fréttamolar frá klakanum: ashley madison, syrian refugees, and dunkin’ donuts

I started classes today, but since my homework for tomorrow is done, I thought I would bring you some random bits of news from Iceland.

Ashley Madison reaches Iceland’s shores

You could label this one “worst of the internet”:

The most absurd headline I read today was “Bjarni kallaði sig Icehot1 á Ashley Madison.” The Bjarni in question is Bjarni Benediktsson, AKA Bjarni Ben, Minister of Finance. He registered for the site using a Florida address, which reportedly belongs to his father. His wife has come out in support of him, claiming that they registered for the site together in 2008 out of “curiosity.” Mmhmm.

Anyway, it seems Bjarni was not the only Icelander swayed by the company’s creative slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.” Rumor has it that over 100 Icelandic email addresses were found in the Ashley Madison leak.

Flóttamenn til Íslands?

In stark contrast, you could file this under “best of the internet”:

With thousands of refugees fleeing war zones every day (this article predicts 3,000 a day for the next several months), Europe is facing a humanitarian crisis. Many countries are preparing to accept refugees, and officials have stated that Iceland will welcome fifty. Many Icelanders believed this number to be entirely too low, and a campaign (on social media, of course) was started to convince the powers to be to accept more. But this isn’t just another sign-your-name-blindly petition. Rather, individuals are writing personal messages to Welfare Minister Eygló Harðardóttir on the page Kæra Eygló Harðar – Sýrland kallar (“Dear Eygló Harðar – Syria is calling”) offering to open their homes and to provide clothes, food, kindness and support.

This came to my attention when musician Svavar Knútur’s post to Eygló popped up in my news feed. I can’t find it again, but in it he stated that he and his wife have an extra room in their home and would be willing to take in anywhere from one to three refugees. He emphasized that they are not rich, but they do believe they certainly have enough to help someone who has nothing.

Among the others stepping forward to offer their homes are couples, families with children, single mothers, and a gay couple who ended their offer thus:

“Þó að mörgum kunni að finnast að við eigum alls ekki að eiga börn, þá hlýtur að vera margfalt betra að búa hjá hommum út á landi en í flóttamannabúðum!”

“Although many people think that we shouldn’t even have children, surely it is much better for children to live out in the country with homosexuals than in refugee camps.”

A twenty-five-year-old woman wrote a moving post explaining that she was forced to leave home (Kosovo) at the age of eight. As she played outside, she saw black smoke rise from the next town after a bombing, and she remembers soldiers marching in to her school during math class. Seventeen years later, she and her family are living a happy and peaceful life here in Iceland.

“Öll börn eiga skilið að sofa í friði á nóttuni og vakna með vekjaraklukku en ekki sprengingum,” she writes. “All children deserve to sleep in peace at night and be woken by alarm clocks rather than bombings.”

Of course, this movement is not without its critics. Several people have posted on the page commenting that Icelanders seem more willing to help out Syrian refugees than those in need among their own people, and others have pointed to the problems that countries like Sweden and the UK have encountered after welcoming refugees.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Dunkin’ Donuts

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Because you were wondering, Dunkin’ Donuts’ popularity shows no signs of waning. There’s been a line out the door approximately 9 out of 10 times that I’ve walked past this week. And you know what I’ve observed? The majority of the customers seem to be Icelanders. So for those (mostly non-Icelandic) people who have been whining about an Evil American Corporation ruining Icelanders’ Pure Health and downtown Reykjavík’s Perfect Aesthetics, it’s time to give it up. The Icelanders have spoken, and they want donuts. And maybe there will come a day when they no longer desire these beautiful sugared rings of fried dough, and Dunkin’ Donuts will go the way of Icelandic McDonald’s. But until then, my friends, get used to seeing those pink and orange boxes.

Shit tourists (don’t) do

And finally, in this week’s installment of what has NOT been happening:

I haven’t seen any recent news of crapping tourists. In fact, I haven’t noticed any hilarious, bizarre, disturbing, annoying, horrifying, or otherwise notable news about tourists. Perhaps this means summer is finally coming to an end, or tourists are behaving better, or we’ve all just accepted that they’re going to behave badly so we’ve stopped considering it as news, or I’ve simply been too busy to notice the latest tourist shenanigans. In any case, one thing I know: there will be more pooping tourists. Or iceberg picnicking tourists. Or joined-her-own-search-party tourists. All in good time, friends. All in good time.

UPDATE: The magic ice cream fairies at Valdís waved their magic wands and gave Reykvíkingur a wonderful gift today when they announced a new flavor: white chocolate with chili, also known as Icehot1. Algjör snilld.

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tvennir tónleikar í portland

While in my Northwest home, I got to experience a bit of my Iceland home in the form of seeing two Icelandic bands in concert. I had known about one for months, and the other was a serendipitous happening.

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Árstíðir

The band Árstíðir has been on their first US tour, and several months ago I found out they’d be playing a show at the new Nordia House cultural center while I’d be stateside. The new home of the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation (SHF), Nordia House is a beautiful 10,000 square-foot building that includes office space, an outpost of the Swedish Broder restaurant (which has two Portland locations), and of course a large multipurpose auditorium.

I went by myself but almost immediately ran into my Icelandic friend Edda. She introduced me to the only other Icelandic person there, a woman name Kristrún, and with the two of them I enjoyed my only opportunity in five weeks to speak Icelandic.

Anyway, the band played a long set, and even indulged the crowd with an a cappella version of the hymn “Heyr himna smiður,” popularly known as “that song everyone on the internet has seen them perform in a German train station” (I must admit that I prefer Eivør’s version).

 

I feel like listening to Árstíðir’s music takes a bit more focus and attention than a lot of popular music, which is certainly not a bad thing, it just makes for a different sort of listening experience. In any case, the Portland audience, despite the fact that I think many were hearing the band for the first time, was completely attentive, seemed to be absolutely smitten and insisted on an encore.

Shortly after my Snorri trip in 2012, I got connected to SHF and quickly learned than while it purports to be a pan-Nordic organization, there really has been very little Icelandic representation, the primary reason being that Portland boasts much larger populations of Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, and Finns. But I would of course love to see more Icelandic participation in SHF, and it was absolutely encouraging to see that one of their first big events at Nordia House was this concert – and, moreover, that it was so well received.

Kaleo

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Kaleo is a four-piece bluesy rock band formed in Mosfellsbær but now based in the great state of Texas. I actually started listening to them fairly recently and wanted to attend one of their two Reykjavík shows this summer, but the first was while my mom was visiting and ticket prices were quite steep, and the second was while I’d be in Washington. I’d been home for a week or so when my sister told me that she’d heard something on the radio about a Kaleo concert, but she couldn’t find any information about it online. After some sleuthing, I figured out that they were playing a free show in collaboration with Portland radio station KINK.FM. Tickets were free, but in order to get them, you had to download the radio station’s app, listen at certain times for the Magic Word, and then enter the Magic Word into the app. In other words, you had to jump through some ridiculous hoops. But I decided to try it once, and that’s all it took – I won two tickets!

So on a ridiculously hot Saturday, after a long day at my high school reunion, I forced myself to get back in my car and drive down to Portland. The show was at Mississippi Studios, a cozy venue on Mississippi Avenue and coincidentally the place where I saw Ólafur Arnalds a couple years ago.

There was a good crowd, but not so many that I felt in danger of suffocating. The band played a fairly short (maybe an hour?) but great set. Their style really lends itself well to live performance. They were full of energy and I think they definitely won over some new fans in the audience.

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awkward stuck-out-tongue shot

Jökull, the lead singer (whose name literally translates to Glacier, Son of Júlíus, a fact which endlessly entertains me), mentioned that the band had just briefly returned to Iceland to shoot a music video inside a volcano for their new single “Way Down We Go.” About a week after the concert, the single and video were released. They filmed inside Þríhnúkagígur, a dormant volcano in the south less than thirty minutes from Reykjavík. (Anyone willing to part with 39.000 ISK/302 USD/399 CAD can enjoy the Inside a Volcano experience, although it is limited to the summer months.)

It’s always a strange and wonderful experience to experience a melding of my Northwest and Iceland worlds, and I’m especially thrilled to see more of Iceland popping up in Portland. Here’s hoping that trend continues.