Thursday, December 31, 2015

Civil Disobendiance + Open Carry = Christian Witness

Well, this would cause the average Episcopal bishop to faint, but here you go:
“We are not complying with a bad law today,” Matthew Short, PR director of Don’t Comply said. “Evidently the city of Dallas believes that it’s wrong, or bad, or unlawful for us to feed more than a certain number of people at a time. But, during Christmas, we want to show love to our community and give these people a chance to survive the winter, whether it be with blankets or coats, or just giving them a holiday party like today with all kinds of cookies, and goodies, turkey and dressing, and the whole nine yards.”

Cleaning Out the Random Photo File Before the End of the Year

Father of the year, as far as I'm concerned.

No comment.

Apollo astronauts hanging around the pool.

I dream of doing this.

More surf-themed weirdness from the '60's.  Also, an M2 would seriously unbalance a board.  Still kinda cool, though.
Separation of Church and State, huh? 

The guys, a long time ago in...ah, you know the rest.

The Element of Monasticism That I Appreciate the Most

For more than 100 years, the cloistered nuns known as the Pink Sisters have worked in shifts to ensure nonstop prayer in Philadelphia’s Chapel of Divine Love.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Obituary of Note [albeit a tardy one]

Joe McGovern Loses Life in Freak Accident

He was Narragansett's own master surfer whom I observed and shared waves with many times.  He was also one of the few surfers in the water older than I.  I went for one last ride the other day and found myself thinking with some wistfulness of him and of our generation of shredders.

Here's more:

Narragansett, surfing community mourn loss of Joe McGovern

Nor Was He a Vegan, a Socialist, a Refugee, or Homeless

No, Jesus Was Not a Palestinian

If True, Then Being an Actual Reporter in the '70's Would Have Killed Them

Reporters claim PTSD from watching violent news

These Surf Nazis are Especially Immature

Beaches often breed territorial tensions, but here, amid homes that routinely sell for millions of dollars, the tactics are unusually fierce. Too many surfers want to ride too few waves. Newcomers seeking entry have retreated in the wake of flattened tires, snapped antennas and slurs scribbled with surf wax on their cars.

It ain't Frankie and Annette, folks.  It never was.

Happy Birthday, Sis

This photo was taken on her birthday in 1977 when we were about two miles from shore on a frozen Lake Erie.  No, we didn't walk out that far.  We drove.

I'm a Convert on #4

The science myths that will not die

I Pointed This Out at An Educational Conference Once. It Was Not a Popular Observation.

I'm glad to see the morally evolved are coming around on this inconvenient truth:

Women-Only Spaces Aren’t Necessarily Safe Spaces

Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Dad Died a Year Ago Today

He was quite a fellow and remarkably accomplished in his field, which was mathematics.  As natural a teacher as you ever saw.  Kind, almost always happy, and always willing to trust people, even strangers.

A couple of months after his death, when I was trying to shape the tail piece of a surfboard and couldn't quite get it right, I called him to ask if he knew of a workable formula for measuring its unusual shape.  That's how natural it was for me to ask him for advice.  He didn't answer, of course, but if he could have, he would have asked me questions that would have enabled me to solve the problem, rather than just tell me what to do.

Turns out, that works even when it seems there is no one on the other end of the line.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Good News for Anglers, Too

Salmon Found Spawning In Farmington River Watershed For First Time in Centuries

Theology in Action

The Economics of Generosity

There is little, if any, virtue in giving gifts to the people we love. Giving gifts to those we love is like giving gifts to ourselves. There is still less virtue in taking what’s under somebody else’s Christmas tree and distributing it to your friends and allies while congratulating yourself on your compassion. To do so is unseemly. Pope Francis is quite right to argue that economic growth alone does not ensure the humane treatment of the poor and the vulnerable — where he is mistaken is that he assumes that there is another side in that argument. Nowhere in the classical liberal tradition, and certainly not in the Anglo-American liberal tradition, has the idea taken root that capitalism is a substitute for generosity. Capitalism is the precondition of generosity. If you want to feed the Lord’s sheep, you must begin by planting the fields.

Who Could Have Foreseen This?

Stadium For Yard Goats May Not Open On Time


[Episcopal Church] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry announced that he has placed three members of the senior administrative staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [the legal name of The Episcopal Church] on administrative leave to investigate allegations of possible misconduct.

Well, this is troubling.  Actually, this is more troubling:
On the second day of the meeting, a hidden tape recorder was found in the council meeting room, secreted under the desk of the presiding bishop and president of the house of deputies. The discussion scheduled for the closed door meeting was on Haiti and staff salaries. A spokesman for the national church said this was the first time of which she was aware that there had been an attempt to bug meetings closed to staff and reporters. There has been no suggestion by the national church that today’s announcement is tied to the eavesdropping incident.
As I have said, even in The Coracle, it seems we have to have a once-a-decade scandal.  Or two.  It must be in some obscure canon somewhere.

Blessed Virgin Mary Sighting

Image On Church Window Resembles Virgin Mary, Draws Throngs Of Spectators

Given That It's Christmas, Connecticut Pastors Could Encourage Seeing the Good in the Midst of Good

Connecticut Pastors Encourage Seeing The Good In The Midst Of Tragedy 

I'm often convinced that Protestants have such a problem discussing angels, virgin birth, miraculous celestial happenings and such that they only feel comfortable at Christmas discussing things such as tragedies for which there is no real answer, the "sin" of consumerism, or the weird belief that the Holy Family were somehow "homeless" or, this year in particular, "refugees".

Speaking of Archaeology, Here's Christmas from the Penn Museum

Bows wrapped around stones from the fabled city of Ur.  Yes, both diggers and squints would find this exciting.

The Glamour and Adventure of Archaeology

Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet

They Left Off One in Connecticut

The world's most beautiful churches.

Someone Should Maybe Mention This to the Department of Education

76 percent of Americans approve of Christmas in public schools, as do 82 percent of parents

Sunday, December 20, 2015

How Science Fiction Found Religion

Once overtly political, the genre increasingly employs Christian allegory.

Sailors Have Been Talking About Rogue Waves for Centuries and, Until Now, Scientists Refused to Believe Them

'Freak' ocean waves hit without warning, new research shows

Now, because scientists are willing to believe it, the truth is permitted to be true.

I Had the Exact Same Sentiment on October 14th, 2004

A 19-year-old Providence man charged with stealing an SUV and ramming it into a police cruiser told police “he just wanted to get out of Rhode Island.”

Long story, let's just say I was leaving the worst job I've ever worked.  The differences being 1) I didn't need to steal a vehicle as I had my own and 2) I didn't ram a police cruiser on my way out of the state.  However, I really did want to get out of Rhode Island that day and would have gladly stolen a vehicle and rammed a series of police cars to attain that goal.

I also mark it as the day The Episcopal Church and I declared a separate peace.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ohio Man!

Ohio man rents entire theater for 'Star Wars' movie

Cleveland Man!

Cleveland man arrested, alligator in custody after SWAT standoff

The Head and the Heart - Rivers and Roads

Sun Ra

[Originally posted on December 14, 2012] 

"I hereby declare myself another order of being.  Will you give up your destiny?"

Legally, I was too young to be in a nightclub by about three years.  I tended to take advantage of my older appearance to get into places where musicians I wanted to see were performing.  Sometimes it would be to places like the Smiling Dog Saloon on Cleveland's West 25th St., where a sixty year old man dressed in gold lamé with a pharoah's headpiece was leaning over me, while he conga-lined across the floor, bidding me to repeat after him and declare myself another order of being.

I did so, if just to appease his intergalactic majesty, Sun Ra.  Also, I was concerned that if I didn't go along, the bouncer would notice that I was only eighteen years old in a 21+ club.

Still, sneaking into a nightclub was a chance I was willing to take to see one of the most unique, if not the most unique, jazz composers, performers, and orchestra leaders of the 20th century. 

Every performer needs his or her "hook", the gimmick that marks them as particular and causes them pleasantly to lodge in the memory and regard of the public.  We all know, if we're old enough, that Jack Benny was cheap, that Rodney Dangerfield did not get no respect, and that Pete Townsend would bust his guitar on stage at the conclusion of a performance [oh, to have had that guitar repair contract].  Duke Ellington was elegant; Count Basie wore a yachting cap; Dizzy Gillespie's cheeks blew out like a puffer fish's.

Although Herman Poole Blount originally had no stage gimmick, he did have enough talent to play any type of jazz, even the kind that was heard only within his head.  As a young man, he played piano with both jazz groups and rhythm and blues bands.  He loved all kinds of music and was able to, after listening once to a musical selection, render it on paper in correctly transposed notation. 

In the mid-1930's he formed his own band, The Sonny Blount Orchestra.  They toured a lot of small towns and were critically acclaimed, which meant they were flat broke and out of business within a year.  He then found a lot of work with all sorts of bands in Birmingham, Alabama; enough to keep him from starvation, anyway.

To understand Blount's transformation, one must have an appreciation for the particulars of Birmingham jazz.  Each city has a style, of course, some are obvious and well-known: the raucous, joyful noise of Chicago, the jangly energy of Detroit, the earthiness of St. Louis, the low-down bluesy-ness of Memphis, the antique slide and jump of New Orleans.  The jazz of Cleveland is always marked by the use of the organ.  To this day, I cannot hear a Hammond B3 and not find my senses transported to Euclid Avenue at night.

Birmingham nightclubs favored the exotic in their stage design, with dramatic lighting and murals depicting scenes of far-away dreamscapes.  The sound they produced was tight and big, with full orchestras inviting people, both black and white, to the dance floors.  Because it was a small city, B-Town musicians saw themselves as a community, always well-dressed and, in public, well-behaved.  Their camaraderie was obvious both in their mutual regard and in the remarkable music they produced.  It was once said that one B-Town jazz man could read the mind of another, knowing when an extemporaneous key change was coming or whose turn it would be to offer the next solo without having to rely on any obvious form of intramural communication.

It was in this milieu that Blount really learned his craft; and it was in Birmingham that he had a moment of, well, let's just call it a form of interplanetary psycho-sacred epiphany.  We'll let him describe it:

"… my whole body changed into something else. I could see through myself.... I wasn't in human form … I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn … they teleported me and I was down on stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop [attending college] because there was going to be great trouble in schools … the world was going into complete chaos … I would speak [through music], and the world would listen. That's what they told me."

While it took a few years, and service in the US Army during WWII to realize, it appears that Sonny Blount never really returned from Saturn.  He was replaced by Sun Ra, the persona and the name that he adopted in the early 1950's.  Although they would bear various, albeit similar, names during the next forty years, from that time forward Sun Ra would always be the leader of his "Arkestra".

So it was in the winter of 1974 that I found myself, after discovering his music in the dusty back wall of the record library of the radio station where I served as a part-time, late night DJ, experiencing the magic and mystery of Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Space Arkestra.  While some of it was truly weird, most of the music was a recognizable collision of bebop, Miles Davis-style laments, orchestral jazz, and improvisation on an early synthesizer.  It was both classic and spacey at the same time.  One moment, after one of Ra's jaunts around the room bidding us all to repeat after his bizarre intergalactic creed, and at the end of a particularly dis-harmonic moment of space jazz, without a word he and the Arkestra smoothly jumped into Ellington's "Take the A Train" and played it flawlessly.  In fact, it may have been the best live version I've ever heard. 

Sun Ra died in 1993.  No one was really sure of his age as he was always secretive about his past, but he was believed to have been around 75.  He left a very large fan base, as one might expect from a cult music figure, but was also a great influence to some of the more flamboyant of the funk and hip-hop acts that would mark the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Why use words when we can use music, though:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

After Watching It, I Can't Figure Out Why It's Controversial

Controversial clip by East Catholic High students calls for end to prayer-shaming

More about the desire for "prayer control" may be found here, here, and here.

In Related News, Germans Drink a Lot of Beer

'Star Wars'-Themed Church Service to Highlight 'Parallels'

It May Look Fussy, But This Is Why We Clean Up After Communion

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City says a bleeding host reported after a communion wafer turned water red was caused by mold, not a miracle.

Thursday's Music: Diana Krall - Cry Me A River (Live In Paris)

I'm Partial to Goldens, as I Had a Great Dog Buddy Once

Bravo, Four-Legged Panetta Confidant, Departs For That Great Situation Room In the Sky

Dear Yolanda,

Regarding Ohio State University's "inclusive holiday decorating practices", I appreciate that you have to come up with creative ways to justify your position, one that has a rather nebulous job description, but you should know that Red and Green are not the colors of the Christian Feast of the Incarnation; that would be White.  Interestingly, you urge care with the first two colors but "permit" the latter color.

People send me these things for comment and nowadays I just send them to the original author.

Update: Since my response, OSU has removed the document from their website.  I doubt that had anything to do with me, but it's an interesting development since this memo has been in place for three years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Please, I've Had 12-Year-Olds Decide Whether or Not Their Families Attend Church Services

Restaurants Don’t Need To Ban Soda, Parents Need To Learn How To Say ‘No’

Oh, and 14-year-olds who decide what denomination their 40-something parents are to be.

Now This is Innovation

What do you do when there’s drunken aggro after closing time? Send in the street pastors
The logic of it — overcoming street violence with chips — is typical of street pastors’ weirdly effective unworldliness. They start the evening with a Bible reading and prayer, and claim their work is only possible because others are praying for them. This spirituality makes itself felt not through any ostentatious zeal but rather, I sense, through a feeling that it is entirely natural to be out at 2 a.m. helping people get home. The comment they hear most often, according to Summersby, is ‘You’re mad.’ Still, there is no doubt, he says, that ‘the vast majority of people do have a respect for people who work from a faith perspective’.


Are Vegetarian and ‘healthy’ diets more harmful to the environment?

I Wonder If He Pretended to Be a Wise Man. Or a Camel.

Drunk-Driving Suspect Crashes, Tries to Hide in Nativity Scene

Well, It Is the Final Year of a President's Second Term

This 475-Pound Gingerbread White House Took 11 Months To Build

 I guess we no longer have to pretend to care about obesity and fiscal responsibility.

Why Not?

Cemeteries in Moscow to offer free Wi-Fi

Just a Reminder: None of the Post-Sandy Hook Gun Laws Address What Happened at Sandy Hook

Connecticut Plans to Be First State to Bar People on No-Fly List From Buying Guns

This is a useless and cynical gesture, like the post-Sandy Hook gun laws, especially as the "No-Fly List" is not the same thing as the "Terrorist List".  The No-Fly List is a list of names without any indication as to why people are on the list, other than most of the names are or sound "Middle Eastern".  A former parishioner of mine, a Christian originally from Syria who had lived as a citizen of the U.S. for over twenty years, wound up on the list and it took him years to get off of it.  There was never any explanation as to why he was included.

By the way, neither of the California terrorists was on the "No Fly List".

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Our Brave New World

I've never eaten at a Chipotle and, after this, I don't think I ever will.
These episodes reveal several things. First and foremost, Chipotle is a company so out of control and negligent that it repeatedly endangers the public. But they also illustrate something important about food safety: Although the crops, meats and other foods produced by modern conventional agricultural technologies may not bring to mind a sentimental Norman Rockwell painting, they are on average safer than food that reflects pandering to current fads.

One wonders whether Chipotle’s “traditional methods” include employees’ neglecting to wash their hands before preparing food, which is how norovirus is usually spread. And the fresh versus frozen dichotomy is nothing more than a snow-job. Freezing E. coli-contaminated food does not kill the pathogens; it preserves them.
They also champion "farm to table" practices to obscure the fact that their offerings are among the highest in sodium and calories in the fast-food world.

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - The Message

Give this a chance, as it's not hip-hop. It's Rap music from over thirty years ago and captures the urban angst of NYC during the 1980's. Rap, by the way, stood for "radical American poetry", and this certainly qualifies. It always used to be the last poem in the final lesson back in the days when I taught poetry.

Try Jesus, Instead

NYT: Happiness Doesn’t Bring Good Health, Study Finds

Reality Happened

What Happened to Millennial Dovishness?
But Millennials’ views on ISIS are complicating this narrative. A new poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics finds that 60 percent of Millennials support the use of U.S. ground troops against the Islamic State. The IOP only surveyed Millennials, so it’s impossible to directly compare this finding to the attitudes of older generations, but 60 percent is a higher level of support than most surveys have found among the general public. A CNN/ORC poll released earlier this week found 50 percent support for ground troops among Americans aged 18-34, roughly in line with the 53 percent support registered among the general public.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Good Question

Why Has the Church Abandoned the Christians of the Middle East?

The Atlantic: No, Suicides Don't Rise During the Holidays

People are not more likely to kill themselves in the winter. The media’s insistence to the contrary is confusing and dangerous.

The Episcopal Church prefers information that reinforces the view of the world as a place of brokenness redeemable through the sacrifice of Christ.  That's a consistent theology, but I think the emphasis on brokenness tends to overcome the reality of redemption.  Hence, for a number of years, colleagues used this errant information to engage in what I found a rather bizarre practice called "Blue Christmas", a liturgy that was intended to salve the sense of loneliness experienced by some during the holidays, but was more likely to reinforce it by creating a church experience that was separated from the mainstream.

Maybe we can let go of that now, eh?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Science is Settled

SCIENCE: Drinking Tequila Can Help You Lose Weight

I have a feeling this will be the most read posting of the week.

Sukiyaki (Ue o Muite Arukou) - Kyu Sakamoto (English Translation and Lyr...

Yukio Mishima

[Originally published on July 27, 2012]

Recently, my niece was visiting and decided to read my old paperback edition of The Great Gatsby.  Despite her private school and liberal arts college education, she had never read about Jimmy Gatz and his self-transformation into the mysterious millionaire of Long Island.  Remarkable, given what that education cost, eh?  She does, however, know that plastic is "bad" or something.

Anyway, she read the story and, when we were talking about it, she mentioned something that's been noticed by many a reader and critic.  Namely, F. Scott Fitzgerald rarely wrote a bad sentence.  I told her I found that to be true even in his later works, when he was surviving on a hot fudge sundae and two quarts of whiskey a day.  I really couldn't think of any other American writer of whom the same could be said in regards to either literary ability or diet.

There was, however, a Japanese writer who had also mastered the art of composition.  He, too, could not write a bad sentence, although he is not always well-represented by English translators.  He's pictured above in a moment of repose: Yukio Mishima, considered by many to be the greatest Japanese writer of the 20th century. 

He was, as opposed to Fitzgerald, highly disciplined in his physical life.  Instead of fortifying his art with whiskey and ice cream, Mishima was a body-builder and weight-lifter.  He despaired of the relative physical slightness of Japanese men of his generation, especially as compared with the American GI's who occupied post-war Tokyo, and sought to train that away through hard work in gym and dojo.  By 1970, he may have been the most physically fit man of letters the world had ever known.  This discipline is discerned in his artistic craft as well, as his plays, short stories and novels are clearly the product of much careful labor and thoughtfulness, with no small portion of appreciation for the fractured and fractious beauty of the world.

He was also a little un-hinged.  Did I mention that? 

He died shortly after taking charge of a Japanese army headquarters building.  Yes, that's right.  He did that in 1970, armed only with a sword [with about three or four followers].  He did so in order to lecture the assembled soldiers on the need to re-claim the pre-war values of labor, faith, and industry.  Then he committed ritual suicide; the kind known as seppuku.  I'll spare you the details.

Mishima's writing carries a beauty that is typically Japanese and seemingly cannot be produced by other cultures.  As Japanese literature is based on a liminal balance of loss and fulfillment, the artistic fulcrum is fragile if not presented in a way that is resolute, yet slight.  Like paper walls, flower arrangement, or haiku, what looks simple is surprisingly strong.  It is an art that is difficult to master and few have surpassed Mishima in this regard.  [Ironically, my Japanese students did not care for Mishima, although not for literary reasons.  They felt he was a cultural embarrassment due to the nature of his death.]

Also, and as odd as this may sound coming from one of my profession, he turned his self-determined death into a form of art, too.  I appreciate that more and more as the 21st century seems to be a time when timid artists and writers compliment one another on their "courage" and "transgressive work".  Somehow, criticizing Republicans, Mid-Westerners, Southerners, Christians, gun-owners, the obese and the poor doesn't seem as courageous and transgressive as storming an army headquarters, urging an indifferent audience to claim values that had long since become alien, and then ritualizing self-slaughter in order to satisfy...well, perhaps that is best expressed in the quotation below.

"All my life I have been acutely aware of a contradiction in the very nature of my existence. For forty-five years I struggled to resolve this dilemma by writing plays and novels. The more I wrote, the more I realized mere words were not enough. So I found another form of expression.  I want to make a poem of my life."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"John Kerry should recognize Christian genocide"

Secretary of State should call what ISIL is committing by its true name.

Ronnie Dawson -Down in Mexico

Time to Clean Out the File of Weird Photos

 What is this, you ask?  It's a Russian spare tire substitute.  Really.

 Given their performance this year, a humble suggestion for a re-designed Cleveland Browns helmet.

 There were a number of "surf" themed potboilers in the '60's, but this may be the most splendid.

 Clint Eastwood on a skateboard.  That's all.

Man, this new McDonald's menu is...inventive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Enough With Politics, How About Some Music?

More and More Prayer Shaming

If we're going to actually do something about what the Episcopal Church in Connecticut labels as gun violence, then we're going to have to learn to speak to one another respectfully and without the scabrous indulgences of groupthink.  It appears we cannot look to the public square for that model.  [As this is now the third article that I've read that features the unfortunate Twitter comments of one of my senators, it's safe to say he's become the Prayer-Shamer-in-Chief.]

Moral indignation is never in short supply during such crises, but what is needed is some assurance that the means selected will achieve the desired end. In this case, an inexcusable combination of boorishness and ignorance pushes matters in the wrong direction. The boorishness of people like Senator Murphy undermines the social solidarity needed to boost morale and allow a nation to meet the perils at hand. When people say their thoughts and prayers are with others, they are making a small but vital gesture that tells people who have lost loved ones that they are not alone. To mock that behavior is just a thinly veiled way to attack those who are opposed to new forms of gun control.

Or the Failure of Mental Health Programs

Guns are what you talk about to avoid having to talk about Islamist terrorism.

Even More on Prayer Shaming

Although the Wall Street Journal calls it "the war on prayer" and other things:
The News’s first reaction was to denounce prayer. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS,” screamed the front-page headline: “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.” The cover featured tweets from Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham and Speaker Paul Ryan saying they were praying for the San Bernardino victims, survivors and emergency personnel.

And it wasn’t just the News. It appeared as if the left had collectively decided that they could finally get gun control through the simple expedient of enacting prayer control. Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted: “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing—again.”

The Hill reported that Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said: “We’ve had far too many moments of silence on the floor of the House. And while it is right to respectfully acknowledge the losses, we can no longer remain silent. What gives us the right to hold moments of silence when we do nothing to act upon the cause of the grief?” The Los Angeles Times reports that Rep. Jackie Speier, a Bay Area Democrat, plans to boycott any moment of silence for mass-shooting victims.

The Times’s Saturday editorial also scoffed at “elected leaders” who “offer prayers for gun victims.” And the paper’s columnist Timothy Egan demanded “No More Thoughts and Prayers.” Gun control, prayer control, thought control.

In the war on thought, no one is more militant than the editorial staff at the Daily News. . . .
That's a pity as one of the editors at the New York Daily News is a former student of mine.  What course did he take from me?  Comparative Religion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!
At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.

Marine Archaeological News

Spanish galleon may contain biggest treasure haul ever found on seabed

Monday, December 7, 2015

Information That Will Never Be Found in a Pastoral Letter

Clergy Were Different in Those Days

Episcopalians remember Bataan hero priest

Really Glad Not to Be Dependent on a Public Pension Right Now, Especially in the Northeastern States

This is another way of saying that public sector unions—and state and municipal governments—have made promises to workers about their pensions without setting aside enough money to fulfill those promises when they came due. As a result, pension managers are forced into the casinos to make risky bets. But because they tend to be among the stupidest players in the financial market, they all too often end up getting hosed.

The problem, of course, is that as the state economy becomes untenable, discouraging new business, raising taxes on, well, everything, and encouraging successful businesses to relocate, this adds to the burden of non-profit organizations, like ours, to raise funds and organize ministries to the increasing number of people in need.

Well, I Can Vouch for Numbers 8 and 9 [The Photos Will Make You Hungry]

These 15 Amazing Breakfast Spots In New Jersey Will Make Your Morning Epic

Although, not to quibble, but #9 isn't "Hawaiian-themed" as much as it is "surfer-themed".  Also, as it's just a block from the beach and across the street from where I generally stay, it's become the Rick's Cafe of the OC Dawn Patrol [the old boys who get in the water around dawn before the younger, showier members of the tribe wake up].

[Update: Bad link fixed.]

Gov. Malloy to Call for Stricter Bologna Access

Man arrested for assault with a sandwich

Sunday, December 6, 2015

By the Way....

I had a clergy colleague get a little hysterical with me today about the amount of ammunition that the terrorist "Bonnie and Clyde" in California had in their home.  According to the media, they had over 2500 rounds of ammo.

I guess that sounds like a lot to someone who wasn't raised, as I was, by Indians on the frontier [in other words, by my family in Ohio], but I did point out to my colleague that, since ammo is generally sold in individual packages of 1000 rounds, that really wasn't very much.  In fact, I suspect that I have much more in my possession than that and usually carry 1000 rounds to the range during my infrequent visits.  Besides, depending on the which rifle I choose to use, I could easily use up most of that in an hour or so of shooting at paper targets.

The fact that I own guns, know guns, and actually shoot them left him a bit nonplussed.  Honestly, I don't always understand eastern Caucasian culture.

While I'm used to an inordinate fearful ignorance of firearm tools among clergy, who are also fearful of table saws, motorcycle engines, sports, and anyone who disagrees with their ideology, I expect elected leaders, especially those who seek to make gun law, to know a little bit more about their subject.  Not so, apparently.

The other day, when being interviewed on MSNBC, Rep. Sanchez of California informed us that "multi-automatic round weapons are easily available".  Well, that's not true, actually.  Mainly, there is no such thing as a "multi-automatic round weapon".  That's a word salad.  Seriously, call a gun shop and ask for one; the better places won't laugh at you.

If we are going to address this issue in our culture, we should know what we're talking about.  As we seem to hear a lot about the need for common sense in public policy these days, that would seem a prudent expectation.

It Was Misfiled

Rare King James Bible First Edition Discovered at Drew University

Saturday, December 5, 2015

NYT: How Many Mass Shootings Are There, Really?

The other day, the Washington Post stated with great authority that there had been 355 mass shootings this year.  Naturally, the more excitable elements of the media picked up this number and repeated it until many thought it was true.  Certainly, the bishops of Connecticut believed it as they also quoted it in their pastoral letter.

Here's the interesting thing: Mother Jones magazine, which is hardly a conservative journal or staffed by members of the John Birch Society, examined for themselves the number of mass shootings that have occurred this year and their number was...four.
At Mother Jones, where I work as an editor, we have compiled an in-depth, open-source database covering more than three decades of public mass shootings. By our measure, there have been four “mass shootings” this year, including the one in San Bernardino, and at least 73 such attacks since 1982.
What explains the vastly different count? The answer is that there is no official definition for “mass shooting.” Almost all of the gun crimes behind the much larger statistic are less lethal and bear little relevance to the type of public mass murder we have just witnessed again. Including them in the same breath suggests that a 1 a.m. gang fight in a Sacramento restaurant, in which two were killed and two injured, is the same kind of event as a deranged man walking into a community college classroom and massacring nine and injuring nine others. Or that a late-night shooting on a street in Savannah, Ga., yesterday that injured three and killed one is in the same category as the madness that just played out in Southern California.

More On "Prayer Shaming"

Jumping on anyone who publicly expressed a religious feeling after the San Bernardino massacre. Where are we heading?
We are all free to say what we think, and must be, for without this freedom we will no longer be America. More on that below. But you always hope what is said will be constructive, helpful, maybe even at some point heartening. You have a responsibility as an adult to do your best in this area.
But as soon as the story broke Wednesday afternoon, and while it was still going on, there were accusations and bitter words flung all over the Internet. The weirdest argument came almost immediately. A person named Chris Murphy, a U.S. senator representing Connecticut, sent out what struck me as the most manipulative message of recent political history...“Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing—again.”
Wow. You might think he was aiming this at President Obama, who when he was a popular president with an overwhelmingly Democratic House and Senate did not prioritize gun control. But it was clearly aimed at all those Republicans and religious people who were praying, saying they were praying, and implicitly asking you to pray, rather than doing what they should do, which is supporting the senator’s cause.
There was a time when I would not have even obliquely referred to criticism of a Democratic politician from Connecticut, as they are above such by Protestant clergy in the state, as it would be tantamount to my committing career-icide.  But I'm disturbed by this trend to belittle people of faith on social media, especially by politicians and journalists.  The average crank on Twitter I don't care about, but when political messaging and media reports are so strongly and mutually coordinated, as they are these days, I become concerned that this is the beginning of a social construction that will limit Christian participation in the public square.

Usually at This Time of Year, Politicians Decide That the Holy Family are "Homeless"; These Days, They're Re-cast as "Refugees"

The Christmas Story Is About Christ, Not Obama’s Syrian Refugee Policy

That's About Right

The West as a whole these days is cursed by moral grandiosity and failing performance. Our self-esteem has seldom been more robust, or our performance more pitiable. We busy ourselves with what we think is the last unfinished work of implementing universal egalitarianism, by for example tending to high school students who identify with a gender other than that into which they were born, ensuring that they can use the restrooms toward which their aspirations lead them. We see ourselves as courageous warriors even as the foundations of our world are beginning to crack. We claim that tolerance and diversity are the touchstones of our civilization, and have raised a generation of weaklings who cannot bear to be exposed to unorthodox ideas or to the bustle and collisions that life in a diverse society inevitably brings. To cite another of Jesus’ condemnations of hypocrisy, we ‘tithe mint and dill and cumin, and neglect the weightier matters of the law.’ That is, we busy ourselves obsessively over small bore issues, and ignore the graver challenges that face us on every side.

Friday, December 4, 2015

This is Evergreen When Discussing Our Leaders


Building the New Haven-to-Springfield commuter rail line system will take about a year longer and $135 million more than expected....

Meanwhile, we were able to build an accessibility ramp for our parish hall in six days and for 50% under initial estimates.  However, it took us nearly seven years to get the proper government approvals, but still....

Friday's Music

Bob Manry

[Originally published on July 20, 2012]

Look at that expression above. That about sums it all up, doesn't it?

Robert Manry was an editor for The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's daily newspaper, back in the 1960's.  He had a mid-life crisis of sorts, after being diagnosed with a heart irregularity.  Did he start of program of exercise and diet?  Sorta.  Did he boost his spiritual life through meditation?  Sorta.  Did he achieve new purpose and greater health?  Oh, boy, you have no idea.

You see, Manry bought a 15ft. sailboat [well, technically 13 feet, 8 inches] and decided, despite the fact that he was a novice freshwater sailor for whom Lake Erie was the largest body of water he'd ever attempted, to sail from Falmouth, Mass. to Falmouth, UK.  Yep, across the North Atlantic.  By himself.  In a 15ft. boat.  Named Tinkerbelle.

Like all serious American nutcases, he kept this intention mostly to himself.  No wonder, as his friends might have tried an intervention.  Or thrown a net over him.  When he asked for a leave of absence from The Plain Dealer, they said "no".  So, he quit.

In case you're wondering, he did make it.  Also, The Plain Dealer now found that their former employee was the toast of sailors around the world and much in demand by the world media.  Oops.

His story in brief may be found here.  If you want, you can still find copies of Tinkerbelle, his tale of the odyssey, from used book dealers.

What made him a hero for me was that he spoke dramatically to our Boy Scout troop about his experience and inspired at least one of us to try to live the life of a waterman whenever possible.  In fact, I would eventually buy a later version of his boat myself.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

This Reminds Me of the Clergy Who Claim to Know "What ISIS Wants"

It’s like a bad Monty Python sketch:

“We did this because our holy texts exhort us to to do it.”

“No you didn’t.”

“Wait, what? Yes we did…”

“No, this has nothing to do with religion. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons.”

“WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers.”

“No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame a great religion by saying so.”

“Huh!? Who are you to tell us we’re not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being.”

“Nope. We created you. We installed a social and economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that’s why you did this. We’re sorry.”

“What? Why are you apologizing? We just slaughtered you mercilessly in the streets. We targeted unwitting civilians – disenfranchisement doesn’t even enter into it!”

“Listen, it’s our fault. We don’t blame you for feeling unwelcome and lashing out.”

“Seriously, stop taking credit for this! We worked really hard to pull this off, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us.”

“No, we nourished your extremism. We accept full blame.”

“OMG, how many people do we have to kill around here to finally get our message across?”

As Asked at This Year's Diocesan Convention

What's your fear?

My answer: Being in the center seat of an airplane aisle between a vegan and a Crossfit instructor.

More About the New Phenomenon of "Prayer Shaming"

The Atlantic: Prayer Shaming After a Mass Shooting in San Bernardino
There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa. That people who care about gun control can’t be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence. At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that’s clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs.
The final paragraph offers a particularly good observation.

My Wife Gets the Best Hate Mail

My wife gets angry parish e-mails from time to time.  Believe it or not, there are still people in Connecticut who don't think women should be in authority positions.  They'll never admit to that, but when challenged, they tend to overreact.  Recently, someone ignored [that is, violated] canon law and, when she pointed this out to him nicely, his response was,

"I don't need to follow procedures in my own parish!"

I can't even explain that one.

Please, This has been Going on in The Episcopal Church for as Long as I've Been Ordained and We're in Good Shape, Right?

The Microcomplaint: Nothing Too Small to Whine About

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Well, Neither is the NY Daily News, Especially When Religion is Belittled

While I abhor the cynical use of religion by politicians, and appreciate that the perspective of the New York press is based on their media/politics bubble,  I work with and represent people of faith who will find this perspective questionable.  I mean, I've got the hide of a rhinoceros, spiritually speaking, and this bothered even me some.

Also, I heard a new term this evening: "Prayer Shaming".  That is, shaming someone for praying in reaction to unimaginable events.  Even Sen. Chris Murphy and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty got in on it today through their Twitter accounts.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band - Makin' Thunderbirds (live)

Coincidentally, I Used to Play Bass for Furious Kangaroo

Golfers scream in terror as they are chased from course by furious kangaroo

Politician Takes a Swipe at Philosophy Majors [Like Yours Truly] with Bad Info

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of a mid-career American welder is $37,000 a year. The median starting of a philosophy graduate, meanwhile, is $39,000 a year, according to Payscale. The mid-career median salary of a philosophy graduate, meanwhile, tops $80,000 annually. That’s right: Contrary to Rubio’s assertion, philosophy majors make twice as much as welders. That philosophy majors are poor must come as a shock to philosophy grads Peter Thiel, Carl Icahn, and . . . Carly Fiorina. (I’m hoping Fiorina took the opportunity to educate her opponent on the subject backstage after the debate.) 

You see, Marco, I do have a philosophy degree, but I can also weld, shape wood, and re-build a carburetor.  As I had to explain to my high school counselor all those decades ago, just because I wanted to go to college didn't mean that I wished to be ignorant of how machines work.

When did philosophy majors become the enemies of our culture?

Who Killed the Liberal Arts?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

If You Wonder Why The Coracle Isn't Open to Comments, Here You Go

The Internet was supposed to facilitate better exchange between the public and news media. But vile and hateful comments changed all that.

My '69 Torino Had a Fake Hood Scoop and I Didn't Mind at All

The Most Egregious Fake Flourishes on Cars Today

Some Can Do Both, It's Not That Hard

When Some Turn to Church, Others Go to CrossFit

Although, given the rhetoric of current mainstream Protestantism, there may be more devotion and self-sacrifice expected at CrossFit.

Tell Me About It

Surprising number of people stealing baby Jesus from nativity scene

Anyone With an Apiary Could Have Told You This Was Nonsense

Of course, it excited people like actors, pop stars, clergy, and politicians, who told us the end of the world was nigh.  Again.  You know, the people whose only association with bees is putting honey in their herbal tea.

Washington Post: Call off the bee-pocalypse: U.S. honeybee colonies hit a 20-year high

You will never go broke predicting the end of the world.  Just ask the leaders currently in Paris.

The Complexity of the Holy Land and Its Politics

In the photo below one may see four members of the Israeli Defense Forces.  From left to right, they are a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew, and a Druze.

Their Experience Doesn't Fit the Current Political Narrative

While DC debates religion, refugees, Iraqi Christians feel Uncle Sam's boot

This is Discipleship

Hey, We're Back

Thanks for being patient during the hiatus.  While I was gone I had some knee damage addressed, managed to come down with...well, something that was tricky to diagnose.  Suffice it to say, I currently stand as a challenge to medical research.

However, even during the height of my affliction, I managed to write around 25,000 words of the slim volume that I have been commissioned to write.  It hasn't been easy, as I'm attempting to construct the book that is more like the experience of surfing the Internet than it is linear reading from page 1 to page whatever.  It's a collection of homiletical observations based on a life spent among the demi-monde of surfers, musicians, archaeologists, and mad holy men and women.  It's fun to relive those rich and varied days; I just hope it's as much fun for the reader.  One thing that I retain from this experience: There is nothing lonelier than writing.

While The Coracle has been reactivated, I still have another 25,000 words to produce, so the daily output will not be of the same volume as it was, at least until the opus is finished, and there may be some re-runs here and there.  Still, for those used to reading this on a daily basis, I hope you are able to return to the habit.

Has anyone seen Jeanne and Jayne?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We Interrupt This Hiatus for My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipe

Since people ask me what we do for Thanksgiving [I know you're just being polite, but be careful what you ask for], there is a particular dish that I like to prepare to either delight or horrify those with whom we share the holiday. [If you're looking for a turkey recipe, you've come to the wrong place. We never eat turkey at Thanksgiving. What are we, Congregationalists?] The recipe and preparation instructions follow:

Surf City Curbside Fish Tacos

1 lb of fresh swordfish steak
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 doz corn tortillas
Vegetable oil or butter (optional, depending on how you heat your tortillas)
Lime Mango sauce [see instructions]
1 ripe Avocado
Cabbage or iceberg lettuce
Cider vinegar

Prepare the sauce. This can be done either the simple or the complex way. The simple way is as follows:

1. Go to Stop and Shop
2. Buy some lime mango sauce in aisle 6

You may use it as a marinade for the fish and then, with the addition of some sour cream, use the remainder as the sauce for the finished dish. Naturally, don't use the sauce in which the fish has been marinating for the presentation sauce. At least, that's what Jenni always tells me. What she doesn't know won't hurt her.

The more complex way is to do the following:

Place two ripe, peeled and pitted mangoes and some lime juice [two limes or equivalent] into a food processor and blend until pureed. If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of cold water. Stir in one diced jalapeno with seeds and skin removed [unless you like four-alarm sauce, like I do, in which case toss the seeds and skin into the whole shebang] and there you go. Save it until taco construction.

Prepare the cabbage and avocado. Thinly slice the cabbage and put it in a small serving bowl, sprinkle it with cider vinegar (about a tablespoon) and salt (about a teaspoon). Mix in the vinegar and salt. Peel the avocado and remove seed. Chop and reserve for later.

Heat the tortillas. There are two ways of doing this.
1. Simply heat them in the microwave for 20-25 seconds on high heat, on top of a napkin or paper towel to absorb the moisture that is released.
2. Or heat a cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan or spread a half a teaspoon of butter on one side of one tortilla. Place tortilla in the pan (butter side down if you are using butter). As the tortilla sizzles, flip the tortilla with a spatula so that the other side gets some of the oil or butter from the pan. Continue to flip every 10-30 seconds until the tortillas begins to develop air pockets, after about a minute. You can always skip the butter or oil.

Remove the tortilla from the pan and place it folded on a plate. If the pan is large enough you can prepare two or more tortillas at once. Continue until all the tortillas (estimate 3 per person) are cooked. Set aside.

Cook the fish. Soak the fish fillets in cold water for at least one minute. Pat dry with a paper towel. Heat a large stick-free skillet to medium high heat. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Place fish on skillet. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the fillets. A thin fillet may take only one minute on each side to cook. A thicker fillet may take a couple of minutes. Fish should be still barely translucent when cooked. Break off a piece and test if you are not sure, or give it to your cat and see what he does with it. Do not overcook the fish. When done, remove the fish from the pan to a separate plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the plate of tortillas, fish, the sauce, cabbage, and avocados on the table and let everyone assemble their own. You go to a separate room where it's quiet and watch a football game and drink a fine Michelada. Preferably, Ohio State, since Princeton's season is over.  Or maybe watch Endless Summer again.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why The Coracle?

It skipped my notice earlier this year, but my official "blogging" actually began ten years ago. While I had participated as a contributor to weblogs before that, I realized how fluid a medium for communication this could be in a parish, especially an active one with a broad congregation, so, on Easter Wednesday of 2005, while serving at St. Paul's Church in the Huntington section of Shelton, Conn., what would become The Coracle enjoyed its first post.

The people of St. Paul's were particularly good about reading the weblog and submitting information to it about parish activities.  It was so successful that the ancient parish complaint of "We need better communication" [which was usually voiced by those who never bothered to read a parish newsletter] was obliterated.  Recognizing the possibilities, I told a bishop of the weblog's existence.  His response was, "Be careful.  E-mail is tricky"  Historically, innovation isn't always well received in organizations.  That remained true with the people at my next parish, as they didn't really have any interest in such a thing as a weblog and, as the warden said to me, "We don't like to do e-mail."

[Seriously, what was it about the mid-00's that Episcopal Church leadership thought that every form of social media was "e-mail"?]

So, as the original mission could no longer be fulfilled as long as only a dozen parishioners bothered to read it, and as parish weblogs were now becoming more and more common, I thought I'd try something radical.  Well, radical for the Church.

Just about every parish weblog at the time presented parish information and links to official statements made by the local diocese and the national church offices.  They tended to the prosaic.  So, I thought it would be lively to present counter-arguments or perspectives not usually reflected in parochial weblogs, especially as most Episcopal Church thinking in those days [and these] was/is simply a re-statement of whatever was/is read in the New York Times or heard on National Public Radio.

It turns out that a lot of people who were blogging and engaged in Internet commentary had the same idea and online discussions, debates, and arguments became the contemporary equivalent of the Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park or the Oxford Student Union; a place of free thinking and freely exchanged opinion.  It was refreshing, especially since both churches and universities were becoming more and more monolithic in their ideology and more and more intolerant of any deviation from a preferred narrative.  Suddenly, my readership, which was around 6-20 people a week, reached over 300+ a day, and increasingly from international sources.

My current parish, while certainly much more attentive than the last, still doesn't use The Coracle for its original intention, although to be fair much of that information is nowadays presented through the parish's Facebook page.  As The Coracle has been in its current form since 2008, it has developed as an eccentric forum for religious and Christian news not often found in the mainstream, for archaeological developments, circumstances of a gently humorous nature, of inspirational people in danger of being lost to history, of uncommon sources of music, and of occasional commentary, especially when such commentary may be contrary.

Oh, and surfing.

Except for a few days or a week from time to time when I'm either traveling or on vacation, I have published 14,000 individual postings in 3800 days that have enjoyed over 180,000 views.  It has become the habit of my mornings, for indolent moments, or when afflicted with a bout of insomnia.  However, as I have to complete a project that will require every spare moment not serving in one of my paid positions, I'll need to clear some time.

To fulfill that need, The Coracle will be on hiatus from today until Tuesday, December 1st.

All I would ask is that those who read The Coracle by habit [I see you, Jeanne and Jayne] remember to come back on that day.  Believe me, there will be lots to read.  If you wish, a reader may sign up for notification whenever something new is posted by following the link at the bottom of the page that is marked "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)"

Also, near-weekly videos and other information will appear on the parish's Facebook page.

For those who wonder why this is entitled The Coracle, here's an explanation from February, 2010:
The reason it's employed as the title of this weblog is because of an ancient Celtic story about three men who set out on the Irish Sea in a coracle to see where it would take them, confident that God would guide their apparently random and rudderless journey. This story is one that is often offered to illuminate the experience of peregrinatio, the Celtic Christian version of a spiritual walkabout. Since I don't know really know what any day's topic will be, and as this weblog seems to wander some, it seemed like a good title.

"Why Doesn't the Jewish Tradition Hold Noah in Higher Esteem?"

Abraham and Moses are considered wholly righteous men, but Noah isn’t quite. That’s because, unlike them, he does what he’s told without question.

A Serious and Necessary Re-Appraisal of Henry David Thoreau

Really, the article's title sums it all up:

Pond Scum
This comprehensive arrogance is captured in one of Thoreau’s most famous lines: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It is a mystery to me how a claim so simultaneously insufferable and absurd ever entered the canon of popular quotations. Had Thoreau broadened it to include himself, it would be less obnoxious; had he broadened it to include everyone (à la Sartre), it would be more defensible. As it stands, however, Thoreau’s declaration is at once off-putting and empirically dubious. By what method, one wonders, could a man so disinclined to get to know other people substantiate an allegation about the majority of humanity?
I've always been struck by the fact that, while living "deliberately" in the woods, he also permitted a woman to do his laundry for him.  Thoreau's popularity is probably based on the fact that he is generally introduced to teenagers in high school English classes and there is something insufferably adolescent about his world view.

Just Another Day in Paradise

Hawaii governor declares state of emergency for homelessness

No Assaults? No Flaming Cars? No Scolding Law Enforcement Officers? What Kind of Victory Celebration is This?

You might only see this in Canada: Blue Jays fans danced around the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street in Toronto right up until the light turned green. Then they calmly walked aside to let the cars through.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue - All Blues

Extra Seat [1995]

The best conversation I ever had about the surf was also the shortest. And the quietest.

There are sounds common to every hospital, from Manila to New York City. Besides the murmur of voices and the occasional rasp from the intercom, there is the beeping associated with the various telemetry and servo-mechanisms, sometimes with the bellows rhythm of a respirator or the gurgle of a pleur-evac. I don’t know what it’s like for the patient; I don’t know if they stop hearing all of it or whether, since it’s the only distraction permitted when one can’t read, speak, or see, these sounds become comforting in their constancy.

Sitting in an ICU bay for more than a day, I know I stopped hearing them, permitting me a quiet vigil. Except for the forty-five minute ambulance ride and the six hours during which she was in neuro-surgery, I had been at my wife’s side for over thirty hours, still wearing the clergy collar and tweed suit from Sunday morning. As the ER physician had told me she wasn’t going to make it, I had given her “last rites” at noon the day before [since most people know what that term means I’ll use it; I’ll leave it to pedantic bishops to point out that “last rites” is not technically correct]. At 6pm, now at a second hospital, I had anointed her with the oil of unction, as I had been told that she might make it, but there would be lingering disability. With therapy and care she might be able to speak or even walk again. “After a fashion”, said the neuro-surgeon.

It was now 6pm the next day; two days before Ash Wednesday. I sat in the chair next to her bed, holding her hand in the noisy silence, waiting to see what the free-ranging pocket of blood still left in her brain sac would do if it came into contact with healthy tissue. If it did, it would further disable her or kill her. Then again, according to the surgeon, it could just dissipate with no further damage. If she were able to speak sometime in the next day, it would be a sign that the blood was dissipating.

I spoke to her for hours, without response, about family, pets, the daunting labor of filling out college aid applications. When those topics were exhausted, I spoke of our vacations to the various beaches we had enjoyed during our six years of marriage; about sailing the Lesser Antilles the year before, about the vacation we would take once she had recovered, maybe to Aruba or Barbados; about waves and surf and swimming and diving. I had just finished describing in lush detail a trip we could take one day to Kona when her hand, limp for a day and a half, suddenly squeezed mine. Then, through dried lips and a throat parched by the previous day’s intubation, she said, “We’ll have to buy an extra ticket for the surfboard.”

I knew that there had probably been more poignant words spoken in human history, but I really couldn't think of any. She could speak, and would in the months to come converse normally, regain her balance, walk, and return to work without any lingering effects from the sub-arachnoid aneurysm; and we would, after she was cleared by her physicians, begin to visit the beaches and coral reefs about which I’d spoken during those terrible hours of one-sided conversation.

And once, on a flight to the Palancar Reef, when we noticed that our row contained a vacant seat, we exchanged a silent smile.

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Collision of Religion, Economic Class, and Race in a Neighborhood in Oakland

Oakland Gospel Choir Draws Nuisance Complaint, Faces $500 A Day Fine
“Kind of hard to believe because we’ve been here about 65 years in the community and all of a sudden we get some concerns about the noise,” said Thomas A Harris III, the pastor at Pleasant Grove. Church pastors who met Wednesday said the real issue is gentrification. The church sits in a neighborhood full of old Victorians being snapped up by affluent tech workers.
No, it's not hard to believe at all, especially as I've observed the same prejudice from people who move next door to churches in quaint New England towns and then object to the fact that the churches have bells and ring them.

This is Why War is Not Spoken Of Outside the Circle of Warriors

“In fact, seeing the reaction to my father’s story in recent days has highlighted for me the almost stunning level of ignorance that the general public has about war. CNN introduced him as a ‘war hero,’ and yet people were surprised and even uncomfortable when they were given a glimpse of what that might have entailed. . . . This country has been at war for almost 15 years, and as I think about the ridicule leveled at my father in the past 24 hours, I can’t help but imagine what these same people must think about the service of my own generation. In their eyes, did we simply spend some kind of twisted ‘semester abroad’ in a place with plenty of sand, but no ocean? Or conversely, do they ignorantly dismiss our experiences, as they have my father, as those of cold callous killers?”

Well, given of whom you speak, the answers to those questions are "yes" and "yes".  Warriors are always held in contempt by the elites in any society.  There are Roman poems from the days of empire that lament that tendency, not to mention it is a leitmotif in the works of Rudyard Kipling.  This is why those who have been in combat tend not to speak of such things with family and friends who have not shared in what philosophy would describe as a form of "limit situation".

I attended an Episcopal seminary with three veterans, one of whom was highly decorated in Vietnam.  Because the Episcopal Church is disquieted by the notion and practice of military service, all three kept their backgrounds a near secret so they would not be marked as "other" by their classmates and the seminary faculty.

Giving Members Greater Say in How the National Church Uses Donations Would Certainly Help

Episcopalians and the Tithe

"Earliest Known Draft of King James Bible Is Found, Scholar Says"

The King James Bible is the most widely read work in English literature, a masterpiece of translation whose stately cadences and transcendent phrases have long been seen, even by secular readers, as having emerged from a kind of collective divine inspiration.

Please, New York Times, it should be "collaborative" rather than "collective".  Also, one will find, even with a cursory examination of history, that divine inspiration is almost always collaborative, at least in Christianity.  After all, what Jesus offered us was a radical redefinition of community.

The Word "Unexpectedly" Seems to Show Up in a Lot of Media Reports These Days

Unexpectedly, The Middle East Meltdown Continues
One problem is that while President Obama saw the nuclear deal as an opportunity to bridge divides with Iran, both Russia and Iran saw the negotiation as an opportunity to advance an anti-American agenda. While President Obama and his negotiating team were hunting for compromises and mutually face-saving agreements. Russia was looking for ways to turn the deal into a formula for destabilizing the region at Washington’s expense. Thus Russia insisted at the 11th hour in the negotiations on the lifting of a conventional weapons export ban. And even as President Obama scrambled to dodge Congressional scrutiny of the deal, Iran unhelpfully insisted that U.S. domestic debate consisted a material breach of the deal and rattled its sabers at home.
Caught in the midst of all of this are the Middle-Eastern Christians, who are being brutalized and slaughtered on a daily basis.