Wednesday, August 30, 2023


Q: Maybe one of these pitchmen can sell me on the idea of returning to the fair?

A: It worked! If you are reading this today, August 30, 2023, I am actually at the fair.

Full report on Friday.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 28, 2023


I’m psyching myself up to return to the Minnesota State Fair.
 I last attended the fair in 2019, when these images were taken.
I’m still waiting to make my decision.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, August 25, 2023

Food Truck Frenzy - 2023

Nothing beats holding the annual food truck rodeo on the hottest day of the year.
This rib truck was tempting:
Although ice cream would be even better:
These workers seemed to be as cooked as the food:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

2023 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 perspiring) artists (heat index: 111°F!) and their friends and families can see the new crop of “fine” artworks by Minnesota residents. This years show is OK, the average quality is up but it didn't seem to have as many exceptional works. LOTS OF DOG ART! I first made it in to the exhibition in 1973—50 years ago—so my inclusion in this year’s exhibit is a special landmark for me.

Some brief impressions from last night’s preview…

Never lose sight of the vulnerable, a lesson from the birds, Blair Treuer:
Projections, Kathryn D’Elia:
Flight, Jack Mader:
Threatened Lady, Denise Mattes:
Monarch Butterfly Scarf, Samantha Haring:
Raise High the Roofbeams, Mark Alan Peterson:
Homage to Seydou Keïta, Betsy Thayer:
Godzilla vs. Barbie, Nicole Houff:
See all the entrants in the catalog.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Another Kind of Doll Story

The Girl By the Bridge
A Detective Konráð Novel

By Arnaldur Indriðason
Translated by Philip Roughton
Minotaur Books, 2023

It was October, 2018. The Weaver and I were heading into Reykjavík from the airport when I spotted an electronic billboard touting Stulkan hjá brúnní, the latest title from Iceland’s most renown mystery writer. It wasn’t until this year that I was able to read it in translation.

It was worth the wait.

The novel begins on the small bridge over Tjörnin, the pond in the center of Reykjavik, a place where I have walked dozens of times. It is 1961 and a young man spies a doll in the water at the pond’s edge. He investigates further and finds the body of a girl. The narrative jumps to a birthday party a few weeks later where we are introduced to Eygló, a 12 year-old girl with psychic abilities, who has an encounter with an apparition of another girl who mysteriously disappears after saying “I lost her.”

Flash-forward nearly sixty years and we find retired Detective Konrád who is called upon to conduct an informal search for the granddaughter of a notable Icelandic couple. The story takes off from there, with the usual mix of druggies and lowlife who are somehow tied into the death of the girl who was found at the bridge. Eygló reappears with information about the dead girl. Konrád’s back story is nicely integrated into the plot, I’m looking forward to seeing how the long arc of that story develops. In a pleasant deviation from the usual dectective novels, Konrád does not develop a love interest (perhaps because he's in his seventies.)

This is solid writing, terse, with a good translation by Roughton. Lots of local references makes it fun to read if you’ve spent time walking the streets of Reykjavík (if so, have a map handy when you read this). All of that said, as with most of Arnaldur’s novels, there are lots of interviews with elderly witnesses, not exactly thriller material. Multi-generational cover-ups are a recurring theme of Arnaldur’s books. There are three more books in the series yet to be translated.

I’ve reviewed most of Arnaldur’s translated output over a time span which matches this blog’s existence exactly. During that time he’s sold millions of books while all I have this goofy blog with its 20-30 daily visitors! Recommended.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Ode to Barbie

In a realm of plastic, pale and fair,
There dwells a doll with vacant stare,
Her visage smooth, her form refined,
Yet melancholy veils her mind.

A simulacrum, void of soul,
A vessel crafted to extol,
Perfection's guise, a siren's call,
But hollow depths behind it all.

Those lifeless eyes, a painted guise,
Conceal the truth that darkness lies,
Within her heart, a void so vast,
An echo of a future past.

Oh, Barbie, cursed by thy design,
A captive to a world malign,
Forever trapped in beauty's snare,
The poet’s pen weeps for your despair.

Plastic prison, gilded cage,
A tragic tale of modern age,
A puppet danced by unseen hands,
The poet laments, your fate he understands.

So let us mourn this wretched plight,
A Gothic ode to endless night,
For Barbie fair, a mournful plea,
In the poet’s embrace, finds sympathy.
As imagined by AI in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. Go see the movie, it is infinitely better.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023


A motion picture

Directed by Greta Gerwig

It has been nearly FOUR YEARS since I’ve seen a movie in a theater*.

What would a film need to have to bring me back?

It would have to have a brilliant script, first-rate direction, thoughtful themes and beautiful and talented actors.

In other words, Barbie.

The biggest movie of the year lured me out of my pine-paneled garret to traverse a pot-holed parking lot at the local multiplex on a rainy Monday morning. I bought two early bird admissions for The Weaver and me ($20, ouch!) The sticker shock of $10 popcorn (not even a bucket!) curbed my appetite for snacks and the fifteen-minute barrage of insanity that previews are made of nowadays caused me to further question my decision. But when the movie started with a 30-foot-tall homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 all was forgiven.

Barbie is some kind of masterpiece. I don’t know what kind, but nearly everything I've read about it—for or against— has been true, except for the spittle of knee-jerk reactionaries and short-attention span critics who think that a couple of 60 second monologues go on too long. It is a movie about how ideas shape us, specifically the aspirations embodied by the various Barbie iterations over the years. It is about gender roles, about mother-daughter relations and, ultimately, about being honest with ourselves. Every element of the production is seamlessly integrated and the actors are all fully engaged, you can tell that they were having a blast. Margot Robbie is Barbie and, while Ryan Gosling as Ken shines, it is really Michael Cera as Ken’s friend Allan who steals the show as its moral center. Ariana Greenblatt, who portrays the sulky teen-aged Sasha, is going to be a superstar.

Will I see it again?


In a theater?

Probably not. Even with the wide-screen hi-def images (it looks FABULOUS!), the Dolby sound (loud and clear but nothing special and can't be adjusted) and the powered pleather lounge chairs (I kept bumping the adjustment controls with my elbow), it can’t compete with the comforts of home. This is a great movie to watch under the influence of mind-altering drugs or some good wine and hors d'oeuvres or, (gasp) even when stone-cold sober.

*Knives Out, November, 2019

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, August 14, 2023

New Signage Installed

A new sign, featuring the name change and new school colors (purple and black) has been installed at the 42nd street entrance of what was once Minneapolis Patrick Henry—my old high school.

While details have yet to be worked out on merchandising and promotional items, it is understood that the school uniforms will be in the new colors (purple, black) with the addition of raspberry berets.

There are also three candidates for the new rouser: Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, and Sexy M/F.

Note: this is “fake news” although there is actually a chance that it may become real!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 11, 2023


An Ari Thór Thriller
By Ragnar Jonasson
Translated by Quentin Bates

This book, written in 2011, was published in English in 2018. It was the only one of Ragnar’s ‘Dark Iceland’ mysteries to have escaped my purview. Set in during the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010, the post-crash economy of Iceland is just starting to pick up when a laborer is found murdered at a remote farmhouse which was undergoing renovations. Ari Thór and his sidekick Tómas investigate the case while Ísrún, a news journalist from Reykjavík, drives up to Akureyri to cover the situation for televison.

This is one of Ragnar’s better efforts, the plot is complex, but not to the point of confusion. Many of the characters have flashbacks as the scope of the underlying cause of the crime becomes revealed. There is a bang-up ending, perhaps a little too neat, but satisfactory. It does take place in the summer, however, so the weather is actually nice in the North, in contrast to the volcanic ash and pollution from Eyjafjallajokull. At less than 250 pages it is a good vacation read.

The translation by Bates is odd: lifeless, awkward phrasing, British usage, and even a few typos. This isn’t fine literature, but a decent translation could have made it better.

Marginal recommendation.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

R.I.P., J.R.R.

Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Midway Stadium, St. Paul, Mn, June 26, 1971, Robbie is playing his ’65 Fender Telecaster:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

One Station Away

A novel by Olaf Olafsson
HarperCollins, 2017

I found this in a Des Moines library sell cart.

I had read other books by Olaf, a Reykjavík-born polymath who has been successful in physics, computer systems and media (he helped develop the Sony Playstation and was a Time-Warner vice-president); his novels tend to be melancholy affairs, this one is no exception. Magnus Conyngham is a neurologist, the son of an English father and an Icelandic mother. He has a difficult relationship with his parents, they were both active in music but he was not, and grew up suspecting that he was the cause of his mother’s failure to succeed as a concert pianist. He had a girlfriend, Malena, and currently works with a woman named Simone in a project with an aim to reach people who are apparently brain dead. One of whom, name unknown, he thinks he can make contact with.

These four women are a source of conflict for Magnus: his girlfriend’s health issues, his mother’s recording comeback, Simone’s failed attempts to establish a more meaningful relationship with Magnus, and the semi-comatose accident victim who is resistant to his attempts to bring her out of her shell.

Things go from bad to worse as the story progresses, Magnus can’t seem to react in a meaningful way to any of it—he is emotionally stunted—one colleague suggests that he take a personality inventory to find out where he is on the autistic spectrum.

Olaf’s writing is fine, he handles the four intertwining stories well, even when they get a little far-fetched.

A qualified recommendation, I think his more recent books are better.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, August 07, 2023

Finer Art

I recently purchased this original oil painting portrait of this fine animal at a garage sale in Des Moines, Iowa. It had just been brought over by a neighbor lady who had it priced at $5! There had been some kind of applied patina on the ornate frame that had oxidized into sort of a furry mess, but that was easily cleaned. The painting itself was perfect.

It is signed “Baher” but an internet search turned up a few artists of that name but none that did animal portraits. Definitely an oddity. It’s hanging in Flippist World Headquarters now but it may not make it in the long haul, I’ll probably donate it to an owner of an Irish Setter.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, August 04, 2023

Fine Art

I recently acquired an oil painting, from the sticker on the back I deduced that it was from the late 1800s or early 1900s.:
The National Portrait Gallery of England has this bio of James:

James Lanham 1869-1907, James Lanham Ltd from 1907 onwards, High St, St Ives, Cornwall. Artists' colourmen, picture framemakers etc.

James Lanham (1848-1931) founded his business in 1869, trading as a general merchant. He has been described as well travelled, visiting the major art galleries of Europe, and he became an important part of the artists’ community in St Ives, holding regular Saturday afternoon tea meetings for leading artists. In 1912, Lanham sold the business to Benjamin Bramham, who in 1919 sold it on to Martin Cock, great-grandfather of the present owners. The Articles of Association from 1907 record the business as a wine and spirit merchant, house and estate agent, dealer in artists’ materials, general and fancy furnisher. Lanham was buried in Barnoon Cemetery in St Ives, where his gravestone gives his date of birth as 29 October 1848 and of death as 29 May 1931 (information from David Tovey, confirmed on site; however, note that the 1881 and 1891 censuses imply that he was born c.1843/4). Lanham was listed as a retired shop-keeper in the 1921 census. He left an estate worth £10,737, with probate granted to Helen, his widow.

James Lanham was listed in Cornwall directories as ‘Fancy Repository & tobacconist’ in 1873, and ‘Ale & Porter Merchant’ and ‘Wine & Spirit Merchant’ in 1883. The business did not become an artists' colourman with associated Gallery until 1887. The entry in Kelly’s Cornwall directory in 1889 reveals the very wide range of the business as ‘Artists’ colourman, china, glass and earthen ware dealer, general ironmonger & cutler, general draper & furniture dealer, & ale & porter bottler…, wine & spirit merchants’. Lanham’s Galleries were one of the few places where local artists could show their works. The artist Norman Garstin described Lanham’s shop in The Studio in 1896:
‘In the main street of St. Ives there is a shop, though I cannot help feeling that emporium best describes the variety of the goods and the far-reaching enterprise of the proprietor… from it a stream of colours that are ground in London, Paris, Dusseldorf and Brussels, are for ever trickling in slow rivulets, or flowing in rich streams, as the energy and style of the painters require, into the various studios of the town… As you advance through the shop the gloom somewhat deepens, but one is conscious of being closely surrounded by many things without which life would still be endurable. Just beyond use there is a little room [where] the colours and the canvases as yet are kept discreetly apart… On the left… there are stairs somewhat like the companion of an aesthetic ship, decorated with Florentine photographs, Botticellis, &c.; this leads on to the upper deck, to the gallery in fact. Here, under an awning that softens the strong glare of the sky-light, you find a very charming little show, always fresh and interesting.’
Whistler visited St Ives in 1884 and it is said that he encouraged James Lanham to stock artists' materials since otherwise he had to send away for paints. Alfred Munnings wrote in his autobiography of the beautiful canvases he obtained from Lanham's including one on 'an absorbent, china-clay priming… a tribute to the canvases prepared in those days at St Ives'. Lanham, 'that excellent artists' caterer', apparently made it his business to supply the Newlyn School of Painting, set up in 1899, which he visited once a week for that purpose.

The painting is extremely delicate, the paint flakes off at the slightest touch. I scanned it and retouched it in Photoshop:
A closeup of the Victorian maiden, lifting her hair as she undresses (click to enlarge):

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

I'm In with the Fine Arts Crowd!

Every year my old pal Nicole and I enter the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts competition.

Sometimes she “gets in”, sometimes I do.

This year we both did: Nicole, with another of her fabulous Barbie™ dioramas (she was on the Barbie bandwagon years ago), and this image, my meditation on the unselfconscious beauty of youth:
Edie and Tallulah, 2017

I'll post more about the fair exhibition on August 23rd, right after I attend the preview night:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

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