Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Three Graces

Kaia, Katie and Rebecca,  1996

Aglaia; elegance, brightness and splendor = beauty
Thalia; youth, beauty and good cheer = blossom
Euphrosyne; good cheer, joy and mirth = Delight

According to Greek poet Pindar, these enchanting goddesses were
created to fill the world with pleasant moments and goodwill.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, November 25, 2019


The Diary of a Bookseller
by Shaun Bythell
Profile Books, 2017

Recently, I’ve been researching various modern authors in conjunction with the Iceland Writer’s Retreat.

It has been a chore at times.

The Weaver suggested this book as a break from my self-imposed exile in the wilds of SERIOUS MODERN LITERATURE.

What a joyous discovery!

In 2001 a thirty-year-old Shaun Bythell wandered into a bookstore in a small town in Scotland and struck up a conversation with its owner. The owner persuaded Shaun (who had no prior experience in book-selling) to buy the shop. This book is a diary of a year of buying and selling books, as well as the trials of dealing with a menagerie of misfit employees and bizarre customers and trying to stay afloat amidst the tidal wave of Amazon’s ruthless merchandising practices.

Shaun is a bit of misanthrope, although at times glimmers of affection do break through his crusty Scottish reserve. His tales of each day’s events is often hilarious, and sure to bring smiles of recognition to anyone who has done retail sales. As the title of this post indicates, I did laugh out loud, and many times. An additional plus is that Shaun has a YouTube channel where you can see him, as well as his nemesis/amanuensis Nicky, in their native habitat.

Highest recommendation.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Father Knows Best?

By Dan Kois
Little, Brown and Company, 2019

Dan Kois is a writer (New York Times Magazine) and editor (Slate) who, with his wife and two preteen daughters, went to live for a year in four disparate locations around the world: New Zealand, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Kansas. In 2015 Dan emailed me, asking about “swimming pool culture” in Iceland. He subsequently published an article about it in 2016. While researching that article (in the Vesturbæjarlaug pool—a tough assignment, to be sure), Dan had an epiphany as he observed how an Icelandic family used the pool time to re-connect and decompress. Dan’s own family was living in an “unhappy rut” and, after hearing about the amount of time his Icelandic companions had spent living in other parts of the world with their children, the seed of the year-long experiment in alternate lifestyles was sown.

After much planning (but not nearly enough to avoid some major pitfalls) the Kois rented out their Virginia house and took off to New Zealand for a three month stay. Although the time there was pretty idyllic some family issues, especially between Dan and his older daughter Lyra (who was in the throes of puberty-related rebellion made worse by compulsive internet use) were still there. The younger daughter, Harper, was much more open to the new situations and seemed to thrive.

These problems intensified in Delft, in the Netherlands, particularly in Lyra’s complete rejection of the Dutch approach to education. One positive result of this stay was the gradual dawning on Dan of the awareness of his lack of empathy and his acceptance of the Dutch idea of poldermodel, a system of reaching consensus in a society and, more importantly, within the family. His “dad-ism,”—being the final arbiter—started to develop cracks in its facade.

Their stay in Costa Rica was more in the line of a vacation, much further removed from their life in the U.S.. Lyra seemed to enjoy it more, in that she had fewer responsibilities but, aside from the beauty of the ocean, it was not as stimulating for the family.

The last three months were spent in the small town of Hayes, Kansas, which offered the family its most easy assimilation, but also offered a way of life that was quite different than that which they had experienced in suburban Virginia. As their stay there was nearing its end, Dan considered taking a job in the Bay Area in California. After an interview, Dan realized that although the potential financial rewards were great, it would make the family’s lifestyle even worse than what they had spent a year escaping from.

The sub-themes of the book are about how each society is arranged, with examples in each country of how they are significantly different from the suburban east coast existence they came from: the role of Maori culture in New Zealand, the bicycle culture of Delft, The laissez-faire of Costa Rica’s pura vida and the economic distortions caused by North American retirees, and the preservation of and changes to traditional lifestyles in semi-rural Kansas.

One thing I found particularly noteworthy: Dan, as “the dad” probably underwent the biggest change of all during the trip: from a demanding authority figure to a much more equal partner in the family. And he let Lyra have the last word!


By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


Kudos Film and Television

Broadchurch is an independent UK television mini-series (written by Chris Chibnall) that was made from 2014-2017. It stars David Tennant (as Alec Hardy) and Olivia Colman (as Ellie Miller), two detective inspectors who are thrown together by circumstance when a teen aged boy is found dead on a beach in a small resort town on the south coast of England. As the series progresses the impact of the murder spreads throughout the town; almost no one is spared real anguish. DS Hardy has a back story that shows up as well—he was the lead investigator in a murder/missing person case (in another town), a case that collapsed causing him to be labelled “the worst cop in Britain” by a tabloid. As a police procedural Broadchurch is nothing special; as a drama it is superlative.

Both leads are wonderful actors; the characters they portray are deeply flawed individuals who happen to dislike each other yet manage to hold a mutual sense of respect, albeit grudging. The whole cast is superb, making even the shakiest dialog ring true. The real kicker in this collaboration, however, is the soundtrack by the Icelandic composer Ólafur Árnalds who I was fortunate to see perform at the 2018 Iceland Airwaves. His minimalist classical/electronica music isn’t the most dynamic to hear performed in a concert setting but, when used in a soundtrack, is mesmerizing.

I’m still watching season three—it hasn’t diminished in quality—so I don’t know how it turns out yet. My blog-pal DJ Cousin Mary recommended Broadchurch to me for the soundtrack (thanks Mary!) and it has exceeded my expectations in all aspects.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Weekend in New Ulm

I spent the weekend in New Ulm, Minnesota, an old time town settled by German immigrants in the 1850s who loved their beer (it is still home to Schell’s Brewing,the largest brewery in Minnesota.)  There were exhibits at the Brown County Historical Society that I wanted to see, one about prohibition and the other about the Gag family (more on that one later):

The brewing heritage of New Ulm continued through prohibition when the breweries were forced to make “near beer”, they had to paint over the word “beer” on the cases:

The town has numerous attractive buildings, many of which are still pretty much intact:

An old hotel has been converted to an art center, complete with cabaret:

It was definitely a place to meet and greet for “right-swipers”:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Faded Love

The Christmas of ‘62.

Never were they closer.

Has time has faded their love?

So many years, so many smiles, so many tears.

All of it turned to dust.

But although this memento remains as a light-struck Kodachrome,

It seems to be fading as well.

When this image is gone the love will remain.

Friday Fiction
Found Image

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Nice Things

At the risk of entering the land of Conspicuous Consumption, I present the latest addition to Flippist World Headquarters: A pair of chairs.

Walnut and leather, new, and a far cry from the rest of the wooden furniture in the house (which was mostly gifted, from bargain or thrift stores, or even found at the curb.)

Nice things that complete a corner that has a “designer look.”

Based on a chair that Kennedy once used for a conference, these Scandinavian Modern pieces have a certain timelessness.

A place for morning coffee, a place to engage in civilized discourse.

Civilized, indeed.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Island

A thriller by
Ragnar Jónasson
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Minotaur, 2019

Although this is the second of Jónasson’s “Hulda” novels, it is set before the first one. In 1997, ten years after the death of Katla, a young woman who was found dead at her family’s summer cabin, a group of her friends gather at an isolated hunting lodge on one of the smaller Westman islands off the south coast of Iceland in memory of her. When one of them ends up dead Hulda is brought in and this new death is tied to the old one, including its botched handling by the police.

There is a fair amount of atmosphere (including a trip around Hvalfjarðavegur that I got a personal kick out of) and Ragnar never lets the reader forget where the story is taking place but it isn’t really a “thriller.” It is more of a police procedural. The writing (and translation) is good, but prosaic, this isn’t great literature. The set-up and finale are handled well, but the plot developments are workmanlike.

A good effort but I enjoyed The Darkness, his previous Hulda book, more.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, November 08, 2019

Iceland Airwaves… NO!

If any of you fortunate enough to be attending the 2019 Iceland Airwaves are weary of the music and need a change of pace, Auður of the I Heart Rekjavík website has the answer. Flyover Iceland is a new attraction in the harbour area, I’m sure you can’t miss it. Even if you aren’t in the mood for a fabulous VR trip through the Icelandic countryside, I recommend reading the article anyway. The first half of it is a rumination on the authenticity of the Iceland experience for tourists, Reykjavík in particular. Auður’s site is nominally a travel one but, with her personal touches, she gives her posts a greater depth than is usual in the genre.
UPDATE: This site was a victim of the Covid pandemic, links are broken.

Iceland Airwaves… YES!

Getting back to the Airwaves, here are some videos of JFDR, the most interesting 2019 Airwaves artist I’ve seen on line, first performing and then being interviewed:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Iceland Airwaves Begins!

Opening ceremony: Hjaltalín at Grund:

JFDR performing White Sun at Slippbarinn:

Instagram updates…

Some acts from last year’s Airwaves playing this year as well:

Ateria ~ Hard Rock Café, Saturday, 20:10. Spooky Icelandic teens, not to be missed.

Bláskjár ~ Nordic House, Thursday, 18:15. Sensitive performer and songwriter.

Between Mountains ~ Fríkirkjan, Thursday 19:50, Hard Rock Café, Saturday 21:10.

Hugar ~ Fríkirkjan, Friday, 21:30. Moody tone-poems, very disciplined.

Jóhanna Elísa ~ Bryggjan Brugghús, Thursday 16:00. Accomplished pop singer/keyboardist.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, November 04, 2019

Iceland Airwaves 2019 …

… or, “I’m Not There.”

I wish I was.

The good news is that there are now over twenty off-venues. More good news is that Harpa is not a venue. The not-so-good news is that Þjóðleikhúsið (The National Theater) is not a venue this year—they are staging a musical version of Shakespeare in Love Wednesday the 6th and Sunday the 10th and Halldór Laxness’ Atómstöðin the 7th and 8th (both highly recommended!)

That won’t help you get your Airwaves fix, however. This post might.

 Wednesday is usually a good day to find undiscovered acts. With the exceptions of Gróa at the KEX hostel (16:30), Between Mountains (below) and JFDR at Slippbarinn (17:30, 18:30) and Svavar Knútur (everywhere!) I’m not familiar with them but here is a good guide for the new Icelandic acts (with videos.)

Between Mountains, The Current

Thursday’s off-venue schedule is good again at Slippbarinn  with Sóley (above) at 16:30. A revamped Between Mountains is at Fríkirkjan (19:50) and Hjaltalín commands the stage at the  Reykjavík Art Museum (21:50). If Páll Óskar shows up for a cameo in their set there will be complete pandemonium.

The ever-evolving JFDR will perform in Gamla Bio (22:20):

Friday’s best bets are the line-up at Fríkirkjan in the early evening and Iðno later.

On Saturday afternoon you can catch Ateria (above) at Lóa Bar-Bistro (16:00), not the best venue for three moody teenagers, but they are well worth it (you can also see them at Hard Rock Café at 20:10 followed by Between Mountains at 22:00).  Fríkirkjan’s Saturday night has another solid line-up. The big show is at Vashöllin, a stadium about a kilometer from the city center, where you catch Agent Fresco (20;25) and Of Monsters and Men (23:45), both of whom do great shows. Sólstafir at Iðno (00:00) may be the best metal show of the festival (bring earplugs!):


One off-venue that is listed but not yet scheduled is the senior home Grund. They have had a 10 a.m. show on Wednesday the last couple of years; last year Sóley gave a heroic performance with her dad (and had an introduction by the President of Iceland!) It was the emotional highlight of the festival:

The Minnesota radio station The Current will have live video from Hresso on Friday and Saturday starting at 12:30 GMT (06:30 CST).

Dillon has music for seven days, starting tonight (Monday) and going through Sunday.
Most shows are open but some (Wednesday—Saturday evenings) need a wristband/or admission.

If you have a hankering for Icelandic rockabilly, you can’t do any better than Langi og Skuggarnír, Lucky Records, Thursday, 17:00

KEX Hostel has radio broadcasts by Seattle station KEXP—they are consistently great (and crowded) and start in the afternoon on Tuesday. This year you will need a wristband to attend (come early!)

The Nordic House (south of the pond, across Ringbraut) also has consistently exceptional performances in what is arguably the most intimate venue (Notables: Bláskjár, Thursday, 18:15, Nising, Friday, 15:00.)

Ólöf Arnalds is at Iðno Saturday, 21:00, I saw her there in 2004(!) and in Seattle in 2011. She is a knockout—a triple threat of singing, playing and songwriting. Perhaps she’ll be one of the “special guests” at KEXP, Friday, 21:30?
Full Airwaves schedule is HERE.

(all images from 2018 Iceland Airwaves)

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

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