Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: Angels and Demons Teaser Trailer

Today, my wife pointed me to the new Teaser Trailer for Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. Unless you have been living under a boulder, I am sure you have at least heard of or have read this book. Dan Brown spins a tale of the Illuminati threatening the delicate balance between faith and science. As can be seen in the trailer, Tom Hanks is back as Robert Langdon, the Harvard Professor of Symbology (and mullets?) to solve more mysteries in the Eternal City, Rome.

As Chris Hodapp reported, Doubleday has entered panic mode as Dan Brown has yet to present a manuscript for his Masonic thriller, The Solomon Key, after 5 years of "working on it." Here is my guess: Dan Brown had the intention of writing his book until he saw the disgusting amounts of money that he would be paid from movie royalties and found a nice beach chair to began tanning writing. Here is hoping that Dan Brown doesn't get a nasty sunburn.

(Why did I post this video? Internet Superstar was one of my favorite video podcasts available but sadly, Martin Sargent has been laid off from Revision3 as well as many others. I am posting this as a tribute to this funny, irreverent show.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pop Culture and Freemasonry: Sen. Obama Infomercial

Freemasonry seems to show up in the strangest places. I was watching the Senator Obama Presidential Primetime Special today and I noticed the most interesting Masonic reference. During the final moments of the taped portion, there was a Shrine Go-Kart Club hanging out in their cars. That's right, Shriners. Those guys seem to show up in the strangest places.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Brother Sues, Ain't Nothin' New

As we all know, Frank Haas of West Virginia is suing the Grand Lodge of West Virginia for a variety of reasons. I have heard many brothers who believe that Freemasons do not sue other Freemasons. Sadly, however, this is not the case.

I happened to find an article from the New York Times concerning a brother that had been expelled from the Fraternity. Robert Kopp was a twenty-three year member of Strict Observance Lodge #94 where he had served as Past Master. According to the article, Kopp had written an angry letter to the Grand Master, William Sutherland. It was recommended and approved that Kopp be expelled at the next Grand Lodge Communication which subsequently occurred.

Kopp sued the Grand Lodge for reinstatement but his "appeal" was denied. The Judge believed that it was not in the purview of his Court to review the decisions of Masonic tribunals. The Judge stated that "[w]hatever right he obtained, he obtained from the society itself." Kopp was not allowed to continue his suit.

What this article shows is that there really does exist the threat of suit by a brother against a Grand Lodge. The article in question was published in 1900, more than 108 years ago. The difference between this case and the Haas case is that unlike Kopp, Haas's suit will be allowed to continue. We must not be surprised that brothers suing Grand Lodges is new and will need to be planned for accordingly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Image:NationalCashRegister.jpgLast night was incredibly busy at Corinthian Lodge #67 in good old Farmington. As I have reported earlier, it was my turn as Senior Deacon to present the M.C. lecture for the Fellowcraft degree. This was my first opportunity to present this lecture to the Lodge and I think it went really well. However, there was more than my memorization work. Brother Dan did a fantastic job with his Proficiency Exam. I really think that Brother Dan did so well because he and his mentor, Brother Wayne, worked diligently and really "brought the noise". Congratulations Brother Dan and Brother Wayne on a job well done. Also, WBro Joe presented the first lecture without prior notification and did a fantastic job on such short notice.

Ritual is what separates Masonry from every other organization. Ritual gives Freemasonry its charm, mystery and enlightenment. When I joined my Lodge, I really didn't know much about the ritual. I had read some of the information online about Freemasonry in general but really did not fully understand the ritual until after I had to memorize my Entered Apprentice exam. Once I began to memorize Masonic ritual, I couldn't stop. Which led me to take on the extremely challenging task of committing to memory the Senior Deacon's long lecture. After a year of intense study, I was finally ready for primetime. I still have some bugs to work out but I have jumped the hardest bar, the first. Also, I've found out that since I am someone who can recite this monologue, I am going to be in demand. I guess it is time to be a traveler.

I want to thank RWB James McNeely for also being in attendance at our Second Degree and for his kind words about our Lodge. It is really nice to see a Grand Lodge officer in Lodge to see the hard work that the brothers put in each and every meeting. Well, I have set the bar for myself. Hopefully, I can keep up memorizing all the lectures.

Update: RWB McNeely maintains a great blog about his travels in the SE Area of Minnesota (of which Farmington is a member). You can find it at

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Acting 101?!

Well, as I have written before, I have taken it upon myself to memorize the M.C. Lecture for the 2nd degree. I have had months of preparation to get all 35 minutes to be as tight and clean as I can.

Tuesday will be Corinthian Lodge #67's Fellowcraft degree of the fall and I am just the tiny bit nervous. Being the reader type, I needed some resources to be as effective as I could be in my performance. Thankfully, I have found some interesting articles concerning acting.

The first article is entitled, "Improve Your Acting - 10 Reasonably Good Tips!" by William G. Craig. The article has some very useful tips for a man, like myself, who has never taken an acting class and is just learning the ropes. Here is a sampling of tips that I will use:

1. Know your script. Read, re-read and then read again, and not just your own lines. From this foundation you can go on to identify the reason for your lines, this will help you react with the right lines and make remembering easier.

2. Listen actively, you should give the impression that what your character is hearing is purely of that moment. Resist the temptation to be quick with your lines, just to prove you know them, it is a conversation after all.

4. Learn to breath, practice 20 minutes a day. Inhale as deeply as possible and exhale for twice the amount of time you spent inhaling (i.e. inhale 15 seconds exhale 30 seconds). This will help pre-audition stress and stage fright.

The second article is entitled, "Five and a Half Acting Tips Not Taught in Drama Class" by Ruth Kulerman. I found this article to be much more helpful on actually delivering a good performance. I will paraphrase some of what I have to remember from this . (I suggest all brothers that are performing ritual to learn at least these five rules.)

1. The Comma

Within the lecture are many commas. In writing, commas often represent a pause in the sentence for the reader but in acting, they can be represented by many vocal inflections.

1.5 The Pause

Be careful not to think that a pause during speaking represents anything other than a pause. A pause represent something important when used properly and should only be used sparingly. (Imagine, Captain...James...T...Kirk...)

5. Don't go arm or leg crazy

When a normal person talks, do they fling their arms around? Simple answer...No! An actor should act natural. What, what, what?! I am going to be sad to say this but I have been a part of this bad habit. Flinging my arms around is a defense mechanism so that brothers don't see that I am nervous; it is similar to when a speaker sways back and forth.

The point of all these tips is to remember that when we have new brothers going through the degree work, they are expecting good degree work. I know that some brothers believe that we are merely bit players but many brothers do take the ritual seriously.

Yet, it is more than how serious we perform the ritual for ourselves. We must also remember that the time we present the ritual to a brother will be his first and last time as a candidate for the degrees. Give these brothers what they deserve, a great show. As Shakespeare most famously wrote, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Hopefully, with a little bit of work, we can all be good players, in ritual and life.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mentoring, "Help a Brother Out"

Mentoring is, without a doubt, the reason that I have been so excited about being a Freemason. Whether it was learning ritual or helping out in a service project, it was my brothers around me that have kept me interested and focused on being a better man and a better Mason.

When I first started down the path of Masonry, I had a guide to help me. Don is a great Past Master who gave me the kind of encouragement that I needed to be serious and excited about my new path into Masonry. We would spend hours at his house, learning the memorization, absorbing the lessons that Masonry teaches and becoming involved in the Lodge. Don kept me focused even when I was busy with my first year at Law School. Now I am Junior Warden in my Lodge and am more excited about Masonry every time I am at Lodge.

I am fortunate to come from a Lodge and a Grand Lodge that believes in the idea of encouraging the newest Masons to get up and support their community and their Lodge. Why? Well there are two main reasons:

1. It keeps brothers active

2. It makes them feel like they are a part of the Lodge.

When the brothers are engaged and want to participate in Lodge activities, the Lodge improves. Also, it is the hope that the brother that feels engaged in the Lodge will bring in his friends. When a brother brings in his friends, the Fraternity grows and becomes better for it. The idea of the Lodge is "to make good men better" and if we as Lodge can show that we are relevant, I hear on the message boards and other blogs that we should "guard the West Gate" as if those that preach this idea are unblemished.

A new and very interesting experiment that I am trying is taking our newest Master Mason and having him work with our newest initiate. The idea is to get that momentum that a new brother brings and capture that energy. This bottled lightning is what gives our Fraternity its glow, its desire to give to our communities.

For more information, I would look to MWB Neddermeyer's Cinosam who has a great series of slides and powerpoints on the subject of Mentoring and how a Lodge should put a program together. Mentoring is the key to success in get brothers to feel that they belong in the Lodge. Let's make it happen!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Three Pillars is down... ahhhhhhh!!!!

Today, I attempted to go on the Three Pillars discussion board but all I found was this. Ahhhh!, what am I supposed to do? I feel like Homer when he was denied beer and TV:

If anyone knows what is going on over there or you have contact info, please post it in the comments.

Three Pillars is back online.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Liberal Mason, Conservative Mason ... Nope, Master Mason


As the boulder to November 4th falls faster and faster down the hill, the interest in the campaign is heating up everywhere. This interest has even hit the Masonic blogs and boards.

I was a Political Science major in college and in my opinion, political discussions are essential to a good society. And I won't lie, I love, love, love talking politics. Politics is a game and I love watching from the sidelines like John Madden, oops, I mean Al Michaels. Jeers, cheers and stupid plays make my day when I am watching C-Span or Jim Lehrer's Newshour. Thankfully, I am a Freemason, where I am forced to take a break from political discussions.

When I am in Lodge, I am required to hang up my political "guns" and talk of other things with my brothers. No debates, except on food stands or lodge activities, allow my mind to become clear and to break off those superfluities of my life and seek something that is not political but spiritually and intellectually satisfying. I enter the Lodge, not as a liberal brother or a conservative brother, but just a brother.

Now I am not going to Pollyannaish about brothers "leaving their politics at the door." All men have their opinions, whether it be who is the best candidate to what should be served at the Table Lodge and it is almost impossible to keep these opinions completely at bay from our minds. My Lodge meets on the first and third Tuesday which makes it more difficult for all my brothers to keep their opinions quiet or in the least, in a hushed voice, but we are trying to come to the Lodge on the level as equals.

When I enter the Lodge, I try to drop everything and think about the ritual, planning activities and everything that is not a part of my political life. I am going to borrow a thought from W. Bro. Kuhlke during his presentation to our Lodge about order and geometry. I am paraphrasing here, but he stated that our ritual, when done correctly, is very rigid in Geometric terms and when performed precisely, it presents a calmness to our minds because of its presentation of order. Outside the Lodge is chaos yet inside, there is peace.

My thoughts, if you have a political opinion and you are blogger or poster on message boards, go ahead and voice them. However, before you pass the Tyler on your way to the Lodge Room, hang up your sword, focus on self-improvement and think about the relative tranquility you will experience inside the Lodge. If you wondering what my political views are, just imagine that I agree with you. That is what I call holding my cards to the chest. (Sound of cards hitting the floor (Q♣ Q♦ K♣ K♠ A♣)) Crap, well, at least, it's two pair.


Brother Steve, the Senior Deacon of my Lodge, has pointed me to an incredible video of a talk delivered by psychologist Jonathan Haidt concerning what he believes is the real difference between liberals and conservatives. It is incredibly insightful. Thanks Steve for finding this great video.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Have Been Published...

I have been published in the Minnesota Mason for my article, From Father to Son... but sadly, there is one piece missing. The article published did not list my Father and Grandfather's names. My father's name is Rick Johnson and my Grandpa's name is Dick Johnson. My Grandpa's mother Lodge is Fidelity Lodge #39. I want to thank my Grandpa for pushing me to get the article included in the Masonic paper and my Dad for being a willing participant in me telling his story.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rededication of Masonic Cancer Center's Cornerstone for 50th Anniversary

On Saturday, October 4th at 1:30 pm, the Grand Lodge officers will be rededicating the cornerstone that was placed 5o years ago. As I have reported before, Minnesota Masonic Charities will donate a record 65 million dollars over the next ten years. This is the largest single donation given to the University of Minnesota. If you would like to attend, please meet at the A. I. Johnson room on the ground floor of the McNamara Alumni Center at 1:30 pm. Officers and Past Masters should wear their appropriate apron and guests are welcome. It should be an exciting day for all who will participate.