Sunday, January 31, 2016

This is Getting Monotonous

Signe Anderson, original Jefferson Airplane singer, dies at 74.

I Used to Play Bass for Andromeda Smash-UP

Andromeda smash-up: distant galaxy is rushing towards Earth at one million mph - with no hope of deviation

Oh, This Century Just Keeps Getting Better

Atheist minister fighting United Church’s effort to fire her 

She finds that God and Jesus are mere "myths" and yet objects when the body for which she works decides to support her with mythical income and benefits.

There are some Episcopal clergy whom I've known through the decades who believe the same as this woman, but they're cagey enough to keep their mouths shut about it until they start receiving their pension fund allowance.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Another Portion of My Generation's Music Concludes

Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner dies at 74

I just saw him with the latest incarnation of his band on some execrable PBS fundraiser on Saturday night.  I remember saying, "Is that Paul Kantner?  Why did I think he was dead?"

Turns out I was right about his mortality, just a few days ahead of schedule.

I saw Airplane/Starship in concert several times during the 1970's, back when Grace Slick was still the vocalist and Marty Balin had returned as a singer/songwriter.  Kantner was not much of musician, but he was smart enough to use Balin's style, Slick's voice, Paul Casady's bass, and particularly Jorma Kaukonen's guitar work to create what became known as the "San Francisco sound".

If you're not quite sure of what that is, listen to Kaukonen's intro in the video below, as it is quintessential.  Feed your head:

Friday, January 29, 2016

This Week's Stats

Our most read posting:
Lucien Aigner

I'm actually delighted about that as few people read it the first time it was published and he really needs to be remembered not just as a photographer, but as a true and wonderful character.

[An expanded version of that reminiscence will be included in the forthcoming book, The Waterman, and Other Homilies.]

Our least read posting:
More Coherent Perspective on the Non-Suspension Suspension 

I can't really blame anyone for that as the whole story of the Episcopal Church's non-suspension suspension from The Anglican Communion is not really relevant to our daily lives as Christians.  Or as Episcopal Anglicans, either.  Well, not since the conclusion of the Battle of Yorktown, anyway.

Syriac chant sung by an exiled Syriac Orthodox monk

Max Hardberger

Originally published on February 15, 2013

There was one evening, almost twenty years ago now, when the sun in the Leeward Islands had just set with a memorable green flash on the horizon, when the rigging on the sailboat we had chartered was making the familiar sound of ratcheting and releasing cordage, as the splash of the flying fish could be heard over the gunwales, and when the clear sky revealed more stars than one would think even God's imagination could hold, that I thought that the last thing that I ever wanted to do was to return to a Massachusetts winter and the scabrous demands of the underemployed faculty of the private school at which I was working in those days.  Whatever work I could find in the islands or along the Costa Maya, even as a marina deckhand or tour bus guide would have been fine with me.

Of course, I went back to the Berkshires and listened to the disgruntled and outraged, patiently smiled as the prosaic pretended to be the perspicacious, and saved my money so that I could again return to the Caribbean and that lonely boat in the middle of the Gulf Stream.

Max Hardberger was a high school teacher of history and English with a graduate degree in fine arts when he reached that point of no return that many in the lyrical professions tend to reach when relating the subtleties of Shakespearean sonnet form to a roomful of ungracious adolescents.  He quit that nonsense and started his own very small air transport company.  Mainly, he transported the remains of the dead from one location to another, sometimes circumventing local laws by dressing the corpse as his co-pilot.  You can see why I like this guy; this is what "questioning authority" is really all about.

He then drifted into work on freighters, eventually getting his master's license and serving as a well-respected captain.  Then, one fateful day in Haiti, he found what was to become his life's work.  As anyone who has spent even a short amount of time in some of the ports of the Caribbean can testify, it is a remarkably corrupt area.  In the 1980's, small local governments were notorious for using their courts systems to "legally" seize any ship or boat that caught their fancy.  One day, Hardberger found himself on the pointy end of some rifles [Or are they now "assault weapons"?  I'll have to ask a politician, TV reporter, or movie star; they know everything.] while in Port-Au-Prince when his ship was seized by some local "businessmen".  Naturally, he surrendered the ship.  Sort of.

While a handful of guards were left on board, Max threw them a party with lots and lots of rum.  Once the guards were unconscious, unarmed, and locked in a cabin, Hardberger quickly moved his ship into international waters and placed the former guards in an open boat to row themselves back to the Haitian mainland.  When the story became known, Hardberger became a legend in the commercial shipping community.

So much so that, from that point on, he was asked to, essentially, "steal" back ships that had been seized by corrupt governments or their local bureaucrats.  It became a surprisingly lucrative enterprise.  Although I'm speaking as one who was never more than on the remote orbit of Caribbean sailors, I can testify that Hardberger is regarded as a combination of Robin Hood and Captain Morgan, maybe with a little bit of Superman thrown in for good measure.

I could relate some more of his adventures, but I don't think I could do so with the same linguistic panache as the writer whom I quote below.  A word of warning, though; if you choose to go to the link, you will find the paragraphs laced with pungent language:
Hardberger once repoed a freighter from the Russian Mafiya [sic] in the ice-covered Baltic port of Vladivostok, Russia. One time he captured a ship in Central America by hiring a prostitute to flirt with the guards and give them shots of booze lined with Hardberger's-homemade handy-dandy insta-sedatives. During the Haitian Revolution of 2004, Hardberger sailed into the battle-torn hive of destruction in the middle of a warzone, boarded a ship pretending to be a potential buyer, and got his men to distract the guards while he snuck off, repaired a damaged engine, and cut the anchor chains with a blowtorch. Another time in Haiti, he used a Voodoo witch doctor to freak out a crew of AK-47 slinging pirates and send them running from the ship. In Venezuela he straight-up convinced the guards that the...ship was sinking, and he did such a good job of it that the entire crew of bad guys all ran to the life boats and rowed back to shore, leaving Max and his buddies plenty of time to leisurely pull the ship out of dock. He also snuck a boat out of Greece by buying the Coast Guard a case of Ouzo on Greek Easter and sailing out right under their noses. More recently, he's hired a team of ex-Special Forces operatives to help him extract ships from Somali pirates armed with assault rifles and RPGs, but by this point it was about as routine as filing a TPS report.
During his adventures, Hardberger has been chased by pirates, shot at by Mafia bosses, accosted by Coast Guard officials, and pursued by god-knows-who-else. He once eluded...INTERPOL agents by grinding the ship's name and serial number of its hull mid-transit and painting a fake new name over top of it. In the Dominican Republic he was being pursued by a...naval cruiser, but even a...warship couldn't slow this mustachioed madman down – during his recon, Hardberger had noticed that the Dominican navy was using outdated radar gear, so he sailed his ship right into the middle of a horrible thunderstorm because he knew it would [mess]with their detection equipment.
Hardberger has written a book or two about his adventures; I can certainly recommend Seized: A Sea Captain's Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World's Most Troubled Waters, as it is a ripping yarn and great fun.  The chapter on how he "stole" 47 airplanes across Soviet airspace and got them to Venezuela is alone worth reading.

Hardberger is still recovering illicitly seized ships and still collecting remarkable fees for so doing.  Just as importantly, he still serves as the subject of some wonderful tales that can be heard in port and marina bars from Key West to Puerto Aventuras.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

There's One Born Every Minute

After ducking the final Republican presidential debate heading into next week’s Iowa caucuses, GOP front-runner Donald Trump announced that he would hold his own pro-veterans event during the debate to raise money for veterans. Trump even set up a special website to solicit donations to help veterans.

There’s only one problem: 100% of the money raised on the site goes directly to Donald Trump’s personal non-profit foundation, according to a disclosure listed at the bottom of the page.

Related: Trump Vows To Increase Wounded Warriors By 2,000%

The Aristocracy is Above the Law

Microsoft cofounder's yacht allegedly destroyed a coral reef

I've dived that site a few times before and enjoyed it.  We proles had better get used to being ruled by people such as this.

More Coherent Perspective on the Non-Suspension Suspension

"The slowly unfolding schism in the Anglican Communion can be seen as a late (and rather ironic) fruition of the great missionary success of Protestantism. The incipient schism, mainly pitting African bishops against those in the English-speaking world, has focused on what I Iike to call issues south of the navel (sexuality and gender). But there are underlying theological issues, especially based on different views of the authority of Scripture. The schism is on a slow fuse. But it has recently accelerated."

This Week's Photo File Clean-Out: Surf Buggies

Fighting for the Right of Tribal Peoples to Be Proudly Sub-Literate

Way to go, Lorna.  Don't let the white man force us to actually write complete sentences framed in paragraphs on a piece of paper.

Law professor argues in UBC human rights complaint that Indigenous scholars shouldn’t have to publish peer-reviewed research
Lorna June McCue was denied tenure and ultimately dismissed after 11 years at the university in part because of her failure to submit a single piece of peer-reviewed research during that time. McCue has alleged that peer-reviewed research is contrary to indigenous oral traditions and that UBC’s research standard effectively discriminated against her “race, colour, ancestry, place of origin … and sex.”
I'm guessing that Lorna's writing ability is roughly akin to that of the common Donald Trump follower on Twitter, and that she would rather not be revealed as a kii and have people say that it was her "race, colour, ancestry, place of origin...and sex" that earned her an appointment at a law school, rather than her mastery of the language of common law.  Thus, she has elevated herself to the high status of...Victim.

Tell me, when indigenous people appear before the bench in Canadian courts, are they permitted never to submit any documentation whatsoever?  No signatures, no briefs, no notarization, nothing but that transcribed by the court reporter?  Or, must they rely on non-indigenous attorneys to do so?  If so, this scholar may create a reason never to hire indigenous lawyers.

By the way, if I were the reporter working on this story, I would have found and interviewed practicing indigenous lawyers just to see what they thought about this.  Or ask if they, too, celebrated their non-literacy, if only to provoke a response.

No, Thanks

Bronx Zoo: Name a cockroach for your Valentine

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

They Should Have Named It "Eve"

Astronomers harnessing the combined power of NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have found the faintest object ever seen in the early universe. It existed about 400 million years after the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago. 

The team has nicknamed the object Tayna, which means "first-born" in Aymara, a language spoken in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America.

This article is rather dry and unremarkable, it's written by a PR cog for a collection of scientists after all, but what it means is that we now have to ability to look back in time about 12.6 billion years to see the earliest appearance of...well, creation.  I guess an old parish priest sees this in a different manner than a PR cog.  For me, it's almost as if we can trace the form of God.

Then again, given the nature of light, space, and time, this galaxy may no longer exist and we will not be able to tell for several million years. 

Woman uses ‘witchcraft’ to solve computer problems

When your computer goes wrong you try everything: restarting it; strong language; even following the instructions. But have you ever been so desperate you resorted to witchcraft? 

The Reverend Joey Talley (she’s an officially ordained minister in California) claims to have had considerable success in exorcising computer viruses from misbehaving PCs, smartphones and even burglar alarms.

"The Reverend".  In California.  Naturally.

Everything Old is New Again

Merkel Warns of Growing Anti-Semitism in Wake of Influx from the Arab World

Who could have foreseen such a thing?  Maybe Nostradamus.  Or Kreskin!

Actually, a number of rather bright and worldly people pointed out this likelihood.  They were branded as "racists".

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Male Privilege

This News Will Cause Some of My Colleagues' Heads to Explode

Bloomberg Business:  Income Inequality Is Higher In Democratic Districts Than Republican Ones


"Accepting the fact that we make mistakes and seek forgiveness, that's one of the tenants of Christianity that everybody can agree on," he added. "We're all sinners. Some more than others."

Yeah, that would be "tenets".  Journalists and editors once again rendered buffle-headed by religion.

The Real Story of the Non-Suspension Suspension

Now that everyone has had their highly emotional say, and some of my ordained brothers and sisters have had their chance to claim the mantle of Holy Victim, and a trickle of junior clergy [many of whom are chronologically older than I] have revealed themselves to be poorly educated in ecclesial polity and history, and old Stoics such as myself have had the chance to sit back and serenely nod at all of the fuss about nothing, as it usually is, we have a very complete, balanced, and non-bloviating report on what really happened this month when all of those bishops got together and had to justify the remarkable amount of money their dioceses spent to send them to England:


For those who thought I would waste a sermon on this and not spend that time preaching the Gospel, and were a little miffed at me for so doing, I would remind you that I've been working for The Episcopal Church, as monk, deacon, priest, educational chaplain, and seminary lecturer since the summer of 1982 and can easily separate the wheat from the chaff.

[I also hope you admire the 120 word sentence that I just produced.  I have to be careful with length, I've learned, as the clergy and laity who read this weblog tend not to read any posting that carries more than 27 words.]

Something I Would Have Sent to Dad, the Mathematician

Mathematicians Have Found Crazy New Ways to Cut Pizza Into Equal Slices

Monday, January 25, 2016

How Accommodating of You, Bishop. What Do Your Women Clergy Say about It?

Vicars should grow BEARDS to reach out to Muslims in their areas, says Bishop of London

Before I would make a concession to a religion not my own, I think I would ask Muslims not to throw gay men off of rooftops or molest women in the streets.  That's merely polite quid pro quo, isn't it?

Is there an imam who might be so bold as to suggest that their young men make these concessions as a manner of "reaching out" to the non-Muslims who share society with them?

This is another reason the notion of being "suspended" from the Anglican Communion doesn't really sting.


At peace, sunset over the Pacific
I'm normally a sanguine fellow, especially for someone who's job it is to herd cats for a living.  In part, I attempt to remain grounded in my faith, which encourages one to abide in peace and view the world as a place far different than the Kingdom; in part, this is because I admire the "serene resignation" of the Stoic school of philosophy.  I more or less expect things to go awry and can be pleasantly surprised when they don't.

However, as our culture coarsens and makes gods of nonsense, from "reality" TV characters to ill-informed science, I'm finding myself in need of some catharsis, as these are things that damage my serenity.  Hence, today's list.  See if you don't agree.

Beef #1:  People on Twitter who demonstrate that American education, an institution that used to range from adequate to exemplary, and served as the gateway for the working class into "white-collar" employment, is now beyond repair.

How so, you ask?  Mainly through the staggering number of "Tweets" [infantile term, by the way] and online comments that reveal that American adults have no grasp of spelling [despite that their computers/phones will correct their spelling for them], punctuation, subject-verb agreement, or other points of grammar that permit the successful construction of a sentence.  No one on Twitter is writing an essay, as the format only allows 140 characters, yet even this brevity permits gross crimes against common communication.  For heaven's sake, at least spell your vulgarities correctly, will you?

As language disintegrates, so does the logical thinking that is mated to it.

Beef #2:  Colleagues who repeat exactly what they heard that morning on MSNBC, NPR, or read in the New York Times, and present it as that beyond common discussion.

This isn't to say that the information that they are repeating is incorrect [sometimes it is specious], but opinions presented by the media are just that, and all opinions are worth a challenge, or at least a hearty examination.  There is an old saying among reporters that seems to have been forgotten: "If your mother says she loves you, check the facts."

What exacerbates this issue is that a colleague will make an ideologically sweeping statement and expect it to remain un-challenged and that all present will implicitly agree.  There is no room in their imagination for an alternative perspective.  Not only does this erase any sort of discussion, but it seems contrary to Biblical teaching, especially as those who don't agree are regarded as less morally and intellectually evolved.  It was this attitude on the part of our leadership that broke the greater church and has placed us in a position of suspension and schism.  "Respecting the dignity of every human being" means doing so not just with those with whom you agree.

I promise, with the next colleague who utters the fatuous expression, "If one does X, that's just what ISIS wants", I will fight the urge to regard them as having the intellect of livestock and strive to respect their dignity, if not their knowledge of the world.

Beef #3:  Millionaires who create opportunities to give awards to one another.  Repeatedly.

Ordinarily, I'm able to ignore such events, but when one group of millionaires is aggrieved that the other group of millionaires hasn't presented them with any awards, and it suddenly means that the entire nation and all of its people are guilty of the onerous practice labeled "racism",  I have a problem.

This is especially true as I will now have to be conversant with the issue, and even know the names of the aggrieved and why they are thought to be essential to our general society, and will be urged to "dialogue" about it with my congregation.  [By the way, it's "have a dialogue" or "engage in dialogue", rather than just "dialogue".  Another indication of the disintegration of our language.]  What an odious chore that is.

Just to be fair, allow me to add that almost 1% of the U.S. population is American Indian, or "Native American", and no tribal actor has ever won an acting award.  [Chief Dan George was nominated for "Little Big Man" in 1970, and Graham Green for "Dances With Wolves" in 1991 and "The Green Mile" in 1999.]  Since we use math these days to determine eligibility for all variety of honors, that would mean that there should be 3.5 nominees over the 88 years of the Academy Awards, and we are .5 short.  I'm not sure nominating the same guy twice counts, either.  Also, why no winners, huh?  That's it, I'm boycotting.

Beef #4:  Cleveland sports.  Why did the Cavs, who have a winning record and are leading in their division and are on track to win sixty games this season and finished second in the league championship last year, have to fire their coach in the middle of the season?  No coach has ever been fired for having a winning record before.

Okay, I feel better now.  Thanks.

Apparently Not, NYT

As Well They Should

New Mexico to Sue Over EPA’s Animus River Disaster

Why humans find it hard to do away with religion

But what if a belief in the supernatural is natural?

The Art of Ohio Man!

Ohio man looking for new home for his dad’s amazing beer can collection

Saturday, January 23, 2016

As I will be asked inevitably, Christ Church will be open tomorrow to celebrate the Holy Eucharist at 8am and 10am. As the loyal all know, we are always open. However, that does not mean that members should risk life, limb, and hips getting to church. We do "home delivery", too, after all.

Friday, January 22, 2016

This Week's Stats

This week's most read story:
The Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi

Of course, that may have been aided when the diocese ECCT "liked" the link to this piece on Facebook.


This week's least read story:
Christian Persecution Reaches Global Historic High 

Really?  Too difficult to read about, perhaps.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Souvenir de Porto Rico, Op. 31

Lucien Aigner

Originally published on January 9th, 2015 

"Pictures produce impact, writing adds meaning. Pictures without words are often ambiguous, words without pictures lame."

He was a small, natty man in a beret.  He would have looked at home in the French countryside, strolling with purpose towards the town.  With a showier wardrobe, he could have been Hercule Poirot.  I had one of the best afternoons of my life with him.

As it was, he didn't live in France, but in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a pokey railroad town with a large number of increasingly geriatric hippies that was just beginning to be discovered by an annoying collection of New Yorkers.  His home, which was also his studio, was just off the main street and in easy walking distance from his familiar hangouts.  On any given day, Lucien would be seen at the local coffee house, the provencal restaurant, the bookstore, the library and, on Sundays, at the Episcopal Church. 

I once asked him why he attended the Episcopal church on Main Street.  He told me that his late wife was an Episcopalian and he had fallen into the habit of walking there on Sunday mornings to listen to the music, which he appreciated.  After services he also enjoyed the whole notion of a "coffee hour" where, as he said, "The coffee and conversation are of a high quality." 

I wasn't sure of his age, although I guessed he was in his 70's [I was off by about twenty years].  He no longer drove, so from time to time, especially as I worked in a school in those days and had weekends and summers off, I would drive him to the supermarket or to a bookstore in the northern part of town.

One year, due to the generosity of one of my wife's cousins, we wound up with season tickets to Tanglewood, the music venue that is the summer home of the Boston Symphony and hosts a variety of other orchestras, quartets, soloists and pop acts during the season.  It was common for us to take along a picnic lunch after my wife had concluded her church services and spend some pleasant afternoons on the great lawn.  When I mentioned this to Lucien, he asked if he could hitch a ride some Sunday and I said, "Sure". 

That Sunday came and I found myself behind Lucien in the season ticket holders' line.  I assumed that he had a ticket but, to my surprise, and to that of the ticket taker, he pulled from his ancient wallet an even more ancient press card from a magazine that was not only German, but I think had ceased publication around the time I was born.  I thought it might disintegrate upon contact with the air.  It looked like some artifact drawn from a forgotten shelf in an archaeology museum [That's about right, actually].  In a spiel that was carefully rehearsed, balanced in its use of persuasive language and enlivened by Lucien's continental charm, he managed to get past the gate attendant, the usher, and the guard and join us in the season ticket holder's private seating area.

As a former reporter, I confessed to how much I admired his technique.  His response remains a classic: "That was nothing compared to sneaking into the League of Nations."

Lucien Aigner was born in 1901 in what was then Austria-Hungary.  He was from a family that was prominent in the shoe industry [his younger brother, Etienne, was the founder of a famous house of luxury leather goods].  He rather disappointed his family when, at the age of nine and in possession of an early Brownie camera, he informed them it was his intention to be a reporter who also took photos.  Little did they realize that, once he had upgraded to a Leica, their son would create the entire field of photojournalism.

Lucien told me of his photo technique, that lazy summer Sunday on the lawn at Tanglewood, in that the secret was always to observe the hand gestures of the subject.  Their motion, more than facial expression or body attitude, indicated that an expression or gesture was about to be made that would allow the photo to have animation and resonance.

For example, the photo of Mussolini above, the one that would advance Lucien into the top rank of news photographers in the 1930's.  While it may appear that Il Duce was expressing his distaste for something before him, in fact he was about to sneeze.  The photo made the cover of Life magazine.

When that failed, it was also good to ask the subject a difficult or troubling question, something designed to annoy them for a moment.  Again, in that second of reaction, their mask would drop and their essence revealed.  For example, this is what happened to Fiorello LaGuardia when he shared a limousine with Lucien:

Or, when one interrupts Einstein when he's on his third pipe and on the verge of solving the riddle of the universe:

Lucien Aigner's photos are on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert in London, and in galleries and smaller collections that specialize in the photographic arts.  I once found an Aigner portrait of Haile Selassie hanging in a small historical society in the Caribbean. 

There are many, many resources online that display the full range of the subjects.  Many of those photos I helped Lucien catalog while he was still living in his home/studio in Great Barrington.  They were stored in trunk after unopened trunk, still bearing travel stickers of the sort that had fallen out of use earlier in the century.  At least one trunk contained photos he had not himself seen in sixty years.  Personally, after combing through his collection, I always thought that his best work was of decidedly non-famous people:

Like this guy

Lucien would eventually move to an assisted living community elsewhere in Massachusetts, where he would die in 1999.  A very complete obituary appeared in the New York Times shortly afterwards; it marked well his contribution to journalism and the art of the camera.

On the occasions when I drive along Great Barrington's Main Street, I still sometimes absent-mindedly look for the natty man in the beret, walking with the memories of his times and those remarkable people, common and uncommon, whose visage he made eternal.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Of Course, You Will Look Like a Goof

The Foam Fins Covering This Wetsuit Let You Body Surf Without a Board

Captialism and Poverty

Global capitalism is lifting people out of poverty at the fastest rate in human history. Global inequality is narrowing, fast.

Unfortunately, the organizations that address inequality tend to rely on donations and, thus, exaggerate the issues and statistics, thereby incensing school children, college "scholars", and Episcopal clergy [in other words, those who are, in order, either developing intellectually, are historically passionate about perceived inequities, or are notoriously simple in their world view] and leave a gross misrepresentation in the public square.

No matter how impoverished one may feel, most of us are living better than did a king in the Middle Ages.

Could We Start Teaching Civics Again, Please?

10% of College Graduates think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why Addiction Is Not a Disease

This book as been declared anathema by many of my ordained colleagues and the powers-that-be in the greater church.  If I have learned anything at all in my near seven decades on Earth, it's that anything determined to be "unclean" by a large church body, be it that of Rome, Canterbury, or Geneva, deserves a serious examination.

The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease

If you wish to reduce an otherwise emotionally balanced and apparently rational healthcare or pastoral professional to a stuttering rage, all you need to do is offer the following observation, as did the person who sent me this book:
Addictions and other bad habits were defined as "diseases" for one reason only: insurance coverage. Today, we see an expansion of behavioral issues - and even phony issues - labeled as diseases for the same reason.  Secondarily, having a disease eliminates moral responsibility, and nobody enjoys taking moral responsibility for rotten, decadent, or depraved behavior. It feels morally, if not heroically, better to be a "survivor" or a "victim."
When the highest status one may achieve in a culture is that of "victim", not only are we thus all diseased, but the culture is doomed.

This Keeps Happening

ISIS destroys ancient Christian monastery

It's near Mosul, where the largest collection of Iraqi Christians, including an old friend profiled on Friday, used to live.  That all changed just a year ago.
Now, St. Elijah’s has joined a growing list of more than 100 demolished religious and historic sites, including mosques, tombs, shrines and churches in Syria and Iraq. The extremists have defaced or ruined ancient monuments in Nineveh, Palmyra and Hatra. Museums and libraries have been looted, books burned, artwork crushed — or trafficked.
[An aside not even known by the diocese:  The first Anglican/Episcopalian to set foot in Mosul was missionary Bishop Southbridge in the 19th century. He had previously been a circuit clergyman in...Litchfield County, Conn.]

Rather Glad I Don't Have a Parish in Fairfield County

However, the rest of the state is not looking too great either.

GE didn’t act just out of pique. It looked deeper and further than June’s tax hike. Connecticut is facing huge budget deficits of $355 million in 2017, $1.7 billion in 2018 and $1.9 billion in 2019, according to the state’s non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis. A cumulative deficit of almost $4 billion in an annual budget of about $20 billion is an abyss. Future tax increases are inevitable.  Nor are these projections dynamic. That is to say, they do not factor in the likely reaction of taxpayers, both businesses and individuals, to the coming succession of tax increases that the state will be forced to levy. Famously, Connecticut is the new Dodge City, the place that a 2014 Gallup Poll discovered half the citizenry wanted to get out of.

Even Dan "The Gun Gov" Malloy is desperately looking to leave his state for a post in the Obama/Clinton administration.  So far, a chair near the First Lady during SOTU is all they're willing to give him, though.

Where I'm really noticing it now is in the absence of retired colleagues.  Connecticut used to be filled with retired clergy.  Even in the smallest parish I could expect to have four potential "substitutes" for those Sundays when I was on vacation.  Nowadays, I can't find even one.  Then there is the obvious effect this is having on state population, which will always be reflected in congregational size and budgets.

You Know, I Was Wondering This Myself

Watching Downton Abbey with an Historian: The Case of the Missing Vicar

I watched a couple of hours of this soap opera the other night [good husband points, right?] and it really struck me how religiously vacant the Abbey world was.  That's completely wrong, historically.
Downton Abbey has given us glimpses of the church before, most prominently in the debate over where Sybil and Tom’s baby should be baptized. But in general it is kept resolutely off-stage, against all historical evidence. No dramas play out through glances and whispers during Sunday services. The Dowager Countess spends her energies on influencing the hospital administration, not whether the new vicar will be high or low church in his style. Lady Mary and Lady Edith are haunted by lower-class women—blackmailers and distraught kidnappers—for their indiscretions, but never by a church-imposed morality or even just the gimlet eye of a clergyman. Sunday night’s episode saw both Mary and Cora realize they were acting selfishly and seek to make amends, but this, too, happened in strictly secular, almost therapized language rather than with reference to any religious ethic or spiritual advisor.
There would be few dinners at the Abbey to which the local vicar would not be invited, not to mention called in to aid with the mortal realities and moral curiosities of the family.  In the 1920's, this would be considered normal.  Also, as he's the prime landowner, Lord Whatever would, by default, be the equivalent of the "senior warden for life" of the local parish.  He never seems to have to go to monthly meetings, does he?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi, Ordained on January 25, 1944 [Yes, That's Right]

Li Tim-Oi was born in Hong Kong in 1907. When she was baptized as a student, she chose the name of Florence in honor of Florence Nightingale. Florence studied at Union Theological College in Guangzhou (Canton). In 1938, upon graduation, she served in a lay capacity, first in Kowloon and then in nearby Macao.

In May 1941 Florence was ordained deaconess. Some months later Hong Kong fell to Japanese invaders, and priests could not travel to Macao to celebrate the Eucharist. Despite this setback, Florence continued her ministry. Her work came to the attention of Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong, who decided that “God’s work would reap better results if she had the proper title” of priest.
On January 25, 1944, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Bishop Hall ordained her priest, the first woman so ordained in the Anglican Communion.

When World War II came to an end, Florence Li Tim-Oi’s ordination was the subject of much controversy. She made the personal decision not to exercise her priesthood until it was acknowledged by the wider Anglican Communion. Undeterred, she continued to minister with great faithfulness, and in 1947 was appointed rector of St. Barnabas Church in Hepu where,on Bishop Hall’s instructions, she was still to be called priest.

When the Communists came to power in China in 1949, Florence undertook theological studies in Beijing to further understand the implications of the Three-Self Movement (self-rule, self-support, and self- propagation) which now determined the life of the churches. She then moved to Guangzhou to teach and to serve at the Cathedral of Our Savior. However, for sixteen years, from 1958 onwards, during the Cultural Revolution, all churches were closed. Florence was forced to work first on a farm and then in a factory. Accused of counter revolutionary activity, she was required to undergo political re-education. Finally, in 1974, she was allowed to retire from her work in the factory.

In 1979 the churches reopened, and Florence resumed her public ministry. Then, two years later, she was allowed to visit family members living in Canada. While there, to her great joy, she was licensed as a priest in the Diocese of Montreal and later in the Diocese of Toronto,where she finally settled, until her death on February 26, 1992.

Allow me to offer some controversial observations, as I was active in the church upon the initial "discovery" of Li Tim-Oi's story and actually met her.  Mother Li was so unknown that, upon the much-trumpeted occasion of the ordination of the first women clergy in 1974, we were not generally aware that the Anglican Communion had already ordained a woman to the priesthood more than thirty years before.  Once Mother Li's remarkable story was discovered, it deflated some of the self-importance of the American church, especially as all of the first American ordained women were white and economically privileged; two things Mother Li was not.  It seemed that it was only out of good Episcopal manners that she was initially granted a date on the calendar.  Times, fortunately, have changed.

Anyone who met her in person, as I was so honored when we shared a lecture hall at the University of Toronto, would have recognized being in the presence of a true priest.  She lived to serve God, not self, and reached beyond culture to preach a quiet, simple message of faith.  I'm glad she was the first woman priest, as she set a standard that is inspiring, catholic and service-oriented.

Gracious God, we thank you for calling Florence Li Tim-Oi, much beloved daughter, to be the first woman to exercise the office of a priest in our Communion: By the grace of your Spirit inspire us to follow her example, serving your people with patience and happiness all our days, and witnessing in every circumstance to our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

James Mattis on the Importance of Reading

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

If you don't recognize his name, Mattis is known among a select few as "Mad Dog".  In more polite circles, he's General Mattis, USMC [Retired].  He lead combined forces in Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  He was probably the best read officer in recent years who was not employed as an instructor in one of the service academies.  I appreciate that Hollywood presents Marines as a collection of meatheads, but that's never been the case.

The reason for his zeal for history is that, in his profession, errors lead to problems that are not encountered in other arenas:
The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
He's also famous for some other quotations, such as this one that he offered to some Afghani chieftains, “I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

Good Intentions + Gobs of Money = Disaster

Live Aid: The Terrible Truth

It was thirty years ago and, musically, was spectacular; the last roar of a musical trend begun twenty-five years before and, unfortunately, the high-water mark for that music, as well.
By this time we had all seen the pictures and TV footage of Bob Geldof, the figurehead of Live Aid, bear hugging and playfully punching Mengistu in the arm as he literally handed over the funding for this slaughter. It was on TV now alright, but as an endless, relentless reel of heroic Bob Geldof highlights. He drenched himself in the adulation and no one begrudged him it, until our investigation exposed the holocaust that Live Aid’s collected donations had help perpetrate on the Eritrean independence fighters.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

To Better Understand The Episcopal Church's Suspension, We Offer This:

Ignore much of the "official" commentary, as this is more informative:
Over time, mainstream journalists around the world have gradually come to realize that the Archbishop of Canterbury is not the "Anglican pope." In most news coverage these days, he is referred to as the "symbolic" leader of the global Anglican Communion or as the "first among equals" when the Anglican archbishops are doing business.

Let's focus on that second image for a moment, as I point out one or two elements of the flood of news coverage of the "special," as opposed to normal, gathering of the Anglican primates in Canterbury the last few days.

If Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the first among equals, then it is important for journalists to realize that the other archbishops really do see themselves as, well, equal among the equals. Thus, when you are working through the tsunami of global coverage of the vote by the Anglican primates to "suspend" the U.S. Episcopal Church from many official roles in the Anglican Communion, it helps to focus on the previous actions taken by the primates on issues linked to the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

Yes, we are back to that complicated Anglican timeline thing. There is no way to avoid it.
As is consistent with The Episcopal Church's world view for the past decade or so, the suspension [which we are now being told through official channels isn't really a suspension suspension, it's more like a non-suspension suspension] is represented in public statements by clergy as intolerance towards our policy concerning "same-sex marriages".  That is accurate, certainly.  However, the Church pretty much sees the world through one issue at a time, and as the author of the article above identifies in his timeline, this is a venerable disagreement and more complicated than that.

There are a couple of things that I have yet to see mentioned in other public statements.  The first is that the "split" or division in the Anglican Communion is inevitable.  The Communion is the last vestige of the British Empire and exists within that tension.  All of the member churches were founded by the missionary activity of the Empire.  Historically, the membership of The Episcopal Church of the United States is special as we are the only ones to have broken away from the Church of England through the process of armed rebellion.  That has always made our status somewhat estranged. 

The Anglican Communion's lack of influence over the common work of our parish will be noticed by those in the pews when those in the pews notice no difference.  I challenged those present at our late morning liturgy to name the Archbishop of Canterbury and none could.  As parishes seem less and less involved in their own dioceses, it's no surprise that the greater church is less interested in global Anglicanism save for underwriting ministries in the developing world and providing  mission opportunities for those who wish to visit those countries.  [Just to note the difference in perspective, some African, British, and Canadian Anglicans describe the former as virtue-signalling and the latter as the American tendency "to vacation in the misery of others".]

The second is the relative distaste with which The Episcopal Church is regarded by other members within the Communion.  In part, this is because we are Americans and are seen to blame for the chaos in the Middle East and Europe that permits the gross persecution of Christians, about which we say little and do nothing, and the other is the use of secular courts to sue congregations into compliance with diocesan ideology.

[Don't get mad at me for simply relaying what is freely discussed among international clergy when the U.S. bishops and seminary/divinity school professors aren't around.]

Update:  Looks like I'm not the only one noticing the complications.
Unless something gives, it’s unlikely that the American Episcopalians will be able to hold on to a place in the emerging Anglican Communion. The two sides see the current dispute very differently. American Episcopalians see the church’s embrace of gay marriage and new kinds of theology as a matter of conscience and Christian witness. Their critics in Africa and elsewhere see Episcopalians as having lost touch with the faith’s historical sources of authority. Neither Scripture, Tradition, nor Reason, they claim, support the Episcopal positions within the Anglican world. Besides that, many of the conservative Anglicans are from the developing world, where the Episcopalian decision to chart its own course regardless of the views of other member of the Communion looks less like conscience and more like neo-colonial arrogance and racial pride.
The business about "neo-colonial arrogance" has been common in discussions of The Episcopal Church for some time, especially among the African and Latin American churches.   Since the American church is shrinking and the African and Latin American churches are growing, we are in a moment of global reappraisal.  I mentioned this once at a clergy meeting about ten years ago and, before I even got to the end of my statement, was shouted down by my colleagues.  Maybe they'll be willing to consider this an issue now.

Maybe They Need to Drop the "P"

EPA accidentally turns river orange


The EPA Also Knew Flint's Water Might Be Poisoned Last Year But Didn't Tell Anyone

Friday, January 15, 2016

This Week's Stats

Our most read story:
The Continuing Adventures of...Ohio Man!

Really?  Zombies?  Really?

Our least read story:
Eugenie Clark

If you don't recognize the least read story, that's because it was published back in March.  For some reason, I'm guessing having to do with a college class somewhere, she was moderately popular this week.

Arabic Orthodox Chant احمدوا الرب

Yes, it's Christian

Matti Moosa

[Originally published on December 21, 2012]

"So, why don't you come over and have some nice...pie!"

It was a familiar bidding, and one I always looked forward to receiving, especially at the end of a long day serving as the vicar of two parishes in the countryside of western Pennsylvania.  I was single in those days and sorely missed the company of people I had known in New York City.  In fact, the transition from being a free-lance clergyperson and academic researcher in the world's greatest city to being a basic, meat-and-potatoes parish priest in Edinboro, Pennsylvania was such a shock to my system that I filled all of my waking hours with work, driving back and forth between two churches and visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and parishioners in a route that covered 1500 square miles.  Given that winter lasts about nine months of the year in Erie County, and that it snows every single day of winter, those treks could be arduous.

I had invested in an answering machine, which was an extravagance, because in the pre-cell phone days it was the only way my far-flung congregation could get important messages to me.  Well, by important, I mean they could record complaints about the organ music, complaints about the new hymnal [yep, the hymnal was new back then], complaints about the new Book of Common Prayer [ditto], complaints about my sermon...well, you get the picture.  I reached the point where I would have to sit down and steel myself before I hit the "play" button.

But once or twice a week there would be a message from Matti Moosa, either bidding me to come have some of his freshly baked pie or describing in detail the mildly insane and totally hilarious dream that he had the night before.  [I remember in particular a dream that Matti had of his death.  He was always irritated by the fact that the archdeacon drove a Mercedes Benz and could be ostentatious about it.  In the dream, he was riding to heaven in the archdeacon's Mercedes and St. Peter, much like Matti, took great umbrage at the idea of a priest driving what in western Pennsylvania in the 1980's was a very showy car.  The Great Fisherman, in Matti's dream anyway, forbade the archdeacon entrance to the Kingdom, permitted Matti a place in the realm eternal, and kept the car for himself.]

At first, I knew him only as one of my parishioners at my new parish.  I had a number of university faculty in that congregation, professors of everything from English to Education to Chemistry; the vice president of the university always sat in the front row, but Matti was easily the most learned.

He was born and raised in Mosul in a house that had been in his family for almost 1000 years.  Yes, that number is correct.  In Iraq, he had been an attorney, working among the other members of what was once a large and vibrant Mesopotamian Christian community.  Somewhere along the line, and I never got the whole story, he earned the right to study at Columbia University, earning a Ph.D. in History.

He was also an ordained deacon in the Syrian Orthodox Church.

As the Episcopal Church in the less-urban portions of the United States was in those days the closest relation to Orthodox Christianity, Matti, his wife and three children, became faithful members of my first parish as a rector.

He was one of those professors that most students would initially be afraid to have, as he expected them to be as serious and studious as was he.  As he was blessed with a photographic memory, he could quote whole sources from books long out of print.  I think he knew about every Middle Eastern language, and would sometimes lapse into Arabic syntax when excitedly presenting a point about historiography, Franco-British geographic manipulation, theology, the absurdity of continuing Muslim/Jewish strife, or when yelling at his frequently flatulent dog.  For all his seriousness, his sense of humor was, as I have found with many Middle-Easterners, at turns child-like in its joy and sublime in its regard for human foible.

On the occasion of our first dinner together, after pie, he described the book he was writing, an examination of the Maronite sect of Christianity, and asked if I would be willing to help him with it.  Of course I said, "Yes".  Within moments I had a type-written manuscript roughly the weight and thickness of one of the larger telephone directories.  I took it with me that evening, only to have Matti call me the next afternoon to ask if I was done with it yet.

He also wrote a well-received and timely history of the extremist Shiites of Islam, a translation of the poetry of Kahlil Gibran and of all of the poetry of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz.  There was never a time when his dining room table wasn't covered with research papers, 3x5 cards, obscure notes in at least two languages, and all sorts of other objects related to scholarly study, except when we gathered together for vast Arabic meals finished with the most American homemade apple pie I'd eaten since my late grandmother's.

My salvation for those years, lost as I was afraid I was in the middle of nowhere, was with Matti, his learned and interesting family, and the fascinating scholars, poets, and writers that he brought from around the world to that former farmhouse on the outskirts of Edinboro.  Without him and his family's support and encouragement, I doubt that I would have ever continued in what became my life's work.

There are times, when our table is surrounded by family and friends, and the laughter and comments are ranging about the room, when I think back to those days long gone, when I would sit at Matti's table, in the midst of some argument about transubstantiation that was being heard in multiple languages, and remember the smile of sheer joy that he had.  It was then that he would say in Arabic, "Fadal".  In other words, "everyone eat and share the bounty that has been provided."

A great sentiment, don't you think?  It really sounds better in Arabic, though.

[Matti's page, yes, his own page, may be found at this link.]

An update:  Matti died on December 30, 2014.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Since His Death, A Lot Has Been Written About Him, But This May Be the Most Interesting

David Bowie: the man who loved books

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Stop the Presses!

 Primates suspend Episcopal Church from full participation in the Anglican Communion

I appreciate that many in the United States will see this as a rebuke to gay rights, and it is, but after speaking with some overseas colleagues, it is meant to be more of a rebuke to the Episcopal Church's tendency of the last decade or so to promote, and brutally enforce through both canon and common law, a monolithic view concerning social issues.  Whereas that is normal operating procedure in the Church, it's viewed as distasteful in other portions of the Anglican Communion.

Interestingly, it might mean that the Episcopal Church of the United States will not be able to vote against the inclusion of the Anglican Church of North American into the Anglican Communion.  As the ACNA is actually growing, and of a distinctly different spiritual verve, we may see the future forming before our eyes.

[A tip of the hat to The Rev. George Conger, Episcopal priest and journalist, who broke this story and beat all of the wire services, cable and network news, and print media.  Oh, and some of our diocesan folks didn't even know about it until they were informed by The Coracle.  Thanks, George.]

And I'm in Connecticut. In Winter.

Dig for 'lost city' in Honduras has begun

Ohio Men!

Ohio Men are proud:
Ohio Man Sends Selfie To Cops Over 'Terrible' Mugshot 

Ohio Men do important things:
Ohio man chosen master builder for new Legoland Discovery Center Michigan

Indie Music Scene, NYC circa 1980

Yeah, I'm in there somewhere.  I always was.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Miniatur Wunderland

That's Not How Resurrection Works, Folks

David Bowie fans sign petition to bring him back from the DEAD 

Maybe related:
Man claiming to be Jesus planned to kidnap one of the Obama dogs

The Sad Fate of St. John's Anglican Church in Quebec.

After Gaining Paranormal Fame, Ghost Hunting Spirit Summoners Burn Historic 'Ghost Church' to the Ground

YES! I'll Be Able to Read Again

Return of incandescent light bulbs as MIT makes them more efficient than LEDs

Combine this with GE saving more money by moving out of Connecticut and our long, national nightmare might soon be over.  Well, in regards to light bulbs, anyway.

Super Wild Nerd News

Rumors Are Flying That We Finally Found Gravitational Waves 

If you're wondering at my interest, remember that I'm a physicist's son.

Why Is Northeastern Church Attendance Falling? Hmmm, May It Have Something To Do With This?

The Northeast continues to experience a moving deficit with New Jersey (67 percent outbound) and New York (65 percent) making the list of top outbound states for the fourth consecutive year. Two other states in the region — Connecticut (63 percent) and Massachusetts (57 percent) — also joined the top outbound list this year. The exception to this trend is Vermont (62 percent inbound), which moved up two spots on the list of top inbound states to No. 3.

This information is courtesy of United Van Lines.  You know, the actual movers.

It Really is Time to De-Sentimentalize Tribal Culture

And I speak as a member of the Turtle Clan of the United Remnant Band of the Shawnee Nation [aka URB].

Half-truths about American Indians' environmental ethic obscure the rational ways in which they have lived with and shaped the natural world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This Is the City With the Strictest Gun Control in the Country

110 shot, 17 killed in first 10 days of 2016 in Chicago

Government gun control programs are always oriented towards the law-abiding, never towards those who would ignore such laws and work around them.  Gun violence programs never address gang problems or mental health issues.  For all of his moral preening and how he relishes being called "The Gun Gov" and sitting next to the First Lady at the State of the Union, Dan Malloy did nothing to address the causes of the Sandy Hook atrocity.

Not one "common-sense" gun control law would have changed a dang thing and those children would still be dead, the sound of their parents' mourning cries would still be in my memory, as would the sight of a young police officer so stunned by grief that he could no longer stand on his own.  

Sorry, Vegans

Mortality in vegetarians and comparable nonvegetarians in the United Kingdom is the same.

In Response to a Stunningly Ill-Informed Comment Made by a Pulitzer Prize-Winner

Media elites seriously need to meet a Christian or two. They live in a country that is majority Christian, in a culture shaped overwhelmingly by Christian influences. Journalists love politics and many voters are shaped by their religious views — so meeting such people can help them in their jobs of analyzing the electorate, something that they have not shined with this year. 

More than 70 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. So that gives us hundreds of millions of Americans to go out and meet. Some are more devout than others, but I bet you could find at least a few dozen who understand what is meant by the body of Christ. Or, you know, just read the Bible. I know it seems like a huge book but it’s doable and so worth your time. You will be amazed at how, in addition to the story of God’s salvation of man, there are historic and literary references you never grasped before. Trigger warning: it contains other metaphors.

This concerns me as I use, correctly, the term "Body of Christ" in my sermons, homilies, and other comments during meetings and such.  I always assumed, since it is commonly used in scripture, prayers, and songs, that it was understood to stand for the resurrected reality in which we all live.  The congregation, the community of the faithful, is the Body of Christ.  Heck, the congregation acknowledges this at every, single baptism.

Is it really that obscure a reference?

From Yesterday's Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury

In some parts of the Communion decline in numbers has been a pattern for many years. In England our numbers have been falling at about 1% every year since WWII. This week will see the publication of the figures for 2014, continuing that pattern, made to look a little worse by a change in the way we count people. The culture has becoming anti-Christian, whether it is on matters of sexual morality, or the care for people at the beginning or the end of life. It is easy to paint a very gloomy picture. 

We can also paint a gloomy picture of the moral and spiritual state of Anglicanism. In all Provinces there are forms of corruption, none of us is without sin. There is litigation, the use of civil courts for church matters in some places. Sexual morality divides us over same sex issues, where we are seen as either compromising or homophobic. The list can go on and on. The East African Revival teaches us the need for holiness. We must be renewed as a holy church, defined by our passionate worship and its content, with every Christian knowing scripture, prayerful, humble and evangelistic. In a sentence, we must be those who are, to the outside world, visibly disciples of Jesus Christ.

It's best to read the whole thing.

For Those Wondering Whether I'll Be Watching the State of the Union Address, Here's a Modest Response

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

What's really wonderful about the quotation above is that it is one, perfectly composed, 127 word sentence.  My personal comments are probably a tad more pungent, if more succinct.

Decline of the West, Part III

Why Hillary Clinton 'Desperately' Wants Kim Kardashian's Cellphone

Alternate header: It's for Her Husband

Monday, January 11, 2016

Next Time a Hollywoodian Scolds You About Being Enviromentally Responsible, Note This

The line of SUVs and limousines taking the glamorous people to one of the many, many occasions 
where they give one another awards.
Or, the next time a Hollywoodian scolds and mocks Midwesterners and Southerners who own guns about how they are morally and psychologically questionable, note this, too:

Security teams guarding the glamorous people at yet another awards ceremony.
That's also true of politicians:

And popes:

Am I the only only one beginning to get the impression that there are far too many people insulated from the common experience of reality who are making imperious pronouncements to those of us who are not as fortunate as to live in their bubble?

As We Remember Both Alice Paul and David Bowie Today, This Seemed Apt

Fun Idea, But Does Greece Have Money to Burn on Such Things?

There's a Plan To Rebuild the Colossus of Rhodes

If I May Add a #5: Don't Follow Government Dietary Guidelines

4 Health Fads That Still Won’t Work In 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It's Finally the Future: The Flying Car is Here!

Landing right in the middle of the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show was this Jetsons-like flying pod from Chinese company EHang. The battery-powered, eight-rotor contraption resembles those buzzy, annoying drones your neighbor’s kids keep flying into your yard, only it’s large enough to carry an entire human being.

My youthful goal of becoming Jonny Quest is almost realized.  Now, where can I get a laser beam?

Ohio Man!, Again

An Ohio man who put up a "zombie Nativity" display has pleaded not guilty to a zoning violation and pledges to keep his holiday tradition alive.

Frankly, this fellow bores me.  It's hardly brave or transgressive to mock Christianity and to use its characters and symbols in a grotesque manner.   It's not like it hasn't been done over and over.

Now, it would interest me if he did the same for Muhammad and Islam, but that would require actual artistic courage, wouldn't it?

I'm Wondering the Same About My Colleagues

Why are feminists refusing to discuss the Cologne sex attacks?

Decline of the West, Part II

Friday, January 8, 2016