Thursday, March 31, 2016

Welcome to the New Criminal Class

My name is Melanie and in seven days' time I will become a criminal....

And I’m cynical about the real reasons for this law. It’s more about feeding the addiction which politicians and civil servants have for making rules. Controlling us in a thousand trivial ways. Forcing us to register to continue doing what we have always done, peacefully, harmlessly. Governments seem to have reached the state where if anything moves, it must be legislated, exploited, regulated, chipped, and the data stored.


The "Hey, Don't Blame Me" Game has Begun

After all, it wasn’t some Klan newsletter that first brought Trump to our attention: It was Time and Esquire and Spy. The Westboro Baptist Church didn’t give him his own TV show: NBC did. And his boasts and lies weren’t posted on Breitbart, they were published by Random House. He was created by people who learned from Andy Warhol, not Jerry Falwell, who knew him from galas at the Met, not fundraisers at Karl Rove’s house, and his original audience was presented to him by Condé Nast, not Guns & Ammo. He owes his celebrity, his money, his arrogance, and his skill at drawing attention to those coastal cultural gatekeepers — presumably mostly liberal — who first elevated him out of general obscurity, making him famous and rewarding him (and, not at all incidentally, themselves) for his idiocies.

If you think that sounds stupid and smug, imagine how it sounds to people out in the rest of the country. Liberals were sure the devil would come slouching out of Alabama or Texas, beating a bible and shouting about sodomy and sin. They didn’t expect him to be a businessman who lives on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Rick Santorum was a threat, but your run-of-the-mill New York tycoon just couldn’t be, not in the same way — because even if the latter was unlikable, he was known, he was covered, he fell within a spectrum that the morning shows and entertainment press are comfortable with, much more so, anyway, than they are with what the slow learners among liberals still blithely call “rednecks.” When, a few years ago, Trump started going on about Obama’s birth certificate, no one said, “Hey, maybe we don’t want to associate with this guy anymore.” Instead, the Washington Post invited him to be its guest at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Its editors wouldn’t have extended the same backslapping generosity to David Duke or Alex Jones or any of the other rustic zealots with whom Trump is now, unquestionably, on all fours.

Ohio Man! Eats Pizza with a Fork and Frightens New Yorkers


Cleveland-style pizza is so lush in ingredients that the only way to eat it, unless one is brainsick, disordered, moonstuck, gaga, barking mad, or a resident of New York City, is with a fork.  Myself, I eat it with a knife and fork, so feel free to faint on your sofas, you miserable twinkle dips.

Easter Thursday Wave

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sooner or Later, the Greater Church is Going to Have to Deal with This Reality

I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.


Devil Sighting

A poor soul discovered Satan's face on a piece of steak

Another Homily from a Corporate Source

Billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has called for 'understanding, empathy and love' in order to defeat terrorism.

Zuckerberg lives behind the wall of a mansion with sixteen armed bodyguards on 24 hour duty.  Still, I'm glad he can offer his naive illumination to us from time to time.  Although, I would value such observations a bit more coming from, say, an actual clergyperson working in the Middle East.

Shortly after September 11th, I listened to a similar homily from an actual holy man who suggested that we should "bomb with love" the members of Al Qaeda.  Again, sagacity from a fellow who lived a privileged life behind gates and walls.  [Interestingly, he would later get into trouble for trying to "bomb with love" some of the young workers laboring at his cathedral.]

This is Horrible News

Roscoe’s Chicken ‘N Waffles Files for Bankruptcy

It's 2 A.M. in Los Angeles, you've just surfed some "evening glass" [night waves], burned about 900 calories, are still on East Coast time, and hungry.  There's really only one place to go.  Well, until now.


Pas avec un bang mais par un gémissement

In Pakistan, Taliban's Easter bombing targets, kills scores of Christians

This is what the attack site looks like in ordinary times:


Here's some more:


Here is Episcopal News Service's current top story.

Easter Wednesday Wave


O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

One of the Last of the Literary Characters Has Died

Jim Harrison, Poet, Novelist and Essayist, Is Dead at 78

To be honest, and I know I'm not supposed to say this, but I never found his work all that interesting.  On the other hand, he was at least a half-lunatic with a disdain for the literary establishment, and that is, as far as I'm concerned, a much more valuable contribution to our world.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ohio Chicken!


Chicken crosses the road, uses crosswalk

Here's the best line:  "Dayton residents don’t know why, but said they were surprised."

For Millenials, Victimhood is Power

Which is why so many of them have difficulty with true [as opposed to Hollywood] Christianity, as Jesus and his followers were anything but victims.

By the way, please read this both for the remarkable and unnecessary use of educational administrative jargon, and for the entertaining reactions that decorate the comments section of the page that actually make more sense than the original article.  It's remarkable how many words it takes to say nothing of consequence.

Emory's Trump Chalkings in Context

The bizarre existential sickness of our times is the notion that something can be free only if it is heavily regulated, from speech to health care.

Easter Tuesday Wave


O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.

A Helpful Guide

Its not It's

Seriously, Who Is Surprised By This?

Governments Are the Worst Polluters: And, of course, face little or no punishment

Just ask the Navajo, whose water supply has been poisoned by the EPA [and you thought the "P" stood for "protection", didn't you?] and whose bureaucrats are playing the familiar and effective game of "it's not my fault".

Or, as Curly of The Three Stooges used to say in moments of existential awareness, "I'm a victim of circumstances."

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Monday Wave


Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Last week was Holy Week and this week is Easter Week.  That often confuses people, as the days of Easter Week, too, have their own collects and lections [scripture readings].  So, last Monday was Holy Monday and this Monday is Easter Monday.  It's simple, really.

[My computer wants me to spell "lections" as "lesions".  My computer is an atheist, of course, and a verbally ignorant one, as well.]

Sie sind jetzt der Gott

In Newly Created Life-Form, a Major Mystery: Scientists have created a synthetic organism that possesses only the genes it needs to survive. But they have no idea what roughly a third of those genes do.

Since the Faculty are Generally Supportive of Social Programs, I Expect Yale to Be Generous

Something tells me that won't be the case, however....
There is a widespread (and well-founded) perception that the top university endowments are approaching irrational levels—Yale’s chief Ivy League rival has been called a large hedge fund with a small research institute attached to it.
Meanwhile, desperate cities and states—caught between the unplayable pension promises created by decades of irresponsible governance, bloated workforces organized into unions that keep asking for more, poor residents wanting and needing more basic services, and rich residents threatening to flounce out of town unless they get more ‘amenities’—have no choice but to scrounge under the couch cushions for extra cash. And university endowments are a prime target. . . .
Once Henry VIII discovered that you could squeeze gold coins from wealthy monastic foundations, he decided to squeeze harder. American politicians are no stupider than he was, and the need for revenue to feed Big Blue Machine is continuing to grow. The people who rule the Ivory Tower should start to take note.
Watch out, Fairfield County churches.  You're next.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Quietest Place, Perhaps in the World


The interior of the parish at 3 o'clock in the morning, during the vigil of the sacrament.  If you squint, you can see the rector's cat in the choir loft, enjoying the view.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Corporate Homilies Are So 21st Century

By the way, this is also why the coffee we buy at the local market costs significantly less. Full page ads in the WSJ are expensive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Blessent mon coeur d'une langueur monotone

I'm guessing that celebrities, politicians, and my colleagues will begin to adopt a Je suis Belge hashtag for the next couple of weeks and then everything will be fine.  Just fine.

Update:  Cartoons, too.  Cartoons will make all of the difference.  Now everything really will be fine.


Update, anew:  Here we go, right on schedule.

Update anon: Now, the parodies begin. This certainly follows a familiar formula.

The next stage: A request from state government for us to have a "moment of silence".  Below is my reaction to an earlier state request for a moment of silence:

After a week of “moments of silence”, I find that I’ve tired of them. Christians were never expected to be silent in the face of God. Moments of silence are what the non-theists, the secular, and government and public university employees have to do in the face of momentous, often traumatizing, events as they do not pray or are not allowed to do so publicly. 

Christians pray aloud. Like the prophets, Christians stand before God rather than lay prostrate. Like Jacob, Christians wrestle with angels. During a “moment of silence” I want to yell, to scream, to cry, to ask God in a voice raucous and torn with grief why these things happen. I want to take out my oldest, loudest guitar and play chords that would violate the integrity of nearby windows. 

Mainly, I don’t want to stand aimless and silent, a passive portion of creation. That’s for the non-theists; the people without belief or faith or prayer or words. By choice, they have nothing to say. 

But God has given me voice and heart and passion. God has given me reason and words. God has taught me to ask, to petition, to howl for justice, if need be. God has taught me to be an active part of creation, and it is my responsibility as a Christian to fulfill that teaching. 

So, don’t ask me for a moment of silence. Ask me, instead, for a moment of prayer. But, as always, be mindful of that for which you ask.

Oh, good: Celebrities React With Sadness And Outrage To Brussels Attacks

Here's the top story from Episcopal News Service.

Monday, March 21, 2016

That's Great, Senator. Now Ask to See a Cuban Church That's Been Built Since 1959.

Hint: That's not possible, as the "rich culture" of Christians has been suppressed by the Communists.

Reporter Tries to Understand This Strange Tome Called "The Bible"

To the long list of 21st century expectations of journalists, the Washington Post apparently has piled on another: biblical exegesis by reporters.

Talk about the media version of a train wreck. This will be painful. I apologize in advance.

Of course, before they changed it for the online edition, the New York Times claimed this weekend that The Episcopal Church is a "white church"  Actually, the majority of members of the world-wide church are West Indian, African, and African-American.  I've had two "black" congregations myself during my career, which would seem unlikely in a "white" church.

Which is Why, When I Lived There, I Would Always Lock My Vehicles

State Police Investigating Close To 100 Vehicle Burglaries In Litchfield

No One Knows More about the Natural World than Traditional Peoples

The Secrets of the Wave Pilots
For thousands of years, sailors in the Marshall Islands have navigated vast distances of open ocean without instruments. Can science explain their method before it’s lost forever?
Talk to a Hawaiian Islander about waves and tides and you will discover how to choose the right wave to surf without checking weather reports, telemetry from oceanic buoys, or radar-enabled computer modeling.

[Yes, "peoples" is correct when one is describing a collection of cultures.]

Ohio Man! Maintains Tradition

Euclid police crack case of man whose house was egged more than 100 times

Proudly, this occurred not just in my hometown, not just in my suburb, but in the very neighborhood in which I grew up.

I'm just glad to know that egging the house of that guy that every neighborhood in Euclid seems to have, the one who sits in his window and reports people to the city who haven't cleared snow from their sidewalk, have not pulled their garbage cans off of the tree lawn in a timely manner, or who missed that week's lawn mowing [usually because most working people in Euclid hold at least two jobs], is still in practice.

My only criticism is that the perpetrator overdid it a bit.  That, and he got caught.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Good Holy Week Story

10-Year-Old Girl with Rare, Crippling Bone Disease Now Surfs Thanks to New Treatment: 'Our Prayers Were Answered,' Says Mom

Never scoff at the power of water. 

Sunday's Bookshelf

What life was like in those heady days in NYC when popular music was about to experience a dramatic change.  Again.  [More about the author, who was profiled earlier in The Coracle, may be found here.]



Patti Smith's first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work--from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

He's Got a Point

Saturday, March 19, 2016

In Reference to the Changes in The Book of Common Prayer over the Past Few Decades

"Eastenders" is a long running British soap opera.

An Update of Sorts

Our regular readers may recall that we took a five week hiatus from The Coracle back in the late autumn as we were working on a tome of greater length and thoughtfulness than a series of weblog posts.

By way of update, we are 60,000 words into the work, it's currently on its third title, and hope to have the finished product available in bound and electronic editions before the end of the year.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday's Obscure Artist and Song

James Agee

james-agee.jpg (202×289)

“We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.” 

A film reviewer died recently.  Until disease silenced him, he was a ubiquitous presence, especially on public television.  Upon his death, his numerous obits highlighted his work not only in film but in other forms of journalism, a script for a produced movie that he wrote, and his politics.

I was always disquieted by his dismissive and condescending attitude towards his television co-host, by the fact that the movie he wrote was smutty and superficial, and that his politics were disappointingly prosaic.  However, his written work was remarkable for its genre, as he brought thoughtfulness to every movie review, even if the film were some slasher nonsense or Hollywood cluster bomb.

It is thought by many of the generations younger than my own that this purposeful and literate style of film review originated with the recently departed, but in fact it was a standard that was set by the "father" of American film critique, James Agee.

Agee originated the film review as we now know it while on the staff of Time/Life magazines in the 1930's and 40's.  In his reviews, he would examine thematic structures, narrative flow, soundtrack recordings, camera angles, costumes,  and the range and talents of the actors.  With the same zeal applied by literary critics to their craft, Agee took film seriously enough to recognize it as a true American art form and and present it as such.  Film directors Francois Truffaut and Martin Scorsese credit Agee as an inspiration for their subsequent work, which is especially interesting since both of those film-makers began their careers as reviewers.

In that light, appreciate this consideration of Agee as film critic that was offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities:
The Agee style—intensely literary and endlessly alert to the textual nuances of an emerging medium—was a striking departure from the prevailing movie coverage, which often seemed little more than a willing arm of the studio publicity mill..[his work] affirmed the stature of film criticism as its own art form, creating a standard that subsequent generations of reviewers have tried to match.  Decades after Agee’s passing, the idea of film reviewing as something intellectually valuable seems thoroughly mainstream. But when Agee was making his way as a journalist in the 1930s and 1940s, few editors were interested in devoting “think pieces” to something so seemingly transient as a Hollywood flick. In fighting for film’s place in the pantheon of modern culture, Agee was defying convention, even at the risk of stalling his career.

Were he only a critic, he would still have produced an admirable body of work, ably captured in a two-volume anthology entitled Agee on Film, used copies of which are still to be found.  Included in this collection is his essay on silent film comedy that is still the best analysis of what made Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Agee's favorite, Charlie Chaplin, transcend their era and create the unique style of physical comedy that is still as prized as it is elusive in contemporary cinema.

However, like the recently deceased movie critic, Agee was also a screenwriter; albeit of a film of greater quality and endurance.  In 1951, working with the director John Huston from a novel by C.S. Forester [the author of the "Horatio Hornblower" series], Agee wrote the script for "The African Queen", starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.  The film, now considered a classic, won Agee an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay.

But there's more:  In the 1930's, Agee was commissioned by Fortune magazine to tour Alabama during the Great Depression with photographer Walker Evans.  The photo essays, compiled into a book entitled Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, display through stark pictures and lush prose the realities of poverty in the United States.  Fortune found this approach too experimental and the magazine did not publish the finished product; the general public did not warm to it, either, as the book originally sold very few copies.  These days, it is considered a masterpiece in social commentary; a paradigm for all that followed.



So, highly literate and memorable film criticism, a pungent social commentary on poverty in the United States, an Oscar-nominated screenplay; any of these would have marked Agee as a member of the upper echelon of mid-century American writers.  But, there's more....

At this point I should mention that, like many authors, Agee had a problem with alcohol; a rather great problem with it.  So great that it would affect his health to such a degree that he would die in the back of a Manhattan taxi cab in 1955.  He was 45 years old.  What makes his death all the more remarkable is that it occurred on the anniversary of another death, that of his father; and that brings us to yet another arena of Agee's talent.

Although his father was fond of alcohol, too, it was an automobile accident in Knoxville that killed him. Agee was 9 years old at the time and the tragedy haunted him for the remainder of his life. So much so that he poured the grief that was not pickled in booze into a novel that he carefully crafted, like polishing a fine gemstone, for much of his adult life.  The father he barely knew became a physically absent, but certainly powerful, character in A Death in the Family, the novel that was discovered among Agee's personal papers upon his death and that, upon publication in 1958, won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction.



Consider this oft quoted description of summer in Tennessee:
Supper was at six and was over by half past. There was still daylight, shining softly and with a tarnish, like the lining of a shell; and the carbon lamps lifted at the corners were on in the light, and the locusts were started, and the fire flies were out, and a few frogs were flopping in the dewy grass, by the time the fathers and the children came out.
Like other writers we have examined on past Fridays, there is something compelling about sentences of that quality, whether in a novel, screenplay, film review, or photo caption.

As we live in a world where TV shows like Mad Men explore, in a ham-handed and pseudo-literate manner, the existential questions that have claimed the attention of mid-century Americans, a reading of any biography of James Agee would reveal a quest for identity far more compelling and less contrived than Don Draper reading Dante on a Hawaiian beach.  This quest was found, as well, in his film and fiction characters and in the themes of the movies that he loved.  It's a pity that he is so little regarded these days when lesser film reviewers, script writers, and novelists seem to be mining this rather fertile and familiar territory.

My own interest in Agee reaches back to my days as a literature grad student, when I used to delight in finding obscure, but worthy, writers and artists who had been all but forgotten.  When I discovered Agee's novella about a student keeping the Maundy Thursday to Good Friday vigil at his Episcopal boarding school's chapel, well, I was hooked.  There is always an undertone of Anglican spirituality in Agee's works, along with the themes of redemption and reconciliation that are recognizable to anyone who is, in the traditional sense of the word, devout.

A Death in the Family is now a Penguin Classic and still in print, as is Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.  The Library of America has collected the best of Agee's film criticism in James Agee: Selected Film Criticism and Journalism and another volume that features Death, Famous Men, and the aforementioned story of the vigil, The Morning Watch.  All may be found through online book dealers or even in one of the rare physical bookstores that offer classics in American writing.

For a more personal experience, please read or re-read my reminiscence of a few months ago in the The Coracle of Evening Prayer with Father James Harold Flye, who had been Agee's school chaplain, mentor, and friend.  The dualism of Agee's twin mentors, the pious and kind Flye and the roisterer John Huston, also would mark the interesting dichotomy present in his creative process.  Maybe someone will make a TV show or, better yet, a film of it one day.

[Originally published on April 12, 2013]

Archaeological News

Found: Two Secret Rooms in King Tut's Tomb

I appreciate that it's not Biblical archaeology, except in the broadest terms, but one of the researchers is a former student of mine, so I owe some notice to him and his team.

The Orange Fellow Placed in Philosophical Context

Hegel, Sartre, Trump
The political, intellectual, financial, and cultural elites of the United States of America intolerably constrained the choices available to tens of millions of citizens they disdained. The political parties gave only the illusion of choice. The intelligentsia mocked the white working man and the working woman without a college degree (feminists must be slender and articulate). Financial elites exploited and discarded the paycheck poor. And our cultural elites championed those who live on government hand-outs while stereotyping the working class and lower-middle class as boorish, benighted, and bigoted.

How can believing Christians support Trump, whose demonstrated values run counter to every teaching of the Sermon on the Mount? For those weary of unanswered prayers, he offers an electoral catharsis, an End of Days for unacceptable compromises in Congress.

In all these cases, those in power mocked, badgered, and dismissed the many who now imagine a savior in Trump. We refused to recognize the validity of our fellow citizens who couldn’t afford a Tesla. We did our best to deny our fellow Americans a public voice and reasonable choices. So we should not be surprised when they shout in support of an unreasonable choice.

Now the rest of us, we who, with a muttered curse, race past the battered pick-up blocking traffic, may face a terrible choice of our own in November.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"How do we know what dinosaurs looked like?"


Today we take the appearance of dinosaurs for granted, but it’s taken centuries of careful study to learn how to accurately read the clues in the fossil record.

Sunday's Bookshelf

If you have ever had any questions about Existentialism, which has been the dominant philosophy of the post-atomic age, this volume is an entertaining read:


Featuring not only philosophers, but also playwrights, anthropologists, convicts, and revolutionaries, At the Existentialist Café follows the existentialists’ story, from the first rebellious spark through the Second World War, to its role in postwar liberation movements such as anticolonialism, feminism, and gay rights. Interweaving biography and philosophy, it is the epic account of passionate encounters—fights, love affairs, mentorships, rebellions, and long partnerships—and a vital investigation into what the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment when we are once again confronting the major questions of freedom, global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious and technology-driven world.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Everything You Know is Wrong

Scientists who found gluten sensitivity evidence have now shown it doesn't exist

Deep Amazement

A phenomenon of life in gentrified, rural towns is the confusion that many new residents have about the nature of that quaint, white building on the town green.  While an old, country church looks charming, the un-churched are ignorant of the reality that it is, in essence, a non-commercial business.

So, from time to time, we get complaints about, well, our existence, I guess.  Joining the Whinge List are complaints about:

1. There is sound from the construction of an accessibility ramp. [It took three days to build using mostly power drills.  Three.]

2. The appearance of the accessibility ramp is...unfortunate.  [A member of a "historic" commission complained that such items were ugly.  Personally, I find discrimination against the otherwise-abled to be ugly.  The ramp is rather attractive.]

3. There was too much traffic on Saturday morning.  [We were holding the funeral of the town historian/library board chairman that day.]

4. There is visible storm damage to the rectory.  [This complaint came 48 hours after a storm that knocked out power and telephones for four days.]

5.  There was too much traffic the other evening.  [The evening in question was December 24th, so....]

6.  The church bells ring too early. [7:55 a.m. on Sundays for five minutes.  Tough it out.]

7.  The church bells are too loud. [It's a hunk of 100-year-old metal on a rope; it doesn't have a volume control.]

8.  9 a.m. is too early to clear three truck-loads of storm debris from the parish cemetery.  In fact, is it even necessary?  [The fact that it was cleared an hour before a burial lends a certain splendor to this complaint.]

9.  There are lights on in the parking lot at night.  [Yes, when there's a night meeting, adult class, or AA.  After which, the lights are turned off.]

And the winner that came in this week:
10.  There are Hispanic men hanging out in the churchyard.  [The landscapers were waiting for the truck to return to load more debris.  The tip-off should have been that they were carrying rakes.]

Folks, you chose to move into a neighborhood with a church that's been in its location for 175 years, and in town since before the Revolutionary War.  Our presence should not be a surprise to you and you should never expect a working parish to be the equivalent of a movie prop.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ohio Man! is Independent


Ohio man saves his own life after accident with tractor

Friday's Obscure Group and Song

The Hippie Who Sat Next To Me At Tony Mart's

Originally published on January 4th, 2013

I never caught his name, which I regret, because he gave me the best "welcome back" that I think I received.

Permit me some nostalgia.

In a summer in the early '70's I returned to the United States from Scotland. I went from rainy, gray skies, meat pies, wool jackets, tiny cars, and incomprehensible accents from Taysiders to the beach in south Jersey, which meant sunny skies, caramel corn, swimsuits, my dad's Pontiac Catalina and incomprehensible accents from Philadelphians.

Summer beachwear in Scotland was a jumper [sweater vest] and half-pants [shorts]. If it got up to 60 degrees I'd wear footer bags [shorter soccer shorts]. An exciting day included banana sandwiches.

In New Jersey, beachwear was board shorts and towels and an exciting day meant a trip over to Tony Mart's, which was one of those marvelous music venues, now long gone, that used to present a rich variety of pop music from a surprisingly diverse collection of musicians.  One night, it could have been a soulful singer/songwriter, the next a huge band complete with horns offering a Ray Charles retrospective.  In the mid-'60's, their house band was named "Levon and the Hawks".  Bob Dylan stopped by one night, heard the Hawks, and asked them to be his back-up band as he had decided the time had come for folk music to use electric instrumentation.  They changed their name to The Band.  Levon, of course, was Levon Helm. [You've heard his voice, even if you don't realize it.]

The night I was there The Hawks were long gone, of course, but other elements of the '60's still lingered.  The Vietnam War was still in progress, the serial killer Ted Bundy was roaming around the area, hippies, or at least their fashions, were still to be found, the music on the jukebox was a combination of hard rock, doo-wop, Dylan, and The Beatles.  Oh, and there was a familiar LSD casualty who had a regular, perpetual seat at the bar. 

Next to him, naturally enough, is where I wound up sitting, as it was a crowded night and it was the only seat left.  There are two things I still remember from those days, mainly the smell of Coppertone and the look of sunburn; now rarely encountered in the beach scene.  But I remember them in particular as I was appreciating both in the person of a blond girl my age whose name was "Clarkie".  As she was inviting me to dance with her [I used to cut quite the rug in my youth], the old hippie next to me smiled, raised a rather soiled glass, and said,

"There are few things better than being a young man in America."

Ain't that the truth, brother.  It was great to be back home.

Tony Mart's met an ignoble end.  It went through a lot of hands, mostly those of inept businessmen, and finally burned down one night.  I think it's a parking lot now, I don't know. 



The hippie I would occasionally see during the rest of that summer, but then never again.  Clarkie is now a grandmother on the west coast who owns a decorative bead franchise, and I'm a grandfather in Connecticut who occasionally misses the halcyon days of youth but can still form a smile when he hears a certain song, the one that Clarkie and I were dancing to, the one that played, in all of its surreal glory, on the jukebox as I savored the wisdom of the hippie and the sheer joy of being home.

Oh, and the song? Here it is:

 

 [P.S.  For more Tony Mart's trivia, there is a dull movie called "Eddie and the Cruisers" that came out in the early '80's that features a pivotal scene at Tony Mart's.  As far as I know, that's the only time it was captured on film.]

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

An Observation


Language changes, of course, as it is a protean tool of the living.  Words may change meaning, sometimes dramatically, over the course of just one generation.  Institutions, especially the church and the academy, often change the meanings of words in order to distract from their failure to address their decline in influence in a diverse society.  These changes eventually percolate into general usage.

In observing the current presidential election cycle, I've noticed that the definition of "politically correct" has now shifted.  Whereas it once related to the tedious practice of policing one's words and thoughts in order to conform to the view of the self-righteous minority who control politics, entertainment, and the media, it now seems to have something to do with common dignity and what my grandmother would have called "good manners".

Recently, while at the barber shop, another patron was complimenting the work of the loud, orange fellow whose whim it is to be our nation's president.  He told me that he loved that the candidate-to-be was "not politically correct" and cited as evidence the occasions when Orange Julius Caesar called people insulting names, engaged in vulgar commentary, and generally behaved like the pugnacious drunk at a wedding reception who is on the verge of emesis [in my profession, I've seen my share of those].

In short, to be "politically correct" nowadays means to have the comportment of a sentient, emotionally mature, and mentally able adult.  To be "politically incorrect" means to mimic the behavior of an abrasive inebriate.  That's quite a change, and not for the best if society is to maintain at least the skeletal structure of civility.

Photo File Clean-Out, Part VI

The Northern Lights in Scotland
An homage to what life at our house was once like.
A moment of surréalité.
No comment necessary, although it could be said of any politician.
Dogs love the beach and will get there any way they can.
One of the advantages of marine archaeology is that artifacts can be surprisingly well-preserved.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Odds Are I Won't Stay in Australia Permanently

Australia could be the next Paris, terrorism expert warns 

and

Cops Raided Bondi Hotel Because Some Backpackers Were Singing

Look What One May Find During a Casual Country Stroll: a 7000-9000 Year-Old Arrow Head

Yale University = Deadwood, 1876

Honestly, I would never permit a child of mine to go to such a hive of scum and villainy, let alone pay for it.

Yale’s Crime Wave
The number of sexual assault allegations for the second half of 2015 was considerably higher than for the first half, but Spangler says this development should have come as no surprise, given the results from a 2015 survey of the Association of American Universities. (Both Stuart Taylor and I picked apart the dubious methodology of the AAU survey. For a shorthand version: the survey wildly oversampled female students who said they reported a sexual assault allegation to their college, thereby creating an unrepresentative sample of the overall student body.) But to Spangler, AAU is gospel. “We know,” she writes, “from the AAU Survey results that prevalence rates are high and many experiences go unreported.”
There are a number of colleagues of mine who serve on boards and such at Yale and they never mention this rampant criminality, nor what they are going to do to address it.  

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dear Younger/Newer Colleagues,

Re: Nancy Reagan

I appreciate your interest in current events, but she never did anything to you so please remember, as you frequently promise, to "respect the dignity of every human being".

I'm under the impression that many of you have been taught by people who should have known better that our role in society is to be some sort of community organizer and ideologue who is to issue a snarky comment on social media when someone with whom we disagree says or does something newsworthy.  Including, apparently, when they die.

The people who taught you that were and are delusional and disingenuous.  We're members of the Sacred Order of Deacons/Priests/Bishops.  As such, we represent no government, political party, or secular ideology.  We represent something greater than those.

Our role is to be the voice of reason and compassion even in circumstances that most find difficult and sometimes with people with whom we disagree.  That's our job and, if you find that impossible, I would suggest finding another vocation.  The rest of us have a church to build up and we can only do so when we accept that not everyone has to agree with us in all things and at all times.  Leave such thinking to the desiccated remains of seminary/divinity school education and embrace the new creation that Jesus taught at that table of sinners.

That, you will find, is the path to salvation for both the Episcopal Church and the souls we seek to nurture in God's service.

Your friend [and I mean it],
A Veteran Priest

The Good News? Not Only Did He Survive, But He Never Needs to Have an X-Ray Again

Scuba Diver Miraculously Survives Horror Ride Through Nuclear Plant Intake Pipe

Sunday's Bookshelf

For the past few years I've been using a common and popular website both to track and share my reading selections.  Recently, I discovered that the site has taken to "censoring" books that they find objectionable.  These are not books of a vulgar, salacious, or prurient content, merely those that are in ideological opposition to the owners of site.

Personally, I'm getting a little tired of such sites deciding what's best for us all, instead of representing the great breadth of thinking for which books stand.  I've read repellent works like Hitler's Mein Kampf, Mao's Little Red Book, and Saddam Hussein's Big Book of Poems, not to become a Nazi, Communist, or Ba'athist tyrant, but to understand the thinking behind them, especially since so many in the course of history have found validation through these writings.

So, if I wish to read those books or some bilious nonsense by that loud, orange fellow who wishes to be president, or gaseous, self-serving piffle from a Democratic or Republican politician, I'd prefer to have the right to do so without the interference of yet another presumptive Orwellian "Big Brother".

With that in mind, I've bagged the aforementioned site and will now, on Sundays, post a title that I think The Coracle's discerning readers may find interesting.  Here's the first:


I Really Hope He Said "De-Fuse", Rather Than "Diffuse"

I Knew It!

A Plagiarism Scandal Is Unfolding In The Crossword World

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Moment of Lucidity at Yale

After a University decision to cut all its funding, Yale’s Climate & Energy Institute will close by the end of June.

Climate study is not necessarily a science, but a device for generating grant money.  As similar closures are happening in Europe, it may have reached the end of its usefulness.  Gender and race labeling and the search for grievance and "justice" are replacing it as a grant magnet.

This is a Fine Story

A Gentleman’s Club That Turns Boys Into Men

An Obituary of Note

'Prince of Tides' author Pat Conroy dead at 70 

While his novels claimed more attention, his memoir, The Water is Wide, about his days teaching in a very poor school on a barrier island off of the South Carolina coast, I found particularly inspiring during my early days of teaching.

Also, a literary aside:  I'm beginning to notice, as a generation of writers now mark their mortality, how influential was Thomas Wolfe.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday's Obscure Group and Song

The Waterman


I've gotten used to "The Look".

I always get it when I speak of surfing.  Well, no, not always.  I get it in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Yes, and upstate New York, too.  "The Look" is part smirk, part bemusement, part surprise, and part alarm.  Since most people associate surfing with thin, blond, young, perpetually stoned Californians who grok and groove to the Beach Boys, and not to upper-middle aged, stocky, bespectacled preacher/schoolmasters from the Midwest who are fond of Wagnerian opera, they can't help but react.

The two places where I don't receive The Look are, firstly, California, where surfers are of all ages, body types, and backgrounds [I've shared the waves with a Marine Corps general and a sitting U.S. congressman, for example, and they were real shredders], and, secondly, the location that serves as the primordial source of all East Coast surfing: Ocean City, New Jersey, which has also been through the years my occasional second home.  So much so, that my burial instructions include having my ashes scattered off of OC's southernmost beach.

Since my family has been going to the shore since before my birth, and since I spent a portion of my very first summer of life eating the sand of the OC beach, I have many happy associations with the place.  It was here that I learned to sail, snorkel, operate a powerboat, reef and jibe, and catch offshore kings and blues.  I also learned how to ride waves in Ocean City. It was here that I first heard the term "waterman" and decided that, whatever course my life took, I would do all I could to attain that title.

Waterman is not a gender specific term.  A waterman is a person who can surf, swim, fish, dive, handle a tiller and a sheet-line, and, essentially, be proficient at any of the sports and activities that involve the sea.  While I knew proficient surfers, had a buddy whose dad owned a boat, and came from a family of anglers, I didn't know anyone who fit the total definition, least of all me.

Well, except for The Waterman.

The thing is, I didn't really know The Waterman.  I was thirteen when my buddies and I first noticed him and would have guessed he was somewhere between 25 and 40.  In other words, according to my early adolescent sensibility, he was old.  We didn't know his last name, whether or not he had a job and, if so, what it might be. We didn't even know where he was from.

We did, however, know where The Waterman lived.  That was in the water.  

Along with the rest of the east coast of the USA, I discovered surfing the summer before when I saw the documentary Endless Summer at a boardwalk theater on a rainy afternoon.  By the next year, for better or for worse, my shore friends and I were using rented boards on, and mostly under, the waves.

The Waterman was always there.  He was in the water in the morning and still there at sundown.  On the nights with a full moon, he was on the waves in the lunar light.  We would observe him in awe, as many of our contemporaries would do if in the company of Tom Seaver or Roman Gabriel.  Speaking directly to him would have been impossible to consider.  It would have been like a common Greek swineherd trying strike up a casual conversation with Poseidon.  

So we watched him on the waves and, when possible, while on the same wave.  We watched his style, his paddle out, his turns, his timing as to when to stand, his use of rip tides to carry him back to the surf with dispatch and efficiency.  We learned more from watching The Waterman than we did from the chubby guy who ran the surf school on the boardwalk.

One day we saw him on a beach further south, armed with a surfcasting rod, reeling in a fat and feisty kingfish.  Another time he was at a bayside marina renting a small sailboat which he piloted with authority from the east side of the Great Egg to the west and back again.  He would always end his surf sessions by swimming from one side of the beach to the other, using long, reaching strokes.  Needless to say, we tried to copy him in everything that he did, usually to worse effect.

But there was one time I remember particularly well.  We were on the beach on a day that was not particularly inviting, as we were the only people there, when The Waterman walked by us, nodded, and said, “Mornin’, watermen”.  Thus, even though it was not yet a deserved title, the holy and singular status was laid on us.  I think our collective response was one of stunned silence.  When such an event happens at an impressionable age, it lingers.

[Many, many years later I was working with a collection of wounded veterans, the eldest of whom was twenty-five years my junior.  As they were leaving the meeting, and I was holding the door for one of them, he said “Thank you, Marine”.  I hadn't been called that in thirty-five years and it gave me a moment’s pause and a similar impulse of pride.]

When I think of The Waterman and how we respected his technique on the waves and his obvious love of the water, I think of others whom I've known who have indirectly taught me, merely through my simple observation of them working their craft, how to do things with greater ability and, sometimes, sheer joy. 

There was Barbara, who showed me how to preach by owning the pulpit and one’s own story; Daniel, who served the sacrament with grace and style.  There was Donald, a bishop who displayed serenity in the face of unearned anger; Alva, who managed a classroom so that all of the students learned something regardless of their aptitude or interest; Richard, who saw literature not as a liberal arts subject but as an appreciation of the soul in all of its weakness and glory; Lew, who could shape wood as if it were an extension of himself; Harry, who challenged all previous philosophical notions, especially those that were calcified in curricula; Rod, who could re-build a V8 while blindfolded, and James, who had made his life into an art form; or, perhaps, his art into a life.

That list goes on and on, of course, as I hope it would for any normal person.  I think of them in the stimulating moments standing before a congregation, the quiet moments in a workshop shaping a guitar body, and those serene moments when the wave has been timed just right and the rider, the rhythm of the surf, and the pull of the tides all combine in a God-given one-ness.

If the abiding essence of watermen, in or out of the water, is to manifest so complete a love for something that the enthusiasm, the passion, and the care in accomplishment becomes accessible and compelling to others, then in their own fields they were watermen all.

Yeah, That Happens to Me, Too

I don’t get surf sponsorships because I’m not hot enough

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Profile in Courage

It's not brave to "speak out" on a topic that the media loves and will defend one on. It is brave to stand up for the truth despite what the media and activists claim is true.

Does It Include a Safe Space?

Marriott debuts hotel brand geared towards millennials

Ohio Men! are Ready


Statement on Genocide Against Christians in Iraq and Syria



In the name of decency, humanity, and truth, we call on President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and all members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives to recognize and give public expression to the fact that Christians in Iraq and Syria—along with Yazidis, Turkmen, Shabak, and Shi’a Muslims—are victims of a campaign of genocide being waged against them by ISIS. In pleading that this genocide be recognized and called by its name, we join Pope Francis, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the European Parliament, and many others. We urge our fellow Americans and all men and women of goodwill everywhere to join us in prayer for those of all faiths who are victims, and in determination to act in the humanitarian and political spheres to aid them and put an end to their victimization.

Photo File Clean-Out, Part V

A perfect morning.

Opening Day for the Cleveland Indians, April 1977.


Yep, I climbed it.  It's in central Mexico.

Someone did a painting of my favorite after-surf breakfast cafe.

The actual 221B Baker Street in London.  I wonder if Holmes ever sent Watson down for some meat pies?

Brigitte, my favorite guitarist.  I don't really know if she could play, but I don't really care.

Stand Tall Again, Connecticut

The 10 worst states for retirement

Since we're also one of the worst states in which to start a business and one of the worst states in which to start a family, we seem to be covering all of the "stages of man".  Also, our tax burden is absurd and about to grow a remarkable amount.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wisdom from the Chess Genius


"What Would Free College Actually Look Like?"

Much the same way that single-payer healthcare in the U.S. would be more affordable if Americans were willing to accept scaled back service, publicly funded college would be more affordable if students and parents changed their expectations for what college ought to be. Many Americans—especially, it should be noted, the upper-middle class students at elite universities who are feeling the Bern—expect their “college experience” to be a kind of all-encompassing four-year journey, complete with academic exploration, personal growth, and political awakening, with an army of highly paid administrators guiding them along the way.

Encourage Reading by Making Books Dumber

A recently announced project on Kickstarter aims to fund the publication of a revised edition of Walden with “modernized vocabulary” and the aim of allowing “modern readers” to be enriched by the famous book.

Of course, the problem may be that Thoreau is the least interesting of the Transcendentalists. 

Also, his relationship with the woods was better in theory than in reality, as noted by author Bill Bryson when he said, "The inestimably priggish and tiresome Henry David Thoreau thought nature was splendid, splendid indeed, so long as he could stroll to town for cakes and barley wine, but when he experienced real wilderness, on a visit to Katahdin in 1846, he was unnerved to the core."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Change in Theology

Given the content and tone found in communications that I receive from my ordained colleagues, it appears that salvation no longer is realized through Jesus Christ, but through the voting booth.

Yep, That's About Right

I didn't watch The Oscars as I find the notion of millionaires giving one another awards, and expecting proles such as myself to find it both entertaining and educational, to be a distasteful practice.

Also, in our dull, flat, and witless century, everyone must be reduced to a racial, sexual, and class label, just as Marx and Lenin thought best, so that we may find identity by seeking grievance against one another and be more easily manipulated served by our elite class.  This new, post-Christian manner of regarding the human race serves well such occasions as it gives a posturing platform to those who desire to signal their virtue and moral superiority, such as Hollywood actors, the most indulged and self-indulgent class of people to exist since 4th century Rome.

[In keeping with the hyper-racial manner of our times, the alternate, virtue-signalling reason I give for not watching is that no American Indian was nominated for anything at all.  So, I'm the Spike Lee of half-breeds.]

[A related note: Tribal members don't use the term "Native American" as it is inaccurate and moronic.  It is better to refer to one's specific tribe, if you know it.]

If you feel the way I do, or are at least interested in alternate opinions, there is nothing more medicinal than reading a Hyde Park-style screed from a British newspaper:
Not content with bashing us with overblown tales of planetary doom and rape epidemics, the Oscar worthies also gave us a generous dollop of identity politics. Everyone tried to outdo each other in the race and gender stakes. ‘I care about black people!’ was the undertone of petty much every statement of the night. Madly wealthy actresses, dripping in diamonds, complained about their pay. Sam Smith dedicated his award to the ‘LGBT community around the world’ and suggested he was the first openly gay man to get a gong. Not true. Sir John Gielgud got one in 1981, 11 years before Sam was born. Facts were the biggest loser last night.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘Blimey, sounds like a heavy night! Still, at least they didn’t talk about paedophilia.’ They did. The producer of Spotlight, a film about priestly child abuse in Boston, a flat, tension-free, washed-out drama that mystifyingly won Best Film, thanked the Oscars for ‘ampli[fying] the voice’ of survivors of clerical sex abuse, and said the voice might now become ‘a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican’. Yep, it’s Oscars vs Vatican now. Saving the planet, rescuing women from harm, overhauling one of the oldest religious institutions on earth — is there anything the luvvies can’t do?

Vanity, Thy Name is...Ohio Man!


Ohio police hunt for bald man in string of Rogaine thefts