Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Wednesdays in Iceland - #1

Eight weeks from today I’ll be back in Iceland for a little mini-vacation—catching some culture on my favorite rock in the North Atlantic.

In light of that fact I’ve resurrected my Mondays in Iceland series, but now on Wednesdays. These will be a bittersweet visits, my attempts to recapture the magic until I can be there in person. My one-bedroom apartment (with kitchen) will be my home base. We’ve lost a lot in the four years since my last trip. The Iceland Airwaves music festival is but a shell of what it had been pre-Covid (and pre-Brexit) and my theatre options are fewer now. The charm of the Old Harbour, which has been under ruthless attack for many years, has almost completely succumbed to the cancers of commercial development. Construction of new commercial buildings and hotels isn’t a bad thing in itself, but the uninspired and charmless architecture displayed there could have reflected the culture and heritage of the area in better ways. It has displaced the very things that brought visitors to the area.
One such casualty was the short-lived but much beloved Hjartagarður, the heart garden, a grass-roots “pop-up” park that existed for a while, starting in 2009. My long-time blog-pal Maria Alva Roff posted the picture below and wrote extensively about the park and its meaning for the people of Reykjavík, its creation and its destruction:
A Hilton Canopy Hotel is there now. The once-vibrant courtyard is now a sea of gray concrete. There have been efforts to rebuild it, but without success. I’m usually not impressed by graffiti art, but what once adorned the walls around Hjartagarður was exceptional; vibrant displays of craft, passion and emotion:
Nostalgia may well be a sucker’s bet but my 25-year obsession with Iceland has enriched my life in many ways. The country and its people and culture have been a pleasant obsession; my attempts here are to make some sense of it all and to share with you, dear reader, some of the joys of my discoveries. These posts may be rambling but they are simply a way for me to prepare for my return, Rick Steves would probably not approve of this approach.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Music Monday #12

The Bees Knees with Norm Roberts
One of the bands I did sound for was The Bees Knees, a retro jump-blues swing band that was active in the early 1980s in the Twin City area. They were a lively outfit, with a ton of good young players rotating through the line up. One member was not so young. Norm Roberts, on guitar, was in his late seventies. He had been performing since the 1930s! Norm had a heart condition, and would often have to stop to pop a nitro pill. I was told to pay attention to his playing and drop him out of the mix when his concentration wavered. Norm’s tenure with the band was notable but brief. His health issues finally got the better of him and he died not long after he left the group.

But when he was a young man Norm wrote novelty tunes; I recently found this recording of his most famous song on YouTube:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 26, 2022

Fabulous Flavia

The Flavia De Luce Mysteries
by Alan Bradley

A delightful change in my summer diet of turgid murder mysteries!

11-year-old Flavia De Luce is a snoopy chemist/detective who lives with her father and two horrid older sisters in a decaying manor house in fictional England, circa 1950. Flavia inherited her late uncle’s chemistry lab (located in a remote wing of the house) where she becomes enthralled by his notes on chemical reactions and poisonous compounds. Using this knowledge, Flavia solves mysteries in the countryside and small towns around the De Luce estate. There are plenty of fresh (and even some not-so fresh) corpses to fuel her morbid interests as she determines the how and why of the murders. The plots are secondary to the characters and the often hilarious way Flavia looks at the world. She has a towering intellect but is still a child. She keenly observe the actions of her elders but cannot always understand their motivations, particularly when it concerns courtship and physical attraction. The narrative is sprinkled with literary allusions and nods to quirky British culture—always clever and often very funny. The main sub-theme concerns Flavia’s relationship with her late mother who died mysteriously when Flavia was only a baby.

There are ten Flavia novels out (plus a special eBook short story), a remarkable tally considering that Mr. Bradley didn’t start writing novels until he was 70 years old! While they are a bit formulaic there is plenty of “meat” to chew on in their “bones.” The only clunker of the lot is The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, which puts Flavia in a boarding school in Canada—out of her element and lacking the usual supporting cast. I would recommend reading them in order although they also work well as stand-alones. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows and The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place are exceptional. The series has been optioned for TV (don’t hold your breath, it’s for CBC!) and there is also an acclaimed audio version of each book. A much more nuanced look at this series is offered by Olivia Rutigliano in Crime Reads.

Highly recommended.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

2022 Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Preview

A sure sign of the end of summer is the arrival of the Minnesota State Fair. A prelude to the fair is the Fine Arts Preview where aspiring (and often perspiring) artist and their friends and families can see the new crop of “fine” artworks by Minnesota residents.
Kathy Grundei poses next to her collage Kansas City Mo

This year’s offerings were underwhelming, with a few exceptions: Greta Sandquist’s sublime painting Ethos Meets Reality was a standout, as was Steve Thomas’ elegant retro Happy Trails screen print:
Nicole Houff (and SO) and this years Barbie image—bigger and better than ever:
I liked Glen Mckillips’ Predator sculpture as well as Alekz Thoms bittersweet embroidery Hours Without You:
There was even a bit of humor in this weaving:
It always seems as if the best imagery lies just outside the exhibit doors, where the slumbering fair attractions entice:
I probably won’t be attending the Fair Proper this year as my transportation options have been severely cut back—I find that it isn't worth the risk waiting for hours to be transported in a crowded bus; I’m still not 100% Covid-comfortable in large crowds. Last night’s preview, with the biggest turnout in years, was just barely tolerable. More Fine Art Previews…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Music Monday, #11

Get your week started on a high note with this groovy blues instrumental from The Explodo Boys.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 19, 2022

Rollerblade Girls, Redux

Usually when I visit the feral cats I’m by myself. The cats don’t like crowds, they barely tolerate me.

Although on one occasion, as I getting ready to leave, a pair of girls on rollerblades zipped over from the paved foot-path. They saw me with Buster (the one feral who does like to get his head scratched) and started a conversation. They asked about the cats, if they were pets (no, not really), if I fed them (some times, not all the time), how often I came here (oh, whenever), and if I had accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal savior.

Oh my. I try not to get involved in conversations like this, I have had quite enough of them for a lifetime (starting when I was about their age, by some coincidence.) I mentioned that Jesus was OK by me, but Christianity was really founded and defined by Paul. I opined to them that Paul was really not a very good man. I don’t think they were up to a session of comparative early Christian beliefs, but I did indulge them. We talked some more, and then I mentioned that Jesus had never married and that I think anyone who had not been involved in a complete, committed relationship may be somewhat deficient in his or her life experience. One of the girls was getting a little nervous at the direction the conversation was taking. The other girl, who was emerging as the leader, reiterated her faith.

How does a mature man talk theology to a 16 year-old girl in short-shorts wearing rollerblades? She must be old enough to know of the lies and lusts and deceits of men, of the inequality and repression inherent in the sex roles of most cultures? How the largest Christian faith has absolutely no place of power in its hierarchy for women? She may have been naive, but who was I to shatter her faith? I knew that faith was really a great comfort to her.

They finally did say goodbye, and as they skated off I was left with a feeling of incompleteness. There was a clash of idea systems there that afternoon. Nothing was resolved, no one had a change of heart.

The cats, perhaps wiser than me, said nothing.

First posted August 24, 2005

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

3 Thousand Miles and 12 Billion Years

When did you leave America?

Restlessness comes with late middle age as the face in the mirror asks: “Is that all there is?”

The siren’s song unlocked a hidden door.

A portal to Terra Incognito—Ultima Thule.

Three thousand miles to the End of the Earth.

The man waits in a coffee house for his connection.

And suddenly there she is, with sparkling eyes and a sparking wit.

“Been waiting long?” she asks.

“Not long… 12 billion years,” he quips.

Laughs over cappuccino.

The door opens wider, opening minds and hearts.

The song of life, muted by the mundane, erupts in a symphony of expression.

After an hour (or was it only a second?), it is time to depart.

Back outside, the sun has broken through, spotlighting this odd couple,

Walking arm in arm.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Cedric Adams and Me Redux

An updated re-post from from April 19, 2007:

CAUTION: This is a long and somewhat pointless post about a local media figure from the past that almost nobody remembers, and even fewer care about.

Cedric Adams was a Minnesota-based writer, radio and television personality, master of ceremonies and all-around bon vivant who was active from the early thirties until his death in 1961. He got his start writing patter and “snappy” jokes for the legendary Captain Billy's Whiz Bang which was some sort of a spiritual predecessor to Mad Magazine. He was an announcer at the pioneering WCCO radio, and became the biggest media figure in Minnesota for over two decades. If he were of this era, he would have blogs, podcasts, a cable show and would probably be considered a bit insane, but harmless (think Larry King.) I can’t even imagine how much time I spent in my impressionable youth listening to this genial blowhard prattle on about nothing. At his peak he was doing seven newspaper columns, eight TV shows, and fifty-four radio shows each week. He was even interviewed on Edward R. Murrow's Person to Person (June 8, 1956.) In addition, he would tour the state with talent and variety shows; an acknowledged predecessor and inspiration to Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion. His rotund figure could be seen at all the finest of Minneapolis' restaurants and nightspots.

When I was young, perhaps eight or nine, an informal rite of passage of children growing up then (the late fifties) was to be on a TV “Kiddie Show”. All the local stations had at least one, some of which would, ala “The Peanut Gallery” on Howdy Doody, have seating for twenty or thirty youngsters, and would, at some point in the broadcast, pan the camera over our cherubic faces. A group of us kids went downtown (chaperoned by our mothers) and, because we were a bit early, found ourselves waiting on the sidewalk outside of the studio lobby. It was there where I spied the great man walking across the intersection arm in arm with a rather glamorous young woman.

“Hiya Cedric!” I shouted. He smiled the beatific smile of a local media star and gave a friendly wave in our direction as he and his companion continued past the corner and then into a nearby “lounge” (to rest, no doubt, from his busy schedule.)

“Was that woman Cedric’s wife?” I asked naively.

“That was probably his secretary,” said my mother, who seemed a bit put out by the whole scene. I absorbed this information, but imperfectly, although I did think that it might be fun to walk arm in arm with an attractive young woman some day.

There is little on the internet about him now; his work—gossip, factual tidbits, mild jokes, ads, and news read cold from the wire—didn't age very well. He died relatively young, at 58. I always thought of him as an old man.

UPDATE: Here is a video showing some aspects of his career:

CEDRIC ADAMS from Pavek Museum on Vimeo.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Modern Problem

The Three Laws of Robotics (often shortened to The Three Laws or known as Asimov's Laws) are a set of rules devised by science fiction author Isaac Asimov. The rules were introduced in his 1942 short story "Runaround" (included in the 1950 collection I, Robot), although they had been foreshadowed in some earlier stories. The Three Laws, quoted from the "Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D.", are:

First Law:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Second Law
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Third Law
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 08, 2022

Music Monday #9

Going deep into the James Brown songbook for this cover by The Explodo Boys, circa 1979

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 05, 2022

Alternate Reality

Suppose that in the 1930s Marijuana was legalized at the same time prohibition was repealed. We might have had ads similar to the one above, with a debonair young man and his dreamy date, lost in a weed-induced stupor.

Recently, my state’s legislature legalized a form of THC—accidentally! Evidently, now I’ll be able to buy edibles or a soda with a small amount of psychoactive cannabis.

Well, it has been some time since I’ve indulged in any sort of mind-altering substance, and I feel no compelling reason to start now. Still, perhaps it would be fun to kick back with a box of gummies or a soda and enjoy a day in the garden, whiling away an afternoon with some munchies and a lurid mystery novel. I do know, however, that if that does occur I won't be wearing a tux!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Encyclopedia Saleswomen

Growing up in the pre-internet era meant that your options for absorbing minutiae were limited. We had a set of encyclopedias, just like the above, I read it cover-to-cover many times. Those days are seemingly past; with neighborhood crime-watches and Covid infections door-to-door sales seem to be an anachronism (with the exception of home-improvement schemes.)

Recently, however, I experienced a couple of references to these literary dinosaurs. The first was in a vintage Perry Mason episode, where a young woman who sells them is startled to find the picture of her roommate's husband on the mantle of one of the homes she visits. It is not a good omen and the saleswoman ends up charged with the bigamous spouse’s murder! Perry saves the day, of course, and the woman is free to resume her career in direct marketing.

The second instance happened a few days later, in real life, when a young woman came up to my door and, speaking with a distinct accent, asked if I had any children in the home. I said no, and the woman began to expand her spiel: she was a college student from Poland, working a summer job program selling “educational packages” for children. It was so preposterous that I continued talking with her. From a glimpse of her brochure, I could see that she what was she was selling was an encyclopedia-like product. Either that, or she had gone to a lot of trouble to find homes from where her criminal overlords could abduct children. She did leave a card, after she left I looked up the firm and evidently it was legitimate.

Looking at it again, maybe there is a market nowadays for encyclopedias, they are certainly less scary than the internet or Fox News, and possibly more accurate than Wikipedia (although what I’ve read from Britannica is often just a simplified re-hash of Wikipedia articles.)


By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, August 01, 2022

Music Monday #8

Groucho gets down with Gladys:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

                                                                                     All original Flippism is the Key content copyright Stephen Charles Cowdery, 2004-2024