I Want to Be a Nobody

I was talking to my good wife about some young ladies in our church who are graduating college and grad school this year, and my eight-year-old overheard me. She asked me what grad school was.

“Some people pursue advanced education after college,” I said. “That’s what you get in grad school. In fact, some jobs require you to have advanced training.”

“Like doctors and lawyers,” said the wife.

“Some people get advanced education that isn’t tied directly to a job,” I continued. “I thought about going to grad school myself, but I didn’t. I guess I could still go, but I haven’t.”

My little girl asked, “You didn’t go to grad school?”

“No.”

“Why didn’t you go to grad school? Because you didn’t want to be anybody?”

“No, I decided not to.”

“I don’t want to be anybody either.”

That’s my girl, striving for excellence right out of the nursery.

Dead Watch by John Sandford

You remember all that stuff I wrote last night, about how I had so much to do tonight and might not get to post?

Never mind.

Turned out I forgot the Viking Age Society meeting was postponed this month.

And the project at work got finished up on time, pretty much. Essentially. Except for one small loose end over which I had no control. So I should be breathing a big sigh of relief.

I’ve noticed an odd phenomenon overtaking me in the last few years. I seem to have lost all capacity for taking any pleasure in completed tasks, even challenging ones. When I was young I’d mentally pump a fist in the air and allow myself a minute or two of satisfaction before finding a new subject to worry about.

Nowadays it’s just ho-hum. My primary emotional response to “Mission Accomplished” is to wonder idly what I’ve forgotten that’ll come back to bite me.

Maybe it’s a side effect of something I hesitate to call “success,” because I’m far from successful. But I’ve accomplished a number of the things I dreamed of when I was a kid. That raises the bar on everything, apparently. When you’ve reached the point when finishing the writing of a book is no big deal, most other accomplishments mean even less.

The moral: “Squelch your dreams,” I guess.

John Sandford, Minnesotan author of the Lucas Davenport Prey novels, which I like very much, has come out with a new book, Dead Watch, now out in paperback. He’s trying out a new hero in this one, and (oddly) the book isn’t set in Minnesota, but in Washington D.C. and Virginia (as if anybody’d ever want to read about those places).

Jacob Winter is the new hero. He’s a Washington insider, an established expert on what a friend calls “Forensic Bureaucracy.” Supposedly he’s the go-to guy for government problems that nobody else knows how to fix. But, suitably for the hero of a Sandford novel, he’s also a veteran of Afghanistan, a trained fighter who is only slowed down by a bad hip, the result of a combat wound.

The party who needs Jake’s help this time is the president of the United States, by way of his chief of staff. A Republican former senator, Lincoln Bowe, has disappeared under suspicious circumstances, and his wife has been threatened. The president, a Democrat, is worried that somebody in his own party has gotten out of hand, and that there’ll be political blow-back. Jake’s job is to investigate and clean things up.

One of his first visits is to the senator’s wife, Madison Bowe. Madison is a small, spunky blonde, and Jake likes small, spunky blondes, and you’ve already guessed where that leads.

The book is apparently set in the near future, and seems to also be set in an alternate universe—one where socially conservative Democratic senators aren’t a surprise, and most of the homosexuals in the story are Republicans. This is a little disorienting, but a clever tactic on Sandford’s part, allowing him to write a political thriller without alienating elements of our increasingly polarized electorate. I had trouble keeping my bearings from time to time, but I was never insulted, which earns the book a few notches on my tally stick. The fighting and killing part of Jake’s résumé turns out to be more useful than the forensic bureaucracy part in ultimately solving the problem.

I didn’t like it as much as the Lucas Davenport stories, but I have more history with L. D. I recommend it as light summer reading. There’s violence and sex, but they’re not excessive by contemporary standards. Not bad.

“No one who loves pain itself”

Now, this is a find! Everyone’s familiar with the old saying, “Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit…” Ok, maybe not everyone, but perhaps you are familiar with the placeholder text used in page layouts called “Lorem Ipsum.” I found a website that generates this text for you in the format you need, and not only that, they sell merchandise with Lorem Ipsum on it. Maybe not as cool as the stuff at veer.com, but close.

Save the Viking!

Hm. The blog seems to be up again. Which I means I’ll have to post something.

I’m late to the job tonight. Busy at work—I’m finishing up a project. And I mowed the lawn for my exercise, because the lawn needs must be mowed soon, or else I must acquire me a goat.

If I don’t post tomorrow night, please be compassionate. I’m signed up to provide refreshments at the Viking Age Society meeting, and there may not be time to do that and blog too. If I miss Friday, I may do a penance post on Saturday. Or not.

Depending on how guilt-ridden I am.

Got the following by e-mail this morning:

Wednesday 2 April 2007

Dear Lars,

I write to you concerning the 1892 Norwegian-built replica of the Gokstad in Chicago. I have been observing its situation for so long and would like to see this ship, with its World heritage values, restored and in a good home.

How is our Viking ship? Has her fate been worked out yet? I’d be pleased to know what you think of my suggestions to saving the Viking. Could you help?

I have undertaken research into the story of Viking and included this in my article, along with a few suggests to help Save the Viking >< (({(o>

http://web.mac.com/kim.peart/iWeb/Site/Save_the_Viking.html

I have been wondering if there would be scope for a living aspect to the home of the Viking, such as the building of a new Gokstad Viking ship, to the standard now set at the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark. The new Viking ship could then be sailed on the Lakes. Perhaps this might be the key to saving the Viking, making it a more exciting project overall. What do you think?

This link is a recent news film-clip of the Viking ><(({(o>

http://cbs2chicago.com/video/?id=30441@wbbm.dayport.com&cid=48

I am now making a monster outreach, to find out what is happening with the ship and see who in the World would also like to see the Viking restored and in a good home. Many good-hearted efforts have, amazingly, come to naught to date and the decay clock on the timbers of the ship are ticking away in Chicago’s severe weather. Perhaps everything is wrapped up now and if this is the case, great, but I feel we should not take any more chances with the fate of this important ship with World heritage values.

I have $10 sitting in my model of the Gokstad. If a million people would also put $10 on the table, this will be the swiftest way to restore the ship, ensure that it is in a good home and provide funds for interpretation and education, which could include Viking culture and Scandinavian traditions. If a million people are prepared to speak up for the Viking, such numbers will ensure that the ship is safe.

Could this work?

I will be looking for an appropriate organisation that will put up a dedicated web site for the campaign to Save the Viking, which can receive donations, including my $10.

I have included a few simple thoughts for the campaign in the article and have many more to offer should a campaign get up and running. If there is a need to and the support is there, I would be prepared to go to Chicago to help drive the campaign.

It would be great to hear your views on the matter and what you think should and can be done. I hope you can help to Save the Viking!

Yours sincerely,

Kim Peart ~ Tasmania

I’d like to help this guy, but it sounds like a job for somebody good at promotion. And think I’ve demonstrated to the satisfaction of all that I’m the worst promoter in the world. Maybe one of our readers wants to pick up this worthy project. I’ll also talk it up to my fellow Vikings. As far as my personal limitations permit.

I close with a link to a wonderful quotation from Wittingshire. Thanks to Kathryn at Suitable For Mixed Company for the link.

Will Not Return Void

“I don’t think you can understand Shakespeare, that you can understand a great deal of literary allusions or that you can understand a great deal of Western civilization without understanding the role of the Bible,” says a former Western civilization teacher, and so the state of Georgia has approved material for teaching the Bible in public high schools.

I know the thought police have told us since we were in a preschool that if we don’t separate church and state our country is going to hell in a handbasket, church being defined as anything remotely related to the Lord God as revealed in the Bible. But I hold that citizens of our English-speaking country should have at least academic knowledge of biblical literature for the same reasons given by the teacher above.

“The Shack-up License”

Would it be horrible chauvinism to say that it’s hard to imagine anywhere in the world where May is nicer than right here in Minnesota? We pay for this weather, sure. Winter is a six-month spinal tap, and it gets hotter in the summer than it does in parts of Florida (I know because I’ve lived in both places).

But May. May has the long, cool, gentle fingers of a lovely woman. She caresses you with them. She strokes your hair, kisses your cheek and asks you if you want her to get you anything from the kitchen. She’s a good girl, May. I’d marry her if she’d have me, and if she’d just stay put.

Which brings up the subject of marriage. To your amazement, I’m not going to gripe about my own single blessedness, not tonight anyway. I want to talk about marriage in the abstract.

This month’s Smithsonian Magazine includes a section called “Destination America,” in which they showcase some interesting regions in the country they consider worth visiting. One of them is The Berkshires in Massachusetts.

The article includes a photograph that’s a real grabber. It was taken at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. In the background is one of Rockwell’s classic paintings, Marriage License. It’s a charming depiction of a young couple, he in a suit, she in a dress (it was painted in 1955), making out their license application. The desk in the little municipal office is high. The young woman is standing on tiptoe, carefully filling out the form. The young man, much taller, is stooping down over her shoulder, watching closely.

But in the foreground of the Smithsonian photo is a contemporary couple. They’re dressed in Goth clothing. They’re both generously pierced, and she has an extensive, serpentine tattoo on one bare arm. He’s hugging her from behind.

The photographer clearly meant to be provocative with this one. And he provoked me.

Is there anyone who really, in their heart of hearts, believes we’ve made progress in going from the couple in the painting to the couple in the photograph?

Oh, I know there’ll be the ideologues who’ll lecture us about how Rockwell depicted an oppressive, patriarchal social structure, and how it’s glorious that these young people now feel free to express themselves any way they choose, unfettered by the stuffy conventions of the Eisenhower age.

But do they really believe it? In their hearts of hearts, would they really prefer to have their children grow up to be like the Goth couple than like the Rockwell kids?

I can hear someone saying, “It’s academic. Rockwell’s world never existed. It was a fantasy Americans created to flatter themselves.”

Yeah, well, Quentin Tarantino’s world doesn’t exist either, but it doesn’t keep people from using his films as a cultural reference.

If Rockwell didn’t mirror something, in our hearts if not in our lives, his work wouldn’t be iconic.

Let me reduce my thesis to this statement: Killing beauty is never a good thing.

The Popular Discussion of 9/11

Here’s a book I just learned existed: Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand Up to the Facts. I hope that sets a few people straight–those people who believe foolishness while are not actual fools.

I’ve always believed you can’t argue with fools. The Bible even says as much, but these people could vote too, and that’s a little dangerous. Today’s cultural and political conversations seem foolish and shallow in large part, and our major media outlets are increasingly untrustworthy. What is an average citizen to do?

Book Reviews, Creative Culture