We’re doing leprechauns wrong

For your St. Patrick’s Day enjoyment, one of my favorite Irish songs, done by my favorite Irish group, the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem.

I suspect I may have posted this clip before. I don’t care. It’s only once a year, and this song embodies one of my favorite aspects of Irish culture—the joyous hyperbole of Hibernian rhetoric. C.S. Lewis recalls in Surprised By Joy how his father (an Irishman, of course) used to launch into Ciceronian philippics denouncing the horrific misbehavior of his sons, to the point where sometimes they had to restrain themselves from laughing. One of my favorite stretches of my own writing was Father Aillil’s curse against Erling’s enemies, near the beginning of The Year of the Warrior. One of the reasons I enjoy inhabiting Aillil’s skull is the opportunity to declaim on the large scale, unrestrained by reason or good taste.

Ireland has opened the world’s first Leprechaun Museum. Judging from the story (which might, I’ll grant, provide an incomplete description) it seems to be primarily an exercise in feeling very small, walking around among giant-sized furniture. If that’s the idea, I’d say it misses the point of leprechauns entirely. Continue reading We’re doing leprechauns wrong

Lessons to be Learned Here

In this article on Russian censorship of independent publishers, the writer reports:

Two years later he found himself in much more trouble over Vladimir Sorokin’s Blue Lard, a heartwarming narrative in which clones of Khrushchev and Stalin enjoy some tender sexual moments together. In fact Blue Lard had been published in 1999 but it was not until 2002 that anybody took offense. Moving Together, a pro-Putin youth movement flushed copies of Sorokin’s works down a giant toilet erected outside the Bolshoi Theater, apparently as part of a battle against “…immorality, cynicism, and the humiliation of our culture.” Sales exploded, reaching a total of 100,000.

. . . [Ad Marginem’s publisher, Alexander Ivanov, said of their arrest over publishing this book,] “We felt danger, but our main sensation was… surprise at the idiocy of the situation, that we had to discuss literary issues with the police. It seemed to me that they themselves were a bit shocked by this investigation.”

(via Books, Inq.)

It’s shamed I am. Shamed.

Am I a hypocrite?


Am I for sale?

It would appear so.

As you may recall, I groused a while back about the new animated Disney movie, How to Train Your Dragon. Not merely because of the historically inaccurate horned helmets on the Viking characters, but because of my intense weariness with the innovation—which long since became a cliché—of the sympathetic, victimized dragon.


Guess what? One of our local IMAX theaters (the one at the Minnesota Zoo), has asked the Viking Age Club and Society to be there in costume for the opening, next Saturday. And I’ve agreed to participate.

My price? A free ticket to a movie I’m not even particularly interested in.

It’s for the good of the club, I tell myself. To raise our public visibility and attract new members.

So I’m taking a bullet (or, more authentically, an arrow) for the group.

I’m a hero.

That’s how I intend to look at it, anyway.

Now the only question is, why did they invite us for the 20th, when the official opening is a week later? Sneak preview?

I’ll keep you posted. As it is, we’re scheduled to be at the Great Clips IMAX Theater at the Minnesota Zoo from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., this Saturday.

For those of you in the area, who wish to come and rub it in.

Update: I just found out this is a special preview. My source wasn’t sure if it was open to the public or not. So if you come to mock me, you may not get in at all. Which only serves you right.

Irish Comfortable Familiarity with Death

Great Irish Lives is a collection of Irish obituaries from a people who appear to relish the news of someone stepping into the great beyond. Suzanne Strempek Shea, writing the review, quotes from one obit, “We believe there is no doubt that Mr O’Connell expired on Saturday, the 15th of this month, at Genoa. He yielded up his latest breath at the distance of many hundred miles from the remains of [his] humble dwelling….” She then writes:

Don’t let language stop you from reading, and learning. The obituary of James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, Jan. 13, 1941, includes the story of his meeting as a student with W.B. Yeats, whose obit resides nearby. The back-and-forth: “We have met too late,” the budding novelist said, “you are too old to be influenced by me,” to which the poet answered, “Never have I encountered so much pretension with so little to show for it.”

Film review: Outlander


I’d heard rumors about this movie Outlander, a science fiction/Viking movie hybrid, starring the redoubtable Jim Caviezel. I’d heard some good things about it, so I rented it from Netflix, hoping I’d be able to recommend it to you, the discerning consumer.

Alas, I can’t honestly give it much of a boost.

What you’ve got here, essentially, is a cross between The Thirteenth Warrior and Predator. If you’ve seen those movies, frankly, I can’t think of much reason to watch this one. Unless you’re just keen to see a Viking ship in a movie, which is always worth the trouble (unless the movie is [ptui!] Beowulf and Grendel, which we hates, we does).

Outlander ship Continue reading Film review: Outlander

Report from the barricades

This controversy over the health care bill must be galvanizing the American people, because it roused The Most Sedentary, Antisocial Man in America (your humble servant) to join a rally at the Minnesota state capitol in St. Paul on Saturday. Although it was unseasonably warm for mid-March, we had overcast skies and a nasty cold wind, and I wished I’d worn a nondescript watch cap, rather than my stylish fedora.

I persuaded a friend to come with me. We heard, among others, Captain Ed Morrisey of Hot Air blog, and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (I was able to tell my friend that I’d shaken her hand once, which filled him with satisfying awe).

Very stirring. On the evening news, our local CBS affiliate seemed conflicted in their reporting of the attendance. At one point they called it a huge rally. A minute later they described the crowd as “hundreds.”

My own guess (and I’m not very good at this) was about 2,000 people. That jibes pretty well with the estimates of the capitol police, as reported here at Power Line.

Don’t look for me in the photos. I was pretty far back. And I’m not very tall.

“The heart that has truly loved never forgets…”

Speaking of enjoying music, and in honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday, I offer one of my own favorite Irish songs, one considered quaint today, but which I find deeply moving, “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms.”

The lyrics were written by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852), who also wrote “The Minstrel Boy” and “The Last Rose of Summer.” I believe there’s a story that Moore wrote it to reassure his wife, after she contracted a skin disease, but I don’t put a lot of faith in such tales. Let me know if you have verification.

The idea of life-long love seems to me to have fallen on hard times in the 21st Century. Does anybody write love songs anymore (as opposed to sex songs) outside of Country music? (Not that Country doesn’t count. I just find it remarkable that a large segment of popular music seems to be devoted to songs that aren’t devoted—songs about booty calls and hotness.)

The clip above isn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it’s nice and the singer does both verses, with the words roughly right. I note that his last name is McLarsen. I wonder what the story behind that is. I know of a family named McCarlson, whose ancestor came to America and added a “Mc” to his name to a) differentiate himself from all the other Carlsons in a Norwegian town, and b) be more American. My own great-grandfather did something similar, but changed his last name altogether.

Some Things Can’t Be Summarized

I heard Ken Myers talk to a guest about time and experience in what I believe was one of last year’s issues of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. He referred to the creation account in Genesis, saying that regardless of one’s interpretation of the days and events, we can’t deny that God took time to create everything. That must mean time has value, and the time it takes to do some things is good, even God-honoring. Music, for example, takes time to perform and enjoy. Solitude soaks in slowly over an afternoon. The love and loyalty of friends takes years to mature.

When we talk about an artwork, we often ask people who experienced it to summarize it for us. We ask them, or even ask ourselves, what the music or poetry or movie was about and what it meant. We ask what its point was. Sometimes understanding that point is a natural part of the work, but perhaps more often than not, summarizing an artwork down to its gist is impossible. To attempt to do so is to completely miss the value of the work.

Who asks for the point of Dvorak’s “New World” symphony? That’s ridiculous, because the music itself, all 40 minutes of it, is the point. Maybe a theme can be verbalized for it, but saying it’s about the wild beauty of America doesn’t capture anything of the music. This goes for good poetry too. A poem may be about the pain of betrayal or the wonder of a bird in flight, but if someone were to ask us for the gist of the poem, our best answer may be to encourage them to read it themselves.

A good work of art isn’t a vehicle for its gist. It is a man walking on his own feet. It may have plenty of themes or meanings which can be summarized and plenty of quotes with stand-alone value, but the work itself is something to experience over time.

Continue reading Some Things Can’t Be Summarized

Book Reviews, Creative Culture