sunnudagur, maí 28, 2006


A rival shaman has dispatched an invisible sending with needle-like claws like a cat, and it has scratched up the surface of my left eye. I didn't see it happen, of course. One never does.

(I suppose it could have been a piece of grit, some little sharp flying bit of urban soot, but I think it was a sending.)

I will have to prepare an appropriate response. Meantime I am interested to learn that the technical term for dropping medicinal liquid into one's eye is to instill.


He comes up to me in a seedy café, a typical member of the local unkempt hippalið. He speaks.

"You remind me of Robert Crumb."

"Pardon me?"

"Robert Crumb. The cartoonist?"


"You remind me of . . . if he were here, if he saw you, he'd be twitching. He'd be having tics"

He demonstrates a tic.

"I see."

I am seized with the urge to lean over him with my vulture beak and snap his head off, or else note that he reminds me of Tom of Finland -- why? he would ask -- because you are a huge prick.

föstudagur, maí 26, 2006

in nominibus

Bosworth and Toller
Lewis and Short
(even Clover and Lindow)

but: Cleasby-Vigfússon


In a peculiar convergence of disparate currents, I find myself reading Byatt's The Biographer's Tale, dealing with a whirl of logistics, and painting Fenja and Menja. It is all very much aswirl. I say I am painting Fenja and Menja, but in fact what I am doing is adapting a black and white image of the jötunmeyjar found in one or another work on Norse mythology -- a woodcut, I think -- to canvas with the use of acrylic paints. The contours are fairly faithful to the original, with the result that my version reproduces the original artist's errors of proportion and anatomy. The foreshortening of the girls' arms is not entirely convincing. The breast of one seems unlikely firm, as if it were muscle like the generous rounds of her buttocks. But overall the composition is pleasing, and I am enjoying the action of pivoting the brush and guiding the paint around the corners of the figures---a very physical activity even though the motions themselves are small. So far, however, I have not broken into rhythmic worksong.

miðvikudagur, maí 24, 2006

grænlands ís

I am listening to the radio. Someone is talking about the Greenland ice sheet. He is describing the sound of the glaciers calfing into the chill waters of the northern Atlantic. (I have never heard that; I would like to.) I like the idea of glaciers calfing. It makes them seem like enormous seals basking in the thin sunlight or else like wintry whales stranded on mountaintops and easing, slowly, seaward. Both images strike me as appropriate.

Or maybe the nature of glaciers is not animal at all. I read somewhere that the Greenland Inuit tell stories in which seals hunt men, using for this purpose boats disguised as icebergs. What then is the massive Greenland ice? Very great seal sorcery indeed.


I always liked the rat mascot of Boston's euphoniously-named Big Dig. If I'm to get my whole back behind this excavation, I will need a similarly snappy lukkudýr. Applications are now being accepted.

föstudagur, maí 19, 2006


Rain in the air, precipitation. The change in atmospheric pressure is palpable. I have felt the differential on my eardrum and in the narrow passage between my throat and the inside of my ears all day. It is now lower pressure outside than inside. I am slow to equalize.

fimmtudagur, maí 18, 2006


Trout fit very well in the hand. They do, at any rate, if they are not still alive, when they tend to thrash vigorously. Dead, they are still slippery but can be grasped firmly about the body just behind the head. The last two trout I regarded while holding them in this manner had markedly different facial expressions. It had not occurred to me that one might be able to distinguish two individuals of the same species and weight by face alone, but they were nonetheless quite distinct. One looked game and alert (as much as a dead fish can look game and alert). The other seemed slightly mournful or maybe merely philosophical.

After dinner, they looked the same: like cartoons of fish skeletons left on the stoop outside the kitchen door for cartoon cats.

þriðjudagur, maí 16, 2006


Seen today on a shady path: a robin hopping away with a glorious, red, wild strawberry impaled on its beak. I imagine he was very proud of himself.

fimmtudagur, maí 11, 2006

kung pao

Lunchtime observation:

Scant days ago I sat at a favorite restaurant and was underwhelmed by one of the generously-portioned dishes I had chosen. Today, however, I am struck by how much it has improved after a couple of days on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Perhaps some things are not meant ever to be consumed hot from the pan. Perhaps their true calling is as leftovers.

miðvikudagur, maí 10, 2006


I am still fascinated by Fiskirannsóknarstovan and its long lists of piscine names. Today, also, I am thinking about cod. Much has already been written about cod, thanks to Mr. Kurlansky. I will add just a few lexigraphical and personal notes.

Fiskirannsóknarstovan informs me that the cod has at least thirty-five names in Faroese. Toskur is a clear relative of the Icelandic þorskur. Grunnafiskur and grunningur are appropriate for a fish that likes to be near the sandy bottom. Miðafiskur is a good name, since one fishes at the miði. Some of the others are more surprising. I do not know why the cod might be called málfiskur, unless it is, unbeknownced to all, the singing fish made famous by Halldór Laxness. Tertlingur is likewise mysterious to me. I note gráur fiskur and hvítur fiskur, remarkable only because in Icelandic the cod is yellow.

I have hauled three cod off the sandy bottom outside Reykjavík harbor. They were indeed very yellow, but perhaps I would have seen things differently in the Faroes.

It is a commonplace that Icelanders will not eat cod, that haddock is the domestic fish of choice, so common that its proper name ýsa is sometimes neglected in favor of fiskur. Nonetheless, I had a Icelandic friend who favored cod over ýsa and maintained that he had grown up among northerners who all favored cod over ýsa. On several occassions I have eaten cod he had prepared. Always the flesh parted before the fork in thick, snowy leaves like the pages of a book, white and tasting of the sea.

þriðjudagur, maí 09, 2006


I am thinking of halibut. Thick, white, arctic fish would be pleasant this evening. Last night I cooked some rock cod, which isn't even cod, never mind arctic. It was pleasant with salt and pepper, rosemary and oil, but it was not like eating stórlúða, and it was certainly not like eating stórlúða as carefully prepared by a good friend in a smallish kitchen in Vesturbær with cool white wine on the table and a bottle of Orkney whiskey waiting in the cabinet.

Supposedly created by Christ long after Creation proper, the halibut has many names, some of which nod to its associations with holiness. The Latin name is in another class and particularly charming: Hippoglossus hippoglossus. But here I will list the Faroese names, which seem to exist in particular profusion:


I remember eating stórlúða and being interrupted, briefly, when the telephone rang. My companion excused himself and took up the receiver, recognized the caller and spoke rapid Faroese into the mouthpiece. Could he call him back? He was just eating dinner with a guest. I listened, enjoying the texture of the fricatives, balancing the fork on my fingers.

miðvikudagur, maí 03, 2006


First Wednesday of every month, this is a test test test, this is only a test, beeping and booping like a trans-Atlantic call that doesn't go through, and then the sirens go.

This is not a test. This time there should be real skirling and piping, by all rights, piping and skirling and solemnity and a drum. We are so advanced now. I did not receive a trans-Atlantic call but a silent pulse of e-mail: a dear friend dead in Copenhagen. I'll miss his merry wit and generousity, his tales of now-vanished places. I miss not having had just one more glass with him, for the road, for what used to be a short, icy walk between our houses, the stirrup-cup, the hestaskál.

Sirens die down now. This has been a test.

Now I just hear it starting in the next group of blocks south of here.

innan við

The inside of a hen's egg is much glossier than the outside.

þriðjudagur, maí 02, 2006


The English verb "to wing" captures my attention today. It means both "to perform or carry out without preparation" and "to shoot a game bird in the wing." I am no hunter, but I believe that winging is a less desirable way to bring down a gamebird, perhaps because it takes less skill or because it does not kill the bird outright. The duck in Ibsens Vildanden had been winged, I think, but it was nursed back to a kind of flightless health. Either way you take it, it is a word with a sense of less than optimal performance. But I think we all have days like that.
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