Friday, October 26, 2018

1971 Gibson SG 400 Bass

The only known photo of my copy of this odd EB variant, made in the early 70s when Gibson had lost its collective mind. Chintzy single coil pickups, out of place chrome accents, amp knobs and crude slide switches made for a factory instrument that looked as if it had been put together from a parts drawer. It played OK, it certainly made the appropriate noises. I even used it once in a practice session with the seminal Minneapolis New-wave-Polka-Punk band The Wallets.  I ended up trading it for some parts to Charley Orr, maker of Orr Guitars, .

I bought it in 1977 from the short-lived Gillespie Guitars in downtown Minneapolis, This may be the only picture of that establishment as well:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Countdown #6

16 Days!

They posted the schedule for the official Airwaves venues last Sunday so I spent the afternoon parsing the variables and putting the somewhat confusing schedule (as pictured above) into an edited and more digestible form:

It looks like it will be a most interesting festival, with plenty of acts I want to see. Saturday night at Harpa looks to be exceptionally strong, starting with Eivør (from the Faroes), the Icelandic super-group Team Dreams, and peaking with JFDR. The other nights have at least three or four strong acts, all the venues are within a 7 minute walk of each other and our apartment. The off-venues are spread out quite a bit, that schedule has yet to be released. DJ Cousin Mary and her husband Ken will be there as well, the Weaver and I are looking forward to having breakfast with them.

On a more serious note, Iceland Airwaves has had some financial difficulties recently, it has a new, more professional, management now—which brings its own set of problems. The earlier Airwaves I attended (in 2006 and 2009) were decidedly on the DIY-side of things, and some of the more charming venues of that era have been torn down to make way for new antiseptic hotels, especially so in the case of off-venue sites. On the plus side the Nordic House will host its own mini-festival with ten acts over two days—many of whom aren’t in the regular one.

Here is another off-venue that also looks intriguing.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, October 19, 2018

1965 Guytone LG-200T

My cherished Japanese “Bizarre Guitar”, a 1965 Guyatone LG-200T, is rare in its native Japan and extremely so in the U.S. It was never imported here (no ‘Made in Japan’ markings) and its somewhat outré appearance has kept it from being iconic. It is big and heavy (11 pounds!) yet its neck has a very narrow width.

This is the instrument that re-kindled my interest in guitars. I picked it up about eight years ago in a thrift store for the princely sum of $18. It needed a lot of work. Missing parts, destroyed finish, and the wiring was shot. I had to completely rework a Fender  bridge to get the proper string spacing. It also needed to have one of the pickups rewound. I ended up bypassing the pseudo-stereo wiring altogether. It is a great guitar, very playable and comfortable (although you might want to be sitting down.) It has a unique and very musical tone.

Ry Cooder has two of these, he uses them extensively on his Grammy-winning Mambo Sinuendo CD. You can get a good look of one in action at the 13:54 mark:

Here is a nice demo of the LG-200T as played by the prolific Ramon Goose:

Here he discusses the guitar’s construction in detail:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Halloween Capitol of the World

“Ah-ah-ah-ah… not stayin' alive…”

My town goes nuts at Halloween.  Lots of events and decorations, to say nothing of the three parades. The most elaborate diorama, shown above, is just down the block from my house. It is also on the “ghost tour” a popular activity in our city when darkness falls in the early evening.

Mr. Grouch (me) won’t be handing out candy though… I’ll be somewhere over Thunder Bay by the time the last of the urchins packs it in.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Murder in the Faroes

The Blood Strand
A Faroes Novel
By Chris Ould
Titan Books, 2016

The Killing Bay
A Faroes Novel
By Chris Ould
Titan Books, 2017

Taking a respite from my recent Icelandic studies, I recently read a couple of murder mysteries by the UK author Chris Ould, a writer of numerous screenplays. The books discussed here concern an English DI named Jan Reyna, who is on administrative leave from an unexplained incident in a prior investigation. Jan was born in The Faroe Islands; he had left there with his mother (under strained circumstances) when he was a small child.  

The Blood Strand begins in The Faroes as Jan’s father, a wealthy owner of a fishing fleet, suffers a stroke under mysterious circumstances. Jan returns to visit him in hospital and to reconcile with his past—only to be thrown into a mysterious murder case. He has awkward meetings with his half-brothers, trying to uncover information about his mother and his other relations.  He also befriends Faroese police detective Hjalti Hentze who is looking at Jan’s stepfather’ case.

The Killing Bay takes up the action almost immediately after the end of Strand, its plot centers on a militant Greenpeace-style organization trying to disrupt a Faroese whale harvest. Jan is remains stuck in The Faroes (an improbable situation that almost becomes a running joke), still climbing his family tree and also obliquely helping (or hindering) Hjalti and a police investigation of a suspicious murder of a photographer affiliated with the anti-whaling group.

Ould is obviously an experienced writer of crime fiction. The books read like screenplays (I’m sure he has aspirations of turning them into a TV series) and have good descriptions of the islands, he has done his research. I found them to be a little shallow on character development. There is a lot of police procedure including most of the standard tropes: situation room, internal power struggles, deceptive interviews—its all part of the standard package. The somewhat far-fetched conceit of having an English DI working with the Faroese police is actually handled pretty well. There is also a fair sprinkling of quirky Faroese culture which adds interest to the story. One thing this novel does not have is gratuitous sex scenes—Jan’s most obvious love interest turns out to be his cousin!

These two books are part of a trilogy (The Fire Pit is the third volume) and can be read as a continuous story. If they were just a little better in writing, character development, and setting they would be great. My previous exposure to actual Faroese novels may have spoiled me. Of course, in the world of mass market fiction greatness is a quality usually not to be desired.  That said, I’ll probably read the third book if I get the chance.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, October 12, 2018

2020 Vision

After an extended absence, Madame Tara returns with this look at

            The Future!

Elon Musk will release consumer jet-packs, sold with a matching flame-thrower. In a related story, the entire State of California is consumed by wildfire.

Amazon will introduce “Smart-alec” furniture, including a chair that will say “Oof!” when you sit on it and then spout disparaging comments about your weight while it sends information to weight-loss programs that will cause its offers to appear on your digital devices, as well as ads for junk food.

Professor Batty will sell his Flippism is the Key website to a consortium of investors who will then turn it into a multi-platform computer game. It sells 37 copies.

President Mike Pence, in a surprise move, does not pardon Donald Trump. In another, possibly related, move he has a private dinner with Melania Trump.

In the span of a week, Hurricanes Priscilla, Quentin and Reggie effectively wipe Mar-a-Lago off the map. “It’s all Obama’s fault,” tweets ex-president Trump from his prison cell.

Kanye West, vacationing in a North Korean insane asylum, calls the hurricanes “More of that B_____ Taylor Swift’s witchcraft.”

Facebook announces its “FB+” service that not only improves your posts, it creates entirely new ones from the data it stores about you.

Facebook announces its “Super FB+” service: a FB account for every man woman and child on earth, with content supplied by Facebook. It is not possible to opt out.

Professor Batty options Flippism is the Key to Wes Anderson, who turns it into The Royal Grand Life of the Fantastic Mr. Flip. It stars Bill Murray as Professor Batty, Angelica Houston as The Weaver, Bob Balaban as Jono, Scarlett Johansson as Shoshanah, Emma Stone as Sharon Spotbottom, and Annie Atkins as herself. JFDR composes the soundtrack. It grosses $300,000,000. Batty receives only $200 and a mention in IMBD.

Thanks Madame T, we’ll be checking back with you in…

                The Future!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, October 08, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Countdown #5

31 Days!

The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning

A Novel by Hallgrímur Helgason
Amazon Crossing 2012

This review, masquerading as an Airwaves update, actually has some connections to that event. Most of it takes place in Reykjavík in 2006, the year I first went to Iceland Airwaves. One of the main characters works for the Airwaves and much of the action takes place in and around familiar Reykjavík landmarks. I was completely swept up in the location and events of the setting. Hallgrímur Helgason is a satirist who specializes in skewering Icelandic culture, his outlook is always acidic; the protagonist of this book is one Tomislav Boksic, formerly a Croatian paramilitary soldier who became a hitman for the Croatian mafia in the U.S. scoring 65 kills with a hitch until he messed up big-time with the 66th—a FBI undercover agent. This sends him fleeing; he is spotted in the airport waiting to catch a flight to Zagreb so he kills a priest in an airport bathroom and assumes his identity and flight plan, ending up in Iceland.

Hallgrímur wrote this book, his first in English, and he has a knack for clever word-play, in both English and mangled Icelandic. It is very dark—at times almost revolting—but that is an essential element of the book’s premise. It is also very funny. That it is set in a particular era and has numerous references to events of that time gives it a historical feel; the mid-aughts were special in Iceland. It was a time and a place that I was aware of as well as a participant. That said, the book might not mean as much to someone who is less aware of the milieu from which it sprang.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

Monday, October 01, 2018


There must have been something wrong with me.

At our recent reunion, an old classmate handed me this picture, taken of me when I was in junior high.  The low resolution of the image hides my zits but not the way my ears used to stuck out. I was wearing my cherished “Madras shirt” and a “Baldie belt” along with a pair of black slacks (jeans were not allowed in school!)

What I wasn’t wearing was muscle mass.

I was a whisker or two over 6 feet tall and weighed maybe 120 pounds, and that after a big meal. If I were a teen today and this thin I think I would be in counseling, if not in therapy, for my physique. Back then as long as you didn’t rock the boat you were pretty much ignored. I eventually did “fill out” but not for several years, which was handy for my draft physical.

I don't think I’d want to revisit those days, although I would be happy to split the difference between my weight then and my weight now.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

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