From Iceland — Sour grapes and stuff

Sour grapes and stuff

Published April 16, 2010

Sour grapes and stuff

We’ve got a new prize for all your MOST AWESOME LETTERS. And it’s a scorcher! From now on, whoever sends in the issue’s AWESOME LETTER will receive a cool new Reykjavík Grapevine T-shirt, featuring the majestic G that adorns our cover. So you should make sure to keep writing us fun and/or interesting letters. Natch.
This new Grapevine tee surely is the shiznit! It was designed by our very own art director man, Hörður Kristbjörnsson, and it’s good for posing in front of a mirror, impressing folks with your impeccable taste or picking up men or women of all ages (no minors). DON’T PANIC if your letter wasn’t picked AWESOME LETTER. You can still get a tee for a low, low price over at Havarí on Austurstræti.
This is Zakarías from Caterpillarmen writing. we released our debut, adopt a monkey, last year. it sounded bad, but there is more to the story than those three words.
when we got the offer from brak records to distribute it, Baldvin Esra apparently didn’t think it sounded well enough. he wanted a third party to remaster it…I suppose in an effort to make it “marketable” or “competitive” or whatever. typical loudness wars vomit.
at this time we had spent a lot of time and hard work to make it sound as good as possible.
he told me about his plans, and because I didn’t tell him, “don’t you fucking dare ruin our fucking record by paying some jackass to floor a compressor”, he went ahead and did exactly that.
It’s all my fault. I didn’t have the guts to stand up to mr. label man.
that is not to say that I have anything against Baldvin, or what’s-his-name. it is only to say that they don’t know what sounds good.
we have never earned one króna. I don’t know if what’s-his-name got paid, but if he did get paid, even the measliest sum, then he got paid more than we have ever gotten paid to sit down and take a shit on our hard work. ironic? that’s the word, right?
anyway, I feel I have made my point.
the original masters you can find in my dropbox,, the way the record was supposed to sound.
Dear Zakarías or whatever you’re called,
thank you for your letter. While we don’t know what went between you and your label man and your compressing agent, we do know that unleashing a work of art to the world is a complicated, nerve-wracking and often difficult task. Doubly so if it’s your virgin offering.
Talking about this all after the fact is doubly hard.
Then giving the results of all your strife away for free on the letters page of a free magazine, well, that’s pretty amazing.
So you won AWESOME LETTER T-shirt extravaganza. Readers: go check out Caterpillarmen’s album, the way they wanted it to sound. Zakarías: never again allow a record you haven’t heard to go to print with your name on it.

Learning Icelandic
Bob Cluness didn’t mention in his letter where he has studied Icelandic and that surely makes a difference. Friends who took courses at a private school were shocked by the blatant incompetence of some of the teachers, and although I have been generally pleased with my Icelandic for Foreign Students studies at the University of Iceland, the program certainly could be improved.
There is an unfortunate attitude among many foreigners I meet that one learns Icelandic by being taught it, by sitting in a classroom and listening to teachers. I know people who have lived here for years and absolutely refuse to buy a dictionary. Who never go to Icelandic films or plays because “I wouldn’t understand it.” Who have never read an Icelandic book, even in translation. Who only attend English-language church services. Who have lived here for a long time and have visited fewer cultural institutions – the National Museum, Culture House, the art galleries –  than the average tourist sees in a few days. Who would rather watch American television than expose themselves to the many – often free – public events where they might learn something about Icelandic society and pick up some Icelandic.  People who ask, “Where’s that?”  when I mention a free concert at the Ráðhús or Dómkirkja.
Icelandic is difficult, but English must be too for someone moving to America from Asia or Africa.  One’s attitude to language learning, as with anything else, makes all the difference.
Kristófer Jónatansson
Dear Kristófer,
thank you for your letter. Your point seems to make a lot of sense, what with one’s attitude weighing in heavily when it comes to learning stuff and whatnot. However, with a name like Kristófer Jónatansson, you just had to know Icelandic from the get-go, right? Otherwise you’d never be able to pronounce your own name and stuff. Right?  
Could it be Icelandic is just an insanely super-hard language, what with all the consonants and rolling pirate arrrrrs and conjugations and stuff? We have no idea, what with being native speakers and all. But judging from your foreign friends, this might be the case.  

Is Iceland the most irresponsible nation on earth?
You are like immature children. You tried to compete with the big boys and failed.
Now pay your debts like adults.
How dare you try to make the UK out to be the bad guys.
You are the freeloaders of the western world.
Why bother to have a referendum on an orphan agreement. Do you like wasting money?
Dear F,
thank you for your letter. It was… well. Very curt. And fun! In fact, it was so fun that we read it out loud to one another while blowing our Icesave funded overdrafts on fancy new diamond encrusted top hats to go with our fancy new diamond encrusted tuxedos [via eBay], which we will wear to the opening of the Icesave-funded, diamond encrusted music and conference centre, Harpa. Hand me my monocle…
Do y’all mind holding a minute, F? We have to take a call on our gold plated iPhones.
So, yeah. You were saying? What, us? Irresponsible? That unpossible! ANYWAY. Could you spare some quid? We feel like taking our fancy private jet for a spin, but our platinum cards aren’t working for some reason. So just a couple thou for some gas money would be great. We’re good for it. Promise.

Dear citizens of Iceland.
I listened to a news report on the B.B.C. this morning on the public outrage in Iceland about the bailouts for your banks.I was heartened to hear that possibly 75% of your populace will vote against your governments choice to use your money to cover the banks mistakes. What great moment for Democracy!! Many here in the U.S.A. are likewise outraged. However our media and government is so tightly controlled, by the same influences that gambled all the money in the first place, that we are not permitted a final say. We are allowed to grumble only so much until the next big media event takes our attention away.
My knowledge of Iceland is admittedly limited. I once read a book “Independent people” which filled me with admiration for your country. The end of the B.B.C. added a scare about how this vote will make it more difficult for your country to be able to join the European union. To which I say larger is rarely better. I hope the independence of Iceland can be a lesson to the rest of the world.To live within your means and enjoy life, not to get dragged into the greed filled societies of most of the world.
Best wishes from America,
Dear AJ,
thank you for your sweet letter. It’s cool to hear you enjoyed Independent People, and your views and opinions seem pretty spot on. You sound like a pretty awesome guy. So I’ll ask you to pardon the following outburst – it’s not really directed at you.
You write: “I hope the independence of Iceland can be a lesson to the rest of the world. To live within your means and enjoy life, not to get dragged into the greed filled societies of most of the world.”
To which we must reply: HAHAHAHAHA!
Sorry. You were saying? Oh yeah, that Iceland somehow is an example of folks living within their means, enjoying life while not getting dragged into the greed-filled societies of the rest of the world. HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Thanks again for the letter, sir. Check out Halldór Laxness’ The Atom Station if you ever have the chance. And drop by our office for some champagne and Kobe burgers if you’re ever around.

I’m one of those folks you like to call an “American Jackass” who thinks Iceland is fabulous.  I’m jazzing up an Iceland Biking Tour website for one of your own pillars of the community, and would like to include some info on your “Inside Reykjavik” guidebook, if it’s still available – like how much it costs and how to order it.  Also, when was it last updated?  Your guide keeps getting recommended in the blogs I’ve read, so I think it would be useful (and hilarious, yet informative) reading for potential visitors to your city.  Can you help me?  More importantly — if you can ignore the fact that I’m a USA Jackass — WILL you help me?  By the way, you don’t have any hard evidence that I, personally, am a jackass (You haven’t been talking to my ex-husband, have you?) so give me the benefit of a doubt, OK?
Thanks —  I hope.
Elizabeth Tilley
Dear Elizabeth,
who called you an American jackass? It wasn’t us, anyway. We don’t define jackasses based on nationality – only jackassery. Of which you seem to have little to spare. At least judging by your letter. You might have been a jackass to a waitress this morning, who knows (and if you were, shame on you! Do you know how hard waiting tables can be? It’s HELLISH)?
In any case, you can still buy the book from its publishing house, Forlagið, over at (it’s in Icelandic, but you’ll probably find it). The thing is admittedly great, as it was written by our most excellent former editor Bart Cameron. It – dare we say – provides some of the best insight into Reykjavík living one can find on print. However, it was published four years ago (that’s like, eight centuries in blog years) so some of the info might be outta date. REST ASSSURED THAT WE ARE WORKING ON A NEW ONE. We’ll tell you more about it when we get around to it.

While visiting the eruption, if you happen to drop your keys into the lava flow, don’t even think about retrieving, ’cause man….they’re gone!
Dear CM,
indeed. Also, remember to bring warm clothes and to pack a heavy lunch, dinner and midnight snack. And to not get close enough to the lava to drop your keys in it. It’s fucking lava, man. All hot and stuff. Just remember.

Dear Grapevine,
I am just home in the UK after 5 fantastic days in your amazing country, my first visit.
Everywhere we have been we have been humoured and helped, well informed and impressed by everyone; at our hotel, on organised tours, on public transport and in bars, shops, museums, galleries and restaurants.
In addition to the stunning natural phenomena and scenery, you also provided wonderful snowfall for us, which made up for hidden Aurora Borealis!
On our Golden Circle / snow mobile adventure I stupidly left my camera in the snow suit provided for the ride. Through your letters page I wish to say a huge Thank You to Cabin Hotel and Mountaineers of Iceland Adventure Tours staff for their help and the amazing prompt return of my camera, delivered back to the hotel for me. It’s wonderful to find such help and honesty.
On arriving home I asked my taxi driver what had been going on in my home town whilst I was away.  His reply; “Bugger all”!
Whatever would visitors to the UK think if that was all the taxi driver had to offer.
We have a lot to learn from you and your pride in your country.
Time to start planning (and saving for) my next trip to Iceland, a very special place
Anne Bird
Dear Anne,
thank you for your letter. It’s good to hear you had a nice time over here – we can only BEG YOU to tell all your friends and acquaintances about it so we can feast on their sweet, sweet money. Anyway, we gotta tell you: you shouldn’t be so harsh on your local cab drivers. Have you any idea how boring that job must be?

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