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Editorial: 101 REYKJAVÍK : THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE, OF COURSE

Editorial: 101 REYKJAVÍK : THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE, OF COURSE

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Published July 23, 2004

The centre of my world began at Sjafnargata, and slowly expanded to the shop on the next corner, the Einar Jónsson Museum, Hallgrímskirkja and one day all the way down to BSÍ bus stop. The expansion went on to incorporate Britain, Norway and would one day reach the far shores of China.

These days, a cramped seat, a meal in a plastic tray and a magazine is the distance between Reykjavík and London or Copenhagen. It can almost seem as if Iceland is just a stone’s throw from the actual bright centre of the universe. It´s only when exploring the more immediate surroundings, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, that you really get to appreciate the ridiculousness of living on this piece of stilted lava in the North Atlantic. And that to most people, 101 Reykjavík seems quite a long way off from the centre of the universe. Or anything at all.

In the past few weeks, I´ve been to both Greenland and the Faroe Islands, and met people to whom Kangerlusuuaq, Gata and yes, Heinesen’s Tórshavn, seemed in their early childhood to be all there was. It´s a shame how few Icelanders ever visit our neighbours, most opting to go to the big cities from where they can come back and impress their friends and relatives with fashions and opinions learnt from big city folk.

One of the most annoying traits of Icelanders is their hunger for earthly goods, for keeping up with the Joneses, of the constant need to impress others. Perhaps this is something we have learnt on our trips to big cities. Or perhaps this is just in the nature of a farming society recently made rich.

“Progress,” said a wise man, “is getting it right.” So in order to progress down the right path, we need to learn the right things from the outside world and let the wrong things be. Sadly, Icelanders have a habit of doing it the other way around.

One good example of progress, however, has been the attitude towards gays in this country. Thirty years ago, when the first high profile gay came out of the closet, his life was made so intolerable he had to leave the country. Today, Gay Pride is becoming one of the biggest family events in the country. Some attitudes still need to change, but a lot has been achieved, and on the 7th of August we will have the opportunity to celebrate it. Icelanders can deal with prejudice effectively. If only they would always do so.

This editition of Grapevine sees it growing to 40 pages. The new and enlarged edition will however be missed out on by our noble protectors on the base. Authorities there have stopped distribution of the paper to its troops. Is this because of criticism of the Bush regime? Of American foreign policy?

No, its because of an ad for a photo exhibition showing a Finnish man’s penis. Apparently our valiant heroes don´t like Finnish dongs dangled in front of their troops.

They also didn´t like a very old picture of Bubbi giving the finger next to the editorial. He´s been trying to get them out of there for years. This may be seen as an escalation.

Our paper has recently secured distribution in the Westman Islands and won´t stop its expansion there, but is moving on to the Faraoes. It has also been decided to continue publication on a monthly basis throughout the winter. I´ve said it before, but we´re always looking for material. If you have none to spare, at least you can do the ad department a favour and take part in the readers survey, to be found on our newly rehashed webpage on www.grapevine.is



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It Was My Way, And The Highway

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On the Álftanes peninsula, a good ten kilometres from downtown Reykjavík, lies a unique lava field called Gálgahraun. The towns of Hafnarfjörður, Álftanes and Garðabær were all built around the 8,000-year-old lava, which is on the Nature Conservation Register and was immortalised on canvas by celebrated Icelandic artist Jóhannes S. Kjarval. Gálgahraun was widely considered to be one of the few spots of unspoilt nature left in the greater metropolitan area, but it isn’t any more, as a big highway that cuts the field in two is currently under construction. The road is being built to accommodate the people of

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I CHOOSE TREASON

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I just signed up to become a founding member of Fylkisflokkurinn (“The County-Party”), which has the stated purpose and sole platform of campaigning for Iceland to re-join Norway and become its twentieth county. I was the 573rd Icelander to do so according to the would-be political party’s website (fylkisflokkurinn.is), while the Facebook group that launched it currently lists over 4,600 members (many of them very enthusiastic!) and counting. Proponents of Iceland’s independence might call me a traitor to the country that bore me—they might even go so far as to accuse me of treason. And I won’t lie: I felt

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When foreign media outlets report on Iceland and need to add a little local colour, they will invariably throw in a quick, ironical side note about the country’s pervasive belief in elves, or Hidden People. The tone is generally one of indulgence with just a dash of condescension, the written equivalent of patting a small child on the head when she introduces her invisible friend Mister Bob Big Jeans. Although many academic studies and informal surveys alike have concluded that a not insignificant portion of the Icelandic population “will not deny the existence of elves,” as Terry Gunnell, a leading

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Hidden People Folktales

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It is due to the efforts of two men, Jón Árnason (1819-1888) and Magnús Grímsson (1825-1860), that such a large body of 18th and 19th century Icelandic folktales exist today. Jón was a writer and also the first librarian of the National Library of Iceland, and Magnús was a student-turned-priest. Following the popularity of the Grimms Brothers’ fairytales, which were collected and first published in the early 1800s, similar folktale compendiums were collected throughout the Nordic countries. However, it was not until an English scholar named George Stephens issued a special request to Icelanders for a similar collection to be

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In September 1942 the inhabitants of Reykjavík had breakfast in a state of shock. They were reading an article in Morgunblaðið newspaper about a new Hollywood film set in their city, starring the world famous Norwegian figure skater and movie star Sonja Henie. The headline read “An absurd film set in Reykjavík” and the news lead to a public outcry. Subsequently the US government received a complaint from the Icelandic government. Today Iceland is a natural movie set frequented by famous directors. The makers of big projects like ‘Prometheus,’ ‘Noah’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ have all used it to film

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Narratives of Reykjavík’s used book culture often take the form of jeremiads—languorous laments for a bygone heyday, a paradise lost through, by and with the fall of print media. By some estimations, there used to be as many as forty secondhand book shops in town, peddling old, worn and loved books to an eager customer base. But by the end of the aughts, there was only one brick-and-mortar store: Bókin on the corner of Klapparstígur and Hverfisgata. Founded in 1964, Bókin remains an institution, a hallowed hall incensed with must and dust, where the 1993 collaboration between early music group

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