Saga Thing is a podcast [iTunes link] about the Sagas of the Icelanders by Professors Andrew Pfrenger and John P. Sexton. The format is simple, the two of them discuss a single saga over the course of one or more episodes. Then they render judgment at the end, on such issues as the quality of its nicknames, witticisms, characters and bloodshed. If you need a refresher on the medieval literature and history of Iceland, Saga Thing has you covered with three introductory episodes (1, 2, 3), or you could listen to the BBC's In Our Time episode about the sagas. Andy and John also have a few short episodes on related topics, such as the gruesome blood eagle, dueling and Norse remains in Newfoundland.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir May Be Iceland's Next Prime Minister - "Poetry told Birgitta that she is alive. The internet taught her that she belongs in this world. The crisis showed her that she has a role to play, and politics showed her that everything needs to change." (Jónsdóttir, WikiLeaks & Iceland, previously) [more inside]
"Series of murals painted on a few of the thousands of icebergs freshly broken off from a nearby glacier. In the short time I was there, I witnessed the extreme melting rate first hand as the sound of ice cracking was a constant background noise while painting. Within a few weeks these murals will be forever gone, but for those who find them, I hope they ignite a sense of urgency, as they represent the millions of people in need of our help who are already being affected from the rising sea levels of Climate Change.” [more inside]
The Burning Man of Birding: Inside Iceland's Puffin Festival by Brian Kevin [Audubon.org] For decades Icelanders have celebrated the Atlantic Puffin even while they've served it up on plates. But some traditions can't last forever.
These days, though, the only place to reliably find smoked puffin at Thjodhatid is in the concession tent, where, alongside cheeseburgers and chicken fingers, it’s sold for 1,500 krona, or about $12, per bird. That’s three times what it cost 20 years ago, making one little puffin an expensive snack; it’d take three birds to make a modest meal. So it isn’t a popular menu item—the concession tent has stocked just 600 birds for a three-day fest that regularly draws 16,000 people. Still, the puffin has its devotees.
The day Iceland's women went on strike. "Forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on strike - they refused to work, cook and look after children for a day. It was a moment that changed the way women were seen in the country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality." [Via]
Joe Stiglitz on Inequality, Wealth, and Growth: Why Capitalism is Failing (video; if you don't have 30m, skip to 20m for discussion of political inequality, wealth, credit and monetary policy) - "If the very rich can use their position to get higher returns, more investment information, more extraction of rents, and if the very rich have equal or higher savings rates, then wealth will become more concentrated... economic inequality inevitably gets translated into political inequality, and political inequality gets translated into more economic inequality. The basic and really important idea here is that markets don't exist in a vacuum, that market economies operate according to certain rules, certain regulations that specify how they work. And those effect the efficiency of those markets, but they also effect how the fruits of the benefits of those markets are distributed and the result of that is there are large numbers of aspects of our basic economic framework that in recent years have worked to increase the inequality of wealth and income in our society... leading to a society which can be better described, increasingly, as an inherited plutocracy." [more inside]
Iceland district repeals decree allowing Basque sailors to be killed on sight. A memorial dedicated to the 32 Basque whalers who were killed in the West Fjords in 1615 in what’s known as Iceland’s only mass murder Spánverjavígin was unveiled in Hólmavík, the West Fjords, on April 22, the last day of winter. At the occasion, West Fjords district commissioner Jónas Guðmundsson revoked the order allowing Basque sailors to be killed on sight. [more inside]
For the next 24 hours you can watch live as lambs are born on a farm in Iceland courtesy of Icelandic state broadcaster RÚV. This is their experiment in slow television. The farm, Syðri-Hofdalir, is in the north of Iceland.
Eve Online: how a virtual world went to the edge of apocalypse and back The video game Eve Online is one of Iceland’s biggest exports and has become the world’s largest living work of science fiction. While rival games have come and gone, it has survived – thanks to a unique experiment in democracy
In 1963, a new volcanic island called Surtsey (previously) was born south of Iceland. In the summer of 1969, botanist Ágúst Bjarnason, who had been monitoring the progress of plant growth on the new island, made a discovery that he has kept secret until now.
"Once when I was in Reykjavík I received the message from Surtsey that a mysterious plant had been discovered in the lava. Those who discovered the plant, three or four foreign nature scientists and one Icelandic botanist, weren’t able to identify it..."
Huddled together amid the jagged rocks of the Gálgahraun lava field, a group of nervous onlookers wait with bated breath. Suddenly, there's a loud crack and a tumble of stones as a 50-tonne boulder is wrenched from the ground, then slowly raised into the air and eased down nearby, so delicately you'd think it was a priceless sculpture. "I just hope they’re happy in their new home," says Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir. "The elves really don't like being uprooted like this."Huldufólk, or "hidden people," are beings from Icelandic folklore reported to dwell in rocks. People are very reluctant to disturb their homes. (Previously.)
From neo-pagan marriage ceremonies to edda study groups and plans for a new temple, Iceland is reconnecting with its pagan past.
A rising tide lifts Iceland — literally A team of geoscientists has detected evidence that Iceland is literally rising along with sea levels. [more inside]
If a band opened their set saying they were going to wake people up with techno music, you would probably not expect the musicians to be a BAFTA-award winning modern classical composer and a member from an electronic pop/dance group, but that's how Kiasmos introduced their music during Iceland Airwaves/KEXPort in Reykjavík. If you like what you hear there, here are a few more tracks on Grooveshark, and read on for more on the members of Kiasmos, Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen. [more inside]
Take one part saw (1:15 in). Add one part glockenspiel and one part fiðla. Then, a dash of harmonium and some drum brushes. Accentuate with a cello, then layer with keyboards. Finally, add some piano and ensure there are two parts harp. Very carefully blend and Gleðileg jól! Amiina (previously) have bakaðar you a song.
This is my cousin Oskaar. I told him WA [Western Australia] is about to vote on daylight savings, and that most people would vote against it. About a week later, Oskaar sent me this.
If you've encountered delicately uplifting chimes and bells or a singing saw, seen the contributions of a string quartet in a Sigur Rós video, heard the last recording by Lee Hazlewood and noticed the gentle singing and music, or listened to Yukihiro Takahashi consider words, then you've possibly encountered the Icelandic band amiina. [more inside]
"Stand Still, Stay Silent" is the follow-up to Minna Sundberg's successful webcomic "A Redtail's Dream" (previously), but instead of a 550 page Finnish fantasy tale, it's a post-apocalyptic but still very Scandinavian story intended to run for years. After 10 months of almost-every-weekday pages, she has taken a short break for the end of 'Book One' and it's a good time to catch up. (SPOILERS INSIDE, but reading from the beginning is still strongly recommended) [more inside]
Bárðarbunga, an Icelandic volcano named after a Norse viking, is maybe going to erupt soon. Webcams are standing by.
Íslandskort is a digital collection of historical maps of Iceland put online in high quality pdf-files and jpegs by the National Library of Iceland. Here are a few of my favorites: 1, 2, 3. You can either browse a timeline of all the maps or browse categories such as first maps of Iceland, Iceland on sea charts in the 17th and 18th centuries and other maps, which includes maps of Frisland (1, 2), a phantom island that bedeviled cartographers for centuries.
The Vestmannaeyjar Archipelago, off the south coast of Iceland, was first settled in 874 AD. Heimaey, the only populated island, was home to both a center of the Icelandic fishing industry, and a volcano which had never erupted during nearly a millennium of continuous human settlement. Then, in 1973, all hell broke loose. [more inside]
Four years ago, a group of punk anarchists with no political experience led by Icelandic comedian Jón Gnarr formed a joke political party, the Best Party, to campaign for Reykjavik's mayoral and city council positions, hoping to lighten up local politics in the wake of the catastrophic Icelandic financial meltdown. To everyone's surprise, they won. [more inside]
On a bitter Icelandic night in 1974, teenager Erla Bolladottir was having a nightmare. Voices, whispering outside her room. Who were they? What were they saying? It seemed so real. Terrified, she wet the bed. The dream would continue to haunt her for years to come.
High-speed rail projects may be struggling in California and facing increased opposition in the UK, but they have gotten a boost in two unlikely countries. In Iceland, a country which currently has no working railways, a plan to build a high-speed rail line from Keflavík airport to downtown Reykjavík, using either conventional HSR or maglev technology, is being explored. Meanwhile in Australia, the conservative federal government has committed to safeguarding a corridor for a Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane high-speed rail network, a project commenced by the previous Labor minority government after pressure from the Greens. [more inside]
For decades, Iceland has been rumoured to be the largest producer of bananas in Europe. This factoid made the BBC quiz show Q.I. in 2006, and was cited as truth in a Christian Science Monitor article about geothermal energy in Iceland. Now the Reykjavík Grapevine digs deeper and reveals the provenance of this rumour and what truth there is in it (PDF; see page 6).
Icelandic band Árstíðir sings the hymn "Heyr himna smiður" a capella in a German train station, to beautiful effect. [more inside]
In Iceland, with a population of around a third of a million, the danger exists of that heady one-night stand ending up as an intimate encounter between near-relatives, as nearly happened to the friend of Elin Edda. No longer, due to the launch of an android app ("Bump the app before you bump in bed") which easily tells a budding couple how related they are. [more inside]
The BBC explore the olfactory delights of rakfisk, "trout sprinkled with salt and fermented in water for up to a year." But is it as smelly as Surströmming, fermented Baltic Herring from neighboring Sweden, or as extreme as the Icelandic Hákarl, basking shark buried in a hole and fermented for several months and tasting "similar to very strong cheese slathered in ammonia"? [more inside]
If you live in the Suðurnes area and witness cats occupying abandoned homes and holding parties, you can contact the local police and rest assured that they will respond without hesitation.
Legend: A Journey Through Iceland is a 12 min. 31 sec. long time-lapse video of Icelandic landscapes, set to the music of MONO, a Japanese post-rock band. A bit more MONO and pleasant landscapes inside. [more inside]
Scandanavia And The World: A web comic of outrageous national stereotypes bluntly portrayed by cute little cartoon bobbleheads, that will nonetheless help outsiders learn to differentiate among the Nordic countries. With explanatory text.
The band/artist is called Kristmann Op, the song is called Hátt fjall,The video of the song is an autotuned alien disco futuristic dreamwave delight
Iceland eyes loonie, Canada ready to talk. Iceland, still reeling from the aftershocks of the devastating collapse of its banks in 2008, is looking longingly to the loonie as the salvation from wild economic gyrations and suffocating capital controls.... The Canadian government says it’s open to discussing the idea. [more inside]
"In the 2008 economic meltdown, Iceland nearly collapsed. Its three banks failed, it's currency lost 50 per cent of its value and in an unprecedented display of anger, usually peaceful Icelanders took to the streets to protest. But Iceland defied the orthodox economic wisdom of the time---bailouts and slashing government services---and now is on the road to a recovery that the rest of Europe envies. The hero of the hour and the man almost solely responsible for this remarkable turnaround is the country's president Olafur Grimmson." This CBC Sunday Edition Interview is a fascinating listen. [more inside]
The Burton Holmes Archive has information about Burton Holmes, the travel writer who became the first person to make filmic travelogues. More importantly, they also have a lot of film clips by Holmes and his associate, André de la Varre, who was also a great travelogue maker himself. Watching these clips is not quite time travel, but it is as close as we can get. Take a look at Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1926, Lake Michigan in 20s, Cairo in 1932 and the 1955 Rio de Janeiro carnival. The later films have sound and narration, but I prefer the silent ones. [Burton Holmes previously, André de la Varre previously, and the Travel Film Archive, which runs Burton Holmes site, previously]
The Midnight Sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the summer months near the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, where the sun remains visible at the local midnight. This short, time lapse film was shot in June 2011 over 17 days and incorporates 38,000 images. The photographer/videographer traveled over 2,900 miles throughout Iceland. Midnight Sun (SL-vimeo, via) [more inside]
35 days, 2822 miles through 9 states at a cost of $252.51 ($7.21 per day). George 'the Cyclist' Christensen spends a good part of each year bicycling through a different country and wild camping in places like Iceland, Turkey, China, the foot of Mt Fuji and around Lake Victoria; And writing about his travels on his blog from libraries and internet cafés. For the past eight years, too, he has also followed the Tour de France after first watching upwards of 70 films [in 12 days] at the Cannes Film Festival.
Dr. Emily Lethbridge of Cambridge University is on a year-long research trip to document the settings of Icelandic Sagas. The short documentary Memories of Old Awake beautifully captures those dramatic landscapes, and you can read more about her research on her blog The Saga-Steads of Iceland: A Twenty-First Century Pilgrimage. (via) (previously)
The ever-lower cost of motion control technology is allowing amateurs to create increasingly spectacular films of timelapse astrophotography: the latest work from Randy Halverson, Eric Hines and Ágúst Ingvarsson. (Full-screen viewing is highly recommended). [more inside]
Bon Iver has released a video for the second single from their new eponymous album: Holocene (Vimeo / Youtube.) Background. (Previously) [more inside]
Halló humans on the Inter-net. My name is Iceland. I am an island, full of mountains and glaciers and hot water and sheep and many nice Icelandic people, who like to make music, and who are sometimes cold. (Maybe you have seen me on your tele-visions, or your Inter-net.) I have heard that many humans use the Inter-net to make friends, and to talk about themselves. I decided to do this, too.
Iceland wants to be your friend. [more inside]
Iceland wants to be your friend. [more inside]
``Several people had pledged their penises over the years — including an American, a Briton, and a German — but Arason's was the first to be successfully donated, Hjartarson said.'' [more inside]