Friday, April 29, 2022

A Thurber Carnival?

Minnesota High School One Act play festival, February, 1968

This arresting image was from a production of the James Thurber revue A Thurber Carnival inspired by the cartoons and comic stories which had been published in The New Yorker magazine. I don’t know exactly which story this scene is from—I can’t place it in the play’s synopsis. It certainly isn’t in the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I don’t know which school produced this either.

At any rate, on its surface the scene appears to be some kind of abduction, the woman is terrified, the men are sinister. Wholesome entertainment for teenagers? I think not!

A better choice is the play that our school did: The Elephant Calf, by the Commie playwright Bertolt Brecht, including a transvestite, a cigar-smoking baby elephant, women of questionable repute, drunken soldiers, a banana tree and a paganistic moon-goddess and ends with the audience storming the stage and demanding their money back:
Now that’s a quality entertainment suitable for young people!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Where Does FITK Fit In the Categories of Media?

Rethinking Categories of Media by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a curious denizen of the internet ocean. His postulations/affirmations/platitudes consistently confound me. As an attempt to get to a higher level of understanding, I thought I’d apply the maxims about media offered in one of his recent posts to Flippism is the Key:

It is found or it arrives.
Definitely found.
It is hosted many places or it has a single home.
There have been a few re-posts over the years, but not many.
It earns and delivers on permission, or it’s spam.
NOT SPAM!
It changes over time or it’s static.
Changes three times a week!
It’s the work of an individual or the production of a community.
There have been a few other contributors but not now.
It’s valuable because of network effects, or in spite of them.
Network effects?
It produces energy and momentum, or it absorbs it.
Hopefully it sparks a few imaginations.
It’s scarce or it’s widely available.
Open to anyone who stumbles upon it. Scarce in the mainstream media.
It thrives on the long tail or only works if it’s a hit.
Definitely at the end of a verrrry long tail.
It dances with the early adopters or soothes the feelings of the late majority.
?
It’s truly live, or it benefits from time shifting.

Always time-shifted, sometimes weeks ahead.
It launches itself or it waits to be pressed.
A self-starter, definitely
It enhances productivity, or it reduces it.
Definitely a time-waster unless it resonates with the reader.
It is a catalyst for cultural change, or it feeds on cultural change.
Definitely a catalyst, not attuned to change.
It energizes and inspires, or it trolls with snark and irony.
No trolling or snarky-ness. Irony aplenty.
People share it because it benefits them, or someone has to hustle to make it spread.
A couple people have shared it, but it is never hustled.
It goes stale very quickly, or it becomes more relevant over time.
I’d like to think that it stands up over time.
It’s worth talking about, or it’s not.
The eye of the beholder!

I couldn’t make any conclusions from this exercise except that “… dancing wih the adopters…” is one of the oddest phrases I’ve ever read.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, April 25, 2022

Saga Card Saga

Another travel-related post from the wandering professor:
After 18 years, my Icelandair Saga Points Card is useless.

I had gotten it with a credit card, my points on it would automatically accrue towards flights on Icelandair. The deal was OK, not the best return, but since that flight in 2004 I’ve never paid for another ticket to Iceland. I have just used up the remaining points when I recently booked a flight for next November. The card had a huge line of credit, but also had a bad habit of having spurious charges show up. They took care of those, but after the fifth such incident, my faith in its integrity was shattered.

This change of credit card provider also signifies a change in my outlook. I’m no longer thinking of going to Iceland every couple of years. My contacts there have all faded away; the things that we once had in common, mostly blogging and writing related, now seem like curious relics from a forgotten civilization. Usurped by FB and Twitter, Blogs are passé. I also retired and most of them they’ve changed jobs or lifestyles. New mothers, looking for a diversion from child care, are older now—their babies are all grown up. A two-year Covid hiatus on traveling hasn’t helped either. All of our lives are different.

This Iceland trip will probably be my last—there are other places in the world that I want to see, and other people to meet.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, April 22, 2022

Suicide Tourist

The Professor is out west, acting the tourist. Here is a story about a a different type of tourist, from 2008:

It was a strange confession.

Our house guest was from Ireland, she was pausing for a couple days rest and recreation from her epic “To the Left of the Midwest” sojourn. She had been in a rut and decided that this change of scenery would be just the thing needed to open her perspective on the world. Over dinner we had been talking about the trip—it had been a rousing success so far—but she seemed a little bothered when talking about her stay in Seattle.

“One thing was really weird… Oh god, I actually WENT to Kurt & Courtney’s house. I sat outside on the bench and looked at the garage where they took that picture of his leg sticking out, then I felt a bit silly and left again.”

“His death really affected our boys too, but they didn’t talk about it much; I do remember them being very quiet,” I replied.

“I cried for about six months after he died. My parents were surprisingly patient for the first week or so: I remember my mum hugging me on the edge of my bed and my dad coming up the stairs with two mugs of tea, mumbling ‘what exactly is it that’s happened again?‘ I would have given ANYTHING to be at the vigil they had in Seattle when he died… Although not really, as when my rebellious friend suggested that we ‘fly over there’ I just said ‘… er, I don’t think my mum would let me’. I was fourteen.”

“Was your pilgrimage the final stage of grief?” I asked.

“No, I was just a suicide tourist.”

A real life story, augmented with material taken from the essay Well, what, nevermind by Annie Atkins in The Anti Room , September 26, 2011.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, April 20, 2022

It’s the Cows

It’s been too long since I’ve featured any cows here on FITK.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, April 18, 2022

Midnight Mover

More from The Explodo Boys, circa 1975

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Friday, April 15, 2022

Soundtrack of My Misspent Youth - V

This is the fifth and final part of a chronicle of my old high school band.

Big Town Small Time Rock 'n' Roll Band

Originals

We actually did create a few original songs, and even have some recordings!

The Ma Schlep Stomp - was the band’s magnum opus. It started as a groove and reached its full fruition with this sensitive and poignant lyric:
Well do the MA SCHLEP STOMP, now everybody wail
It’s like doing the Jerk with your foot in a pail,
The kids all do it when the cavemen romp,
Remember the name it’s THE MA SCHLEP STOMP!


Take My Heart - was a folk-rock song I wrote:



Tom’s Instrumental - was a blues-based tune. If you are playing along at home, it’s in E:



We even played it at the Minnesota State Fair!

Howard Tusi - Was a song we discovered on a tape recording that a few of our fellow junior-high students (George Jackson, Steve Lasley, ?) had made of an ad-libbed chant about one of our classmates: Howard “Tusi” McQuitter II. Howard is a wonderful person and we still see him at class reunions. Here are the lyrics, as many as I can remember (sung to a shuffle beat):

I went down to the store,
To buy myself some meat,
I saw Howard Tusi I said:
‘Howard wash your feet!’

I said Howard, Oh! Howard!
Howard Tusi, Howard Tusi
I said Howard, Oh! Howard!
Howard Tusi, Howard Tusi

I went down to the store,
To buy myself some bread,
I saw Howard Tusi I said:
‘Howard wash your head!’

I said Howard, Oh! Howard!
Howard Tusi, Howard Tusi
I said Howard, Oh! Howard!
Howard Tusi, Howard Tusi
Further verses suggested that Howard wash various other parts of his anatomy but, alas, I am afraid they are lost in the sands of time. These recordings are pretty crude but a year later we actually were a pretty good band, even going “on the road” to Ladysmith, Wisconsin, a trip that ended in disaster, an event that effectively ended the band.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Thursday, April 14, 2022

Soundtrack of My Misspent Youth - IV

This is the fourth part of a chronicle of my old high school band.

British Invasion!

We were not immune to the influx of British Bands that came after Beatles, although most of their songs which we covered were also covers, primarily of black artists (there's a theme going on here.) Be that as it may, the reason they were covered was that they were great songs, fun to play, and all of them rock standards:


Money - Berry Gordy wrote it, we got it via The Beatles

Do You Love Me - Berry Gordy, via The Dave Clark Five

Reelin’ and Rockin’ - Check Berry, via The Dave Clark Five

Mona - Bo Diddley, via The Rolling Stones

Route 66 - Bobby Troup, via The Rolling Stones

The Last Time - Jagger/Richards, The Rolling Stones

Satisfaction - Jagger/Richards, The Rolling Stones

Gloria - Van Morrison, Them

Tobacco Road - John D. Loudermilk, via The Nashville Teens

You Really Got Me - Ray Davies, The Kinks

We’ve Gotta Get Outta This Place - Mann, Weill, via The Animals

Two of the above songs, Route 66 and Tobacco Road, were by “established” songwriters and not originally “rock” tunes. Route 66 had been done in the 1940s by Nat “King” Cole and also Bing Crosby with The Andrew Sisters!

The following songs were all done by The Yardbirds, a group that we had actually seen perform in person. They really inspired us to stretch out musically, although these kind of songs (“Rave-ups” with extended guitar solos) were not as popular with the girls!

Shapes of Things - McCarty/Relf/Samwell-Smith

Train Kept a Rollin' - Tiny Bradshaw, made popular by The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio

I'm A Man - Bo Diddley (Elias McDaniel)

Smokestack Lightnin' - Howling Wolf (Chester Burnett) 

Wrap-up of this series tomorrow…

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Soundtrack of My Misspent Youth - III

This is the third part of a chronicle of my high school rock band.

Disparate Influences

Our band, The Others, didn’t really have a rigid musical ethos. This led to a situation where many of the songs in our repertoire came from some wildly diverse genres:

Shortnin’ Bread - A traditional folk song that has been covered by many artists, including The Andrew Sisters!

La-Do-Dada - A Dale Hawkins Rock-A-Billy number that we got from The Blue Things

Just Like Me - It was a big hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders,
                    this song later became popular with 80s punk and pop bands

Batman Theme - Neal Hefti (Music and Lyrics!) from the TV show

Greenback Dollar - The Kingston Trio

Heatwave - We learned this Motown song to back a girl-group in our high school.

Gin House Blues - Written in the 1930s by the great J. C. Johnson, first recorded by Bessie Smith; we played The Animals’ version

Johnny B. Goode - Every guitar band played this Chuck Berry title

House of Rising Sun - We were aware of Bob Dylan, but did The Animals’ version

Around and Around - Chuck Berry via The Rolling Stones

Good Lovin’
- Clark/Resnick  via The Young Rascals

Too Many Fish in the Sea - Whitfield/Holland via The Young Rascals

Mustang Sally - Mack Rice via Wilson Pickett

In the Midnight Hour - Cropper/Pickett, Wilson Pickett

Land of 1000 Dances - Chris Kenner via Cannibal and the Headhunters

Alley Oop - The Hollywood Argyles


More of this thread tomorrow

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Soundtrack of My Misspent Youth - II

This is the second part of a chronicle of my old high school band.

Do You Wanna Dance?
Dance tunes began to appear in The Others set-list; mostly R&B songs that we learned from various cover versions by local bands:

Let The Good Times Roll - The Del Counts
Foot Stompin' -
The Underbeats
Little Latin Lupe Lu -
The Chancellors
Turn On Your Love Light -
The High Spirits
Mickey’s Monkey -
C.A.Quintet
Ain’t Got No Home -
Gregory Dee and the Avanties
Road Runner - The Accents
Hey Joe - The Stillroven
Sam - The Castaways
The Crusher - The Novas
Shakin’ All Over - The Guess Who (actually from Winnipeg, but close enough.)

But we hadn’t yet given up on instrumentals:

The Grind - Gregory Dee and the Avanties

The influence of the regional Minnesota groups on The Others (and hundreds of other Twin Cities garage bands) can’t be overstated.

These bands released many records that got local and regional airplay from 1962-1966. These mostly cover versions were often just as popular as the releases by national acts (although nowhere near as accomplished). Outside of The Trashmen, the local bands The Del Counts (still active!), The Underbeats (who went on to be the house band at The Whiskey-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles in 1969-70 as Gypsy), and The Castaways (who had a national hit with Liar, Liar) had some enduring success. Even the novelty number by The Novas (that emulated a popular professional wrestler) was later covered by The Cramps.

More on this subject tomorrow

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Monday, April 11, 2022

Soundtrack of My Misspent Youth - I

This is the first part of a chronicle of my high school rock band.

Origins
                 Laurie,                Me,                    Tom,                       Andy

In 1963, three of my buddies and I thought it might be cool to form a band.

This week I'll be featuring the songs that “The Others” (my old junior/senior high school rock band) used to play. There aren’t any videos of us, of course, so I’ll have links to various covers/artists of the tunes in this list, some of which may surprise you.

Surf, Hot Rod, and other kinds of primitive instrumental music were popular at the time so, seeing that we didn't actually own any microphones or a PA, we started with those:

Wipe Out
Point Panic
Similau
Diamond Head
Pipeline
Miserlou

All of the above are Surf Classics, still often played, even by notable performers.
There were some non-surf tunes as well:

Walk Don’t Run (Written by jazz great Johnny Smith)
Out Of Limits (a cheesy TV show theme!)

After a few months (and after we got a microphone), we added some vocals (but no love songs yet!):

Surfer Joe - The flip side of Wipeout
A-Bone - great Hot Rod song, an 80s New York punk band took this song for its name.
Surfin’ Bird (of course!)

The next three songs were covers of songs by The Kingsmen, a Portland, Washington, based bar band which put out several albums full of rock classics; they were extremely influential source of material for garage bands:

Louie Louie
Long Tall Texan
Long Green

More of this nostalgic nonsense tomorrow...

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Friday, April 08, 2022

Pardon Me…

On a rainy Wednesday I was making the rounds of antique stores in the area. I had been looking at a vintage Red Wing sponge-ware bowl.

Turning around, I was confronted by a beautiful young woman in a low-cut dress. In a split-second these thoughts raced through my mind:
She’s in my personal space! How had I missed seeing her when I came into the antique store? She looks sad, as if she had been stood up on a dinner date. Young women are not in the habit of approaching me; a situation I would have found stimulating 20 years ago is now unsettling. I was ready to say ‘Pardon Me’ or as the Blues Brothers once sang in fractured French: ‘Excusez Moi, Mon Cherie

And then it dawned on me.

She was a mannequin, a dummy.

I was a dummy too.

Perhaps it is time for an eye exam.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 




Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Della’s Place

(click to embiggen - recommended!)

Della Walker, AKA Mrs. Clinton Walker, was a wealthy widow who owned a 218 acre plot of land adjacent to the beach in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California. Della’s late husband was the son of T. B. Walker, a lumber baron who created the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In 1948 she had Frank Lloyd Wright design this 1200 square-foot house for her; it was completed in 1951, with an additional master bedroom added in 1956. Resembling a ship, its “prow” points out to sea and in rough weather seems to be crashing through the waves. Still in the family, it is open once a year as a fund-raiser. One of the greatest of FLW’s small houses, it would be one that I’d move into in a minute.

In 1959, the house was used in several scenes in the Sandra Dee-Troy Donahue film A Summer Place (check out those inverted step-pyramid windows!):

Here is what a few of the local architects had to say about this iconic house:
It’s inspirational. A dramatic piece of architecture. The house feels nautical and really does belong to that location. Its narrow hallways and low ceilings lend drama. Entering the home, the ceilings start low and increase in height. You can’t see that from the exterior, but when you step inside, you’re rewarded. The house is intact and has been well maintained over the years. ~ Eric Miller

What fascinates me about Wright is the ability he had to seize on a space. He does amazing big things with a small space with a strict geometric pattern. This house is built on a hexagon—there is not a single right angle in the entire building. The discipline of geometry is relentless but doesn’t supplant the feel of an organic structure. I’ve been a docent here for years. When you’re inside, it feels like you’re inside a clam-shell, or inside a steamship with its prow poking out into the Pacific. ~ Thomas Bateman Hood

I think what I like about it is that it’s a building that demonstrates that you can build in the most sensitive area and still have a structure merge with the surrounding landscape without damaging it. It beautifully enhances the closure of the southern end of the beach. ~ Mary Ann Schicketanz

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, April 04, 2022

Venues in Iceland -#14

Fríkirkjan
As a venue for concerts, it shouldn’t work.

This 1903 church is the home of the Free Church in Reykjavik, an independent Lutheran congregation that is not affiliated with the official National Church of Iceland. It is a bit of an acoustical nightmare, the seating is uncomfortable, and the sight lines vary wildly: from excellent to non-existent. Still, I saw numerous memorable shows there; a truly unique venue that is not just cherished, but is actually in constant use by the community for both religious and secular events.

Audience, Johann Johannsson, 2006 (Img: Darien Webb) Can you spot The Professor?
Hjaltalin og Sinfó (2009):
Biggi Hilmars (2012):
The church’s photogenic location on the pond in the center of Reykjavík can’t be missed. Make sure to check out the notice board next to the front door that has information about obscure or otherwise unpublished events. In 2006 I caught a great noon-time recital and in 2018 I witnessed a youth choir give a most memorable concert—and a chance to mingle with real Icelanders in a casual social setting:

This is the final post in The Iceland Venues series. There are numerous other off-venues in the city and usually one or two main venues that are new at the Iceland Airwaves music festival each year, these are just the ones I found most memorable.

I had thought that I was probably not going back to Iceland again, but I had enough points and credits from my cancelled 2020 trip to make the airfare “free” so… I began to idly look into my options. I found that I could rent an apartment from Oct 31—Nov 6 in The Castle House, where I had stayed several times before. As far as the location—right behind Fríkirkjan—it was absolutely the best choice for me and cheaper than any Airbnb in the city. I will be there during Iceland Airwaves, which has scaled back to three days. I’m not too keen on any of the announced acts (except HAM and FLOTT) so I'll wait before deciding to buy a festival pass. There should also be a slate of new theatrical productions going on that week; catching a play or three at night while I hit the off-venues during the day (and swimming and soaking in Vesturbærjarlaug in the morning) should keep me occupied.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Friday, April 01, 2022

The Bootlegger Sam's Tapes -#1

Hidden Charms



Max Ray sings the Willie Dixon classic made popular by Howlin’ Wolf.

Jerome Broughten and Jimmy Derbis trade solos in a wild guitar duet.

More Explodo musical mayhem.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2