Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My First Anniversary in Duluth

As some of you may know, my wife and I went to Duluth to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Duluth is one of the most beautiful towns in the United States. Whether taking a stroll along the Lakewalk or the Glensheen Mansion, the city seems to present a different place in time; the beauty of the Old West mixed with the trappings of the modern age.

While I did not go to any Masonic lodges or participate in any other Masonic events, I did take some photos of the Masonic Center in downtown Duluth.

The Duluth Masonic Center houses many organizations including 4 Lodges (Palestine #79, Ionic #186, Euclid #198, Glen Avon #306) the Scottish Rite Valley of Duluth, and a Demolay Chapter. Glen Avon Lodge #306 has a very good description of the Masonic Center in Duluth including the removal of four onion shaped towers that originally adorned the building and the antique lodge equipment still in use today. There is also another Masonic Temple in Duluth but sadly, I did not get photos. I am hoping one day to actually visit a Lodge in Duluth but until such time, the facade will just have to do.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: Bones

I know that I have previously blogged about the show "Bones" and the recurring villain, the Widow's Son Killer. No, our favorite blogger at the "Burning Taper" is safe from this serial killer. Apparently, the Widow's Son killer, aka Gormogon, murders members of the Knights of Columbus. I know, what, what, what, what?! Where is the connection with the KC's and a group of Freemason haters in the 1700's?

Here is my recreation of what was said in the writers' den:

Writer #1: Dude, dude, I have a freakin' awesome idea.
Writer #2: What dude, should we go to the 'Bell'? I want Tacos.
Writer #1: No dude, our show needs a kickass serial killer ... (feverishly turning pages in Occult book) I got it ... Gormogon.
Writer #2: Like those statues on the sides of churches?
Writer #1: No, they were like a group that hated Freemasons in the 1700's and stuff.
Writer #2: Ok, since they're on churches, we should have him kill Knights of Columbus dudes.
Writer #1: What?! Okay, I think you may be confused ... (grumble, grumble) ... Wait a second, I am hungry ... Killer of KC's sounds good to me. Let's go get some brain food. But I don't want Tacos, I had them for breakfast.

Here is one of the Widow's Son killer episode for your enjoyment.

Hanson, Hart (Creator). 2007 Bones [Television Show]. Los Angeles: Fox Broadcasting Corporation.

(Okay, for full disclosure, I do watch the show with my wife and I find some aspects to be enjoyable but there does seem to be a macho dude complex displayed in the writing.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Talkin' 'bout my Generation : Pick Yourself Up?!

Well, I have been scouring the Internet to learn more about the perceptions, hopes and fears of "My Generation". These perceptions are essential in understanding where Freemasonry is going and what we, as Lodges, should expect now and in the future. I hope to examine these perceptions over the coming weeks. And yes I know, The Who are not "My Generation" but what can ya do, the song rocks.

GRRR! Picking Yourself Up; Millennial Madness

As cliche as what I am about to say is, the next generation is the future; how and what we do in the next decade will shape the way workplaces, political institutions, civic organizations, as well as every other organization that exists now or will exist in the future is run. Unfortunately, there is more fear than truth being expressed to the world about the coming death of "Work Ethic." One article seems to be more direct in its attack on Generation Y than any other.

The GRRR! Block is a recurring series at Fox News written by Mike Straka that rants about Pop Culture, and things that seem to get stuck in his craw. In late November, he whined about how Millennials are lazy and refuse to grow up after watching a 60 Minutes special about Generation Y entering the workforce.

Straka writes:

From negotiating time off during job interviews to having to be told that they "should wear underwear under their clothes," it's tough for me to comprehend when, where and why the future workforce of our nation has became so complacent.

Was it because mommy and daddy worked too hard and didn't pay enough attention? Is it the free-wheeling universe known as cyberspace, where anything and everything is practically available at the click of a button?

Enron? WorldCom? Tyco? Divorce?

No, I give too much credit. Whatever the excuse for such lackadaisical behavior, it all comes down to just that — an excuse. Call me cold or insensitive, but I won't apologize for living in a tough world.

Of course, I will not apologize for certain things that he has brought up, including the fact that some applicants are bringing their parents to job interviews. (I have not seen this and probably never will but I am not surprised that it is out there.) Yet, he seems to blame all the problems of the world on one particular generation: the Millennials.

Why you might ask?

The final paragraph of his article says it all:

Call me a sucker, but I like doing a good job.

I like when my boss pats me on the back or sends an e-mail that says "nice job." I live for that. The Millennials, it seems, would scoff at such nonsense.

Of course they're doing a good job. They showed up, didn't they?

And people wonder why large corporations are outsourcing jobs.

We're in for a rude awakening if this is where we're headed.

Maybe he doesn't like the idea of some snot-nosed kid demanding more from his company. Maybe he doesn't see his family very often and wants everybody to experience that feeling. What I think bothers Straka the most is the idea that the youngest generation will not define themselves by their job. "What, what, what what?! You mean to tell me that a human being is a human being first and not a doctor, a lawyer, or a ditch digger." Of course, this is where Freemasonry can flourish.

Freemasonry, for all its lofty ideals and altruistic goals, is a volunteer organization first. This concept plays perfectly to the man who chooses a career so as not to interrupt him having a social life. For Lodges to succeed, the officers must realize that young Masons seek to use their time in many, many different ways, not merely for their vocation. This is exactly what a volunteer organization wants to hear. I devote many hours to the Craft and in some instances, I will call myself a Freemason before I ever think to call myself a law school graduate.

The most time consuming part of my day (after being with my family) comes from my Masonic affiliation. I spend days going to Lodge meetings, preparing for meetings (I am the Junior Warden of my Lodge), working on ritual, writing blog posts or meeting at the Grand Lodge for Membership ideas. To say that I am somehow complacent or lazy is a joke. I choose to use my time for a more noble purpose, to think of the civic and social institutions around me, not merely to further myself and feed some sick narcissistic concern about wealth and power. Masonry's goal is to build the temple of understanding and tolerance and to give brothers many ways to work on that hope.

Masonry is also built for the brother with divergent interests. Whether a young Mason wants the playfulness and philanthropy of the Shrine, the thoughtfulness of the Rites, the ability to work with kids in Rainbow Girls or Demolay or just to participate in family gatherings with the Lodge, the ability to find something to do is endless.

In the end, I think that Mike Straka is wrong or at the very least, has his priorities skewed. Living a life that is about more than just my car, my job or my house is important to me. Volunteering is important to me. And I believe that I am not alone in these beliefs. As long as these considerations are in the minds of the Lodges, the future of the Fraternity will still shine brightly.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cinosam: Brilliant Insights from MWB Neddermeyer

Are you looking for great ideas to improve your Lodge? Would you like to know interesting and enlightening stories about Freemasonry? Cinosam is a website that was created by MWB Neil Neddermeyer that provides a great wealth of Masonic content. MWB Neddermeyer is Past Grand Master of Minnesota (2003) and the current Grand Orator of North Dakota. Cinosam was originally an emailed newsletter published each month containing biographies, stories and more; it is still published as a newsletter to this day.

Cinosam hosts many great resources for Lodges. One of the best resources is a series of Powerpoint presentations and papers on Freemasonry, focusing with great detail on individual Lodge revitalization and improvement. I am greatly indebted for the work that he has published and have tried to implement his ideas in my own Lodge through my Membership Committee. The paper I have been using lately is his "100 Ideas for Member Recruitment and Retention." These ideas have been extremely useful in planning events in my own Lodge.

I was fortunate enough to meet MWB Neddermeyer during the 2006 Installation of our most recent Past Master in 2006. He was the Installing Master and gave the presentation with the gravitas and eloquence that made the entire event. MWB Neddermeyer's dedication to the Craft, especially in the realm of Lodge revitalisation, is the main reason why this site is so important for our future.

If you would like to receive the monthly email newsletter, you can subscribe on the Cinosam website.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. Prod. Jerry Bruckheimer, Dir. Jon Turteltaub, Perf. Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha. DVD. Walt Disney Pictures, 2007.

What does National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets have to do with Freemasonry? Not much, sadly. Except for the random references to Albert Pike, and the use of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial presentation room, the movie lacks the same ties that the first had for Masonic history. I realize that we owe a lot to the National Treasure movies for bringing us back to the bright spotlight but couldn't we have received at least a little mention in the sequel. We opened up the Masonic Memorial (paid for by 50 of 51 Grand Lodges) for them to film in but the name was changed to another location. I realize this is old news but hopefully, if another movie comes out, we will at least have a better part to play in the story, other than a stage.

Spoiler Alert!!!
Also, how in the world did the Olmecs get to South Dakota? Huh?!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Corinthian #67 Friendship Night Recap

As I have posted recently, Corinthian Lodge #67 hosted what is known as a Friendship Night. I would like to congratulate Brother Paul, our Senior Warden, for putting together such an interesting program for the evening. Our Lodge was fortunate enough to host three prospective candidates, one petitioner and two guests from Carnelian Lodge #40 in Lake City, MN. We were also fortunate to have Worshipful Brother Olaf Kuhlke present, "Why Geometry Matters" and a presentation from Minnesota Masonic Charities. Also in attendance were many brothers from our Lodge excited for the night's program.

After the presentation from Minnesota Masonic Charities, the floor was then opened to myself and Brother Steve, our Senior Deacon, who gave our impressions of Masonry. Brother Steve's comments can be summed up by this story that he told:

"My Sister and Brother-in-law were visiting us, but I was called to the SE area conference. We were all disappointed, because we enjoy each other's company. There was a lot of talk about 'secret societies' and costumes and old men behaving strangely. They could not understand why someone like me, who has been a notorious NON-joiner, would be taking a day off to go to anything Masonic. But, I took the good natured ribbing with a smile, and promised to be home by evening.
While I was away, they went to the Gopher game. During the halftime show, there were some announcements about people helping out the U of MN; My sister said that most people in the crowd were not too interested in the lists of thousand dollar gifts from so-and-so...
...but then, the announcer changed tone a bit and said that the Masons had just made the largest single donation in U of MN history - $65 MILLION to the Masonic Cancer Clinic! They said that the auditorium went a little crazy! Needless to say, they looked at Masonry a little differently by the time that I got home.
I am in no way claiming any bragging rights about the donation, but it was sure a different attitude around the supper table that night. Now my sister and her family have heard one more 'truth' about the Craft!"

Image:DCmontage.jpgAfter we had brothers in the Lodge discuss what Masonry meant to them, we turned the presentation to Professor Kuhlke who presented a very enlightening presentation on the meaning of Geometry in Masonry. What I can say with true certainty is "Wow!" He was able to present an interesting description of the effects that Freemasons had on the city of Washington, D.C. without conspiracy theories, cutting lines down imaginary streets or adding credence to upside pentagrams and hidden squares and compasses. I won't reveal what he describes because it is just so amazing and I don't want to spoil the surprise for everyone else. His explanation was clear and simple and made sense in ways that the History Channel or any other media outlet could never accomplish. If you have the chance to hear him speak, attend. His theories are amazing simple, concise and as he explained, can be seen in many other cities including Indianapolis. He has recently written a book entitled Geographies of Freemasonry: Ritual, Lodge and City in Spatial Context which unfortunately is not available at Amazon but can be purchased at Mellen Press.

The Friendship Night at Corinthian Lodge #67 has helped to create excitement in the Lodge after coming out of darkness. I also think that potential candidates were also able to feel comfortable about Masonry. Here is looking forward to the new season.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: National Treasure

National Treasure. Prod. Jerry Bruckheimer, Dir. Jon Turteltaub, Perf. Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha. DVD. Walt Disney Pictures, 2004.

I have decided to bring up the movie that, in conjunction with the book, "The Da Vinci Code", has seemingly brought Freemasonry back from obscurity. National Treasure is a movie that combines the Masonic Fraternity with the theories of the Knights Templar and the Ancient Egyptians.

As I am sure that every person that is reading this blog has seen this movie at least once, I will take the analysis of this movie in a different direction. The movie concerns a lost treasure (similar to Oak Island) and the subsequent quest to recover it. How has the movie impacted Masonic discourse? I believe it has changed the way in which our Fraternity looks at itself. Before, Freemasonry was concerned primarily with the first two tenets, Brotherly Love and Relief. What had been missing was Truth. Young men coming to the Craft today are seeking the Truth in the form of symbolism, and secrecy that had once been equal to the other two beliefs but has lately been ignored or shelved in the interest of charity and fraternity.

When this movie came out, there was a dramatic shift, or to put it more correctly, a realignment of our Craft. Thankfully, Masonic education is now on the lips of brothers throughout the world. We are all seeking what has been lost. With this new focus on learning that has been encouraged, indirectly, through movies such as "National Treasure", we, as Lodges, must be willing to take a "softball" and knock it outta the park.

One of the best methods is to present a short presentation about Masonic history at every meeting, stated meeting or otherwise. These presentations need not be long. In fact, fifteen minutes is all you really need to get the brothers excited.

Even presenting this movie in Lodge can give brothers a reinvigorated sense of why they are Freemasons. For it is worth, this movie has helped present Freemasonry in a positive light and has encouraged brothers to reassess what Freemasonry is to them.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bro. Kuhlke, "Why Geometry Matters" Sept. 16

Corinthian Lodge #67 of Farmington will be hosting a Friendship Night at 7:30 pm with a potluck at 6:30 pm. Our featured speaker is Brother Olaf Kuhlke, an assistant professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He will be presenting, "Why Geometry Matters: Masonic Rituals, Lodges and Cities and the Importance of Order". Brother Olaf is also a very active Freemason and maintains a website about his experiences and thoughts of the Craft. He will also be selling copies of his book, GEOGRAPHIES OF FREEMASONRY: Ritual, Lodge, and City in Spatial Context, at a special publisher's discount. Supplies will be limited so be sure to arrive as early as possible.

I saw Bro. Kuhlke at the 2008 Minnesota Grand Lodge Communication in Duluth and found the subject of Geography and Freemasonry to be fascinating. I am very excited to see such an interesting and knowledgeable speaker and I would like to encourage all brothers in Minnesota to attend this great event.

For those who don't know what a Friendship Night is, it is a way for our Lodge to open up to perspective candidates and give them a chance to meet Brothers and allow them to make an informed decision on joining. If you know any men who live in the Southern Suburbs of Minneapolis-St.Paul who are interested in Freemasonry or you yourself are interested in joining and you live in the area, please contact me and I will give you directions to the Farmington Masonic Temple. Friendship Night will also be a potluck so be sure to bring a dish for all of us to share. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: The Magic Flute Act 1

Wow, I'm going old school for this Pop Culture and Freemasonry installment. Today's entry is the Opera, "The Magic Flute" by brother Amadeus Mozart. Many scholars have acknowledged that the Magic Flute has very overt Masonic overtones. Edmond Masonic Lodge #37 has presented a very good article in regards to the Masonic meanings. I have also posted the first Act of the Magic Flute preformed by Northwestern University. Enjoy!

Lodge Tracker: Let's Aggregate

The Internet is one of the best methods to aggregate information. Whether it be an online phone index or dictionary, the Internet has made organizing, finding, retrieving and using large amounts of data simple (well, relatively simple). Thankfully, Brother Abraham Nasser has put together a wonderful new website called Lodge Tracker. Before, if a brother was looking at Lodges to visit, he would have to get out the phone book or go to the Grand Lodge website (if the Grand Lodge had a website) just to find an address. Now, brothers, in many jurisdictions, can now enter their Lodge's information into the site and can peruse the records for other Lodges that have been added. I have added my Lodge, Corinthian Lodge #67 and found the process incredibly easy. The site includes an area to put a photo of your Lodge building, contact information and a Google Map of your Lodge's location. I would encourage all my brothers to add their Lodge information so as to create one great central resource when looking for a Lodge to join or visit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dusty Square and Compass and Dinner Tonight

Corinthian Lodge is officially starting up after the long, hot Minnesota summer with our annual Dusty Square and Compass program. For anyone unaware of what a Dusty S&C program is, it is where a Lodge goes through the work to rub out the kinks, to inform brothers that have not been around for awhile what goes on in the Lodge and to inform the brethren what the upcoming season is going to bring. It is a really great way for a Lodge to come out of darkness to help brothers that may have been away to get back into the fold. For me personally, I desire Masonic knowledge and this really helps get me and other brothers excited for the new year.

At this particular Dusty S&C program, we have planned a good program. We will be having a meal and fellowship at 6:30 pm while the program starts at 7:30 pm. We will be practicing the signs for the degrees, learning their meanings, and working on our degree work. As I have mentioned before, I have memorized the Long Lecture for the Fellow Craft degree and will be presenting a portion of it for the brethren and explain its meaning. Here is to great fellowship and Masonic learning.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Welcome to Minnesota

I assume that everyone is aware of the Republican National Convention is being held at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, MN.

To all those that are coming to Saint Paul, whether you are a delegate, protester, reporter or just a curious person, welcome to my beautiful state. While most of the coverage is on Hurricane Gustav, the Convention will still go on in some fashion. In this highly charged politically time, when the blood boils over perceived differences, I would like to call everyone's attention to Minnesota's other great attractions, including our Masonic treasures.

Are you a Mason? While most of the Lodges are "dark" during the summer, a few Lodges continue to meet during the summer. To find a complete list of Lodges in Minnesota, including if they are open and contact information, visit the Grand Lodge of Minnesota's website or the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Minnesota's website. Also, we have one of the few Scottish Rite Valleys that perform all 29 degrees, the Minneapolis Valley. To find out more about the history of this building downtown, here is a link to Heritage Preservation page on the City of Minneapolis' site.


Also, near the Pioneer building is the Hennepin Center for the Arts.

A more modern photo of the building.

In all, Minnesota Freemasonry is extremely robust and exciting.

Do you like really large gatherings of people eating crazy fried food on a stick? The Minnesota State Fair is just right for you. The last day is today, Labor Day, so if you need to get your Pronto Pup, Cheese Curd, Sweet Potato Fries fix, you gotta do it today.

Do you like the arts? In Minnesota, we have a lot of great venues for you to enjoy. For the performing arts, we have the world famous Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis (in a beautiful, new building facing the Mississippi River),
Image:New Guthrie riverview.jpg
the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Saint Paul,
Ordway Center
and the Hennepin Avenue Theatre District. Also, Garrison Keillor's MPR staple, "A Prairie Home Campanion" continues to be recorded at the Fitzgerald Theater (named after famous author and Minnesotan, F. Scott Fitzgerald) in downtown Saint Paul. Maybe you would rather see an Orchestra or Opera performance. We have them here as well. If fine art is more your cup of tea, we have the Minneapolis Institute of Arts which has some wonderful pieces, from beautiful Asian art (don't miss Jade Mountain Illustrating the Gathering of Poets at the Lan T'ing Pavilion, it is an amazing piece) to Impressionism and much more. Here is one of the many videos that the MIA has posted on Youtube.

Do you like to fish? With 11,842 lakes of 10 acres or larger, you've come to the right place. To find a good resource for knowing the rules, regulations and much more, visit the Minnesota DNR's website.

Do you like sports? We have professional sports teams in the four major leagues. The Minnesota Twins are remaining hungry in the AL Central Pennent race, just behind the ChiSox. The next home games will be on Friday. Sadly, my favorite baseball team, the St. Paul Saints, is done for the season. The Saints are owned by Mike Veeck, son of famous owner Bill Veeck, who runs the team with the same crazy and goofy stunts that highlighted his tenure as Major League owner. The Minnesota Vikings, with Adrian "All-Day" Peterson tearing up the turf, are playing Green Bay on Monday. Both the Twins and the Vikings play at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. (Pictured Below)

Image:Hhh metrodome.jpg

Sadly, I cannot mention everything in the state but my advice is if you are in the state, even if it does not involve the convention, go and explore. Minnesota has so much to offer and you will never be bored. Wow, I guess I should apply with the Minnesota Tourism Department.