Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Survey Results That Surprise Only Non-Theists

In survey results released last month, 45 percent of highly religious people — those who said they pray daily and attend weekly services – reported they had volunteered in the past week. By comparison, only 28 percent of others indicated they'd volunteered over that time frame. 

Sixty-five percent of the highly religious individuals said they had donated money, time or goods to the poor in the past week, compared with 41 percent of people who were defined as being less religious.

What is Going on in This World?

Sausage-brandishing neo-Nazis storm Georgia vegan cafe

White's Postulation

Something I learned a long time ago came to mind today when contemplating the relationship between politicians and the media.  We called it White's Postulation:

"The parameters of any conflict are determined by the opponent with the least interest in morality."

In other words, if the press deceptively edits documentaries about gun-related issues, if a network anchorman blatantly lies about his experiences, if the moderator of a Sunday morning political gab-fest openly advises the president to "destroy" the opposing political party, sooner or later the other side in the conflict is going to begin to behave in a similar, and starkly brutal, manner.  This is similar to a battlefield atrocity leading to further atrocities committed by the other side in revenge until the result is what Sherman described as the hell of war.

I suppose that's true when the media become not just dishonest, but trivial.  We'll see it reflected in the reaction of the political class.

Writers in His Genre Tend to Be Underrated, Which is Always an Error

Ray Bradbury was a paradoxical kind of visionary, both enthused and terrified at what lay ahead for humanity. He spoke with great optimism about man’s capacity to create his own destiny, through scientific progress and space exploration. Yet his science fiction depicted a future marked by ambivalence, pessimism or outright horror.

Bradbury’s three best-known works encapsulate these various strands of gloom. His masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), ranks alongside Brave New World and Nineteen-Eighty Four as a giant of 20th-century dystopiana, imagining a world in which firemen burn books and the dangerous ideas contained within them. Before it, The Illustrated Man (1951) anthology mixes anxiety-laden tales with horror stories of technology unleashed – Frankenstein for the atomic age.

Then there was The Martian Chronicles (1950). In this short-story collection, human settlers on the Red Planet end up diseased, homesick, neurotic, mad or dead. The explorers, driven from Earth not by an optimistic desire to seek new worlds, but by nuclear war and tyranny, are destined to ruin the new planet as they did the old. ‘We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things’, says one trooper in the story ‘And the Moon be Still as Bright’: ‘The only reason we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the Egyptian temple of Karnak is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial purpose.’ Man can leave his own planet, but he can never escape himself.
Fahrenheit 451 is always worth re-reading, especially as college campuses are becoming the dystopia that Bradbury imagined.

The Best Response to an Overzealous Lawyer. Ever.

Quaker Oats threatens to sue us
Our business is 100% owned and operated by Quakers. I suspect that your firm employs considerably fewer, if any, Quakers. We trace our Quaker ancestors back 320 years and they were mostly farmers, but I don’t know how many of them grew oats for your company. My guess is that you may be selling far more Lutheran oats, Methodist oats, or maybe atheist oats. Could your company be guilty of product source misrepresentation?

A College Learns That the Entire United States is a Free Speech Zone [That Pesky First Amendment, Again]

Arizona Shuts Down College Campus Free Speech Zones in the Name of Free Speech

Photo File Clean-Out

Really not sure what to make of this.


Why did airlines get rid of baby carriers?

Eight orbits of Venus and Earth superimposed.  It appears there is an order to the universe, doesn't it?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

(Photo courtesy of Lt. Timothy Field Beard, USAF)

Memorial Day in Roxbury means at least a couple of things, from the fun of our very particular town parade to the quiet witness of small American flags sprinkled throughout the three cemeteries.  Below is the collect for today:

Lord God Almighty, who have made all peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and peace: Grant to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sometimes the old poetry teacher in me comes out, too.  Below, A.E. Housman's "Here Dead We Lie":
Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

[For Jeff and Scott, who were young; and for those of the 1/4th Marines who fought the good fight and kept the faith. You were the best of us. "Whatever It Takes."]

Sunday, May 29, 2016

From the Rector's Bookshelf

The semi-autobiographical Martin Eden is the most vital and original character Jack London ever created. Set in San Francisco, this is the story of Martin Eden, and impoverished seaman who pursues, obsessively and aggressively, dreams of education and literary fame. London, dissatisfied with the rewards of his own success, intended Martin Eden as an attack on individualism and a criticism of ambition; however, much of its status as a classic has been conferred by admirers of its ambitious protagonist.

No Rise in Sea Levels for 150 Years, So Stop Worrying

Sea Level Trends - US Statistics

Saturday, May 28, 2016

And, Finally, This is How Trivial Art has Become

Pair of glasses left on US gallery floor mistaken for art

Maybe You Read "Call of the Wild" in School; Try "Martin Eden" Now That You're an Adult

Or "The Star-Rover", which may be the first science fiction story to include astral projection.  London didn't become the first millionaire author by limiting himself to one genre.  It's remarkable how much he produced given that he lived only forty years.

A century later, author Jack London is still wowing fans

Jersey for the Win

Our Local Sharks Prefer Seafood

A Little Known Portion of Our History

The Jews of the American Revolution

Socialism for the People, Capitalism for the Leaders

Historically, it always seems to work out that way.  Why should the Vatican be any different?

This pope means business

No, It Doesn't. Honey Bees are Not Indigenous to the United States; They Don't Handle Winter Very Well.

28% of US bees wiped out this winter, suggesting bigger environmental issues 

It seems that, for a certain group of "thought leaders", everything can be blamed on global cooling warming climate change disruption.  Sometimes, it's just nature.  They really need to go outside more often.

For real science, please read this from Purdue University: Honey Bees Not Native to North America

Friday, May 27, 2016

Most Read; Least Read

The most read posting of the week was this one:

Yes, They're Also Called 'Porta-Potties' 

The least read was:

This is How You Can Tell It was a Good Game 

Clearly, the readers of The Coracle are not fans of Scottish Premier League football.  You don't know what you're missing, although it is hard to top Australian football.

Brenton Wood ~ Gimme Little Sign (HQ)

Just Not Good Ones

Study shows sharks have personalities

I Think NBC Could Have Phrased this Better

An Harmonic Convergence: Australia plus Shark Attack

'He has pretty good street rep': Shorn the labradoodle survives shark attack on a Sydney beach and has no fear of going back into the water

A Family Letter

Hatito, hileni. [Greetings, cousin.]

I haven't written in some time, which I regret, as I used to look forward to our exchange of actual letters, as opposed to texts and furtive phone messages.  Perhaps it was during the flurry of exchanges in my parents', your aunt and uncle's, final months that I fell out of the practice of actually composing a letter designed to be put in an envelop and sent through a system that seems quaint and preferable anymore.  I've begun to associate electronic communication with the prosaic function of work and court matters, or as the purview of Twitter critics, Facebook ranters, and politicians.  A letter seems more apt, especially between two old buckeyes.

You are right when you observe that it was been too long since we've been to The Big Flat.  I miss it particularly in the springtime; I miss that familiar scent of new life that is distinct to rural Ohio.  I long to hear the turkey's call, the Bob White's mating song, and the slap of a bass' tail on freshwater.  It is not good to be so remote from nature, even though I spend much of my time in a rural portion of my state, it is not the same as being in the midst of land that has been home to The People for longer than even Tenskwatawa knew.

I heard a funny thing from a Waapa woman this week.  We have noted before of the tendency that educated, middle-class Waapa have of, in Grandfather's language, "hating their own home".  She observed that capitalism was, in essence, an unfair system.  The Waapa desire for fairness in all things is ironic given their historic treatment of The People; it is especially so when they expect it from either nature or economic systems.

But what I found particularly rich about this was that she and her friends live in the midst of plenty made possible by capitalism.  Many of them do not work, such as we understand it.  Because of capitalism, they live in a comfortable, sheltered community that rests apart from the realities that vex many others.  As usual, the comfortable see poverty as a form of omniscient victimization.  As you and I know, poverty often requires considerable participation by the individual.  I suppose, too, that they feel some guilt about their privilege and slake it through lamentation about what is the most liberating economic medium in history.

I know what lead our family, and many of our tribe, out of poverty and away from racial labeling was the capitalistic system.  Grandfather used his considerable talent as a furniture maker to start his own business, lifting him and subsequent generations to a more self-determined life.  We were no longer poor Indians, but business owners and artisans, just as we are now those things and also lawyers, CPA's, clergy, insurance company vice-presidents, teachers, nurses, law enforcement, etc. This would not have been possible under any other economic system.

This was the way we gained respect, too, as Grandfather went from being addressed at work as "The Indian" to being addressed as "Boss" by those to whom he gave a livelihood.  Because of capitalism, in one generation we went from the marginal to the mainstream.  The happy lives of our children and grandchildren are testimony to that.  I feel for those who have not had this experience; I begin to see life in my small town as just another kind of reservation, this one by and for the Waapa, and we all know how limiting any type of reservation may be to the human soul and its regard for the world.  They come to despair the means of freedom.

I hope to see you at the Great Reunion this August, but it will be hard for me to get away for more than a day or so.  I will always have happy memories of the two of us singing the life song for our fathers.  I hope that someone may do the same for us when the appropriate day arrives.

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people."

We have a beautiful literary tradition, don't we?


Thursday, May 26, 2016

An Obituary of Note

The Revd Professor John Bainbridge Webster, DD, FRSE 1955-2016

We shared a lecture hall in Toronto back in the 1980's.  He told me of a German theologian of whom I had never heard and gave me a perspective on Karl Barth that still sneaks into a sermon from time to time.  Interestingly, I was just thinking of him the other day when I was on retreat and composing some notes to use in the autumn.

For those curious [in other words, no one], "The Rev'd Professor" is not an ecclesial title, necessarily.  Certain teaching positions in the British university system are only for the ordained, such as are many that had been filled by Professor Webster.  Additionally, "Professor" is a rather specific title that is granted only to full professors and not to lecturers or even assistant or associate professors.

An associate professor of mine was addressed as "Dr. Fontaine" in the classroom.  I made the error of referring to her as such the day after she had been promoted to full professor and was corrected by one of my colleagues.  "She's to be addressed as Professor Fontaine now".  Take that, you American, you.

More Facts about Australia

The total population of Australia is only 22.6 million.  The population of New York state is 20 million.  Australia is 53x the size of New York, which means there is a lot of empty territory.

And Now, the Shark Attack Stories Begin in Earnest

Why shark attacks could be on the rise around the world 

They "could" be, not that they are.  Please note how this article was probably written at an earlier time, perhaps after the Christmas holidays, and released this week when up to a third of the newsroom staff are beginning vacation season.  It is a very old practice, old even when I worked as a reporter in the 1970's, to pre-file "shark attack" stories for the summer.  Usually, all that needs to be added to the story are some names and locations.

Florida mom wants more lifeguards after daughter's shark attack

How about "Florida mom should not let her daughter swim at an unprotected beach during the tidal feeding time when it is marked with signs indicating that lifeguards won't be on duty until Memorial Weekend"?

Find Out Why Sharks Bite More People in Hawaii

Hmm, could it be that they are swimming among coral reefs filled with the shark's favorite food?  I love this howler: "Another contributing factor to higher visibility of sharks on waters usually visited by human is the global warming."  Yeah, good one.  Not only is that a barely literate sentence, but what isn't caused by global cooling warming climate change disruption?

Photo File Clean-Out

I'm glad to see that the world's leaders manage to bore one another and not just me.
How I imagined I would one day go to work
It appears the North Korean army gives participation medals.

I'm not sure what other kinds of drinks there are.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lighter than usual posting this week as I had a surfing retreat to attend.  Back now but, with three jobs, I'm a little behind with...well...everything.  I'll see what I can scrounge, including correspondence with a tribal cousin.


Is the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

From the Rector's Bookshelf

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations
She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born in 1868 into a world of privilege, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author, poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer.

Today is National Maritime Day

It's a grand day for those of us who have the honor of serving as chaplains to merchant seamen. An often forgotten form of national service gets its due by presidential decree on this date each year. I also get to wear my uniform. Well, if I can find it.

More may found here.

Also, have fun playing "Guess the mariner" with the photo below.  Hint: a great number of America's writers have been merchant mariners, including Herman Melville, Jack London, Allen Ginsberg and Mark Twain.  Joseph Conrad, while not American, was a merchant ship captain before becoming one of the great stylists of the English language.

This is How You Can Tell It was a Good Game

Pitch invasion as Hibs beat Rangers to win Scottish Cup

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Even More Facts about Australia

Yes, They're Also Called 'Porta-Potties'

Visitors at Yale University's 315th commencement will notice something new on campus this year — gender-neutral bathrooms....

Looks like Yale has some real problems to address.  No wonder they'd rather brag about their toilets:

Yale's world famous ethics professor accused of sexual harassment:
But a recent federal civil rights complaint describes a distinction unlikely to appear on any curriculum vitae: It claims Pogge uses his fame and influence to manipulate much younger women in his field into sexual relationships. One former student said she was punished professionally after resisting his advances.
One of my ethics professors, who was married, carried on with one of my classmates who was also one of his students, violating all sorts of institutional and ethical restrictions.  Teaching ethics does not guarantee the teacher is ethical.


Rescued wombat helps out with sanctuary's laundry

For those who have been paying attention, the wombat may be the only creature in Australia that isn't grossly poisonous or violent.  Don't get me started on those cheeky kangaroos.

Please watch the video.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Long May You Run - Stills Young Band

Yes. Next Question.

Woman bitten by nurse shark should face animal cruelty charges? 

Another story, the headline of which should read: "Baby shark killed for no reason":

Baby shark that bit Florida swimmer was provoked

Stupid girl.

Surfboard Tales: Green [2011]

There is that one day, usually in the second half of August, when you know that fall is coming. The overnight temperature begins to drop below sixty, in the evenings it is no longer uncomfortable to wear long pants or even a sweatshirt, you begin to wear a wetsuit in the morning surf again, and the shape of the waves begins to change. This latter event is open to considerable speculation; it is considered a myth by those of a scientific mind and even by some surfers. But watermen know that something different begins to occur with the delivery of energy through water, and they adjust their sails, the trim tabs on their hulls, the nuance and knots of their surfcasting tackle, and their technique accordingly.

Metaphorically, this is especially noted by the early morning surfers, all of whom are over the age 45. The younger set doesn’t go to bed until 3 or 4 in the morning; they don’t wake until noon or so. Those of us who are parents and grandparents are up and in the water in time to see the sun rise from a gray/mauve/red horizon [well, at least on the eastern seaboard] and all of us know the familiar challenges of being middle-aged and older.

After a week of so or mornings such as this, I’m feeling a little weakness in my right knee. My shoulder has been making a popping sound whenever I reach behind me, and I have to warm up a little before I can turn my head all the way to the left. Although we don’t catalog our signs of maturity with one another, the “dawn patrol” knows from its mild grimaces of discomfort or slight limps that we are feeling the effects of having graced creation for a half century or more. Sometimes the simple chore of putting on a wetsuit seems a reenactment of Leighton’s “Hercules Wrestling with Death”.

On this particular morning, the waves, even with their altered shape, are not quite ready for us. They are low, slow, and weak. When younger, we would sit on the beach and wait it out or, more likely, enter the water and wait and wait. We had all day, after all. However the cold water and the colder air are a little uncomfortable in our maturity, so we do the better thing and walk about the beach collecting the detritus left from the day before.

“My grandkids learn about the environment in school,” says an older waterman with whom I am picking up an assortment of soda cups, cheese steak wrappers, and, interestingly, a stained “Obama ‘08” t-shirt. “When they visit me, they turn off my lights, unplug my coffee maker and toaster, and generally hector me about being a better re-cycler. Then they come to the beach and forget all that. It was never this messy back in the day.”

“You know what I find weird?" he continued. "Back then there were hardly any trash cans on the beach, yet people took their refuse with them at the end of the day. Now we’ve got cans for trash, cans for bottles, cans for newspapers or [stuff], cans for I don’t know what. They’re all over the beach; like every 25 feet or so. Yet, look at all the [stuff] people leave.”

“They don’t know what they’ve got. They don’t care, I guess. As long as they use the right words their actions don’t have to match. They must of have learned that from celebrities. Maybe politicians.”

Another dawn patroller arrives, looks at the sad state of the surf, smiles at us and speaks the cliché that has been ironic since the 1960’s: “You should have been here yesterday.” We laugh, but my elder companion looks at the surf, then the trash, then the surf again. “I think I’m going to start saying, ‘You should be here tomorrow.’”

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Nor are They by the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, or Any Number of High School and College Sports Teams

Ninety Percent Of Native Americans Not Offended By Redskins

Shallow agony over the names of teams is just another opportunity for Anger, Inc. to get upset, for politicians to pander, and for Caucasians to virtue signal to one another.  Speaking from genetic experience, we've things like chronic poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, and abysmal education to worry about, instead.

From the Rector's Bookshelf

They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Australia! That's Right.

The Best Weatherman Ever. A 95% Accuracy Rating Plus He Never Called a Squall the "Storm of the Century".

Goddard is second from left; Connecticut viewers will recognize a young Denise D'Ascenzo from Hartford's WFSB 3, who originally was an anchorwoman in Cleveland.

Channel 8's Dick Goddard ending 55-year run as weatherman in November

The Engineers Behind This Should be Canonized

Prosthetic Hand Restores Amputee's Sense of Touch

[For those unfamiliar with Christian language, canonization is good thing, not a bizarre Medieval torture.]

I'd Be Impressed, but Julian of Norwich Metaphorically Described the Same Cerebral Event

Neuroscientists have recorded the brain activity of a man at the exact moment he 'saw God'

If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans - Ultra Spiritual Life episode 35

Seems Like Everything in the Newspapers These Days is Political, Even Obits

[I urge caution as this may be either a spoof or a photoshop of an actual obit.]

In Anticipation of My Trip There Later this Year, Here are Some More Facts about Australia

Australia is largely inhospitable to life, ranked second after Antarctica.  The soil is so ancient and lifeless that it fits the scientific definition of "fossil".  Yet, a remarkable abundance and assortment of flora and fauna exists there, and often nowhere else, as it has adapted to the climate and geology.

"A Melancholy Calculation"

Perhaps the most evident sign of civilizational devolution is the inability or unwillingness to acknowledge reality, to come to terms with things as they are, and to oppose the suppression of objectivity and its substitution by fantasy, illusion and wish-fulfillment.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More on That Nonsensical Shark "Attack" Story

Boca shark attack ‘victim’ is the shark

As the great Eugenie Clark observed, if you see a shark all it means is that you're in the water.

I'm really sorry that some dull-witted frat bro killed the nurse shark for no reason; I'm especially sorry that they had tormented it beforehand, as nurse sharks are hardly dangerous.

Note to journalists:  Learn something about sharks, will you?  Remember, more people will die from mosquitoes this summer than sharks.

Released on This Day Fifty...FIFTY!...Years Ago

Summer's Coming, So It's Time for Shark Attack Stories

Florida woman taken to hospital with shark attached to arm

It was only a nurse shark and, if the "helpful" bystander hadn't killed it, they are easy to detach from one's flesh.  [You can guess how I know that.]

Our Brave New World

Along the Texas coast, game wardens will now carry radiation detectors.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Sign of Things to Come

Wind topples Ben Franklin statue on Boston's Freedom Trail

More Facts about Australia

In 1931, a naturalist noticed a small, yellow ant in the Outback.  He had never seen anything like it before, which probably is not that rare a statement when it comes to Australian fauna.  He brought it with him to his museum in Melbourne where no one took a close look at it for three years.  When someone finally did, the researcher gasped when he realized that the ant was actually a nothomyrmecia, also known as the "dinosaur ant", long thought to be extinct.  It was as if someone had stumbled across a living brontosaurus, as the nothomyrmecia is the "missing link" between ants and wasps.

A return to the location of the original sighting revealed no other ants, although they have subsequently been found in other portions of the continent.

Archaeological News

Once again, everything we know is wrong.  For as long as I've been alive, it has been understood that the Clovis* people were the first to inhabit North America.

Now, thanks to advances in marine archaeology, it appears that there was another culture, 1000 years older and located in the southeast, rather than southwest, that may have brought what is called "Native American" culture to our continent.

Prehistoric Site in Florida Confirms Pre-Clovis Peopling of the Americas 

Recall, this is at a time when the mastodon and the camel freely roamed what is now Florida.  What's interesting to me is that, whatever this collection of hunter/gatherers will come to be called, they were already hunting with dogs.

*The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Native American culture that first appears in the archaeological record of North America around 13,500 years ago, at the end of the last ice age. The culture is named for artifacts found near Clovis, New Mexico, where the first evidence of this tool complex was excavated in 1932.

This is Where I Say, "Now I've Heard of Everything"

Save Money On A Funeral With A Rental Casket 

Funeral homes have become absurdly expensive, which is why cremation [$3000 in Connecticut; $1500 in Ohio] and a $500 columbarium niche is a much better value.  Seriously, if you're reduced to renting a casket, the market has become both overpriced and morally deranged.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

This Week in Euphemisms

Criminal = "Justice-Involved Person"

Perpetually broken-down Washington D.C. Metro = The system displays "negative resilience".

An Obituary of Note

The Rev. Canon JoAnn Munro, 81, died on Sunday, May 8, 2016, in Hancock, New Hampshire. 

JoAnn was a priest of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and served as Canon for Transitional Ministry under Bishop Andrew D. Smurf from 1999-2006. She also served as rector of St. Michael's, Naugatuck from 1993-1996 and as Assistant Rector of St. Paul's, Fairfield from 1987-1993.

Save for one, Joann was responsible for every position I held as an interim rector between 1999 and 2009, including two of the three "cardinal parishes"* in which I have served.  She kept me employed during the first decade of this century, which alone was a worthy achievement.

*[While irregular in usage, a "cardinal parish" is one that has a large membership, staff, and endowment and is heavily involved in diocesan life.  Generally, these are parishes in urban centers or wealthier communities.]

"12 rare photos that take you inside an amazing salt mine hidden 2,000 feet below Lake Erie"

Sorry to harsh your mellow, Science Alert, but contrary to what your article states, we used to go on elementary school field trips to this salt mine on an annual basis.  For some reason, it was more popular than the Cleveland Health Museum and the Shakespeare Festival.  I think it had something to do with the golf cart train that would take us into the depths.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Merle Haggard - Seashores of Old Mexico

Hiram Bingham

Mainly because of the news this week about a teenager who was thought to have discovered a lost city of the Maya [he turned out to be mistaken, but it was still a noble effort], I was reminded of this former Connecticut senator whose pre-political life was much more interesting.

Originally published on March 1, 2013

Once upon a time, when I studied archaeology, my world was divided into two distinct groups: Diggers and Squints.

Squints worked in laboratories with elaborate machines that were known by esoteric terminology and were so complicated that they looked like something from one of Jack Kirby's nightmares, or sparky whirligigs from old Universal Pictures "Frankenstein" movies.  Squints would take items of great antiquity, place them in their infernal devices, and then tell us, with rather smug precision, how old the piece was, what it was made from, and whether or not it was important enough to study further or place within the museum's permanent collection.

Courtesy of the estate of Jack Kirby

Diggers, on the other hand, were those in the field who, sometimes at great personal peril, found the remote treasures of the past using the eldest tools of the human race: Shovels and trowels.  Diggers were at turns historians, contractors, linguists, soldiers, diplomats, and detectives.  Those talented in the sciences tended to become Squints; those less easy to categorize favored the ranks of Diggers.  Naturally, I, and everyone I knew, wanted to be a Digger.

A typical Digger

The archetype for the Diggers was a thin, oft-bespectacled son of a Presbyterian missionary named Hiram Bingham III.  Born in Hawaii in 1875 while his parents were on an extended mission to the Sandwich Islands, Bingham was educated at Philips-Andover, Yale, Berkeley, and Harvard.  He then became an instructor at Princeton working closely with the university's president, Woodrow Wilson.  He was lured away to the history department at Yale in 1907. 

It was while on an official trip to a science conference in Chile that Bingham heard of the existence of a remarkable lost city somewhere in the jungles [oops, now they're "rain forests"] of Peru.  Thus, he did what any well-trained academic would do.  He did some research, wrote some letters, interviewed some experts, and then plunged into the Peruvian jungle to search for an Incan city that disappeared sometime around the 15th century reign of Tupac Inca Yupanqui [whose nickname in English is something like "Tupac the Keeper of His Enemies' Skulls"].

In the summer of 1911, after an arduous climb through thick foliage and at an insane altitude, Bingham and his party came across the most complete and unmolested city ever yet discovered, Machu Picchu

File:80 - Machu Picchu - Juin 2009 - edit.2.jpg
Oh, you mean this lost city?  It's been here for years.

One of the most compelling scenes in popular entertainment is the moment the intrepid explorer comes over a rise and gazes upon that which has not been seen by modern eyes.  It is so compelling, it has been overused to the point that it is now cliche.  Bingham and his party were the first to actually experience such a moment in modern times and the discovery transformed the study of archaeology, turning a rather staid field of inquiry into something much more exotic and desirable by young academics.

There was much intrigue and diplomacy that was involved in the story of Bingham and Machu Picchu, not to mention some derring-do.  A good source for further research would be Bingham's own story, Lost City of the Incas, or the sensationally-titled, but very competent, Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu.

Bingham's explorations would be interrupted by World War I, during which he would serve as a decorated officer in the Army Air Corps.  He would marry into the Tiffany jewelry family and continue to serve his country in public office, chiefly as a two-term senator from Connecticut.  [In keeping with the noble tradition of Connecticut senators, he would even be censured for financial hanky-panky.  No, the Christopher Dodds pere et fils aren't the only ones.]

There have been times, when toiling away in some humid climate, shielded from a brutal sun by a ridiculous hat, that I have day-dreamed of looking through a phalanx of mangrove trees or field of elephant grass and finding some massive example of a lost world, or even an artifact that completely altered the accepted view of the ancient world.  Because of Bingham, we can still dream of such things and imagine that there are still, even in this world of Google Earth and thousands of cameras in orbit, places waiting to be discovered.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

And I'm Busy That Week

And This was Springfield College's Only Interesting and Unique Course, Too

Springfield College Purges Their "Men in Literature" Course

For a bachelor's degree that costs roughly $200,000, Springfield is a prosaic, undistinguished institution, now made more so by alienating a tenured professor and an entire gender.

More Facts About Australia

Australia was the second country in the world to allow women to vote.  Neighboring New Zealand was the first.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ohio Man! is a Rather Original Thief

‘Bathroom bandit’ in Ohio steals plumbing

American Hero

Tommy gun, cigar, attitude.  Today is Richard Overton's 110th birthday.  He's America's oldest military veteran.  Out of sight is a glass of sippin' whiskey.

Just in Time for Father's Day

An Englewood man is selling his guillotine.

More Facts about Australia

Brisbane hosts the annual world championships of cockroach racing.

Surfers Busted for Surfing in an Area with No Prohibitive Signs

Surfing Ain't A Crime

I was among a group menaced by Taylor Swift's security team on a Rhode Island beach near her home a year or so ago.  Ms. Swift and her not-too-swift security were unaware that, in the United States, the entire coastline is open to the public.  Apparently, even the police aren't always aware of that.  After threatening us with arrest, a threat we asked them to fulfill, and pointing out to them how damaging to Ms. Swift's brand it would be to call the cops on the New England chapter of Christian Surfers who were using a beach we had used for over a decade without molestation, they told us not to litter [?!] and that they'd be back.

They never did return, which was a pity as I had fetched a collection of "Surfing with Jesus" pamphlets from my car to hand to them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

I'm Super Jealous of This Kid, But Good for Him

Teen uses Google Maps to discover lost Mayan city

Back when I was a digger [field archaeologist], I was told that the time was coming when the squints [the lab techs] would be the ones to find all of the major discoveries of the 21st century.  We just never thought it would be some teenager using free software.

Personally, I miss the days when one had to machete through jungle undergrowth dodging bandidos, jaguars, and narco-mercenaries to find a lost city but, then again, I'm probably too old for that, now.


Update:  Whoops, looks like this story was a little premature.  Read to the bottom of this article for word from some informed skeptics.  Diggers win again.

Remarkable Footwork by One of the Cleveland Indians Last Night [BTW, This is the Seventh Time This Season He's Lost His Helmet on the Way to First Base]

More Facts about Australia

In 1880, Melbourne was the richest city in the world. 

I'm Betting I'm Related to Many of Them

A fishing app recently analyzed the Tinder photos of men ages 18 to 35 years old in Florida and found that 22 percent of them posed with a fish.

Coincidentally, When Contemplating This Week's Round of Clergy Misconduct Training, I Came Across This

Consider this: young men today have been subjected to moral harassment from the minute they started attending school. They have been demeaned and diminished, taught that their masculine tendencies are criminal, downgraded and silenced in class, and told that women are better than they are at everything that matters.

"Moral harassment"; that's a new one.  I rather see his point, however.  I'm glad I'm not a young businessman or male college student.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Fairest Article That I've Read about the Ohio Mystery is from an Australian Newspaper

Somehow, that figures:
Ohio is famous as the birthplace of seven presidents and 24 astronauts. It’s home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as two Major League Baseball teams, the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds.

It also has one of the largest Appalachian communities in the country. The massacre has shined an unwelcome light on the poverty and social problems of the area, with out-of-state-reporters writing breathlessly of hillbillies, rednecks and moonshiners, of confederate flags and tin roofs, of trashy locals willing to spill the beans about the Rhodens in exchange for a pack of cigarettes.

Demolition derby, hunting, cockfighting and being stoned every day is a way of life. Most people own at least one dangerous breed of dog and several rusting, undriveable vehicles in their backyards.

The Rhodens may not have been the pillars of society in their community or their state, but none of them had prior convictions for anything drug-related, according to court records.
Of course, many of the U.S. reporters journalists are from NYC and they tend to indulge in easy stereotypes and simple narratives that reinforce the world-view of their friends and neighbors.  Ohio is a large state with a complex collation of social groups, which is one of the reasons it is so prized by political consultants, as it is a microcosm of the greater United States.  Making it look like one big set from "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV show is lazy and inaccurate.

I was born in Xenia, a mere 75 or so miles away from Piketon so, according to the New York Times, I'm a hillbilly.  Yee-haw.

By the way, among those 24 astronauts is John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon.

Kantian Philosophy and Australian Cigarette Packaging

The week before last I was surprised when some Australians in my company took out their cigarettes [they smoke and drink like fiends and lords, just so you know] and was surprised by the dramatic messages and lurid photos that appeared the packs.  Apparently, the Australian government, and soon the nations of the EU, will sport such details on tobacco products to force people to quit smoking.  You see, that's the job of government.

Long-time readers of The Coracle have noted how many of the government's initiatives in controlling human behavior have both failed and encouraged people to engage in the opposite of the intended effect.  Sometimes, the need for control, which is the definition of government in the 21st century, overrides even common sense and science, as in dietary rules that turn out to be unhealthy and wrong.

This had me thinking, naturally, of Immanuel Kant the other day.  Of course it did.  Kant's philosophy was one that stressed the post-Enlightenment understanding that the human race had reached its point of maturity and no longer required kings to guide our moral and practical thinking, and no longer required us to be slaves and serfs to the ruling class.  He would have been appalled at the current level of government intrusion, control, and legal hectoring.

Kant complained of having “a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet”, which means “I have no need to exert myself”. These “guardians” treat people like “cattle”, he said, making us view “the step to maturity, not only as hard, but as extremely dangerous”.
Thus says an essayist in a recent newspaper article.

More of Kant may be read here.

American Hero

Saturday, May 7, 2016

More Facts About Australia

In 1967, the prime minister of Australia dove into the surf at a beach in Victoria and never re-surfaced.  His body was never found.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Descendants of Art Pepper, at Least in Terms of the West Coast Sound

More Facts About Australia

80% of the flora and fauna that lives in Australia exists there and nowhere else in the world.

Art Pepper

Originally published on November 23, 2012


There is a moment, early in a recording by Miles Davis' The Rhythm Section, when the saxophonist seems to quiver a little, as if he were unfamiliar with the music, had lost the ability to read from the sheets, or transpose in his head, or wasn't quite sure where he was.  If you guessed all of the above, you'd be right.

Art Pepper, the saxophonist, had forgotten that he was to record in the studio that day; mainly because he was coming off of a heroin high and was not quite sure of the year [it was 1957], the place [it was Los Angeles] or the location of his instrument [it was under the bed in a rather poor state of maintenance.]  He managed to get to the studio, though, in some sort of condition; a studio filled with musicians of whom he had heard [everyone knew of Miles Davis by that time], but with whom he had never worked.  Since arriving at a studio in rather rough shape is not abnormal in jazz circles, they took it more or less in stride, as long as Pepper could play.

And play he did.  While a little rough at first, Art Pepper managed, on that long day in LA, to record one of the seminal works in jazz, "Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section".

Pepper's life was not easy.  He struggled for many years with drug and alcohol addiction, lost out on gigs and chances for fame, went for long periods without employment and, seemingly, without friends.  But, talent will out, and he became a clean, sober, and trustworthy studio musician, and then, with no small amount of help from Davis and others, the originator of what's now recognized as the West Coast jazz sound. 

If you wish to read more of him, I cannot recommend more strongly his autobiography, Straight Life.

I could speak of him endlessly, but it's best just to listen to what he could do, while imagining yourself driving over the 6th Street bridge in LA in the middle of the night with the top down; or looking out over that sparkling city from Mulholland Drive.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Facts About Australia

In anticipation of the fall work/trip Down-Under, I've been doing a little research into the flora and fauna of the continent.  Thus far, this place scares me:

Of the ten most poisonous snakes in the world, all ten live in Australia.

An Obituary of Note

Daniel Aaron, a literary critic and historian who helped preserve the nation’s cultural heritage as a co-founder of the nonprofit Library of America and who pioneered the multifaceted academic field of American studies, died on Saturday in Cambridge, Mass. He was 103.

It Looks Like We Won the War After All

Vietnam, ruled by communists for 40 years, is now the No. 1 fan of capitalism on the planet

If only they could have figured this out before 55,000+ Americans, including two of my acquaintances, and untold Vietnamese died in the war and before my teenage years were colored by the draft and military service.

[Ironically, this comes at a time when a potential candidate for president of the U.S. is a Communist Socialist Democratic Socialist.]

Met with Some Australians This Past Week. They Smoke Like Fiends. Here's What Their Govt. Mandated Cigarette Packs Look Like.

Governments are always in such a quandary about smoking.  They pretend that they don't like it, but then, as in the U.S., base their federal education funding on tobacco tax revenue.  It seems a little schizophrenic, as does the legalization of marijuana use.