Halloween on the Ljóðarúta

A chunk of glacier-like ice set up outside of Harpa right now. Earlier in the day, it had a Reykja Vodka sign, but that had disappeared by the evening (stolen by a festival-goer?)

A chunk of glacier-like ice set up outside of Harpa right now. Earlier in the day, it had a Reykja Vodka sign, but that had disappeared by the evening (stolen by a festival-goer?)

Last night, while most of Reykjavík was in full Airwaves swing (some attending in Halloween masks, which I very much appreciated), I was enjoying a much different kind of cultural event: the ljóðarúta, or poetry-bus. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just go ahead and quote my own description of the event:

Under the guidance of poet Sigurlín Bjarney Gísladóttir, passengers will be driven around the city listening to the work of poets who board the bus at stops along the way and then “disappear into the evening darkness.”

Among the poets reading during the hour and a half journey are Gerður Kristný, Sindri Freysson, Þórdís Gísladóttir, Heiða Eiríks, Bjarki Karlsson, Kári Tulinius and Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir.

The poetry bus reading is the closing night event of the Reykjavík Reads literature festival, organized by the Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature office.

I decided on a whim to attend this event, even though all the readings would be in Icelandic. My thinking was that I would probably only understand a quarter—or if I was lucky, a third—of what was going on, but that the experience itself would still be really enjoyable and good practice all at the same time. All of these assumptions ended up being true.

The bus left from Harpa, and I was briefly worried that I wouldn’t find it (the parking area in front of Harpa is rather big, there were a lot of people out, and there wasn’t really a big HERE’S THE POETRY BUS sign anywhere, not to mention that I was looking for an actual Strætó city bus, while we ended up being on a tour bus). But seeing me wander about, one of the people from the City of Literature office took pity and gave me a holler before I turned around and gave up.

I’m hoping that the City of Lit office will publish a full list of the participating poets, because while I didn’t understand all of what was being said, I understood enough to be interested in tracking down the work and spending some time reading and understanding the poems in earnest.

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How Many Larissas in Iceland?

So, what’s in a name? In Iceland, quite a lot. Not only do names here give information about a person’s father (or mother, increasingly), but they are also strictly controlled by the Icelandic Naming Commission, which has the power to decide which names are legal for new parents to select for their newborns. (You probably heard all about the Naming Commission recently with the case of fifteen year old Blær Bjarkardóttir (that’s a matronymic, FYI), who was, up until this year, referred to as “stúlka” (girl) on all her official documentation, because of a dispute over the legality of her name.) Names are a subject of continual interest to Icelanders, and accordingly, the focus of a lot of statistical study.

We recently read an article about Blær’s court case in class, and then I also an reported on this year’s most popular names and general naming trends for the Grapevine. These endeavors lead me to a part of the Hagstofa Íslands (Statistics Iceland) website which I had previously not seen, as they aren’t linked to on the English-only pages.

(I’ll pause briefly just to say that if you are at all interested in esoteric data about Iceland, there is actually a rather lot of fascinating information on the English version of Statistics Iceland, from naming statistics and the number of marriages and divorces there have been since 1951, to the number of overnight stays in Icelandic hotels (broken down by citizenship, even), and the number of books which were published between 1999 and 2010, to how much waste was generated by Icelandic households between 1995 and 2011. Suffice to say, this office produces a wealth of information, publishes a great deal in English, and it is fascinating.)

Anyway, when searching around the Hagstofa website, I ran across a feature called “Hve margir heita?” Or, “How many are named?” This page will allow you to enter any name (first/given names) and find out how many people in the country share it. The resulting statistics are based on the number of people (living, I believe) who are registered with a particular name in the national registry, and also account for whether the name is a first name or second (hyphenated or double names are the norm in Iceland).

So, from this clever little tool I can tell you that as of January 1, 2012, there are three people with the first name Larissa registered in Iceland (no one has Larissa as a second name). And there are five people who have the name Larisa (one ‘s’). And there are 26 Marks (first name), and 22 XX-Marks (second name). I’m not sure if Mark and I are actually included in these statistics, since I don’t know if people who do not have permanent residency or citizenship are included in the national registry or not. (Can anyone clear this up for me?) But either way, I found it very exciting.

And if you just haven’t had your statistical fill yet, there’s another fun little tool. You can see how many people have a specific birthday, too. So now I know that there are 892 people (again: living, I presume) who have a May 8 birthday and nine of those individuals were born in 1984, like me.

Great fun, eh?

Getting Started at the Grapevine

In the event that you, dear readers, want to absorb every single written word that I publish, I have added a page in the right sidebar which will archive all of my daily posts for the Reykjavík Grapevine as well as new feature articles. These will all also be on the Grapevine website, of course, but they’ll all be collected for your ease and enjoyment here, too.

My first two blog posts were published today:

Women in State and Municipal Jobs Average 27% Lower Salaries than Men

Icelandic Wages Have More Than Doubled Since 2005, but Purchasing Power Remains Largely the Same

LFLR: Library of Distinction

Little Free Library Reykjavík

I received some very exciting news yesterday: Little Free Library Reykjavík has been named a “Library of Distinction,” by the Little Free Library organization! This is quite an honor, and we’re in very good company with other unique and exciting little libraries all over the world. You can see all of Little Free Library’s “Libraries of Distinction” (including ours!) on their Pinterest page, here.

Here’s our official certificate:

Certificate of Recognition

I also love the fact that the icon looks a lot like LFLR, placed right next to a tree and a bench!


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I’m re-posting this excellent news from the Little Free Library Reykjavík blog. Very exciting day!

Little Free Library Reykjavík

I am utterly delighted to announce that in just under two weeks, we’ve raised the full €860 for Little Free Library Reykjavík. In fact, we’ve raised more than that: we’ve raised €896, or 104% of our fundraising goal.

So thank you all: those of you who have donated money to the project, who have shared it with other readers in your life, and who have already given your time and talent to getting LFLR off the ground. I’m really excited to start moving forward with the rest of the logistics.

On that note, I’m going to hit the ground running: we’re going to need stickers designed for the outside and inside of all of the LFLR books–anyone who has graphic skills and is interested in designing these, please be in touch!

Also, we’re going to need to set up a network of LFLR stewards. I will have more information about…

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Branding in Translation

There’s something particularly compelling about product design and advertisements in another country. We’re all obviously familiar with being-sold-to, but how that’s actually gone about in other places feels very different somehow. The approach is recognizable, but just slightly skewed, and at least to me, in Iceland, feels slightly more innocuous for its novelty.

My favorite example of novel branding in Iceland thus far is Lambi: the distant adorable cousin of Snuggle and the Charmin Bears, Lambi sells a wide variety of paper products. (Although, full disclosure, Lambi is not an Icelandic brand–I believe it is based somewhere in Scandinavia and is sold throughout Northern Europe). Lambi sells several types of toilet paper, but the one which features the mascot–“an ambassador for a softer world“–in diving goggles and a snorkel, ready to jump in the ocean and tool around with the blue and green whales which are printed on the toilet paper itself, is obviously the best.

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