Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Bigger Splash



A film by Luca Guadagnino
Frenesy Film Company, 2015



There is nothing like watching a summer movie (set on a Sicilian island featuring beautiful rich people having personal problems) to alleviate the late-winter blues. Oh, and they are often naked. Starring Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes and Dakota Johnson, A Bigger Splash is an existential drama is high on emotional turmoil but low on plot allowing you to turn your mind off and let yourself go with the flow. The rehab vacation of Marianne (Swinton, a rock-star recovering from vocal chord surgery) and Paul (Schoenaerts, Marianne’s film-maker partner) is interrupted by the arrival of Harry (Fiennes, a record producer who used to be Marianne’s lover/manager) and Penelope (Johnson) who is presented to the couple as Harry’s newly discovered 22-year-old daughter. Things get off to a rocky start and go down hill from there.



Fiennes’ Harry is a manic druggie, basking in the glow of past accomplishments, still desirous of Marianne, resentful and envious of Marianne and Paul’s happiness, and has something more than a paternal interest in Penelope. Swinton’s Marianne is nearly mute from her operation and has conflicting emotions concerning the other three. Paul is suffering from writer’s block possibly stemming from an earlier suicide attempt and is jealous and resentful of Harry. Johnson’s Penelope is immature and bored, and looks to Paul as a way to escape into adulthood.



The heart of the movie is Marianne and Paul’s relationship, a relationship that cracks, but does not break. The African sirocco that heats up the action not only brings hot winds but immigrants from Tunisia, further complicating things.



Reminiscent of the films of Roberto Rossellini, it is not for all tastes.

That can be taken as either a recommendation or a warning.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, February 25, 2019

Dreams on a Winter Afternoon



Outside the white house in the valley
Mice, in their burrows, are dreaming of seeds
Sheep, dozing in the field, dream of new hay
Insects, frozen in earth, dream of buggy things
While the barn cats dream of the hunt

Inside the white house in the valley
The artist dreams of murmuring bees
Chirping birds, wind in the trees
Leaves and flowers poking through the snow
All creation reawakening from its winter slumber

Inside the white house in the valley
The artist awakens from her dreams
Sips cold coffee and then prepares her palette
A dream made real in pigment on canvas
A dream of Nature’s First Green


for SLM.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, February 22, 2019

Small Fry

All those stringed "little guys" who, like stray cats, have crept into my life. First up: This English "Melody-Uke", probably from the 1920s:



In the UK George Formby kept the interest in this now nearly obsolete instrument going well into the 1940s:



The modern Oscar Schmidt Uke (model OU-3, below) is mostly show and little go. mother-of-pearl binding and a slick poly finish doesn't make up for the fact that the bridge was in the wrong place and it is cheaply constructed. I reset the bridge, making it somewhat better. Like the Banjo-uke above, I tuned it ADGB, akin to the middle four strings of a guitar:



Here is the real runt of the litter, a cheap no-name uke (in standard uke tuning) that my son left here. The pegs wouldn't hold tune until I put washers next to the neck. No fun at all:



Finally, this true antique, a bowl back mandolin from the early 20th century. An un-branded thrift-store special. I tuned it ADGB like the middle four strings of a guitar:



Despite the separation on the back, it plays and sounds good.  I may fix that someday if I ever get the nerve:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Antisocial Media



As FITK enters its fifteenth year, I find myself looking back at the journey, trying to justify make sense of it all. Inspired by Auður Ösp (who now hosts the preeminent Icelandic website I Heart Reykjavík), this site started at the time when blogs were exploding on the scene, growing from such early web hosting services such as LiveJournal™ and Diaryland™, offering a more mature experience than MySpace™. For a short time Blogger™ (aka Blogspot™) became the most successful of these because of its ease of use and its customization. It was buggy in its early days, although after it was bought out by Google it became much more reliable. WordPress™ and Typepad™ promised more sophisticated management and expanded greatly. These two, along with Blogger™, still host the vast majority of blogs. When Facebook™, Twitter™, and Instagram™ (“FBTI”) became ascendant, the role of the traditional blog diminished.

In light of the hideous abuses of FBTI there have been some stirrings of late lamenting the current situation and suggestions that the old blog model may still have some advantages. There are even some who miss the old hokey graphics, a trough of nostalgia that I’m not about to wallow in. One real threat, however, is the tyranny of search engines. If you are writing about something that doesn’t “fit” the engine’s model, you might as well pack it up. A good example of this elimination strategy is on the now “sketchy” YouTube. Even only a couple of years ago you would get videos related to the one you are watching on the sidebar. Now, almost without exception, you get sponsored posts, often by right-wing hacks. You definitely don’t want young children to be watching it. 

When I do look back on my internet adventures, however, there is a lot of good that has come out of it, meeting great people (both on-line and IRL) and doing many wonderful things as result. My recent trip to 2018 Iceland Airwaves, for example, rekindled my enthusiasm for Icelandic culture and its people, an enthusiasm that has spilled over to others areas. Although my readership is a fraction of what it was ten years ago there are still people from all over the world coming to the site and discovering things on it everyday. If you have time, the links above lead to in-depth articles about what I’ve been blathering here, you might find it worthwhile.

UPDATE: It could be worse… 
UPDATE UPDATE: It could be really worse
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: It could be really, really, worse

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, February 18, 2019

Ófærð!



Part of my recent Tucson mini-vacation was spent in Iceland. Not content to spend my days in the sun while basking in mid-70s temperatures, I had to get some blizzard action so I wouldn’t feel too guilty about missing the polar vortex.

The place where we stayed had the Icelandic series Ófærð (Trapped!) on Amazon Prime.

This is a crime drama that takes place in a remote port in Northern Iceland. A ferry comes into port at the same time a human torso is fished out of the bay. The town’s skeletal police force is pressed into service and things are further complicated when a major storm cuts off air and road access. The ferry is impounded but a fugitive manages to escape from it in a delivery truck, setting off a cascading stream of events that threatens the townfolk, already under a storm alert. The locations are all real, it is as an Icelandic experience as you are going to going to get without boarding an Icelandair jet.

Created by Baltasar Kormákur, Trapped! is full of notable Icelandic actors, all of them great, but this situation caused some problems on my part. I've seen them before in films, some of them many times, and many of them in person as well. While we only watched a couple of episodes, I had seen my fill, it really was kind of depressing (and we had to fly home before we could finish watching.) I’m sure that someone just discovering Icelandic drama would be enthralled—me, not so much. There are eight more episodes in season 1 and another ten in season 2. If you are up to to binge-watching a creepy and chilly crime drama, you could do worse.


Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Friday, February 15, 2019

SRO



“Last week we were talking about things you had done in your youth, things that you remain conflicted about. You were going to tell me about an incident with your girlfriend’s sister.”

“Um, okay, this happened was when I was about 23. The kid sister of my girlfriend called me and said that she needed some help dealing with her current but soon-to-be-ex boyfriend.”

“Can you give me your recollection of how the situation played out?”

“She calls me one morning, it was a Saturday or Sunday, I think, I didn’t have to go in to work.”

“Hey…”

“Hey, what’s up?”

“You know that guy I’ve been seeing?”

“The guy with the white suit?”

“Yeah. Uh… like, he really has to go.”

“And how am I supposed to fix this situation?”

“If you would just come over, be here when he gets here, he’ll see you and you know…”

“He'll think we’re lovers. Can this guy kick my ass?”

“That’s the idea, but don’t worry, He’s a wimp.”

"When is this all supposed to come down?”

“He’ll be over at two. Come early.”

“I’m usually not one to breakup a relationship. Are you sure you want to go ahead with this?”

“I’m sure.”

“I’ll be over at one.”

“She lived in a three floor walk-up, an efficiency, a ‘Single Room Occupancy’ apartment; bathroom down the hall. Earlier, she had been living with my girlfriend and me, it was an OK situation, we got along well but then, when she got a boyfriend, she needed a place of her own. I had met the guy, he was a bit of a dandy—wearing white sport coats with matching pants and shoes. While had never ‘hung out’ together, I had heard all about his ‘peculiarities’ from my girlfriend. I felt compelled to help her sister, she was basically a good kid, she had fun when she was living with us and if I could help her get out of a dead-end situation I thought maybe, maybe it would help ease some of the difficulties I had been having with my girlfriend.”

“We’ll go back to your girlfriend later. This break-up scenario, there aren’t a lot of men would be willing to do something like this. Did you have a sexual relationship going on with this ‘little sister’?”

“No, she was more like part of a the family. Kind of squirrelly, no real sexual attraction.”

“I see. Go on.”

“So I go over to her place, and it is small. There is a bed, a night stand, and a small dresser with a hotplate, standing room only if you weren’t lying on the bed.”

“Um-hmm…”

“So the conversation went something like this…”

“Let’s make it look like we’ve just done it. Strip off the coverlet and bunch up the sheet at the foot of the bed.”

“Ha, ha. I’ll crumple up some Kleenex and put them on the floor.” (Looking out the window… ) “Ohmygod, he's in front of the building.”

“Do you have any booze?”

"I’ve got some whiskey in the dresser.”

“Good. Pour a little in that glass on your nightstand. Now we both take a sip and gargle with it.”

“That’s him at the door.”

“Buzz him in. I think we’re ready.”

“He strutted in preening—a regular cock-of-the-walk—his all-white outfit neatly pressed, ready for some action. When he spotted me the look on his face was priceless. A perfect triple-take: he looked at me, at her, and then at the bed. He deflated like a popped balloon. He got the hint, and turned around and left. A lie told without words.”

“Bearing false witness? That could have been a disaster.”

“I guess I was pretty stupid. For him, it was a disater. My girlfriend’s sister was overjoyed at the outcome.”

“And how did your girlfriend take this episode of psychodrama?”

“Ahh, she didn’t seem to care, although our relationship never got any better. She moved out a year later. At my insistence.”

“And the sister?”

“She definitely had some problems, mental heath issues of some sort, might have been drug related. I can’t really say, I didn’t see her after her sister and I broke up. She died several years later. I don’t know the circumstances.”

“Do you feel some guilt about that?”

“I have, at times. I don’t let it eat me up. The incident with her boyfriend might have been a trauma for him, but it wasn’t one for me. Or her. We all have problems.”

“So, now tell me about the break-up you had with your girlfriend… ”




Friday Fiction

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Del-Ray EV3T



Why? Why do I keep buying bad guitars?

This one was dreadful. The non-adjustable, clunky neck (was the adjusting rod broken?), the thin sounding and microphonic pickups, the awkwardness of playing, the cruddy controls, the non-adjustable bridge, the list goes on and on. I saved a few parts from it but most of it went into the trash can.

Once again, the need for a guitar to have a “waist” has been proven.

Even Drowning in Guitars was hard pressed to make a beautiful noise from this POS:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, February 11, 2019

The Nature



I’m being punished for trying to escape the wrath of Mother Nature. A week in Tucson during the coldest weather in years (HOW COLD WAS IT, JONO?) Upon my return more cold and now, adding insult to injury, snow:



More snow is on the way.

The piles at the end of the driveway are as high as gravity will allow.

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…

I need some deep winter comfort food

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Friday, February 08, 2019

Bobcast


For those readers in pressing need of stimulation of the “Dylanesque” variety, I recommend the Is it Rolling, Bob? podcast, an every-other-week affair featuring Notable Brits discussing the work of Bob Dylan in various contexts. Literate, funny, insightful and even touching at times, each 35 minute segment has a different actor, writer, singer and/or songwriter who freely interacts with hosts Kerry Shale and Lucas Hare about Bob Dylan’s life and work.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Overlooked Yrsa

Someone to Watch Over Me
A Thriller
By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Minotaur Books, 2013

I have long had a nagging suspicion that I had missed one of Yrsa’s Icelandic “thrillers.” Recently I saw this book in the library, confirming my suspicion, of course I just had to take it home and read it.

This is one of the “Thora” mysteries, the protagonist is a lawyer who is contacted concerning an incident that happen a few years prior: a group home for for disabled people had been torched, killing several of its inhabitants as well as the night watchman. Jakob, the only survivor, is a young man with Down’s syndrome and had been convicted of setting the blaze and was incarcerated. While in psychiatric prison he meets Jósteinn, a sexual predator. Jósteinn has an trust fund so is able to hire Thora to prove Jakob’s innocence. Thora has her doubts about Jósteinn’s motives but takes the case anyway and soon discovers irregularities in Jakob’s trial.

There are several parallel threads: a hit-and-run accident that killed a babysitter whose death haunts the woman who hired her, a floundering radio talk show host who receives cryptic calls, and a sleazy lawyer who represented both Jakob and Jósteinn. As the story unfolds, Thora uncovers information about the group home residents and their families that leads to a surprising finish. All of this is played out over a background of the fallout from of Iceland’s 2008 economic collapse (the story takes place in 2010) giving an addition dimension to the story.

This is one of the better Yrsa books. It is a bit messy (don’t look too closely at the plot) and the writing certainly isn’t what one might call terse, but it moves along and I was able to follow the large cast of characters fairly well. This is by far the most “Icelandic”of her books, both in setting and culture.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, February 04, 2019

Tucson By Night









Tucson 2019

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Friday, February 01, 2019

Farewell Warmth!

We’re leaving Tucson today, absolutely perfect weather the whole week, returning to a somewhat warmer than it has been Minnesota as well as a driveway full of snow. Here are a few random scenes (I'll spare you the postcard landscapes):











Tucson 2019

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1