laugardagur, desember 31, 2005

swimming in the gunsmoke

Last night E and I went to the Grafarvogur swimming pool after work. It's a ways out from central Reykjavík, but worth the drive when we have the time as it's my favorite unsung hero of the R-town Seven swimming pools. It's not as crowded/trendy/kid-infested as Árbæjarlaug, and it's clean and modern, with a well-lit 25-meter lap pool and the famed NYC-subway-straphanger massaging hot pot.

There are signs all over the city this past week advertising FLUGELDASALA, or flying-fire sales. Yep, it's fireworks season in Iceland. And right next to Grafarvogslaug there was apparently a fireworks shack, although we weren't able to find it. All we found were a gaggle of mischievous pre-teens lighting off bottle rockets.

As I swam laps in the main pool, though, the action in the surrounding neighborhood kicked up. People are anxious to try out their fireworks before the Big Night (tonight), and the Grafarvogur neighborhood was no exception. Every time I brought my head up for air, I would hear a bang or pop and sometimes see flashes of light out of the corner of my eye. It felt like I was swimming through a mini version of the Charles River on the 4th of July, albeit clean and well-lit. When I finished my laps, the air was thick with the smell of burned powder.

This morning in the darkness, I picked up my friend visiting from Virginia at the BSÍ bus terminal. Among the first things we did was to stop in at one of the many temporary neighborhood fireworks stores. I picked up a "family pack" and then another two large rockets. Later, I stopped in at another fireworks shop "just to see what they had" and found myself walking out with another two rockets. Each of these large rockets is a terrible warhead on the end of a wooden stick about 3 feet long. I can't wait for midnight, and judging by the amount of local friendly fire, many others can't either.

Because at midnight tonight, the whole country will erupt for close to an hour of fireworks. I believe the average family spends around what I did today, or maybe more: 15000 ISK, or around $250. Everybody goes to their backyard or street corner and fires 'em off simultaneously. It's chaotic and wild and happening everywhere around. The smell of gunsmoke hangs in the air well through the day tomorrow.

Gleðilegt nýtt ár!

þriðjudagur, desember 27, 2005


I am the only one in my office now, it's dark outside, and yet noisy as all get-out. Rain is beating against the windows in a high-pitched hiss and the booming gusts of wind sound like the inside of a jet engine. We're having one of those classic Icelandic winter storms, the kind that make you want to be well inside, and reading a book or sawing logs. Wind is blowing sustained at around 50 mph and gusting to just over 75 mph at the nearby Garðabær weather station. That kind of wind gust easily rocks a parked car and can make walking temporarily impossible. Building-sized sheets of rain are visible blowing sideways under the streetlamps. When I dropped E off at her building, I drove ole RZ right up onto the sidewalk to get her as close in to the glass doors as possible. It's like a WWF Smackdown out there.

föstudagur, desember 23, 2005


I walked into the company cafeteria just now and was greeted by the powerful smell of ammonia. As I approched the lunch counter, our cook waved me into the kitchen, asking, "Viltu skötu?" I followed him to the back and sitting in a stainless tub of hot water were pieces of floating, powerful-smelling fish.

Today, the 23rd of December, is the traditional day for an Icelandic delicacy, skate. As in the flat fish. In the old days, skate meat was preserved by allowing it to rot and ferment under controlled circumstances. Then, boil and serve! According to my coworker, the fermented skate was something they had in his family once or twice a month when he was a kid. It was a good cheap meal for his parents to serve the family. But nowadays it's seen as an exotic old-timey Icelandic food and mainly enjoyed on the 23rd as part of traditional Christmas celebrations. Many Icelanders have never even tried it, as it turns out.

But that didn't stop me! The chef spooned out a fist-sized piece and laid it on my plate. It had a brownish skin and the meat inside was pinkish. The cafeteria was mostly empty and I walked over to the table with a few people smiling at me, knowing what was to come. The fish itself was full of square pieces of cartilage that I had to separate out from the meat. I loaded up a fork with some of the stringy pink meat and popped it in my mouth. The flavor of ammonia shot up my nose, like I was back mopping the kitchen floor at Camp Quinebarge. I must have made a face because the onlookers smiled knowingly. Because I was at work, I didn't even have the advantage of the strong alcohol chaser that usually accompanies the skate these days.

After that first hit, it was actually quite enjoyable to eat. The flavor was strong, and the texture much better than its rotted cousin, hákarl (shark). The flavor was so strong, in fact, that when I switched to salted cod, potatoes, and rugbrauð afterward I could barely taste them. But I'd eat it again, for sure. I'm trying to get E to come with me down to Sægreifinn tonight and try some more. But I'm not sure how far that plan will go.

night of the living chorusheads

Last night was a magical one on Laugavegur, Reykjavík's Main Street. The stores stay open late this week before Christmas and there are people walking up and down, carrying bags and exclaiming "frábært!" and talking in hushed tones about gift possibilities. People are running into their friends and relatives, too, the women saying "nei, hæ!" and the men exchanging a "blessaður". The clothing shops are all done up with beautiful window displays, and the toy store was packed with eager grandparent-types staring up at the wall of Legos.

On my way up and back on the chilly street, I saw at least five roving choral groups. There was so much caroling, in fact, that I was never out of earshot of at least one of the choruses. They would sing two or three carols and then the whole group would amble along to another storefront or driveway and stake out a new spot. There was even a bit of a choral turf-war as one would set up shop in one place and force the chorus just behind it to move further down the street.

The choruses each had their own character, something that was apparent as I walked along beside and amongst several of them. One group was a stylish all-black overcoat-clad male bunch with a fur-coated babe of a director leading them enthusiastically. Another was a community choir from Mosfellsbær, the sort of ragtag bunch of oldish folks that suddenly looks alive and purposeful when the singing begins. Their director was a passionate white-haired man, who turned around in the middle of songs and belted out his own mellifluous solos. Another group was from Kvennaskólinn í Reykjavík (the Reykjavík Women's School), with two girls carrying a banner and two others passing off a cell phone in the middle of a number, to the frowns of the arm-waving lady leading them. There were two or three other choruses, dressed all in Santa hats, ambling along, stopping, then caroling up a storm.

The carols are of course arranged to be sung in the Icelandic language, both the old standbys and the newer stuff (with the exception of the time-worn Jingle Bells). Hearing these old childhood classics sung in the language of the Vikings on the darkest of nights on a rock in the far north Atlantic made me feel the real magic of the season in my heart: on the Solstice, this oldest of human celebrations, people have for ages lit up the darkness with song.

When a song concluded, the passersby and lookers-on (and even some drive-by clappers) would cheer and the director would bow and sometimes someone would shout "meira!" As I walked up and down the street in that magical hour, the sound of singing voices carried me along under the inky night sky.

fimmtudagur, desember 22, 2005

"this christmas sucks!"

I was just sitting around lunch with my coworkers and they were asking me about Christmas traditions from the Old World. I mean, my Old World, the good ole US of A. Christmas in Iceland follows a different schedule, and I'll relate that to you gentle readers based on a single Christmas data point last year with the kindly family who took me in.

On aðfangadagur (Christmas Eve) many families go to evening mass at 6 pm. Then they come home, staying in their fabulous church clothes, and eat a whole dinner together. The dinner is something traditional like hamborgahryggur (glazed ham) or rjúpa (ptarmigan) or even hreindýr (Rudolf!). Everyone eats, and laughs, tells stories, and drinks wine. Later, at around 9 pm, people go into the living room and begin opening their gifts. The gift procession continues in an orderly circle, with each person opening one gift in their turn. During this time, more wine is consumed, special foods and chocolates are passed around, and fireside cuddling commences. Finally at 2 or 3 am, everyone is sleepy and goes to bed. They then sleep until it's light again on Christmas Day (jóladagur), maybe 11 am or noon, and many go to eat more food with other bits of the family on that day and then eat more communal food on the 26th, which is called annar í jólum, the second day of Christmas.

(A side note here is that it is absolutely forbidden to utter the words "gleðileg jól" (Merry Christmas) until 6 pm on the 24th. Everyone understands this rule here, and saying this forbidden phrase, for example to a coworker at the end of the workday on the 24th, will be met with a confused and/or outright frosty expression.)

So back to the lunchtime narrative: I was explaining to my coworkers about how my family had people over on the 24th then pretty much went to bed. When we were kids my brother and I couldn't go downstairs until usually 6 am on Christmas Day (following a 2-hour period of clock-staring). At that point we could get our stockings and open them, but had to wait until 7 am when my parents woke up and came downstairs. MB would make Irish bread, something she only made on that day, and we would stuff our faces with butter-soaked pieces of that and look plaintively at our parents. At a leisurely 8 or 8:30 am, after breakfast was all cleaned up, we'd saunter into the living room and open presents in an orderly (and Icelandic) one-gift-per-person circle. (There was always the dreaded Chicago Box which had to be opened before my grandparents called at 9. In fact, the Chicago Package Deadline was often what motivated my mom to get through breakfast and allow us to start the gift opening.) Somehow my dad would always end up with the most packages to open, so by noon or so we'd be staring at him unwrapping things carefully. Then we'd go for a walk.

About midway through this story my most Americanized coworker began jeering and catcalling me. "Boo! This Christmas sucks!" he said. The other coworkers were similarly scandalized. Opening gifts on the 25th? Crazy! This must be torture for little kids! When do you read the books? What about the drinking wine? And so forth. We had a great laugh. I told them that E and I were splitting the difference, opening half of the gifts on the 24th and half on the 25th in an Icelando-American hybrid X-mas. This seemed to calm the maelstrom somewhat. "Now go blog this!" said Americanized coworker man. So here it is, Chief.


E and I bought our jólatré (Christmas tree) the other day from a charity sale in a warehouse down by the city airport. Some kinda flying-somethingorother-club. All the employees were smiley and friendly, and Icelanders were pouring in by the carload. The trees were all suspended from the ceiling on ropes in a kind of floating forest. We chose a native-grown Icelandic fir tree and our helpful tree-lady took it off the rope and stuffed it into a big chute, trunk first, so that it could be wrapped in mesh for transport home. We picked up a sturdy welded green tree stand too. A hundred-plus dollars and a short car ride later, we were home. We put up the tree in the big window at the end of the apartment. In a classic American division of labor, I covered the tree with white lights and then E added some beautiful Moravian straw snowflakes that we picked up last week in Brno, plus all kinds of homebuilt childhood classics that her mom had sent her. The tree smells wild and Icelandic, and that thing can drink down water like nobody's bidness. But boy is it a beauty.

miðvikudagur, desember 21, 2005

the big day

Well, today is it. Today is the big one. The one we've been working towards since late June, when the light was so pervasive it seeped into our dreams. Today is the Winter Solstice, or sólstöður, the shortest day of the year. In Iceland this is quite a short day. Here in the south of Iceland, we won't get sunrise until 11:22 this morning. The sun will set again at 3:29 this afternoon. So 4 hours and change of daytime for us city folk. And when the sun does come up, it'll only squeak up to 2.4° above the horizon before dipping back under. This is not an Orlando noontime.

In the north of the country, on the northern half of the isle of Grímsey, the sun will not rise at all today. (Grímsey is the only part of the Land that crosses the Arctic Circle.) Next time you're asked to "take that car where the sun don't shine", think of northern Iceland in the winter. There's even a special lonely junkyard in the northern West Fjords for just that purpose.

For you readers who have not experienced this level of darkness, it's hard to communicate. You can understand it intellectually, as I did before I moved here, but nothing can prepare you for the jarring juxtaposition of 9:30 a.m. and pitch blackness out the window. Or you can not even understand it intellectually, like the British couple we rode back with on the bus from the airport on Sunday evening. They had planned a week-long Christmas holiday here. I said, "It's going to be hard to see anything. It's pitch black around 18 hours a day."

"Really?" said the chap. He said he didn't know that. He also acted as though he didn't believe me.*

So think of it this way: it's as though a huge black velvet theater curtain has been drawn across the country for a couple of months. The curtain opens slightly every day in the late morning and for a few hours some light creeps in through the crack. Then the stage manager closes it again for another long, velvety black night.

mánudagur, desember 19, 2005

czech musings

We arrived back home in Iceland last night after a hellish day of travel. We did the cheap thing and flew through Heathrow, but that involved an Icelandair and a British Airways leg, and lots of luggage shuffling, passport stamping, and re-check-ins in Heathrow's cramped quarters. But enough of that... the Czech Republic was as amazing as it always has been to me.

A lot has changed in the 10 years since I first visited the Czech Republic. Prague has become a tourist magnet of the first degree, which is in some ways heartening and some ways disappointing. The streets I once roamed unmolested with the original Prague Three are now knee-deep in tourist swarms. Josefov is one continuous wall of people, stacked five and six deep in a touristic parallel of the district's famous graveyard. The Charles Bridge looks more like the exit tunnel of an arena sporting event. And the Prague Castle now charges admission to visit many parts that were once not only free, but also empty. But all of this is good for Prague, because the tourist dollars are clearly lifting the Pragueconomy and fresh coats of paint abound. The sadness and melancholy that once marked the place have almost disappeared, at least in some neighborhoods. It's just difficult to have to share the erstwhile diamond-in-the-rough with everyone else.

There was a restaurant near our hotel called Corleone's. Even having an Italian restaurant was probably unheard-of in 1995 Prague. (In a bizarre twist, the first non-government restaurant in the country was the excellent Icelandic "Reykjavík" which opened soon after the fall of Communism.) Not only was Corleone's well-attended, it was actually trendy. All around us, the hip 20- and 30-somethings of Prague were meeting on dates or going out with their friends, sipping on Merlot, and ordering up the gnocchi. There was a buzz to the place the likes of which I had never heard in Prague. It was the buzz of people enjoying prosperous lives, and it was nice to be in the middle of it.

Not all of the country is rising so fast. The train stations in the smaller places outside of Prague had their old faded glory intact, and the second city, Brno, felt a lot more workaday and authentic. The countryside is distinctly Old World, with the pungent (and guilty-pleasure) smell of coal smoke in the air, and a gypsy wagon and a man using horses to haul firewood visible from the side of the train tracks. Many towns are an odd combination of medieval and Renaissance center ringed with the ubiquitous panelaky, or Soviet-designed panel-house tenements from the Cold War era.

We spent several nights with our friends in the southern Bohemia town of Jindrichuv Hradec, a place where I once lived for a summer. That town retains all of its downtown cobblestoned beauty, and the castle at one end is lovely as ever. The shops on the main street were jammed full of goodies, people thronged the main shopping street, and kids danced at the traveling Coca-Cola caravan in the main square. Our friends were amazing hosts, showing us around, making us all manner of warm drinks to stave off the winter, and taking us out for fried cheese and perfect beer in the restaurant in the basement of their house. On the last morning, the four of us walked a ring around the little town, which was getting covered in snow. On the train back to Prague, we paused for a few minutes at a switching point and watched powdery snow fall silently into the tall trees next to the track.

fimmtudagur, desember 15, 2005

old men in hot water

An Icelandic speaker and fellow blogger has translated some of the old-timer hot-pot conversation from the swimming pool I like to visit after work. These are the kind of old dudes I see there. Já já já já já...

mánudagur, desember 12, 2005

back in the good old world

Well, as I learned from an Anonymous commentator, Unnur Bírna, the Nings girl I have had a crush on since the summer (and Miss Iceland 2005), won Miss World over the weekend. Congratulations, Unnur! I always knew you had the right stuff. I feel like we are missing out on the celebrations. To Icelanders this international recognition is something akin to Bostonians' feeling after the Sox victory in 2004. I feel like E and I missed out on a weekend of Icelandic euphoria. Last November, I missed out on the big tire fire, and now Unnur's crowning. Man, I always miss something! (Icelanders, what did we miss?)

In other news, Prague is still every bit as stunning, and E is even more in love with it than I had predicted. Her eye for detail is finding all kinds of intricacy in the architecture that I had missed. And she is right, almost every building here is special in some way.

The only thing is, it's mobbed with tourists these days, and we're here amidst the cold days of December. The streets of Josefov, for example, were almost impassable with the hordes yesterday. So we have been focusing on doing things in the neighborhoods more. We're staying in the Anděl area, which is full of both new stores and old smoky joints filled with old men eating fried food.

We had a great meal here on the first night, fried cheese and fried chicken for E, and the creamiest of mushroom soups, and lots of spring-water-clear Staropramen beer and coffee and the whole thing cost us less than a small bag of groceries from the discount Kronan store in the Land. (About 1250 ISK.) It's nice to be able to eat out again, and drink real beer, too.

Today after we get out of this hellish Kenny-G-playing Internet cafe we'll be walking around the Staroměstské Náměstí (Old Town Square) area, getting fleeced and shopping for leather man purses and probably having some Becherovka, too. It's good to be back in the Old World.

föstudagur, desember 09, 2005

til Tékklands

Vacation away message for Iceland Report fans (and there seem to be quite a few of you these days!): Due to a much-needed break, Iceland Report will be down for the next little while. In the meantime, you can try to use your newly acquired mad Icelandic skillz to deduce from the title where I am going. (N.I.N.A.)

Once you are done with that, go back and read the archives! There's all kinds of stuff in there I bet you haven't read. Iceland Report will be back with more groundbreaking news from the I.C.E. soon. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

fimmtudagur, desember 08, 2005

body clock part three

Last night as we were getting ready for bed, I was remarking on how happy the new sunlight alarm clock made me. "It just makes the mornings so much easier! I love this thing!" I was exclaiming.

E shot back, "So it's like a sun to you?"

miðvikudagur, desember 07, 2005


Iceland is a place full of kids. What I realized after a couple of months here was that I was seeing and interacting with kids on a daily basis. Whether it was coworkers' spouses bringing kids in for an end-of-day visit, kids wandering the aisles of the Nóatún while their parents shopped, or kids doing high-dives to splash into the hot tub right next to me, kids are unavoidable in Iceland.

This was in stark contrast to living as a young professional in Boston, where kids were few and far between. There, the kids of coworkers were safely ensconced in suburbs. The Stop and Shop was full of twenty and thirtysomethings like me, and there were no real public gathering spots that embraced the whole community (teens, yuppies, families, and retirees) the way the swimming pools do here.

Well it turns out that Iceland as a government and a society provides a lot of services for parents and kids. Yesterday I read an excellent article on the benefits available to families in the Land. Some of the benefits include subsidized prenatal care, home care visits for new parents, nine months of combined and paid maternity and paternity leave, day mothers, and special family support for children with disabilities. Iceland is apparently so good in this area that some families have moved here just to take advantage of the nice environment for family raising. It seems to me, at least anecdotally, that my coworkers with families here have an easier time than families of my coworkers in the States.

It's funny, coming of age in 1990s America I associate the phrase "family values" with conservative Republican code for "we don't like homos, and educated folks, neither". It's refreshing to live in a society that uses less code words and seems to care about true family values without making a big fuss about it.

þriðjudagur, desember 06, 2005

the fish platter

Back in ought-1, I was woikin' outta Boston and at that time my company had an event at every Christmas party known as the "Yankee Swap" whereby we would draw numbers, open gifts in numerical order, and steal gifts from others along the way. Well, my good friend Chicken-Wing Man and his wife were there, and they had just gotten married. There was a wedding gift they got that nobody wanted so they brought it, original box and all, to the Yankee Swap.

I had a low number, which is undesirable because I could have my gift easily stolen, if it was desirable. Unfortunately for me, it was not. I opened the aforementioned box, and inside was, cushioned in white foam, the ugliest fish platter in creation. It was opaque off-white ceramic, and painted around the edges with purple and blue, as I recall. Try as I could, I could not get rid of the platter. I waved it around in the air at each new contestant's entry into the Swap. I begged, pleaded, and cajoled. Someone, anyone, take this God-forsaken fish platter from me. My coworkers and my date just laughed at me.

And then, a glint of light. My coworker SJK said that she would actually like it. She just couldn't admit it during the game. But after the Swap was over, she'd trade me something she had for the platter. Whatever it was she was willing to trade was infinitely better. I don't even remember what that was. I rushed back to my table to put the Platter back in its box for safe transport home with her.

But the joke was still on me. In my tipsy state, the box/foam arrangement became an impossible obstacle course. I dropped the Fish Platter on the floor of the Black Rhino Special Events Room and it shattered into 5 pieces. The crowd rushed over, guffawing. The trade was off. I was stuck with a broken platter and a broken spirit.

One year later, 2002, I scoured the Boston kitchen-supply community with steely determination. I visited store after store, and then finally in China Fair in North Cambridge I discovered my revenge. They had see-through glass fish platters in three or four sizes. I chose the largest, a beautiful sad fish of a platter and wrapped him up for the show.

It was a big hit. Coworkers swapped the platter around like it was actually desirable. Then I found out why. They wanted to take it out and smash it, for old time's sake. When I heard that, a pang went through my heart. I had invested so much time in the ugly, droopy-faced glass fish. So when my number came up, I stole the platter and took it home with me.

2003 was an off-year for the Fish Platter II. I believe I even used it once to serve something at a party in the Fantastic Fenway Crib. But mostly he just lived a quiet life atop my fridge in the galley kitchen with the view over the Red Sox parking lot.

In late August 2004 I unpacked two big wooden crates in front of my new apartment on Öldugata in Reykjavík. When I unpacked the big box full of kitchen supplies, there he was, my old clear-glass friend. Like something out of another dimension, this glass Fish Platter in Iceland. I put him on top of the fridge. But I was determined to carry on the tradition. So I introduced the whole company to the notion of a Yankee Swap a week before our company jólahlaðborð (Xmas Dinner). I sent out the whole sheet of rules, and talked up the event to coworkers around the coffee machine. Then I went home and wrapped up the Platter in an IKEA lamp box and went off to find my fortune.

It couldn't have worked out better. One of the few people at the company who knew the story of the Platter was the one who took it home. He was attracted by the large size of the lamp box. Everyone oooh'ed and aaah'ed as the brown IKEA box came out of its paper. But then inside was old Fishy. Everyone gasped. My friend glared at me. Nobody would steal the Platter. They laughed and laughed and he took it home.

Then he left the company, although this was mainly not related to Fish Platter II. One morning shortly after this, I came into work early, opened the dishwasher for a coffee mug, and staring out at me with his big peaceful eyes was my old sad NoCam cheap-china-store friend.

The 2005 Yankee Swap was renamed Kanaskiptið, which maintains the spirit of the Swap in a whole new tongue. I boxed up my boy in an old pizza stone box, attached an empty decoy box to the top of that, and off we went. Only a few numbers in, buoyed by beers and encouraged by the generous size of the box and high-precision wrapping job, new coworker HÖ reached for the Platter package.

"No!" warned more experienced coworkers. "It's the Platter!" HÖ plowed forward, scattering wrapping paper and decoy boxes at his feet. It was the pizza stone box. He smiled, relieved. "Open it!" chanted the Greek chorus. ("Put it on!" chanted me.) Inside, carefully sleeved into foam was the Fish Platter.

The FP's new custodian did admirably in his role afterwards. Waving it in the air, calling out to all the new participants from his place in the back corner, offering to trade it for any and all gifts: it was a performance reminiscent of me back in '01. Of course there were no takers. So the Platter lives on.

sunnudagur, desember 04, 2005

seltjarnarnes shopping

After an afternoon of making pizza pies for our friends from Kópavogur, E and I took a walk up the peninsula, along the sea-path that goes to Seltjarnarnes and Grótta. We passed apartment building after apartment building, most with Christmas lights in the windows, and many oriented with the windows facing away from the sea, looking across at other apartments. (An Icelander told me that it's only been in recent years that Icelanders have thought that maybe seeing out to the sea and mountains across the bay is a pretty neat view. Nobody really thought about it before.) We passed the dark sentry of the septic plant and noticed the pools of light made by the streetlights all the way out to the end of the peninsula.

Finally we came to the center of Seltjarnarnes, the Eiðistorg shopping center. I had told E of an amazing new grocery-store find and wanted to show her. (It's often the simple things that amuse in the Land.) The Hagkaup store there comes the closest to reproducing the bounty of the average non-Foodmaster Boston grocery store in Iceland. Indeed, when we entered and saw bushels of grapefruits right inside the door, E said, "Wow, this place reminds me of Stop&Shop!" Something about it is so clean, so warm, so full of treats and promise. We spent 10 or 15 minutes browsing the aisles lazily, looking at imported Italian prosciutto and the mustard offerings and the entire collection of Sex and the City on DVD, and even the abandoned and darkened combination town offices, police station, and sad mall next door. Truly an oasis, this torg of Seltjarnarnes. But we didn't buy anything. We'd been eating pizza all day, after all.

We walked back home along the ocean and looked at the aurora above the clouds while a freighter ship glided out to sea behind us.

föstudagur, desember 02, 2005


Drivers passing along Route 1 in the south of Iceland will notice large white warehouse-shaped buildings in several small towns. These are the business end of the Icelandic Meat Empire, Sláturfélag Suðurlands, or the Slaughtering Association of the Southlands. SS is famous for its odd acronym, its imaginative slogan ("Íslendingar borða SS pylsur": "Icelanders eat SS hot dogs"), and its mascots, the pylsufólk. Long-time readers may remember the cartoon hot dog people from an earlier post, where my brother remarked that "They're eating their own kind!" It's true; the sausage-shaped pylsufólk have a habit of appearing hot-dog-in-hand. It turns out that they also have their own disturbing Hot Dog Fairy Tale World for kids of all ages.

So given all this background, suffice it to say I've become mildly obsessed with Sláturfélag Suðurlands. In an economy full of high-flying and overhyped banks, the business of SS seems cozily low-tech. When I found out that SS was actually publicly traded on the Iceland Stock Exchange, my enthusiasm doubled. It turns out that a few years back they were taken public by our very own KB Banki. Maybe I could own a piece of the Meat Empire. Excellent.

When I checked our market information system for a price quote, however, it came back with 0. It appears that SS is so thinly traded that there is no price reference data in recent months. Absolutely zero movement on the market. This stock is day-od, in the words of Al Pacino.

Apparently the boys at SS realized that their stock being not traded at all was less than desirable. Turns out the boys at SS have a side business in bra and panty importation. So one day, Icelandic asset managers came in to desks covered with boxes of bras and panties, in the hopes that these freebies would entice them to buy high-flying SS shares. I'm not sure it worked. Now the asset managers are trying to sell them all in the middle pages of Fréttablaðið.

With this new bra-and-panty angle, for me SS goes from "accumulate" to "buy buy buy". I'd like to amass as many shares as I can. It shouldn't be so hard. Maybe I will start the buying today. Then in time I could take over the meat-processing operations of this Icelandic hot dog giant, and be crowned Pylsukonungurinn, the Hot Dog King of Iceland.

fimmtudagur, desember 01, 2005


The concert gods are smiling down on Iceland. I just received word of, and bought tickets to, a charity concert that's gonna happen here in January. Some featured artists, Power-Point style:
  • Múm: I think they play a lot of horns and chimes and things.
  • Damien Rice: Some whiny singer guy.
  • Sigur Rós: Their name means "Victory Flower", or something. Other than that I don't know much about them.
  • Hjálmar: Icelandic reggae, early-70s-style. Surprisingly good.
  • Ghostdigital: Ex-Sugarcube Einar Örn's band. His co-collaborator Bibbi got me into a Sigur Rós show once.
  • Egó: Band of Bubbi Morthens, the Icelandic Elvis/Lennon figure.
  • Björk Guðmundsdóttir: Yeah, that Björk. She had a couple of medium-sized hits.
Anyway, that's some of the lineup. And holy mackerel, what a lineup. Is there any band missing? Maybe Aerosmith. They should try to get them added in. Other than that, I think it's perfect.

sigur rós

...played a tremendous show here last Sunday, their first on the Land in 3 years. E and I went early and parked in the parking lot for the Daily Driver swimming pool, then walked through the shuttered Reykjavík campground and part of the sculpture park to get to Laugardalshöll, the concert venue. This walk through a pitch-black and frigid Icelandic night seemed the right prelude for such a momentous event.

The concert didn't disappoint, either. It was full of gorgeous scalp-tingling moments, as always, and I found myself smiling uncontrollably a lot. I also found myself air-drumming at points, like a true Rush fan. They had brought along a whole brass ensemble, in addition to the string support of the Amina girls, so the sound was downright orchestral in many places. The musical growth rate of this band cannot be charted.

The best part is, you don't have to take my word for it. The band has posted free videos of the whole 132-minute shebang:

real media high quality
real media low quality
windows crapmedia mediocre quality
windows crapmedia gutter quality

Carry on, Wayward Sons!