Friday, March 29, 2024

Milwaukee Masterpieces - III

Guerilla photography art gallery on bridge supporting column with graffiti editorial content.

Artist(s) unknown, 2014

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Milwaukee Masterpieces - II

Milwuakee Art Museum, Burke Brise Soleil

Architect: Santiago Calatrava

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Monday, March 25, 2024

Milwaukee Masterpieces - I

Kilbourn Avenue Bridge House

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Friday, March 22, 2024

The Young Girls of Rochefort

A Film by Jacques Demy, 1967

Film musicals have gained a reputation for being purely entertainment, glittering but lacking depth. French director Jacques Demy defies this categorization of musicals as his two masterpieces The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort embrace happiness and sorrow and are works of nuanced emotional complexity.

The Young Girls of Rochefort takes place in a town on the western coast of France. The titular “young girls” are a set of twin sisters, Delphine and Solange Garnier, played by real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac (both were in their mid-twenties when the film was shot), living near the center of Rochefort with their mother, a café-owner named Simone, and their younger half-brother, BooBoo. “We’re a pair of carefree young things,” they sing, “waiting for the joys that love brings” as they dance around their music studio in matching pink and yellow outfits. The plot is set into motion with the arrival of a traveling carnival that brings to town many romantic prospects. At the same time Maxence, a sailor who can’t stop painting the face of a woman he sees in his dreams, ponders her existence. Gene Kelly even makes an appearance as a composer looking for love. The Young Girls teases the audience by showing a series of missed opportunities between couples and then, of course, ultimately brings them together.

The entire cast is wonderful, but Dorléac (who died soon after the film was made) is a revelation, especially in her tastefully erotic dance sequence with Kelly. Michel Legrand’s jazzy score is a treat, the dance sequences are great fun, as well as the over-the-top set design. Real life should be so colorful. Barbie and La-la-land are two recent films that were strongly influenced by The Young Girls of Rochefort. In addition to its visual appeal, its balance of tragedy with hopefulness is something that very few films achieve.

This is not a film to miss.

Highest recommendation.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Reykjavík By Bike
My trusty steed photographed in Grótta, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland, October 2012

ALWAYS REMEMBER: ICELAND'S WEATHER CAN CHANGE RAPIDLY. PLAN AHEAD.

Possibly the best way to see Reykjavík and its surrounding area is by bicycle (Reiðhjól), and is certainly the best way to go if you are an experienced urban cyclist. Most of the city, except for the multi-lane highways, is bike friendly. The bike rental places have practical maps. If you do go outside the city maps are a must—trails meander between hills and it is very easy to get lost. Weekly rentals are not too expensive in the shoulder seasons, but daily rentals in the summer are pretty pricey. Before my last trip I looked online for used bikes, but they were quite expensive and the ads are in Icelandic. Even if you are experienced with bike maintenance you probably won't want to spend your precious time there tinkering with a second-hand bike. The bikes I've rented in the past have all been high quality and perfectly maintained. They were mountain bikes; the wide tires aren't really needed but do add an extra margin of stability.

Things to be aware of: cobblestones and painted street lines, when wet, can be treacherous. If you are riding in the morning in the spring or fall there will often be ice under bridges and in low areas; you may hear a warning of "Ís" (pronounced  'eese'), from oncoming cyclists. Traffic in Reykjavik can be dodgy, especially with cars coming around corners in narrow, curving streets. Some blind corners do have mirrors—good luck with that. Watch out for young idiots on racing bikes (the ones who haven't had their first crash yet) they can be very fast in the hilly parts of town and these fools think nothing of zooming in and out of pedestrians at 30 mph. There are a lot more cyclists on the road in Iceland in the last six or seven years than there used to be. Another thing to be aware of are the little motorized scooters, which are allowed on the bike paths.  Check the weather before you go out, any wind stronger than 10m/s should be avoided.  You should always wear some kind of glasses to protect your eyes from the wind gusts which can carry grit. Riding in town gives you the option of shelter in a shop or under an awning. There are often little squalls of rain throughout the day but they usually they blow over in a few minutes—unless they don't!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: ICELAND’S WEATHER CAN CHANGE RAPIDLY. PLAN AHEAD.

If you are riding at night, lights are a must. The rental shops have them, I brought my own as well, you can't have enough. If you have an extra large head (like me) bring your own helmet. Rental bikes have racks, I brought my own rack bag fitted for my camera gear as well as a smaller bag for the handle bars. I didn't bring a water bottle, I just bought a Coke and refilled it with tap water as needed. You should wear layers, and a water resistant windbreaker along for the top. The weather is very changeable, it can be quite cool in the summer and relatively warm (in the sun) in the Spring and Fall, you may need to change your layering several times in a day. Panniers‎ are a good idea, they really don't take up too much room in your luggage if you fill them with your bike clothes. Unless you are doing major trekking, I would advise against bike shoes with clip-less pedal systems, that would require bringing another pair of regular shoes along if you are going exploring at all. You'll need all your storage space for your layers—and another set of shoes would take up a lot of room, although your priorities may be different than mine.

This post isn't meant as the last word in cycling in Iceland, it's just offering a way to see this great ‘little’ city in a more intimate way than driving and with a wider range of vistas than walking.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: ICELAND'S WEATHER CAN CHANGE RAPIDLY. PLAN AHEAD.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Monday, March 18, 2024

Bubbleworld Revisited

Engine Territory

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Friday, March 15, 2024

Three Muses

Melpomene:
Jóhanna Rakel

The Muse of tragedy.

In Greek mythology, Melpomene is typically portrayed as serious and pensive, reflecting the solemn nature of tragedy. She is said to inspire playwrights, actors, and poets who seek to explore and depict the darker aspects of human existence, such as suffering, loss, and the inevitability of fate. Throughout history, Melpomene has been an enduring symbol of tragic artistry, inspiring countless writers, artists, and performers to create works that explore the depths of human emotion and the complexities of the human condition.

Polyhymnia:
Salka Valsdóttir

The Muse of sacred poetry, sacred hymn, dance and eloquence.

Polyhymnia was revered by Greek poets, orators, and musicians who sought inspiration for their hymns, prayers, and speeches. She was believed to inspire individuals to express themselves eloquently and to convey profound truths through language and gesture. Polyhymnia played an important role in inspiring creativity and fostering spiritual and intellectual growth.

Terpsichore:
Eivør Pálsdóttir

In Greek mythology, Terpsichore ("delight in dancing") embodies the beauty, elegance, and rhythm of dance.

Terpsichore was honored in various festivals and celebrations and occupies a central place in Greek mythology as the Muse of dance and choral poetry, embodying the joy and beauty of artistic expression through movement and music.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Song in Blue

I stare into nothing, I yearn for the innocence I once thought I had
A lack of sense for a fear that grows as I get older
I've carried these thoughts and I've drowned them in work
And I've worn myself blue on the way down
Oh, mother, would you cry if you hear this song?
~Jófríður Ákadóttir
In light of her perfomance tonight at SXSW I thought I would ruminate a bit about my favorite Icelandic chanteuse: Jófríður Ákadóttir, aka JFDR.

I first saw her perform with Pascal Pinon fourteen(!) years ago where I was touched by their honest presentation and her melodic songs. Jófríður and I actually interacted a bit back then, exchanging CDs, emails, she vetted a KFJC an interview (she said my blog was “cool”). A year later I saw her perform with Samaris and sat in on their sound-check, an experience which gave me some insight on her compositional methods:



In 2018 I saw her perform at Airwaves, in support of Nini Julia Bang, in an absolutely stunning off-venue performance:
I was standing in the back of the auditorium as she burst in, side-swiping me with her gear—my brush with greatness! In 2022 she repeated the feat, pushing me aside on her way to perform at a fashion boutique (I was hiding amidst the clothes but she still managed to find me):
Last year we actually sat down together and she spoke with me. I tried not to be a jabbering fan-boy but it was hard under the circumstances: I was on a vintage boat; in the Reykjavík harbour; with my favorite Icelandic musician; on a beautiful fall day and… cocoa. Jó graciously accepted my thanks for all her music over the years, so… now I can die happy, I guess:
Her music, in recent years, has become sadder as her youthful exuberance has been tempered with the usual disappointments and struggles that come with age. She got a big dose of reality when Covid hit just as she was on the verge of an international tour promoting her newest album. It wasn’t a complete disaster—she was stranded in Australia with musician/electronic equipment designer Joshua Wilkinson, whom she then married! I saw them perform together at last year’s Iceland Airwaves; it was a stripped-down show, but Jófríður was in good spirits and was even pushing herself in new musical directions:
While I have struggled some with her more recent music—it isn’t exactly easy listening—she always has inventive arrangements and beautiful melodies. Of all the musical acts I’ve seen in Iceland, hers is the one I have engaged with the most over the last 25 years. What that says about me, I don’t know exactly, but I am grateful for her honesty, intelligence, as well as a clear musical vision.

So… Tonight Jófríður is playing in Austin, Texas for SXSW. She’s 28, and arguably at the peak of her musical powers. Is there a place for a melancholy Icelandic star in the disintegrating world of pop music? The last Icelandic act to hit it big* was Of Monsters and Men and that was over a dozen years ago, Sigur Rós broke over twenty years ago and Bjórk’s “debut” was over thirty! The world of music distribution has changed since then and the odds are against her (she does film and TV scoring too.)

The larger world has encroached on SXSW as well. SXSW is sponsored in part by the the U.S. Army which has had a role in the current situation in Israel and Palestine. Another Icelandic act, Gróa (with whom JFDR’s sister Marta performs), has already pulled out from the festival because of that issue, an issue that may become a family affair. Regardless of any fallout from this performance, it is just another hurdle for her to overcome in her fairy-tale career:
Lift ourselves up from the ground
Let wings grow into our backs
As if we′re 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
~ Jófríður Ákadóttir
This may well be my final JFDR post on FITK.

Good-bye is too cruel a word, babe, so I’ll just say, “Fare thee well… ”


More JFDR posts on FITK

*Laufey was half-raised in the U.S.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Monday, March 11, 2024

Wanda Gág Day!

Celebrating the 131st anniversary of the birth of Wanda Gág in New Ulm, Minnesota, a pioneering artist, author, illustrator and translator:
Wanda’s classic children’s book Millions of Cats is now in public domain:
This means we’ll probably be inundated with products; what lies beyond that remains to be seen. Wanda’s estate has never been too aggressive in promoting her artwork, perhaps that’s for the better but any faithful reproductions are, in my opinion, welcome.

Conversely, the potential for abuse will be greater. There was already a drag queen using her moniker, here is another example from egregious plagiarist internet celebrity Cory Doctorow which he said was his most popular post of 2023:
The background image is from Wanda’s 1936 Tales from Grimm and most decidedly not in the public domain. While Doctorow laments the downward spiral of social media he is guilty of the same “enshittification” on Wanda’s sublime work.

Escaping from all this legalese: a link to an interesting 1993 radio show about Wanda and her life, work and times.

Here is a related documentary on Wanda and her siblings that includes several new photos of Wanda (including top image above) with a special emphasis placed on her sister Flavia:



And, finally, a drawing by Wanda of one of her sisters (thanks Bosco!) It was done on the obverse of one of her homework assignments, homework that was referenced in her autobiography, Growing Pains (pp. 60-61):


Much more on Wanda

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Friday, March 08, 2024

Impermanence

While perusing my Covid-lockdown image files, I came across the one shown above, a cement plant that had been in my town for many years. It was still active, although it has since been torn down and the land made available for new development. The land is on a rail line, but does not have enough area to attract a large business. Residential and industrial are never a good pairing, at least not without some buffer zones, living next to a busy railroad would be a trial.

Speaking oif trials, recently I have attended some planning meeting for the new county jail which will be an annex to the courthouse. That is another kind of industry, one that is currently situated between the downtown and a residential area, Swede Town, home of Flippist World Headquarters. The old jail, like the old concrete plant, is obsolete, but plans for tripling its size, in the same location, are frightening. The dystopian future it suggests isn’t good for any downtown, much less one with adjoining residential areas.

NIMBY, much?

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Ten Years Ago on FITK

Annie’s Triumph


Fox Searchlight Pictures

Annie Rhiannon Atkins, my old blog-pal, has been in the news lately.

She was the lead graphic designer for the new Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel and is now the subject of an article in the UK publication The Independent (scroll down for image gallery), featured in an interview at Totally Dublin, as well as an extended piece on the IFTN site. It's great to see her years of hard work being recognized on the world stage. I can hardly wait to see it (opening today in New York and LA; other US cities on the 14th). Close-ups of Annie's graphics start at about the 2:20 mark:



All of the film's graphic elements were "touched" by Annie's genius in some way:


Fox Searchlight Pictures


I really, really, want one of those boxes!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 


Monday, March 04, 2024

Virtual Exercise



Since I’ve begun my winter exercise regimen I have found that the innumerable “treadmill videos” on YouTube to be a great aid.

I have a thirty-five-year-old NordicTrack ski machine that I have dusted off from time to time but always found it difficult to maintain my interest. Fortunately I had the book-reading attachment, which was actually kind of awkward to read a book with (hard to turn pages when you are working the ski pole simulating device) but it is perfect for cradling a laptop computer set to full-screen hiking videos:
Three of the best series of videos are Simply HikingVirtual Running, and 4K Relaxation channel,  featuring interesting treks through nature areas around the world, with a special emphasis on New Zealand, Tasmania, and the Pacific Coast. I set the YouTube playback speed so as to match the pace of the person recording the video. Unlike VR, which can be disorienting, the physical simulation of treading and poling enhance the experience. For a real thrill try watching these running vids at 2x speed!

I’ve also done city walks, this one from Reykjavík was especially charming:



And Helsinki in a snowstorm at night is sublime:



One caveat: Be wary of videos by “influencers” and other egomaniacs, their constant interruptions and commentary breaks the visual flow and destroys the immersive experience. Also note that some of the city videos are a bit haphazard—lots of parking lots and empty streets—while the best ones are made with a sense of destination; getting directly from point A to point B via lesser-traveled paths is usually better.

The new Apple Vision Pro headset would seem to be a perfect fit for this application if YouTube could be enabled, and your neck muscles would get a workout as well:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 0 


Friday, March 01, 2024

Dig It!

Mining machinery, Strataca Salt Mine, Hutchinson Kansas, 2013

Well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in east-central Kansas, the Strataca salt mine/museum is so far from the pale of most people’s everyday existence that it can’t help but astound.

Machinery (in pieces) is sent down over 600 feet below the surface where it is re-assembled and then, when it finally wears out, abandonded—there is plenty of room and no economic incentive to return it to the surface.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 


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