All posts by Lars Walker

The tree is gone, and so am I

Up in these parts, w’re such slaves to mindless tradition that, year after year, we all rake our leaves in the fall. No imagination.

This year I did it in a big way. I took out the whole tree.

Yes, it’s gone. Today dawned rainy, with scattered thunderstorms, and I thought, “Blast it. The tree guy’ll never take my tree down in weather like this. Somebody could get gaussed by lightning.”

But he called me at work in the morning and told me he’d have it out by noon.

Mark you, this is the low bidder. Lower by about $300 than anybody else I talked to. But he got in there and hustled, and the tree was gone before the clouds cleared. (And yes, he is licensed and insured.)

It’s good to have the Sword of Damocles retracted from my place of residence, believe me. Still, I’ll miss the old tree. For a long time I thought it was an ash. This pleased me, because the ash tree is central to Norse mythology. In the Norse system, the universe itself was a great ash tree, and like mine it was a little sick, with things gnawing at it, requiring care and nutrition.

However, it turns out to have been some odd kind of elm (it never matched any of the pictures I found in tree identification web sites, which is what confused me).

That makes the loss easier to bear. The increased air conditioning costs, due to reduced shade, will hit me in the summer.

I read Brad Thor’s Blowback over the weekend. I don’t think it rates a long review. Enough to say that I like the politics (the president seems to be a fictionalized version of George W. Bush, and his political nemesis is a very nasty female Democratic senator with presidential aspirations, whose initials are H.R.C.). It was fast-moving, like a Roger Moore James Bond movie, and about as substantive. The characters had all the depth of Murine eye drops.

Not bad for recreational reading, when you’re waiting for a plane or something, but I’d prefer conservative fiction with a little more substance.

I’ll be gone for a week starting tomorrow. I’ll check in from Minot and Høstfest if I get a chance. Pictures when I get back, perhaps, so you can share the aesthetic delights of Norwegian-sweater-and-cowboy-hat couture.

More tree blogging, links

Tree update: I know how you’ve all been checking this space hourly for my removal situation, so I bow to public pressure and announce that I’ve changed my mind. Or made a decision. Or something.

I’m going to give up on the plan to get the tree removed in a week and a half by a guy who’ll do it cheap, and I’m going to get a professional to do it now.

Because the more I look at the thing, and see how thin the split trunk is, and how many branches are balancing on that trunk, I know I won’t sleep decently until the whole thing is safely on the ground.

Also because if we were to get a big wind, and the thing went over on my roof, I think the insurance company would stiff me (with good reason), knowing I’d let a dangerous tree stand.

It’ll put me way in hock, but I think it’s the responsible choice.

Here’s a couple links for your weekend enjoyment.

“In the beginning was the Word,”
in more than one sense. It seems some scholars now believe that the Hebrews invented vowels. Hat tip: Mirabilis.

And Dennis Ingolfsland at The Recliner Commentaries explains (in case you’ve been to college and lost your ability to reason) some major differences between Christian and Muslim Fundamentalism.

If you care to pray for me, pray that I get a cheap bid, and that I can finish the business in time to still get to Minot.

I won’t fall on my sword today, thank you

Mowed the lawn tonight. I’d hoped to wait until the branches were cleaned up from my fallen tree, but my branch removing guy still hasn’t shown up yet, and the weekend’s supposed to be rainy, and I’m going away on Tuesday (burglars, don’t take that as a hint. My renter will still be here, and he’s a former Navy Seal who’s always armed).

My current cause for night sweats is the thought of another unusually strong wind before the tree gets removed, so that it falls on my house. And the insurance company will refuse to pay because I knew the tree was dangerous and hadn’t had it removed yet.

Carol Platt Liebau is hosting Hugh Hewitt’s show tonight, and she’s been talking about the declaration of Dr. James Dobson and some other pro-life leaders that they’ll vote for a third party candidate if a spotless pro-lifer isn’t nominated by the Republicans.

I suppose there’ll be some disagreement about this among our readers. But I’ll share my opinion, which I hold strongly. As always, the ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of Brandywine Books, its owners or management, or of real persons, living or dead.

I’ve admired and supported Dr. Dobson for many years. I’m grateful for his tireless work for good causes in this country.

But I got a renewal notice for Citizen Magazine today, and I decided to toss it. I don’t want Dr. Dobson to be able to claim me as a supporter at this point in history.

I remember hearing him say, on his radio program years back, that he’d decided that he would never again vote for any candidate who wasn’t solidly pro-life. I admired his passion, but I remember thinking I wasn’t sure that would always be the best policy.

I don’t think I’ll sleep better in an America where Hillary Clinton is president, and the Democrats control both houses of congress, and four brand spanking new loose constructionists sit on the Supreme Court, just because I can tell myself I voted for a righteous candidate.

Compromise isn’t just part of politics. Compromise is politics. If you can’t compromise, if you can’t accept a half a loaf today in the hope of getting more another day, then you shouldn’t become a political player.

This seems to me a doomsday tactic. It’s saying (and one of Carol’s callers said essentially this), “If I can’t have everything the way I want it, I’m happy to see the whole country devastated and the earth sown with salt, in the hope that something better will spring from the holocaust.”

That’s not conservative American principle. That’s what the hippies used to say in the 60s.

Elmer, coast to coast

I heard a friend on Michael Medved’s show today. Michael had Ann Coulter on as a guest, and one of his callers was a fellow I’ve written about before on this blog (some time back; probably on the old site), calling him “Elmer” (not his real name). Michael recognized his voice, and said, “I know you. You gave me some religious literature when I was in Minneapolis.”

Elmer was a little odd when we were growing up together, and he hasn’t gotten less odd with the years. He’s a Christian now, and heavily involved in end-times prophecy studies. He figures the world will come to an end in a few months, and has maintained that view consistently, in a rolling fashion, for the past decade or so.

Still, for all that, he has the moxy to call a national radio show to try and chat up Ann Coulter.

I mean, if you’re going to be crazy, you might as well have some fun with it. Not that I want to be Elmer, but he seems to have a better time being crazy than I do.

Until the world ends, of course.

I finished reading Randy Wayne White’s Twelve Mile Limit today. Enjoyed it, but his Doc Ford books (I reviewed Shark River a while back) leave me conflicted. There’s elements I like very much and elements I don’t like at all. But compelling, withal.

That’s not a review. But it’ll do to round out this post on a pseudo-literary note.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

First off, a link. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has a new website. I imagine we have both “egalitarians” and “complementarians” among our readership, but I’m a complementarian, so I like this organization and its site. Make of it what you will.

Today was a day rich in drama for your humble correspondent. It encompassed in a short span all those stages you’ve come to recognize in my response to crisis: First shock, then base despair, then self-flagellation, then the working out of things, then Never Mind.

First of all, the guy who’d said he’d cut down my tree came to my office and told me he didn’t think he could do it. Too tall; too close to the house. I thanked him, and contemplated the prospect of hiring a professional, and all that would cost me.

But he knew a guy, he said, and he’d ask him to take a look. “Please do,” I answered, large beads of sweat extruding from my furrowed brow.

I began to plan what I’d do when the Guy He Knew said he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do the job. I’d have to find a professional. The professional would either a) say he had to do it this weekend, which would interfere with my plans to go out to Dallas, Wisconsin with the Viking Age Society. Or b) he’d say he couldn’t get to it till next week, which would mean I’d have to be here and wouldn’t be able to go to Minot. Which would mean I’d miss the Sissel concert and my life would be utterly, totally pointless.

Furthermore, the extra money it would cost probably indicated that I ought to give up on Minot anyway. Ragnar is expecting me there to do live combat shows with him, but these things happen.

If things worked out just right, I figured, I’d be able to disappoint pretty much everybody.

Then my guy came back and said his friend had looked at it, and could do it. Only he couldn’t cut the tree down for two weeks. However, my guy said he could clean up the branches on the ground this week.

In other words, it looks like it’ll work out perfectly.

Except that it’ll cost me a little more, but still it’s about half of what the professionals ask.

So how did I handle this test of my faith? About C-, I think. Maybe D+.

I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I worry too much about my emotional responses. The important thing, it occurs to me, is not how I feel, but how I force myself to say, “Praise God. Thy will be done.”

On the other hand, my feelings affect how I deal with other people, and my expressions of faith and peace could be much, much better.

Ah, well. At least I can put it online. “Praise God. Thy will be done.”

Weekend wrap-up: Nothing to see here

I spent the weekend nursing a free-floating sensation of unfulfilled obligations. But it was rainy, so the painting I wanted to do on my basement windows couldn’t be done. I ended up running around a lot, without actually accomplishing much.

On the other hand, I spent almost no money. At this time in my life, that’s a big achievement.

In fact I made a little money. I worked past my fear of the unfamiliar, and offered my first item ever for sale on eBay: an autographed copy of The Year Of the Warrior.

I sold it too, though not entirely because of my skill in composing a listing. The subject of my books came up in comments on Gene Edward Veith’s Cranach blog (of course I didn’t bring it up. That would be bragging, and God would strike me dead). A woman was wondering where to get a copy, and I told her I had one up for auction, so she went over and “bought it now.”

I’ll do this again, but not right away. I’ll be going out of town to the Høstfest in Minot next week, so I’d have trouble servicing any orders I got on stuff I listed just now. But I’ve got cartons of The Year of the Warrior and Blood and Judgment in the basement, part of my divorce settlement from Baen Books. Might as well make something off them.

The guy came to look at my tree today, but I was at work at the time, so I don’t know yet what he thought. I suppose no news is good news. If he thought he couldn’t do it, I imagine he’d have told me right away.

Unless he wouldn’t have.

Read a collection of stories by Jeffrey Archer. Enjoyed them. I’m going to pick up one of his novels (at the library, of course).

Here’s a link to a review at The American Spectator Online (blessed be It). Christopher Orlet reports on Theodore Dalrymple’s new book on drug addiction. The shocking (for our times) premise is that addiction is not nearly as powerful a thing as we’ve been told, and that people who get addicted, in general, simply lack character.

I like Dalrymple.

I bet Rush Limbaugh won’t interview him.

Update: I know the Cranach blog link isn’t working. World Magazine has moved their whole site, and they haven’t condescended to give us a visible further link to Cranach. Meanwhile, Ed Veith is away, so I can’t e-mail him to ask about it.

New improved Update: I realize my timing isn’t very good in my Rush Limbaugh reference above. I don’t listen to Limbaugh myself (he’s not carried by the station I follow), but I like him generally. And I think the current smear campaign being waged against him is contemptible.

Armagedon postponed, yet again

Things are better tonight. I suspect several of you prayed for me, and it worked, thank you very much.

I happened to speak to my former boss, down the hill at Headquarters, this morning, and I told him my tale of woe. He said, “Why don’t you talk to _________________?” He was speaking of a fellow who does a lot of landscaping and handyman work around the school.

So I ran the guy down, and he said, yeah, he imagined he could do it in about six hours for thirty bucks an hour.

Yes. I can live with that.

He’ll be out to look at the tree on Monday, and he’ll probably take it down on Tuesday.

Be still, my heart. Be low, my blood pressure.

(You’re getting a little tired of reading me predicting the end of my personal world, only to say, “Never mind,” a day or two later, aren’t you?

Never mind.)

When I came home tonight I went out to the curb to take in my garbage containers. I saw several young guys unloading a trailer at the recently sold house across the street.

One of them greeted me. I told him my name, asked him if he was moving in.

He said (I’m pretty sure), “I’m ___________, and (pointing at the other guy) that’s ____________, my fiancé. There’s another couple here too, helping us move in.”

I didn’t say anything, partly because that’s not my way, but mostly because I was trying to work out, as I walked away, whether I’d actually heard what I thought I’d heard.

Looking through the window, I saw four guys over there. No women. (I did see a woman later, but I think she came in a different car afterwards.)

I may have misjudged them, but it looks like those people are moving in.

And you know what happens when those people discover a neighborhood.

Houses get makeovers. Chic boutiques and coffee shops spring up. Property values soar. I probably won’t be able to pay my taxes anymore, and I’ll have to sell out at an obscene profit.

What a nuisance.

Crash course in English

I love this story to death.

See, there’s this Czech speedway racer who got knocked unconscious in an accident. And when he regained consciousness, he was speaking perfect English, a language he was only beginning to learn at the time. (It faded, unfortunately.)

Does this bring the promise of a new (though painful) means of enhancing international communication?

Or does it just mean that all we English speakers are brain damaged?

A little less shade in my life

Last night, as I was sitting in this very chair, composing my blog post, a fierce, short, little storm blew through. I had to get up and close the windows. I worried that the power might go off, but it didn’t, so all seemed well.

Just after I’d posted, I noticed a city vehicle with flashing lights going slowly up the street outside my house. I went out on the porch for a closer look, and saw that it was a front end loader.

And it was clearing tree branches out of the street in front of my neighbors’ house.

But it wasn’t their branches. It was the branches of my front-yard tree, which had split like an infinitive and dropped most of its greenery on their side of the driveway.

I knocked on my neighbors’ door. He was gone, but she was there, with a woman friend. I told them what had happened. Said I didn’t think anybody could get out of our shared driveway until the split section of trunk got cleared away.

The neighbor’s wife asked, “Did it hit T_____’s car?”

I asked, “You mean there’s a car under there?”

Sure enough, if you looked closely, you could see a newish Ford SUV, almost completely covered in foliage.

Then followed a stimulating evening of walking around in the yard, waiting for the car owner’s husband (who brought a friend with a chainsaw), and talking to my insurance company on their emergency line. We did get the driveway cleared at last.

I’ve spent much of today making calls, and waiting for calls.

I don’t know whether my carrier or the driver’s carrier will pay for the car damage (no glass broken, but substantial body injury. It drives, though). That decision depends on whether they conclude I was negligent in not cutting the miserable old tree down a year ago.

My carrier will do nothing to reimburse me for tree removal. If it had hit my house, it would have, but there was no actual damage to my property, so no check for me.

I’ve called a couple tree removal services. One got back to me and took a look at the tree. He wants $800 to take it down. I’m hoping I can find somebody cheaper (half the branchwork is already on the ground, for pete’s sake).

Maybe this is God’s way of telling me He doesn’t want me to own a house. I don’t see any alternative to sinking into credit card debt on this, hoping my mortgage interest tax credit in the spring will help me scramble out again.

If not, I guess I can always sell.

Still, as I drove home tonight, the sky was full of slate gray clouds, while the sun was shining brightly. That’s my favorite kind of sky. And a spectacular double rainbow had been drafted across it with a compass.

So I guess God doesn’t hate me.

“I have a piece of brain lodged in my head!” (Monty Python)

I had a great idea for today’s post. I remember thinking about it as I heated the water for my tea at lunchtime. I think it had something to do with some correlation between storytelling and Christian theology. It would have been great.

But it flew out of my head, leaving no trace behind.

So instead of that, let’s meditate upon the aforementioned figure of speech, “It flew out of my head.”

I’ve read that in some cultures, people don’t think of themselves as using their heads for thinking. They believe that they think in their chests or their stomachs or something.

I don’t get that at all. As long as I can remember, I’ve “lived in my head,” and have been quite sure where the Brain-work Department is located. Top floor, the one with the view.

Does everyone feel the same way, though? Sometimes I wonder if those guys I’ve envied all my life—the big, athletic ones with the lightning reflexes and fast-twitch muscles—feel differently about their thinking. Maybe they rub their stomachs when they’re working out a problem.

A noted literary example of uncertainty concerning the seat of reason is a passage from Heimskringla, the Sagas of the Kings of Norway, by Snorri Sturlusson. I’ve mentioned this book often before. This particular story is found in other sources, but I have a copy of Heimskringla in the room here, so I’ll use it.

The story is the aftermath of the Battle of Hjorungavaag. This battle was the climax of an attempt to invade Norway by a group of free-lance Vikings called the Jomsvikings. Historians are uncertain whether the Jomsvikings ever actually existed, and if they did, how important they were. But they loom large in the sagas. They were an international brotherhood of warriors who operated out of a fortress of their own, probably someplace in northern Poland (yes, there were some Polish Vikings. “Viking” was a job description, not an ethnic designation, in those days).

The Jomsvikings had attended a feast given by King Svein of Denmark, in which they made a classic mistake—they allowed themselves to get in a bragging contest leading to competitive oaths after drinking too much. When they woke up (hung over) the next morning, they discovered that their leader had made a vow to conquer Norway. Their honor code left them no choice but to try to fulfill it.

After some initial success, they were met by a formidable Norwegian fleet at Hjorungavaag. The Norwegians, needless to say, cleaned their hourglasses. (Chances are Erling Skjalgsson was in that fleet, though he’s not mentioned in the text.)

It’s at this point that the famous scene occurs. The Jomsvikings are made to sit on some logs, with their legs tied to keep them from escaping. Then a man comes with an axe and begins to behead them, one at a time.

At this point, we join the text in progress:

Then one of them said, “Here I have a dagger in my hand, and I shall stick it in the ground if I am conscious when my head is chopped off.” He was beheaded, and the dagger dropped from his hand.

I suppose it helps, at moments like that, to have a scientific goal to distract you.

All right, all right. I’ll tell you how it ends.

One of the men, who has long, beautiful hair, expresses his concern that his ’do will get all bloody. So one of the Norwegians wraps his hands in the hair and holds it away from his head. When the axe comes down, the Jomsviking pulls himself back sharply, so that the Norwegian’s hands are severed.

Jarl Erik Haakonsson, the leader of the Norwegian army, is so delighted with this trick that he spares the Jomsviking’s life (you’ve got to admit he was a man who could take a joke. We aren’t told how the guy who lost his hands felt about it. I have to figure he was one of my ancestors).

Seeing this, the headsman, who has a personal grudge against a Jomsviking further down the line, runs toward that man, in order to kill him before any more pardons slip through. But another Jomsviking trips him, and his intended victim grabs the axe and kills him with it. This bit of performance art pleases Jarl Erik so much that he lets all the rest of them live.

And they dined out on the story, no doubt, for the rest of their lives.

Except for the guy with no hands. I suppose he just thought about it a lot.

And he couldn’t even rub his stomach to help him think.

Hunting Down Amanda, by Andrew Klavan

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking Walker’s going to roll on his back and wriggle like a happy dachshund in delight over another Andrew Klavan masterpiece.

Well, you’re right.

Hunting Down Amanda is a masterful book. It’s fascinating in its own right, as a brilliantly crafted, smart, moving thriller.

It’s also fascinating to the Christian reader as an artifact of the conversion process. Because Klavan, who was not a Christian when he wrote it, was clearly on the way, and his growing interest in matters eternal informs the whole product.

The Amanda of the title is Amanda Dodson, a five-year-old girl who, when the story begins, witnesses a terrible air crash. She wanders to the crash site, and is carried out by a man. Her mother, who has been searching for her, sees this and says, “Oh God. Oh God. Now they’ll come after her.”

Because Amanda carries a secret, a secret that a powerful corporation will do anything to possess. And Amanda’s mother, Carol, has committed her life to one simple goal—protecting her from the men who are hunting her. To accomplish that, Carol will do anything, pay any price.

Her life gets entangled with that of Lonnie Blake, a jazz musician. Blake is a major talent who has gone downhill ever since the murder of his beloved wife. He becomes fixated on Carol, and through her gets involved in something more dangerous than he ever dreamed. But it’s also his chance for a kind of salvation.

And there’s Howard Roth, an old college professor who has terminal lung cancer. He’s more concerned about changes in the western civilization curriculum than in his own demise. But when he meets a little girl who wants to hear his stories of ancient myths, he finds a new reason for living.

But the hunters are closing in. And they are absolutely ruthless. For the little girl, they plan a short life of suffering. For her protectors, they plan no life at all.

The good guys aren’t helpless, though.

In fact, they have resources the hunters can’t imagine.

I loved this book. It wasn’t only that it was smartly plotted and fast-paced, and that the characters were textured and sympathetic. There were also biblical and theological allusions everywhere, and layers of mythological symbolism like deep soil in which a fruitful story can flourish.

I should warn you about strong language, and sexual references and violence. There are no Christian characters in this book, and none of them act like Christians.

But there is Christianity here, and it’s everywhere.

Hunting Down Amanda gets my highest recommendation.

Why I hate the Renaissance

Saturday was interesting. My assignment was to drive down to the Mankato area (about two hours southwest of here). That didn’t seem like a major challenge. The road is Highway 169, which is easy to get to from here, and (as a bonus) provides one of my favorite drives in Minnesota. Much of it passes through a pretty valley. And the leaves were beginning (just beginning) to turn.

I gave a ride to a young fellow who’s just joined the Viking Age Club & Society. He showed up at the time appointed, and off we went.

What I didn’t anticipate was that the Renaissance would bar the way to the Viking Age.

The annual Minnesota Renaissance Festival is in Chanhassen, and Highway 169 is the major access route for most of those who attend. I hadn’t thought of that. But, frankly, even if I had I wouldn’t have expected it to be a problem. The festival opens in the morning, and we were going past in the early afternoon.

But it was nearly the last weekend for the event, and it was a beautiful day, and (apparently) everybody in Hennepin and Ramsey counties decided that this was the day to go. Traffic had backed up for miles and miles. We crawled for nearly two hours. When we finally passed the festival site, it appeared that every spot in the parking area was already filled. I don’t know what the people who suffered that sclerotic drive along with us did when they finally reached their destination.

So we arrived at the farm we were headed for a full hour late. Once we got going it went fine, and a guy who’d never used a sword before “killed” me repeatedly.

Sometimes even Harald Hardrada must have had days like that.

Then we all went out for burgers, and eventually we headed home.

Traffic near the festival was now clotted with people leaving, though it wasn’t nearly as bad as coming in.

On the other hand, nobody rear-ended me coming in.

The traffic had slowed to a stop, and suddenly we felt that familiar kick from behind. I got out and found a lady checking the front of her minivan. There was a parking ticket from an area theme park on her dash (Chanhassen is the entertainment nexus of our state, I guess), and I surmised that she’d taken her daughter (who was sitting in the passenger seat) out for a fun day, until the unthinkable had happened.

Actually the right word wasn’t “unthinkable” but “negligible.” Neither of us detected any noticeable damage, so we exchanged information and continued on our ways.

I rather like being the injured party. I do gracious pretty well. I’m not so good at “apologetic without actually saying you’re sorry, because the insurance people don’t like that.”

It was nearly 9:00 before we got home.

I think even Harald Hardrada would have told me it was a full day.

Though I think Harald would have taken a harder line with the other drivers.

Shameless Viking appeal

This link takes you to a site where you can vote on a number of historical preservation projects up for grants in the Chicago area. Among them is “The Viking.”

“The Viking” was (I’m pretty sure) the first Viking ship replica ever sailed. It went from Norway to America in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exhibition. Since that time it has languished in less-than-ideal storage conditions in various places, and it won’t be around much longer if a restoration isn’t done and suitable shelter found.

The deal here is that you can vote on which of several projects will get preservation grants. You don’t have to be a Chicagoan (I’m registered) and you can vote once a day until the deadline. As I understand it, it’s not winner-take-all, and the voting won’t be the only determining factor in the final decisions. But it can’t hurt.

The ship is doing pretty well in the race so far. It’s Number 3 in votes. If you’re at all interested (or if you’re interested in another of the projects), I encourage you to register and vote. “Early and often,” as they say.