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.

It Took Awhile, but It Was Worth It

I Confess

More people watched 'NCIS' than the Democratic debate

One of the Reasons New England Has Difficulty Attracting Clergy

It's a mighty challenge.  Don't you love such a noble battle?

But What Does This Have to Do with Climate Change?

12 Christians Brutally Executed By ISIS Refused to Renounce Name of Christ, Died Praying, Reciting Lord's Prayer

The Episcopal Church statement may be found here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Oh, Look. An Internet Argument.

There was a big argument on the Internet, I think it originated on Twitter, about this photo.  The original poster maintained that the man holding the puppy was Eric Blair, better known by his nom de plume of George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, along with many other works.  It was taken during the Spanish Civil War, when Blair/Orwell fought against the fascists.

Thing is, that's not him.

The photo was once used to illustrate the paperback version of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, which is probably what created the confusion.  That, and the puppy-holder does bear a superficial resemblance to the author.

As happens, and not just with Internet controversies, there was considerable back and forth about the photo, with clear divisions between the pro- and anti-Blair contingents.  As Blair/Orwell had been a Communist for awhile, things became rather ideological and degraded into exchanges of Hitler accusations and Stalin references.  Name calling came next, of course.  Typical of our modern age, really.

Arguments such as this narrow one's perspective and renders focus opaque.  So much so that none of those involved in the back and forth noticed the tall, hat-less, bespectacled fellow in the center of the photo.  Yep, that's Ernest Hemingway.

If the Past is Any Indicator, Badly, Poorly, and Harmfully

How Will the Government Structure American Diets Next?

And another:  The More We Learn on Nutrition, the More We Ignore

I Know the Feeling

Aging Mother Knows Any Wrong Move Could Be Taken For Telltale Sign Of Dementia

Unfortunately, There is a Generation of Naval Officers Who Will Get Lost When the Power Goes Out

After Twenty Years, Naval Academy reinstates celestial navigation

I learned to do this about fifteen years ago and not only was it fun to learn but on at least one occasion it was invaluable.

Plus, this quote:  "After all, you can't hack a sextant."

This Made Me Uncommonly Sad

The HillObama: Those taking religion seriously are often suspicious of others

There has been no time in my life, a life spent mostly in pluralistic institutions, where this has been even remotely true.  In fact, whether the "person taking religion seriously" is a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a member of the Native American Church, or any other body, it has always been their openness to others that has marked the commonality of true people of faith.

I appreciate that those who seek the power and compensation of civic life tend only to see the world politically, with religion simply serving as another convenient tool for sectioning the population, but beyond "political Christianity" and "political Islam" and the like there are actually people who live their faith and use it to transcend the petty nonsense that so informs, distorts, and perverts the secular life.

Good Lord, the charitable giving alone of the "seriously religious" far outstrips that of the atheo-secularists, and those funds generally go to "others".

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Archaeological News

This is the site where the famous Antikythera Mechanism was found, a device that altered our thinking about the ancient world and its technology.

Just Another Day for the EPA

EPA dinged for another wastewater spill in Colorado

Well, at least they still concentrate on the important stuff:  EPA spends 160 million on public relations.

Besides, the only people really impacted by the original toxic spill were the Navajo, and we gave them an "Indigenous Peoples Day" yesterday, so they should be good.

Monday, October 12, 2015

"This Sure Takes the Sting Out of Attempted Genocide"

So says an Eastern Shawnee acquaintance, tongue in cheek.  Of course, it is a ripe opportunity to "virtue signal".

More cities celebrating ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’ amid effort to abolish Columbus Day

Me?  I'll spend the day celebrating my "indigenous" heritage as well my immigrant heritage.  People are rarely as simple as political ideology would have them be, don't you find?  Mainly, though, I'll be at work.

"‘Yes, the Kids Are Intolerant’"

Those under 40 who have a social justice orientation are generally more intolerant than those who do not. Again, this relationship is not present for those over 40. Those over 40 tend to articulate classical liberal philosophies, which emphasize the right to expression, even for our political foes. Ludwig von Mises argued that liberalism “demands toleration for doctrines and opinions that it deems detrimental and ruinous to society” since “only tolerance can create and preserve the condition of social peace.”

Comment of the Week

"In times of internal strife and quandary, it’s seldom a good idea to turn to the precepts of dead white men."

This is from The Paris Review, a journal founded by white men who are now all dead.  To extend the logic of the writer [who, if judged by his photo, seems to be a barely alive white man], our regard for historical wisdom ends when the sagacious realize their mortality and/or they are not members of this week's preferred socio-ethnic group.  That, along with a tone that indicates his statement is settled and beyond debate, makes this a classic in pseudo-intellectual observation.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Um...It Took a University Study to Figure This Out?

A new report shows that sexually active women have a much better chance of getting pregnant than those who remain abstinent, a press release from Eurekalert reports.

Just One Problem....

Weekend Update Slams Excessive Gun Ownership: ‘What Are We Preparing For, a Rap Beef?’

An acquaintance of mine was, until he moved on to another assignment, a clandestine security guard at NBC headquarters in New York.  While on duty, which included Saturday nights, he was armed with a Glock 17 and a Smith and Wesson .38 Airweight with a Remington 870 secured in a nearby closet.  During the skit described above, over sixty weapons were in service protecting the two cast members.

So, it's okay for NBC "talent" to be guarded at all times by heavily armed men and women who protect the cast of Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show from the audience members, but the rest of the country is to be mocked for exercising reasonable care in maintaining their safety?

Glock, S&W, and Remington?  What are you preparing for, NBC?  A rap beef?  [This actually makes me hungry for a beef wrap.]

I Never Realized Those Days with Gramps on His Pontoon Boat Meant I Was an Elitist

Pitzer Senate: “Yacht Club” is Too Offensive

Well, I'm Neither Swedish, Nor Lutheran, Nor a Swedish Lutheran, but This Seems Short-Sighted

Swedish Lutheran Bishop Eva Brune has proposed to remove the Christian symbols of the Seamen’s Church in Freeport to make it more inviting for visiting sailors from other religions.The bishop wants to temporarily make the Seamen’s Church available to all, for example by marking the direction of Mecca and removing Christian symbols....

I'm guessing they won't be singing Tryggare kan ingen vara anytime soon, either.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Don Henley - The Boys of Summer

Edge of the Fire [1969]

It isn't permitted in Ocean City anymore, but when I was about 13 or 14 we could still go down the boardwalk steps to the beach at night. A lot of the high school and college kids did so and built fires and brought guitars, smoked cigarettes and sometimes pulled from a bagged bottle of Miller High Life. I was a straight-arrow kind of kid who didn’t smoke or drink, and I was conspicuously younger than most of them, but they let me enjoy the music, company and laughter, as long as I kept an appropriate distance. One evening a collection of Hare Krishna members, complete in saffron robes and with shaved heads, joined the evening beach set with their drums and other percussion instruments, handing out some delicious vegetarian dish that my friend, Jerry, refused to eat because he was afraid that it might have LSD in it. It was all a rather typical scene in the late 1960’s. The particular thing that united us was that we were beach people, with the royalty of the set being the surfers.

One of the surfers was a young man in his early 20’s who had recently returned from Vietnam. These days we would say that he had post-traumatic stress disorder; in 1969 it was still called “battle fatigue” or “shell shock”. It was not something that was treated in any real manner back then. He was pale and gaunt, despite spending most of his days on the 7th Street beach, the one that was marked for surfing only, and most of that time in the water. He was never in the center of any activity; he hovered in the outer orbit of the people around the beach fire, slightly visible in the orange glow. Mostly, he would stare at the waves and the phosphorescent lines that they made at night. He looked like he had gazed into some terrible abyss, had seen some ghastly truth, and was still trying to figure it out while knowing that he never could or would. He was known only by his ironic nickname, which was “Baby”.

One night Baby started a conversation with me. I don’t know why, except that I tended to the outside orbit of the beach fire, too. He just started talking, without looking at me, about how much he enjoyed the music, how much he had missed it over the past two years. That, and the caramel corn on the boardwalk and the cheeseburgers from a shack that stayed open late into the night. Baby then told me some lurid tales of Vietnam; so lurid that I wasn’t sure if they were true and wondered if he did so just to see my reaction.

He then asked me if I had seen that morning’s newspaper. It had been filled with stories about the horrific murder of a houseful of celebrities in Los Angeles. My mundane response was something like, “Yeah. Pretty bad.” Then he looked right at me; it was so startling that I think I stopped breathing for a moment. He said, “That’s why I ride the waves. They’re wild and they’re mad. Master the wave; master the madness.” He was silent for awhile afterwards; then he walked off into the darkness. I didn't move until my friend Jerry came over to ask me if I thought Baby was on LSD.

I never saw Baby again at night, and only occasionally in the daylight, on his board out on the waves of 7th Street, waiting for the best one, the largest and the maddest; waiting for just the right wave to master.

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

Thursday, October 8, 2015

It Appears That I'm Not the Only One Getting Tired of Neo-Puritanism

What do the acolytes of the State want to ban this week? Which bootlace eyelet will they lubricate with eager spittle? Oh, the usual stuff. Fun. Your fun. Vox writer Dylan Matthews twittered his demands, and they’re quite ordinary — except for one new requirement. See if you can spot it.

Every time some wan, weedy, coddled urbanite decides I'm to conform to his vision of Cacotopia, I want to drink eight Manhattans, light up a Cuban, and drive way, way too fast on the winding roads of Litchfield County with all of the windows down and the headlights off.  Preferably with Led Zeppelin blaring from the speakers.

There's more:
All this wonderful new revenue should be offered with gratitude to the State, because the State has graciously accepted the responsibility of paying for the results of eating and drinking and smoking. Thus the State should have a say in what you do, because the State cares. That company that makes ten cents a pack from cigarettes: Merchants of Death. The State that makes $4.76 in taxes per pack: a loving mother....

Never mind the line about guns. Again, tell me something new. It’s the penultimate demand that’s the most revealing. “I want to ban human drivers ASAP.” This does not stand for “A Silly Asinine Proposal.” It’s a sign of the new enlightened man, who has identified — correctly — the interior of the automobile as the last place where one can go about one’s business and do what one wishes. Right now there is a man in a large car who is smoking a cigarette and drinking a Coke, and possibly listening to a talk-radio show that’s ginning up the Benghazi Hoax for the 600th day. We can tax the jeebus out of the items he ingests, but he’ll still have that big car, which (1) will make the oceans rise like the gorge of a New York Times reporter sent to cover NASCAR for the Style section, and (2) allows the driver to live anywhere he wants and go where he pleases.

It baffles the mind that these things are still allowed.

I Tend Not to be a Sentimentalist, Except When It Comes to Boats and Ships

Friends of the S.S. United States Send Out a Last S.O.S.

Everything You Know is Wrong

Well, many, many of the things that the government told you to know error.  Or really, really wrong.  Or of service mainly to well-funded lobbyists.  Or excellent opportunities for graft.  Or all of the above.
By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the U.S. is “losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas, and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.”

This was Done for the Student's Safety

Girl, 9, denied inhaler during coughing fit, per school district policy

As we have noted twice this week, when did public education become synonymous with child abuse?

I Find This a Little Cynical

At the recent meeting at the United Nations, the individual nations made a pledge to cut their overall emissions with a monetary estimate as to what that cut would cost.  Here the odd bit:

Botswana, which had a GNP of $15.81 billion in U.S. money last year, has pledged a 10% emission cut.  This accounts for the equivalent of US$ 18.4 billion, or 120% of their GNP.  In other words, they are pledging cuts that are greater than what they can generate via their entire economy.

Is this Common Core math?  If the other nations have been similarly cursory in their "pledge", then this would suggest that the entire exercise is a chimera.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't care, but I've received e-mails from ordained colleagues who are finding this a triumphant moment in human history.  Honestly, the slavish devotion of mainstream Protestants towards the U.N. reveals more than anything the sclerotic thinking dominates our profession.

I may try to sell them a bridge in Brooklyn.

Clearly, Kreskin Doesn't Work at the NYT

From The New York Times of March, 2012:

Two decades after the end of the cold war, Mitt Romney still considers Russia to be America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” His comments display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Here’s Why We Refuse To Meaningfully Talk About Mental Illness"

Everyone says we need to talk about mental illness. They especially say this after things like what happened last week at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon where a man began systematically shooting people, killing nine and injuring nine others before turning a gun on himself after being shot by police. But as much as everyone, from anonymous people on Twitter to presidential candidates, say we need to talk about mental illness, we won’t.

Great, Because We Don't Have Enough 12-Step Programs in the State

In a move that paves the way for keno gambling in Connecticut, the state announced a deal Tuesday with two Indian tribes to split the revenues for the gambling games.  

Archaeological News

New York's Original Seaport

It's Okay, Kid. Some of the Best People in History Have Been Labeled "Satanic"

A 4-year-old was allegedly forced by his teacher to write with his right hand, even though he’s left-handed. The child was sent home with a letter about how left-handedness is often associated with evil and the devil.

Besides, I was "retrained" to use my right rather than left hand and all it did was make sure that my handwriting is illegible [not a big deal in the computer age], that I can bowl and box left-handed and switch-hit in baseball.

By the way, when did public education become child abuse?

I Think Polar Bears are Getting Tired of Being Presented as the Perpetual Victims of Human Activity

Polar bears panic Canadian researchers in Beaufort Sea by chewing on equipment

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yet, Americans are Fatter Than Ever

The drop in soda consumption represents the single largest change in the American diet in the last decade.

It's almost as if the much-vilified soda is not entirely responsible.  That would mean the culprit is somewhere within the government's food pyramid.  How could that be?

Meanwhile, read this, if you wish.

Art History News

Italian art historians 'find 100 Caravaggio paintings'

This Sounds Sickeningly Familiar

A mother who enables her mentally ill son, who has a history of going on and off treatment medications, access to more guns than are owned by all of my Ohio cousins.  I would have thought someone sentient would have noticed that this was a bad formula ever since...oh, December of 2012.

Oregon Killer’s Mother Wrote of Troubled Son and Gun Rights

In Response to the Fretful Mail and E-Mail That I've Been Getting for the Past Thirty Years

For some reason, either through a kind of self-service or the sclerotic thinking for which Protestant churches are notorious, many of my colleagues, although often well-intended, tend to see the world as it existed when we were all young, idealistic clergy.

Clearly, things have changed:
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The number of people living in extreme poverty is likely to fall for the first time below 10 percent of the world's population in 2015, the World Bank said on Sunday as it revised its benchmark for measuring the problem.

Literary Archaeological News

A newly discovered clay tablet in the Sulaymaniah Museum in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq has corrected the order of chapters, filled in blanks and added 20 lines to the Epic of Gilgamesh.

"Creating Awareness" = Indulging Lunacy

Maine author dresses like mushroom, attempts 40-mile walk to protest student loans

In This Day and Age, Not Being Noticed at School May Be Best for the Student

The Atlantic: When Schools Overlook Introverts
As the focus on group work and collaboration increases, classrooms are neglecting the needs of students who work better in quiet settings.
To be honest, schools have always been poor at noticing or reaching the introverts.  That's why introverts tend to be more auto-didactic than the other kids.  That can be a distinct life-advantage.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. - H. L. Mencken

Monday, October 5, 2015

"Free Play" at Recess is No Longer Supported

Two Edina elementary schools, worried about the politics of the playground, are taking an unusual step to police it: They have hired a recess consultant. 

Some parents have welcomed the arrival of the firm Playworks, which says recess can be more inclusive and beneficial to children if it’s more structured and if phrases like, “Hey, you’re out!” are replaced with “good job” or “nice try.” 

But some of the kids at Concord and Normandale Elementary say they are confused, or that the consultants are ruining their play time.

The kids feel that way because the "consultants" are ruining their play time.  What kids want a child psychologist constantly observing them at recess, correcting their language, and providing all of the rules.  Is childhood so potentially toxic that adults need to control every, single aspect of it?

When, exactly, did public education become a form of child abuse?

Sound Advice

This evening, a police officer on the news advised us to "be aware of who your surroundings are" and to "make sure you keep the company that you keep".

Usually They Just Blame the CIA

Iranian general suggests Saudi tragedies orchestrated by Israel

Gearhead Archaeological News

James Dean's Porsche found? Mystery man claims he knows where it is

Sunday, October 4, 2015

ISIS Hates History

Stray Photos from the "Delete" File

I tend to save photos that I find bizarre, interesting, or useful for possible inclusion in a weblog posting or absurd message to some family member or friend.  However, after they've sat in a file through the lives of two or three computers, it's probably time to let them go.  Where else to discard them but on The Coracle?

I'm not sure what attracted me to this, other than I'd really like to own and drive a "jungle yacht", especially with that remarkable stretched sheet metal.

 Surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson about to fly to South Africa to discover the perfect wave.  Yep, even surfers dressed to travel in the mid-1960's.

Wishful thinking, or complete occupational collapse, on the part of the Detroit Police Department. 

This is either a test of early football helmets or a Cleveland Browns fan reacting to their success so far this season.
"Women's Lib" meets comic books, circa 1972
If a dog's mind were wired like a computer.

The Martyrs of Oregon

A gunman singled out Christians, telling them they would see God in “one second,” during a rampage at an Oregon college Thursday that left at least nine innocent people dead and several more wounded, survivors and authorities said.“[He started] asking people one by one what their religion was. ‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, and if you’re a Christian stand up. And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you are going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them,” Stacy Boylen, whose daughter was wounded at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., told CNN.

This is why, until the end of the 19th century, Christians often found it prudent to carry with them the means for self-defense.  I appreciate that conflicts with a common narrative, but reality can do that.  While I'm convinced that the killer's pharmaceutical profile will be consistent with that of other such killers, and that the surreptitious side effects of psychotropics aided his homicidal rage, this may also be a glimpse of what the post-Christian age will contain.

Related commentary [Warning: rough language may be present within the body of the article]:
Underemployed, disrespected and frustrated men drive terrorism, mass shootings, gang warfare, you name it. But railing against guys for “toxic masculinity” clearly hasn’t worked. So why not try something new? Why not celebrate what makes men unique instead of trying to turn boys into girls? Why not harness that power and set men back to work? To make America great again, we need to rescue our lost generation of young males.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Here's an Update on Our Errant U.S. Weather Modeling

Hurricane Joaquin Forecast: Why U.S. Weather Model Has Fallen Behind

Again, NOAA should just ask surfers.  They spend all of their time when not actually riding their boards looking at and studying the waves, their shapes and form.  Like ancient diviners, they know what the weather will bring over a two or three day period.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Looks Like the European Hurricane Model was the More Accurate. Sorry, Weather Channel.

Well, network and cable news and weather services have hyped a seasonal storm to sell what their sponsors offer, and permitted climate activists and politicians to posture, so now we may return to reality.  Or, non-stop Donald Trump stories, whichever.

Seriously, two days ago a semi-literate surfer could have told them, just from the shape of the waves, that nothing major or unusual was going to happen.  Rain, yes; catastrophe, no.

Steady As She Goes

Tripping Over Jerusalem [1992]

Because of the full moon, I could see that I'd just tripped over Jerusalem.  A portion of my face had landed on Gilgal.

“I meant to tell you about that,” whispered Cokes.  “This guy is some sort of Jesus freak.  He’s got like a map of Bible stuff in his yard.  Try to hold down the noise, willya?”

As I hadn’t yet recovered my breath, which had been knocked out when my solar plexus made contact with Jericho, I wasn’t ready to debate the definition of “Jesus freak”.  In walking over what I thought was a small hill just off of the super-secret, privately-owned entrance to a fabled surf break, I had managed to place myself in the middle of a geographic replica of the Holy Land, complete with the Biblical cities carved in stone, including name plates, placed in scale relationship to one another. 

“Yeah, the first time I came here I thought it was a miniature golf course,” Cokes continued.  “Which would be kind of neat, wouldn’t it?”

“Maybe it’s that, too,” I said with my first complete breath.

“Hey, that would be the gnarls.  Come golfing at Jesusville!  Sin-free until 7!”

With that he started to giggle, then cackle, then laugh so loudly that I expected lights to come on at the mansion house, illuminating us like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

“I thought I was supposed to hold it down.”

“Ah, never mind.  Who could hear us over the surf, anyway?”

Which was true.  The beach into which we were sneaking had once been the proving ground for many of the early surfing champions and their boards.  It was here that skills were refined and informal experiments in board technology were carried out, leading to the advances in fin arrangement and board length and shape that marked the genesis of surfing as a mainstream activity, rather than the curious pursuit of some mildly shell-shocked World War II veterans.

Times had changed in this area since the 1950’s, however.  What had once been a beach that was publicly accessible had become private property.  For a couple of decades, the owner had placed a gate across the only entrance, which was a footpath, but generally left it unlocked.  After a burst of thefts in the increasingly high-priced area, he locked the gate but let some of the area surfers have keys to it.  Not that it made much difference, as by the early 1980’s the keys and their copies had made the rounds of the serious surf community from one coast to the other and back again.

By the 1990’s, though, the new owners decided they didn’t want scruffy surfers walking on their beach and using their ocean, so the footpath was landscaped over with rocks and new plantings, including some surprisingly mature trees, and every portion of the property surrounded by either brick, stone, or security fencing.  Well, all portions except for one small opening in the ramparts where the brick and metal fencing did not quite mesh.  This hole in the wall was a secret closely guarded by only about 100,000 surfers in the contiguous United States.

Still, because of the proximity of the house to the beach, and the new owner’s rumored affection for firearms and pit bulls, the only time that anyone could get to the surf was during the middle of the night, and then only when the moon was full so that one could see the way to the water and the surf.  The fact that this was the primo feeding time for the more aggressive sharks was usually not mentioned.

Cokes, whose nickname was earned not because of any drug use, but because he was all but blind without glasses that were pop-bottle bottom thick, had offered to be my guide because, as he had noted earlier that day, “It’s a place of history, man.”  So, with a cassette of “Surfin’s Safari” set on perpetual loop, we took his venerable Toyota pickup at 1 in the morning to the hole in the wall, squeezed through its opening with a couple of nine-and-a-half foot boards, and navigated our way over the "Jesusville" golf course to the place of well-earned legend.  When I entered the water I had that same feeling I had when I first saw the Liberty Bell, or the time I shook John Glenn’s hand.

Surf beaches can change over time, either due to natural disaster, erosion of the bottom, or changes in current patterns wrought by those who claim to have the science to address such things.  Some of the famous beaches, especially those in family-friendly areas, no longer provide any interest to the obsessed surf community, as they have been “improved” with jetties and other artificial construction so that maladroit, video-addicted children won’t hurt themselves in 12 inches of water.  This beach, however, kept for nearly half a century in a state of suspended animation, still had the rhythm and power that made it a Mecca in the early days of our very odd avocation, and every ride put one in touch with the guys of equal legend who carried nicknames like Midget, Canoe, and Da Cat.

After a few hours riding the evening glass, with dawn getting nearer, and with it the reality of guard dogs, handguns, and hypothermia beginning to claim our attention, we reluctantly left the beach, now almost too tired to lug the boards, not to mention play commando through the fencing to get back to the Toyota

With “Surfin’ Safari” once again playing on the pickup’s tinny radio, I thanked Cokes for this memorable participation in natural and living history.  “Sometimes it’s worth tripping over Jerusalem, I guess,” said Cokes.  Sometimes, indeed.

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

Thursday, October 1, 2015

This is an Excellent Point

I offered this admonition because I’m a firm believer in the idea that to fully appreciate art one must be able to set aside their political and ideological notions. When you think of art not as an expression of culture or an examination of human nature but as a means to an ideological end, you risk creating a cultural experience in which you have closed yourself off to a broad swathe of the human experience.

"911 caller: Monkey's eating mail out of neighbor's mailbox"

Luckily, someone in the neighborhood happened to see the monkey and recognize the situation was "not normal," Cordingly said.

Let Me Know When They Start Sacrificing Goats

In more ancient times, when communal experiences were mediated by religion, crowds used to gather outside temples on feast days. In Biblical times, for instance, on pilgrimage holidays like Passover, Jewish people were supposed to travel to Jerusalem, to be present at the Holy Temple, where the High Priest would make a sacrifice to God.

Things I Like about New York

You can have a "Grand Opening" and "Store Closing" sale at the same time at the same place.

The Month's Moment of Moral Panic: "UN Calls for Worldwide Online Censorship"

Of course they do.  In the modern age, the UN is far more interested in serving as "World Information Control" than in arranging peace in the midst of war.
As the Islamic State marauds across Syria and Iraq engaging in the sexual enslavement of Christian and Yazidi women and girls, the United Nations has decided to devote its resources to studying “just how rough it is being a woman on the Internet in North America.”

Nefarious Update to Yesterday's Goat Tale

Goat 'arrested' at Tim Hortons was possibly kidnapped

The headline should read either "'Kid' Napped!" or "Someone Got His Goat".  Oh, well.

Here's the article's best sentence:
Goliath was reunited with his goat friends Sparkles and Billy