Friday, June 30, 2017

Laura Boulton

“To capture, absorb, and bring back the world‘s music; not the music of the concert hall or the opera house, but the music of the people...."

The Mississippi Delta in July is not a place to be for one who has lived his life in the upper longitudes of the United States.  While it could be hot and humid at any time of year, in the summer one feels as if they are on the surface of the sun.  At 11pm one evening, I recall that we went out for ice cream because it had cooled to "only 87 degrees".  That was Fahrenheit but, as it was matched by a 95% humidity, the temperature may as well have been measured in Kelvin units.

One day, though, I unconsciously left the protection of the house, car, and church's air conditioning when I heard an oddly alien, yet familiar, sound coming from the town square.  I knew that it was a guitar, but there was something off about it.  Like a horse with a slight injury, unnoticeable save for an odd canter in its gait, there was something askew in the instrumentation, but it was being compensated for by the virtuosity of the guitarist.

I traced the sound to the steps of the laundromat, where I found an elderly man, bent over a guitar of dreadnought design, but of unrecognizable manufacture, wearing a disreputable wool fedora and skimming the fret board with a bent spoon.  The missing portion was from an absent sixth string.  It didn't matter, though.  He was playing old classics, familiar to the area, which was the birthplace of Muddy Waters and not far down the road from the infamous crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in return for an unmatched ability to work strings and chords into something deeply resonant in the human experience.

With five strings and that old spoon, the laundromat bluesman took the handful of us in the square through the "Parchman Farm Blues" to "Goin' Down to the River" to, of course, "Kind-Hearted Woman Blues".  I forgot all about the heat in the midst of this aural wonder.

My only wish at the time was that I had a tape recorder [affordable small digital recorders and smart phones were still a ways off] so that I could have caught not just the songs themselves, not just the five-string, bent-spoon blues, but the entire experience of hearing those antique songs so lovingly played in the midst of the mugginess, magnolias, and mockingbirds.

That wish was exacerbated when, upon my return for the funeral of one of my in-laws a few years later, I heard that the bluesman, too, had surrendered his mortality.  The square was quiet, the steps of the laundromat holding nothing more than the wisps of cotton carried through the air.

In my imagination, Laura Boulton had one of those moments, too, when she heard something rare and wonderful and wanted to capture it so that others could hear it.  As she was born in 1899, even further away from the days of electronic gadgets, her achievements are all the more impressive and invaluable for those who savor indigenous, and often historically transient, music.

Born in Conneaut, Ohio, a small, pleasant town on the shores of Lake Erie, where both land and water birds make their avian songs, Boulton developed an interest in both ornithology and birdsong.  She ratified this interest through studies completed at Western Reserve University [now Case Western Reserve University] and Denison College.  So successful was she that she became a lecturer in biology at Carnegie Mellon University.

When in her thirties, through a grant from the University of Chicago, Boulton began the first serious, modern studies of birdsong using a wax cylinder recorder to catalog the various ornithological tones.

I'm trying to imagine how one of these would endure harsh, overland travel; not to mention what the African heat would do to the wax of the recording cylinders.

While traveling through Egypt, The Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika [modern Tanzania], she also recorded the local folk music, using her highly trained and scientific mind to organize the music according to geography, instrumentation, tribal usage, and language.  This is when I wonder if she had one of those transcendent moments when she heard music, unusual and alien to her culture, and realized that it carried within it something terribly deep and meaningful to the genetic memory.

Upon her return to the United States, Boulton added musicology to her resume and began to spend the remainder of her academic life studying ethnic and folk music throughout the world, especially in areas where it was likely that the music was being performed by its last generation of musicians.  On behalf of the American Museum of Natural History, she collected musical instruments, too.  These currently may be be viewed among the museum's permanent collection.  Her expeditions on their behalf took her to Mozambique, Nyasaland, Rhodesia, Transvaal, Cape Province, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Dahomey and other parts of French Equatorial Africa, the British Cameroons, the Belgian Congo, Ethiopia and Ghana.

[A note of interest: In recent years, more has been learned of Boulton's quiet husband, Wolfrid Rudyard Boulton, Jr., who was also an ornithologist of some reputation.  In the late 20th century, it was revealed that "Rud" Boulton also worked for military intelligence and, as of World War II, the OSS and its successor agency, the CIA.  Because of his surreptitious activities on behalf of U.S. intelligence, the Boultons received a remarkable collection of advanced, and expensive, equipment that Laura used for her studies and Rud used to spy.  For example, during their pre-World War II expeditions on the African continent, the Boultons carried with them a telescope, portable bird blind, five high-speed cameras, a parabolic sound reflector capable of picking up bird calls from 500 feet away, and a wire recorder all packed into a four-ton truck with an air-conditioned house trailer equipped with a darkroom.  Nowadays, I think this would be called "glamping".]

After her African work concluded, Boulton accompanied a film crew to record the music and instruments of the Inuit and Navajo tribes, capturing yet again songs and manners of life on the verge of extinction.  Her catalog became the foundation for Columbia University's Center for Ethnomusicology and Harvard University's Collection of Byzantine and Orthodox music.  She recorded thirteen albums, made fifteen film documentaries, and wrote an autobiography, Music Hunter.

Laura Boulton died in 1980 after a very full life spent enriching our general knowledge of music, folk dance, instruments, and styles of performance that would have been lost to history if not for her efforts.  Even now, when listening to the car radio, I can pick out of popular music some musical phrase that owes more to Boulton and her labors than most casual listeners realize.  Not only does she continue to influence what we hear and appreciate, but she serves as a champion for the contribution of women to the sciences.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"Why Does Anyone?" - My 15-Year-Old Self


(Sorry about the all-caps; It is original to the headline.)

I'm Surprised She Needed a Sickle

80-year-old former Marine used sickle to defend herself from rabid bobcat

I mean, she's only 80.

Youth is Wasted on Humorless, Plodding, Limited Scolds

Not content with getting Native American head-dress banned at music festivals, stopping students from wearing sombreros, and telling off Beyoncé for writhing about in a sari, warriors against cultural appropriation have trained their demented gaze on food.  In February, Pembroke College, Cambridge, came under fire for serving ‘culturally insensitive’ food, including a mango and beef jerky dish that was called ‘Jamaican stew’ and a Tunisian rice dish that wasn’t properly Tunisian. Imagine going out for a meal with these moaners. You’d top yourself before the night was out.

The hipster fad for barbecue food is getting it in its fat neck, too. You think tucking into a stack of sticky baby ribs in places like the Blues Kitchen in Camden is a bit of fun? You’re wrong, as usual. ‘Barbecue is a form of cultural power’, says a writer for the Guardian (where else). It’s a tradition of ‘enslaved Africans’ and you insult those people when you peel the pork off a pig belly in some Hackney hangout. Eating, like everything else, is racism.  Even tea is under attack. It’s a ‘boring, beige relic of our colonial past’, says Joel Golby, a writer for Vice, the bible of Shoreditch bores. You can’t even have a cuppa without being induced to feel colonial guilt. Every sip should remind you of Amritsar. Mea cuppa...

...And that’s the point: cultural appropriation is a good thing. A brilliant thing. It’s the human thing.  The politically correct want to box us all off according to skin colour, gender identity, cultural heritage. But the deeper human instinct is to mix things up. Pop, art, literature and, strikingly, food are all the better when they borrow from other cultures; having nicked tricks and fused styles to create hybrid ideas and dishes we all gleefully tuck into.  Like that old bloke from my street, the guardians of racial correctness want us all to stay in our cultural lanes. ‘Can’t your mum make a roast?’ Ignore them. Break out. Eat what you like. Wear what you like. The idea that there is ‘white culture’ and ‘black culture’ is infinitely more offensive than beardy hipsters baking Cajun cornbread.
A large portion of what is post-Christian in our world is the desire to establish strong cultural barriers between people.  This is very similar to practices in 1st century Palestine, against which Christianity was a reaction.  A review of Simon Peter's revelation in Chapter 10 of the Acts of the Apostles would illuminate our theological foundation in this regard.

How Come You No Longer Teach in the U.S.?

Because, in the United States, there are notions such as "race-based gravity" taught in universities. Yes, that's right.

Unpopular Thoughts

Here's to you, world.
I'm not interested in what a professional lip-syncher's singer's home looks like.  Why was it in three of the four papers I read?  Is there suddenly an absence of world news?

For the same reason, I don't care how one tennis player ranks another.  They just play tennis, for heaven's sake.  The ants on the side of my house are more relevant to me right now.  If some loudmouth tennis player starts eating my siding, then I might care.

I find The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper a tedious album.  Magical Mystery Tour came out the same year and is easily superior.

I wish the Millennial Generation would read books other than the Harry Potter series.  Let me slightly amend a previous comment. Sgt. Pepper is better than Harry Potter.

Seriously, look at this:

I remember how happy educators were twenty years ago when children starting reading the Potter series.  "Kids are reading books, again!" was the refrain.  I think the hope was that this would lead to reading other books.  I guess that didn't work out.

Having said that, no author whom I admired as a young literature scholar has survived the reappraisal of my senior years.  Well, maybe Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and some of the Nick Adams stories. Pity Hemingway threw away his more experimental writing for the gibberish that brought him fame and money.  And wives.

And don't get me started on The Beats.

As ever, I find Alex Trebek obtuse.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No Kidding. Now Add Water to Make It Perfect.

For Exercise, Nothing Like the Great Outdoors

When it comes to religion and exercise, the press is a little slow.

Historical Ignorance + Atheism + Low I.Q. = This

Protests planned at Gettysburg battlefield this weekend

Naturally, they include grave desecration in their plans.

It's remarkable how often the "anti-fascist" crowd adopts fascist practices.  It's almost as if their words are lies, which is also fascist, come to think of it.

Is Illinois' Present Connecticut's Future?

Hospitals, doctors and dentists don’t get paid for hundreds of millions of dollars of patient care. Social-service agencies help fewer people. Public universities and the towns that surround them suffer. The state’s bond rating falls to near junk status. People move out. 

The unpaid backlog is now $14.6 billion and growing. Illinois is even late paying its utilities bills to Springfield, its own capital city.

The Summer of Secession

Eastern Washington State Would Like To Secede, Please


Personally, I think the farming portion of California should do the same.  The Golden State farmers have not been well-served by those city kids who run their assembly.  

Must Be an Episcopalian

Seminarian Unable To Locate Bible Among Towering Stacks Of Theology Books

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Happens When Environmentalists and Eco-Warriors Get Together for a Concert?

The last man standing sitting at this year's Glastonbury Festival.  He may have gotten the dates wrong.

It will take six weeks and 1.5 million dollars to clean up their refuse.

Since the festival was dominated by socialist politicians and their followers this year, it's no surprise that they expect someone else to pick up after them.  "Words, not Deeds" seems to be the slogan of so many in our post-Christian age.

A Handy and Accurate Definition of the Latest Groovy Trend in Higher Ed. It's Apparently Pretty Lucrative, Too.

Intersectionality is a neo-Marxist doctrine that views racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and all forms of “oppression” as interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Together these “isms” form a complex arrangement of advantages and burdens. A white woman is disadvantaged by her gender but advantaged by her race. A Latino is burdened by his ethnicity but privileged by his gender. According to intersectionality, American society is a “matrix of domination,” with affluent white males in control. Not only do they enjoy most of the advantages, they also determine what counts as “truth” and “knowledge.” 

 But marginalized identities are not without resources. According to one of intersectionality’s leading theorists, Patricia Collins (former president of the American Sociology Association), disadvantaged groups have access to deeper, more liberating truths. To find their voice, and to enlighten others to the true nature of reality, they require a safe space—free of microaggressive put-downs and imperious cultural appropriations. Here they may speak openly about their “lived experience.” Lived experience, according to intersectional theory, is a better guide to the truth than self-serving Western and masculine styles of thinking. So don’t try to refute intersectionality with logic or evidence: That only proves that you are part of the problem it seeks to overcome.

Archaeological News

Saxon church uncovered during dig on Holy Island

Yes, and Don't Waste Money on Tattoos

Instead of Playing Powerball, Try Practicing Thrift

Seriously, the number of people who come to my office looking for a handout who are covered in toxic ink [and are never members of any church whatsoever, and wouldn't even think of being members] is remarkable.  One woman was telling me her well-rehearsed Tale of Woe while sporting at least $2000 in elaborate body decoration.

No offence, but it seems to me that saving that money instead of indulging in narcissistic nonsense would be of greater service to the self, the boyfriend smoking in the car, and the three kids playing in the middle of the parking lot.

Ditto the folks I stand behind in line at the gas station who need to purchase a remarkable variety of lottery tickets with money that might be better spent on adequate apparel or healthcare.

Actually, I Thought That The Guardian Had

Will Twitter Kill Literature?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Today is Chesty Puller's 119th Birthday

He won the Navy Cross five, FIVE!, times.

Although my favorite quotation may be when, while taking over a new command, he said, "Take me to the brig.  I want to see real Marines."

To this day, at the end of "formal" dinners among officers, the standard benediction is, "Good night, Chesty, wherever you are."

Hang On. Where Have I Heard This Before?

A professor of political philosophy counsels that “it is often possible to recognize and respect the moral integrity of others even when we disagree with them.”

It was from some guy about...oh...2000 years ago.

Our society is so distopian that this is considered a radical notion.

Meanwhile, in the Church of England

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has resigned from his last remaining formal role in the church after a review into child abuse. 

Lord Carey was criticised in an independent review of the church's handling of abuse carried out by Bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed in 2015 for historic offences against young men.

The late bishop who ordained me, and assigned me to my first responsibilities in the church, was revealed after his death to have had a bizarre and disturbing personal affinity.  I've never quite looked at the episcopate in the same way.

So Much for RIP

Judge orders exhumation of painter Salvador Dali's body to get samples for a paternity suit

Everything We Know is Wrong

There is no link between dairy consumption and cardiovascular disease.

Really, if you rely on the government to keep you healthy, you get what you've earned.

I Wish, but It Seems Unlikely

Cracking the Biggest Art Heist in History

Subtract Whiny Millionaires and the Number of Books and Periodicals Might Be Reduced by 90%

Don’t Ask a Supermodel What Feminism Means

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ohio, Land of Freedom

Just days ahead of its opening, the organizers of Columbus’s Community Festival (ComFest) have announced that they intend to file a lawsuit seeking an injunction against law enforcement agencies from punishing women for going topless at the popular event.

Actually, My Immigrant Mother was a University Professor

"I wonder if the GOP has asked itself who will clean their toilets & nanny their children & drive their limos when we're all dead & deported." - Mary Beth Williams, a Salon writer and Manhattan resident, displaying what she thinks "immigrants" do.

Also, who's this "we" you speak of, kemosabee?


In over fifty summers, I've sustained a damaged rotator cuff, torn thumb tendon, strained Achilles tendon, sprained ankle, simple orbit fracture, cracked palate, demolished molar [a surf board hit me in the side of the face; not my board, some teenager's], two black eyes [not at the same time], bloodied noses, a sprained elbow, jellyfish stings, and forty-eight sixty sixty-six stitches in various parts of me. Not to mention sunburn [although not since the early 80's], dehydration, ear infection, various minor abrasions, contusions, lacerations, a profound sinus irritation, and shredded knee cartilage. Oh, and a barracuda once gave me a dirty look.

Despite this, it's really my favorite season.  So much so that I traveled all the way to Australia six months ago just to experience summer twice.

Then again, I've seen colleagues literally work themselves to death in their congregations, so this doesn't seem so bad.

From The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow:

"The physicists call it a 'energy-transport phenomenon.'

The dictionary says it's 'a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another location.'

A disturbance. It's certainly that.

Something gets disturbed. That is, something strikes something else and sets off a vibrations. Clap your hands right now and you'll hear a sound. What you're actually hearing is a sound wave. Something struck something else and it set off a vibration that strikes your eardrum.

The vibration is energy. It's transported through the phenomenon of a wave from one location to the other.

The water itself doesn't actually move. What happens is one particle of water bumps into the next, which bumps into the next, and so on and so forth until it hits something. It's like that idiot wave at a sports event - the people don't move around the stadium, but the wave does. The energy flows from one person to another.

So when you're riding a wave, you're not riding water. The water is the medium, but what you're really riding is energy."

[Above is a photo of a Roman Catholic nun whose religious order hosts an annual charity surfing competition in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Was the Hebrew Bible written earlier than previously thought?


"Like a bearded nut in robes on the sidewalk proclaiming the end of the world is near, the media is just doing what makes it feel good, not reporting hard facts. We need to start seeing the media as a bearded nut on the sidewalk, shouting out false fears. It's not sensible to listen to it." - Michael Crichton

Australian Honeybees Make Spiral Hives

Shark Attack Saturday

Surfer bitten by shark on foot in Ponce Inlet, Volusia officials say

Not exactly the most dramatic of stories, but it served its purpose.  Mainly, it filled space.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Eric Hoffer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm Glad to See Politicians are Striving to Be Temperate in These Volatile Times

As amusing as I find it when Chris Murphy decides he's a moral theologian who has determined that there are now "degrees" of evil, and Elizabeth Warren indulges in what she understands to be her "inner Cherokee", we just had a congressman shot by a lunatic inflamed by the extreme language of fear.  Perhaps it's time to strive to be thoughtful in discourse, rather than emotionally de-articulated.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

No Surprise, Really

Daniel Day-Lewis Quits Acting

Knowing where he lives (I used to live in the same town), and how pleasant it is there this time of year, I don't blame him.

We once had a very funny conversation at the local market about kids, he was surrounded by about a dozen of them at the time, and ice cream, that they were violently raiding from the cooler rather like the Goths sacking Rome.  Clearly, he was enjoying himself.

An Obituary of Note

Bill Dana, Comic Best Known for Jose Jimenez character, Died at 92

I know that the humorless scolds of the 21st century would find much to criticize with Dana's characterization, but he cracked me up when I was a kid.  However, his biggest fans may have been the family next door to us who had recently fled Castro's Cuba.  Whenever he was playing Jose on The Ed Sullivan Show, you could hear the whole Fernandez family laughing.

If My Daughter Were Barbie....

...I would tell her that, although all of these young men appear neat and nice, and would probably be fun friends and shopping buddies, I would not count on a romantic relationship with any of them.

Mattel unveils diverse line of Ken dolls

Good News

Johns Hopkins researchers say they've unlocked key to cancer metastasis and how to slow it


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.
Had Hillary won, everyone would have expected disappointed Trump voters to show a modicum of respect for the electoral results as well as for the historic ceremony of the inauguration, during which former combatants momentarily unite to pay homage to the peaceful transition of power in our democracy. But that was not the reaction of a vast cadre of Democrats shocked by Trump’s win. In an abject failure of leadership that may be one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of the modern Democratic party, Chuck Schumer, who had risen to become the Senate Democratic leader after the retirement of Harry Reid, asserted absolutely no moral authority as the party spun out of control in a nationwide orgy of rage and spite. Nor were there statesmanlike words of caution and restraint from two seasoned politicians whom I have admired for decades and believe should have run for president long ago—Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. How do Democrats imagine they can ever expand their electoral support if they go on and on in this self-destructive way, impugning half the nation as vile racists and homophobes?

Mindless ideology is eating away at the soul of our education system

How schools fell victim to the attack of the Blob

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Victory for All That is American

Washington Post: Supreme Court unanimously reaffirms: There is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the First Amendment

You may not like what some people say, but as long as they may do so freely, the rest of us may respond in kind.  Being an ordained Christian in the 21st century, one who often receives blistering criticism in the post-Christian public square, has taught how important this is.

Boats are More Dangerous Than Sharks

Hawaii soldier on surfboard dead after boat runs over him

There's Something Wonderfully American about this Headline

Maine woman attacked by rabid raccoon drowns it in puddle

Post-truth? It’s pure nonsense

For as long as there have been politicians, they have lied, fabricated and deceived. The manufacture of falsehood has changed over time, as the machinery becomes more sophisticated. Straight lies give way to sinuous spin, and open dishonesty disappears behind Newspeak and Doublethink. However, even if honesty is sometimes the best policy, politics is addressed to people’s opinions, and the manipulation of opinion is what it is all about. Plato held truth to be the goal of philosophy and the ultimate standard that disciplines the soul. But even he acknowledged that people cannot take very much of it, and that peaceful government depends on ‘the noble lie’.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

This is an Intelligent Man

Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls

Thanks, Dad

Dad enjoying his first cigarette after spending 2 and one-half hours in a church watching me get hitched.  I think it was consumed in one very long puff.

His family, my family, has been in this country since before it was a country.  We are older than the Declaration of Independence; older than the mass migration of the 18th century.  We are as old as the soil that fills the land from the Appalachian Plateau to the Till Plain.

My father was born in the middle of central Ohio farmland, growing up rarely wearing shoes and working a variety of jobs, aiding his family as a dutiful eldest child of his generation would, even helping to raise his sister and brother.

He was a spectacular student, the first of the family to attend college, as equally adept at mathematics, his favorite subject, as he was in grammar and usage.  [He was the proofreader for my dissertation.]

He served as a sergeant in the US Army during the Korean War, then became a teacher.

He always made sure to take his kids with him those summers he worked on his graduate degree and when he was consulting for various scientific bodies, even to the extent of hauling me out of elementary school for six weeks so that I could travel to Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Manhattan, where we lived for two weeks in the Americana Hotel.  I walked all over mid-town and even learned how to flag down a cab.  I was nine-years-old and it was a great adventure.

My grandfather, a carpenter, once told me how proud he was that his son was addressed at work as "Mr. Clements".

He showed a combination of remarkable patience and fortitude with his son, even during that obstreperous son's years of wildness.  When the son told him he wanted to be a teacher, he smiled. When the son told him he wanted to be a priest, he smiled some more.

He prayed with more sincerity than anyone I have ever known.  I think he read a book a day.  I have served four schools, a college, and a university, and I can objectively state that he was the best math teacher that I've ever seen.  His favorite hymn was #412, I think mainly because of this verse:

Classrooms and labs, loud boiling test tubes,
sing to the Lord a new song! 
Athlete and band, loud cheering people, 
sing to the Lord a new song!

We sang it at his funeral and that was the moment that I truly missed him.

While I didn't inherit his facility with equations, I did receive his sense of humor.  In times easy and hard, that's made all of the difference.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shark Attack Saturday

UK SHARK ATTACK: Surfer’s hand savaged by beast off coast of Devon


First shark attack on surfer in UK waters leaves man with small cut on his thumb

There seems to be some disparity here, as these two stories are about the same incident with the same surfer.  See what I mean about hyped shark attack stories in the summer?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Tom Blake

[Originally posted in August of 2016.]
Blake and a collection of his surfboards, which probably earned their own garage.
Travel Agent:  I have some good news about your flight from Sydney.
Me:  How much will this good news cost?
Agent: The same price as before.  I can get you a connection in Honolulu that's almost immediate.  You won't have to wait very long to take off again.
Me:  No, that won't do.
Agent:  It will save...what?
Me:  I need time between flights.  At least six hours.  Maybe eight.
Agent:  Really?
Me:  Yes.  How far is Waikiki from the airport?  I might need ten to twelve hours.
Agent:  You want to go to the...beach?
Me:  Sort of.  I want to go to the surf.
Agent:  [Awkward pause].
Me:  It's because of Tom Blake.
Agent:  Is he a friend of yours?
Me:  In a manner of speaking, yes.  It's important to ride at least one wave at Waikiki in honor of Tom.
Agent: Um...okay.  That will cost more, then.
Tom Blake was and is a metaphoric friend to all surfers, and is also the reason why a distinctly Polynesian/Hawaiian pastime became more strongly associated with fair-haired, fair-skinned guys from the mainland.  He is, to use a term common in theology, philosophy, and physics, the nexus, or point of connection, between an ancient cultural hobby and the billion dollar contemporary industry that promotes both surfing and the "surf lifestyle".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Wages of Socialism


Money-wise, Bern and his brood have done rather well for themselves.  You ought to see his three homes.  This must be Nouveau Socialism.

(Disclaimer: I don't care for either socialists or communists.  This has nothing to do directly with their ideology, which is inane and childish when it's not malevolent, but because they have tried to kill me in the past.  I don't mean that they've hurt my feelings or have used words against me [university activists tell me that words are violence], but because they've tried to shoot me and blow me up.  Oh, and one joker tried to cleve me with a machete.

Really, uni kids, words aren't violence.  Violence is violence.

Such things give one a foul impression of such ideologues.  Ah, well.  I'm still here.  They're all gone.)

Polynesian Seafaring Canoe Completes Its Globe-Circling Journey

The Hōkūleʻa vessel is set to finish its first circumnavigation later this week in Honolulu

Dear Colleagues,

I know that many of you were terribly upset at the last election when your candidate didn't win.  That's just the way it works sometimes.  We surrender the past and plan for the future, like sane people do.  Many of you have overreacted, though, and continue to have moments of questionable emotional equilibrium in the pulpit, at coffee hour, and during Bible study.

Last week, I had to listen to a sermon that the preacher, both a priest and an academic, laced with sneering references to contemporary American politics, apparently to signal to those of us gathered that we have the correct view of the issues.  It was done in a way that assumed that no other legitimate world view could exist.

I appreciate that's what the insecure must do, even from a cathedral's pulpit, and I have become used to it over the past 3+ decades but, even when I agree with the ideology, I still find it a snotty use of preaching.

At any rate, may I make a strong suggestion based on what I've overheard many of you say in less guarded moments?

Tone down the rhetoric, will you?

We live in a time when many people think clergy are useless remnants of the past, and there is something to that regard, but we still have those who think our words carry a deeper resonance because of our supposed "closeness" to God and the nature of our service to others.  Among that group, there are some who are not stable.  There is no other way to put it and there isn't one of you who doesn't know of what I speak.

These folks can become easily aroused to violence if they think it has some sort of ratification from a cable news host, a crackpot political candidate, various social media bomb-throwers, and clergy.

Please do not think that either a conservative or a liberal is above political hostility.  I've spent too much of my life between the parties not to notice that, along with a sense of ideological entitlement, there comes a tendency to view those who disagree as a contemptible "other".  That perspective is not reflective of Gospel teaching and, I think, merely makes the speaker feel warm within their self-identified righteousness.

If encouraged, the mad will hurt people.  They will hurt those whom they love and those whom they hate.  They will hurt family, and they will hurt strangers.  They will hurt themselves.  They will create violence that disrupts the Body of Christ in ways too horrid and long-lasting to easily contemplate.

As those who practice a manner of life that transcends cultural boundaries and is far older than any contemporary ideological definition, perhaps we should examine our behavior in this regard.  I appreciate that we all think that we're on the side of the angels, but one should wonder if the voice we hear that always agrees with us is God's, or belongs to another, and very deceptive, source.

A Further Unpopular Thought: I Actually Like Hawaiian Pizza

Hawaiian pizza inventor Sam Panopoulos dies aged 83

It's common and popular in the Australian surf community.

Nothing Good, That's for Sure

Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed & What It’s Doing to Us

Unpopular Thoughts

The junior senator from New York, as we have noted before, is really working hard to make her "brand" that of political toilet-mouth.  It's laughably disingenuous.  Is this how she thinks she can earn her party's nomination and the White House?

See here: The Democrats' new tough-guy routine is painful to watch

If I may quote myself:
Speaking as one who grew up in the working class Midwest, public swearing is viewed as distasteful. There are places where it's expected and tolerated, but not while in the midst of service to the greater community. The practice is made absurd when it's a privileged millionaire wearing an Italian scarf worth roughly what I make in a month deciding to be a public potty mouth. Yeah, I feel real connected to you now, senator.
Thinking of which, the most foul-mouthed women that I've ever known are priests in the Episcopal Church.

I noted while watching a portion of the Tony Awards that the transgressive theater world of New York has been brutally reminded that much of the funding for arts comes from publicly traded corporations and tax revenue.  Since a couple of major corporate sponsors withdrew from Shakespeare-in-the-Park's clumsy reworking of Julius Caesar into another exercise in tedious presidential assassination fantasy, there was nary a peep about the current occupant of the White House.  Perhaps it was done during the portion that I didn't view; perhaps we're reaching rancor fatigue.

Historically, the artistic class is brave until reminded of the hand that feeds it.  Totalitarians throughout history have noted this and found the artistic class easy to manipulate.


Once again, the multi-generational failure to teach Civics has rendered school administrators, generally the dimmest collection of bulbs, incapable of understanding the Bill of Rights.  They still maintain the tradition of humorlessness, though.

Violating the First Amendment, High School Punishes Student for Satirical Campaign Speech

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Promises, Sacred and Other

Every member of the military, every person holding a top secret clearance pledges to uphold their oaths to the United States. The oaths may be different in verbiage but they all come down to one simple premise: the person taking them pledges to act in a certain way. In Winner’s case, she pledged not to violate the trust placed in her by her employer and by the United States not to reveal top secret information without prior authorization. If the media reports are accurate, she not only violated those oaths but she did so willingly and knowingly and has admitted to doing so.
I have taken, let's see, the Boy Scouts of America oath, that of the DeMolay organization, the Department of Defense's [the same taken by Winner], the diaconal and priestly ordination vows of the Episcopal Church, and those of the marriage sacrament.  Not to sound like a...well, Boy Scout.., but each has meant something deep and important to me and I have violated none of them.  I wouldn't even think of it.  I certainly wouldn't take an oath if I intended on using it as subterfuge so that I may purposefully violate the oath at a later time.

Winner should take comfort that I'm not in charge of her eventual punishment.

This seems to indicate something that is increasingly common in our nihilistic age.  Oaths, vows, promises, devotion, and the like are things to be ruefully regarded, if not ridiculed, and serve as the object of ironic commentary.  As this tendency continues, it will make for an ugly world, far beyond even the common ugliness of today's society.

If you wish to see a blueprint for this, consult the history of the fall of Rome.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Would You Like to Hear Some Good News for a Change? Of Course You Would.

Meet the Cambridge scientist on verge of curing Multiple Sclerosis

I think that I'm going to start digging for more stories such as this and posting them.  Now that the mainstream media has decided to completely indulge in its Trump obsession and related hysteria, too much good news is being ignored.

Gibberish, the Official Language of the University [and Increasingly, the Church]

Reflections on Being the Dumbest Man in the Room
It was not simply the brilliance of the presentations that impressed upon me my intellectual shortcomings. Topics ranged from artificial intelligence to transhumanism to sexual identity to the nature of beauty. None of these are subjects in which I am remotely competent. Yet all of them were clear, cogent, and comprehensible to me. Lacking the studiedly obscure jargon that dominates so much academic discourse, the presentations revealed my ignorance not by confusing me with opaque verbiage but by teaching me what I did not previously know.

Christian World News

Christian church DESTROYED as Chinese police drag worshippers into street and beat them

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Shark Attack Saturday: Ever Wonder about the Experts Behind Shark Attack Stories? [A re-post from last summer]

Meet George Burgess, the source behind all of these stories in the media and the fellow who is sometimes referred to by the plural "experts" whenever a lazy story is published.  While he may be of generous physical proportions, it's unfair to refer to him as anything but singular.

Here's a small portion of what George has wrought this past week:

Expert warns 2016 could see a record number of shark attacks
Shark attacks in Florida and California as experts warn shark attacks on rise
Shark Attacks Seem To Be On The Rise According To Experts
Shark attacks on the rise, say leading scientists
Summer is here and the number of shark attacks could rise
Swimmers beware: shark attacks set to rise to record highs around the world

Etc., etc., etc....

These stories tend to be written earlier in the year and printed when media staffing is lighter as a third of the newsroom is on summer vacation, then released at the beginning of beach season.  As one may see, they all seem to be slight variations of one another, indicating that they are adaptations from a single wire service story.

There is one fact that seems to escape their notice, however, that would have been worth remarking upon in my day as a reporter.

Mainly, George Burgess is also an advisor to the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, which begins in a couple of weeks.

Hmm, could one thing have to do with the other?  No, that's impossible and I shouldn't have even suggested it.  Forget I said anything.

Here's an alternative view:
Shark Week's biggest critic sharpening his Twitter harpoon 

Also, if you wish, please read of Eugenie Clark, the scientist who began the first serious studies of sharks.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dickey Chapelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Connecticut = New Detroit

Though the suggestion might seem outlandish, it’s not entirely inconceivable that large swathes of Connecticut will, 20 or 30 years from now, look much like the Rust Belt does today. Certainly a set of factors points in that direction. The state has lost population for three years in a row, and the exodus is only accelerating; The story is not a fiscal one, as migrants from greater Hartford are moving to more, not less, expensive places. The ongoing collapse of the retail sector, as wonderfully elucidated by Kevin D. Williamson, will hit Connecticut especially hard: The state has the highest number of shopping malls per capita in the country. Meanwhile towns and cities across the state, rural and urban alike, are plagued by the opioid epidemic, which killed nearly a thousand Connecticut residents in 2016 alone. Connecticut in 2017 seems like a state on the verge of — or in the middle of — an inexorable decline. 

The Kids Are Alright*

A majority of students do not actively endorse safe spaces on campuses, according to a recently released study.

*The title of a song by The Who.

Under Analysis, This Has Been Found True

Better College, Better Scholars, Right? Not So Much

The analysis was rendered by The Coracle Institute for Analyzing Stuff.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Mozambique police warn bald men after ritual attack

Archaeological News

Laser technology uncovers 1,600-year-old Christian frescoes in Rome's biggest catacomb

There's No Weirdness Like Religious Weirdness

A saint’s brain is stolen and Catholics pray for its return

You Know, This is a Valid Point

What Liberal Students Could Learn from Conservatives: Politeness

I Feel Safer Already

An internal investigation of the TSA, leaked in 2015, found that many types of explosives apparently look to agents quite a bit like chocolate. Guns seem to closely resemble Tom Clancy novels in their eyes. Knives may be easily mistaken by the thin uniformed line against especially dim terrorists for those fuzzy troll dolls, though that part is a bit unclear. Well, maybe that's not all true. But such confusion would explain why "TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints."
After that embarrassing failure, the TSA's working theory seems to be, if you make everybody dump their sandwiches, tablets, and paperbacks into separate bins at the security checkpoint, we vastly increase the chance of intercepting backpack nukes and rocket-propelled grenades, which themselves could be mistaken for sandwiches, tablets, and paperbacks. Sure, the guards may still need some guidance as to which confiscated items are safe for noshing, but the security measures will be covering all bases.
Speaking as a world traveler [snooty much?], the TSA employs some of the thickest agents that I've ever seen anywhere in the world.  Israel is tops; Australia is interesting, as their agents are quite jolly and yet are scrutinizing everything about you and your belongings.  The TSA reacts with the emotional fragility of petty authoritarians left unchecked for too long.

Here Comes Summer... the shark attack stories, which are pre-written in the winter with the names and places to be added later when a newspaper or wire service needs easy filler during those weeks when much of the newsroom is on summer vacation, will now begin to be published.

Shark attacks spearfisherman, who captures it on video

Daredevils paddle alongside massive GREAT WHITE SHARK that got itself stuck in shallow waters…until one gets attacked by a passing stingray

Glenn returns to the ocean, months after a horrific shark attack
[Personally, I enjoy how Aussies newspapers refer to the subject of the article by his first name.  That's unheard of in U.S. style guides.] 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Man This Eloquent Deserves to Be Decorated

London attack: Football fan shouted '#######, I’m Millwall' and took on knife-wielding terrorists with his bare fists

Lewis is Looking More and More Prescient

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” - C. S. Lewis

For Me, It was Mrs. Haven

From Yale's Stephen L. Carter:

The Second Time I Learned to Read

News We Can All Use

How to Survive a Terror Attack

Run, Hide, and Call, the current British advice, is dangerous.  I discovered, from growing up in a rather gritty city, and from being trained by the U.S. government's best killers [USMC drill instructors tend to have active egos about that particular ability of theirs], that fighting quickly and suddenly can disrupt your attacker's rhythm enough to give you an advantage.  You might get hurt or killed by fighting back, but you're much more likely to be rendered mortal when curled up in a ball on the floor.  The former gives you a chance.

Monday, June 5, 2017

An Obituary of Note

Roger Smith has died.  I don't know if he was more of a hero to me at an impressionable age because he had a snappy wardrobe, a snazzy T-Bird convertible, a phone in his car, or a cool theme song.  When I was older, it was because he was married, for a very long time, to Ann-Margret.

So, Half My Congregation, Then?

The Face Of Binge Drinking In The U.S. Is A 60+ White Woman

To Think This Beardo Determined the Manner in Which We Regarded Ourselves, One Another, the Arts, Etc. for Most of the 20th Century. Sheesh.

How Freud’s Only Visit to America Made Him Hate the U.S. for the Rest of His Life

The United States is responsible for his indigestion?  The United States addressed him by his first name?  The United States is responsible for his dreams?  Jeez.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

At This Rate, They Should Just Leave the Lights Off

The lights at the Eiffel Tower will be switched off Sunday night to honour victims of the attack in the heart of London that killed seven people and injured 48, the company running the monument said on Twitter.
Absurd sentimental flummory, as useless as a Twitter hashtag that says "Pray for Paris San Bernadino Brussels Orlando Nice Wurzburg Munich Ansbach Reutlingen Ohio Berlin Istanbul St. Petersburg Stockholm Dortmund Manchester London.

I also enjoy the notion of post-Christian Europe actually praying for anything.