Sunday, May 29, 2011

Iceland Declared A Terrorist Nation!

Icelandic Terrorists 
We rejoin Rich being interviewed by Lonely Planet as he flexes his historical knowledge and expert opinion on Iceland ...
LP: Is it true that tiny Iceland was declared a terrorist state? I mean, what the hell were they exporting, incest?
Rich: Yes, the poor, well mannered, Icelandic people were declared a terrorist nation in 2008 by none other than Great Britain. See, once Iceland’s banks were deregulated, they realized that they could expand rapidly, and to get money to lend, they started offering higher and higher interest rates. Seeking the highest rate of return, and assuming they should take zero risk to get it, investors, predominately British, who must have had their heads kicked in at some point by soccer hooligans, poured their money into Iceland’s banks, until the value of debt held was an astronomical multiple of the GDP of this tiny country. Additionally joining the campaign of easy credit, were some of the regular Icelandic population who took out Euro and dollar denominated loans to live high on the hog. The financial crisis comes (a near Ponzi-scheme of borrowed money unravels) and lo and behold, Iceland can’t repay their creditors. Iceland’s government says ‘tough luck,’ causing the greedy British depositors to go bananas, and so Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, declares Iceland a “Terrorist Nation” (because we have all seen the gruesome online videos of Icelandic Terrorists threatening to take down America with a jagged fishbone,) and with Iceland now “legally” a terrorist nation, Britain is able to seize whatever remaining assets Icelandic Banks have to ensure their people get their money back, which causes the Icelandic Krona (currency) and their stock market, to CRASH—
LP: Geez, it sounds like an Economic Horror Film!
Rich: Oh, it gets worse! The Icelandic stock market collapses to the tune of 90%! Remember the panic in America that ensued when the Dow dropped like 7% in a day, and broadcasters were wondering whether this was the end of the world? Now imagine how the US would behave if virtually the entire market cap of the nation were to be wiped out, your life-savings gone, and the free-falling US Dollar being treated like a dog with rabies---
LP: They might try to re-elect George Bush. Why did Gordon Brown legally declare them a “terrorist nation?”
Dressed up by Norweigens, like a Russian. I tried to scowl
Rich: Because he could. He was the big bully on the block, and might made right. Survival of the fittest, game theory, all that … So Iceland goes out and begs the West for a bailout. No takers. Without hard currency, Iceland can’t import anything, and seeing that they are unable to grow their own food, they are realistically going to starve to death. Now comes that moment in the horror movie where everyone in the audience senses the pretty starlet is about to have her head lopped off, and black members of the audience, in unison, stand-up terrified, and yell helpful advice at her: “Bitch, don’t go in there, he gonnnnaaaa kill you!!” That moment is of course the on screen appearance of Russians, who “generously offer” to bail out Iceland. If I know anything from all the movies I’ve watched, it’s that you don’t want to be in debt to Russians. To quote the Icelandic Premier, “We went to our friends for help, we got none, so we had to make new friends.” I’d rather be in debt to Tony Soprano. 
LP: Can you turn this into a NASCAR analogy?
Rich: It’s the equivalent of watching your 16 year-old redheaded neighbor, who you always felt sorry for cause your fairly certain he’s the product of incest, win a go-kart race, and he promises you 50%, (you walk away) “no wait, 75%!” of his winnings after he wins the Indy 500, and all he needs are the keys to your Honda Accord. Of course, on the way out of the parking lot, he totals your Accord in a five car pile-up, dizzily gets out of the car, and squeaks that he has no insurance. So you cry to your Daddy, who happens to be the Mayor, who uses some zoning ordinance to repossess your friend’s parents’ house, putting the entire family out on the street in the dead of winter. They go begging, but as no one is willing to help them, they go to the Russian Mob headed by Vladamir Putin, who twirls his long moustache, and out of “philanthropy,” lends them money.
LP: So the moral is, “Raise the driving age?”
Rich: You know the total number of honest people in all of Russia? You can count them on one hand.
LP: Ummm … you know there are over 140 million people in that country?
Rich: I know that.  


Still light out at 11:15 PM on Iceland's Main Drag and party street

LP: Okay, before you go on one of your Anti-Russian Cold War like rants, one of Iceland’s most famous destinations is the Blue Lagoon.
Rich: The cheapest tour there costs $65, which includes a round-trip bus ticket and entry to what is essentially the world’s the largest outdoor, geothermically heated hot-tub. It was nice though, to jump from the cold air into the warm water.
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland
LP: Is it naturally occurring?
Rich: Yes and no … Mainly no. Apparently a company was drilling to be able to extract some geothermal energy and they were too close to the sea, and a bunch of salt water seeped into a formation of lava rocks, creating several pools. They walled off the area, as some parts were simply scalding, but teenagers kept tearing down the fences to get in and bathe in the hot outdoor pools. By the fourth time they had to repair the fences, it finally donned on the Icelandic geniuses that they actually had something people wanted to go to, and they could Charge, so they renovated, smoothed the bottom, and regulated the temperature. 
Yes, Icleandic people eat whale!
LP: Did you see anything else?
Rich: Well, I took a tour to see some of Iceland’s nature. Funny thing is, normally I assume the possibility of seeing wild animals when I’m in an utterly unpopulated, large National Park, but Iceland has almost no naturally occurring wildlife, just migratory birds. It’s such a barren barren land. You realize that there are almost no trees on the entire island. The trees that exist there are ones that grow in other parts of the Arctic, imported to Iceland, and planted in a few select spots. Really all they have are rock formations and water. The first stop on the tour was a tiny little waterfall, and I was like, “Oh my God, I paid $80 to see this?” but in fairness the tour got a lot better from there. The highlight for me was the BIG waterfall. I mean, it’s not close to comparing to Iguazu Falls in Brazil, but the power and amount of water there simply takes your breath away.
Rich: Where does that water come from?
One of the bigger freshwater lakes in the world
LP: Glaciers cover 11% of Iceland, and this water is largely glacial run-off, and when you think about how much water pours over those falls, and at what a velocity, twenty-four hours a day, you realize just how HUGE those glaciers must be. I actually had a really interesting realization standing under/ admiring those falls.
Rich: What was that?
LP: When you stand in front of something that leaves you in absolute awe, your mind, for a few moments, disappears. It’s like a microwaved meditative experience, and by that I mean an instant opening. For a few moments your mind ceases its incessant jabbering about your petty problems, while you bear witness to just how powerful and boundless is the energy you are made from, your infinite possibilities, and just how tiny you as an individual and all your small thoughts are in relation to what you truly is.
LP: I think that might’a gone over a few peoples’ heads.
Rich: That’s okay, I think most people will recognize some nugget of truth there that might get lodged into both their conscious and unconscious minds.

Glacial waterfall in Iceland. would be very impressive without vapor

LP: Ummm … okay … So what’s it like at the top of the world?
Rich: The first thing I can tell you about being that far North at the edge of both the Arctic Circle and summer, is that darkness nearly ceases. You can party from sunrise to Sunset at the beginning of May and you’d only be out for a few hours. While I was there, the sun fell asleep at 11:30 PM, and woke-up just before 4 AM.
LP: Winter must be bad?
Rich: Well, it’s almost perpetual darkness, which is only any good if you want to get your beauty rest. I was told that it is very difficult to stay awake. Like just about everyone, I like the light and the long summer days. I think to live in continuous darkness would be very depressing. Swedes tell me it’s why they consume so much alcohol in the winter.
LP: They call it Iceland, must’a been cold.
Rich: My second day in Iceland was the warmest, nicest day of the year there, and it was literally freezing (13 Celcius) That “brilliant” day, by Icelandic standards, would make for about the coldest day of the year in Los Angeles, where, and I am not making this up, a weather advisory warning is issued any time the temperature drops below 60  (16 Celsius) The winter apparently, due to the warm Gulfstream current, is relatively mild, on the coast generally doesn’t drop below (-5) Celsius often, though it does get colder inland. The weather is quite finicky, and can change on a moment’s notice, any day of the year, as blasts of cold Arctic air, battle against the warmer Gulfstream.  In Iceland they have a saying, “You don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”
LP: Okay, so what’s the bottom line on Iceland? Like, should I go?
Rich: If you can absorb the financial hit of the sky-high prices, then Iceland is a great getaway for a long weekend in my opinion, during the summer only. Go party on the main drag, go see some glaciers before they disappear, and enjoy the midnight sun. I suggest, however, that you go soon. My bet is that any day, Russians are going to repossess the land of fire and ice, plant their flag, and kick the natives out into the sea. If they are lucky enough to be allowed to leave by boat (assuming Putin is in a good mood,) perhaps the 300,000 Icelanders might make it to Canada, doubling the population of our Northern neighbor.
LP: I think you’re being a little unfair to the Russians.
Rich: Think again.

PD'ing my Goddaughter in Iceland- she's the Bestest!

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