Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is There Room for One More?

Recently I was skimming through some media mentions of Sons of Norway when I came across a short piece in the Las Vegas Weekly. Specifically, it was their annual "Rivalry Issue" and I was surprised to see Sons of Norway mentioned (in the article's third slide).

The piece discusses both of the Las Vegas Lodges, Vegas Viking and Desert Trolls, as well as how they both promote Norwegian heritage and culture in the greater Las Vegas area with events, lodge programs and lutefisk dinners. It then goes on to ask the question "is this town big enough for both?"

Rarely has such a short article given me cause for such pause for thought. Should any city have more than one Sons of Norway lodge? I've heard arguments on both sides of the issue.

Some say that any given city should only have a single lodge because it provides a focal point for Norwegian heritage and culture. Those who ascribe to this line of thought believe that having two or more lodges in a city fractures the efforts of everyone involved, creates unnecessary competition and dilutes the message of Sons of Norway. Essentially the argument is strength in numbers; that all Sons of Norway members in a city should work together toward common goals, and for a common purpose.

However, those who are proponents to the idea of multiple lodges within the same city believe that more lodges means a wider reach for the organization, while allowing each lodge to be unique and offering different pursuits to members with different interests. In essence it's still the argument of strength in numbers, however in this case, the strength is a little different (variety as opposed to unity).

In my humble opinion I think both arguments have their merits, but I think there is a third option. Why not take the best elements of both and build a hybrid model?

In the interest of full disclosure, I live in a metro area where there are as many as 10 lodges (depending on how you define "metro area") with five of them in the same city. But I think that what the lodges here have done is a great example.

You see, while each lodge has it's own identity that's made up of its strengths and pursuits, be they lodge programming, community involvement, fundraising, etc., they also work together for common goals. Thanks to a "Joint Committee" that is made up of members from each of the lodges, all the lodges in the Twin Cities can work together towards common goals, assist one another when needed and pool their resources together to increase their effectiveness in promoting and preserving Norwegian heritage and culture.

Overall it's been an effective way to consolidate our efforts when appropriate, while allowing each lodge to maintain its own identity. It's something I think could be very beneficial to any city where more than one lodge resides. If you'd like to learn more about how lodges can work together or start their own Joint Committee, contact the Sons of Norway Headquarters at 800-945-8851.

With Las Vegas as the current example, I think they are going to do just fine! If you are a member of either Vegas Viking or Desert Trolls, leave a comment. I'd love to hear about how your lodges differ and how they work together.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Norwegian Peacemaking at Augsburg

Norwegians are known around the world as peacemakers. Next month those of us living in the Twin Cities metro area can be a part of this peacemaking effort by participating in the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, March 1–3. A civic learning experience that brings Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, civic leaders, and scholars together with students and other citizens, the peace prize forum is the Norwegian Nobel Institute’s only program or academic affiliation outside of Norway. It's mission: to inspire and engage students and citizens to become full participants in peacemaking efforts around the world.

Hosted this year by Augsburg College, in partnership with the Humphrey School for Public Affairs, the event rotates each year between Augsburg and four other colleges with Norwegian roots in the Midwest: St. Olaf, Luther, Augustana and Concordia. Featured speakers and guests this year include Naomi Tutu, Nobel winner FW de Klerk, CNN’s Jonathan Mann, hip hop artist Dessa and Harry Potter Alliance founder Andrew Slack, in addition to some 40 local, national and international workshop presenters.

The event explores the relationship of stability and peace to business, to arts and music, to education, and to international policy, and offers four unique programming tracks over the 3-day forum. For more information or to register, visit the Nobel Peace Prize Forum website.

UPDATE: I've just been notified that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will deliver a special message to attendees of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum during the closing ceremonies on March 3 at Ted Mann Concert Hall.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Viking Interviews Ray Kay

The February issue of Viking features music video and film director Ray Kay. Kay has hit the big time—directing music videos for the world’s biggest stars: Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Steven Tyler, Britney Spears and more. Despite his growing success, he is every bit the humble Norwegian whose journey shows that dreams can become reality with hard work and motivation. Read on to see the extended interview between Viking Associate Editor Anya Britzius and Kay.

Viking: What was your life like growing up in Norway?
Ray Kay: I grew up in a small town on the West Coast of Norway, called Haugesund. It’s a beautiful and peaceful town. My dad was a hobby photographer and was interested in painting when I was a kid, so I must have picked up some of his passion for art when I was growing up. I was always running around with his mirror reflex camera and shooting pictures of my friends and developing them in a small dark room we built in the basement. 

V: How did you get started in the business?

RK: During most of my teens, I was aiming to work with some kind of tech business. Art, photography and directing was merely a hobby for me. When I was 16 years old, I started working at the regional TV station as an assistant. It was just a part-time job I could do when I wasn’t at school—not something I considered a career back then. But I had a lot of fun learning everything about TV production, so after a year I had pretty much tried everything I could there: camera work, editing, computer graphics, sound engineering, producing, and even hosting a youth program. Also, in Norway it’s mandatory for guys to spend a year in the military, so when I was 18 years old I was in the military for a year and ended up in a video production unit in the Navy. It was a lot of fun, so I decided to take a break before doing my studies, and work with TV production for a little while. Well, I’m still on that break! After a few years of directing entertainment TV shows, documentaries, TV promos and segments for the Norwegian TV channels, I decided I needed a new challenge. I had always loved music videos, so I decided that I wanted to direct music videos and try to make it in Hollywood. At that time most people didn’t believe that it was possible, especially since I wasn’t even living in the U.S. It seemed almost impossible for me too, but I wanted to try. So I started doing music videos on shoestring budgets in Norway, and built my way up from the bottom. 

V: How did you make the transition to the United States? 

RK: After spending a few years learning the craft in Norway and building a portfolio of music videos, I signed with a U.S. rep and shot my first U.S. videos in spring 2004. When I realized that I could get continuous work in the United States, I moved to New York in the summer of 2004. I stayed there for half a year, and then moved to Los Angeles, where I’ve lived and worked since then. One year ago, I made the move to Miami, and will probably be based in both New York and Miami from now on.

V: What is your favorite part about working with some of the industry’s top people and making music videos?

RK: It’s always been really important to me to surround myself with amazing people, be it friends, mentors or colleagues. If you have successful people around you, you can pick up on their mindset and have a better shot at becoming successful yourself. So working with the industry’s top people has obviously influenced me in a very positive direction and helped sharpen my own mindset.

V: To what do you attribute your success?

RK: A lot of people tell me they think I’m so lucky to be doing this, or that I’m lucky that made it in this industry. Making it in the entertainment business is mostly due to working harder than the competition, although it takes a lot more than simply hard work. The only thing I’ve been lucky with is that I knew that I wanted to direct at a very young age, which helped me plan and head in that direction from early on.

V: Is there a favorite musician you’ve worked with and a favorite video?

RK: Being a part of creating Lady Gaga’s success has been one of the best parts of my career so far. No one knew who she was when I shot her “Poker Face” video, so it was really interesting to be there at the moment when she broke through and see the transformation happening. 

V: Justin Bieber’s video “Baby” has over one billion views on YouTube! How was it working with him, and what was your concept for that video?

RK: Justin wasn’t very well known when we did the “Baby” video. When they sent me the “Baby” track, I fell in love with it and thought this is going be huge, so we got on the phone and pitched that we should do a modern twist on Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel“ video, where Justin pursues his love interest in a bowling alley that’s lit to look like a nightclub. He was fun to work with, although I mostly related to his manager and the record label. Justin seemed to have fun on set, and he entertained the crew and dancers between takes.

V: You are making you feature film directorial debut with Paramornalcy. How is that going so far?
RK: It’s a very exciting project, and will hopefully be my way into the feature world. I have an amazing team for Paranormalcy. There’s a lot of buzz about the project in Hollywood, and I’m glad the industry is as excited as me about this. 

V: Is directing a film something you’ve always wanted to do? 

RK: Yes, absolutely. It’s the most challenging task a director can get. I’m really looking forward to this. But I know it’s completely different than directing music videos, so I’m going to make sure that I’m properly prepared. I will do my homework! 

V: Do you go back to Norway often to visit family and friends? What are some of your favorite places in Norway?
RK: Yeah, I go to Norway several times a year to see my old friends and family. I usually go to Oslo and Haugesund when I go home. I think the most beautiful place in Norway is Lofoten. It’s a chain of islands that people usually refer to as the “Isles of the Midnight Sun.” Go there one night in the summer when the midnight sun is up. It’s simply amazing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Notable Norwegian Americans

We've had some great reader feedback on our "Nine Notable Norwegian Americans" article in the February issue of Viking. In addition to those we've featured in the article, readers have written in with these nominations:

John "Snowshoe" Thompson (b. 1827–1876) Remembered as "The Viking of the Sierra," Thompson's claim to fame was as a mail carrier in the Sierras. Between 1856 and 1876, he delivered mail two to four times a month, regardless of the weather, on a five-day route. Despite his 20 years of service, he was never compensated for his mail delivery.

Bernt Balchen (1899-73) One of the greatest aviators in American history, Balchen is also remembered as an explorer, participating in several Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. He was the first pilot to fly over both the North and South Poles and served the U.S. Air Force as an expert Arctic aviator.

Jan Stenerud (b. 1942) The Pro Football Hall of Famer was discovered at Montana State University, where he was attending on a skiing scholarship. His 19-season career in pro football, first with the Kansas City Chiefs and later with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, includes an impressive list of achievements, including 1,699 points, 373 field goals and six Pro Bowl games.

Are there other notable Norwegian Americans who didn't make our list? Send your suggestions to vikingeditor@mspcommunications.com. You'll find our original list, including Ole Evinrude, Ole Rølvaag, Knut Rockne and others, in the February issue of Viking!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nordic Lights Film Festival Is Underway

If you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, you're in luck. There are still a few days left of the Nordic Lights Film Festival, which runs through Thurs., Feb. 9. at St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis.

The Viking team attended the festival as a group last year and enjoyed it so much that we're doing it again this evening, when we'll take in this year's eclectic offering of Nordic short films.

Of special note is one of the Norwegian feature films, "King of Devil's Island." If you're a regular reader of Viking, you may remember this movie was highlighted in Ann Pedersen's award-winning article on Norway's progressive prison system, "Beyond Crime and Punishment," featured in our May 2011 issue. The film tells the story of the 1915 uprising of the inmates at the Bastøy juvenile correctional facility, which preceded today's prison on the island. The movie will be shown as the festival's last screening on Thurs., Feb. 9 at 7:45 p.m.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Sons of Norway Welcomes New Travel Partner

Sons of Norway is proud to announce that it is welcoming Borton Overseas as an official Sons of Norway Travel Partner!

Well known for their expertise in creating unique, unexpected journeys throughout Scandinavia, Africa and other regions throughout the world, Borton Overseas thrives on planning trips to satisfy most budgets, timing and most of all—an appetite for adventure.

This latest sponsorship is a continuation of a longstanding relationship with Borton Overseas with past examples being the travel provider’s discount program for members, their support of the Norwegian Experience recruitment contest and their partnership in last fall’s Presidential Tour of Norway.

If you’d like to learn more about Borton Overseas, their 5% discount for members, or any of the adventures they have planned for 2012, you can visit them on the web, or meet with their staff at the International Convention in Fargo, ND this August.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Conference for ALL: The Innovative Leadership Conference!

If you haven’t heard the exciting news yet, there’s going to be an exciting addition made to the 2012 International Convention in Fargo, ND this summer, called the Innovative Leadership Conference (ILC)!

It’s going to be an exciting time in Fargo, for sure, as hundreds of members from throughout the organization come together to learn how to strengthen their leadership skills. During the two day conference, ILC attendees will learn about a variety of topics, including effective communication styles for leaders, problem solving with collective visioning, new techniques for engaging new members and retaining current members.

The entire time, attendees will be lead by professional speaker and trainer, David Mann. David has worked with companies, like General Mills, Mayo Health System, Boston Scientific, Merrill Lynch, The Hartford, and many others, helping them build and strengthen leaders from the bottom up. He is also on the faculty of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, teaching persuasive technique through storytelling to attorneys and law students nationwide. Attendees are sure to benefit from David’s expertise and unique style of presenting important information!

If that weren’t enough to convince you that the ILC will be an extra-special event, consider that this new event is brings a number of firsts to the century-old International Convention. It’s the first time that a major convention event is open to ALL members, whether they are registered for the International Lodge Meeting or not; it’s also the first time that the ever-popular educational component is a stand-alone event; last, but not least, this is the first time Sons of Norway is offering leadership training that will help attendees in their roles as lodge members as well as in their professional lives.

As you can see, the Innovative Leadership Conference is sure to be a huge event and you can be part of it! Registration is now open and all you have to do to reserve your spot at this first-ever event is call 800-945-8851 or download a registration form by clicking here. Also, if you want to learn more about the event, be sure to visit the 2012 International Convention website, which has information about the ILC, the International Lodge Meeting, the Folk Art competition and more!

In the meantime, if you need more convincing that this event is right for you, keep checking back here on the blog. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be posting more information about what attendees can expect and all the exciting additions we’re making to the convention! Until then, leave a comment below and let me know what kinds of things YOU would like to learn about at a leadership event.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

International Convention: Bringing Good People and Great Ideas Together

Sons of Norway is proud to unveil the new International Convention logo for 2012! Throughout the rest of the year whenever you see this logo on the blog or any of Sons of Norway’s other online properties you’ll know that the content is all about the International Convention. Also, if you are planning to attend the International Convention in Fargo, ND, this summer you’ll see it on a lot of different things, from signs to printed materials, to some of the gifts we’ll be giving delegates and ILC participants. I’m really excited to share it with you because it’s something that the Sons of Norway creative team has been working for some time now.

The initial idea behind this year’s logo was “bringing good people and great ideas together.” If you think about it, that’s what an International Convention is really about. During a convention members come together to celebrate our organization and make decisions for the future and, in doing so, bring great ideas to the table for discussion and voting. From there the creative team began exploring ideas that visually represented “bringing good people and great ideas together.”

From that came the idea of using a light bulb to represent the good people and great ideas with the puzzle pieces representing how they all come together for the common good! The creative team then took the idea one step further by creating a similar logo for the Innovative Leadership Conference and the International Lodge Meeting. The end result being a cohesive brand for all elements of this year's important event!

Above all, we feel these new logos are fun, yet accurate representations of the convention and hope you do, too!

As always, if you are interested in learning more about the 2012 International Convention in Fargo, ND, all you have to do is visit the official event website!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Inspired Design

As I mentioned in my previous post, sometimes I'm really affected by the Viking magazine stories I'm working on. And while it's still only in the planning stage, our upcoming May cover story exploring Scandinavian Modern design has become one of those stories.

When the Viking team needed a writer on Scandinavian Modern design, we knew that our colleague Melinda Nelson, home editor for Mpls. St.Paul magazine, would be the perfect resource. In addition to her own expertise, she knows a ton of people in the design field and has a veritable library of design books and magazines for inspiration.

A couple of weeks ago, Melinda lent me "Decorate: 1000 Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home" for the weekend, and I was completely bitten by the redecorating bug. In addition to the pages devoted to Scandinavian-inspired design, the book is crammed with tips and photos from a range of designers with very different styles.

Before the weekend was over, I had transformed my family's dark, crowded "playroom" (as we have called it since the kids were little) into a much more inviting and spacious room. Away went the teal drapes that were blocking out precious sunlight. Up went two fresh coats of paint to brighten things up. Out went the loveseat with the torn upholstery and an occasional chair that was making the room cramped. In came the IKEA couch (which seats my family of four comfortably—perfect for movie-watching). I was even inspired to frame a couple of pieces of art that had been in storage way too long.

As demonstrated by my weekend project, a little inspiration can go a long way. I hope readers find our upcoming Scandinavian Modern design feature as inspiring as I have!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

It's a Convention Year!

For a lot of people in the blogosphere January marked a new beginning; a time to celebrate the year to come with all its inherent excitement and mystery. For me, that time is February.

Oh sure, I could have jumped on that bandwagon, but the truth is I was pretty darn busy putting 2011 to bed. Now that February has arrived I can look forward to the year to come. And what a year it’s going to be!

If you didn’t know already, 2012 is going to be HUGE for Sons of Norway because it’s a convention year! Starting this month lodges throughout North America and Norway are considering issues they feel are important to their members, their districts and to the organization as a whole. In the coming weeks they’ll be voting on resolutions to bring to their district conventions, choosing delegates to represent them and then participating in the governance of Sons of Norway. All very important and heady tasks, for sure.

If you’ve never been to a district or international convention, I strongly urge you to go. There are two ways you can get to a convention, the first is to run for and be elected as a delegate and the second is to attend as an event guest.

Being a delegate is probably one of the most important jobs a Sons of Norway member can have. In doing so, you will represent the wishes and needs of your fellow lodge members. But, in a grander sense, you will also be a steward of the organization because it will be your job to help chart the course for Sons of Norway’s future. The decisions you make, the votes you cast, the statements you give will all be part of our lush history and our great future!

For those who wish to simply attend as a guest of the event, you have an important role to play as well. You will serve as a witness to everything that happens and learn a great deal more about Sons of Norway than you ever have before. You will also be the ones who help support delegates, volunteer to make the convention great and take part in many of the wonderful cultural and educational elements of a convention.

Above all, though, everyone who takes part in a convention is there for a single, unifying reason: to keep Sons of Norway a vibrant, relevant organization for years to come. That’s something that everyone should be proud of and the reason why the most common words that cross my lips at conventions is “thank you.”

So with that, we’ve officially kicked off the 2012 convention year! In the coming days, weeks and months I’ll be posting a ton of convention-related info, especially about the international convention, so be sure to keep checking back. Also, if you’d like to learn more about your district convention, or the international convention this August, here are some links you might like to check out.