Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Break


Wanda Gág, Circa 1935

I'll be on a little mini-hiatus until July 7th.

The serialization of The Matriarchy novel will continue on Fridays, however.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, June 23, 2014

Rainy Days and Mondays

   It's been raining and raining and raining. That's a good thing, unless your fields are under water or your sump pump has stopped working. Because of this, I've found myself seeking trivial diversions more than usual lately. Here is a trio of tasty pop culture morsels to brighten your soggy day:

  Eminent Hipsters
  A book by Donald Fagen

   Best known for his work with Steely Dan, Donald Fagen's musical credentials need no justification. “The Dan” produced what was arguably the most successful fusion of Jazz, Pop, R&B and Rock music. In addition, Fagen’s solo album The Nightfly is one of the best concept albums of all time. This slim volume of collected essays gives an inside look at the influences and tribulations of this unlikely pop culture icon.

   This book is sort of a “sideways” autobiography, Fagen’s life is revealed through his appreciations of such musical pioneers as The Boswell Sisters, Ike Turner, DJ Jean Shepard, Henry Mancini, and numerous jazz musicians. The second half of the book was written while he was on tour with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald. It’s just as revealing: Fagen comes across as more than a little neurotic, wary of fame, but often hilarious. The only fault I could find with the book is that it was too short.

On a related note, here’s a surreal cover of Reelin' in the Years:





   Portlandia
 
   YouTube videos, various

   These short (1 to 3 minute) excerpts from the IFC show are like eating salted in the shell peanuts—tasty, with an occasional dud. Fred Armisen (of SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (of riot grrl band Sleater-Kinney) are the main performers and there are numerous other comedic stars sprinkled in  as well as celebrity cameos. Although urban hipsters are a frequent target, the humor is never nasty, most of the scenarios seem to be taken from real life. Fred is a versatile actor, but the real treat here is the way Carrie disappears into her roles, her presence brings a depth to these comedy sketches that the genre often lacks. Click through to YouTube for dozens of clips. They can be repetitive, however. I don’t think I could watch a season of full shows without burning out on them; in this case less may be more:




   My third “treat” is Jerry Seinfeld's web-only series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
I was pleasantly surprised by these. Whereas the TV series Seinfeld was too neurotic for my simple tastes I find this series most appealing.  The premise is the same for each show, Jerry is driving a classic car and calls one of his friends, (comic performers, writers or actors) for“coffee” and they meet up, drive around, get coffee: all the while riffing on humorous themes and stories. This could have all gone so wrong, but Jerry’s light approach seems to bring out the real people behind their performers’ masks.  Special note must be made of the episode with Louis CK:




   I thought that if I sat down and wrote this post the weather would clear up, but it looks as if there is a real chance for more rain THREE MORE TIMES TODAY!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Jolly Excursion

   I rose bright and early Tuesday morning to catch the commuter rail into Minneapolis:



   A speedy trip brought me to Target Field and the transit hub, now linking Minneapolis and Saint Paul via the just opened light rail—the "Green Line":



   The Green Line is handy, it goes directly from the heart of Minneapolis to the center of Saint Paul. That said, it is sloooow. Not quite as bad as the bus, but it has twenty scheduled stops. We ended up in the Lowertown neighborhood, a year ago my younger son used to live cheaply in the building behind the train, but gentrification is running riot in the area, especially since the Green Line has opened:



   You might think that two similarly-sized cites next to each other would be alike, but there is a HUGE psychological difference between Saint Paul and its upstart rival, Minneapolis. I love some of the quaint touches of Saint Paul—like this iron stairway:



   The mighty Mississippi was nearby, with the picturesque Wabasha Street Bridge spanning the torrent:



   This monster crane was clearing logs from a jam which threatened the boats in the marina:



   Going back into downtown, I caught this lively combo playing for the luncheon crowd in Mears Park:

   
   I returned home the way I came—the return of the streetcar (we had street cars up until the mid-fifties, but lost them due to political chicanery.)

Another triumph of 19th century technology!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, June 16, 2014

My Back Yard


Image shot in "warporama"—three captures from my laptop's camera stitched together in Photoshop

   Minnesota nice. Sure we suffer in the Winter, but when Summer comes rolling in it is so worth it. After a couple of days rain everything has been "washed" sparkly clean. The air is fresh with a mild breeze and, from the shelter of my bower, I am the master of all I survey. In the thirty years we've lived here, the back yard has undergone some revisions.

   The flower bed in the center of the picture was where the old garage sat, an under-built wreck which had actually been hit by lightning and had caught fire. The previous owners just patched the bad spots, several charred two by fours were still part of the framing. Where the new garage now sits used to be a sea of crumbling blacktop, with a rotting telephone pole (for a ham radio antenna) serving as a centerpiece.

   Now the garden is watched over by our sprite, April, surrounded by Hosta in her own raised bed. She is flanked by shrubs and the Norfolk Pine (normally a house plant) has been transplanted for the summer and is thriving. The gray compost bin guards the entrance to the waste bin storage area.

   The Rhubarb (on the right) wasn't harmed by the rain.

Sun shine all over me
I'm feeling so happy
Summer, it's summer now
And it's warm outside and I'm smiling all day long
Happiness I will always send
I hope this summer will never end.
        ~Jófriður Ákadóttir

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Friday, June 13, 2014

Rituals

       
   A sea of women: sobbing, wailing, moaning, spread out across a moonlit desert landscape. How long had they been there? A day? A year? A million years; yes; and behind them those strange beings of dim antiquity, not-yet human yet still female: bleeding, birthing, nursing. They surrounded a hill where, lit by torches, stands the nin-dingir: the chosen woman, the goddess incarnate. She stands naked: curvaceous, her skin shiny with oil, wearing an elaborate headdress and holding a talisman in each hand . Standing on the backs of two lions, she is flanked by owls. Like the owls, her feet are talons and long wings sprout from her back. As the moon rises over the throng their discordant chorus begins to coalesce into a shimmering roar, gradually becoming a distinct three syllable phrase:  “Æ… Æ… Æ…,” then, “Æ… na… aa…,” finally becoming: “I-nan-na.”

   She raises her arms and the multitude becomes silent. A man walks up the hill. He is also naked, and carries a basket of date fronds. Kneeling, he places them before her, and then rises and stands beside her and faces the crowd.

   Inanna speaks:
Behold the man! It is he, the one I have chosen, the one to fulfill the moment we have been waiting for all these millennia. He is my consort, his seed will fertilize my egg; the fruit of our union shall beget the new order: the next stage of consciousness, the revelation of the great mystery, the defeat of ignorance, the restoration of the garden, and the unification of the matriarchy of all generations.

   From the sea of supplicants comes a new sound—a high pitched screeching. The man's penis starts to stiffen. Inanna gets down on hands and knees, backs up to him with a rhythmic movement of her hips. He kneels, she feels his hands on her buttocks and his member between her legs, gently probing…
   Mary woke up. Sean was spooned behind her, lightly snoring, with a mindless erection nudging her thigh.

   Looking back at Sean sleeping, Mary mulled over her outrageous dream. The idea of Sean as her ‘chosen consort’—and the truth of it—made her smile. As she got up to go pee she thought to herself: “I wonder what brought about that dream?”  On the way back she paused by the balcony doors. Outside, a sliver of a moon was in the west and the sky was getting lighter in a prelude to the coming of dawn. Mary could see gulls and terns flying in lazy arcs above Puget Sound. She stepped out onto the balcony and, on a whim, took off her nightie and raised her arms to the sky, as if she were, indeed, a goddess of the night. The cool early morning air felt good on her skin, Mary felt free and powerful.

   The sound of a footstep behind her gave Mary a start. Turning, she saw Sean. Mary kept her hands raised as she stared at Sean, who was also naked.  Sean, barely awake, was trying to make sense of the scene presented before his sleepy eyes. Mary’s breathing became stronger, the sound of air passing through her nostrils was clearly audible.

   “I was dreaming about you,” Sean said, breaking the moment.

   Mary lowered her arms and, seeing that he was still semi-erect, smiled. “I would hope so!”

   “I can see that you’re getting cold…” as he touched her nipple, “… and so can the rest of Seattle.”

   “Only the birds, Sean, only the birds and you and the moon above. Aren’t you going to ask me what I’m doing?”

   Sean, now fully awake, said, “Some things are beyond words,” as he reached out to her.

   Mary entered into his embrace and whispered: “Good answer.”

                   ————————————————————

   That evening, Sean was in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables for dinner. Mary had been going through the mail—most of it junk—when she noticed a handwritten letter addressed to Sean.

   “Here’s one to you, Sean, from Iowa.”

   “My hands are covered in onions and garlic. Would you read it to me?”

   “I wouldn’t want to uncover a family scandal.”

   “It's OK. It’s from my Aunt Tina. She’s strictly G-rated.”

   “Alright. Here goes:”

                                                                                  Decorah, May 15th

    Dear Sean, 

    Aunt Tina again, here with all the latest news from rural Iowa. I’m writing to you in a old-fashioned letter because I just don't trust computers anymore, with all I've been hearing about the government spying on everybody. Do you know that Snowden guy? He was on TV the other day, it seems as if he’s the only person capable of telling the truth. Of course they want to put HIM in prison. Did they ever find out who stabbed you? They should put him and all those crooks in the State Department in jail.

   The spring weather has been nice, with plenty of much needed rain. I’m not up to putting in a garden anymore, but the perennials are happy. That maple tree you used to climb in has split in a thunderstorm. It looks pretty sad, it was rotten inside. If my uncle Henry was still alive he’d have it chopped it up into firewood the very same day. He always kept the place tidy. I don’t have the energy to keep up with things the way I used to. My vision isn’t what it used to be, either, I’m OK in the sunlight, but can’t see worth a darn at night anymore.

    I know you’ve been busy with work and all, but there are some things going on here which you should know about. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I have come to the decision that it’s time for me to move on. After the winter we’ve just had I’m not going to stay on the farm
another year. I’ve got a buyer for the land (Mel Henderson, he’s been renting it for years) but the house will be torn down. It’s sagging, broken and leaking—just like me! The Masons have a pretty nice assisted living place in town, some of my friends are there, I’m on the short list. We’re going to have an auction in August. Can you imagine, the auctioneers told me people will actually pay good money for the old junk that's laying around! So ends the saga of the Carroll homestead.

   Getting to the point of this letter, could you come out and take care of those things of yours from college? There are also some boxes of your mother’s. I could have it all hauled away, but I think you’d want to go through it first. If you do come, could you bring your lady friend too? I would love to meet her, she must be very smart to pick someone like you (ha ha)!

   Love,

   Tina

   P.S.  There is also a room full of your Grandmother’s stuff you might want to look at it.

   “I guess it concerns me after all,” said Mary.

   “Are you up for a road trip?”

   “Meeting the family? That is a major step in a relationship.”

   “She’s a sweetheart, and who knows? Maybe you'll uncover a juicy family scandal or two,” said Sean.

   “I could use the change of scenery. Tomorrow I sign away ADR then: ROAD TRIP!”

   “Who will I be, Thelma, or Louise?” asked Sean.

   “I’ll be the Skipper and you can be Gilligan,”  Mary said.

                    ————————————————————

   In The Pussy Room, the back bar at Olaf's, a neighborhood bar in Seattle’s Ballard district, Mary Robinson rose to speak to the gathering of ex-ADR employees:
   “As you all know, I’m not one for public speaking—hell, I’m not one for public anything. This is the last time you’ll have to listen to me, so I’ll have to take advantage of it. You don’t need me to give you a pep talk, we all know that we we’re the best in the world at what we do. That’s not going to change, but you will have to do it without me. Now that the papers have been signed, I’m no longer your boss. You all know about the ‘Iceland incident.’ The fact that Sean and I were personally involved, and, due to the subsequent investigation and its lack of closure, The Amasales Corporation has decided that, because of these certain special circumstances, Sean Carroll and I are not to be part of the new structure. That sounds like a bunch of legalese but it’s just one of those things that can happen in a business deal such as this. Shakespeare’s phrase ‘The better part of valor is discretion’ has never been more appropriate. Don’t worry about Sean and me, we’re going to be fine, and maybe someday we’ll finally be rid of the specter of ‘Billygate.’  I’ll certainly miss you all. I have always appreciated all your efforts over the last five years… although I’ll make an exception for whoever thought that we should hold ADR's farewell party in a room shaped like a giant vagina.”

   Mary sat down to scattered laughter and applause. The DJ began playing techno and the twenty ex-employees of ADR returned to their conversations and libations. The deal, selling ADR to a giant internet marketing company, had gone just about as she expected: in addition to her stock package there was a cash severance for her and Sean.

   “No regrets?” asked Sean.

   “No regrets at all, especially not in your case.  Now that ADR is history, I guess we can finally be seen as a ‘real’ couple in front of the staff,” Mary said, cozying up to Sean and wrapping her arm around his waist.

   “Everybody knew already, it wasn’t that important to them, they didn’t ask, they didn’t tell,” said Sean, “They all knew I was ‘yours’ from the day I got back from the congressional hearings.”

   “I thought we were so circumspect.”

   “Our eyes gave us away.”

   “Huh. I’ll have to watch that in the future.”

   Sean smiled broadly. “It’s OK. Our ‘Secret Love’ is over.”

   “I'd rather it wasn’t,” said Mary.

   Later, as the party was breaking up, Sean noticed what appeared to be a homeless man watching them, from a bench across the street, as they walked to Mary’s car. He was holding a brown paper bag in his lap. Sean glimpsed a flash, a reflection, from within the blackness of the open bag.

   “Looks like your photographer friend is back for more pictures,” Sean muttered to Mary, “Let’s see just how fast he can run.”

  Sean headed towards the man, who immediately sprang to his feet and took off sprinting.

   “Looks like we’ve got a fan club… I would guess that there aren’t too many homeless guys with expensive Nikons,” Sean said when returned, holding up a large lens cap.

   “How soon can you be ready to leave for Iowa?” said Mary.

   “Air or car?”

   “Road trip. Let’s get some cash in the morning and head out. I’d rather not leave a paper trail of credit card receipts. If someone wants to track us, they’ll have to work at it.”

   “I’ll call Tina and tell her we’re coming,” Sean said, “Mary, about those regrets you were talking about in there? There’s one thing you should know… ”

   “And that is?”

   “The Pussy Room was my idea.”

   “Why on earth did you do that?”

   “It was a ‘safe room’, I didn’t have to hire security. I didn’t think anyone would follow us there.”

   “Well, it didn’t work. And now we’re fucked.”





Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Million $ Idea



   It came to me in a dream. A simple marketing concept, with an unlimited market.

   Similar to the original home-video via mail service, NETPANTS™ will offer, through its on-line website, the chance for people to order designer jeans from the comfort of their home, receiving a pair of pricey pants to be worn for a week, then returned. After a deposit of $300, patrons will have the opportunity to be 'stylin' for $20 for a week. Then, they simply return the washed jeans, when NETPANTS™ receives the returned trou, they will send out a new pair- DKNY™, GUCCI™, ARMANI™, FOREVER 21™, whatever your heart desires. You don't even have to wash them! Remember: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PANTS!™

Any venture capitalists out there?

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, June 09, 2014

Origami Litter



   Living on a corner near a middle school is a mixed blessing. The "tweeners" who attend it are a pretty nice group of kids. In the early fall and late spring several groups of them walk by, with their instructors, going between the school and a playground a block away. The high spirits and laughter of the girls and boys never fails to brighten my day. Occasionally there is litter left behind—mostly candy wrappers or perhaps a plastic bottle. I pick it up, it isn't much of a chore, it's a small price to pay for being allowed a glimpse of the beauty and grace of youth.

   While weeding the boulevard last Friday I found a new kind of litter. Small origami stars, left behind by one of the kids,  just another kind of beauty I guess:




   Life is good.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, June 06, 2014

Options



   Sean was working on wrapping up some unfinished business—routine work—which Mary had wanted out of the way before the sale of ADR went through.  Sensing Mary’s approach, he looked up from his monitor.

   “Sean, let’s take a little trip to the breaker room,” Mary said.

   The ‘breaker room’ was in the sub-basement of the building where ADR was located. Mary liked to use it as a ‘safe room’ as it was, in effect, a Faraday cage, shielding electromagnetic waves, keeping them from going in or out.

   “I’ll take it that this isn’t about the billing for those blackmail cases I’ve been working on?"

   “We’ll talk downstairs,” said Mary.

   In the freight elevator on the way down, Mary didn’t speak. Glancing at her, Sean noticed a hard edge in her features. Something was bothering her. Were those new wrinkles around her eyes, or was it just the harsh lighting in the cage? When the elevator came to a halt Mary lifted the gate and pressed the button for the top floor. They got out and she closed the gate again, sending the elevator on its way.  They would be able to hear anyone coming back down. Sean opened the massive fire door of the breaker room and after they were in, he closed it behind them. A low humming sound filled the air. They were about as electro-magnetically isolated as two people could be in the heart of downtown Seattle.

    “OK, Ms. Robinson, what’s up?”

   “I saw Molly Berenson at the coffee shop this morning. We were sitting by the window talking when I noticed there was someone outside the shop taking pictures of us.”

   “Are you sure? It wasn’t a some random tourist?”

   “No, not by the way he vanished after we looked at him. Needless to say, Molly was pissed.”

   “I can understand that. Who do you think he was working for? And why you two? You did a good job in keeping both of you out of the press during the incident.”

   “The sale of ADR is part of an intricate ‘dance’ between multi-billion dollar companies. There is no telling what kind of surveillance is going on between them. I have no doubts that they would be as crass as that, although I can’t see what interest they could have in Molly.”


   “No, you’re right, it probably isn’t that. It might be tied to the Billy thing. What about the Senator’s father-in-law. Roger Ramsen, Sally O’Donnell’s ‘friend?’  He looks like he might be the type who would hold a grudge.”

   “It might be him—working for the Senator—or he might be doing it on his own. You are, after all, a potential claimant to the Senator’s estate,” Mary raised an eyebrow, continuing, “And that Icelandic baby of Billy’s? Or is he yours?  Either way, it could be a threat to Ramsen’s daughter and his granddaughters’ inheritance if the Senator should die. You haven’t been contacted by his lawyers, have you?”

   “No, they’ve been absolutely mum as far as any communication with me is concerned. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing something.  I dunno… do you think it might be Molly’s boyfriend?”

   “No, what I gathered from Molly is that that affair is over. At any rate, whoever was behind this incident is up to no good,” Mary said. “It might be time for both of us to disappear.”

   “But the corporation would want you to stay on after the ADR purchase, wouldn’t they? After all, it is your baby… ”

   “My baby… ” Mary trailed off.

   Sean sensed that that last remark had touched a nerve.

  “Sean, the only thing those executives would accept from a black woman would be coffee. How many women were in the last meeting? One: me. How many black people were there? One: me. Look at it realistically. That new corporate campus they’re building in the heart of Seattle? Think about it: buying and clearing the land, right of ways, tax breaks, construction, all those decisions were made by a group of like-minded men with the same complexion. That’s why the CEO was so mad when I showed him that I could read his emails. He knows I know the score—that I know exactly what’s going on. They want to buy us out, not just for the technology, but because they are afraid of me–of what I am:  self-made, female, not white, the other—I am what they can never be.”

   “What about the rest of the ADR team? Do you think they’ll be able to work for someone else?”

   “I’ve talked to everyone here and, after seeing the terms of the buyout, they were all on board with the deal. Most of them see this are their only chance to get a real life—and a raise. Hah. Your situation is different, of course. You’ve always been a special case, right from the day I hired you. And, of course, a lot has happened since then,” Mary smiled sweetly, “That‘s why I’m talking to you now, alone. You aren’t a ‘regular’ employee.”

   “So what is the deal? I assume you, as owner, will get the biggest cut, but what’s in it for me?”

   “The way it stands now, the bulk of my compensation will be in stock options, vested after three years.  In addition to that, you and I are listed as ‘consultants’ for the transition. At the end of the thirty days, they have two options: hiring me as the vice president in charge of communications security with you as my junior vice president or, in what is the more likely scenario, each of us will be bought out for a lump sum and then sent on our way.  It’s their usual M.O. when they buy out a company.”

   “How much ‘lumpiness’ is contained in that offer?”

   “A million each.”

   Sean gulped. “Hmm. Very lumpy. We could both disappear real good for that amount of cash.”

   “After taxes, it’s not as much as it seems. And those stock options are just a crap shoot, although I could get lucky. Who knows if Amasales will be worth anything in three years?”

   “Well, it sounds like a plan, Mary. Once again, you amaze me. I’m not going to start second-guessing you now.”

   “Good. I don’t want this to come between us, Sean. We have a special opportunity here and I appreciate having you behind me. I may not be 100% right about every aspect of this deal, but I do think it is the kind of thing that could easily be destroyed by too much tinkering,” Mary’s smile vanished, “OK. Back to work. And those blackmail cases? Think of it this way—it just might be the last invoice billing you’ll ever have to do!”

   “That’s one part of this job I won’t miss.”






Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Unraveled

A Novel About a Meltdown

By Alda Sigmundsdóttir
Enska Textasmiðjan, 2013

Another book written by a blog-pal! This time it is a full-fledged novel by Alda Sigmundsdóttir whose blog, The Iceland Weather Report, was certainly the most accomplished Icelandic blog published in English. It reached its peak in influence during the Icelandic banking crisis of 2008. Alda found herself thrust upon the world stage, giving interviews and commentary to a wide variety of international media. I've followed her since 2004 and have referenced her work in numerous FITK posts. Alda has written three other books, all of which were well-received, I've read all of them except Icelandic Folk Legends, and some of those stories I've read on her blog.

That said, it was with not without some trepidation that I picked up this book. As I got into it, I soon discovered what I had suspected—it wasn't the type of book I would usually read. It is a dysfunctional relationship novel played out over the background of the Icelandic financial meltdown. At times it could even be considered a “bodice-ripper.” The main character, Frida, is a free-spirited young Icelandic woman who ends up in a loveless marriage with the UK's ambassador to Iceland (who is also hiding a couple of big secrets). Things are further complicated when Frida takes an interest in hunky Baldur, a former investment banker who she meets in the remote Westfjords.

   Alda’s writing is clear and direct; her descriptions of Iceland and Reykjavík give this book some depth and shows how the people of Iceland were affected during the crisis of 2008. A good companion to this novel is her first book, Living Inside the Meltdown, as well as her exceptional blog posts of 2008-2009.  In contrast, the main character, Frida, is somewhat shallow and her lovers are (except for the sex scenes) lightly drawn.

   The book did hold my interest although Maria Alva Roff's 88 was more to my tastes—a wild ride covering some of the same territory but with a vastly different approach.  Auður Ösp's earlier blogs (non-fiction), while not  polished, gave an even more intimate look at modern Iceland. Each of these writers/bloggers captures facets of Icelandic life in their own way. It must be working as I've remained a fan for ten years! 


By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Sunday, June 01, 2014

Milestone



   Any excuse for a party.

   This blog is 'officially' ten years old today (actually it started in April, 2004, but those early experiments have long been deleted) with over two thousand original posts by yours truly along with dozens of contributions by others as well as hundreds of reposts. As my late mother used to say to me: "What's the matter with you?" I had no answer then, nor will I offer one now.

   I won't guarantee another ten years, but I will do all I can to finish the serial fiction, and in the mean time, who knows?  Revisiting the neglected Flippist Archives for sure.  Another visit to Iceland (in the summer of 2015) is looking likely. I will definitely be in the Mt. Horeb area this fall, and a jaunt to the BWCAW isn't out of the question for this summer, either.

   Thanks for the support! Everyone who has contributed, commented and even visited Flippist World Headquarters (tours available!) has expanded my world immeasurably. I've enjoyed reading all the books published by the bloggers I have been following: Annie Atkins' To the Left of the Midwest, Maria Alva Roff's 88, Shoshanah's (Ex)hausted, and several titles by Alda Sigmondsdóttir. Look for a review of her novel Unraveled Wednesday.

   And finally, of course, here's a big 'takk' to Auður. Without her initial (and continuing) inspiration there would have never been a Flippism is the Key. 


By Professor Batty


Comments: 5