Connecticut beats the virus by going virtual

April 1, 2020 1 comment

According to an upcoming article in The Connecticut Freemasons Magazine, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut will be the first US Grand Lodge to charter an all-internet based lodge. According to the article by editor RW Frank Way:

While there have been a few other lodges calling themselves an “internet lodge,” none of them have actually been constituted as internet only, or “virtual” lodges; most of them are what I’d call hybrid lodges. The UGLE has Internet Lodge No. 9659, but the members belong to other lodges, and the lodge itself is not allowed to confer the degrees. Besides, they actually meet three or four times a year in a physical building.  Likewise, Ireland’s Lodge 2000 is also a hyrbrid, meeting quarterly in a building, and without the ability to confer degrees.  On this side of the pond, a couple of states have attempted to start some kind of internet lodge, but none of them have been actual lodges, in the sense that they can meet, confer degrees, and have regular communications. In fact, I can’t think of any offhand that are even still operating.

The most successful attempt at an online, virtual lodge has come, surprisingly, from our neighbor to the north. Well, considering that it is based in, and chartered by the Grand Lodge of Manitoba, maybe it’s not so surprising; as anyone who has ever driven through the area can attest, there’s nothing out there except frozen tundra, except for maybe two months in the summer, when there are nothing but mosquitoes and biting horse flies. That aside, Castle Island Virtual Lodge, CIVL (or “Civil,” as it’s known among the various internet groups) is mainly a research lodge, although it is allowed to confer the degrees if they can do so in a building.

CIVL about the closest any Grand Lodge has come to an actual lodge that meets only on the internet, until now.

Owing to advances in internet meeting technology which weren’t even on the horizon five years ago, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut has given dispensation for a new, entirely internet based lodge. Operating out of the town of Southington, with the officers and most members coming out of the Fifth Masonic District, the Farmington Valley Virtual Lodge (UD). FVVL (or Favvil, as the members call it) will be a fully functioning Masonic lodge, using state of the art meeting technology, and the officers will have the ability to confer degrees to online candidates.

While a virtual lodge for the state has been in the works for some time, the recent COVID virus pandemic has obviously made an impact on garnering the approval of the Grand Lodge, which has cancelled its own annual communication, and has ordered the brick and mortar lodges to suspend their own communications for the foreseeable future. The Grand Lodge sees FVVL as the first of a number of virtual lodges that will be instituted around the state (“around” being merely a term of availability, instead of location).

With the possibility of the pandemic causing a closure of public meetings running into the next few months, it’s quite likely that most of the lodges in the state will remain dark throughout the summer month and not re-open until September. We are hoping that the success of FVVL will quickly lead to more such lodges opening in Connecticut by the end of the year. Then we will truly be able to have fellowship with other brothers in the privacy and safety of our own homes.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Freemasonry

Freemasons to watch Area 51 Run with alien friends, technology

September 18, 2019 Leave a comment

Alexandria, VA — The Connecticut Freemasons Magazine has learned that a number of prominent Freemasons from around the US and Canada, including some from Connecticut, will be on hand to watch the festivities of the upcoming Area 51 Run at the end of September from the high tech communications center at the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

Started as a Facebook joke in July, and called “Storm Area 51 – They Can’t Stop All Of Us“, the author suggested that hundreds of thousands of willing volunteers would be able to crash through the high security perimeter and find the aliens rumored to be working with (or possibly held captive by) the US government. The author went on to suggest that by using a maneuver from a Japanese manga (cartoon) called a “Naruto run,” the volunteers might be able to move fast enough to dodge bullets.

Aerial photograph of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

The spire of the George Washington Masonic Memorial houses high tech communication equipment.

“It’s rather ironic that there are hardly any aliens left at Area 51 anymore,” said Art Morris, Special Communications Director at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. “They came, helped set up a few research centers, gave us some high tech equipment, and most of them either went home, or are quietly living among us as anthropologists, studying our culture.”

The Connecticut Freemason has learned that the spire of the George Washington Masonic Memorial actually contains very high tech communication equipment. While officials won’t confirm that it is alien technology, anonymous sources have admitted that “it’s like nothing else on Earth.”

That’s why the decision was made to use the Memorial as an observation post to watch the Area 51 event; large screen TVs will be set up to watch the various sensors and monitors around the Area 51 perimeter, and, should any volunteers actually make it inside, interior observation equipment will monitor their progress. The Facebook signups number almost 2 million, although it’s expected that only several thousands will actually show up. As a courtesy, a number of Freemasons, including a reporter for The Connecticut Freemason,have been invited to watch the event live.

“It will be an opportunity for some of the alien anthropologists to watch and ask questions to some of our own psychologists and sociologists, who will be there, along with a number of Freemasons from around North America,” explained Morris. “While they’ve been studying us for decades, they still don’t seem to ‘get’ some of our humor.”

He added “Although to be fair, a lot of humans don’t ‘get’ some of our own humor, either.”

 

 

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Categories: Freemasonry

Grand Lodge of California drops recognition of Grand Lodge of Connecticut over ring decision

April 1, 2019 6 comments

Most of you will remember that early in February, Connecticut Freemasons woke up to discover that there now is actually a correct answer to the age-old question of which way to wear one’s ring. The Grand Lodge, tired of the endless debates on Facebook, instructed their DDGMs to quietly “correct” members during their lodge visits so that sitting and past Masters would wear theirs with the points facing out, and those who had never made a trip to the East would have to wear theirs with the points in. The decision was made so that it could be announced and confirmed at the next Grand Lodge annual communication.

Even though the directive is being kept quiet for now, it’s been all over the various Facebook groups, because Freemasons are famous for not being able to keep secrets – so obviously, none of this comes as any surprise.

Now, while the Connecticut Grand Lodge decision is an open secret, it hasn’t been met without some resistance. Naturally there were the usual complainers on the various internet groups in which this was discussed, and several podcasters had some snide comments. However, nobody expected the reaction from the Grand Lodge of California last month:

Whereas the Grand Lodge of Connecticut has cast aside the time immemorial traditions of Freemasons with regard to the correct disposition of the wearing of one’s Masonic ring, and,

Whereas the Grand Lodge of Connecticut has forced upon their members an unnatural and specious decision with regard to the aforementioned,

Be it known that the Grand Lodge of California now holds the Grand Lodge of Connecticut to be in violation of the Ancient Landmarks of the Fraternity, and is now an unrecognized body, and will remain as such until they and their regulations comply with the Landmarks and customs of our order.

Knowing the Grand Lodge of California to be a fairly liberal and progressive minded group, many West Coast Freemasons have expressed surprise that the Grand Lodge has taken such a hard line stance on what is essentially an unenforceable decision that would probably have been rescinded in a year or two. However, others have noted that the Grand Lodge has taken up social justice causes in the past; for example, California no longer uses the term “clandestine” to describe unrecognized lodges or Grand Lodges.

Worse, rumors about the potential dropping of recognition made for tense moments at the Conference of Grand Masters of North America (COGNMA) in February, as many officers from different states quietly aligned, siding with either Connecticut or California.

It is written someplace that “Freemasonry is a progressive science,” but the term was not meant to be used in the modern, political connotation, and it’s unfortunate to see such schisms in our midst. However, we should also keep in mind that much of what we take for granted now were once considered changes, alterations, and deviations from ancient craft masonry.

While no other Grand Lodges have (at this time) indicated that they intend to follow California, traveling men headed to Connecticut should just be aware that some brothers may be paying closer attention to your ring.

In the meanwhile, I’m hopeful that this will blow over, like so many other Freemason fads, and that we can get back to discussing important issues, such as whether it’s better to wear one’s apron under or over one’s jacket.

Categories: Freemasonry, Rings

Grand Lodges need to respond to potential new threat

April 1, 2018 Leave a comment

Most of you are probably aware that the social media world has been rocked by the news that Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and Google have been secretly recording our voices and using that information to sell to digital marketers who then buy advertising from those large online companies. Ever notice how you’re talking to your coworker about a particular product, and the next day you start seeing ads for that product on Facebook? It’s not a coincidence.

And have you ever thought about why Google gives away Gmail, or why Microsoft gives away Hotmail or Outlook mail? It’s to scan your emails and to sell advertising. Those of us who are familiar with the process have taken this kind of marketing for granted, and it’s just something that runs in the background. However, recently Freemasons around the US, UK, and Canada have noticed a disturbing development: Over the last year or so, many newer officers have been been seeing ads for architectural tools and building products popping up on Facebook and Google feeds. While some found it amusing at first, discussions about this have led us to believe that smartphones have been listening in while officers have been rehearsing their lines; the repetition seems to have indicated to the marketing companies that the officers have an interest in buying trowels, bags of cement, floor tile, or decorative columns.

Word filtered up to some of the more progressive Grand Lodges, and most of them are already in the process of writing up regulations that will affect many of those who are reading this.

In the near — very near — future, you can expect your Grand Lodge to ask you to turn off not only your smartphone (i.e., iPhone or Android), but also your Amazon Echo, or your Google Assistant, or your Apple Siri assistant while rehearsing your lines. Yes, those innocuous little devices all over your household that let you set timers, play music, and switch on your lights work by setting aside a small amount of memory to record your voice. The concern among Grand Lodges right now is that Alexa or Siri has been quietly collecting the ritual from various jurisdictions, and that hackers are already compiling what they have into a digital volume or ebook that they will be able to sell — a modern version of Duncan’s Ritual, if you will.

If you have these devices from Amazon, Apple, or Google, then you need to be aware that you essentially have electronic cowans and eavesdroppers right in your kitchens, offices, and bedrooms. Yes, we all know the joke that the wife or children of a typical Mason knows the work because they keep hearing the guy talking to himself (usually in the bathroom). But this is different: Alexa or Siri is actually recording what you are saying. and Google can match up what you are saying with some of the works that are already all over the internet. In fact, if you are using Google Assistant on your Android phone, it could probably even correct or prompt you as you’re rehearsing.

And if you are in a jurisdiction in which the Grand Officers still use their old flip phones, and aren’t aware of the 21st century technology, I urge you to contact them as soon as possible, and make them understand that this will be an issue in the coming years. If Facebook and Google executives admit to putting tape over their laptop cameras, shouldn’t we be as diligent in tyling our own doors?

 

 

 

 

Claims Adjustment

June 16, 2017 2 comments

Anyone who has been paying to US political news for the last year or so knows that 2016 was a particularly divisive national election year, and that 2017 has been pretty much one “crisis” after another, as Republicans battle Democrats, and Trump supporters battle “Never Trump” activists.

I’ll admit to having done a bit of troll baiting over the last year, mainly because, well, I’m a 15 year old teenager trapped in a grown man’s body. Despite that, however, my Facebook friends list has stayed fairly steady. I’ve been blocked or unfriended by a few family and friends, but for the most part, the people that I’ve gotten to know – online and off – as fellow Freemasons have managed to keep their conversations level; they have been all over the political spectrum, but our disagreements have not been enough to have them drop me as a friend, nor I them.

Until this week.

The shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise earlier this week should have elicited sympathy, if not outrage. At the very least, one would have thought that the more enlightened people would have abided by the rule “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” That’s why I was not just surprised, but saddened at the comments of one of my friends who wrote, in essence, that Scalise deserved what he had gotten, that it was re-payment for his being a Tea Party supporter, and then added something about karma and female dogs.

The comment was not part of a conversation in which I was involved; I just blocked and later, deleted him from my friend list.

Oh sure, we’ve all had our moments of righteous anger. I can think of any number of times that I’ve read about some thug holding up a store, getting shot in the process, and thinking “Oh, good, maybe that’ll teach him a lesson.” But Scalise was not a thug; in fact, I had no idea who the guy was until I’d read the news, which indicates to me that he probably wasn’t an especially bad person. I’m guessing that for a lot of other people this was also the case.

“Okay, Tom,” you’re saying to yourself about now, “if I wanted to read about politics, I’d be on Facebook. How is this related to Freemasonry?”

Some US states have a piece at the closing of lodge (sometimes called the Closing Charge), that is sadly absent in Connecticut (and apparently elsewhere), but which I’ve run across, and I think it’s a moving bit of ceremony. A typical version runs like this:

Brethren: You are now to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again with the world. Amidst its concerns and employments, forget not the duties you have heard so frequently inculcated and forcibly recommended in this Lodge. Be diligent, prudent, temperate, discreet. Remember that around this altar you have promised to befriend and relieve every worthy Brother who shall need your assistance. Remember that you have promised to remind him, in the most tender manner, of his failings, and aid his reformation. These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful. Finally, Brethren, be ye all of one mind; live in peace; and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you.

I don’t know what made that pop into my head at some point yesterday, but there’s a part in there that I believe gets overlooked far too often:

These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices. Do good unto all. Recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful.

That is, we have an obligation to be tolerant, if not downright charitable to everyone, regardless of political outlook. Maybe some of us need to be reminded of that not just in and around our lodge, but also whenever we log into our social media.

I, for one, welcome our new Masonic Media overlords.

April 1, 2017 2 comments

Many of you have already heard about this, but I figured it’s worth mentioning anyway: Most of the older blogs by Freemasons have been bought up by the growing internet news outlet, Masonic Newswire Media. You may not have heard of them, but you’ve probably heard of their more “public face” online news site, The Past Bastard.

Sometime in the middle of 2016, when the rest of us were too busy arguing over the US elections on Facebook, The Past Bastard — or rather, their parent company — quietly began making offers to buy up those older blogs. Many of those blogs were started between 2005 and 2010, and have been long since defunct, or not updated in several years. Those sold quickly, with the authors taking the quick $100 in Google Credits being offered; the agreement being that the authors will no longer re-open those blogs to publish anything.

The more active blogs, though, have also been slowly falling to the new publishing company; instead of buying those blogs outright (not that there are many actively writing anymore), the authors will be paid by the article, which would first need to pass vetting by The Past Bastard (or rather, their Masonic Newswire Media editors).

What does this mean for you, the readers?

In my opinion, very little will change. Even the more “active” blogs (for example: The Millennial FreemasonArs LatomorumOne Minute Mason) rarely publish more than a few times a year. Other bloggers tend to post less consequential fluff pieces (such as: All Things Masonic, Freemason Information, Midnight Freemasons). My guess is that very little will change in terms of frequency or content, and that goes also for my own little blog, which I suspect was purchased only for the name recognition.

So. Those being the facts at hand, let’s get on to the juicier stuff.

Rumors on the various internet boards are suggesting that Chris Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies is going to sell out as well, which is a little sad because Chris is the only other “masonic news blog” of any real note; I’m concerned that we are going to be in a situation in which all the Masonic news will be controlled by a small group of media specialists who would have little competition, and who would be able to spin Masonic news their way.

The question that I haven’t heard many people asking, though, has to do with the identity of The Past Bastard, and more importantly, the Masonic Newsire Media. Personally, I had long suspected that The Past Bastard was the work of the After Lodge Podcast guys, although it has recently come to light that at least several of  The Past Bastard writers are based in California. This makes sense, because in my opinion, only people from California would imagine that old blogs are worth anything. Also, who else would have the desire to build up a new media syndicate? Computer and social media guys, that’s who.

Which  brings up another question: Who is behind the Masonic Newswire Media? When I first heard about it, I figured The Onion, or Gawker, or some other online news system was just buying things up without understanding what they were getting into. But the more I think about it, I’m beginning to believe that the backers are one (or maybe several) of the larger Grand Lodges in the US. Who else would have the motivation (not to mention the finances) to control Masonic news? It’s certainly not for the advertising, as Freemasons are notoriously tight-fisted, unless it comes to scotch. Or cigars. Or rings. Or bling. Or a lot of things, with the exception of their dues.

So, that leaves us with a shadowy group of Freemasons who are trying to control the media. Is it a Grand Lodge (or more likely, a cabal of Grand Lodges), hoping to acquire enough control over the craft to sway their opinions on something? The running jokes (at least, we think that they were jokes) are that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas (which took down their own website for some time), is behind the push to control the remaining Masonic bloggers to keep any public criticisms off the internet. However, that could easily apply to a number of other Grand Lodges, some of which have published some very restrictive web and social media guidelines.

Is a group of Grand Lodges, trying to subtly push an agenda? I don’t know. All I know is that at the moment, I’m happy to take my Google Credits and start filling up my Android with some tunes from one of my favorite groups.


Published by The Tao of Masonry – A Masonic Newswire Media blog

 

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