föstudagur, maí 16, 2008

Nýjustu tölur

Þegar ég var krakki var það fyrsta sem ég gerði á morgnana að grípa Moggann og Tímann og tékka á teikninmyndasögunum, bíóunum og sportinu.

Núna eru það netmiðlarnir og tölvupósturinn sem halda einhverri eftirvæntingu í lífinu gangandi.

En það er alveg nýtt fyrir mig - kannski ekki ykkur öll - að gengi gjaldmiðla sé það sem ég fyrst athuga á morgnana.

Erla er í Toronto og ég sendi henni flaumósa SMS um að krónan hefði hækkað svo og svo mikið og hún hringdi í mig glöð og hissa.

Flotkrónan gerði þá sem ekkert vit og engan áhuga hafa á efnahagsmálum að áhugafólki um gengi. Það tekur sér jafnvel í munn orð eins og "flotkróna."

miðvikudagur, maí 14, 2008


Hvernig í ósköpunum getur það verið vandamál fyrir Akranes að taka á móti 60 flóttamönnum?

Það skilur enginn nema nokkrir meðlimir í Frjálslynda flokknum.

En um leið er Magnús Þór búinn að skapa nýtt flóttavandamál í eigin flokki. Bæjarfulltrúinn hans er flúinn yfir til Sjálfstæðismanna.

Magnúsi Þór mælist þó alls ekki alltaf illa. Þannig er það hins vegar hjá Villa Vill í Reykjavík. Hann hefur komið flokknum niður í 30 prósent og ber höfðinu ennþá við steininn. Ég græt ekki það fylgistap á meðan svona er haldið á málum. Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn er ekki lengur það stöðugleikaafl í borgarmálum sem hann var. Ég sé enga ástæðu til að kjósa flokkinn í borgarstjórn að óbreyttu.

sunnudagur, maí 11, 2008


Í tilefni af yfirvofandi efnahagsþrengingum birti ég hér söguna Fyrsti dagur fjórðu viku en hún lýsir atvinnuleysi í síðustu efnahagslægð, eða sirka árið 2002. Þar sem þessi kreppa er að hluta til alþjóðleg birti ég söguna í enskri þýðingu Veru Júlíusdóttur.

The First Day of the Fourth Week
Ágúst Borgþór Sverrisson

The toilet mat, a shaggy green rag which is meant to lie on the tiles next to the toilet base, curved into a semicircle which fits snugly to the base where it meets the floor. But the mat is never in its place, at best, it lies somewhere near to the toilet, at worst, in a bundle in a corner. Had he been asked a few weeks ago if there was a lavatory mat in his home, he would have been unable to answer that question. Now he recalls having seen the wife take this mat out of the washing machine and hang it up on a washing line. He might even have done it himself sometime, without giving any thought to what this was, this wet, green thing.
Why on earth does a mat like this exist? Is it better that the pee which misses the bowl lands on a green mat so it becomes saturated with piss? His wife also scrubs the tiles every weekend; does she find that it is better to have to do both that and put the mat in the washing machine?

The heating. Radiation heating does not bother you as long as you don’t think about it. So far he has had other things to think about. But now as he finds himself at home in the middle of the day instead of coming home in the evening, his mind still on the job, now as he suddenly finds himself alone with himself in this house, the buzz of the heating pipes suddenly starts to ring very loudly in his ears, reminding him that there are no radiators in the house, that the heating is in the walls. This came as a shock to him at the time they bought the townhouse, awoke in him a brief sense of insecurity, and then came the story of the accident which had once taken place in the house on the far end of the row. He had seen for himself the large moisture stain in the kitchen there.
He has not thought about this for many years. But what if one of the pipes bursts today? Tomorrow? A month from now? Sometime when you least expect it. Hot water flows into the concrete, causing it to crumble, in a short time the conditions will be like in a damp-ridden basement. The whole house might even be destroyed.

Did the kitchen tap start to drip before he lost his job or did he just not notice it before? He turns off both the hot and the cold water taps, tight. As tight as he can. But the dripping does not let up. There is a pipe wrench down in the storage room and he should be able to fix this, but the thought of attempting it and failing is more than his self-esteem can bear these days, so he decides not to. But the dripping grows constantly louder in his ears, accompanied by the buzzing of the heating pipes; this is the music to the image of the toilet mat in his mind.

How is he supposed to dress now? The wardrobe contains a collection of inexpensive suits, single jackets and trousers, shirts and ties. These are the work clothes he has put on daily, for years, without thinking, at random, almost without seeing what his hands pulled out of the wardrobe each time. But as he does not have any reason to visit an employment agency today, no reason even to pop into a bank, has no other reason to go out than to get out of the loud silence of the house, it does not seem appropriate to dress like he normally would; it[AT1] would seem like a silly denial of the situation. And yet if he puts on jeans or a tracksuit, it is like a declaration that he has become inactive.
After a long deliberation he settles on a compromise, puts on a blue suit and a light blue shirt but leaves out the tie. He is pleased with his reflection in the mirror: the blue outfit is familiar and evokes a memory of normal days, the absence of a tie an appropriate acknowledgement of the change in situation.

He has always covered his back and already in the first week he managed to sell the 4x4, something which came in handy as he is owed many months' salary. In the second week he contacted four employment agencies and applied for ten positions. In the third week he saw the employment agents again but the only news they had for him, each in their own words, was that these things took time.
Now the fourth week has begun and there is nothing to do except wait. Keep the mobile phone switched on when he is away from the house and check his email now and then.
4x4-less he stands at the bus stop and waits there for a quarter of an hour. Finally a yellow bus arrives. Last time he travelled by bus, the buses were green. Back then they were also crammed with passengers, people on their way to and from work, students, elegant ladies. Sometimes the air on the buses was heavy with the smell of fish because of the fish factory workers, who have long since vanished from the city.
Now it is as if he steps into a less travelled parallel reality: inside the bus are three East-Asian people, and a young man having a loud conversation with himself. He is wearing a torn denim jacket and his dirty hair sticks up into the air.
One more passenger joins the bus on the way: a very short bloke who trundles ahead of him three black plastic bags, packed with refundable containers. The bags are as high as the man's head and for the remainder of the journey he struggles to stay on his feet and to stop the bags from drifting around the bus. It is strange and almost fascinating to watch such a primitive fight for survival. The man does not look very elderly, for that his body is too quick and firm. But his face is still covered in deep wrinkles. His skin is brown from dirt, not dark, but light brown, yet one can tell that this is not a suntan.
The smell coming off him is foreign and ambiguous, does not evoke repulsion, but rather a vague curiosity.

He has never been much of a café man, but has occasionally gone to one near to his workplace on his lunch break when he has become bored with the cafeteria. Now he cannot think of any other place to go as he finds himself in the city centre for no reason. He feels like he is on a lunch break at work as he steps inside, but that feeling goes away quickly. Sitting at one table are civil servants whose faces he recognises, a woman and three men. The woman nods towards him. She has not greeted him before, he is stunned and reacts too slowly to return her greeting, and by then she has turned away, absorbed in conversation.
He orders the same as usual, a coffee and a bread roll with cheese. But he has no appetite now. He has not eaten anything today, does not want to admit to himself that he has lost all appetite, and silently curses himself for having ordered this, since he is not hungry and now the roll sits untouched on the plate like a symbol of some misery.
Four young builders in blue overalls are sitting at one of the tables, eating soup out of small bowls and nibbling at mini-slices of French baguette. This meal is as ill-suited to them as ballet dancing, those big and burly men of hard labour. But it is probably a sign of the times, the most unlikely people have begun to follow health tips, gulping down water all day long and eating light meals. And food has for some reason become much more fattening than it was a few decades ago. Back then men like this would have eaten a heavy lunch of meat, but would still have been thinner than these blokes.
After a while people go back to their jobs and the place empties, apart from a blind man who sits in a corner and talks to himself. This is the second man he encounters today who talks to himself. He wonders if there will be more before the day is out.
A good while later a chubby young man enters the café. His head is downcast, he is quite front-heavy and his movements are a bit sluggish, but a smile plays on his lips.
"I would like a large Danish pastry and cocoa with whipped cream, please," he says to the waitress in a voice which could only be described as a loud whisper. "It is my birthday today, you see," he adds shyly when the food is on the table. The waitress does not respond to this but looks uneasy. This does not faze him and he says: "I am 29 years old today," and laughs. He then begins to talk to himself in that loud whisper and it is just as if he and the blind man in the corner are having a conversation.
He has another cup of coffee himself and continues to sit there, far too long. He reads the papers. One of them contains a news article on the liquidation, speculations that some money has been stashed away. He reads a few obituaries. He can not remember having done that before. They are extremely dull. He reads "Readers' Letters". A woman writes that she has seen men's shoes at a good price in Europris. A coat has been taken by mistake from a pub in Grafarvogur. An old man complains about communion wine he had drunk a year ago, that it had tasted bitter. He hopes that this has been remedied.
He has a third cup of coffee. His stomach lets out loud gurgling sounds, not unlike the sound of a coffeemaker. The roll sits untouched on the white plate. He wonders how long it will take before it gets hard. It seems to him that the cheese slice has already begun to darken.

Why is he surprised? He knew better than this. What did he expect? Nonetheless it is a shock to him to see the empty and deserted company buildings. There is no sign of life here. For the last months they only worked on one floor in the old factory, and the cafeteria was still on the top floor of the newspaper building. Everything else was standing empty by then, but he paid no attention to it. There he sat every day, and believed the repeated promises which now sound ridiculous.
The newspaper building has in fact stood empty for a whole year, ever since the paper was sold; the other companies went into liquidation. In this building he started his career more than 20 years ago and he once had a small office there on the top floor. Recently his advancement had been very rapid. As the other managers of the conglomerate fled in droves, he was constantly being promoted, to the point when he was second in charge to the owner, a man who had barely greeted him previously but was no longer the big entrepreneur he was before, because everything had shrunk.
In two buildings further south had been a small magazine publishing company, a radio station and a telemarketing business. All gone and the buildings empty.
In the old factory building was the other newspaper, the offices of its online counterpart and an advertising agency. When the conglomerate began its operation in this building, there was talk that the factory belonged to an industry of the past and that now the future was moving into the building. The new factory, by contrast, is thriving; located at Grandi in the western part of the city, they do night shifts there and the machines are churning away 24 hours a day. Next to the old factory building was the print shop. It shut down two months ago.
The silence of the grave settles over him here. He has rarely felt such shame. He knows this is not his fault, but he was a part of it, believed the promises, stupidly worked at the same company for almost a quarter of a century and is now standing in the street, staring at the blank windows of buildings emptied of people.
Above all this seems unreal to him. Like in a stupid nightmare, the fact that he cannot enter the old factory building now, sit down at his desk and continue to work. Is it not actually more likely that he is sitting there now and is imagining this nonsense? That the person standing out here is a figment of the mind, his own imagination?

After a long, aimless but rather refreshing walk he goes into the bus station building. On light-brown lacquered wooden benches sit people who seem to be waiting for their luck to turn. Yet judging from their facial expressions, they have given up all hope but are still stubbornly waiting. Indistinct ages, coarse facial features, dirty hair and dirty clothes. The overall appearance shows the tell-tale signs of substance abuse, yet no one appears drunk or in an altered state at the moment.
He thinks to himself that at this time of day all the normal people are at work, but the weirdos hang out in cafés and bus station buildings and ride on the half-empty buses. Now he is with the weirdos.
He looks at his watch and it surprises and frightens him how time has flown. He has always been able to get a lot done quickly, and it is amazing to think how fast one can get used to doing nothing – time passes all the same.
For years he has moved through this area to go to the bank, or to a shop, or to fetch the car from a car park down here on the west side when he could not find a spot up on the hill. Yet all this time he has never set foot in the bus station. And now when he finally comes in here, it is for no particular purpose, he who has never gone anywhere without a reason, never done anything without a purpose; although it now all seems to have been purposeless, all his toil throughout the years.
He decides to invent an errand by going to the gents’, squeeze out a few drops and wash his hands.
He is shocked by his reflection in the mirror. In his expression he detects the shame he experienced earlier in the deserted work area, and the same hopelessness he detected in the expressions of the people on the wooden benches out in the waiting hall. His face seems dirty, the suit wrinkled and covered in stains, and there is also a spot on the shirt. It may be because of the peculiar light in here, how the lighting is reflected off the yellow walls. He did not look this bad in the mirror at home. For a moment it occurs to him that one always looks the way one feels.

They have not had a row since he lost his job. The memory of the constant arguments makes him nostalgic, it is a memory of security. Mainly they were about him being too absent-minded, and her having to be responsible for everything. He usually responded by listing the chores that he did. She said he did not do them properly and she had to organize all the work. He then said that he worked more than her and earned a higher salary. She said he was rarely at home and when he was at home his mind was always somewhere else.
Now there is not a cross word from her. No criticisms, nothing. She does not even ask him how the job search is going. She is silent and friendly. He fears that she will explode one day and there will be an almighty row.
Now the sink is filled with dirty dishes and the dishwasher is filled with clean ones. She asked him to do the kitchen this morning. Still sitting in the hall is the bag he was supposed to take down to the laundry room and empty into the machine. He forgot all this and now she has begun to prepare the meal in the dirty kitchen, having just arrived home from work, he has not lifted a finger all day. Never before has he been such an easy target, never has his cause been as hopeless, and therefore he feels as if a row has already started, although she does not say a word.
Despairing, he rushes to the bathroom and calls her from there. She emerges in the doorway, her face one big question mark.
"You, who are so perfect, why do you have this ridiculous mat here in the bathroom?" His voice shakes, he jerks his hand back and forth over the tiles and begins to ramble: "... piss mat ... unhygienic ... make-work ... pointless ..."
She answers calmly that it is only there for decorative purposes and points to an identically-coloured mat in the centre of the floor below the sink. He stares at this mat for a long time, has never noticed it before, but realises that it has been there for many years. And now, unusually, the toilet mat is level and straight, in its proper place. He looks from one mat to the other and now sees in them nothing but perfect harmony.
Defeated, he meets her glance but reads no victory in her eyes, she is just worried. Softly she says that dinner will be ready soon.

In bed, the day flashes through his head in disparate fragments: a yellow bus, black plastic bags, deep wrinkles, a bread roll on a white plate, blank windows in the old factory building, a blue suit, a fat man eating a Danish pastry, bad communion wine, small soup bowls, blue overalls, the dripping from the kitchen tap, the woman from the ministry’s nod, cheap men's shoes, a blind man talking to himself. The day is a collection of pointless and sad details and he feels there is no unity in the world anymore.
But then he tries to think about the mats in the bathroom again, a green mat by the toilet base, a green mat beneath the sink, and he senses the harmony, a perfect green harmony and the green colour spreads across his mind's eye, turning into a meadow stretching out further than the eye can see.

He can feel her hand on his. He hesitates, then he squeezes her hand and she squeezes his in return. As he drifts off into sleep he feels her speaking to him in a soothing voice, reassuring words, but it is only a dream, she is inside her own dream, tossing and turning in the dark.

Síðustu dagarnir í paradís

Vorið er yndislegt. Ég fer í fótbolta með stráknum í sólskini. Skokka Loftleiðahringinn í hlýju regni. Fikra mig inn í nýja skáldsögu og fer í sérsviskulegan rannsóknarleiðangur á björtu vorkvöldi upp Hverfisgötuna, skrái hjá mér staðsetningu húðflúrstofu, bíós, hjólreiðarverkstæðis, kaffistofu Samhjálpar, kynlífsbúða. - Les Kundera. Drekk Café latte þar til ég fæ meltingartruflanir. Mæti í fótboltatíma. Finn nýjar Who-upptökur á Youtube. Panta ferð til Costa Del Sol.

Fer á fyrsta leikinn á KR-vellinum þetta tímabilið og fæ sigur og fullt af mörkum og færum. Og svo er EM að fara að byrja.

Allsnægtir og algleymi. Fjölskylduhamingja.

En í öllum fjölmiðlum er spáð dauða og djöfli innan nokkurra mánaða.

Helvítis bankarnir klúðruðu þessu, segja sumir. Lánuðu öllum og ömmu hans, otuðu peningum að fólki, keyrðu upp húsnæðisverðið og núna er það allt að hrynja. Fjárfestu síðan eins og smábörn í sælgætisbúð. Núna geta þeir ekki lánað venjulegum fyrirtækjum sem við það rúlla yfir.

Ég fékk þá fáránlegu hugdettu í gær að ríkið þyrfti að slá stórt lán og lána síðan fyrirtækjunum. Fyrst bankarnir geta ekki lánað fólki og fyrirtækjum þá þurfi ríkið að gera það.

En eflaust er ástandið ekki svona dökkt. Það getur bara ekki verið.

Getið þið ekki bara reddað þessu á meðan ég held áfram að horfa á fótboltann?