Friday, December 30, 2016

Year-end Inspirations

Crackpot                                                       Pine-paneled garret                                          Inspirations


Need I say more?

This year-end post won’t wallow in the mire of politics, nor will it memorialize celebs that have gone on, prematurely or not. Instead, let me celebrate the good that has come out of this increasingly anachronistic enterprise—Flippism is the Key. I know many pundits have declared that “Blogs are Dead”, but they still exist: attended by furtive, fuzzy-sweater wearing crackpots who have, in their pine-paneled garrets, been erecting shrines to their virtual obsessions.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been “dumping” my Icelandic images and stories here lately—I’m stopping my Icelandic coverage. Twelve years is enough; the well has gone dry.  A wild ride, especially when I think of all the people I’ve interacted with on FITK and my literary site, Laxness in Translation, both in Iceland and around the world. All the FITK Icelandic-themed posts will remain, of course, as a sub-archive of one man’s infatuation.

I’ll be starting a new “Friday Fiction Feature” next week: an open-ended, loosely structured work, more experimental in nature, for people who actually read. The episodes are intended to stand on their own, but there will be recurring characters and a rudimentary plot. FITK will still feature pictures, more illustrative than realistic, perhaps even a return of some new Sharon Spotbottom. Less facts, more fun. Finally, what would a year-end wrap-up be with mentioning those who have inspired me all year long?

Jono, the Horse Whisperer of Grand Marais, doing what needs to be done.

Annie from Wales, Ireland, and Iceland. Consorts with Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg, and her new baby.

Bob, the Scottish Scientist, master of all knowledge and pub quizzes.

Gemma from Seattle, writer and Iceland-nut.

Jófríður, unstoppable force of nature.

Karen from Richmond, hired mouth supreme.

Sheila, master culture vulture.

Minnesotastan, intelligent trivia pursuer.

Caitlin, memento mori fine artist.

Rich, who has been an inspiration for over fifty years!

And, of course, Shoshanah, the pride of Mount Horeb, artist, writer, shepherdess, supermom, exquisite rascal and all-around bon-vivant.

See you next year!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #100

No subject could be more appropriate for the capstone of FITK’s Mondays in Iceland:

Jófríður Ákadóttir

Reykjavík Grapevine

Most great artists share these common traits: early promise, hard work, and continued growth. Jófríður Ákadóttir, with her twin sister Ásthildur, formed the Folk/Pop duo Pascal Pinon in 2009 (they were 14 years old!) A short set I caught at an Iceland Airwaves off-venue show in the Norræna Húsið that year showed the early promise of her talent: almost everyone in the room was stunned by the integrity of the songs composed by this unassuming teen. Jófríður and I communicated with each other on a few occasions back then; her level-headed approach to her career was already evident. Unfortunately, Ásthildur—who did most of the production and accompaniment on the Sundur CD—has recently been suffering from depression. Jófríður, in recent interviews, has intimated that as a group, Pascal Pinon is probably finished. While this news is disheartening, Jófríður is continuing her career: a new album by the electronica group Samaris was recently released,  she is also member of the “supergroup” Gangly. Now she has a solo act—JFDR—with an album coming out in 2017:

She was recently featured in an in-depth interview in The Reykjavík Grapevine, an article that is an excellent chronology of her career. It shows her hard work, both in performance and composition, as well as her relentless drive to explore the world. It’s as if she can’t get enough of life and all it has to offer. I have never been much of a musical prognosticator, but Jófríður’s continued growth in all of her musical projects has exceeded my wildest dreams. She’s all grown up now and has made the transition from child to adult on her own terms. What I’ve heard of her new material (in live tracks) features loopy arrangements layered with reverb, but I’ll reserve any judgement until the upcoming CD comes out. Time will tell if this old dog can warm up to her new kind of musical tricks.

Below is a live performance of JFDR doing some new material (not from the album) for Seattle radio station KEXP, interspersed with interviews from the great Kevin Cole:

And an interview on Portuguese TV:

NOTE: This is the final installment of “Monday in Iceland.” My thanks to all who viewed these posts and images over the last seven years. I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I enjoyed the making of them.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Best Wishes From FITK

The best Christmas video ever…

5 million viewers can’t be wrong.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Batty's Icelandic Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, in Flippism’s house
Professor Batty was Blogging; I’m that cranky old louse.
My boots were brown leather—a worn-out old pair,
In a fur-trimmed red suit, I sat in my chair.

My eldest had come home from Washington State
And was now in his old room, in bed with his mate.
The Weaver slept while keyboard yet did I tap,
I’ll just stop for a minute,” I said, “To fix a nite-cap… ”

I went in the kitchen to take care of the matter,
“Whiskey or Brennivín?”—I chose the latter.
I poured out a double—downed in a flash,
“I’ll only have two to avoid getting smashed. ”

The booze in my belly gave me a warm glow,
And my brain became woozy, unsurprisingly so.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Grýla the hag—with her bag—something to fear!

“I’d better stop drinking, I’d better stop quick,
I’m thinking I’m seeing some old Icelandic tricks!”
I shut my eyes, but still the sights stayed,
I whimpered and muttered these things as I prayed:

“Now Dang me! I’m Loaded!
I’m Blotto, and Vexéd!
Oh go on! Forget it!
I’m Dizzy, and Wretched!
Away from the counter,
I’ll go down the hall
And dash away! Dash away!
Dash away from y’all!”

Dry heaves come afore the purging begins,
So I fell to the floor, bruising my shins.
Into the bathroom I recklessly flew,
Wracked with the shakes, to the porcelain loo.

And then, in a twinkling, the feeling did pass,
Shaking my head I thought “It must have been gas!”
Under my breath I said “I must turn my life ‘round,
For drinking on Christmas I am such a clown!”

Then returning upstairs, I twisted my foot,
and cursed to myself: “Das ich nicht gud!”
Just then the Yule Cat jumped high up on my back,
His sharp claws dug in as he made his attack.

My eyes-how they teared up! My back, oh how scary!
My skin began bleeding, blood-red like a cherry!
That cat took a swipe at my naked left ear,
and finally jumped off, scratching my rear.

Then my ankle he bit, with his needle-like teeth,
I reached for the wall but got a fist full of wreath.
“Drat that cat!” I exclaimed as I fell into the tree,
I could swear that that feline was laughing at me!

He was scrawny and mean, an evil old elf,
I cried as I realized that Grýla had bought him herself!
A mad gleam in his eye, he vanished with a twist of his head,
I then knew ’twas time to be off to bed.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my lover,
Took off my glasses and then turned down the covers.
And laying a finger beside my bloodied nose,
I dabbed it with tissue as I took off my clothes.

As I crawled into bed, my spouse gave a whistle,
My carcass looked as if it had been beaten by thistles!
Then she exclaimed, 'ere I slept for the night...
“Merry Christmas honey, uh… who won the fight?!”

First published, in a somewhat different form, in FITK, December 24, 2007
With my apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #99

Special Friday Edition

Dinner at Dill:

The best meal I’ve ever eaten.

Two starters and seven courses.

Seven courses of wine and spirits.

Its founding chef has since moved to New York City, where his latest restaurant is a smashing success.

Now I know what you may be thinking: “Pictures or it didn’t happen.

I don’t often post “foodie” pictures.

While photographs can be beguiling, they are sorely deficient when it comes to aromas and flavors.

In spite of that truth, scroll down for my “meal of a lifetime:”

Amuse bouche: Salted beef tongue served on a rock with burned butter:

Two kinds of home-baked bread, hand-harvested Icelandic sea salt, dill butter:

#1. Smoked mayonnaise, capelin caviar and crispy rye bread:

#2. Warm ísúbi, roasted carrots and walnuts. Hay-baked red beets and honey:

#3. Fennel salad, sweet and sour whey and lightly cooked cod:

#4: Warm potato salad; pickled and fried onions, dill vinaigrette:

#5. Goose breast and leg, onions in beer, cauliflower:

#6. Goats milk from Jóhanna in Háafell on a bed of unknown deliciousness:

#7. Blueberries from Þingvellir, spruce. Fried and salted almond ice cream:

My tab was 9.500 Kr. for food and 9.500 Kr for beverages (about $175, no tip.)

The Dill restaurant has now moved to a prime location in central Reykjavík.

The last time I was in Reykjavík, Dill was booked weeks in advance. I ate at the hot dog stand: 500 Kr. for a pylsur and a Coke. Not quite as expensive.

The food at Dill was somewhat better, however.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #98

Special Wednesday Edition

northern winds

Am reporting today from the almost-Arctic town of Akureyri. I arrived yesterday with a plane full of co-workers, and although half had intended to fly back yesterday, everyone got stuck here overnight due to high winds. The airport here is on a little flat of land that juts out into the massive fjord where the town is located, so the combination of cross-winds and tiny planes meant we were all isolated. I’m told that this can happen often, and we discovered several others in the same hotel that had been similarly grounded by the weather.

Sadly, it was also very warm and cloudy, so the famous snow was dingy and gray, and the roads full of ice. Everyone had good times sliding up the hill to swim after work though, then back down again afterwards. We dined at Strikið, the top-floor location offering views across to the tiny lights on the opposite side of the fjord in one direction, and the illuminated facade of Akureyri’s iconic church the other direction. The wind continued to howl as we ate, bending the windowpanes, jangling the Christmas lights strung along the stairs to the church and making the stars suspended over the streets below sway crazily.

Later we had coffee at M’s house, full of wood trim and red-checked curtains. We had freshly-baked Icelandic Christmas cookies, the rare and special kind with the chocolate top, the buttercream filling, and the almonded bottom. Everyone keeps telling me about how annoying and difficult they are to make, and yet everyone keeps on making them. My Icelandic speaking abilities are still to the level that makes me mostly a spectator but after a day of only-Icelandic meetings I was saturated enough to be keeping up with almost everything, jokes included.

It’s hard to explain the surreal feeling of being there in that house, knowing that outside the massive snow-covered mountains loom all around, the wind sweeping down their dark and uninhabited slopes. This was ordinary life for the others at the table but for me I couldn't stop mentally comparing to the other life I could have had, and did have, in a place where the weather doesn't hold such sway over daily life, where I'm not infused with this ancient language. Two years ago I didn’t know a word of Icelandic, and now some element of it will never not be a part of me. Soon I might even be able to participate in the conversations, but for now I'm happy to at least be able to follow along.

It’s 11 am now, and the rising sun is just turning the clouds above the mountain out the window to golden peach. The wind's still sending the clouds surging across the fjord, and I can see the water churning angrily, even though we’re miles away from the open ocean here. In only three hours, the light will again be fading, and a few hours later, if the wind releases its grip on us, I will return to the chaos of Reykjavík.

By ECS 19 December 2006 at Reykjavík Harbor Watch

Re-posted by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Balanced Recipes

The Professor was in a domestic mood last weekend and since it is the holiday season, he went to his “traditional” source: Balanced Recipes, an aluminum clad(!) collection of recipes from Pillsbury flour, 1933. The SOUR CREAM MOLASSES COOKIES were a big hit in the past, here is his slightly modified version:

The maple syrup lightens them somewhat, they are almost fluffy, versus the old rock-hard ginger cookies that were prominent in the 1950s. Currants work better than raisins as well, they are smaller and not so sweet.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #97

Pascal Pinon, one last time:

Norræna Húsið, 17 October, 2009

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #96

Special Friday Edition

In a dim light: neither daylight

December darkness is something that I once feared and that may seem like a terrifying thing to people from brighter places. Most Icelanders I’ve talked with find it to be something that one simply deals with, or in some cases, embraces.

On still days and nights when not a single branch twitches nor dead leaf rustles, it’s a time full of witching hours, these hours that stretch from black to sunup—the blueness of the predawn that makes white blankets look aquatic, the white simplicity of light on cloudy winter days, the rich and magical navy of dusk, the purest black of nighttime. Even a clear full-day sky is deep glacial cobalt, and then the snowed mountains across the bay emanate the most perfect kind of frigidity I can imagine. Whenever I want to think of the coldest temperature imaginable, I am sure my mind will go to the black mountains to the north, etched with glowing snow and edged by Arctic sea waters.

Offsetting this chill is the delirium of lights that cover the city–every tree that can hold a bulb is draped, stores staple entire illuminated evergreens over the doors, and windows are festooned with candles. A Saturday stroll becomes a festivity of greetings, street caroling, pepper cookies, and cocoa. It's a tiny glowing oasis in the midst of the miles of darkness beyond, where one single car light over on Kjalarnes can be followed on its entire outbound journey around Esja, a dot of bright in deepest black.

By ECS, 10 December 2007

Re-posted by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Gold Foils

My buddy Mark gave me a call from his guitar store last Saturday.

“I’ve got one of those old Japanese Electric guitars you like. You might want to take a look at it.”

“I’m on my way!”

When I arrived, I saw a flashy, albeit decrepit, Zen-on guitar, Model ZES-80t. Every thing about it was either broken, out-of alignment, or just not very well designed in the first place. In the 1960s, at the height of the British invasion, U.S. department stores sold these (and similar) guitars under various brands, this one did not have a label, it was probably an “Audition.” I bought it (for less than it cost new in 1965) and set to work, “bringing her back” to playable condition. The “gold foil” pickups were the real prize here, easily worth more than I paid for it. Mark repairs guitars, but he lacks my masochistic temperament (and he also likes to actually make money on his repairs!)

The biggest problem was its neck. More suitable for playing baseball, it had also been broken once and the tuners were bad. I had a couple of spare necks (doesn‘t everybody?) so this issue, the biggest problem, was easily solved. A tougher challenge was the pick-guard, which held all the electronic components. It had warped over the years and needed to be flat to assemble the instrument properly. Ten minutes in the oven at 225°F while sandwiched between two baking sheets relaxed the plastic to its original flatness. The pick-guard had also shrunk slightly, but that was fixed by enlarging the holes where the components were attached and drilling new holes where the guard attached to the body. The third problem area was its bridge. It was intact, but poorly designed. I had an extra bridge as well. After re-wiring the guitar I reassembled it and it was better than new.

Just what I needed—another guitar!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Jófríður and Ásthildur performing Ást:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #95

More Reykjavík Nights…

15 October, 2012

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #94

super sundays

I've written plenty about the crappy, miserable, sorry, soggy weeks we've been having here lately, but what I haven't mentioned is those few Sundays of glorious respite there have been interspersed. I took photos a few weeks ago of one of those days, and last Sunday was another. Just at freezing, perfectly still, and crisply sunny, the perfect day for the 45 minute walk to Laugardalslaug from my house. Although I have sunglasses, I wanted to let the brightness burn my eyes. Must save up the glory of light for the dark times later!

I started off along Snorrabraut where the berries on the trees (anyone know what those trees are?) had mixed with the moss along the wall-tops, and then continued straight out to the wide-open bay. When I was in Boston, I got a cashmere sweater as a Christmas gift, and the teal-blue color was called "Arctic ocean". At the time I thought it was pretty cheesy a name, but it really is the color of the sea on a bright winter day.

This walk is one of the great features of Reykjavík, allowing a nice stretch of time to appreciate the majesty of Esja all covered in snow at this time of year, and in the summer, it's the path where I rollerbladed. Going to the pool, I turned in at the bus yard, where this listing baby blue car awaits something around the corner from all the slumbering busses. Further down the street is a cluster of oddly vintage businesses- a shoe fix-it place, a shop with every shape of mirrors you'd ever want.

Then to the pool. Sunday swimming in this kind of weather is quite possibly one of the best things to do on a lazy weekend afternoon. The water seems clearer, each intake of breath is fresh and bright, the water smooth against my limbs. Afterwards, tired from laps and lying in the heated salt-water pool, I watch the rhythmic rotation of arms across the pool lanes, listening to the slightly distant echoes of the kids splashing in their pool, and the murmur of old-man gossip in the next hot tub.

Last time I left while the sun was still fully up, at the same time as the Royal Arctic Line steamed out of the harbor. Three weeks at approximately the same time, it was the just-post-sunset witching hour, when Esja looks its most imposing and frigid, and the pink after-glow of sunset fades into deepening blue skies.

Along with the sun's disappearance, the last moments of warmth in the day left as well, so by the time I got home, I was fully frigid. It took some spicy Indian food and the magic of an Icelandic wool blanket to warm up again, but it was worth it for the views and the sense of peace that always comes from the Sunday pool trip.

Posted by ECS at Reykjavík Harbour Watch, 20 November, 2007

Re-posted by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, December 09, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #93

Special Friday Edition


The city theater before the play begins…

13 October, 2012, Reykjavík

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Silver Bells

After a couple of hours on I-94, I needed to stretch my legs.

A sign at the Hixton exit advertising an Antiques Mall caught my attention so I headed toward the off-ramp in search of adventure. Miller’s Antiques and Auction Company was just a short distance from the ramp terminus. The shop was inviting enough, a fair amount of vintage signage on its porch gave me a good feeling; a sense that this wouldn't be another shed stuffed with landfill. The shop was dimly lit, but there were actually things that people might want to have in their homes: classic mid-fifties furnishings, as well as the usual big-ticket items: slot machines, furniture, and fine art collectibles.

The woman staffing the counter was going through a pile of photos and other ephemera; my prime interests. We got to talking. She told me that when she found old letters and post cards she would sometimes try to contact the writer’s descendants. I have done that myself and I told her of some of my experiences. She showed me her current project: a postcard of a 1920s jazz band as well as a letter that went with it: just enough information on the back to enable her search.

Our discussion had a soundtrack: Secular holiday music—in fifties pop and lounge styles. When a particularly boozy version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas came on I joking said, “We should be having martinis.” She was in complete accord with the idea of getting blasted at 1 P.M. It was probably a good thing that I had run out of Vermouth. As we continued to look through the papers on the counter, Silver Bells came on over the radio.

When she began to hum along, I joined in on the chorus.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #92

Special Wednesday Edition


I Heart Reykjavík tour, Austurvöllur Square, 9 October 2015

They come in two different flavors: patron: of an amusement park for example, or spy: on a secret mission. Neither option is “natural”; although when wandering about without a guide one is more likely to have an unexpected adventure. It can be thrilling, or boring, but is definitely inefficient.

Taking a tour is convenient but more predictable. It is more fun when there are young people. Maybe not so much fun for them to be with old people, however.

I’m usually the spy, but sometimes I just kick back and let myself go with someone else’s flow. There is something to be said for either way.  A mix of the two is the Candide-ian best of all possible worlds?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Walking with Ms. Lee

Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

The invitation was for an arts and crafts open house.

When “Ms. Lee” calls, I respond, at least as much as I’m able. Kindred spirits don’t just grow on trees that come along every day, ya know. I came, I saw, she conquered… with her charm and her art. The next day we met again, this time for breakfast and a walkabout in her picturesque town. It presented a mix of old and new buildings—there was even a vintage opera house still standing with its roof, if not its dignity, intact. Our conversation flowered—flowing without direction—stories big and small, bits and pieces of our respective lives. We know each other somewhat from years of long-distance interaction, but because we don’t know that much, most of it was new.

Ms. Lee and me, walking in the cold December air, making little connections, filling in a few of the blanks, finding islands of truth in a world full of lies. Two wandering stars, coming together for a moment at the speed of enlightenment, then drifting apart, to once again become distant glimmers on the horizon of life. 

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Mondays in Iceland - #91

Grand Rokk aka Faktorý

Demolished 2015. Sorely missed.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

A Friday road trip…

 …finds the Professor traversing the trails of central Wisconsin.

First stop was in Chippewa Falls: a rendezvous with K, a dear old friend:

Image: E. Skinner

After a most agreeable chat, I found myself back on the road, ending up in the alpine hamlet of Mount Horeb for an art and craft sale in the city’s restored schoolhouse:

On the top floor my blog-pal Shoshanah was holding court with her fantastic art:

As well as her freaky books:

We were serenaded with an Amy Winehouse Christmas carol:

While Little Z  Big Z pondered stories of Shoshanah’s reckless youth:

And I couldn’t forget the Fleecy Fab Four:

UPDATE! The next day I had the honor of breakfasting with Shoshanah and Big Z. Afterwards, when Z went to play at a friend’s house, SLM and I explored The Cat and Crow, a local Yarn store:

Where I picked up a gift (knitting bag as demonstrated above) for the Weaver!

A fitting knitting end to a great trip:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

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