sunnudagur, apríl 30, 2006


Punching the send key is like bringing a hammer down on the head of that enormous serpent just as it sinks out of sight. You've been wrestling with that thing for, well, not very long, but long enough to be good and tired.

It is, of course, your own damned fault for hauling the thing up. Your choice. In the light, it was much uglier than you expected. It writhed and thumped its coils against the hull and threatened to capsize everything. It was nastily slippery, too, making every attempt to beat the thing into submission unsatisfying. You did your best to lay it out, though you aren't really pleased with your showing. You aren't even entirely sure that last swing connected with its skull. Damned scaly thing.

But now the cord's been cut. You're walking away from it, rowing back to shore and more solid ground. Later, the experts can argue about whether you hit the thing right or not.

laugardagur, apríl 29, 2006


What was that band from the late nineties again? The one like an audio equivalent of morphine? Lots of theramin and a quavery female vocalist ... Just thinking about it I am flooded with memories of the late-nineties pseudo-goth explosion, all that jewel-colored velvet in the stores, all those girls seemingly on their way to an audition with Neil Gaiman.

föstudagur, apríl 28, 2006

klekja út

This must be what I get for eating such oddly-hued eggs. I feel something hatching as I pass the fragrant grove on my way to the train, and by the time I reach the transfer station I have scratched out a handful of dactylic lines on the back of a crumpled receipt. I promptly forget about them, but they no doubt continue to flutter about behind the scenes of my conscious mind. The evening turns out strangely, but not unpleasantly. I am left reflecting on the fine bones of birds and the soft nap of down.

fimmtudagur, apríl 27, 2006


There were still a few of these, but not many. I decided to document them before making the rearmost one into lunch.

miðvikudagur, apríl 26, 2006


This morning, for an instant, I forgot which finger my ring should be slipped onto. This despite the fact that I have worn in there for years, and that the finger in question has had a faint but noticable groove worn into it by the daily pressure of the silver. The pang of confusion and distress before I was able to remember what I ought to be doing was distinct, the little cousin of the couple of times I have thought, fleetingly and mistakenly, that I had lost the ring. Perhaps when I am very old and start to forget other things, I will feel this regularly. Or perhaps I will not be aware of it at all.

þriðjudagur, apríl 25, 2006


The shock has not yet passed after last night's viewing of a stunningly bad film. I'm not even sure it would be useful in an undergraduate class on Old Norse-inspired pop schlock, and that is saying something.

The filmmakers get points (grudgingly awarded) for the following:
  • Two short lines of decent Norwegian: "Mange takk" "Det var ingen årsak"
  • Incidental use of what I think was Jenny Lind
  • Incidental use of Danish film
  • Unwittingly echoing the Þórr-Þjálfi team by giving Týr a young human helper
  • Unwittingly echoing Víðarr's waiting-for-Doomsday attitude by making Týr a clockwatcher
  • Pairing off Týr against Fenrir (even though that's not the pairing at Ragnarök)
  • Not calling Fenrir "Fenris" (suddenly I want to see another movie, one called Fenris Bueller's Day Off)

I draw the line at awarding points for having unwittingly made a decent Grendel costume when a Fenrir costume was intended. It is a dreadful Fenrir costume. And not dreadful in a good way.

Points deducted for the following:
  • Týr missing his left hand
  • A really awful labrys-like axe (why on earth do people insist on putting such things on the prop list?)
  • Atrocious casting choice for a character named Almquist

I cannot be bothered to deduct points for the usual nonsense like bad runes, ridiculous pseudo-archaeology, surprisingly bad acting, and the plot, oh the plot ...

miðvikudagur, apríl 19, 2006


This album. It brings it all back. That studio was freezing long into the spring, and it didn’t help that he’d lean out the window to smoke several times a session. The fumes were not bad, no solvents, only the smell of linseed oil and pigment. The feeling of concentration was quite intense, holding your head back and one arm raised, still, still, still, for fifteen, twenty minutes, longer. The cheap boombox played this album, and you would chat if he wasn’t working on your jawline or the light on the side of your face.

As a rule coffee next door, whether you really wanted it or not, because what else would you get? The beer was awful watery stuff named after a medieval shipping cartel and outrageously expensive even in there on the industrial east side. Mostly you just wanted to be indoors, on a decent chair, and so you poured obscene amounts of coffee past your teeth and hoped it would not curdle your dreams later.

There was usually snow in the street, and it would be colder and dark by the time you headed for home. You’d stop into the Chinese market and buy an egg yolk deep-fried in a sweet batter and rolled in sesame seeds. It was greasy, chalky, nutty, warm, and biting into it on the way to the train felt like eating the sun.

þriðjudagur, apríl 18, 2006


Daily I am struck by her resemblance to Fjallkonan with a high, curving spaðafaldur, even though I know Athena sports here a helmet with a horsehair crest (complete with three horses, no less).

I wanted to leave this post as just this, a casual observation on two tignarlegar konur, the patron of Athens and the patron of Farsælda Frón, but the radio informs me that the American President "refuses to rule out a nuclear attack on Iran," and in light of that the casual seems inappropriate.

I always liked Athena. She may be the posterchild for women who grasp for male privilege, but she has always appealed to me. Patron of arts, wisdom, and war, she has a military aspect -- hence the helmet. Under her ægis, I imagine conflict moderated with wisdom. That ægis, her literal shield, is adorned with the head of a gorgon, and I imagine, bearing such a shield, that some of her wisdom is rooted in familiarity with the hideous face of actual battle.

Athena is not the figure springing fully grown from the head of the American President. Wisdom seems nowhere near the man. Not ruling out nuclear attack is madness, and not the bucolic, running-about-the-woods madness of Pan and his eponymous panic, either. It is martial madness, even Martian madness, a yearning for a kind of warfare so catastrophic that it would turn the surface of the earth alien and hostile to its inhabitants. Mars rules such destruction, not Athena.

There has already been speculation that the American President may have acquired some fell and fabled object. If it is anything, it is the ægishjálmr, the helm of terror, or else Wagner's version of it, the Tarnhelm, the essence of mad desire for power for its own sake. Certainly, we all fear the wearer.


From Kurt Kirchheiner's Tysk Kursus på 100 Timer (Københaven 1954):
a skal udtales som åbent, rent a. Man skal vogte sig for det æ-agtige københavner-a. For at lære at udtale tyske ord som Dame, Maler, Reklame, Banane rigtigt, må man tvinge sig til at åbne munden så meget som muligt. (s. 11)
The humor is rather diminished if you have never actually heard a Copenhagen native speak, but the burden of the above is that in order to render the German a correctly the Dane must resist the temptation to constrict into an e- og æ-like sound and instead "force oneself to open the mouth as much as possible."

There are also some very useful tips on not inserting glottal stops into German words where they have no business being, not making the intervocalic d into a fricative ð, and not dropping the intervocalic g altogether.

If you have heard Danish, these instructions may call to mind the idea of a dancer skilled in all manner of complicated pas and spins and leaps all executed en pointe being given instructions on how to drop the heel, place one foot in front of the other, and walk mundanely like anyone else.

sunnudagur, apríl 16, 2006


Having managed to roll the stone away and rise (to the astonishment of onlookers) from the cave of sleep, one is disappointed to find no shop open where one might purchase pastry or milk or even eggs.

fimmtudagur, apríl 13, 2006


Dinner conversation.

A: The desert? Well, I know all about the desert. I grew up there.

B: Really? What did you like about it?

A: I didn't.

C (stage whispering): She did leave and move here, you know.

B: Right.

A: It's not very interesting.

B: Really?

[C turns her attention to the wine.]

A: No, it's terribly flat, in all senses, really, and not a lot of culture. The people are rather narrow, and it just isn't a great place to live.

B: Oh.

A: I lived there for forty years. I don't particularly recommend it.

B: So you moved here?

A: Yes! Never looked back.

þriðjudagur, apríl 11, 2006

glöggt er

Over lunch I find myself discussing eyesight with a friend. We talked about his vision, which he is told cannot even be corrected to better than 20/30, while my uncorrected vision has usually been measured as somewhat better than 20/20. I am sharpsighted. I move in circles disproportionately prone to nearsightedness, the sort of circles in which one is assumed to wear contacts if one does not wear glasses, and my uncorrected vision, when noticed, has provoked some wonder. I imagine my sharpsightedness as the sort of characteristic that would be remembered in a *Sternu saga, should one ever be compiled. I cannot leap my own height either forward or backward, nor vault onto the back of a horse in full armor (though, to be fair, I have never tried), but I can read the time off the clocktower while standing two miles away, in the next town.

We talk about this, eat lunch, then buy passable coffee in terrible paper cups and go our separate ways.

After lunch I retire to the second floor of the library and proofread 264 pages of text, after which my eyes feel like pools of mercury. So perhaps I will not be having that conversation over lunches in the future.


I have been told that I seem like a smoker, frequently, of course, by smokers, and most frequently by smokers who are ducking out of a party for a few minutes, ostensibly for a smoke. I do not smoke and never have, and I have chosen to interpret this odd declaration, generally delivered with seemingly genuine astonishment, not as a comment on any odors emanating from my person (I assume such would be less evident to smokers than to non-smokers) but instead on some indefinable aura of "coolness" or "one-of-us-ness." Anything is possible. I have been mistaken for a French person, apparently on account of my mode of dress and my hairstyle. I have been mistaken for an Icelander (ironically, while wheezing outside Næsti Bar, having been overcome by the atmosphere within). I used to laugh uproariously at the John Waters pro-smoking clip that was shown before every movie at my local cinema before they shut it down, even though I was very happy that there was, indeed, no smoking in that theater. Perhaps I have an aura of black-clad, pseudo-Euro coolness.

It occurs to me now that what they are picking up on might be a certain social shyness that comes through even when I am enjoying myself at a party, the kind of thing that might lead someone to want to duck away from the press for a few minutes, just to get a breather. Maybe that's all they're doing themselves.

mánudagur, apríl 10, 2006


Two days ago I peeled a small orange, taking the rind off in a single, long, fragrant, spiralling S-curve. I had placed it, stretched out, on a windowsill, perhaps in hope of some fortuitous shaft of sunlight that would complete a memorable and photo-worthy composition. None has come. The rind has been lying pith-down on the dark wood, and over the course of a day it had dessicated and curled upwards, like a cobra rearing up and showing the scales of its belly. Over the next day it curled over backwards, as if the object of its attention had skipped behind it, mongoose-like, looking for opportunity to dive teeth-first at the back of the serpent's head. By this evening it had arched further over and down, and now it is bent entirely over on itself, the round center of one spiralling end (with the scar of the stem making a single eye) resting against the other like an alchemical serpent biting its own tail.

föstudagur, apríl 07, 2006


I don't think it's crows, but some lower-order raucous avians are out there now, grating competitively at each other. I cannot see them, but they are eminently audible. The sound cuts through window glass and whatever opaque substance descends between the waking self and the dreams and hypnogogic visions of the night before. Hearing it, I remember the sound I had forgotten having heard before sleep. It was some innocent bird in the night trees, whirring to itself (or perhaps to others), all unknowing that its call hooked through the air to my brain, pulling up from memory its near double, the artificial squeak some effects man had laced through the soundtrack of a particularly unnerving horror film viewed over a year ago. Enticed by the lure of the night bird's liquid chirrup, that other sound came nosing up to the surface of memory like a fish disturbing the skin of the water, and I recall now how I thrashed in the bed to hear it.

fimmtudagur, apríl 06, 2006

blandin mjök

I remember making mix tapes. I had a primitive double tape deck, and it took forever to get the timing between tracks right and to fit the desired songs onto each side of the chosen cassette. I preferred the 90-minute tapes, 45 minutes to a side. That seemed like a good length. It was long enough---it gave the compiler room to manoeuver (though that manoeuvering was time consuming)---but the A side and B side provided necessary structure, a simple but unforgivingly strict meter for am earnest genre.

Now there are MP3s and things like that. I have some. I have even compiled a songlist with a recipient in mind, ready to be burned (as I understand it is called) onto a ready CD. I've had it since sometime in the winter, when my first attempt failed. I may very well be hopelessly analog, though now my wineglass rests on a digital coaster. I tell myself I will try again soon.

Meanwhile I will try to suppress the urge to fuss with the track list. The long, free verse form of the mix CD invites endless fidgeting, and I miss the way the A and B sides would snap into place like a good rhyme.

miðvikudagur, apríl 05, 2006

o tempora

The New York Times has redesigned its website, and I don't like it one bit. I remember when Morgunblaðið redid its format and suddenly looked like the old Baggalútur, and that was pretty funny. Certainly the fellows who designed Baggalútur thought so. Since then, of course, Baggalútur has been made to look like Þjóðólfur or Fjallkonan, and that is pretty funny too. But according to Slate, The Times now looks more like a web-based newspaper. You would think they would know. Still, I disagree. It looks more like The Onion. That, I confess, I do not find so funny.

And what is meant by shifting out the venerable Times New Roman for Georgia? It's The Times, for crying out loud. It's what Times New Roman was invented for. Georgia just makes it look like some amateur thing on a default template at Blogger.


laugardagur, apríl 01, 2006


I always walk to the end of the market with my bag slung crosswise and empty over my back and only buy the week's vegetables on the return trip through the stalls. Today, at the far end, I buy a hefty bundle of fennel, stuff it bulbs-down into my bag, and twist the bag around before continuing. All the way past the other stalls I can feel the long stalks of fennel behind me, sweeping back and forth as I walk. With each step, my hips shift, and the green fronds sweep to one side, invisible to me though I can feel their motion through my bones of my lower back, and with the next step they sweep back.

It is probably all for the best that a perfect stranger stops me and asks how I intend to cook all that fennel (braising the bulbs, I think, and tossing the greens in to a pesto, I say), or else by the time I reached home I would have been entirely convinced that I was a giant anteater.
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