinating look at the life of Halldór Laxness and the controversies which followed him throughout his career. Many thanks to Chay Lemoine, Laxness scholar and contributor to the Laxness in Translation website, for sending this my way. I'll be posting more about this Doc in the near future.

UPDATE: The electrons weren’t even dry on this post when I learned that Samaris, my favorite teen-age Techno/Goth combo, has been signed to One Little Indian (Björk’s label) with an album due out soon.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Missed Connections

Beth, Metropolitan Community College, Minneapolis, 1970

While searching through the archives, looking for something, I came across this sheet of negatives. They weren't what I wanted. Instead of an answer, I found only questions in the pieces of a puzzle which I have never solved.

We where both 19. She had moved to Minneapolis from Iowa; her father worked in a dairy. We ended up in the same studio art class. She was soft-spoken, but not shy—she broke the ice, asking me why my hair was brown and my beard was red. "The same reason my public hair is red." I said. Classy way way to further a conversation! She laughed. A connection.

Her best friend was my sort-of girlfriend (also the girlfriend of a guy I knew from high school). We would do things together, three or four of us in various combinations. It was a bad situation and I was so confused that I couldn’t see the much better alternative standing right in front of me. A missed connection.

Eventually the triangle broke, I was “free”, but still blind. I no longer had a girlfriend, but my art class friend and I continued to do things together. She invited me to parties. We once spent a night looking at the stars above Lake Calhoun where I made a clumsy pass which she rejected. She had started to take her art seriously, even to the point of going on an ill-fated trip to Austria to study (and starve.) When we met again, at the University, she had changed. Her art friends now were in a different orbit. A nightmare party I spent with them made me realize that I did not belong. We even went to a concert:
She started selling her art work, I’d still run into her, she called me a couple times for some photography. We were just old friends, but nothing more. Life had other plans for us. I married; she had been in a terrible car crash. I took pictures of her scars. And then we finally lost connection.

She liked me. I liked her. She was sweet, filled with genuine kindness. I was Goethe's Young Werther, full of self-conflict. She loved her father. I was estranged from my family.

She still does her art, I believe. I found her profile on an old Minnesota Artists’ web page. She's changed, of course, but her art was instantly recognizable. There's an email address, it might still be good, I don’t think she’d appreciate it if I tried to make a connection now.

Photography can play a cruel tricks, taunting us with images burnished by time.

Images of missed connections.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

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