Monday, December 31, 2007

The reason for the season

Last week, during the mad rush of last minute shopping, parties and family visits, I neglected to comment on "the reason for the season."

So, belatedly I say, "Happy Birthday, Jesus."

Ditto for Baldur. And Mithras. And Helios. And Apollo. And Attis. And Dionysus. And Osiris.

Their birthday party is rockin' after thousands of years.

Have I forgotten anyone?

Oh, yes! Happy Birthday to the Sun, the reason for the season. Ra! Ra! Ra!

Image: The Greek god Helios

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We all shine on: Brian Napier

Scottish brother Brian Napier writes in to tell us "This is Who I Am." Thank you, Bro. Brian.

Dear Widows Son,

My name is Brian, I came to the U.S. just over 5 year ago from SCOTLAND, (Brian is my real name by the way, I see no reason what so ever why I should hide or gloss over it, I am a child of the ever living GOD and proud I am of it, KNOW ME BY MY NAME.) My Surname is NAPIER.

I have been a proud and very busy Mason now for nearly 25 years, not a second in time in all that time have I regretted, I have the distinction of having been a Master of two Lodges on two different continents, I dare say there must have been others who have achieved this, I have just not spoken to, or know of any.

Anyway, I have found as regards Freemasonry, as with lots of others things in life, what people don't understand, (especially Americans) is that, if they don't understand it, or can't fathom out how it works, apart from what you hear or read from others, LET'S MOCK IT FIRST THEN KILL IT.

Now I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not just a Blues Masonic Mason, I spent a lot of years climbing the rungs within Freemasonry over a long period of time, nothing like the way they do here in America, I chose to learn my Craft, I chose to educate myself as best I could on my Craft, I am not one of those nuts who go to the library grab a book then go and tell the world we are all Satanists or that I know how the world turns, when I have absolutely have no idea what I'm talking about other than what I just read over a weekend.

I have done nothing but do my utmost to enhance the way I treat and conduct myself within the realms of my fellow man, those same fellow men maybe totally against my affiliation to Masonry, but you know it matters not, I have a way of treating my fellow man that will not be swayed by the nuts and the agitators, MY GOD taught me this. At the end of the day, I cannot claim to be the all knowing and the all powerful, but I absolutely know who is.

Now it matters not off what creed, colour, or faith you are, we ALL acknowledge that the every living GOD already knows the person I/we are, now just for talking's sake, lets say I have spent an entire adulthood belonging to a Fraternity that turns out to be sinister, as some would have it, My GOD, your same God, knows I did what I done through genuineness, I tried to be the best I could be in his eyes knowing that I would be judged by HIM and by HIM only, if I got it wrong he will forgive me for I am only flesh and have the right, HIS right, to get it wrong, I am not perfect, the last person who was perfect in my eyes got crucified remember, and he did nothing wrong.

We all belong to something, even if it turns out we only belong to ourselves, or at least true to ourselves, we make the calls, ultimately he (GOD) makes the final JUDGEMENT about our calls in life, if my God has seen me go through life making life as comfortable for my fellow man, (as he wished) as comfortable as my standing in life warrants then that's all I can do, at least I have the consolation of knowing it, and I know he does too.

I will only pass by this way once, if I feel I have not made, or at least tried to make a difference upon my fellow man, Mason or not, then why should God have granted me the space on this earth, HIS EARTH in the first place.

While in this country, I have endeavored to assist numerous American Legions, Veterans Homes, Church groups, my neighbours, children's outreaches, in fact while I do these things, the country men of this America would much rather sit and criticize me for being a Mason rather than get up off their asses and assist me to assist their fellow country men and children, they are in no position to judge or condemn me for being what I am, I am just a humble man doing the best I know how, the fact that Freemasonry has shown me the way to go about it in the past twenty five years means no less, yes I was a good person to begin with but like I said we all belong to something.

Like Benjamin Franklin said, Any Fool can criticize, complain and condemn and most fools do.

While we're on the subject of Franklin, it's not a myth, it's fact that the Franklin's, the Washington's, the Jefferson's, the Hancock's, and the Monroe's of this world, all got round a table and yes, with a beer in their hands, (And all MASONS)and discussed the birth of a new nation, that NATION was to be THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, did they in all honesty make such a bad job of it?, I think not, the fact that since those days certain individuals have gone on and made an absolute mockery of it beggars belief.

If nothing else they gave you...... WE THE PEOPLE..... They made it about YOU..... They gave you a voice, the same voice that does nothing but berate everything they were about as regards the birth of a nation, your nation, you stand at memorial services and thank the people who gave their lives so you may live freely today, and so you should, these same founding fathers gave you everything that you have ever lived, loved, and come to know about this great country.

When these founding Fathers gave birth to this great Nation (and it's not even my nation I'm SCOTTISH remember,) they gave up everything that they possessed, wealth, land, even family, look at the wealth of some of the individuals you have today, name me ten men made of the same materials or calibre as those great men, who would be willing in this day to give up the same, you couldn't find me two.

In ending, before you start opening your mouths in ignorance, remember this, for it is fact, without the Morals, without the Foresight, without the Forward Thinking, in essence without Freemasonry, this country would never have become the force within the world it has become, good or bad, be thankful that Freemasonry help conceive what you have all enjoyed ever since, and will continue to enjoy, remember the old saying, DO NOT BIT THE HAND THAT HAS FED YOU,...... AND YOUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN



— Bro. Brian Napier

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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You might be a libertarian...

Though he holds office as a Republican, it is no secret that U.S. Rep. Dr. Ron Paul is a libertarian. In fact, he ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988.

This article is not about being a Libertarian. It is about being a libertarian.

You might be one yourself.

Take these online quizzes and see if you can label yourself politically: | | | | |

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best Masonic blogs of 2007

All the news channels and entertainment shows do a year-end wrap-up of "best of's," "top tens," etc., so I thought I'd play along. Feel free to add your own favorites, etc., to the list.

There are many great Masonic-themed blogs, all contributing in their own way to the online Masonic experience. I send my thanks and best wishes to all of you, listed here or not, who have shared your views and visions of Freemasonry via blogs and by commenting on others' blogs this year.I wish all my Masonic brothers and sisters, as well as the rest of the world, a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

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Want more "top ten of 2007" stories? Be sure to read Jennifer Emick's Top Ten AltReligion Events of 2007.

Image: From Pretty Much Amazing

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Hotties 4 Ron Paul

If you're a regular reader of The Burning Taper, you'll remember the firestorm a couple of weeks ago, when my endorsement of U.S. Rep. Dr. Ron Paul for President was met with critical commentary about whether a Freemason should publicly endorse a political candidate.

If you missed it, or just want to relive the fun we all had, read "'Burning Taper' endorses Dr. Ron Paul for President" and "'Every generation needs a new revolution.'" and the associated comments. (Sorry — the comments that ignited the issue were later deleted by their author.)

The Iowa caucuses are this week, and the New Hampshire primary is just over a week away. I wouldn't be a very good endorser of my candidate if I didn't do a bit of politicking for him this week.

You may have noticed I like to post photos of attractive women whenever I can appropriately do so without straying too far from the point of an article. For example, I used a photo of Diane Kruger instead of Nicolas Cage in a story about National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Freemasonry, and way back in July, 2006 I used a photo of Hugh Hefner and six hot blondes to accent a story about Muslim conspiracy theories.

But apparently I've digressed into the Land of Tangent. It's taken me five six paragraphs to get to the point of this post.

Singer Juliet Annerino, a Ron Paul supporter, has created a pin-up calendar called "Hotties 4 Ron Paul." Forty percent of sales are donated to the Ron Paul campaign. The calender is tastefully G-rated, featuring attractive women and select quotations about freedom by Ron Paul and other great statesman, authors, and visionaries.

"Hotties 4 Ron Paul" also has a page at

The lovely lady atop this article is Michelle Shinghal, a longtime Libertarian. She is featured on the month of March page of the calendar. Michelle blogs at She is a former stripper, and has been interviewed many times on television recently regarding her support for Ron Paul. She currently serves as chairman of Collin County, Texas Libertarian Party, a position she has held since March, 2002.

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Guest editorial: Regularity and Recognition

The following statement by Grand-Master Mason John Graves of the Grand Lodge of All England at York was released by Grand Secretary Peter Clatworthy on Saturday, December 29, 2007 in response to a speech made by the Pro Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England on November 5, 2007.

Regularity and Recognition: The Myth and the Reality

If reports are correct, there is much to commend in the speech recently given by the Pro-Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England to the so-called ‘European Grand Masters’ Meeting’. However, leaving aside the infelicitous claim to speak for ‘England’, there are certain presumptions and confusions in the address that demand the most urgent and serious scrutiny.

Regularity is of course an essential doctrine in Freemasonry but has in recent years been subject to ill-considered assault from within the Craft itself. It is therefore appropriate to analyse those comments of the Pro-Grand Master that seem designed to undermine and devalue a concept that all Freemasons ought to hold dear.

There is, for example, the explicit declaration that ‘to be regular a Grand Lodge must conform to each of our basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition or it cannot be considered as regular’. Given a moment’s consideration a truly outrageous claim! Freemasonry is not, and never has been, subject to or contained within the United Grand Lodge of England. To suggest as much is to diminish the history, role and actuality of Freemasonry. The cart is clearly and contrivedly put before the horse, making regularity the reward for recognition. And conveniently in so doing the two quite separate and distinct concepts of ‘Regularity’ and ‘Recognition’ are conflated.

‘Regularity’ requires a strict acceptance and observance of the Ancient Landmarks of the Order. Such Landmarks are visible and ascertainable and are found within any regular Grand Lodge. Regularity is represented by adherence: nothing more, nothing less. It is not, and cannot ever be, bestowed. Indeed, Regularity is necessarily beyond the capacity of anybody or any organisation whatsoever to bestow, be they Grand Master or Grand Lodge. The very best any such Master or Lodge can hope to do is to bequeath Regularity to his or its successor. And here I can of course confirm that the Grand Lodge of All England is such a regular Grand Lodge and adheres strictly to those Ancient Landmarks that alone can make it so.

‘Recognition’ is a very different concept. There are, for example, devices the use of which may enable a regularly made Freemason to be ‘recognised’ by others. Such may be said to amount to individual recognition and on this level the term is quite uncontroversial. However, the question should be asked as to what purpose Grand Lodge ‘recognition’ actually serves, and who in fact really benefits from such a device. It should here be noted that Grand Lodge ‘recognition’ has its genesis in late eighteenth century legislation, such as the Unlawful Societies Act, designed to stifle debate and discussion within the context of an authoritarian and politically repressive state. We recoil from the memory of such devices and reject this latter day attempt to rejuvenate so tainted and un-Masonic a concept.

Far from having had thrust upon them ‘the mantle of being guardians of regularity’, UGLE in fact seized upon the opportunity presented by repressive legislation to attempt nothing less than the appropriation of Freemasonry. In contradistinction, the Grand Lodge of All England does not accept the validity of any such spurious doctrine as ‘recognition’ nor does it ‘recognise’ any other Grand Lodges nor seek such ‘recognition’ from others. Rather, it stands as the bearer of traditional Masonic principles and disowns all attempts to subjugate and subvert genuine Freemasonry.

The Grand Lodge of All England has frequently and consistently published its position with regard to these two quite separate and distinct concepts of ‘Regularity’ and ‘Recognition’. Together with a detailed historical exposition this is explained at length on our website and is authoritatively represented on a number of general Masonic websites. It is stated in our official submission to the Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Master Masons of North America, in articles in the hands of various Masonic publishers and in correspondence with various interested parties.

A Grand Lodge is, indeed, ‘either regular or it is not’. But whether ‘recognition’ is extended or denied to one Grand Lodge by another is irrelevant. There is in Masonic terms no historical or constitutional basis for this spurious and wholly political doctrine of ‘recognition’. To continue to employ such a device as a means of dividing Mason from Mason is the residue of one of the least attractive, most repressive and disgraceful periods of modern Masonic history.

From inception, the United Grand Lodge of England has sought, unsuccessfully, to exert a monopoly over Freemasonry. What cannot be countenanced is that this aspiration should be allowed to corrupt the wholly genuine concept, vital to genuine Freemasonry, of Regularity, and to render it nothing more than a self-serving ideological notion. This concern is made all the immediate by the compromises already entered into by United Grand Lodge of England and the dilution of Masonic principles and practices that these compromises have brought about.

Much of the difficulty the Pro-Grand Master sought to address in his speech was to do with the role of the United Grand Lodge of England within the Masonic world. Such difficulty, however, is due to his own Grand Lodge in seeking to redefine Freemasonry in its own image and as in its own gift. The Masonic doctrine of Regularity exists outside and is wholly independent of any Grand Lodge. It is most emphatically not to be confused and conflated with the practice of Grand Lodge ‘recognition’ devised and instituted by the United Grand Lodge of England for its own hegemonic purposes. And Freemasonry, even English Freemasonry, is most emphatically not to be confused and conflated with the United Grand Lodge of England.

— W. Bro. John Graves, Grand-Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of All England at York

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Masonic monuments at Macon, Georgia's Rose Hill Cemetery

Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, was established by the then 16-year old city in 1840. It was designed by Simri Rose, city councilman and newspaper editor. He was also a gardener, horticulturist and amateur landscape designer. After a trip to the then recently established Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, Rose retured to Macon to focus attention on building a cemetery-park that combined irregular, meandering paths, streams and pools in a tiered, layered layout that rises and falls 142 feet above the river bed. He planted rare and exotic trees to compliment the native flora, including oriental cypress, balm of Gilead, firs, hemlock, arbor vitae, juniper, wild olive, broom, thorn and furze alongside the native oak, beech, poplar and sycamore.

Simri Rose is buried along the bank of the Ocmulgee River in the cemetery that bears his name.

Over 20,000 people are buried there. Some were or still are famous; some were known and loved only by immediate family and friends. Governors, judges, soldiers from both sides of the American Civil War, mayors, railroad men, and rock stars are buried at Rose Hill. Many Freemasons are buried there. Separate sections hold the graves of over 600 Confederate soldiers, for those of the Hebrew faith, for Catholics. In the earliest days, one section of the cemetery, known as Oak Ridge, was kept separate for favored slaves, the plots being purchased by their masters.

I grew up in Macon, and drove past the cemetery many, many times, but it was just this week, while in town for the Christmas holidays, that I finally spent a few hours walking through the huge, park-like setting of Rose Hill. I took over a hundred photos of graves, tombs, mausoleums, and other monuments to those now departed. Some of the more interesting pictures I'll share with you in this and perhaps later articles.

Many of the older grave monuments had the Masonic Square and Compasses engraved upon them. While some had the letter G inside the S&C, most of the older Masonic markers did not.

Macon is also the home of the Grand Lodge of Georgia. The grand lodge building stands a half mile or less from the cemetery's main gate.

Just inside the entrance to Rose Hill, with a backdrop of the city skyline, are the graves of two of the Grand Lodge of Georgia's early Grand Secretaries, Andrew Martin Wolihin (1831-1897) and his son, William A. Wolihin (1862-1916). The senior Wolihin served as a captain in the Confederate Army, fighting against the Union in Tennessee and Georgia.

Sometime in the early 20th century, the Wolihin family erected a monument to Bros. Andrew and William. It's perhaps the most extraordinary Masonic sculpture I've ever seen. The columns Jachin and Boaz, complete with globes atop them, stand in front of and to each side of a holy altar upon which rests the Volume of Sacred Law and the Square and Compasses. A knee rest is in front of the altar.

[Click on any image to enlarge it.]

Masonic Lodge No. 132 in Crawfordville, Georgia, is named for Bro. Andrew M. Wolihin. Crawfordville is about 90 miles northeast of Macon.

Capt. Wolihin was one of three captains who served at the Battle of Chickamauga in the Georgia Battery of Maj. Austin Leyden's Artillery Brigade. In a cosmic Masonic coincidence that I note only in passing, the other two captains were named Tyler M. Peeples and Billington W. York.

Judging from this mention in the 1896 (the year before he died) Transactions of the [Georgia] Royal and Select Masters, the senior Bro. Wolihin was also a Companion of the York Rite. Sorrow at his death was mentioned in the 1897 Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of North Dakota, indicating that the senior Bro. Wolihin was well respected throughout the American Masonic brotherhood.

Vandals, a series of tornadoes in the 1950's, and simply the passing of time have changed the landscape of Rose Hill Cemetery from what it was when it began, but it remains a beautiful and moving place. [Click for map of cemetery.]

Rose Hill Cemetery is located on Riverside Drive in Macon, Georgia, near the interchange of Interstates 75 and 16 [map]. If you find yourself traveling through Georgia, to or from Florida along I-75 or to or from the Georgia coast along I-16, you're just minutes from an incredible historical treasure.

As I sort through my photos, I'll post some of the more interesting ones, with commentary.

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Freemasonry opens its book of secrets

Timed to correspond to last week's opening of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the Washington Post published a surprisingly balanced piece on Freemasonry on Christmas Eve.

The article is peppered with quotes from Jon Turteltaub, director of the National Treasure films, as well as Masonic research historian Margaret Jacob of UCLA, George Seghers, executive director of the Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, and various D.C.-area Masons.

While they did trot out the "motto" about making good men better, we were spared the now-trite "We're not a secret society; we're a society with secrets" claim.

Worth a read.

Image: Diane (pronounced "Dee-on") Kruger, who plays Abigail Chase in the "National Treasure" films. What? You didn't think I'd waste this space with a photo of Nicolas Cage, did you?

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We all shine on: M.M.M. from the North Eastern Corner

I would like to say first off that is an honor and a pleasure to introduce myself on the blog that inspired me to create my own source of Light in the Masonic blogosphere!

I am M.M.M. from The North Eastern Corner. I am a happily married 33-year old father of three living in a coastal city in Connecticut. I became a Freemason after a life long love of history, philosophy, and reading led me to knock upon the door of the West Gate during a very difficult time in my life. I was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason over a year ago, and it has been a whirlwind ever since. After a year as Senior Steward, I have been honored by my brethren by being elected to serve as Junior Warden in the upcoming year.

I started blogging after following a link on Brother Greg Stewart's Freemason Information website that led me smack dab in the middle of "Small Town Freemasonry" and the Widow's Son. I thought to myself, "I think I could do that," and started The North Eastern Corner. I am sure many astute Masons want to know why I write from the North Eastern Corner and not the North East Corner, like in our ritual. Well, that explanation is pretty simple; some woman in Carmel, California already had taken that name and since I reside in the North Eastern part of the United States, I thought it had a witty double meaning.

I am staying somewhat anonymous because I don't want my blogging to be affected by having to ask for permission or be afraid of offending the brethren of my lodge (although there are not many in my lodge who even know what a blog is!).

I love the symbolism and esoteric aspects of Freemasonry and that is what I write about, in a Blarney Stone enhanced kind of way. I want to convey to masons and non-masons the great abundance of enlightenment available to brothers if they just do a little deeper investigation into themselves and what is available to all via the treasure that is the World Wide Web. I found all the information I needed to help me with my decision to join Freemasonry on the Internet. We are truly lucky to be alive during such an exiting time.

— Bro. M.M.M.

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Bro. Chris Hodapp home from hospital

While we were all fa-la-la-la-la-ing through the halls earlier this week, Bro. Chris Hodapp was ho-ho-ho-dapping it up in the hospital.

He's home now, after a three-day tour. He's written about his experience on his blog. Glad you escaped the hospital, Bro. Chris.

Please keep Bro. Chris and his family in your hearts and minds as he deals with some health issues.

Get well, Bro. Chris!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

We all shine on: Chris Garlington

Here is a special holiday episode of "This is Who I Am," where readers tell us about themselves. Thanks for writing, Bro. Chris.

It’s late on Christmas day and, after the party people and elderly aunts and conspiratorial teenagers have all said their Merries and vamoosed, I’m left here in a sea of wrapping paper and cracker crumbs. My kids won’t fall asleep; and Santa keeps walking into the living room and giving me the hairy eyeball because the kids are calling each other room to room arguing about whether or not he’s real; I hear “Sarah’s on Eye Em” rejoined by “Am Not!” which begats “Are So!” and on and on and I’m seriously considering kicking the presents out into the snow. But I’m waiting on the room-to-room to die down and I have to do something so I’m telling you who I am. Grab some nog and read on.

I’m a writer. This means that I’ve written this sentence about eight times, getting about [here] in every iteration before deleting the thing and starting over. I can’t tell you how happy I am merely to get past that second bracket with some kind of idea about what it is I want to say about being me. I spend most of my time doing that, knocking out seven or eight words then deleting them, then getting another nine down and deleting six of them, and so on until an hour or so into my day I’ve got a good half a paragraph of correctly spelled, well-placed nouns and verbs on a page which, sometime around two, I’ll delete.

I’m married to a hotshot attorney which is very much like being a single parent. I get them to school, clean, write, do laundry, get them home from school, wrack my brains over 5th grade math, cook supper — picture your mom but with a killer vocabulary and backhair (if your mother actually had back hair, I extend to you my sincerest apology — I meant no offense). I’m kind of like Erma Bombeck but with testicles and beer which means I might miss a meeting once in a while to take a kid to basketball, play practice, singing lessons, math club, anime club, Scouts, the library, soccer, drum lessons... The list is nearly infinite. I do find time to write my lodge’s blog, their articles for Temple Topics, and somehow threw together a passable Christmas party this year.

I find Masonry to be a brilliant idea. Regardless of whichever historical point of origin you subscribe to, some time way back when, someone laid down this system by which good men are received to become great men. A lot of crazy people on the internet spend a little too much time trying to figure out what great occult secret we have going on, what magic ring we all get to wear that unlocks the door to the deep and dazzling rooms full of treasure that makes us all rich and I can only respond to them by asking them, politely, to wear less tinfoil under their clothes and, please, take me off their spam lists.

I think what is most brilliant about Masonry is the expectations that are clearly laid out in the first degree. I might be prejudiced because this is the first thing I learned for ritual work and I treat it like my little baby but it is amazing when you think it through. It is such a simple idea: brotherly love, relief, truth; and anybody with access to the internet or a library can find these ideas expressed in countless systems and institutions throughout recorded history. And a good man might decide to live his life this way and I am certain that many do, and do it well. For me, however, it is the charge to live my life under this simple code that makes the difference. It is one thing to decide to be good. It is quite another to formally promise that behavior.

That, my tinfoil wearing friends, is the nut of it. No occult tricks are going to make anyone’s life sparkle with gold. No secret handshakes are going to get us that much farther than we’d go otherwise. It isn’t the rings or the jewels or the coded phrases at the company Christmas party that make Masonry such a successful program. It’s the work you do to follow those simple three ideals, the humility that comes from subduing your passions, that makes you able to wisely step around the pitfalls that some men fall prey to. That and the spaghetti dinners before lodge.

— Bro. Chris Garlington

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

We all shine on: Thomas Munkholt

Fellow blogger and Danish brother Thomas Munkholt introduces himself in our latest "This is Who I Am" essay. Welcome, Bro. Thomas. Thanks for writing.

I've followed this blog from its inception, and have been blogging since 2005, mostly in Danish, but this year branched into an English blog as well.

Briefly, outside of freemasonry I work as a freelance translator and editor, although I was educated to become a teacher. I am 37, a citizen of Copenhagen, Denmark, currently staying in Dublin, Ireland.

I was Initiated into the Danish Order of Freemasons in 2005, lodge Hafnia in Copenhagen, and am a "Worthy Master of St. John", which is the title used for a Master Mason in the Swedish Rite (SwR). SwR has no progressive officers' line, so I haven't held an office, and it will be some years yet before I am liable. There are other ways of keeping busy, though: I have helped form a group for new members of Hafnia and another lodge in Copenhagen. Its purpose is to create stronger social bonds, to the benefit of the lodges (as there is now a tradition of visiting each other and sharing lectures etc.) and in the hope that we can improve retention – it takes time to build an understanding and full appreciation of the ritual, but if we can make the new brethren come back for the social aspect, the ritual and symbolic side will have time to grow on them. Nobody gets left behind – that's the philosophy. I have petitioned a lodge of St. Andrew, which is the next rung in the SwR ladder, and expect to be advanced in a year or so. When I return to Copenhagen, I also plan to start "understudying" an office.

As detailed on my blog, Grail Quest, I am traveling for a year with my wife and son, and this is also an opportunity to see ways of doing freemasonry in other countries. Denmark has a very strong tradition with its SwR (which I think is a wonderful ritual), and as it is also something of the odd man out on a global level, seeing as it is strictly Christian, there is perhaps a tendency to be slightly insulated, satisfied with what we have. But I hope to bring home awareness of what's going on elsewhere. The blogosphere is part of that, with all its highs and lows.

The most important lesson in freemasonry for me has been this: I entered it with expectations of what the ritual would be, and be capable of doing, and some reservations about the kind of people I would meet — I probably still had some of the most common bias, and frankly, I didn't know them. The SwR ritual was everything and more than what I had hoped for. But the real gem in the crown was the people I met. Now, when I go home from lodge, the ritual is what has massaged my soul, but the smile on my face, that's all down to the brethren.

Sincerely & Fraternally,

Bro. Thomas Munkholt

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

We all shine on: Roughesler

From southeast Asia, Bro. Roughesler writes in to say "This is Who I Am." Welcome, Brother.

Hi, Widow's Son, distinguished brethren and brethren all.

I thought I'd use this opportunity for introducing myself. I have been reading quite a number of Masonic blogs, and of course yours. It's been quite an interesting read for me as it showcases the differences that Masonry is like in the other parts of the world.

I am a Freemason of a Scottish lodge here in South East Asia, having been raised in October 2007 by our late Right Worshipful Master. Naturally most of what we do here is very much different from anywhere else.

I must say that I do very much enjoy my time in Freemasonry, especially visiting and meeting up with the other brethren from the other constitutions and sister lodges (we are fortunate to have four constitutions here, namely the English, Irish, Scottish and French). I tend to keep my Masonic activities a necessary secret from my colleagues and general friends, as I have heard of occasional and often mis-guided diatribes against Freemasons and Freemasonry in my workplace. I am sure many will be shocked or outraged to know I am actually a member of a "secret society of elites bent on world dominations." LOL!

I am still a pretty young Mason, in age and Freemasonry, so I am quite interested to learn as much as I can about the Craft, the history (especially Scottish masonic history), the symbolism and its esotericism. That probably explained why I do enjoy
doing the floorwork. I am not an office-bearer in my lodge but I do enjoy taking part in the various roles, which helps me quite a bit in learning more about why we do certain things. Of course, I must agree that being an institution made up of human beings, it has its share of human problems, but all in all, I do find it quite enjoyable.

I do personally feel that Freemasonry is quite esoteric in its rituals and customs, and I am glad that many brethren in the lodges here are avid researchers into the various facets. I am especially interested in the esoteric facet of the Craft and
would be most interested to talk to any brethren who share the same.

That's all for now, before I starts rambling on and on. Meanwhile, happy holidays to all!

— Bro. Roughesler

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

Image: The graphic is of the tartan Bro. Roughesler's lodge recently adopted.

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We all shine on: Chester Hall

Here is another essay in our ongoing series "This is Who I Am," where readers introduce themselves. Welcome, Bro. Hall.

My name is Chester Hall. I am a man at the age of 33 who came in under the sign of Leo and I have found this site very interesting in my young Masonic career.

I realize that I am a brother to all that is, part of the universal life that vibrates through all things. By the way... I have been led by my master within to rise in the east and I am an E.A.F. in the International Co-Masonic Order Le Droit Humain mother Lodge of Amen-Ra #584, Orient of Milwaukee and member of the The Rosicrucian Order AMORC, Karnak chapter.

I am a husband and a father.

I am a soul that strives to stay in balance with the universe. I am a person who tries to find the deeper spiritual aspects of things. I am a individual with an open mind who is in search of like-minded human beings. I am a student in search of Truth, Wisdom, Understanding.

I am also a part-owner of a semi-pro football team in Milwaukee, WI and we strive to add to the community positive energy and aid when we can.

I am a human who strives to master the science of self-knowledge and if a Bro. has any problem with this post, please examine the reflection you are giving off. I try to find peace within myself so it can shine in the world. My five-cornered badge is still raised and I am still trying to reach the perfect lodge. I am realizing that I may know what I may know, but that does not mean that I know all there is to know about what I know! We still have more to learn. Like Sankofa... I am a soul trying to get back to the source of All Things. I am trying to become a M.M. or a divinized man, one in whom the universal and the personal consciousness has came into union.

I am a blazing star and my job is to serve the T.G.A.O.T.U.

"The Light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Darkness will disappear when the day (New Consciousness) dawns and the shadows (Old Mentality) flee away." — W.L. Wilmshurst, P.M. 275: Past Provincial Grand Registrar, West Yorks.

Best Wishes for Peace Profound.

— Bro. Chester Hall

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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God-free citizenship for naturalized aliens (and believers in aliens)

Earlier this month at the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, Nevada, several dozen new Americans took their oath of citizenship, just as I'm sure hundreds or thousands did across the country. Welcome to America, folks. Thanks for asking, seeking, and knocking before just jumping a fence and wading across the border uninvited when we weren't looking.

One man, a former Swiss national, so much wanted to follow the rules that he asked the government to modify the oath so that he could justify the oath with his conscience.

The U.S. government didn't just change it without a little pressure, in the form of a lawsuit Thomas Kaenzig filed in federal court against immigration officials, news sources reported.

Kaenzig doesn't believe in God, and thus he objected to the closing phrase of the oath, "So help me God."

He says he left Switzerland because of religious persecution. Kaenzig is a Raelian, and believes mankind was created not by God, but by a race of interstellar aliens.

Kaenzig is also a pacifist, and objected to being required to swear he would "bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law... [and] perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law."

Federal officials allowed Kaenzig to take the oath without the phrase "so help me God" and the phrases about military service.

Or at least, that's the "official" story as written by a Channel 8 CBS-affiliated reporter and approved by an editor, one or both of whom must either be intellectually lazy or have axes to grind with Raelians. I would imagine the story received a good deal of print and airtime throughout the CBS network, and provided many readers and viewers a few moments of grumbling about "atheist communist wacko cultists" or some such.

A quick look at the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 8, Volume 1 (Revised as of January 1, 2002), Chapter I, Part 337, Section 337.1 gives us a different take on the issue.

Subsection (a) gives us the oath as it is usually administered:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
Subsection (b) allows alterations and deletions.
When a petitioner or applicant for naturalization, by reason of religious training and belief (or individual interpretation thereof), or for other reasons of good conscience, cannot take the oath prescribed in paragraph (a) of this section with the words "on oath" and "so help me God" included, the words "and solemnly affirm" shall be substituted for the words "on oath," the words "so help me God" shall be deleted, and the oath shall be taken in such modified form. Any reference to 'oath of allegiance' in this chapter is understood to mean equally 'affirmation of allegiance' as described in this paragraph.
So we're left holding the question: Why was this news?

Obviously, since alterations have been allowed at least since 2002, and perhaps much further back (as I don't know what the 2002 revision of this particular law entailed), non-believers in God have taken this oath without the "so help me God" clause before.

I can find no references in the law that permit the clauses about military service to be deleted, but according to Ben's Guide to Government, these clauses are sometimes omitted.

So we're still left wondering would the story have been written at all had Kaenzig not been a Raelian?

I know that I wouldn't be writing this story had he not been.

And anyway, doesn't Jesus say in Matthew 5:33-35 that swearing is forbidden altogether? How can one swear on the Holy Bible when the Holy Bible itself says not to swear?

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

We all shine on: Byron Morgan

Bro. Byron Morgan writes to tell us about himself, in this installment of "This is Who I Am." Thanks, Bro. Byron!

I am Byron Morgan (AKA Odiekokee on forums and such), of Ecru, Mississippi (about 30 miles west of Tupelo, birthplace of Elvis). I've been a Mason for about a year, entered on Jan. 4th, 2007 and raised on March 15th (five days after I got married). I don't rightly remember the date I was passed, and if you like, I can look it up later.

My father is a Mason, as well as 32° in Scottish Rite. I haven't yet decided my path with the appendant bodies. I am a member of Mississippi's Pontotoc Lodge No. 81. I'm very active, being there nearly every time the doors open. I've only visited a few other lodges, all with other brothers from my home lodge, except one in Nashville, TN, a few weeks after receiving my 3°, and without having the forethought to ask some of the more experienced brothers what to expect.

I'm also a member of a small community church, which happens to be located in the building of a former lodge which has merged with Pontotoc. A good group of 20-30 folks usually, with an ex-hippie ex-skid row preacher. Hey, if he can be changed, anybody can.

My profession is a CAD Designer/Draftsman, as well as prototype machinist. It gives me opportunity for rigid mechanical designs, as well as fully artistic designs, and the ability to quickly see ideas become reality. Away from work, I read, paper and online, pretty much anything that comes along. I enjoy reading the BT blog, as well as a few others. I also spend a bit of time on the AR-15 forums, as that is one of my favorite hobbies.

I've read the BT for a good eight months now, and made a few, very few, comments, most of which are quickly passed over without much fanfare. That suits me I suppose. Just a drop of water against the mountain. In time, there may become a canyon. I've got a blog, but may as well not, as I don't have nearly so much interesting to say as Widow's Son, or a hundred others.

Beyond that... well, that's a whole different world. A story nobody would want to be bored with (me included!!).

I added a picture too, hope it won't break too many screens.

— Bro. Byron Morgan

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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Festivus for the rest of us

What with all this Christmas, Kwanza, Hannukah, and Winter Solstice partying going on, it's easy to forget today's holiday.

It's one of those holidays you can celebrate anytime you like, but being a purist, I always celebrate it on December 23.

I'm talking about Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.

You know the rituals, I'm sure, but in case you've forgotten, here they are.

Set out an Aluminum Pole. Serve a Festivus Meal of meat loaf or spaghetti with red sauce. As soon as the meal is served, begin the Airing of Grievances. As the Airings continue, move on to the final ritual, Feats of Strength.

And be on the lookout for your own Festivus Miracle.

Happy Holidaze, everyone!

— W.S.

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We all shine on: Movable Jewel

Here's another in our series "This is Who I Am" essay, submitted by my fellow blogger and good friend and brother.

Movable Jewel here.

While my real name is readily available, I prefer not to have it splashed here and there across the Internet in conjunction with my Masonic blogging, simply because there are enough folks out there who don’t like the Masons and I have no wish to encounter any more of them than I already have.

I am the Junior Warden Elect of St. John’s Lodge #2 AF&AM, in Middletown, Connecticut, and the Senior Warden Elect of the Connecticut Philosophic Lodge of Research.

I am also a member of the Philalethes Society and my Grand Lodge’s Committee on Masonic Education.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s Degree from Capella University. I work in Information Security and am a member of Infraguard, the partnership between the United States Government and the private sector. I have been at various times in my life a farrier, an amateur competitive bodybuilder, an avid horseperson, and a collector of anime cels.

I speak English, French, Japanese, Irish, and a smattering of a few other languages. I have my own blazon of arms (assumed), and am a former member of the American Heraldry Society (which I hope to get back to), and a former member of the HTML Writers Guild.

I’m fascinated by computer technology and am largely self-taught in C and in Perl. I’ve also written HTA’s for my employers and MS Office macros to increase efficiency and productivity. I also hold an A+ and Windows 2000 MCSE. I remain fascinated by computer security, but my special love is Artificial Intelligence. One of my favorite books is Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. I hope one day to write my own expert system, having already tackled Cipher Saber, just to prove to myself that I could do it.

I came to Freemasonry through the college Greek Letter societies. I was in a fraternity in college, and when my father died in my junior year, my Brothers were instrumental in helping me keep me stable and finishing my undergraduate degree. I believe that Freemasonry offers that same support network on a much larger scale.

I would have become a Freemason years ago, if I had known one to ask. I regard the night I was raised as one of the highlights of my life. To date, I can honestly say that I have not met a Freemason that I would not trust alone with my wife. Yes, I am happily married. The day I married my wife is THE highlight of my life. I am truly blessed to share my life with such a wonderful woman.

I consider myself a spiritual person. My religious convictions are my own, and they are deeply held. I have long said however, that religion is someone else’s experience of the Divine, mysticism is your personal experience of the Divine. By that definition, I am a mystic.

I believe that Freemasonry can serve as a moral force, and as a spiritual technology. By moral force, I do not mean that it is a monolithic institution which imposes its dictums on the unwilling, but that it can take each Freemason gently and slowly into a better person, with their assent. Rather like water can pierce stone one drop at a time. By spiritual technology, I mean that its teachings can be accepted by those of any religious persuasion and be used in conjunction with one’s religious convictions to reinforce the upright teachings in all of them.

I could say more, but you’ve probably become bored already. Suffice it to say that I wish all who read this that I am happy to accept you as you are, if you accept me as I am. If you cannot, then let us shake hands and part as friends.

I hope you all have a Happy and Safe Holiday Season and a Prosperous and Joyous New Year.

Stay tuned, or not, it’s up to you.

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

We all shine on: Mark Koltko-Rivera

Here's our second in a series "This is Who I Am" essay, submitted by a Burning Taper reader. Thanks, Bro. Mark!

I can understand why The Widow’s Son would be curious about who reads and perhaps comments on his blog. (Just remember, WS: you asked for this!)

I post here and there on various Masonic blogs under the name “mark.” I am Mark Koltko-Rivera, a 51-year-old native New Yorker who currently lives in Florida. Masonically, I was raised in Winter Park Lodge #239 F&AM, in central Florida. Next week, I am to be installed as this lodge’s Marshal. (Our lodge does not follow the custom that some lodges do, where the outgoing Worshipful Master becomes the Marshal; I have held no such office.) I am also to be installed as my local York Rite Commandery’s Junior Warden, and as my local Scottish Rite Valley’s Tyler.

Masonically, my greatest interest is in (a) Masonic education, of the “investigate-the-symbolism” variety, and (b) the friendship that I have found in Masonry. I am very pleased that the incoming Worshipful Master of my lodge has asked me to provide 20 minutes of Masonic Education at every Stated Communication. I feel that if this were a standard practice in every lodge in Masonry, we would see many benefits: (1) personal growth in Masonry, (2) greater dedication to Masonic ideals, (3) more attendance by the brethren.

I was raised poor on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (Kojak’s old precinct); I am bi-ethnic, Puerto Rican and Polish. (Long story there; let’s just say that this is one reason I value the fellowship of Masonry.)

I have a doctorate in psychology (NYU) and conduct psychological research under contract; I have also published a number of articles in academic journals, primarily on the psychology of worldviews (people’s assumptions about reality, and the effect of those assumptions). I also have a recent article on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, demonstrating that he added a stage beyond self-actualization: self-transcendence.

I also write Masonic literature for the LVX Publishing Company (visit us at My most recent work: the book Freemasonry: An Introduction, available through us or Amazon. I have a Masonic-oriented blog on MySpace.

I am active in my local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“the Mormons”), where I teach the adult Sunday School class. (We cover the Book of Revelation during the last 3 weeks of December.) I am a convert (during my college years at Haverford College, in Pennsylvania), served a mission in Japan (including 8 months in Hiroshima), and have served in two bishoprics (a position very roughly parallel to a lodge’s Junior Warden, but for several years) and on a high council (Masonic equivalent: the lower reaches of the Grand Line, kinda sorta—one does not, however, automatically advance to the Grand Gavel).

In terms of family, my wife and I have four grown children in various parts of the country, doing various productive things (investigations for an investment firm; editing a trade magazine; art college; liberal arts undergraduate study). My wife is entering her own doctoral program next year up north, so we will be relocating over the summer.

Hopes and dreams: There is so much to say here; I shall just mention a few bullet points:
  • I would like to help incorporate the idea of worldview into every aspect of psychology, as a theoretical and applied discipline. (For example: help use the notion that different people have different assumptions about life to help facilitate conflict resolution, peace psychology, counseling and psychotherapy.)
  • I would like to help spread the idea that Masonic Education (again, of the ponder-and-investigate-the-symbolism variety) should be central to Masonic meetings, at the lodge/district/Grand Lodge levels.
Ideas I try to live by:
  • Your purpose in life is to change the world.
  • You have a mission in life: find it and work on it. Working on it IS accomplishing it.
  • Remember Churchill’s advice: “Never give up. Never, never, never, NEVER give up.”
  • It is better to aim for the stars, even if you only hit the mountaintops. You have then reached the mountaintops!
  • Every person you meet—including every homeless person, every drunken derelict passed out in the street, every barefoot child living in poverty—every person you meet is a god in embryo.
  • You have less time than you think—certainly less than you will want to have.
  • In regards to all the above: “Take due notice thereof and govern yourself accordingly.”

— Bro. Mark Koltko-Rivera

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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We all shine on: Key of C

This is the first of what I hope will be many "This is Who I Am" posts by the Taper's Neighbors. Our first reader to step up to the microphone to say hello is Key of C. Thanks for breaking the ice and going first.

Let's give a warm welcome and a round of applause to this new brother.

I just returned from my lodge. This evening a group of us visited 4 older Brothers to bring holiday greetings.

So I decided to read The Taper, and I thought why not respond to your request and send an email.

I've never posted before so why not start now.

I was initiated in April into the Craft and raised in October. I'm a musician and music teacher, and was just installed as Organist in my lodge-making the first full officer line in longer than anyone can remember.

They had me play for the installation, but ironically I was the only one who didn't have any music since I couldn't play and be conducted to my station at the same time.

We have some interesting things going on this upcoming year, in the spring we and a lodge from Ohio are getting together in Gettysburg to do an outdoor Master Mason degree-we're all really looking forward to that one.

Being new to Freemasonry I've been reading a lot and enjoying most of the blogs I've found, who knows maybe I'll start writing soon too.

Oh and I just registered as a Republican last week so I can vote for Ron Paul in the primary.

— Key of C

To submit your own "This is Who I Am" essay, read this.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hey, Mars! Duck!

The Super Bowl won't be the only thing worth watching about a month from now.

There's a chance that Mars, our neighbor to the, uh, er, out that way, may get clobbered with a giant asteroid on January 30, NASA announced recently.

Asteroid 2007 WD5, discovered last month between Earth and Mars, has a 1 in 75 (and fall-ing) chance of stirring up quite a bit of Red Dust. If it does make impact, it will probably leave a crater similar in size to Meteor Crater in Arizona. That's big. Really big. How big? According to the Wik, Meteor Crater "is about 1,200 m (4,000 ft) in diameter, some 170 m deep (570 ft), and is surrounded by a rim that rises 45 m (150 ft) above the surrounding plains. The center of the crater is filled with 210-240 m (700-800 ft) of rubble lying above crater bedrock." That's how big.

And, please... don't emigrate to the Red Planet to start a new lodge and then have your sons become Martian Masons, because, as you know, Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids.

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Happy Holidaze from Mary and the Widow's Son

Mary and the Widow's Son wish you and yours a superduper happy and healthy holidaze!

Knock back some eggnog (but avoid drinking the Kool-Aid) and let's go dancing!

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We all shine on

Lately there's usually a Beatles (as a band or individually) song playing on my stereo or in my head. (Perhaps that will give you an indication of what I was thinking while writing the last few paragraphs of a previous oddly-titled article.)

Today the song stuck in my head is John Lennon's Instant Karma, which is kind of apt considering how quickly things spun out of control here a few days ago.

A line from that song prompted me to add the "We all shine on" subtitle under the masthead. How long I keep it there is anyone's guess.

There are many of you who regularly post here, and judging from my statistics program, thousands who regularly read this blog.

Who are you?

For a while, I'd like to turn this blog into a sort of face book, and post your articles about yourself.

Are you a Mason? Where are you from? Are you active in your lodge, your church, your community, in clubs, online? What are your interests, your passions, your likes and dislikes? What kind of work do you do? What kind of things do you do for fun? What are your goals and your dreams?

Every man and woman is a star, as Aleister Crowley wrote. And we all shine on and on and on and on, as John Lennon sang.

Email me a "This is Who I Am" essay. Talk about yourself, not someone else. Please don't use this opportunity as a soapbox to denigrate another person, or an organization, but instead let us get to know you. Share as much or as little as you like. You can give your real name, or use your screen name. Send me a photo of yourself, or use an avatar. Let us know the You that you want us to know.

Pitch your or your lodge's projects. Include links to non-commercial sites you're involved with or that you've found useful. Tell us about your own blogs or websites.

We're all brothers and sisters here, whether you're a Mason or not. Some people call this an "online community." So come on, neighbor, introduce yourself.

I'll post your essays and photos/avatars here as articles as soon as I start receiving them. Who knows? I might even post my real name here one day.

You don't have to be a Mason to join in on this project. Come one, come all. Shine on. This is a great time for those of you who've never posted comments here before to show us your Light and tell us about your Point within the Circle.

[I suppose a disclaimer is necessary. By submitting your essay, on your honor as a human being, and of your own free will and accord, you avow, promise and pinky-swear that the information you give is about yourself and not another, that you have the right to use the avatar or photo you send, that you agree that the material may be published on this blog, and that you will hold faultless and blameless The Widow's Son and The Burning Taper for anything and everything forever and ever that may arise out of you having voluntarily submitted it.]

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No horse, no wife, no mustache

I'd like to personally and publicly thank my friend Grouchogandhi for creating the new Square and Compasses with Lady Liberty's Torch graphic for the bannerhead of The Burning Taper yesterday. I think he's incredibly talented with conceptual visualization and a whiz at PhotoShop. I'm proud to have known him since the Reagan years.

He has a remarkably twisted sense of wit and humor, and an amazing depth of knowledge on the most obscure and bizarre things, including state, national and international politics, and he knows enough about techno-whizbangs to be dangerous. He constantly keeps me on my toes cerebrally, challenging me at every twist and turn.

Regarding my recent endorsement of Ron Paul's candidacy, the first thing he said to me was, "So what's up with them tying his campaign to the Hindenburg?"

In July, 2006 I wrote here about his 30 inches of Dick in the article "Who has the biggest Dick?" That page is still one of the most read stories on the Taper, getting dozens of hits each day. A challenger stepped up and topped him at 46 inches, but such are the ups and downs of life. Recently someone claimed 70 inches, but he was later discovered to have padded his Dick with non-Dick material.

Of my being a Mason and publishing the Taper, he says, "One day they'll hang you from a bridge."

So raise up in toast
Your glass of Maker's Mark,
Go rightly to his sites
And view his scanner dark.

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