Friday, December 29, 2017

Looking Backward - 2017

Mulder’s Farm, La Bolt, South Dakota, 1993

   It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

For a brilliant critique of the current American malaise, read this.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Holiday on Ice

The young Batty striking his signature pose, circa 1957, Bohanon Park, Minneapolis

One of the post-Christmas rituals I had to endure when I was a child was trekking to the park, going into the rickety wooden warming house (with a wood stove!), lacing up and donning ice skates, then going out on the ice rink and falling down. I did this for several years, the result was always the same: Pain. Pain from landing hard, pain from the cold, pain from the various cruelties committed to me by my peers in what were common practices at the time. I guess that is why I never got into hockey. Later, when I was older, I tried to follow pro hockey but the one game that I did manage to watch all the way through reinforced my earlier opinions.

Now that I am old and brittle, I have an excuse for opting out.

No hip replacements for me.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Santa Ant

                          Holiday greetings from Flippism is the Key!

                                                                          (With apologies to Wanda Gág)

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Grooming Epiphany

Paul, Jan, Joan, Minneapolis, 1983

Some of the pictures I rediscover in the archives that hold the most meaning for me are the ones which depict everyday life. Posed pictures seldom capture the spirit of being alive: living in the moment, in the real world, at one with the subtle miracle of existence.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


A novel by Malin Persson Giolito
Translated from the Swedish by
Rachel Wilson-Broyles
Other Press, 2016

This is some of the best Scandinavian crime fiction I have read in recent years.

At the very beginning of the novel the reader is introduced to the plight of Maria Norberg, a teen-aged girl who had just participated in a horrific school shooting incident. This “mystery” is cast not in the form of a “whodunit”, but rather a “whydidit.” The book is laid out on overlapping sequences, all told from the point of view of the defendant. Maria's incarceration while waiting for her trial is one thread which skips between the trial itself and Maria’s recollection of the events leading up to the incident. There is a lot of overlapping—it may seem interminable to those with a short attention span—but I thought that it actually helped increase the tension and enriched the story’s ultimate resolution.

Having a young and somewhat shallow teenager as the voice of the novel could be a turn-off for some readers, but her narration gives the book a constant center that is used by the author to comment on modern life in general and that of Sweden in particular. The book takes place entirely in Maria’s head, giving it a somewhat claustrophobic feel. One quibble I did have was with the charges that the trial was based upon, of course my understanding of the way the Swedish courts work is limited. Gilolito is a practicing attorney, I'll take it for granted that she knows what she’s writing about.

I’ve read that the book has been optioned to Netflix. Maria’s main defense attorney, ala Perry Mason, will probably take the center stage in the filmed version, but without the internal POV of Maria, I can’t help but think that it will suffer in comparison. Wilson-Broyles translation is exceptional in its capture of the modern jargon as it effectively protrays Maria’s mental state.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Pierre Wolfe

Mr. Wolfe in the 1960’s at his Quorum Restaurant in Denver Colorado.

I still get surprised at the various rabbit-holes I fall into while cruising on the information highway. I was looking for a humorous image to accompany a restaurant gift card. Not only did I find one, but I also found a legend. Pierre Wolfe, now in his 90s, has led a long and colorful life: as chef to the famous, host of the world’s longest running radio show, and even author of a war novel written while he was in his 80s! Follow this link for his amazing story.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Porcelain Queen

Joan in Studio, 1984

I recently spent a weekend with some of my sister-in-laws. One constant at their three homes was the porcelain we had given them, still being used and still looking great after all these years. Joan, the potter, has retired from throwing, her last sale was about five years ago and since then she suffered a flooded basement that ruined her equipment. I miss seeing (and buying) her new stuff, especially at Christmas.

I haven’t seen anyone else currently doing what she did.

I’ve got a bunch of it, it brings me joy almost every day.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Post #25,000

One of the blogs I regularly visit is Mark Evanier’s News From Me. Mark is a real writer:  comic books, television shows, scripts, etc., he is also a curator of inside show biz miscellany. He sometimes goes where I fear to tread (i.e., comic conventions, musical theater) but he is so prolific that I just wait a few hours and he’ll be off on a new topic. He recently put up his 25,000th post, a number that that works out to be about 20 full-length novels!

Mark’s 25,000th post is an excellent overview of what it takes to create a successful blog. Everything he wrote in it is true for me except he has a readership that is a couple of orders of magnitude greater than mine. Here are some of his more notable quotes:

What I like about blogging is (a) it's writing and (b) it's writing for me.

“Here is a bit of advice for anyone who's thinking of starting a blog. Don't start by trying to figure out software and hosting and web design. Start by verifying that you can keep the thing filled because very few people will follow a blog that goes weeks without a new entry. See if you can write twelve posts of a non-time-sensitive nature in one month, three a week. That would be twelve posts of more than a few sentences…twelve posts with which you're satisfied. If you can't do that, don't waste your time setting up a blog.”

“What should you post? Well,the great thing about blogging — and really, really make sure you appreciate this — is that it's wholly up to you. You will not experience a freedom like that in many other portions of your life.”

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Found in a Snowdrift

Re-run from ten years ago at FITK…

We had a major snowfall last week-end, I had driven into Minneapolis to check out an annual art sale held in a downtown restaurant. The City of Minneapolis takes a "wait and see" attitude toward plowing the streets, usually giving everyone a couple of days to flounder about in the the snow before any plowing commences. I had parked on the street; there was a spot a few blocks away from the sale that wasn't completely drifted in; it was a one-way; I exited to the curb.

Gleaming amidst the snow was a shiny aluminum tube, with a black plastic collar. "Hmm... a flashlight..." I mused as I tossed it into the car to examine later. The next day, when I had a chance to examine my find, I noticed that it felt kind of slippery for a flashlight. It was stylish: with a conical end, a raised design that coiled around its shaft, and the aforementioned collar at the other end. But where the lamp should have been was only a small screw-head. Turning it over, I saw a sticker with the words, "MUST CLOSE CAP TIGHTLY" printed on it. I turned the collar, loosening it and it came off- there were batteries inside, but still no light. I screwed the collar back on, tightly, this time...

It started vibrating!

Oh My!

Then I remembered where it was exactly that I had parked.

Near "Sex World", a certain sort of “boutique.”

Then I also remembered why I don't go downtown much any more.

First published Dec 6, 2007

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, December 08, 2017


I'm becoming quite the bar-hopper in my dotage. Wednesday night I caught a performance by one of Curtiss A’s ensembles. I had seen him perform last August at the Minnesota State Fair in a Hank Williams tribute. This time, he was fine-tuning his John Lennon Tribute show, now in its 38th iteration!

I've seen him on several occasions over the years, even in his early punk-pop incarnation
as the "Dean O’ Scream” in the legendary Longhorn.  In a way, he is sort of an ADD version of John Lennon, not as focused, but certainly as intense. He's flirted with success, but has never broken into the big time. He has had health issues, its appears as if a record of every gig in his long career seems to be carved into into his rugged visage. He is now a “grand old man” of the Twin Cities music scene, with no shortage of musicians who want to be part of his latest project. Wednesday night’s Beatle songs were done with plenty of gusto, although having four guitars playing the same chords in the same positions might have sounded better in a more open arrangement. That quibble aside, the crowd certainly dug it, IT’S THE BEATLES, FOR CHRISTSSAKE!

And you aren’t going to find a better performance in a neighborhood bar anywhere!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Lately I have been reading about Luxfer Prism Glass Tiles. When I was in Mount Horeb last weekend, I noticed that one of the commercial buildings had a whole set of these across the storefront, many of them with the Frank Lloyd Wright geometric design pictured above. The tiles would refract light into the back of the shops, giving it a more even distribution, which was important in the era before electric lighting. These tiles in Mount Horeb were covered with an awning, limiting their effectiveness. Of course, the stores did have modern electric lighting. When they restored the building they actually built new panels for the corner entry; they can still be custom made.

Sometimes stained glass lettering was incorporated into the prism glass arrays:

The tiles are popular with collectors, sometimes re-purposed into light fixtures, I've even seen them used as wall tiles. They are common on eBay, at wildly varying price points.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Another Arnaldur

The Shadow District
A Thriller
By Arnaldur Indriðason
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Minotaur Books, 2017

Indriðason’s back with this stylish “thriller” set in both past and current Iceland. The death of an old pensioner in modern Reykjavík re-ignites interest in a pair of old murder cases from the forties. Konrad, a retired police detective who is still consulted by the overworked police investigator Marta, who gives him some enigmatic clues about the dead man, starting the action. In a parallel narrative set in 1944, Flóvent, a Rekjavík detective, and Thorson, a Canadian military policeman, try to come to grips with the body of a murdered woman found behind the National Theatre building. Indriðason does a good job of intertwining the stories, each iteration of the story reveals more details yet somehow remains opaque until the very end.

This is evidently the start of a new series, there is no “Inspector Erlendur” in this book. The fact that there are four detectives (in two different eras) dilutes its dramatic center. Indriðason is trying to take his writing in a different direction, although many of the tropes are similar to the Erlendur books. Anyone familiar with Rekjavík will get a kick out of seeing familiar neighborhoods come to life on the page. The translation is good, one of the better efforts by Victoria Cribb.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

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