Cruise Journal, Part II

Statue of Marilyn Monroe, Haugesund, Norway


Friends, I’ve been writing a bit about the latest National Review cruise, which took place in Norway. For Part I of these notes, go here. And I’ll just get on with our second and final part.

Longtime readers have heard me complain about red and blue — a lot. In America, the Left is blue and the Right is red — which is bassackwards. Ahistorical and all the rest of it.

Well, during the cruise, I hear from my friend Kristian Norheim, who is running for a seat in the Storting — the Norwegian parliament. He is a member of the Progress party, which is the country’s Reaganite or Thatcherite party. In Norway, I proudly consider myself an honorary “Prog.”

(For a piece I wrote about Progress in 2010, go here.)

Kristian sends me a couple of articles from his district: One of them is headed “Cheering for blue.” The other is headed “Blue offensive in Telemark.” In other words, the conservatives are on the march.

As far as I know, America is the only place that has blue and red confused. Guess we’re stuck with it!

And I promise not to complain about this situation again for — oh, let’s say three hours.

Having a walk in Haugesund, I pass a statue of a nice-looking lady. Who is it? It turns out to be Marilyn Monroe.

I understand this lady was beautiful, and talented, and tragic. But the world’s obsession with her — that’s a little hard for me to understand. I get the Che thing better.

Later on, I do some googling — and find that some of Marilyn’s forebears came from this region, apparently. She is considered something of a native daughter. I see.

On Haugesund’s main drag, there’s a new-looking Palestine Café. Elsewhere, there is a kind of mural for an old, evidently defunct store: Rabinowitz. That tells some of the story of modern Norway.

My colleague John Fund makes a nice point — which I’ll put in my own words (absolving him from responsibility): The American Left loves Norway, for its socialism, its “progressive” foreign policy, its antipathy to Israel, etc. But what do they say of the country’s oil riches? Hmmm?

Norway is the Saudi Arabia of Europe. Talk about “Drill, baby, drill.” Our Left loves to talk about “Big Oil,” scornfully. Norway itself is “Big Oil.”

I see a name repeatedly in Norway: Bakken. That reminds me of North Dakota, and its Bakken formation — fount of North Dakota oil. (The name is pronounced “Bockin.”) I did a piece on the North Dakota oil boom last year: here.

And I saw a bumper sticker in that state: “Rockin’ the Bakken.”

Onboard our ship are two renowned British historians: Paul Johnson and David Pryce-Jones. Both of them were tutored at Magdalen College, Oxford, by the legendary A. J. P. Taylor. David despised Taylor, and, in fact, “fired” him, as he says: He left him for another tutor, Raymond Carr, the historian of Spain. Paul thinks a little better of Taylor.

I remember something he (Paul Johnson) wrote about Taylor once: It was important to Taylor to give, whether in his books, articles, or personal appearances, “good value.” That was Taylor’s phrase: “good value.” I believe his father was in the retail business.

Paul gives good value too (and so does David P-J).

So does Daniel Hannan, another Brit: a sterling writer and politician. (He would be loath for Britain to give up sterling, now that I mention it.) Onstage, he’s talking about the EU. And he makes a witticism I enjoy: Two of the founders of the EU were Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman. Europe, and the world, would have been better off with Claude Monet and Robert Schumann.

(Though the composer, of course, went sadly mad. I have a scholar friend who blames Clara, the wife Schumann loved so much, and perhaps in error.)


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