Saturday, November 30, 2013

Waiting For Lady Gaga


Reykjavík, 9 October, 2012

On the madness of crowds.

Spontaneously assembled for the possibility of catching a glimpse of their idol.

The audience became the performance.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving


Land's End, Cornwall, August, 1973. Image by The Weaver.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Salt Mine



   One of the more memorable stops on my recent trip through the Midwest was the Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson Kansas. After donning hard hats and receiving a "self-breather" apparatus in case of fire(!), about a dozen of us brave souls went down a 400 foot deep mine shaft in a steel cage. When we reached the bottom, we emerged into a strange wonderland of a cave. The areas where the salt had been mined were large, square rooms, about 100 feet in each dimension, with level floors and a high ceiling. The walls still had veins of salt in them, giving the "rooms" a mysterious air. There was a lot of old mine equipment around as well:



   There was even a 50 year old trash heap with all the litter in a state of perfect preservation:



   With over a hundred miles of empty space, there is no incentive to bring any of the trash up. Some of the mined out areas are used for archive and document storage. The constant temperature and humidity of the mines preserves data, costumes, movies and the like:



   Being hundreds of feet below ground with limited access adds a dimension of security to the storage.
   There was a short video shown with interviews of some of the miners. For the most part they liked their jobs, especially in the summer when it was 100° up top and 65° down below. In the winter, it was harder, they missed seeing the sun when their shift was over.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, November 25, 2013

The Divine Mrs. M


Elizabeth Milbrandt, Minneapolis, 1970
"Forty is an itchy age..." ~ Lois Farrow in The Last Picture Show
   When I was in my late teens, the idea of socially relating to older women who weren't my relatives, coworkers or teachers, entered into my consciousness. I had started to hang out with a group of about six students at the junior college I was attending. I was probably the youngest, Elizabeth was the oldest. She lived up the hill behind the campus, behind the Walker Art Center,  one  of  the  more  desirable  residential  areas  of Minneapolis. Our "group" was loosely centered around our Humanities class. Elizabeth was probably under stimulated by her role as a housewife, so she took classes from time to time. Her husband, several years her junior, was a fashion buyer for a local department store. She evidently enjoyed my company, I think she found my immaturity amusing.  Being with her was a refreshing change from the usual sexually-charged psychodrama I was involved in at the time.

   And we did interact, often carrying our discussions from the classroom into the cafeteria. I learned more about how to treat a woman from her than I ever did from school.  We even did things together- visiting the Ensulptic  house, meeting with labor organizers from the thirties,  even attending the the premiere of the film Woodstock. Our relationship was, aside from the occasional twinkle in her eye, completely platonic.

   After my enrollment at the JC ended I lost track of her for many years until I saw the obit of her husband. She had outlived him. At the time, I thought about making contact with her again, if only to thank her for her sincere interest in me and also for the tolerance she had for my youthful exuberance. Elizabeth would be in her mid-eighties now, if she is still alive.   I fear I've lost my chance.


By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, November 22, 2013

Winter Reading


Preview of coming attraction

   Nothing like curling up with a good blog on a wintry day. Presenting yet another of my periodic surveys of the blogsphere (does anyone even say blogosphere anymore?), things  I've been especially enjoying lately, these sites deserve a wider audience. And, as always, your mileage may vary:

retro vintage modern hi-fi is just what the title says. Mostly old ads and photos about audio equipment from the 50s, 60s and 70s. I may be a nerd, but I find this ephemera fascinating. Warning: the site's weekly feature, Retro HI-FI Girl Friday, is often NSFW. I find those posts to be fascinating as well but definitely in a different, non-nerdy, way.

Kateoplis is one of the few tumblrs I follow. Mostly images and quotes reflecting Kate's unique viewpoint on culture, philosophy, art and life in general. Some incidental NSFW images from time to time, noting gratuitous.

Quigley's Cabinet features various forms of memento mori, sometimes graphic in nature.

I'd Rather Be In Iceland  "Eva Lind's" chronicle of her Icelandic yearnings. A true kindred spirit.

I Could Go On and On  Oh yes, how can she ever! Karen Newton, lifestyle writer from Richmond, Virgina logs her detailed impressions of food, drink, music and culture. Unbelievable daily adventures and it's all true!

The Shelia Variations Professional critic Sheila O'Malley's personal site. Musings on movies, music and culture. Great stuff.

diary of mindless minion number 2703  I've been following "Grandma's Cellar Door" for several years, recently she has been posting installments of a serialized memoir/novel every Monday, complete with surreal illustrations. I'm hooked on them already.

Iceland Eyes  is back after a year's hiatus; Maria's photo-blog has always had a literary element.  Her latest installment really ups the ante. She also has an experimental literary blog which has been an inspiration to me for many years. It is some kind of a free-form novel built about modern relationships.

   For those of you who don't care to read, I offer a few video recommendations:

Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone has finally got an official music video after 48 years. It's mind blowing, but you'll need a petty fast internet connection to watch it seamlessly.

My old blog pal Little Miss Loopy (Auður Ösp) is featured in a great CNN report on Iceland, she appears at about the 3:20 mark and later on in the third segment as well.

Finally, there's this little vid  featuring my favorite Icelandic twins, say no more...


Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!




By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Party



    P. H. Kadey
was a "chalk talk" artist and evangelist active in the Michigan area from the early 1900's until his death in 1965. He also illustrated anti-evolution pamphlets, some of which were distributed at the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in 1925. This early poster, found in a Colorado Springs antique store, was from about 1917.

   When I was young, I would occasionally be subjected to various "Christian" entertainments of this sort. I distinctly remember a ventriloquist, as well as several missionaries. Perhaps there was a "chalk talk" artist, although I may be getting that mixed up with a "flannel board" presenter.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, November 18, 2013

Sliders



   Thirty-five years ago it was an after-gig hangout. Always there, always open. Sliders, made to order, hot and tasty. Many of the locations are still on the same sites the old band members used to frequent. I was in this neighborhood to catch a trio playing in a pub across the street. I was early and already a little sleepy (I just can't burn the midnight oil the way I used to) and needed a little coffee. Not really hungry, but when I went in I found the scent of those cute little burgers to be strangely irresistible.

   Two sliders and coffee. An older (older than me!) gentleman in the corner was playing a portable radio tuned to Arne Fogel's "Bing Shift", a radio show devoted to the recordings of Bing Crosby; a fitting soundtrack to my nostalgic repast.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, November 15, 2013

Sleep Over

Another time machine from the antique store:











      All pictures stamped "August 12, 1950" on reverse.

      You guys had a party without me? OK, so I was only two weeks old, but still...

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Thursday, November 14, 2013

Terra Incomprehendia

   The best for last. The best what is really the question. After a morning spent at The Brown Sheep Company, the Weaver and I drove all day along famous Highway 2 through the Sandhills of Nebraska. Really quite beautiful, it would be fun to go back and devote some serious time to capturing them in photographs. Our destination was The Farwell Arms, a B&B in the microscopic town of Farwell. It was nearly dark by the time we arrived, but the proprietors Joseph & Tina Standeven were waiting for us. The place was OTT in all aspects. Every wall, floor, nook and cranny was filled with antiques or decorative collectables. There were dozens and dozen of old radios, art prints, furniture and other esoterica everywhere. Tina proudly showed us her three kitchens, regaling us nonstop with stories about the house, the town, the mating of her dog(!) and whatever else came through her unfiltered consciousness. She's a treasure.



   We had the basement suite— big enough for a family of six plus a baby, it was truly a home away from home.



   After dinner (which Tina made in one of her kitchens) I went for a stroll around town; there aren't many places with a population of under 100 which have their own appliance store:



   They used to have a hardware store as well, but it had recently closed ("The owner was a bit of ladies man", said Tina). In the morning, after another hearty breakfast, we got to meet the Ladies of Tina's church group, who stopped in just to see us off! (Not really.)

   We spent the rest of the day in the car—nearly ten hours—when we finally did make it home we were glad to be off the roads. Our plan to avoid the freeways had paid off with many memorable moments which we would have missed  otherwise.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Barnanew



   Taking the road less traveled, we left Colorado not via the interstate, but rather Highway 71, two lane blacktop all the way to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Our next stop, The Barnanew B&B, was aptly named for it was an old horse barn which had been thoroughly modernized into four bed and bath suites sharing a pleasant "rendez-vous room" lounge. It is situated on a large farmstead with views of the Scottsbluff National Monument. If you are feeling really adventurous, you could sleep in one of the caravan-style wagons:



The B&B was filled with Native American and Western artifacts, including modern work done by friends of the owners:



Our hosts, Cher and Allan Maybee, are experts on the history of the area.  On Allan's suggestion, we went into town to The Emporium for the Sunday night “around-the-table” communal style dining:



   What a treat! Fantastic food and very sociable companions. We were completely blown away by the hospitality of both The Barnanew and The Emporium

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Good Food and Fine Dining in Colorado Springs


Jack Quinn's Pub, Colorado Springs

   One thing you can almost count on in a city of any decent size is the existence of an Irish pub. I stopped in here mid-afternoon, there was a real Irish bartender serving up double chocolate stout and a delectable cheese tray. The decor had been given a lot of thought, a very comfortable place to while away a few hours. Even the Celtic music was tolerable.


Warehouse Restaurant, Colorado Springs

This trompe-l'oeil mural (it stretches around the building) caught my eye. Populated with images of tits owner, I found this self-aggrandizing so audacious that I simply had to try it.


Wapiti at Warehouse
Wow. Peppered Wapiti Tenderloin with Mountain Mushrooms. Elk meat, marinated in a dark beer, topped with lingonberries and brandied mushrooms. With locally grown roasted vegetables, mushroom risotto, OMG, OMG. I'm definitely not in Kansas anymore.


The Olive Branch, Colorado Springs

The next night we had a nice mini family reunion with the Weaver's aunt and cousin, a friendly place without pretense. NOT the Olive Garden!


Paris Crepe

Sunday morning found us eating crepes in the warm sunshine across from Acacia Park. I managed to get some without peppers (although the chef raised an eyebrow), everything here seems to be steeped in them. More than I usually eat in the morning, but we had a long way to go before dinner.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, November 11, 2013

Cripple Creek - Thursday

It had been quite a while, the last time I was here I won $80 in 5 minutes in a small casino in an old building on the main drag:



This time, not so lucky. Most of the casinos were new, in faux old-time buildings. Most of the older casinos were out of business. I managed to lose $40 almost instantly in one of the new ones, I took that as an omen and spent the rest of the time there strolling around the back streets and alleys, lots of apparently abandoned properties:



The air was cold, but the sun was warm, a few solitary figures made use of the benches:



Cripple Creek started as a gold rush town. There are still plenty of folks trying to "strike it rich" here, but the house always wins in the end.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Saturday, November 09, 2013

Samaris— Promise and Problems

   I've been listening to the "new" Samaris CD. It was released last summer on the One Little Indian label. It contains their first two EPs— all eight original tracks with the addition of four remixes. They've recently given stunning performances at Iceland Airwaves, and have several festival dates lined up for the new year. The group´s material comes from 18th century Icelandic poetry set to a minimal electronica background (created by Þórður Kári Steinþórsson) with vocal melodies by Jófríður Ákadóttir and layered with clarinet themes by Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir. I've been hearing bits and pieces of this all year, although lo-fi video clips don't do this music justice. I caught them last year at the now demolished Faktorý—a crazy gig in a sweltering room full of yakkers:



   Needless to say, I was eager to give this CD a listen in the privacy of my pine-paneled garret. Their music is wonderful. The concept—old poetry sung in Icelandic with a programmer and a clarinetist—sounds like a recipe for disaster. I found the result surprisingly fresh and unaffected. The songs are carefully structured, just the right length and had enough musical surprises to delight both the casual and serious listener. Jófríður has a tremendous sense of melody; it was the first thing I noticed about her in her other group Pascal Pinon (at the 2009 Iceland Airwaves.) The group has been getting a lot of attention; their version of Góða Tungl will be featured in the upcoming Icelandic feature film XL.

   Now for the bad: The remixes. Really, really bad. This kind of audio graffiti was lame years ago and its tedious execution here left me with a bad taste for the whole album. I assume the remixes were done to give the group exposure to club music market. Samaris, unlike Pascal Pinon, is managed by "outsiders" and evidently the group has no control of their product, excepting the basic tracks. Even the cover art was misguided. This is one CD I'll definitely re-burn without the remixes. The members of Samaris are all students and have a limit to how much effort they can expend on their career; what they have produced here is great. It is unfortunate that this collection was marred by lesser talents. The group has been performing some of these remixes live, so I'll assume they approve.

   Jófríður has tremendous potential, recent photos from the Airwaves show at Harpa show her gaining stage presence. She's a talent to watch, I hope her career doesn't get sidetracked by uninspired management.

Samaris in 3-D:



Cross eyes and focus on the center image for stereo effect!



By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, November 08, 2013

Colorado Springs - Wednesday



Thanks to the hour gained going to Mountain Time, we pulled into Colorado Springs early enough to see the downtown area in daylight. We had been to Colorado Springs several times before, when our eldest was a student at Colorado College. Like most cities, there was ample evidence of hard times as shown in the number of vacant shops. There has always been a fair number of homeless people in the city; it seemed as if there were twice as many as I remember from the last time I was here, in 2001. There were certainly more talentless buskers. One had a cardboard sign that said "Help m while I figure out how to become a rock star." The dining district was flourishing, however, and we had our choice of a score of fine restaurants within a few blocks of our hotel.
Dinner was at this very good pizza place- some real food for the first time in three days:


Il Vincio

The Antlers Hilton is the biggest hotel downtown and the only one with convention facilities, the Weaver was attending a conference with a foundation where she volunteers. While she "worked" I would play.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Thursday, November 07, 2013

Waitress in a Greasy Spoon

Scott City, Kansas



   We left our room at the lazy R motel looking for dinner. Walking down the broken sidewalk to the small prairie town's main street we found what looked like a nice place but it was closed. Prowling; stomachs growling. We couldn't find any other place other than a bar that was open on a Tuesday night.   We ended up back where we started, across the street from our motel was a "grill" which had looked a little sketchy the first time we passed it.



   "How bad could it be?" I tried putting a positive spin on the situation. We soon found out.

   Inside there were a half-dozen tables and three booths along on wall.

   "Sit anywhar..." said the hostess, a frazzled young woman in street clothes motioned to the half filled room. The O'Reilly Factor was blaring on a widescreen TV in one corner, playing at volume loud enough to drive any semblance of rational thought out of my skull. We went to the farthest corner from the TV, into a corner booth with slashed black vinyl seats wrapped around a chipped Formica table top.

   "Whad'ya want?"

   "Any specials tonight?"

   "Up there.." She pointed to a whiteboard that had the same entrees on it.

   I ordered the the steak with a salad bar. Salad bars are pretty iffy in better restaurants and this one aimed low and it hit the mark. The canned peaches were OK.

   While we waited for our food a local in the booth next to ours began giving his version of The O'Reilly Factor, offering contrapuntal variations on the vitriol emanating from the screen. When the food finally came, it was served with a brusk  "Here ya go...".

The steak was more greasy than juicy, but I was too hungry to care. The baked potato, wrapped in foil, was OK. The vegetable was canned corn. The Weaver had a Mexican dish which she ate without comment.

   We finished, got our check and went up to the register to pay.

   "Like it?" Said the young woman. She was making an effort at hospitality but it looked as if she had other things on her mind. I spotted some stretch marks above her breasts, half-exposed by the open collar above her oddly shaped belly.

   "It was fine, just fine."



   Outside, we could hear a roaring noise coming from the grain mill down the block, lit up in the darkness.  I told the Weaver that from the hostess' appearance I thought that she might have been postpartum. The Weaver said she had heard her talking about "the twins".

   Back in the motel, I thought the hot water was out until the Weaver figured out that the faucets were hooked up backwards.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Uncooked in Kansas

Cooked

A Natural History of Transformation
By Michael Pollan
The Penguin Press, New York, 2013

"... what was the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well being? "

   Michael Pollan's quest for a deeper understanding of  the natural world and our role in it was the germ of inspiration for this exploration of the way cooking has changed our species and its role on earth. He breaks the book down into four main sections: Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

   Fire takes the reader on a wild search of traditional barbecue, food preparation in its "purest" form- basically roasting meat over burning wood. He gives a historical background and also works with modern barbeque masters—a real trial by fire.

   Water is about cooking in a pot, but Pollan also muses about the way our modern processed foods have taken us away from the way traditional cooking brought families together.

   Air covers baking, with an emphasis on wheat and breads and also deals with the health issues caused by refined food.

   Earth is about the way microbes in fermentation create cheeses, beer and pickling. He shows how the lack of live cultures in our food also harms our health.

   While traveling through Kansas we found our food options limited. We were surrounded by agriculture, yet it seemed as if the only food we could find was made by a big multinational corporations in some distant factories. Reading this book during this part of our trip made that disconnect all too clear. The most interesting part of the book is Fire, mostly due the great characters he finds in the world of professional barbeque. Water is probably the most informative and useful—showing the virtues of slow cooking both in gastronomic and in familial aspects.  I think that Air is the weakest section, it only reaffirmed what I already knew—that baking is tedious and best left to the pros. Earth starts out well with some interesting cheese makers but Pollan loses momentum when covering beer making. What was a compelling narrative turns into just a routine story about hobbyists.


By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Rockets in the Heartland


Stained Glass, Cosmosphere, Hutchinson, Kansas

   I didn't know what to expect from the Space Science museum Cosmosphere; we had stopped in to get a bite to eat (from a very ordinary lunch counter) and really just wanted to see what it was all about.  We were both, to put it mildly, stunned. The history of rocketry: real rockets, space capsules, satellites and associated paraphenalia, was displayed in a dramatic fashion:


German V-1 "Buzz Bomb"     

   Almost everything on exhibit was the real thing, including the Mercury program Liberty Bell 7 capsule and the ill-fated Apollo 13 capsule.  The German V-1 "pulse jet" flying bomb shown above was paired with a V-2 rocket,  both specimens recovered at the end of World War II. The story of Hanna Leitsch, the top German female pilot was told - she actually flew a cockpit-equipped V-1 ("... like riding a cannonball...") only one of many amazing stories told here of the dangerous exploits of pilots who flew aboard experimental rockets. The space capsules were terrifyingly small. It was hard believe that men had traveled to outer space and the moon in them.


Titan_II_GLV, Hasselblad Lunar Camera

   Standing under an actual rocket which launched astronauts into orbit was trippy enough, but then seeing what has to be the ultimate in collector cameras (a Hasselblad camera which was on the moon) left me reeling. There was also a lunar lander, a lunar excursion vehicle, and numerous Soviet spacecraft and satellites. Some of the displays were of backup or duplicate devices but regardless of their original purpose, they were real.

   The biggest mystery of all was how this stuff came to rest in a small city in the middle of Kansas. We never did find out.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, November 04, 2013

The Other Minneapolis



The Mill Street Inn in Minneapolis, Kansas was a pleasant surprise. We stayed in a three room suite in the front of what was once a veterinary office, located right in the center of town. Being a Monday night, the only restaurant was closed (we'd run into this situation again on our trip), so we made do with convenience store "food." The town had seen its share of hard times, but still had many charming houses:



There was even a waterfall:



   I had planned our stop here partly due to the fact that I grew up in the other Minneapolis and I was curious to see my hometown's namesake. It was also a convenient mid-point on the way to Colorado Springs; if I were headed that way again I'd probably return (with groceries- there was a doughnut shop open at 5 a.m. down the street—you might want something a bit more substantial for breakfast.) The Inn has four immaculate suites and a rec room in the basement complete with bar, kitchen, sofas and a pool table.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Saturday, November 02, 2013

Strange Shores


An Inspector Erlendur Mystery
by Arnaldur Indriðason

Fortunately, I received my copy of this, the last book in the series, only a few hours before leaving on my recent trip.  I read it in one sitting while cozily ensconced in an antique bed in my room at the Calumet Inn in Pipestone, Minnesota. In a way it was fitting, for my hotel is said to be haunted and Arnaldur's book is also filled with ghosts from the past. The previous two books in the series centered around his colleagues in Reykjavík while Erlendur was on leave, revisiting his childhood haunts in the East Fjörds. This book tells the story of his absence.  While still a child, Erlendur had been caught in a snowstorm with his younger brother and father. The younger brother was lost in the storm and never found.
   It turns out that other people had also turned up missing in another, earlier, storm in the area—a group of British soldiers and a local woman. The soldiers were ultimately all accounted for (some died) but the woman's body never turned up. Erlendur starts asking questions out of curiosity, perhaps spurred on by the similarity with his brother's disappearance, but soon finds himself reliving the event through the memories of aged pensioners.

   This is not a book for fans of action. Most of it is in the form of dialogs, many of the conversants who Erlendur interacts with are in nursing homes. The book has an exceptionally dreary mood: it is overcast, cold, damp and dark, of lives filled with regrets and suspicion.

The book has two endings: the ending of the story and the ending of the series. The story's end is melancholy. The series end is fitting and, in a strange way, spiritual and uplifting. I wouldn't recommend reading this entry first, the reader should have at least a few others read in order for this volume to make its maximum impact. My other reviews of the series are here.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, November 01, 2013

Pipestone, Minnesota


Gargoyles, L. H. Moore, 1896

One of the joys of getting off the freeways when traveling is finding unexpected treasures in small towns. Pipestone Minnesota is located in the Southwestern corner of the state and was named after the pipestone (Catlinite) quarries located there which are still used by Native American artisans and protected in a Federal Monument (more on this another in another post.) The town has several buildings of the Richardson Romanesque style with rose granite stone facades. The gargoyles adorn a small building which was across the street from where we stayed, the Calumet Inn:



The inn's second floor rooms have all been given the antique treatment, we looked at three and they were all well done (although the bathrooms were perhaps a bit too antique!) The beds were fabulous:



There were two restaurants in the hotel, each serving a good variety of well made entrees and appetizers in pleasant surroundings. While not fine cuisine, it was most satisfactory:



The continental breakfast was forgettable.

All in all, the town of Pipestone, The Calumet Inn, and the surrounding area made for a  most memorable stay.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0