From Iceland — Letters


Published May 27, 2005


Regarding the latest issue of Grapevine, I want to thank you for printing the thought-provoking article on the decline of the Icelandic art community. Even though I probably fit in the category of people and ideas criticized in the article, I found it right on and, above all, extremely well written.  I myself have had foul thoughts towards belonging to this group of people and am looking forward to moving abroad soon with my band to explore a different scene, a scene where we hopefully get ignored and a scene that forces us to do better to grab the attention of our listeners.
After seeing the “Screaming Masterpiece” doc, I realized all the clichés and stereotypes of the Icelandic art world. We’ve been brought up so well that we obey what we should be rejecting, this is an art scene that favours capitalism above idea exchanging and a scene that fears the idea of taking a stand or creating something that hasn’t already been created.
(Member of Kímono and local concert promoter.)
Thanks. Haukur Már wrote it. I just extorted it from him. And didn’t pay him well. Please, if you see him and you like his piece, buy him a beer. If you see him and you didn’t like his piece, buy him some food.
Dear Editor,
I am an avid fan of your English newspaper. In reference to your September 2004 issue featuring ‘Outside Reykjavík’ BORGARNES: DEAD BALD GUYS AND A SURPRISE APPEARANCE BY BUSH article. I was so annoyed the last paragraph of that article, the charcoal painting of W. Bush.
Just want to make clarification for that matter; that none of the waitresses there at Dussa Bar in Borgarnes owns a charcoal painting hanging in the said Filipino restaurant. The painter of that charcoal painting was Rey P. Gines, a Filipino cook in Hotel Borgarnes who loves to waste his free time painting. In fact, he is currently finishing his Davíð Oddsson charcoal painting.
Being a Filipina, I was just wondering where that Filipina waitress got the courage and virtue to boast and lie when we were taught back home that ‘Honesty is the best policy’. Wasn’t she ever taught by her mother that all liars will go to hell?
Thanks a lot, more power to GRAPEVINE!
advocates against liars
I’m a little unclear about who did wrong, but you seem passionate about this, so I’m running the letter. As for the “all liars go to hell” business… is that true? Man, I’ve got to think about my life.
Wow, I have to say it…..
I have been waiting for an article like this issue’s cover story for a long time…… It’s exactly what the Icelandic scene has been desperately needing for a long, long time…. Haukur’s insight into “gargandi snilld” was exactly what I thought but couldn’t have put into words for the life of me. You guys continue to amaze me…..
(Musician and producer)
Cool. This really would pick up my spirits if I didn’t think there was a possibility I was going to hell. You see, I may have told some mistruths in my past. About some paintings. Paintings of GW.
Dear Grapevine.
Let’s look at issue 4 year 3, of your lovely publication.
In an article by editor Cameron, “Growing pains for the world’s oldest parliament”, Hans Kristján Árnason complains that, “The sheer majority in Alþingi thinks of itself as the ruler of the country and it doesn’t have to take any account of the minority.” He goes on to say that one can claim that democracy is in peril.
My dears. A parliamentary majority, ruling a country, IS democracy.
Best regards
Óli Tynes
(Journalist, Stöð 2)
Thank you for the response and for the close reading. I openly acknowledge that we have a long way to go, and that criticism from our peers will help us. I say this assuming that your goal was to aid us and point out shortcomings.
That said, perhaps the article to which you refer reflects more a difference in the understanding of journalism and democracy.
For example, when I write an article and use quotes from those involved in the political process, I include quotes from people with whom I don’t necessarily agree. If someone I quote makes a logical error, I feel that is part of the story. The readers can decide for themselves how valid that source is based on all the facts presented.
As you are a journalist and interested in government, I feel I should clear something up: a parliamentary majority ruling a country does not equal democracy. As students of high school Civics classes across America can tell you, many countries hold elections and have parliaments but then those parliaments don’t actually do anything. They are restricted by another authority.
Democracy is a complicated concept. Typically, democracies are judged by how transparent the decision-making processes are, and by who truly influences decisions. This is where the press plays a role: if they report on the actions of elected officials and, say, people who donate heavily to those officials, they can help inform the citizens.
In fact, Mr. Árnason was referring to the modern Liberal Democracy, which is expected to use a constitution to protect from the “Tyranny of the Majority”, another fundamental concept that one learns in high school Civics classes.
Mr. Árnason complains that in a country where 85% of the population disagrees with involvement in the war in Iraq, he can’t get a reasonable investigation into how two people could decide the nation of Iceland should go to war anyway.
I think his concern is understandable. I think your lack of understanding of a fundamental concept of Western society is less so.
Dear Madam/Sir,
I’ve just returned from my tourist experience in your beautiful Iceland. I actually won a holiday in a national UK competition and as I had always yearned to see Iceland I chose to go there. I had wanted to travel by the cruise liner from Orkney up to The Shetlands and cross through The Faroes but my travel agent was having none of it and so I did the 3 flights from Kirkwall to Glasgow, then from Stansted to Reykjavík. It wasn’t easy especially as there are two Glasgow airports (travellers beware) and my husband (who had never been abroad before) and I ended up at the wrong one. We had to get up at 3am to get a taxi to Prestwick, Glasgow.  Mad! We arrived at our Iceland hotel at midnight then pushed ourselves to do one of the tourist excursions the next day. Well worth the money!  Sat in a bus: the tour guide does all the work and the talking and represents the people of Iceland well. Lots of convenience and feeding breaks too. All important when you’re past 50!
I loved the long long days, and the drinking water and the fast flush toilets and the clever green ways. I was scared by the very idea of The Hidden People ‘cause them elves can be damn ugly. I appreciated the graffiti everywhere. I loved sculptures all over the place and found the horse meat absolutely delicious.
Thank you, Iceland.
Sincerely, Gilli Miur
Where did you get all this energy? Oh, must be the horse meat. Mmmmm. Horse meat.

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