Friday, November 27, 2009

Another View of Iceland



Through the magic of Google Translate, I've been able to read the impressions of Mitsufi Hirano, a Japanese woman who recently visited there (she's third from the left in the front row in the above picture.) Her blog, albeit with somewhat cryptic translations, is very poetic and gives one a new perspective of the Icelandic experience. The posts about her Iceland trip are from October and November, 2009.

Highly recommended.




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Thursday, November 26, 2009

$57.98 Thanksgiving

After a marathon two hour holiday shopping session on Amazon my grand total, with shipping and taxes, was $57.98.

Our leg of lamb for dinner today costs nearly that much.

If anyone is betting on me to spend our way out of the recession, I afraid you've picked the wrong horse.

If anyone on my gift list is reading this; remember: It is the thought that counts.

Be thankful for small favors.




Comments: 6


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quote:


"People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are “The Advertisers” and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs."


~ Banksy

~Via Annie's Tumblr




Comments: 4


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Take Our Picture



Hey! Take our picture!

I want everyone to see that I know how to have good time.

Take our picture!

I've got two girls tonight!

Take our picture!

You're only young once, I say.

Take our picture!

I want this night to last forever.

Take our picture!

"Snap!"




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Monday, November 23, 2009

Nordic Lights Film Fest

Whenever there is a showing of a new Icelandic film in town I naturally try to see
it and today there were FOUR! Two features, Skrapp Út and Heiðin and two shorts, Síðastibærinn and Bræðrabylta were shown at the venerable (read: old and smelly) Parkway theater in south Minneapolis. Lately, I've been following Ben Hopkins' English language blog about Icelandic films and Heiðin (Small Mountain) was rated highly there as well as at IMDb. Skrapp Út looked a bit dodgy, and I had already seen The Last Farm, and they were being shown at 11:00 AM, so Heiðin and Bræðrabylta won by default. The Weaver graciously consented to join me and we made the thirty mile trek to the theater, where we were rewarded with real Norwegian candy in the lobby:









Bræðrabylta (Wrestling) about two gay Icelandic wrestlers, was a short film that almost defies description. Icelandic wrestling is very stylized- the contestants grasp straps on their opponent's thighs and attempt to throw them to ground. As they maneuver for an advantage it looks very much like close dancing. It was really pretty good, a little heavy on the symbolism, yet very naturalistic. Johann Johannsson's fine score helped make this odd little film feel "bigger" than it was.

The feature, Heiðin, was a film that started out as a slice of life of a small northern Icelandic town on election day, but slowly changed into a multi-generational family study. This was another "small" film, with very good acting and straightforward direction. The plot developed nicely, if very slowly, and reached a surprising conclusion (with a nice cameo from the singer Hafdís Huld.) What kept this from being a really good movie was the atrocious "Music Library" soundtrack by the hack composer Danny Chang- awful, tasteless disco/synth. Why wasn't a talented Icelandic composer used?

I've mentioned it before, but these festivals are becoming all digital projection now. It was so awful, I'm really thinking of never going to one of these again.

We topped off this mixed bag of a day out with coffee at the nearby Cafe Levain, a restaurant built around a commercial bakery, where we sat amidst the supplies:




Good coffee makes everything better.




Comments: 2


Friday, November 20, 2009

Technology - V - Limits

Of course, we don't don't really need much technology to survive. Technology has always been used to expand our world, so we hairless apes could live in colder climates, gather food and hunt animals, then to later grow food and raise animals.
We made clothes to protect against the wind and cold, and so it goes.

But all it takes to be happy is just good food, a nurturing environment and maybe just a smile, a kind word from a friend, no big deal.

Life is good.




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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Technology - Part IV - Memory

And what, pray tell, is the most defining characteristic of modern technology? I'll say Memory.

Cheap, Vast and Available

None of these three words applied to data storage twenty years ago. Not even ten years ago, which is about when things really started to move. This wealth of information has become the catalyst of change in technology today. It's a done deal already (although there is still a bottleneck in information distribution systems) for the servers and search mechanisms (thanks Google!) have now leapfrogged ahead of the rest of the cyber-universe. Sometimes it seems as if we puny humans with our kludgy gizmos won't ever be able catch up.

Knowledge and Understanding

Both concepts cease to exist without memory. And when all the histories of the world are available at the touch of a finger, how will we separate the true from the false? Perhaps a more realistic description of that dilemma would be how do we assign validity to data? Actually, a scale might work, a percentage of 1 to 100, perhaps. Complicated issues could have multiple scales. A Wiki-style grading, or even a totally automatic ranking (Google again) could further winnow the seeds from the chaff. (How quaint, yet appropriate, is that analogy?)

Stories

And thus we end up back at the beginning. Oral and visual histories have certainly been the defining element of humanity for hundreds of thousands of years. Art and literature are tangible forms of memory. A good story will find an audience, art will have its patrons, and so the dance will continue. The delivery systems may change rapidly, but our physical organism will do so only slowly, within its biological limitations. Life is brief, so let us use the new technology to expand our consciousness for the future has already begun.




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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology - Part III - TV

After Radio's heyday, Television became the dominant force in "instant" media. One of my earliest memories is of the day the TV came home. It must have been about 1953 or 1954, it was truly a magic box. The picture was small, its reception was erratic, but it presented me with views of a greater world beyond my block. Its personalities became my friends, its dramas became my dreams. There was a surprising amount of quality programming then: variety shows had the pick of vaudeville comics, recording artists and Broadway actors. Alfred Hitchcock presented his little 20 minute morality plays, Rod Serling pushed the boundaries of the medium with his Twilight Zone, and big-budget plays were sponsored by Hallmark and Kraft.

The sixties ushered the widespread use of color TV. I remember spending a lot of time in the Sears department store's TV showroom. Color TV wasn't very good then, and it was mostly just white men in suits anyway- although as the decade wore on, the use of color became more prevalent (excessive?) with pop-art, flower power and the Vietnam war, brought to every home in living color. It was the era of the sit-coms (I'll never get those hours which I spent watching The Beverly Hillbillies back again!)

After I moved out on my own in the seventies, I lost the TV habit, and it wasn't until the late eighties before I actually got a "proper" modern color set. Evidently, I didn't miss much.

Now the rise of internet video has become a threat to, and has even supplanted TV for some applications. Like radio, TV won't go away, but will get a smaller and smaller share of the overall media market.

Hmmm... I wonder what's on?




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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Technology - Part II - Radio

The first modern mass media was the radio. It was qualitatively different from newspapers, in that the user was a passive recipient- unlike a newspaper, which had to be be read, the radio was just there, a voice in one's ear, and perhaps the greatest vehicle for advertising ever invented.

With the advent of the internet, all of the previous mass media forms- print, radio, and television have been incorporated but the interface is still a bit clunky, but it is quickly getting better in all aspects. But it requires more user-interaction than those other forms of media. The user has to navigate, make selections, and pay attention, the passive experience of TV and Radio has been replaced by an addiction model. We crave our "Fix", be it Facebook, Twitter, email, and yes, even blogging.

Are the results worth it?




Comments: 4


Monday, November 16, 2009

Technology - Is There Any Tech Writing Worth Reading?

A rhetorical question, to be sure. I often wonder if there is, especially after reading about yet another undistinguished netbook ("Comes in Pink!") or gadget that I can't imagine anyone using ("Hamburger shaped USB Jumpdrive!".) Still, I have links to those sites which cover tech and I read them nearly every day. Of late the site Gizmodo has been running a superlative series of articles by Aimee Mullins, who is a double amputee and has been in the forefront of the development and use of modern prosthetics.

She's had three posts so far, each one exploring issues in the use, acceptance and personal considerations of devices which enable people to perform to the limit of their abilities. In an era of increasing war-related injuries and the parsimonious attitudes of insurers, she cogently shows how almost all of us will sooner or later have to use an "aid" even if it is only a pair of glasses, and how current attitudes only diminish the humanity in all of us, "disabled" or not.

Photo: via Gizmodo, A pair of Aimee's prosthetic legs




Comments: 1


Friday, November 13, 2009

Maggie's Farm


Mulder's Farm, rural South Dakota, 1995
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I wake in the morning,
Fold my hands and pray for rain.
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin' me insane.
It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.
Well, he hands you a nickel,
He hands you a dime,
He asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time,
Then he fines you every time you slam the door.
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more.

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

~ Bob Dylan




Comments: 0


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hello Walls


Mulder farm, rural South Dakota, 1995

Hello walls, how things go for you today?

Don't you miss her, since she upped and walked away?

And I'll bet you dread to spend another lonely night with me,

But lonely walls I'll keep you company

Hello window, well I see that you're still here.

Aren't you lonely, since our darling disappeared?

Well look here is that a teardrop in the corner of your pane?

Now don't you try to tell me that it's rain.

She went away, and left us all alone, the way she planned.

Yes, we'll have to learn to get along without her if we can.

Hello ceiling, I'm gonna stare at you a while.

You know I can't sleep, so won't you bear with me awhile?

We must all stick together or else I'll lose my mind,

I've got a feeling she'll be gone a long, long, time...

~ Willie Nelson




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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Windmill


Mulder Farm, rural South Dakota, 1995

The windmill will pump the water.

We'll make a go of it.

This farm will be our piece of paradise.

Our children will grow up here, strong and tall.

We'll eat chicken every Sunday.

And the face of the Lord will shine upon us.

The windmill will pump our water.

And life will be good.




Comments: 0


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So Broken


Mulder Farm, rural South Dakota, 1995

So broken...
In pieces.
My heart is
So broken...
I'm puzzling.

Here I go,
Trying to run ahead of
That heart break train,
Thinking it will never
Catch up with me.

I'm so broken...
I'm trying to land
This aeroplane of ours
Gracefully, but it seems
Just destined to crash.

~Björk




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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Work Bench


Mulder Farm, rural South Dakota, 1999

I'll clean this mess up. Someday. I'll have time. Someday.

I'll clean out the basement, too. And level the patio stones in the garden.

Just not today. The sun is too warm. The leaves are too golden. I'll do it later.

Tomorrow.

Next week.

Next spring.

I'll do it all.




Comments: 2


Friday, November 06, 2009

can you hear it?


Captain Fufanu, Reykjavik, 2009

can you hear it?

one hundred decibels

ten thousand watts

ten million transistors

billions of electrons

this song of electricity

waiting for 6 billion years

waiting for tonight

the ghosts of newton, edison and varése

hovering in the æther

rejoicing in the madness

can you hear it?

can you feel it?

can you?




Comments: 0


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lydia


Oooooooh

Lydia oh Lydia, say have you met Lydia,
Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.
She has eyes that folks adore so,
And a torso even more so.

Lydia oh Lydia, that encyclopidia,
Oh Lydia the Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is the Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it the wreck of the Hesperus, too.
And proudly above waves the Red, White, and Blue,
You can learn a lot from Lydia.

When her robe is unfurled, she will show you the world,
If you step up and tell her where.
For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paris,
Or Washington crossing the Delaware.

Oh Lydia oh Lydia, say have you met Lydia,
Oh Lydia the Tattooed Lady
When her muscles start relaxin',
Up the hill comes Andrew Jackson

Lydia oh Lydia, that encyclopidia,
oh Lydia the queen of them all!
For two bits she will do a mazurka in jazz,
With a view of Niagara that nobody has.
And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.
You can learn a lot from Lydia.

Oh Lydia, oh Lydia that encyclopidia,
Oh Lydia the champ of them all.
She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet.
The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat.
And now the old boy's in command of the fleet,
For he went and married Lydia.

I said Lydia
{He said Lydia}
They said Lydia
{We said Lydia}
La La Lydia the Tattooed Lady!

(See and hear "Lydia" here, she appears at about the 1 minute mark...)


~ Yip Harburg




Comments: 3


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Corner Kitchen



When I'm trying to find a place in the old town part of Reykjavík, I just head in its general direction and wander around for awhile. I could use a map, but then I'd be looking at that, not at the world around me- what fun is that? I was searching for a place to eat and happened to see the above dwelling. Most of the houses in the city center are built right up to the sidewalk, and the dinner-time hour means that people are home and engaged in food preparation. Twilight is a special time anywhere, but in this city it is even more so. The warm glow of the homes' interiors is complimented by the dark blue skies, and the street lights reflect the patterns from the corrugated siding. This particular house had a window set at a 45° angle to the corner, evidently opening to the kitchen. As I passed the place a man was cooking in that window. What a stroke of genius (nerve?) to position the range and counter-top there! He definitely knew what he was doing and I can't help but think that he was a little proud of his nightly performance, and that he was happy to share it with the neighbors.

Thank you, gluggamatreiðslumaður.




Comments: 2


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Bill Holm's Last Reading



There was a Bill Holm reading last night. His last new book, The Chain Letter of the Soul has just been published. The reading had been scheduled before his death, as part of a series of readings at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Downtown Minneapolis. The book has some of his last poems, along with many of his other most memorable ones. A "posse of poets" were there to read them- Bill's fellow travelers- along with 400 or so of his close friends and admirers. It was almost all Bill, with just a few anecdotes sprinkled in, but mostly poems, those poems treasured by the readers. There were new poems, old poems, Boxelder Bug variations (from the BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN ABOUT BOXELDER BUGS!), poems of Iceland, and even the poem he wrote about the 35W bridge collapse, still so vivid in our memories. There was a pianist playing interludes between the readers; a very nice touch reflecting Bill's love for music.

A poet needs an audience, poems must be read aloud.

Bill had his last reading last night.

Others spoke his words, but it was Bill's voice we heard.




Comments: 2


Monday, November 02, 2009

In a Midhurst Tearoom, July 1995



The hottest summer on record made doing the tourist thing a bit more difficult. It was a family vacation and we ended up in Midhurst, to see some ruins (and relax a bit) before we headed up to London and the more intense part of our trip. The tea-room we stopped in that afternoon had sandwiches and sodas, and although it wasn't air-conditioned, there was a trellised garden in the back which was quite pleasant.

We were waiting for food when a man and a lady sat down nearby. He had full motorcycle leathers, she did not, but both carried helmets. It must have been quite a ride, for the woman was visibly excited, and was watching her companion very intensely. The man began to talk, he was not well-spoken, but by the swagger in his demeanor, I could tell that he'd done this routine many times before.

She was reading him; watching his little show. An afternoon thrill? Or was he worth another look? Her intensity of concentration suggested that she was ambivalent, she nodded a little too vigorously and smiles of attraction alternated with fleeting grimaces of repulsion.

Our food came and we ate quietly; the boys were still jet-lagged. The couple finished their drinks and were off, I could hear the cycle rev as they sped away to parts unknown.

At that moment I was glad that my courting days were over, that my family was intact, and I was happily married. The mating dance is fascinating, but not always pretty.




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