Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

I wrote, some time back, about “discovering” Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” – years and years after the rest of the world did, of course. And I mourned the man’s death, having found some of his stuff both intriguing and moving. I didn’t know a lot about his personal life, though. Kyle Smith fills in the details in his article about a new documentary on Cohen’s romantic life, over at National Review:

Directed by Nick Broomfield, the new documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is intended as a tribute to the relationship that inspired one of Cohen’s best-known songs. It is actually more of an indictment. In nauseating detail, it documents the damage wrought by open relationships and other errors of the counterculture. Cohen, once he achieved success as a performer, discovered he was the Elvis of bookish depressives and indulged himself with the women who stampeded to his shows. He was living with Marianne while writing songs about hooking up with Janis Joplin at the Chelsea Hotel. A friend of Cohen from those years, Julie Felix, recalls, “Leonard was a great, uh, feminist. He said to me once, ‘I can’t wait till women take over.’” Ladies, when a man says this, listen carefully. What is he really saying? Cohen was giving himself a license to treat women badly.

And there it is again, the sour legacy of the ‘60s. And the ‘70s. When I reminisce about those anarchic decades, you must bear in mind (in fairness) that I was not a neutral observer. I didn’t envy the hippies their drugs – I’ve never understood why anyone would want to lose control of their mind – but I envied them the sex. Sex in the Age of Aquarius was a loud party in the next room, keeping me awake all night.

From Leonard Cohen to Charles Manson to Ira Einhorn (the founder of Earth Day who murdered his girlfriend and stored her body in a suitcase), the Sexual Revolution was an era of the manipulation of young women, justified by high-sounding philosophical and psychological claptrap. We’ll never know the cost in ruined lives, ruined health, and actual deaths. (The movie Forrest Gump is one of the few honest treatments in cinema.)

When we look back at that era from the perspective of contemporary sensibilities (which happens rarely, because the old hippies are still around and still determined to hush it up) it’s hard to comprehend. “How could people allow this to happen?” you might ask. “With so many victims, why didn’t anyone say anything?”

The answer is that some people were saying something. Preachers were saying something. Church people were saying something. Small town people were objecting, and farm people.

Uncool people. People nobody listened to. People they made fun of on TV.

Today, the victims are different. My friend Moira Greyland Peat, author of The Last Closet, one of the earliest “guinea pigs” in the Great Gay Experiment, has chronicled how children in “gay families” are subject to sexual abuse far out of proportion to their percentage of the population.

Again, people are sounding the alarm. But we’re not the cool people. The very fact that we don’t parrot the approved public narrative is proof that we’re bigots, and unworthy of a hearing.

We live in a new age of ignorance, I think. Through most of history, information was limited by physical unavailability. Most people knew what their neighbors knew and what their priests told them, nothing more.

Nowadays there’s so much information around, we depend on great information aggregators to choose for us what we’ll hear. We’re back to depending on the neighbors and the priests, only those neighbors and priests are wealthy strangers far away, with their own motivations.

You can’t operate on lies forever. Structures with flimsy foundations must inevitably fall. So the falsehoods won’t stand forever.

I just fear how many more innocent victims will be crushed in the collapse.

Brutal Opposition (Sometimes Fictitious)

Journalist Andy Ngo has spent a good bit time looking at hate crimes and hoaxes of them. He said, “If you constantly tell the public that bigotry is everywhere, some will do anything to seek it out or even create it when they can’t find it.” This piece backs up that assertion, in which Ngo starts with the lawsuit Oberlin College lost to a local bakery and notes the numerous hoaxes its student body has generated. He reports,

In 2013, students at the elite liberal arts college panicked after someone reported seeing a person in a Ku Klux Klan robe on campus. The administration cancelled all classes for the day. The phantom klansman was never found, though police did find someone wrapped in a blanket. This overreaction was preceded by a month-long spate of racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay posters around campus. These, too, were found to be hoaxes. 

Twitter is good at these misdirections. Today people are noticing a trending hashtag #NotMyAriel, supposedly in response to the adorable Halle Bailey being cast in a live action remake of The Little Mermaid. However of all the comments pushing back on her casting, none of them use that hashtag. You’re yawning; I can tell. Am I boring you?

Ngo’s reporting is far more serious than unused hashtags. He has worked to expose Antifa for the dangerous group it is. In Portland, Oregon, last Saturday, he was attacked by protesters and consequently hospitalized. Quillette magazine states, “Like schoolboy characters out of Lord of the Flies, these cosplay revolutionaries stomp around, imagining themselves to be heroes stalking the great beast of fascism. But when the beast proves elusive, they gladly settle for beating up journalists, harassing the elderly or engaging in random physical destruction.”

Ngo has written more on the attack in this piece for the Wall Street Journal, going so far as to say Portland is growing into a sanctuary city for “domestic terrorists.”

‘Dead South,’ by David Banner

This is another southern mystery, the first book in a series set in Charleston, South Carolina. Dead South introduces police detective Ryan Devereaux. Ryan is a native son of Charleston, and the book is as much about Charleston as about the mystery. Everywhere author David Banner rhapsodizes about the beauty of the place, its gracious traditions, its friendly people. You’d think there wasn’t any dark side to the south at all, apart from a murder or two.

As the story begins, Ryan gets a call that a body has been found buried a swamp. It’s an old body, long skeletonized. But when he sees it, he knows immediately who it is. It’s Haley King, his high school girlfriend. She’s wearing the dress she wore to the prom, the night she stood him up.

Because he’s a cold case detective, Ryan is assigned the case. He swings into it with a vengeance. Someone in town killed Haley, and that person will not hesitate to kill again and again, to keep the truth hidden

Usually when I say a book is badly written, I mean it literally. Grammatical and spelling errors have become tiresomely common in the new, more egalitarian publishing world. Dead South isn’t badly written in that sense. Author Banner knows how to write a decent sentence. His problem is that he hasn’t mastered telling a story.

It’s hard to sympathize with Ryan Devereux. He’s so sure of himself, so obsessed with the case, so willing to cut corners and disobey his superiors, that he seemed like a madman to me. We’re constantly told in this book how laid-back and casual Charleston people are, but Ryan is like a high tension wire, vibrating in a hurricane. Also, I found much of the plot implausible.

So I wasn’t terribly impressed with Dead South, though I did stick with it to the end. Profanity and mature content were pretty minimal.

Festival postmortem

There and back again. Since we spoke last, I’ve been up to Moorhead, Minnesota (which is just to the right of Fargo, North Dakota if you don’t know the neighborhood) for the Midwest Viking Festival at the Hjemkomst Museum.

The theme this year was rain and mud. I worried about rain driving up, I worried about rain when I slept, and I spent the days sitting under my awning, worrying about rain. The usual drill is to arrive Thursday afternoon and set up, to be ready for the opening on Friday morning. But it was raining Thursday, and Friday looked to be a little better, so I went straight to the motel for the night and drove to the museum the next morning to set up then. And indeed it wasn’t raining Friday morning. It didn’t rain at all on Friday, though the skies were cloudy all day (as “Home On the Range” doesn’t say).

But it rained overnight, and it rained off and on all Saturday. The heathens were doing their weather magic, which benefited them not at all. And that’s some comfort. I prayed about the weather myself, of course, but always with the tragic understanding that God has greater concerns than my comfort.

The rain did let up for a while in the afternoon, though, so although we had to pack up our tents wet, we didn’t have to do it in the rain (mostly). Which was something.

But the festival itself actually went better than I’d have thought, considering the precipitation. Attendance wasn’t bad, and I sold out my supply of Viking Legacy, plus a fair number of West Oversea. Also, Blood and Judgment achieved a surprising popularity.

One cheerful woman wanted two Viking Legacys and one West Oversea. Then she changed her mind and asked for a third Viking Legacy.

An example to us all.

A blonde young woman came by and didn’t buy anything, but she was amazingly beautiful, and the smile she gave me packed enough wattage to dry my tent out.

I wonder what it’s like to live like that – to be so beautiful that almost everyone’s happy to see you show up. It must be like having a free pass everywhere.

Also got a chance to meet a Facebook friend and fellow reenactor I’d never met before. Nice to meet you, Einar Severinson. Not as nice as meeting the blonde, I’ll admit, but nice enough.

I had a strange encounter with an old guy who informed me that he was a “historian.” When I gave him my spiel about Viking Legacy, he interrupted me. “I always get mad when people talk about Viking democracy,” he said.

I asked him why.

“Because they weren’t all equal.”

I said, “I didn’t’ say egalitarian democracy.”

He said, “Well, that’s what most people understand by democracy.”

I said, “The Athenian democracy wasn’t egalitarian either.”

He wandered off mumbling about how I was deceiving people.

Historian, my eye.

Anyway, when all was done I got my car loaded up with wet canvas and gear (thanks to the invaluable help of the Patton boys and some of their friends. I don’t know what I’d do without the Patton boys. If they can’t attend some year, I may have to bow out myself).

And now I’m home at last, beginning to recover. I’ve got my tent drying in the basement, and some money to count.

Could have been worse.

Eating Seasonally, Feasting Locally

We don’t plant a backyard garden every year and have grown a good crop only two or three times. You may have had more zucchini than you could eat time and again, but we’ve only begun to approach that level once. Usually our squash grows leaves and flowers but no fruit. Once I grew some nice turnip greens; at least the first batch was nice. The second was to bitter. I put only tomatoes and basil out this year, because I didn’t get around to clearing the other bed and trying beans.

Gracy Olmstead has a good piece on feasting, the church calendar, and seasonal eating, noting the self-control and humility it takes to live closer to the land around you.

Don’t get me wrong: we’re incredibly fortunate to get avocados and bananas year-round, and to have refrigerators and freezers in our houses. But I think we’ve also lost some of the joy of food, the ability to treasure the flavors of the seasons, because we no longer understand these patterns of waiting and feasting.

This concern became especially real for me two summers ago, after my husband and I moved to the Virginia countryside. As we were unpacking our books and clothes, I transplanted our fledgling tomato plants into a garden plot the previous homeowners had left behind. Those plants seemed to shoot upward overnight, spreading with fervent glee. . . .

Soon we were picking giant bowls full of tomatoes every day, and the toddler and dog would sit next to each other in the garden and eat them to their hearts’ content. 

Midwest Viking Festival

If I don’t post tomorrow, it will be because I’m in Moorhead, Minnesota, gracing the Midwest Viking Festival with my presence. The festival is Friday and Saturday. It’s supposed to rain starting Thursday (when we’ll be setting up) and through Saturday (when I’ll be bundling my wet tent canvas up and stuffing it back into my car).

But don’t let that discourage you. If you’re in the area, stop to see us.

Read about it here.

And pray for drought.

LIndisfarne

I’ve been reading a book about Lindisfarne, the English island where (according to received wisdom) the Viking Age began with a brutal raid on the renowned monastery there. The date of the raid is generally considered to be June 8, 793, so we just passed the anniversary (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle gives a January date, but that’s unlikely. Vikings didn’t generally raid in the winter).

I’m reading the book because I’m scheduled to do a presentation on LIndisfarne later this summer. I have a lot to learn yet — I find some disagreement in sources. The video above says the original 793 raiders stole the Lindisfarne Gospels book, but the book I’m reading says no, the monks hid it. I do believe I’ve read that the book was taken by Vikings at some point though, so I’ll have to dig a little more into that.

Anders Winroth suggests that the Viking raids were a net good to Europe, as they took wealth that had been stockpiled in church institutions and injected it back into the economy.

I’m sure that was a great comfort to the enslaved monks and nuns.

Of Normans and Normandy

I didn’t comment on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion yesterday. I’m kind of over my head with work right now (for which I thank the Lord), and I wanted to get the book review out of the way. But I don’t want to leave the day unmarked.

I wonder how much the planners of the invasion were influenced by historical symmetry. It must have appealed to Churchill, especially, to send troops back to the very beaches where ships had been launched by William the Conqueror in 1066. By all accounts it was a near-run thing, the conclusion by no means foregone. But there was certainly strategic sense in it. (There was also, as I’ve mentioned before, an alternate plan to invade by way of Norway. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Norway seems a poor platform for launching the liberation of continental Europe. Maybe cutting off Hitler’s iron ore supplies would have made it worth it, though.)

In any case, I couldn’t resist sharing the illustration above, which was on the cover of The New Yorker on July 15, 1944. The artist was Rea S. Irvin, and I love it to death. More information from the Norman Rockwell Museum here.

FYI, there is also an “Overlord Tapestry,” housed in a museum in Portsmouth, England. It was completed in 1974. You can read about it at the web page of Sandra Lawrence, the designer, here.

I also hate being wrong

Yesterday I posted, in good faith, an article that described the state-sanctioned assisted suicide of a 17-year-old girl in the Netherlands. Since this precisely echoed the plot of my novel Death’s Doors, I wrote about it.

It appears that the story was false. This from Reason:

Pothoven did indeed apply with a clinic for The Netherlands’ legal euthanasia process, but physicians reportedly denied her request, saying she was too young, her brain was not fully developed yet, and she should try more trauma treatment first.

Her recent death came after a long struggle with anorexia and depression, in which the teen ultimately refused to consume food, water, or anything to keep her alive.

The whole story seems to me to be still kind of muddy. Nevertheless, the central point of my post was the evil of government-enabled suicide, and in this case the government was in fact blameless.

So I apologize.

I have no doubt the Death’s Doors parallel is coming, but it is not yet.

I hate being right

A few years ago I published a novel based on a scenario I saw coming down the road, inevitable as the 1:00 train: The same legal theories that allowed a young girl to get an abortion without her parents’ approval would allow any child to commit suicide without the parents’ consent. The book is called Death’s Doors.

And now it’s come true.

The London Daily Mail reports that a 17-year-old girl, Noa Pothoven, has committed assisted suicide in her own living room. Her parents did not approve, but were legally powerless to prevent it.

According to the Dutch newspaper De Gelderlander, Noa’s parents had no idea she was unwell until her mother discovered a plastic envelope in her room filled with farewell letters to her parents, friends and acquaintances. 

‘I was in shock,’ Lisette told De Gelderlander. ‘We didn’t get it. Noa is sweet, beautiful, smart, social and always cheerful. How is it possible that she wants to die? 

‘We have never received a real answer. We just heard that her life was no longer meaningful. For only a year and a half have we known what secret she has carried with her over the years.’  

I weep for the girl, but I also weep for those parents. It’s a parent’s job to be adult for their child, to stand in their way when they want to make disastrous choices. These parents have been stripped of that God-given duty and right. The girl probably thought that a lot of pain would go out of the world when she left. She was wrong. She left all her pain behind, for her parents to bear.

I need to go through my drawers…

I was going to tell you about all the pulse-pounding excitement of Danish Day in Minneapolis yesterday. But you’ll just have to wait, because once again it’s taking forever to upload photos to 1) Dropbox, and then 2) to Photobucket. Not sure why that is. I didn’t have that trouble in the past.

Anyway, exciting news in the world of Early Medieval Scandinavian Geekdom today. One of the lost Lewis Chessmen has been located… forgotten in a desk drawer.

It’s always the last place you look, isn’t it?

“It was stored away in his home and then when my grandfather died my mother inherited the chess piece.

“My mother was very fond of the Chessman as she admired its intricacy and quirkiness. She believed that it was special and thought perhaps it could even have had some magical significance.

“For many years it resided in a drawer in her home where it had been carefully wrapped in a small bag. From time to time, she would remove the chess piece from the drawer in order to appreciate its uniqueness.”

Read the whole story here, courtesy of the BBC.

Viking alert

My renowned Viking tent (seen here a year ago) will be on display once again (God willing) at Danish Day at the Danish-American Center, 3030 W. River Parkway S., Minneapolis, this Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 or so. I’ll be there with the Viking Age Club & Society, selling books and pretending to be a bigshot. The weather looks to be OK.

You have been warned.

These honored dead

As advertised, I was at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Saturday morning, helping to dedicate a memorial to the men of the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate), a World War II commando unit organized and trained for an invasion of Norway. Most of its members were either Norwegian merchant sailors stranded by the Occupation, or Norwegian-American boys. Requirements were Norwegian heritage, ability to speak the language, and the ability to ski.

Although the invasion never happened as such, they participated in commando actions (some of them became part of the legendary OSS), and participated in the battle for Europe. The man in the grave above died in 1944, probably in Belgium, where the unit saw fierce fighting.

I was asked to read an invocation for the ceremony, and then I helped place battalion flags on the graves of all the 99th members buried in the cemetery. A couple of my Viking friends came too, and I thank them. It was a moving occasion. No 99th veterans were present, but a couple of their widows were there, along with some descendants.

Memorial Day

When it comes to Memorial Day, I always seem to perambulate back to “The Mansions of the Lord,” because it just gets me right here. This version includes a lot of Ronald Reagan, so if you don’t care for that, there are other blogs in the web. Have a good day.

I want to post a photo from Saturday at Fort Snelling, but that will have to wait because the picture file is taking forever to appear in Dropbox.

I just finished a big translation job, and I have another smaller one I need to get at today. And that’s good. Because I’m a hard-working man with a vibrant life, not a fat old bachelor with odd hobbies, as I might appear to some.

To all survivors of fallen heroes, may the Lord be with you, today and every day.