Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Entry: 2009 Icelandic Financial Crisis Protests

Before you say anything: I know. This is the third time in a month that I've poked gentle fun at Iceland. The name of the blog is Things I've Learned from Wikipedia, not Things I've Learned About Iceland that Strike Me as Unusual and Warrant Comment. But this was right there on the English-language front page, in the news section, tempting-- nay, begging-- me to blog about it.


Iceland has been hit hard by the financial crisis, and a good chunk of her citizens were pissed off about how their government was handling it. There have been protests at the Parliament, drawing between 1 and 3,000 people (in a country of 320,000), which brought about the early resignation of the current Prime Minister (who was withdrawing from politics) and early parliamentary elections. That's pretty cool. People were frustrated with their government, they made their voices heard, change was brought around, and nobody died as a result. Kudos to you, Iceland. But what caught my notice was this description of one of the protests: "Some broke windows of the parliament house, threw skyr and snowballs at the building, and threw smoke bombs into its backyard." Now, okay, some violence, some vandalism-- but click the explanatory link. They threw yogurt at the Parliament building. Best coup ever.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Entry: Ratatoskr

So my boyfriend and I have been playing through Tales of Symphonia 2 on the Wii, and there's a character in the game named Ratatosk. I knew I'd heard that name somewhere, so I Wiki'ed it-- of course-- and found out that Ratatosk is a squirrel in Norse mythology who lives on Ygdrassil the World Tree. Already knew that, kind of a mythology geek, just needed a refresher. But what surprised me was the accompanying picture:

Maybe it's just because I've only been exposed to Eastern grey squirrels for the majority of my life, but I'm pretty sure there's not an existing variety of squirrel with green fur and a horn. Now, this drawing is from Iceland. Why am I not surprised? Between this and the Yule Lads, I'm really starting to wonder about Iceland.

It does put Bjork's music into context, though; on an island with green horned squirrels and spoon-stealing Christmas imps, she must be downright boring. I'll bet she's like the Kenny G of Icelandic music, and her music is so internationally popular because the citizens of Iceland decided she would be the most palatable for mundane continentals. Honestly, I don't know if we can (or should) go any further down the Reykjavík rabbit-hole beyond swan dresses and completely a capella albums.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Entry: the Butterfly's Evil Spell

If you've ever been a pie-eyed young poetry geek (like me), you've probably read-- if not fallen in love with-- Frederico Garcia Lorca, the fey modernist Spaniard who wrote about love and gypsies and the moon. Well, he apparently also wrote the occasional awful play.

No, Lorca defenders, I'm not talking about The House of Bernarda Alba, I'm talking about his first attempt, The Butterfly's Evil Spell. A symbolist work, the play is about a wounded butterfly (as far as I can tell, a literal butterfly) and a cockroach whose love for her goes unrequited. Yeah. It was cancelled after four performances; later in his life Garcia Lorca would claim that Mariana Pineda, which debuted seven years later, was his first play. Kinda makes me feel better about the crap that I try to write.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Entry: United States Order of Precedence

Thanks to Ziggy for alerting me to this article! Very appropriate, given the day's events.

The Wik' has a list of US government officials in order of symbolic precedence. (They also have similar lists for other countries, but keeping with the rich heritage of my motherland, I don't give a crap about them.) This isn't the list of who is next in line for the presidency, it's just who gets dibs on riding in the cherry red vintage convertible for the parade.

One thing that surprised me while perusing this illustrious rollcall was that president pro tempore of the Senate is so low on the list; he's 23rd in symbolic importance. Compare that to speaker of the House, who is fifth. Senator Byrd follows the Secretary of Agriculture. He follows the drug czar. He's fourth in line for the presidency, but he's less prominent than the guys in charge of emotionally overwrought television ads about teenagers smoking pot and making sure organic beansprouts are really organic. (Maybe he should have stuck with being Exalted Cyclops.)

Of course, all of the aforementioned are less important than the mayor of the city in which the parade/ceremony/spelling bee/whatever is taking place. Which is humbling if you're a federal official and you happen to be in a ceremony in Muskogee, OK.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Entry: School Refusal

I was reading about hikkikomori (which I already knew about so it doesn't count), which lead me to its whiter counterpart, school refusal. There wasn't much in the article that one couldn't already glean from Oprah-related anecdotal evidence-- children who have intense feelings of anxiety or fear with regards to going to school-- but there was one sentence that threw me for a loop: "Approximately 1 to 5% of school-aged children have school refusal, though it is most common in children aged five, six, ten and eleven."

What a weird statistic. I'm sure separation anxiety has a lot to do with the five- and six-year-olds, but the ten- and eleven-year-olds? Maybe it's a pre-pubescent thing? I don't know about you, but I remember twelve and thirteen being a lot rougher. And wouldn't it have been better to make the correlation between what's going on in a child's life and school refusal, instead of making it seem like crazy random happenstance? I mean, I'm not a statistician, or a psychologist. I'm just a concerned parent.*

* No, I'm not.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Entry: Jay Mohr

This is dumb, but so few things make me genuinely giggle with immature glee, I beg your patience.

When actor/comedian/that guy Jay Mohr married his wife, actress Nikki Cox, he legally changed his name to include hers. Which I can admire, it's very sweet and chock full o' gender equality, but now his legal name is Jon Ferguson Cox Mohr. Get it? Cox Mohr. It sounds like "cocks more." Hurrrr hurr hurr.

Also: "Ferguson." Lulz.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Entry: Pinkerton National Detective Agency

I've rearranged TILfW for the new year, but I used to have a blurb in the side column about how one of these days you'll be on Jeopardy and remember something you've read in this blog.

And tonight it came true. One of the questions was "What is Burma Shave?", and none of the contestants knew it. Nobody even buzzed in. Of course, I was yelling "BURMA SHAVE! BURMA SHAVE!" at the tv, so I would have been wrong too because I didn't phrase my response as a question. But still! And it was Double Jeopardy, too. Reading Things I've Learned from Wikipedia can earn you money.*


So maybe you're a Deadwood fan, or a history buff, or just steampunk-as-Jove, but you might have heard of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, usually shortened to "the Pinkertons." If you haven't: they were a well-known private detective agency in the 19th century, well known for foiling a plot to assassinate Lincoln (a plot, not the plot) and being hired to bring various Wild West Outlaws to justice.

Getting on to What I Learned:

1) On the more controversial side, they were hired in the late 19th and early 20th century to infiltrate unions, rough up (and/or murder) organizers, and protect scabs.
2) The Pinkerton National Detective Agency is still operating, though they have been taken over by another security agency.
3) Today, the Pinkertons are organized by the Services Employees International Union.

You know, if you ever need a good example of irony.

* Results not typical.