Sunday, August 30, 2015

Oh? Quelle Surprise!

NYT: Many Psychology Findings Not as Strong as Claimed, Study Says

Science, especially social science, has been so politicized that it's not as objective, nor as accurate, as it was once.  When one can score a multi-million dollar grant by publishing "results" that perfectly fit a political organization's agenda or world-view, why bother with the scientific method?

Addendum to a Story from Last Week

6 Times We Stumbled Upon Nazi Junk That Time Forgot

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bruce Springsteen-Tougher than the Rest

Sylvanus Morley

 Sólo los mentirosos y tontos aman la selva

There are some things that are dangerous for young people to read as they cause them to dream of places far away, close to the edges of reality, where logic and fact are replaced by imagination and whimsy.  Some of them, so inspired, spend their adult lives in pursuit of that fleeting "otherness" in exploration and misadventure.  Some even realize their pursuit.

For example, when he was a child, Heinrich Schliemann read and re-read Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, inspiring him to one day discover the location of the city of Troy, until that moment thought to be a myth.  Lawrence read Charles Montagu Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta , a work that animated  his own walking tour of The Levant and his work with the Arab tribes during World War I.

Even for the less physically adventurous, Alan Watts, the scholar and teacher of Eastern religion and philosophy, found his interest in Orientalism piqued through reading the "Dr. Fu Manchu" books of Sax Rohmer, an unlikely source, perhaps, but evocative of how much power adventurous stories can hold on the imagination.

While as a child and young man I was a fan of Homer, Doughty, and Rohmer, not to mention the writings of Schliemann, Lawrence, and Watts, those of my era also had their imaginations stoked by movies such as "Valley of the Kings" with Robert Taylor and "Secrets of the Incas" with Charlton Heston.


Sylvanus Morley was no different.  As a child, he read the novel Heart of the World, by H. Rider Haggard, the author of King's Solomon's Mines and She, that detailed adventures among the "lost cities" of Central America.  It was then that he knew that his adult energies would concentrate on those mythical cities in those humid jungles.

Of course, he first had to convince his father.  As Morley was a child of his age, he was born in 1883, and was the dutiful son of a military officer/chemistry professor, he knew that he would never be able to convince the old man that archaeology was a viable vocation, so he graduated from what is now Widener University, where his father taught, as an engineering student in 1904.  Having satisfied familial expectation, he then earned a second degree from Harvard University in American Research and, immediately after earning his degree, began field work in the Yucatan, studying at a variety of sites, particularly Uxmal and Chichen Itza.


Chichen Itza, with The Coracle's editor, in his archaeological days, on top of the Kukulcan pyramid

Morley was invited to spend some time at the latter site, including the chance to pore through the artifacts that had been salvaged from the cenote [water-filled sinkhole] that had been used, apparently, for the disposal of the victims of human sacrifice.  Many of these artifacts were brought back to the States by Morley may be viewed today at the Peabody Museum.

Because of his enthusiasm, and no small ability in beginning to successfully translate the Mayan language, the Carnegie Institution hired Morley to begin a comprehensive study and restoration of Chichen Itza, starting in the winter of 1913.  Unfortunately, as is often the case with archaeological field study, world events caused complications and postponements.  With the Mexican Revolution still active, securing government permission and reasonable safety were slow to realize and, once those obstacles were removed, the First World War began.  Not to be left idle, while his work was delayed, Morley repaired to the nearest library and completed the first comprehensive translation of Mayan, one that remains the primary text to this day.

When I first became interested in archaeology, shortly after discovering a pocket of buried arrowheads in our backyard when I was nine, I thought that Egypt and the Middle East were the places that would claim my attention.  Then I came upon a battered copy of An Introduction to the Study of Maya Hieroglyphs by Morley.  His definitive study of Mayan language included descriptions of the flora, fauna, and relics to be found in central Mexico and, as it happened, caused me to switch my field of inquiry if for no other reason than to abide in those exotic places that he measured with such pursuit.

In the spirit of both the age and the unique circumstance of being an archaeologist working in an unstable country, Morely was also, like many before and after, a spy.  Since archaeologists work in small groups with maps, cameras, and making detailed drawings, and since they often roam about rather freely, they have been rather good intelligence agents.  So good, that in our contemporary era, the excitable miscreants of ISIS/ISIL have been imprisoning and executing archaeologists in their area of malicious influence.

Morely, given license by the Mexican government, at that time more likely to ally itself with Germany than with the United States [look up "The Zimmerman Note" if that episode escaped your historical tutelage], began to freely explore that landscape, and used his time to not only to scout for Mayan ruins, but to search for German submarine bases or collections of German sailors, marines, or soldiers.  He had many adventures that required subterfuge and quick thinking, all of which would be inspirational to future archaeologist/adventurers, including some Hollywood writers and directors.  Really, just add a fedora and whip and suddenly one has a movie franchise.

[A fun book, The Archaeologist Was A Spy, is worth reading if one is interested.]

After the war, and with the increased, if transient, wealth of the 1920's, Morley was able to initiate his work at Chichen Itza, this time with a ten-year license from the Ministerio de Folklore.  In 1924, Morley and his team made significant discoveries when several rows of columns were uncovered, free-standing and completely different from any other example of Mayan architecture yet discovered. To this day, they remain a bit of an enigma, as the entire site is singular as it does not easily match the construction of other Mayan sites sprinkled throughout Mexico and Belize.

The Carnegie Institute, under Morley's leadership, would conclude its mission in 1940, creating more questions that it answered, as it turned out.  It is still undergoing study and excavation, although it can be easily visited through organized tours from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, as the work depends not only on educational grants, but tourist dollars.

Morley between two of his "checkbooks" at Chichen Itza

After living on site for twenty years, Morely would become the director of the Museum of New Mexico in Sante Fe, where he and his wife would be significant members of the social set [they were good friends with Georgia O'Keefe and other artists].  He would spend these days on his magnum opus, The Ancient Maya, published in 1946.  Morely died two years later, at the age of 65.

Of all the pre-Columbian peoples, the Maya are still the most studied, and with reason.  The culture is elusive and every definitive theory of their life has been appraised and re-appraised to the point that, as with Chichen Itza itself, we remain puzzled at their existence and their sudden disappearance as a culture.  Given modern technological advances and continued excavation, using Morely's work as a firm and sure foundation, it is only a matter of time until a clearer cultural picture emerges.  Well, that's what I'm supposed to say, anyway.  Personally, I hope that the Maya and Chichen Itza remain just as mysterious as ever.  While archaeology is a science, it still needs a touch of romance if it is to continue to attract people such as Morely and others.

The Ancient Maya is still in print, now in its 6th edition, as is the introduction to Mayan hieroglyphs and a couple of other specialized works by Morely.  As mentioned, Chichen Itza remains a viable source of both archaeological study and tourist activity and, as during the time of Morely and earlier, seemingly defiant of changes and caprices in government and society.

The pyramid at Chichen Itza as it would have first appeared to Sylvanus Morely

The post-restoration pyramid

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Carbon Offsets May Have Dramatically Increased Emissions

"Green" Business Sure Attracts Grifters

Watchdog: Solyndra misrepresented facts to get loan guarantee

Everything We Know is Wrong

No, You Do Not Have to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day


Forty years ago this summer I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert at the Allen Theater in Cleveland. The Allen held 200 seats, which was the type of venue in which Springsteen was performing at that point in his career.  It was a great concert, lasted about four hours, and made him popular in our portion of the Midwest to this day.  Although, one may admit, the music that he composed before 1985 remains his best, as in recent years he's attempted to re-cast himself as a nouveau-Woody Guthrie, which is un-likely for one who lives, among many homes, in a mansion with a thirty-car garage.

Besides the energy, there was a defiant joy in Springsteen's music, something that was getting lost in the disco era where even rock music was now carefully managed by mass-marketers, focus groups, and commercialization.  That was what was important for us about him, as Springsteen was an indie rocker of singular and personal vision who was still small enough to evade the tired traps of the packaged musician.

That, and when one grows up in the Rust Belt, with a population often exploited by the political class [of both political parties] and their hand-maidens in academia and media, a blast of loud and laughing discord is sometimes a powerful antidote.

Later that summer, Springsteen's album "Born to Run" would be released and he would be "discovered" by the critics.  From that point forward, he would play intimate venues like...Madison Square Garden...and have his music unnecessarily explained and used by politicians, the press, and professors.

That died down some in the past few decades, but I see it has reared its head yet again on the anniversary of the release of "Born to Run".  Sigh.  Two whelps, one a professor formerly of Princeton and the other a "critic" with the New York Post, now take on the responsibility of explaining Springsteen to the world.  They both, of course, turn his music into some sort of blank slate on which they project their own world-view.

The Professor, from The Atlantic:
Born to Run and the Decline of the American Dream

[This really should have been entitled either "Born to Run and the Decline of a once-great magazine", or "Born to Run and the Decline of American Intellectualism".]

The Critic:
Elites just don't understand 'Born to Run'

Although, to be honest, The Critic gets closer to what Springsteen was about in this quotation:

No. The album is almost the opposite of what Zeitz says it is: It’s a celebration, not a rejection. It’s a barbaric yawp. It’s a blaze in the dark, a cry of pride amid desolation.

The music, you see, was fun.  We smiled during the concert, and yelped like fools at certain portions.  It was youth, energy, hope, and the power of ephemeral dreams to overturn circumstance.  We left the Allen Theater smiling and happy and, to the woe of the nearby Howard Johnson's, a little hungry, too, after four hours.  I think my ears are still ringing from it.

I've already heard the song "Born to Run" four times in the last 24 hours, so I won't play it on The Coracle.  Besides, it really is a minor song.  Instead, let me play "Rosalita", a little known song that brought down the house that gritty summer of '75.  Listen to it and tell me if it's about urban angst or about...well, the sheer joy of being alive and in love, which is when music, any music, is at its best.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It Took a Few Years, but General Media is Finally Noticing

The Atlantic:
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.

Of course, this whole business began as a method of shutting down Christian chaplaincies and other forms of presence on campus.  Nothing salves the feelings of an insecure intellectual more than blaming Christianity for everything that's wrong with the world, including their relationship with their parents.

Steve McQueen's Conversion

The actor was dying of cancer and was on his way to Mexico for experimental treatment.  This innocuous-looking camper, with which he would spend time in the desert when he wanted to live incognito for awhile, is what took him to his appointment [or at least to the airport].

Inside with him was Billy Graham, of all people.  They spoke of life and death and, in particular, the Kingdom.  As they parted, Graham gave McQueen his Bible.  It was in the actor's hands when he died a few weeks later.

Of Course

A congressional committee blasted the Environmental Protection Agency today for blocking release of documents related to the Gold King mine disaster, which poured deadly chemicals into the largest source of drinking water in the West.

Norway: Land of Enchantment

Norwegian company live streaming 11 months of caviar aging

I Know That It's Way Down South, But It'll Give Us a Nice Swell Next Week

Well, Dang. This was the Only Archaeological Treasure I Ever Wanted to Find

Confirmed: Long-Lost Nazi Loot Train Found In Poland

Now I'll have to turn my attention to the Oak Island money pit.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Riders May Need a Rocket Surgeon


Especially After a Few Sherries after Evensong

Plymouth church organist: 'I can see face of Jesus in my cocktail cabinet'

Anyone Really Surprised by This?

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are snapping photos of Earth to measure light pollution, and they've found something surprising: Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) — which are touted for their energy-saving properties — are actually making light pollution worse. And the change is so intense that ISS crew members can see it from space.


Forgetful scientists accidentally quadruple lithium-ion battery lifespan

A Birthday of Note

Today is the birthday of Duke Kahanamoku, the "godfather" of surfing, an Olympic swimming champion who challenged racial limitations on international competition and generally regarded as the best representative the sport has ever known.  To quote from an older posting on The Coracle:

Also, Duke was an Episcopalian.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Update on a Former Story

The Anglican parish formerly associated with what is now St. James the Great Episcopal Church in Newport Beach will move to a permanent location in Costa Mesa in the fall.

If St. James church is sold, the remains of 12 buried will be dug up and moved by the Episcopal Diocese

All of this was unnecessary.

About Cuba...

I've been hearing a lot of growing lamentation from colleagues about how the normalization of relations with the U.S. will ruin Cuba.  Yes, Cuba where a dictator is in charge, where healthcare and income are sub-standard, with a closed economy and a government-controlled news outlet, where all businesses are owned by or suffer from the coercive control of the same government, where the romanticized vintage Chevys and Fords are really in such poor condition that restorers, not journalists or clergy [two groups who know little about cars] recognize them as junk that should be crushed and melted.

Cuba, once a viable economy and example to the rest of the Caribbean basin, was destroyed by one of the most puzzle-witted systems ever to infect human history.  There are actually people, educated people, who think that participation in the global economy will "ruin" all of that.  Honestly, I wish educated Americans would give up this chimera of the simple and noble peasant.

That's why this recent article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune left me a little disquieted.

Potential downside of the U.S.-Cuba thaw: A unique country gets globalized

Among the many things I could pluck from the prose, this one really challenged the craw:

"In Cuba, on the other hand, I found a reprieve from this bombardment. The local economy, while bereft of many necessary items, was untouched by this influence — virgin-like, and really a breath of fresh air. It spoke of the promise of a free land that was really an expression of the people who lived there rather than what executives drum up in marketing campaigns. More than that, you did not feel that the people were individually corrupted by a consumer culture...We might think we are free, but in reality we are controlled by the media, banks and corporate interests that run this country and influence every thought we have."

Yes, that's the problem.  The "promise" of a free land; one does not "feel" the people were corrupted. Promises and feelings aren't substitutes for reality.  It seems an easy trade to accept Coca-Cola signs if it means windows can be replaced, roofs can be restored, and prostitution isn't the most common part-time job.  It would be nice if my own religious institution would address these very real concerns, but we seem mostly to be at the "noble peasant" stage.

This is a better appreciation:
A visit to the Havana that tourists never see

Resist Taking the Government's Advice or Direction Concerning Your Food Options

8 food myths that just won’t go away

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Decemberists - Rox In The Box

Michael McCurdy

"You just shook the hand that shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of Wordie."
"Who's that?"
"He was with Shackleton."

With that, I was introduced to Michael McCurdy, an artist whose work you have probably seen time and again, especially if you're an avid reader, but whose name, like that of many commercial illustrators, remains obscure in some corner of an etching.

Our paths crossed in a manner that was familiar during my Berkshire years, where people of artistic accomplishment and those, such as myself, of less artistic vocations lived together in the quiet and bucolic town of Great Barrington.  This was in the days just before the flood of New York-based weekenders invaded; the days before artificially inflated real estate prices, before the need for seven sushi restaurants in a town of 7000, before the traffic jams and sour tempers.

As I was still a faculty member and not yet a school administrator, I had summers that were organized around fishing, hiking, and an awful lot of reading.  With that loosely structured schedule, it was not uncommon for me to stop by Arlo Guthrie's place, as we were neighbors, to look at what he had done to transform an old Episcopal parish into a music library and performance venue, to give a ride to the 20th century's most seminal news photographer, to nod at Hugh Downs as we bought newspapers on Main Street, and to have Don Westlake detail the plot of his latest "Dortmunder" novel while seated next to me at a restaurant.  [Yes, I'm a name-dropper.]

Meeting Michael was even easier, as he was a member of my wife's parish choir and I would see him at coffee hour on those stray Sundays when I wasn't substituting for a vacationing rector or vicar.  As noted above, our first meeting came after my wife had made reference in a sermon to my habit that particularly hot and humid summer of reading tales of Arctic and Antarctic exploration.  Although an obscure interest, I found an academic colleague in McCurdy, who was researching what would become the one children's book that he both wrote and illustrated, Trapped By The Ice, the story of Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated, yet ultimately remarkable and stirring, voyage to the South Pole.

During the course of that and many other seasons, Michael would introduce me to his long and accomplished history of work and art.  McCurdy lived in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of town with a barn that had been transformed into his studio [a video of which is found below from when he was visited by Martha Stewart as part of her eponymous TV show].  He still had, on one of the shelves, the toy printing press, a childhood gift of his parents, that had ignited his interest in what would become his life's work.

Martha Stewart takes us into illustrator Michael McCurdy's studio to learn about his process of making woodblock print illustrations.

It should be no surprise, I suppose, that he was interested in the people of a former age, as he always seemed to me more of a man of the earlier part of the century.  Born into comfort, educated by the best of private schools, a prep school art teacher for a time, and a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, he and his family repaired to the Berkshires where the children could be raised in peace and he could build not only his artistic reputation, but a publishing concern that would match art and verse with works both contemporary and classical.  Once, while at a particularly stunted house party, when the conversations were halting and awkward, Michael simply sat at his host's piano and began to play a variety of music, from common to classical, that resulted in people unwittingly singing from the Episcopal Church's hymnal [the 1940 edition, too].

As with any artist, we could prattle on about him, but displaying a sample of his creations would be more interesting [click to enlarge, please]:

While the woodcuts are his best-known medium, I've always been partial to those watercolors that illustrated his children's book about Shackleton, as that simple volume was the result of many, many of our conversations and some interesting and fun correspondence with the survivors of the survivors of the expedition.

McCurdy's collected works may now be found mostly in the archives of the Boston Public Library; illustrations and broadsheets from his publishing company are housed at the University of Connecticut's Dowd Research Center.  Many of the works that he illustrated are in print, still, and can be found in bookstores both on-line and physical, particularly The Bookloft in Great Barrington, which has always been partial to local writers and artists.

Around the time our family left the Berkshires for the Litchfield Hills, Michael was diagnosed with a degenerative nervous disease that would ultimately rob him of his ability to create and to make a living. With that knowledge, to which I and others were sworn to secrecy so that he would be able to gain work until it was no longer possible, we spent a long evening at dinner in his farmhouse [with some rather good scotch, I seem to partially recall].

At one point of the evening, observing the sun setting over the mountains, he asked, "Did you ever just want to get on a road north and drive until it ends?  Just to see how far it would take you and what you would see?  I guess that's the role of the artist, isn't it?  To supply that wonder.  To take someone wistfully to another place; a place unfamiliar but within their own imagination."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

An Obituary of Note

Longtime Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes dies at 90

My dad was once his campaign treasurer.  [That news may come as a surprise to Episcopalians who think that, because I occasionally disagree with progressives and Democrats, I must be some neo-Gingrich.]

"If PBS Doesn't Do It, Who Will?"

It appears that decades-long question finally has an answer.  A rather good answer, as it turns out:

Everyone wins with ‘Sesame Street,’ HBO deal

Familiar institutions are rapidly changing.  Those that don't will be surrendered to the past.

Stand Tall, Connecticut

Hartford ranked worst in U.S. for small business climate, New Haven 4th-worst

To simplify my concern, no small businesses means no small parishes.  Perhaps one day we'll have a governor and a statehouse that care as much for small businesses and their owners and employees as they do the state employees' unions.

Looks Like We'll Have Some Pretty Good Waves Next Week

I Actually Thought This Might Work

I mean, the new jobs figure was clearly an exaggeration, designed to fool politicians, the media, and certain members of the public, but the program seemed cautiously feasible.  If a government is going to pour gobs of tax revenue into a dreamy program, it may as well have some modest grounding in reality.

Ah, well:

In 2012, California voters were peppered with grandiose promises, such that they could not resist approving Proposition 39. The measure, created and backed by wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer, sought to raise taxes on corporations and use the money to fund green energy projects in schools.

He promised it would create 11,000 new jobs each year. What could go wrong?

Naturally, it did not work at all. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the program has "created" just 1,700 jobs in three years — just under 600 jobs per year or roughly five percent of what was promised, at the cost of $175,000 per job. Even that paltry figure fails to account for opportunity costs — i.e. jobs lost statewide because of the forced diversion of economic resources away from productive industries and toward green energy. The number of net jobs created is likely zero or less than zero, which is to say that probably a few hundred or a few thousand jobs have been destroyed so far at a cost of $300 million.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Disappointing Archaeological News

Islamic State militants behead archaeologist in Palmyra

He was 82-years-old and had worked to maintain Mesopotamian historical treasures even through the reign of the Ba'athists.  That was no mean feat.  To borrow a quote from Indiana Jones in regards to his feelings about Nazis, "I hate these guys."

My Hope in the Future has been Restored

The Kids Are All Right (At Fixing Up Old Cars)


Spare Us, Judy Blume

"Judy Blume, the author who wrote books about sex for kids is now lamenting that kids are too sexual."

The Church isn't the Only Institution to Encounter Dramatic Change in Recent Years

In fact, now more than ever, leaders in academia and ecclesia need to be nimble in their programming, planning, and creativity.  The former ways are not going to answer the new vision.  Any parish in our tradition that wants things to remain as they have been since the 1950's should probably just close their doors now and save themselves the trauma of gradual disintegration.

Frustrated with the public schools, middle-class urbanites embrace an educational movement.


Law schools at the University of Connecticut, Yale University, Quinnipiac University and Western New England College are still recovering from the steep decline in prospective law students....

Monday, August 17, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015

I Want to Claim Canadian Citizenship Just So I Can Vote for This Guy

The Diocese of New York has Wasted Gobs of Money on "Vanity Ministries" over the Past Thirty Years, but Couldn't Spare a Dime to Save an Historic Parish from Nonsense

Chinese Restaurant to Open in Historic Church

It has been a notorious nightclub, The Limelight, where drugs and irresponsible relations were traded, purchased, and encouraged; it's been a clothing store and a gymnasium, too.  But, once upon a time, this parish transformed how the Episcopal Church framed ministry in the 19th and 20th centuries and gave us many of the practices that we now consider standard.

A profile of its singular rector, William Augustus Muelenberg, may be found on another page of The Coracle.  Other appropriate links appear below.

From Wikipedia

University of Pennsylvania archives

From Hymnary

I'm Guessing That This Transient Moral Panic has Now Concluded; On to the Next One, Social Media

Zimbabwe has lifted a ban on big-game hunting after less than two weeks after the death of Cecil the lion, officials told NBC News on Monday.

Hey, Hands Off My Vegemite. It's Hard Enough to Find in the USA.

Australia's government says some communities should consider limiting the sale of the popular Vegemite spread because it is being used to make alcohol.

While the Article is About Higher Education, It Could Also Be Said to Describe Some of the Reasons for the Intellectual Superficiality of Episcopal Clergy

There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think. The idea goes back at least as far as Socrates. Today, what we call the Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.

But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.

Jewish businessman spearheads rescue of Christians and Yazidis

A Canadian Jewish businessman has told The Tablet he has overseen the rescue of more than 120 Christian and Yazidi girls kidnapped by so-called Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq as Pope Francis condemned the "silence" of the international community in the face of ongoing persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.

China Steps Up the War on the Cross

China’s ongoing war on Christianity is intensifying, as officials continue to pull down crosses and other religious iconography and Christians respond with protests.

Of Course Not

EPA won’t face fines for polluting rivers with orange muck

Marine Archaeological News

Archaeologists working in the Sicilian Channel between Tunisia and Sicily have discovered a submerged 40-foot-long (8-meter) limestone monolith carved by Stone Age humans some 10,000 years ago.

The Govt Always Gets Nutrition Wrong

The science of skipping breakfast: How government nutritionists may have gotten it wrong

Friday, August 14, 2015

Archaeological News

Archaeologist believes he may have found remains of ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti — hidden in King Tut’s tomb

"We don’t need celebrity feminists to raise our awareness"

But feminists want to live in the past. Instead of fighting for more freedom, they argue for less. In the past two years, feminist campaigns have inspired the banning of songs, comedians, club nights and newspapers, called for state intervention in advertising and for sterilised speech to eliminate words and phrases that supposedly constitute everyday sexism. Current feminism is the antithesis of freedom; it demands that women reject public life and live in a protective fantasy world.

Global eavesdroppers: In World War II, dozens of radio operators in Scituate dialed into enemy conversations worldwide

Reception was incredible: They could pick up tank-to-tank communications among Rommel's Afrika Korps

Five aquatic adaptations you didn’t know you had

At a glance, humans look pretty out of place in the ocean. We have low-capacity lungs, lack insulation, and our concept of “swimming” is laughably inefficient compared to our finned mammalian cousins. But thanks to a handful of adaptive traits, we might be much more at home in the lineup than we realize.

The Rivieras - California Sun

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Je suis fatiguée

It's August, and right before the Feast of the Assumption [also known as the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin], so I'm going on hiatus for the next few days.  No updates during this time unless I get bored and/or it rains.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim - Baubles, Bangles and Beads

John Updike

Most of American life consists of driving somewhere and then returning home, 
wondering why the hell you went.

"I seem to have an upset stomach.  I should never eat on planes."

With that statement, John Updike, at the time a well-known novelist and short story writer, very much the toast of the Eastern literary establishment, parted the curtain and took his position behind the podium at the center of the stage.  For an hour or so he read from his collected works, answered questions from a crowd of mostly students of our Jesuit university, and offered piquant observations on contemporary life, human relations, and God.  As a graduate student, and a member of the "lecture committee" that arranged his appearance, I was pleased at the general response and delighted to meet him

Then, rather quietly, he asked if someone might drive him to the hospital as he thought his appendix had just burst.  He was almost right about that, as it turns out; it was certainly just about to; and, as loyal readers of The Coracle may have guessed, given my past history of being in cars with racing drivers, bishops, academics, and musicians, I was the guy who drove him to the emergency room.

If I were to write an autobiography, I think I would entitle it Karma's Chauffeur.

John Updike was something that is virtually non-existent in our flat, superficial, and spiritually retarded age: a man of letters who was also a person of the spirit.  How he got to that place of metaphysical realization, and the guides whom he used to nurture it, should be of interest to those charting a spiritual course through our post-Christian reality, displaying what literature once was and might be again.

Updike was born in middle class comfort to educated and capable parents.  As an only child, he was indulged, particularly by his mother, a writer of limited success but, apparently, boundless energy who instilled a love of words, sentences, and paragraphs in her son.  Even her typewriter and paper became for Updike symbols of comfort.  Graduating as valedictorian from his Berks County, Pennsylvania high school and earning a degree in English at Harvard, Updike starting writing for the Harvard Lampoon, a periodical he served as editor, and, upon graduation, for The New Yorker.

Honing his style, and making important contacts in the publishing world, Updike drew from contemporary voices in literature such as Salinger, Cheever, and Nabokov, and was grounded in the classics.  Almost on schedule, with the advent of the 1960's, he found himself in the midst of a profound spiritual crisis.  While he had been raised a Christian [or, as a Congregationalist, close enough] and had maintained the ethos of the faith, like many others of the era he found traditional spirituality lacking for the Atomic Age.  It was then that he turned for direction and some sense of intellectual solace to the works of the theologians Karl Barth and Soren Kierkegaard.  That brought a greater, and much more resonant, quality to his prose.

As Barth and Kierkegaard both stressed God at work in the hear-and-now, with the sheer impossibility of ever completely knowing God, and that such attempts at knowledge would be thwarted if one used only the tools of intellect and logic, Updike sought to create a character who would be both typical of the towns in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts that he knew, yet evocative of the spiritual quest as it was encountered in the second half of the 20th century.  Thus was born Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, former high school athlete, suburban husband and father, and Toyota dealer.  Through four novels, from Rabbit, Run in 1960 to 1990's Rabbit at Rest, Angstrom comes to represent the experience of the middle-class Protestant through the Camelot of the Kennedy's to the Reagan presidency, all the while taking into account the remarkable changes in culture, mores, and world view.

There were other characters, of course, such as the rebellious teenage store clerk in "A & P" and the blocked writer, Henry Bech, the protagonist in a trilogy of novels.  [A note of interest, mainly to me:  Once, when speaking with my wife's cousin who, like my wife, had attended a women's college in the South, she recounted the time that Updike came to address the literary society in the college's refined and elegant sitting room.  I had to smile as not only did the cousin remember Updike's joy at being surrounded by lovely and gracious Southern women, but he also wrote a barely fictionalized scene of the same in one of the Bech novels, with his writer-hero realizing the same delight at a fictional college.]

Beyond Rabbit and Bech, though, the recurring character in an Updike novel is always some representative of 20th century standards, losing his or her way in the maze of conflicting ethics, attempting to find a true sense of love and purpose in the midst of existential chaos.  He made this philosophical/theological situation so familiar that it is nearly a cliche, even aped by nostalgic television shows like "Mad Men".

That night, in the car on the way to the hospital, we got to speaking of saints like Teresa and Updike became quite jolly thinking what it would be like for a 20th century Lutheran or Congregational pastor to suddenly announce to his congregation that he was having religious visions, hearing divine voices, and occasionally levitating.  His temperature was a little high, I guess.  We both laughed at what the reaction of congregations and bishops might be.  The only difference from the time of St. Teresa was that the clergy-person would be thought schizophrenic rather than demonically possessed.

"Of course, an Episcopalian would be defrocked, as that would be tantamount to cheating on a golf score."

Updike would continue to write at his self-imposed schedule of one book a year, a daunting expectation for any writer, but certainly testimony to how much he enjoyed creating characters and placing them in ordinary, and sometimes ordinarily remarkable, circumstances.  I attempted to count the number of published works that Updike produced, from novels and short stories to poetry and non-fiction appreciations, but stopped when I realized that his non-fiction alone accounted for six bound collections.  Suffice it to say, he was a writer of broad ability and deep talent.

He died in 2009 at the age of 76, succumbing to the long-term effects of cigarette smoking.  According to one of his nurses, he carried a bemused expression with him even past the point of mortality.  More than anything else, that bemusement captures the attitude and experience of a post-modern Christian.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Our Family is Everywhere

While I wasn't planning on watching, I just learned that my cousin will be working one of the cameras at tonight's candidates' debate.  He told me he'll be covering Chris Christie.  I should have asked him how many cameras that will take.

Reality Injection, Panthera Leo Edition

Good for the New York Times; they found an actual rural Zimbabwean to offer an opinion:

Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from “The Lion King”?

I Think I'll Postpone That Surf Trip to Rincon

The Puerto Rico meltdown is going to be brutal: Many of the bonds are held by Puerto Rican retirees, either directly or as part of pension fund portfolios. Moreover, the island is a typical example of blue model governance, with a bloated state that doesn’t perform effectively, public sector unions out of control, and lots of poor people who depend on a government that doesn’t serve them very well. And on top of all this, there are no bankruptcy provisions that would enable an orderly restructuring.

Look at whose debt is second only to Puerto Rico:

Stand Tall, Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love is not so loving with artificial life, apparently.

Hitchhiking robot that relied on human kindness found decapitated

If it had made it to Cleveland, it would have been given a Cavs jersey and a lift to Chicago.  Maybe some kielbasa.

Charitable Politicians

Hillary Clinton Releases Her 2007-2014 Joint Tax Returns Reporting $139 Million Income; 99% Of Charitable Contributions Went To Clinton Family Foundation

[For those disquieted that I may be criticizing the unofficial candidate of the Episcopal Church, I'll have information about the other contenders for the White House as their tax forms become available.   For example, should he decide to run, we have this, too: Biden gave average of $369 to charity a year]

The political class has always found it easier to use other people's money.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Archaeological News

Monumental fortification belonging to the Biblical city of Philistine Gath unearthed

As the article notes, and rather like its most famous resident, Goliath, this is a massive discovery, in more ways than one.

Actually, It's the Lawyers Who Advised Them to File Who Should Bear the Cost

Family to Pay Price for Trying to Sue Ammo Dealers

It does get a little cloudy, I suppose, as the lawyers are from the Brady Campaign, which is an anti-gun group, and the plaintiff is actually an employee of that organization.

Church organizations who encouraged this action should pony up, too.

15 Questions About Science And Religion, Answered

Well, addressed if not necessarily completely answered.

"St. Paul bids us be fools for Christ's sake - but not blithering idiots."

Thus said Fr. Duddleswell; words that can be taken to heart by this unfortunate, and certainly well-intended, businessman:

Dan Price, chief of credit-card payment processing firm Gravity Payments, raised his employees' salaries to $70,000. Most responses were positive, but several employees quit and some customers took their business elsewhere fearing fee rises. Now a lawsuit from the CEO's brother threatens the company's existence 

As the economist Milton Friedman once noted, freedom is always superior to mandated equality.

Another Country Heard From

I'm surprised [no, I'm not] that no member, as far as I can tell, of the US media sought to reveal what the people of Zimbabwe think of the death of their own Cecil the lion.  It's as if the media do not listen to voices outside of their own diminishing sphere, isn't it?

Fortunately, you have The Coracle and we read from time to time The Bulawayo Chronicle.  Here's a portion of a recent editorial on the subject, although I would really recommend following the link and reading the whole opinion piece:
Why such an outpouring of grief in the West over one lion..? The name Cecil perhaps, given its historical significance for white monopoly capital in Southern Africa and the West? Many believe the lion was named after Cecil John Rhodes, the celebrated forerunner of British colonialism in Southern Africa, explaining the saturation coverage on the demise of his namesake. 
The Western media's obsession with Cecil gets us thinking. Why only him? What's going on?
And, from the comments section:
The distorted nature of the outcry in the West is nothing to do with the colonialist. The British and American public doesn't remember Cecil Rhodes at all, you may be pleased (or upset) to hear.
It's actually just a fad. Middle-class westerners, encumbered by a vague sense of guilt over their privileged position, like to latch on to the latest "outrage" to come along and get very worked up about it, as a way of boosting their self-esteem - it lets them feel like they're doing something to combat the evils of the world, without costing much effort. The internet and social media have magnified this trend in a big way, by allowing people to show off to their friends and acquaintances just how righteously indignant they can get, thus proving how good and noble they are.
The commenter certainly has a point.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

As Every Waterman Knows, and Too Many Scientists Have Disputed

Giant waves more than a myth

Oh, for God's Sake

If we must have armed law enforcement in schools, could they at least be trained to work with children?

Federal lawsuit filed after third grader with disabilities is put in handcuffs

If the Leaders of the Episcopal Church Were Really Interested in Economic Justice, They Would Get Behind This

The White House report, entitled Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers, raises some important points. First, “more than one-quarter of U.S. workers now require a license to do their jobs, with most of these workers licensed by the states. The share of workers licensed at the state level has risen fivefold since the 1950s.” Where a license used to be required only for unusual jobs, now licensing requirements take up a major part of the employment sphere — and not just for physicians, but also for florists or funeral attendants. 

Many of the jobs subject to licensing are the sort of entry-level or near-entry level jobs traditionally occupied by poor people trying to better themselves. Forcing them to undergo testing, apprenticeships, etc., in order to occupy these jobs makes bettering themselves much harder, reducing social mobility.

An Interesting Observation

Was America More Diverse in the 1950s?
Yet further down on the scale of moral importance, in the areas of music, books, general knowledge, cars, conversation, and fashion, the United States was far more diverse in the 1950s. The racial progress in America has led to a reflexive dismissal of everything else the culture produced prior to the civil rights victories of the 1960s. Marinating in self-regard for our progress, we reject previous eras as bland black-and-white prisons, a patriarchal matrix of Mad Men-style sexual harassment, racism, bland pop music and TV dinners. We now measure our ethical stature by our propinquity to “people of color,” forgetting that by every other measure Americans in 2015 have become one undifferentiated blob of bland sameness.

If You Thought Dentists Were Hard on Wildlife, Look What "Green Energy" Does

WALNUT CREEK -- A young female golden eagle rescued by San Ramon Valley firefighters in March and rehabilitated by Lindsay Wildlife Hospital died hours after being struck by a wind turbine last Saturday.

Monday, August 3, 2015

It Was Only a Matter of Time

Las Cruces police investigate explosions near Calvary Baptist, Holy Cross

I'm not sure why the Las Cruces Sun News is being so dainty; in my day as a reporter the headline would have accurately read, "Bombs Explode At Area Churches".  After all, they were bombs and they did explode and it's only fortune or providence that prevented any injuries.

Plus this chilling observation:
"I'm just thankful to God nobody was standing by the door, because there's usually always somebody standing there. But because it was the consecration part of the Mass, everybody was kneeling down and facing toward the altar," he said. "Ten minutes later we would have been leaving and standing around that space."
I'd rather that some politicians, media "thought leaders", and social activists would quit making Christianity their bogey-man.  That kind of cynical rhetoric can excite the addle-minded and homicidal.

Headstone of the Week

A Dentist Shot a Lion! A Dentist Shot a Lion! Meanwhile....

Unlike Muslims, who can conform and wait out ISIS until the day it is defeated, Christians, along with “polytheist” Yizidis, can don veils and give up cigarettes and alcohol, but, as non-Muslims, their very presence is an intolerable offense to the year-old “caliphate.” These minority religious groups in Iraq and Syria, lacking protecting armies or militias of their own, find themselves in unique peril. During his Bolivian trip this month, Pope Francis called it “genocide.”

An Appreciation of What Warner Brothers Brought to Us by Way of Cartoons

Along with this apt observation:
The classics are beloved: "Rabbit Of Seville" (1949), with Elmer and Bugs rewriting Rossini; "What's Opera, Doc?" (1957), with Bugs as Brunnhilde pursued by Elmer as Siegfried. Looney Tunes prospered at a time when a mass audience could be relied upon to know something of the core repertoire and conventions of opera, ballet, the fine arts. It's trickier doing that now, when no one knows nothing but rock'n'movies'n'TV shows. On the other hand, Looney Tunes can also be said to have pioneered, animated shorts-wise, the post-modern. See "Duck Amuck" (1953), in which Daffy struggles to hold the narrative together as the hand of a malevolent cartoonist keeps intruding to switch backgrounds, remove props and humiliate the duck with embarrassing costumes. At the end of the picture, the camera pulls back to reveal that the sadist behind Daffy's misfortunes is none other than Bugs himself.
I look back to my childhood when our cultural education was such that, among other similar experiences, George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra would host all of the elementary school children at least once a year to play for us and explain what was behind the notes.  Szell even went so far as to tell us when to applaud and when not to.  That's really something I wish the crowds at Tanglewood knew, as they often obscure the opening of the next movement with their absurd clapping.

There are now bar owners, welders, and carpet cleaners in northeastern Ohio who can explain what is a divertimento and why it's important.  The subsequent generations can tell you why the slaughter of a lion that they didn't know about the day before is the purest act of evil in the history of the human race, but can't find Zimbabwe on a map.

Told Ya So

That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Headline That I've Wanted to See Since I was an Eight-Year-Old "Jonny Quest" Fan

The Navy Is Testing Its Seaborne Death Lasers

Don't know about "Jonny Quest"?  It was only the coolest cartoon ever seen in the 1960's forever.

This Would Be a Perfect Addition to the Rectory

Homeowner Builds $2 Million Scuba Diving Pool In His Garden

That may be a minority view, though.

For Those Who Suddenly Care about African Wildlife, I Would Recommend Reading This

Rhino Economics

The Last Gasp of the "Lawsuit Theology" that Marked the Episcopal Church During the First Decade of the Century

Bishop Bruno Under Review for Locking Out St. James Congregation


Episcopal panel reviewing bishop's actions in St. James church sale, closure


Bishop's pending sale of O.C. church leaves congregation locked out 

It was a foolish and unnecessary move by the bishop, one that was shared by Episcopal Church leadership from the top down during the latest Presiding Bishop's administration, a time that saw the national Church spend $20,000,000 of our donated money on lawsuits against congregations who were judged to be disharmonious with the moral view of the House of Bishops.  This nonsense changed no one's mind and merely chased away people and donations from the greater church.  In a splendid bit of irony, one of the reasons the Diocese of Los Angeles needs this developer's money is that closing churches diminishes the donation revenue stream.

Congregations that were treated with love and patience have stayed active and a part of diocesan life; not everyone can or should evolve on moral issues with the same rhythm as the bishops and other church leaders.  Patience, understanding, and love are far better than lawsuits, locks, and moral preening.

Besides, St. James was a rare parish that had a ministry both to the area homeless and its surfing community, neither of which will now be served by the Episcopal Church.  Good God, sometimes I just want to say of the Church that I have served since I was a 25-year-old monk, "Let it burn."