Monday, April 7, 2014

Healthy Skin at the Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a natural geothermal spa that was created by pooling waste waters from a geothermal power plant that was built in 1976. People did not start bathing in the waters until five years later, and when the water was discovered to help treat psoriasis, the Blue Lagoon company was formed in 1992. The Lagoon is a huge tourist destination. The milky, blue waters contain minerals such as silica, sulphur, and algae all of which exfoliate and smooth the skin. There are "pots" of the mud located in various parts of the spa in which visitors can smear the mud on their skin. What many people do not know is that the Blue Lagoon is an actual spa that helps to treat skin conditions. In order to get a spot at the clinic, whose dermatologists and nurses treated over 6000 patients in 2005, one must first get a referral from a dermatologist, at which point then, a single room costs upward of one-hundred dollars per night. The clinic also promotes healthy eating and exercise as well as offering UVB light therapy, a practice used very commonly for skin issues, chiefly psoriasis. Below are photos I personally took at the beautiful Blue Lagoon.



Friday, March 7, 2014

Iceland's Energy Resources

One of my favorite things about Iceland is the fact that it is such a green country. Iceland is making a huge conscious effort to become as eco-friendly as possible with plans to become a one-hundred percent fossil-free nation in the near future. With Iceland being situated on top of a volcano, much of the country's energy comes from geothermal resources; however, the most energy is supplied through hydro power. As of 2010, 26.2% of Iceland's energy was produced by the five major geothermal power plants located in the country. There are at least twenty-five active volcanoes in Iceland as well as numerous geysers and hot springs. Because of this, many buildings, swimming pools, and even sidewalks are heated in Iceland by harnessing this energy. The sidewalks are heated through geothermal energy in order to melt the snow. 73.8% of Iceland's energy was hydro power with only .1% coming from fossil fuels! Hydro power is the process of harnessing energy from the gravitational force of flowing or falling water. This method is the most widely used process for creating renewable energy across the world, renewable meaning the source is not one which will be depleted in a time span. The source is one of which is naturally replenished. In 2010, hydroelectricity was responsible for sixteen percent of the world's electricity. This number was projected to increase by 3.1% every year for the next twenty-five years. Of course every source of gathering energy comes at a price. By building plants to harness hydro energy, we cause a displacement of eco systems by temporarily disturbing the flow of natural waters. Geothermal energy is found to pose a risk through the release of hydrogen sulfide as well as the disposal of some geothermal liquids which may contain toxic materials.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Icelandic Politics


The political system of Iceland, being a democracy, has one head of state, similar to the United States, called the president, which is voted for by the people. The current president is Olafur Grimmson. Below the president is the prime minister who is currently Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. Included in the government is a legislative branch of parliament and standing committee, an executive branch including a cabinet, ministry, and agency, and a judicial branch with both district and supreme courts. This government works in almost the same way as that of the US government. Iceland was under many different rulers over time, resulting in changes of religion as well as political systems. Under Norse settlement in 930, the Althing, a general assembly, was created. When Iceland fell under the Danish crown, from 1400-1550, Lutheranism was brought by force under Bishop Jon Aresson. After economic turmoil and pandemic swept the country in the 17th and 18th centuries, a lift on the exclusion of foreign traders in 1854 had Iceland looking up for the 19th century. Led by Jon Sigurosson, a constitution was formed in 1874, and Iceland became part of union with Denmark in 1918. This was later voted to be terminated in 1944, claiming Iceland an independent republic. With Sveinn Bjornsson as the first president, Iceland joined many plans and treaties including a defense pact with the US military in 1951. The Althing officially dissolved in 1974, and Vigdis Finnbogadottir was elected third president in 1980, the world’s first popularity elected female head of state. She was followed by popular Olafur Grimmson in 1996 who has been re-elected every for years including 2012 and who is still the current president.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Strange Icelandic Eco-fashion

As a fashion design major and someone who is very interested in eco-fashion, I decided to do some research on Icelandic eco-fashion. What I stumbled across was probably one of the strangest things I possible could have found. This photo is a pair of necropants... yes, necro, as in dead guy. These pants were made from the skin of a deceased man. The article goes into detail of how and why these pants were created. Now stored at the Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft, these pants were thought to bring good luck and wealth to the sorcerer who wore them. They were created in the 17th century and are now the oldest pair of necropants that are still intact, and by intact, we're talking feet and scrotum still attached. That last statement also implies that there were more than one pair of necropants made which is ultimately disturbing. The museum website describes in detail the process the sorcerer must go through to receive this good luck and wealth:

“After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed.”

In order for the next wearer to continue this good luck, the new wearer must step into the right leg before the previous wearer has stepped out of the left leg. While this gives us a very interesting look at the pre-industrial past of Iceland, we still finish with an image of two living men wearing the same pair of pants made of one dead guy's skin...

Here is a link to the museum website that has several articles on the history of Icelandic Sorcery:
http://www.galdrasyning.is/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=5&Itemid=100034&lang=en



Icelandic Delicacies

Iceland is well-known for it's outlandish food culture and odd delicacies. Being an island, the country relies much on fishing, and a good amount of the food in Iceland includes seafoods. One of the top delicacies in Iceland is fermented shark. The head of a Greenland shark is buried in sand and cured through a fermentation process. The head is then hung out to dry for five months! The fermented meat has a very strong scent of ammonia and is extremely pungent and fishy tasting. Icelanders also often delve in Atlantic Puffin meat, a small bird that has legal protection in most other countries. Restaurants feature this meat a lot and typically smoke and cure it. The birds are caught using a technique called sky-fishing which involves a large net that catches low flying birds such as the Puffin. Another common food in Iceland is the meat of a minke whale. This meat is similar to beef but is supposed to be extremely tender and delicious! It is often served with a Brennivin sauce. Brennivin is the traditional alcohol of Iceland and is known for a horrid taste. Made from potato pulp and flavored with caraway seeds, this liquor is known as Black Death. It is often detested even by Icelandic natives whom will drink it usually when eating fermented shark or when making a show of Icelandic culture. This photo is a sealed jar of fermented shark meat.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Icelandic Media (Film)

     While researching Icelandic media, I came across several connections that link the US film industry with Iceland. I love making these connections because I think it allows US students to see in what ways many industries, such as film, have appreciated the aspects of Iceland and it's culture. I found many movies that were filmed in Iceland, for example, the recent "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", "Batman Begins", and "Journey to the Center of the Earth", which stars Anita Briem, a native to Reykjavik, Iceland. We discussed in the class blog about Icelandic music, how the sounds and lyrics often reference mystical and mythical creatures and put your mind in the place of an eerie story book. Actor Tom Hiddleston from "Thor: The Dark World" states, "It was really exciting to shoot the exteriors of Svartalfheim in Iceland, which of all the places on this planet I think is the most magical. It has an otherworldly quality to it and looks like another planet... you get purple skies... It's a world of ravines and waterfalls and lava and expanses of black sand and the northern lights. It's a good place for elves to be from!" Janet Graham Borba from "Game of Thrones" says, "...we wanted something shatteringly beautiful, barren, and brutal. In Iceland, we found all of that..." Perhaps Icelandic music is purely drawn from the scenery and the feeling musicians have while being amongst these incredible landscapes!
     Iceland has also passed special legislation that offers a twenty percent reimbursement of production cost for films and television programs that are produced in Iceland. The goal is "to enhance domestic culture and promote the history and nature of Iceland." The website of Iceland's official film commission is one that not only shares facts about Iceland and it's culture, but involves relationships to the USA. The website also include the most incredible photos of the extreme locations so many producers go to Iceland to film in. You have to check them out for yourself!

http://www.filminiceland.com/extreme-locations/ 
It was really exciting to shoot the exteriors of Svartalfheim in Iceland, which of all the places on this planet I think is the most magical. It has an otherworldly quality to it and looks like another planet… you get purple skies. We were shooting on a volcanic lava field and you can get big picture, epic footage there, which you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a world of ravines and waterfalls and lava and expanses of black sand and the northern lights. It’s a good place for elves to be from! - See more at: http://www.filminiceland.com/case-studies/quotes/#sthash.mGeXK17x.dpuf
It was really exciting to shoot the exteriors of Svartalfheim in Iceland, which of all the places on this planet I think is the most magical. It has an otherworldly quality to it and looks like another planet… you get purple skies. We were shooting on a volcanic lava field and you can get big picture, epic footage there, which you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a world of ravines and waterfalls and lava and expanses of black sand and the northern lights. It’s a good place for elves to be from! - See more at: http://www.filminiceland.com/case-studies/quotes/#sthash.mGeXK17x.dpuf
It was really exciting to shoot the exteriors of Svartalfheim in Iceland, which of all the places on this planet I think is the most magical. It has an otherworldly quality to it and looks like another planet… you get purple skies. We were shooting on a volcanic lava field and you can get big picture, epic footage there, which you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a world of ravines and waterfalls and lava and expanses of black sand and the northern lights. It’s a good place for elves to be from! - See more at: http://www.filminiceland.com/case-studies/quotes/#sthash.mGeXK17x.dpuf

Monday, January 20, 2014

Icelandic Music

Iceland is known to have a strong, traditional past in folklore and mystical, mythical stories. Many Icelandic arts, including writing and music, still incorporate these traditions. Several musicians that come from Iceland have broken the international barriers and gotten the chance to share their music with the rest of the world and to even make it big. Of Monsters and Men is an Icelandic group who recently crossed that line a couple years ago becoming popular in the United States, Europe, and Australia. A new and upcoming Icelandic artist is Asgeir. He released his first album 'In the Silence' in both the Icelandic and the English language, both of which are extremely popular. He has just recently started touring internationally. Icelandic musicians often say that they're fresh and original sound comes from living on a small island that often stays uninfluenced by other musical sounds. The Icelandic music scene is known to be very supportive of one another rather than competitive. Below are links to the English version of Asgeir's song 'King and Cross' as well as to the Icelandic version.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-dHIkF_lO4#t=182   English Version

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH6WQBsG8BI#t=44    Icelandic Version