Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jolly Tunes

Sunday, down by the riverside.

The majestic cottonwood dwarfs the brass quintet.

Jolly tunes—a nineteenth century hit parade.

In the good old summertime.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #68

Reykjavík restaurants at night.

Reykjavík, 12 October, 2012

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Auto Shopper

I am certainly not the most parsimonious cheapskate when it comes to purchasing a new car; once the deed is done I have no regrets, no matter how the car ultimately performs. I do tend to spread my purchases out. The last time I bought a car for myself was in the previous century. It has done the job, although It needed a new transmission four years ago. Lately, it has developed a couple of issues that don't affect its driveability or safety, but are persistent irritations— the auto door locks don't always work, the heater is either full blast or nothing, and it can flood if hot and has sat for more than 10 minutes or less than an hour. A few rust spots have also appeared, more of a psychological threat than a real one. I wanted to get something smaller so I picked out a trio of appealing compacts.

Number One: 2014 Fiat 500L, 7k miles, $14k

Yellow! I was surprised. Very roomy and drove well. A few weird touches—the center console had to be lifted to operate the parking brake, the radio controls were a touch-screen, but otherwise OK. When I got home I looked up its reliability: Fiat was the worst, and the 500L was the worst of the Fiats. The dealership was also about 25 miles away.

Number Two: 2012 Mini Cooper Clubman, 20k miles, $14.5K

Stylish, but small and bizarre control layout. I don't know how it ran, the salesman and I couldn't get it started! It sat about 3 inches above the ground. Maybe not the best bet for a Minnesota winter.

Number Three: 2010 Nissan Cube, 40k miles, $9k

This was sitting forlornly on a lot on the prairie, it looked so sad, I didn't even bother getting a salesman. I had driven one before, it is big inside, with great visibility. It still looks like a clown car.

So, I'll probably put another $300 in the old Sable (for a new set of fuel injectors) and live with the heat and door issues (the doors do lock, just not automatically.)

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Do Tread on Me

The 120-year-old treads on the stairway to heaven (Flippist World Headquarters)were beyond repair. I had actually thought about replacing them when we first moved in—32 years ago!

As the Wicked Witch of the West once said: "These things must be done delicately…" In this case meaning replacing a couple of treads and their balusters at a time, while keeping the risers and hand rail intact. I was
surprised that the area under the stairs was fairly clean—dusty, to be sure—but contained no 'treasures" unless you consider a Dale Berra baseball card valuable. I varnished the new treads and balusters, and even went so far as to strip the newel post. I still have to replace trim and re-paint the risers: tedious, but easy.

The biggest difference is the stairs don't creak anymore. Now I can creep back into bed without waking the Weaver.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #67

Iðno at night.

Reykjavík, 5 October, 2012

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Six for Summer

School is out at last.

It's been out for me for 44 years now, but at this time of year I still get a feeling of freedom, especially when the weather turns hot and sultry. Reading and viewing habits change in things cultural and shift to a lighter vein. Here are a hot half-dozen books and films for your perusal:

First up is a pair of films, both of which star Sir Anthony Hopkins.

The World's Fastest Indian (2006), was of particular interest to me in that it concerns motorcycle speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. My old pal Andy set a record there, forty years after New Zealander Burt Munro did. Andy rode a production 1970 Triumph over the course at 98 mph, but Burt’s heavily modified 1920 Indian went over 200! Both records still stand, but it is Burt’s story that was made into this fine film. (There should be a film made about Andy!) Hopkins disappears into the role, never breaking the spell cast by this fascinating character. A feel-good movie for anyone who isn’t too cynical to enjoy a ripping yarn. Burt made many trips to Bonneville, this movie condenses them (and several amusing side-trips) into one.

The City of Your Final Destination (2009), was the final Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala production. Charlotte Gainsborough, Laura Linney and Hopkins are the surviving lover/wife/brother of a writer who languish on a decaying estate in Uruguay. They are visited by an inept but handsome academic who needs their approval for an authorized biography of the deceased scribe. Merchant/Ivory films are talky, slow and visually scrumptious–the perfect mix for a hot summer evening. The big action scene consists of a man getting stung by a bee. Not for the ADD crowd, I found it to be delightful.

From the sublime to the ridiculous:

Amy Schumer has carved out a career in comedy, her often raunchy and usually hilarious stand-up routines, specials, a film, and her TV show have put her on top.

On a whim, I picked up season 3 of her Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, at the library. The Weaver and I binge-watched it over the weekend. After a tasteless opening number, the material quickly improved. A mix of sketches, interviews, commercial parodies and stand-up made the 3+ hours whiz by. Amy goes deep into dating rituals, male/female psychology issues and ruthlessly explores self-concept delusions. The weakest part of these shows is, oddly, the stand-up segments (she could work on her diction a little). Her real-life on-the-street interactions are hilarious, and her “Amy Goes Deep” one-on-one interviews are excellent—even touching at times. But by far the best thing on the discs is the extended (full episode) parody of the great Sidney Lumet courtroom drama 12 Angry Men. Re-titled 12 Angry Men in Amy Schumer, this note-perfect parody features some of the finest character actors of the day as jurors who are debating whether Amy is “hot enough for television.”

the Trip: Andy Warhol’s Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure by Deborah Davis, is the true story of Andy Warhol and some friends who take a road trip to California in 1963 to attend his breakout opening at the Ferus Gallery in L.A.—we’re talking Soup Cans, Elvis, Liz Taylor—it would be a billion dollar’s worth of art on today’s market. Extremely readable and packed with quirky details about Warhol including his transformation from a shabby illustrator (Raggedy Andy) to the most successful Pop artist of all time. Davis obtained the receipts for the trip from his estate (Andy never threw anything away) which made her able to retrace the journey with incredible accuracy. She also interviewed several of the surviving people involved, giving this book a depth which many pop culture tomes lack. This would be a great movie.

Butterflies in November, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir.

This is the second book by Auður, set completely in Iceland. Modern Icelandic humorous fiction can be
off-putting for the uninitiated. The apparent self-centeredness, irrationality and lack of commitment displayed by the characters in them give the whole genre a surrealistic quality. Recurring motifs (road-kill, casual sex, awful weather) are more than clichés, however—Iceland is truly strange. The unnamed narrator, after finalizing a divorce, finds herself winner of two lotteries (one is for a trailer home, the other for the equivalent of about $400,000) and the temporary foster-parent of a special-needs four year old boy. They take off on a most eventful road trip, ultimately ending up on the east coast of Iceland in the town she often visited as a child. This is a solid effort, albeit not completely successful. The cavalier style of the protagonist became a little much for me after a while.

My final entry is That's Not A Feeling, by Dan Josefson.

This is the story of Benjamin, a troubled teen who is unceremoniously dropped off at Roaring Orchards, a residential facility in upstate New York housing similar youths. It is run by Aubrey, a geriatric philosopher with peculiar ideas about rehabilitation. Enforcement of the schools arbitrary and ever-changing rules is accomplished through a combination of meds, group therapy and social ostracism.

There is a lot of stuff going on here, but mostly on a shallow level. This is a first novel and has “writers workshop” stamped all over it. It would make for a good movie however; some talented teen actors would have a field day with this set-up.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


The last week of school was always sweet.

Finals were over; the "soft" classes, like drama, had too little time to start another project, so little "psycho-dramas" were enacted while waiting for the teacher to arrive:

It was a time for re-appraisals, but not for re-doing:

Or just stylin' until graduation:

Even the teachers hung out in the background, doing their own thing, while the more fastidious of the students worked on their grooming:

And those seniors with a future were already thinking of college:

Me? I was just happy to there:

This photo by K. Hoerschgen

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #66

Fríkirkjan at night:

Reykjavík, 4 October 2012

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, June 10, 2016



White Bear Center for the Arts, White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Last night I caught the opening of a photography show featuring: Jenna Erickson, Sheryl Hess, Wing Young Huie, Caitlin Karolczak, Joseph O'Leary, Carla Alexandra Rodriguez, Sarah Rust Sampedro, Manuela Thames, Laura Valenti, and Douglas Beasley.

It was a pleasant surprise. Well organized, with short interviews of the photographers and a pleasant mix of people. The introduction was brief and to the point:

Carla with the stack of negatives that went into her "Apology" series:

Numerous lively conversations were mixed with silent contemplation:

My old “pal” Caitlin Karolczak was there as well, this time as a photographer, not as a  painter. Several young women in their summer clothes were also in attendance, a circumstance which always elevates the mood of any gathering:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Flippist World Headquarters, June, 2016

What the hell am I doing?

This thought comes to me fairly often when writing blog-posts. Looking back over the last 12 years at Flippism is the Key, I am struck at how things have changed, yet remain the same. The blogosphere was a wild and woolly place then, with numerous confessional and extremely personal sites where the anonymous nature of this form of self publishing encouraged open expression. Whether any of it was any good, or had lasting value, is still to be determined. One hundred years from now will any of it be preserved? There have been a few notable blogs which have inspired movies, and numerous ones which have been the foundations for books. But there has, right from the start, been a parallel blog-culture of crass and unfettered commercialism: Blogs incorporating product placement in an effort to make money.

Josi Denise was a self-described "Mommy Blogger" who ruthlessly built up a mini-empire around her now-defunct site, The American Mama. She recently wrote an extended piece concerning her activities with the site and why she shut it down. It is long, but worth reading. The article's conclusion is brutal:

What could you be doing instead of writing your shitty mommy blog? Would you spend an extra hour in the morning cuddling with your toddler? Would you read some intellectual books or find a hobby? Go back to school and launch a career? Would you leave your marriage? Would you travel? Would you lose weight and be more active? Would you make some new friends you actually enjoy talking to? What hole are you trying to fill by calling yourself a blogger?

Just quit. Quit now before you get burnt out and feel guilty. Quit before you realize you wasted years of your life writing bullshit about your kids’ childhood and your relationships instead of being actually involved. Quit before you get caught up in some legal mess with a brand contract and your house is cluttered with shit to review that you do not need and nobody else needs either. Quit before you feel like a failure instead of finding the intersection of happy and fulfilled.

Quit because your mommy blog fucking sucks. And it’s not going to get better. There are probably a dozen things you are actually good at.

Find what you love, and what you do better than anyone else, and do that.


A former typical ‘mommy blogger’ whose blog sucked just as bad as yours


At times I have been guilty of devoting too much time to FITK, but not for those reasons. The personal blogs I still read all have a component of being complete in themselves—that is to say they aren't shilling for someone else in an attempt to make money. They usually aren't masterpieces of literature (although Annie Atkins' Pinch of Salt came pretty close), but they do have real value and have given meaning and insight into my life. Many of them have "birthed" books; some have even become successful businesses without compromising their passion.

They're listed on the links in the sidebar, under "People."

My "Welcome" page has this disclaimer:

Flippism is The Key is not affiliated with any commercial, religious or political organization. No money or other tangible asset has ever been received for the mention of or linking to of any product or service. 

Just so you know where I'm coming from.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #65

Njalsgötu 1, Reykjavík, 5 October, 2012

"Good health better than gold." To be fair, this "Health Store"
offers a wide variety of regimens offering specialty products for
vegetarians, vegan and others who require specialty products.

I would imagine that, given the limited availability of fresh
produce, there would be a big market for these items in Iceland.

The half-basement style of shops beneath apartments is common
in Reykjavík, although recently many of the flats have been
converted to AirBnBs.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, June 03, 2016

Astronauts: A Love Story

   “I dunno. Are they any good?”

   “They’re a surf band, like the Beach Boys, but from Colorado.”

   “Playing at Dayton’s auditorium? The place they have the Christmas exhibition?”

   “Eighth floor auditorium. It should be cool. It’s only a dollar.”

    “I need someone to go to with me to Dayton’s. There’s going to be a teen board event, I’m going to model some clothes. There will be a band playing afterwards.”

   “Saturday afternoon?”

   “Two p.m. It costs a dollar.”

   “Plus 20 cents for the bus rides. I’ll ask my mother if I can go.”

The auditorium was filled with teens. Mostly girls, there for the fashion show, although the boys who came to hear the band were old enough to take an interest in the girls as well.  The event began with the fashions—girls dressing up for each other. As the young women displayed their clothes, the gangly fourteen-year-old boy standing at the edge of the crowd couldn't help but notice the tall girl standing on the other side of the stage. She was tall, with eyes that held a spark of intelligence. He wanted to talk to her but lacked the words (and the nerve) to begin a conversation.

She just wanted to see the fashions.

The fashion show ended and the band began to play. Their set list was filled with tepid rock songs and a surf instrumental or two, nothing that your mother would object to. It was 1965, after all. The Summer of Love was two years away, a distant future in the teen-aged mind. The Astronauts looked sharp in their color-coordinated outfits and matching instruments. Even their amplifiers fit into the color scheme. They ended their show with a minor Buddy Holly song, I’m Gonna Love You Too:

You’re gonna say you’ll miss me
You’re gonna say you’ll kiss me
Yes, you're gonna say you’ll love me
Cause I'm gonna love you too

I don’t care what you told me
You’re gonna say you'll hold me
Yes, you're gonna say you’ll love me
Cause I'm gonna love you too

After all, another fella took you
But I still can’t overlook you
I’m gonna do my best to hook you
After all is said & done

It’s gonna happen someday
You’re gonna see things my way
Yes, you’re gonna say you’ll love me
Cause I’m gonna love you too

The words, albeit trite, nevertheless made an impression on the boy. He scanned the crowd, looking for the tall girl but she was gone. I’m gonna love you too, he thought, but her face was already fading from his memory.

The 45th class reunion was a low-key affair. 2013 had seen a number of its classmates die, the dead list grew faster now. But the man who had once attended a teen dance at a department store was still alive. He was talking to a group of his classmates. One member of the group was a woman he had dated once in their Senior year. They had drifted apart after high school but still kept in touch. He had always been crazy about her, but nothing serious came of it. The group was reminiscing about the bands they had seen in high school.

   “Remember the Saturday afternoon shows they had at Dayton’s?” the man asked.

   “I only went to one,” said the woman, “My friend Phyliss made me go. She was on the teen board, for the fashion show. The band was The Astronauts.”

   “I was there!” said the man, “They were pretty good.” The memory of the event transcended any criticism of their performance. She had been there. She was the tall girl. Later, when they met in high school, he thought there was something familiar about her.

   “I’m gonna love you too,” he thought.

   Even though they lived their lives apart, he always had.

Friday Fiction

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Moon is Made of This?

Sap Sago. A hard green cheese from Glarus, Switzerland. After several years of searching, I found it in New Glarus, the sister city of the original. A little stinky, it has a mild, herbal flavor. Made with blue fenugreek, similar to clover. Shred it on almost anything. I first became aware of it in the 1961 cookbook Wild in the Kitchen, by Minneapolis Tribune columnist Will Jones. Here's what he had to say about this unlikely garnish:
   In Praise of Green Cheese,Universal Ingredient X

   Let us get a few things straight on the matter of green cheese, a subject in which I fear the average citizen shows too little interest.

   The green cheese of which I speak is not the kind of which the moon is reputedly made, or cheese that is green in the sense that it is not ripe.

   The green cheese I’m concerned with is Swiss green cheese, called Sap Sago. It is green because it has herbs in it, and it is rock-hard, and good only for grating. A small lump of it costs only twenty-five to thirty cents. With that small lump a kitchen drudge can, for months and with very little effort, produce taste sensations that resemble those of a great chef.

   Green cheese is on the smelly side, but not strongly so. The herbs give it a distinct smelliness all its own. It is a smelliness that blends with other foods and them definite, but subtle, zip.

   I was first introduced to green cheese as a child by a neighbor woman who loved it so much she grated it, mixed it with butter, spread it thickly on bread, and ate it that way. Mixed with butter or cream cheese, it’s great for canapés.

   I’ve used it in all the ways other grated cheeses are used—in soup, or on toast in soup, in salads, on casseroles, on spaghetti and pizza, and in other Italian dishes.

   My favorite spaghetti—or macaroni, or noodles, or any of the other dozens of kinds of pasta found in Italian stores—is that served with a sauce made only of butter and green cheese, and a touch of black pepper.

   Maybe I’m a bug on the subject, but I have yet to find anything edible that can’t be improved, or at least given interesting variety, with green cheese.

   It is magnificent on a baked potato, or on any other kind of potato, including raw. I’ve had it on all sorts of vegetables, raw and cooked. It’s great on raw or cooked fruits. I have enjoyed it on meats, on apple pie, even on chocolate cake. I have enjoyed a wee sprinkling of it on top of a dry martini.

   And on eggs!

   Eggs and green cheese were made for each other. The simple way is to sprinkle the cheese on whatever kind of eggs you like best…

   …Somewhere, I know, there are citizens for whom this sermon has been entirely unnecessary. But I haven’t met very many of them. The most common reaction I have had whenever I mention green cheese is, “Huh?” This is too bad. It’s too good a thing not to be more widely used.

   Almost any week you can pick up a beautifully printed magazine of some kind and find a new article that tells you how a little shot of wine in the pot can give new stature to almost any dish. Such statements are about seventy per cent hooey.

   Wine has its uses as a cooking ingredient, but it doesn’t deserve such sweeping endorsement. Green cheese, on the other hand, does, and if the authors would treat it to some of the same kind of prose they’ve been devoting to cooking with wine they could do a great public service.
So now you know.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

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