Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dreaming of Work

I retired from my job at a photo lab in 2013.

In my dreams, however, I’m still there, still trying to make deadlines, still fixing machines, still trying for closure. Working in a photo lab was a common occupation until about ten years ago; the digital revolution in photography was a game changer. I saw the writing on the wall as early as 2000 in Las Vegas at a trade show and when the smart phones came in in 2008, along with the rise of FaceBook, that was a one-two punch that finished the job. By 2012 there was not much demand for the kind of work I had been doing and the lab closed soon after. It went as well as could be hoped and I’ve never regretted retiring, but I can’t stop dreaming about it once or twice a week.

Here are some shots of the lab and some of its workers from that era for your perusal; the stuff dreams are made of, starting off with the legendary Don Olson:
Next up is the equally legendary Nicole Houff:
And the divine Ms. M works the counter:
In the backroom, framing and chemical storage:
And, finally, YT with a window promotion (the last display just before closing) featuring the professor’s favorite Icelandic girl-group:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Mondays in Iceland - #108

Peculiar Postcards

Old-fashioned film views of my favorite island.

Perlan, March 2000:
Aluminum Processing Facility, April 2004:
Nautholsvík, April, 2004:
Much more on Iceland

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Tim Maleeny

The Cape Weathers Investigations

Stealing the Dragon
Beating the Babuska
Greasing the Piñata
Boxing the Octopus

Jump (stand-alone)

by Tim Maleeny

These 21st-century-San Francisco-novels are armchair tourist delights. In the Cape Weathers series the protagonist is an ex-reporter-turned-investigator who operates out of a one-man office overlooking The Embarcadero. Although set in the recent present, the writing style is strictly old-school. Cape’s one-liners and his repartee with the other characters would fit right in with Dashiell Hammett, with a liberal helping of Elmore Leonard added to the tasty mix.

Stealing the Dragon starts the series off with a bang—a freighter with a human cargo of refugees crashes into Alcatraz island, setting into motion a yarn of intrigue involving a shadowy Chinese crime dynasty with flashbacks to a ninja school and modern excursions into the underworld of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Beating the Babuska finds Cape working for a movie studio that may be involved in a rival gang war between Italian, Chinese and Russian mobsters. In Greasing the Piñata Cape visits Mexican drug lords, while Boxing the Octopus explores corrupt high finance, an octopus is one of the supporting characters!

Cape has help from supporting cast of interesting recurring characters: Sally, a lesbian ninja; Linda, a electro-phobic reporter, The Sloth, an unlikely computer expert; and Beau and Vincent, SFPD homicide investigators who reluctantly put up with Capes shenanigans. The plots are tight, the action moves along at a brisk clip (James-Bondish at times) and the writing is clean. All of them feature San Francisco as a backdrop and, if the story does leave the city for a while (especially in Greasing), I found myself waiting for its return to the bay area. These are each about 300+ pages—maybe a little long for an airplane flight but just about the right length for a rainy weekend read. Literary fast food.

Jump, the stand-alone, stars the recently retired cop Sam cop who is drawn into an investigation when his landlord apparently commits suicide by jumping from the fire escape of his building. This is very black and grisly comedy, with every quirky tenant on his floor a suspect and a shady drug lord thrown into the mix. This is a trashy, sleazy novel with no literary nutritional values—in other words: a perfect waste of time.

Qualified recommendations.

More Tales of the City

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021


“Sorry… you did not reveal yourself to be human.”

The other day I received the above message on my phone’s answering machine.

It was left by a robocaller.

Now my answering machine feels bad.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#107

Reykjavík — Old Harbour – 2004
Much more on Iceland

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, March 19, 2021

In Situ - #3

An oriental theme for today’s excursion into the Flippist Art Collection™:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Cary Grant Box Set

Only Angels Have Wings
The Talk of the Town
His Girl Friday
The Awful Truth

A serendipitous trip to the thrift store left me in possession of a five-film Cary Grant box set. These were the films Grant made for Columbia Studios in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Restored, they look and sound good (why do 80 year-old movies have more legible dialog than modern films?) They are all great, each in its own way.
Holiday (1938), a George Cukor remake of a hit 1928 play by Philip Barry, paired Grant with a young Katherine Hepburn who is the kid sister of the woman (Doris Nolan) who is pledged to wed Grant. Sparks fly when Grant and Hepburn are on the screen together, it is only a matter of when, not if, these two finally get together. For an adapted play, the camerawork and direction is excellent and only a little bit stagey. The dialog is clever, the acting superb.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939), directed by Howard Hawks, is a gritty action film set in South America. Grant runs a two-bit airline, trying to make a buck any way he can. A freighter drops Jean Arthur off and she becomes a romantic foil for the hard-bitten Grant. This macho melodrama also contains hints of homo-eroticism. In the middle of the film a smoldering Rita Hayworth (as Grant‘s ex) arrives and almost sets the film on fire. Grant’s character is much darker here than in his usual roles. Moody and very atmospheric with great aerial sequences, this is a real curio, early aviation buffs with get a kick out of it.
The Talk of the Town (1942), is a comedy that veers into social commentary; its look at politics, law, and justice remains timely. Grant is a fugitive from trumped up charges when he seeks refuge with Jean Arthur and is joined by Ronald Colman, playing a law professor who seeks quiet and solitude to write a book. George Stevens directs, a little heavy-handed at times, but balances comedy and drama well. A bit of man-love shows up here between the professor and his black servant. Grant shows his darker side here as well.
His Girl Friday (1940), also directed by Howard Hawks, is an absolute masterwork. A loose remake of the stage play Front Page, it is a dizzying madcap farce with Grant as a newspaper editor and Rosalind Russell as his ex who also happens to be his best reporter in what was then a man’s job. Great supporting cast and the dialog is a mile-a-minute, filled with brilliant word-play. The camera work and editing is also extremely advanced for its era. If you only see one of these films, this is the one to watch.
The Awful Truth (1937), directed by Leo McCarey and star Irene Dunne as Grant’s separated-but-not-yet-divorced wife. McCarey was a veteran of slapstick comedy (he put Laurel and Hardy together as a team!) and this is the frothiest of these movies. Some great physical humor by Grant and Dunne is a perfect foil who gives as good as she gets.

A common thread throughout these films is the way Grant interacts with his female costars. The interplay he has with each of them is worth the price of admission (in my case $3 for five films!) Romantic relationships in these films are subtle, a quality that has been often lost in subsequent years, yet these interactions seem fresh and modern.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Mondays in Iceland - #106

More Rúntur action:

Reykjavík, Austurstræti, October 10, 2015

Much more on Iceland

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Wanda Gág Day!

While primarily known for her children’s books and lithographs, Wanda also experimented with painting and watercolors. These two gouaches were recently sold at auction and while the prices were a little above my art budget, they were very tempting. Actually, the buyers premium by itself was beyond my budget. These were from the late 1920s, when she was living in “Tumble Timbers”, a rural farm house in New Jersey.

The pair sold for twice the expected estimate!

After I wrote this post I received word from FITK reader “Bosco” that he had recently obtained an original Gág oil painting in an estate sale in Minneapolis:
I had seen it before:

Much more on Wanda

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Morality Play

In my single days, I had a platonic friendship with a young woman.

We were both in the midst of escaping from unsatisfactory relationships and, for some reason, hit it off. It may have succeeded because we shared a sense of humor and that we weren't lovers (that seems to make things a lot easier). She was somewhat younger and hadn’t yet established her roots; I recall that she lived in a variety various places; on any given day I would never know where she was staying.

One place where she did reside for a short time was at the house of one of her aunts in Northeast Minneapolis (I think it may have been in estate proceedings and her relatives were glad to have someone house-sit). While there she asked me to come over to hang out and “talk”. She liked to talk. A lot. I would follow along, and occasionally her monologue would morph into an actual conversation between the two of us. I was learning to listen. In the background a late-night rerun of Alfred Hitchcock Presents was on TV, the little morality plays it presented often influenced direction our discussion. After the show I reluctantly had to take my leave, but I knew that we'd interact again.

And we did: as neighbors, housemates, and numerous other adventures. The memory of night spent with her and Alfred Hitchcock never left me. I learned from that episode and despite my years of waywardness did slowly evolve into something resembling a human being.
I still see her every year or so and she is always up for a “chat.”

I am still ready to listen.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, March 08, 2021

Mondays in Iceland - #105


The Icelandic term Rúntur means going downtown at night and people-watching or, more broadly speaking, hanging out:

Reykjavík, Austurstræti, October 10, 2015
Reykjavík, Austurstræti, October 10, 2015

Much more on Iceland

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, March 05, 2021

In Situ - #2

More art from Flippist World Headquarters:
The mantle clock (on top of the modern mantle-the TV cabinet) is a real Art Nouveau piece, probably from around 1890-1910. It has a French movement in what is most likely an English case. It keeps good time! Next to it is a Jan Mitchell art glass plate, Jan works out of Christiansted, USVI, we’ve got another.
This fearsome viking-head candle holder is a real Icelandic curio, from the noted Listvinahúsið studio. This is more of a tourist trade item, but they also do art pieces. It seems at home among some of my Icelandic-themed books.

As long as we are in Iceland, our kitchen wall is graced with a Má Mí Mó fur-trimmed purse, circa 2004. Its maker, Guðlaug Halldórsdóttir, is still designing fanciful creations:
The background piece is a vintage Icelandic weaving, possibly a seat cover for a bench. All the colors of the Icelandic fall countryside are in it.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Audio Artifacts…

… of my misspent youth.

Case in point: Oh So Soul

An offshoot of The Explodo Boys, a group that was mentioned here many times. Today I’ll be featuring a few cuts culled from Oh So Soul’s last performance. First is Waiting at the Station, a “train song” written by Allen Toussaint, featuring Dan Rowles on lead vocal (and drums!):

Second is Saturday Night Fish Fry, a Louis Jordan song featuring a vocal by Max Ray:

And, wrapping things up, The Babywalk, a Jimmy Derbis original:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, March 01, 2021

Mondays in Iceland - #104

Hallgrímskirkja is the most notable landmark in Reykjavík.

It would be hard not to see it from any open spot in the city or its surrounds. This gives the casual walker an enormous advantage over almost any other city. If if you become lost, you can always use this formidable spire to reconnect with the city center. The subject of innumerable postcards and tourist snaps. It was quite controversial when it was being constructed; the more conservative elements in the church thought it was too ostentatious, too proud. Now, however, it is hard to imagine the city without it.

If more provincial minds had prevailed there would probably be an anonymous glass-sided hotel there now.

Much more on Iceland

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

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