Monday, October 30, 2017

Þjóðleikhúsið Revisited

NOTE: This is an expanded version of a FITK post from 2004

The National Theatre of Iceland is located in a severe, stucco-covered building on Hverfisgata in the old part of Reykjavík. It is not a big tourist destination (it is closed in the summer and the plays are presented in Icelandic.) This is serious theater and is a challenge for even the most open-minded visitor.

Last winter, I had the opportunity to attend a performance of Þetta er allt að koma (“Things Are Going Great”), adapted and directed by Baltasar Kormákur from the satirical Hallgrímur Helgason novel:

In a series of sometimes bizarre vignettes, the story of the aspirations and setbacks of an aspiring performer and her extended Icelandic family is portrayed.

While watching this marvelous production (with a brilliant set design) I felt as if in a waking dream; a dream where I usually couldn’t follow the dialogue; it always seemed as if I was missing a piece of the puzzle:

At the end of the play, with a grand finale in a wedding reception, I was laughing and applauding the triumph of the actors’ skill in portraying the human condition—no translations were needed.

Although Icelandic Theatre is not available here in the US, (that would be a small niche market!) there are several Icelandic movies that can be found if one is diligent. 101 Reykjavík, Noi the Albino, The Laughter of the Seagulls, and Cold Fever are all worthwhile (and have many of these same fine actors in them.)

Production stills: Þjóðleikhúsið

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Toilet War

NOTE: This a reprise of a “Little Miss Loopy” FITK post from 2004

Last night I was watching Pretty in Pink, a classic 80s cult movie, with a lot of pink clothes in it. The story line is really not that complicated. Poor girl meets rich boy. Rich boy asks poor girl out. Poor girl accepts and falls in love. Rich boy asks poor girl to the prom which poor girl accepts. Rich boy backs out because poor girl is not rich enough. Poor girl shows up in a hideous pink dress to prom and rich boy realizes he loves her. And they live happily ever after. Honestly, what was wrong with people in the 80s?

Pretty in pink really has nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to point out how utterly pointless and bubble-gum pink it is. What happened after I watched the movie is what matters here. I had to pee.

So I go into my toilet and when I’m about to loosen the belt I realize my toilet roll is gone. I was totally amazed and equally furious at the person who stole the roll. I recommend that right about now you run off and get some coffee because this story is about to get a bit complicated. To make it a little less complicated I have to tell you three very short and completely unconnected stories…

Story 1: I was very poor last month, about as poor as I have ever been in my life. We are not talking about pot noodle poor, we are talking about not eating unless someone gives me something kind of poor. But I’m over it now, and I’m fine. Except I ran out of toilet paper in the middle of this poor season and had to steal a roll from work. I’ve never stolen anything from work before and when I finally did it was a massive toilet roll I had to hide in my bag while my unsuspecting boss drove me home.

Story 2: I wanted to curl my hair the other day as I was thinking about going as a gypsy to a Halloween party and felt I needed to have curly hair for that occasion. Since the office toilet rolls are not good for using to make curls, a friend of mine gave me one of his rolls. It was Andrex, you know the one with the puppy on them and are supposed to be extra tough as well as soft. I never got round to curling my hair so it has been sitting rather oddly on top of my stereo now for quite some time.

Story 3: I now live in a basement room, down town Reykjavik, which I rent from a suspected alcoholic landlord and her very peculiar husband. It’s been lovely. I have my own bathroom, with a shower and a massage bathtub, and have had no trouble at all with the people in my house. Unlike my previous home where I tried to light the place on fire amongst other things. Well, there was a incident where the alcoholic landlord broke into the basement by smashing a window because she forgot her keys but other than that, nothing. Until last weekend when I was on my way to the shower that is. I met on my way two youngish looking men surrounded with furniture. One of them, I don’t know who yet, is my new next door neighbor. The new next door neighbor from whose room I hear even the smallest farts and I know exactly when he's having a cigarette because the smoke finds it's way into my room. He has a different bathroom than me. Which is highly odd since there is nothing in this basement except the two bedrooms and the two bathrooms. He doesn't have a name yet, nor a face since I don’t know who of the two is the smoking farter.

So there I was, peeing my pants, and the roll gone. I was too involved with the whole having to pee thing that I didn't think about who had stolen the roll. I suddenly remembered my other one though and ran back to my room to get it. I took it back, put it on the bathtub next to the toilet, turned around and my belt slammed right in to it so the roll went from the tip of the bathtub straight into the toilet. THE WHOLE ROLL. Then I was faced with the awful task of getting the roll out of there because obviously you can't flush a whole roll at a time. Especially not when it's the extra fluffy puppy type.

In my toilet paper rage I suddenly remembered the damn smoker. I ran to his toilet and what do you know, there was my stolen roll of toilet paper stashed on his sink. I can’t even describe my frustration and in a state I ran to my room and wrote him a harsh letter. I’ve now decided not to deliver it. I’m going to keep it though, in case he tries to steal anything again. Maybe I should put the wet and disgusting roll where I found mine as revenge.

The nerve of some people.

By Little Miss Loopy

1 Comment:

nalfia said...

I definitely think you should put the roll back in his sink that would be hilarious! I hope you have better toilet paper luck in the future. I feel your pain!

Image: Auður Ösp

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Looking for Ms. Goodbook

Is this a photo of Batty’s secret trysting spot? Find out next week!

I’m off on another secret mission; be back next week. In the meantime, keeping with the October in Iceland theme, there will be some classic FITK posts from waaay back, including a pair of Little Miss Loopy’s most hilarious efforts, now augmented with never before seen photos.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Wednesday Night at the Schooner

A cryptic phone call: a promise of 20s era tunes and I was out the door on a “school night.” When I got to my destination, the Schooner Tavern, The Hula Peppers were already on stage:

“Lotta Miles” lost in a ukelele reverie:
An appreciative crowd of regulars got into the vintage vibe:

The Peppers offered the perfect soundtrack for a night out:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In The Treetops

A new play
Written and performed by
The Sandbox Theatre, Minneapolis

Not too often (as in never before) have I had the opportunity to see the life of Wanda Gág, artist and author and personal inspiration, portrayed in any dramatic medium, much less in the living flesh in the intimate confines of a small theater. The Sandbox Theatre troupe has been creating dramatic events for several years now, this ode to Wanda is their latest.

The play opens with the adult Wanda, in her studio at All Creation, looking back at her childhood and the games and stories she played with her family to keep it together after the death of her father. For a show aimed at children (there is a lot of prancing and childish hi-jinks) it has an element of despair haunting it: the very effective shadow plays of Wanda’s parents on a back-lit scrim are dreams that still haunt the adult Wanda.

Almost any play written by a troupe will have problems with focus and story line: this effort, with its shifting scenes and minimally defined characters, is no exception. A little better exposition would have helped a great deal. The music, always the hardest thing to get right, is somewhat diffuse as well, although tasteful. The acting is good, adults portraying children are always a stretch, but usually better than children playing children. Kristina Fjellman as Wanda is almost too happy and too nice for the role, the real Wanda suffered immensely, a suffering that is only hinted at here.

I saw the final performance at the Open Eye Figure Theatre although there will additional shows at the Germanic-American center toward the end of the month.

The Shoebox Theatre, Image by Matthew Glover

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, October 16, 2017

801 Opening

The Fall Arts scene is well underway.

Last Saturday I attended an opening where my old pal Nicole was showing her "existential modernist" Barbie images:

Serious discussions about art went on throughout the night:

The Batgirl Barbie was an especially popular background for selfies:

Of course, there was wine:

Lots of wine:

Perhaps too much wine:


By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Either Way

Á annan veg
A film by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson
Iceland 2011

Another Icelandic film that had hitherto escaped my attention, found hidden in the Anoka county library system’s computer catalog. A true road movie: all of the action takes place on or near desolated stretches of Iceland's rural roads. I had seen one of its stars, Hilmar Guðjónsson, in a 2012 production of Rauð (Red), a play about Mark Rothko. I saw him in 2015 as well, in the Vesturbaerlaug swimming pool, but that was a different kind of “exposure.”

Set in the mid-80s, two road workers are spending their summer manually painting lines and pounding in stakes along a mostly deserted highway. Alfred (Hilmar) is 24 and restless, eager to return to the city. Finnbogi (Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson) is 33, and is using the summer to take a break from a stormy relationship with Alfred’s sister. The relationship between the men is strained to begin with, and goes downhill from there. A lot of not very enlightened talk about women eventually comes to a breaking point. I won’t go into plot; this more a film of atmosphere and nuance. The Icelandic scenery in the film is among its bleakest, this is most definitely not an Icelandic Tourism film. A hard film to like. While the actors are fine, I found the set-up and payoff not worth the effort. The film did have some success on the festival circuit where its “indie” production sensibilities would be an asset. It was remade as Prince Avalanche in the U.S. in 2013, starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, which bombed at the box office.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


Screen Media Films
Continuing with my Icelandic-themed October, I watched the movie Bokeh last weekend.

It is a post-apocalyptic mumblecore film (set in Iceland) where a young couple, Jenai and Riley, suddenly find themselves on an island without people. This should be a good set-up for an Adam and Eve film, or even an extended Twilight Zone episode. Instead, it is an extended passion(less) play about a clueless child-man and a perpetually PMS-ing young woman who barely speak (and when they do it is in unintelligible monotones.) They wander around in what appears to be an Icelandic Tourism promotional video, usually dressed in t-shirts as if it was southern California. There are numerous “Huh?” moments that don't make any sense; things that couldn’t (or shouldn’t but don’t) happen. The brief cameo by notable Icelandic actor Arnar Jónsson perked my interest for a few minutes, but it too little, too late. While I didn’t think much of the film the deleted scenes were even worse—real howlers.

A tiresome film that I was relieved to see end.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, October 09, 2017


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try…

No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too…

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one…

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one…
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

~John Ono Lennon

Each year, on the anniversary of John’s birth, The Imagine Peace Tower is lit on the Island of Viðey in the Reykjavík Bay, Iceland, to commemorate his life and his and Yoko’s  quest for world peace.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Two Icelandic Thrillers

A Thriller
By Ragnar Jónasson
Translated by Quentin Bates
New York: Minotaur Books 2017

Yet another Icelandic mystery series! I went into this one blind—I found it at the library under the catalog heading “Icelandic.” I ordered it with some other titles and when I got it I plowed through it in a day—a breezy read—it would be a perfect airport book. It is set during the Kreppa of 2008-2009 but almost all of the action takes place in Siglufjörður, a small town on the northern coast of Iceland. Ari Thór Arason, a rookie police officer, gets his first taste of solving crime in a close-knit community with its share of secrets. Almost every character gets a complete back-story. This made for a complicated story, almost fiddly at times, but it is all resolved at the end, although the author couldn't finish without a couple of “cheats.”

When I read the authors bio I wasn’t surprised to learn that the author had translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic! If you are a fan of Agatha, you might get a kick out of this. If you aren’t, this might be a little stodgy; it really is old-fashioned. The writing, while competent, is stiff. The translator is an English writer of Icelandic mysteries as well; the work I've read of his wasn’t exactly great literature either.

The Undesired
A Thriller
By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Translated by Victoria Cribb
New York: Minotaur Books 2015

I've reviewed Yrsa before, those books had the lawyer/investigator Þóra Guðmundsdóttir as the protagonist. This book is a stand-alone, the plot is driven by the actions of one Oðin Hafsteinsson, a mid-level bureaucrat at the Icelandic State Supervisory Agency. He had recently started this new job as a way to deal with the death of his ex-wife; he has assumed custody of his 11 year old daughter and needs a more regular schedule. His work  is boring until the death of a co-worker thrusts him into case concerning the activities of a  group home/reform school that had closed forty years earlier.

As “thrillers” go, this one is pretty tepid, and it takes its own sweet time to develop as the story shifts between the past and present.  While it is set in Iceland, at first there is little other than the character names to give it a Nordic atmosphere. Toward the end of the book, however, it does reveal a certain “Icelandic-ness” as it picks up speed and expertly comes to its disturbing conclusion. This is the best book of Yrsa’s that I’ve read but, as I mentioned, you have to make a real effort to stick with it to the end. The translation is pretty British, almost to the point of being a distraction at times, but serviceable.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Playoff Fever!

FITK is possibly the least sports-oriented blog in existence.

This post isn’t going to change that situation any.

Last night my “hometown” baseball team, The Minnesota Twins (Yay!) played the New York Yankees (Boo!) for the American League wildcard entry into the post season. I’m not going to cover that. Instead, I dug out an image (from the 1973 archives) of the place where the stadium now sits. The point of view is from what is now the mid-level seating behind first base. Most of the tracks in the picture are gone now; only the one on the very left remains as a depot for the commuter rail line. The building in the upper-left corner remains, the corner nearest holds a popular sports bar. The bridge in the back is now used for the light rail lines that service Minneapolis, Saint Paul and the MSP airport. The desolation in the center of the image is what is left of the old cartage sheds, where trains were unloaded and their contents distributed via horse-drawn wagons in the old days and by truck after WWI.

There was a game last night—in New York, not here—but you aren't going to find out the score from me.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, October 02, 2017

Tour Guide

October in Reykjavík will always hold special memories for me—over the span of several trips I probably spent four weeks there in that month. The last time I was there (2015) I actually took a proper tour (for once!) Ásta, in the white knit hat, was charming and effective in explaining some finer points of street art and Icelandic culture.

Here are some highlights:

Outside of Reykjavík Roasters, before getting coffee:

In front of the jail, after coffee:

By the end of the tour the chill was taking a toll on the less hardy, but Ásta was not fazed:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

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