- Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
We usually talk about pornography, if we talk at all, this way: "To be honest, I thought my addiction would go away with marriage, thought I had been prepared for the strong pull of lust and pornography by a four-month fast from my personal computer..." (That's just part one of a three part take on porn's destruction of a marriage.)
But we should also talk about it this way: "A growing body of evidence suggests that pornography fuels demand for prostitutes—and therefore, human sex trafficking victims, who often end up ensnared in both trades." Not only that, many people making this stuff are in bondage themselves, forced to continue being exploited by all manner of manipulation while inspiring the exploitation of others.
Of course, this is all free speech, isn't it? We are all just a bunch of healthy libertines, aren't we, entertaining ourselves like intelligent adults, shunning the poisonous ideas of morals, shame, interdependence, selflessness, personhood, encouragement, hope, and most of all, love?
Tivoli Fest, 2009.
I expect I'll be posting tomorrow, but I'll just mention here that I'll be on the road and incommunicado on Friday. Once again it's time for the Tivoli Fest in Elk Horn, Iowa, and I'm planning to drive down.
Hadn't actually planned to. Nobody else in my Viking group is able to go this year, which means nobody's going down from here with a vehicle large enough to carry a tent for me (Mrs. Hermanson, my ancient Chevy Tracker, doesn't have the capacity). But I had a special invitation from a festival honcho, and felt guilty about it. Then I learned from a friend who lives in the area that he and his wife would be happy to put me up, so it seemed the thing to do. Assuming Mrs. Hermanson makes the trip, an increasingly questionable proposition at her age.
If you're in the area, stop in. If you don't find me in the Viking encampment, or in the Danish Windmill Museum gift shop, I'll probably be sitting in an auto repair shop somewhere in Iowa.
Norwegian children in exile, celebrating Syttende Mai in London in 1942. Photo: Ole Friele Backer (1907—1947)
I should probably warn you that I won't be posting tomorrow, as my Sons of Norway lodge is hosting a Constitution Day (Syttende Mai) celebration tomorrow (6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Danish American Center in Minneapolis, if you're in the area) and I have to be there to lend a hand. I'll be delivering a lecture on the holiday, which I'll spare you just now.
W. H. Auden explains:
Every poet, consciously or unconsciously, holds the following absolute presuppositions, as the dogmas of his art:(stolen from Alan Jacobs)
(1) A historical world exists, a world of unique events and unique persons, related by analogy, not identity. The number of events and analogical relations is potentially infinite. The existence of such a world is a good, and every addition to the number of events, persons and relations is an additional good.
(2) The historical world is a fallen world, i.e. though it is good that it exists, the way in which it exists is evil, being full of unfreedom and disorder.
(3) The historical world is a redeemable world. The unfreedom and disorder of the past can be reconciled in the future.
It follows from the first presupposition that the poet’s activity in creating a poem is analogous to God’s activity in creating man after his own image. It is not an imitation, for were it so, the poet would be able to create like God ex nihilo; instead, he requires pre-existing occasions of feeling and a pre-existing language out of which to create. It is analogous in that the poet creates ￼not necessarily according to a law of nature but voluntarily according to provocation.
My brother posted this link on Facebook today. It's from a recent news story on a Twin Cities TV station about the sheriff of my home town, where goodness abounds and the writ of Original Sin runs not.
You are interested in this story because it'll give you some idea of the site of one of your favorite novels, Troll Valley. Which appears to be enjoying a better sales rank than Hailstone Mountain right now, for reasons that pass my comprehension.
Have a good weekend!
The word "dwarves," was (more or less) invented by J. R. R. Tolkien. The "proper" spelling is "dwarfs," but the Professor had his own secret purposes.
Someone posted the following video on Facebook, and it interested me enough to share it here. Armorer Tony Swatton creates a replica of Gimli's axe from the "Lord of the Rings" movies, but does it in a traditional Damascus style. The results are impressive.
This particular axe (John Rhys-Davies actually carries three) is a stylized version of a Viking bearded axe ("bearded" refers to the extended lower horn of the cutting edge). The technique used here, however, is not the sort of damascening the Norse did. Viking pattern welding involved twisting together bundles of rods with differing carbon content, so that strength and flexibility would be maximized (or so they hoped).
I inserted a dwarf into Hailstone Mountain, in a scene I like quite a lot. My dwarves (dwarfs?) are a little different from Tolkien's, though.
Joel Miller writes about how we guard ourselves from all kinds of failure, even in our walk with Christ, but that won't mature our faith. Referring to Patrick Henry Reardon's comments on the publican and the Pharisee, he notes, "His point was that our failures do not keep us from heaven. Only our pride can do that."
This was the weekend of the annual Festival of Nations at the River Centre in St. Paul. And so I was there, but with an abbreviated schedule. I’ve noticed in the past that I’ve always come down sick shortly after this worldly debauch, and I’ve started to suspect that it’s not good for me to spend four long days in a basement. I’ll see if this works better.
Business-wise, it was pretty good. On Saturday I sold a whole lot of books. Sunday was slower, but OK. Things were probably slowed some by the fact that there was a hockey game in the same facility that day, and parking prices got hiked.
I often ponder during those long, long days whether “multicultural” events like this actually do anything to promote their advertised purposes. Certainly I encountered nice people of many colors and tongues, and a wide variety of costumes. But to be honest, most of the costumes made me grateful I’d come as a Viking. They tended to inflate my low, reflexive feelings of cultural superiority. Read the rest of this entry . . .
A couple videos for you tonight.
First of all, somebody in a P.G. Wodehouse fan group on Facebook embedded this, the only known surviving episode of the Ian Carmichael/Dennis Price BBC series on Jeeves and Wooster.
Some of you people as old as I am may recall Carmichael as an inspired (though slightly overaged) Lord Peter Wimsey back in the '70s. Since Lord Peter and Bunter are pretty much interchangeable with Bertie and Jeeves, he's naturally perfect in this role (no disrespect to Hugh Laurie, who was great in another way).
But Dennis Price as Jeeves disappoints me (I haven't watched it all yet). He lacks the imposing figure I expect (perhaps I was just spoiled by Stephen Fry).
And here, below -- thanks to Floyd at Threedonia -- is the trailer for the upcoming Odd Thomas movie. From what I see here, I like it. The kid playing Odd seems to have the right attitude.
Today was the first genuinely nice day of the year. I have a window (one) open as I sit here.
Sadly for you, there was no camera present to record the hauntingly beautiful “Welcome to Spring” interpretive dance I did this morning.
On Facebook, I had a short conversation with a truly remarkable man, Norwegian artist Anders Kvåle Rue. We’re Facebook friends, but there is a division between us. Despite the fact that we’re both Christian Viking aficionados, which puts us in a fairly small minority, he’s a supporter of St. Olaf, and I’m a supporter of Erling Skjalgsson. The feud of two men a thousand years dead lives on in our hearts.
I kind of like that.
Anyway, I went on to ask him about the video below (it’s in Norwegian) done by my translation publisher, Saga Bok. It’s about their trip to Iceland to examine the Flatey (Flatøy) Book, one of the great lesser-known troves of saga material in existence. Saga Bok is doing a Norwegian translation and Anders did the art. They wanted to get a look at the original artifact so he could match colors.
I asked him about something that may have surprised you too, if you watched it. He handles this precious object, well over a millennium old, with his bare hands. “Didn’t they want you to wear gloves?” I asked.
No, he said. The Flatey Book is written on parchment, made from animal skins. Unlike paper, which deteriorates from the acid in your fingerprints, parchment actually benefits from the body oils you deposit on it.
From the English Spectator, a review by the great Paul Johnson of Alister McGrath's new C. S. Lewis biography. I might note that Johnson makes one mistake. He says Mrs. Moore was Lewis’ friend Paddy Moore’s widow, when she was actually his mother. Tip: First Thoughts.
Have a good weekend!
Joe Carter asks whether our daily news is making us dumb. For instance, Dan Rather "spent roughly 75,000 hours reporting, researching, or reading about current events," so why isn't he considered to be one of the wisest or most knowledgable men in America?
Clearly, daily news will not make us wise, but can be very useful. A report I caught by chance (if chance means anything) the other day warned of frost that night, so my wife and I covered up our newly planted herbs, spinach, okra, and tomatoes. Had I not had that news, I would have been very frustrated. I haven't had much success with our backyard garden over the years, and it's not supposed to frost after April 15 in the contented pastures neighboring the Chattanooga valley. The news of anticipated frost did not make me wise, and it won't be revalent to any other day in my entire life, but it was revalent to me on that day.
Of course, how much of what is sold as news is relavent even in this way? Carter closes his piece with this from Muggeridge: "Events that are truly important are rarely those captured on the front page of a daily paper. As Malcolm Muggeridge, himself a journalist, admitted, 'I've often thought that if I'd been a journalist in the Holy Land at the time of our Lord's ministry, I should have spent my time looking into what was happening in Herod's court. I'd be wanting to sign Salome for her exclusive memoirs, and finding out what Pilate was up to, and—I would have missed completely the most important event there ever was.'
I haven't been taking in much news lately, and I can't see the reason I need to return to it. I'm fairly fed up with my life at the moment. I don't think the news will help me with that at all.
Amanda Thatcher, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's granddaughter, sent many media voices chattering by her reading of Ephesians 6:10-18 at her grandmother's funeral yesterday.
Glenn Stanton talks about the truth behind two quotes, one attributed to C.S. Lewis (which was the pseudonym for Mark Twain), the other attributed to G.K. Chesterton (who has been rumored to be the brains behind Shakespeare).
Just a couple links tonight.
First of all, Kevin Holtsberry of Collected Miscellany has posted a review of Hailstone Mountain.
Also, it isn’t often I see personal acquaintances in national stories. There’s been some outrage on the conservative side over an article in Rolling Stone Magazine about how the firearms industry is supposedly seducing kids to buy guns (which of course they can’t actually do legally). Patrick Richardson of PJ Media deconstructs the article here.
The little girl with the pretty pink AR-15 in the Rolling Stone photo is Morrigan Sanders, daughter of my friend, Baen author Michael Z. Williamson. I met Morrigan once, long ago, when she was very small. I paid little attention to her at the time, but remember thinking she was likely to break some hearts in a few years.
Little did I know she’d become a celebrity.
Mike Williamson is a libertarian, so we agree on some things and disagree on others. But he’s a powerful writer, and he’s always encouraged me. Good luck to him and Morrigan both.
Trevin Wax has eight reasons to explain media editors' decision to ignore Kermit "the Ripper" Gosnell's trial over the past several days.
1. The Gosnell case involves an abortionist.Keep reading. One reason Trevin doesn't give is that a 15-year-old girl helped kill babies too.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the abortionist must be portrayed as a victim of hate and intolerance, not a perpetrator of violence. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortionist” separate from testimony about dead women and children.
2. The Gosnell case involves an unregulated abortion clinic.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the clinic must be portrayed as a “refuge” for women in distress, not a “house of horrors” where women are taken advantage of. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps “abortion clinic” away from negative connotations.
3. The Gosnell case involves protestors who, for years, stood outside 3801 Lancaster and prayed, warning people about what was taking place inside.
Whenever we see news stories about abortion, the protestors must be portrayed as agitators and extremists, not peaceful people who urge mothers to treasure the miracle inside them. But it is impossible to spin this story in a way that keeps the abortion protestors from looking like heroes.
Over at Lileks.com, my close personal friend* James Lileks was complaining about paint today. He’s repainting his office, and can’t seem to get the color he wants, once it actually dries. I have no comment on that subject. I moved into a pink office in the library several years ago, and have just lived with it because getting it repainted would be a lot of work.
What caught my attention was that, by my count, he used the word “gray” twice, but he spelled it “grey” both times.
I’ve seen this spelling come up more and more frequently lately, and it amuses me. All my life (which is another way of saying “from time immemorial”) I was taught that “gray” is the American spelling and “grey” is how the English do it. But “grey” seems to be winning out now. I suppose that’s because of the Fifty Shades of Grey books.
This may surprise you, but I’m not actually unhappy about this development. I’ve always thought spelling “grey” with an “e” was kind of cool. There’s something a tad bleaker, colder about that spelling. Grayer, you might say. Or greyer.
I remember reading an interview, probably in Writer’s Digest, with Colleen McCullough quite a few years ago. She was the author of The Thorn Birds, which was a big deal at the time. She mentioned that she always spelled gray with an “a,” except when describing people’s eyes. Gray eyes, she felt, should be spelled with an “e.”
I sympathized, though I’ve always used the “a” spelling myself. I have enough affectations already, without adopting English spellings.
But maybe “grey” will win.
I can live with it, in my grey old age.
*Editor’s Note: This is a lie.
Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, has been blogging his critique of Douglas Wilson's 2005 book, Black and Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America. Wilson has joined in freely, and the two have charitably and thoroughly argued on the important issues of slavery in the American South, the authority of Scripture, and how the issues of 1860 were handled in relation to issues today.
Anyabwile posted a round-up of links to the whole discussion here. It isn't a simple argument, so I don't think I can adequately summarize it here.
Not much to tell you tonight. I have company, and it's rude to blog while someone is conversing with you. Or so they tell me.
Our friend Dale Nelson sent me a recording of a 1964 interview with J. R. R. Tolkien, from (I assume) the BBC. I listened to it today. An interesting aspect is that he was a very rapid speaker -- one of those people who seems to be thinking so fast his mouth can't keep up with him. Not actually what you expect from a language scholar.
Another famous woman died today – Annette Funicello, famous as an early Mousketeer, and as the star of a string of 1960s beach movies.
I remember her well. I wasn’t one of those who had a crush on her, since her wave crested before I hit adolescence, but I was well aware of her. After working many years with Disney, she got cast with Frankie Avalon in a string of silly beach blanket movies. She also had a successful career as a singer.
Through all her career she was never – so far as I’ve been able to tell – involved in a scandal. The bikini movies were a little risque by the standards of the day, but she never did anything that crossed the line. Her image remained wholesome, and in time she faced the terrible disease that killed her with all the courage and grace you could ask of a human being.
The question occurred to me today – what would have happened to her if she’d been born later, and had come to fame in our own time?
That’s not a hard question to answer. She did appear again, in a sense, in the person of Britney Spears. And Lindsey Lohan. And Miley Cyrus.
Why was Annette able to live a life of dignity, while these younger women, born with the “advantage” of a culture that claims to promote the dignity and rights of women, have quickly made public jokes (and dirty ones) of themselves?
Not to say the younger girls didn’t have lots of “help.” Hollywood is certainly a field well-strewn with pitfalls. Money and fame at an early age are dangerous drugs in themselves, even before you get to the pills and powder.
But Hollywood was no convent school in the 1950s, either. Anybody who worked there in those days will tell you the predators were out in force, and there were ample opportunities for partying.
Annette, I think, benefited from Puritanism. She benefited from a double standard. She benefited from repression, and hypocrisy, and all those awful social constraints we despise the Fifties for today.
A girl in Annette’s position, if she wanted to be a “good girl,” actually had social resources available to her. America was in her corner, back then.
Nowadays, America’s peering through a hole in the Women’s Room wall, with an iPhone camera.
It’s called Progress.
You’re probably already aware that Lady Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, passed away today at the age of 87.
I think most American conservatives would be surprised to learn how hated this woman remains in her own country. On the basis of my own sampling of English culture, Mrs. Thatcher is commonly portrayed as a human ogress who closed factories, destroyed jobs, and snatched bread from the mouths of the hungry out of sheer hatred for the poor and their noble Socialist protectors.
This, for me, is the lesson of her life – if you do right in our time, do not expect any thanks. If you get away with a mere public shaming, you’ll be lucky. These things call for the endurance of the saints.
Death, it seems, is all around. On Saturday I attended my boss’s funeral. It was, I think, the largest I ever attended. He was a man much loved by many, many people.
Sometimes I think God is taking the best of us out of the world now, so they won’t have to see the evil that is to come.
Kenyon High School, photo: LakesnWoods.com
They have begun tearing down my old high school in Kenyon, Minnesota, pictured above. Nobody needed a building that size in the town, and it was full of asbestos, I understand.
I'm less sad about this than I was when I first heard the idea broached. As I think back, I realize that I don't actually have a lot of good memories of the place. Although it's sad that future tour guides will not be able to show pilgrims on Lars Walker heritage tours the place where the author studied and skipped the prom.
I wonder if there's a cosmic maximum number of alma maters I'm allowed to have. I cheated by going to three different colleges, so now that I've signed up for graduate school one of the previous ones has to go.
Tim Keller remembers what Elizabeth Elliot told him about art.
One of the reasons I oppose same-sex marriage...
For years, churches have been nudging men out of the ministry by making the pastorate a "woman's thing."
For years, universities have been nudging men out of higher education by making a college education a "woman's thing."
More recently, society has begun nudging men out of marriage by (among other methods) making it a "gay" thing.
This is not surprising in a society that increasingly finds heterosexual males a frightening nuisance.
And now for something completely different:
Readmill is an eReader app for iPads and iPhone which connects readers and authors in a community with the books. It appears to be Goodreads.com with eBooks. You can share quotes and get recommendations from your friends. They recently added a page of recommended stores for buying iPad/iPhone formated books easily. You can see what's going in a post like this one featuring highlights from the past week.
In related news, I've started to use The Old Reader, an RSS feed aggregator. It's good. I like it so far.
Do you use either of these sites/apps?
Under protest, it goes without saying, because I'm afraid of the power of the Irish Lobby, I offer the following clip of the redoubtable Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem. It's a song I'm particularly fond of -- the kind that might not impress you on first acquaintance, but sticks in your mind after a couple repeats. I particularly like the line, "Castles are sacked in war, chieftains are scattered far -- truth is a fix-ed star...."
Now an Anthony Sacramone update: He sneaked back into his blog last week, tiptoeing with his shoes off, and did a post. Then he did another yesterday. So we've got that. He also links to the web page of the Intercollegiate Review, where he's got a very amusing cover story right now:
Empire builders and revolutionaries, reformers and moral scolds, civil libertarians and uncivil prohibitionists—all believe History is on their side. Beware anyone who imputes to History an inevitable, self-directed, Forward march, as if it were as fixed as a bar code, as predetermined as male-pattern baldness, as sovereign as any voluntaristic deity. Most risible are atheists, old or new, who act as if the expanding energies of a supposedly random and causeless Big Bang could even possess an ultimate purpose....
I promised you (subject to editorial approval) an American Spectator Online article by me, on the social and political aspects of the Vikings TV series on the History Channel. Here it is.
Phil and I have both noticed a spike in visits to this blog lately. An examination of our Sitemeter stats shows that every day we get clicks from people searching online for "countries with a cross on the flag," or words to that effect. This brings them to my post, Flagging Enthusiasm. Those readers generally stay about two seconds before going off to search elsewhere. Apparently there is interest -- in widely spread locations around the world -- for information on flags with crosses on them. I'm at a loss to explain it. Any ideas?
In further news, my e-book Hailstone Mountain should be coming out very soon now. Just Kindle at first, I'm afraid.
We've been talking about Vikings a lot this week, and in the background, I have looked a bit for sword fighting videos. Here's a new one, showing viking-style swordsmen talking technique.
If only the TV series could have been authentic, like this.
I’m going to grouse about the History Channel Vikings series one more time. Because it’s still on my mind. I’m still working on my piece about it for the American Spectator, too, which helps explain my obsession.
The responses I’ve gotten on Facebook have been interesting. Some people have been as negative as I am, or more – which may have had the effect of egging me on. Others have said, “Hey, it’s an interesting story, well acted, and it may interest people in the Vikings, so count your blessings.”
I think my reaction is partly self-centered. What I’m really thinking, deep in my lizard brain, is “I’ve been toiling most of my life accumulating sufficient information on the Viking Age to enable me to write believable novels – and I still get stuff wrong sometimes. So how come these Hollywood punks get to scribble a couple of facts on sticky notes and insert them into an otherwise fantasy script, call it a story about Vikings, and get paid enough money for me to retire on?”
I suspect that what these people really want to do is “A Game of Thrones.” And they can't tell the difference.
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