Saturday, December 30, 2017

While Ostensibly Sane and Mature Americans are "Literally Shaking" and Going Fetal Because the World Isn't What They Want It to Be, Iranians are Risking All to Claim Their Freedom

Cue the Over-Reaction


The Year in Stupid

Sorry, folks, but my equanimity is challenged by the incurious, ill-educated, superficial, narcissistic, rage addicts who search for a reason to be un-happy, angry, judgmental, and condescending about every single thing that doesn't fit into their desiccated awareness of reality.

I appreciate that much of this is driven by the post-Christian aspect of our society, as well as the  neo-Marxist ideology that politicizes everything in higher education and enables young people to remain ignorant and wholly dependent on their professors' limited world view and values.

The other evening, I listened to someone at a dinner explaining to my wife that the last presidential election had left her [wait for it] "literally shaking" to the extent that she would wake every morning in a fetal position.  Yeah, the person she wanted to win the election didn't and that left her in a state of perpetual mental/emotional derangement.

The fellow to whom I link relates a year's worth of this nonsense.  It's as remarkable as one might imagine.

The Year Reheated: In which we marvel at the mental contortions of our self-imagined betters.

Oh, look.  More of the stupid:
Lincoln Elementary School art teacher Mateo Rueda had no idea what was in store for his career when he wrapped up a lesson Dec. 4 by telling students to look through some art postcards in the classroom library for examples of color usage in notable paintings.
The cards, which were part of an educational package called “The Art Box” produced by Phaidon publishing, were placed in the library before Rueda began working at the Hyrum school. He knew the set portrayed a wide variety of classic artworks, but he has since said he was not aware that three or four of the 100 pieces featured in the box showed nudity.
Before the week was out, Rueda would find himself at the center of a controversy at the school, would be contacted by police after someone filed a classroom pornography complaint against him, and would eventually be out of a job.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Carmine Infantino

He had proven himself, certainly.  He had been handed what many thought was a difficult assignment, perhaps impossible, and even in the face of a truculent political enemy he had prevailed and caused a new appreciation of those who practiced his art.  Now, though, as nonviable as was his previous assignment, this one was more daunting.  So much so that no one else, and absolutely no one else, could have even been expected to reverse what seemed inevitable, as Carmine Infantino was charged with saving an icon.

It shouldn't have been that way.  Icons are designed, after all, to endure.  But, to do so, their importance and relevance need to be maintained.  This requires awareness, perspicacity, talent, and passion.  Those who had been entrusted to this icon did not have the proper portions of those qualities and the idol was so shaky as to be on the verge of an ignoble disappearance.

What made the charge even more complicated was that comic book superheroes had faded in popularity, as tastes had changed away from heroics and more towards the horror genre.  Also politicians, always eager to find provocative ways to attract media attention [as well as phoney-baloney causes that help facilitate graft], had decided that the biggest danger of the 1950's was not atomic war, the Soviet Union, the proliferation of radiation from testing [look up "Lucky Dragon 5" sometime], nor the global de-stabilization caused by the end of the age of empire, but was, in fact, "funny books".

So, Infantino, accomplished in his field and a veteran of resurrecting that which was thought dead, was summoned to the office upstairs, with walls adorned by the colorful creations of his current colleagues and those of legend who had come before, and was told of his very public fate.

Infantino had been selected to save...Batman.

Infantino was perfect for the job as he was primarily responsible for the resurrection of superhero comics in general.  Born in 1925 and attracted to artistic expression since childhood, Infantino had drifted into the best paying job available for a kid from Brooklyn and had the typical career of a journeyman illustrator for a variety of comic book companies, including Timely Comics where Stan Lee, later of Marvel Comics fame, worked as a writer.  While these jobs were all free-lance, they permitted him a living and notice within the tight world of illustrators, inkers, pencilers, cover men, and writers.

Then, in 1956, Infantino was offered a full-time job with the most prosperous comic book company in the United States: DC Comics, the home of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Seeking to expand their line by upgrading older characters that had been out-of-print, Infantino's first charge was to take "The Flash", a comic about a fellow who can run really, really quickly that had ceased to be published over a decade before, and make him accessible and popular to a new group of readers, those of a generation more interested in rock and roll and large cars with fins.  He did so, re-designing the character's alter ego, biography, and costume; not to mention drawing the character with a dynamism that had not been seen in the comics medium.

Well, I could talk about it, but it's best to show an artist's work, don't you think?  Below is the original, discarded "The Flash" from the 1940's:

The Flash, circa 1940
Yes, I always found that Mercury-style hat to be a little impractical.  This is what Infantino did when resurrecting the character:

The Flash, circa 1956
I always liked the ear adornments as they hark to the design features on cars of the 1950's.  Don't see a big difference?  Well, as stated above, the best element of the new, improved Flash was the artistry.  Here he is in motion as captured by the pencil of Infantino:

The 1956 version of The Flash was so successful that it began a general trend at DC where they resurrected and re-invented [I believe the current, vulgar term for this is "re-booting"] the characters of Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom, etc.  It is no exaggeration to say that Infantino created the modern superhero.  So popular did The Flash prove that there is currently a TV show enjoying a long run that is based entirely on Infantino's now 60+ year-old "re-boot".

Everything old is new again.
By 1964, the Batman comic was a joke.  As the comic audience had matured, not only had Batman retained its infantile quality, but the story lines had become gimmicky, obtuse, and dim.  Instead of combating the creative criminal class of Gotham City, Batman was more and more often taken into outer space, back through time, or in some realm of magic and magicians.  He had been given a dog, Ace, the Bat-Hound, a girlfriend, Batwoman [not to be confused with the later Batgirl] and her niece [whose name I've blissfully forgotten] and some weird, impish sprite named "Bat-Mite" [no, I'm not making that up].  Robin, too, was still around and his relationship with Batman still a little troubling.  Clearly, the character needed some dramatic form of address.

The "Batman Family", circa 1960.  I mean, seriously?

Infantino accepted the position and began immediately to change the whole concept of Batman, including a mild costume design that took advantage of contemporary color transfer capabilities. He also eliminated the dog, the sprite, the girlfriend and her niece, and re-cast Batman as "The World's Greatest Detective", rather than some space and time adventurer.  He also re-designed the villains.

Being Infantino, he started with the covers, and they were doozies:

Batman, circa 1964

As with The Flash, the new Batman was a hit; so big a hit that an ABC TV show based on the Infantino brand was a phenomenon of the late-60's.  Although far campier than the DC Comics version, it nevertheless brought in new readers and caused superheroes to be an increasing part of our common cultural conversation.  These days, when it seems that half of the new TV shows and all of the large budget movies concern long-established comic book characters, it's hard to conceive of a time when they were ready permanently to disappear from common media.

It is heartening to note, unlike some of those profiled in The Coracle, that Infantino was recognized during his time.  The success of Batman lead to his promotion as DC Comics' editorial director and then as its publisher.  Among his notable work in the latter responsibility, he negotiated the un-heard of practice of teaming a DC Comics character with one from their rival company, Marvel Comics.  Thus was born a comic book that will seize some rather large green if one happens to have an original copy to sell: Superman vs. Spider-Man

Carmine Infantino would retire, occasionally free-lance, and become one of the most popular panelists at comic book conventions for the remainder of his life.  An affable and humble presence, he would always have time to sign an autograph or talk to a fan, as if, even after all of those decades, he was surprised and delighted to find that there were people who enjoyed his work.

He would die at home in Manhattan in 2013 at the age of 87.  A long, good life spent entertaining most of the people in the western world and not a few in the eastern, reaching beyond what is accomplished by artists of more classical themes.  Heck, he even inspired a quiet kid in Ohio to appreciate what color, attitude, and position could do to render something common into something memorable and fun; for that, the kid from Ohio is eternally grateful.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

It's Cold in Europe, Too

Something's Happening Here, What It is Ain't Exactly Clear

To my mind, the suicide bombing in the Manchester Arena on 22 May was one of the worst terror attacks in the West in recent years. It was an assault not just on life and limb but on the gaiety of youth and the liberty of girls who enjoy things radical Islamists frown upon. Twenty-two people were killed. Ten of them were under the age of 20. One was eight. Two of the dead were Polish nationals. So as the media class stirred up moral panic about post-Brexit Britons feeling emboldened to attack Poles and others, in fact it was a radical Islamist who indiscriminately slaughtered Poles here. But don’t think about it. Get on with your life and stop being Islamophobic. 

The response to Manchester was chillingly passive. It was made clear very quickly that the role of us citizens was not to think hard about this attack, far less rage against it, but rather to express sadness online, maybe sign a real-world book of condolence, and then move on. It was as if a natural disaster had struck Manchester, rather than a conscious religious assault on our fellow citizens and the freedom they were enjoying.
There is a consistent and pervasive mistrust of institutions in the Western world.  It is true of religion, a mistrust that is often deserved, as well as with government, and the news and entertainment media, which is always and completely deserved. 

When one cannot count on institutions to fulfill their traditional role, the distrust creates a society without an ethical rudder or moral keel.  It will decay until it is useless.

In the Post-Christian Age, There is More and More of This

Hierophobia – an exaggerated or irrational fear of sacred objects or priests
Hierophobia is the fear of holy people or sacred things.

It is related to Ecclesiophobia (fear of church, organized religion, or holy people) and Hagiophobia (fear of saints or holy things).

The name originates from the Greek word 'hiero' meaning 'sacred' or 'holy' and the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Back in Old Ohio by Anonymous (1907)

Pardon, stranger, did you say you're from Ohio ? Shake. 

Born there, was you ? Well, I guess we're 'bout of the same 

An' I'm mighty glad to see you, stranger, for the sake 
Of the love I bear to old Ohio. 

What is that? You're from the hills? Well, shake again, by Jo! 
From the hills along the river, where the buckeyes grow. 
I hain't been there, I guess, since twenty years ago, 
But my heart is full of old Ohio. 

Down the river ! Fished there many a summer afternoon. 
Sat and dreamed there, too, on many a balmy night m June, 
Lookin' o'er the water where I see the risin" moon 
Smilin' white across the old Ohio. - , , ^ 

Twenty years a schemin' in among the crowds of men ! 
Twenty years! Fve seen a heap of this world since then, 
But tonight Fd kind o' like to wander back agin, 
Back among the hills of old Ohio. 

Sweetest times are the old times, like them we used to know ! 
Sweetest scenes an' sweetest dreams are them of long ago ; 
When we sat upon the banks and listened to the flow 
Of the waves along the old Ohio. 

Still her spell is on me, an' her music's in my ears. 
Still her beauty shines to me, although it be through tears, 
Still my heart goes back to her across the gap of years, 
Back unto the scenes of old Ohio. 

Endorsed by The Coracle Foundation

SC senator wants bigger fines for slow left lane drivers

My Money's on Jackson to Win, Taylor to Place, T. Roosevelt to Show

In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why?

However, there are always surprises, and Lincoln comes to mind, too.

Time to Check In with Our Favorite Newspaper Police Blotter

Wednesday, November 29 
4:14 p.m. Suspected musicians and their roadie enablers were reported smoking jazz cigarettes out back of a downtown entertainment venue – the one with the hideous mural. 

 8:26 p.m. A woman on F Street was wrapped in a white blanket as she alternately struck her head against a pole and kicked her dog. 

 10:45 p.m. A man with a backpack unleashed his two large, brown pit bulls on the Plaza to conduct service attacks on passersby. 

 Thursday, November 30 
8:08 a.m. Did the delivery guy leaving the package containing two cell phones on an Airstream Avenue porch really think they’d sit there all day unmolested for the owner to pick up? What folly!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

He called me on Christmas evening, knowing I was up later than usual because the previous evening's liturgies had deranged my schedule.  He was happy that Mom was home from the nursing home, even if just for the evening, and that his granddaughter and grandson had visited, and that his other granddaughter had called him from California.  They had spoken for over an hour.  He told me that it was really the best Christmas in some time.

Late the next morning, the emergency room at his local hospital called to tell me that he had been admitted complaining of general discomfort and had suddenly died while in their care.  That was three years ago today.

I'm glad you had that happy final evening, Dad. I'm glad we spoke that one last time.

A Long, Good Read

The Return to Ancient Traditions After the Death of God

Barely an Exaggeration

Man Dies Of Old Age In Church Parking Lot After Waiting 60 Years For Wife To Finish Socializing

An Important Canine Health Chart

Monday, December 25, 2017

A Resurrected Hometown Tradition

GE Nela Park's annual lighting celebration

If you're at least my age, all of your GE light bulbs, which meant all of your light bulbs, were made at Nela Park.  Thus, their Christmas displays were legendary.  Although, I have to say that, these days, some of my overzealous neighbors outdo them.

There is Sour, and Then There is English Sour

Santa is an overweight binge-drinker at risk of mental health problems, warn doctors
"I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am...." - Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

It's That Time of Year

As much as I enjoy these stray and irreverent postings, I gotta work this week and it will take time away from this nonsensical fun.  So, patience please, readers.  We'll post items when we have a chance, but they may be few and far between.

Also, it's doubtful that there will be a Friday profile, but one never knows.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

This Week's Stats

Dad at work with his colleagues.  People forget that chalk and blackboards got us to the Moon.

The most read posting is the Friday biography of waterman Eddie Aikau.  I suspect that members of the younger surf community picked up on that one [The Coracle is linked to some Christian surfer websites].

The least read, although only slightly, is the Friday biography of writer and muse, Clarice Lispector.  However, it was just posted yesterday and I've noted that university towns are starting to link to it, so I anticipate it may have the premier position next week.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Clarice Lispector

“I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort” 

In the course of an average week, as part of what it takes to operate a church in the 21st century, I will meet with financiers, actors, musicians, contractors, reporters, secretaries, bookkeepers, insurance agents, photocopier repairmen, stay-at-home moms and dads, professors, bureaucrats, and those from many other corners in our society.

So I found myself the other evening sitting with a poet who was about to, rather enviously, embark on a road trip with her husband that would stretch over the next six months.  We were speaking of the importance of writing as one travels and experiences new sights and stimuli.  As do many contemporary writers, both professional and amateur, she was both going to post things on a dedicated weblog but also keep a record of the poems she composed.  She was thinking of having them published "backwards", that is, from the most recent to the first.  As she is dealing with some medical issues, she thought that her unfolding sense about living with her disease might be rendered with greater perspicacity if viewed from the present into the past.

This reminded me of a style of much of Latin American literature, where narrative disarrangement, time tilting, and altering points-of-view are common and evocative in the service of the plot and characterization.  [No surprise, really, how popular William Faulkner has been for Latin American writers.]  While we were speaking, I was trying to summon the name of the writer whom I recalled being the most influential in creating, refining, and encouraging this style, but I was daunted by my aging memory.  It wasn't until I got home later that night and was able to dig through some ancient tomes in my library, that I remembered her name and her art.  [Using a search engine seems like cheating, sometimes.]

Although she is inevitably associated with the South American arts world, specifically the style and nature of Brazilian story-telling, Clarice Lispector was born in 1920 in The Ukraine, in infancy moving to Brazil to a Jewish neighborhood in Recife.  Her mother, having been brutally serviced during the pogroms in Ukraine and left with lasting physical damage, died while Lispector was still a child, but not without leaving her daughter with a memory of Ukrainian folk tales that dealt with the more liminal aspects of human consciousness and behavior.  These, combined with remarkably similar themes from the Brazilian folk tradition, inflamed Lispector's imagination and creativity.  All it took was exposure to the works of Herman Hesse while a teenager to focus Lispector's desire to be a writer.

She was bright, creative, driven, and responsible, and, as she lived in a culture that tended to support female achievement with fewer constraints than much of the rest of the contemporary western world, she became academically accomplished.  So much so that she entered law school in Rio de Janeiro at the age of seventeen.  It was here that she encountered those who would provide the opposing poles of her life.  The first was her relationship with a classmate who would eventually become her husband.  As he would enter Brazil's foreign service, Lispector would spend much of her adult life traveling the world as a diplomat's dutiful wife.

The second was realized in her relationships with members of Rio's tight artistic community, those who encouraged and inspired her to continue to write.  She would hone her technique as a fashion reporter, an experience that ensured both an economy and simplicity in her language and, even more rare in a writer, an impeccable and stylish personal appearance.

Artists loved to attempt to capture her in their medium, to greater or lesser success.
In 1943, Lispector would publish her first novel, Near to the Wild Heart.  Using surreal imagery and indifferent to a linear narrative, the novel was a sensation.  Lispector was favorably compared to Virginia Woolf, a writer whom she had never read, James Joyce, Andre Gide, and other members of the Europe-based literati.  Ironically, some critics were taken with the novel as it didn't seem as if it were written by a Brazilian.  In fact, a few critics thought that it had secretly been written by a man using a feminine pseudonym.

As summarized in a recent review, written a few years ago upon publication of what is considered the first worthy English translation of the novel, the critic notes:
The novel is made up of a series of stream-of-consciousness passages, centering on the thoughts and actions of the young Joana. After the death of her father, Joana drifts through her days, living only in the present but oblivious to daily circumstance. Not a lot happens: she is sent to live with an uncle; marries a man she loves, in her own strange way; gets bored; has an affair; leaves her husband. The unworldly and callous Joana – described by her aunt as "a strange creature … with neither friends nor God" – unsettles everyone she meets with excessive sincerity and lack of remorse. The originality of Near to the Wild Heart lies in its technique and language: self-conscious, bleakly humorous, but poetic – "The sun burst through the clouds and the little sparkles scintillating on the waters were tiny fires flaring up and dying out." [1]
She became the toast of Rio's art world and, due to her husband's series of promotions, a grand hostess in the world's diplomatic circles, too.

Beginning in 1944, for fifteen years Lispector lived in Italy, Switzerland, England, and, eventually, Washington D.C.  Not only would she welcome guests to a variety of diplomatic receptions and balls at the Brazilian embassies around the world, but she would raise a couple of boys and continue to write novels that would solidify her reputation as Brazil's premier 20th century author and muse.

However, and despite her Ukrainian birth, Lispector was a Brazilian who was increasingly homesick for the music, art, food, vividity, sensuality, and quality of life of her adopted homeland.  So much so that, in 1959, she left her husband and, with her children, moved back to Rio to settle. This was not an easy move as she was without much money and had no real prospects outside of the literary world.  However, she had a novel and collection of short stories completed so, once a publisher was secured, she returned to full prominence in the literary life of Amazonia, proving to be prolific enough to satisfy the public's demand for her work.  Over the remainder of her life, she would publish:

Family Ties [1960]
The Apple in the Dark [1961]
The Passion According to G.H. and The Foreign Legion [1964]
The Woman Who Killed the Fish and An Apprenticeship or The Book of Pleasures [1968]
Covert Joy and The Stream of Life [1971]
Água Viva [1973]
Where Were You at Night and The Via Crucis of the Body [1974]
A Breath of Life and The Hour of the Star [1977]

She became a sometimes accessible, sometimes mysterious woman of influence.  Lispector would invite young writers into her salon and either listen to their poetry and prose, making erudite commentary on their style, or defy them to amuse her, staring at them while chain smoking until they finally left in some discomfort. 

In recent years, she has become even more appreciated outside of Brazil and South America as her artistic authority has increased.  As young writers of Lispector's generation would look to their compatriots in Europe and the U.S. for inspiration, by the 21st century, European and American writers would look to Clarice Lispector to give energy to their imagination.

Lispector would suffer from health issues in later life, mostly due to her smoking.  [Note: It's not easy to find a photo of her that doesn't include a cigarette elegantly held aloft.]  In 1966, she fell asleep with a lit cigarette and managed to all-but-destroy her right hand, her legs, and her salon.  She survived, but was in pain for the remainder of her days, eventually succumbing to cancer in 1977.

As was noted in a recent re-appreciation of her gift to world literature and her Brazilian sense of the mystic,
The legendarily beautiful Clarice Lispector, tall and blonde, clad in the outspoken sunglasses and chunky jewelry of a grande dame of midcentury Rio de Janeiro, met our current definition of glamour. She spent years as a fashion journalist and knew how to look the part. But it is as much in the older sense of the word that Clarice Lispector is glamorous: as a caster of spells, literally enchanting, her nervous ghost haunting every branch of the Brazilian arts.
Her spell has grown unceasingly since her death. Then, in 1977, it would have seemed exaggerated to say she was her country’s preeminent modern writer. Today, when it no longer does, questions of artistic importance are, to a certain extent, irrelevant. What matters is the magnetic love she inspires in those susceptible to her. For them, reading Clarice Lispector is one of the great emotional experiences of their lives. But her glamour is dangerous. “Be careful with Clarice,” a friend told a reader decades ago, using the single name by which she is universally known. “It’s not literature. It’s witchcraft.” [2]
Her novels and short story collections are still in print with most available in English translations, although with varying degrees of success in converting her lilting, lyrical prose from Portuguese.
Just this past month, on the 40th anniversary of her death, Oxford University held a gathering of scholars to observe her legacy and its contribution to world literature.[3]

In a quiet park in Recife, Brazil, one may still sit in attendance with the woman of letters as the city has honored her with a statue.  Near its base reads a quotation, "Tudo no mundo começou com um sim. Uma molécula disse sim a outra molécula e a vida nasceu ".  Or, in English, "Everything in the world started with a yes. One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born."

So, the child born in poverty in a Jewish ghetto in Ukraine, who came to prominence in the exotica of Brazil, and represented her country as a proper hostess and, eventually, literary beacon, said "yes" to all of the rich variety that was presented to her, regardless of its source, its difficulty, or its pain.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Almost Lost Childhood TV [1964]

From the same folks who brought us Supercar, but this time in color.  Er, colour.  [It didn't really matter as we didn't have a color TV set, but it was the thought that counted.]

A Pleasant Article

The Lost Soul of History’s Greatest Yacht Builder
The narrative quality of yacht-building—the poetry, the lore—does not exist today. Lost is the craft of designers like William Fife III, who bestowed the ever-changing, fickle waters of the sea with modern meaning and contemporary epic…

Almost Lost Childhood TV

Shows were so much better then, even in black and white.

More about Supercar may be found here.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

It's an Early Christmas Miracle

The Bigger the Glass, the More People Drink. Apparently It Takes Science to Figure That Out.

Study highlights relation between wine consumption and glass size

This is a Seriously Weird Time of Year

Calgary man sees Nativity scene inside his Kielbasa Wellington

Next They'll Oppose a Politician Receiving the Sacrament

Group opposes senator’s bell-ringing for Salvation Army

The Constitution's 1st Amendment certainly confuses people from time to time.  So does this non-Constitutional "separation of church and state" business.  I'm guessing the non-theists don't realize that The Salvation Army is an actual Christian denomination, either.

[Disclaimer: My great-grandmother was a sergeant in the U.K.'s Army.]

Archaeological News

It's Corinth of which they speak.  Please forgive the fact that this comes from an over-excited English tabloid.

Ancient Biblical city ‘destroyed by earthquake 1,400 YEARS ago’ found INTACT underwater

If You Haven't, Please Watch "The Crown"

It's a realistic view of the woman who may be Britain's last, true Christian.

‘The Crown’’s Intriguing Embrace of Faith

Friday, December 15, 2017

Well, There Used to Be

Man rescued after driving into river, Ohio police say he thought there was a bridge there

I mean, save for the "intoxicated" part, I could have made the same error.

Eddie Aikau

"Eddie would go..."

The Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational was cancelled the other day, despite attempts by the Aikau family to offer something in place of what had been one of the premier events on the professional surfing calendar.  It was a "big wave" competition that disallowed, unlike others, the use of jet skis to carry the surfers out into the 30 to 50 foot wave zone.  Only 28 of the world's best surfers would be invited and, as the surf had to be just right for an appropriate challenge, it has been held only nine times in the last thirty-one years.

This year, the surfing equipment manufacturer that has always sponsored the Invitational backed out, leaving the Aikau family scrambling at the last minute to find another.  They couldn't, but still invited the best surfers in the world to complete, anyway.  As Eddie's uncle boasted, “Even if we have to have coconuts for trophies and you come down with a can of sardines, Uncle Clyde will feed you rice and we’ll have the event."  Apparently, in the hyper-commercialized world of professional surfing, where the world's best all carry multi-million dollar sponsorship, that was not enough of an inducement.

Such is the state of contemporary surfing, the funky, off-hand, and mildly eccentric hobby for some, cultural inheritance for others, that has now become another opportunity to sell junk that no one needs at exorbitant prices.  We've come a long way from the early days when surf culture was determined by Duke, Tom, Bob, Rell, Bruce [who died earlier this week], and Gerry.

Eddie Aikau was of this early, simple breed.  Talented, spiritual, driven, and proud, he was not only one of the world's premier surfers, but contributed those qualities in service to his greater culture.  He was also just about the bravest guy ever to enter the water.

Aikau was born on The Big Island in the first year of peace after World War II.  Among his ancestors was the original "big kahuna", the high priest who served King Kamehameha I, and his family tended towards traditional spirituality in their appreciation of life and sport.  Being a descendant of a kahuna did not guarantee an income, however, and the Aikua's were perpetually on the edge of poverty.  They moved to Oahu for better employment opportunities and, at sixteen, Eddie, both to help his family and enable the purchase of his first surfboard, worked, as did so many on the island, at the Dole pineapple processing plant.

Not one to be bothered much by schooling, Aikau spent his days at the Dole plant and in the waves, not knowing enough to be aware that the bone-crushing surf into which he was paddling wasn't recommended for sport or survival.  After all, his ancestors swam and surfed in it.  He perfected his technique in big waves, becoming more and more comfortable in the water and in rough surf.  He began to realize that a day spent in even the worst conditions was preferable to a day in the pineapple cannery so, in 1968, he was hired by the city of Honolulu to serve as the first, official lifeguard on the North Shore.

For those unfamiliar with the particular nature of the North Shore of Oahu, we offer this brief video:

Aikua's "beat" was the 5 mile stretch between Sunset Beach and Haleiwa, some of the best known, and most treacherous, surf breaks in the world, including those in Waimea Bay and the notorious Banzai Pipeline.  It is estimated that during the ten years from '68 to '78, Aikua rescued approximately 500 surfers and swimmers from those massive waves.  Not one life was lost in the water during his tenure on those beaches.

Hence came the expression, nowadays found on Toyota Tacoma bumpers, guitar cases, surfboard racks, and by the cash register in just about any surf shop from Lahaina to Long Beach, that summed up Aikua's philosophy, practice, and legend.  Whenever someone needed help, whatever the conditions or the danger, "Eddie Would Go".

Aware of his culture and his family's role within it, Aikua, who was also now a recognized international "big surf" competitor, especially after winning the Duke Kahanamoku Invitational in 1977, began to promote awareness of the growing "Hawaiiana" movement among those of Hawaiian and Polynesian descent.  Hawaiiana promotes, through formal education, aquatic knowledge, and familiarity with traditional art, religion, and ancient skills, the admirable cultural qualities of the islands before the arrival of the Europeans.

Much of the public witness of this movement was presented through the Polynesian Voyaging Society, an organization that restored the lost arts of war canoe building and non-instrumental navigation.  Periodically, the Society undertakes long voyages in traditional, hand-built craft among the islands of the Polynesian archipelago, testing their understanding of navigation, boat-building, and stamina, to learn more about the ancient people and to test current theories as to island migration.

In 1978, the Society sought to engage a 2,500 mile, 30 day voyage among what is known as the Polynesian Triangle, testing the veracity of the supposed trade and migration routes between Hawaii and Tahiti.  Naturally, such a venture would require an able, native waterman and lifeguard, so Eddie Aikau volunteered with the expedition.

Shortly after leaving Oahu, and only twelve or so miles south of Molokai, the Society's large, traditional canoe, named the Hōkūleʻa after the Polynesian for the Morning/Evening Star, encountered a storm and heavy seas that caused a hull breach.  As the Hōkūleʻa capsized, and with rescue aid equally encumbered by the storm, Eddie Aikau, consummate lifeguard, grabbed his surfboard that was strapped to the side of the canoe, surrendered his life-jacket as it was too constraining, and attempted to paddle his way to help through the rough seas.  After all, as everyone knew by that point, even when the circumstances are impossible, Eddie would go.

He was never seen again; neither his body nor his board was ever found.  The crew was eventually rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Despite the efforts of the U.S.C.G. and other agencies in what was the largest air/sea rescue operation to date, Aikau's fate became yet another mystery of the sea.

As can often happen, though, as honored as he was in life, Aikau's sacrifice made of him a legend.  Aikau is always mentioned in tales and biographies of the legendary watermen, is a prominent figure in surfing's spiritual side, is the subject of a well-received ESPN documentary, and also a biography entitled [what else?] Eddie Would Go.

The Hawaiiana movement is partial to his legend, too, as it inspires new converts among the island population, who are bid to, in the spirit of Eddie, surrender fear and learn to respect and abide with the ocean, as did their ancestors.  The Polynesian Voyaging Society continues in its work, undaunted by the former tragedy, with the restored Hōkūleʻa having since sailed on many voyages, even as far as New Zealand.

Perhaps the best gauge of the power of his legend is realized on any wild morning on any surf break anywhere in the world, especially when casual, weekend surfers gather to refine their rough, and sometimes embarrassing, technique.  Inevitably, when looking at surf that is not only just beyond their talents, but perhaps just this side of suicidal, someone will say, "Eddie would go".  Then, a collection of accountants, students, dentists, mechanics, and clergy will enter the water and do their best against raw nature.

That, more than anything, reveals the nature of surfing and the gift of those like Aikau.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Memory of Hell

Five years ago, I attended an atrocity.  It wasn't my first; I really hope it's the last.

Things I recall:

A young police officer collapsing in grief under a tree, his fellow officers shielding him from the view of phone cameras.

A classroom with its floor covered by a tarp, shapes still visible underneath.

The sound of parents in grief and mourning.

The shattered front doors of the school, a sign prominent that read "This is a gun free zone."

The next day I attended an ordination.  I presented the candidate, I recall.  When asked about it later that day, I remember saying, "I don't think I want to play church dress-up anymore" .

You know, I never quite did, either; at least not in the same way.
O God, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and
blessed them: Give us grace to entrust them to your never-
failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly
kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever. Amen.

When Did Universities Become Islands of Gross Ignorance?

I understand the importance of the atheist/agnostic pose for those of an insecure intellect, but if you think the colors red and green and depictions of wrapped presents are "religious iconography" , then you don't know the meaning of the word "iconography". Come to think of it, you don't know the meaning of the word "religious", either.

On The Coracle Puzzlewit Scale, you would be at Level Minnesota, which is second only to Level Yale.

University of Minnesota officials recently distributed documents to employees and student-workers advising them to keep “inappropriate religious celebrations” out of public spaces.The document, titled “Religious Diversity and the Holidays,” encouraged recipients “to recognize the holidays in ways that are respectful of the diversity of the University community.” It listed several specific examples of “religious iconography” the university says are inappropriate for display.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Joy of Small Town Newspaper Police Reports

3:02 p.m. A Kalispell resident called police because a man named Joel turned off his phone, and, according to the resident, Joel’s not allowed to do that.

You Know, As a Surfer, I Want to Do All I Can for the Environment, But Would You Scientific Fellows Please Quit Fibbing?

Investigation finds Swedish scientists committed scientific misconduct: Probe centered on controversial paper that claimed microplastic pollution harms fish.

I mean, it's embarrassing and just weakens your case.

Of Trains and Childhood

In 1965, The New York Times wrote that Joshua Lionel Cowen had made the Lionel name “the third wing of Christmas, along with the evergreen tree and Santa Claus.” Even now, for many of us, a Christmas tree, however laden with colored lights, however lavishly tinseled, seems incomplete without an 027 model train running beneath it on a circle of steel track.

The Need for the Mysterious

This is an intoxicating form of anti-intellectualism that parades as hard-headed rationalism. It is a close cousin to Christian Fundamentalism since both seek to reduce complex things to a simple, declaratory, unambiguous “fact.” Each of these intellectual habits seeks something certain, unambiguous, so as to get the intellectual assurance that eliminates the need for a spiritual journey that would encounter more mysteries than uncover certain answers.

Ideological Messaging in the 21st Century

I've become fascinated of late as to how often I am sent via e-mail "sermon topic suggestions" from obtusely named pseudo-Christian groups that read suspiciously like talking points from the Democratic National Committee.  It's a remarkable way of getting out one's secular messaging through a non-traditional medium.  Since many of my colleagues now see themselves more as social justice warriors than simple parish priests, this serves their needs, too.

In fact, at our recent diocesan convention, I was able to tell which of my colleagues receive the same information when at least two stood up to speak and employed the same statements, jargon, and pseudo-academic word salad as I have received in recent weeks.

I was also interested that something I was sent by the pseuds on Monday is almost exactly, word for word, what was said in a public statement by a New York senator on Tuesday.  That's some real message discipline.  That I can sit at a clergy meeting and listen to colleagues openly discuss their "hatred", "loathing", and "contempt" for the current occupant of the White House, and then shift to earnestly discussing our need to "respect the dignity of every human being" shows how complete the ideological programming has become.  Man, that Orwell was on to something, wasn't he?

For the record, I work for Jesus, not the Democrats, Republicans, or any other collection of secular ideologues.  To do otherwise is to dismiss about half of one's fellow citizenry, and that seems short-sighted and contrary to the challenging Gospel message.

Anyway, much of what I'm sent is also reflected in the statements and jokes of the late night clowns.  In fact, sometimes it's as if they all have the exact same writers.  So, I was interested in one clown's take on recent decisions and how closely it reflected a recent ideological e-mail I was sent; one that I noted particularly as it was grossly inaccurate.

Since this is from the Washington Post, it appears I wasn't the only one to notice.

Fact-checking Jimmy Kimmel on CHIP funding

Not One of Which is in the United States, Despite What is Often Taught in Schools

10 rivers are responsible for 90% of the plastic in the ocean

This is Judged "Acccurate" by The Coracle Foundation

Turning childhood into a mental illness: The therapy industry is in danger of screwing up our kids.
The growing trend for redefining the problems of life as issues of mental health has had a particularly pernicious effect on children and child development. Since the late 1970s, there has been a creeping tendency to portray children as uniquely vulnerable to emotional damage. Before then, it was commonly believed that children could recover their strength and resilience in the aftermath of an emotionally difficult experience. But in the late 20th century, in line with the expanding medicalisation of everyday life, society became preoccupied with the apparent fragility of childhood.

Archaeological News

10 Secrets Of Drone Archaeology

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ouf, Je Suis Fatiguee

Traveling today and also recovering from one of those weeks when I realize that I'm no longer in my thirties.

Also, it appears that one of our world's more excitable types has blown pieces off of himself somewhere in the subway system, thus delaying today's travels.  We'll be back shortly, or as soon as we're able to find an internet connection.

Spoof, Right?

Sexual Revolution Working Out Great, Reports Nation Full Of Perverts
According to the country with dozens of famous celebrities, television pundits, and politicians currently embroiled in sexual scandals, the sexual revolution was a necessary period that allowed the nation to throw off the outdated, restricted shackles of religion and biblical morality.

“I really pity all those backward parts of the world that haven’t had the privilege of experiencing their own sexual revolution,” one politician said as he checked Twitter to see if his own personal indiscretions had been revealed yet. “One day, they’ll be enlightened too.”

An Obituary of Note

Bruce Brown, longtime surf filmmaker and director of the seminal “Endless Summer” just passed at 80 years old

He was the creator of the documentary that significantly altered or ruined my life, depending on whom you ask.

Brown was profiled in The Coracle a couple of years ago.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tales from Our Post-Christian Society

Atlanta Targets Good Samaritans Sharing Food with Homeless
Feed yourself in a public park. Feed the pigeons and the squirrels there, too. Whatever you do, though, don't share your food with a hungry person.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Zora Arkus-Duntov

"This is the most beautiful car I have ever seen." 

When I was a lay brother at an Episcopal Church monastery, and the junior member of the order, I would be expected to fulfill a variety of obtuse, non-traditional responsibilities.  For example, while I did maintain the altar and its various vessels and appointments, I would also have to re-shingle the tool shed, clean the bishop's guest room on the occasions when he had stayed out too late playing poker and didn't want to return home just yet, extract the honey from the hives that supplied the product sold at our roadside stand, and clear the spiders and their webs from the cloister.  [The other monks were afraid of spiders.] I would also have to maintain the monastery's automobiles, which was the best part of the job.

Monasteries, like churches, receive a variety of in-kind donations, some of which are actually useful.  I've never served in a church that didn't have a closet filled with such things as obsolete fax machines and computers, or didn't have a piano with a cracked soundboard sitting about gathering dust.  I credit our Father Superior with making sure that, if we were to receive an in-kind donation, it wasn't someone's junk being used to pad their tax deductions, but something that would actually be useful to the order.  This meant our stereo system in the monastic enclosure was primo, as was our riding mower and our supermarket account.

Best of all, we had been given a twelve-passenger Dodge van, an Oldsmobile Ciera, a Volvo 240, and the Father Superior's pride and joy, a Mercedes saloon [or, in American, a sedan].  My job was to keep the vehicles clean inside and out, change the oil, rotate the tires, and arrange for repairs when necessary.  [They knew I had once worked at a GMC Truck garage.]  While I had grown up in a Chevy and Ford family, with all car needs met by the corner "filling station", it was a completely different experience when taking the Superior's Mercedes to the dealership's garage.

Instead of Gomer and Goober, I had to deal with Hans and Ignaz.  Rather than oil-stained shirts with their Teutonic names embroidered above the pocket, they wore lab coats.  Stain-free lab coats, like the one worn by the guy who had taken out my tonsils in childhood.  Like the rocket scientists who worked with my Dad and, also like the rocket scientists, with German accents that were nearly impenetrable.  They regarded any owner/driver with apparent disdain, as if it were personally insulting to them that someone had allowed a fine machine to be less-than-perfect.

One day while I was there, waiting in the well-appointed ante-room with its better-than-gas-station quality coffee on offer [this was in the days before Keurig machines and Starbuck's burned muck]  and with portraits of the great Mercedes cars and drivers decorating the walls, I heard a startling exclamation.

"Vas ist das?!"

Hans [or maybe it was Ignaz] had just witnessed an abomination.  He was joined milliseconds later by Ignaz [or maybe it was Hans] who also stared at this wonder with bulging eyes and slack mouth.  He, too, repeated, "Vas ist das?!"

You see, someone had the temerity to bring before them a Mercedes-Benz roadster, the two-seat convertible, that had been...altered.  The owner, a young executive with the dominant local industry, had outfitted his otherwise perfect car with, Gott mit uns, "mag wheels".  That is, jazzy wheel covers that didn't match the stately dignity of the rest of the car.  They would have looked more at home on a candy-coated, lowered 1956 Chevy.  It was so upsetting that Hans [again, maybe Ignaz] refused to work on the vehicle.

I suspect that a similar exclamation was made by Zora Arkus-Duntov the first time he saw a particular car with its hood open.  The car was the showpiece of General Motors' Motorama auto show of 1953, held in New York City.  Made from that new material, fiberglass, and adorned with a bright perma-white finish, the Chevrolet Corvette was intended as a "concept car", a one-off product designed to bring in crowds to look at the more pedestrian sedans and station wagons that they would wind up buying.  Instead, it was so wildly popular that even the execs at GM realized they were on to something.

Arkus-Duntov, while recognizing the beauty of the car, also noticed its fatal marketing flaw.  Despite that it was the first real American sports car [some claim it still is], its exterior beauty was not matched by the most important part of a sports car's being.  It's engine was a pathetically under-powered 235 cubic inch, in-line six cylinder.

Arkus-Duntov knew something of engines and cars.  He had already, in his native Germany, been a motorcycle racer, automobile racer, engineering student, and the author of several important papers examining issues of automotive engine design.  So revered are engineers in German culture that he was considered glamorous enough to have married a popular dancer who had worked in the Folies Bergère.  When World War II began, Arkus-Duntov and his wife being Jews, knew enough to get out of Germany.  He did so by joining the French air force along with his brother, while his wife, Elfi, moved to Paris.

They had little chance to engage in dog fights, as the French surrendered shortly afterwards.  With their countrymen now rapidly crossing France, Arkus-Duntov and his brother hid in a...well...a house that supported what is certainly the oldest profession, while Elfi raced their MG roadster ahead of the invading panzers, meeting the Arkus-Duntov siblings and fleeing to the ports of Portugal and, ultimately, a ship to New York just in the nick of time.  [I'm trying to imagine the conversation upon their reunion.  "You were hiding...where?"]

The Arkus-Duntov brothers started a successful business in New York, eventually becoming the manufacturers of the aluminum overhead valve combustion chamber used on what is easily regarded as the best auto engine of the era, the Ford V8 flathead.  [Still the engine of choice for hot-rodders.]

So, imagine what it was like, not long after the Motorama, for the chief engineer of Chevrolet to receive a letter from Arkus-Duntov offering his services in any way that General Motors saw fit, as long as it included making the Corvette into a true sports car.  Not only was the car to be attractive and functional, but it was to be powerful enough to give an enthusiast a thrill and compete against the European marques in continental road racing.  They said "yes", obviously.  So, Zora Arkus-Duntov, late of the race tracks of Europe, author of numerous, groundbreaking studies in engineering, French air force hero [almost], and the enabler of the single best engine yet in existence, became an assistant engineer in Detroit at the age of 44.

The pre-Arkus-Duntov Corvette

And the initial Arkus-Duntov version

Not caring about his status, and completely committed to this new project, Arkus-Duntov wrote the seminal paper in American sports and muscle car development, "Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot-Rodders, and Chevrolet".  In it, he established the philosophy of the Corvette, almost a theology, actually, that determined everything from construction to appearance to marketing.  Not only was the Corvette to be a pretty car, albeit one with a massively powerful engine, and not only was it to be a popular plaything of gearheads, but it would challenge in both showroom and track the products of Porsche, Ferrari, and Mercedes.

Corvettes on the track
General Motor's reaction to his all-encompassing philosophy was to grant him a new position within the corporation: Director of High Performance.  Not satisfied with simply having a desk job, Arkus-Duntov fitted a new version of a small block V8 in the Corvette and raced it himself in the Pikes Peak climbing competition, setting a record for a street vehicle.  He also took the Corvette to Daytona Beach and drove it to a speed record of 150 miles per hour, an unheard of figure in 1956.  In between racing adventures, Arkus-Duntov found the time to design a fuel-injected engine and disc brakes, both firsts on mass-produced automobiles.

The famous and extremely innovative wrap-around split window 1963 version,
continuing Arkus-Duntov's record of innovation
While Arkus-Duntov would retire in 1975, indelibly recognized as the "Father of the Corvette" and the creator of its lasting brand and image, he maintained his participation in the marketing of the car as he was very much in demand at auto shows and other gatherings of gearheads.  Even into his eighties, he continued to push the Corvette as the one vehicle in the GM stable that represented the newest and most innovative engineering and would perpetually stir the heart and imagination of any car enthusiast.

The 1975, the last to be directly supervised by Arkus-Duntov
Zora Arkus-Duntov would die in Detroit at the age of 86, not too many weeks after an appearance at a trade show where he was the keynote speaker.  His ashes would be interred at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  There are a number of magazine articles and some books about Arkus-Duntov and the Corvette, and a particularly important obituary written by George Will for The Washington Post that sums up his contribution not just to the development of a particular car, but of the can-do attitude of the post-WWII United States.

As Will writes: " Zora Arkus-Duntov died the other day in Detroit at 86. And if, 700 words from now, you do not mourn his passing, you are not a good American."   Thus, yet another immigrant used his vision and talent to contribute to the multi-faceted and ever-protean experience that is America.