Thursday, December 27, 2007

So...


I'm not gonna say that his trip wasn't special. It was. I said my goodbyes to my grandmother, said hello to my little nephew, spent oodles of time with the Fam in South Prairie and Seattle and Surrey. I met up with Claire (though not as much as I'd have liked) ate (far far far in excess of what is good for me) drank (so much I'm pretty sure I'll have to declare my liver upon returning to Iceland) gave and received many gifts, and generally got back in touch.


Nothing remarkably bloggable, seeing as I've already covered the toilet humor ha ha of The Yule Logs, which were in full effect yet again.


American Me is so full of shit...



So I'll leave it at that dear blogadytes. See ya in Rvk on Saturday!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Call off the rescue mission...


....despite (and in part because of) one of the worst storms in recent Icelandic history, the last minute discovery of a 4-month-expired-passport, massive flight over booking, and Icelandair forgetting to re-book me out of Minneapolis...I made it home in time for Grandma's memorial.


Which was bittersweet and lovely.


More to follow...when the jet lag wears off.


Later dearest blogadytes...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Leaving on a jet plane...



...and barring being interned for thought crime, I know exactly when I'll be back again.




I'm a nervous wreck at the mo. Not only because I hate traveling by jet (flyin's fine, I just hate commercial flights), not only 'cause I've got the Cold of Doom (despite which I still showed up to work today, mainly 'cause I forgot my tickets here) which will make flying suck even more ass, but also because the DHS (Das Fascist Society) has apparently started cracking down on flights from Iceland.




So I'm sick and scared and stressed. What else is new?




Anywho...more when and if I make it home to the proverbial bosom of my family.




If I don't blog in the next 72 hours, start planning a rescue mission dear blogadytes, cause I'm off to the shiny new and improved value meal heart of darkness that is America.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Church and State Redux


Two things are weighing on my mind of late dearest blogadytes.

Both of them are tied to Iceland's growing pains, the trials and tribulations of a country that has gone from being a little-known poverty stricken outpost of Denmark in the North Atlantic with one of the most ethnically and religiously homogeneous populations in the world to being an independent player in international business and an ever-increasingly multi-cultural and polytheist society.

Issue the first is mainly due to a badly worded letter from the Ministry of Education regarding trips organized by elementary schools and the State Church for students about to be confirmed, which caused debate to re-erupted about the place of Iceland's State Church in the school system.

Some claimed the letter was the first step to driving the Church out of the schools.

If only!

But no, such appears not to be the case, as the Minister of Education recently explained, claiming that the wording of the letter had been twisted to serve the purpose of "fundamentalist atheists", a phrase so unbelievably fucking ridiculous that for a second after reading it I thought I had time-warped back to the Excited States of Hysteria.

The minister went on to say that Iceland is a society based on Christian values, and that the vast majority of people would oppose the Church being separated from the schools. This same minister recently decided that Icelandic kids should no longer be forced to learn Danish, as such was a anachronistic hang-over from the days when the Danes were Iceland's ruling power. Yet she defends the teaching of anachronistic mythology derived from a culture of desert dwelling semi-nomadic tribes from the Middle East dating back to the time when the Pharaohs ruled Egypt, David ruled Jerusalem, and Cesar ruled Rome as a necessity?

What the sweet leapfrogging Buddha Mohamed Christ kinda bullshit is she selling?

The powers that be have tried to make religious education more palatable to religious minorities here by including brief (and often very slanted) sections on Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and very grudgingly Ásatrú. The only religious belief they refuse to acknowledge is the lack thereof, i.e. Atheism. In fact, many of the questions posed in the classes and books give kids the impression that it is impossible to be a good person without some form of belief in the supernatural. Now they've gone a step further and labeled anyone who doesn't agree with them a "fundamentalist atheist".

Well, guess what, we can call them names too. How about "self-righteous bible thumping hypocritical pompous asses"?

Bad enough that every time I change my address they re-register me as a member of the National Church, giving my hard-earned money to a bunch of collar-wearing wankers who get paid twice what I get (not to mention free housing) for talking about one branch of Middle Eastern Mythology once a week and pushing malleable children's minds down the rabbit whole of cognitive dissonance.

Bad enough that these same wankers automatically register every foreigner who moves here as a member, regardless of their religion or lack thereof. Or the fact that they charge for weddings, funerals, and baptisms, despite the fact that they're already supported by the tax-payers (the same could be said of the RUV the state-run radio and TV network, who despite getting funds from the tax-payers and from "licence fees" for TVs, still sell millions of króna worth of ads...). Bad enough that they continue to drag their feet when it comes to bowing to the will of the VAST majority of the population and allowing same-sex couples to wed.

Now they get to call atheists names and make hints about a conspiring minority set to destroy the "Christian Values" of Iceland?

What fucking Christian values are those? They certainly have nothing to due with the whole camel and needle vs rich man and heaven deal, not to mention the whole "render unto Caesar" thing. The whole bit about not coveting thy neighbor's whatever is totally lost on the average Icelander who doesn't just covet, he goes into debt to something even better. Hell, the only thing keeping the banks over here from putting their logos on the churches is the fact that the churches are REALLY WELL FUNDED unlike the schools, care-homes, and welfare system. Otherwise I'm quite sure the Bishop would be all for something along the lines of "God! Brought to by Glitnir, Iceland's most popular bank!"

Talk about money-lenders in the temple...

And anyone who lives here knows damn well that the whole "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" thing is fucking null and void...

Alas, I have to go take care of the good Christian children of Iceland now...so I'll have to hold off on ranting about the ever-increasing rise of xenopohobia in this rainy island paradise...until next time my sweaty little minions, this is the Sma saying why go to church when you could do some good?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not exactly a model remodel...


So as is obvious from the last couple of posts. I've gotten all gloomy and melancholy and grouchy.


Again.


I apologize dear blogadytes.


Thing is though, I can't seem to shake it. Which worries me. I have a long and frankly disastrous relationship with Madame Melancholy (as well as her sisters Mary Mania and Clinica D'Pression) and I know that when I get like this there's a chance it might get worse.


So I try to get enough sleep, work out, take my lýsi, and relax like all the nice (although frankly all-too-often incompetent) doctors tell you to.




Yet I'm still just tired, unmotivated, and grumpy all the damned time.



Part of it is a very hard to shake anger/sadness cocktail resulting from the stupidity of last July, part of it is the inertia of living out of a suitcase for this long, and part of it is grandma. Add in a healthy dose of I've-been-working-overtime-galore-to-pay-for-a-ticket-home and a pinch of the-last-thing-I-wanna-do-after-being-surrounded-by-screaming-children-all-day-is drill-holes-in-concrete and you get a very unmotivated Sma.

But I can't keep going like this. The landclan (as opposed to a single landlord/lady I've got a whole mess of relatives involved in my housing situation) is getting pissed about the lack o' progress on the remodel front, so if I want to have any sort of say about what kind of kitchen I get, I'm gonna have to get my ass in gear and take charge again.

So tired or not, grumpy or nay, I've got to paint and drill and tile and chisel and all that all this weekend and all the next.

Anyone up to coming over to help?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and the Completely Fucked Up.


So today started off sucky.


The kid I tutor in English in the learning lab was so incredibly angered by my daring to request that he at least try to answer questions in English that he loudly and angrily told me to fuck off (fokkaðu off!) before going on a tirade about how he can't be expected to answer questions in a language he totally doesn't understand.


This coming from a kid who can quote The Simpsons Movie verbatum.


After yet another day of little or no help in the lunch room, which forces me to eat my lunch surrounded by screaming teenagers (though not the little delinquent from the learning lab...he eats three meals a day at the corner sjóppa) because my lunch break is taken up with cleaning the disaster zone that is a post 1-4th grade lunch room, I threw on my coat to sneak off to the store, both to down a bit of carbonated caffeine and have a well deserved smoke.


On my way off of school grounds, I ran into a kid hiding outside the playground. I told him to get his ass back to the school strax, but turns out he's hiding from another of our "special" kids, who I discovered stalking the playground with a fist-sized chunk of concrete in his hand, totally set on bashing in the other kid's head. When I finally forcibly disarmed him, and told him never ever to pull anything like that again, he told me to "steinhjálti kjafti helvitis pólverji þítt". There was also some commentary on how ugly, boring, mean, and stupid I am.


About now, I can hear my beloved blogadytes wondering where the "good" is in all of this.


Well, simply put, walking back from the store, I discovered a soaking wet, yet perfectly legal chunk of tender totalling 5,000 króna.


Apparently this was karma's way of trying to brighten my day. I just wish it had seen fit to make that lotto ticket I bought Saturday a winner.


So, needless to say, I'm considering my employment options again.


I mean, there are jobs out there where you can go months at a time without someone screaming obscenities at you! There are jobs where one doesn't have to disarm deranged individuals armed with improvised weapons intent on inflicting splatter-gore on their fellow man, and then deal with irate phone calls from their parents claiming that you're "bullying" said would-be assailant. There are jobs where one's ears don't ring from all the screaming all afternoon. There are jobs where spit and snot on the floor are exceptions, not the rule. Hell, I could get my Yankee ass a job as a security guard and I'd still have more peace and quiet at work.


Not to mention that there are jobs out there that pay a living wage...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shhhhh!


You have no idea my dear blogdytes.


Unless of course someone from my job has infliltrated your sweaty ranks.


All day long we've been trying to teach the kid's here a very simple lesson:


BE QUIET IN THE LIBRARY!


It doesn't work. And I'm not talking whispering or giggling or anything like that. I'm talking kids screaming at each other across the library, just to ask a question, shouting "Fuck you you fucking bitch!"*at each other across the table while they try to play some sort of educational game. Don't even get me started on the little bastard that decided to you the library's only copy of The Golden Compass as a football...


One of the things I like about libraries is that they're one of the very few places in our society where quiet is supposed to be the rule, not the exception. No Muzak, no blaring advertisements, no TV's pumping out crap pop videos into the ether. Quiet.


While I really hate most of the aforementioned affronts to calm, music (although definitely not Muzak) has its place. I like its place. Quiet in the backgrounds of resturaunts and cafés, pumping in the bars, pounding in the clubs. I love music. I sing, play musical instruments, listen to music while reading, cooking, whatever. But its got no business in the library, reguardless if we share space with the computer lab. That's what earphones were created for.


Of course, many of us, including almost all the kids here, have gotten way way way way too damn used to life with a soundtrack, which is where the earphones become a serious pain in the ass. I'm tired of trying to talk to people, kids at work, cashiers, people I see on the street or the bus, who can't for the life of them live one goddamned minute without the Ipod blaring in thier ear. I've always thought of music as something that brings us together, but these days, music is what we use to further alienate ourselfs from our fellow man, sonic insulation against the warmth of human company.


Take the fucking ear plugs out already...


*Swearing in English is not considered rude here, even if you're a little kid. I've had parents grin at me and tell me how wonderful it is that their little 6 year old is picking up English already, right after the little monster screams something about ass-fucking a donkey at his classmate. On the other hand, if you tell an Icelandic kid to "shut up" (þeyjiðú) they'll get all kinds of uppity about how you used a "banned word" (bannað orð). How fucked up is that???

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Full of Thanks


This has been a really hard day for me.


I mean, I usually have a hard time on Thanksgiving over here. It reminds me of how far away I am from my family, and because so few people celebrate it, serves to remind me of just how much of an outsider I am, and always will be here.


Throw a death in the family into the mix and you've got yourself one mixed-up Sma.


But its not really supposed to be about turkey and stuffing, even if my tummy keeps telling me that it is. Today is supposed to be about giving thanks.


And I am thankful.


I'm thankful for my family, for their unfailing unflagging support for their silly-assed expat son and brother. I'm thankful for their humor and their love and the fact that they're shamelessly goofy and loud enough to make me seem like "the quiet one" for once. I'm thankful that they make the world a better, if considerably goofier, place just by being in it.


I'm thankful for my new little nephew Baby Jack and all the adorable little rug-rats like Askur and Trausti that have come into my life lately, all of whom I am proud to call my nephews, blood or not. They've made my friends and family happy, and for that more than anything I thank them.


'Cause I'm thankful for my friends, the people who've stood by me year after year, sharing joy and sorrow and far far far too many beers. People who've pulled me to my feet when the world has smashed me down, people who've danced along to my different drummer, sheltered me when I had no place to go, fed me when I was broke and so sick of ramen I dreamed of noodles strangling me.


I'm thankful for all the people out there struggling and striving to make this a better world, in the streets and on the job, in houses, schools, squats and mansions. People striving for peace in our time, justice for all, and the liberation of all that is good in the human spirit. I'm thankful for your bravery, resilience, commitment and passion. I'm grateful that people out there still dream big while working small.


Sometimes in the my despair for this world, I let cynicism and sarcasm form a shell around my soul, and it is these people; my friends, my family, my fellow dreamers and revolutionaries that always manage to bring the light into my dark times.


Thank you.


Thank you.


Thank you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Arrivals and Departures


I'm going home soon. Not permanently, but it's unexpected. I wanted to go home for Thanksgiving to see my new nephew, as well as my new god-nephew (?), and all the other loved ones (and their seemingly endless clutch of babies) I've been missing of late. I thought it would be nice to see the fam for Turkey Day instead of Christmas for a change. Pay a visit to Grandma and Granny.


But it costs a fortune, and I had decided to use my dwindling savings to fix up my place.


But I'm not anymore. I'm going home next month.


My grandma died this weekend.


I feel like I should pay tribute to her, to her life and all, but its hard. Hard because I've always tried to be honest in this blog, and the kind of platitudes that people resort to when a loved one dies have always seemed a bit insulting to me, like sugar-coating the dead before we bury them.


I loved my grandma, but grandma wasn't an easy person to love. She had quirks the size of the Midwest prairies she grew up on. Big quirks, quirks like the Great Plains, like Montana, like Madonna's ego. Somehow at least some of these could be both endearing and annoying at the same time. Like hearing "We used to call it Lost Wages" at least three times everytime Vegas came up in a conversation.
Growing up during the Great Depression molded her into quite possibly the cheapest person I've ever met. She'd dole out spoiled food to her grandkids rather than let the leftovers "go to waste", leading to several cases of "grandma flu", and more than once I received a "whole roll of pennies" or some random doodad she'd found in the closet from her as a birthday or Christmas gift. She was obsessed with saving anything and everything she thought might be of use or value someday. Old food containers, scraps of paper, little bits of everything (in the mid 80's during the worst of the "Just Say No" drug hysteria I found a baggie containing tiny nubs of chalk that my grandmother had saved, and convinced it was crack, hid it in her closet before tearfully explaining to my parents that grandma was a crack-head...god I was a dumb kid). She'd save money on postage by slipping obituaries of people my mom knew into mom's birthday or Christmas cards, making the opening of such an exercise akin to emotional Russian roulette.

To be honest though, that was the least of my troubles with her. The thing that constantly troubled me about my grandma was her bewildering racism. Grandma didn't like immigrants see. At least not "brown" ones. The hypocrisy of it was what drove me nuts. Grandma was the child of immigrants, an immigrant herself, and yet she heaped scorn on others who came to the States for the self-same reasons as her parents. She and my late grandfather were members of the "Sons of Norway" even though grandpa was Swedish, and she was intensely proud, or as intense as she ever got, of her Scandinavian heritage, slipping bits of Norwegian (or was it Swedish?) into her speech, and trying to get us kids to eat lutefisk. Yet she complained bitterly about the US being "taken over by Mexicans" who "always want to speak Spanish". I never could figure it out.

In my early teens I'd go over the mountains to Yakima to "help out" sometimes in the summers. Say what you like about my grandparents, but grandma did keep a spotless home. I know. I had to help her clean it. Her homes were always small and ordered and clean, and yet somehow lacking in character and warmth. Empty somehow, and cut off from the world.

And forgive me for saying it, but I often thought they reflected grandma's psyche, a world of limits and borders, traditions, conventions, and as echoingly empty as an abandoned grain silo.

I always wondered what she thought of my decision to become an immigrant myself. She'd probably have approved, but only because I went somewhere she could easily confuse with her beloved Scandinavia.

But I never got to find out. Grandma didn't have in-depth conversations with her grandkids, and as my move to Iceland more or less coincided with the onset of her Alzheimer's, she hardly remembered who I was most of the time, aside from her sneaking suspicion that I was "stealing her shoes".

The last time I was home, I skipped an opportunity to go visit her at the care-home she'd been at the last few years, after she got too confused for my mom to take care of her at home.

I regret that now. Bitterly.

My grandma may have been a long way from perfect, and she may have bugged the hell out of me from time to time, but she was my grandma, my mother's mother. She was blood. For all her foibles and failings, she was in her heart a good person, and I let distance and illness cloud that fact from my mind.

I love her.

Loved her.

The past tense can be such a sad and final thing. I've had to go back and put things in past tense the whole time I've been writing this.

So I'm going home to be with my family, in mourning and bittersweet celebration. Grandma may not be with us anymore physically, but she'd wandered away a long time ago in her mind. Maybe now she's whole again. I hope so. I want her happy wherever she is.


Goodbye Grandma. Be at peace.


Oh, oofta! I'm crying again...

Friday, November 16, 2007

I feel old.


Don't know why.


Just feel really old and washed up and done in and cranky and such.


Hence the shortness of this blog entry.


Cheer me up this weekend gentle blogadytes?


Cheer me up or just fuck off...

Monday, November 12, 2007

'Tis the Season


So ever since my early teens, I've always been a bit conflicted about Christmas.




For one, being an atheist and all, it seemed a serious compromise to celebrate the birth of a man, who for all the wisdom of some of his teachings, I refuse to believe to be the son of god.




Then there's the fact that I'm anti-capitalist, and few things are more capitalist than the consumer frenzy of the holiday season. Also, as I'm usually butt-ass broke, I often feel bad this time of year, due to the fact that people seem to shower my broke ass with presents that I so cannot afford to repay in kind.




But in my heart of hearts, I figure that any celebration that has a core based (no matter how debased we may have let it become) on generosity and goodwill, can't be all that bad.




So here's my Yule/Christmas/Xmas/Nondenominational Holiday/Winter Solstice/Hanuka/Kwanzaa/Diwali/Whatever list for anyone feeling so generous as to want to buy me prezzies.






General:


World Peace


Revolution


A date with Salma Hayak's unmarried clone.


A fully functional and completed apartment.


A plane ticket to Bombay.




Now that that's out of the way...




Books, preferably used:




China Miellville: Perdido Street Station

The Iron Council

The Scar


Emma Goldman: Living My Life


CrimethInc: Days of Love/Nights of War


E.F. Schumacher: Small Is Beautiful


Kirkpatrick Sales: Rebels Against the Future


Peter Kropotkin: Farms, Fields and Factories


Matt Ridley: The Orgins of Virtue


Joan Thirsk: Alternative Agriculture: A History - From the Black Death to the Present Day


Dennis Danvers: The Watch: Being the unauthorized sequel to Peter A. Kropotkin's Memoirs of a Revolutionist


André Snær Magnason: Draumalandið: Sjálfhjáparbók handa hræddri þjóð


Charles De Lint: Someplace To Be Flying


Books on permaculture would be cool too.


CDs (preferably used):


Hjálmar


Old-school Bubbi from back when he was cool.


The Specials


Mica


The Scissor Sisters




Movies (ditto):


28 Weeks Later


Love Actually


The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love


Saving Silverman (stupid euro-title "Evil Woman")


A Mighty Wind


Waiting For Guffman

Les Temps de Lup (Time of the Wolf)


Le Pac de Lup (Brotherhood of the wolf, oddly enough completely unrelated to the previous film)


Frida


Paint Your Wagon


The Quiet Man


The Secretary


The complete super-hidden-crouching-monkey extended Lord of the Ring Trilogy


Pretty much any movie set in a post-apocalyptic land...no matter how cheesy



Other Stuff: (ditto the ditto)


Black hoody size L


Plain black leather bracelets/jewelry


Nikki McClure Posters available at Left Bank Books and http://www.nikkimcclure.com/portfolio/


Aspen cologne/aftershave


Fun T-Shirts size L


A cheap ink jet printer


An Internet connection


See, I'm a man of simple wants...


lolz @ me






Friday, November 9, 2007

Two interesting observations.



Observation one: Now, I'm not sure if it's a quirk particular to Icelandic children, children at this school, or simply a little kid thing that I hadn't previously noticed, but what's with the wanting things that are at the back, or in the middle?

Let me explain.

Having proven themselves disastrously incapable of pouring their own glasses of water or milk (don't even get me started on the insanity of having breakable classes and plates in an elementary school cafeteria) we now set out pre-poured glasses on a little cart for the kiddies to refresh themselves from.

This has cut down the spillage. A little. See, the thing is, the little Ebola monkeys always go for the glass the furthest away from them, or the one smack dab in the middle. Always. (see illustration#1)




KID IS HERE




OOOOOOOOOOOOOO


OOOOOOOOOOOOOO


OOOOOOOXOOOOOO


OOOOOOOOOOOOOO


OOOOOXOOOOXOOO




ILLUSTRATION #1: CHILDREN'S BEVERAGE CHOICES
AT ------SKÓLI 2007,
WHEREBY X MARKS THE MOST POPULAR LOCATIONS


Now I know that kids is contrary creatures, but this phenomenon fascinates me because it seems so instinctual. They don't even consider the easy-to-reach glasses in front of them, unless I remind them, at which point they stare at me with utter bewilderment, like I just asked them to eat with their feet or chew with their elbows.

Too damned weird.

Observation #2:

I I believe that the single greatest argument one can make against the notion that the human body was designed by some form of higher intelligence is simply the fact that while the human form has no trouble at all giving itself orgasms, it cannot supply itself with a satisfactory hug.

Yes, I am lonely and in need of hugs.

Seriously.

I've been checking out books on massage and referring to them as "cuddle porn".

INSERT JOKE AT THE SMA'S EXPENSE HERE








Thursday, November 8, 2007

Trying to put the "fun" into Fundamentalist.




So ever now and again I am forcefully reminded that I am not just on an island with a different language, but one with a very different culture.

Case in point: They have mandatory bible classes here. Sure, they put up a smoke screen with a couple days devoted to other religions but by and large, the name says it all...Kristinfræði.

Literally translated: Christology.*

I just had to sit through an hour and a half of this with the totally out-of-control 6th graders, thanks to the usual teacher's aid being ill. I don't blame her, if I had to work with these kids daily I'd infect myself with Ebola rather than show up to work.

So, yeah, Christology. An hour and a half of ten commandments these kids can barely understand and certainly won't follow. An hour and half of "anointing with oil" and "my cup overfloweth" and kings sending husbands to die in order to steal their wives whom they have been spying on in the tub.

Why? I mean, teaching them ethics with realistic hypotheticals I can understand, if not applaud, but this?

What a total waste of time.

What a total dangerous waste of time. And yet my co-workers look at me like a weirdo for finding this whole thing strange. They can't seem to grasp just how important a factor religion is in the E.S.H. let alone why someone would be so adamantly opposed to it as I am.

The vast majority of kids this young lack the basic mental development needed to seriously study religion. They take things literally for starters, which is very very bad where religion is concerned.

Let's do the math, shall we?

Taking things literally

+ religion
------------------------


(Fundamentalist) = people(who blow shit up) / (if its) "against" (their) "religion"

Then there's the impracticality of it all. Most of the other values that they try to teach in school (not the ones they unintentionally teach) are of practical value. They do try to teach mutual respect, not to bully, general politeness, etc.

It really muddies the water then when you try teaching a kid that violence isn't how one should solve problems out on the playground, or that genocide is a horrible thing in Social Studies or History, and then ship them off to Christology to learn about how Jericho was put to the sword for the glory of God.

And why the sweet monkey fuck should a class of twelve-year-olds need to know what "anointing with oil" means? I mean, when's the last time you were anointed with oil?

And I don't mean as a lubricant!

Call me old-fashioned and American*, but I think one of the single smartest things the U.S. ever did was separating the Church and State. They're awful enough separate, like lima beans and Brussels sprouts.

The last thing this world needs is more Theocratic State Smoothies.

In the end, you have to ask yourselves, do you want an enlightened world or The Light of The World?
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*I know the term is "theology", but frankly, Christology fits alot better.
*For those of you tempted to think of this as American overreaction to a time-tested and "harmless" Icelandic tradition: FUCK OFF!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Ungrateful Homesick Unkabo Takes the Gratis Equine to the Orthodontist's



So it hit me today, as I knew it would.




The homesickness dear blogadytes. Dear sweet monkey the homesickness.



Even though it was too expensive, too tricky to schedule, too damned un-doable, I've still spent the day kicking my own ass for not buying a ticket home for Turkey Day.


Poop.


And you'd think getting free stuff would warm the cockles of the Sma's wrinkled lonely little heart, but no. See, the nice rich people who run this city have decided that they can't pay the teachers and school employees bonuses (as they have done for the cops and day-care workers, and will likely soon do for the nurses) due to "the contract", so they'll give us all kinds of cards (to the pool, which I already have, to museums, which are already free on Wednesdays, to the "zoo" and "family park", which is a waste for me, not having kids) and some extra money for gym memberships (which we still have to pay income tax on) and a pot of cash that the administrators of each school can decide how to use in order to thank us for all our hard and ridiculously underpaid work.


We got a ticket for two to the National Theatre.


Whooopdyfuckindoo!


I'd have much more appreciated a gift-certificate to Bónus, or Hákaup, or Krónan, (even though their all run by price-gauging crooks) hell, even Europrís (the Walmart of Europe). I'd have taken kindly to a nice catered party, or a certificate for a dinner, or one I could redeem at a book store. Hell, a month's worth of bus fares would be fine.


I don't go to the theatre much, mainly because I'm not so fond of plays. I like movies, but on stage I prefer stand-up, or musicals, cabaret, or Shakespeare, all things in short supply at the national theatre which tends to put on rather depressing offerings of pseudo-pomo art-fag angst or older Icelandic plays which for all their cultural significance, mean jack shit to me.
Don't even get me started on how deeply I despise Icelandic "stage-comedies".
Seriously, don't.


But hey, at least they tried.


At least they tried.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I am Unkabo!!!!!




My lovely littlest sis has just become the happy momma of Jack Mathew Robbins, married to a happy dad, and in the process made my parents happy grandparents, my sisters happy aunts, and most importantly, made me the happy Unkabo.




Just what the hell is an Unkabo I hear you ask. An Unkabo is what happens when the very anti-US-government Sam's sisters decided that having their kids call him "Uncle Sam" just isn't gonna happen, so they in typical tipsy fashion combine Uncle and "Bo" (derived from my childhood obsession with Boba Fet) to create Unkabo, the Strange Uncle From Abroad.




Can't wait to spoil the little krút.


Welcome to the wonderful weirdness that is your fam Baby Jack. You're gonna have a blast!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why?


Why is it that some people, particularly boys between the ages of 10-12 and young men aged 18-22 think that being a complete asshole to everyone they meet is a guaranteed ticket to popularity and coolness?


Why do these people have parents that put up with it?


And why the sweet Mary Mohamed Jesus fuck has it become my job to re-wire a class full of idiot children's brains so that they treat those around them with a modicum of fucking respect, not to mention refrain from acts of blatant xenophobic ass-hat-ism and crude jokes involving metal poles, asses, and attempts to make little kids lick said pole afterwards.


Why didn't I take that night-watchman's job?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Add one part compliment, one part insulting anger, blend well...


...and you've got the morning I'm trying to slouch my way through.


See, it's parent-teacher day here and this glorious academic entity know as Where I Work. So far today, I've received one very sweet and uplifting stream of compliments from one of my former students and his parents. It was almost enough to make up for the crap I've been taking from other students and parents who find my grades to be too harsh and my methods "ekki nægjan nóg gótt".


Mostly this comes down to my "vinnueinkum" (where the students are graded on a scale of 1-4 on things like "turns in homework on time" / "doesn't disrupt class" etc). Much as I disagree with the whole process of grading people, I figured if I had to do it, I should at least try to be fair. So if I didn't have a record of students turning in the two home work assignments I gave them, they got a zero in "turns in home work on time". This made logical sense to me. 0+0=? You guessed it, 0!


But apparently that's not how math should be done over here. 0+0= "at least 2 and should be raised even higher if a parent comes to complain."


I hate grading. I hate that assignments are graded on a scale of one to ten but behavior is graded on a scale of 1 to 4. I hate trying to numerically quantify the complex and singularly individual process of learning. I hate that said quantification is all the kids and the parents really seem to give a shit about.


All things considered, I like the library a lot better. I like the fact that at the library, information is there for you, but no one is forcing you to read it, no one is telling you to read it faster, demanding reports on it, or grading you on it.


Schools ought to be like libraries. Teachers ought to be like interactive books, full of knowledge and capable of showing you how to apply said knowledge.


That way, when you want to learn something, you could come and check out a few books, read up on it a bit, and then sit down with a teacher and figure the rest out. Freely, independently, without coercion of quantification.


That's the kind of school I want to teach at.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Society's Core Values: Redux


Miriam Rose, the young woman facing deportation form Iceland for "threatening society's core values" was on the local current-events show Kastljós last night. One of the better points she made was that if she is threatening the core values of Icelandic society, then those values are the values of the market place, not of a civil society.


Kudos to her.


Thing is, the state of Icelandic society has been getting me down the last couple of months, as is abundantly evident in this blog.


A sizable chunk of this is down to yours truly. I've had a worse than usual case of my autumn-induced malaise/melancholy, coupled with a deeply rooted pile of pissed off due to the events of last July. I should move on, but I'm still pissed, and its coming out in all kinds of ways.


But my dissatisfaction is not entirely due to my currently pissy attitude. There are things that need addressing here on the Lump, and even if no one actually reads this blog, it means something to me to voice my dissent. If "most men live lives of quiet desperation" I think its about fucking time for our desperation to get really FUCKING LOUD!


The Miriam Rose case is highly illustrative of several issues that desperately need addressing and redressing in this society.


For starters, there's a distinct level of xenophobia at play. Icelanders arrested for acts of civil disobedience are not held in solitary confinement during their incarceration. Ms. Rose was. Icelanders arrested for acts of civil disobedience are not required to hand their passports over to the authorities. Ms. Rose was. Finally, while an Icelander arrested for civil disobedience would have their day in court, Ms. Rose's deportation does an end-run around justice, as the deportation is being handled by the Icelandic Immigration "Service" (that actual translation is closer to "Authority" or "Police", they don't service folks that well) who when it comes to matters of immigration and immigrant rights, act largely as a power unto themselves, unchecked by the courts.


Then there's the glaring example of the nepotism, cronyism, and jingoism at play when it comes to the powers that be. Several months ago, a young Central American woman was granted Icelandic citizenship after only a year or so in the country. This was newsworthy because, as far as the rules usually apply, it takes at least a year to get citizenship (if you're married to an Icelander, which the young woman wasn't) but usually takes anywhere from 5-7 years. The young woman in question just happened to be living with the son of a prominent member of Parliament, which we've been assured has nothing to do with her super-sonic entry into Icelandic society, but was seeking Icelandic citizenship so that she could then be eligible to study economics in the U.K.


After her interview on Kastljós, she was active in her "mother in law's" party's election campaign.


So the lesson is, as long as you are politically connected, interested in something conservative and respected like business or economics, speak Icelandic (Ms. Rose put on a brave show, but Ms. Speedy Entry had obviously spent alot of time in the language lab), and play by the unwritten rules (don't rock the boat, only act within the system, etc.) then the written rules can be bent or even broken to allow you to stay here, even if you're active in politics.


If your not politically connected, not conservative, don't speak much Icelandic, and challenge the status quo, you'd best tread very carefully, especially if you're active in politics. That's when they hammer the rules into a nice rigid rod to pummel you with.


But the Miriam Rose Case has another side to it as well. Just like the WAR IN CITY CENTER, its part of an ongoing campaign of misdirection and coercion on behalf of the authorities.


Case in point, just a few weeks ago, Iceland hosted a major NATO conference.


Not a protest to be seen.


Which is the whole point. Deporting "troublemakers" like Ms. Rose isn't just an end in and of itself, it's also a handy means of stifling dissent. By channelling the dialogue to make it look like the only people who protest anything are foreigners (not far from the truth sometimes, but I digress) you can make Icelanders feel less inclined to support them. After all, "þetta fólk" are "bad mouthing" the beloved homeland. Label them a "threat to the basic values of society" and people will be even less inclined to support them, and the government gets a green light to kick out all the foreigners who aren't perfectly happy being "erlent vinnuafl", aren't busy taking care of the elderly and the young, doing the building and the cleaning and the cashiering and the dish washing or touring around and drinking at bars and going to music festivals all the other "legitimate" things that foreigners can do here.


All this is to protect the basic values of Icelandic society.


If so, then the following is sadly a much more likely list of core values than whatever's written down at Alþingi (that is, if its written down, and not just left up to whoever is in charge at the time):


1-Money is more important than people.


Therefore people with lots of money are more important than people without. People who
work with money are more important than people who work with people. Hence bankers, investors, business owners and investment groups deserve better service from the government, tax breaks, and more say in the organization of society than teachers, nurses, child-care workers, municipal employees, or people in the (non-financial) service industries.


Money being the most important thing, it must therefore be good. Hence anything that increases the amount of money (business, GNP, tax revenue, etc) no matter the cost to people must be good. Hell, its practically holy. Anyone or anything that seeks to limit, prohibit, or otherwise impede the accumulation of wealth, especially the accumulation of wealth by the already wealthy is therefore evil or misguided and certainly a threat to society. After all, we're not "gamaldags kommatittur".


Likewise, monetary crimes are more serious than crimes against people. Especially monetary crimes against the State. Hence drug offenses, which entail making money in a way unsanctioned, and therefore untaxed, by the government, or smuggling (ditto) are prosecuted more harshly and with more zeal than crimes like assault, rape, and sexual abuse, which after all, only harm people.


2-Laws must be obeyed no matter how asinine, intrusive, or unjust they are. Civil disobedience threatens the stability and sanctity of the status quo.


Therefore people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Henry David Thoreau should never be allowed into the country, as they threaten the very foundations of Icelandic society. Remember: Með Lögum Skál Landið Byggja. Seriously, if people went around protesting and challenging laws, it might not be illegal to be gay, or women might be guaranteed equal pay under then law!


Likewise, if you have a problem with an asinine law, you shouldn't seek to change it publicly (unless your an elected politician) rather you should try to get around it via subterfuge. Challenging it outright on moral, ethical, or even legal grounds will get you in trouble, best just to grow the pot in the basement and not bother with rallies, protests, or petitions. This also gives the authorities the ability to catch you, punish you, and use you as an example of how they are protecting the public from you. Do your duty, break the law in private!


If a law is so universally ignored that not even the most rabid policemen will enforce it, it should remain on the books as a way of selectively targeting people for prosecution. (Why do you think porn and sex toys are still technically illegal?)


3-Thou Shalt Be Mightily Apathetic!


The last thing a perfect society like Iceland needs is malcontent trouble-makers wanting to change or fix things. You can't fix things. Það er vónt en það venst. Don't try. Don't strive. Fólk eru fífl, og þú ert fólk. Be unhappy inside and smile to the world. The unhappy buy more, and money matters. Buy yourself into debt. Keep up with trends. Go abroad once or twice a year to someplace sunny and cheap. Buy buy buy. Consume consume consume. Work work work. Don't question why you're depressed, tired, stress out. Don't wonder if a world where you actually spend time with your kids is possible. Whittle your dreams down to things you can find in a catalogue. Repeat the mantra "Ísland best í heimi! We have the most cleanest nature, most beautifullest women and strongest men! We are hip of kúl and all the Hollywood stars think we rock!" until you believe it!


And yes, for the record, if these really are (and I deeply hope they are not) the basic values of Icelandic society, then throw my ass out too, 'cause I'm definitly threatening them!


Poscript:

If you feel the need to give me any "Iceland, love it or leave it" shit, please click here. If you feel the need to point out that I'm being very negative, please check the title of the blog and ask yourself "what part of rant did I not get?"


Monday, October 15, 2007

Call me "Giles"...


So I've totally fallen off the bloggin' wagon of late, which is hereby gonna change.


Back to "Daily Rant" as opposed to "Once or twice a month when I've got nothing better to do rant".


Since last I wrote, I've moved back into my construction-zone apartment. I've very nearly finished the bedroom, after hammering out all the loose tile (easy peasy) and the not-so-loose-tile (much harder, but thankfully only about half a square meter). All I have left to do is touch up the paint, put up the curtains, cut and nail down the edging around the new floor (which much to my chagrin I realized doesn't match the old floor. 'Course I realized this after I'd glued the fucker down...) put up some shelves and change the light fixture and I can move back in.


After that, all I have to do is finish up the living room (light fixture, shelves, paint, new furniture), the hall (paint, light fixture, new floor), the shower (move and re-install washing machine and dryer, tile, install shower, put up door) and the kitchen (take out wall, re-wire the whole space, install sink, cupboards, stove, fan and vent, fridge, paint, put in new floors, new light fixtures, shelves and storage, furniture).


Total cakewalk.


I wish...


Aside from that, I've also started my new job at the same place as the assistant librarian/English tutor/cafeteria gestapo.


The librarian part of the deal is great even if I somehow managed to throw out my back re-shelving books. Hours of hard physical work on the apartment, nada. Two hours re-shelving and I had to go to the doc's.


Doc gave me butt-pills. What the hell is it with the butt pills? I've never encountered them, the entire time I was in and out of the hospital in the States, never a butt pill to be seen. Leave the Land of the Fat and suddenly you have to keester your pain killers...


But anywho...the library gig is nice, even if the concept of whispering in the library is totally foreign to Icelandic schools. As I type one of the 8th graders has just climbed on top of the table to shout at his fellow students over the top of the shelves. His teacher (Ms. Hottie) just looks blissfully on...


I think my train of thought just derailed...


The weekend was good, despite the screwed up back and fuzzy-headed-butt-pilly-ness. I went to the BEST MOVIE EVER! So damned good Embles and Anna and I wanted to buy tickets to the very next show and watch it all over again.


Followed that up by drinking some beer (didn't take much) with Klaus at Embla's place, which led to crashing on the guest bed upstairs. Which turned out to be too soft, so I laid down on the rug in the living room to give my back a rest, drifted off to sleep, and was woken up in total fright by the dog deciding to lick my belly-button.


I like dogs, but for fuck's sake!


Next day was great though. Hung out with the Embles and Klaus and ever-more mobile Askur and wound up making a truly delicious meal (pot-roasted vegies and beef, mashed sweet potatoes with roasted garlic, and a nice Fall salad) followed by berries in cream and accompanied by Shrek I and II.


Pure bliss.


So the rest of this week is set aside for working on the bedroom, the sooner I get moved in the better. I suspect however that I'll also be doing quite a bit wondering about when my little sis is gonna squeeze out my first (blood-related) nephew, and hunting for something fun to wear for a Halloween.


That is all dear blogadytes, someone actually wants to check out a book!


Monday, October 1, 2007

On a totally unrelated note...


Anyone know where I can download Peter Paul and Mary's acapella version of "Because All Men Are Brothers"...The Great and Powerful Google has failed me...

The Story of My Day


So we had an "starfsdagur" today at work, as if all the other days we aren't really working.

But I was productive as all hell, holed up in the classroom that soon won't be mine anymore, grading papers at suicidal speed, listening to various odd bands found on You Tube.

Not terribly exciting, I know. About the only amusement that part of the day provided were all the copy-paste papers that the kids tried to foist off on me as their own. For starters, there are maybe two students in the school who even know what adrenaline is, let alone how to use it in a sentence. Add to that the absolute laziness of their scams! I mean, seriously kids, if your going to plagiarize, please don't use something from the first hit thrown up by googling the fucking book's title! Use some guile! I give bonus points for guile!

So I stayed until 4, using my mad deductive reasoning skills to figure out who owned what paper, as a goodly amount of them were either unsigned, or included just the first name. "Anna" for instance. I have 7 fucking Annas in my classes!

Don't even get me started on the pathetic attempts to make the page and a half minimum by filling an entire page with clip art...

After that, I walked over to the paint store and bought some lovely autumny green and yellow paint. Every body's got a red kitchen these days.

Proceeded to carry the paint 2km to my much neglected housing, painted the trim in the bedroom (after removing 12 screws necessitating 5 different screw-driver bits) and got all the obviously loose tiles on the floor removed.

These tiles will be the death of me. The fuckin' things are hideous for starters, mismatched around the edges, little thumb-pad sized bits of white, and grey and black, the grout turned to powder, or worse, a chemically orange goo. I want to remove them. Seriously, give me a broad-head masonry chisel and a mallet, and I'll be good for a couple hours of wonderfully cathartic thwacking.

Come to think of it, give me a mallet and something to smack and I'm generally just in hog-heaven.

But the owner(s) can't decide if they want to fix the damn things and have me lay laminate over it (WTF?!?!?) or just let me take them out and then lay the laminate. So for now my floor is in limbo. Not wanting to start painting the walls as late as it was, I opted for a slightly different cathartic destruction, namely stripping old paint and plaster off one of the idiotic architectural features in what will hopefully someday be my kitchen.

Stripping paint by hand is kinda fun. The same kinda fun that picking your nose is when your a kid, only less gross and less likely to make your nose bleed. Its the whole digging for grip and then the satisfaction of pulling off a really big piece at once. Good times.

So yeah, that was my 15 hour work day. 8 hours of grading papers and useless meetings (I've sat through 5 meetings about the importance of keeping up moral, and not one on emergency drills, what the hell is up with that? Nobody notice that we live in one of the most seismically active spots on the planet?!?!?) followed by 7 hours of painting, tile-prying, and paint stripping.

If I had to choose, the latter wins hands down.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A poor quality blog about a "threat to society's core values"...


So I'm not terribly found of Saving Iceland.


Mostly 'cause the little vegan fuckers broke my washing machine.


No, seriously. Summer before last my upstairs neighbor, the Stoner Idiot aka The SkryrPunterAsshole, decided to let a bunch of these "atvinnumótmælendur" crash in his basement room. So before I knew it, my basement was chock-a-block full of crunchy vegans, 8 or 9 of 'em at a time. They each had a summer's worth of tie-dye and lópapeysar to wash, and most decided it was time to shower the built up patchouli oil off.


Which left me unable to do laundry, as they appropriated my machine as well as Idiot Stoner's (I'd have let them use it, just, you know, ask!) for this massive textile undertaking. In fact, they ran my machine so long that it broke, which meant that they just left it full of slowly fermenting patchouli run-off.


But OK. I'll put up with it. I'll put up with them sitting around the stoop chain-smoking "organic" cigarettes, talking about what the newest cool place to backpack that hasn't been "ruined" by "tourists". Backpackers never think of themselves as tourists. They prefer "traveler" or "nomad" but what they are is the thin edge of the wedge, paving the way for the very yuppie fucks they bitch about.


I'll even put up with the snide meant-to-be-overheard comments about my diet. You don't eat meat? Fine. I do. I don't try to force you to eat the tasty tasty murder, so shut the fuck up...


Top it all off with the fact that thanks to these kids, I've got paper on me in the RVK police files, because they were staying in the same building as me. Now, I think the cops are a bunch of paranoid fascist assholes for putting the unmarked car across the street for two weeks while they were holed up in the basement. But because Stoner Idiot is an Icelander, and doesn't sport a mohawk, the paper probably says its all on me.


Throw in the fact that I've always been a "clean up your own backyard" sort of activist, and that I think they've done more harm than good by not bothering to try to get their message out in Icelandic (even save-the-world-lefties can be guilty of imperialist arrogance that way), I still believe they have every right to have their say.


Hell, I'll even go so far as to thank them for at least bringing the whole concept of civil disobedience and protest into the Icelandic limelight.


They do not deserve to be randomly stopped, harassed, arrested and mistreated by the cops. They do not deserve to be charged with "terrorism" for throwing some green yogurt on fat-cat businessmen. Alot of them may be trust-fund hippies but none of them are "professional protesters". They may be dedicated, they may be focused, but they sure as shit ain't getting rich on it.


So when I read in the paper this morning that a young woman name of Miriam Rose, who's trying to put down roots here, is being threatened with deportation because some asshole in the Ministry of Justice decided that her acts of civil disobedience constituted a "threat to Basic Societal Values" I was all for it.

With a few conditions that is...


Like, if they're throwing her out for "sticking her nose in other people's business", e.g. for not being Icelandic but being politically active in Iceland, then Afghanistan gets to kick the Icelanders working with NATO out, and any Icelander who protests anything outside of Iceland must therefore be shipped home asap.


If she's being deported for her civil disobedience, locking herself to fences and such to get what she wants, then the least we can do is to deport all the ethically challenged cops who lock other people up against their will just to get what their bosses want.

If she's being deported for being part of an organization that the Icelandic government views as criminal or ethically wrong, then Iceland shouldn't be hosting people who really are criminals. Like crimes against humanity criminals. Like certain Chinese officials who ordered the cold-blooded execution and imprisonment of thousands of students. Or raving lunatics who spout anti-Semitic crap on the radio and refuse to pay their taxes.


I mean really, fair's fair right?



Monday, September 24, 2007

Cluster Fuck...

So I missed roughly three full days of teaching last week, which I'll admit is bound to cause issues, but as the plan for the week was simply to let the kids finish watching The Commitments, I figured that it the hassle would be kept to a minimum.

Forgot I lived in Iceland.

So, even though I told them repeatedly what the plan was, even though I left everything all set up and ready to go, did they get a sub (or even a TA) to do it?

Nope. They just canceled English classes for the week, meaning that now I have to re-rent the movie, and spend my last week (as far as I know) as the English teacher showing the kids a movie they should have finished last week.

Not to mention that the 9th graders, a group that already missed the first week due to a trip to Denmark, then three days due to a trip to Þórsmörk, then nearly a week due to the student council elections, (OMG!) are currently hosting a class from Denmark, which means they miss their classes today and tomorrow.

On top of this, I've got about 8 kilos of homework to grade (yes, I said kilos..), but frankly, if they can't be bothered to let me teach the little buggers, then I can't be bothered to do all the asinine grading crap they expect me to do.



...The Saga Continues...

It's now a couple of classes later, and I'm killing time, waiting to sub for another teacher who's out taking the forever absent 9th graders somewhere. I'll fill in for him, have his class take the test he's left for me, and all will be good.

I mean, its just a test, nothing nearly as complicated as say turning on a DVD player...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Still Sick...


...but tired of inactivity.

So I'm going to throw in my two krona about the mind-bogglingly stupid "debate" surrounding the "war zone" in down town Rvk on the weekends.

Before 2000, all the clubs and bars in Rvk were required to shut down at exactly 3am, resulting in thousands of drunken party-goers pouring into the streets en-mass to try to catch cabs home (all at the same time) or to continue partying out in the streets. Now, sometimes this was fun. There was a sort of carnival atmosphere to it, on a good night. But there were also a lot of brawls, a lot of pointless vandalism (actually, almost all vandalism in Iceland is pointless. Fucking shit up for political purposes is unknown, but blowing up bus shelters, torching public parks, and kicking in windows is considered "kids having fun") and serious crowd control issues.

Back then, the Rvk city council came up with a rather brilliant solution to this problem. They simply granted the bars permission to remain open longer, which led to downtown emptying out in trickle rather than a flood. Smart.

Fights decreased. Property damage decreased. Gettin' a cab home became much much easier.

7 years later and things are supposedly "totally out of control" downtown. Random gangs wander around beating people up. People are doing drugs right and left, pissing on people's cars and houses, all the while hurling bottles and glasses around like confetti.

And so the brave men and women of the political establishment have mobilized to make downtown safe again.

Bullshit!

Listen up you whiny political sub-urban bitches on the city council: YOU BROUGHT THIS ON YOURSELVES.
And you know it.

First, you started closing down most of the public restrooms, leaving Joe and Jane Barhopper, not to mention Jack and Jill Homeless (you know, the people you adamantly deny the existence of) with no other place to relieve themselves but public spaces.

Then you ban smoking in all bars and clubs, meaning that people who smoke (and Iceland has a whole lot of "party smokers" on top of the regular black-lungers like me) have to go outside. But thanks to noise ordinances you passed mostly as a result of feud between the old council and the old Grand Rokk, many places aren't allowed to use their courtyards and balconies as smoking sections, and even when you do allow it, you tell the bar owners that people can't take their drinks with them.

So now you have groups of drunks loitering outside all the bars all the time, and they interact with other drunks walking past, and the whole scene gets noisier and rowdier.

Then your little yes-men at RUV (the state radio and tv station) and Möggan (the oldest newspaper in the country, and an unapologetic supporter of the so-called Independence Party's neo-con agenda) start pumpin' out stories about violence and drug use downtown.

Now, the drug use is there, but that's hardly the fault of the bar owners. Its the fault of the Rvk police, who like to pad their bank accounts and arrest records by putting a couple of plain-clothes officers outside the residence of well-know dealers and arresting anyone who comes out, fining them, and letting them go, instead of cutting off the supply at its source.*

As for the violence, well, aside from the documented fact that its actually decreased, there's two factors at play here. One, up until recently the cops were nigh-invisible downtown. They might cruise around in their vans, and maybe try to break up impromptu concerts, but they aren't out in any sort of force, certainly not enough to deter some drunken idiot from taking a swing at someone. The other factor is the whole "if you report it, they will come" scenario. After months of stories about fights and violence downtown, the kind of people who like that sort of scene start to show up for it. You know the type: Barely graduated school, spends hours working on his car/motorbike, wants to move to the States "cause they got guns there". Basically the little shits who have nothing better to do than drink, fight, and listen to crap techno.

Thing is, most of these guys, like most of the people pissing out in the open and throwing glass and shit, they aren't from 101, or even 105, 107, or anywhere near downtown. The hnakkar fuckers and their yuppie parents (ask almost anyone who works at a bar or late night eatery in Rvk who the worst, most annoying, most violence prone asshole customers are, and they will tell you: Yuppies) are from the suburbs. And because they don't live here, they think that anything goes downtown. After all, that's what the media keeps telling them. If there were pubs or clubs in their neighborhoods, they wouldn't put up with that shit.

But of course there aren't pubs and clubs in their neighborhoods. Because yuppie shits don't want anything disturbing their Sunday brunches or frightening the little yuppie-spawn. And thanks to that, there are almost no bars outside of 101.

So what are the brave folks of the Rvk council going to do about it?

Well, they could have had a bit of common sense and foresight and say, re-opened the public restrooms, worked out a "night bus" to keep people from having to hang around all night for a ride home, given the bar-owners the option of choosing to be non-smoking or not**, tried to clamp down on the other reason for all the drunks in the streets (i.e. the infamous and annoying artificial lines that many clubs create at the door to try to look "cool" and "popular", another thing I blame on yuppies, who get such a kick out of being seen outside the "coolest bar in town"), and not have handed the policing of 101 over to underpaid undertrained little wannabe cops who do most of their work sitting in an office watching shit hit the fan on all the Big Brother cameras the shity...city put up.

But they're not going to do any of those things. Instead, they will "fix" the problem they created by the most asinine means possible.. They've already talked about getting rid of the downtown liquor store, especially the beer cooler (cause people buying a couple of cold beers are really the problem) and sent large squads of police out with orders to arrest anyone "disturbing the peace"(not to mention arresting/fining them for drinking in public, what was previously the single least enforced law in Iceland***). For the first time since I last left the Empire...I mean U.S. I've heard that hideous phrase "zero tolerance" thrown about. They've proposed shortening the opening hours again (one step forward two steps back much?), putting up even more useless cameras, and some have even proposed forcing all the clubs to move to some "new" area so that they don't disturb the locals.

Meaning that the locals close to this new Gomorrah will be disturbed instead.

But mostly, they'll just keep bitchin' about it. Because the main reason for all this debate and hyperbole is distraction.

Teachers, child-care workers, nurses, and social workers in Rvk are being paid ridiculously low wages, children are on mile long waiting lists for day-care and after school care, disabled kids can't get the extra helpers they need, a few politically connected developers are busy buying up and tearing down the old downtown (makes you wonder about that fire doesn't it?) the city power company, buses , and most other things are in the process of being privatized (all under the guise of "making them more efficient") to benefit the already hyper-rich while the public parks are slowly falling into ruin and the aforementioned public restrooms are closed for "lack of funds/to keep unfortunates**** from doing drugs in them", and to top it all off, the city is throwing billions of krona into building a monstrosity of an opera house that the majority of its citizens will rarely see the use of.

But none of that matters. People are pissing on cars! Breaking bottles! Its the end of the world! Don't think about where all the money for police and public infrastructure has gone! Don´t question why we can´t afford to pay for social programs anymore! Don't think about how the very area we're labeling a war-zone is amongst the most valuable property in the country! Don't think about the plan to turn it all into luxury housing and a mall...

I have a simple solution to at least one of the problems, namely the lack of hygienic places to pee.

From now on, until Rvk reopens public restrooms, stops this bullshit about closing times for bars, and gets their fucking priorities straight, I say that all of us barhoppers and unfortunates take turns pissing in the pond in front of that concrete monstrosity they call a City Hall here.
A piss protest! Mígamótmæli! Its so stupid it might just work.


*If you are going to make drugs illegal (a stupid idea to begin with) then you should at least try to make it impact as few people as possible, by cutting it off at the source i.e. the importers, who being rich and well connected never seem to get busted.

**Bar owners should have been given the right to choose to be smoking or non, and those who choose to have smoking bars should have then been required to put in ventilation (actually all Icelandic bars could do with that) and pay a certain percentage extra for national health insurance.

*** Yet another example of an agency creating a "problem" to fix and hence look necessary to the public. I have never in 15 years of Icelandic life seen this law enforced and all the better for it. People ought to be able to have a cold beer in the park. Fuckers!

****The newest code-word for "poor" "drug-addicted" or "homeless". Not that there's homeless or poor people in Iceland...nooo... just lazy people.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sef Indulgent Sickly Blog...


So as soon as I got to work yesterday, my guts twisted seven ways to Sunday, and I wanted nothing so much as to go home.

Right then.

But I had to hang on, clutching my gut and snapping at my students for the three hours or so my presence there was truly necessary.

Its funny how time stretches out when you're feeling poorly. Those three hours seemed to last ten, the bus home (counting the time spent doubled over in a public restroom) seemed to last a day.

But really, I was home by about 2.

There was an eternity between 2 and 6 when I rolled uneasily to and fro on Embla's couch, holding my distended guts and trying very hard not to think about food.

The only time that flew was from 6 until 7 the next morning. 13 hours of sleep went past without my really noticing. But getting up to go to work was just not happening (teaching being one of those jobs that hard to do when one is running for the john every couple of minutes) and the bed sucked me back in until 1.

Since then I've lounged about, feeling sorry for myself as the hours crawl by with asinine slowness.

There's something about being ill that makes all the facades one builds up to make life better come crashing down.

So my stomach aches, my throat is raw, my head is pounding, and I'm stuck with the realization that I have no idea what I'm doing with my life.

I don't want to do much of anything. I'm in debt, homesick (yet unable to go home anytime soon), basically homeless (unless I can get well and fix the place up in record time).

I'm lonely. The cadre of friends that I've spent most of my time with are mostly abroad. The cadre of "friends" I once spent most of my time with are the reason I've been living out of a suitcase for the last months.

My love life is confusing at best, a mix-mash of flirtation that can't go anywhere and long-distance desire that would require a miracle to consummate.

My job, a position that I sought for so long only to have thrust into my hands, is depressing me. I've found myself yelling and punishing kids lately, as I unwittingly and unwilling slip into the role that system demands of me.

I don't know what to do.

This scares me. When I know what I want to do, when I have a plan and a goal and mission, I'm happy, productive, good. When I get like this and I don't have any of those things, bad things have happened to me.

And I will not let that happen.

And I know its pathetic to whine about this stuff on the 'net. I know its kinda lame.

But hey, I'm sick.

Humor me.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I know it sounds naive...


For years now the plan has been that I would be an English teacher. Don't let the occasional typo and slang-ridden silliness that is this blog fool you. I'm damn good at it.

But I'm begining to see that as much as I like teaching, as wonderful as it is to see a student's eyes light up when they finally get it, I can't teach at the school I'm at much longer.

The job is only 50% teaching see. The rest is control, power, authority. Forcing kids to "learn". The more I think about it the more it makes me feel dirty. They have no choice. They'll be punished if they don't go, and I'll be complicit in that.

Do that to an adult, force them to be somewhere, do something, for no pay under government edict, and that's called slavery.

And don't tell me I'm being over dramatic. Its true. These kids are forced to attend school, unless they want to suffer the consequences, which no kid does.

If you think I'm making this stuff up, think of this, when I asked my boss how I was doing she told me I was doing very well, but I was too nice to the kids. As she put it "A teacher shouldn't smile until after Christmas".

The kids should be afraid of me, apparently.

Cause nothing breeds mutual respect like being bullied into learning by someone appointed over you.

Does anyone see how wrong this is???

Friday, September 7, 2007

I hate Smoke Free Bay


You know what sucks about non-smoking bars?

I'll tell you.

You see a girl who so matches your personal definition of perfect that you can't help but try to chat her up.

So you go with the tried and true standard and buy her a drink.

Which, my being Sam and all didn't work.

But it got her to notice me.

Out on the dance floor our eyes met, she smiled, and started drifting towards me (along with the mandatory plain-Jane friend chaperon).

That is until some one let off a beer-fart.

Honestly, for once it wasn't me.

But boogying to salsa only goes so far when the girl of your naughty dreams thinks nerve gas comes out of your bottom.

If they'd only let people smoke I might have been having rather lovely sex right now rather than drunkenly scribbling out this stupid blog entry....

stupid health Nazis!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Autumn of My Introspection.




I always get introspective in the fall. There's just something about the change in seasons, the way the world seems to slow down. The tang in the air as the leaves turn and the ground gets wetter and colder acts like some sort of sedative on little old me. I find myself skipping trips to the pool or the gym, taking the stupid bus instead of walking, laying about on sofas with my nose buried in a book or zoned out on a video, so far away from productive that standing up to try to glimpse it over the horizon seems like way too much work.

This year my usual fall down-time is proving particularly difficult. For starters, my new job while demanding, leaves me with alot more free time than I'm used to. With an appartment to refurbish and a ton of projects I've wanted to take care of, I should have no prob filling up the free time.

But I'm not.

Faced with removing walls and laying flooring and painting and installing and rewiring a kitchen, I just kinda putter out. I want my own place, but goddamn that's more work than I thought at first. Or maybe my autumn induced ennui just opened the proverbial can of whup-ass on my manic summer optimism.






House sitting for Embles & Co. raises its own issues. For starters, giving a confirmed TV junky like me access to so many channels (including three Discovery variants, National Geographic, The History Channel, and BBC Food) means that I fight a constant battle between getting anything done and "just checking to see what's on". Throw in internet at Embles and at home and, well, nothing happens. A whole lot of lazy ass nothing.

Then there's applying for Icelandic citizenship. For the longest time this was one of my most sought after goals, allowing me to live and work in more places with fewer restrictions than my Imperial Passport.

Problem is, the closer I get to Icelandicness, the less I want to be here. I want to take off, and a big part of me doesn't want to take off to a new place, but back to the green and misty mountains and the gooey duck (I prefer the funky old spelling) infested shores of my native Washington. Its just that despite the fact that I hate the current situation there, I can see hope not just for change, but change in the direction I've been thinking about, writing about, and dreaming about for years.






Meanwhile Iceland just bugs the hell out of me. The stupid socio/political crap that seems to never change and that few, if any will ever do anything about. Trust me when I say I've got a load of rant built up about that. But its also the weather (heavy rains just ain't the same without a canopy of evergreens) the lack of well, Washington-ness. I miss fall leaves that don't get blown straight off the trees. I miss pumpkins and making cider, drying apples, starting up the wood stove for the first time, hell I even miss splitting the wood! I miss clam chowder and clams steamed in beer. I miss peroskies and lattes at the Pike Place. I miss Mac&Jacks. I miss Rail Road Books, Peirce County Libraries on rainy days, the Puyallup Farmer's Market and the Fair. I miss driving into Tacoma for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I miss going out the coast in winter to watch the waves crash and the sand blow about and the trees bend half-sideways in the rain. I miss eating local. I miss Dad's garden. I mean, an episode of "No Reservations" when he visited Seattle recently left me in tears.




See what I mean.




Fall has me falling flat.






I have to go take care of the kiddies at recess, more later...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I just reached a new low...


So you know how you used to skip classes every now and again back in school?


I mean, I did, alot, but then again I was in a study program that made it hellaciously easy. So skippin' school has never been anything I cared about. I tend to believe that if I kid doesn't want to be there in the first place, they'll be less likely to learn and more prone to fuck shit up for the teacher, so just let'em skip.


Of course, it doesn't work out so well when the teacher (c'est moi) forgets his schedule and full misses and entire class.


When I realized and came running into the room, they were all quietly doing their homework.


Sneaky bastards must have posted a look out...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Talkin' 'bout a revolution...

This is so gonna get me hashed on the comments...


So as I'm walking through the bright Fall sun this morning, tramping my way to work through an increasingly traffic-jammed Rvk, I was pondering some of the political/social questions that always plague the Icelandic life of Sma.


I managed to puzzle out just what it is that makes Icelanders as a nation such an apathetic people in the poli-social arena.


Its really very simple. Maybe too simple.


But my theory is that its all due to the fact that they've never had a revolution here. Ever. At least not one they started.


Some English sailor tried to take over the country during Iceland's time as a Danish colony, but the Danes, or the Icelanders granted power by the Danes put him down.


The Icelanders didn't gain their independence with a long and costly struggle against the Danes, rather they had it rather unexpectedly handed to them courtesy of both the Axis (who invaded Denmark) and Allied (who invaded Iceland) powers during WWII.


The economic revolution that transformed Iceland after WWII had a great deal more to do with copying other nations and massive influxes of cash thanks to the Marshal Plan than with anything the Icelanders did themselves. (Sorry, but its true)


About the closest thing they've had to a real revolution here was the women's rights movement, which led to at least official equality of the sexes here on the lava lump. But even that movement, after the heady days of the general strike, slowly withered away into an establishment, which then withered away into a bureaucracy.


The thing about revolutions is that even when they fail, they instill a bit of that rebellious spirit, that urge and drive to rise up and change things.


But there's no history of that here. Which is one of the central reasons why protest isn't so much looked down on but rather not understood.


"Why are these people shouting and yelling for change?" the average Icelander asks themselves, "They ought to just write a letter to Möggan and get back to work".


Why am I applying for citizenship again?