Category Archives: Uncategorized

A good man and true

Jury

More pulse-pounding excitement in my larger-than-life life, today. I got a summons for jury service. It starts on a date next month.

This is a pretty mundane thing, of course, but what struck me as I read the notice was that, if I were writing a novel about my life (not a project I’d recommend), this is precisely where I’d stick in a spot of jury duty. A new experience, outside my ordinary routine, just when things were getting dull and I had no particular commitments.

As if there were a Guiding Hand in the universe, or something.

Actually, I did jury duty once before, when I was living in Florida. I got called in, sat through a voir dire (is that how you spell it?) got rejected for the jury (it was a child abuse case, and I’ve been abused). I was told, along with the rest of the pool, at the end of the day (I think it was the third) that our services would no longer be required.

I expect doing it in the gritty metropolis of Minneapolis will be somewhat different.

But hey! Ten bucks a day!

How we live now

Sorry I didn’t post last night.

I’m living my life right now like a… I don’t know. I need a good metaphor. Like a duck hunter? I don’t know when a job is coming in, but I try to have my shotgun ready and my eye on the sky. The email arrives – “Can you get this episode done before the end of the business day tomorrow?” (8 hours ahead in Norway) – and I clear the decks for action. An episode revision takes about a day to do, but it can vary. I don’t plan on doing much of anything else that day.

I live a life of action, like a TV hero.

Yesterday I actually did have something else going on – one of those rare occasions when a family member drops in to crash on my sofa for a night. It went fine. I was able to go out to dinner with him and still get the work done by about 9:00 p.m. I wasn’t able to make much conversation with my guest, but hey, that was a plus for him. Continue reading How we live now

Happy Leif Day

Leif Eriksson
Stupid Leif Eriksson statue at Minnesota State Capitol

Leif Eriksson Day 2018. A day America pauses to… pretty much do nothing. Various Scandinavian groups have small celebrations sometime around the date (I’ll be speaking at one on Saturday, and it’s a good one) but the Leif Eriksson parades are few, and nobody gets a school day off.

However, as Christopher Columbus rapidly becomes an Unperson and an Enemy of the People, Leif seems to be gaining ground. Not by winning, but by losing less. For now.

I’m frankly a little embarrassed by most of the comparisons between Leif and Chris. It was fun when Columbus was riding high, and Scandinavians could pretend to be unfairly overlooked. Now it’s just kind of like kicking a guy when he’s down.

So here’s a moment of respect for Cristóbol Colón, who did not intend to genocide anyone. He intended to spread the Kingdom of God, and to save Europe from economic strangulation by the Islamic world. He was successful at both – at least until recently.

Big men do big things. Columbus did pretty big stuff. You can spit at the castle your grandfather built, but knocking it down will take some work. And it will leave you poorer.

Iceland run, revisited

Althing
Artist’s conception of me addressing the Icelanders

It’s always nice to be asked back, even when you’re a semi-agoraphobic. So I was pleased to be asked to speak for the second year in a row at the annual “Icelandic Leifur Eiriksson Cod Dinner,” in Bloomington, Minnesota. This gala event (some of the best cod I’ve ever enjoyed) will be held at the Bloomington Event Center, 1114 American Blvd., Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 5:30 p.m.

The deadline for reservations was Sept. 30, so maybe it’s too late to get in, unless you’re a popular celebrity like me. But you could contact Steingrimur Steinolfson at sicelander@aol.com and check.

It’s a cool opportunity to plug Viking Legacy, which concerns the Icelandic sagas sufficiently that it ought to interest the audience.

I’m moving a lot of copies of this book. It seems to be very well received.

Hostfest postmortem

Another Høstfest is høstory now (the 41st, they tell me). Everything went swimmingly. I sold all the books I brought (wish I’d ordered more). Had some interesting conversations, and met some interesting people (including a professional storyteller from Yorkshire and an elderly lady from Ringerike who showed me pictures of Halvdan the Black’s grave mound). No drama this year – everybody seemed to get along fine. Which suits me just fine.

Here’s a shot of our “Viking Village.”

Viking Village 2018

And here’s a shot of my set-up. There was actually no Viking Bar, but I was next door to the Big Lost Meadery booth. I will neither confirm nor deny accepting the daily samples they shared with Vikings. Being next to the mead was good for business in any case.

My setup 2018

And this is me looking epic in my personal space. The crowds did overwhelm me at times, but I managed to avoid going berserk.

Lars Walker Hostfest 18

Rode in and out with a friend. Stayed (for the third time) with one of the neatest couples I’ve ever met – people of great hospitality and excellent taste in Viking books.

Thanks to all participants.

‘The View From What Used to Be the Library’

I have a new column published at the Intercollegiate Review site today, in which I meditate on the place (if any) of the library in today’s educational institutions.

But mostly I play it for laughs.

Here’s where it would be easy to launch into a screed against this newfangled digital information age. Shelby Foote once said, “A university is just a group of buildings centered around a library.” This was, of course, pure idealism. I doubt any institution of higher learning has literally prioritized the library since that one in Alexandria burned down.

And who am I to complain? If digital media are the enemy, I’m Benedict Arnold.

Weekend postmortem

Had a Viking gig this weekend. We participated in the Nordic Music Festival in Victoria, Minnesota, just north of the Twin Cities. Short drive, simple event. The weather was ideal, and everyone seemed pretty happy. I’d found one unsold copy of Viking Legacy, so I brought that (and sold it) and I brought a stock of West Oversea. My sales were not bad. I’d had an idea that this wasn’t a very good event for book sales, but I was pleased. Had some good conversations too. Iceland, the Kensington Rune Stone, the sagas. There were two food wagons, and one of them had hot mini-donuts. You can’t do much better than that.

Here’s our set-up. My Viking tent, with its lean-to annex, is on the left. My presentation has evolved over the years from nudging a place in among the others at a long table, to something like an “installation,” which involves a certain amount of labor to set up, tear down, and transport. Well, that’s what happens when you keep at it long enough. Thank goodness there’s people willing to help me with the work.

Nordic Music Festival 2018

Did some fighting too. Even better, two of the new guys joined me, and carried on after I was tuckered out.

Apres moi, le deluge

Counting down the last two days of my librarian career. I am not doing well, thanks for asking. Sleeping badly; fuzzy-headed at work, where I flounder to remember to tell people the things I need to tell them before I surrender my keys. Training my boss in the new library management system, which I haven’t yet had time to master myself. Trying – probably with little success – not to be a grump.

I feel a little like a man on death row – half terrified of the end, half wishing to get the bloody thing over already.

The interior turmoil has exterior manifestations – external to me. Stuff is being torn out. Stuff is being brought in. Half the things I’m teaching my boss may prove to be unnecessary, because they’ll be changing to other technology anyway. But I don’t know these things for sure, so I share my antique wisdom.

I’m still skeptical about the operational plan for the library. I may be less than ideal as a resource person to whom students may appeal to for help, but the new alternative seems to be nobody at all, most of the time. I find it hard to believe an absence is preferable to my presence. There will be assistants around in the afternoons, but that’s not when most of the students will be using the resources.

But, as I keep telling myself, it’s no longer my circus.

Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither. The readiness is all.

Dr. Norvald Yri, 1944-2018

Norvald Yri

I learned today of the death (on Sunday) of a man I’d worked with and respected greatly. Dr. Norvald Yri was a Norwegian missionary and Bible scholar. Born in 1944, he served on the mission field for many years, both in Ethiopia and in Tanzania, and served as secretary for an international mission organization. He took his doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1975, and was the author of several books. One of them, Guds Ja, was a commentary on Romans 1 through 8. I translated it for him, but we never found an English publisher.

In recent years he had been a teacher at the Fjellhaug Bible School near Oslo. He also participated in a Bible translation project. He and several others were unhappy with the Norwegian Bible Society’s most recent translation, so they produced an alternative one, based on the King James version.

I corresponded with him by e-mail for many years, but only knew him personally for a short time when he was a visiting instructor at the seminary where I work. He and his wife were/are splendid people, and I think he will be hard to replace.

Hvil i fred (Rest in peace), Dr. Yri.

Man of leisure, about town

Monday was for translation work and my novel. Tuesday was just the novel. Today was the Sons of Norway International Convention, held in a hotel down in Bloomington, not far from the Mall of America. I was not a delegate, but a volunteer.

I wore my Viking clothes. Greeted people at the door. Sold books (I’m almost out of Viking Legacy, which is suffering a bottleneck at the source right now). Stood in the sun for about an hour, showing people what path to take to get to the light rail line, for an outing to the big new stadium.

I think I was in violation of the law when I did that, because I was wearing my Viking scramasax, which exceeds the legal length for a sharp blade. Though I’m not entirely sure whether I was on a public street or hotel property. However, the cops who drove by didn’t hassle me. No doubt it was due to my dangerous, intimidating appearance.

Tomorrow, back for more of the same.

Exhausting for an avoidant, but I shall persevere. What does not kill me makes me very, very tired.

A man of leisure

I’m taking a week off from work. Having lost my job, effective the end of the month, I have vacation time left I’ll never use. So I’m using some. This is also the week of the Sons of Norway convention, here in town (starts tomorrow). Although I’m president of my lodge, I successfully avoided becoming a delegate. I did agree, however, to help in greeting people (who wouldn’t want to be greeted by an avoidant curmudgeon?), and to make some chocolate chip cookies for the hospitality suite.

Yesterday I made the cookies. I’m pretty good at this; used to make them all the time. But it’s been a while now. I forgot one basic element of the procedure – you mix up the wet stuff in the big bowl, and then stir in the dry stuff from the smaller bowl. I got that backwards, with the result that I poured the wet stuff into the flour mixture and had to mix that up. It came out OK, but I judge these cookies a tad mealy.

But hey, I’m giving them away for free. And Norwegians are too polite to complain.

Also, I got a little boost yesterday. Heard from the movie translation company in Norway after months of radio silence. They threw me enough work to fill up the rest of the day.

Occasional freelance translation jobs won’t replace my library position. But it was an encouragement, and the timing couldn’t have been better, from the morale point of view.

Redundant

If you’re one of the multitudes who follow me on Facebook, you may have noticed my post last night in which I asked for prayer, over a personal matter I did not reveal.

This blog post is to explain my situation.

I lost my job yesterday (Monday). I wasn’t told to pack up my stuff and get out; my job ends at the end of the month, and I have the option of working four more months (half time), or two months (full time).

But my present job will no longer exist.

This is due to altered circumstances, circumstances that have changed radically in the roughly five years since I started graduate school. At that time our accrediting agency demanded that a school must have a full-time librarian with a master’s degree.

Since then, the market value of a degreed librarian has fallen pretty steeply. Today the agency only asks that there be a librarian with an MLS somewhere around the place, occasionally. The operation of the library is assumed to be largely automated. Books themselves have become secondary to electronic services, which are the domain of IT people.

Bottom line: A fair amount of money (I won’t say a lot) can be saved by cutting the position of Librarian. I’m not entirely sure how they plan to get the actual physical work done – accessioning and processing, etc. – after I’m gone. But it’s no longer my problem.

I have small hopes of finding another job in the library field. What happened to me is happening everywhere. The few jobs that remain in the field are probably too technical for me.

So if you know of any copywriting jobs, or any openings for Norwegian-to-English translators, or publishers looking for sophisticated Christian fantasy, or anything else I might be adequate at, please let me know.

And pray for me. Thanks.

Epic theology

Uhlfbert sword

Today is my birthday. I got more than 100 birthday greetings on Facebook, which is gratifying. At the restaurant where I eat most Tuesday evenings, I got a free hot fudge sundae. Now, of course, I’m exhausted by all the excess.

How did I spend my weekend?

Following up my radio triumph on Saturday afternoon, I decided to go to Wisconsin on Sunday – in spite of the ever present threat of Packers fans.

The town of Glenwood City, about an hour and a half northeast of here, hosts a small Renaissance Festival, “Ren in the Glen,” a little ahead of the Official, Authorized Minnesota Renaissance Festival starting later this month. Glenwood City’s is a smaller operation which (according to the old hands) resembles what our festival used to be like at the beginning, before it became Disneyland North.

A Facebook friend who’s a member of Folkvangr, a Viking reenactment group, invited me to visit their encampment there. And, contrary to my basic nature – perhaps suffering the lingering disorienting effects of four days in Iowa – I decided that wasn’t a bad way to spend the final day of my vacation.

It was a nice time, and the Folkvangr folks seemed to suffer from the delusion that I possessed a measure of prestige. One subject we discussed is a common one among reenactors – “What are the best and worst Viking movies?” This gave me the opportunity to trot out my old lecture on the differences between two Beowulf movies that came out around the same time, an Icelandic one starring Gerard Butler (which I loathed), and the animated one written by Neil Gaiman and starring Roy Winstone. I’ve written about it on this blog before. My view is that the problem with the Gaiman script is that it tries to transform a Germanic saga into a Greek tragedy. Greek tragic heroes die because of their tragic flaws, as Beowulf does in this film. But Germanic heroes don’t have tragic flaws. They’re always exemplary. They die just because they’re doomed. The point of a saga is not a moral one, but an existential one – we’re all doomed to die; our only control is over the courage with which we face it.

It occurred to me, thinking about it later, that there are theological implications. For a long time Christians have enjoyed Greek tragedies, understanding the idea of the tragic hero as a kind of metaphor for original sin. We die because we deserve to die; we chose badly. Whatever our other virtues, we’ve earned death.

But it seems to me a similar argument can be made for the saga. The saga hero is simply doomed from birth; a kind of original sin. The Norns spin out the thread of his life and cut it off arbitrarily. The hero’s virtues are also not enough to save him – not because of his choices, but because he has inherited the general doom of mankind.

In other words, the Greek tragedy is sort of Arminian. The saga is arguably Calvinist.

Now where else can you go to get that kind of insight?