Thursday, August 31, 2017

North by Northeast

The Professor and The Weaver are headed back up to Minnesota’s fabled North Shore for some “r&r.” Even though it is a little early for fall color, we intend do some “deep woods” hiking:

Our “campsite” will be this charming house in downtown Grand Marais:

Just kidding! Here it is:

Still kidding! This is the actual place where we’ll be staying:

My old pal Rich, with his band (and possibly his charming daughter on vocals) will be showcasing a different kind of “r&r” just a few blocks from our cabin:

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!

FITK will be back Monday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Minnesota State Fair 2017 - III

Odds ‘n’ Ends


The Hamline Methodist Dining Hall has been serving fair-goers for over 120 years. The sickly green hue was caused by the lights. Nevertheless, this sludgy mess tasted better than it looked.

A stark roof line towers over the History and Heritage Center:

Equestrian waits her turn a the hippodrome:

This poor little guy, in rehab at the DNR booth, was not happy to be at the fair:

Not afraid:

Lady Liberty in distress:

Selfie. The fun-house mirror didn’t help my figure any:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Minnesota State Fair 2017 - II

Can’t Buy a Thrill

What would the fair be without the rides? A Food Truck Hoedown. The big wheel shown above is new to the fair and is a truly impressive piece of German engineering:

The Midway offers numerous picture opportunities; these prizes are almost surreal:

The venerable Midway institution, the ring-toss, has the class to use vintage Coca-Cola bottles:

Only in Amerika:

After a while in the Midway visual overload occurs:

Moments before the disaster:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Minnesota State Fair 2017 - I

The “Fresh Fries Fairy” welcomes you to the “Annual Minnesota Get Together” (as seen by yours truly). The fair can be a sensory overload, but people watching is always a top attraction.

I started the morning with some Hank Williams Sr. songs as performed by a veritable “who’s who” of local musicians:

Bill Greinke, Randy Broughten, "Bongo", Dave Boquist, Curtiss A, "Sprague", Dale Strength

The butterfly house is just as beautiful outside as it is inside:

The traditional Butter Carving exhibition was underway in the Dairy Building:

These girls were spellbound as Princess Kay was being sculpted:

New and old windows to the world:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts 2017

Wayfinding, Mixed Media Mosaic, Patty Carmody Smith

It’s that time of year again: The Minnesota State Fair returns in all its excessively mundane aspects. Last Tuesday evening I went to the Fine Arts Preview, and it was, with a few exceptions, a decidedly underwhelming experience. I'm a sucker for bright, shiny, colorful objects and the 3-D mosaic above (picture is sideways to better fit the blog format) filled the bill on all accounts. Indeed, it seems as if sculpture is always the strongest category, with plenty of whimsy and craftsmanship to wow the crowds:

Not everybody was wowed.

Kyle L. Fokken’s Jack in the Bucket was even more startling:

While Beth Thompson’s hyper-realistic A Summer’s Nap seemed to be the crowd favorite:

And I even met Genie Castro, the printmaking juror, who was as vibrant as her featured work:
Overall, I’d say that the Fine Arts Exhibit has seemed to have lost its luster, with mostly derivative works. Several artists repeated what they had done in previous years. So, in that spirit (dispirit?) I decided to join the crowd, here’s an updated version of a image I posted last year:

Much more from the fair on Monday!

Check out my other Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts reviews.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Politics Not As Usual

Jón Gnarr, Yoko Ono, Lady Gaga, October 9, 2012                                      Photo: Vilhelm Gunnarsson, Visir


How I became the mayor of a large city in Iceland and changed the world.

Published 2014, Melville House
Translated by Andrew Brown

This is a free-wheeling short book that covers the comic actor and writer Jón Gnarr and the rise of his “Best Party” in Icelandic politics. Iceland’s financial crisis of 2008 left the country reeling and deeply divided. In 2010, with encouragement from his friends, Gnarr formed a new political party and managed to win enough votes to become mayor of Reykjavík. This is covered in the first part of the book, but the book then opens up to become a gentle polemic on the role of government and the people it represents. Toughtful and compassionate, it is refreshing to read the thoughts of a politician who is genuinely concerned about the welfare of all the people. The only U.S. politico I can think of that is similar is Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who also comes from a comedy background.

Gnarr has already created a stir in world politics although, as he admits in the book, traditional politicians tend to steer far clear of what this self-styled “anarchist” has to offer.

Here is his appearance on the Craig Ferguson show in 2014 (Gnarr’s segment starts at 24:00):

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Outlaw

The Outlaw

By Jón Gnarr

First published 2015
Translated version published by
Deep Vellum Publishing, Dallas, Texas

This is the final volume of Gnarr's autobiographical trilogy.
Like The Indian and The Pirate,  Gnarr takes the reader on a very personal journey through his chaotic young life. His struggles with drinking, drugs and despair are interspersed with some brighter moments, such as discovering an aptitude for the stage. Invariably, however, Gnarr sabotages any progress with his asocial and even criminal behavior. When he expressed an interest in attending boarding school, his parents sent him to what was, in reality, a reform school—with bars on the windows and few qualified teachers. On a remote mountain in the Westfjords!

Gnarr also describes, in detail, his sexual awakening process that is interrupted by a truly harrowing surgical procedure. After exhausting his time at the school (e.g., getting expelled) Jón returns to Reykjavík and shuffles through spells of depression and  unemployment, punctuated by a series of jobs, all the while sustaining a somewhat bizarre drug regimen, a lifestyle that comes to a climax, ending the book. This is a much bigger tome than the others, with more detail about Jón’s political awakening, as well as life in Iceland in the 1970s.

I found the entire trilogy fascinating, although this book is very dark at times.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Pirate

A Memoir by Jón Gnarr
Written with Hrefna Lind Heimsdóttir

First published 2009
Translated version published by
Deep Vellum Publishing, Dallas, Texas

This is the second volume in Gnarr's autobiography, continuing his childhood into his adolescent years. The story gets progressively wilder and weirder: more bullying, Jón’s discovery of Anarchism and Punk Rock, his confirmation woes, his success (on downfall) selling raffle tickets, and his discovery of girls and drugs (neither went well.)

This is a more substantial book than The Indian, giving a broader look at Icelandic teen culture in the mid 70s, as well as insights into Iceland as a whole. With glowing blurbs from such notables as Oliver Sacks, Noam Chomsky, and Yoko Ono, Gnarr has emerged on the international scene as a writer of note.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Indian

A Memoir/Novel by Jón Gnarr

First published 2006
Translated version published by Deep Vellum Publishing, Dallas, Texas

I thought about these names—not once, not twice, not even three times. I thought about them no more. They thought themselves into me, autocratic, ceaseless, an automatic mantra wiping everything else away, clean gone from my consciousness.

~ Þórbergur Þórðarson 

This is the first book in a trilogy by the noted Icelandic comic actor and politician. The opening quote is from another noted Icelandic author, an author who had similar childhood experiences as Jón Gnarr.  In The Indian, Gnarr describes his younger days (in the early 70s), when he was diagnosed with numerous conditions that today would be labelled ADD and dyslexia. He was simply termed “maladaptio” and was shunted from one specialist to another in an effort to get some of his wild and dangerous behaviors under control. This book is a fascinating document. Gnarr’s memories are supplemented by actual psychological reports from his childhood. Gnarr’s ADD and numerous other problems led to his being singled out for bullying which certainly didn’t help matters any.

The writing is simple and direct, often reminding me of Þórðarson, and sometimes even the sagas when it shifts into the present tense as Gnarr describes pivotal scenes. The book ends when the author is in middle school, trying to “fit in”. Anyone interested in troubled children (or in child-rearing practices in 1970s Iceland) should enjoy this book.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 18, 2017


Harbinger of Doom #5

One of the downsides of living near the county courthouse is that there is a steady trickle of miscreants who have just gotten out of jail. The jail ID bracelet I found on my evening constitutional had been discarded by a recently freed man who had been arrested taking a shopping cart of unpaid items out of the nearby Walmart.

Not the most imaginative crime.

A criminal record for a couple of hundred bucks worth of Walmart goods!

And then, when he gets out, he starts littering!!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Craigslist, Reykjavík Edition

Harbinger of Doom #4

Yesterday I got a hit from France, searching for "Used Bikes Reykjavík."
I checked it out and instead of used bikes, I found ads featuring these "products" on the Reykjavík Craigslist:

100% discreet!

Oddly, these were the bulk of the ads, in all categories!

I'm thinking that the Icelandic version of Craigslist is not monitored very closely.

UPDATE: As of October, 2021, the site has been wiped clean—the ONLY ad on it was for a Björk concert ticket!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Locked and Loaded

Harbinger of Doom #3


What will it be today: North Korea, or Iran, or Venezuela?

Or Charlottesville?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 11, 2017


We are refugees
From a war only we saw,
Skinny limbs curled around one
Another as though,
Just a little more warmth
Might be had
From two than one.

We are opening our eyes
And seeing the hope of
A returning.
We are slowly,
Slowly uncurling and
Remembering how to be
Two people.

Do you feel as I do,
Drunken off deception,
Pretending I am standing
Just fine

Do you reel as I do,
Dizzy from destruction,
Pretending it wasn't me
Spending nights

We are slowly growing borders
Between where one person
Ends and another begins,
Letting me breathe,
On my own,

We are slowly learning to
See one another as people
Do, eye to eye from
Far enough away you aren't
A blur of color and motion,
Making me faintly sick
In your abstraction.

We are slowly becoming two,
Who maybe, just maybe,
Might be able to love
As people do.

~Reshma Sanyal

Summer rerun, first published August 16th, 2007

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Harbinger of Doom #2

Popillia japonica

Caught in the act, this noxious pest is the Japanese beetle, chomping on the Flippist World Headquarters’ prize rosebushes. Needless to say, the garden patrol is on high alert: seek and destroy! These critters will eat almost anything. Once established, they can be controlled via special techniques, but they still requires constant vigilance. Fortunately, they are slow moving and can be scooped into a container of soapy water where they will drown (or you can just squish 'em, but they stink.)

Fornicabitur en flagrante

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, August 07, 2017

Save the Date!

Harbinger of Doom #1

Artist’s conception, not to scale.

October 12, 2017

That is the date when asteroid 2012 TC4 will come closest to earth. Although scientists say it will miss us by at least 4,200 miles, that distance is only a whisker in the realm of interplanetary space. The thought that I might get squashed like a bug has made me rethink some of my priorities. That trim on the east side of the house that needs scraping and repainting? I’ll let that pass. Same with the Kia’s upcoming oil change. Edge the grass away from the sidewalk? Not gonna happen. I can make do with the socks I have; I really only need two pair. I’ll still have to buy some groceries and household supplies. Maybe not the biggest jug of laundry detergent, though.

The best part of it all is that the asteroid should arrive a couple days before the property tax is due.

At least I’ve got that going for me.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, August 04, 2017

That Was Then, This Is Now

While cleaning out some of the archives, I came across some receipts from my first Iceland trip, in March of 2000. The package for two was $1200, pretty close to what you would pay now just for airfare. The 3 nights lodging was part of the package, with an additional upcharge of $156 for the fancy Hotel Borg, whose lowest-priced room is currently $545 a night!

The restaurant tab for a mid-priced meal for 2 with beer came to about $70, maybe a little high then, but about half of what it would cost now. We also ate at a fancy place, about $150 for two (with wine), that would be at least double that today. Figuring all our expenses, the cost of that 2000 trip was about $250 per person per day.

My last solo trip, in 2015, with some scrimping on food (made up for by concert, film and theater tickets) came in around $2,000 for six nights, or about $330 per day. After considering inflation that figure isn't much different than 2000. Recently, the Icelandic Kroner has jumped in value (after its currency controls were lifted) so that it is worth about 30% more than 2015, so the per day cost would be closer to $400.

While it is hard to compare prices over the span of 17 years, it is obvious that the biggest increase in the cost of a trip to Iceland is in lodging, which makes sense—there is an acute housing crisis in Reykjavík right now.  My once-every-three year timing for trips to the “rock” looks like it will be disrupted next year although I’d love to go back—if only to to sit in the hot pots every the day and to see plays every night.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

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