Sunday, March 31, 2013

* A Story

Crucifixion by Salvador Dali

I'm not much for believing in religion for religion's sake (I hate people to tell  me what's true) but I do believe in art for art's sake.  

Two of the greatest artistic achievements in the human endeavor are Bach's St. Matthew Passion and Handel's Messiah (excerpts below).

You gotta admit, even if Albert Schweitzer was right and there is no proof of the existence of a historical Jesus, that the story of this life has hung on a long time and inspired some mighty artists.

Pieta by Michaelangelo
Marc Chagall, Reims Cathedral

St.Matthew Passion
J.S. Bach

The Last Supper by Leonardo DaVinci
The Last Supper by Salvador Dali

George Frideric Handel

Christ Climbed Down
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

A Mighty Fortress is Our God 
hymn composed by
Martin Luther

Friday, March 29, 2013

* Playing God


A Challenge to the Yale Faculty
(posted Good Friday, March 29, in response to "We Are Not Numbers" on The Yale Daily News)
theantiyale  8 hours ago
In the 1970's and 80's the [Yale] Divinity School had three grades: Pass, High Pass and Honors. One could also elect a Pass/No Pass option.
The current national obsession with grading in public schools has apparently now infected Yale.
As a retired public school teacher, I have had to grade over 3000 students in my 25 years in the profession. I also taught one year of freshman English Composition at Ithaca College in 1969.
Allow me to share a formative experience I had in this teaching/grading process 20 years ago. I had promised all my students that if their average came .05 over a number, I would push it to the NEXT number (this was before computerized grading).
I had an 11th grade boy in a regular English class who had given me a bit of disciplinary trouble during the year (just regular teenage lip, nothing major) and who was absent quite a bit. But he had ALWAYS made up his work,and had a marking period average of 89.5.
I confess, to my shame, that I was hoping it would turn out to be 89.4 because the young man had been unruly in class and excessively absent. I recalculated the grade two or three times with that dark hope that it would remain a B+ instead of an A- (although grades were then calculated numerically, they were recorded as LETTER grades).
Each time it came out 89.5, no matter what way I added the numbers, backwards, forwards, sideways. So I grudgingly kept my promise and recorded the grade as A-, but I confess I did so with no joy in my heart.
Two weeks later this 11th grade boy was tragically killed in snowmobile accident.
I attended the funeral and introduced myself to his mother in the reception line as his English teacher, expressing my condolences.
I proceeded to the next room to stand in front of the open casket and bow my head in prayer.
As I did so, I felt a slight tug at my sleeve. It was his mother. She had left the reception line and come up to speak to me again .
We stood there literally over the dead body of her son. She looked into my face and said these words which changed my attitude toward grading forever;
"It was the ONLY 'A' he ever got."
That was all she said as she looked into my eyes. I gave her a hug., and said nothing.
She did not know the dark Scrooge-like stinginess of my heart which had hoped her son's 
"A-" would turn out be a "B+" as I re-calculated his average over and over again.
I realized at that moment that had I not kept my promise of pushing the .05 grade over from an 89 to a 90, I would have denied a mother and son that one-and-only special moment of joy when he presented her with his report card with his first ever "A" on it.
Who the hell am I to play God with other people's souls for five tenths of a point?
And you, Yale faculty ?
Paul D. Keane
M. Div. '80
(Vermont English teacher, 1987-2012)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

* Thank you, dear readers

184,841 page views 
from 11 countries
of my 827 posts 
since 2009

* Treating Others

The future Director and his newborn daughter, in 2008.

Good Direction

A young man about half my age (I’m 68) who used to be a student in my homeroom a couple of decades ago, is now the  Director of a high school career and technology center with hundreds of enrolled students.   Last week he had a brainstorm idea about his own facebook page which has 870 “friends:”  Why not create a Month of Compliments contest, the only rule of which is that every day you write a compliment about someone and send it to them.

Within three days his Month of Compliments facebook game  had  over 40,000 views, and 3,800 actual compliments.

I cite this ingenious idea because it is part of my young friend’s repertoire of anti-bullying behavior which he models for his students.  He doesn’t tell students NOT to bully, he encourages them to do the opposite by doing it himself.

His office and the Director’s desk open onto the main lobby of the "tech center."  His door is most always open and kids are free to drop in without an appointment, whether he is there or not.  On the table in front of the Director’s desk is a basket of fruit and two baskets of granola bars.  Students are invited to take whatever they wish, with one proviso written on a poster in front of the fruit basket:  For each piece of fruit or for each granola bar taken, you must pay a compliment to four different people today.

My friend , the Director, tells me that the kids actually keep the contract.  He hears it spreading in the hallways.

What a different world this would be if we rewarded the behavior we desired to promote with the same intensity with which  we punish the behavior we seek to discourage.

B.F. Skinner, the renowned psychologist,  knew this and his reward/punishment technique is today called The Skinner Box.

Another 'Director' knew this too.  

He declared it from a mountain in an ancient world.  

His technique is today called The Golden Rule.


* Swat Patrol ?

Can this be true?

(from an email sent to me by a friend) 

"Is this a mosquito? 


It's an insect spy drone for urban areas, already in production, and funded  by the U.S. Government. 

It can be remotely controlled and is equipped with with a camera and a microphone. It can land on you, and it may have the potential to take a DNA sample or leave RFID nanotechnology on your skin. It can fly through an open window, or it can attach to your clothing until you take it in your home.  

Given their propensity to request more macro-sized drones for surveillance, one is left with little doubt police and military may look into these gadgets next. 

And to think we were worried about West Nile virus!"

Monday, March 25, 2013

* Above the Canopy

Mr. Portman:
At Yale Divinity School of the 1970"s and 80's we would call this article and your choice to speak publicly a "sacrificial ministry". I hope you do not blanche at the thought.
You have chosen to sacrifice the comfort and security of private life and endure national publicity to minister to an ailing society.
It is not a denominational thing---or even a "christian" thing: Such a ministry could hypothetically be performed by an atheist.          The G-force works in strange ways. Think of how A.A. was formed and the millions it has "saved".
I hope every member of the Supreme Court reads your article.
This is not a vain hope since my understanding is that at least one extremely conservative Justice graduated from Old Blue and holds a egalitarian grudge against its elitism----(like I do in a friendlier way).
I also understand that several former living US presidents are Old and Blue. They may smuggle your article to that temple of justice on Capital Hill.
You have joined the Civil Rights movement. And like it or not you may be its Rosa Parks, its Gloria Steinham, its--------------Rob Portman.
Thank you for standing tall. We need to see the landmarks above the forest canopy to know where we are going and where we have been.
That's the role steeples used to play.
Paul D. Keane
M. Div.'80
PORTMAN: Coming out

Monday, March 25, 2013
I came to Yale as a freshman in the fall of 2010 with two big uncertainties hanging over my head: whether my dad would get elected to the Senate in November, and whether I’d ever work up the courage to come out of the closet.
I made some good friends that first semester, took a couple of interesting classes and got involved in a few rewarding activities. My dad won his election. On the surface, things looked like they were going well. But the truth was, I wasn’t happy.
I’d make stuff up when my suitemates and I would talk about our personal lives. I remember going to a dance in the Trumbull dining hall with a girl in my class and feeling guilty about pretending to be somebody I wasn’t. One night, I snuck up to the stacks in Sterling Library and did some research on coming out. The thought of telling people I was gay was pretty terrifying, but I was beginning to realize that coming out, however difficult it seemed, was a lot better than the alternative: staying in, all alone.
I worried about how my friends back home would react when I told them I was gay. Would they stop hanging out with me? Would they tell me they were supportive, but then slowly distance themselves? And what about my friends at Yale, the “Gay Ivy”? Would they criticize me for not having come out earlier? Would they be able to understand my anxiety about all of this? I felt like I didn’t quite fit in with Yale or Cincinnati, or with gay or straight culture.
In February of freshman year, I decided to write a letter to my parents. I’d tried to come out to them in person over winter break but hadn’t been able to. So I found a cubicle in Bass Library one day and went to work. Once I had something I was satisfied with, I overnighted it to my parents and awaited a response.
They called as soon as they got the letter. They were surprised to learn I was gay, and full of questions, but absolutely rock-solid supportive. That was the beginning of the end of feeling ashamed about who I was.
I still had a ways to go, though. By the end of freshman year, I’d only come out to my parents, my brother and sister, and two friends. One day that summer, my best friend from high school and I were hanging out.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” I finally said. “I’m gay.” He paused for a second, looked down at the ground, looked back up, and said, “Me too.”
I was surprised. At first it was funny, and we made jokes about our lack of gaydar. Then it was kind of sad to realize that we’d been going through the same thing all along but hadn’t felt safe enough to confide in each other. But then, it was pretty cool — we probably understood each other’s situation at that moment better than anybody else could.
In the weeks that followed, I got serious about coming out. I made a list of my family and friends and went through the names, checking them off one by one as I systematically filled people in on who I really was. A phone call here, a Skype call there, a couple of meals at Skyline Chili, my favorite Cincinnati restaurant. I was fortunate that virtually everyone, both from Yale and from home, was supportive and encouraging, calming my fears about how they’d react to my news. If anything, coming out seemed to strengthen my friendships and family relationships.
I started talking to my dad more about being gay. Through the process of my coming out, we’d had a tacit understanding that he was my dad first and my senator a distant second. Eventually, though, we began talking about the policy issues surrounding marriage for same-sex couples.
The following summer, the summer of 2012, my dad was under consideration to be Gov. Romney’s running mate. The rest of my family and I had given him the go-ahead to enter the vetting process. My dad told the Romney campaign that I was gay, that he and my mom were supportive and proud of their son, and that we’d be open about it on the campaign trail.
When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign. Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.
We had decided that my dad would talk about having a gay son if he were to change his position on marriage equality. It would be the only honest way to explain his change of heart. Besides, the fact that I was gay would probably become public anyway. I had encouraged my dad all along to change his position, but it gave me pause to think that the one thing that nobody had known about me for so many years would suddenly become the one thing that everybody knew about me.
It has been strange to have my personal life in the headlines. I could certainly do without having my sexual orientation announced on the evening news, or commentators weighing in to tell me things like living my life honestly and fully is “harmful to [me] and society as a whole.” But in many ways it’s been a privilege to come out so publicly. Now, my friends at Yale and the folks in my dad’s political orbit in Ohio are all on the same page. They know two things about me that I’m very proud of, not just one or the other: that I’m gay, and that I’m Rob and Jane Portman’s son.
I’m grateful to be able to continue to integrate my two worlds, the yin and yang of Yale and Ohio and the different values and experiences they represent in my life. When you find yourself between two worlds — for example, if you’re navigating the transition between a straight culture and a gay identity — it’s possible to feel isolated and alone, like you don’t fit in with either group that makes up a part of who you are.
But instead of feeling like you don’t belong anywhere, or like you have to reject one group in order to join another, you can build a bridge between your two worlds, and work to facilitate greater understanding between them.
I support marriage for same-sex couples because I believe that everybody should be treated the same way and have the same shot at happiness. Over the course of our country’s history the full rights of citizenship have gradually been extended to a broader and broader group of people, something that’s made our society stronger, not weaker. Gay rights may be the civil rights cause of the moment, but the movement fits into a larger historical narrative.
I’m proud of my dad, not necessarily because of where he is now on marriage equality (although I’m pretty psyched about that), but because he’s been thoughtful and open-minded in how he’s approached the issue, and because he’s shown that he’s willing to take a political risk in order to take a principled stand. He was a good man before he changed his position, and he’s a good man now, just as there are good people on either side of this issue today.
We’re all the products of our backgrounds and environments, and the issue of marriage for same-sex couples is a complicated nexus of love, identity, politics, ideology and religious beliefs. We should think twice before using terms like “bigoted” to describe the position of those opposed to same-sex marriage or “immoral” to describe the position of those in favor, and always strive to cultivate humility in ourselves as we listen to others’ perspectives and share our own.
I hope that my dad’s announcement and our family’s story will have a positive impact on anyone who is closeted and afraid, and questioning whether there’s something wrong with them. I’ve been there. If you’re there now, please know that things really do get better, and they will for you too.
Will Portman is a junior in Trumbull College

Saturday, March 23, 2013

* All the lonely people----

Sculpture to Eleanor Rigby, Liverpool

Thursday, March 21, 2013

* A Call from the Anti-Yale : Pope Francis---- Convene Vatican III, an Ecumenical Council on Stewardship of the Planet

Vatican II
convened by
Pope John XXIII 

at age 81 
and who died during its first year

Pope John XXIII, 
elected Pope at age 77 
in 1958

Pope Francis I,
elected Pope at age 76 
in 2013

Will Pope Francis I 
Vatican III,

 the 22nd Ecumenical Council
of the
Roman Catholic Church?

The Call is Clear

There are  7.2 billion people on the earth. 1.1 billion are Roman Catholic; 1.1 billion have accounts with Facebook; 1 billion have accounts with Twitter.

While Facebook and Twitter have the virtue of astonishing electronic speed and have been known to facilitate revolutions during the ferment of the 
so-called Arab Spring (Egypt; Libya) the Roman Catholic Church has something more valuable than speed:  Continuity.

It is 2000 years old.  

It's Pope has a direct lineage from one of the Twelve Disciples, Peter.

He can speak "ex cathedra" (from the Throne of Peter) and his word is taken as the direct word of Christ since the Pope is the "Vicar of Christ" on earth.

Jack Dorsey,
Co-founder of Twitter

Mark Zuckerberg,
Founder of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are the vicars of no one.

Since politicians, paralyzed by moneyed lobbying interests,  will NEVER respond to the crisis of Global Warming in time,

only an organization with one seventh of the world's population which can be marshaled into ethical action has any chance at all of saving the planet from the self-destruction of human avarice.

The call is clear.  

And it comes from Heaven.

A Heaven full of acid rain.

Monday, March 18, 2013

*Manhood Post-Hiroshima

The World is a Whore*

A friend of mine, who is many times over a published playwright and makes a respectable income from it, suggested that I turn my little PKvermonter talk on Salesman (video above) into a TED talk.  I wrote back rather freshly, that I would remain "PKvermonter because I prefer being unknown, unappreciated, and unsubscribed; there's something romantic about casting my pearls in front of passers-by."

I decided this long ago: The world is a whore; and I don't want a social disease.


* This is not a sexist remark, because there are male whores.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

* Corroding Our Kids

Saturday, March 16, 2013

* Habemus Papam (We have a Pope) : We have a Yale Father and an Argentine Father

Senator Rob Portman, former presidential candidate, and his son, Will, a current student at Yale.

Pope Francis paying his own hotel bill in Rome.


Pope (from Latin: papa; from Greek: πάππας pappas, a child's word for father

Would  Ohio (R)  Senator Rob Portman's sudden, public  reversal of his position on gay marriage have happened if his son had been a student at an Ohio state university, for instance,  instead of the prestigious, Ivy-League Yale University?

I doubt it.

The extremely supportive environment of Yale toward same gender alliances and affection made it possible not only for Senator Portman to refer to  his son without fear that the lad would be shamed or uncomfortable, but for him to instruct the country in the values of one of the world's great universities.

It is a tribute not only to Sen. Portman's courage and his son's courage, but to the courage of Yale University, whose leadership in this issue has been admirable in recent years.

I must confess that they were a bit more timid in 1983 when I brought the AIDS issue to the attention of Woodbridge Hall.

But then, we all go through growing pains, don't we?  Even 300 year old institutions.

It is ironic that almost simultaneously to Senator Portman's declaration of growth, a 2000 year old institution was installing a new leader whose position on this matter was rigid and stagnant.

Maybe its Papa will look to a certain  Son for a lesson about growing in love.


Monday, March 11, 2013

* Harvardgate : (-) + (-) = (+) ?

Once before Harvard banned its own, in 1838 after Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered his now famous and infamous Address to the Divinity Students, which cut America loose from old world theology to explore anew.

That ban lasted thirty years until Emerson's world-wide fame as a titanic lecturer and thinker shamed Harvard into welcoming him back into its crimson fold.

Harvard has now shamed itself again, 125 years later, after an administration memo was leaked to the Press addressed to Harvard's residence hall deans/lecturers suggesting that they invite students who had cheated on a "Government 115 test" to voluntarily withdraw rather than be expelled.

Now the scandal has metastasized,  into a Harvardgate, with the revelation reported in this morning's New York Times that the Harvard administration has searched the emails of those same deans/lecturers to try to identify the Julian Assange (or Bradley Manning) among them.

O my Transcendentalist God!

Is the world so confused that the highest members of its own Academy must dishonor the Academy to save their own face?

Two negatives do make a positive  in algebra, but we are not doing algebra here:

It's as simple as kindergarten even at Harvard:  two wrongs do not make a right

Thursday, March 7, 2013

* Good Word XVI

The Magisterium in the Roman Catholic Church, is the "teaching authority of the Church."

I would argue that Pope Benedict XVI's resignation---- the first resignation of a Pope in six centuries ---- is the most subversive instrument of teaching which could possibly penetrate the Magisterium.

What Benedict (whose self chosen name as Pope means "Good Word"  in Latin) has done in resigning is to take the magic out of the papacy.

If the Pope is "God's chosen representative of Christ on earth", (i.e. "the Vicar of Christ") then by resigning, Benedict XVI has chosen to undo God's choice-----a pretty heretical act. 

 And he has chosen to do it in a way which says "I'm just a guy. No magic in me." (as does this week's New Yorker cover of the Pope lounging in bathing suit in a hammock on a desert island) 

It's taken centuries to build up the magic of the Magisterium, and one 86 -year-old German Cardinal crowned  Benedict XVI, has thrown the magic out the window.

Another German,  Martin Luther,  must be tap dancing in heaven.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

* A Strange Wedding: May Produce Strange Fruit: Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un


Dennis Rodman told George Stephanopolous in an ABC interview today that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, had whispered to him that what he really wants is not war, but for "Obama to call me."

The State Department has already "distanced itself"  from basketball star and noted cross-dressing eccentric  Dennis Rodman, who made an unexpected visit to North Korea last week where he spent more time with the North Korean leader than any other living person outside of North Korea, a fact which one State Department official called "frightening" in Stephanopolous's opening segment featuring Rodman on ABC 's This Week.

Stephanopolous gave Rodman a copy of the Human Rights  Watch Report outlining North Korea's violations of human rights, and sanctimoniously suggesting Rodman might want to read it before consorting with the heads of governments which commit such atrocities as imprisoning 200,000 citizens in concentration camps.


Should Churchill and Roosevelt have refused to consort with mass-murderer Stalin?

Should Nixon have refused to meet with Mao, also a mass-murderer?

Should Reagan have refused to meet with Gorbachov, whose country kept millions in subjugation?

Perhaps Stephanopolous (a former White House Press Secretary himself) and the State Department are a bit envious that they didn't arrange the first meeting ever between North Korea's new leader and a Western official, if Mr. Rodman can be called an "official".  And isn't it interesting that Rodman got Kim's ear while Google's president Eric Scmidt was snubbed on a recent "private" trip to North Korea.

Maybe envy isn't the cause of the irritation .  Maybe it's just the same stupid pride which has kept us from normalizing relations with Fidel Castro's Cuba long after the "communism" he espoused had disappeared from both Russia and China.

I have six words for President Obama:  "Mr. Obama, pick up the phone.""

Friday, March 1, 2013

* Yale Daily News Caves in to Bureaucratic Baloney Manufacturers

 12 hours ago



2 days Ago