Wednesday, May 31, 2023

My Back Pages - The Stremel Brothers

Another photo-visit to the industrial near-northside of Minneapolis circa 1975.

The Stremel Bothers made fire doors and other fabricated metal items throughout the 20th century. Their work has never gone out of fashion, their venerable 100-year-old doors are still in demand as decor as well as for their original function; to prevent the spread of fire in industrial buildings.

The Stremels also had an affiliated old-time hardware store, just down the street from this facility. When I lived in the neighborhood I made use of it many times. The clerks would actually help you with your purchase; I gleaned a lot of information from those crafty shop-keepers.

Stremel was bought out by Chandler industries in 2012 but the building still stands, still doing business after all these years:
“But now… when that world is no more… the spirits rise up from the well of oblivion. People and pictures from a vanished world are reincarnated and assume a significance which was hidden at the time.” ~ Halldór Laxness, The Fish Can Sing

By Professor Batty

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Monday, May 29, 2023

Dance Party

Chapter 22 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022

After leaving the urban-techno-gloom of Hafnartorg, arriving at Hildur Yeoman’s Boutique was akin to being teleported from a Stasi prison into a lively slumber party. Vibrant clothes from the shop surrounded us giving the space the feeling of a bedroom (or a very large clothes closet!) With the welcoming vibes and fab fashion emanating from the duo that is Cyber the audience was up for anything and they received a performance for the ages, or at least for a Friday afternoon.
Jóhanna Rakel

It was a wild show. The couple’s coordinated dance moves fit the hip-hop backing tracks of Karaoke Song perfectly (see 1st video below.) Some added social commentary was thrown in on the song No Cry - a riot of a song about a disconsolate twerker’s* dealings with sadness (but not romantic sadness!) It had a scream-along part in the middle that the whole crowd got into (see 2nd video below).
Salka Valsdóttir

Salka is another Icelandic Renaissance artist, she also performs as Neonme and with the outrageous feminist rap collective Daughters of Reykjavík. An accomplished audio engineer, Salka has worked in theatre productions in Iceland and Germany. I sensed that her relationship with Jóhanna was more than professional, in a very good way. What a delight to see two women on the same wavelength, with an obvious and deep affection for each other, prancing about in pajamas!
A dance party is nothing without dances, amiright? :

I came to Iceland looking for a dancer and I found two! Cyber’s intense set was too soon over. There was a hole in my Airwaves schedule,—none of the early evening acts were must-sees—so I headed over to Þjóðleikhúsið (The National Theatre), where an evening of drama and even more surprises awaited.

*Disconsolate Twerker™ FITK

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By Professor Batty

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Friday, May 26, 2023


Full screen, full volume, if you please.

Tina Turner

November 26, 1939 – May 24, 2023

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Big in Singapore


This site is being binge-read by a person (or persons) unknown from Singapore.

I don’t whether to feel flattered or threatened.

No comments have been left and there’s no sign of my site being copied (yet!).

Maybe it’s just some lost and curious soul, looking for Flippist Enlightenment™.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, May 22, 2023

High Concept in Hafnartorg

Chapter 21 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022
Hafnartorg Gallery is billed as a new lifestyle destination for shopping, food, wine and culture on banks of the old harbour in Reykjavik, Iceland. Part of the harbour area renewal, it is suitably forbidding in its mien. The design firm karlssonwilker collaborated with my old ‘pal’ musician/composer Högni Egilsson to create The Orator, a multi-sensory art project.
This was the first installation presented in the gallery’s multi-purpose food/wine hall. It was extremely dark, with people (families with small children even!) eating while seated next to large video screens that played creepy imagery triggered by Högni’s ominous music:
This bartender was not impressed:
Högni was introduced in a very low key way and the whole affair was quite informal. It was hard at first to make any sense of it; after a while I got the distinct sense of being in a cave full of prehistoric art—if computer graphics had been around 20,000 years ago.

I later learned that I was featured in a video of the installation on the karlssonwilker website:
The Orator was an interesting concept, but I have to admit that I felt as if a burden had lifted when I went out in the still-light late afternoon. The traffic on Geirsgata was heavy, but the ships shown below were actually in dry dock and not part of the congestion:
My next destination would be more lively.

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By Professor Batty

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Friday, May 19, 2023

A New Flag for Minnesota!

As the above video cleverly demonstrates, the designs of U.S. state flags are a bit of a mess. My state, Minnesota, is singled out as being a particularly egregious offender in this category.

I’ve taken it upon myself to create a new flag, one that captures the essence of Minnesota in a simple, easy-to-parse way:
The image is taken, of course, from the Minnesota-bred Coen brothers’ cinematic masterpiece Fargo, Roger Deakins cinematographer.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Finely Drawn on a Summer Afternoon

Cream Hill, 1930, Wanda Gág

Wanda, in her underwear, is a afternoon delight as she awaits her lover.

As I gaze upon the scene I can almost feel the heat of summer, the smell of the outside air wafting in, creating a mixture of those scents mixing with the nostrums and parfums on the dresser. And with the scent of Wanda.

But is that a trace of anxiety I see in her face?

Wanda Gág drew this at the home of the writer Lewis Gannett, who was also one of Wanda’s intimate friends. He memorialized Cream Hill, his summer estate, in a 1949 book of the same name.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, May 15, 2023

Hot Fun in Vesturbær

Chapter 20 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022

Friday morning and, for a change, I’ve nothing on my schedule—which means that is time to head for the pool and some extended hotpot time.
My Reykjavík pool of choice is good old Vesturbæjarlaug, about a mile from my apartment,  the walk to it always reveals new vistas. This part of town lacks the ‘shadow districts’ of the city center’s high-rises, there is plenty of sky here to help one contemplate their role in existence. Tjörnin, the pond, is right across the street from my apartment, that tranquil body of water always seems to soothe the savage beast, its ducks and swans gracefully ply the ripples in search of some morsel from the muck. A jarring electronic sign on the edge of Skothúsvegur reminds me of why I am here:
At the end of that street is one of the entrances to the Hólavallagarður cemetery, a place celebrated in the great Halldór Laxness novel Brekkukotsannáll (The Fish Can Sing), a quiet respite from traffic of the nearby Hringbraut highway:
The cemetery itself is a glorious place, insofar as a graveyard can be considered a delight. It bears an aspect of benign neglect, wearing its covering of vegetation and fallen leaves like fine clothes strewn about a rococo dressing room after a party.
Continuing on, I spotted this electric Jaguar, sporting a paint-job in FITK purple:
It was after noon by the time I entered the pool complex. In the locker room I stripped and showered before donning my beloved Speedo. There was a bigger crowd today as the weather was fine and several people had Airwaves armbands. I spoke with a few of them while we cooked in the hotpots, pleasant conversation but a far cry from the life-altering morning I spent with Ufuoma in 2015, or listening to a trawler captain recite poetry. in 2006. A few hours later, completely recharged, I headed back to the apartment for brief nap before the evening’s festivities would begin anew.

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By Professor Batty

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Friday, May 12, 2023

Cottage Cheese

This crude film was shot by yours truly at The People’s Fair, a lawless rock 'n' roll drug party that took place near Iola Wisconsin in June of 1970. Along with the shots of the band, there are scenes from the festival itself.

Featured here is Dave Wagner of Crow, then an up and coming group from the Twin Cities area. They bounced around the festival circuit for a while until a crooked manager bankrupt them. This song, a sensitive lament about the poignant aftermath of a night of love-making, was a top 40 hit in the Upper Midwest.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Two-fer from the Explodo Boys

The further live adventures of The Explodo Boys, a seminal Minneapolis R&B band of the 70s

By Professor Batty

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Monday, May 08, 2023


Chapter 19 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022

I always get a bit of a rush when I go out at night in Reykjavík. In my visits in 2004 and 2006 there was always a palpable sense of danger, ‘gangs’ of young ruffians seemed to prowl the city centre, rowdy and often drunk. I witnessed several acts of vandalism and intimidation but that era seems to have passed, although there have been a rash of stabbing incidents in recent months.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

The night air is cool, of course, sometimes windy, but the nearly empty city in its ‘evening clothes’ shows a different face than that of the tourist-thronged daytime hours:
The often severe architecture can be a little foreboding, but I enjoy walking through Reykjavík neighborhoods at night, at times it seems as if I am on a film set:
A corrugated steel-clad house can be just as attractive as a marble palace:
Of course if you are lucky the night sky over Reykjavík has its own attractions:

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By Professor Batty

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Friday, May 05, 2023

Faces in the Crowd

Ballard Sunday Market, Seattle, April 30, 2023

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, May 03, 2023


Multimedia installation by Jónsi, National Nordic Museum

By Professor Batty

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Monday, May 01, 2023

Forskot á heimavelli

Chapter 18 of Search For a Dancer, a serial memoir of one week in Iceland in 2022. Mondays on Flippism is the Key
“We may judge what is merely beautiful, but sublime art judges us or, better said, it challenges us to judge ourselves.” ~ David P. Goldman
JFDR and band, Gamla Bíó, Iceland Airwaves, 2022

Where to begin?

Along with Johann Johannson, Jófríður Ákadóttir (AKA JFDR) and her sister Ásthildur have been consistent presences in my Icelandic musical landscape. Alas, Johann is gone now but his claim to immortality is assured by his film scores. Jófríður is on her third (or fourth or fifth) career and, at the age of 28, shows no sign of slowing down. Her live performances had been curtailed during the Covid epidemic but she kept busy with film and television score work.

As she has grown from a shy teen into a mature performer some things have changed while other traits remain. The best description of her early years is found in an interview by KFJC's DJ Cousin Mary, done when she was sixteen:
“I think we just don’t really realize how young we are. We have all this time to do so many things. Sometimes we kind of get lost in always comparing ourselves to some people who are older and have been doing this thing for a lot longer time. I thinks that’s one sort of mistake that you make and you have to be very careful sometimes because we are very young and we have to sometimes be careful not to compare ourselves too much.”
Ásthildur and Jófríður Ákadóttir, Grand Rokk, October 16, 2009

The Ákadóttir twins produced three full-length albums (and several other tracks) as Pascal Pinon. Since then, Jófríður has collaborated with numerous other groups and performers and started a solo career as JFDR. Ásthildur pursued composition and further musical education. Seeing them on stage together again was a delight—their years apart were always not smooth sailing—but both looked to be in their element as they played and sang together:
Ásthildur and Jófríður, November 3, 2022

The best description of Jófríður’s current state of mind is to be found in this The Line of Best Fit interview. The arrangements featured backing tracks augmented by Ásthildur’s and Josh Wilkinson’s keyboards, a string section and, at times, Jófríður on guitar. Her steady finger-picking style has been a constant throughout her career. What has changed is a shift from melodically based guitar songs to programmed grooves:

What was also missing were the quirky fills and odd instrumentation of the Pascal Pinon songs. They were albums out of time, living in a separate reality where only twins can go. Jófríður’s new music is polished and pleasant, modern in every way. She commented that being on the Gamla Bíó stage was like a homecoming. A “home-field advantage?” I thought. The crowd was attentive and appreciative, especially so for such an ethereal performer, but Jófríður was really in her element when she strapped on her guitar:
As the final chords of her set faded away, I was struck with a feeling of melancholy: this might well be the final time I’m in the same room as these twins—“Pascal Pinon-the two-headed“—a most agreeable freak of nature. Jófríður’s music is sublime but seems to be heading in a direction that I’m not; Ásthildur’s music may be more to my taste, but so far there have only been hints as to where her art is going. The almost mystical bond they shared in their youth has been torn and rent in the way that all the trappings of youth are ultimately shredded by time.

Lift ourselves up from the ground
Let wings grow into our backs as if we are angels
In the cold air of heaven
We're flying to, we fall down

Throw ourselves into the deep sea
Let fish-tails grow onto our bodies
Swim like seals in the cold ocean and
Feel safe 'cause there we can't fall down

Lower ourselves down
From the sky, and onto the earth
Let arms grow out of our bodies
As if we're babies*

Overall the night was a triumph for Jófríður, a welcome homecoming where she could strut her stuff and face the world:
This post has been a bit of a mess—jumping back and forth between various stages of the sisters’ career, but it accurately reflects my thinking on them; their music is all jumbled up in my conciousness: I’m a fan, not a musicologist.

* Babies, by Jófríður Ákadóttir

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By Professor Batty

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