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


Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Journal of The Masonic Society" Issue #2 Coming Soon

Now that the holidays and some final personal issues from the unloading of my business are over (officially turned in my plunger in November, but it's been haunting me), Issue #2 of The Journal of The Masonic Society is in the final stages of assembly.

Articles include:

• Alpha Males: Trevor Stewart at Alpha Lodge, New Jersey by Jay Hochberg
• Cleaning the Temple by Mark A. Tabbert
• Defining Esotericism from a Masonic Perspective by Shawn Eyer
• On Brotherhood by Robert Wolfarth
• First Degree Masonic Tracing Board: art and text by Greg Stewart
• There's A Hole In Our Bucket, Dear Hiram, Dear Hiram by Stephen Dafoe
Photos by Ted Bastien

...and much, much more.

For more information on The Masonic Society, visit the Society's website at www.themasonicsociety.com

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The *New* Knight Templar Magazine

Chapeaux off and huzzahs to the Knight Templar Magazine and its editor Sir Knight John Palmer. Over the last few months, with the strong encouragement of Most Eminant Grand Master Koon, the monthly magazine has shed its dated, black and white skin, cut back on grip-n-grin (GAG) photos, and been reborn. It now hits mailboxes in full color, with limited advertising, color photos, an increase in pages, and honest-to-goodness articles about Templarism (both medieval and modern), chivalry, Christian history, archeology, and symbolism. And SK Palmer has assembled a prestigious lineup for the mag's editorial board: Rex Hutchens, Stephen Dafoe, Aaron Shoemaker, Leroy Delionbach, Terry Plemons, and Sid Dorris.

In addition to going out to 130,000 Templars every month, it is also available online at www.issu.com.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thank you. It's Been A Gift

A year ago, after my heart 'n cancer scare, I said everything after Christmas Eve 2007 was a gift, and that has been absolutely true. Alice and I thank each and every one of you for a wonderful year. A new book. The Masonic Society. Meeting new friends, visiting new places, achieving new accomplishments, and now that our business has been sold, our lives are going in a new direction.

We couldn't have done it without you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Americans Settling Down?

One of the commonly cited reasons for societal instability, Americans' post-1960's wanderlust, seems to have cooled over the years. In fact, it may be that the eternally wandering American, with no roots and no extended family, may finally be looking for some stability.

According to a new study by the Pew Center,

Using polling data and government statistics, Pew found only 13 percent of Americans moved house between 2006-2007, the lowest rate since records began in the 1940s.

According to Thursday's report, roaming has been on the wane since the 1960s -- an era when millions followed beatnik author Jack Kerouac "On the Road."

Analysts say the slipping trend is due to an aging population. "The US population is getting older and most moves are made when people are young," Pew researchers noted.

While the annual rate of migration had stood since the 1960s at around 60 percent, that had fallen last year to its lowest level ever with the onslaught of the property crisis.

Some 38.6 million people moved between 2006-2007, the lowest number since 1982-1983, a period which also saw an economic downturn.

Fugitive Michael Johnson

Fugitive Michael Johnson

The following is self explantory and is forwarded to districts bordering the U.S and Ontario.
Please cause a check of all lodge registers in your respective districts to see if this individual has visited an Ontario lodge.

The Ontario lodge register could indicate a visitor from: Patmos No. 348, White Rose No. 706, York No. 266 or Zeredatha No 451 (all Pennsylvania). Any other pertinent information concerning the subject, please advise.

This Maryland request for assistance will be forwarded to Grand Secretaries, Canada wide.

Advise this office accordingly, upon completion of the Inquiry.

Fraternally - Terry Shand
Grand Secretary

----- Original Message -----



Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 1:04 PM

Subject: Wanted Fugitive Michael Johnson

Dear Mr. Shand,

I greatly appreciate anything you can do to contact your membership in regards to the following individual. We have reason to believe prior to Johnson fleeing from police in the United States , he was attempting to make contact with Masonic Lodge members in Canada . Johnson is a Masonic member in PA and there is information that he was reaching out to Canadian members prior to fleeing in an attempt to make contacts and or possibly a place to stay. Johnson was last seen operating a blue 2006, Chevrolet Cobalt with Pennsylvania license plates. The license plate number is MB11785 and is a Masonic Temple organizational plate. However Johnson had several license plates in his possession and may not have the same license plate on his car. Please reach out to any contacts in your law enforcement community that may help us locate Mr. Johnson.

The following is a brief synopsis from the Americas Most Wanted website which I forwarded to you from their webpage.

On Nov. 2, 2008, Johnson posed as an active police officer, picking up a 21-year-old woman in Southeast Baltimore and telling her he was arresting her as part of a sting operation on prostitution in the area.

Johnson then handcuffed the woman to the back seat of his minivan and allegedly drove her to an isolated area, and told her he'd let her off the hook if she had sex with him. The victim was able to describe her attacker's van and give a license plate number.

Johnson was quickly linked to the attack, and on Dec. 1, 2008, at his home near Hanover , Pa , Johnson engaged police in a standoff at his home, surrendering only after two long hours of confrontation. Inside his house, many police IDs and badges from various agencies.

That should have been an indication of Johnson's refusal to go down for his alleged crime. But soon after his arrest, the accused rapist was released from custody on $100,000 bail.

Johnson Takes Off Before Court Date
Following his arrest and release, Johnson, a commissioner in Penn Township , Pa. , soon became a hot topic in the local press. When his photo was splashed across newspapers and televisions in the area, it was discovered Johnson's alleged Nov. 2 attack was not his first.

Two other victims, independent of one another, came forward claiming Johnson had done the exact same thing to them in September -- just a month before his alleged Baltimore attack. Both victims were from York , where Johnson held the title of police officer for four years. Police believe Johnson had traveled to York because he knows the area well.

Johnson took off after learning of the impending charges, failing to appear for his scheduled arraignment in early December.

We are doing everything we can to find Johnson, and believe he is likely a serial rapist.

Johnson targets women he believes to be prostitutes and uses the same method each time he strikes. We believe he's likely armed and dangerous and probably willing to do anything to stay free.

You cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Todd W. Liddick
Trooper First Class
Maryland State Police
Westminster Barrack
Criminal Investigations Section
1100 Baltimore Blvd.
Westminster, MD 21157

410-386-3057 Desk
410-386-3000 Barrack
410-386-3003 Fax

See also newspaper article: http://ydr.inyork.com/ydr/ci_11187394

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My *New* Templar Sword

The Ebay seller Classicliterati consistently carries the best and most unusual antique Templar swords. I knew sooner or later I'd succumb to their taunting and temptations. I fell hard for this specimen.

It was made in the 1880s by the Ames Sword Company, and features 3-dimensional knight figures on the hilt and grip, and very rare red and blue decoration on the scrimshaw grip (including the custom initials of its first owner, Sir Knight M. M. Clifford). It is truly one of the most unique and intricate Templar sword designs ever, and was selected as the representative sword featured on the cover of Ames' recently reprinted historical catalog.

Long Beach Temple's New Life

A developer in California has transformed the former Long Beach Masonic lodge building at 835 Locust Avenue into condominiums, now known as Long Beach Temple Lofts.

The Los Angeles Times took a tour—have a look.

Historic preservation requirements meant that the largely windowless building remain, well, largely windowless. (One condo has no windows at all.) The entry hall and exterior remain much as they were when it was built in 1927.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bill of Rights Day

217 years ago today, Virginia became the tenth of fourteen states to ratify the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution—the Bill of Rights. With them, American citizens were granted the freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion; unreasonable searches and seizures; and the right to a speedy and public trial by jury.

Or as wags of the period described it in relation to the new national government that the Constitution had created, the Bill of Rights was a "tub for the whale."

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Moon Looks Bigger Tonight

Put your coat on tonight and go outside to see a natural wonder that happens infrequently in our lifetime. The moon will look bigger and brighter tonight than it has appeared in fifteen years.

The Moon travels in an oval orbit around the Earth, and tonight it happens to line up at its closest point in 15 years, along with being a full moon to boot. That means the moon will appear 14% bigger and 30% brighter (along with making high-tide a bit higher). This won't happen again until 2016.

And it coincides with the annual Geminid meteor shower.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Grand Master of Portugal Passes Away

Most Worshipful brother Almiro Marques, Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Portugal, passed to the Celestial Lodge this evening. GM Marques was a native of Marinha Grande and a lawyer. He was elected as Grand Master in 2005.

According to an article in the Jornal de Noticias, he was 77 years old, and apparently died of respiratory problems, compounded by pneumonia.

His column is broken and his brethren mourn.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thanks To Logan Lodge No. 575

Congratulations to Worshipful Master-elect Kenneth Davis of Lodge Vitruvian No. 767, who went through his Past Master Degree this evening. The evening was a joint effort with the Past Masters of Vitruvian and of Major General John A. Logan Lodge No. 575, which meets at Indiana Freemasons' Hall in downtown Indianapolis. A laurel and hardy handshake to Logan's WM-elect Jamie Ridner, who also had his PM degree conferred.

Many thanks from all of us at Lodge Vitruvian to WBro. Kyle Fahrner for graciously allowing us to be a part of your evening. And a personal note of gratitude for presenting me with a certificate making me an honorary member of Logan Lodge. I am honored and proud to be associated with the men of this lodge.

BTW, it was great to see both WBros. Jeff Naylor and Eric Schmitz, especially on a night of predicted snow and ice. I always enjoy your company and your friendship.

Prohibition Ended December 5, 1933.

Just a reminder to the brethren in my jurisdiction that this supposedly happened 75 years ago today.

Celebrate responsibly.

Which reminds me. After many years I have been remiss in sending a shout out to Ely and all of the fine folks at Indianapolis' Elbow Room, our traditional downtown, post-meeting haunt. The food is good, they always treat us well, and many of the world's problems have been solved over a pint there. WBro. Carson Smith has even originated a secret due-guard that calls the brethren to its warm environs.

New Film "Brothers War" Has Freemasonry At Its Heart

Tino Struckman and his production company, Almighty Dog, produced a video program for the Grand Lodge of California last year. Now, Struckman, who has made something of a speciality of WWII dramas and documentaries, has written and produced Brother's War.

The film is described on the website:

Based on real events, the setting for Brother's War is the Eastern Front during the final days of World War II. In the midst of fierce fighting, as the Western Allies and the Russian Red Army make their advance toward Berlin, a British Army Officer attached to the Red Army discovers a secret that can shatter the unity of the Allies.

Seized by Stalin's dreaded Intelligence Service, he finds unexpected help from an enemy and fellow prisoner, a German Captain. A common bond through Freemasonry binds the two Officers by honor, oath and secrets. Joined by Anna, a beautiful Polish nurse cast adrift in the tides of war, the three are pursued by a ruthless Russian Intelligence Officer intent on preventing them from reaching Allied Command with their secret which could change the course of the war and the fate of millions.

While obviously dealing with a limited budget, from the looks of the trailer, Danish-born Struckman and director Jerry Buteyn have made a good looking film that tells a very personal story from a little-discussed portion of the history of the war.

No word yet on how it will be distributed.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Building A New Pyramid

I give up. I'm tired of explaining the "unfinished pyramid" is NOT a Masonic symbol, and the only reason anybody thinks it is comes from a 1884 quote by Harvard Professor Eliot Norton, who said that the Great Seal of the United States with its unfinished pyramid was "practically incapable of effective treatment; it can hardly, (however artistically treated by the designer), look otherwise than as a dull emblem of a Masonic fraternity."

I've decided to embrace the pyramid. Especially the unfinished pyramid.

With that in mind, have a look at what may be the most ambitious building project in three thousand years. Plans are underway in Dessau, Germany to begin construction of a new pyramid for the ages.
The German government has ponied up $90,000 in seed money (scarcely enough to print up the brochures) to begin construction of a 1,600 foot tall Great Pyramid, containing up to 5 million multi-colored blocks, filled with enthusiastic supporters' cremains. For a mere $900, your earthly ashes can be part of what looks, up close, like the world's largest lego sculpture.

Sign up at The Great Pyramid.org

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

New US Capitol Visitor's Center Opens

When I was in Washington last month, both the White House and the Capitol were swarming with workers building the temporary viewing stands for inauguration day in January. As a member of the US Capitol Historical Society, I've been hearing for years about the new US Capitol Visitor's Center being constructed below ground level. The facility has been needed for decades, because there's never been an adequate gathering place for tours (and I can attest from an embarrassing and unsuccessful attempt to painfully argue my way in to the Rayburn House Office Building after WAY too much coffee on a bitter cold morning, no public restrooms anywhere in the area). The Architect of the Capitol estimates the number of visitors to the building has risen from 1 million annually in 1970 to 3 million today.

Well, the new Visitor's Center opened today. Naturally, anything having to do with Congress costs nine or ten times what it it's estimated, and this is no exception. The $71 million project rose to $621 million before finally being completed. According to a press release from Citizens Against Government Waste,

Like the federal budget itself, Congress used the CVC as a warehouse for tens of millions of dollars in extravagant bells and whistles for itself. Even more reprehensible, members of Congress seeking to add special features for themselves used security concerns surrounding the September 11 attacks to justify their extravagant add-ons and constant change orders.”

Original plans called for more than half of the CVC space to be left as unfinished “shell space”, available to be outfitted for future needs. Instead, in 2001 Congress began implementing its wish list for the unfinished spaces. The House side got a two-story hearing room and the Senate grafted on a collection of small hearing rooms and a television and radio studio with adjoining makeup facilities so that senators could cut spots for their constituents back home. Those two efforts alone added $85 million to the cost of the CVC. The CVC will also have a 450-seat dining area, two orientation theaters (one for each chamber), a large auditorium, and an exhibition hall.

Not to play partisan politics here, but Senate Majority leader Harry Reid today made it clear how he feels about the taxpayers he ostensibly works for. In his remarks at the center's opening today he said,

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway," said Reid in his remarks. "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true. Well, that is no longer going to be necessary."

Please do tell your colleagues the feeling is mutual.

Monday, December 01, 2008

UFO Group Pressures Obama To Release X-Files

An organization calling itself the Extraterrestrial Phenomenon Political Action Committee (X-PPAC) has written to the President-Elect and demanded that he "end the six-decade truth embargo regarding an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race".

The group is asking Obama to insist on a "full briefing from your military services and intelligence agencies regarding what they know" as well as open congressional hearings "to take testimony from scores of government witnesses who have already come forward with extraordinary evidence and are prepared to testify under oath."

X-PPAC believes they have at least two champions in Obama's incoming White House staff. Both John Podesta, who is running Mr Obama's White House transition team, and Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico, who is expected to secure a cabinet post, have both professed public belief in UFO sightings.

From an article in the Telegraph yesterday:

Of course, us shape-shifting reptilian Freemasons will put a stop to THAT.
When he was the White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, Mr Podesta led a project to declassify 800 million pages of intelligence documents. In a press conference, still available to watch on the YouTube website, Mr Podesta said: "It is time for the government to declassify records that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon."

Gov Richardson, a former presidential candidate and fellow UFO aficionado, has written a forward to a book on the so-called Roswell Incident in New Mexico, where campaigners believe an alien spacecraft crash landed near the town of Roswell in 1947 and that the corpses of humanoid aliens have been kept hidden under lock and key by the government.
He has called for full disclosure by the Pentagon of what really occurred and reiterated his belief that there had been a "cover-up" during a presidential debate last year.

The campaigners, who want the truth "out there", believe that the British Government's decision to declassify thousands of UFO sighting documents this year has made it untenable for the US to maintain its policy of non-disclosure.
Only last week a US Air Force pilot, Milton Torres, whose testimony was released from the British archives, appeared on US television explaining how he was ordered to shoot down a large UFO over the UK in 1957 and then silenced by military officials, who told him never to speak of the incident.

Stephen Bassett, Executive Director of the Extraterrestrial Phenomenon Political Action Committee, expects to have gathered 40,000 signatures via email and fax by Mr Obama's inauguration day on Jan 20 in support of his calls for openness.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Extraordinary Gentlemen of the Connaught Club

In 2007, London's Metropolitan Grand Lodge (a grouping of UGLE lodges that meet in the geographic area of London) held a special reception of Masons under the age of 35. Sixty or so such brethren attended, and it was such a success that a club was created to serve such men—the Connaught Club.

According to their website,

"The Purpose of the Connaught Club is to give young Freemasons in London a means to meet and socialise with like-minded people of similar ages within masonry, to attempt to bridge the large geographic area that constitutes London and the diversity of its lodges.

"The Connaught Club will also act as a representative body for the views of these Freemasons, passing those views on to Metropolitan Grand Lodge, via the appropriate channels as required.

"The Club aims to encourage & support participation in our Lodges and Freemasonry in general, openness about our membership and the aims, and relations of the Craft, particularly with how it relates to modern society and the younger generations."

Membership of the club is open to any Freemason under the age of 34 whose Lodge or Chapter is under Metropolitan Grand Lodge or who lives or works within London. Membership is £25 (around US$40). Their Christmas meal this year will be at London's posh Carlton Club.

Oh, to be 34. And living in London. With a better exchange rate.


UPDATE: A less publicized organization was started at the same time in London as the Connaught Club. This one is for Freemasons OVER the age of 34, who reside in the jurisdiction of the city's Metropolitan Grand Lodge, and its annual membership cost is just £10.

It is called The Kent Club, and its website can be seen here.

The Order of the Pug, or Mopsorden

Around 1740, the German sculptor, Johann Joachim Kaendler, master model maker of the Meissen porcelain factory in Germany, was commissioned to create a curious series of sculptures. They were a group of porcelain Pug dogs designed as secret emblems for a German underground Masonic-styled lodge known as the "Order of the Pug."

According to an exposure published in 1745 in Amsterdam, L’ordre des Franc-Macons trahi et le Secret des Mopses rélélé, the Order of the Pugs was likely designed as a fraternal group for Roman Catholics who had been forbidden to join the Masons by Pope Clement XII 's 1738 bull, In Eminenti Apostolatus Specula. It is believed to have been started in Bavaria by the elector of Cologne, Clemens August of Wittelsbach.

According to the exposure, the members called themselves Pugs. Initiates were required to wear a dog collar, and gained entrance to the lodge by scratching at the door. Initiates were hoodwinked and led around a symbol-filled carpet nine times while the assembled "Pugs" of the Order barked loudly and yelled “Memento mori” ('Remember you shall die'). The blind candidate was required to kiss the Grand Pug's backside under his tail as an expression of total devotion (in reality, a porcelain pug dog).

The pug was chosen as a symbol of loyalty, trustworthiness and steadiness. All members had to be Roman-Catholics, and the Order of the Pug allowed women as members. The Grand Master was a man, but each lodge required two lodge masters or Big Pugs, one man and one woman, who shared the governing role.

But why the Pug?

Apparently, the Pug became something of a subversive emblem of the Enlightenment, and England in particular. Pug dogs came to England with King William III when he was brought from the Netherlands in 1688 by Parliament to replace his uncle and way-too-Catholic father-in-law, James II, who was booted out of Blighty. This "Glorious Revolution" created a constitutional monarchy that was watched over carefully by Parliament. Europe’s intellectuals began to admire this new style of English government and free thinking, and owning a Pug was a subtle way of showing solidarity with England's revolution without getting locked in the stocks or hurled into a dungeon. In Paris, Pugs became associated with Voltaire and Diderot.

The Order of the Pugs was outlawed in 1748.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Morning in Indianapolis

My home lodge, Broad Ripple No. 643 will again take part in the Indianapolis Prince Hall Thanksgiving dinner program today. The program hopes to serve 1000 meals to the homeless, shut-ins and others who would otherwise not have a Thanksgiving dinner.

This event is a collaboration of the Indianapolis area Prince Hall lodges going back to 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 9 AM and 11:30 AM, stop in at the Prince Hall Temple 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 this afternoon.

BTW, a belated congratulations to Most Worshipful Grand Master Darrell E. Morton on his recent election to the Grand East of the MWPHGLofIndiana.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NBC To Air Khoury's 'The Last Templar' 1/25/09

NBC has announced the air date for their miniseries based on Raymond Khoury's novel, "The Last Templar." This marks a major commitment on the part of NBC making a long-form film that will air across two nights. It's been over ten years since they've done one of these. It will air January 25th and 26th at 9PM. The program will also be streamed live on the internet.

According to a release on the SciFi Wire:

Mira Sorvino stars in The Last Templar as Tess Chaykin, a Manhattan archaeologist who is drawn into a fast-paced, romantic adventure concerning the lost secrets of the medieval Knights Templar. The miniseries will also feature Victor Garber as Monsignor De Angelis, who steps in to help with the investigation to retrieve the lost artifact. The four-hour miniseries shot on location in both Montreal and Morocco.

The Last Templar opens with the fall of the Latin Kingdom's reign in the Holy Land in Acre in 1291. As the burning city falls to the Sultan's forces, a lone galley escapes out to sea, carrying a young knight from the historic order of the Knights Templar, Martin of Carmaux, his mentor Aimard of Villiers, and a mysterious chest entrusted to them by the Order's dying Grand Master. But the ship never reaches its destination.

Later, in present-day New York, Chaykin (Sorvino) witnesses four masked horsemen, dressed as Templar Knights, who storm into the Metropolitan Museum, scattering Manhattan society gathered for the gala opening night of an exhibition of Vatican treasures. She watches in silent terror as the leader of the horsemen homes in on one piece in particular--a strange-geared device that he grabs as he disappears into Central Park.

As the horsemen's dead bodies start turning up--and the importance of the stolen device becomes more apparent--Tess and FBI agent Sean Reilly are drawn into the dark, hidden history of the crusading knights and of the last surviving Templars' fateful journey from Acre. The pair is soon propelled into a dangerous adventure that takes them through the cemeteries and sewers of Manhattan, across continents to desolate Turkish highlands, to a violent storm on the Mediterranean that shipwrecks them onto a remote Greek island--and into the very heart of an incredible Vatican secret.

NBC has launched a website for the program.

'The Compasses and the Cross' by Stephen Dafoe

My copy of Stephen Dafoe's latest book, The Compasses and the Cross arrived earlier this week (what gives with Lewis Masonic and no real distribution with Amazon? That's just plain business suicide in the publishing world).

Stephen and his editor were kind enough to ask me to write the Foreword for the book, and what I said there before seeing the beautiful finished book with its great illustrations and photos (including pieces from the collection of Indianapolis friend and Sir Knight Carson Smith) is truer now in its final form:

The trouble with mythmaking within the windowless temples and tyled meetings of a fraternal organization that cherishes its reputation of secrecy is that, occasionally, outsiders believe the myths, too. Thus it has been with the tall Templar tales of Freemasonry. The result has been a literary avalanche of speculative stuff and nonsense that can be traced back to a few very specific episodes of wishful thinking or deliberate fable weaving of our Masonic forefathers. What Stephen has done is to trace the legends of Masonic Templarism back to their sources and shine the light of truth on them, once and for all.

For a fraternal organization like Freemasonry that prides itself on its inclusion of men from all economic and religious walks of life, to many, having an appendant organization that requires a belief in Trinitarian Christianity and makes “Christian soldiers,” seems like an anachronism. The Compasses and the Cross explores and explains where those notions came from.

But it is important to understand that this book is not some blunt instrument of debunkery. It is a thoroughly researched history of the development of the Knights Templar within Freemasonry, and the very different paths it took in continental Europe, England, Scotland, Canada and the United States – and make no mistake, Masonic Templarism is very different in all of those places. Hence, my own ersatz Civil War uniform and anachronistic chapeau that is common across the U.S., but unknown elsewhere. . .

[The Compasses and the Cross] is destined to be a unique resource for those studying the history of Freemasonry and its labyrinthine degrees and orders. There is no other volume I know of that investigates this important phase of Masonic history in such careful detail. Stephen has not set out to burst bubbles, but to understand where they came from, and how they became what we see in commanderies and preceptories around the world today.

So much in Freemasonry is explained to its members as “the way we’ve always done it.” That clearly is not so, and that’s no way to answer inquisitive students of the fraternity. For those who want to know why and how and when the Knights Templar rode on their steeds into Masonic history, I urge you to read on.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies " for Joe Biden

Evelyn Somers at the Missouri Review recommends Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies for VP-elect Joe Biden:

"Yes, he’s an expert on foreign policy, but does he really know all the behind-the-scenes stuff? . . . The book purportedly tells you how to “figure out who ‘they’ are.” Always a useful thing to know if you’re next in line for the Presidency."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Queenan: "Enough With The Sweet Talk"

Hilarious essay about effusive book reviews and gushing reviewers by Joe Queenan in the New York Times yesterday.

This brings us to the least-discussed subject in the world of belles-lettres: book reviews that any author worth his salt knows are unjustifiably enthusiastic. Authors are always complaining that reviewers missed the whole point of “Few Mourn the Caballero,” or took the quote about the merry leper ballerinas out of context, or overlooked the allusions to Octave Mirbeau, or didn’t mention that the author once jilted the critic after he kept begging her to go out on a double date dressed as one of the Boleyn sisters. Authors are always complaining that reviewers maliciously cited the least incandescent, least Pushkinian passages in the book, or have a grudge against them because of something that happened the night the Khmer Rouge or Joy Division broke up, or only said mean things because the author went to Exeter while the reviewer had to settle for Andover.

What makes this bellyaching so unseemly is that the vast majority of book reviews are favorable, even though the vast majority of books deserve little praise. Authors know that even if one reviewer hates a book, the next 10 will roll over like pooches and insist it’s not only incandescent but luminous, too . . . This is particularly true in the mystery genre, where the last negative review was written in 1943.


The dark side of flattery, according to P. J. O’Rourke, is attracting a fan base you may not want. Once described as “the funniest writer in America” by Time and The Wall Street Journal, O’Rourke suspects that this raised his profile among libertarians, who for some reason think of themselves as a pack of wild cutups.

“There’s a nutty side to libertarians, starting with the Big Girl, Ayn Rand, and going straight through Alan Greenspan,” O’Rourke told me over the phone. “When I go to Cato Institute functions, there’s always a group of guys who look like they cut their own hair and get their mothers to dress them, with lots of buttons about legalizing heroin and demanding a return to the gold standard. The institute has tried to weed them out over the years, but they still turn up at the bigger events. As soon as I see them coming toward me, my heart sinks.”

Dave Barry has been carrying around the burden of the same accolade for years. “I once had a review in The New York Times in which a nice reviewer described me as ‘the funniest man in America,’ ” Barry recalled in an e-mail message. “This is a ridiculous assertion; I am not the funniest man in my neighborhood.

Own Your Own George Washington Gavel

Looking for a Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for Freemason? Washington DC's Potomac Lodge No. 5 has given permission to the US Capitol Historical Society to reproduce a replica of the gavel George Washington used at the US Capitol Masonic cornerstone ceremony in 1793. The gavel features a hardwood handle and a cast resin head mixed with particles from the marble from the original House wing steps.

It can be yours for a paltry $145.00.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Masonic Central Podcast and Masonic Advertising

Thanks to everyone who joined us on Masonic Central's podcast tonight. Greg and Dean are developing quite a respectable backlog of informative and entertaining shows, along with a regular following of listeners. Putting together this program requires dedication and time and research, and they are to be commended for their hard work. I am grateful for their kind invitation to appear tonight.

If you missed the program, hear it here (Episode 19).

One of the topics we discussed was advertising, and there was some discussion on the text side about the difference between advertising and promotion. I contend that one era's promotion is another's advertising. Masons have used the technology available to them throughout history to promote themselves. To wit:

Going to lay the cornerstone of the US Capitol

Three Masters, one Grand Master, lots of Masonic aprons on display=advertising?

Freemasons Chronicle, 1875

Boston in 1895

Chicago Masonic Temple 1898 - Masons build the tallest skyscraper in the world

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Freemason Pavilion, 1964 New York World's Fair


Friday, November 21, 2008

The Library of Ideas

In boning up for interviews in Washington, I had been peering into the extensive symbolism found in the Library of Congress. That's the subject for another post someday. But you know how the Internet works—one subject leads you far astray until you get sidetracked for days. The topic of libraries led to the photo above, the private library of Jay Walker, creator of, among many other things, Priceline.com.

Walker isn't necessarily a collector of first editions. He's a collector of first ideas, the books or maps or things that made people think in a different way. An authentic Sputnik satellite hangs from the ceiling (one of several backups built by the Russians), along with a model of the Saturn V rocket (and its NASA operating manual). There is a book from the 1500s, containing the first published illustrations of surgery on humans; the first book of illustrations of images seen through a microscope; a 16th-century book of jousting; an original copy of the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, the first illustrated history book; Andrea Cellarius' celestial atlas from 1660, the first map of the solar system in which the Earth was not depicted as the center.

His company, Walker Digital, is a think-tank that develops concepts, patents and business solutions for retail companies, airlines, even lottery and casino clients. Once a week, he assembles the company's team in the library, surrounded by the great ideas of the past, to inspire them to create ideas for the future.

For a rare glimpse of the library, see Wired Magazine's article here.

And then there are the rest of the most fabulous libraries in the world. For a look at some of the most magnificent temples of knowledge on Earth, have a look at Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries.