Friday, January 29, 2016


Everett/REX Shutterstock

It has been a while since the Professor has posted about movies. It isn't that I haven't seen any lately, it's just that I haven't seen many that were exceptional enough to comment on.

The Todd Haynes film Carol is, indeed, exceptional. Todd Haynes makes very stylish movies, from his Douglas Sirk inspired Far From Heaven, with its deep psychological color schemes, to his film I'm Not There, where he gave each of the six or seven Bob Dylans in it a completely different "look". His latest film, made from the 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel, is a love story between a shop-girl/photographer and a wealthy woman who is in the middle of a divorce. I must remark on the stunning cinematography by the great Ed Lachman, as well as the production design by Judy Becker. The early fifties never looked so true (and yes, I can remember them) especially the department store sequences and the pre-modern decor. All of this worked in support of the very delicate play of emotions between the two main characters—a showcase of of subtle acting.

Jim Jarmusch gives us a different look in his 2013 vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive:


Kind of silly, this film explores the notion that ageless vampires are cultural connoisseurs, a lot of time is spent prowling the streets of modern Detroit, a metaphor for a collapsing society. The always great Tilda Swinton is magnificent as Eve, while Tom Hiddlestons Adam is suitably dark. Lots of fabulous vintage guitars and electronics. The great John Hurt portrays a 500-year old vampire Christopher Marlowe, still kvetching about how Shakespeare stole his work!

Sometimes films get lost in the shuffle and are hard to find. After browsing my usual haunts for a cheap copy I finally broke down and purchased a new copy of Robert Altman's seriously deranged 1977 masterpiece 3 Women :

Lion's Gate Films

Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek reach the highest levels of absurd realism in this strange story of personality-transfer. More great color motifs going on here, as well as great art design and really, really creepy murals by Bodhi Wind.

As long as I'm on Shelly Duvall and Robert Altman, we recently re-watched Popeye (The Weaver's favorite film.)  Robin Williams does a great Popeye and Shelly Duvall, in the role of a lifetime, is Olive Oyl. The Harry Nilsson soundtrack is a little weak at times but, I have to admit, for a colorful comic-strip movie it is pretty entertaining:

Paramount Pictures

It has an insanely great comic-riffing scene between Popeye and Poop-deck Pappy (Ray Walston).

On a whole different plane (a spy-plane?) is Steven Spielberg's cold war legal procedural Bridge of Spies. Set in the early sixties, it is a much more somber mood-piece:

Walt Disney Films

Scenes of men in suits in courtrooms offer a limited palette to be sure, and the murky photography (Janusz Kaminski) and period-correct production design (Adam Stockhausen, supplemented with the graphic design of Annie Atkins) gives a result that is not what one would call "festive." This kind of movie-making is like a BIG MACHINE with lots of power, running on a very high level, although the story is a bit slow. Tom Hanks is perfectly cast but I'm still not quite convinced of the genius of Mark Rylance. The Coen Brothers worked on the dialog; it helped keep this film from becoming a pedantic bore. Spielberg can make movies like this in his sleep.

Speaking of the Brothers Coen, Hail, Caesar! will be out next week. I'll be sure to review that one:

Working Title Productions

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


"There is always Work and Tools to work withal, for Those, Who will."
~Henry Ward Beecher

A recent tour of a few of the architectural antique shops in Minneapolis yielded these disparate images. Mr. Beecher's ode to work was no doubt meant to inspire, although his adultery trial focused on tool usage of a different sort.

Who were Sullivan & Earnham, whose stylish signatures graced the back of this mantel?

There are always plenty of religious furnishings; the Alpha and Omega stained glass would be welcome in even the most heathen of domiciles. But the best thing I found would probably be a bit much in even the biggest kitchen:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #46

Viðey, October 9, 2015

Northern lights of a different sort.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Flippist World Headquarters - 2016

Welcome to my pine-paneled garret, where "the magic happens."

Here's a view looking at the entrance:

It is looking pretty spiffy these days—the new rug really 'tied the room together'. Notice the lack of a door. Below is the Flippist library and media center. There are even some empty shelves! Various sources of inspiration adorn the wall. Vintage 50s Hi-Fi (mono, of course), with the large format printer underneath.  :

Next up, the right desk, more art, the wood case (new) holds all my cameras and lenses. Scanner is new as well, I needed for the "tentative photo show", with my trusty Wacom tablet on the pedestal below it:

The east side features a window, my guitar amp, an agave plant, and the Flippist Archives. The bottom row contains negatives and slides while the other three rows have boxes of photos and ephemera, from 1880 to the present:

Finally, the "Big Wall O' Guitars":

Some of 'em, not all of 'em. If two hockey teams ever stopped in, each player could have their own guitar!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pattern Blindness

My weekend project was to rebuild a basement storage space. Thirty years ago it had been thrown together with scrap materials, most of which had been left by the previous owner. Upon dismantling the old closet, I came across this paneling, which had been featured in the house when we bought it. Brown and orange flowers. What were they thinking? No wonder the previous owners went through a painful divorce. The decor of the whole house was of this 'quality'. Over the years I've redone all the walls, most of the ceilings and many of the floors. Flippist World Headquarters is looking pretty good right now, I'll post pictures of it on Friday.

I haven't yet decided on the construction of the new closet; it is only used to store old jackets and boots. I should just toss them all, but I'll let them be, for now.  I've been on a clearing binge lately—nothing is safe—but some of those old clothes still have a hold on me.

Just a warning: Spring housecleaning this year will be intense.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #45

Viðey, October 9, 2015
"All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."* 
Some moments are beyond my ability to express in words.

This is becoming more and more of an issue with my photography—the more successful I feel an image is, the less I can explain it, much less expound on its meaning.  I run into that often with my Iceland pictures; on my next trip I might not even tell anyone about where I've been and what I've seen.

*Rutger Hauer, in the film Blade Runner.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Saturday, January 16, 2016


If you “follow” this blog you might want to read this notice from my hosting service (Blogspot), it might mean something to you:

The latest from Blogger Buzz

An update on Google Friend Connect

In 2011, we announced the retirement of Google Friend Connect for all non-Blogger sites. We made an exception for Blogger to give readers an easy way to follow blogs using a variety of accounts. Yet over time, we’ve seen that most people sign into Friend Connect with a Google Account. So, in an effort to streamline, in the next few weeks we’ll be making some changes that will eventually require readers to have a Google Account to sign into Friend Connect and follow blogs.

As part of this plan, starting the week of January 11, we’ll remove the ability for people with Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs. At the same time, we’ll remove non-Google Account profiles so you may see a decrease in your blog follower count.

We encourage you to tell affected readers (perhaps via a blog post), that if they use a non-Google Account to follow your blog, they need to sign up for a Google Account, and re-follow your blog. With a Google Account, they’ll get blogs added to their Reading List, making it easier for them to see the latest posts and activity of the blogs they follow.

We know how important followers are to all bloggers, but we believe this change will improve the experience for both you and your readers.

Posted by Michael Goddard, Software Engineer

NOTE: I don’t have the faintest ability nor the inclination to attempt to understand this in any way. I never use “follower” schemes, I simply put my posts out there for whomever might enjoy them. I know some of my regular readers are “followers”, but I don’t think it matters much to them.

A “social network” is never a requirement for FITK.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Day in the Country

Joi, Roy, Joan: near Waverly, Minnesota, July, 1980

It was good.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Jack Clark's Bar and Cafe

Minneapolis, July 1977

This may well be the last picture of the interior of a venerable North Minneapolis watering hole. It was torn down not long thereafter, to make room for a freeway entrance ramp.  I was not yet in the habit of hanging out in bars, so although I lived an actual 'stones throw' away, I never went inside. It was for old guys, a twenty-something hippie would have been laughed out of the place. This was an old building, built before prohibition.It was nothing fancy yet the fireplace and the wood paneling made it a pleasant home away from home for those who took their drinking responsibilities seriously. As to the 'cafe' part of the name, I think it may have served sandwiches. An internet search did turn up a picture of the bar's most memorable feature… the 'thirst things first' sign:

Image: Thomas W. Bremer, MHS

The beer was made just across the river, about a mile or so away. Local wags would sometimes call Grain Belt Beer 'Brain Melt', although it wasn't particularly strong.

The band I was working with used the entrance as a backdrop for publicity photos:

A North Fifth Street Story

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #44

I've just realized that I have never posted about horses on FITK. No wonder I’m not in with the horsey set. So, to get the new year started on the right hoof, I present these equine images of what Icelanders refer to as "hestar."

I met these gregarious animals grazing along road 54 on the way to Snæfelsness in April of 2004. When I pulled off the road to take a closer look the whole herd came rumbling over. I didn't have the forethought to bring any apples but they didn't hold it against me.

Beautiful creatures.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, January 08, 2016


This is chapter 84 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

June 16th, 2017

“Five minutes, Mr. Carroll…”

Sean looked up from his phone and nodded. He had been conducting a video conversation with Mary, who was in Reykjavík with their daughter Mareka and their friend Jo. In the four years since Mareka’s birth, the ‘Old Religion’ which had been reestablished in Iceland had grown tremendously. Sean’s grandmother’s spells and charms which Mary had contributed to the organization became the basis for a wildly successful web app as well as becoming a best-selling self-help book. Mary, Jo, and Mareka were staying with Hilmar and his niece, Þora and Þora and Sean’s son, Vilhjálmur Stefán. Sean and Mary and Mareka had been spending a lot of time in Iceland, creating a ‘blended’ family. It also gave Mareka a chance to learn Icelandic from her half-brother.

Sean was in New York City, scheduled to give a television interview. His grandmother Emily’s paintings were currently on display in The Museum of Modern Art and the book Sean had produced about her and her work was on the best seller lists as well. Sean signed off with Mary and a few minutes later was ushered into the studio where the interview was about to take place.
“Welcome to Art World Today, I’m your host, Kevin Hormian. Today our guest is Sean Carroll, who some of you may remember from a political affair from several years ago, commonly referred to as Billygate. We’re not here to discuss that today, however, but to talk to Sean about his efforts to bring the life and work of his grandmother, Emily Carroll, to a wider audience.”

“Pleased to be here, Kevin, it’s nice to be able to talk about someone other than myself.”

“It’s been a long and strange trip, this story of an unheralded Modernist master, whose work had been hidden for over seventy years—why don’t you give us the short history behind this fantastic exhibition, currently playing to sold-out crowds at MOMA.”
As Sean performed the ‘official version’, his memories: of the grandmother he never knew, then found, then lost, floated just beneath the surface of his recitation. The true story was preposterous, so much so that Sean didn’t worry about any of it becoming known. No one would believe it. Outside of Sean and Mary, only his Aunt Tina and her friend Edwin Duddle knew of Emily’s resurrection and they were pledged to secrecy, abiding in an assisted living facility in Decorah, Iowa. Emily’s work had captured the imagination of the art world and was also making inroads into popular culture: the book about Emily, based on her diaries as well as the recollections of her contemporaries, had just been optioned for a movie. Sean’s biggest remaining problem was the inheritance taxes which would come due when any of the paintings were sold. Sean’s lawyers had worked out a plan involving donations and other asset swaps. While not eliminating the taxes they would minimize them. There was no shortage of prospective buyers.
“Will you be showing any more of Emily’s work in the future?”

“The canvases are her only finished pieces. Sketches and studies may be released for historical and scholarly use in the future. Nothing is planned at this time.”
As if they could show more! Sean well knew that Emily’s ‘spirit drawings’ had a powerful potential as objects of veneration. And the erotic drawings! There might never be a time for their release. The drawings could wait.
“As we leave today, we’ll be showing a selection of photographs of Emily taken from your book—images you found when you made an extensive search of the archives of her contemporaries. The world can finally see this hitherto unknown artist as she was, in her element. A truly remarkable woman.”

In Seattle, Marcel DuPage had been idly watching an interview concerning a recently discovered Modernist painter. The man being interviewed seemed familiar to Marcel so he started to watch the program. When photos of a woman, dressed in fashionable clothes from the twenties, appeared his attention was riveted to the screen. He suddenly realized exactly who she was and where he had seen her—Carol, the mystery woman at the dance, the woman he had been searching for, the man on TV had been with her that night. What was his name? Carroll—Carol? And the man’s name—Sean, that’s what Carol had called him that night. The final image was a close-up, with her name superimposed: Emily Carroll, wearing that dress, that fabulous dress, the one that he had once so carefully removed.

“Mareka, tell me, what did you learn today?” said Hilmar, who was looking after the children while their mothers and Jo were out shopping.

“Villí and I were by the ocean,” said the girl, “Villí said that the big stone there could speak.”

“Did you listen? Could you hear it speak?”

“Yes! I heard it!”

“What did it say?”

“It told me that my real name is Inanana, and it told me that I am the Goddess incarnate.”

Hilmar was taken aback. He was used to hearing unusual things from the children, but this was in a whole different category. As he sat, speechless, he became acutely aware of the penetrating stare from the girl. He had to respond, but how?

“Mareka, the stones say many things,” he began, “Tell your mother what you heard, she is wiser than I am in their ways. Tell her, and only her. She will tell you what the message from the stones means.”

“Já, já.  I’m going out to play with Villí, but I won’t tell him.”

Hilmar pondered this. He knew all about Mareka's birth—the earthquakes, the seven volcanoes by the seven seas, the supernova. He knew how these things had been considered signs, not just by Hilmar and his group, by other sects as well.  But this, this was something that the child discovered on her own: it was her awakening.

“Things are about to get very interesting,” thought Hilmar.

                                                THE END


The story continues in volume III: The Inheritance.

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Cleese on Creativity

There are probably more than thirty interviews on YouTube with John Cleese, most taken from his recent book tour promoting "So, Anyway… ", an autobiography of his life before and after Monty Python (you can be sure there will be a second volume concerning his life in Python.) I read it, and while it is certainly serviceable and even hilarious at times, it doesn't go too deeply into Mr. Cleese's creative processes. In this interview, and unlike most of the others, Cleese expounds at great length on creativity. The interviewer is a bit of a wiseguy and his questions aren't always very good, but it doesn't matter. At the age of 76, Cleese's mind is still sharp; if he does hesitate a bit in his delivery it is because he is looking for the precisely right word.

Brilliant stuff.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 04, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #43

What's in a day?

Morning in Reykjavík. It's the blue gray light from which Esja emerges from the kitchen window in my new flat, the thunk of the heavy outside door with its counter-intuitive lock (turn towards the door to unlock, not away).

It's the scraping of tires getting out of the parking space, onto the narrow road that's never plowed, two tracks of glassy ice with a hump of solid snow in the center. Right, then left then right at the Salvation Army guesthouse, then it's to the roundabout and down Hringbraut. Páll Óskar's dance club tunes on Bylgjan, a string of neon lights past Mjödd, then out into the countryside where my office now is located.

It smells of coffee and new there. Puddles on the floor from snowy feet, glass doors unable to withstand the rousing winds are still boarded over, and my gray tweed skirt matches the nubbed carpet on the stairs. In office, it's the sound of yet more construction behind the meetings, work, meetings, pondering, conversation, the punctuation of saltjkjöt og baunir, since today's sprengidagur again.

After work, pool. I do my kilometer, sharing the lane with a guy in flippers who's slower than I expect. Each time I somersault, I look for the bubbles trailing from his leading hand, and they're not there. Arms, arms, arms, breathe, arms, arms, arms, breathe, and repeat until the next flip. I always lose count but does it really matter that much after all? My only competition is myself and flippers-man who takes long breaks after each length.

Salt pot, then steam, then salt again, and it's time's-up. Shower, spin the suit in the dryer, and then on with the boots and along the dark sea route home. There's only time to check email before I'm out again, to eat blueberry-vodka marinated lamb topped with papadum, and talk economics and the intricacies of the English language with H, my erstwhile flatmate.

Home now, a whisper of breeze swirls through the crack in the window, and the rooftops I see from my new home are edged with snow. A few lights remain on, extinguished one by one as the neighborhood goes to sleep, and a solitary car grinds up the hill nearby.

What's in this day that might justify the reports that this is one of the happiest nations in the world? It does seem odd that a time spent so much in the dark can seem so cozy and lovable. Is it the food traditions that I am so happy to see for my third year, the level of constant intellectual stimulation, the socializing of such variety, the freshness of wind and the water in my glass close at hand? Of course, there are plenty of other, more practical arguments that one could make for why things are nice here, like healthcare, work conditions, short commute times, and general tidiness. I think these those are more the features of life that help you have the space to be happy about other things, rather than the reasons for happiness themselves. There's time for music, for thinking about interesting ideas, for drinking lots and lots of coffee (perhaps another reason for the happiness?), for swimming and for just dreaming in a pool of hot sea water. These are what makes it great for me here.

by ECS, posted in Reykjavík Harbor Watch, 05 febrúar 2008

Used by permission, reposted

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, January 01, 2016

Stage Three

This is chapter 83 of The Matriarchy, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Sean and Mary both had mental images of a fluttering black shape. They also could sense the baby’s consciousness—not formed thoughts—but something. Jo was carefully watching the baby. Although the baby was not breathing, Jo could feel a healthy pulse in the umbilical. Sean and Mary looked on as Jo began to gently massage the infant’s back. She cleaned the gunk out of the newborn’s mouth and gently applied mouth to mouth resuscitation. The baby opened her eyes but still did not breathe. Jo gave the child a couple more puffs and the infant let out a cry. Jo placed the baby on Mary’s belly. Mary smiled.

“Hello, Mareka,” Mary said, holding the baby against her skin, “Isn’t she wonderful? Sean?”

Sean bent down beside the baby.

“Hello beautiful,” he said. He was trembling. He had taken off his ring.

“Delivered at eight forty-nine,” said Jo, looking at Sean’s phone. “I’d say she was about nine pounds and a couple, twenty inches.  I’ll write that down. You’ll need it for the birth certificate. Here comes the placenta! Wow! That was quick.”

The air in the bedroom was cooling; the heat had not cycled since the power outage began. Jo got a towel and covered the baby who was lying on Mary’s body. After a few minutes, Jo tied off and cut the umbilical cord. Mary brought the baby to her breast. Mareka clamped on to Mary’s nipple. Jo put the placenta in a bowl and carefully examined it to be sure that it was intact. Mary could feel her awareness of the infant’s thoughts slip away as the infant suckled.

“It’s good,” Mary said, “Sean? Are you all right?”

Sean was still shaking. During those first few moments before the baby started breathing Sean felt as if he in the presence of Death.

“I’m a little woozy,” he said, “I’m going to get some water. Can I get either of you anything?”

“Water would be fine for me,” said Jo.

“Yes. Water now,” said Mary, “I’ll need to eat in a while.”

When Sean left Mary looked at Jo.

“Thank you,” Mary said, “You knew just what to do.”

“You did it all. I was just there to help out a little.”

“Your dream, about me giving birth, it came true, didn’t it?” said Mary. “We were in the presence of Death, and you defeated it.”

“We’re always in the presence of Death.  We can’t defeat it, we can only delay the inevitable,” Jo said, “Let me help you get cleaned up.”

Hilmar and his group had walked about a kilometer when he noticed that the volcano had stopped erupting. The small flow of lava from the top had already begun to change, darkening from a fiery red to a dull glow. The aurora was still a shimmering sheet of green in the sky above the volcano. Hilmar checked his phone and found that he could now get coverage. He called a contact in ICESAR, the Icelandic rescue operation, who made arrangements for a bus to come and pick up the stranded tourists. As they waited, Hilmar mulled over the strange eruption. Snæfellsjokull had been dormant for hundreds of years and had no recent sign of activity. Usually, an eruption took place over many weeks. This one could start up again, of course, but somehow Hilmar thought that this was not a usual geological event. Perhaps Mary’s spells really did work?

Sean came back from the kitchen with a jug of water and glasses for everyone.

“The stove doesn’t work, but I put some chicken on the grill on the patio. If the power is off for more that a day all the food in the freezer will go bad anyway,” said Sean, “How are you doing, Mary?”

“Blissful,” said Mary, “I can’t stop smiling. Jo, what can we do for you?”

“You got me out of Spokane, that’s more than enough,” Jo said with a laugh. “How did the city look when you were out there, Sean?”

“Better. There are still a few fires, but it appears that things are under control now. The traffic has gone down. No sign of a tsunami. It could be worse—as my aunt Tina used to say.”

“There are fixings for a salad sitting out on my kitchen counter, I’ll run down and get them,” said Jo, “Be right back.”

Sean and Mary and little Mareka huddled quietly in the dimly lit bedroom.  After the last hectic nine months it felt good to just be together; as a family, naturally. After a time, Sean got up.

“I’d better see to the chicken,” he said.

Mary, with Mareka still at her breast, drifted off for a moment.
The earth is at peace for a moment, the turmoils of the planet have paused. A star is born herald the arrival of the new hope, the goddess incarnate, let this sign be known to those who have the wisdom to see…

As a replacement tour bus pulled up to Hilmar’s group he looked back at the volcano and the night sky. Snæfellsjokull was dormant again, only a few wisps of steam were rising from the peak and the aurora had faded as well. An intense pinpoint of light began to shine in the western sky. In a matter of seconds, it was brilliant—brighter than a dozen Venuses.

“Truly the goddess incarnate has been born!” he said to himself, “This has been quite a night!”

Sean looked out over the sound. Outside of the traffic in the city, it was a peaceful night, a few clouds hovered over Bainbridge Island and the nearly full moon was low on the horizon. Suddenly he saw a bright light emerge, high in the sky, star-like but brighter than any star Sean had ever seen. When it didn’t diminish over several minutes, he knew what it was.  He ran into the bedroom where Mary was with Mareka.

“Mary, there’s a supernova!” said Sean.

“I know, Sean,” Mary said, “I know.”


By Professor Batty

                                                                                     All original Flippism is the Key content copyright Stephen Charles Cowdery, 2004-2024