Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Dylan Eulogizes Castro
Well, I couldn't leave unless the old man chased me out
'Cause I'd already promised that I'd milk his cows
I had to say something to strike him very weird
So I yelled: "I like Fidel Castro and his beard"
Rita looked offended, but she got out of the way
As he came charging down the stairs Sayin', "What's that I heard you say?"
I said, "I like Fidel Castro! I think you heard me right"
And I ducked as he swung At me with all his might
Rita mumbled something 'Bout her mother on the hill
As his fist hit the icebox He said he's going to kill me
If I don't get out of the door In two seconds flat
"You unpatriotic Rotten doctor Commie rat!"
~Motorpsycho Nightmare, Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964
Monday, November 28, 2016
Mondays in Iceland - #88
The guesthouse had little to distinguish it from the other homes on the street.
Most held four or six apartments and were clad in a glittery stucco that didn’t quite conceal their drab concrete construction. Nothing special. I stayed there in 2004, on my first solo trip to Iceland.
On the second day of my stay the house filled with student teachers from the US. I shared breakfast with them, but didn’t see them much as we all had many things to do during the day. Thursday night, when I had just gotten into bed, I heard a tapping on my door. It was a young woman, one of the students, asking me if I wanted to join them in drinks and discussion. I got dressed and went up to the third floor, to a commons area under a dormer, where they had gathered. I could see into some of their “rooms”, they were just cots and a couple of bed-stands, pretty basic compared to my “luxurious” accommodation, which was on the second, with a private entrance and still furnished with artifacts from its previous tenant. As the “party” progressed, the young woman and I began a long talk; mostly about Iceland, but it was also about other things: careers, education, music. She was intelligent and perceptive, qualities I found in short supply among the other students.
The guest house evidently went out of business soon after, when I planned my return trip in 2006 there was no mention of it on the internet. There is currently a link to the address but it looks to be inactive. Residential housing in central Reykjavík has become extremely scarce in the last few years, if this house was reconverted to apartments they would be immediately rented. A recent Google Maps survey shows that it hasn’t changed much.
It is just a place where I once shared a nice talk with a young woman, and that makes it, for me at least, special enough.
Friday, November 25, 2016
Not Flippist World Headquarters
Thanksgiving is as much about sitting around, stuffed, as it is giving thanks. It is one of the few non-religious holidays (in that it coincides with no specific religious rite or celebration) and has little patriotic connection as well. In recent years, it has been associated with the start of an intense Christmas shopping season, but the day itself, outside of a dinner, and the Macy’s parade, remains remarkably free of commercial contamination. So sit back and enjoy your day off. If you’ve been pressed into cooking service, I hope you’ll get your just desserts.
Here is an alternative look at the foods of this peculiar holiday:
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Great Minds Think Alike
Lately, I’ve been reading a massive 5 volume collection of the writings of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1894-1959. As you can imagine, it contains numerous insights, beliefs and other interesting tidbits. As I was working my way through volume 4, I found this picture:
Photograph by Deiner
It is a pleasant, if somewhat stiff, shot of Frank and his third wife, Olgivanna. The thing that really caught my attention, however, was on the book shelf behind Mr. and Mrs. Wright. Almost exactly between the couple, on the top shelf, sat a dark book with a distinctive, 5-stripe design above a cartoon figure on its spine :
Where had I seen that before?
After 1903—What?, is a collection of short essays by the humorist Robert Benchley. I’ve featured the book’s sublime illustrations (by Gluyas Williams) here a couple of times. The book, as a whole, is only sporadically funny today; it was a whole different world back then.
At any rate, I’ll take the coincidence as proof of the noble spirit I share with FLLW.
Monday, November 21, 2016
Mondays in Iceland - #87
When I was a kid on the beach in the summer, I used to always wonder what it would look like there during the winter. How does snow look on a beach? Would there be ice on the ocean anywhere? Since those days, I've had plenty of chances to see snow on the sea while living here, but I've never really gotten up close and personal, so this afternoon I went down to where I'd gone back in August to see what the shoreline looked like frozen.
The snow along the shore was almost untouched by tracks as I waded through the ankle-deep snow and down to the black sand beach. It was low tide so the frozen sand expanse reached far out to sea below the grass and rocks, exposing kelp and tiny tide pools. The kelp had been completely encased in a prickly layer of frost, and the rocks along the edge of the shore were similarly frosted. Out to sea, the black silhouette of a single seabird bobbed in the calm water, and overhead a myriad of tiny planes were angling in to land.
On the shore, the rocks that edged the beach curving to the south were completely enfolded in ice, shiny like glazed German Christmas cookies, and across the bay, Bessastaðir´s tiny assemblage of buildings hunkered beneath the ghostly pastel formations of the mountains. I stood there on the shore for twenty minutes, watching the sun-glow fade from the houses on the coast, and listening to the swans call to each other as they flew overhead. The landscape was so static at that witching-hour, the tide pools still and frozen, the sea empty of ship traffic, and the sea-path behind me quiet save a few hardy walkers with a squirmy flock of King Charles spaniels.
Since that quiet moment hours ago, the wind has started to whistle again, the clouds drifted in, and the darkness has closed around us. Just like so many experiences here, the moment was fleeting yet incredibly memorable.
Posted by ECS at 25.11.06
Re-posted with permission
Friday, November 18, 2016
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Cry for Help
I received a most disturbing post card the other day:
An anonymous cry for help, from a place that was evidently the beach head for the current troll invasion that has besieged our country:
It's too late for the writer of this card, but not for the rest of the country.
AMERICA, WAKE UP!
Monday, November 14, 2016
Mondays in Iceland - #85
The Nordic House in Reykjavík is a little south of Tjörnin, the pond in the city center. It is on the other side of Milkabraut, the busy highway, and there is a small swamp, Vatsmýrin, in front of it that makes it seem more isolated than it really is. It was designed by noted Modernist architect Alvar Aalto, who also designed all installed furnishings, lamps and almost all of the furniture. It should not be missed on a trip to Reykjavík.
The Aalto Bistro (formerly Dill) has food to die for, "Healthy food for happy heart!" is its motto:
In addition to the library and restaurant, the Nordic House host numerous cultural events throughout the year, including intimate performances by Iceland Airwaves musicians:
One note: with the recent increase in tourist traffic, these 4 and 7 year-old scenes of a near-empty building may be a thing of the past, but that is another issue altogether.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Arrival: A Film Review
It has been a long time since I've reviewed a new release movie. Director Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi drama Arrival is the rare "blockbuster" that is worthy of mention. Arrival is based on based on the 1998 short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. Although it has moments of awe (and vertigo) the story is the thing here, a looping, reflexive narrative that not only comes to a conclusion, but also leaves the viewer haunted. Anyone who has raised a child will be especially touched.
The small cast of actors with speaking roles is headed by Amy Adams, a linguist who is impressed into service to establish communications with aliens who have arrived at twelve points on earth in gigantic "pods." Adams gives an inspired performance that is both bold and extremely intimate. Jeremy Renner portrays a physicist, and a senior military official is played by Forest Whitaker. Michael Stuhlbarg is an antagonistic CIA agent while Tzi Ma is Chinese General Chang. All fine actors, but not exactly a typical blockbuster lineup. The real stars of the film (besides Adams, who is Oscar-worthy) are screenwriter Eric Heisserer, editor Joe Walker, and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson; their contributions are extraordinary. Villeneuve’s direction is assured and paced, although a bit hokey at times. The cinematography, by Bradford Young, is fairly murky throughout, I assume it was to give a thematic consistency to the film. His close-up work with Adams, however, would make a stunning short film by itself. His use of shallow-focus was used to great effect in the close-ups, but in group scenes many of actors were out of focus, taking away from the realism of the shot. The aliens were great.
One caveat: I saw this film in a modern multiplex cinema with digital projection. Part of the murkiness I saw may have been due to an under-powered projection lamp. A movie in 2016 should be at least as vibrant as the remastered Perry Mason episodes I’ve been watching on TV recently—and they are in black and white! This should look good on a DVD, however, but make sure that your subwoofer is up to par.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Baffled by Bob
One of the joys in following Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan’s career is unwittingly stumbling across another artist covering his work in a way that gives the song a whole new dimension. One such discovery is Hailey Tuck, who hails from Austin via Paris (it’s complicated.) A sublime performance captured in an elegant video:
Here’s a different Dylan breakup song, also from a performer with a Parisian
connection, Madeline Peyroux:
The Bob Dylan Project has links to numerous covers of Bob’s tunes, from a off-kilter Elvis, to an intense White Stripes, and there’s even a Hebrew version of Not Dark Yet.
Hours of fun!
Thursday, November 10, 2016
A Place of Solitude
My backyard “bower”, complete with teak bench and art on the walls. I go there to read, or sometimes write, or sometimes, in the summer, just sit and watch the birds. The occasional squirrel, startled when it comes across me sitting in silence, will scramble away, scolding me.
Now that it’s fall, I’ve been having a fire in the chimnea to keep warm. This little furnace is fed by wood scraps and trimmings from trees in the yard. It isn’t very practical but it does its job, as well as getting rid of what otherwise would go to the incinerator anyway.
After a session there, I leave feeling better about myself and the world.
I’m thinking that I’ll be spending more time there in the upcoming four years.
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Monday, November 07, 2016
Mondays in Iceland - #84
Reykjavíkurtjörnin and the City Center, 11 October, 2015
I still have dreams of Reykjavík.
Lately they have been more of the “trying to get home” type rather than the “being there” variety. I’m sure that says a lot about my sense of finally having had my fill of Icelandic adventures. I’ll be phasing out my FITK Icelandic coverage by the end of the year, These feelings may pass, especially when I see a come-on such as this. If I was only a bit more sociable, and a lot more “literate”. It has been quite a ride, however, and it seems I’m discovering new Icelandic culture everyday!
Friday, November 04, 2016
This is a very good word, made from two parts. First you take tón (it means “tone”) and then you add list (it means “art”). When you take tón and list, and join them together, you get good things like this:
As part of my “winding down” of my Icelandic obsession, I’ve compiled an index of (almost) all the Icelandic musical acts mentioned in Flippism is the Key.
I saw most of these groups at Iceland Air Waves, some in Minneapolis, and some in Seattle. I've made numerous references to IAW: it is truly unique. When I first went (in 2006 and 2009) I found it to be a five-day-non-stop-hallucination. I’ll never forget it.
UPDATE: The list now includes 2018 acts!
Now, seven years later, I’m out of the loop concerning most of the acts playing this year but, if I were there, one group I would definitely see is Gangly:
A paradox: As the Web becomes more commercialized, there are fewer and fewer places to actually find in-depth coverage of this event! I did find Neil Minton, an old-school blogger, attending as well as Columbia College, who covers Airwaves every year. KEXP, out of Seattle, has the most coverage, although I've found their site to be almost impossible to navigate. Erik Valebrokk has great writing and photo coverage of the event, unfortunately it is in Norwegian! Google translate (without pictures) version.
Looking backward, at the names of the acts listed below, I’m almost overcome by the amount of great, original and honest music I would have never been aware of had it not been for this festival. A heartfelt thanks to all those acts and especially to Auður Ösp Olafsdóttir, who planted the seed of my Iceland Airwaves adventures with her blog posts in 2005.
Here is the list of the various Icelandic (as well as other Northern Atlantic) acts I've mentioned in FITK over the years (and a few fellow travelers †.)
* = music actually purchased:
Apparat Organ Quartet *
Benni Hemm Hemm
Hekla Magnúsdóttir *
Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson *
Jóhann Jóhannsson *
Júniús Meyvant *
Kevin Cole †
Langi Seli Og Skuggarnir
Ljáðu Okkur Eyra
My Summer as a Salvation Soldier
Nini Julia Bang
Ólöf Arnalds *
Páll Óskar *
Pascal Pinon *
Peter Evans †
Screaming Masterpiece *
Sin Fang Bous
Sigur Rós *
Stórsveit Nix Noltes *
Ultra Mega Technobandið Stefán
Valgeir Sigurðsson *
Wim Van Hooste †
Hatnote from Every Single Word in Icelandic
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
by Oddný Eir
Restless Books 2016
Translated by Philip Roughton
Oh, my. I should never read other people’s diaries. Especially this one.
This book is a lightly fictionalized account of a late thirties-something dilettante dabbling in issues of commitment, career, family and society in Iceland after the Kreppa of 2008. The author blithely brings up issue after issue, never making a decision, while sprinkling the text with weasel words: maybe, perhaps, I should, I hope, vaguely, didn’t, don’t, couldn’t and lots and lots of question marks. I’m not doubting her sincerity, not one bit, I just don’t want to read about someone floundering purposelessly through life. The story centers on the author, of course, and her almost-but-not-quite relationships with her ornithologist lover Birdy and her archaeologist brother, Owlie, both of whom are ill-defined. This fragile triangle plays out over a plethora of cultural references, both modern and historical, Icelandic and European, but none are developed to any extent; a hint of incest is brought up but dropped more than once. The diarist constantly flits from topic to another, often several times on a single page. It does get a little better toward the end, where some family history starts to shape a narrative, but in the book’s final pages her weasel words—might, depending, would, could—negate the book’s impact.
I’ve interacted with many Icelandic women in the last twelve years. They have been, as a rule, self-assured, opinionated and decisive, and pretty much, to me at least, a source of unmitigated joy. Oddný, with her shallow and aimless neurotic musings, breaks that streak. For a much better book about the internal life of a modern Icelandic woman, I recommend Alva’s 88.