Four years in the making, “Venus” by Bríet and Ásgeir Released

Arnarhóll

Musicians Bríet and Ásgeir Trausti released the song Venus this morning. In an interview this morning, Ásgeir Trausti stated that work on the song had begun four years ago but was not finished until this year.

Eleven years since Dýrð í dauðaþögn

It’s been eleven years since Ásgeir Trausti released the song Dýrð í dauðaþögn from the eponymous album. The song and the album enjoyed enormous popularity. A year later, in 2013, Ásgeir released an English version of the album, In the Silence.

On the occasion of the album’s tenth anniversary last year, Bríet released a cover of the song that can be found on the album Stór agnarögn.

Venus, four years in the making

This morning, Ágeir and Bríet released their first collaborative effort, Venus.

In an interview with Iceland Review this morning, Ásgeir explained that he and Bríet had begun working on the song four years ago: “A sketch of the song was originally created a few years ago when Júlíus Róbertsson and I were playing around with a recorder,” Ásgeir explained. “I then showed the song to Bríet in 2018, and we decided to work on it together. There was no time to finish it then, but we took it out of the drawer again this year and finally finished it.”

Read More: Love, Bríet (Iceland Review follows Bríet on Culture Night)

IR also spoke to Bríet who added that “life had simply taken over” during those four intervening years.

Asked about her favourite part of the song, Bríet referred to the lyrics: “When we sing about Venus illuminating the Milky Way. I love how that line makes me look up and admire the stars. Ásgeir Trausti, asked the same question, referred to the chorus: “(My favourite part) is when the first chorus starts. A fun groove begins, to which you can start dancing.”

Read More: Music and Lyrics (Ásgeir Trausti on his album Bury the Moon)

As for the immediate future, Ásgeir will be working with musician Árný Margrét in the studio, recording her second album. “Then there are a few gigs in the fall, including a concert with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in November. And a European tour in November and December. Otherwise, I’m just always working on new music, my own and with others.”

Bríet has one thing on her schedule over the coming weeks. “To be happy.”

Kitten Found Safe Amid Fire Ruins in Hafnarfjörður

Slökkvilið höfuðborgarsvæðisins bs / Facebook. Fire in Hafnarfjörður, August 20, 2023

A young kitten named Koddi was discovered on Wednesday atop the fire-damaged industrial building in Hafnarfjörður where a blaze erupted on Sunday, RÚV reports. The kitten was among four pets reported missing in the wake of the fire.

Building Lacked Adequate Fire Safety Measures

Questions have been raised about the building’s fire safety, as the industrial structure was inadequately equipped to protect its occupants. Authorities are still determining the number of people who may have been living in the facility, which was not zoned for residential use. The building is now considered a total loss.

Quick Response from Local Witnesses

As noted by RÚV, Guðrún Gerður Guðbjörnsdóttir, a local resident who witnessed the blaze, immediately contacted emergency services. Upon realising her daughter lived in the affected building, Gerður rushed into the building to awaken her daughter and her partner. The young couple shared their home with one dog and three cats.

Ongoing Search Efforts Yield Results

Rescue teams successfully located and rescued the couple’s dog and one of the cats soon after the fire was extinguished. Efforts continued to find the remaining missing pets, which led to the discovery of Koddi.

Sandra Ósk Jóhannsdóttir, a volunteer with animal welfare organisation Dýrfinna, stated in an interview with RÚV: “We saw the reflection of Koddi’s eyes from the road above the fire site. Despite responding to calls and treats, the young kitten refused to budge from the rooftop.”

Koddi’s owner was eventually brought to the scene. “Koddi became noticeably more vocal upon hearing a familiar voice; it was so relieved” Sandra observed. Evidently comforted, the kitten made his way down and jumped into its owner’s arms.

Aftermath and Ongoing Search for Missing Pets

While Koddi was discovered near his former home, the apartment is among the structure’s total losses. Sandra observed that it had been heart-rending, watching Koddi alone among the ruins. She added that Koddi had been visibly relieved, frequently purring and napping since being reunited with his owner.

Public Alert for Three More Missing Cats

The animal welfare organisation Dýrfinna continues to search for three additional cats believed to have survived the fire. The organisation is urging the public to report any sightings of the missing pets (see below FB post).

Minister Questions Rising Prices Amid Strengthening Króna

Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir

The Minister of Culture and Business Affairs is seeking clarification from major grocery chains on why the prices of perishable goods have risen, despite a strengthening króna and a global downturn in inflation, RÚV reports.

Impact of Tourism on Inflation

On Wednesday, the central bank increased its key interest rate by 0.5%, bringing it to 9.25%. Leaders from the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) and the VR union have expressed concerns about the tourism industry’s rapid expansion, arguing that it has led to an overheated economy. However, Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, who also manages tourism matters, countered some of these claims in an interview with RÚV. She pointed out that the expected number of tourists for the current year mirrors 2018 figures, indicating that the growth isn’t as significant as some suggest. Furthermore, increased tourism means a stronger króna.

“Because the tourism sector has been doing well, it has funnelled substantial foreign currency into the country. This inflow of foreign funds has actually helped curb inflation by strengthening the króna,” Lilja Alfreðsdóttir noted.

Unexplained Rise in Price of Perishable Goods

Lilja found it noteworthy that, according to the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank, the price of perishable goods has surged by 12.2% year-over-year. This is perplexing, given that the króna has appreciated by 6.6% and global inflation rates have fallen. She has called upon the key market players to provide an explanation for this unexpected trend.

“Meetings are scheduled with major vendors of perishable goods early next week, and we will also consult additional sources, such as Statistics Iceland, to understand the situation better,” Lilja stated. “The main objective for society is to rein in inflation, thereby paving the way for lower interest rates and providing households with financial relief. Any anomalies contributing to inflation, particularly when the currency is strengthening, require meticulous examination.”

Initiative to Regulate School Phone Usage Announced

Smartphone

Iceland’s Minister of Education and Children has announced a nationwide initiative to create guidelines for smartphone usage in primary schools. The move comes in response to new research highlighting both the widespread ownership of mobile devices among Icelandic children and the growing concerns about the technology’s potential negative impact on their well-being and academic performance.

A reference point for schools

Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Iceland’s Minister of Education and Children has announced an initiative to formulate guidelines for smartphone usage in primary schools nationwide. The guidelines will be the result of consultations involving parents and children, local authorities, school administrators, teachers, and other key stakeholders. The forthcoming guidelines are intended to serve as a reference point for schools as they develop their own policies on smartphone usage. A key focus of the initiative is to ensure robust educational programmes aimed at mitigating any adverse effects associated with mobile phone usage in educational settings.

Recent research conducted by the Media Commission and the Institute of Education at the University of Iceland reveals a near-ubiquitous presence of mobile phones among Icelandic children. Ninety-five percent of students in grades 4-7 own a mobile device and 98% in grades 8-10. The percentage of students utilising the internet for academic purposes on a daily basis is considerably lower in younger grades, however, but increases gradually from 7% in grades 4-7 to 38% in grades 8-10, and reaching 74% in secondary schools.

An urgent need to address the issue

While information and communication technology (ICT) plays an important role in the educational experience, there is an urgent need to address its potential downsides for children and young adults within the Icelandic educational system. Emerging research indicates a significant surge in screen time, especially among children, adversely affecting their sleep, mental, and physical well-being. Studies also suggest that implementing restrictions on mobile phone usage within schools can enhance academic performance, particularly for students who are academically challenged.

“As technology continues to advance, it’s evident that it carries both merits and drawbacks,” Minister Ásmundur Einar Daðason is quoted as saying. “In Iceland, where screen usage is already high and on the rise, opinions on the issue are diverse, and existing school policies are inconsistent or sometimes non-existent. Our objective is to establish well-defined criteria for primary schools and bolster educational programmes to address this. We aim to navigate these technological advancements in a manner that prioritises the well-being and academic success of our children.”

Deep North Episode 40: Live, Laugh, Lava

Thelma Rut

For the third year in a row, there’s a volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, only a stone’s throw away from the city centre. This eruption marks a pattern, with around 300 days between eruptions, geologists’ predictions of a new eruption phase for the long-dormant volcano system seem to be coming to fruition. For visitors to the island, as well as the locals themselves, this series of “tourist-friendly” eruptions has been welcomed, with thousands of hikers making their way up to see lava gushing forth from the crater down into the field below – the freshest rock on earth.

In episode 40 of Deep North, we talk about how the latest eruption on Reykjanes affected the lives of locals. Note that at the time of recording, the eruption was still ongoing. It has since concluded. Read the story here.