Friday, August 30, 2013

I Love the Fair

Despite the heat, or perhaps because of it, I managed to make my yearly sojourn to the Minnesota State Fair. The weather did keep the crowds away; it was as empty as I've ever seen it. Still, there was plenty to do, see and taste. Alas! My food intake limit was all too quickly reached by one creampuff and a foot-long hotdog. Still, there was much to visually savor. Presenting random images—supply your own narrative:


By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Relighting the Fire During a Day Without Rain

   Nightfall came, and one was already down for the count. He played guitar, not having a clue what notes he was plucking or what song he might have been singing. We laughed at him for getting his evening started before everyone else. It was my first time. Sydney made me wait for Dave and Cole. We walked together innocently enough, looking for the Rugby players' shindig. Just when we were about to give up looking for it, and forfeit, drunken, frustrated voices were heard at the corner. I detested the hootenanny within five seconds. It was pitch black, save for two streetlights, and one laser pointer that displayed a blinding light into the eyes of dozens of annoyed students. Impatience arose because everyone craved the drink and it wasn't being distributed fast enough, and I left quickly.

   I walked with Sydney's friend, Josiah, who was already gone by the time we departed from the partay, but he still escorted me like a gentleman, claiming he was watching out for me. Sydney scolded him constantly throughout the night, making sure he wouldn't sleep with me. It wouldn't have happened anyways. Everyone was playful and giddy. The boys were skipping, the girls were nonchalant, but then again, they were fairly sober. I was slapped numerous times on my tuckus, thanks to Mike and Josiah, and that wasn't pleasant, but rather painful. I ignored their antics because they became what the drink told them to be, and it's highly influential. I'm fine.

   Cole whispered in my ear that we (Sydney, myself, Dave, and Cole) could head back to Dave's apt. to hang out, and I quickly agreed not only because I was desperate to get away from the drunken desperadoes, but I had a bit of a physical attraction towards Cole that I hoped he wouldn't recognize. I like his smile because it's genuine. I'm relieved to be in a safe haven. I sipped more than everyone. Dave and Cole are used to the drink so they're perfectly fine. It was as though they had had V8 or my favorite, a berry/orange smoothie instead of that vile liquid we drank. It burned and smelled horrid. I was hungry, so I was quickly affected. Sydney was going through an overdose of silliness like I had never seen before. Her behavior made me shake my head, but while we were walking back to Rhoads, I embraced her personality and it became my own. Cole and I were still laughing at Sydney, but once we were standing at the wall, a light feeling overcame me. Double vision? Uh-oh. I looked Cole in the eyes and said, "Oh no! I think it's happening to me too!" Boldly, I leaned on him and shut my eyes, hoping my vision would return to normal. Sydney likes this attitude I've taken and commands Cole to start kissing my earlobe and neck. Cole complies. I suddenly forget the double vision and focus on the tingly feelings I'm having all over. Urges I haven't felt in the longest time.

   Everything happened so quickly. Cole began walking into Rhoads, and I followed him like an eager kitten. There's catnip to be had. He takes my hand and leads me to the fifth floor, into his room. His roomie, Hank, is gone for the weekend. Without missing a beat, Cole hops onto his bed, the top bunk, and beckons me. Oh sure, it sounded like a good idea, but it took me several tries before I could climb up there. The alcohol hadn't overtaken me, but my primal urges had. I was no longer shy or self-conscious.

   Let me be clear when I say I'm still a virgin. Cole insisted on taking care of me, and made sure he didn't take away my last precious gift. He said he didn't want to hurt me or take advantage of me. But, I remember the undressing, the kissing, the intertwined nude bodies. It was fantastic, even in my dazed state...even though my performance must have been lacking.

   There's something so miraculously beautiful about the male form. Especially in the middle of the night when it's lain before me. I could've easily not laid a hand on Cole at all. I would've been content to look in amazement at his handsome physique. I thank every god imaginable for being able to receive such delightful affection again. Nude male statues shown on display in chilly museums do not give mens' bodies the true attention they deserve. I almost didn't touch him at all because he was the forbidden fruit. Yet, when my fingertips grazed his neck, ran down to his chest...I was in stupefied awe. He showed me intimacy that nobody has shown before. I only wish I had been levelheaded enough to truly enjoy the splendor, and maybe...thrown caution to the wind and given him the first hurrah. A nude male...such nirvana!

   Yes, the next day I panicked throughout the daylight hours. All these thoughts of "Was I terrible?" "Does he like me in any way?" "He must have been disgusted with my body" came into play. Yet, by nightfall I looked back on the experience and was grateful for it. In a way, it was an extreme stress reliever that I sorely needed. Affection can be the best therapy, along with nature. Affection in the midst of nature...Wow, I could only wish. Cole probably doesn't realize this, but he's reawakened passion in me that I thought I had lost forever. I want to bestow kisses again, I want to hold hands, to love passionately as no one else ever has. That silly boy, now I suddenly want to have a relationship again...Haha...Noooooo! I made a pact with myself to be celibate, wither and die unloved, what's the matter with me? love would be a great adventure.

By Comica

First posted September 20th, 2004

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Common Law Wife

   In another lifetime I was in what used to be called a "common-law marriage." What the heck- we were young, shared some interests, and both needed to get out of our existing family situations. Some things about it were good: cheap rent, no TV (not even a telephone for a couple of years!) and similar senses of humor. The problem that emerged after a while was lack of growth in the personal relationship department (i.e. sex.) I tried to make a go of it, but after a while (four years!) it was pretty apparent that it was not to be. She was fairly comfortable with this living arrangement. I was miserable. I found a lover. She still stayed. Finally I insisted that we split, she moved out, and we both moved on.

   Later I heard that she had "changed sides" in her sexual orientation. I HAD MADE HER INTO A LESBIAN! Well, maybe not. I never had that effect on anyone else before or since; I think she just hadn't thought about it when she "shacked up" with me. Is lesbianism the trend of the future? I think that a lot of women who would have been inhibited in a different era will be more open to the opportunity. Conversely, if you aren't "wired" that way, I don't think anything will change your perspective. The dynamic in men is somewhat different, I suppose. In this, as in many things, men are more polarized and volatile. Still, regardless of what orientation you opt for, you have to enjoy some kind of relationship with another person. I won't even comment on multiple partners or "open" arrangements. That issue is almost beyond discussion. People get into relationships to fulfill human needs. If it works, it's good. If it doesn't work, it's not good. What is bad is not being honest with yourself - life is too short to spend years in pointless frustration.

Summer Rerun Series
First posted December 18, 2004

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Stones Speak

The Stones Speak

By Þórbergur Þórðarson, Mál og menning, Reykjavik, 2012

Originally published 1956 as Steinarnir tala

This book is a marvelous time machine. It transports the reader back to rural life in 19th century Iceland with a chronicle of events and scenes as seen from a child's perspective. That the child/narrator would be nowadays be considered quite obsessive-compulsive only adds to the fantastic amount of detail it contains about a life-style which was rapidly disappearing in the 1890's. Every aspect of life on a farm in the Suðursveit area of Southeastern Iceland is covered in almost microscopic detail; it can really help the reader achieve deeper understanding of other books about rural life in Iceland (e.g., Independent People, Paradise Regained.)

Þórbergur was a prolific writer, his multi-volume biography of Árni Þórarinsson was one of the sources for the character Jon Primus, the reluctant pastor in Halldór Laxness' Under the Glacier. Hopefully this is only the first of many new English translations of his work to come. Þórbergur's In Search of My Beloved was published in English 1967, but it is not a common book. Stones does show up used in the U.S. from time to time, but the paperback is readily available in Iceland. The translation, by Julian Meldon D'Arcy, is lively and the research he conducted in Suðursveit really makes Þórbergur's descriptions of the geography of the place ring true.

Many thanks to Darien, for insisting that I pick up this great little book for her when I was in Iceland last October.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition - 2013

The Minnesota State Fair is upon us, and with it is its Fine Arts Show.

A juried competition, it draws thousands of entrants in 8 categories and is seen by over a quarter of a million people, making it arguably Minnesota's biggest art exhibit of the year. Last night's preview saw a couple of hundred sweaty artists and friends basking in the heat and humidity (and the glory!) After a couple of down years the show has been rejuvenated: the painting (which is usually pretty bad) was very good overall, as were watercolors and printmaking. Sculpture had its strongest showing in memory, and a great showing of photography made the show a celebration rather than an obligation. Some memorable scenes:

Traditional media: Collage, printmaking, drawing and even a palladium print…

Marissa J. Murdy beams next to her exquisite cyanotype…

Mark Allan Peterson's mindboggling collage…

Amusing and inventive sculpture…

It can be hard to tell where the art ends and reality begins…

And there was even a picture by yours truly…

Late Shift at Faktorý, Reykjavík, 2012

Check out my other Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts reviews.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pink 'n Black

Pink n' black - pink n' black
Woman's givin' me a heart attack
Pink n' black—pink n' black
Boots on the street going clackity-clack

Black leather boots and hair dyed the same
A pink woolen coat settin' me aflame
Into her car and out on the road
A sporty black coupe - I shoulda knowed

Eyes of black and lips of pink
She drives by - gives me a wink
Pink n' black - pink n' black
Woman givin' me a heart attack

Summer Re-run series
First posted November 24, 2004

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Note

"I've thought a lot about what you had to say, and I just wanted you to know that there are things about me that you don't know and that I think I am not right for you. If you still want to see me it's ok, but I just wanted to let you know how I feel. "
- handwritten note, November 20th, 1971
   Nevertheless, we did move in together. She was right. She wasn't the right person for me. It took me four years to figure it out. In matters of the heart, I have finally learned to take people at their word. They usually tell the truth. If they can't, you can usually see it pretty soon if you keep your wits about you. If they won't tell you how they feel, up front and honestly, they have other problems - lack of self-respect, lack of respect for others (empathy), maybe reality distortions (substance abuse and/or mental illness.) If you can have the same conversation over breakfast - cold sober, without make-up or frills - as you had the night before, with all the romantic trappings, then you will have a starting point.

   Sooner or later you'll have to face each other that way anyway.
"...tonight the light of love is in your eyes,
but will you love me tomorrow?"
- Goffin and King

Summer Re-run Series
First posted February 7, 2005

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Man to Man

"I've been toying with the idea of seeing my ex. You know, it might be very interesting."

"I've only seen my exes a couple of times, by accident. One called me once. Another has died; I've no regrets in not having seen her though."

"Still, it might be kind of interesting, to get together and look back on where it went wrong?"

"I dunno. I guess the thing is, to me anyway, the thing is that I just don't see any upside to it."

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - III

... Or, stop me before I build another guitar again.

It's really quite hopeless. This time it's my take on the classic Fender™ Esquire, the first production solid body guitar. One pickup, no frills, $120 + some parts I had laying around. The sound is raw, almost nasty (think Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds), completely different from any other guitar I have. It's getting so that there is no piece of wood "laying around" safe from my designs.

"Honey, have you seen the cutting board?"

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gear Acquisition

My latest lens, a prewar Rodenstock Trinar, adapted to my digital camera. Not exactly the bleeding edge of technology, nevertheless it does the job, even imparting a subtle "glow" to the subjects imaged by it:

Dashboard of a 1953 MG Roadster. The owner claims that the odometer indicates actual mileage.

Your mileage may vary.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Searching for Frances Bruno, Redux

In June I posted about some documents I discovered at a flea market. Yesterday, at a different sale, I saw the same vendor and found some postcards (torn from a scrapbook) which also concerned "Franny". Frances Bruno was a skater in the Holiday on Ice shows of the post-war 1940s. They were evidently sent to a sister and are a record of her time with the show, as well as one each from two different men—perhaps her brothers. The cards, along with their messages:

To Mrs. A. Bruno (Bruno overwritten Brand), St. Paul, Minn. Postmarked Oct 27 1946, Columbus, Ohio:
Hello, Well I saw Minn. get skunked by Ohio. We couldn't buy tickets they were sold out. Then the night before the game one of the show's owners from Mpls. passed out 40 tickets to kids in the show. Shirly & I got one cause we were from Minn. They were $3.50 tickets on the 40-50 yard line, perfect seats. It sure was nice.  Bye now, Fran

To Miss Frances Bruno, c/o Holiday on Ice, Milwaukee Wisconsin, Wichita, Kansas. Postmarked Jan 15 1947 and Jan 22 1947, New Orleans, LA:
Dear Fran, I received your letter yesterday & was a little surprised. Well kid, I'll give you a clue, I got me a ship last Mon. but we'll be around here for a while yet. We are (in) dock, won't you please write again, Love Carl            
SS Cape Lilibeo c/o Lykes Bros SS Inc. N.O. La

To Mrs. A Bruno (overwritten Brand), St Paul Minn. Postmarked Mar 31 1947, New Orleans, La:
Hi! Believe it or not, but this is what it looks like here. Flowers all over, lovely yards, etc. I was with Carl & Fritz today again - really had a good time. New Orleans sure is a place to see! Love, Fran
To Mrs. A Bruno (overwritten Brand), St. Paul, Minn. Postmarked Oct 3 1947, Columbus Ohio:
Hello. Well this is our town! Nigel is here. We leave for Cincinnati in the morning. Address my mail to Cincinnati Music Hall—Cincinnati Ohio. Bye Love Fran

To Miss Frances Bruno, Holiday on Ice Show, Auditorium, Memphis Tennessee. Postmarked Feb 2, 1948, Columbus, Ohio:
Hi Franny. We're moving around about as much as you are. We beat Northwestern 53-37 on Sat and hope to beat Ohio State tonight. Hope you enjoy Georgia. Whiz

The 47-48 basketball Gophers featured future Minneapolis Lakers star and NFL Vikings coach Bud Grant, no record of "Whiz" available.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - II

I haven't really stopped reading, I just stopped posting about those books I actually did read. To make up for it, here is a selection of random summer books—each of which I found memorable in some way:

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides was a big blockbuster over a decade ago, and deservedly so. A family history that touches of race, gender-identity, US social upheaval and the downfall of Detroit, and that's just for starters. It could have been a mess but Eugenides pulls it off. It will be read in the future.

The Pig Did It  by Joseph Caldwell is one in a series of British comedy/mystery novels. All the tropes are there, freshened up with some modern references. I wouldn't be surprised if this series gets picked up by the BBC someday. Forgettable, but laugh out loud fun.

Hey Nostradamus!  Is gen-x author Douglas Coupland's look at a Columbine-type school shooting. Not a grim as it sounds, but it is a penetrating look at the causes of and effects from such a modern tragedy.

David Byrne’s How Music Works should be titled How David Byrne Thinks, but that doesn't diminish this book in any way. Very thoughtful analysis of the modern music scene, with a surprising plea for greater amateur participation.  Should be a textbook in music appreciation and music composition classes. This is a book about the why of music, not the how.

Masters of Atlantis is a thirty year old book by Charles Portis, the author of True Grit. Portis is a master of idiomatic American speech, and he pulls out all stops in this wild yarn about a group of misfits who create a successful arcane cult in the twenties and then spend the rest of their days frittering it away. It takes a while to get going, but it goes out with a bang.

Finally, The Far Traveler (2007) is another book by Nancy Marie Brown about the Iceland Sagas, this time about Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir, a contemporary of Eric the Red,  who was the first European to give birth in the New world, outlived a succession of husbands, and even visited Rome in the 11th century! Brown is a good writer, but her work always seemed to be a little light to me. A good companion to her previous Song of the Vikings, she probably could have gotten one great book out of these two and her blog.

On a more ephemeral note, Auður's I Heart Reykjavík blog has been getting better and better, with more personal posts, it is by far the best Icelandic website of which I'm aware.

Those of you seeking a truly unique "literary experience" may want to check out Clayton Cubitt's hysterical literature, definitely NSFW!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Party Doll

The late fifties rockabilly artist Buddy Knox had his biggest hit with a number titled "Party Doll". We're not talking Ira Gershwin or Harold Arlen here- this lyric is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, yet it manages to say a lot about male-female relationships:
Well all I want is a party doll,
To come along with me when I'm feelin' wild,
To be everlovin', true and fair,
To run her fingers through my hair.
It has been said that he who defines an argument generally wins it. The man in this instance decides that the only possible partner for him is a "party doll", a euphemism for a whore. He restricts her company to when he is "feeling wild", and insists upon her fidelity and her attention to his sexual needs.
Well I saw a gal walkin' down the street,
The kind of a gal I'd love to meet,
She had blonde hair and eyes of blue,
Baby I wanna have a party with you.
In this man's world, he selects his mate based upon certain physiological characteristics. Women of intelligence, character or color need not apply.
Every man has got to have a party doll,
To be with him when he's feelin' wild,
To be everlovin', true and fair
To run her fingers through his hair.
He now expands his philosophy to infer that all men are entitled to this arrangement. And then, the payoff:
Come along and be my party doll,
Come along and be my party doll,
Come along and be my party doll,
And I'll make love to you, to you,
And I'll make love to you.
Granted, this is a fairly crude sentiment. But it strikes me that many men have this mindset, that they have this "plan" of action, and that it is the only plan, and that the woman's role is predefined. When a woman accepts that role, she gives herself up to a formula, that may not jibe with her sense of self-worth or esteem. The man could care less. He'll just go on to the next "doll" and continue the process. The very word "doll" connotes a beautiful but insensate object. There are worse things to call someone, but the abasement is the same.

The world of sexual relations is complicated and varied. The roles we might assume make it easier, at least at first, to interact; we play our parts and hope for the best. But it isn't a substitute for a dynamic interplay between two conscious entities. It is that improvised and inspired dance that is glorious, that enriches and fulfills us. As the mating ritual comes to its natural conclusion we can abandon ourselves to our animal impulses- after we respect, explore and complement each other, each in our own way, transcending limited roles, leaving the dolls behind, and becoming fully realized human beings.

Summer Re-run Series
First posted January 15, 2006

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Another Masterpiece of Surrealist Modern Art

Photographer Unknown, 1961

Pearl and Eddy Prill continue their art appreciation studies.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Iceland Report—1929

Olive Murry Chapman, near Þingvellír, June, 1929

Across Iceland
The Land of Frost and Fire
by Olive Murray Chapman

My summer reading was brightened by this travelogue, written by a young Englishwoman who, with little more than a phrasebook and oilskins and depending on the kindness of strangers, takes a trek across Iceland before there were proper roads and motor-coaches. She manages to hire local guides and horses (and an occasional lift from from a passing lorry) and travels throughout the country, including a sometimes harrowing trip from Snæfellsness to Akureyri and then on to Mývatn and Námaskard on horseback. When traveling in Iceland in the twenties it was necessary to ford numerous rivers, stay in small country houses, and tough it out through days of constant rain. Olive is up to the adventure, taking notes, pictures and sketching; this short book gives a great representation of what must have been a trip of a lifetime. She ends the book with a paragraph which expresses the feelings of so many who have visited Iceland:
...But, surely, she has cast her spell over me, as she invariably does over all wanderers who love the unbroken solitude of Nature, her vast open spaces, and the lure of the unknown—all this and more I found in Iceland, and I trust that, in these pages, I have been able to convey to my readers something, at least, of the indefinable air of mystery and romance I myself felt so keenly while passing through the heart of the Country.

Olive went on to publish more books, documenting her travels through Cyprus, Lapland and Madagascar.

If you'd like to read more from this most charming little book, W. D. Valgardson has been posting excerpts throughout July.  Used copies are available, but beware of OCR scanned copies- I'm talking to you Amazon!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

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