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Thursday, November 30, 2006
Be sure to check out the latest edition (#16) of Templar History Magazine.
T.J. Miller's article on Pope Boniface VIII is worth the price of admission. Stephen Dafoe interviews Joseph Nassise, author of Heretic, part of a projected Templar trilogy. Plus articles from Spain, Austria and literally around the globe.
And Stephen even lets me editorialize and suggest a new direction for the modern Knights Templar of the York Rite of Freemasonry.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I just received a copy of Brother Alex Lundberg and Greg Kowalski's new book, Detroit's Masonic Temple. I can't recommend this little volume strongly enough.
Eighty years ago, the Freemasons of Detroit had a vision. They dreamed big and they built bigger, erecting the largest Masonic building in the world. Today, the Masons of Detroit seem to have lost their vision, or at least their ability to afford it. The Shriners and the Scottish Rite have both fled to the suburbs, and this magnificent building is in serious danger. A few individual lodges survive there, and it's huge and lavish auditorium remains a popular venue for out of town shows. Many of the beautiful ceremonial rooms are popular for weddings as well, but the Masons are fighting a losing battle.
They aren't alone - there's no getting around the fact that the Center is in a ghetto, a neighborhood abandoned by development and businesses. Thankfully, the authors of this little volume have captured it on film before it is gone forever. The sheer scope of this 1000+ room building is incredible, and they have packed an enormous amount of history and detail into a brief telling of its glorious past.
If you are a Mason, it is worth trying to visit the Detroit Masonic Center soon. Unless a developer with as much vision as the Freemasons who first built it come to its rescue, it is in serious danger.
The preservation of our Masonic heritage and the magnificent Temples we once constructed is a subject near and dear to my heart, as I have written about on other occasions. As I said then, these are not white elephants, my brothers. These are our Temples, our heritage. They are priceless, irreplaceable treasures. And we throw them away now like they don't matter, like they are not worth fighting for. We are murdering our own posterity, as if we don't believe in ourselves and in our fraternity anymore.
The men who built these Temples only wanted us to do one thing: treat them with respect. Maintain them. Paint the walls every once in a while. Keep the light bulbs changed. Replace a carpet when it gets worn out. Reupholster a chair when it becomes torn or better yet, replace it. No one is asking us to build new Temples. The least we can do is protect them until a new generation comes along that cherishes them as our grandfathers did. But as every year ticks by and one more Temple goes away, we will never get them back.
And we certainly won't ever have the vision - or the guts - to build another.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Many thanks to everyone who turned out to help make the Prince Hall Indianapolis Thanksgiving dinner program a success this morning. Brethren from Broad Ripple Lodge No. 643, Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 and Delaware No. 46 were all represented, along with the sponsoring Prince Hall lodges : Central No. 1, Waterford No. 13, Trinity No. 18, Meridian No. 33, Southern Cross No. 39, Fidelity No. 55, Sumner A. Furness No. 61, and C.R. Richardson No. 69.
Hundreds of dinners were delivered to shut-ins, homeless shelters, plus many walk-ins from the neighborhood.
This is a huge operation every year, and we are proud and honored to have played a part in making it happen.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
My October edition of the Philalethes Magazine arrived yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover Part One of a two part reprint of "Laudable Pursuit." As the editor and one of the original Knights of the North who helped pen this paper, I was flattered and even a little astonished when both Nelson King of the Philalethes Society, as well as S. Brent Morris of the Scottish Rite Research Society BOTH wanted to print this paper. (Had to give it to Nelson - he asked first.)
What has been gratifying has been the incredible response this paper has seemed to stir all across the country, as a point of discussion for lodges and Masonic education groups. For those who have asked, the Knights of the North website is being redesigned, and we are pursuing other projects as well. In the meantime, you will find many of the Knights writing for Wbro. Stephen Dafoe's outstanding Masonic Magazine.
On a related topic, bravo to MWbro. Roger S. VanGorden, Past Grand master of Indiana, as the new author of the "Through Masonic Windows" back page column of the Philalethes magazine. We Indiana Masons seem to be everywhere these days...
Last year's event was an incredible collaboration of the Indianapolis area Prince Hall lodges, a program that began back in 1983, and Broad Ripple #643 is honored to again be a part of it.
To my Indianapolis brethren, if you find yourself with a little bit of extra time that you can spare away from your family on Thanksgiving morning between about 7 AM and 11 AM, stop in at the lodge at 22nd and Central Avenue, and just pick up one sack of dinners to deliver. You'll find appreciative brethren there, and a cheerful chaos of cooks, servers, drivers and interested bystanders.
And you'll find a grateful stranger on the other side of a door, truly thankful for your brief effort. And believe me, it will give you much to thank the GAOTU for when you sit down at your own table that afternoon.
Many thanks to Wbro. Michael Ricketts and the brethren of Fidelity Lodge No. 55 for their invitation to us again this year.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
On November 1st, producer Jerry Bruckheimer told MTV that the highly-anticipated sequel to National Treasure will begin filming in January.
Discussing the National Treasure 2 script, Bruckheimer revealed: "It's another little treasure hunt, and this time it involves [Abe] Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth and 18 pages which are actually missing from [Booth's] diary."
"What was in those 18 pages?" he asked.
Director John Turteltaub told the LA Daily news that there will be "exciting destinations within America as well as around the world. As we were shooting the first one, it kept changing, so I'm scared to commit to anything, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mount Rushmore made an appearance."
No mention made anywhere of any Masonic connection. Probably a case of "been there' showed that." Might be a nice touch if Ben suddenly was sporting a Masonic ring...
Release date is anticipated to be December 21st, 2007.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Many thanks to the brethren of the Toledo Valley of the Scottish Rite for their warm reception and hospitality at their Fall Reunion on Saturday. Twenty-six brethren were elevated to the 32°, but it looked to me that closer to 200 or so brethren were in attendance.
Many thanks to Doug King for his kind invitation, and to the brethren who attended my talk. It was great to meet all of you, and I look forward to coming back.
Toledo's Masonic Center is an outstanding facility, by the way. It is a relatively new complex that includes a very large public auditorium for shows and concerts, a small AASR auditorium for presentation of Rite degrees, three lodge rooms, facilities for the York Rite, a large OES meeting room, plus offices, conference rooms, a kitchen and a large dining area that can be divided into two sections. It is a beautiful, well designed Masonic center, and one the Masons of Toledo can be proud of.
I was reminded today that it is the birthday to one of my favorite authors, P. J. O'Rourke, and that he is, in fact, from Toledo, Ohio. This excuse allows me to post some of my favorite PJ quotes.
* Something is happening to America, not something dangerous but something all too safe. I see it in my lifelong friends. I am a child of the "baby boom", a generation not known for its sane or cautious approach to things. Yet suddenly my peers are giving up drinking, giving up smoking, cutting down on coffee, sugar, and salt. They will not eat red meat and go now to restaurants whose menus have caused me to stand on a chair yelling, "Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, dinner is served!" This from the generation of LSD, Weather Underground, and Altamont Rock Festival! And all in the name of safety! Our nation has withstood many divisions— North and South, black and white, labor and management— but I do not know if the country can survive division into smoking and non-smoking sections.
* The forces of safety are afoot in the land. I, for one, believe it is a conspiracy— a conspiracy of Safety Nazis shouting "Sieg Health" and seeking to trammel freedom, liberty, and large noisy parties. The Safety Nazis advocate gun control, vigorous exercise, and health foods. The result can only be a disarmed, exhausted, and half-starved population ready to acquiesce to dictatorship of some kind.
* Racism is very lower-class. Upper-class people are never racists; they're anti-Semites.
* I can understand why mankind hasn't given up war. During a war you get to drive tanks through the sides of buildings and shoot foreigners— two things that are usually frowned on during peacetime.
* One nice thing about the Third World, you don't have to fasten your seat belt. (Or stop smoking. Or cut down on saturated fats.) It takes a lot off your mind when average life expectancy is forty-five minutes.
* The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then get elected and prove it.
* True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I don't know.
* The interesting thing about staring down a gun barrel is how small the hole is where the bullet comes out, yet what a big difference it would make in your social schedule.
* To grasp the true meaning of socialism, imagine a world where everything is designed by the post office, even the sleaze.
* Anyone who thinks he has a better idea of what's good for people than people do is a swine.
* If we want something, we should pay for it, with our labor or our cash. We shouldn't beg it, steal it, sit around wishing for it, or euchre the government into taking it by force.
* Fretting about overpopulation, is a perfect guilt-free— indeed, sanctimonious— way for "progressives" to be racists.
* Even the bad things are better than they used to be. Bad music, for instance, has gotten much briefer. Wagner's Ring Cycle takes four days to perform while "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies lasts little more than three minutes.
* Government subsidies can be critically analyzed according to a simple principle: You are smarter than the government, so when the government pays you to do something you wouldn't do on your own, it is almost always paying you to do something stupid.
* Idealism is based on big ideas. And, as anybody who has ever been asked "What's the big idea?" knows, most big ideas are bad ones.
* Imagine a weight-loss program at the end of which, instead of better health, good looks, and hot romantic prospects, you die. Somalia had become just this kind of spa.
* Mankind is supposed to have evolved in the treetops. But I have examined my sense of balance, the prehensility of my various appendages, and my attitude toward standing on anything higher than, say, political principles, and I have concluded that, personally, I evolved in the backseat of a car.
* Politicians are always interested in people. Not that this is always a virtue. Fleas are interested in dogs.
* People with a mission to save the earth want the earth to seem worse than it is so their mission will look more important.
* Traffic was like a bad dog. It wasn't important to look both ways when crossing the street; it was important to not show fear.
* Violence is interesting. This is a great obstacle to world peace and also to more thoughtful television programming.
* If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.
* People ask me if I've ever been called a Nazi. I answer that no one has ever had dreams of being tied down and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal.
* Distracting a politician from governing is like distracting a bear from eating your baby.
* There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as caring and sensitive because he wants to expand the government's charitable programs is merely saying that he is willing to do good with other people's money. Well, who isn't? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he will do good with his own money— if a gun is held to his head.
* What used to be called shame and humiliation is now called publicity.
* You can't get good chinese takeout in China and cuban cigars are rationed in Cuba. That's all you need to know about communism.
* Your money does not cause my poverty. Refusal to believe this is at the bottom of most bad economic thinking.
* Giving money and power to Government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
World War I ended on November 11th, 1918 with a cease-fire signed with Germany at Rethondes in France. Between the two world wars it was celebrated as Armistice Day in the United States, France and Great Britain. After World War II, the holiday was recognized as a day of tribute to veterans of both world wars. Beginning in 1954, the United States designated November 11 as Veterans Day to honor veterans of all U.S. wars.
Godspeed and a safe return to all of our veterans, wherever so dispersed throughout the world.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
And, okay, so there's this cool sculpture that has flummoxed the most dedicated code breakers for years. It's called Kryptos, and it's a piece of ostensibly public sculpture, paid for at no doubt lavish taxpayer expense, sitting on government property. As a taxpayer, interested citizen and curious boob, I wanted to see it in person. After all, people the world over have been trying to decipher its curious message since it was erected in 1988.
And, okay, so it's at CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia. So, I'm driving along the George Washington Parkway this morning, and I see the turnoff clearly marked "CIA." And you thought it was a big secret. In I turn, and roll right past the little brown Park Service sign that says "Private Government Installation. No Photography" and other such boilerplate jazz. Humph. I'm a famous big deal writer, a Freemason and a taxpayer. I just want a shot of the sculpture, and I'll leave. Hell, I'll bet guys like Tom Clancy have a parking pass for this joint. Surely they'll be flattered by my simple request.
Now, I remember touring the FBI HQ in Washington when I was a kid. They showed it off big time to anyone who wanted a look. Tommy guns fired off for school kids. Books of fingerprints being microfilmed. Pinups of Dillinger's bullet-ridden corpse and J. Edgar Hoover beauty shots in the gift shop. I figure the CIA's the same way. Just let me see the pretty sculpture, maybe buy a miniature of it and a "spook" hat in the gift shop, and I'll be on my way.
I drive up to the entrance gate, and ask the stern looking man in the flak jacket if there is a visitor's center. "You have no official business here sir?" Well, no, sez I. Just taking pictures for my book.
BLAM! Up pops a mechanical roadblock from its buried slot in the roadway. Suddenly, I am surrounded by guards, and am ordered into a holding area. I am now a "person of interest." For ten minutes, I am questioned, all details of my driving record, vehicle ownership and undoubtedly checkered credit history are poured over in the guard shack, while other guards surround my van, peering into the windows and looking both nervous and annoyed. There's more than enough firepower in sight to stop a whole bus of Indiana dumbasses with Masonic plates, so I am assuredly not going anywhere. It suddenly begins to dawn on me that I could quite possibly be arrested and tossed into Gitmo for driving thirty feet beyond that little brown sign and asking my stupid question.
An efficient and unamused officer at last returns my driver's license to me, and informs me that I could be heavily fined and arrested for my behavior, something that will certainly happen if I am ever caught on the property again in my natural life.
We live in nervous times, and with good reason. CIA nervousness predated 9/11. In 1993, a Pakistani named Mir Aimal Kansi got out of his car not far from this very same gate and opened fire with an AK47, killing two CIA employees and seriously injuring three other people. Incredibly, he managed to escape and flee the country. It took the FBI four years to track him down in Pakistan and extradite him.
So, I don't blame the officers of the CIA for doing their jobs, and doing them very efficiently. Maybe more prominent signage would save other dopes who show up like I did from making them so nervous. On the other hand, I honestly don't know how many signs I drove past. I don't know what I expected - after all, the damned place is supposed to be a bloody secret!
Yes, go ahead. Say it.
Even the FBI won't let you in anymore.
*sigh* I wonder if the NSA has a gift shop.