Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Less Than Perfect

I stumbled across a web site which offered to be my “personal grammar coach.” Just what I needed! They allow you try the service (in a limited capacity) by pasting a section of text in the box. I copied a few FITK posts and received various “ratings” from 60 to 70 percent of what I assume to be “perfection.”

Just to make sure the service was legit, I pasted some excerpts from F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories. They did worse! I made one final test—with the final paragraph of Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart. It got 82% and would have probably gotten 100% if it hadn’t been discounted for its use of archaic language.

It looks as if my writing has a ways to go.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Gourmand or Glutton?

The Rector Cookbook
World Famous Recipes
by George Rector
Rector Publishing, 1928

From the introduction:
I can affirm and testify, after looking over the books of that dim era, that Diamond Jim was the best twenty-five customers I ever had. Diamond Jim never smoked or drank. But how he ate! He loved to be surrounded by handsome men and beautiful women at the table and it was no unusual thing for us to lay covers for eight to ten guests of Mr. Brady. If they all kept their appointments, fine! If but two or three guests were to be present, fine! And if nobody showed up but Diamond Jim, fine!. Mr. Brady would proceeded gravely to eat the ten dinners himself.
Thus the table was set for this: a book of recipes which are somewhat schematic in form—it assumes the reader has knowledge of food preparation as well as a healthy (unhealthy?) appetite. Most of the recipes are quite rich: it has ten pages of sauces and two pages of various prepared butters. The bulk of the recipes are for fish, meat and poultry, with heavy use of the aforementioned sauces and butters. Suet is an essential for several dishes. The book’s author, George Rector, was a bit of a celebrity: son of a famous New York restaurateur, a radio and film personality (he even appeared in a Mae West film) and newspaper columnist.
The cookbook was evidently a perk from The Milwaukee Road rail line, the back of the book has ads for various train routes with a level service that would be unthinkable today.
Let’s eat!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, January 26, 2024

Modern Icelandic Fiction

A pair of books reviewed today:

The Creator
A novel by
Guðrún Mínervudóttir
Tanslated by Sarah Bowen
Portobello Books, 2008

The first title, The Creator, is the lighter of the two. A situational comedy, its humor is leavened with serious themes of isolation, friendship and even a little salvation, with all of it revolving around a sex doll. The protagonist, Sveinn, is an artist in silicone, making life-sized and anatomically correct dolls for lonely men. Lóa is a divorced mother of two who gets a flat tire and pulls into Svienn’s driveway to change the tire, an action which sets the plot into motion. Sveinn invites Loá in, sharing his supper (and a couple of bottles of wine) with her leading Lóa to drink herself into a stupor. She nods off in an armchair while Sveinn fixes her tire. Sveinn gallantly covers her and retires to his bed. When Lóa awakes in the morning Sveinn is still sound asleep so she explores his workshop where she discovers Sveinn’s sex-doll masterpiece: Raven-Black. Lóa thinks that her anorexic daughter could use some company (as well as a curvaceous role-model) so she steals the doll and the parade of errors begins. At the same time, Sveinn is plagued by crank calls and letters that accuse him of ruining lonely men’s lives with his sex-dolls. Sveinn thinks that Lóa is to blame.

Both of the main characters have misgivings and spells of self-examination which, in true Icelandic fashion, don’t really resolve much but there is sort of a happy ending.


A novel by
Kristín Omarsdóttir
Translated by Vala Thorodds
Harpervia, 2022

Looking for weird modern Icelandic fiction? Swanfolk is the weirdest, full stop.

From the sleeve:
In the not-too-distant future, a young Special Unit spy named Elísabet Eva finds herself mentally unraveling following an assignment in Paris. To regain her mental balance, Elisabet takes long solitary walks near the lake.

One day, she sees two strange beasts emerging from the water—seemingly mythical creatures, human above the waist, swans below. Curious, she follows them through a tangle of thickets to a clearing...and into a strange new reality.
The story never lets up from there—hallucinatory, impressionistic, with some dystopia and a bit of very odd poetry thrown into the mix. The translator, Vala Thorodds, is an Icelandic literary figure of note herself and, in a brief afterword hints at some of the difficulty translating this work. It is strange and beautiful in translation, but I can’t help but feel that the book’s true measure is to be found in the original tongue.

Not recommended for the timid, and braver souls should still be wary.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Rendezvous with Box MC 1088

Tumble Timbers, New Jersey

I was doing some research on a future writing project when I found this archive. I looked through the list a couple of times before it dawned on me that it has exactly what I was looking for. Photographs of a certain artist’s studio, from the first part of the twentieth century. Not only did it have what I was looking for, but its location was a mere half-hour away! I made an appointment to examine Box MC 1088 and went in the next day.

The facility was first-rate and, after a brief orientation, I was shown to a desk where the box and its contents awaited. I lifted the lid and there they were—dozens of photo album pages in mylar sleeves. There were also two books not on the inventory. As I sorted through the loose sleeves, I quickly came to the realization that these weren’t just photo albums, they were the artist’s personal albums. I also realized that there were only two of the five that should have been in the box. Grrrr.

At any rate, something was better that nothing, and I soon became enraptured by what I saw. Although the studio I was looking for wasn't there there was a shot of an earlier one:

Tumble Timbers, New Jersey

And there was this loose picture of the artist herself with her favorite model, with her penciled note on the back:

Mamaroneck, New York

Gulp. Nothing like being face to face the object of your desire, 90 years removed. I looked through the books as well. They were samples, mock ups from the publisher, full sized but with only a few chapters printed and the rest of the pages blank. The artist had used these blank pages for notes and pencil sketches; I was stunned. I reported the missing items and was told to contact the librarian, they may have been misfiled. That is a project for another day.

Images: Robert Janssen, circa 1929

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 22, 2024

The Book of Hidden Wonders

A Novel by
Polly Crosby
Park Row Books, 2020

Magical Realism is a genre that is, by its definition, ill-suited to rigid classifications.

This MR story opens on a girl, Romilly Kemp, living with her artist father (and a cat) in a decaying manor house in the English countryside in the late 1980s. Her father is affectionate but distant and, after a bit of exposition, he conceives of a series of picture books which will feature his daughter. The books become wildly successful, causing stress on young Rom, already troubled by coming of age issues, issues that are compounded by some mysterious happenings.

This sounds a bit like a formulaic YA book, but is actually a sophisticated study of a broken family and the confusing world that is revealed to a girl as she grows older. There are plenty
of dark moments here; this is not a feel-good novel. Romilly is an unreliable narrator, and the line between reality and fantasy is continually being crossed. It should be read cold, any plot summary will ruin the magic. I may be a sap but the ending moved me to tears; I’m still haunted by it.

Highest recommendation but literalists and curmudgeons beware.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Then… and Now

What a difference 35 years makes.
Flippist World Headquarters was a bit of a shambles when we moved in, and for several years afterwards.

I had finally had enough of our hopeless kitchen and tore everything out. I replaced the old mess of mismatched cabinets, unused entryways (the big hole in the floor was for one) and twelve layers of questionable flooring (you can see the bottom two in the top picture.) With its cabin-like vibe and earth-tones it has stood the test of time, a pleasant place to gather and even linger over a holiday meal.

Would I do anything differently now? Perhaps a little more storage (which I still might add) and the resizing of an inch or two here or there on the cabinets.

Some folks redo their kitchens every decade to match the latest fashion, but the latest black and gray fantasies leave me cold.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Ecce Homo

Caitlin Karolczak

Adam, The First Man Exhibition
NHCC Joseph Gazzuolo Fine Arts Gallery
January 13-31, 2014.

Linda Dobosenski, Caitlin Karolczak, Kyrie Kotlowski, Heather Mortensen, and Jean Loy-Swanson.

Alternative perspectives to traditional forms are offered by a group of artists with diverse female views of a male world. The artists challenge the viewer to consider new perspectives of visual beauty and male role in our culture. The work is presented in a variety of media including photography, fabric, painting, drawing, and mixed media sculpture.

This exhibition follows in the footsteps of the exhibition "Masculine / Masculine, The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to Present day" at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France. A review of the exhibit states "While it has been quite natural for the female nude to be regularly exhibited, the male nude has not been accorded the same treatment." "Adam, The First Man" is an exhibition conceived with exactly this thought in mind.
~ from the exhibit catalog

It isn’t often I get a mid-week invitation to a provocative art opening. Braving the wind and snow, I set my course for the wilds of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and was rewarded with a small, yet intense show celebrating the nude male form. The rumor was that the show was instigated by women in the school's nursing program who had enough of the female nude in the school's exhibitions; turnabout was fair play. There was a good mix of work on display, nothing that would cause a riot, although some provincials might disapprove.

The most dramatic pieces were the oil paintings by Caitlin Karolczak, I’ve written about her before. This show’s thematic unity made her work appear even more powerful. We talked about the role of the male nude in art and how things are changing and how the naked male figure is still a challenge to many viewers.

Art should be challenging.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 15, 2024


It was taped to the inside of a cupboard in my Airbnb. I found this epigrammatic missive as I was cleaning up before I vacated the premises, my host was away, in Spain, but even if she had been there I would have probably been to shy to ask about these life instructions, this regimen for self-improvement. Most of it was just common sense, but some of the items gave me pause. It was dated 23 Ai/2019 on
the top and followed by a numbered list:
  1. Try to take vegetarian food.
  2. Never take fruit with curds/yogurt
  3. Apply oil to whole body and take a Shower (everyday).
  4. Soak the feet in hot/warm water with 2-3 tsp
    Sea Salt.
  5. Meditate at least once a day.
I found it curious that #1 was just a suggestion while #2 was in the form of a non-negotiable command. I had heard of this proscription before (never eat cherries with milk) but it never stopped me from enjoying fruit on my cottage cheese, is this a Zen thing? #3 seems to be in reverse order, followed by #4 which is a nice way to end the day. #5 wraps it up, I can see where this would make a good plan.

It becomes less ordered after that:

Breath = find happy me = apply pink = give happyness 2 all people and places
Stomach up          grownding
   down              „happy - share happy"

Good breathing is a foundation of wellness, no quibbles there, and ‘happy me’, ‘apply pink’, and ‘happyness to all people and places’ sounds like a delightful philosophy.

Púls → digestion, sleep, garbage, no one
to talk to, support, feel I cant
talk about this with child.
Bak, herdar, holar.
food -
Moondale green beans. ↕ Dagri(suced)kin
B Complex

Now it gets weird.

Púls, bak, herðar and holar are Icelandic words: pulse; back; shoulder; hollow, possibly referring to tension in the upper torso. Digestion, sleep, garbage, are things that need to be taken care of. But ‘no one to talk to, and ‘feel that I cant talk to child about this’ are serious signifiers of some deeper problems. Who lived here? Who is in need of such basic human needs? Is it the artist whose borderline-creepy work decorates the flat, is it the person who created the Mother Theresa shrine? And what are Moon dale green beans? Dagri (suced) kin? I can understand B complex. Someone was in search of a re-balancing of their life, someone who was striving for homeostasis.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Winter Movies - I


Summer Interlude, 1951
A film by Ingmar Bergman

Long, cold winter nights usually bring out the Melancholy Scandinavian in me. In order to appease the dark gods I watch an Ingmar Bergman film. I've seen many of them but the earlier releases are hard to come by so I was intrigued when I saw a DVD of this title in my library.

The film takes place in two time frames, set twenty years apart. Marie (Maj-Britt Nilsson) is a aging ballerina who knows her days as a performer are numbered. She is romantically pursued by a reporter but shuts him off when there is a chance of intimacy. She takes a ferry to a summer home in the Stockholm archipelago where she remembers a youthful affair.  The affair is ended by tragedy, and Marie ends up under the spell of her creepy "uncle" who encourages her to build an emotional wall to prevent her from being overcome with grief. Many of Bergman's standard tropes are on view here: shots with mirrors, corrupt clergy, chess matches, grotesque characters. The scenes of the young people in love are sometimes naive and quaint yet at times passionate, possessing a subtle beauty revealed by the cinematography by Gunnar Fischer (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Smiles of a Summer Night). The images are worth watching for their own sake.

IFC Films

The Saddest Music in the World, 2003
A film by Guy Maddin

Set in Winnipeg in the winter of 1933 (where the snow is eight feet deep), this strange, dream-like fantasy has to be seen to be appreciated—a description can hardly do it justice. It was very loosely based on a screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro. Baroness Helen Port-Huntley (Isabella Rossellini) announces a competition to find the saddest music in the world—a publicity stunt to promote her brewery. What follows is an inspired sequence of performances, coupled with a back story involving Helen, an American producer, his alcoholic father (who had amputated Helen’s legs in error) and a pair of prosthetic glass legs filled with beer! A perfect winter film, mostly black and white, with portions shot on super-8!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 08, 2024

A Closer Look — Groá

Groá is an Icelandic punk-rock band.

Fríða og Marta:
Karòlína og Miles:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, January 05, 2024

Amma Don og Öx

My destination was Amma Don, a Reykjavík speakeasy at 55 Laugavegur.
There was no signage, just a graffiti-covered entryway with a brass lion on the wall. The lion’s tongue sticks out and when I depressed it a woman voice asked of my intentions. I passed muster and was buzzed in where I walked down a blank hallway to a set of industrial stairs that led down to a small room about 12 meters square. On one wall was a carved wooden door. Going through it I found myself transported to a 50s retro-styled lounge where I was greeted by a young woman dressed in black and shown to a low table that had my name on a card at my place. After sitting down in a comfortable chair my companions for the evening began to filter in, I was given a glass of champagne and vintage book by Halldór Laxness (which contained the drinks menu—if the champagne weren’t enough.) A man from California was seated next to me, we were the only singletons. Pleasantries were exchanged, and an amuse bouche arrived to tickle my palate. After cocktails we were led to a bookcase to the right of the bar:
The bookcase swung open and we entered Öx, a Michelin star restaurant. The seventeen of us found seats around the horseshoe-shaped table:
A rotating group of chefs in aprons explained and prepared the food in front of us, while the sommelier (in a suit) explained the history of each vintage:
The courses came in due course, each chosen to reflect an Icelandic food heritage: potato + miso + rutabaga; laufabrauð + juniper + hangiköt; lamb + butter; caviar + choux + duck eggs; chicken liver + red beets + red currant. The scallop + dulse + fennel pollen was a miracle:
The list went on: halibut + rhubarb + fig leaf; shrimp + tomatoes + habanero; salmon + quinoa + sea urchin; rutabaga + almond + brown butter; geothermal rye bread + butter + trout; monkfish + yeast + dulse; quail + unagi + unagi. Then came the lamb—fresh—never frozen (“only good at this time of year”) + feykir + beetroot:
Wasabi leaf + crémant + pumpkin seeds?:
With ten courses of wine and drinks it all became a blur: Bilberry + marscapone + roses; sea buckthorn + carrot + ginger?  I do remember them preparing the main dessert: beignet + Omnon (chocolate) + malt:
One of them asked me how it was, I answered “Þetta er allt að koma“ which impressed him greatly. After a couple more “desserts” (chicken skin? + sea salt + liquorice; toffee + barley) and a shot of their own spiced liqueur, it was over and they all took a bow:
Thus ended my three and a half hour Michelin star restaurant dining experience. It is hard to compare to a regular (or even a superlative) restaurant meal. It may be a bit too much, but once (or twice) in a lifetime is just right.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Room With A View X2

14 Bjarkargata, Reykjavík, day view
14 Bjarkargata, Reykjavík, night view

Homewood Photo Collective project

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 01, 2024

Happy New Year!

“I have nothing left to say, but I’m gonna say it anyway.” ~ Randy Newman
Time for a Flippist mic drop?

At the very least this blog is due for some serious stock-taking.

Lately I have seen articles online where the author waxes fondly on the blog explosion of 2001-2010, a “golden decade” of seemingly limitless creativity and the promise of a brighter future, with people coming together around the world in an expression of shared humanity. Remember that this was a phenomenon started before Facebook, before Twitter, even before Google went public! Well, we’ve now seen how those later developments have turned out. The blogging dream isn’t quite dead yet, but it smells funny.

From time to time I get spam email solicitations from semi-literate people eager to remodel this web site. If there is one thing I won’t change drastically in the coming year is the formatting of Flippism is the Key. More than just a site, it is a record of my life, and a portal to other worthwhile sites, each just two clicks away in the sidebar. No animation or pop-ups, FITK remains close to the original concept of HyperCard but much more efficient.

What may change here is the frequency of posting, perhaps twice a week—Mondays and Fridays? The Flippist Archives have been exploited, but not yet depleted. Since I’m not beholden to an audience, I can still cover almost anything except politics and religion (there are thousands of other very serious people to do that.) To review my tastes, check out the category “Dogma” in the sidebar. In 2024 my travel posts will be fewer… don’t get around much anymore… but there will still be plenty of photo-essays for the casual viewer, and more explorations in the art of photography.

Icelandic culture, perhaps the only real constant in FITK over the last 20 years, will still crop up from time to time but without the intensity of the last couple of years. I’ve over-indulged in their music scene and on the literary front I am waiting for a new crop of modern Icelandic fiction to be translated. Live theatre in Reykljavík is a shadow of its glorious past. As far as just visiting goes, the influx of tourists there (TEN times the amount when I first went in March of 2000) has created a whole new and possibly unsustainable paradigm—aesthetically at least. The old harbour and the city center has lost a lot of its charm, with funky stores and businesses replaced by soulless hotels, bars, and souvenir shops—with the signage always in English!

One mixed blessing is the rise of Airbnbs; at their best they open up rooms and flats in owner-occupied dwellings (the original concept) but on the flip side they have taken a large number of entire houses out of the domestic market, effectively diminishing Reykjavík’s small-town feel and reducing the amount of affordable housing for people who actually live and work there year-round. With the rise of simple but high-quality stabilized camcorders, there now are dozens, if not hundreds, of “Reykjavík City Walks” on YouTube, taking the surprise out of discovering the city for the first time:

Þetta reddast.

Image: Marta Ákadóttir of the punk rock band Groá, Iceland Airwaves, 2023

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

                                                                                     All original Flippism is the Key content copyright Stephen Charles Cowdery, 2004-2023