"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Monday, April 30, 2007

Midwest Conference on Masonic Education 2007

I had a wonderful couple of days at the 2007 Midwest Conference on Masonic Education in Evansville, Indiana this weekend. Grand Masters, Past Grand Masters, education officers and others interested in Masonic education throughout the region gathered for this annual program to discuss the nuts and bolts of programs used in their jurisdictions.

Terry Tilton, PGM of Minnesota and 2nd VP of PSOC kicked off Friday evening with a presentation on the Philalethes Society, joined by PSOC president Bob Tomlinson, PGM of Kansas.

Saturday was the nuts and bolts day of business for the group, but several GLs presented educational programs their states were using, developing or continuing. And a presentation was made explaining the background and goals of High Twelve International.

Mark Tabbert, myself and Chad Simpson.
Mark and I are not dwarves. Chad is just tall.

I was honored to be asked to participate in the afternoon session, moderated by brother Chad Simpson, Asst. Grand Secretary of Ohio. Because so-called Traditional Observance and European Concept lodges are gaining in popularity across the country, Chad brought a group of us together who are involved in these lodges to explain and demystify them, as well as to debunk some of the misconceptions around them.

The others on the panel were:

- Dennis Chornenky of Academia Lodge No. 847 in California, spoke about Traditional Observance lodges and the Masonic Restoration Foundation (MRF). he also gave a brief explanation of California's Masonic Formation Certification program.

_ Robert Tomlinson, PGM of Kansas and Master of Inner Quest Lodge No.456 spoke about their strict interpretation of the T.O. concept.

- I explained the differences between Traditional Observance and European Concept lodges, and our desire at Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 in Indianapolis to create our own model of a formal lodge, with a greater concentration on the festive board and Masonic education, as opposed to the stricter T.O. formats and ceremonies.

- Joesphe (Joey) Skyles of Kansas gave an outstanding presentation on generational trends and why the WWII generation, the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials believe, say and do what they do.

- Mark Tabbert, Director of Collections for the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Museum in Alexandria, Virginia finished up the session with an historical overview that magically seemed to wrap up all of our presentations, even if we didn't all collaborate ahead of time.

There have been situations across the country when Grand Masters have been unnerved, put off or downright spooked by the notion of TO/EC lodges, claiming them to be elitist, exclusive or otherwise discriminatory to the American customs of Freemasonry (Terry Tilton used the word "antithetical," which I disagree with). Those who have attended them know this is far from the truth. But what is clear is that an admittedly small - but growing - population within the fraternity is looking for a more formal lodge and educational lodge experience, a more convivial festive board, slower degree advancement, realistic dues, greater involvement of EAs and FCs. These lodges are smaller - intentionally so - but stress regular involvement instead of passive card carrying members who never show up.

What I find interesting is that the Allied Masonic Degree chapters are patterned on just this kind of model. And the AMD is the fastest growing appendant body in the US. AMD is filling a need with its small chapter size and concentration on education, participation and the feast.

Neither AMD nor TO/EC lodges are some magic bullet to "fix" Freemasonry. They are probably not the future of American Freemasonry. But they represent the 21st century inklings of what Masonry has done historically since its modern beginnings in 1717. Masonry has changed like clockwork every 25-30 years to suit the needs and desires of the society in which it resides, and the men who join it - until 1970, when it stopped. Because Masonry froze in its post-WWII model and failed to make changes 30 years later, we now sit here suffering from six decades of hardening of the arteries. That's no one's fault - the WWII generation has kept this fraternity alive and running when the Vietnam-era men refused to join. We owe them our gratitude and respect. But we have to make twice as many changes today as evolution would have naturally done before.

These lodges are satisfying a growing niche that NEEDS to be satisfied, of men who are completely turned off by the 1950s model lodge of meeting for a bologna sandwich, opening, reading the minutes, paying the bills and going home by 8:00. These smaller lodges treat the whole evening as lodge night and their members want their evening to be special. Freemasonry is supposed to be anything but ordinary, but the last five decades have concentrated on membership and the grinding out of the work to keep numbers up. The new men knocking on our lodge doors know more about us than most of our members do, and they are seeking the legendary lodges of our illustrious forefathers. If what we give them is a flat, dull experience and lodges that do not serve the needs of their active members, they won't be back. And they'll be the worst anti-Masonic salesmen ever created – not on mythical anti-religious grounds, but by warning off other men because Freemasonry wasted their time, their money and their enthusiasm.

As far as my experience is concerned, the biggest success of TO and EC lodges has not been a stream of enthusiastic members flooding into them. The biggest success has been visitors or just interested bystanders who have read about them taking the ideas from these lodges and making positive changes in their home lodges. These brethren are simply doing what every generation of Masons have done until the 1970s - they are remaking Masonry to suit their needs and desires.

* * *

Sunday was dedicated to reports from the various Grand Lodges about the specifics of their education programs in the past year, and their plans for the next year. Indiana has not participated in this conference for almost 15 years, and did not officially participate in this one. Our Grand Secretary Max Carpenter PGM was in attendance, and the conference was in Evansville because of the decades of individual participation by Wbro. Ike Hoshauer. Ike was a big promoter of High Twelve, and the group's secretary for ten years. I hope Indiana's future Grand masters see a need for a real education program for Indiana Masons - for new members, existing ones and for officers. This annual conference is an outstanding way for GLs to share what works and what doesn't. While it's not really designed for flocks of masons to attend, it is essentially to educate the educators, and that is a noble mission. The last Midwest Conference held in Indianapolis was in 1967, and that is a shame. Dwight Smith, PGM addressed the group. In his talk, he asked a flurry of questions we still have not answered 40 years later:

Why have Masons lost interest in Masonry? The way to find out is for a Mason who used to be disinterested to ask a Mason who still has no interest.

What else can we learn if we have the courage to ask the questions?

Whether newly raised Masons were solicited, directly or indirectly, to petition for the degrees.

Why the disinterested Mason became disinterested.

What the Brother expected and hoped to find in Masonry; whether he found it.

Whether the Brother has been disappointed or disillusioned in his Masonic experience, and if so, in what manner.

Whether the officers of the lodge "got through" to him when the degrees were conferred.

Whether his intelligence was insulted by the manner in which the ritualistic work was presented.

Whether the degrees of Symbolic Freemasonry impress him as challenging, or meaningless, or somewhere in between.

If the jurisdiction in which he was made a Mason has a so-called Intender Plan or Counselor Plan, was it able to contribute to his enlightenment as a candidate? How did it actually operate (not on paper, but in actual practice)? Or did it operate at all?

Whether the officers and Brethren conferred the degrees upon him and then showed no further interest in him except at dues paying time.

Whether he ever had an unfortunate experience in the "inquisition" so often conducted when a Mason seeks to visit another lodge.

Whether he is bored by our ritualistic work, or by the meetings of his lodge in general, and why.

Does he feel that Freemasonry has become anachronistic; i.e., something that does not belong to the times in which we live?

Has he ever been called upon to do anything for his lodge - anything that was really challenging, that is?

Would he enjoy performing a service for his lodge? - What can his lodge do to regain his interest?

What does he think about the quality of Masonic membet~ship, particularly in his own lodge?

What does he think of the quality of leadership in his lodge? - Does he feel comfortable when attending a meeting of his lodge?

Does he have anything in common with the membership? - Does his lodge provide a source of fellowship that is satisfying?

In his mind, what kind of image does Freemasonry have?

What is the image of Freemasonry in the circle of his acquaintance?

If the public image of Freemasonry in his circle of acquaintance is good, why is it good" If poor, why is it poor?

What does Freemasonry mean to him? If it should cease to be of any force in his community and nation. would he miss it?

Is he proud to be a Mason?

The time is long past for us to have answers to these questions and more. Maybe by the time it's in Indianapolis again, we will have some.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Congrats to Andrew Jackson, Grand Commander!

I had to blast out of Indianapolis Friday evening just as Sir Knight Andrew R. Jackson was installed as Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Indiana. Andy is also the Worshipful Master of the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D.

Congratulations, Andy!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Vrijmetselarij Voor Dummies

The mail today brought the news that Freemasons For Dummies will soon be available translated into Dutch. I know not a thing about the Dutch language, apart from it looking like German with more j's and e's and o's and not so many umlauts. I also do not know if it is a straight translation of the U.S. edition, or if the Dutch publisher brought in a Mason from the Netherlands to make changes to reflect the very different Masonic structure there.

Let's just say it will be a surprise.

It will be to me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lodge Vitruvian April 24th Meeting & Festive Board

In the Name of the Grand Architect of the Universe
Under the Constitution of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Indiana, F. & A. M.
M. W. Bro. James M. Barkdull, GRAND MASTER

Second Quarterly Stated Communication for 2007
Free and Accepted Masons
Under Dispensation 8 August 2001 - Chartered 21 May 2002
Constituted 17 August 2002
W. Bro. Phillip A. Garver, MASTER

All Master Masons to attend the Stated Communication of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, F. & A. M., holden in the Hall of Broad Ripple Lodge No. 643 F. & A. M., located at 1716 Broad Ripple Avenue, Indianapolis, Indiana, opening on Tuesday, April 24, 2007, at 7:00 p.m. precisely.

Visitors are always welcome at Lodge Vitruvian. In order to keep the restaurant informed of our numbers for the evening, please endeavor to notify the Secretary that you will be in attendance.

Tuxedo, Regalia and White Gloves for Members, Tuxedo or Business Attire for Visitors.

Our speaker for the evening will be WBro. Mark Haworth, Master of Broad Ripple Lodge No. 643, who will present his recent paper on "The Transition from Noachide to Hiramic Legend in Ancient Freemasonry".

The Festive Board

Festive Board to follow the meeting at the Capri Restaurant
2602 Ruth Drive, Indianapolis, Indiana
(Keystone Avenue between 71st and 75th Streets)

Each attendee will be responsible to the Lodge for the cost of his meal. The cost for the Festive Board is $20 per person, exclusive of alcoholic beverages, payable to the Secretary. Gratuity will be paid by the Lodge.

Brethren wishing to imbibe are responsible for the price of their drinks. Please drink responsibly.

Upcoming Events

Saturday, June 9, 2007 (tentative date)
Schofield House Pilgrimage, Madison, Indiana
Called Meeting for the Conferral of the Entered Apprentice Degree
More information as it is available

Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Stated Meeting
Opening at 7:00 PM, Festive Board to follow
Masonic speaker to be announced

Pentacles, Wiccans and Masonry

A question that pops up from time to time on Masonic forums and in lodge has to do with the requirement of a petitioner to believe in a "supreme being" and whether Wicca qualifies as such a belief. Undoubtedly, part of the trepidation by some Masons to accept Wicca as a religion has to do with seeing inverted pentacles drawn on floors by hooded devil-worshippers in too many old Night Gallery reruns. Curiously, these same brethren generally have no problem with the inverted pentacle of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Nevertheless, Wiccans are NOT Satanic or devil worshippers. Perhaps some calm may be brought to the discussion by the news today that the Veteran's Administration has agreed to allow the Wiccan pentacle on the gravestones of fallen soldiers. The pentacle joins the list of 38 accepted religious symbols approved for headstones.

The pentacle, pentalpha or five pointed star, in truth, had no connotations of "good" or "evil" until the defrocked French abbé Eliphas Levi gave it such distinctions in the late 1800s. The pentagram first appeared more than 5,000 years ago, in Mesopotamian writings and drawings. The Babylonians used it as an astrological diagram to represent the five known planets, —Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, with Venus at the top point of the star as the Queen of Heaven. The Pythagorean Greeks used an inverted pentacle's five points to represent the Classical elements of fire, water, air, earth and idea – (or more properly, Hieron, a word meaning “divine thing.”). Modern day Wiccans and Neopagans similarly use the symbol in this a similar manner, to represent the four earthbound elements air, earth, fire, water and the “spirit.” Depending on the variety of Wicca, the symbol may appear with the point up or down.

Five has been a sacred number is a variety of religions, and the pentacle has long been a handy shorthand for those many meanings. Humans have five fingers or toes on each limb. We have five senses. Early Christians used the pentacle to describe a very wide range of concepts. Over time they have been used by Christians to describe, from the five senses and to the five wounds of Christ on the cross. Catholics have used it to describe symbolize the five “virtues of Mary” (Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension and the Assumption). In the 14th 14th-century Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it appears on Sir Gawain’s shield to delineate the five virtues of knighthood: fellowship, purity, frankness, courtesy and compassion. And Islam has its five pillars of faith.

The pentacle has occasionally appeared in the symbolism of Freemasonry in a couple of references. It’s most prominent appearance today is as the symbol of the Order of the Eastern Star. The Order of the Eastern Star is, part of the Masonic family of related groups known as the appendant bodies. It was created in the 1850s by Freemason Rob Morris and his wife as a group that allowed both men and women to mix in a lodge-like setting. Men who are Masons may join, as well as women who are married or otherwise related to a Masons. Morris was, an inveterate lover of Masonic ritual, and so he created a ritual ceremony that was initiatory like as in Freemasonry, but was dissimilar enough that so he couldn’t be accused by Grand Lodges of making women into Masons.

He based his ritual on biblical sources. The degree ceremonies of the Order of the Eastern Star tell stories about five heroines of the Bible: Adah, Jephthah’s daughter from the Book of Judges; Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi; Esther, the brave Hebrew wife of Xerxes; Martha, Lazarus’ sister, from the Gospel of John; and Electa, the “elect lady” mentioned in II John.

The pentacle as it is used in the Order of the Eastern Star represents the Star of Bethlehem, and the points of the star refer to the biblical heroines. Chapter rooms are traditionally laid out with a large floor cloth or carpet representing the pentagram and its star points. At the center of the symbol stands an altar with an open Bible open upon it.

Apart from its use in the Order of the Eastern Star, the pentacle – right-side- up or inverted – does not officially appear in Masonic ritual or symbolism – at least not in the U.S. But that hasn't always been the case. Some “tracing boards” appeared in the early 1800s that contained five-pointed stars with a “G” in the center as a symbol of both God and of the knowledge of geometry. Other researchers have suggested that it may have represented a portion of the Master Mason degree ritual, the “Five Points of Fellowship.” But it was not a common symbol and has not survived in widespread use in this country.

However, many other countries frequently place a five-pointed star in the East of the lodge instead of the 'G' we commonly use to depict the presence of God. Some also combine it with the letter G. Proving the longstanding problem with making generalizations about Masonic symbolism: the answer usually is that "it's jurisdictional."

For more on Wicca, see the extensive www.religioustolerance.org website.

Solomon's Builders' Reviews

Many thanks to those who have recently reviewed Solomon's Builders: Freemasons, Founding fathers and the Secrets of Washington DC. In particular, thanks to Brother John Ratcliff's kind remarks on his website.

My appreciation also goes out to Brother Ken Davis' always thought-provoking Prosporo's Books site. Ken is our newest Master Mason at Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, and is an author and college professor as well.

Thanks also to Stephen Dafoe for a sneak peak at his review from the upcoming Issue No. 7 of Masonic Magazine (click below to enlarge).

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Brown's "Solomon Key" Title Still Alive

In January 2006, back when Dan Brown was being sued by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh the first time, Brown's publisher, Doubleday said The Da Vinci Code sequel would not be called The Solomon Key. "No title, no content, no publication date, no nothing," Doubleday's Alison Rich said.

Interestingly, Dan Brown has just updated his DNS entries for solomonkey.com and solomonkey.net though 2016. Whether that means he's nine years away from publishing, we'll just have to see...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Congratulations To AASR-Indy's Spring Class

Congratulations to the 2007 Spring Class of the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis. I only had a brief chance to stop by Saturday, but the dining hall seemed to be packed, so it appears there was an outstanding turnout.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Europe Blames Charlton Heston For VT Killings

Well, it took just one day, but the European press is already weighing in on the Virginia Tech killings. And apparently Charlton Heston is to blame, according to Der Spiegel. Forgive a brief straying from Freemasonry here, but I am curious:

So, was Charleton Heston to blame for the killing of 18 at the school in Erfurt in 2002?
Or the shootings at Emsdetten last year?
Or Freising in 2002?
Or the Dutch shooting spree of a 17 year old in Veghel in 1999?
Or the headmaster shot by a 17 year old student in the Hague in 2004?
Or the Montreal Massacre of 1989? Or another one in Montreal last September?
Or the killer of 16 kindergarten children in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996?
Or the unspeakable deaths of 334 people at a school in Beslan, Russia in 2004?

Spare us the European sanctimony over violence and murder. There's plenty of bloody hands all around the world. Madmen can appear at any time, anywhere. And Germans should know that more than anyone.

The average kid in the 1940s - or for that matter, the 1840s - had far easier access to guns than children do today. (When I was at the University of Southern California, there were still rules on the books from the 1800s that firearms had to remain holstered while attending class.) Yet how many gun-toting kids can you find a record of attacking their school prior to the 1990s? And with all the hand wringing about "machine guns easier to get than a drivers license," Cho Seung-Hui used a .22 pistol and a 9mm pistol, not a machine gun.

It is the coarsening of the culture, the raising of children by television and daycare, single parent families or parents too wrapped up in pursuing their careers to notice their kids are slipping into darkness. And the ceaseless violence that fills 225 digital channels, all day, all night. It is the repeated watching of Hostel, Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacres, and their hundreds of shootings, choppings, beheadings, impalings, dismemberings and slow-motion bloodletting – all trying to out-gross the last ones – that have made three generations of kids increasingly insensate to real-life horror. Like the music companies that rake in the cash from insulting, coarse, rude, lewd and crude "artists," likewise to blame are the movie studios that crank out "grindhouse" pictures (that make less money every year), with every more carnage.

And anyone who argues otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

April Is The Cruelist Month

Why April?
What causes the madness?

• Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated April 4, 1968
• The seige of the Branch Davidians in Waco and the Oklahoma City Bombing - April 19th
• Columbine (and Adolf Hitler's Birthday) - April 20th
• And, lest our European critics feel compelled to start hurling "kill-crazy American" insults, 18 killed on April 26, 2002 by a gunman at a school in Erfurt, Germany.

And now, Virginia Tech, and 33 dead.

Here are some of the innocents. There were more killed by April's latest madman, Cho Seung-Hui, and untold hundreds more whose lives have been torn apart in the blink of a news cycle with the deaths of their children.

Ross Abdallah Alameddine

Christopher James Bishop

Ryan Clark

Jocelyn Couture-Nowak

Daniel Perez Cueva

Kevin Granata

Caitlin Hammaren

Jeremy Herbstritt

Emily Jane Hilscher

Jarrett Lee Lane

Matthew La Porte

Henry Lee

Liviu Librescu

G.V. Loganathan

Daniel O'Neil

Juan Ramon Ortiz

Mary Karen Read

Reema Samaha

Leslie Sherman

Maxine Turner

Parents shouldn't have to bury their children. So why can't the madmen consider suicide as their first act instead of their last?

One other thought occurred to me this afternoon, and it's usually the sort of thought that appears on anti-Masonic sites.

Why 33?

More New Castle, PA Valley Info

I see the brethren of New Castle, Pennsylvania made the paper yesterday. They are applying for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

In spite of the major loss of members, they planned for the future decades ago and their foundation has been able to make almost $3 million in upgrades and improvements in the past year or so, including air conditioning for the first time. Bravo to the brethren of New Castle for their vision. And thanks again to the New Castle Valley for their hospitality last month.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How Bob Clark Made Me A Mason

Director Bob Clark and his son Ariel were killed this past week in a tragic head-on collision with an illegal Mexican immigrant. Clark was an uneven director, who unleashed howlers like Rhinestone, Karate Dog and Porky's. But he also gave us the greatest Christmas present any of us would ever receive, 1983's A Christmas Story. (Look for him in the movie - he's Swede, the guy who walks up to the Old Man while admiring the Nehi leg lamp from across the street: "Brain power, Swede.")

But I really owe becoming a Mason to Bob Clark. In 1979, he directed one of the best Sherlock Holmes films ever made, Murder By Decree. Alice and I saw it at the UA theater in Van Nuys, California in my second year of film school, and I was impressed off the charts. I was a big fan of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Holmes movies, but Christopher Plummer and James Mason in this film remain my favorites after almost 30 years.

The film tells the Jack the Ripper story as a Holmes mystery, but it is based on Stephen Knight's Jack The Ripper: The Final Solution, a story that was quickly exposed as being based on fabricated evidence. In it, the Ripper is associated with the Freemasons, and Holmes follows the trail into the halls of government. If this story sounds similar to the Johnny Depp film From Hell, it is indeed based on the same faulty source material. But the older film is the better telling of the tale. Sure, today it grates on me that it's largely an anti-Masonic story, but the characters, the script and the direction all make it a great thriller.

Still, I thought in my ignorance that it was a terrific tale in my youth, and promptly trotted out to the bookstore to find all I could about the Freemasons. In those days, apart from one lonely copy of Duncan's Ritual, there was nothing. Over the years, I thumbed through my increasingly tattered copy of Duncan, never knowing how to go about becoming a Mason, or even whom to ask. It would take 20 years and the death of my father-in-law before I took the step of finding a lodge. But Bob Clark, Sherlock Holmes and Murder By Decree first put the spark in my head, and I never forgot it.

Thanks Bob.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thanks, New Castle Valley AASR

Many, many thanks to the brethren of the Scottish Rite Valley of New Castle, Pennsylvania for having me out two weeks ago to speak at their annual fish dinner. Several hundred brothers and guests were there for a terrific evening of fellowship. The food was great, and the new friendships made were even better. Their hospitality couldn't have been more generous, and I thank everyone who came out and made my first trip there so memorable.

The New Castle Scottish Rite Cathedral is a magnificent facility, and has one of the largest auditoriums in western Pennsylvania. The brethren have maintained it beautifully and responsibly, and they have much to be proud of.

The city of New Castle itself is a great example of historic preservation on a grand scale. The downtown area shows the proud and loving care of a community that has adapted well from its manufacturing origins. Every corner brings a new surprise, and it is well worth a visit. And the best part of all is that New Castle is home to, not one, but two of the premiere fireworks companies in the world: Zambelli Internationale and S.Vitale Pyrotechnic Industries, Inc. (Pyrotecnico).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hell In A Handbasket

Bear with me on this, because it's going to ramble. And it has nothing to do with Freemasonry. It's one of those late-40s moments when you start pondering on the End Of Civilization As We Know It – proof that you're old, I guess.

Episode 1

I'm strolling through the grocery store, and at every other aisle I meet up with the same people walking ahead of me, with their backs to me. One is clearly a mom, and the sort of mom who obviously wanted to be her daughter's best friend, but got stuck with being a parent instead. Still, she's dressing young, and it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say she probably wears some of her daughter's clothes just to remain hip and young. Or young-ish.

Daughter is at most 16, if that. The girl is wearing a spaghetti-strap top that bares the industry-standard three inches of midriff all the way around, and she's got on a pair of low-riding sweat pants. The combination of the two is designed so that no one walking behind her can fail to miss the tattoo (known colloquially as a "tramp stamp") at the place where her spine and her rump are joined . Below that, in screaming hot pink that is bright enough to be spotted from low earth orbit, is the top edge of her thong underwear (known colloquially as a "whale tail") rising up from the edge of her sweat pants. And, just to make sure that every person in the place was looking at her butt, the sweat pants were adorned in 200 point type with the word "Juicy!" emblazoned across both cheeks.

In spite of the fact that the 40s are when women think it's their last chance to have children, while men think it's their last chance to date them, I'm no child molester. But catching myself reading suggestive messages on a teenaged girl's backside suddenly makes me feel like I'm the deviant here, instead of her mom clearly having no problem with her daughter's choice of outfit. Worse, there are more than a few middle schools and high schools in the area plastering their school or team name similarly across the butts of pre-adolescent girls, guaranteed to make sure all eyes stare at the swinging tail of a 12 or 13 year old girl.

Is this right?

Episode 2

Our lodge got tagged with graffiti last year and again a few weeks back. This time, it was right across the front of the building, so we had to repaint the stucco to get rid of it. Today, I get a message that the downtown Temple got tagged as well. This time, it's on limestone, and will undoubtedly be expensive to remove, and possibly destructive to the stone as well. So I go in search for graffiti removal specialists to call, and I hit a typically apologist article, "There's Mischief Afoot, But Also Talent Evident In Graffiti Art." No there isn't. There's no talent in spraying paint on the property of others, any more than there is artistry in breaking a window or rolling a drunk. But you wouldn't know it by reading the paper.

Is this right?

Episode 3

There's a scene in the show 1776 when John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson present the newly written Declaration of Independence to Congress. President of the Congress John Hancock reads the document aloud, and then looks up and asks if there are any changes or amendments anyone wishes to make. There is about a five second pause, and then the entire room is on its feet shouting out their objections.

Jefferson and Adams are in the corner, and the hotheaded Adams is fuming. Finally in disgust, he looks at Jefferson and shouts, "Well, dammit man, aren't you going to speak up? After all, you wrote the damned thing!"

Jefferson, sadly, looking off into space says, "I had thought the work spoke for itself."

I'm not going to name names. For 24 years, a local ad agency we have worked with has had one particular account, and has been phenomenally successful at building and maintaining the image of this client in good times and bad. That account is going away in the next few months, not because of anything the agency did, or failed to do., but because the company decided to put the account up for review.

The body of work done for this client would fill a warehouse. And after 24 years, if they didn't know the quality of the work this long standing team could do, shame on them. "I had thought the work spoke for itself."

Now this group of no less than 30 people - and probably more - have a few weeks to find a new direction for their lives. Some are retiring, some aren't so lucky, and some are truly up a creek with little warning. In particular, a core team of 16 people who I have worked with and come to love as much as any family, are all going our separate ways. The real reason why has nothing to do with the quality of the work, but with the bottom line of the company that everyone expects to be taken public. And like so many other companies that have followed the same pattern, it is probable that it will be swallowed up by a bigger fish and disappear altogether – in part, because its image that was created by these talented people has made it attractive to the circling sharks. So it will slash its costs, expand suddenly overnight, swell up, get bought, and finally disappear into the anonymous, hungry maw of consolidation, like the dozens of other clients we have served over the years. So eventually we can have one bank, one phone company, one drug store, and one big bargain warehouse.

I know it's happening all over. I know it's a little story in a world of much bigger heartbreak. I know it's "just business." But I also know it isn't right.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Brother Michael Poll, Masonic author and the landlord of the Lost Word website has been hard at work making additions and improvements to his online store. I looked around the new LostWord website with interest, because a modern American Freemason cannot have enough Masonic bling, pelf, swag and stuff.

It is a regular comment around my brethren at Broad Ripple Lodge that my portrayal of a certain rough character in the 3rd degree bears an uncanny vocal cadence and resemblance to William Shatner. I, of course, don't hear it myself.

So I'm rooting around Mike's expanded website and came across the costume section. And what do I spot, but a costume for certain rough characters. Tell me that's not William Shatner.