Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Some Positive Things From Last Week

I've been encouraging my students and my parishioners [and yours truly] to think as often about thanksgivings as we do concerns and petitions.  In light of which, I had two moments for which I gave quiet thanks last week.

When I served in a variety of educational and administrative positions at Berkshire School in Massachusetts almost two decades ago, I was in charge of several aspects of campus life, especially with the committee that hired faculty and another committee that chose student leaders.

Last week I was reminded of these responsibilities when, first, a lower school student at Rumsey Hall School told me that her father knew me.  As it turned out, I had been the one to recommend his hiring as one of our history teachers many years ago when he had just graduated from college.  I was delighted to learn that he was married, still teaching [now at Taft School], and blessed with two children, both of whom are members of my student body.

The second good bit of news involved a former student whom I had recommended for a significant campus leadership position when he was a high school senior, a decision that was met with no small amount of resistance and criticism from my fellow faculty [a commonplace practice on their part, I'm sorry to say].  While I suppose that his leadership qualities were shared with only a few, the headmaster [a true professional and fine gentleman] backed me and the student grew into his role.

I was casually reading something the other day and discovered that the student was recently named a deputy editor of the New York Daily News.  Not bad for someone not yet forty-years-old and vindicating, too, in light of his high school teachers' lack of faith in him.

It's always nice to participate in a very small way in another's development and I'm happy for both of them.  Thanks, Lord, for letting our lives cross paths.

How Things Change: A Library In Kabul, Afghanistan In The Late 1950's


Friday, September 26, 2014

It's Friday. See You In Church This Weekend.

News Flash: Grab The Popcorn...

...as the Presiding Bishop election horse race has just begun.  Moral and every other form of preening will now be in evidence as everyone will have her or his opinion as to what should [or must] happen next.

Episcopal Church's Katharine Jefferts Schori To Step Down After Current Term

[No offence to the Huffington Post, but this isn't news to those of us who have been paying attention.]

Headline Of The Week

Rampaging Drunken Pig Gets in Fight with Cow 


When I was a stringer [that's a free-lancer for a newspaper who is brought in when needed to supplement the workforce and is usually paid by the word] I used to regularly cover the monthly meetings of a town's sewer board.  Yes, it was as exciting as it sounds.  The torpor was exacerbated by a board entirely staffed by anthropomorphic hot air balloons.

One time, in my bored inattention, I made an error in reporting.  I listed the name of a speaker at a public meeting incorrectly.  I think I wrote "Smolenski" instead of "Zolinski" or something like that.  The paper had to issue a correction and I was given an excoriating lecture by the editor about the importance of accuracy.

Needless to say, I was exceedingly careful about such things from that point forward.

I'm trying to imagine what happened to this NYT reporter:

Embedded image permalink

This Is Going To Get Someone Hurt

Student in Military Jacket Prompts Lockdown at Southington School
"Police said a school employee spotted a suspicious man in the hallway and described him as standing 5 feet 7 inches tall and wearing a green military-type jacket.  According to police, a student matching the staff member's description was found in a classroom and identified as the person in question.  The student did not pose a threat and, after completing a secondary search, police gave the all clear."
The "threat" has already been realized.  It was presented by a nervous, myopic school employee and an anxious constabulary.  The student body has now been traumatized by its second lockdown [nice, a prison term in use in public schools] in two weeks.

[I wish I had known when I was in high school, back when army surplus jackets were commonly worn, that a "military-type" jacket could cause a whole government school to cease to function.  It would have been handy on exam days.  I wonder how many unlawful searches were made by the police during this most recent "lockdown"?  These days, with schools and colleges manifesting weird understandings of constitutional rights, I wish I were a litigious lawyer.  I would clean up.]

Non-Theists Often Tell Me That People Of Faith Are Hypocrites. If So, We're Not Alone.

This is Leo's plane:

This is Leo's boat:

This is Leo's "nap room".  Yes, it's just for naps:

This is Leo's kiddie pool:

This is Leo at the climate change march informing the rest of us that we should live more simply:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jesus Sighting

Festival-goer in Ecorse finds pierogi with 'face of Jesus'

The Polls Just Closed

Gee, No Kidding, New York Times

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

None, NONE of the gun control laws implemented in the state of Connecticut since the Sandy Hook atrocity [at which I was one of the responders] would have prevented those murders from happening.  Not one.  All of the laws that were passed were done so by oleaginous politicians cynically manipulating the emotional response of the populace.

[Criminals and lunatics are, by definition, outlaws; they exist outside of laws.  Pass and sign all the laws you want, but they will ignore them.]

I would also point out this other fact that has finally been acknowledged by the Times in the same article:

"Annually, 5,000 to 6,000 black men are murdered with guns. Black men amount to only 6 percent of the population. Yet of the 30 Americans on average shot to death each day, half are black males."

Good Morning, Everyone. Scots Wha Hae!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Guess The State

Woman's miniature horse uses courtroom as restroom

Pope says world's many conflicts amount to piecemeal World War Three

Technically, it would be World War IV, as many historians agree that the Napoleonic Era produced the first world-wide war, as conflict visited most of the planet.

Anyway, here's more:

"War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying," he said. "Greed, intolerance, the lust for power. These motives underlie the decision to go to war and they are too often justified by an ideology ...," he said.

Theological News

Christ Arrested for Assaulting Muhammed in San Rafael 

It's A Religious War, As Many Are Beginning To Slowly Realize

New York Times:
There are three reasons for this invisibility. The political left in the West associates Christian faith with dead white male imperialism and does not come naturally to the recognition that Christianity is now the globe’s most persecuted religion. And in the Middle East the Israel-Palestine question, with its colonial overtones, has been the left’s great obsession, whereas the less ideologically convenient plight of Christians under Islamic rule is often left untouched.
To America’s strategic class, meanwhile, the Middle East’s Christians simply don’t have the kind of influence required to matter. A minority like the Kurds, geographically concentrated and well-armed, can be a player in the great game, a potential United States ally. But except in Lebanon, the region’s Christians are too scattered and impotent to offer much quid for the superpower’s quo. So whether we’re pursuing stability by backing the anti-Christian Saudis or pursuing transformation by toppling Saddam Hussein (and unleashing the furies on Iraq’s religious minorities), our policy makers have rarely given Christian interests any kind of due.
Then, finally, there is the American right, where one would expect those interests to find a greater hearing. But the ancient churches of the Middle East (Eastern Orthodox, Chaldean, Maronites, Copt, Assyrian) are theologically and culturally alien to many American Catholics and evangelicals. And the great cause of many conservative Christians in the United States is the state of Israel, toward which many Arab Christians harbor feelings that range from the complicated to the hostile.
Heck, read the whole thing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Friday. See You In Church This Weekend.

I'm Going To Get Clobbered On This A Little Later Today

I read an article that I found odd in The Living Church, as linked to from my alma mater, The General Theological Seminary in New York City, on Facebook this morning and, against my better judgement, wrote a response to it via the same medium.  I suspect I will be in for a day of responses, including some that will be defensive or condescending.  Then again, the last time I did something like this the Seminary merely deleted my posting.

Anyway, here's what I said in case it gets erased later today:

"Describing life at GTS in the past as "cloistered" is misleading. We were always encouraged to explore a rich variety of ministry opportunities and, unless I missed the fine print somewhere, were never limited in our participation in the community outside of The Close. I believe I may speak for all of my classmates in this regard. As long as we satisfied our academic and community requirements and expectations, there was considerable freedom granted to us. It was why I elected to attend GTS."

The original article may be found here.

[Update: Yep, they deleted it.]

I Wonder If They Demand The Same From Muslim Organizations

California's State University school system has “derecognized” the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) on discriminatory grounds for requiring that group leaders be Christian.

A Fine Essay With Implications For Congregational Consideration, Too

To appreciate “King Lear”—or even “The Catcher in the Rye” or “The Fault in Our Stars”—only to the extent that the work functions as one’s mirror would make for a hopelessly reductive experience. But to reject any work because we feel that it does not reflect us in a shape that we can easily recognize—because it does not exempt us from the active exercise of imagination or the effortful summoning of empathy—is our own failure. It’s a failure that has been dispiritingly sanctioned by the rise of “relatable.” In creating a new word and embracing its self-involved implications, we have circumscribed our own critical capacities. That’s what sucks, not Shakespeare.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

This Came In The Mail One Day

It's a physical remnant from a terrible fortnight thirteen years ago.  The card that came with it said, 

"Awarded to an individual serving in any capacity within the DOT, Merchant Marines or other civilians, for an act or service that contributed to recovery from the attacks of September 11 2001, force protection following the attacks, or efforts that directly contributed to the increased infrastructure security effort between September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2002."

There was no ceremony for its awarding, which is fitting as I wouldn't have attended, anyway.  I was a part of too many "ceremonies" associated with this date to desire to attend another.  Too many funerals, too many "freedom isn't free"- themed speeches, too many sentimentally intoned prayers/sermons by clergy.  

It was earned, I suppose, for facilitating the proper Christian treatment of the dead and for the compassion we offered through counsel to their friends and families. It's in a drawer, where I have also put those memories.  The dead are in hands far more compassionate and peaceful.  We, the living, have the present with which to deal, and some very real responsibilities to our community and our churches to build.

This Is How A Guitar Is Played

I have grim memories of today which, after thirteen years, I'd like to put on the shelf of experience.  So, here's some music offered by Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, two of the great guitar artists of our era.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Archaeological News; And I'm Changing My Name To Sven Forkbeard

Viking 'ring fortress' discovered in Denmark

Glad My Church Is A Colonial

Woman Killed By Falling Piece Of Gargoyle Statue Outside Church

I don't mean to make light of this, as I know from a lot of experience that Gothic churches require an extraordinary amount of care and maintenance and always seem to have bits and pieces falling off of them.  Deferred maintenance is always a danger.

Monday, September 8, 2014

غياب متحدث هيئة الشرقية : جعل محافظة الخفجي تحتضن كنيسة

It's okay, I'll translate.

"...might not be comfortable with what 9 + 6 might mean."

I have no idea what this well-intentioned teacher is talking about.  I am impressed, however, with her ability to turn a simple exercise in addition into near-gibberish.  If we really live in a world where "young learners" are intimidated by two simple numbers and an addition sign, I would like to preach the simplicity and freedom from fear enabled by the use of...flash cards.

[What are flash cards, you ask?  Only the best thing I ever used in my early education.]

Hacker breached HealthCare.gov insurance site


Marketwatch: A hacker broke into part of the HealthCare.gov insurance enrollment website in July and uploaded malicious software, according to federal officials.

Meanwhile, the FBI is busy investigating who stole a bunch of starlets...um..."private" photos.

[Important safety note: When one uploads something to "the cloud", all you are doing is moving your info/photos/etc. to someone else's computer.]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

As We Now Live In A World Where 40-Year-Old Men Dress Like Their 12-Year-Old Sons, This Is More Of A Lost Artifact Than Ever

Back to College Wardrobe From 1948

A new documentary shows how Benedictine monks make men out of Newark’s boys

Then, about a year after I graduated, the monks who ran the school announced that they were shutting it down and closing up their home, Newark Abbey. The shock to the school’s community—students, parents, and alumni—was profound. Some wealthy alumni pledged to do anything necessary to save the institution, but nothing seemed to move the monks. Later we learned of a rift within the Abbey. Some of the monks wanted out of Newark. They left, but a core group stayed and reopened St. Benedict’s within a year with a new mission—principally to serve Newark’s minority children. It seemed like a quixotic task. As Newark deteriorated around them, the monks took on the job of educating teenage boys growing up in a chaotic urban environment. Many students were products of a collapsing public school system that would one day be seized from the city by state officials.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

The "Grunt Padre":

During those early hours, Chaplain Capodanno received word of the battle taking place. He sat in on the morning briefing at the 3rd Battalion's Combat Operations Center. He took notes and listened to the radio reports coming in. As the elements of Company "M" and "K" prepared to load the helicopters. "Fr.Vince" requested to go with them. His Marines needed him. "It's not going to be easy" he stated. As Company "M" approached the small village of Chau Lam, the North Vietnamese opened up on the 2nd Platoon, which was caught on a small knoll, out in the open. The fighting was fierce, hand to hand at times, and the platoon was in danger of being overrun. Father Capodanno went among the wounded and dying, giving last rites and taking care of his Marines. Wounded once in the face and suffering another wound that almost severed his hand, Father Capodanno moved to help a wounded corpsman only yards from an enemy machinegun. Father Capodanno died taking care of one of his men.

He was killed on this day in 1967 and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, one of nine military chaplains so honored.

Before You Pour That Bucket On Yourself

27% of funds raised for ALS research actually go to research

A Curious Silence

Every time there is some controversial moment in our contemporary society, whether it is a police shooting, a slight about a female politician's weight, nonsensical statistics about crimes in colleges, or the horror involved when the government won't pay for every single band-aid, I receive "calls for action" via my e-mail accounts from Christian, often Episcopal, organizations.  Sometimes these are organizations that I had never heard of before and never hear from again, as if they are a chimera summoned solely to exploit one issue.  Weird, huh?

One would expect that the events in Rotherham, in Yorkshire in England's north, would attract the attention not only of those who compose perpetual calls for action, but some commentary from the Church of England or Anglican Communion as this concerns a very real example of a "patriarchal system" and "rape culture".  If expecting such, one would be disappointed, however.

Well, that's alright, we still have our own portion of the Anglican Communion.  Although I have received nothing, nada, skint, zero from the Diocese ECCT, an entity that recently sent me an e-mail that included 78 words explaining why a new font was chosen for their letterhead, we still have a national church news agency with a paid staff.

Click here for their commentary: ENS

And Atheists Tell Me That Christians Are Interested In 'Thought Control'; Check Out What The Benevolent Govt Does

In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment for a Novelist
Imagine that—a novelist who didn't store bombs and guns at the school at which he taught. How improbable! Especially considering that he uses an "alias," which is apparently the law-enforcement term for "nom de plume." (Here is the Amazon page for The Insurrectionist, by the way.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

About Time Someone Said This

The political, media, and educational classes are willfully ignorant of world religion, mainly because they think the world has intellectually and morally evolved beyond the need for it.  Or, more likely, that they've evolved beyond it.  That ignorance has a cost:
Besides the fact that the Pentagon hasn’t a clue how to deal with ISIS militarily, because all it knows how to do is drop bombs, the assumption shining through here is that the Sunni-Shiite civil war could be settled if only its participants were involved in the “global economy.” The Establishment cannot grasp that religion, race, and nationalism are far more powerful motivators than is economics. Globalism, with its hollowing out of the state, is in fact paving the way for more primal war, fought for age-old reasons by entities that are not states.

I'll Be Charitable And Assume That This Writer Simply Doesn't Know The Difference Between Atheism And Deism

Otherwise, either W.W. Norton no longer employs educated editors, or this is just another dull attempt for the elite class to attack the Tea Party bogeyman, or it is a colossal example of an ignorance of religion and philosophy.  Maybe it's a combination of the three.

The Original Tea Partier Was an Atheist

I could respond, but I'd rather let my favorite [actual] atheist do so:

No, the Original Tea Partier Was Not an 'Atheist'

I really wish the deep thinkers would stay away from writing about religion, at least until they know something about it.  As it is, the "smart set" among the Millennials will read this and think this is what "atheism" is, which is a pity as they are already caught in a cage of nebulous definitions whenever they attempt to address spiritual matters.

An Essay On Prayer. More Than That, This Is A Staggeringly Good Essay On Prayer From An Unusual Source And Unexpected Publication

Please click on the highlighted portion and read the whole thing;

I'm deeply sorry to hear about your brother's diagnosis. I'm sending you my thoughts and my heart goes out to your brother and your whole family. Guess what? That was me praying for you. I think the idea of "praying" is a lot less complicated, a lot more powerful, and a little different than you may realize. In fact, I'll bet you're already praying all the time and just don't realize it.

Prayer is a type of thought. It's a lot like meditation — a type of very concentrated mental focus with passionate emotion directed towards a concept or situation, or the lack thereof. But there's a special X-factor ingredient that makes "prayer" different than meditation or other types of thought. That X-factor is humility. This is the most seemingly contradictory aspect of prayer and what many people dislike about the feeling of praying. "Getting down on your knees" is not about lowering your power or being a weakling, it's about showing respect for the size and grandeur of what we call existence — it's about being humble in the presence of the vastness of life, space, and sensation, and acknowledging our extremely limited understanding of what it all really means.

Yes, this is from the Village Voice.  The writer, Andrew W.K., is not a theologian, philosopher, or member of the clergy.  He's a singer/songwriter from NYC.

Archaeological News; Still Not Boring

Huge Wine Cellar Unearthed at a Biblical-Era Palace in Israel
Residue from jars at a Canaanite palace suggest the ruler preferred his red with hints of mint, honey and juniper

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Everything You Know Is Wrong

People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

The Seriousness Of American Pedogogy

A University of Iowa (UI) professor is protesting the venerable football team’s “sexist” pink visitor locker room by marching around in a robot costume Friday afternoon.

The robot is not just a professor, but the dean of their graduate school.  It costs between $17,485 to $36,355 to attend one year at this venerable Midwestern institution.  They use the money to pay these people.

Sesame Street Came Along After My Childhood, But This Still Causes Some Sadness

Sesame Street: not suitable for children
It's not the psychedelic nature of the programme in its 70s incarnation that worries, but the behaviour it might encourage. Children dancing in the street! Grown men reading storybooks to kids - for no apparent reason!
Cookie Monster is the number one problem, not because he is a monster, but because he eats cookies (encourages obesity), and when his addiction takes a special stranglehold, the plate (might hurt). His alter ego, Alistair Cookie, used to smoke a pipe before eating it, which, Sesame Street producer Carol-Lynn Parente explained to the New York Times, "modelled the wrong behaviour", and so Alistair was, tragically, dropped, and he now probably munches down on pipes in bitterness in illegal pipe dens.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Wait, This Is Illegal? Oh-Oh.

(Moores Hill, Ind.) – A Moores Hill couple is facing charges for illegally selling raccoons, skunks and fish out of their home.

Maybe You Need To Be An English Major To Find This Funny...

...but, trust me, it displays how good satire succeeds by coming within a razor's edge of reality.

Grad Student Deconstructs Take-Out Menu
"What's wrong with me?" Rosenblatt asked fellow graduate student Amanda Kiefer following the incident. "Am I completely losing my mind? I just wanted to order some food from Burrito Bandito. Next thing I know, I'm analyzing the menu's content as a text, or 'text,' subjecting it to a rigorous critical reevaluation informed by Derrida, De Man, etc., as a construct, or 'construct,' made up of multi-varied and, in fact, often self-contradictory messages, or 'meanings,' derived from the cultural signifiers evoked by the menu, or 'menu,' and the resultant assumptions within not only the mind of the menu's 'authors' and 'readers,' but also within the larger context of our current postmodern media environment. Man, I've got to finish my dissertation before I end up in a rubber room."

Who Says Archaeology Is Boring?