Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I'm Not a Fan of this Guy, but I Don't Care for Fact-Free Journalistic Christian Bashing, Either

Flood him with criticism: Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at Joel Osteen and his church

News from an Acquaintance

Archaeological News

Archaeologists Uncover ‘Fascinating’ Evidence of Bible’s King Hezekiah in Israel

Unpopular Thoughts

When a colleague in the church or academia begins a statement with, "Speaking as a (fill-in-the-blank identity group)..." , I stop listening.  Narcissistic neo-Marxist drivel is boring.

I've never seen even a minute of Game of Thrones.  I have no interest in it at all.

I have discovered that my biggest peeve is when people speak to one another over the organ prelude before a liturgy begins.  The organist has practiced a complicated piece designed to facilitate the moments of meditation before engaging in the holy mysteries, and they're loudly conversing as if he's making noxious noise designed to prevent them from talking about whatever nonsense they find urgent.  Often, they're surrounded by people trying to pray.

Politicians, when speaking about peace, please don't refer to Nelson Mandela in the same breath as Gandhi or MLK, Jr.  Mandela deliberately rejected non-violence.

I think those kids are on my lawn, again.  I have to go yell at them.

Monday, August 28, 2017


In dominico eloquio—it is an arresting phrase. For the Christian reader Isaiah is a demanding and difficult book once one strays beyond the familiar passages cited in the New Testament or commonly read in Christian worship (Isaiah 9 at Christmas, Isaiah 53 during Holy Week). To the uninitiated, the first chapter is particularly daunting with its arcane oracles against Judah and Jerusalem: “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly. They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel.”

For someone like Augustine, formed by the poetry of Virgil and the philosophy of Plotinus, the opening verses must have seemed embarrassingly parochial, taken up as they are with the fortunes of the ancient Israelites centuries earlier. Words such as “sinful nation,” “holy one of Israel,” “daughter of Zion,” “new moon and Sabbath” would have sounded alien, and anthropomorphisms like “I will vent my wrath on my enemies” or “turn my hand against you” would have offended his cultivated spiritual sensibility.

Yet Augustine called Isaiah’s language “the Lord’s style of language,” and he recognized that if he were to enter the Church he would have to learn this new tongue, hear it spoken, grow accustomed to its sounds, read the books that use it, learn its idioms, and finally speak it himself. He had to embark on a journey to acquaint himself with the mores of a new country. Becoming a Christian meant entering a strange and often alien world.

Good Advice Doesn't Often Come from the Ivy League, Except in this Case

We are scholars and teachers at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale who have some thoughts to share and advice to offer students who are headed off to colleges around the country. Our advice can be distilled to three words:

Think for yourself.


Australia to launch beach-protecting, AI-powered shark drones

Everything You Know is Wrong

'Good' cholesterol might actually be bad

Welcome to the Machine, Kid

You will be made to care about things that are important to your masters.

California first-grader sent to principal’s office for misgendering classmate

When, exactly, did schools become child abuse factories?  Were I this child's father, I would drink the principal's hot blood.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Study in Contrasts

Right now on the live news feed from two portions of the United States there are young people in action.

In Houston, young people are defying authorities to risk their lives to rescue their neighbors and their neighbors' pets from the flooding.

In Berkeley, young people are burning somebody's business to battle "fascism".  Oh, and beating a guy with clubs.

They Should Tear It Down, Then

USC Misspells Shakespeare On Newly Unveiled Statue

Alliances Unholy and Holy

Chicago murder on the steps of a church tests the faithful
Chicago is a war zone on the South and West sides, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has no answers for the gangs that spread terror. The politicians would rather Chicago focus on some easy outrage, like a ginned up controversy over a monument to a dead Italian fascist.

And with so much other news, there's a danger that what happened on those 10 gray church steps in the Austin neighborhood are passed over. But it shouldn't be passed over. Not the blood, and not the church coming together in defiance of evil.
In case you're wondering how this can be, read this:

Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance

Friday, August 25, 2017

Henri Nouwen

Nouwen at L'Arche, larking about on a skateboard
Our inclination is to show our Lord only what we feel comfortable with. But the more we dare to reveal our whole trembling self to him, the more we will be able to sense that his love, which is perfect love, casts out all our fears.

Praying means breaking through the veil of existence and allowing yourself to be led by the vision which has become real to you. Whether we call that vision ‘the Unseen Reality,’ ‘the total Other,’ ‘the Spirit,’ or ‘the Father,’ we repeatedly assert that it is not we ourselves who possess the power to make the new creation come to pass. It is rather a spiritual power which has been given to us and which empowers us to be in the world without being of it. 

We can see the visionary in the guerilla fighter, in the youth with the demonstration sign, in the quiet dreamer in the corner of a cafĂ©, in the soft-spoken monk, in the meek student, in the mother who lets her son go his own way, in the father who reads to his child from a strange book, in the smile of a girl, in the indignation of a worker, and in every person who in one way or another dreams life from a vision which is seen shining ahead and which surpasses everything ever heard or seen before. 

If you were to visit the campus of a divinity school or seminary in the late 1970's and early 1980's, you would have observed a particular fashion trend.  Many of the young men and some of the young women [yes, we were young in those days, most of us in our twenties, as opposed to 21st century seminarians who take to divinity training after they've raised children and retired from their "real" careers] would affect a scarf with their tweed or corduroy sport coats.  Rather, what my Scottish grandmother would call a "muffler".

It was all because of a particular Roman Catholic priest.

Most contemporary mainstream Protestants and Roman Catholics know of Henri Nouwen.  Even if his books have not been read, his theological perspective echoes through sermons, pastoral letters, ministry programs, aerated proclamations from bishops, and even through divinity school and seminary curricula.  In particular, during those quiet moments of pastoral service, Nouwen is often remembered for his words and wisdom by the clergy and laity who minster to, in Nouwen's terminology, the wounded.
The scarves would become his trademark.  What we would call these days part of his "brand".
As is obvious to that growing number of Coracle readers, especially of the Friday profiles, I see things through my own skewed perspective.  That is common to all Christians, but not always celebrated, I think.  All of those of whom I write are those whom I have known and admired, or not known and admired, because I have some connection, however tenuous, to them.  This is why the 110 [and counting] profiles include not just scholars and clergy, but writers, musicians, tactile artists, inventors, sailors, adventurers and, of course, surfers.

But these are united not just because of my highly personalized regard for them, but because of how they represent that which Nouwen captured: An appreciation of the larger sense of how God may be known in an increasingly differentiated world.

This is not to everyone's liking, of course.  In addition to various appreciations and analysis of Nouwen's works, there are also websites that publish articles such as "Beware of Henri Nouwen". For some, attempting to expand our notion of Christianity is something that is to be avoided. 

Perhaps, in a post-Christian age, too many people want God to be small.  Too many want God to be predictable.  When it is realized that God is beyond human scope, and does not follow a predicated path, it has been known to cause remarkable discomfort.  However, it should be noted, it is not God who has created the discomfort; that is the pure product of those who are uncomfortable with a God who is beyond their control.

Nouwen took that into account when attempting to broaden the horizons of possibility.  While he was not always successful, and I personally feel he channeled too much of his personal neediness into his work, it is an undeniable that he provided the foundation for this perspective in contemporary Christianity.

Henri Nouwen was born in the Netherlands in 1932 to a comfortable middle-class family.  Even during World War II, when his country was occupied by the Nazis, his young life was little disturbed by what was going on in much of the rest of the world.  As he matured, he realized how privileged his childhood and youth had been when, for so many, those years carried a brutal reminder of the power and influence of evil.  It has been supposed by at least one of his close friends that this was why he would dedicate his later life not to the education of divinity students, but to those who are often discarded by society.

As he was academically gifted, and was from a prominent Roman Catholic family, his education was overseen by the clergy of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, who are regarded as the guardians of erudition within the Church of Rome.  [I received a portion of my own education from the Jesuits and can testify to their academic discipline and rigor.]  Naturally, he was also steered towards ordained service.

Nouwen was subsequently ordained and entered the doctoral program at what was then the Catholic University of Nijmegen [known today as Radboud University Nijmegen].  As the university had lost many of its senior faculty during the war, either in battle or to the concentration camp at Dachau, and most of its buildings having been destroyed in the bombings, those left in the midst of this shattered rampart of Catholic education were theologically ready to appreciate the post-war world in a new way.  With the permission of his archbishop, Nouwen studied not theology, but psychology.  His intention was to open theology to an interdisciplinary appreciation, with the hope of gaining greater insight into spiritual growth.

Europe, however, was not where the most progressive work was being done in interdisciplinary theology.  As was the case in much of academic life in the late 1950's and early 1960's, it was in the United States that one could find the most creative study of God, spirituality, and scriptural interpretation.  In 1964, Nouwen came to the United States and immersed himself in the Clinical Pastoral Education movement.

[Now, some background:  Odds are, if your clergyperson was educated through a divinity school or seminary sometime in the last forty years, he or she has been required to have taken the basic unit of what is generally referred to, sometimes with derision, as CPE.  The intention of the program is to build a systematic analysis of pastoral practice so that the pastor may be better serve those under her or his care, especially in a clinical setting.  It encourages reflection, within the context of group therapy, upon pastoral moments for their psychological, emotional, and theological meaning.  If organized correctly, CPE can make better, more thoughtful pastors who are able to use an interdisciplinary approach to their work.]

With his terminal studies complete, Nouwen received a two-year fellowship in the Religion and Psychiatry Program at the Menninger Clinic where he studied ways to integrate the scientific and medical approach with that of the theological and pastoral.  Being new to the United States, and excited by its energy and possibilities, Nouwen also became involved in social programs, including the civil rights movement of the early and mid 1960's.  He participated in the march in Selma, Alabama and met many of the movement's leading figures.

As he started to publish his research, he became sought after in the burgeoning field of pastoral therapy, with teaching posts at Notre Dame in Indiana and the Catholic University in Utrecht.  In 1971, he began a decade-long tenure at Yale Divinity School, which is where his influence became powerful in mainstream Protestant churches, as he was the professor in demand.

[Many of the people who taught me were, if not personal friends with Nouwen, former students of his.  His influence and regard among them was broad and ubiquitous.]

A later scarf
Interspersed with his teaching and writing, he published fourteen books and tracts over a twelve year period, Nouwen would visit centers of contemplation such as the Trappist monastery in New York and the L'Arche organization in France and Canada.  L'Arche ["The Ark", in English], which has a variety of branches around the world, serves as a community for the developmentally challenged where life skills, mutualized support, and pastoral care are offered.  As L'Arche is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eucharist is at the heart of all community activities.

After a lifetime in the ivory tower and, particularly, Ivy League Protestantism, Nouwen found his passion among the troubles, kindnesses, intense labor, broken hearts, and healing nature of the people of L'Arche.  Much to the surprise of the faculty and students at Harvard Divinity School, where he was working by the mid 1980's, Nouwen resigned to become the resident chaplain of L'Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill, not far from Toronto.  For one so celebrated and in demand, this seemed an odd decision.  However, he had found his strongest calling and it was here that he would spend the remainder of his days.

Henri Nouwen died of a sudden coronary episode while in Europe on a book tour in 1996.  As his companionship and collegiality were prized, and in apt testimony to his ecumenism, his funeral mass was celebrated in the cathedral in Utrecht, the Slovak cathedral in Ontario, and the small parish in Richmond Hill.  A coffin of simple pine construction was built and prepared by the residents of L'Arche as a final tribute to their chaplain and pastor.

He is interred in the Anglican parish's cemetery in Richmond Hill, as he wanted to be as close as he could to the people of L'Arche Daybreak.

Over his lifetime, Nouwen wrote 39 books, most of which are still in print, and literally hundreds of separate articles.  His various personal sufferings, plus his difficulties with depression and with the realization of his sexual identity, were to become the engine of his faith and the source of the eternal wisdom that he sought.  At a time when the academic literature of spirituality was remote and narrow, Nouwen brought personality and a broad range of learning to the study of God, the human race, sorrow, incarnation, and reconciliation.

His most popular book, at least for my generation of seminarian and cleric, is The Wounded Healer.  It was mandatory reading in my student days, as we were making the shift away from the imperious ministry of the mid-century towards one that acknowledged our own sufferings and humanness.  As I now have the luxury of gazing back on 35 years of work in the Episcopal Church, I note how Nouwen's well-reasoned style has changed not just pastoral care, but preaching, liturgy, and parochial organization.

For, as he noted in that well-used volume, “The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Submarine Archaeology

Mystery of how H.L. Hunley's crew died is solved after 150 years: Men on board the American Civil War submarine were killed by the pressure blast of their OWN torpedo

Pity There Wasn't a Confederate General Named Bob Kostas or Dick Vitale

CNN: On Tuesday night, the network confirmed that its management moved an Asian-American announcer, Robert Lee, off the University of Virginia's home opener football game "simply because of the coincidence of his name."

For those who don't watch college football on ESPN, Lee is Asian-American.

Well, This is Weird

I received a message on an old listserv asking that I find ways in my sermon this Sunday to question the current president's sanity.  In particular, I'm to use the word "dementia".  That's never happened before, especially as that listserv has been dormant for so long that the message was bounced to me from an e-mail account I haven't used in seventeen years.

The listserv was originally for the discussion of Christian existentialism.  The game's afoot, Watson.  Who's the mystery operative who's reactivated this account?

Or, You Know, You Could Just Start Writing

Authors reveal their hugely contrasting routines for getting words on the page

Archaeological News

Egyptologists study 3000 year-old wooden toe

It may be the oldest known prosthetic.  Hey, don't judge.  This kind of stuff gives us a fuller picture of the past.

I Have a Niece Who Does This

This job title is the most millennial thing ever

When she told me what she did for a living, I really couldn't get a handle on it.  I'm not sure I do now.  The last time I stayed at a "trendy" hotel, they had great vibe, but had forgotten to put sheets on the bed.  [For a moment, I thought guests making their own beds was part of the vibe.]

Monday, August 21, 2017

I'm going to have to step back from this.

Ever since I returned to the United States, which was the day after election day, I have listened to those in the media, academia, and the church [the three fields in which I have spent most of my adult life] become more and more unhinged.  One side against another, both parties divided between completing ideologies, every administration statement met with a near-hysterical reaction, grossly irresponsible and demented statements on social media.  Now we are to believe that all human failure and problems are caused by inanimate objects in the form of...statues.  Apparently, too, there are Nazis, Nazis, everywhere.  It makes me wonder what happened to the Russians who supposedly fixed the election.  I haven't heard about them in a couple of weeks.  This, I guess, is no longer the source of our hysteria.

Against my better judgement, I have gradually been getting pulled into this maelstrom.  Fighting it is like fighting a rip tide.  I am exhausting myself, distracting myself from what's healthy, and bending my preaching a little bit into a more political arena.  This really has got to stop.

Yesterday, I removed a whole chunk of my sermon to go down some rabbit hole about recent events that did not really illuminate scripture nor enable my point to be worthwhile.  Sermons are sacrosanct; they are the only thing I produce that I think of as art, and I allowed secular cacophony to inform that proclamation.  That's not going to happen, again.

This feeds the growing sense of mortality that one feels when the birthday year clicks to 60.  Too often it seems that I recall some event fondly and realize that the person who was featured in that memory is now dead.  I have a measurable amount of time left in this plane of reality, This is the reality of being "chronologically gifted", I guess. When life is obviously finite, one wants it to be of a quality worth savoring.

I realize that I'm allowing this to effect what I choose to post on The Coracle.  What used to be intended as lighter, breezier fare is beginning to descend into the same swamp of aggro where I find most social media these days.  For the sake of my own mental and physical health, I'm going to stop that and return to articles about, as it says in the masthead, "human foible, archaeology, interesting people, and quirky music".  My natural insouciance needs more worthwhile subjects.

Oh, and surfing. Always something about surfing.

So, if you want to escape from the dreary sameness of the news, I hope you can come hear and be confident that you'll find things other than the daily hysteria with which to distract your mind.

Here's our new, temporary theme song. It has no meaning; it's just funky fun:

Myth is Truth in the Form of Story: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

The entire Trump phenomenon is a live-action version of the old parable about the boy who cried wolf. Spend decades telling everyone that George Bush is Hitler or that Mitt Romney is a racist, and you’ll find that there is nowhere left to go when you try to warn everyone that Trump is worse. Crank your reaction to every Trump statement or speech all the way up to eleven, and people dismiss you as noise and tune you out. So there’s no reserve of extra outrage to tap when Trump really does do something awful.

Needlehooks x Two

Every good capitalist is on the look out for imbalances in the market, opportunities to earn a profit off of a thing that either the market lacks completely, or current businesses do very inefficiently and ineffectively. You can consider it a form of arbitrage.

Today’s politicians, media talking heads, celebrities and the like are moral capitalists, even though they are economic collectivists. That is to say their morality is a form of arbitrage, always for sale to the highest bidder, where each statement they issue is calculated to profit them personally.


The excuse we have often heard for raucous campus protests over the last few years is that they are justified as a way of countering the “violence” of speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Charles Murray. To prevent them from speaking is, according to this line of argument, using mere sound to eliminate the actual harm that the words of such individuals would do to vulnerable members of the campus community. 

You might be inclined to dismiss the notion that words can be violence as one of those ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe it. In that case, here is the intellectual you’re looking for ...

Of Course Not, Don't Be Silly

Doxxing the alt-right: Is it an option for the Christian?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

An Observation

Having observed the extreme right and extreme left in demonstrations, I've come to realize that 21st century protests are little more than LARPing

Buzzword alert:  The new media expression is "the crowd was largely peaceful".  Largely peaceful = Sorta pregnant.

Nautical Archaeological News

Researchers Announce Wreckage from USS Indianapolis Located

History buffs will recall that the Indianapolis had just delivered the atomic bomb to Tinian Island when it was attacked.  While most of the crew survived the sinking, their rescue was delayed due to their secret location.  Sharks came and fed on the survivors for about three days.  700 or so crew were devoured.

Now for Some Real News

South Carolina 'Warns' of Possible Lizard Man Sightings During Eclipse

Friday, August 18, 2017

Mickey Marcus

I found less than I expected and more than I hoped for

Imagine if your life were defined by your tendency boldly to leap into unknown circumstances and do the best you could do with as little as possible.  Now imagine that you're pretty good at it.  In a capsule, that's the story of Mickey Marcus.

Not too long ago, I was at the Thayer Hotel in West Point on a brutally hot evening, even the hotel's air conditioning couldn't take it and had broken down, waiting for a very slow elevator that was similarly challenged by the heat.

As I had time to kill, I was walking up and down the hallway reading the plaques near the rooms dedicated to graduates of the United States Military Academy [West Point's real name] who exemplified the best of the corps of cadets.  I was staying in the Buzz Aldrin room and, as it was July 20th, the anniversary of his moon walk, I was appreciating the weight of history and accomplishment in that promenade.

There were a few others in the hallway, each listing the accomplishments, medals, and citations earned by the honoree.  On the other end of the hallway was a room dedicated to Mickey Marcus.  Not a well known name, which is a pity.  As I began to read of his story, I became so engrossed that I missed the sluggish elevator.

David Daniel Marcus, known as "Mickey" in his Hester Street neighborhood in New York's Lower East Side, was born in 1901 to parents who had fled oppression in Romania.  He was a scrappy kid who excelled in both sports and academics to the extent that he was appointed to West Point.  While it is common for first generation Americans to be patriotically committed to their new country, it was not common in the early part of the 20th century to find Jews among the officer class.

This may have been his first jump into unknown circumstances.  It would by no means be his last.

Marcus graduated in 1924 and satisfied his required service, remained in the Army reserve while graduating from Brooklyn Law School, and became one of the assistant United States attorneys for New York.  In that role, he participated in some high-profile prosecutions, such as that of the gangster, Charles "Lucky" Luciano.  He eventually became a staff member of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's, serving as the mayor's Commissioner of the Department of Correction and the judge advocate for New York's National Guard division.

These, alone, are achievements worthy of a lifetime, but his finest service was yet to come.

Upon the attack on Pearl Harbor, New York's National Guard was activated as a standard unit of the Army and, along with Marcus, sent to Hawaii.  Being as he was a graduate of West Point assigned only the petty legal matters associated with a divisional office, the bored Marcus heard of the new Ranger battalion that was being formed in the European Theater of Operations and gained permission to organize a similar group in the Pacific, becoming the commander of Fort Shafter's Ranger Combat Training School.

Hopeful of gaining an infantry, rather than legal, command, Marcus had his hopes dashed when he was transferred to Washington D.C. to help prepare the documents for the various conferences between the heads of state during the war, including participating in the drafting of the surrender treaty with Italy in 1943.

The scrappy kid from Hester Street was then transferred to England to help with continuing developments in military diplomacy while seated behind a desk in London.  This would not do.  As it was May of 1944, and everyone knew that the invasion of France was imminent, Marcus prevailed upon one of his West Point classmates, who was now the commanding general of an airborne division, to be included in Operation Overlord.

Here's where he jumps, again; this time with particular drama.

If you haven't had the experience, let me describe a small portion of what it's like to commit to a combat parachute jump.  Remember now, this isn't skydiving with an instructor Velcroed to one's backside.  This is stepping out of a plane into the remarkable propeller wash that blows grit into your eyes and teeth, loaded with fifty pounds of supplies, a rifle, one hundred rounds of military ammo, and a hand grenade or two.  If lucky, no one is shooting at you on the way down.

Now imagine you're doing so with the 101st Airborne Division.  You know, the "Band of Brothers".  Further imagine that it is D-Day in the first wave of the invasion and you're 43-years-old and have never been trained to para-jump!

Upon his thudding, but successful, landing in France, Marcus gathered a collection of soldiers who had been separated from their various units and formed them into an informal group that aided the disorganized Allied forces for the remainder of that week.

Col. Marcus, West Point '24, finally had his first infantry command.  It would also be his last for the U.S. Army.  Upon discovery of what he had been doing, the general staff wagged their collective finger at him and sent him back to a desk in the United States to help aid in the repatriation of those displaced in Europe and organize and otherwise prepare for the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes tribunals. 

During Nuremberg, Marcus was sent to Germany to ensure the proper documentation of the Nazi atrocities.  This new assignment included a mandatory tour of Dachau.  Marcus' Judaism, dormant during his days of legal and actual warfare, began to deepen in response to what he saw of the death camp and what he heard in the Nuremberg trials.  Suffice it to note, he was no longer blase or secular in his religious practice from that time forward.

Tired of war and shocked by the gross inhumanity of the Holocaust, and despite the offer of a promotion to brigadier [or "one-star"] general, Marcus left the Army and returned to his private, and lucrative, civilian law practice.  It was time for peace and prosperity.  Well, at least in the United States.

The post-war world was disrupted, certainly, at this time, with new governments, new political boundaries, and very old animosities once again animated.  Given their experience, the Jews in Palestine now began to build their own state, a process that was proving inflammatory to their neighboring populations.  With the influx of refugees from Europe, the early days of modern Israel were dire.  If they were to solidify their borders, or merely survive, they were going to need to have a proper army.  However, a proper army needs proper leadership, and despite the surplus of experienced battlefield commanders in Europe, none were willing to help the Jews.

So, the leaders of Israel turned to the United States, asking Mickey Marcus to find for them Jewish officers who would be willing to come to Israel to organize an army.  Marcus approached them all; none were willing.  So, it was time for Marcus, settled Manhattan attorney and political hopeful, whose spiritual sense had been awakened during a tour of a death camp, to once again jump into a battlefield.

In January of 1948, Col. David Marcus boarded a ship in New York City and disappeared.  A few weeks later, "Michael Stone", private citizen, arrived in Jerusalem and enlisted in the Haganah, which is to the modern Israeli army what the Minutemen were to our U.S. Army Special Forces.  Shortly after his arrival, when Israel was surrounded by the Arab Legion, he was appointed the general [not "a general"] of the Israeli army, the first since Judas Maccabees in the 2nd century B.C.

There were sieges and battles, and more sieges and more battles, in which Marcus adapted everything he had learned and experienced into enabling a small, un-trained, and under-armed force to resist and, eventually, prevail against their enemies.  The modern reputation enjoyed by the Israeli Defense Forces in our era can be traced to Marcus' efforts.

Finally, once it appeared that Israel was not going to be destroyed, the United Nations, itself a new organization, organized a cease fire.  General Marcus had succeeded.  However, there is this reality known to any combat soldier as "the fog of war".  Battlefields are messy and unclear, with battle lines changing from moment to moment and victory or defeat resting on a razor's edge.  Sometimes, soldiers can find themselves unwittingly fighting against their own colleagues.  Sometimes, this can lead to horrific accidents.

Shortly after the cease fire, General Marcus was killed by one of his own sentries, apparently mistaken for an enemy attempting to sneak into the base.

There is a cemetery in West Point that is worth a visit for anyone interested in American history.  In it are interred the remains of George Custer, Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., Winfield Scott, and Ed White, the first astronaut to walk in space.  There are others, too, of course, lesser known but of similar courage.  But of them all, there is only one who died while in the service of a military other than that of the United States'.

Marcus' gravestone proclaims him "A Soldier for All Humanity".  Had I had anything to do with it, a simple quote from the Book of the Maccabees would have served:

“As for Judas Maccabeus, he hath been mighty and strong, even from his youth up: let him be your captain, and fight the battle of the people.” - 1 Maccabees 2:66

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Along With Everything Else, Yes

Have Bestsellers Become Dumber?

Complete with Venn Diagram

CAMBRIDGE, MA—A study performed by researchers at Harvard University found a strong link between supporting the idea of communism and never once having even briefly opened a history book, sources confirmed Tuesday.

Dear Colleagues,

You should really read this before you issue a press release.

The Atlantic: The Rise of the Violent Left

If we are to exist in the public square, the church cannot take the side of one mob against another.  We rightly condemn the remarkable racism on display by the "alt-right", but we also need to address the increasing violence of the "antifa" rioters, too.  One side flies the Nazi flag, the other that of Communism.  Neither respects or supports Christianity or Christian public witness.  Both are, to boringly repeat myself, locked in a co-dependent cycle of violence that will continue to escalate until there are more deaths.

We cannot depend on politicians and the media to address this.  Politicians use social division to shore up their voting blocks; the media highlight abherrent social behavior so as to create "clicks" to their websites and advertisers.  CEO's of corporations issue statements on public morality that are in service of retaining those who purchase their goods.  None of these groups is interested in anything so obtuse as the public good.

That leaves us.  The easy route is to dust off another pastoral letter and fill in the blanks with contemporary information; the proper route is to address the moral horror that is being perpetuated upon us by both extreme ideologies.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Query

After all of the offensive statues have been destroyed, what's next?  Historically, mobs are never satisfied with just one impulse of destruction.

So That's Where I Left That Thing

Removal of Westerly mystery object scrubbed, rough surf to blame

There's a Lot of That Going Around

“It’s a universal law — intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.” - Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The Post-Christian World

Iceland is Using Abortion to Eliminate Down's Syndrome

Well, well, well.  It looks like the Nazis took Iceland, after all.  Yay, eugenics.

My cousin, Maureen, had Down's Syndrome.  She was loving and fun and I can't imagine life without her.   This creeps me out more than mobs tearing down statues and millionaire footballers who sit for the National Anthem being treated like MLK, Jr. at Selma.

What Happens When Authors Are Afraid to Stand Alone

Writing as an individual pursuit has been replaced by “community”—and literature is the worse for it

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Finally, Some Really Good News

Grand Central Terminal’s Swankiest Bar Reopens As the Campbell

I mean, look at this place:

St. Mary the Virgin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, Things are too Heavy. Here's Some Levity.

Pineapples banned by Popular Music Festivals

Unpopular Thoughts

I don't care what the rationale, mobs tearing down statues is a sign of societal disintegration.  It will take a long time, as it did with Rome, but any nation that denies its history, however difficult that history may be, is doomed.

Speaking of which, anyone who grants me their un-solicited political opinion while quoting from Teen Vogue magazine has a misplaced sense of our relationship.

I could find no commentary about the Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who shot a U.S. congressman in any of the official statements from the powers-that-be of the Episcopal Church. I've found a lot about some lunatic who drove his car into protesters.  The former was just a nutter, it has been explained to me by colleagues, and the latter a member of a dangerous social movement.  The church has avoided dealing with the escalating violence of the leftist "antifa" folks, too, I suspect because they are more closely aligned with the politics of Episcopal Church clergy.  This is ill-advised.

I will repeat myself and note that the two extremes from the right and the left are locked in a codependent spiral of violence. If the Church is going to take sides in this, it is failing its purpose in the public square.

More "Hillbilly" Shaming

Judgey about the way people dress? You’re killing America.
A little twang in speech or that habit of ending sentences in a prepositional phrase does not mean West Virginians cannot speak English. It just means they are part of a region that still clings to the Scots Irish speech pattern of their ancestors.

Fifteen years ago, as social media started connecting us in ways we never imagined, America looked up and across at the other America; as they looked back at each other, neither side was terribly pleased.

As long as the coastal elites look down their noses at the middle of the country, we’re going to be a divided country.

Hillbilly Shaming is Unbecoming

J.D. Vance is the author of the New York Times non-fiction bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy, which details his life from his birth in a rural portion of Ohio through the Marine Corps and the Ivy League.  His compelling story is familiar to me.

I appreciate socially-addled people like the NYT's Rich assume those of us from the less glamorous portions of the U.S. are not evolved, intellectually or morally, but the reality is the members of both the "alt-right" and the leftist "antifa" are more like Rich's neighbors than my cousins and childhood friends.

Really, these are hillbillies to you, Frank?

Tiki torches from Home Depot?  Polo shirts?

On the other end of the spectrum, here's an "anti-fascist" protester sporting a Schott Perfecto:

I wanted one of these, back when I had a bike, but couldn't afford it as it cost more than my motorcycle. 

Monday, August 14, 2017


I admit that I agree with all of this:
It's becoming so clear now why the war of words between SJWs and the new white nationalists is so intense. It isn't because they have huge ideological differences -- it's because they have so much in common. Both are obsessed with race, SJWs demanding white shame, the alt-right responding with white pride. Both view everyday life and culture through a highly racialised filter. SJWs can't even watch a movie without counting how many lines the black actor has in comparison with the white actor so that they can rush home and tumblr about the injustice of it all. Both have a seemingly boundless capacity for self-pity. Both are convinced they're under siege, whether by patriarchy, transphobia and the Daily Mail (SJWs) or by pinkos and blacks (white nationalists). Both have a deep censorious strain. And both crave recognition of their victimhood and flattery of their feelings. This is really what they're fighting over -- not principles or visions but who should get the coveted title of the most hard-done-by identity. They're auditioning for social pity. "My life matters! My pain matters! I matter!" The increasing bitterness and even violence of their feud is not evidence of its substance, but the opposite: it's the narcissism of small differences. - Brendan O'Neill
For those blissfully unaware of our common societal dysfunction, SJW stands for "social justice warrior", those most commonly associated with dressing in black and smashing shop windows in the name of...anti-fascism.  The alt-right are the latest form of a "white identity" group.

While much of the media is fixated on "right wing extremism", it is part and parcel with the equivalent on the left wing, an aspect that the media seems to studiously avoid.

Clearly, the "alt-right" and "antifa" are in a codependent spiral of violence.  So far, a leftist has shot a congressman and some others, and a rightest has committed vehicular homicide.  It is going to get worse unless we admit that this is happening on both sides of the ideological divide.  Such are the wages of a post-Christian age.

On the Bright Side, It Probably Worked

Residents Who Lost Home In Fire Were Trying To Ward Off Evil Spirits

Yes, There are Surf Gangs, Even in the US

Insiders of the notorious surf gang the Bra Boys have slammed a new generation of thugs who are claiming affiliation to the group.

It's not all Frankie and Annette, is it?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Word from Coop

"I call it treason against rock 'n' roll because rock is the antithesis of politics. Rock should never be in bed with politics. ... When I was a kid and my parents started talking about politics, I'd run to my room and put on the Rolling Stones as loud as I could. So when I see all these rock stars up there talking politics, it makes me sick. .... If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal.” - Alice Cooper

Politics is the New Religion

Hillary Clinton's pastor compared her election loss to Jesus' death and resurrection

Methodists.  Honestly.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Wende Wagner

"I've never worried about work.  I've been an actress and a model.  I can swim, dive, scuba, fish and surf.  I can fly a plane.  I create art that hangs in galleries and that people buy.  I'll always have work and it doesn't have to be near a camera."

This profile requires a confession.  I have to acknowledge something that has occasionally prevented me from getting a position in the Episcopal Church or in academia.  Are you ready?

I'm a heterosexual.

The reason I mention my heterosexuality is that, like other young men of my generation with blood that's red [trust me, I've seen enough of it], I had a "first crush".  I appreciate that this happens to most people, regardless of their sexual identification, but I wanted to get that shocking detail out of the way, given the antiseptic manner in which clergy are to comport themselves in public.

I also appreciate that "first crushes" are generally harmless and involve someone who is not only completely, totally unavailable, but may not even exist outside of some publicist's fortifications.  For example, my sister and her friends absolutely loved David Cassidy.  Around her room would be David Cassidy posters, Partridge Family posters, magazines featuring David Cassidy, and a 45 rpm version of "I Think I Love You" would be playing incessantly from the tinny, portable turntable.  As annoying as that could be for her older brother, it was normal and she outgrew it.  I think.

Mine was a little different, as she was not a mass-marketed celebrity [although she could have been if she had wanted that] and, unlike my sister's relationship with David Cassidy, an ardor that seemed to cool the more she learned of the real Cassidy, my appreciation for my first crush increased, mainly because of her singular accomplishments on the periphery of celebrity.

That, and she surfed.

Like many of the people whom I've admired and about whom I've written on Friday mornings, she did not easily fit into a simplified category.  She seemed effortlessly to exist outside the society's constraining box and was shruggingly indifferent to any attempts to place her in such a position.  I've known many people like that whom I've admired and envied.  For me, she serves an archtype for that healthy attitude.

Wende Wagner [yes, that's her parents' spelling of her forename, not Hollywood's] was born the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor to a Navy officer and his wife stationed in New London, Connecticut.  This meant that, before she could walk, she moved three times, as her father was transferred from here to there to back again as the United States ramped up the naval war in the Pacific.  Typical for military children, she never lived anywhere for very long, at least not until she was well into her teens.  By that time, her father was stationed at the vast naval base on Coronado Island in southern California.  It was actually an ideal setting, as Wagner's father had been a U.S. Olympic swimming coach and made sure that his daughter loved the ocean in all the ways possible.

It was the mid 1950's by now and the early surf culture was capturing its first collection of personalities.  Very particular personalities, actually, as these were the days when WWII and Korean War vets were self-treating their PTSD by shredding waves, building beach bonfires, and living in shacks made of driftwood.  Along side them were the usual collection of misfits, both young men and women, who embraced the surf culture before it was a "lifestyle brand".  They tended to be the teens that are inevitably tagged by their teachers as "having potential" if they would only "apply themselves".  [I think I just gave the reader the leitmotif of my own school records.]

Bright and worldly, the teenage Wagner found herself attracted to the waves and the collection of youths who were known informally as the Coronado Gypsies, guys with nicknames like "Dooley", "Skeeter", and "Gunker".  As Wagner was the only girl, she didn't need a nickname; she was just "the girl".  Anytime they could, the Gypsies could be found in the surf by the well-known Coronado Hotel bringing a certain California flair to their truancy.  She was a natural athlete and waterman [that term is gender-less, by the way] who would, when not surfing, swim back and forth the length of the beach in perfect, languid strides.

One day, the Gypsies were bid to move out of the way of some cameras that were filming scenes for a movie at the hotel.  This is normal in southern California, and they didn't take umbrage.  A curious figure, a short, portly, older man with a German accent, improbably wearing a suit and tie at the beach, gave his card to Wagner and invited her to make a screen test.  She was curious and mentioned it to her parents.  They preferred that she wait until she had graduated from high school.  What ensued was an argument recognizable to anyone who has ever raised a teenager.  In an episode of pure adolescent defiance, Wagner and the Gypies ran away to Hawaii to surf the bone-crushers of Oahu's North Shore.  She may have been the first non-Hawaiian woman to do so.

[For information about Rell Sunn, who was the queen of those waves, please follow the link.]

Wagner waxing her board with a puppy during her Gidget days
Inevitably, the money ran thin and her anger at her parents cooled.  Upon her return, they relented and allowed her a screen test.  She did have some advantages in that, however.  The odd man in a suit on the beach that day was Billy Wilder, at the time directing Some Like It Hot.  Observing Wagner, too, had been some of the actors in the film, including Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon.  With these references, and the fact that her screen test revealed that she could photograph as a Latina, an American Indian, a European, or an Amer-Asian, Wagner was almost immediately offered a role on an episode of the TV show Wagon Train.

It was fun, but not as exciting as modeling her way across Europe, or living with, and eventually marrying, a stunt man she met on the set.  Next thing her parents knew, Wende was living in the Bahamas and working as a scuba diver and stunt woman for the TV shows and movies that were being filmed in the area, including Flipper, The Aquanauts, and September Storm.  She even worked an underwater stunt or two on Sea Hunt. This work enabled her to live in the tropics, surf whenever and wherever she wanted, and raise a daughter.

With her first husband, helping him with his "monster" costume for an episode of Flipper
Eventually, the marriage that was born of impulse ended, and Wagner returned to California where she had no difficulty finding roles in westerns, thrillers, comedies, and TV shows.  In 1966, she landed her only steady television role, that of the stalwart secretary to the eponymous hero on The Green Hornet.

Wagner and her co-stars, including the fellow on the left who would have a pretty good career in kung fu movies

That was when I noticed her.  I may have watched the show to see the mad karate offered by Bruce Lee, but I would also watch for Wagner who, when I was ten-years-old, I wanted as my secretary.  It's a pity she really didn't do more than sit behind a desk and answer her boss' phone, that seemed a waste for someone as physical as Wagner.  But, she answered that phone beautifully.  Little did I realize that I had already seen her on Sea Hunt, but always with a scuba mask on.

After The Green Hornet was cancelled, she married again, this time to a Hollywood star's son, and moved to a beach house in Malibu, so close to the water that she could fish from her deck.  She accepted parts on episodes of Perry Mason, Mannix, and It Takes A Thief, but would otherwise avoid working too hard as she didn't want to be too far away from the water, her daughter, and now a son.

She would befriend other actresses, including one who was to be the next big thing, and who would become Wagner's best friend.  She would even serve as her friend's stunt double in a Dean Martin spy spoof.  So close were they that the friend's husband, a film director, would give Wagner a role in a well-known film about a woman who finds she's to give birth to Satan.  Although listed in the credits as "Wendy" Wagner, it would be her most significant work.

Wagner choreographing a stunt with Bruce Lee
The film, of course, was Rosemary's Baby, the director Roman Polanski, and Wagner's best friend was Sharon Tate.  After the infamous events of the summer of 1969, Wagner withdrew from television and film work and became remarkably anonymous.  The dark underside of Hollywood is well-known in our cultural history, and certainly to those who have lived in its viscera.  Being a Malibu mom, with days spent fishing, surfing, and swimming, seemed the best therapy in light of her best friend's horrific murder and the disintegration of her second marriage.

I can't help but wonder if she didn't recall those post-war beach bums from ten years before who, recoiling from the violence of the world, found solace and peace on those surf beaches in Hawaii and California, and decided that was the better portion.

There's one more chapter, however, and this is the best part.  When I was working as a free-lancer, I asked an editor if I could write a feature about the surfing scene in South Jersey, as I wanted to spend some time on the waves there and needed to have a justification for it, not to mention the 5 cents a word I would be paid in those days.  Ordinarily, he would say "no" to my ideas and then swear at me for awhile.  This time he said, "Yes".  I'm still not sure why, except that I volunteered to pay my own way and, maybe, he just wanted me out of his office.

There are various events that take place during summers at the shore, of course.  There are string band parades, beauty contests, concerts by over-the-hill rockers, and even a baby parade in one community.  There are also appeals to nostalgia that include former sports and television stars who agree to ride in the back of parade convertibles and be interviewed by the local media.  I'm not sure how I landed it, maybe because no one knew who she was, but at a celebration of 1960's TV shows, I was able to spend thirty minutes with Wende Wagner.  [Eat your heart out, sis.  You never got to meet David Cassidy.]

Instead of asking her about The Green Lantern, I asked about the early surfing days and what it was like to be the first, and for a long time the only, underwater stunt woman.  Her face changed, I remember, and instead of the studied expression of an actress well-rehearsed by publicists, she smiled [and what a fine smile it was, too] and spoke of the Coronado Gypsies, the set on Sea Hunt, the big waves of Oahu, and the aquatic life in the simpler days.  It was the fastest half hour of my life.  I didn't even care that the feature I wrote was never printed and my 5 cents a word never received.

Wende Wagner would die of cancer shortly after her 55th birthday in 1997.  Her ashes, appropriately, would be scattered in the Pacific, which was where she was most at home and the place to which she always returned for healing and purpose.

When I think of her I also think of those whom I've known who have thwarted the expectations of others and pursued that which granted them balance.  She never limited herself only to those things considered proper and appropriate for a woman, never became a studio mannequin, and knew when to walk away from the intoxication of fame.

Besides, she was a waterman, which means she was one of our bizarre fraternity, and I really don't need to add anything to that, do I?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Again, Someone Steals My Idea for the First Day of Retirement

Man steals Splash Kingdom go-kart, drives it around San Bernardino movie theater parking lot, police say

The police are a real buzz-kill, aren't they?

An Obiturary of Note

Haruo Nakajima, actor who played original 1954 Godzilla, dies at 88

This Will Make the Rehearsal a Little Tricky

Weed-themed weddings becoming latest trend in legal states

I've officiated at weddings where everyone from the bride and groom to the flower kid have been gooned on something.  I've had grooms so drunk they pass out during the exchange of vows, so hungover they run from the ceremony during the nuptial Eucharist to vomit in the rose garden, fathers of the bride so clobbered on pills that they wander around the sanctuary after "giving away" the bride trying to remember where they sit, and mothers of the groom who are sedated to the point that they could be used for first base in a pickup softball game.

Then there are the mothers of the bride who are addicted to rage.

A weed wedding doesn't sound that bad, considering.

"Riot chic: how violent protest became fashionable"

Rage is all the rage – and the middle classes love it

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Carl Sagan in 1995

Wait. What?

Yet, You Mean

No one worshiping Satan at the library: Forest Grove police log

More Needle-hooks

Ethics Hipsters are the new Puritans:
In times of real artistic genius, creative people turn their backs on prigs and prudes and do what they want to do and make art. The history of art is a history of incorrectness, even offense. It’s time for real artists - writers, actors, musicians - to reject the hysteria of the righteous mob and celebrate the true diversity of ideas, because that’s what ultimately leads to better art. It probably won't happen—just try to find a little artfulness on your TV or at the movies. How ironic is it that the very people who claim to be fearless artists, fear art most of all.

Because They're Too Busy Learning about "Social Justice"?

Why Kids Can’t Write

Back in 1989, I was charged with teaching a course entitled "Basic Writing Skills" at an Episcopal high school.  Since virtually none of my students had any of these skills, there was a lot to cover.  What was particularly noticiable was that they had no idea, absolutely none, about the parts of a sentence.  The whole notion of subject and predicate was lost to them.  So, that's where we started.  It took almost half a year, but they were eventually able to recognize the difference between direct and indirect objects and diagram complex sentences with at least a 70% accuracy.  Hurrah!

The director of admissions for the school came to me in some distress shortly after the start of the second semester.  After clearing his throat for awhile and hemming and hawing, he finally got to his point.  "You need to teach them how to write, not to grammar."

Yeah, that's how we got to where we are today.  By the way, my response to him was beneath the dignity of my profession.  I still smile when I recall his reaction to it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Well, He has a Point

An Obituary of Note

Glen Campbell dead at 81

I know people tend to associate him with the showier form of country music, but I'm not sure how many people realize how much, as a recording session musician, Campbell influenced a broad range of pop music in the 1960's.

From the obit:
Campbell's guitar acumen and versatility made him an essential player on Los Angeles' thriving recording scene in the 1960s, and he contributed to sessions for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rick Nelson, The Mamas and The Papas, Merle Haggard and many more. Campbell couldn’t read music, but he quickly became a respected, first-call player. He played on Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” The Monkees’ “I'm a Believer,” Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” and more. He played 12-string guitar on the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.,” and toured with the Beach Boys in 1965, as a replacement for the band’s troubled and reclusive leader, Brian Wilson.
By the way, "Viva Las Vegas" was written by Doc Pomus, who has been profiled in The Coracle, and Campbell was one of The Wrecking Crew, that loose-knit collection of session players mentioned in another profile, that of Carole Kaye, that may also be found on The Coracle.

"I'm A Believer", written by Neil Diamond, was the first song that I ever sang with a band in public.  [When testing the sound system in an empty church, I still sometimes sing it.]

I always liked this one by Campbell, written as it was by a serviceman in Vietnam during some rather dark times:


Occasionally, I come across articles that snag my attention like a needle-hook to yarn.  As I like to read things from many ideological perspectives, these may or may not come from sources to which the reader corresponds.  It's old-fashioned of me to do this, I suppose, as we live in an era when we are to condemn anyone who disagrees with us, but I prefer to look at our world from as many perspectives as possible in order to come to my own understanding of our cultural issues.

[I hear my Scottish cousin saying, "Oh, hark at him".]

If you have read more than one posting on The Coracle, I suspect that you agree.

Anyway, from a review of a D-List musician's memoirs:
Shared reference is the definition of cultural identity, and America, like every other nation, is defined by what its citizens know in common. But is the key here what gets known, or the fact of its being known?

The old middlebrow knowledge, the aspirations to culture of the middle class as late as the early 1960s, can be discerned in everything from the leather-bound sets of Great Books to the classical themes that made up the background music to Bugs Bunny cartoons. We had a kind of consensus that the high arts, what the Kennedy Center used to celebrate, were the goal of cultural knowledge. And as that consensus died, the music of the Monkees became part of what took its place. The pop songs of the 1960s merged with the movies of the 1970s to fill the vacuum. And regardless of its quality it became the new shared knowledge.

Sometimes that quality was quite high, but it isn't Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven, and old episodes of I Dream of Jeannie are not Faust. If the key to culture is the greatness of the shared references, then we have no culture in America anymore. If the key is that something is genuinely shared, then we do have culture. We have the Monkees.

The Benefits of Ocean Swimming

The sport of ocean swimming is not for everyone. It is particular to a certain type of person….one who eschews the comfort of a warm bed for full body immersion into into brisk, salty water at dawn. But there is nothing better than the feeling of emerging from the freezing cold water into the comparably warmer air after a swim. For this and many other reasons, ocean swimmers return again and again to the water, taking pride in their local waters and creating companionship in their shared love of this unique sport.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Lot of Carp

10-year-old reels in record-setting 33.25lb carp

We used to reel in 20-25 pounders in Lake Erie in my youth, but this is spectacular.  Check the photo.

It's Kerouac Monday

Kerouac invoked to encourage tourism:
Sleep on the top of the world in a Washington fire lookout

Actually, that sounds like fun.

Kerouac invoked to spark up a rather prosaic remembrance:
This must be the place: ‘We will get by, we will survive’ 

Bonus: Jerry Garcia.

Kerouac invoked to camouflage the fact that this writer knows little about the era about which he's writing and is also a Millennial snob:
Commentary: Baby boomers sell out 'Summer of Love' for cheap T-shirts
I get chills every time that I hear Jimi Hendrix play “The Star-Spangled Banner,” or when I watch Richie Havens tapping his foot and hearing him singing about finding freedom. I am not a baby boomer, of course, but I know about the Woodstock Festival in 1969. That said, I’ll pose a question to boomers (or members of that generation who were once hippies): Why did you sell out?
I can answer that question.  We "sold out" so we would have enough money to pay off your exorbitant student loans.  You know, the ones for which we had to co-sign?  The ones you can't pay yourself because you needed $200,000 for some gaggle of professors to teach you how to write gormless dross such as this.

Also, I'm glad you "still get chills" when you hear a digital recording of Hendrix.  Some of us Boomers get chills because, in the rainy morning in upstate New York, we recall that it was actually chilly.