My friend Aitchmark, who comments here now and then, came up with a pretty quotable line in an AIM chat last night: “The most damning indictment of the Episcopal Church,” he said, “is that nobody grows up to hate it.”
This was not one of my better days. It was the kind of day when everything I did seemed either to be plain wrong or wrong in some nagging, yet-to-be-revealed way that I will discover in time. As I took my afternoon walk and night began to lower (“lower” is an obscure verb, really, that rhymes with “flower”. Remember that next time you read Longfellow), I heard a little girl say to her mother, “Look! There’s a Trick-Or-Treater dressed as an embittered, middle-aged Norwegian bachelor!” Her mother answered, “Just don’t look over there.”
As far as Halloween goes, when it comes down to it, I’m just reluctant to give the Wiccans the satisfaction of letting them scare us off anything. I hate to take one of our pleasant cultural traditions and turn it over to them (whether they want it or not), saying, “Here. This is yours from now on.”
When it comes to the occult, a lot of the things Christians think they know come from the writings of a guy named Mike Warnke, who wrote a series of books about his supposed experiences as a Satanist high priest. Warnke was the subject of a series of articles by Cornerstone magazine, some years back, and the story they uncovered was not an uplifting one. I remember reading Warnke’s The Satan Seller back in the 70’s, and being struck by a feeling that something was very wrong with this guy. He took too much pleasure in the sordid details (a criticism which some, no doubt, will make of my own books). Whether you believe everything the articles say about Warnke or not, the mere fact that the guy has been married four times and in each case moved in with the new girlfriend before even divorcing his previous wife testifies, imho, to a less than mature spirit.
Finally, let it not be forgotten that today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in
We have Protestants and Catholics who drop in here, so opinions on Luther will vary. I’m pretty big on him myself, being a Lutheran and all. Volumes have been written about his effect on history, but I judge it, on balance, good. The Reformation had tragic results, notably the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. But (leaving out theology for the moment) the Reformation forced Europe to come to an accommodation that separated church from state to some extent, and a certain amount of freedom of thought came to be acceptable. It suddenly occurred to Christians (who generally had not thought of this before) that if truth is of God it is probably stronger than falsehood, and can win in a fair fight.
Sure hope it works out.
Ella of Box of Books makes a good point about Time's Best of Pick-a-Number list. She says, "The nagging unease of having read only 22 of the TIME picks and 13 of the Modern Library list (100 Greatest Novels Ever Written) is easily defeated by drawing up my own list, and there is much satisfaction in finally having a list in which I’ve read everything." She has her list and calls me on the carpet to present mine.
The problem I have with these lists is that they reveal how little I've actually read [insert protracted whine here]. I don't want to drive people away, more than I do by blogging on boring things, by revealing my ignorance. Why am I a lit-blogger? Because I can be. I keep thinking I will give it up and concentrate that time on writing fiction; but I haven't yet. Still, I like Ella to a limited degree since I barely know her, and I feel compelled to draft a list.
Here's a list of books, stories, and plays I remember enjoying:
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
Superfudge, by Judy Blume
How to Eat Fried
The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
My Name Is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potak
The Fellowship of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien (is it cheating to list Tolkien's books like this?)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Great Stone Face,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Enemy of the People, Henrik Ibsen (Lars' favorite playwright)
The Importance of Being Ernest, by Oscar Wilde
The Second Coming, by Walker Percy
Carry On, Jeeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
The Inimitable Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas
Original Sin, by P.D. James
The Great Gatsby, by F.S. Fitzgerald
The Year of the Warrior, by Lars Walker
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis
"Uncle Fred Flits By," by P.G. Wodehouse
Beowulf (which I'm itching to read again in Seamus Heaney's translation)
Black Dog Man, by Jared Wilson
The Edge of the World, by Phil Callaway
Ok, thirty. I can't remember others right now, especially stories. - phil
About 1813, Clarke read to [Keats] Spenser’s Epithalamion, and put into his hands The Faerie Queene. . . . Clarke tells us how "he went thro' it as a young horse thro' a spring meadow ramping . . . . Like a true poet, too, he specially singled out epithets, . . . he hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant, as he said, 'What an image that is,—"sea-shouldring whales."'" (from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature)Here's a natural quotation in his honor, from Endymion.
A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 5
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways 10
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
This’ll bring the comments in…
Beautiful day today. I wore a sweater instead of a jacket, and then I took off the sweater. I went out to pick up a few things. Walking into K-Mart I looked at my shopping list and saw an item, written in my own hand, about whose meaning I had absolutely no clue. After I’d finished my shopping it finally occurred to me what I’d wanted, and I couldn’t have gotten it at K-Mart anyway. Had to go to Target.
Of course I hate to go to Target because I’m still officially boycotting them over their Salvation Army embargo. But you gotta do what you gotta do, so I went in, got what I needed, and slinked out, tormented by my conscience.
Why do I boycott businesses? I’m now boycotting three oil companies, Target and one soft drink-and-food conglomerate (which hurts, because I really like one of their soft drinks). The answer is cowardice, I think. I’m afraid (and too lazy) to write letters to companies to complain about their policies. Boycotting them is a passive-aggressive way to convince myself that I’m making a difference.
There may be some people out there who aren’t boycotting me yet, but the following ought to fix that.
I think it’s fun, and we ought to enjoy it (or not, for those who, like me, have no social lives).
“But doesn’t it promote witchcraft?” you ask.
The first part of my answer is this question: “If the non-Christians got together and dressed their children up like Jesus and Moses and sent them around to beg for candy and play tricks, would you feel that that activity promoted Christianity?” The fact is (from what I’ve read) members of the Wicca religion don’t much care for trick-or-treating.
Secondly, I think Christians today are way too concerned about witchcraft in general. My own suspicion is that one of the main reasons for Wicca’s growth has been that people know they’ll get a rise out of us by declaring themselves witches, and it makes them feel dangerous and important.
I don’t believe that witches have any special powers. I’m a Christian supernaturalist, so I believe that supernatural events happen in our world from time to time. But my observation and experience is that they’re very, very rare. And I believe that Satan is way, way less powerful than God. If you read my novels, you’ll note that my wizards and magicians generally have a power of illusion and little more. And frankly my books are fantasy. I think I’m giving them more credit than they deserve.
Here’s a fact of Christian history that very few Christians know. Belief in witches with supernatural powers was not part of early Church doctrine. According to Rossel Hope Robbins’ The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology,
“Until the thirteenth century, the official and accepted position of the Church theoreticians was that the acts of witches were all illusions or fantasies originating in dreams, and that consequently belief in the actuality of witchcraft was pagan and therefore heretical.” (p. 74) This doctrine was laid down in the Canon Episcopi, a document whose origins are lost, but it was around in 906 A.D. and was incorporated into Canon Law in the 12th Century. When witch-hunting came into vogue a couple centuries later, the Church had to do some fancy doctrinal maneuvering to explain why the new activity didn’t really contradict it.
It seems odd to me that Protestants (especially) who generally despise the medieval Catholic church, are so keen to defend a Roman Catholic belief that only took hold in the middle ages.
Modern Wicca was invented by an Englishman named Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) who seems to have been largely motivated by a desire to see women dancing naked in the moonlight. It’s my belief that the whole business would have attracted much less attention than it did if many Christians didn’t have a constant need to find things to be outraged about.
My opinion. Let the arguments begin.
". . . nothing better could be wished than that all books would be put aside and nothing else stay in all the world, especially among Christians, but simply the pure Scripture or Bible."
"I . . . often wish that [my books] would perish, because I fear that they may hinder and keep the readers from reading Scripture itself, which alone is the fount of all wisdom."
I can’t handle success!
Phil says we’re getting more visitors. I don’t know if I’m ready for this. I go straightaway into analytical mode: “What went right?”
What is it people are enjoying here? My posts about writing? Can’t be. I haven’t written about writing in a while.
My posts about all things Norwegian? Obviously a subject with less than universal appeal.
My relentless, depressing, self-analytical posts? Yes, that must be it! People want more obsession, more ruthless, unforgiving self-analysis -- in short, more Walker!
I must write yet more about myself. Perhaps you, Gentle Reader, would care to learn about my gall bladder.
Wait. I don’t have a gall bladder anymore.
But I could blog about the operation!
[The material that originally followed the above was deleted by Phil. After a brisk talking-to and a visit to a specialist, Mr. Walker is now medicated and prepared to complete his post.]
Thomas Sowell has a great article on the historical background of Rosa Parks’ famous ride in his column today. Bet nobody ever told you this stuff before!
Now, I'm never going to deny that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired and infallible Word of God. I believe they are. But that doesn't mean that I believe all men are inspired and infallible interpreters of the Word of God. More often than not, we are quite fallible in our interpretations of the Holy texts. This is why, if Apocalypse ever stops me on the street, I'll say, "I'll take the Book of Concord!"This last statement is as dangerous as it gets. "All the Scripture any one of us really needs to know?" That would be taking away from the Word of God, wouldn't it? As a Presbyterian, I couldn't say the Westminister Confession is a better pick than the Bible in this Doom's Day choice. What do you think?
It's not because I think the BoC trumps the Bible. It's quite the opposite of that. It's because I think the BoC says exactly what the Bible says, only in a much more clear and accessible way. In fact, it goes to great lengths to avoid being misunderstood on all the most important issues one could ever pull from the Scriptures.
I mean, you've got the Small Catechism to start with, which really is ALL the Scripture any one of us really needs to know.
Here’s some wandering thoughts I’m trying to work into my current novel project. Some of you may have trouble with them, which probably speaks well of you. The ideas that really excite me generally hover around the edges of heresy – without passing them, mind you – but I think it’s the nature of heresy to deviate just slightly from genuine truths. Which means the truth next door remains true, but it has to be handled with care.
In other words, I am a trained professional. Do not try this at home.
(Saints above! Have I gotten that smug? I guess I must have, because it’s right there in black and white.)
Anyway, remember Uzzah in the Bible? 2 Samuel 6?
It’s one of those stories they don’t dwell on much in Sunday School, because it’s problematic from a Christian point of view. David wants to bring the Ark of the Covenant up to
What you’ve got here is the Old Testament God raw, so to speak. He’s precisely like a high tension line – the electricity does not care whether your motives are good or bad. Touch it and you die. That’s all.
This is a difficult story for us, because it seems to contradict what the Bible says just a little further on, in 2 Samuel 16:7 – “God looks on the heart.”
What we’re dealing with here, I think, is a tension that mounts through the Old Testament, and is only resolved in the New. Jesus said that the “weightier matters of the Law” were justice, mercy and faithfulness. But justice and mercy were always uneasy companions. Complete justice is merciless. Complete mercy is unjust.
Jesus resolved the problem on the Cross. He opened “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) by which we could approach the holy things that could not be approached before.
It’s almost as if Uzzah had survived the first “zapping”. Now God turns around and says, “Come on! Touch it! I grounded it for you.”
I can imagine Uzzah being pretty scared to do that again.
I’m scared too. I’m scared of lots of things, as I’ve told you. But lately I’ve been thinking of Uzzah, and imagining God saying, “Touch it! Go ahead!”
If I suddenly stop posting, it’ll be because I’ve been transformed into a small clump of carbon.
Bill Wallo describes Hollywood as it is on World's Cinema Veritas:
I mean, filmmakers, like any storytellers, want to tell their story their way. They may offer up certain story components because they know the audience wants car chases, explosions, or skimpy bikinis, but by and large they're making the kind of movies they want to see. When Ang Lee made The Hulk, he made the kind of comic book movie that he was interested in making. When Ridley Scott did Blade Runner, he didn't hint that his main character might be a replicant because he thought the audience wanted that; instead, the suggestions represented his own unique vision. If we say that our creative visions are an extension of our worldview, it should not be particularly surprising that films often tend to manifest the worldview of their creators (even if, as I've noted before, it is likewise possible to interpret a creative work in ways which might not have been envisioned as the work was fashioned).Directors and producers make the films they want to make. Sometimes to make money, sometimes to tell stories they like. As I recall, this is one of the premises of Michael Medved's Hollywood vs. America, but he argued that Hollywood filmmakers aren't playing a Please the Audience card when they film explosions and bikinis. That's part of what they want to see on the screen, the visualization of personal fantasies and the outworking of their common lust.
The Lord knows I needed this…
The headline above is not meant ironically. I’m going to point you to a news item that cheered me greatly. It lifted me a bit from the slough of despond in which I’ve been wallowing for the last week or so. (No, really. I know it’s been difficult to tell from the lighthearted tone of my posts, but I haven’t been very cheerful.)
I fought off a cold or the flu or something yesterday. At work I developed a headache that didn’t respond to Tylenol, and I grew more tired and feverish as the day wore on. So I went home, posted my blog entry, took care of this and that, then went to lie down. I slept for a couple hours, and when I woke up I was pretty sure I’d beaten whatever it was. The Lord has blessed me with this amazingly robust immune system, and a little extra rest is usually all I need to shake a bug off. I’m a little weak today, and I didn’t feel up to my afternoon walk, but I feel much better and there was no need to skip work.
Here’s the news I needed. Your mileage may vary: Anne Rice turns to God.
OK, it’s not a perfect story. As an evangelical Protestant I’d have preferred that she embrace Fundamentalist Christianity rather than Roman Catholicism. And there’s no guarantee her Jesus book won’t be a scandal to the Christian community.
But I’d have to be a much more zealous antipapist than I am not to consider this a real step in the right direction.
C.S. Lewis writes somewhere (can’t find the reference) that there’s a temptation in the modern world to say, “This is fantasy” when we see happy children playing, and to say “This is reality” when we see human entrails, while in fact both are equally real. I’m prone to forget that myself. I notice only the bad news. But God is alive, and grace is at work, even in 2005.
Since you mention The Da Vinci Code…
Full disclosure: I have not read The Da Vinci Code. I’m too far behind on reading books I actually want to read to waste time on ones that will only make me angry.
But when I think of the impending DVC movie, I think about Tom Hanks, who’s making it. As you may recall, Tom Hanks is the star of what is (next to the Lord of the Rings movies) my favorite film: Joe Vs. The Volcano, a quirky parable about risk-taking. I saw a TV biography a while back that told me he was part of the Jesus Movement back in the 70’s. This makes him seem like a sort of former brother, an impression strengthened (for me) by the fact that he resembles an actual Christian brother of mine from that period (who, unlike Tom, is thankfully still firm in his faith).
A short web search (I’m not posting links because the best one I found was a Mormon site, and darned if I’m going to link to them) reveals that Tom Hanks grew up in a chaotic, broken home and bounced from Catholicism to LDS to Nazarene. In high school he was a self-described “Jesus Freak”. And like so many Jesus Freaks, he “grew out of” those beliefs. Apparently he’s officially Eastern Orthodox now, having married a woman of that faith. I don’t think he’ll find his new church much happier with his new movie than his old born-again friends.
Of course it’s all my fault.
Avoidants like me are stuck in emotional childhood. We believe that we cause everything that happens around us. So when I think about a number of dear, dear friends from the 70’s, guys I prayed with and shared confidences with, guys closer than brothers to me, who walked away from the Faith, I assume responsibility. On a larger scale, I suppose, I blame myself for the collapse of the entire Jesus Movement.
Was there ever a Christian revival with so few lasting results? Did a revival ever collapse so utterly?
Maybe there was and some have. Perhaps proximity warps my perspective.
My opinion is that we failed because we preached an incomplete gospel. It was a consumer gospel – The New Improved Jesus! More fun and costs less! There was no cost of discipleship in the Jesus Movement (as I remember it), just a cuddly Jesus who lived to meet our needs.
When Jesus Freaks discovered recreational sex, they found they couldn’t stretch even Jesus Movement theology to accommodate that. So they stood like one of those Deciding Men in a cartoon – sex on one hand and the Bible on the other. The only question that occurred to them was, “Which will bring me more satisfaction?”
Sex won, and the Jesus Movement ground to a halt.
Maybe we deserve to have you spit on us now, Tom.
But I’m not going to your movie.
Now by this time Rabbit wanted to go for a walk too, and finding the front door full, he went out by the back door, and came round to Pooh, and looked at him.Also for your amusement, I found the blog, My Best Gadgets, by surfing through Blogexplosion. Immediately, I spotted this handy device, a need for every home and some offices: a Radio Toaster. Wow! I saved so much space with the radio toaster that I bought five new coffee mugs. Don't you love the feel of this GreenSpace Eco-terrorism mug? It says, "Spare the Earth. Die today!"
"Hallo, are you stuck?" he asked.
"N-no," said Pooh carelessly. "Just resting and thinking and humming to myself."
"Here, give us a paw."
Pooh Bear stretched out a paw, and Rabbit pulled and pulled and pulled . . .
"Ow!" cried Pooh. "You're hurting!"
"The fact is," said Rabbit, "you're stuck."
"It all comes," said Pooh crossly, "of not having front doors big enough."
"It all comes," and Rabbit sternly, "of eating too much. I thought at the time," said Rabbit, "only I didn't like to say anything," said Rabbit, "that one of us was eating too much," said Rabbit, "and I knew it wasn't me," he said.
I want someone to pluck me off the side of the road and love me with total abandon. I'm not talking about God here, not something ephemeral, but a woman, a flesh and blood woman. A woman who'll cast out my self doubt and drive it into the lake to be drowned. A woman who thinks I'm worth everything.I understand the feeling; but he appears to be hoping a woman will take God's place in emotionally supplying all he needs. There are women who may be up to this challenge; but just as the adulterer who believes he will truly be happy with another lover, so often the new one will sour to his taste. He's right about human love being close to heavenly joy. It still can't replace it.
Maybe I'm being selfish or overly romantic. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Maybe I have to change things before that happens. But human love, with all its heat and tumult, with all its disappointments and triumph, is still the closest thing we have to heaven on earth.
Book Review: Slow Kill by Michael McGarrity
I have rarely been less whelmed by a novel than by this one. The following review is offered largely for the sake of the aspiring authors among our readers, to point out to you things I think you ought to avoid.
Bear in mind, though, McGarrity is a prize-winning author with bestseller credentials. I’m Currently Between Publishers. So consider the source.
I picked this novel up by chance, in a supermarket display. As I’ve mentioned before, mysteries and thrillers are my favorite light reading. I can’t write the things, so I don’t have the same problem analyzing the interior mechanics as when I’m reading my own genre, fantasy.
McGarrity’s great strength is that he writes from experience. He’s a former
McGarrity’s greatest weakness is that his characters never come to life. As the novel begins, his hero, Kevin Kerney, police chief of
And this is one of the problems with the book. Kerney is so blasted reasonable. He might vaguely mention that he is somewhat irritated at being under the searchlight, but there’s no blow-up, no argument with Lowrey. I’m sure this is how a responsible policeman would act in real life. I’m sure McGarrity is being realistic.
But it’s not very dramatic.
Kerney doesn’t seem to have any real passions at all. He cares about his
Kerney seems to be the perfect feminist husband. He supports his wife’s career above all, even above being with her. He never argues, never yells. He’s utterly domesticated.
But I wonder how many women really want a man that tame.
This political correctness extends to his relationships with the policewomen (one in
Of course there’s small reason any should, in one sense. These women are indistinguishable from men, aside from physical appearance. They’re indistinguishable from one another too, for that matter, and from Kerney himself (again, aside from the physical).
It reminds me of the reason why I stopped watching Star Trek: The Next Generation after just a few episodes. The men and women were exactly alike, except for appearance. Such things do not rivet my attention. I have seen the future, and it is boring.
So I don’t think I’ll be buying any more of McGarrity’s books.
The long road home (Road Work Ahead)
I spent quality time with Mrs. Hermanson last weekend.
Mrs. Hermanson is the name I have bestowed on my 1998 Chevy Tracker. I named her after my elementary school principal, a forbidding lady who stood about sixteen feet tall.
I reserved to myself the pleasure of a visit with my friend Dale in
Dale and his wife and family were hospitable and longsuffering as always. Their German Shepherd, Gisli, being a better judge of character, took an immediate dislike to me. He came to tolerate me at last, at least to the point where he was willing to wag his tail at one end while growling out of the other. Molly, the Golden Retriever, who has no standards at all, took to me right off.
Dale and I took several walks together, partly to emulate Lewis and Tolkien, but mostly for the sake of the dogs. Dale has genuine erudition to bring to this exercise, while I can offer only the credentials of a paperback hack, and numerous opinions. I went to church with them Sunday morning, sponged a delicious Sunday dinner off them, and then took off in a cloud of dust, their silverware in my luggage.
These are the times that sigh men’s trolls, with their long, repetitive, unrelentingly mathematical distances. You start out by covering the first one-thousandth of the trip, knowing that you still have nine-hundred-ninety-nine of those thousandths left to do, and the next thousandth doesn’t improve matters much. Today your job, whether you choose to accept it or not, is to keep your foot on the accelerator for hours and hours.
I had Sissel on the CD player, of course, with the Seekers for a break. But Mrs. Hermanson is big on road noise, especially in a headwind, and I had to crank them up pretty high to hear them. This is not relaxing.
These are the hours when an Avoidant starts ruminating on the failures and lost opportunities of his life. I remembered a long trip on that very road years back, when I drove west to accept a job from a man, and then drove back to break my word to him, one of the worst things I’ve ever done in a less than exemplary life. I thought about the fact that I’m middle-aged and single, and that I’ll almost certainly grow old alone and die alone. I thought about the wreck of my novel-writing career (probably God’s judgment on me for breaking my word to that guy in
I made it home at last, but I wasn’t fit for human society. Fortunately there was nobody to observe, so it was like a tree falling in the forest. Some sort of small tree.
I wondered why I was so tired, since I’d slept reasonably well at the Høstfest, and very well at Dale’s place. My counselor tells me that Introverts (and I think I qualify for that title) draw their energy from solitude, and a week of very little time alone probably ran my batteries down. I find this a very acceptable rationalization, and I’ll keep it.
And so ends the legend of Theseus and the Minot-tour.
My not unpleasant week in
If it’s one of your dreams to see a lot of people wearing Norwegian sweaters with cowboy hats, Høstfest (it means Autumn Festival) in
Høstfest takes place at the North Dakota state fairgrounds, in a complex of interconnected halls, each named for a
After my ravings about the divine Sissel, you might have the idea that Scandinavian music is a major component of Høstfest. This impression would be wrong. The big music draws are Country and Western acts. Merle Haggard sang this year, and Randy Travis and Ray Price and Glen Campbell. Charlie Pride (yes, Charlie Pride) comes back every year, and is a big favorite.
The musical king of Høstfest, though, was the late Myron Floren, former performer on the Lawrence Welk Show. You’ll still hear many saying “It’s just not the same without Myron”. In Myron’s place they have a “Myron Floren Tribute”, headlined by Myron’s son-in-law Bobby Burgess, whom you may remember (if you’re old enough) as the insufferable, constantly smiling male half of the featured dance team on the Welk show.
Oh, by the way, I loathe Polka music.
Almost every hall has its own stage, and there’s a constant rotation of obscure musical groups entertaining on them. Most of the music is Country, because that’s what they listen to in
Did I mention that I loathe Country music too? Someday I’ll tell you about my year-and-a-half stint as a Country disc jockey in
One exception was a musical duo that performed each morning in Copenhagen Hall while I was having breakfast at the Viking Fish Boil stand (pancakes and eggs, not fish). She was tall and blonde and beautiful, and a guy who must have been her father accompanied her on guitar. And she sang mostly old American standards, with a sprinkling of Norwegian standards. I could have kissed her, if I’d wanted to be beaten up by her father.
We of the Viking Age Club were given a space on the mezzanine floor of the main hall, a location most visitors don’t know exists, and one where only the boldest venture. But some people came through from time to time, and now and then it was even crowded. Yet I survived this enforced exposure to actual human beings fairly well (for me). I faithfully carried out our club’s Prime Directive, which is to explain to people that no, the Vikings did not wear horns on their helmets. And I sold a few books.
I also had perhaps the longest Norwegian conversation I’ve ever had in my life, with the owner of the third largest cheese company in
And I came to the rescue when a Norwegian lady at a food stand couldn’t understand the question, “You want fries with that?” I also translated “What kind of pop do you want?” I had delusions of adequacy for maybe three minutes.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I fought my way through blizzards, grasshopper plagues and Indian attacks to cross the prairies and return to civilization.
A Meme break
OK, Phil seems to think I ought to talk about books for a change, rather than Scandinavian related travel, and he has directed my attention to this Meme in particular. Well, it certainly looks like something that will be highly embarrassing to me, and that’s always entertaining.
What books from the list of a hundred have I read?
The Big Sleep
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
The Catcher in the
The Heart of the Matter
Graham Greene (Hated it, by the way)
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Lord of the Flies
The Lord of the Rings
Walker Percy (I’m not actually sure of this one. I tend to forget which Percy I’ve read and which I haven’t.)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee (Probably doesn’t count, since I read it in the Reader’s Digest condensed version)
I’ll tell you about the Høstfest and my drive home tomorrow.
Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
Hey, Lars, what have you read on that list?
I’m not sure what it says about Scandinavians in this country that our largest ethnic festival is located in one of the remotest cities in the nation. Perhaps it speaks well of our determination and adventurous spirit. Or perhaps it says something else about our intelligence.
I’ve wanted to visit Høstfest for many years. The Viking Age Club (of which I’m a member) puts in a presence every year, to serve as part of the ambience. But it’s a ten hour drive, and I wouldn’t have gone this year, while I’m still settling into a new job, except for Sissel Kyrkjebø.
I’ve blogged about Sissel before. For the sake of readers who don’t go that far back, Sissel is a Norwegian popular singer. She’s fairly famous in Europe and (surprisingly) in
I’ve been desperately in love with her ever since I first heard her Christmas album, Glade Jul, back in the late 80’s (it still holds the record in
I’ve been desperate to hear her in concert ever since, but she doesn’t sing in the
I was telling my friend Dale Nelson (I’ll blog about my visit with him tomorrow) on Saturday that I’ve pretty much given up on communicating with anyone in the world about music. I do not understand the music of my generation, and it doesn’t understand mine. I’ve been trying to interest people in Sissel for years, and as far as I know I haven’t “converted” anyone. So it was a shock for me to walk into the State Fairgrounds arena in
The evening opened with a flag ceremony and the singing of national anthems. When the Norwegian anthem started I assumed it was a group thing, and I joined in with gusto. Soon I realized it seemed to be just me and the soloist on stage singing, so I toned it down.
But afterwards two people thanked me for it, so I guess it wasn’t a disaster.
Finally She came on. She wore one of those shirt things women wear over slacks, in pink, with flared sleeves. She has grown her hair out shoulder length, which filled the cup of my joy to the brim.
It was a dark day in my life when I saw her singing on TV during the Lillehammer Olympics in ’94, and observed that she’d cropped her hair short. It’s been short in various styles ever since. I forgave her, but I can’t deny it hurt.
This was around the time she got married to a superannuated jerk from
It’s partly my fault too, of course. I think it’s obvious that the superannuated jerk she was supposed to marry was me, and I failed to do my part by not becoming famous in time to snag her.
The concert was as good as I hoped. One person I spoke to afterwards complained that she mostly sang in Norwegian, but I prefer that (and in spite of my language skills I really didn’t follow much of the lyrics). Another problem in her career, in my opinion, has been that her handlers have tried to promote her as a pop singer, putting out pop albums in English. There isn’t a single English-language album that has impressed me much. She’s at her best doing Norwegian folk songs and hymns (she always includes a few hymns). There was quite a lot of this sort of thing here. There were only two songs I recognized from her recordings. But that was fine. I think she was doing material to be included in her next album (“It was supposed to be called ‘Nordic Summer Nights’,” she said, “but it took so long in production it’s going to be ‘Nordic Winter Nights’”).
Naturally the auditorium was equipped with screens, so that we could get a close-up view of her beautiful face. And that was nice. But I tried to stare at her, herself, on the stage below, as much as possible. I’ve seen pictures of her before.
As you can see, Sissel reduces me to stark sniveling, fan-boydom (or, more properly, fan-geezerdom). I came prepared to worship, and I worshiped.
She did three songs for an encore, and her last one was Løvland and Graham’s “You Raise Me Up”. Was I in tears? What do you think?
I can die now. The Lord can take me home.
I’m back at last from the steppes of
The main thing wrong with
It’s about a ten hour drive to
Roy tells me that Fargo has developed into a minor hotbed of high-tech industry, thanks in part to enlightened tax policies (“Progressive” would be a better word than enlightened, but the Statists have co-opted it. As if high taxes had anything to do with progress).
When you get further west, closer to
But it was. They’d had 14 inches the week before. There was quite a lot in ditches, and other places.
So I made it to
I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.
Fortress Press, the publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has announced the publication of The Jezebel Letters, which "combines top-notch biblical scholarship with a fictionalized first-person account of the biblical character." According to the Fortress press release, the book "transforms the stereotype of the notorious biblical queen into a more historically based portrayal of a powerful, literate royal woman."You may have gotten a bad impression of Jezebel from the Biblical account, but this book argues that the facts are "she was 'the urbane and thoughtful Queen of Israel who gives voice to her efforts and those of her family in guiding Israel through one of its most challenging, and least understood, periods.'"
Rob Lacey's best-selling title, The Word on the Street offers an excellent starting place. Lacey wrote this fresh, urban paraphrase of the Bible for those "who don't count themselves as religious or churchgoers" for them to get the basic story. He wanted, he says, "to kick out all the overly religious language, so they could at least have the chance of deciding what they thought about it."Do you read a Bible paraphrase? (You can interpret "read" however you like.) Some readers have a strong aversion to them, but what do you think? I used to enjoy the Phillips New Testament, but I haven't picked it up in years. The New King James and the English Standard Version are the translations I enjoy to use most.
Lacey is realistic about the scriptures: "The Bible is the most published book in the world, but probably not the most read book in the world," he admits. "What happens is it starts at page one with Genesis and they love it, but by the time they get to Leviticus, they are struggling in a desert, and they don't get any further. That is a crime that people miss out on all the brilliant stuff later on because they don't realise that you don't need to read it as a normal book.
Same or Different Bible Verse?I have more respect for some paraphrases than for others, but this question gets me wondering how the Lord preserves His Word through the languages of the ages. Suppose a small society has no understanding of sheep or shepherds, how can translate Psalm 23? It isn't by added a long contextual note explaining shepherds. It's by changing it to a chicken-raiser, maybe.
"This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels."
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
I think I know what White House aides are thinking.Heh, heh. You know she's right.
They're thinking: This is the part of my memoir where we faced the daily pounding of our allies. They're thinking: This is the "Churchill Alone" chapter. They're thinking: He was like a panther in the jungle night. For five years he sat, watchful, still as marble, his eyes poised upon his prey. And then he sprang in a sudden burst of sleek-muscled focus, and when it was over his face was unchanged but for the scarlet ring of blood around his mouth. But enough about George Will. They're thinking: That's good, save it for later.
Today, I figured out how to make the office black and white copier/printer/fax machine print a document in booklet format (folded and stabled) the way it should by default. Under normal conditions when asked to print multiple copies of a 20 page booklet document, it will print the full document forwards and backwards, fold both, and staple them together. I found the settings which order it to print, fold, and staple only one document at a time. No one else knew how to this, so I have essentially saved the day, don’t you think.
What did you do today?
O God the author of all good, I come to Thee for the grace another day will require for its duties and events. I step out into a wicked world; I carry about with me an evil heart. I know that without Thee I can do nothing, that everything with which I shall be concerned, however harmless in itself, may prove an occasion of sin or folly, unless I am kept by Thy power. Hold Thou me up and I shall be safe.You may also want to look over these beautiful thoughts on reading and Wodehouse at A Circle of Quiet.
Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error, my affections from love of idols, my character from stain of vice, my profession from every form of evil. . . . read on
Pilgrimage, Stage 2
I wasn’t going to post again before I got back from Minot, but I think I didn’t really finish yesterday’s post. I made sweeping statements about why we’re not worthy of Christianity in our culture anymore, but I was rather vague about why. So I’ll try to buttress my argument.
I think the modern view of “normal” life – the life we expect and feel entitled to – involves living without any need of courage. If my home is destroyed in a fire or flood, I don’t say, “This is a trial I must overcome.” I say instead, “Whom can I sue, and what government agency will pay to restore what I’ve lost?” The idea that we might have to bear a loss or make sacrifices grows more and more unacceptable to us.
Here’s the thing – courage is the same as faith. If I want to exercise faith, I must exercise courage. If I want to exercise courage, some kind of faith is required of me. Not necessarily faith in God. Just faith that my risk and sacrifice are worth something, that they serve some purpose greater than my personal comfort.
When we try to build a world where courage is unnecessary, we destroy faith. When we tear down the things that people believe in, we destroy courage.
It may be that our future is in the influx of Hispanic immigrants. Perhaps we’ll become a Catholic nation, with a state religion.
In many ways, an Islamic Europe and a Catholic United States would be superior to the nihilism of the present order.
But they wouldn’t be Europe and they wouldn’t be the
And I’m against that.