Showing posts from March, 2012

California poppies

in their natural habitat.

Awaiting a decision

While the Icelandic parliament meets to talk about the new constitution, the Supreme Court of the U.S. is making its decision about the Obama Health Care law. The Supreme Court decision is not expected until June, although I guess the Icelandic parliament will vote will be known sooner than that. The final result on the constitution though won't be known until an election can be held, as far as I understand it. I can of course say what I think should happen with both of these things, but then my opinion on the matter doesn't make much of a difference!

I forget what it is called...

I read about this simple way to determine how male-centric a movie is. If a film does not contain these three things, then we ought not to be showing it to our children: Have at least two female characters with names Have those female characters speak directly to one another Have that conversation be about something other than a man It is amazing how few movies pass this test.

Historic injustices

Last night, after reading this blogpost ,I decided to take a look at my bookshelves, to see what unread books I had there. I should add that I do not really have a good sense of my personal library these days, partially because my book shelves are filled with books I have taken out of the library for my dissertation research, and partially because at least half of my personal books are still in my cousin's garage in Sandgerdi. I also lost quite a number of my books during the great shipping fiasco of 2009. But since I have gotten here to Berkeley, I have acquired a few books, other than the one's I checked out, without thinking too much about it. There is a "free book" table at my department, and I guess at some point in time I took from that table a Norwegian translation of Juan Carlos. I was just about to plop down on the couch and start reading that, when I noticed another unread book on my shelf, Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. If I recall correctly, we wa


Today we took the new graduate student out to lunch, and of course we all shared our stories of why we were in the Scandinavian department. When it came to me, I talked about my mom and my recent experience living in Iceland. And then Erin, the new girl, asked if I planned to go back there. Tomorrow I am having lunch with a senior colleague, who has said he's eager to hear about my post-graduation plans. If I had any post-graduation plans, I suppose writing that sentence would not make me cry.

Sweet Home Alabama

Last night I stayed up much too late watching the romantic comedy "Sweet Home Alabama" with Reese Witherspoon. I have seen it a number of times, but it is a nuanced enough film, with a rather subtle transformation of the main character, for me to still find it interesting. Plus it uses the symbolism of glass--specifically of lightening striking sand to create glass sculptures--that I find incredibly cool. The plot may strike some though as unlikely, since it involves a young fashion designer from a very poor family in Alabama getting engaged to the handsome and wealthy son of the mayor of New York, and then breaking off that engagement (as she is walking down the aisle) to go back to her childhood sweetheart. Part of the reason this seems unlikely is that the handsome and wealthy son is also incredibly nice to Reese Witherspoon's character, showering her with compliments and expensive gifts. But I, at least, got a bad taste in my mouth about him from the way he proposes

Raising taxes

California is in a series budget crisis, with a growing deficit and a shrinking revenue stream. Part of the reason for this is all of the special propositions over the years that have been passed, requiring the legislature to pay for certain things from certain revenue streams, and not pay for other things out of other revenue streams. The whole system has left the politicians in Sacramento fairly paralyzed in terms of how to make changes or adjustments to the budget. This November, there will be propositions on the ballot to increase taxes in California. The one submitted by the Governor will raise income tax on the very wealthy, and increase the sales tax, and let all revenue go to the general fund, instead of being earmarked for this or that. It sounds like a good proposal, and I hope it passes. Ironically, it will take a 2/3 majority for it to pass, because of another proposition passed in the 1970s. By contrast, raising taxes in Iceland seemed a much simpler affair. The legi

Violence and children

Palmer just finished reading a book called Peter Nimble, which, although it has a happy ending, has a very dark and violent first few chapters. My son is really not a fan of people being mean to each other or hurting each other or being killed or even dying. His father just ordered him the full set of Harry Potter books, which to me will be even worse than Peter Nimble because of the constant air of tension, betrayal, and intrigue at his magic school. One little bit of violence seems better than a constant sense of tension and uncertainty. But both are part and parcel of life, I guess.

Icelandic blogs

About four years ago, I started reading Icelandic blogs. Ones on Eyjan, ones on, some on, and on It started out as a productive way for me to learn modern Icelandic vocabulary. What I had learned in school at Berkeley was Old Norse; we don't teach modern Icelandic. And what I had learned at home from my family was rather simple conversation. No one talked to their half American cousin about Icelandic politics or government or laws. So I have really learned so much reading Icelandic blogs. My language skills have improved immeasurably, but more importantly I feel like I have been given an amazing free course on Icelandic civics. It has been so interesting and enlightening, and well I really should thank everyone whose blog I read, which is basically any Icelandic blog I see. Ever since I was a young girl, I have wanted to understand Icelandic culture, which I recognized even then as totally distinct from American culture. Through reading your blog


The Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies is an American scholarly organization that mainly does two things: publishes the journal Scandinavian Studies and organizes the annual SASS conference. This year the conference will be in Salt Lake City, because one of the most active academic departments in the country for Scandinavian Studies is Bringham Young University in Utah. Although the university and most of the professors there are mormon, the conference will not be a non-alcoholic conference. Which is a good thing, since it is really the social aspect of the conference that makes it so great; reconnecting with old class mates and colleagues who are flung across this vast country. It is a small enough community of scholars that we do, generally speaking, get to know one another, especially if one goes to this conference regularly, which is fairly intimate by academic conference standards (smaller than the Saga Conference in my experience). The quality of the papers is ra


When I moved back to Southern California in 2003, after my work at the Smithsonian was over, I met Sigurjón, who was then the Icelandic Consulate in LA. I told him about my work with the Viking exhibition, and he mentioned that he thought the world was still waiting for a really great Viking film. When I went to see him at his offices in LA a few months later, I arrived terribly overdressed - it turns out that people who work on films dress really casually, I had no idea! - and much too nervous to have any sort of decent conversation. But he told me that his friend was working on something that might be really epic, related to Njals Saga. I don't know if Mel Gibson's announcement about doing a Viking film (I met the woman who gave Mel the first draft of that script back in 2004 and still get Christmas cards from her) delayed other projects, or what. But it seems to me neither Jóni, nor his friend, have done an epic Viking movie of late.

Móðirin í Íslenskum Ljósmyndum / Mothers in Icelandic Photographs

Today I received in the mail a beautiful book, filled with photographs of Icelandic women and their babies. It is the exhibition catalogue from the Reykjavík Museum of Photography's exhibition from the year 2000, when Reykjavík was a European City of Culture. Reading through the book made me tear up, think of my mom and my grandmother and all the photographs I have seen in all the livingrooms of all the family members I have spent time with in Iceland. It made me think of the exhibition at the National Museum, which I have analyzed in an article for Nordisk Museologi as a statement of the importance of women in Icelandic history. And it made me think of all the women I know back in Iceland, most of them mothers, some of them grandmothers, all of them lovely.

Good morning

It is a cold clear morning here in California, after several days of rain. In a little bit, I will be going with Palmer's class to the Botanical Gardens at UC Berkeley. Palmer has been learning about botany the last few weeks and has really enjoyed it. So I am looking forward to taking a guided tour of the gardens with him and his classmates. When I was living in Iceland, I rather missed being able to go to a botanical garden. There are of course lovely parks and gardens in Iceland, but a botanical garden combines the enjoyment of a stroll in the park with the enjoyment of learning something new. In a botanical garden, there is a sign next to each tree and flower telling visitors exactly what species it is, and often other interesting facts about the plant's life cycle. In the US, we call places like that "opportunities for life-long learning." I do not believe there is an equivalent Icelandic term, for the same reason there are no botanical gardens in Iceland.