The Versatile Blogger Award

Our friend Meg Moseley has tagged us over at her blog with the coveted Versatile Blogger Award. A Major Award of this caliber does not come without a price. Here’s what we’ve been asked to do:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.

2. Share seven things about yourself.

3. Pass on the award to up to fifteen deserving bloggers.

4. Contact the bloggers you chose for the award.

1. Thank you, Meg.

2. Are there seven things about myself I haven’t told you yet? Is there anything left unrevealed that won’t revolt the public and drive what’s left of our readers away? I can but try.

2.1 I weighed 5 lbs., 6 oz. at birth. I was underweight. In the time since then I have remedied that defect in rather magnificent fashion.

2.2 Technically, by the rules of primogeniture, I am the patriarch of my family, oldest son of the oldest reproducing son in the blood line (assuming you disqualify adoptees). This applies only to the Kenyon branch of the Walkers. My relatives Steven and John Book, who read this blog, come from a different branch, and so miss out on the benefits of my benevolent overlordship.

2.3 I do not care for bacon. Or much of anything smoked, really.

2.4 The first book I ever took out of a library was about early American explorers. I think it was called Explorers All, but I may be mistaken about that.

2.5 I like wristwatches with lots of little dials and functions. However I’ve given up wearing them, because they’re such a pain to keep regulated. (I still wear a watch, just not the complicated kind.)

2.6 I once punched a guy who’s dead now. The two facts are not related. Anyway, he deserved it.

2.7 Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever the hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to eat some chocolate.

3. I shall pass this on, as is my wont, to zero deserving bloggers. Why should I dilute such an honor by sharing it with lesser writers?

4. Done.

Cat Eyes Squirrel

This photo has Going Viral written all over it (which is an ugly cliche serious writers should never use).

Cat eyes Squirrel

The photo was shot by Jim Tiller in Ormond Beach Fla., Wednesday morning, September 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Daytona Beach News-Journal, Jim Tiller)

Eat like a Viking, regurgitate, repeat

In case you’re wondering how I’m doing on the Virtual Book Tour I’ve been working on for my publisher, I think I can say it’s been going well. I’ve finished one blog post and several interviews for various literature-related blogs. And yes, I’ll let you know where to look for them, once they appear (assuming I find out myself).

I’m nearly finished with the first batch of interviews. I understand more are coming. Today the publicist asked me how I felt about writing a food-related post for a blog that talks to authors about their favorite recipes.

Now on the surface that doesn’t make much sense, me being a certified microwave-dependent bachelor (though I do make a mean scratch chocolate chip cookie when the fit is on me). But the idea of writing about Viking food, and relating it to West Oversea (buy it here) is intriguing. I’ve decided to do it, and I’ve made arrangements to borrow a recipe from a reenactor friend.

(And yes, in case you wondered, I will give her credit for it.)

I feel confident I can produce a post unlike any this particular blog has seen before. A hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners exposé of genuine Viking cuisine, featuring such delights as rotten shark (a delicacy in Iceland which reportedly made that Chef Gordon Ramsey throw up), and sheep’s head (also popular in Iceland. The eyeballs, I’m told, are especially relished). Many is the joke that’s been made about lutefisk over the years, but the Norwegians’ beloved lutefisk is just a pale, ghostly remnant of the true Nightmare On Elm Street mealtime horrors of the Scandinavian past.

Because we’re talking about a marginal economy, where taste places a far distant second to survival.

People sometimes ask me whether I wish I had been born in the Viking Age.

My answer is no, for three reasons.

One, I was a sickly child who would in all probability have been exposed on a hillside for the wolves at birth.

Two, the plumbing was awful.

Three, the food was inedible to the modern palate.

I’ve written a time travel book (still unpublished at this date) in which a father and daughter get the opportunity to go back to Viking Age Norway and stay there. She points out that if they did, they’d never get to eat chocolate again.

I call that an excellent point.

Interactive Fiction: Is It the Future?

Keith Stuart asks if interactive fiction is the future of books. “For example,” Mr. Stuart writes, “clues could be unlocked by shaking the screen so that most of the words ‘fall off’ revealing hidden codes. Other narrative elements could be unveiled by opening the book while in a specific geographic location.” He goes on to describe what is already online for interactive fiction and why a cool idea may not work for previously published novels.

Man-Kzin Wars XI, by Hal Colebatch, Matthew Joseph Harrington, and Larry Niven

I reviewed Man-Kzin Wars X: The Wunder War a while back. This is the sequel. My friend Hal Colebatch, who wrote all the stories of the previous volume, contributes the bulk of Man-Kzin Wars XI too, but the other authors’ stories are also excellent.

The background (these books are set in Larry Niven’s Ringworld universe) is that the warlike Kzin race, large creatures very much like intelligent lions (with a sort of Roman/Samurai ethic) were raging across the universe, subduing one intelligent species after another, until they ran into the apparently helpless humans, who’d lived in peace so long they’d forgotten how to fight. But humans, it turned out, are born killers, and once they got their footing again they stopped the Kzin cold. The stories of this volume, except for some flashbacks, involve the time after the Kzin surrender, when a few humans and Kzin on the planet Wunderland are tentatively learning to cooperate. Members of both species are coming to believe the unthinkable—that their clash was actually good for both sides, teaching them new ideas and new sensibilities. Continue reading Man-Kzin Wars XI, by Hal Colebatch, Matthew Joseph Harrington, and Larry Niven

You Can’t Say ‘Nazi,’ But Us?

Poster entitiled 'This is the Enemy' (Barbara Marks, artist) depicts an arm with a swastika on it's sleeve as it drives a dagger through a copy of a book labelled 'Holy Bible,' early 1940s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Political signs with Nazi words, symbols, or overtones showed up a rally during that past week, and the media yawned. Maybe they were tired from all of their outrage a few weeks ago. Larry O’Connor reports, “What is truly scandalous about the traditional media’s apparent obliviousness is the fact that unlike the Tea Parties — which are often spontaneous, unorganized events with no direct affiliation to a politician or a political party — this protest has been directly liked to Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, and her campaign has been caught in a series of misleading statements regarding that involvement.”

Is it worse that such signs appear at an organized rally or at an unorganized one? Is it exhausting to hear outrage about one and not the other, a news cycles about one and nothing about the other?

Of course, the illustration here is not from one of the posters, but it is a curious bit of Nazi propaganda, is it not? Having they been called christians of a sort in your hearing? This isn’t a Christian poster.

Fun and Books with Jasper Fforde

In this interview from a few years ago, author Jasper Fforde, who has a new novel coming next year, talks about writing for the fun of it, even when no one reads or comments on anything you’ve sent them.

Of course, one always thinks ‘wouldn’t it be great to be published?’ But I was always thinking ‘oh, it’d be great to be published but it’s not likely, but I’m having fun, so I’m going to write what I want to write.’ So when I did actually speak to people about my project, they thought it was a pile of rubbish.

Freedom–You Don’t Want It

D.G. Myers criticizes the new Jonathan Franzen novel, Freedom. Apparently, the author’s idea behind the title is closer to tyranny than liberty. Myers notes how thoroughly liberal, as in the American political left, this novel is. “Franzen’s references to his title leave small doubt that he holds the Leftist view that freedom is the problem, not a political solution to much of anything,” he writes and goes on to describes scenes in which the word freedom appears. The last of these scenes refers to the freedom a pet loses when collared by its owner. (via Frank Wilson)

Buy Freedom: A Novel here or at your favorite local bookstore, whose owner needs new shoes for his kids.

By way of taking all the fun of this, look at what Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary has on freedom: “A state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Freedom is personal, civil, political, and religious. [See Liberty.]” That’s the summary. Much more is under liberty, explaining specifics of natural, civil, religious, political, and other types of liberty.

My first ukelele-inspired post, I think

Over at Grim’s Hall
(we seem to be doing a lot of profitable cross-pollination between our two blogs these days) Grim posted this amusing clip of the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain doing a number you’ll… probably recognize.

This is a lot of fun, and I’m glad there are people doing silly things like this in the world.

And yet, as I mentioned in the comments, it’s not a great thing in itself. It’s great in being unique in its sub-genre, excelling in a field in which there’s little competition. I remember an old Peter Sellers movie, “The Bobo,” in which he played “The World’s Only Singing Matador.” Not the best matador, not even a very good matador, just the only one who sang.

I once saw a poster on the University of Minnesota campus, back in my college days. It advertised a movie about the struggles of Labor. It proudly proclaimed that this was the first film ever produced purely on Collectivist principles. Every detail of scripting, production, casting, and filming was decided by a vote of all the workers involved.

Needless to say, I did not go to see this masterpiece. I’m fairly sure I’d rather have the insides of my eyelids tattooed by a prison inmate than see that film.

Because any work of art that says, “See me for some reason other than that I’m a good piece of work” can pretty much be counted on to be very bad.

And that applies to Christian art, too.

Even mine.

(Which does not in any way mean the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain isn’t really, really cool.)

Plot Twist Fun

Ever thought about how a well-known story might end differently? A post on this topic could be a magnet of unwanted spoilers, but I’ll send it anyway. Throwing reality or plausibility aside, what popular story changes would you suggest?

Return of the Jedi–Yoda: Now the truth know you must. Vader, your father he is not. Solo your father, and Leia . . . gasp, cough, cough.

Luke: What about Leia? She couldn’t be . . .

Yoda: Mother.

Luke: Ewww.

Star Trek 4–Kahn isn’t dead after all, and the really old geezer will finally get revenge.

Star Trek 5–They Saved Kahn’s Brain

The Wizard of Oz–The Wizard: But this is Kansas, Dorothy. It’s been Kansas all along. You just have to know it in your heart.

Sherlock Holmes: Unsolved Mysteries–Watson: Holmes hasn’t been able to solve a single crime since the encounter with the woman. For instance, one I had to solve for him came to us on a Monday morning. . . .

Everyone’s Doing It Now

99c Store Going Out of BusinessTim Challies writes about the money problems the porn industry has. In short, few people want to pay for what they can get for free or get in the context of a good story, like what’s in several HBO series. It reminds me of a comment from a reporter, which I think I blogged about at the time, expressing doubt that anyone paid for pornography anymore.

Tim says, “[P]ornography has succeeded so well that it has forced itself into decline.” And yet, this is not good news. (via Steve B on Facebook)

Tim Challies has an e-book on this topic called Sexual Detox, available on his site.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture