Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mama, we're all crazy now

These days sometimes I can't tell the difference between fake news and satire and real news. It's a strange world, as Jeffrey Beaumont said to Sandy Williams in Blue Velvet.

I think the Times Online is a real news outlet, and not the British version of The Onion. But with stories like these, who knows?
  • Local Catholics in the Italian town where Pope Benedict XVI is vacationing are miffed at a new museum piece showing a bizarre Kermit the Frog lookalike hanging on a crucifix, calling it a "public obscenity." It depicts a bright green frog with its tongue hanging out, nailed to a cross, with a beer mug in one outstretched hand and an egg in the other.

  • A liberal bishop from Sri Lanka suggested to his colleagues at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican church leaders that they should take the afternoon off to settle their theological differences about the ordination of gay priest over a game of cricket.

  • The mayor of Capo d’Orlando, Sicily today took a hammer to a street sign bearing the name of Giuseppe Garibaldi, calling the revolutionary hero who led the struggle to unify Italy a "a ferocious murderer in the service of Freemasonry and the British."

  • The Vatican has erected an inflatable church on the beach in Cagliari, Sardinia, saying it was the "next logical step" after providing places of "spiritual comfort" at gas stations, nightclubs and seaside resorts. "It will prove its worth as an investment," said Father Andrea Brugnoli, the genius behind the idea. "Some say the next step will be inflatable Christians."
In a strange way, it's nice to know that Europeans are as certifiably crazy as we Americans are.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Late Bro. Theron Dunn's family needs assistance

Shortly after The Burning Taper was locked down last month by Blogger for testing false positive for spammage, I received the following email from Bro. Manny Blanco. I told him I would post it as soon as The Taper was unlocked. I'm now posting it below in its entirety.
Dear Widow's Son,

I received the following from the Worshipful Master of our Lodge. Is there a possibility of having it posted on your web sites? Thanks in advance....

Manny Blanco, PM

Worshipful Brothers: The late Brother Theron Dunn's family are having difficulty finding the Insurance our Brother thought to exist. A fund has been set up to assist the family in funeral and other expenses in the coming months. I am asking that each of our Lodges ascertain if there is a donation that can be made to the following fund:

This fund was set up by Theron's brother, James, for the purpose:

Theron Dunn Memorial Fund
Washington Mutual Bank
All checks should be payable to "Barbara Dunn"
22882 Giant Fir Place
Canyon Lake, CA 92587

Thanks so much for consideration.

Magic Happens... if you do something!!!
Sincerely & Fraternally,

John Cover Spear, PM
Master of Moreno Valley Lodge 804
Royal Patron of Mission Bell Court 156, Order of the Amaranth
Grand Lodge Long Range Planning Committee Member
Theron Dunn was a prolific and often contentious Masonic writer, blogger and forum participant who passed away in May after a brief illness. His premature departure has left a void among those who agreed with him and those who disagreed with his intractable positions and beliefs. He is and will continue to be missed.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Theology on tap: I'll drink to that

It's been said that everything becomes its opposite.

Masonic lodges began in taverns, and now many Masonic jurisdictions, especially in the South, frown on or ban alcoholic consumption anywhere near a lodge building. These rules crept in because of teetotaling "religious" men, primarily Baptists and Methodists, taking charge of various grand lodges. The Southern Baptist Convention even called for a new Prohibition back in 2006.

Its refreshing to know that other Christian denominations don't have that same alcohol prohibition mentality.

At least one church has begun holding meetings — religious discussion groups — in a tavern.

Our Shepherd Lutheran Church of Severna Park, Maryland, started "Theology on Tap" last January, where they talk about religious topics and drink.

They've been meeting at Ellie's Place in Millersville in a private room where they discuss subjects like creation vs. evolution or how to live according to one's faith in the workplace, according to Baltimore's Channel 13 website.

I'll drink to that.

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Baptist minister fleeces flock with fraudulent mortgages

Many Christians are fond of the metaphor of a good shepherd tending his flock.

It seems the flock at Ardmore Terrace Baptist Church in Frayser, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis, got a good shearing and fleecing recently.

The pastor of the church, Rev. Steve Young, was indicted for scheming to defraud mortgage companies by using the names and credit of members of his congregation to secure mortgages, forging their signatures onto closing documents, according to a Memphis-based news website.

Young's bail was revoked on Thursday and he was returned to jail on fears that he would continue his alleged swindles while free on bond. The Tennessee Baptist Convention's website still lists Young as pastor of the Ardmore Terrace Baptist church.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

'I will not wrong, cheat or defraud...': Internal Shrine report finds conflict of interest, ethics violations

The New York Times reported on Friday that a 23-page internal report issued by a committee formed by the joint boards of the Shriners of North America fraternal organization and the Shriners Hospitals for Children found that Bro. Ralph Semb, chairman of the Shriners Hospitals Board of Trustees, and Bro. Gene Bracewell, the Imperial Treasurer of the fraternal Shriner organization, violated both organizations' conflict of interest policies as well as their ethics codes and recommended that they be "reprimanded."

The committee's recommendation was ignored. No punitive action was taken against Semb or Bracewell, both of whom deny any wrongdoing.

Bro. Bernard J. Lemieux, a medical doctor, who headed the joint boards at the time the investigative panel was formed, defended the boards' decision not to punish Semb and Bracewell. He said in an email messages the boards had concluded no reprimand "was warranted or necessary."

The Shriners Hospital board controls an eight billion dollar ($8,000,000,000) endowment.

A fundraising program which operated from 1999 to 2003 netted $46.2 million. Of that amount, only $2.5 million made it to the hospitals.

Investigations as far back as the 1980's have shown that only two to 25 percent of all that spare change you toss into the buckets at intersections manned by fez-headed Masons makes it to the children's hospitals. It seems someone else is pocketing all that cash. Who could it be?

The interim report said that a "comprehensive continuing investigation" was needed. The boards of the Shrine and its hospitals, which share members, voted to disband the panel before it had finished its investigations.

When Bro. Mahlon Hessey, one of the members of the investigating committee, tried to present the committee's findings at the annual Shrine meeting last month in St. Louis, he was booed and heckled off the stage. Some Masons picked to be on the committee when it was formed refused to accept the appointment due to fear of reprisals by those being investigated.

Read the "Interim Report of the Special Investigative Committee of the Joint Boards of Shriners Hospitals for Children."

The collected works of Sandy Frost over the past two years helped lead to the recent article by NY Times reporter Stephanie Strom.

Image 1: Bernard J. Lemieux, immediate Past Potentate of the Shrine and past chairman of the board of trustees of the Shiners Hospitals

Image 2: Ralph Semb, chairman of the Shriners Hospitals Board of Trustees

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Widow's Son returns from solar worship pilgrimage in the East

So wouldn't you know it, after 23 days of exile, Blogger unlocked The Burning Taper the very day I was leaving on my yearly pilgrimage eastward to the Grand Strand to worship the Sun....

I'm back — tanned and well-rested in body and mind.

Whether it's the ocean, the mountains, a round of golf along rolling hills, or a simple picnic in the local park, nothing eases the stresses of everyday life like spending time experiencing Mother Nature.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blogger unlocks The Burning Taper

Twenty-three days ago, Google/Blogger locked me out of this blog because their robots determined The Burning Taper "might be a spam blog."

Without notification or apology, or ever once responding to my many attempts to contact them, Blogger unlocked the blog today, thus fulfilling the Law of Fives (23 = 2 + 3 = 5).

During those 23 days, I experimented with using two different versions of Wordpress blogging software. While I found good aspects to both versions, I found they both had limitations, and I spent more time tweaking code and "the look" than I did writing and publishing content. Maybe you can't teach old dogs new tricks, or something, but I found both versions a bit clunky and difficult to use for "blogging on the fly," perhaps simply because I've been using Blogger for so long that I know where all the buttons are.

So for now, I'm returning to blogging here on the original Burning Taper, hosted by Blogger. Maybe I should create a t-shirt that says "I Survived the Blogger Lockout." I'll probably be regularly backing up this blog on the "in exile" version I've worked on this past month.

So, if I still have any readers left, I'm back, and hopefully will get back to writing instead of pretending to be a php and css genius, which I'm not.

Look for The Taper to resume "normality" (Ha! Normal?) within a week or so, if I find I still have something to say.

Thanks for reading!

— W.S.

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