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 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.


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


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:


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.


World Peace


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):


Old-school Bubbi from back when he was cool.

The Specials


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)


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 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

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)







AT ------SKÓLI 2007,

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.


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


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.


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.


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!