Monday, November 29, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#131

Photo/Essay Exhibit
Image: Dan Dustin

In October of 2005 I assembled an art exhibit at a local community college.

The photographs were taken on my 2004 visit to Iceland. Many of them have been featured here on FITK Mondays in Iceland posts and also used as illustrations for the serial novels and other posts. A thing that made this show different from most others was the inclusion of blog posts by “Audi” a young Icelandic woman. Her blog was titled A Woman Without a Man… and these “essays” covered a variety of her experiences and her reflections on issues that faced her and other modern women. The show was well-received but my pictures were definitely upstaged by Audi’s posts. Here is one of them, reproduced as close as I can make it in HTML:


February 6, 2004

About a girl

23 years ago, minus about 29 hours, a young woman was giving birth right here in Reykjavík. She had been due a week before but the stubborn creature inside of her refused to come out. She was 24 herself and she already had a 8 year old son. The boy was a handful although he was an amusing child. He had been known to drop in for a cuppa with all the old ladies in the neighborhood to discuss the state of the world and told them stories of his father the rock star. His father was no rock star but he stuck by his story and made all the other little boys green of envy. The young woman had hoped that the new child would be a bit calmer but little did she know. Her life as she knew it ended that day.

The new baby, a big and strong girl, started her adventurous life with a bang when a nurse at the delivery room messed up a simple task of measuring the babies temperature resulting that the child was stuck at the hospital for 10 days. While growing up the girl managed to break all her fingers on the right hand in two incidents, fall a few meters down a stair and land on her eye, cut her leg pretty badly and get so many holes on her head that her dad had bought a first aid kit to keep at the house cause the medical bills were getting too high. Her great-grandmother taught her to read when she was five cause she had gotten sick and tired of reading out loud the subtitles to the Muppet show and soon after that the girl demanded that she would be taught to do simple math as well. The very patient great-grandmother did exactly that and by the time the girl started school she was way ahead of her peers.

The little girl soon developed a deep caring for others and her teachers told her parents one day that if there was someone left out at the class the little girl always made sure they were taken in to the group again. She was a friend to the little people and helped the ones who were slower at the books. Another thing that would be her trademark through out her life was clear at these early years. Out of all the children in her class she befriended a half Italian boy who had just moved back after living his whole life in Italy. This was the first foreigner in the little girl's life and surely not the last.

The little girl turned into a teenager and somehow lost her direction in life. She floated almost unseen through her teenage years and in the end she fled away from her island to look for herself. Her adventures were her way to flee the reality of her own life but she soon realized that she could run but she could not hide. At 22 she was faced with no secondary education, a job that sucked the life out of her and debts and shit up to her ears. Drowning in her own life she made a decision. She was not going to be one of those people who never live up to their potentials. She was going to be somebody, she just didn't know who yet. This morning for the first time in a long time she woke up smiling.

And tonight she's going to go to sleep again still smiling.



Audi mumbled at 01:37

By Professor Batty


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Friday, November 26, 2021

Tom’s Precision

He was a friend of a girl-friend.

I was fifteen and eager to explore the world beyond the 4th ward liquor-control limits. I was hanging with some Near-Northsiders. Tom was a guitarist, he said he had played with The Del Counts, the third-most successful North-side Minneapolis band, but couldn’t be in the band because he was only in eighth grade! This was over a decade before Prince, when The Trashmen were #1 and The Underbeats were #2. He was younger than me, but knew a lot more songs. His specialty was Chuck Berry riffs, he would reel them off—one after another—almost like the record.

One time I was hanging out with my girlfriend and he stopped in and invited me over to his house. He had something that he thought I should see.

We got to his house (I left my girlfriend behind at her house) and went upstairs to his room. He reached under his bed and pulled out a guitar case. The was no ordinary case—it was bigger—and covered in “Fender Tweed”, a lacquered fabric, with leather wraps on the ends. Opening it, I saw a real Fender Precision Bass guitar. It was very cool, and far more expensive than I could afford on my lawn-mowing earnings. How he managed to buy it as an eight-grader was a mystery; the secretive way he displayed it made me think that it might have been stolen.

The girlfriend broke up with me soon after, maybe she was jealous of my interest in Tom. She played guitar too, but not as good as him. I quit going to that neighborhood, but I did run into Tom a few years later. I had graduated from High School by then, and I went over to see a band practice, I knew the drummer. By that time musical styles had changed, but Tom hadn’t. He was still playing his Chuck Berry riffs, but with precision.

I don’t know what happened to that particular bass, although Fender Precision basses of that era sell for up to five figures now.

By Professor Batty


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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Cocktails, Anyone?

It had been months since I had purchased a music CD.

And then I got the “Exotica” bug.

Exotica is a loosely-defined genre, it arose after WWII, featuring vaguely oriental or pacific islander musical themes, a fair amount of Latin and even some African influences, all thrown into a simmering musical stew of percussion and provocative vocalizations. It was popular with bachelors, played in their “pads” on their new hi-fi systems. By the mid 60s it had devolved, morphing back into the MOR pop genres from whence it had emerged. The genre has been around the block a few times, most notably in the mid 1990s, when Capitol Records introduced their Ultra-Lounge series of CDs (and digital download albums.) Some are better than others—there is usually a clinker or two on each one—and usually an outlier or two but, overall, I find them enjoyable. I could probably find a Spotify channel for this, but part of the fun is getting used to a particular CD and the way it is sequenced.

Each CD comes with a little booklet describing the music and the artists who performed it, as well as some cocktail recipes. I wish I could partake, but the imbibing of spirits has never been my strong suit, especially not with the addition of sugary syrups.

I got most of the series via Amazon but the other day I was at the thrift store where they had four large bins of CDs on a cart, waiting to be shelved. It was a plethora of easy-listening jazz and sprightly pop instrumentals, with many of the same artists that were featured on my Ultra-Lounge CDs. I picked out several titles and when I went to inspect the discs I noticed that, on the inner tray of all of them, was an address label.

When I got home I looked up the name on the label and found an obituary. He was about the same age as me when he died a few years ago, his heirs must have finally dumped his collection of hundreds of titles.

That cocktail party is over.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, November 22, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#130

Miscellany

Fríkirkjan in the Twilight:
Reykjavík University, Nauthóll campus:
The Majestic Harpa:
And a Very Chilly Tour Group:

By Professor Batty


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Friday, November 19, 2021

Nordic Fashion Redux



While I was in Seattle in 2011, the Nordic Heritage Museum was hosting the Nordic Fashion Biennale (NFB). Designers from Iceland, Greenland, The Faroes, Denmark, Norway and Sweden moved their wildly diverse creations into the museum for a six week run. When I say moved into, I mean right into the existing museum exhibits! Curated by New York–based visual and performance artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir (AKA "Shoplifter"), the resulting show was often amusing, sometimes sublime, and always fascinating. Many of the modern designer fashions fit right into the depictions of immigrant life from the 19th century:



The model on the left is based on the Faroese novel Barbara:



Vivid colors contrasting with subtle tones:



While some fashions were a bit more outré:



And others were downright scary:



Everybody can use a new pair of shoes:



Some were simply stunning:



Even the Patchwork garments had pizzazz:



I've been on a Faroes kick lately and was pleased to find that they were well represented here:



The Seattle area is home to the greatest number of people of Icelandic descent in the United States. The museum is located in the Ballard district, where large numbers of Norwegians, Swedes and Danes also settled and that heritage still exerts a strong influence. The integration of fashion into history reflects this heritage in the best possible way—full of imagination and with a sense of humor—retaining the connection between the past and present.


Originally posted November 2011

By Professor Batty


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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The City That Hates Children’s Art

A city in Minnesota has banned children’s chalk art from its sidewalks.

Words fail.

The news report in full: Hopscotch Banned: New Anoka Ordinance Bans Chalk Art on City Property

This is where I live.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, November 15, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#129

Hand Knits and Wool
Wool and Iceland have been synonymous for over a millenium, vaðmál was the equivalent of currency in the late middle ages, lopi wool from Icelandic sheep is still prized for its warmth and moisture resistance in lopapesya, the iconic Icelandic sweater.
There are several outlets for real Icelandic knit goods in Iceland, the most notable is Handprjónasamband Islands at Skólavörðustígur 19. One caveat: there are Chinese knock-offs being sold in Iceland, make sure you get the originals!
There are factory-stores for Icelandic wool and knits: Álafoss, in Mosfellsbær:
And Gamla Þingborg, a quaint store in the countryside a few km east of Selfóss, well worth the trip into the countryside:

By Professor Batty


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Friday, November 12, 2021

Bucket List

Edinburgh Golf Club, Brooklyn Park, MN

I’ve never been much for formal social events.

When I was a child my father would bring me to various “dinners” the point of which which were always beyond me. I did meet Fran Tarkenton once, so I guess that counts for something.

Lately, and perhaps this is a by-product of my dotage (or just a restlessness to get out of the house after months of isolation), I have found that these kind of affairs have a renewed appeal. When I learned that an acquaintance of mine was to be inducted into my high school’s hall of fame at a banquet at a swanky golf club I jumped at the opportunity.
The event was held at the clubhouse on a golf course that had been built about twenty years ago with delusions of grandeur—it was supposed to be a Scots-style links course, but instead of natural undulating sand dunes, the holes had been built over an old land-fill, a place where my father and I would haul our trash when I was a child. These trips were a two-way street: finding neat stuff and picking up things that were educational—I once found a copy of Horatio Alger’s Tom the Bootblack, a classic piece of literature that introduced me to the Victorian-era concept of man-boy love.

Pardon the regressions.

The banquet went well and I even connected with a few people, including the sister of a favorite class-mate who was just as delightful as her sibling. There were even a couple of teachers in attendance comprising a very small group by now.

“Another thing off my bucket list,“ I joked to a friend who was there, “The only thing left on mine now is KFC:


A different sort of banquet, to be sure.

By Professor Batty


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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Fun with Dick and Joan and Bob and Mimi

Positively 4th Street
The Life and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña
A history by David Hajdu, 2001

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me
A novel by Richard Fariña, 1966

Whew! Here is a double flashback of 60s culture that should stir the memories of aging hippies (but I can’t imagine what a young person might get out of reading these two books.) Of the four people in the title of the Hajdu book, Bob Dylan is by far the most famous. Before he was famous as a folksinger, however, Joan Baez was. She encouraged Bob to the point of bringing him onstage at her concerts. Another acquaintance of Bob’s at the time was Richard (Dick) Fariña, a college dropout turned writer-folkie who was married to Carolyn Hester, another folksinger. Joan knew Richard and introduced him to Bob, and her younger sister Mimi. This foursome became close, Bob was attracted to Mimi from the start, but 25-year-old Richard was absolutely smitten, divorcing Hester and marrying Mimi when she was only 17 and still in high school! Bob and Richard were friendly to a degree—Richard envied Bob’s musical prowess and Dylan was intrigued by Richard’s success as a writer. Joan kept a close eye on the other three; she was jealous of the way Mimi’s natural beauty attracted Bob and she was wary of the ‘wild’ Richard and made sure that he didn’t do anything to hurt her younger sister.

Joan’s career had reached its peak at the time Dylan’s was taking off. Meanwhile, Mimi and Richard had begun to have some success as a performing and recording duo. Dylan eventually split with Joan but in 1966 Mimi and Richard’s idyllic life together was torn asunder by Richard’s death in a motorcycle accident—two days after the publication of his debut novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.

Been Down is a roller-coaster of a novel. Its protagonist, Gnossos, is a off-again on-again student at a college in upstate New York (based on Cornell) who evidently attends on a some kind of trust/scholarship (“the exemption”), supplementing his income with gambling and living on paregoric (opium), marijuana, mescaline, Red Cap ale, and hard liquor. He is a non-stop hustler who careens from one misdemeanor to another, punctuated by various felonies. His behavior with women is reprehensible, but still they seek him out. Throughout the book Fariña casts his gaze at America—all the tropes of the late 60s counter-culture are here—but seen from the late 1950s, including a trip to Havana just before Castro’s takeover.

This book was not well-reviewed when it was first released. The language is used as an impressionist collage; it is as far from The Iowa Writer’s Workshop as one can get (which is a big plus for me.) Been Down does have its fans, Thomas Pynchon (who was a classmate of Fariña’s) wrote a glowing introduction to the 1983 Penguin Classic edition and his description of Gnossos could be a description of Richard himself:
… he’s really too much in love with being alive, with dope, sex, rock n roll—he feels so good he has to take chances, has to keep tempting death, only half—realizing that the more intensely he lives, the better the odds of his number finally coming up.
Book of these books are imperfect; Hajdu goes out on a limb from time to time, and Fariña’s writing is definitely not for every taste. But reading them back-to-back they give an in-depth look at one of the most interesting figures of the early-to-mid 1960s. Fariña was a link between the beats and the hippies, between Burroughs and Hunter Thompson, between Kerouac and Brautigan. He had real success as a lyricist and his recordings with Mimi are a precious time-capsule from a simpler era.

Almost everyone knows how Dylan’s career played out, and Joan has found new fans among younger audiences. Mimi had a rough time of it after Richard’s death, but she did resume her musical career and found a new one as promoter of benefit concerts until she died in 2001.

Here is the recording of Mimi and Richard’s biggest ‘hit’ :



And here is the reason I became so interested in them (click on the description in the link.) The Weaver and I will spend our winter vacation there!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, November 08, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#128

Borgarleikhúsið Lobby
The “city theater” in Reykjavík is located adjacent to the Kringland shopping mall, it presents a variety of plays throughout the winter season (September-May). It has scaled back a bit since the Covid epidemic but there are productions still being staged, although Covid restrictions can change things rapidly in such a small population. You’ll need Google translate to navigate the site, and have to email to reserve tickets; online ordering requires a Kennitala (Icelandic ID #)
The theater experience really starts in the lobby, the theater’s open, multi-level lobby is great for people-watching:
I took the above shots in the lobby in 2018, just before seeing a record-breaking performance of The Rocky Horror Show:

By Professor Batty


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Friday, November 05, 2021

Gloria Wood

My musical explorations sometimes lead to bizarre destinations.

Gloria Wood is one of them.

She was a true voice artist, a singer with a four octave range and a talent for mimicry.

She sang with big bands in the 1940s (she sang The Woody Woodpecker Song with Kay Kyser), and did an enormous amount of voice work in the 50s and 60s (over 2,000 commercials between 1955 and 1958:—hers was the voice of Rice-a-Roni jingles!)

Gloria released a series of novelty recordings in the 1950s including Hey Bellboy! which was reportedly a big seller but somehow I had never heard it. Here it is, but with this caveat: it is an insidious ear-worm and has a chorus that is absolutely demented—ONCE HEARD IT CANNOT BE UNHEARD—you have been warned:



She was capable of straight renditions as well, as this track with the legendary Wingy Manone (from 1946) shows:



In the 1960s Gloria did a lot of overdubbing in the movies, including singing for Marilyn Monroe (River of No Return) and Vera-Ellen (White Christmas).

By Professor Batty


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Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Small Town Talk

One Two Three

A novel by Laurie Frankel
Henry Holt & Company, 2021

This was a most welcome break from the formulaic detective/thrillers I’ve been reading as of late.

The Mitchell triplets: Mab, Monday, and Mirabel, are teen-aged triplets who live in the small town of Bourne, location not specified. Just before they were born a chemical plant (that had been polluting the town’s air and water) had shut down and the company that owned it left the town to wither and die, wallowing in the poisons that it had created. Nora, the girls’ mother, had started a class-action suit against the company which had gone nowhere in the past sixteen years. Nora is also a therapist of sorts, and a part-time barkeeper, and a baker (which are forms of therapy as well.) Everyone else in the town seems resigned to their fate, and the town has grown more and more insular—no one moves in or out—unless it is via death due to health issues caused by the pollution.

The novel is constructed from the parallel narratives of the triplets: chapters from “One” (Mab), “Two” (Monday), and “Three” (Mirabel) alternate, giving the reader a diverse and overlapping look at the story. The three girls have distinctly different “voices” that reflect their personalities, a trick which Frankel uses to great effect and sometimes quite humorously. The girls overhear people talk and compare notes later, this three-as-one property gives them an advantage in dealing with the townsfolk and the problems they share. The secondary characters are vividly drawn and give a human dimension to the proceedings, counteracting what occasionally becomes a polemic by Frankel on the evils of unfettered capitalism. The plot is kick-started by the arrival of The Templetons, a family whose patriarch owns the plant and returns to start it up again, claiming he will fix the problems it created the first time. The whole town is energized by this development; the prospect of a return to prosperity is counter-weighted by the awful legacy of the chemical plant and distrust of Templeton’s integrity. This book has a ton of plot which needs to be dealt with causing the writing to be creaky at times. It does have is a bang-up finish, however, although it is not realistic and somewhat unsatisfying if you look too closely.

Qualified recommendation: great structure and characters,  awkward writing at times.

By Professor Batty


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Monday, November 01, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#127

Sandholt Bakery
I’m not a big fan of fancy baked goods; my sweet-tooth burned out years ago. That said, I found that the Sandholt Bakery (and Eatery) in downtown Reykjavík is well worth a visit. It is part of a complex of buildings which includes a luxury hotel, a men’s clothing store, and even the birthplace of my favorite Icelandic author. The food there is scrumptious and, if you get a seat near the back, you can watch the bakers at work:
Despite my scruples, I did manage to squeeze in this baked treat:

By Professor Batty


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