All posts by Lars Walker

What’s in your wallet?

Well, I’m back. I’m almost disappointed to say I came home unscathed, except for sore muscles and a combination burn/bruise on the inside of my left forearm. That came from shooting my bow. (Ah-ha moment: “That’s why archers wear those arm guards!” There was a time when I was younger when I shot with a bow quite a lot. I never needed a guard back then. It must be a function of aging).

It’s a six-hour drive to Elk Horn, Iowa, but I made it there ahead of the other Minnesota participants and checked in to the local motel. (If the original Vikings had had motels, they’d have slept in them too. They might not have paid their bills, but they would have used the nice dry beds).

On Saturday we played with Skjaldborg, the Nebraska Viking group that was hosting us. They set up an interesting exercise that worried me at first, but turned out to be a lot of fun.

The “gauntlet,” as it was called, involved first throwing a couple spears at a pile of straw bales. Then the subject grabbed a shield, pulled his sword, and ran (while being shot at with blunt, rubber-tipped arrows) to another man armed with shield and sword, fighting his way past him (for the purposes of this game, the subject never got “killed”). Then he had to fight past a guy with a spear who guarded a narrow, marked-off passage called “the bridge.” Finally, he had to fight two guys with shields and swords at once.

It was better than chocolate. Afterwards we did some group fighting, and later the guy from Missouri who’d brought up his Viking boat pulled it out to a nearby reservoir so we could do some sailing. Here’s a picture. Look like fun?

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The boat’s a real beauty, built by a craftsman. Light to row and fast under sail.

As we put the boat back on its trailer, the weather began to turn Norwegian, and we spent the rest of the night enjoying authentic Viking cold rain. When I’d enjoyed as much of that as I could stand, I retired to my motel room.

The next day the other Minnesotans left early, but I stayed till around noon. We did the gauntlet again, but this time you had to “earn” your shield by actually getting your spear to stick in the hay pile. I suck as a spear thrower, so I had to do the rest with sword only.

Needless to say, the only way to handle a situation like that is to go on strong offense, attacking the defenders at a full run. I was completely winded and utterly happy when I was done.

Then some more group fighting, and then I packed up and drove home in a warm glow.

I am a mess as a human being. I am constantly hobbled and crippled by fears, neuroses and impacted memories. When I go to a reenactment event and set up my day shade, I remain a mess. I remain a mess while plans are made and instructions given.

But when the battle starts and the steel is in my hand, my complexes become simplex. I’m just a man among other men, with one thing on my mind. “In the zone,” “one with my weapon,” whatever cliche you like, that’s what I become.

It appears I have good instincts. The first time I ran the gauntlet, I faced a man with a spear for the first time in my life. I did what came naturally with my sword, and they told me afterwards it was a “textbook” parry.

It’s also play. I’ve never played much in my life, never done a lot of the rough stuff with other guys. To do it now, and know I’m not bad at it, bucks me up incredibly.

There’s a psychological technique called “play therapy,” isn’t there?

I think there’s a doctoral thesis in this, for some perceptive graduate student.

Today I’m wiped out. Tired and achy. Maybe I’m coming down with something. Maybe I caught my death in Saturday night’s rain.

Do you get a Viking funeral if you catch pneumonia in an encampment?

If so, I’d call it even.

The legend of the microwave and the bird

I forgot to mention that Libertas recently posted this review of Andrew Klavan’s new novel, Damnation Street. As you know, I boost Klavan at every opportunity. I’ve got to read these newer mysteries. Unfortunately, no store in the Twin Cities seems to carry them in stock. Wouldn’t have anything to do with his politics, do you think? Nah, not here.

This will probably be my last post till Monday. I’m driving down to Iowa for the Viking Meet in Elk Horn, and although I’ll be staying in a motel room and bringing my laptop, I never count on web access.

Today’s interesting anecdote:

I was asked to sit in on what is called a “President’s Lunch” at the Bible School today, because a couple who plan to donate a large number of books to our archives were going to be there. When they told me where they came from, I told a story about my one visit to that town. I had been there with my musical group in the early ’70s, and my hosts had told me an anecdote about a microwave oven.

The lady laughed. “That was us,” she said. “That was our story.” They turned out to be the same people we’d met on that first visit. (Not so great a coincidence, considering the size of the town.)

The story goes like this:

This was just when microwave ovens were first entering the consumer market. They were very high tech stuff, and not a little frightening. Some people refused to eat food cooked in the things.

This particular couple had a neighbor who was selling microwaves. He made them a thirty-day offer. “Try it out, see how you like it,” he said. “You can cook almost anything with this, in almost no time. You can cook a twelve pound turkey.”

The couple told him they were going to take a chance and cook their Thanksgiving turkey in the microwave. They told him several times, to make sure he knew how important it was to them.

On Thanksgiving Day, at lunchtime, when everyone was sitting down with their families to eat, they called their neighbor.

“What have we done wrong?” they cried. “Come over here! Look what your microwave oven has done to our twelve-pound turkey!”

The neighbor and his wife left their meal and came over immediately, instruction book in hand.

“Look at this!” said the couple.

There on the turkey platter sat a tiny miniature bird, trussed, browned, but so small….

The dealer and his wife obsessed over the malfunction for some time, until the stifled laughs of the couple’s children tipped them off.

The couple had carefully stitched up and cooked a Cornish Game Hen.

I’ve always thought that was a pretty good practical joke.

Thoughts of a bloodthirsty librarian

Today I was processing books for the library, part of a large collection given to us by a minister who passed away recently.

I picked up one book on The Philosophy of John Dewey. I went to the web service we use to find cataloging data. Because the book is fairly old, there were only a few listings there. As always, I searched for a record that included the Library of Congress catalog number, because that’s the system we use. Unfortunately, there was none.

All the records, I found, were catalogued in Dewey Decimal.

I guess there’s a cosmic rightness there that overrides my personal convenience.

Also I found a book called Preaching Values, by Halford Luccock. That’s a title that surprises no one in our day. Obviously the book is meant to help pastors pass on Christian moral values in their sermons.

But this book was published in 1928. It was about the values, for preachers, of certain modern Bible translatons.

The new translations included Moffat and Goodspeed.

The past, truly, is a different country, my friends.

And yeah, I fantasize about living in that other country. Some days it looks like Heaven, or Norway, to me.

But our plumbing is better here.

I’m about to write about the Pope’s comments on Islam, and the Muslim reaction. If you’re sick of hearing about it, you can skip the rest of this post.

I saw a button back in the ’60s that said, “Support Mental Health Or I’ll Kill You.”

Any reasonable person would recognize that rioting and murdering people are a self-contradictory means of proclaiming one’s peacefulness. And the fact that a large part of the Muslim world fails to get the joke (such as it is) pretty much says it all.

But the Islamic world doesn’t care. Because they’re not involved in a struggle of ideas, but a struggle of honor.

Honor, and honor cultures, is one of my hobbyhorses. I believe (perhaps wrongly) that my study of Viking sagas has taught me something about the subject.

It’s not about making sense, for our enemies. It’s about having honor, being what Bin Laden calls “the strong horse.”

As long as we continue our policy, all over the West, of playing a game in which the other side’s role is to commit outrages and ours is to reward them for it, they will continue to see us as people of no honor. Weak horses. Countries that it would be an act of charity to conquer, so that they might teach us to be men.

The reasonable way to handle this (not in the common sense of the word “reasonable,” which for us means something like “inactive,” but reasonable in the sense of operating in a way appropriate to the situation) would be to act to defend our honor. Some kind of strong action is required, not necessarily, but probably, violent.

That would go far to restore our honor in their eyes.

It would be a charitable act too, because it might warn them off. They would be less likely to commit the enormity that seems, under present conditions, pretty much inevitable. Because when that enormity happens–when they blow up a bomb in America, or unleash a chemical weapon, we will unite again and take violent action. Probably even if the president is a Democrat. Many more people will die under that scenario.

It won’t happen, of course. Bush would be impeached. Someone might even assassinate him under the current climate of opinion (or passion).

I can hear people objecting now, “But defending our honor’s not a Christian response!”

Those who say this are generally the same people who’ve been trying to tell us for thirty years that America is not a Christian nation, and has never been a Christian nation. Christianity, they insist, is more foreign to American tradition than Peruvian painting or Mongolian music.

But I’ve written about that before. And I don’t believe Christian personal ethics apply to governments. “The emperor bears the sword” (Romans 13:4), after all.

And I also think saving lives is a consideration that bears a certain moral weight.

Talk like an ambivalent pirate

Aaaargh! According to Mr. Hugh Hewitt, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, matey. And I always believes what Cap’n Hewitt tells me.

Not much to log tonight, shipmates, because I just got me desktop thinkin’ engine home again, and I’ve got me a powerful lot of restorin’ to do, by thunder.

But I’ve got this peculiar story here, from Junk Yard Blog, tellin’ us that the things most of us think about New Yorkers are true about ten percent of the time.

I was about to say “Blow me down,” but I’m thinkin’ it wouldn’t be in good taste.

The Man Of My Life by Manuel Vazquez Montalban

I’m not sophisticated enough to read Montalbán.

All my life I’ve had a reputation for being fairly bright, but I’ve borne this secret shame—there’s lots of modern literature, highly praised by people of greater intellect than mine, that I just don’t comprehend. I read these works through (or did, when I was in school and had to), but they speak to me not at all, and I have to assume it’s my own fault.

But I’m not entirely sure that’s the reason I didn’t like this Spanish novel. I have a suspicion that this one is just plain superficial and dull. Somebody sent it to Phil for review, and he passed it on to me without finishing it. I read the whole thing because I enjoy writing nasty reviews better than he does.

Montalbán’s detective hero, Pepe Carvalho, is advertised as Barcelona’s answer to Philip Marlowe. I suppose that’s true. Just as Marlowe embodied a certain world-weary, mid-twentieth century American cynicism which, being American, retained a reservation of personal integrity and courage, Pepe Carvalho is the perfect postmodern European.

Pepe is, above everything else, cool. He’s too cool to have close personal relationships. There is Charo, his on-and-off girlfriend, a former prostitute. There is Biscuter, a physically unimpressive young man whom Pepe rescued from the streets and made his personal assistant. But Pepe doesn’t open up much to either one. He cares about gourmet cooking, and he likes to start fires in his fireplace with books that have displeased him. I suppose that’s supposed to constitute character development.

Pepe’s too cool to believe in anything, religious or political. This novel puts him in contact with a confusing array of cults, parties and movements, and he analyzes them all with the detachment of a man who has transcended all that. He has been, we are told, both a Communist and a CIA operative in his time (the CIA, of course, taught him to commit soul-destroying cruelties, assuming one has a soul).

The plot involves a young man, son of a powerful capitalist, who has rejected his father’s values to start a satanic cult, “Lucifer’s Witnesses.” He has been accused of murdering his male lover, another leader of the same cult, who happens to be the son of a rival capitalist.

Then the plot, such as it is, begins a confusing wander (or meander, the pace is pretty slow) among groups like neo-Cathars and rival parties of Catalan nationalists. I quickly lost track of them.

And why should I be interested? Pepe himself doesn’t seem very interested. He didn’t seem to me to do much actual detecting in the book. He’d get calls from various people telling him to meet someone at this or that spot, and generally he’d go there and be beaten up or witness a crime. But, after all, he knows that it’s all a put-up job, that the real criminals are multinational, globalist corporations who kill people for profit and have innocent people blamed. Justice, such as it is, is something Pepe will dispense himself in the end, as he has no faith in the corrupt justice system either.

The only point at which Pepe displays anything like human emotion is in connection with “Yes,” a mysterious woman who introduces herself to him first through anonymous faxes, daring him to guess which character from his past she is. She is, he learns at last, a beautiful American-born woman with whom he had a brief affair when he was younger and she was very young. For her he displays real feeling, but he is reluctant to take her away from her husband and children. This is commendable, of course, but one can’t tell whether the refusal springs from any kind of moral scruple, or from a more basic inability to give himself wholly to anyone or anything.

But maybe I misjudge the book. Maybe it’s just too good for me.

I’ll tell you this, though—the translation isn’t. I speak as a man who does bad translations himself when I say that this translation is very, very poor. The dialogue, in particular, has the tinny sound you hear in dubbed Italian westerns. Take this excerpt, from a scene where the suspect young man is being pursued by thugs. A young woman named Margalida sees the baddies (or goodies, one is never sure) pursuing him by motorbike:

Furious, she turned back to Carvalho.

“Your pistol! Why didn’t you get it out?”

“I hardly ever carry one.”

“Some private eye you are! You have to have a gun for this kind of thing. Now they’re going to catch Albert.”

Well, I finished it at last. But if I had a fireplace in my house, I know which book I’d use to start the first fire of the winter.

Unreliable News: Man Files His Own Wrongful Death Suit

It’s not unheard-of for a citizen to sue the U.S. government for wrongful death. What’s unusual is someone suing the government because he himself expects to die in fifty years or so.

Twenty-five-year-old Ken Weckmeyer of Edina, Minnesota, doesn’t look like a terminal medical case. But he says he’s going to die eventually, and that’s Uncle Sam’s responsibility.

“I know it sounds crazy at first,” Weckmeyer told reporters Wednesday, “but you’ve got to think about an issue like this without preconceptions.

“I was lying in bed one morning about six months ago,” he said, “when it occurred to me that I’m going to die someday. It doesn’t matter what I eat or how much exercise I get or how well I take care of myself generally. I’m still gonna die, through no fault of my own.

“And the first thing that came into my mind was, ‘I’ve got to sue somebody. Somebody’s got to pay for this injustice. The Declaration of Independence states that every American has the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But I’m going to be deprived of my right to life. Am I supposed to just sit around and accept this?’”

When asked whether every person in the country isn’t in the same boat, Weckmeyer replied that he is planning a class action suit, with all American citizens as plaintiffs. He said he believes that a million dollar settlement for each plaintiff, minus legal fees, should provide some consolation in the face of such a massive, systemic injustice.

Unreliable News: Source of E. Coli Infestation Sought

Public Health authorities across the nation are warning consumers not to eat fresh spinach packaged in plastic bags, due to an E. coli outbreak that has already killed one and sickened twenty. Officials in twenty states have issued public health warnings in the wake of the news.

A spokesperson from the Food and Drug Administration told reporters today that the source of the contamination has not yet been discovered. However there have been reports of sightings near food processing plants of a suspicious-looking large, fat ugly man “with a black beard and a sailor hat on his head.”

What humble looks like

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:27-28, NIV)

I was thinking about this passage the other day. It’s one of those stretches of the epistles where the Apostle Paul, frankly, has always lost me. I try to follow the argument but just can’t find the thread.

But I think I’ve got it now. What Paul is talking about here is Christian humility.

As C. S. Lewis has explained somewhere, our stereotypical image of humility is deeply warped. We think of a humble person as someone shabby and dusty and hunched over, wringing his hands and apologizing all over the place. But in fact, when we are lucky enough to meet one of the few really humble people who actually live around us, our only response is likely to be, “What a happy person! What a pleasant person to be with!”

The reason for that is what Paul, I think, is explaining in this passage. A mature Christian is humble, not because he’s bowed down under the weight of guilt and shame (the principle of observing the law), but because his attention is directed away from himself toward God (the principle of faith). He’s not thinking about his inferiority. He’s not thinking about himself at all. He’s looking upward, and his face reflects the sunshine of Heaven.

I understand this intellectually, of course. Applying it to my life is another matter altogether.

Friday the 13th done come on a Wednesday this month!

I actually feel pretty good today, considering the fact that all I’ve got to blog about is bad news.

First of all, my desktop computer is having its mail forwarded to the repair shop over in New Hope (or Crystal. It’s often hard to tell in this part of town). Whenever I try to start it, Norton GoBack reboots it and tells me to run ScanDisk. But I can’t get in to run ScanDisk because GoBack keeps rebooting it.

The good news is that I still have my laptop. But the laptop can’t get DSL without talking to the desktop, so I’m back to 1990’s technology. (“Might as well send smoke signals,” he said, as he repaired his eyeglasses with tape.)

(Late update: I’m actually posting this after 10:00 p.m., because I couldn’t find my password to get in to use this blog on this computer. Phil and the developer finally rescued me.)

More than a bummer: I live in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. That means that there’s a very good chance that my next Congressman will be Keith Ellison, Nation of Islam member, reputed anti-Semite, radical lefty and scofflaw. Who says we Minnesotans aren’t ahead of the curve?

Finally, Aitchmark sent me this link from National Review’s Corner, about how Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan not only aren’t allowed to fight, they aren’t even allowed to go into the deep end of the pool.

This is utterly unworthy of the descendants of the Vikings.

It appears they’ve reinstituted what I believe was called the Doctrine of the Broken Gun. T. D. O. T. B. G. was Norway’s official defense policy before World War II. It was a shining example of the real-world insanity of cuddly idealism.

The theory was, “The best defense is no defense. If your gun is broken, and everyone knows your gun is broken, nobody will ever attack you, because there’s no honor in beating an unarmed opponent.”

What didn’t occur to the theoreticians is that people sometimes attack you for reasons that have little to do with honor. They’ll attack you because they want your ports, or just because you’re an easy target.

In 1940 they learned just how wrong the doctrine was.

Apparently they need to learn the lesson again.

How a novelist changed eveningwear forever

Memo from my subconscious:


You’ve got nothing today. Why do you persist in blogging, when you know you’ve exhausted your tiny store of things to write worth reading? Why do you persist in this failed strategy? Why don’t you have an exit strategy? It’s a quagmire! Admit it.

When in doubt, borrow. I shall tell you about a fact I learned years ago, which has stayed with me for all the intervening years. I share it with you freely, so that you can bore your friends, just as I do.

Back when I was doing community theater in Florida, I performed in the play, “The Elephant Man.” I played Dr. Gomm, and it wasn’t one of my better performances. Suffice it to say that I didn’t make anyone forget Sir John Gielgud in the movie.

The costume people procured Victorian clothing for us. The moment I saw the tan-colored suit they’d gotten me, I knew that what we had was “A Christmas Carol” costumes, not “The Elephant Man” costumes. Because between the time of Dickens and the time of John Merrick, Englishmen stopped wearing anything but black (or, if they were feeling extremely cheery, a dark gray). I knew this because I had read Frank Muir’s An Irreverent and Thoroughly Incomplete Social History of Almost Everything.

(By the way, did you know that Dr. Frederick Treves, whom Anthony Hopkins played in the movie, was an active and influential Christian evangelical? I learned this in Newfoundland, when I visited the Grenville Museum. Treves was one of Dr. Grenville’s [Grenville of Labrador] mentors.)

Anyway, this quote from Muir’s book:

Probably the most prolific novelist and playwright of the nineteenth century, for years the most popular writer of his day, was Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (Blogger’s note: Yes, this is the guy the annual award for bad writing is named after), later Baron Lytton, who managed to be a statesman as well….

Bulwer-Lytton made a lot of money from his books, plus a little more from playing whist. He moved easily in fashionable circles and his most popular novel, Pelham, had as its eponymous hero a society dandy who startled London by forsaking the bright colors then worn by gentlemen in the evening to appear in black. This fashion was taken up by society and Britain’s manhood has appeared on formal evening occasions ever since dressed like undertakers.

I note on re-reading that Muir is only talking about evening wear, so I remembered the story wrong. But it’s also a fact that Englishmen eschewed bright colors for all clothing not long thereafter (as a sign of respect for Queen Victoria’s mourning of Prince Albert, I think). I still blame Bulwer-Lytton.

No I don’t. I like black suits.

In Memoriam: Good stuff from Klavan and The Three Ages

Andrew Klavan nails it (again) today in a 9-11 memorial essay over at Libertas. He ponders why contemporary moviemakers aren’t able to handle heroism as filmmakers used to:

…realism is mute when it comes to describing the best of what we can be, of what life can be. And this partially crippled form of communication is the prevailing style of serious cinema. You could almost say that we know a film is serious by how “realistic” it is. Conversely, when we see true faith and true heroism in movies, we feel we’re in the presence of rank sentimentalism, of powderpuff family entertainment. We feel that it must somehow be “unreal.”

I tried to decide what I’d post today, and had a hard time coming up with anything that would add much to the illumination available elsewhere. In the end I decided to repeat myself. A while back I posted my translation of a fable called “The Three Ages,” by the Norwegian writer Johan Borgen. It was first published in 1946, and intended to help his countrymen remember the lessons of the Nazi invasion and occupation.

Needless to say, the Norwegians have already forgotten it pretty much completely. But the lesson of the fable stands.

The Three Ages

The lion and the lamb were grazing side by side one day. The lamb said to the lion:

“What age do we actually live in, Lion?”

“Age?” said the lion. “We are alive, isn’t that enough? Anyway, the age we live in is always our age; otherwise we aren’t alive.”

The lamb thought that over a bit as they went along and nibbled grass in the bottom of a little valley.

“You are wise, Lion,” he said, “and of course you are right in that the age we live in is our age—at least for us. What I meant was that I’ve always heard that there are three ages: a past age, which was beautiful, but cruel; a present age, which is merely cruel; and finally a future age which will be so peaceful that the lion and the lamb will graze side by side. I heard it from a wise old ram, and that was why I believed that this is the future age.

Then the lion bit the lamb’s head off and said:

“Now that you remind me of it, I guess it’s the past age after all.”

Jesus said in Matthew 24:23-27, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Three he is!’ do not believe it…. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (NIV).

The plain purpose of this passage, of course, is to warn believes about false messiahs who still show up fairly regularly to say, “I’m Christ Himself and I’ve come back in secret.”

But I think there might be a secondary meaning. It’s just plain reckless to imagine that the Kingdom of God has come already, that we have brought it about through our own wisdom and moral progress. We’re still in the present age, our enemies don’t just want a hug, and the emperor does not bear the sword in vain.

I see a season coming

First of all, I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I do understand the irony of the spectacle of a blogger of my temperament complaining about somebody else’s blog being depressing.

It took me a few hours, but I did get it eventually.

Today (right on time, the State Fair being over and the kids being back in school) was the first day of autumn. Not in calendar terms, but in terms of the nuance in the air. It didn’t get up to seventy today, and most of the time it was cloudy. Today was winter, phoning in its reservation. We’ll have more warm days, but they’ll only be temporary reprieves, Indian-giver Summer (I apologize for the ethnic slur, but the line was too good not to use).

Picking up again the subject of male-female differences, this fascinating story comes, like so many good things, by way of Blue Crab Boulevard. Has any woman in the history of the world ever tried a stunt like this (OK, Luci Ricardo might have, but she was a fictional character)?

And what do you bet that a dozen Hollywood sitcom writers aren’t working this into scripts at this very moment?

Say, wasn’t there a guy named Phil who used to hang out around here?

In which the blogger whimpers like a little girl

The subject of National Review’s Corner came up today in an e-mail exchange. I mentioned that I’ve stopped reading it pretty generally.

This was a sad departure for me. Ever since 9/11, the Corner was my favorite online hangout. Intelligent conversation from smart, well-informed people who knew a lot of stuff. What could be better? I even e-mailed the columnists and got replies once or twice. And one time Jonah Goldberg posted a Norwegian translation I did for him.

But the grape has raisined. Nowadays, you go to the Corner to get a good depression on, as an excuse for binge drinking. First I started being irritated with John Derbyshire’s knee-jerk pessimism and Anglican-tinged lukewarm religion, blended with fervent scientism.

Then Heather MacDonald started coming in to attack theism.

And Jonah Goldberg doesn’t seem to show up much anymore. And when he does he’s not as funny.

And they’ve all decided the war is lost.

Spare me.

If I want dysphoria I have a large stock of my own, thank you very much.

Also a little depressing: an interview Dennis Prager did today. It was with Marianne Legato, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University and author of Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget. Her theory is that men and women’s brains (in general) work very differently, and that in order to get along they need to take those differences into account.

Overall, I like this thesis very much. Any defense of innate sexual differences is Gershwin to my ears. No problem there.

The problem was in something she said about how men and women argue differently. Women, she said, play arguments over and over in their heads after it’s done, and tend to get angrier. Men, once they’ve blown off their steam, walk away and forget about it. They actually feel better, having enjoyed a nice spritz of adrenalin.

Here’s my problem: I’m just like a woman in this. I don’t feel better after arguments. I obsess over what the other person said, and what I’m sure they meant, and what I should have said.

Guys, help me out here! Is she right? Do you forget arguments as soon as they’re done? Do you in fact feel better afterwards?

Tell me I’m not an utter wuss.

Blast. Still a couple weeks until my next chance for live steel combat. And that’ll probably be the last one of the year.

I do feel better after that kind of fight.

Hit me with an axe, somebody.

Many are called, but summer chosen

Maximum comfort weather in Minnesota today. Warm but not tropical—a little above eighty, low humidity. Summer has mellowed, like a drunk at a party who’s passed through the stage where he’s telling everybody what he really thinks of them, looking for a fight, and is now sitting quietly in a flower bed, saying, “Man, I love you guys. You guys are so great.”

Summer has lost its edge. The days are kind.

But I’m not taken in. I’m not fooled. I hear, in the background, the voice of Mother Nature (who, as far as I can tell, has much the same character as my own mother) saying, “You like it cooler? I’ll give you cooler. Just wait a couple months.”

Strawberries taste like summer to me. I know a lot of people reserve that distinction for watermelon, but I never liked watermelon.

I never liked raspberries either. One of the chief distinctions between my brother Moloch and me has always been that he likes raspberries while I like strawberries. Recent research indicates that people are born with different numbers of sweet or sour receptors on their tongues. If you have a lot of sweet receptors you’re sensitive to sweet, and will prefer sour. You’ll be a veggie eater. If you have a lot of sour receptors, on the other hand, you’ll prefer sweet. You’ll truly appreciate the wonders of the strawberry, and be forever barred from appreciating the virtues of its raspy cousin.

I buy Driscoll’s, of course. Until they showed up, you had to grow your own to get anything in this country that could come close to the wonders of Norwegian strawberries.

From Front Page Magazine, this review by David Forsmark of the new book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War.

Here is one of Philbrick’s most valuable points: Despite the priggish image perpetrated by the scoffers — including the first revisionist, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne — the Pilgrims were adaptable people willing to compromise in order to live in peace despite their strict code and religious outlook.

Now that looks like a worthwhile read.

Hail and farewell to Steve the Viking

I only watched Steve Irwin’s program once, and that was because I was visiting my dad and stepmother in Florida, watching what they watched. Their television consumption was limited, since she was uncomfortable with the immoral fare on television nowadays. But she didn’t object, apparently, to watching predators tear their prey limb from limb, and so they watched a lot of animal shows.

Even when I had cable I never watched animal shows. Animals, to be blunt, bore me. I don’t hate them, and the idea of owning a dog has its charms, but animal programs just make me uncomfortable. When the lion hunts down the zebra, I identify with the zebra. When only one male seal out of a hundred gets to have a harem and reproduce himself, I identify with the ninety-nine. When the wolves turn on a wounded pack member, guess which wolf gets my sympathy?

In other words, animals in general aren’t very nice. I prefer people. And I don’t even like people much.

The main thing I remember about Irwin was that stunt a few years back when he held his baby son in one hand while feeding a croc with the other. That just gave me the heeby-jeebies.

Still, I just read this report that says that his last action in life was to pull the stingray barb that killed him out of his heart.

That’s style. That puts him in the Viking league.

I quote from St. Olaf’s Saga in Heimskringla, the sagas of the kings of Norway (Samuel Laing’s translation). This excerpt concerns Thormod Kolbrunnarskald, an Icelandic poet who was fatally wounded by an arrow in the chest at the battle of Stiklestad, where St. Olaf died:

Then [the nurse-woman] took a large pair of tongs, and tried to pull out the iron; but it sat too fast, and would in no way come out, and as the wound was swelled, little of it stood out to lay hold of it. Now said Thormod, “Cut so deep in that thou canst get at the iron with the tongs, and give me the tongs and let me pull.” She did as he said…. Then Thormod took the tongs, and pulled the iron out; but on the iron there was a hook, at which there hung some morsels of flesh from the heart,—some white, some red. When he saw that, he said, “The king has fed us well. I am fat even at the heart-roots:” and so saying he leant back, and was dead.

One could die worse.