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

April 1, 2017 1 comment

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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Darkness Falls

June 24, 2016 2 comments

This being St. John’s Day, I thought it appropriate to mention a few things.

First, this is typically the time that lodges in the Northeast US “go dark” for the summer. Now, there’s some disagreement on whether the expression “to go dark” should be used in this case, since the lodges will reopen for business in a few months. Some old-timers associate the expression to mean that a lodge turns in their charter and closes for good. If the lodge still has a charter and officers, then there’s some “light” available, and the lodge can not be totally dark. That said, I’ve noticed that the expression is so widely used, that even if it may be wrong, it’s not going to make a difference because everybody will be using it anyhow. You know, similar to the expression “I could care less;” it’s obviously wrong, but the usage is so widespread that nobody even thinks about it anymore.

Irregardless*, many of my friends in other parts of the US and UK have asked why we close at all during the summer. I’ve been told (although without any substantiating evidence) that it was the farmers needed the time off to tend their fields. Now, I grew up in rural parts of Connecticut, and while I claim no experience or expertise in this subject, I’m beginning to question if indeed, the farmers actually needed this time. As I drive past fields and pastures, I don’t see very much activity going on in July and August. In fact, the few local farm stores I pass are either closed or selling produce that obviously didn’t come from their fields. Do the crops need tending? Of course they do, but is there anything more labor intensive that happens during the hot months?For that matter, a quick perusal of the area Grange chapters seems to show that they are open during the summer. You’d think that if the professional farmers could manage to till the weeds (or whatever it is that they do) and get to a monthly Grange meeting, then the suburban Freemasons could manage a night off.

Hopefully some more agriculturally educated brothers can enlighten us.

It’s interesting to note that historians are also not in agreement on when the longer summer vacation for schoolchildren started. Again, while we are told that it was to help with the farming, historians of the Colonial period in the US tell us otherwise. tmtlampoonsvacation2

My own theory on this is that most lodges in the Northeast US were formed after the Industrial Revolution, and in the days before air conditioning and wine coolers, most of the members simply didn’t want to bother scheduling meetings when the children were out of school. Family trips, beach days, and other vacation days simply made it too difficult to get all of the members at a meeting; better to just not have them for a couple of months, and pick things up in September.

Something else of note is that this marks the week that The Tao of Masonry web log was first published in 2006. Initially started as a way to track events and keep people informed during my year as Master of Friendship Lodge No. 33, I turned it into a public sideshow for my ego collection of my thoughts on Freemasonry. The early to mid-2000s was probably the Golden Age of blogging, and I’ve listed several hundred blogs by Masons either on the blogroll or on my RSS feeds. While blogging is still a thing (as evidenced by the number of excellent bloggers listed on the Ashlars to Ashes aggregate), it’s also a little sad that most of those blogs from the early years have “gone dark” themselves. I think that  the Dummy Chris Hodapp, and Millennial Nick Johnson may be the only other Golden Age bloggers still regularly writing.

Since it’s my 10th bloggiversary year, I’m including some links to a couple of old posts from that time. And enjoy your summer, whether it’s light or dark.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Masonspotting: You’re doing it wrong.

WWHD?

But what was Plan A?

Cui Bono?

Who’s in charge, anyway?

 

* Irregardless. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

A backwards glance

January 13, 2016 1 comment

I started 2015 with every intention of getting at least one post a month up, and I actually did pretty well, only faltering in the last two months of the year. But I averaged more than one a month, so I’ll call that a win.

Last year was an interesting one for me. I completed my York Rite degrees, and even though I haven’t written much about them (okay, almost nothing, really), I can’t stress enough how they were worth waiting for, and that any Craft Masons who have an interest in the history or ritual of Freemasonry should definitely look to their local Chapter for the next leg of their journey.

Writing about that reminds me that I really haven’t been active in any of those bodies lately, owing in part to some work commitments, and to some more recent and unanticipated family commitments. I suspect that one of the reasons we see so many retired guys in the Craft, and more in the York Rite is because it’s difficult for younger guys to make the time to get involved in all the different aspects.

Freemasonry in Connecticut is beginning to settle down from the last few fractured years, after a major turnover in our Grand Line. The bigger lesson in all this has not gone unnoticed by Grand Lodges in other jurisdictions: progressive Grand Lines may be the easy way to go, but they are only as progressive as the will of the Craft allows.

We had some interesting things in Freemasonry, too, at least, in the online world. Facebook alone had several hundred conversations on which way you should wear your ring, and the topic shows no sign of slowing. Also popular on social media were discussions about Masonic bling, with the designs of our working tools becoming more stylized and less traditional looking — a trend that some people aren’t completely happy with.

And speaking of online Masonry, I’m glad to see that our Grand Lodge has thought to get a virtual lodge started; it won’t be the first, but hopefully this will be a trend that will become more common, and will be one more way for brothers to connect, who would otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.

WBC hates gay Masons

The Westoboro Baptist Church found itself in a quandary when they realized that it was the Freemasons who were outlawing homosexual behavior.

Many of the  brothers in the online community — most of them tending to the younger side of our membership demographic — were disappointed by the actions of the Grand Lodges of both Tennessee and Georgia. Tennessee, which had on their books a prohibition against homosexuality, saw proceedings against a member — a Past Master with a good record — after he posted photographs of him and his (male) spouse after a wedding ceremony. Georgia, not to be outdone, saw the outgoing Grand Master send out an edict which made both homosexual activity and “fornication” offenses subject to Masonic discipline. The real outrage (again, online) happened after the Grand Lodge of Georgia had their annual communication and passed that edict into Masonic law.

The last year also saw some nice activity on some blogs and podcasts. Whence Came You, The Masonic Roundtable, and The After Lodge Podcast were particular standouts for group podcasting, and show no signs of slowing down. On the written side, I’m glad to see that The Millennial Freemason and The Midnight Freemason still turning out thoughtful pieces, and have been joined by a new Mason on the block, Fresh from the quarry.

Naturally, I have these and other fine resources listed at Ashlars to Ashes. Go visit some of them.

Before I wrap this up, I should note another new blog that appeared at the end of the year: The Past Bastard, an Onion-ish site for humorous pieces and satire. Well, I certainly hope they are satire, although after reviewing some of the activities of real Masons from the last few years, I’m beginning to think that the line is becoming very thin, indeed.

Blog Aggravate

February 9, 2014 3 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.

The All-Seeing -i-

January 7, 2011 Leave a comment

First of all, I’m excited that Charles Tirrell of Masonic Renaissance has found the time and inclination to get back into blogging. Charles was my counterpart District Grand Lecturer in the New Haven part of the state, then moved on to be an Associate Grand Marshall, and I now see that in April he will be the District Deputy in that area. I extend my heartfelt congratulations, and I know that he’ll do an excellent job.

I like Charles; he’s young and progressive minded, and he’s the kind of person I have in mind whenever I hear the (sadly clichéed) expression “The future of Masonry.” Charles has consistently pushed for our Grand Lodge to adopt new technologies in order to reach — and be relevant to — the newer members of our fraternity. He’s bright, and well-spoken, and modest about his achievements.

And he prefers Apple computer products.

Apparently, I have so little going on in my own life right now that I have taken to ribbing friends about their choice of technology, much in the way many people poke fun at one’s favorite sports team, choice of automobile, or taste in literature. This ribbing is further driven by the fact that for the last year, my office and home networks have been plagued by more computer problems than I’ve ever seen; obviously I’m envious of anyone who is actually happy with their computer, and confess to some distrust at anyone who doesn’t have some anger, annoyance, or irritation with their gadgets.

To his credit, Charles has refused to take the troll bait; although for that matter, I don’t particularly think about Apple products except when I hear from him or a few other similarly inclined friends.

Until yesterday, that is.

Some of you may remember that last year I wrote a post that made light of the similarities between Freemasonry and the GNU/Linux community. I should have remembered that satire is based in reality.

Yesterday, while reading Lifehacker, I ran across a couple of articles about how Apple is introducing a new way to get software, entitled respectively, Why the Mac App Store Sucks, and Why You Might Really Like the Mac App Store In The Long Run. And suddenly, the pictures jumped out at me. Why?

Here’s the logo for the Mac App Store:

There's something oddly familiar about this design...

Umm… does this look familiar to you?

For reference, here’s a couple of random images from a Google image search.

A Past Master’s symbol from some areas of the world.

An older, lesser known version

I mean, of all the possible combinations that the graphic artists could come up with, they riff on the Square and Compasses?

Coincidence? I think not.

Although I’ve long explored the twisted logic of the conspiracy theorists, I don’t have any background with regard to the twisted logic of Apple users. I believe, however, that this bears looking into.

Author, Author

May 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Am I the only blogger who isn’t writing a book?

I noticed a blip in my blog stats the other day. For me, this is significant, because now that I can barely make one or two posts a month, I’m surprised when I get a traffic spike. In this case, I found I was getting hits from the Scottish Rite Journal, specifically from the book review column of the May/June 2010 online version.

Back in July of 2008, Bro. Jim Tresner, the SRJ book reviewer, was arm-twisted persuaded to take a look at some blogs written by Masons. I remember having been a bit put off by his initial attitude about Masons and blogging:

I must admit that I have not been a fan of the Internet phenomenon known as “blogs” (from web logs). For one thing, irrational as I know this is, I simply think the word itself is ugly. It does not “ring with a joyful tune upon the ear.” In fact, it sounds distinctly disrespectful. In addition, I have never been enough of a small-d-democrat to be interested in what the uninformed had to say on any topic. I grudgingly admit that everyone is entitled to have an opinion, but I am less willing to grant they have a right to publicly inflict it on others. One only needs watch the talking heads of celebrity experts on any cable news channel or listen to “talk radio” to see what I mean.

I admittedly responded out of irritation:

Recently, a columnist in a local newspaper wrote almost exactly the same thing as Bro. Tresner, adding that she had no desire to read about the dull aspects of other people’s lives, such as, e.g., what they had for breakfast, or to see pictures of their kids, or to hear about their shopping trips. It’s the height of irony that she, herself, has a regular weekly column in which she writes about exactly those topics. It’s fascinating to think that people who get paid for writing their opinions so often have such a low opinion of those who simply give theirs away.

And later, I complained:

I am, however, just a little disappointed to see that some people – and Bro. Tresner is by no means alone – still regard “Masonic blogging” as an inferior medium. I’m all the more mystified because Bro. Tresner, himself, has his own section – “Tresner’s Talks” – on The Sanctum Sanctorum, one of the latest blog/web forums to have been set up in the last year. More interestingly, I’ve seen several discussions in the Sanctum Sanctorum forum decrying certain forms of “internet Masonry.”

A web forum for Masons in which some of the participants have issues with Masons on the internet? Really?

I suspect that the big problem is that Masonry – or, more correctly, Masons – on the internet is still a new concept for the Fraternity, and most of the brothers, many of whom remember a life before television, have not adopted the working tools of the internet. That’s to be expected, of course; new technology that brings about cultural change is often viewed with concern until a large population manages to figure out what to do with it.

Yeah, a couple of years ago I used to get upset about people who dissed bloggers as not being serious writers. Of course, what I’ve since learned is that 3/4 of bloggers can barely string a few sentences together before reposting a Youtube clip. Fortunately, many of those bloggers have moved over to Facebook to play Vampire Mafia Farming Wars.

Anyway, a visit to the SRJ page showed that Bro. Tresner was not reviewing my blog (again); rather, he was reviewing (as he usually does) books. But what I found interesting is that the books had been written by fellow bloggers. So, in addition to the book from Greg Stewart I mentioned last week, here are a few more for you to pick up for your summer reading list.

Bro. Michael A. Halleran, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War
Bro. Halleran blogs as Aude Vide Taci, which is now hosted at Freemason Information.

Bro. Timothy Hogan, 32°, KCCH, The 32 Secret Paths of Solomon: A New Examination of the Qabbalah in Freemasonry
Bro. Hogan can also be found at Freemason Information, as well as at the web forum The Sanctum Sanctorum.

And as if Bro. Hogan weren’t busy enough…

Bros. Loran Frazier, W.B. Robert Herd, Timothy W. Hogan, 32° KCCH, Cliff Porter, 32°, KCCH, Greg Starr, 32°, “Frater Vel” , plus Jason Augustus Newcomb, and Brian Pivik, The New Hermetics Equinox Journal, volume four.
Bro. Porter is also pretty well known around teh intertubez.

Also reviewed in this article:
Bro. S. Brent Morris, Ph.D., 33°, Grand Cross, A Radical in the East, 2nd edition.
Bro. Morris, author of  Freemasons for Dummies A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, isn’t a blogger, but he drops in on us frequently.

And because he obviously has a lot of free time on his hands, Bro. Morris again teamed up with one of his cohorts:

Bros. Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, Grand Cross and S. Brent Morris, Ph.D. 33°, Grand Cross, Committed to the Flames: This History and Rituals of a Secret Masonic Rite.

I’m very pleased that Bros. Morris and de Hoyos, members of a secret cabal within our own order, have finally decided to come clean about the secret teaching of our early brethren; their book validates my own theory that operative Freemasons traveled England and parts of Western Europe, using our rituals as teaching aids to pass along the knowledge of how to destroy the zombies that occasionally terrorized the rural villages.While Morris & deHoyos don’t explicitly state this, the title of the book and the comments that Bro. Morris himself wrote at the end of the book review point to a loosening up of the heretofore tight lid on the information.

At any rate, with this latest crop of books now available, there’s plenty of Masonic reading for everyone during the summer months when most lodges take a break.

The Numbers

July 3, 2009 Leave a comment

ch2

The Numbers

I know that bloggers always start off saying things like “I write for myself, and I don’t care how many readers I get,” but those of us who are fortunate enough to develop a readership find that we want to publish things worth reading, in terms of both content and writing style. I’m very pleased that some of you think my efforts are worth your time and trouble to return here in hopes of possibly seeing something worth reading, and I hope to continue.

I like to joke that I only have 27 readers from my own state of Connecticut, but recent numbers show that perhaps I’m not that far off. Each month, we post a survey on our Grand Lodge website, and we report the responses in the next issue of The Connecticut Freemason publication. Our last poll was based on our curiosity about those in Connecticut who actually do read blogs by Masons. The question and responses are as follows:

Do you read Masonic blogs?

Response Number Percentage
Yes, regularly 25 24
Yes, sometimes 40 39
No, don’t know what they are 20 19
No 19 18

Personally, I’m a bit surprised that there was not a category for “Yes, but only when Tom whines and makes me feel guilty”, but perhaps the CT Freemason writers were being kind.

This poll comes along when a few of my online brothers have been wondering about the seeming slowdown in the blogging world. A while ago I read that the typical blog lasts for three to six months, after which the writer runs out of ideas, time, or motivation. I think that a lot of Masons start blogging when they just have joined or are about to join, and accordingly, there’s a lot to write about because joining is new and exciting. There are all those thoughts running through one’s head, there’s the questioning, the investigating, the wondering aloud. And then there’s the petitioning, the investigating committee, and meeting new people. And after that, there is the getting prepped for the initiation and raising. Whoo hoo! Fun and exciting times, indeed.

After the raising, of course, there are a lot of meetings, reading of minutes, and discussions on fixing the roof or replacing the coffee maker. Excitement? Not so much. And that means, of course, less material to write about, and less motivation to write. It’s not that there is nothing interesting anymore, it’s just that one moves from the unknown to the known. It’s kind of like when Ross and Rachel finally got together; the culmination is always less interesting than the events leading up to it. Simply put, the early part of becoming a Mason – like becoming anything – is a process. Something new and different is happening in your life; but we need to remember that things that are happening are more interesting than things that are not happening.

And that is why, as 3M noted, that blogging can be difficult – we’ve already used up the good stuff.

Or have we?

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