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The Cod Wars

Here's an interesting piece Atl_Cod.jpgof Icelandic history: the Cod Wars. These wars were fought with England over fishing rights--and quite successfully I might add. I'm sure most people here in the USA have never heard of these wars. Myself, I don't know too much about them except for what I've read in books, so I'll let a few links do the talking.

Here's a web site that I never expected I would visit: yes, it's the web site dedicated to the Trawler Support Vessel "m. v. Miranda".

And another light read on the subject: "The Exclusive Fishing Zones and the Iceland Cod Wars".

And, in case you're looking for a good "beach book" this summer, this one should be perfect.

Oh, and once you've read this article on "British Policies Toward Scandinavia" please send me a summary.

And, finally, if you've weathered my almost interesting Internet findings, you can click here for the ultimate word on the subject.

If anyone, anyone out there has any interesting links about the Cod Wars or has anything at all to say, please do. We're all waiting with bated breath.

janúar 30, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


When I wrote my Reykjavik journal, I, for reasons I can't imagine, neglected to talk about one of the many cool places we visited. Kolaportið is a big fleamarket in Reykjavik that operates on Saturday and Sunday from 11-5. kolaportid.jpg Like fleamarkets here in the States, you can find all of the usual things that people no longer want or never wanted. There is of course clothing, whether its sweaters or vintage or sports gear (Manchester United is very popular in Reykjavik); you can find antiques and jewelry and games and videos and books and toys. All sorts of stuff.

One unique part of the fleamarket though is the food section, featuring all of your favorite fish treats, whether its dried or fresh or salted or whatever. Unlike most other fleamarkets, you can also purchase rotted shark from your favorite fishmonger. fishmonger.jpg mmmmmmm rotted shark. Okay, I didn't try this delicacy when we were there, but I might if the opportunity arises next time. I know that might be a mistake, but it's one I'm willing to make.

Anyway, I don't remember purchasing anything myself, although one item did catch my attention. It was a baseball hat that had the logo of all logos on it: Texas Red Sox. Yes, that's right. The "Texas Red Sox"--why oh why didn't I buy that gem? Or at least take a picture of it. I'm guessing that particular merchandise is not licensed by Major League Baseball. We did a lot of browsing and Kristen bought lots of things though. Her favorite were some scarves, very beautiful items. They were synthetic silk. One was multi-colored, the other was the color of eggshells and had pretty embroidered flowers on it. (Thank you for the description, Kristen. I'll add a picture of them here when I can take one). She also purchased some games which came from Norway or Sweden, I forget which. It was a great experience among great experiences.

Anyway, our adventure there led me to ask a few people in Reykjavik a question about Kolaportið: what's the coolest thing you ever bought there? My first response came from Audi: "The coolest thing I ever bought in Kolaportið was a pair of really cheap sneakers. I loved them passionately and I wore them until there was nothing left of them." And, apparently, shoes are a popular item there because Thora wrote: "The coolest thing I ever bought in Kolaportið: a very old old pair of shoes....a very long time ago!!! I never wore them...but I thought they were cool, they were so old and funky looking. But as I recall I think my mum threw them out soon after!!! They were really cheap so it was ok."

And, finally, from our W.I.T. friend Magga Dora: "I tend not to buy stuff at fleamarkets but I love browsing through books. Me and my beau are avid book collectors on all sorts of subjects and whenever I go to Kolaportið I look for two types of books. Comics and books on computers. There's just something wonderful about leafing through 20 year old books on computers. What was cool at the time? What big claims did they make (on par with "No one will ever need a more powerful machine.")? In one of these books (pub. 1977) a chapter describes what a programmer does. There's even an illustration that shows the tools a programmer needs. This illustration does not include a computer."

Kolaportið is well worth the visit, even if only to spend a few minutes soaking up some of the local atmosphere. If you have ever bought anything there and would like to add to the list of cool finds, please comment below.

janúar 23, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why Can't I Take Photos Like These

I found this beautiful site as I searched the Web. Here are some photos from all over Iceland. I wish my camera could take photos like these.

janúar 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Some time ago one of my readers here suggested that I write about Icelandic chess and the large number of grandmasters for such a small population. Well I haven't had time to write a long entry, so instead I'll provide a couple of links.

First of all, here is an article on Icelandic chess.

Next up, another article, this one on chess in small nations.

And, finally, some links to some Icelandic Chess web sites.


janúar 22, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Some Nice Pictures

In my relentless search of the Internet I came across these great photos of Iceland. If you haven't been there and have only seen tourist office photos, these are a great way to see not only the beauty of Iceland but also the mundane. There's even a photo of McDonalds in there somewhere.

janúar 17, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

All the Way from Akureyri

When you think of “brother bands,” groups like the Kinks or Oasis or even the Black Crowes come quickly to mind--unless you’re in Iceland, in which case you can add 200.000 Naglbítar to that list. Founded in 1993 by brothers Villi and Kári Jónsson clip_image005.jpgwhen they were in their early teens, Naglbítar over the years has been looking more and more like one of those bands that has the potential to break out of Iceland onto the international stage. Along with new drummer, Benni, the brothers play music that they describe as being somewhere between alternative hard rock and mainstream pop.
The band, named after a character in Halldor Laxness’s The Atom Station, is originally from the far northern town of Akureyri, which at 15,000 is Iceland’s second largest. The band got their start there, winning the local Battle of the Bands contest in what was essentially their first public gig. With a sound coming from influences as diverse as the Pixies, the Beach Boys, and Green Day, the band has been pumping out “local” hits over the course of three well-received CDs. In a recent interview, Villi, the band's lead singer, gave me a glimpse into his busy world...

Q: Wow, you've been in a band with your brother since you were 13 or 14. What is that like? Any stories there like you often hear about brother bands?

Villi: Hehehe, well there is a lot that can happen in 11 years. We're very good friends but very different, like brothers often are, I guess. It's great to do what you love to do with your only brother. So when I'm on stage its a great feeling knowing that my brother is beside me. But of course there are those moments when you are on tour and things get tense...But that’s for us to know. I could tell you stories for two straight weeks, but I'd do that eye to eye.

Q: In the years your band has been together, how has the music scene in Iceland changed?

Villi: Well, we’ve been playing together since we were 14 and 15, that makes the band 10 years old so a lot has changed in the music scene here in Iceland. When we started grunge was the main thing and a lot of really bad grunge bands were popular in Iceland along with nostalgic 60’s and 70’s bands. The electro scene and hip-hop are the ones that have made the most progress I think, and thank god for that, Icelandic hip-hop used to be rubbish. Then there are of course bands like Sigur Ros, Quarashi and Mum that have made it so to speak. If I were to pinpoint one specific change it would have to be that the rest of the world is opening its eyes to Icelandic music. It’s always been here and a lot of Icelandic musicians are very talented. So, yeah, I’d say the scene hasn’t changed that much but the world has changed. Spoken like a true Icelander.

Q: From what I've seen of Reykjavik, there seems to be a great deal of good music in a small space. Is this a problem?

Villi: Small venues or a small community? First of all, there are a lot of venues that are good for the underground scene but when your crowd expands there are only a few places that you can turn to and most of them aren’t the sort of places you’d want to play, haven’t got the groove. By this I don’t mean there are not any good places to play, there are a few, but the traditional cover bands have taken over the good venues and the crowd that shows up there expects to hear Bon Jovi covers or “Stairway to Heaven”, no disrespect, rather than original music from an upcoming band.

However the smallness of the community has its advantages also. The artists are all located in a small area and the group is very tight. And people you might want to work with are always within range. Small places always have a lot of advantages but obviously the market is small and it doesn’t take long to get to everyone and people come to know your music very fast.

Q: Other than playing in the band, what do you do?

Villi: I host my own TV show on the Icelandic National Television, 3rd season running. I also paint a lot and write short stories and poems. This is a truly Icelandic thing I think, always doing something, almost too much and on top of that we write poems.

Q: What’s the name of your show?

Villi: The show is called "@" or AT. It's a magazine/music show. Basically taking on what Icelanders age 14-34 are doing. Being a musician myself the music bit is a large part of it...There are also a few things special like "gadget of the week" and stuff. It’s very popular and I'm happy to be doing it.

Q: What bands have influenced your music?

Villi: A lot of old school rock and then bands like The Pixies, Breeders, Blink 182, Green Day and others… but this sums it up, add a bit of Beach Boys / Brian Wilson on top and you have got our music.

Q: Have you ever played in the United States? Do you ever see that happening?

Villi: We’ve never played in the States, unfortunately. Yes I see that happening in the near future. But lack of management and contacts in the States slows things down. But we’d love to fly over...just give us a call and book the thing and we’ll be there.
Q: What clubs do you most like playing in? If I were there, where would I most likely find the best music?

Villi: pheeewww, tough one. Two clubs come to mind if you want live music, Gaukurinn, live music almost every night, and the slightly more alternative Grand Rokk are the ones I’d recommend.

Q: What is your home town, Akureyri, like?

Akureyri is a town of 16.000 "the capital of the North". It’s a town set in the middle of a fjord with high mountains on both sides. Very rich with culture and schools: Art school, University and two large High schools mark its characteristics. This is not the town we were born in. My brother, the bass player in the band, and I were born in one of Reykjavik’s suburbs, Hafnarfjordur. Then we traveled a lot around Iceland with our parents and lived here and there and in Scotland for a year. But Akureyri is a very nice town, needs more people though. All places in Iceland are alike: they say that the next one is rubbish, there's always a pub that stays open till the last man falls and people are very nice everywhere if you get to know them. Icelanders are very open and interested in things going on in the world, Viking traveling heritage I suppose--so if you come over, just ask if you can sit down and chat when you’re in a bar.

Thank you, Villi.

If you're interested in hearing their music, there are samples at their web site (linked to above) or, if you're looking for the CD itself, you can order it here.

janúar 12, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack


Well, I've been away from posting here for a week now. I apologize. I hope you didn't miss me too much. It's been a while since I published a Reykjavik interview but I'm happy to report that I have two great ones coming up in the next few days.

I've noticed that a lot of people find their way here by searching Google for "The Shortest Day of the Year." Do they just want to know what the shortest day is? Do they want to know interesting facts about it? I wonder. Oh, and speaking of interesting facts, that is another popular search topic: "interesting facts" or "interesting facts about Iceland". I hope that my "almost interesting facts" tide them over. Oh, and speaking of "Almost Interesting Facts of the Day" I've added links (over there on the right, under the pretty picture) to some of my "classic" entries for easy reference.

janúar 7, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Happy New Year!

Well, Iceland is famous for its New Years fireworks and I'm happy to have already found some beautiful images on the Internet courtesy of Rainy Monday in Reykjavik. Here's one. I hope she doesn't mind me nicking it: fireworks.jpg

janúar 1, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack