Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Sculpture, Listasafn Íslands, 2012

Still no answer.

I can deal with it logically.

I can rationalize it.

But I can't ignore it.

The question:

"Why Iceland?"

This image may be as close as I'll ever get.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Patio Conversation

   Apartment 62 opened onto a small patio with two benches hidden from the bustle of Reykjavík by a copse of shrubbery. The women who did the cleaning would pause there, sometime for a smoke, sometimes just to talk. I met them several times over the course of my last stay. After the second or third time I fell into a conversation with the supervisor of the crew: at first we talked about my bicycle, then about travel, and then about life in general.

   She had moved with her husband and their children many times, living several countries. She was not impressed with Florida ("the dead years") but she spoke highly of their time spent living in a small Spanish town. She was glad to be back in Iceland ("for good!") She asked if I had visited Iceland previously and when I told her I was on my fifth trip she became even more animated. Literature, Theatre, Music, all of my Icelandic enthusiasms came gushing out. She had a story for every topic I brought up, and I even had a few stories of my own to complement hers.

   As she was going back to work, she turned and shook my hand, saying:

   "Until the next time..."

    Until the next time...

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Two Women in the Dark

   As I was setting up my gear in a dark area of the park I became aware of two young women in the shadows. One spoke with what I took to be a French accent, the other spoke American English. We were there for the same reason.  The stillness of the air and the cloaking effect of the darkness made voices seem as if they originated within my head: words became thoughts, without no visual cue of a speaking mouth the effect was a bit eerie. In the sky above us there had been hints of something coming for several minutes now. Things of this nature one can never be sure of,  but we were ready:

    I was looking through the trees to the northeast when it began. I spoke my thoughts: "Here it comes!" The women turned; the one with the accent let out a little yip of delight  and then we stood still, overwhelmed:

   The French woman began to croon, "Oooh! Oooh! I luff Iceland, I luff Iceland!"

   She laughed and hugged her friend.

   And then we all laughed.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Steve Kramer

   We lost Steve Kramer. Artist, musical visionary and founder of The Wallets, Steve was one of the brightest lights of the 80's Minneapolis and New York music scenes. He went on to have a successful career in commercial music. He died in his sleep Saturday night in Utah, where he was attending a film festival.

   We never knew exactly what would happen when Steve took the stage, his many personas sprang from a seemingly unlimited well of ideas. His extravaganzas at First Avenue were the stuff of legend:

   Rest in peace, Jungle Boy.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Thursday, January 17, 2013


Candy Store, near Ingólfstorg, Reykjavik, 22:57 12 October, 2012

   One thing I've gotten away from is eating candy. I'll have chocolate covered peanuts as something to tide me over between meals, and I will partake of 90% dark chocolate, but all those things made primarily of sugar which I used to suck and chew in my youth are gone from my diet. Giving it up wasn't even a hardship. Sugar just doesn't do it for me any more.

   The sight of adults in this candy store late at night, buying their provisions for the Rúntur, elicited a bittersweet emotion in me. Children still, entranced by pretty colors and intense flavorings, burning the candle at both ends—but only just a tiny, tiny bit. It's only a little candy, what's the harm?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Missing Summer

   Nothing like last week's January thaw to rekindle dreams of summer. It's cold again now but it could be worse: the middle of January and only a couple of nights below 0° so far. Still, just the thought of shorts and a t-shirt and sandals makes me a bit restless.

  Might have to start looking up fights.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 


Monday, January 14, 2013

The Gathering Storm

Black Skies

A novel by Arnaldur Indriðason
Harvill Secker, London, 2012

Originally published in Icelandic in 2009 as Svörtuloft (The Black Fort), Arnaldur Indriðason's second crime novel without Inspector Erlendur is set in Reykjavík in 2008 during the run-up to Iceland's financial meltdown. This time the main character is Sigurdur Óli, an investigator in the homicide division of Iceland's CID.

A convoluted plot involving sex, blackmailing and murder is set into motion when Sigurdur tries to help an old school chum who is being shaken down for his involvement with a "swingers" group a couple of years earlier. The list of persons of interest expands rapidly, taking the detective into the dazzling world of the newly-rich banking class. The author further explores this class stratification in a parallel story about a pathetic young alcoholic whose demise is not completely unrelated to the corruption that Sigurdur uncovers at the top.

This may be the most unrelentingly bleak of Arnaldur's crime novels since Voices. Sigurdur Óli's distaste for much of Icelandic culture (he prefers American Baseball and Football) is fully justified by the actions of the novel's characters. Arnaldur does use the City of Reykjavík as a vivid backdrop to the story; there is a lot of background here for those bitten with the "Iceland bug."

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 


Friday, January 11, 2013

Mr. Lucky

   “William, William, can you hear me, Mr. Clarkson?”

   Sean could hear the doctor just fine, but he wanted to stay in his semi-conscious state for a while longer, trying to sort out the mess he was in. Sean remembered coming to in the ambulance just as it was driving into the hospital complex. Everything was blurry. As he was wheeled into the emergency room, he had passed out again, whether it was from the loss of blood or from a sedative, he didn’t know. Someone at the Senator’s reception must have had a strong reason to kill Billy. It may have been the woman who he had been talking to, or it may have been one of the other women who Billy had used and then discarded. Or it may have been someone else, someone with political motivations who wanted to send a ‘message’ to the Senator. Sean could even see how someone was trying to kill him—not Billy, ending this ‘split-identity’ intrigue for good. Whatever the case, Sean knew that he had to get a message to Mrs. Robinson and Molly telling them he was still alive. Sean wondered if Mrs. R had received the greeting card with the SD card which he had mailed in Iceland.

   These lines of thought dissolved when the doctor lifted Sean’s right eyelid and shone a light into his pupil. He let out an involuntary groan.

   “Good, good, you’re coming around, William. I’m Doctor Keller, can you speak?”

   “Yes, yes, I need some water,” An attendant squirted a small amount of water into Sean’s mouth.

   “You certainly do need water! You must have been quite dehydrated before the incident with the knife. This IV will have you back to normal in no time. Tell me, when is the last time you ate a meal? Your intestines were empty, lucky in a way, it made putting you back together much easier. You were also lucky in that the knife went in cleanly, with almost no tearing of the abdominal wall. It could have been much, much worse.”

   “Mr. Lucky, I guess, that would be me. I haven’t eaten much in a couple of days. I find it hard to eat when I’m traveling,” Sean said with a wan smile, “Where am I?”

   “You’re in a secure recovery room in the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. It’s a precaution that was taken because the investigation of the incident is still ongoing. If you’re up to it, the FBI would like to come in and ask you a few questions.”

   “OK, I think I can handle it.”

   Judging by his gray hair, the agent must have been one of the FBI's most senior investigators. He showed Sean his ID then sat on a stool next to the bed. This was going to be a big deal.

   “Are you feeling up to this, Mr. Clarkson? If you feel you can’t continue please let me know. Any information you can give us will help in the investigation. Time is of the essence."

   “I understand. Go ahead.”

   “I am going to ask this to make sure we cover all bases. Did you stab yourself?”


   “Is there anyone who was there who you think would have reason to injure you?”

   “No… I don’t know.”

   “You had been seen talking to a woman before you went to the bathroom. Did you know her?”

   “She said we had been lovers. I told her that I didn’t remember her. She got upset.”

   “I see. You’ve had many lovers? Others who were at the reception?”

   “There may have been. I had many women when I was younger.”

   “Are there any other person or groups of people who would want to do you harm?”

   “None that I am aware of.”

   “What do you think happened?”

   “I don’t what to think anymore. All I know is that I don’t want to be involved with any part of this.”

   “You don’t have a choice. I’ll start again, did you stab yourself?”

   “I see what you’re trying to do. I’m not going to play the chump. This interview is over.”


   “Who is William Clarkson, Junior? Senator Clarkson’s only child from his first marriage, Billy Clarkson, as he is known to friends, had been previously notable for his absence in his father’s presidential campaign. No longer. At a private reception last night for the Senator in suburban Richmond Virginia, Billy Clarkson was found unconscious on the floor of a bathroom with a knife in his abdomen. No suspects have been named.  A spokesman for the FBI termed the investigation as ‘ongoing.’ William was a 2006 graduate of Carnegie Mellon university, majoring in computer science. The young Clarkson was described by former classmates as ‘brilliant but erratic’ and also as a ‘ladies man.’ Since his graduation he has stayed out of the public eye: he was a minor player in a Silicon Valley start-up, he dabbled in commodity futures, and had been involved in the creation of an on-line role-playing game. We’ve learned that he had returned to the United States just the day before the incident, entering the country with a replacement passport. It is not known at this time where he had been living in recent months, but his return flight was via Icelandair.”
   Molly and Mrs. R had gone into a ‘media bar’ near Seattle's Pioneer Square, a place  where one could be bombarded by three news channels while simultaneously getting hammered. The clientele consisted mostly of intense men—news junkies who couldn’t be out of the cycle even while relaxing. The CNN news anchor was talking about Billy’s stabbing. Molly looked at Billy’s picture in the image that was next to the news anchor. His resemblance to Sean was remarkable. She had wondered why Sean would never talk about his college days, even when pressed on the issue. This might explain it. She turned away from the news coverage and looked at Mary Robinson who evidently knew a lot more than she was telling about the connections between the two men.

   “Have you figured it out yet, Molly?” said Mary, who was texting while she spoke, “The stiff in the morgue is Billy, and Sean is evidently in the hospital in Virginia. What I can’t figure out is why the switch. There must have been a compelling reason for him to go underground. Let’s compare timelines. When did you last have contact with him?”

   “It was the 4th, in the morning.”

   “That was when I got the last email from him as well. Sean was to meet Billy later that day.  Billy was killed just after midnight, on the 5th. That would have been 5 p.m. here, still the 4th."

   “And I was picked up by the FBI around 8 p.m. for questioning.”

   “Two a.m. in Iceland. Tell me, Molly, do you remember a camera, or a mirror in the interrogation room?”

   “Yes, there was a large mirror, I remember looking at myself when I was crying.”

   “And they were threatening you with arrest and prison?”


   “If the Embassy had already gotten to Sean and made him watch your interrogation, he may have gone along with their plan. I don’t know exactly what the plan was, or what was behind it, but I now know that Billy had been involved in some heavy stuff.”

   “And I’m involved.”

   “Sorry, Molly.  Sorry that this thing happened to you and sorry the way it has spiraled out of control. We’ll keep you covered. I’ve already messaged the coroner to get the dental records of Billy and Sean from their old university. If we’re right in assuming that Sean and Billy have swapped identities, when the press gets a hold of it the story will explode. That should enable us to get Sean back.”

   Molly’s phone began to buzz. She looked at the screen and frowned.

   “I don’t recognize the number. Should I pick up?” said Molly.

   “If it’s anyone you don’t know, just tell them they have a wrong number.”

   “Hello?”  Molly listened for a few seconds then began to shake.

   “It’s Sean,” said Molly, “He’s alive!”


By Professor Batty


Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Jófríður Ákadóttir, 11 October 2012, Faktorý, Rekjavík

I had gone into the club a little early, wandering upstairs during the sound check. The singer, without makeup and still in her street clothes, was demonstrating to the computer operator how she wanted a musical transition to flow. Her body was the instrument and it did indeed flow in natural movements. After watching for a few minutes, the sound man came over and motioned for me to leave.

I came back when the club was officially open, got my drink and headed for a dark corner off the right side of the stage. The singer was with the opening act, now dressed and made up for the show. It wasn't exactly the kind of music I usually enjoy, but it was good: moody, atmospheric, mysterious, drenched in echo; a dream realized. The singer’s movements seemed to reflect an internal struggle, as if she were holding herself together to keep from dissolving in the music. As the trio continued to play the noisy crowd quieted a bit and I became thoroughly enchanted.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 


Monday, January 07, 2013

Magazine Man

This card, found in an old book, brought back the memory of one of those little rituals of my childhood- the door to door magazine salesman. As I was growing up, at least until early 1960s, my life was so uneventful that the appearance of a man at our front door wearing horn-rim glasses and a fedora and selling magazines was the highlight of the week. My mother would actually buy some: Good Housekeeping (later to be replaced by Redbook), Life, Readers' Digest, and perhaps a teen magazine for my sister and Popular Mechanics for me. This went on until the mid 60s when bulk mail became dominant and Publisher's Clearinghouse started running their sweepstakes.

It is hard for me to imagine the business plan- how this way of selling could make any money at all. We've had magazine salespeople come to our door in recent years, but they are kids doing it as a fundraiser (working for nothing) and some of those were just plain frauds. But my mother's "magazine man" worked door to door for a living. It was a different time; now most mass market magazines are on the brink of extinction.

There was also a Fuller Brush man who came around from time to time, but that's whole 'nother story altogether.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 


Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Year's Revolution

Faye and Rich Lewis, Whitey's Bar, Minneapolis, 2012

A year, one revolution in the earth's orbit,

The world is always changing, yet it also remains the same.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Heaven help up all if we were doomed to live our lives in an eternal repeat, ala the film Groundhog Day.

That side of the internet which consists of original, self-published material is not immune from the ravages of time. Blogs, special interest sites, even the occasional inspired twitterer have each in their own way managed to lift my spirits.

Many of them have "closed up shop" or just drifted away. That has always been the case in this still very young medium, but it seems that the close of 2012 seen more than its share of casualties. Maria, ECS, Darien, Things, Monday Note, have all seemed to come to an end. They might come back some day, in another form perhaps, but it's perfectly OK to leave the sur-reality of the internet—it isn't as important as living one's life to the fullest.

But there are always new voices, I've found several new Icelandic sources this year, with Larissa's Ð and Þ (eth & thorn) leading the way. Gemma's Seattle based blog has shown promise as well in covering the Icelandic scene. Pascal Pinon, those musical twins from Iceland, have developed their self-titled tumblr into a very effective showcase for their music and art; it is a model for how to create an entertaining and original showcase which is more than just a bunch of recycled promos.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Auður Ösp's I Heart Reykjavík, a great example of a tourism blog. She's starting a newsletter as well, where I suspect she will continue in her tradition of lively writing (I've been following her in one form or another for nearly nine years!) Check out her current post. She has always inspired me with her wonderful outlook on life- both real and virtual.

And so, in light of all this rambling, I'll commit myself to another year of FITK. If that sounds as if I'm being sent to a mental institution the similarity is no accident. More randomness in 2013, for sure, but I will definitely finish the "serial fiction." I've been dreaming the new chapters—sometimes it takes more than one restless night...

Note: The picture at the top doesn't have much to do with the post beneath- it's just two of my favorite people, doing what they enjoy. Doing what you enjoy? I guess that is the theme of this post, after all!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Street Street

Of all the mysteries of my existence, none is more inscrutable that this short road in my home town. Did the city engineer run out of naming ideas? Perhaps this was the result of a typo; he may have written "street" as a placeholder on a planning map to insure that it wouldn't be labeled as an "avenue" and the map was then published before a proper name was assigned.

Maybe one the the town fathers was named Street. His car would have been named "Desire", no doubt.

I like to think that it was in honor of Della, Perry Mason's faithful secretary/unrequited love, although "Della Street" would have made a far cooler name than the redundant "Street Street".

And just to prove that I didn't make this up, here is a screen shot from Google Maps, showing Street Street in its entirety:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2