Mag
Articles
News In Brief: Late July Edition

News In Brief: Late July Edition

Published July 31, 2012

The downtown nightclub Nasa came back into the news, with the future of the building that housed it undergoing more twists and turns in a struggle between city officials and a grassroots movement to save the site. A petition was started, with more than 11,000 signatures at the time of this writing, to save Nasa from demolition and to prevent the building of a hotel at the location that critics say would cast an unsightly shadow over Austurvöllur, the square in front of Parliament that many Icelanders like to enjoy in the summertime to get some sun. However, Páll Hjaltason, the chairperson of the Reykjavík Planning Committee, said that the city had long planned to renovate the club, and that it will not be torn down. The hotel, however, still appears to be on the drawing board, so at least that part of the struggle will continue. More on that elsewhere in this issue.
Poor Eve the seal, despite being an Icelandic native (probably), will not be allowed to return to her presumed home from her sanctuary in England, on the grounds that Icelandic authorities are worried she may introduce foreign diseases to the native seal population. For now, there are no plans to implement such a measure for human beings, so those planning to visit or move to Iceland should be able to breathe easier.
Snorri Óskarsson, an Akureyri schoolteacher who was suspended with pay for writing an anti-gay blog, has been terminated from his position. This prompted, among other people, former Central Bank chair and current Morgunblaðið co-editor Davíð Oddsson to come to his defence, saying that Snorri should not have been fired for his opinions on homosexuals. While Snorri cried foul, Akureyri mayor Eiríkur Björn Björgvinsson said that Snorri was not fired for his blog, but that his termination was based on his job performance. Meaning that Snorri isn’t just a homophobe; he’s also a lacklustre teacher.
Freedom does ring on domestic airline flights in Iceland, though, as the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration confirmed that they will not begin weapon searches for domestic flights. The decision was made on the grounds that it would be too costly and time consuming to increase security, while causing unnecessary delays, for an airline system that faces almost no threat of armed hijacking or terrorism as it is. Domestic airline passenger shoes will remain firmly on foot.
Chinese entrepreneur and perennial newsmaker Huang Nubo quite casually mentioned in an interview in Beijing aspects of his land rental deal that had previously not been brought to light. Apart from wanting to turn 30,639 hectares in northeast Iceland into a luxury hotel and recreation area, will also be building 100 luxury villas, mostly for “wealthy Chinese.” Oh, and his lease isn’t just for 40 years—it’s for 40 years, with an option to rent for an additional 40 years. Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson was less than pleased with the news, saying, “If people can rent land for this length of time, it becomes more or less equivalent to land ownership.” What other little surprises Huang Nubo plans to spring on us remain to be seen.
The case of Björk Eiðsdóttir and Erla Hlynsdóttir—two journalists who wrote articles on the strip clubs Goldfinger and Strawberries and were subsequently sued for liable, appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, and won—is still rippling through Iceland. A grassroots movement was started calling for the boycott of stores owned by the man who refused to sell the issues of Ísafold magazine covering the Goldfinger story in 2007. These stores include Krónan, Nóatún, Elko and Byko. While there have been no discernible effects of the boycott so far, organisers say the purpose is to clearly convey the message that suppressing freedom of the press will have consequences.
The political spectrum in Iceland widened just a little bit this month, as the formation of an Icelandic Pirate Party was announced. Most of the media attention has been focused on MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, but she is one of many forming the party, which has as part of its platform government transparency and freedom of expression. The party recently had its first public meeting to better form the platform, but for now most of the public discussion seems to revolve around the party’s Icelandic name—Píratapartýið—which sounds foreign to many Icelandic ears. Whether the name stays or goes, and whether public discussion can shift its focus to the party’s actual platform, is still undetermined.   



Mag
Articles
Pagan Christmas

Pagan Christmas

by

The idea of throwing a big celebration in honour of the birth of Christ is a relatively recent idea. Nobody knows exactly when he was born; guesses range from 7 to 2 BC and the date is a mystery. His date of birth was once estimated to be January 6, in an attempt to beat a competing holiday (the celebration of the virgin birth of Aion, the Hellenistic deity of eternity). In the process they borrowed the symbolism of the stables. Christianity is in the business of mergers and acquisitions. The date was later changed to December 25, partly because

Mag
Articles
The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

by

Aðfangadagur (Ath-founga-dager) December 24, Aðfangadagur, is the day Icelanders celebrate Christmas (as opposed to December 25 in most countries). The first half of the day usually goes towards finishing off all of the last-minute preparations, making food, wrapping presents, bathing and putting on nice clothes. Children are often occupied by the television set, as most stations broadcast a non-stop programme of cartoons throughout the day. Six o’ clock marks the official start of Christmas in Iceland, marked by state radio broadcasting the traditional “ringing of the church bells.” This is when most households sit down to enjoy a pleasant holiday

Mag
Articles
WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

by

Anyone who’s followed American politics, or switched to Fox News over the holidays, knows that a full blown war is raging at this very moment: The War On Christmas. On the battlefield, the godless forces of Politically Correct liberals—who want to take Christ out of Christmas and thus destroy the very fabric of American culture—fight the patriotic and pious people over at Fox. Of course nobody residing the reality-based community has ever encountered this “War on Christmas.” It exists only in the fevered imagination of loudmouths like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, who use it to fill airtime, drum up

Mag
Articles
Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

by

When they stop stacking the Rjómi (heavy cream) neatly on the supermarket shelves, you know Christmas is just around the corner. The Rjómi hasn’t disappeared though. Entering the walk-in cooler (don’t forget your jacket!) you’ll see a huge container spilling over with cartons and cartons of Rjómi. Frankly, stacking it is a waste of time; soon you’ll notice the mountain getting smaller as every single person takes at least one, maybe two or maybe five. Our consumer needs are this predictable before, during and after Christmas, because almost every single Icelandic household has the exact same family traditions. This uniformity

Mag
Articles
The Sinister Christmas Clan Of Iceland

The Sinister Christmas Clan Of Iceland

by and

In Iceland, there is no Santa Claus. Instead, there are thirteen “jólasveinar,” which can be translated to “Yule Lads.” They live in mountains and hike to town, one by one, for the thirteen days leading up to Christmas Eve. Their mother is Grýla, a troll known for eating babies and beating up her husband. In previous centuries, the Yule Lads were a bunch of scraggly, merry—sometimes thieving—pranksters that would get up to all sorts of shenanigans on their visits to civilization. In recent decades, the lads have mostly abandoned their mischievous ways—today’s youth mostly knows them as a group of

Mag
Articles
Preparing for Global Leadership

Preparing for Global Leadership

by

In 2012, Þóra Arnórsdóttir, a respected journalist for Icelandic State TV, RÚV, launched a formidable campaign for the presidency of Iceland, challenging the four-term incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Although many recession-weary Icelanders were eager to see a change of executive power at the time, Þóra’s entrance into presidential politics drew surprisingly intense public scrutiny for an unusual reason: she was eight months pregnant with her third child when she formally entered the race. Her bold decision to campaign while pregnant generated a slew of laudatory and skeptical headlines in Iceland and across the globe, for many media outlets questioned the

Show Me More!