Monday, September 29, 2014

Edit War

   My Wikipedian adventures are generally exceedingly tame: a removed comma, an added reference; perhaps the rephrasing of a sentence. This weekend I became involved with my first real edit war, on the main Halldór Laxness Wikipedia Page. My nemesis was an English as a second language Icelander, who, while meaning well, just didn't understand the language and Wikipedia guidelines well enough to to make a coherent contribution. I was polite but as the edits continued and his contribution became more and more convoluted the whole affair quickly reached the point of absurdity. The topper was when, on the talk page, he stated "I don't like to read Laxness that much in Icelandic, I'm not sure why I bother with his article…".

   Well! How does one properly respond to such a statement? Especially after the hundreds of hours that many people have put in on this page. A labor of love versus a labor of 'meh'? I did respond, however, and somewhat testily at that. I then made what I hope would be a satisfactory edit for all concerned.

UPDATE (Tuesday): My last edit 'held' and my rival actually added some corrections which were intelligible and referenced! There is still hope for humanity!

UPDATE (Wednesday): My response was evidently taken as a challenge. I deleted all my communications to this 'happy warrior' in the hope of ending this insanity.

UPDATE (Thursday): He's still trying to get a rise out of me.

FINAL UPDATE: No further responses. The lesson learned from this dust-up: Don't feed the trolls.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Friday, September 26, 2014

The Ice Cave



    “You be careful now Sean, those rocks can be slippery… ”
    “I will, Uncle Henry,” Sean said as he scrambled ahead of his octogenarian grand-uncle.

    Henry had brought him there as a ‘special surprise’ addition to their weekly trip to the Whippy Dip. The Decorah Ice Cave wasn’t much of a spectacle but it had been so much part of the local history that it had almost become legend. With Sean and
his mother leaving for Washington D.C. in the morning, Henry knew that this chapter of Sean’s life would be ending and Henry, not much on flowery language or symbolic gestures, felt this was the best thing he could offer. Sean was already running up the staircase of hewn limestone blocks which led to the path to the opening.

    “Now you wait up, wait ’til I bring the flashlight,” said Henry.

    Sean, who had already reached the entrance, was suddenly intimidated by the cleft in the bluff and its pitch-black interior.

    “I’ll wait for you,” he called back.

    As he climbed the steps leading to the cave, Henry could feel every one of his eighty-one years in his knees and feet.

    “Good work boy. Only a fool rushes into the unknown without a guide. Give me your hand, lad, it’s a little steep at the entrance.” Henry said.

    “Uncle Henry, did you go to the Ice Cave when you were young? Was it the same as it is now?” asked
Sean .

    “Oh, I’ve come here many times, sometimes just to cool off in the summer. It’s the same now as it ever was,” said Henry.
He was going to tell the child that this was where he proposed to Alice, but thought better of it.  Sean’s natural imagination would supply its own story. Taking the boy by the hand, they stepped inside. “Can you feel it Sean? It’s cold in here isn’t it?”

    “Will we see any ice?”

    “Maybe, it’s a little late in the season, sometimes the ice is gone by the end of July. It is still plenty cold though.”

    They continued down, along a curving wall, and came to a fork in the path. To the left the path continued to slope down, quickly getting too small for even Sean to pass through without crawling. To the right it ended abruptly in a cave-in with the small passage behind it blocked by a grate and a hand painted sign which said ‘KEEP OUT.’

    “Do you think someone died in there?” asked Sean, who was quite nervous now.
   “No, I don’t think so, but someone might have hit their head on a rock. You can’t protect everybody from every little thing in life. Don’t you worry. Look here Sean, here’s some ice, and in August too! This whole hill is like a big freezer, it fills up with water from melted snow in winter days and freezes solid during cold nights. The pioneers used to store food here.”

    “Can we go now, Uncle Henry?” said Sean,  “I’m cold.”

   “Sure, but go slow, it’s slippery.”
    
            ————————————————————

   Sean pulled the car into the small parking area that was just west of the entrance to the Ice Cave. His grand-uncle Henry had taken him there when he was a boy and it had frightened him.  Sean’s last visit was during the weekend of his mother’s memorial service. He had returned to this place to have a few minutes to himself. It wasn’t frightening then, it was strangely comforting—its limestone walls seemed to wrap around him. The way his mother’s arms had, in that first year in D.C., when he had been so sad. The double shock of living in a city and going to preschool had been overwhelming then.

   Mary had just finished her Whippy Dip and was getting out of her car.

   “Do you think I really need this hoodie? It must be eighty-five,” she said, as she looked at the historical display which stood above the parking area.

   “You’ll need it. And the flashlight. The entrance is over there.” said Sean, pointing to a small path leading from the parking area. “It isn’t far.”

   As they approached the stairs which led to the cave, Mary let out a small gasp.

   “Are you alright?” said Sean.

   “I’m fine, I just had a strange sensation there for a second. Sort of like double vision, more like a double reality,” Mary said, “This may prove to be more interesting than I had thought.”

   “You be careful now Mary, those rocks can be slippery… ” said Sean.

   The couple climbed the steps and walked the short path to the entrance of the cave.

   “You be the docent and I’ll be your tour group,” Mary said, handing Sean the flashlight, “Shall we begin?” They went a short distance into the cave, far enough to be out of view of the entrance. Sean began his ‘spiel’:

   “Well, as you can see, the floor is slanted at compound angles, which, along with the moisture from condensation, creates a hazardous situation. In addition, the rough texture of the walls has caused many an intoxicated teenager to suffer embarrassing injuries.”

   “Hold on a sec,” Mary said, “I’m getting those strange feelings again. Much stronger, this is really extraordinary. Hold me, I don’t want to fall.”

   As Sean grasped Mary in his arms, the flashlight swung wildly from its tether.

   “Turn off the light for a second please, it’s jarring,” gasped Mary.

   With the light turned off the cave was instantly plunged into blackness. Mary shivered in Sean’s arms.

   “Hold me, Sean… oh… OH GOD, IT'S GLORIOUS!” Mary said, panting rapidly as she clung to Sean. Her body was trembling, yet Sean felt an inner calm radiate from Mary, something he couldn’t understand.

   They stood together that way, in the dark, for several minutes. As Sean’s eyes became used to the dark, he could make out the faint glimmer from the cave’s entrance on the rocks beside him. When he looked down at Mary the skin on her face and hands seemed to be surrounded by a wispy bluish-white aura. His first thought was that it might be from condensation. When Mary had resumed regular breathing he spoke to her, quietly:

   “Mary, are you there?”

   “Um-hmm.”

   “Mary, look at your hands.”

   Emanating from her fingers were filmy threads of light, making small arcs between her fingertips before fading into the cool atmosphere of the cave.

   “I see it, I know what it is. You can turn the flashlight on again,” she said.

   Sean was somewhat surprised at how close to the bottom end of the cave they were. He had remembered it being longer. It was only a few steps further until they came to where the tunnel forked.

   “This is about all there is to see… ” Sean said, pointing down the left tunnel, “… unless you want to start crawling.” He aimed the light at the blocked-off short tunnel.

  “This is enough… for now,” said Mary, “I’m cold.”





Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Summer Reads (barely)

Autumn begins at 9:29 tonight (Monday) so here are the final two books of my summer reading list, both making the cut by mere hours:

The Pets

A novel by Bragí Ólofsson
Translated by Janice Balfour
Open Letter Press, 2008

   This slim volume occupies a prime spot in the niche of 101-Reykjavík-Millenial-thirty-somethings novels. The author, Bragí Ólofsson, is a founding member of Smekkleysa (Bad Taste), the Icelandic artistic collective and music label which included The Sugarcubes, of which he was a member.

   The main character, Emil Halldórsson, is returning to his flat in Reykjavík after a short vacation in London, financed by winning a mid-sized lottery (he's a 'millionaire'—but in Icelandic Krona—about 10,000 USD) enough to pay for a trip where he purchased gifts for his friends and CDs (he's a music collector) for himself.  At the same time, Havard Knutsson, an ex-roomate and recent escapee from a Swedish mental institution, is in Iceland, looking up his old 'friend' and causing general havoc.

   The book is comic, Emil's indecision and timidity in facing up to his old nemesis leads to bigger and bigger mortifications as Havard takes over his flat and throws a party: drinking his liquor, dismissing his taste in music, and generally defiling the place. All the while Emil is hiding underneath a bed, waiting for Havard to leave. Further complicating things is the arrival of Greta, who Emil once admired from afar and has reconnected with on his return flight; his big chance with her now spoiled by the unwanted interloper.

   The writing is brisk, the translation is unfussy, this is a breezy light novel, perfect for a short airplane trip or a rainy afternoon.  Those readers familiar with downtown Reykjavík, especially around the turn of the millennium, should get a kick out of the locales. It has a certain pre-kreppa lightness about it along with a most quirky Icelandic perspective on 'dating'.



The Gamal

A novel by Ciarán Collins
Bloomsbury, 2013

   This debut novel is the story of Charlie McCarthy, a "gamal" (a simpleton in the local Irish dialect), written from a first person perspective in this subtle story about youth growing up in a small Irish town. Charlie has been assigned to write this book as part of his therapy in dealing with a tragic Romeo and Juliet-style turn of events occurring to two of his friends. It may sound grim, and parts of it are very sad, but it it also leavened with Charlie's often hilarious and insightful commentary on his peers.

   Collins uses the The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time trope of writing. Using the point of view of a developmentally-impaired person it allows the author a lot of room for creative effects. There are some gimmicks in the typography and illustrations, but nothing that ultimately detracts from the writing.  His use of Irish idioms and courtroom transcripts gives the story its sense of verisimilitude as well as offering the reader a penetrating look into the pub life of Irish teens.

Highest recommendation.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, September 22, 2014

Adventures in Hi-Fi



   Alas! My venerable Marantz 1060 Integrated Amp has bit the dust. I'm almost afraid to open it up. I think the power transformer has gone bad; a prohibitively expensive repair. So, honoring my retro trend of recent months, I picked up the beauty pictured above, a RCA AM-FM Table Radio, Model 8R71, circa 1948. The power cord had disintegrated (common to electronics of that era) but it did have higher-quality vacuum tubes and, most importantly, an auxiliary input. One donated power cord and 20 cents worth of parts later it was back in business. The reception with the built-in antennas leaves a little to be desired, but is usable after it warms up for a while. I hooked it up to my CD player and was pleasantly surprised at the sound quality. I've only played "old music" on it so far, but it suits it: a little hum, the friendly odor of warm tubes, no deep bass or high treble, but with a balanced response and a phase coherence only achievable with a single speaker.  Perfect for background music.

   If those attributes weren't enough, this label on the bottom wraps it up nicely:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, September 19, 2014

Reception




   “That clerk was certainly giving us the stink-eye,” Sean said as they entered the coffeehouse, “Do you think it was personal?”

“Possibly. He didn’t bat an eye at the gay couple ahead of us. Black woman plus white man = trouble. Or maybe he knows who we are—the Bonnie and Clyde of the hipster generation—on the lam and hiding out in a sleepy Iowa farming community,”  said Mary, who wasn’t smiling, “Would you get me a small mocha? I’m going to check in with legal.”

   Logging in, Mary ran a quick security check on the coffeehouse’s IP and was satisfied that the WiFi wasn’t compromised. By the time Sean came over with the coffees she was checking her inbox.

   “Anything of earth-shaking importance?” Sean asked as he sat down. “Are we still hot or are we not?”

   “Except for this photo,” Mary said, showing Sean the image of her standing naked on the balcony in Seattle, the internet has lost interest in us. Would you like a T-shirt of me, au naturel? Or perhaps my beautiful body gracing your coffee mug?”

   “As long as it’s tastefully done,” said Sean, “Any other fallout from the buyout?”

   “No problems there; at least somethings in my life have been going according to plan.
Everything else is crazy. I was talking to Tina this morning about the ‘vision’ I had last night. She saw it too, and she confirmed that it is Emily or, at least, the spirit of her,” Mary paused to sip her mocha, “Why am I not surprised? Don’t you find this a bit strange, or is the norm for the Carrolls?”

   “Emily has always been a figure of mystery to me. When I would ask about her my questions wouldn’t be answered, and the subject would be quickly changed.  I knew that Tina had some kind of a rapport with her mother.”

   “And your mother, did she have a connection?”

   “I don’t think so. Or if she did it wasn’t a positive one. That might have been why she was so nervous when we would come to the farm, and always so eager to return to D.C.,” Sean said as he looked at Mary closely, “I know why the clerk at the license bureau looked at you the way he did. Your appearance is changing—if it wasn’t so corny I’d say that you were ‘glowing’. I think pregnancy suits you.”

   “Well it isn’t doing much for my sense of taste; this mocha is awful.  Try it,” Mary said, pushing the cup away.

   “It seems alright to me, it must be you,” said Sean, “What else is going on in Seattle?”

   “I’m having legal write us a prenup, are there any particulars you’d like to include?”

   “Well, we’ve done all right with separate finances so far, and we both have wills, what about grounds for divorce?”

   “I’ve only got two,” said Mary, “Unfaithfulness or cruelty.”

   “I'll go along with that. What about a sanity clause?”

   “It’s far too late as far as you are concerned. I’m afraid that we’re stuck with each other.”

   “I’m thinking that the fun is only beginning,” Sean replied.

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

   Roger Ramsen sat in his home office anxiously awaiting a call from his lawyers. It had been three days since their overture to the Icelandic woman, Þora, who Roger figured had been impregnated by Billy Clarkson. Ramsen went over the possibilities: If she wouldn’t acknowledge Billy as the father, there was no way they could co-opt her. Who was advising her? Roger had heard that the Icelanders were a stubborn, independent breed, but even so, what single mother would turn down a chance for child support? Of course, the underlying plan was to make her admit that Billy was the father, and when she did, it would be ‘discovered’ that the boy's father wasn’t Billy after all—and she would be shamed into silence by the threat of fraud charges. He felt confident in his contacts in Iceland—it would be a relatively easy matter to rig the boy’s DNA results—Billy’s had already been sequenced. What was wrong with that woman? It was bad enough that Sean had disappeared with his girlfriend Mary. The online character assassination of Mary had gone nowhere—instead of being shamed, she had become a feminist icon. Roger didn’t like the way things were heading. Worse still, Senator Clarkson was now vulnerable in his bid for reelection. His defeat would mean the end of Ramsen’s inside track in the Senate; not exactly the end of the world but it would certainly make things difficult Ramsen and his allies. By effectively ending his ‘congressional immunity’ it could open the way for prosecution of several people on numerous charges related to ‘Billygate.’ The bastards in the DOJ. They had already convicted the ex-governor of Virginia, and his wife!

   And, in addition to all this, Ramsen could feel his indigestion acting up again.

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

   “I’m hungry. Again,” said Mary, as they left the coffeehouse, “How about hitting the Whippy Dip on the way out of town? Then you can show me around town a little, I have a feeling we’ll be spending more time here than we planned.”

   “Sure thing, I wouldn’t want you to starve. The town isn’t that big, but the Porter House is kind of neat, and then there’s the Vesterheim Museum, of course—you could get up to speed on Tina’s Norwegian heritage. They have regular tours, we can do one of those when we have some time,” said Sean, “You might get a kick out of the Ice Cave.”

   “The Ice Cave?” said Mary, “Sounds intriguing. Is it far?”

   “It’s just up on the bluff a little ways. We could be there before your Whippy Dip melted.”

   “Don’t we need gear?” Mary said, with a worried note in her voice.

   “The cave is only about 40 feet long.  You’ve got your flashlight and your hoodie, don’t you?”

   “In the car.”

   “Good, you’ll need them.”



Fiction




By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bayfield 1984



30 years ago, back in my rock-n-roll days, one of the bands that I worked with would occasionally be required to make a road trip. The most pleasant of these was Bayfield, Wisconsin, where they hold an annual “Apple Festival” in early October. The venue was named “Bates’ Bar’ (not related to the motel) and we would play both Friday and Saturday nights—leaving us with a full day to amuse ourselves in the picturesque harbor town. While wandering about I spotted an old storefront. Rundown, apparently neglected, but still full of interesting things:  boat motors and other gear, automotive parts and unidentifiable miscellany. The north lighting streaming through the large plate glass windows was most photogenic so I took some pictures:



Some of the items in the store looked relatively new, while others were very old, including this calendar from 1928:



Beneath the picture on the calendar was printed:
H. A. Reiten, Auto Supplies and Repairs, Phone 07, Bayfield … Wisconsin 
Halvor A. Reiten was born in 1895 and died in 1982—only a few years before my visit— his shop was in existence in Bayfield for over fifty years! Ten years ago, when the Weaver and I returned there, the shop was gone and the old working waterfront was bristling with new condos. His nephew, Larry Reiten, has posted some pictures of H.A in an online gallery. He looks to be quite the character. I'm sorry I missed him but thankful that I captured these traces of his life.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Monday, September 15, 2014

Seasonal Shift



   As the earth rotates the sun, creating the seasons, so goes my closet as well. All the Hawaiian shirts, my usual summer fare, have been laundered and placed at the far end of the rack, the coveted "center position" now occupied by wool shirts, hoodies and long sleeves.  Perched above are the lords of the haberdashery: the sweaters. They pay for themselves in savings on the heating bill by allowing the comfortable household temperature to be set considerably lower.

   Around the yard, we had a frost scare Friday night, but the long term looks seasonably warm until the middle of October, giving the tomatoes a reprieve and postponing the annual transplanting of the Norfolk Island Pine, an odd choice for a houseplant (being nearly six feet tall and four feet across) but I've "bonded" with it; I'd hate to see it freeze to death. It really has grown too big for Flippist World Headquarters; it may have to reside in the basement (Flippist World Hindquarters) and make do with a grow light.

   Jono's hummingbirds made an appearance here yesterday—no doubt on their way to a warmer clime.  The school kids have been flocking as well, this year their bus stops on our corner so our mornings are filled with the chirpings of elementary students.  I don't mind these changes, as Lois Lenski would say: "Now it's fall, just the nicest time of all."

By Professor Batty


Comments: 6 




Friday, September 12, 2014

Sunlit Revelation



   “Did you get enough?” Aunt Tina had just finished making her ‘Norwegian Pancakes’—crepes served with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam, “More coffee?” she said, turning off the burner on the gas range, “What are you two up to today?”

   “I think that I’m supposed to make an announcement,” said Mary, “So, in light of further consideration and due diligence, I do hereby proclaim: I, Mary Robinson, being of sound mind and body, and free of duress, do hereby accept Sean Carroll’s proposal of marriage, according to the laws of the Grand State of Iowa, subject to a mutually agreed upon prenuptial contract.  Tina, you are our witness.”

   “Well done, Mary,” said Tina, “Sean, do you find this answer to your proposal satisfactory?”

   “Tis’ a consummation devoutly to be wished,” Sean said, getting into the formal spirit of the event, “Tina, do you happen to know what the requirements for a wedding license in Iowa are?”

   “Three-day waiting period, I believe, same-sex OK, no other spouses. There are no other spouses are there?”

   Sean and Mary looked at each other.

   “Are there?” Tina repeated.

   “No,” said the two of them, simultaneously.

   “Good. You can get the license in town, at the courthouse. It opens at 10, I believe.”

   “Tina, do you know of a good WiFi spot?” asked Tina. “I will have to check in with my lawyers, I know that isn’t very romantic, but my business life is somewhat complicated these days.”

   “The Magpie, the coffee shop katty-corner from the courthouse. I see people with their computers in there all the time.”

   “Very good,” Sean said, grinning from ear to ear, “In the meantime I’ll clean up these dishes. Mary said she’d like to have a look around the place, would you give her the tour, Tina?”

   “Okay, but there isn't much to see, I’m afraid. Just some broken down buildings.” Tina said.

   “I’m interested in the pasture out back. Is it still being used?”

   “Oh yes, my neighbor, Mel Henderson, he uses it, ‘gives the cows a change of scenery,’ he says.  He’s going to buy all of this when I move out in September.  Com’on, and I’ll show you around.”

   The two women went out.

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

   In the Reykjavík suburb of Kópavogur, Þora Arnarsdóttir read the email she had received from a law firm in Washington D.C. It distressed her for the letter contined mention of her son—the toddler Vilhjálmur Stefán—and suggested that they could help her receive ‘just compensation’ for expenses incurred in the birth and raising of her child. It mentioned the late William Clarkson Jr., son of the U.S. Senator, and suggested that the Senator was ‘vulnerable’ to a paternity suit.  Vulnerable. Berskjaldaður. The word which perfectly expressed how Þora felt about the whole affair. Bad things had come from her relationship with Billy: his death, her mistake with his half-brother Sean, and now this.  Her concentration was interrupted by a patter of feet and the piping voice of little Vilhjálmur saying: “Mama, mama.” Þora smiled, at least one good thing had come out of that situation. She hit ‘delete’ and picked up the boy, “þú ert sólskin minn,” she said to the toddler.

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

   “Tell me, Mary, did the storm keep you up last night?” asked Tina, “It was quite the show, wasn’t it?”

   “We don’t often get thunder and lightning like that in Seattle. It has something to do with the ocean, I think,” Mary replied, “The pasture out there was lit up like a rock concert! That’s the same pasture as the one in the painting in our room, isn’t?”

   “Emily painted it,” said Tina, tersely. “She loves… loved being out there.”

   “Tina, how long did you watch the storm? Did you see that bright flash, the big one, after the storm had passed?”

   “Yes, I saw it.”

   “What did you see? Right there, where the sun is breaking through?”

   “Lightning can play tricks on the eyes,” said Tina.

   “Tell me what you saw,” said Mary.

   “A figure. A woman,” said Tina, shrinking back slightly.

   “Wearing a shawl?” pressed Mary.

   “So. You can see. Yes, I saw her, it was Emily, my mother. Her spirit walks this valley and has done so for many years,” Tina was pale and excited, “She’s waiting.”

   “Waiting? For what?” said Mary.

   “Your baby. I knew she would reappear, from the moment I laid eyes on you and Sean. Emily’s hope is that her line will not die out. That is what she has been waiting for, all these years, she can not rest until her wish is fulfilled.”

   “I want to know more,” Mary said, “I must know everything.”

   “How are you at reading codes, secret messages and the like?”

   “It’s been my whole life. There has never been a code I couldn’t crack.”

   “When you get back from town you can take a look at Emily’s book. What does Sean know about all this?”

   “He knows I saw something last night,” Mary paused, “He knows of the other things which have been happening to me lately. He knows that it is all part of something bigger. He trusts me.”

   “That’s good. That’s good. You will both be tested. I was tested too, once. Let’s go in, Sean should be done with the dishes by now. I need to sit down.”




Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ownership and Privacy

   Another potentially problematic issue facing this blog is the use of "found" images.  I've made many posts using photographs and other ephemera that I've purchased at estate sales, thrift stores and antique shops. Copyright belongs to the originator of a work, in the case of photographs it is:
I. 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation whichever is shorter (anonymous works, pseudonymous works, or works made for hire, published since 1978).

II. 95 years from publication for works published 1964–1977.

III. 28 years (if copyright not renewed) or 95 years from publication for works published 1923–1963. 

IV. Copyrights prior to 1923 have expired.  (source: wikipedia)
   To the best of my knowledge, none of the found images I've used had ever been previously published, they are not 'commercial photography'. I've got the originals, making any claim of ownership effectively moot. My "Back to School Fashions, 1971" images would fall under category II, if they had been published. Most of the other found images used here would fall under category III or IV. This is far from an academic question. The case of Vivian Maier is currently under threat of litigation; it is quite reasonable to assume that her work won't be shown again for many years. Perhaps no work of unknown ownership should ever be shown? The images on this blog are original, unless otherwise credited. Those works which aren't original are posted in good faith to be 'fair use', and will be taken down if shown otherwise. More on this topic at TOP.

   The other big question is one of privacy. I'm not a 'window peeper' (excepting commercial and other public buildings) my general guide to privacy is not to post anything I wouldn't want seen of my self or would cause embarrassment or discomfort to anyone else. That could be interpreted in many different ways; a reasonable objection and I will quickly pull any offending image. This is mentioned in the fine print on my 'Welcome' page, and has been in place since day one. A couple of examples of images I've had second thoughts about posting:


Butterfly Buddha, Seattle, 2014

   The above image is from a street fair, in a public place, with a recognizable person. Searchable, although buried in with numerous other Buddha-related images. I can imagine the subject having a negative reaction to the image, but that's her prerogative. I thought it captured the essence of the moment. If she wanted it taken down, I'd do it in a minute.


Lonely Avenue, Minneapolis, 2013

   This image, although the subject is not identifiable, might be considered objectionable by many. Again, I thought it captured the essence of the moment. I would need to have a very persuasive argument to take this image down. It is of an arguably different aesthetic (I hope) from the casual cell-phone pictures in the Reddit case (discussed in Monday's post), but schematically it is the same: a picture which includes a woman's backside.

   I don't have any answers to these conflicts. In light of other modern problems, what I post here is not of much importance. Some of the images posted here have made connections with people who knew or otherwise were related to the subjects. The response has been nearly uniformly favorable, I will continue to post what I see fit, although always remembering the power of a photograph to do harm. It would be a sad day if a misguided law squelched this type of expression.


By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, September 08, 2014

Redaction

   I'm reconsidering my "Fashion" post of last week.

   The images of sidewalk shoppers in Seattle's U district (from 1971) was put up as a tame (rhymes with lame) satire of traditional back to school fashion articles. Recent developments suggest that this kind of imagery may soon be subject to criminal prosecution. The Philippines parliament has been debating a very restrictive public photography law. On the local scene, a unknown photographer caused a stir with a tasteless Reddit thread of pictures of women (mild sample here, other, presumably worse pictures have been taken down) shot on the campus commuter line. Where does one draw the lines between harassment, stalking, criminal activity or simply poor taste? Or poor photography? As a blog which uses a lot of pictures of people taken in public places, I could be considered a 'perp' or, in the nuanced words of one commenter: "… a sick sack of shit and the world would be a better place without you…"). The forum in question ('Candid Fashion Police') evidently exists to make snarky comments about women in tight fitting shorts and stretch pants. Most of the images feature women's posteriors and have judgmental and hateful remarks about the them and their clothes. The obvious question is: "if you don't like it, why post and comment about it?" Of course many internet comment threads are judgmental and hateful. I suspect the 'thrill of violation/hatred of women' form of sociopathy is the driving factor here. In contrast to the forum, the clothes from 1971 images are haute couture; the bodies demure. The intent of the photographer may have been less than lofty but the images seem, to my eyes at least, to capture a lost era.

  Perhaps it is better to be safe than sorry so, with all due diligence, I'm re-posting the photos from last week, redacted:







Wednesday: Ownership and Privacy 

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, September 05, 2014

Night Vision

y


   “I present to you… the mother’s room,” said Sean, opening the door for Mary. Outside, the thunderstorm had finally arrived—with a bang. The thunder shook the wooden farmhouse.

   “That was quite the  dramatic introduction,” Mary said. She looked around at the small, square, room. Papered in an old fashioned rose pattern, the room’s walls were otherwise unadorned, save for a framed oil painting. A three drawer dresser with an oval mirror on top was next to the bed as well as an arm-less chair by the window. Mary opened the door to the closet; it was empty.

   “Nothing,” said Mary.

   “Everything of my mother’s is in the front bedroom downstairs. We can look into it tomorrow,  but I don’t think there’s anything exceptional. My mother was pretty much all business style as far as her wardrobe was concerned. Her computers are here as well, and with the rest of my college stuff. I brought a SCSI to USB adapter to save the files on, although I don’t know how well we’ll be able to read them—it’s been fifteen years.”

   “We’ll figure it out if we… ” Mary was interrupted by another crack of thunder. “… need to.”

   The bedroom window rattled in its sash. Outside, the lighting illuminated the backyard as well as the pasture which lay beyond.

   “Sean, how do you feel, being back here, is it like coming home, or do you even have a place that feels like home?” Mary said as she gazed out the window into the blackness,  “This is the only place where Tina has ever lived, isn’t it?”

   “It is,” replied Sean, “I think she visited Chicago once—when she was young. She never liked cities,” Sean said as he helped Mary put the sheets on the bed, “Home. I don’t know what it means. Our apartment in Seattle? What would it take to make a place into a home? A year, two years?”

   “A baby,” said Mary, as she tucked in the top sheet. “A baby would make it into a home, for sure.”

   “Well, then I’d say that we’re on the right track.”

   “Yes, we are,” Mary said.

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

   The storm passed, although the lighting continued. Sean slept soundly but Mary remained wide awake. She got out of bed and sat looking out the window into the dark. As she watched the strokes became more infrequent until they seemed to have stopped altogether. As she stood to get up to return to bed Mary was startled by an exceptionally bright flash. Outside, in the pasture, stood a woman—naked except for a shawl—who disappeared into the darkness after the flash. There was no more lighting. Mary was transfixed. She crawled back into bed and pondered the meaning of her vision.

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

   “I saw someone outside last night,” Mary said to Sean as they lay in bed in the morning. “A woman, standing in the pasture.”

   “Say what? How is that possible?”

   “Sean, does Tina have any pictures of your grandmother?” Mary asked.

   “Tina has a photo album, we can take a look at it if you like. Why do you ask?”

   “This sounds crazy but…” Mary paused, “… that woman in the field, I think it was your grandmother.”

   “Emily? What do you mean?”

   “Sean, listen to me. Things that have been happening to me: the deer we almost hit, the coyotes at the motel, now this. I’m not imagining them, they aren’t hallucinations, I’ve never been more lucid. But there is something going on, these things are signs, signs that I can’t read. Yet.”

   “Your night visions are getting interesting. You might not want to tell Tina about this.”

   “How so?” said Mary, getting out of bed.

   “It might set her off,” said Sean. “Emily is still alive in Tina’s mind. When I was little I often heard her talking to her.”

   As Mary pulled a sweatshirt on over her head she bumped the painting on the wall, knocking it askew. As she straightened it, she looked at it closely.

   “This is Emily's painting, isn't it?” she said, “In the corner, here, the initials ‘E. C.’ and the date—1921.”

   “I have to say that I’ve never looked at it closely before,” said Sean. “She would have been a teenager when she painted that.”

   “Look—on the right side of the painting—those two stones. The trees are different, but the stones are still there, beside each other, out in the pasture,” Mary said, looking first out the window, and then back at the painting, “It’s the view out this window.”

   “So it is,” said Sean. “That makes sense, I guess.”

   “Let’s go out to the pasture today, I just want to stand in the same spot where I saw my ‘vision’ standing last night. Just to… just to see if I can sense anything.”

   “I can sense that Tina is making pancakes,” said Sean, “Let’s have some breakfast first. Then we’ll check out your night visitor.”

   “Sounds good, and I am starving, again,” Mary said. “I’m… I… Sean, do you think I’m going nuts?”

   “Your intuition has yet to lead us astray. I’m behind you 100%.”

   “I appreciate that. I’ll need all the help I can get if this continues,” said Mary.

   “It’s a family affair now,” said Sean, “Our family. We’re on the right track.”

   “Yes, we are.”

   “Mary?”

   “Yes?”

   “You didn’t answer the question I asked you at dinner yesterday.”

   “After breakfast, Sean.”







  Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Lehn House



   They moved old lady Lehn's house last week. Not often does one see a 130 year old Italianate style house rolling down the street. Miss Lien was a fixture in my city for over 90 years. In her later days she cut quite a figure driving around town in her giant Cadillac. Her brother, who lasted nearly as long, ran a small electrical shop on Main Street, his shop an anachronism, selling lamp parts and doorbells.

   After Miss Lehn died, the house sat empty for a while; it was due to be torn down but one of my son's buddies worked up a plan to have it moved. It only went a block, so it will still be in the same neighborhood. It had always intrigued me with its three front doors (out of view to the left in this picture), its tall windows and the sleeping porch (just visible in the right rear.)  There has been a spate of new construction here recently, including tasteless McMansions replacing a wildlife refuge and anonymous split levels filling in lots made empty by tear-downs. All of them feature drab paint schemes and garages in the front. This charming building will, in its own small way, hopefully counteract the creeping conformity of modern architecture.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, September 01, 2014

No Fair, Batty Sees the Light



   I didn't go to the Minnesota State Fair this year. I tried to make it—twice! But it was not to be. The first attempt was at 8 AM at the Maple Grove Transit Station. I got there a little early, where three other were cars waiting, but no sign of a bus. I waited for quite a while. I was sure of the time and place, I had looked at the Fair's web site, goggle mapped it and wrote it all down. After a half an hour, it was apparent that nothing would be happening so I went home and checked the web site again. Perhaps there is another Maple Grove Transit Station. (I've gotten lost in Maple Grove so many times it isn't funny. The city has a perverse knack for making things impossible to find.)

   So, I drank another cup of coffee, did a few chores, and then thought I'd try my luck at a different Park and Ride, this one close to the fairgrounds. The buses should make the trip in about 5 minutes, and I'd get to the fair about 10 AM. The ramp was nearly full, and there was quite a line of people waiting, so at least I knew I was in the right place this time. I got in line, about 200 people ahead of me, which is about what one of the big stretch buses can hold. I should have been be at the fair in no time.

   Time has a peculiar habit of slowing down when one is surrounded by frustrated people. They had been waiting quite a while already, I lasted about twenty minutes before giving up. I got the hint and went home. As I was leaving, a small bus pulled in (capable of holding about 60 passengers), at that rate I would have had to wait another hour—and go through the same routine when I left the fair. I'm not saying I've turned into a cranky old man, but their are somethings I just won't do anymore. I figured that if I was going to be miserable, I might as well do it at home, where I could get something accomplished:



New under cabinet lights (new generation LEDs), to replace the dim old generation LEDS which had replaced the hot Xenon lights. The manufacturer insists on making these extremely fiddly to install: too-short cables, a complicated three stage mounting system which could have been replaced with two screws. I knew it would be a drag, so when it was complete (and worked!), my sense of frustration with the day's events was completely dissipated.

   All work and no play makes Batty a happy boy.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3