Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

This week Paul goes to Macedonia [the Parma, Ohio of the ancient world], John of Patmos views the newest Temple, and Jesus celebrates a festival on the Sabbath in a manner that is bound to get him into trouble. All this plus the story of Eddie Aikua.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Music from the King of Surf Guitar

Duke Kahanamoku

Originally published on August 10, 2012

In keeping with the month and its aquatic nature, this week features one of the lesser known American Olympic athletes, but one who has had a massive influence on American culture and sport more than any other Olympian.

Duke Kahanamoku competed in the 1912 Olympics, winning a gold medal in swimming [Yes, just "swimming" and not butterfly, freestyle, breaststroke, etc.  Swimming competitions weren't as rich and various as they are today]; he came back to the Olympics eight years later and, at the age of 30, won his second gold medal.

Chiefly, though, he is recognized as the father of surfing and, as such, is featured as a statue in Huntington Beach, California [see above] and a mural in Ocean City, New Jersey [see below].  That's really all that matters to me, but much more can be read about The Duke here, here, and here.  The story of his rescue of sailors from a sinking boat is worth reading, as it explains why California lifeguards to this day use surfboards as one of their rescue tools. [A practice that's beginning to take hold in the eastern USA, too.]  It also represents the qualities of self-sacrifice and compassion for which Duke was known that informed traditional, pre-commercialized surfing, as his nature and character offer what's best about the very odd sport and spirituality of surfing.

[You can find the menu from one of the many restaurants that bear his name here.  I just thought I'd mention it as I'm having a craving for some huli chicken.]

Update: Since this was posted almost four years ago, a fine biography of Kahanamoku has been published.  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

No. Next Question, Please.

Can a minister in a Christian church be an atheist? That’s the question facing the United church of Canada as it wrestles with the case of Gretta Vosper
“I do not believe in a theistic, supernatural being called God,” says Gretta Vosper, the United Church of Canada minister who has led West Hill since 1997. “I don’t believe in what I think 99.99% of the world thinks you mean when you use that word.” Tor her, God is instead a metaphor for goodness and a life lived with compassion and justice.
In which case, you may replace The Bible with The Boy Scout Handbook, circa 1968.  This isn't a church, it's simply a community service organization.

Why Do Celebrities Never Threaten to Move to Mexico?

How to move to Canada (if Trump becomes president)

[Warning: Some rude language is used.]

A Busy Day: Class, Court, and Camus

About to enjoy CamusFest in NYC, celebrating the Existentialist philosopher's one and only visit to the United States seventy years ago.  He was a little disappointed to find so little despair in post-WWII America.  Pity he's not around now.

Above, Albert busts a move with some fellow, post-war zazous.

Why European Children Are So Much Quieter Than Yours

European parents’ discipline about not shouting at their kids was all the more impressive since they also almost never followed their children from apparatus to apparatus, as is the habit of most of us hovering American parents. These parents sat at the edges of the sprawling playground, reading books, drinking coffee, and letting their tots explore on their own. When they had to talk to their kids, they got up and walked close enough that they could use a normal voice.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

You're Going to Need a Bigger Boat

Officials Ponder How To Remove Dead Whale From Surf Spot

Yes, But Ask Them About Social Justice and Global Warming and They Know All About It

U.S. high school seniors slip in math and show no improvement in reading

Satire Works Best When It Rides the Razor's Edge Between Reality and Exaggeration

Presbyterian Church Discernment Group Senses Holy Spirit Leading Denomination To Lose More Members

One of My Important Mentors was Ordained in This Church

Updated with photo.
ISIS blows up Mosul's iconic Clock Church

Photographer Captures The Grace And Beauty Of Hummingbirds

Not Just Baby

I Seem to Be Arriving in Australia Just When Americans are Popular, Again

Collingwood’s American import Mason Cox boots first goal with first kick on ANZAC Day

I miss the days when ESPN wasn't the voice of morality and would show Australian Rules Football on the weekends.  I have to see a game when I'm there.  I wonder if the refs still wear white trilbys and raincoats.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This Never Seems to Be a Topic When We "Dialogue"

Bangladesh LGBT editor hacked to death

The superior order of my greater Church encourages those of us plonkers in the parishes to seek opportunities for discussion with our Muslim brothers and sisters.  While that seems rather redundant in my case, as I've taught Muslim students for thirty years, co-taught with imams in a divinity school classroom, moved about the Middle East, served as the private tutor for a Saudi prince, and have a reading knowledge of Arabic, we never seem to be encouraged to broach the topic of LGB rights.  I wonder why?

[By the way, I dislike using "dialogue" as a verb unless I'm reciting Shakespeare, as it has not been used as such since the 17th century.  While I enjoy employing antique terminology, since "dialogue" the verb has been embraced in the 21st century by politicians, professors, psychologists, and church bureaucrats, it seems flatly practical rather than lyrical.]

Sometimes I Feel the Reverse of Winston Smith

[If you have never read George Orwell's 1984, it's rather short, may be read quickly, and is particularly instructive when dealing with an ugly government; not to mention frighteningly prescient in some parts.]

Perhaps it's because I just paid both my under-withheld taxes for last year or those for the first two quarters of this year, or because I have a new tax form to process, one that proves I have health insurance, or that I now must hire someone to guide me through this idiotic labyrinth of regulation, but I realize, per the reference in this posting's header, that I now hate Big Brother.

Oh, look: More nutrition advice from the people who have been getting it spectacularly wrong for at least half a century.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a final rule Monday that will affect more than 3 million kids in daycare centers across the country. The regulation will only allow daycare centers to serve juice once a day, will ban fried foods, and encourages centers to not add honey to a child’s yogurt.

Because, you see, it's a government's job to decide all of these things for their beta sub-moron citizens. [That's a reference from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, another book to be read by those who wish to study the "How-To" guides apparently used by our betters in secular service.]

I'll Try to Curb My Enthusiasm

So, this is why I couldn't find a parking space this morning.

Jonny Quest Time

NASA's 'impossible' EM Drive works: German researcher confirms and it can take us to the moon in just 4 HOURS 

If you don't get the reference in the post header, for those of my generation the cartoon "Jonny Quest" was more exciting to the imagination than were the adventures of Captain Kirk and company on "Star Drek".  Ten-year-old Jonny's dad was the world's greatest inventor of cool stuff, be it laser guns, talking computers, hovercrafts, or rocket belts.  Jonny and his gang could be found in the desert being chased by a mummy, in the jungle being chased by a Komodo dragon, or in the Amazon being chased by a whack-job with a pet pterodactyl.  This was from 1964 to '65, the heyday of American tech creativity and confidence, and so its wonderfulness lingered for those of us Jonny's age whose dads worked for NASA.

Whenever something particularly 21st century appears, even if it's just talking heads on my portable phone [another invention of Dr. Quest's], I remember what we thought the future would be like in our adulthood.

He had a jazzy theme song, too:

Monday, April 25, 2016

In the USA, One Must Buy a Permit to Sing the Nation's Anthem

9/11 Memorial Guard Told Middle School Choir to Stop Singing National Anthem

We're Watching Religious History in the Making

Ultra-Orthodox rabbi declares medical marijuana kosher for Passover

The Action Never Stops in Montana

From Kalispell's Flathead Beacon police report.  Read it and understand the charm of working for a small town newspaper.

Because It Requires Some Intelligence to Teach

Why Are Schools Abandoning Literature?
In a single academic year, the 10th grade English class at Manhattan’s Beacon School, where Denby visited, read Rousseau, Falkner, Hesse, Frankel, and Hawthorne. The point of reading these books was not just to cross another name off their author bucket lists. Denby watched the students wrestle with these books to consider “the problem of authority,” the individual and his or her relationship to society, sin and judgment, the challenges of modernity and its technologies, and so much more. As Denby’s book shows, and as our best teachers know, literature isn’t merely a school requirement or a list of recommended books. Great literature teaches us how to live better lives. And those are lessons we carry with us long after we’ve left school.

But, He Self-Identifies as a Minor

High School Basketball Star is Discovered to be 30

Friday, April 22, 2016

The #1 Song on This Date in 1969. [Oddly hopeful times, weren't they?]

Here's How You Can Tell That an Earth Day Rally has Just Occurred

There Were Hundreds of Tribes in North America Representing Hundreds of Cultural Traditions, Folk Tales, Creation Stories, and Languages. WHAT THE HECK IS A "NATIVE AMERICAN" PROVERB?

This is like saying "Today's rain is tomorrow's whiskey" is a Caucasian proverb. [It's Scottish, just so you know.]

The Easiest Way to Get Rich in the Developed World is to Predict Disaster

Here's some Earth Day fun:

Earth Day predictions of 1970

Graeme Obree

[Originally published on July 10, 2014] 

When you're depressed, everything becomes distorted.

I have worked through the years with a great number of parishioners who have suffered or continue to suffer from various forms of what is described, too broadly and pejoratively, as "mental illness".  This has included, but has not been limited to, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and depression.  I have seen others deal with beloved family members who suffer from such.  The toll it takes is tremendous, of course, and no less so when the suffering is with someone for whom we care.

There are transient forms of these illnesses, too, that can afflict us.  I find that even I, after a six month period when I experienced the sudden and unexpected death of my father and the very gradual, painful, and debilitating death of my mother; as well as the death of a beloved roue of an uncle and of my two most important mentors, found the grim hand of depression taking hold of my soul.

My exercise and nutrition routine, which I need to follow in order to keep pace with parish and school responsibilities, fell apart.  [I may feel no older than 36, but my rational mind reminds me that I am well over a generation beyond that birthday.]  My sleep became intermittent and inadequate; my interest in work and in life in general became stale.  The fact that this state came gradually and quietly into all aspects of my life with a terrible deliberation was perhaps its most frightening aspect.  Certainly, it has increased my empathy towards those who find themselves victims of what would have once been called a form of possession.

There were two things that drove out this particular demon, or series of demons, however.  While faith was and is always present, simple and sometimes silly games with my granddaughter helped considerably, as did the ability to once again plunge deeply into ocean water and feel the exercise of the familiar muscle memory along with the sights, sounds, and smell of the surf.

There are many people who have used physical activity to pull themselves away from depression, as well as trauma and other afflictions that are often left to the cruel passivity of pharmaceuticals to address.  [If interested in this subject, I would recommend this article from the Harvard Medical School.]  Perhaps the poster person for such would be our Friday subject, who suffered not just from depression, but bipolar disorder and a chronic desire for self-slaughter.

Graeme Obree, nicknamed "The Flying Scotsman", is a legend in the world of bicycle racing, known particularly for his attempts on the world speed record twenty years ago.  He is also the inventor of one of the most unique bicycles in his sport, particularly since it was built using, among other things, parts from a washing machine.

As often happens with those vexed with mental issues, Obree's teenage and young adult years were beset by multiple failures, drug use, and at least two suicide attempts.  He failed as the owner of a bicycle shop, was alienated from his family, and purposeless until he fixed upon a Quixotic goal.  For nearly a decade, the record for the fastest speed set on a bicycle was just short of 32 miles an hour.  As such tests of speed are generally performed in a velodrome with no other riders present and the cyclist competing only against a clock, remarkable concentration is permitted.  Anyone familiar with combating mental disorder will immediately see the advantages of this circumstance.

However, breaking the 32 mph barrier would require more than a trained and focused rider.  Both Obree's technique and his medium would have to be adjusted.  Obree had taken note of the physical stance of downhill skiers who tuck their elbows close to their bodies in order to encourage a more efficient aerodynamic profile and he wished too do the same on a bicycle, something that required a redesign of the handlebars.  Rather than the standard "inverted U" style common in racing and touring bikes, Obree fabricated a straight, and very short bar across the top of the frame.  The frame was adjusted so that his knees would not come in contact with it; the chain shortened to allow the most torque.  In one particularly inspired moment, Obree noted how well the bearings in a washing machine were manufactured and had them included in the bike's design.

At a high enough speed, [I could] tuck in my arms. And, above all, get in a very forward suposition on the bike, on the peak of the saddle. The Obree position isn't advantageous simply aerodynamically, it also allows, by pushing the point of pedalling towards the rear, to benefit from greater pressure while remaining in the saddle. You soon get an impression of speed, all the greater because you've got practically nothing [deux fois rien] between your hands. Two other things I noticed after a few hundred metres: I certainly didn't have the impression of turning 53 × 13, and the Obree position is no obstruction to breathing. But I wasn't pedalling at 55kmh, 100 turns of the pedals a minute, yet my arms already hurt.
With the bike, designed in his kitchen, built in a friend's workshop and now named "Old Faithful", Obree rented a velodrome in Norway for 24 hours.  His first attempt at the record was a failure.  Cramped and unsettled, Obree returned to his hotel room for a brief night of fitful sleep, and returned to the velodrome early the next morning, so early his support teammate overslept.  While it was unlikely, given his exhaustion and lack of sufficient recovery time, on July 16, 1993, he broke through the 32 mph barrier.

Obree earned the record, lost it to another cyclist shortly thereafter, and then regained it the next year.  When tedious international cycling bureaucrats, disturbed by innovation [What bureaucrat isn't?], banned Old Faithful for the usual nonsensical reasons, he designed another bike.  When that wasn't enough, they banned his riding position; he designed another.  Then they overreached by banning his already established records.  This was enough for the cycling community to begin to push back, eventually getting Obree's records restored and allowing for innovation to permit progress in the sport.

Obree would compete in a variety of bicycle competitions, winning an equal variety of medals, trophies, and championships.  He avoided the Tour de France, however, as it was understood that he would have to, like other competitors, dope himself.  [Don't be shocked; everyone knows this is done.]  Given his history, that would have been a poor choice.

His worst moment came the year after his initial victory over the speed record when his brother was killed in an automobile accident, initiating a depression spiral that resulted in his third suicide attempt.  While in the midst of hanging himself in his horse's stable, he was discovered at the very last minute by the local farmer's daughter who was happening by.

Again, he returned to the sheer physical pleasure of speed cycling, spinning his way to more records and victories and, ultimately, to his status as Scotland's champion of sport and mental health awareness.  As he noted in an interview a decade ago,

"It's all in the past....Carry on regardless. Carry on through thick and thin. Carry on until you're good enough to win." 

Marvelous advice, even if one's victory is simply over transient depression.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

If You Skip to 3:30, You Can't Help But Notice That Prince Was a Real Shredder

This is Why British Papers are Thriving

As a ready-to-wear buyer once said to me, "Don't knock what sells."

Isis commander is being mocked because he looks like a kebab

A Nice Place Near a Friend's House

Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center

Or You Could Just Start Writing

The Psychology of Writing and the Cognitive Science of the Perfect Daily Routine
How to sculpt an environment that optimizes creative flow and summons relevant knowledge from your long-term memory through the right retrieval cues.
I've known people who needed very quiet spaces in order to create and others who preferred to do so in the midst of people.  Hemingway would edit and Sartre write in Paris cafes.  At least one minor book of theology was written at a shopping mall, for heaven's sake.

While I acknowledge that I was at my most efficient when I lived in a monastery, I don't know if I was at my most creative.  Ah, who knows?  A blank page beckons and we do our best to respond.

Speaking of which, I was 60,000 words into the latest book when I realized that I was significantly deviating from my original plan.  That wasn't entirely a bad thing, as I hadn't realized until that point that I had so much to say.  The problem is that I don't want to write something new until I've finished the original plan.  So, back to the drawing board.

I'm now 50,000 words into the original product.  Not bad.  That means Book #2 can come out next year and Book #1 will be ready for Australia this autumn.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Should I Say It Again? Why Not? Everything You Know is Wrong.

New York Times: A Decades-Old Study, Rediscovered, Challenges Advice on Saturated Fat

In other words, eat that cheeseburger and enjoy life a little bit, willya?  You're going to die, anyway.

Here's some more:  How ‘Settled Science’ Helped Create A Massive Public Health Crisis 

When it comes to your body, never take advice from a government.

For an explanation of "Everything you know is wrong", please follow this link.

Haha, or this one.

For Once, I'm Appreciative That So Many in Government Service Have a Thin Knowledge of U.S. History

Given the times in which we live, when people are judged by the various labels that may be attached to them for political purposes, I'm surprised that the current government has decided to drop the founder of the Democratic Party from the $20 bill and replace him with a Second Amendment supporting Republican who was a devout, practicing Christian.  That's rather refreshing.

Move Over, Andrew Jackson. Harriet Tubman Is Coming to the $20 Bill.

Here's my candidate for the design:

 Can we get Woodrow Wilson off of the $100,000 bill now?

This Link Got Me Reported to the Diocese. No Joke.

In this brave new world, we must all use the same words to express the same thoughts or else we are "disharmonious".  That this is now the expected practice in the Episcopal Church and explains a lot about how we really view the events in Acts 10.  It also explains the Church's failures at evangelism.

The Contradictions of Diversity

"Want to See Women’s Equality? Look to Jazz."

When it comes to feminism, which I define as treating women equally to men while not subtracting the special qualities that make women feminine, there is one area where we have achieved a wonderful, nearly platonic parity. It’s the field of jazz.

Everything You Know is Wrong

New Research Shows Vegetable Oils Are Not Good for Heart Diseases

Thank Heaven for That

The British government has been accused of “riding roughshod over democracy” after it suggested it would not endorse naming a £200 million ($283 million) polar research vessel Boaty McBoatface. 

The unseemly title was the winner of an online poll launched by the National Environment Research Council (NERC) to name its new polar research ship. The choice has to be endorsed by ministers.

For Those Interested

There is a sale on The Great Courses


There are always interesting and free courses on Future Learn

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Photo File Clean-Out, Part VIII

Duke's statue at what may be the greatest store on Planet Earth.

A particularly good wave in Hawaii.  Just enjoy God's symmetry.

In Cape Cod, don't go surfing when the seals are on the beach.  They're friendly, but the reason they are there is that sharks are in the water.

Seriously, this could have been my Dad and Granddad on the former's first day of college.

This year's campaign season summed up in one closed caption.

Ah, England.  Norwich, to be exact.

This is What Happens With a Fun, Affordable Car, Even in Europe

​This March the Ford Mustang outsold many of Germany's best performance cars. A coincidence, or a sign of the times?

Friday, April 15, 2016

"As Long as the Sun Hangs in the Sky, the U.S. Government Will Protect the Navajo People"

Looks like sometimes the sun doesn't hang in the sky.

Drinking water from the river the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) polluted with 880,000 pounds of lead nearly seven months ago still isn’t consistently safe for humans, according to the New Mexico secretary of the environment.


It appears the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no plan to protect humans and wildlife if contaminates left behind after August’s Gold King Mine spill are stirred up and reach dangerous levels.

This is all drearily familiar to anyone who knows even a molecule's worth of U.S. history.  No one will ever be made accountable; the government, with the aid of the media, will obfuscate, deny, and camouflage until no one cares anymore.  Well, except for the generations of Navajo who have been poisoned and further impoverished.

Oh, look:  The National Wildlife Federation to Honor EPA Administrator McCarthy with National Conservation Achievement Awards 

She's great, as long as you're not an American Indian.  Check out this delusional quote from her:
“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too.  Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”
Why do I care about this?  Well, 1.) I have, as an Anglican Christian, sworn to respect the dignity of every human being, 2) Know that those effected are sister and brother Episcopalians in the Diocese of Navajoland and 3) There's this bit of personal reality.

Post-War Paris Jazz Scene Re-Created in Cinema

Gerry Lopez

“Okay...I guess this is a good day to die!" - Gerry Lopez, when first being towed offshore to ride a mega-wave.

[Originally published on November 14, 2014]

Bear with me, but I find a lot of similarity in the histories of surfing and Christianity.

Both began in simplicity and, over time, became too complicated to carry their own weight. Christianity was a simple movement realized from person to person and nimble in its spiritual expression, especially when compared to the monolithic religions of the era. Surfing was the avocation of people young and old riding wooden boards on unnamed beaches that weren't always the most accessible.

By the fourth century, Christianity had become the "official" religion of the Roman Empire and, while that enabled its rapid spread across the Western world, it became intertwined with empires, kingdoms, and governments to the point that the spiritual and the venal were inseparable.

Surfing, in the days of the wahines, groms, hodaddies, and kooks was a relaxed and uncommon pursuit for a variety of age groups.  In the 1950's, World War II and Korean War veterans, in particular, found it a pleasant diversion from the nightmares caused by long-resolved battles*.  As it became popular in general culture, and the source of a lot of attention from adolescents with money to spend, it naturally attracted the marketers who created the monster known as the "surf lifestyle".  Nowadays a 14-year-old with a natural affinity for reading waves and balancing on a board can become the multi-millionaire spokesman for a power drink company.

Both Christianity and surfing suffered from this growth and both are now entering a post-institutional phase.  While there are a lot of people attempting to lure Christendom back to its effective and simple days of just being Christianity, surfing is still making way too much money for those in charge of merchandising and contests for there to be a general recognition of the effect of the loss of simplicity. However, a growing number of young surfers are attempting to reclaim those days when it was the surf and not the sponsorship where watermen found satisfaction.

The man himself.

And, in that quest, they tend to turn for inspiration to the guy known as Mr. Pipeline.

Once in Huntington Beach, I was in the "green room".  Just that once.  It doesn't happen on the east coast really, so it was rather special.  The green room is that tube formed by a rolling wave in which good surfers in good surf can place themselves.  While mine was a good wave, I'm not that good of a surfer, so it was probably for only five seconds or so, but on my deathbed I will regard it as one of the best moments of my life.  I can't imagine what it's like regularly to abide in the room and, in sublime confidence and ability, reach out and touch that dynamic wall of water.

Gerry Lopez has been in the green room so often he should move an easy chair in there.  That really shouldn't be a surprise, given the milieu into which he was raised.  Lopez was born in Honolulu in 1948, educated at the prestigious Punahou School [which, through the years, also counted the dance coach Cari Ann Inaba, the politician Barack Obama, the discoverer of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham, pro golfer Michelle Wie, Chinese president Sun Yet Sen, and Olympian and actor Buster Crabbe among its students] which used to stress development of both body and mind.  Lopez extended his education when, at the age of 14, he became the Hawaiian State Surfing Champion.

Nowadays, he would be the toast of every surf beach in the world and a fair number of advertising agencies, too; probably with his photo of the cover of a variety of surfing periodicals.  But, in 1962, he was given a simple trophy in a makeshift ceremony and left to his own devices.  He would, as he matured, develop a recognizable style that, to those who have never surfed, appeared casual and offhand, but was anything but; and he would challenge greater and greater waves.

Lopez and his friends started to experiment with the enormous waves of Oahu's North Shore around the time that surfboard design was changing from the rather simple solid wood boards to those made of fiberglass with channels, subtle curving known as foil and rocker, and downrailers.  The new design made even the most daunting of waves accessible.

It's more complicated than you thought, isn't it?

Lopez dedicated himself to what came to be known in lore and legend as the "Banzai Pipeline", a surf break in the reef system that produced massive waves that were beyond the technological capacity of the original surfboard.  From a familiar online source:
Pipeline is notorious for huge waves which break in shallow water just above a sharp and cavernous reef, forming large, hollow, thick curls of water that surfers can tube ride. There are three reefs at Pipeline in progressively deeper water further out to sea that activate according to the increasing size of approaching ocean swells.
In other words, if either the surfer or his/her equipment is not up to it, a rider will be severely injured or killed in rather short order.  In the 1960's, Gerry Lopez took a new board design into the surf at Sunset Beach Park and rode the tubes over and over again.  By his 25th birthday he was recognized as the best tube-rider in the world and earned the nickname "Mr. Pipeline".  A few years later, the annual competition on the North Shore was re-named the Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters.

It's probably better to simply stand on the beach and admire them rather than get crushed.

There are many athletes who have become champions in their field and then, as age or injury remove them from competition, retire and find pursuits that are fulfilling or, at the very least, keep them mostly out of jail.  Shortly after being recognized as the champion he was, Lopez, while still competing, made a move into the next phase of the sport.  Using his intimate knowledge of what worked on a surfboard and what didn't, he began to design and market his own line of surfboards, memorable for their lighting bolt design.

By the time I had enough money to buy a proper surfboard, Lopez boards were the ones to have. Unfortunately, by then Lopez boards were too expensive even for those of us who thought we had enough money.  Since Mr. Pipeline knew what it was like to ride a three-story wave, these shaped bits of fiberglass and foam were renowned for their stability and speed.  Also, as longboards gave way to shortboards during the 1980's and 90's, enabling surfers to spin, wheel, and climb on the waves as if they were on skateboards, it was the Lopez design that served as the foundation for what was to come.

In other words, this:

Became this:

With his fame within the sport, and his fortune made from his surfboards, Lopez continued to give to the community, enabling scholarships, study programs, and surf competitions.  And, like his contemporary in the martial arts world, Bruce Lee, he discovered lucrative and rewarding work in Hollywood, teaching actors how to look authentic on a surfboard.  He would even take roles in films from time to time.

However, as with any successful venture, Lopez would see his sport become more and more commercialized and complicated.  Somewhere, it had lost its loopy, easy-going fun and become just another over-serious mega-business.  At the nadir of this transformation, Mr. Pipeline, the super-surfer from the North Shore of Hawaii, left the coast, moved to Oregon, and became...a snowboarder.  Yeah, I know.

Now in his mid-60's, Lopez has come to be considered the "Yoda" of surfing.  This summer, in my eccentric role as a chaplain to the Christian Surfers organization, I noticed that Lopez's autobiography, Surf Is Where You Find It, was the second most popular book read on the beach in between wave sets.  [Given the organization, it should come as no surprise that the most popular was The Holy Bible, King James Version.]  When asked about it, the young people confessed a fascination for those early "Gidget" days of surfing, where it was less a sport and more a community-building activity with a mutualized support structure.  It wasn't so much about trying to out-do one another on a wave [although a natural sense of competition is always present] as it was celebrating the joys of a common activity, one that tended to obviate the constraining social structure of its time.  

Remarkably, at a time when young Christians are attempting to do the same with their faith, young surfers are trying to find that meaningful center in their pursuit; the center that has been obscured by much less important concerns.  Perhaps both surfers and Christians should take heed of Lopez's wisdom, "Life is an adventure, and when we see it as such it becomes more fun and enjoyable and less of a burden and toil."   If faith is life, then that sagacity is doubly true.

[*I'll bet that you never realized surfing was once an effective treatment for what's now called Post-Traumatic Stress Reaction.]

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The "P" Stands for "Procrastination"

EPA Leaves Dangerously Polluted Superfund Sites Uncleaned For DECADES

Well, to be fair, they've been busy closing down the coal industry and making safe our water supplies, unless it's in Flint, Michigan or Hoosick Falls, New York.

Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13 and Luke 6:22


Interestingly, I've Worshiped in Three and Worked in a Fourth

Top 10 Haunted Churches And Cathedrals

Everything You Have, They Want

They Want Your IRA

I'm beginning to think that the occasional practice of tarring and feathering government officials was not such a bad idea.

Seriously, Everything You Know is Wrong

Full-fat milk 'may drastically reduce risk of diabetes' - study

Anyone who listens to scientists, especially, but not limited to, those on a government payroll, in these politicized times may be of a custodial intellect.  This is particularly true if one thinks that the government is a good steward of our bodies.

You do notice, don't you, that when low-fat milk started to be pushed upon us, that the rate of diabetes went up?

Tales from the Secular Utopia

California Labor Union That Fought for $15 Minimum Wage Now Wants an Exemption

Monday, April 11, 2016

Archaeological News

A bullet fired by Lawrence of Arabia during one of his most famous acts of guerrilla warfare has been discovered in the Arabian desert by a team of archaeologists, led by the University of Bristol, confirming the accuracy of Lawrence's own account of the attack in his war memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Oh, Look. Anti-Semitism is Back. In the USA. At an Elite University.

Everything old is new again:
Stanford students sometimes seem to think that their intelligence is a bubble protecting them from idiocy. But as we learned again at the ASSU Senate meeting on Tuesday night, anti-Semitism, though stupid, is not the sole provenance of stupid people.Many of today’s college students may feel confident that anti-Semitism died with Hitler. But the Oxford University Labour Club’s co-chair recently resigned to protest raging anti-Semitism on campus, and Stanford is not immune from stupid statements and prejudiced words. For Jews, anti-Semitism is terrifyingly real. And it came to a head at Stanford on Wednesday night.

Given the Destruction of Art and Archaeological Treasures in This Enlightened Century Alone, I'm in Agreement

Give thanks for the imperialist ‘tomb raiders’: Without them, many of the artefacts now demanded back from museums simply wouldn’t have survived

Friday, April 8, 2016

Well, This is Interesting

Episcopal Church fires two top executives for workplace misconduct

and another:

Episcopal leader cleans house, while reporters ignore that whole 'bugging' thing

The second article contained this quotation, which reminded me of something an editor of mine once said:

"I guess there is a larger question now: Is the Episcopal Church still front-page worthy, other than when it makes pronouncements that, well, echo the doctrines of The New York Times editorial page?"

What did my editor say?  He was responding to my question as to why a bishop's announcement wasn't newsworthy, so he said, "What's the headline?  'Liberal bishop from liberal church says something liberal?' That isn't news."

Is Anyone Actually Surprised by This?

Human intelligence is declining according to Stanford geneticist

The Archbishop of Canterbury Learns the Identity of His Father

In the last month I have discovered that my biological father is not Gavin Welby, but, in fact, the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne.

This comes as a complete surprise.

Friday's Obscure Song

Wilfred Thesiger

 [Originally published on May 10, 2013]

"I was exhilarated by the sense of space, the silence, and the crisp cleanness of the sand. I felt in harmony with the past, travelling as men had travelled for untold generations across the deserts, dependent for their survival on the endurance of their camels and their own inherited skills."

It's hard to imagine, now that we can "visit" virtually any corner of the globe without leaving a computer screen, due to the various Internet services that offer maps and satellite photos of most of the planet, that during our lifetime the world still held places of mystery that repelled all but the most intrepid of explorers and retained long-hidden temples, cities, and even peoples.

The 20th century would be the last in human history where Earth-bound adventurers would push into the unknown using little more than book-based research, remarkable fortitude, and invincible curiosity.  A great number of those explorers have become household names, synonymous both with the art of exploration and the wistful realization that such days are all but done.  However, there are a few who remain almost unknown, and that probably suited them just fine.

One such explorer/adventurer/character was Wilfred Thesiger, pictured above not in some hothouse in Trilling or Tring but in his everyday garb as an honorary Bedu of the so-called Empty Quarter.  How he got to that place is obvious from the title of his autobiography, A Life of My Choice

[I'm not sure why those heroes of my youth are so much on my mind these days, perhaps it is the inevitable slide from upper middle-age to the lower elder years, my still novel status as a grandparent, or my realization that a world that made much sense to me, a world guided by now out-of-date values and under-girded by a hearty sense of self, is quickly surrendering to a strange pseudo-paradise where a 26-year-old is considered by the government to be a child in need of care, where a remote political class lives in its own luxurious bubble, occasionally venturing forth to instruct the rest of us on how to be morally evolved, or because I find myself increasingly expected to live by specious social constraints that are becoming more and more onerous.  But, I digress....]

Like others whom we have appreciated on Fridays, Thesiger grew up privileged and British, a dangerous combination in the 20th century it would seem.  After being born in Addis Ababa, where his father was British envoy and a frequent visitor to the lush imperial court of the Ethiopian emperor, followed by a miserable time at Eton and Oxford, Thesiger spiced his summer vacations with jobs on merchant ships that took him to places like Istanbul and Iceland.  While not the most exotic of ports, these journeys did prove useful for his developing personality as an explorer.

After becoming an acquaintance of Halie Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia, who had invited Thesiger to his coronation, the neophyte explorer was able to include himself on an expedition to Abyssinia's Awash River and lived for a time with the notoriously unstable and murderous Danakil nomads.  This challenge he met free from fear and with the aplomb for which the British of his generation have become either famous or infamous, depending on which side of the river of history one stands.

A memorable profile, along with a nose that must have made the camels jealous

After graduation from Oxford, and earning a rather spectacular sporting profile due to his nose being broken while serving as the captain of the university's boxing team, Thesiger took a post in the foreign service in the Sudan, specifically the perennially troubled Darfur region, where he admits he spent most of his time shooting the lions that were decimating both livestock and laborers.  It was during this time that he learned how to ride a camel, live, dress, and eat as a native; and to love the Sahara desert, learning to live off the land with nothing other than a compass and stout British rifle.

This ability proved useful during the Second World War, as Thesiger served as an officer in the Sudan Defense Force, the Druze regiment of the Syrian Legion, and eventually with the earliest incarnation of the British Army's redoubtable commandos, the Special Air Service [better known these days as the terrorist-hunting SAS].  In between missions that liberated Abyssinia, routed the Vichy French in Syria, and captured 2,500 Italian soldiers [earning him the Distinguished Service Order, a significant British medal], Thesiger explored the more remote regions and even made a trek to fabled Petra.  After the war, and now a member of the United Nations' anti-locust unit [I could not make this stuff up], Thesiger explored Arabia's Empty Quarter, a place that held a fascination for a number of British explorers, including the previously mentioned Richard Burton

The native dress certainly looks more comfortable than the scratchy British wool; but I realize how important it was to wear a tie into battle.

As related in an article about him on the occasion of his death, The Guardian notes: "...between 1945 and 1949. Arabia's legendary Empty Quarter had been the goal of all Arabian explorers from Richard Burton onward, and although Thesiger was not the first to cross it, he was the first to explore it thoroughly, mapping the oasis of Liwa and the quicksands of Umm As-Sammim. He crossed the desert twice with Bedu companions, and his trek across the western sands from the Hadhramaut to Abu Dhabi was the last and greatest expedition of Arabian travel.

During his journeys he was caught up in inter-tribal raids, pursued by hostile raiders, and arrested by the Saudi authorities. He travelled alone in the Hejaz, the Assir and Najran, and explored the Trucial Coast and Dhofar in southern Arabia. He lived with the canoe-borne marshmen of Iraq for several periods over the seven years up to the Iraqi revolution of 1958...."

A scene in the film Lawrence of Arabia comes to mind, when Prince Faisal, as played by Alec Guinness, cannot fathom Lawrence's interest in the desert.  I quote from that portion of the film's script, as written by the playwright Robert Bolt: 

"I think you are another of these desert-loving English: Doughty, Stanhope, Gordon of Khartoum. No Arab loves the desert. We love water and green trees, there is nothing in the desert. No man needs nothing."

Thesiger, too, seems to have found something in the nothingness.  What that was would be addressed in his well-received and still-in-print travelogues including, but not limited to, Arabian Sands, The Marsh Arabs, both current Penguin Classics; Across the Empty Quarter, one of the Penguin Great Journeys series, and his autobiography, the aforementioned A Life of My Choice.  Each is well-written and each a ripping yarn.

Wilfred Thesiger would carry a number of awards and honours and would die peacefully shortly after his 93rd birthday, just a decade ago. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Puzzlewit University

Everyone at Indiana University mistook a priest for a KKK member

This is what happens with a generation that's spiritual, but not religious.

Oh look, the greater Internet has discovered this story:


Clueless students call white-robed priest a Klansman while he tries to get frozen yogurt

Indiana University Freaks Out Over KKK Member On Campus, Oops Just A Friar

Although, one Lent many years ago, someone called the police to my parish because there was a "ninja" in the parking lot.  It was me in my cassock.

There's Actually a Name for What I Do

NYT: Segmented Sleep

True Christianity, as Presented by the Mainstream Media [!]

Neighbors of St. Scholastica Monastery in the Rogers Park neighborhood occasionally see the Roman Catholic sisters who live there, either gardening or leaving to run errands or go to work. They wave and take comfort knowing the religious women have them in their prayers.

Then last weekend, one of the nuns showed up on their doorsteps. Shaken by news that an 18-year-old man had been fatally shot steps from the sisters' home, she put fliers on doorknobs and fence posts and chatted up passers-by, urging neighbors to help the sisters reclaim the crime scene as a place of peace.

It's Almost Tax Freedom Day

No mean achievement, given that we live in Connecticut:
While the national “Tax Freedom Day” is April 24, the variance among state’s tax burdens mean people living in different states have different “Tax Freedom Days.”  According to the Tax Foundation, Mississippi (April 5), Tennessee (April 6), and Louisiana (April 7) have the earliest “Tax Freedom Days” while New York (May 11), New Jersey (May 12), and Connecticut (May 21) will have the latest.

When Academics, Politicians, Protestantism, Entertainment, and the Media Demonize a Particular Demographic Long Enough, It Has an Effect

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

In Other Words, Social Media

How so, you ask. Well, learning about Western culture isn’t simply about undertaking a cohesive study of the history, philosophy, literature, and arts that have enormously influenced the world in which we all live. It is also about learning how to express ideas effectively, how to separate fact from propaganda through specific tools of learning developed in the West. Taking those tools away—such as the Socratic method, civil discourse, and rules of order and civil debate—hinders clarity, independent thought, and the powers of observation. It makes students far less able to resist conformity and groupthink.

ICYMI*, or More Tales from Secular Utopia

I haven't been watching nearly as much network and cable news of late [I'm tired of the "Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump" drum beat], so I'm not sure if this story is getting adequate coverage.  It doesn't include His Orangeness, so I'm guessing not.

Although The Washington Post and others seem to be presenting it as mostly a tax evasion scam, it's actually a massive network for political corruption on a scale more suited to a thriller, rather than real life.

Ah, but what is "real" anymore?  [See John 18:38]

Nothing to see here, just the biggest global corruption scandal in history

[*ICYMI is Internet patois for "In case you missed it".]

Wait a Minute, I Thought That Sea Levels were Rising and Rising

I mean, that's what Al Gore told me.  The Episcopal Church even sent copies of his documentary to parishes, and they can't be wrong, can they?

Sea level has been falling on the Atlantic seaboard for the past six years.

They never speak with surfers, you see.  If they had, this would not come as a surprise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Don't Find Your Self"

Good advice based on the author's observations:
It should not come as news, but today’s college students are being seriously misled. Beyond the obvious fact that too many universities have become indoctrination mills—in the humanities and the social sciences—and that the fight for social justice seems more important than learning anything, it appears that students are being told that the purpose of a liberal arts education is to find themselves.
Having been nurtured with a steady diet of unearned praise, they all seem to know what that means. In truth, it suggests that the college experience should be therapeutic, not educational, that it should promote a specious notion of mental health and not the skills needed to succeed in the real world. No wonder, as Camille Paglia says, their minds are like Jello.

The Real Reason We're Having February in April? I Took the Winter Cover Off of My Pick-Up Truck.

Who Didn't See This Coming?

Attending Rock Cats games at New Britain Stadium was a charming, affordable, and family [and church group] friendly activity that was destroyed by Minor League greed-heads and oleaginous Hartford politicians. Wrecking that experience and dumping the bill onto the people of Hartford is a foul practice familiar to anyone who has worked in that city.  I'm glad that New Britain has found a new team and I'm very glad to spend my money and time again in their stadium.  Heck, I may even get season tickets.

First There was Nautical Archaeology, Then Space Archaeology, and Now...

Horrible history of Hannibal’s dung
The route taken over the Alps has been tracked by the deposits of his giant army

Reminds me of my first paying job.  I worked for a traveling circus and was handed a snow shovel [it was July] and told to "follow the elephants".

Secular Utopias That, According to Some, We Should Emulate

The Atlantic [formerly Monthly]: Despite their stereotypical excess, Americans throw out less than many people from more minimalist cultures.

Because He Doesn't Need Them Anymore

More scenes from a secular Utopia:

Facing up to a spending mess, Democratic governor Dannel Malloy is finally pushing back against state employee unions.
This week, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bipartisan fix for this year’s $220 million deficit, but legislators in Hartford must now get to work fixing next year’s deficit—projected to be $900 million. And they have more work to do. Taken together, the state’s budgets for the next two years fall $4 billion short—even though, since 2011, Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy and the Democratic-controlled legislature have instituted two of the largest tax increases in state history.

Stand by for even more, Utopians.

A Gentleman at a Dinner Party Explained to Me That Secularism is More Just Than Religion

Yeah, I see what your Utopia looks like, chum.  Here's what happens when people practice the vicious and atavistic crime of...growing vegetables.
A family in Sugar Creek, Missouri has been given four days to tear out their entire vegetable garden or face a fine from their municipality.

An Orlando family was threatened with fines as high as $500 per day for their front yard vegetable garden—apparently they’d run afoul of a city ordinance requiring people to plant grass, shrubs, and other “traditional landscaping” options on their properties.

In Miami Shores, FL, a couple was forced to uproot their 17-year-old vegetable garden in the face of city fines of up to $1500 per month.

In Oak Park, MI, a woman was threatened with 90+ days of jail time for her vegetable garden. After she hired a lawyer, the case was temporarily dismissed, but could be renewed at any time.

In Tulsa, OK, city officials actually destroyed a woman’s garden for the “crime” of having non-tree plants taller than 12 inches in her front yard. She was out of work and had been relying on her garden for food while money was tight.

And then there’s Oakland, CA, where you can grow all the fresh vegetables you want… but if you want to sell any of them, be prepared to buy a pricey permit from the city to do so.

Some Random, Insomniac Pungency

My grandfather was born on a reservation.

He was addressed at work as "The Indian", rather than by his Christian name

As he married a Caucasian woman and their son, my father, also married a Caucasian woman, my physical features are Caucasian.  This is aided somewhat by some bloodline dilution back in the early 18th century when a Finnish settler realized that Shawnee women were rather desirable.  While I was taught to hunt and fish and track by my grandfather, have sung the "death song" for my father, and am immune to high cholesterol and the effects of poison ivy, I am a rather typical middle-class white.

This doesn't mean I've surrendered that portion of my identity, though.  While I do not look like the Lone Ranger's buddy, the one he would often send into town in order to get beat up, my world view is not entirely that of a middle-class white.  I intellectually grieve for the historic realities of my inherited culture and am sensitive to how invisible the aboriginal people of the United States have become, especially ironic in these days of heightened racial awareness and the political power that comes with claiming victimhood.

I'm disquieted when a white person corrects me when I use the term "American Indian", as happened the other day.  While it is preferable to refer to an aboriginal person by their tribal name, if it is not known, then A.I. is the accepted nomenclature.  Depending on my mood, I either find it amusing or infuriating when it is "whitesplained" to me that I should be saying, "Native American".  That term was invented to assuage white guilt and is also linguistically inaccurate.  I don't suffer from the former and find the latter to be illogical, which is a far worse trespass.

Imagine what it's like to sit with fellow Christians and listen to them prang on about "diversity" without them ever mentioning any race other than "white" and "black".  [Although I was amused that a rector in my diocese did not know what a "West Indian" is, so it appears that even these limited terms may be of a shallow definition.]  Imagine what it's like to know that fellow Episcopalians don't even realize that there is an entire diocese the size of New England that stretches across four U.S. states that supports a collection of Navajo [and also some Ute, Paiute, and Pima] tribe members who are communicants of the same church. 

Seems odd, doesn't it?  Especially for a church that prides itself on racial relevance.  It's almost as if this racial awareness and sensitivity is some construction of artificial virtue designed to be a tool for self-importance and bragging, best employed at cocktail parties.  Nah, that's not possible, is it?  That doesn't sound like The Episcopal Church of the 21st century.

Monday, April 4, 2016

It's Opening Day!

For the Cleveland Indians, naturally.  As a bonus, they're playing the Red Sox, so I'll be able to watch it on television right here in The Nut Nutmeg State.

There is a little snow in Cleveland [of course there is, it's April], but it was worse on opening day in 1977:

In fact, sometime in the 1990's, a perfect game was called off for snow in the middle of play.  The evil of it.

Update: Clearly, we were a lot tougher in the 1970's, as the game has been postponed.

Just Another Day at the Rectory

While we are having a snowstorm, it is so light that the landscapers stopped by and cleared the walkways around the church with leaf blowers.  The last time they used them we received a semi-literate message from someone in the neighborhood about how unnecessary they were.  Standing by for some pure, Caucasian, know-it-all-ness in 3...2...1....

"A Literary Guide To Our Orwellian Nightmare"

The individual has been voted off this island, Earth. In place of the individual is now the group to which you are assigned based on politics, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class, or whatever other way we can possibly divide ourselves into a tribe armed with Internet war paint. Twenty-four-hour mass media has led to an inculcation of groupthink, so the difficulty is merely finding your group and then telling everyone about it so that you can have the pre-assigned political argument. With our technology we have turned outward, looking out into a world that is suddenly at our fingertips and searching for truth, community, and significance through that technology. But it is a fruitless search. All we find is the faceless mob and pre-fabricated answers to questions that solve nothing. We have become alienated from our selves.
The tendency of contemporary, mainstream Protestantism is to promote this anti-individualistic world-view, although I doubt most of the leaders and laity notice or care.  This is why Protestantism is dying, and it may be a deserved death.