From Iceland — Letters


Published August 19, 2005


Hey Bart –
I’m rather new to the Grapevine as an Icelandic friend just introduced it to me the other day and I have to say that it’s an intriguing blend of professional journalism and tongue-in-cheek commentary on the current events shaping Iceland today. I am not acquainted with any other Icelandic media, and thus my benchmark for comparison is rather limited, though in my humble, albeit American opinion, it is really great work. Particularly fascinating to me is the rare insight into Icelandic culture and perspectives shared that would otherwise be quite difficult to encounter outside of Iceland or more importantly for myself, in English.
That said, the Grapevine’s recent article “The Consequence of Gender Inequity” explored a topic that I wish more countries would support. As a college student, I recognize the grassroots effort here in the States to unify and educate young men about rape and other sexual violence towards women; an effort most prominently led by the American-based organization Men Can Stop Rape (
Unfortunately, however, I believe my country is still far more focused on women’s recovery and picking up the pieces after the fact, rather than preventative education. Worldwide, people need to recognize that rapes continue to occur, reported or not, and every effort to raise awareness and educate those most at risk (as assailants or victims) should be supported. I commend the Feminist’s Association and your country for recognizing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A cure, that for rape victims, really doesn’t exist.
Keep up the nice work,
Robyn Busch
Kansas City (USA)
Thanks Robyn. We’re continually impressed with the efforts of V-Day, the Feminist Organization and Stígamót in Iceland. The ability to confront such a difficult issue so head-on is commendable, and I think this is something that Men Can Stop Rape also do well.
Hi Bart,
We’re some of those people in yesterday’s stats that the Grapevine mentions of an increase in visitors to Iceland. In this case we were July visitors coming from exactly the opposite part of the world (Chile, yeah, down below).
I happened to grab one issue of the Grapevine (The Puffinaire) in one of those cafés lost in the middle of nowhere that gives Iceland this constant attractive off-road feeling, wherever you are. I‘d like to tell that we enjoyed a lot the Grapevine sense of humour, as well as the information that, jokes aside, is conveyed on the country and its people. Ie. We got a perfect shot of Icelandic politics (or SSDN/Same Sh.t/Different Name)
I also shared the views of the author of the tour to the Golden Circle and Geysir, who said that in any other country (the US, mainly) everything would be full of guide rails, warnings, etc., which is exactly why Iceland is so cool to visit. There’s this off-road sense still very much preserved everywhere (who do Americans sue in Iceland?!).
We hope to come back and hope that the Grapevine team keeps up the fun and good cartoons.
Carolina Gómez
Thank you. Yes, those silly Americans and their lawsuits… ah, sweet, sweet stereotypes.
I am a 49-year-old teacher (and freelance writer–102 humour pieces in the NY Times, Wash. Post, Newsweek, Newsday) from New York, visiting here in Reykjavik for six days. I have seen two issues and have been delighted by your paper (It has served as a guide for things to see and do, plus it has given me insight into what is going on in this beautiful city. (Your paper reminds me of the Village Voice back home.)
Anyway, a couple of comments: as someone who loves the LOOK of publications, I wish your typeface were larger. My eyes are fine, but it’s too small. Also—In your discussion of vegetarian restaurants I would like to recommend—Cafe Garðurinn at Klapparstígur 37. A fine place– ate there tonight!
Anyway, continued success with Grapevine!
Saul Schachter
New York, USA
Font’s too small, huh? What are you going to do? Sue us Mr. American… Ha ha ha. Americans sue people. Ha. Or should I say HA! I’d rip on the Village Voice, too, but we’re bringing over one of their writers to cover the music scene in Iceland. So I’ll just remind you that Americans sue people. Stupid jury of peers.
Dear Grapevine Editor,
I really love your online magazine, I visit it often.  I was stationed at Keflavík Airbase three years ago and I miss Iceland dearly! I was wondering if you know of any stores or vendors that sell and ship pylsa to the US. I would like to get a couple packages of pylsa, buns, and all the fixins. Do you have any recommendations?
Also, I just noticed that your headline said that there was a murder on the Navy base…is this recent? This is unheard of!
I can’t wait to come back to Ísland, in the mean time I need to order pylsa online.
Please help,
Travis Mortimer
1) We don’t know who might ship you pylsur, but we think someone will tell us when we run this. 2) The murder was recent, but as of press time names haven’t been released. 3) You really got addicted to pylsur?
To: Grapevine
In your ISSUE 11 GRAPEVINE you are publishing a much better article on city planning than are usually written by non-professionals. Bravo.
Therefore, I would like to inform you about the very few things you write, which are not totally exact or missing, but important for the comprehension of the city.
The Reykjavík area is very spread out, (as big as Paris intra muros) and therefore naturally people think there is a lot of single-family housing there. The fact is that the tradition in the capital area is houses with two to four families, and later apartment blocks, and single-family houses are the minority. The 1000 new residents in Hafnarfjörður and the 900 in Kópavogur you mention live in a large majority in newly build apartments. In another community, Garðabær, there are more than 1000 apartments to be built or built already, which means 2700 new residents in few years, and only a small minority in single-family houses.
There is a very small possibility that single-family houses will be built on a large scale in the near future simply because good land is rare and expensive. Conservative parties in the western world always promise before elections that they are going to build a lot of them to please their traditional constituency, as the Independence Party does now. The probability that this will happen inside the actual and future property market is very low.
Your conclusion that the choice is between “an unsustainable suburb or a thriving city” is therefore a bit pessimistic.
To end this I would thank you for your choice of pictures on pages 22 and 23. They are taken on Sjáland in Garðabær, of which I am the happy city planning author. The density there is about four times higher than an average suburb in the Reykjavík area, but the new buyers arrive from their former single-family houses.
Let us be optimistic.
Sincerely yours
Björn Ólafs
Thank you, Paul did an excellent job. In fact, he wrote better than any city planner has ever written… about anything.
Single-family houses don’t have a history in Iceland—and Paul didn’t claim they did. He only stated that certain politicians believed they did. As he was writing the piece, he thought more and more that he should mention the Independence Party plan, as it seemed far too absurd and every other urban planner we talked to disagreed about it. But here’s the thing: due in part to the actions of the jackasses in the Left Green Party, who just dropped out of the R-list, or alliance governing system for the city, it looks like the Independence Party plan will probably be pushed through. Which should be good for your business, as people will move to the more pleasant higher-density areas you design.
Dear Grapevine
Thanks for your great article (and the editor’s note) about city planning in Reykjavík.
As a part of an exhibition in September – October at Listasafn Reykjavík, I’m conducting a workshop, which so to say takes over where your article ends – the future of Reykjavík and the influence on this from a democratic point of view (you mention planning meetings in the article).
I’d like to write an article about the perspectives of this and follow your lead in the forthcoming issue of the Grapevine. If possible, please let me know when to send in the article.
mads bech paluszewski
Will anybody read an article on city planning? And democracy? It sounds too negative. Maybe if there were trolls or fairies or hidden people. Can you do a conference on hidden people, and instead of democracy call it a Viking orgy?
To: Paul
I really enjoyed reading your well investigated article about t.A.T.u.: Good music, Sleazy Origins. That’s something very unusual to find, especially these days .
I highly appreciate your own created work and your intention not to copy simply the “facts” written in some yellow papers. Unfortunately that’s what most of the people do working for internet-services or tabloids, etc.
  It was great to read that you pointed out the possibility to download a lot of things without paying anything on, because we all know this isn’t really common and a lot of bands don’t do it, because they fear fewer sold albums.
  So, I really hope to read some more from you in the nearest future, maybe even about t.A.T.u. again, it would be a big pleasure for me.
Best regards,
Aileen Pinkert from Germany
  P.S.: is trying hard to translate all the sections into English, so if you’re interested, I hope it will be finished soon. :o)
Paul wrote the best article about t.A.T.u ever written by a non-professional city planner. Ever. And if you claim otherwise I will sue you. As I am American. And so is Paul.

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