Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Looks Like Joe Biden has been Moonlighting


Even the Media Sparkies are Starting to Figure This Out



Anyone who has worked for or paid tuition to a college, university, or similar educational institution in the last twenty years has noticed this.

Girls Handled Life-Like Baby Dolls, Found They Liked It, Wanted Their Own

Teen girls who took part in a popular type of pregnancy prevention program were actually more – not less – likely to become pregnant compared to girls who didn’t participate, a new study by Australian researchers shows.

Gee, Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

That's Generous of Them, Given the Current State of University Discourse

Public university grants students two hours of free speech per week

Time to Start Using Aerosol Again

The North Atlantic: Ground Zero of Global Cooling

It's nice to see that global cooling warming climate change disruption has returned to its roots as global cooling.  A full circle of environmental concern since the early 1970's.

Actors. They Know Everything.

Bill Nye — “the Science Guy” — thinks that the recent deadly flooding in Louisiana is a result of climate change. That’s not surprising. Bill Nye thinks everything is the result of climate change. Flooding in Missouri is climate change. Tornadoes in Kentucky is climate change. Fire in Alaska is climate change. A morning thunderstorm in Houston is climate change. One time, there was a blizzard in New York in January. That was climate change, too. The event doesn’t even have to be weather-related. The Islamic State’s massacre of 130 people in Paris last year? You guessed it. 

When it comes to Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” it’s almost like “science” has nothing to do with it.
The problem with all of this is that we can't have a substantive conversation about climate when the public square is filled with opportunists and attention-seekers armed with a false sense of moral superiority and a great whack of politically-based grants and media attention.


Monday, August 29, 2016

An Observation

When I was a kid, "farm to table" was called "eating at Grandma's house".

So? Move to the USA. We Could Use a Good Jeet Kune Do Instructor in the Northeast

Exit the Dragon? Kung Fu, Once Central to Hong Kong Life, Is Waning

The Government Fixes Everything, Especially Healthcare

Thanks for your help, politicians.  If this trend continues, and it will, all of us will be government dependents.  We will be easier to control when we have been made economically helpless. 

Well, Considering They're a Generation that Puts Fruit in Beer, This is No Surprise

Whiskey's Next Wave Is Lighter, Mellower, Made for Millennials

As long as Laphroaig is still sold, I'll be content.

And Cost More to Operate

Organic Farms Yield 20% Fewer Crops than Conventional Farms
As shown above, with the exception of hay and possibly peaches, organic crops were produced at substantially lower yields than their conventional counterparts. Organic farms produced roughly 1/3 less wheat and soybean, both important staple crops. Potato production on organic farms was a whopping 62% lower.

This violates the very notion of sustainability. An inefficient food production system that cannot feed everybody is, by definition, not sustainable.

Is There a "Moral Compass" in a Post-Religious World?

Have Americans buried their moral compass and settled for “transactional politics? 

Once again, and as I've mentioned before, this election is, for me, Scylla vs. Charybdis, so resist scolding me about which candidate is better than the other, etc.  However, I found this partisan article in the Financial Times and it caused me to wonder about this notion of a "moral compass" even existing in the 21st century.  After all, as a philosophy colleague once stated, "There is no longer truth, only points of view."

If you think not, remember that the federal government now promotes the view that individuals need not base their gender on biology, but on how they feel self-identify.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Don't Write Sermons

On this day in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" sermon [often called a "speech"].  He had stayed up until 3 a.m. writing it, trying to get it just right.  It did not, in its written form, contain the sentence "I have a dream".

If listening to a recording of the sermon, the listener will hear King pause.  From the moment he speaks those famous words, all that follows is delivered extempore as he surrendered to the Holy Spirit.  Hence, I suspect, its power.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

No Comment

EPA spills again in Colorado

This here.

When People are Encouraged to Ride Bikes in Congested, Heavily Trafficked Cities, This is Going to Happen

Cyclist Deaths in 2016 NYC Already Higher Than All of Last Year

When I was growing up, even though it was against the law, the local police would let us ride on the sidewalks.  Officer [later Sergeant] Plut, our neighborhood beat cop, would tell us he'd rather not see us squished by a car.  Community policing had its advantages, didn't it?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dickey Chapelle



"I want to go as far forward as you will let me."

As it turned out, that was pretty far; as far an anyone could have gone, given the circumstances.

I've been amused of late of Hollywood's surprising lack of creativity when it comes to movie ideas.  I know that there are some really inventive, clever, and literate screenplays lying around producers' offices on the West Coast, but if they leave the desks, I suspect it's for the trash bin.  Creativity and originality require courage, and it is much, much easier to dust off an old idea and pretend, through some prosaic casting, that it's cutting edge and transgressive.  Thus, we wind up with a re-make of Ghostbusters, but with an all-female cast, or Ocean's 11, a re-make of a re-make of a re-make, with an all-female cast, etc.

This is a pity, because there are some true, compelling stories about women that remain largely un-told and, as is surprising in a feminized culture, largely unknown.  One such story is that of Dickey Chapelle's, a photographer who decided, through happenstance and determination, to become a war correspondent.  Ironically, Gender Studies majors in contemporary colleges have not heard of her, but any Marine who has made it through basic knows her story, as she has become part of Corps legend.

She was born one year after the end of World War I as Georgette Louise Meyer, the name that adorns just her birth certificate and her gravestone, as she preferred to be called "Dickey" for reasons she never explained.  After showing herself both intelligent and independent, especially after studying aeronautical engineering at MIT when she was just sixteen, the Milwaukee native was determined to be a professional pilot and aircraft designer.  However, a flirtation with a flyer alarmed her mother, so Dickey was sent to Florida to "live with relatives" for..oh, about nine months or so.  It was around that time that she started experimenting with a camera and discovered a whole new manner in which to be creative.

She moved to New York City to work as a photographer for Trans World Airlines, met Tony Chapelle [of whom history notes little], to whom she was married for fifteen years, and perfected her art.  At the outbreak of the U.S. involvement in World War II, and despite the fact that her photographic portfolio was rather ordinary, Chapelle was hired by National Geographic to be a war correspondent/photographer, mostly with the Marines in Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where she managed to sneak off of a Navy hospital ship with a collection of medics and film the bloodiest fighting of the battle.  While not the only women journalist in the Pacific Theater, she became the most memorable for her desire always to be in the midst of the action.

It was during this period that she composed a wardrobe that would become familiar in war zones and other places of geo-political upheaval:  An Australian slouch [or bush] hat, either olive drab [standard mid-century military green] or leopard print camouflage fatigues, harlequin-style glasses, pearl earrings, and, of course, a variety of cameras. 


After the war, her professional credentials firmly set, Chapelle traveled the world on a variety of assignments.  She met with Fidel Castro in Cuba during the early revolution, traveling with him and his company as they evaded Batista's forces, was captured and held prisoner by the Russians for several weeks during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and, in the early days of America's involvement in Vietnam, in order to better cover this new style of warfare, trained with the paratroopers and added the "jump wings" insignia of both the U.S. and South Vietnamese armies to her hat.

It was in Vietnam that Chapelle, often of a conflicted political ideology, discovered the totalitarian brutality that exists behind the facade of Communism's mandated equality.  Thus, she came to appreciate the work of the early American advisors [mostly Special Forces members] and the Franco-Vietnamese resistance led by the Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Nguyễn Lạc Hoa.  Many of the U.S. media's earliest stories of the Vietnam conflict were illustrated by Chapelle's photos, making her the sentinel of what would be a decade's worth of historic memory. 

Ever one to be in the midst of it all, in 1965, while accompanying a Marine platoon on a reconnaissance mission, a booby trap set off by one of the Marines in front of Chapelle sent a piece of shrapnel through her neck, severing her carotid.  Henri Huet, a French news photographer who was Chapelle's protege in the field, remembered the deliberation with which she approached battlefield events and, with great difficulty, steadied his shaking hands and took a photograph of Chapelle's final moments as she was receiving "last rites" from the Navy chaplain assigned to the company.  She would become the first woman combat reporter to die in action.


Chapelle's remains were returned to the United States, accompanied by a six-member honor guard, and she was given a full Marine Corps burial worthy of the highest ranking general.  As mentioned above, her commitment to her job and her willingness to serve in the midst of the blood earned her a place of reverence in one of the world's most traditional martial organizations.  Her story, and her courage, are still taught to the poolies and butter bars* who wish to display even a portion of that battlefield moxie.

Dickey Chapelle is referenced in a large number of histories and memoirs about Vietnam.  The U.S. Naval Institute's press issued a biography of her, entitled Fire in the Wind, in 2001.  It remains the definitive biography and, while out-of-print, can easily be located in used editions.  Stray copies of her autobiography, What's A Woman Doing Here?, which is also out-of-print, may be found, too.  However, a bound edition of her war photographs, Dickey Chapelle Under Fire, is still available and worth a study.

While she remains virtually unknown in universities and Hollywood, each year the Marine Corps League presents to one woman the Dickey Chapelle Award, which was established "to extend recognition to a woman who has contributed substantially to the morale, welfare and well-being of the officers and men and women of the United States Marine Corps." Within a rather close community of warriors and their families, Chapelle is regarded as something beyond a gender pioneer, photographic artist, or battlefield character.  To quote a bellowing drill instructor whose voice echoes in my memory, "You will revere her name.  She was one of us."


*"Poolies" are those receiving basic training who have not yet ascended to the title of  Marine. "Butter bars" are newly commissioned officers, so named as the insignia for a second lieutenant is a single gold bar.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Point of Accuracy about Epipens

Please forgive my annoying INTJ personality type that causes me to mention this, but the cost of an Epipen is not related to the cheap medication, but to the pen's storage and delivery system that is anything but cheap.  People who are arguing that the medication costs very little and, thus,
the Epipen should be inexpensive are comparing apples to drywall.

Epinephrine is a notoriously unstable pharmaceutical.  The fact that a combination storage and delivery system for such a medication has been invented, and that it can be easily carried and employed in an emergency, even by children, is a remarkable achievement.  That's what one is paying for.

Also, please note that the "Affordable" Care Act includes a new tax on medical devices, which includes the Epipen, so when politicians begin to flatulate about how they're going to fix the problem, remember that they're the ones who created the problem.

A Little-Known Story from WWII

Why US troops risked their lives in WWII to rescue horses kidnapped by Nazis

Then there's this bit of irony, [which unfortunately reminds me of 21st century radical environmentalists who destroy property, hurt people, and call for the end of the human race, yet love animals]:
In one of their first acts in the countries they occupied, German soldiers took over important horse stud farms and riding schools, such as the famed Janow Podlaski Stud Farm in Poland, near the border with Russia, and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which had the world’s most impressive collection of Lipizzaners. “It was a quirk of Nazi philosophy, so inhumane to humans, that animals were treated with the utmost care and kindness,” writes Letts. “In a cruel and ironic twist of fate, the German invaders, whose express aim was to relocate, enslave, massacre and eventually annihilate Poland’s human inhabitants, prized the well-bred Polish horses.”
While I haven't seen it since I was a kid, I remember being entertained by this Disney movie back in the early 1960's that tells a portion of this story: Miracle of the White Stallions.

Princeton in the News

Princeton professor easily hacks voting machine in seven minutes flat

I've hung out with the people in this department at the university and they are the very best at solving problems that seem insoluble.  They used to call themselves the "Gangster Nerds".

Also, a paper ballot can't be hacked.

In College, I Would Have Gladly Played Field Hockey [It Looked Like Fun], but It was 'Gender Exclusive'

Those coaches were a bunch of sexists, clearly.   Nowadays, we have this:

Utah college formally allows men on women's sports teams

Another victory against The Man Woman, man.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Dear Hollywood: It Isn't Evil to Give Toys to Children Who Have Lost Everything

As far as I'm concerned, the presidential election is Scylla vs. Charybdis, but I note this partisan site as it addressed something that had really annoyed me from the day before.

12 actors, journalists and other liberals who mocked Donald Trump for handing out Play-Doh in Baton Rouge

I appreciate that our society, now that it has achieved its non-theistic and nihilistic apex, is divided between those who are right and good and moral [actors and journalists, mostly], and those who disagree with them who are wrong and evil and immoral and need to be hated and mocked at all times, but the criticism of giving toys along with necessities to those in disaster areas is remarkably stupid.

All this does is reveal that people like the actors, journalists, and other "thought leaders" listed have never, ever had anything to do whatsoever with aid work in even its most passive form.  They Tweet, but they don't actually do anything of consequence.  If they did, they would recognize what it means to children and their parents to have something to distract the kids from the horror that surrounds them.

My first effort in relief work was in the mid-1970's when three-quarters of my birth town was destroyed by a series of tornadoes.  I was charged with lifting and carrying boxes, of course, but also with handing out whatever was in them.  Do you know what made me the most popular relief worker in what was left of Xenia, Ohio?  The first box I opened contained coloring books.  Mickey Mouse, mostly.  Oh, and Crayons.

In the midst of death, deprivation, and destruction, the children gained a necessary boost in morale because of some cheap coloring books donated by a Woolworth's in Akron.  Some of them cried tears of delight when they were handed them.  I never forgot that and it's something that, in one form or another, I've heard from others around the world who have worked in places of war or natural disaster.

Who would mock giving Play-Doh to children who have lost every toy, stuffed animal, and tricycle that they possessed, not to mention having lost either loved ones or family friends?  To work through grief with a toy is recognized by the sentient as an important tool in a child's healing process.  To ridicule that is beyond contempt.

The other thing I learned is that Anne Wheaton is a real potty-mouth, despite the fact that her eponymous website is sub-titled "A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way".  That's rich, isn't it?  As was learned in the 1st century A.D. [or C.E.], it is easy to pose as spiritual, but being so requires something beyond pleasant words.

To quote Homer Simpson, "Actors. They know everything."

"How A War Hero Launched A War On Bad Math Instruction"

John Saxon retired from the military in 1970 and began teaching college students. When they couldn’t do basic math, he wrote them a curriculum that millions of children use today.

"Sense of the stars: New telescopes poised to unlock the universe"

We've come a long way from the pits dug 10,000 years ago as a lunar calendar in a field in Scotland. Over the past 30 years alone, telescopes have helped discover the age of the universe, provide visual proof of black holes, confirm nearly 3,500 planets outside the solar system (and photograph them for the first time), see the formation of planets and reveal the life cycle of stars.

Now, three new sky-gazing tools are poised to tell us even more. Each will play a unique role in deciphering the mysteries of astronomy and astrophysics. With them, scientists will have a clearer view into the beginning of time, see the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system and explore the light and radio properties of black holes.

The Chilean telescope will have a lens that will be 80 feet in diameter.

It's the Same With Theology

 "Science isn’t self-correcting, it’s self-destructing. To save the enterprise, scientists must come out of the lab and into the real world."

Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. 

But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong. From metastatic cancer to climate change to growth economics to dietary standards, science that is supposed to yield clarity and solutions is in many instances leading instead to contradiction, controversy, and confusion. Along the way it is also undermining the four-hundred-year-old idea that wise human action can be built on a foundation of independently verifiable truths. 

Science is trapped in a self-destructive vortex; to escape, it will have to abdicate its protected political status and embrace both its limits and its accountability to the rest of society.

Book Review: Having Read It, "Sermonizing Dullard" Would Have Been a Better Title

The Schooldays of Jesus is not, as it happens, about the schooldays of Jesus. It is the Man Booker-nominated sequel to The Childhood of Jesus (which, you guessed it, did not once refer to the childhood of Jesus either). J.M. Coetzee is now so much part of the literary pantheon, so liable to be rewarded by the critical classes and the academic industry surrounding him, that he no longer needs to worry about basics such as having a title that makes sense. 

He should still worry, one feels, about telling a story worth following.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Because of" Instead of "Despite"

Despite threat from ISIS, 100 children receive First Communion in Iraq

Not That Big of a Secret. I've Gone Swimming in It.


Secret Underground Cavern Thought by the Maya to be Portal to the Underworld

Read One, Not the Other

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

and

Nancy Isenberg has produced, in White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, a dreadfully stupid and lazy book. It is badly written, poorly conceived, and incompetently executed. Isenberg would join the long line of American debunkers and would-be debunkers of a familiar and surpassingly tedious sort: “Sure, Americans sent a man to the moon, but what about the United Fruit Company in Guatemala back in 1954? Huh? Huh?”

"What’s in the Games?"

The attractiveness of playing sports is closely connected with the attractiveness of three such basic reasons: aesthetic experience, skillful performance, and play.

Friday, August 19, 2016

So, in Other Words, a Lobby

"Self-Care and the Disappearance of the Adult"

Self-care is less an organized industry than it is an emerging (and maddeningly vague) philosophy of life that is gaining ever larger numbers of devotees, especially online. Tumblr features many posts tagged “self-care” that include advice such as “You are valid” and “Fall deeply in love with yourself.” There are “self-care band-aid tattoos” on offer from a company called Motivational Tattoo that feature uplifting reminders such as “I am enough” and “Calm.”

Something That the Mainstream Media Won't Mention

Because, you know, icky guns and all:

U.S. Women Earn Most Shooting Medals Since ‘84

Another fact that will make the media squirm is that Kim Rhode, our shotgun competitor, has now won medals at six consecutive Olympics.  No one has ever done that in the summer Olympics before.

It's a Ranglin Kind of Day

Not Sure About #5

Top 5 Exercises for Seniors With Arthritis

I Was Never Assigned Stories Like This When I Was Reporting

Omaha dad finds pot brownies, eats 4 of them, says mean things to cat

Cat owners will understand.

It's About Time

Professor solved time-reversal violation

Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Obscure Moment in History

Patty Hearst: The Original Celebrity Radical

How obscure?  A carpenter of my acquaintance recently did some work on her house and had no clue as to who she was.  He's nearly 40, so....

A Professional Wrote This Sentence

“But those who would deride black Milwaukee for lionizing a supposed criminal who had allegedly intimidated a witness over a shooting he was allegedly involved in doesn’t apply either, community activist Vaun Mayes explained.”—Justin Glawe, Daily Beast, Aug. 16

I would have given it to my students to diagram.  Usually, I just vexed them with some of St. Paul's sentences.

One of Our Less Admirable Traditions

An Episcopal priest in Oregon inserted himself into a gun controversy – actually, created one – and then he acted shocked, shocked at the public blowback.

Clergy will take what is, in their own church, a non-controversial stance in order to attract negative attention from the outside world and then label those who disagree with them as morally inferior; or, in this case, as "critics and trolls...lobbing their hate and vitriol."  It's an old game that we clergy have played for as long as I've been ordained.  Longer, really, and one that has been perfected through social media.

Stirring up anger and diminishing the human dignity of those with whom we disagree is not helpful in proclamation.  I used to think that, even in the midst of such controversies, we were better than this.  I may be showing my age maturity, perhaps.

[Also, I'd think twice about using a rector's discretionary fund for such purposes.  Not only is the money donated to that fund intended to help the hungry, poor, and otherwise disadvantaged, but there are canonical laws regulating its use.  Take advice from this senior cleric and use your own money when making a quixotic, attention-getting gesture.]

No Surprise, Really, Considering What the EPA Did to the Navajo

The official in charge of a White House initiative on American Indian education allegedly pummeled a Native American student who was visiting Washington, D.C., for displaying his support for the Washington Redskins.

By way of information, a lot of tribal youths have taken to wearing Redskins jerseys and other apparel as a way of confirming and reinforcing their racial identity and not necessarily because they are fans of Washington's team.  I would expect the Obama White House, the most racially sensitive and identity boosting administration ever, would be aware of this.  Certainly, I would expect it from the Herbert in charge of the "White House initiative on American Indian education".

Also, the kid was autistic, so give him a break, willya?

For more information on the U.S. government's recent poisoning of the Navajo tribe's water supply, please read these.

Speaking as a tribal member, although not of the Navajo, I've found the current administration the most hostile to American Indians since Abraham Lincoln's.

The "Swimmers" in the Louisiana Floods, Not So Much

vox populi vox dei

Since the government and its media aren't all that interested in this [hey, the Olympics are on; and Donald Trump!], I'm pleased to see that, left to their own devices, the average American can respond in ways that the bureaucratic Leviathan cannot:

They're out in force, patrolling in jon boats, motorboats and even canoes through south Louisiana's new, flood-made waterways, saving cats, dogs and people.

They're known as the "Cajun Navy," and in recent days they've become possibly the nation's most important neighborhood watch.

It reminded me of this moment, one in which, I'm modest to note, I participated:

American Dunkirk: People at Ground Zero, the Manhattan Waterfront, nearby New Jersey, Staten Island and Brooklyn waterfronts, and crews on the numerous vessels repeatedly used the phrases "just amazing," "everyone cooperated, and "just doing what it took" to describe maritime community responses. Individuals stepped up and took charge of specific functions, and captains and crews from other companies took their direction. . . . Private maritime operators kept their vessels onsite and available until Friday, Day Four, when federal authorities took over.

Is there anything more chilling than the words "federal authorities took over"?

One of the Waves I'm Going to Visit This Fall; And I Do Mean Fall

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Media Loves Stories about Olympians, Until They Mention Their Christianity

My acquaintances at GetReligion have made note of this Christianophobia by omission.

Washington Post cuts 'Sacred Heart': Yes, Katie Ledecky had help reaching her golden goals

and

What. It. All. Means. Simone Manuel keeps trying to tell the world her whole story

Reporters in my day [I'm so old] would have never thrown away good stories like this, and certainly not over a snobbish disdain for Christians.

[An aside: Karch Kiraly, the coach of the USA Women's Volleyball Team, and the only volleyballer to have won Olympic gold medals in both beach and indoor volleyball, is an Episcopalian.]

"Why Character No Longer Counts in Presidential Biographies for Children"

Contrary to the modern view that we must see ourselves—our gender, our class, or culture—in everything we read, biography showcases our differences and yet asks us to admire lives and achievements we can never exactly emulate. A good biography says: I do not have to be like you—look like you, speak like you, have been raised like you, have been hurt as you have hurt, or be interested in the same things as you—to learn as you have learned.

The value of the biography is seeing the landscape of a life—the backdrop of time and place and circumstances—overlaid with the portrait of the individual whose path is shaped by chance and drive, by great purposes and un-chosen events.

Sophomoric Social Discourse is Merely Another Symptom of Terminal Nihilism

The process went something like this: Someone said something on Fox News that mainstream liberalism didn’t like; Stewart and/or Colbert aired a sustained critique of the idea and the thinking behind it; liberal internet publications hailed it as the greatest rhetorical victory since Darrow argued for Scopes; liberals’ Facebook feeds full of liberal friends filled up with clips of the takedown. No one learned anything, no one engaged with an idea, and nothing outside of a very specific set of ideas was given any real credence. As Emmet Rensin so perfectly put it:
Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy. … Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style … and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that is opponents were, before anything else, stupid.
As Rensin deftly discerns, this sort of intellectual elitism is probably part of the reason that the Democratic Party went from getting 66 percent of the manual laborer vote in 1948 to outpolling the GOP by just 2 points in 2012. It’s the inevitable consequence of eight years of reducing George W. Bush and all of his supporters to dumbass hicks, and choosing to denigrate the poor and uneducated (if only they read The Atlantic!), rather than doing real outreach to them.

This is a standard theological particle in desiccated, contemporary Protestantism, too: The smug insiders barely tolerating those who don't use the same words or think the same thoughts as the powers-that-be. Like our society, the Church will die with a whimper because of it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Moment of Irony

In the same day, I received notice from ecclesial authority that we should be using our parochial resources to aid Muslims immigrating into the area and, in another notice, that a neighboring Episcopal parish was closing as there were insufficient resources to aid them.

Today's the Anniversary of Robert Johnson's Mysterious Death

Robert Johnson: Aug. 16 Marks 78th Anniversary of Late Blues Singer and Musician's Death:
Robert Leroy Johnson was an American singer-songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that changed blues forever, and were a major influence on later generations. The mysterious, mythical chronicles of his life and death at age 27 have given rise to legend, including the Faustian myth that he sold his soul at a crossroads to achieve success.
My in-laws lived just off of Route 61, not too far south from its intersection with Route 49, the crossroads where, one midnight, Johnson pledged his soul to Satan in return for his singular ability to play the guitar.  I visited the spot once, although not at midnight.  That was probably a good idea since, while I was musing on Johnson's legacy, a barking dog startled me and gave me the willies.  That was in broad daylight, imagine what it would have been like after dark.

[According to the myth, it's the hellhounds that come for you when it's time for your soul to be collected.]

I'm Right Here. Jeez.

Harper's: What became of the Christian intellectuals?

In seriousness, this has been the missing piece in contemporary culture and we're feeling its effects.

Archaeological News: Old Gold

Smithsonian: A small gold bead shows that Copper Age people in the Balkans were processing gold 6,500 years ago

Affirmed

Washington Post: Lawns are a soul-crushing timesuck and most of us would be better off without them

I replaced my small front yard with plantings that need only 10% of the water of a lawn and never require mowing, saving gas or, in my case, electricity.  Thus, I have signaled my virtue.

Hence, Their Lack of Interest in Serving the Rest of Us

The median net worth of lawmakers was just over $1 million in 2013, or 18 times the wealth of the typical American household, according to new research released Monday by the Center for Responsive Politics.

And while Americans' median wealth is down 43% since 2007, Congress members' net worth has jumped 28%.

They've got theirs, the rest of us are on our own.

Monday, August 15, 2016

St. Mary The Virgin



[This was originally written in the summer of 1998; I can't recall if it was for a parish newsletter or some other publication.  Anyway, it's a good day to get in the water, regardless of weather or temperature.]

It arrives every summer.  It's a package that is usually mailed from Ocean City, a barrier island in southern New Jersey.  It's a heavy package.  I always forget that it's coming, although I'm not sure why, since it is an annual event.  In the package is a container (it's different every year; sometimes it's a used soda bottle, sometimes an inexpensive thermos) filled with seawater. 

It is, as anyone would agree, a strange gift to receive.  Certainly my wife felt that way the first summer of our marriage when she got to the mail before I did.  "Your mother sent us some...water, I think."  Seawater doesn't travel well in the summer heat.  It grows things during transit.  Maybe that's the point.  The reason that she sends it to me, and has done so for as long as I've lived away from home, is because of August 15th.  Actually, that's the secular date.  On the church calendar, it’s the Feast of the Assumption of St. Mary the Virgin.  On that day, all of the seawater in the world is considered holy water.  It is an old European custom and, as my father jokingly reminds me, my mother is an old European.  Once a year, she travels to the ocean, steps into the water, fills containers for my sibling, my nieces, my nephew, and me.  We get them right before the beginning of the school year (as I’m from a family of educators, the new year begins in September) as reminders of…something.

The connection between water and holiness is ancient and complicated.  As is water with our physical being, God is the key element of our spiritual being.  God is necessary for our life and present with us in a multiplicity of forms.  As with water, so with God; things grow in the relationship.  To this day, in seashore areas around the continent of Europe, families make their pilgrimage to the Atlantic or the Mediterranean.  While others run into the water in recreation, Christians do so on the Feast of the Assumption as part of their spiritual re-creation.  They seek to be reminded of the ways in which we are borne by God; immersed in the great, deep, and liberating mystery.  They find themselves, as we all do, afloat on grace; ever present, ever abiding, and all surrounding.  Perhaps the relationship between humans and the sea was best captured by the author Joseph Conrad who, before he became one of the greatest writers in the English language, was a commercial ship’s captain.  He once wrote "...the sea is a mystery, deep and impenetrable.  We are borne on it, knowing it as impassive yet passionate.  We can never completely know it as we cannot completely know the Almighty."

Last year it was a soda bottle sealed with duct tape.  In a filtered state, it will be part of the holy water that I use in baptisms and at the Great Vigil of Easter.  I do this to honor the feast day and because there are occasions when I need to be reminded of the unfolding mystery that surrounds us and the grace that supports us.

It’s also because, as I am reminded every year at this time, things grow in it.

A Tempting Metaphor

US monuments are getting covered in slime, and no one knows how to stop it

Everything You Know is Wrong

New York Times: We’re So Confused: The Problems With Food and Exercise Studies

Actually, it's multiple problems:

1.  Contemporary journalism is terrible.
2.  Contemporary research science is terrible.
3.  Everything, EVERYTHING is politicized, especially journalism and science.
4.  Hence, information is disseminated not to reveal the truth, but to persuade and coerce individual perception into one mass opinion that benefits those who live off of power and graft.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tom Blake

Blake and a collection of his surfboards, which probably earned their own garage.
Travel Agent:  I have some good news about your flight from Sydney.
Me:  How much will this good news cost?
Agent: The same price as before.  I can get you a connection in Honolulu that's almost immediate.  You won't have to wait very long to take off again.
Me:  No, that won't do.
Agent:  It will save...what?
Me:  I need time between flights.  At least six hours.  Maybe eight.
Agent:  Really?
Me:  Yes.  How far is Waikiki from the airport?  I might need ten to twelve hours.
Agent:  You want to go to the...beach?
Me:  Sort of.  I want to go to the surf.
Agent:  [Awkward pause].
Me:  It's because of Tom Blake.
Agent:  Is he a friend of yours?
Me:  In a manner of speaking, yes.  It's important to ride at least one wave at Waikiki in honor of Tom.
Agent: Um...okay.  That will cost more, then.
Tom Blake was and is a metaphoric friend to all surfers, and is also the reason why a distinctly Polynesian/Hawaiian pastime became more strongly associated with fair-haired, fair-skinned guys from the mainland.  He is, to use a term common in theology, philosophy, and physics, the nexus, or point of connection, between an ancient cultural hobby and the billion dollar contemporary industry that promotes both surfing and the "surf lifestyle".

Blake was born in 1902 in that surf mecca of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  [It's notable that, while many people surf in Waikiki just because of its association with Blake, I know of no one who visits Milwaukee for the same reason.]  Before his first birthday, his mother died of tuberculosis and his father, working several jobs at the time, left the infant Tom in the care of relations.  He sublimated his sense of abandonment, and the effects of some vague, unnamed childhood trauma, by learning to swim, devoting himself to water sports, and setting speed records in the local swimming pools.  [An aside: I knew an adult who had been an abused child and who also loved to swim in pools, lakes, and the ocean.  He would appear to others to be virtually emotionless, but when underwater would release screams and tears.]  His lack of a rooted upbringing lead him to a nomadic life in his late teens, as he traveled the country by rail and through hitchhiking, working a variety of menial jobs from one coast to the other.

When he was eighteen, a seminal and impressionistic age in the lives of many, during his travels he encountered the person who would alter his life in ways that were, I'm sure, unimaginable.  In 1920, he met Duke Kahanamoku in Detroit when the kahuna of surfing was on a tour of the United States.  Blake was attending a newsreel in a theater that was showing films of the U.S. Swim Team's successes in the Belgium Olympics earlier that year, an event made special as Kahanamoku and some fellow Hawaiians appeared in the lobby to display Duke's gold medal.  In a moment of profound happenstance, Blake introduced himself and shook Kahanamoku's hand, thus beginning a friendship that would unfold over several decades.

Blake's travels eventually led him to Los Angeles where, due to his swimming aptitude, he earned jobs at the Los Angeles Athletic Club and Santa Monica Swimming Club, and with those a place to train for competition.  Within a year, he would set a swimming record at a national AAU meet and become a sensation in what was still a rather intimate world of athletic achievement.  A trip to the beach in Santa Monica in 1924 encouraged Blake to try surfing for the first time, as a tight cadre of early surfers, inspired by Kahanamoku, had taken to building and riding their own alaia boards off the beaches of L.A. and Orange Counties.  Blake took a simple redwood plank, entered the water and, as he had with speed swimming, made surfing his own.  Later that year he would board a tramp steamer and head for Honolulu, beginning a special, lifelong relationship with Hawaii and the Hawaiians.

This was facilitated by the renewed acquaintance with Kahanamoku, who recognized Blake's talent and reverence for the sea and saw to it that he was invited to join the traditional surfing and canoeing clubs, organizations that had never accepted a non-Hawaiian before.  As Blake noted in his book, Hawaiian Surfboard,
Waikiki beach has been kind to me. The native Hawaiians have been kind. I have had the honor of riding the big surfs with these Hawaiians - I have sat at their luaus - watched their most beautiful women dance the hulas - I have been invited into their exclusive Hui Nalu surfriding club - a club for natives only. I have held the honor position (bow seat) riding waves in the outrigger canoe - the honor position (holding down the outrigger) on the sailing canoe. I have been initiated into the secrets of spear fishing far out on the coral reefs.
If Blake had just been responsible for popularizing surfing in mainstream culture, that alone would have made him irreplaceable in the pantheon of surfers, but his commitment to surfing as a manner of life, of a union of body, mind, and spirit, was so total and holistic that it enabled an athletic pursuit to become a manner of life and being.  Just a few of Blake's early accomplishments display his considerable contributions:

1922 – set the world swimming record in the ten mile open
1926 – first person to surf Malibu
1926 – invented the hollow surfboard
1928 – won the first Pacific Coast Surfriding Championship
1928 – invented the hollow paddleboard
1929 – invented the water-proof camera housing
1931 – invented the sailboard
1931 – patented & manufactured the first production surfboard
1932 – won the Catalina Paddleboard Race
1935 – invented the surfboard fin
1935 – published the first book solely devoted to surfing, Hawaiian Surfboard
1937 – produced & patented the first torpedo buoy and rescue ring

1940s – first production sailboards, leader in physical fitness and the importance of natural foods and a healthy diet

At the outbreak of World War II, having been too young to enlist during World War I, the 40-year-old Blake was accepted into the U.S. Coast Guard where he commanded a search and rescue unit and pioneered the earliest techniques in lifesaving at sea.  His foundational standards and practices are still taught at the Coast Guard Academy in New London and at the National Search and Rescue School in Virginia.

Even Surfer magazine, which tends to appreciate mostly the young, contemporary competitors and is slavishly devoted to their sponsors [and Surfer's advertisers], recognized the fullness of Tom Blake's life and style:
Blake was autodidactic, a self-taught man and a wealth of knowledge. His contributions to surfboard design are immeasurable. From his varied inventions to his progressive templates, his biggest impact in surfing can be whittled down to the work he did with those era-defining boards. He made the first hollow board ever, calling it first a cigar box then later a kook box. The fin, a keel of sorts for the giant boards of the era, was his brainchild, as was the leash, which he at first attached around his waist. He invented the sailboard, which in itself invented windsurfing, and then there was the collapsible surfboard experiment, which is only worth mentioning out of novelty. He was doing so much on the water he wanted it documented, so he created the first waterproof camera housing, changing surf photography and kick starting what was probably the early genesis of a movement to compile those photos in a magazine with words written about them and thus, in essence, creating my job.
Blake believed that what mattered the most in all things was simplicity.  Whether in his technique, his life, or in his many surfboard designs, this was certainly his theme.  He lived in Malibu in a small house with only one chair and dinner place-setting, dispensing with the gifts and awards he had been presented as they seemed an unnatural clutter.  At the age of 55, he stopped surfing and eventually returned to Wisconsin, where he lived in the great woods until his death at 92.

For all of the elaborate structure that now surrounds surfing, with all of its bilious noise and color, it was for him as it was for those original Hawaiians:  A way to feel the rhythm of nature and find, within that natural cadence, peace with oneself.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

That's for Dang Sure

Washington Post: As seen at the Olympics, there is still a lot of ignorance about adoption
When Olympic gymnast Simone Biles speaks of her mother and father who raised her, people recognize that they seem like lovely people who have supported her career from the beginning. The type of people who drive any matter of distances at the crack of dawn to get their daughter to practices. The kind of people who make the financial sacrifices so their child can fulfill her dream of becoming a gymnast. People who can remember precisely which pair of jeans they were wearing when they got the call to meet their child at the emergency room following an injury, or what dinner was left to burn on the stove when they were called to pick up their child from summer camp where she caught a bad case of the chicken pox.
That’s what parents do. And yet watching interview after interview, I see this young woman forced to answer reporters that while Ron and Nellie are biologically her grandparents, they are truly her mother and father. They changed her diapers. They didn’t sleep as they kept watch over her fevers. They signed the report cards and permission slips and quizzed her on her math facts and spelling words. For some reason, reporters insist on reminding Simone that her mother’s name is Shanon. Ever the diplomat, she kindly corrects the error and clarifies that while Shanon is biologically her mother, Nellie is mom.

Archaeological News: A Mayan Primer

Things you didn't know about the Maya

A Sad, Typical Story Out of a 'Progressive' City, But That's Not What Caught my Attention

It's that the homeless woman in the banner photo is a former student of mine.  At a school, I might add, that cost the equivalent of a new sedan each year in tuition.  Homelessness and what leads to it are trans-social.

Homeless tent city on Division starting to intimidate neighbors

In Another Olympic Moment, Communists are Sensitive

CHINESE state-run media blasted Australian swimmer Mack Horton as immoral and his nation as a former “offshore prison” Monday, after he referred to homegrown star Sun Yang as a drugs cheat.

Monday, August 8, 2016

This NBC Fellow is So Dim He May Need to Be Watered a Few Times a Week

Clueless NBC Gymnastics Announcer: Simone Biles' Adoptive Parents 'NOT Her Parents'

As the brother to one adoptee and the husband to another, I regret to find this tired, painfully familiar prejudice still in existence.  I recall what people were like to my sister, the foul things that were sometimes said, and have heard tales of similar experiences from my wife.

Jeez, Now It's the Buddhists Who Are After Us

Christianity Grows In Myanmar Despite Persecution
That's resulted in an uptick of Christian persecution by Myanmar nationals. Morning Star news reports that some Christians are being evicted from their own church property for the construction of a Buddhist pagoda. St. Mark Anglican Church members in the southeastern Karen State are being targeted, for the third time, by a monk named U Thuzana.

There's That Olympic Spirit We Hear So Much About

Lebanese Olympics team stops Israelis from boarding shared bus

Archaeological News: King Arthur

Dark Ages Palace Unearthed At King Arthur's Alleged Birthplace

Sunday, August 7, 2016

From the Rector's Bookshelf


The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians
If you want to know why American Indians have the highest rates of poverty of any racial group, why suicide is the leading cause of death among Indian men, why native women are two and a half times more likely to be raped than the national average and why gang violence affects American Indian youth more than any other group, do not look to history. There is no doubt that white settlers devastated Indian communities in the 19th, and early 20th centuries. But it is our policies today—denying Indians ownership of their land, refusing them access to the free market and failing to provide the police and legal protections due to them as American citizens—that have turned reservations into small third-world countries in the middle of the richest and freest nation on earth.
The tragedy of our Indian policies demands reexamination immediately—not only because they make the lives of millions of American citizens harder and more dangerous—but also because they represent a microcosm of everything that has gone wrong with modern liberalism. They are the result of decades of politicians and bureaucrats showering a victimized people with money and cultural sensitivity instead of what they truly need—the education, the legal protections and the autonomy to improve their own situation.
If we are really ready to have a conversation about American Indians, it is time to stop bickering about the names of football teams and institute real reforms that will bring to an end this ongoing national shame.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The BBC's Closed Caption Writer has a Small Breakdown During Opening Ceremonies

Now It's The Greens Who Have Become Self-Aware

As Corn Devours U.S. Prairies, Greens Reconsider Biofuel Mandate

We Have No Shortage of Nannies These Days; Just Look at Our Political Class

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. - C.S. Lewis

The Buckeye State Wins Again

Ohio University to Get North America's First Pizza ATM

I know it's just a vending machine filled with salty ketchup on cardboard, but don't tell the college kids.  It might trigger them into a safe zone.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Obit of the Month. Maybe the Year.


This guy was loved so much both wife, girlfriend place obits in newspaper

Hogans

One of the moments when I knew it was time to say the long goodbye to church work was when I tried to convince a congregation to donate towards improved housing in the Diocese of Navajoland [now known as The Episcopal Church of Navajoland, because why not?] as the reservation was filled with homes such as these.  Yes, people live in them and raise families there, too.



The traditional name for a Navajo domicile is "hogan", a word that caused the white people to giggle some.  This is an unknown world for them, and I should have realized that life on the res is far, far different than life in an expensive little town in tony Connecticut.  There was no way that I could cause them, even via Christian impulse, to find any connection to our brothers and sisters-in-Christ among the Episcopalians of the Four Corners that would elicit a contribution.  I guess I can still have moments of naivete, even after all of these years.

Fortunately, a member of the parish made an anonymous donation on behalf of our parish, so I was happy to receive this photo in the mail today:


Remarkable what $1000 can do outside of tax-laden, over-priced Connecticut, isn't it?  You can actually help other people.

Here's a New Term: Christianophobia

Missionary Attacked in Spain: ‘Be Afraid of Me, I’m an Arab’

As an Old Boss of Mine Once Said, "People are Interested in Anything That's Interesting"

Which rather explains this bit of stuff from Gallup:

Americans' Interest in Watching Olympics Tumbles to New Low

Archaeological News: The Tullianum Dungeon

Archaeologists reveal secrets of Roman prison that held both Christian saints and Jewish rebels

There May Be Good Money in This

The hero who’s taking Pokémon Go fools to court

I don't know, I think he's less a hero than a cranky, old man who seems a little scabrous to the press.

This is How Protestantism Dies

Nowadays, in order to be a Methodist, one must believe not just in the salvific grace of Holy Scripture, but in Goreian Global Warming, which has apparently been elevated to the sacred regard.  From the Methodist Church's latest statement of belief:
The whole earth is God’s good creation and as such has inherent value. We are aware that the current utilization of energy resources threatens this creation at its very foundation. As members of The United Methodist Church we are committed to approaching creation, energy production, and especially creation’s resources in a responsible, careful and economic way. We call upon all to take measures to save energy. Everybody should adapt his or her lifestyle to the average consumption of energy that respects the limits of the planet earth. We encourage persons to limit CO2 emissions toward the goal of one tonne per person annually. We strongly advocate for the priority of the development of renewable energies. The deposits of carbon, oil, and gas resources are limited and their continuous utilization accelerates global warming. The use of nuclear power is no solution for avoiding CO2 emissions. Nuclear power plants are vulnerable, unsafe, and potential health risks. A safe, permanent storage of nuclear waste cannot be guaranteed. It is therefore not responsible to future generations to operate them. The production of agricultural fuels and the use of biomass plants rank lower than the provision of safe food supplies and the continued existence for small farming businesses.

Saw "Scary Lucy" Last Year on My Way to Ohio. She was Aptly Named.

New Lucille Ball Statue Replacing "Scary Lucy" to Be Unveiled Saturday

Q: Who Could Have Predicted This? A: Anyone with Sense.

In other words, anyone but administrators and the toxically narcissistic student protesters.

College Students Protest, Alumni’s Fondness Fades and Checks Shrink

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

21st Century Wizardry


A digitally cleaned, colorized photo, and not of a Vanity Fair model. This is Lewis Powell upon his arrest for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.  It was taken in April of 1865, which was, as it turned out, the last year of his life. Neat, huh?

Or, How to Reduce My Colleagues to a Stuttering Rage in Seven Words

Time: 6 Feminist Myths That Will Not Die

Monday, August 1, 2016

I Watched Three Middle-School Boys Wander Around the Churchyard This Morning Holding Their Phones in Front of Their Faces; Yep, It was Pokemon Go

Here's a weekly round-up of Pokemon Madness.  The fourth one is my favorite:

A 62-year-old upstate New York man got stuck in waist-deep mud behind his house at 2 a.m. Sunday while playing Pokémon Go, reports AP. The man called 911 using the same phone on which he was playing the game and directed rescuers to his location through thick woods by pinging a police officer’s phone.
________________
A Toronto woman called area police to report nearly being hit by a car while playing Pokémon Go, reports CBC News. While police questioned the pedestrian, the driver returned to the intersection and told police he also was playing Pokémon Go at the time of the incident. Police declined to press charges because no collision occurred, but they have warned drivers not to play the game while behind the wheel and have asked pedestrians to be more aware of their surroundings while playing the game when crossing streets.
_________________
A Brewer, Maine, woman has been arrested and accused of ramming her car into a Pokémon Go player and speeding off, police say. Jeannie Chapman, 37, allegedly drove her car toward a Pokémon Go-playing pedestrian in a crosswalk in Bangor, Maine, and when the pedestrian did not move quickly enough, she backed up, then sped forward and hit the man, the Bangor Daily News reports. Bystanders took down Chapman’s license plate number and gave it to police. Nearby off-duty paramedics, who were also both playing Pokémon Go, administered first-aid. Chapman has been charged with aggravated assault, a crime that carries up to 10 years in prison, and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, which carries up to five years.
__________________
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings has asked Pokémon Go developer Niantic to keep Pokémon out of the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone, the Guardian reports. A 2011 tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people also damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Japanese government created a protective zone around the plant and evacuated nearby residents. But the power company this week said its employees have tested the exclusion zone and found Pokémon there. The company has banned its employees from playing the game on the site and heightened security after three American teens mistakenly wandered into a nuclear power plant in Ohio last week.

World-Wide Wealth, Freedom, and Technological Advancement Shouldn't Be Controversial

Top 10 Things The British Empire Got Right

Australia is Hard to Pin Down

Australia's GPS Was Off Because the Whole Country Moved

Fear of "The Other" Will Prevail

Behold the Democrats: party of the people, party of progress, party of the perpetually aggrieved. In Philadelphia on Monday, they kicked off their quadrennial convention, in the process reminding everyone that they are also the party in power. The task before them is formidable: to sell Americans on the notion that eight years of Democratic rule have left the country better off, while at the same time convincing swing voters in Ohio and Florida that a host of ills—from patriarchy and institutional racism to corporate greed and police brutality—plague us still, and require ever greater levels of government intervention to solve.