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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?

Beyond the Valley of When Bloggers Collide

October 16, 2008 Leave a comment

Nothing much to report, except that last night Friendship had a Moving Party Move Up Night in which Bro. Eric assumed the Oriental Chair. Eric has taken on more responsibilities over the last year, and it’s going to be a pleasure watching him as Master.

As expected in Friendship, all of the officers did a great job in their parts. I’m always proud to see our newest members step up to take smaller parts, and last night, I noticed that everyone who did so made the effort to put some animation and – dare I say it? – enthusiasm into their various parts.

We split up the Middle Chamber (aka: the Staircase) lecture, with four brothers stepping in to assist the JD. We’ve done this before at Friendship, and personally, I prefer this. In the US, it’s common for some lodges to put a large burden on a junior officer to memorize this one, 30 minute long lecture filled with arcane usage and words known only to sesquipedalians. The problem that I frequently see is that the poor guy is so focused on the memorization that most of the time the lecture ends up being monotonous. And while old-timers might see one’s ability to memorize 20 pages as a pre-requisite for serving as Master of a lodge, I can think of at least a few other skills that would be more useful.

From Visiting Bros

And it was nice to see one of our old friends who made an hour-long trip to support Bro. Eric, even though he had to be wheeled in on a hand truck.



No Idiots Allowed!

September 26, 2008 Leave a comment
From Blue Lodge Dummies

Guests at the 5th District Blue Lodge Council, held at Unity Lodge No. 148 in New Britain last night were treated to the spectacle of the Very Worshipful Charles and Tom squeeing like adolescent fangirls over the visit of fellow blogger Chris Hodapp. Bro. Chris has authored several books, which most readers of this blog should already know. He was kind enough to endure a half hour of book signing and dedication after a sumptuous repast, and then again after being forced to listen to a (mercifully short) BLC meeting (at which once again nobody remembered to introduce the District Lecturers – harumph harumph); at the end of which he  displayed his stand-up routine gave a wonderfully motivational talk about the need for variety and diversity in lodge programs – and indeed, in lodges themselves. After being subjected to another fifteen minutes of questions, he was remanded to the foyer where he endured another half hour of book signing.

Yes, of course I wanted my own book signed, too, especially the one about Conspiracies and Secret Societies. I always get a laugh over how wrong they get the part about our Zeta-Reticulan overlords protectors.

BTW, thanks go out to WB Harry Needham, WM of Unity, for being able to finagle Bro. Hodapp to come all the way out to the boondocks. Most Worshipful Robert Sticka managed to clear his calendar to attend, as did several other GL officers, some of whom had met Chris in the past. About 50 people showed up for the  event.

One of the neat things about Masonry is that no matter how many accolades a brother might receive, at the end of the night, he’s still a brother – even if he is a dummy. Chris was gracious enough to hang around after most of the guests had left, chatting and gossiping as if he were a long-time member of one of the local lodges. I know that I appreciated the opportunity to meet him in person, and told him so. “You look younger in real life,” were, I think my first words.

Really, Bro. Chris – it’s the thought that counts.

Seriously, Bro. Hodapp is a knowledgeable and engaging speaker, and he does have a number of engagements lined up around the US. I encourage anybody to take advantage of the opportunity to see him if he comes by your area.



In the shade of the Temple

August 17, 2008 Leave a comment

Vacation,
All I ever wanted.
Vacation,
Had to get away
Vacation,
Meant to be spent alone. . .

Vacation, The Go-gos

It’s customary for bloggers – especially celebrity bloggers – to apologize for extended periods with no posts, offering up explanations to the effect of work, family life, Masonic obligations, or perhaps computer problems.

Not me. The mundane fact is that I’ve just been too lazy.

Not idly lazy, mind you. It’s just that the summer here in southern New England has been exceptionally nice, and I’ve been enjoying the clemencies of the season. Last year at this time it was 95º in the shade with humidity approaching that of a Roman bath. This year, the evening temperatures in the 70s and the periodic rains have kept my lawn in need of continuous mowing, and I’ve been able to sleep with the windows thrown wide open, obviating the need for the central air-conditioning that ran almost non-stop last year. Accordingly, I’ve spent a lot more time outside, engaged in both home maintenance chores and in the pursuit of healthy exercise.

Yes, exercise. The practice of actually doing something, instead of simply reading about it on Wiki. A job that has kept me increasingly behind a desk for the last 8 or 10 years, coupled with the excellent cooking for which Friendship Lodge is known, has contributed in some ways to cause my own Masonic figure to resemble less the proportions of an Doric column, and more one of the objects that sits atop the pillars at the entrance. While the weather is nice, I’ve been trying to bike between 15 and 30 miles per week, and I’ve been working on various exercises in between. We took a family vacation to the beaches of North Carolina, and I took both my bike and my laptop. I rode over 100 miles in 6 days, and spent a lot of time just web surfing. Some bloggers – especially the celebrity bloggers – might call it “researching future articles.”

Not me. It’s vacation. I’m allowed a bit of goofing off on vacation. That’s what it’s for – a chance to vacate my brain for a bit in order to – hopefully – reorganize and gain some perspective. Those who enjoy socializing all the time, and who revel in the non-stop camaraderie sometimes don’t understand the reasons why others just drop out for a while. When I had realized that I had about 20 articles unfinished, I knew it was time to take a break.

In the Northeast US, lodges typically do not meet in the summer months; some have no meetings at all, some have only specific committee meetings (building, finance, etc.) and a very few have one or two meetings over the summer. I’ve read and heard from some of my brothers who get a bit sad over the summer break, and wish that they could continue to meet with their friends every week, or every other week. I used to feel that way, too, but I remember in my year as WM, I couldn’t wait for June to be over – and with it, the meetings, committees, and visiting. Not, obviously, because I don’t like my brother Masons; it’s just that some of us need some quiet time to recharge.

Masonically speaking, I haven’t been totally vacant, of course. For the sake of gaining some insights and perspective, I did a lot of lurking at the web sites and forums in which I generally don’t get to spend much time. I’ve done a lot of reading over the last few weeks, getting caught up on the Masonic news around the US and UK – and of course, right here in Connecticut. I’ve also been working on a completely new version of the 25 year old Master’s Achievement Award form, which we are hoping to put into service for the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009. I was away when we had our annual Trowel Club picnic, but we’ve got another get-together dinner coming up later this week, and I’ve started to organize the annual Past Master’s Dinner for later in the year.

So I’m hoping that all of you have had a similar opportunity this summer, to recharge, to gain some perspective, and ready to get back to work rested and refreshed in a few more weeks. By then, I know I’ll be looking forward to it.

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