Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Fright Flight


Fire                                                                        Ice

The Weaver and I (pictured above) are off on our Icelandic adventure: 12 days of non-stop exploration and edification in the land of fire and ice.

Daily Iceland updates starting next Monday.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, October 29, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Countdown #7

11 Days!


Pascal Pinon Press Conference, Norrena Húsið, October 17, 2009

Well, well, well, it is getting really close now. Pardon this somewhat rambling post (and the old pictures),  I’ll tie it all up at the end.

I’ve looked at Iceland Airwaves Off-Venue schedule and it seems to be promising. There are even a few events on the Monday and Tuesday! The national treasure which is Seattle’s radio station KEXP will host Bára Gísladóttir with Skúli Sverrisson at the KEX Hostel on Tuesday night at 21:00. I’ve been fascinated by her ever since I caught her with the avant-garde ensemble Orphix Oxtra on the live feed from the 2012 Aldrei fór ég suður festival.

The next morning the enchanting Sóley will perform at a senior housing complex (Grund, 10:00). I’m  assuming there might be a relative or two of hers in the audience; this performance just might be the emotional high point of the whole festival. The neo-classical composer Ólafur Arnalds will grace the Kex Hostel at 14:00 while the teen-age hard-rock grrl-group Groá will shake the foundations of “The World’s Best Record Store,” 12 Tónar, at 17:30.

Thursday afternoon will have a full slate of acts at the Norrena Húsið (Nordic House), most of whom are “emo-ish” singer/songwriters. Nini Julia Bang (17:00) with her Icelandic lullabies and cow-herding songs looks to be the most promising exception. While this line-up may not hold as big a surprise as Pascal Pinon’s brilliant set was in 2009 there will definitely be some good moments. 12 Tónar will feature Kjartan Holm, veteran of Sigur Rós and For A Minor Reflection, at 17:30.

Friday has another afternoon of music at Norrena Húsið; best bets: Liva Mo (15:00) and trad-jazz combo Sigmar Matthíasson´s Aurora (18:00).  Petersen Svitan (a converted penthouse apartment with balcony), will host four acts from 15:30 to 19:00, including the oddly-capitalized AmbAdamA. Kex Hostel will host Icelandic supergroup Team Dreams at 19:00 (and good luck in getting into that show.)

Saturday has my favorite thereminist, Hekla, in the early show at Hitt Húsið (13:45), an extremely rare appearance by this wonderful musician. she is followed by five more interesting acts; I think I know where I’ll be spending that afternoon. Canopy Hotel has a couple of intriguing acts (Helgi and Una Stef) around supper time, but I will have a very hard time going in therethey demolished Grand Rokk/Faktorý to build the hotel, destroying the karma of the site by razing the funky venue where I saw many great acts, including Sóley (pictured above performing there in 2012), Vicky (full-grown riot grrls, 2009) and, of course, Pascal Pinon (2009):



I’ll be posting one more countdown before the Festival starts, going into more detail about the main venue line-ups.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




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: 2 




Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

There is no longer any reason for me to have embarrassing moistness “down there.”

Thanks to the sublime Shoshanah, I now have drier balls.



By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




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!
IN THE YEAR 2020…


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 




Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sunday Night Fervor


Faye Lewis


Another Sunday night and the Professor was on the prowl.

The usual suspects were playing at Whitey’s.

The crowd was attentive, albeit on the small side.

The band was playing a mix of favorites—heavy on the west coast sounds of the 70s.

It was a good scene, but I'd seen it all before.

And then the woman singing with them opened up:



Sunday night still has its treasures.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




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 




Friday, October 05, 2018

The Pastels


Of the many local bands that formed in my neighborhood in the mid-sixties, the only one which could be considered a “rival” of the groups I was in was The Pastels. My bands were the usual male-teen proto-punk groups, playing Louie, Louie, Wipe Out and, later, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones. We were geeky, erratic and raw boys. The Pastels were a quartet that sang and played folk music and were everything we were not: Poised, disciplined, and talented girls.

We knew them well, we were involved in many of the same school activities and were competitive in our studies as well. We were a bit jealous of them, for they could play “gigs” we couldn’t- social affairs, school programs, even parades! Their events were “civilized.” We played in fraternity basements and for teen dances where a fight could break out any minute and illicit liquor replaced soft drinks and tea as the beverage of choice.

The final week of of our senior year, there was a “Senior Talent Day” (arranged by The Pastels of course) where several musical acts put on a show for the rest of the school. The Pastels were gracious enough (grace was another thing which we boys lacked) to invite my current band, The Hungry Freaks, to play in the show. The Pastels were on prior to us, and we were last on the bill. They had added a bassist and a snare player, and were excellent as usual. We added rap, feedback, sirens and dissonant organs to ours. For our finale we smashed guitars as some of the band members with Soviet flags overran the stage, “fighting” the other ones.

Thirty years later, we got that old band back together and played for our class reunion. We were better behaved, and we could really play. We invited The Pastels to play, but they declined. In fact, not one of them attended. Later I found out that years ago, in high school, there had been a rift in their group, something about boy, and they had never played again.

That was too bad. I loved that band.



UPDATE: We recently had our 50th class reunion. Once again, no Pastels were in attendance.



A rerun from October, 2009

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Fine Art

As her Patreon sponsor, I received yet another book that has sprung from the fecund mind of Shoshanah Lee Marohn. Postcards From Joshua Tree is an illustrated memoir/coloring book about the time she spent in the company of her grandparents in and around Joshua Tree, California in the late 80s and early 90s. The “postcards” are cryptic, amusing, and often feature the foibles of Shoshanah’s quirky grandparents in an affectionate way. The text is fully illustrated (by members of Shoshanah’s coloring posse, and each illustration is also available uncolored; waiting for your contribution.

Although I know that it is cheating, I just had to color a page in Photoshop:



Add an ornate frame = fine art!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, October 01, 2018

Anorexic

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