So Many Ways To Say “Some Stuff”

I’ve had a blog since before there was a name for blogs. See the archives scroll at the right for evidence of that, and then keep in mind that I’ve probably removed at least another 500 pages from this website over the years for a variety of reasons, atop the 1,034 that are here now.

Sometimes the posts are deep digs into specific topics, or at least touch on a single concept, message, or theme. Other times, though, I just use the blog to share a bunch of unrelated news items. Early on in this enterprise, I usually gave such posts some sort of generic “Bunch of Stuff” title. One day, though, I realized that I’d used “Odds and Sods” (named after The Who’s 1974 rarities and outtakes album) three times, so I figured it might make sense to come up with some other naming rubric, lest I confuse readers, bots, spider and myself. Since it was a song by The Who that caused the problem, I just decided to pick another Who title (“Underture”) and went from there; all omnibus posts would now be titled after songs by The Who.

The Who song titles on for awhile. I tried to look for titles that had some vague connection the “bunch of stuff” rubric in some way, or a conceptual tie to the lead article in the sequence, or a number in the title that matched the number of elements in the post. Eventually, though, there were no more Who titles that seemed to fit, so I decided to shift to another band’s songs titles. Then I did that again. Then I did that again. Then eventually I decided that song titles weren’t getting the job done, so I started collecting antiquated or foreign words that meant something along the lines of “odds and sods,” one way or another.

And I’ve been doing that for a long time now, most recently with the prior post, “Hunnik Asju,” which is Estonian for “a bunch of things.” With this post, I now think it’s time for me to come up with a new theme the next time I have a motley collection to share with you. So as I bid this era of assortments adieu, I thought it might be fun (for me, anyway) to go back through the various approaches I’ve taken to these collections over the years. Primarily so I don’t repeat one of them again, memory not being what it once was.

So . . . in reverse order from most current to oldest, here are all of the miscellany posts (well, at least the ones that are still on the blog), clustered into their various eras’ naming groups. It makes it pretty clear, if nothing else, how much more prolific I was in this space, all those years ago!

Foreign/Obscure Words Meaning “Assortment”

Hunnik Asju
Mengelmoes
Goedjies
Dingen
Okuxubile
Raznovrsnost
Shumëllojshmëri
Ezihlukahlukene
Pudi-Padi
Kholimog
Hondakinak
Kort Mengeling
Aštuoni
Változatosság
Verscheidenheid
Mélange
Cumulation
Colluvies
Farrago
Gallimaufry
Salamagundi

Nick Cave/Birthday Party Song Titles

Brave Exhibitions
Pleasure Avalanche
Capers
Shivers

Genesis Song Titles

As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs
Visions of Angels
Paperlate
Afterglow
How Dare I Be So Beautiful?
Deep In The Motherlode
Many Too Many
Seven Stones
Evidence of Autumn
Keep It Dark
Where The Sour Turns to Sweet
Dodo/Lurker

Frank Zappa Song Titles

Status Back Baby
A Token Of My Extreme
America Drinks And Goes Home
Strictly Genteel
The Lifestyle You Deserve
Galoot Up-Date
The Voice of Cheese
City of Tiny Lights
He Used To Cut The Grass
It Ain’t Necessarily the Saint James Infirmary
Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?
Entrance of the Central Scrutinizer
We Made Our Reputation Doing It That Way
What Will This Evening Bring Me This Morning?
What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?
For The Young Sophisticate
Nine Types of Industrial Pollution
Trouble Every Day

Emerson, Lake and Palmer Song Titles

Manticore
Hoedown
From The Beginning
Tiger In A Spotlight
Take A Pebble

Bee Gees Song Titles

This I Where I Came In
Monday’s Rain
Lemons Never Forget
Remembering
Don’t Forget To Remember
If I Only Had My Mind on Something Else
Spicks and Specks

The Who Song Titles

Sparks
Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy
The Kids Are Alright
Cobwebs and Strange
Underture
Odds and Sods (three times!)

Pre-Conceptual Titles

Ten Quick Bits
Six Pix
Dix Axiomata De Axon Anon
Fiat Linx
Quad Quix
Seis Snaps
Two Bits
This and That
Musical Miscellany
Sundries
This That
This, That, T’Other
Miscellany
Odd Ends
Some Things
Odds and Ends
Take Two

Hunnik Asju

1. Marcia and I purchased our first home computer nearly 25 years ago. Since then, I have been very good at maintaining and updating Die Maschinen, I always practice “Safe Surf,” and I am averse to technological change for change’s sake. This means I’ve managed to do everything I’ve ever done on computers at home while only owning three Maschinen. (That number could conceivably have only been two, actually, had not my spawn melted down Das Maschine Nummer Zwei accidentally during those awkward early teen years, enticed by the dangerous computer-eating wonders of the early social web). My current Das Maschine has been running like a champ since 2007, but Microsoft, Mozilla and others have announced that they are ending support and upgrades for its operating system (MS Vista), and I’m not willing to maintain an unsupported system for very long once that goes away. I researched updating the OS, but the economics of doing so didn’t make sense, so I finally succumbed and bought a new Das Maschine (Nummer Vier) last week. It arrived yesterday, and last night I went to break the news to Ol’ Yeller 9000 (Das Maschine Nummer Drei) that it was time for us to take a walk out behind the woodshed to talk about stuff, just the two of us. Things went downhill from there, though . . . negotiations are ongoing . . .

Ol’ Yeller 9000 doesn’t believe in fiat currency, so we’re negotiating in precious metal and booze . . .

2. I had hoped and planned that 2017 would be a bit less travel-heavy for me than 2016 had been. Looking at my first quarter route map, I’m thinking this may not actually turn out to be the case:

Upcoming stops: DC (again), Cleveland, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis . . .

3. My most recent trip was to Washington, DC, and Marcia accompanied me on this one. After my work was done, we stuck around for a couple of extra days, had some nice meals with old friends, and explored the city where we first met 30 years ago. While the iconic buildings and skyline remain mostly unchanged, the evolution of the city below that level was profound. When we lived there, for example, “14th Street and U” would have been the answer to the question: “Where do I get a hooker, a gun, some crack, or all of the above?” Now it’s a gentrifying neighborhood and the next “hot destination,” bridging quirky Adams Morgan and the ever-expanded heart of the downtown Mall area. Another example: I love me some Washington Capitals and Bullets, but I had no idea that their new (to me) arena was in the same general area where I used to go to amazing concerts through the 1980s at the very sketchy and smelly original 930 Club, at 930 F Street NW. We paid a pilgrimage to that site, where I once saw Butthole Surfers, Chuck Brown, Camper Van Beethoven, Fishbone, Black Flag, Root Boy Slim, Bad Brains, The Busboys, Minor Threat, Guadalcanal Diary, E.U., and so many others I can’t even remember anymore, and you know what we found?  That we could now buy sweaters. Sigh . . .

I can’t believe they got the smell out of the building.

4. On our last day in Washington, we decided to make a quick stop in to the new (to us) National Museum of African American History and Culture. There didn’t seem to be any lines, so we strolled up to the entrance as one does at most Smithsonian museums to just amble in, but the gentleman at the door explained that demand was so high that advance tickets were required, and there weren’t likely to be any available for the rest of that day, nor the day following. He offered some helpful tips on how to perhaps score a stray ticket or two, but it didn’t look like it was going to work, so I said “Thank you, sir, I appreciate your help.” As I was walking away, he said “Wait . . . are you a Veteran? You sound like a Veteran.” And I am, of course, as is Marcia, and so we were admitted under the museums Vets’ policy. Good manners and politeness pay off in unexpected ways. We only had an hour to explore, so we actually only got through one of five floors, but it was so amazing and so well curated and so exciting that we will definitely be going back again. The highlight of highlights for me? Turning a corner and seeing this unexpectedly . . .

ZOMFG!!!!! THE MOTHERSHIP!!!!!

If you have to ask, you’ll never know, blah blah blah, but if you want to understand the significance of this iconic object, then sit down right now, click the next link, and watch the late Glenn Goins Calling Down The Mothership.

5. We also went to the National Air and Space Museum and normally I’d be falling all over myself to tell you about the rockets and planes I saw there, but even John Glenn’s Friendship 7 pales next to the experience of seeing The Mothership. Other snaps from our trip (including the obligatory cherry blossoms and a visit to the exceptional FDR Monument) are at my Flickr site, which you can reach by clicking the picture of the space nerd below:

SPACE MADNESSSSS!!!!

6. We were bopping around Washington on Friday as the healthcare vote debacle was unfolding, so it was interesting to see various helicopters and limousines racing back and forth between various key points in the city’s political infrastructure while the GOP did its best to punch itself in the face during its hot pursuit of political malfeasance. We both slept well that night, and let’s leave it at that, since I’m not intending to use my blog as political website, tempting as that may be. Besides, everything that really needs to be said about how things feel today in America is available in an extraordinary new video from Jed Davis and the mighty Hanslick Rebellion, linked below (language warning, NSFW):

I’ve been following Jed’s work since the ’90s, and have written about him many times here over the years. In short: I consider him to be one of America’s greatest songwriters, ever, and he’s got the instrumental chops, design skills, studio acumen, arrangement ear, and live charisma to make it all work in the studio, on the stage, in a box, with a fox, on a train, and even in the rain, in Spain. Get on over to his The Congregation of Vapors page now to discover what you’ve been missing all these years. It’s all genius, all the time, and the cast of characters who appear there with Jed (e.g. Chuck Rainey, Reeves Gabrels, Tony Levin, Anton Fig, Jerry Marotta, Avi Buffalo, Ralph Carney, Tommy Ramone, and many many many more more more) is mind-blowing in the extreme.

2017 NCAA Tournament Pick ‘Em

Well, friends, it’s that time of the year, when I use my in-depth expertise in men’s college basketball to pull out a sterling bottom quintile performance in a Group Pick ‘Em Tournament, for the amusement and entertainment of friends, family members and strangers alike.

If you want to join or rejoin this annual shindig with me, we’re setting up the group on Yahoo again this year, since it’s probably not going to be around much longer. (Yahoo, that is . . . not the group, or the Tournament). Here’s the information you will need:

Group Landing Page: Click Here

Group ID#: 77619

Group Password: spelcher523

As always, pay attention to the deadline, and make sure you pick everything, including tiebreaker scores, and the championship game.

Let the mockery and embarrassments begin!

Mengelmoes

1.  So after finishing my short-story project in 2016, and with anticipated travel being less than it was last year, I figured I’d be a better and more regular blogger in 2017 than I had been in recent months/years. But here I am in the second half of February with six trips completed or planning in the first two months of the year, and only one blog post to my name. Oh well. I suppose I can always claim quality in lieu of quantity.

2.  I wrapped up the new short stories with some older ones and submitted them for editing (both content and copy) to a professional colleague and friend from olden Metroland days. He did an excellent job (if you need an editor, holla, and I’ll hook you up), but of course his great and thorough work means that I now have a lot more work to do to address his corrections, suggestions, concerns, and critiques. As it should be, I note. I actually miss having independent review of my writing, since I think that lack of quality and editorial control has reduced the overall experience to be had and accurate information to be gleaned online, witness our current political and journalistic shambles for confirmation. When I am able to get through revisions, I know I will have a much better product in hand. I hope to be able to share it in one form or another before the end of the year. Watch this space.

3.  Two of this trips I’ve taken this year were more fun that work travel often can be, since Marcia accompanied me (or I accompanied her, in one case), and we went to warm weather regions during the depths of Chicago’s wintry season. First up was Arizona, where we spent most of our time in Scottsdale, with a day trip to Tucson. Second was my industry’s Winter Management Conference in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. As is the norm here, I’ve posted some snaps for those who care to see them: Puerto Rico Arizona. For the nerds and the locals, I’ve also updated these galleries: AirplanesChicago Winter.

4. Since I typically do my “Album Of The Year” reports in late November or early December each year, there are invariably albums that come out in the last month of the year, or that I don’t discover until it’s too late, that would have made my list had I waited until the very last minute and listened to all of the things, all of them. At this point, my 2016 list is still looking pretty good to me, with only one glaring miss: Kubla Khan by Golden Suits.  A (mostly) solo project by Fred Nicolaus, whose sublime work with Department of Eagles still wins regular spins hereabouts, Kubla Khan is a delightfully engaging and enjoyable record, blending smart narratives and sweet melodies and creative arrangements into a very pleasing whole. My outsiders’ view of Department of Eagles’ inside workings has been that Nicolaus’ musical partner Daniel Rossen provided more of traditional singer-songwriter touches (largely based on his work with Grizzly Bear and solo), while Nicolaus provided more of the wildcard and arrangement touches. To some extent, I base this view on the fact that I like the slightly-weirder Department of Eagles more than I like the slightly-more-accessible Grizzly Bear, so if Nicolaus is in the former and not in the latter, then he’s likely the difference maker. That may be be so (or may not be), but Nicolaus proves here that he’s got formidable singer-songwriting chops of his own, and I’m glad to be able to hear his voice (literal and figurative) here, after many years of only listening to Rossen and Nicolaus working together. While it probably wouldn’t have challenged David Bowie or Chance the Rapper for the tip-top of my musical pile in 2016, Kubla Khan  is a solid Top Five album of the Year for me, so I regret that I didn’t get to it in time to properly acknowledge it with its peers at the time.

5. I will be riding in my third STIHL Tour des Trees from July 30 to August 5. We will be in the Washington, DC metro area this year, with a stop in Annapolis to see Ye Olde Navy Yard, hooray! The route will be a little over 500 miles this year, with a mix of urban and rural riding. All funds raised by riders (me included) go to support research and education programs to benefit our urban forests and the professionals who care for them. You can support my campaign now, with my deepest gratitude or I can bother you later on in the year with a personal request that’s harder for you to evade. Just saying. Here’s my rider page, and I’d seriously appreciate your support there, all kidding aside. It’s a good event for a good cause with good people. Can’t do better than that, really.

My Top 200 Albums Of All Time (2017 Update)

A couple of years have passed since I last refreshed my all-time favorite albums list — and with my 2016 listening having been parsed and processed, now seems as good a time as any to get it done.

For newbs to my website: I’ve been keeping a master list of favorite albums since the very early ’70s, when I was a grade school Steppenwolf fan. My tastes have evolved dramatically over the years (though I still like Steppenwolf), so I review and update this list periodically, dropping things that haven’t aged well, and adding new things that excite me and seem to have staying power.

For many years, this was a “Top 100 List,” but as I’ve gotten older, I feel entitled to expand the roster beyond the century mark, since I’ve listened to a whole lot more music now than I had when I was younger.

I also used to exclude “Greatest Hits” and other compilation albums, but I’ve gotten less uptight about that, too, since for some artists, their best work may have appeared on singles that only saw long-form release in the form of “Best Of” collections.

And with that as preamble, here’s the updated roster of my favorite albums of all time, in alphabetical order by artist. (I don’t put them in numerical order anymore either, since what’s the meaningful difference between #134 and #135 anyway?)

As soon as I post this list, I will invariably change my mind about something, but that’s the beauty of updates, right? Watch this space in 2019 to see what I got wrong this time!

AC/DC: Back in Black
Alice Donut: 10 Glorious Animals
Allison, Mose: Swingin’ Machine

Bauhaus: The Sky’s Gone Out
Beef: Stink, Stank, Stunk
Beefheart, Captain and the Magic Band: Clear Spot
Beefheart, Captain and the Magic Band: Safe As Milk
Beefheart, Captain and the Magic Band: The Spotlight Kid
Beefheart, Captain and the Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica
Birthday Party: Junkyard
Black Flag: Damaged
Bogmen: Life Begins at 40 Million
Bonzo Dog Band: Keynsham
Bonzo Dog Band: The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse
Bowie, David: “Heroes”
Bowie, David: Low
Bowie, David: Lodger
Bowie, David: The Next Day
Bowie, David: Blackstar
Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey
Butthole Surfers: Hairway to Steven
Butthole Surfers: Locust Abortion Technician

Camberwell Now: All’s Well
Camper Van Beethoven: Camper Van Beethoven
Cave, Nick and the Bad Seeds: Henry’s Dream
Cave, Nick and the Bad Seeds: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Chance The Rapper: Coloring Book
Che Guevara T-Shirt: Everyone That’s Dead Was Obviously Wrong
Check Engine: Check Engine
Christian Death: Catastrophe Ballet
Clash: Combat Rock
Clutch: Elephant Riders
Clutch: Robot Hive/Exodus
Clutch: Psychic Warfare
Coil: Love’s Secret Domain
Coil: Horse Rotorvator
Coil: The Ape of Naples
Collider: WCYF
Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People
Culture: Two Sevens Clash
Cypress Hill: Cypress Hill

Dälek: Absence
Dälek: Abandoned Language
Dälek: Gutter Tactics
Dälek: Asphalt for Eden
Davis, Jed: Small Sacrifices Must Be Made
Death Grips: Ex-Military
Death Grips: Government Plates
Department of Eagles: The Cold Nose
Devo: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
Dogbowl: Flan
Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment: Surf

Eagles: Desperado
Earth, Wind and Fire: All n’ All
Einsturzende Neubauten: Halber Mensch
Einsturzende Neubauten: Haus der Luge
Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Tarkus
Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Trilogy
Eno, Brian: Here Come the Warm Jets
Eno, Brian: Another Green World
Eno, Brian: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

Fall: Hex Enduction Hour
Fall: Imperial Wax Solvent
Family: Bandstand
Family: Fearless
Fear: The Record
Fela: Original Sufferhead
First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
Fleetwood Mac: Future Games
Fripp, Robert: Exposure
Funkadelic: Maggotbrain
Funkadelic: American Eats Its Young

Gabriel, Peter: Peter Gabriel (III/Melt)
Gang of Four: Entertainment!
Gay Tastee: Songs for the Sodomites
Genesis: Duke
Genesis: Abacab
Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Genesis: Wind and Wuthering
Girlpool: Before The World Was Big
Goat: World Music
Good Rats: Birth Comes to Us All
Good Rats: Tasty
Grand Mal: Binge/Purge
Grateful Dead: American Beauty
Grateful Dead: Workingman’s Dead

Hall, Daryl: Sacred Songs
Hanslick Rebellion: The Rebellion is Here
Hawkwind: Doremi Fasol Latido
Hitchcock, Robyn and the Egyptians: Element of Light
Human Sexual Response: Fig. 14
Human Sexual Response: In a Roman Mood
Husker Du: Zen Arcade

Jarre, Jean-Michel: Equinoxe
Jesu/Sun Kil Moon: Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
Jethro Tull: Songs From the Wood
Jethro Tull: The Broadsword and the Beast
Jethro Tull: Heavy Horses
Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick
Jethro Tull: A Passion Play
Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures
Joy Division: Closer
Juluka: Scatterlings

Kamikaze Hearts: Oneida Road
Kamikaze Hearts: Seven More Wonders of the World
Kaukonen, Jorma: Quah
Keineg, Katell: Jet
Killdozer: Twelve Point Buck
King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black
King Crimson: Red
King Crimson: Larks Tongue in Aspic
King Crimson: Lizard
Korn: The Paradigm Shift
Kraftwerk: Computer World
Kraftwerk: Trans-Europe Express
Kurki-Suonio, Sanna: Musta

Laurels: L

Melvins: (A) Senile Animal
Michael Nyman: A Zed and Two Noughts (Original Soundtrack)
Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime
Miri: Okkar
Mos Def: The Ecstatic
Mould, Bob: District Line

Napalm Death: Time Waits For No Slave
Napalm Death: Utilitarian
Napalm Death: Apex Predator — Easy Meat
New Order: Movement
New Order: Power, Corruption and Lies

Parliament: Chocolate City
Parliament: Motor Booty Affair
Pas/Cal: I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke and Laura
Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance
Pere Ubu: Terminal Tower
Phair, Liz: Exile in Guyville
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd: The Wall
Prieboy, Andy: The Questionable Profits of Pure Novelty
Prieboy, Andy: Upon My Wicked Son
Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet
Public Enemy: Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black

R.E.M.: Life’s Rich Pageant
Renaldo and the Loaf: Songs for Swinging Larvae
Replacements: Let It Be
Richman, Jonathan: Ishkode! Ishkode!
Robbins, Marty: Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs
Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St.
Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet
Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure
Rundgren, Todd: Healing
Rush: Signals

Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel: Nail
Sepultura: Roots
Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Shriekback: Oil and Gold
Shriekback: Tench
Simon and Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence
Small Axe: A Shot to the Body
Small Axe: A Blow to the Head
Smiths: Hatful of Hollow
Smiths: Louder Than Bombs
Snog: Last of the Great Romantics
Sonin, K.: The Definition of Stupidity is Doing the Same Thing 34 Times and Expecting Different Results
Special A.K.A.: In the Studio
Steely Dan: Aja
Steely Dan: The Royal Scam
Steppenwolf: Gold
System Of A Down: System Of A Down
Swans: Filth
Swans: Holy Money

Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden
Talking Heads: Fear of Music
Television Personalities: Closer to God
Thighpaulsandra: The Golden Communion
This Heat: Deceit
Tragic Mulatto: Italians Fall Down and Look Up Your Dress
Tsukerman, Slava et. al.: Liquid Sky (Original Soundtrack)

Van Halen: Van Halen
Various Artists: If You Can’t Please Yourself, You Can’t Please Your Soul
Various Artists: Blow Up Presents Exclusive Blend, Vol. 1
Vek, Tom: Luck

Wailer, Bunny: Blackheart Man
Wall of Voodoo: Happy Planet
Wall of Voodoo: Seven Days in Sammystown
Wasted: We Are Already in Hell
Weasels: Uranus or Bust
Weasels: AARP Go the Weasels
Ween: Quebec
Ween: The Mollusk
Who: Who’s Next
Wings: Band on the Run
Wings: Venus and Mars
Wire: The Ideal Copy

XTC: Black Sea
XTC: English Settlement

Yes: The Yes Album
Yes: Fragile

Young, Neil and Crazy Horse: re-ac-tor

Zappa, Frank and the Mothers of Invention: One Size Fits All
Zappa, Frank: Joe’s Garage, Parts I, II and III

The Iceland Report

We’re happily back home in Chicago again, though it’s colder here today than it was in Iceland, just for the record. Of course, we have a bit more daylight in which to appreciate  the cold, so I suppose that’s a reasonable trade.

I’ve put my usual photo album documenting the trip up at my Flickr site, if you’re interested in giving it a look-see: Icelandic New Year. Also ten quick thoughts, observations, or stray neuron firings, all of which are supported by photographic evidence in the linked Flickr gallery.

1. We did see the Northern Lights on this trip, and they were impressive, as expected. But we also saw something in the heavens that I didn’t expect, when our Northern Icelandic guide pointed out a pair of “glitský” scuttling across the sky one morning. He translated the word as “glitter cloud,” which was apt, though I now know they are actually called stratospheric or nacreous clouds. Like so many things in the sky, it’s hard to take their pictures, but imagine a line of luminous, rainbow colored UFOs passing overhead, leaving wakes in the blue sky behind them, and you’ll get the general gist.

2. Speaking of our Northern Icelandic guide, his name was Gísli, he was a fantastic companion, and he had the best hyphenated job listing I’ve ever heard: Farmer-Guide-Viking-Opera Singer-Classic Car Collector. Our Southern Icelandic Guide, Arne, was a Photographer-Designer-Guide. Multiple jobs are big in Iceland, which I like, as a Professional CEO-Writer-Critic-Crank-Gadabout.

3. I’ve already written about the New Year’s Eve Fireworks. They still blow my mind. And eardrums. Totally awesome.

4. We got our metal on with a visit to Dimmuborgir. If you have to ask, then you’ll never know. Brutal!!!

5. My favorite tasty thing on the trip was smoked arctic char on buttered lava bread. I ate it at a restaurant near Lake Mývatn that doubled as a cow barn. They also sold an Icelandic chocolate there that has the best brand name I’ve heard in recent memory: OMNOM. My other new taste sensation is a non-alcoholic drink that’s only consumed during the Icelandic Christmas season (which lasts 13 days): it’s a mixture of two independently bottled beverages called Malt og Appelsín. It’s sort of like a combo of beer, chocolate, and orange. Better than it sounds, honest.

6. As I usually do, I visited record shops to score some real local musical flavor of the variety I’m not likely to find easily in the States. I came home with six CD’s ranging from ambient jazz through to extreme pagan metal. Initial favorites after first pass are Önnur Mósebók by Moses Hightower, and Börn Loka by Skálmöld, though there’s not a dud in the bunch I acquired.

7. I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but we visited a cave that Gísli informed us featured heavily in the story line as “the love cave.” We also visited a couple of other scenes from that show, and when we were watching the last Star Trek movie on the plane on the way home, we were informed that several scenes from that were also filmed in Iceland. I guess it’s just the place to go for alien arctic landscapes.

8. Arriving just after the winter solstice, we knew we’d experience limited daylight, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. Sunrise was around 11:30, sunset was around 3:30, and the dawn and dusk periods were long, so you actually had a reasonable amount of time to process Vitamin D.

9. During the widely hyped 1972 Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky  duel in the World Chess Championship, Fischer stayed at the S-Room Presidential Suite at Hotel Loftleider in Reykjavik. I remember eagerly following those matches as a kid, and playing chess more then than I probably have in any year since. Fast forward 40+ years, and the old Loftleidir has been acquired by Icelandair as part of its country-wide chain of hotels. it is now named Hotel Reykjavik Natura, and we stayed there for the two nights that we were in the capital city. I was rambling about exploring as I do, and I was tickled to come upon a nice little exhibition dedicated to the matches and (more specifically) Fischer. He was something of a tragic case with some noxious beliefs, but Iceland did open its heart to him and provide him sanctuary as a citizen for his final years, and you see a lot of “Bobby Fischer ate here” type recognition around the town. He’s actually buried in a tiny church yard on the south of the island, if you’re a chess nerd and want to make a pilgrimage.

10. When we were in Iceland in 2010, the harbor area was torn up as a new performance art center was under construction. We were pleased to see the final results this trip: Harpa. It’s architecturally striking, and we had a very good meal (fish soup for me, yum!) and saw a nice classical music show on New Year’s Day there. A good way to greet the year, peaceful and quiet after the fireworks carnage of the night before!