Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Shadow Killer

A thriller
By Arnaldur Indriðason
Minotaur, 2018

This is the second book in Indriðason’s wartime Flóvent/Thorson series, although it takes place a couple of years before the previous one, The Shadow District Set in Reykjavík during World War II and the change from British to American occupation, this atmospheric novel captures that brief time vividly—in both its place descriptions and characters. The plot revolves an execution-style murder of a hapless traveling salesman, a man who is slowly revealed to have been an unwitting part of a much larger scheme involving Nazi sympathizers, German spies, and a secret “scientific” project that took place in his childhood. The story is realistic, the characters are believable, and the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, and, after my recent diet of modern mysteries, it was refreshing to read a story where the only personal electronic device is a hard-wired telephone.

This is a very good mystery, although Flóvent and Thorson, the two detectives, are not as fully developed as Erlendur was in Indriðason’s other series. Written in a restrained style, with realistic characters and situations, it is a solid entry and worthy of a look.

A qualified recommendation.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Flippist World Headquarters, May 28, 2018

Whew! Like a fever-dream, spring has elevated itself into full-blown summer, with a reading of 101° in the shade on the Flippist front porch. Lately my dreams have been of 101 as well: 101 is the postal code for central Reykjavík. Making matters worse, my email inbox has been receiving tempting offers for reduced fares to Iceland as well as for the Iceland Airwaves festival. Just for fun, I pulled up a Reykjavík lodging web site and found this attractive apartment; not exactly cheap but just up the hill from all the musical action:

Real art on the walls, and scary graphics in the bedroom:

And it has a kitchen, a perk that really makes the trip affordable (restaurants in Iceland can be breathtakingly expensive):

After a consultation, the die was cast, the trigger was pulled, and the reservations were made.

101 Reykjavík here I come, one more time!

November 1-12.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

Monday, May 28, 2018

JFDR with Strings

Line of Best Fit, Burak Cingi 

This summer, to celebrate her “10 year anniversary” in music, 24 year-old Jófríður Ákadóttir (of Pascal Pinon, Samaris and JFDR) will be releasing an EP: JFDR - White Sun Live. Part I: Strings. Teasers of this project have shown up before,  now she has completed a studio production with her sister, Ásthildur on piano and harmony supplemented by a string quintet.

There is more on this project at Line of Best Fit.

Here is an audio file from the new release:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Sammy and the Cheese


A novel by Christopher Moore
Harper Collins, 2018

One more San Francisco crime novel for the pile.

Christopher Moore is a parody novelist, his send-ups of various literary tropes are consistently amusing and, at times, hilarious. This entry in his oeuvre is set in 1947 San Francisco where “Sammy”  (Samuel Tiffin) is a hot-headed bartender with a shady past, while “The Cheese” is Stilton, a curvaceous and mysterious blonde who has secrets of her own. The supporting cast of characters includes a douche-bag bar owner, various Chinatown denizens, a racist Irish cop, an Air Force general, the Bohemian Grove, a foul-mouthed nine year-old boy, mysterious men in black (wearing sunglasses, natch), a deadly snake and even a space alien to keep thing interesting. The writing is peppered with 40s idioms, as well as Moore’s gags and wordplay. It is very non-PC and gets more and more outrageous as it progresses, even becoming juvenile at times, but it is all done in fun.

If this premise sounds familiar, I recently reviewed Kelli Stanley’s City of Sharks, a private-eye novel which was set in the same era and used similar lingo (and many of the same locations), albeit in a more ham-fisted fashion. Moore’s book is lighter in tone, its frivolous nature might turn off a serious reader, but if you enjoy Carl Haissen you would probably dig this.

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

1964 Alamo Fiesta

My first electric guitar, bought with $27 worth of my paper route money. It had a laminated body and was hollow inside, with a very minimal set of features. Mine was a sunburst. It was playable and it actually made it to a few “gigs” where it performed adequately. The pickup was fairly weak so I replaced it with one from a salvaged Harmony H62. This guitar was traded in on a Vox Stroller. I probably should have some affection for this but, after the initial excitement wore off, I realized it was pretty mediocre. It played its share of surf songs.  Interestingly enough, when I went shopping to buy a guitar with my father, we looked at a Gibson Lap Steel (very cool, but not a regular guitar that I could play) and a couple of Danelectros, either of which would be worth something today. I have seen single pickup Fiestas on eBay listed with an extremely optimistic $600 ‘buy it now’ price.

YouTube video:


By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Art-A-Whirl 2018

Year of the women!

Fabric artist Candy Kuehn in her latest (unfinished) creation.

Unknown artwork and patron, but I sense a definite stylistic affinity between the two.

The rituals of phone worship continues in an industrial setting…

Ann Madland continues the rituals of phone worship in an Imperial Egypt setting…

No fashion statement is too outré…

And the Venuses of Willendorf made their appearance as well…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, May 18, 2018

E. Kenneth Baillie

Spurred by the article I Don’t Know How to Waste Time on the Internet Anymore, the blog-anachronism which is FITK proudly presents yet another pointless search down an internet rabbit hole.

Block Print by E. Kenneth Baillie, 1933

This modest work has hung in my porch for many years. The artist was director of art at Northern State Teachers College in Aberdeen, S. D..  On the back of the print was a sticker for the NRA, not the gun-crazy lobbyist group, but rather the ill-fated National Recovery Act, one of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The idea of the legislation was to insure higher wages and uniform pricing. Outside of establishing the right to form labor unions, its provisions were counter-productive and its myriad legal provisions only frustrated citizens. Picture Molding and Picture Frame Authority, indeed!

Dr. Baillie also authored a couple of educational books, the most noted being Homespun Crafts from 1953. Relying heavily on the use of  recycled materials, the projects in this book were aimed at older children and teens:

Dr. Baillie’s son, Bruce Baillie, was an influential experimental filmmaker, here is one of his early films that featured San Francisco street scenes of the early 1960s:

Just doing my bit for slackers everywhere.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Restaurant No One Remembers

In 2015 James Lileks,  internet pioneer* and writer, wrote about the “restaurant that no one remembers”, The Anglesey, which was a fixture in downtown Minneapolis for many years. It was an old-school establishment, a modest entertainment complex of sorts, with a formal dining room (pictured above), bar, motor lounge, and piano bar. There are stories that it was a front for gangsters in the forties, it also housed a multi-floor residential hotel above. Eventually, it succumbed to Rock ‘n’ Roll and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius in the mid-sixties, changing its name to The Pink Pussycat before it was torn down in 1973.

I remember it vividly.

Recently, I came across a postcard for it, I had seen it before, but not the obverse side, with a poetic description of what was, in reality, kind of a rowdy place.

 I even remember its layout:

The dining room was a bit stodgy, but had a grand piano on top of the mezzanine, with a mirror strategically placed to offer a view of the pianists hands. A small stage faced the main dining area, but you could catch a glimpse the drummer’s posterior from the “motor lounge,” which sported models of very early automobiles displayed above a curved bar. The lounge had secretive naugahyde booths, making this room a haven for trysts. A ramp from it led down short ramp to the main bar, which had stuffed marlins cavorting over the various liquors. The cashier would gladly convert your payroll checks to liquid form, while a jukebox entertained those in the old-style booths along the wall. A flocked wallpaper room in the back hosted a small piano bar, a venue even more private than the motor lounge, conveniently located next to the rest rooms for the “ladies of the evening.”

I helped my father decorate (and un-decorate) the dining room for Christmas, I was probably about 13 years old the last time, a couple of my sisters remember it too, but almost any of its regular patrons that are still alive would be quite elderly now.

*at one time, Lileks' web site was in the top ten of all internet sites!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Two Women

Those of you coming from TOP site, welcome! Flippism is the Key is an open-themed blog which does feature photography and photo-illustration regularly. The image above was featured on Mike Johnston's “Baker's Dozen in Color” post, thanks Mike!

It was shot at The Minnesota State Fair in August of 2017. It is of two workers in a novelty shop, shot in JPG with a Pentax Q-7 with an adapted Pentax 110 50mm lens, cropped somewhat, with minor tweaks to color, contrast, density and sharpening. The smooth rendition of the 50mm and the soft north light flattered the subjects, it didn’t hurt that they are teenagers, either.

If you would care to explore this site there are numerous links in the sidebar; “Dogma” is sort of a greatest ‘hits’, “Iceland” and “California” are the most image-intensive links.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, May 11, 2018

I Live in a Magical World

All images: Anoka, Minnesota, May 7, 2018

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

1950 Stella H298

I’ll be posting about guitars from time to time. Even if you aren’t a player, I will try to make them entertaining with pictures, a short story and even a short video when possible.

This was my very first guitar. It was given to me by my uncle Mark Nicky, who had married my Father's oldest sister, Elizabeth. Mark could play a little; when I was about five years old I remember him giving an impromptu concert at the family Christmas party. He gave me the guitar about six years later. I struggled with it: the intonation was poor, the strings were high and the sound was feeble. It was heavy and crude, but it did make noise. I tried hooking a microphone to the top which helped with volume but not the tone. I managed to learn a few chords from a Mel Bay book, but never played this guitar above the third fret.

It met its demise, smashed to pieces, in a performance piece. The group I was playing with emulated The Who. It was the final performance of my high school rock ‘n’ roll days. Film exists, one of these days I’ll get it digitized and post it here.

Until then, here’s a spiffy YouTube clip I found with a lot of information about these iconic instruments as well as some short performances. The blonde version starts at 4:00:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, May 07, 2018


Sorum, South Dakota, c.1920

There are a lot of ghost towns in the western United States. Places that have just about disappeared, except for the name. Sorum is in the northwestern part of South Dakota, about as far away from a city as you can get in that state. It is still on a map; a couple of commercial buildings. There are still farms there, too, but the population density is about the same as it was a hundred years ago.

The prairie wind still blows, the hot summer sun still shines, and, in the winter, snow still blankets the land.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, May 04, 2018

Speed Skater

We had just moved in.

It wasn’t much of a house, built of poured concrete, in a part of town that had been forgotten by the rest of the city. Situated on a dead-end street, the neighborhood’s heyday was in the late 1800’s when it was on the fringe of the warehouse district; horse barns and small houses built for their drivers still stood, although the horses were long gone and all the teamsters drove trucks now.

$80 a month rent, about a third of our combined take-home wages then, and without having a car we could just barely afford it. We both wanted to leave home: we weren’t kids any more, we had overstayed our welcome there. We didn’t have much at first: a cast off couch, my bed, a bookshelf, a dresser, some kitchen utensils and our books.

We had been there for a couple of days. It was an uneasy co-existence, neither of us had experienced intimate living with someone, there were doubts about the wisdom of the arrangement on both sides. The sex was OK, for me, anyway. I couldn’t tell about her. She had initiated the relationship, but after the first few times she never seemed too enthusiastic. On the third night we were awakened by a pounding on the door. I pulled on some pants and went to see what the commotion was about.

There was a young man standing there, in obvious anguish, shouting my girlfriend’s name. I didn’t know what he wanted to do and she didn’t want to see him at all. I finally told him to go home and I shut the door. After a minute or two he left. I was shaking.

Back in the bedroom I asked my partner what that was about. I knew that she had had a boyfriend, but, as she did with most of her past, didn’t talk about it. Finally she said that they had been a couple when she was in high school, and he still wanted to see her. I asked if he posed a threat, she said no. She told me that he wasn’t a jock, that his only athletic prowess was in speed skating. “He had won some medals.” she said.

After about an hour, I calmed down enough to go back to bed. He never came back, we never spoke of it again. Years later, after we had broken up, I thought about some of the fragments of her history that she had told me: that she had been out of school for while, but had skipped a grade (she was very intelligent) so she had graduated on time. She mentioned that she had been “messed up” and had eye surgery at the same time. I had never pressed her on any of this, I was not terribly interested.

She had had a baby.

The timeline fit, she even wore the appropriate stretchmarks. Was the speed skater the father? That might explain his turmoil, why he didn’t want to let her go. After the incident, things got better for a while, but then she became distant. I finally had to ask her to leave. I don’t think she ever took up with him again, I heard that she had become a lesbian and then, in a move that was even more startling, an attorney.

Friday Fiction

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

One From the Heart

New Year
A memoir
By Bonnie Grill

Six times a year, a group of men and I who went to high school together meet for dinner at a local 50s-themed restaurant. We catch up on stories about the people and places we knew then as well as what is going on now. As we get older, more of the stories concern infirmities and death. In the group, to a man, the biggest fear we share is losing our spouses, and those who have already lost theirs are the saddest stories. One of those stories has been published in this memoir, written by one of our class-mates who recently lost her husband to a sudden and completely unexpected cardiac event—he had gone out to the garage to change a tire and collapsed there, undiscovered for over an hour.

This book chronicles a year in Bonnie’s life: from her husband's death to its anniversary. As it unfolds a series of flashbacks tells of their life together. Bonnie is unflinching as she recounts her husband’s problems: money, drinking, health and signs of dementia. Their marriage had its difficulties, but they managed to stay together. After his death the book relates the struggle of the author living alone for the first time in her life. This is not literature of greatness, and the anguish she experiences could be, in lesser hands, unbearable. What redeems the book is Bonnie’s candor, resilience and sense of humor.

Bonnie and I had a short relationship when we were in high school together. I was not ready to take it further, but we remained friends—not close—but close enough to make every meeting a pleasure. I haven’t seen her since her husband’s funeral. When we meet again at our reunion next summer, I’ll have a new understanding of her, and a deeper respect for her after having read this book. This is a common story, well told, without a trace of guile.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

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