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Published April 15, 2014

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Electronic Ballots Could Increase Voter Turn-Out

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New research shows that offering the option of electronic ballots could increase voter participation. RÚV reports that research conducted by the University of Iceland, the University of Akureyri and doctorate students at the University of Mannheim examined why municipal elections earlier this year saw the lowest voter turn-out since 1928. The most predominant reasons people cited for not voting were a lack of viable options and the belief that one individual can do little to change the status quo. When these non-voters were then asked what could change their minds about going to the polls, most respondents – 65% – said that being able to vote electronically would probably get them to participate. There were other ideas that could also increase voter participation. 52% said they would vote if candidates could run as independents, not belonging to any political party. 30% said they would be more likely to vote if elections were held on a different day, and about 20% said improving the ability to vote off-site would increase their chances of voting. Related: Bloody Young People Don’t Vote! Low Voter Turnout, Mixed Messages

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Iceland’s Next Christmas Tree Found

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October is barely over, but Norway has already picked the Christmas tree they will be sending to Iceland this year. MBL reports that Reykjavík mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has received some good news from Oslo. “Oslo has picked the tree to send us this year and the mayor sent me this photo of it,” Dagur wrote in his newsletter. “I really like it, and you can’t help but get in the Christmas spirit just looking at it.” Dagur also confirmed that he will get to cut the tree down himself, and has promised a “chainsaw photo” in his next newsletter. The Oslo Tree, as it is often called, is typically raised in Austurvöllur, in front of parliament. Icelanders received a scare earlier this year when Norwegian authorities said it would be too expensive to send a tree this year. The outcry was such that the Oslo Business Council re-assessed the situation, and decided to send a tree after all. Oslo mayor Fabian Stang said at the time that he had not taken into consideration how popular the Norwegian Christmas tree was amongst Icelanders, adding, “Icelanders also don’t have Christmas trees that are as good as we thought they had.”

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Most Icelanders Against Legalising Casinos

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The vast majority of Icelanders are against a recent proposal to legalise casinos, although that opposition has decreased slightly in the few past years. According to a poll from Market and Media Research, 68.6% of Icelanders are either very opposed or rather opposed to the idea of a casino in Iceland. Those very opposed decreased from 47.5% to 40.1% in July 2011, while at the same time, those rather opposed increased from 21.8% to 28.5%. This opposition was not universal across all demographics. Most men aged 18 to 29 or 30 to 49 were in favour of a casino. Apart from that, not even income level was enough to change most Icelanders’ minds on the subject. As reported, Progressive MP Willum Þór Þórsson has again submitted a bill to parliament which, if passed, would legalise gambling in Iceland. Last April, Willum told reporters that he was first introduced to the idea by footballer Arnar Gunnlaugsson. Arnar and his brother, Bjarki, have long touted the legalisation of gambling in Iceland. Willum told reporters at the time that he received a report on legalised gambling in 2009, as well as the draft for a bill that was actually a translation of the legalised gambling law in Denmark. In fact, this report was created by lawyer and former Social Democrat MP Lúðvík Bergvinsson at the behest of the Gunnlaugsson brothers.

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One Day in October (During Master’s Month)

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 On the occasion of the last day of October, known by some as “Master’s Month,” blogger Charlie Marlowe recounts his mostly futile attempts to become a master.  October 07, 2014: The day before yesterday, in honour of the glorious tradition of Master’s Month*, I decided that I would take the necessary pains to acquire a slew of new and useful habits—habits that would put me on the road to becoming a more successful, a more likeable, and altogether more estimable version of myself. A better me, in effect; a better better me. Having made this decision, I set my alarm clock for the early morning and promptly went to sleep. THE HABIT OF RISING EARLY–06:00 At six o’clock in the morning, I arose to the swelling crescendo of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”—and at once regretted my choice of alarms. In retrospect, “Ride of the Valkyries” has an entirely too militant sound and one which grates harshly against the tranquil texture of the early morning. It was like some prearranged marriage between a boisterous German general (Wagner) and a pacifistic, silk-wrapped Asian (dawn) and I, the unhappy love child of their brief union—was delivered into the world at six o’clock sharp. THE HABIT OF FINISHING WHAT ONE STARTS–06:05 Jumping to my feet in a state of drowsy bewilderment, I put on my pants backwards and stumbled to the bathroom in the fashion of some miserable loser attending a Kriss-Kross concert. I then emptied my bladder, waltzed into the kitchen and proceeded to pour a liberal amount of Cheerios and milk into a bowl—only to discover that I had poured neither Cheerios nor milk, but rather an unfortunate concoction of Cocoa Puffs and orange juice. Had this been any other month, I would have disposed of the egregious blend into the garbage and went on with my day. But seeing as it was Master’s Month—such a thing was inconceivable. For,“If a Master is a starter, he is also, by way of logical necessity, a finisher.” Thinking this thought, I wolfed down many spoonfuls of the unpalatable mixture and vomited loudly, before flushing the toilet triumphantly, standing over it like a victorious and gloating Napoleon. THE HABIT OF RUNNING–06:15 Lacing my shoes, I stepped outside for a run. I had not been on a run for some time, and was not entirely certain that I still knew how. But I found that running is a simple thing, really: a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and pretending that one is being pursued by some large and ravenous beast, whom one has also kicked forcefully in the shin. I ran through my neighbourhood; I ran uphill and downhill; I ran like a TV marathon; like Forrest Gump; like Prefontaine—like a 24-hour news story. I ran for what seemed like an interminable expanse of time, but was surprised to discover that, according to my watch—and by some unaccountable miracle of nature—time had been compressed into a slight and embarrassing ten

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Brotherly Love

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My brother is a fourteen-carat, stone cold wanker. At age twelve he spoke fluent French, at fourteen he was the fastest 100-metre runner in Ireland for his age, at eighteen, he captained our school choir and won a scholarship to university for academic excellence, by nineteen he spoke fluent mandarin. My name’s Tom and I’m his older brother. Yesterday I started putting raisins into my porridge. Raisins contain polyphenolic phytonutrients that can improve your ability to see in the dark, and in Iceland around this time of year I reckon that it’s a shrewd bit of thinking. But society wouldn’t notice. Society wants blue rosettes, golden arches and red-letter days; society wants polyglots, athletes and university fellowships. Society doesn’t care much for mavericks, and a little bird has given me raging inkling that this rankles with Stephen Merchant. It rankles terribly, and he in turn is suffering from a terrible rankling. You see, Stephen has always been depicted as the sidekick to Ricky Gervais, a Robin to his Batman, a Garfunkel to his Simon. He has never enjoyed the same level of credit or celebrity as his jolly other half and his creative contributions are arguably diluted, and cloaked to the public eye by the dissembling prefix ‘co’: co-writer, co-director, co-star. Doing stand up is a valorous attempt to make his own mark, and once and for all step out of Gervais’ looming shadow. The gig Merchant was at his best when poking fun at himself. At the start of the show, for instance, he projected a series of slides to illustrate just how bad his perceived subordination to Ricky Gervais is in the media. One image, taken from the 2004 Golden Globes ceremony, from a major British newspaper, posits Ricky clutching the award and grinning smugly whilst his lanky sidekick only manages to get his chin into the shot, with the rest of his head just lopped off. It’s a fairly poignant image, and Stephen’s pantomime indigence had the crowd in stitches. The laughs kept coming, but as the show progressed fresh material began to dwindle. He too easily brought all his gags to a lewd conclusion. At one point for instance he came out with a brilliantly funny yarn about the inventor of the Venn diagram. Lambasting John Venn’s arrogance in naming this pointless invention after himself, he imagines Mr. Venn barging into Victorian pubs going “OY OY! It’s the Vennorator here!” and then putting his diagram to use by surveying the women who wanted to a) Lick his balls, b) Give him a blowjob or c) Do both. Funny? yes, but the alpha punchline sort of spoils the surreal magic of the original joke. That’s where it feels like this show falls flat. Although Merchant may look like a great ungainly flapping albatross he is actually quite the alpha-comic. Every second gag is about his sex life, from masturbating to VHS porn as an adolescent to the clumsy nature of his bedroom exploits. At times it got a

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Across the Isle With A Smile

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In true Icelandic fashion, the night’s festivities got off to a late start. Not that anyone minded. As such, there was an air of casualness and joviality that permeated the night—making it the perfect vibe to launch the Reykjavík Comedy Festival. English comedian Sean McLoughlin  MC’d the night, and performed his routine in between acts. His shtick was your typical dark-humoured, down ‘n’ out twentysomething, which proved a hit with the audience. Especially funny were his gags about his 36-year-old girlfriend, who he said was “a constant reminder that the good times end.” Seasoned performer Joel Dommett (y’all may remember him from season one of Skins) was a highlight of the night. His experience of having his video game playing interrupted by loud housemate sex had the audience in peals of laughter. Next up was local lass Saga Garðarsdóttir. She performed in Icelandic and from what I could hear, the crowd was most impressed. Her energy was infectious. A friend told me she made jokes about herself, old people and teenagers in a way people could relate to and consequently, laugh at. Harriet Kemsley (who The Grapevine interviewed last week) brought her ditzy, awkward persona onto the stage next. Unfortunately, after YouTube-ing clips of her stand up all week, I recognized most of her jokes from past routines. However, for those seeing her for the first time, howls of laughter indicated they appreciated her humour about life in Shoreditch and as a medical receptionist. Rounding off the night was the rubber faced Rob Deering. Rob set his segment apart by using loops, pedals and his guitar as integral parts of his performance. He had the audience singing along, requesting classic riffs and in fits of laughter. All in all, the night was upbeat, engaging and humorous. The Brits do stand-up well, and tonight was no different.

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