Friday, March 29, 2019

JC Revisited

A re-post from 10 years ago (with reworked pics):

Junior College, that is.

In the late 60’s a side effect of the baby boom was the proliferation of numerous 2-year “Junior Colleges.” There were so many kids coming of age that the established universities had no place to put them all. In the middle of corn fields or nestled in the periphery of downtown areas community colleges sprang up, almost overnight, or so it seemed. I had already attended the U for a year and while my grades were decent, I was miserable. Metropolitan Junior College, on the western side of downtown Minneapolis right across the street from Loring Park, was housed in a funky amalgam of buildings purchased from a small bible college/radio station (Jim and Tammy Faye Baker were notable alums.) The classes were small, taught by mostly by part-timers and other academic misfits, and were, on the most part, pretty good. The politics of tenure was absent (or at least minimized), the jock culture was small (I was on the badminton squad!) and most of the instructors actually had some practical experience in their fields.

All of the college buildings were connected by underground tunnels. The older buildings possessed sort of a horror-flick vibe (Roman Polanski’s The Tenant comes to mind) with long dark corridors, crumbling plaster, dark wood trim and hissing radiators. I had gotten a part time job attending to the photo lab located on the second floor of what had previously been an old apartment building. The darkrooms were in what had been a bedroom and its adjacent bath—which still retained toilet, tub and sink. The other apartments in that building were used as offices and small classrooms, some complete with functional fireplaces. There was an elderly caretaker who had an office in a basement room full of tools and supplies. I think he came with the building. There was even a small room with a piano—if practice time hadn’t been scheduled you could go in and play, no questions asked.

I’ll stop the reminiscence now as I’m starting to realize what a good thing I had there. And it would never do to the have this ersatz prof start wallowing in blubbering sentimentality, would it?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Epiphone Sheraton II

Another entry in my irregular guitar series.

This is an 80s or early 90s Korean (probably made by Samick) Epiphone. A very handsome guitar in a tobacco sunburst finish. I kept it stock and used it quite a bit when my old high school band reformed to play our 30th reunion in 1998. It is the classic 335 design with some eye candy and a thick poly finish. I paid $350 for it in 1995. No issues. I did eventually sell it, I think what I really wanted at the time was a vintage 1959 Gibson ES-355TDC (there is a difference!) but with a $10,000 price differential that is not gonna happen in my lifetime. As the Gibson 335s get more and more expensive, I notice that many national acts have been using these Epiphones, usually in a Natural, Ebony, or Sunburst finish. This general body style is one of the classic “big four” from the fifties: Tele, Strat, LP, and 335. There’s a reason they've never gone out of style.

Here's a really tasty YouTube video of a Sheraton II by a guy who knows how to make the most from this really great affordable guitar:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, March 25, 2019


The Chinese take-out restaurant in my town has been there for about 15 years. It was a vaguely mid-eastern restaurant before that but that closed not long after 9/11. The Chinese place has developed a following, it even has a dine-in area that is popular with some patrons, although it is rare to see more than a couple of people eating. Usually, it has one or two people in it, waiting for their order to be ready, sometimes there is a flurry of activity when several customers come in for their phone orders.

But yesterday, after a solo customer left, it was empty. The woman behind the counter will took my order then brought it back to the kitchen. I sat, alone, waiting for my order. Sometimes she is in a bad mood and I can hear her castigating the cook. But this time she was happy, and when she is very happy I can hear her sing a Chinese pop tune, perhaps from her youth. She has a beautiful voice. As she sings the humble take-out joint becomes a spring day in the country, with birds joining in on the choruses; even the bees hum in accordance. The woman is a girl again, and is walking with her beloved through fields of flowers and everything is right in the world.

And then the song is over. The woman returns from the kitchen with my order.

“Soy sauce?” she asks.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Darkness

A Thriller
By Ragnar Jónasson
Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
Minotaur Books, 2018

Ragnar is one of the “new generation” of Icelandic mystery writers. I’ve read and reviewed a couple of his books before passing on his third book, which I tried to read but couldn’t finish. This book, his fourth, is part of a new series featuring Hulda Hermannsdóttir, a police investigator working out of Reykjavík. Hulga is nearing retirement and is given the opportunity to work on one more cold-case before she leaves the force. She picks up on the case of a Russian woman who was found dead on the southern coast of Iceland that had never been given a proper investigation. Initially ruled a suicide, Hulga quickly discovers irregularities in the case and begins to ruffle feathers as she proceeds in her inquiries.

This is a much better book than Ragnar’s previous ones. The coherent plot, lots of local color, good usage of foreshadowing and a doozy of an ending make this a novel worth seeking out. Victoria Cribb’s translation is also better than the previous ones by Quentin Bates, which might have also contributed to its readability.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I Miss You

Remember Me?

Myspace has, somehow, “lost” all its pre-2016 content.

Yes, I did have a Myspace account for about a minute in 2004. I gave it up when my only follower was “Tom” (pictured above.) I even tried deleting him but he kept coming back!

In the future, people will look back at the years of 2002 to 2008 on the internet and wonder exactly what was going on. It was all so hokey, maybe it is better that some of it has been erased. I keep thinking that I should really download and make a hard copy of the best of FITK; that was one of my retirement projects (I retired FIVE years ago and still haven’t started.) At least my internet presence isn’t scattered over a dozen semi-defunct sites. My archives (see sidebar) are pretty well organized, however, and I still get as many hits for old posts as I do for the new ones.

Now, looking back at it, I kind of miss Tom and the other internet  “supernovas” of that time.

BTW, has anyone seen Bree lately?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, March 18, 2019


Eivør, Iceland airwaves, 10 November, 2018

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Paradise Found and Lost?

               “There is no there there” ~ Gertrude Stein
Memories of past domiciles can, if one is prone to nostalgia, haunt. Every place I’ve ever lived previously is now completely altered: I really can’t go home again.

The first half of my life was spent living in four houses, at three locations in Minneapolis.
My early years were spent at 5122 North Third Street, in a tiny 2 bedroom house (built in the 1920s) that was part of a funky little neighborhood near the Mississippi River, the lot it was built on had been a livery stable at one time:

It was removed for the I-94 freeway in a process that took over 20(!) years. Ironically, where that house once stood never became part of the freeway, the greater part of it is taken up by a berm:

When I was ten, we moved to a much bigger 4 bedroom “Cape Cod” style house (5006 N. Emerson) that had been constructed in the post-war building boom on what had been a potato farm. It was architecturally nondescript, just like hundreds of others in the area:

It was taken out for a new housing “Greenway” project and has sat vacant for fifteen years already, although I have read that the project may be “started” very soon:

When I moved away from home I moved into a strange little building made of concrete blocks with a small kitchen (made of wood) tacked on (brown house on the left) and later moved next door to a Victorian duplex located on the fringe of the North Side industrial district:

This pair housed many of my friends over the span of twenty-odd (sometimes very odd) years. It too was scheduled for the I-94 highway but ended up being taken for “urban renewal” in a somewhat shady land grab and now hosts a bus garage:

I’m not one to cry over spilled milk; nothing lasts forever. The Highway carries tens of thousands of cars everyday; the bus company provides service for handicapped people throughout the metro. But the house on Emerson, the newest house, was torn down to build more houses of a similar size but cost much more. That the land has remained vacant (and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue over the years) in a time when affordable housing is at a premium does stick in my craw, however.

UPDATE: They have just started building on the old Emerson homestead:

R. Lewis

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

‘64 Epiphone Olympic

This is a real vintage Epiphone, similar to a Gibson Melody Maker, with the addition of two Lace Sensor pickups, new switching, upgraded tuners and properly intonated wrap-around bridge.

The guitar body is thin and light; the aluminum pick guard was added to give the body some weight to counteract the tendency for the neck to “dive.”

Its finish was extremely distressed, it has a matte finish now that hides the numerous dents and gouges.

It has had some professional work done on it, now it plays well, and the noiseless pickups are nice extra.

Here is an Olympic featured in a beautiful YouTube demo:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Wanda Gág Day!

Chillin’ with Wanda

Another year, another post celebrating the birth of Wanda Gág, artist, writer, and all around free spirit, born this day in 1893. Here are some images from her personal photo album.

Wanda (right) and fellow students from art school, circa 1915:

With childhood friend and future biographer Alma Scott, circa 1915:

Wanda with her sister Stella, circa 1915:

Wanda and some of her sisters check out gallery owner Carl Zigrosser, circa 1928:

Wanda with Carl, circa 1933:

Wanda in repose, circa 1933:

More on Wanda…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The End of Winter

View from Flippist World Headquarters, March 9, 2019

It’s over.

Last night’s snow storm an the exclamation point to the most miserable winter I've ever experienced.

The long term forecast has rain, but no more significant snow.

Today I put the snow shovel in the garage.

I put my long wool overcoat in the closet.

Now I can look forward to spring flowers and sunshine.

And floods.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, March 08, 2019

Schitt’$ Creek

David (Dan Levy), Alexis (Annie Murphy), Moira (Catherine O'Hara), Johnny (Eugene Levy), Roland (Chris Elliot)

It is a rare day indeed when The Professor reviews a cable television sit-com.

Schitt’$ Creek is a worthy exception to the rule, this binge-worthy series is as close to perfection as could be imagined, especially considering its flimsy premise. The wealthy Rose family loses nearly everything when their manager absconds with the family’s assets, leaving them with only their clothes and the small town of Schitt’s Creek, which Johnny, the father, had purchased years earlier as a gag gift for his son David. Moira, Johnny’s wife and the mother to David and his self-centered sister Alexis, is a has-been soap-opera star with delusions of grandeur. They are greeted to the town by its mayor, Roland Schitt, grandson of the town’s founder. He puts them up in a run-down motel run by Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire), a gothy thirty-something with a fatalistic sense of humor. As the series progresses the Rose family becomes enmeshed with the small town’s residents and their quirky foibles.

This seems like The Beverly Hillbillies in reverse but is actually a perceptive study of human relations. All of the characters interact with each other in meaningful ways, usually funny but not mean, there is always personal respect. Nothing is played for cheap laughs and there is just enough unpredictability to keep the viewer engaged. The whole cast is great; having Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara working together again is worth the price of admission. Daniel Levy is Eugene’s real-life son, giving their relationship another dimension. He is also the show-runner; his comic sensibility is what sets this show apart.

I picked up seasons one through three at the library, five seasons are available on POP (a cable network) and Netflix, season six is coming next year. Clocking in at a mere 22 minutes per episode they are great for binging.

UPDATE: A Google Search in the format: Schitts Creek S01E01 will give you access to most of the first four seasons episodes, just change the season and episode numbers as needed.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019


Minneapolis, 1970

There is a large train yard in North Minneapolis, not far from where I grew up. When I was young there would often be isolated cars sitting on dead-end spurs, cars that were obsolete or otherwise unneeded. They were a great photo opportunity, although our budget for film was exceedingly small, I’ve only got a couple of negatives remaining of this caboose. It still had some of the furnishings that made it a “home” for train crews, it would have been fun to convert on of these to a lake cabin.

Nowadays, cabooses are a thing of the past; a little radio box on the last car of a train is all that’s needed.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, March 04, 2019


Winter, you have has kicked my proverbial ass.

-15°F this morning, -20°F yesterday morning.

More snow than I’ve ever seen in my life.

Please, I’m begging you.

¡No mas!

You win.

New Minnesota State Flag:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, March 01, 2019

OK Market

The OK Market waits for customers.

Once upon a time the market was a neighborhood center.

A place where one could be replenished, nourished.

Now, a garland of sad pennants festoons its signboard.

In front, colorful tables and chairs invite loiterers.

The posters over the door and the boarded-up windows depict happier times.

A Ghost Market, giving succor to only to its ghosts.

Tucson, 2019

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

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