Monday, September 28, 2015

Sic Transit Gloria Batty



   If you had been reading this on the afternoon of 9-28-15, there is a good chance that I am currently 38,000 feet above the western United States on my way back to Flippist World Headquarters, returning from a family week-end in Seattle (more on that later.)




By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Friday, September 25, 2015

Last Dance



   The final leg of the return to Seattle was uneventful. After they got arrived, Emily settled into Mary and Sean’s spare apartment. Mary finally made a visit to the clinic for a pregnancy check-up and evaluation and was found to be in excellent health; her pregnancy was proceeding normally. Sean began using FaceTime to check-in with Þora and their son. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that Þora was a sensible and pragmatic woman with a good sense of humor, especially in light of the bizarre circumstances of their meeting and Vilhjálmur’s conception (Sean learned that in Iceland he could be referred to as Billy’s Kviðmágur.) Þora, with the aid of her uncle Hilmar, was also learning more about the ‘old religion’ and using some of Emily’s spells to help manage her son’s behavior. Hilmar had his hands full with the meteoric rise of the spells app. He spent a good deal of time conferring with Mary. Mary and Emily’s personal relationship grew stronger: they spent several hours each day together, bonding in the trance-state and exchanging knowledge and deepening their understanding of those ancient forces which they shared. Mary’s friend Jo had successfully terminated her relationship with her ex, with some help from the spell app. Molly Berenson’s career in Insurance took a turn for the better—her experiences with the FBI had given her personality a bit of a ‘hard edge’ and a ruthlessness which was not a disadvantage in her profession.

   Back in Decorah, Tina and Edwin finally left Edwin’s apartment and moved into an assisted living facility—together (although Edwin still kept his shop open on weekends.) The sale of the Carroll family farm was finalized and the house and the outbuildings were torn down. Everyone involved with The Matriarchy felt a great sense of relief that The Brotherhood had been destroyed.

   Emily had some adjustments to make to 21st-century life and culture. She quickly learned to use the internet and used it to find information about her old Greenwich Village friends. She found a surprisingly large number of books about the era and Sean helped her order some of them on-line.  Emily was amazed at how quickly she received them. Television didn’t interest her much (‘So vulgar!’), and she was somewhat alarmed at the appearance of the numerous homeless people that she would encounter when she was out with Mary and Sean (she called them ‘empty souls’). Her accelerated aging continued.  She ‘breezed’ through menopause in less than a month (‘The one positive thing to be said about my rapid aging!’) and her health remained good. She had the appearance of a well-maintained 60-year-old. One day, while out shopping with Mary for things for the baby, she noticed a poster advertising swing dances at The Century Ballroom.

   “I’d like to go to that,” she said to Mary, “I love to dance. Did you know that when I first went to New York I worked in one of those ‘dime-a-dance’ halls?”

   “Really?” said Mary, “I’m not much of a dancer, especially now, but I think Sean is pretty good. That would be a fun thing to do.”

   “It’s tomorrow night,” said Emily, “I’ll need a fancy dress, of course.”

   “We’ve got your old dresses in our storage unit!” exclaimed Mary, “I would think that any of them will turn some heads. That sounds like a plan!”

   When the women returned to the apartment they brought the boxes with the dresses up to Emily’s apartment. As they went through the dresses, Emily told Mary the story behind each of them. At the bottom of the last box was a silk and lace dress. Emily carefully unfolded it and held it up to her body.

   “My Schiaparelli,” said Emily, “This is the one. Help me put it on, Mary. I hope it still fits.”

   Emily removed her top and skirt while Mary spread the dress out on Emily’s bed.

   “It looks to be intact,” said Mary, “My God, it’s absolutely stunning!”

   Emily carefully stepped into the dress and Mary zipped up the back.

   “It fits! It fits!” Emily said, as she did a little pirouette in front of the dressing mirror, “I’m going to break some hearts tomorrow night.”

   “The power of The Matriarchy expressed in haute couture!” said Mary, laughing.



   The next night Emily and Mary and Sean went to the swing dance. There was a slight drizzle, so Emily’s outfit was completely covered by one of Sean’s large rain jackets. They entered the ballroom’s crowded lobby unnoticed and went over to the coat check. Sean helped Emily with her wrap and Mary with her coat. They stood for a moment and then began to walk arm in arm, with Sean in the middle, toward the ballroom.  As they walked, the sound of the people’s talking changed. What had been an undifferentiated roar became a murmuring. This change of tone caused another change in the crowd’s behavior. All heads turned toward the trio. Mary and Sean had enjoyed a limited notoriety in the Seattle area, especially in the tech community, but tonight all eyes were on the stunning gray-haired woman on Sean’s arm.

   The music began, and Mary gave Sean a nod and looked at Emily. Sean had taken ballroom dancing while in college as a way to meet girls, he was competent but soon realized that he was over-matched. Emily seemed to be floating; anticipating Sean’s every move and adding graceful flourishes to each action. As the couples around them whirled, Sean got the sense that they were checking out the ‘newcomers’ as much as they were enjoying dancing to the music. After the first number ended a distinguished-looking older man, wearing a tux, came over to Emily and Sean and held his hand out to Emily.

   “May I have the pleasure of this next dance?” he said.

   “Of course,” said Emily, “You don’t mind, do you, Sean?”

   Sean smiled and nodded, and Emily and her new partner were off. Sean rejoined Mary who was sitting on the sideline looking at a brochure describing the swing dance program.

  “That didn’t take Emily long,” said Mary, pointing to a picture in the brochure, “Marcel DuPage. Her partner is the top dog at this kennel show.”

   Marcel had met his match and he knew it. After the second number ended, they danced through the third, and fourth as well. Emily then begged off, although she was far from tired, she knew that by sitting out it would increase the man’s desire.

   “Not a bad performance for a little old lady,” Emily said to Mary, “I’ll let him think about it for a while.”

   Sean and Mary got up and joined the throng on the dance floor. A few of the other women at the dance came over to where Emily was sitting.

   “That was wonderful,” said one of the women, “and your dress, it’s fabulous! Is that vintage? Where did you get it?”

   “It has been in the family for a long time.  Schiaparelli,” said Emily, “Are you regulars here?”

   “Oh, yes,” said another, “We’ve been coming ever since Mr. DuPage began Swing Night at the Century, but I’ve never seen anyone dance with him the way you have. Are you a professional? You must be new to Seattle.”

   “I learned to dance in New York City, but I’ve been out of the scene for a while. It’s good to see that younger people are still doing these dances,” said Emily. With a twinkle in her eye, she added: “What should I know about Mr. DuPage?”

   “A gentleman, but faithless,” said another, “Some might call him a cad. He really is a nice man, but he will never allow himself to be tied down. Just giving you a fair warning.”

   “I see. Thanks for the information,” said Emily, “Now, if you’ll pardon me, it appears that Marcel is coming my way. I’ll be careful.”

   And Emily and Marcel danced.

   Later on, Sean and Mary went home, without Emily.




Fiction






By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Fall Season on FITK

I’ll be in and out of out of town a lot in the next three weeks causing my  posts to be even more haphazard than usual. In light of that fact I’m giving an update on my link-list (featured in the sidebar) in case you are looking for some more sustenance from your usual blog-fodder.

Culture: Starts off with All Dylan, which some might call Too Much Dylan. Still, it is a wealth of information and innumerable concert videos of Bob as well as those of related artists. Sheila O’Malley’s The Sheila Variations is a movie and pop-culture review site with an occasional foray into literature and a serious infatuation with the music of The Troggs, extremely well-written. Tyler Cowen’s MarginalRevolution economics blog is often incomprehensible to me but has great links and interesting cultural side trips.

Literati includes Azizi’s pancocojams which offers an in-depth look at a wide variety of culture descended from African roots. Jono’s Otto’s Son occasional blog has been on a roll lately, with interesting excerpts from his father’s WWII diaries and photo essays on life in the arrowhead region of Minnesota' 'North Coast'. Over on the East Coast, Karen Newton’s I COULD GO ON AND ON really does just what the title implies; I wouldn’t miss a single day of this Joie de vivre blog from Richmond, Virginia. Like Nabokov, Karen is, above all else, a first-class "noticer". Shoshanah’s diary is the chronicle of a kindred spirit’s quest to make sense of life, art, child-rearing and animal husbandry; she is a true Flippist Master.

Iceland: Alas! My Icelandic connections have been fading lately, the notable exception being Auður's stellar I Heart Reykjavík. She has managed the extremely rare feat of turning her blog into a successful commercial enterprise without losing her personal touch. Her Twitter feed (in the TNT sidebar link) is great as well.

Tech: A more technical offering, but also somewhat "Flippist", is Bob the Scientist’s Science matters.  Often obscure but always astute.

TNT includes two twitterers of note: Aparna Nancheria, who is a stand-up comic and writer, has a great feed. I often find myself laughing out loud at her koan-like pronouncements on modern life. I don't have any idea who Mike Ginn (not the actor) is but I find his twitter feed hilarious.

Of course you are welcome to peruse all the links in my sidebar (you can even check out my depressing sitemeter). I use them as sort of a personalized RSS feed (remember those?)

By Professor Batty


Comments: 5 




Monday, September 21, 2015

No Flash Please!

   I recently removed the Flash Player from my operating system. It was easy to do, and I've enjoyed the freedom from the constant barrage of Flash updates which I had been experiencing, as well as the FUD that comes with Flash security issues. Granted, there are many sites which still rely on Flash player, but I have found that I really don’t need to watch every single adorable kitten video. If there is some content which I feel that I really must see, I can check it out on The Weaver’s iPad,  a device which has never supported Flash (Thanks, Steve Jobs!).

   Outside of a few technical sites, I find that I've been using the I've been using the Internet less and less; is this a trend? I've been know to be a trend-setter in the past. Who knows? Perhaps we’re all on the verge of a Post-Web era.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, September 18, 2015

Viral



   Sean resigned himself to do all the driving on their trip back to Seattle. With the threat of The Brotherhood eliminated, he planned on taking the quickest possible route. Mary and Emily were in the back seat, exchanging thoughts via Sean’s ring. Sean had plenty of time to think as well—wondering what, if anything, the collapse of The Brotherhood would mean for Mary and him.  With the imminent threat of attack over, Sean and Mary could stay in their old place while Emily would have the other apartment in the building. A more subtle concern for Sean was Emily’s influence on Mary. The two women existed on a different plane from him, and he could feel a touch of resentment in the way Emily monopolized Mary’s attention.  But if Emily’s statements about her aging were correct, Sean wouldn’t have long to worry about her.

   “What a horrible thing to think,” thought Sean, “I should be grateful for the chance to spend time with her.” 

    A more pressing concern for Sean was Mary’s pregnancy. She was nearly three months along and still hadn’t had an exam or done any other preparation for the delivery, although it hadn’t seemed to bother her. His train of thinking led back to the question of Emily. She wasn’t exactly what Sean would consider for a role model for motherhood. It was good that Mary had made a connection to someone who had been through the experience. Mary’s past was still a blank, perhaps it would be a good idea to get in touch with her adoptive parents, although that was still a touchy subject for Mary. It was a distinct possibility that it could do more harm that good.

   As they approached Rapid City,  Sean looked for a place to stay. There was a strip of hotels and restaurants just off the freeway and he pulled into a Holiday Inn that had an adjoining steakhouse. After they registered, the trio walked over to get something for supper. The steakhouse was part of a national chain; the dining room was full but the host said they could eat in a booth in the bar. While they waited for their food Emily became distracted by the river of images flowing across the television screen above the bar. It was a cable news show, full of images of wars and disaster, with cutaways to talking heads providing commentary.

   “It doesn’t seem real at all,” said Emily, “It’s like a bad dream, worse than that, it’s a senseless dream.”

   “You’ll learn to tune it out,” said Mary, “The biggest problem is that they write the stories before they shoot the footage. Everybody knows that—everybody knows that it’s mostly fake.”

   “Well then, tell me, what is the point?” asked Emily, “How does anyone know anything about anything?”

   “If it’s on the internet it must be true,” quipped Sean.

   “I’m still in the dark as to how that works,” said Emily, “I’ve seen you two use it, but who runs it?”

   “A lot of it is done by the big corporations that run the media networks, but a fair amount is by the people who create their own content,” said Mary, “It’s unique in the way it allows anyone access to publishing. That may not always be the case. There are plenty of special interests that can’t stand its openness and would love to have full control.”

   The newscast shifted to images of glaciers and volcanoes.

   “Sean, look, Iceland!” said Mary.

   The landscape scenes shifted to an interview with a man wearing a knit sweater.

   “It’s Hilmar!” said Sean.

   “You know this man?” asked Emily.

   “Hilmar is the man heading the group who came up with the application that promotes the old religion.” said Mary, “Some of the spells from your book are being used in their app.”

   The TV showed a group of people standing in a square with the title ‘Reykjavík’ superimposed on the screen below them. There were shots of people holding smartphones and chanting. The camera broke away to more talking heads, evidently discussing the situation.

   “I wish I could hear what they are saying,” said Emily.

   “We'll watch it back at the hotel,” said Sean, “They repeat these shows every hour.”

   After dinner, back at their suite, Sean fiddled with the TV's remote until he found the cable news channel. When the broadcast cycle returned to the feature on Iceland, Sean turned the sound up. Over a background of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, the announcer began:
   “The latest hot app comes from the land of fire and ice—Iceland. A neo-pagan group has been promoting itself with a smartphone application which purports to offer actual spells. Here is its leader Hilmar Steinarsson, leader of the group, talking about the app and its explosive growth:

   ‘Já, this app has been growing exponentially each day in the two weeks since its release. The spells it offers are intended to allow the user to be more in tune with the natural world, and to ease some of the problems of modern existence. There are people all over the world who have incorporated these simple chants and have found them helpful in their daily lives.’

   Here are a few testimonials from some of its users:

   ‘I’ve found that the chants have helped my dealing with others and improved my relationship with my husband immensely.’

   ‘My children are better behaved and my eldest daughter has found them to be helpful when doing her homework.’


   From Iceland, this has been Peter Nicols reporting…”

      “Behold! The power of the Internet!” said Mary, with a flourish. “You’ve gone viral, Emily!”




Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fair Final Four

One last look at the Minnesota State Fair, 2015

Not enhanced in Photoshop:



Restless Youth on the prowl:



I couldn’t leave without one more visit to the "Fresh Fries Fairies", they are
the zeitgeist of the modern fair personified:



The End:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, September 14, 2015

Further Fair Foursome

As always, my first stop:



Machinery Hill still holds an attraction:



Corn is still King:



The Ferris Wheel waits in repose before another big day:

                 
  

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, September 11, 2015

Blood-Dream




I am standing in the farmyard. There are wild animals in the meadow: great snorting beasts with frothing maws full of sharp teeth. I look down and I am naked, the creatures in the meadow will tear my flesh as if it were a sheet of paper, oh mother help me, I’m bleeding, the beasts can smell my blood and will come and lick me; their warm, fetid breath on my skin. I am in the farmhouse, but all the rooms are empty. Mother is calling me. I can not find her. I am in the parlor, but it has become old and decrepit, the wallpaper is stained and peeling. The parlor doors are open to the living room, and the door to the kitchen is open… beyond that the door to the kitchen is open. It is dark there, why is it so dark? Mother? Are you in the kitchen? Why don’t you answer? Mother, I’m bleeding.
I am in my mother’s room, standing in front of her dresser, I try the bottom drawer, it is usually locked, but now it opens, in it there is a box of my grandmother’s things. I open it: there are papers: an embroidered handkerchief, and a small hinged box. Inside is a beautiful ring, I put it on and I suddenly realize what it is that I have become—the messenger… I feel a trickle of blood run down my thigh, the room turns red…

I am at the theater, in a box, with pencil and paper. A distinguished gentleman, sitting directly behind me, is watching me. As commingled scents of pomade and sweat and cigar waft toward me I hear the man rustle in his seat, I can sense his breath on my neck as he leans over my shoulder to look at my sketching. My cheeks fill with blush-blood…

I am on a train, going to New York. The rhythm of the tracks is hypnotic, my legs tremble in sympathy. The distinguished gentleman is sitting next to me and is talking about life in New York City. He places his hand on my thigh, gently, but firmly. I do not push it away. I hear my blood rushing in my ears. My mind says ‘yes, yes, yes,’ but my lips say ‘no.’

I am in a speakeasy in New York City. The jazz music lifts us all into a state of delirium. The distinguished gentleman watches me dance from a booth. The music stops, the man motions for me to join him. We go out into the night, into a waiting hansom cab. I snuggle close to the man and place my hand inside his overcoat. He does not object. My blood begins to boil…

   Emily woke with a start. It took her a few moments to realize that she was in her old room, in the farmhouse, and that it was no longer the 1920s. She got up and went to the window. A sliver of waning moon gave off just enough light to illuminate the meadow. She had looked out this window many times. When she was a child she imagined ghosts and fairies among the trees. When she was a teenager and could summon wild animals to accompany her on her midnight rambles. When she was a mother, battling those dark forces bent on destroying her. She lit a candle and went down the hall to the bathroom. The night was still. The noises of her urination seemed musical—as if they were the sound of a bracelet of tiny silver bells dangling from a dancers wrist. After she finished, Emily went back to her bedroom and fell back asleep.

I am in an apartment in the East Village. The distinguished gentleman enters, and locks the door behind him. I know the ritual. I strip, and then remove his clothes. Afterwards, he dresses and leaves the usual envelope on the nightstand. I look down at the sheets and I see blood.

I am in the chamber house. The son of the distinguished gentleman is waiting. I know the ritual. This time I sense there is something else in the room, a malevolent force. It frightens me. I look around and see no one. Then I realize, the evil is in the son, transferred from the animus brought over from Europe. As he possesses my body, I realize that I am being infected. I try to cast him off, but he is too powerful. I turn to my last resort and chant the spell of discorporation. My body stiffens and my mind clears. The spirit is repulsed by my spell and, as it takes complete effect, I begin to exist on the gravitational plane–my physical body is stuck sideways in time, immobilized but impregnable.

There is no blood.

   The sunlight filtering into Emily’s room wakes her. She rises and goes to the window. A heavy dew has settled on the grass and flowers outside.  She turns and looks into the mirror on the dresser. Her hair has become gray.



Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Four More From the Fair

It's hardly work when you can spend the day talking with friends:



Abstract Art is everywhere:



Another abstraction:



?????:

           

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, September 07, 2015

Four From the Fair

Miscellany from the 2015 Minnesota State Fair

Early morning:



No love purer than that between a girl and her horse:



Food, glorious food:



The performance art of the "Fresh Fries" girl was my high point of the Fair experience:

                   

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, September 04, 2015

Back Porch Saga



   After their dinner at the hotel, Sean brought Mary, Emily, Tina, and Edwin out to Tina’s farm.

   “It’s not the way it used to be when Henry was alive, he had always kept the place looking real nice,” said Tina.

   “It’s wonderful,” said Emily, visibly moved. Taking a moment to regain her composure, she continued, “It really hasn’t changed much at all. If you don’t mind, I’d like to sit out here on the porch for a while.”

   “Edwin, come inside with me, I’ll see if we can’t scrounge up some lemonade,” said Tina, pulling Edwin along by the arm. “It won’t be fresh, but if the refrigerator is still running, we’ll have ice.”

   Emily and Mary and Sean sat down.

   “Emily, if you don’t mind talking about it, what was it like when you were in suspended animation all those years?” asked Mary.

   “It only seemed to be a short while. It wasn’t as if I was experiencing much of anything, I seemed to be ‘beside’ regular space-time.  Sometimes, it seemed as if I was dreaming. That’s when I would see Tina—she’s probably told you about my ‘visits.’  When Mary became pregnant I became able to contact her,” Emily said, “Really, I feel as if I have only been gone for only a couple of days.  I’m still in 1946. A person out of synch with the times. That’s why I wanted to come back here—to Iowa—I needed to get grounded.”

   “How did you come to be under the control of The Brotherhood?” asked Sean.

   “It wasn’t The Brotherhood yet, it was a ‘spirit’—a hostile animus—if you will. It had escaped from Germany at the end of the war. This teufel was one of many who had found the war in Europe to be an especially fertile breeding ground for their hate-fueled existence. It had taken over the body of a displaced person. John Regelind Jr., who was involved in post-war reparations, had seen something special in the man and brought him back to the U.S. He sensed that he possessed powers similar to mine, although he greatly underestimated the amount and their capability for harm. In 1938, I had taken up with him after his father had died from a heart attack a few years earlier.  We had often used The Chamber House as a trysting place. One day, after I returned from Iowa in ’46, I met him there, but he was not alone. I sensed right away who, or rather what, John’s ‘friend’ really was, and that I was in grave danger. I knew a spell, however, one which could prevent the animus from harming me.  In doing so, I put myself in that state of suspended animation—the state from which Mary released me. The Brotherhood must have thought that their power came from the animus, that he kept me under the spell.”

   “And the animus? What became of him?” Mary asked.

   “I don’t know. The spell must have worked,” said Emily, “The tricky part was finding someone who could break it. Thanks again, Mary.”

   Mary smiled, “It was my pleasure,”

   Emily smiled back.

   “My mother’s death, perhaps that had something to do with The Brotherhood?” asked Sean, who had completely missed that interaction between Mary and Emily.

   “That is something I just don’t know anything about,” said Emily, “I had never connected with your mother, she was only an infant when I returned to New York City.”

   Tina and Edwin emerged from the house with a pitcher of lemonade and glasses filled with ice cubes.

   “It wasn’t easy, but we did manage to scrape something together,” said Tina, “I’m afraid the FBI made a bit of a mess in the kitchen when they did their investigation.”

   “Mary told me about your ‘night visitor’,” said Emily. “You’ve been staying with Edwin ever since?”

   “I’ve been out here a few times, to pick up some things, but I haven’t spent the night since then,” said Tina, “There hasn’t been anything else strange that has happened since then. Has the FBI told you anything?”

   “They are pretty sure that The Brotherhood was involved with the intruder on your farm; they couldn’t talk about it,” said Sean, “We left Virginia as soon as we could.”

   “And you, Emily? What did they tell you?" asked Tina.

   “They don’t know that I’m back!” said Emily, “I managed to make myself ‘invisible’ when they came around to talk with Sean and Mary.”

   “You can make yourself invisible?” asked Edwin.

   “She hid in the closet when the FBI came to talk to us the day after the Chamber House exploded,” Mary said, with a laugh, “She’s a person without any modern identity papers, so I guess you could say that, in a sense, she’s still invisible.”

   “And I like it that way. No taxes, no obligations, no baggage. Living off my relatives… ” Emily said with a laugh, “Now that I’m back among the living, however, I can feel myself aging rapidly. Every morning I find new wrinkles and more gray hairs. I can’t cheat time forever. Not many people get a second chance at life, and I intend to make the most of it.”

   “Are you really aging that fast?" asked Mary. “You look fantastic for someone who is well over one hundred years old.”

   “One hundred and thirteen, thank you. I do look good—today. But I am changing. I don’t know how much longer I have. A week, a month, maybe a year? What I do know is that my end is coming quickly.”

   “Is there anything that you still want to do in life?” asked Sean.

   “To be able to breathe fresh air, smell the flowers, see the sun and the clouds in the sky. All the good things, the things I have right now,” said Emily. “But there is one special thing  I would like to do. I’d like to hold my great-granddaughter. Just for a minute.”

   There was a prolonged silence. Finally, Edwin spoke:

   “We’d better be getting back to town.”

   “You kids go back. I’m going to spend the night here,” said Emily, “One more night in the place where I grew up. You can come back and pick me up in the morning. Go on now… let me be alone with my memories for a little while.”



Fiction.

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Wanda Wednesday


Thusnelda, Stella, Wanda, Dehli: four of the six Gág sisters. image by Robert Janssen, circa 1927

A friendly family race between sisters.

Sisters who, in childhood, had been through hard times together.

Now that they were grown and times were better, they had the luxury of this frolic in the meadow.

Wanda, of course, led the pack.


Posted in honor of Shoshanah, who is busy eating bon-bons with back to school affairs.



By Professor Batty


Comments: 0