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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.



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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.

Categories: Blogging, Freemasonry, masonry Tags:

because sometimes it just needs to be said

July 29, 2008 1 comment

Greg “Masonic Traveler” Stewart wrote something very nice the other day:

Prior to that, we had the pleasure to talk to Tom Accuosti of the Tao of Masonry. One of the things that I realized in talking to him was that he was a busy guy. Not only has Tom been the master of his lodge in Connecticut, but he’s taken on responsibilities in his GL’s Education and Communication Committee, as well as having become the local District Grand Lecturer. All this in a mere 6 years of being a Freemason! Its no wonder he lays claim to being the Exalted Keeper of the Secrets of Freemasonarianism, and a part of the Team Osiris Obelisk Sitting and Surveying. Besides the tongue in cheek, It was a great conversation with Tom as he’s a very articulate brother with some good wisdom and a great deal of wit!

If you haven’t listened to this episode with Tom you can find it at the Masonic Central website, or by clicking the links below:

Download Tom from ITunes!

Listen to Tom on-line.

Reading that, it sounds like I do a hell of a lot of work around here, so I want to set the record straight.

Compared to the rest of the men that I work with, I barely do anything; I just ride around from lodge to lodge and look pretty. I’ve got this routine where I just nod my head, look pensive, nod my head again and then say “That’s a great idea, guys. You should totally go with it! Let me know how it turns out.” Then I grab a coffee and go home for a nap.

Connecticut has about 12,000 Masons. I have this theory that only about 1,200 of them show up at lodge on a regular basis, and only 120 are actually running the organization. But those 120 are some of the best men in the entire state.

In the (almost) seven years since I’ve joined this organization, I have found that the overwhelming majority of Grand Lodge officers and committee members to be hard-working and dedicated men who are always thinking about the improvement of the fraternity, and how to make it a better place for their brothers. Yes, we’ve had seemingly good ideas that didn’t work out, and yes, we’ve had some bad ideas implemented. In that respect, we are exactly like every other organization, from multi-national conglomerates to local co-ops. Most of the officers have gotten behind each idea and worked at making the best out of each and every one, just like they’ve been doing for the last umpteen years. Those are the men who have helped to hold the fraternity together long before I happened by, and while most of them are too modest to take any  credit, they all deserve our thanks and appreciation.

The Grand Lodge Line officers have put in countless hours of work on projects, some of which are never implemented, but all of which require attention to detail. Our District Deputies typically take on statewide projects running charities or coordinating Child ID (CTCHIPS) events; this is after the hours they put in overseeing and assisting lodges in their areas. Associate Grand Marshals (AGMs) not only assist the DDs, many of them take on their own projects, and some of them double as District Lecturers.

Our Grand Lodge has over a dozen permanent committees that cover such responsibilities as Jurisprudence and Legal Matters, Education, Publications and Communication, Fraternal Relations, Awards, and Rituals and Ceremonies. All of these committees are staffed by Masons, most of whom are long on experience and patience. These men give up time from their week to get together and discuss, plan, and implement the various programs that keep the fraternity going. A lot of them are (or have been) wearers of the purple, but many of them have not.

Over the last couple of years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve seen a handful of Masons from other states complain about the quality of both Masons and GL officers in their areas. Sometimes those complaints are justified, sometimes (more often, I suspect) not. Unfortunately, I rarely see appreciation for those who actually do the hard work of running the organization, so I’m going to take this opportunity to do just that.

Thanks for keeping the light on for me, brothers. I hope to do the same for those who come in after me.

Masonic Central Presents…

July 3, 2008 Leave a comment

Pity poor Bros. Greg Stewart and Dean Kennedy of Masonic Central. After having some excellent guests for their first three podcasts, they found that everybody good was going to be away for the holiday weekend. Faced with either suspending a growing format, or roping in the only guy too stupid to take a vacation, they chose to fill in the available time.

In the past I’ve been one of the guys asking the questions on a podcast interview. On Sunday evening, July 6 at 9:00 pm Eastern Time, I get to sit in the hot seat.

We’ve got no agenda and an hour to kill. Those poor, poor guys. . .

More info at Masonic Central.

And don’t forget to go back and listen to the previous TalkShoe podcasts.

The Wind Between the Atoms

July 3, 2008 1 comment

The morning email from my friend 3M was my first clue.

Yet again high praise for my CT blog brethren. Scottish Rite Journal!
Congrats guys for getting etched in the annals of history.

Not being a subscriber to the SRJ – in fact, not even being a member of the SR, I Googled my way through several links to find that one of their book reviewers must not have had any interesting Masonic tomes this month, and decided to do an article on some of the denizens of cyberspace.

Book Review: The Wind Between the Atoms

written by James T. Tresner II, 33°, Grand Cross, Book Review Editor

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 have to admit that I was a bit put off at first; I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to in the last couple of years that, upon hearing that I write a blog, have proclaimed similar sentiments about blogging, and it makes me think that they are either short-sighted, or have not bothered to read very many.

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.

Fortunately, Bro. Tresner has a good friend who was able to give him a more relevant perspective:

So when I was recently shamed into visiting a Mason’s blog, I was greatly surprised at what was to be found. There was some first-rate writing, and an expression of ideas that stimulate thought. I found that to be true of other blogs as well. There is also a great deal of dross mixed with the gold.

While I’d like to think he was writing specifically about The Tao of Masonry, the fact is that a good number of bloggers really are talented and interesting writers. I read a few years ago that most blogs fail within three to six months, presumably for lack of interest on the part of the writer. That means that those blogs that have crossed that particular bank of the Jordan have done so because the writers have displayed an above-average amount of effort in their craft. They have a dedicated number of readers, they publish with some kind of frequency, and they manage to follow most of the rules of grammar and usage in order to make an article easy to grasp.

I read most blogs through Google Reader, and I catch some of the less-frequently posted blogs through the excellent King Solomon’s Lodge Feed Aggregate – a website that collects RSS feeds from dozens of blogs with Masonic content.

And yes, there is dross mixed in with the jewels; even some of the better blogs have the occasional off day. However, with over 100 blogs (by my last count) with some Masonic content, it’s natural to expect that a few will not meet one’s particular interests.

Rather a bit like those “book” thingies that I keep hearing about.

But since blogs have become the major forum for the exchange of Masonic ideas and debate about modern interpretations of traditional values as well as the forum of most Masonic publishing today, it seemed appropriate to spend a little time alerting you to some of the most interesting. If I omit your favorite, please forgive. There are many, many of them out there.

While I disagree that blogs have become the major forum for discussion – I still believe that web forums are the preferred choice for those interested in the give-and-take of debate – you can’t ignore that blogging has grown incredibly in the last decade. Masonic blogs were virtually unheard of just 5 years ago, and have probably doubled in number just in the last year. Much of this is due to the ease of use of the major blogging platforms: Blogger (now owned by Google), WordPress, and TypePad – all of which have had major upgrades in usability, and all of which are free to use for the basic packages. In other words, nobody needs to be a computer geek to blog anymore.

In Connecticut, no less than 5 blogs were started in the past year. I suspect that most of my brothers, having seen my own modest attempts with the cyber-pen, said to themselves “If Tom can do this, anybody can.” The result is that the Nutmeg State now has the highest per capita Masonic Blogging Density (MBD), which I expect to double in the next month after a few dozen more Connecticut readers see this post.

For the 23 of my Connecticut readers, here’s what Bro. Tresner had to say about one of your local media stars:

Many blogs focus on specific sets of issues. Masonic Renaissance, http://masonicrenaissance.blogspot.com/, created by Bro. Charles Tirrell, PM Momauguin Lodge No. 63, Connecticut, DDGM, and 32°, focuses on the general renewal of interest in Freemasonry and the opportunities and problems it creates.

I’m sure that VW Bro. Charles, my District Grand Lecturer counterpart in the 4th District is aghast at learning of his promotion to District Deputy. Over the last year, I’ve realized that many US states do not have District Lecturers, and for some people the Very Worshipful title doesn’t quite register. I suspect that they see purple and immediately start thinking DD or DDGM.

Of course, as a DD he would only be responsible for 5 or 6 lodges, not the entire 18 in that district, so maybe . . .

Bro. Tresner didn’t comment on the other Nutmeg State bloggers, either for lack of space, or because they choose to write (sort of) anonymously. I’m sure it can’t be for lack of interest, because we’ve got some excellent writers in the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th districts.

A word or two of warning. Many of the writers on these blogs are young men. Even Gandhi, as a young man, did not understand the importance of sacred cows. It was only in his more mature years that he realized that the sacred cow played a truly vital role in the social life and economy of his country. A second, very important point to keep in mind is this: Not all cows are sacred.

I’ve subdued my passions enough to avoid the offhand snarky comment, but I do have to say that the above paragraph made me wonder about the typical reader of the SRJ; why would Bro. Tresner feel compelled to warn the readers about some of the topics that appear on the various blogs? Wouldn’t most readers be able to judge for themselves the worth of a writer’s opinion on, say, Prince Hall recognition, or the seemingly unfair expulsion of Past Grand Master Haas, or Traditional Observance lodges, or the desire of some younger Masons to jettison the fish fries and pancake breakfasts in favor of something else?

I’ve been told by a number of my brothers – usually, but not always older members – that the openness of the internet would be the death of Masonry because too many contentious writers can anonymously sling mud at our sacred cows, which could be read by just anybody, including potential members. Presumably, these potential members would be turned off by the nattering nabobs of negativity and stay away in droves from petitioning.

I still maintain that we, as a fraternity, are better off when those who apply have shown themselves to have critical thinking skills. As I wrote recently on this issue of contentious internet writing:

During my travels, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to meet another half a dozen new Masons who came up to me after a degree to mention that they’ve read this blog. Not only does this increase my readership by almost 50%, it indicates that more and more men – mainly the under-40 group – are using the internet to discover more about our fraternity. It also suggests that they are not being frightened off by some of the contentiousness that can be found on blogs and web forums, to the contrary of those who have decried the use of this medium. Being one of those who used the internet heavily in his own research before joining, I still maintain that those people who are so easily swayed in their opinion of the fraternity by the antics of a handful of anti-Masons Masonophobes – or by a few disgruntled Masons – are probably not the best candidates in the first place.

It may sound as if I’m complaining about the review; I’m really not, and I’m actually pleased to have been included in his list. I’m also glad to see that Bro. Tresner managed to develop a better perspective on blogging during the course of his research. 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.” Irony Meter

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.

My own observation, which is purely anecdotal and not to be taken as any type of statistical study, is that most of the Masons joining in the last few years are under 40 – indeed, we’ve seen a lot of them under 30 at Friendship Lodge – and most of them have used the internet as a tool in deciding to join. Maybe it’s time that some of us learned a little bit more about how that tool works.

That said, the article finishes on a good note:

As you can imagine, the blog list is endless, and as you follow different links into the deepest, darkest regions of Internet Masonry in search of light, remember: have fun, take nothing at face value, and research things for yourself so that you might form your own opinion—although reading the opinions of others makes for fun and education.

Bro. Tresner goes on to list several blogs which he thought worth a look.

The Relevant Mason, by Cliff Porter, who I know mainly through his participation on various web forums.

Ars Masonica, by New York’s well-tattooed Rich Powell.

Freemasons for Dummies, by the irrepressible Chris Hodapp, author of several of those book thingies that people used to read before the internet came along.

Masonic Musings From ME!, by the well-known Ed King of www.masonicinfo.com fame. Is there a Mason with an internet connection who has not been to that site?

Dispatches from Maine, by the engaging Christian Ratliff, who is the District Education Representative, which appears to be similar to the District Grand Lecturer here in Connecticut.

Freemasonry Resources, by Bro. Tim Bonney, a Knight of the North who really should post more often.

Kingdom of Conscience, by Osiris, who appears to have taken his blog down a year ago.

The Inquisitive Master , by Nimrod, who appears to have made 13 posts early in 2008, and has not updated since.

Bro. Tresner also had something to say about my favorite blog:

For Masonry taken seriously, but no too seriously, visit The Tao of Masonry, http://www.masonictao.wordpress.com. It is run by Brother Tom Accuosti, who lists among his credentials “Past Master, Friendship #33.3, AM&FM, Area 51, Atlantis.” Again, thought-provoking articles with a fine sense of balance.

“Not too serious” and “a fine sense of balance?”

That’s Taoism in a nutshell!

Masonic Central Podcast with Tim Bryce

June 16, 2008 Leave a comment

Masonic Central is a new blog/podcast series by a couple of seasoned internet brothers, Dean Kennedy and Greg Stewart. Many of my 37 regular readers might already be familiar with them from their frequent and well thought out postings on some of the various Masonic internet forums, and Masonic Central now offers Bros. Greg and Dean an opportunity to extend their quick wits and good natures to those  who can’t read prefer the interview and panel discussion formats.

Last night – Sunday, June 15th – was their second show which featured noted Florida Mason Tim Bryce. Bro. Tim is known for his thoughtful newsletters and essays, and last night’s podcast shows that he is just as bright an engaging in person.

The Masonic Central blog can be found at this address:
http://masoniccentral.blogspot.com/

where you can also find a calendar listing upcoming segments.

The podcasts can be found on Talkshoe at
http://www.talkshoe.com/talkshoe/web/tscmd/tc/19162

The live air time is 9 pm Eastern, 6 pm Pacific.

It looks like they’ve got the next few Sunday nights booked for guests, but you can download the one-hour podcasts and listen to them at your leisure later in the week.

TalkShoe Call Series Badge

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