Saturday, July 30, 2016

Some Bernie Therapy for My Clergy Colleagues

I know to you he was an anomaly, a phenomenon, a kooky Brooklyn socialist who told it like it was. But, let me tell you who this kooky Brooklyn socialist really is and was. Growing up in Brooklyn as I did, people like Bernie were a dime a dozen. Every street corner, temple, and laundromat has a Bernie. There was always the Bernie in temple screaming the dues were too high, screaming that every week there should be a free (Kiddush) meal, after services were done. The kids, including myself, loved Bernie. He was sticking it to the (rabbis) man. What was Bernie going to say next? Every week was temple and a show. 

You could always hear Bernie too. As people were praying, he was groaning; as families were wishing each other well, he was grabbing the last of the poor shlubs who would still listen and complain about his job, or his perceived state of the nation. As a kid, of course, I found this funny and cute, and couldn’t understand why my father didn’t. My father would call him a (letz) person who needs to grow up, and I just thought my dad wasn’t cool and hip.

Oh, this will ruffle a feather or two:

Election Justice USA Study Finds that Without Election Fraud Sanders Would Have Won by Landslide

Weirdly, you put Bernie up against the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian candidates and, based on their platforms, he was the only non-Democrat in the race.

Friday, July 29, 2016

This is the first presidential election in 107 years in which neither candidate knows how to drive a car.

So, That's Why She Chose Him as a Running Mate



I cannot tell you how much I enjoy this video, and not for the usual reasons.

First, I don't blame Bill at all, so those who self-identify as Democrats can take it easy.  He's on a lot of medication for his heart condition, which surely makes him drowsy by the end of the day, he is not in the best of physical condition, he's a vegan, which compromises his body's energy storage and release cycle, and I imagine he's exhausted after the week's activity.  Besides, he's heard this speech rehearsed many times, I would guess, so it is no longer a revelation to him.

Also, the candidate's speaking style is that terrible three-note syllabic structure, AB, AB, AC, that works in children's poetry but does not convey rhetorical loftiness.  It gets the information across, but the mind quickly wearies of the rhythm.  It's a pity that so many politicians employ it.

What I really enjoyed was Tim Kaine attempting to protect Bill.  He is nodding along with the speech when, in a wonderful left-ward side glance, he notices some commotion with the TV cameras. Then, in a casual right-ward side glance, he sees that the cameras are focused on the former president nodding off.  Mentally processing what he can do to aid those to whom he is beholden, he again nods along with the speech and, in a moment that will live in the hearts of political bureaucrats everywhere, tries to block the cameras' view of Bill with an awkward forward lean.  Terrific.

The 21st century vice-presidency, summed up in around 20 seconds.

Personally, I would have nudged Bill and pretended to say something along the lines of, "Great point, huh, Mr. President?"  Bill would have figured it out.

Ah, well, what do I know?  I was asleep an hour before.

Eric Hoffer

[Editor's Note:  From time to time we will again offer a Friday profile of someone little-known or unknown in the history of our culture.]


"In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."

Since the profession of full-time pastor is drying up along with mainstream Protestantism itself, many of my ordained colleagues have become, in the euphemism of the church, "tent-maker clergy".  In other words, and based on how St. Paul's was employed while spreading the Word of God, they have jobs, usually in the secular realm, that they fulfill along with serving a parish.

During the week I will work three days for a parish, one or two days as a drywall installer or carpenter, and one or two days as a luthier.  One morning a week, I serve as an unofficial chaplain for an independent school.  A good friend serves on weekends at a parish in New York City as its priest-in-charge and during the remainder of the week works for a Wall Street banking corporation.  We have both noted in conversation that, while we do not have any days off, we often don't miss them as our duties can be very different from day to day.  When we're becoming fatigued with pastoral work, we have our other, rather different, duties, and vice versa.

Personally, I find that nothing better aids the mind and the organization of thought than spending time working a blank of ash into an electric guitar body.  Between the jigsaw and the router, the sander and the airbrush, some of my best sermons and teaching plans have also been shaped.  Just when I get tired of the sawdust and noise, I can sit with an elderly parishioner in a hospital and speak of eternal notions, or watch the youth of the parish design a liturgy, or simply celebrate the Holy Mysteries behind the altar.  It is a refreshing type of occupational "cross-training" and I have sought to do so most of my professional life.

My model for this was my favorite English professor, whose specialty was comparative literature and, to facilitate his international education, worked as a merchant seaman for some years.  The juxtaposition served him well as his insight and lectures were easily the most accessible and popular in his department, no doubt as he saw the world through a much richer and more colorful lens.

When I asked him about this style of experiential learning, he told me of Eric Hoffer, who had served as his model.  I had never heard of Hoffer, which was not unusual since he wasn't terribly popular in the university system of the 1970's as he was not a product of the Ivy League machine, but when I read his works I realized that the relationship between "common" labor and intellectual perception was far more important than many realized.

Eric Hoffer was born in The Bronx in 1898, which often surprises people as, until the day of his death, he spoke with a strong German/Alsatian accent.  Such were ethnic neighborhoods once upon a time, with native languages spoken on the street and in the homes and written on the signs in the butcher's window, that one could be born and raised in a place that retained even the accent of "the old country".

Orphaned at an early age, blinded in an accident, Hoffer was all but helpless until, in an event that would forever baffle his physicians, his sight was suddenly restored at the age of fifteen.   Fearing, as one would, that he would just as suddenly become blind again, he read every book he could lay his hands on and then, as he became more confident that his vision would last, sought to see as much of the world and its wonders as he could.

Of course, not having money, a trust fund, or any inheritance, Hoffer worked at a series of jobs, usually in the labor trades.  He lived on Skid Row in Los Angeles, sometimes homeless, for the better part of a decade.  When his despair at his condition became acute, resulting in a near suicide, he left L.A. to become a migrant worker, railroad man, and prospector.  His only, and cherished, possession in these days was his library card.

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the 43-year-old Hoffer volunteered for service with the U.S. Army.  Being a little suspicious of someone fluent in German with little in the way of a documented history, he was turned down.  Instead, he became a longshoreman in San Francisco, a job he would hold for the next twenty-five years.

Feeling that America's "underclass" was underrepresented in philosophic inquiry [no kidding, check out 21st century political philosophy, where two entitled millionaire establishment figures are seeking to represent the rest of us], and having read philosophy in quiet times during his prospector days, Hoffer wrote The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, his first book.  Published in 1951, it is a philosophical examination of the nature of fanaticism such as through the world had suffered with Nazism and Stalinism.  The fact that this volume may still be read and be relevant is a testimony to the burgeoning nihilism of the past seventy years.

In marketing the book, Hoffer's publisher branded him "The Longshoreman Philosopher", a title that he would carry for the rest of his days.

As he wrote in the preface:
All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance.

All movements, however different in doctrine and aspiration, draw their early adherents from the same types of humanity; they all appeal to the same types of mind.
Hoffer had noted that the membership of the Nazi and the Communist Parties tended to be interchangeable, despite the gross difference between the two philosophies, indicating that the politics weren't as important as the "movement" in addressing an underlying need that was not being served by general society. In The True Believer and subsequent works, Hoffer observed that cultural movements were historically organized through largely predictable situations. Since a positive self-regard is necessary for personal happiness, when such esteem is lost, people will go to extraordinary lengths to claim the absent sense of well-being.  By extension, when they believe that their lives are useless and have been made so by a corrupt, untouchable Other, and that the only recourse is for individuals to gather together and foment or force radical change, movements then take life.  Depending on the depth of alienation, mass movements can be brutal.

Hoffer observed that this was the case even with relatively benign movements, such as Christianity, which he noted managed to take an eager persecutor like Saul of Tarsus and alter his thinking and practices so that he became St. Paul, an equally zealous apologist for the faith.

It does not take a philosopher to note that, during this particularly fractious year in politics, there is a remarkable similarity between some of the supporters of Sanders, Trump, and Clinton, with people reduced to rage, tears, dramatic gestures, chanting, and other emotionally compromised behavior, to see Hoffer's perspective has longevity.  Even a cursory glance at Islamism would reveal the same.

The True Believer was remarkably popular, written and published as it was during the height of American literacy.  It turned Hoffer into a minor celebrity, with positive interviews appearing in print and in the relatively new world of television.  By the mid-1950's, Hoffer was working three days a week as a longshoreman and one day as a philosophy lecturer at Berkeley [Where else?].  He would often be introduced as a "public intellectual", only to correct the speaker by replying, "No, just a longshoreman".

Hoffer would live into his 80's, residing no longer on Skid Row but in an apartment overlooking the San Francisco docks where he used to work.  He would publish twelve more books, most of which are still in print.  In addition, the Hoover Institution has archived an enormous collection of Hoffer's notebooks that include enough material for several other volumes.  In 1983, shortly before his death, he was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

After two weeks of politics, I now realize that my choice is between a white, liberal, New York establishment millionaire or a white, liberal, New York establishment millionaire.  I may stay in Australia.

[Not that it matters.  As I live in a deeply blue state, the electoral college result is already pre-determined.]

Bingus Gabberdean


Important Travel Information

TSA Says a Mummified Head Is a Perfectly Acceptable Carry-On

Maybe It's Time to Take Down Those "Gun-Free Zone" Signs

'London is next': ISIS threaten attacks on world’s major cities as UK police issue warning to British churches following murder of elderly French priest

Millennials Think That Working More Than One Job is Generational

Among my friends, and 20- and 30-somethings as a whole, the side hustle–the gig you work in addition to your day job–is so ubiquitous that, in April, Glamour Magazine posed the rueful question: “You don’t freelance on the side… What kind of urban-dwelling Millennial are you?” Failing to participate in the trend might even lead one to a “Millennial identity crisis.”

It's actually a pretty common aspect of middle-class life and has been for some time.  My Dad never worked fewer than two jobs simultaneously, one of which was always full-time, and often would work at three; my mother always had two.  I've never had fewer than two, myself, save for the few years I was working on a master's degree.  Heck, I'm almost sixty and work as a clergyman, carpenter, and luthier during the week.  Even though all of those are part-time, I can't imagine any other way of living.

Perhaps if we had called it a "gig" or a "side-hustle", it would have been special.


"Motive Unknown" Has Become the New "Brutal Afghan Winter"

With thanks to Tim Blair of The Telegraph of Sydney, Australia:

MARATHON MOTIVE MYSTERY

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cleveland 3, Philly 0

Logistical challenges at Philadelphia's Democratic National Convention have people longing for Cleveland

Cleveland 2, Philly 0

The Scene at the Democratic Convention: Hunger, Heat and Storms

"Is Europe Helpless?"


At its 1980s peak, under François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl, the European project combined German economic strength and French confidence in power politics. Today, it mixes French political weakness with German moral solipsism. This is a formula for rapid civilizational decline, however many economic or military resources the EU may have at its disposal.

Can the decline be stopped? Yes, but that would require a great unlearning of the political mythologies on which modern Europe was built.

Among those mythologies: that the European Union is the result of a postwar moral commitment to peace; that Christianity is of merely historical importance to European identity; that there’s no such thing as a military solution; that one’s country isn’t worth fighting for; that honor is atavistic and tolerance is the supreme value. People who believe in nothing, including themselves, will ultimately submit to anything.

Europe decided that Christianity, the historic foundation of their system of education and moral order, was worth only their disdain and derision.  It's been replaced with nihilism.  As Hemingway used to ask in the midst of artillery shelling, "How do you like it now, gentlemen?"

Cleveland 1, Philadelphia 0

Some Good News in the Midst of All Else

Solar Impulse completes historic round-the-world trip

No surprise, really, that the first solar powered flight circumnavigation was made by a Piccard.  His father, with mention of his equally adventurous grandfather, was profiled in The Coracle earlier.

I Rather Wish an Episcopal Bishop had Said This, But I'll Take an NBA Superstar

I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Talk Show Host to Ruin One of My Favorite Childhood Books

Oprah Winfrey To Star In ‘A Wrinkle In Time’

A profile on the The Coracle of the book's author may be found here.

Considering a 17-Year-Old was Able to Purchase a Black Market Handgun, this is Hardly a Radical Observation

A European Union spokesman has acknowledged "serious loopholes" in the bloc's current rules on the acquisition and possession of firearms, but said the EU's executive has submitted proposals for tighter regulation.

This is the problem when gun "control" laws are the primary, sometimes only, response to violence. Considering mass violence is often born of untreated mental illness or unsupervised pharmacological experimentation, not to mention religious extremism, and realized not just with guns but with bombs, axes, machetes, knives, and trucks, I doubt much is going to change.

As I remind the reader, laws only control the law-abiding.  Criminals, lunatics, and terrorists are, by definition, outlaws.

Christians in Europe are Now Being Targeted in Their Places of Worship

BBC: France church attack: Priest killed in hostage-taking near Rouen

The BBC is being circumspect in describing the events.  Worshipers were attacked when leaving the morning Mass, what the Beep calls a puzzling motivation is rather obvious when one hears from the survivors that the attackers wore Islamist garb and shouted about "Allah", and the priest was beheaded.

He was 92 [or 84 or 86, depending on the source] and just became the first official Roman Catholic martyr of this new age of intolerance and nihilism.

Twitter in all of its absurdity and splendor:
"Motive unclear" pretty well sums up the whole world these days.

Update: The Coracle beat The Hartford Courant to this story by 45 minutes.  It helps to have a reading knowledge of French and to rise early.

Another Dire Narrative is Shattered

Brexit is already proving to be a huge victory for global free trade

In being reluctant to move with the rest of Britain, Scotland will once again, through fissile-necked short-sightedness, find itself holding the bag of day-old haggis.

This is Entirely Reasonable

Sign Petition: ‘Remove air conditioning from all US State Department property’

Since, to quote from the Secretary of State, "Refrigerators and air conditioners are as dangerous as ISIS", and since the government has difficulty acknowledging the reality of Islamism enough to address it, this is one area in which they can lead from the front.

No AC for DC! [Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for that slogan.]

[This is pretty rich coming from Kerry.  I saw his yacht in Newport harbor once and, judging from the dock hookups, even his sailboat is air conditioned.  Seriously, who does that?]

Socialist Leaders Often Wind Up with Massive Vacation Homes and Cayman Bank Accounts

With economic power will come political power, and the veterans of the Castro regime will have nothing left to show for sixty years of poverty and sacrifice. The ‘reform’ faction in Cuba hopes that an interim twilight period between total socialism and total capitalism will allow them to do what other ex-communists have done, and shift their political control in a socialist context into political control and economic power as Cuba changes. They hope for the kind of privatizations and investments that leave the current elite holding the sources of wealth.

If that were the end result of economic re-distribution for me, personally, I'd be all for it, too. However, I'm usually one of the people who winds up paying the bill for all of this stuff.

The Danger of Zero-Sum Thinking

In an excellent recent post, co-blogger David Bernstein explains how both racists and many left-wing anti-racists make the mistake of falling into the trap of zero-sum economic reasoning: too often, they assume that one racial or ethnic group can only get ahead at the expense of another. In reality, racial oppression and discrimination inflict large costs on both majority groups and minorities (even if the latter often suffer more). And both groups stand to gain from free exchange between them, and from economic policies that enable members of all groups to maximize their potential.

Friday, July 22, 2016

This is What the Government Thinks of Us

We are, apparently, regarded as so dumb that the government needs to spend money on a Twitter hashtag campaign to tell us to drink water when it's hot.
Once again, we are regarded as nothing but drones in need of the Uberblick.

Actually, I Think We Could Use a Little "White Silence" This Summer

Dozens in West Hartford Protest 'White Silence' 

Especially from the West Hartford effete, who live in one of the most deliberately "white" places in which I've worked.

In Other Words, It's Terrible

 Scruton is, perhaps, the greatest living philosopher.

Rules are for the Little People

Malloy Bypassed Airport Security Checkpoint With Son's Backpack 

Given his son's...issues, this seems a little suspicious.  Most politicians are a little more clever about such things.

More on Von Humbolt may be found here.

The Bifurcation of Our World in One Web Page

From "Obama: Trump's doom-and-gloom doesn't match reality" to "Shooting spree at mall", the conjunction of words and reality seem to have consciously separated.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Welcome to My World, Washington Post

We were promised a riot. In Cleveland, we got a block party instead.

Did it ever occur to those of you who serve as the scribes to the elites that we can all figure out how to get along without government sticking its big bazoo into everything?  We don't need you as much as you think.  We can do this better than you can.

"Since America Won’t Stop Christian Genocide, Israel Should"

An Obituary of Note

Longtime Pittsburgh personality and TV host Bill Cardille died at 1:15 a.m. today at his home in McCandless.Mr. Cardille, 87, recently had been diagnosed with liver cancer.Mr. Cardille was the co-creator and host of "Chiller Theatre," which has been off the air since January 1984 but is remembered for its late-night horror flicks.

He was a lay reader at the parish my college girlfriend attended, which always cracked me up a little. I expected him to announce from the lectern not the epistle, but a Godzilla movie.

Sportianity

In 1976 Frank Deford wrote a three-part series for Sports Illustrated on "Religion in Sport." Deford focused special attention on what he called "Sportianity." This world of sports-specific evangelical ministries included the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes In Action, Baseball Chapel, and Pro Athletes Outreach, and was represented in Deford's piece by coaches and athletes (Roger Staubach, Alvin Dark, Tom Landry), sports chaplains (Billy Zeoli, Tom Skinner), and organizational leaders (Arlis Priest, Dave Hannah).

The Definition of Inevitable

Episcopal Divinity School will cease to grant degrees at the end of the upcoming academic year, the seminary’s board of trustees decided July 21 on a 11-4 vote. During the next year, the board will explore options for EDS’s future, some of which were suggested by a specially convened Futures Task Force to make plans for EDS’s future. 

“A school that has taken on racism, sexism, heterosexism, and multiple interlocking oppressions is now called to rethink its delivery of theological education in a new and changing world,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall ’76, chairman of the board, in introducing the resolution. “Ending unsustainable spending is a matter of social justice.”

Or, as one Internet wag unfortunately notes:

Translation: “Having abandoned anything to do with orthodox Christianity, we find that we have made ourselves completely irrelevant. If we spin our theological and financial bankruptcy as a sign of our virtue, maybe we won’t look so bad.”

Over the past generation, EDS has narrowed its concentration to the extent that it appeals to a shrinking collection of potential seminarians.  Another example of the manifestation of "Quemar las naves".  When what used to be radical is now mainstream, orthodoxy becomes radical.  And more attractive.

How Many More Can You Drive Out, Hartford Folks?

America’s largest shotgun manufacturer, O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc., decided not to expand in Connecticut. Sure it was founded there 1919 and still has its corporate headquarters in North Haven. But in 2013 Connecticut rushed through legislation to ban some of Mossberg’s popular products. As a result, Mossberg CEO, Iver Mossberg, says, “Investing in Texas was an easy decision. It’s a state that is not only committed to economic growth but also honors and respects the Second Amendment and the firearm freedoms it guarantees for our customers.”

For those who would sneer that "It's only a gun maker" or "Ew, icky guns", I would remind you that General Electric along with a very large machine manufacturer and, probably, an equally huge insurance company are doing the same.  Also, it's, off hand, three Connecticut gun manufacturers who have left the state, which means thousands of jobs gone and/or people relocating to another state, thus reducing our population and the tax base.

Better get that Malloy Mileage Tax going soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Archaeological News

Cave etchings reveal early dialogue between Native Americans, Europeans

Quotation of the Week

Cleveland Police Warn Protester: ‘You’re on Fire, Stupid!’

I had several interactions with the CPD when I was growing up and they were always gentlemen.  The Euclid Police Department, on the other hand....

"The world is taking its revenge against elites."

But what’s really remarkable about the response to these shocks of people like him has been their inability to acknowledge that their own satisfied white-collar class might be part of the problem. On this they are utterly in denial and whatever the disaster, the answer they give is always … more of the same. More “innovation”. More venture capital. More sharp young global Stanford entrepreneurs. There is no problem that more people like they themselves can’t solve.

Because He Never Had a Manager as Good as Appel

Why Springsteen never made another album like ‘Born to Run,’ and other questions only Mike Appel can answer

I Almost Forgot About This

I was at church camp in Ohio.  All forty of us were jammed in a counselors' cabin and watched on a 12 inch, black and white TV with a grainy, antenna-based signal as Armstrong jumped from the LEM ladder.  It was great.  If you are at least my age, you remember what that was like, how positive and important it was, especially after the traumatic preceding 18 months.

It's Going to Be One of Those Days

Today was scrupulously planned.  I was going to ride some waves for an hour, finish building a new barn-style door for the guitar shop, gather materials for the next project, enjoy a fish reuben sandwich at a dockside cafe, and maybe, maybe take a nap.

Then, your wife loses her car keys at a parish picnic and, as the spare is 80 miles away, instead I'll drive her to work, get the spare key, turn around and return to her office, drive her to the private home where her car still sits, then return home to try to get something, anything really, accomplished before sundown.  After over four hours of driving, that'll be a challenge.

I'm really glad the Malloy Mileage Tax hasn't been enacted, yet.

Archaeological News

Henry VIII's ship the Mary Rose revealed after restoration

Great photos.

More About That Weird Benediction

I didn't spell out what troubled me about the benediction offered at the opening of the RNC in my hometown of Cleveland ["The 'Land!"] earlier this week and was going to address that, but this fellow beat me to it.  I might have been a tad kinder, but, again, I can be shockingly Midwestern in my opinions from time to time, so maybe not.

Anyway, read this if you wish:

Monday, July 18, 2016

In a Time of Terrorism [aka 'Truck Crashes'] and #NoLivesMatter, This is What the NYPD Have to Do

Police Confiscate Thousands of Books from Upper West Side Street Vendors

and

The book vendors who normally set up stands on Broadway between 72nd and 74th Streets were nowhere to be found this week. Police have removed the books, a 20th precinct official told us, but we’re still gathering details on what precipitated the move.

He Punched the Shark. Aussies.

A year after escaping a shark attack in the waters off the South African coast, Australian surfer Mick Fanning completed an emotional bounce back from the harrowing incident by winning the J-Bay Open.

A Third of a Mile from the House in Which I Grew Up

Two People Shot at a 'Stop the Violence' Party in Euclid

I could never live there, again.  I've lost whatever edge I once had that kept me alive and generally safe.

Update:  There is a third victim and one is a fatality.

This is What 'The Today Show' in Sydney is Like; It's a Lot More Fun



"Pluggers" are what we call flip-flops.

I'm More Disturbed by the Fact that It Looks Like a Dalek

Mall security bot knocks down toddler, breaks Asimov's first law of robotics 

I mean, doesn't it?

Mall-bot
Dalek
We may need to train an orphan from birth to become...a robot fighter!



Our Brave New World

Situational Awareness in Social Settings
Fleeing is preferable to hiding under a table if an incident involving small arms occurs. Gunshot wounds from a distance tend to be survivable. Close range executions are usually fatal. Determine a nearby point that offers cover or concealment and move quickly to it. Assess the situation and then repeat the process to escape.

Typically, Govt is Against Them

E-cigarettes could cut smoking-related deaths by 21 percent: study

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The "Beach Blanket Bingo Test"

This is a ramble, but that's what happens sometimes.

I've always had a two-tired system that differentiates between "movies" and "films".  For example, my favorite film is Lawrence of Arabia, while my favorite movie is The President's Analyst.  [If you don't know that one, it's one of the most entertaining satires from the late 1960's, ridiculing everything from Cold War espionage to the evil that is...the phone company.]

A film is intended to be a serious work of art; a movie is an entertainment.  One is not better than the other, as a good Neil Simon play can be just as diverting as well-produced Shakespeare.  It's just that there is a different emphasis and the audience is seeking that difference from the respective productions.

In the summer, movies tend to dominate the cinemas as it is an apt time not for art, but for pure entertainment.  That's why we see so many comic book adaptations these days.  [Honestly, if I were still a twelve-year-old comic fan, I would be in the closest thing to heaven to be able to see good movies about my early heroes.  I'm no longer twelve, though, and find the sheer volume of Marvel and DC adaptations a bit much.]  But, what I don't savor are the remakes, of everything from old, not-so-great TV shows to movies that, let's face it, were really not all that good, either.

For example, Ghostbusters.  The original was a pleasant diversion in the summer of 1984, but I mainly remember it not as a seminal moment in my appreciation of cinematic story-telling, acting, or direction, but because I went to see it on my second date with she who would become my wife, after a pleasant meal at Manhattan's only Vietnamese restaurant.  Yes, that's how long ago that was.  By the way, the Saigon Pavilion used to have really good Tonkin Gulf shrimp.

So, the other day, as I was walking in front of the local cinema, I was approached by a young woman with a clipboard who wondered if she could ask me a few questions.  She looked like the politically active young people with clipboards who used to stop me on Thayer Street in Providence back when I lived and worked adjacent to Brown University, so I assumed that her questions would be about the upcoming election.  Nope, her questions were about...Ghostbusters.

Clipboard: Do you plan on seeing Ghostbusters?
Me:  No.
Clipboard: Is this because of the all-woman cast?
Me: No
Clipboard: May I ask why you won't be seeing it?
Me:  Well, I thought the original was really just a celebration of Hollywood's fondness for cocaine in the 1980's, and I don't care for re-makes.
Clipboard: What if I told you it was a "re-boot" and not a re-make?
Me: Then I would still not want to re-see it.  Besides, does it pass the "Beach Blanket Bingo Test"?

She paused, pen hovering above clipboard, somewhat dazed as if I had just responded not in English, but in Serbo-Croat.

Clipboard: The Beach...I don't...what?
Me:  You are unfamiliar with the enviro-feminist classic, Beach Blanket Bingo?

She shook her head.

Me: It's from the mid-sixties.  It re-works environmental and feminist themes into the common tropes of the patriarchal life of a California tribe.
Clipboard:  Wow, I've never heard of it.
Me:  It also has Don Rickles.
Clipboard: I don't know...?
Me: He taught Lenny Bruce everything he knew.
Clipboard: Wow.
Me:  So, if a movie may be at least as entertaining as Beach Blanket Bingo, then I'll go see it.  Otherwise....

She scribbled away on her clipboard and I started to feel a little guilty.  I suggested that she find it online.  Unfortunately, she'll probably be disappointed if she's looking for any obvious redeeming social value.  Perhaps even triggered.

Of course, only a straining academic could ever make BBB about anything other than silliness.  Which, I think, was and is my point with all of this.  It's summer, no one wants to be "guilted" into seeing a movie, as the marketing for the latest Ghostbusters suggested that if one didn't want to see it, that was because one was sexist.  The first film was appropriate for its time.  Perhaps the second version is also evocative of the times in which we live as it posits that one must do what the media-entertainment realm desires, speak the words they want us to speak and hold the thoughts they want us to hold, or else bear a noxious label.  Yes, that sums up the 21st century fairly well.

And people wonder why I surf.
Why do I have this awful feeling that the next couple of weeks will reverse the reverse of the curse that should have been ended with the Cavs' victory?  Seriously, my hometown of Cleveland has been through enough.

Update:  I have never been so happy to be wrong.  A lot of people saw my hometown for what it is, including the bigots from the eastern media who desperately wanted to mock the city and its people.  The local government scored as big a victory as did LeBron and company.

Philosophy Majors Will Find This Funny

This is yet another heavy day and I needed a laugh.  Perhaps, you, too.  Other than this, anything resembling wisdom is absent.

I would very much like our thought leaders, media stars, social justice warriors, politicians, and other bilge producers to shut up for a day, though.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

An Obituary of Note


Michael McCurdy, who was a friend of The Coracle, and who was the subject of a Friday profile last summer, died quietly some weeks ago.  While his obituary may be found online, I would direct the reader to the link provided via the quotation above for a personal appreciation of both his character and his art.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When Society Becomes Divided into Disparate Groups, This is Bound to Happen

NYT: Amid Protests Over Police Shootings of Black Men, Latinos Note a Disparity

"Truck Crash"? Really? That's What We're Calling It, Now?

How not-serious is the media about this? Here is an honest-to-gosh headline from NBC's Today Show:  Somber cartoon tributes pour in across social media following Nice attack

From the Rector's Bookshelf

This seems prescient:



Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was a Muslim visionary, revolutionary statesman, and founder of the Republic of Turkey. The West knows him best as the leading Ottoman officer in World War I's Battle of Gallipoli―a defeat for the Allies, and the Ottoman empire's greatest victory. Gaining fame as an exemplary military officer, he went on to lead his people in the Turkish War of Independence, abolishing the Ottoman Sultanate, emancipating women, and adopting western dress. Deeply influenced by the Enlightenment, Atatürk sought to transform the empire into a modern and secular nation-state, and during his presidency, embarked upon a program of impressive political, economic, and cultural reforms. Militarily and politically he excelled at all levels of conflict, from the tactical, through the operational, to the strategic, and into the rarified realm of grand strategy. His ability to integrate the immediate with the ultimate serves as an important lesson for leaders engaged in the twenty-first century's great military struggles. He became the only leader in history to successfully turn a Muslim nation into a Western parliamentary democracy and secular state, leaving behind a legacy of modernization and military and political leadership.

Photo File Clean-Out

Remember "fan magazines" from the '60's?  They were a little histrionic, weren't they? 
Wasn't there a Twilight Zone episode like this?

A collection of Hopi trying to accommodate Dr. and Mrs. Albert Einstein.

Leo Tolstoy telling a story to his grandchildren, both of whom hope it isn't War and Peace.

Has anyone ever heard of the "Nice Sons"?  I mean, that's a pretty good billing.
Update: I managed to locate a program from that particular show and The Byrds shared the billing with The Nice and The Sons of Champlin, hence the reference.  I never heard of those groups, either.

Hardly a Mystery, as She Doesn't Consider Herself Disabled

Bethany Hamilton withdrew from ESPYS disabled athlete category

After all, she's won regular surfing competitions against "abled" competitors.  Perhaps that's earned her the right to live without ESPN's labels.

I Can Think of One Easy Way to Significantly Reduce the Cost

Namely, honor human life.

The costly economics of fetus disposal

By the way, this was supposedly a news article, not an op-ed piece.  "Fetus disposal", in its cold, emotionless, clinical way, sums up the regard for human life found in certain segments of our nihilistic society.

Generation Kardashian Goes to School

Standing in line at the bakery behind a couple of Millennials lamenting what a "sellout" Bernie Sanders was in endorsing the other candidate, I offered that, "Disappointment is the gateway to wisdom." Yeah, I won't do that, again.  One of the young women, who had chrome red hair, almost started to cry.  The other looked at me as if I were a criminal.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Glock" and "AR-15" are Magic Words of Incantation for Politicians and Media

It's an oversimplification and, like all such, renders serious conversations about guns and violence non-sensical.  Even the often-sympathetic Washington Post has noticed:

Obama’s strange claim that it is easier for teens to buy a Glock than get a book

This floats around the Internet from time to time, too, lampooning the odd power these two words of incantation have over those who control information and would control our perspectives:


Something Tells Me That Chris Murphy Won't Be Complaining about "Thoughts and Prayers" This Time Around


Mass Pokemon Lobotomy Made Easy

A Forgotten Rolling Stones Song



The influence of Brian Jones, the fellow standing in the photo above, is obvious in this tune's production as he drew from a variety of musical traditions and instrumentation.  Jones was the actual founder of the Stones, not Jagger or Richards, and the one who loved American Blues to the extent that they were the originators of what's known as "blue-eyed soul".  He played rhythm guitar, slide guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, harmonica, various types of percussion, dulcimer, oboe, and some brass.

Unfortunately, he was just as various and deliberate in his drug use, to the extent that the rest of the band voted him out in 1969.  He would drown in his pool just a month later.

I Learned a Number of Things from This

Washington Post: ‘Allow him to sway’ or not: Video of former president Bush at Dallas memorial divides social media

1.  It appears that fewer and fewer people have been to a Christian funeral, where we not only mourn the passing of a friend or family member, but we also acknowledge and, yes, celebrate their reunion with God.  That explains part of the online confusion.

2.  Bush actually believes in his religion.  Again, an alien concept in these dark and nihilistic days, but there you go.

3.  People who comment on social media are largely stupid.

4.  The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is an infectious tune.

5.  "Swaying" and "Dancing" are not synonyms, except at a junior high dance.

6.  I never used to think so, but Donna Brazile is alright.

7.  In addition to George Orwell's "wrongthink" from 1984, our society has created "wrong-grief".

Yep, and If We Didn't Live in an Atheistic Society, This Would Be Obvious from Religious Teaching

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Generation Kardashian Discovers These Things Called "Landmarks"

Pokemon Go Takes State By Storm, Players Flock To Public Landmarks

They might even notice these amazing, exotic "landmark" things if they would look up from their phones.

We're #43! We're #43!

Connecticut Ranks 43rd On Top States For Businesses Ranking

John Galt was a fictional character, but the freedom he represented is terribly real, as some states are beginning to discover.  If a state is poorly managed and budgeted, to the disadvantage of small businesses, they'll move to another state.
Connecticut dropped 10 slots in a yearly CNBC ranking of the nation's top states for businesses.
The state ranked 43rd this year, just behind Oklahoma. The rankings are measured by categories such as the cost of doing businesses, access to capital, business friendliness and the quality of life.
[In case you're wondering, it is hot as blazes in the workshop, the air in there is barely moving, and I have a snoot-full of alder dust.  So, it's break time.]

Probably. Next Question.

Have we reached a point of no return?
The only hope for history’s rare multiracial, multiethnic, and multireligious nations is to adopt a common culture, one that artificially suppresses the natural instinct of humans to identify first with their particular tribe. America, in the logical spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, was exceptional among modern societies in slowly evolving from its original, largely European immigrant population to a 21st-century assimilated, integrated, and intermarried multiracial society, in which religious and racial affiliations were incidental, not essential, to one’s public character and identity.
But such a bold experiment was always tenuous and against the cruel grain of history, in which the hard work of centuries could be easily torn apart by the brief demagoguery of the moment.

Politicians Should Stay Away from Scripture

I was listening to the president's speech from the Dallas police officer's funeral yesterday, the first half of which was appropriate, the second half political and perverse for a religious occasion, but I was particularly distracted by what seemed to be a quotation he offered from The Gospel of John, as it is alien to that work.  In other words, it doesn't exist in John's Gospel.  [No one in the media noticed this, either, as they are ignorant and/or willfully stupid when it comes to Christianity.]

The passage that he was incorrect in citing, and obtuse in translating, is actually appropriate.  It's from chapter three of The First Epistle of John, however, and says the following:
11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters,[a] that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 All who hate a brother or sister[b] are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister[c] in need and yet refuses help?

18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

Today is Guitar-Building Day



There is little that is more satisfying than spending a day alone in the workshop surrounded by various tools and the bits and bumps that go into a guitar.

Not to be a cheater, as I have built many from scratch, but I often use pieces from discarded or abused guitars and put them together with new pieces to form a true custom.  Also, I have been known to "sub-contract" the finish, as some of the paint jobs require much more professional equipment than I have in our small workshop.

However, it is always nice to have a day when one may see the tactile result of his labor.  Plus make some extra coin.

Archaeological News

Israeli Lifeguard Finds 900-Year-Old Oil Lamp on Beach During Morning Jog

Jesus Didn't Take the Wheel

Woman who was driving while praying with her eyes closed hits house

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Label on An "Organic" Banana


A Policy Note

While The Coracle, in its original format, served as a means for communicating parish and diocesan events in a congregation I served over a decade ago, my next two parishes didn't use it as such and it gradually transitioned into...well, whatever this is.  Despite the change, or perhaps because of it, the readership tripled and became more diverse [in the real meaning of the term] and international, naturally altering the content and style of the weblog.

It's been a great run over the last eleven years and I'm planning on continuing it, but The Coracle will no longer be associated with a parish, church, or denomination.  As time goes by, neither will its author/editor.  It will no longer be linked to a parish website.  In addition to these changes, new voices will be adding their perspectives and postings in the near future.

We are about to begin a glorious experience of liberation, as I will be able to snap the ideological tether that's kept me in the "back yard" of faith and have the freedom to explore new expressions in Christian spirituality.  I can hardly wait.

When I Was 22, We Would Mock Contemporaries Who Didn't Live on Their Own

Martha Stewart Calls Millennials Lazy

As the Chief Priests of the Temple and the False Prophets Knew

The Hill: Even at a funeral, dividing the nation is apparently good politics

Yep.  It also appears to be a time to say things that are so untrue as to be delusional.  Teenagers can buy handguns easier than books?  Really?

Also, there's this:
This, remember, was a funeral — a funeral for one of the police officers who was murdered last Thursday. It wasn’t a rally. It wasn’t a White House press conference. It wasn’t a public statement, hastily arranged on the airport tarmac. It was a funeral. Presumably, those attending had all sorts of political opinions. Presumably, some of the cops were Republicans. Presumably, there was some serious disagreement in that room as to how the country should move forward. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait until the proceedings were over to call for change? Wouldn’t it have been more politically effective for the president to have made his push somewhere else? 
Having watched The Episcopal Church destroy itself over the last twenty years with a "Everyone must have the same thoughts; everyone must use the same words" philosophy [there is nothing theological about it], I find this approach the least likely to persuade.

Tales of Generation Kardashian

Maybe It's Not Possible Because It's Impossible

What's missing? Why is racial discord the problem of the summer 2016? If anyone has what it takes to unify the country over race it is Barack Obama, who is President right now and who had been President for 7 1/2 years. If it makes any sense to be deciding the current presidential election on this issue, if this longed-for capacity is something that can possibly exist, then Barack Obama would be doing it now and would have been doing it for years.
Before you push us to judge whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do better in bringing us together in racial harmony, Mr. Healy, please say a few words about why President Obama has failed. Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump inspires hope for a new opportunity at racial harmony. That's what Obama did in 2008. He was ideal for that issue and we voted for the hope. Now, so many years later, things seem even worse. Can you analyze how that happened? Because that did happen. I don't see how we can begin to think about what more Trump or Clinton could do unless we understand why President Obama failed.
To be honest, and not to be "that guy", but I never thought the president really cared about this since much of his career was benefited by the dynamics of racial discord, which is typical of Rust Belt politicians, a group I know something about.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Today's Revelation

Rappers can't sing.  That's all.

"The Bearable Lightness of Dignity"

It’s hard to imagine a decent politics that doesn’t depend on the notion of the dignity of the human person. It’s unfortunately also hard to specify how to anchor that notion in something beyond our earnest moral intuitions. As the bioethicist Adam Schulman poses the question: “Is dignity a useful concept, or is it a mere slogan that camouflages unconvincing arguments and unarticulated biases?”

Another Editorial Note

Okay, I know I said I wouldn't have that much to say, but when one is almost sixty-years-old and spends a day or two a week working construction with guys twenty to forty years younger, there isn't a whole lot that I can do in the evenings except take acetaminophen and moan some.  Oh, and read newspapers online.  There may be some more postings coming.

On the way home tonight I stopped by a pizza place to pick up dinner and couldn't get down the sidewalk as some rather pale thirty-somethings were standing around like zombies staring at their phones.  I'm used to this in New York City, but this is a new experience in the maritimes, where people tend to look at other people and, as we are on the shoreline, look healthier.  Well, except for their fondness for tobacco.

Turns out this Pokemon Go phone game has managed to lobotomize many of the citizenry.

Speaking of lobotomies, here's something about Washington D.C.:

If our rulers think global warming is a crisis, let them be a good example for the rest of us: Ban AC for DC


An Editorial Note

Posting will be light this week, but I'll have at least one item each morning, as I'm currently working three jobs and getting ready for a substantial life re-organization.

I do want to say how much I enjoy the new readers from Australia and Panama, and especially your correspondence, as you've added a whole new perspective and sources of information to The Coracle. Please feel free to scour past links and commentary and see if you can discern the one, clean theological point that is present in almost every posting.

Genius. Won't Work, But Genius.

Canberra surfers create 'Sharkstripes' stickers to hide from sharks

Friday, July 8, 2016

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones - The Sinister Minister (Part 1)

There is Nothing New in This, But It's Worth Reading

The numbers of people who are committed Christians—those who are practicing a vibrant faith—are not dying off. That’s a myth that no real researcher believes. However, that does not mean that the Church is not being challenged. It is, and it is being more clearly defined.

Research tells us that Convictional Christians are not leaving the faith. Instead, the “squishy middle,” as I like to call it, is being compressed. At least part of this is because Christians now find themselves more and more on the margins in American society—not persecuted, but no longer central. As such, people are beginning to count the cost. 

Indeed, American Christians won’t disappear, but they will increasingly be neighbors with Americans who are more disconnected from organized religion, and from a shared religious memory. Instead of seeing the research as bad news, let’s embrace the challenges before us and step into this new cultural reality with fresh ways to engage the Nones and others around us.

If It's Any Consolation, This is a Chart of the Violent Crime Rate in the U.S. Since 1990


As I Wrote on Facebook Earlier This Morning

What I find so frustrating about this morning’s news is that yesterday I mentioned to a European acquaintance that one could not find a better example of Constitutionally-enabled social civility than police peacefully watching over an equally peaceful protest organized to criticize police behavior.

“We Know that We Are Going To Be Killed”

An Interview with an Iraqi Priest

A Fair Assessment

The larger phenomenon here, however, is a crisis not of ignorant masses, but of elites who have failed. All societies, except perhaps the Greek city-states of antiquity, are led by elites or, as the great sociologist Digby Baltzell described them, establishments. As long as they provide their societies with some consequential benefit (prosperity, success in war, or political leadership), can absorb talented non-elite members, and display virtues that the rest of society values (public service, self-sacrifice, or military courage) they deserve to hang on and do.

The elites of London, like those of this country and large parts of the Western world, appear in many ways to have failed those tests. The crash of 2008 crystallized a view of the financial class in particular as reckless, self-dealing manipulators. As Joel Kotkin among others has pointed out, by virtue of how our education systems have evolved, elite youth increasingly marry one another, and the prosperous can (and do) give their children every leg up—which poorer parents cannot hope to match. Meanwhile, the political and intellectual elites deserve, and receive, very little credit for patriotism or courage, because they do not exhibit much. As manifested on campuses in Great Britain as here, they increasingly show themselves intolerant of dissenting opinions, and inclined to bully because they have forgotten (or never learned) how to argue.

The failure of courage, Solzhenitsyn said at a particularly dark point in the Cold War, was in danger of becoming a distinguishing feature of the West. The young people who talked petulantly of abandoning their country because of a vote they did not like were bright graduates of the best universities in the English-speaking world—and severely deficient in pluck. They had no notion of that patriotism which says that when your country is in trouble, you are supposed to fight it out, not begin checking to see if Morgan Stanley is hiring in Madrid. They are not fit to be trusted with political power.

And in the very intemperateness of their reaction lies one of the best reasons to think that Brexit is, with all its hazards, a good thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hey, EPA. Could I Draw Your Attention, Please?


I mean, I know that the EPA is busy with the 21st century version of genocide against the Navajo, but it appears that land-based bacteria in the ocean water is starting to become an issue.  Above is the latest in surf attire.

Related: Putrid algae overtakes Florida's south coast just days before July Fourth

I used to play bass for Putrid Algae.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Archaeological News

It appears that the legendary Anglo-Saxon monastery of Lindisfarne has been found.

In Celtic archaeology, this is a rather big deal.

When Science and Religion Cooperate, Great Things are Possible

As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession.

Bienvenido a nuestra Banana Republic

Looks Like the Word "Obituary" is Now Considered Wrongthink*


"Life Tributes"?  Really?

*"Wrongthink" is from George Orwell's 1984, a novel I thought rather lightweight until I realized that it's becoming increasingly prophetic.

Some Roistering from the Australian Press

As we increasingly live in a world where everyone must have the same thoughts and use the same words, I'm finding the give-and-take of Australian political reporting to be refreshing.


One day, many years from now, with the assistance of global police networks, we might have an answer. At US news outlet MSNBC, this post-Istanbul question was asked: “Is there a pattern to recent terror attacks?”

Again, nobody has a clue. It’s a complete mystery. What on earth might be the common factor linking mass killings in Paris, Brussels, Orlando, London, Madrid, Bali, Israel, Libya Somalia, Cameroon, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Philippines, Russia, Burkina Faso, Kenya and now Istanbul? What pattern might there be?

Harvard + Divinity = LOL

Jesus’ wife has finally taken the sad step that culminates many a marriage: the gruesome divorce. Harvard Divinity School professor and historian of early Christianity Karen L. King, who has spent the past four years championing a one- by three-inch papyrus scrap bearing the Coptic words "Jesus said to them, 'My wife' " as part of an ancient 4th-century "gospel" indicating that many early Christians believed Jesus had been married, has now conceded that the tiny fragment is probably a "forgery."

That a qualified academic pushed this nonsense for so long, and received appointments and book contracts because of it, is absolutely immoral.  This is what happens when self-interest, rather than intellectual curiosity, drives research.

This, too, from The Atlantic, should be read:   The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus's Wife 

Harvard [and Columbia] are no strangers to "Christian fraud", however.  If you wish, read about Morton Smith.

This is Largely True and I Appreciate the Author's Compassion

HOW A GENERATION LOST ITS COMMON CULTURE
Ancient philosophy and practice praised as an excellent form of government a res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first Res Idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.” Our education system produces solipsistic, self-contained selves whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. They are perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Most Fourth of July Story. Ever.

So, an Army veteran sees a bald eagle tangled in a rope and hanging upside down from a tree.  He calls the various authorities to see if they will use their very expensive, tax-funded equipment to save the bird's life.  Naturally, as this would have meant some modicum of intelligence, civic devotion, and moxie, the tax-funded authorities said "No".

Thus, left to his own devices and ready to trust his own judgment and ability, he did the only thing that he could.  He shot away the branches and the rope with his rifle, freeing the eagle and getting it to a veterinary clinic.

Sharp-Shooting Army Veteran Saves Bald Eagle Stuck Up A Tree 

So, the 4th of July lessons involved are:
1.  Good intentions do not move public employees to action. 
2.  Taxed revenue is largely wasted.
3.  Own a rifle and know how to use it well.
4.  There is no time in the great history of our republic that bureaucrats have not stood in the way of common sense and compassionate aid.
5.  Direct action is always the best.

Or, as the eagle's savior said, "Fourth of July, you know, that’s our bird. I can’t let it sit there.”

The Greatest Play In Baseball - Rick Monday Saves U.S. Flag