Saturday, October 14, 2017

KAUAI SURFER BITTEN BY 10-FOOT TIGER SHARK

"I was outside of the waves, just waiting for a set wave to come in,” Milan told Hawaii News Now,” “and all of a sudden, my worst nightmare. Any surfer’s worst nightmare.”

No, The Missionaries Did Not Ban Surfing

This is one of those falsehoods that confirms the adolescent dislike of Christianity ["Organized religion" is one of the most idiotic labels ever developed.  It's like saying something is an "organized system."  Is there such a thing as an un-organized system?] that is often held by youth, adults whose spiritual thinking ended in childhood, and university instructors.  It is a lie that has, through thoughtless repetition, taken on the veneer of truth.

In reality, as the Christian missionaries to the Sandwich Islands brought modern health treatments and medicine with them, they found an epidemic of venereal disease among the islanders.  One of the reasons traditional societies emphasized marriage and fidelity, other than the most obvious of providing a solid psychological foundation for progeny, was to reduce the spread of disease.  The "free love" practiced by the native population, while traditional and certainly popular with visiting sailors, also permitted the rampant spread of debilitating and fatal disease.

This had nothing to do with their prurience and had absolutely nothing to do with surfing.  I satisfied my curiosity about this last year in a visit with the scholars at The Bishop Museum in Honolulu, who showed me letters from Hiram Bingham's fellow missionaries, as well as Bingham himself, where the missionaries spoke admiringly of the practice of surfing and even mentioned participating in it.

Anyway, here's a collection of quotations from writings contemporary to the missinoary age in what became Hawaii:

Did the Missionaries really stop Surfing in Hawai╩╗i, as we are most often led to believe?Invariably there are definitive statements that the missionaries “banned” and/or “abolished” surfing, hula, even speaking the Hawaiian language.However, in taking a closer look into the matter, most would likely come to a different conclusion.

Friday, October 13, 2017

John Fairfax and Sylvia Cook

"Because almost anybody with a little bit of know-how can sail. I'm after a battle with nature, primitive and raw." 

The British have a love of eccentric hobbies, a love that is ratified through organizations that indulge their unusual avocations. When I lived in the U.K, I was invited to join a group that collected matchbooks, one that studied the type of cobbles used in ancient walkways, and another that was dedicated to proving that the Earth was indeed flat. There is even a group dedicated to “drainspotting”; that is, taking photos of unusual manhole covers and posting them on the Internet. Disturbingly, the favored candidate for election as Britain’s prime minister is a member of that latter group.

Save for a rather standard interest in the poker club that met in the glorified closet that was the ski club room at Edinburgh’s Royal High School [my cousin was the team captain and had the key], I resisted these baubles.

However, there was rowing, a sport to which I account my rather broad shoulders and their upper-middle-aged tendency to snap, crackle, and pop when I first get up in the morning. I enjoyed those early mornings in a scull along the Water of Leith, but only to the point of mild eccentricity. When I met members of The Ocean Rowing Society at an ancient competition, I discovered the nexus between eccentricity and demented devotion. Not only did they promote, and continue to do so, the sport of casual rowing, but they also encourage the madness of crossing the oceans in rowboats.

There is eccentricity, but that has a certain splendor to it.

The “patron saints” of this pursuit are a couple of characters who are among the final members of that body of adventurous Brits whom I recall admiring during my formative years. These were people, now difficult to find, who desired not to recognize limits for human endeavor, but to strive in all things to discover what may be outside the margins of common existence.

John Fairfax was born in 1937 to an English father and a Bulgarian mother. Because of Fairfax elder’s work, they lived in Italy. It is here that I should warn the reader that, personally, I suspect much of Fairfax’s accounts of his youth require the ingestion of a rather large amount of sodium. Without comment as to their veracity, he would tell people that he was kicked out of the Italian Boy Scouts for firing a pistol at members of another troop, that he would move to Argentina with his mother and live off the land like a jungle boy, that he would join a band of smugglers and pirates, etc. I really haven’t the energy to log all of this bosh.

Two bits of information that I don’t doubt are 1.) He was inspired by the account of two Norwegians who, in 1896, managed to row across the Atlantic Ocean and 2.) Was equally inspired by the rowboat crossing of John Ridgway and Chay Blyth in 1966.  [If the reader follows the link, he or she may see what those two got up to a couple of years later.]

Ridgway and Blyth were very much in the news during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  They were, along with Sir Francis Chichester, considered to be the eminent watermen of the period, especially as they both rowed across the Atlantic and participated among the few competitors in the first sailboat race of solo circumnavigators. While Fairfax gave many vague reasons for his interest in crossing the Atlantic, I can’t help but think that attention and publicity had something to do with it. This is not a criticism, by the way, as I find that much of human achievement, especially in the broad realm of “adventure”, is encouraged by these twin desires.

So, in London by his early thirties, and not having very much money or any sort of career to speak of, Fairfax trusted his luck and managed to find housing, a small income through legal gambling, and enough leisure to begin training to satisfy what was then a rather singular desire to be the first person to row solo across the Atlantic. Whereas these days there would be all sorts of high technical training devices and strategies, Fairfax made do with daily outings in a rented rowboat on The Serpentine, the lake in Hyde Park that is mostly used by couples floating about with picnic baskets and children sailing small, model ships. The days he favored for training were those when the weather was so bad that he’d be the only one in the water.

Also, through the circumstance of a bold introduction, he made the acquaintance of Uffa Fox, the sailing buddy of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the designer of many of the sailing craft familiar even in our day. Fox was intrigued by Fairfax’s passion and plans, even if they did seem a tad naive, and was willing to design a rowboat of singular qualities for the journey. He was not, however, impressed by Fairfax's budget, which was nil, so considerable negotiation was necessary, especially in the solicitation of sponsors for the journey. Eventually, enough were found that Fox presented him with the 22-foot, mahogany, self-righting, self-bailing, technological marvel that would be christened “Britannia”. 


However, it wasn’t just donations that were gained through Fairfax’s series of classified newspaper inquiries. An avocational rower, with a dull job, no money, and a fresh divorce, found the ads intriguing and responded. Sylvia Cook would become an indispensable addition to the team and, eventually, to a subsequent adventure.

Other negotiations were necessary as Cook, who, while enamored of the romance of the odyssey, was also a bit alarmed at the off-handedness of the planning and nudged Fairfax into studying celestial navigation, soliciting the donation of a proper radio, and finding ways to store enough food to keep a man healthy enough to do nothing but row a boat for several months. He also consulted with a company that provided food for mountaineers that, while virtually taste-free, would provide enough daily calories to keep rowing. Still, compared with the equipment and supplies that contemporary ocean rowers use, Fairfax was practically paleolithic.

Since Fairfax was British by birth, he did carry with him an impressive supply of brandy on the rowboat, too.


Fairfax, along with Cook, traveled to Spain’s Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, and launched Britannia on January 20, 1969 to no fanfare whatsoever. It’s just as well, since Fairfax discovered quickly that rowing in the Atlantic was different than rowing The Serpentine. His departure was not so much of an epic poem by Byron than a short comedy by The Three Stooges. Still, for better or worse, he was off.

Fairfax made it from the harbor and out into the open ocean where he would live by his physical ability and wits on brandy, food bars, sharks and other fish that he caught, and whatever donations that he could encourage from passing ships. From time to time, he would even go aboard freighters to enjoy a shower.

One hundred and eighty days later, much thinner and having laced the edges of madness born from loneliness and fatigue, Fairfax encountered some American good old boys, out bombing around the coast of Florida ostensibly looking for fish to catch, who had sighted the Britannia and gave Fairfax the good news that he was almost at his journey’s end. Refusing a tow, determined by row to the beach under his own power, Fairfax crunched the sand in Hollywood, Florida on July 19th. Waiting there for him was Sylvia Cook. Oh, and some members of the press and a pleasant note from the crew of Apollo 11 who had, just the day before, been the first humans to walk on the Moon.


I would mention that, had he been just eight days slower, the record for the first solo rowboat crossing of the Atlantic would have fallen to Tom McClean, also of Britain, who had left Newfoundland in April and, because he was actually a life-long rower who had planned a smarter route, made it to Ireland in just two months.

Naturally, Fairfax had made his point and was determined not to do anything so “bloody stupid” ever again. Just as naturally, two years later, he would begin to row across the Pacific, this time with the companionship of Sylvia Cook.


A note for younger readers: It was considered a bit scandalous for these two to have been cohabiting without benefit of marriage. While common today, in the late sixties and early seventies it was an outr├ę notion. In those days, marriage licenses often had to be presented by younger couples when checking into a motel or hotel to prove their status. Apartments expected the same and in certain municipalities it was illegal for a man and woman to live together without the imprimatur of court or church.

This lent an exotic quality to the Fairfax/Cook adventures, which intoxicated the media, but also placed them in an awkward position. In order not to be accused of supporting a questionable lifestyle, they were forced by convention to present Fairfax and Cook as a pair of platonic adventurers, however with subtle innuendo about what the two might be doing during idle hours in the Pacific.

On April 26, 1971, Fairfax and Cook left San Francisco in the next version of Uffa Fox’s product, the Britannia II, to be the first people to row across the Pacific Ocean. The entire journey would take them almost a year.


Having driven for ten hours in heavy traffic and bad weather in a car with my wife, I can only imagine the stresses on their relationship that would have been caused by such an ordeal. Also, having myself sailed from Seattle to Sydney, the Pacific is larger than one can imagine and, during my three and one-half week voyage, when not near a port, I think we ever only saw one other ship. As impressive as was Fairfax’s solo crossing of the Atlantic, the tandem crossing with Cook is Herculean.

Cook recalled some of the daunting moments in an interview of some years ago:
The lowest point of the trip came, she recalls, towards the end when a shark bit a chunk out of Fairfax’s arm as he was fishing for food. She produces a graphic picture of the open wound. “It was too big to stitch, so I just bound it up. There was this triangle of flesh dangling down and I couldn’t decide whether to leave it or cut it off. Johnny was ashen and I did begin to think – what if he dies? What will I do with the body? If I threw it overboard, everyone would think I’d bumped him off.”
With Fairfax still ailing, they were caught up for five days in Cyclone Emily: “It was like being on the South Downs, but they were all moving.” When it finally passed, they were still 700 miles off the coast of Australia and Fairfax could no longer do his share of the rowing. I have to deduce this: Cook wasn’t going to draw it to my attention. “I did what I could,” she says and shrugs. “I didn’t do it all in a day.” Without her, though, the adventure would have ended in failure.
Landing on Hayman Island off of the coast of Queensland, Australia, Fairfax and Cook became the first people to row across the Pacific. I should say, too, the first people to row across the Pacific and still have a relationship once they hit the beach.


The lives of the two voyagers would eventually un-wind, though, with Fairfax moving to the United States, eventually to the Las Vegas area, to live the rest of his life as a professional gambler. He would even go so far as to list “adventurer” as his occupation on his passport. He would live the life of his choosing until his death in 2012 at the age of 74.

Sylvia Cook, the much more British of the two, would return to England, have a child [although, again, without benefit of sacrament] and work at a variety of jobs as a teacher, clerk, and, these days at nearly eighty years of age, an upholstery tutor at the English version of a Home Depot. Most of those with whom she’s worked have not known of her earlier adventurous and independent life.

Their achievements, however, still serve to inspire ocean rowers well into this century. In 2014, a collection of ocean rowers, thinking of Fairfax and Cook, participated in The Great Pacific Race from Monterey to Honolulu. Despite more modern and technologically advanced craft, despite contemporary training methods, and despite the fact that California to Hawaii isn’t even half the journey as is California to Queensland, only seven of the thirteen crews made it to the race’s end, with several having to be rescued and number of the boats proving unworthy of the effort.

When one of the finishers was asked about how it must have been for Fairfax and Cook, forty years earlier in a comparatively crude boat stocked with, among other things, cigarettes and brandy, to complete a crossing of the entire Pacific Ocean, he confessed that it was, and is, a staggering mystery.

Such is the power of a transient desire, I suppose, as it has powered more human achievement than any amount of planning or training. Or, as Cook noted when reminiscing about her days with Fairfax, “I never knew if I was in love with him or his life. Or if there was a difference. He was a bit of a dreamer, but if you don’t dream you don’t achieve.”

The Britannia, now on display at the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Today's Roger Scruton Quotation

"The experience of the sacred is the sudden encounter with freedom" - from The Philosopher on Dover Beach

Okay, This Guy was Hilarious Yesterday. Sorry, Kickball Fans.


Archaeological News

Ancient Board Games in Biblical Gath

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Yes, I Still Miss Australia

Magpie struggles to attack motorcyclist on Australian road

and

Deadly snake mistaken for toy at Australian cafe

A Sociological Observation

[I think this is where I have to issue a disclaimer about my politics.  If you love or hate Trump, Clinton, Sanders, or any of these other products of gormless vanity, that's on you.  I find that politicians and I share an indifference towards one another for which I'm grateful.]

A number of months ago, the current vice-president stirred elements of the loyal opposition when he spoke of the agreement that he and his wife had concerning his activities and comportment while in political office.  He would not, for example, dine alone with a woman not his wife.  Given the sexual antics of his colleagues, this seems a safe, healthy, and prudent mutual understanding.

A number of our more emotionally compromised actors, pols, and media luvvies [entertainment, politics, and news are now so intertwined that it's essentially a mighty wad] went a tad ape over it all, accusing the vice-president of all sorts of heinous motivation behind something practiced by two people as part of their marital covenant.  Mostly, he was called "sexist" and this was seen as a warning that he harbored nasty thoughts about women.

I had to laugh at ordained colleagues in the Episcopal Church who also reacted with a canine-esque hydrophobia to this news, as we have the same rule as part of the mandated "safe church" protocol.
The only difference is that our version of this practice is forced upon us by our diocesan authority due to the rather libertine manner in which some of our clergy regard the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, while the Pence's came to their mutual agreement voluntarily.

This whole business now has a certain grimy luster to it in light of the revelations about a Hollywooder's grotesque piggery and its enthusiastic enabling; something that I would think absurdly exaggerated if it were from a plot in one of their violent and smutty products.  This rather undercuts their preferred societal role as the keepers of the moral high-ground, doesn't it?

So, It's a Library That Isn't a...Library

Obama's Presidential Library Won't Actually Have Library Materials

 To quote Basil Fawlty, "Yes, very modern...very socialist."

Needlehooks

I occasionally come across quotations that snag my attention like a needle-hook to yarn. I may or may not agree with the writer's perspective, but the quotation represents something that stirs my thinking and, sometimes, imagination. From time to time, I'll share them and their source, but caveat emptor.
The contempt is not always that explicit, but it's ever present. Increasingly in America all the real divisions seem less like political differences - left/right, progressive/conservative, big government/small government - and more like class indicators: Those Who Matter vs Not Our Kind Of People. Poor Hispanics give Nancy Pelosi a warm fluffy sense of her own virtue and moral superiority (as long as they keep their distance, and we ramp up security next time those Dreamers try to rush the stage), whereas poor whites are just a bunch of yahoos. A touch of #BlackLivesMatter in an awards-show dance routine is edgy and radical (as long as the actual BLM types are on the far horizon torching some other guy's neighborhood), whereas upcountry losers ODing on oxycontin and heroin is hicky and depressing. Transgender bathrooms is a modish boutique issue with an appealing exotic frisson, whereas Christian florists ...whoa, who the hell would trust evangelicals with your centerpiece anyway? What's up with that?..
Amid the condescension, there are contradictions. So a century-old statue of someone dead a hundred and fifty years who does not conform to the identity-group pieties of 2017 must be torn down - whereas an actual flesh-and-blood human being who does not conform to the identity-group pieties of 2017 can stagger around Hollywood and New York and London and Rome treating women like garbage.

Hollywood as a Symptom of a Greater Cultural Disease

The Human Stain: It goes much deeper than one big creep.

Was This in Question?

Yes, You Get Wiser with Age

Friday, October 6, 2017

Terry Tracy and Kathy Kohner

"Some people have Alcoholic Anonymous, Starbucks, church, I was retreating, trying to get away from high school and boys and movies on Saturday night ... I had Malibu." - Kohner


History marks rare moments when people meet for the first time and find some energizing kinship that is intellectual, spiritual, or experiential; a kinship that alters their world and, sometimes, ours. Often the place of their meeting takes on the luster of the collaboration, too.  

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald met in Paris and compared notes on the style of the 20th century American novel; Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Alexander Woollcott met for lunch as often as possible at New York's Algonquin Hotel and re-invented journalism and criticism; J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis met at an Oxford pub and created between them Narnia and Middle Earth; Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg met in Greenwich Village and created the philosophy of the Beat Generation; John Lennon and Paul McCartney met at a church fair in Liverpool and...well, you know what happened with them.

Terry Tracy and Kathy Kohner never became as famous or influential as those listed above, they were not artists or writers or musicians or philosophers or Oxford dons.  But, for a small portion of misfits in our culture, their meeting changed the manner in which society came to regard them.  Likewise, the place of their meeting, Malibu Beach in Los Angeles County, thus gained a mythic status in fiction, film, and music.

That first meeting came about in 1956 when both were in need of something the other had.  The fifteen-year-old Kohner wanted to borrow a surfboard as she did not have one of her own; Tracy was simply hungry.  Tracy had a couple of balsa wood boards leaning against his driftwood and palm frond beach shack, Kohner had a couple of peanut butter-and-radish sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.  The rest became a story only Hollywood could ruin.  

As nicknames were important in the nascent surf culture, and in testimony to how important Tracy was to the Malibu scene, he became the bearer of two nicknames.  As he had once worked at a nearby hot dog stand, and was known to be a show-off in the water and on the beach [in other words, a hotdog], he was called "Tubesteak" by the surfers his own age.  However, because of the size and strength of his physical being and personality, he was generally known by the younger surfers as "The Big Kahuna."

The Malibu surf gang, with The Big Kahuna in the middle waving.
Over time, Kohner was taught to surf, earned her own surfboard, and became the protected surrogate little sister of the tribe.  As she was the only girl and, at 5' tall and 95 pounds, physically slight, the surfers began calling her "the girl midget".  The Big Kahuna shortened it.

He called her "Gidget".

So, every day after school, Gidget would head down to Malibu Beach to surf with The Big Kahuna and the others.  At dinner each evening, she would describe to her father the stories that she heard from the surfers and the adventures they would have in Paradise Cove.  Given that Gidget's father was an author and screenwriter, it was natural that her stories would appear in print and, eventually, on film.


The novel, a mildly fictionalized account of Gidget's summer of 1956, would be published the next year and sell more copies than even Gidget's father, Frederick Kohner, could have hoped.  So many that he spent the rest of his writing career producing sequels to the original and adapting screenplays for the inevitable series of movies.  It became one of those perfect summer beach books, and exposed what was then the small, and still charming, world of southern California surfers.

The first film, Gidget, would star Sandra Dee as the titular character and, remarkably, Cliff Robertson as The Big Kahuna.  The Gidget novels would be written until Gidget Goes New York in 1968, and the films and television versions would continue through various actresses in the leading role until the cancellation of The New Gidget in 1988.  Not bad for an off-hand novel designed to serve as an alternate source of income until Gidget's father received his next screenwriting assignment.

Kohner would step away from her fictional self, however, and would enjoy a life that was far more ordinary than what was presented in the novels, movies, and TV shows.  In fact, she would marry an English professor who had never even heard of Gidget.

Kohner, now Kohner-Zuckerman, will appear, however, each year at a surfing event that benefits a cancer charity.  In 2011, she was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach, California and is listed as #7 in Surfer Magazine's "25 Most Influential People in Surfing".

But what of The Big Kahuna, Terry "Tubesteak" Tracy?  Portrayed by an Oscar and Emmy-winning actor on screen and by yet another on television, and the dominant personality of Malibu Beach, one would have thought that his name and fame in greater culture would have been notable, too.  In what is a Zen paradox, common in surfing, while Tracy is nowhere as well-known as Gidget, he was far more influential in what became the developing culture.

Tracy was a college drop-out and office drudge, working in a dreary insurance office in Los Angeles when, one day at lunch, he went out for a walk and never came back.  He dumped his office suit, picked some stray beach gear and a couple of balsa wood surfboards [the preferred material in the days before fiberglass], and built a surf shack for himself in Malibu.  While 21st century California is mostly known for its strangling list of civic regulations, Malibu of the 1950's was a gloriously free place where no one cared if some "beatnik" decided to live on the beach and spend his days doing nothing other than waiting for the waves to be right for surfing.  Well, and accept handouts of food and beer.

Because of his singular commitment to not being committed, Tracy became an idol to the other surfers, including Miki Dora, the troubled personality who was regarded as the best surfer anyone had ever seen.  While Tracy's technique was not as refined, the least critical would describe him as "decent", he brought to the experience something beyond style or athleticism.  He made it all about having fun at the beach.

For example, on a sunny day in Malibu in the late '50's or early '60's, one could observe a brace of young people riding a curl with style and concentration, each in the common attitude of balance.  Except for one.  He would be standing impossibly straight on top of the board with his arms extended in cruciform, his chin uplifted in an imperial regard.

Yes, that would be the Kahuna, practicing his singular move, "The Royal Hawaiian".


On other occasions, Tracy would ride a donkey down the beach dressed as a Roman Catholic saint, build impossibly large fires around which the other surfers and their disciples would gather in the evenings, and always seemed to have access to the wherewithal necessary to keep the assembly in order.  If there was a party, he probably started it; if there was a commotion, he would calm it.  Tracy enforced the rules of comportment in the surf and the rule of fun on the beach.  He became, for those who knew him, knew of him, or read of him in a Life magazine article about the world of Gidget, the quintessential beach bum.  He was, according to Kohner, the kindest and friendliest member of the tribe.

After a couple of years, the California tendency to over-regulate reared its grotesque head and the "authorities" [actually, the Malibu parks and recreation department] tore down The Big Kahuna's shack.  With that, beach bum culture evolved, surrendering a portion of its innocence and fun.

Tracy would marry, have seven children, and work a variety of jobs.  He was always around the beach somewhere, and he would continue to surf until his un-disciplined lifestyle resulted in a debilitating case of diabetes which would cause him to surrender the surf and the beach and, eventually, his mortality.  He died in the summer of 2012 at the age of 77.

The Big Kahuna in his later years; still with a sense of humor.
As a friend mentioned upon his passing, "Once the lifeguards showed up and began regulating, that was it. Tube ruled through charm and good humor. LA County lifeguards ruled through laws and regulations. No beach fires. No alcohol. No shack. Kind of like how, a hundred years earlier, when the missionaries squashed gambling and public nudity, they pretty much squashed surfing, as well. For Tubesteak, if you remove the shack and the beer, what's the point?"

Well, there is one lingering point for which we should be grateful.  During a recent trip to ride the hurricane agitated waves in south Jersey, I was musing about the changes in surfing and its culture since my introduction to it in the late 1960's, as there are more people in the water, more equipment to be had, and greater accessibility to instruction.  Surfing is much more technical these days and, frankly, a little soul-less compared to what I once knew.

That's because I had forgotten, and re-learned yet again on those waves, that this whole business is supposed to be fun.  That, more than anything else, is what has powered me through the years and the injuries and the aging on the beaches from Ocean City to Bondi.  That seems to be, as learned from the Kahuna, the one, great translatable spiritual lesson that makes surfing, and life, worthwhile.

[A note from The Coracle: Yes, we've had two surf-associated postings over the last two Fridays, but those on the eastern shore have to admit that the summer has been long one, almost endless, and the days that haven't been claimed by work have been spent in The Great Other that is the ocean.  As the season is coming to its inevitable end, so we will move onto other subjects next week.  Well, there may be some water to it....]

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An Interesting Perspective

Evaluating the World’s Religions

The best experiences of my life occurred in the years when I taught Comparative Religion to classrooms filled with members of the world's religions.  The conversations were always lively and respectful, and they made me more knowledgeable about my own faith and its context in the world.

Those Boots aren't Made for Thinkin'


So, gun violence is so abhorrent that we should execute, by gun, approximately 5 million American citizens. [That's the current membership of the NRA.]

This is a sublime example of pretzel logic.  Really, it should be hanging in The Louvre.

Again, I would like to have an actual conversation about gun control and laws, but it's impossible when one must face the moral morass created by this kind of thinking.  I mean, what's the message?  Gun owners should give up their guns so that we can shoot them to death?

This reminds me of an earlier observation on the relationship between celebrities and firearms.

That Pesky Bill of Rights, Again

Students affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement crashed an event at the College of William & Mary, rushed the stage, and prevented the invited guest—the American Civil Liberties Union's Claire Gasta├▒aga, a W & M alum—from speaking. 

Ironically, Gasta├▒aga had intended to speak on the subject, "Students and the First Amendment."

Politicians Discover Puerto Rico, and Not During a Campaign Season

Because of its surfing and the once-pleasant charm of Old San Juan, I've enjoyed visits to the commonwealth over the last almost twenty years.  I have watched it slowly degrade ever since the closing of the U.S. Navy base, demanded by some verbose mainland politicians and professional screamers, removed 300 million bucks from Puerto Rico's GNP.  Cruise ships and casinos could not off-set that loss.  Then there are these antics:
That’s ironic because it was President Bill Clinton who signed the repeal of Section 936, the 1976 tax provision that exempted corporations operating in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico from federal taxes and caused a surge in economic activity on the island. That loophole caused numerous U.S. companies to set up shop in Puerto Rico, extending an industrialization program initiated in the 1950s called Operation Bootstrap. Over the period 1950 to 1980 per capita GNP rose ten-fold while disposable income soared 1,600 per cent. In the twenty years following the repeal of the tax advantage, manufacturing jobs were cut in half. Ten years after Clinton signed the phase-out into law, employment peaked in Puerto Rico, and the government started borrowing to make ends meet.
Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, also campaigning for Puerto Rican votes, was one of the few that voted last year against the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, called Promesa, describing it as a return to “the worst form of colonialism.” The Promesa established a board, similar to those enacted to oversee the rescue of New York in the 1970s and Detroit in 2014, to resolve the island’s financial situation and to rebuild its economy. Bernie was bound to hate the measure, especially since one of its key missions was to reduce the island’s minimum wage. Given that cheap labor abounds in neighboring islands, and the Commonwealth’s persistently high unemployment, the federal minimum of $7.25 is injurious. Soon after losing the Puerto Rico primary, Sanders dropped the issue. 
To be fair, Clinton and Sanders are not alone in having ignored Puerto Rico’s problems. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have stood idly by, hoping the territory’s unpayable debts would miraculously disappear. Now that the island’s dysfunction has morphed from dangerous to fatal, and Puerto Rico is blaming Hurricane Maria and Donald Trump for its misfortunes, Americans are taking a hard look at just how badly the Commonwealth has been mismanaged. They’re discovering that the damage wrought by recent storms, and the inadequate emergency response, was inevitable.

An Inconvenient Truth

Washington Post:  I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise

Since I work mostly with clergy and academics, two groups with very little knowledge of firearms, yet a great number of opinions about same, it's difficult to speak of these realities.  I'm glad to see some honest reflection offered in a large-circulation newspaper.

Perhaps this will encourage people to seek solutions outside of their narrow, ideological boxes.

Archaeological Museum of Alicante

Billed as the "first archaeological museum of the 21st century".

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

No Kidding

Google and Facebook Have Failed Us
In the crucial early hours after the Las Vegas mass shooting, it happened again: Hoaxes, completely unverified rumors, failed witch hunts, and blatant falsehoods spread across the internet. But they did not do so by themselves: They used the infrastructure that Google and Facebook and YouTube have built to achieve wide distribution. These companies are the most powerful information gatekeepers that the world has ever known, and yet they refuse to take responsibility for their active role in damaging the quality of information reaching the public.

Real News

"Bump stocks" were approved for sale by the Obama administration.

I have no use for such things, (I was a sharpshooter, which means we conserved ammo and made single shots count), but I should mention that, on an AR platform, their action can be duplicated with a leather belt.

Banning them will make politicians, media, and non-veterans feel better, but it doesn't really change much.

Please don't make belts illegal.  I'd have to walk around all day holding my pants up.

Ever Get Tired of Being Negatively Labeled by the Media?

A recent article in New York magazine by Caitlin Flanagan—”The Ugliness Behind HGTV’s Never-Ending Fantasy Loop“—argues that HGTV is ruining the country by foisting a whitewashed, unrealistic, chauvinistic, tacky version of American life on an unwitting public that is unwittingly marching toward another housing bubble.

Something tells me the writer works from home and employs a nanny and a housekeeper, but can't hang drywall.  While I'm not addicted, I have probably saved over $10,000 through the years by using HGTV for tutelage in home care and maintenance.  I'd like to say I used it for a nanny and housekeeper, but mostly I used the savings to pay Connecticut taxes.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

This Week's Message from the Mystery Correspondent

For the third time I have received sermon "talking points" from an unnamed source sent to a long unused academic e-mail address.  [Although I never use that e-mail address, and haven't for about fifteen or so years, it's still active.  I have stray messages from it bounced to my work address.]

This week I am to somehow fit into my proclamation of the Gospel some criticism of Justice Gorsuch of the Supreme Court using the words "bought and paid for".  It'll be interesting to see how many members of the media will use this terminology this week.

Archaeological News [with Laser Beams!]

Deep in the heart of Rome’s largest catacombs, laser beams have unveiled stunning 1,600-year-old early Christian frescoes. Mixing pagan symbols with Christian images, the paintings adorn the ceilings and walls of two burial chambers in the Catacombs of Domitilla, a labyrinth of tunnels and tombs stretching over 10 miles beneath Rome near the ancient Appian Way. The crypts, carved out of volcanic tufa, were created for wealthy merchants involved in the imperial grain trade and the production of bread. They were painted around A.D. 360, a few decades after the emperor Constantine declared Christianity legal. “The chambers have long been known, but laser cleaning has removed centuries of grime, algae, and chalk, revealing elaborate scenes and new findings,” says Fabrizio Bisconti, the superintendent in charge of catacombs for the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.

I Have a Device That Removes the Bass Line from Recordings and Allows Me to Play Along. This was Last Night's Song.


Nine years ago he walked into an art auction in Surf City and was the highest bidder on a paisley-patterned guitar. He liked it so much that he told his friends about the little, one-man company that made it.  Thanks, Tom. You were a real gent.

I Can't Argue With This

We’ve heard a lot about the problem of inequality in America over recent years. But most of that talk has ignored one of the very worst pockets of inequality in American society. I speak, of course, of the American university system and its treatment of adjunct professors and graduate students.

Academics seem to think that the business world is a feudal environment characterized by huge status differentials and abusive treatment of underlings. They think that because, to be honest, that’s a pretty good characterization of . . . the modern university, where serfs in the form of adjunct professors toil in the vineyards.
Since the academic class disregards religion, and human nature desires something in which to believe, this may be the reason why so many adjuncts place their belief system in radical politics. Their lot can be miserable and they need to counter that with an overbearing ideology.

But Especially Those of Us With Attention Issues

A CEO with ADHD says these rules can make anyone more successful

Well, This is Prescient

Written by Eric Hoffer in The Ordeal of Change -
Nothing is so unsettling to a social order as the presence of a mass of scribes without suitable employment and an acknowledged status…The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated. They hanker for the scribe’s golden age, for a return to something like the scribe-dominated societies of ancient Egypt, China, and the Europe of the Middle Ages. There is little doubt that the present trend in the new and renovated countries toward social regimentation stems partly from the need to create adequate employment for a large number of scribes…Obviously, a high ratio between the supervisory and the productive force spells economic inefficiency.

Because Treating a Symptom of Depression is Far Easier than Treating the Disease of Depression

Sex change regret: Gender reversal surgery is on the rise, so why aren't we talking about it?

Body dysmorphia is a symptom of a serious form of depression.  Those who partake in gender reassignment may think, and be encouraged to think by family and friends, that this will lead to happiness.  When it doesn't, the depression may deepen.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Scenes from a Post-Christian Age

I visited the conduit to the human Id that is Twitter and learned the following:
An attorney for CBS who lives in Brooklyn and posts photos of her toddler states she has no sympathy for the shooting victims because they were country music fans and they tend to be Republicans.  Her account is now private.
A Massachusetts congressman won't participate in the "moment of silence" for the Las Vegas victims because...well, his argument sort of falls apart at that point.
A self-identified teacher, who is also a self-identified member of "The Resistance" [Sorry, Camus] states that we should pray that only "trumptards died".  Nice understanding of prayer, teach.  She's closed her account.
A society without religion is not an improvement.

Still, This Can Be Done [A Modest Proposal]

This is a re-run from last year when I was getting tired of posturing politicians using the dead as a method of fund-raising:
Our elected leaders have been posturing for eager TV news cameras this week, and through a filibuster that caused the folks at Channel 3 to swoon, but it's all just empty gestures. The congressman representing Fairfield County even walked out on a moment of silence in the House this week in protest of such moments.  He attends the Presbyterian church in Greenwich and, as I worked in that county in the early days of my ministry, I expect his lack of respect for what some members of congress regard as a moment of prayer is reflective of the "country club Christian" mentality of Connecticut's Gold Coast.

Protesting what the congressman sees as an empty gesture with his own empty gesture is rather rich, but he seemed terribly serious about it when the cameras were pointed at him.  He even scowled to denote his concern.  The scowl seems to be something that's learned at Goldman Sachs, the congressman's former employer and a notorious paragon of high morality.

They will now make the rounds of friendly radio and talk shows, humbly promoting their moral courage.  It's all very familiar and those of us who were witness to the blood and bodies at Sandy Hook know the routine and aren't fooled by it.  The end result will be, as in Connecticut, laws that will not address the actual atrocity.

If they were serious, and not just trying to come to the attention of Hillary Clinton's vice presidential nominating team, they would do something that is totally in their power:  They would repeal the Second Amendment.  They can talk all they want about "common sense gun laws", but the only thing that will answer their concern is repeal and confiscation.

Appearing before fawning audiences is easy, though.  Changing the Constitution is hard, but it can be done and, in fact, Blumenthal, Murphy, and Himes have that legal ability.  So, fellas, let's see if you mean it.  To facilitate the process, and even though they have hundreds of aides and interns at their beck and call, I've actually tried to help by putting together an outline of sorts that would enable them to never, ever again have to endure people joining in a moment of silence or offering thoughts and prayers.

First, they will have to make their case to the American public that they can be trusted to protect us. In the aftermath of "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor", trust will be difficult to construct, but not impossible.  They will have to leave the urban and suburban parts of Connecticut and travel to the rural sections of the state where they are not as highly regarded.  They will then have to travel outside of the state to places like Xenia, Ohio and Sharpsville, Pennsylvania; to Rolling Fork, Mississippi and Littlefield, Texas.  As gun ownership is of more concern to them than Islamist terrorism, they should frame their actions as a kind of holy mission.  After all, anyone can appear before the clapping seals of The Daily Show, but it takes men of mission to stand in a Grange Hall and convince a crowd.

It will cost a remarkable amount of money for travel, advertisements, radio and TV spots, contributions to the re-election campaigns of those whom they wish to coerce to their side plus getting those sympathetic to their cause elected, so they should start forming those PACs now.

Then, once the groundwork has been laid, they actually have to frame the repeal in law.  It will have to be written with care, they are canceling part of the Bill of Rights, after all, and will have to go through the ringer of committees.  Still, this can be done.  Once complete, and the Second Amendment repealed, then the real work will begin.

You see, simply repealing the Amendment doesn't change gun ownership in the United States.  It does, however, give the government free reign to design new gun laws.  Since making guns illegal and confiscating the 300+ million firearms currently owned would seem to be the logical goal, these new laws will be sweeping and require a type of enforcement more common in totalitarian regimes and on a level never seen in our country.  Still, this can be done.

Except, most of the states of the union have constitutional protections that permit the individual states to make up their own minds about federal law.  Some of those states will be easy to convince, some will resist.  You will also have to overcome the "sovereign citizen" types in Idaho, for example, and the reservation Indians of Oklahoma, who know too well what happens when some white guys from the East come for their guns.  This may require the intervention of the military.  Still,...

This will take years and may damage their future political careers but, if what they say they believe is true, we will never, ever again be plagued by gun crime or violence.  Well, except from those who will ignore the law and evade its enforcement.  Still,...

I have a feeling it will be easier to continue posturing.

Related:  The Washington Post assigns Murphy three "Pinocchios" for his recent and repeated statements.

Also related:  Why Does the IRS Need Guns?  Sounds like they're getting ready for enforcement.

Update:  I just received a fund-raising letter from Murphy highlighting his bold, transgressive filibuster, so in addition to serving to attract the attention of the Clinton campaign in their search for a VP candidate, the slaughter was handy for raising money, too.

I Don't Think They Can Be Called 'Constants' Any Longer

Are the Fundamental Constants of the Universe Changing?
Everything we know about the universe is based on laws of physics which we assume to be constant and unchanging. But are they? Astrophysicists are looking at the universal constants that underlie the laws of physics to see if they may have changed over the course of the universe's history. Most of these constants, such as the speed of light, are almost impossible to measure for change, because all of our other measurements are based on them. But others, like the lesser known fine structure constant, may be possible to measure for change.
Oh, physicists, even a dumb surfer can tell you the only constant is change.  Or, in a theological context, the only constant in a shifting reality is God. 
There is nothing like a massive tragedy to bring out every, single posturing politician, from camera fetishists like my two senators to some guy I thought was our dog catcher.  He seems to be in charge of some safety committee or something.

Of Further Aid to Journalists

This is from the National Association of Black Journalists:


There Will Be a Lot of Firearms Misinformation Today


Part of the problem in dealing with issues such as this is that terms get tossed about that are either political, but not technical, or based on the reporters' firearms knowledge that mostly comes from Hollywood movies.

So, "machine guns" have been illegal to own since the 1980's.  Those work by offering continuous fire as long as the trigger is engaged.  There have only been three crimes committed with legal "machine guns" since 1934.

An "automatic weapon" is a machine gun, so ditto above.

"Assault rifle" or "assault weapon" doesn't have a fixed legal definition.  It seems to mean "rifle that looks scary".

A "semi-automatic" weapon is one that re-loads every time the trigger is pulled.  This action is common to handguns and also many rifles used for hunting or predator control.

A Glock is a semi-automatic handgun.

An AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle.

[If you're wondering how a surfer who funds his adventures by working as a parish priest knows such things, my secondary MOS was 2111.  That, and I'm a hillbilly from Ohio.]

Before anyone hyperventilates about "machine guns", etc., having viewed the scene via the British newspapers [who offer many more photos and graphics], and seizing what I recall from ancient training, the concert field was a perfect target.  With a common bolt-action rifle [one that needs to be re-loaded after every shot], the same terrible results could have been achieved.  It was a field packed with a great number of people with limited means of egress.  I shudder just thinking about it.

[Ancient training kicks in even when I don't realize it.  My wife kids me when I automatically take the "gunfighter chair" in restaurants or at meetings.   For those unfamiliar with the expression, that's a seat that faces to entire room and is backed by a wall.  It offers a full field of vision with a protected backside, or "six".]

Update: I have since learned of an aftermarket attachment for AR type rifles that enables automatic firing. After watching the manufacturer's video, it seems likely that was what was used.

It Was Inevitable

Is the NFL Reaping the Whirlwind?

I tend not to get outraged by our post-Christian society any longer.  A world without religion is a world filled with moral children, flailing about for something to believe in that is also completely under their control.  That is impossible, of course, so that leads to frustration and what educators and psychologists refer to as "acting out".  As the dominant feature of 21st century life is narcissism [The Age of Selfie], all acts of demonstration are primarily designed to draw attention to the demonstrator rather than his or her cause.

I am amused that, a mere two years ago, that ingratiating fellow who played for the Denver Broncos for a bit [Tebow?] knelt in prayer before a game and that outraged....wait, make that OUTRAGED!...the media and some politicians, with the giggling support of the late night court jesters.  Of course, that was genuflection to God, rather than to the god of the moment, whatever or whomever that may be.

A Word About Postings

My wife and I are going through a weird phase.  Traditionally, I'm an occasional insomniac who, even when sleeping well, tends to get up before dawn.  It's a holdover from those days, now over twenty years ago, when I worked and lived at a boarding school and that was the only time of day when it was quiet enough to do some work.

Hence, I go to bed early.  My wife, on the other hand, stays up a couple or three hours later than I and, since she's retired now, sleeps until she dang well feels like it.  On a timepiece, that's usually around 10.

This past week, I've been sleeping until dawn [!] and she's been getting up before 8.  Has there been some change in the cosmos?

This means, early readers, that postings are later in the day than has been the norm for The Coracle. However, when not engaged in busy-ness associated with my three jobs, I'll still put things before you, just a little later in the day [sorry, Jeanne].  How can I not, considering how 4th century Roman our society has become?

Because If Science Doesn't Match Hollywood Fantasy, It's Hard to Get People Interested [Thus, It's Hard to Get Grant Money]

The Female Viking Warrior Isn’t Real. Why Do So Many People Want Her to Be?
So the authors assumed this female Viking was a military leader without any actual evidence and they ignored evidence that didn’t go along with their theory. Like many people today, they leapt to conclusions, and everyone was eager to agree that this woman was definitely a military leader because that suited a contemporary narrative, not a historical fact. This doesn’t mean that people in the future won’t find hard evidence that female Vikings could be military leaders, but you can’t “confirm” that this Viking was a military leader quite yet. Even if there weren’t female Viking warriors, women in Viking times were actually well-respected and enjoyed many rights and freedoms; they could divorce their husbands, own land, and could even have government representation. Women like Freydis and Gudrun had a significant impact on their societies, even if they didn’t lead troops into battle.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

Jack O'Neill


When you get all screwed up, and you jump in the ocean, everything’s all right again.


The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean, I couldn't wait to jump in.  I ran the breadth of the sand by Prospect Street in Newport Beach and leapt, with board in hand, into the waves.

I immediately regretted it.  Dang, that water's cold.

(For those who have never been, the Pacific is cold in California, Washington, Oahu, Maui, and New South Wales, Australia.  Man, that beast is chilly.)

While I had packed a wetsuit, it had been a thinner, "shorty" model.  I had figured that October in southern California would be no worse than south Jersey in late May, and I was spectacularly wrong.

So, off I went a few miles north to buy a more reasonable wetsuit. In the shop, the very young woman behind the counter pointed towards a variety of highly colored suits with dramatic names.  I looked at her in skepticism until another clerk, much closer to my age and with wind and sun- chiseled features, stepped in and said, "The O'Neill's are over here" .  Yes, he grokked.  If you're surfing the Pacific, or anywhere else, really, it's best to wear an O'Neill.  As it says in the interior of every O'Neill suit, "It's always summer on the inside."

[An important note:  We are not paid by O'Neill to hawk their products or are in any other way contracted to them.  I wish.  Like all true watermen, we are opinionated about valuable equipment.]

Jack O'Neill, born in Denver in 1923, is one of those guys who sounds like he's from a Kris Kristofferson song: "He's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction....".  Like true watermen of any generation, he had a tendency to dive into things and figure out, after much discomfort and no small amount of danger, how to manipulate the circumstances to his advantage.

While still a child, O'Neill's family moved to Long Beach, California where the formerly land-locked kid, like stout Cortez, saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  I remember being a kid from Ohio and seeing the Atlantic for the first time and knowing that it was about to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between that vast body of wild water and me.  It appears it was the same for O'Neill, too.

He attended the University of Portland on a G.I. Bill after serving as a Navy pilot during World War II, earning a degree in business.  Although there was no such thing at the time, he may as well have earned a degree in marketing, too, as he was a natural.   He was married, held a collection of jobs and, after moving to the Ocean Beach section of San Francisco, went surfing every day there were waves worthy of riding.

However, as we have noted, the Pacific is cold.  If it's cold in southern California, a scant hour or two from the Mexican border, it is really cold in northern Cali.  So that he could surf more days and much later into the less accommodating season, O'Neill began to experiment with a variety of methods of keeping himself warm while in the water.

He would begin his experiments on his kitchen table, taking wool or cotton long underwear and slicking it down with lanolin to provide insulation.  When that proved inadequate, he would then fill coveralls with foam packing material.  When that was too heavy he would cannibalize a surplus rubber life raft and sew it into a suit.  Or maybe the lining of a airliner's cabin carpeting would work?  None of these attempts really answered, until he had that moment of discovery.

The young O'Neill and the even younger, original wetsuit
 Contrary to popular belief, O'Neill did not create the wetsuit.  The material had already been developed by a physicist at Berkeley to line deep-sea, hard-hat diving suits.  The genius of O'Neill was to take the material and shape it in such a manner that one can wear it without a canvas outer layer and move in it with the fluidity required on a surfboard.  Also, one has to give such a product an attitude, and that's where O'Neill's natural sense of marketing took over.

[If we may pause for a moment to comment on the nature of the wetsuit, especially as not everyone has worn one.  Wetsuits are not waterproof [those are called dry suits]; wetsuits are designed to let a small amount of water permeate the material and rest between the inner layer of the suit and the wearer's flesh.  The heat from the human body then warms this circulating micro-thin layer of water, keeping the wearer's body temperature at a safe level.]

While his acquaintances were skeptical, O'Neill was a surfer and knew beyond doubt that once it was discovered that there was a magic suit that could make cold days manageable and the summer a little closer to endless, other surfers would sell, borrow, or steal whatever they could in order to claim this bit of fashion.  Originally selling them out of a converted shack, and them moving the whole business to Santa Cruz nearer the middle of the state in order to be closer to the burgeoning surf crew, O'Neill coined a term familiar to those in search of an oasis in the midst of the beaches of both coasts.  He called his place a..."surf shop".  The O'Neill wetsuit was born and, with it, a whole new industry.

 

O'Neill would go to trade show after trade show, bringing along his children not just for their company or so that they could learn the family business, but so that he could fit them into their own wetsuits and toss them in a tank of ice water to prove how well the suits worked.  In the frigid tank, the kids would paddle on small boards, dive under the surface, and otherwise comport themselves like children in the water.  Nowadays, that would get O'Neill at least a stern talking-to by the authorities; back then, it sold wetsuits.  Lots of them.  He even hired real surfers to serve as the models for his inventory, lifting many of them out of obscurity and near-poverty.


Wearing a full, lush beard in the days before they became common, and sporting an eye patch that was necessitated when he got whacked in the face with a surfboard [it happens; I had a $4000 dental bill from just such a calamity], O'Neill sought to become the literal face of his company, presenting something counter-cultural and piratical about surfing.  With his new-found wealth, O'Neill sponsored surf competitions that encouraged professionalism and athleticism, and permitted surfing's growth into a legitimate, competitive sport.

O'Neill was a ubiquitous character in California culture and in the ads for his own company.  He flew planes and balloons, shaped surfboards, and engaged in various adventures.  Opening stores on four continents, and creating a line of apres surf clothing and accessories bearing his name, he became particularly involved in efforts to combat ocean pollution, creating the O’Neill Sea Odyssey, a marine and environmental education program, in 1996.  In moments of late life reflection, O'Neill regarded the OSO as the best thing he had ever done.

O'Neill died a couple of months ago at the age of 94, having lived an enviable life.  Although, speaking for the army of desk-bound occasional surfers, even if he had never developed the wetsuit or contributed to the sport and culture of surfing, if he had just been that lone character living in a glorified shack in Santa Cruz, he still would have served as an icon just for a philosophy such as this: “The three most important things in life: Surf, surf and surf.”

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Off, Again


Sorry, duty calls.  Literally.  Like, on the phone.  We'll be back Friday morning.

Monday, September 25, 2017

This is a Good Story; Please Read It All

The Story Behind Devo’s Iconic Cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”

Some Nice Writing

"The past was filling the room like a tide of whispers."

I'm re-reading Ross MacDonald's The Drowning Pool right now and came across this fine sentence above. It reminded me of how literate "private eye" fiction could be in the hands of people like MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett.

A Communication from a Distant Place

Regular readers may recall that I received a message a couple of months ago from a long-dormant theological listserv, one that was attached to an ancient e-mail account at an Ivy League institution in which I studied and worked nearly twenty years ago.  It urged me, in what seemed to be part of a coordinated effort, to mention certain political talking points in my Sunday sermon.

I haven't heard from it since until this morning.  I am now being urged to mention Puerto Rico in my sermon this week and make "Puerto Rico to Trump what Katrina was to Bush".  I would find this amusing, but I know that some of my colleagues will follow this direction and turn Gospel-based proclamation into just another tedious political lecture.

Oh, look.  The media have gotten it, too, it seems:


Yep. Q.E.D.

Wow, people are catching on. I'm rather honored to have been included among those expected to spread propaganda on behalf of...whom? The e-mail I received was not signed.

More on the Millionaire Slap Fight and It's Repercussions

Players, sportswriters, and maybe even the owners seem to think that fans will find it impossible to give up football on Sundays in the fall. It’s not. A few years ago, I finally stopped buying the season tickets to the Giants that my father had first purchased 50 years ago and rebought every subsequent year. It was painless and a long time coming; I now spend fall weekends largely watching amateur youth sports from the sidelines. It’s an exhilarating experience, free from egotistical victory dances and other forms of inane exhibitionism, including juvenile posturing from adults that masquerades as deep social commentary.

I went on Twitter very early this morning, a medium I have not visited in some time, and found that wealthy athletes and wealthy politicians and wealthy pundits were going at it in some kind of mutually assured destruction.  This seems common in our post-religious age.  Christianity is a much more peaceful way of life, but to each, his own.

It Isn't. It's a "Mark" of Sacramental Commitment.

NYT: How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege?

Now That's American Exceptionalism

You Can Thank America For the Continued Existence of Stick-Shift Porsches

Mate, You Should See the US

Last month I spent a few weeks in remote and regional Australia talking non-stop with Aboriginal people. Meanwhile, a debate raged about statues. How many times do you think anyone mentioned statues to me during my trips? Exactly zero. No one talked to me about constitutional recognition either. Or about local councils who banned Australia Day, supposedly in their name.

In Kununurra, I addressed the Wunan Foundation’s East Kimberley Aboriginal Achievement Awards. I spoke about how the narrative of Australia today being a racist society holds Aboriginal people back. Many Aboriginal people thanked me for my comments, saying they’re sick of hearing racism is the cause of their communities’ problems. They were the only conversations I had about racism.

It's easy to get a collection of ill-educated, pre-diabetic university children over-excited about statues, it's a whole other thing to address real issues.  In neo-Marxism, the abstract always outweighs the actual.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Catholic Scholars vs. The Pope. How Wonderfully Medieval.

Clergy and Lay Scholars Issue Filial Correction of Pope Francis

The initiative, the first time such a mechanism has been used since the Middle Ages, accuses the Pope of “propagating heresies” and respectfully asks that he teach the truth of the Catholic faith in its integrity.

The Two Features of Academic Life: Gibberish and Fatigue

Read this and make sense of it; I dare you.


This is what happens when an overworked graduate student is hired to compose a book's index.

Archaeological News

THE remains of the earliest monastery in the British Isles have been unveiled in Somerset