Saturday, February 21, 2009

It has become clear that the title of this blog is not really fair or accurate.  Yes, in the depth of winter, there are at best 4 house of daylight, but each day rushes to the endless days of mid summer by adding  7 minutes of sun light.  As a I set out to write at 630 PM.  But it is a nice hook.  and the undeniable  brevity of those first days, the pitch dark mornings  and lingering jet lag - ok it doesn't hurt that I talk to Darla on Skype when I return from school and her day is starting.  Time is out of joint   - but not as Hamlet whines, oh cursed spite....  but because it is maybe the nature of time.  

This has been a social week.  Three nights of dinner out, including with Karl August Olfssonn who was a grad playwriting student at OU 92-95 I believe.  Had dinner at his house.  It was nice to see his wife Austis, his daughter who was born in Athens, OH, and his youngest who is I think 6.  His eldest is 25 or so. .. Karl is one of the most famous people in Iceland.  He has been the head writer and one of the stars of their weekly comedy series for more than 20 years. The show is political, topical, satirical - and according to Karl, in these times where their government has fallen, their economy is bankrupt, and people are taking to the streets literally daily, they are being kept on their toes.  It would kind of be as if the Tracy Ullman show were on for 22 years, mixed with a bit of Saturday Night Live.  

This last week I began  the second of my classes allowing me to encounter the Theory and Practice program from the start and the finish.  The 3rd year students have each returned from a semester abroad - Amsterdam,  Glasgow, Brno.  Now I am teaching them their final directing class.  A series of composition so-called 'devising' projects.  Leave it to the Brits to devise a term for the kind of work I have been doing all my career - and many others.  Decroux devised every piece he ever made. I despise the term devise.  To me it feels precious and pretentious.   I understand it. I wish I had a better term to suggest.  I still feel it is a term that comes form a contrast to obedience to playwriting as THE source of theater.   That's another conversation altogether.  In any case, the students in the program are from diverse backgrounds -  theater, visual art, design.  One of the first  year students earns his living as an Icelandic commentator for Ultimate fighting on TV.  

Newsy stuff for me.  Darla will arrivein one week and stay for 9 days.  Excursions are being planned and the blog  - which could hardly be more infrequent, may paise.  I am also invited to Oslo and Fulbright is helping here.  I'll be visiting Bredan McCall who is rector at TITAN, An independent Theater School in Oslo.  Looking forward to that.  Lucky to have met him through Peter Schmitz.

OK, now I'll just post some photos I have been intending to
South Western Coast
Near Selfoss

Icelandic Horses at Gunar and Kristbjorg Arnarson's breeding farm

The Iceland Arts Academy Theater and Music Departments building

Friday, February 13, 2009

The site of the epicenter of the May 2008 earthquake near the city of Selfoss, approximately 30 miles south of Reykjavik. .  

It seems clear that this blog is not going to function as a journal.  Perhaps as a response to the weather, distance, isolation - frankly the comfort of this apartment, and most likely and to the point, a real need (whether I want or not) to spend some time alone, I don't find I have much to say at the moment.  I did refer to open doors/gates and have shared some photos, and will share more.   

With virtually free heat (geothermal) , shop doors are left at least slight but perceptibly open - when shops are open. There is little plowing or shoveling of snow that becomes ice and is slowly melting in specific places - though cold patches seem to persist -  due in part to rain that is now falling, in part to general warming, and because there seem to be hot spots, even on the streets and sidewalks.  Included below (or above, as I have yet to master this layout part of this blog) are some photos of other kind of hot spot.  On a trip organized by the newly formed Icelandic Fulbright alumni association,  the epicenter of last May's earthquake has brought up new hot springs, boiling water / mud within the icy hilltop. 

The other dominant aspect is the collapse of the government, the world's first (out) lesbian prime minister, and the shift of mass action and protests to force the resignation of the head of the national bank, the main culprit of Credit- Default Swaps, and personification of the economic catastrophe that is the Icelandic economy.    He is [apparently] something of a rock-star level 
dynamo, former prime minister.  

10000kr  the real 10,000 Kroner note is worth about $85.  A year a
go it was probably worth about $160 or maybe more. This posting has taken an interesting turn.  I have attended some of the protest including Monday of this week.  They are loud, drums, pots and pans, all at this point with the intent of keeping David Oddsson from going to his office at the central bank (which happens to be down the street from the Theater Department, close enough to where I live that I can hear the protests, including fire works that on the even of Obama's inauguration I mistook for sharing our
 celebration.  Humility lesson for me here.  The blurry guy at the left of this photo is someone one of my students called Siggy Punk (sp?), a  well know musician, author and political activist.  

Here's a photo of the front of the Academy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I've been kind of lazy and out of it.  Also keep forgetting my camera.  Tomorrow is a day trip to the south coast arranged by the Fulbright office.  Camera battery is charging.  I'll be including some everyday observations on snow, streets, her and who knows.  Here's something to see.  Looks like I may have a kind of series of open gates and doors.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Now it looks like Iceland

Here is a series of Photos I took today.  It snowed last night and has been snowing off and on since then.  This is part of the center of Reykjavik, residential, nice and especially quiet today.  I am so fortunate to be in this part of town.  Postal code 101, and called the 101.  I'll include more text and more and more various photos in a future entry.  I feel nearly settled. Class is going well.  Students are interested and attentive.  Tomorrow I am going on a backstage tour of the National Theater.  Frankly, I hope it keeps snowing.  It is so beautiful. 


I've joined a ginormous gym (this  is not a photo of the gym but part of the Cathedral that is not covered by scaffolding) with classes in 4 gargantuan studios, every kind of machine and free-weight,  Olympic size indoor pool, both indoor and outdoor hot spring pool, an spa (costs extra but I may splurge on a massage at some point). In the main room, 75 treadmills, as many stair steppers and stationary bicycles.  There are no membership cards, but an iris scanner. 
I haven't tried the pools yet. Not yet used to the slight sulfur aroma that all hot water has here. 

Alright, that's probably more than enough about the gym.  One more  photo.   I love these painted corrugated metal houses, especially when surrounded by white buildings and the snow, with the low angled light, really can be stunning.  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

breaking the Iceland blogosphere

Today is the end of my first week in

 Reykjavik.   As someone who has never had much trouble adjusting to time zone changes – I have been travelling abroad for nearly 30 years – this adjustment has been unique.   I think I am just about adjusted to the time zone change -  the same as if I were in London.   

Temperature has been hovering on one side or the other of  freezing, with a forecast for slightly warmer temperatures.  As I write, the wind that was gusting all night continues to whistle.

Today is a non-teaching day for me.  I teach in the morning.  There is nothing particularly unusual about getting up for work before dark in the winter, but there must be more to it than visible light .  It feels like night - wavelengths beyond the eye’s ability to perceive, radiations or forces seem absent, then the constantly developing shades of blue.  Certainly the quality of light and the variety is stunning and continually changing.

Speaking of beginnings, how about this:

Having spent all of inauguration day watching CNN, BBC, listening to NPR, pod casts.  Skyping with Darla.   It is of course day 2 of the era of hope and dignity, positive purpose, and a feeling of possibility.  Without wasting my time, nerves, and blog space characterizing the disastrous time we have exited, it is impossible to describe, especially at t his distance what having a thoughtful, no bullshit, serious, bad-ass as our president; an actual leader, not a cheer leader means to me and I hope to the world.  To have a president for whom I don’t feel like I have to explain, but moreover one who so clearly has an idea of the world, of human justice and dignity is inspiring to say the least.  It was difficult to be so far from the US – something I’ve never felt before.  When Ronald Reagan was elected, I was in France – shocked.  I almost feel as though this is the end of THAT era, not just the current disaster. Is it actually, finally the end of the Nixon era? I guess it depends on how far back we want to look.

The work at the Academy has also begun well.  I am working with a diverse group of first year students in the Theory and Practice program.  More on that soon.

Another kind of beginning, the political and economic situation in Iceland is dire and serious. As this photo shows and as I have heard all evening from my apartment – even over the roaring wind, thousands of people gather each day to demonstrate for the resignation of the government. This is the first such political action in Icelandic independent history.  The government and banks are accused of ignoring warnings and squandering (gambling) with the entire economy.  HMMMM, sounds familiar, no?   These demonstrations are large – in the thousands of people.  If the same proportion turned out in France for example, it would be a gathering of more than 500,000 people. 

Monday, January 19, 2009


Tomorrow I will write about my first impressions of the Academy and the first day of teaching.  Until then, here are some photos. This one is the view to the North from the kitchen.  

This is the view to the south from the living room.


Old and new architecture in a Reykjavik  town square. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The light

Arriving at 630 in the morning, the sky was still dark as night.  No surprise there.  However, the change in the color of the sky through the morning, the variations of blue, especially as reflected in the water of the bay around 945AM through the window of the studio, was stunning.  Something like a deeper international Klein Blue.  I know, this blog can carry photos, but I didn't take a photo.  It felt as though it would have been disrespectful both to the moment and my host who was giving me a tour of the building. 

When the sun came up  - I saw sunshine though not the sun itself- the quality of the light was like nothing I've experienced.  I can't describe it yet, and as it is now past midnight and raining, I may have to wait a few days.  

I'l be spending the weekend completing Fall quarter 'reports', getting over jet lag, and getting my cupboards stocked, getting a mobile phone arranged (I hope) and making sure I can watch the swearing in of President Obama (!) on Tuesday.  Yes I will.  

I am on GMT which means the same as London.  When it is noon here it is 7 AM in Brooklyn, 6 AM in  Chicago, and 4AM in Madras, OR. 

I think that's all for the moment.  When I am less tired I will try to describe my arrival and trip. 

I start teaching on Monday at 830AM.  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The transition to actually feeling like I am on sabbatical has been slow and awkward.  Preparing to depart on Thursday evening  - so much to do.  I'll be hitting the ground running, as I arrive on a Friday and begin teaching on Monday, which is MLK day AND the day before Obama's inauguration!!!   Oh Happy day. I'll miss being at home with Darla and in the country on that day.   Will be there in spirit - and on line...

I'm trying to make the most of every minute with darla.  Mostly over the next few days, we are working on settling details about our wedding in May and  I am preparing my course - I haven't been able to simply concentrate on teaching and work in the studio for a very long time.

More when I arrive.