Of Nightmares and Putin

A few days ago, I translated Bjorn Engesland’s “Dreams of Empire and Other Nightmares,” which appeared in Aftenposten, Norway’s leading newspaper. Today a friend and former Swedish military officer posted a link to Fredrik Antonsson’s blog on Estonia’s choice to celebrate its 97th birthday with a military parade as close as possible to Russia, its threatening neighbor. The US 2nd Cavalry as well as troops from Latvia, Lithuania, Holland, Spain, and Britain marched with Estonian troops to honor the day. Entitled “A Provocative National Day Celebration?” Antonsson’s blog, which I have posted in English, connects nightmares to Russian imperialism as it addresses the fears of a small nation that can not actually claim 97 years of independence.

Daniel Staberg, the aforementioned friend provides some context for the article, which mentions that Narva’s population is 96% ethnic Russian. Staberg explains that Narva, the town where the celebration was held, had been cleansed of its Estonian residents.

“The main reason for the lack of Estonians was the heavy fighting during the battle of Narva in 1944 during which the inhabitants were either evacuated by the Germans or fled on their own. Post war the Estonians were not allowed to return home as the Soviets planned to build a uranium processing plant there. Narva was declared a “closed town” and the few remaining Estonians removed.

In the end the plant was located in nearby Sillamäe and Narva returned to a more normal status but by then large numbers of Russians had been moved into Narva to get industrial developments started and this ‘ethnic’ transfer still effects demographics today.

Then there were the deportations which had an effect on the whole of Estonia including Narva.”

The independent Estonia has a strong connection to Sweden, even marching “in Swedish uniforms with Estonian national ensignia sewn on” in the early parades after they gained independence from the Soviet Union. Sweden also “donated huge amounts of equipment that belonged to brigades that were disbanded due to the end of the cold war.” Swedish officers, Staberg among them, trained Estonian and Latvian troops with this equipment.

Surprised that I had heard none of this in today’s news, nor anything on the military parade, I thought it important to provide an English version of Fredrik Antonson’s “A Provocative National Day Celebration?”

The Estonian national song is translated from the Swedish rather than from the Estonian. The original Estonian and English versions of it can be found online in much more poetic translations than I had time to produce. It might be interesting to compare it to English translations from the original Estonian. Wikipedia is not in favor I realize, but it suffices for our purposes of comparison if interested.

Link to the blog post in English:

Link to the blog post in Swedish:

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


The Gallatin! A Self-Indulgent Piece on Wilderness.

Voices from the Prairie, the regional literary anthology I co-edited with Kristi Rendahl, is in the hands of the printer. I am hopelessly impatient, so to cope with this minor problem, I have posted my contribution to the volume, The Gallatin!, to

The Gallatin! takes its name from the section in my mother’s photo album that provides a visual foray into my family’s summer in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park. As the youngest child, I am convinced they did most of the cool stuff before I came along on purpose, and the Gallatin was no exception.

I have never been overly fond of the wilderness, though my family drags me into it year after year, but I am interested in the concept of wilderness. In fact, I find it fascinating.

The premise of this piece comes from Roderick Frazier Nash’s Wilderness and the American Mind. Nash argues “that civilization created wilderness. For nomadic hunters and gatherers, who represented our species for most of its existence, ‘wilderness’ had no meaning. Everything natural was simply habitat…” (xi of the 4th edition)

Nash explains that as people began to control – or attempt to control – nature, “Wilderness became the unknown, the disordered, the dangerous.” (xii) After the so-called closing of the frontier in 1890 (See Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis.), “Americans were becoming civilized enough to appreciate wilderness” (xiv) As they came to appreciate it, they developed a myth about it – that it was virgin land, unpeopled.

This virgin view emerged after Yellowstone had been a National Park for a few decades, and the new view reshaped how the Park sold itself. Rather than as a playground or giant zoo of sorts, it became a preserve, a sanctuary where nature could be untroubled by human interference. (For the challenges of non-intervention, see the last chapter of Chris Magoc’s Yellowstone: The Creation and Selling of an American Landscape, 1870-1903.) Ranger Stations were dismantled and camp sites were removed, among them the Gallatin Station. The aim was to return to an untouched wilderness.

The trouble is that they were returning to something that never was. Patricia Limerick and others have argued that this recent notion of wilderness as pristine and untouched is a myth. William Cronin discusses this in Changes in the Land as well as in The Trouble with Wilderness – or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.

A brief piece, The Gallatin! is something of a family story set in the supposedly unpeopled wilderness of the northeastern corner of Yellowstone.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , ,

Neurological Health – Perhaps it’s time.

Here’s the deal. I’m fat.

I’m also thinking I can do some things to make my brain more …. able to retain. My 84 year-old mother’s recent MRI was a shock to me. Here is a woman who has taken impeccable care of herself all her life. Never overweight, never excessively eating or drinking or fasting or anything like that. Ate almost exclusively whole grains and food from the health food store for the last 40 years. Exercised moderately 3-7 times a week. Great blood pressure, low cholesterol.

And yet there is all this dead matter in her brain.

Perhaps it runs in the family, and I can’t escape it. My aunt thinks my grandmother had the same challenge late in life, although there was no MRI for her. So all this dead brain matter. Not dementia. Not alzheimers just a massive loss in short term memory and the ability to connect things that would have been a snap a decade earlier.

The neurologists, all of whom are shockingly fit, said that a neurologially healthy diet is far more stringent than a cardiologically healthy diet. High in Omega 3s, low in Omega 6s, moderate intake in terms of quantity at one sitting, and much exercise which is very neuro-protective. “Almost monastic” was the term used for an ideal brain healthy diet.

So to return to the key point, I’m fat. And I’d like either to be pushed off a cliff at age 80 or to protect my brain so as to enjoy my 80s. Then again I like cheese.


Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Life & Work


History –> Research –> Enlightenment

Research –> Enlightenment” />

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

Does entering the digital age mean abandoning simplicity?

IPhones were free yesterday, so we ordered them for most of the family. I’ve ordered one of the last Typo keypads available now that the maker is locked in a legal dispute with Blackberry. We are at the point where certain kinds of texts do not make it through to our flip phones, so we are obliged to move into the digital age at last.

While most of the family is thrilled, I find myself grieving a little. I have no desire for a smart phone. One of the few ways I have been able to guarantee time not working, time exclusively and truly with family, has been to leave the house. If work can reach me anywhere now, I know myself, and I have a hunch that I will grade the occasional test or essay at a ball game.

The obsession with work will not drop off my shoulders anymore when I leave my home office. It will follow me everywhere because technically – and technologically – I can do it anywhere now.

I do not want our kids to become zombies constantly checking their phones, texting in face-to-face social settings, unable and unwilling to allow themselves to be a little bored for the sake of others who need their undivided attention. They have done well with their flip phones, so perhaps this is not a concern. We shall see.

So I am trying to wrap my head around how cool it will be to …. what? What will be cool about this?

1 Comment

Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Life & Work


Tags: , , , , ,

Actually listening to “Religious Nones”

Danielle Mead Skjelver:

This conversation is so important. We can all learn from each other. One of the things I so enjoy about the ELCA (Lutheran Church) is that it is not only ok to disagree and to doubt, but that you are welcome, and you can even discuss these things!


Some of the comments from the panel:


*A perception that Church is an unsafe space for doubt and questioning. The panelists spoke of their high comfort level with not having “all the answers.”


*A deep desire for authenticity. This commitment to authenticity may mean rejecting a singular religious label because it don’t adequately capture the multiple spiritual traditions someone finds meaningful. They named a fear of “being put in a box.”


*Panelists also spoke of thinking it odd to dress up for Church. As one put it “why should I get up early on a Sunday, get all dressed up, to watch people in weird robes?” This panelist found an easier point of entry with a smaller, Saturday evening service.


*A number of the panelists, though not all, had some religious background. For these people, late teens and early twenties was a turning point in questioning and ultimately, leaving religion.


*A deep, dare I say faithful, commitment to big ideas and values. The panelists had thought a lot about how they wanted to move through the world, how they wanted to live ethically, how they wanted to change their community. They just didn’t feel the need to do it within the bounds of a religious community.


*A fullness to their own life and spirituality. As one panelist said, “I bristle at someone saying ‘I’ve got this thing you are missing.’ as if I’m lacking.”

Originally posted on RevEverett:

I really, truly heard it for the first time: “I’m not missing something,” she said. “I don’t want you to see me as lacking. I’m perfectly fine without religion.” For some reason, I finally heard this loud and clear at a panel discussion last Friday night at the New England Synod of the ELCA (video forthcoming: Mad props for attempting to live stream it!)

The professional religious world has been talking a TON about “Religious nones” since the Pew study came out in October 2012 that documented one in five Americans has no religious affiliation and one in three under 30. We’ve been talking a ton. I’m not sure we’ve been listening to “religious nones” as much as we’ve been talking about “religious nones.”

I attend Church meetings professionally. It’s an occupational hazard. Church annual meetings are mostly insider baseball: committee reports, resolutions, budgets. Church annual meetings are a space…

View original 615 more words


Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


Next Live Stream – Matthew Hammond on The People of Medieval Scotland Database

Danielle Mead Skjelver:

Great Scot! There is a “database of all known people of Scotland between 1093 and 1314 mentioned in over 8600 contemporary documents.” And there is a live stream digital history seminar about it on May 14th!

Originally posted on History SPOT:

The next IHR live stream will take place at 5.15pm on 14 May 2013 with the Digital History seminar.  Details below:

Digital History seminar
Matthew Hammond
The People of Medieval Scotland database: structure, prosopography and network visualisation

This is a seminar about a prosopographical database, ‘The People of Medieval Scotland, 1093-1314’, which has been in production since 2007, and which has been freely available online since the summer of 2010. Since the relaunch of the database last year, we have had over 40,000 unique visitors from across the globe. Now nearing completion, the database contains records on over 20,000 individuals, drawn from over 8500 medieval, mostly Latin documents. The paper will examine some of the PoMS project’s technical innovations as well as the new directions we hope to take in the coming years.

The seminar will take you behind the scenes of the public website to see how…

View original 281 more words

1 Comment

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers