Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Vacation Meditation

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment." - Henry David Thoreau.

It's Finally Come To This, Has It?

Computer to Marry Texas Couple

"Trauma Tourism"? Hmm.

I'm currently studying for certification as a PTSD counselor and this topic has been claiming more and more attention in the field, namely that the "hit and run" school in the grief counseling industry is of limited use as a therapeutic model. In fact, it may do more harm than good. What is now being emphasized is encouraging people to have long-term and committed membership in clubs, organizations and similar groups that can, in times of need, remind one of other aspects in life rather than those at the source of the trauma. In other words, well, in my words, this means be a part of a church congregation.

I was wondering when a proper study of PTSD counseling in the aftermath of this century's most traumatic event would take place.  I'm sure it's hardly definitive, but it's a start.

Therapy can exacerbate trauma and make things worse according to a study looking at the counselling given to New Yorkers in the aftermath of 9/11.

The report, to be published in the journal American Psychologist next month to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, found that reliving the events was harmful for many survivors.

Mental health professionals flooded the city in a wave of 'trauma tourism' after two planes struck the World Trade Center in 2001 according to the report.

And this is hardly surprising: "But the main psychological benefits were felt by the psychologists rather than the patients...."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

This week Isaiah gives the marketplace call, Paul is at his best [and not lying], and Jesus offers the 1st Century version of a drive-through.  All this plus my colleagues: a Romanian monk/iconographer and a computer in Texas.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Surfboard Tales, Part Seven

As in any sport or activity, there is a certain amount of superstition in surfing. Surfboards, which are nothing more than foam and fibreglass, can be imbued by their owners with mythic qualities rivalling that of fabled Mjolnir. Similarly, a particular pair of boardshorts or a wetsuit may become an item of totemic power.
My surf buddy, Terry, had a hat that apparently served that purpose for him. Originally, I didn’t know the hat’s provenance; it seemed to me just to be an olive “boonie” hat that could be found at any army surplus store. I know he wore it both as sun protection and to keep his head warm in the water. Other than the practical, there seemed to be no other reason for its ubiquity.

One particularly wild day in Newport Beach, California, Terry lost the hat in a vicious wipe-out that, in his words, should have “busted my fool neck”. Despite a thorough search, we could not find the hat in the water anywhere. I suggested that, given the current was rather strong that day, it had probably already travelled to Huntington Beach, five or six miles up the coast. He grunted and revealed, “I had that hat on the first day I was able to stand up on a board; and every day since. That hat has power. It should be in a museum.” He was a little grumpy for the next couple of days. Given the fact that he’s eternally affable, this was a little worrying.

A few days after we returned from the West Coast, I got an excited phone call from him. “Check out the O.C. Register [the daily paper in Orange County, CA]” he said, sending me a link via e-mail. It was an article about a Huntington Beach surfing competition that started the weekend we returned. “Look at the photo.”

It was a picture of one of the winners. He was a typical looking young man for his sport: longish blond hair, well-tanned with 0% body fat, holding aloft some obtuse trophy. However, the one thing that stood out, perched on the back of his head, was an olive boonie hat.

“You see it?” asked Terry, “I told you that hat had power. He must have picked it up in the waves, put it on, and it let him win that contest. Don’t ever doubt the power of that hat. I feel better now.  Balance has been returned to the world!” Should I mention that this is someone who works on Wall Street?

I am far too wise in the mysteries of the world and the surf to ever disagree with Terry about the hat and its power. In fact, the next summer in south Jersey, all of us bought our own boonie hats, in a variety of colors, to wear in the water during the season. It was one of the best seasons we'd ever experienced.

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved© 2011]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thanks, Dan

Amazon Shuts Down Associates Affiliate Program In Connecticut Over Online Sales Tax

The State of Connecticut has begun to tax for items purchased through websites such as this one, even though has no physical presence in the state. In return, has shut down their Associates program, the one that guaranteed us a 4%-6% donation for every purchase.

The referral box to the right, that has been in place for almost three years, has been removed.

Any purchases made from the booklist to the right will be honored, of course, but with no donation to Christ Church forthcoming. As they say in Rastafarianism, "Babylon, mon."

Thanks for the support over the past few years. We raised approximately $300 a year through this initiative, which was hailed by the diocese last year as an innovative parish fund-raising program.

And just because I'm upset about this right now, I'll reveal the following: Gov. Malloy goes to a tanning clinic. So there!

When People Don't Believe In God, Anything May Be A Religion [Part Four]

Judge shuts down 'religious' sex club

"Judge Ken Molberg approved the request Tuesday to temporarily close down The Playground, which owner Wyakie Glenn Hudson claims serves as a religious ministry...."

Or, Christians Could Protect The Poor Themselves. Or Is That Crazy Talk?

Ads by Christian groups pressure lawmakers to protect the poor in debt talks

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

1. Watching What? 2. What's A Wave Bear?

Wave bears watching

[Update:  Looks like they changed the headline to something more specific from the original posted above.  Pity.]

The Best Surf Songs Of All Time

What, are you a snob?  You know you want to look at them.  I tell you what, next month I'll post the best hymns of all time.

Really, what's better than "Miserlou"?  Well, maybe "Mr. Moto".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Surfboard Tales, Part Six

It isn't permitted in Ocean City anymore, but when I was about 13 or 14 we could still go down the boardwalk steps to the beach at night. A lot of the high school and college kids did so and built fires and brought guitars, smoked cigarettes and sometimes pulled from a bagged bottle of Miller High Life. I was a straight-arrow kind of kid who didn’t smoke or drink, and I was conspicuously younger than most of them, but they let me enjoy the music, company and laughter, as long as I kept an appropriate distance. One evening a collection of Hare Krishna members, complete in saffron robes and with shaved heads, joined the evening beach set with their drums and other percussion instruments, handing out some delicious vegetarian dish that my friend, Jerry, refused to eat because he was afraid that it might have LSD in it. It was all a rather typical scene in the late 1960’s. The particular thing that united us was that we were beach people, with the royalty of the set being the surfers.

One of the surfers was a young man in his early 20’s who had recently returned from Vietnam. These days we would say that he had post-traumatic stress disorder; in 1969 it was still called “battle fatigue” or “shell shock”. It was not something that was treated in any real manner back then. He was pale and gaunt, despite spending most of his days on the 7th Street beach, the one that was marked for surfing only, and most of that time in the water. He was never in the center of any activity; he hovered in the outer orbit of the people around the beach fire, slightly visible in the orange glow. Mostly, he would stare at the waves and the phosphorescent lines that they made at night. He looked like he had gazed into some terrible abyss, had seen some ghastly truth, and was still trying to figure it out while knowing that he never could or would. He was known only by his ironic nickname, which was “Baby”.

One night Baby started a conversation with me. I don’t know why, except that I tended to the outside orbit of the beach fire, too. He just started talking, without looking at me, about how much he enjoyed the music, how much he had missed it over the past two years. That, and the caramel corn on the boardwalk and the cheeseburgers from a shack that stayed open late into the night. Baby then told me some lurid tales of Vietnam; so lurid that I wasn’t sure if they were true and wondered if he did so just to see my reaction.

He then asked me if I had seen that morning’s newspaper. It had been filled with stories about the horrific murder of a houseful of celebrities in Los Angeles. My mundane response was something like, “Yeah. Pretty bad.” Then he looked right at me; it was so startling that I think I stopped breathing for a moment.  He said, “That’s why I ride the waves. They’re wild and they’re mad. If I can master a wave I can master the madness.” He was silent for awhile afterwards; then he walked off into the darkness.  I didn't move until my friend Jerry came over to ask me if I thought Baby was on LSD.

I never saw Baby again at night, and only occasionally in the daylight, on his board out on the waves of 7th Street, waiting for the best one, the largest and the maddest; waiting for just the right wave to master.

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved© 2011]

Monday, July 25, 2011

What? An August Newsletter? Mellow Has Been Harshed

So I thought that last month’s newsletter would serve as the summer edition, as summers are slow in Roxbury and parish events dwindle like the attendance on a humid Sunday. [Remember, folks, the church is air conditioned.] The only thing is, Carol, the most conscientious parish secretary with whom I’ve ever worked, decided, since she managed to gain access to Tim Beard’s cache of photographs, to put out an August edition. Of course, she also expects something from the Rector.

Now, I’m about a week away from vacation and am thinking more about whether or not I need new sails or which brand of surf wax I’ll try this year than about the narrowly spiritual matters that usually claim my attention in fulfilling this responsibility. However, as I’m also putting together a two-week reading list, I thought I’d share with you some of the book titles in which you may find some interest.

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by James Hannam
A history of Christianity’s role is providing the foundation for the coming age of science and technology, shattering a lot of the errant preconceptions still taught in contemporary education.

The Fathers Know Best, edited by James Akin
“The Fathers” in this case are those generally known as the Early Church Fathers, the original holy men and theologians who built upon the works of the disciples. This is an annotated collection of their writings, complete with biographies.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
As we are approaching the terrible 10th anniversary, I’m re-visiting this book that I originally read five or so years ago. It is the history of Islamic fundamentalism, such as we have known since the 20th century. It’s interesting to note that the world view of Al-Qaeda was formed at a dance at a Methodist church in Colorado in 1949.

A Fine Madness by Elliot Baker
A funny, quirky novel that explores the life of a contemporary poet and office carpet cleaner suffering from writer’s block. Not only does it examine the curiosities of the creative process, but it also pokes great fun at psycho-therapy.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child by Anthony Esolen
This is a provocative analysis and critique of contemporary child rearing and education. What is of particular interest to me is how what the author calls “the denial of the transcendent”, or leaving as unacknowledged the religious impulse of children, is limiting their intelligence and appreciation of life’s possibilities.

Fishing the New Jersey Coast
How’d this get in here?

Self-Working Card Tricks by Karl Fulves
Rainy days at the beach are the worst. Use this book to amaze friends and family. Sure to break the ice at parties.

Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham by Christopher Heaney
Bingham was the discoverer of Machu Picchu. As with most stories of spectacular discovery, the events leading up to and surrounding the grand moment are fascinating.

These and other books and products may be purchased through The Coracle with the parish receiving a donation of 6% of the purchase price.  Just click on the selections offered on the list to the right to access your account and start buyin'.

Update: The State of Connecticut has begun to tax for items purchased through websites such as this one.  In return, has shut down their Associates program, the one that guaranteed us a 4%-6% donation for every purchase.  The referral box to the right, that has been in place for almost three years, has been removed.  Any purchases made from the booklist to the right will be honored, of course, but with no donation to Christ Church forthcoming.  As they say in Rastafarianism, "Babylon, mon."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

This week Solomon displays his wisdom to God, who rewards him with even greater sagacity; Paul gives the Romans one of the greatest belief statements in Christianity ["For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."]; and Jesus offers his third agricultural parable.

All this plus the Parable of the Lobster Trap. 

The lections may be found here.

Prayerful Response

It is horrifying to imagine 10 or 20 killed, my mind cannot conceive of the more than 80 that is the currently reported number.  Seeing a photo in the European press of the victims still scattered about the island that was the site of a portion of yesterday's atrocity in Norway did nothing other than shove my conception further into numbness.  Having twice been in the presence of mass trauma, one nature-made and one not, I am reminded not only of the sights associated with such an event, but of the sounds and the smells.  Yes, the term "horror" seems inadequate.

Christians pray in a variety of ways.  As I have been your rector for two years now, you know that, in the words of a former parishioner of mine and now dean of Virginia Seminary, I can be a very "Augustinian".  That is, I find that the best way to pray is to seize whatever I can summon in the way of intellect and physical ability and make something happen.  Whether it is organizing a charity concert or building a guitar, sometimes just repairing a small piece of the parish or rectory, I find that form of prayer to be satisfying and appropriate, as it connects my actions to something greater.

But there are atrocities which challenge my intellect and cannot be affected by anything I can do physically.  Whether it is Oklahoma City or September 11th or yesterday in Norway or any number of massively cruel actions committed by one human, or group of humans, on others, all I have is prayer at its simplest and most basic.  Some words, clumsily chosen and expressed, that represent a petition that I can barely define.

This article is from a number of years ago, now.  I had a physical copy of it for some time but it was lost in one of the many moves of the past 25 years.  Naturally, I was able to find it on the Internet.  Please click on the paragraph below to read it in its entirety.

It is difficult for modern Christians to pray precisely because we carry within ourselves the very questions about how God works in the world -- or makes any difference in the world -- that cause the so-called atheists among us to turn their backs on God in melancholy outrage. Further, we wonder, are we constantly to go through the motions of asking -- when we know we can do for ourselves? Weren’t we created to be creative, hardworking beings? Aren’t our talents given to us precisely so that we can produce? And is it not an embarrassing fact that because we generally don’t need God to bail us out, when we do become desperate and could indeed use help we are almost ashamed to ask? We don’t want to be like the shameless son who never visits his parents except to hit them for a loan.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hey, I Saw This Cartoon When I Was A Kid

Bear gets head stuck in jar

An Obituary Of Note: Artist Of A Lost Art

Alex Steinweiss, Originator of Artistic Album Covers, Dies at 94

Surfboard Tales, Part Five

Like any avocation, surfing has developed its own slang over time. Some of it is venerable and well-planted in the American idiom. Terms like “wahine”, “kahuna”, and “wipe-out” have been heard and, at least partially, understood by many. However, there are more examples that are either specific to a particular surf beach or are so transient that they don’t survive for more than a season. The last time I was on the West Coast, I was speaking to a surfer who was bringing me up to date on the local patois.

Surfer: See that?

Me: What?

Surfer: That move the dude just did.

Me: No. What was it?

Surfer: It was like a 360, but with a flair. It was a roundabout fandoozie.

Me: A…what?

Surfer: Now check that. That’s an acetone shorts.

Me: It’s an acetone…?

Surfer: Shorts. ‘Cause he went so fast, see?

Me: No, I don’t think I….

Surfer: Now check the cavefish over there. He’s about to porpoise.

Me: Wait, I know what it is to "porpoise". He’s riding up the wave instead of down, right?

Surfer: Right. Watch him launch.

Me: But, what’s a cavefish?

Surfer: He is, ‘cause he’s so white. See, he’s a fishbelly.

Me: Okay.

Surfer: Man, I did this porpoise once. I just blasted off like a space shuttle. I called it a “moon porpoise”.

Me: “Moon”?  Because you were heading for the moon?

Surfer:  Nah, I lost my board shorts about half way up the wave.

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved© 2011]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Important Safety Note

As we all know by now, it will be hot on Thursday and Friday; maybe Saturday, too.  I know just about everyone has some form of air conditioning, but if you don't, or if there is a malfunction and you wish to escape the heat, please know that the parish house will be offered as a so-called "cooling center".  We'll make it as comfortable as we can.

All you need to do is let us know, however, so that we can keep it unlocked and cooliciously ready.

Personally, I Would Have Tried To Ride It Like A Bronco

Great white shark lands on research boat

[P.S.  It's summer, which means there will be a lot of stories from the media about sharks.  Seriously, the stories practically write themselves and are great for weeks when many of the newspaper and wire service staffs are on vacation.]

[P.P.S  See what I mean?  Teen Shares Shark Bite Story, Four foot shark 20 feet off Newport Beach, Dog attacks shark, and Great white spotted off of Chatham.  Not to be outdone, we also have this variation: Forget the sharks; fear jellyfish.]

Naturally, His Area Of Study Is Ethics

Harvard fellow hacked millions of papers

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Haiti And Its Perpetual Poverty

An interesting observation about Haiti:  

Now, this is interesting to me because anyone can easily miss this point just by looking around Haiti where you see people working and producing like crazy, and yet the people never seem to get their footing. Without an understanding of economics, it is nearly impossible to see the unseen: the capital that is absent that would otherwise permit economic growth. And this is the very reason for the persistence of poverty, which, after all, is the natural condition of mankind. It takes something heroic, something special, something historically unique, to dig out of it.

Now to the question of why the absence of capital.

The answer has to do with the regime. It is a well-known fact that any accumulation of wealth in Haiti makes you a target, if not of the population in general (which has grown suspicious of wealth, and probably for good reason), then certainly of the government. The regime, no matter who is in charge, is like a voracious dog on the loose, seeking to devour any private wealth that happens to emerge.
This creates something even worse than the Higgsian problem of "regime uncertainty." The regime is certain: it is certain to steal anything it can, whenever it can, always and forever. So why don't people vote out the bad guys and vote in the good guys? Well, those of us in the United States who have a bit of experience with democracy know the answer: there are no good guys. The system itself is owned by the state and rooted in evil. Change is always illusory, a fiction designed for public consumption.

"The state strikes only when there is something to loot."
This is an interesting case of a peculiar way in which government is keeping prosperity at bay. It is not wrecking the country through an intense enforcement of taxation and regulation or nationalization. One gets the sense that most people never have any face time with a government official and never deal with paperwork or bureaucracy really. The state strikes only when there is something to loot. And loot it does: predictably and consistently. And that alone is enough to guarantee a permanent state of poverty.

Now, to be sure, there are plenty of Americans who are firmly convinced that we would all be better off if we grew our own food, bought only locally, kept firms small, eschewed modern conveniences like home appliances, went back to using only natural products, expropriated wealthy savers, harassed the capitalistic class until it felt itself unwelcome and vanished. This paradise has a name, and it is Haiti.

Surfboard Tales, Part Four

After a storm, a great deal of flotsam is kicked up by the agitation, including various forms of algae and kelp not ordinarily seen on more peaceful days.  Much of it is unattractive and some of it is a little on the slimy side.  It is not unusual after riding a wave to find a draping of brown grape kelp on one's shoulder or a doily of green, plasticine algae on top of one's head.

I was talking about how much was in the water one morning with a young surfer who was typical of his generation, as he was educated in the academic concerns of the environment but a little less enthused about the real thing.  He offered this observation, while picking an accumulation of algae and other ocean offal from his wetsuit with great care and an expression of disgust on his face: 

“I like the waves.  It’s the ocean I can’t stand.”

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved © 2011]

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

This week we hear of Wisdom, Paul raises the spiritual debt limit, and Jesus gives the second of three agricultural parables, this time about the dreaded "bearded darnel".

The lections may be found here.

Surfboard Tales, Part III

Surfer: Got my mangoes stolen yesterday.

Me: Pardon?

Surfer: My mangoes. On the beach. Stolen.

Me: Oh, yeah. I lost a backpack last season. While I was in the water.

Surfer: Know who did it?

Me: No, although nowadays I have a GPS transponder in my bag so I can chase down whoever takes it.

Surfer:  I should have done that with my mangoes. They were in a plastic bag that I stuffed under the bench in the lifeguard station. I like mangoes; gets the saltwater taste out of my mouth. I wasn’t in the water five minutes and they were gone. The bag they were in was just blowing down the beach. Five minutes, and I didn’t see anyone else on the beach. It’s like a cat burglar.

Me: Or a bird burglar.

Surfer: Huh?

Me: Look. [I pointed at some seagulls who were rummaging through another surfer’s breakfast bag. One was flying away with a Pop Tart in its bill.]

Surfer: [Highly Creative Expletive] Oh, man. I think I filed a false police report.

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved© 2011]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Surfboard Tales, Part II

Another surfer and I are sitting in the slow rolling waves, waiting for the next set.  He's young and enormous, with shoulders about as wide as a Jack Kirby-drawn superhero [see Captain America above] and muscles so sculpted its as if he has no flesh.  I think he could bust the surfboard in two with his bare hands.  He's been in the water for seven hours without a break and shows no signs of fatigue at all.  He may be able to bust the ocean in two with his bare hands, I don't know.

He and I have just noticed the local beach joggers on an outing from the Surf Health Club; middle-aged folks kind of wiggling down the beach wearing flamboyantly bilious running gear.  A true child of the surf, the Jack Kirby Superhero looks off into the distance and says,

"I wonder what it's like to jog.  Or go to a gym."

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved© 2011]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

First Surfing Cattle And Now This

Apparently it's not just in the UK where cattle have an affinity for water.  Meet the star of Spain's "Bulls to the Sea" festival:

Which Begs The Question: What's Inorganic Water?

Organic Water: A New Marketing Wave

Barnum was right.

But, There Aren't Any Beaches In Ohio!

Granted, most people under the age of 40 would flunk any common US geography quiz, so I don't really have high expectations about many of my fellow citizenry knowing the names or locations of any of the 50 states or of significant geographic features like lakes, mountains, and rivers, but today I came across a comment on a website that left me a little disquieted. 

You see, one of my favorite surf spots is Huntington Beach, California.  It's nickname, as recognized by the California State Assembly, is "Surf City".  For those interested, I have some photos of it on my Facebook page.  However, there is also a town in Ohio, just west of Cleveland, named Huntington Beach.  A rather spectacular photo of a lightning strike over Lake Erie just off of the Huntington Beach shoreline was published by National Geographic today, and this caused a lot of commentary, naturally at the expense of Ohio and Ohioans, mostly from people in California and New York.  In other words, the usual.

However, one comment was, "Everyone knows there are no beaches in Ohio."  Well, hold on there, pard, and check out the photos below, each one is of the beaches along Lake Erie, a lake so big that it has tides, waves, and its own US Coast Guard station.

By the way, you can also go surfing in Lake Erie.  Don't believe me?  Check it:

Surfboard Tales

I appreciate, and many of you have noticed, that I've been a little lax in posting to this weblog in recent days.  In part, it's because it's summer and the last thing I want to do is sit in an office in front of a computer and type.  Really, do I work in a cubicle zoo?  Another reason is that there is much going on and, after the horrid winter, I want to be out in the community as much as possible.  Also, it's summer.  That's when the ocean and Sound are at there most accommodating.  I've kept it a secret, but I like the water.  I like being in it.  I have two surfboards, a kayak, and a cabin-equipped sailboat, so you can guess what I do on my days off; days that used to be used to organize weblog materials.

Then there's the fact that I owe a publisher a book, and since I spent the advance a long time ago, I think I'm going to have to complete it.  That means writing time away from the weblog.  [Relax, this is done in my spare time.]

So, I'll try to post something each day but some of it may seem a bit obtuse.  After all, weblogs are intended to be highly personal, and while I post information of interest to the parish, I also have a wide readership that seems much more interested in things like the royal wedding scripture reading, silly headlines and newspaper stories, and what flag is flying from the rectory.  Really, I don't get that last one.

But one of the things I thought would be fun is to record some of the conversations I've had with fellow surfers and bodyboarders while waiting for the next set of waves to come through.  They can be amazing in their Zen-like density or wonderful goofiness.  My guarantee is that all conversations and comments are verbatim and accurate.

[The following was at the end of the conversation about why rappers and hip-hop artists change their names to something exotic and fake.]

Surfer:  "I thought about changing my name once."
Me: "Oh?"
Surfer: "Yeah.  I wanted to change it to Malibu."
Me: "Mal-"
Surfer: "Yeah.  Malibu.  'Here comes Malibu' or "Malibu just pearled'.  'Malibu, dude, good to see you.'"
Me: "As a first name or last name?  Or, as one name? You know, like Liberace."
Surfer: "Who?"
Me: "I mean like Cher."
Surfer: "?"
Me: "Madonna?  Never mind."
Surfer: "Not as a last name.  Only if my first name were 'Johnny' or 'Ricky' or something."
Me: "What's your first name?"
Surfer: "Ken.  See, that's the problem.  Everyone would call me 'Malibu Ken'".
Me: "Yeah, that wouldn't work.  What's your last name?"
Surfer: "Beach.  That wouldn't work, either. That one's taken."

[Excerpt from Reading Water, all rights reserved © 2011]

When People Don't Believe In God, Anything May Be A Religion [Part Three]

Man wins right to wear pasta strainer in driver's license photo

He describes it as "religious headgear", you see.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Of brothers, flesh, spirit, seeds, and my Homecoming date we hear this morning. 

The lections may be found here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Something For Those Of Us Not Born And Raised In The East

Some tales about accents and what they do to listeners from a Southerner living in the Midwest. 

Believe me, being a Midwesterner married to a Southerner, we can receive a lot of passive, well, bigotry from Easterners.  I developed a few coping mechanisms over the years, such as affecting an Eastern accent to cover my Buckeye-ness, or joining yacht, country, and university clubs to blend into the ways of the East.  My original way to cope, when everyone in an Eastern university classroom knew that I was some ignorant boondocker from Ohio, and assumed to be at least half a moron because of that, was to outscore everyone else on the exams.  There was a certain satisfaction in that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Everything I Learned About Rock Music In The Sixties I Learned From This Woman

Jane Scott Is Dead at 92; Veteran Rock Music Critic

I met Ms. Scott back in the 70's when I was working at an AOR*-formatted radio station, but I'd been reading her column since I was 13.  The same year we met I had interviewed Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Denny Laine of Paul McCartney's band, Wings, and jazz legend Larry Coryell, but she was the one of whom I was in awe.  Jane Scott was a great lady and a great reporter, and very patient with what I'm sure were some tedious interview questions. 

What made her a great reporter was an instinct that cannot be learned, as illustrated in this quotation from the obit: "She found her lifework on Sept. 15, 1964, the day four lads from Liverpool came to Cleveland. No one at the paper was interested in covering the Beatles, and Ms. Scott volunteered."

The evening I met Ms. Scott, we were in attendance at the same concert in a 200-seat venue in Cleveland's Playhouse Square.  “He looked like a cross between a dockhand and a pirate,” she wrote in The Plain Dealer in 1975, reviewing a young musician. “He stood on the darkened Allen Theater stage last night in a black greaser jacket, blue jeans, a gray wool cap pulled over an eye and a gold earring in his left ear. ... His name is Bruce Springsteen. He will be the next superstar.”  She made this observation at the age of 56, and was the first to do so.

Good on you, Jane.  You made the New York Times.  Ave atque vale.

*AOR = Album-oriented Rock

Another Proud Moment In Greater Cleveland

Talk about your slow news weeks.  I can't even find any interesting archaeology stories; and there are no feast days this week.  Fortunately, northeastern Ohio is always good for tales such as this:

Banana at large after fight with gorilla

I think I'm getting homesick.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Luke 17:33

The other day I was informed that I had died in 1996. It must have been sudden, as I was unaware of my passing. I heard this from a collection of former students from the class of 1991, all of whom had been told of my demise at their five-year reunion. This explains why I haven’t heard from them in fifteen years, as e-mail and Facebook have not yet bridged the ethereal plane.

Apparently, the news of my mortality had been announced at the reunion by a new alumni relations director. As I had left that school for another in 1993, she had never known me and, since one clergyman is pretty much the same as another, she had confused me with another former chaplain of the school; never mind that our chaplaincies were two decades apart and our ages separated by three decades, if not more so. After all, both of our surnames begin with the letter “C”.

It’s hard to remain dead in this world of electronic communication, however; especially when one is not. Inevitably, last week, one of my former students discovered that I still existed, sent his bemused greetings, and informed other members of his class that I was, in fact, still alive. Those with whom I had a good relationship greeted my resurrection warmly; the ones with whom I had a more checkered relationship questioned whether I was some sort of vampire. I, however, began to discover some advantages to being dead.

For example, when Jenni asked me when I was going to break down the surprising number of cardboard boxes that once contained guitar parts and that now took up one full bay of the garage, I was able to reply with the confidence of the mortal, “I can’t, honey. I’m dead.” When I was expected to attend a clergy meeting, one that could be labeled “The Committee of Bilious Ordained Know-It-Alls”, I was able to beg off. After all, as I explained to a puzzled secretary, “I’ve been dead for fifteen years.” It was a remarkably liberating experience. I was looking forward to explaining my inert status to the IRS and Social Security Administration, but began to re-think this action when I saw my wife reviewing the fine print in my life insurance policy.

Regarding oneself as dead is common in military history. Both the legions of Rome and the samurai of the Japanese shogunate regarded themselves as dead in order to have greater focus on the battlefield. There is a parallel to this in the early Christian church, too, as we can read in St. Paul’s first of two letters to the Corinthians:

I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you--a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do you think I'd do this if I wasn't convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn't be the end of me? Not on your life! It's resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live. If there's no resurrection, "We eat, we drink, the next day we die," and that's all there is to it.

Accepting one’s mortality was, and is, for Christians the first step towards recognizing the reality of resurrection, that which so strongly motivated Paul, and should motivate those disciples who follow. When I was recently “playing dead”, part of the liberation I felt was because I could at least pretend to be freed from worldly concerns such as chores and taxes. But Paul speaks of using that perspective not for detachment, but for engagement. Living for the Kingdom rather than the World, living for the life eternal rather than the life mortal, means that even common, temporal moments can be filled with spiritual possibility, grace, and wonder. And, as Paul noted, even without having to face wild beasts, it is the way in which Christians live heroically, sometimes in the face of daunting adversity.

Or even common adversity, as I now will mark my awareness of living in, but not of, the world to take that surprising number of flattened cardboard boxes to the town dump.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Remember When Musicians Were Elegant? Part Two

Here's some more; some well-known, others less so.

Perhaps the greatest at piano improvisation, I think I hear at least one piece by John Coltrane each day on the radio.

Thelonious Monk, equally adept at the piano and at sporting a jaunty pinstripe.

Another tragic musician [there really is no shortage in that category], Chet Baker set his own style with both the trumpet and, apparently, the suede Trilby.

Ironically not as well known as the others, Sonny Stitt toured more and was recorded more than almost any other jazz musician during the great age.  So as not to be confused with Charlie Parker, who played the alto sax, Stitt became a virtuoso of the tenor sax.  Even in casual moments such as that pictured, you get a sense of what was a remarkably graceful stage presence.

Remember When Musicians Were Elegant?

An acquaintance is compiling a volume of photographs for a book on the great days of American Jazz and Blues and forwarded these photos to me.  What I found really striking is how elegant and put-together these great artists were.  As we now live with a music industry dominated by surreally bad taste [Lady Gaga's meat dress, anyone?], I thought it would be interesting to see what was once the fashion.  Each photo contains a link to a biography and discography of the photo's subject.

[Yes, I know "surreally" isn't a word, but it should be.]

This is B.B. King, currently in his 80's and still performing, in a photo from 40-some years ago.  He still knows how to dress.  His guitar is named "Lucille", by the way.  Long story.

The tragic Charlie "Bird" Parker, who brought a new virtuosity to the saxophone.  His was the first jazz I ever heard and it's still the standard by which I judge all others.

Miles Davis, looking great and not even on stage.  At this time in his career he enjoyed Brooks Brothers suits.

Muddy Waters posing in that sharkskin suit.  Hard to believe that a year or so before he was a ragged sharecropper from the Mississippi Delta.  In fact, he was born in Rolling Fork, MS, where my in-laws lived.  The two fellows flanking him are the Chess brothers, who brought a lot of southern artists to Chicago to record for their label, Chess Records.  Other members of their musical stable included Chuck Berry and Howlin' Wolf, among many others.  L'il Walter was always a favorite of mine.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just In Time For The Fourth Of July

Houston VA accused of censoring religious speech

"Local veterans and volunteer groups accuse Department of Veterans Affairs officials of censoring religious speech — including the word "God" - at Houston National Cemetery."

Archaeological News

Ossuary Belonging to a Daughter of the Caiaphas Family of High Priests Discovered

Although, as all archaeology-philes at Christ Church know, it's best to wait awhile before declaring something a "true" discovery.  This still could just be some guy's toilet tank.