Saturday, December 31, 2016

It Just Became January 1st in Sydney


Not too many weeks ago, this was the view from my residence.

Hogmanay

How is New Year’s Eve celebrated in Scotland?

It's Not Like Middle-Eastern Christians are Being Invited to the United States

Christians laud freedom of worship in Israel
Whereas Christian communities throughout the Middle East are declining, in Israel they are growing and now number 120,000.

One Character in Search of WiFi

I'm moving this week and have yet to set up WiFi or cable/satellite or anything else at the new location, so posting will be intermittent.  Just for fun, I will be pre-posting a collection of songs about moving.  Really, that's the only fun I'll have this week as, like too many Americans, I've got too much stuff and it takes forever to put it all in boxes.

Moving Music

Friday, December 30, 2016

Since I Haven't A Church Right Now, I Get To Do This on New Year's Day

How to survive a polar bear plunge (and why you shouldn't do one)

Ridiculous.  One should do dangerous, potentially mortal things from time to time.  If you survive, you are reminded of the joy of life.  If you die, well, you're going to, anyway.

The Rediscovery of Merton

Fetters & Freedom: On Thomas Merton’s vision of transcendence through faith.

I've had my own appreciation for some time.

Swell

David Allegretti and his mate Sean conducted a little experiment, and they were shocked by the results. They bought a few hi-vis vests and then they put them to the tests. They used the vests to enter restricted areas, and they quickly discovered that no one questions people when they’re wearing one of these vests.

Considering they cost less than ten bucks each, this is a little worrying from a security angle.

In 2002, at the first St. Patrick's Day parade in NYC after September 11th, when everyone was still cagey after the atrocities, I was amazed at how easily I was permitted through security barriers without having to show I.D., just because I was wearing a fire department chaplain's uniform.  Considering those uniforms run about $200 [back then, anyway] and can be purchased online, that seemed to be a considerable hole in the otherwise elaborate security screen.

Sounds Like Someone's Office Phone was Melting

Murphy Blasts U.N. On Israel Vote, Criticizes Obama 

It appears our junior senator has been reminded of how many Israel-supporting Democrats there are in Connecticut. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What a World

From Churchgoers to Military: ISIS 'Kill Lists' Explained

I'm Used to Ignorance, but I Don't Care Much for Disregard

The Atlantic: Democrats Have a Religion Problem 

I don't care much for hostility towards my faith, either.  Certainly, it's not a wise attitude to take when you're trying to gain my vote.

Dig this:
Some of his colleagues also didn’t understand his work, he writes. He once drafted a faith-outreach fact sheet describing Obama’s views on poverty, titling it “Economic Fairness and the Least of These,” a reference to a famous teaching from Jesus in the Bible. Another staffer repeatedly deleted “the least of these,” commenting, “Is this a typo? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Who/what are ‘these’?”

He Did What Had Been Impossible

I appreciate that celebrity deaths tend to claim our consciousness, especially this time of year, but Henderson did something that no one had ever done before or since:  He wiped out one of the world's, and history's, major diseases.

D.A. Henderson, ‘disease detective’ who eradicated smallpox, dies at 87 

History Majors in the U.S. No Longer Have to Study U.S. History

History majors no longer have to take foreign language classes or classes on European, North American and U.S. history and can choose to specialize in a topic or region. The changes allow students to tailor their academic plans to better reflect a globalizing world and its impact on the study of history, faculty said.

I might add that this is at a university in Washington D.C. that is named for the first president of the United States.  The annual cost to attend George Washington University is $68,275.

Of course, more people would be attracted to the history department if it, like at many other universities, hadn't been permitted to devolve into a sour hunt for historical grievances. 

Guess the State

Stopped motorist handed 5-year-old son sippy cup with wine, police say

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I'm Glad I'm Not the Only One to Notice How Redundant Joseph Seems to Be These Days

The Gospel of Luke is what most people seem to associate with the Nativity and Christmas. But the Gospel of Matthew has an important point in it – Joseph “being a good man” didn’t plan to make Mary’s pregnancy public and ask for her to be punished. And he stayed with her, believing the angel in his dreams, and accepting the child as if it were his. Mary was not “just like” modern single mothers.

But that seems to be an unfortunate trend in pop theology and therapeutic Christianity. There’s nothing wrong with being a single mom, or by implication, with the actions required to get in that condition. Or worse, you have the guest editorial writer in the Washington Post who claimed that the Christian Church’s making Mary an example of the importance of bodily purity is hurtful to rape victims and that no human should be expected to be celibate until marriage, and that to recommend such is triggering and cruel. Which, even though I’m not Catholic, is not anywhere in the teachings about Mary that I’ve read or come across.

And it still leaves out Joseph, and that he supported Mary, and cared for her, and as best the Gospels suggest, raised Jesus as his own son, taught him a trade and saw that he grew up properly.

Cholly Isn't the Sharpest Knife in the Royal Drawer

In a message recorded December 19 at St. James's Palace, Britain's Prince Charles admonished his subjects to consider the millions of people around the world suffering from religious persecution. He also said that at a time of year when people normally think of Jesus, they should spend time remembering Muhammad.

[For those wondering, "Cholly" is how "Charlie" is often spelled in English slang.  That's English English, as opposed to American English.]

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thalassotherapy

Why swimming in the sea is good for you

A Stray Thought

What I like about the post-Christmas Day part of the Christmas season is that all of the secularists and functional atheists now forget about Christmas and no longer need to explain its true meaning to us proles.  That means, especially, that the politicians and journalists are done telling us that Jesus, Joseph, and Mary were homeless and/or refugees.  That has to be one of the most mullet-headed interpretations of scripture that I've come across, and I collect them.  They say it every year, hijacking my religion to satisfy whatever political program they want to enable to shovel tax money to their cronies and gain more control over folks like us.

What's the difference between a politician who deliberately misuses The Holy Bible to justify a political action and an Islamist who misuses the Koran to justify...well, a political action?

Since I'm on a tear tonight, as I am in-between parishes and filling my days with chores related to our move that leave me with aching muscles and the sense, as I look around the house, that all my actions are Sisyphean, I'm also glad to be past the day highlighted by those who "worship" Christmas with a tree and presents and liquor and sugary foods, yet don't actually attend to prayer and song in the midst of a community of faith united in the Body of Christ. 

They do not attend church services and sit around on the Feast of the Incarnation giving one another well-wrapped krep and call it "Christmas".  Please.

That's why I enjoy the other twelve days.  These are the days that are truly Christmas and are there for the true believers.  Each day has its own collect [daily prayer], its own lections [scriptural readings], and its own theme.  Following the twelve days of Christmas as a complete experience gives one the real sense of this brief, delightful season.  It's also the perfect antidote to whatever the muggles try to make of our time of celebration.

I Understand Completely

Oregon man locked inside movie theater after falling asleep during 'Star Wars'

I enjoyed the first movie [Which is now what?  The fourth?  The fifth?  The fourth and one-half?] because it was the 1970's, I was in college, and movies had been pretty dark for awhile.

Seriously, I recall the competition that year was Saturday Night Fever [aka Brooklyn as Hell, especially as it included the soundtrack that destroyed the great pop music of the '60's and early '70's with that disco muck], Annie Hall [failed love of a schlemiel], A Bridge Too Far [failed battle of WWII], The Spy Who Loved Me [81-year-old James Bond], Smokey and The Bandit [Hollywood's favorite trope: Southerners as morons], and, of course, Eraserhead.  I still haven't figured that last one out.

So, Star Wars was silly fun and didn't take itself seriously.  Now, it's so serious that fans fit the sociological definition of religious cultists as they argue points of orthodoxy with one another.  It's such an obtuse and top-heavy mythology that's it's neither silly, nor fun, nor watchable.

Unfortunate update: I understand the actress who played the princess has died after a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse.  I consider her young, as we were the exact same age.  I anticipate that the reaction by the fans will reinforce that sociological definition mentioned above.

On the curious habits of the spiritual-but-not-religious

The reason (I surmise) that so many people claim to be spiritual rather than religious is that being spiritual imposes no discipline upon them, at least none that they do not choose themselves. Being religious, on the other hand, implies an obligation to observe rules and rituals that may interfere awkwardly with daily life. Being spiritual-but-not-religious gives you that warm, inner feeling, a bit like whiskey on a cold day, and reassures you that there is more to life—or, at least, to your life—than meets the eye, without actually having to interrupt the flux of everyday existence. It is the gratification of religion without the inconvenience of religion. Unfortunately, like many highly diluted solutions, it has no taste.

Ironically, Terrorist Threats Boost Attendance in Australia

Victorians defied the threat of terrorism Sunday as more than 1000 resolute worshippers celebrated Christmas in the church that was the target of a planned mass-casualty attack.

Undeterred by a thwarted plot to bring terror to the heart of Melbourne, large crowds flocked to the CBD to enjoy a sunny Christmas Day.
It's a lovely cathedral and the see of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.  For those curious, "CBD" stands for "central business district"; what we commonly call "downtown".

It has ever been thus.  When threatened with martyrdom, Christians have a stubborn habit of walking towards it in a combination of defiance and faith.  However, Aussies seem to have a moxie that Americans used to have, as even non-theists were in attendance, if just to prove a point.  I doubt most of my countrymen would walk into a church for any reason these days.

Imagine If They Didn't Have the Nation's Strictest Gun Control

It's as if gun laws are obeyed only by the law-abiding.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thus Ends My Tenth, and Final, Christmas at Christ Episcopal Church and, with It, My Service to the Parish

Thank you, all.  It's been fun.  May God's blessings be upon you.  Good-bye.
Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the holy food of the Body and Blood of your Son, and for uniting us through him in the fellowship of your Holy Spirit. We thank you for raising up among us faithful servants of your Word and Sacraments. We thank you especially for our rector's work among us, and the presence of his family here. Grant that both he and we may serve you in the days ahead, and always rejoice in your glory, and come at length into your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Liturgies of Christmas


Embedded image permalink

Christmas Eve:
7:00 pm  Celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the occasion of the Feast of the Incarnation with Carols and Hymns.


Christmas Day: 
10:00 am  A Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, laced with carols, for the Feast of the Incarnation.

Friday, December 23, 2016

It's Christmas Eve in Sydney


Nela Park

When I was growing up, it never seemed like Christmas until we drove over to the east side of the city to Nela Park, the General Electric plant where light bulbs were made.  [Odds are, wherever you grew up, the bulbs used in your household were made there.]  Each year, the workers would create elaborate decorations made from their products.  I have yet to see a private home more wonderfully arrayed.  [As ever, click to enlarge.]






Came Across This Today and Found It Evocative and Touching

I am tired of their acceptance of vulgarity and sarcastic irreverence as the cultural ocean in which their kids swim. I like pop culture as much as the next person, but people who would never raise their kids on junk food seem to think nothing of letting then wallow in cultural junk, exposed to nothing ennobling, aspirational, or even earnest...

Right now, I am struggling to accept the basic Christian doctrines (virgin birth, resurrection, second coming) because I feel the Christian tribe may be the right tribe for my family. We just finished watching a BBC miniseries about the birth of Jesus, which was so beautiful and moving compared to secular TV. My nine-year-old really enjoyed it. I want to prepare my kids to live according to some unchanging truth, not subject to every passing trend, and this felt like a start. But I worry that an inability to believe in the supernatural aspects of the faith will limit my ability to be a “real” Christian.

Last Sunday’s sermon mentioned 1 Peter:18-19, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors.” This may be obvious to you, but secular liberalism does seem empty in some way, despite all the things my educated, middle-class tribe has to be grateful for. If that’s what’s been handed down to me, I want more, especially for my precious kids. I’m trying.

A Bible translation for everyone?

It was the all-time paperback best seller. But Good News had its critics.

Yes, They Can

Tiny churches can be as uplifting as cathedrals

This is Hardly a Surprise

Federal policy is unquestionably making the nation’s opioid problem worse — while also inflicting collateral damage on Americans in genuine need of pain medication.

And this disaster is being further driven by a myth that has gained additional credence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidelines for prescribing opioids.

The myth: that lax prescription of opioid drugs, such as oxycodone, is a primary driver of addiction. This notion has triggered a nationwide crackdown on these prescriptions in the name of preventing addiction and saving lives, an action that has been a catastrophe by almost any measure.
 A search of Google for "Episcopal Church Statement on Opioids" listed this as its top reference.

Well, that's the greater church.  They have their own priorities.  However, individual parishes are doing what they can in their own states, from Massachusetts to Ohio to Tennessee, which is the way it should be.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Surfing from Below


I was Assured at the Last Gathering of our State's Parishes That This was Done by Trump Supporters

I mean, we were shown a picture of it and everything.

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man arrested in the burning of an African-American church that was spray-painted with the words "Vote Trump" is a member of the congregation, the church's bishop said.

It's almost as if we can only find meaning in our common life if there is an Emmanuel Goldstein somewhere.

It Would Be Simpler Just to Say "Don't Live, Work, Visit, or Drive Through Fishers, Indiana"

Seriously, read through these fifty [50!] "safety tips" from their police department.

Having never heard of Fishers, Indiana, I assumed from this that it's just about the single most horrible place in the United States [which makes it a wonder that I've never worked at a church there].  Turns out, it's been named one of America's "friendliest" towns.

Regarded as the First Rock and Roll Song. Naturally, It's About a Car.



Bonus: That's Ike Turner on guitar playing through an amp with a cracked sound cone packed with newspaper.

Important Note for Students and Educators

Oh, and clergy:

Just because you disagree with someone, it doesn’t make them a ‘fascist’

Another Book from the [soon-to-be former] Rector's Bookshelf

How a Scottish maid became an acclaimed Harvard astronomer

News from Scotland

Haggis-flavored potato chips.  Yes, that's right.

News from Australia

Woman finds deadly snake in her Christmas tree 

[Yes, I still miss that country.]

The Police Blotter from New Zealand

'He's a medium build with white hair': Police issue bizarre appeal after SHEEP 'assaults' officer

Monday, December 19, 2016

Books from the [soon-to-be former] Rector's Bookshelf

The Three-Year Swim Club -

In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians.

Yep

Why Students Need the Books Schools Don't Want Them to Read
When I was in school, we had to hide the trashy literature inside the classic books we were supposed to be reading. Now kids have to hide the classic books inside the trashy ones. Not only are schools now increasingly willing to replace classic books with "YA" or "Young Adult" literature, but classic literature is increasingly the target of the Tolerance Police.

This is Why He's My Former Physician

Doctor:  [Looking at my lab results]  You're pre-diabetic.
Me:  Other than the obvious, what does that mean?
Doctor:  That's it's possible you will become diabetic.
Me:  Is it probable?
Doctor:  Ahhh....
Me: So, we now know what causes the circumstances of diabetes?
Doctor: Ahhh, no.  Not really.
Me: Does this mean I will develop diabetes?
Doctor:  Ahhh, no.
Me: So, it's possible, but not necessarily probable, that I will develop a disease for which the cause is unknown and, ergo, impossible to forecast.
Doctor:  Ahhh....
Me: So, everyone is pre-diabetic then.

Turns out I was right.

NYT: The study found that more than 80 percent of Americans over age 60 would get the same warning. So would nearly 60 percent of those over age 40, an estimated 73.3 million people.

Something Tells Me This Fellow Wrote His Own Obit

Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey

Update: It appears that Legacy.com was embarrassed by this vivid obituary and is having "technical" problems with it.  So, you may read it in its entirety by going to this link.

This Nonsense is One of the Reasons That We Cannot Speak of Religion Like Adults

Hate Crime Hysteria: A “victim” of a high-profile anti-Muslim incident recants, embarrassing New York politicians who bought her story whole-cloth.

I don't blame the obviously emotionally-disturbed woman as much as I want to blame politicians and a gullible, puzzle-witted media who will use people and circumstances to try to shore up a flawed narrative.  

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Certainly Not a Secularized Handel

My mom went to see George Frideric Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ and the maestro went off on an anti-Trump rant. Is nothing sacred anymore?

There are a lot of traditions about "Messiah" that I've never understood, mainly as it's an Easter piece rather than Christmas, but it stops being "sacred" when it becomes a lightweight substitute for actual worship.

The reaction to the last exercise in democracy has made everything political, although I would argue that's been the case for the last decade or so.  Recently, at the annual meeting of our diocese, a retired bishop, who takes credit for beginning a ministry to aid Middle-Eastern refugees, claimed that it was begun not because of scriptural direction or careful theological reasoning, but in order to take a slap at the vice-president-elect, who had signed a "religious freedom" act when he was governor of Indiana.  An elderly collection of attendees applauded, of course, as they appreciated the virtue signalling of an equally elderly cleric.  That generation was particularly fond of drawing lines between people and calling the lines "inclusive" and "diverse".

I couldn't help but wonder, though, were I a Trump supporter, or a believer in religious freedom, if that would have convinced me that the greater church did not welcome my perspective, my devotion, or my life; that I was somehow intellectually and morally inferior to them.  Indeed, that approximately half of the U.S. population was inferior to them.

It's a real puzzler as to why the church is dying, isn't it?

Heartbreaking Stories from Towns I Know Well

On the ground in opiate-ravaged America

Knowing these places, I had a feeling that a Democratic presidential campaign, oriented to big money and more sensitive to bi-coastal issues, would not do as well as it had in the last two elections.  I had no idea at the time how right I would be, though.

Friday, December 16, 2016

For the Record, I'm an Indian from Cleveland and The Chief Doesn't Bother Me

Cleveland Indians will keep Chief Wahoo on home and away caps for 2017

Perhaps we're coming to the end of the days when we're held emotional hostage by people who desperately search for things about which to become enraged

Among My Happiest Childhood Memories was Going Two Out of Three Falls with Dad

Want Happy Kids? Let Them Roughhouse with Dad
The media often portray dads as idiots who make rearing children more difficult, not more rich and rewarding. Men and women, despite our culture’s efforts to convince us otherwise, are made differently, and thus fulfill different roles in every area of their lives, but especially in childrearing. As any nuclear family with children of both genders can attest, the relationship between father and son and father and daughter (not to mention mother and daughter and mother and son) are unique and valuable not only to the individuals, but also to the functioning of the family as a whole.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Christianity invented modernity

Numerous metaphysical systems flourished in antiquity, of which Platonism is only one of the better known. Most have perished; Christianity is among the very few survivors. For all the limitations of its representatives, it forms the richest expression of culture in history, even though you’re unlikely to find even a mention of it on many a Cultural Studies course. It offers unrivalled resources for ­promoting the common good well beyond the visible Church.

Saved by Shakespeare’s Father, a Series of Medieval Murals Is Finally Restored

A group of wall paintings in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Guild Chapel should have been destroyed in 1563, but John Shakespeare had them covered in limewash instead, preserving them for centuries.

Archaeological News

Archaeologists discover mysterious 2,500-year-old 'lost city' in Greece

Ben, ANY U.S. Citizen 35 or Older is Qualified

Ben Affleck on the election: ‘I all of a sudden became qualified to run for president’ 

So I'm guessing he's been eligible for about a decade now, which is hardly "all of a sudden".  Perhaps he believes only a certain class of person is qualified, in which case, if he desires public service, this document below may be of some value to him.


To quote Homer Simpson: "Actors.  They know everything."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Which is Why I No Longer Teach in the United States

Humanities, Pretty Much Dead, Are Mostly a Hunt for Racism and Sexism

This is why I was in Australia this year and Scotland in the coming.  They have their "social justice" issues, too, but as foreign schools provide a deeper educational foundation for the students, they aren't as distracting to actual learning.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Marine by Calling, Ohioan by the Grace of God

Permit me some sentiment, but the hero of my childhood died today.  He was two of the best things one can be: A Marine and a Buckeye.

John Glenn, American Hero of the Space Age, Dies at 95

For elementary school boys of my generation, especially those from Ohio who watched from their classrooms as Friendship 7 blasted off, there was no greater American.  He also had impeccable taste in athletic shoes.


Once, when I was attending a celebration at my best friend's uncle's house, the phone rang and my friend's aunt, who was managing a house full of guests, asked me to answer it.  I said, "Hello, [Redacted] residence", and the voice on the other end said, "Good afternoon, this is John Glenn.  May I speak with [my friend's uncle]?"  I should note that my best friend's uncle was active in the Ohio Democratic party; and organized crime, too, but that's another story.

Before I could catch myself, I responded, "On the double, Colonel."  Now, Glenn was, at that time, a U.S. Senator, a former astronaut, and had not been a serving Marine for at least sixteen years.  I doubt he had been called "Colonel" for as long.  But, I was well-trained and squared-away and I knew that, of all the titles he bore, that was the one that mattered the most.

It was no sooner out of my mouth when I realized what I had said and was prepared to stammer an explanation.  Before I could, Glenn responded, "Outstanding, mister".  Yeah, he knew and he understood.  It was just as automatic for him.

As Alan Shepherd said into that clunky headset as his fellow astronaut headed into orbit, "Godspeed, John Glenn".

When Science Outruns Ethics

Embryos unlikely to win suit against SofĂ­a Vergara

Considering they can't speak for themselves, this isn't surprising.

Department of Redundancy Department

Washington Post: Man fatally shot in Capitol Heights has died

Government Lego Regulations in 3...2...1....

Combatants injured rolling on Legos on the floor

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

We're Moving


Well, no, not The Coracle, just the location of The Coracle's headquarters, as I have accepted another position in another town.  This means that posting will be minimal for awhile as I will be between Internet service providers and the electronic machines will not always be accessible.  I'll try to have at least one posting per day, however.

What's nice about this move is that the new parish is actually paying for it, rather than the last time when I had to pay for it myself, and I won't have to move all of those boxes and that furniture by myself. Good thing, as I'm not as spry as I was eight years ago.

The new congregation is also refinishing floors, painting the interior, finding and sealing leaks, and purchasing new kitchen appliances for their rectory.  Wow, I'm not used to this treatment.  It was particularly heartening to see how many parishioners were involved in the actual labor.

However, a move is a move and I'm hoping there is some Xanax left over from that time I had oral surgery.

Man, I Miss Australia

Greig Tonkins punched a kangaroo to save his pet dog 'Max' while on a pig hunting trip in New South Wales
[Hat tip to Carol for pointing us towards this story.]
As one may see, they can get fairly large.  They also have very hard heads.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Behold: The Menorasaurus Rex


Australia Wants to Outlaw Walking?

Australian study recommends criminalizing drinking and walking

"While" instead of the conjunction "and" would have made for a clearer headline.  I can already hear the riposte to this, as in, "Well, I'll give up the one, but not the other", etc.

It also seems like another crackpot Oz government tax-funded study.  They have a lot of those down under.

What Made Me Smile about This Isn't Just the Wonderful "Florida" Quality of the Headline, but That the Bagel Shop is Owned by a Former Student of Mine

Imagining his reaction is what keeps making this funnier.

Jupiter woman throws squid at boyfriend outside bagel shop

College Students Question Authority. Finally.

Free-thinking, rather than limp acquiescence to authority, is supposed to be a quality of higher education.

As Princeton considers curriculum changes focused on social justice and identity politics, the student newspaper this week pushed back in a scathing editorial. Students warned of an “anachronistic, politicized [proposed] curriculum,” telling administrators that “there is no room for officially established University dogmas.”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Magna What? Ceci est absurde.

Three archbishops from war-torn Iraq and Syria have been refused permission to enter the United Kingdom despite being invited to London to meet Prince Charles. 

Read the whole thing and then write a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  

“All right then, I’ll go to hell”

The pretzel logic of this century continues to leave me all at sea.

Classic novels pulled from Accomack County Public School

I'm ambivalent about Mockingbird, myself [sorry, fans], but I've become more convinced in recent years that Huckleberry Finn deserves its status and may, in fact, be The American Novel.  Mainly because its plot climaxes with what was then an uncommon, and remarkably stirring, moment of awareness about race and morality, which the parents of Accomack County claim is so important to them.

I suspect the complaining parents, like many people whom I have known, have never read the novel.  They've read, perhaps, the pages that have The Offensive Word on them.  However, there is a moment in the story that should give pause to anyone who actually reads the work.

Huck has been taught his entire life about the difference between the races and of the notions of superiority and inferiority.  The understanding is made obvious through Jim's prefixed nickname.  Huck knows that if he does not turn Jim, the escaped slave, into the authorities, not only will he be at the mercy of common law, but moral law, as well.  He will, in other words, be eligible for Hell.

Now, I appreciate that few in this century believe in Hell, but for a boy of the 19th century, Hell was a real, painful, and eternal punishment.  When he decides that he cannot betray Jim and his own nature, Huck says, “All right then, I’ll go to hell”.  Despite what he has been taught of moral law, Huck's friendship with Jim is overriding, even in the face of damnation.

Not only does this powerfully evoke an element of the American character, for Huck is also refusing to re-enter civilization and its strict expectations for behavior and comportment, but it highlights what is a massive moment of moral reclamation.  Huck will not surrender his loyalty and friendship and will transcend that which is to be placed upon him by outside forces, whether temporal or eternal.  He will do so in full realization of the consequences.  To put this in philosophical terms, he claims his moral agency and will live by his own existential choice.  Huck chooses to live, even if it means he must act against, or in spite of, the world and the Kingdom [as it has been presented to him], as anything else would be against his character and experience.

By the time Huck Finn was published, Soren Kierkegaard had been in his grave for thirty years, yet I cannot think of a more memorable proclamation of Existentialism than Huck's.  Even remembering that moment in the novel reminds me of the thrill of reading it for the first time.

As we often see in our current century, where the expectations of those in earthly power and authority demand that we all have the same thoughts and use the same words, we may still see that moral stubbornness in evidence.  It can be abrasive, raucous, bordering on anarchy, and totally necessary.  To make it relevant to the church year, it is the very quality of Advent that is captured in the ministry of John the Baptist, without whom the ministry of Jesus would have been impossible.

So, it comes as no surprise that a school would wish to limit access to a book that contains such ideas.  School is, after all, one of the aspects of civilization, along with slavery and betrayal, that Huck seeks to escape, so it figures that schools would still want to render Huck, as he spells it, "sivilised". 

I hope, for their own sake, that there are some students and parents who are willing to override this transient concern and read for themselves what is American literature's clearest evocation of the free will to love.

[This is a rough essay, typed out in the early hours of a busy work day, so I will probably re-visit and edit it some more later. - ed.]

Friday, December 2, 2016

America Has Enough Issues Right Now, Doesn't It?

Yummy looking, isn't it?
America could be about to lift 45-year ban on haggis and Scots are thrilled

It's That Time of Year, Again

The 62 Worst and Weirdest Nativities


I think the "bacon, sausage, and sauerkraut" scene is my favorite. But, that may be because it's time for breakfast. [Although, I can't recall that last time I had bacon and sausage and sauerkraut for breakfast. These days it's usually a Vegemite sandwich.]

For Those New to The Coracle [Bumped Up from Earlier]

I notice that there is a new collection of readers and, since The Coracle can be a bit of an acquired taste, I thought it best that we answer some of the frequently asked questions about the weblog, its history, and its peculiar world view.  For those who have been regular readers since its earliest incarnation 15 years ago, it may be a pleasant reminiscence about our piquant and mutual journey.

What is a coracle?
A coracle is a small, round, rudderless, sail-less, and keel-less lightweight boat traditionally found in Wales, Western and South West England, Ireland, and Scotland.  It is made of woven reeds and is generally used for travel in tidal rivers.  It relies, with some aid from oars, on the current and tide to transport it .
There is a traditional story from Celtic Christianity about three men who wished to test God's providence in a tactile manner, so they set off from the Irish coast in a coracle to see where the wind and the sea would take them.  According to most versions of the story, they had a rich variety of adventures that granted them ample opportunity to overcome evil and preach a particularly Celtic understanding of the Gospel
This seemed an apt metaphor for this weblog, as it, too, drifts about, offering postings and links concerning all sorts and manner of human endeavor, foible, and success.  While not always explicit, it also seeks to present a Christian view of our world.
What is the weblog supposed to be?
Well, that's the question, isn't it?  Originally, The Coracle was an extension of the newsletter of a parish with which I was associated in the earlier part of this century.  As the congregation was young and computer savvy, and as people had stopped reading "e-mail blasts" and whatnot, I thought it might be better to give them a type of bulletin board that they could access from anywhere and at any convenient time.  It worked very well.
However, when I moved to the next parish [professionally, I work with parishes in need of some help, for one reason or another, and have been associated with 14 different ones during my 30+ year career], the congregation was neither as young nor as computer-able, so the weblog didn't really work save for the handful of people who bothered to read it.  That's when The Coracle, in its current format, came into its current incarnation.
I must confess that, while I was editing the original version of The Coracle, I was also editing a satirical site that poked gentle fun at mainstream Protestantism.  The latter weblog created the fictional town of Dymchurch that served as a microcosm for the greater church.  It was fun, occasionally a little edgy, and good at provoking a response from those who didn't like their presumptions challenged.  The only thing I didn't care for is that I was anonymous, and I wanted to stand by my own observations, however light-hearted, openly.  So, The Coracle and Dymchurch were, in a manner, combined.
Has it ever gotten you into trouble?
Yes.  Despite The Episcopal Church's public proclamation of celebrating diversity and "respecting the dignity of every human being", diversity of thought is rarely embraced and dignity is reserved for those who obey the common narrative.  Because of this, from time to time The Coracle finds sport in linking to and posting perspectives that challenge the common narrative.  Free-thinking really isn't prized in 21st century Protestantism but, as noted in Job, "we are born to trouble, as sparks fly upward".  So, what the heck?
How many regular readers are there?
Upwards of 300 read The Coracle on a daily basis, with more using it as an occasional research tool.
From whence do they read?
While the readership mostly favors the English speaking world, every continent except for Antarctica is represented by our readers.
Who are the staff?
Just me, these days.  While Dymchurch had a variety of writers, The Coracle has only one. 
I have been an Episcopal priest for thirty years and a professional educator for forty.  I have also been a member of the Marine Corps Reserve, a field certified archaeologist, a free-lance reporter, a beer truck driver, a high school English teacher, a private school assistant headmaster, a volunteer firefighter, a bassist for New Wave and blues bands, a luthier, a seminary professor, and an international lecturer.  I wrote a book about adolescent spirituality that sold three copies in the United States [it did rather better in Australia].  I hold three master's and two doctoral degrees in English, philosophy, and theology.

Even in my advanced age, I like to surf and have done so at some of the world's greatest breaks.  I own a sailboat and occasionally even use it.  I have enjoyed fishing since I was a child roaming the small lakes and rivers of Ohio with my tribal grandfather.  I am a scuba diver and have jumped out of airplanes.  A few years ago, I competed in a triathlon and managed to come in third...from last.

I bring this up not to promote myself, but to note that my experience and interests are broad and tend to travel beyond a range common to most clergy.  This means, mostly, that I'm interested in anything that is interesting and that is reflected in the postings.
What is The Coracle's singular contribution?
When my granddaughter was born four years ago, I realized 1) my mortality, and 2) that schools didn't teach some things that were common in my ancient education.  Mainly, I think that there are people in history, some very obscure, who have highlighted the best of what the human race may muster.  Whether by will or by faith or by some combination of the two, they have been remarkable.
As weblogs are a personal medium, I decided to profile those who either served as an inspiration or were people with whom I had an interaction that I valued.
Sometimes these are famous people, others known in a narrow field of endeavor, but no less deserving of some recognition, and some are not well-known at all.  They brought some point of grace, favor, industry, creativity, or cleverness to our world and left it a better place. That's true even when their gift was shared with only one or two others.
So, for a calendar year, on every Friday I presented a peculiar biography of selected individuals.  After taking a year off, I presented another year's worth of profiles.  These are now the most read portions of the weblog and the basis for my next book.  Nearly every day, someone somewhere will read one of the profiles.  They appear to be most popular at the beginning and ending of academic years, when I suspect that students are writing term papers and the like.

Below are links to the biographies.  Simply "click" on a name to be taken to the original posting:
Series One:
Howlin' Wolf, blues musician and rock and roll influence
Bob Manry, small boat sailor and adventurer
Yukio Mishima, Japanese novelist, playwright, short story and film writer, and military adventurist
Jacques Cousteau
Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing 
William Augustus Muelenberg, unlikely innovator of the 19th century Episcopal Church
Jane Scott, rock and roll's grandmother
Paul Bigsby, guitar innovator and motorcycle mechanic
Max Perkins, mandarin of the 20th century American novel
James Harold Flye, the quintessential Episcopal priest
Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, Bible translator
Alan Watts, Episcopal priest and Buddhist educator
Charlie Parker, jazz innovator
Thomas Merton, monk, hermit, and writer
Rell Sunn, The queen Of Makaha 
Raimundo Panikkar, priest, philosopher, and chemist 
Lou Kallie, jazz drummer and saloon keeper
Barbara Crafton, Episcopal priest and homilest
Jim Steranko, comic book artist and innovator
Art Pepper, jazz survivor
Bruce McLaren, racing car driver and builder
Cliff Young, farmer and ultra-marathoner
Sun Ra, space case
Matti Moosa, scholar, translator, deacon, and mentor
Debbie Harry, New Wave chanteuse 
The Hippie Who Sat Next to Me at Tony Mart's
James Magner, poet and mentor
Swein MacDonald, Highland seer
Waldo Peirce, artist and inspiration
John Fitch, racer and innovator
Malcolm Lowery, poet and miserable human being
Max Hardberger, modern-day pirate
Richard Race, landscaper
Hiram Bingham, historian, explorer, discoverer
John Watanabe, failed kamikaze pilot and bishop
Kathleen Kenyon, archaeologist
Captain Sir Richard Burton, fencer, explorer, translator, soldier, diplomat, and madman
James Agee, screenwriter and novelist
Madeleine L'Engle, writer and dinner guest 
Robert Crisp and Tommy MacPherson, unlikely war heroes  
Peter Scott, cat burglar
Wilfred Thesiger, the last of the explorers
Peter Marshall, preacher and chaplain to the U.S. Senate
Dingo, Mexican entrepreneur
Bruce Brown, documentarian and surfer
Joshua Slocum, solo circumnavigator
Mr. A, soul surfer
Thomas Edward Lawrence, archaeologist and adventurer
"Cool Breeze" and the Lyrical Gangster, an islander and his boat 

Series Two:
The Waterman, just some guy
Harvey Pekar, unlikely folk hero
Bernard Moitessier, Zen sailor
"Holy" Grail, old school D.I.
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, industrial artist
Gerry Lopez, surf pioneer
Ted, Ricardo, and Curtis, three men I knew
Carol Kaye, ubiquitous bassist of pop
Ernie Anderson, Ghoulardi
Patti Smith, she does the rock, herself
Jacques Piccard, explorer of two atmospheres
B. Traven, international man of mystery
Carroll Shelby, Texas cobra
Lucien Aigner, he captured the world
Frank Miller, re-newer of myth
Kiyoshi Aki, he knew how to fall
Bob Simmons, hydrodynamisist
Igumen The Iconographer 
Anita O'Day, jazz singer
Alfred Pierce Reck, the proto-editor
D.A. Levy and the Cleveland Beats, poets
The Voices on the Radio: Freed, Franklin, and Dee
 Eugenie Clark, the shark lady
Dick Dale, king of the surf guitar
Dorothy Fields, Broadway and Hollywood's favorite lyricist
Hart Crane, the voice of new poetics
Rocky Colavito, baseball idol of nine-year-old boys
Bruce Meyers, fiberglass artist and professional dust-eater
Doc Pomus, blues mouth

Three others who were offered irregular to the original schedule:
Eric Hoffer, longshoreman and uncommon philosopher
Tom Blake, innovator and archetype
Dickey Chappelle, an actual feminist icon

What is the future of the weblog?
Good question.  As ever, we have no plan.  We simply go where called by wind, wave, and whim.  Posting to The Coracle has become such a habit that, even when I was out of the country for five weeks, we still had pre-loaded content.  Every morning, it seems, something worthy of note presents itself, whether through mainstream media, sidestream media, academic journals, or the obtuse imagination of the weblog's editor.

So, whether on a daily or weekly basis, a reader will always find something new and, one hopes, at least mildly provocative. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Surprising No One

Standing Rock: North Dakota access pipeline demonstrators say white people are 'treating protest like Burning Man'

I've noticed when this is discussed in Episcopal Church circles it's described more as Woodstock than as an exercise in tribal autonomy.  This tendency is concerning, too: "Some protestors are reportedly living off the native American community."

Woodstock can very easily become Altamont.

Related:  Drama at Standing Rock: The conflict intensifies but the sacred goes unexplained

An Orphaned Quote

"I Did Not Attend the Funeral, But I Sent a Nice Letter Saying I Approved of It."

This quotation is often attributed to Mark Twain, although I've never been able to find it in any of his writings.  He was prolific, to be sure, so maybe it's buried somewhere.   It came to mind when I saw the reaction of some world leaders to the public funeral of Fidel Castro.

Others believe it to be adapted from something said in jest by Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, who was Attorney General of the United States in the late-19th century.  No one is really sure.

If a reader should know, drop a line, will you?

The Feast Of St. Andrew


While Andrew is mentioned along with the Twelve, usually in conjunction with his brother, Simon Peter, he appears with particularity three times within the Gospel of John. When the curious Greeks wish to speak with Jesus, they first approach Philip, who then approaches Andrew, and the two of them then mediate with Jesus (John 12:20-22) about the meeting.  Before Jesus feeds the five thousand, it is Andrew who brings forward the "lad with five barley loaves and two fish." (John 6:8f).  Also, Andrew is the brother to first meet Jesus and the one to take that news, and the holy invitation, to Simon Peter (John 1:35-42).  It is Andrew who first proclaims, "We have found the Messiah".

Thematically, on each occasion when he is mentioned as an individual, it is because he is instrumental in bringing others to meet the Savior.  This has long been regarded as the specific ministry of Andrew, something recognized in the Episcopal Church through the Fellowship of Saint Andrew, an organization devoted to encouraging personal evangelism and inviting one's friends and colleagues to a knowledge of the Gospel.

Several centuries after the death of Andrew, some of his relics were brought to Scotland by a missionary named Rule, to what is now known as St. Andrew's, popularly recognized as the site of world-famous golf course and university. Hence, Andrew becomes strongly associated with that northern jewel of the British Isles. [Having a Scottish mother, I had to say that.]

According to pious legend, Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, as represented on the design of the official flag of Scotland.


The Collect of St. Andrew:
Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your Holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For those interested, the flag of the United Kingdom, the "Union Jack", is a combination of the crosses of St. Andrew [white x-shaped cross on a blue field], St. George, the patron of England [red cross on a white field], and that of St. Patrick, the patron of Ireland [red x-shaped cross on a white field].

Sorry, Wales and St. David. You got left out.

Monday, November 28, 2016

What Did England Ever Do to Deserve This?

Cleveland Browns tipped to become London NFL team 'inside five years'

First the American Revolution, then the War of 1812, and now this.  Talk about rubbing salt in a wound.

[For those who don't know, The Coracle's editor grew up in Cleveland and lived a 20 minute bus ride from the original Municipal Stadium, which was then the home to both the Browns and the Indians.  Through the years he has retained his support of the Indians and the Cavs; the Browns are another matter.]

I Freely Admit That This Century Confuses Me

Apparently, "inclusion" has a new definition.
San Diego’s first ever transgender police officer was kicked out of an LGBT event which she helped to organize commemorating deaths in trans community to avoid upsetting other attendees.

Last Thursday the San Diego LGBT Community Center gathered to remember members of trans community who lost their lives to violence in the past year. Police Officer Christine Garcia, the first openly transgender cop in the San Diego Police Department, played an active role in the ceremony by being part of the planning committee for the event according to LGBT Weekly.

Following the march through the city to honor the trans lives, where Officer Garcia has been part of the police’s security detail to ensure safety, she then tried to enter the LGBT Community Center to attend the indoor event. As she entered the building, Garcia was stopped by the staff and was asked to leave the premises because her police uniform might upset others who were there.
Maybe Louis B. Mayer was on to something linguistically when he once exclaimed, "Include me out."

Now That's Innovative Marketing

It turns out that Advent isn't a lost season after all, at least not for Australia's Alaskan Rock Vodka company, which is putting daily Advent cocktail recipes on their Facebook page.

The first two are The Twinkle and the Flatiron Martini.

I can't think of anyone ever using Advent as a marketing season, except for the publishers of Advent calendars and tracts.

[Don't look at me, I merely comment on contemporary culture; I don't invent it.  Besides, I'm not much of a fan of fussy cocktails.  If it requires more than an ice cube, it's too complicated.]

Yet, I Still Miss Australia

Snakes 'falling through light fittings'

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Reflection

Many of my ordained colleagues were online this morning expressing a variety of morally nebulous reflections on Castro.  Generally, they appear to have appreciated his style.  That surprised me a bit, as he was notoriously harsh towards Cuba's gay population and the notion of religious freedom.

My reflection concerns one of my neighbors and classmates when I was a growing up.  His name was Gus Fernandez and he had immigrated from Cuba and enrolled in our elementary school back when we were seven or eight years old.  Besides that, we really didn't know much about him.  He was, however, a good shortstop.

I lived in a working class neighborhood where families were tight and supportive.  We were white, black, half-breed [in my case], and, with the addition of Gus, Hispanic.  At our Little League games, our fathers would always come, unless they were working second shift or a second [or third] job, to watch us play, to cheer us on, and to offer unsolicited coaching advice. Like dads everywhere, I think.

We noticed that Gus' dad never came.  When we asked him about it, he said, "He's dead.  Castro's firing squad killed him."  To a gaggle of boys for whom a serious event was when the ice cream truck in the baseball field parking lot was out of Fudgsicles, this was a shocking introduction to global politics.  I recall we were speechless, and being so was a new experience for us all.

My present colleagues are educated, genteel, and often from places of comfort and privilege.  I confess that I'm sometimes jealous of the upbringing that permits them such a sanguine perspective on the world; it's an envy that Jesus and I work on often.  So, this is not to criticize my fellow clergy, as I appreciate that there is a foundation for their perspective.

For me, though, and apparently for many of those celebrating in the streets of Miami today, Castro's life was not about questioning or criticizing American hegemony, capitalism, or global power; the unholy trinity for many.

Instead, it's about an empty space in those Little League bleachers in that flat field in the middle of Ohio in the middle of the Cold War.  It's about a boy who, when he looked into that sea of dads, would never see his own clapping for a solid hit or dramatic catch, for a well-fought game or for a victory.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Why I Live Here


Abigail and I on Thanksgiving two years ago. In other words, half her life ago. This may be my favorite photo of the two of us, as she petted her first horse.  I don't think I could lift and hold her as long these days.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Is there any holiday that is more American, and hence more wonderful, than this one?