Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Personal History

I had the occasion on my latest trip to Cleveland to stop by a couple of places that were formative in my early self-education.  The first was the former Coventry Road Books, now known as Mac's Backs, which is located in what was once the counter-culture area of the city.  It was here that I could find books that were offered nowhere else and be introduced to ideas and perspectives that were beyond those presented by any of my high school teachers.  It was in this neighborhood that a seminal indepedent theater company was founded and located, where the first and only Greenwich Village-style coffee shop in the city would be found, and where highly original musical acts would perform.  Even in college, when home for holidays, I would make the trek to "the road".  It's also the only non-university bookstore where I could find copies of the poetry of James Magner, of whom I wrote a couple of years ago.
[Forgive the 'cloudiness' of the photos; it wasn't smoky, I was using the phone's crud cam. 
As ever, click to enlarge.]

Although smaller than it once was, as the aforementioned coffee shop has expanded into the bookstore, it's still a source of uniqueness.  As a bonus, next door is Record Rendezvous, where I bought my first "real" album.  [It was Sgt. Pepper, in case you were wondering.]  "The 'Vous" store downtown was where the term "rock and roll" was coined.  Now, it mostly sells t-shirts and drug paraphernalia in a rather poor attempt to evoke the lost relevance of the neighborhood.

Also, 'cash' for old record albums, which are now back in vogue.

The other source of my autodidactism was the Cleveland Museum or Art, which is the finest of its kind in the world, boasting one of the West's largest collections of Asian art and medieval armor, along with impressive collections of Western art.  It's also absolutely free to the public.

The new atrium connects all of the buildings of the museum, which is wise given the severe weather of the Midwest, and also serves as a great place for weddings, graduations, and other celebrations.

This was my favorite exhibit when I was a boy, for obvious reasons.

The Christian and Asian collections are sublime, too.

A reredos.
An 8th Century portable altar.  Nice, eh?

This is approximately the size of a shoe box.

Shiva dancing above the meditative garden:

And, of course, my old buddy Hanuman, the monkey god:

Friday, August 29, 2014

I Imagine It Was A Rather Slow Chase

PBS: Using tip from social media, USDA seizes 1,200 illegal giant snails

Slow News Day, Or Surfing News

Peeing in the ocean: Is it OK?

A Clarification For Those Who Are Contacting The Parish And Its Rector

A few days ago, a former rector of my parish had a letter published in the New York Times.  As it concerned the conflict in Gaza, it stirred many, many passionate feelings.  It also filled my answering machine and e-mail account with a great amount of angry, dismissive, and sneering messages from those who thought that the former rector still works here.

So, I offer the following:

The Rev. Bruce Shipman, chaplain of the Episcopal Church at Yale, concluded his service to Christ Church in 1999.  He is not, nor has he been, a staff member of the parish since that time.  The parish of Christ Church has no comment to offer on this matter.

Some background about the controversy, as I'm sure just about everyone in town has now been made privy to at least a portion of it:

The original letter from the NYT

The first reaction to the letter from The Washington Post

The second reaction to the letter from The Washington Post

An article about the letter from The Yale Daily News

A guest column from The Yale Daily News

Commentary from The Wall Street Journal

A statement from Yale University: "Rev. Shipman is called to serve the Episcopal campus community at Yale, but is not employed by Yale or the Yale Chaplain’s Office."

As of this posting, the Diocese of Connecticut Episcopal Church in Connecticut has not issued a statement regarding this issue.

Yes, This Was In NYC. Similar Episodes Have Happened in LA, Too.

Monday night, on the upper east side of New York City, a gang of anti-Semitic "thugs" attacked a peaceful but visibly Jewish man – he was wearing a skullcap (a yarmulke or kippa). They also attacked his wife.

Again, Just Say "Allahu Akbar" And All Will Be Well

CBS: Professor Bans College Students From Saying ‘Bless You’ In Class

Relax, pal.  You're only a professor; you're not a plumber or carpenter.  You know, someone useful.

I Noticed Last Week; Northeast Ohio, Too

Left Behind in Rural Northwest Ohio

The Government Is Your Father And Your Mother

Parking sign

I Spent Part Of 1999 Looking For One Of These

TWO ancient Mayan cities found in the Mexican jungle after three thousand years hidden from humanity

Well, This Is A Different Perspective

Religion spawns both benevolent saints and murderous fanatics. Could dopamine levels in the brain drive that switch?


I come from a place where hunting is part of the culture, which means guns are familiar tools.  [Feel free to clutch your pearls now, Episcopal clergy in Connecticut.]  I fired my first rifle at the age of 12, which was the way it worked.  It was a single shot .22 short, for those of you who know what that means.  We worked up from there, with care and very cautious instruction.  [My uncle was a state cop and was scrupulous about safe training].  When I was fifteen, I fired my first sub-machine gun, a Thompson, but only on single fire.  We were never permitted to fire it on full-auto.  In fact, current infantry rifles don't have a full-auto capability.

Clearly, the age of my uncle is over, as at least twice now in the past few years, gun "instructors" [Who certifies these people anymore?] have allowed a child to fire a full-auto, short-barreled, and notoriously unwieldy weapon with predictable and tragic results.  [Gunnery Sergeant Jackson, who was ultimately responsible for my training in military riflery, had some very pungent things to say about the uselessness of the Uzi.]

This story is incredibly sad, as it means that this child now has a mortal trauma with which to deal for the remainder of her life.

It's Okay. They Had 'Important Thinkers'.

New York Times Hosts Panel on Farming, Forgets to Invite Farmers

Monday, August 25, 2014


The world is too much with us.  Well, with me.  It's break time.  Maybe we'll return on Thursday....

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The NYT Catches Up With Yours Truly

Heck, I was writing about Duke two years ago.

Now some non-surfing academic guy from the pretentious Times joins the club:

Duke of Hawaii: A Swimmer and Surfer Who Straddled Two Cultures

Bonus: He was an Episcopalian.  Duke, that is.

Planting Churches As A Remedy For Decline

Do Episcopalians Have a Church Planting Problem?
" 2012, the entire Episcopal Church planted just three congregations. To place that into perspective, since its formation in 2009, the relatively small Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) — which reports one-eighth the attendance of the Episcopal Church — has planted 488 new congregations."

New Ventures In Ministry

Michigan church gives away circus animal manure

Friday, August 22, 2014

No. Next Question.

Can the world name evil as evil?
Perhaps, then, we can agree on something. Perhaps we can agree that what ISIS is doing is…unsettling? Okay. Maybe we could go further and call it…wrong? And is it possible, just possible, that we may find ourselves naming their untethered sadism…evil? You see, once we have moved from a cozy, theoretical, dispassionate, anthropologic interest in a human affair to a true understanding of what is happening, we find ourselves stirred by a deeper sense of inviolable (perhaps, even sacred) human dignity and justice. We have moved from the realm where all truth and morality is relative (where ISIS can do what it wants as long as it has the power to do it because ‘who am I to judge?’) to the realm where there is an absolute standard of truth and morality (where human life is dignified, ought to be respected and the violation of this dignity demands justice be served).

I've Seen Some Nervous Grooms-To-Be In My Career, But This Guy Is The Winner

A fiancé faked his own death by telephoning his partner and pretending to be his father breaking the bad news - so he could get out of his approaching wedding day, it was revealed today.

NYT: Who Will Stand Up for the Christians?

WHY is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taylor Swift Hates Rhode Island Surfers

Even when they're using a public beach, apparently.  I really don't know much about this auto-tuned product of the music industry, save that she's transiently popular with the girls at my school, but it appears that her security people hassled a collection of Christian surfers praying before a morning session this summer.  Again, on a public beach that has been a gathering place for some years now for those of us who combine faith and wave-riding.  Usually, country music "figures" aren't sour on Jesus, so this is rather a pity.

We'll pray for you, Taylor.

As a palate cleanser, here's a country song played by real musicians with real instruments with a positive reference to Jesus.

Charles Mingus - Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting (Antibes 1960)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


NYC bans body boarding.  Yeah, that's right.
The law seems to be a result of some boogie boarding-kids getting swept out to sea during Hurricane Bertha. The Parks department didn’t like that, so, assuming that the three-foot hunks of foam are encouraging people with no ocean skills to get in over their head, they’ve ended the fun for all kinds of kids who just want to frolic in the summertime Atlantic. It’s a head scratcher.
"If you don't want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground," warns Officer Sunil Dutta of the Los Angeles Police Department, "just do what I tell you."

Sorry, but Jonathan Daniels tried to do that; his story is rather instructive.


"As McMorris-Santoro notes in the BuzzFeed piece, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) has introduced a bill called the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act, citing such unsettling developments as a U.S. Department of Agriculture solicitation for submachine guns."

When even the Deprtment of Education has it own SWAT team, there's something wrong happening.

Actually, This Fits My Current Mood More Than "Hoodoo Man"

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells - Hoodoo Man

Archaeological News


Maya cities rediscovered

I Credit My Strongly Worded Letter To The Secretary Of The Navy For This

Navy reverses Bible ban

Nothing sways politicians like a letter from a former lance corporal.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It Was Probably Mozart. That Would Chase Me Away.

Wagner, on the other hand....

Colorado Hiker Sings Opera, Fends Off Mountain Lion Attack

Marine Archaeological News

Scientists begin removing encrusted debris and rust from Confederate submarine

It's remarkable how painstaking this process is, especially when one considers that the sub was originally raised fourteen years ago.

In My Day In The East Village, They Had Some Artificial Help In Getting "Trance-Like"

Great Musicians Go into 'Trance-Like' State

Given how some of them turned out, I'm glad I was never a great musician.

The article is an interesting explanation of the brain when it's in a natural "flow state", however.

Ah, Memories

Watching the news just now, I was reminded of what an old-time reporter told me when I was a stringer for UPI Radio: "When the riot police charge at you, get your wristwatch off. It's hard to dig those little parts out of your wrist." I recall he said some things about which types of liquor to avoid, too, although I don't recall him avoiding any himself.

Of course, that was back in the "Adam 12" days of law enforcement. I'm trying to imagine how I would have felt if they were wearing full combat gear, complete with Marine Corps surplus pants and boots, and armed with the select fire, short barreled M4 assault rifle seen above. My wristwatch would be the least of my concerns, I think.

"It turns out that the private sector can build roads."

Ask me sometime about how the Roman Empire's highway system was built and maintained.  Not only did it unite what's now Europe and enable the spread of Christianity, it was done so in a way the made money rather than wasted it.

From the article to which we link:
A grandfather sick of roadworks near his home defied his council and built his own toll road allowing people to circumvent the disrupted section. Opened on Friday, it’s the first private toll road built since cars became a familiar sight on British roads 100 years ago. …Mike Watts, 62, hired a crew of workmen and ploughed £150,000 of his own cash into building a 365m long bypass road in a field next to the closed A431. He reckons it will cost another £150,000 in upkeep costs and to pay for two 24 hour a day toll booth operators. …Father of four Mike asked his friend John Dinham if he would mind renting him the field until Christmas and hired three workmen to help build the road in just 10 days. He worked with the Highways Agency, has public liability insurance… But a spokesman for the council said it was not happy about the bold build.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Surfing News

Man surfs mobility scooter down flooded Netherlands street

Gosh, I Hope Not

Is college radio dying?

It was college radio that started my long, tortuous trip from introvert to professional extrovert.  I was a disc jockey, newscaster, and music director of my college station during my three and one-half years in higher ed and it was one of the highlights of my life.  I still miss broadcasting, as I miss directing high school plays, but my other duties are just as public and require many of the same skills, so I don't lament too much.

Still, there's something to be said about playing Theolonius Monk at 3 in the morning, sitting in a quiet studio illuminated by just one desk lamp and knowing that your entire audience is either insomniacs or those closing down some dingy bar on Main Street.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Martyrs Of Mosul And Baghdad

Anglican Vicar of Baghdad: ‘Child I baptized cut in half by ISIS’

Nettleton X 3

The hymn tune Nettleton is the pure product of the part of the world in which I've spent most of my adult life.  It has tremendous resonance with the cultural history of the Northeastern United States. When I hear its various renditions, I hear the reel of the Scots/Irish, the twang of mountain music, the simple cadences of homemade instrumentation, and the dependence on voices soft, loud, and impassioned from a top tenor to a rich bass.  I've heard it played on an organ, of course, and many times, but also from a string quartet, on a guitar, and from a small, A capella Gospel choir.  In quiet moments in sanctuaries where I've served I've been known to sing it by myself in the solitary reaches of a vigil.

When the words are added, it may offer the best aural and oral presentation of American theology ever composed.  More of the tune, the lyrics, and the composer[s] may be read of at this link.

Below are three videos that display the breadth of this fine hymn that still graces the Episcopal Church's latest version of the hymnal.  The first is a "big" treatment by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the second sung in a noisy bar by a popular music group, and the third played simply on a homemade cigar box guitar.  The latter is how it would have been heard in small churches and missions in the 19th century.

Tillich #5

This Might Make Golf Watchable

Fight Over Golf Rules Sends 2 To Hospital

Twenty Weeks Until Christmas

Eggnog blast in New Jersey injures two, damages building

Right When I Thought "Ebola" Had Replaced "Shark Attack" As The Lazy Reporter's Summer Friend

Watch great white sharks trying to eat an underwater robot

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sunset, Oahu

It's Not Just The Meaning Of Words That Is Disintegrating, It's Geographic Knowledge, Too

Bonhoeffer #5

I Miss My Banana Bike Sometimes. I'd Like To Ride One In A Triathlon, If Just To Watch The Reaction From The Other Competitors.

11 Ways Kids Used to Soup-Up Their Bikes

Why Do You Play The Bass?

Well, I haven't in about three years.  I guess I lost the calling.  But the article linked explains the reasons why, why not, and how to play the four strings.  Plus some bonus video.

I (used to) play the electric bass. It's not a bass guitar, although everyone calls it that. There actually is an instrument called a "bass guitar." It has six strings and is tuned lower than a regular guitar, but it's not a bass. A bass is that doghouse with the four strings. The electric kind hangs on your neck and gives you a bad back (left side), deafness, and a couple hundred bucks a night for as many nights as you'll show up, because every other person in the world is an unemployed guitar player. Own a bass and you'll always work.

Well, I Can Scratch #1, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 38, 39, 40, 42, and 46 Off The List; Still Have A Ways To Go, Though

62 of the World's Most Beautiful Libraries

They don't have to be grand to be useful or helpful, though.  I mean, I wrote part of a master's thesis and a dissertation in #30, but most of the library work I did in my early days, that which prepared me for everything I did later and even aided my research for my doctorate, was at this modest place where my sister still works.

And it also has this really unfortunate yearbook page in its collection:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In Violation Of Matthew 25:32

Half goat, half sheep, totally adorable: Meet Butterfly the geep

That's Nothing. You Should See What I Found In The Back Of The Fridge.

The University of Pennsylvania's Penn Museum announced Tuesday that it had rediscovered a 6,500-year-old human skeleton originally excavated from southern Iraq around 1930.

The complete remains, which had been kept in a coffin-like box, were missing documentation until researchers recently began digitizing the museum's collection from an expedition to Ur, an ancient city near modern-day Nasiriyah.

This is a little embarrassing as this is the place where I was taught archaeology and they were scrupulous about instilling in us the need for precise record-keeping.  I guess an "Oops" is in order.

Watertown, Connecticut, That Hotbed Of Violent Crime, Gets Itself Armored Assault Weapons

I feel so safe, I can't tell you.  I just hope I don't have any overdue books from the Watertown Library.
WATERTOWN, Conn. — When Waterbury's Emergency Response Team set out to arrest two suspects in a home-invasion case early this month, they went in force: Two heavily armored trucks led a convoy of officers to nab the suspects at a house on Laurel Street.
Plus this gem:
"It's a great opportunity for the public to learn about the police and what we do," Molnar said. "It's definitely a big icebreaker with the kids."

Yep, it's all about the children.

Fortunately, law enforcement is scrupulously trained:
Police firearms instructor shoots himself in hand during lesson

Costa Verde, Peru

This Must Be Acquaintance Day

As I've received yet another communication from yet another member of the circle of people who come and go in my life.  This one is a very interesting spiritual travelogue which I would recommend reading.

The Way, It’s True, Is a Life
An acquaintance sent me this photo. As it is the centennial of the beginning of WWI this month, this is how the site of the Battle of the Somme looks today. Trenches still mar the landscape. Pictured is the view from a German trench overlooking the surprisingly close British trench. Around one million soldiers were killed or wounded in this battle alone. Among the dead was my grandmother's fiance.

Photo: An acquaintance sent me this photo.  As it is the centennial of the beginning of WWI this month, this is how the site of the Battle of the Somme looks today.  Trenches still mar the landscape.  Pictured is the view from a German trench overlooking the surprisingly close British trench.  Around one million soldiers were killed or wounded in this battle alone.  Among the dead was my grandmother's fiance.

The Same Thing Happened To Me...

... and that was at a public park in Connecticut.

The Dublin Girls have developed quite a reputation around southeast Georgia. They’ve run road races dressed up like Chick-fil-A cows and superheroes. And it’s not all that unusual to see the ladies accessorizing their running attire with tutus and feather boas.

A few weeks ago the Dublin Girls had gathered inside the local mall for an evening power walk. They formed a small circle and as they had done many times before, they bowed their heads to petition the Almighty. 

But before one of the runners could say, “Lord Jesus,” she was interrupted by a mall cop barreling down a corridor. 

“The security guard came running toward us and said, ‘You are not allowed to pray at the mall. That’s against the policy,’” Tammy told me.

I especially enjoyed this exchange:
"They won’t even allow patrons to ask God to bless General Tso’s chicken at the food court’s Chong Wah Express. 'I said, sir, are you saying that people who eat in the food court can’t bow their heads and pray?' she said. “He said, ‘No ma’am.’ That’s exactly what he said.'"

Laundromat Instead Of Church? Not Quite, NPR

A Growing Movement To Spread Faith, Love — And Clean Laundry

This is a good idea and a lot of transient surfers use it, too.  In fact, I used this facility myself when in Huntington Beach for a surf trip.  [I paid, though, as I'm not indigent.] However, the NPR story makes it seem that the laundry is a replacement for church, rather than its extension, which rather misses the point.

Also, this Episcopal Church ministry has been around for at least 17 years, so it's hardly new.

If I Were In College Today, I Wouldn't Be In College

Guilty until proven innocent, draconian "speech codes" and a quarter million in personal debt: Welcome to college, kid.

Camus #5

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wait. What?

Border Patrol agents recently arrested 13 illegal immigrants disguised as U.S. Marines and riding in a fake military van, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday.

I'm guessing these weren't poor, downtrodden children.

I Now Have To Address One Of My Seminary Classmates As "Your Eminence"

Archbishop Nourhan Manougian is elected 97th Patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Nourhan His Eminence once told me that I should cut my hair very short and wear a bandanna during the cold months to keep my hair.  I told him it would be easier if I were Armenian as they're nothing but hair.  He replied that everything was easier if one is Armenian.

He's now in my prayers as are all Christians in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Spiritual But Not Religious? Please Stop Boring Me.

Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn't interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.

As They Used To Say In India During The Raj: "The Government Is Your Mother And Your Father"

Put Down the Cupcake: New Ban Hits School Bake Sales

Naive quote of the day: "Said Tennessee's Mr. Sevier: 'It's not like we're going to have a brigade of black helicopters coming in to check.'"

Not yet, Sparky; not yet.  Besides, it'll be drones, not helicopters.

Hossegor, France

Yeah, That's A Real "Learning Center"

But when the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.

The disintegration of word knowledge is going to create more and more problems.


Aquinas #5

Archaeological News

A SET of mysterious, 5,000-year-old Scottish rock carvings could see the light of day again, after being buried 50 years ago to protect them from vandals.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Always Enjoyed Playing The Bass Line To This

Waimea Bay, Oahu

Tillich #4

Sacramental News

300 in brawl at New Jersey wedding

Flesh-Eating Bacteria Is The New Summer Shark Story

I have written many times about the tendency in summer, when newsroom staffs are reduced because of vacationing reporters, for the media to publish a number of "shark attack" stories.  These are ideal as they can be written in advance with specific details quickly and easily added later when an attack occurs.

[The stories tend to follow the same "plot": Swimmer/surfer/boater goes in the water, feels sharp tug, finds he/she is missing an arm/leg/life.]

This summer there's a new kid on the block: the flesh-eating bacterium.  Like sharks, bacteria are around all year, occasionally "attacking" those who swim/boat/surf, but are highlighted so strongly in the summer that they are thought to be a seasonal curse.

1 Dead, 1 Sickened From Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Flesh-Eating Bacteria Found In Warm Florida Water

Maryland man leaves hospital after bout with flesh-eating bacteria

Mississippi man dies from flesh-eating bacteria

Etc.  You get the idea.