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A side order of pictures

Photobucket works for me tonight, so I can share some photos from Nordic Fest in Decorah, Iowa.

Here’s an eager crowd learning all about Vikings from the Skjaldborg guys.

Decorah 1

Here’s the Vikings extracting much-needed sustenance from pork chops, the national cuisine of Iowa.

Decorah 2

And here’s my friend, under my own awning, showing off the mail shirt he’s making.

Decorah 3

The big thing that kept occupying my mind all weekend (and my friend got pretty sick of hearing about it too) was the fact that when I attended Luther College, which is also in Decorah, it was forty blankety-blank years ago. Forty years.

When I consider that fact, I’m not surprised by how much has changed. I’m amazed anything remains the same. The fact that some of the same buildings yet stand in Decorah, and that a few of them even serve the functions they did back in my time, seems somehow against nature. When I think that forty years have passed, I imagine that the very hills should have been brought low, and the river should have o’erflowed its banks and found a fresh course. Everybody should have flying cars, and we should all be taking our sustenance in tablet form.

Well, that last part did sort of come true. I do not lack for pills in my diet in this strange old world.

Don’t Blame Star Wars for Bad Summer Movies

Danny Leigh of The Guardian states it isn’t fair to say summer blockbusters are all terrible because of the legacy they have in Star Wars. He writes:

Blame Lucas, by all means, but let’s have a little more accountability all round: blame Francis Ford Coppola and Roman Polanski, too, for never regaining the majesty of The Godfather or Chinatown; blame the fractured way we access entertainment; blame the Weinstein brothers for helping to botch the resurgent interest in smart but populist cinema during the 90s; and, if we’re going to be thorough here, why not blame corporate studio ownership and mass consumerism as a whole?

Tivoli report, 2010

Tivoli Fest in Elk Horn, Iowa this year was good. Exhausting, as always, for an old man like me, but good. I have no complaints.

I didn’t take any pictures. I took my camera, but did nothing with it. There are plenty of pictures, taken by others, on Facebook, but I myself didn’t see much that was different from last year, so the pictures in my report from a year ago ought to serve adequately.

Our first activity was a “Viking wedding.” A couple already married legally (or soon to be married; I didn’t ask) were given a heathen ceremony next to the replica Viking House. I attended out of politeness, and wished them well, and was relieved to learn that the celebration wasn’t going to be so authentic as to require three solid days of drunken feasting.

One of the most important questions in planning any event is “What will I forget to bring this year?” The answer for 2010: my sleeping bag. Once again I was using a borrowed club Viking tent, and I had an inflatable mattress to sleep on. I always keep a waterproof tarp in my car, so I tried using that for warmth. By the middle of the night I found it inadequate, and so I put on the shirt I’d worn the day before. Shortly before I got up, I had the thought, “You idiot. You brought two cloaks. What do you think a cloak is for?”

Saturday was well organized. We had group battles (seven men per side) scheduled for 12:30, 3:00 and 6:00. Lots of fun. I think I was left standing once, but only because I’d been (theoretically) badly wounded in the right arm, and so fell back, out of the fight.

We had the same Scottish cook as last year, and the food was good, plentiful and (relatively) authentic. Once again there was a haggis—a “beef haggis” (somebody said such things are acceptable in a pinch), and I thought it better than last year’s. The evening was given over to conversation, ranging from the scholarly to the scatological. I had the great pleasure of having a conversation with an Englishman (who bought one of my books). His opinions weren’t at all the sort that I expect from Englishmen nowadays, but maybe that explains why he lives in Iowa now. He’d studied history and archaeology, and been a Saxon reenactor, in his homeland, and I like to think I was able to talk to him on something approaching an equal level. He did disappoint me, however, by informing me that my proper Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of the name of the Venerable Bede (Bae-deh) was pretty much a waste of time, because everybody pronounces it “Bead” over there, just like over here (on the rare occasions anyone ever talks about him at all over here).

Afterwards, another delightful fireworks display, marred only by the fact that a couple fires started in the launching area. This engendered considerable mirth among us Vikings, and several guys speculated about the fate of “One-eyed Bob and his crew of four-fingered pyrotechnicians” who (they were certain) were in charge of everything. The volunteer fire department came in to douse the fires, but in fact left one of them smoldering, and it flared up again. But then I went to bed, and apparently no disaster followed.

Sunday we were incited, by bloody-minded festival organizers, to stand along the edges of the street and harass bicyclists participating in the official festival bike ride. There were no casualties. Later I went up to the fire department to enjoy the all-you-can-eat aebelskiver breakfast (an aebelskiver is a sort of Danish pancake, fried in balls rather than flat. Wonderful eating). I did not taunt the firemen on their shoddy performance the night before.

We didn’t do any big battles on Sunday, but the Skjaldborg guys from Omaha gave my group some training in areas in live steel combat where we’d picked up bad habits. It all made sense, and I was grateful for the correction. They also showed us how to fight with an axe, and one of them presented us with our first club fighting (blunt) axe. If anybody from Skjaldborg reads this, much thanks.

Tivoli wouldn’t be Tivoli without rain, but the rain that came on Sunday afternoon was pretty light, so we didn’t have to take wet tents home. I drove down and back with a young member of our group, a new fellow, and having company (especially a C.S. Lewis fan) made the journey a whole lot shorter.

But no less exhausting.

Still, the dream I had Saturday night, of encountering a skidding, out-of-control semi-trailer truck on the highway, did not come true. I am not a prophet, and all things considered, I’m glad of that.

Post-battle report, day 2

(Dateline Minot, ND) Well, what do you know? Live steel combat isn’t as safe as I said it was.

Yesterday I got a good solid crack on my right thumb which, I feared, would keep me from holding the sword solidly. Fortunately it’s not as bad today as I expected, though swollen and stiff.

Today I got a good smash on the right little finger, which broke the skin and required a bandage. In a later fight, Ragnar managed to stab me (the point being blunt, of course) just above the mouth, again on the right side. It’s a nasty place for an abrasian, because it won’t take a bandage well (due to my beard), but I’m frankly delighted to have a dueling scar at last. I was wounded with a sword! What could be cooler than that?

And yes, I’m entirely aware of how insane that sounds.

On the other hand, you know the chicks dig it.

We did our final set today without injury (not for lack of trying on my part, I assure you).

In other Hostfest news, the crowds are large, and from my experience they’re in the mood to spend money. If my book sales keep up as they’ve started, I’ll go home very satisfied (and not just with my rakish scar).

Reba McEntire was the big concert the first night. Other acts on the big stage include Clint Black and Ray Stevens. There’s also a special venue for Abbacadabra, an Abba tribute group, and William Christopher (who played Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H*) stars as the pastor in a production of the major midwest hit, “Lutheran Church Basement Ladies” (no, I didn’t make that up).

And, as in previous years, The Oak Ridge Boys are doing two shows a day just around the corner from us. At the moment, they’re singing “The Boys are Back.”

More as the situation develops.

If I live.