Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Art Of Recreating Ancient Greek Armor [Archaeological News]

Intellectual life thrives on mystery.  When it comes to ancient Greece, one of those mysteries is the linothorax—the flimsy-looking, hip-length armor that you see warriors wearing on Greek vases.  Why go to war, archaeologists have wondered, in what looks to be a linen minidress?  While linothorax lets you show off your muscular legs to great effect, it hardly seems like practical protection against the enemy’s swords and arrows.  And yet, judging by how frequently linothoraxes are represented in Greek art, they were extraordinarily popular among soldiers in ancient Greece and around the Mediterranean between 600 and 200 B.C.  Because no linothoraxes have survived—linen doesn't last—no one knows why.

The Decline Of The West

More than two-thirds of America's youth would fail to qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral or educational shortcomings, posing challenges to building the next generation of soldiers even as the U.S. draws down troops from conflict zones.


About a quarter of high-school graduates also can't pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures math and reading skills, Gen. Youngman said. "They aren't educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs," he said.

Not to be unfair, but the AFQT is hardly a difficult test.  That 25% can't pass it means they've been automatically promoted through school since about 6th Grade.

Ghent Altarpiece extensively overpainted

The Ghent Altarpiece, the 18-panel polyptych masterpiece painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck for the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, has had a tough life since it was completed in 1432. It’s been taken apart, stolen, split, burned, vandalized, cropped, pawned, hidden and shipped cross-continent. Even its permanent home in Saint Bavo, a glass enclosure built to protect the altarpiece from vandalism and theft, has proven inimical to the painting because of its inability to control temperature and humidity.

Theological News

A man arrested for decapitating a church lawn statue of Jesus Christ says he did it because “the second or first commandment” forbids public displays of men and women, Charleston police say.

Friday, June 27, 2014

City Got Worked Over In Secret Rock Cats Deal

This column may have one of the most memorable opening stanzas ever:

"The Rock Cats-to-Hartford deal is such a Rabelaisian feast of knavery, greed, deceit and commonplace stupidity that you almost can't use it to teach a specific lesson about government. Because nothing about the process has been worthy or truthful, it's hard to zero in on one specific failing.  

It's like trying to figure out the one place where the Crusades or Watergate went wrong."

Having just attended a game at the New Britain stadium, a evening that was affordable and fun, I can't believe that a larger, more expensive stadium in the middle of a city notorious for its crime statistics is going to draw the massive crowds that locals pols expect, or serve as the keystone for a "revitalized" downtown.

But, what do I know?

And Now For Something Completely Different

The dark side of meditation.

Best Quote Of The Week

Homeowner assesses damage after 14-inch artillery shell enters house

Here it is: "The gun range owner says the weapon was fired safely by professionals at a downward projection."

Of course it was.

A Shark Story! In The Summer!! How Rare!!!

Great white shark caught off of NYC

For those who are not watermen, sharks are caught off the coast of New York and Long Island all year long.  The reason that this is "news" is that it's summer and half the newsroom is on vacation.  Shark stories can be pre-written or pre-filmed and interns can fill in the details later when the editors need some filler.

Congress Has Been Closed? Oh, Wait....

Washington D.C. Suddenly Closes Invertebrate Exhibit

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Musings While Watching Footer

When I was a kid we used to play what we called "Combat Soccer".  It was basically the same except the field was smaller, there were no fouls and, best of all, no refs.  While the games could disintegrate into chaos, they were never dull. It prepared us rather well for "Combat Combat", too.  Think FIFA would be interested in this version?

Archaeological News From My Friends At The Explorers Club

Shark Attack Stories: The Lazy Reporter's Summer Friend, Part IV

Shark Attacks Expected to Rise This Summer

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Laws Don't Work With Outlaws

Hartford Police Investigating City's Seventh Homicide Of The Year

I Think This Is The Silver One

This was taken at Trinity Parish in Southport, Connecticut, where Jenni was the associate rector.  I was the chaplain and chairman of both the English and Philosophy departments at an Episcopal school at the time.  The officiant was Bishop Clarence Coleridge of Connecticut; the best man is now the rector of St. Andrew's Church in Harlem; the maid of honor, rather notoriously, was officially inhibited a few years back in order to become a Muslim. In retrospect, it seems as if significant portions of what the Episcopal Church has been in the post-modern age was concentrated in this event. 

Six hundred people were in attendance, including some of my students and my three oldest friends.  We processed with our entire families: parents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews.  The weather was perfect.  Twenty-four hours later I was enjoying a Mai-Tai at a beach in Cruz Bay.  Things get a little cloudy from that point on.

Shark Attack Stories: The Lazy Reporter's Summer Friend

Shark Attacks Cause For Concern In 2014 World Cup Host City Of Recife

Monday, June 23, 2014

Well, That's A New One

I've been asked to officiate at a funeral.  The family has requested that the liturgy be neither "too long" nor "too churchy".  When I suggested that they simply have a service at the funeral home, I was told that the deceased was too religious to permit that.  Um.

So, how about an invocation, the Lord's Prayer, and a blessing in the parking lot?  Should take about five minutes.

I'm getting too old for this.

Laws Only Constrain The Law-Abiding; Criminals And Lunatics Don't Abide By Laws

Chicago: 5 dead, 21 wounded in citywide shootings since Friday night

Please note that this is the city with the strongest gun "control" laws in the United States.

As A Colleague Of Mine Once Said, The Church Is What's Left After The Building Burns Down

Building gone, but Pilger church is stronger than bricks and mortar

Yep, It's Summer. Here's A Shark Story.

Great White Shark Sighting Off Cape May

The Sin Of "Scientism", Which Disabuses Human Imagination

The only thing worse than a pugnacious atheist is a pugnacious atheist who has a fetish for scientism. In that light, Dawkins’ bemoaning of childhood fiction actually makes sense. Devoting an inordinate amount of his life’s work to empirics makes any man coarse. Facts are blunt and stark, while imagination can be bright and stirring. The greatest works of art and architecture produced by man weren't the product of cold calculation. They were inspired by a volition that doesn't take cues from controlled laboratory experiments.

More about the areligion of Scientism may be found, too, in this article from which I also quote:

Modern science is often described as having emerged from philosophy; many of the early modern scientists were engaged in what they called “natural philosophy.” Later, philosophy came to be seen as an activity distinct from but integral to natural science, with each addressing separate but complementary questions — supporting, correcting, and supplying knowledge to one another. But the status of philosophy has fallen quite a bit in recent times. Central to scientism is the grabbing of nearly the entire territory of what were once considered questions that properly belong to philosophy. Scientism takes science to be not only better than philosophy at answering such questions, but the only means of answering them. For most of those who dabble in scientism, this shift is unacknowledged, and may not even be recognized. But for others, it is explicit. Atkins, for example, is scathing in his dismissal of the entire field: “I consider it to be a defensible proposition that no philosopher has helped to elucidate nature; philosophy is but the refinement of hindrance.”

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Choose A Headline

1.)  How else does one get drunk?
2.)  It took experts to figure this out?
3.)  What would be the right number of drunk drinking Scots, then?

Too many Scots drink to get drunk, say experts

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Laughing? Crying? Really Cold Drink? Or Did Someone Accidentally Give Her Caffeine?

That actually looks like my caffeine face.  In any case, she had some minor ear surgery this morning and is doing very well.  Whew.

[According to her father, it's "a smile hiding in shyness".  You can tell he was raised by a poetry teacher, can't you?]

He Answers To The Name "Harvey"

Police on the lookout for a 6 foot rabbit

Monday, June 16, 2014

An atheist And The Life Of The Mind

Reading fairy stories to children is harmful, says Richard Dawkins

Laws Control Only The Law-Abiding

Hartford Detectives Investigate Fifth Homicide Of Year

I have no criminal record and have been scrupulously trained in riflery by the Ohio Highway Patrol, the Boy Scouts of America, and Gunnery Sergeant Jackson, USMC, yet Connecticut state law requires my fingerprints to be on file, a criminal background check, eight hours of training, and the purchase of an expensive special state certificate in order to shotgun shell.  Thanks, Dan.

Meanwhile, do you think the shooter above bothered with any of that.  Feel safer, yet?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

They're Diabolical

Cat Accused Of Attempted Arson

[An aside: I wonder what Icelandic pizza tastes like?]

A Lesson From A Life And Death

"Well, there is that principle again: Television (or politics, or sports) is real and worthy of ink, religion is not so real and, thus, is not so worthy of ink."

"You must either be the hammer or the anvil."

Nietzsche Club Banned at University College London

Hey, I was once a member of the Nietzsche Club.  I turned out alright, didn't I?  It sure seems that free-thinking, intellectual inquiry is not something to be found on contemporary campuses.

Remember The Antikythera Mechanism?

We've spoken of it in our archaeology classes from time to time.  It was an early computing device found in a shipwreck that has been dated to the 1st century B.C.  Much more about it, including photos of the original with modern working duplicates, may be found at this link.

Anyway, we finally have the technology to explore the wreck, which lies at approximately 400 feet, using an atmospheric diving suit.  It looks like this:

May I say "neato" now?

Another Proud Moment In Nutmeg State History

We're the first!

The personal information of around 400 health-exchange enrollees may be compromised, according to a statement issued today by Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pretty Good, In That They Fooled CBS News Last Night

Like any sane and sentient person, I appreciate the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and lunatics, which is unfortunately something neither Connecticut nor the USA is truly interested in doing.  Instead, they are fixed on keeping guns and ammo away from an upper-middle aged cleric with no history of mental disorder or criminal behavior.  Well, it fools the rubes into thinking something is being done, I guess, which is what politicians want.

However, if such a form of "control" is the goal, the truth is a far better tool than an exaggerated "school shooting map".

Here are 33 Questionable Entries on the ‘Viral’ Everytown Map of All School Shootings Since Newtown

Of course, the easiest way to reduce these episodes would be not to incessantly publicize them on cable news.  But, then, cable news wouldn't be able to charge as much in advertising money.

By the way, most of these shootings occurred in "gun-free zones".  Why won't criminals and lunatics obey the signs?

P.S. Here's some news that's no surprise at all:  The Oregon shooter broke every single gun control law in the state of Oregon.  So, the answer must be that we need more laws.

Bringing You News That You Would Otherwise Miss

There will be a lot in the news today about David Brat, the fellow who defeated the current House Majority Leader in a primary.  One thing that might escape attention is that he's a graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary [as is someone else we know], so I just thought I'd mention it.  His thesis was entitled “God and Advanced Mammon – Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?”

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Feast Day Of The First Book Of Common Prayer [June 13th this year]

Has there ever been composed an extra-scriptural spiritual document of such equal beauty and purpose?

Short answer: Nope.

Today we mark the first BCP and relish its historical and practical importance. As long as the Book is in use and stands as our denominational backbone, we can surmount all temporal fancies, Lilliputian attacks, and theologically squishy church leaders.

Some history, courtesy of this site:

In 1549, under the reign of Edward VI, successor to Henry VIII, the primary language of public worship in England and other areas ruled by Edward was changed from Latin to English, and the first Book of Common Prayer came into use. It was first used on Pentecost Sunday, 9 June 1549, and the occasion is now commemorated "on the first convenient day following Pentecost." The Book was the work of a commission of scholars, but primarily of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was based primarily upon the Latin worship tradition of the Use of Sarum (similar to, but not identical with, the Roman rite used by most Roman Catholic between 1600 and 1950), with some elements taken from the Greek liturgies of the Eastern Church, from ancient Gallican (French) rites, from the new Lutheran order of service, and from the Latin rite of Cologne.

The older usage had grown haphazardly through the centuries, and had added so many complications that it was difficult to follow (the priest often needed to juggle up to a dozen books to get through a single service). The new order pruned and simplified so that only one book other than the Bible was necessary, and so that even the laity could follow the service and participate without difficulty. Moreover, the quality of the English was outstanding. All Christians who worship in English, from Roman Catholics to Southern Baptists and beyond, are in some measure influenced by it, and all to whom it is important that the people of God understand the worship of the Church and take an active part therein have cause to be grateful for the Book of Common Prayer.

Almighty and everliving God, whose servant Thomas Cranmer, with others, restored the language of the people in the prayers of your Church: Make us always thankful for this heritage; and help us so to pray in the Spirit and with the understanding, that we may worthily magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Short break for a couple of days; we'll be back on Thursday.

This Week's Hero

"Bernard Jordan, 89, was told by staff at his Hove care home that he would not be able to travel to France for the ceremony because they could not organise transport for him.

However, the Royal Navy veteran refused to take no for an answer. Showing all the determination that got him through the Normandy invasion, he pinned his medals to his chest, grabbed his raincoat and caught a coach to France.

After prompting an international missing persons alert and a police inquiry, he joined hundreds of his friends to commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of those who did not survive the largest seaborne invasion in history."

Friday, June 6, 2014

In War, One Often Finds The Dramatic Collision Of All Human Experience Concentrated Into A Moment

This is a marvelous photo. The woman in the middle is Arlette Gondrée. Her house was the first to be liberated on D-Day. She was four. The two fellows wearing the maroon berets were members of the British Army parachute regiment that liberated her house and town. Her father was so happy that he dug up the 98 bottles of champagne that he had hidden in their backyard four years earlier. These were liberally shared with the liberators. Her mother hugged the paratroops with such vigor that her face was smudged with camouflage greasepaint. She didn't wash her face for days.

Reporters Used To Fight One Another, Sometimes Literally, To Be Assigned To Cover Something Like This

Nowadays they barely report these stories.

US Department of Agriculture places an order for machine guns. 

They look like this:

Yep, the department mostly responsible for de-flavoring dairy products now requires guns that would be the envy of a drug cartel.  Watch out, you aficionados of raw milk.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What if the Church and the State
Are the mob that howls at the door?
–William Butler Yeats

And I Was There

Forty years ago today was "10 Cent Beer Night" at an Indians/Rangers game.  Yeah, it went about as well as you might expect, especially as the front office forgot to set a limit as to how many beers one person could purchase.  Some of my fellow home-towners have a little capacity problem.

However, to Clevelanders, as it was one of the few times a major league game was forfeited, it was the proudest day in Municipal Stadium history.

A key quote:

Umpire Nestor Chylak, hit by both a chair and a rock, quickly forfeited the game to Texas, officially ending the Indians’ comeback. “They were just uncontrollable beasts,” said Chylak later. “I’ve never seen anything like it except in a zoo.”

And Now, For Something Completely Different

Indian court asked to rule on whether Hindu guru dead or meditating

Monday, June 2, 2014

There May Be A Problem With The New "Religion"

"This isn't a religious thing. There's no evidence that Rodger thought he was a messiah, as other nutjobs have. Rather, it's a therapeutic thing. Therapy culture has created a new army of little gods made fearsomely angry by any perceived insult against their self-esteem. It has generated groups of people who, like something out of the Old Testament, think nothing of squishing things that offend them or hurt their sense of self-worth. It has made a whole new anti-social generation whose desire to protect themselves from emotional harm overrides the older human instinct to engage with other people and be tolerant of their differences. When Rodger says "I am a living god," he is speaking, not from any kind of wacky religious script, but from the mainstream bible of therapy. The cult of therapy convinces individuals they are gods and that their self-esteem is a gospel that must not be blasphemed against. As the New York Times columnist David Brooks once said of a therapeutic self-help guide to life, death, and life after death, "In this heaven, God and his glory are not the center of attention. It's all about you." The self has elbowed aside God; the self is God, as Rodger seems to have realised."

Of course, therapists are often unwilling to surrender to authorities a patient of means.  The longer one holds onto a golden goose, the wealthier one becomes.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

An Obituary Of Note

You may recall Ann B. Davis for her role as "Alice" on The Brady Bunch or, if you're closer to my age, "Schultzy" on The Bob Cummings Show.  However, she was also a devout Episcopalian who lived half of her life in a community of like-minded people dedicated to prayer and good works.

Her obituary may be found here.  An interesting article about her may be found here: "How Ann B. Davis changed my life".


In my view, the most senseless thing to do in the coverage of this story is to agree to participate in Rodger’s delusion and claim his murders are evidence of an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of women and the interests of men. The reality is that the vast, vast, vast majority of men do not view women as interchangeable, and do not see us as reducible to hair color and body type. I refuse to tack this story onto recent trends like the “not all men” tag because absolutely everyone’s interests are being ill-served here. The dichotomy here isn’t, I think, between men and women; it’s between people who orient their love outward and those who orient their love inward, in other words good and evil. To lose track of that is to lose track of the source of the moral disorder and instead to get swept up in it."