Friday, August 31, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Countdown #2

68 days!

More on my upcoming trip to Iceland and the Airwaves music festival.

They've announced more acts (including JFDR!)

I’ve already begun compiling a list of interesting performers.

The teen-age group Groá will definitely be a must-see:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Five From the Frigid Fair

Time again for the Minnesota State Fair.

It was unseasonably cool when we went, but my numb fingers did manage to squeeze out a few shots. I’m always amazed at the piano sales booth in the grandstand, not my idea of a place to try out a fine instrument:

O’Gara’s Irish Pub had soothing dinner music to stimulate your appetite:

This trio of workers kept us supplied in croissants at the French Meadow Bakery:

Just how cold was it?

The midway’s games still had power over impressionable young minds:

Maybe I’ll have better luck next year.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Mystery Endures

The 50th reunion was a smash.

Many classmates that hadn’t been seen in years returned. There were nice displays, tons of door prizes, and the layout of the venue was just about perfect. The dinner was reminiscent of the offerings of Mrs. Brimi, our old high school’s cafeteria director; the Weaver described her chicken as “mature” while my roast beef had characteristics of “mystery meat.” The speeches were mercifully short; the departed classmates video was sadly long. The band’s performance of raucous tunes from the mid-sixties was met by an enthusiastic reception.

As the affair wound down most of the people vanished. Those who remained formed small groups, their animated discussions lasting into the wee hours. I found three of my favorite classmates in conversation at a small table and I joined them. The wine and conversation flowed, the only woman in the group subtly steered the talk into a series of ruminations on our lives: the history and meaning of those good (and bad) relationships which we had experienced over our lifetimes. When she mentioned grandchildren her voice softened. It became a voice of a girl, tender and musical; a siren’s song whose melody was composed of equal parts beauty and attraction. Her physical presence was compelling, shimmering, preternatural.

The mystery endures and it can still be glimpsed, if only for one magic moment on one magic night, once in a half a century…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, August 24, 2018

1963 Kalamazoo KG-2


One of the worst guitars ever made, this Fender Mustang™ knock-off was constructed with a MDF body fitted with second-line parts. The whole thing reeked of cheap. I bought it at B-Sharp Music* in NE Minneapolis for about $60 in 1973. All of its proportions seemed a little off; no traces of finesse at all.

It ended up in the trash, although I think I might still have the improperly intonated bridge.

Here’s a video that is a good example of this clunker’s tone:

*B Sharp Music ad circa 1966:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The State of the Fine Arts 2018

Whew! It’s been over ten years since I started my annual reportage of the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Preview Night.

I didn’t get any work into the show (again!) but there is usually plenty of other interesting work to appreciate. Genie Castro was there, this time helping out on the service desk (right); she just might be the reason color photography was invented. Speaking of photography, overall the photos this year were kind of schizophrenic: there were many “classic” fine art black and white prints (which had been scarce for a couple of years) as well as an equal amount of travel snapshots taken with cell phones. Hmm.

There were some imaginative things being done, although I thought the sculpture and painting were not up to the usual standards. There were a handful of nice prints and drawings, but the watercolors were for the most part cliché. Here are a few things that caught my fancy:

Amy Ballinger’s Voyager, a much better than average “levitation” picture:

Mary Zubrzycki’s Bag Lady held a lot of interest for women of a certain age:

Monica Sheets used neon signage as an effective means of communication:

After I left the exhibit, I saw the giant Ferris wheel going through its electrical testing:

Next week I'll have pics of my annual pilgrimage to the fair, if I can get there (they are short of drivers for the shuttles!)

Check out my other Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts reviews.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Red Sun

Woke up to a red sun.

The porch where I take my coffee was even more inviting than usual.

The ruddy glow that came through the window was charming.

Going outside, the garden never looked better.

Later, I went down to the car show.

Everyone seemed to be moving as if in a dream.

The sky was on fire.

A red sun from Canadian fires that could not be extinguished.

Man is the only animal that tamed fire.

But ultimately the fire could not be tamed.

It consumed us all.

So this is how it ends.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Saturday, August 18, 2018


My most successful crop this summer is the butternut squash I’ve been growing out of a pot on my patio. The concrete it is spreading over needs no tiresome weeding and the bugs have left it alone. It does need about a gallon of water a day and some occasional fertilizer (organic) as well. I should mention that it is under a sunshade sail most of the day so the squash doesn't cook itself on the vine.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, but if this works there might be some more urban farming in my future.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Friday, August 17, 2018

More from the ASI

Architectural details from the Turnblad Mansion (The American Swedish Institute):



Food preparation table (with slop sink left)

Reading nook, second floor

Hall storage, third floor

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fab Fashion at the ASI

Gudrun Sjödén: A Colorful Universe

An exhibit at The American Swedish Institute
Through October 28, 2018

Gudrun’s towering effigy greets visitors to the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis

Gudrun Sjödén is one of the top designers of women’s clothing in the world. Not Haute Couture, her métier is Prêt-à-Porter—ready to wear. Clothing from her designs is sold around the world, mostly sewn by hand in various countries. I’ll forgo any discussion on the merits and debits of her globalism but you can check it out if you like.

The Weaver finds inspiration

Gudrun’s design process starts with watercolors

Organic forms abound

There were  traditional designs on display as well

Meanwhile, in the basement, Cecilia Schiller’s grotesque figures displayed a different sort of fashion sense:


By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Oh! You Beautiful Doll!

There is a first time for everything.

My latest garage sale discovery is a bisque doll from the 1960s. The head and bust section of the doll was marked with the name “Pearl Lewis” who was either the designer of the bisque head or the name of the doll itself. The clothes were made by Frances Davis, who was also active in doll making in the New York area at that time.

I found Pearl in a box of other dolls, most of which were well-used. With her dirty face and clothes she looked like a “fallen” woman that had been forced to lie, cheek by jowl, with the grubby and broken low-life denizens of the penal colony/container. After purchasing her freedom I took her home and carefully disrobed her to see the extent of her injuries, if any. She may have been blushing from my masculine touch, but if she had I couldn’t see it under the grime.  I was looking for water damage, insect infestation, or mold. Fortunately, she was in pretty good shape. A few of the stitches holding her undergarments had unraveled, but there were no tears or other damage. After hand washing her clothes, I let them dry while I constructed a simple stand with a block of wood and a dowel (I’ll let your imagination figure out where the dowel went!) A slight “tea stain” remained on the shoulders of her frock, but otherwise everything looked like new. Her prim smile indicates that she is most pleased with her restoration:

My first doll.  

One doll.

Not a collection.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Auður Update

Auður Ösp and her I Heart Reykjavík blog has been featured here numerous times. Recently she has announced a scaling back of her popular walking tours to devote more resources to other aspects of her enterprise.

UPDATE to the UPDATE: It looked as if she was in good company, but maybe no so much. UPDATE: Auður’s blog is no more, a victim of Covid.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Reckoning

A Freyja and Hulder Thriller
By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Hodder & Stoughton, 2018

I’ve been following Yrsa’s career for several years now. It has been a mostly uphill journey, each novel has been better than the previous. Until now. Police inspector Huldur and child psychologist Freyja are an odd couple who once had an unsatisfactory fling, the memory of which constantly comes between them as they are repeatedly forced to work together in their respective professional capacities. This conceit worked well for the first book, but has become tiresome in the second. In fact all of the characters are tired tropes, all are completely repulsive (as might be expected in such a sordid story) which made for a long slog to reach the unsatisfactory ending.

The English version is a UK-only book (so far.) I doubt that this series will get picked up in the U.S., it seems to me that Yrsa has lost her spark.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Champion

At about the time my old job at the lab was winding down a big photographic scanning job came in. The man on the phone said his client needed various materials digitized for an upcoming exhibit. Confidentiality was a must. We set up a meeting: the man came in and brought stacks of articles, sheets of slides, old advertising copy—all of it featured Greg LeMond, the three-time winner of the Tour de France.  After figuring out what needed to be done—formatting issues mostly—we arranged for time for the project to be picked up.

At one time (at the same lab) a coworker and I would follow cycling avidly, and I knew that he would have gotten a kick out of seeing all these materials, they were as good as it gets. The slides, in particular, were high resolution dupes from some of the top European sports photographers of the day. We both desired a LeMond bicycle—not that we were racers—but just to bask in the vicarious glow emitted by the brand.

After completing the job and knowing that the days of the lab were numbered, I gave a call to the client. He said he was going to be out of town but Greg could pick it up. Gulp!
And he did come and he wanted to talk to me about the scans. We began to talk, and I was surprised at how friendly and outgoing he was. We talked about his current projects (mostly fitness related), cycling in general, and places worth touring. I mentioned Iceland, of course; he had never been there so I gave him some tips!

Greg was in the forefront of the anti-doping effort, a lonely stance that cost him sponsorships and even the loss of the Lemond bicycle brand. At the time I spoke with him he was at a career nadir, although he would soon be vindicated when Lance Armstrong admitted cheating. Greg hadn’t let those setbacks deter him, when I spoke with him he was upbeat and still had his passion for cycling, even to point of talking with a nerdy technician about the simple joys of exploring the open road on two wheels.

He was the champion of the world.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 01, 2018


All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

The garage sale wasn't promising, with couple of tables of miscellany out front (fortunately there were no kids clothes) and a smattering of things inside. On a workbench in the back of the garage I found a box with some odd photographic gear—little stuff: filters, flash units, various brackets purpose unknown, dozens of slide tray boxes. I asked the woman who was running the sale if there was any more photographic gear and she said no, but did mention that her sister liked to “fool around with cameras.” I assumed that the sister had died or was  someway incapacitated.

Behind the box were couple of shipping tubes that bore customs labels marked “Brass Rubbings.”  I peeked inside one—it was full of black paper in a roll. Unrolling it I came face to face with the visage of a stern looking 15th century woman looking back at me. After buying both tubes (and the filters) I brought them home and took them out of the tubes. There were dozens of rubbings taken from British churches. The address label was from a Dr. Chris Hill, Paleobotany, The British Museum, July 1977. A little internet research confirmed Dr. Hill was the real deal, Ms. Susan D—, the recipient, was 80+ and lived in my town, but I could find no other information.  The rubbings were evidently a hobby, I read that they were a craze in England in the 70s before many churches stopped the practice due to damage to the brasses.

To be honest, the rubbings strike me as somewhat creepy—lonely figures for a lonely person.

And now I am their caretaker.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

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