Monday, February 28, 2022

Venues in Iceland -#9

Hitt Húsið

A cultural center for youths, this was my favorite Iceland Airwaves off-venue discovery of 2018. Then it was located downtown, around the corner from the Post Office, but it has since moved. The old site was like a warm and friendly living room, its coziness and intimacy brought out the best in the musicians:

This is a place for family:
And a proper chamber for chamber music:
Jóhanna Elísa

A place where the anxieties of performing on a big stage disappears and a school girl from the Westfjords can sing just like a bird:
Ásrós Helga Guðmundsdóttir

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, February 25, 2022

The Tempo Bar Tapes - #7

Crazy Mama

Jimmy Derbis and The Explodo Boys cover J.J. Cale
Live at the Tempo Bar - Minneapolis, 1976

More Explodo Boys videos, CDs and stories.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Bay Area Blues

A quadruple-dip today in my erratic pursuit of tasty San Francisco mystery novels:

City of Whispers
A Sharon McCone Mystery
by Marcia Muller, 2011

I’ve covered Marcia Muller’s work here before, her Sharon McCone series of mystery novels is old enough to drink, and I should have had a drink before I started this one.

City is a decade old, a time when smart phones were still a new “thing.” That’s about it as far as any time references are concerned. Sharon’s half-brother, a Native American, needs help and Sharon’s dilemma is two-fold: her relative is in some kind of trouble, trouble that may be related to an unsolved murder of a wealthy heiress a few years prior. He is on the run and Sharon and her cohorts set off a chase throughout SF and other parts of California—even up into Oregon and Canada. The plot is well defined—there aren’t any big surprises—and comes to a satisfactory conclusion. A quick read, and the San Francisco elements are handled well. When the action leaves the bay area it loses some of its appeal. Overall a decent ‘meal’, but not very memorable.

A novel
by Meg Gardiner, 2017

The “Unsub” of the title is an UNknown SUBject, a Zodiac-style killer who has reappeared after 20 years and whose gruesome murders have police stumped. Detective Caitlin Hendrix is the daughter of Mack Hendrix, who was a detective on the still unsolved first cases. This situation creates plenty of tension, and as the book progresses the murder rate increases and the killer’s taunting of the police. There is hardly a moment to spare for Caitlin so, thank goodness, the reader doesn’t have to endure the genre’s seemingly obligatory (and usually gratuitous) sex scenes. The killer’s M.O. includes changing locales to keep the police off-balance as much as possible making the book really  more of a Bay Area rather than a San Francisco novel. The story careens to a climax, leaving the reader with a twist that would seem to indicate further books.

Meg is a hot writer now—this book series has already been optioned for television. I found reading this book is akin to chugging down a big glass of Soylent Green.

Black Karma
A novel
by Thatcher Robinson, 2014

My SF mystery/culinary trip leads to this gritty novel based in San Francisco and the Bay area. Bai Jiang is a female, independently wealthy souxun (“people finder”) who is hired (on commission) to find out why a SFPD drug sting involving Mexican and/or Chinese gangs went wrong. The story is set in the recent past and the dialog is hard-boiled and slangy. Lots of quips and double entendres pepper the spaces between plentiful shootings, stabbings, and beatings. There is also a nice inter-twined sub-plot about Bai’s dating dilemmas; a sub-plot with a teen-aged Mexican prostitute is not as successful. The whole thing does have more than a whiff of cultural appropriation but at least the author is trying to bring some new twists to the P.I. genre.

Like a typical American-Chinese-food dinner, Black Karma left this reader hungry for more.

The Painted Gun
A novel by Bradley Spinelli, 2017

Finally, this mystery-within-a-mystery is a curious dish.

Set in the dawn of the San Francisco Bay-area tech boom some twenty years ago, this has a lot of the tone and mood of a pulp crime novel of the fifties. David “Itchy” Crane is a failed newspaper writer turned private investigator who is down on his luck when an old client (who had stiffed him previously) makes him an offer—$25,000 down, $25,000 upon finding Ashley, an artist who has gone missing. The plot becomes more complex (ridiculous) as paintings of the detective start appearing and shady characters and shootings multiply.

Spinelli is relatively young, but has learned the genre well. Its odd to read a novel set in 1997, when advances in technology were just coming into their own (an 8 megabyte flash drive!) and smart phones are still a decade away. The San Francisco locales are generally good, although the author insists on call the transportation system “the BART” which no self-respecting local would do. The end becomes a history lesson about the production and importation of bananas! The Painted Gun is the literary equivalent of a burrito: full of beans but tasty.

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Venues in Iceland -#8

Harpa Flói

Well, they can’t all be winners.

Flói is part of the Harpa complex and is really more of an exhibit space for trade shows. As a performance space it it sorely lacking in many aspects: acoustics, sight-lines, atmosphere, stage set-up and warmth. Even the entrance queue is uninviting:
The stage offered nothing in the way of visual relief, with its gloomy lighting and absence of decoration it was better suited for industrial metal:
JFDR, 2018

Even the usually charismatic Eivør had difficultly rising to the occasion there:

Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

By Professor Batty

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Friday, February 18, 2022

The Tempo Bar Tapes -#6

The Tramp On the Street

Vocals by Jimmy Derbis and Paul Peterson, with Rich Lewis on the chorus. A cover of the 1939 Grady and Hazel Cole tune with lyrics taken from the 1877 poem by Dr. Addison Crabtree.

Recorded May 16, 1979 at the now-demolished Tempo Bar, no edits.

More Explodo Boys videos, CDs and stories. This the sixth of a series of videos featuring The Explodo Boys, a Rock/Country/R&B band from Minneapolis, active from the mid 70s to the early 80s.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Weird Wednesday

From deep in the Flippist Archives: an artifact of the Professor’s days as an auteur.

August 1969

By Professor Batty

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Monday, February 14, 2022

Venues in Iceland -#7

Norræna húsið

Now I’m going to dive deep into the mystic.

The Aalto Alvar-designed Nordic House Library has a ‘hidden’ performance space that is an artistic triumph. If you can catch a group that meshes with the vibe the results can be otherworldly, from the pure emotion of teen-age hearts :
Pascal Pinon, 2009

To an outpouring of grief for a lost father:
Agent Fresco, 2009

Or a subtle display of understated charm:
Hafíds Huld, 2009

And even an absolute apparition:
Liva Mo, JFDR, Slugz, Nini Julia Bang, Soléy, 2018
Nini Julia Bang, 2018

By Professor Batty

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Friday, February 11, 2022

The Tempo Bar Tapes - #5

Ain’t Nothing You Can Do

This the fifth of a series of videos featuring The Explodo Boys, a Rock/Country/R&B band from Minneapolis, active from the mid 70s to the early 80s.

Dan Rowles gives his take on the Bobby “Blue” Bland hit.

Recorded live May 16, 1976, at the now-demolished Tempo Bar.

More Explodo Boys videos, CDs and stories.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Reality Distortion Field

This just may be the strangest video I’ve ever seen:

The manufacturer of audio components for rich people uses the narration by an aging boomer rock star to promote its goods set over visuals of joyful peasants.

I can’t quite grasp the connections.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, February 07, 2022

Venues in Iceland -#6


Faktorý was the last incarnation of Grand Rokk and, outside of the signage, I don’t think there was much of a difference. During the day the downstairs was the province of chess players and bar flies. At night the place was lively, the plaza in front of the venue filled with scene-sters:
Inside, it could become quite sauna-like and, with no coat check, it was easy to get over heated:
Vicky ripping it up in 2009:
It was always intimate and sometimes became magical:
Soléy 2012

This venue was demolished, lost in the great Reykjavík hotel building boom of the last decade, but my memories of the performances I saw there still live on:
Vicky, 2009

And, finally, a moody video of Samaris, October 10, 2012:

By Professor Batty

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Friday, February 04, 2022

The Tempo Bar Tapes -#4

Happy Song

This the fourth of a series of videos featuring The Explodo Boys, a Rock/Country/R&B band from Minneapolis, active from the mid 70s to the early 80s.

Vocal by Jimmy Derbis, a cover of the Otis Redding tune.

Recorded May 16, 1979 at the now-demolished Tempo Bar, live, no edits.

More Explodo Boys videos, CDs and stories.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

French Connections

A three-fer today!

A trio of films I’ve seen in the last two weeks each of which is set in France in the 1960s:
The French Dispatch
A film by Wes Anderson, 2021

I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

There are three extended ‘magazine articles’ as well as bridging segments, all of which take place in France in the 1960s. Grounded by scenes in the office of The French Dispatch, a Sunday supplement of the fictional Liberty Kansas Evening Sun, it would be a sin to give spoilers to any of the stories. Part of the joy of the film is watching it for the first time with no preconceived notions. What I will tell you is that the production design, as is usual for a WA film, is completely over-the-top. My old blog-pal Annie Atkins did many of the text graphics:
There is a full movie’s worth of characters in each segment; Tilda Swinton’s art historian is most notable, but everyone is great. I know I’ll be watching this film again and again:
And now, my second ‘French Connection’:

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
A film by Jacques Demy, 1964
Another movie that has to be seen to be believed, also set in France in the 1960s, but this time in a real city.

All of the dialog is sung to the classic score by Michel Legrand. It is the story of a star-crossed young lovers coping with the obstacles that life throws their way. If you are sentimental, make sure you have a box of tissues with you when you watch. I won’t spoil this one either; instead I’ll mention Demy’s outrageous and sure-handed use of set design. I’m sure that Wes Anderson has seen this movie many times as it explores color palettes that even Wes would be afraid to use. If that isn’t enough of a recommendation, it stars a young Catherine Denueve:
She’s got ‘the look’:
Although it may look as if it is a bit of cinematic fluff the film is actually quite serious, especially in its the conversations with Denueve’s character and her mother which are agonizing and realistic. This film certainly passes the Bechdel Test.

Paris Blues
A film by Martin Ritt (1961):
This is another film stuffed with style.

The moody black and white location cinematography is augmented by a Duke Ellington score (and glorious cameos by Louis Armstrong). A pair of expat musicians (Sidney Poitier and Paul Newman) who play in a trés cool basement jazz club find their career paths derailed by the arrival of two American women (Diahann Carroll and Joanne Woodward):
This would be standard Rom-Com fare except for the racial themes that form a subtext for the movie. Another twist is that Woodward’s character, who first appears as a Doris Day type, is actually a single mother of two and has no qualms about her sexual desires towards Newman. The four principals have an interlocked relationship, indeed, Poitier and Newman have sort of a man-love thing going while Carroll and Woodward have a genuine friendship:
The big difference between Paris Blues and the other two is that it is not the product of a singular vision like Anderson’s or Demy’s. Instead it is a film-by-committee that took the source material (a 1957 book by Harold Flender) and watered it down; three screenwriters and a book adaptation were credited and the script was further tampered with by studio executives. Originally the two couples were to be mixed-race—still too controversial for American audiences—even if it was set in France. The dialog is also a bit disjointed at times; you would think that with all the writers it had it could sound more realistic. The sprinkling of 50s hipster patios coming from Newman is exceptionally awkward. The music, while well done, is in the style of the 1940s, creating an additional cultural dissonance. There is also reference to cocaine use by one of the band members but with symptoms more in line with heroin addiction. There is also a touch of homosexual jealousy between Newman’s character and a band-mate.

This film is a real curio and lesser than the sum of its parts. In some ways its realistic setting set against its dramatic content makes it more of a fantasy than the other two films!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

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