An Introduction to Scotch

June 2, 2014 1 comment

Tom Accuosti:

I rarely reblog other posts, but here’s something that I know will be of interest to many of the guys in my own lodge, not to mention brothers elsewhere.
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Originally posted on The Mason's Lady:

At least around here, there tends to be one popular drink among Masons- single malt scotch. In fact, not only does our local Scottish Rite put on a scotch tasting every so often (with one next week!), but during major events like Grand Lodge, everyone brings out their bottles, and it becomes almost a traveling scotch club, with everyone trying new varieties and enjoying the fellowship that goes along with sharing a similar hobby. I will be the first to admit that I was not a fan of the stuff the first few times I tried it, but now it’s almost my exclusive drink, and with good reason.

What exactly is scotch?

Scotch, or scotch whisky, or single malt scotch,is very simply, a whisky made in Scotland in a very specific manner (actually, by specific laws!) It is almost easier to say what single malt scotch is not. It is…

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Categories: Freemasonry

CIVL Liberties

May 8, 2014 8 comments

The story: The other night I came home from work at about 6:30 pm, had a quick dinner with my wife, then went to an installation of officers at a lodge, after which I spent some time in fellowship with the brothers. By 10:30 pm I was back in the family room.

Double take: The lodge was in Canada.

Plot twist: The lodge only meets on the Internet.

Castle Island Virtual Lodge No. 190 — CIVL — was started not in Silicon Valley, but in Manitoba, Canada in 2010, to help meet the needs of Masons who because of constraints on time and distance might not otherwise be able to regularly attend a lodge. After a few years of trying out several web-based formats, they now meet regularly on the fifth Wednesday  of the month (obviously in those months that have 5 weeks).

I happened to visit on an evening that was not the regular meeting night; technical issues had prevented the lodge from having a proper meeting on April 30th, so the next meeting (and officer’s installation) was moved up to the following Wednesday. I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and saying  something like “Ah ha, see? Can’t always trust technology!” While that’s a perfectly understandable sentiment, those guys might want to think about how many lodge events were cancelled or postponed this past winter by the snowstorms or cold weather.

My friend and brother Nick “Millenial Freemason” Johnson introduced me to CIVL, and wrote a nice article about it a few years ago. Since then, he’s been a frequent visitor. Nick is one of those Masons who gets sucked into every Masonic event for 50 miles around, and probably enjoys being able to get home from an event at a reasonable hour once in a while. A bonus for me, though, is that I got to sit with a fellow blogger for the first time in an actual lodge meeting, as Nick was able to join in for the events of the evening.

The lodge uses a form of Emulation ritual, so the opening would be a little unfamiliar to most US brethren, but the officers did a very nice job. They had a short, but moving memorial service for one of their brothers who had recently passed, and then moved on to the installation. CIVL normally has over a dozen attendees, but because it was not the typical meeting night, some of the officers were not able to make the installation, and will be properly installed in a few weeks.

WB Jake Mohn, the new Worshipful Master of CIVL, presented us with a 20 question quiz on Masonic symbolism, to which I’m almost embarrassed to say that I got 5 wrong. So much for the plan of always picking “C” on a multiple choice exam…

Are there issues with having a virtual lodge? Of course there are. The meeting quality varied over the course of the evening, with sound sometimes dropping out, feedback, video lags, and the other typical issues associated with any online meeting format. One or two brothers had some odd background noises, and we all know what staring into a webcam looks like on the other end. But virtual lodges are not necessarily a replacement for a live-action lodge. The idea is to have a connection for those Masons who might be otherwise separated because of work or military service, or who may be incapacitated by ill health, or who may find themselves — as do several CIVL members — literally several hundred miles from the nearest lodge.

I have to admit that I was a bit shy at first, not knowing anyone else there, but the officers were friendly, and I hung around after the meeting longer than I had expected, getting to know the other guys, and indulging in the Masonic pastime of comparing our idiosyncrasies and differences. I expect that I’ll be attending again, and I’m hoping to see the full lodge in action. I wish the officers and the rest of the members of Castle Island Virtual Lodge the very best of luck in the coming years.

 

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

April 3, 2014 Leave a comment

There’s been some interesting online discussion about the video The Grand Leveler from hip-hop artist Apathy, not just for his use of a Masonic Lodge, but because he, himself is a Mason. Some people in our fraternity enjoyed the music and his vision, while others believe it portrays Freemasonry in a bad light.

For anyone so inclined, you can jump into a discussion with Bro. Apathy that’s happening right now on Reddit:

I’m Apathy… An underground hip-hop artist who is a Fremason AMA!

 

And after you’re done, then stop by the Reddit Freemasonry group to discuss it some more.

Grand Lodge of Connecticut introduces plan for refurbishing buildings and rejuvenating lodges

April 1, 2014 15 comments

WALLINGFORD — One of the items that is being overlooked in the agenda for the upcoming Grand Lodge of Connecticut Annual Communication is a bold initiative to help finance the rejuvenation of the state’s older lodge buildings, a plan that may be the first of its kind in the North America, and which may be the key toward not only rejuvenating the buildings, but revitalizing the lodges, themselves.

Like most of the areas of the northeastern US, Connecticut has a number of older lodge buildings, many of them built in the early 1900s or even before. While many of these buildings are located in the center of their respective towns, these historic buildings were often poorly maintained, and the funds for much needed capital improvements were often neglected by the members from the 1960s until today. Indeed, it’s not unusual for lodges to lack air conditioning or updated heating systems, proper kitchen and dining areas, or in some cases, even modern bathroom facilities.

“While some members of the fraternity might see their facilities as ‘quaint,’ the sad fact is that many members of the public, including potential members, see them as ‘antiquated,’ ‘dated,’ or just plain ‘old,’ and it becomes a real turn-off,” said Grand Master Simon LaPlace. “Unfortunately, many of the lodges were short-sighted and skimped on saving money for improvements, and with the lack of new members, they simply can’t afford to put the necessary thousands of dollars into building improvements, and many of them are just barely able to keep up with the basic maintenance. This is why we are introducing this plan, which should help them to raise the money to bring the facilities up to date.”

Lowe's Lodge & Community Center in Meriden, CT

The Lowe’s Lodge & Community Center in Meriden, CT will be getting a facelift over the summer of 2014 after the city council and zoning department approves the blue banners that will adorn the front.

The new program, called the Building & Organization Allied Sponsorship, or BOAS, allows lodges to partner with local or even national businesses and organizations in order to have a committed source of revenue that would be put toward building and grounds improvements, and updating the facilities inside the buildings. Lodges could look forward to new or updated lighting, handicap access, internet and wifi service, and cable tv, as well as kitchen and dining equipment, general upkeep, and yes, even more modern bathroom facilities.

When questioned about the criticisms that BOAS would lead to Freemasonry as being seen as “too public,” the Grand Master dismissed the concerns. “Corporate sponsored venues have been around for years,” he said. “A few large corporations put their names on ball fields, and nobody bats an eye. But a business puts a name on a small, little lodge, and everyone loses their minds.” Indeed, a quick survey showed that most people could not remember the previous names of the Xfinity Theater or the Comcast Theaters, although most people also did not remember that Toyota now sponsors the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford — ironically, the town in which the Grand Lodge of Connecticut is located.

A large concern for some is that the Connecticut Grand Lodge gets a percentage of the BOAS funds, and will start pressuring all of the state lodges or buildings to find businesses to partner with, or worse, may penalize some of the lodges for not doing so. “Grand Lodge needs to make money, too,” responded Grand Master Simon LaPlace. “None of those guys complaining think twice about spending money on a mocha latte several times a week; but if Grand Lodge asks for a five or ten dollar per member increase, suddenly we’re the evil empire. Sure, times are tough, but we’re talking about giving up the equivalent of a couple of coffees and donuts in a year.” He looked around and added “And believe me, many of our brothers could certainly afford to go without a donut once in a while.”

Not surprisingly, not all of the Masons are happy about this program. “It’s nothing more than plain, old Grand Lodge greed. They don’t actually care about the lodges, they just care about getting their cut of the action.” said one Past Master who refused to be named. “That’s not what we used to do back in the old days,” said another, “Back in 1968, when I was Master of the lodge, when we needed money, the wives around the lodge would help hold a bake sale, and we hit everyone with a ten dollar special assessment. Why, we once raised over a thousand dollars, which was enough to put on whole a new roof!”

A photograph shortly before the new signs and arches are placed on the McDonald's Masonic Center of New Haven. Many Freemasons are excited by the idea of partnering with large organizations in order to raise funds to revitalize the old buildings.

A photograph shortly before the new signs and arches are placed on the McDonald’s Masonic Center of New Haven. Many Freemasons are excited by the idea of partnering with large organizations in order to raise funds to revitalize the old buildings.

That’s not the attitude voiced by everyone, however. Many more members, and not necessarily the younger ones, seem to approve of BOAS. Several lodges around the state have already been testing the idea, and indeed, at least one partnership is in the final stages. “We have been fortunate to partner with a large, nationally recognized corporation that is known for its aggressive community outreach,” said a District Deputy from the 4th District. “We are just finalizing some details, like the new sign placement and promotional spots, and within a few weeks everybody should be seeing some big changes at the new McDonald’s Masonic Center of New Haven.”

While the larger buildings in the cities that host several lodges will probably benefit the most, smaller lodges in the towns will also be encouraged to seek out sponsorships, and the Grand Lodge will have suggestions for those who are interested. “Try to focus on the businesses that are important to your area,” suggested a Grand Lodge officer who would only identify himself as ‘Mike.’ “For example, Southington is known for its fruit orchards and large number of chain restaurants along the main street. I’d suggest that they approach Applebee’s. Newington has those shopping centers and the Berlin Turnpike running through it; I would tell those guys to look at Dick’s,” he said. “Or maybe they’d rather look at Hooters, instead. Unfortunately, towns like Putnam or Lakeville aren’t known for anything except being out of the way. We haven’t come up with any good ideas for them as yet.”

Putnam Moon Lodge in Woodstock, CT

Unfortunately, the Masonic lodges in towns like Putnam will probably not benefit from BOAS, leading to an ever-widening gap between the urban/suburban lodges, and the rural or farm district lodges.

Indeed, this highlights one of the biggest issues with BOAS: Lodges in the cities and along the “Gold Coast” I-95 corridor will probably have no shortage of possible sponsors, while those in the northwest (and northeast) corners of the state are in economically depressed areas, with few business or organizations that would have the financial backing to pay for advertising and promotion, let alone sponsor building improvements. Ironically, BOAS could well accomplish the very opposite of what the Grand Lodge hopes to achieve; as the urban and suburban lodges draw sponsorships and become more modernized (thereby attracting more members), the older, rural lodges will look even worse by comparison, and not only fail to attract new members, but perhaps even lose some to the modernized lodges.

“The big companies aren’t going to partner up with a lodge out of the goodness of their hearts,” explained ‘Gary,’ a former Grand Lodge officer. “Lodge buildings in the city offer some good exposure, plus the opportunity to use the auditorium facilities for meetings or presentations. Even the smaller lodges in the suburbs are usually located in areas in which the buildings are highly visible, which is at least good for advertising and promotion. The lodges out in the boondocks, though, will have a more difficult time attracting a sponsor because there’s no visibility. I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe they’ll have to get several smaller, local sponsors.”

Some of the members of the fraternity are ambivalent about the partnership idea, however. “Grand Lodge is always pushing some program, and every year it’s something different,” complained one member from a lodge that will be getting a facelift from its new sponsor. “It wouldn’t surprise me if in two or three years, whatever Grand Master happens to be in charge will scrap the whole thing, anyway. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

Connecticut Casual

March 22, 2014 5 comments

If you had to make a Venn diagram of the categories “Rap Videos,” “Connecticut,” and “Freemasons,” you’d probably think that the intersection would be 0.

You’d think.

Reel Wold Productions presents: Apathy – “The Grand Leveler”

With special thanks to the officers and brethren of Coastal Lodge No. 57 in Stonington, CT & Bro. Jim Johnson.

New England Brotherhood Night

February 13, 2014 3 comments

Masons love to refer to themselves as “Traveling men,” and indeed, that’s one of the first things that we tend to tell new Entered Apprentice Masons. “Study hard, and get your Master Mason certificate so you can travel to other lodges.”

Well, here’s an opportunity for other lodges to travel to you:

New England Brotherhood Night

From the Grand Lodge of Connecticut website:

New England Brotherhood Night is an opportunity for masonic brothers from throughout New England to meet, make new friends, see old friends, exchange stories, share ideas, and sometimes even arrange an inter-jurisdictional visit or two! The evening is open to all Master Masons, and starts with a cocktail hour, followed by dinner, and finally wrapping up with a program.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014
Cocktail Hour 5pm – Southern Barbecue Dinner 6pm – Program 7pm
Woodstock Academy – 57 Academy Rd, Woodstock, CT 06281

This event rotates throughout the six New England states, so each state only has the opportunity to host this event once every six years. “Next year’s” host state provides the program for “this year”. Past programs have included Hollywood writers, the men who planned and commanded the Osama Bin Laden raid, and the captain of the Coast Guard cutter who sailed out into the “Perfect Storm” attempting to rescue the Andrea Gail.

Proper attire is a jacket and tie. This is not an open meeting, so aprons and jewels are unnecessary. Reservations and payment must be made through the Grand Secretary’s office.  RSVP Deadline:  March 14th

I’ve been to these nights, and it’s a great way to meet Masons from around New England. Hell, it’s a great way to meet Masons from around your state that you might not normally run into.

Woodstock is in the Rhode Island corner of Connecticut, and is home to Putnam Lodge No. 46, which is noted for the members who pushed for the Connecticut & Rhode Island Grand Lodge merger a few years ago.

Click Here For New England Brotherhood Flyer (PDF)

Hope to see you there!

Blog Aggravate

February 9, 2014 2 comments

The “Golden Age” of Masonic blogging was probably from 2005 to 2010; Facebook and Twitter became the most used social networks, and most of the existing blogs lacked for readers, which in turn discouraged many writers.

I recently went through my own archives, and over the years I have subscribed to or listed just under 200 blogs by Masons. Most are now dead or dormant, but surprisingly, there are still a number of active blogs, and once in a while I’ll run across a new one that I find enjoyable. I’ve been trying to list them on my sidebar, or add them to my RSS reader so I can keep up.

More interestingly, some intrepid bothers will take the time to sit down with a microphone and some recording software, and put together a half to one hour program of discussion. While Masonic podcasts aren’t nearly as common, they are generally an enjoyable alternative, and you can listen to them in the background as you’re working on other things, or save them to mobile device and play it in your car on that long, boring commute.

I know that some of my readers are always on the lookout for new or interesting Masonic reading, so I’ve put together a new Masonic blog aggravate aggregate; a collection of links to the more active blogs that I’ve been reading, and that other people have kindly pointed out to me. These are blogs that have all posted articles in the last year. Right now there are about 2 dozen, but hopefully that will grow. And since blogs are not the only Masonic writings available, the sidebar will have links to podcasts, web sites, essays, and other bits of interest to Masons.

Ashlar to Ashes: An aggregate for Masonic blogs and writings

This is just a little project that I put together in an afternoon, but if people find it useful, then maybe we can keep this going. If you have a favorite (or your own) blog, podcast, web board, or website that you would like added, please leave a comment here or on Ashalr to Ashes so we can check it out.

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