Friday, December 31, 2021

House Party - Part VII

Friday Fiction
The party had been a success.

Tom was sitting alone, enjoying a glass of cognac. The fairy lights cast a gentle glow over the patio. Everyone had gone but the buzz from the night’s music and talk still rang in his ears.

“Hey!” said Irene as she walked out where Tom was sitting, “Aren’t you the sophisticate, out here, enjoying a digestif?”

“Busted,” said Tom, “I thought I saw you leave. Are you the only one left, ‘I’?”

“It is I, and only I, and you’re stuck with me.” Irene‘s eyes glittered as she spoke, “I was sitting in my car. Thinking about how it would be nice not to have to drive home, so I came back in. What does a girl have to do to get a drink around here?”

Tom went into the kitchen and filled her a tulip glass of Hines.

“It’s not Blatz, but this spirit does have a royal warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II… ”

“I figured you had room… ” she said with a smirk, “But… that thing that you’re thinking right now… no.”

“Beware of Widows,” said Tom, “That’s Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, some advice I’ve taken to heart, and you’ve managed to resist my formidable charms for more than forty years, I’m sure you’ll be able make it through one more night.”

Tom and Irene had both lost their spouses; it had been three years for Tom and five years for Irene. Neither one had remarried; they had remained friends but it never went any further than that.

“Are you still grieving?” said Irene, turning serious.

"No, not much grieving, June’s death was a great loss, but our marriage was good to the end. You can’t mourn that. She isn’t suffering anymore,” said Tom, “How about you? Any prospects?”

“I’m happily unmarried. Karl was a good man, and he gave me his all. I couldn’t replace him… but I’m doing OK.”

There was a pause in the conversation.

“This is a nice place,” said Irene, “Modern. I don’t know if I could live in a house like this. I like my ‘granny house.’

“I probably bought this place to make a break with the past. That old house was a big part of my life-story, but that chapter is closed now. It does show up in my dreams now, it never did when I lived there.”

“I can appreciate that, once in a while the duplex where where we lived in North Minneapolis years ago show up in mine.”

Tom laughed.

“You too? Do you have any ‘secret room’ dreams of that place?”

“I’ve dreamt of discovering a third floor, fully furnished, I wonder what that means?” said Irene, “Some unresolved issues from my past, probably?”

“Well they aren’t as disturbing as my dreams of my exes.”

“Sex dreams!”

“No, but that’s a funny thing. My sex dreams are of women I haven’t had sex with. Definitely some unresolved issues with the past, there.”

“Hm… I must be included in that lot… What ever it is you’re thinking now, STOP!”

They both laughed.

“I don’t dream of my exes,” said Irene, “But I do think about them sometimes.”

“Regrets?”

“My only regrets are of the time I wasted being miserable with them.”

“How many of them are still alive?”

“Well… you know Rod, he’s still out in Brooklyn, but the others I’ve lost track of, I suppose I could look them up, but no, I’m not going to,” said Irene, “How about you? Or maybe I shouldn’t be asking?”

“No, that’s all right. My college girlfriend, Wren, has been dead for over twenty years now, you never met her, I think about her.”

“How about that woman you were living with when we started hanging out together?”

“Denise? She’s a retired attorney, she called me once about thirty-five years ago. A ten-minute phone conversation was enough to remind me why I had broken up with her.” Tom was quiet for a minute. “There was someone else… Zina. She came with me to one of the parties that Eddy threw at his old place off Franklin. The ‘fry baby’ party. You might remember her.”

“I remember the party, It was pretty rowdy. But she doesn’t ring a bell, what was she like?”

“She was petite, dark hair, mousy. I met her when I was working for the city. I think that party terrified her. I ended that affair badly.”

“I never thought of you as a heart-breaker. Do you have any pictures of her?”

“Just one. It’s a photo of her naked, talking on the phone. I’m not much of a phone person, but she had several ‘phone friends’ who she never talked about. We never did too much talking, anyway. Not when our clothes were off, which they usually were when we were together. But she would always answer the phone, no matter what stage of intimacy we were in. After a couple of months of this I could see that our relationship was going nowhere; I broke it off. I was hanging around with you girls then, you were a lot more fun. I got a new job and a couple of weeks later she called me, she begged me to come back. I said no. She was crying. That was the last time we spoke.”

“Have you thought about looking her up again?”

“Just a cursory internet search. Her name is pretty unusual, but I got nothing, even if I had found her, what would be the upside?”

They sat in silence for a while.

“You were always an upside for me,” said Tom, “You helped me straighten myself out, and when I met and married June you and ‘the gals’ were always supportive and invited her into your circle as well.”

“I don’t know about me being an ‘upside’, I was just looking for a way to become something, something besides being some man’s girlfriend; a possession; like his car. You guys in the band helped me too. I finally figured out that there was no upside in fucking assholes. Did I just say that? I think it’s time ‘I’ went to bed.”

“You can have the guest bedroom, at the end of the hall. The bathroom next to it should have everything you might need. Breakfast is self serve in the kitchen… whenever.”

After Irene left Tom turned off the patio lights. In a couple of minutes, after his eyes had adjusted to the dark, he could see stars peeking through the trees. He raised his glass to the heavens and spoke:

“Here’s a toast to all the lovers: the brokenhearted; the unrequited; the lost; each one a lonely star adrift in the infinite cosmos of humanity.”



                                             THE END



More short fiction on FITK…

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Year End Close-out

2021 is almost over. Anyone want to re-live it?

Things have been pretty low-key this year at Flippism World Headquarters (shown above). This blog keeps sputtering on like an old car with multiple mechanical issues. It still gets from point A to point B, however, and I still get my daily dose of visitors from around the world (here’s looking at you, South Africa, Korea, Portugal, Blaine MN, Ireland, and, of course, Iceland.) A big thanks to all my regulars; Jono, Cousin Mary, Ouroboros, Bob the Scientist, and an equally big thanks to all the lurkers who don’t comment. A fair amount of visitors come to check out old posts; although Google search algorithms are skewing more toward recent entries a few really old favorites (i.e., Setwell Hangers) still get regular attention.

My other blog, Laxness in Translation is also doing OK, with a daily world-wide variety of visitors and the occasional in-depth visit from what I assume are students doing last-minute research for term-papers. LIT is even referenced in a University of Iceland syllabus! I still get the occasional scholarly request for information via the site and I’m expecting of flurry of interest next March when the new translation of Salka Valka is published.

And so, leaving 2021 on ‘Flippist’ note, here are a couple of truly bizarre videos and two really elegant ones:

Jessica Mitford ‘sings’ the most wretched song The Beatles ever recorded:



Marie Osmond performs Dadaist poetry from memory:



This Newen Afrobeat video is some of the best music I’ve seen all year:



And their cover of Fela Kuti’s Zombie is extremely intense (starts at 51:40):




Friday: The final installment of the serial fiction House Party.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Monday, December 27, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#135

Heading Home

I’ve ended all of my Iceland trips with a bittersweet ride on Highway 41 to the KEF airport.

For some reason it always seems to be rainy, or is that just the water in my eyes?
The aluminum processing plant at Straumsvík is a half-mile long, but seems longer:
It goes on and on, but I want it to be longer to prolong my stay:
The countryside is forbidding, lots of lava with a few industrial buildings:
And then I’m back at the airport, waiting for my flight home:

I thought this post would be a fitting farewell to this year’s Monday in Iceland series. I may get back to “the rock” someday, I still have credit from a ticket that was Covid-cancelled although now it’s only worth a one-way fare.

These posts always bring me to back to Iceland: my travels there, the Icelanders I’ve met online and in real-life, and all of the great culture I’ve been exposed to. My life is immeasurably richer for the experience, and the isolation caused by the continuing Covid pandemic makes these memories even more haunting.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Saturday, December 25, 2021

River Reverie Redux

The coffee shop isn’t very busy for this time of day.

A couple of the regular Wi-Fiers are by the window, hunched over their laptops, talking jargon and typing between sips of java. A young woman sits in the corner, reading the newspaper and nibbling on a pastry. The music, drifting down from invisible speakers, is just some sparse piano chords… and Joni Mitchell’s voice is heard…

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace…


A different kind of holiday music, to be sure, a sad song…

I wish I had a river
I could skate away on…
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby cry…


Sometimes a good thing doesn’t last.
I think about an old love and how I ruined it.
I just couldn't let myself go and surrender to her…

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on


The woman puts down her paper.
The regulars stop talking.
The background noise in the shop stops and Joni’s lyrics are now quite distinct:

I’m so hard to handle
I’m selfish and I’m sad
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had…


Is the woman with the paper thinking of a love that she had and then lost?
Are the net-workers in a similar mood, thinking of what might have been?

Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I made my baby say goodbye...


I made my baby say goodbye.
She's done alright for herself since then.
I guess I have too.
Why does my mind bring up these old memories, and for what purpose?

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on…


The song ends and the woman resumes her reading.

The sound of the laptop keyboards resumes.

I get up and walk out the door.




Revised re-post from FITK, November 22, 2005

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, December 24, 2021

A Very Sharon Christmas

Above is a Christmas card I received 14(!) years ago from Karen Heathwood, my dear blog-pal and creator of Sharon Spotbottom, stick-figure extraordinaire. I enlarged it to a 16x20 (click on image above to see detail) and it has been a holiday decoration in the Flippist World Headquarters every year since then.

Merry Christmas to All!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Dean Man’s Mistress

A McKenzie Novel
By David Housewright
Minotaur Books New York, 2019

David Housewright is a member of what I call the “Minnesota Mafia” of mystery writers. It’s a group that includes, among others, Brian Freeman, John Sandford, Ellen Hart, and Chuck Logan. I’ve read several of Housewright’s other novels and they are all breezy and engaging.

Rushmore McKenzie is an ex-St. Paul-cop who came into a small fortune about ten years prior when he helped recover proceeds from a major heist. There is an undercurrent of resentment from his old police buddies because of this, but he manages to help them and they, in turn, help him. He divides his time between his dishy and competent girlfriend Nina (who runs a jazz club) and, invariably, other dishy and competent women who find themselves in need of a discreet amateur private eye. While he appreciates these ladies (and their attention), he remains faithful to Nina.

This particular title stands out from his others in that it mostly takes place along the North Shore of Lake Superior and, in particular, Grand Marais. I’ve visited and written about GM, so I had more than a little trepidation as I began to read. One problem with location-specific novels is that if you are familiar with the area any incongruities will stick out and take you out of your suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, this was not the case here—every Minnesota detail rang true, and even the somewhat implausible plot (concerning stolen paintings of a local Andrew Wyeth-like artist and his muse) didn’t get in the way. There is a big climax at an auction set in a “free port” in Quebec that was a bit out sync with the rest of the book. I also found the ending to be something of a letdown. Still, you could do worse for a Minnesota mystery and the local references are fun—although I suspect that they might not mean much to a non-native.

Qualified recommendation.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Monday, December 20, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#134

Hólavallagarður…

… is the cemetery on the hill that overlooks Tjörnin (the pond) and well worth an hour or two of exploring the slightly overgrown grounds. You might see a cat or two, but I’ve seen no ghosts during my sojourns there:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, December 17, 2021

Annie’s Christmas Tree

My favorite graphic artist, Annie Atkins, has outdone herself this time.

Taking a break from working for the likes of Wes Anderson and Steven Spielberg, Annie has designed the graphics for the Guinness Storehouse Christmas display. After researching the vast Guinness archives, she incorporated classic motifs into a presentation whose new/old style fits perfectly with the brewery’s heritage as well as displaying Annie’s aesthetic.

Annie has a Twitter feed that she uses sparingly to announce her current projects but if that’s not enough for your ‘Annie needs’ you can see her work in cinemas (if they haven’t been shut down again) currently or on streaming in The French Dispatch and the new West Side Story (note the ‘hero prop’ in the WSS trailer at the 1:01 mark.)

Here is a shot of the Guinness “tree”:
Images: Guinness Brewery

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Time Traveling with Bob

Bob Dylan is on a roll.

For someone who’s nearly a decade older than me, his creative endeavors in the past few years have been astounding. It’s as if The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature ignited a new artistic passion in the man.  Bob has been busy creating sculpture, painting, whiskey and with his successful Rough and Rowdy Ways/A Murder Most Foul release last year, continues to write and perform great new songs, recently embarking on an acclaimed new tour.

But the kicker of all this activity for me is the moody art-film Shadow Kingdom: The Early Songs of Bob Dylan (directed by Alma Har’el) that streamed last July.

In it a dapper Bob and four masked musicians mime 13 songs from Dylan’s back catalog. Set in a seedy nightclub (Club Bon-Bon) that is beyond time and space, it is a monochrome neo-noir fantasy that could be sometime in the late the 40s to early 60s: vintage clothes, everybody is smoking, Bob is right there in the midst of it all, singing, emoting (in his fashion), and so close to the people in the club that they could touch him (and do in one instance!) I could give you a summary of each bluesy song but if you haven’t see any of it yet and the idea of seeing Bob in this setting might appeal to you, check it out below. A little short of an hour, it sounds best on headphones. The songs seamlessly segue, each has been reworked and performed beautifully. The visuals are stunning and ambiguous enough to keep Dylanologists occupied for years. There is even a tenuous Icelandic music connection—both the director and the music producer (Alex Somers) have worked with Sigur Rós, and Somers produced Pascal Pinon. One of the musicians is Shahzad Ismaily, who produced JFDR’s first album.

If you see it below it hasn’t yet been taken down from YouTube:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, December 13, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#133

Harpa

Reykjavík’s world-class concert hall complex on the waterfront is an architectural photographer’s delight. Its lobby spaces are breathtaking:
The shell of the building is a fantasy of glass panels, shaped to resemble basaltic columns found in Iceland:
Looking up is a true test of your sense of vertigo:
Well worth a visit, and they hold concerts there as well!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, December 10, 2021

Friday Fiction Review

Winterkill
A Dark Iceland Series novel by
Ragnar Jónasson
Orenda Books, 2020

Another Inspector Ari Thór Arason mystery, set in the far northern Icelandic town of Siglufjörður. At the start of the Easter weekend a young woman’s apparent suicide throws a wrench into Ari’s holiday plans when he senses that there is more than meets the eye in her demise. It is written in the style of the other books in the series, differing from a lot of other modern crime fiction in that the plot actually makes sense! If you enjoy Jónasson’s other work you should find this satisfactory as well.

This book slipped my attention, perhaps because it was actually translated into French first and then into English by a ‘minor’ publisher. I have read that Icelandic fiction is hot in France right now and I know that there is a definite shortage of Icelandic–English translators which might explain the book’s odd provenance. The writing may have lost a few nuances along the way because of that. It is an easy read, short (224 pages), a perfect airplane book (does anyone fly anymore?) or just the thing to while away a snowy winter evening. It is not ‘great’ literature by any means.

Qualified recommendation.

Links to other FITK reviews of Jónasson’s books and other Icelandic authors here.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Experiment in AI

Minnehaha Falls, July, 1985

It was a delightful summer’s day, over 25 years ago. Everyone there was having a relaxed and mellow good time. There was no need to impress anyone, no hustles or scams going on, everyone just living in the moment.

Sometimes I think that, in a way, that may be the highest state of human consciousness. So many people that I’ve met, through my work and many other activities, do not seem to realize what a beautiful gift they have, when it comes to the arts, nature and life in general. Sometimes I think it is all about stepping back, taking a deep breath and simply enjoying the very human experiences that they have. In your own life, what might be some examples of that? A time when your attention was focused on the simpler, less stressful and monotonous activities of everyday life? A good moment when you had a genuine smile on your face? A moment when you truly felt joy?

Note: Most of this post was written with Inferkit, an artificial intelligence writing program. The first paragraph, which I wrote, was “the seed” and the remainder was done by the program. This is a frightening development, not in that it can write greeting card sentiment better than I can, but that than you can be pretty sure that you will be consuming a ton of this literary junk food in the future. There is also the poetry program Sudowrite that you can use to rewrite your favorite song lyrics. Judging by the state of current popular music, I suspect it has already been used to author hit songs.

Another form of AI was used to colorize a scan of a black and white negative of the image above. That didn’t turn out so well and needed a lot of human intelligence to bring it where it is now, not a full colorization, but enought to set a mood.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, December 06, 2021

Mondays in Iceland -#132

Awesome Auðurs
Auður (Modern Icelandic spelling) or Auðr (Old Icelandic spelling) is an Old Norse-Icelandic female personal name. It also has the variant forms Unnr (Old Icelandic) and Unnur (Modern Icelandic). It is sometimes rendered as Aud, Audur, or Unn in English and in other languages. ~ Wikipedia.

This was a name I was completely unaware of prior to my infatuation with all things Icelandic, an obsession which began in 2000.


Roughly translated as “wealth” or “prosperity” it comes from Germanic roots via the Old Norse. The first famous Aud was Aud the Deep-Minded (Auðr djúpúðga Ketilsdóttir), a ninth century settler of Iceland who is featured in several sagas.

In 2004 I discovered a not-quite-so-famous Auður who wrote an influential blog that I’ve referenced here many times. I had the pleasure of attending a play with her in 2006.


Another famous Auður was Auður Sveinsdóttir, who married Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness and was also his close collaborator. She had a big cultural influence in Iceland in the last half of the 20th century, introducing new ideas in homemaking and crafts as well as being host of numerous soirées at Gljúfrasteinn, where she and Laxness lived. In 2012 I was given a tour of her kitchen!

A more recent Auður that I’ve discovered is the author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir. She is one of the best of the modern Icelandic authors.


Finally, the intriguing Audur Helgadóttir Winnan, author of Wanda Gág, A Catalogue Raisonne of the Prints (1993).

The book she created covered the work and life of another of my obsessions, Wanda Gág. It is a masterpiece of research and writing and brought a wider awareness of Wanda into the twenty-first century.

Icelandic born, she and her husband, R. Gray Winnan, were patrons of the arts in New York City. Audur also worked on other artist’s catalogs, another “deep-minded” Auður.

The only image I uncovered of her was an embriodered name tag in this designer dress from the 60s.

According to the website the dress is an “honest” size 8.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, December 03, 2021

Shedding the Past

Dreams can be useful, many times I’ve had a problem that I solved in a dream.

Some dreams, however, are re-hashes of issues that are long gone. I have recurring dreams about the place I lived when I was in my twenties and early thirties. I lived in a small house for several years, and then the landlord moved out of his bigger house next-door and offered me the chance to rent it. That house came with an outbuilding: a ”garage” that had probably  once been a stable. It had been added on to in the front to make it deep enough to hold a car, but that part was falling in (see above.) It was full of junk—all of it worthless.

Ultimately, when the kids were big enough to play in the yard, I tore both sheds down; they were definitely a hazard. They still exist in a way; my dreams revisit them from time to time, and I have some pictures of them, especially the bigger one. It made a funky backdrop for promotional pictures of the band I was working with at the time. I could probably sell that weathered wood now for interior decorations or picture frames.

I got rid of that physical junk once. It would be nice to get rid of the mental junk as well.


A North Fifth Street Story.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Illuminated

It is hard to judge what will have lasting value.

When I was young I left home and moved in with a true scholar, and although we didn’t have much, we did have books. The scholar was a medievalist and had subscriptions to several book clubs; Dickens Complete Works was one, and The Illustrated Manuscripts Book of the Month was another (I am not making this up!) Along with her textbooks and other miscellany, the bedside bookshelf was full erudite tomes: the linguistic studies books were a sure cure for insomnia.

When we broke up all she wanted to keep were books. She was sure they would gain in value and be impossible to replace. Now, in the age of the internet, a few clicks is all it takes to find these volumes, and generally for less money than she had paid originally, even before adjusting for inflation.

The guitars I had then would be worth about ten times what I had paid, in some cases more. I didn’t value them then—my sense of worth was even worse than hers! It is hard to say what, if anything, I have now that will appreciate in value.


A North Fifth Street Story

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0