Monday, January 30, 2023


Chapter 5 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
As I walked through this residential neighborhood, I saw more reminders that it was Halloween. A holiday perfectly suited to Icelandic children: a little bit exotic, incorporating motifs from legends and religion, and candy. Lots of candy. Icelanders love their lakkris (licorice), particularly with chocolate. There is even a variety with a distinct ammonia flavor (I’ve brought some back and most people hate it, but there are a few who enjoy its acrid tang.) For a while there was a late-night candy store just off of Ingólfstorg, you could see adults shopping for candy at 2200 hours.

In the hot pot at Vesturbæjarlaug the topic of Halloween in Iceland came up. “Not my cup of tea,” said a woman sitting next to me with a temporary tattoo of a flaming skull on the back of her hand, “The old Icelandic holidays are disappearing,” a man there said, ruefully. He recognized me from a visit ten years ago! I commented that I had been in Iceland once before on Halloween and it was nothing then.

My destination was the open-air swimming pool, Vesturbæjarlaug, my personal favorite. Its proximity to the university insures that the pool’s population always consists of a mix of backgrounds: a fair amount of academics, actors, students, tourists and the usual neighborhood old-timers. Geezers like me (67+) get in free, without a doubt the best tourist deal in the whole country. When I walked in and went to the reception desk the clerk asked “Is this your first time here?” when she heard my accent. The first time this trip, yes, but it is just one of dozens—many fond hours I’ve spent here in the hot-pots, absorbing heat and culture in equal measures. I do laps—my partaking in actual physical exercise is a rarity. The clerk handed me my ticket and, after scanning it at the gate, I went down into the locker room. I stripped naked and headed for the showers to wash with soap (special emphasis on cleaning the germy bits) and then donned my Speedo to head out to the pool complex. Four double lanes in the 25 meter lap pool, a large shallow pool with slides for children, and six soaking pools of varying temperatures and sizes. The chlorine level in the water is mercifully low which allows one to stay for hours and any traces are dissipated by the fresh sub-arctic air (bring a water container to avoid dehydration!) If you need even more heat there is also a steam bath and a sauna.

The air temp was 4°c, a balmy 39°f but the sun had retreated behind leaden clouds, giving a somber look to the surroundings. There were only about a half-dozen other bathers in the pools; I had never seen them so empty. I did my laps then went into the medium hot pot, alone. The cricks and aches from my flight quickly were forgotten. Soaking in a tepid bath of memory, my thoughts wandered in a Proustian fashion. Well, the thoughts were not exactly tepid, especially when thinking about the time I spent in the hot-pot with Ufuoma, a vivacious woman from Nigeria (via the UK.) She had married an Icelander and had embraced the country fully—including several of the pool patrons that knew her. There was a morning exercise group that morning that we joined; she was in a lot better shape than I was. Her performance suggested that she was an experienced dancer. Our conversation suggested that she was highly educated. Her name meant ‘peace of mind’, and she lived up to that moniker. The conversation flowed between us and other patrons who joined us that morning like a burbling fell stream. Life was good that day.
My breakfast cafe, decorated and staff in costumes, was down the street from the pool:
My stomach interrupted my reverie. It was time for breakfast, so I left the pool, dressed and went out, walking down the street to a bakery/coffee shop nearby. The place was decorated in a Halloween theme and the workers were also costumed. After a hard-boiled egg and coffee (I just couldn’t face a pastry) I left, heading back to the bus station to retrieve my luggage. I walked past a middle school where some kids, also in costume, were outside for recess. They seemed to be having a ball: chattering, laughing, socially interacting—the noise they made was akin to the sound of birds. Life was good this day as well.
I walked past Háskolábíó, the big cinema on campus. A poster featured the film adaptation of one of my favorite books, Summer Light, Then Comes the Night (Sumarljós og svo kemer nóttin.) I had seen the lead actor, Ólafur Darri, in an electrifying version of Peer Gynt (Pétur Gautur) sixteen years prior how could it have been so long ago? My companion on that evening was a hung-over twenty-something blogger, not a lot of conversation from her, it was perhaps the strangest date of my life. I later learned that another of my Icelandic blog-connections knew Darri in college. He has since established himself as an international movie star, working with the likes of Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell. I thought of going to the film, but my only free night was tonight, I’d probably fall asleep by the break—Icelandic cinemas usually have an intermission. I left the campus and returned the way I had come, past Norrena Husið, and took the foot path through the swamp. As I was still comfortably warm from my swim, the trek back across Vatnsmýri was even more pleasant than it had been earlier.

The bus station was considerably quieter; a mid-day lull in the flights before the flight from  from Europe began arriving.  I retrieved my luggage and headed North, toward Tjörnin, the pond in the center of the city, and to my apartment nestled behind Fríkirkjan, the sheet-metal clad church. It would be past 1100 hours by the time I arrived, late enough to be able to drop off my things before check-in at 1500 hours.

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Friday, January 27, 2023

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Anoka Nature Preserve, Anoka, Minnesota

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

~ Robert Frost

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A.I. Alternate Art

I’ve been wasting time experimenting with Stable Diffusion, a text-to-image generator. Input a string of words and the application’s algorithms will output 2-4 images. Artists are not amused. Its legality is still controversial. Results vary widely, particularly with the setting of the “guidance” slider. Here are some visual experiments as imagined by text prompts (in italics) to the program.

Giant Bart Simpson sitting on a building:
Homer Simpson sitting on a huge donut:
With less concrete suggestions (and a lower guidance number)‚ the results can be surprisingly artistic: Madonna, crucifixion, snakes, beetles:
While more specific instruction can yield uncanny results: Witch, pig, Durer, engraving:
The possibilities are endless: Oil refinery, garden of Eden, Van Gogh:
You do have to know when to quit:

By Professor Batty

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Monday, January 23, 2023


Chapter 4 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
On my first visit here I was unceremoniously dumped at the Icelandair Hotel, a half-mile away adjoining the city airport. The BSÍ station was closed that day for some reason, but had re-opened by the time my visit ended. This time the regular disembarking lanes behind the terminal were torn up and the arriving buses (as well as the smaller shuttle buses) were in a haphazard jumble in the front. A bad omen? For the independent traveler without a car in Iceland this place is ground zero. Tours and connections are made here—like any bus terminal. It is a place to shift gears and move on. My metamorphosis was changing from a passenger to a pedestrian. A pedestrian eager for his early morning walk a thing I would never do at home  but with the 5 hour differential this was  akin to ‘walking after midnight.’ My strategy for avoiding west-to-east jet lag is simple, but effective: No alcohol on the flight, get to a swimming pool (with a hot tub) first thing, stay awake until at least 20:00 hours, then sleep for 12 or more hours, completely resetting your internal clock. The pool was about 2 km away, an easy walk, but not with a bunch of luggage.

I looked around for the lockers to store my carry-on and laptop until I could access my apartment later on in the day. In years previous the lockers had been next to the cafe but, like everything in tourist Iceland, the need for them had grown—bigger now having its own room, entered from the outside. The room was brightly lit and smelled of disinfectant is that a good thing or a bad thing? There were dozens of lockers in several sizes, I picked a suitable one and put most of my gear inside, keeping only my small backpack with my swim gear and a camera. I paid the checkout machine with a credit card while carefully noting the return procedures. The credit card worked the first time! A good omen.

My load suitably lightened, I headed back outside, past my recent traveling companion who was squeezing into his shuttle bus, heading out on his adventure. My path began a few hundred years from the station where a spiral pedestrian footpath wound up and over the busy roads and ended at the end of a marshy fen appropriately named Vatnsmýri, ‘water swamp’. Before the British invaded Iceland in May of 1940 the swamp was much larger, including what is now the city airport but this little wetland is all that remains. The area has been restored in recent years; birds frequent it and a wooden walkway passes through ending at the Noræna Húsið: the Nordic House library and cultural center. A place where I have spent many enjoyable, even transcendent hours. Its food space once hosted a future Michelin Star gastronomic restaurant (since moved to bigger quarters downtown) and the dozens of musicians I have seen perform there always created special moments. The music festival is just getting back on its feet after two years of shutdown so this year nothing (as yet) has been scheduled here.

Moving on, I walked through the campus of The University of Iceland. It was still a little early for classes, but I did see one scholar scurrying between buildings. A half-century earlier, in Minneapolis, that would have been me, lost and searching. I am no longer lost, but I am still searching, searching for those ‘moments of shine’ as Björk once put it. I walked past Veröld - Hús Vigdísar, a facility named for the first female president of Iceland, where I had been scheduled to attend a Covid-cancelled writing seminar in 2020. Missed opportunity but not really missed. I was outside looking in, a condition that I’ve never quite overcome in my travels and studies of the culture and the people of Iceland. Right next to Veröld is the big Radisson Blu Saga hotel, where I had once booked a room, also cancelled. Not my preferred choice of accommodations; I prefer to be in the center of town, but the hotel’s location was perfect for the conference. Looking back at the hotel I was cheered by the sight of the sun rising over the building, a promise of fair weather. A good omen.
My lucky streak of beautiful days in Iceland had continued.

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Friday, January 20, 2023

Granny Pants

Icelandic riot grrls Groá get down at Iceland Airwaves, 2022:

Here is the official video:

Both videos feature Marta Ákadóttir, and her fabulous granny pants.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Schadenfreude Sale

If you are in need of office furniture, or perhaps just a memento of past glory, Twitter is auctioning off some of its assets in San Francisco. Workstations, chairs, dry-erase boards, computers, and even some commericial kitchen supplies.

Here’s the link:

I’m tempted by this "Kegerator":
Let the party begin!

UPDATE: The auction is over, The Kegerator went for $1800.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, January 16, 2023

Ég held að við séum öll trúðar í þessum strætó*

Chapter 13 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
It seemed as if the Flybus was over-booked.

It was probably a vagary due to flight schedules—in the past they were never full or, perhaps, since Covid they have fewer drivers. I snugged up to an ocean side window, I love to see the city lights stretch out along Faxaflói bay, lights of city where I’ll be ensconced for the coming week. As it began to get seriously full I was hoping some lithe young woman (or some tiny old woman) for that matter, would sit next to me so I would have some room to use my laptop. I had already opened and had locked on to the bus Wifi when a mountain of a man came lumbering up and took up two-thirds of my seat. Holding my laptop sideways, I dashed off a quick email to my spouse (who was still asleep, but the thought counts, eh?) but finally gave up and returned it my backpack. I thought it wise to strike up a conversation lemonade from lemons lord knows I was squeezed enough!

“Business or pleasure?”

Goliath eyed me warily. I tried again.

“City or countryside?“

“Country. I’m on a photography tour/seminar thing. How about you?”

“Definitely city. There’s a music festival going on, and the theatre season is in full swing.”

“I’ll miss that, our group is heading out, straightaway from the bus terminal.”

“Looking to shoot some northern lights?”

“Maybe, but I see them at home… Newfoundland. We’ll be looking at mountains and water falls. ”

“The forecast looks pretty good for the next week. I guess you are used to this weather,.”

“A walk in the park—with the right clothes.”

The conversation ebbed. The Flybus continued snaking its way through the lava fields, passing the small bay Vatnsleysuvík. I looked out the window and remembered the first time I made this trip, nearly a quarter-century ago. It was in March, there was sunlight then and you could see the terrain.  I thought we had landed on the moon.  That trip was a package deal, ridiculously cheap, we even stayed in The Hotel Borg. Those days are long gone.

“Are you staying in one spot, or are you going to move around?”

“We’ve got a lodge, we won’t be in the city much at all, except for the bus station. Where are you going to stay?”

“I’ve rented an apartment in the center of town, one with a kitchenette. Being able to make my own meals will just about pay for the cost of my lodging compared to eating out. I’ll be so busy I won’t have time for restaurant meals either. If I get desperate there is always the pylsur stand.”


“Icelandic hotdogs. made with lamb. Probably as bad for you as any other hotdog, but tasty, open all night, right between the venues. Order ‘Einn með öllu’; one with everything, yummy.”

“Well, all our meals are provided, the tour package wasn’t cheap but then what is these days?” Another lull. “You shooting mirror-less?” I asked.

“Not this lifetime, I’ve got too many lenses to start swapping systems. What about you? Are you shooting the festival mirror-less?”

“I’m getting too old to carry the big stuff. I just have this thing, it is too small for a mirror, ” I said, pulling a little camera out of my jacket pocket,“Smallest interchangeable lens camera made. With this lens on its a 300mm equivalent at f1.4—it fits in my pocket.” My God, this conversation is so banal.

I could tell he wasn’t impressed, big lens=big cock, in some minds.

The vehicle lights around us wove a vision in abstract tapestry.

The sky began to lighten as we entered Garðabær. The city was waking up, the traffic had become stop-and-go, but when we got on Hringbraut it opened up and in a couple of minutes we arrived at BSÍ—the bus terminal near the city airport. I stepped off the bus. The air was still cool, but the winds hadn’t yet started, it was, for Reykjavík in October,  a pleasant day.

I took off my mask.

*I think we’re all bozos on this bus.

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Friday, January 13, 2023

Corrine, Corinna

The incomparable Cab Calloway and his great band recorded this standard in 1932:

Stay through to the section of the solo that goes into a minor key, sublime!

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Soggy Sharon

How high’s the water, Sharon?

Sharon Spotbottom lives in The Shire California which is currently experiencing torrential rains.

Sharon Spotbottom character ©2007 by Karen Heathwood. Used by permission.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, January 09, 2023

Terminal Velocity

Chapter 2 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
Flugstöð Leifs Eiríkssonar is the official name for the international airport in Keflavík, Iceland.

Arrivals and departures were at a simple building when I first came here in 2000; it has been expanded several times since then.

In the predawn darkness I found myself deplaning but not at the main airport but, rather, at a satellite gate. Passengers from MSP are evidently not a priority for Icelandair for they get stuck in the boonies. … other quirky incidents: in 2009, they changed the departure gate without changing the sign at the original gate, in 2000, when they didn’t recognize our tickets—our paper tickets mailed to us from IA’s office in Virginia so they bumped us up into first class… I trundled onto a shuttle bus that wound its way across the desolate tarmac miles from the actual terminal … really thinking about nice a urinal would be right now… When we finally arrived at the terminal proper. Some of the workers were in costume, causing a momentary blip of panic until I realized that today is Halloween, and I remember that it has become something of a big deal here in the last few years.

After passing through passport control with the bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, I trekked down seemingly endless corridors to the terminal’s departure shopping and dining area. I can’t buy anything here, but it is where my favorite restroom is located… oh, the relief! A 6-hour flight in a confined and unchanging environment is quite a contrast to this three-dimensional theme park replete with displays promoting conspicuous consumption—shops full of high end goods in seductive packaging. In true Icelandic fashion, the airport features a quirky counterpoint to these mercantile excesses: The prominent display of a collage by Pop artist/plagiarist Erró: Silver Sable Saga, done in tile:
What were they thinking?

I left the control area and went down a level to the luggage claim and more shops. Buying wine in the early hours in the arrival duty-free seems decadent but the alternative, shopping in the Vínbúðin in Austerstræti, is an exercise in sticker-shock. Between my back-pack and a tiny carry-on (thanks to Icelandair’s stingy regulations) I had second thoughts about buying the limit of three bottles of wine; I selected two: a couple of dry Spanish reds, passing on the Icelandic candy (liquorice in everything!) and go to the checkout …the clerk doesn’t look to be pleased at working at 06:00…  I crossed my fingers and tapped my credit card. It worked! The modern world has its drawbacks but cashless paying, now that it has been perfected (?), is not one of them.

Then: over to an ATM to get a little cash, I’m not to keen on paying for a 450 KR ($4 USD) hotdog with my credit card—foreign transaction fees apply! I take it back what I said about credit cards always working, I made several attempts at the machine then tried my second card. I finally made the withdrawal … always carry two cards… One thing that hasn’t really changed much over the years here is the vagueness of the exit. A maze of plain tan walls with a couple of disinterested custom agents at a declaration station but no obvious signage… there is a door—should I open it? YES! I’m out… into the bus staging area. I had bought and printed out my Flybus receipts previously, at home; one less line to stand in. Outside, it was still dark, the air is crisp, not yet windy. I loaded my carry on into the cargo hold of the bus. My backpack, with all of my electronics, stayed with me … not that I’m paranoid, just being safe.

I climbed the steps into the bus.

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Friday, January 06, 2023

Snow Day

’Tis the season:
Batty at entrance to Flippist World Headquarters, january 5th, 2023

By Professor Batty

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Monday, January 02, 2023

Red Eye to Keflavík

Chapter 1 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir about a week I spent in Iceland. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
The egalitarian boarding procedures of Icelandair are commendable. People who need extra time first, then First Class, everyone else next. No myriad class divisions. To actually sit in First Class, however, will cost you plenty.

I was taking a flight (that might well be my last Icelandic hurrah) in a use-it-or-lose-it situation, the ticket I had was a replacement for a Covid-cancelled flight in 2020. I’d done this trip to Iceland many other times over the last twenty-two years each one was: rejuvenating; a celebration; an obsession; a search; an escape. Party for one, row 10, window seat A. Over the wing, but it really didn’t matter much as it will be dark the whole way. I was in a new jet—a 737 MAX—but I didn’t dwell on those crashes, they’d worked out all the bugs, amiright? The thrum of the engines are a lullaby for this jaded traveler, a prelude to takeoff. The ground crews on the tarmac are few on Sunday nights at MSP Terminal 2, I think this is the last flight east for the night.

An advantage of doing several repeat trips to the same destination is that planning is a breeze. You’ve done the drill, you know your options, you can plan for some free time i.e., in the hot-pots at the neighborhood swimming pool. Being in Reykjavík always offers you more opportunities for things that than you could ever experience at home, especially when there is a music festival going on at the same time as the height of the theatre season. And then there are the women. The sprakkar. More about them in due course.

The announcement that the cabin is sealed is a good omen—no one else had come to sit in my row. Any red-eye flight is a struggle with comfort, but being able to snuggle into the wall with my legs extended over the other two seats a least offers an opportunity for some fitful sleep. As soon as we took off I was into hibernation mode…
“… old gigs experienced in Iceland, superimposed upon expectations of the upcoming shows, dreaming of the future, are these premonitions any less real that those past memories of when I was in a band and those wild nights from my youth, almost every one a hallucination… desire commingled with elation… ‘Halcyon days’ is what my old friend Jim called those times; an idyll that came to an abrupt end with murder at a gig on Washington Avenue—typical Northside shenanigans—we’d been circling blithely around this dance of death for years… music, dancing, liquor, grass and other mind-altering substances the group’s performances were, in reality, a strange facilitation of communal foreplay… breaking down the inhibitions of socially retarded young people… love and death in a pas de deux… these trips to Ultima Thule an attempt to erase those sordid escapades from my youth… Iceland, on its surface, was clean and welcoming in that first visit twenty-two years ago… subsequent trips opened up my eyes… getting to know some of the people there revealed the darker sides of the island but the darkness an order of magnitude less than dismal cesspool of my youthful nightlife… that was my life… it’s no good life… ”
The seat-belt chime. Turbulence over Thunder Bay, an isolated front, an anomaly, climbing over it, ignoring it as sleep returns…
… A café in a Scandinavian capital…
-We meet again. Good to see you.
-Have some tea with me?
-I'd better not.
-You aren't so surprised to see me now.
-I'll admit it, the first few times were a bit unsettling but it is rather nice when you show up in my dream every once in a while.
-Enjoying your visit to our fair city?
-Of course, whether awake or asleep, it is always a kick to be here.
-I can't stay long, I've got a party tonight…
-Of course, good bye…
… the dream shifts to a street scene… Laugavegur… twilight… walking down the hill towards Bankastræti… three young wanna-be toughs eyeing me a a potential mark…I put on my wild-eyed stare and they turn away to look for an easier target… the sound of breaking glass… a son of privilege is smashing the bottles in a sack toted by an old man… a scrounger for recyclables, people ignore the sad tableaux… I turn on to Ingólfstræti just in time to see a woman in despair over the vandalism to her car’s side-mirror, its broken shards glitter like diamonds beneath it on the street, perhaps the perp was the same hooligan… in Kolaportið, the flea market by the harbour, there is a woman selling books, with bruises on her face…
Awake again, the flight progress map showed us situated over Greenland, a little more than halfway. Were any sleepless Inuits below aware of this aluminum tube soaring over their frigid homeland? I reset my watch to GMT. I was probably not going to be able to get back to my dream-state, but I closed my eyes anyway, these night flights are relatively quiet as far as activity, the low roar of the jet engines mask any conversations, even the steady parade of bladders on their way to be emptied has come to a halt. I closed my eyes and when I opened them again the plane was in glide mode, it wouldn’t be long until we landed and my adventure began for real.

The captain’s voice saying “Velkominn heim… ” came over the cabin P.A.

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Sunday, January 01, 2023

Search for a Dancer

There will be a new serial publication on Flippsm is the Key this year!

Search for a Dancer is a memoir about a week I spent in Iceland in 2022, along with everything else.

New chapters every Monday, starting TOMORROW:

By Professor Batty

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