Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Beat Travel Guide

Big Sur

A novel by Jack Kerouac
Penguin Books, 1992
First published in 1962 by
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

When ever I plan a trip I always like to research it thoroughly. There is a paradoxical relationship between commercial guides and “accidental” ones. While the commercial ones are good at lists, the more outré endeavors give much better impressions. This ersatz travelogue is the penultimate entry in Kerouac’s autobiographical Duluoz Legend, 15 books that chronicle his life from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s. While not usually considered his finest work, Big Sur has flashes of brilliance and displays a greater maturity on the part of the author—relatively speaking. Jack remains the eternal adolescent. As always in Kerouac’s writing the names have been changed but it is easy to find out who’s who.

This novel was written after his great success of On the Road, a fact which plays an important part of the genesis of this book. “Lorenzo Monsanto” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti) is the owner of City Lights (the San Francisco bookstore) who learns of Jack’s troubles with fame and drinking. Lorenzo suggests that Jack exchange his east coast hassles for a bucolic stay at Lorenzo’s Big Sur cabin, about eighty miles south of San Francisco. Jack boards a sleeper train and arrives in California three days later. He immediately goes on a bender with some of his old drinking beat buddies and misses his ride to the cabin. He sobers up, regroups and does finally, in the middle of the night, find the cabin. So begins Kerouac’s flirtation with wilderness.

The novel’s locations alternate between Big Sur (reflective and insightful) and the Bay area (drunken and disheveled.) He finds it hard to endure the solitary life in the Big Sur country but he also finds that his fame distorts his relationships with those people he meets in the city. Jack’s old pal Cody (Neal Cassady) hooks Jack up with one of his mistresses (who has plenty of issues of her own including a disturbed young son.) Jack slides into a disastrous drunken affair with her that ends in a fit of alcohol-fueled paranoia. Fun times.

The best part of the book is when Jack lets loose with his stream-of-consciousness internal monologues—there are some gems—and some very nice nature writing. Kerouac’s DT visions are harrowing, but it is hard to develop much sympathy for such a wastrel.

The verdict is still out on our Big Sur vacation; this book didn’t help any.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Colorful Cars

Last Saturday another car show was held down the block from FITK World Headquarters™, with hundreds of vintage (and not-so vintage, about an even mix of restored, almost restored, and no way near restored) cars.

I had just received a new lens for my Pentax and I thought that this would be the perfect place to try it out.

I’ve seen most of these cars before, but there are always a few “new” ones every time. 

Here is an almost random selection of images, starting with the oddest duck, a Meyers Manx dune buggy with the very unusual hardtop. They are seldom seen outside of their native habitat (Southern California):

The next up is this fabulous 1928 Packard:

It wouldn’t be a car show without a selection of food trucks selling their healthy foods:

This hot rod would probably not pass DOT standards with its open “cowling:”

And there is always a ton of interesting car details  to photograph:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, July 26, 2019

California Dreaming

After last March’s weather debacle it is mandatory that I get out of Minnesota for a while come late winter. I’ve been thinking of a Big Sur, California vacation this winter; the little house pictured below is of prime interest. I had also picked up a book about handmade houses and the owner of the one featured on the cover also happened to be the owner of this one—an omen!

It is definitely unique, with window walls on all sides and a hot tub for soaking under the stars:

A lot of handmade is in this place:

And a sleeping loft (as well as a sleeping yurt!):

It is on the pricier side (although not by Big Sur standards) and its location at the end of an unpaved winding mountain road might entail renting a 4x4.

I got a guide book but it didn’t help much.

I’ll have to sleep on the idea of living this California Dream.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The iPad™ Redux

Note: first posted here July 29, 2009, six months BEFORE the Apple iPad™ was officially released…

In an exclusive FITK scoop, Professor Batty’s clandestine industrial espionage team has uncovered the complete specifications of the much-rumored Apple™ iPad™ computer tablet. Secret operatives in China, Cupertino and West Saint Paul, Minnesota, have pieced together scraps of evidence into a dossier with all of Apple's secrets. The list of features is long, but I thought I'd share a few of the more innovative ones with my faithful readers:

iStink™. Micro-ampules of essential oils are transmitted, via a set of inconspicuous nose plugs to enhance movies, videos, ads and more. Imagine clicking on a restaurant's home page and being able to smell the different menu items! This feature will premiere with a screening of John Water's Polyester!

Teeth Whitener™. Just set the screen at 100% brightness and hold it up to your open mouth. A whiter smile in only 10 days.

iGuru™. Ask it a question and the iPad™ will scour a giant philosophical database, giving you answers to any moral dilemma you may encounter.

Comic Strip™. You are inserted into the daily funnies; just watch the hilarity ensue when little Billy from The Family Circus finds out that he has a cyber-stalker- YOU!

Cyber-thighmaster™. Place the iPad™ on the offending flesh and watch as the cellulite melts away.

Friendster with Benefits™. I'm still testing that application.

Muffin Warmer™. Not to be confused with the previous two apps, the pad will run so toasty that you'll be able to have warm buns anytime you'd like.

I think you get the idea.

This gadget will change life on earth as we know it.

I'd pick up a few shares of Apple stock if I were you.


It is now ten years later and yes, I do have an iPad™.

Apple stock was $23 then.

It is $208 now.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Skater Dater

What to do on a Friday evening when the heat index is well over 100°?

I choose to attend a “Drop In” event at Modist Brewing Co. in the North Loop of downtown Minneapolis. It was sponsored by Rogue Citizen, an art collective.

The art consisted of decorated skateboard decks:

Punk Rock music was supplied by The Birthday Suits:

I think the theology of this t-shirt was probably ironic:

Strong fashion statements were in evidence:

Even some babies were digging the scene (I hope they had hearing protection!):

And, of course, there was beer:

Hilarity did ensue:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Parts Teardrop

Although they do look cool, there is no valid reason for a teardrop shaped guitar.

They are hard to play comfortably, either standing up or sitting down. The wood block on the right side on this one helps a little to keep it from sliding off of one’s lap.

Made from parts from the local music store, with a generic MIC maple neck and tuners.

Triple on-off-on toggle switches, one for each pickup, and master volume and tone controls give this mutant a wide range of tones, if you could actually play it.

Sold in the Great Guitar Purge of 2019.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

More GM

Additional images from my weekend in Grand Marais (click to embiggen):

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Grand Marais 2019

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve been in the jewel of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region.

Always a good time to be had here and (usually) a break from the summer heat. The weather Saturday and Sunday was gorgeous; we made the most of it.

Here a few photographic impressions:

Audie, Sandy and Cory relaxing in the municipal campground:

My old work buddy Don showed up at the Gunflint Tavern, driving up from his retirement home in Two Harbors. A fabric artist showed her felting prowess at the arts fair:


The Rich Lewis Band played under the moonlight:

While a restored schooner plied the smooth waters of the bay during the day:

And the harbormaster kept an keen eye on the proceedings:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Summer Fun

Moon over Lake Superior, Grand Marais, Minnesota

The Weaver and I are in Grand Marais, grooving to the Rich Lewis Band and, hopefully, hanging out with Jono. I’ll post more about this mini-vacation when we return to Flippist World Headquarters—just in time to meet up with my old blog-pal Darien.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Up From the Cellar

My vintage library card catalog has emerged from the bowels of the Flippist World Headquarters™ where it had been hiding for thirty years. Previously full of miscellaneous electronic parts (most of which I sold at a garage sale), it was on its way to Craigslist when the Weaver suggested putting it in her “sitting room.” Its top was damaged but after I refinished it I thought it looked so nice that it has now become a display shelf for some of my ceramic collection.

We haven’t yet decided on what to do with all that storage, although I have already made five drawers into a home for my large cameras (and their lenses and accessories.)

I suspect that if we host some social events in the future the catalog will morph into a buffet/server, with the four shelves (seen between the second and third rows) extended.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ibanez Artcore

Probably the only factory-made guitar I ever owned that was built in the 21st century.

Model #AK-85-DVS-12-01, this MIC beauty is a very good guitar, far better than the similar Gibson ES-175 I had back in the 70s. That said, I did end up replacing the original over-wound pickups (14kΩ!) with a more suitable pair (around 8kΩ.) The amp knobs I added matched the binding better that the original gold knobs and are much easier to ”read”.It was sold in the great 2019 guitar purge.

Here is a very nice “new-agey” demo from YouTube:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, July 08, 2019

Alda's Iceland Update

From long-time FITK correspondent Alda Sigmundsdóttir comes this radio interview (produced by RÚV English) wherein she discusses the country’s current issues including cessation of whaling, housing, and the current tourism downturn and the recession that has occurred.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, July 05, 2019

Got To Be Something Here

The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound
By Andrea Swensson
Minnesota Historical Society Press

Yet another book about the Minneapolis music scene! That makes three this year (along with First Avenue and Hijinx and Hearsay).

Got to Be Something Here centers primarily on the black music pioneers leading up to and beyond Prince. It is well researched; many of the venues and acts I had personal knowledge of. Swensson doesn’t miss a beat in her coverage of the times and struggles of this flowering of culture in Minnesota in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Many thanks to Darien (Rose) from Virginia who discovered it and recommended it to me.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Silent Fireworks

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, July 01, 2019

Hijinx and Hearsay

Scenester Stories From Minnesota’s Pop Life
Text by Martin Keller
Photographs by Greg Helgeson
Minnesota Historical Society Press

This handsome book chronicles pop culture in Minnesota in the 70's and 80s. It was a heady time for local music (Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, Prince, Dylan) as well as for the burgeoning comedy scene (Joel Hodgson, Louie Anderson, Lizz Winstead). Keller and Helgeson covered it all, as well as visits with numerous stars (John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, James Brown), stars-to-be (U2, Devo, Elvis Costello) and local legends (Willie Murphy, Steve Kramer, and Koerner, Ray and Glover). Even some literary giants (William Burroughs, Garrison Keillor, Tim Carr) make an appearance in its pages. I picked up a copy directly from the authors, they were having a book signing at The Schooner, a neighborhood “dive bar” (in the best sense of the word) that is becoming a cultural oasis of late. Martin Keller was always supportive of the groups I worked with during that time; he was one of the few (there were two!) writers who consistently covered the local scene.

There was another local legend in attendance at the Schooner as well: the notorious Jiggs Lee who has been performing in the area since the 1960s in such groups as The Grasshoppers, The Bananas (while wearing a yellow suit with brown buttons!) and, most successfully, Cain. Jiggs was in fine form last Friday, playing with his latest group, The Jiggs Lee Invasion, playing mostly covers of obscure tracks from The British Invasion bands of the sixties. They ended the first set with the Yardbird’s rave up Over Under Sideways Down. At the break I asked Mr. Lee if he had been at the group’s legendary department store concert in 1966.

Of course he had.

Jiggs Lee, June 28, 2019

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

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