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


Saturday, October 31, 2020

"My King is dead" - Sean Connery, R.I.P.

by Christopher Hodapp

“Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy.”

"I have been fellow to a beggar again and again under circumstances which prevented either of us finding out whether the other was worthy. I have still to be brother to a Prince, though I once came near to kinship with what might have been a veritable King and was promised the reversion of a Kingdom — army, law-courts, revenue and policy all complete. But, to-day, I greatly fear that my King is dead, and if I want a crown I must go and hunt it for myself..."
—The Man Who Would be King

I saw this morning that Sir Sean Connery has passed away. Few actors can sustain the sort of consistent persona Connery had for as long as he did. 

I grew up watching Sean Connery movies, and he was present in my pop culture life as early as I can remember. Alfred Hitchcock once said he cast Connery in Marni because he had an animalistic quality and a face that made you unsure of what he might do at any second. To be brutally honest, he really didn't have much in the way of range. He wasn't a chameleon, he didn't disappear into his roles. That distinctive voice and accent did a lot to prevent that. But whether he was playing a cool American executive, a Russian submarine commander, a lunatic poet, a tweedy history professor with an adventuresome son, a firefighter, a thrill seeking TV reporter, the king of Mycenae, the true born King of All England, or James Bond, he was really always Sean Connery and always just damned interesting to watch and listen to. Because as Hitchcock said, you were always unsure of what he might do at any second.

In the 1980s, Connery was in two movies that both ruined their endings solely because Sean Connery's persona transcended the scripts and stories. In Time Bandits, young Kevin should have climbed on the firetruck. Why? Because everyone in the audience would have gladly followed Sean Connery to the ends of the Earth. Or at least to Troy, because he was really Agamemnon.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusader, Connery as Henry Jones should have taken the place of the old Templar Knight and stayed behind to become the next immortal guard of the Holy Grail. Why? Because only Sean Connery should be entrusted to protect the eternal relics of God on Earth for the rest of us all.

Despite what some Masons have thought or believed over the years, Connery wasn't a Freemason. I've seen lots of Facebook messages today assuming that he was. But, alas, no. But he did play a brother Mason once long ago. He once portrayed 
Right Worshipful Brother Daniel Dravot in what has always been, for me, the very best Sean Connery movie everThe announcement of his passing compelled me to go back this morning and re-read the short story that inspired the movie. Long before I became a Mason, I saw The Man Who Would be King in the theater. I was happy to later find that the film follows the Kipling story quite closely. 

And what a story it is. 

Connery's Daniel and Michael Caine's Peachy are both lower class Englishmen, packed off to fight in India for the Empire. But they have dreams far beyond the notion of dying to keep India English and returning home to a dreary life. At home they know they will return to no prospects. But in the East, there were limitless possibilities. 

"We have decided that India isn’t big enough for such as us... Therefore, such as it is, we will let it alone, and go away to some other place where a man isn’t crowded and can come to his own. We are not little men, and there is nothing that we are afraid of except Drink, and we have signed a Contrack on that. Therefore, we are going away to be Kings.”

"They have two and thirty heathen idols there, and we’ll be the thirty-third."

And so the two intrepid Brother Masons set off to become kings in Kafiristan. 

"Peachey came home in about a year, begging along the roads quite safe; for Daniel Dravot he walked before and said:— ‘Come along, Peachey. It’s a big thing we’re doing.’ The mountains they danced at night, and the mountains they tried to fall on Peachey’s head, but Dan he held up his hand, and Peachey came along bent double. He never let go of Dan’s hand, and he never let go of Dan’s head. They gave it to him as a present in the temple, to remind him not to come again, and though the crown was pure gold, and Peachey was starving, never would Peachey sell the same. You knew Dravot, sir! You knew Right Worshipful Brother Dravot! Look at him now!”

As I finished the story, I realized that Kipling's opening line captured the way I feel this afternoon after hearing of Connery's passing. 

"Today, I greatly fear that my King is dead, and if I want a crown I must go and hunt it for myself..." 

I like to think when I finally enter the Land of Shades myself, I'll hear Sean Connery, beckoning, ‘Come along, Peachey. It’s a big thing we’re doing.’ 


(Sean Connery's autographed photo as King Daniel of Kafiristan appropriately hangs in my bar, and yes, he signed it upside down. "I had great fun making that picture," he said, "but it was a wild time. So it deserves to be autographed upside down.")

Friday, October 30, 2020

Shriners Statue in Connecticut Vandalized

by Christopher Hodapp

The Sphinx Shrine temple in Connecticut is the latest victim of statue vandalism this week.

Twice before in recent months, area malcontents attempted to unbolt and topple the iconic 'Editorial Without Words' sculpture in front of the Shriners' temple in Newington, but their prior efforts apparently failed to generate satisfactory attention. So, sometime before last Saturday, they returned and beheaded the statue. This time, the New Britain Herald picked up the story and interviewed Potentate Richard White, Past Potentate John Taylor, and Past First Lady Lisbeth Mindera Herbert about the incident.

According to the headline, the damage is 'irreparable.'

The statue is a common decoration seen in front of Shrine temples throughout North America. It is a widely recognized representation of Shriners International's ongoing mission of providing orthopedic and burn care to children in their 22 hospitals. 

The sculpture is modeled after a famous 1970 photograph of Shriner Al Hortman taken in Evansville, Indiana at a Shrine picnic. Local photographer Randy Dieter had been on assignment covering Hadi Temple’s annual outing for handicapped children. Hortman stopped to pick up a disabled girl named Bobbi Jo Wright and her crutches when Dieter spotted them almost by accident and snapped the photo. The older girl in the photo is Hortman’s daughter, Laura, who was a patient at the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. It was after Laura began receiving treatments at the Shriners Hospitals for Children that Al Hortman had joined Hadi Shrine.

Since then, the image has been reproduced countless times, as a logo, in advertising, on jewelry, and as a sculpture, which was first created to stand in front of the Shriners International headquarters in Tampa. It's referred to by the unusual title 'Editorial Without Words' because the image immediately and wordlessly portrays the Shriners and their principal charity.

Shriners Hospitals for Children provide specialized pediatric care in orthopaedics, spinal cord injury, cleft palate and other conditions. Over 1.4 million children have received treatment since 1922. Shriners Hospitals provide all care without financial obligation to patients or their families.

While all Shriners are Freemasons, not all Masons choose to become Shriners. In addition to the Shriners meeting at the Sphinx Temple, it is also home to the Scottish Rite Valley of Hartford.

By the way, the Sphinx Shriners have the distinction of being home to the oldest established Shrine band in the country, originally formed in 1899.

I'm told by several Shriners in other states that this attack on the Connecticut Shriners' statue has not been the only one this year. In the statue-toppling frenzy of the past several months, it seems that petty miscreants have damaged several of these around the country. It's not as though the statue of a Shriner in a fez carrying a handicapped child is any sort of symbol of 'oppression' or worthy of some sort of historical revisionist scorn. But perhaps these have been tied to the latest Internet fantasies of Masonic conspiracies and assorted Qanon chatter about Satanic child traffickers. Or perhaps tied to beheadings of Christian and Western statuary (and people) in Europe by Islamic extremists in the last few weeks. Or maybe just basement-dwelling pseudo-insurrectionaries excited by the execrable Popular Mechanics' 'How To Topple A Statue' article over the summer that contributed to rampant damage nationwide.

Or more likely, just bored, ignorant teenagers with too much time on their hands during the national shut downs. I suppose we'll never know. But in the ongoing mania to tear down people, institutions, beliefs and nobility, it sure would be a pleasant switch if some of these cretinous delinquents tried building something admirable in their place.

Silly me.    

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Need seating for lodge or church? Act before this Friday!

by Christopher Hodapp

I saw this circulated on Facebook today. Does your lodge or church need bench seating? A church in Boise, Idaho must get rid of all of their pews by this Friday, October 23rd. 

They are selling these 12-foot-long bench pews (with attached kneelers) for a paltry $25 apiece. It looks like they have 20 of them (or did before this announcement). 

Act fast. And bring a big truck.

Amity to Publish 'List of Lodges Masonic'

by Christopher Hodapp

As reported here last week, Pantagraph Publishing and Stationery has announced that they will not publish a new edition of the List of Lodges, Masonic for 2021After many decades of printing the List, Pantagraph is finally calling it quits. 

But there is good news to be reported. For several years now, Pantagraph has been working with the brethren who created the Amity smartphone app, knowing this day would come, sooner or later. While the timing of Pantagraph's decision this month came as a surprise, Amity has just announced that they will soon be offering a print-on-demand, up to date book version of the List of Lodges, Masonic. They are expected to start calling for orders in December.

Many rank and file Masons may not know about this indispensable book created annually to identify regular, recognized lodges and grand lodges, but it is used by grand lodge offices and lodge secretaries everywhere as a quick reference. More than 180 grand lodge jurisdictions all over the world are listed, along with the names, numbers and locations of more than 30,000 lodges around the world. It's especially handy to verify lodge names and affiliations when out of state visitors show up for a meeting. It also has included reference charts to check various aspects of membership requirements, certain rules, customs and requirements that can vary from place to place. If you've never seen one, ask your lodge Secretary - he doubtless has a copy.

Amity had already created a new website for Pantagraph to sell the book at www.listoflodgesmasonic.com, as well as an Internet portal to make it simpler for grand lodge secretaries to upload their annual information and any changes. (There are a limited number of 2020 editions of the List still available from that site.)

With this new change and the cooperation of Pantagraph, all of this is a net plus to the fraternity. The old List had info from 180 jurisdictions. The new edition will now contain almost twice as many grand lodges from all over the world and 40,000 lodges, with the up to date information about regularity, recognition and amity included for each one. That makes it of enormous value, not just to traveling Masons and lodge Tylers, but to Masonic researchers everywhere. And of course, all of that information is also included in the Amity smartphone app. 
Amity is available for smartphones at no charge from both the Apple and Android app stores, and there are no subscription fees of any kind.
And one great aspect of the on demand version is that it can be updated instantly as new, revised information comes in from the grand lodges. Each book can reflect the newest info when the print button gets pushed.

As with the old editions, anyone can purchase the List - you don't have to be a secretary to order it. In my more energetic traveling days, my apron case copy would be pretty battered and torn by the shank of the year. I have a second one on my desk at all times, and consult it at least twice a week.

The projected single copy price of the book is expected to be $27. Because of the nature of any print-on-demand book, that single copy price is higher than a mass-produced book of the same size.That $27 single price can be reduced if a larger number of copies is ordered at one time. And remember, this new version has almost twice as many listings now.

One final note to grand lodge secretaries: Because Pantagraph has given its blessing to Amity with this plan, the Amity folks need your help to make the new version of the List as accurate as possible.  Please make use of their online administrative portal to provide Amity with your latest information, just as you would have with Pantagraph each year. As with the old list, it can only be as correct as the information you provide for your jurisdiction.

Michael and Jeremy at Amity sent out an announcement last week with some added details. So I reprint it below.
Dear Brother,

By now you've surely heard the news: Pantagraph Publishing and Stationery will not publish a new edition of the List of Lodges, Masonic for 2021.

I'm happy to share some great news with you, though: Amity will print up-to-date books for any Grand Lodge -- and any Freemason -- that is interested.

Why Amity?
You already know Amity as the world's only digital complement to the List of Lodges. You may not know, however, that we've worked closely with Pantagraph for several years. For example, we operate ListOfLodgesMasonic.com on their behalf, where individual books can be purchased online.

We've also developed Push to Pantagraph, the only way to send updates to Pantagraph electronically. We've disabled this feature based on the recent news, but we'll use the same technology to let you send in your updates for the 2021 book.

A Strong Step Forward
For those who enjoy having a book on their desk to reference -- and for all of the Grand Secretaries who make the book happen -- our 2021 edition has a few features that we know you'll like:
65% More Grand Lodges
Amity's book will cover 306 Regular Grand Lodges around the world... 122 more than found in the List of Lodges.
• Last Minute Updates
Our advanced technology allows you to submit updates as late as January! Our 2021 edition will be the most current book ever printed.
• No More Paper!
For many Grand Lodges, information is updated automatically. For others, keeping Amity up-to-date is as simple as the click of a mouse. Get started today at our administrative portal.
Change is never easy. We're working hard to make this seamless, though, and we look forward to providing the same high caliber of service that you've come to expect from our friends at Pantagraph.


What's Next?
We'll send another email in December, when it's time to place your order. For now, all you need to do is take a look at our portal, where you can update your recognition status with any other Grand Lodge in the world, and see all of the information that we have in our system.
Change is never easy. We're working hard to make this seamless, though, and we look forward to providing the same high caliber of service that you've come to expect from our friends at Pantagraph.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Masonic Service Association Relocated to Iowa

by Christopher Hodapp

For over a year, the current commissioners of the Masonic Service Association have expressed their intention to move the MSA from their longtime Washington D.C. headquarters in suburban Maryland back to its original home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Yesterday, I reported that the msana.com website had vanished into the aether. Now today, the MSA has issued the following press release officially announcing their new location.

MSA Relocates to Iowa

Now in its 101st year, the Masonic Service Association of North America (MSA) has relocated its headquarters to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In effect, this is a return to its roots, because MSA was created at a meeting of Grand Masters of the United States in 1919 in Cedar Rapids. Most of MSA’s life has been in the Washington, D.C., and nearby Silver Spring and Burtonsville MD, areas.

For the past year, MSA has been restructuring its organization, to provide a more functional and cost-savings method to serve Freemasonry across the continent. A primary goal was to move out of the costly rent area of the nation’s capital.

MSA’s new address and contact information:
813 1st Avenue SE Ste 357 Cedar Rapids, IA 52402-5001
Tel: 319-365-1438 Fax: 319-365-1439

MSA now will be operating out of the building housing the Iowa Masonic Library and Museums, which is regarded as one of the best facilities in the world to perform Masonic research. The large marble structure houses the library, several museums, special exhibits, and the offices of the Grand Lodge of Iowa. “What an outstanding location for the Masonic Service Association and its variety of service and information-producing responsibilities,” said Lanny Sanders, Chairman of the MSA Board of Commissioners. The Library houses more than 250,000 volumes, of which thousands are rare Masonic books for the serious researcher and a circulating collection for the casual reader. The Library also collects materials dealing with non-Masonic topics. In 1884, the first Masonic library building anywhere in the world was opened to the public in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The building was supposed to last 100 years, but nobody predicted the impact a building would have on the collections which grew so quickly that the building housing them proved too small and crowded. Thus, in 1952, the old library was demolished and, in 1955, the current white marble, four-story building was opened on the same site. Last year, as part of the reorganization, Craig Davis was named Administrator for the Masonic Service Association, its chief operating officer. He also serves as Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Iowa.

 In its new home, MSA will continue its variety of services to Freemasonry in North America, including:

  • Service to military veterans at approximately 150 U.S. veterans hospitals and clinics in the country. MSA is the only Masonic organization represented on the Veteran’s Administration’s Voluntary Services Organization Advisory Board.
  • Preparation and dispersal of Masonic information to assist Lodge education efforts, general Masonic content for the public, and useful data for the benefit of any Mason. These efforts include monthly distribution of the Short Talk Bulletin and Emessay Notes publications, operation of the Masonic Information Center, and periodic development of brochures and digests.
  • Gathering and dispersal of Disaster Relief Funds to Grand Lodges in times of need.

 Millions of dollars over the years have been collected and provided to assist in times of trouble. MSA has become the key organization trusted by Grand Lodges and Masons to filter such relief to needed areas. Every penny donated through MSA for disaster relief is sent to those in need.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

MSA Website Gone; No Pantagraph List for 2021

by Christopher Hodapp

Last October, the Masonic Service Association of North America chose to dismiss its Executive Director of three years, Simon LaPlace, and not replace him. Over the subsequent twelve months, the MSA website languished with almost no updates, no revised membership statistics (nothing since 2017), and no disaster appeal announcements since 2019. 

This morning I attempted to log on to the msana.com website, and lo and behold, someone at MSA appears not to have not paid their domain renewal bill for the first time in twenty years. Because the website hadn't been updated in so long, I have no idea who the current commissioners are at this point. If anyone does, you might ask them who's in charge of the joint.

In other news, Pantagraph Printing has announced that they will not be printing the annual List of Lodges Masonic for 2021, using the COVID pandemic as their reason. That's a bit strange, since the grand lodges around the world actually do the heavy lifting of updating their stats and Pantagraph simply makes edits to the previous edition lists each year. 

In the wake of this announcement, everyone should know about the Amity app, a smartphone app that permits you to search for regular, recognized lodges when traveling. The few grand lodges that stubbornly don't want to cooperate with Amity now have even fewer reasons to hold out, with the Pantagraph announcement.

Regular readers have doubtless noticed the dearth of posts here recently. With the pandemic, there's less Masonic news to report on, but there's another, bigger reason. Alice and I have just signed a contract for a new (non-Masonic) book project with a tight deadline this past week, so we are already up to our nostrils in research and pounding out chapters.  In the middle of our schedule, we'll also be hitting the road in the Airstream to see my family in California around Thanksgiving. 

We're not being anti-social, we're just preoccupied, and paying gigs have to take precedence over the volunteer ones, I'm afraid. If you email me and I don't answer, I'm not ignoring you. Keep bugging me and I'll wake up long enough to respond.