Wednesday, 21 December 2022

8x8 (10. 350)

gadgetbahn: displacing solid public transportation networks with amusement park rides won't address underlying traffic problems 

senior superlatives: the most interesting fonts and typefaces of the year  

👍: the ten best films of 2022  

seneca falls: the altruistic act that is said to have inspired It’s A Wonderful Life and other festive adventures in audio with Josie Long  

fæðingarsaga: listen again to an eleven-year-old Björk Guðmundsdóttir recite the Nativity Story in Icelandic  

as it was: some the most popular songs of the year  

shot sage blue marilyn: the most expensive works of art trading hands this year  

chief twit: abiding by results of a poll, Elon Musk announced he will step down as CEO of the social media platform as soon as a replacement can be identified

Monday, 3 October 2022

the modal nodes (10. 193)

Joining musicians whose signature sound spans from Cold Play to the Animal collective, Björk—promoting her new album, Fossora, also cites Figrin D’an and band as inspiration—an ongoing celebration of the Cantina Band that had its start with a disco remix. An unfortunately named interpretation of Dixieland, the number likely is the connection that many have with that particular genre of jazz.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

8x8 (10. 174)

on pointe: an Australian ballet company recites an alphabet of foot poses  

detour: experts urge adding a Venus-flyby to first crewed mission to Mars  

suaviter in modo, fortiter in re: the Royal Mail’s Investigative Branch is the oldest recognized crime fighting organisation in the world—via Messy Nessy Chic  

puffling: with blása Icelanders help to reset sea bird chicks internal compass  

bisexual lighting: the story of a strange picture and other Wikipedia articles in need of an illustration—via Super Punch  

only you could be so bold: whilst Putin invades Ukraine, a studio in Kyiv is creating the voice of Darth Vader

asteroid! coming in from the void: ripped from the headlines 

tiptoe: performer dazzles with their bottle-walking routine

Friday, 27 May 2022


city in a bottle: a bit of micro-coding from Frank Force (previously) decoded—via Waxy    

kr: the Icelandic Graphic Design Association (FÍT, Félag íslenskra teiknara) issues a challenge to come up with a glyph for their króna  

nécessaire: a French borrowing—see also—for kit and carry  

enough: TIME magazine’s cover lists the two-hundred thirteen US cities that have had mass-shootings this year, so far  

social sentinel: a look at the dubious pre-crime predictive software that ill-serves society and the reliance on tech to come to the rescue in general  

party line: last bank of public phones removed from New York City—see also here, here, here and here  

swiss miss: Tina Roth Eisenberg celebrates her seventeenth blogoversary tesserae: MIT Lab develops autonomous modular tiles to create structures and habitats in space

Sunday, 22 May 2022

per my last email

Courtesy of JWZ, we are treated to another campaign from Visit Iceland (see previously here and here) that invites travellers to relax and back up that Out-of-Office auto-reply by Out-Horsing one’s email and truly disconnect and enjoy vacation. Select equine understudies are equipped with giant keyboards to prance and stamp on and answer all one’s work inquiries. The tourism authorities campaign also highlights some of the outstanding natural beauty of the island and the their native breed of horses. More at the link above, including some video demonstrations.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

land of fire and ice

Architect Arnhildur Palmadottír revealed a monumental lavaforming proposal that would harness and redirect volcanic eruptions in order to create durable and sustainable buildings and pavements. While there are scaling and technical hurdles—plus ensuring that these controlled eruptions don’t release more carbon into the atmosphere than they save and sequester, this radical reassessment of geothermal potential as something bold and innovative, engineering a closed system, like a reverse Dyson Sphere.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022


homo loquax: Futility Closet refers us to an expanded listing for the taxonomical name sapient human with some choice Latinate adjectives to describe us 

crate-digging: Jimmy Carter’s grandson is exploring the White House’s surprisingly hip vinyl collection—via Messy Nessy Chic  

le bestiaire fabuleux: a 1948 artists’ collaboration of a surreal and abstract menagerie—see also  

sabbatical: Jason Kottke takes a break from blogging and poses the questions that probably haunt everyone in this community—come back soon  

mörkrets makter: the very different (though retaining the epistolary format) unauthorised translation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula familiar to Icelanders  

stratification: exploring the historic map layers of London—via Things Magazine  

word-horde: daily vocabulary lessons in Anglo-Saxon words

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

alþing considered

On this day in 1949, a peaceful march and rally in the Austurvöllur public square before the national parliament building in Reykjavík to protest against the country’s accession to NATO, the Western alliance and re-militarising of Iceland (see previously) unwelcome by many, turned violent after prominent members of the Socialist Party (Sameiningarflokkur alþýðu) claimed they were being held hostage, pulled with the rest of the country unwillingly into the Cold War. Protests continued after police dispersed the main crowd with tear gas—the first time such methods were used in Iceland—and the police never again had to resort to such measures until the 2009 Pots and Pans Revolution stemming from the financial crisis, and the people of Iceland have had an ambivalent relationship with sending forces since.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021


dress rehearsal: for a quarter of a century, an individual attended his own funeral  

dominical letters: how the artificial unit of the week came to govern our lives—see also  

carceral publications: a collection of US prison newspapers  

yes or no questions: celebrate the conclusion of Futility Closet’s eight plus year run with a final episode of lateral thinking puzzles  

hvorugkynsnafnorð: despite progress in the choices for human naming conventions, the Icelandic governing body for horses is still highly gendered  

regenerative medicine: researchers develop “xenobots” capable of biological self-replication—via Waxy  

amigone: aptly named mortuary services—via Super Punch

Friday, 10 September 2021


central solenoid: installation of a powerful giant magnet brings experimental fusion project a step closer to completion 

cléo from 5 to 7: discovering an Agnes Varda classic 

la société du spectacle: an update of the 1974 Situationist Guy Debord’s critique of mass marketing and estrangements of modern society  

raise high the roof beam: experience a house inside a barn 

wtc: a profile of architect Minoru Yamasaki, best known for designing New York’s World Trade Center  

ccs: Iceland’s carbon capture and sequestration plant (previously) goes on-line

Wednesday, 1 September 2021


With precedent disputes just after WWII and reignited after a fashion with Brexit fishing negotiations, the Cod Wars began in earnest on this day in 1958 when Iceland expanded its territorial waters to the edge of maritime claims by the UK and West Germany, with all sides sustaining losses over the next two decades as this protracted conflict continued with boats ramming into one other and the fishing nets of trawlers cut. Although in the aftermath of each skirmish, the International Court of Justice sided with Iceland’s claim, no resolution was reached until 1976 when Iceland threatened to withdraw from NATO if the matter wasn’t settled once and for all, an action that would denied the alliance’s submarines access to a strategic part of the North Sea (see also) at the height of the Cold War, brokering an agreement amenable to all parties. Following on from the truce, the United Nations codified the Law of the Sea and standardised exclusive nautical economic zones.

Friday, 30 July 2021


Twin brother and complementary to the Norse goddess Freyja (‘Lady’ and name-giver to Friday) the fertility deity Freyr (‘Lord’) is the patron of virility, sacral rule—in other words theocratic kingship whereby the monarch is also priest and judge—as well as fair weather, a good harvest, peace and prosperity.  Granted domain by the gods over Álfheimr, realm of the light elves as an infant as a teething gift, Freyr’s steed is a mechanical boar called Gullinbursti, a tribute from the dwarves and from the magic of Odin the fine ship Skíðblaðnir that can be folded up and kept in a pouch when not in use plus arms including an enchanted sword that fights on its own.  Having little truck with man, Freyr seems a mythological figure belonging to the other legendary races and perhaps signals the weekend for elven kind.  In one of the better attested sagas, Freyr is besotted with a giantess named Gerðr (Old Norse for Fenced-In). His advances rebuffed, Freyr grows despondent and lovesick and recruits one of his footmen, Skínir, to go to Jötunheimr (the Realm of the Giants) to woo Gerðr on his behalf. Even though as a Vanr is gifted, cursed with foresight and knows bereft of his magic sword his fate is to be vanquished at Ragnarök, Freyr promises it to his surrogate as a reward.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021


snuck out in the middle of the night: The Onion forecasted the West’s hasty departure from Afghanistan a decade ago 

fjögurra daga vinnuviku: a pilot experiment reducing what’s defined as full-time a stupendous success in Iceland  

nine seasons: geniuses from the Hood Internet (see previously) remixed the Seinfeld theme with a hit song from every year it aired 

carriage shift: a LEGO typewriter inspired by the model of the toy’s creator  

subrident: a story told with some edifying vocabulary words  

15-minute cities: natural language map queries 

low-level pokemon, normally easily defeated, stuck guarding locations, perhaps indefinitely: augmented reality sites abandoned at Bagram Airbase

Thursday, 17 June 2021


As Iceland drops fees and bureaucratic onus to change one’s (to opt out of the matronymic or patronymic construction scheme) name and gender marker, the Czech Republic is poised to enact legislation that would reform the centuries old requirement for feminised surnames, further dismantling the patriarchy. If successful, all women will be able to choose whether or not to formally adopt the “-ová” suffix upon marriage and buck the declension rules of the language—exemptions granted in rare cases when the betrothed intends to live outside of Czechia or marries a foreigner. There is a heated debate between progressives and purists. Though many media outlets have chosen not to respect the naming convention, the rule applies to public figures as well with activist and tennis star Martina Navratilova rendered in the domestic press as Martina Navrátilovaová.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

we demand a borda count

Jingoism and patriotism by-proxy upstaging message and entertainment value aside in voting (see previously) for the grand prix winner of the Eurovision song contest aside—Italy (see also) made a surprise showing for first place with a fine and enthusiastic homage to glam rock—the juxtaposing shots (and tribute) to the audience assembled for the party in Rotterdam were in keeping with original spirit of the spectacular meant to harmonise broadcast linkages across the continent. The pictured artist is the talented Norwegian performer called by his stage name TIX as an acknow-ledgement that he has overcome Tourette’s syndrome—which I misheard at first as duet syndrome.  Though at first seeming premature and irresponsible to allow such gatherings as we continue to beat back the pandemic, it was revealed that the volunteer revellers were taking part in a hopefully safe and scientifically sound experiment to see if and how large scale events could be held securely with no outbreaks and danger to public health.  Among our  favourites was Iceland’s entry Daði & Gagnamagnid—which was unable to play live in the hall after one band member tested positive for COVID—with Ten Years.

digital minoritization

In a valiant effort to save their native language from obsolescence by the dominance of English not just as a global lingua franca but also as the default of technology and media within and without their horizons, a middle-school class in Reykjavík paradoxically represents both the cause of Icelandic’s endangerment but also its potential salvation. As savvy and confident as the students are in global English (there are far more so called non-native speakers than those that live in the UK and former colonies that Indians and Icelanders have as much claim as Australians and Americans) they couldn’t conceive of an Iceland without Icelandic and are training, at the urging of their teacher, to recite, to incant, the Prose Edda, the epic of Snorri Sturluson to their laptops and tablets, in order that one day—eventually—the computer answers back, in Icelandic, and save the language from stafrænn dauði, digital death.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

matronym or organised kaos

The regulatory body in Iceland, Kynhlutlausa—the national naming authority (see also), in addition to approving the names Ingaló, Sanný, Gulla, Róma, Bertmarí, Estíva, Gulla, Lucas, Theo and Søren has also enacted previously passed legislation that restricts names to specific genders and allows neutral assignment and can give themselves whatever name they choose. Some resistance circulated due to grammar and standard Icelandic orthography but such differences can be set aside.

Sunday, 21 February 2021


gerontologists hate them: two Florida women disguise themselves as “grannies” hoping to get vaccinated sooner—via the New Shelton/Wet-Dry 

the sleeping sharks of isla mujeres: Jaws-inspired speedo-fest that’s a favourite of Quentin Tarantino

orchestral manoeuvres in the dark: thirty-five years on, the soundtrack to Pretty in Pink is timeless

a searchlight productions: find actors, colours, objects in movies—try kitten, fox or cheese, via Waxy  

a working-class hero is something to be: an obsessive photographic provenance of every figure featured on the Sgt Pepper’s album cover—see also here and here 

it gettu betur each time you watch the clip: gentleman on Icelandic quiz show responds poorly to losing ruling against his answer 

covax, co-pay: prices per vaccine paid globally varies widely, often not representative of purchasing-power

Tuesday, 5 January 2021


We always enjoy—albeit too often only vicariously and not as active readers who’ve done the assignment beforehand—listening to episodes of the BBC World Book Club and are usually drawn in, intrigued to add a new title to the pile, by a thoroughgoing discussion that some might call spoilers but strike me more as insights from the author. A recent instalment featuring poet, lyricist and novella-writer Sigurjón “Sjón” Birgir Sigurðsson, sometimes collaborator with The Sugarcubes and Björk and his now very timely 2013 work Mánasteinn: drengurinn sem aldrei var til (Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was) about identity, otherness and escapism through cinema in Reykjavík just as the nation is granted independence and the island is visited by the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Visit the link up top to listen to the programme and learn what’s next on their reading list.

Monday, 16 November 2020

dagur íslenskrar tungu

Celebrated annually since 1996 with accolades presented to the individual or group that has significantly contributed to the language, the Day of the Icelandic Language was picked for this date in honour of the poet, naturalist and independence activist Jónas Hallgrímsson (*1807 – †1845). Clerk to the sherrif of Reykjavík and studying for the bar, Jónas later went to metropolitan Copenhagen to complete his law degree but instead found himself far more enamoured with literature and natural sciences and so switched his focus of study, writing poems and founding a patrotic newsletter, Fjölnir, that argued for autonomy and promoted the native language of the island, based on Old Norse with little outside influence. Dividing his time between Denmark and Iceland, Jónas died of blood poisoning, aged thirty-seven, having slipped on a flight of stairs going up to his apartment. Let’s lighten the mood and build your vocabulary with the way the language forms new terms at the link here, cutely illustrated by Eunsan Huh.