Archive for May, 2011

You’ve already got ’em

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I was in Tesco’s yesterday, queueing at the only belt checkout open. In front of me was a very good looking young Afro-Caribbean man. Most of his groceries were already on the belt. He turned to me and said, “You go ahead, I have to get buns.”

As he turned around, I saw that his butt, poking out of the top of his jeans and barely covered by his Calvins, was quite shapely and was the type that has been described as “a butt you could rest a pint glass on.” I thought to myself, “You’ve already got ’em.”

Shopping at Tesco is usually teejus in the extreme; not yesterday.

Today’s Coulrophobic URL

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

You may not know what coulrophobia is. However, a woman getting off a trolley in Boston has good reason to have it.

Today’s joke, thanks to Grandmère Mimi

Friday, May 27th, 2011

A minister was completing a temperance sermon. With great emphasis he said, “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.”

With even greater emphasis he said, ” And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.”

And then finally, shaking his fist in the air, he said, ” And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I’d take it and pour it into the river.”

Sermon complete, he sat down.

The song leader stood very cautiously and announced with a smile, nearly laughing: “For our closing song, Let us sing Hymn #365, ‘Shall We Gather at the River.'”

There will always be an England, Equine Department

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Debbie Murden rides her carriage pulled by Dago the Welsh cob stallion on highways, and often stops along the way for a bite to eat. However, a McDonald’s in Darbyshire says that it is too dangerous to serve her and refused to let her use the drive-up window.

She got her meal, but instead of 2 all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame-seed bun, she got the Colonel’s best. The KFC across the street was happy to serve her. McDonald’s has refused to comment.

Perhaps McDonald’s should get Mayor McCheese to clarify the ordinances about horses and drive-up windows.

Secrecy and the election of bishops

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

There has been a lot of comment lately in the British press and media about secrecy. Injunctions against even reporting the fact that there is an injunction relating to the peccadillos of sporting or political (or even media) figures have been taken out, flouted, and rescinded in the face of the world’s scrutiny in Facebook and Twitter. The press has been full of stories bemoaning the loss of freedom of the press (which only applies to those who own one, as the adage says). The morality of a media figure, who is paid to expose the faults, failings, and future plans of politicians and public figures, taking out a so-called superinjunction to prevent the media reporting his name and the fact that he had an affair and thought that he had fathered a child from this affair has been questioned and ridiculed. The media figure (Andrew Marr, a BBC journalist and reporter who took over the prime Sunday morning interview slot from Sir David Frost when the latter decided to hang up his fangs) rescinded the superinjunction due to the pressure.

Yesterday, Andrew Brown writing in The Guardian newspaper revealed that the Very Rev’d Colin Slee, late Dean of Southwark, had written a memorandum before he died recounting some of the machinations behind the appointment of a new Bishop of Southwark. A disclaimer: Southwark is my diocese, the Cathedral is in the Deanery of which I am Lay Chair, and I work together in Diocesan Synod and Bishop’s Council with all the people from Southwark who were involved in this meeting.

The process for appointment to a vacant bishopric in the Church of England is open in parts, but the main event, the actual selection of two names to be forwarded to the Prime Minister, one of which will be passed to the Queen for announcement as the next bishop, is shrouded in secrecy. At the time of the meeting, when Stephen Bates reported on the leak of the Very Rev’d Jeffrey John’s name from the selection meeting, I blogged about the whole thing, and said that I expected more revelations. Well, they have now come, in spades.

One of the members of the Crown Appointments Commission, until his death from pancreatic cancer in November, was Colin Slee, elected to represent the Deans of Cathedrals on that commission. After the selection meeting took place, he was so upset that he wrote a memo about it, reportedly after he was diagnosed and knew that his condition was terminal. His daughter and widow are convinced that the stress of this meeting contributed to his rapid decline, and thus they, in conjunction with The Guardian, released the memo.

It paints an interesting picture of the meeting, held at the Royal Foundation of St. Katherine at Limehouse (in fact, I went to a meeting there last Saturday and we met in the same room in which the selection committee met). The two names that were proposed by the representatives of Southwark Diocese were Jeffrey John, currently Dean of St. Albans, and the Rev’d Nicholas Holtam, then Vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square, now Bishop-Designate of Salisbury. Jeffrey John is openly gay, and partnered, but chaste, and Holtam is married to a woman who contracted a marriage when quite young, then divorced, and then met and married him. At the time, this debarred Holtam from selection as a Bishop, although the rules have since been clarified.

Jeffrey John had been appointed Bishop of Reading in Oxford Diocese in 2003, but resigned that appointment before he was consecrated because of opposition from Evangelicals in that Diocese and elsewhere. He had at the time been Canon Theologian of Southwark, and a good friend of both Archbishop Rowan Williams and Dean Colin Slee. There was a huge amount of angst around his resignation, and many people were upset, not least John, his partner, Colin Slee, and the Rt Rev’d Tom Butler, then Bishop of Southwark.

The selection committee met in July, 2010, on the evening of a Diocesan Synod. I recall some of the members of the committee coming into Diocesan Synod late, and noting the strained smiles on their faces. Now I know why.

If you read Brown’s article, you will get all the sordid details of the bullying of the members of the selection committee by the Archbishops, including a visit by the Archbishop of York and several other members of the committee to the men’s room, after which the voting patterns changed. I wonder what they were up to in there.

But all of this is background to my main thesis: the process for selection of Bishops of the Church of England should be changed, and soon. The current process (where representatives of General Synod, representatives selected by the Diocese in question, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, meet in secret, sworn to secrecy, and choose two names for the Prime Minister) only works if the secrecy part works. The machinations accompanying the appointment can thus be as pleasant as can be, or acrimonious and threatening, as no one who was not at the meeting will know about it. There is no requirement for give-and-take if pressure and lobbying from various factions is conducted in secrecy. I find it odd that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is so puzzled and troubled by the apparent secrecy of Freemasonry, takes advantage of secrecy to bully and threaten people to vote his way when a bishop is selected.

My proposal is to provide the oxygen of publicity to the process. Let bishops be openly elected by Diocesan Synods, with confirmation by the other Dioceses of the Church of England, then the name submitted to the Queen for the formalities to be preserved.

The process would start, after the declaration of a Bishop that s/he (I am ever hopeful…) is about to retire, with the Vacancy in See committee drawing up a job description with advice from members of the Diocese, and then appointing a Nominations Committee to solicit candidates. A number of candidates would be proposed to a special meeting of Diocesan Synod, and after a dog-and-pony show, Diocesan Synod would elect the new Bishop. Once the election was held, Dioceses would be asked to confirm (or not) the election, and Bishops with jurisdiction would also be asked for their consent. A majority of Dioceses and Bishops would have to consent before the Bishop-elect could be consecrated.

Now I have been told again and again that the mechanisms by which the Episcopal Church governs itself are not in any way applicable to the Church of England. Usually, this comes in a very condescending manner, “Oh, dear, that would never work here.” Well, when I ask why it would never work here, I get no answer at all. The simple declaration that it would not work seems to be enough. There is a sneering tone that even Bishops take when commenting on how the Episcopal Church conducts its affairs, and I am starting to get quite annoyed about it. Bishop Tom was a great sneerer-in-chief when I would speak in meeting and at Diocesan Synod about items like stewardship in US Episcopal Churches. It’s really stupid and short-sighted not to rationally and impartially consider different ways of doing things in the Church.

When people do stoop to commenting on the election of bishops, the main objection seems to be that making the process political lowers the quality of bishops, since only those with political skills get elected. Well, my reaction is: Bushwah! The process now used here is as intensely political as it is in the Episcopal Church; the only difference is that the politics is limited to around 15 people, rather than an entire Church or a Diocese. The quality of Bishops can be as good here with elections as it is now, with selection committees. Elections in the US have produced poor Bishops in several cases. However, selection committees here have produced poor bishops in several cases as well, and seems to militate against outstanding bishops in many ways. Jeffrey John would be an outstanding bishop, but will never be selected while the current system is in place. And while I would hesitate to name those I consider to be poor at bishoping, those familiar with the Church of England will have their own favourite names for that category.

So dear Colin, who was an outstanding personality and a charismatic Dean, and someone who was not afraid in the least of controversy, continues to be controversial from the grave. I do not expect any comment from either Archbishop on these revelations. They will be profoundly embarrassing to everyone who cares, even a little bit, about the future of the Church in England. I hope, but do not expect, that this sordid story will at last move the Church to examine the process of selecting bishops and make changes to bring the light of day and democratic procedures to what is, in a Catholic but Reformed church, a most important post.

One post scriptum: this story will also profoundly affect the Diocese of Southwark and Bishop Christopher. Were I the Bishop, I would be very embarrassed and unnerved by hearing the news that the selection committee from the Diocese, with which I needed to work closely, thought that I was the third- or fourth-rate candidate, and had been bullied into selecting me. The Diocese will also be very upset by this news, but both Bishop Christopher and the Diocese ought to grapple with these facts in order to ensure that the Diocese continues to grow (we are growing!) and thrive.

Today’s Photo Advice Video

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I have been considering adding more profile photos. While I love the bow-tie photo and caricature, perhaps it’s getting a bit old and we need to freshen it up a bit.

This video shows that anyone, even me, can get a good profile picture out of whatever face Nature has blessed them with. Thanks to petapixel for the link.

Tracey Emin show at the Hayward Gallery

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

We decided to take a trip to Southbank to see the Tracey Emin show that opened this week at the Hayward Gallery, Love Is What You Want.

Now in the past I’ve been fairly cool to Emin. She is one of the so-called group of Young British Artists (YBAs) who took over the scene here in the UK in the 1980’s and 90’s. The Wikipedia article will tell you more than you probably wanted to know about her. The first exposure I had to her work was My Bed, the unmade bed she submitted for the Turner Prize in 1997. The bed, unmade, was covered and surrounded by various detritus from her life and loves, such as condoms and sanitary articles. She didn’t win, but My Bed made her reputation.

She is very well-educated as an artist, and her technique is exquisite when she paints in oil, for example. But much of her work is exhibiting found objects, quilts with words sewn on them, neons, some of which are texts, and some of which are portraits, and films. Her subject is herself. More than any other artist of whom I can think her works portray Tracey Emin in words, pictures, films, and found objects.

Every artist puts a lot of him or herself in their work. But Emin is totally self-portraying. You might think this is selfish, or short-sighted. For some artists it might have been so. But not with Emin. Her portrayal of herself is absorbing. You want to go around the corner to learn more about her. Yes, she is self-absorbed. But it is a self-absorption that is creative.

There is one 22-minute film in the exhibition where the camera and microphone follow Emin as she walks around the Euston area recalling her abortion. While it makes you cringe, at the end of it you have been able to crawl into Emin’s mind in a way that other artists don’t permit. Her mind turns out to be a strange mix of innocence and beauty with sordidness and filth. The female body (and to a much lesser extent, the penis) figure largely in her drawings and neons. She is a highly sexual woman and exposes that sexuality for everyone to see. Children should probably either be prepared for the exhibition (the birds and bees probably need to be explained pretty thoroughly) or left with their Granny.

There is a goodly amount of regret in the exhibition. I think that she regrets having abortions and some of the other choices she’s made in her life. However, she expresses this regret with eloquence and verity.

I want to go and see it again. There was one blanket with a religious theme that reduced me to tears. I need to go and see that again. If you are in London or within hailing distance of London, go and see it. An exhibition of this magnitude only comes along once a decide or so for every artist.

Some random thoughts for a Sunday evening

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

The Rapture, or perhaps, the absence of same, is now old news. The media, always happy to find eccentrics to quote, were on the story like white on rice. World to end on Saturday. Earthquakes at 6 pm local time all over the world. Mr. Camping will not schedule an interview for Sunday as “he will not be here”. Families who differ on whether there will be a rapture are split. Parents spend their children’s university money on advertisements.

Well, we’re all here. The Rapture didn’t happen. People who gave away (or, worse, euthanised) their pets are now petless. Family Radio, whose owner is Mr. Camping, was silent on the Rapture-less world today. They were singing hymns from the Family Radio Hymnal, available from their website.

Those of us who are rational Christians now are being lumped in with the Rapturists. This is bad news. Christianity is not about pie in the sky when you die. It’s not about Rapture, or trying to predict Rapture, or preparing for Rapture. It’s about living a life of charity and service to the world. It’s about committing yourself to make this world, where we live right now, a better place. It’s about being in communion with your fellow humans as God’s actors in the world. These last three sentences are my Christianity. They do not include people who delude others into believing that these people can predict the end of the world.

There was quite a lot of humour, satire, and just plain abuse on Twitter and Facebook over this weekend. I participated in some of that. But what I am really concerned about is the welfare of those who placed their trust in this misguided “prophet”. These people have been deluded, and now disappointed, by this “prophet”. They are the true victims of this, and my thoughts and prayers are with them today. If we all concentrate on making this world a better place, we’ll be doing something that we know will help people live better lives. Jesus came that we might have life, and have life abundantly. He did not come to ensure that we had the wit to deduce when we were all going to fly up to heaven.

UK political shenanigans are beginning to surface yet again this week.

  • A former minister in the Labour government has been jailed for a year and a half for fiddling his expenses. The judge explained that he would have imposed a harsher sentence except that the former member of Parliament pled guilty.
  • A current Cabinet minister is suspected of persuading his then-wife to take the rap for a speeding ticket, as he would have lost his license for a while had the ticket been laid at his door. (I’m relating this in US-centric language; here I would say that this Cabinet secretary had gotten his then-wife to take points on her driving license for speeding.) This is, of course, horribly illegal and the Cabinet minister is in danger of not only losing his job, but also his seat as an MP and his liberty, if the allegations are proven.
  • Various public figures who have obtained superinjunctions to prevent the media from revealing their names, the matter under litigation, or the mere fact that there is an injunction against them. This is quite foreign to my American sensibilities, as a request for such an injunction would be laughed out of even a justice of the peace’s court in the US. The law is evolving rapidly here, and the judges are not happy about it. Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge (yes, that’s right. Justice Judge) has been muttering that Twitter and the intarwebz are out of control. The names of those with superinjunctions have been revealed on Twitter, on Wikipedia, and in at least one case, in a British newspaper published in Scotland, and thus outside the jurisdiction of the English courts. This is all very interesting stuff, and it remains to be seen whether the courts can enforce an order on Twitter to disclose the identities of those who have Tweeted about the superinjunction people. I seriously doubt it.
  • The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke (one of the few survivors of the last Tory cabinet in the 1990’s), when speaking to an interviewer about sentencing policy, seemed to imply that some rape was less serious than other rapes. He claimed later on that he was speaking of the difference between statutory rape (where even if the young girl or boy tries to give consent they cannot do so legally and the other person has committed an offense) and “regular” rape, a crime of violence. Many women (and not a few men) were outraged at this, and have said so. He claims that he was misquoted and misconstrued, but it seems likely that he’s past his political prime and may be reshuffled out of the Cabinet later on. The Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, called for Clarke to be sacked at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday, thus securing Ken Clarke’s job for quite a while (until the public has forgotten that Miliband said anything, at least). The only thing that crossed my mind when I heard about it was, “What an idiot Clarke is!” He should pull his foot out of his mouth long enough to say, “I resign!”

The Queen visited the Republic of Ireland this week. She laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance for those killed during the Irish wars for independence from the UK. She gave one speech, which she began with a few words in Irish Gaelic, to the delight of the entire nation. She went on to say how sorry she was for wrongs committed by the British government in Ireland. The Sinn Fein mayor of Cork shook her hand and welcomed her to the city. She went to a stud farm (no, it was horses, all you with dirty minds. She’s 85, for goodness’ sake!). She seems to have charmed quite a few people in the Republic of Ireland, and this can only be a good thing. I don’t think she’ll be over there again anytime soon, as the security alone cost the Irish government quite a few million Euros. But the value of her visit is incalculable. At the Garden of Remembrance she not only laid a wreath, she bowed her head for a moment of silent reflection. The Queen has only once before bowed her head in public, when she bowed as the funeral cortege of Diana, Princess of Wales, passed Buckingham Palace on its way to Westminster. This is powerful stuff. When she bowed, she embodied the United Kingdom’s realisation that what happened in Ireland during Britain’s rule there often was wrong, immoral, and harmful to Irish people. It is hard to make amends to people long emigrated to the far corners of the globe, or who were killed in the Great Famine, or in the Troubles, but with one bow, the Queen has made it clear that as a nation, we are sorry beyond words for what our forebears did. It was a noble gesture. I am grateful that she made it in our names.

A newly-appointed flying bishop (AKA “Provincial Episcopal Visitor”, a bishop chartered to take care of congregations that are not happy to accept the ministry of women, or of bishops who support the ministry of women) resigned from the Freemasons this week before he is consecrated next month. There is a long history of suspicion of Freemasonry here in the United Kingdom, and especially in England. Secret societies are thought to conceal grotesque ceremonies and beliefs that are incompatible with Christianity. The odd fact is that Archbishop Williams, who is empowered to appoint flying bishops in the southern province of England, knew of this man’s membership in Freemasonry and, while “troubled” by it, did not require his resignation from the Craft. Once the bishop-designate was identified publicly as a Freemason, however, he resigned right away.

I confess here and now: I am a Freemason, and Master of my Lodge for a second consecutive year. There is nothing in either the secrets, the ritual, or the practice of Freemasonry which conflicts in any way with my Christian beliefs. Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1944 to 1961 and was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to meet a Pope in modern times (they now seem to have a season ticket to Rome and wander off there with great regularity), was also a Freemason, and was Grand Chaplain of the United Grand Lodge of England. While he was not a perfect Archbishop, he was on record as saying that it was “harmless fun”. I believe there’s a bit more to it, but as we define Freemasonry as “a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”, it is a good way of explaining how to be a good person in terms that people can understand and connect with. There is no question of preferring another Freemason over someone who is not initiated. Any Freemason who was a judge and who let another Freemason off in a court case would, if discovered, be removed from the Craft. The secrets, if you knew what they were, are trivial and have meaning only in context; the signs, grips, and words are not used outside of the Masonic temple.

The bishop-designate’s resignation, however, seems to imply that there is something incompatible with Christianity (or, for that matter, other faiths) in Freemasonry. There is not. I do wish he had stuck to his guns and refused to resign.

The Rapture doesn’t seem to have happened

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

The radio station associated with the man who has predicted today’s Rapture-fizzle is still broadcasting, and soliciting contributions. You’d think they’d not be concerned about where their money will come from, as we won’t be around tomorrow. Will we?

Today’s Little England URL

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Many Church of England incumbents (most famously, the late Very Rev’d Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark) have banned the singing of Blake’s Jerusalem in their churches. The ostensible reason is that it is not based on a firm religious foundation. Some people have tried to rehabilitate the tune by setting different words to it.

But that bastion of Little England Toryism, the Daily Mail, quotes a gay Tory MP as saying that if this continues, the only ceremonies at which Jerusalem will be sung are lesbian and gay same-sex civil partnerships.

That doesn’t bother me at all.

Today’s Equine URL

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

One might think that this link refers to Her Majesty’s visit to the Irish Stud (no, this is NOT Graham Norton). It does not. It refers to the man who was in a great hurry to get to Holyhead in Wales from Wrexham. He had a companion who wasn’t allowed on the train. There are pictures!

London Stabbie’s Wednesday Follies

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Yesterday Stabbie needed to take an Underground journey to Kenton, which is at the other end of the Bakerloo Line. Now Stabbie is a great believer in classless travel, and the days of 1st and 2nd class travel on the Tube are long gone. When a rather tall hunky bear got on and sat next to Stabbie, he was quite pleased, until he drew a breath. Mr. Tall Hunky Bear seems to have been in a pub only a few moments before boarding. And, in the interval between pub and Tube, he had been smoking. And, third but not least, he may have had difficulty in showering that morning. The odour was, well, overpowering. Stabbie being a very lucky guy, Mr. Tall Hunky Bear remained on the Tube and got off at Stabbie’s stop. Stabbie could, at last, draw an easy breath. What Stabbie would really have wanted to do is cut off this gentleman’s clothing and then puncture a very large balloon filled with warm water above him. Repeat until clean.

In the last two days Stabbie’s neighbours have been doing some remodelling. Stabbie does not believe this is sanctioned by his landlord, which is a Housing Association. They first moved all of their furniture into their back garden, and also discarded so much material that the trash area was inundated. They then tore up their carpets, and started drilling and hammering. This has not improved Stabbie’s days. The trash was collected on Monday, and by Tuesday evening the bins and the trash area were awash again. Some of the trash is hazardous material such as paint cans.

Now these neighbours have only once before been a nuisance (the loud 3AM party around 5 or 6 years ago was not pleasant), and Stabbie is sure that the banging, hammering, and drilling will stop soon. Stabbie would like to help that process along—he thinks that perhaps taking his stiletto and perforating the wooden floor might help a bit. Perforating the workmen might be a bit much, but he’d consider it.

This morning Stabbie was sleeping relatively peacefully when the fire alarm went off at 3:30 am. There was no fire in Stabbie’s flat, so since Stabbie is the only person in the block who knows how to reset the alarm he went into the hallway to do that. The display said that the alarm was caused by something in a flat above ours. Stabbie shut off and reset the alarm, and tried to go back to sleep. No dice.

Stabbie takes medication that ensures restless sleep and vivid dreams. So being awakened at 3:30 am can mean not falling asleep again for a couple of hours.

Now Stabbie realises that fire alarms are necessary. Stabbie realises that cooking is necessary. Stabbie even realises that cooking at 3:30 am in a flat where the occupant has nailed the windows shut and kept the heat on could be necessary. But Stabbie thinks that cooking things that smoke at 3:30 am is probably not a good activity. Stabbie would like to forestall the necessity of being awakened at that hour, so perhaps somewhat forecefully encouraging his neighbour on the third floor to eat a raw meal at 3:30 am would help.

Installing an old printer

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I have been having difficulty installing an old HP Laserjet 4P printer on my computers here. The old Dell computer does not have a parallel port, so I tried several things. An HP printer server never worked right. A parallel to USB cable also never worked right. A Bluetooth adapter for a parallel port worked, but it made it difficult if not impossible to install the printer onto the computer. When I asked Bluetooth to find the printer, it reported the printer’s name as “UNKNOWUNKNOW”. Whatever I did, I couldn’t get it to find the printer as “HP Laserjet 4P”. Of course, the disks I had to install it were 3-1/2″ floppies, and I have no easy way to load them onto the computer.

So, step 1 was to swear a lot. Step 2 was to download the Windows 7 drivers from the HP website. Step 3 was to try to get the driver installer to find those drivers. Uh-uh. No dice. Nada. Nihil. Rien.

Step 4 was: repeat Step 1.

I then had a brainwave. Step 5: I edited the .inf file, deleted all the references to printers in the first part of the file except for the Laserjet 4P reference. I changed the name of this reference to “UNKNOWUNKNOW” and saved the file. I then right-clicked on the printer in the Bluetooth window, chose “Properties”, highlighted “UNKNOWUNKNOW” and chose “Properties” at the lower right hand corner, then “Change Settings” on the window that opened. This allowed me to update the driver, and when prompted I chose the .inf file. It then found the right driver from the file and installed it. I changed the name of the printer to “HP Laserjet 4P” and printed a test page. Voilá! There it was.

Now I’ve fallen somewhat behind on hardware. The days in the mid-1980’s when I had to manually plug memory chips into a circuit board are long gone. Putting together my own computer is now quite difficult; my current computer was put together by our friend BK in Singapore and I don’t believe I could do it now, at least not easily. But I’m grateful that I’m a software tester at heart, and able to keep plugging away at a problem until I’ve cracked it.

Why would I want an ancient Laserjet on my system? It’s very easy to feed envelopes into it, that’s why. To feed envelopes into the Photosmart I have to take out the tray, remove the paper, put in one envelope, close it up again, and print. The Laserjet has a slot in the front and a switch at the back which allows an envelope to pass through flat. It also works quite well for sheets of laser labels, which should not be allowed to bend in the printer as labels can become detached and end up on the laser drum.

I feel very accomplished. Next step: get the Photosmart’s scanner to pass through the firewall.

From Twitter 05-14-2011

Sunday, May 15th, 2011
  • 07:39:48: Love those hunky Texas lads… RT DentonPolice: 05/13/2011 23:44 | 17 yo | EXPIRED INSPECTION STICKER
  • 07:52:44: David looks like a dueller; cute scar… RT DentonPolice: 05/13/2011 23:48 | 23 yo | NO DRIVERS LICENSE
  • 23:20:33: Very sad to read that Fr. John McGuire, a classmate from Dunwoodie, died in March. He was a great guy, always wanting to make you smile. RIP

Tweets copied by

The fishermen’s lobby has triumphed, yet again!

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

In the 1960’s, when the rest of United States Roman Catholics were enjoying the liberty to mark Friday penance in their own way, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston were still required to abstain from meat on Fridays, as Richard Cardinal Cushing’s ear had been bent by the fishing lobby in Massachusetts.

Now we hear the news that Roman Catholics in England and Wales will be required to abstain from meat on Fridays from September this year. The bishops have helpfully specified that vegetarians and vegans may abstain from some other food that they enjoy.

I presume that the usual Thursday and Friday menus in rectories starting in September will be the same as it was when I was a kid. Thursday was Prime Rib night for the Reverend Fathers, and Friday was Lobster night. Penance is such a privation.

One presumes that this edict will be followed by all English and Welsh Roman Catholics with the same assiduity as they follow the rules on artificial contraception and attending the Eucharist on Sundays.

Paddy was in a swank restaurant on a Friday evening. When he looked at the menu, he called the waiter over and said, “I’ll have a shark steak, rare.” The waiter replied, “Sir, we don’t serve shark steak here.” Paddy said, “Well, God knows, I asked for fish. I’ll have a prime rib, medium rare.”

A video to break your heart

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

One of the hallmarks of many segments of gay male culture is a hankering after youth. Gay male magazines and websites features photos of men described as teen boiz, and, to be frank, being out, proud, and a teenager is a great thing. I wish that I had been able to have been out and proud as a teenager; instead, it took me 14 more years before I identified publicly as a gay man.

We are lucky in these days to be living in a society where, in many places, it is possible for teenagers to openly identify as gay or lesbian, or transgender, or even just questioning. I do not doubt that in fifty years’ time these attitudes will not only be the prevalent ones in our society, but will result in adults who are better adjusted, better able to not only tolerate (which implies disapproval) but also accept those who are different from them, without being threatened.

There is a catch, however. Sexualisation of children and young people is a problem in modern society. Training bras for the 8-year-old girl, or an 8-year-old boy in England who brags that he has just become a father, are profoundly disturbing. Sexualisation sometimes means that older people feel that they can take advantage of young people in ways that rob the young people of their childhoods.

In Western society, this often takes the form of sexual abuse in a home or closed setting. Child prostitution here seems to be (I may be wrong) less common in our relatively more affluent society.

In countries like Thailand, however, children often are obligated by the economic circumstances of their families or the fact that they have become homeless and without a family at all to offer themselves as sex workers. Tourists are often the “beneficiaries” of this activity, which would earn them lengthy jail terms in their own countries if they practiced them there. But the victims of all this are the children themselves, who, while offering themselves willingly as rent boys and prostitutes, are forced to do so by economic deprivation and the lure of an income from rich adults.

The video I’m embedding below features interviews with boys who are sex workers in Thailand. At least one is as young as 11, while the oldest one is 17 or so. Watching it was an emotional experience for me. When one of the boys is asked where his mother is, he replies that she died in a car accident. The interviewer then asked whether he missed her, and this boy, who is supporting himself on the street by having sex with men, breaks down and cries, wiping the tears from his eyes. You will be hard pressed not to wipe tears from your own eyes while watching this.

I do not have objections to sex work. Provided that those who perform sex work do so freely and willingly, using safer-sex techniques, with a living wage which they themselves keep and use to support themselves and their families, and provided that sex work is legal in their location and that they are of a legal age to have sex, I would be happy for it to go on. However, the children in this video are mostly not of legal age, sex work is not legal in Thailand under these conditions, and they have been robbed of their childhood by economic and personal circumstances beyond their control. There is also no guarantee that they will always use safer-sex techniques, since it is well-documented that when offered more money to have unsafe sex, sex workers often accept.

In addition, there is no indication that these boys are gay. The oldest one produces a picture of his girlfriend in his home town. The others are probably too young to even think of having a girlfriend or boyfriend.

The measure of the success of such a video is whether people are galvanised to do something about the problem it presents. I do not know what I can do about it, other than keep these children in my thoughts and prayers. There may be charities that specialise in working with boy sex workers in Thailand; if so, I shall try to find one and make a donation.

What it should do, if it were to reach the right eyes and ears, is make those who travel to places like Thailand expressly to have sex with underage boys think again about what their patronage is doing to these boys emotionally. What kind of damage are they inflicting on these children?

My friend, the late Sr. Brooke Bushong, CA, worked for a children’s charity in New York for a time. The charity worked with homeless teenagers, and was later seriously damaged by the activities of its founder and head, who had been having sex with some of his clients. Brooke said to me that instead of having sex with adults, the children needed to come to their sexual awakening with people their own age, and at the proper time in their development. The children in this video may emerge from their childhood and have a happy adulthood; I hope and pray that this is the case. The signs of that are not promising, however.

From Twitter 05-13-2011

Saturday, May 14th, 2011
  • 21:54:31: RT @dalelazarovXXX: #Competition! Retweet this and win nothing but my thanks and admiration! ( #gay #NSFW )
  • 23:04:34: RT @soveren: nothing on tv bleah << Lady Gaga on Graham Norton right now…

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Today’s Commercial

Friday, May 13th, 2011

For those in other parts of the world, Tums is an antacid “candy” that comes in rolls or bottles. This advertisement should make you all do double-takes. Thanks to for the reference.

From Twitter 05-12-2011

Friday, May 13th, 2011
  • 17:59:03: Good afternoon, all. Quiet day today after a great Lodge meeting last night. Archdeaconry Service this evening. Friday the 13th looms!

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Today’s Creepy Video

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

I am certain that I will wake up screaming tonight, thinking of this video.

Today’s humour…

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

  • I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
  • Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on the list.
  • If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
  • We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
  • War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’, and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; To steal from many is research.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.
  • A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
  • Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says “In an emergency, notify:” I put “DOCTOR”.
  • I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
  • Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  • A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  • Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  • I discovered I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  • I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lime, and a shot of tequila.
  • You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
  • A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

From Twitter 05-09-2011

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

  • 13:43:50: Good afternoon, all! Hope you all had a good weekend. Congrats to Aljunied GRC, Hougang SMC, and Singapore.
  • 22:58:54: RT @MartinFaulks: Boxing , boxing and more boxing < < I thought Boxing Day was in December. Who knew?
  • 23:04:28: Kevin’s cute… RT DentonPolice: 05/09/2011 16:19 | 24 yo | TDCJ/PAROLE VIOLATION
  • 23:05:54: Kenny’s jug handles are like the Prince of Wales’… DentonPolice: 05/09/2011 15:40 | 31 yo | FMFR | NO DRIVERS LI

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Today’s Rock URL

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

The Beatles had an iconic album cover toward the end of their career—they were all crossing the zebra crossing at Abbey Road in front of the studios where they recorded most of their music. Tourists (including my own brother) go to Abbey Road and have their pictures taken crossing at that spot. Well, even if you’ve never been to London you too can now watch tourists congregating on either side of the road, then crossing in groups of four, stopping the traffic while they have pictures taken. For there is now a webcam trained on that zebra crossing. Thanks to Ron’s Log for the tipoff.

From Twitter 05-06-2011

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

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Today’s Coming-Out URL

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Brandon is a soccer player at Adelphi University. He’s gay. He wrote his coming-out story for Outsports; I didn’t finish reading it with dry eyes and I hope you won’t either.

From Twitter 05-02-2011

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
  • 00:04:30: RT @BubblePOPPA: The greatest aspects of MY #life began when I learned to KEEP those that bring me down #OUT of the picture! &lt;&lt; Right on!
  • 23:38:05: Night, all.

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A rude awakening

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

I remember, back in 1978, a friend telling me that, on the morning that Pope John Paul I died, he awoke to see the Pope’s body on a bier on TV and his first thought was, “Why are they rerunning Pope Paul’s funeral?”

Waking up to breaking news is always jolting. So, when the alarm went off at 6:57am and the BBC Radio4 Today program announced the news that Osama bin Laden was dead, killed by an American military action in Pakistan, I was duly jolted.

Just as we will all remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11th, 2001, I think that we will remember today as the day on which the battle against al Qaida entered a new chapter.

I am, of course, happy that bin Laden is now beyond causing any harm on his own account to anyone in the world. My religious beliefs hold that bin Laden is now being judged by a higher authority than any earthly tribunal. But what will now follow from his death?

First, I believe that Western relations with Pakistan, especially US relations, will be deeply affected by this action. While that was inevitable in an operation of this kind, the support of Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan is absolutely necessary and this incursion will, inevitably, embarrass the Pakistanis and that loss of face will make it difficult for the Pakistani government to continue supporting the armed forces in Afghanistan. However, there will be enormous private relief in the government of Pakistan that bin Laden is no longer resident there and that this thorn in their side is now removed. Publicly they will not be able to express that relief, and they may try to rattle a few sabres in America’s direction, but they will not carry it to any great extent. A TV pundit has just said on BBC news that he believes that the Pakistani government was informed of the operation beforehand. but I think that if it had been informed, there would have been the danger that bin Laden would have been warned by people in the government that the operation was pending and would have moved elsewhere.

Second, it is clear now that al Qaida was no longer under any but nominal command and control from bin Laden. His compound lacked telephone and internet connections to the outside world. Messages may have been passed between him and al Qaida operatives but any minute-by-minute control of terrorist activity would have been impossible. Bin Laden must have been living in seclusion, in fear for his life, and spending each day worrying about his future. Good, I say. His last moments must have been filled with the same terror that he inflicted on others and that is some small recompense for those who suffered and died through his actions.

Third, President Obama should rise in the esteem of the American people through this. The last few days have seen coverage of Obama’s appearance at the Washington press corps’ dinner and “roast”, where his speech was funny, pointed, and effective. How much more we can admire his performance, as he must have known that this operation was about to take place. Only someone with certain knowledge of the future would have been free of doubt, worry, and apprehension lest the operation fail. Yet the President was cool, calm, collected, and able to deliver a speech full of humour without disclosing any inner worry. Had this operation ended in failure, Obama might have been destined to share the fate of President Carter, who authorised the incursion into Iran to try to rescue the US embassy hostages and then had to carry the blame for its result.

This will pose a dilemma for the Republicans. They will not be able to oppose the President effectively for quite a while. They will emphasize (rightly) the bravery of the soldiers who carried out the operation, while minimising the involvement of the President. As the 2012 election approaches, the American people will remember that President Obama authorised and motivated this operation and, I hope, will return him for a second term. The President must, however, not rely on this one operation to re-elect him. He must continue on the course he has charted.

Finally, bin Laden’s death will inspire plots from isolated terrorists to in some way revenge themselves on those who are responsible for bin Laden’s death. This will mean increased security around transport hubs and especially around airports. To my knowledge, no organisations that might be expected to be dismayed by bin Laden’s death have made any public statements. Perhaps they won’t. But privately, some people may feel that this event gives them license to avenge bin Laden’s death and this should give us pause, for the causes of terrorism do not lie in one man’s mania. Those causes are many and deep, and the solution does not lie in killing one man, however evil he might be. We need to redouble our efforts to understand the causes of terrorism in order to remedy them and remove at least this particular scourge from our lives.

From Twitter 05-01-2011

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

  • 19:03:50: RT @antoinedodson24: Why was I not invited to the Royal Wedding!!!!??? < < We would have loved to have hosted you here in London...
  • 20:33:56: @BubblePOPPA Thanks for posting all the stuff you post. If anyone #unfollow s you it’s their loss.
  • 20:43:18: RT @BubblePOPPA: #GroupHugsWithGropes Can I get involved with that?

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Low Sunday Sermon OTN

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

I did something today that I have never done before. I recycled a sermon I preached in 1996 on the same texts as today. Mitigating circumstances are:

  • It was delivered 15 years ago.
  • It was delivered to a different congregation.

Nearly every year the Vicar at St. John’s takes Low Sunday off and asks me to preach. Every year the Gospel is John 20:19-31—Doubting Thomas. Even before I started preaching at St. John’s, I preached on Doubting Thomas. In fact, I believe the first sermon I ever preached, at Integrity/New York in the early 1990’s, was on this Gospel text.

The first couple of times one preaches on a certain text, it’s fairly easy to get some inspiration. Once you’ve preached on it 10 times or more, it starts to get difficult to have that inspired moment. I had trouble yesterday; I wrote about 1-1/2 pages, and stopped. Then I looked through my old sermons and, abracadabra!

Please forgive me. If any other of you are preachers, tell me: do you recycle sermons occasionally?

For those who aren’t interested, I’ll put it behind a cut.

From Twitter 04-30-2011

Sunday, May 1st, 2011
  • 17:50:32: RT @ImaCum_N_UrFace: RT if you want a Jamaican’s beef patty lmao
  • 23:35:47: Night all…just checked, and the sermon I’m going to deliver tomorrow won’t be the same as the one I used last year. Whew!

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